For a Better Understanding
1 - The Psychology of the Revolutionary
Every revolutionary is against something. Every revolutionary has a new ideal and a new world envisioned, which will eradicate and prevent the abuses of the old world. There is always the antagonism against that force which creates so much unnecessary suffering and misery. It is built up by years of oppression and exploitation -- Lenin's brother was hanged by the government built up by the khulaks, and his orders are no more than "tit-for-tat."
It might be centuries of Chauvinist Sexism and racial slavery, which the revolutionary must suffer under with a brief glimpse of hope for something new. To be slowly tortured for lifetimes: this has always been the position of the common people under any government. Robert Mugabe, for instance, suffered the brutal repression of the South African people by the British for decades -- and upon gaining power, his orders and commands matched the violence of Lenin's tone. Even dancing, where it represents a spirit of protest, has been outlawed in Mugabe's "Free Black Nation." [*1]
Before people considered land to be property, there could not be great wrongs committed between people. There could be neither slavery, nor government, nor conquest, since all of these concepts presuppose isolated, economic power, or "Capitalism." In such a state, the greatest abuse would be an assault or a theft, which instigates feelings of reaction and retribution almost immediately -- and people, limited in their technology and organization, could only deliver a similar punishment upon their enemies. Hate and vengeance, in such a society, could only reach such limited proportions.
Compare this, instead, with the modern world -- where a single individual must stand by powerless, as they watch millions of their people enslaved, starving, homeless, imprisoned, or slaughtered. And not something that happens once, within a single blink of an eye, but something that the individual is aware of constantly, every second. When they are working, when they are socializing, when they are in bed at night trying to sleep; it is a knowledge that does not escape their mind. So great is the powerlessness, so great is the abuse, that the only type of vengeance that can develop is a dehumanizing, almost-psychotic emotion. It is not an indication of the particular characteristics of the individual; rather, it is a measure of the exploitive and oppressive conditions of society.
Revolution is a conscious idea. It is a collection of evidences of the suffering within humanity, an interpretation of this pain, and then a solution based on the organization of society. Revolution is born from humanity's most basic instincts: examining the world we live in, measuring our suffering and potential happiness, and then reacting in a way that better provides for our needs and desires. It is based on reasoning, experience, and logic. It is a thought.
But vengeance is an emotion, often dwelling between the conscious and the subconscious. Given the greater intensity and length of exploitation, more and more of the subconscious becomes infiltrated with hate. It does not want to dissect ideas and social organization to understand them; rather, it provides a new and different motivation within the mind. Revolution brought the revolutionary to make a new world where no person would have the ability to exploit or oppress anyone else; but vengeance brought the revolutionary to seek the pain and suffering of those who created this system.
2 - A Revolution of Vengeance
For all the truth you have, really feel its depths: foreign sweatshops have overseers that rape workers, old men are crushed to death in unsafe mines, streets overflowing with homeless youth and children. You know all this, and you know that it all stems from Capitalism. And, like your reaction to someone trying to hurt someone else, your emotional reaction to the Capitalist system is explosive. To reach the top of a mountain of rage for the victimizer, swelling up from the riverbed of sympathy for the victim. But you cannot throw untamed anger at a social organization, and expect things to be different. You have been wanting to answer the question, "Does society need to change?" Before you have a meaningful answer, you'll need to answer this question: "What is necessary to make society change?"
Vladimir Lenin, as many other revolutionaries, have focused on vengeance and not revolution. The mind becomes fixated upon the question of "Who is hurting our society? Who is causing all of this suffering? How can I hurt them, weaken them, and destroy them?" This has become the goal, and the means chosen by Lenin were not incompatible. Speeches, pamphlets, and newspapers are used to carry this message everywhere. Mao focused so much on on "petit bourgeoisie reactionaries," or small businessmen who would like to overthrow the revolution; on the other hand, Stalin focused his propaganda on "spies and saboteurs from Western Capitalism," while Lenin is more well-known for his hatred of "Khulaks," or the wealthier, employing farmers of Russia.
These ideas are not restricted solely to revolutionary circles, but they can be used virtually everywhere in politics and social institutions. Consider today's racial and religious tension between Hindus and Muslims within India. A mob of Muslims torched a train, and in reaction, a mob of Hindus torched the houses of Muslims. [*2] In both cases, the people were motivated by a deep-rooted rage, which was born from their belief that the other people are the aggressors who brought these injustices. And, in both cases, the people of the mobs did not take the pain of specifically identifying whether the people they were attacking were actually victimizers.
We see this similarly during the French Revolution: revolutionaries stormed a prison in 1792, killing hundreds who were accused of being "counterrevolutionaries," when many of them were actually the victims of the monarchy that had been overthrown. [*3] Instead of revolutionaries actually directing their energy towards the old oppressors, they visited it upon their own people.
