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Our Revolutionary Program

category international | anarchist movement | opinion / analysis author Friday April 18, 2008 22:00author by Karl Blythe Report this post to the editors

Taking up where I left off before, I will now discuss some of these points more completely. I will then sketch out essentially what I view as the role of our organization and revolutionary program. As an additional note, I will make some clarifying remarks on the question of federalism, in reply to the comments made by “Javier” regarding my previous essay.


Our Revolutionary Program


In my previous “ Notes on Anarchist Organization,” I set out to lay the groundwork for a fresh analysis of the organizational problem in the anarchist movement. With the Organizational Platform and related materials as the starting point in my analysis, I briefly proposed ways of constructing or improving our organization in a practical way. Taking up where I left off before, I will now discuss some of these points more completely. I will then sketch out essentially what I view as the role of our organization and revolutionary program. As an additional note, I will make some clarifying remarks on the question of federalism, in reply to the comments made by “Javier” regarding my previous essay. As before, I will assume an overall familiarity with the subject by most readers, and for those unfamiliar I refer again to Alexandre Skirda’s work as an excellent starting point.

I concluded my “Notes” with some proposals on how to resolve the question of ideological unity in the course of devising our program, at the same time cultivating a revolutionary consciousness among our militants. This would also solve the problem of collective responsibility in a manner consistent with our anarchist principles (including that of fraternal revolutionary discipline, as previously discussed). Beyond that, it also takes on in specific and practical terms an issue raised near the end of the Platform, where it states:

The General Union of Anarchists has a specific and concrete goal. For the sake of the success of the social revolution, it must above all choose and absorb from among the workers and peasants the most revolutionary personnel most endowed with critical spirit.
This point brings up not only the question of how to select such personnel, but again how they are to internalize the revolutionary consciousness necessary to make reality out of the principles of personal and collective responsibility in a libertarian organization.

The notion of “choosing and absorbing” from the masses the “most revolutionary personnel most endowed with critical spirit” clearly implies the need to carefully pick out and select the most capable individuals from among the popular masses. This is no simple matter of spouting off rhetoric to whoever will listen and hoping to win over the more advanced elements through propaganda. It is even more than simply a matter of choosing those who appear in their ideas to be closest to our thinking. Rather, it is a matter of grasping certain qualities (i.e. “critical spirit”) which make for a powerful revolutionary force when harnessed. In short, it is more a question of revolutionary instinct than of calculating where one stands on some theoretical political spectrum.

With that understanding of revolutionary potential in mind, I suggest that the best method of drawing out such characteristics is by ongoing thorough study of revolutionary history (that is when personal experience does not suffice). Therefore I believe it is crucial that this sort of material be put to use in elaborating our program—for the more that is understood of past revolutionary experience, the more we will understand our own struggle and the direction it must take. From the standpoint of organization, this means using such material in ideologically training and preparing militants, by means of study groups or individual study of certain fundamental materials as a prerequisite of membership in our organization. That would also help weed out would-be members who lack commitment or discipline, ensuring a higher degree of these qualities within the organization.

I should qualify this proposal in practical terms. The conditions we face (in the United States at least, that being my personal vantage point) require us to thoroughly explain our ideals and our program to the masses, often consisting of middle-class workers and young people domesticated and influenced by bourgeois materialism. Above all we wage the ideological struggle, in particular where significant democratic rights exist along with considerable economic prosperity (although in the U.S. these are increasingly being eroded). Unless the people in imperialist countries are made to understand the violent and exploitive role of the state and capitalism in other countries as well as at home, there is no real chance of a revolutionary upheaval (at least until the market fails and the working middle class finds itself in poverty, many signs of which are becoming imminent—and even then it will lack a revolutionary consciousness, being rooted entirely in material self-interest). That is why it is of utmost importance to instill in our ranks (and from there the masses) a complete understanding and internalization of our theoretical program.

