You can find the original article here.
In my previous post I analyzed why I thought the concept of calling people your enemy or a statist, either in frame of mind, or in discussion is not a good tactic at best and at worst, a damaging one. Why? Well, the concept of regarding people as some sort of concrete enemy to you just because of certain ideas they have is already imprecise. You have to make a whole set of assumptions about how committed they are towards the ideas, how much they care about them, whether they even think about them at all. So for me then it makes no sense to really regard our fellow man as some sort of collective political identity that all share the same ideas.
In the comments section Mr. Harris and I exchanged a few friendly words on the matter and I still feel as if the whole idea of enemy hasn’t been explained enough for me. I still maintain that he has not really explained why we need to regard other people as an enemy or what use this really has to offer conceptually or otherwise. He talked about judgement and how it may help good ones flourish easier but when asked how I don’t recall him elaborating. Nonetheless, I will not dawdle on the subject. I think it suffices for me to say that I stay committed to the idea that none of us are completely committed to the ideas we have in our mind. And I also think that to think anything else is to ask perfectionism or assume too much either way.
Lastly, if you recall, dear reader of mine, you would recall me saying I would relate my answer to whether we should regard others as enemies and so on to our strategies towards abolishing the state. Once I had established some sort of answer there I ventured to try to relate it even further. I would attempt to relate all of these ideas of knowing what the enemy is, how it can be expressed, what tactics should be used and such to the recent riots in the UK. First I’d like to start by going over a few ideas I’ve had about having an enemy and such. From there I shall relate that to strategy and the riots.
Dropping the Style Clearly
I think it’s best to elaborate on the notion of an enemy, what is it, what does it look like? Is it a who? What are the underlying beliefs that come with believing in such a concept to begin with? And so on.
First off I think the reader should take note of the title. I’ve extrapolated past a who and gone to a more abstract what. Now what does this mean? Well it means I’m questioning the notion of the idea of an enemy to begin with and what may constitute it. When we regard someone an enemy what do we mean? Wikipedia the final arbiter of all knowledge has a decent definition of noticing that enemy is usually defined to mean someone against you in some way. But not only this but the fact that they are dangerously against you or in such a way that makes you defensive ideologically or perhaps physically when push comes to shove.
I actually think Mr. Harris with past article of his is actually making my point for me in the title. Consider this: ideas fuel people, of this, I believe, there is no question. There’s a reason or causality that goes into our actions and that stems from our reasoning and cognitive facilities. These processes in our mind help our decisions and value judgement as well as considerations for what’s practical or moral. Sometimes these things can be warped or damaged, perhaps because of our past, perhaps because of some blinders to our considerations at the time. All of these things however impact our actions and this is no different if one considers themselves an anarchist or not. The statists therefore are as susceptible to as non-committing or committing to the idea of the state existing until they think it shouldn’t exist anymore as much or as little as they want.
So when Mr. Harris tries to say that statists will unilaterally or perhaps even a good majority of them would report you for smoking weed even if you kept to yourself is not only pure speculation but based on my personal experience it has little backing. It seems to me that people often don’t care about things unless they directly affect them in some negative way or they think it’ll affect others they care about in such a way. Consider the wars far away: if you brought them up with people they’d probably say it’s terrible but wouldn’t be able to conceptualize it or even come close to the sheer terror the people who are in it are facing. Why? Because it’s distant from them. They only have preconceived notions of what war is (which is most likely government based) and so they may not like the war but their not sure what to do about it. This isn’t to say their bad people, but they’re more complex than just one dimensional labels Mr. Hariss and others can give them.
Mr. Harris says that I am not considering the danger of statism, etc. Ah to the contrary! I not only recognize it but I am recognizing it in a much more precise way than Mr. Harris is. Why? Because as George Donnelly said, ”
“Are you opposed to bad people (statists)? Or bad ideas (statist philosophy)?” Again, if you’re just going to attack people for what they believe instead of what they believe itself then what is the conversation is worth? I said what’s the enemy because there is not who.
The “enemy” is not one person. It is not Obama. It is not Sarah Palin. It’s not the Rothschilds. It’s not even the New World Order. The enemy is an idea. It is an idea that allows people to kill, maim, slaughter, bomb, rape, steal and destroy life. It is the idea of statism that I oppose.
I do not find hate worthwhile insofar as people are concerned. People are fallible, hating people for their faults, whatever they may be is not enough to defeat them and it’s more likely to defeat you anyways. What is the hate worth? So you can grit your teeth? So you can stamp your feet? Bang the walls? Cry out in agony at a world gone awry? Tell me what hate does for you, let’s talk. But until that time, I dismiss hate as necessary. I do not contribute such energies to hating people. There are ideas, conceptual products of the mind that I simply cannot align myself with at present and hope to never do so. The ideas of sexism, racism, militarism, corporatism, statism and more are all heinousideas that reproduce each other and more. They all feed off of each other and build upon one another. Therefore anarchists must consider their commitment to the individual to be a thick bundle of concerns and not a thin one made up of only non-aggression and a principle of voluntarism.
