Monday 27 December 2010


I am certainly not nonviolent. All the same I can understand
someone who hates violence to the point of
wanting to banish it from their life; someone who
would never kill, would never use force in order to
be heard; who, because of their character and aptitude,
prefers not to have recourse to it. But I can
only understand all this if it is a question of individual
choice. When nonviolence is presented as a method
of struggle, a road to be followed, when individual
ethics become morals and a collective project, it
seems absolute nonsense to me, useful only to justify
lack of action and an obstacle against those who rebel,
an absolute value to impose on the weak to allow the
strong to forget them in comfort. On the edge of the
abyss, with the earth more and more under enemy
fire, the invitation to use only good manners can look
just like that. Do as you like but don’t preach to me.
That said, I am not a fanatic of violence either. I
don’t like those who boast about their own feats in
such a context, I don’t justify their apology as an end
in itself, I detest those who consider it the only solution
possible. I consider it a necessity in the struggle
against power, nothing more. Like Malatesta, I too
don’t believe in ‘placid sunsets’. I don’t believe that
the reinforced concrete with which power has covered
our existence will melt upon the blooming of the
flower of freedom lovingly planted by the spreading
of our ideas.
Precisely because I am not nonviolent I cannot stand
moralistic condemnation of acts of violence. The
hypocrisy makes me sick. But precisely because I
am not a fanatic of violence, I also cannot stand any
acritical exaltation of these acts. The stupidity of that
really gets on my nerves.
Recently there has been a great prominence of actions
of attack carried out by unknown comrades,
first against the police station of Genoa, then against
the Spanish prison regime. Taking for granted the
hysterical reaction of the media, the reaction of the
police is just as predictable. But what is the reaction
of comrades? Apart from the usual idiots given to
hindsight, the most common reaction is silence. A
necessary silence, to avoid making distinctions between
those in favour and those against such acts
that would only turn out to be useful to the police
investigations. But for too long this silence hasn’t limited
itself to reigning in the days following the attacks,
it protracts itself much longer than that. It is
no longer silence in the face of the enemy who would
like to know, it is also the silence among comrades
who would like to agree. One has passed from the
presence of a minimal form of solidarity to the absence
of any critical discussion. But why ever should
action, whatever it is, not be submitted to critical reflection?
Why a should a hypothetical debate on such
questions be seen as an obstacle, something aimed
at preventing other actions? Why could it not rather
be support, a way of clarifying the meaning of what
one wants to do, to strengthen and improve action?
For me, taking recent events as a starting point I
have decided to write and circulate this text. Its
anonymous form is not due to fear of taking responsibility
for my words, but just a way not to differentiate
myself from the other comrades in the eyes of
the repression.
Claim yes, claim no
As far as I know, not being an expert on the subject
I could be mistaken, to find the first document claiming
an attack by a revolutionary organization we must
go back to Russia in 1878. It was a pamphlet Smert’
za smert’ (Death for a death) circulated by the group
Narodnaja Volja (Will of the people) after the killing
of general Mezencov head of the Russian secret
police. Thirteen days after the murder the pamphlet
claiming it was sent to a Petersbourg daily and in the
days that followed many copies came out in other
cities and were sent to numerous civil servants. At
the time this action made a great sensation – and of
course the criticisms were not lacking of those who
thought that such means could not take the place of
the more important instrument of propaganda of ideas
and rebellion among the masses.
From then this scene has repeated itself hundreds of
times. The details, obviously, change from time to
time but the substance doesn’t change. You could
almost say that the experience of these Russian revolutionaries
became a kind of archetype, an original
model whose future manifestations in reality are nothing
but filiations or imitations. The only variation within
this schema has been brought by the anarchists who
have never considered it necessary to politically claim
their actions of attack against power. The Russian
group ‘People’s will’, in fact, although gathering ‘militants’
of the most diverse ideas, nevertheless placed
itself as a centralized vanguard. Within this organi-
zation, as a militant was to remember in her memoirs,
there was a discussion as to whether the program
to be followed was to be that of ‘forcing the
government to allow the people to freely express their
will to reconstruct political and economic life without
obstacles… or whether that organization must first
move to take power into its own hands, to then decree
a constitution from above that was favourable
to the people’.
