THE HIDDEN STRENGTH OF AN INSURRECTION IS THAT IT AROUSES THE IMAGINATION
It was late evening of December 5th, 2008 and I was reading the comic book ‘V for Vendetta’, when a phrase shook me: “Noise is relative to the silence preceding it. The more absolute the hush, the more shocking the thunderclap.” The economic crisis hadn’t yet unsettled the dominant narrative of capitalism as a one-way road, and a spontaneous insurrection in a country of the west world seemed like a utopia. I stood on this phrase, which I felt very believable, but there weren’t any facts to support it and I wondered a lot inside me..
A day later, a bullet struck the heart of feisty comrade Alexandros Grigoropoulos. The bullet came from the weapon of a cop, for whom Vyronas Polydoras, as minister of Public Order, had warned that had a sensitive nervous system and shoots. The same night, rage kicked off. At first, it was the anarchist/antiauthoritarian milieu, and the next day it expanded to school kids, students, immigrants and the excluded. Public buildings were occupied, from universities to city halls and the Opera house, in a background of hours-long clashes with the police, extensive destructions and looting of banks and department stores. Not only a message was sent to the impudent repressive mechanisms of the state, but now the vision of an anarchist insurrection was gaining ground. An inconceivable diversity of actions, opinions, persons, affinity groups, organizations, etc. composed the uprising of December.
The dynamic of the anarchist idea in the greek territory, brought back the forgotten project of a generalized insurrection, because, contrary to centralized structures and logics, it gave each person space to take initiatives and express oneself, precisely because there wasn’t any limitation of free expression.
In the aftermath, the insurrection had left its direct organizational heritage with a clear reflection on all kinds of actions, something that at the end, inevitably, led to upgraded state repression. It also left ineffaceable to us the ecstatic experience of generalized direct clash with the state and the authoritarian structures in all levels.
But this insurrection wasn’t defeated by repression. The insurrection faded gradually and didn’t achieve a leap forward to a direct application of our ideas in praxis, because the events had already outstripped the imagination of the people that participated. The insurrection faded because of the inherent weaknesses of our proposals. With the inability to continuously coordinate our actions as the most obvious reason for the fade-out, most criticism was pointed at the lack of central organization or ideology. The transformation of the milieu to a movement with a single structure, ideology and hierarchization of priorities was suggested.
Of course, this bumps into the classic problem of centralized structures, the fact that they compete for the occupation of the political and organizational leadership. An example with an extended application in the history of the Left, with conflicts, intrigues, assassinations and totalitarianisms. A type of organization that reproduces statism in a small scale. In parallel, in a hypothesis that such a model of ideological unification would prevail, a theoretical self-amputation would take place and the outreach would be limited to specific social parts, while the capability of multidimensional outreach towards modern diverse society where each person has different concerns, values , desires and experiences, would get lost.
Of course, the formal or informal hierarchical structures create a social environment which favors the more Machiavellians, since they are more capable of manipulating people, alienating structurally the revolutionary groups.
Furthermore, centralized groups of all kind have a vulnerability: their center. Thus, they are very easy to be controlled, through blackmailing and psychological handling, and they are led inevitably to compromise, loss or assimilation. On the contrary, pervasive structures are harder to get hit, so decentralization is our strength, it’s the font of the never-ending persistence of the anarchist movement to maintain its insurrectional characteristics, while the rest in western world have compromised. The insurrection of December was feasible exactly because of this decentralization.
But the most important is the presence of diversity instead of imposed uniformity. Diversity is a main precondition for the evolution of life, and the same principle applies for any type of organization, idea or practice. Diversity is the wealth from which our dynamic evolution emerges and when its value becomes common consciousness, the symbiotic relationship of individual types of anarchist struggle will blow up the foundations of statism.
So where are these shortages detected? I will focus on this further down, since the projection of positive aspects without self-criticism, wouldn’t contribute anything. Το make it more easy to read, I divided self-criticism and the proposals that result from it, in three sections: in levels of ideas, practices and organization.
Level of ideas
On the opposite side of coherent, monolithic, Marxist ideologies, anarchist views seem to be as many as their carriers. Questioning the dominant narratives from different sides of the anarchist movement led to moving from financial equality to refusal of enforcement of society on the individual, from gender equality to sexual liberation, from human-centered ecology to bio-centrism. Criticism towards the destructive industrial system got even more radicalized and widened to technology, science and the concept of progress. New philosophical views were searched that dared to fundamentally challenge the thought of modern man in the rationality-dominated world, views that disdain rationality and the existence of a single common reality. The undeniable fertility of deepening the dispute at all levels created an endless tank of ideas and broadened the width of outreach.
