Hi. Welcome to the site. Please check out the About Us, and if you have a question about crime and/or punishment, perhaps look at some previous questions along those lines first.
Welcome to Anarchy101 Q&A, where you can ask questions and receive answers about anarchism, from anarchists.

Anarchism and self defeating action

0 votes
During protests, often times it is anarchists who are accused of destroying buildings, causing general chaos. Why would anarchists participate in such petty actions that cannot possibly further anarchy?
asked Nov 26 by curious bystander (510 points)

Bornagainanarchist, chaos and order are one and the same really, especially in connection without our bodies and health. If things like food didn't break down, we'd be pretty much clogged up!

Pain though, that's different from a health issue. It could be like a broken leg, that doesn't have to impact our health, our well being, does it? Whereas if a bug gets into us and we're not strong enough that can wreck our life on every level as in Lyme's (an older uncle had that, he was out for years before the doc got to the bottom of it).

Well my view of the futility of property destruction is taking things to their logical conclusion (unless it wholescale, why bother?). It's kind of like hackers bringing the Net down. They could prove their point without annoying everybody, who then reacts; "Bastards, lock them up because they've interrupted my porn viewing".

It's like that know your enemy saying, you wouldn't walk into their camp while they were all armed and primed for action, that's suicide.

"ebb and flow"... yep, it's all give and take, give up and take on, take off and give more, if you get my drift.

when you ask "why bother?", do you mean that rhetorically?

do you see what i'm getting at?
Tongue in cheek seriousness.
i think i understand now....

you meant your original question as a tongue in cheek serious statement to stimulate discussion about the ways people like best to create anarchy....and why....

basically, anarchists desire the expression of direct action over political action. Protests are not direct actions, they are staged to get people to pay attention to certain issues, and the only thing that is ever important to good protest organizers is media attention. I find protests to be incredibly self defeating. We live in a protest culture and nobody really cares, to most people protest are just contemptable complaining about things.

You do raise the issue of trying to use property destruction and violence as being self-defeating, but to me this is subjective, because there are alot of things that deserve to be smashed and destroyed.

4 Answers

+4 votes

Some points worth  considering:

1. Being accused of a thing by the authorities does not make the thing fact.

2. Creating moments of chaos and disruption could arguably be seen as furthering the goals of some anarchists. Many insurrectionary anarchists speak of moments of rupture, where day to day functioning of society ceases and conflict creates momentary openings in to a different world. Increasing frequency of disruption tends to grow not only in temporality, but also in what, for lack of a better term coming to mind, I will call boldness. The author AG Schwarz has counterposed this concept of "signals of disorder" to the broken windows theory of policing.

3. Why wouldn't anarchists participate in such actions? During the Anti-WTO protests in Seattle, many not anarchists were swept up in breaking windows, fighting cops, looting. Why wouldn't anarchists get in on the fun?

4. Describing an action as petty is an easy way to dismiss something. Throughout time people who have suffered the brunt of oppression and domination have found small ways to get theirs, to "talk back", to get over. Certainly smashing a window doesn't cause capitalism to magically end (but maybe the next window is the magic one.. we just need to keep smashing!), but it might be something I can do to signal my general dislike of the current situation.

answered Nov 26 by ingrate (20,420 points)
edited Nov 26 by ingrate

Funkyanarchy, “government, capitalism, cops, .... they are all made up of people. of course people are the problem. that doesn't mean the institutions, processes, ideologies, technologies, etc that people have come up with aren't problematic as well”. 

What I meant was we've got to make it personal, relate to the people who are in government, are cops, are in whatever position they think gives them the right to tell us what to do, to force people into wars or whatever. But if we use violence, that's not going to work out, we have to come up with solutions that have people appeal, but as I said before without compromise.

Anyways, that's my thinking, These are people, and people can be reached... the impossible is always possible.

Unless there's another world war or an outbreak of some kind of killer disease worldwide, I don't know what will get the population numbers down. But do the numbers really matter? Why does a collective large or small have to become authoritarian? Is it so inevitable? If we look at history it's the brutal and cunning males who have taken power, taken control, but what if everybody said “okay, enough of that shit, let's live in peace”. But that means we have to understand what peaceful living is.