With such premises one can well see their need to
claim, to communicate the reasons for their actions
to the masses whom they intended to elevate and to
the enemy whose counterpart they believed themselves
to be. After all, that group wanted to address
the people in that nearly all its members came from
the more well off classes, and negotiate with constituted
power in their name, to the point of sending a
letter to the heir of the Tzar to advise him on what
politic to follow. But when one doesn’t want to represent
anyone, nor places oneself as anyone’s coun-
terpart, why circulate communiques? If one thinks
that action of attack against power must nevertheless
have as a horizon the social revolution, and not
be its parody in the form of armed struggle against
the state, what can the aim of a specific armed organization
It doesn’t seem to me that anarchists in the past distinguished
themselves by claiming actions. The anarchists
who sacrificed themselves by carrying out
individual deeds like Bresci and Caserio didn’t do it
for obvious reasons. Neither did the comrades who
had intended to undertake more continuous activity
such as Ravachol or Henry, nor those who united
themselves with them and others in armed action: Di
Giovanni didn’t do it, neither did Durruti or Ascaso.
And the reason must have been quite obvious. Desiring
a revolution from the base, not imposed or
thrown down from above, all of these anarchists considered
it opportune to act in the shadows keeping
themselves away from everything that could take
them into the limelight. They preferred the reasons
for their actions to come from the base, that it was
the movement itself to express them, rather than take
advantage of the clamour raised to spread them from
above, like the official message of those who had
made a revolt to those who hadn’t. The significance
of an action, if it is not made clear by its social context
could be found in leaflets, newspapers, reviews
and within theoretical debates developed by the movement
as a whole, not in the communique of one single
organization. I’ll give an example: if the movement is
able to express its theoretical critique of prison, when
someone then passes to a practical critique there is
no need to write a communique explaining the reasons
for it. The reasons for its gestures are clear
already comprehensible. When someone wants to
claim one’s responsibility it is only because they want
to put themselves on show. The attack on the Genoa
police headquarters, for example, was so significant
(for the choice of objective and the moment) as to
make all words superfluous. Why was a communique
circulated that said nothing but banalities?
It is true that the Angry Brigade constitute a kind of
exception, still being a question of anarchists claiming
their own actions. Not by chance, precisely that
experience seems to constitute a kind of model for
many comrades who are attacking power today. Yet,
unless one wants to throw oneself into attitudes of
emulation, the example doesn’t seem repeatable to
me. On the one hand it is impossible not to bear in
mind that the Angry Brigade should be inserted into
the historical context within which it matured, that is
in the 70s. In an era in which numerous Stalinist
groups were seminating terrible ideological bricks to
propagandize their own political project and were
lending themselves to taking over the dimension of
armed attack, it doesn’t seem strange to me that some
anarchists wanted to distinguish themselves by not
running the risk of involuntarily working for others.
From the choice of name to that of objectives, to the
style of the communiques, everything tended to distinguish
itself from the mess around them. But once
the whole Stalinist ideology had been surpassed, why
characterize oneself in the anarchist sense, what is
the point in continuing with this self-representation?
Perhaps in countries like Spain, where all the actions,
including anonymous ones, are immediately
attributed to the Eta, but certainly not here in Italy. In
fact for years actions of attack did not produce any
communiques, except sometimes something very
brief and simple and that refused the use of any acronym
of identification. It should be superfluous to
explain the reasons for this: an action can only belong
to everyone if nobody attributes it to himself. As
soon as it is claimed and given an identity, a kind of
separation is created between those who carried it
out and everybody else. Moreover, it should not even
be necessary to remember the danger inherent in
any claim. It is dangerous to consign it, to send it,
and above all it is dangerous to write because the
more one writes the more indications one gives to
the police (all anything but hypothetical danger, given
that there exists at least one negative precedent that
struck anarchist comrades). An anonymous attack
does not allow anyone to emerge and does not facilitate
the police’s repressive work.