The difficulty with this approach should be immediately clear: whether in India or in France, Russia or China, the "who is responsible?" approach turned people into vicious barbarians, as untamed in their emotions as they are in their reasoning. To tell the people simply that they are being abused and exploited is not enough -- especially when the system of abuse and exploitation has existed for centuries, and for the majority, the idea of something different has never fully materialized. Where this has happened, it has been exceptionally unusual, with the resulting revolution lasting long enough to take only a few breaths.
3 - A Revolution of Change
The day when the revolution comes -- when all of the workers seize the industries they work at, when all of the people storm their parliaments and burn the palaces of their kings -- when this joyous day reaches humanity, could you imagine yourself really having any type of resentment or hatred? This is the new world, where each person has the full right to develop themselves intellectually, emotionally, and socially. The spirit filling up the people is "we have control of our own environment, and now we must decide how to organize and design our new society." The spirit is not "with our victimizers in our hands, what punishment is fitting such awful crimes?"
Our attitude is focused on the unlimited possibilities of freed people working together in mutual and reciprocal cooperation. Within our hands, we have the opportunity to abolish systems of oppression that have lasted for thousands of years -- and the Capitalists that we overthrow today are the descendants of yesterday's noblemen, aristocrats, and vassals, just as the governments we overthrow today are the descendants of monarchy, despotism, and dictatorship. For the majority of civilization, the majority of people have been under subordination to a master. There is an infinite glory in having the honor of destroying the ancient tyranny of authority. We have crushed a system that allows a few to starve the millions into pitiful wages; we have crushed a system that gives no value to an individual's ability to improve human society.
In this ecstatic emotion, I would not turn my attention to thinking up various devices of torturing those who opposed the Revolution; rather, I am going to be reborn into a new enthusiasm for the potential of human society. If there is a meaning to our Revolution, it is based on creating a world where nobody has the ability to exploit or oppress another -- a new society, where no person has the power to hurt others for their own self-interest. The idea of turning into judges, prison guards, and executioners is not compatible with this purpose. It would be an act motivated by vengeance, and not by a desire to change the world.
When all of the thrones have been dismembered, all of the parliaments blasted to pieces, and all of the deeds burnt to ash -- when this has happened, no longer does any purpose possess authority beyond their own person. So, while the evil today hold the place of presidents and popes, tomorrow they will be the powerless commoners. With society controlled by the people making it up, such individuals will find a greater difficulty living when they persecute others, than if they had simply assimilated into the new order. Even for those who might be inherently anti-social, as stock investors and the inquisition have been, they possess no more strength than a mugger in the free society.
What justification could there be in holding such mass executions or deportations? When the people have achieved full control of their lives, and society is organized by us, why would we have any value in watching the execution of men and women? It is an indecency; there is as much glory here as when an army executes every member of an opposing force that surrenders. The motives are not for a better world, but for this inherent belief that we need to deliver suffering to those who have done wrong. There is nothing to gain from these acts -- it will not serve to improve employment, to end poverty, to destroy discrimination, and to abolish all alienating aspects of society.
The philosophy of Socialist Revolution is inherently based on the removal of suffering of the many. The masses who are exploited by the Capitalist system are considered less valuable humans; they are sacrificed endlessly in war and work, to mortar fire and to industrial accidents. Our revolution is about creating a society that is controlled and managed by all, without any single class that has the authority to manage or control industry -- whether calling themselves investors, aristocrats, or Communist Party officials. The motivation behind this theoretical reorganization of the economy is a reduction in the suffering and pain of all; our guiding principle is that happiness of the many is the greatest good, and our suffering, likewise, the greatest evil. This idea is incompatible with a revolution baptized in blood.
And while we have nothing to gain by wholesale murder of the former-exploiters, we have everything to lose. Do you become more sensitive, when you are deciding the number of years to imprison a political opponent? Are you more aware and conscious of human suffering, more willing to listen to those who beg for mercy, more humane in all of your decision-making, because of it? Are you bettered when your life is about putting people in cages, instead of letting them out?
Consider two individuals, one who has spent their career imprisoning humans, and the other who has spent their life breaking them free. After five years of this, what do you think their opinions will be of human nature? It is far too difficult to remove our day-to-day activity from reaching into our subconscious and guiding our actions. This is the threat of all systems of domination, whether Feudalism or Capitalism. Similarly, it is the threat people must face when their revolution is born out of a spirit of vengeance, and not a spirit of change. The worst effect of such a revolutionary terror is the moral effect it has upon the people -- those who imagined themselves to be liberators, only to see nooses hanging on every street.