Basically it's like me living with my family, we all get along, do things together, but I've always had a different outlook to them as I've never just accepted anything. I want to understand why I have to do things or why things are the way they are and if I see a flaw in the why, I'll challenge it without being too obsessive. So if I can be autonomous within my family without there being a problem, why can't that work out in a larger setting? What would a mass society or community of autonomous people stop you doing? If your actions didn't cause them harm, why would they harm you? If your actions did harm them, they'd obviously have to do something or allow you to subjugate them to whatever. So it probably takes far more selflessness than we've got at present for real anarchy to work large scale.

Objectivity is desirable to me as it means I base my life on reality rather than my fantasies or other people's fantasies; i.e. religion, politics, consumerism, etc. I'd say the problem we have with our present mass society is subjectivity, emotions ruling rather than intelligence responding. I'm not saying we should stamp out our emotions, but understand them so that they are not making us do things which a rational person would never do. It's like Bornagainanarchist said about “mocking advertisements”. Most people go out an buy stuff without really needing it or sometimes even knowing why they buy it. That's what advertising is about, hypnotizing people, subjective appeal.

Plus I've noticed how much subjectivity (interpretations/misinterpretations) gets in the way of discussions on this forum. So I'm being more aware of everything, my own reactions, and seeing what they mean.

Truths are truths not truth truth, absolute truth. It maybe true that you think that Opera is the best ever, but that is subjective truth and only true to a few. It's like the people who believe in Jesus. Their truth is their truth because they have to make it truth for it to be truth. So it's not truth, just belief.

Your case about the cake is another example of subjectivity enslaving everyone, not just one side of the argument, but them all. There are simple solutions without getting all high and mighty about a stupid cake (not directed at you so much as at those directly involved).

It's like that though, that would be called a case of rights, but the truth is there are no rights, we just assume we should have rights and be treated in a certain way, and so should everyone. But looking at the way nature works, the truth is, there are no rights. Go for a walk on the Savanna and a lion will eat you up, and your family will say "Poor Funky, just wanted to enjoy his anarchy. How cruel of that lion. Get a gun and shot the god damn thing". Sit in the baking sun and you'll be found very well done after four hours. Could give thousands of examples. Those aren't just truths but Truth.

If we see the error of our own bias our own bias ends. It's like the cake maker, maybe he's a Christian, or a Jew, or a Muslim, and their truth is don't stick your dick up another man's bum, even if he says do it, do it, because god isn't going to like it. Or maybe the guy has an aversion to dicks because he was abused as a kid, or, or, or.

I would say there's no need to destroy civilization as that would be a complete backward step to rule by brute force yet again. Civilization may not be ideal, may not even be that civil, but it's a step in the right direction as is technology. Why have people fought forever? I'd say it's obvious that it's due to thinking they lack something and have to hold on to what they've got or due to thinking they lack something an somebody else has what they want. It's kids stuff really, we've not grown up from that basic stupid selfishness.

It's like you saying modern technics is incompatible with anarchy. I can show you why that is a falsehood, a belief. I could show you why technology is heading in the direction of anarchy as technology used in the right way as in the sense of serving every human, every animal, every aspect of life on this planet will free us all from the necessity of work, free us from our own limitations in the sense of the way we perform physically, even free us from money.

You've just opened up a whole new understanding for me, as I can now see how all this can work out, and I never gave it much thought before. I'll put it up as another question.

As for Jesus, I never believed that when I got it in Elementary, and as there's absolutely no evidence for such a man, I write it off as just another attempt by men to work their way so that the whole world will work their way.

cb, i disagree with almost everything you said in that last comment. your (rather rigid) perspective is absolutely uninteresting to me... i'll leave it at that. good luck with your anarchy public relations campaign.

hey cb - I think you responded in part to fa about stuff I wrote. I am the weird asshole who brought Jesus, etc. into the convo. Really that was prompted by a weird tangential thing based on a quote from only the best musical ever, but could've been avoided if it is too much heavy-handed metaphor or spooks - IDK, I was not raised particularly religious, and so I don't attach nearly as much weight to Jesus/religion as it seems people who were indoctrinated with it have, which seems to be similar to your experience. You should still watch Jesus Christ Superstar.