In addressing the problem of organization, it is fitting to look back at actual revolutionary history as I have been saying. Specifically, the work of Nestor Makhno and the Makhnovist movement in the Russian Revolution, and the later writings of Makhno and Arshinov are fundamental in that respect. I highlight Makhno’s essay “On the 10th Anniversary of the Makhnovist Insurgent Movement in the Ukraine” (in The Struggle Against the State and Other Essays) in which he clearly explained the organizational dilemma in the context of the Ukraine during the Russian Revolution:

for an active revolutionary vanguard, this was a time of great strain, for it required painstaking preparation of the uprising. Our Gulyai-Polye libertarian communist group was just such a vanguard, and events led it to pose the question of whether it should assume complete responsibility for leading the movement….
Describing the disorganization and among the anarchists and resulting disconnect with the masses, he concludes:
We had furnished the best possible solution to this problem by organizing the insurrection directly and paying no heed to the possible carping from our fellow-believers regarding this vanguardist stance which they saw as ill suited to anarchist teachings. Thus in practice we … concentrated instead on seeing the struggle through to complete victory.
He then explains more generally:
… this required that revolutionary anarchism, if it sought to … fulfill its active task in contemporary revolutions, face up to immense demands of an organizational nature whether in the training of its personnel or in defining its dynamic role in the early days of the revolution when the toiling masses were still groping their way.
Note the last point regarding the “training of personnel” and defining anarchism’s “dynamic role in the early days of the revolution.” This is, of course, exactly what Makhno and others sought to achieve in the Platform, albeit with some inevitable limitations, and it is the same question we must “face up to” presently. Aside from that, I highlight the above quotations by way of bringing up to additional points relevant to our program which I have not yet discussed.

First—regarding “vanguardism.” This is a notion that is often denounced as authoritarian, mainly due to its Marxist-Leninist connotations. The assumption by many anarchists is that a “revolutionary vanguard” necessarily aims to conquer state power and wield it dictatorially, as is typically the case with Marxist-Leninist parties. However, they fail to consider that this is only the case if the aim of the revolution itself is to seize state power—which is not the case in anarchism. Now, there are some Marxists who claim that anarchism in fact is not revolutionary at all, because they believe a revolution must always culminate in seizing of state power. We anarchists have always argued that the social revolution will only be complete when the state is abolished, and therefore we aim not to conquer state power but to completely overthrow the state without reconstructing it. All of this is well-known by anarchists—they would not be anarchists otherwise. Yet somehow many anarchists fail to recognize that likewise a revolutionary vanguard need not aim to seize state power. On the contrary, any anarchist group which takes upon itself the responsibility for leading and instigating a revolutionary upheaval is acting as a vanguard. Not only is this compatible with anarchist teachings, it is the very essence of revolutionary anarchism.

As anarchists, we are everywhere and always in revolt against authority. That is why, as Makhno wrote in “Our Organization” (in The Struggle Against the State and Other Essays), anarchism “is inherently revolutionary and can adopt only revolutionary modes of struggle against its enemies.” Or as it was put by the syndicalist Fernand Pelloutier, the anarchists are “rebels around the clock, men truly godless, masterless and nationless, irreducible enemies of every despotism, moral and material…” (qtd. in A. Skirda, Facing the Enemy p. 66). In other words, we are always in the frontline of the revolution, leading on the class struggle. It is for this exact reason that we are usually a minority and are accused of being anti-democratic or even dictatorial for seeking to “impose our beliefs” on the masses (i.e. for upholding our ideals even though we are outnumbered).

