Against Carceral Feminism (Vikki Law)

(via Jacobin)

carceral feminisim[…] Casting policing and prisons as the solution to domestic violence both justifies increases to police and prison budgets and diverts attention from the cuts to programs that enable survivors to escape, such as shelters, public housing, and welfare. And finally, positioning police and prisons as the principal antidote discourages seeking other responses, including community interventions and long-term organizing. […]

In 2001, Critical Resistance, a prison-abolition organization, and INCITE! Women of Color against Violence, an anti-violence network, issued a statement assessing the effects of increased criminalization and the silence around the nexus of gender and police violence. Noting that relying on policing and prisons has discouraged organizing community responses and interventions, the statement challenged communities to make connections, create strategies to combat both forms of violence, and document their efforts as examples for others seeking alternatives.

[…] strategies to stop domestic violence frequently require more than a single action. They often require a long-term commitment from friends and community to keep a person safe, as in Piepnza-Samarasinha’s case. For those involved in devising alternatives […] it may require not only creating immediate safety tactics, but long-term organizing that addresses the underlying inequalities that exacerbate domestic violence.

By relying solely on a criminalized response, carceral feminism fails to address these social and economic inequities, let alone advocate for policies that ensure women are not economically dependent on abusive partners. Carceral feminism fails to address the myriad forms of violence faced by women, including police violence and mass incarceration. It fails to address factors that exacerbate abuse, such as male entitlement, economic inequality, the lack of safe and affordable housing, and the absence of other resources.

Carceral feminism abets the growth of the state’s worst functions, while obscuring the shrinking of its best. At the same time, it conveniently ignores the anti-violence efforts and organizing by those who have always known that criminalized responses pose further threats rather than promises of safety.

Read full article “Against Carceral Feminism” (by Vikki Law) at Jacobin

Compulsory “public” schooling as a form of social control

Is it surprising that prisons resemble factories, schools, barracks, hospitals, which all resemble prisons?”

— Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison

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Jails and prisons are the complement of schools; so many less as you have of the latter, so many more must you have of the former.”

— Horace Mann, leading proponent of the “Common School” movement (1881)

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During the 19th century, many large-scale changes in society were causing concern for wealthy elites in the United States. The growth of industrial capitalism had driven large numbers of people into urban areas, where poverty and abysmal living conditions were creating widespread unrest. Millions of people were immigrating to the United States from Europe, which stimulated xenophobic/nationalist fears about the destruction of American culture and the introduction of radical political ideas (e.g. socialism/anarchism) by foreigners. 

It is not a coincidence that the modern penitentiary, public schooling, mental hospitals, and police were all developed during this time. A similar ideology underpins all of these developments — an elitist one which sees most people as troublesome and ignorant, and in need of centralized scientific management by state institutions. Prisons and public schools ostensibly serve very different purposes. Prisons are perceived as a brutal punishment for the most vile and unethical members of society. While few people nowadays see them as having anything to do with “rehabilitation”, they are nevertheless believed to be a “necessary evil” — cruel perhaps, but needed to protect society from the darker side of “human nature”. Schools, on the other hand, are seen as playing a crucial role in early childhood development, instilling children with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life. Schools are seen as a fundamental right that all young citizens are not only entitled to, but should be forced to partake in for their own good (and for the good of society). In reality, however, these two seemingly distinct institutions are both outgrowths of the same set of social forms — i.e. industrialism, scientific management, and corporatism (the merging of the statist and capitalist bureaucracies — “regulated” capitalism). Both schools and prisons are centralized statist institutions which confine people against their will in a state-run facility, in order to “remake” them (on an industrial scale) into obedient citizens, zealous patriots, and hard workers for the benefit of a wealthy ruling class.

Good republicans … are formed by a singular machinery in the body politic, which takes the child as soon as he can speak, checks his natural independence and passions, makes him subordinate to superior age, to the laws of the state, to town and parochial institutions.”

