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Thursday 9 December 2010

Insurrectionalist Anarchism - Part One

Alfredo M. Bonanno
Original title: Anarchismo insurrezionalista
Edizioni Anarchismo, "I libri di Anarchismo" N. 10
June 1999
Translated by Jean Weir


Informal Organisation
The Revolutionary Project

The following ideas have emerged from a long itinerary of struggle and reflection. They represent a tormented, complex thesis, which is not only difficult to set out—which would simply be due a defect of the author—but even to expose clearly and definitively.
In conflict with my whole being, I am about to set out the fundamental elements of insurrectionalist anarchism anatomically. Will it be possible? I don’t know. I shall try. If the reading of these notes begins to suffocate, then just skip through them and leave it at that.
A mass insurrection, or that of a whole people, can at any given moment lead to the State’s incapacity to maintain order and respect for the law and even lead to the disintegration of social and economic conditions. This also implies the presence of individuals and groups that are capable of grasping this disintegration beyond its immediate manifestations. They must be able to see beyond the often chance and secondary reasons for the initial insurrectional outburst. In order to give their contribution to the struggle, they must look beyond the first clashes and skirmishes, not put a brake on them or underestimate them as mere incoherent insufference towards those in power.
But who is prepared to take on this task? It could be anarchists, not so much because of their basic ideological choice and declared denial of all authority, as for their capacity to evaluate methods of struggle and organisational projects.
Moreover, only those who have rebelled and faced the consequences of this rebellion and lived it to the full, be it only within the microcosm of their own lives, can have the sensitivity and intuition necessary to grasp the signs of the insurrectional movement in course. Not all anarchists are rebels, just as not all rebels are anarchists. To complicate things, it is not enough to be a rebel to understand the rebellion of others. It is also necessary to be willing to understand. We need to look at the economic and social conditions around us. We must not let ourselves be swept away like a river in full swell by the resounding demonstrations of the popular movement, even when it is moving full steam ahead and its initial triumphs lead us to hoist banners of illusion. Critique is always the first instrument, the starting point. But this must not merely be a surly taking sides. It must be a participatory critique, one that involves the heart, feels the excitement of the clash against the same enemy, now with its face finally stamped in the dust.
It is not enough simply to rebel. Even if a hundred rebels were to get together it would still not be sufficient, they would merely be a hundred crazed molecules writhing in destructive agony as the struggle spreads, wildly sweeping everything away. Important as an example and stimulus, rebels end up succumbing to the needs of the moment. No matter how effective and radical they are, the more their conscience carries them to attack—often blindly—the more they become aware of an insurmountable limit due to their failure to see any organisational outlet. They wait for suggestions from the mass in revolt, a word here, a word there, in the quick of the clash or during moments of calm when everyone wants to talk before taking up the struggle again. And they are not aware that even during these exciting moments there are always politicians waiting in ambush. The masses do not possess the virtues we often attribute to them. The assembly is certainly not the place put one’s life at risk, but one’s life can be put at risk by decisions made in assemblies. And the political animals that raise their heads in these collective moments always have clear ideas concerning what to suggest, with fine programmes of recuperation and a call to order already in their pockets. Of course, they will not say anything that is not absolutely correct, politically, I mean, so will be taken to be revolutionaries. But they are always the same, the same old political animals laying the foundations for the power of the future, the kind that recuperates the revolutionary thrust and addresses it towards pacification. We must limit destruction, comrades. Please, after all, what we are destroying belongs to us ..and so on.
To shoot before—and more quickly than—others, is a virtue of the Far West: it’s good for a day or two, then you need to use your head. And using your head means you need a project.
So the anarchist cannot simply be a rebel, he or she must be a rebel equipped with a project. He or she must, that is, unite courage and heart with the knowledge and foresight of action. Their decisions will still always be illuminated with the flames of destruction, but sustained with the fuel of critical analysis.
Now, if we think about it for a moment, a project cannot just turn up out of the blue in the middle of the fray. It is silly to think that everything must come forth from the insurgent people. That would be blind determinism and would consign us gagged into the hands of the first politician that stood up on a chair and made a few organisational and programmatical proposals, throwing smoke in everyone’s eyes with a few words strung one after the other. Although insurrection is a revolutionary moment of great collective creativity, one which can produce analytical suggestions of considerable intensity (think of the insurgent workers of the Paris Comune who shot at the clocks), it is not the only source of theoretical and projectual wealth. The highest moments of the people in arms undoubtedly eliminate obstacles and uncertainties, clearly showing what had only been hazy until then, but they cannot illuminate what is not already there. These moments are the potent reflector that make it possible to bring about a revolutionary and anarchist project, but this project must already exist, even if only in terms of method. It must have been elaborated and experimented to some degree, although obviously not in every detail.
On the other hand, when we intervene in mass struggles, clashes with intermediate claims, is that not almost exclusively so as to propose our methods? Workers in a particular factory demanding jobs and trying to avoid being laid off, a group of homeless people trying to get shelter, prisoners on strike for better conditions in jail, students rebelling against a cultureless school are all things that interest us, up to a point. We know perfectly well that when we participate in these struggles as anarchists, no matter how they end up there will not be any corresponding growth in our movement, and this is quite irrelevant. The excluded often forget who we even are, and there is no reason in the world why they should remember us, least of all one based on gratitude. We have asked ourselves more than once, in fact, what we are doing in the midst of such struggles for claims, we anarchists and revolutionaries who are against work, against school, against any concession to the State, against property and also against any kind of negotiation that graciously concedes a better life in the prisons. The answer is simple. We are there because we can introduce different methods. And our methods take shape in a project. We are with the excluded in these intermediate struggles because we have a different model to propose, one based on self-organised struggles, attack and permanent conflictuality. This is our point of strength, and we are only prepared to struggle along with the excluded if they adopt such methods of attack, even concerning objectives that remain within the realm of claiming.
A method would be no more than an agglomeration of meaningless words if were we unable to articulate it within a projectual dimension. Had they paid some attention to this aspect in the first place, many anxious critics of anarchist insurrectionalism would just have gone back to their momentarily disturbed slumber. What is the point of accusing us of being stuck in methods that are a hundred years out of date without taking a look at what we are talking about? The insurrectionalism we are talking about is quite different to the glorious days on the barricades, even if it might contain elements of a struggle that moves in such a direction at times. But as simple revolutionary theory and analysis, a method that comes to life in a project, it does not necessarily take this apocalyptic moment into account, but develops and intensifies far from any waving of banners or glittering of guns.
Many comrades are fully aware of the need to attack and are doing what they can to bring it about. They perceive the beauty of the clash and the confrontation with the class enemy hazily, but do not want to spend much time thinking about it. They want to hear nothing of revolutionary projects, so carry on wasting the enthusiasm of rebellion which, moving into a thousand rivulets, ends up extinguishing itself in small isolated manifestations of insufference. These comrades are obviously not all the same, you could say that each one constitutes a universe of his or her own, but all, or nearly all of them, feel irritated by any attempt to clarify ideas. They don’t like to make distinctions. What is the point of talking about affinity groups, informal organisation, base nuclei or coordinations, they say? Don’t things speak for themselves? Are not tyranny and injustice, exploitation and the ferocity of power, quite visible there in front of us? Don’t they exist in the form of things, and men basking in the sun as though they had nothing to worry about? What is the point of wasting time in pointless discussions? Why not attack now? Indeed, why not turn on the first uniform we come across? Even a ‘sensible’ person like Malatesta was of this opinion, in a way, when he said that he preferred individual rebellion to waiting to see the world upturned before doing anything.
Personally I have never had anything against this. On the contrary. Rebellion is the first step. It is the essential condition for burning our bridges behind us, and even if it does not cut the bonds that tie us to society and power with a thousand thick ropes in the form of family, morals, work, obeying the law, at least it weakens them. But I am convinced that this is not enough. I believe it is necessary to go further and think about the possibilities of giving more organisational strength to one’s actions, so that rebellion can transform itself into a project aimed at generalised insurrection.
This second step obviously does not appeal to many comrades. And, feeling such efforts to be beyond them, they underestimate the problem or, worse still, criticise those who do spend time and effort on the question of organisation.
Here we will try to provide a few elements to enable us to examine the organisational aspect of insurrectionalist anarchism in some depth. In particular, the problem of the affinity group, informality, self-organisation of struggles, base nuclei and the co-ordination of these nuclei (anarchists and non-anarchists) with affinity groups (of anarchists), through informal organisation.
As you can see, the question implies complex problems of method, and this means understanding certain concepts that are often distorted within the context of insurrectionalism. We must therefore give them our full attention in order to get rid of some of the preconceived ideas that often limit our vision without our realising it.
This introductory note will become more schmetic as it takes a look at these key concepts. The text itself will be more articulate, but would probably be difficult to follow without first becoming familiar with these concepts.
An anarchist group can be composed of perfect strangers. I have often gone into anarchist meeting rooms in Italy and elsewhere and hardly known anybody. One’s mere presence in such a place, the attitudes, the jargon and the way one presents oneself, the level of discussion and statements impregnated with basic orthodox anarchist ideology, are such that any anarchist feels at ease within a short space of time and communicates with the other comrades as well as possible, to their reciprocal satisfaction.
It is not my intention to speak of the ways that an anarchist group can be organised here. There are many, and each chooses their own comrades as they think best. But there is a particular way of forming an anarchist group that puts real or presumed affinity among all the participants before anything else. Now, this affinity is not something that can be found in a declaration of principles, a glorious past, or a history of ‘militancy’, no matter how far back this goes in time. Affinity is acquired by having knowledge of each other. That is why one sometimes believes one has affinity with a comrade, then discovers that that is not actually so, and viceversa. An affinity group is therefore a melting pot in which such relations can mature and consolidate.
But because perfection is a thing of angels, even affinity needs to be considered with a certain mental acumen and not be accepted supinely as the panacea for all our weaknesses. I can only discover that I have affinity with someone if I reveal myself to that person, do away with all the affectations that normally protect me like a second skin, harder and tougher than the first. And this cannot simply come about through small talk, me chattering about myself then listening to the other’s tales, but must come about in things that are done together. In other words, it must come about in action. When we do things, we unconsciously send out tiny signals that are far more revealing than words. It is from these exchanges that we create the conditions that are necessary in order for us to gain knowledge of each other.
If the group’s activity is not doing for the sake of it so as to grow numerically, but has the qualitative aim of comrades being aware of each other and feeling at one with each other, sharing the tension towards action and the desire to transform the world, then this is an affinity group. If it is not, the search for affinity will be no more than the search for a shoulder to lean on.
Affinity is therefore the knowledge that comrades acquire of each other, which is gained through action in the realisation of one’s ideas. A glance backwards to allow my comrades to see who I am is reabsorbed by looking forward together into a future in which we build our common project. In other words, we decide to intervene in specific struggles and see what we are capable of. These two moments, the first, let us say, of the knowledge of the individual, and the second, the projectual one of the knowledge of the group intertwine and constitute affinity, allowing the group to be considered to all effects an ‘affinity group’.
The resulting condition is not fixed in time once and for all. It moves, develops, regresses and modifies during the course of the various struggles, drawing from them so as to grow both theoretically and practically. It is not a monolithic entity. Decisions are not made vertically. There is no faith to be sworn upon nor commandments to believe in, in times of doubt or fear. Everything is discussed within the group throughout the course of the struggle, everything is reconsidered from the start, even if solid, eternal points might seem to exist already.
The affinity group’s task is to elaborate a particular project, the best place to study and examine the conditions one decides to operate in. It might seem that organisations of synthesis are better instruments for intervening in struggles than affinity groups, but the vast range of interests held by anarchist structures of synthesis is only apparent. In fact, in an organisation of synthesis, groups are allocated tasks at congresses, and although they are free to interest themselves in all the problems that characterise this society divided into classes, basically only operate according to what has been dictated by the congress. Moreover, being linked to programmes and principles that have been accepted once and for all, they are unable to make independent decisions and end up complying to the rigid limitations fixed by the organisation in congress. The latter’s role is to safeguard the organisation itself, in other words to ‘disturb’ power as little as possible and avoid being ‘outlawed’. The affinity group avoids such limitations, sometimes easily, sometimes only thanks to the courage and decision of the comrades that make it up. Of course, such structures cannot give courage to those who lack it. It cannot suggest attack unless each individual is already a rebel in his or her soul. It cannot go into action if people are only prepared to think at the level of an afternoon chat.
Once the problems concerning what is to be acted upon have been gone into, the necessary documentation has been found and analyses worked out, the affinity group goes into action. This is one of the fundamental characteristics of this kind of anarchist structure. It does not wait for problems to appear like a spider in the middle of a web. It looks for them and seeks a solution, which must obviously be accepted by the excluded who are bearing the brunt of the problem. But in order to make a proposition to a social reality that is suffering some specific form of aggression by power in a given area, it is necessary to be physically present among the excluded of that area and have a real awareness of the problems involved.
The affinity group therefore moves in the direction of local intervention, facing one particular problem and creating all the necessary psychological and practical conditions, both individually and collectively. The problem can then be faced with the characteristics and methods of insurrectionalism which are self-organisation, permanent conflictuality and attack.
One single affinity group cannot necessarily carry out such an intervention on its own. Often, at least according to the (few and controversial) experiences to date, the nature of the problem and complexity of intervention, including the extent of the area as well as the means required to develop the project and the ideas and needs of the people involved, require something more. Hence the need to keep in contact with other affinity groups so as to increase the number of comrades and find the means and ideas suited to the complexity and dimension of the problem that is being faced.
That is how informal organisation originates.
Various anarchist affinity groups can come together to give life to an informal organisation aimed at facing a problem that is too complex for one group alone. Of course, all the groups participating in the informal organisation must more or less agree with the intervention and participate in both the actions and ideas.
Affinity groups often develop informal relations that become constant as they meet regularly to prepare for specific struggles or—better still—during the course of these struggles. This facilitates the circulation of information about the latter and the projects that are in preparation, as well as signs from certain areas of the world of the excluded.
An informal organisation ‘functions’ quite simply. It has no name as it does not aim to grow numerically. There are no fixed structures (apart from the single affinity groups, each one of which operates quite autonomously), otherwise the term ‘informal’ would be meaningless. It is not formally ‘constituted’, there are no congresses but only simple meetings from time to time (preferably during the course of the struggles themselves). There are no programmes, only the common experience of insurrectional struggles and the methods that distinguish them: self-organisation, permanent conflictuality and attack.
The aims of the informal organisation are conferred on it by the individual affinity groups that make it up. In the few experiences that have materialised it has been a question of one specific objective, for example the destruction of the Cruise missile base in Comiso in 1982-1983. But there could also be more than one intervention and the informal organisation would make it possible for single groups to intervene in these different situations. For example they could alternate when it became necessary to be in one place for a considerable length of time (in Comiso groups stayed in the area for two years). Another aim could be to provide both analytical and practical means, and provide the financial support that the individual group might require.
The primary function of the informal organisation is to make known the various affinity groups and the comrades that make them up. If you think about it, this is still a question of a search for affinity, this time at a different level. Here the search for affinity is intensified by the project—which does not exclude the ever-increasing knowledge of the single individual—and comes about at the level of more than one group. One deduces from this that the informal organisation is also an affinity group, based on all the affinity groups that make it up.
The above considerations, which we have been developing over the past fifteen years, should have been of some use to comrades in their understanding the nature of informal organisation. This does not seem to be the case. In my opinion, the most serious misunderstanding comes from the latent desire of many of us to flex our muscles. We want to give ourselves a strong organisational structure because that seems to be the only way to fight a power structure that is strong and muscular. According to these comrades the first characteristic that such a structure should have is that it be specific and robust, must last in time and be clearly visible so as to constitute a kind of light amidst the struggles of the excluded—a light, a guide, a point of reference.
Alas! We do not share this opinion. All the economic and social analyses of post-industrial capitalism show how power would swallow up such a strong, visible structure in one gulp. The disappearance of the centrality of the working class (at least what was once considered such) means that an attack carried out by a rigid, visible structure would be impracticable. If such structures are not simply destroyed on impact, they would just be co-opted into the ambit of power in order to recuperate and recycle the most irreducible elements.
So long as the affinity group continues to look inwards, it will be no more than a few comrades giving themselves their own rules and respecting them. By looking inwards I do not just mean staying inside one’s anarchist place, limiting oneself to the usual discussions among the initiated, but also responding to the various deadlines of power and repression with declarations and documents. In that case the affinity group would only differ from other anarchist groups superficially: ‘political’ choices, ways of interpreting the various responses to the power structure’s claim to regulate our lives and those of all the excluded.
The profound sense of being a ‘different’ structure, i.e. one based on a way of organising that is quite different to all other anarchist groups—in a word, on affinity—only becomes operative when it sets out a project of specific struggle. And what characterises this project more than anything is the presence of a considerable number of excluded, of people—in a word, the mass—bearing the brunt of repression that the project is addressing with recourse to insurrectionalist methods.
The essential element in the insurrectional project is therefore mass participation. And, as we started off from the condition of affinity among the single anarchist groups participating in it, it is also an essential element of this affinity itself. It would be no more than mere camaraderie d’elite if it were to remain circumscribed to the reciprocal search for deeper personal knowledge between comrades.
But it would be nonsense to consider trying to make other people become anarchists and suggest that they enter our groups during the struggle. Not only would it be nonsense, it would be a horrible ideological forcing of things that would upturn the whole meaning of affinity groups and the eventual informal organisation that might ensue in order to face the specific repressive attack.
But here we are faced with the need to create organisational structures that are capable of regrouping the excluded in such a way as to begin the attack on repression. So we come to the need to give life to autonomous base nuclei, which can obviously give themselves any other name that indicates the concept of self-organisation.
We have now reached the crucial point of the insurrectional project: the constitution of autonomous base nuclei (we are using this term here to simplify things).
The essential, visible and immediately comprehensible characteristic of the latter is that they are composed of both anarchists and non-anarchists.
The more difficult points reside elsewhere however, and on the few occasions of experimentation these have turned out to be a source of considerable misunderstanding. First of all, the fact that they are structures in the quantitative sense. If they are such—and in fact they are—then this characteristic needs to be clarified. They are actually points of reference, not fixed structures where people can count themselves through all the procedures of established membership (card-carrying, payment of dues, supplying services, etc). The only aim of the base nuclei is struggle. They operate like lungs in the respiratory system, swelling when the struggle intensifies and reducing in size when it weakens, to swell again when the next clash occurs. During quiet spells, between one involvement and another—and here by involvement we mean any aspect of struggle, even simply handing out a leaflet, participating in a public meeting, but also squatting a building or sabotaging one of the instruments of power—the nucleus acts as a zonal reference, a sign of the presence of an informal organisational structure.
To see autonomous base nuclei as needing to grow quantitatively would be to turn them into union-style organisms, i.e. something like the Cobas in Italy, who defend workers’ rights in the various productive sectors through a wide range of activities such as claiming and defence of those they represent. The more delegates there are, the louder the voice of the claimant. The autnonomous base nucleus does not have delegates, it does not propose struggles based on wide objectives such as the defence of jobs, wage increases, or safeguarding health in the factory, etc. The base nucleus exists for the one objective that was decided upon at the start. This can also be a claim of some kind, not made through the representative method of delegation, but faced using direct methods of immediate struggle such as constant unannounced attacks and the blunt refusal of all the political forces that claim to represent anyone or anything.
Those who form the base nuclei should therefore not expect some complex level of support to cover a wide range of needs. They must understand that this is not a question of some union-style defence organisation, but is an instrument of struggle against one specific objective, and is only valid if the initial decision to have recourse to insurrectional methods stands firm. Participation in the nuclei is quite spontaneous, as there are no benefits other than the specific, exclusive one of strength and organisation concerning the objective that has been chosen together, and attacking it. So, it is quite logical not to expect such organisms to develop a high numerical or (even less) stable, composition. In the preparatory phase of the struggle those who identify with the objective, agree with it and are prepared to put themselves at risk, are few. When the struggle is underway and the first results begin to appear, the hesitant and weak will also join in and the nucleus will swell, only for these last-minute participants to disappear later on. This is quite natural and should not worry us or make us see this instrument of mass organisation in a negative light.
Another common area of incomprehension is the short lifespan of the autonomous base nucleus itself. It comes to an end upon reaching the objective that had been decided (or through common agreement concerning the impossibility of reaching it). Many ask themselves: if the nuclei ‘also’ function as a regrouping point of reference, why not keep them in place for possible use in some future struggle? Here we come back to the concept of ‘informality’ again. Any structure that carries on in time beyond its original aim, sooner or later turns into a stable structure whose original purpose is distorted into the new and apparently legitimate one of quantitative growth. It grows in strength in order to reach the multiplicity of goals—each one interesting enough in itself—that appear on the nebulous horizon of the exploited. As soon as the informal structure plants roots in a new, stable form, individuals suited to managing the latter will appear on the scene: always the same ones, the most capable, with plenty of time to spare. Sooner or later the circle will close around the so-called revolutionary anarchist structure, which by now will have found its sole aim, its own survival. This is precisely what we see happening when such an organisational structure, albeit anarchist and revolutionary, establishes itself: it becomes a rarefied form of power that attracts all the comrades who want to do good for the people and so on, etc, etc.—all with the best will in the world, of course.
One last organisational element, which is necessary at times, is the ‘coordination’ of autonomous base nuclei. The coordinating structure is also informal and is composed of various representatives of the base nuclei. Whereas the individual nuclei, given their function as ‘lungs’ can be informal to the point of not even having any fixed meeting place (because a nucleus can arrange to meet anywhere), this cannot be so for the coordinating body. If a struggle—still circumscribed to the specific question that started the project—lasts for a considerable length of time and covers a fairly wide area, it is necessary to find a place for the various activities of the base nuclei to coordinate themselves.
The presence of anarchist affinity groups is not directly visible in the coordination, and this can also be said concerning the informal organisation. Of course anarchists are present in all the various base nuclei, but this is not the ideal place for anarchist propaganda in the classic sense of the word. The first thing to be done, both within the coordination and the individual nuclei, is to analyse the problem, the objective to be reached, then look at the insurrectional means to be used in the struggle. The task of comrades is to participate in the project and go into the means and methods to be employed, along with everyone else involved. Although this might sound simple here, it turns out to be far more complicated in practice.
The function of the ‘co-ordination of the autonomous base nuclei’ is therefore that of linking up the struggles. Here we have only one thing to suggest (absolutely indigestable for anarchists, but quite simple for anyone who is not an anarchist): the need, in the case of a mass attack against a given structure of power, to decide upon individual tasks before the attack takes place, i.e. to agree on what needs to be done down to the minutest detail. Many imagine such occasions of struggle to be an orgy of spontaneity: the objective is there in front of everyone, all you need to do is go ahead and rout out the forces protecting it and destroy them. I am putting things in these terms here, although I know that many will have a hundred different ways of seeing things, but the essence does not change. All of the participants must have a precise idea of what to do, it being a question of a struggle taking place in a given area that will have to overcome specific armed resistance. Now, if only a few people know what to do the resulting confusion will be the same, if not worse, than if no one does at all.
A plan is therefore necessary. There have been instances where it was necessary to have an armed military plan simply to hand out a leaflet (for example during the insurrection of Reggio Calabria). But can this plan really be made available to everybody, even just a few days before the attack? I do not think so. For reasons of security. On the other hand, details of the plan of attack must be available to all the participants. One deduces that not everybody can participate in drawing it up, but only those who in some way or other happen to be known either for their participation in the autonomous base nuclei, or because they belong to the affinity groups adhering to the coordination. This is to avoid infiltration by police and secret services, something that is more than likely on such occasions. People who are not known must be guaranteed by those who are. This might be unpleasant, but it is unavoidable.
The problem gets complicated when the project in course is known to many comrades who could be interested in participating in one of the actions of attack we are talking about. In this case, the influx would be considerable (in the case of Comiso, in the days of the attempted occupation, about 300 comrades came from all over Italy and beyond) and the need to avoid the presence of infiltrators becomes far more serious. Comrades turning up at the last minute might not know about the action in course, and will not be able to understand what is going on. In the same way, all those who decide not to accept the above verification will end up feeling left out.
And finally two last points that merit a concise, linear explanation: why we consider the insurrectional methodology and projectuality to be the most suitable means in the revolutionary clash today, and what we think can come from the use of insurrectional methods in a situation that is not insurrection in act.
As far as the first question is concerned, an analysis of social and economic reality today shows how structures of synthesis reproduce all the defects of the political parties of the past, great or small, making them ineffective or only useful to the restructuring of power.
To the second question, one could reply that it is impossible to say in advance how the conditions leading to insurrection will develop. Any occasion might be the right one, even if it looks like an insignificant experiment. But there is more. To develop a project of insurrectional struggle starting from one specific problem, i.e. a precise manifestation of power to the detriment of a considerable mass of excluded, is more than a simple ‘experiment’. It is insurrection in act, without wanting to exaggerate something that starts off as something small, and will probably remain so. What is important is the method, and anarchists still have a long way to go in that direction, otherwise we will remain unprepared in the case of the many insurrections of whole peoples that have taken place to date and continue to do so.
Basically this book is a contribution to the great problem ‘What is to be done?’.
Catania, 21 November 1998.