This position is by its nature “vanguardist,” in the sense that we march ahead of the masses and prepare the revolution while the workers are still “groping their way.” This is explained in the Platform as well. For instance, in defining the role of the anarchists it states: “anarchism should become the guiding light of the social revolution…. The spearhead position of anarchist ideas in the revolution means anarchist theoretical direction of events” in a non-statist way. In the final paragraphs we read: “As regards the workers’ trades and revolutionary organizations in the towns, the General Union of Anarchists will have to escalate all its efforts so as to become their spearhead and theoretical mentor.” And of course the closing words:

Emanating from the heart of the masses of the toilers, the General Union of Anarchists takes part in all aspects of their life, always and everywhere bringing the spirit of organization…. Only thus can it fulfill its role, its theoretical and historic mission in the toilers’ social revolution and become the organized instigation of their process of emancipation.
Thus despite the different words used (i.e. “spearhead,” “mentor” or “instigator”), one can clearly sense the notion of a vanguard in the Platform (some translations even use the word “vanguard” in place of “instigator,” although Skirda points out the translation is inaccurate). That said, there is some difference between the role ascribed to the “General Union of Anarchists” by the Platform, and Makhno’s description of the role of the Gulyai-Polye group in the Makhnovist insurgent movement, bringing me to my other point.

Second—regarding insurrectionism. Referring back to Makhno’s writings, we can gather in addition to “vanguardism” certain characteristics of insurrectionism, specifically where he speaks of “organizing the insurrection directly,” which is fitting enough for an anarchist. What strikes me as more important is how to apply this particular example with all of its lessons to the conditions of a country like the United States. Now, it seems to me out of the question to speak of armed struggle in the present conditions, both for moral and strategic reasons. Even so, it is well worth examining the possible applications of insurrectionist ideas. This is important, in part because our anarchist principles require that we “adopt only revolutionary modes of struggle” (implying that we disregard bourgeois legality in favor of militant direct action by the working class), and in part out of recognition of the extraordinary place of Italian insurrectionism in the anarchist movement.

Out of all the historical currents of thought and action to spring from anarchism, the two meriting the most distinction for their practical contributions to the movement are syndicalism and insurrectionism (I do not include “Platformism” because its chief contributions have been theoretical, there being no outstanding examples of its practical achievements until recent times). The former, while it deserves credit for firmly establishing anarchism as a credible working-class movement, must also be criticized by anarchists on the grounds that it has consistently devolved into reformist tendencies typical among labor unions. The possible exception to this is in the Spanish Revolution—and there it must be said that syndicalism (vis-à-vis the CNT-FAI) played as much a role in holding back the revolution as in advancing it, for much the same reasons that it has elsewhere stopped short at limited reforms. In short, it is clear that revolutionary syndicalism is in no way “sufficient unto itself” as was believed by its original anarchist exponents.

As for insurrectionism, although comparatively recent as a specific theory, its essential ideas are rooted in elementary anarchist teachings, seeing as anarchism itself was born of insurrectional tendencies in particular coming out of the French Revolution (and in fact going back much earlier). Bakunin and other early anarchists (notably Malatesta, a leading Italian anarchist) espoused many ideas and methods that were essentially insurrectionist (although in later years Bakunin shifted towards a syndicalist approach foreshadowing the idea of the general strike, influenced by the First International). In addition, we can point to the remarkable record of insurrectionism—in Italy and Spain in the anti-fascist resistance, in carrying on anarchist resistance in Italy, as well as in insurrectionists’ steady stream of insightful analyses on international issues (in particular on the Middle East)—as proof of its continuing importance to revolutionary anarchism. In all of these regards, the outstanding commitment and extraordinary instinct for action on the ground clearly exemplify the profound revolutionary capacity of insurrectionism.

On the other hand, despite the theoretical insight of insurrectionist writings at a general level, insurrectionist groupings have never been able to apply these ideas beyond isolated actions, even at the height of their popularity in Italy. Now, it is possible that I am misinterpreting (I am no expert when it comes to the details of the post-World War Two anarchist movement in Italy), but it seems to me that one basic reason for this inability to generalize their groups’ activities in a broader way is the lack of a disciplined organization to coordinate their most effective methods and actions. Now, if only the basic idea of the Organizational Platform were applied to their movement, perhaps (there is no guarantee) such a generalization would take place, laying the basis for an organized revolutionary upheaval to occur. In that way, we would shortly find the best and most far-reaching insights of insurrectionist theory become reality.