— Noah Webster

The public school system as we know it today is mainly a product of what was known as the “common school movement” in the 1830s and 1840s. The idea of a common school is something that is nowadays completely normalized, but at the time was revolutionary (and widely resisted): a nationwide network of state-run facilities that all children would be forced by law to attend, and which would teach a common body of knowledge (chosen by state bureaucrats in education departments). These schools were seen by their proponents as a means of indoctrinating the poor (especially immigrant populations) with values such as obedience, Christianity, nationalism, and industriousness; and of preventing the spread of radical ideas such as anarchism and socialism. Social scientists had determined that many of the problems with the poor lay in cultural and genetic defects that promoted laziness, disobedience, and ignorance. Schools were seen as a way of systematically destroying this “culture of poverty” by ripping poor children away from the negative influences of their families and communities, and teaching them sound moral values and prepare them to lead successful lives as industrial workers.

When the movement for compulsory state schooling was in its earlier stages, large sectors of the public were strongly opposed to having their children taken away and indoctrinated by the government. In order to ensure that parents would hand over their children to be raised by the state, laws were passed to make state schooling compulsory — the compulsion being that of the police, courts, and prisons, and of children being taken away from their parents who are accused of “neglecting” them for not sending them to school. Resistance was particularly strong amongst socialists and anarchists who saw these schools for what they were (instruments of ruling class control), and attempted to create radical alternatives such as the Ferrer Schools and Modern Schools. The founders of these schools not only took issue with the nationalist/capitalist propaganda that was taught in public schools, but also with the authoritarian structure of schools themselves. The radical alternative schools not only wished to teach critical histories, anti-racist science, communitarian values, and other things that were not taught in state schools, but they also wished to serve as prefigurative models for the revolutionary society that they hoped would replace the capitalist system.

 “Our educational system is not a public service but an instrument of special privilege; its purpose is not to further the welfare of mankind, but merely to keep America capitalist.”

–Upton Sinclair, “The Goose-Step: A Study of American Education” (1923)

But the violent repression of radical social movements during and after World War I essentially neutralized organized popular resistance to the corporatist ideology pushed by the “progressives”, and the radical educational projects were largely destroyed along with the anarchist/socialist movement that created them. Public schooling in the United States experienced explosive growth during the corporatist “Progressive” era (around the same time that similar fascist movements were spreading across Europe). By 1920, 28% of all US children between ages 14 and 17 were enrolled in public high schools. By 1930 this number had increased to 47%, and by 1940 two thirds were enrolled. Over the years, this history has been erased, and nowadays most Americans see public schools as a basic human right, something that societies would disintegrate without, rather than an oppressive form of government intrusion into family life. A majority of Americans today, while feeling that public schools need to be reformed/improved, generally agree about their necessity and desirability, and willingly submit their children to be raised by the state.

Public schools are viewed as a means of economic advancement and social mobility within the capitalist system. The fantasy is that if everyone has access to a “good education”, then they will be provided with the necessary tools to “succeed” in the work force. The problem with this, of course, is that instead of teaching people how to dismantle the capitalist system and create a cooperative/egalitarian society, this strategy seeks success within it (based on the false assumption that the cause of poverty is lack of education or effort, rather than violent exploitation and oppression by capitalists). State-run schools will always be used to promote the interests of those who control the state (i.e. the wealthy ruling class). As Assata Shakur points out “No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them.” The liberation of the working class from capitalist oppression/exploitation will not come from “better educational opportunities” offered to them by the state. It will come from revolution that dismantles the state and capital, including the state-run indoctrination facilities known as public schools.

Spending six hours a day for twelve years in a place where they have virtually no say in anything, where being governed is all they know, a profound passivity becomes normalized, the hopelessness of submission becomes fixed deep below the child’s skin. It is a perfect preparation for the consumerist future that awaits them.”

— Isabelle Fremeaux / John Jordan: “Anarchist Pedagogy in Action: Paideia, Escuela Libre” (2012)

This is not to say that education is not important, or that there should be no schools. The corporate media debate surrounding public schools generally presents two options: the “liberal” option, of increasing funding to state-run schools and reforming them to provide a better education for everyone (b) the “conservative” option of shutting down all of the state-run schools and replacing them with for-profit capitalist “educational services” firms. Anyone who criticizes state-run schools is automatically assumed to be in the “conservative” camp, promoting privatization, or worse, the complete lack of educational opportunities. But there is also a third option: cooperatively-run free schools, coupled with a wide range of learning activities that take place outside of the school/classroom environment. That is, it is possible to criticize statist compulsory schooling and yet still support universally available free education. The question is, will this education be compulsory and controlled by the state/capital, or will it be voluntary and controlled by the people and communities who use it?

“Let us suppose ourselves in a village. A few yards from the threshold of the school, the grass is springing, the flowers are blooming; insects hum against the classroom window-panes; but the pupils are studying natural history out of books!”

–Francisco Ferrer (1909)

What does free education look like if it is not administered by the state? Unlike centralized statist models of education, there is no single blueprint that can be used to describe all education in an anarchist society. Education takes place in many different settings — in homes, community organizations, kitchens, reading groups, free workshops, factory floors, forests, art studios and science labs. Thus it’s important not to conflate schooling with education. Education can also take place in schools, but modern compulsory schooling has monopolized the claim to education in such a way that other forms of learning are not valued as much as time spent in a classroom under the tutelage of “experts”. Much of the knowledge that keeps our society functioning was not learned in schools (cooking, bicycle repair, child raising, gardening, etc), and when we are seeking to create radical forms of education, we must value these forms of learning that take place outside of the classroom, because society literally could not function without them.

But what is perhaps most the important difference between statist schooling and anarchist free schools is the structure of the school and the perceived role of education in society. Education is a central component of any revolutionary movement. Revolution is not simply the destruction of the currently existing order, but also involves building a new society based on solidarity, mutual aid, liberty, equality, etc. The creation of this type of society requires the active cultivation of these values in our families, our neighborhoods, our workplaces, etc. Thus radical education is not only about learning skills, facts, and abstract theories. It is also about learning how to live cooperatively as autonomous beings in a free society of equals. This is why one of the central features of the anarchist school movement is that they not only allow children to determine the content of their own education, but also put them in charge of the administration, maintenance and operations of the schools themselves and allow them to make collective decisions and resolve conflicts through communal assemblies. Rather than the industrialized, top-down model of schooling that teaches children to be obedient and dependent upon authority figures for guidance, free schools teach children to be creative and independent and to work in solidarity with each other to come up with their own solutions. Unlike statist public schools where values are taught but not clearly identified (very rarely, if ever, will you hear a public school teacher say “We’re trying to inculcate you with nationalism and teach you to be submissive to authority figures.”), in anarchist schools the values above are made explicit and children are taught to critically analyze their own and each other’s behavior to ensure that they are living up to these values. Here you will hearing children not only openly discussing concepts such as solidarity, conflict resolution, and communal responsibility, but actually practicing them on a daily basis.

Instead of teaching children to blindly follow authority figures and work in a capitalist economy, our schools need to teach rebellion against illegitimate authorities and how to live in solidarity and cooperation with other members of society. Public schooling, since its beginnings, has always been opposed to this goal. Radical education means the abolition of state schooling, and its replacement by anti-authoritarian, free alternatives that are run by the community and the students themselves.

References

* Avrich, Paul (1980) The Modern School Movement: Anarchism and Education in the United States; Princeton University Press.

* Haworth, Robert H. (ed) Anarchist Pedagogies: Collective Actions, Theories, and Critical Reflections on Education; PM Press

* Nasaw, David (1981) Schooled to Order: A Social History of Public Schooling in the United States; Oxford University Press and Spring, Joel H. (1994) The American School: 1642-1993; McGraw-Hill International

* Rothman, David J. (1971) The Discovery of the Asylum: Social Order and Disorder in the New Republic; Little, Brown, & Co.

* Spring, Joel H. (1972) Education and the Rise of the Corporate State; Beacon Press

* Spring, Joel H. (1994) The American School: 1642-1993; McGraw-Hill International; p. 34

* Suissa, Judith (2010) Anarchism and Education: A Philosophical Perspective; PM Press

 Also, check out the documentary Free to Learn: An Experiment in Radical Education (69 min.)