4 - The Path of Cooperation and Peace
The success of the revolution depends on its revolutionaries -- it depends on our willingness to do whatever is necessary to create the new world, not whatever cruel acts are necessary to mutilate the old world. Do not focus on how to hurt those who created this society; but rather, focus on how to change the social order.
Consider, for instance, if the Revolution was inaugurated by a mass hanging. It is no doubt that many of the victims would have been members of the school of right-wing thought. But these people, for the most part, are not the few, elite capitalists who controlled and dominated society. The reason why Capitalism and the state have been able to maintain themselves is because they have appealed to the senses of a significant-enough proportion of their people. So, those being killed would be simple farmers, wage-earners, the poor, the old, and those in poverty.
It often strikes the revolutionary as an irony, that the serf or slave would look at their master, and see a reflection of their own interests. This is how Capitalism has maintained itself over wage-workers, how the state has maintained its power over subjects, and how the church has dominated over the people through fear and superstition. These organizations, as great and powerful as they may be, only have their power because of the sacrifices made by those they have fooled. Labor alone produces all wealth -- this is the first premise of Socialism. And it is certainly true, as well, in social movements, whether that wealth is in the form of prisons, tanks, or guns.
Except for ideas and the interpretation of experience, there is not always a significant difference between the poorest found within the camps of Socialism, Nationalism, Communism, Anarchism, or even Liberalism. During revolutions, it is likely that the wealthy will have the means and the knowledge to leave the besieged city at a single notice; this was the case in Paris Commune and the Russian Revolution of 1917. Left behind are going to be their followers, those who cast their lot in with a defeated side, whether or not they really understood the meaning between the different ideas. These people, so far removed from the wealthy capitalists and the king's throne, now find themselves among a city ushering in the Revolution. Those led by vengeance see this as the perfect time for a "purge" -- those led by change see this as the perfect time to give the revolutionary spirit to everyone.
The peasant, the serf, the slave, and the wage-earner who love their master -- they are not doing it for some economic self-interest, but because of some cultural and social upbringing. It is done out of how their relate to the facts of their existence, rather than a difference in those facts. Marxists and Leninists, on the contrary, often speak as if these are two different species of humanity -- as if the revolutionaries who came to them were not originally born into the traditionalist culture. It is as though they want to punish others for not intellectually advancing as much as they have.
With this understanding, consider the two possibilities of the revolution: first, there is the possibility of engaging in a completely peaceful reorganization of society. This will be the best option at guaranteeing the survival of the revolution. If this succeeds, and the revolution lives, then this means that society has been reborn into a peaceful, free social order. And while some members might have some grudge against former-conservatives, this animosity will be lightened. It will be lightened because of the willingness of the two groups to cooperate in some fair and free way during the uprising. This will naturally have to be the case, for such a revolution to be able to present these demands, it would have to encompass a significant portion of the people -- and this means that nobody will be able to ignore the ringing of the revolution.
On the other hand, if the revolutionaries organize themselves peacefully, and they lose the war, being crushed under Capitalism and the state, they will still be in a better place than if they had been brutal in their uprising. Even if they had executed every privileged bureaucrat, aristocrat, police officer, and investor, these roles would quickly be filled by new human beings. They would obey the orders of their superiors in a like fashion as the old masters. But more than this, if the revolution wrote its manifesto with the peaceful cooperation of all, then it has everything to gain by its honor.
The re-established government will ask for names and addresses of those who participated in the revolution. People of the conservative faith, for all that they trust their government, must know what will be done with these revolutionaries. They will more vividly remember their faces and their homes, too, if such revolutionaries were nothing more than temporary executioners of those who belonged to the old order. At the least, no matter what their political leanings, the people will be far more gentle and sympathetic to those who created a new world based on inclusion, and not based on excluding or coercing others.
A revolution can be an extremely violent thing. And where it starts with executing the rich and wealthy, it may end with executing the rebels and insurrectionists This cannot simply be ignored or forgotten. It could be a revolution against monarchy and aristocracy, as in the French Revolution, which folded in upon itself, with the demise and hanging of many of the revolutionaries. One could even consider the February Strike, or the 1941 General Strike against Nazi Occupation in the Netherlands during World War 2, or a similar General Strike in 1942 in Luxembourg. Where the revolution is made, those who participate in it are often the first to be targeted and victimized by the re-established government.
And, so, one must have to consider which is harder to endure: the pain of leaving conservative and reactionary thinkers in peace, without turning them into slaves or victims. Or, on the converse, the pain of watching the most ardent, passionate, liberty-inspired youth hang from the gallows amidst a crowd of thousands. Except with the absolute guarantee of the revolution, one or the other will happen.
