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MILITANT SPASM Extract from Essay by Watson
Fifth Estate 350 Summer 1998

Yet we can learn even from those who attack us; Green Anarchists would do well to take up the challenge to re-examine their perspective, and attempt to explain more coherently their ideas on population and other issues. Their emphasis (as Steve Booth puts it in his Into the 1990's with Green Anarchist) on "revolutionary action over theory" is a naïve evasion of responsibility, since every action presumes some theoretical premise, however crude or inchoate. Reading GA say of such phenomena as the Unabomber, the Japanese Aum cult (which spread poison gas in Tokyo subways), and the Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City that they are "inspirational and open up wide ranges of new possibilities," one has to conclude that like the broken clock that is correct at least every twelve hours, the Neoists have a point. This is also the case in GA's clinging to and continuing to distribute early writings of Richard Hunt, whose reactionary tendencies (sexism, hierarchy and a defence of xenophobia, for example) are rightly pointed out by the Neoists, and grounds enough to scrap his dubious contribution altogether.

(In answer to criticisms of their glee over the Oklahoma bombing, the GA's response was even more disturbing:

"We do think offing a tower block full of FBI pigs is 'inspirational' tactically, just as we think IRA 'spectaculars' are . . ." This statement evinces little idea of just who might be passing through the halls of a typical local Federal Building (in fact there were almost no police agents in the building when the bomb exploded). Furthermore, it wilfully disregards the intimate connection between means and ends; the GAs apparently think there is a clear division between right-wing militia and IRA nationalist ideologies (which they disapprove of) and the authoritarian, inhuman means employed (which they support).

The problem of theory and action is also immediately apparent in the banner of the GA newspaper (which reads, "For the Destruction of Civilisation"), and the so-called "results pages" which Booth says are intentionally placed in the front of their publication. It is one thing to write critically about the dialectic of civilisation and empire, its origins and contradictions, and to challenge the assumptions embedded in the ideology of progress. It's quite another to think you're forging a political tendency to carry out civilisation's destruction. Whether or not it's Bakuninist, this is a fantasy contaminated by today's style of paranoid politics, an ugly and authori tarian fantasy at that, as is suggested by the passive-aggressive rage of the Unabomber text (which the GAs have published as an example, however flawed, of their tendency's position). (1)

Civilisations, most people know, destroy themselves. Radical greens, anarchist or otherwise, need to develop a constructive politics of solidarity, justice and renewal that moves beyond one-dimensional opposition to and unintelligible confrontation with mass society. I for one am disappointed that GA abandoned its banner slogan, "For a Free Society in Harmony With Nature," for the vague cage-rattling of "For the Destruction of Civilisation." According to Booth, the change is "because the times have got more desperate, more urgent, and this is a more emphatic expression of our thinking" reasoning which reminds me of the futile paroxysms of the SDS Weatherman faction in the late l96Os. Intoxicated by street-fighting with cops, and convinced conditions were now too dire to engage people openly in neighbourhoods, schools and workplaces on a multiplicity of crucial social issues, this tiny band of authoritarian vanguardists decided to "bring the war home." They were sincere, and at times desperate, but things might be a little less dire now if they had not so thoroughly succumbed to their desperation then.

Though containing much that is laudable, Green Anarchist at its worst reads like someone shouting as loudly as possible to drown out any doubts about the enterprise. The "results pages" various entries documenting alleged ecodefense and resistance are a mixed bag, too. One may read of admirable endeavours and acts of resistance, but might just as easily run across questionable entries like rioting on October 27, 1996 by islamic militants in Pakistan, and for September 28, 1996: "Kabul, Afghanistan Taliban militia execute former president Najibullah, and suspend corpse from traffic platform. That's the way to do it!" Such macho militaristic vehemence makes one wonder if there isn't some fascistic character structure at play in GA enthusiasm after all. For November 1, we read that four are hurt by a car bomb in Spain; on November 8, "75 year old woman poppy collector robbed"; on November 11, "12-13 year olds slash bus driver" in Liverpool. A graphic shows a rat carrying a club with the logo, "Animal Liberation . . . or else!" Meat markets appear to be as evil as nuclear power plants. Anti-pedophiles protest, gun owners rally, students protest tuition hikes; arson, "Hell's Angel club bombing, four injured." What does this have to do with radical theory or practice? What does GA stand for?

