AGAINST THE WAR
The current war that the United States and its British allies are waging in Afghanistan requires a clear response from anarchists. Since we oppose the state, we also oppose militarism and the wars of the state. So we need to ask ourselves how we can oppose the current war in practice in a way that is consistent with our anarchist aims and principles. In developing our response we need to understand the nature of a specifically anarchist opposition to militarism and war and develop our practice on these terms.
Anarchist opposition to war cannot base itself on humanitarian moralism. Moral principles that are placed above the real lives of individuals as a means of judging their value are easily transformed into justifications for the economic and political interests of those in power. In recent years, humanitarian morality has supported a myriad of atrocities. If NATO’s humanitarian bombing of what’s left of the Yugoslav federation and its subsequent occupation of Kosovo did not make this adequately clear, the current policy of dropping bombs and food packets on an already war-devastated land, allegedly for the purpose of destroying a small group of terrorists should leave no question as to the vacuity of humanitarianism. When we try to use the same values against the state that it uses to justify its activities, we get caught in a war of words in which the state has the upper hand and will find such attempts turned against us, since as revolutionaries we do not value all lives equally. The lives of those who rule us and the armed lackeys that they hire to defend them mean nothing to us, since they are the ones who have sucked the joy and wonder out of life transforming it into nothing more than different levels of survival at a price.
In the same light, anarchists do not oppose war in the name of peace. The peace of the state is the continuation of institutional violence at a different level. When the peace movement calls the US to stop the bombing in Afghanistan and instead go through the World Court and its processes to carry out the so-called fight against terrorism, it is only calling the US to continue waging its war by other means. The aims of the American state are not brought into question, let alone the nature of the state. In fact, these other means are being used to wage the so-called “war at home”. In practice, turning to the law means turning to the cops, the courts, the various institutions of detention and all that goes along with them. Anyone who has been put through this system knows the violence inherent in the legal process. These institutions of the state’s peace are, in fact, weapons in the social war, unspoken threats against anyone who would rise up against their oppression as well as means of processing, storing and brutalizing the most oppressed. Furthermore, what distinguishes anarchism from other revolutionary perspectives is the primacy it gives to the freedom of every individual to create her own life as he sees fit. Thus, peace is not our top priority. The revolutionary destruction of the state and capitalism would put an end to institutional violence, but conflicts between individuals would still exist, and since the institutions of state violence are also the institutions of control, their destruction would mean that individuals would have to work out these conflicts for themselves in their own way—and that may include violence. In my opinion, this would not be a bad thing. The institutions through which social peace has been maintained are the same as those through which domination is maintained, and the point is to end all domination.
Anarchists oppose the wars of the state because these wars always enforce the power of the state and the interests of the ruling class. These interests include the obvious ones of economic and political hegemony in a particular region, but there are more subtle benefits to the state as well. By enforcing the use of a military methodology and mentality, war provides the state with the tools it needs not only for imposing its interests abroad, but also for suppressing class struggle and revolt at home. It also provides the state with a means for creating a sense of national unity that blinds the exploited and excluded to the real causes of their condition. In times of war, those at the bottom of the social order stand with their rulers against an alleged “common enemy”—but when one examines the corpses on the battlefield, none of the rulers are there. This is the nature of the unity produced by the wars between states; it is just another ploy in the social war the ruling class wages daily against those who they exploit.
So anarchist opposition to war is an aspect of the revolutionary project of destroying the state. The methods we use in our struggle against the current war need to reflect this clearly. This will distinguish us from pacifists and others who are demanding that those in power use “peaceful” means to carry out their agenda. For most anti-war activists the top priority is to “stop the war”. But when the war in Afghanistan ends, the social war through which the ruling class maintains its domination will continue, and so will the struggle of the exploited against their condition and the specific and conscious struggle of anarchists against the state, capital and all institutions of domination and exploitation. If we compromise our methods and principles in order to forge false unities to end the war, we are falling into the some trap as those who wear the flag because Bush and the media told them that our complex emotional reactions to the attacks of September 11 all come down to patriotism. So our methods of struggle need to reflect our insurrectional project. This means acting directly to destroy that which we oppose, organizing these actions autonomously, free of the agendas and platforms of any political or other formal group, refusing negotiation or compromise with those who rule us and making our attack unrelentingly. The United States was forced to withdraw its troops from Vietnam not because of the “non-violent” anti-war movement at home (as certain pacifist myth-makers have tried to claim), but because by the early 1970’s a majority of land and naval troops were in open and violent mutiny against their officers and the US military agenda. (For more information about this, check out “Harass the Brass” by Kevin Keating. It can be found in The Bad Days Will End, issues #4-5 (double issue, Winter-Spring 2001), Alternative Press Review, Volume 6, Number 2/ Summer 2001 or at the webpage: http://www.altpr.org/apr15/keating.html.) The protests at home—particularly actions sabotaging the war effort—certainly encouraged the troops in mutiny, but the mutiny is what forced the US withdrawal.
But the current war is not the same as the one in Vietnam. Popular support is great and chances of mutiny are almost non-existent. But the basic lesson remains: the struggle against war does not succeed through demands or negotiations, but through the active refusal to fall into line and the active obstruction of the war effort. Certainly, one of the essential tasks of anarchist is to counter the myth of unity with clear exposures of the role of the American state in creating the terror networks it now condemns, thus making it clear that the interests of the ruling class are not our interests. But the project of counter-information needs to be combined with direct attacks against the war effort and the social order that stands behind it.