Early Morning Piss
Is It Just Me

In praise of anarchy – Papua New Guinea take notice


TUMBY BAY - In the ongoing debate about the best form of government for a country like Papua New Guinea and some of the other Melanesian nations in the South Pacific, I’d like to offer another possibility - anarchy.

Anarchy has always had a bad rap. For most people it means disorder and lawlessness.

This is not its true meaning. It simply means the absence of government. The bad rap comes from people and organisations that are scared of it.

Its meaning in political terms is also simple. It refers to the organisation of a society from the bottom up, as opposed to from the top down. It is communism upside down minus the oppression and dictators.

For some of our past and present free thinkers anarchy offers a viable alternative to both western democracy and communism.

One of these free thinkers is Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek-Australian who was the finance minister in Greece during its recent financial crisis. He was the big, balding guy who rocked up to parliament on a motorbike.

Varoufakis believes capitalism is eating democracy. He cites many examples in his numerous books but I’d offer the current situation with the O’Neill government as a prime example.

Take a look at the recent edition of Varoufakis’ book Talking to My Daughter About the Economy: A Brief History of Capitalism, for instance.

He doesn’t overtly promote anarchism but the theme runs through much of what he writes.

Someone who was openly fond of anarchism was George Orwell, the famous anti-totalitarianism writer of Animal Farm and 1984.

Orwell was involved in the Spanish civil war in the 1930s. In his book, Homage to Catalonia, he describesd the style of government the anarchists had set up: “There was no boss-class, no menial class, no beggars, no prostitutes, no lawyers, no priests, no boot-licking, no cap-touching.”

The current crisis in Spain with Catalonia seeking independence is a continuation of the civil war and the anarchist’s struggle in the 1930s so brutally suppressed by Franco and his Communist Russian and Fascist German supporters.

Like then, Spain and all the other capitalist democracies in Europe are desperately trying to suppress this new drive.

Another free thinker is Carne Ross. He was a British diplomat involved in the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ farce that precipitated the invasion of Iraq.

So pissed off was he with the deceit and greed underpinning the invasion that he quit his job. He just couldn’t live with the idea of being involved with governments whose lies had led to the killing of thousands and thousands of people.

In a program recently aired on SBS, The Accidental Anarchist, Ross pointed to both Catalonia and the Kurds in Iraq as examples of anarchists at work.

The Kurds have set up a government based on anarchist ideals. Their country-in-waiting is a mix of Arabs, Muslims, Christians, secularists and lots of other breeds who happily co-exist. Significantly for a Middle Eastern country, in Kurdistan women have equal rights.

The Kurds and their Peshmerga soldiers are largely responsible for the defeat of ISIS. Their female soldiers are particularly efficient; the ISIS fighters run a mile when they come on the scene.

There are few traditional military ranks in the Peshmerga, no generals, captains and privates. Instead they operate in teams. If you think of that as somehow ridiculous just consider their successes. As an anarchist army, it is a deadly force.

And, of course, the western powers and their Middle Eastern allies are desperately trying to suppress the Kurds desire for their own country. They are okay for the Kurds to win battles for them but not to have their own country, especially one so rich in oil.

The parallels between anarchism and traditional Melanesian social organisation are marked.

Western influence has conned most Papua New Guineans into believing they once had traditional leaders and chiefs but a perusal of the anthropological literature quickly puts paid to this misconception.

Administrators and anthropologists working in Papua New Guinea in the early days often remarked on the absence of chiefs among the clans. Even the so-called bigmen were not leaders in the literal sense and were themselves ruled by the collective will of other clan members.

The Catalonian and Kurdish examples are well worth watching for those seeking an alternative form of government for Papua New Guinea.

If they succeed against the odds there may be hope for not just Papua New Guinea but for the rest of the world.


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Bernard Corden

May 2018 commemorates 50 years since the student demonstrations in Paris, which saw Charles de Gaulle flea his own country and head for Baden Baden

The following link provides access to a wonderful piece of reflective journalism and features the work and thoughts of Jean-Paul Sartre:


When the rich wage war, it's the poor who die - Sartre

Lindsay F Bond

Inevitable, inescapable, even inexpungible as process of humanity’s societal fundament, especially of hitherto cultures in PNG, and will prevail, is the ‘sit and talk’ stated by Michael, no matter the title, the descriptor and the precedents elsewhere nominally anarchic.

