The Accidental Anarchist

Carne Ross

Denmark 2017, 1h 24min.

Today, Ross is an anarchist who fights to open Western eyes to the democratic and anarchist revolution of northern Syria. The documentary The Accidental Anarchist provides a unique insight into the way anarchism works in real life.

Anarchism. The term anarchism originates from the old Greek term «Anarchos»,  meaning «without rulers». In the documentary The accidental Anarchist, we follow Carne Ross from his beginning as a patriotic Brit who wanted to become a fighter pilot, to his career as a top diplomat. In the 1990s, he witnessed Iraqi children dying of starvation, as a result of the sanctions he helped impose. When he later saw Iraq collapsed due to an invasion based on lies about weapons of mass destruction, he had had enough. Ross would no longer be a cog in the wheel of what he considered the current rulers.

The film follows Ross’ journey to discover whether it is a realistic possibility to organize the world differently. Whether possible to trade without the classic capitalist system. Ross describes the Spanish collectively-run rural areas where workers live in villages governed by direct democracy. The film takes a historical look at the one time a large segment of a country was controlled anarchically: The Spanish Republic in the 1930s. Ross is passionate about what he considers the Spanish republic of our time: Rojavja, an area in Northern Syria, governed by anarchic principles.

When Öcalan found Bookchin. Ross’ journey to areas in Northern Syria shows something extraordinary. In an area the size of Belgium, there is an attempt of a political movement to bring about equality, people living in harmony with nature, and an including democracy represented by women, men and all religious and ethnic minorities. Decisions take place when people come together and freely discuss and make decisions through referendums. Ross´ film shows the fascinating story of how an anarchic mindset and ideology found its way from Brooklyn to Syria’s Kurdish areas. The imprisoned PKK leader Abdulla Öchalan read Murray Bookchin’s The Ecology of Freedom. This inspired him to develop a vision and a new direction for his political thinking. The PKK leader was inspired to envisage a system without an oppressive central government and a democratic confederation. The basic principles are feminism, ecology and direct democracy. In other words, areas without rulers, governed by the people themselves where they decide what will happen in the village, towns and regions. Carne ross, with his background as experienced diplomat in the Middle East, believes this model to be the answer to many of the region’s problems.

Meeting Chomsky. In the film, Ross meets one of the world’s most famous anarchists, author and professor of linguistics, Noam Chomsky. The filmmaker shows his obvious curiosity about anarchy and how it would work in practice, something that he challenges Chomsky about. Chomsky explains: ‘The fundamentals of anarchism is that humans have a basic need for free creative work and to have a life that is under their own control. This means that all sorts of hierarchy, whether it is serving or employee-manager relations, must justify itself. If they cannot do that, then the system must be dismantled and replaced by a co-operative and an actively participating communities.’

–          Is this not overly optimistic thinking?

‘The opposing argument is that if we have leadership, it will be benign. There is massive historical evidence to the contrary. Yes, we are humans, not angels. But, is the solution to create structures and institutions that bring out the worst in us,’ asks Chomsky.

A journey in world history. Ross, who wrote and directed this personal documentary, is a uniquely knowledgeable man. Not only did he have first row seat at several turning points in modern history, such as watching the planes crash into the Twin Towers from his diplomat’s apartment in New York. He also was involved in the 2001 Afghanistan invasion, and Iraq in 2003. The film documents and shows how leaders including Tony Blair and George Bush, with a massive government apparatus backing them, deceived a whole world with its motives for the Iraqi invasion. The unique feature of The Accidental Anarchist is that you, the viewer, will experience the process from the inside. You will see how a loyal diplomat gradually loses faith in who he is working for and whether they are ‘The Good Guys’. How the diplomat went hard into UN negotiations with countries that his governments both sanctioned and invaded, with fatal consequences.

Mind boggling. The film’s basic premise is this; is it possible to create a different world? Is the Western model truly democratic, and are our leaders working in the people’s interests? Who can best look after the people? Ross shows how the citizen initiative of the Occupy Wall Street network did a better and more effective job in providing food, shelter and assistance to the victim of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. This is one of many examples that feature in the film, making it harder to dismiss anarchism as an unrealistic ideological Utopia. One of the film’s most notable results is provoking viewers to think and to ask the same basic questions Ross did. Questions that made him quit a well-paid and highly regarded job as diplomat when he uncovered the answers. The Accidental Anarchist also provides a credible impression because it is told by Carne ross. A man who is very difficult to dismiss as an unrealistic ideological dreamer. He turns the entire narrative around and makes you think: Is it really realistic to continue the way we do today?


Modern Times Review