For those who have lived such a brutal slavery, they may be so enraged as to never consciously consider these ideas, expressing their sense of wrong through brutality. They forget that they could have worked cooperatively with these people, joining them into unions, educating them, and exchanging fairly with them. In a month or two, when the forces of tradition have secured the region, they will be asking questions of the public: "Who was organizing the unions?"; "Who was distributing pamphlets and books?"; and "Who was distributing bread and blankets to the poor and homeless in your neighborhoods?" They will have no problem recalling the names and faces, especially if they were those who torched homes and executed the people. Otherwise, their conscience, more active than their reasoning, may help them forget.
I am not pretending we can completely neutralize the inhumane, brutal instinct of authority, whether Capitalist or Statist. If a Revolution is made, and it fails, no matter how peacefully it is organized, Capitalism and the state will always demand hangings of the rebels. But their success in rooting out the strain of revolution will depend on the conservative-thinking population pointing out those who made the insurrection.
5 - Revolting for the New World
A revolution comes, and then it fails. Within ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years, the revolution may come back to the city or region, as we understand the trend of France down to the present day (1789, 1848, 1870, 1968, and 2005). These were not "mere protests," but revolutions that resulted in the abolishment of the old rule of the state and the Capitalist system -- though only temporary. Take the most conservative mind and heart, and let them experience this: an authoritarian oppressive government, which is overthrown, and replaced by a free society, which is then viciously destroyed by the state. No matter how deeply rooted their prejudices, they must know the cruelty of those in power, the gentleness of those in liberty. Even if they are not developed enough to come towards Anarchism and Collectivism, they will develop sympathies for the revolution. And, without the people, there cannot be a revolution.
Ask yourself, in looking back, what has proved greater in creating the revolution, and then, you have a new question to ask yourself: "The path of vengeance has hurt the revolution, the path of cooperation has helped it. If I decide to act as a revolutionary, in vengeance... am I actually inhibiting and slowing the revolution -- am I actually, contrary to my beliefs, the greatest threat to the coming of the revolution?" It is a very legitimate thought. The revolutionaries who assisted Stalin and Lenin, who helped them secure dictatorship and authority, these revolutionaries have made the word "Revolution" a terrifying concept to the masses. In equating revolutionary society with mass murder, they have done far worse in destroying the Worker's Revolution than any activity by Capitalism.
For those of us who are serious about the abolishment of authority, whether cultural or political or economic, we must believe in liberty and peace. This is not specifically a logical deduction from idealist principles; rather, it is the most practical application of human psychology to our revolutionary activity.
We shouldn't give up on recognizing Capitalism or the State as inherent evils, even though the conservative-minded may view them with tender emotions. We can only know how to build the new world, when we know why the old world did not work. Our examination of Capitalism, and how its fault lies in giving too much power to a few in controlling the many, provides us with a synthesis: if the problem was too much power of the few, then creating a system where each have equal power must naturally be the solution. The acceptance of all, no matter what they believe, is a necessary aspect of the Revolution; it is the highest expression of a genuinely Anarchist-Collectivist society.
6 - An Insurrection Based on Universal Community
Our attitude ought to be entirely conciliatory; if we slaughter those people, they are gone forever, and our hands are forever bloodied, but if we accept them and are willing to make them equal, neither oppressor nor oppressed, then we have everything to gain. Naturally, we would not be able to admit those who still persisting in their anti-social behavior of declaring or imposing authority. This is not a decision based on such impractical and abstract concepts of as natural rights or legal principles; this is a decision based on doing whatever is necessary to bring the Revolution, and whatever is necessary to maintain it once it has declared itself. This will have to be our concern, since no real Revolution was born without instantly making powerful enemies.
If there is one genuine manifestation of love, it is the desire for a world where no person has the ability to hurt anyone else. And, it is where everyone has full liberty to engage in whatever social, cultural, or intellectual activities that individually satisfy them. Such a purpose is too powerful and moving to allow vengeance or hatred every to enter its soul. For those who truly want this Revolution against privilege and authority, against power and the state, against exploitation and capitalism -- for those who are fully inspired by the new world, we will only see what is necessary to create it. We will drop, or at least consciously ignore, all sentiments that obstruct or blur this purpose.
Our triumph of the Social Revolution will depend on its ability to maintain itself -- and this will ultimately depend on the interaction between revolutionary organizations and the common people. It will depend on our willingness to include everyone who wants to participate; as well as to create an organization that maximizes harmony in society, while minimizing frictions between different groups. This must be our attitude if we firmly believe in creating the revolution. We must serve only the motivation of the people's freedom.
The success of the British domination of India lies largely in its use of a police and judicial force that was Indian in race. [*4] It did not rule the Indian people out of vengeance or hatred or belief in superiority, though these all accompany the spirit of conquest. Britain ruled out of the sentiment of self-interest: whatever autonomy or appearance of autonomy they gave to its colonies was strictly with the intention of retaining their power over the globe. Though vengeance was there, the lords of the British Empire acted strictly according to whatever would allow them to achieve their goal: domination.
