Violence & Revolution

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anon (not verified)
Violence & Revolution

"On the Diversity of Tactics and Antagonistic Solidarity"
~By ObfuscantZero

The recent insurrections taking place in our cities have prompted renewed discussion around the use of violence and a diversity of tactics to achieve social justice. These events have clearly shown that non-violent direct action on its own is not sufficient to initiate durable change to our system. The initial wave of rioting, which swept our nation in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd, brought total and immediate focus to an issue that, for many years prior, most of our countrymen had been able to comfortably ignore.

It is now quite clear that militancy and violent direct action have larger roles to play in attaining social justice than the prevailing wisdom would have one believe. To seek change, we need both the carrot and the stick, as the saying goes. We need a large coalition of peaceful, “reasonable,” actors that engage in political activism, civil disobedience, and other forms of non-violent direct action. But we must also have at our disposal a smaller secondary group that is not above the use of force when and where it is appropriate. The purpose of this latter group is to remind the state, and the supporters of the status quo, that it is in their best interests to engage in good faith with the peaceful negotiators, lest they come to suffer the wrath of the rioters.

This observation is, of course, not a novel one. But what has changed notably in the wake of these most recent uprisings is the tenor with which large sections of the mainstream media and the general public have been speaking about violent revolutionary tactics. Specifically, the degree to which many in this space have begun to express sympathy, and even overt approval, for such activities. However, while it may initially be gratifying for those who have long promoted the use of these tactics, this broader acceptance of violent direct action is ultimately counterproductive in the long run.

This is a conclusion which comes after careful analysis of the end goals of this revolution and the means by which those goals may be predictably achieved. It is a conclusion that reposes on the answers to two questions that every revolutionary movement must eventually ask of itself. Questions which it must answer honestly and without the pollution of ego or reckless bravado. Those questions are:

Are the intentions of this revolution to overthrow the existing state through violence?

And, if the answer to that question is “yes,” then:

Does the revolution have any real chance of actually attaining that goal?

In the case of the present rebellion within the United States, if the answer to the first question is not a resounding and unqualified “no,” then the answer to the second question almost certainly is. The United States government maintains control of the largest and most technologically, logistically, and tactically sophisticated military that the world has ever seen. A military which now has twenty years of experience in fighting wars of insurgency, policing urban populations, and putting down insurrections. The fate of any attempt at a sustained violent uprising waged within the US would be the same fate as any foreign resistance group which found itself on the receiving end of a drone strike, a JSOC commando raid, or the brute force of mechanized infantry: Total annihilation.

With this understanding in mind, the goal of any revolutionary action undertaken within the United States is to accomplish the following:

· Change the political establishment through the voting out of undesirable candidates and the voting in of those sympathetic to the cause.

· Force a negotiation between the leadership of the revolution and the political establishment.

This end condition, one of a durable change which is arrived at by working with and within the existing political system, is the only viable alternative to a waging successful civil war. The two stated goals are commiserate with one another and may be pursued independently and with a flexibility of focus that depends upon the needs and abilities of the revolution at any given moment. What is not flexible, however, is the need for all of those who publicly engage in these efforts to have their hands clean of any violence.
While at first glance, the rise of the acceptance of violent direct action among the public would seem to be a favorable development, it will ultimately prove to be a trap that makes attaining our desired end condition impossible. In the world of the politician, optics are everything. The political establishment, whatever its ostensible ideology, must maintain the appearance of order and civility and it will never suffer negotiations with any party that has ever endorsed, or who is known to have associated with anyone who has ever endorsed, violence against the state.

The tension that exists between the need for ideological purity in those who speak publicly, and the need for the threat of a diversity of tactics among those working in the streets, seems at first to be insurmountable. But it is possible for these ideologies to co-exist in a way that furthers change, and which does not risk the failure of optics that comes from revolutionary leadership endorsing violence. It is a solution that the author has termed ”Antagonistic Solidarity.”

