Means and Ends, War and Peace – November 11th

war_and_revolution_by_declarck-d6jife2

This is the next installment from the Anarchist Current, the Afterword to Volume Three of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, in which I survey the historical origins and development of anarchist ideas. In this installment, I discuss anarchist views during the 1880s-1890s on the relationship between means and ends and the need to remain engaged in popular struggles. I briefly refer to the execution on November 11, 1887, of the Haymarket Martyrs, four Chicago anarchists framed for a bombing at a demonstration against police violence at the beginning of May 1886. I previously posted one of Voltairine de Cleyre‘s speeches commemorating their executions and excerpts from their trial speeches.

haymarketcol

In Britain and several of its former colonies, November 11th is celebrated as a day of remembrance for all the soldiers who have been killed fighting wars on behalf of their political and economic masters. Earlier this year I posted the International Anarchist Manifesto against the First World War. I have also posted Marie Louise Berneri’s critique of the hypocrisy of the politicians and patriots who condemn any acts of violence against the existing order as “terrorism” but venerate the mass slaughters known as “modern warfare” as great patriotic self-sacrifice.

Fight_the_state,_not_wars

Means and Ends

There were ongoing debates among anarchists regarding methods and tactics. Cafiero agreed with the late Carlo Pisacane that “ideals spring from deeds, and not the other way around” (Volume One, Selections 16 & 44). He argued that anarchists should seize every opportunity to incite “the rabble and the poor” to violent revolution, “by word, by writing, by dagger, by gun, by dynamite, sometimes even by the ballot when it is a case of voting for an ineligible candidate” (Volume One, Selection 44).
Kropotkin argued that by exemplary actions “which compel general attention, the new idea seeps into people’s minds and wins converts. One such act may, in a few days, make more propaganda than thousands of pamphlets” (1880).

Jean Grave (1854-1939) explained that through propaganda by the deed, the anarchist “preaches by example.” Consequently, contrary to Cafiero, “the means employed must always be adapted to the end, under pain of producing the exact contrary of one’s expectations”. For Grave, the “surest means of making Anarchy triumph is to act like an Anarchist” (Volume One, Selection 46). Some anarchists agreed with Cafiero that any method that brought anarchy closer was acceptable, including bombings and assassinations. At the 1881 International Anarchist Congress in London, the delegates declared themselves in favour of “illegality” as “the only way leading to revolution” (Cahm: 157-158), echoing Cafiero’s statement from the previous year that “everything is right for us which is not legal” (Volume One, Selection 44).

After years of state persecution, a small minority of self-proclaimed anarchists adopted terrorist tactics in the 1890s. Anarchist groups had been suppressed in Spain, Germany and Italy in the 1870s, particularly after some failed assassination attempts on the Kaiser in Germany, and the Kings of Italy and Spain in the late 1870s, even before Russian revolutionaries assassinated Czar Alexander II in 1881. Although none of the would be assassins were anarchists, the authorities and capitalist press blamed the anarchists and their doctrine of propaganda by the deed for these events, with the Times of London describing anarchism in 1879 as having “revolution for its starting point, murder for its means, and anarchy for its ideals” (Stafford: 131).

The Lyon Anarchist Trial

The Lyon Anarchist Trial

Those anarchists in France who had survived the Paris Commune were imprisoned, transported to penal colonies, or exiled. During the 1870s and 1880s, anarchists were prosecuted for belonging to the First International. In 1883, several anarchists in France, including Kropotkin, were imprisoned on the basis of their alleged membership, despite the fact that the anti-authoritarian International had ceased to exist by 1881. At their trial they declared: “Scoundrels that we are, we claim bread for all, knowledge for all, work for all, independence and justice for all” (Manifesto of the Anarchists, Lyon 1883).

Perhaps the most notorious persecution of the anarchists around this time was the trial and execution of the four “Haymarket Martyrs” in Chicago in 1887 (a fifth, Louis Lingg, cheated the executioner by committing suicide). They were convicted and condemned to death on trumped up charges that they were responsible for throwing a bomb at a demonstration in the Chicago Haymarket area in 1886.

When Emile Henry (1872-1894) threw a bomb into a Parisian café in 1894, describing his act as “propaganda by the deed,” he regarded it as an act of vengeance for the thousands of workers massacred by the bourgeoisie, such as the Communards, and the anarchists who had been executed by the authorities in Germany, France, Spain and the United States. He meant to show to the bourgeoisie “that those who have suffered are tired at last of their suffering” and “will strike all the more brutally if you are brutal with them” (1894). He denounced those anarchists who eschewed individual acts of terrorism as cowards.

Malatesta, who was no pacifist, countered such views by describing as “ultra-authoritarians” those anarchists who try “to justify and exalt every brutal deed” by arguing that the bourgeoisie are just “as bad or worse.” By doing so, these self-described anarchists had entered “on a path which is the most absolute negation of all anarchist ideas and sentiments.” Although they had “entered the movement inspired with those feelings of love and respect for the liberty of others which distinguish the true Anarchist,” as a result of “a sort of moral intoxication produced by the violent struggle” they ended up extolling actions “worthy of the greatest tyrants.” He warned that “the danger of being corrupted by the use of violence, and of despising the people, and becoming cruel as well as fanatical prosecutors, exists for all” (Volume One, Selection 48).

Malatesta at the Magistrate's Court

Malatesta at the Magistrate’s Court

In the 1890s, the French state brought in draconian laws banning anarchist activities and publications. Bernard Lazare (1865-1903), the writer and journalist then active in the French anarchist movement, denounced the hypocrisy of the defenders of the status quo who, as the paid apologists for the police, rationalized the far greater violence of the state. He defiantly proclaimed that no “law can halt free thought, no penalty can stop us from uttering the truth… and the Idea, gagged, bound and beaten, will emerge all the more lively, splendid and mighty” (Volume One, Selection 62).

Malatesta took a more sober approach, recognizing that “past history contains examples of persecutions which stopped and destroyed a movement as well as of others which brought about a revolution.” He criticized those “comrades who expect the triumph of our ideas from the multiplication of acts of individual violence,” arguing that “bourgeois society cannot be overthrown” by bombs and knife blows because it is based “on an enormous mass of private interests and prejudices… sustained… by the inertia of the masses and their habits of submission.” While he argued that anarchists should ignore and defy anti-anarchist laws and measures where able to do so, he felt that anarchists had isolated themselves from the people. He called on anarchists to “live among the people and to win them over… by actively taking part in their struggles and sufferings,” for the anarchist social revolution can only succeed when the people are “ready to fight and… to take the conduct of their affairs into their own hands” (Volume One, Selection 53).

Robert Graham

malatesta anarchist spirit

Additional References

Cahm, Caroline. Kropotkin and the Rise of Revolutionary Anarchism, 1872-1886. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Henry, Emile. “A Terrorist’s Defence” (1894). The Anarchist Reader. Ed. G. Woodcock. Fontana, 1977.

Kropotkin, Peter. “The Spirit of Revolt” (1880). Kropotkin’s Revolutionary Pamphlets. Ed. R.N. Baldwin. New York: Dover, 1970.

Stafford, David. From Anarchism to Reformism: A Study of the Political Activities of Paul Brousse, 1870-90. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971.

Sam Mbah Needs Help

Sam Mbah

Sam Mbah

In Volume Three of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, I included excerpts from Sam Mbah and I.E. Irgariwey’s book, African Anarchism. More recently, I posted an interview with Sam Mbah regarding the situation in Nigeria. Now Sam Mbah is in need of medical help, and Jura Books in Australia is conducting a fundraising campaign. Their appeal for donations is set forth below.

Jura Books Fundraising Appeal on Behalf of Sam Mbah

Sam Mbah is an anarchist author and activist from Nigeria. Jura has been in contact with Sam for some years; one collective member spent time with him in 2012, interviewing him and setting up his blog. Sam’s classic book African Anarchism explores the anarchistic aspects of a number of traditional African societies, as well as the potential for anarchism in Africa today. Sam was active in the struggle against the Nigerian dictatorship, and helped to found the Awareness League – a large anarchist organisation at that time. Sam is now one of a small number of prominent anarchists in Nigeria – the third most populous English-speaking country in the world. He is of great significance to our global community.

Now Sam needs our help. His health has been deteriorating due to a heart condition. He needs an operation on his heart and is seeking to raise $12,000. Jura is helping to fundraise. Please make a donation now – any amount would be appreciated. You can donate in cash at Jura, or by paypal [ http://jura.org.au/donate ], or by direct transfer into our bank account below. Please include the reference ‘Sam Mbah‘ and let us know you’ve made the donation. We will send the money to Sam in one transfer.

Print

David Wieck: Anarchism, Anarchy, Anarchists (1951)

anarchism_defined_by_ztk2006

The Free Society Group of Chicago was an anarchist group founded in 1923 in the immediate aftermath of the Russian Revolution, when most radicals went over to the Soviet camp. Two of its best known members were Gregory Maksimov and Sam Dolgoff. They helped to keep anarchist ideas alive at a time when anarchist ideas and movements were being repressed virtually everywhere. In 1951, the Group published a pamphlet, The World Scene From the Libertarian Point of View, an anarchist assessment of the human prospect in light of the mass murder of the Second World War, the atomic bomb, the Cold War and the Korean War. For some, the human prospect was bleak. Others held out hope for the reemergence of a social libertarian, anarchist approach regarding the many crises and problems then facing humanity. One of those holding out hope for the present and the future was David Thoreau Wieck (1921-1997), an American anarchist, war resister and editor of one of the best post-war anarchist journals, Resistance. In Volume Two of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, I included a piece by David Wieck on the realization of freedom, from the August 1953 issue of Resistance. Here I reproduce his still timely contribution to The World Scene From the Libertarian Point of View. Isn’t it time someone published a collection of Wieck’s anarchist writings?

we-are-everywhere

 ANARCHISM, ANARCHY, ANARCHISTS

Let us identify and locate ourselves, the Anarchists.

I shall speak, necessarily, of Anarchists as I understand Anarchists, Anarchism as I understand it.

