Arditismo: theory and tactics

Last Edited March 14th 2013, 5:45 pm: Cleaned up some ideas on Lenin’s soviet revolution; Gramsci’s War of Position. Nothing that changes the structure/weight of the argument, but corrected some errors that were made by my incomplete study of both figures.

In an interview with the Irish Left Review this past December, Alexis Tsipras, leader of the radical-left Synapismos party in Greece, credited mass sympathy for the left as a product of a particular tactic.♦ He described the response of the left to the debt crisis as originating in two distinct places: a square below and a square above. Physically, these squares were two equal strategic meeting points within Athens. Philosophically, they represented two divergent notions of resistance:

“The square below was always more politicised,” wrote Tsipras, “with themed assemblies, with different talks. Many young people took part. They practised direct democracy. But the important thing is that these demonstrations were completely peaceful with great mass participation, with very many people taking part.”¹

In contrast, the square above was “less participative”; it focused on the destruction of physical bourgeois instruments of finance – burning banks, smashing windows, wrecking cash machines – to engage the symbolism of resistance. As these two squares operated simultaneously, responses sounded. Media reported only the destruction, only physical violence. Of course it would be wrong to blame the Above faction for monopolizing protest coverage – that is the prerogative of modern media, which competes for viewers with the most shocking, most violent, least-contextualized content. Nevertheless, there were strategic implications for Above actions.

“Burnt out banks and burnt out small properties did not produce political results. It is very simple: where you had fires, big business could find some small business owner to cry.” Simply, “Wrecking strengthened the system.”²

Not all mass-movements of resistance are peaceful or non-violent. The on-going Arab revolts have been incredibly destructive; death has followed peaceful marches in strict parallel. But in global north countries who tend toward active democracy (i.e. those countries whose elections are not widely understood to be fraudulent), violent protest is often met with an outpouring of support for owners of private property; Above tactics are met with sympathy for crying business owners. To what end should a protest action take responsibility for the commentary that follows it?

This, of course, is a question of tactics, not theory. In the world-perfect, destructive action would produce an inspiring result. The symbolism of breaking a tool of capital, of smashing the windowed-modes of production that enslave the tertiary-based proletariate class, would resonate with the public. These actions whose main proponents are likely (still) the Black Bloc, are meant to question the overwhelming presence of capital in daily life. Proponents of Diversity of Tactics – the idea that protest actions should originate within an individual’s own sense of criticism  – who do not take issue with black bloc tactics, might claim that the minimal violence against inanimate property is but a whispered reply to the violence done against working people’s bodies and spirits every day. They might suggest that the police cars engulfed in flames are beacons of opposition for the productive class, motivating an internal dialectic in the individual worker. These maneuvers may in fact be quite theoretically apt, in the world-perfect. But if our protest is to be broad, which must be if it is to be legitimate and successful, we must think critically about the starting point of the working mass. Can inspiration be derived from violence if the violence has not been made recognizably different from sports riots?

In his first prison notebook, Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci characterizes three modes of military warfare as such: a war of Movement, a war of Position, and a war of Underground Action. All three modes have various applications: Movement implies attacking an enemy along a broad front, Position is a capture-fight from a strategic vantage, and Underground Action is secretive stockpiling of techniques and technologies to be unleashed in well-calculated moments.³ Historically, war has pivoted along these points depending on the scale of the conflict and the necessities of battle. Wars of colonization have employed Movement and Position, resistance has used Position and Underground Action. These terms are general and therefore mouldable to even the most minute campaign for power. But within these modes of war, there are also certain barriers to operation. Pure Movement requires a standing infantry of great size to be effective; to sweep a territory and clear it. Position less so in the immediate, but definitely in the long run. Position is a tactical project that flounders without support and backup from a mass. A space can be occupied with effect only for a certain period. Underground Action presupposes a large enough network of subterranean links in order to accommodate the hidden buildup and deployment of technology. More flexible in form than Movement or Position, it nonetheless demands an underpinning of some mass. All forms therefore must utilize a large-scale infantry, official or unofficial, in order to achieve maximum effectiveness.