So with all of this said what do I plan to do about this idea? I plan to educate people about alternative and better ideas. I do not wish to force my ideas on others. I will show them through using myself as an example, through using alternative structures that are currently existing and those still to be built. I will try to use logic and compassion if and when it’s possible. I do not let myself come to use terms like “statist” or whatever in hardly anything but a joking manner. My fellow man is just that my fellow man (that’s a gender neutral term there for the people think I’m being a sexist here) and being such they are worthy of my respect insofar as they do the same for me.
As I said in the last article I find this especially true if they can get past all of the deception in media, schooling and governmental propaganda (and more) about anarchism and still show respect towards you as a human being. That shows something worthy of respect in of itself. I think I’ve said all I’ve needed to say about what the enemy is. For myself, it’s the idea of statism. It’s a virus. Statism is a virus. And it’s one that we as anarchists need to outcompete with better ideas.
How do we do that? Well we implement strategies to do so first before rushing into it. What strategies though?
Some Strategies for the Struggle: To be Violent or Non-Violent?
Now I actually don’t want to focus on this section too much because I’d rather save it for a later date. However I do want to briefly discuss my own personal favorite tactics: agorism, direct action (preferably the peaceful sort), education (and I don’t care if you don’t like the Mises institute, this is a damn good talk), and dual power (perhaps counter power if you prefer).
All of these tactics for me focus on something specific: non-violence. That isn’t to say there’s no self-defense if the situation is right. I, for instance, think cops might be killed in self-defense if the anarchists sees no other way out or thinks they’ll die either way, etc. So I’m not one for complete pacifism, though as of now, I do have a respect for the views. Further, I’d consider myself philosophically a pacifist in that I generally consider violence of any sort not preferable or usually an overall negative experience. But still, I’m not against defending myself or loved ones or others doing the same. But where’s the value in this non-violence? Some may even say I’m helping the state by being non-violence? Is this the case?
Well for one thing I think it’s obvious that this is not always the case. I think I’m doing a lot less to perpetuate the state by going limp when a cop tries to arrest me because…well because he probably feels like it, then shooting the cop and dying in “a blaze of glory”. I think some of the criticisms in the video I linked about how non-violence protects the state makes some valid points however. To its credit it does recognize that the movement Gandhi was involved (this goes the same for MLK) was not entirely peaceful and I suppose it’s entirely possible the British empire would rather negotiate with Gandhi than some violent protester.
On the other hand isn’t there something worthwhile in being non-violent? Isn’t there something to be said about someone who is clearly being beaten and doesn’t fight back and people are watching this blatant unjust violence and internalizing what it means? Again, these sorts of things can show people the negative side of the state (aka the real side) and perhaps they may be less trustful of the cops and may want to form community watch groups or other voluntary associations that serve the same function as the police supposedly do. Not only that but non-violence also seems more in line with our principles as anarchists. Why should we resort to violence against the state? Why do we need to treat the actors of the state like they treat us? If we think that the way they treat others is antithetical to the very idea of a civilized society then what does that say about us when we enact violence back?
Now I’m not saying violence is always a zero-sum game or that we should be a bunch of pussies or even that I don’t understand why people are being violent. Look, I do, I do get why people lash out against certain institutions. They’re frustrated, they’re oppressed, opportunities are missing from their life that they could get. But as V from V For Vendetta said: ideas are bulletproof. You cannot destroy a police building and hope to have cops actually resign or the state to crumble because of it. If anything more of your money will be stolen from you to pay for a new building and other things that were destroyed.
Finally, I think it’s worth noticing that the game of violence is the state’s main weapon. If we show we can be non-violent officials either don’t know what to make of it or just keep wailing on you. The public sure as hell doesn’t know what to make of it and sometimes they even side with the protesters! But more concretely I think we’re just outgunned and outmatched when it comes to violence. I mean, two words: atomic bomb. Ok…the main actors of the state probably wouldn’t use an a-bomb on the country they purport to be protecting (one would hope…) but I hope the point is made that the state’s resources are nearly infinite compared to the average protester. Men with night clubs, rubber bullets, real bullets, tasers, the military with their sub-machine guns, missiles, combat training, cold calculation of life and death and…oh yeah…motherfucking tanks. What does your average protester have? Some bricks? Maybe one of the cops weapons if they’re lucky.
My point is both a moral and practical one. It’s neither practical to engage in a violent war with the police, military or go around assassinating business CEOs and politicians (no matter how much you may want to sometime) nor moral to force our viewpoints, ideas and so on on to others. Even if they do it, that doesn’t necessarily mean we have the moral right to do so. We may have the capability in some cases but that doesn’t make it moral or even necessarily practical in the long run. In the end I oppose insurrectionist anarchism and am more hopeful for a gradual evolution that is made up of education, direct action, agorism and dual power.
