The anti-anarchist spirit of individual violence within peaceful protests

  • Posted on: 19 May 2019
  • By: thecollective

From Freedom News UK, May 17th

Opinion,

John is tired of participating in peaceful protests against global warming, military-industrial complex, racism and capitalist state. He thinks these mobilizations are pointless, the enemy is not afraid of protesters, and something should be done to make the status quo tremble. He has an outstanding idea: preparing a homemade bomb! He will go to the next protest and will throw that bomb against a random public building. Likely, he thinks, many protesters will support his radical initiative and add their part to this revolutionary violence. Then, many other individuals, which are not currently in the march, might look at that violent spectacle on TV or the internet and understand that nothing could be changed without some destruction.

There is a potential John in every protest around the globe. They are not bad people. The problem is that many of them consider themselves as anarchists and I think this self-consideration is wrong. More clearly, their violent attitude cannot be addressed as being anarchist.

Let’s start by saying that anarchism has a historical connection with violent means. Mikhail Bakunin, Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Buenaventura Durruti, Nestor Makhno are just some examples from a long list of anarchists that contributed, directly or indirectly, to the realization of violent activities. Certainly, there is also a less known tradition within anarchism that rejects violence as a revolutionary tactic but it has been silenced and forgotten ( I am referring to activists like Dorothy Day, Geoffrey Ostergaard or Bart de Ligt).

It is not my aim to defend anarcho-pacifism (though I agree to a large extent with De Ligt´s dictum: “the more violence, the less revolution”), but to evaluate critically the use of individual violence within peaceful protests.

I believe that it is not necessary to endorse pacifism in order to reject an attitude like John’s.   You only have to be committed with a basic principle of anarchism: no one can impose his particular will to another person.

This is the core of anarchist criticism against Bolshevism and authoritarian left schools. The basis for any decision in a just society is a free agreement between equals and not the imposition of an individual will. Of course, one of the major challenges of anarchism is to imagine how that kind of deliberative ambits could be developed in mass societies, but that’s a different issue.

Nor (insert your favorite dictator) nor communist parties could have legitimate authority to decide over the fate of individuals which didn’t give up that power voluntarily.

I think this basic principle of no imposition, which could be traced back to Proudhon’s Federative Principle can help us to understand why John’s attitude is far from being an anarchist one.

John is making a decision that could produce a repressive reaction against the protest from the police. Throwing the bomb could also discourage other people to join the mobilization. None of these possible outcomes has been decided collectively by the protesters. It is John (or maybe a minority that supports him) who determines that every member of the protest will bear the costs of his violent action. Just like a dictator, he assumes the role of an interpreter of collective needs and defines the best tactic to follow. I am not saying he wants to be a dictator; maybe he is well inspired in many past anarchists that promoted terroristic attacks as a mean to publicize their ideas. He is just acting like one.

Anarchists should avoid the temptation of considering themselves as interpreters of others. Anarchism is mainly about organization among equals and it assumes that the risk of a decision must be faced by those who participated in that decision. If you think that a peaceful protest should turn into a violent one, organize an assembly and try to convince other protesters about your point of view. Nothing about us without us is (really) for us. Keep that in mind, good John!

Federico Abal


Photo credit: Pi Chon

Comments

Nothing like doing a John has happened. Doing a John happens at night, not at demonstrations, & at careful targets, not against random public buildings.

At most there’s someone, let’s call her Samantha, who shows up to a liberal march & tries to get people to break a corporations’ windows with her. Samantha usually gets physically assaulted & turned into the cops by a pacifist march organizer named Greg. Greg will scream “Peaceful Protest!” in Samantha’s face while he holds her down until the police come & take Samantha away.

But, I do think that planting bombs should be called “Doing a John” from now on.

I personally prefer "doing Samantha", but ok I get the idea.

more quality trolling by old-school Spanish anarcho-liberals.

Because "the masses" or the "proles" can't be wrong or have a poor analysis of a given situation, it's anti-anarchist to go against the Will of the Proletariat, or the Demonstrators. Because anarchism is really just about following the herd, whatever it does, no matter how idiotic or misguided.

Only the cops have the right to be violent, "anarchist" slave. Just RUN or play the victim so our activist groups will whine whine whine whine whine whine to Fedbook 'til they get censored under State orders (i.e. Turkey).

@videodante stop denouncing "violence" and start denouncing white nationalism, racism, neonazism, fucking anything more than vague notions of "violence"

This "John" thing basically happened in Seattle at the WTO in 1999 and it inspired thousands, if not tens of thousands, or maybe even more worldwide. to get involved and stay involved. So this article is fucking garbage.

" How Non-violence protects the State" by Gelderloos
is a good read and is apropos in the context of the above article.This does not mean that violence threatens the state, but it does represent a challenge to its power.There must be a distinction between violence against persons and property destruction. There are instances when neither action is effective or relevant.

My question is, how can these arguments still be made in 2019 by potentially well meaning people? I get that it's usually personal and they are friends with a lot of liberals who shame and clutch pearls in the face of *violent anarchists* but dude. This is the same argument used against all violence. It's the same argument used against marching in the street. It's the same argument to stop you from doing anything that isn't OK with the status quo. Smh

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