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Is revolution possible? Is it actually possible for anarchists to help bring this about?

+1 vote
Is the big world anarchist revolution just a religion?
asked Aug 10, 2013 by anonymous
You need to say what you mean by "revolution."

2 Answers

–1 vote
Yes, but it's probably not going to happen on a global scale. Either way, we can still do our best to destroy that which destroys us and to manifest our visions and dreams of a better world as much as possible. The zine "Desert" covers this really well.
answered Aug 10, 2013 by AutumnLeavesCascade (10,270 points)
Prove me wrong.
–3 votes
To your first question: Yes, revolution definitely is possible and it already happened multiple times throughout history. Of course revolutions most times do not end in anarchy being obtained.

To the second question: I cannot see how anarchists would be different from anyone else in this regard, so I think they are. Although I also think that those seeking to prevent revolutions are better at it.

To your third question: I do not believe that any global event can culminate in global anarchy. How exactly should one achieve that? You would need a massive shift in how people think for there being no big groups that would revert anarchist achievements and also there is the problem of how one would coordinate anarchists on such a scale.
Most anarchists I know are pacifists also, so I don't see how those would be fine with a global war (and a global revolution means war, I am certain of that).
answered Aug 26, 2013 by Weltraumschlange (740 points)
edited Aug 27, 2013 by Weltraumschlange
"I can't even find a fitting word for the stupid crap you are telling me is my philosophy."

Let's see:
1. If you wanna throw stones, fine...
2. If you think I cannot be an anarchist only because I don't want to take part in your guerrilla war...
3. accusing me of forcing my pacifism on others or sabotaging your precious revolution is kinda mean...
4. Why do you think that violence is *the* tool to change how big organizations work?

These are three very big assumptions you make about what I've been saying, simply because I have not said anything at all about them. I have not mentioned throwing stones. I have not mentioned guerrilla war. I have not accused you of spinelessness or sabotage. I have not mentioned violence (and I would certainly never bring it up without first defining what I mean when I use that word) as any kind of method for anything.

Then there are the weird statements.
1. "please deal with the consequences [of throwing stones] yourself and leave me out of it." This is precisely the reasoning of pacifists when it comes to non-pacifists resisting in ways that offend them: pacifists are frightened that they might be mistaken for so-called violent resisters, and pacifists are frightened that their message is thereby tainted by these horrible stone-throwers. They do everything they can to curtail these mythical creatures from defending themselves however they see fit, from trying to shame them, to physically restraining them, and often pointing them out to the cops. I'm not saying that YOU engage in such obviously authoritarian antics, but pacifists in the US do.

2. "It would be nice if you would just accept that I don't want to use force (physical or psychological violence) against anyone..."
I DO accept it; I don't see why I shouldn't tell you that I think you're making a mistake. The pacifist position is based on bearing moral witness to injustice in order to call into question the legitimacy of some law, some policy, some ideology. Knock yourself out. I'm not trying to stop you from doing what you need to do to register your discontent. BUT by the same token, you'd better not try to stop me from doing what I believe necessary in any given context. If you want to sit on the ground, or lock yourself to a doorway, or throw paint on a tank, fine. Just be prepared to deal with the consequences, and leave me out of it.