In many cases though, this dispute is led by dogmatic ideas which tend to become the identity of groups or trends, and this leads to internal competition about who will express in a more dogmatic way the identity of the group. A direct consequence of this is the abandonment of the pursuit of holistic views, the intellectual self-limitation, and entrenchment. Combined with intellectual laziness, it leads to a perfunctory way of dealing with important issues and after all to disorientation of the action itself, since according to my worldview, thought exists because it directs the action.
I don’t aim at uniting the different trends and since I’m an enemy of uniformity, I believe that the compound of opposite views and therefore the freedom of communication and criticism, are absolutely necessary in order to produce new opposed opinions for our evolution as individuals and communities.
In this direction, the first requirement is the ejection of an intolerance culture towards criticism which has its roots in the overrated self-image we project outwards. Thus, when we express a view, we identify with it and every criticism that affects our sacred image angers us and leads us to use verbal or physical violence. In combination with the macho culture that spans across the whole society –and its more radical parts- physical violence seems as an ideal alternative to arguments. Personally, I was never convinced about the rightfulness of the powerful, even though, on some implicit level, enforcement of power through violence makes many to identify themselves internally with the powerful. However, this procedure has nothing to do with the anarchist vision. Instead, it leads to the dismantling of solidarity relations, it sabotages dialogue and destroys any chance of forming composed points of view. Only by building a new culture of tolerance towards criticism, which doesn’t allow any acceptance of physical violence, we can reach an eligible unity in practice but also in our intellectual evolution, individually and collectively.
I will continue by presenting a redefinition of the main components of the thought that characterize my search of holistic approaches and compositions with the hope that at some point my thoughts could be useful for the procedure of constant theoretical debate.
Ill begin with the relation between logic and emotion, because the apperception of our internal mechanisms of thought is a main objective in this procedure. Often, these two undivided elements of thought are shown as opposing, and against a social command that wants us to think logically, and so a natural denial results inside the movement which leads to an adoption of emotional/experiential reason against analytical.
What is not said here, is that logic as a tool of thought lacks objectives and motives. Emotions set the objectives and mobilize us. Logic analyzes our complex world and recomposes new possible ways of action.
The possible results are projected inside our mind and create the emotional reactions that determine our choices. This procedure gets reconstructed by a socially forced false consciousness that leads to delusions of clearly logical (or clearly emotional) decisions. On a daily level we survive by using thought in total and I believe the same is needed for our collective survival and evolution. In this sense, the internal self-fulfillment through action is achieved because we see that action as something useful in relation with some social aims and it can’t stand independently and far from social worldview.
The so-called “rationality”, besides being a useful tool of thought, is also a tool of internal cognitive communication between parts of the mind, but also an external one through speech. The fact that it seems to regulate the functions of problem solving by the human mind, to the apes, ravens and octopuses, shows that it is a global code of representation of a fundamental normality reality that the living beings evolved to perceive. A reality, the existence of which is argued and isn’t proved, and the admission that a single reality with multiple subjective perceptions seems to be the only admission which by every single thought, interaction or action makes any sense in the context of a coherent worldview. And with this admission, the knowledge of the supposedly common reality can have a collective nature. The most powerful tool for producing knowledge in the capitalist world is science, but the directions of research it receives are controlled by corporate or state interests.
From the time of Bakunin, in the eyes of whom science seemed to be a tool of liberty for humanity, two world wars and the creation of chemical and nuclear weapons followed, making it clear that science in the authoritarian world is not neutral. At the same time, the consequences of industrial revolution in nature and in human psychology put under criticism the technology that co-develops with science. The methodology is in the same way repulsive, by doing sick experiments on animals currently, as well as on humans until the time of colonialism.
However, due of the decentralized nature of research, compared with the centralized clergy, every scientific conclusion gets checked by different researchers and laboratories. For this reason, the accuracy and quality of the produced knowledge comes closer to objectivity more than any other collective process of thought. That’s why, regardless of our criticism towards science as a component of the system we oppose, produced knowledge should be expropriated, simply because we live in a competitive world and knowledge is power.
One might notice here that I almost identify in some parts with primitivism, but I actually disagree with the idea because it’s impossible for all people to renounce knowledge and power. Since there is a broad dissimilarity of mental formations and behavioral patterns in the human species, every revolutionary procedure, instant or long-term, involves violent conflict, and in conflict knowledge is power, just as weapons technology is, that results from it. With spears we cannot win.