Anarchists have an ambivalent relationship with the question of organisation.
On the one hand there are those who accept a permanent structure with a well-defined programme and means at their disposal (even if only a few), that is divided up into commissions, while on the other there is a refusal of any stable relationship, even in the short term.
Classical anarchist federations and individualists are the two extremes of an escape from the reality of the clash. The comrade that belongs to an organised structure hopes that a revolutionary transformation will result from a growth in numbers, so he holds the cheap illusion that the structure is capable of controlling any authoritarian involution or any concession to the logic of the party. The individualist comrade is solicitous of his own ego and fears any form of contamination, any concession to others or any active collaboration, believing such things to be giving in and compromising.
This turns out to be the natural consequence, even for comrades who consider the problem of specific organisation and the federation of groups critically.
The organisation is thus born before any struggles take place and ends up adapting to the perspective of a certain kind of struggle which—at least one supposes—is to make the organisation itself grow. In this way the structure has a vicarious relationship with the repressive decisions of power, which for various reasons dominate the scene of the class struggle. Resistance and the self-organisation of the exploited are seen as molecular elements to be grasped here and there, but only become meaningful on entering and becoming part of the specific structure or allow themselves to be regrouped into mass organisms under the (more or less direct) leadership of the latter.
In this way, one is always waiting. It is as though we are all in provisional liberty. We scrutinise the attitudes of power and keep ready to react (always within the limits of the possible) against the repression that strikes us, hardly ever taking the initiative, setting out our interventions in first person, overturning the logic of the loser. Anybody that recognises themselves in structured organisations expects to see their number of members increase. Anyone that works within mass structures (for example in the anarcho-syndicalist optic) is waiting for today’s small demands to turn into great revolutionary results in the future. Those who deny all that but also spend their time waiting, who knows what for, are often stuck in resentment against all and everything, sure of their own ideas without realising that they are no more than the flip side of the organisational and programmatical stance.
We believe that it is possible to do something else.
We start off from the consideration that it is necessary to establish contact with other comrades in order to pass to action. We are not in a condition to act alone as long as our struggle is reduced to platonic protest, as bloody and terrible as you like, but still platonic. If we want to act on reality incisively there must be many of us.
How can we find our comrades? We have cast aside any question of programmes and platforms in advance, throwing them out once and for all. So what is left?
Affinities and divergence exist among anarchists. I am not talking about personal affinity here, i.e. sentimental aspects that often bring comrades together (in the first place love, friendship, sympathy, etc.), I am talking about a deepening of reciprocal knowledge. The more this deepening grows, the greater the affinity can become. In the case of the contrary, divergences can turn out to be so great as to make any action impossible. So the solution lies in a growth in reciprocal knowledge, developed through a projectual examination of the various problems that the class struggle presents us with.
There are a whole range of problems that we want to face, and usually care is taken not examine them in their entirety. We often limit ourselves to questions that are close at hand because they are the ones that affect us most (repression, prison, etc.).
But it is precisely our capacity to examine the problem that we want to face that leads to the best way to create conditions for affinity. This can obviously never be absolute or total (except in very rare cases), but can be sufficient to create relations disposed to acting.
If we restrict our intervention to the most obvious and superficial aspects of what we consider the essential problems to be, we will never be able to discover the affinity we desire. We will constantly be wandering around at the mercy of sudden, unsuspected contradictions that could upset any project of intervention in reality. I insist on pointing out that affinity should not be confused with sentiment. We can recognise affinity with comrades that we do not particularly like and on the other hand like comrades with whom we do not have any affinity.
Among other things, it is important not to let oneself be hindered in one’s action by false problems such as a presumed differentiation between feelings and political motivations. From what has been said above it might seem that feelings should be kept separate from political analysis, so we could, for example, love someone and not share their ideas at all and vice versa. That is roughly possible, no matter how lacerating it might be. The personal aspect (or that of feelings if you like) must be included in the above concept of going into the range of problems, as instinctively succumbing to our impulses often signifies a lack of reflection and analysis, or not being able to admit to simply being possessed by god.
From what we have said there now starts to emerge, even nebulously, a first approximation of our way of considering the anarchist group: a number of comrades linked by a common affinity.
The more the project that these comrades build together is gone into, the greater their affinity will be. It follows that real organisation, the effective (and not fictitious) capacity to act together, i.e. to find each other, make analyses and pass to action, is in relation to the affinity reached and has nothing to do with more or less camouflaged monograms, programmes, platforms, flags or parties.
The affinity group is therefore a specific organisation that comes together around common affinities. These cannot be identical for all, but different comrades will have infinite affinity structures, all the more varied the wider the effort of analytical quest reached.
It follows that all these comrades will also tend towards quantitative growth, which is however limited and not the main aim of the activity. Numerical development is indispensable for action and it is also a test of the breadth of the analyses that one is developing and its capacity to gradually discover affinity with a greater number of comrades.
It follows that the organism thus born will end up giving itself means of intervention in common. First, an instrument of debate necessary for analysis that is capable, as far as possible, of supplying indications on a wide range of problems and, at the same time, of constituting a point of reference for the verification—at a personal or collective level—of the affinities or divergencies that arise.
Lastly it should be said that although the element that holds a group of this kind together is undoubtedly affinity, its propulsive aspect is action. To limit oneself to the first element and leave the other in second place would result in relationships withering in Byzantian perfectionism.