3. "I just don't think it will come with one big sweep all across earth and I don't think that revolution is the way to get it."
You're presuming that I (and possibly others who consider themselves revolutionaries) am aiming for some sudden, cataclysmic, class war that spreads as quickly as someone's tweet. This is an absurd allegation, just as it's an absurd scenario. Revolution (if there is to be something like an irreversible abolition of the state, commodity production, wage labor, and the various institutionalized hierarchies that keep the project of Herrschaft going) will most likely be confined to a specific geographical region for some time, with fits and starts, successes and defeats, and might perhaps spread through example to other places, regardless of proximity. I would think something like that taking place in the Global North would be much more destructive (much more like a series of civil wars) than something similar taking place in the Global South. Perhaps not. I don't know, and really I don't care. It's still a goal worth aiming for, because the alternative (the full catastrophe of modern post-industrial capitalism and its innumerable wars, skirmishes, and territorial disputes that wreak havoc all over the globe - but hey, you can still work at carving out a little anarchist pacifist paradise where nasty people just leave you and your friends alone) is unthinkable. The future of sentient life on this planet is in peril, simply because the present is crushingly oppressive. That you want to retreat is your prerogative, but don't preach to me about revolution being destructive. With the combined might of the institutions that exist to perpetuate and extend the ever-tightening grip of transnational corporations and their mercenaries, any attempt at derailing their project will be met with force. Revolutionaries won't be able to withstand most of the unleashed repression that any perceived challenge to capitalist hegemony. But do you think that by resisting politely and with the limited tactics provided by pacifism, that you'll thereby be protected from the wrath of the state if they think your evolutionary pacifism is a serious enough challenge?

4. "thanks to the RAF Anarchy in Germany for a long time was more closely associated with terrorism then with utopian ideas"
The last time I checked, the RAF were Marxist-Leninists, not anarchists. They never tired of trying to correct that confusion that was deliberately pursued by the stupid Springer press and the state-controlled media. The RAF was never anarchist, never had anarchists in it (at least not openly), and was not interested in any anarchist goals. You are treading on dangerous ground with obviously false caricatures.

5. "Sorry, it's the same psychology, the same mechanism. Just take a look at how the USA and the UK are acting right now. They're big bullies, pushing people around, intimidating them with how much muscle they have and how they're going to punch your face in if you dare to help Snowden."
Another typical pacifist analogy, and all analogies are equally absurd. Comparing the antics of a government to bullying is ridiculous. It is the policy and purpose of government to coerce people, whether "their own" citizens, or some scapegoated minority, or some other government. This is the basis of government, it is not an aberration that's happening "right now"; it is happening ALWAYS. The bully who beats you up every day will give up if you kick his ass; until then, he's free to continue bullying you. You can try to "reeducate" the bully, but you'd only be engaging in behavior modification, not dealing with the reasons for the bully to be a bully. If the mechanisms and the psychology are the same, how come you're not dead? And why speak of psychology at all? Because apparently you know what's going on in the minds of individual bullies and institutional bullies. Again, that's some weak authoritarian bullshit right there.

6. "I do not think that one should just lie [down] and take a beating instead of defending yourself and it is certainly decent to help someone who is being beaten up."
And how would you defend yourself against a beating? Running away is one option, but what are the others you have in your toolbox? How would you "help someone who is being beaten up"? Berate the batterer using shame? How about using physical force to restrain or otherwise incapacitate the batterer? That's not any kind of pacifist strategy I'm familiar with. You need to explain what you mean by self-defense and what helping someone who is being beaten up looks like.

Stop with the sarcastic fantasy scenarios; they are a distraction. Stick to what I say, not what you think I might be thinking, or what you think I might believe. Be clearer about what you mean by pacifism if you think my characterizations are unfair; I'm just going by my own experiences as a recovered pacifist and someone who is forced to deal with pacifists locally. Tell me what self-defense and intervening to help someone being beaten look like.
"Stop with the sarcastic fantasy scenarios; they are a distraction. Stick to what I say, not what you think I might be thinking, or what you think I might believe."
Sorry, I have mixed up the original question with what you wrote.

To "sarcastic fantasy scenarios": They may be sarcastic but it's all stuff out of history class. Of course that most likely is biased information but the point still stands that revolutions in most instances made things worse for decades instead of better, measured by the standards of the people who started the revolution in the first place.

To the RAF: I was commenting on the methods, not on who used them.

"I have not accused you of spinelessness"
I know, it just seemed appropriate to say, as I will give up anarchy and run before I put my life into danger. It seems there are a lot of people who would call that spineless.

