Blackspot

Insurrection Debated

Insurrection or revolution?

A debate whose outcome may have profound significance for activism is simmering at the edges of the Left. What makes this a squabble worth attending to is that both sides seem equally matched: their theorists are brilliant, their proponents are passionate and their networks are distributed. And at the center of the debate is a question of vital importance: insurrection or revolution.

Insurrectionary anarchism is rarely talked about because it pushes the boundaries of political good taste. The few authors who do openly promote the movement are often jailed. In 1977, for example, Alfredo M. Bonanno was imprisoned for 18 months in Italy for writing Armed Joy. Thus insurrectionary anarchism has traditionally been pushed to the margins of political debate and ignored … until now.

Most of us are aware of the revolutionary model that relies on a mass movement of disaffected people storming the gates of power and seizing control in an organized manner. This revolutionary model exists in opposition to the chaotic, spontaneous and violent impulse underlying insurrectionary anarchism. And usually, the debate is over before it begins and revolutionary praxis wins by default.

But with the publication of The Coming Insurrection and the arrest of the alleged author of the text insurrectionary anarchism is picking up a readership. Some 27,000 copies have been sold in France and more are being purchased every day through Amazon in the States. It has even inspired additional tracts such as Preoccupied: The Logic of Occupation. With insurrectionary anarchism finally reaching a wide audience, a debate among radical political theorists was inevitable.

The first signs of this discussion can be found on Znet in a blog entitled, “The Coming Insurrection or the Arrival of Suicidal Nonsense?” by Chris Spannos. Although Spannos disagrees with the authors of the text, his post is commendable for being one of the first to take it seriously enough to argue with on a philosophical basis. I expect that we will see a growing number of thinkers weigh in on the question of how to carry out the overthrow.

I believe the debate over the merits of The Coming Insurrection can only lead us in the right direction because the question it raises – how to bring about vast, systemic change – is the single most important question we ought to be considering. So, download a copy of The Coming Insurrection, read Spannos' critique and weigh in below with your thoughts.

Micah White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters and an independent activist. He is writing a book on the future of activism. www.micahmwhite.com or micah (at) adbusters.org

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52 comments on the article “Insurrection Debated”

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Time Ghost

revolution or insurrection? insurrection... ...but - (& is this just me? or...) it seems like in the states there isn't that kind of street spirit that seems to still exist in Europe (the banlieu uprisings, the Greek riots, the bailout protests) that would be equal to the festivity and public display intrinsic to an insurrection. like we would all be self-consciously standing around a car fire making some stupid reference to some stupid 80's movie that had a car fire in it. like college and cubicles and our weird closed circuit culture has cut off our capacity for spontaneity and sincerity and uninhibited action. like the PATRIOT act and 8 yrs of Bush and rumors of FEMA camps and the draconian sentencing of the RNC 8 and the Green Scare have made us shy after our brief day in the tear gas-obscured sun of seattle. but somehow the day will have to come. if i may be allowed to get a little sentimental, even romantic, even mystical, i would say that insurrection is not only an outburst of rage, but an outburst of love (insurrection means literally 'a rising up', which could indeed be spiritually edifying). i think of Dostoyevsky's phrase about 'watering the earth with our tears', about each of us admitting that we are all guilty before one another, shedding our societal pretenses & embracing in some sort of apocalypse of love. but... but... that would probably require some sort of divine intervention, or some heavy dosing of the water supply..................ps why no paragraph breaks? drive me crazy!

Time Ghost

revolution or insurrection? insurrection... ...but - (& is this just me? or...) it seems like in the states there isn't that kind of street spirit that seems to still exist in Europe (the banlieu uprisings, the Greek riots, the bailout protests) that would be equal to the festivity and public display intrinsic to an insurrection. like we would all be self-consciously standing around a car fire making some stupid reference to some stupid 80's movie that had a car fire in it. like college and cubicles and our weird closed circuit culture has cut off our capacity for spontaneity and sincerity and uninhibited action. like the PATRIOT act and 8 yrs of Bush and rumors of FEMA camps and the draconian sentencing of the RNC 8 and the Green Scare have made us shy after our brief day in the tear gas-obscured sun of seattle. but somehow the day will have to come. if i may be allowed to get a little sentimental, even romantic, even mystical, i would say that insurrection is not only an outburst of rage, but an outburst of love (insurrection means literally 'a rising up', which could indeed be spiritually edifying). i think of Dostoyevsky's phrase about 'watering the earth with our tears', about each of us admitting that we are all guilty before one another, shedding our societal pretenses & embracing in some sort of apocalypse of love. but... but... that would probably require some sort of divine intervention, or some heavy dosing of the water supply..................ps why no paragraph breaks? drive me crazy!

Time Ghost

p.p.s. ... why doesn't someone write an insurrectionary pamphlet that doesn't contain so many quintesylabbic words in every sentence (as 'the coming insurrection' does) ? I mean, presumably an insurrection has to be 'popular', right, as in a lot of 'regular people' need to be involved? at least this book isn't as mind-numbing as the much celebrated, over-rated, overly intellectual, 'society of the spectacle' to which it is often compared (and which contains a lot of great ideas - they're just so tediously written & abstract)... But so far, I like 'the coming insurrection', which i have just been reading.