Gramsci developed the idea of a War of Position as a strategic model for communists in advanced capitalist societies. The essence of his argument is that societies that  function with a capitalist base of producing life must develop well-positioned counter-institutions to the existing structures that reinforce elite ideology; schools, cultural centres, media, political parties need to be encouraged by a cadre of ‘organic intellectuals’ who emerge from within diverse subaltern (productive or marginal) classes, thus incorporating the idea of underground action to tactics of position.  These ‘organic intellectuals’ may be linked to what Gramsci referred to (albeit several years earlier and ambiguously connected) as  the arditi, or  rather arditismo militarism. Historically, the arditi were specialized Italian volunteer forces formed by Colonel Giuseppe Bassi in the summer of 1917 for use against the Austro-Hungarians. Their purpose was similar to that of the German Sturmtruppen of the Second World War, which was quick tactical assault to obtain preliminary Position and influence in a zone of combat. The way Gramsci used the concept was as a descriptor for capitalist political tactics. Gramsci articulates the bourgeois use of the arditi thus:

“the arditi, that is, private armed organizations, enter the field with a double task: to use illegality while the state appears to remain within legality, and as a means to reorganize the state itself.”¼

 Arditi tactics within the political sphere are inherently concerned with state management. They are special technical forces that operate on the prerogative of the state to suppress dissent and neutralize threats. One cannot help but write arditi into the narrative of repression executed during the G20 protests in Toronto. Arditi tactics are also operating in disembodied channels: the hacker war on anonymous and Obama’s drone war against high-value targets. These tactics throw power between state departments, giving the newest instruments to oligarchic formations that exist quietly within the broader bureaucracy (an officially sanctioned war of Underground Action?). What of the left’s capacity to wage such wars? Are anonymous, wikileaks, and The Pirate Bay arditi forces, and if so, do they belong to a class?

 “Class characteristics lead to a fundamental difference [in tactics]: a class which must work regular hours every day cannot have permanent and specialized assault organizations, unlike a class with abundant financial resources whose members are not at all constrained by regular jobs.”½

For Gramsci, effective arditi cannot be wielded by independent or non-hegemonic powers. Using the Fenians in Ireland or the comitadjis rebels in the Balkans as examples, he argues that effective ideological warfare flounders when it begins with a specialized, technical force. Instead, potent resistance must begin with the creation of a general seat of legitimacy and power that eventually emerges as a strong class subconsciousness. From within this popular subconsciousness – what Gramsci later develops as a working-class hegemony or central source of validated authority – a type of symbolic shock troop can be forged.  I would therefore argue that whistleblowers like Wikileaks, or anarchist hackers like Anonymous, or The Pirate Bay, operate outside the space of class warfare. And though their status is difficult to truly define, I see their function as being predominantly information generators and disseminator. They work independent of, and uncoordinated with, general left projects. In this sense, we might view them as types of militias that deal randomized blows through critical reports and necessary linkages, yet serve no particular network or command. They are an army-less arditi fighting a war of Underground Action. Given the need for a broad and legitimating infantry, what is current status of the army? What is its consciousness?

Western European-decendent countries with active democracies have been built on the basis of liberal property rights. The right to ownership and disposal of property is the philosophical companion to the bourgeois mode of organizing production.  It was the discourse of liberalism that brought a formality to production in Anglo society in the 18th and 19th centuries: everyone would be equally free to do what they willed with what they owned. For the peasant classes, dispossessed of land and the informal networks of power they once belonged to,  their ability to labour became their property. To sell labour-power for its equivalent value in the universal commodity of the day – gold, silver, paper, etc. – was the exercising of the rights and freedoms of property ownership, same as the bourgeoisie. That this relation of production-consumption still exists, based as it is on the ever-sharper divide between those who sell their bodies and souls and those whose accumulated capital maintains an always-quickening pace of production, is a testament to the resiliency of the structure. About two centuries have passed since England became the minister of the bourgeois mode of production, sermonizing the world into a repentant posture, the sin being its guarding of land and life from the clutches of capital.