Informal organisation

First let us distinguish the informal anarchist organisation from the anarchist organisation of synthesis. Considerable clarification will emerge from this distinction.
What is an anarchist organisation of synthesis? It is an organisation based on groups or individuals that are more or less in constant relation with each other, that culminates in periodical congresses. During these open meetings basic theoretical analyses are discussed, a program is prepared and tasks are shared out covering a whole range of interventions in the social field. The organisation thus sets itself up as a point of reference, like an entity that is capable of synthesizing the struggles that are going on in reality of the class clash. The various commissions of this organisational model intervene in different struggles (as single comrades or groups) and, by intervening, give their contribution in first person without however losing site of the theoretical and practical orientation of the organisation as a whole, as decided at the most recent congress.
When this kind of organisation develops itself fully (as happened in Spain in ’36) it begins to dangerously resemble a party. Synthesis becomes control. Of course, in moments of slack, this involution is less visible and might even seem an insult, but at other times it turns out to be more evident.
In substance, in the organisation of synthesis (always specific and anarchist), a nucleus of specialists works out proposals at both the theoretical and ideological level, adapting them as far as possible to the program that is roughly decided upon at the periodic congresses. The shift away from this program can also be considerable (after all, anarchists would never admit to too slavish an adherence to anything), but when this occurs care is taken to return within the shortest possible time to the line previously decided upon.
This organisation’s project is therefore that of being present in various situations: antimilitarism, nuclear power, unions, prisons, ecology, interventions in living areas, unemployment, schools, etc. This presence is either by direct intervention or through participaton in interventions managed by other comrades or organisations (anarchist or not).
It becomes clear that participation aimed at bringing the struggle to within the project of synthesis cannot be autonomous. It cannot really adapt to the conditions of the struggle or collaborate effectively in a clear plan with the other revolutionary forces. Everything must either go through the ideological filter of synthesis or comply with the conditions approved earlier during the congress.
This situation, which is not always as rigid as it might seem here, carries the ineliminable tendency of organisations of synthesis to drag struggles to the level of the base, proposing caution and using contrivances aimed at redimensioning any flight forward, any objective that is too open or means that might be dangerous.
For example, if a group belonging to this kind of organisation (of synthesis, but always anarchist and specific) were to adhere to a structure that is struggling, let us say, against repression, it would be forced to consider the actions proposed by this structure in the light of the analyses that had roughly been approved at the congress. The structure would either have to accept these analyses, or the group belonging to the organisation of synthesis would stop its collaboration (if it is in a minority) or impose the expulsion (in fact, even if not with a precise motion) of those proposing different methods of struggle.
Some people might not like it, but that is exactly how things work.
One might ask oneself why on earth the proposal of the group belonging to the organisation of synthesis must by definition always be more backward, i.e. in the rearguard, or more cautious than others concerning possible actions of attack against the structures of repression and social consensus.
Why is that? The answer is simple. The specific anarchist organisation of synthesis, which, as we have seen, culminates in periodic congresses has growth in numbers as its basic aim. It needs an operative force that must grow. Not to infinity exactly, but almost. In the case of the contrary it would not have the capacity to intervene in the various struggles, nor even be able to carry out its own principle task: proceding to synthesis in one single point of reference.
Now, an organisation that has growth in members as its main aim must use instruments that guarantee proselytism and pluralism. It cannot take a clear position concerning any specific problem, but must always find a middle way, a political road that upsets the smallest number and turns out to be acceptable to most.
The correct position concerning some problems, particularly repression and prisons, is often the most dangerous, and no group can put the organisation they belong to at risk without first agreeing with the other member groups. But that can only happen in congress, or at least at an extraordinary meeting, and we all know that on such occasions it is always the most moderate opinion that prevails, certainly not the most advanced.
So, ineluctably, the presence of the organisation of synthesis in actual struggles, struggles that reach the essence of the class struggle, turns into a brake and control (often involuntarily, but it is still a question of control).
The informal organisation does not present such problems. Affinity groups and comrades that see themselves in an informal kind of projectuality come together in action, certainly not by adhering to a program that has been fixed at a congress. They realise the project themselves, in their analyses and actions. It can occasionally have a point of reference in a paper or a series of meetings, but only in order to facilitate things, whereas it has nothing to do with congresses and such like.
The comrades who recognise themselves in an informal organisation are automatically a part of it. They keep in contact with the other comrades through a paper or by other means, but, more important, they do so by participating in the various actions, demonstrations, encounters, etc., that take place from time to time. The main verification and analysis therefore comes about during moments of struggle. To begin with these might simply be moments of theoretical verification, turning into something more later on.
In an informal organisation there is no question of synthesis. There is no desire to be present in all the different situations and even less to formulate a project that takes the struggles into the depths of a programme that has been approved in advance.
The only constant points of reference are insurrectional methods: in other words self-organisation of struggles, permanent conflictuality and attack.