The goal of Antagonistic Solidarity is to allow all those who engage publicly with the media and political establishment to maintain ideological purity while still allowing for the use of a diversity of tactics in the field. In this framework, anyone who has a public platform — be it as the leader of a political action campaign, protest group, or coalition, anyone who functions as a media personality, maintains a blog, podcast, or who otherwise engages in punditry, any anyone who speaks openly about revolutionary matters on social media, anyone who is publicly engaged in perusing the goals of the movement — is to promote non-violent direct action as the only acceptable tactic and ideological perspective, and is to openly decry all use of violence.

In this way, the public face of the movement, from those who march in the streets, to the world of social & legacy media, to those who directly interface with the political establishment, all maintain the air of respectability and moral irreproachability. Indeed, if this methodology is employed successfully enough, those who are the most distant from street-level action may in fact believe that violent direct action is morally reprehensible and ineffective, making them even more reliable as negotiators with the political establishment.

Antagonistic Solidarity relies on the assumption that those groups or individuals who would engage in violent direct-action will do so without the encouragement or assistance of the political leadership of the revolution. An assumption which has proven to be true time and time again. Those who are inclined to be violent will always be so, without encouragement or assistance, and so there is no need for that encouragement or assistance, which only serves to sully the reputation of those who will ultimately be needed to engage meaningfully with the establishment.

It is in the interests of the carrot that the stick be present. However, in order for the carrot to be truly effective, it must deny, and if possible, even deeply disbelieve, the viability of the stick as a means of coercion. For the stick to be effective, it must understand this arrangement, and accept its role as a necessary outsider. Those who engage in violent direct action must understand that they must do so of their own initiative, and without the encouragement — and even with the open disownment by — the public face of the revolution.

The philosophy of Antagonistic Solidarity codifies what has long been an implied relationship between violent and non-violent actors. But, for this idea to be truly effective, two changes must be made within the present conversation.

The first of these is required of those who presently support a diversity of tactics but who do not, themselves, directly engage in them. For these individuals, they must make the commitment to overtly appear to be as critical of non-violence as any militant pacifist would be. One need not use the moral justifications of pacifism, lies about the efficacy of violence are equally effective and create helpful dissonance within the public conversation, but the end of any line of reasoning must be the total public condemnation of any use of force.

For those who would engage in violent direct action, they must cease any and all public debate with those who publicly condemn their actions and simply retreat into the underground and continue to peruse their activities in isolation. The antagonism in AS is unidirectional; it flows from the public facing pacifist to the private militant who keeps their opinions to themselves. It is the role of the soldier to act, not to debate. Any attempt to convince the majority, who advocate against violence, is counter productive to the public image of moral purity that must be maintained in order to broker terms with the establishment.

For this movement to be successful we require the presence of both carrots and sticks. But the carrots should remember that they are not sticks, that they should not behave like or model themselves in the fashion of them, lest they become undesirable to the animal that we are attempting to coerce.

As for the stick, let it simply remain what it is, with the understanding that a reward should never sing the praises of an object of warning if either are to remain effective at their chosen tasks.

anon (not verified)
More and more I don't think

More and more I don't think that anarchists believe they will overthrow the state via violence (insurrection is a social force not a military one) and also anarchists by and large refuse to negotiate with authorities. I'm not sure if that was taken into account when posting this essay here.
The strategy of only openly advocating for non-violent direct action will probably fail because no one is in charge of what others publicly say but also it doesn't seem to take into account recuperation or repression both of which could run more rampant if people intentionally distanced themselves from radical direct actions and attack.
I think that many anarchists would say the goal of their revolution (if they would even use that word) is to attack and get rid of authority, and yes attacking is in itself a goal even if it's not enough to get rid of authority. Taking on the role of a revolutionary negotiator goes against the goal of removing authority since it creates new authority.
It's more complicated than just militarily defeating the state or not.

anon (not verified)
"...the public image of moral

"...the public image of moral purity that must be maintained..."

seriously? any image of "moral purity" is nothing more than a target to be exposed for hypocrisy. plus it implies a universal (objective) morality. come on now.

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