Like the Green Anarchist paper, Booth's pamphlet seems reasonable, decent and heartfelt despite its occasional questionable statements. Yet references to the end of the days of "Gandhian wank" and glamorised scenarios of demonstrations in which so-called "fluffies" who are they, people with their kids in strollers? are smashed up between brawling militants and cops, make me wonder if the GAs haven't lost all sense of proportion. It isn't simply a question of theoretical confusion, it's a matter of arrogance. As I have argued in other contexts, the more extreme our ideas the more humble we should be about their application.(2) We should recognise that no one is exactly clear about how mass society might be transformed into a weave of diverse, egalitarian, communal cultures. Certainly we must find ways to act, but a spiralling, instrumental militantism (embracing the tactics, say, of IRA or militia "spectaculars" a telling word), becoming evermore frenetic and violent as it becomes more dogmatic and self-righteous, is a recipe for a suicidal spasm. Green Anarchists need to re-examine their ideas closely, and continually, not only in the light of theory but in the light of reality.

1. See Industrial Society and its Future: The Unabomber's Manifesto (Camberley: Green Anarchist Books, no date). The unnamed editor of Green Anarchist distances the group from the Unabomber's Manifesto for "its reductionism and machismo," but it would be hard to find a more reductionist and macho treatment of the issue. The editor applauds the bombings and jeers at the people maimed and killed, comments that the Unabomber "made good with the deed sixteen times in as many years," and congratulates the bomber "in his new career as ecoteur". There is no reflection on the ramifications of FC's agreement to stop killing people if the manifesto is published.

2. See in particular "Catching Fish in Chaotic Waters," in the Winter 1995 FE; also "Return of the Son of Deep Ecology: The Ethics of Permanent Crisis and the Permanent Crisis in Ethics," and "The Question of Agriculture" (written under the pseudonym George Bradford), in Spring 1989 FE.

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LB's response:

Watson may feel that Green Anarchist seems "reasonable, decent and heartfelt despite its occasional questionable statements. Yet it is hard to see what reason lies behind that feeling outside the fact that GA use an anti-technology, anti-civilisation rhetoric behind which they launch their calls for mass violence and even race war. Admittedly it is probably impossible to synthesis a single coherent viewpoint from inchoate ramblings of GA; indeed how else would its editors disguise its revolting nature from their readers and not least themselves. (Thankfully one of the jailed editors has realised the error of his ways and apologised to the editor of Unpopular Books). I will give Watson the benefit of the doubt and assume he hadn't come across GA's @narchist Lancaster Bomber #17 (January 1997) when he wrote his critique of them. In an article entitled 'The Irrationalists' the author twists the old Angry Brigade slogan: "The Irrationalist is the man or woman sitting next to you in the tube train. We have sarin canisters in our pockets and hatred in our minds". The article discusses how many people deserve to die "15%? 25%? 35%?" then continues to fantasise that the Irrationalists constitute a world-wide group: "Now just one person, perhaps, can send out razorblade letters (the Justice Department) or one person can send lethal parcel bombs to scientists (the Unabomber), or financial institutions (Mardi Gras). Perhaps we might have a few people drive a fertilizer explosive truck to a government office block (Oklahoma). Perhaps we will have a crazy cult putting sarin down the subway (The Aum Cult). Each of these actions, though imperfect, has the capacity to inspire better ones."

This sickly catalogue goes hand in hand with more traditional racism such as GA's support for a proposed green colony in southern Africa "get assurances about the quality of the land and political stability of the country it's in" was their sage advice (GA #39, Autumn '95 p.24). More recently they followed this up with Peter Neville's article on 'Political Correctness'. Here Neville bewails the fact that Ashkanazi Jews are not racially pure (GA #47/8, Summer '97). And as if the liberals and anarchists who they've gathered around to support them during there trial haven't got the message, their latest issue (GA #49/50 Autumn '97) declares that their trial is "a call to revolution and we are not talking about some bullshit fluffy personal transformation but the violent destruction of authority and the system, Bosnia or Albania style." Bosnia style? this is nothing short of a call for pogroms, mass rapes, indeed race war.

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