 

Statist “gun control”: promoting an elite monopoly on armed violence

The most common solution put forth (by the corporate media) to address the high levels of gun violence in the United States is “gun control” —  that is, asking the state to regulate the manufacture, sale, and use of firearms. Gun violence is a problem, and something needs to be done about it  But federal/state “gun control” legislation is not the solution.

"Photo of victims killed in drone strike on wedding convoy from Yemeni journalist & being circulated widely on social media."
Photo of victims killed in a U.S. drone strike on a wedding convoy in Yemen (December 2013) … The oligarchs who ordered and oversaw this act of mass murder will also oversee “gun control”. Do you trust them to make good decisions about who should and should not be armed?

There are several problems with asking the U.S. government to stop gun violence by controlling who has access to firearms and ammunition. The most obvious of these is that the US government is the single largest perpetrator of gun violence on the planet. It spends over $500 billion per year on military, police, and intelligence forces. The military has killed far (i.e. millions) more people than civilians with guns. They are also the world’s largest arms dealer — giving billions of dollars worth of weaponry to foreign dictatorships (Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Bahrain, etc.), paramilitary death squads, and domestic police forces. They oversee the largest prison system in the world (something that can only be maintained through the constant employment of violence). Why would we rely on these people to stop armed violence? When bureaucrats like Diane Feinstein (whose top campaign donors included several weapons manufacturers, and who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee which has overseen the torture and assassination of thousands of people) get up and talk about “gun control”, what they really mean is that they want to be in control of all of the guns, so they can continue using them to murder people who threaten corporate profits.

The second problem is that “gun control” does nothing to address the social causes of violence in our society — racism, militarism, sexism, economic exploitation, etc. Yes, it is true that firearms are frequently used by abusive men to murder their partners. However, when police are twice as likely to be domestic abusers as the general population, why would we expect that granting police a monopoly on firearms would protect women from gun violence? When we send millions of young men and women overseas to murder people in the name of the U.S. military, why do we act surprised when they come home and commit gun violence here? … The point is that we need to work towards social changes that address the root causes of violence, if we want it to stop.

Gun violence is a real problem (as we all were reminded of by the tragedy today), which we desperately need to come up with solutions as a community (working towards the ultimate goal of peaceful coexistence and universal disarmament). But the “gun control” debate (promoted by the corporate media) is totally backwards. If we really want to gain control of gun violence, we need to go after the largest perpetrator (the US government) first. The people need to disarm the police and military, rather than the other way around. Only after the people have disarmed the state, and replaced the police and military with community self-defense groups, could we safely start working on a local level towards voluntary disarmament (i.e. once arms are no longer necessary to defend our communities against violence).

Rahmatullah, 19, a victim of a NATO air strike, tries to sit up on his bed in a hospital in KabulPhoto: Ramatullah, a 19-year old Afghan boy who was the victim of a NATO airstrike

In Defense of Leaderless Revolutions

(by Peter Gelderloos via CounterPunch/Infoshop.org)

Cihan Tugal (“The End of the “Leaderless” Revolution” July 10, 2013) effectively picks apart the populist and premature claims of a successful revolution in Egypt. Yet he goes further to use the evident flaws in the leaderless revolutions that have been a hallmark of the early 21st century to discredit the very concept of leaderless revolution. In doing so, he opens the way for an amnesiac backslide to the much more flawed authoritarian revolutions of the 20th century, in the process committing some of the same errors that must be criticized in the ongoing revolts.

In order to build up a continuity of critique that benefits from awareness of all our past failures—a rich history indeed—we need to compare the failings of the leaderless revolutions with the much greater failings of the authoritarian revolutions of the past, rather than cover up those failings with the facile neologism of “leaderful” revolutions.

Ajamu Baraka, in “Requiem for a Revolution That Never Was” (July 18, 2013), is correct in challenging the pretensions of the Egyptian revolt to being a revolution. He sets the bar necessarily higher, stating: “A revolutionary process is a process by which structures of power are created by a broad mass of people that allow them to eventually transform every aspect of their society — from the structure and role of the State and the organization of the economy to inter-personal relations — all with a view to eliminating all forms of oppression.”