We are people who have values, aims, and methods radically different from the dominant. Our comradeship is neither in doctrine nor daily program; on these we easily disagree, rather this: we face our nature, affirm life, stubbornly insist on the real and basic needs; and we understand that these are possible only as we are free from external oppression (authority as violence) and internal oppression (authority within us). We are people who insist upon, and affirm, liberty from authority, and freedom within the individual; we are those who assert (and follow our logic) that these ends of freedom and liberty can be achieved only by directness: freedom through freedom, liberty through liberty.

This last century, our oppressors, problems, goals, are specific in this way: the centralized political State, the dominant capitalist-military- political ruling class, an increasingly complex array of institutions binding these together, and the social organization (and ourselves) to them; holding society in tension and violence of world war following world war, concentration camps and extermination camps of indifferent flags and ideologies; most significantly in the systematic, ruthless, even purposeless, destruction of the principle of life. (The ideally adapted human today is composed, as it were, of a small small core of living substance, surrounded by a many times larger mass of deadness, confusion, violence; covered completely by a hard thin shell of customs, habits, and compulsions that constitute the daily economic rituals, the culture, civilization: this is the basic disaster; the great bombs are consistent, but ironically superfluous.)

Living so: burdened, threatened, oppressed, exploited, enslaved, regimented, killed, and left (living) for dead: for a century we have risen in rebellion, adamant in disobedience, joined as friends and neighbours in solidarity and community; this handful of Anarchists; believing firmly that this need not be, we need not live so, will be free.

Our definition in space and time becomes more exact now: the day after a century of unmitigated disasters to movement, comrades, friends, strangers; a handful still, seemingly forced to choose between illusion and despair; on the day before other atomic facts, amid the potent demonstrations of giant nation-states planning our (incidental) extermination. And, seemingly without reluctance, our neighbours perform the necessary labour: mass homicide, slavery, regimentation, and the rest.

These facts, the lack of even individual refuge for survival alive, the unimpassioned murderings by our neighbours—are these all there is? Are we to withdraw to museums and study histories of the decay of civilizations—or make peace, pact or armistice, so as to die a little later, in greater safety? (but not the safety of our selves). Or is it so, that there is work to do, joyful and rewarding work, and we may think and hope without illusion or despair?

There is this work, this illusionless, affirming thought, but it is easier not to see and do it.

Assume a worst: that it were so (if it were so), for example, that our neighbours, even our friends (our enemies cannot disappoint us as our friends can), are, forever will be, as they are (which we know too well) ; or, the same thing, the prevailing social orders are immutable in their central principle of slavery: were this really so (some argue) our Anarchism has no meaning, we ought to become one with the ideals and acts of the society and its population. No! Not so that a thing is better for being inevitable; not so that our happiness and health would no longer depend on rejection of this social machine, its inhuman demands, its suffocating terms: so, on the other hand, that a man must be as free as he can, make a revolution of indefinite (most possible) extension.

Were it really so—some argue this, too—that the mass is by nature docile, unrebellious, must be led and herded, it then does not follow that we should lead, herd and slaughter them into our (former!) utopia. Even so, when we observe the State’s seeming omnipotence, we cannot become its slaves, masters, or loyal opposition; again we protect ourselves, shelter our friends, undermine it in its locus of power (minds of subjects).

Or assume that no alternative to destruction can be: Could we then be “realists,” as we are bidden to be, argue the relative merits of a bomb now or two years from now; support (that is, help create) a war, be its soldiers, fabricate its weapons? No! If our belief is in life, community, and freedom, No! Not by participating in a lesser evil (killing strangers, to the gain of our oppressors), but by rejecting all the evils will we mitigate them all. (And I deny that we will not one day abolish them!)

But let us not give these people the best of the argument a moment more! We are learning; there is work to be done; we know (our friends disappoint us; but not always) from day to day that there is ability for another life in us, our neighbours, strangers.

Experience and our science tell us that the nature of man is not such as slavery causes to appear.

If, less than of old, we have faith in the virtue of propaganda, dramatic insurrections, quick revolution; less than of old, in the inevitability of mass anarchic rebellion to economic misery; if so, we have learned much of the power of direct action, immediate action, personal action, group action, learning that what is revolutionary in time of revolution is not so much street barricades but the immediate revolutionary act: as the Spanish anarchists taught us, a village or a factory is enough. We have learned that as groups living the ethics and meaning of Anarchism we create an Anarchist community in and as our movement, and demonstrate by this new society our ideas, and their practicality. We have learned that as individuals we do most by this same living of ethics and meaning of Anarchism, creating a new environment for our non-Anarchist friends, creating the new society, a new life.

By daily acts of life we are more deeply angered, gifted with hatred at a kind of life (as it is) ; more deeply knowing, in our hearts, that we must live differently; more earnestly searching in each direction our strength allows us, ways and instruments and friends and comrades in a struggle which must have this form: the creation of new life, or continuing death.

More urgent work, a finer goal, labour more consonant with our persons and ideas, surely we cannot imagine. To those who wish immediate, simple, political answers to atomic problems, we would seem to give no answer: but it is by plotting the utilitarian murder of a million strangers in a far-off city that one can intervene in this politics, guide the hands of States. We select, for our goals, other weapons: the strong desires and dreams of man, the strength and joy and magic of life. We can do this.

David Wieck, 1951

hierachy v anarchy

Erich Mühsam: Anarchy (1912)

Erich Mühsam

Erich Mühsam

Here is a brief piece on anarchy by the German anarchist revolutionary, Erich Mühsam (1878-1934). Friend of Gustav Landauer, participant in the 1919 Bavarian Revolution, and one of the first radicals to be murdered by the Nazis in July 1934 after their seizure of power, Mühsam was, next to Landauer and Rudolf Rocker, one of the leading German speaking anarchists of the 20th century. This translation is taken from Gabriel Kuhn’s collection of Mühsam’s writings, Liberating Society from the State, published by PM Press.

Mühsam's paper, Fanal

Mühsam’s paper, Fanal

Anarchy

Anarchy means freedom from domination. Those for whom it means nothing but chaos have the sensory perception of a horse.

Anarchy is freedom from coercion, violence, servitude, law, centralization and the state. An anarchic society rests on voluntariness, communication, contract, agreement, alliance and people.

Humans demand to be controlled, because they cannot control themselves. They kiss the robes of priests and the boots of princes, because they lack self-respect and must find an object of adoration outside of themselves. They call for the police, because they cannot protect themselves against the bestiality of their own instincts. In making decisions, they trust others to represent them… because they lack the courage necessary to trust their own opinions.

To continue with the horse analogy: the political life of the civilized peoples remains limited to conceiving ever more perfect reins, saddles, shafts, curbs, and whips. The working human being only distinguishes himself from the working horse by helping the master to develop ever better tools of bondage and by adjusting to them voluntarily. Both share the trust in iron mountings and accept blinders to prevent these from being used properly.

Scientific studies have revealed how the capitalist system robs human beings of the profits of their labour. They are exploited, and they know it. They also know the route to socialism, the redistribution of land and the means of production from the hands of the privileged to the hands of the people. They have known this for half a century, but they have not taken a single step in the right direction up to this day.

The means to change conditions that you know are dreadful is action. But the people of our times are lazy. As an excuse for their lack of action, they have developed the theory that history follows materialistic necessity: time changes things automatically. Meanwhile, the working people wait, repair and wash their dishes, complain, and vote. These provisional activities have become their habit, their need, their purpose in life. In fact, they have forgotten what they were waiting for. And if anyone dares to remind them, that person better watch out!

Anarchy is the society of humans as brothers. Its economic alliance is called socialism. Humans who are brothers exist. Anarchy is alive whenever they come together. They need no domination. However, they still have to create socialism. This demands labour. Those who refuse to help create and to engage in socialist labour in brotherly communion, those who want to wait until things change without themselves lifting a finger, they may go on repairing and washing their dishes, they may go on complaining and voting—but they must not call themselves socialists! In particular, they must not speak of anarchy! Anarchy is a matter of the heart, and they know nothing of that.

Erich Mühsam, from the Kain-Kalendarflir das Jahr 1912

kuhn-muehsam

CrimethInc: What to do while the dust is settling

CrimethInc. Ex-Workers Collective

CrimethInc. Ex-Workers Collective

CrimethInc. Ex-Workers Collective (CWC) has been running a series reflecting on the experiences of anarchists involved in recent popular protests and uprisings, with the emphasis on what to do after the crest of the wave of popular protest. Below, I reproduce excerpts from Part One. For the rest of the series, click here. In Volume Three of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Ideas, I included excerpts from CrimethInc.’s analysis of the 2011-2012 Egyptian revolution.

crimethInc blog-dust-1b

After the Crest, Part One: What to do while the dust is settling

Over the past six years, cities around the world have seen peaks of anti-capitalist struggle: Athens, London, Barcelona, Cairo, Oakland, Montréal, Istanbul. A decade ago, anarchists would converge from around the world to participate in a single summit protest. Now many have participated in months-long upheavals in their own cities, and more surely loom ahead.

But what do we do after the crest? If a single upheaval won’t bring down capitalism, we have to ask what’s important about these high points: what we hope to get out of them, how they figure in our long-term vision, and how to make the most of the period that follows them. This is especially pressing today, when we can be sure that there are more upheavals on the way.

“At the high point, it seems like it will go on forever. You feel invincible, unstoppable. Then the crash comes: court cases, disintegration, depression.

Once you go through this several times, the rhythm becomes familiar. It becomes possible to recognize these upheavals as the heartbeat of something greater than any single movement.”

…Many anarchists depend on a triumphalist narrative, in which we have to go from victory to victory to have anything to talk about. But movements, too, have natural life cycles. They inevitably peak and die down. If our strategies are premised on endless growth, we are setting ourselves up for inevitable failure. That goes double for the narratives that determine our morale.

After the Crest

After the Crest

Movement – A mysterious social phenomenon that aspires to growth yet, when observed, always appears to be in decline.

When social change is gathering momentum, it is protean and thus invisible; only when it stabilizes as a fixed quantity is it possible to affix a label to it, and from that moment on it can only decompose. This explains why movements burst like comets into the public consciousness at the high point of their innovation, followed by a long tail of diminishing returns. A sharper eye can see the social ferment behind these explosions, perennial and boundless, alternately drawing in new participants and emitting new waves of activity, as if in successive breaths.

In Occupy Oakland, a three-week occupation gave way to a six-month decline. This bears repeating: movements spend most of their time in decline. That makes it all the more important to consider how to make the most of the waning phase.