If the reasons for anonymity have been expressed
more than once, those against it haven’t. For a few
years now things have changed without there having
been any debate on the subject. In any case it is very
difficult today for an action not to be accompanied
by a beautiful communique, followed by slogans and
signatures. Why? Silence… And so, carrying on like
this, doesn’t one end up in vanguardism? The risk is
so evident that among the very authors of claims there
are those who proclaim themselves to be against
vanguardism, in the hope that it will be enough to say
so in order to be so. But ‘to excuse yourself is to
accuse yourself’. It is the method itself that is
vanguardist and, sometimes, also the explicitly de-
clared contents (as demonstrated in the afflicted communique
of the ARA following the attack on Palazzo
Marino). It matters little if the slogans incite social
war rather than the dictatorship of the proletariat. It
matters little if the signatures change continually.
That just demonstrates that anarchist ‘vanguards’ are
more elastic than the Stalinists, but nevertheless feel
the need to distinguish themselves from the rest of
the movement.
It is not enough to take the Angry Brigade as a starting
point to resolve the problem. I know perfectly
well that the Angry Brigade affirmed ‘We are not in
a position to say whether any one person is or isn’t a
member of the Angry Brigade. All we say is: the
Brigade is everywhere. Without any Central Committee
and no hierarchy to classify our members, we
can only know strange faces as friends through their
I also know that their participants did not consider
themselves an organization or a single group ‘but an
expression of rage and discontent…’. But all that
just shows the good faith of these comrades, their
preoccupation not to present themselves as a vanguard,
but it doesn’t demonstrate whether they actually
succeeded in their intentions. A signature that
wants to be a symbol of generalized anger doesn’t
make sense. For everyone to be able to recognize
himself or herself in it the actions and the words explaining
them must be understood and shared by everyone.
You can’t offer a general collective identity
and claim that each one renounces their individuality.
That can only be done if the actions realized and
the words spoken remain at a level that is so low as
to limit dissent as far as possible: very simple exemplary
actions accompanied by maximalist slogans. All
that – given that it might be worth it – can only work
for a brief period, after which other factors intervene
that are a part of any process that makes the
continuation of the experiment impossible: there are
those who want to move on to more powerful instru-
ments, who want to strike more selective objectives,
who want to express more precise concepts… Even
the ALF, who struggle for a motivation that is basically
simple and univocal such as animal liberation,
saw their first defections as soon as they began to
expand. Some other animal liberation groups – tired
of the confusion of the project, the minimalism of the
objectives, the declarations of the spokespersons –
formed. Not only, but, it is the worst aspect, all of
these groups saw themselves forced to give themselves
a new name to avoid being included automatically
in the main cauldron. Because the instrument
of claiming is a strictly political one, with all the harm
that that implies as long as one remains in anonymity
one can do what one wants, without involving or exploiting
others. But as soon as some emerge, they
also force the others to come out so as not to be
considered mere army columns. This mechanism of
identification/assimilation can only be avoided through
anonymity, the diversification of means and fantasy
in the choice of objectives, otherwise, no matter how
many precautions one may take, one could never
prevent the media from putting it into act (so much
more than with the communiques that one sends precisely
to them).
What objectives?
The vanguardist logic is rigid, as soon as one adopts
it, it is applied everywhere. It is enough to think of
the choice of objectives, the depressing road that
throughout the years has led from an anonymously
slain pylon to a letter bomb – with letter included –
sent to the television. In the first case they want to
sabotage an enemy, jamming the functioning of its
system by putting a peripheral structure out of use.
