A good book on Illegalism or Prop of the deed

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ocelot's picture
ocelot
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Apr 24 2012 11:45

I suspect that GS meant that the group of people quoted was predominantly individualist, not that each individual was (fallacy of division).

I think there may be some ambiguity over what people mean by "individualist anarchism" that could cause confusion here. The term has a very different meaning in a modern American context from that of the French - Swiss - Italian axis of 1890s anarchism. In the latter case there was not necessarily a conflict between being an anarchist communist and an individualist. But I think the correlation between anti-unionism/syndicalism, anti-organisationalism, individualism (understood in the sense of the 1890s fad for Stirnerism as part of the anarchist tradition) and illegalism was as much juxtaposition as anything else. Those sections of the anarchist movement that refused the "syndicalist turn" of the late 1880s tended, perhaps inevitably due to their hostility to formal organisations, to form a milieu that's difficult to excavate or reconstruct historically, except through looking at the paper trail of publications left to posterity. And of course the adoption of a resolutely "free thinker" attitude and hostility to any conformity to an agreed political line, by the editors of these journals (along with the eternal pressure to find content, that neither technological or historical development appears capable of freeing periodical publishers from), means that the publications are a very eclectic mix, from which it's not that easy to detect definite tendencies.

But speaking of illegalism itself, there has to be a distinction between the use of illegal violence in the insurrectionist tradition (Buda's wagon) and "illegalismo programmatico" itself. The instrumental justification of the use of illegal means towards legitimate ends (insurrection, funding the movement or even just the subsistence of individual militants) is distinct from the elevation of lifestyle criminality as a heroic expression of refusal to submit to authority - in an of itself. It's this "essentialist", as opposed to instrumentalist, valorisation of criminality per se, that is the specific of illegalism. So Galleani, for e.g., would not qualify as an illegalist.

The worship of the lumpenproletariat career criminal as radical revolutionary is an unfortunate strand that has been around since Bakunin's "flower of the proletariat", through Covelli and Cafiero's romanticisation of the spostati, the 1890's classical illegalism (which despite the Bonnot gang, could also been seen as much as a literary movement, as a practical one), through to the Black Panthers peculiar attitude to lumpen. The one consistent theme is that it always ends very badly.

tastybrain
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Apr 24 2012 22:06
Sik Kunt wrote:

I was not talking about terrorism, but rather Anarchists choosing to rob banks, kidnap rich people etc etc, sure would be less shit than working long hours at a job you hate.

I don't think expropriation will abolish capitalism, but I think it would be better than my life as a wage slave.

Your life as an illegalist professional criminal will also probably be much shorter than your life as a wage slave. If you'd rather burn out than fade away I guess that's your choice.

Sik Kunt wrote:
I know as Anarchists people should be looking for ways to raise class consciousness, agitate and organize, but when it is clear revolution is not round the corner, why is it wrong for an Anarchist to look for an alternative to living as a broke worker?

Obviously a system won't be overthrown without the near entire population behind the struggle, while Anarchist revolution is far away, I can see the appeal to fight and not live the shit life your dad and mum and Grandmother and friends all live but live outside it.

Says the person who works haha grin

The anarchist revolution is not something that is objectively "near" or "far" away in the future. Sure, I agree it's not likely to happen soon, but the attitude of "oh well, I don't see any barricades on the streets today, might as well rob a bank till the revolution gets here". If people like you who clearly understand anarchism would are committed to illegalism rather than organizing in social movements we are well and truly screwed.

Sik Kunt wrote:
If one was to use Illegal-ism by carrying out crimes against the rich, kidnappings, bank robbers, high end theft, counter fitting for financial benefit to relieve them from the shitty economic and lifestyle restrictions of a worker, how does that hurt or betray the proletariat?

Well, one way it might hurt the proletariat is by killing them. You know, with guns? The Bonnot Gang killed three bank tellers and a maid according to Wikipedia. Thats at least four dead proletarians. Do you think they or their families gave a fuck that the ridiculous stunts of the Bonnot Gang "benefitted the working class"? I don't see how you can rob a bank with no risk to the proletarians in there. If you want to walk out of there, you're gonna have to shoot any customers, tellers, or security guards who make a move and try to be heroes. So any bank robbery puts workers at risk. I'm not saying they are never justified, but if they are carried out it should be for a greater purpose than improving one worker's lifestyle.