I use the terms "use of force" and "violence" interchangably in this discussion.
Violence is hard to define, but here are some guidelines.
- something which is likely to cause lasting damage (bashing someone on the head)
- something which is foremost causing fear
- causing pain without any other purpose (like medical ones)
- putting someone under artificial pressure

Pacifism for me means taking the way of least violence. In most instances using violence will cuase more and not less violence.

Sorry, I am running out of time.

I don't want to answer directly anymore because I noticed that I am unable (or at least challenged) to discuss fairly that way. I feel (most likely unfairly) attacked by you. Of course I will continue the discussion, I just want to take a step back.
You feel attacked? I'm basing my arguments on more than 30 years of experiences both as a pacifist myself (for several years at the beginning of those 30) and as a non-pacifist being forced to deal with pacifist so-called allies. I am not using biased (in your case, nearly counter-revolutionary) history or fantasy scenarios. I am using my own experiences, and have challenged you to make your positions clearer and distinct. You attribute fantasy opinions to me, but you feel attacked? Nice.

The methods of the RAF were mandated by their ideology and their strategies, neither of which had anything to do with anarchism. Bringing them up as a negative example is bogus. I loathe their methods too, but for different reasons from you (I think). If you had used the example of the French illegalist anarchists, or the Spanish cenetistas who used similar methods (armed robbery, burglary, forgery, arson, murder), then we would have had something to discuss, since they were anarchists who argued that their methods were compatible with anarchism. But the RAF? That's more than a distraction; it's 100% bad faith, verging on the dishonest. Perhaps it's just a more spectacular and spectacularly failed project? Why not bring up the Bewegung 2. Juni or the RZ? Both were far more anti-authoritarian in their ideologies and their methods than the Stalinists (to the point of working with the Stasi!) of the RAF.

If pacifism "means taking the way of least violence," then that's a new way of understanding pacifism. In my experience, from having been a pacifist, to being forced to interact with pacifists, pacifism means taking the way of no violence, ever. My challenge to you is to show me how "least violence" differs from "no violence."

You already hinted that you reserve for yourself the power to defend yourself and someone else who's being beaten. I have asked you to explain this. You have not, which is seriously disappointing. Why have you avoided this? You seem to want to distinguish your own positions from those I have examined, but you haven't said how they are distinct. Saying "well, I'm not THAT kind of (asshole) pacifist" is unsatisfying.
"I feel (most likely unfairly) attacked by you."
I think that may have been misleadingly written. What I *meant* to say was that my feeling of being attacked probably is not fair to you. It is still there, which probably leads to a less fulfilling discussion for all involved parties.
Your attributions seem to me just fantasy the same because I never have known such militant pacifists. I may have less life experience then you and it probably does matter a lot, but PLEASE would you just consider giving me some leeway and space to think? Just asking for general clarification again and again won't help me in trying to find words to give you what you want. I am not even sure why you didn't already understand what I meant with pacifism with my last post. I thought it provided two useful definitions one could work with. If that's not the case you can try to ask nicely instead of accusing me of dodging questions. I am not dodging them, I have trouble answering, just because of my (probably mislead) emotions, just like I tried to say back then at the end of said post.

Could we please just drop the RAF topic? I tried to make a point of why I think revolution doesn't work and I mentioned the RAF because they had a different approach from the other ones I mentioned before and it just didn't work, just like the other ones.
I couldn't bring up the Bewegung 2. Juni or the RZ because I never heard of them before. Yeah, I am uneducated like that.
Maybe you could point me to a revolutionary effort that actually worked and is somehow applicable to our modern conditions. Or you could tell me why people calling "counterrevolutionaries!" at any opportunity won't be a problem. You know, that would be an actual counter argument instead of just yelling at one of my examples just because that one needs a crutch.

