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what do anarchists understand as legitimate violence?

+4 votes
edited by dot to add tags
related to an answer for: How do anarchists define violence?
asked Apr 15, 2010 by matt.the.prick (550 points)
edited Jul 13, 2014 by dot
the question would be best addressed by a survey response, like the one aragorn23 did for the question on "the different threads of anarchy". there is too wide a variation in thinking on this point.

2 Answers

0 votes
all right, since no one else is biting...

as a general statement, i guess anarchists find acceptable violence that in some way is about changing society for the better, which of course can mean widely disparate things.
historically anarchists are known far and wide as dark-cloaked bomb throwers, famous for "propaganda of the deed" -- killing or hurting people who are (and/or are symbolic of being) against normal people (typically these targets are kings, prime ministers, heads of corporations, etc), specifically for the purpose of encouraging normal people to rise up against their oppression.
Alexander Berkman went to prison for attempting to kill Henry Frick (responding to the shooting deaths of several striking workers).
today the kinds of anarchists who are most scary to some are insurrectionary anarchists (situation-specific), primitivist or green anarchists (through ELF and ALF connections) , and under certain circumstances anarcha-feminists (rapists, abusers, etc).

i look forward to someone writing a better answer than this. ;)
answered Apr 20, 2010 by dot (50,790 points)
–3 votes
All violence from the oppressed against their oppressors is Legitimate.

All violence from the oppressor to the oppressed is Illegitimate.

Violence contains within it the power to defend and the power to destroy.  The violence is legitimate to the extent that the thing being defended is a legitimate thing to defend or the thing being destroyed is a legitimate thing to destroy.

A short list of things to destroy:
Capital and Capitalism
the State and Imperialism
Colonial White Supremacy
and the forces destroying the earth and animals.

and all violence from the targets of these oppressions is legitimate against the agents of these oppressions.
answered Apr 25, 2010 by Taigarun (1,910 points)
i don't find this kind of answer very compelling, personally. it's a pre-foucaultian conception of power (which just means that it treats power as an object that some people have, and other people don't have - vs the perception of power as something that we all have in different ways and at different times). we are all oppressed, as far as i'm concerned, even the most privileged person, so how does the above definition work for me?
on top of that, capital and capitalism (for example) are not objects, although they can be exemplified in objects... so how can you destroy them? and is destruction necessarily violence?
just some thoughts...
"we are all oppressed, as far as i'm concerned, even the most privileged person..."  -dot
I don't understand this.  By my understanding of those words, privilege and oppression are diametric opposites.  Privilege is something given that is unearned, and oppression is something denied that is given to others.
Your thoughts on that?

Capital is a social relationship and social relationships can be destroyed.  Capitalism is an economic system rooted in the social relation of capital.  It too can be destroyed.

To destroy something is to break, separate, split, or divide something until it can no longer function in its same capacity.

Ex.  The Black Liberation Army took up a policy of killing a cop every time a cop killed a black person.  This was done in part to destroy the existing social relationship between the police and the black community.

Of course not all destruction is violent; some destruction is violent.  If you destroy heavy construction vehicles, that is a not violent attack against capital, but if you attacked the owner of the vehicle, or the person attempting to protect it, that would be a violent attack against an agent of capital.

In terms of my philosophical perspective on power:  I believe that power is the ability to affect a meaningful change in a given realm, that realm being what you have power over.
It seems that you keep viewing power as such a static relation, when in reality the concept of power is very dynamic relation. I can't say for sure but i am going to take a stab at what "dot" means when they say that even "the most privileged person is oppressed"

 You need to account the system that we live in, and that realm you seem to be approaching the idea of power relations from is that of "class war" which makes sense being that you consider yourself anti-post-left. But it is not only the "oppressed" who are oppressed by capitalism, unfortunately the discourse that continues to be generated from leftist thought makes talking about the matter fairly difficult, but only in terms language, not in terms of concepts or ideas.

 Although there most certainly still is a ruling class, they too are oppressed by capitalism because  they are also denied access to live in a world free from hierarchy, this by no means makes them innocent, but also by no means proves that seek to live in this world that has already been created.

Meaning, you don't have to be of the "oppressed" class to desire the destruction of this world and oppression and hierarchy, you can also simultaneously desire the destruction of oppression and hierarchy while stile contributing to it, this of course is one of the most magnificent (not in a good way) things about capitalism, the fact that people are forced to live in contradictions under it's power.

Basically literally, privilege and oppression are opposites, however since we do not live in a dictionary and nothing exists in a vacuum, it is very possible to both possess "privilege" and be "oppressed" at the same time.
I approach this not just from a "class war" point of view, but from a perspective that is against all forms of oppression.

I of course know that it is possible to experience both privilege and oppression because I do.  I am oppressed by class structures and capitalism, I am oppressed by Patriarchy, I am oppressed by hetero-patriarchy and cis-supremacy, and I am privileged by settler-colonialism and white-supremacy, and I am privileged by the euro-centrism and the centrality of english, and I am oppressed and privileged by different aspects of ableism.

Many people in the united states experience their lives as intersection of different privileges and oppressions.  It is only a very small group of people that are privileged in every way, and a small group of people who are oppressed in every way.

I refuse to sit around and theorize on the drawbacks of being a capitalist.  I reject the "mo' money, mo' problems" framework.  Capitalist own slaves: that is their freedom.  Even if a capitalist thinks they would be "more happy" living in a world based on communes, where property and oppression were abolished, and there were pot lucks and dancing in the streets every night, THAT DOES NOT MEAN THEY ARE OPPRESSED.  That means they are privileged now and they would prefer a different way to live.  That is a preference, not a struggle for survival.

Anyone can desire the destruction of oppression and capitalism.  Anyone can be a meaningful part of this destruction.

I've been trying to wrap my head around your comment: "But it is not only the "oppressed" who are oppressed by capitalism..."

I think what you are saying is that there is a static concept of "the oppressed." (maybe refering to: the working class, or toiling masses or something)  And that these "The Oppressed" are not the only oppressed people.  If that is what you are saying, then I agree: I recognize many intersecting lines of oppression in our world, however, if what you are saying is that capitalists are oppressed by capitalism too, then you can go fuck yourself right to hell.
taigarun:  (are you still around?? haven't seen your posts lately, sadly.)
For the ruling classes, perhaps 'oppressed' isn't as suitable a term as 'constrained'.  They have more comforts of life, to be sure, but the actions they may take are severely constrained by their 'consensus reality', their aggregated idea of what is socially acceptable by one of their class ... and any deviation from that norm is viciously addressed - and the 'deviant' cast out of their society.

Those with the most to lose are perhaps the most fearful of losing anything, while those with next to nothing have little to lose.  This fear is little addressed by those critiques obsessed with the defence of privileges; and this fear leads directly to violent lashing out, both through normal human irrationality, and through ruling class social conditioning.  When the ruling class gets scared, people get hurt.

Why does this matter?  --  What motivates my enemies?  What are their weaknesses, their irrational foibles?  What drives them to do stupid things, to risk their personal wealth/privilege/position?  How do i use that to fuck them over?