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.