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United States Law and Anarchism

+1 vote
I'm an Anarchist who's still new into Anarchism and I'm non-violent , all for peace , anti-war ( Anarcho-pacifism ) and I live in the United States.

While doing research I came across a label which the United States Law called " Criminal Anarchy " . Now I am very well aware that there are Anarchists in protests that might seem to take destructive action but I do not place judgement because we're all fighting for the same thing for the most part.

Anyway what's interesting is according to the FBI website it says in quote “ Anarchism is a belief that society should have no government, laws, police, or any other authority. Having that belief is perfectly legal, and the majority of anarchists in the U.S. advocate change through non-violent, non-criminal means .”

And then I found this

18 U.S. Code § 2385 - Advocating overthrow of Government

It's confusing to me. I've heard about anarchists who had peaceful protests and still there was police brutality. To me it seems like the people who made those laws refuse to do their research and understand what Anarchism really is about and instead just fear it and be ignorant and make it a law. What are your opinions on this ? And for any other Anarcho-pacifism Anarchists who might be reading this , do you think revolution could be possible in peaceful protest ? Are there similar laws in other countries too ?
asked Jan 5 by anonymous

3 Answers

+1 vote

That law is associated with of the Smith Act, so is "criminal anarchy," for the most part. Those particular laws were created during the first red scare in the US. Aspects of them have been ruled unconstitutional. Some anarchists and communists arrested and convicted under that law in the 50s challenged their convictions to the US supreme court, and their convictions were overturned. The "criminal anarchy" aspect has also been ruled unconstitutional in Brandenburg v. Ohio in the late 60s providing there was no imminent, "clear and present danger" of mass amounts of violence to overthrow the government or something. Parts of them have also been repealed, I believe. US laws are confusing and contradictory often. The US has made similar laws in the past, like the Alien and Sedition Act back in 1798.

Other countries do have similar laws against attempting to overthrow the government. I doubt the laws against it would deter a group that would try.

I personally don't think revolution is plausible regardless of the tactics used, let alone from peaceful protests.

answered Jan 6 by human (3,830 points)
edited Jan 6 by human
so how do you view yourself being an anarchist? like you have your set of beliefs values and opinions that obviously affect your life and actions, but you don't believe they will ever be actualized on a large scale? how does that affect your actions, do you participate in radical or illegal activist activities? would you say you are less willing to take high risks?
+2 votes
This answer is long and in two parts.

Part One: The Legal Crap

As far as I know, most "Criminal Anarchy" statutes date back to the cold war or the original red scare. There is also the related Espionage Act, which led to the deportation of many anarchists, including Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman.

I am no legal scholar (thank Godwin!), but I believe that the legal line (which is just as malleable as the state wants it to be, so "line" is maybe the wrong word here) is that you can think that the world would be better if the United States was completely erased and in place was a collection of bolos (a bolo of bolo?). You can say "it is my opinion that the United States should be replaced by a bolo'bolo." You could go on Anderson Cooper 360 and say, to CNN's entire fake-news consuming viewership, "Well Anderson, you silver fox, the increasingly evident plutocracy and concentration of capital evidenced under the Trump regime, but which has been present throughout United States history, is exactly why we would be better served by splitting off into specific bolo, and then having relations between them in a bolo'bolo."

If, instead, you went to a rally of people who would prefer bolo and said, "fellow ibu, we have suffered too long. to the bolo'bolo!" and then the people who would prefer bolo declared themselves ibu and began actively seceding from the US and forming bolo (bolo-becoming?). That would probably be where you've crossed the line. If you happened to have a stockpile of materials designed to be used in the furtherance of bolo, you would definitely be fucked, and any literature or other evidence that showed you were dedicated to the furtherance of bolo would further sink you.

But I'm not a legal expert, I'm an anarchist.

Part 2: Fuck the Law

Yes, the police use force on nonviolent protesters all the time. The role of the police force is maintaining order for the powers that be, which ultimately boils down to the free functioning of capital, although there are lots of other things that they reinforce, the purpose and function of modern police is grounded firmly in defending the economic status quo. Demonstrations are seen as inhibiting the smooth functioning of the system ("the system" is complicated, I hate the phrase, but I'm using it as shorthand here). At the same time, cracking down on everything runs the risk of widening discontent, leading to even larger disruptions. Whether we are talking rioters, peaceful Black Lives Matter protests, tree sitters, or what have you, at some point the flow of capital must continue, and status quo must be reestablished. That is when the truncheons come out, the pepper spray is deployed, and blast balls get thrown.

Where things cross the line varies, but the line exists in every conflict with power. The need for police to cross that line is mediated by the use of permits and the state sanctioning of demonstrations, which might be one way (but certainly not the only way) to contrast the state reaction to J20 Inauguration Day actions last year to J21 (the Women's March). It is much more complicated than that, obviously, and I am not going to write a whole book on this site...

Regarding the state doing better research, it really depends which parts of "the state" we are talking about. There are some parts of law enforcement and domestic intelligence that have very good understanding of the culture(s), goals, and methods anarchists employ. At the same time, there are frequently assessments that are surprisingly daft. Ultimately, what matters to the state is that we are enemies of them. Frankly, I am not an anarcho-pacifist, but I don't think the state really cares much about what tactics you employ or what particular ideology you hold, you are an enemy, enemies must be contained, marginalized, and/or eliminated.
answered Jan 6 by ingrate (20,590 points)
edited Jan 6 by ingrate
lol. this post will be totally opaque to anyone who hasn't read bolo'bolo (which is, btw, the plural of bolo), and perhaps couldn't be a better provocation to go read it.
good point. will edit to please the grammar-bolo
not sure this is entirely right, but what do you think I am, someone with a high school diploma?

