Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Anarchism & Violence

Terrorism is tempting with its tremendous possibilities. It offers a mechanical solution, as it were, in hopeless situations.

... the principles of terrorism unavoidably rebound to the fatal injury of liberty and revolution. Absolute power corrupts and defeats its partisans no less than its opponents. A people that knows not liberty becomes accustomed to dictatorship: fighting despotism and counter-revolution, terrorism itself becomes their efficient school.

Once on the road of terrorism, the State necessarily becomes estranged from the people.

--The Bolshevik Myth by Alexander Berkman in Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas (Vol. 1) by Robert Graham, ed. (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 2005) p. 312.

There is something radically wrong, [the anarchist] declares, in a system of society that functions and maintains its existence by the impetus of violence and force. [She] sees nothing praiseworthy in political society which has recourse to periodic wars, or need of jails, gallows and bludgeons--and it is because [she] is aware that these brutal weapons are the instruments of every government and State that [she] works for their destruction. ...

Unlike the politician, [she] does not regard dishonesty, brutality and avariciousness as natural characteristics of human nature, but as the inevitable consequences of coercion and frustration engendered by artificial law, [she] believes that these social evils are best eradicated not by greater penalties and further legislation, but by the free development of the latent forces of solidarity and sympathetic understanding which government and law so ruthlessly suppress.

Freedom will be possible when people understand and desire it--for [rulers] can only rule where others subserviently obey. Where none obey, none has power to rule.

--"The simplicity of anarchism" by George Nicholson in What Is Anarchism?: An
by Donald Rooum, ed. (London: Freedom Press, 1992, 1995) p. 40.

... the genuine Anarchist looks with sheer horror upon every destruction, every mutilation of a human being, physical or moral. He loathes wars, executions and imprisonments, the grinding down of the worker's whole nature in a dreary round of toil, the sexual and economic slavery of women, the oppression of children, the crippling and poisoning of human nature by the preventable cruelty and injustice of man to man in every shape and form.

--"Anarchism and homicidal outrage" by
Charlotte Wilson in Rooum, op. cit., p. 43.

Violence, contrary to popular belief, is not part of the anarchist philosophy. It has repeatedly been pointed out by anarchist thinkers that the revolution can neither be won, nor the anarchist society established and maintained, by armed violence. Recourse to violence then is an indication of weakness, not of strength, and the revolution with the greatest possibilities of a successful outcome will undoubtedly be the one in which there is no violence, or in which violence is reduced to a minimum, for such a revolution would indicate the near unanimity of the population in the objectives of the revolution. ...

Violence as a means breeds violence; the cult of personalities as a means breeds dictators--big and small--and servile masses; government--even with the collaboration of socialists and anarchists--breeds more government. Surely then, freedom as a means breeds more freedom, possibly even the Free Society! To Those who say this condemns one to political sterility and the Ivory Tower our reply is that "realism" and their "circumstantialism" invariably lead to disaster. We believe there is something more real, more positive and more revolutionary to resisting war than in participation in it; that it is more civilised and more revolutionary to defend the right of a fascist to live than to support the Tribunals which have the legal power to shoot him; that it is more realistic to talk to the people from the gutter than from government benches; that in the long run it is more rewarding to influence minds by discussion than to mould them by coercion.

--"Anarchism and violence" by Vernon
Richards in Rooum, op. cit., pp. 50-51.

... violence is the whole essence of authoritarianism, just as the repudiation of violence is the whole essence of anarchism.
--"Anarchism, Authoritarian Socialism and Communism"
by Errico Malatesta in Rooum, op. cit., p. 59.

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