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Monday, October 20 2014 @ 08:01 AM CDT

The Nature of Militancy

Dissent

It is a truism common among Western anarchists, and the revolutionary left more generally, that militancy is in short supply these days. This sentiment is often expressed in a rather offhanded way, as a lazy excuse to rationalize decades of working-class defeats, or else through fiery polemics denouncing the cautious reformism exhibited by trade unions, “progressives”, liberals and social democrats. Far too infrequently is an honest attempt made to clarify precisely what we mean by the term militancy—or better yet, how we can help qualitatively develop this characteristic within movements struggling for social and economic justice. Instead, militancy is often presented uncritically, as though it were some sort of esoteric derivative of political ideology, a synonym for violent tactics, or even as a tactic unto itself—a vital and yet somehow unattainable sine qua non of radical change.

The Nature of Militancy

Mortar #1
linchpin.ca
Canada

It is a truism common among Western anarchists, and the revolutionary left more generally, that militancy is in short supply these days. This sentiment is often expressed in a rather offhanded way, as a lazy excuse to rationalize decades of working-class defeats, or else through fiery polemics denouncing the cautious reformism exhibited by trade unions, “progressives”, liberals and social democrats. Far too infrequently is an honest attempt made to clarify precisely what we mean by the term militancy—or better yet, how we can help qualitatively develop this characteristic within movements struggling for social and economic justice. Instead, militancy is often presented uncritically, as though it were some sort of esoteric derivative of political ideology, a synonym for violent tactics, or even as a tactic unto itself—a vital and yet somehow unattainable sine qua non of radical change.

In this article we will attempt to clear up some of this confusion by providing a working definition of the term militancy, and an answer to the related question of what it means to be a militant. We will then move on to explore the contentious 'diversity of tactics' debate that emerged within the anti-globalization movement, and continues to this day—a disagreement rooted in the heterogeneous political composition of the movement's participants, and two opposing, yet ultimately liberal conceptions of violence. Finally, we will offer a brief study of past movements that have exhibited a high level of militancy and political cohesion, with an eye to distilling common characteristics that could potentially aid in the development of a contemporary North American movement able to effectively wage war on the forces of neoliberal capitalism currently embodied under the rubric of austerity.

I: Mapping the Terrain: Towards a Common Conception of Militancy

The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.
- Frederick Douglass

Outside of academic journals, there have been few articles published in English that attempt to define the term militancy. One noteworthy exception is What Do We Mean by “Militancy”? by Steve D'Arcy, published in 2011 by ZNet. The article sets out to reconcile the type of nonviolent militancy favoured by Martin Luther King Junior to the property destruction and street-fighting most frequently associated with black blocs. Using these two seemingly disparate examples to frame its analysis, the article offers four criteria for defining militant actions. According to D'Arcy, for an action to be considered militant it must be:

a) Grievance-motivated, that is, motivated by a desire to protest against something/fight for social change.

b) Adversarial, that is, an action that identifies clear enemies; targets are not treated as potential allies to be won over or convinced, but rather, as adversaries that must be pressured and defeated by means of struggle.

c) Confrontational, that is, it must seek to initiate, intensify or escalate conflict, rather than seeking accommodation and compromise.

d) Collective, that is, part of struggle that is collectively carried out. Even in the case of individual actions, they are done within the context of a wider social movement.

To this list, we would add a fifth qualifier:

e) Unmediated, that is, an action that is carried out directly, without the mediation or representation of a third-party. This addition is required in order to preclude possible actions such as appealing to politicians or union officials, and engaging in campaigns over social media sites such as facebook.

These criteria should be flexible enough to offer an exhaustive, value-neutral definition of the term militancy. D'Arcy goes on to list four 'modes' (or forms) that these types of militant action can take:

1) Symbolic Defiance – entails communicating defiance by means of ‘symbolic’ or ‘theatrical’ acts, to convey publicly one’s rejection or refusal to recognize the legitimacy of some person, practice, policy or institution that is upheld as authoritative by the powers that be. For example: the public burning of draft cards, or staging a march in open defiance of a court order prohibiting it, etc.

