TOTW: Effectiveness

How important is it to you that your everyday actions and life efforts are 'effective'? How much do you care that anarchist actions in general are effective?

I personally feel drawn to effectiveness as something I care about, and I thought about it more when I recently came across the following online critique of a recent anarchist action:

"My heart burns for a dead comrade, and this is sort of propaganda of the deed, but he had to know how going it alone would end. And this is only going to result in more suppression and more security. Undocumented people are going to suffer because of this.

We. Are. Powerless. Alone.

We have to organize and work together. Doing this alone is an ego driven decision. Your priority isn't liberation if this is your plan. And in a way, it's white saviorism. He could have joined his passion with others and connected with an organization that could help find safety for the people who are imprisoned if he could get them out. With comrades, with a plan, he could still be alive and people could be free who are still imprisoned."

There seems to be an implicit assumption in this comment that having power, working together, being effective to bring about 'liberation' is the critical goal.

I myself care about effectiveness. I don't want my actions in life to be 'meaningless' or based solely on making myself happy. I'd love to firebomb the state if it meant that we could all be free.

So does that mean that we *must* organize and work together? Am I forgoing effectiveness if I am not necessarily interested in sacrificing my passions to organize with others?

Is effectiveness important? Is it important for anarchists to be 'effective'? Is it even possible for humans, anarchist or otherwise, to not fixate on what's effective in their immediate lives?

There are 34 Comments

What is the metric of effectiveness? What are the measurements of liberation? It may be true that more people equals more effective, but does t it depend what you’re trying to do? If your goals are long term, then it’s virtually impossible to judge effectiveness, but even with short term goals you may not get what you plan or hope for.

For me the goal is to erode people’s confidence in the state and capitalism, and various institutions of domination and oppression. Erosion is a geological process too, and is usually slow, but it’s also inevitable. Seems to me that if you’re fixated on effectiveness, then you’re incapable of being patient. Impatience can easily lead to carelessness, and that would appear to be the opposite of effectiveness.

Yes, this question needs to be part of the TOTW question. How do we judge 'effectiveness'? How do we measure it?
I would say effectiveness needs to be measured against a goal. What is your goal? It could be a minor immediate goal such as sabotaging a bulldozer, or a longer term more general goal such as the acceptance of more anarchist ideas. Whatever the goal is, anarchists need to have one when they are planning actions.Too many anarchists simply do not have a goal and don't care, they just want to fuck shit up or smash things or milkshake a patriot. These are not goals and so effectiveness cannot be measured.

Every other field of endeavor has goals and ways of measuring them. Why doesn't anarchy?

No wonder we aren't any closer to anarchy than we were 150 years ago.

Confused because you kind of made a leap here that wasn't really explained. Why does sabotaging a bulldozer count as a goal but smashing things or milkshaking a patriot doesn't? What is your actual criteria for something counting as a goal?

consciousness also underlies this issue. spronsen's statement: "I set aside my broken heart and I heal the only way I know how—by being useful.
I efficiently compartmentalize my pain…
And I joyfully go about this work.
(To those burdened with the wreckage from my actions, I hope that you will make the best use of that burden.)"

in other words, spronsen felt two conflicting things at once: this action is useful, AND this action is burdensome for others. after it all, in that burden there is a potential for further usefulness!

what if instead of, "if only this hadn't happened, our organizing would be easier," it was more like, "because this happened, our organizing has greater purpose." the action doesn't have to be reproduced or imitated to be meaningful. ya know, that "both/and" approach we hear about sometimes.

Effectiveness matters, it's just not all that matters.

He wanted to go out with a blast, and who can blame him? We live curtailed and repressed in so many ways, it makes me smile to see someone just take what they need without fucking asking for organizer permission.

what a simple question. how to be effective when one not even knows what to do to abolish states etc. effectiveness can't be a primary goal or you end up like mckinsey, silly

I don't see any dichotomy between patience and effectiveness, that's a bit bizarre to me.

Your ability to accomplish short-term and longterm goals is just a very personal thing, IMO. Context matters but actions are the only meaningful yardstick for people.

I'm obnoxiously about practical shit, don't really care about theory unless it informs action that proves effective. I don't even bother respecting or acknowledging things and efforts as anarchist/anarchy unless they're "effective" in some way.

Only caveat is if there's a sneaky effectiveness I failed to see.

you refer to effectiveness, but give no indication of what that means, how it can be evaluated, etc.

"actions are the only meaningful yardstick for people"

so what is the yardstick measuring?

oh is that my fault that the topic is so fucking vague? as I mentioned, the yardstick is my measurement of whether something is interesting and/or anarchist/anarchy and/or not just part of the tidal wave of fartbong material that compromises most of the internet, in my view.

If you wanted to focus the discussion a bit, I suppose we'd need examples.

"So does that mean that we *must* organize and work together? Am I forgoing effectiveness if I am not necessarily interested in sacrificing my passions to organize with others?"

