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+5 votes
or: Why aren't all anarchists illegalists?
by (280 points)
I can't point you to any direct critiques of illegalism off-hand, but you might be interested in what the folks at have published exploring the idea of 'civil anarchism', which seems to be a term of critique to describe orthodox-leftist-organisationalist-anarchists who are critical of the FAI (Informal Anarchist Federation) phenomenon.  The leftist types that 'civil anarchism' refers to are some of the harshest critics of contemporary illegalist-inspired groups and ideas, within the anarchist milieu (that I've seen, at least).  

In my experience their critiques of illegalist-inspired groups usually just defaults to something like 'they're undermining the hard work of conscious class struggle anarchists! Their recklessness alienates the working class and impedes our progress in organizing them into a social movement', ie. worn-out workerist moralizing.

Here's a link to 'Anarchism - Civil or Subversive?':

I'm sure there were critiques of illegalism when it first blossomed, and I'd be very interested in reading a proper answer to this question by someone better informed.  In the meantime it might be worth digging around for polemics published by platformist and anarcho-syndicalist papers, both historical and contemporary.

Edited to clean up spelling etc.
Interesting,  I found a short text by Emile Armand earlier today that critiques illegalism by exploring a lot of the same ideas discussed in that thread, I'll write an answer with the link tomorrow (or later today depending on your timezone).
I'm not sure when I'm going to have time to write answer so here's the link :)

1 Answer

–4 votes
Well, it is wrong to assume that just because you don't believe in the legitimate existence of a state or morality as a state-enforcable concept, it is ok to act like a beligerrent asshole and hurt other people. Stealing from a bank usually hurts the people who have their money in the bank more than the bank itself (duh, that's how capitalism works, profit moves up, cost moves down), and it really just makes you a slightly unconventional capitalist. That being said, some illegalist activity, such as counterfeiting money and smuggling was more productive.

However, pissing off capitalists with petty, superficial crime is really just a fruitless cause. In a war of crime and/or violence against the state, anarchists will nearly always lose because, unless they have the vast majority of the country on their side, they don't have the authority or the structure to retaliate effectively. Thinking that you can undermine the state through crime is like trying to dig a hole to China, one spoonful at a time, except with the state retaliating the whole time with bulldozers.

 The only war that anarchists really have a chance of winning, at least initially, is a war of ideas, supported by a dissatisfied proletariat (or whatever else you want to call the group of people not profiting from capitalism). Illegalism is greatly damaging to this war, because the state-run media is more than happy to use it as propaganda, and it really hurts anarchism's legitimacy in the public eye. Marx learned this in Germany when he alienated the workers with his violent Communist propaganda (hence the reason why the "social democrat" movement of the 1860's was very careful not to associate itself with Communism), which resulted in his Communist Manifesto not really reaching a major audience until it's resurrection by the Leninists, a generation later.

 Illegalism, along with an extremist American reaction to anything associated with Marx and Communism, is what has caused anarchism as a viable political theory to fall from grace in the public eye and attain the terrible reputation and stereotypes associated with it today. The majority of "illegalists" today are naive teenagers who shoplifted their bright colored Mohawk dye and "punk music" cds from Wal-Mart and think anarchism is all about skipping school, staying up past curfew and scaring their parents.

I would argue that a much better alternative strategy to illegalism would be non-participationism, in which you try to separate yourself from the state and the capitalist system as much as possible in your own lifestyle. In that way, you can become a positive example rather than a negative threat. People remember Ghandi in a much better light than they do Sacco and Vanzetti, and I would argue that he got a lot more done.
by (-10 points)
Thinking that you can undermine the state through crime is like trying to dig a hole to China, one spoonful at a time, except with the state retaliating the whole time with bulldozers.

lol. thinking you can undermine the state USING ANY TACTIC AT ALL is like trying to dig a hole to China, one spoonful at a time, except with the state retaliating the whole time with bulldozers.

both ward churchill and peter gelderloos, probably among others at this point, have written about the relationship of non-violent figureheads like ghandi and MLK to non-pacifist actions of other groups. the pacifists are always popularized because they're seen as the less-scary option for the state. (and what exactly, would you say ghandi "got done"?)

the situationists explored and explained how the presumed beneficiaries of the status quo are miserable, and how we all participate in it.

history shows that some of the  most ardent resistors come from the middle class.

history also shows that non participation (a la the sixties, for example, when MANY people "tuned out") does nothing to challenge the state, and if it becomes too popular (still without being threatening), then the state acts effectively against it.

as for "illegalist" youth, the same shallowness of understanding, of history, of analysis, can be said for pretty much any sector of the (u.s.) population. that is partly why some of us hate this system. youth are just more likely to wear it on their sleeve, literally. you targeting that group is cheap.

in support of anarchism's terrible reputation!
"history also shows that non participation (a la the sixties, for example, when MANY people "tuned out") does nothing to challenge the state, and if it becomes too popular (still without being threatening), then the state acts effectively against it."

A good contemporary example of this is the squatting movement in the UK.  Squatting in disused property doesn't directly challenge the state, when it's legal, which it was in the UK (with some relatively small caveats, like you couldn't break into a property and then squat it), up until a year or two ago, when the state - in dot's words - 'acted effectively against it'.  A couple of stories involving Romanian immigrants who broke into middle-class people's homes while they were on holiday and took up residence were blown out of all proportion by the press and became somewhat of a moral panic.  The government seized on this as an opportunity to pass more restrictive legislation, despite the fact that these two cases were dealt with using existing squatting laws.  Now it's illegal to squat in residential property that's disused and open.
I get the sense from this comment that you don't really consider anarchism to be a legitimate political foundation, but more of a personal lifestyle.

