An article from Do or Die Issue 10. In the paper edition, this article appears on page(s) 1-101.
The counter-culture must act in real solidarity with our struggling sisters and brothers on other islands. Aid them in whatever we can and bring the 'majority world' battlefronts to the boardrooms, bedrooms and barracks of the bourgeoisie.
"Our intention is to disrupt the empire. To incapacitate it, to put pressure on the cracks, to make it hard to carry out its bloody functioning against the people of the world, to join the world struggle, to attack from the inside."
- Prairie Fire, The Weather Underground Organisation, 1974
"Mohammed Singh Azad. Sindabad! No apologies. Not a shot in the dark. This is a warning. The sleeping tiger awakes each and every morning. The time is now right to burst the imperial bubble. And my act of revenge is just a part of the struggle. A bullet to the head won't bring back the dead. But it will lift the spirits of my people. We'll keep on fighting. We've been a nation abused. Your stiff upper lip will bleed. And your pride will be bruised. I'll shake hands with the hangman. I'll wear the noose with pride. For unlike the British I've no crimes to justify. Pentonville will be my last place on earth. And then death will return me to the land of my birth."
- Assassin, Asian Dub Foundation 
All over this earth millions of peasants, workers and tribals are defending themselves and the land against constant assaults by capital. In every nation the war between the classes escalates and at present it is the rich that are winning most of the battles.
Ever since the radical ecological direct action movement emerged, one of its central themes has been support for struggles in the Majority World. The communities we have chosen to support have reflected changes in our worldview and how we see ourselves.
At first, only 'non-violent' struggles were given any support. This can be illustrated by looking at the Direct Action Empowerment Video - produced in early 1993. The film (which I like, despite some cringe-worthy moments) covers ecological conflicts around the world. The only Majority World struggles given space were the Narmada protests, the Ogoni in Nigeria and the Penan logging blockades in Sarawak. At the time, all three communities professed some sort of non-violence code. The tactic of 'non-violent' confrontation is pretty rare in the Majority World, for sensible reasons, so this selection is quite revealing. During the '90s most of our circles abandoned the ideology of non-violence and as a result we have increasingly been supporting those engaged in armed resistance to the global empire. Now perceiving ourselves as 'revolutionaries', we are engaged with revolutionary communities.
Originally our actions were media-centric, trying to bring press attention to the plight of our 'adopted' peoples. Now that we see ourselves involved in a growing network of communities in resistance, how do we engage in real solidarity?
Real solidarity with a rebellion abroad is (as the Zapatistas hammer on at us) creating rebellion at home. Only a truly global rising will put an end to class society/civilisation and give birth to a new world. Fighting not for them but with them against a common enemy. However, there are some important things that we are well placed to do. Below is by no means a complete list.
IMAGE: Zapatistas confront the Mexican state in the Lacandon jungle.
Thanks to exchange rates small amounts of hard currency can have a much larger effect in Majority World countries than it does here. Providing practical financial aid for revolutionary groups abroad should not be seen as charity. It's merely a tool of solidarity that we have available to us as a result of our position in the highly moneterised capitalist core.
The types of low intensity warfare that many groups find themselves in are not fought out simply between soldiers and armed groups. They are fought out in the 'hearts and minds' of the community as a whole. A long established tenet of counter-revolutionary warfare is to firstly grind down the subsistence and health of a population. Secondly, at the moment of desperation, offer medical, educational and technical aid to families and villages within the conflict zone who are willing to take sides with the state and corporations. The carrot-and-stick approach aims to disconnect the population from radicals in its midst, and form counter-gangs to oppose them. By supplying aid money directly to struggling communities we can in part oppose this process through positive action. For instance one minor punk benefit gig in America paid for a Zapatista (EZLN) community to be connected up to clean water. One US/Mexican anarchist federation quickly raised enough money to set up a women's health clinic in Chiapas.
Regimes often purposefully spread diseases in rebellious populations and put up medical blockades. This is exacerbated by the fact that many struggling communities do not have basic immunity to Western diseases and live on marginal land, or in slums and shanty towns. Thanks to malnutrition they often have weakened immune systems from the start.
One Bougainvillian told me that due to the medical blockade by Papua New Guinea (PNG), £25 raised in Britain to smuggle in medical aid could save the life of half a dozen revolutionaries on Bougainville. If that's not a good deal I don't know what is! Saving the lives of six, self-described ecological revolutionaries, for the price of a couple of rounds down the pub and a curry!
When people try to defend themselves and their land, the resulting military repression often forces a significant proportion of the population to flee over borders to the relative safety of neighbouring countries. The resulting life of the refugee can vary tremendously but is almost always hard, poor and crammed. Often forced to rely on outside support, refugee communities sometimes find none at all.
When the Nigerian military cracked down on the Ogoni resistance against Shell Oil, around a third of the Ogoni fled their home villages, many of which had been razed to the ground. Thousands fled to camps in neighbouring countries where they lived for months in squalid conditions. A small amount of medical aid, clothing and funds were collected in Britain and sent over by a solidarity group and by Ogoni living in London. In a desperate situation this aid made a real difference.
However, it was still very little compared with what could have been raised. At the time the Ogoni were big in the newspapers and hundreds were willing to risk arrest in petrol station blockades across the country. Tens of thousands could easily have been raised by local groups. Even without public fundraising a sizeable amount could have been raised very quickly. At least 300 people took part in the petrol station blockades. If just those 300 people had each put in a fiver £1,500 could have been raised at the click of our movement's fingers - enough for a sizeable aid package!
Recently a couple of hundred quid was sent to Papua New Guinea. This paltry amount paid for a consignment of anti-malarial drugs for West Papuan refugees.