It is a question of a practical action of attack, perhaps
a little fastidious to bring about, but without putting
anyone at risk. In the second case one just wants
to be talked about, make publicity for one’s own firm,
and that is why they turn directly to the doors of the
Rai [Italian equivalent of BBC].. It is just a symbolic
action, far easier to realize, and if the risk of being
wounded falls to some unfortunate postal worker or
TV employee… who cares. It seems that it is not
only the Jesuits who think that the end justifies the
means but also some anarchists. And concerning letter
I have been unfair. I said that those who send them
just want to be talked about. I forgot to add that, self
gratification aside, they also want something else to
be talked about. For example the prison conditions
of some anarchists and rebels imprisoned in Spain.
The Russian revolutionary socialists in 1878 had a
similar preoccupation. In one of their famous documents
they wrote: ‘If the press don’t defend the prisoners,
we will’. Today there are the groups of the
5C [one of the informal Fai groups]. Anarchists, not
revolutionary-socialists. Anarchists like May
Picqueray who in 1921 sent a parcel bomb to the
American ambassador in Paris to protest against the
silence that weighed upon the incarceration of Sacco
and Vanzetti. The action was very successful because
the abuse committed by the American government
finally became publicly known, launching a
struggle that had had difficulty in taking off.
But after taking act of the similarity between past
and present, one must have blinkers on not to see the
colossal differences. The Russian socialists killed the
chief of the secret police following the death in prison
of one of their comrades: a death for a death, exactly.
The French anarchist, to make public the infamy
of American justice, struck the maximum representative
of the American government present in
France. Today, the anarchists of the 5C send their
presents no less than to the workers of the Rai or the
secretaries of Spanish travel agencies. The difference
should leap out at us. Of course, those materially
responsible for the penitentiary regime that is
being imposed on the comrades are far away and
probably too well protected to be reached, whereas
the interests of the Spanish State are everywhere
and can therefore be struck. But are these interests
embodied in the employees working in travel agencies?
And because one insists on making an impact
on the media, how can one ignore the fact that the
great means of communication only amplify the words
of the rebels if they can distort their meaning? And
how not realize that such actions make this operation
of distortion all too easy? By sending incendiary
letters left and right one will undoubtedly make them
talk about the comrades detained in Spain, everybody
will talk about them, but in what terms? In the
terms imposed by the media, of course, who will rush
to reinforce the idea already implanted in many that,
after all, if these prisoners have such unscrupulous
champions, perhaps they deserve harsh regimes.
The trouble is that those who think that they are further
ahead, more radical than everybody else, think
so for a very precise reason. This consists in the use
of certain instruments: those who talk just chatter,
those who attack with weapons are acting. All those
who support armed struggle are in love with their
instruments, they love them to the point that they
cease to see them as such and to see them as an end
in themselves, their reason for being. They don’t
choose the means best suited to the end they want to
achieve, they transform the means into end in itself.
If I want to kill a fly on the wall I use a rolled up
newspaper, if I want to kill a mouse I use a stick, if I
want to kill a man I use a revolver, if I want to demolish
a building I use dynamite. According to what
I want to do, I choose the means that I consider most
adapt from all those that I have available. The armedstrugglist,
no. He doesn’t think like that. He wants to
use his favourite instrument, the one that gives him
most satisfaction, that makes him feel more radical,
that allows him to bask in his media celebrity, and he
uses it independently of the aim he has given himself:
he shoots flies, machine-guns the mouse, dynamites
the man and if he could, would use a nuclear
bomb to blow up the building. For the armed-strugglist
the radicality of the struggle does not consist of its
extension and depth and its capacity to question social
peace. For the armed-strugglist, radicality is only
a question of fire power: a calibre 22 handgun is less
radical than a 38, which is less radical than a
Kalashnikov, which is less radical than plastic explosives.
That is why, thirsty for fame and rendered
obtuse by his own technical idolatry, he sends incendiary
letters to simple employees to combat the Fies
prison regime. He does that because it is the only
thing he knows how to do; technics do not accompany
intelligence but take the place of it, and so one
doesn’t even stop to ask for a second whether the
means is suitable for the end one wants to attain. As
far as scruples are concerned, he doesn’t have any
for the simple reason that in his head everything is
split up into black and white, without nuances of colour.