Of course the state can be undermined, it has been many times by people like Ghandi (who led a revolution that resulted in Indian independence from Britain). MLK was a key player in the Civil Rights Movement (one of the most important eras of US history, and one of the important products of that so called useless non-participation of the 60's, along with the feminist movement).

Ward Churchill is notorious for his bad research, and Peter Gelderloos is a malcontent desperately trying to support his own cause. Neither one of them is reliable against the hordes of books advocating for non-violence. Just because an anarchist author writes something unusual doesn't mean we should accept it as fact.

Finally, the idea that non-violent figureheads are popularized by the state is absolutely ridiculous. MLK and Rose Parks were demonized by the state, as was Ghandi, as were the hippies of the 60's. And do some research into Timothy Leary. Those people were hated by the state, but they became folk heroes, like the fabled Robin Hood (who is generally portrayed as a non-violent thief).

 Violent revolutionaries aren't popularized like the non-violent figureheads because they attract the hatred of the people, as well as the state. Usually militant extremists are crushed mercilessly, often with the approval of a large number of the people, who view them as a threat. On top of that, violent extremists are notoriously bad at sticking to their values. Extremist groups that start for one purpose often end up completely abandoning that purpose simply to keep fighting for money or power. That was another criticism of the illegalists: eventually, a lot of them either quit and advocated non-violence, or ended up just being causeless criminal mercenaries.

Also, the presumed beneficiaries of the status quo might be miserable, but they won't give up their positions, they have too much to lose. The middle class, when it has existed, has given rise to some of the most ardent resistance, not usually in the name of any real cause, but in the name of maintaining the status quo or reaching the status of the upper class. A bourgouis revolution will never lead to the collapse of the state, because the bourgouis, even when revolting, operate within the system. They don't want equality, they want to be higher up in the heirarchy (or at least, not any lower). The real revolutions for equality have been by the poor and the oppressed: the Civil Rights movement, union strikes, feminism, etc.

That's one of the main problems I perceive with post-left anarchism. It basically says (simplified for humorous effect), "You know what, let's get rid of all those stupid causes and ideologies, and let's stop acknowledging the struggle of the workers. Basically, if we can get rid of all those REASONS for anarchism, and advocate it simply because it seems like a cool idea in itself and revolution sounds fun, maybe we'll be more successful than past anarchists," (despite the fact that past anarchists changed the world in a number of great ways).  

Finally, you being in support of anarchism's terrible reputation is what makes me wonder if you think of anarchism more as a lifestyle than as a legitimate political system. I target superficial, naive teenage "anarchists" because they identify as anarchists on for its "bad boy" reputation, and not for the actual cause. These are the types of people who become illegalists and violent so-called "revolutionaries," and the only thing they can do is further damage the legitimacy of anarchy in the public eye. If anarchists openly embrace that terrible reputation, then we might as well give up on anarchy ever being a viable political alternative on any kind of real scale, because the public will never accept it, and the only people who will ever want to join will be the naive teenage "bad-boy" types (I imagine that a lot of those types read this website, so I hope they read this).

Edit: Yosemite, squatting, when it was legal, didn't indirectly challenge the state. Nor was it non-participation. However, some anarchist squatting communities in places such as Greece, despite police persecution, have served as legitimate examples of succesful anarchist communities and thus as an example to others hoping to pursue the lifestyle. They have even reached out to outsiders with cultural events and renewable energy projects. I would call that an awesome way to spread awareness about anarchism as a legitimate political system. Thanks to public support, the police were actually unable to evict these squatting communities in their last attempt. I'd definitely call that an undermining of the state through popular, non-violent public support.
"Violent revolutionaries aren't popularized like the non-violent figureheads because they attract the hatred of the people, as well as the state. "

Sure they are: Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and the like are popularized despite being very, very violent. The war in Iraq was extremely popular in the US when it started. The thing about 'the population' (an unhelpful abstraction that leads to these errors) is that they totally love violence, all the time. Tough on crime politicians would never get elected otherwise. There is a pacifist ideology about social change that's pushed, and THAT is the enemy. When even fellow anarchists mimic it, we're in trouble.

BTW Stokey Carmichael and Malcolm X and also popularized and very much advocated against non-violence.

It's hard to argue with your point about Churchill and Gelderloos because you don't actually criticize any of their points, you just dismiss them. Gandhi was pro-oppression and authority. He helped quell rebellions that threatened the state. “In India we want no political strikes... We must gain control over all the unruly and disturbing elements or isolate them... We seek not to destroy capital or capitalists." He kept the political and economic system the British created intact, so now Indians can oppress other Indians (and trade with the West, a real win-win situation for the rulers of both sides). Zig Zag, a First Nations anarchist, wrote a great and scathing critique of him in "Smash Pacifism" which I highly recommend.

Equating non-violence with Greek anarchism is baffling. The anarchists in Greece have public support because the ideas of the young are respected due to their role in the fall of the military junta in 74. Which was accomplished violently. It's been said that "there are no pacifists in Greece." Even those who call themselves "non-violent" offer a different definition, citing fighting against the police "in defense" as being totally in-line with 'non-violence.' Also: the anarchists in Greece are successful also because they fight back and earn respect in that way. The squats are often defended violently. I honestly don't know how you ever got the impression that non-violence has any currency among anarchists in Greece. I recommend reading the book "We Are An Image From the Future." If you don't trust post-leftists, don't worry because this book was put out by the renowned leftist publisher AK Press.

There's a stereotype of the rebel teenage anarchist that I honestly think is exaggerated. I've never met one. The younger anarchists I've met are all starry-eyed idealists who got in to anarchism through various causes like animal rights, anti-war, anti-oppression, queer identity, and the like. While I agree that purging anarchism of any train of thought besides being against authority and coercion, almost all the anarchists I know who are 'post-left' still feel passionately about 'issues' and 'causes.'