Of course, any movement which gains any success will quickly find some of its number in prison. Being in prison in Europe is no picnic and our movement's prisoners desperately need more support than they get. Most of the problems we associate with prison support here are similar outside of the West but in more drastic ways.
Family visits, if allowed at all, are often costly both in travel and in bribes. In many Majority World countries a prisoner will not be fed from the prison budget but will have to rely on his community to supply either food itself or money to the prison in order to stay alive. (It's worth pointing out this used to be the case in many British prisons hundreds of years ago!) In the usually horrendously unhygienic conditions decent doctors also have to be paid for. Even the smallest 'privilege' can be impossible without bribes to prison officials. Legal aid will also have to be paid. This financial burden can cripple families. Increasingly, the time and energy a community used to put into revolutionary action has to be put into raising funds to keep its prisoners alive and relatively healthy.
Over the last few years British Anarchist Black Cross activists have raised hundreds of pounds for East European anarchist prisoners and their support campaigns. This money has been a large boost because hundreds of British pounds in countries like the Czech Republic and Poland translates into a lot of money. In the Third World this is even more the case. Ridiculously small amounts of money can make a real difference to those in cages in the colonies.
Why not sponsor a pamphlet, leaflet, book or poster campaign by an anarchist/ecological group outside of the West? You'll definitely get more propaganda for your pennies! As an example a donation of $40 from anarchists in the US paid for a campaign of stickers, posters and leaflets by anarchists in universities across the Czech Republic. Another good recent example is the funding and provision of basic radio transmission and studio equipment by Black liberationists in the US to the anarcho-syndicalist Awareness League in Nigeria.
Revolutionary tourism - a contentious subject! I would say that, despite limitations, Western activists can be very useful on the ground in Majority World struggles - as long as they take their cue from native groups and don't just follow their own agenda. This opinion is shared by the Mexican EZLN, the Free Papua Movement (OPM), the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA), Anti-Dam communities in India and the Rainbow Keepers in Russia; all of which have recently asked for foreign radicals to come to their lands. From the perspective of the volunteer, sojourns in others struggles can be extremely instructive.
Activists should only take part in this on-the-ground solidarity at the invitation of the communities themselves. In some situations, the presence of a foreigner can bring down hassle on the community and just be another mouth to feed. The communities will know what is needed and what is applicable.
Three years ago some EF!ers and friends published a great basic guide to what one can practically do on-the-ground in Chiapas. Though much of it will be inapplicable to other struggles, I urge anyone thinking of engaging in a bit of revolutionary tourism to read this book which goes into far greater detail than I do here.
Essentially, the useful work that can be done by Western activists can be divided into work involving: 1 - Specialist practical skill and 2 - Work which involves very little specialist practical skill. I'll deal with these two areas separately.
The nature of the struggle will define what skills outside radicals can provide that might not be available or plentiful to struggling communities. In general, external specialist technological expertise is more useful in less urban struggles. I'll list just a few of the most obvious useful skills that have been requested by movements in recent years.
If you have little of the skills described above you can still - depending on the struggle - be of possible great use on-the-ground. As an anarchist Westerner one is in the peculiar position of, upon leaving the West, being able to do certain things merely because of the passport one carries or the colour of one's skin. The following is just a short list of some useful roles. It is worth underlining that these can largely only be carried out in situations no more intense than low intensity warfare.
In Chiapas, 'Human Rights Observers' have taken part in the work of the communities too, rather than just hang about waiting for the next military incursion. At the time of writing, similar work is underway in Palestine where Israelis and foreign activists are picking olives in frontline Palestinian villages. This is in reaction to the shootings, by Zionist settlers and the army, of Palestinians doing the harvest on exposed positions. While I have put agricultural work under the general heading of non-specialist it would be foolish to underestimate the skill and labour involved in peasant work. Friends have remarked on their sudden-found frailty compared to much older Zapaitista peasants. Even those with agricultural experience will find the day demanding. But all are likely to find the work rewarding, and working with others can be the best way to really get to know them.
IMAGE: Students on the Palestinian olive harvest in the '80s. Today Western activists continue to join the harvest to offer some protection to the beseiged Palestinians, who are regularly shot at by Israeli settlers and soldiers.
For a whole range of reasons (safety, educational, economic, operational), Majority World radicals can crop up in the core capitalist countries. More often than not they join already existing communities of radical ex-pats, (see 'Immigrant Communities in Rome' below), but for some there may be no community to join. In these cases it is our responsibility to act as good hosts.
Arrival here can be very confusing and we can be useful simply in terms of aiding orientation. Also there are basic needs such as cash, food and accommodation - all of which might be beyond the reach of lone radicals. With ever more repressive state action against economically poor immigrants these basic needs will increasingly come to the fore. If they are here legally they will probably need help dealing with visas and travel arrangements.
Depending on the purpose and duration of their stay they may want help in projects here in the core aimed directly at helping their people, or they may wish to start conventional solidarity campaigns with speaking tours, newsletters etc. It should be left to them to ask what they want of us, rather than we presupposing what would be useful. We can also be of use in providing many types of information - from the political to the technical.
We can catalyse communication between them and members of other similar groups from their regions who may be in the core. Ironically it is often within the core that many groups from the Majority World meet for the first time. Logistics and state repression at home can be a major barrier to inter-movement/international discussion.
A recent example comes to mind. Despite a common enemy (the Indonesian State in particular and the capitalist system in general) communication between the East Timorese and West Papuan resistance movements has been rare. The beginning of renewed communication between the two movements in part came when people from both were introduced by common friends at a British EF! Winter Moot.
