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+6 votes
A tension: We have done this to ourselves (no 'evil' class of humans is solely responsible for the way the world is, it has great many of us to get to where we are) - and - there are enemies.

Not counting those who rely on a leftist moral framework ('oppressed = good, oppressor = bad,' the dividing classes of people into either category based on one or a combination of social constructs), how do anarchists point to and name their enemies while avoiding the pitfalls of deeming a whole class of people 'evil'?

Are some of these enemies categorically so, i.e. ALWAYS enemies? Or is it contextual?
by (280 points)
edited by
Awesome question, also in the recent stream dealing with (a-) morality, ethics... Looking forward to reading the responses.
Can you rewrite your questions without using words like "evil" and "class" and "enemies"?
No, they are there intentionally. Maybe i'll add quotes or something to clarify. Maybe you could read more generously next time.

I am interested in a non-moral conception of enemy. For example, are the cops always an enemy? Are we talking about the individuals in front of us, or all cops, ever, all the time? If so, how does that differ from calling them evil or bad, or some other essentialist, moral framework that anarchists are supposed to be against?
Adding quotation marks will certainly not clarify anything.

What might be the reason you've decided that I haven't read your unclear question "more generously"? Presumably a "more generous" reading would include some kind of automatic agreement despite the use of terms that create unnecessary confusion? Sorry, I can't do that.

If you're interested in "a non-moral conception of enemy" you might want to avoid using the terminology of moralism. That's what I was trying to get at with my suggestion. "Evil" is always a moral category; "enemy" is almost always used that way too, especially when you increase its scope into a "class."

To use your example: I don't believe cops as individuals or as a class of human being are "evil." I don't even believe that individual cops or their social role can be classified as "evil." As long as anyone (in or out of uniform, professional or voluntary) accepts the role of an enforcer of social conformity, private property, and a legislative order, then that person will be antagonistic to the goals of conscious radicals. That makes them our opponents, but "evil"? Why cloud the issue with an inherently dehumanizing classification?
To clarify again:

A) Moral conceptions of the world divide people into classes and assigns them values (good/evil).
B) The history of the world is complicated in a way that morality can't account for. No single group of people are responsible for the mess we're in. In some way, we all are.
C) Anarchists, who are opposed to morality, have enemies.
D) How can anarchists conceive of, name, and denote 'enemies' in a way that DOESN'T create classes of people or moral values.

I'm not asking "who is evil?"

Fwiw, I agree with your comments. You are just misunderstanding what I'm asking, why I used the words that I did. I'm not interested in calling things evil. I'm saying that other people call things evil. I want to know how to avoid doing things that sound suspiciously similar. Every time I say the word evil I say that such a thing either does not exist, or it's a conception to be avoided. I very explicitly say that I'm not interested in moral answers. I use the word evil to explain the kind of answer that I DON'T want.
i've been trying to figure out why i read the question wrong, and what was appealing about the way i read it... and i deleted my answer because it wasn't answering the question you asked.
and perhaps it's worth asking another question, but as a place holder i will say here that there is something about language, and morality as a bugaboo, much like ideology: the people who argue the most against ideology are frequently the most ideological. i am struggling with the idea of language owning us, and being afraid to use words more because they mark us as outsiders to a particular group, than because they mean anything necessarily relevant about how we're thinking.
but of course that gets into deeply relativistic waters, and that's not awesome either.
so... there's my place holder.
now carry on as you were... :)
Whoever puts his hand on me to govern me . . . .  For me it's principally contextual as I believe most human beings are capable of behaving ethically and unethically. Individual politicians and police are as capable of love as anyone else but whenever they attempt to assert authority over me they become my enemy.

2 Answers

0 votes
cybad4d4 should have made their comment an answer, i'd have upped it.

for me it is absolutely contextual.  but the context does not exclude various factors that might implicate a given "class" of people as an adversary (or ally), without necessarily observing/experiencing the behavior of an individual.  best example: cops and the like, who wear very visible uniforms that identify them as belonging to a "class" of people that have chosen an "occupation" that is inherently anti-liberatory and imposes on my own freedom. their uniform - and what it means to me - is part of the context.

if some group is known to hold a particular perspective or act in a particular way (eg, nazi skinheads, hippie freaks, business school grads, black bloc'ers, etc), it may well influence my assessment of any member of that group as adversary vs ally. if i have reason to associate an individual with such a group, i am likely to begin my assessment of them from a different starting point than an individual for which i have no basis of determining likely behavior.

for individuals that are not identifiable with some group or known pattern of behavior - who i will almost always be more likely to engage with - i will always try to make my assessment fully based on the context of my interaction with them, which may include any other reliable information i have about them. and obviously the information i have about them will grow with each interaction and depth of interaction, making my assessment of them as "friend or foe" easier and clearer over time.

my friend's friend is not necessarily my friend. my enemy's enemy is not necessarily my friend. my friend's enemy is not necessarily my enemy. all of these points simply highlight the fact that i will make my own determination about who i see as ally or adversary. and that determination is valid for exactly as long as.... i see it as valid.

as cybad4d4 said:

"Individual politicians and police are as capable of love as anyone else but whenever they attempt to assert authority over me they become my enemy."

fact is, that "whenever" is typically "pretty much always".
by (13.4k points)
0 votes
Yes to personal and contextual. Those people, institutions or forces that impose control on our lives can be seen as enemies to individual anarchists.

But also, yes to taking an offensive on those people, institutions and/or forces we see as enforcing our alienation from self-power. The only problem is that this is more of an equation that we have to share agreement in some way, if it is to be a shared struggle, a social struggle, if you will. To generate this understanding of enemy, anarchists engage in social analysis and discussion, criticize each other etc. so we can eventually come to some sort of agreement on who is the enemy and how we could engage the enemy.
by (3.9k points)