As all movements inevitably reach limits, it is pointless to bewail their passing—as if they would go on growing indefinitely if only the participants were strategic enough. If we presume the goal of any tactic is always to maintain the momentum of a particular movement, we will never be able to do more than react quixotically against the inexorable passing of time. Rather than struggling to stave off dissolution, we should act with an eye to the future.

This could mean consolidating the connections that have developed during the movement, or being sure to go out with a bang to inspire future movements, or revealing the internal contradictions that the movement never solved. Perhaps, once a movement has reached its limits, the most important thing to do in the waning phase is to point to what a future movement would have to do to transcend those limits.

crimethInc-oak-1b

“We had occupied the building for almost 24 hours, and we were starting to imagine that we could somehow hold onto it. I was about to go out for supplies to fortify the place when something caught my eye. There in the dust of the abandoned garage was a hood ornament from a car that hadn’t been manufactured in 40 years. I reached down to pick it up, then hesitated: I could always look at it later. On impulse, I took it anyway. A half hour later, a SWAT squad surrounded the building for blocks in every direction. We never recovered any of the things we built or brought there. Over a hundred of us met, danced, and slept in that building, outside the bounds of anything we’d previously been able to imagine in our little town, and that little hood ornament is all I have to show it happened.

When I visited my friends in the Bay Area the following week, they were in the same state of elation I had been when I left the building: ‘We walk around and people see us and call out OCC-U-PY! Things are just going to grow and keep on growing!’ “

crimethInc perspective

Keep perspective.

During a crescendo of social struggle, it can be difficult to maintain perspective; some things seem central yet prove transitory, while other things fall by the wayside that afterwards turn out to have been pivotal. Often, we miss opportunities to foster long-term connections, taking each other for granted in the urgency of responding to immediate events. Afterwards, when the moment has passed, we don’t know how to find each other—or we have no reason to, having burned our bridges in high-stress situations. What is really important, the tactical success of a particular action, or the strength of the relationships that come out of it?

Likewise, it is rarely easy to tell where you are in the trajectory of events. At the beginning, when the window of possibility is wide open, it is unclear how far things can go; often, anarchists wait to get involved until others have already determined the character of the movement. Later, at the high point, it can seem that the participants are at the threshold of tremendous new potential—when in fact that window of possibility has already begun to close. This confusion makes it difficult to know when it is the right time to shift gears to a new strategy.

“We were outside at a café in downtown Oakland a couple months later. I was asking what my friends thought the prospects were for the future. “Things will pick up again when spring arrives,” they assured me.

At first I believed them. Wasn’t everyone saying the same thing all around the country? Then it hit me: we were sitting there in the sunshine, wearing t-shirts, in the city that had seen the most intense action of the whole Occupy movement. If there wasn’t another occupation there already, it wasn’t coming back.”

Toronto G20

Toronto G20

Keep the window of possibility open while you can; if you have to split, split on your own terms.

Movements usually begin with an explosion of uncertainty and potential. So long as the limits are unclear, a wide range of participants have cause to get involved, while the authorities must hold back, unsure of the consequences of repression. How do we keep this window of possibility open as long as possible without sidestepping real disagreements? (Think of Occupy Wall Street when it first got off the ground and all manner of radical and reactionary tendencies mingled within it.) Is it better to postpone clashes over ideological issues—such as nonviolence versus diversity of tactics—or to precipitate them? (Think of the controversial black bloc in Occupy Oakland on November 2, 2011.)

One way to approach this challenge is to try to clarify the issues at stake without drawing fixed lines of political identity in the process. As soon as a tactical or ideological disagreement is understood a conflict between distinct social bodies, the horizon begins to close. The moment of potential depends on the fluidity of the movement, the circulation of ideas outside their usual domains, the emergence of new social configurations, and the openness of individual participants to personal transformation. The entrenchment of fixed camps undermines all of these.

This problem is further complicated by the fact that the top priority of the authorities is always to divide movements—often along the same lines that the participants themselves wish to divide. It may be best to try not to precipitate any permanent breaks until the horizon of possibility has closed, then make sure that the lines are drawn on your own terms, not the terms of the authorities or their unwitting liberal stooges.

crimethInc Hedges

Push the envelope.

What is still possible once the horizon has been circumscribed? In a dying movement, one can still push the envelope, setting new precedents for the future so subsequent struggles will be able to imagine going further. This is a good reason not to avoid ideological clashes indefinitely; in order to legitimize the tactics that will be needed in the future, one often has to begin by acting outside the prevailing consensus.

For example, at the conclusion of November 2, 2011, Occupy Oakland participants controversially attempted to take over a building. This provoked a great deal of backlash, but it set a precedent for a series of building occupations that enabled Occupy to begin to challenge the sanctity of private property during its long waning phase—giving Occupy a much more radical legacy than it would otherwise have had.

crimethInc atc-dust-2b

One year’s breakthroughs are the next year’s limitations.

During the burgeoning stage of a movement, participants often become fixated on certain tactics. There is a tendency to try to repeat one’s most recent successes; in the long run, this can only produce conservatism and diminishing returns. Diminishing returns are still returns, of course, and a tactic that is no longer effective in its original context may offer a great deal of potential in another setting—witness the occupation of Taksim Square in June 2013, when no one in the US could imagine occupying anything ever again. But tactics and rhetoric eventually become used up. Once no one expects anything new from them, the same slogans and strategies that generated so much momentum become obstacles.

As soon as Occupy is in the news, anyone who had an occupation in mind had better hurry to carry it out before the window of opportunity has closed and nobody wants to occupy anything at all. In a comic example of this tendency to fixate on certain tactics, after Occupy Oakland was evicted, Occupy Wall Street mailed a large number of tents across the country as a gesture of support. These tents merely took up storage space over the following months as the struggle in Oakland reached its conclusion on other terrain.

crimethInc atc-dust-3b

Don’t regress to outmoded strategies.

Sometimes, after a new strategy that is attuned to the present context has created new momentum, there is a tendency to revert to previous approaches that have long ceased working. When people with little prior experience converge in a movement, they sometimes demand guidance from those who have a longer history of involvement; more often, it is the veterans themselves who demand to provide this guidance. Unfortunately, longtime activists frequently bring in old tactics and strategies, using the new opportunity to resume the defeated projects of the past.

For example, fourteen years ago, worldwide summit-hopping offered a way to exert transnational leverage against capitalist globalization, offering a model to replace the local and national labor organizing that had been outflanked by the international mobility of corporations. Yet when labor activists got involved, they criticized summit-hoppers for running around the world rather than organizing locally the old-fashioned way. Likewise, Occupy got off the ground because it offered a new model for an increasingly precarious population to stand up for itself without stable economic positions from which to mobilize. But again, old-fashioned labor activists saw this new movement only as a potential pool of bodies to support union struggles, and channeled its momentum into easily coopted dead ends.

In the wake of every movement, we should study what its successes and failures show about our current context, while recognizing that by the time we can make use of those lessons the situation will have changed once more.

crimethInc splashimage5

Beware of rising expectations.

When a movement is at its high point, it becomes possible to act on a scale previously unimaginable. This can be debilitating afterwards, when the range of possibility contracts again and the participants are no longer inspired by the tactics they engaged in before the crest. One way to preserve momentum past the end of a movement is to go on setting attainable intermediate goals and affirming even the humblest efforts toward them.

The trajectory of green anarchist struggles in Oregon at the turn of the last century offers a dramatic example of this kind of inflation. At the beginning, the goals were small and concrete: protect a specific tree or a specific stretch of forest. After the World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, the goals of green anarchists in the region hypertrophied until they reached a tactical impasse. When your immediate objective is to “take down industrial civilization,” just about anything you can do is going to feel pointless.

Indeed, during a declining phase, it may be important to resist the tendency to escalate. When the SHAC campaign ran aground, Root Force set out to apply the same strategy against a much bigger target—scaling up from a single animal testing corporation to the major infrastructural projects underlying transnational capitalism. A SHAC-style campaign targeting a smaller corporation might have succeeded, empowering a new generation to go on applying the strategy, but Root Force never even got off the ground.

crimethInc entrapment

Quit while you’re ahead.

The declining phase of a movement can be a dangerous time. Often, popular support has died down and the forces of repression have regained their footing, but the participants still have high hopes and feel a sense of urgency. Sometimes it’s best to shift focus before something really debilitating occurs.

Yet quitting while you’re ahead is complicated. If the connections that have been made are premised on collective action, it can be difficult to retain these without staying in the streets together.

Months after Occupy Oakland was definitively over, police brutally attacked an anarchist march against Columbus Day, making several arrests and pressing felony charges. It is an open question whether this showed that anarchists had overextended themselves, but after a payback action the following night in Oakland, street activity in the Bay Area died down for almost a year. On the other hand, after the UK student movement died down, an explosion of riots in August 2011 suggested that many of the underclass participants felt abandoned by the withdrawal of their former activist allies from street action. It is possible that, had the movement continued in some form, the riots might have turned out differently—as a point of departure for another wave of collective struggle, rather than the desperate act of a marginalized population rising ruinously against society itself.

crimethInc passions

Be prepared for burnout and depression.

After the crest, when the euphoria is over, many participants will experience depression. Since the events that regularly brought them together have ceased, they are isolated and more vulnerable. Others may veer into addiction: substance use can be a way to maintain intimacy with each other and with danger itself when there is no more fire in the streets. The simple pleasures with which people celebrated their victories can expand to fill the space left by the receding tide of events, becoming self-destructive. This is another reason to establish new venues to maintain camaraderie and connection when the window of possibility is closing.

Save energy for the fallout.

All of these problems are often intensified by the explosion of discord that usually follows a movement’s demise. Once it is clear that a movement is definitively over, all the conflicts that the participants have been putting off come to the fore, for there is no longer any incentive to keep them under the rug. Suppressed resentments and ideological differences surface, along with serious allegations about abuse of power and violations of consent. Learning from these conflicts is an essential part of the process that prepares the way for future movements: for example, contemporary anarchism is descended in part from the feminist backlash that followed the New Left movements of the 1960s. But participants rarely think to save energy for this phase, and it can feel like thankless work, since the “action” is ostensibly over.