Such instances are bizarre but regular occurrences in history - during the 20th century anti-colonial wave it was within the core that many militants from different countries first met each other. The recent growth of a number of non-centralised libertarian 'Internationals' (People's Global Action, Via Capensina, International Anarchist Federation, EF!, International Workers Association and many radical global internet networks), is easing communication between majority world radicals (and us in the core of course!) and our minor role as inter-movement communication enablers is likely to decrease but it is still unlikely to disappear.
Issues around security have to be given serious thought when hosting a foreign radical. The state(s) their groups are resisting at home are likely to have embassies and agents here. Whether or not their foes find out who they are and what they have been doing can decide life or death, freedom or prison when re-entering the home country. In many cases states share intelligence so it is not merely a case of avoiding foreign state interest but also domestic state interest.
Hosting Majority World activists is not just our responsibility - it can be immensely rewarding and illuminating.
Writing letters to prisoners in jails outside the core is one of the easiest - and most real - ways to aid our distant struggling sisters and brothers. Amnesty International rarely support those who are in prison for resisting something, as opposed to just saying something. So it's up to us to support imprisoned libertarian and ecological saboteurs, rioters, guerrillas, politicos and tribal warriors. Anarchist Black Cross groups have been doing a brilliant job but it shouldn't just be left to them. A letter from a far off land can help brighten a prisoners day and remind the wardens that people on the outside are looking in.
ChipasLink received a message from a Zapatista prisoner organisation in response to its letter writing campaign. Jose from the Autonomous Municipality of the 17th of November stated: "Morale had been extremely low due to a wave of recent arrests. We were feeling depressed. Letters from the UK helped raise morale and made us feel we were not alone. We want to say thank you."
For years we have been barricading ourselves inside corporate offices, disrupting AGMs, blockading petrol stations and going to directors' houses. These are all valuable and should continue but do they effectively hinder the system or do they largely symbolically oppose it? Let's first look at what we have done so far.
Our solidarity actions have usually had three objectives:
a) Raising the Spirits: Hearing that people far away care about you and have taken action, however small, can really raise the spirits.
b) Harassing the Attackers: The functionaries ripping the world will back down from individual attacks only if their profits or their wellbeing is threatened.
c) Exposing the Struggles: Actions increase awareness of both the individual struggle involved and the global struggle in general. This helps us here and sometimes builds direct aid for 'over there'.
Some solidarity actions over the last decade have needed meticulous planning like the Shell-Mex office occupation. Others like the daytime smashing of the Nigerian Embassy windows just took two dozen people with pluck.
IMAGE: A BP employee tries to prevent the unfurling of a banner at its London HQ during an action against BP's funding of Colombian death squads in December 1996.
These actions can sometimes have quite an impact. One office occupation yielded an internal report that stated the actions were harrowing company moral and public image. When loads of us around the country were doing blockades at Shell petrol stations it felt, to be honest, a bit naff. Occasionally we would close down a petrol station for a few hours or even half a day, sometimes co-ordinated across the country, but was it really having any effect? The surprising answer is yes!
After the Nigerian state/Shell executed Ken SaroWiwa, 21 of his 'co-conspirators' lay in jail awaiting a similar fate. Against expectation after months of suffering, the prisoners were released. Once outside the bars they wrote a letter to their supporters in Britain. The letter thanked everyone for their support and specifically mentioned the petrol station blockades as a major factor in their survival.
The Shell campaign built up a head of steam over years and garnered significant mainstream support after Ken was killed (little of which turned into any meaningful aid). It was exceptional but not thankfully an absolute exception.
Most of the time the power of our actions comes from constancy, confronting targets over and over again. However in times of foreign crisis lone acts can be useful. A recent funny example was when 'Those Pesky Kids' invaded the Argentine embassy pulling down its flag and hoisting up the black and red. It will not make much difference on the Argentina streets but its image has travelled the world through papers and the web. Argentinian anarchos were really jollied up, their spirits raised.
Other solidarity actions, notably those done for the Zapatistas, have succeeded to differing levels in raising the spirits, harassing the attackers and exposing the struggles. Over the last decade I think our solidarity actions, given our numbers, have been remarkably successful in achieving these objectives. Sometimes, though, it could be said that we are using Majority World struggles as scripts with which we can act out our own politics.
The type of solidarity actions described above should continue but let's face it - they rarely hinder the system, but symbolically oppose it. Symbolism has a lot of power - but not as much as force.
In 1997 a British/South African mercenary outfit acting for British mining giant RTZ was planning, from their London offices on the Kings Road, to burn up the rebel held territory in Bougainville. Carpet bomb the heart of the resistance. Helicopters were to rain down bombs and bullets on friends, families and forest. Poison. Fire. Blood.
The mercenaries would be richer and the murdered land would be back under control - ripe for mining again. Thankfully this plan was scuppered at the last moment by an uprising on PNG that forced the mercenaries out of the country.
Imagine that had not occurred and put yourself in the shoes of one of the self-described 'ecological revolutionaries' on Bougainville, looking the 1,000s of miles from the Jaba river valley to the streets of London. What would you do if you could be on the Kings Road in London rather than a jungle in the Pacific awaiting death? Hold a banner? Shout at a few people? Occupy an office?
If such a situation arose again, and it will, what will be the reaction of our circles? While British mercenaries on PNG were preparing to decimate Bougainville, Greek and Italian troops were crushing the Albanian insurrection. It is likely that Western European troops will be increasingly used to counter revolutions in the Majority World. Direct action must be used to hinder the functioning of the militarised arms of capital when they reach out to destroy libertarian and ecological rebellions. We are where they are based. We are where the guns are produced. Sited as we are in the heart of the beast small amounts of intense action can have a disproportionate affect.
It's worth taking a quick look back at what attempts at solidarity were made by previous generations of capitalist core radicals.