Beyond that, I would again argue that the common preference among insurrectionists for armed struggle as a mode of action is out of touch with the objective and subjective conditions of a country like the United States (I will not address other countries’ situations). We have seen amply demonstrated how armed “guerrilla” groups (if it is even fair to call them such) in the U.S. achieve nothing of value and only serve to discredit radicalism and alienate the people from revolutionary ideas. Even popular riots (such as in Seattle) fail to either make a significant impact in the struggle or to win over the broad layers of masses to the cause of rebellion. That is not surprising for anyone who is in touch with the popular mentality, and for that matter it should not be surprising that violence would be viewed distastefully by the masses (after all, anarchist theory deals largely with the institutional violence of the state). Remember also that it was similar activities that first led to anarchism’s discredit among the widespread public, and it was mainly the advent of syndicalism that revived it as a meaningful popular movement.

In light of those considerations, I believe it is of urgent necessity that we develop a nonviolent approach that is nonetheless militant in a revolutionary sense. Our methods must be strictly in keeping with the line of intransigent working-class militancy in a real sense of the term (i.e. “only revolutionary modes of struggle,” and also as expressed in the Platform), and at the same time must consist of nonviolent tactics capable of winning over the popular masses and of securing the moral high ground in the struggle. Despite the typical limitations of nonviolence and of the ideological shortcomings of pacifism, there is a rich history and a wealth of literature on the subject to start off from in devising a more complete strategy of militant nonviolence. Expanding on that notion, it is also worth studying the historical examples and possibilities of nonviolent insurrection.

All that said, I am personally inclined towards a more informal style of organizing and flexibility in our tactics and our practical program. The fundamental point in my opinion is not the need for an all-encompassing organization (which by itself would simply lead to bureaucracy), but rather the importance of a coherent direction for the movement as a whole, and for a consistent and coordinated practice within our ranks. Thus any larger organization should be constructed on the basis of a firmly-grounded practice by local militants, and our program should not be strictly defined in terms of some “manifesto” or “platform” (although such documents may be helpful as point of reference), but should rather be the living expression of our general and day-to-day activity, subject to ongoing revision and refinement until our fundamental goal is achieved. In that sense, the informal approach that is favored by insurrectionists can be a healthy weight against bureaucratic tendencies arising as we overhaul our ranks.

Stepping back, I believe that the best starting point for such an approach is in forming study groups to read and discuss revolutionary theory and history, with a view to internalizing through personal understanding our anarchist ideals, and setting out with a clear sense of our practical program. As I have already said, this is not a new idea—its inspiration can be found in the studies organized by the Gulyai-Polye anarchist group and Makhno himself (see A. Skirda, Nestor Makhno—Anarchy’s Cossack ch. 4-5, in particular pp. 22-4 and p. 30), not to mention many other anarchist groups. However, its systematic use in this regard has not been applied fully or consistently enough for the most part. Furthermore, this approach is more inclined towards informal personal interaction, as opposed to a “committee” style of interaction that contributes to bureaucratic trends and a certain lifelessness stemming from pointless formalism.

I will now wrap up with my reply to the comments by “Javier” on federalism, in regard to my “Notes.” In his comments he remarked that I “missed the point” on federalism, which to him is “one of the biggest misunderstandings common in anarchism.” He then quoted a paragraph from the Platform summing up their view of federalism, and followed with an explanation of the confusion over this notion stemming partly from the differing interpretations among the different anarchist currents. All of that is perfectly on the mark in my opinion. However, there is some confusion in turn about “democratic centralism” and the issue of autonomous organizations within federations. This is probably due in part to my own lack of clarity by not including specific examples to illustrate my views. I will therefore explain my views in more specific terms below.

