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The “decentralized cell organization” of the Earth Liberation Front is today often presented by the media and it’s supporters as the most extreme, the most “heavy”, and the most radical challenge of Radicals Greens to the dominant order. As a “front”, the ELF takes a bit of the Che Guevara image of third-world “national liberation” movements such as the Algerian “National Liberation Front” and extends it to a world scale. Still how many aspect of this society are ultimately challenged by the practice of the ELF and their supporters?
Like ELF supporters, we see a pressing need to ultimately put an end to the present horrific society. Unfortunately, we see the organizational setup of the ELF as reinforcing many of this society’s relations of representation, specialization and authority at the same time it challenges the immediate physical power of the system. The underground cells of the ELF windup as essentially specialists in destruction, intentionally cut-off from the entire milieu by the necessary security culture. Indeed, the more elaborate the vandalism pulled-off by ELF cells, the more such cells have the appearance of elite military units. Not only do most people feel like they could never join such an effort, many people feel like “these experts will just create the revolution for us”. Just as much, the aboveground “ELF supporters” windup as followers, viewing their activity as just an adjunct to the “real work” of the ELF. And both ELF activists and followers are dependent on the mainstream media to report their actions, which otherwise do not touch the lives of the mass of dispossessed people.
Many “radical greens” today rightly look to the inspiring example of native communities, which have generally lived in balance with nature for thousands of years. With this, some recognize that while we are not natives, we cannot survive unless we also become part of a human community, a community which involves balanced, direct relationships with nature and with each other. We must escape the present rootless, atomized social relation of modern humans. And some key parts of these social relations are people’s fixation on media and celebrities and their unquestioning obedience to experts, specialists and authorities.
Many in the Radical Green/ELF milieu come out of the punk, mainstream activist, or animal rights “scenes”. However well intentioned, these “alternative scenes” are, they have much of the logic of the present order, sometimes in extremes. They are often rife with stars, divisions between who is or isn’t “cool”, fixation with pose and image, and so on. We aren’t saying that those in these groups can’t escape this order but ELF ideology allows a similar dynamic to arise and works to prevent any critique of it. ELF ideology is pretty a part of an ideology of total sacrifice that generally accompanies would-be revolutionaries.
We aren’t calling on activists to escape their situation by intensifying the usual moralistic call to more good works; more contact “community organizing” more volunteer hours, more petition circulation, more letters to prisoners, and so-forth. A crazed intensity of self-sacrifice is perhaps the most noticeable quality that marks the activist milieu to any rebellious dispossessed person who happens to look at these groups from the outside.
Such groups often attempt to escape their problems by changing their appearance rather than their structure.
Any would-be revolutionaries should escape the trap of regarding ourselves as the nucleus of a new society. We aren’t surprised by the gulags and Chernobyls that activists of “real” liberations fronts have constructed in Russia, Algeria, Nicaragua, China and many other places. While most Radical Greens don’t view themselves as a vanguard party, the horrors of re-education camps and so-forth are a natural product of the dictatorship of specialists in liberation. Since a dictatorship of these specialist is natural a product of this society’s entire dynamic, we must actively avoid these roles and this logic.
The practice we see instead of specialization is to work to inspire a developing community of resistance. And we should realize a community of resistance already exists on some level everywhere. The most powerful tactics for us are those tactics which allow the dispossessed to seize direct control of their lives – strikes, riots, squatting and occupations of streets and neighborhoods. These may only be possible in some circumstance but the dispossessed will always be resisting work and commodity relations by slacking off on the job, shop-lifting, dodging fares and many other tactics.
We aren’t limit ourselves to a laundry list of tactics or only doing actions approved by a democratic central committee. But at the minimum, those wishing to be revolutionaries need to be ABLE TO BE PART of a diverse, organic community. The specialization, the cutting off of contacts, the continuous panic, and the media-focus necessary for successful ELF practice is a serious barrier to this. To create a new society, we must be able to talk about all aspects of how we are living and how we want to live. Yet the ELF practice makes it impossible to talk about even simple questions like which “targets” are valid.
We don’t make this critique on the grounds of pacifism or arguments around “any resistance will make you like your enemy”. We also aren’t saying we can automatically create an authentic community of resistance by an intensification of normal activist tactics – this is a project of the entire dispossessed and not “we activists”. We look to means of resistance, revolt and revolution which have used the community of the dispossessed as both the end and the means. From Spain in 1936 to Paris in May of 1968 to the upsurge in Argentina today, we see the self-organization of the masses as a force which is capable of sweeping away governments and ultimately social systems. The Argentine Popular Assemblies today organize to help the unemployed at the same time they work for the defeat the present state. Not only is this self-organization quite capable of bringing the end of the present social system, it can be a way for a community to directly control it’s activity. It can be a nucleus of a new society.