In the 1960s and 70s western solidarity with the Vietnamese struggle took many forms, most of which was pretty useless. As an American Indian Movement activist put it: 'holding candlelit vigils and walking down the street does not constitute "acts of solidarity" with those engaged in armed struggle.' However there were rare actions with real effects. The German left wing urban-guerrilla group, the Red Army Faction, attacked a whole array of US army targets. One of its most successful actions was a major attack on a key US base from which the laying of mines in Vietnam was organised. Across the water the Weather Underground bombed the Air Force wing of the Pentagon. The consequent flooding crashed the central computer of the US military's global communication system. These two acts had a real effect. By 'bringing the war home' they directly joined the struggle in the jungles of Vietnam and contributed to the crippling of US military morale. That both actions were born out of a 'politics of despair', (arising from the orchestrated apocalypse in Vietnam and the self pacifying, racist and delusional character of 'mother country radicals'), did not diminish their utility in supporting rebellion beyond the core, merely the ability of the organisations carrying them out to survive.
From the perspective of domestic (r)evolution most of the '60-'70s European guerrilla movements were counterproductive. Irish Republicanism and Basque Separatism (Europe's longest running armed struggles) were both expressions of communities in rebellion. The European New Left guerrillas on the other hand, (with the exception of Italy), were largely the project of middle class student radicals with little social 'base'. Often seeing themselves as vanguards who would lead the working class to victory, they became self destructive cliques that probably even regressed the building of (r)evolution in their countries.
This does not however detract from the fact that some of things they did were extremely effective 'fourth column operations' carried out in time of war. Given the absence of generalised struggle in the capitalist core these radicals were given a choice. They effectively decided to defect. While other New Left formations immersed themselves in (largely futile) domestic (r)evolutionary activity (such as supporting unions) the Weather Underground concentrated on the 'global struggle'. Their (amazingly arrogant) attitude to the rest of their country was summed up well when they reacted to an opposing left wing groups slogan 'Serve the People'. Weather replied that they would "fight the people if to do so would further the international revolution."
The question is not whether 'vanguard adventurism' is a way of rousing domestic (r)evolution (it isn't) but whether the potential gains to revolutions elsewhere outweigh the negative effect it has on domestic social evolution.
To a certain extent a pretty stupid question, but a real one posed by the contradictions inherent in the 'global struggle'. It all depends how one weighs up at this point in time (r)evolutionary possibilities in the core - and political activists relationship to such possibilities if they exist - and (r)evolutionary/anti-enclosure struggles in the Majority World.
If we came to the conclusion that as a movement we were going nowhere yet were either in a position to: a) significantly aid an allied struggle with a better chance of success, or b) significantly decrease the level of violence visited on friends being drowned in blood; what would we do?
IMAGE: Bomb damage to the officers' mess of the US Army HQ, Frankfurt 1972: "West Germany will no longer be a safe hinterland for the strategists of extermination in Vietnam." - RAF
Any really effective action might bring down a level of repression that our circles could not survive. Yet if serious action is not taken solely so as to avoid personal hardship (rather than for any real strategic reason) we are guilty of 'posing as progressives' while accommodating ourselves to power. It is worth here repeating the well known quote by Black Panther Assata Shakur. Back in 1984 she said:
"It is the obligation of every person who claims to oppose oppression to resist the oppressor by every means at his or her disposal. Not to engage in physical resistance, armed resistance to oppression, is to serve the interests of the oppressor; no more, no less. There are no exceptions to the rule, no easy out..."
In fact the question is not just one concerning 'armed resistance'. If 'non-violent' action is actually effective (not merely symbolic) it too results in severe repression. At present a number of Animal Liberationists are in prison for waves of fire bombings which the ALF press office would correctly describe as 'non-violent'. The repression that has followed each wave of action has been considerable. One could guarantee at least the same level of repression if ecological circles ever took the road of some solidarity movements in the past.
The guerrilla movements were crushed by state repression and internal dynamics. Jail and death was the fate of many of our forbears. I for one have no desire to join them but it is important that we look at their stories and think seriously about these issues. Sadly, it has to be said that in many ways the urban-guerrillas never fully escaped the symbolic political terrain they had evolved in. Looking at their targets one sees again and again globally unimportant army bases, recruiting offices and the like. Despite being very direct, their actions, with some notable exceptions, were rarely very targeted. Most of the armed action was relatively minor in scale and of course armies are designed to sustain and survive mass death and destruction. Attacks on key armaments factories for instance would have had considerably more on-the-ground effect in Vietnam.
There are serious questions here about strategy, racism, symbolism, violence, the nature of sacrifice and our position in the global slavery pyramid. These ideas have to be thought through, all the time rejecting both a cult of violence and an internalisation of passivity.
The Terrorism Act which passed into law in 2000 was seen by many as part of a clampdown on the 'direct action scene'. It is likely that some of its powers will to be used against us in the future, but as targets of the new legislation we are peripheral. The main targets are undeniably Irish Republicans and immigrant communities. The newly proscribed organisations are almost all British wings of Majority World organisations - mostly Communists or Islamists. This should come as no surprise - states have always worried about immigrant communities becoming 'enemies within'.10
Until last century the individuals and institutions of Western power were largely out of reach to the far off peoples they massacred. With the growth of international travel and increased immigration into the core capitalist countries this is no longer the case. [This section was written before the attacks on the Pentagon and the WTC - I deal with these in the box below.] Some of these organisations have been sending fighters to Majority World battles and carrying out attacks in the core. We may have sent footballers to Chiapas but Islamists have been sending guerrillas to Yemen. No surprise who got proscribed.
Whether Islamic or Communist we should have no illusions about the authoritarian nature of many of these groups. It is hardly likely that anarcho-athiest types are likely to make common cause with religious nuts of any persuasion but there are often calls to build 'anti-imperialist unity' with immigrant community commies.
