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. or micah (at)