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are anarchists against violence?

+1 vote
edited for tags
asked Jan 13, 2013 by Yohei (130 points)
edited Jul 15, 2014 by dot
Hi Yohei,

There are already some questions that address some aspects of this, I encourage you to explore. In particular these might be of interest to you:


Also, some better tagging would be helpful to this question, such as "violence." That will help your question link nicely to others exploring similar topics, peruse the tags section if you haven't, I have found that is super helpful in not reasking questions or answering the same question for the millionth time.

2 Answers

+1 vote
Best answer
No. *Some* anarchists are against violence, however,  *some* are in favor of violence. The ones who I tend to agree the most with see it as a much more complex thing than merely something to be for/against. It will, of course also depend on how you are defining violence.

As I see it, violence is something that exists. It is particularly prevalent in societies that are hierarchical and based on domination (such as, oh, say... this one), but it also exists to varying extents in all societies, and in the non-humkan world (see dot's answer to the first question I linked to in the comment above for a little more on how we tend not to recognize that). Often times non-anarchists play up the degree of violence anarchists perpetrate, and have often talked about uncivilized nature in terms of being particularly based in violence (the old "red in tooth and claw" thing), though many anarchists (including myself) would argue that the opposite is somewhat more true.

Sometimes anarchists defend violence that is seen as self defense, and will often extend the argument of self defense to attacks on symbols of capitalism, cops, and other things we generally don't like as defensive actions. I have certainly done this at times in my life. I think that is actually a mistake.

Arguments for self defense accept the terrain that power has put forward as legitimate: that violence in defensive action is justified), but I think that always puts us in a reactive position, we are defencding against their attacks and agressions, as opposed to attacking them because we reject them. It also ignores that fact that violece perpetrated by those in power/authority/whatever-we-want-to-call-it will always be seen as legitimate (if it is acknowledged at all), whereas violence against them will always be seen as illegitimate. As liberating as it can be to experience the feeling of transgressing against what is legitimate, I think we need to play on our own terms, not on theirs.

All this is not to imply that I relish violence. I am actually quite wary of those who glamorize violence, and in my personal life try to minimize the amount of violence I engage in because I find it personally distasteful in most situations. Put simply, I'd rather live a life where most of my interactions are based on shared joy and affinity than on conflict. As I pointed out already though, it is impossible to avoid violence altogether and be alive, so determining how and when I encounter violence, to the greatest extent possible is desireable to me.
answered Jan 14, 2013 by ingrate (23,670 points)
0 votes
anarchism includes within itself those who openly advocate the use of violence for social struggle and revolution and a radical pacifist section which opposes any type of violence called anarcho-pacifism as advocated by people like Leo Tolstoy, ammon Hennacy, Bart de Ligt and Dorothy Day which is also heavily influenced by Mohandas Gandhi (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarcho-pacifism)

These two citations show the complexity of the issue within anarchism

"Anarchists are opposed to violence; everyone knows that. The main plank of anarchism is the removal of violence from human relations. It is life based on freedom of the individual, without the intervention of the gendarme. For this reason we are the enemies of capitalism which depends on the protection of the gendarme to oblige workers to allow themselves to be exploited--or even to remain idle and go hungry when it is not in the interest of the bosses to exploit them. We are therefore enemies of the State which is the coercive violent organization of society."

Errico Malatesta

"And since the environment today, which obliges most people to live in misery, is maintained by violence, we advocate and prepare for violence. That is why we are revolutionaries, and not because we are desperate men thirsting for revenge and filled with hate....We must, in every way possible, and in accord with local conditions and possibilities, encourage action by associations, cooperatives, groups of volunteers — in order to prevent the emergence of new authoritarian groups, new governments, combating them with violence if necessary, but above all by rendering them useless. "

Errico Malatesta
answered Jan 16, 2013 by iconoclast (4,600 points)