A message of universal kinship from Infoshop.org
Out of their love for humanity, anarchist vigilantes have been stalking and harassing private citizens. Back in 2012, they smashed up cars and storefronts in San Francisco’s Mission District. More recently, they have hounded Google employees in the Bay Area with blockades, acts of vandalism, and demands to get out of town:
If you want a Bay Area where the ultra-rich are pitted against hundreds of thousands of poor people, keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll have a nice revolution outside your door. But if you want out then you should quit your jobs, cash out, and go live a life that doesn’t completely fuck up someone else’s.
GET THE FUCK OUT OF OAKLAND!
In January, vigilantes accosted Google engineer Anthony Levandowski outside of his house. They passed out flyers that charged Levandowski with “gentrifying neighborhoods, flooding the market with noxious commodities, and creating the infrastructure for an unimaginable totalitarianism.” After the confrontation, a statement posted by The Counterforce said:
All of Google’s employees should be prevented from getting to work. All surveillance infrastructure should be destroyed. No luxury condos should be built. No one should be displaced. [....]
Our problem is with Google, its pervasive surveillance capabilities utilized by the NSA, the technologies it is developing, and the gentrification its employees are causing in every city they inhabit. But our problem does not stop with Google. All of you other tech companies, all of you other developers and everyone else building the new surveillance state—We’re coming for you next.
This month, The Counterforce condemned Google Ventures partner Kevin Rose as a “parasite” and told him via banner: “I’MA SNIP SNIP YR BALLZ ☺” They chose to “bring the class war to his doorstep,” because they viewed Rose as “part of a larger structure that keeps people enslaved to this single economic system that is literally killing the planet and decreasing the chances of continued life.” They chastised him for investing in startups, because these “perpetuate the process of alienation under the guise of social technology.” The close of their statement said:
We now make our first clear demand of Google. We demand that Google give three billion dollars to an anarchist organization of our choosing. This money will then be used to create autonomous, anti-capitalist, and anti-racist communities throughout the Bay Area and Northern California. In these communities, whether in San Francisco or in the woods, no one will ever have to pay rent and housing will be free. With this three billion from Google, we will solve the housing crisis in the Bay Area and prove to the world that an anarchist world is not only possible but in fact irrepressible. If given the chance, most humans will pursue a course towards increased freedom and greater liberty. As it stands, only people like Kevin Rose are given the opportunity to reshape their world, and look at what they do with those opportunities.
We know that your security advisors are taking our analysis seriously, so if you are confident that your system is the best, it would be wise to give us three billion to see if we fail. Our wager is that you are scared of the viable alternative we would create. If you are not scared, contact us at our WordPress website. Send us a message and we can go from there. Otherwise, get ready for a revolution neither you nor we can control, a revolution that will spread to all of the poor, exploited, and degraded members of this new tech-society and be directed towards you for your bad decisions and irresponsible activities. We advise you to take us seriously.
For a world without bosses, rulers, or cops! Down with the Empire, up with the Spring!
Many (perhaps most) of those who raise the specter of revolutionary violence lack the nerve to act, but that is no excuse for liberal acquiescence. These threats are the left equivalent of “Second Amendment remedies.” And yet, intimidation has been zealously encouraged by some pundits on liberal websites. Back in January, Salon published a defense of house calls by vigilantes. Natasha Lennard said:
Intimidation tactics targeting the employees of major corporations are nothing new and have a history of success: Indeed, animal rights activists achieved some major victories in securing the closure of animal testing facilities in the ’90s and early 2000s through the intimidation of key investors. This intimidation was deemed terrorism, but, hey, it worked. The Google protesters appear to be paying homage to this model. Their manifesto ends, “We’re coming for you next,” and echo the Animal Liberation Front’s haunting slogan, “We are everywhere.” [....]
Whether targeting individual Google employees is an effective tactic is not really my interest here. Certainly, I concede that it will hardly uproot Google’s hegemonic position, nor will the surveillance state be dismantled. Andrew Leonard cited one Bay Area resident describing the latest militant anti-Google protest as “a group of people violently broaching civic norms.” I say: precisely. Civic norms in our current epoch entail the forgoing of privacy, the enabling of a totalized surveillance state, the steady displacement of poor residents by wealthier implants in all major metropolises. The world’s richest 85 people have as much wealth as half the world’s population put together. These are our current civic norms; they deserve some violent broaching.
It seems Lennard, who is an apologist for insurrectionary anarchism, was referring to the campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences. The campaign included “home demonstrations” and several bombings.
Of course, assaults by anarchists should be placed in the proper context. Anarchists who turn to insurrection are not grievance bots. Their criminal actions are not an automatic response to injustice. Anarchists have agency, and their choice of redress depends in part on their political imagination—on their pursuit of the millennium.
Peace, love, and absolute liberty is the promise of anarchism. After the social revolution, everyone shall live in harmony without coercion or hierarchy. We shall not have to give up any portion of our liberty to preserve the rest. The underlying conceit is that human beings are innately anarchists, but most of us have been deceived. We have forgotten our true humanity. Anarchism is our re-education.
According to this creed, we should cleanse our minds of statist pollution and clear our lives of statist distortion. For no government can be legitimate. Every state is fascist. If the scales were to fall from our eyes, we would rise up and smash the state. This would bring about, in the words of Mikhail Bakunin, “a qualitative transformation, a new living, life-giving revelation, a new heaven and a new earth, a young and mighty world in which all our present dissonances will be resolved into a harmonious whole.” This belief in a just and spontaneous order cannot be refuted by any fratricidal chaos, because anarchists can always blame the persistence of statist corruption.