The best example of a left-wing immigrant community is that of the Kurds. Kurdish groups here in Britain retain direct communication with their respective organisations both at home and throughout Europe. The demonstrations, occupations and immolations in London - and throughout the Kurdish diaspora - that followed the trial of the leader of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) were highly co-ordinated. The Kurds have been very active in supporting struggles in Britain such as the Liverpool Dockers - taking part in marches and raising money. They have turned up en masse at two arms trade blockades and were some of the most up-for-it people on Mayday 2000 in London. In Germany there is a much larger Kurdish population and though the PKK has been proscribed for years, attacks on Turkish interests have continued. In fact the PKK remains one of the largest left-wing organisations in Germany.
Another good example is the Palestinians. The 1970s saw Palestinian organisations (chiefly the PFLP) carrying out attacks on targets in the core related to their struggle. While the level of attacks in the West by Palestinians has decreased, there are still reasonably regular outbreaks. As I write two Palestinians are serving time for bombings in London in 1994.
I will say little about 'S11'. I found out about the attacks on the Pentagon and the WTC from an excited kid leaving school, having spent most of the glorious sunny day in a different world picking beans on an allotment. As is obvious from bin Ladens' CIA history this was, to use Malcolm X's statement on the Kennedy assassination, America's chickens coming home to roost.
The world is class divided and filled to the brim with religious idiocy. As long as that remains the case, war and all its horrors will be visited on people everywhere. S11 was pretty horrific but the 4,000 + deaths are small fry compared to those put in the gas chambers by industry, pollution, enclosure etc. The hysterical reaction of many to the events - while understandable - seems rather sickening considering the lack of any similar response to the many thousands more deaths every day caused by profit and the dominant hierarchy.
S11 has many ramifications but I will mention only a few. Firstly, radical US prisoners are getting a harder time of it. They need our support. Secondly, I stated above that militants from the Majority World will increase attacks in the core - thanks to the changing nature of global society. Rome was sacked by armies that invaded on roads Rome itself had built. When I wrote this section I wasn't envisioning anything as dramatic as S11. The fact that it was carried out by religious nuts isn't really surprising considering what I say later in 'There is No Rosy Picture'. S11 was the first attack by Majority World militants of its scale, and it is only the first. All over the world in shanty-towns and slums teenagers with no future will be thinking about what can be done with a few box-cutters - not even knives for fuck's sake! One of the Los Alamos Lab team which exploded the first nuclear bomb, said that there was nothing hidden which had stopped others from doing what they did. The secret was that it could be done. S11 showed what can be done. The ring side slug fest of Leviathan's slaves has only begun.
During the Second World War the RAF's firestorm massacre of thousands of civilian Germans at Dresden was justified by saying that those who worked in the factories of the Nazi war machine were military targets as much as those who fought on the field. During the post war anti-imperialist wave, Algerian guerrillas rejected this logic when they rejected a plan to crash a hijacked plane into Paris. The horrors of the unity-in-opposition of 50 years of communism and capitalism has resulted now in Arab 'anti-imperialists', lost in the Koran, accepting the logic of Bomber Harris.
For a thought provoking read check out Some People Push Back: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens by American Indian Movement activist Ward Churchill.
No War Between Nations.
No Peace Between Classes.
On the face of it there is a good argument for working with these communities, but the case of the Kurds throws up important questions which are widely applicable. The PKK and its various offshoots and rivals are largely Stalinist parties whose political aim is in total contradiction to liberty and ecology. This reality can result in serious problems - here as well as in Kurdistan.
A few years ago members of the London 5th of May Group (Turkish/Kurdish anarchist exiles) were threatened by a Kurdish Stalinist sect. Back in Turkey the same sect has murdered two anarchists, one on the streets and one in prison. Ironically the British wing of the same sect was appealing for solidarity for the PKK prisoners in their struggle against control units.
Around the same time the flags of Turkish Stalinist parties were held aloft in Parliament Square on 'our' Mayday 2000. If they had been held up by white English people I am sure our circles would have forced them down. The emblems of authoritarian socialism are the tombstones of libertarians past, present and future. How would we feel if Turkish anarchists marched alongside the banners of a gang that had executed one of us?
'Anti-imperialist unity' despite its seeming attractions can be worse than vacuous. It can mean unifying with priesthoods of new imperialisms. A true opposition to Empire requires us to choose those communities and organisations we organise with carefully.
This does not mean we should not practically engage in struggle alongside groups we are bitterly opposed to. During the march for the Liverpool Dockers it would have been ridiculous for us not to be part of the demo because it contained a contingent of Kurdish Stalinists - who were there in an inspiring show of genuine class solidarity. (As ridiculous as, say, refusing to take part in the Newbury Bypass protest because FoE is involved, with its pro-industrial stance.) However such unavoidable contradictions arise largely within the realm of advancing (r)evolution at home (Task I). Here we are concerned with supporting rebellion beyond the core (Task IV).
While the dynamics of (r)evolutionary struggle may decide our bedfellows for us, we can still decide who to actively support. Here I am talking about actions, money, resource sharing and solidarity. Giving support to organisations here which stand in opposition to libertarian tendencies at home, (not to mention the interests of the people and planet!), is worse than nothing..
Marxist authoritarian ideologies which are dying off throughout the core retain real power outside it. Radical immigrant communities reflect their political culture of origin, yet within many of these communities there will be libertarian and anti-industrial groups and individuals. It is our responsibility to seek them out and however we can help them aid their people and land.
Peasants and the Transitional Class
Unsurprisingly, the majority of the resistance to the global empire arises where the majority of its subjects and slaves live - the hilariously named 'Third World'. To accept this is not to reject the reality of class struggle in the core capitalist countries but merely to accept the logic of maths and geography. The Third World is, after all, most of the world.