Of quality and particularity, variance accompanies, e.g. actually sitting.
Of reach and efficacy, limits constrain, e.g. volume, receptivity, attentiveness.
In essence, the lands of PNG hitherto heard converse significantly constrained.

Where Phil postures a prospective of converse contained not by contour of terrain but by commercial contortion (and odiously according to Raymond Sigimet *), abrogation of both electoral participation and fidelity would rob the State as surely as the avoidance of a truth intended in the noble word ‘equity’.

* see: http://asopa.typepad.com/asopa_people/2016/06/foul-haus-tambaran-monster-farting-on-an-undeserving-png.html

Bernard Corden

Come back Emma Goldman rise up old Joe Hill
The barricades are going up they cannot break our will
Come back to us Malcolm X and Martin Luther King
We're marching into Selma as the bells of freedom ring

Steve Earle - Christmas Time in Washington

Philip Fitzpatrick

I think that sooner or later any political system becomes corrupted and I don't doubt that anarchy would be the same. George Orwell neatly demonstrates this in his novel 'Animal Farm'.

I'm not so sure that traditional PNG societies were so riven with superstition and violence as to fit Hobbes' famous description.

And, of course, modern PNG society is still very superstitious and violent, despite democracy (or maybe because of it).

As we seek a post-capitalist alternative the two single things we will have to guard against are the human tendencies to greed and power.

I'm pretty sure we won't be able to do that.

Michael Dom

I agree, we have been duped. Clan leadership was always a fluid dynamic for contribution, reciprocation and negotiation for net benefit.

Capitalism relies on democracy to keep it fed, after which it becomes a self perpetuating cycle relying on individual avarice.

Anarchy may be in some ways a more negotiable option if it leads to the individual being less of a proponent, along the lines of communism, but not quite.

Nevertheless, anarchy would also rely on 'leaders' or 'clan elders' what-have-you, willing to work for the best outcomes of their various groups and to be willing to not only sit and talk about how they can do what benefits each group and all collectively, but also to actually commit to do it.

It appears that when the situation becomes more dire, the need for anarchy becomes more apparent and its practicality more workable.

Capitalism may have gained its standing in socio-political organisation by providing the notion that the best benefit for all was economic.

We are learning that the economy and economic growth is not everything we need if it means sacrificing important environmental and social goods and services to our own detriment as functioning societies.

Chris Overland

The central idea of anarchism in its various forms is that there should be no state which imposes its authority upon individuals. Instead, anarchists believe that people can govern themselves through voluntary associations of various forms.

To some degree, pre-colonial PNG would fit within the anarchist philosophy: there was no state to oppress the people and they typically lived within small, communalist, self governing societies.

Unhappily, this did not result in some sort of Arcadian idyll for the people. In practice, they were governed primarily by superstition, a not irrational fear of others and a good deal of systemic violence.

It was a natural state that, as Thomas Hobbes famously opined, resulted in a life that was all too frequently poor, nasty, brutish and short.

The sad fact is that human beings typically do not handle unfettered freedom very well at all. There is a horrible tendency to conclude that one's own best interests are best served by subjugating others. Put more crudely, the powerful soon come to dominate the weak.

History contains a depressing litany of examples where a combination of religious manipulation, coercion and brute force have been used by ruthless, power hungry and violent men to create societies which they could control to their advantage.

In many respects, the modern nation state is a reaction to such forces. It is usually sufficiently large and robust enough to resist the violent imposition of control by a small minority of opportunists, ideologues and adventurers.

Nevertheless, there are many examples where even quite large and well established nation states can be suborned and brought under the control of authoritarian regimes.

Venezuela is a prime example, as is Zimbabwe and, to some extent at least, Russia.

The Peoples Republic of China is perhaps the foremost example of the modern era, with its current President now emerging as the dominant and controlling figure of an ostensibly communist regime.

So, the romantic notion that anarchy offers a viable way forward in our troubled world is, in my judgement, not really supported by any reasonable examination of the facts.

PNG's democracy may be a bit of a mess but the alternatives available look much less attractive once their true nature is understood.

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