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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Anonymous

Arguing about Insurrection vs Revolution seems to me to be arguing about tactics and/or strategy.

What's at least as important, I believe, is getting to general agreement about goals, and spreading that agreement among the populace at large.

Without general agreement about goals, in the absence of the daring anarchists in the street being widely supported by the US population at large, Revolution is impossible, and it could get damned difficult to distinguish Insurrection from banditry. To put it another way, if the most principled anarchists one can imagine heroically mount an Insurrection among a population whose values & prejudices at odds with the Insurrectionary goals, what practical difference exists between the "liberating" Insurrection and the "authoritarian" violence of the State? If you use force of any kind that goes beyond the political will of the majority, are you truly different from the army, in the eyes of the majority? So rooting yourselves in the "people" is essential; anything else is just anti-social, Right in essence, tho Left in form. BTW In writing this, I confess to being an ageing Baby Boomer, someone who once was energized by the 60s and then disillusioned. Assuredly, aging Boomers like me are on our way towards the boneyard. Someone in here has written well: soon the young and daring will push us aside. Ignore us if you want. But those of you who write this, are you unaware of how eerily & precisely you echo exactly what the Baby Boomer revolutionaries were saying in my generation? Do not you recognize that when you vow to create a new society of "Chaos," you sound exactly like the New Left of the 1960s, not to mention the Bakunist anarchists of the 19th century? And we lost our wars, as the Bakunists also lost before us. Perhaps if you hope to launch a new world, you should emulate role models -- if you can find them -- who succeeded. -- "The Dead Hand of the Past Weighs a Nightmare on the Brains of the Living"

Anonymous

Arguing about Insurrection vs Revolution seems to me to be arguing about tactics and/or strategy.

What's at least as important, I believe, is getting to general agreement about goals, and spreading that agreement among the populace at large.

Without general agreement about goals, in the absence of the daring anarchists in the street being widely supported by the US population at large, Revolution is impossible, and it could get damned difficult to distinguish Insurrection from banditry. To put it another way, if the most principled anarchists one can imagine heroically mount an Insurrection among a population whose values & prejudices at odds with the Insurrectionary goals, what practical difference exists between the "liberating" Insurrection and the "authoritarian" violence of the State? If you use force of any kind that goes beyond the political will of the majority, are you truly different from the army, in the eyes of the majority? So rooting yourselves in the "people" is essential; anything else is just anti-social, Right in essence, tho Left in form. BTW In writing this, I confess to being an ageing Baby Boomer, someone who once was energized by the 60s and then disillusioned. Assuredly, aging Boomers like me are on our way towards the boneyard. Someone in here has written well: soon the young and daring will push us aside. Ignore us if you want. But those of you who write this, are you unaware of how eerily & precisely you echo exactly what the Baby Boomer revolutionaries were saying in my generation? Do not you recognize that when you vow to create a new society of "Chaos," you sound exactly like the New Left of the 1960s, not to mention the Bakunist anarchists of the 19th century? And we lost our wars, as the Bakunists also lost before us. Perhaps if you hope to launch a new world, you should emulate role models -- if you can find them -- who succeeded. -- "The Dead Hand of the Past Weighs a Nightmare on the Brains of the Living"

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