I beginning to believe you and dot are shills for bolo'bolo ;)

in effect if not in intent.

hey, bolo'bolo is a great book. i recommend it and reference it constantly. have either of ya'll read the "follow-up" the power of neighbourhood? 

am i the only anarchist who doesn't like bolo bolo?
i've read some of it, it sounded intriguing, but i couldn't get into it or come close to reading it all.
Boles, what don’t you like about bolo’bolo?

There are a few things about it I’m not keen on, but I’d love to hear your criticism of it.

i'd also be interested in folks' critique of the book. from an anarchist perspective (and taking a broad view), it could of course be critiqued as tending heavily towards communist. it has been a number of years since i last read it, but i remember not being crazy about some of the specifics as p.m. lays them out. 

overall, i got a great deal out of the ideas in that book. it is still my favorite starting point for thinking about and discussing a world i would much rather live in; but only that, a starting point. i might choose a solo bolo. :-)

a few items from my hazy recollection of reading the first english edition, which i know will be unsatisfying to those who read it more recently and more attentively. there are some odd ideas about how the worldwide/universal bolo will come about (perhaps my feeling about the oddness had to do with my youthful attraction to Revolution?), as if the irreversible transformation of capitalism and the state would come about due to widespread indifference. while i appreciate the cultural basis of most bolos, the lack of an explanation of how it might be possible to resolve overlapping and/or conflicting affinities within a single bolo -- other than the ability of minority secession -- leaves a lot out of the cultural discussion. i found the focus on the suicide capsule to be something like a fetish. i'm certain that i had other criticisms, but honestly that's all i can remember at such a late date
I would never tie my hands behind my back in the face of an adversary willing to use force by calling myself a pacifist
Yosemite, something I thought when reading about it w/o reading it are the same issue I have with revolutions vs insurrections and utopianism in general. when you start proposing a future, and even more so when you are so specific, I have to start to ask the question how would you get there (which the book addresses) and also, how would you keep it that way? but, what I read about it stated that some of it is not concretely serious.

In addition: I find the whole "separate into intentional communities thing" ridiculous. on one forum that sways heavily toward ancom/ancap boring ass unrealistic ideology spewing armchair revs, there were proposals for a world divided into political ideologies and I thought to myself, do these people actually think everyone has a strong ideological identity and would want to separate with their families (assuming they may disagree) and where they grew up to live with a bunch of other enthusiastic ancoms? cuz I would rather use the suicide capsule. the suggestions for different bolos I saw were not political but immediately drew the same thought. playbolo alcobolo jesubolo lesbolo, cant remember the other bolo given as an example but I hear people talk all the time about how lgbt people or racial minorities have other things to their identities/personhood. this is why I find the idea of people organizing into communities based on a love for play, alcohol, jesus, or being gay or almost anyone thing being ridiculous. not to mention what above said about overlapping or different affinities. this seemed to be interpreted like a serious suggestion in the book.
funky: by solobolo do you mean the world as one large single bolo or you are a hermit?

it's totally possible to read bolo'bolo as you do here DD, but my sense of the potential of people picking a bolo is that they're picking what is most important to them at that part of their life; so it's a commitment to their own vision, and since people can change bolos, it can shift as they change. the specific bolos listed in the book seem like jokes to me, as well as simplifications to get the gist of the idea across to readers.

but again, it's totally possible and fair to read the book differently.

dd: i was mostly joking, but i definitely was referring more to the latter. the former would kind of contradict the bolo'bolo concept, i think.
0 votes

they ignore peaceful protests but you cant ignore a burning police car.

slogans aside, you should check out the criticisms of pacifism on this site. it hasn't even been viewed as a tool for social change until the past couple hundred years. there is a great argument to be made that the champions of pacifism ghandi and king wouldn't have been successful in their aims w/o the threat of other violent groups or the believe that armed struggle is eminent without change. prior to recent history pacifism was viewed as a moral choice and was usually practiced by religious deacons. now, it is seen as the right thing to do, which is supposedly why it should be the method for change. ghandi and king were not moral pacifists based on their words and actions and were actually just using it as a tool. read smash pacifism at the anarchist library website.

Actually, the vast majority of people I meet are dramatically misinformed or uninformed about anarchy. Governments write ridiculous and contradictory laws based on non sense beliefs and misperceptions all the time. for these two reasons I am not surprised or confused by the by definition and the law. the definition demonstrates only that they are ignorant lying or both, and the law demonstrates that they will use force to keep control.

the fbi's saying that the beliefs are legal and that there is a criminal and non criminal way to be an anarchist are highlighting why I believe peaceful protest is generally insufficient (not to mention relying on one tactic in anything is a bad idea). there is a reason speech is free and actions are not, there is a reason you are allowed to peacefully ​assemble, there is a reason the term civil disobedience has the word civil in it. all of these reasons are the same and that reason is that if voting changed anything it would be illegal!!

so no I don't think it would be effective, the fact the government gives you the freedom to do that in and of itself indicates this because they obviously aren't going to allow you to do anything that could be a significant threat to their power.

answered Feb 10 by DonnieDarko (580 points)