The prevailing political war is between the left and the right. I myself have partaken in this war, and it has made me realise one thing: we, as anarchists, are fighting the wrong battle.
Anarchism spans the whole left/right political spectrum. From far left-wing anarcho-communism, through more centrist anarchist schools of thought such as anarcho-syndicalism and anarcho-mutualism, all the way to far right-wing anarcho-capitalism. These diverse anarchist schools of thought have led to fierce debate amongst anarchists. Left-wing anarchists accuse anarcho-capitalists of not being real anarchists, as capitalism and private property rights are anathema to anarchism in their view. Anarcho-capitalists criticise left-wing anarchists of proposing inherently authoritarian systems of property redistribution and no individual freedom from the collective. What the vast majority of anarchists don’t get is we all can agree, or at least should agree, on one principle: voluntarism.
The subtype of anarchist thought that you subscribe to should actually be irrelevant. Whether you prefer an anarcho-communist society or an anarcho-capitalist society should not matter. All that should matter is that cooperatives are built on the foundation of voluntarism. In a society that respects the principle of voluntarism, individuals would be free to choose their cooperative of choice, whether it be a capitalist, a communist, or even a syndicalist cooperative. An anarchist world would allow all types of anarchist societies to flourish (or fail). Different anarchist societies don’t even necessarily have to exist in separate jurisdictions. You and your neighbour can belong to different cooperatives within the same jurisdiction, with the cooperatives logically working together to fund shared infrastructure (also known as panarchism). An anarchist world would thus also allow cooperation between cooperatives on a large scale.
Voluntary cooperatives are not the same thing as countries, though. Countries are inherently authoritarian and stand directly in opposition to the principle of voluntarism; the government apparently always knows what’s best for you. Voluntary cooperatives also tend to be much, much smaller than countries, which automatically makes it easier for people to decide which cooperatives they want to join. Smaller societies mean more societies thus more choice and more diversity. All in all, it means more competition which will inevitably lead to the survival of the fittest society in the long run through seeing which type of cooperative can attract and hold the most members. Survival of the fittest in an anarchist world does not equate to barbaric practices such as Apartheid or communism. That’s an authoritarian type of survival of the fittest.
If you think of the world on an international scale and ignore the inherently authoritarian nature of nation states regarding their citizens, we are already living in what I like to call a state of quasi-anarchy. Countries have to work together through bodies such as the United Nations to try and keep the peace and foster an environment of cooperation. If voluntarism prevails, countries (especially the large and culturally diverse ones) will cease to exist and smaller, voluntary cooperatives will arise, which will lead to the consequences described in the preceding paragraph.
Now, I need to make it clear that no cooperative will ever be able to always respect the principle of voluntarism as it should. People will also not be able to always leave and join new cooperatives at will. There will always be problems in society. Anarchism is not utopian. Utopia doesn’t exist. What anarchism is, is the voluntary cooperation of individuals. Humans band together in cooperatives because it is an evolutionary defence mechanism to do so. Of course, we can argue for days on end on whether collectivist anarchism or individualist anarchism will be the logical end reached when society starts functioning on the basis of voluntarism, but it simply does not matter to me at this point in time.
Individuals will choose the cooperative they prefer, and the best one will prevail. Personally, I believe that the logical ‘winner’ of competition between anarchist cooperatives would be anarcho-individualist in nature (voluntary cooperation and individualism are not mutually exclusive), for that is the logical conclusion of the utmost decentralisation of power and respect for the liberty of persons: the individual and their property are afforded autonomy. But that is a debate for another day.
The war we need to be fighting is not the war between the left and the right. It is a futile war. The war that is worth fighting is the war between authoritarianism and libertarianism. The political battle being fought as we speak is sadly a battle between left-wing and right-wing authoritarianism; two wings of the same sick bird. What matters now is that we first move away from authoritarianism towards libertarianism and eventually reach anarchism (which is just consent and liberty taken to their logical conclusions). Once that point is reached, we can start debating what type of anarchist cooperative is best and actually see which types of cooperatives survive the inherent competition prevalent in an anarchist world.