And, likewise, the success of the Indian Independence was based on the same principle. This movement did not in seek vengeance against a former rule, but it sacrificed whatever was necessary to achieve the final goal of revolution. Mahatma Gandhi spent decades engaging in a variety of efforts based on the withdrawal of the peoples' socio-economic power. Swaraj was one of Gandhi's tactics of civil disobedience: Indians, to be free, ought to withdraw from all social, economic, and political institutions provided by the British. [*5] Similarly, the Salt March followed a similar tactic: organizing the protest of millions of Indians and encouraging them to make salt without paying the British tax for it. [*6] In 1942, he also encouraged the Quit India Movement, which demanded the immediate Independence of India. [*7]
Organizing hundreds of millions of people to overthrow British rule took decades, and the efforts of mobilization always changed, but its goal was always the same. It succeeded because the ideas of revolution were able to accurately express the motivations and passions of the common people of India. It did not impassion itself with vengeance, but with the single concept of the willingness to change society so that it better serves the interests of everyone.
Another Indian freedom fighter, less spoken of but equally significant, was Bhagat Singh. An Anarchist and a Socialist, he witnessed the British repression that resulted in the death of his friend, the Indian revolutionary Lala Lajpat Rai. Singh vowed to vengeance against the British. He shot and killed a police officer in vengeance, fleeing and finally becoming captured. Bhagat Singh was executed in 1931. [*8] There can be no doubt that Singh was genuinely motivated to create a social change in society. In one article, he wrote...
In this single act of revolt, Bhagat Singh inspired many to the ideas of Socialism and Anarchism. But, by itself, it was not enough to achieve independence from the British Empire. As a tactic, it was not sufficient to achieve just the small revolution that would have halved their rulers, let alone the revolution that abolishes all forms of authority and domination. We cannot rely on it as a valid concept for bringing real change to our world.
From the beginning to the end, however long or however short, let the people know that the revolution does not demand blood, gallows, or prisons -- it demands freedom, bread, and land, for each and all! The Social Revolution cannot be made without being made by the people directly.
7 - Molded by the System
In their vilification of Capitalism, I have heard Socialists and Leftists describe how it creates crime: "Peasants, unable to find work, must steal to live. They are criminals not by their nature, but by their social organization. They do not steal out of an inherent frailty, but because they cannot find work to buy bread. Without Capitalism, they would be no more than simple people living civilly among each other." The desire to abolish Capitalism and the state comes from the idea that a free social order -- where each can fully develop themselves without any artificial barriers -- will produce greater social harmony everywhere and greater happiness in all individuals.
There is a specific interpretation of crime and theft, then, found within Socialist circles that is not found elsewhere. Nationalists and Liberals have, for the majority of their existence, advocated the idea that the brain may be inherently diseased -- that it is the individual who chooses crime and not the system that forces them into it. But, today, this idea has almost been entirely forgotten, and even in the most vicious of criminals found on the streets, they are highly formed by their social order: abused in childhood by parents, neglected by public schooling's agenda, forgotten by the community, and finally, exposed to the never-satisfied thirst for profit of a Capitalist employer.
After endless studies, it has finally been confirmed: criminals are made by their environment, and no respectable thinker would advocate otherwise. Similar to all other opinions of Liberalism, this discovery does not mean we should do anything about it beyond lobbying our congressmen and supporting the school system. Such as in war or slavery or poverty or hunger, Liberalism acts to pacify the will of those who really desire to make a change. Instead of directly confronting the forces that create this misery, Liberalism asks its adherents to sign petitions and ask their masters to be more kind and charitable. The Liberal begs for mercy from the Capitalists who create poverty, exploitation, and domination; the Anarchist demands their absolute abolishment.
Bolshevik Communists and Authoritarian Socialists similarly agree with this reasoning of the cause of criminal behavior. But, in their case, we can continue their logic even further: "Without the excessive violence and cruelty of the state, you would not have reached such a state of mind that agreed with it as a useful tactic. Without so much domination and exploitation, so much murder and lying, you too would see that it could be used to secure power over society." Their willingness to accept the noose and the torture chamber is a characteristic response from developing in such a society.
They have been so oppressed by the accepted ideas of "what is right" and "achieving right over the wrongdoing," that they have taken this thought to heart, sometimes without even knowing it -- their actions have not focused clearly on what must be done to change this society, but what must be done to "achieve right over the wrongdoers." They are more concerned with delivering vengeance upon others, than they are with securing and guaranteeing both the survival and the glory of the Social Revolution.