Take this q, for example: the answer is probably! although there's certainly very worthwhile projects that can be accomplished alone or with a tiny affinity group, I would argue that's what we're currently looking at, with all its limitations.

Isolated, individuated action looks like publishing and media projects, it looks like making creative stuff by yourself, it looks like staying home because people are annoying and disappointing, it looks like being swept away like dry leaves by your enemies if they are able to organize NOT as isolated individuals. This is contemporary anarchy, most of us having swallowed the poisoned pill of techno alienation almost as enthusiastically as everyone else.

You can be effective alone, it's just really really hard. Also, like someone else already said, if you don't start by defining a goal, you literally can't even measure anything.

The comment cited in the prompt seems to be bothered more by this person’s “selfishness” than by a lack of effectiveness. They seem to resent that the person that carried out the action didn’t consult with them or ask for permission first. As if the person who carried out the action would have gone on to various groups prior and ask “hey, i don’t we don’t know each other, and we live in different cities, but i was thinking of doing this and that; does that in any way conflict with your personal aspirations and the goals of your organization or groups?”

That being said, the person that carried out the actions is responsible for them, all the intended and unintended consequences, good and bad, but these won’t bear any weight on them at all now that they’re dead.

“Willem Van Spronsen, the protestor killed, appears to have been targeting not the detention center itself, as has been widely reported in the media, but the parking lot across the street from the detention center which houses the NWDC’s transportation infrastructure. This infrastructure includes a fleet of buses that transports immigrants to be caged at the detention center, and that transports immigrants from the detention center to the Yakima Airport, from which they are deported.”
(From “La Resistencia”, featured on IGD today).

Still don't know why the very real spector of suicide isn't being more directly addressed. Many folks on the inside are trying desperately to survive and live. This action was symbolic in nature and as a lone act served only the purpose of propaganda by deed. Its hard to stick around and do the practical work of bonding people out, of organizing resistance. This comrade needed more mental health support. An anarchist that does not see a problem with the reverberations of this action will likely not succeed at connecting with those who are organizing against ICE. If you bristle at the idea that checking in with others limits your autonomy and think this may have lead to anyone getting released... I question the sincerity of your desire to get people out of detention, where they are, increasingly, dying.

And it doesn't help that the likes of IGD and boring activist era CrimethInc rely on this sort of sacrificial symbolic performance which is not sustainable as a practice nor acutely effective. I like others did signal boost this to a degree on the twitter but the suicidal limitations of this as a whole are obvious.

As long as therapy sounds as lame going into the confession booth and getting a soft scolding, propaganda of the deed might sound like a more appealing alternative.

Suicide is deadly sin, surely the person that does it is guilty of selfishness, vanity, narcissism, etc and no one else is at fault /s.

Checking in with others does limit your autonomy if they’ll prevent you from doing what you want, which is not always the case, of course. It’s better to ask for forgiveness, than to ask for permission, goes the saying.

I’d like to second your bit about “mental health support”, but no pitiful empathetic or sympathetic listening can be a substitute for a real friend, and reasons (or an unthinking basic urge) to keep on living.

Was the alternative a prolonged campaign of community coordinated action instigated by this level-headed and mentally healthy person (meditation regimen, diet, combination of psychotropic meds)?

If that’s so, why aren’t they doing it without them or why were they such a key figure that they can’t go off on their own and take themselves out of the equation with style?

You’re poopooing them, but you don’t really care about them, you wouldn’t have been their friend if you met them, and you aren’t reaching out.

Have friends suffering in detention, doing what i can to get them out. This act did not diminish their suffering in any real way. It just added to the pain. This act was not practical solidarity as much as a cry of anguish.

why should anarchists have a problem with this action, exactly?

"his action will likely not succeed at connecting with those who are organizing against ICE"

wait, so a direct attack on ICE doesn't "connect with those who are organizing against ICE?" It seems like the implied meaning is that the action _doesn't suit the politics_ of your peeps / friends / activist comrades "organizing against ICE". However, those two things are not the same.

24-hour lock-down of the facility, detainees at the facility have been left in the dark.

so its the fault of anarchists that the state is repressive? this logic goes a certain direction...

Far less intense jail support actions result in lockdowns too.

The state is to blame for repression. Entire strategies to resist camps and detention are in the works. The action was symbolic within a political landscape where a lot of non symbolic support and resistance is needed. Giving up ones life in symbolic resistance is noble to some and shortsided to others. There is still potential for non symbolic action, and loss of life when there is so much to live for and resist is deeply sad.

Willem engaged in many actions in solidarity with immigrants before his final one. I'm sure everyone agrees we would rather he was still here with us. But if for whatever reason he decided it was time to go (and felt it firmly enough that he didn't want to tell anyone of his plans, lest they try to talk him out of it), what better way to go out than to make one last stand against the system? It's better than a solitary suicide if we're to make the morbid comparison. It's clearly a comparison he made, so I think it's appropriate.