Yet for some reason, states endure, hierarchies are pervasive, and some degree of coercion can be found almost everywhere. So while anarchists may come in dozens of hyphenated varieties, they all face the same dilemma. As John Gray said:
If they are to pose a challenge to the prevailing order, they need to protect themselves against repression and subversion by the state. When they organise to defend themselves, they soon come to resemble the state in secrecy and ruthlessness. The revolutionaries’ dilemma is clear: either they remain high-mindedly pure and impotent, or they end up as repressive as the regime they are fighting, if not more so.
Some anarchists prefer to work by peaceful example, by creating alternative communities or fashioning new lifestyles. They build to replace the existing order, and their practice may even be ennobling. But others conspire and take arms against a fallen world. They place their trust in what Mikhail Bakunin called the “eternal spirit which destroys and annihilates only because it is the unsearchable and eternally creative source of all life.” For them, as for Bakunin’s notorious “tiger cub,” destruction of the existing order is inherently creative.
America’s experience with the latter included the adherents of Luigi Galleani. At the site of some of their bombings in 1919, they left behind these plain words:
We are not many, perhaps more than you dream of, though but are all determined to fight to the last, till a man remains buried in your Bastilles, till a hostage of the working class is left to the tortures of your police system, and will never rest until your fall is complete, and the laboring masses have taken possession of all that rightly belongs to them.
There will be bloodshed; we will not dodge; there will have to be murder: we will kill, because it is necessary; there will have to be destruction; we will destroy to rid the world of your tyrannical institutions. [....]
Long live social revolution! Down with tyranny!
Granted, they had an inflated sense of their ability to incite a revolution. But so did Timothy McVeigh. The similarities may be greater than many realize. The primary suspect behind the 1920 bombing of Wall Street was a Galleanist named Mario Buda. That explosion killed over three dozen people and maimed hundreds more.
In spite of what insurrectionists have done with explosives, many on the left dismiss the bomb-throwing anarchist as a statist caricature. They are quick to cite the Haymarket Square bombing of 1886, for which several anarchists were tried and convicted. But the analogy is less than exculpatory. There was evidence of a criminal conspiracy.
In a time of civil peace, the presumption should be against the use of political violence. The burden of justification is on those who play at civil war. But insurrectionary anarchists turn this presumption upside down. It is not they who should answer to the rest of us for their violence; it is we statists who must answer to humanity’s redeemers. We are to atone for the sins of the world. We are called, in words of anarchist Alexander Berkman, a failed assassin, to “grow the wings” of an angel.
It may be true, as Leszek Kolakowski once said, that “the human race cannot survive without the idea of universal brotherhood, no matter how impracticable it might be.” But, as Kolakowski also warned, this dream “becomes pernicious and malignant if its adherents convince themselves that they have a technical prescription for implementing it.” Their pursuit of utopia becomes a self-contradiction. Hence, insurrectionary anarchists “promise us brotherhood by decree” and proceed to coerce us into freedom:
Destruction is the only thing they are capable of thinking about and they are not really much interested in what will come next; sometimes they even raise this lack of interest and their intellectual helplessness to the dignity of a superior wisdom (“one cannot predict the future forms of society, the point is to smash the existing one.”) They share with most ideologically committed Marxists an anti-historical mentality, not in the sense of being necessarily uninterested in history but in the sense of believing that at a certain date people can shed the burden of their past and start “true history” afresh, so that a truly new man [and woman], immune to the past, will emerge.
Insurrectionary anarchists judge their criminal actions, not by some statist morality, but by a millenarian promise to being the world anew. They are never the aggressors, because they are always aggrieved by the absence of heaven on earth. This was the logic behind Emma Goldman’s defense of Leon Czolgosz, after he shot and killed President McKinley:
Anarchism and violence are as far apart from each other as liberty and tyranny. I care not what the rabble says; but to those who are still capable of understanding I would say that Anarchism, being, a philosophy of life, aims to establish a state of society in which man’s inner make-up and the conditions around him, can blend harmoniously, so that he will be able to utilize all the forces to enlarge and beautify the life about him. To those I would also say that I do not advocate violence; government does this, and force begets force. [....]
Violence will die a natural death when man will learn to understand that each unit has its place in the universe, and while being closely linked together, it must remain free to grow and expand.
Goldman did not answer whether Czolgosz was a random lunatic or a genuine anarchist. Nor did she offer anyway to distinguish between cynical criminals and sincere revolutionaries. Instead, she bowed “in reverent silence before the power of such a soul, that has broken the narrow walls of its prison, and has taken a daring leap into the unknown.” Elsewhere, Goldman said the assassination was “an act of self-defence,” about which there was “nothing unanarchistic.” Because Czolgosz “belonged to the Oppressed, the Exploited and Disinherited Millions,” he could claim special privileges and immunities.
According to Goldman, this insurrectionary elite derives their authority from their “sensitive nature,” which is unknown to the benighted “rabble.” Members of this enlightened vanguard “feel a wrong more keenly and with greater intensity than others.” They are superior to any acquiescent statist, because they possess “an abundance of love and an overflow of sympathy with the pain and sorrow around us, a love which seeks refuge in the embrace of mankind, a love so strong that it shrinks before no consequence, a love so broad that it can never be wrapped up in one object, as long as thousands perish, a love so all-absorbing that it can neither calculate, reason, investigate, but only dare at all costs.”
This love does not discriminate; it abides in any vigilante who claims to be among “the Oppressed, the Exploited and Disinherited Millions.” This love embraces a higher humanity, as opposed to the lesser beings who must endure its consequences. But our lives and liberties are an earthly concern, and anarchism is an otherworldly passion.