In the Majority World the global elite are faced with class enemies they have long since vanquished within the industrialised West - the peasantry and the transitional class. These two classes are the main human block to the elite's expansion and consolidation over the majority of the planet.
Nearly half of the world's population do not live in cities. Of these, hundreds of millions are hardly under the actual domination of capital at all. As peasants they retain relatively high levels of autonomy and have yet to be fully (or often even partially) enclosed by capital. For the actual domination of capital to expand that autonomy must be destroyed. They themselves and the land they live on must be commodified; their land turned into 'resources' and they themselves into wage slaves.
In localities all over the Majority World the continuing class struggle between loggers, agribusiness, oil corporations, local land autocracies and the state on one side, and peasants and tribal people on the other is, in fact, the border war between the global economy and the land community. It is a border war that, despite heavy resistance from groups as diverse as farmers in India, river delta communities in Nigeria, the Zapatistas in Mexico and tribes in Papua, is largely being won by the wealthy. Of course people do not immediately submit to power and accept their position as wage slaves. Throughout the 'developing' world (a telling phrase) the new inhabitants of the cities fight back.
One would expect Western radicals to orientate themselves towards 'Third world' struggles according to their present class position, and the fact that our shared past is their shared present. Unfortunately many communists, liberals, greens and anarchists vision is still hazy, blurred by the misleading mythologies of Marxism. There sometimes seems to be an unbridgeable split between those who think that social change can only arise out of the core capitalist countries and those who believe it will be fought out in the 'Third World'. This really is a false dichotomy and both sides take their ridiculous scripts from the Left.
On one hand 'Third Worldists' have supported all sorts of authoritarian murderous gangs and governments on stupid basis like 'the nationalism of the oppressed is different than the nationalism of the oppressor'. (It should be almost banal now to point to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians or Ethiopia's offensives against Eritrea as just two examples of the nationalism of the oppressed becoming the nationalism of the oppressor.) Anyone saying anything like this cannot in any way be an anarchist and at this historical juncture should just be the cause of mirth. Lenin's bizarrely inverted version of anti-imperialism has a lot to answer for. In a sickening twist the 'What's a few massacres between comrades' tendency are often the first to condemn even the most minimal revolutionary violence in the West - "It's alright for niggers and chinks in far away countries to go killing each other in the cause of revolution but don't throw rocks at white english policemen - they're human too!"
On the other hand the Marxist dogma of the fully developed industrial working class as the 'revolutionary subject' has led many to ignore the vast scale of struggle going on in the majority of the world. This is highly ironic considering that the European 'proletarian glory days', starting with the French insurrection of 1848 and ending with the crushing of the Spanish Revolution, were pushed forward by a class that today can be found throughout the Majority World but only on the social margins in the West. For the second time in this pamphlet I'll quote at length from Bookchin's seminal work, The Spanish Anarchists:
"The June barricades of 1848 had in fact been manned not by an industrial proletariat 'Disciplined, united, and organised by the process of capitalist production,'[Marx] but by craftsman, home-workers, nondescript labourers of every sort, porters, unemployed urban and rural poor, even tavern keepers, waiters, and prostitutes - in short, the flotsam and jetsam of French society... These very same elements, nearly a quarter of a century later, were to man the barricades of the Paris Commune. It was precisely the industrialisation of France after the Commune - and with this process, the emergence of a 'full-grown' hereditary proletariat 'disciplined, united, organised by the process of capitalist production' - that finally was to silence the 'crowing' of the French 'Red Cock' that had summoned Europe to revolution during the nineteenth century. Indeed, much the same could be said of the Russian proletariat of 1917, so recently recruited from the countryside that it was anything but a 'full-grown' working class."
"The great proletarian insurrections that seemed to lend such compelling support to the concept of proletarian socialism were fuelled primarily by social strata that lived within neither industrial nor village society but in the tense, almost electrifying force field of both. Proletarian socialism became a revolutionary force for nearly a century not because a well organised, consolidated, hereditary proletariat had emerged with the factory system but because of the very process of proleterianisation. Dispossessed rural people and craftsmen were being removed from disintegrating preindustrial way of life and plunged into standardised, dehumanising, and mechanical urban and industrial surroundings. Neither the village and small shop as such nor the factory as such predisposed them to the boldest kind of social action; rather, they were moved by the disintegration of the former and the shock of the latter. Demoralised to the point of recklessness, déclassé in spirit and often in fact, they became the adherents of the Paris Commune, the Petrograd soviets, and the Barcelona CNT."
"The very 'half grown' quality of the early proletariat, formerly peasants and craftsmen or perhaps a generation removed from such status, produced a volatility, intractability, and boldness that the industrial system and factory hierarchy were to attenuate in their descendants - the hereditary proletariat of the 1940s and 1950s, a class that knew no other world but the industrial one. For this class, no tension was to exist between town and country, the anomie of the city and the sense of shared responsibility of the small community, the standardised rhythms of the factory and the physiological rhythms of the land. The premises of the proletariat in this later era were formed around the validity of the factory as an arena of productive activity, the industrial hierarchy as a system of technical authority, and the union bureaucracy as a structure of class command. The era of proletarian socialism came to an end in a step-by-step process during which the 'half grown,' presumably 'primitive' proletariat became 'full grown', 'mature' - in short, fully proletarianised."
Crammed into the growing Majority World metropolises, hundreds of millions today find themselves a part of this class in transition, caught in the electrifying force field between village and city. They face inhuman and desperate conditions as wage slaves within the city. They have memory of the communal experiences of the village that enable them to envision a different reality that they could create. They have vast potential collective power in the sheer numbers of young fellow shanty town/ghetto dwellers who share their class position. This is a potent revolutionary mix.
