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Is it wrong to seek, through revolutionary action, an Anarchist revolution on a people who do not wish to live in a condition of Anarchy?
by (740 points)
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what does "wrong" mean? what criteria are you using? what kind of revolution are you imagining?

you seem to be imagining that there is an option *not* to live with violence and/or coercion. at most, a change for anarchy might involve a transition time of mass violence and then people would be able to more or less choose how they wanted to live.
but there are other ways besides armed revolution that might lead to an anarchist situation, like the failure of state infrastructure in some huge way.
but yea, i consider this more like i want to stop being forced to be under a state. if other people want authoritarian leadership, as long as they don't force it on me and mine, then that is their choice.
in other words, your framing is not mine.

edit: tagging things with anarchy and anarchism is a total waste. everything on this site is about anarchy and anarchism.

thanks for editing tags :)
I suppose my thought is, is it wrong to seek violent revolution, I suppose its the old question of whether means justify ends. I am intrigued by the idea that one could seek to live in an anarchistic way, without others necessarily living in a similar way, though I think the state would counter such attempts with repeated violence. As for the tagging, I've edited those silly tags out, It does seem pointless, quite why they are an option I don't know.
thanks for the tagging change.

again, you seem to be choosing to attend to some kinds of violence while ignoring other kinds.
a thought: we are all participating in violence all the time.
anarchists are attempting to create a situation where that is not the case.
What kinds of violence am I ignoring? we all engage in some form of violence of some sort or another, be it actual physical acts of violence or violence from inaction or association and apathy. That being said, how can we create a situation where we are not participating in violence?
having asked a similar question of means/ends myself, i think the quoted passage (at the end of the message) from uri gordon's "anarchy alive!" may help. in the original, "voluntarily" is in italics. and the rest of the discussion is really good too, i didn't paste the whole thing, but i really suggest it. and gelderloos's "how nonviolence protects the state" also has a nice discussion of violence, means & ends. there's also pacifism as pathology by churchill (all of which are available at bookos.org), but i haven't finished that yet, so i'm not sure to what extent it would relate to your concerns.

also, gelderloos - anarchy works is also a good start, it basically provides you with the general frame, concepts and bits of discussions by asking commonsensical but important questions.

"Unlike other revolutionary movements, anarchists explicitly distance themselves from the position that the end justifies the means. They cannot say that violence, on whatever level, would be justified just because it helps achieve a free society. Rather, they believe that means and ends should always be of the same substance. The argument thus tends to take the following, straightforward form: ‘Anarchists want a non-violent society. Anarchists also believe that the revolutionary movement should prefigure the desired society in its means and ways. Therefore, anarchists cannot use violence to achieve a non-violent society’. This argument again seems very logical, but it fails on several counts. Beginning with the first premise, it is simply untrue that anarchists desire a ‘non-violent society’ and nothing else. If lack of violence were the only issue, then one might expect anarchists to equally desire a hypothetical totalitarian state, in which the threat of Draconian sanctions is so effective that all citizens obey the law and the state consequentially does not need to ever actually use violence. The point, of course, is that anarchists want a stateless, voluntarily non-violent society. Given this, it should first be emphasised that the type of violence anarchists are primarily concerned with abolishing is violent enforcement or institutional violence – an area in which complaints about prefiguration are irrelevant since anarchists certainly do not promote or use these forms."

(i think this is more a comment than an answer, so i hided it from answers, and pasted it here.)
Its interesting, there are forms of violence that nobody, not even an idealistic anarchist, could deny were legitimate. Violence can take many forms and have many purposes, it all depends upon who is being violent and why. I can't imagine many people honestly rejecting violence as a means of self defence, whether that defence is of themselves against non-state aggressors(thugs) or state endorsed thugs such as police or military people. Such self defensive violence as say, defending oneself and ones "comrades" from violent state suppression is hard to argue against, though what role such violence plays in the wider ideas of revolution,  I am less certain.
yea, most of the anarchists i hang out with don't talk about wanting a nonviolent anarchy, and i would never say that is what *i* want.

