I am constantly surprised at the number of Anarchists, who are more politically aware and thus should know better, who believe that some form of direct democracy must be a superior form of organization, and that participating in it gives power to the individual.
Indeed, this argument is often used in the first wave Anarchists’ support of unions. The association of the first wave with unions is ironclad. In the end of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century, the drive for such a strategy might be excusable, given the working conditions at those times. Unfortunately, we can now see what a dramatically bad strategic mistake it was, as unions, being clearly defined organizations, were easy for the State to co-opt for its own purposes. Unions are now nothing more than another arm of the State and its collectivist agenda.
We, the second wave Anarchists (i.e. the Market Anarchists, mutualists, left-libertarians, voluntaryists, agorists, etc, do tend to err on the side of corporatism, which is admittedly a terrible mistake. I do not deny that syndicalism has a lot of good things to offer our movement. Rothbard himself proposed syndicalist self-management as the best way to dispose of State-run industries/agencies and State-supported corporations.
But unions are not an Anarchist concept. It is agreed upon by all Anarchist ideologies, old or new, that Anarchy is opposed to hierarchies, unearned authority, and coercion. Unions are a great example of all three! First wave Anarchists try to rationalize this brutal fact by claiming that supporting unions is a “tactical move” to get people on their side. Since when do Anarchists support coercion as a “tactical move,” and how much coercion should we support? This sort of discussion turns to the absurd pretty rapidly. As Anarchists, we must show that we are people of moral principles and oppose the State and hierarchy in all its forms, including democratic ones.
First wave Anarchists accuse our current democracies of being “corrupted.” How can a democracy not be corrupted? A democratic vote is basically a popularity contest, and ruling class clowns compete to become the most popular. Why would they not try to pass laws to permit people to give more or less money depending on how it advantages them? Why would they not try to manipulate the election process in order to elbow out anti-State candidates? And more importantly, why would people in a “pure democracy” not want to “corrupt” it, if it means they can ensure victory?
I think the root of the problem may lie in the manichean idea that the ruling class is full of “bad” people and the masses are full of “good” people, and that “the problem is the people, not government itself.” My position is that, when faced with corrupting incentives such as democracy, any individual can be corrupted. And they are, because we know they vote for the ruling class thugs with relish, even though they know full well how corrupt and depraved those thugs themselves are. Why? Because they seek their own advantage, of course. Just like those politicians who pass election laws in order to seek their own advantage.
Democracy is not the answer. “Pure democracy” is not the answer. Believing that there are people with pure hearts whom we can trust with power over us is not the answer. That is a statist belief, and anyone who advocates it is advocating unearned authority, because no one is incorruptible. The only answer to authoritarianism is personal freedom, consumer choice, self-rule, self-management. Not the rule by aggregates and popularity of democracy.