So, the power of producing knowledge in a revolutionary antiauthoritarian community has to be controlled collectively, with directions of research in fields, like the reversion of the consequences of industrial civilization, but not based on corporate interests, while the power of community should be forced on those who want to use methodologies that destroy the natural world or torture feeling beings.
Today, it’s a fact that inside this pillar mechanism of the authoritarian world which is called science, there are cracks. I’m clearly referring to the fact that the observation of climate change, of the sixth mass extinction of species and their connection with human activity, is now a field of science. And these conclusions clashed directly with the dominant industrial and energy lobbies. At the same time, many researchers are looking for new technologies for the energy transition. So for sure, not everything is totally controlled, so anti-science criticism shouldn’t be monolithic. Criticism towards the role of science and towards the destructive technology it produces should go along with the utilization of knowledge that it produces. Criticism towards the idea of progress could be corroborated with scientific evidence that proves climate change and the sixth mass extinction of species. At the same time, science that has been torturing animals in laboratories, proves that they have a mind, consciousness, feeling of self and emotions. (For example, even in the brains of insects, the generic design of neural architecture that is related to consciousness is similar with that of humans.)
At this point I will end this short part on the theoretical tools of dialectics, rationality and collective knowledge, not based on idealization and dogma, but on relevance and fertility with the redirection of our collective priorities, but also on the analysis of individuals, society and social conditions.
With these tools we can reform communication and bring closer the endless class struggle with the biocentric theory of the world and sexual liberation, as envisioned by the ancient Cynical philosopher. Our criticism can be deep and sharp towards every aspect of the authoritarian world, but without destroying the actual vehicle it is on.
Level of practices
Continuing from what I wrote before in relation to the antagonistic nature of the existing human society, in which, as in the natural world, coexistence and cooperation have a dialectic relation with antagonism, I want to point out the necessity of evolution on a practice (and knowledge) level, so also on a technological level. New technologies should be utilized on a level of material equipment, communication, coordination and organization, since whatever doesn’t evolve in a rapidly changing world, dies.
While our ideas and values gain space by co-configuring the modern world, the material conflict in every field of confrontation will also gain space. The struggle of workers for better wages frees time, the struggle for the protection of biodiversity and vegetarian lifestyle allows more free beings to survive, the struggle for gender equality gives more space to people to freely express their sexuality. At the same time though, other social powers are active and push modern society to other directions. The overall direction is that of generalized enslavement, total control through electronic surveillance, rapid lumbering of rainforests to become crop fields to feed animals which are bred imprisoned to become meat, the atmosphere has an irreversible new changed composition level, and fascist, racist, sexist views are spread through social media culture.
The total change that seems infeasible, in now more necessary than ever. That’s why individual reformation or request struggles should find their completion in a struggle for complete change, for revolution. Not as a moment, but as a continuous procedure that includes all kinds of actions.
In this struggle till now, there is an emphasis on communication. An attempt to spread ideas socially, with the main enemy being apathy and indifference. Something which, in a world based on the speed of communication of modern networks, probably gives us a disadvantage, when what we communicate is simply an idea.
An age-old practice that tries to break this wall, is propaganda of the deed. However, in the modern world, the dynamic of a symbolic attack with illegal means is finite. From my point of view, what is missing is the organic connection with the other struggles that are happening. Direct participation is the key to their connection, but also to spreading our ideas by applying them in practice.
So, in order for any idea to have a meaning, besides just being projected in a future world, it has to be grounded in the present through tangible achievements. From a struggle that meets a demand till a guerilla attack that sabotages effectively a state policy, that defends a piece of the natural world or a community that fights repression. When an action has a real effect, its message stops to seem romantic and becomes quickly spreadable.
On the livelihood level as well, which is the most important, because it includes a methodology that can prefigure the future we want. Communities that with relevant self-sufficiency produce their daily needs either in occupied lands, or in ongoing procedures (Zapatistas, Rojava), or on owned or rented land. These type of communities free up the time of the participants from labor wage and give a direct prospect to each one, so they can be spreadable. The most important of all is that their argument is persuasive for the realism of anarchist social organization.
Also it’s the only way to live with respect towards nature and it’s a visible example of consistency between theory and action. This option has been called negatively anchoritism, but in the modern world of direct interconnection with fast transports and communication, eco-communities can have direct and constant contact with the rest of society, (something that is necessary because of the exchanges) but also for direct participation in ongoing struggles.