If there is going to be any meaning to the coming revolution, it will be that we shall cast off the prejudices and hatreds we developed in a cramped, torturous, poverty-stricken society. We will define the standards and the society that form the character of the individual. No longer shall we be put through forms of culture, education, and social interaction that are made to make us submissive and obedient; no longer shall we be molded by anything than our own conscious and forceful will. We will be the self-making individuals, since we are not exposed to dominating relationships that concern our every interest, such as private ownership of the means of production, or private authority over the masses.
Lenin, Trotsky, and Marx, believing that the people cannot escape from what they have been made into, will impose an authoritarian government, to mold them into "something better." If there is anything real about the revolution, it will make it so that the individual has the greatest voice in determining the conditions of their environment. It will not recreate standardized systems of control and manipulation, as we find at the base of every form of culture in Capitalist and Governmentalist societies.
8 - Terrorism in Relation to Vengeance and Revolution
Terrorism, as it is defined by the mainstream press and the government, does not usually qualify under this, or any definition of vengeance. The history of France provides many examples: when the police were shooting down workers for striking, the Anarchist Bonnot Gang responded by shooting down cops. And a few decades later, their spirit of insurrection was born in the French Partisans who resisted the Nazi occupiers. Though John Locke is often described as a defender of representative government, he is rarely quoted where he justifies and even encourages terrorism against it...
Rather than an act of vengeance, the killing of a tyrant or his murderers is an act of self-defense -- though made by a single individual or association of individuals, it is a self-defense on behalf of the whole, oppressed people. One could almost describe such assassinations as selfless acts of love. Vengeance, on the other hand, is a different motivation: it seeks the pain, misery, torture, imprisonment, and death of certain people -- not because of what they are doing today, but because of what they have done in the past.
Lenin's execution of capitalists was still just as much a form of terrorism as throwing a bomb into a marching parade of an occupying army. Terror is caused by the use of force and coercion, whether it is a bombing or an imprisonment. The fact that it comes with government sanction does not change the nature of the state's force -- the government is essentially a terrorist organization, using force and coercion to compel others. It does not "combat terrorism," like it so often advertises; rather, it is the basis for terrorism.
There is a difference, though, between these types of terrorism. The Irish peasants' fight against brutal slaughter of the British General Cromwell, for example, are quite different than Mao Tsetung's orders for mass executions and imprisonment. Both are acts of terrorism, but one was brought about by a very real threat and a reasoned reaction to it -- the other was little more than the product of a psychotic, delusional, and obsessive psychology, or more specifically, a vengeance-ridden mind.
The Revolution, where it is building and seeking to replace the current system, is only an idea and a thought among its advocates. When it becomes real, then it is also becomes an influence on the minds of everyone -- and here, it starts to develop as a sentiment and an emotion. Whether it is against Sexism, Racism, Imperialism, Capitalism, Government, or all of these, the purpose of the Revolution is always to reorganize society so that nobody has the power to exploit or oppress anyone else.
Vengeance intervenes on this concept of creating a pure, social equality. With the Revolution, vengeance makes the suffering and pain of past abusers its motivation. The purpose of the Revolution has been a world without exploiters; this idea can't have merit without valuing the idea of creating happiness for all. And where a human being may have done bad before, by participating and contributing to an authoritarian and profiteering government, with a new social order, they have become disarmed of their tools to hurt: authority and property.
Terrorism by an oppressed people specifically relates to the concept of "What must we do in order to change this system?" as opposed to feelings of vengeance, which relate specifically to the question of "Who is responsible for our suffering, and how can I hurt them?" Terrorism of an oppressor, such as a government or a capitalist, has come in the form of US-built concentration camps and the striking workers shot by Capitalists. Here, the neither concept is considered, on whether we can change the system or hurt those who created misery.
From the point of view of authority, the question is and always has been, "How can I maintain my power?" Naturally, we find very distinct forms of Terrorism committed by both sides. On one side are the Irish rebels who raid police posts at night with molotov cocktails, and one the other, there are British troops firing on unarmed crowds of civil rights protesters These are not pictures from centuries ago -- this is the truth of our own generation. [*11]
In terms of the question "Are these acts motivated by vengeance?", it is certainly true that this is the case with violent terrorists. While many focus only on this, a part of the psychology based on uncompromising hate, they forget the wider emotion: the experience of growing up in oppression and exploitation. This is why terrorism and bombings are so widely found through places like Israel, Ireland, or Chechnya. Racial and social tension exists here, but it is the excruciating oppression of an entire people that leads them to such extreme violence.
We find intense racial and cultural differences between Norwegian and Swedish, Korean and Chinese, and even between indigenous tribes of Mexico or Africa. We even know this of the individual territories of European States -- such as the four-way racism between Murcians, Catalans, Basques, and Castilians in Spain. The prejudices of the Basques and Catalans also spill over France, whereas the prejudices of the Castilians and Murcians spill over into Portugal. Tensions are everywhere, but regularly-occurring and extreme violence between groups is restricted to those regions under tyrannical domination; this has certainly been the case with the larger part of the history of the United States.
