I’m definitely up for some brainstorming and strategizing. Count me in.
Diplomatic corps for a secessionist republic of one.
I’m definitely up for some brainstorming and strategizing. Count me in.
Start using public key cryptography to the extent possible in your private correspondence. Encourage others to do so. Help non-technical users get started with it.
Support your neighborhood CopWatch. If you don’t have a neighborhood CopWatch, get in touch with the nearest one and ask for their advice and/or help in starting one.
Write to public forums that don’t usually publish anarchist material, but where you stand a chance of getting published anyway, explicitly advocating anarchism. For example, a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Include pointers to online resources where people can learn more about anarchist takes on the issue you’re writing about.
Find ways to get things that you need outside of the documented cash economy. For example, if there’s a Food Not Bombs in your town, you can get to know a bunch of other anarchists, do some mutual aid work, and, in the process, get some free food for your labor. If there isn’t a Food Not Bombs in your town yet, again, get in touch with existing FNB groups and try to start one. (There are lots of guides online.)
If you have it, I’d also recommend contributing some money to groups that provide direct relief and aid for victims of violence, and which combat cultural attitudes that promote violence. For example, I give a fixed percentage of my income to women’s shelters and groups like Women for Women International (which focuses on relief for women in war zones). By doing so I not only provide direct aid to real people and to a network of institutions which can supplant the supposed welfare functions of the State; I also remove that much more money from the taxed economy, and put it toward the purpose of healing and mutual aid, rather than what it would otherwise have been used for — graft, handcuffs, bombs, prisons, etc.
If you are as convinced as you seem to be that the State is willing and able to use massive violence in order to suppress potential threats to its authority; that the infrastructure for that repressive violence is already in place, ready to be called out at need; and that they are both vigilant and tightly organized around this goal, then it seems to me the obvious implication is that you need much more, and much more urgent, attention to building up counter-institutions and alternative networks as quickly as possible, well before you make any attempts at revolutionary confrontation. There is no way to successfully fight the cops or the National Guard unless you have a lot of your own infrastructure for evasion, resistance, exposure of aggressors and collaborators, safehouses, education and counterspin, contacts, support, material aid, communication, transportation, recruitment, retention, mediation between aboveground and underground life, etc., etc., etc. As you yourself have said, they’ve already got all these things and have spent a long time thinking about how to best use them and organize them. We largely don’t and we largely haven’t. Until we do so, trying to “smash” the State is going to accomplish just about as much as the Weathervain’s street riots and symbolic-action-through-explosives.
But to build up our own infrastructure requires a lot of that “building a new society in the shell of the old” stuff. (When the Wobs put that phrase to use, they weren’t claiming that if you build up the OBU enough, state capitalism will just gradually crumble away before the awesome alternative that the OBU provides. Their idea was to create a structure that would prepare them for the worldwide General Strike and what came after.)
Counter-institutions are absolutely necessary if we want to create two, three, many Vietnams instead of two, three, many Wacos.
It is not as if this has never been tried before.
When the First Intifada broke out, the PLO was in exile in Tunis, and in the absence of their militaristic posturing, the small-scale, freestanding popular committees that coordinated most of the anti-Occupation activism spent the first few years of the Intifada focusing overwhelmingly on nonviolent forms of resistance, among them burning identification cards, opening schools in defiance of military curfews, boycotts, general strikes, and refusal to pay taxes. The response from the IDF was relentless and punitive, with many of the committee leaders thrown in prison on sentences of up to ten years, and their money, land, and property confiscated. (Not surprisingly, the attacks on tax resisters, such as the committees based out of Beit Sahour, were especially harsh.) And, at the end of it all, here we are.
I think that the virtues of nonviolent resistance are very often underestimated or flatly ignored, while the effectiveness of violent resistance is all too often overestimated, and its terrible costs either ignored or, worse, romanticized. I think that more focus on nonviolent civil disobedience and direct action would probably make a worthwhile contribution to the Palestinian freedom struggle. But we should certainly remember that these strategies have already been used in the past, on a mass scale, and they didn’t make victory actual, let alone undeniable, then. We should not not pretend that nonviolent strategies would make even moderate success undeniable now, either.
Ah, I see. Well, I applaud your endurance, if you managed to scroll through the whole thing. When I started the blog almost seven years ago, I was not yet an anarchist, although I was interested in and occasionally sympathetic to libertarian and anarchist ideas. So there certainly are some posts in the older parts of the blog that I would not be willing to stand by today. I now believe that Leftist goals can be attained entirely through the abolition of coercive laws and through free association, and in fact will be attained more fully and more reliably through those means; and also that, even if they could not be so achieved, they would not be worth achieving at the cost of violating even one innocent person’s individual liberty. So I hope that what you had in mind can be chalked up to changing views over the years rather than to inconsistency.
On the other hand, there are many more recent cases in which I expressed a desire for a given piece of legislation to pass or to fail to pass, but I don’t see that as necessarily inconsistent with anarchism. Some legislation violates the rights of peaceful people and some respects those rights; some legislation makes government extremely dangerous and some legislation — e.g. bills to repeal the dangerous legislation — helps curb or ameliorate the danger. What I would repudiate from my days as a state Leftist is not concern with legislation per se, but rather the particular pieces of statist coercion that I was willing to support or excuse. As a practical matter, I have become pretty thoroughly disenchanted with the prospects for any meaningful progress through legislation or electoral politics, but I think the issue at stake is one of strategy, not one of anarchist principle.
Anyway, thank you again for the kind words; I’m glad you enjoy the blog. If I’ve managed to be provoke some interesting thoughts then that’s as much as I’ve ever hoped for.
I think we agree that incremental reforms, where they can be gotten, would be preferable to the status quo. The important thing is to be clear about the difference between (1) supporting incremental measures for strategic reasons, in order to pry whatever limited relief you can out from under a horrid political system, and (2) compromising moral principle by accepting, or pretending to accept, that some kinder, gentler, more efficient form of international apartheid could possibly be just or prudent or excusable. (1) is a perfectly reasonable political strategy, but it is worth nothing, or even less, when accompanied by (2) rather than by a principled moral opposition to the violent punishment of peaceful immigrants.
As Garrison said, “Urge immediate abolition as earnestly as we may, it will alas! be gradual abolition in the end. We have never said that slavery would be overthrown by a single blow; that it ought to be we shall always contend.”