The slightly strange question, “which side of the road do anarchists’ drive on?”, was originally asked by Judge Blackshaw at the end of June 2011. It was his attempt at being clever and came at the end of my trial for ‘conspiracy to commit violent disorder’. Judge Blackshaw had spent the trial trying to support the prosecution while pretending the trial was had no politics involved at all. He had done this through the asking of additional questions about things he thought the prosecution had missed (and which, in at least one case, the prosecution missed it because the evidence just wasn’t there!) Despite the fact that the majority of people had explained that they weren’t anarchists, although anarchism made up part of their politics, Blackshaw was following the line that we were all anarchists and there for guilty since we must be planning to break the law. The fact that we were accused of planning to attack fascists had, in his eyes, no relevance.
Like most people who are in positions of authority, the question was not one that he wanted us to give an answer to. he already had an answer and was going to make a point with it. He basically said that anarchists had to obey the law and could not drive on which ever side of the road they wanted to. HE, despite hearing that anarchism was seen as a form of direct democracy, wanted to make the point that anarchists believed in chaos and that the law was a means of bringing them into line. Any direct action, wether it was protesting and self-defence against fascists, through to simply walking (or driving) where you weren’t supposed to, was wrong and the law created order by stopping this. The law had to be enforced. Little facts, such as the fact that we hadn’t broken the law but were accused of planning to break the law, were irrelevant.
If I was allowed to reply, instead of having to follow the law and let the judge have the final word, I would have pointed out that he had missed the point. The law is simply a written agreement to do things according to a certain way. THis is then enforced and if you break the agreement you are punished. at the moment the law is made by the rich, by the state to keep the order of capitalism. The law does not give permission on enable things to happen, it simply allows things. Property laws don’t give ownership, they simply give exclusive use. The law has to be like this to allow an unequal state to happen.
Anarchists don’t want the law (which is different from not believing in the law). They want mutual co-operation. There would still be agreements and common arrangements to allow a society to function. In some ways this can be seen as the voluntary giving up of freedom. An agreement to start work together at a certain time should not need armed thugs and courts’ to enforce it. It would be just that, a common agreement. The law is simply writing down of these agreements, with some one else deciding which agreements are allowed or not allowed. In an anarchist (or any other society) the question of which side of the road you drive on is by common agreement. It is how society works. you don’t need it written on statute books, you just need everyone to know what is decided.
In Britain people drive on the left. Cars are made this way. The continuance of this is not because of the courts or acts of parliament, but by common agreement. If someone wants to argue against this,they are not an anarchist. They are also not a supporter of law as the only thing that keeps society civilised if they want to keep get common agreement before changing things.
And in a nutshell that is the thing the judge and people who generally argue about the law can’t, or more to the point they refuse to understand. Society is kept together by mutual co-operation and agreement, not by writing things down and then enforcing them with varying levels of violence. Capitalism continues to function because people continue to have a belief in it, not because of the numerous laws on the statute books. Having written laws is simply an expression of co-operation that already exists. Only things that threaten a community can threaten society and things that might at times be illegal, at other times don’t necessarily threaten society. At the moment laws are made in the interest of one class and this why there is conflict. The ruling class has to increasingly enforce their laws against a class who increasingly does not believe in the reason for them. If this was an equal society, based on true mutual co-operation, this would not be a problem. The law would not be needed and people would simply adjust behaviour as society changed. Instead the law has to bring people in line and make sure the myth of society actually functioning according to capitalist ideology continues.
Of course I never got to explain this. I imagine, if I did, Judge Blackshaw would have been puzzled before continuing with the theatre that is a trial which pretends that laws written by people like him are supreme and actually keep society together.
Of course, I call the trial theatre, because that is all it was. The wigs and gowns, the standing and sitting while legal matters are explained, had no relation to anything real, let alone the offence that was committed. Yet that is simply how society functions, as the incarnation of a fantasy of a class that has outlived its usefulness. It is only through the belief in such theatre that it can continue to function, yet reality, in the form of financial crisis and community organising for their real interests is catching up with it and their society is slowly cracking. yet in the meantime, this theatre found seven of us guilty and sent six of them to prison. The myth of the law ruling, rather than mutual co-operation, everything won’t go without a fight!
As a final note for those in doubt that a society based on agreement can work, ask yourself this; do you drive on the left hand side of the road because of the law or because that is the side eveyone else drives on?