Not to be too harsh, but I'm strongly getting the impression that you haven't met many anarchists.
"legitimate political system"


no, i don't consider anarchy to be about a legitimate political system.  i consider politic systems to be a way of operating in this world, a way of representing other people, not one's self, and as such, inherently not anarchistic.
you talking about lifestyle as something that is (apparently?) divorced from beliefs makes me wonder if you've been reading too much bookchin (or maybe just overly influenced by his followers).

and unfortunately flip, i imagine lantz might be hanging out with plenty of anarchists. there are probably more people calling themselves anarchists who agree with that line of thinking than not, which is why it is helpful to have lantz's voice present on this site.
Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were popularized because they helped to construct a state. They are the fathers of our government, and so we have been taught about them. Unlike the folk heroes I mentioned, their popularity actually is, at least partially, due to indoctrination.

Malcolm X rejected a lot of his violent extremism later in life, and as a result was killed by fellow extremists. As for Stokey, one of the first political groups he joined was the "Nonviolent Action Group," and he was inspired by Rosa Parks. All of his crimes were crimes of civil disobedience rather than violent crimes.

To call Ghando pro-oppression and authority is ridiculous. He was complex, and at times advocated cooperation with the state for the achievement of a larger goal, and he did think within the confines of government, but the argument could just as easily be made (and has been made) that idealogically, he was an anarchist.

As for Greece, the example that I gave of squatting as Greek anarchism is pacifism, even if Greek anarchism as a whole isn't. Also, attaching anarchist violence to the fall of the Greek junta is a bit idealistic. There were some anarchist revolts, but they were crushed, and the junta collapsed due to internal conflict, only to soon be replaced by another right-wing government. That generation of anarchists faded into obscurity. New waves of anarchy occured in the 80s and 90s, but those too were crushed and faded into obscurity.

Also, I would say that fighting in defense of immediate property is in line with non-violence, though it sometimes leads to massacre, so that decision should be made with very careful consideration. When I say non-violence, I mean non-aggression. However, if the squatting communities hadn't reached out to the community through non-violent means to develop their own legitimacy in the eyes of the people, they would not have been successful in their resistance at all, as has been demonstrated by the number of anarchist movements that have been crushed by the Greek military in the past.

As for the post-left, I can totally understand that they still feel passionately about "issues" and "causes", if they didn't, I doubt they would be anarchists. But to not consider those issues and causes in their own anarchist philosophy doesn't seem fruitful to me. It's a disjointed approach.

As for your final comments, yes I've met anarchists, yes I used a stereotype. Arguing over different stereotypes probably isn't productive. My main point was simply that with the reputation that anarchy has today, it often isn't being taken seriously enough, or it's being taken seriously by people with the wrong kinds of motives.
Dot, I can see your point about anarchy not being a political system. However, I would argue that self-government also takes a considerable amount of decentralized organization (otherwise 90% of the arguments on this site wouldn't exist) and those systems of organization should be perceived as alternatives to the political systems with governments as their central organizers. These anarchist ideas of organization (for exampe anarcho-syndicalism, anarcho-communism, etc) are what I would call political systems.

As a result, it's not that I think lifestyle is divorced from belief, but that a simply anti-authoritarian lifestyle without an overlying belief in some kind of result is unproductive.

I would sincerely hope that the majority of anarchists advocate non-violence to a large extent, otherwise it would entirely too easy for the government to just goad us into confrontation and wipe us out. All those special anti-terrorist weapons and tactics that the US is using in the Middle East right now would be quite easily turned on any violent factions in the US.
Gandhi proposed that Indians join the British military during the Zulu War so that they might receive better treatment in return. Gandhi is frequently cited as racist toward blacks. Gandhi recommended that the Jewish population of Europe willingly submit themselves to mass execution by Nazi Germany. Gandhi frequently denounced and sabotaged resistance to British rule in India when it didn't meet his moral or political expectations. Gandhi was a middle-class collegiate of British education and invented his image of the homespun pauper. Speaking of which, he constantly insisted that his followers' homespun clothing was the pure and moral thing to purchase, despite being prohibitively expensive for the average Indian worker.

To say that George Washington's popularity is the result of "indoctrination" while Gandhi's is somehow devoid of any such influence is either ignorant or disingenuous.

I think your definitions of "violence", "non-violence", and "success" carry massive assumptions that undermine any point you're making - I say this as someone who acknowledges that immediate physical violence against capitalist society is almost certainly a bad strategic move.
I'm not saying that Ghandi as a person was perfect. Later in his life he also used resistance to temptation as a lame excuse to sleep in the same bed as his naked grandnieces, which was likely a scumbaggish move. I'm not all that surprised that he was a racist either, as he was the product of his era and his culture . (I have heard the Jewish comment before, and though it's not a wise comment, it's taken a little out of context, he clearly stated that the Holocaust was the greatest crime of his/our time).

However, Ghandi also said that "The State represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence." He also said that  "[the greatest good of all] can be realized only in the classless, stateless democracy." These are clearly anarchist principles, and so although, as I said, he was complicated, I don't think it can be said that he philosophically endorsed oppression.

Overall, that stuff sucks about Ghandi, but as the center of a nonviolent movement, he was still an important figure and that movement got a lot more done through nonviolence than it would have through aggressive violence.

As for the George Washington/Ghandi division, you are right, I responded to an incorrect extreme with an incorrect extreme. I personally am not a fan of George Washington, but I have to admit that he IS a folk hero, as demonstrated by the old cherry tree myth. But I stand by my overall point that the reason non-violent figures have been historically popular has nothing to do with some kind of manipulative, conspiratorial government endorsement. Propaganda isn't that subtle. Non-violent figures tend to become folk heroes because they connect with the people better than more threatening violent figures.

Finally, my definition of violence is aggression, the kind of aggression that usually hurts the people more than the state, which provokes retaliation which hurts the people much worse than it hurts the state. By non-violence, I mean pacifism in any many situations as possible except for those that would require self defense, defense of others, or defense of livelihood.