"If pacifism "means taking the way of least violence," then that's a new way of understanding pacifism."
I am more interested in math then in history, so I can explain that one. I think of my life as an optimization problem and it has certain constraints. When there is no way of no violence there is no way I could ever be a pacifist and in tune with reality. Because I am aware that there is violence and that I am incapable of completely banning it from my life I am talking about the way of least violence.
Because I am not only a pacifist, but also an anarchist and a consequentialist and a hedonist and whatnot else that can't be put into a few words, the optimization problem that is my life gets more complex.

"You already hinted that you reserve for yourself the power to defend yourself and someone else who's being beaten. I have asked you to explain this. You have not, which is seriously disappointing. Why have you avoided this?"
Because it''s fucking hard to have a seemingly specific situation for which you have to explain how you would react when it's actually a very complex question! It's like people asking anarchists how an anarchist society would deal with murderers or rapists or even with how to reach common decisions - it depends on the concrete society you are in, what customs the people have, how they are used to living and all that stuff.
It depends on the situation what is appropriate. If cops are taking someone to questioning I won't intervene - why should I, it's not like that's going to actually change anything besides me joining them too. If someone gets beaten up by cops it's a question of whether I feel capable of intervening, what tools I have available and if I can work up the guts to do what I think is necessary and sufficient. I won't throw stones at them, I am mentally not capable of that. The fear of causing lasting damage to anyone and being responsible for that is genuinely scary for me. The same goes for the use of other weapons. Maybe try to distract them, but I have no idea whether that's even feasible so maybe... I don't know, the question is totally removed from my reality. I live in the country, I want to care for our goats and I want to program and I've only once been in the position to intervene when someone was being beaten up by a teenager and I failed at that (because I was afraid) and all my experience of physical violence and outright oppression have been on the receiving end (as far as I can tell), so how the hell am I supposed to answer that question?

"You seem to want to distinguish your own positions from those I have examined, but you haven't said how they are distinct. Saying "well, I'm not THAT kind of (asshole) pacifist" is unsatisfying."
Why is "I don't force others to be pacifists" unsatisfying? The pacifists in your area are militant pacifists, completely unable to accept that other people have reasons for thinking that violence can be a valid answer even if there are other options available and some are even naive enough to think that you can avoid all of it in your life. I already said that and I can't see why you are not accepting that as a distinction.

And once again this post is written with the feeling that I need to defend myself. I only want to tell you why I think the way I do and all that time you seem to be asking me why I think my view on the world is more valid than yours. I KNOW you never wrote that and that feeling probably is wrong but I need to write this answer right now and not in a few days when I had the chance to calm down and forget even more of the discussion. Every time I read a new answer from you it starts with how you accuse me of accusing you of things that I never intended to say about you, of course that's enraging. Heck, obviously it's making you at least a bit uncomfortable, too!
I am trying to be constructive but I am failing because of miscommunication. English isn't my mother tongue and for a long time I had no real opportunity of discussing ethics with anyone who was really interested in the topic. Now I found a community that seems fine because here I thought I could have dissenting views without provoking a flame war.
You brought up the RAF, and have a German screen name, English is not your first language, so I concluded that you were at least as familiar with the other underground groups in Germany during the same era. I'm find with dropping it, but remember, YOU brought it up! If you're uncomfortable with a topic being used against your own arguments, then you've learned something valuable: don't bring up topics you know little about to try to make a point.

I am still unclear about your use of the term "violence." The way you use it seems to mean "anything that is not pacifist," since you use it so frequently, and without any kind of qualification. That kind of polarization is not very useful for a discussion about pacifism, and leads me to conclude that you have not thought very much about a topic that would appear to be fundamental to your self-understanding. All I have done is to pick at what I see as the weak spots of your positions, to challenge you clarify them. It's not my fault if you don't have the language for this.

You constantly presume that I'm talking about "violence" when I am not. I am talking about the limitations of pacifism. Your use of bad history and presumption is what has led to miscommunication. I don't think you are using "flame war" correctly either.