I would differ sharply with the idea that simply changing the structure and the role of the State is compatible with eliminating oppression, as every State in history has advanced the exclusive interests of the ruling class it unfailingly creates, necessarily blocking the full freedom of action and self-organization of its subjects. In fact no one has advanced a convincing argument about how a State could possibly do anything else, and the proponents of such apologia have most often been the ones to actively disprove the proposition of a benign State.

Nonetheless, we can take this as a starting point: a revolution seeks to profoundly transform social organization and eliminate oppression. If we acknowledge that populists were premature in declaring a revolutionary victory in Egypt, we should also accept that Tugal is premature in declaring a failure.

What revolution that ran its course was not preceded by insurrections that were crushed? In Russia there was the failed 1905 revolution. In China there was the Autumn Harvest Uprising, and in Spain the insurrections at Casas Viejas in 1933 and Asturias in 1934. The Cuban Revolution was preceded by the attack on the Moncada barracks. And the American Revolution owes much more to the thwarted Conspiracy of 1741 in New York than most historians are willing to acknowledge (given that the eventual leaders of that revolution were looking to avoid, rather than realize, the dreams of early insurgents).

Revolutions are not an event, but a process, and a major part of that process involves learning from our failures, developing more adequate theories and analysis, and building up the capacity to defend the spaces we seize and the germinal social relations we create.

In Egypt, the forces that obstructed this learning process were the revolt’s would-be leaders, populists hoping to mobilize the masses with empty slogans. These leaders were unwittingly complemented by direct democracy activists who thought it was enough for people to take to the streets and participate in assemblies. They were happy to have created a vessel, no matter how superficial the content that filled it, no matter how undeveloped their new structure’s capacity for self-defense.

In the plaza occupation movement in Spain, directly influenced by the Arab Spring, hundreds of thousands of people poured into the streets chanting, “the revolution begins here.” Most of them were sincere, but they also held a media-corrupted view of what revolution actually means. The experience with a leaderless revolution forced many of them to question their assumptions and deepen their analysis.

Behind the façade of popular unity that the many commentators helped to create, these movements contained important conflicts. In Spain as elsewhere, there were the authoritarians and the movement politicians who parroted horizontal, anti-party rhetoric so as not to scare away their potential constituency. And there were the activists who believed in an ideology of horizontality and direct democracy in and of themselves. Both of these groups coincided in their desire to hide and suppress the internal divisions in the movement. They spoke of unity and hoped that everyone would rally around lowest common denominator positions. But there were also the marginalized, who were not content with any movement that would sate itself with mere reform. Many of them kept coming back to the streets because of what they found there, a spontaneous, self-organizing collectivity that promised a future community based on everything that is lacking under capitalism. And among the marginalized were the radicals, who specifically and unceasingly criticized the false unity, the democratic populism, and the at best superficial analysis of capitalism.

The movement politicians tried their best to ignore these radicals. The media suggested they were outside provocateurs, even though they were there from the beginning. But an increasing number of people began to listen to them, and collectively the movement as a whole deepened its analysis and sharpened its practice. This is why the largely middle-class, populist “indignados” of the spring of 2011 gave way to the anticapitalist, diverse, and numerically superior strikers and rioters of the general strike one year later.

In Egypt as well, anarchists and other radicals were in the heart of the recent uprising, opposing the Morsi government as well as a military government, and spreading critiques of the power structures that underpin both. For now, the military has prevailed, but this gives people in Egypt a chance to learn lessons and strengthen their practice. A population that has been subdued by military dictatorship for decades has little chance to develop the analysis and the tools of self-defense they need to overcome one of the most heavily funded militaries in the world in just two years, but in such a short time, they have come a very long way.

The leaderless revolution must overcome centuries of conditioning that teaches us that we need to be ruled. This is its central conflict. Setbacks in Egypt and elsewhere should underscore this conflict, not justify running away from the greatest struggle we will ever take up.

