Putting the record straight

Are we ‘For violence’?

On one occasion trade union leader Ernest Bevin was puzzled at the differences between representatives of the labour movement from Belgium and France. (So deep was his ignorance of anything that happened abroad that he was finally made Foreign Secretary).

We are the Christian Trade Unionists,” explained one.

What the bloody ‘ell are we then – bleedin’ ‘eathens?” asked Ernest.

Some such thought occurs to us when we hear pacifists disillusioned with political action, or liberals trying to strike out an individual path, yet rejecting class struggle referring to themselves as “Non-violent anarchists”. What the bloody ‘ell are we – bleedin’ skinheads? 

This rubbish about “non-violent anarchism” (which is not a complementary type of anarchism but an uncomplimentary reference to normal anarchism) is not the sole cause for misunderstanding of anarchism, but one of several reasons for its misrepresentation, (such as that of the deliberate mix-up between anarchism and marxism organised by the media; or the use of the term “anarchist” as if it solely meant someone who attacks the existing order – so that even a fascist could be an “anarchist” and anarchists are therefore blamed for the deeds of their bitterest enemies).

Many who otherwise agree with us write to us suggesting qualifications to their agreement. Are we really “for violence”? Only psychopaths and professional soldiers are “for violence”: but that is not to say one must idealise non-violence and base one’s judgment, not upon the degree of struggle or the degree of freedom, but the amount of “violence” used or not used, something totally irrelevant to the issue. (Would Hitler’s regime have been acceptable to them had it been wholly parliamentary manoeuvring instead of largely, and the unnecessary accompanying violence omitted?)

Nobody in fact argues for or against “violence”: what they argue about is “illegal violence” since it is always recognised that the State has the “right” to violence. It is curious how this applies even to the pacifists. “Freedom’s” most regular contributor always denounces revolutionary “violence” whenever he can, and usually manages to work in a piece of self-glorification about his role as a humble soldier in the Eighth Army. Robin Farquharson was a ‘pacifist’ and completely against ‘violent anarchists’ as he chose to characterise them: then inheriting a few thousand quid he spent it all on Third World phoneys who rooked him of every penny he had – this, though “illegal” was alright because it was nationalistic – to help the class struggle would have been “violent”. But nationalism makes its own laws. For the same reason the Dr. Dugdales and the Pat Arrowsmiths become front-runners for the IRA despite their non-violence when it comes to class struggle. 

The subject is irrelevant to anarchism but the imposition of the pacifist ethic upon it always implies an abandonment of class struggle and the acceptance of middle-class values. Not because middle class values are “non-violent” – they are not – but because by qualifying, hyphenating and diluting anarchism, a non-demanding excuse of a philosophy can be manufactured for the disenchanted liberal.

Black Flag v3, n18 1975-03

[Uploaded as supporting material for ‘Slaughter or slander? Notes on the Albert Meltzer-George Woodcock conflict’ in KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library No.107-108, December 2022: https://www.katesharpleylibrary.net/cjt075 ]