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“What you advocate for is too extreme. Why can’t you compromise?” 

There are moderates in every age who hem and haw about the injustices of their time. But I think there are moral absolutes. It’s just not obvious to everyone until afterwards. 

Slavery was wrong. Unequivocally. Segregation and Jim Crow was wrong. Child labor was wrong. Monarchies were wrong (there are still monarchies but in name only, without the absolute power of the past). Women not having rights was wrong. Apartheid was wrong. The list goes on. There are absolutes. Some things are just wrong. 

But they weren’t seen as absolutes at the time. Moderates and centrists asked “But how will we do that?” “That will change everything” “Our system/economy is built on this, how could we do things another way?” “Can’t we compromise?” “Can’t we slow down?” “You’re asking for too much.” They were scared of change and of losing their positions of power and privilege. 

Every courageous leader, every successful movement, every person we look back on as a hero, worked toward a fundamental rejection of the status quo and the systems that existed at the time. They saw injustice and they opposed it. Unequivocally. And so they were all seen as extreme in their time and opposed (and often murdered). Now we see them as heroes and visionaries. And opposition to their causes are the ones that are viewed as extreme. 

As always, MLK said it well:

“I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action;” who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.”

– Letter from a Birmingham jail (

In our current time, I would say:

Keeping children in cages is wrong (happened under Obama, Trump, and still with Biden). People going bankrupt in order to live (healthcare) is wrong. The global caste system of borders is wrong. Police killing people is wrong. People having to live on the streets is wrong. Forcing anyone into cages (prison) is wrong. Poisoning air, water, and land is wrong. Burning fossil fuels is wrong. Destroying the planet’s ability to support future generations is wrong. People going hungry is wrong. People being forced to leave their homes is wrong (evictions and deportations). People profiting off the labor of others is wrong (capitalism). People not having access to healthcare is wrong. Discriminating against gay or trans people is wrong. And much much more. 

I think these are moral absolutes. Society doesn’t see them that way yet, but I think eventually it will, as we do with the injustices of the past. 

All of these things (both now and in the past) have been done or were done by a state (nation). That is part of why anarchist oppose the state. And all of it is enforced or protected by police (who are the violent arm of the state). That is why we oppose police. Together they create, uphold, and enforce these unjust systems. 

Some suggested readings: 

What would Anarchy look like?

The most common question (and in some ways at the heart of every other question) is:

What would Anarchy look like?

CrimethInc has created a very detailed example of what Anarchism could look like. Seems like a really solid foundation:

Does Anarchism work?

Jim asks

Has anarchism ever worked in human history?

For an example about when anarchism has been practiced, see the answer to a different question: Where has anarchy been practiced?

But for this post, lets talk about what it means for a system to “work”. And for this I’m going to quote an essay by Deric Shannon:

“When people raise these objections, what do they mean by a “system” that “works”? Can we really say that the state and capitalism—the institutions that largely organize our economic life—“work”? Before this “crisis” even started, 80% of the world’s population lived on less than ten dollars a day (this is evidence that for most of the world, capitalism is always a crisis).1 Is that a system that “works”? We produce enough food to feed everyone in the world. Yet, one in seven people around the world go hungry.2 Is that a system that “works”? This crisis in capitalism certainly isn’t new either—indeed, capitalism is prone to periodic crises where people are thrown into the kinds of social turmoil we’re seeing the world over regularly. This crisis isn’t a new development, it’s a part of how capitalism functions. Is that a system that “works”? Is a system where some people own four summer homes, twenty cars, home theatres, have maids, cooks, and coteries while entire countries largely live in poverty a system that is “working”? Are two world wars that killed more people in them than every war ever fought in human history up to that moment combined reflective of a system that “works”? Is the commodification—the thingification—of the entire non-human world, the destruction of landbases, the regular extinction of entire species, decreasing biodiversity, global warming—all of which are part and parcel of an economic system predicated on constant growth—is this a system that “works”? Is a world where oppression is a social norm that mixes together with economic exploitation one that “works”? Just how brainwashed has the human population become that so many of us believe we need these unequal, unethical, horrific institutional arrangements in order to get by? When mass media ownership is nearly entirely concentrated in the hands of a few wealthy corporations, when capitalism’s best friend—the state—sets the curriculum standards for our compulsory education (setting the stage for the boredom and banality of a life of work for most of us) is it any wonder we’ve swallowed these lies?”

(From What Do We Mean By “Works”? Anarchist Economics and the Occupy X Movement by Deric Shannon. Source)