Many Majority World writers talk about this 'village in the city'. Within the slums and shanties, old village system of kinship and communal decision making often continue to aid survival in a hostile capitalist environment. It is from these collectivities that mass organised squatter movements arise such as the Movement of the Landless (MST) in Brazil which challenge the urban autocracy and the rural latifundi.
It is this tension that propelled the insurrectionary hordes in 1997 to bring down Suharto and systematically burn out the mansions of the Indonesian elite. It should come as no surprise to hear the voice of Lucy Parsons echoing from Haymarket through a hundred years - "We shall devastate the avenues where the wealthy live!" The class that gave birth to Parsons today spawns innumerable children throughout the 'developing world'.
I am NOT contending that rebellion and resistance do not and will not break out in the core capitalist countries. As long as society is based on class warfare 'normality' will be punctuated by episodes of rebellion and day to day opposition. Widespread insurrection and anarchist revolution are however another thing entirely. It is in the majority of the planet that the most seismic struggles are happening. For most of last century the resistance and transcendence of the oppressed 'Third World' global majority has faced two huge foes. The unity-in-opposition of two forms of capitalism: the Marxist 'national liberation' of native elites and the colonialism of Western elites has hamstrung the oppressed.
With the death of the USSR and the final 'withering away' of state socialism around the world, a growing unity is developing between movements of those who live on the land and those who live in the shanties. Increasingly libertarian and ecological new generations are taking the fore. It is this unity which more than anything else could reap the whirlwind, shaking capitalism to its foundations and maybe even replacing it with a more authentic world..
The Panthers - Militants of a Transitional Class
An interesting aside. Hugely influential to the radical wave that swept the west in the '60s and '70s was the Black Liberation struggle in America. Two examples stand above others. Germaine Greer says second wave feminism took its rallying standard - Women's Liberation - in reflection of the concurrent Black Liberation struggles, (see her book The Whole Woman). The rebirth of Republicanism in Northern Ireland arose largely out of the Civil Rights Movement, which took its name and in large part inspiration from American Blacks.
The Black Panther Party - itself deeply inspired by struggles in the Majority World - is often seen as being entirely urban in origin. In contradiction, David Hilliard, ex-chairman of the Panthers, cites the land-based culture of the Deep South which many Panthers or their parents were brought up in as highly influential:
"When I think about the influences that inspired the spirit and work of the Black Panther Party - many of which are still not understood - this culture figures large among them. Many of the most important members of the party - people like John and Bobby Seale and Geronimo Pratt, Bobby Rush and Fred Hampton - were imbued with the moral and spiritual values of their parents; and the work that went into the party, our dignity as an independent people, the communal ideal and practise that informed our programs, all stem in part from the civilisation of which my mother and father were so representative a part."
Just as we should oppose the militarised arms of capital based here so to we must slow the evolution of new elite technologies (weaponry for the class war) being developed here. One of the major aims of genetic engineering is to purposefully destroy the social fabric that keeps the land community together and fully incorporate the peasantry into the global cash economy. The threat is neutralised and becomes fuel for the machine's further expansion.
GM sabotage throughout the world is growing. Here in Britain we can say that we have hindered the evolution of this technology considerably.
As the Luddites of today, we know that, given the continuation of this society, halting - forever - the development of new technological weaponry might not be possible. Even if we don't succeed in stopping genetic engineering we have already slowed down the introduction of this technology. What this means in real terms is that we've succeeded in delaying the further degradation of the lives of millions of people. We have delayed for months, maybe years the ecological destruction, hunger, despair and domestic abuse that social dislocation brings. If that is all we succeed in then we have achieved much.
By slowing technologies of enclosure we are defending the ability of Majority World peasant communities to rebel. More will suffer as a result of these enclosures than ever do in overt global policing operations/ imperialist wars. Effective action against GM and other elite technologies are direct attacks on empire's power of expansion. Let's keep at it.
The recent global resistance period has been hugely successful in building solidarity across borders and in supporting rebellions beyond the core. Radicals in every part of world have fought together on the PGA-called international days of action. This physical unity is immensely powerful. Beyond direct communication the conflict on the streets has itself an important message, one that cannot be diluted by the forces of mediation.
"This is one important thing to remember about Genoa - because it was the G8 summit, all the world's media were there, and the news and the images of the rioting will have been carried back to almost every country in the world. The value of this, especially in much of the Third World is inestimable. Many people in other countries in the world imagine that everyone in the West lives a life of indolent luxury. Remember that Baywatch is the most popular TV programme in the world. This is the image that many people across the world have of life in the West. It is very valuable for them to see images of things they are familiar with - poor people fighting the police - taking place in the 'rich' West, leading them to see that the image they have been fed of the Western lifestyle is not all it's cracked up to be and that maybe there are people like them in the West fighting for the same things they are fighting for. The riots in Genoa will send a message of hope to people all over the world that right inside the belly of the beast there are thousands of people who are against the system and are prepared to risk their own life and liberty to fight it."
For a moment Genoa's burning barricades effectively monkeywrenched the global image factory that aims to haemorrhage the self worth of peoples in the Majority World, to make more malleable fodder for the global economy.
The environment created by the 'street' at global conferences has also helped open up cracks in empire. The collapse of the Seattle era WTO negotiations a good example. Another is the increased bargaining power the protest has given Majority World elites. They, like all of their global class are scum, but any action that opens up divisions in the global ruling class while bridging gaps between the global multitude is great.
While I tend towards believing libertarian social (r)evolution is extremely unlikely within the core, I don't have a particularly rosy picture for the Majority World either.