What becomes clear with experience is that it is not enough to take to the streets and protest, no matter how many figureheads we topple, because power runs deeper than that. It is not enough to implement democratic debate, because the right answers have already been precluded by the very way our lives have been structured.

Tugal is dead wrong when he writes about “the fallacy that the people can take power without an agenda, an alternative platform, an ideology, and leaders.” That someone can still talk about taking power as a liberatory proposition without getting laughed off stage, in the face of so many historical examples that show what taking power actually means, shows how deep our collective amnesia runs.

It is no surprise, however, that some people keep sounding the call for unifying behind leaders and a platform in order to take power. In an authoritarian revolution, academics and other intellectual and cultural producers often move from their middling rung in the capitalist hierarchy to the top tier. It is in their class interest to advocate for authoritarian revolution. The rest of us just need to learn to tune them out.

The idea that we can address the economic alienation of capitalism without addressing the political alienation of the State is absurd. It is no coincidence that all the authoritarian revolutions that billed themselves as “anticapitalist” proved to be nothing more than shortcuts back to capitalism. The greatest promise of the leaderless revolutions is their ability to create a synthesis between economic and political liberation, but only if they also reject the democratic populism that Tugal and many others have criticized. But an analysis critical of both capitalism and populism already exists in the heart of the Egyptian revolt, as it also did in the Spanish plaza occupation movement and even Occupy.

These leaderless revolts do not need to be rejected. We just need to cut through the veil of unity, hollow discourses like that of the “99%” or “people power”, acknowledge the conflicts that exist within these movements, and take sides. Not to advance the correct platform, the correct agenda, and the correct set of leaders, inevitably setting off a carnival of sectarianism, but in a spirit of pluralistic debate.

Bowing down to the need for leaders, “an” (read, one) ideology, and a common platform would obstruct the most important line of growth for these revolutions, which is self-organization. A prerequisite for self-organization is that the outcomes cannot be predetermined as they are when we all have to toe a party line. Once most people know how to take the initiative in their own lives and put their plans into action, once the practice of self-organization intensifies to move beyond making abstract decisions, people will be able to create new social relations and collectively organize the material aspects of their lives—how to feed, clothe, house, heal, and generally provide for themselves. If this happens, leaders will be obsolete and we can begin to earnestly talk about revolution.

The worst problem with authoritarian revolutions is not that they produce “a cult of the leader,” the only glitch Tugal finds to criticize, but that their existence requires them to obstruct the self-organization of the people by any means necessary, a dynamic that Voline documented in the Russian Revolution and that has proven to be the case in every authoritarian revolution since.

The revolts in Egypt, Turkey, Brazil, Spain, and elsewhere are an important start. But wherever we participate in leaderless movements we need to argue passionately against reformism, for a radical critique of capitalism, and for a committed rejection of leaders. Eschewing leadership provisionally, rejecting only the current leaders, will only lead to a takeover by populists, opportunists, or seemingly neutral structures like the military, as happened in Egypt. But if the rejection of leadership solidifies, Tamarod or any other group will not be able to rally people behind a leadership that appears to be neutral, or convince them to stuff their dreams into a ballot box.

If these revolutionary movements grow and successfully resist co-optation, they will come into greater conflict with the State. Leaderless insurrections in recent years in Egypt, Brazil, and Greece quickly overcame the ability of the police to contain them, raising the specter of a clash with the military. How can a leaderless revolt adapt to such a conflict? Fortunately we have historical precedents.

The most important historical lesson warns against the militarization of the conflict. Many revolutionary movements have had to overcome the military force of the State, but they ended up defeating themselves when they subordinated social questions to matters of military organization. In combat, large groups of people often need to arrive at unified decisions in the shortest time possible, meaning that assemblies don’t cut it. The forms of organization and leadership that develop in the sphere of martial conflict must therefore never take precedence over the social character of the ongoing revolution.

In recent times, the Zapatistas have taken great pains to avoid a militarization of the conflict or subordinate their social activities to the military leadership. The results of their efforts remain to be seen.