Sik Kunt wrote:
If an Anarchist, is himself working class, surely him robbing the rich is in support of the working class, as it benefits him?

Right, so by that logic Stalin becoming a dictator (which benefitted him) benefitted the peasant class.

georgestapleton's picture
georgestapleton
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Apr 25 2012 12:35

Yeah what ocelot said.

Skraeling
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Apr 25 2012 21:46

Hmm I think my point still holds: it is incorrect to assume it was only individualists, or individualistic anarchist communists (? a contradiction) who were illegalists, or used illegalist tactics substantially. It's appearance depends on many factors, such as widespread state repression, whether the working class or a fraction of it is being insurrrectionary or has potential to do so, class composition (eg. strength and size of the 'lumpenproletariat') etc etc not just the ideological or practical choices of a few anarchos. hence illegalism is not just the product of a few stirnerite influenced individualists way back in the past - the black panthers would be an example talked about above.

I don't know enuf about the group of people GS mentioned as 'predominantly individualist'. from my limited anarcho-ology, I would question whether a lot of them were 'predom individualist' tho - Galleani, Most, Sacco and Vancetti (altho I may the latter two wrong).

ocelot wrote:

I think there may be some ambiguity over what people mean by "individualist anarchism" that could cause confusion here. The term has a very different meaning in a modern American context from that of the French - Swiss - Italian axis of 1890s anarchism. In the latter case there was not necessarily a conflict between being an anarchist communist and an individualist. But I think the correlation between anti-unionism/syndicalism, anti-organisationalism, individualism (understood in the sense of the 1890s fad for Stirnerism as part of the anarchist tradition) and illegalism was as much juxtaposition as anything else. Those sections of the anarchist movement that refused the "syndicalist turn" of the late 1880s tended, perhaps inevitably due to their hostility to formal organisations, to form a milieu that's difficult to excavate or reconstruct historically

I'd quibble with quite a few points here - basically i suspect you're conflating declasse anarcho-stirnerite/nietzschean individualism of an artisitic milieu in 1890s france with the anti-syndicalist strand of anarchist communism - i don't see much in common between a bohemian milieu that glorified the 'outsider' outside and beyond classes, and many anarchist communists who were for class struggle and organisation and completely rejected the 'syndicalist turn' as they saw all unions as reformist capitalist organisations that were incapable of abolishing classes, exchange, the wage-system and the state (plus they correctly rejected individualist anarchism as bourgeois). what concrete evidence do you have of crossover between the two currents?

the main thing they had in common was the rejection of unions and use of illegal tactics, but for v. different reasons - eg. the Russian anti-syndicalist anarchist communists during the russian revolution used them (rightly or wrongly) to try and speed up the revolutionary process by carrying out 'illegal' expropriations and even 'terrorism' according to Alain Pengam. Now i'd see these tactics as pretty isolated and limited, but I can't see how this has much in common with individualists who saw themselves in a very elitist egoist manner as the living embodiment of revolution and rejected all class struggle etc. Further, many anti-syndicalist communists like the Hatta Shuzo tradition in Japan were not into illegalism or illegalist tactics.

plus even the purist individualist illegalists weren't completely anti-organisational eg. Bonnot gang was basically an affinity group ie. they formed an informal gang.

Ocelot wrote:
But speaking of illegalism itself, there has to be a distinction between the use of illegal violence in the insurrectionist tradition (Buda's wagon) and "illegalismo programmatico" itself. The instrumental justification of the use of illegal means towards legitimate ends (insurrection, funding the movement or even just the subsistence of individual militants) is distinct from the elevation of lifestyle criminality as a heroic expression of refusal to submit to authority - in an of itself. It's this "essentialist", as opposed to instrumentalist, valorisation of criminality per se, that is the specific of illegalism. So Galleani, for e.g., would not qualify as an illegalist.

Yes excellent analysis there - i'd agree. just to be clear, just so that trad. anarchists reading this don't think i'm some type of insurrectionist, i'd agree with Ocelot that illegalism has always ended badly. my interest in the above form of anarchist communism is more motivated by learning about various different forms of the communist current. but i can see how if you're coming from a more syndicalist or platformist informed current of anarchism that such communists would be considered individualists, anti-organisational etc etc.