Regarding centralism, Javier writes: “Centralism means moving the center of gravity of decision making from the base, that is the whole organization, to higher more reduced bodies…” as is typical of Marxist parties. The assumption is that “centralism” is always bureaucratic and top-down. Fine, we can accept this definition given on a historical basis. It is also only natural that “freedom of speech, unity of action” is, as Javier says, merely a statement of intention, as is also the case with the Platform. But the question is how to apply stated intentions in practice. The intention with democratic centralism is to apply this principle to the party structure, in the sense that decisions democratically reached by the organization are carried out by members with the strictest discipline.

The problem is not with the term “centralist” (a purely semantical issue), but with the fact that leadership is actually centered in “higher more reduced bodies” and directives bureaucratically issued down to the base. In short, the “democratic” aspect is a façade, or at least that is the usual case as with Bolshevism proper. Yet even many Marxists have attacked this tendency as conflicting with the principle of democratic centralism, proposing other forms more directly democratic and focused at the base level (i.e. a non-hierarchical format). My point is not that we should adopt the slogan of democratic centralism, but that we should take the best aspects of this organizational principle (not its typical applications) together with the best aspects of federalism—which as I see it would be more precise than simply speaking of “federalism,” given the confusion surrounding the term.

In my “Notes” I stated: “many anarchist federations have resorted instead to systems of indirect representation said to assure greater autonomy to component organizations,” which ought to be avoided and the latter reduced as far as possible to an intermediary role. I failed to specify with examples, however, which may have caused confusion, for Javier writes: “it is not a matter of middlemans which are to be avoided but of operational and political flexibility and creating intermediary stances of coordination.” Of course, I take no issue with this idea, which is more or less identical to my own views. When I speak of component organizations’ autonomy and of indirect representation, I am referring to the practices of some syndicalist federations. The prime example of this would be the French CGT. To quote Skirda (Facing the Enemy p. 69):

Voting there [in Congress] was on the basis of mandates, not in proportion with the membership of each body or affiliated organization, but by grouping—this was a rejection of the democratism sought by the reformists who accounted for a majority of the membership numerically but controlled only a minority of the organizations represented.
In other words, the CGT was not a union but a confederation of independent unions, and federal organs were set up not to represent the members but rather the affiliated organizations. This confederal approach is clearly anti-democratic and in my view inconsistent with libertarian principles except insofar as the affiliated organizations are not accountable to the confederation—i.e. unless they are autonomous. The issue also comes up, ironically, in the debate within CNT-FAI during the Spanish Civil War. To quote the preface to Agustin Guillamón’s work on The Friends of Durruti Group: 1937-1939:
The dalliance of the organizations’ higher committees with politicians and their pursuit of a unified and disciplined policy as an aid to them … had led to certain unwelcome changes in the practices of those organizations.
It then quotes the journal Ideas on the “proprieties of trade union federalism”:
The so-called higher committees ought to be bound by the accords of the trade union organization. The unions dispose and the committees see to it that the dispositions are implemented. That is what federalism is, whatever else is done is dictatorship….
A little later we read of CNT leaders’ efforts to expel the Friends of Durruti, and of the Friends’ response. According to the preface—“No one ever joined the CNT, the Confederation. All CNT members belonged to local unions and federations and sovereignty resided in these.” It then quotes the Friends directly:
We can only be expelled from the confederal organization by the assemblies of the unions. Local and comarcal plenums are not empowered to expel any comrade. We invite the committees to raise the matter of the ‘Friends of Durruti’ in the assemblies, which is where the organization’s sovereignty resides.
Again the confederal principle that each trade union is an independent organization and the federation is nothing but a conglomeration of these independent unions.

That approach has some place in syndicalist structures when it comes to economic problems of a technical nature; but in terms of political or “anti”-political direction, there should be no question but that the source of leadership is the entire membership (i.e. “one man, one vote”) and not the affiliated organizations. Of course, the confederal approach is to be expected in a trade union federation, which is in part why trade unions are insufficient as revolutionary organizations. Not that they ought to be abandoned as a form of working-class organization—simply that it is not “sufficient unto itself” to bring about the revolution, and certainly does not compose a specifically anarchist organization. That requires a specifically anarchist “vanguard” group with a clear program to lead the struggle forward and lay groundwork for a revolutionary upheaval.

author by javierpublication date Mon Apr 21, 2008 15:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

1) Do you refer to insurrectionism in the same sense as for example Joe Black o Gutierrez Danton in the following articles? or do you refer to comrades of the like of Quico Sabate?

http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=3430
http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=4542

2) Can you point me to some of insurrectionism`s "insightful analyses on international issues"?