The vengeance of the terrorist, then, is not comparable to the vengeance of reasoned revolutionary, like Vladimir Lenin. A suicide bomber or assassin is willing to kill because their experience under oppression drives them to it. Lenin's orders for murder were not done when he was being victimized, when he was exploited or oppressed by a government; they were done when he had absolutely nothing to fear from those he imprisoned and killed. Whereas, on the other side, the suicide bomber is generally nurtured and brought to maturity by the uncompromising poverty and brutality they experience.
However, when we look at the question of whether these acts are motivated for social change, we find more difficulty questions. They most certainly are capable motivated at gaining vengeance on those who create social evil. In this sense, one might consider themselves to be achieving social change in the most primitive technique -- by being the physical force that is the social change. But this is an extreme response to the question, "Should I change the situation?" -- it is not a thought-out answer to the question, "What must I do in order to change society?"
Violence, that is the destruction and harm of conscious life, does not gain the support of the common people -- it does not motivate them, make them feel free, or make them hateful of government. This is most especially true of methods involving bombs and wide-area destruction, where civilian life is occasionally claimed in trying to destroy the agents of a government. Such behavior, in the view of the common people, makes them feel like they need the government more. Naturally, governments themselves engage in terrorism against their own people.
Adolf Hitler commissioned the terrorist act of burning down the Reichstag, or the German Parliament; and even the US federal investigators have cast a suspicious eye on the President and the armed forces' involvement in the September 11 tragedy. [*12] Similarly, the bomb thrown at the Haymarket Riot, which resulted in the death of one police officer, was used as an excuse to extra-judicially execute members of the public. This decided as a better tactic than the police had used early, which just entailed firing on the public without cause, killing six people in one incident. [*13] Police investigators intentionally ignored all viable leads, instead specifically accusing Anarchists who did not match any eye witness reports.
These acts all followed extremely repressive tactics of the government, and the people submitted, because they were convinced that the general level of violence made powerful government necessary. Far from making the people free, these terrorist acts made them feel more dependent. If there is any proof of this, it is the willingness of the government to send agents among revolutionaries, and rather than provoke violence, they actually commit violence. For instance, in Greece, police officers executed an anti-war, anti-fascist, and anti-censorship politician in plain view of a massive protest: Gregoris Lambrakis in 1963. Some of the police officers were dressed as protesters [*14] [*15]
It would be a different situation entirely if a revolutionary force were able to seize large quantities of territory from a government. In this case, the activity wasn't directed as a form of violence intended to hurt people, though this will naturally be one of the results of the insurrection. But rather, it was an act to establish the revolution, and to disempower those who hurt the people. This contrasts with isolated acts of terrorism, where someone comes out of nowhere, throws a bomb or fires a rifle, and then disappears again; they only act long enough to let the people know that they are in a state of war and need to find security. It is not an encouragement toward liberty or the anti-authoritarian ideal.
Violence against the state and capitalism, then, is only justifiable where there is a reasonable degree of believing that this will achieve the immediate overthrow of both of these systems. That is to say, the revolution will be made when the masses of people are convinced that it will be necessary -- and it will occur at no other point. The revolution that abolishes all forms of domination will not be declared by any single individual, or any particular group of individuals; it will declare itself. Primitive attempts to encourage it, by individual acts of terrorism, will only slow its real development.
As serious revolutionaries, we have only asked ourselves this question, "What is necessary of me to change this world? What must I do so that these systems of hierarchy and exploitation are forever removed from human society?" It is true that some Capitalists are little better than murderers, since they expose their mining and manufacturing workers to death on a daily basis. And others are little better than rapists, since they employ sweatshop factories with sexually-abusive overseers. The mind's natural inclination is always to go to the most basic sense of right: "Then these are murderers and rapists, and they must be stopped, violently, if necessary!"
But, Capitalism and the State is not just a collection of individual rapists and murderers working hand-in-hand; it is this well-thought-out, well-developed system of control, coercion, and authority. The heart explodes in rage against so much tyranny in every sphere of social life, whether political, educational, economic, religious, or cultural. Domination has always been the main force within society; governments and states have always been able to use compromise and repression to fight rebellions. For a force of evil that has consistently kept itself alive in every country and every age, we cannot rely on simple tactics of individually destroying the system on our own.
For all the justice there is to the idea that "we must kill a murderer who is in the act of murderer," we must be directed towards a higher aim and a higher goal: "What must we do to change this world system of murderers?" This must be how we are directed, since individual acts of terrorism have never been able to blow up systems of control and domination. Acts of terrorism, from arson to bombings, were never succeeded by the removal of all forms of authority and exploitation -- the state has persisted. Certainly we need a new tactic, as we are not seeking just to interrupt or interfere with the state and Capitalism; we seek their complete destruction.