"We have to organize and work together. Doing this alone is an ego driven decision. "

What'ß sooooo damn annoying and mediocre is that the whole thing is within the familiar binary Western social dynamic of status seeking " Winner/Loser " , valorizing " Activist/Pacifist", democracy's " popularist/persecuted minority," , "Fascist republican/ Left Neo-liberal, " and " crazy Insane/smug bourgeois" .
Outside of the binary, there is no immigrant, only the people who persist in the land of their birth and learn how to survive within its economic political climate without running away like scared sheep from wolves that can be turned back.


disgusting smear of sentience,

unfold thy esophagus like a sock

Anon 01:12, you are mediocre, YOU are the ones who will tell the Sioux natives to immigrate to another country because YOU ARE the weak sheep who cannot make a stand like SITTING BULL, who didn't run away with his tribe on a boat to Ireland.

Old samurai saying ---> Become one with the cause, and the mind becomes the journey.

An ICE spokesman mentioned both "Incendiary rhetoric" and "officer safety" as reasons for delaying major urban raids yet again. They are still carrying out small-scale harassing actions in suburbs of "pick up one, scare a hundred" but are not now capable of getting away with an all-out attack on urban migrant communities. To hit us when we know they are coming and have shown we are willing and ready to fight is not their cup of tea.

The fact that people are free right now who would be in ICE (actually GEO Group) concentration camps had the raids gone on as scheduled is all the justification anyone needs for that motor pool attack in "Washington State." Direct action gets the goods, and the white supremacists and white nationalists behind Trump listen only to direct force and to economic punishment, or in other words they understand steel and gold.

Of course the Enemy retaliates against the hostages already in their dungeons, this is the standard hostage-taker's behavior. The only possible response to it is to refuse to negotiate with the hostage takers. Prison guards themselves understand this, and know damned well that if we catch one of them while on the inside absolutely NOTHING will be yielded in negotiations to get them back. They understand it, and we need to understand it too.

Even the simple home demo is fundamentally a cooercive tactic: it says "we know who you are and we know where you live" and by being a pain in the ass for the target's neighbors reduced the target's quality of life and ability to enjoy their expensive condo or oversize house. Years ago, a series of home demos against John Negroponte over his history of torture isolated him from his neighbors and made him a pariah there. Similar protests forced both Paul Wolfowitz (IMF) and Dick Knapp (landlord of the Ga Ave Wal-Mart) to sell their expensive homes and move. That cost them a lot of money and their local social connections. Lots of bank executives are now showing they don't want to suffer this way by divesting in things like the Geo Group that are known to bring protesters to executives's homes, in fact GEO Group may well turn out to be the next HLS( Huntingdon Life Sciences, a vivisector that could not even get bank accounts in most places because of SHAC).

Galleani reminds us that ‘Anarchism rejects authority in any form: to the principle of representation, it opposes the direct and independent action of individuals and masses: to egalitarian and parliamentarian action, it opposes rebellion, insurrection, the general strike, the social revolution.’ For any of us who might have forgotten.

Galleani denounces the supreme cowardice of rejecting individual acts of rebellion when it is we ourselves to have sown the first seed. ‘The propaganda of the anarchists creates the psychological climate among the people....our responsibility in all acts of rebellion is more precise, more specific and undeniable where our propaganda has been energetic, vigorous and has left a deep impression...’

'I myself care about effectiveness. I don't want my actions in life to be 'meaningless' or based solely on making myself happy. I'd love to firebomb the state if it meant that we could all be free.' Surely, free ought to be 'free'? Indeed, many other words typed in this post could also be put inside two apostrophes. Also, why the binary argument running throughout this piece? Regurgitation.

I only have thoughts, no answers. Being aware and open to the seemingly conflicting complexities of libertarian oriented anarchy, One of the liberating truths for me is the understanding of my existential nature. Like the nature of genes, inherently selfish but not so stupid, metaphorically speaking, to believe they can survive, replicate, effectively, flying solo. This realization can provide existential meaning to the inherent nihilism of existence, necessary because of the curse of consciousness and awareness unique to the anarchist disposition. But this speaks to mere that enough for us? I hope not.
Seeking and finding liberation is both absurd, especially with some mounting evidence of scientific algorithmic determinism, but until evidence is conclusive, one could say, compulsory if liberation is the goal. Can we escape the science? Again, I hope so.
Can we judge one if they choose to do this solo, refusing the body if you will? Is survival (of the body) more important to the anarchist? Is it more important than individual liberation? At what cost? ...prolly at too high a cost. How do we become true free radicals, here, now, in the moment, if we are chained to self-imposed expectations and ideals?
I don't know. Honestly, I move forward with curiosity and a sense of alchemical, if you will, mystery.
As a new person here, explain TOTW?

Maybe such actions are "ineffective" because the rest of us are too afraid to join in. At the end of the day, the state and capitalism maintain their power by force, and force is the only language that they understand. Sure, one man acting alone cannot do much against the system, but I understand his frustration and his rage against the organizing and activism that seems like little more than a hamster running a treadmill.

Add new comment