3) Can you explain a bit more about what you mean when you say "the informal approach that is favored by insurrectionists can be a healthy weight against bureaucratic tendencies arising as we overhaul our ranks"?

4) What would be to you a "a “committee” style of interaction"?

5) Can you give some concrete examples of what you mena by militant direct action of a non-violent type? I surely agree that proposing armed struggle in the US now is being out of touch with reality but what you say while making some remarks to the contrary seems to go to the opposite pole of the question. Think about picket lines and what to do about scabs for example.

I feel the need to ask these questions as some part of you article are ambiguous to me maybe because of my lack of knowledge of insurrectionism.

I agree when you say:

"The problem is not with the term “centralist” (a purely semantical issue), but with the fact that leadership is actually centered in “higher more reduced bodies” and directives bureaucratically issued down to the base. In short, the “democratic” aspect is a façade, or at least that is the usual case as with Bolshevism proper. Yet even many Marxists have attacked this tendency as conflicting with the principle of democratic centralism, proposing other forms more directly democratic and focused at the base level (i.e. a non-hierarchical format)."

This is specially true in independant worker activists of marxist background. And I agree that federalism too is a term with multiple interpretations but as the plataform authors I beleive we have to dispute the meaning of the word with other tendencies both inside and outside of anarchism because we have the historical legitimacy to do it and because it is one of anarchisms defining characteristics. That would not be "simply speaking of federalism" but ellaborating on the concept to recover its antibureaucratic and organizationist meaning.

For example, you quote a journal with which I agree when it says "The so-called higher committees ought to be bound by the accords of the trade union organization. The unions dispose and the committees see to it that the dispositions are implemented. That is what federalism is, whatever else is done is dictatorship…"

About intermediary levels I agree on principle altough we may differ in its applications to certain cases like the one of the FoD as plenums are of delegates and in certain ways that is like a comitee and I think that no comitee should be able to expell a comrade.

author by Karlpublication date Tue Apr 22, 2008 12:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Javier,

You raise some excellent questions, and I will do the best I can to reply thoroughly but briefly.

First: regarding insurrectionism. I am referring to insurrectionism primarily as a systematized (as opposed to sporadic) method of organization and tactics, and in that same sense as a historical tendency within anarchism, the latest and most theoretically comprehensive expression of which is to be found in the writings of people like Alfredo Bonnano, etc. (as addressed in Joe Black's article). This current, although in terms of theory a more recent development, has not only counterparts in the early movement (e.g. "propaganda by deed," which I alluded to as an early discreditor of anarchism), but also has a longstanding roots in the organizational and tactical methods of Italian anarchism in the anti-fascist resistance there and in Spain. For a brief sketch of this, I refer to the pamphlet "Pages from Italian Anarchist History" (it is available on AK Press and elsewhere).

I should mention that I am almost entirely in agreement with Black's analysis. However, I think he missed a couple of important points which are raised more strongly in the Gutierrez article, with whom I have several key disagreements. The first of these is over "vanguardism," which is evident from my article above. More importantly, I am in strong disagreement with Gutierrez' argument that insurrectionism stems from a low level of popular struggle. While there are cases of this sort, there are others which he himself cites that in my opinion refute that claim.

Back to the main point though, I believe the key to adapting the "best of insurrectionism" can be found in a quotation in Joe Black's article:

"The force of an insurrection is social, not military. Generalised rebellion is not measured by the armed clash but by the extent to which the economy is paralysed, the places of production and distribution taken over, the free giving that burns all calculation...."