“It was a few nights before the eviction of the Occupy Philly encampment, and we were holding a General Assembly to decide what to do. Tensions were running high between the residents of the camp, who were primarily homeless, and those who participated chiefly in meetings and working groups. That night, a homeless man interrupted the GA to accuse several of those in leadership positions of being in league with the police, being racist, and planning to sell out the homeless. The facilitator tried to ignore the disruption, but the angry man drowned him out and eventually riled up a few more people who began shouting too. In this moment of chaos and heightened emotion, we had a unique opportunity. We could have shifted our focus from the threat that the government wanted us to react to, instead using that GA to finally address the tensions in our own group in hopes of building a force that could survive into the next phase of struggle. Instead, the facilitator tried to restore order by directing us to “break into small groups and discuss what ‘respect’ means.” My heart sank. Our shared energy was explosive; we needed to channel it, not suppress it.

That was the last time I saw many of the comrades I’d befriended over the preceding months. The eviction wasn’t the greatest threat we faced after all.”

crimethInc dont_big

Repression hits hardest at the end.

Government repression usually does not hit in full force until after a movement has died down. It is most convenient for the state to attack people when their support networks have collapsed and their attention is elsewhere. Operation Backfire struck years after the high point of Earth Liberation Front momentum, when many of the participants had moved on and the communities that had supported them had disintegrated. Similarly, the authorities waited until May 2012 to strike back at Occupy with a series of entrapment cases.

The chief goal of repression is to open the fault lines within the targeted social body, isolating it and forcing it into a reactive position. Ideally, we should respond to repression in ways that establish new connections and position us for new offensives.

Hold your ground.

How do we transition into other forms of connection when the exceptional circumstances that drew us together are over? The networks that coalesce effortlessly during the high point of momentum rarely survive. While new events were unfolding, there was an obvious reward for setting differences aside and interrupting routines to converge. Afterwards, the large groups that formed slowly break down into smaller ones, while smaller groups often vanish altogether. The reshuffling of allegiances that takes place during this period is vital, but it’s equally vital not to lose each other in the shuffle.

During the crest of a movement, participants often take for granted that it will leave them at a higher plateau when it is over. But this is hardly guaranteed. This may be the most important question facing us as we approach the next wave of struggles: how do we gain and hold ground? Political parties can measure their effectiveness according to how many new recruits they retain, but anarchists must conceive of success differently.

In the end, it isn’t just organizations with contact lists that will remain after the crest, but above all new questions, new practices, new points of reference for how people can stand up for themselves. Passing these memories along to the next generation is one of the most important things we can do.

crimethInc_header_right

Turkey: An Anarchist’s Observations

PoliticansMadeUsAnarchoBanner

In Volume Three of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, I included two selections by Andrew Flood, one on the Occupy movement, and the other on the Zapatistas in Mexico. Andrew has just posted a report from Turkey regarding the unrest there. I have reproduced some excerpts below. For the full report, click here. You can also follow Andrew on Twitter.

Tear gas in Taksim Square

Tear gas in Taksim Square

Tear gas is a very good place to start trying to understand what is happening in Turkey.  The main purpose of tear gas is to terrorize and thus break up large crowds of people.  In Istanbul over the last weeks huge quantities have been used over and over to prevent large anti-government demonstrations developing. This wasn’t about ‘riot control’ — generally there was no riot to control…

The clouds of gas choking entire streets along with yet more dangerous blasts of water canon is what you have seen online and on the TV.  But those clouds also tell you something essential about the nature of Turkish ‘democracy’. And that is even if the prime minister, Erdogan, is properly elected there is little room for dissent and protest.  There are always differences between the expectation of a ‘right to ‘protest’ and reality. Occupy Wall Street also saw the use of tear gases on protesters.  But in Turkey that disconnect is particularly severe due to the way gas is used. An article in the English language daily Hurriyet revealed that 130,000 canisters of tear gas had been used by police in the first 20 days of the protests.

Many of those tear gas canisters were fired horizontally at close range at protesters resulting in a huge number of head injuries, a dozen people losing eyes and along with other causes, including one death from live ammunition, at least four deaths.  At all the entrances to Taksim square street traders had replaced their normal goods with piles of construction hats, goggles and dust masks.  I generally reached Taksim by walking the length of Istiklal, the long shopping street familiar from photos because of the strings of decorative lights overhead.  As you neared Taksim you would see more and more people with bandaged forearms, heads and eyes.  Even the BBC journalist Paul Mason got hit in the head (he was wearing a helmet) during the weekend he spent reporting from Istanbul.

Turkey Erdogan

Sunday 16th June, the day after the huge police assault that have cleared Gezi Park, served as an illustration of Erdogan’s democracy.  On the one hand thousands of free buses and ferries had been used to bring people to an enormous pro-government rally on the outskirts of Istanbul.  As many as 300,000 people were gathered there to listen to a two hour tirade from the Erdogan during which he laid down his paranoid fantasies about Gezi park being part of the international conspiracy against Turkey.

Meanwhile in the rest of Istanbul squads of police equipped with tear gas and rubber bullets spent the entire day swooping on any attempt by protesters to meet up, even in small numbers.  They were backed up by water cannon and armoured personnel carriers that appeared whenever a larger crowd appeared. All the while, secret police snatch squads in plain clothes waited up the side streets to scoop up unwary protesters who had become isolated.  Later in the day Amnesty International had released a statement demanding to know what had become of those detained — an estimated 400+ people.  After Erdogan’s rally ended there were multiple reports of youth members of his AKP party carrying sticks and knives accompanying police patrols…

The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey estimated that around 640,000 people had participated in the anti-government demonstrations by the 5th June.  When you factor in the other rallies Erdogan is staging its probable that both sides are mobilizing similar numbers, although of course one has free transport and the other gets free tear gas. But again we are talking of a society fractured down the middle, not polarized on class lines but roughly along urban v. rural, religious v. secular and old v. young lines.

Protest in Taksim Square

Protest in Taksim Square

This means Gezi Park has a more of a resemblance to Occupy and the [Spanish] M15 movement than to Tahrir and the fight for Egyptian democracy.  The struggle in Turkey is not a struggle for parliamentary democracy — this already exists and, while there are flaws, they are not of a different magnitude than the similar problems found elsewhere in Europe or North America.  The difference is also apparent when the defence of the square is analyzed: in Tahrir, Egyptians took up cobblestones and catapults in huge numbers to prevent their eviction by hordes of police using tactics similar to Istanbul.  Hundreds died in the conflicts that followed but they held the square.

In Istanbul defence was often passive, barricades were built but generally not defended, stone throwers were few and far between.  Crowds would form out of side streets, perhaps build a barricade and then be tear gassed and disperse only to reform when the police had moved to attack a crowd elsewhere…  Active defence of the barricades was mostly tokenistic unlike the Tahrir spring when the air was often dark with cobblestones heading for police lines… There were a couple of instances of Molotovs being thrown but in the best documented case this appeared to be undercover police sent in to create excuses for more severe police intervention around Gezi park later that day.

The limit to confrontation — at least from the Gezi park occupiers side — went so far as to create chains of protesters to prevent clashes with the police, presented as a defence against provocateurs.  Some North American insurrectionists denounced this online but generally they failed to understand the very different context of the movement in Istanbul in comparison with, say, Oakland…

While stone throwing or window smashing at Occupy Oakland was presented as a PR problem by those opposed to it, in Istanbul it was feared that these actions would present an excuse for a much more forceful police presence and, perhaps, even military intervention. The European Minister warned, “From now on the state will unfortunately have to consider everyone who remains there [Gezi Park] a supporter or member of a terror organization.” Erdogan was also describing the occupiers as terrorists in the media.  In a context in which many were afraid that, if an excuse were provided, they would face live ammunition, they opted to limit themselves to tactics that might confine repression to tear gas and high pressure water jets.  The historical context being the suppression of the left in Turkey in the 70’s and 80’s that saw similar brutality, torture and disappearances to the suppression of the South America left in the same period.  Those keen to discuss the adoption of such tactical positions on part of the Gezi Park occupiers should make some effort to at least address the reality faced there, which may be very different from their own.

Gezi Park Map

Gezi Park Map

Tweeting the cycle of squares

Gezi Park is the start of the 4th round of struggle around squares, if we understand this starting in 2011 in Cairo, continuing to the global  Occupy movement, and then to M15 in the Spanish state.  All of these have unique characteristics of their own but also significant aspects that they have in common include inspiration, methodology and appearance, not least the # appearing on just about every piece of literature, banner and poster.  All are part of a common learning process as we watch and learn from each other and indeed visit and participate. One of the first serious injuries in Istanbul was to a visitor from Cairo.  In my own time spent in Gezi, I met people from all over Europe, North America and further afield — a tiny minority of the total crowd, but people who felt that we were all on a common journey…

I spent some time in Gezi talking to one of the DAF (Revolutionary Anarchist Action) militants about where she saw this struggle fitting into both Turkish and global politics.  As is now usual we exchanged web addresses and emails and on checking the website of the anarchist group most visible in the square, DAF, I found they had not only written a detailed analysis of Occupy & Tahrir but they had also translated it into English.  At least for a few days in June, Gezi park was the focus point of a movement that is global and everyone I talked to there was well aware of that.

Part of the background noise of this period has the organizations of the old left rubbing against these new movements, often in counterproductive ways.  This includes the demand that the new movement use old organizational forms and adopt old terminology for expressing itself despite the fact that it is the new forms and expressions that created these movements. Central to this process is the transformation of organizational methods made possible by the internet — a transformation that in many ways is sweeping away the remaining usefulness of old left forms of organization.  To stroll into Gezi was to stroll into a world where twitter hashtags adorned every surface, banner and poster — even the tents were covered in hashtags. When you were elsewhere in Istanbul you could tell when fresh rounds of police repression were underway because you suddenly started to see a lot of people walking around staring at their smartphones…

The Istanbul revolt should end the empty debate over whether social networking is important in real world organizing — that distinction itself has no real meaning anymore.  When Erdogan declared “Social media is the worst menace to society” and that “There is now a menace which is called Twitter” he was simply expressing the outrage of a ruler who discovers his comprehensive control over media and information was no longer as powerful.