The Revolutionary Project

It is not easy to grasp the various aspects of revolutionary activity. It is even more difficult to grasp everything in terms of a complex project that has its own intrinsic logic and operative articulation. That is what I mean by revolutionary work.
We all, or nearly all, agree as to who the enemy is. In the vagueness of the definition we include elements from our personal experience (joy and suffering) as well as our social situation and our culture. We are convinced that we know everything that is required in order to draw up a map of enemy territory and identify objectives and responsibility. Times change of course, but we don’t take any notice. We make the necessary adjustments and carry on.
Obscure in our way of proceeding, our surroundings also obscure, we light up our path with the miserable candle of ideology and stride forward.
The tragic fact is that things around us change, and often rapidly. The terms of the class relationship are constantly widening and narrowing in a contradictory situation. They reveal themselves one day only to conceal themselves the next, as the certainties of yesteryear precipitate into the darkness of the present.
Anyone who maintains a constant if not immobile pole is not seen as what they are: honest navigators in the sea of class confusion, but are often taken to be stubborn chanters of out of date, abstract, ideological slogans. Anyone who persists in seeing the enemy inside the uniform, behind the factory, at the ministry, school, the church, etc., is considered suspect. There is a desire to substitute harsh reality with abstract relations and relativity. So the State ends up becoming a way of seeing things and individuals, with the result that, being an idea, it cannot be fought. The desire to fight it in abstract in the hope that its material reality, men and institutions will precipitate into the abyss of logical contradiction, is a tragic illusion. This is what usually happens at times like this when there is a lull both in the struggle and in proposals for action.
No one with any self respect would admit to the State’s having any positive function. Hence the logical conclusion that it has a negative one, i.e. that it damages some to the benefit of others. But the State is not simply the idea State, it is also the ‘thing State’, and this ‘thing’ is composed of the policeman and the police station, the minister and the ministry (including the building where the ministry has its offices), the priest and the church (including the actual place where the cult of lies and swindling takes place), the banker and the bank, the speculator and his premises, right down to the individual spy and his more or less comfortable flat in the suburbs. Either the State is this articulated whole or it is nothing, a mere abstraction, a theoretical model that it would be absolutely impossible to attack and defeat.
Of course, the State also exists inside us. It is therefore also i d e a. But this being an idea is subordinate to the physical places and persons that realise it. An attack on the idea of State (including that which we harbour inside us, often without realising it) is only possible if we attack it physically, in its historical realisation standing there before us in flesh and blood.
What do we mean by attack? Things are solid. Men defend themselves, take measures. And the choice of the means of attack is also open to confusion. We can (or rather must) attack with ideas, oppose critique to critique, logic to logic, analysis to analysis. But that would be a pointless exercise if it were to come about in isolation, cut off from direct intervention on the things and men of the State (and capital of course). So, in relation to what we said earlier, attack not only with ideas but also with weapons. I see no other way out. To limit oneself to an ideological duel would merely increase the enemy’s strength.
Theoretical examination therefore, alongside and at the same time as practical attack.
Moreover, it is precisely in the attack that theory transforms itself and practice expresses its theoretical foundations. To limit oneself to theory would be to remain in the field of idealism typical of the bourgeois philosophy that has been feeding the coffers of the dominant class for hundreds of years, as well as the concentration camps of the experimenters of both Right and Left. It makes no difference if this disguises itself as historical materialism, it is still a question of the old phagocytic idealism. Libertarian materialism must necessarily overcome the separation between idea and deed. If you identify the enemy you must strike, and strike adequately. Not so much in the sense of an optimal level of destruction, as that of the general situation of the enemy’s defence, its possibilities of survival and the increasing danger it represents.
If you strike it is necessary to destroy part of their structure, thus making their functioning as a whole more difficult. All this, if considered in isolation, runs the risk of seeming insignificant. It does not manage, that is, to convert itself into something real. For this transformation to come about it is necessary for the attack to be accompanied by a critical examination of the enemy’s ideas, ideas that are part of its repressive and oppressive action.
But does this reciprocal conversion of practical action into theoretical and theoretical into practical come about as something imposed artificially? For example, in the sense of carrying out an action then printing a fine document claiming it. The ideas of the enemy are not criticised or gone into in this way. They are crystallised within the ideological process, appearing to be massively in opposition to the ideas of the attacker, transferred into something quite ideological. Few things are as hateful to me as this way of proceeding.The place for the c o n v e r s i o n of theory into practice and vice versa, is the p r o j e c t. It is the project as an articulated whole that gives practical action a different significance, makes it a critique of the ideas of the enemy. It derives from this that the work of the revolutionary is essentially the elaboration and realisation of a project.
But before discovering what a r e v o 1 u t i o n a r y p r o j e c t might be, it is necessary to agree on what the revolutionary must possess in order to be able to elaborate this project of theirs. First of all courage. Not the banal courage of the physical clash and attack on the enemy trenches, but the more difficult one, the courage of one’s ideas. Once you think in a certain way, once you see things and people, the world and its affairs in a certain way, you m u s t have the courage to carry this through without compromise or half measures, without pity or illusion. To stop half way would be a crime or, if you like, is absolutely normal. But revolutionaries are not ‘normal’ people. They must go beyond. Beyond normality, but also beyond exceptionally, which is an aristocratic way of considering diversity Beyond good, but also beyond evil, as someone would have said.
They cannot wait for others to do what needs to be done. They cannot delegate to others what their conscience dictates to them. They cannot wait peacefully to do what others itching to destroy what oppresses them like themselves would do if only they decided, if only they were to awake from their torpor and from allowing themselves to be swindled, far away from the chatter and confusion.
So they must set to work, and work hard. Work to supply themselves with the means necessary to give some basis to their convictions.
And here we come to the second thing: constancy. The strength to continue, persevere, insist, even when others are discouraged and everything seems difficult.
It is impossible to procure the means one requires without constancy. The revolutionary needs c u 1 t u r a 1 means, i.e. analyses and basic common knowledge. But studies that seem very far from revolutionary practice are also indispensable to action. Languages, economy, philosophy, mathematics, the natural sciences, chemistry, social science and so on. This knowledge should not be seen as sectarian specialisation, nor should it be the dilettante exercises of an eccentric spirit dipping into this and that, desirous of knowledge but forever ignorant due to the failure to possess a method of learning. And then the technics: writing correctly, (in a way that reaches one’s objective), speaking to others (using all the techniques on the subject), which are not easy to learn and are very important, studying (this is also a technique), remembering (memory can be improved, it does not have to be left to our more or less natural disposition), the manipulation of objects (which many consider a mysterious gift but instead is technique and can be learned and perfected) and others still.
The search to acquire these means is unending. It is the revolutionary’s task to work continually to perfect these means and extend them to other fields.
Then there is a third thing, creativity. There can be no doubt that all of the above means would be useless, simply specialisation as an end in itself, were they not to produce new experiences, continual modification in the means as a whole and the possibility of putting them to use. And it is here that it becomes possible to grasp the great force of creativity, i.e. the fruit of all the preceding efforts. Logical processes become no more than a basic, unimportant element, whereas a different, total new one emerges: i n t u i t i o n.
So now the problem comes to be seen differently. Nothing will be as it was before. Numerous connections and comparisons, inferences and deductions are made without our realising it. All the means in our possession begin to vibrate and come alive. Things of the past along with new understanding, old concepts, ideas and tensions, that had not fully been understood become clear. An incredible mixture, itself a creative event, which must be submitted to the discipline of method in order for us to produce something, limited if you like, but immediately perceivable. Unfortunately the destiny of creativity is that its immense initial explosive potential (which becomes something miserable in the absence of the basic means mentioned above) must be returned to the realm of technique in the narrow sense of word. It must go back to becoming word, pages, figures, sounds, form, objects. Otherwise, outside the scheme of this prison of communication, it would be dispersive and abandoned, lost in an immense fathomless sea.
And now one last thing, materiality. The capacity, that is, to grasp the real material foundations of what surrounds us. For example, we require suitable means in order to understand and act, and that is not so simple. The question of means seems clear, but always leads to misunderstanding. The question of money, for example. It is obvious that without money one cannot do what one wants. A revolutionary cannot ask for State financing to develop projects aimed at its destruction. They cannot for both ethical reasons and a logical one (that the State would not give it to them). Nor can they seriously believe that with small personal subscriptions they will be able to do everything they want (and consider necessary). Nor can they simply continue to complain about lack of money or resign themselves to the fact that some things just can’t be done for that reason. Even less can they adopt the stance of those who, being penniless, feel their conscience to be at rest and, stating they have no money, do not participate in the common effort but wait for others to do so in their place. Of course, it is clear that if a comrade does not have any money they cannot be held to pay for what they cannot afford. But have they really done everything they can to procure some for themselves? Or is there only one way to get hold of money: go begging for it, letting oneself be exploited by a boss? I don’t think so.
In the arc of the possible ways of being, including personal tendencies and cultural acquisitions, two extreme kinds of behaviour polarise, each of which is limited and penalising. On the one hand there are those who accentuate the theoretical aspect, on the other, those who immerse themselves up in the practical one. These two poles hardly ever exist in the ‘pure state’, but are often accentuated enough to become obstacles and impediments.
When exasperated to infinity the great possibilities that theoretical study gives the revolutionary remain dead letters, becoming elements of contradiction and impediment. Some people can only see life in theoretical terms. They are not necessarily men of letters or scholars (for the latter this would be quite normal), but could be any proletarian, an emarginated person that grew up in the streets coming to blows. This search for a resolution through the subtlety of reason transforms itself into disorganic anxiety, a tumultuous desire to understand that invariably turns into pure confusion, lowering the primacy of the brain that they are trying to hold on to at any cost. This exasperation reduces their critical capacity to put order in their ideas, widening their creativity but only in the pure, one might say wild, state, supplying images and judgement devoid of any organisational method that might make them utilizable. This person lives constantly in a kind of ‘trance’, eats badly, relates to others with difficulty. They become easily suspicious, when not anxious to be ‘understood’, and for this reason tend to accumulate an incredible hotchpotch of contradictory thoughts with no guiding thread. The solution for getting out of the labyrinth would be action. But according to the model of polarisation we are looking at, this would have to be submitted to the dominion of the brain, to the ‘logic’ of reason. So, the action is killed, put off to infinity or lived badly because not ‘understood’, not brought back to the pre-eminence of thought.
On the other hand, there is endless doing, the passing of one’s life away in things to be done. Today, tomorrow. Day after day. Perhaps in hope of a particular day that will see an end to this putting off to infinity. Meanwhile no search for a moment’s reflection that is not exclusively linked to things be done, or very little at least. Devoting all one’s time to doing kills in the same way as devoting it all to thinking does. The contradictions of the individual are not resolved by action as an end in itself. For the revolutionary things are even worse. The classic flattery that individuals use to convince themselves of the validity and importance of the action they wish to undertake is not enough for the revolutionary. The only expedient one can have recourse to is to put things off to infinity, to better days when it will no longer be necessary to dedicate oneself ‘exclusively’ to doing and there will be time to think. But how can one think without the means to do so? Perhaps thought is automatic activity that one slips into when one stops doing? Certainly not. In the same way as doing is not automatic activity that one slips into when one stops thinking. The possession of a few things then, courage, constancy, creativity, materiality, can allow the revolutionary to bring the means they possess to fruition and build their project.
And this concerns both the analytical and practical aspects. Once again a dichotomy appears that needs to be seen in its inconsistency, i.e. as it is usually intended by the dominant logic.
No project can be just one or other of these aspects. Each analysis has a different angle and development according to the organisational proposal, which needs to be assisted by other, similar analyses.
The revolutionary who is unable to master the analytical and organisational part of his project will always be at the mercy of events, constantly turning up after things have happened, never before.
The aim of the project, in fact, is to s e e in order to f o r e s e e. The project is a prosthesis like any other of man’s intellectual elaborations. It allows action, makes it possible, prevents it from being extinguished in pointless discussions and improvisation. But it is not the ‘cause’ of action, it contains no element of justification in this sense. If correctly intended, the project itself is action, whereas the latter is itself a project, becomes fully part of it, makes it grow, enriches and transforms it.
A lack of awareness of these fundamental premises of the work of the revolutionary often leads to confusion and frustration. Many comrades who remain tied to what we could call r e f 1 e x interventions often suffer backlashes such as demotivation and discouragement. An external event, (often repression) gives the stimulous to act. This often ends or burns itself out and the intervention has no more reason to exist. Hence the frustrating realisation that one has to begin all over again. It is like digging away at a mountain with a spoon. People do not remember. They forget quickly. Aggregation does not occur. Numbers decline. Nearly always the same people. The comrade who can only act by ‘reflex’ often survives by going from radical refusal, to shutting himself away in disdainful silence, to having fantasies of destroying the world (human beings included). On the other hand, many comrades remain attached to what we might call r o u t i n e interventions, i.e. those involving periodicals (papers, reviews, books) or meetings (congresses, conferences, debates, etc.). Here again the human tragedy does not fail to present itself. It is not usually so much a question of personal frustration (which also exists, and you can see it), as the comrade’s transformation into a congressual bureaucrat or editor of barely readable pages that try to hide their inconsistency by going into daily events, explaining them according to their own point of view. As we can see, it is always the same story.
So, the project must be p r o p o s i t i o n a I. It must take the initiative. First operatively, concerning things to be seen or done in a certain way. Then organisationally: how to go about doing these things.Many people do not realise that the things to be done (in the context of the class clash) are not set down once and for all, but take on different meanings throughout time and in changing social relations. That leads to the need for their theoretical evaluation. The fact that some of these things actually do go on for a long time as though they cannot change, does not mean that this is so. For example, the fact that there is a need to organise in order to strike the class enemy necessarily signifies extension in time. Means and organisation tend to crystallise. And in some respects it is well that this should be so. That is not to say that it is necessary to re-invent everything each time one re-organises, even after being hit by repression. But it does mean that this ‘resumption’ should not be an exact repetition. Preceding models can be submitted to criticism, even if basically they remain valid and constitute a considerable starting point. At this point one often feels attacked by misinformed critics and preconceived ideas, and at all costs wanting to avoid being accused of being an ‘irreducible’, which actually sounds quite positive, but implies an incapacity to understand the evolution of social conditions as a whole.
So it is possible to use old organisational models, so long as they are submitted to a radical critique. But what could this critique be? In a word, pointing out the uselessness and danger of centralised structures, the mentality of delegating, the myth of the quantitative, the symbolic, the grandiose, the use of the media, etc. As we can see, it is a question of a critique aimed at showing the other side of the revolutionary horizon, the anarchist and libertarian side. To refuse centralised structures, organisation charts, delegates, quantity, symbolism, entrism, etc., means to fully adopt anarchist methods. And an anarchist proposition requires a few preliminary conditions.
The latter might seem (and in certain aspects is) less effective at first. Results are more modest, not so obvious, have all the aspects of dispersion and that cannot be reduced to one single project. They are pulverised, diffused, i.e. they concern minimal objectives that cannot be related to one central enemy immediately, at least as this comes to be presented in the descriptive iconography that power itself has invented. Power has every interest in showing its peripheral ramifications and supporting structures in a positive light, as though they had purely social functions that are indispensable to life. Given our incapacity to expose them, it effectively conceals the connections that pass from these peripheral structures to repression, then to consensus. This is the not inconsiderable task that awaits the revolutionary, who should also expect incomprehension concerning actions when they begin to strike, hence the need for ‘clarification’. And herein lies another trap. To make these clarifications in ideological terms would reproduce concentration and centrality exactly. Anarchist methods cannot be explained through an ideological filter. Any time that this has happened it has simply been a juxtaposition of our methods on to practices and projects that are far from libertarian.
The concept of delegating is criticised because it is a practice which, aside from being authoritarian, leads to increasing processes of aggregation. Refusal to delegate could lead to building i n d i r e c t a g g r e g a t i o n, a free organisational form. Separate groups then, united by the methods employed, not by hierarchical relations. Common objective, common choices, but i n d i r e c t. Not feeling the need to propose aggregational relationships that sooner or later end up producing hierarchical organisation charts (even if they are horizontal, claiming to adhere to anarchist methods), which turn out to be vulnerable to any increase in the winds of repression, where each does their own thing. It is the myth of the quantitative that needs to fall. The myth that numbers ‘impress’ the enemy, the myth of ‘strength’ before coming out into the struggle, the myth of the ‘liberation army’ and other such things.
So, without wanting it, old things are transforming themselves. Models, objectives and practices of the past are revolutionising themselves. Without a shadow of doubt the final crisis of the ‘political’ method is emerging . We believe that all attempts to impose ideological models on to subversive practices have disappeared for ever.
In due proportion, it is the world as a whole that is refusing the political model. Traditional structures with ‘strong’ political connotations have disappeared, or are about to. The parties of the left are aligning themselves with those of the centre and the parties of the right are also moving in that direction, so as not to remain isolated. The democracies of the West are moving closer to the dictatorships of the East. This yielding of the political structure corresponds to profound changes in the economic and social field. Those who have a mind to manage the subversive potential of the great masses are finding themselves facing new necessities. The myths of the past, also that of the ‘controlled class struggle’ are finished. The great mass of exploited have been drawn into mechanisms that clash with the clear but superficial ideologies of the past. That is why the parties of the left are moving close to the centre, which basically corresponds to a zeroing of political distinctions and a possible management of consensus, at least from the administrative point of view.
It is in things to be done, short term programmes such as the management of public welfare, that distinctions are arising. Ideal (therefore ideological) political projects have disappeared. No one (or hardly anyone) is prepared to struggle for a communist society, but they could be regimented into structures that claim to safeguard their immediate interests once again. Hence the increasing appearance of wider struggles and structures, national and supranational parliaments.
The end of politics is not in itself an element that could lead one to believe there has been ‘anarchist’ turning in society in opposition to attempts at indirect political management. Not at all. It is a question of profound changes in the modern structure of capital that are also taking place on an international level, precisely because of the greater interdependence of the various peripheral situations. In turn, these changes mean that the political myths of the past are finished as a means of control, resulting in a passage to methods better suited to the present time: the offer of better living conditions in the short term, a higher level of satisfaction of primary needs in the East, work for everybody in the West. These are the new rules of the course.
No matter how strange it might seem, however, the general crisis in politics will necessarily bring with it a crisis in hierarchical relations, the delegate, etc., all the relations that have tended to put the terms of class opposition in a mythical dimension. It will not be possible for this to go on for much longer without consequences, many people are starting to see that the struggle must not pass through the mythical dimension of politics but enter the concrete dimension of the immediate destruction of the enemy.
There are also those who, basically not wanting to know what the work of the revolutionary should be in the light of the above social changes, come to support ‘soft’ methods of opposition, claiming that they can obstruct the spreading of the new power through passive resistance, ‘delegitimation’ and such like. In my opinion this is a misunderstanding caused by the fact that they consider modern power, precisely because it is more permissive and based on wider consensus, to be less ‘strong’ than that of the past based on hierarchy and absolute centralisation. This is a mistake like any other, deriving from the fact that in each one of us there is a residual of the equation ‘power equals strength’ whereas the modern structures of dominion are dismantling themselves piece by piece in favour of a weak but efficient form, perhaps even worse still than a strong, boorish one. The new power penetrates the psychological fabric of society right to the individual, drawing him into it, whereas the latter remained external. It made a lot of noise, could bite, but basically only built a prison wall that can be climbed sooner or later.
The many aspects of the project also make the perspective of the revolutionary task multiple. No field of activity can be excluded in advance. For the same reason there cannot be privileged fields of intervention that are ‘congenial’ to one particular individual. I know comrades who do not feel inclined to take up certain kinds of activity—let us say the national liberation struggle—or certain revolutionary practices such as small specific actions. The reasons vary, but they all lead to the (mistaken) idea that one should only do the things one enjoys. This is mistaken, not because it is wrong that one of the sources of action must be joy and personal satisfaction, but because the search for individual motivations can preclude a wider and more significant kind of research, that based on the totality of the intervention. To set off with preconceived ideas about certain practices or theories means to hide—due to ‘fear’—behind the idea, nearly always mistaken, that these practices and theories do not ‘please’ us. But all pre-conceived refusal is based on scarce knowledge of what one is refusing, on not getting close to it. The satisfaction and joy of the moment comes to be seen as the only thing that matters, so we shut ourselves off from the perspective of the future. Often without wanting to, we become fearful and dogmatic, resentful of those who do manage to overcome these obstacles, suspicious of everybody, discontented and unhappy.
The only acceptable limits are those of our capabilities. But these limits should always be seen during the course of the event, not as something that exists beforehand. I have always started off from the idea (obviously fantasy, but good operatively) of having no limits, of having immense capabilities. Then day to day practice has taken on the task of pointing out my actual limits to me and the things that I can and can’t do. But these limits have never stopped me beforehand, they have always emerged as insurmountable obstacles later on. No undertaking, however incredible or gigantic, has prevented me from starting. Only afterwards, during the course of particular practices, has the modesty of my capabilities come to light, but this has not prevented me from obtaining p a r t i a 1 results, the only things that are humanly attainable.
But this fact is also a problem of ‘mentality’, i.e. of a way of seeing things. Often we are too attached to the immediately perceivable, to the socialist realism of the ghetto, city, nation, etc. We say we are internationalist but in reality we prefer other things, things we know better. We refuse real international relations, relations of reciprocal comprehension, of overcoming barriers (also linguistic ones), of collaboration through mutual exchange. One even refuses specific local relations, their myths and difficulties. The funny thing is that the first are refused in the name of the second, and the second in the name of the first.
The same thing happens concerning the specific preparatory activity of finding revolutionary means (instruments). Again, this decision is often automatically delegated to other comrades. This is due to fear or remorse which, if gone into carefully, have little to say for themselves.
The professionalism that is flaunted elsewhere is not welcome in anarchist methodology, but neither is downright refusal or preconceived ideas. The same goes for what is happening concerning the present mania for experience as a thing in itself, the urgency of ‘doing’, personal satisfaction, the ‘thrill’. The two extremes touch and interpenetrate.
The p r o j e c t sweeps these problems aside because it sees things in their globality. For the same reason the work of the revolutionary is necessarily linked to the project, identifies with it, cannot limit itself to its single aspects. A partial project is not a revolutionary one, it might be an excellent work project, could even involve comrades and resources for long periods of time, but sooner or later it will end up being penalised by the reality of the class struggle.