The liberal rights paradigm also proposes the freedom of individual choice, or agency. Agency, to a worker and capitalist alike, functions as the freedom to convert money back into commodities. For the worker the composite of this conversion amounts to, in a greater or lesser degree, a subsistence. Collecting the property that makes up this subsistence is a right that is carefully guarded. As an arena of choice, the market provides a worker with a means for social expression. The capacity to consume is a dispensation of power in public, of private autonomy within the social body.* And for this reason, commodities do not appear at the outset as the objectified exertions of labour and spirit that they really are. They appear rather as pure potential; they are things that fulfill a vacancy or void known or newly-created. That commodities are sold using tactics that detach culturally-significant knowledges of feeling and belonging from their motive bases, offered instead in consistent object forms – a form universally accessible to money – rarely has a bearing in the mind of the person who reaches to buy. Aspiration is incorporated in the physical, where a transaction of intimate values and money takes place: private ownership results. The fetishism of the market, of commodity ownership, which is the result of centuries of refinement in production (headed always toward full saturation), pervades social relations in deep levels. Even informal interaction has, to at least some degree, become mediated through networking applications that reward users via metrics – numbers of likes, friends, profile ‘optimization’ – as though people were generating abstract content for others to consume in exchange for social capital. Marxist theorist György Lukács termed this process of raising object-consciousness ‘reification’.  Yet it is this working class of producer-consumers that must form the interior ranks of the infantry of opposition. Sheer size and shared exposure to the worst storms of bourgeois production make it the target for enlistment.

Moving outward from this particular point where commodity exchange is the most dominant (but far from only) expression of autonomy and control for working people is really the strategic problem for the ‘massification’ of the left. Lenin’s solution to this problem (massification) was to create a watchful revolutionary class of proletarians that would invoke a consciousness of struggle on a diverse subaltern people – a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’, as it were. Marx pre-determined Lenin’s failure to bring Western-style communism to Russia, claiming that the country, with its still semi-feudal (read: non-capitalist) class structure, was unready for it. Rather than dodge the bullet of capitalism through a uniquely-Russian solution (which Marx argued was necessary this piece), the Leninists led a veritable coup in the wake of defeat on the Eastern Front. Of course Lenin’s particular Bolshevik project, which encouraged radical worker-led organizations (soviets), was headed in a very encouraging direction. Contra Marx, the Bolsheviks pre-1923 had developed autonomous, proletarian radicalism in the worksites and was well-positioned for deep organizational growth. However Stalin’s usurpation of Soviet leadership in 1924 brought the project to completion, and he began to reorganize the party into dictatorial form. Theorists like Mimmo Pocaro or Charles Post, the former drawing on the French thought of Louis Althusser, have recently suggested the value of revisiting Lenin-style political organizing. This type of organizing necessitates a revolutionary bloc of thinkers and intellectuals whose practice is firmly class oriented and ‘evangelical’. But there is no doubt that we must also go beyond Lenin.

Employing Gramsci’s ‘organic intellectualism’, a new critical pedagogy must emerge that learns as it teaches. Rather than look to an arditi of intellectuals and theorists to be disseminators of a knowledge about working conditions to people actually being eviscerated by capital, the left must understand that the working class experience itself serves as the strongest basis of education. Instead of categorizing workers and intellectuals as separate groups, the two should work symbiotically – the function of the left being limited to an organizing role, eager to provide space for creative and daring actions. Anarchist anthropologist David Graeber raises an interesting question when he asks why it is that, in this era of neoliberalism where capital has so effectively maintained its dominance over productive-class ideology, the people most attracted to even the faintest whiff of radical opposition are “artists, musicians, writers, and others involved in some form of non-alienated production?”¤ Perhaps there is something to the idea that fortune builds an internal conservatism. Expressing a beyond-market agency where labour is a spiritual act, given but not taken, is a fortune to be protected at all costs. But beyond that also: it must be shared; to see others take the value of their labour and dispose of it truly for their own benefit is to revel in human capacity. The left must continually learn about the divergent experiences of beings under capitalism, assisting workers in meaningful ways to forge new tools of analysis. In the collective investigation, there can likely be found intersections: patriarchy, racism, dispossession, alienation, deskilling, sickness, austerity, etc. These points of mutual understanding must be the way by which a class consciousness is formed. Only through this  platform can a profound, subconscious and intimate knowledge of alienation and exploitation percolate through the ranks of productive labour and a desire to participate and fight can be fostered.

Currently, the left in North America – outside of Quebec, which requires a careful analysis of its popular political culture – is operating a war of Position by an arditi of specialist theoreticians and utopian breakers. The Occupy movement, which had massive popular support in the United States, was unable to capitalize on its struggle. While it sought to engage the public, it did not adequately make the critical leap between acknowledging the value of its pedagogy and employing that curriculum in diversified working environments. Few new labour struggles were fostered by occupy forces. Recruits were not made, distances between occupiers and the working class were maintained. Another event, the G20 in Toronto, which was defended by a paramilitarized pastiche of local enforcement officers acting simultaneously as carrot and billy club, saw public attention instead turn to the actions of the Black Bloc. As alluded to earlier, the goal of the Black Bloc is to point out the discrepancy between property and life; they want to cast a shadow of drama over protest that mocks the brutality and repression of the state over people. The broken windows symbolic of broken bodies (broken not only in protest but also in wage-slavery), a comparison so thoroughly understated that one almost laughs in pity at the paradoxical reaction of a horrified public. But wait. Why does the public react this way?

Violence carried out by a force so disconnected from its foundation is an arditi without an army. To be appalled at a public for misunderstanding your action is but a failure to grasp ones own tactical blunder. Is it any surprise that the producing-consuming class reviles the destruction of property? The symbolism is not only lost but worse, it produces a counter effect. The bourgeois gain allies in the public, who do not accept the destruction of their very notion of daily life. To break the windows in the coffee shop they meet friends in is to directly attack the foundation of that friendship. Rather than enable the spirit of criticism and perception that belongs to everyone with working experience under capitalism, minds are hardened  against yet another attack on their autonomy. To impose a view so forcefully without a critical infantry in reserve, regardless of the quality of the critique, is to do those struggling to build class consensus a great disfavour.

Importantly, this distance between the arditi and the infantry on the left is an historically-specific gulf. Perhaps it has existed for some time. In North America and in much of Western Europe it is at least as old as the Thatcher-Ragean-Mulrooney troika that ushered in the current class relations of neoliberalism. It is not an inevitable gulf, bridges can be built and in many cases, are being built. The Greek example of the Below square is a testament to the value in creating spaces that engender self-discovery and self-willed consensus. To want to belong is a choice whose influences remain subconscious. Building this subconscious or, in other words, positive coercive force, is the way forward. How this force takes shape is more or less dependent on how working people interact with the current left. If we are open, a new hegemony will have fertile ground to grow. If we impose theory before it has taken root, we will relegate ourselves to the margins of legtimacy. We, the arditi fighting our current war of Position cannot afford to continue down this path. A war of Movement, of mass action, must be our goal. And this requires us to think tactically, not just theoretically.

* Crucially, I am speaking here of the expression of a public agency. Autonomy and power obviously exist within the private spaces of life (the home, the family, the community), and have an idodynamics dependent on the who, what, where, etc. But in the secular social body of today’s active democratic states, the ripples of agency cast by the majority are generally limited to market formations; its only other exertion being, of course, protest.

————————————————————————

♦ I am deeply indebted to ‘Richard’ (whoever you are!) for this opening of the article. He wrote this great piece for the Irish Left Review. In it, he referenced Tsipras and the points Tsipras raised about the two squares, which (obviously) framed the way into my discussion.

¹Tsipras, December 30th, 2012, ILR

² ibid

³ Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, Vol. I, Note 134  ed. Joseph Buttgeig, 1992

¼ Gramsci, Prison Notebooks, Vol. I, Note 133

½ ibid

¤ David Graeber, The New Anarchists, New Left Review, Vol. 247, 04. 2002

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5 comments

  1. apple juice

    Hey!

    I wrote kind of a semi-long critique of your article, but I didn’t know if I should post it or not on here. I wasn’t too sure if you were interested in a sort of debate or not, or whether you were even looking for an opinion that is critical of what I took to be one of your fundamental arguments, ie. that violent tactics alienate the working classes from joining social movements. Anyways let me know if you’re interested and I could send it your way! I’m happy to see that there is some informative discourse engaging with this question!

  2. apple juice

    I like the article, and I think maybe the root of what you are getting at here is attempting to strategize different ways to form non-sovereign movements, that is, in a way attempting to prefigure in our struggles a society that collectively decides and takes diversity as its fundamental base. This is I think a very important question. It is crucially important to build a movement that contests capitalism that is based on the values and ideas of justice, freedom, etc, that we want to see in a world post-capitalism. For me this means attempting to build a movement, or movements that are anti-racist, feminist, queer, anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist, etc. However, I think the main issue I have with the suggestion in your article, is that I believe that it is false to assume that the elimination of so called violent tactics will enable the formation of heterogeneous mass movements. I think what is needed is rather a more detailed analysis of how to include and produce solidarity among many different people and tactics within the same movement.

    While I do think that it is important to think and be critical about strategy, action, and ideology within any movement, I find that oversimplifications of broad and complex social phenomena are an erroneous base from which to start any critique. While reading your article I got the impression that there was an attempt to dislocate on the one hand violent action and the black bloc from a direct democratic process on the other hand that was assumed to be at the base of many of the current uprisings or revolts happening around the world. Much like the quote you used from Alexis Tsipras, it seems to be assumed that people participating in any sort of violent action against State or capitalist symbols are portrayed as unpolitical and kind of naive (being mad that people don’t understand), versus other more peaceful demonstrators who are portrayed as heavily political and engaged in a democratic process of social movement building. This is I think a very hard argument to hold as it is based on no actual research or facts. It also echoes very heavily of the critique often heard of violent action in mass media, that it is only undertaken by a group of thugs who are “infiltrating” an otherwise peaceful movement, I believe that a much more accurate assumption about violent, or confrontational action, is that it likely is committed by a wide range of people engaged in various ways with a social movement, and more often than not, is undertaken by people heavily invested in organizing against oppression – meaning that they are implicated in the formation of these movements and participate in direct democracy, general assemblies, etc.

    The second major point I wanted to address is that it is almost impossible to accurately gauge public opinion on the acceptability or non-acceptability of certain tactics. It has to be admitted that we mostly gauge public opinion through mass media who are controlled by corporate and state interests. While this is a simplification, I think it still has merit. The neo-liberal paradigm has to reinforce the idea that only certain kinds of protest are acceptable, and this is conveyed through the media. Violent actions almost never have motive, politics, or justification in the mass media. Also, violent action has always been a part of social movements, and any attempt to distance ourselves from that fact is unfortunate. The fact of the matter is that violence (what even is that anyways? an occupation? blockades? window smashing? strikes? —–COPS WITH GUNS AND TANKS??) needs to be something we defend and claim the right to use in certain situations, if not, we are actually just completely disarming ourselves in front of a massive apparatus that has no qualms unleashing horrendous amounts of violence on us. To me it seems very important to not give in to a campaign of disarmament that the State has been exercising on social movements since the beginning. Violent tactics can be useful, and need to continue to be part of our arsenal of tactics.