"Success" depends on the context. The Civil Rights Movements and the Feminist Movement, and the Indian Independence Movement were successful not because they resulted in a smashed state, or even a significantly weakened state, but because they extended basic rights and increased sovereignty to certain groups of people. The more authority that the people have over themselves, even if that authority is under a state-run system, the closer we get to anarchy.

For example, women's suffrage: before woman's suffrage was achieved, it was easy to force women out of political consideration. Now that women have the right to vote, it would be considerably harder to push them out of the political picture without resistance. Though still under state control, women are closer to anarchy as control over their own selves than they were before. The great thing about civil movements and for anarchy as a whole is that it is often much easier to give freedom than to take it away, because once people have known freedom, other groups tend to follow suit, and it takes severe repression before they will give up that freedom. In that way, I could argue that every rights movement, when taken to its complete conclusion, is an anarchist movement, not just for the specific group fighting for rights, but for everyone (something else that post-left anarchists fail to take into account).

Oh, and Indian independence might not seem all that "successful" in anarchist terms because it just led to another government, but for that new government to be created, that area had to be taken out of the control of Britain's centralized empire. In the end you have two governments, that of Britain and that of India, both with less overall control than the original British empire.

The division and localization of government is a goal that I think anarchists should work towards (provided that there are no extenuating circumstances, like racist assholes trying to secede for the purpose of creating a minority free country), because the fewer people a government operates over, the more directly accountable it is to those people and the more easily those people can take power. It would be a lot easier for the people of New York to sieze control of the political workings of New York than of the US government as a whole, if the US government wasn't there to enforce the political workings of New York. Let me know if that doesn't make sense though, because I just pulled it off the top of my head.
lantz you are accepting all the tropes of leftists/the state.
political power is what is important to create change.
masses of people are the only way to get political power.
people don't like violence (lol) and that's why they "don't like" certain individuals who have been active against the state. (each of those points seems easily refutable, but does perhaps speak to who you hang out with/whose opinion you value.)
anything that works against an empire is good (even if it just means the creation of a different kind of empire/rulers).
Dot, just because it's "leftist" (and let's ignore for the moment that post-left anarchy, though it has a few good points, is mainly just silly, hyper-theoretical, ungrounded bullshit ["let's pretend history is irrelevant so we don't have to pretend it contradicts most of what we say"]), doesn't mean it's not practical.

Leftists (and let's also not forget that the lumping of all historically grounded anarchists into the "leftist" category is the same type of identity politics that post-leftists foolishly think they can get rid of) have gotten a hell of a lot done throughout history (as I said, ignoring that fact doesn't make it true). And many of those "tropes" (though not all, I'll admit) have very good reason for existing.

Without leftist worker strikes and protests, those oh so ineffectual means of change, we both would most likely be hopeless wage slaves, totally incapable of having this discussion. That very fact is shining evidence that political power is absolutely necessary to create change WHEN operating within a centralized political system. Power is freedom, freedom to create new ideas and freedom to work for more power.

As for the masses of people, I didn't say that was the ONLY way to get power (not political power, that implies control of others, but power over themselves WITHIN a political system). However, when operating within a political system, public support is absolutely necessary to make your ideas heard. Even when operating outside of the political system, as the squatters did, public support is absolutely necessary, or the state will destroy you.

Now, I know I've been saying " within a political system" a lot, and I know that walks me right into the other post-leftist argument, "well, why do you assume that we have to work within the system."

Post-leftists really only have one real alternative to leftist attempts at progress. Post-leftists state that instead of "waiting for the revolution", or operating within the system, we should seek to form autonomous communities wherever we can.

I actually LOVE this idea, I think it's great, it's the exact same kind of non-participation I was arguing for earlier. However, it is absolutely naive to think that these autonomous communities could ever be successful on any kind of scale without some level of political power within the controlling system, a mass of people, and support from the public.

Anarchist communities are often seen by the state as a threat (and rightly so), and there are VERY few places on this earth that some state hasn't laid claim to. As a result, it is not possible for an anarchist community to just "hide" from the state indefinitely. Eventually, that community WILL have to interact with the state, and most likely, unless that community has some significant political power within the state, a mass of people to back it up, or public support, it will be quickly conquered. The attempted Ukrainian anarchist Free Territory is a great example, because even though they had some level of political power, AND a mass of people, AND some public support, the Soviet state still conquered them when they became a threat to Soviet ideals.

The struggle against the state, until the state collapses (and even afterward) is eternal, and until that struggle is successful, it cannot be said that any anarchist community is truly free. As a result, I see both post-left anarchy and left-anarchy as simply tools in a theoretical array of synthesis anarchism. Elements of both approaches, as well as from most other approaches (excluding anarcho-capitalism) must be used, otherwise there will be no real success.

Oh, and, people DO NOT like violence. It is easy enough for the state to pursuade US citizens to endorse a war in the Middle East where it doesn't really affect any of us except our young males, who we give a flower and pretend to appreciate. But when violence is on your doorstep, it is an entirely different dynamic. Citizens of the US don't fully understand that because the US is one of the few states that hasn't experienced violent occupation and invasion by another state. As a result, like the Athenians of ancient Greece, we have gotten arrogant. Domestic violence very often leads to fear and alienation. Even those violent movements that are successful very often abandon their cause simply to continue fighting. And those violent movements that DO take power, are unable to stop their violence. Instead, they inflict violence on the people. After all, a movement built on violence has no real alternative to dealing with dissidence.

One of the resounding, most powerful anarchist arguments is that government breeds violence, violence is "inherent in the system," to quote Monty Python. Does it really make sense to undermine ourselves by fighting the state LIKE another state would?