On the one side there is the State, on the other the
anarchists. There is no one in the middle. If one isn’t
anarchist one belongs to the State, so one is an enemy.
The exploited are responsible for the conditions
that they put up with just as much as the exploiters
who impose them on them: they are all enemies, so
that’s their problem.
Strangely this typically militaristic logic is gaining
ground among certain anarchists, among whom there
are even some who support the Palestinian kamikaze.
Incredible if one thinks that such levels of
abjection were far even from the Russian revolutionaries
at the end of the nineteenth century:
vanguardist authoritarians yes, but with a rigorous
ethic, ready to kill an exploiter but without touching a
hair of any of the exploited. And if the authoritarians
took this care, think of the anarchists! The examples
in this sense are many: even Schicchi, well known
also for his fiery language, was capable of going back
to where he had left a bomb in order to defuse it
when he realized that some passerby might have been
But the image of the anarchist of the past, the perfect
gentleman, is too goody goody, not very gratifying
for some anarchists of today. There are anarchists
who only manage to give a sense to their lives
if they feel they have been struck by public con
tempt. The more something is condemned, the more
they are attracted. The more the newspapers and
the judges depict anarchists as unscrupulous people,
the more they rush to fill this role. Devoid of any
prospects of their own, they let themselves be told
by their enemies what they are and what they must
Another consequence of what is happening is the
total overturning of the meaning of the term
‘insurrectionalist’, which today is coming to be used
as a simple synonym for ‘violent’ or even simply beyond
dialogue with the institutions. Anarchists who
put bombs are insurrectionalists, anarchists who break
windows are insurrectionalists, anarchists who clash
with the police are insurrectionalists, insurrectionalist
are the anarchists who contest the demonstrations
of the political parties and so on. Not a word about
ideas. In a certain sense one is repeating exactly what
happened at the beginning of the century with the
adjective ‘individualist’. Once there was the convic
tion that anyone who supported violent individual acts
was an individualist, then this term came to be applied
more or less everywhere and often out of place.
In the frenzy of events, who stopped to clarify the
confusion that was spreading? Recourse to individual
violence is not at all a typical characteristic of individualism,
so much so that there were also pacifist
individualist anarchists (such as Tucker) or nonviolent
(like Mackay). And again, was Galleani an individualist
perhaps? Yet he was a supporter of individual
actions… as was Malatesta in certain circumstances.
And there have also been communists in
favour of individual acts. Unfortunately the equivocation
became rooted to such a point that there were
even those who declared themselves individualist even
though they were not at all (as did Schicchi in the
Pisa trial). Misunderstanding, incomprehension… it
is better not to add to such confusion. That the media
do it is quite obvious and comprehensible. But
why should we do it too?
Insurrection is a social event. It is not the challenge,
a singular duel with the State launched by those who
believe that the mass are just sheep waiting to be
sheared. Recourse to violence is inevitable and necessary
in an insurrectional project, just as it is before
(because the social aspect of insurrection can never
be carried to justify waiting). Therefore, also now.
But this violence cannot separate itself from the rest
of the project, it cannot take its place. It is violence
that is one instrument at the service of the project,
not the project that is in the service of violence.
Whoever thinks that an insurrection isn’t possible,
having lost (or never had) faith in the possibility that
the exploited will rebel, should realize the distance
that separates them from any insurrectional project.
If he wants to fight his private war against power,
because that is what it has become, let him do so, but
without passing this off as social war. If he wants to
go down in history for his actions, because this is a
question of pure self-gratification, then let him sit under
the glare of the media, but without claiming to have
the whole movement behind him.
It’s obvious that anybody is free to do what he or she
likes. Someone who thinks that they are above criticism
and should be applauded, understood and followed
without even having bothered to explain the
reasons behind their methods, is a lot less so.

Translated from Italian May 2007 and published
by Elephant Editions, this text first
appeared on the website Anarcotico in 2003.

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