In the end of this short section of practices, in which I cannot innovate because of their huge variety, I want to repeat that everything is needed and everything is tried in practice, but thought is required, as well as consistency and responsibility so we don’t spend our limited resources (humans, time), and send clear messages which don’t allow the defamation of our struggle. At this point, it becomes clear that collective self-control is necessary, which is an organizational matter that will be seen in the next section.
Level of organization
The issue of organisation has had tons of ink spent on it and it is fundamental for anarchist thought. Formal and informal structures have been tested, with the presence and absence of rules and institutions. From the cumbersome bureaucratic structures of large anarchist trade unions up to the tyranny of the “absence” of structures and the indistinguishable informal hegemonies, there does not seem to be a perfect recipe. Thus, our successes within mass coordination happen only when our anger is coordinated (like the murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos).
Along with the difficulty in implementing joint coordination codes, the obsession with ideological purity and value absolutism, led to mutual exclusions, which combined with phenomena of violence within the movement, produce complete disorganization. My position is that mutual exclusion and cutting off communication because of differences in values, constitutes inconsistency of values and self-mutilation. And I will explain myself with an example: For me, the highest value is that of respect for the freedom and life of all living beings, but if I cut off contact with those who eat animals, what prospect of diffusion will my statement of values have? If we attempt to exclude some today, by treating them with hostility, we cut off every possibility of spreading our word, resulting in the continuation of their habit. Hence also the continuation of the supply-funding of this repulsive industry. So purity would simply be conscience-laundering and a resignation from any possibility to spread your word, with negative consequences for the ecosystem.
I believe that an analog of that example could be applied on every issue of values that divides instead of uniting, and purity is ultimately proved inconsistent. The only exception to this is the clear stance one must take towards cases of snitching and gender-based or not, physical violence within the movement, because violence is a dismantling factor.
Undoubtedly however, the inability of anarchists to organize on a mass scale has its roots in more fundamental deficiencies. There were many proposals that brought back some sort of centralism in the name of coordination, underestimating the value of decentralization. And while the hierarchies of figures are rejected by the majority of today’s anarchists with a joint recognition that authority corrupts but also favors the amoralists to climb the ladder, structural hierarchy has not been disputed. Structural hierarchies, that is to say the federal organization that includes groups and subgroups, maintain the corrosive competitiveness for political hegemony and often lead to the division and degeneration of such formations.
I will now submit an organizational proposal aiming at maintaining decentralization and at the same time achieving mass coordination and diffusion.
Contrary to many organizational attempts that start from top to bottom, constructing superstructures that aspire to integrate groups, collectives and individuals, my proposal begins backwards. Precisely because the acceptance of diversity as a component of anarchy does not allow ready-made recipes, we must have as an example the organization of living beings where cells cooperate and produce structures of a higher class. Without cells there are no multicellular organisms.
So the cell of anarchist organization is the community. I purposefully use the notion of community instead of collective, group etc, because it signifies a deeper non-standardized human correlation. Considering human sociability to be an instinct that exists in all primates, I realize that within a small community relations spontaneously balance. When people match in values and emotions, usually cohabitation is successful and the decision-making process is based on consensus. However not everyone matches with everyone. This is why there need to be multiple communities in order to express different idiosyncrasies and focus on different sides of social life, production and the struggle, with different internal characteristics. The existence or not of rules and structures reflects the needs, the priorities and the idiosyncrasies of the individuals in every community. It should not be some sort of fetish or element of identity, since freedom means also the ability to try in practice whatever you think might strengthen the possibilities of you achieving your goals, on a level of community, individual self-development of its members, equality of participation, extroversion.
On a second level of organization, I am suggesting something that is directly contrary to the structural hierarchies of federations. I believe that the modern world allows the participation of individuals in multiple communities simultaneously, something that allows them to widen their horizons of thought and action, by interacting with different groups, people and situations. It simultaneously gives the opportunity to each community to maintain a minimum of agreements regarding the direction of its engagement and activity, and it liberates it from exhaustive discussions where each individual tries to express the maximum of their positions through one community. Participation in multiple communities allows the complete expression of the individual.