Oh, and finally, YES, the division of empire is a good thing. Why would you be so short sighted as to claim that it has no value? I thought I explained that bit fairly well...
you really don't need walls of text to repeat what your points are. i do get the arguments.

first, i am not lumping "all historically grounded anarchists into the leftist category." *you* are presuming categories and then jumping in with both feet. (in fact your posts here have been rife with assumptions, straw men,  and stereotypes, but whatever.)

second, it's nice that you have such an amazing amount of clarity about what makes change, what people have to do to be free, and where "we" would be without your historical working class heroes. seems like you're well placed to be telling the masses what to do.

third, who is this "people" who don't like the things that you don't like?  (and you haven't defined what you mean by violence i believe; i assume you're talking about people hurting people, which is a definition that has been promoted by the same people who create and benefit from systems that do violence of all kinds, from individual to mass to environmental, and so on.) are these the people in oakland CA in the oscar grant riots? or in ferguson, MI? (just to name two scenarios off the top of my head) or were those rioters just misguided teenagers?
(the fact that an argument is easy to get people to agree with is both populist and demogogue-alishous.)

(i didn't say that divisions of empire has "no value", what i said was that you seem to see every division as good regardless of its impact. decentralization of empire is what capitalism does (at least on one level). the direction these days is for every person to be their own Boss, which actually makes significant challenges to the status quo *less* likely, not more.)
dot: "you really don't need walls of text to repeat what your points are"

Lovers of Logos are distinctive for this trait.
The issue with lumping all historically grounded anarchists into the leftist category is not an issue with you, it's an issue with terminology. "Post-leftist" is a ridiculous terminology, because it divides huge sections of anarchist thought into "leftist" and " not leftist". It's not productive, and as I said, it's the same kind of identity politics that "post-left" anarchists claim to have rejected. Realistically, post-leftist anarchy is a modified version of insurrectionary anarchism, which is nothing new, and it is definitely not some revolutionary form of anarchism that will render all other forms obsolete.

Second, one of the great things about history is that you can learn from it. I can't say with 100% clarity what the future holds, but I can say what has worked in the past, what actions have led to increased freedom in the past, and what actions have limited government in the past. Based on that historical grounding, I can make relatively sound predictions about what will work in the future. Rejecting historical working class struggle and progress is groundless elitist dogma (which I suspect is why post-leftist anarchy has grown so popular, it lets the bourgeois pretend that their struggle is as valid as that of the workers, ridding them of class guilt). As for telling the masses what to do, isn't having a real framework of goals and means to achieve those goals something anarchists should strive for? Otherwise, as I said, this is all just a useless mental experiment.

Third, the Oscar Grant and the Ferguson riots were relatively non-violent. Those who did act violently (such as the looters, many of whom I would guess were misguided teenagers) were scapegoated by the media in an attempt to rob their cause of legitimacy. And yes, I'm talking about people hurting other people. That's not a new definition, it's not something recently invented. Humans are cognitively wired to empathize with other people, and the "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you/ love your neighbor as yourself" ideas were around long, long before they were written down in various holy books. That "harm principle" has been used a primary principle of self-governance for many anarchist societies.

Finally, anything that causes government to become decentralized to some degree is progress. Even if the governments that form in place of the original government are dictatorships, they dictate over fewer people than the original government.

To claim that capitalism aims for decentralization and for every person to be their own boss relies on a fundamental misunderstanding of capitalism, and I know that you understand capitalism very well, so I don't know why you would even make that argument.

Capitalism does not work towards decentralization, it seeks to make the entire world a means of production geared towards the profit of a central group. According to "world-systems theory" (a very interesting theory, you should do some research into it), capitalism divides states into three groups: "core states," "semi-periphery states," and " periphery states." Core states are the most powerful, wealthy, and economically diversified, they are the benefitors of capitalism (though in reality, only a small percentage of the people of that state really benefit). Peripheral states are those weaker "developing" countries that are exploited for labor and resources. Semi-periphery states are those in the middle that are moving towards industrialization as a means of producing goods for the core countries. Though the states below the core states tend to believe that progress can be made, it really can't, because as we know, capitalism relies on an exploitation of the majority for the profit of a few.

According to this theory, capitalism is not just a system confined to a single state. Not only is globalization a consequence of capitalism, globalism IS capitalism. There are few systems that push more heavily towards centralization than capitalism does. That whole argument about workers becoming their own bosses is primarily just a lie used to placate them, like economic development is a lie used to placate the developing countries that the US is destroying with its exploitation. Granted, not everyone buys these arguments, but enough do that it is very difficult to break the system.

Finally, amor, reason does tend to require explanation, as opposed to opinion, which doesn't need much support.
first paragraph - no one here has even *implied* that post-left is either revolutionary (in the sense of previously unheard of) or even new; post-left (or any identity that is chosen, vs "inborn") is not the same as the main thrust of identity politics that post-left rejects (which is mostly an essentialist perspective). strawmen seem to be colonizing your head. overthrow them!

two, yes history can be useful; as you might have noticed, i have made some minor historical references myself. your interpretation of a) what has caused what and b) what is better, is what i'm trying to question.

three, capitalism both centralizes and decentralizes, just as people in the us are encouraged both to follow the crowd and to be atomized, completely isolated individuals. things are contradictory.
but i guess foucault is another one of those empty philosophers with nothing relevant to say about power and resistance?

"reason requires explanation while opinion doesn't need support" is just another of your empty accusations/statements.
you seem to find many ways of saying "i'm right!" over and over again.
First paragraph: Directed at post-left anarchism as a philosophy, not at you specifically... The distinction between chosen and inborn identity is not concrete, and neither form of identity can be arbitrarily rejected. Just because you claim I'm using strawmen doesn't make my argument any less valid.

Two: I've explained why and how leftist anarchist methods have caused historical progress, in many different ways. I've also explained what I think better is.

