As I stated clearly in a previous blog entry, the topic for my article Blame Anarchism? on Strike the Root was not new; I have written on it before. So I was very surprised that this article stirred up such a debate – it seems I really touched a nerve among many anarchists. Sadly, most of the “comments” on the article are personal attacks on myself and my character (and how I dress in a certain picture), rather than on what I write in the article.
Despite the personal attacks, it is easy to see why people find the article so disturbing. Most of the negative comments (there are but a few positive) try to defend the destruction of property and even the attacks on people, saying it is self defense to destroy corporations’ property since corporations exploit humankind through wage slavery. I do not say such exploitation does not exist, nor that wage slavery is but a fiction, but I do have a hard time understanding the self defense argument (especially when it is indirect and directed towards things).
I have discussed the issue of self defense numerous times before (see my library of writings and the blog entry on my take on pacifism) and don’t intend to repeat the arguments in this post. But I do wish to discuss the issue of destruction and attacking people as part of a “strategy” to bring about freedom.
Those commenting on the article claim I am literally attacking a great part of anarchism and a fundamental anarchist strategy, the so-called “black bloc” protests. Even though anarchists are plenty in such protests I fail to see how black bloc is synonymous with anarchism, or why anarchists necessarily have to support black bloc protesting. I personally support some of the views advocated among people taking part in these protests – e.g. anti-corporatism – but I don’t support destruction as a means more than I support violence. I don’t see how such means can ever be just, and neither can I see how they can ever be effective in trying to achieve something (unless the goal is destruction per se).
But the article I’m discussing here doesn’t speak of the tactic of the black bloc – it discusses anarchism in general terms. Actually, the article doesn’t discuss such corporate property vandalized by the black bloc at all – it discusses destruction of people’s “belongings.” I was, when writing the article, very careful not to mention the word “property,” simply because I know anarchists in general are opposed to the concept and equate it with government privilege and exploitation. My article isn’t about that.
Yet so far I haven’t seen one negative comment that doesn’t miss the point in the article; they all seem to go for the kill against some poor straw man. I do mention McDonald’s in the first paragraph, which was obviously a mistake – this one trademark obviously blinded most of the readers to such a degree that they were utterly unable to understand the rest of the article.
The article is about anarchism and “anarchism,” the latter being a number of people taking the “chaos and destruction” definition of anarchy to heart thinking they can enforce anarchism. Doing this, I claim, means accepting the statists’ agenda and allowing the state and its advocates set the rules for anarchism. This is very different from the old philosophy- and theory-based movement of anarchism, which was definitely not about destruction of anything but the state and its hierarchies, privileges, and structures of forced subjection.
I don’t even discuss the tactics of anarchists in the article; I know anarchists advocate a number of very different types of tactics, black bloc being one of them (even though I don’t support this particular “tactic” to the degree it is violent). The purpose of the article wasn’t in any sense to attack anarchists or the anarchist movement – it was to show that there is a difference between being anarchist and being destruction-loving. So I left corporate and state property aside, and talked only about destruction of individuals’ belongings and attacks on “innocent passers-by.”
Please enlighten me, since when are attacks on innocent people who happen to pass by, and the destruction of people’s belongings, parts of an anarchist tactic?
I happen to personally dislike violence of all types, even if directed at government employees and government property, but I can understand the frustration and hatred causing some anarchists to accept violence as a means. (To me, however, it is contradictory to claim “no one has the right to subject me to their wishes” and then violently subject other individuals because they perhaps work for the faceless organization requesting everybody’s allegiance.)
But I understand it only, however not fully, when directed towards the State or its agencies. Not when directed at people – even though people working for and supporting the State (through e.g. being public servants or voting) are indeed criminals. Assaulting a criminal doesn’t lessen the crime, and it certainly doesn’t undo the crime. It is as effective as the State’s locking people up to undo their crimes; it not only doesn’t work, it is illegitimate and wrong. If nobody has the right to use violence, then certainly you don’t have that right either – even if you are using violence against someone who used violence.
The latter could easily become an endless chain of people using violence on people who used violence on people who used violence on people who used violence.
After all, killing a murderer is still murder (under most circumstances), just like stealing from a thief is theft. It is, however, different if you are “stealing” that which was stolen from you – then it is merely taking back your stuff. But in what way is this the same as destroying people’s belongings as a means of “getting even” at the State? It isn’t. You may have the right to destroy your belongings, but how do you identify that which is yours among the vast properties of the faceless State? More importantly: how do you destroy that which belongs to you without illicitly destroying someone else’s [stolen] belongings too?
The problem of belongings is a tough one, but it is more interesting to discuss the assaults on “innocent passers-by.” How about attacking them, is that a legitimate means? Violence cannot be a means to voluntaryism just like destruction is no means to creation, statism is no means to freedom, and war is no means to peace. Laying your hand on another person, unless it is in direct self-defense, is in every sense statist – you are acting exactly like the State, while – calling yourself anarchist – claiming you are opposed to the State.
I believe anarchism is not only possible but also within reach, but it can only be realized through setting great examples. If we claim society can work without power structures and privileges, then how do we prove this through using power and taking the privilege to destroy and do harm?
The State will fall by itself sooner or later, but it will fall because it is a monstrous creation that is inherently destructive and dangerous to humankind as well as human accomplishments. It will fall when people finally realize the truth about the State and therefore withdraw their passive support. This can be achieved through the setting of examples and showing the other path; indeed, when the State finally is about to fall we need to stand firm and educated, and show people the way. The effect of shouting “anarchy” while attacking people in the streets and burning stuff to the ground does not make people appreciate anarchy – it makes them embrace the State even tighter, and ask for its support and protection. Protection against anarchists.