Tuesday 31 August 2010

STRANGE VICTORIES - The anti-nuclear movement in the U.S. and Europe

Midnight Notes
This pocketbook edition published in 1985 by Elephant Editions
Cover illustration and design by Clifford Harper
Introduction by Alfredo M. Bonanno

Strange victories
I - Who Is Involved in the Anti-Nuclear Movement?
II - The Ideology (Self Definition) of the Nuclear
Movement in Relation to Capitalist Planning
III - Organisation and Tactics of the
Anti-Nuclear Movement
IV - Strange Victories: The Anti-Nuclear Movement and the Nuclear Industry
V - The Anti-Nuclear Movement in the Cities
At a certain point in their development, capital and the State manage to rationalise exploitation. This is happening at the present time to a certain extent: pure repression is giving way to 'being involved'.
These new forms of repression must be understood if we do not want to remain tied to out-of-date forms of revolutionary activity.
The new forms of involvement, though not entirely new, are now being developed in more original and highly dangerous ways.
The permissive State, although it still uses dissuasion (in the form of police and army), is tending towards dialogue, allowing a certain amount of freedom of movement and self-regulation so that everyone becomes controllable at all levels.
In this way the counter-revolutionary role of so-called dissent is fundamental to maintaining order and continuing exploitation. Both the bosses and their servants are depending more and more on these forms of recuperation in preference to pure repression by armed forces - although the latter continue to remain the ultimate element in convincing and repressing.
So the State is asking the revolutionary movement to collaborate in maintaining social peace. Comrades shouldn't jump back in horror at such a statement. The State can ask what it wants of us. It is up to us to understand whether we are being drawn into manoeuvred consensus, or whether our dissent still has an element of rupture. The State's projects are continually being updated. One minute they are putting up a wall of repression, the next they are softer, decodifying behaviour that was once condemned and persecuted. The State and capital have no moral code of conduct. They adapt according to the Machiavellian thesis of using the brute force of the lion one day and the cunning of the fox the next.
Today might well be the moment for the fox's velvety paw.
One extremely useful element in the present day situation, that gives capital's restructuring a seeming aspect of being a spontaneous process of adjustment, is the massive presence of 'dissent'. We must say `no'. They are putting through anti-union laws, we must say no. They are putting missiles at Greenham Common, we must say no. They are building more and more prisons with special wings, we must say no..
This no must be shouted aloud, not be a simple whisper of platonic dissent. It mustn't pass into action, but remain simply a 'minority' demonstration of disagreement. It is then up to the governing forces to explain the practical impossibility of such a choice, which is nevertheless based on the 'highest moral values'. As good a way as any of making a fool of people, extinguishing their potential aggressiveness, directing this impetus of rebellion towards activities that are dissent in appearance alone, and in fact are counter-revolutionary in every aspect.
This is what is being asked of the peace movement, and that is what they are supplying. As an ideology pacifism lends itself to being exploited for the production of social peace. An indigestible mixture of Christian sacrifice and millenarian fideism, it is much appreciated by the State as a means of involvement. Even the peace demonstrations that comrades are so impressed by are an element that is much appreciated in the spectacular framework of exploitation. The fact that these demonstrations are innocuous has nothing to do with whether or not they clash with the police. They are recuperated on all sides because of their being sporadic and passive as far as the State is concerned, and because of their basic lack of ideology as far as the peace movement is concerned.
These new priests, clutching on to the altar of their own sacrifice, are incomprehensible to people who would like to participate in struggles, but not for that are prepared to abdicate their patrimony of violent attack against the State. This is what the State puts its trust in, their incomprehensibility, allowing the peace movement demonstrations that are forbidden to others, but intervening as soon as any signs appear of an outside presence within the pacifist organisations.
The same can be said for trade union struggles, even autonomous ones, 'self-managed' ones, or those carried out under the leadership of the few anarcho-syndicalist organisations. The State is also asking them for the maintenance of social peace. Their ineffectiveness is the guarantee of their possibility of continuing. Revolutionary ineffectiveness immediately transformable into complying with the State's counter-revolutionary requests. Their function today is that of lending credibility to the process of restructuring that is taking place, at least in the most sensitive areas, extinguishing dangerous attempts at isolated actions of attack in total disaccord with any kind of trade union representation.
We should also be more aware of the counter-revolutionary role of the new commune movement, the vegetarian and ecology movements, the anti-psychiatry movements and all the tendencies that are trying to split up the real contrast with power, or are trying to reduce it to simple, formal dissent.
We can consider all forms of strictly formal dissent and all attempts to divide the class conflict into a multitude of sectors, as being functional to power. This is exactly what the couple capital/ State want to happen.
Many comrades in good faith fall prey to this contradiction.
The best of them, those really in good faith, are only misinformed, or simply stupid due to lack of analytical clarity. They are the ones who limit themselves to great declarations of principle against nuclear weapons, or are abstentionists every time the elections come around, or hand out leaflets against special prisons, then return to their lairs to wait for the next time to repeat the sacrosanct ritual of the eternally obvious.
The worst, those in bad faith, are the skeptics who have lost their enthusiasm of the past and now understand everything about life; and the ambitious ones trying to get a little allotment of power on which to seminate their swindles. On the one hand the super-intelligent looking down on those limiting themselves to carrying on with the struggle; on the other, those advancing their careers by kissing the hands of the labour party or the arses of the dissenting church. The nausea that overcomes us on seeing the first is equal only to that which we feel on seeing the second at work. There are many ways of gazing at one's navel or furthering one's career, but these are among the worst.
We must oppose the advancing counter-revolution with all our strength. First of all with analytical clarity.
It is time to put an end to shyness. It is time to come out and say things clearly and without half measures. Beautiful declarations of principle are no longer enough, in fact they have become merchandise for trading with power. We must engage seriously in a struggle to the end, an organised and efficient struggle which has a revolutionary project and is capable of singling out its objectives and means.
The following piece of work, on the anti-nuclear movement in the US and Europe, although written in 1979, is still a valid contribution to this search for clarity as a basis for struggle. Since the time it was written the anti-nuclear/peace movement has grown and multiplied mainly due to the mining of Europe with nuclear missiles. This growth has been of massive quantity, but the logic and quality remain the same as when the following was written. All the Alfredo M. Bonanno


After the Three Mile island accident in Pennsylvania, we all know that we pay not only for our electricity, but also for financing the destruction of our health. Nuclear reactors are not only expensive and ineffective, they are a permanent danger. In 1978 alone, atomic plants had 2,835 'incidents' and they ran at only 67.2% of their capacity. (New York Times, April 15, 1979). Radioactivity causes cancer, leukemia and genetic damages. It doesn't respect county or State borders; radioactive iodine contaminates our milk and we have no means to control it. Radioactive clouds travel with the wind, and the pollution of our water and food distributes it everywhere.
Electricity is only a part of our energy expenditures. We pay also for gas, heating and gasoline. In the last few months the prices for fuel started rising again, after they had risen more than 100% between 1973 and 1975. With Carter's deregulation of petroleum prices, they will go up continuously in the coming years and probably will reach European levels of 2.50 dollars per gallon of gasoline very soon.
The Government and the energy companies tell us that 'we' are in a squeeze since the 'energy shortage' forces 'us' to build nuclear plants and raise rates and prices. They tell us that the Arabs have us by a string and 'we' must 'protect' ourselves. Most people have not bought this story. Polls show that 70% of the people do not believe there is an energy shortage - simply because it is obviously false. 78% believe the companies 'just want to make more money'. (New York Times, April 10, 1979). All other fuel prices are going up as well: natural gas, coal, uranium and oil. This has nothing to do with the Arabs (all our coal and most of our uranium is mined domestically) nor with shortages (US coal reserves could last for hundreds of years and there is more crude oil available than ever before). The energy prices go up because the companies have the power to raise them. They control oil wells, coal-mines and power plants, and they can blackmail us at will because we depend entirely on their supply. We have only the choice between paying or freezing to death. Higher energy prices are a continuous attack on our wages and force us therefore to work more and to work for the plans of the companies, who are not interested in supplying the people with energy, but are interested in making money and strengthening their control over us.
The nuclear power plants are the ultimate peak of this blackmail. The energy companies demand not only that we should accept higher energy prices, but also higher levels of radioactivity, cancer and fear. Not only must we work more and harder to pay the bills, but also we must lose our health and wellbeing. With the threat of nuclear danger, they can impose 'safety measures' on us, install a police State, order us to leave our homes, evacuate our families, respect curfews. How can we know that they tell the truth? Most people don't believe them anyway; polls showed that only 16% of the people believe what government and nuclear officials said during the Three Mile island accident.
What can we do against this politics of fear and exploitation? First, we have to reject this crisis mentality they want to impose on us. We must know that there is enough energy, enough money (in 1978 the capitalists made record profits of 130.7 billion dollars), enough food, clothing and housing for everybody, employed or unemployed, waged or unwaged. And if problems of energy conservation arise, we must make sure that the people themselves control such measures and that they are not dictated to us by the energy-capitalists in order to make more money. Before we can speak of energy conservation, we must have more power.
Higher prices and radioactivity hit everybody everywhere: blacks, hispanics and urban whites as well as farmers, small-town residents and atomic workers around nuclear plants. This fact is crucial for the future development of the anti-nuclear movement which started in semi-rural and sub-urban areas. This movement was a first response of concerned people against nuclear development. This anti-nuclear movement is a social movement with its specific type of people involved, with its specific ideology, tactics and experiences. Now that the situation is changing, that 'Everybody' is hit by the nuclear issue, the experiences of the movement must be studied and - if necessary - criticised. It is important both for 'old' anti-nuclear militants and for 'new' people in urban areas who are entering mobilisations against nuclear energy to find out if and how the anti-nuclear movement can play a role in our struggle against the power of capital.
In the case of the anti-nuclear movement, there is a risk that it could be used against poor urban people. As long as the anti-nuclear movement does not clearly attack the price policies of the energy, companies and does not link the `health' and `money' issues, it cannot be understood by people who are struggling for daily survival. In such a situation capital can play the anti-nuclear movement against the poor or vice versa. For example, the energy companies and the State (the government) can blame the anti-nuclear movement for the higher electric bills; or they can try to impose solar energy and higher energy prices.
We are writing this paper because we are convinced that the anti-nuclear movement in general and the 'new' anti-nuclear movement in urban areas in particular could be a catalyst for struggles against the 'crisis' and capitalism's attack against the working class. Now the most urgent problem is: How can we organise against capital? In attempting to answer this question, we shall look at the anti-nuclear movement as a movement of social organisation, determined by the class interest of the people involved in it, by its relationship to capital, its historical, geographical and psychological conditions.
We shall not specifically deal with the nuclear issue as an environmental and technological problem. We know that any technology developed by capital is used as a weapon against the working class, i.e., ourselves. Further, the nuclear industry is only one of the actual fronts of new technology, together with the computer and chemical industries. Nuclear energy production is used to break the struggles of the coal-miners in the US or of the oil-workers in the Middle East and in the US. (This is the reason why coal, an abundant energy source which could be made safe with available technology, is not used instead of uranium.) There is no such thing as an independent 'technological and scientific progress' occurring outside class struggle. 'Progress' has become another word for 'more effective exploitation' and has nothing to do with our needs and wishes. The present capitalist technology has been shaped for exploitation and control over our lives. It is not a neutral means that can be used in a different class context. There will be no 'liberated assembly-line,' no 'socialist nuclear power,' no 'acceptable risks.' On the other hand, there is no reason why capital could not be able to use solar energy against us, although so far they have not.

Chapter One

Who Is Involved in the Anti-Nuclear Movement?

