The Exploited Individual
“We must take into account not only the objective causes of oppression, but must also examine the subjective factors which play an important role in the persistence of exploitation and are hindering the process of workers’ autonomy.”
– Jean Weir, Worker’s Autonomy
The will to resist exploitation and social exclusion is an often overlooked factor within the revolutionary movement, but without this subjective element revolutionary change can not take place. Oppression can nurture apathy and resignation as easily as it can provoke hatred and anger. The exploitation of the capitalist system creates the context and justification for mass rebellion, but the determination to resist must come from within each individual. The spirit of revolt, the indispensable revolutionary initiative of individuals must be the groundwork of a project that aims at overthrowing the dominant class and destroying the infrastructure of their economy. The struggle for real individual freedom must also necessarily become a struggle for equality of conditions and access to social life for the entire exploited class.
The Insurrectionary Process
“When a revolutionary situation arises in a country, before the spirit of revolt is sufficiently awakened in the masses to express itself in violent demonstrations in the streets or by rebellions and uprisings, it is through action that minorities succeed in awakening that feeling of independence and that spirit of audacity without which no revolution can come to a head.”
– Peter Kropotkin , The Spirit of Revolt With the individual as a catalyst, an insurrectionary process can begin to take shape, first in small affinity groups, and then in base structures; mass organizations founded on principles of self-management, direct action and permanent conflict with the class enemy. The forum for individual and collective action is the class war itself, the contradiction between exploiter and exploited that can only be resolved by the violent elimination of those in power. Organization is a tool to be used in coordinating specific tasks, a tool to be fashioned, adapted and dismantled as necessary. It should not be an end in itself. Only the struggle should be permanent. Revolutionary initiative has a variety of means at its disposal, from counter-information work and expropriation to attacks on capitalist institutions. Class warfare may develop over time in the form of escalating individual, intermediate and mass insurrectionary struggles, but all efforts should aim at achieving concrete results and gains, and symbolic methods should be dismissed as useless.
The Institutions of Oppression
“Naturally one must begin with the insurrectionary act which sweeps away the material obstacles, the armed forces of government which are opposed to any social transformation.”
– Errico Malatesta, The Insurrection
Capitalism is not merely an abstract concept or system of social relationships. It depends on its institutions of repression, its courts, police stations, and prisons. These structures will not destroy themselves. They will not crumble under the weight of an inevitable historical process. They must be physically assaulted. The subjective aspects of material resistance also come into play, as individuals realize their capacity to actively attack and destroy capitalist targets. By intervening directly in the social clash, individuals and groups gain experience that can be attained in no other way. When engaged in collective action, the bonds of solidarity are strengthened between comrades. The combative spirit gathers momentum.
The Class Enemy
“Let every dirty, lousy tramp arm himself with a revolver or knife and lay in wait on the steps of the palaces of the rich and stab or shoot the owners as they come out. Let us kill them without mercy, and let it be a war of extermination and without pity. Let us devastate the avenues where the wealthy live.”
– Lucy Parsons
Behind every institution of oppression is the class enemy. Determined to maintain their position at all costs, intoxicated by power and willing to use the most brutal forces of repression at their disposal, the exploiters wage class war relentlessly. Revolutionary organizations must act against this reality by refusing negotiation or compromise with the class enemy. The only effective strategy in revolutionary warfare is the strategy of annihilation. The application of violence to this concrete necessity of the movement itself should not cause discomfort for even a moment. The lives of the exploiters and their servants are not worth a cent.
Autonomy and Centralization
“If revolutionaries organize like those whose rule they seek to overthrow, they are defeated before the battle is engaged.”
– Andy Anderson, Hungary ‘56
Autonomy is the prerequisite of social freedom. Only the absolute autonomy of individuals and groups, the freedom to associate or disassociate with others at will, can allow the natural tendency towards solidarity and mutual aid to take root. The principle of self-determination must grow from the free individual out towards the community, and further outwards to distinct cultural groups and geographic regions. Autonomy provides the basis for meaningful interrelations between groups and territories on the basis of communism; the equality of access to the means of existence and social life. Revolution is a project that develops decentralized organizational structures on the one hand while it attacks the centralized formations of the class enemy on the other. Revolutionaries must take the initiative to constantly fight against any tendency towards centralization if they are to defend freedom. From this perspective, revolutionary initiative becomes a project based on combining the struggle for individual liberation with the social struggle to overthrow the capitalist system and the class enemy.
Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Coast Salish Territories
April 30, 2003