Very often we see conversations among protesters about the issue of violence. Let’s leave aside the showdown of any OGSB and other “radicals” with the protesters. Instead, let’s talk a little more about the use of violence in political struggle and how permissible it is from an anarchist point of view.
The understanding of violence in modern society has gone beyond the simple “stone on the head.” We have begun to better understand the effects of different types of repression and which ones work better than physical violence. For example, sleep deprivation can be viewed as a form of violence, although it does not include direct physical intervention. But for the sake of simplicity in understanding what is described below, we would like to return to the most primitive definition of violence – the use of physical force to cause harm.
Do anarchists tolerate the use of violence to advance their goals? If you want a short answer, then yes. But if you want to join the anarchist movement, then it pays to go beyond simple answers to difficult questions.
Anarchists traditionally use violence to defend themselves against the state or capitalists. At the same time, it is worthwhile to understand that some may not wait for the beginning of these very repressions, but attack state institutions aimed at suppressing personal freedom – such as the police / militia, courts, prosecutors, prisons. Violence on the part of the state, and in our case from the authoritarian state, occurs not only at moments of escalation of conflicts, following the example of summer mobilization. The state suppresses society systematically. Violence is used against citizens on an ongoing basis. Let us at least recall the story of Shunevich and the attack on the Roma in Belarus after the murder of one of the cops. The repressive apparatus attacked one of the least protected groups in our society with all its might, but attacks on the so-called “gypsies” in Belarus as in many other countries, it is carried out constantly. People are slaughtered with fines, criminals and preventive work in the ghetto, from which it is extremely difficult to get out.
The use of violence to counter the raids of cops on such communities is a legitimate tool for us. Here, some may argue that violence provokes violence, and to some extent they will be right. The response to resistance will be even greater repression, and if we do not talk about a revolutionary situation, then violence against the state will be suppressed and destroyed. Some people will be repressed even more than in the case of a peaceful outcome, but in the future every politician and cop will understand that every action has a consequence.
In cases of major political movements such as revolutionary Spain, we see that anarchist organizations, reaching a certain level, begin to use violence in a strategic way, and not just spontaneously, depending on the situation. So raids were carried out against the most ardent fascists among the cops or large business owners who killed workers in their factories.
In countries where the movement does not have a strong organization, anarchists resort to individual terror or the formation of small groups to fight the state apparatus. In this case, the targets are already selected autonomously. In most cases, it was by small anarchist groups of individual terror that a number of monarchs or fascists were killed.
Here we come to the separate issue of murder as a form of political struggle. For the Belarusian state, this issue seems to have been resolved – the death penalty is the very manifesto of readiness to kill for social and political offenses. Liberal doctrines elevate human life to the status of the absolute, partly because of religious, partly because of philosophical arguments. We have heard most of them many times. Within the anarchist movement, this issue has not been fully resolved. We anarchists are the heirs of those who killed kings and presidents. These political assassinations are perceived differently depending on the views of the person. Of course, it is difficult to find people among the anarchists who would not rejoice in the murder of Alexander II by the populists. But the situation has changed since then. Take, for example, the Belarusian anarchist blogger Nikolai Dedka, who believes that
On the other hand, there is no unity within our team. There are people who believe that the “elimination” of such monsters as Lukashenka, Balaba or Karpenkov makes sense within the framework of changing the situation in the country and undermining the authoritarian regime. After all, these people are key players in the arena of stabilizing the dictatorship in the country. On the other hand, the philosophy of the value of human life also penetrated into the anarchist movement. Our society has changed a lot since the revolutions of the 20th century.
Summing up all the thoughts above, we can say that there are almost no people among anarchists who oppose political violence against the state or the repressive institutions of capitalism. But on the other hand, there is no consensus on the use of murder as a form of political struggle.
Having said all this, it is worth mentioning that although anarchists support violence, they never use it against the general population. The responsibility for the dictatorship rests on the shoulders of the dictator and his apparatus, and not on the shoulders of ordinary citizens who have no choice. That is why anarchists have never carried out and will not carry out violent actions against ordinary citizens, as fascists, Nazis and other representatives of ultra-right ideologies can do.