This attitude toward terrorism may be considered dualist: while we do not see the value in such acts of violence, we do not condemn their practitioners. Instead, we see the escalating and open violence between groups in society as a symptom of authoritarian domination -- it occurs because people are seeing fewer and fewer peaceful options to practice their liberty and find economic opportunity. It is not proof of the "inferiority of the conquered race," which has always been the assertion of all governments. Actually, it is the proof of the cruel and barbaric nature of coercive rule. All of this considered, we must part with violent terrorism, since it will not help us to achieve our goal. No matter how "right" it may be within the concept of Locke's or Rousseau's system of government, we are more evolved than that; we are revolutionaries because we are purely interested in the revolution, and not seeking any form of vengeance or "right" in that respect.
Furthermore, "terrorism" that strictly damages property and not people is not Terrorism. It is a voluntary destruction of our own property. If a revolutionary blows up an arms factory or an iron mine during a war, they are destroying what they labored to create. The people under authority are too weak to stop themselves from being robbed by the state or Capitalism. We cannot simply take back what has always belonged to us and what was taken from our ancestors in shackles. Therefore, it is logical to destroy our own property, if the only other alternative is to allow our enemy steal these it and use it as weapons against us. This was the successful tactic of the French partisans resisting Nazi occupation, just as it was of the Italian partisans resisting Mussolini's Fascist rule. This should not be taken as an encouragement, but only as a moral and logical justification of every force of anti-Authoritarianism that has used this tactic.
9 - Motivated Solely by Social Change
If vengeance means anything, in terms of revolution, it can only mean the disempowering of those who abuse, exploit, and enslave the masses. Admitting any other form of vengeance would turn us into the murderers we want to remove. If there is a true revenge, it can only be accomplished by making it so that none can be exploited and abused by it again, as you had experienced.
Technically, then, any popular idea or conception of "vengeance" is really counter to the principles of revolution. In strictly practical terms, it will not establish a new organization of society based on mutualism, cooperation, and reciprocal agreements. To create this new world, we must organize the people today into arrangements that will make them fit in building this new world. Violence will not convince them to join the cause of anti-authoritarianism; it will only offend them. More than this, we will not be able to guarantee the survival of the Social Revolution if it becomes a massacre the day it is born.
On a moral and ideal level, too, we must be averse toward the tactics of individual terrorism. We are building a new world -- it must not be made with the same torture devices, the same mass killing, and the same prison camps as the old world. It would be as impossible to use these methods to make the world free, as it would be impossible to use stone to make a log cabin. Adopting these tactics turns the revolutionaries into butchers and killers; not into those with a new ideal that includes every member of society, but those who are ready to express their rage in unbalanced, passioned executions.
Finally, one of the difficulties that arises with the use of violence after the revolution should be obvious: the victims, far from being those who threaten the revolution, are actually the ones who created the revolution. We see this with Lenin and Trotsky who killed thousands of Kronstadt sailors for demanding workers' autonomy, even though these sailors were essential in overthrowing the Tzar. Similarly, Thomas Paine, who wrote the philosophy of the American Revolution and devised plans to overthrow the entire British Empire, was sentenced to death by the French, Radical-Republicans who had overthrown the French government.
Stalin slaughtered the Communists of Poland, as well as many among his own Russian, Bolshevik Party. During the Spanish Revolution, after Anarchists consented to the rule of the Socialist Party, its most vocal members were violently silenced -- and even George Orwell, who was then an unknown anti-fascist partisan, was accused of being a "Fascist conspirator." During the 1968 uprising of France, where workers seized their industries and their businesses, the major Leftist unions and political parties, including the Communists, all tried to repress the people. Even today this happens regularly. The Maoists of Nepal recently have been trying to impress the world with their threatening revolution -- but in 2006, Nepalese Maoists worked side-by-side with police to beat down rioters and protesters who were attacking Capitalism. [*16]
Vengeance, then, has only one real particular use: the authoritarians, fearing that the revolutionaries who really believe in liberty will dislodge their power, use these campaigns of fear to justify the mass killings. And, in slaughtering someone described as "anti-revolutionary" and "pro-tradition," they really are killing the most radical, revolutionary part of their society.
In its practical use, vengeance is the greatest threat toward real revolutionary change. And in its moral and ideological use, vengeance will only rot at the soul of the individual, just as power corrupts. Our tactics, as well as our ideals, then, ought to be molded by this principle: acting toward whatever is necessary to change society, disregarding any feelings of vengeance or hate.
*1. "The Toyi-Toyi of Southern Africa," Monday, February 18, 2008, by power-2-people, Power-2-People Blog.