The bomb-throwing anarchist: a relic of the past

Anyone with real knowledge of anarchism knows that although this is the origin of the stereotypical ‘bomb throwing’ anarchist in a black cloak, this portrayal has almost no basis in fact as representative of our movement. Most anarchists rejected this individualistic type of action even then, as contributing little or nothing towards creating a mass movement. The reasons for this are obvious. Even if modern anarchists approved of taking human life indiscriminately, which we don’t, how would terrifying people convince them of our ideas? Even if we believed in assassinating specific rich people or rulers as a tactic, which we don’t, ordinary people might get killed accidentally. We don’t even believe in bombing empty buildings as a symbolic act. Even at night there other workers such as cleaners, security guards and also firemen who can get hurt. And even if no one did get hurt, how would even the merest threat of bombing people help working class people understand our ideals as they really are?

We don’t want ordinary people to be afraid of our movement. The (very few) historical incidents of bombings by anarchists were the product of specific historical circumstances and a young movement that was still developing its analysis. Anarchist communists rejected these actions then. We have even felt the need to oppose this strategy at a historical distance (see the preface to our pamphlet on Japanese anarchism).

But this is not just a case of setting the historical record straight. We have been expecting the state and the media to find new ways to attack anarchism now that the process of creating a culture of resistance and a mass revolutionary movement is underway, and people all over the world are rejecting capitalism and the state as never before. There are three further, very serious points to make about the current media slandering of our movement.

First, this Channel Four documentary follows on the heels of some incredibly poor research linking Islamic extremism to anarchist ideas, taken up by The Economist and in 2005. Essentially, whilst this is the sort of story journalists wet their pants over, the media is being sloppy, lazy and misleading about the nature of anarchism. Not only that, the documentary allowed anti-semitic slander levelled at working class immigrants in the nineteenth century to be repeated uncritically. This ‘documentary’ is nothing more than a reactionary melodrama.

Second, we are the enemies of what gets termed ‘radical’ or ‘extremist’ Islamic groups. Their doctrine holds the revolution back. Whilst we are aware that Muslims too have been the victims of media vilification, some Islamists do indeed seek to justify indiscriminate terror. Whilst we know that support for these ideas has been the result of the actions of the state, not least its wars, we oppose disaffected Muslims who take up these ideas. The beliefs of the likes of al-Qaeda and the groups they support are revolting, and reactionary, and hold back a culture of genuine resistance. Our enemy’s enemy is NOT our friend. We have nothing in common with these people and their authoritarian, misogynist and anti-Semitic ideals. Bakunin and Kropotkin must be turning in their graves at such stupidity. Recent academic texts are rightly being criticised for connecting historical anarchism and modern day terrorism when the ideas behind them are incompatible.

Finally, this sort of misinformation about anarchism has serious consequences for real people criticising the state, obviously, because it can be used by governments to justify our repression. This is happening right now in Serbia, where six anarchists are currently incarcerated on the flimsiest pretext. A petrol bomb was thrown at the wall of the Greek embassy in Belgrade. It was by a protest group that the six have no connection to. But, because anarchists supposedly throw bombs, the bomb must have been thrown by an anarchist, say the Serbian government. This kind of illogical reasoning, justifying the imprisoning of working class activists, is the result of the kind of ill-informed journalism in the Economist and on Channel 4 tonight. On their consciences be it.

More criticisms:

Seething with the ideal [PDF]

Anarchism and Al Qaeda

Comments on James L. Gelvin’s ‘‘Al-Qaeda and Anarchism: A Historian’s Reply to Terrorology’’

Linking today’s islamic terrors to anarchism – Black Flag 229, Mid 2009, pages 20 & 21.

See also,:

You can’t blow up a social relationship – the anarchist case against terrorism

Anarchism and Violence

Find out the recent and past history of anarchism: