Working to death
I was reading on Contrainfo concerning an anarchist blood drive for a comrade injured in a foiled attempt to set a bus on fire. According to the communique:
During the night of October 26, 2017, at about 9:30 p.m. a group decides to go out into the street and face the imposed normality near the faculty Juan Gomez Milla of the University of Chile.
It is right in the street intersecting Captain Ignacio Carrera Pinto with Passage Challacollo where they decide to intercept a micro-bus of the route 325, managing to stop it and bring down the 12 passengers who were traveling. At the same time benzene is sprayed into the machinery and they struggle with the driver to make him descend.
The bastard driver Luis Maulén Miranda, decides to defend his miserable exploitation and with the fear that they would ignite the property of the Vule S.A company starts at full speed ramming the hooded companions that were in the sector. It is in his delusions of heroism that he manages to run over comrade Byron Robledo Villalobos, fracturing both legs and leaving him at vital risk…
So it appears that these anarchists wanted to burn the bus, but instead one of their comrade’s legs got pinned to a tree, breaking both legs They continued to scuffle with the driver until the police showed up, at which point they turned tail and ran, leaving their comrade bleeding and in shock. Now of course they are holding a blood drive at the hospital where their arrested comrade is being treated. One has to show up at the hospital and give their I.D. and address to donate blood, which any sensible anarchist would who has no problems with the authorities whatsoever would not hesitate to do I’m sure.
Now, one should not kick people while they’re down, but this seems like a “teachable moment”. Namely, we should look at this as a microcosmic exercise in situational ethics and morality. The anarchist has a goal: to burn the machine that oppresses the populace without their realizing, or burning it as a sign of social war, or whatever their intentions (to be honest, I don’t know). What we do know is the material aim of the action: the burning of the vehicle. To the anarchist, this is merely a matter of a fetishized unnecessary material good of little importance: what is a bus compared with a human life, or happiness, or liberation, or a society without domination? Not much. Certainly it’s not worth pinning the legs of one’s comrade to a tree with a multi-ton transport vehicle over. Determining the “good guys” and “bad guys” here is a “no-brainer”: people and freedom are worth more than buses. Therefore, the driver should have stepped aside and let these young people burn his bus. It’s the only right thing to do…
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a world where the anarchist point of view is commonly shared by Joe Schmo on the street. Let’s play the scenario from the view of a hypothetical bus driver who likes barbecues and watching the football matches on the weekend. You might be a few hours into your shift, and then some scraggly masked young hoodlums come onto your bus making people get off. But you just had a fight with your wife and you are not in a good mood. And your boss is riding your ass over some bullshit or another, and you’re just not fucking having it tonight. So when they tell you to get off with your passengers, you tell these vegan kids who look about 100 pounds when they’re wet and wearing boots to go fuck themselves. Then the scuffle starts. Seeing as no one had the sense to bring a knife or at least a threatening object, you can fight them off, and at that point, your lizard brain takes over: fight or flight. Politics or your job or even your family are least on your mind, you’re just trying to get out of this, so you floor your bus and hit one anarchist. Your heart is racing and you keep fighting these masked kids until you hear sirens. They run. Your heartbeat slows steadily. You start to talk to the police…
Not I am not writing that to say that the bus driver was justified in what he did. If you read things like that, you’re a special snowflake who has no real world experience. I don’t know what the anarchists said to the bus driver, but chances are they were not able to explain the history of anarchism starting from Bakunin or read him some communiques from the CCF. “Comrade, we are taking control of your bus and destroying it as a show of force in resistance to all domination…” But even if they did, do you really think that he needs to be told that the bus is an instrument of his “miserable exploitation”. Hey dumbass, I think he already knows that. What he doesn’t know is how your little pyromaniac tantrum will change any of that. For him, you’re just another problem, like the cars that cut him off in traffic, the people who try to board without paying, the boss who needs him to work an extra shift, his wife who complains about how he doesn’t earn enough, etc. He just wants to get through the shift, clock in and out, and get back home to watch his favorite show on TV. If he didn’t have that instrument of “miserable exploitation” in his life, is your squat going to feed him and pay his bills?
There is a way to get him off the bus, however, and that would have been a gun or a knife. And if he refused, you could have blown his brains out. Simple as that. But that’s “authority”, am I right? Except when you were ineffectively thumping on him with your weak vegan fists that wasn’t authority because… “We didn’t want to hurt him!” Sure you didn’t, dear, but look where all of that concern got you. You were just another bully, another “exploiter” pushing him around, or at least that is what he thought. And why should he think otherwise? You were just another “authority figure”, the only difference is that he could take you, and he will likely not do any prison time for violently lashing out at your comrade like he would like to do daily with all of the other assholes trying to spoil his day. You don’t think he would like to hit the jaywalking businessman who made him slam on the brakes in the middle of a busy street? You picked on the wrong person that day who had enough. He got to channel his angry emotions accumulated from all of the exploitation and domination of daily life, but it was your friend who was the recipient of an “emancipatory act”.
Again, I am not saying that he was “justified”. Just that I understand. Human beings are animals. I know we in the Tendency say that a lot, so I can concede that, perhaps, the faculties of reason and free will are different in our case. Let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that we DO have a decision-making faculty that is above that of other animals in which we can make decisions not out of instinct but due to reasoned and thought-out considerations. Even with that, however, the conundrum of the bus driver is no less clear. Is he supposed to be automatically infused with a knowledge of history, anthropology, and political theory so that, upon seeing those in the uniform of Anarchy (assuming that he didn’t just think they were criminals out to rob him), he was supposed to meekly get off the bus and make a speech something to the tune of:
“Comrades, how glad am I that you came this fine evening to destroy the instrument of my oppression! For I know full well that this vehicle is made of ores extracted from the Earth in a process that is destroying our environment, fueled with fossil-based liquid that is polluting our air, to take us to meaningless jobs where we are exploited by our bosses with the State as our overseer…”
Perhaps that’s what they expected, but they’re idiots if they did. Most people, and certainly most bus drivers (let’s call a spade a spade here) probably have never cracked open a book of political theory in their lives. On which planet does one have to be living on to expect that people philosophize that deeply about their daily lives, concerning tasks that they would rather not perform but just do for the money? On what planet do these young people live on where people eat and breath political theory, and form their behavior according to it? Do anarchists not lock their doors at night and make sure not to leave their cellphone lying around in a public place lest someone walk off with it? Why do they think people are going to change? Why do they think that some random bus driver would not perceive their action as just trying to pick a fight? How delusional do you have to be to have that much faith in humanity? You can answer that however you want, but the result this time is not up for dispute.
Of course, those in the Tendency have their own way of dealing with this problem:
But on other occasions the job hasn’t been so clean. One time I was in a situation where the teller was left in a state of shock when I pointed the gun at him, and he refused to give me the money. At that point I fired without hesitation, and then the buzzing in my ears, the casing hitting the floor and bouncing, the plexiglass unable to contain the shot which lodged the bullet into the man’s chest. My thought at that point was, “Fucking teller, if you are prepared to protect the money of those faggot bankers with your life, then you should have no problem dying for them!” I knew at that this attempt was botched, but it could have been worse. Quickly I headed toward the exit, but in a look askance I saw that the manager was on the phone trying to call the police, at which point I aimed and fired again, wounding that bastard as well. I fled the bank almost running, without money, having left two severely wounded men in my wake. That day the blood of the hyper-civilized was an offering to Wild Nature. The piercing alarm had sounded after the first shot. I ran to blend into the crowds. In the distance I heard sirens. They were looking for me. My mouth was dry, my arm was hot, my hand smelled like gunpowder. My gait was nervous, but I grinned since I was able to shoot those two idiots who risked their lives to defend their shitty jobs.
The eco-extremists of course learned this from criminality. In one work on casino-robber Jose Vigoa, they point out the one instance where Vigoa’s crew had to kill a security guard. The guard was a young trigger happy man who had watched way too many cops and robbers movies, and decided to play the hero at the wrong place and at the wrong time. Vigoa summarized his thoughts on the incident as follows:
I don’t want to kill nobody in my robberies. I didn’t want to kill the guards at the shopping center. But after the Desert Inn, I realize that every American has to be a cowboy. I call this the hero bullshit. You gotta be John Wayne and Mel Gibson and Bruce Willis, and you do stupid things and force me to do what I do, which is not stupid at all because to survive I will blow your fucking brains out. I will send you on the train to hell on a whim. My whim.
To the anarchist, that sounds a lot like authority. The world should be such that their act of showing up should lead to a near instant consensus regarding the necessity of an action, especially if explicit moral guidelines from the Anarchist Rule Book are followed: no killing, no sexualized violence, no theft from people who don’t “deserve” it, etc. etc. Property damage is okay because property can be replaced but human lives cannot. Don’t cause unnecessary suffering. Only target people who are oppressors, etc. etc. If only reality was that neat. If only all bus drivers were class conscious (although most Marxists would reject burning a bus as petit-bourgeois adventurism but that is neither here nor there, is it?)
Ironically, the psychological drive that the anarchist counts on that would make the average person resist the boss or cop is the same drive that makes them resist the Molotov cocktail-wielding anarchist who demands that they do one thing or the other in any given situation. You can object to this point all you want, but people don’t like to be told what to do, even by people who don’t like telling other people what to do.
People will defend property to the death, because they know on what side their bread is buttered. Say that bus driver read into the pure anarchist hearts of those kids that night and saw they wanted to burn his bus for good reasons. What about the next week when common criminals come on just to rob him and the rest of the people on the bus? Is he allowed to fight back then? Is he supposed to just expect that anyone who gets on his bus with hoods has the best of intentions, and all they want is to burn the vehicle that he drives, that’s it? Who in their right mind would want to work in those conditions? How are people not supposed to be unnerved by that? They’re supposed to just “trust you”? Why? Who the hell are you?
Similarly, I am not supposed to fight back if random people show up to burn my house down, because that’s “just property”? It’s not “just property” when it’s 20 degrees outside and I’d freeze to death if I didn’t have it. My car isn’t “just property” if I need it for work, otherwise my kids go hungry, etc. etc. That’s why I am amused by primitivists who are disgusted by ITS killing this or that person but “attacking the grid” is okay. Like, really? The common person is supposed to just live without the electricity needed during their child’s appendicitis surgery, a woman is just supposed to go without the cellphone tower she needs to call for a ride to get away from her abusive boyfriend, a nursing mother is supposed to go without the refrigeration that is needed to store her breast milk to feed her baby when she’s off at work, etc. etc. People have property for a reason, and they defend it to the death because it is part of them. The “inorganic body of man” as Marx once called Nature. Techno-industrial society is man’s habitat, it’s his nature, and if you mess with it, prepare to get run over by a bus, or worse.
Of course, if your ethical compass is governed by something other than the Human, then your modus operandi can be entirely different, as it has been with attacks of various ITS cells in Chile itself. Man will not reform, there is no way to resolve the problem other than “ripping the bandage off”. There is no neat way to attack a messy way of life, so if you decide to attack (not that I am recommending it, mind you, I am just speculating here), you might as well embrace the messiness.