    To give up on a certain kind of tactic because we assume it is alienating the working class from a movement, is problematic in a few ways. Firstly, I worry that often it is an attempt to deal with the effect that capitalist hegemony has had on our conscious, and deal with and be comfortable with the hierarchy and moralization of violence that has been indoctrinated in us. Vandalism is wrong and immoral, yet imperialism, war, even genocide by a state is acceptable and tolerable. I can critique this notion, but if i actually commit a crime and get caught i wont be able to deal with the shame and immorality of my actions in front of the law and the eyes of the citizens, especially during a campaign of incredible repression (vandalism = terrorism). therefore to theorize a “radical” pacifism makes me feel better about it.
    Secondly, if one is to look at many social movements across the world, it is really hard to generalize them. i think it is really important to think about things they have in common, and strategise tactics, etc, but social movements are easily as complex as the societies from which they come from. I know it is hard not to generalize things like for example, the universalizing effect of capitalism in the face of marxism, but it is really important to specifically think about specific movements, in specific places, with specific causes, and specific goals, and specific barriers. I feel like it serves very little purpose to exclude certain movements from your analysis based on the fact that there was violent confrontations within them. How can we exclude Québec from an analysis of contemporary occidental social movements emerging from societies built on the ideas of the enlightenment and french and american revolutions? or how can we exclude certain non-occidental social movements from our analysis when we understand that they are definitely heterogeneous and many parts of these movement are asking the same questions and demanding the same goals as contemporary north american movements. Ex — anarchist critiques were formed within the Arab Spring that come from the same ideological base as anarchist movements that participated in the Quebec student struggle, just the same as the G20. Violent action (whatever that means – i have a really broad notion of that term) was an essential part of both the Egyptian uprising, and the Quebec student movement, two movements that experienced a certain amount of success, and i dont think it is even possible to deny that their success was due in large part to the diversity of actions that happened within those movements, including violent ones. If violence really does prevent a mass movement from forming, then how come it didnt stop a mass movement from forming in Québéc or Egypt? Or during the student struggles in England? Or in Spain? Or Greece? Or During the country wide strikes in France?

    Lastly, is violent action really alienating the working class? How can we tell? Through union statements? Messages in the press? Again, a very hard thing to judge.

    I think that a more productive position to take in this struggle building, is to attempt to understand in what ways we can build and encourage an incredibly diverse movement, that stands together as a cohesive whole, built from innumerable parts, and understand how we can learn to decide collectively and share power collectively in a heterogeneous way, and not focus our time trying to divide a movement into “good” and “bad” parts, in order to legitimize social movements in the face of a political ideology (neo-liberalism) and its various tools (media, police, courts) whose brilliant strategy is to let us know that protest is a right, but it must be done only in a certain way, ie, a way that does not threaten the existing order. I think a really important thing to keep in mind, is that we might have to give up on this idea of speaking together with the same voice, or as one, or with the exact same goal. Social movements power comes from the pluralism of voices and ideas and goals that are not all exactly the same, but that swarm together and contest the existing order in an infinite amount of ways to pave multiple roads towards a similar direction, towards something new. This is the crucial question, in a world of extreme diversity, how do we form sovereign collectivities? horizontal decision making that respects diversity and impedes the imposition of some brand new sovereign person or group from taking power over everyone else?

    P.S. –i am all for critiquing the black bloc and coming up with informed tactics, i do not like it when violent action undertaken by one protestor at a small demo puts the safety of a hundred people in danger because they want to always smash shit. its stupid. but man, i really just wish we could focus our energy on how to become stronger based on our diversity and difference (abilities, goals, history, culture, ideas, age, bodies, genders, sexualities, etc and i dont mean in a hierarchical way, ) instead of always creating the “other”. except of course in certain cases. fascists, racists, conservatives need not apply because these are ideologies that we do not support,they do not look to the future for something radically new ….tactics and allies on the other hand are different. they are tools and comrades that help us achieve our goals.