DAF (Revolutionary Anarchist Action)

DAF (Revolutionary Anarchist Action)

Class

Gezi Park had at least one major difference to Occupy in that it lacked almost completely the crude class analysis of the 99% versus 1%.  (I call this analysis ‘crude’ because that is what it is, not as a put down.)  While I saw countless banners and posters with #OccupyGezi on them I don’t believe I saw or heard a single use of the 99% meme. Given the popularity of Erdogan with Turkey’s rural poor, the lack of any class perspective coming from Gezi meant that one of the few tools that might have undermined the rural versus urban polarization was not present. The demands of the Taksim Platform do not go beyond the issues of environmentalism, corruption and police repression.  Even in terms of the broader movement, class or economic issues didn’t really feature — the expanded scope instead was summarized on Wikipedia as being limited to “freedom of the press, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and the government’s encroachment on Turkey’s secularism.” Another measure of the lack of a class struggle aspect to Gezi was that a remarkable “48 percent of the 137 CEOs in Turkey said they had visited Gezi Park during the anti-government protests and around 90 percent of them found the protesters’ claims justified.”

The lack of a class struggle perspective was curious because the organized left and union movements were visibly much more central to Gezi than they were to almost any Occupy camp.  The more radical unions called ‘general strikes’ against repression, though union membership is very low in Turkey and radical unions account for perhaps 2% of the workforce at best. Libcom’s “Sleepless in Istanbul” blog has a good analysis of the realities of Turkish union militancy…

A poll by Bilgi university found that the vast majority of protesters had no connection to any political party.  The primary motivation for joining the protests was anti-authoritarianism.  More than 90% cited various aspects of authoritarian politics as what they opposed.  Nearly 82% defined themselves as libertarian, in the European rather than North American sense of the word, as 75% also said they were not conservative.  92% had not voted for the ruling AKP.

Turkey-Protest-flag-6-3

Inside Gezi Park

The issue that sparked the movement was the planned cutting down of the trees in the park as part of a construction project.  The project was already well underway which meant large areas of the square were already partly demolished, in particular the western side where the park was raised four or so meters above the square and the buildings sunk into that part at ground level on the square had been partly demolished.  Between scaffolding, construction hoardings and rubble, there was a lot of material in Taksim for the construction of barricades.

The park is in fact raised from street level on all four side with the difference being considerable on two of them.  Even before the construction of barricades it was already quite a defensible space.  By the time I visited, all of the unpaved [areas] inside the park were packed with tents — hundreds of them — turning the park into a warren of narrow streets decked out with banners and posters fixed to trees. Various organizations, including the anarchist DAF , had set up stalls in the more open areas.   At the centre of the park where there is a fountain, a stage was set from which music was played and announcements made.

The bottom southeastern corner of the park had some larger tented areas which provided services including a medical clinic and a kitchen where free meals were distributed.  Scattered throughout were tables on which bottles of cloudy Malox solution were available in case of tear gas attack.  A number of commercial street stalls sprang up, some selling food, many others supplying their new customers with construction helmets, dust masks and swimming goggles.

The atmosphere in the early evening in particular was festive as hundreds of people came into the park and thronged its pathways.  Because my first experience had been the near mass panic of the huge tear gas attack in the square, I found these times a little nerve-wracking as I imagined the panic that would be caused by tear gas suddenly descending into all the claustrophobic and crowded corners amongst tents packed in between the trees…

Turkey_protestors_620x350

An intersectional practice?

Through the physical act of sharing public space and the need to collectively resist a common state repression taking the very concrete form of tear gas and water cannon, Gezi Park was in some respects a practice of intersectionality.  The span of organizations that had set up tents and stalls seemed enormous — the left, various nationalists, feminists, LGBT groups and environmentalists all had banners and posters up.   A strikingly large number of individual tents had Anarchist circled A’s on them and there were a lot of anarchist banners as well as a large stall of the Revolutionary Anarchists at the entrance plaza just behind the barricades on Taksim Square.  There was conflict internally, as I saw a couple of angry exchanges both between the Kurdish left and right-wing Kemalist Turkish nationalists. Given the extreme divergence between their views and the bloody history of Turkish nationalism, these were mild.

I can’t describe the working methods of Taksim Solidarity, the umbrella organization beyond saying that, when the response to the meeting with Erdogan was being debated, I sat in on an assembly of more than forty people discussing what to do, which took place the evening before the final (to date) violent eviction.  The dynamics and methodology of the assembly were similar to those of many Occupy assemblies elsewhere, with no visible hierarchy amongst speakers.  Everyone was able to participate in a fairly loose, informal setting involving a lot of discussion time.

What was being debated was whether or not to leave.  A number of positions were expressed:

  • that the park was in danger of being isolated from the population so what could be achieved by staying was limited
  • that an example of direct democracy should be created, whatever the cost, to inspire the world that was watching
  • radical unions proposed removing all of the tents, except for the token presence of a large tent
  • that enough time should be made for a proper discussion, with a decision period over the following three days rather than immediately

I left before that sub assembly was moving towards a decision. The following day, confused reports emerged. It seemed like the proposal to have a token presence of tents was adopted but no one was to be compelled to pack up, which meant the big political tents mostly left but many individual ones stayed.  In any case, that evening, the police launched a massive operation against the park using tear gas, water cannons, and then APC’s to sweep in and bulldoze whatever remained.  People who fled the park, as well as those who gathered to protest, were subjected to further tear gas in the surrounding streets.  Others who took shelter in the Davan hotel were trapped for hours as police tried to gain entry. Tear gas was thrown into the lobby at one stage, despite the presence of a number of people trapped in the building.  Attempts to reach the park continued long into the night with police repeatedly tear gassing the surrounding streets as, rather bizarrely, city workers planted flowers in the now empty park.  A rather peculiar PR exercise that someone perhaps foolishly thought would distract from the gas and water cannon footage.

Turkey MultiLingualGezi

The final[?] repression of Gezi

The media tendency has been to describe the 36 hours of tear gassing that spread across Istanbul following the parks eviction as rioting.  I’m not sure of the accuracy of this term as from what I could tell there was very little offensive action against the police (i.e. stone throwing) and very little property destruction.  Instead, the police attacked groups of protesters as they attempted to form up anywhere in the city or as soon as they started to moved towards Taksim.  Where they did manage to meet in any number, protesters would construct elaborate barricades. There is a lot of construction underway in central Istanbul and protesters were quite skilled at working together in dozens to move material from construction sites to road junctions via long human chains, passing whatever was available from hand to hand.  Very substantial barricades that offered some protection from police vehicles attempting to run people down sprang up in this manner.

Particularly when the meeting with Erdogan was underway, huge amounts of police were deployed in the area around Taksim, presumably out of fear of the consequences for commanders if the square was reoccupied mid-rant.  This pushed the barricades a long way from the square, even to the Galatia bridge, where trams had stopped their crossings, perhaps 1.5km from Taksim.  Regular rounds of tear gas explosions could even be heard in the tourist quarter of the Golden Horn.  Meanwhile, from many of the distant suburbs, similar stories emerged of large numbers taking to the streets, blocking roads and being tear gassed and shot with water cannons in punishment.

Earlier that day, in Ankara, police attacked the funeral of a protester killed earlier that week with tear gas and water cannon.  A striking photo circulated showing the front of the funeral cortege in thick tear gas as a water cannon jet cut through the gas close to the pall bearers carrying the coffin.  There were over 400 arrests.  Many of those arrested disappeared for 24 hours or more before they appeared in the formal detention system.

This massive repression prevented re-occupation of the park in the short term but failed to shut down the movement. Five of the smaller unions declared a two day ‘general strike’. Publicly visible protest reappeared through the ultra-pacifist ‘standing man’ actions where people literally just stood in Taksim square and elsewhere. This tactic spread from Taksim and took in other issues including honouring  Hrant Dink the Armenian journalist assassinated in 2007 and the 5 workers who died from methane inhalation at a recycling plant last week due to lack of health and safety regulation & equipment.

Police initially tried to end the ‘standing man’ protests through arrests but more people just started to stand and the nature of the tactic means that its almost impossible to present arrests as anything other than repression.  Bizarrely the deputy prime minister tried to claim that standing still for longer than 8 minutes was bad for your health – as if that somehow justified the arrests.

Standing Man Protest

Standing Man Protest

The assembly process spreads

Most importantly, assemblies started to happen in public spaces all over the city, the largest involving thousands of people.  At the time of this writing, these neighbourhood forums reportedly took place in 35 parks across Istanbul. One of them was described as follows:

“From 9pm, thousands of mostly young people assembled in and around the amphitheater in Abbasaga Park under the motto ‘every park is Gezi’ .. to assess what has happened since the Gezi Park occupation began and where the movement is going. Hundreds lined up behind the stage to talk for two or three minutes each, while the assembled crowd signaled agreement and disagreement by waving their hands or crossing their arms.”

Like the Occupy movement, the radical nature of the movement in Turkey lies not in its formal demands but in its processes.  In fact, as we have seen, although the violent repression of the Turkish state makes the movement appear more radical, its actual demands (as represented by the Taksim Platform) are very moderate indeed. As with the M15 movements, the movement in Turkey refuses to accept Erdogan’s rationale that ‘we are the democratically elected government’ as a reason to end the protests. Sometimes, this is dressed up in language that insists the government is ‘really’ a dictatorship: in Gezi park there were a couple of posters representing Erdogan as Hitler.  This liberal window dressing – of Erdogan as dictator – masks a deeper reality that what is being rejected is the fundamental basis of parliamentary democracy.  Another illustration of this is, like the movements elsewhere, there is very little identification with political parties, the Biligi survey (above) reported that “only 15.3 percent said they felt close to a political party” – this is very close to the similar figure reported from surveys of the mass protests in Brazil.

For anarchists, the massive rejection of parliamentary democracy and its replacement with forms of direct democracy cannot be anything other than exciting. Most of the left is horrified, insisting that the protesters need to move into ‘real politics’.  Because many of them are young this is often presented in a patronizing ‘they will grow up to understand this’ manner that completely fails to understand that this rejection is based as much on the failed historical experience of left parties as anything else.  The concept of forming parties of the left is hardly new in Turkey. It had and still has a very substantial revolutionary left.  In short it is not the protesters who need to learn lessons about parties, it is these commentators trapped in old certainties.  A new form of fighting for social transformation is clearly developing but we need to get beyond seeing it, simplistically, as a repeat of 1848 or the Paris Commune, leading to an inevitable channeling into Social Democracy.

