Minimise Violence by Emphasising Politics
The very essence of libertarian revolutionary strategy is the idea that there is an inextricable link between the means used and the ends proposed. While there may be a link between the rotten authoritarian ends of nationalists and marxist-leninists and rotten terrorist means, it is unquestionably clear that libertarian ends must disallow terrorist means. In fact the majority of marxist-leninist groups oppose terrorism, though, as Lenin says in Left-wing Communism - an Infantile Disorder, "It was, of course, only on grounds of expediency that we rejected individual terrorism." Leninists are the proponents of vanguardism par excellence. They also are proponents of terrorism by the state - as long as they control it.
Libertarians look at history and at the ruling classes of the world and conclude that a libertarian movement will face state violence and armed struggle will be necessary in response. It is quite obvious that political activity could not even commence in certain conditions without taking up arms immediately. Also in certain conditions, as in peasant-based societies, it would be necessary to set up armed bases in the countryside. But the aim here would not be to carry out "exemplary" clashes with the military but to protect the political infrastructure to enable the spreading of ideas to continue. This may involve some guerrilla tactics but it cannot mean the strategy of guerrilla-ism. Nor can it mean the creation of a separate, hierarchical, military organization, which is not only anti-libertarian but is also vulnerable and inefficient. The Tupamaros were, being marxist-leninists, hierarchically organised. One of the factors in their defeat was the treason of Amodio Perez, a "liaison director" in the organization, i.e. a second-level institutionalised leader who knew so much that he was able to single-handedly put police onto large sections.
In Baumann's book he makes it quite clear that the capture of members of groups was often the result of betrayal by sympathisers. This was not ever a result of hierarchical structuring as this did not exist in the group he belonged to. Though the police did use virtual torture methods on some sympathisers this was not the main factor either. It rather follows from the life of illegality.
"Three people who were illegal would sit in one apartment and two or three legal ones would take care of them ... (p.56) You only have contact with other people as objects, when you meet somebody all you can say is, listen old man, you have to get me this or that thing, rent me a place to live, here or there and in three days we'll meet here at this corner. If he has any criticism of you, you say, that doesn't interest me at all. Either you participate or you leave it easy and clear. At the end it's caught up with you - you become like the apparatus you fight against." (p.99)
"Because you're illegal, you can't keep contact with the people at the base. You can no longer take part directly in any further development of the whole scene. You're not integrated with the living process that goes on. Suddenly you're a marginal figure because you can't show up anywhere. "(p. 98)
It is obvious that these aspects of such a life are counter-productive for libertarians. On the whole then it would seem that such organisations could only have a survival function for certain people under threat of murder or torture by the state. At one stage the Tupamaros were able to stop systematic torture by threatening torturers, but once the state resumed the offensive, torture was resumed. To prevent executions and torture, armed activity might be justified, but its anti-political features would have to be weighed carefully.
Armed struggle means people would be killed and there is no getting away from the fact that violence threatens humanism. But libertarians would hope to preserve their humanism by ensuring that armed struggle would merely be an extension of a political movement whose main activity would be to spread ideas and build alternative organization. The forces of repression (police, army) and the rulers themselves would not be excluded from such efforts. In fact much effort would be devoted to splitting them with politics to minimise the necessity for violence. In this situation everyone would have a choice. Libertarians are extending to people the hope that they can change. We are extending to people our confidence that a self-managed society will be more satisfying for all people. This includes our rulers, even though we recognise the limitations created by the characters people have developed in their lives, especially those adapted to the exercise of power.
Small groups operating outside the control of a mass movement and often in the absence of any mass resistance at all, who take upon themselves decisions of "class justice" in the name of groups who are unrepresented but whose interests are affected by action based on these decisions, are nothing but dangerous. The SLA killed a school superintendent after a community coalition failed to prevent the introduction of draconian disciplinary measures in schools. This failure was a reflection of the political level of the community and exactly the opposite of an invitation for the SLA to kill a mere pawn of the Board of Education. "The SLA recognises no authority but its own will which identifies with the will of the people in much the same manner that many psychopathic killers claim to be instructed by God. It has killed a defenceless individual whose guilt is not only not proved, but is mainly a fantasy of his executioners."
These comments of Ramparts magazine apply to many a similar incident.
If in these cases guilt can at least be attributed as a justification, what can be said of those actions against the public at large (indiscriminate bombing, taking hostages, hijacking planes etc.)? Usually terrorists will attempt justification in terms of the kinds of strategies described above. The expected end results from these strategies supposedly justify the means used. Enough has been said about these strategies. But it should be emphasised again that foul means, far from being justified by distant ends, merely provide a guarantee that the ends achieved will be horrible.
You can't blow up a social relationship. The total collapse of this society would provide no guarantee about what replaced it. Unless a majority of people had the ideas and organization sufficient for the creation of an alternative society, we would see the old world reassert itself because it is what people would be used to, what they believed in, what existed unchallenged in their own personalities.
Proponents of terrorism and guerrilla-ism are to be opposed because their actions are vanguardist and authoritarian, because their ideas, to the extent that they are substantial, are wrong or unrelated to the results of their actions (especially when they call themselves libertarians or anarchists), because their killing cannot be justified, and finally because their actions produce either repression with nothing in return or an authoritarian regime.
To those contemplating political violence we say, first look to yourselves: is destructiveness an expression of fear of love? There are political traditions and political possibilities you have yet to examine.
To the society which produces the conditions of poverty, passivity, selfishness, shallowness and destructiveness in which the response of political violence can grow we say, take warning. These conditions must be overthrown. As a French Socialist said in 1848 - "If you have no will for human association I tell you that you are exposing civilisation to the fate of dying in fearful agony."