2) Physical Confrontation - entails some sort of physical conflict with adversaries. For example: street fighting with police, confronting neo-nazis, forcing one's way through a police line or into a public building, defending a squat from eviction, etc.

3) Property Destruction - entails the destruction or damaging of property. For example: breaking a window, sabotaging a piece of machinery, vandalizing a statue, etc.

4) Institutional Disruption - entails the disruption of the functioning of an institution. For example: occupying an office of a government official to prevent them from being able to carry out their job, workers withdrawing their labour to shut down a business, sitting-in to disrupt a retail store, etc.

Of these four 'modes' of militancy, symbolic defiance seems out of place, by virtue of its fundamentally passive nature; its more militant manifestations would assumedly be covered by one of the three other categorical forms. We will explore the issue of symbolic militancy further in our discussion of the role of violence. For our purposes here, it is worth noting that D'Arcy is addressing members of the global social justice movement, in hopes of encouraging a mutually respectful conversation on tactics. Borrowing from King, he ends the article by providing two considerations with which to judge the merits of a particular tactic: strategic and moral. Through this evaluative framework, D'Arcy reveals his own preference for King's favoured strategy of nonviolent struggle, which drew its strength from widespread notions of Christian morality and the contradictions between the promises of liberal democracy and the reality of Jim Crow style segregation. Morality, however, is a fundamentally subjective concept, and is therefore not particularly useful in objective considerations of whether or not a tactic will be successful in achieving its strategic aims.

Who Are the Militants?

We refuse a politics which infantilizes us and people who look like us, and which continually paints nonwhite and/or non-male demographics as helpless, vulnerable, and incapable of fighting for our own liberation.
- Croatoan, Who is Oakland?

The answer to the question posed by this section should be fairly self-evident: militants are individuals who habitually engage in militant tactics. We felt it important, however, to briefly elaborate on this point in order to address a current of thought that in recent years has become increasingly prevalent within the activist milieu—particularly among activists steeped in the dominant stream of anti-oppression politics—and to make a point about where militancy comes from. In doing so, we are not attempting to minimize or gloss over the vital contributions made by anti-oppression activists and theoreticians over the past several decades. Rather, we are taking aim at a particular tendency that has emerged out of contemporary anti-oppression discourse: privilege theory, also pejoratively referred to by its detractors as identity politics.

A common argument advanced by many proponents of privilege theory is that the ability to safely employ militant tactics is intimately linked to an individual's relationship to systems of oppression and privilege, and accordingly, that it is the most privileged members of society (ie white, cis-gendered males) who are most likely to carry out militant struggles. When this type of militant action is carried out (by white, cis-gendered males or otherwise), it is often denounced by self-appointed representatives of oppressed identity groups and/or their “allies” for allegedly putting marginalized groups at risk. This often results in those seen as responsible for these transgressions being asked to “check their privilege.” The exceptional essay Who is Oakland: Anti-Oppression Activism, the Politics of Safety, and State Co-optation, which describes the authors' first-hand experiences dealing with proponents of privilege theory at Occupy Oakland, does an excellent job of discrediting this line of argument.

“For too long there has been no alternative to this politics of privilege and cultural recognition, and so rejecting this liberal political framework has become synonymous with a refusal to seriously address racism, sexism, and homophobia in general. Even and especially when people of colour, women, and queers imagine and execute alternatives to this liberal politics of cultural inclusion, they are persistently attacked as white, male, and privileged by the cohort that maintains and perpetuates the dominant praxis.

[...]

Contemporary anti-oppression politics constantly reproduces stereotypes about the passivity and powerlessness of these populations, when in fact it is precisely people from these groups—poor women of colour defending their right to land and housing, trans* street workers fighting back against murder and violence, black, brown, and Asian American militant struggles against white supremacist attacks—who have waged the most powerful and successfully militant uprisings in American history.”