Strangely, the anti-nuclear movement did not originate in highly populated, industrialised and polluted areas where, it could be assumed, a struggle against environmental dangers would seem to be urgent. The anti-nuclear movement is not an immediate response to the attack on the quality of life which takes place in the 'industrial triangles' of the US and Europe. In West Germany, where the anti-nuclear movement first started, it emerged not in the traditionally polluted Ruhr area, but in South-west Germany in a rural zone of vineyards and small, farmers (Whyl, 1974). The same was true for France (Malville, near Lyons, is situated in an essentially rural area), Switzerland (Kaiseraugst, Goesgen, etc.) and Italy (e.g. the nuclear plant of Montalto di Castro in the Maremme). A similar type of area is found near Seabrook nuclear plant in New England, which is one of the few regions of the US where an older type of small or middle-sized farming and fishing exists (in the rest of the US we should rather speak of agricultural industry).
But the strange location of the anti-nuclear movement is not so puzzling at a second look: It is due to the conscious choice of the nuclear industry. The 'back-to-the-land' movement of capital is easily explained by the 'bad experiences' it had in the metropolitan, industrialised centres. Urban riots, student agitations, workers' struggles were developed and favoured by the urban environment. The capitalists realised that the cities were dangerous for their health.
Nuclear development presented possibilities for a new organisation of industrial geography, a new industrial frontier. Never before in the history of capital have the sites of industrial installations been more carefully planned than nuclear power plants. Some decisive aspects of this planning have been:
-minimising risk in case of accidents (rural areas are less populated and pose fewer problems in case of evacuation);
-safety-distance from dangerous, unreliable class-sector (problems of sabotage, 'bad' influence on personnel);
-strategic locations around metropolitan agglomerations (very useful for evacuations for different purposes, e.g. in case of social troubles);
-political passivity or conservatism of the local populations; (in this respect capital made some of the most painful miscalculations).1
Plant locations were chosen from the beginning to prevent protests and organised actions against or within nuclear plants. The problems of communication and organisation in rural areas compounded by the complicated class situation mixing small owners, wage-depending people or rural intelligentsia, coupled with the relatively immense financial power of the companies, were supposed to guarantee a quiet development and disarm any opposition.
While this plan worked in some cases, it did not in others. Protests developed despite these difficult conditions. Pay-offs to local governments and some advantages to local businesses could not always effectively divide the local population. However, the anti-nuclear protest of local com-munities usually did not go beyond legal actions (voting in town meetings, law-suits, petitions, media action, etc.), although there are some significant exceptions, mostly due to the farmers' radicalism (tractor blockades in Germany, cutting of power lines in Minnesota, and other episodes). For them the construction was not a mere 'danger for mankind during the next 500,000 years,' but a direct attack on their income.2 Confronted with the allied power of the companies and the government, these legal actions led mostly to a dead-end. Only the emergence of an additional factor decided whether the struggle would move to a higher level or the nuclear industry had won that round. Only where this 'factor' was present can we speak of an anti-nuclear movement.

An additional factor

This 'additional factor' was introduced by an important change in the class structure of some rural areas which occurred in the early seventies, a period when the planning and location of the nuclear plants had already been completed. (In the US, this process takes about 12- years; while in Europe it used to be faster, but most plants now completed had obviously been planned in the sixties.) The change we are speaking of is the resettlement of urban intellectual workers (wage-depending professional, teachers, artists, journalists, social-workers, students, government workers, etc.) in rural zones, a move largely stimulated by the various sixties movements. As a 'back-to-the-land' movement, it chose rural areas which were not too isolated and too far from the cities, for it needed continuous contacts with the educational and cultural industries.
In the US this 'additional factor' decisively emerged in two regions: in New England and in California.3 These are, not surprisingly, the areas where anti-nuclear movements have developed most continuity and mass-character. The choice of these areas is directly linked to the specific interests of this intellectual proletariat (we use the term proletariat in the original marxist sense: all the people who live on a wage and cannot live on their capital without working - 'independently of whether the wage is high or low'.) On the level of production these areas are the major national or regional centres of the education industry in which workers receive 'skills' and qualifications which result in a higher valuation of their labour power. They provide a variety of full-time, part-time, seasonal and temporary jobs themselves and in related businesses, such as bureaucracy, social assistance, book-stores, printing-shops, building maintenance, drug-dealing, culture, art, sports, psychiatry, restaurants and small shops, etc. A look at the rate of private and public education expenditures per inhabitant in these areas can give some evidence.
The most typical case for us is Massachusetts, with expenditures far above the 2nd ranking New York, and forming the centre of the New England area, while New Hampshire and Connecticut follow close behind in the national ranks. Moreover, rural New England has a good network of highways leading to nearby major cities like New York and Boston, the educational and cultural centre of the US. Thus, rural New England has attracted a lot of intellectual workers in search of a quiet country life. To a lesser degree, this is also true of California around San Fransisco, and other areas. Rural New England and California offered not only possibilities of external jobs, but also conditions for cheap reproduction of this type of worker. By the term reproduction we mean all the work that has to be done in order to keep us in shape so that we are able to work: eating, clothing, relaxation, medical care, emotional 'services', discipline, education, entertainment, cleaning, procreation, etc. Sometimes what we call 'life' is, in reality, only reproduction for capitalist exploitation. Cheap reproduction is particularly urgent for the intellectual workers as they hold only temporary jobs or part-time jobs or live on welfare and food-stamps.
In New England, subsistence farming, collective reproduction (communal living) and mutual use of the skills of the highly qualified intellectual labour-force via the substitution of capital-intensive reproduction (hospitals, micro-wave ovens) by labour-intensive reproduction techniques (macrobiotics, yoga, bioenergetics, meditation, massage, walks and fresh air) were favoured by the agri-cultural structure, the climate (which imposes a certain discipline), the vicinity of metropolitan areas and low real estate prices.
This constellation allowed a certain refusal of full-time intellectual work and the loosening of capitalist control over it. Under this aspect, the retreat to the countryside and the alternative lifestyle are forms of struggle by intellectual workers against capital. Capital has always had problems in controlling its intellectual labour force mainly because the profit returns are indirect and slow, particularly for disciplines like philosophy, literature and art. This loose tie between intellectual work and capital does not imply that it stands outside of capital, even if it is temporarily devoted to apple-picking, woodworking or cow-milking, and if it is geographically separated from the centres of formal capitalist command (like universities, publishing houses, etc.). There is no such thing as 'outside of capital' in a capitalist society: from a long-term perspective, the 'back-to-the-land' intellectuals are just testing out new capitalist possibilities of dealing with certain, problems of cheap production.
One of the requirements for the cheap reproduction of the 'back-to-the-land' intellectual labour-force is a relatively intact natural surrounding. Nature, if intact, is cheap or even free. Nature as a means of reproduction is important for these intellectual workers because the specialisation and one-sidedness of their work generates psychological instability and requires periods of complete relaxation without jarring sensorial stimuli (noise, media, social contacts). Nature is the most efficient compensation for intellectual stress since it represents the unity of body and mind against the capitalist division of labour. Extensive consumption of nature has traditionally been an element of the reproduction of intellectual workers. (It started with Rousseau, then came the Romantics, Thoreau, the early tourists, Tolstoi, artists' colonies in the Alps, etc.). The ecological movement responds directly to the class interests of the intellectual sector of the proletariat and the struggle against nuclear power plants is a mere extension of this struggle.

Movement in New England

The history of the Green Mountain Post Films is a good illustration for this process in New England. It's story began in 1967 in Washington, DC, when Marshall Bloom and Ray Mungo founded Liberation News Service as an essential means of exchanging news in the fast-growing anti-war movement. By 1968 LNS suffered an irreconcilable split between 'orthodox Marxist-Leninists' and a 'less doctrinaire' faction led by Bloom and Mungo. Mungo and friends decided to leave New York City, then home of LNS, and resettle at a farm in Packers Corner, Vermont; and, soon after, Bloom and his band found a farm in Montague, West-Massachusetts, some 15 miles away.
A weekly news service dispatch came out of the Montague barn for a few months, but it trickled off under the pressure of a New England winter. The abrupt switch to farm life temporarily forced media and politics into the background. The two communities were busy struggling to survive. Then, in November, 1969, Marshall Bloom killed himself, supposedly due to the isolation. His death served to strengthen the farm-people's resolve to keep working in the media. Over the years the two farms produced a considerable amount of books and articles. After the Vietnam war, political concerns were largely subsumed by the demands of rural self-sufficiency. It takes years to get an organic farm going; fortunately, haying, the maple trees' gift of sap, and authors' fees provided some cash.
Then in December 1973, the Northeast Utilities Company announced plans to build a twin-tower nuclear plant three miles from the farm in Montague. One of the first reactions was Sam Lovejoy, a long-term farm resident, cutting down a 500-foot weather observation tower which was to precede the proposed plant. He then hitched a ride to the Montague police station and handed in a statement on the necessity of civil disobedience in times of environmental emergency. He went on trial and won.
The two farms have provided scores of informal ideologists and leaders of the anti-nuclear movement in the New England area: Harvey Wasserman, Anna Gyorgy and others. They produced several films and also distributed a film on the Whyl anti-nuclear movement which had a strong influence on the movement against the nuclear plants in New England, particularly at Seabrook. (cf New Age, Special Report, 1978 and Ray Mungo, Famous Long Ago).
The crisis after 1973 has intensified also the attacks of capital against the intellectual proletariat which had conquered certain levels of power in the sixties (represented mainly by the high educational budgets and the expansions of the universities and research institutions) and had been able to defend itself against tight command structures. The counter-attack of capital was mainly oriented toward regaining control over the productivity of the intellectual labour force. By cuts of educational and university budgets (engineered with the 'fiscal crisis'), food-price inflation and destruction of the rural retreats (where reproduction is cheap), capital has tried in the last few years to regain control. This process of devaluation put the underemployed intellectual proletariat in a tight squeeze.
By 1976, when the first wave of attacks was over, it was clear that the job-perspectives for intellectual workers would be dim for decades and that they. could not expect to get out individually or by intensified retraining (revaluation). In 1976 the Clamshell Alliance was founded, the first sentence of the founding statement being:
"RECOGNIZING: 1) That the survival of human-kind depends upon preservation of our natural environment." It is obvious that the 'survival of mankind' is intimately linked to the survival of this intellectual proletariat, and the preservation of - 'our' natural environment can be taken literally. (Intellectuals have always had the precious talent of presenting their own class interests as those of 'humankind' - as though their own class interests were something dirty).
The 'choice' of the anti-nuclear issue as terrain of struggle is to be explained not only by the specific history of the two farms in New England or other similar developments. For underemployed or temporarily employed workers it is very difficult-to organise on the job. The jobs are unstable, the possibilities of mass struggle are minimal (the worker-boss ratio being low or, in the case of self-managed or 'alternative' jobs, reaching 1/1), and sabotage is ineffective in the case of intellectual work and in the absence of expensive capital goods. All this pushed the struggle immediately on the level of the 'general' circulation of capital, on the level of 'society', of 'humankind'. As it is not possible for them to attack any specific capital from the inside, the struggle has to be launched from the outside.
The anti-nuclear protests of local residents presented such a possibility of intervention from the outside. A unifying factor from outside could intervene in a dead-lock situation of conflicting interests of small store-keepers, farmers, workers connected with the nuclear plan, professional petty-bourgeois, etc. The anti-nuclear militants of the 'second movement' could keep together this strange class mixture and at the same time use it as 'hostage' against an isolation of their own struggle. So it was possible to forge that 'misalliance' between former urban radicals and rural conservatives. This alliance was, however, never without problems, and the division between 'locals' and anti-nuclear militants remained clear on the level of real actions, with the locals, for example, supporting occupations or demonstrations mainly passively.
The development of this movement was facilitated by the fact that a large number of the New England "subsisters" had had experiences in the anti-war movement, i.e., in mobilization techniques, media work, information finding, legal work, etc. Further, once the movement was started it developed its own dynamic reproductive functions for the militants as it provided social contacts and interesting events for old politicos who began getting bored in the relative isolation of the country life. Additionally, the movement became a source of income and created jobs for intellectual workers (writing and selling articles, books, buttons, T-shirts, making conferences, figuring out "alternative energy sources", etc.). In this regard, it was a direct answer to the problem of survival for at least a particular section of "humankind".

Outside the Movement

Perhaps the class structure of the anti-nuclear movement becomes even more clear when we look at those sectors of the working class who are not present in it: factory workers, blacks and urban minority people, atomic workers (with some important exceptions), construction workers and young urban clerical and service workers. All these urban or industrial class-sectors are usually exposed to substantially higher levels of pollution and environmental stress and are, even when living in large cities, not safer in the case of radioactive fallout when a nuclear accident occurs, as the accident at Three Mile island has demonstrated. But these sectors have a qualitatively different relationship to capital, more stable in the case of the factory workers (unions, family, mass organisation on the job) or without any assets in the case of the poor (their labour-power is not very valuable or is even worthless for capital because little money has been invested in their reproduction). Even more different are the types of reproduction, including all "cultural" differences, straight lifestyle, etc.. The indifference of these sectors toward the anti-nuclear movement (or better: issue) is not based on a "lack of education and information" as anti-nuclear militants often bitterly complain. Even very uneducated class-sectors have always been able to grasp the essential knowledge about their problems, if the knowledge were in their interest and presented possibilities of struggle. There is of course no such thing as a "theoretical class interest": the uneducated Iranian masses have been able to beat the CIA-trained Shah regime which was backed by the most educated capital in the world, U.S. capital; scores of poor people have the skills to cheat welfare; workers can deal with their union bureaucrats; etc. Moreover, recent polls show that practically everybody distrusts the energy-lies of the government and the companies. The problem is not education, but organisation and finding ways of effective and direct struggle.
So far, the anti-nuclear movement has presented no promising way of acting for the urban working or unemployed people. "Nuclear danger" alone can trigger activity only if there is an immediate material interest involved. It is pointless to be afraid of something if you can't do anything against it... (That's why nuclear disarmament movements provoke so little reaction, even with a global, horrible catastrophe being possible at any second.) There is no "objective danger" and death is not immediately a political category. Power is.

The European Movement

The formation and class composition of the European anti-nuclear movements follow in general the American pattern. The main difference consists in that in Europe the new intellectual, work-refusing working class has not been geographically concentrated in certain regions. European capital has not been able to organise the division of labour, especially between physical and intellectual work, along well-defined geographical lines. The movement started in Germany where the 'subsistence intellectuals' had reached relatively high levels of autonomy (the installment of the social democratic government in the late 60's marked the impact of the movement and presented large material concessions to students, intellectuals, etc.) which were then brutally attacked in the crisis (ideologically covered by Red Army Faction (RAF, 'Baader-Meinhof')-hunting hysteria. The process of alliance of the 'first anti-nuclear movement' with the 'second movement' was very similar to the one in New England. It represented a 'little political miracle', for the 'alternative' people were officially stigmatised as 'terrorists' and the populations of the nuclear sites were traditionally right-wing.
The lack of geographical division in Europe favoured the class-specific expansion of the movement. Unlike the US, whole sectors of urban young or unemployed workers joined it, not particularly because of the anti-nuclear issue, but for its quality as a general social movement expressing insubordination, rebellion, the possibility of violent struggle, etc. As the whole plethora of the 'new' or 'radical' left quickly filled its ranks, huge demonstrations of dozens of thousands of people like, those in Brokdorf, Kaiseraugst, Malville, Kalkar, etc, were possible. In Europe, everything is geographically and politically 'near', communications are easy and fast, there is a continuity of 'demonstration culture', while the existence of socially 'homogenised' political parties (particularly socialist and communist) immediately link all types of issues to the general political power game. This can be seen by the fact that the nuclear issue has been used by different political parties to overthrow the governments: In Sweden the conservatives used it against the ruling social democrats and won; in France the socialists use it against a 'liberal' government; in Switzerland the anti-nuclear issue was first used by the extreme right, then the extreme left, at last also by the social democrats. This further proves that the anti-nuclear issue by itself fails to provide a definition of the class-content of the movement.

