December 2, 2020

The Conservative Anarchist

From Center for a Stateless Society

| @DakotaAHensley| August 12th, 2020

Can an anarchist be socially conservative? Yes. I see no reason why someone who is anti-abortion or has fundamentalist views on sex or drugs can’t be an anarchist. Anarchism is about building a society in which no one forces their beliefs on others. As long as you respect the views and lives of others, your personal views don’t matter.

Historically, there are a few examples of conservative anarchists. One such thinker was Dorothy Day, a Christian anarchist and anarcho-distributist who died in 1980 (about nine days before John Lennon, actually). She wrote extensively in her organization’s penny-a-copy newspaper, The Catholic Worker. Going through the hundreds of articles she wrote, one will begin to see a few topics that she wrote about often. She wrote about cooperatives communes (especially farming communes), about the need to care for the poor, and about her support for private property and collectives. She also wrote about how she thought pre-marital sex was wrong and that abortion and birth control amount to genocide.

In The Catholic Worker, in December of 1972, she wrote, 

I feel that, as in the time of the Desert Fathers, the young are fleeing the cities–wandering over the face of the land, living after a fashion in voluntary poverty and manual labor, seeming to be inactive in the “peace movement.” I know they are still a part of it–just as Cesar Chavez and the Farm Workers’ Movement is also part of it, committed to non-violence, even while they resist, fighting for their lives and their families’ lives. (They, together with the blacks, feel and have stated this, that birth control and abortion are genocide.)

About pre-marital sex, she wrote in September of 1963, 

I have been asked to express myself on these matters, especially since there has been a pamphlet published in England by the Quakers which is said to condone premarriage sexual intercourse “if the parties are responsible.” My reaction to this is that of a woman who must think in terms of the family, the need of the child to have both mother and father, who believes strongly that the home is the unit of society.

While these views are uncommon among anarchists, they’re not uncommon among the people of Appalachia where anarchist distributism would do well in an area that prides itself on its individualism yet has a strong sense of community. Combine it with an ardent social conservatism and anarchism would explode here. Many forget that Appalachians don’t vote. Turnout is quite low here. Even if you, like me, aren’t a social conservative, you can alter your message and focus on the aspects of anarchism that could appeal to social conservatives.

Many forget that most social conservatives would be okay with a “leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone” approach to these issues. My readers may think that I’m too sympathetic to the average social conservative. I should remind you that only 7% of Americans use Twitter. The conservatives on Twitter (much like the liberals) are a small, small fraction. The average conservative is much more like Dorothy Day. They hold conservative views on social matters but do support things that strengthen the individual and community and would be open to anarchism if it was presented to them in a friendly package.

Now, there are certain views that are incompatible with anarchism such as race realism, racism, and the like. One can be anti-abortion as long as they don’t believe the State should intervene and there is a case for reducing abortion without a State by reducing poverty and establishing a voluntarily-funded paid family leave plan. An anarchist can be for school prayer and for traditions as long as they don’t believe the State should enforce it. As long as they don’t hold views fueled by hate, I see no reason why a conservative anarchism cannot exist.

Dorothy Day was a model for how one can be conservative and an anarchist. While I am not a social conservative, I know and am friends with many. I believe her work could appeal to conservatives, Appalachians, Southerners, Christians of all denominations, and the Right. If we ignore conservatives, we’ll doom anarchism. Why? If we don’t bother appealing to people who would be receptive to our message then we might as well give up.

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