In the Spanish Civil War, anarchist and some socialist militias organized with elected and recallable officers, and these militias had no authority in socio-economic matters. The revolution was lost when it was subordinated to the military question (“win the war first, then make the revolution later”) and the militias were forced to join the regular armies.

In the Russian Revolution, the anarchist Makhno led a highly effective partisan detachment comprised entirely of peasant volunteers that wreaked havoc on the authoritarian White and Red Armies. For his part, Makhno refused leadership in the revolutionary assemblies that were established in the liberated territory. He stuck to military matters, and told workers or peasants looking for guidance to organize themselves.

Kim Jwa-Jin was a similar figure in the Chinese Civil War: leader of the Shinmin Commune’s army, he left all political decisions to the federation and the local assemblies, where an anti-authoritarian spirit were the order of the day.

Nanny led the maroons in Jamaica in the battle against slavery. And in their victorious wars against Spanish attempts at colonization, the Mapuche of South America chose tokis to lead them in battle. But Nanny and the tokis had no power on the community or household levels, beyond their own household and their own community, nor were they integrated into any power structure that governed those other social levels, as are military leaders in a compartmentalized state structure.

For most of us, the eventuality of military conflict is still a long way off. Even in Egypt, where a civil war is an imminent possibility, the movement still has so much work to do to get to a point where it could hope to survive such a conflict. Ultimately, we will cross that bridge when we get there. But it is good to know that we won’t be the first ones to carry the dream of an egalitarian revolution and a world without hierarchy or oppression.

We have no need to listen to those who sound the call to retreat, back to the hopelessly flawed model of authoritarian revolution that marred the 20th century. The leaderless revolution is an ongoing experiment, an endeavor that challenges us to abandon our authoritarian baggage, to convince those who are new to struggle that a simple reform is not enough, to spread an understanding of how power actually functions and to see the connection between every form of oppression.

The widespread mistrust of leaders is one of the few things we have gained from our long history of revolutionary failure. Let’s not give that up just because our struggles are not immediately successful. Rather, we need to turn that mistrust into a principled position. A hundred years ago, millions of people cried out, “The liberation of the workers is a task for the workers themselves.” This is true of everyone who is exploited and oppressed, whether their oppression plays out on lines of class, race, gender, sexuality, or ethnicity. They will know better than anyone else how to liberate themselves.

Peter Gelderloos is the author of several books, including Anarchy Works and the newly published The Failure of Nonviolence: from the Arab Spring to Occupy. He lives in Barcelona.

“Anarchy’s mayhem is wholly conjectural; the state’s mayhem is undeniably, factually horrendous.”

“Anarchists did not try to carry out genocide against the Armenians in Turkey; they did not deliberately starve millions of Ukrainians; they did not create a system of death camps to kill Jews, gypsies, and Slavs in Europe; they did not fire-bomb scores of large German and Japanese cities and drop nuclear bombs on two of them; they did not carry out a ‘Great Leap Forward’ that killed scores of millions of Chinese; they did not attempt to kill everybody with any appreciable education in Cambodia; they did not launch one aggressive war after another; they did not implement trade sanctions that killed perhaps 500,000 Iraqi children.

In debates between anarchists and statists, the burden of proof clearly should rest on those who place their trust in the state. Anarchy’s mayhem is wholly conjectural; the state’s mayhem is undeniably, factually horrendous.”

–Robert Higgs

Bakunin: State as justification for crimes

“For there is no terror, cruelty, sacrilege, perjury, imposture, infamous transaction, cynical theft, brazen robbery or foul treason which has not been committed and all are still being committed daily by representatives of the State, with no other excuse than this elastic, at times so convenient and terrible phrase ‘Reason of State.’ A terrible phrase indeed! For it has corrupted and dishonored more people in official circles and in the governing classes of society than Christianity itself. As soon as it is uttered everything becomes silent and drops out of sight: honesty, honor, justice, right, pity itself vanishes and with it logic and sound sense; black becomes white and white becomes black, the horrible becomes humane, and the most dastardly felonies and most atrocious crimes become meritorious acts.”

— Mikhail Bakunin, “The Immorality of the State“: