When Anarchy Fails, even Anarchists Demand Boundaries and Borders

Executive summary: nonprofit groups that claim to be “anarchist” often depend on cash flow from lonely, rich members. This leads to conflicts of interest that vitiate any anarchist tendencies.

An essential quality of anarchy is that it is NOT the tyranny of the majority. If the majority can always pressure non-conforming individualists into compliance, what you have got is NOT anarchy. Another essential quality of anarchy is supposed to be freedom from the tyranny of minorities, e.g. ruling cliques who enforce whimsical, capricious, arbitrary demands.

I am not sure whether anarchy should even use any kind of borders. Most anarchist situations arise in isolated rural settings, where borders are unnecessary due to the paucity of visitors. If you are big enough and organized enough to have membership lists and blacklists and if you call the police to enforce the decisions of the ruling clique – you’re not anarchists.

Since Ex-Army is reposting Counter Currents pieces about how individualism requires coherent European culture, and since NeoColonial has written about the importance of exile, I will chime in with a case study in how people can call themselves anarchists while adhering slavishly to the tyranny of the majority.

My point is not that anarchists must be white. My point is that anarchists must have a coherent culture – usually based on European ideals of individualism. That coherent culture usually requires coherent socio-economic status. And when anarchy fails, the self-proclaimed anarchists set up borders and rules and cliques.

If you are engaging in “tyranny of the majority,” don’t call yourself an anarchist.

Noisebridge has the legal form of a charity:

We self-finance through membership fees ($80 per member/month with $40 “starving hacker” rate), beverage sales, and parties, the way European hacker spaces do it. We also welcome one-time or recurring donations from members and non-members alike. Donations and sponsorships will accompany renovation and equipment purchase. Within the first 24 hours of renting a space, we raised over $10,000 for a cool location and meaningful projects. Within our first month, we’ve nearly become cash flow positive from membership dues alone.

Do companies match donations?
Yes! Please ask your employer. Some employers will match an employee’s tax-deductible contribution to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit! Generally the nonprofit has to do some small amount of paperwork. Contact a board member if your employer will match, and we’re happy to do this work!
In particular, the following companies are already set up:
Google (as of July 2009)

I won’t bother to investigate whether the corporate donors have successfully corrupted the charity. The obvious interpersonal conflicts detailed below take priority.

“Noisebridge” is a “makerspace” which claims to be anarchistic. No reasonable person could call it “anarchistic.” It is a community of people who conform to upper-middle-class standards in order to secure donations from upper-middle-class donors. It has few formal rules, but it is a private club with private rules, dependent on the police protection of its community and the considerable social pressures of its conformist members.

As an example, consider several simple cases of non-upper-middle-class behavior that resulted in physical bans:

A: [Threatened violence, but apparently did not do anything.] It took 7 people and the SFPD to get him to leave.

B: Banned by consensus 2013-10-01 for physical assaulting another Noisebridge user and concerning behavior.

C: asked to leave, responded with verbose legal threats.

D: [Vagrancy] Older guy with longish gray hair, who has often come to Noisebridge with bedding, and has used Noisebridge as a home from time to time. He has been asked to leave, and not come back. He has come back anyway. He has a gate key — if you see him, demand that he give you the key.

E: [Used the “N-word.”] His membership was subsequently suspended[4]. Subsequently, he threatened Noisebridge with legal action[5]

F: Used Noisebridge’s public computer and printer facilities to print at least 25 anti-gentrification flyers featuring the phrase “die techie scum”.

G: PirateMatt is super nice and wonderful when not drunk. [Was asked not to get drunk, got drunk anyway] … PirateMatt was then banned from Noisebridge.



It seems to me that these self-proclaimed anarchists suffer from BOTH tyranny of the majority AND tyranny of the minority, and all the arbitrary exiles are aggravated by the inequality of wealth.

I don’t object to private clubs setting their own rules. I don’t object to private clubs black-balling members. And I certainly don’t object to charitable buildings forbidding vagrancy, pickpocketing, and drunkenness on their premises.

What I object to is the phony appearance of anarchy. These people are not individualists or anarchists. (And they don’t have to be individualists or anarchists.) They should admit that they are just another bunch of money-seeking conformists cloaking themselves in the outward appearance of anarchy.

This is false advertising, both for the makerspace and for anarchy in general. Ignorant people who are learning about anarchy should be warned that it does not scale up to use in large groups. Anarchy is a temporary state of small, coherent groups. Anarchy never survives a large expansion of membership.

From what I can tell, the ruling clique of Noisebridge was not blacklisting actual law-breakers. A “makerspace” is supposed to be an uninhibited, bohemian setting, in which tattooed ladies can prance about, printing anti-gentrification flyers. I don’t think the flyer-printer was breaking the rules; I think the ruling clique set up a fake appearance of no rules, and then enforced a whimsical, arbitrary abuse of power. I think the ruling clique promised tolerance and diversity, but in fact cracked down on anyone who offended the ruling clique’s sense of good taste. (They were particularly transparent when they kicked out the “Die Techie Scum” lady; they were not worried about violence or theft; they were worried that she might annoy the wealthy donors, or the corporate accountants at Microsoft who match private donations.)

I am not arguing that the conformists of Noisebridge are bad people. Maybe they are wonderful human beings. But they are clearly conformists who pressure all members into conformity, and they should stop calling themselves anarchists.

Some pages on their website talk about consensus as follows:

Under consensus, the group takes no action that is not consented to by all group members.


At first glance this looks like a blatant contradiction. The community can throw out a drunk and tell him not to come back, and if he comes back, obviously he does not “consent” to that “action.” How could the computer geeks who founded this place have put in such a contradiction?

In fact, their logic holds – it just barely squeaks past the test of self-contradiction, because the community policy also reads:

If you disagree with another member of the community you should try to work out your differences with them.
If you cannot work out your differences one-on-one, you should consider mediation.
If someone asks you to leave them alone or to otherwise stop a behavior that is directed toward them, please do so. Continued unwanted behavior directed toward another person is Harassment.
Requests to Leave

If someone is acting in a way incompatible with our community standards, you are empowered to ask them to leave Noisebridge immediately.

So – theoretically – everyone who becomes a member has “consented” to “being asked to leave” if any other member judges him to be in violation of murky, undefinable “community standards.” This is actually WORSE than typical laws. With typical laws, you can read a contract before consenting to it. With Noisebridge, you are consenting to any wild excess that the mob might come up with, and you have no way of knowing how arbitrary the mob will be.

The whole business would work better as a private cash transaction. A “makerspace” could say, “Look, we will rent out our fancy tools; don’t cause trouble, or we will kick you out, and you will lose any unspent money.” But Noisebridge would be embarrassed by such blunt commerce. Instead, they pretend to be a community, and they ask for donations.

When one follows the money, the code of conduct becomes clear. Noisebridge is a place where lonely, rich amateurs can indulge in a temporary sense of camaraderie. The poor amateurs are allowed to get in at a lower price, but they have to behave nicely and never say anything that might upset the rich donors. Noisebridge does forcibly eject a few impolite people who might scare off the rich donors; the people who get ejected range from violent drunks to vagrants to pickpockets to tattooed ladies who make flyers that read “Die Techie Scum.” Noisebridge only ejects the people that pose a meaningful risk to the cash flow. There are no rules that grant rights to the common members – which means that the only real rights are the external property rights of the legal owners, which means that Noisebridge is not a separate community at all, but rather just a private club for rich people who depend on external police protection.

I don’t begrudge the rich people of Noisebridge their wealth. I do begrudge them the use of words like “community” and “anarchy.”

In one respect, Noisebridge has lived up to its own standards:

Noisebridge’s Vision tried to avoid hard-and-fast rules. Many of these are guidelines, and rightly so.


Noisebridge did indeed eliminate the tyranny of cut-and-dried rules – but it replaced it with the much worse tyranny of whimsical, arbitrary, capricious mob rule corrupted by the unequal donations of rich donors. Such a situation is so bad, it makes the “rule of law” look good by comparison. How unfortunate it is that the “rule of law” is hard to implement, and even harder to preserve!

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One Response to When Anarchy Fails, even Anarchists Demand Boundaries and Borders

  1. AAB says:

    Yeah that’s one of the common problems with so-called anarchists the world over: they typically have a socialist bent so they end up turning into anarcho-communists, basically communinists who are a bit more funky and a bit less academic/dry than the average commie.

    It’s a shame really because these socialist-anarchists undermine the principle of genuine anarchism which allows people to determine how they interact with each other and their environment.

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