Turkish People's Assembly

Turkish People’s Assembly

On the other hand, these movements have not yet evolved a path to social transformation.  The assemblies may represent the new world growing within the old but as yet no collective program exists to overcome and replace the repressive state.  Perhaps most importantly, although some unions have had serious mobilizations to support Gezi and similar movements elsewhere, the assembly form has only come into existence in public spaces and neighbourhoods.  We can be fairly certain that CEO approval rate of the movement will plummet if (and, hopefully, when) workers start to assemble in their workplaces to discuss the future of the companies they work for. It is probably not till this happens that concrete economic measures can be formulated, not so much as abstract slogans but as concrete practices that can be implemented.  We have seen such forms emerge in the past:  they emerged rapidly in terms of the Occupied factories of the Argentine crisis of 2001.  But there they were very much a defensive measure to prevent factory closure and the loss of livelihoods.  In Turkey, in particular with its growing economy, a movement of assemblies in the workplace is unlikely to develop as a defensive protection of livelihoods.

Anarchists need to make greater progress in adapting themselves to the realities of these new movements.  This means being flexible enough to move beyond criticisms that they may not be taking the form we might wish for.  Anarchists have long and well established theories and practices of direct democracy. We need to think of ways to present these that are useful, reducing the need to reinvent the wheel.  Collectively, we have a deep understanding of how wealth and power connect.  Can we bring that understanding into movements, popularizing it in ways that go beyond the limitations of the 99% meme?  In recent decades, sections of the anarchist movement have developed with other movements — in particular feminist, anti-racist and queers — a much deeper understanding of the way oppressions intersect with each other.  These offer real potential to work with other ‘movements of the square’ to develop into the start of real efforts to achieve collective human liberation.

As I conclude this piece, the assembly movement appears to be spreading across Turkey.  Enormous demonstrations have erupted in Brazil.  We are all watching new moments in a cycle of struggles that started in Tunisia in 2010, now running into its third year.  So far, all have faded short of victory, although gains have been made.  Still, clearly, we are engaged in a global learning process that is generating a new revolutionary politic. The promise of achieving what our methods failed to realize in the 20th century — freedom for all — remains.  For anarchists, the question is:  how can we best build and influence this movement in the context of remembering the hard lessons of previous failures and without becoming stuck in the historical memory of brief moments of past glory?  We must be midwives of this new movement rather than archivists of the old.

occupyeverywhere99percentbuttonthumb

Howard Zinn: Anarchy and Revolution

Howard Zinn: The Art of Revolution

Howard Zinn: The Art of Revolution

I ended Volume One of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Ideas with excerpts from Herbert Read’s Poetry and Anarchism. I began Volume Two with excerpts from Read’s essay, “The Philosophy of Anarchism,” which helped inspire Murray Bookchin to develop his synthesis of anarchism and ecology. Both of these works are included in a collection of Read’s anarchist writings entitled, Anarchy and Order. In 1970, at the height of the Vietnam War, the celebrated American historian, Howard Zinn (1922-2010), wrote the introduction to a paperback edition. Space considerations prevented me from including it in Volume Two. Zinn’s introduction is well worth reading in its own right. It not only does an admirable job introducing both Read and anarchist ideas, it also clearly demonstrates Zinn’s own anarchist sympathies. Accordingly, I have taken the liberty of reproducing excerpts from Zinn’s introductory essay, “The Art of Revolution,” here. His words remain as relevant today as when they were written.

art and anarchy

The Art of Revolution

The word anarchy unsettles most people in the Western world; it suggests disorder, violence, uncertainty. We have good reason for fearing those conditions, because we have been living with them for a long time, not in anarchist societies (there have never been any) but in exactly those societies most fearful of anarchy—the powerful nation-states of modern times.

At no time in human history has there been such social chaos. Fifty million dead in the Second World War. More than a million dead in Korea, a million in Vietnam, half a million in Indonesia, hundreds of thousands dead in Nigeria, and in Mozambique. A hundred violent political struggles all over the world in the twenty years following the second war to end all wars. Millions starving, or in prisons, or in mental institutions. Inner turmoil to the point of large-scale alienation, confusion, unhappiness. Outer turmoil symbolized by huge armies, stores of nerve gas, and stockpiles of hydrogen bombs. Wherever men, women, and children are even a bit conscious of the world outside their local borders, they have been living with the ultimate uncertainty: whether or not the human race itself will survive into the next generation.

It is these conditions that the anarchists have wanted to end; to bring a kind of order to the world for the first time. We have never listened to them carefully, except through the hearing aids supplied by the guardians of disorder—the national government leaders, whether capitalist or socialist.

The order desired by anarchists is different from the order (“Ordnung,” the Germans called it; “law and order,” say the American politicians) of national governments. They want a voluntary forming of human relations, arising out of the needs of people. Such an order comes from within, and so is natural. People flow into easy arrangements, rather than being pushed and forced. It is like the form given by the artist, a form congenial, often pleasing, sometimes beautiful. It has the grace of a voluntary, confident act…

The order of politics, as we have known it in the world, is an order imposed on society, neither desired by most people, nor directed to their needs. It is therefore chaotic and destructive. Politics grates on our sensibilities. It violates the elementary requirement of aesthetics—it is devoid of beauty. It is coercive, as if sound were forced into our ears at a decibel level such as to make us scream, and those responsible called this music. The “order” of modern life is a cacophony which has made us almost deaf to the gentler sounds of the universe.

The French Revolution

The French Revolution

It is fitting that in modern times, around the time of the French and American Revolutions, exactly when man became most proud of his achievements, the ideas of anarchism arose to challenge that pride. Western civilization has never been modest in describing its qualities as an enormous advance in human history: the larger unity of national states replacing tribe and manor; parliamentary government replacing the divine right of kings; steam and electricity substituting for manual labor; education and science dispelling ignorance and superstition; due process of law canceling arbitrary justice. Anarchism arose in the most splendid days of Western “civilization” because the promises of that civilization were almost immediately broken.

Nationalism, promising freedom from outside tyranny, and security from internal disorder, vastly magnified both the stimulus and the possibility for worldwide empires over subjected people, and bloody conflicts among such empires: imperialism and war were intensified to the edge of global suicide exactly in the period of the national state. Parliamentary government, promising popular participation in important decisions, became a facade (differently constructed in one-party and two-party states) for rule by elites of wealth and power in the midst of almost-frenzied scurrying to polls and plebiscites. Mass production did not end poverty and exploitation; indeed it made the persistence of want more unpardonable. The production and distribution of goods became more rational technically, more irrational morally. Education and literacy did not end the deception of the many by the few; they enabled deception to be replaced by self-deception, mystification to be internalized, and social control to be even more effective than ever before, because now it had a large measure of self-control. Due process did not bring justice; it replaced the arbitrary, identifiable dispenser of injustice with the unidentifiable and impersonal. The “rule of law,” replacing the “rule of men,” was just a change in rulers.

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine

In the midst of the American Revolution, Tom Paine, while calling for the establishment of an independent American government, had no illusions about even a new revolutionary government when he wrote, in Common Sense: “Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil.”

Anarchists almost immediately recognized that the fall of kings, and the rise of committees, assemblies, parliaments, did not bring democracy; that revolutions had the potential for liberation, but also for another form of despotism. Thus, Jacques Roux, a country priest in the French Revolution concerned with the lives of the peasants in his district, and then with the workingmen in the Gravilliers quarter of Paris, spoke in 1792 against “senatorial despotism,” saying it was “as terrible as the scepter of kings” because it chains the people without their knowing it and brutalizes and subjugates them by laws they themselves are supposed to have made. In Peter Weiss’s play, Marat-Sade, Roux, straitjacketed, breaks through the censorship of the play within the play and cries out:

“Who controls the markets

Who locks up the granaries

Who got the loot from the palaces

Who sits tight on the estates that were going to be divided between the poor

before he is quieted.”

A friend of Roux, Jean Varlet, in an early anarchist manifesto of the French Revolution called Explosion [Anarchism, Volume One, Selection 5], wrote:

“What a social monstrosity, what a masterpiece of Machiavellianism, this revolutionary government is in fact. For any reasoning being, Government and Revolution are incompatible, at least unless the people wishes to constitute the organs of power in permanent insurrection against themselves, which is too absurd to believe.”

Varlet: "The Explosion"

Varlet: “The Explosion”

But it is exactly that which is “too absurd to believe” which the anarchists believe, because only an “absurd” perspective is revolutionary enough to see through the limits of revolution itself. Herbert Read, in a book with an appropriately absurd title, To Hell With Culture (he was seventy; this was 1963, five years before his death), wrote:

“What has been worth while in human history—the great achievements of physics and astronomy, of geographical discovery and of human healing, of philosophy and of art—has been the work of extremists—of those who believed in the absurd, dared the impossible… ”

Herbert Read

Herbert Read

The Russian Revolution promised even more—to eliminate that injustice carried into modern times by the American and French Revolutions. Anarchist criticism of that Revolution was summed up by Emma Goldman (My Further Disillusionment in Russia, in Anarchism, Volume One, Selection 89) as follows:

“It is at once the great failure and the great tragedy of the Russian Revolution that it attempted… to change only institutions and conditions while ignoring entirely the human and social values involved in the Revolution…. No revolution can ever succeed as a factor of liberation unless the means used to further it be identical in spirit and tendency with the purposes to be achieved. Revolution is the negation of the existing, a violent protest against man’s inhumanity to man with all the thousand and one slaveries it involves. It is the destroyer of dominant values upon which a complex system of injustice, oppression, and wrong has been built up by ignorance and brutality. It is the herald of new values, ushering in a transformation of the basic relations of man to man, and of man to society.”

The institution of capitalism, anarchists believe, is destructive, irrational, inhumane. It feeds ravenously on the immense resources of the earth, and then churns out (this is its achievement—it is an immense stupid churn) huge quantities of products. Those products have only an accidental relationship to what is most needed by people, because the organizers and distributors of goods care not about human need; they are great business enterprises motivated only by profit. Therefore, bombs, guns, office buildings, and deodorants take priority over food, homes, and recreation areas. Is there anything closer to “anarchy” (in the common use of the word, meaning confusion) than the incredibly wild and wasteful economic system in America?