violence is one of those words that means too much and too many different things to different people. which is why i keep asking what you (a-g) mean by it. but mostly you (a-g) just keep saying the word.
so, yes, we are involved in a society where the violence done doesn't require active participation from most people, who are taught that they are not violent because they are not actively participating in it, only choosing other people to participate in it for them, or to do things that support it in other ways. i would absolutely choose/prefer a society where we have to protect ourselves and each other, where we have to kill our own food, where we are face to face with being alive in the world instead of wrapped in supermarkets and apartment buildings and police protection, etc.
again, you are defining violence in a way that has been given to you by our enemies. the articles that lilah listed are good ones to start thinking about it in a different way.
Most of the time when people say "wrong" and "violent," they just mean "whatever I don't like." This is neither helpful nor particularly honest. To put ideas and actions into categories of right and wrong requires a moralistic worldview, and that's inherently authoritarian. Similarly, using the term "violence" without any attempt at a provisional definition or list of characteristics keeps the discussion in the same realm of moralism. Words, especially words that purport to be Big Words, need to be more descriptive and less emotive if you want to have a decent conversation. Without contextualizing these Big Words, you are automatically defaulting their meaning to the dominant cultural understanding, which is definitely not an anarchist meaning.
I'm going to read those articles. Its good to have my preconceived ideas challenged on this website, violence is one of those terms that is hard to pin down to a definite meaning without also including a raft of other definitions that come from external sources, be it the state(in the form of crime statistics or excuses for "law enforcement") or from other peoples preconceived notions, which are influenced both by their own ideology and from the ideology of others still. I suppose in this context I am trying to define violence as the use of revolutionary political violence; attacking the state, removing state power through violence. Thus creating a situation where one has succeeded in removing the state but where other people, who do not share the same beliefs as the "revolutionaries" are no faced with the lack of state.
When I use such words, I am trying to play the devils advocate, is it wrong to attempt a revolution that is counter to what some people in a given society, actually want or believe they want?
In order to raise questions and hope for a decent discussion, it does nobody any good to play the devil's advocate; in this case you're the state's advocate by allowing the dominant understanding of "violence" to go unchallenged. It is unnecessarily confusing.
i think that advocating for the devil/asking difficult questions is a skill that can take some practice, and that it is worth practicing.
yay difficult questions!
and the question of desire, and forcing change on people, is a good question.
I up-voted this question (even though it is naive, absurd, moralistic and/or bedeviled lol!) only because I have once encountered this very same challenge. Also reading it, rather than hearing it, has helped me to see it's Achilles heel. I would have otherwise forgotten this absurd argument. Plus reading dot's and lawrence's comments is like watching my heros slay yet another clay-footed-giant! Cheers!
a shorter text that addresses violence briefly but i think cogently is terror incognita


also: skitter: lol (and yay for the use of bedeviled! awesome word. :) )
"is it wrong to attempt a revolution that is counter to what some people in a given society"

to me, your framing of this question seems to assume a single, mass "society" is the only option for human life, and the whole of it must live under some single set of ideas. i find that assumption flawed. (if i am wrong about your assumption, do tell). if some folks in your society want to live as anarchists, and others don't, why wouldn't those folks simply remove themselves as best they can and create a life outside that mass society (whatever that might mean geographically), one where behaving anarchistically is more the norm (and surely the desire).  that is an alternative to mass "revolution" that attempts to impose one way of living on all, which cannot possibly be anarchistic in my world.

as dot mentioned above, if others want rulers - and they can have them without impacting my life - go for it! (fat chance they wouldn't eventually impact my life).
My opinion on this matter has changed quite significantly since I asked this question, partly through the things I've read and partly through reading other peoples opinions on here(always a good thing to challenge ones opinions). I think when I asked the question, I was rather of the opinion that the only way an Anarchistic society could truly be achieved would be through a mass society revolution, now I'm not so sure that this is the *only* or even a desirable way to achieve liberation.

1 Answer

+5 votes
What is perceived as "forcing" or coercion on the part of anarchists or "Anarchism" is, in fact, the attempted undoing of a preexisting force and coercion wrought via state and capital. Most of the time it's not even attempted so much as desired and discussed among those seeking to change these social relationships.

Attributing this 'force' to anarchists in such an ahistorical, decontextualized, like-for-like manner utterly lacks proportion and perspective on quality, quantity, and frequency. The basic premise of this question is an incredible stretch and (judging from all the comments discussing this) it seems to have snapped. The logic implied can be questioned metaphorically and with equal absurdity; Is it "wrong" for a slave to "force" her desire of freedom onto her master?

Edited for grammar.
by (4.0k points)
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Defensive force is not wrong and does not violate the non-aggression principle. So, if you are asserting your right to defend yourself against the aggression of the state, it is not wrong. I don't know any other reason an anarchist would want to use force against people.

edited to make a comment.
The "non-aggression principle" is a contradictory and useless concept and "rights" don't exist.