Time Ghost

p.p.s. ... why doesn't someone write an insurrectionary pamphlet that doesn't contain so many quintesylabbic words in every sentence (as 'the coming insurrection' does) ? I mean, presumably an insurrection has to be 'popular', right, as in a lot of 'regular people' need to be involved? at least this book isn't as mind-numbing as the much celebrated, over-rated, overly intellectual, 'society of the spectacle' to which it is often compared (and which contains a lot of great ideas - they're just so tediously written & abstract)... But so far, I like 'the coming insurrection', which i have just been reading.

Anonymous

I think The Coming Insurrection scares North Americans because we don't have the same kind of spontaneous radical culture that leftists/anarchists in Europe do. Even American protest culture for the most part has a higher sense of pacifism most likely because of the high influence from the liberals and progressives. The portion of radical leftists that would be ready and willing to support an insurrection in America is far less than in Europe unfortunately. Most American leftists seem to be revolutionaries that are more content for waiting until "the big one" which will apparently happen with no prior planning or thought. Perhaps the reason nobody takes insurrectionary anarchism seriously is because nobody wants to face the reality of our situation and the actions that need to be taken eventually. Protests and activism won't bring about the social change we so desperately need. Action will have to be taken eventually and now is the time to plant the seeds for that action.

Anonymous

I think The Coming Insurrection scares North Americans because we don't have the same kind of spontaneous radical culture that leftists/anarchists in Europe do. Even American protest culture for the most part has a higher sense of pacifism most likely because of the high influence from the liberals and progressives. The portion of radical leftists that would be ready and willing to support an insurrection in America is far less than in Europe unfortunately. Most American leftists seem to be revolutionaries that are more content for waiting until "the big one" which will apparently happen with no prior planning or thought. Perhaps the reason nobody takes insurrectionary anarchism seriously is because nobody wants to face the reality of our situation and the actions that need to be taken eventually. Protests and activism won't bring about the social change we so desperately need. Action will have to be taken eventually and now is the time to plant the seeds for that action.

Dks

My Biggest problem when people claim "Revolution" here in the states is that I feel it is very reckless. -------- *Revolution* - 2 a: a sudden, radical, or complete change b: a fundamental change in political organization ; especially : the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed c: activity or movement designed to effect fundamental changes in the socioeconomic situation d: a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something : a change of paradigm....... ------- Sometimes Revolution will usher in something that no one wants, so I feel it's not the answer. Personally I feel that instead of the word revolution we need a "Restoration" of smaller fed government and bigger local / State Government. Plus end all meddling in foreign polices (cut all funding), Get back to the Real American Agenda.... ------ Now with Insurrection, it should really be more aimed at the giant corporations around the world, for all humans to be treated and payed equally no matter who you are or where you live. These are the modern day imperialist with a logo. So instead of going straight at a "Government" entity go for the juggler their corporate buddies. Then let the government show their true colors.

Dks

My Biggest problem when people claim "Revolution" here in the states is that I feel it is very reckless. -------- *Revolution* - 2 a: a sudden, radical, or complete change b: a fundamental change in political organization ; especially : the overthrow or renunciation of one government or ruler and the substitution of another by the governed c: activity or movement designed to effect fundamental changes in the socioeconomic situation d: a fundamental change in the way of thinking about or visualizing something : a change of paradigm....... ------- Sometimes Revolution will usher in something that no one wants, so I feel it's not the answer. Personally I feel that instead of the word revolution we need a "Restoration" of smaller fed government and bigger local / State Government. Plus end all meddling in foreign polices (cut all funding), Get back to the Real American Agenda.... ------ Now with Insurrection, it should really be more aimed at the giant corporations around the world, for all humans to be treated and payed equally no matter who you are or where you live. These are the modern day imperialist with a logo. So instead of going straight at a "Government" entity go for the juggler their corporate buddies. Then let the government show their true colors.

Anonymous

What you just described is exactly what's wrong with revolutionary theory in the first place. While revolutions may be commonplace in other parts of the world, it's pretty far-fetched that such a movement capable of toppling the federal government of the United States would ever come into existence. (At least one that shares our anti-capitalist views anyway) This is why, although I support revolutionary practices, I am more of a insurrectionist in first world cases such as in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. Simply moving power away from the federal government to the local and state governments will not bring about the changes we seek. We need our own social system of direct democracy to be created in the grassroots and supported by the people in their communities as an alternative to the corporate conglomeration that is mainstream politics. An insurrection doesn't necessarily have to be violent (though it may be a little optimistic to expect no violence at all). It just has to be supported and defended while promoting other insurrections like it around the world. But of course we have a lot of work to do here in the States to match the ingenuity, courage, and principled insurrectionists of Europe. Studying and learning the tactics and information in "The Coming Insurrection" is a good start though.

Anonymous

What you just described is exactly what's wrong with revolutionary theory in the first place. While revolutions may be commonplace in other parts of the world, it's pretty far-fetched that such a movement capable of toppling the federal government of the United States would ever come into existence. (At least one that shares our anti-capitalist views anyway) This is why, although I support revolutionary practices, I am more of a insurrectionist in first world cases such as in the U.S., Canada, or Europe. Simply moving power away from the federal government to the local and state governments will not bring about the changes we seek. We need our own social system of direct democracy to be created in the grassroots and supported by the people in their communities as an alternative to the corporate conglomeration that is mainstream politics. An insurrection doesn't necessarily have to be violent (though it may be a little optimistic to expect no violence at all). It just has to be supported and defended while promoting other insurrections like it around the world. But of course we have a lot of work to do here in the States to match the ingenuity, courage, and principled insurrectionists of Europe. Studying and learning the tactics and information in "The Coming Insurrection" is a good start though.

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