I was also the one who talked about mass technics (sorry everyone, it was a tick that I used that language, I've been skimming the works of The Dean and his critics lately, related to other pursuits), though I do note that fa brought up critiques of civilization (ones I share, even if our individual takes on them are different). You can put forward all the arguments in the world about civilization being a positive trajectory, fa, and I  (and a bunch of other folks on this site, and elsewhere) can also put forward all the arguments why it is not necessarily so. This is pointless, for the most part...

Except there are folks on both sides who would argue that their perspective is absolutely right. On the green anarchist/anti-civ side, we have John Zerzan and Kevin Tucker (and a host of others). On the pro-civ side we have... well, the list is long. Why I bring this up is that it is people from these polarities that tend to want to do PR campaigns, and to convince people of the rightness of their ideas.

Sure, most of them (on both sides) aren't going to be like, "we should talk to the cops and make them see the light," because whether your red or green, if you are an anarchist and have done anything in the world that involves actually engaging with Johnny Law, it is pretty clear that those humans, those actual people, are not going to suddenly be like, "oh shit. now that you mention it, my systemically enabled position of power, and whatever complex combination of psychology, sociological background, and/or economic needs brought me to want to be the enforcer/savior/bully is totally garbage. I quit. Huarrah for anarchy!" Not that it doesn't happen. I know ex military folks who are anarchists now. I think I might even know someone who once tried to be a cop who is an anarchist. But those are exceptions, just like if a cop or a Christian sat me down to talk to me (and trust, me, I always let the J-Ho's and the Morons, er, -mons in...) about the rightness of accepting whatever the ideas were, and believe me, they are just as convinced of the rightness as you are.

It's late 2017, baby, don't be afraid to hop the nihilist boxcar on the train to hopelessness. Is liberating...

good stuff, ingrate....i especially like your last line.

on the subject of subjectivity, i love it...in a sense i live for the subjective...

i come to this site in part for it...i want to hear peoples' experiences, intuitions, emotional reactions, observations, and their thoughts about all those perceptions....and i like relating mine....i don't really have much interest in the objective, (the concept of "what is").

Ingrate, I must have overlooked the end Funkyanarchy's reply and the beginning of yours, it's an odd layout this forum as it's not linking who's replying to who. No problem though.

I know when there are opposing views there are opposing views, but let's say there was a mass PR campaign, and one side said “we're going to destroy civilization and return to primitive ways where little tribes shall be the only form of society. We offer you a lifestyle more natural, where we'll forage for food and keep an eye out for animals which may attack us, live in houses made with our bare hands as all technology is bad, fend off raiding tribes. It's going to be real, real fun”.

The other group says “society sucks, we all know that, but it has some good points such as the infrastructure, such as technology. We're offering a new way completely, where technology will serve us all; build our homes, produce our food, create clean power for our homes, vehicles, and machines. All technology will be owned by everybody and we'll all have a say in how it develops and how it is used. By using technology we'll be free to really live the lives we want to live, paint pictures, write stories, fool around, whatever, but the main thing is we'll all have all the time in world to be with those we love and forge new friendships that aren't based on exclusive mutual interest.”

Obviously that is very basic introduction, but first impressions, which would have more appeal to the masses?

I'm not suggesting sitting down and trying to convince or convert cops, government officials, etc. I said reach them via means which they can totally relate too. There are certain ways people just close down as soon as they hear certain words, like Jesus, like Anarchy, etc. So maybe a different approach would work, a more subtle approach.

We'll never have real freedom if we don't get together, we'll never have real equality, in fact it will just be as it has been since history began, stuck in a system of selfishness and servitude. By coincidence a friend of mine from Scotland sent me this link about Carne Ross who was high up in the UK's Labour Government who realized anarchy is the way forward. Here's the link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6F73Z1BKhIs&t=2932s

Anyways, maybe too enthusiastic, but I don't see technology as anti-nature or being problematic to an anarchic way of life, and so far I've not seen anybody communicate clearly as to why technology can't serve anarchy. So I'll post my question and see what results.

0 votes
Some people think destroying buildings and causing general chaos is anarchy. Some anarchists used to do a lot more than that like throw bombs and assassinate royals. I'm not advocating these things maybe we should be nice and attract people to the thing. My neighbors are as docile as they can be but they're not doing anything that ends oppression. Smashing windows is a publicity stunt that makes world news if it's done in front of TV cameras. More repression makes more radicals.
answered Nov 27 by Perrier (140 points)
I think the system as it stands has made people docile. We get it all the time from our parents and they've obviously got it from society, be responsible, get a good job, a good house, bring up a family so they can repeat the process. It seems so limited and limiting, but people accept it and look at you if you're mad to question anything.