As the authors point out, the greatest demonstrations of militancy have historically come from the ranks of the most exploited and oppressed segments of society: those who quite literally have the least to lose, and the most to gain by risking their personal safety. Revolutions are not safe affairs, and the militant actions taken as part of a genuinely revolutionary strategy are not congruent with a politics of safety. As the authors of Who is Oakland? eloquently put it,”[t]he choice is not between danger and safety, but between the uncertain dangers of revolt and the certainty of continued violence, deprivation, and death.”

II. The Anti-globalization Movement & ‘Diversity of Tactics’

I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt

In the closing weeks of the 20th century, a new movement burst onto the world stage. “The Battle of Seattle”, as it became widely known, was preceded by other opening salvos of the “Fourth World War”—the 1994 Zapatista uprising, timed to coincide with the introduction of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the 1989 Caracazo riots in Venezuela offering two salient examples. Nevertheless, the shutting down of a World Trade Organization (WTO) summit in the middle of one of America's preeminent cities is widely understood as the official birth of the anti-globalization movement. From its inception, however, this fledgling movement was hamstrung by a bitter disagreements over tactics—disagreements that often spilled out into physical confrontations, such as those frequently witnessed between so-called pacifists and black bloc participants engaged in corporate property destruction.

This now-familiar dynamic played out repeatedly throughout the early mass demonstrations of the anti-globalization era: a militant element would emerge from the safety of large, “peaceful” demonstrations and smash some windows, often leading to conflict with more reformist elements of the demonstration and/or the police, mass arrests, and a litany of mutual denunciations within the independent and corporate media. This problem eventually led, following the 2000 demonstrations against the G8 counter-summit in Montreal, to the establishment of a system of separate colour-coded protest zones (broken down into green, yellow and red, based on risk) before the movement was temporarily put on ice by the attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the intense atmosphere of insecurity and repression that followed.

By the time the 2003 protests against the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) occurred in Miami, the police and security forces had adapted their tactics. The Miami Model effectively seized upon the preexisting divisions within the anti-globalization movement; aided by a massive corporate media blitz and the increased domestic security expenditures of the War on Terror, the state employed the spectre of violent anarchists as justification for a well-orchestrated counter-insurgency operation that included the use of preemptive and mass arrests and the enactment of de facto martial law in areas of the city considered strategically important to the functioning of the convention. Based on the “success” of Miami, this model of policing became the standard protocol for dealing with subsequent anti-globalization convergences.

In an effort to preempt internal divisions over tactical disagreements and to build on the colour-coded model of spatial separation, the coalition organizing protests against the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC) in St Paul, Minneapolis drafted a document which attempted to set guidelines for a code of conduct among participants. The document, dubbed the St Paul Principles was composed of four points of unity:

1. Our solidarity will be based on respect for a diversity of tactics and the plans of other groups.

2. The actions and tactics used will be organized to maintain a separation of time or space.

3. Any debates or criticisms will stay internal to the movement, avoiding any public or media denunciations of fellow activists and events.

4. We oppose any state repression of dissent, including surveillance, infiltration, disruption and violence. We agree not to assist law enforcement actions against activists and others.

The perceived grand compromise of the St Paul Principles served as a direct inspiration for the subsequent Pittsburgh Principles—used during the 2009 demonstrations against the G20 in Pittsburgh—and the Statement of Solidarity and Respect passed by the Toronto Community Mobilization Network (TCMN), which coordinated demonstrations against the 2010 G8/G20 Summit in Toronto. Yet despite their laudable intent, these statements of principles have failed to accomplish what they set out to do; the divisions that they were intended to resolve still persist—if anything, the two sides of the dispute have merely hardened their positions. The political fallout from the Toronto G8/G20 demonstrations, where a black bloc broke away from the main labour/NGO march and rioted in the city's downtown core, factored heavily into divisions at the Occupy Toronto encampment the following year; a similar antipathy towards anarchists and militant tactics was seen in Occupy movements across North America. This antagonism reached its climax following the publication of an article entitled The Cancer in Occupy by journalist Chris Hedges, which described “Black Bloc anarchists”[sic] as a “cancer” within the Occupy movement; a subsequent debate between Hedges and a representative of anarchist group Crimethinc on the topic of Diversity of Tactics was watched by thousands of viewers over livestream—with both sides claiming victory.

On the Logic of “One No, Many Yeses”

Good revolutionary theory, strategy, and practice, or good revolutionary politics and practice is a totality which is always incomplete but constantly going forward, each aspect providing the criteria for the worth and growth of the others.
- Michael Albert, What is to be Undone?

In hindsight, the Diversity of Tactics debate was, at its core, the inevitable product of a movement defined by its heterogeneous political makeup. The anti-globalization movement prided itself on being a movement composed of “one no and many yeses”; this pluralism helped attract hundreds of thousands of activists from across the world, united by a shared rejection of neoliberal capitalism (also referred to as corporate globalization), yet it lacked the cohesion necessary to overcome these activists' underlying political differences. As the movement's initial strategy of shutting down the meetings of the global elite became less and less feasible, these political fault-lines came into clearer focus.

In his 1974 book What is to be Undone?, Michael Albert provides a useful framework for understanding why the anti-globalization movement was unable to come to a compromise on the question of tactics. Drawing lessons from a critical analysis of Marxist-Leninism, Anarchism, Maoism and the New Left, Albert outlines three interrelated elements that, taken together, form the basis of any political movement.

1) Theory – an analysis of existing society that seeks to understand its contradictions and provide a competing vision of society that addresses these contradictions. Good theory provides a movement with tangible goals and a greater understanding of the dynamics that need to be navigated in order to achieve them.

2) Strategy – the path taken to achieve desired goals. Strategy seeks to advantageously engage the contradictions in society identified by political theory; the more comprehensive the theory, the more potentially precise the strategy; the more incomplete the theory, the more vague the strategy and the greater the need for constant enhancement.

3) Practice/Tactics – the tangible actions taken to implement strategy. Tactics must be flexible enough to adapt to a given situation, and should be abandoned if they fail to yield desired results. The repeated success or failure of particular tactics can lead to corresponding changes to strategy and the sharpening of political theory.

As noted above, the anti-globalization movement was a diverse coalition of groups and individuals with differing political ideologies and interests, united by a shared opposition to the effects of neoliberal capitalism. As long as its participants could feasibly pursue a unified strategy of shutting down the trade summits that they had come together to oppose, differences in political theory could be safely glossed over, and a variety of complementary tactics could be successfully deployed in order to achieve a tangible goal. Robbed of the capacity to impede the functioning of these summits by advancements in state contingency planning, the movement was forced to come up with a new strategy. At this point, preexisting differences in political theory surfaced, effectively splitting the movement into two camps. The moderates, who formed the vast majority of the movement's participants, chose to use these summits as a way to register their dissent through the socially accepted channels of liberal democracy, in an effort to reform capitalism by mitigating its neoliberal excesses. Inspired by their own liberal conceptions of the legacy of US civil rights activists, this group pursued a strategy that sought to grow the movement quantitatively, to use these summits to “get their message out” and “have their voices heard” in the hope of “speaking truth to power” and attracting ever more participants, for ever larger demonstrations. On the other side of the split were the radicals, an active minority often characterized by their use, or acceptance, of black bloc tactics. Comprised primarily of adherents of political theories that saw dialogue with capitalism and liberal democracy as pointless, members of the radical contingent sought to intensify conflict with the police and “break the spell” cast by the corporate spectacle through sensational acts of property destruction. This strategy could be seen as one of qualitative development, in that its participants sought to advance struggle by fostering a more effective capacity to wield violence. These two contradictory political tendencies were always present in the anti-globalization movement, and have persisted into the subsequent struggle against the present phase of neoliberalism: the age of austerity.

Representative Politics and Productive Violence

We will know the decisive moment has come when we can cease to be followers of causes and become producers of effects instead.
- AK Thompson, Black Bloc, White Riot

At the crux of the Diversity of Tactics debate lies a dispute between those favouring a strategy of nonviolence, on one hand, and the practitioners and sympathizers of (primarily) spectacular violence on the other. The terms of this debate were frequently muddied during the course of the anti-globalization movement by the claims of some advocates of black bloc tactics that attacks on corporate property did not constitute violence. These attempts to draw an ethical distinction between harm caused to human beings and the destruction of inanimate objects represent an understandable, yet ultimately misguided appeal for liberal legitimacy, and have served as a distraction from the much more important debate over the proper role of violence in movements struggling for social change.

In Black Bloc, White Riot: Anti-Globalization and the Genealogy of Dissent, author AK Thompson tracks the semiotic development of the anti-globalization protestor and the post-9/11 conflation of black bloc participants with terrorism. While contextualizing these attempts by the state and corporate media to represent black bloc violence in such terms as part of a larger strategy of reconciling the liberal democratic notion of the right to protest to the regulatory framework of the War on Terror, Thompson nonetheless identifies an important similarity between these two political subjects. He notes that both black bloc participants and terrorists were similar in that they “sought to affect the public by launching assaults on constituted power in order to intervene in political processes to which they had no direct access.” The black bloc's recourse to purely spectacular violence—ie the smashing of a Starbucks window—is thus held up as evidence of its participants' inability to escape the “bourgeois epistemology” of representational politics. Spectacular violence is “an action in excess of the law that serves in the end to reaffirm the law itself” through the implicit acknowledgement of its own limited effect. “Without a decisive challenge to bourgeois epistemology, even the seemingly pure act—violence as an end in itself—can be recuperated as image. And while the intensified image heightens the experience of presence for the viewer, this presence is not yet direct engagement with the material world. For that, another type of violence is required.”

For Thompson, the direct action tactics of the black bloc offered its participants a pedagogical means to pass through violence—a process of qualitative political development similar, in principle, to that experienced by the colonial subjects of Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth. But in order to complete this process of development, North American black bloc participants need to break through the glass ceiling of representative politics promoted by liberal democracy and begin to move from the relative safety of spectacular violence to the more dangerous, yet potentially rewarding world of productive violence. Largely synonymous with Walter Benjamin's concept of law-making violence, productive violence is violence used to achieve material gains—“a contest between competing sovereign agencies”, rather than an act of symbolic defiance. A clear example can be found in the difference between smashing a window at a demonstration and defending an occupied building or a barricade from the police. If we are to develop a militant movement capable of wielding violence in pursuit of a revolutionary strategy, this step cannot be avoided.

III. Militancy and Mass Movements:Collective Identities and Affective Bonds

And the moment when they discover their humanity, they begin to sharpen their weapons to seize its victory.
- Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

As the authors of Who is Oakland? noted, militancy tends to emerge from the most oppressed and exploited segments of society—from those who are motivated by intense grievances and simultaneously denied justice through their exclusion from “legitimate” channels of redress. Yet these conditions alone do not automatically produce the phenomenon of mass militancy. Nor can a high degree of political theory, contained in a small group or political party isolated from the population in which they operate, accomplish this feat. Indeed, mass militancy requires a high level of political consciousness widely dispersed among a population that identifies itself as under attack, or otherwise threatened by the dominant order. A requisite factor in the formation of revolutionary militancy lies in the affective bonds formed between participants who see themselves as part of a collective identity. From this springs the development of political theory that accurately assesses the material basis of their subjugation, leading to a strategy and corresponding series of tactics that can effectively contend with the institutional structures that reproduce this condition.

