Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Michael: The anarchists

It's hard to take the long view about suicide bombers. It behooves us to reflect that terrorism is not a new or unique phenomenon, however. We can learn from and gain perspective on the policy challenges of terrorism by an examination of history. Surprisingly, the current wave of ideological violence has an approximate historical precedent: the anarchists of the late 19th century. The anarchists too were international in scope, revolutionary in purpose, and homicidal on a devastating scale.

The anarachists racked up an deplorable number of assinations of heads of state and other political leaders, as well as their share of sheerly random acts of terrorist violence against innocent civilians - including bombings. In France they were even known as dynamitards.

The most salient parallel is that almost universally the response to anarachist terror were exactly the ones we are now seeing in response to jihadi terrorism; restrictions on free speech and association, serious curtailments of civil rights, xenophobic laws to deport and detain foreigners, and a relaxation of criminal standards of proof regarding association with known or suspected terrorists. The instructive aspect of this frenzy of legal zealotry in response to anarchist terrorism is that it was almost completely ineffective.

The increasingly draconian laws failed to curb anarachist violence or net terrorist plotters in any numbers, nor penetrate nor disrupt the anarchists' terror campaign. The networks were too diffuse and too clever. The increasing repression may only have fueled greater radicalization of recruitment populations, further exaserbating the problem. What actually soothed the rash of anarchist violence was that history moved on and made the anarchist credo irrelevant.

If we work to make the ideological appeals of Al Qaeda and their ilk irrelevant to the people of the Middle East, we'll ultimately do much more to end jihadi terror than could any criminal law or military operation.


At 9:37 AM, Blogger Art Jacobson said...

I imagine that the decline in revolutionary consciousness raising was due in part to its success in stimulating social reform.

I have always been impressed by the similarities in philosophical doctrine between extreme conservatism and the political philosophy of parties in the Spanish anarchist movement. (For instance the Party of Marxist Unification—the POUM of which Orwell writes.)

Anarchism is a philosophy of political organization, not a philosophy of social anarchy. Like the conservatives, the anarchists believed that strong central government was an evil. They recognized that some central authority was necessary to protect the nation from foreign aggression, but reduced the role of government to the maintenance of an army and navy, the purely defensive protection of national borders, and the operation of a foreign service.

Truly, that government was best that governed least.

The Anarchists were perfectly aware that modern civil and industrial society was complex and that some principle of organization was necessary for the social welfare. Central power was to be defused and distributed evenly through society.

Conservatives seek to defuse and distribute power by handing it off to the states, and from the states to individual municipalities. Corporations also play an increasingly important role in social organization.

The Anarchist metaphor for visualizing what this would be was the fish net. Each of the knots tying the lines of the net together would be a worker’s union (the Russian ‘soviet’) in a factory or business. Workers in Factory A would negotiate with those providing other goods and services for the delivery of those goods and services to their community.

Of course this was at once both hopelessly simplistic and incredibly complex. Today the model would be the computer network.

As an aside let me point to another congruence of conservatism and the left. Locke’s maintenance of the right to property stems from the fact that in property’s production or improvement we mix in some part of ourselves…sweat equity if you will. Marxist theory of value, anyone?

At 4:09 PM, Anonymous miked85284 said...

i would disagree with both of you.the jihadists have made it very clear what their demands are:a gov't that is based on sharia and subservient to the clergy.they recognize a gov't is necessary but in no way should interfere with their faith.until the bush admin. recognizes this we are s.o.l.sun tzu said you must know your enemy if you wish to defeat him.i suspect the neocons know this but in their view the public is too stupid to understand it,and it is up to them to manipulate public

At 7:03 PM, Blogger Dimension said...


They had this with the Taliban in Afghanistan but that didn't stop them from flying planes into the world trade center and the pentagon and giving it to them in Iraq won't stop them from performing similar attacks on the U.S. and other nations that don't share their extremist beliefs.


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