And for those who don’t like my revolutionary gradualism (revolutionary due to the agorism factor as well as direct action and ways you can go about education as well as the inherent nature of building counter power itself) I refer you to Voltarine de Cleyre’s and Rosa Slobodinsky’s wonderful dialogue The Individualist and the Communist:
“COM.: “Then you hold that your system will practically result in the same equality Communism demands. Yet, granting that, it will take a hundred years, or a thousand, perhaps, to bring it about. Meanwhile people are starving. Communism doesn’t propose to wait. It proposes to adjust things here and now; to arrange matters more equitably while we are here to see it, and not wait till the sweet impossible sometime that our great, great grand children may see the dawn of. Why can’t you join in with us and help us to do something?”
INDV.: “Yea, we hold that comparative equality will obtain, but pre-arrangement, institution, ‘direction’ can never bring the desired result—free society. Waving the point that any arrangement is a blow at progress, it really is an impossible thing to do. Thoughts, like things, grow. You cannot jump from the germ to perfect tree in a moment. No system of society can be instituted today which will apply to the demands of the future; that, under freedom will adjust itself.”‘
Bring it all Together II: The Riots in the UK
Finally, I’d like to analyze the recent riots in the UK under the ideas of the idea of statism being the real enemy, the four methods I briefly laid out (mostly via links because I’ll elaborate more on each individual method some other time) and that non-violence is usually preferable to any sort of violence. First let me explain before I’m accused of well…something like I’m a privileged white guy who doesn’t know what he’s talking about, etc. I’d like to say that I agree with both of PJC’s posts which can be found here and here. And look, even MLK had something to say soon before he died about rioting in a somewhat understandable manner:
“Now I would like to examine both questions. First, is the guilt for riots exclusively that of Negroes? And are they a natural development to a new stage of struggle? A million words will be written and spoken to dissect the ghetto outbreaks. But for a perceptive and vivid expression of culpability I would like to submit two sentences that many of you have probably heard me quote before from the pen of Victor Hugo. “If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin but he who causes the darkness.” The policy-makers of the white society have caused the darkness. It was they who created the frustrating slums. They perpetuate unemployment and poverty and oppression. Perhaps it is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes, but these are essentially derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society.”
I think if even MLK can even be understanding of the riots you can’t just naturally presume that just because I may prefer non-violence I don’t understand the struggles that led the people to rioting. Again, there are sources of the British riot and these people aren’t all doing this because they’re mindless dumb youth seeking attention. There are legitimate concerns and ideas being expressed that the media is ignoring/distoting and I think that’s a big problem. We can’t ignore that we must at the end of things look on with unease about what’s happening in the UK with neither a wholesale support of the protesters or of course the police, etc.
But what does all of this mean? Are the protesters attacking the idea of the state? Perhaps in some ways, but what effects are their actions having on the populace at large? Mostly fear it seems, disapproval, etc. I mean with incidents like the looting and burning, etc. etc. it’s hard not to see why.
But is George Donnelly right when he says that rioting is not a form of protest? Well for once (shock!) I must disagree with George…though ever so slightly perhaps. I mean, perhaps it’s me just being terminological/semantical and if George thinks as much that’s fine. However, for myself I think rioting is a form of protest…just not usually a very effective or moral one. Now, I’ve already discussed my moral and practical problems with initiating violence so other people stop being violent earlier in this article so I won’t address that again.
However I think, in the end, the rioters in the UK are not addressing the real problem (the idea of statism), nor are they using more practical methods or moral ones that they could use. Again, I do understand why these kids (and it’s mostly kids from what I’ve heard and read thus far) are doing what they’re doing. I don’t necessarily hold it against them, I sympathize in some ways and I hope that the youth of the UK can somehow turn this into a positive thing once all is said and done. All of that being said I do not prefer nor condone rioting and I think that sadly this will not end well for most of the people involved.
I think an appropriate way to wrap up this two part post (which was originally going to be one post) is just to say that judging what the best moves are is largely a strategic matter. And this matter depends on who or whatyou consider going after, how you want to go after it and in what ways: violent or non-violent. For myself, I think the idea of the state, non-violent means and building the new society within the shell of the old are the best combination of ideas right now. Will that change? Can that change? It sure can. I’m of the opinion that universals are nearly impossible to come across because of the myriad of ways that things happen in this universe. And thus I’m sure there’s a proper context for violence or perhaps for even a political method. Though that’s at best and I don’t see those contexts happening much to make these ideas too worthwhile to be applied on a broader scale.
Though I suppose to be more fair I guess I’m repeating myself by saying violence and then politics as it stands today as if they’re different. Which, also is another factor that helps me sympathize (though not condone) with the rioters in the UK.
Good luck to them and I hope for the best for the people of the UK.