Three: Saying that "capitalism both centralizes and decentralizes" is a weak answer, as is just accepting the fact that "things are contradictory" though you do have a point. Capitalism encourages individualism in the sense that it encourages competition and doesn't encourage cooperation, but it does not encourage true individualism in the sense of rejecting social norms or choosing not to participate in the system. I would argue that individualism under capitalism is primarily a myth used to keep people comparing themselves and competiting with others on the basis of material wealth (a person who thinks he can get ahead will be a lot more productive than a person who has no real motive other than the authority of the state).

And that's what I think that's a large part of what Foucalt was talking about. The fact that power relies on a developed culture of subservience and participation within the system as much as a direct response to violence and authority. Foucalt said some interesting things (he's a huge influence on modern anthropology, by the way), but often his concept of power is so ambiguous and separate from structure or science that he might as well be talking about "god's will," or the social relationship with "God's spirit" that the Hegelians thought shaped so much of their own culture.

Finally, the fact that reason requires explanation while opinion doesn't is hardly novel. I can say that anarchy is the best political system, but if I want my words to carry any meaning, I have to use reason to back them up.
lantz: "Finally, amor, reason does tend to require explanation,"

We never 'explain' anything. Do you even understand the words you use? We describe...and offer our opinion. That you have such a low estimation of opinion is really just your choice, that is, your opinion.

But, the question is: opinion as opposed to...what?
Explain: to make (an idea, situation, or problem) clear to someone by describing it in more detail or revealing relevant facts or ideas.

That's a pretty straightforward, common-sense definition. Burying it in dogma and double-speak doesn't change that. I think little of opinion because it has no grounding in reality or knowledge. It can't be compared to anything or evaluated for truth. Statements that are based in observation and valid logical relationships can be compared and evaluated for truth, making them much more productive.
Yesterday AmorFati said: "We never 'explain' anything... We describe..."

Today lantz defines 'explain' for us: "Explain: to make (an idea, situation, or problem) clear to someone by describing it..."

Ok. I gotta go mainstream and face-palm. So, explanation *is* description? So...we I said.
But instead of stopping while you're ahead you stick your foot in your mouth: " more detail or revealing relevant facts or ideas."

That's hilarious. Logic never  'describes' any being 'in more detail'. Logic, in its very activity *abstracts* and attempts to universalize! Logic is the vain attempt to flatten every individual instance into a universal abstract 'essence,' a commonality. A non-existent category or 'essence' an 'A' an 'identity.'

lantz: "evaluated for truth."

Really, lantz? Is it true truth is correct? Are the axioms used to evaluate truth, true? How so? Define 'truth,' cuz this sounds kinda mystical. Truth= _______?

If it's 'evaluated' then there must be a 'standard' already ruled as 'worthy' as 'fitting' (axiomatic). Truth is, therefore, nothing but opinion, since it can only be evaluated within the parameters already staked out, those I  said have been seen as 'fitting' and 'worthy' prior to any such evaluation! That is, those very parameters are nothing but opinion.

"valid logical relationships can be compared and evaluated for truth,"

Through logic? You're chasing your tail in circles, lantz. "Logic is evaluated as true through logic." "Truth is evaluated by what is true." 'The premises used in logic must be true and we must prove them through logic." This is astounding news!!!
"I think little of opinion because it has no grounding in reality or knowledge."

seriously? no grounding in reality or knowledge? wow. so where, exactly, does that opinion come from?
Some may think I'm being a pedantic a-hole, but I've run into the type of argumentation lantz exhibits too many times to count. Every time they turn in circles and end up hanging themselves by their own...logic. All of them invoke 'truth' yet never define it. To do so shows us all that their 'truth' is nothing but opinion at the end of the day.

In addition, there's a two levels of smug superiority which almost always accompany Believers in Logos:

1. individual one-upmanship

2. collective one-upmanship in the 'victory' of Western civ over the savages who never distanced, quantified, corralled the world into hard categories and identities.
Ok, now I have time to reply to THIS thread.

Amor: That wasn't my definition of "explain," that was Webster's definition. And yes, we explain by describing. Which is a vastly different statement than your idea that we describe but don't explain (which relies on the assumption that the other person can't understand your description, which would render description pointless).

Second, explanation and logic are not the same thing. Logic is a thought process, explanation is a means of making that thought process known to another person, often through analogy (for example, I'm using an example right now).

Also, I have no idea where you are getting your ridiculously overly-generalized idea of overly-generalized logic. As I've stated before, logic is about making a valid statement about the relationship between two concepts. Attempting to form commonalities is the work of theory, and we haven't even touched that concept.

Finally, truth and absolute truth are two different things. An absolute truth, probably the only one we will ever know, is the fact that the world exists and we are a part of it, as I've stated many, many times. Information received from that world through observation can then be evaluated for truth through testing and replication. Information from the natural world that passes that rigorous examination can then be known as truth. It doesn't matter if truth isn't always entirely all-encompassing. For example, Newtonian physics, though they explained the world at larger scales, were replaced by Relativistic physics, which explain everything better. Newtonian physics aren't "wrong," they simply didn't explain as much of the world as Relativistic physics.

It is because of this that a paradigm, or a theoretical framework, can't be proven "true" or "false," only the logical statements derived from it can, again, in relation to the natural world. As a result, creationists still exist, and it is technically impossible to disprove them because their paradigm relies on "God" instead of nature as its source of truth. The existence of god cannot be verifed or falsified in any manner. Therefore creationism is opinion.

However, because we are natural beings, part of the natural world which is our absolute truth, all of our perspectives contain an element of truth. The truth in creationism is that the world exists, though their idea of its origins is false.