That is the main point which I tried to highlight in my point about generalizing and coordinating tactics, etc.

Second: Regarding insurrectionism's "insightful analyses," as mentioned already I especially find this to be the case when it comes to the Middle East, and also in some historical interpretations. Primarily I am thinking of some of Alfredo Bonnano's work (e.g. "Palestine, mon amour"), and to a number of pamphlets and booklets from Italian insurrectionist groups on Iraqi class struggles. It, of course, makes sense that their analyses would hit the mark when it comes to more extreme conditions such as in the Middle East, but that does not in any sense mean it is inapplicable to the conditions of, say, the United States.

Third: By a "committee style of interaction" I am talking about formalistic proceedings that occur very frequently among American activist groups from a wide range of perspectives (I have personally encountered this), and not necessarily stemming from pre-existing bureaucracy. My point here is that personal affinity is much more befitting anarchist organization than bureaucratic styles, and I believe that studying and discussing materials on a personal basis establishes such personal affinity.

As for an informal approach to organization as a healthy counter-weight, what I mean to say is that a preference for informal styles over rigid organizational practice that tends toward legalism and bureaucratism is rather natural to anarchists, and it is worth emphasizing that idea along the way lest we lose sight of our original ideals. That issue is evident in the Spanish Revolution, where clearly formal structure took precedence over the purpose in struggling, resulting in a swing towards ministerialism on one hand and "Bolshevism" on the other (albeit in a confederal format, but nonetheless favoring an "anarchist dictatorship" of sorts). Again we have the example of the Italian anarchists who were quite insightful in opposing either dictatorship or reformism, as an example to work from.

I will address the remaining points later, but for now this will suffice.

author by Karlpublication date Wed Apr 23, 2008 04:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You asked for concrete examples of militant direct action of a nonviolent type. What I mean by this is militant in the sense of actual struggle, as in breaking the law, attacking property, and in rejecting a general policy of compromise and retreat. It implies both an overall spirit of militancy, and tactics which are rooted in and befitting a revolutionary program. While recognizing that immediate tactical goals are often necessarily limited, we should never lose sight of our fundamental goal, which is the overthrow of the state and the expropriation of capital (i.e. the social revolution). Tactics befitting such a program vary in the extent of militancy, in the reach of their immediate goals (ideologically speaking -- i.e. their permanence as opposed to their provisional value), and in the nature of what constitutes "victory" in such a struggle.

For instance, occupations and sit-down strikes are an extremely militant tactic with often quite limited (even reformist) objectives. Boycotts and legal strikes are somewhat less militant, though their objectives may still be highly important and they remain an effective tool for gaging working-class organization and strength.

Now, the most typical form of nonviolence is the picket line or protest march. While these certainly have their place, I would argue that they are not in slightest militant unless they involve illegal actions or are a stepping stone towards some other militant action. They are, in fact, highly useful and a highly effective test of discipline and organization when they involve provocations of the authorities, and therefore I argue not so much that protests ought to be abandoned but that they should be used more effectively (this would be an example of when the moral victory is the priority, as opposed to an immediate tactical victory). Despite the constant references in pacifist circles to the Civil Rights marches or to Gandhian non-cooperation methods, these are not systematically applied in any degree comparable to those examples.

As for applying nonviolence to insurrection, the idea is not especially new as it has numerous quite distinctive examples. In essence, it consists of this: paralyzing the economic and political apparatus, seizure en mass of capitalist property, general mobilization of the masses on the streets and other public centers, besieging the offices of the government, etc. The earliest version of this idea to come from anarchist theories is the general strike, which relied entirely on syndicalist methods. While I do not necessarily believe that syndicalism is sufficient to achieve this goal, the idea must be explored more fully than it has yet been in anarchist circles.

Hopefully that clarifies the point. It is likely that I will have more specific things to say in this regard at some other point, but for now I am speaking in more general terms since my subject, after all, is a general program and not a specific event or goal.

 
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