As anarchists, we cannot ignore the fact that one of the most potent catalysts for mass militancy is nationalism. The myth of the nation remains one of the most powerful myths in human existence, unique in that it contains within it the entirety of a people's history and culture; its latent militancy is unleashed through anti-colonial insurgencies and wars of national liberation. Born from the violence of colonization, Fanon noted, “decolonization is always a violent event.” Maintaining a foreign occupation requires a constant resort to the most extreme forms of repression, sanctified by a dehumanizing racism on the part of the colonial regime; this makes the shift to armed uprising a natural development in the struggles of colonized peoples. Through this formative political process, Fanon explains, “[t]he very same people who had it constantly drummed into them that the only language they understood was that of force, now decide to express themselves with force. In fact, the colonist has always shown them the path they should follow to liberation.” Yet while it provides a strong impetus for mass militancy, nationalism also glosses over important internal contradictions in a given society. With very few notable exceptions*, anti-imperialist struggles are temporary cross-class alliances that end up recuperated by an emergent national bourgeoisie or political class whose interests are ultimately entrenched through the establishment of a “revolutionary” national government. Formal colonization thus gives way to a new reality, in which the national economy remains subjugated to the whims of transnational capital, while the original impetus for struggle becomes masked by the national character of the new state security apparatus.

Some of the most militant and politically sophisticated mass movements of modern history have emerged in response to the shared oppression of groups persecuted on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion. As socially constructed identities, these categories intersect and overlap in different ways depending on the social context from which they arise; in secular, white supremacist nations such as the United States and Canada, race plays a much more central role in social stratification and class composition than either religion or ethnicity, whereas in Iraq or Sri Lanka, the opposite is true. These social divisions can serve a similar role to nationalism, in that they provide a set of similar experiences relative to dominant power structures and a collective identity that informs and reflects these experiences; the bombing of a Shia shrine in Baghdad can thus be interpreted as an attack against all Shia muslims, while the news that cops in Oakland have murdered a young black man will resonate with millions of black Americans' own experiences of dealing with racist police. These individual acts of injustice can cause long-simmering resentment to boil over into intense flare-ups of mass militancy. In the absence of a coherent strategy or collective political program, however, these singular events are easily isolated and manipulated by the ruling class into provoking a backlash from reactionary elements of society—leading to an escalation of intra-class conflict and/or the further hardening of racial, religious or ethnic divisions; the United States' history, replete with militant black uprisings savagely repressed by the lynch mobs of the white working class, is a tragic case in point.

The recent rise of so-called “vigilante feminist” movements in Egypt and India has served as a stark reminder that militancy is not a strictly male affair. Not only have women historical played important roles in militant struggles based around nationalism and race, the shared experience of patriarchal oppression itself can also be a powerful factor in the spread of mass militancy. Women united around issues such as pervasive sexual assault, economic and political marginalization and reproductive rights have waged struggles both independently, and within broader movements—such as the Mujeres Libres' multi-faceted campaigns undertaken within the Spanish Civil War, which often drew them into conflicts with the sexist tendencies of their male comrades in the CNT. Attacking patriarchy, and the gendered division of the working class, is a vital component of spreading militancy to larger segments of the class.

Also frequently drawn into militant conflict with the violence of patriarchal society are those who are marginalized through non-conforming gender expression and sexuality. Although these oppressions are distinct and often complex, they nonetheless share a similar material structural oppression in the heteronormative ideals of patriarchal society. In the face of recent advances in gay and lesbian rights, and the moderate reformism championed by bourgeois representatives of the movement, it can be easy to forget that the Pride parade—before its successful liberal assimilation and capitalist recuperation—had its roots in the Stonewall riots of New York. This militant legacy has been carried on by anti-assimilationist queer groups such as the Bash Back! network, and the racialized queer collective Check It, based out of Washington, DC. Organizations such as Transgender Nation and The Transexual Menace have employed militant direct action tactics to highlight their exclusion from the LGB community, leading to a growing acceptance of transgendered oppression as framing part of the demands of the broader LGBTQ movement.

Disabled people and their supporters have also demonstrated a high propensity for militancy in their struggles around accessibility, with examples including the long-standing US direct-action based group ADAPT, or the coalition of disability activists that clashed with Bolivian riot police in 2012. Radical disability movements, often comprised of people with a diversity of physical and mental impairments, struggle against disableism—the structural and ideological process through which disabled people are denied individual agency and collective participation in society.

The point of highlighting these seemingly disparate examples is not simply to offer a litany of identity categories, but to drive home the point that militancy is a collective phenomenon, fostered by shared opposition to dominant structures of oppression and exploitation. Solidarity grows through the affective bonds formed through identifying another person's struggle as your own. The collective identities outlined in this section are by no means intended to be exhaustive; other relevant examples could include the role that collective identity has played in recent student struggles in Québec and Chile, in fostering the militancy of the Luddites and early syndicalist movements, or the role that a shared anarchist identity played in kicking off the 2008 insurrection in Greece.

Beyond Violence vs. Nonviolence

It is not our desire to participate in violence, but it is even less our desire to lose. - Comrades from Cairo, Letter to the Occupy Movement

Capitalism is perpetually engaged in its own reinvention, constantly adapting to incorporate new technological developments, overcoming obstacles to investment and recuperating potential adversaries through political representation; as these transformations occur, they produce accompanying shifts in class composition. Anarchists should be attentive to these changes and willing to modify our tactics and strategic orientation as need be. Our political theory must aim to identify the segments of the working class with the greatest potential for militancy; not to assume the role of their political representatives—as liberal activists and Marxist-Leninists would seek to do—but so that we can actively demonstrate our solidarity, either by joining with them as fellow militants, or by otherwise helping to prepare the conditions for their struggles to bear fruit. In some cases this support may require the resort to violence, though in many other instances it will not. The important point is not to fetishize violence or nonviolence, but to approach particular tactics with an eye towards their overall strategic effectiveness.

Our task as anarchists is to actively participate in the formulation of a revolutionary collective identity, imbued with a militant class consciousness and the capacity to engage in productive violence against the institutions that reproduce capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and disableism. The working class is not, as reductionists would have us believe, a homogenous block with identical material interests. Nor will the overthrow of capitalism magically fix the hierarchical social divisions fostered by systemic oppression. It is therefore necessary to attack the structural pillars of oppression, while simultaneously combating the influence that these systems exert on segments of the class that materially benefit from their perpetuation under capitalism. Anarchists must do this, not only because it's the politically principled, or moral thing to do, but because it's a necessary step towards building a revolutionary working class movement. This strategy requires the development of self-organized campaigns on the intermediary level; autonomous struggles that can join together, whenever practical, to create larger, more effective networks of resistance. For a movement to retain its militant character as it grows, these networks must built, not by glossing over of political and tactical differences, but by recognizing the pursuit of common strategic goals. Advances made through struggles waged by one segment of the class can expose the contradictions inherent to capitalism for all to see; the resulting epiphany can often be catalytic in the spread of generalized class consciousness—particularly in the case of tactics.

We must also work hard to build towards a movement that defines itself not simply through its militant opposition to existing power dynamics, but through its creation and uncompromisingly militant defence of liberatory institutions of counter-power. Whether these be physical institutions, such as occupied apartment blocks converted into free housing and social centres, or political institutions such as neighbourhood or workplace assemblies, these gains must be defended and expanded upon if we are to sustain a revolutionary movement beyond its initial gains. Building counter-power, and framing our struggles with this in mind, is the only way to remove ourselves from the never-ending circuit of representational politics and to begin to assert ourselves as free human beings, fighting for a future of our choosing.

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The Nature of Militancy | 1 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
The Nature of Militancy
Authored by: Admin on Monday, June 24 2013 @ 05:13 PM CDT

I'm sorry, but some of us who were advocating black bloc tactics ten years ago and arguing that property destruction isn't violence, were not trying to establish some kind of "liberal legitimacy" or otherwise soft peddle militant tactics.

We were challenging the conflation between violence against people and damage to property that are conflated in most people's minds, because of their socialization in a capitalist society. We were trying to illuminate the fact that capitalism treats people as objects and establishes that destruction of property is equivalent to violence against people.

There was nothing misguided about making this distinction. We were making multiple complex points during a teachable moment.