The combined factors of social dislocation, the spread of adolescent culture, the increasing depredation of the poor - especially of women, growing religious fundamentalism, bad health, agricultural crises, climate crises, the quickening internalisation of all into the global economy, the continuing survival of authoritarian ideologies - Marxism and nationalism in particular and most of all the unparalleled disparity in any capacity for force between the Core and its colonial multitudes; all these factors lead to a pretty horrific future for the majority of the worlds population.
Presently the oppressed throughout the world are hamstrung, how long this will remain one cannot say. However there is no point in being absolutist. Just because the arrival of global freedom has been (maybe terminally) delayed does not mean that action is without purpose. By supporting ecological and libertarian rebellions and anti-enclosure struggles we aid the opening up of local freedoms and slow the devastation of the earth..
It's Time to Defect!
At the beginning of the 21st century we all have to choose sides. Do we remain on the side of industrial civilisation or do we stand with struggling peoples in defence of our earth? Across the world the fight is on, fires are flickering, arrows flying. Look around you, see the targets.
Pull up your mask, it's time to defect.
IMAGE: Tahitian rioter besieges the international airport against French nuclear testing in the Pacific.
IMAGE: The 500 years of Mayan resistance lives on in the Mexican Zapatistas.
IMAGE: Papuan stone age spears pierce the madness at the heart of modernity.
1) The track Assassin by ADF concerns the 'payback' one Indian revolutionary gave Sir Michael O'Dwyer, ex-governor of the Punjab. O'Dwyer had presided over the massacre of unarmed peasants and workers in Amiritsar in 1919. Nearly twenty years later Udham Singh shot him dead in London at a meeting of the East India Association. Singh was an electrician, trade unionist and in 1938 in Coventry the initiator of the first Indian Workers Association. The action both harrowed the English elite and lifted the spirit of many of his people. He was hung in Pentonville prison. The Indian Workers Association remains active today. For a good intro to Black resistance in Britain see A Different Hunger by A. Sivanandan, ISBN 0861043715
2) The Zapatistas: A Rough Guide, (Chiapas Link) ISBN 0904367992
3) Too often activists from other countries are pushed into reformist - and futile - trajectories by their liberal Western hosts. Indigenous groups especially are told to engage with the UN etc. While this idiocy is unlikely in our circles, other problems arise. Sometimes radical groups own normal ways of behaviour can lead them to push their guests into an endless round of solidarity talks, meetings, pamphlet and newsletter writing. Often these are aimed primarily at the domestic group's own constituency and may be more of use to them than to the foreign group whose member they are hosting. This can waste time the guest could more constructively spend on studying and organising in their own communities interest. However the above mentioned activities can be very useful IF they build solidarity actions here and other forms of direct aid. If not, the relationship can descend to one of the foreign guest giving a bit of Third World political entertainment to the Western radicals.
4) In fact the Indonesian state has used classic divide and rule strategy by using ethnically Papuan Indonesian soldiers to suppress revolt in East Timor and ethnically Timorese Indonesian soldiers to suppress revolt in West Papua.
5) A lot can be learned from this action. See the article 'Sabbing Shell' in Do or Die, No.8, p.125
6) The struggle of the Vietnamese against America was unbelievably heroic, from which many lessons can be learned, but it should be underlined that Ho Chi Minh's regime was an authoritarian state that mercilessly crushed all opposition. Our enemy's enemy is not our friend!
7) See Pacifism as Pathology by Ward Churchill, ISBN 18 940370 73, p.79. A brilliant "intervention into the delusion, aroma of racism, and sense of privilege which mark the covert self-defeatism of mainstream dissident politics." Speaking as an ex-pacifist, I'd highly recommend it!
8) 'A Strategy to Win' by Bill Ayers in New Left Notes, 12.9.1969.
9) The whole concept of 'armed struggle' is rather nebulous in a similar way to its dualistic opposite 'non-violence'. The fetishising of guns - basically just tools - is often carried out with equal abandon by those who advocate their use and those who vehemently oppose them. What is 'armed struggle'? Is the destruction of a digger by explosives (as was the case in one action by the Welsh Mebion Glydowr) an act of armed struggle? If hand tools were used to the same effect (as say at Manchester Airport) is that not armed? Is tossing a mollie/petrol bomb at a cop in Genoa not armed struggle? Was the machine gunning of the Spanish Embassy by the Angry Brigade (in which no one was injured) armed struggle? If so, was the smashing up of the Nigerian Embassy with hammers not armed struggle? If the definition of armed struggle lies entirely on whether guns are used, the concept is of little use to us. We should not let tools define our activity, but our activity define which tools to use.
10) It is not just in the realm of actions, bombings and the like that Immigrant communities become 'an enemy within'. Over the last few years immigrants have been at the forefront of workplace struggle. The combination in some immigrant communities of radicalism and low wages has resulted in prolonged strikes such as at Hillingdon Hospital and JJ Foods. Inner city riots by young Blacks and Asians are another example. However it is not within the scope of this task section to discuss rebellions within the core (Task I) whoever they are carried out by.
11) 'Easton Cowboys Go West' in Do or Die No. 8, p.248
12) In the crackdown that followed the bombings of a Zionist office and the Israeli embassy many Palestinian activists were raided. Samar Alami and Jawd Botmeh were convicted of the attacks and given 20 years after which they face deportation to Israel. They maintain they have been framed. See 'The Israeli Embassy Bombing and the Secret State' in Do or Die No. 8, p.224
13) 'The New Luddite War' in Do or Die, No. 8, p.95
14) 'Being Busy' by Anonymous (SDEF!), in On Fire: The Battle of Genoa and the Anti-capitalist Movement, p.41
15) The Spanish Anarchists: The Heroic Years by Murray Bookchin, p.281
16) This Side of Glory by David Hilliard, ISBN 0316364215, p.27