But the most important thing is that such a structure, which has a lattice framework instead of structural hierarchy, also has an immediate benefit on a level of balancing relations inside and outside the community. First of all, it has been observed, that individuals with excess energy or a mood to participate tend to dominate within smaller groups, and so a culture of encouraging multiple participations can lead to those individuals manifesting their energy in multiple communities simultaneously. Thus an internal balance is maintained within the communities that desire so, creating more equality among its members. Secondly, the lattice structure can reduce internal confrontations and conflicts, as it reduces group introversion and the consequent collective self-submission that leads to dogmatic views regarding events and situations. Finally, the fact that the proximity of relations in a lattice structure, spreads evenly over the whole, leads to the smoothing of contradictions and damping of conflicts, as for every two people who clash there are many who are comrades to both who can prevent it. Of course what I am describing as a lattice structure, already exists to a degree, but its contribution to organization has not been evaluated and the prospect of it spreading has not been assessed in order for it to become an element of anarchist culture but also a conscious organizational priority.
The third level of organization, that of mass coordination, is the greatest challenge, as to date, decentralized coordination manages to be massive only on particular occasions and not on a permanent basis. Most proposals to date, as expressed in attempts to establish federations, include representation, structural hierarchies, even democratic centralism while they often intend to monopolize the entirety of the anarchist activity. Representation obviously creates privileged positions for the representatives and this critique has been submitted, resulting in an antidote of suffocatingly packed amphitheatres for the troubled coordination of a few hundred people. The attempt to secure consensus causes a slow and exhaustive process while the spontaneous instinctive sociability of most individuals ceases to function in such circumstances. An immediate consequence is that these individuals freeze and find it difficult to express themselves, leaving room for the highlighting of specific leading figures with strong self-confidence and rhetoric abilities. On the other hand, democratic centralism, (i.e. the imposition of the majority over the minority), as a direct process for securing consensus, is another problematic process. It poses the risk of forming and consolidating subgroups, the majority and then the rest who are permanently wronged. It is the process that led to the marginalization of Jews in Nazi Germany by the majority of “pure-bred” Germans. In our case it simply leads to disintegration. In order to solve the aforementioned organizational challenges we need some specific proposals.
Firstly, because spontaneous socialization does not work on a mass level, it needs some sort of joint organizational agreement expressly submitted. Undoubtedly, its exact content is a product of agreement between the participating communities. This agreement must firstly expressly set the goals of the coordinating formation. Contrary to the one single structure for all cases, I believe it takes multiple coordinating formations for various issues which in an overlapping way include various combinations of participating communities, groups, individuals. In a nutshell, it is beneficial to maintain the grid structure on the highest level of organizing for the same reasons.
The second component of the joint agreement is the process of discussion in order to avoid unequal expression among individuals. I will not expand on that, as it is up to each structure to shape the process.
The third and most essential feature of the joint agreement is the process of rapid ensuring of consensus in decision-making, when required. The rule of majority must be enriched with a principle of rewarding consensus, in order to avoid situations of consolidating minorities that lead to division, such as rewarding the minorities with a double vote in a following vote. In this form, the majority process is not an imposition but a reciprocal relationship.
These three features are not enough in today’s fast-paced competitive world, where the enemy rapidly coordinates by utilizing modern networking technologies. This is why we need to create organizational decentralized internet platforms of mass coordination, which can ensure an immediate ability for decision-making when required. Existing cryptography, anonymity and peer-to-peer technologies, can certainly breathe new life into such projects, not to substitute direct contact, but to fill the gap of the traditionally unachievable.
The possibilities opened up by such a level of mass coordination are multiple. First of all, it can be an example of mass organization without authority and central administration, which can convince that our vision is achievable. Second, it can massify the resistance to such a degree that it renders victory in a war against the state a realistic possibility. Third, it can give a global dimension to the coordination and transcend local borders. Fourth, it can contribute to the self-management of a better world, by taking joint decisions, in order to prevent communities from competing for natural resources (like companies do today) and reduce the destructive human print on natural environment. Finally, the lattice nature of structures that gather power, prevents war conflicts, contrary to the state structures.
In any case, because my imagination runs wild and because my predictions about something that currently belongs in the realm of imagination are venturous, I will now conclude this last section.
Much of what I wrote seems far-fetched, just like every idea during its conception. Their possible implementation and the achievement of the goals set, will be the result of the chaotic structure of society, the resultant of individual wills and time.
Giannis Michailidis, Malandrino Prison, 9/6/2022
Notes of actforfree: On Thursday 9 June 2022, on the pedestrian street of Messolonggiou at exarxeia area was Event – Discussion: “The speech in memory of political prisoners” will take place. This event is part of the Week of events held in the context of the restoration of the monument to the anarchist student Alexandros Grigoropoulos.
The event was include statements and interventions by political prisoners
Ο απεργός πείνας Γιάννης Μιχαηλίδης (Telephone communicate)
for contribute with their words to the strengthening of our collective memory through their historical – political experience.
Anarchist initiative against state murders