Logic is not evaluated through logic. Its premises and conclusions are tested by replicable observation, one more time, in relation to the natural world. Take your example of the invisible humans: it is very easy to see that humans are not invisible. That observation can be repeated. That statement's conclusion is obviously false, and so the statement is not valid. I can't be talking in circles, because my argument, like science, is constantly validating itself against nature, unlike nihilism which relies on the blind faith that humans are blind and there is nothing to have faith in. If you want to prove me wrong, prove that nature doesn't exist or that humans aren't capable of understanding it. Nature is my truth.

Finally, how am I the one with the smug superiority? I'm not the one making broad stereotypes about the so called "Believers in Logos" or claiming to know what happens every time an argument like this happens.

Finally, I don't care about being accused of individual one-upmanship, but I do take offense at being accused of ethnocentrism. Just believe I believe in science doesn't mean that I believe in its superiority over other peoples. Scientific truth, intelligence, and value are not even remotely the same concepts. Happening to know that the sun isn't carried across the sky on a golden chariot doesn't make me any better or smarter than the Greeks.

Edit: Funkyanarchy, you are right. I should have said that opinion doesn't REQUIRE any grounding in reality or knowledge, no that is never has any of that. And I suppose you could make the argument that it is all grounded in reality, but only in the sense that the idea of flying green zebra-penguin hybrids relies on the real concepts of flying, the color green, zebras, and penguins, not in the sense that it has to explain reality in any way.
you saying you are not ethnocentric doesn't make it so.
what i think many people here are trying to talk to you about (though none apparently in words that make sense to you) is that there are many ways of knowing, and that what knowing means is culturally specific. this is both why the greeks knowing about the sun mechanics was arguably more meaningful and relevant to them than our knowing  about the sun mechanics is to us. our knowing allows us to do things the greeks couldn't do, and their knowing allowed them to do things that we can't do. you value the things that we can do more than you value the things that they could do, which is of course your prerogative, but you don't even acknowledge the possible value that we lose out on.
(i am using greeks because that is the example you chose, not for any other, better reason.)

(i do truly wonder why you're not responding to the post-left question, since you have so many random accusations to throw around in threads that have nothing to do with PL?)
I like this response. Although I still take offense at being called ethnocentric.

You should read the answer I made on the anthropology question. I think it answers your criticism fairly well. I can totally understand that the chariot theory was important to the Greeks, and I would call that true knowledge for them in the sense that it was based on natural observation and they truly believed it (even though it couldn't be tested, therefore it was not "truth" in the scientific sense).

I can also accept that the Greek perspective gave them some benefits that we don't have. However, I would argue that our ability to interact with the sun to a much greater degree as a result of our scientific knowledge (for example, solar power could be a significant alternative to non-renewable resources) gives us important options that the Greeks would have likely appreciated greatly. I also don't believe that science and belief are opposites. If a person was convicted, he/she could totally believe in modern sun mechanics AND the golden chariot idea, and lots of scientists today are religious. Science and belief just operate on different paradigms, and so they can't be used to prove or reject each other.

Oh, and I definitely plan on answering the PL question, but I only have so much time in a day.
yes, i'm sure that when i slow down and speak in very simply concepts, that's appealing for you. i am, however, doing a disservice to my points, which is why i usually resist doing this kind of slowing down.
i pointed out that the greeks were your example, and not mine, because i agree that our knowledge is more in synch with theirs than it is with that of many other groups.
but regardless, you seem to be more post modern than i am, in that you speak as if all knowledges can co-exist, and i think that is not true, and more to the point that the knowledge that you favor refuses the validity of any other kind of knowledge--based exactly on your insistence on (a single, western) truth, science, repeatability, logic (whatever you mean by it), and so on. and that anthropology is (among other things) a tool of that "can't we all just get along" attitude, as if this society has not spent every minute of its history/existence negating, trivializing, "interpreting", killing, and mangling other perspectives on the world.
i understand that you disagree with that assessment; you've made that clear. (no need for another thousand words that repeat the same underlying points!)

i should have put the anthro points above in the anthro thread, probably... so here is a link
I wouldn't call clearly articulating your points "dumbing" them down.

I would say that at this point we aren't really arguing about anything but minor definitional issues..

I wouldn't say that I favor scientific knowledge. I believe that scientific knowledge, as I've said like a billion times, is the most true in relationship to the testable, observable natural environment. But that is a certain paradigm. Paradigms can't really be judged by each other, as I said, and so knowledge derived from, as I said, belief in God, is not directly comparable to scientific knowledge because they rely on different epistemological principles as their foundation. To that point, I do believe that all knowledge can exist, but only within the foundation of its own paradigm. There is no room for speculation about God in the scientific paradigm, nor is there room for speculation about evolution under the creationist paradigm.

Also, I wouldn't call science a "western" idea. Western civilization has put the scientific method into words, but other cultures use science and the scientific method all the time. In fact, all cultures are highly scientific in their own way. Humans couldn't adapt to our environments or changing natural conditions if we weren't. When native cultures tested herbs and observed their healing effects, that was science (though it was complicated science, because medicine has to account for the placebo effect). When pastoralist cultures observe planting methods and choose the one that persistently yields the best results, that's science. When hunter-gatherers observe animal migration patterns and follow them over the seasons, that is science.

Finally, as I mentioned before, anthropology is hardly a "can't we all just get along" field. Anthropology has been behind some of the most important social movements of the past 100 year. It was salvage anthropologists trying to save the cultures of dying peoples who documented a huge number of those atrocities that we know about today.
lantz: "Finally, how am I the one with the smug superiority?"

Because you don't know to quit while you're ahead. You prattle on about things with which you are obviously unfamiliar. You keep putting your foot in your mouth.

For instance, you've consistently applied *inductive reasoning* to my *deductive argument* in the form of a syllogism. You brought your baseball bat to play jacks and of course the other kids are pissed about it.