We're getting more and more repression but that doesn't seem to make more radicals, just more insanity, more people getting into drugs and shit like that. So they're opting out by going to sleep and being completely self obsessed.
+3 votes
1. because they like how they feel when doing it.                  

2. because they relate anarchically when doing it - or at least with a disregard for authority, property, capital.       

3. because they don't consider it "petty" or "self-defeating" as you do.

4. they desire chaos.

5. they want to release the anger they feel caused by authority and capital.

6. they value the present moment of the action more than the idea of a vague future society.

7. they think the action will in part lead to more of the type of society they want.

8. they think other people will get inspired to resist or attack authority in their own way.
answered Nov 28 by bornagainanarchist (8,170 points)
edited Nov 29 by bornagainanarchist
Bornagainanarchist, you're right, I should have worded my question better, but hey, I'm just kicking up a pile of dust looking for a golden nugget, a nugget of Truth (if such a thing exists). Now it seem s as if anarchy is open to interpretation and there is no anarchism as such, just a bunch of loosely allied individuals who somehow use that term.
Human, all I'm doing is questioning the answers, why is that a problem? I'm not laying down the laws of anarchy, just saying certain actions have consequences which seem to me totally counter productive to achieving anything really creative and sustainable.

By mentioning rapists and murders is very relevant, why destructive acts do not give freedom but as somebody on this forum said before, they'll bring pain, they'll bring a desire for control and laws. That's why I say smashing things up will only end in greater repression for everybody, not just anarchists. Look at the way the governments of the world have used ISIS to impose greater controls on us all. That's what they do. Greater control will never end in freedom, just more and more invasive ways of snooping, of ending our freedom of movement, and everything.

That was my point, let's not stop at an answer which isn't really an answer. Just accepting any answer is acceptance. I do not accept that which will result in the loss of my freedom. I will find ways to gain my freedom by creative ways, and I will continue to encourage others to do that too.
cb, so i understand that you don't really want an answer to this "question" of yours....no problem....but you have mine anyway.
bornagainanarchist, I mentioned rapists and murderers in response to the first line in your answer as those who have sex with the one they love, or just have sex for the sheer delight, are not being destructive but generating good feelings that make them feel good, and they want to repeat that in a way which will be beneficial to each other.

I'm not saying people in a riot, or out smashing windows, or whatever, won't be enjoying it, but it's not really something that can be repeated without coming to a disastrous end; i.e. a shop keeper shooting them, a cop arresting them, etc. That's all my point is, isn't there a better way to change this society rather than violence? What happens if things do break down, will the violent suddenly become unviolent?
as i've said before, i understand your point.

and i don't totally disagree with it.

but you also don't really have a question here....which is why you won't find any satisfactory answers.
+2 votes
The conflict of whether to go forth with political or warlike actions is an age old one. Two really good books that talk about this are atassa and bury my heart at wounded knee.

Atassa is about eco-extremism, which is kinda diverse and vague as a praxis but more or less advocates violence and indiscriminate attack as a means of combating civilization and technology. The book overall contains a lot of criticism of eco-extremism because like ted kaczinsky's praxis and writing, eco-extremism is ideological. In ideologies, there is a tendency to put ideas before the practical considerations of reality.

However, this does not mean that eco-extremism doesn't put forth any valid points about the effectiveness of violent actions. Bury my heart at wounded knee is a book written about the accounts and experiences of native americans during the spread of western civilization on their land during the 1800s. This conflict had already been going on for hundreds of years, and in this book the author documents both attempts at making peace with the whites and merciless warfare. Both approaches had successes and failures, but ultimately you can't expect to get much from reasoning with people who fallow institutional protocals and are very destructive and violent at the same time as the white people were. Much of the book documents the lamenting of native americans about how the white people always break their promises and are too barbaric to try to meet them eye-to-eye.

In a way, the struggles of the indigenous don't have much to do with the struggles of modern anarchists, but in the real world everything is permitted, and you can't reason with force and coercion ("might is right"). Being non-violent and advocating peace doesn't have a moral high-ground.
answered 3 days ago by Nihilist (1,090 points)