Emma Goldman

Emma Goldman

Anarchists believe the riches of the earth belong equally to all, and should be distributed according to need, not through the intricate, inhuman system of money and contracts which have so far channeled most of these riches into a small group of wealthy people, and into a few countries. (The United States, with six percent of the population, owns, produces, and consumes fifty percent of the world’s production.) They would agree with the Story Teller in Bertholt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle, in the final words of the play:

“Take note what men of old concluded:

That what there is shall go to those who are good for it

Thus: the children to the motherly, that they prosper

The carts to good drivers, that they are well driven

And the valley to the waterers, that it bring forth fruit.”

It was on this principle that Gerard Winstanley, leader of the Diggers in 17th century England, ignored the law of private ownership and led his followers to plant grain on unused land. Winstanley wrote about his hope for the future [in Anarchism, Volume One, Selection 3]:

“When this universal law of equity rises up in every man and woman, then none shall lay claim to any creature and say, This is mine, and that is yours, This is my work, that is yours. But every one shall put to their hands to till the earth and bring up cattle, and the blessing of the earth shall be common to all; when a man hath need of any corn or cattle, take from the next storehouse he meets with. There shall be no buying and selling, no fairs or markets, but the whole earth shall be a common treasury for every man, for the earth is the Lord’s.”

Anarchy: Against the Machine

Anarchy: Against the Machine

Our problem is to make use of the magnificent technology of our time, for human needs, without being victimized by a bureaucratic mechanism. The Soviet Union did show that national economic planning for common goals, replacing the profit-driven chaos of capitalist production, could produce remarkable results. It failed, however, to do what Herbert Read and other recent anarchists have suggested: to do away with the bureaucracy of large-scale industry, characteristic of both capitalism and socialism, and the consequent unhappiness of the workers who do not feel at ease with their work, with the products, with their fellow workers, with nature, with themselves. This problem could be solved, Read has suggested, by workers’ control of their own jobs, without sacrificing the benefits of planning and coordination for the larger social good.

“Property is theft,” Proudhon wrote in the mid-19th century (he was the first to call himself an anarchist, Anarchism, Volume One, Selection 8). Whether the resources of the earth and the energies of men are controlled by capitalist corporations or bureaucracies calling themselves “socialist,” a great theft of men’s life-work has occurred, as a kind of original sin which has led in human history to all sorts of trouble: exploitation, war, the establishment of colonies, the subjugation of women, attacks on property called “crime,” and the cruel system of punishments which all “civilized societies” have erected, known as “justice.”

Both the capitalist and the socialist bureaucracies of our time fail, anarchists say, on their greatest promise: to bring democracy. The essence of democracy is that people should control their own lives, by ones or twos or hundreds, depending on whether the decision being made affects one or two or a hundred. Instead, our lives are directed by a political-military- industrial complex in the United States, and a party hierarchy in the Soviet Union. In both situations there is the pretense of popular participation, by an elaborate scheme of voting for representatives who do not have real power (the difference between a one-party state and a two-party state being no more than one party—and that a smudged carbon copy of the other). The vote in modern societies is the currency of politics as money is the currency of economics; both mystify what is really taking place—control of the many by the few.

Anarchists believe the phrase “law and order” is one of the great deceptions of our age. Law does not bring order, certainly not the harmonious order of a cooperative society, which is the best meaning of that word. It brings, if anything, the order of the totalitarian state, or the prison, or the army, where fear and threat keep people in their assigned places. All law can do is artificially restrain people who are moved to acts of violence or theft or disobedience by a bad society. And the order brought by law is unstable, always on the brink of a fall, because coercion invites rebellion. Laws cannot, by their nature, create a good society; that will come from great numbers of people arranging resources and themselves voluntarily (“Mutual Aid,” Kropotkin called it, Anarchism, Volume One, Selection 54) so as to promote cooperation and happiness. And that will be the best order, when people do what they must, not because of law, but on their own.

proudhon law

What has modern civilization, with its “rule of law,” its giant industrial enterprises, its “representative democracy,” brought? Nuclear missiles already aimed and ready for the destruction of the world, and populations—literate, well-fed, and constantly voting—of a mind to accept this madness. Civilization has failed on two counts: it has perverted the natural resources of the earth, which have the capacity to make our lives joyful, and also the natural resources of people, which have the potential for genius and love.

Read artMaking the most of these possibilities requires the upbringing of new generations in an atmosphere of grace and art. Instead, we have been reared in politics. Herbert Read (in Art and Alienation) describes the stunted human being who emerges from this:

“If seeing and handling, touching and hearing and all the refinements of sensation that developed historically in the conquest of nature and the manipulation of material substances are not educed and trained from birth to maturity the result is a being that hardly deserves to be called human: a dull-eyed, bored and listless automaton whose one desire is for violence in some form or other—violent action, violent sounds, distractions of any kind that can penetrate to its deadened nerves. Its preferred distractions are: the sports stadium, the pin-table alleys, the dance-hall, the passive ‘viewing’ of crime, farce and sadism on the television screen, gambling and drug addiction.”

What a waste of the evolutionary process! It took a billion years to create human beings who could, if they chose, form the materials of the earth and themselves into arrangements congenial to man, woman, and the universe. Can we still choose to do so?

It seems that revolutionary changes are needed—in the sense of profound transformations of our work processes, our decision- making arrangements, our sex and family relations, our thought and culture—toward a humane society. But this kind of revolution—changing our minds as well as our institutions— cannot be accomplished by customary methods: neither by military action to overthrow governments, as some tradition-bound radicals suggest; nor by that slow process of electoral reform, which traditional liberals urge on us. The state of the world today reflects the limitations of both those methods.

Zinn quote

Anarchists have always been accused of a special addiction to violence as a mode of revolutionary change. The accusation comes from governments which came into being through violence, which maintain themselves in power through violence, and which use violence constantly to keep down rebellion and to bully other nations. Some anarchists—like other revolutionaries throughout history, whether American, French, Russian, or Chinese—have emphasized violent uprising. Some have advocated, and tried, assassination and terror. In this they are like other revolutionaries—of whatever epoch or ideology. What makes anarchists unique among revolutionaries, however, is that most of them see revolution as a cultural, ideological, creative process, in which violence would be as incidental as the outcries of mother and baby in childbirth. It might be unavoidable—given the natural resistance to change—but something to be kept at a minimum while more important things happen.

Alexander Berkman, who as a young man attempted to assassinate an American industrialist, expressed his more mature reflections on violence and revolution in The ABC of Anarchism [Anarchism, Volume One, Selection 117]:

“What, really, is there to destroy?

The wealth of the rich? Nay, that is something we want the whole of society to enjoy.

The land, the fields, the coal mines, the railroads, factories, mills and shops? These we want not to destroy but to make useful to the entire people.

The telegraphs, telephones, the means of communication and distribution—do we want to destroy them? No, we want them to serve the needs of all.

What, then, is the social revolution to destroy? It is to take over things for the general benefit, not to destroy them. It is to reorganize conditions for the public welfare.”

Revolution in its full sense cannot be achieved by force of arms. It must be prepared in the minds and behavior of men, even before institutions have radically changed. It is not an act but a process. Berkman describes this:

“If your object is to secure liberty, you must learn to do without authority and compulsion. If you intend to live in peace and harmony with your fellow men, you and they should cultivate brotherhood and respect for each other. If you want to work together with them for your mutual benefit, you must practice co-operation. The social revolution means much more than the reorganization of conditions only: it means the establishment of new human values and social relationships, a changed attitude of man to man, as of one free and independent to his equal; it means a different spirit in individual and collective life, and that spirit cannot be born overnight. It is a spirit to be cultivated, to be nurtured and reared, as the most delicate flower is, for indeed it is the flower of a new and beautiful existence… We must learn to think differently before the revolution can come. That alone can bring the revolution.”

Alexander Berkman

Alexander Berkman

The anarchist sees revolutionary change as something immediate, something we must do now, where we are, where we live, where we work. It means starting this moment to do away with authoritarian, cruel relationships—between men and women, between parents and children, between one kind of worker and another kind. Such revolutionary action cannot be crushed like an armed uprising. It takes place in everyday life, in the tiny crannies where the powerful but clumsy hands of state power cannot easily reach. It is not centralized and isolated, so that it can be wiped out by the rich, the police, the military. It takes place in a hundred thousand places at once, in families, on streets, in neighborhoods, in places of work. It is a revolution of the whole culture. Squelched in one place, it springs up in another, until it is everywhere.

Such a revolution is an art. That is, it requires the courage not only of resistance, but of imagination. Herbert Read, after pointing out that modern democracy encourages both complacency and complicity, speaks (in Art and Alienation) of the role of art:

“Art, on the other hand, is eternally disturbing, permanently revolutionary. It is so because the artist, in the degree of his greatness, always confronts the unknown, and what he brings back from that confrontation is a novelty, a new symbol, a new vision of life, the outer image of inward things. His importance to society is not that he voices received opinions, or gives clear expression to the confused feelings of the masses: that is the function of the politician, the journalist, the demagogue. The artist is what the Germans call ein Ruttler, an upsetter of the established order.”

This should not be interpreted as an arrogant distinction be tween the elite artist and the mass of people. It is, rather, a recognition that in modern society, as Herbert Marcuse has pointed out, there is enormous pressure to create a “one dimensional mind” among masses of people, and this requires upsetting.

Read HellHerbert Read’s attraction to both art and anarchy seems a fitting response to the 20th century, and underscores the idea that revolution must be cultural as well as political. The title of his book To Hell With Culture might be misinterpreted if one did not read in it:

“Today we are bound hand and foot to the past. Because property is a sacred thing and land values a source of untold wealth, our houses must be crowded together and our streets must follow their ancient illogical meanderings… Because everything we buy for use must be sold for profit, and because there must always be this profitable margin between cost and price, our pots and our pans, our furniture and our clothes, have the same shoddy consistency, the same competitive cheapness. The whole of our capitalist culture is one immense veneer: a surface of refinement hiding the cheapness and shoddiness of the heart of things.

To hell with such a culture. To the rubbish-heap and furnace with it all! Let us celebrate the democratic revolution creatively. Let us build cities that are not too big, but spacious, with traffic flowing freely through their leafy avenues, with children playing safely in their green and flowery parks, with people living happily in bright efficient houses… Let us balance agriculture, and industry, town and country—let us do all these sensible and elementary things and then let us talk about culture.”

The anarchist tries to deal with the complex relationship between changing institutions and changing culture. He knows that we must revolutionize culture starting now; and yet he knows this will be limited until there is a new way of living for large numbers of people. Read writes in the same essay: “You cannot impose a culture from the top—it must come from under. It grows out of ‘the soil, out of the people, out of their daily life and work. It is a spontaneous expression of their joy in life, of their joy in work, and if this joy does’ not exist, the culture will not exist.”

For revolutionaries, the aesthetic element—the approach of the artist—is essential in breaking out of the past, for we have seen in history how revolutions have been cramped or diverted because the men who made them were still encumbered by tradition. The warning of Marx, in The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, needs to be heeded by Marxists as well as by others seeking change:

“The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brain of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionizing themselves and things, in creating something entirely new, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle slogans and costumes in order to present the new scene of world history in this time-honoured disguise and this borrowed language.”

The art of revolution needs to go beyond what is called “reason,” and what is called “science,” because both reason and science are limited by the narrow experience of the past. To break those limits, to extend reason into the future, we need passion and instinct, coming out of those depths of human feeling which escape the bounds of a historical period. When Read spoke in London in 1961, before taking part in a mass act of civil disobedience in protest against Polaris nuclear submarines, he argued for breaking out of the limits of “reason” through action:

“This stalemate must be broken, but it will never be broken by rational argument. There are too many right reasons for wrong actions on both sides. It can be broken only by instinctive action. An act of disobedience is or should be collectively instinctive—a revolt of the instincts of man against the threat of mass destruction.

Instincts are dangerous to play with, but that is why, in the present desperate situation, we must play with instincts…

We must release the imagination of the people so that they become fully conscious of the fate that is threatening them, and we can best reach their imagination by our actions, by our fearlessness, by our willingness to sacrifice our comfort, our liberty, and even our lives, to the end that mankind shall be delivered from pain and suffering and universal death.”

Read Polaris demo

Anarchism seeks that blend of order and spontaneity in our lives which gives us harmony with ourselves, with others, with nature. It understands the need to change our political and economic arrangements to free ourselves for the enjoyment of life. And it knows that the change must begin now, in those everyday human relations over which we have the most control. Anarchism knows the need for sober thinking, but also for that action which clarifies otherwise academic and abstract thought.

Herbert Read, in “Chains of Freedom,” writes that we need a “Black Market in culture, a determination to avoid the bankrupt academic institutions, the fixed values and standardized products of current art and literature; not to trade our spiritual goods through the recognized channels of Church, or State, or Press; rather to pass them ‘under the counter’.” If so, one of the first items to be passed under the counter must surely be the literature that speaks, counter to all the falsifications, about the ideas and imaginings of anarchism.

Howard Zinn

Boston, October 1970

Howard-Zinn-revolution-18553393-500-217

ARISE PEOPLE – EVERYWHERE!

Tahrir Square November 2012

Tahrir Square November 2012

In Volume Three of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, I have included a selection regarding the revolution in Egypt during the “Arab Spring,” and a piece on the new Russian capitalism, showing that so-called Marxist state socialism and the “dictatorship of the proletariat” were not stages in the transition from capitalism to communism, but from a primitive form of capitalism to a more advanced form, under the aegis of an authoritarian state. This week, Pussy Riot’s video denouncing Vladimir Putin and calling for freedom in Russia was officially condemned, while two member’s of Pussy Riot remain imprisoned. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to impose its own dictatorship, much like the clerics in Iran following the overthrow of the Shah, and the Bolsheviks in Russia following the overthrow of the Czar. I felt it was appropriate then to post these two anarchist proclamations from the Russian Revolution, in which the anarchists denounce the nascent Bolshevik dictatorship and suppression of freedom, calling on the people to arise against their new masters and to create a “sorrowless world, with freedom, love, equality and brotherhood for all people.”

Pussy Riot Protest in Moscow

Pussy Riot Protest in Moscow

ARISE PEOPLE

ARISE PEOPLE!

THE SOCIAL-VAMPIRES ARE DRINKING YOUR BLOOD!

THOSE WHO EARLIER CRIED OUT FOR LIBERTY, FRATERNITY AND EQUALITY ARE CREATING TERRIBLE VIOLENCE!

THE SHOOTING OF PRISONERS IS OCCURRING NOW WITHOUT TRIAL OR INVESTIGATION AND EVEN WITHOUT THEIR ‘REVOLUTIONARY’ TRIBUNAL.

THE BOLSHEVIKS HAVE BECOME MONARCHISTS.

PEOPLE! THE GENDARME’S BOOT IS CRUSHING ALL YOUR BEST FEELINGS AND DESIRES.

THERE IS NO FREE SPEECH, NO FREE PRESS, NO FREE HOUSING. EVERYWHERE THERE IS ONLY BLOOD, MOANS, TEARS AND VIOLENCE.

YOUR ENEMIES SUMMON HUNGER TO HELP THEM IN THEIR STRUGGLE WITH YOU.

ARISE THEN PEOPLE!

DESTROY THE PARASITES WHO TORMENT YOU!

DESTROY ALL WHO OPPRESS YOU!

CREATE YOUR OWN HAPPINESS YOURSELVES. DO NOT TRUST YOUR FATE TO ANYONE.

ARISE PEOPLE! CREATE ANARCHY AND THE COMMUNE!

Anarchy in Greece

Anarchists in Greece

TO THE FLAMES WITH LAW AND AUTHORITY

TERROR, DISCONTENT, HATRED AGAINST EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING.

GROANS OF THE HUNGRY, TEARS OF WIVES, MOTHERS.

PROTESTS AND DESPAIR OF THE ABUSED.

CRIES OF THE SICK AND DYING.

VENGEANCE OF THE WEAK.

THE TRIUMPH OF POVERTY.

REVENGE AND DEFIANCE OF THE INSULTED.

MORE HATE, MORE ANGER AGAINST THIS ENSLAVEMENT!

MAY THIS ODIOUS AND WORTHLESS WORLD ROT!

WORLD OF MASTERS AND SLAVES, WORLD OF ENSLAVERS AND ENSLAVED!

WORLD OF THE SATED AND THE HUNGRY!

AWAY WITH GRIEF AND DEJECTION!

ONWARD TO LIBERTY AND EQUALITY!

PULL DOWN THE PRISON WALLS!

BRING FREEDOM TO ALL THE WRETCHED OF THE EARTH!

DESTROY THE CULTURE OF THE OPPRESSORS!

SMASH ‘YOUR’ EARTHLY AND HEAVENLY IDOLS!

CAST ANGER AND HATE TO THE FLAMES!

TO THE FLAMES WITH LAWS AND RULES SET DOWN BY ‘GOD’ AND AUTHORITY!

TEAR UP BY THE ROOTS THIS CONTEMPTIBLE WORLD! AND ON ITS RUINS BUILD A BRIGHT, SORROWLESS WORLD, WITH FREEDOM, LOVE, EQUALITY AND BROTHERHOOD FOR ALL PEOPLE!

Vestnik Anarkhii (Briansk), 14 July 1918

new world

Volume Three Book Launch November 2012

Anarchism in the 21st Century

The New Anarchism (1974-2012)

Tuesday November 20th, 7:00 p.m.

Alice MacKay Room, Lower Level

Central Library, 350 West Georgia St., Vancouver, BC

Admission is free. Seating is limited.

Join Robert Graham for the book launch of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas: The New Anarchism (1974-2012) and a discussion of anarchism in the 21st century. Dimitri Roussopoulos will talk about the politics of neo-anarchism, and Davide Turcato, author of Making Sense of Anarchism: Errico Malatesta’s Experiments with Revolution, 1889–1900will discuss the relevance of Malatesta’s anarchism today.

November VPL Poster

Carlo Cafiero: Anarchy = Communism

Carlo Cafiero

In Volume One of Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian IdeasI included excerpts from Carlo Cafiero’s 1880 speech to the Jura Federation where he made the case for anarchist communism. He later expanded his speech into a lengthy essay, Revolution, which has recently been translated by Nestor McNab and published by Black Cat Press. A brief excerpt is set forth below.

Anarchy – A World Without Borders

Anarchy and Communism

Our revolutionary ideal is the age-old ideal of all those who refuse to resign themselves to oppression and exploitation; for us, as for our predecessors, it is summed up in two no less ancient terms: Freedom and Equality.

As ancient as human servitude, that is to say as humanity, this ideal has always had a limited, partial application thanks to the efforts of reactionaries, who in every age have hindered the revolution. However, despite all the past and reactions, it [the ideal] has continued to spread and is about to realize its most complete application in our revolution.

Having learnt from past history, which shows us the endless deceptions practised by the reactionaries of every sort and every age in order to diminish, corrupt and misrepresent the true value of freedom and equality, that is to say of the revolution itself, we have been forewarned and now place alongside the face value of these two oft-counterfeited coins the exact value that they truly have, in order that we may accept them as genuine.

These two precious coins must pay for the eternal redemption of humanity and the transaction will never take place until such times as the true value exactly matches their face value.

Now, we express the true value of freedom and equality with the two terms, Anarchy and Communism.

Consequently, we will not accept as true any freedom that does not correspond exactly, that is not perfectly identical and perfectly equal to anarchy — anything else will be false and mendacious for us; nor will we accept as true equality anything that does not correspond exactly, that is not perfectly identical and perfectly equal to communism — any other purported equality will be false and mendacious for us.

So if freedom for us is anarchy and equality is communism, then our revolutionary formula will be: (Revolution) = (Freedom and Equality) (Anarchy and Communism).

Anarchy and communism, like force and matter, are two terms which should form a single term, since they jointly express a single concept.

The submission of the proletarians, the vast majority of humanity, to the accumulators of the materials and means of labour, a small minority, is the prime cause of all oppression and exploitation, of all inequality, despotism and human brutality. The human community laying claim to the materials and means of labour is a claim for the freedom and equality of all men. But guarding the treasure that has been stolen from us lies the State with all its constituted authorities and its armed might, obstacles that we must throw down if we are to have our goods returned to us. And consequently, while the two terms of our revolution are twins, anarchy is destined to emerge from the womb first, to pave the way for communism.

Carlo Cafiero, 1881

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 360 other followers