Here you are at it again-

lantz:"Take your example of the invisible humans: it is very easy to see that humans are not invisible. That observation can be repeated. That statement's conclusion is obviously false, and so the statement is not valid."

OK lantz. I'm done playing your wall-o-text game. Since you like dictionaries here's the def of syllogism. Read carefully, it doesn't hurt:

syllogism: an instance of a form of reasoning in which a conclusion is drawn ***(whether validly or not)*** from two given or assumed propositions (premises), each of which shares a term with the conclusion, and shares a common or middle term not present in the conclusion.

From wiki: syllogism is (get this) a **kind of logical argument** that applies to deductive reasoning **to arrive at a conclusion based on two or more propositions** that are asserted or assumed to be true."

You see lantz? That wasn't so bad. And both my propositions were 'true' remember? Cells are invisible. Human bodies are made of cells, therefore my conclusion is, as I said, *logically sound* which has nothing to do with it's 'truth,' evidence, proof, the methods of science, the wonders of 'absolute truth', your ethnocentrism, etc. My argument simply followed the rules (axioms) of syllogistic logic.  Here's another one:

1= a number
2= a number
Therefore, 1=2

Logically sound and definitely not 'true.'

Edit for clarity.
Why would I quit while I'm ahead? I haven't fallen behind so far as I can see.

NOWHERE in the discussion did we say that inductive and deductive logic are mutually exclusive. They are complementary types of logic. Arbitrarily seperating them might suit your philosophical mumbo-jumbo just fine, but it doesn't work in reality.

Syllogism is a thought process, it is a KIND OF LOGICAL ARGUMENT, it is not the embodiment of logic as a whole.

What you are essentially doing here is taking a spark plug out of an engine and saying, "See, this spark plug isn't an engine, and doesn't run by itself, therefore this engine cannot possibly run."

That being cleared up, your logical example still doesn't work, because you are comparing concepts that can't be verified, and you misuse the concept of a number. Numbers are representative concepts, and don't have any natural meaning attached to them. 1 only represents the quantity of what we think of as 1 object.  2 only represents the quantity of what we think of as 2 objects. Those "numbers" can be used to represent observed quantities in nature, but they can't be compared by themselves. As a result, your premises that 1 and 2 are "numbers" are definitional, not scientific or inherently logic. Also, since they are not inherently testable, they are not inherently falsifiable, and therefore they can't be show to be true or false.

If you were to treat 1 and 2 as representative of quantities, as they really are, then this logic would easily be disproven.

Overall, you are misusing an even more basic form of logic in order to create this kind of logic, which, like your other examples, does not disprove logic.
lantz: "NOWHERE in the discussion did we say that inductive and deductive logic are mutually exclusive."

Nor have I. What's your point?  But, you don't play basketball by the rules of poker combined with a bit of NASCAR. This pretty much sums up what I said. I played syllogism, you respond by playing 'logic as a whole' (whatever ass-saving that may entail.)

lantz: "Syllogism is a thought process, it is a KIND OF LOGICAL ARGUMENT," it is not the embodiment of logic as a whole."

There is no 'embodiment of logic as a whole", lantz. 'Logic' is a loose word regarding a host of various pre-defined, that is, rule based systems, not a thing or person, a body. Reify much?

lantz: "That being cleared up, your logical example still doesn't work, because you are comparing concepts that can't be verified, and you misuse the concept of a number..."

And I had such hopes for you to grasp the def of syllogism I sent you. None of this matters within the parameters set by the *rules which make a syllogism*, lantz. You're going off the deep end. The rules are simple and you wish to make them more complex to save your faith in Logocentrism. Or perhaps better stated in your case, Logopoiesis: In the Beginning was the Word!

lantz continues: "If you were to treat 1 and 2 as representative of quantities"

*Not* within the rules of the syllogism. Stay with us. The only question of relevance is whether 1 and 2 are numbers *in that context alone*.  It doesn't matter if the premises/conclusion are 'true/false'  *in another context.* That's it. Simple. It's a fucking syllogism, not God, not your priest James Lett's lap, no more than your reification of 'Logic' is.
Ok, you missed every single point in my post, and you've missed the vast majority of my points in the rest of my posts. The only reason I'm arguing in circles is because you're dragging me that way. I don't think this is going anywhere.
That's your opinion. ;-p
with so much falling (from grace), anarchists really should get LifeCall -
Oh...I ain't skeered. Cuz when the fall comes...
I bearely died laughing my ass off when I saw that :

"Stealing from a bank usually hurts the people who have their money in the bank more than the bank itself (duh, that's how capitalism works, profit moves up, cost moves down), and it really just makes you a slightly unconventional capitalist. "

Ever heard about the "glaziers' conspiracy" ? Any time a window is smashed : a glazier earns money. So, if I was a glazier, what would be the best business opportunity on earth for me ? An anarchist riot, of course ! Then, black blocs are very probably manipulated by the glaziers lobby, being itself manipulated by window-breaking insurance companies. Being themselves manipulated by capitalists ! Being themselves manipulated by the illuminato-reptilian-fuckmesideways-secret-governement ! So, basically, any window breaker, especially anarchists, are manipulated by reptilian aliens from outer space ! And certainly most of enerchizts are themselves illuminati greedy hillbilly inbread hybrid freaks from hell, working for the glazier conspiracy ;-) Right ? Am I right ? No ?
mind = blown!
The banker might've gone out bought a new silk pajamas or a pair of sneakers had they not had to pay for the shattered window. The anarchist is taking food out of the mouths of some previously colonized, enslaved, '3rd world' worker that now has the possibility of a better life thanks to sweatshops. Anarchists ruin everything. :-(
Of course, I was joking, but the problem is that some people actually believe in such shitty conspiracy theories... Which most of the time make me feel half-amused, half-frightened-to-death.
never explain a joke!

that's my motto. :)
multiple interpretations remain possible. ;-)