Chapter Two

The Ideology (Self Definition) of the Nuclear Movement in Relation to Capitalist Planning

We have seen that the anti-nuclear movements always express specific class interests, which are not everywhere the same. The nuclear industry creates contradictions not only between certain sectors of the intellectual proletariat and capital, but also between endangered small owners, petty bourgeois, small industrialists and more advanced capital. The nuclear industry represents for the former classes the destruction of older levels of capitalist development and psychological equilibrium. This explains why the anti-nuclear issue and ecological issue in general have been used in the context of reactionary ideologies. We mention 'ecofascism', a right-wing ideology which intends to impose austerity, lower wages and longer working hours, old-style family life, etc, while struggling against new technologies. This tendency had some impact in Europe, but obviously not in the US where the Ku Klux Klan supports the construction of nuclear plants.
One of the characteristics of the ecological and anti-nuclear movement is that the class interests of the people involved in it are never directly expressed in its ideologies. Anti-nuclear militants seem to be classless angels, coming directly from the heaven of a general 'responsibility for humankind' and announcing the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by a core melt-down. The main argument for this classless ideology is, of course, that radioactivity affects all classes, that radioactive waste will be a problem for capitalists as well as workers. This is only partially true, for rich people have more possibilities to avoid radioactive areas and can protect themselves better. But even if radioactivity might kill everybody, it does not eliminate class difference until that moment (and this is obviously the period we try to deal with).
In reality, the 'classless' ideology of the anti-nuclear movement is an outflow of the class-situation of its members: as they have no possibility of organisation or self-definition on their jobs, they are forced to operate practically and ideologically on the level of the general development of capital. From their point of view, even if capital is seen as the basic relation of society, capital's enemy is taken as 'humankind' or 'all living creatures'. As we read, "Nuclear power is dangerous to all living creatures and to their natural environment. The nuclear industry is designed to concentrate profits and the control of energy resources in the hands of a powerful few, undermining basic principles of human liberty." (Declaration of nuclear resistance of the Clamshell Alliance, November 1, 1977). This is a pure but useful fiction. The abstraction 'humankind' is used to not endanger the alliance with local small owners, professionals, etc. At the same time it is the expression of the class ideology of intellectual workers whose function is to plan for the general development of capital - including the working class - and to sell these plans to us all.

The Anti-Planners

Confronted with 'bad' nuclear capital, this general responsibility above all classes is transformed into the planning of an alternative development. They don't simply reject capitalist development, but rather present an anti-plan: "2) that our energy policy be focused on developing and implementing clean and renewable sources of energy in concert with an efficient system of recycling and conservation." Here again, it is not said who would develop and implement 'our' energy policy. This statement about alternative planning is completely disconnected from problems of power and class and thus reveals its merely ideological function.
The anti-plan ideology is in fact one of the most visible class-ideologies of devaluated intellectual workers. Developing anti-plans means nothing less than finding a new function for such intellectuals in a modified capitalist development. The struggle among the anti-planners of 'our' future is the struggle about the qualifications of future intellectual workers, for the ability to find alternative futures is exactly the function of intellectual workers (on a 'lower' level called management, on a 'higher' level, philosophy).
It is clear from the beginning that less valuable labour-power such as factory workers, clerks, housewives, etc. cannot participate in this type of management of the future. For them the present is more difficult because their relationship with capital is more immediate and irreconcilable. The anti-plan ideology at the same time keeps away such less valuable workers from the movement, thus keeping the class-composition of the movement 'clean'. A worker who is in permanent struggle with management will never try to participate in it, even if it is 'alternative management'. This becomes even more evident when we look at some of these anti-plans:
Ralph Nader proposes a model of 'sane' capitalism based on competition of small capitals under the quality-control of the State. This would provide scores of easy jobs for quality-controllers like Nader and consorts, but no advantages for workers, only tighter control (as is typical in smaller businesses).
The most frequent anti-planning ideologies are based on the development of solar or other alternative energy sources. Solar energy has been promoted particularly around the job-issue. It is said that the nuclear industry destroys jobs and that solar developments would create lots of new jobs. This argument starts usually as Harvey Wasserman puts it in one of his articles (New Age, Special Report 1978): "The conflict lies in the basic difference between a capital-intensive economy and one based on human work." Such a statement is simply false: capitalist intensive economies are based on human work and require still more and more intensive human work. First, the machines, the equipment, etc. of capital intensive industries have to be built ultimately by human work. Then, as a glimpse at statistics shows us, non-industrial and service jobs have been expanding rapidly in the last few years 'despite' nuclear development. While the rate of unemployment has been stable, overall employment has gone up rapidly. More human work than ever is being extracted from workers in the US. It is true: proportionately less people work in manufacture and automated industries in general, especially in the energy sector. But this doesn't mean that capital can or wants to do without human work. It is an optical illusion to see only the automated factory and not the sweatshop on the corner. The fact is, human work, and therefore surplus values (surplus human labour extracted by capital), is extracted in less capital-intensive branches and appears as the profit of highly capital-intensive sectors.
One of the instruments of this surplus-value transfer is the hike of energy and food prices. In order to pay their bills, the energy companies make us work more and more in small shops, as salesmen, typists, clerks, drivers, etc. The capitalist system forms a unity: exploitation in one place can result in profits in another place. This would also certainly be the case in the solar industry. The solar wor-kers would do the shit work and the companies (e.g. steel companies which produce sheet steel) would make the profits. Wasserman's cry for a 'labour-intensive' development means nothing more than offering capital a new source of human work, a new source of exploitation. The problem is not lack of jobs. Nobody cares about jobs, because every job means self-repression, loss of life, repression of one's wishes. The real problem is lack of money, access to power and to the wealth which we have ourselves produced. If jobs are an efficient way to get money, we might accept them as a temporary solution, a tactical compromise with capital. But jobs can never be a solution to the problem of the working class.
Of course, unemployment is also a weapon used by capital against us, because it forces us to choose between misery or accepting the worst jobs at the lowest wages. On the other hand, many people have discovered temporary unemployment as a weapon against capital: you don't get much money, but if you organise with other people (as Harvey Wasserman and his crowd did in New England) you have more time for yourself, can regain some strength and develop your talents. Unemployment is not a question of technology, but a question of power. As long as we don't have the power, the control over all resources and social wealth, 'human work' will always be an attack on us, whether it is planned by Rockefeller or anti-planned by Wasserman.
The same is true, of course, for socialist and communist models, like the one of the CPUSA, which includes even nuclear energy, but 'under democratic control', i.e., managed by the State (whomever that may be). The 'State' is only another name for 'general capital', especially in the energy sector, and what ultimately we might expect from socialist States can be seen in Russia, China, Vietnam, etc.
Even more radical and 'anarchist' anti-plans such as Bookchin's proposals or other similar models, which want to cut back society and economy to small, human, self-sufficient units, without State, capital and money, suffer from the same basic vice: anticipating and planning a future for 'others', assuming the functions of intellectual workers, defending one's own value as qualified labour-power, putting the future as a barrier between the different class sectors in struggle. The ecological and anti-plan ideology is an expression of the fears of intellectual workers in confronting less valuable labour power. They are not ready to devaluate themselves, to renounce their planning and managing function, to 'get down' on the level of immediate, irreconcilable struggle against capitalist exploitation in all its forms. Hiding behind the concept of 'responsibility for humankind', for the future, for 'constructive alternatives', for all 'ifs' and 'buts' (will we have enough energy? who will clean the streets?) they protect their own existence as a distinct sector of the proletariat. This is neither surprising nor vicious - we just have to be aware of it...

Attack Nuclear Capital

However, the anti-nuclear movement need not be 'a movement of anti-planning. Making the nuclear industry a target of struggle is essential at this point. The nuclear industry represents a synthesis of all major trends of capitalist development. All aspects of the general perspective of capital are concentrated in this industry: high capital intensity (70 plants in the US employ only about 79,000 workers and produce 13% of all electricity), extreme discipline and command over the labour force, combination of State and private capital (in research, financing, supervision), internationality, computerisation, and extension of the 'planning horizon' far into the future (nuclear waste). The nuclear industry is able to occupy all free spaces geographically (reactors are independent of local resources), politically (all police-State measures can be justified by radioactive dangers), and in time (even if we 'win', we will have to deal with the nuclear waste; our 'utopias' are infested for thousands of years).
Psychologically, nuclear reactors are symbols of permanent self-control and self-repression, representing the psychological character of the fifties: The controlled explosion, the slow burn-out, corresponds to the process of exploitation of each single worker. Nuclear plants emit bad 'vibes' because they are like capital wants us to be. We are not allowed to explode socially - the reactor is not allowed to explode technically. Our control-rods are family-education, responsibility-ideologies (including 'alternative'), fear of death - for if we melt down, we are punished with the 'technical' death penalty. The nuclear plant is just another element of this blackmailing with death, together with traffic, machines, etc.
In the sixties, some of this technical reliability melted down, millions of intellectuals and other workers refused the stress of self-repression. In this respect, nuclear development is felt like a counter-attack of capital to create new centres of reliability against the marsh of obscure wishes and desires. It is an attack on the working class because it aims at imposing tighter command and higher productivity on it. The anti-progress, anti-command, anti-concrete-and-steel-ideology within the anti nuclear movement represents a basis for unity with other class sectors as it is a genuine expression of the class-situation of the intellectual proletariat as well as of factory and office workers, etc.
Slime against concrete/refusal of responsibility and command against capital/life against work/ wishes against need - these are elements of an ideology and practice which could destroy the planning/ anti-planning dead end.

Chapter Three

Organisation and Tactics of the Anti-Nuclear Movement

Affinity Groups

The problem of practical organisation in a semi-rural area was resolved in the case of the Clamshell Alliance by the system of affinity groups (a term alluding to the 'grupos de afinidad' of the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War). Under the term 'affinity group', different types of social aggregation are included. On the one side, an affinity-group can be constituted by a traditional citizen-committee, i.e., a more or less formal, loose type of social organisation based on occasional meetings and limited types of action (mainly legal and institutional). On the other extreme, an affinity group can coincide with reproductive organisations, e.g., rural communes, where there is no distinction between 'life' and 'politics'.
Typical affinity groups in New England are located between two 'extremes', i.e., they are not necessarily living together but are based on additional common activities (like bicycling, running a mobile kitchen in an old bus, acting, music playing), job-relationship (students) or pre-existing organisational ties (women, gays, American Friends, socialists, vegetarians). Affinity-groups are limited to 20 members who usually live in the same community or neighbourhood. Some of the names of affinity groups evoke this atmosphere of blending 'life' and 'politics': Chautauqua, Critical Mass, Medical Alliance, Nuclear Family, Frustrated Flower Children, Winds of Change, White Trash, Tomato Sauce, Hard Rain.
The activities and social life of affinity-groups are not focused necessarily on the anti-nuclear issue. With this issue it was possible to put together and 'centralise' all these initiatives in the Clamshell Alliance, which then developed a dynamic of its own. Formally, the affinity-groups send their representatives to the Coordination Committee, which, with the help of various subcommittees, organises the activities of the Alliance. Major decisions are made in Clamshell Congresses, meetings of all members of the affinity-groups.
Not being based on economic relationships, the affinity-groups require a continuous effort, ideologically and socially, to keep them together. It seems that those affinity-groups which were not able to develop a certain type of para-economic activities (mostly reproductive, like being in the same yoga-sessions) proved to be very unstable. This organisational problem was partly resolved by the establishment of nonviolence training sessions, which were publically announced by posters and leaflets. An organisational force behind these sessions was the American Friends Service Committee (the 'Quakers'). A typical session consisted of an ideological introduction presented in these terms: "Non-violence is a constant awareness of one's humanity, dignity, and the self-respect of oneself and others. It implies a vision of a type of society you're looking for and therefore means there are certain things you do and do not do." (Wally Nelson as quoted in Valley Advocate, Sept. 1 1976).
After this introduction, the group was divided in different roles, 'police', 'occupiers', 'media', 'Public Service Company officials', 'legal observers', and these roles were played in the form of a fictive occupation. These sessions served not only to enforce nonviolent tactics, but also to create several affinity groups or strengthen shaky groups.
This type of 'artificial' organisation corresponds to the situation of an intellectual proletariat spread over a rural area where communications have to be willingly established and 'spontaneous' mass mobilisations are not possible. The apparent rigidity of this organisation is a means of self-protection and replaces lacking economic ties. Nonviolence training sessions become virtually compulsory for affinity groups. At the same time, participation in occupations and other acts of civil disobedience outside of an affinity group became practically impossible, for 'everybody knows if nobody knows you'.