  3. fivezeros

    I’d first like to begin by thanking apple juice for writing a very thoughtful response piece to the article. I think they raise some very valid points about the dangers of essentializing questions of strategy, which can wind up being as imposing if not more imposing than mass media or the enforcement arms of the state.

    My goal of writing this polemic was to try and deconstruct what is working and what is not in current left critiques of north-western (NW) neoliberal states (occidental is the correct word here). Perhaps I did not clarify my intention of defining this territory as locally as I could have, for that is my intention. And I mean local in several ways: local to roughly the past two decades, local to much of North America but excluding Quebec, which, for several reasons, I wish to define as unique (in that it has an historically-conditioned broad political culture that, evidenced with the student strike in Montreal, supports diverse, heterogeneous, tactical actions: some violent, others not), and local in the issue I am trying to address: massification and legitimacy. For this reason, I want to absolutely clarify that I have no moral or value judgements about violence as an approach in and of itself, which as you pointed out is a rather fluid term. As I wrote near the top, the question is “of strategy, not theory.” But, as you suggest, you take issue with the notion that the deployment of a particular set of tactics and an avoidance of others does not by any means guarantee a successful movement. That is a fair point. And though I can state here that I do not think the growth of a popular movement is in anyway inevitable or incumbent on a selection of only one set of tactics, its absence from the article is a critical error. I will be more careful to state the limitations of the discussion in future writings. Now.

    You write

    “I got the impression that there was an attempt to dislocate on the one hand violent action an the black bloc from a direct democratic process on the other hand that was assumed to be at the base of many of the current uprisings or revolts happening around the world.”

    I understand why my quotation of Tsipras may have conveyed that idea. But my use of his evaluation was not intended to embrace one tactic and shun the other. Rather it was to introduce the question, by way of the radical left in Greece, around violence-as-tactic, and whether it has efficacy for countering neoliberalism. Tsipras does make the qualification that the users of violence (who employed physical breaking) were operating in less-participative ways compared to those who chose blockading, direct democracy in their meetings (which might suggest that those wielding weapons were not [?]), or street demos. This may be solely his interpretation, or it might be a failure of the ‘violent’ wing of the Greek left. The use of Greece was because it stands as an example of massified radicalism for others to consider, especially if (perhaps more likely, when) neoliberalism begins to claim a basis of life in our locality that is perceived of as being too fucking much for even the most apathetic of people.

    As for the situation in the Near East, things are happening there that don’t really have a corollary in the NW. In Tunisia, the ruling class abdicated before the popular reform movement turned violent. In Egypt, the uprising was semi-violent (much of which was operated through religious power and some of which was directed at women in particular), probably owing to the fact that the millitaucracy realized Mubarak wouldn’t survive in a legitimate democracy and joined the protesters in a semi-coup. More recently, Morsi’s leadership is rank with corruption and illigitimacy, and protest movements are re-emerging. Of course things have been so much different in Libya and Syria. In these countries, the uprisings have been popular. Wars of Position and Movement are being conducted by anti-regime militias who have arditi-led commands through the legitimacy of a mass. What will become of these revolutions is yet to be seen. In Libya it appears as though democratic reforms are being filtered through a semi-popular Islamic theocracy. Syria is obviously still being challenged. One almost dreads interventions by Iran, Israel and the United States for what it will do to the internationalization of a highly-specific conflict. My point in this is to suggest that the actions being conducted in the Near East have so many particular dimensions; from colonization and Orientalist interventions in the 19th and 20th centuries and the creation of an Arab bourgeois, to the revolutionary religious movements in the 1970s that ousted the secular Shah in Iran and created a theocratic power to counter that in Israel. I find it as difficult to extrapolate lessons as I do in imposing them in this region. I assume that we struggle for sovereignty just as the antagonized classes do in all social relations; although our struggles take such different form, there is a kernel of solidarity to be unearthed. This was probably not made as clear as it should have been in the article.

    I am aware that violent tactics (as you say, violence?) are not used by lone rangers ‘outside’ resistance movements, but are instead often part of them. I assumed that I was addressing not ‘thugs’ or ‘infiltrators’, but strongly-supported communities within the left. The black bloc certainly have some degree of support; their ability to manifest so internationally is testament to that. Measuring that support within the left is for many reasons difficult, but I would think that at least diversity of tactics has been made a sacrosanct ideal. I alluded several of the symbolic themes that violent actions might try to elucidate; brokenness, irony, chaos, inspiration. I believe these things to be very inspiring indeed. My point however was to question whether the message is being read, or decoded more likely, by the working class in the locality I am working within. That this question can be asked of non-violent resistance (like occupy) as well is something I am aware of. (Socialist theorists of the more traditional trade-union school like Leo Panitch, Colin Leys and Sam Gindin are pessimistic around this point. Occupy-support polls were maybe more optimistic.) Nevertheless, my own limited conversations with people on this topic of violence was negative in tone. I became concerned with its social usefulness during the G20, and disheartened in the worst way after the Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver. The media did not make the comparison. But I’m wary that the two events have become paired in a deeper consciousness in the Canadian working class.

    And it is on this point, the elusive, ever-subjective ‘consciousness’ that this article hinges. The appeal to the popular is so often used to divide and demonize, to create a ideological rift between a deserving and an undeserving. Risking demagoguery, I nevertheless tried to fashion an understanding of how, from a non-political perspective, a tactics of violence against property might be received. Moving outwards from the reification of agency itself, I laid out a typical Marxist framework of public participation and social ontology that is steeped in the narratives of hegemonic capitalism. With a firm belief in the idea that consciousness is inextricably linked to historically-defined antagonisms of production, it follows that conceptions of power in the locality of neoliberalism (where resistance to capital has been continually decimated) are more individualized and marketized than perhaps any other time in history. Defeat in unionism has not produced a mass counter-revolution. It has set the class with the fewest resources into a tailspin of seeking private solutions to globalized problems. Obedience with austerity in Canada specifically, for so many not-encouraging reasons, is at a high point (by way of contrast, austerity protests here in Ireland draw hundreds of thousands. The weight of the crisis falling heaviest [40% IMF-EU bailouts were delivered here] on such a tiny population has caused an explosion of mass outrage.) This is where we must begin. I suggested in the article that the left needs to find ways of engaging with Difference in order to broaden a subconscious idea of alienation and class antagonism. I am not convinced that breaking is an appropriate tactic of pollination right now.

    You are right that we should not “give in to a campaign of disarmament that the State has been exercising on social movements since the beginning.” As organizers, activists, working people, we must cling to a vast repertoire of tactics that includes, when prudent, violent resistance. But employing a tactics is not something I think needs to be stripped of its autonomy. Prudence is not a top-down, centralized authority.

    You write

    “We might have to give up on this idea of speaking together with the same voice, or as one, or with the exact same goal.” That perhaps the target should be in creating a network of “sovereign collectivities … that swarm together and contest the existing order in an infinite amount of ways to pave multiple roads towards the same direction, towards something new.”

    Very inspiring and evocative. The engaged collective that is simultaneously a disparate network of politically-active fiefdoms is a wonderful vision for activism. This is a projected idea that we share. But I also think it will only gain more legitimacy through expansion. The inclusion of the not-yet engaged is so critical to forming a strengthened opposition because I think it is undeniable that power is a corollary of size. This means that a disparate network must always be recruiting, each centre of struggle focused on politicizing its links. And perhaps this is where ground experience destroys theory. Nevertheless, this might represent an epistemological break between our thinking around organizing: what is the critical moment of inspiration? Is it when a being perceives another violate a law in defence of freedom? Or is it when they tacitly feel that they should commit that same violation?

    Edited: February 14th 4:37, grammar.

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