The formally loose and unauthoritarian structure of the affinity groups and the organisation as a whole is compensated by procedures of ideological and social preselection based on the consensus process. Consensus has been presented as a 'non-violent way for people to relate to each other as a group' and practised for centuries by the Quakers. The process is formally democratic like minority/majority systems, delegation systems, and decision by lot. But on the level of class reality, it excludes the less qualified labour force or people who are forced into full-time jobs or are exhausted by work. Consensus, therefore, favours people with psychological and sociological education since physical power is not allowed to enter group decision making.
The exclusion of physical violence is more than compensated by the sophisticated use of psychological and intellectual pressure and the use of time against people who are less skilled and have less time. Consensus can be used as a means of black-mailing, for it imposes the responsibility for the whole group on each member, thus becoming an additional source of ideological and psychological pressure. Theoretically, it could only work in a non-totalitarian way if all members had the same class-status, the same skills, and the same level of reproduction. Otherwise, it becomes the instrument of an elite which forces other people into 'withdrawing from the group'. The consensus-system of decision-making is another symptom of the high value of the labour power of its users, expressed by Wally Nelson as the 'humanity, dignity, and the self-respect of oneself and others'. "It is not a universal, class-independent system and cannot be rigidly adopted in other situations."
A basic set of rules for a consensus process is:
1. Be clear about areas of agreement.
2.The problem/situation needing consideration is discussed. A clear idea of what decision needs to be made is formulated. A proposal can then be made. (Part of this discussion should bring out the present position or course of action of the group relating to the Issue at hand).
3. People present who do not speak are assumed to have no strong feeling on the issue.
4. After adequate discussion, it is asked if there is opposition to the proposal as stated.
5. If there are no objections the proposal can be formally stated and adopted. A consensus has been reached.
6. Opposition to a proposal will block its adoption. Opposition must be resolved for the proposal to be adopted.
7. If the objection cannot be satisfied, and no creative alternative solutions can be offered which meet no objections, then a proposal cannot be adopted as consensus. The group would then continue with the last consensus decision it had on the subject, or lacking such a previous decision the consensus would be to take no action on the proposal.
There are ways to object to a proposal within the consensus:
1. Non-support ("I don't see the need for this, but I'll go along.")
2. Reservations ("I think this may be a mistake, but I can live with it.")
3. Standing aside ("I personally can't do this, but I won't stop others from doing it.")
4. Withdrawing from the group.

Some guidelines from consensus process:
1. Responsibility - Block consensus only for serious principled objections. Help others find ways to satisfy your objections.
2. Respect - Accept objections, trust those who make them to be acting responsibily. Help find ways to satisfy objections.
3. Cooperation - Look for areas of agreement and common ground: avoid competitive right-wrong, win-lose thinking. When a stalemate occurs, look for creative alternatives, or for next-most acceptable proposals. Avoid arguing for your own way to prevail. Present your ideas clearly, then listen to others and try to advance the group synthesis.
4. Creative conflict - avoid conflict-reducing techniques like majority vote, averages, or coin-tossing. Try instead to resolve the conflict. Don't abandon an objection for 'harmony' if it is a real problem you are speaking to. Don't try to trade off objections or to reward people from standing aside.
We all have the same purpose, to non-violently stop nuclear power. Seemingly irreconcilable differences can be resolved if people speak their feelings honestly and genuinely try to understand all positions (including their own) better.
It should be noted that the above section is only an introduction to consensus and how it works. We are all learning more about the consensus process as we use it.
From the Handbook for the Land and Sea Blockade of the Seabrook Reactor Pressure Vessel (Clamshell Alliance)
In certain situations 'consensus' was violated even within the Clamshell Alliance, when the consensus of the informal leaders did not correspond to the consensus of the informal followers. This was the case of the legal rally of June 1978 and the cancellation of a demonstration in November 1978 when the Ku Klux Klan announced a counter-demonstration at Seabrook. In these situations, the real power-structures within the organisation broke through and the democratic fog dissolved. Formal democracy is never a guarantee of real people's power, for it does not answer the basic question: who decided to use democracy? who decided on the timing? who poses the questions? The real power in such situations is always based on criteria like: "Who has the money?Who has the information? Who has the education? Who has the technical instrument (paper, telephones, cars, printing machines, megaphones, guns)? Who has the social connections?" Awareness of these basic elements of power is much more effective in preventing the formation of a ruling clique than consensus-rituals. If there are leaders (which might be justified and effective) they must not be allowed to hide behind democratic smoke-screens, but must be forced to operate in their real function and submit to the control and criticism of the movement. It is better to have an open dialectics of leaders and masses than paralysing illusions.

Civil Disobedience

Not only are affinity-groups and the consensus system based on labour-intensive reproduction techniques, but so is the third tactic of the anti-nuclear movement: nonviolent civil disobedience. With this tactic the movement declares and guarantees the rejection of physical interactions with dis-ciplinary workers (policemen) who are usually less qualified than the anti-nuclear demonstrators. At the basis of nonviolent civil disobedience is a deal with the police centred on the value of the militants themselves. On the one side, the cops will refrain from cracking the heads of the highly trained, actual or potential, professional intellectual workers because they might get into trouble, e.g., the typical antinuclear militant would have easy access to lawyers or might be a lawyer himself and thus could sue the cop without too much trouble. On the other side, the militants take, almost naturally, the attitude of being the cops' bosses and assume they have no need to 'resort to violence'. For example, the advice given to demonstrators for dealing with the cops is first to look them in the eyes and ask "Hi, my name is..., what's yours?" That is, the cops are to be treated as if they were domestic servants to be dealt with 'humanely'. This advice is clearly based on the presumption that the demonstrator is highly qualified; needless to say, if a ghetto resident took up this advice he would have some lumps to pay for such 'humanity'.
1. Everyone must be nonviolent.
2. No weapons.
3. No dogs.
4. No alcohol or drugs (see medical section for exceptions.) 5. Safe boating.
6. All participants in the Blockade are to undergo some form of nonviolent preparation.
7. No damage or destruction of property.
8. Use discretion and safety in crossing police boat lines.
9. Minimum movement after dark. The following are allowable; a. supply and emergency.
b. change of watch in boats.
c. tactical movement in response to movement or action by reactor shippers or enforcers.
d. new arrivals to blockade.
From the Handbook for the Land and Sea Blockade of the Sea-brook Reactor Pressure Vessel (Clamshell Alliance)
The Clamshell does not make explicit the class presuppositions of nonviolent civil disobedience. They write, "...nonviolent direct action has been a means of mobilising popular support for a movement by convincing the general public that actions taken against an unjust situation are valid." However, they do not say when such 'means' are possible. The social power of nonviolent civil disobedience is based on the value embodied in the human capital of the nonviolent militants (invested in them by 'general capital'). Nonviolent civil disobedience is a potentially very effective strategy as long as the value of the labour force involved (e.g. in the case of intellectual workers, especially in New England) is high. It can be used by its proprietors to blackmail single capitals (e.g. the nuclear industry or a single utility company) from the out-side, mobilising the interests of 'general capital' (the 'general public', the State, etc.) against such a single capital. As long as they are nonviolent, the value of their own labour-power protects the militants from being attacked, for their expensive human capital could be damaged.

A nonviolent group action is an orderly, coordinated demonstration of a purpose, and for a purpose. Nonviolence is dependent on reason, imagination and discipline. Here are seven specific guidelines on nonviolence:
1. Our attitude towards officials and others who may oppose us should be one of sympathetic understanding of their personal burdens and responsibilities without support of their official actions.
2. No matter what the circumstances or provocation, do not respond with violence to acts directed against us.
3. Don't call names or make hostile remarks.
4. When faced with an unexpected provocation try to make a reasoned, positive, creative and sympathetic response.
5. Try to speak to the best in all people, rather than seeking to exploit their weakness to what we may believe is our advantage.
6. Try to interpret as clearly as possible to anyone with whom we are in contact - and especially to those who may oppose us - the purpose and meaning of our actions.
7. If at any time you cannot maintain the discipline of non-violence, you should withdraw from the action.
From the Handbook for the Land and Sea Blockade of the Sea-brook Reactor Pressure Vessel (Clamshell Alliance)

Nonviolent militants use their value to 'shame the State'; supposedly, if people as valuable as they violate the law, then the law or policy they are protesting must be obviously unjust! They set themselves and their judgement as the standard for the State's actions. To send such 'fine' people to jail would seem to condemn the State, therefore, and not them. Such 'moral' presumption is ultimately based on the high value capital stored in the militants which is not a universal property of all workers. Thus, nonviolent civil disobedience cannot be a universal remedy, for its effect depends upon who does it.
The antinuclear movement has not always relied exclusively on nonviolent civil disobedience. It has turned to more violent tactics whenever the contract of non-physical behaviour could not work because a sufficient quantity of highly valuated human capital could not be assembled or only a devaluated labour force was present (e.g. in agricultural areas without 'new' intellectuals or in industrial regions). A clear case in point is the anti-nuclear struggle in the Basque country of Spain. The nuclear plant under construction in Lemoniz was bombed by the ETA (a Basque nationalist organisation) on March 17 1978, and two workers were killed. This accident did not impede the anti-nuclear movement but widened its impact. The ETA was not blamed for the death of the two workers, not even by their fellow workers, who protested against the use the unions and left-wing wanted to make of their dead colleagues. (The unions and the parties had used the funeral to denounce 'violence'.) It was revealed that the ETA had announced the bombing half an hour in advance and that the management of the construction firm had refused to evacuate the site. The movement, far from losing support after the bombing, turned the incident against the plant and continued to sponsor mass demonstrations.
The 'nonviolence' tactic works only if the organisation can guarantee the 'non-physical' behaviour of its militants: Nonviolence training sessions and general control over the activist personnel of the movement are therefore vital for this tactic. The leadership of the movement has to be able to control its own class composition and exclude less valuable labour-power (like minority people, blacks, factory workers) which could endanger this tactic. Unless the movement can accumulate substantial 'lumps' of pure, highly valuated labour-power, nonviolent civil disobedience is useless. The exclusion of other class sectors is not enforced on a formal level, but through the whole process of recruitment and 'socialisation' of the movement. Thus, a material aspect of affinity groups is the availability of substantial amounts of spare time as well as ideological qualifications most people do not have.
'Nonviolence' not only requires labour-intensive preparation, it also demands the maintenance of 'nonviolence' discipline and self-repression. For nonviolent civil disobedience implies the acceptance of and submission to violence done to you or to your brothers and sisters. Watching your friends being dragged away by the hair requires additional reproductive work, elaborate ideological motivations (nonviolence ideologies, historical justifications, religious and moral support), physical compensation activities to get rid of accumulated anger and frustration (body politics, acting out therapies), psychological work (love, verbalisation-techniques, art), which, in general, are not available to less valuable, less qualified workers. Underemployed intellectual workers can obtain this type of therapy (even if they cannot afford it directly) because they are largely qualified to do it themselves, being psychologists, philosophers and therapists. The New England region has been a 'greenhouse' for the developments of methods dealing with advanced problems of reproduction. Such levels were rarely attained before, certainly not in Europe, where, consequently, nonviolence tactics could not be applied in the same way.

Violence and Brutality

Much confusion has been created around the question of 'nonviolence' because different points of view - tactical, political, historical, anthropological and philosophical - have been mixed in a jumbled way. From the tactical point of view, non-violent civil disobedience can be very effective under certain class conditions. However, 'non-violence' is not compared to other forms of struggle from the standard of effectiveness by the leaders and ideologists of the antinuclear movement. They give nonviolence an almost holy and ahistorical status. Nonviolence ideologies go far beyond tactical considerations because they are deeply embedded in the class composition of the movement, which then generalises its particular interests into a general philosophical system.
Nonviolent ideologists maintain that humans are by nature nonviolent and that to resort to violence is to begin an endless catastrophic cycle, for 'violence generates anger and more violence'. There is no evidence, however, that there is any 'human nature' either violent or nonviolent. For every 'primitive people' - an ultimately imperialist category - living in 'peace and harmony' there is another glorying in war and slaughter. Facts no more support this 'nonviolence' conception than they support its 'conservative' opposite that views humanity as universally rapacious. However, even a superficial glance at history and literature shows that violence can end violence as well as propagate it.
What is most confusing in this ideology is the defintion of violence itself, for to make a distinction between violence and nonviolence dependent upon whether someone's body is hurt or not is to lend support to the most questionable 'philosophy': the State's. There is no borderline between mind and body, unless we accept criminal laws as our philosphical guideline and framework of our lives, i.e., only 'Bodily damage' is recognised as a crime. The West German State can appear 'humane', therefore, by only psychologically and intellectually torturing political prisoners in sensory deprivation calls. Though the prisoners are sometimes driven to insanity and suicide, the German State can escape censure since it has not 'hurt' them!
The basic problem is not whether we express our feelings, class interests or political aims violently or nonviolently. Our problem is: who controls our actions? In a class society like ours, this comes down to the ultimate question: do our actions express the interests of our class (the working class) or the interests of capital?
One of the more dangerous implications of certain nonviolence ideologists is the identification of the violence of the oppressed with the brutality of their oppressors, which completely merges the working class with capital into an abstract 'humanity'. For the argument that 'violence breeds violence' distorts the real class relations and leads them to blame the State's brutality on the resistance of the working class. Such a logic ends by equating the violence of the Warsaw ghetto fighters with the brutality of their Nazi executioners! But who provokes whom? The State has been in a state of being provoked since it came into existence!
By not making the crucial distinction between working class violence and State brutality we are led to adopt the ideology of our oppressors. On the one side, brutality is a repressive procedure of State agents. A typical example of brutality is Hitler: he was a gentle man in private, loved children, dogs, was a vegetarian and could not stand the sight of blood, the Holocaust, the war, the slaughtering of left-wing militants was a mere bureaucratic operation for him, a 'job' that had to be done. That was Hitler's brutality as well as the 'little Hitlers' that preceded and followed him. For the 'job' of the State is to impose work on the rest of us and this 'job' can only be done if the State has the power to kill or torture us when we refuse to work: this is the brutality of the State. On the other hand, working class violence attacks work. A typical example is the violence of a strike like the one in 'Harlan County' where the struggle against mining wages and working conditions became an armed battle against company guards and scabs. This violence can in no way be equated with the State's brutality. Only the destruction of work, not the destruction of violence, can destroy brutality (Or as the French writer Jean Genet put it: "If we are able to mobilise all our violence, we might, perhaps, be able to overcome brutality.")

Crises of Non-Violence

On a purely tactical level, nonviolence is not a general recipe independent of the class composition of a movement. The interrelation of class composition and nonviolence tactics is illustrated by the development of the Black Liberation Movement.
Started in the South in the fifties as a movement of educated, valuable black intellectual workers or students, it was centred in the colleges and organised around the churches. Personalities like M.L. King himself or Andrew Young are typical representatives of this class composition. The necessary self-disciplining and ideological work was done through the church organisations which played a role comparable to the affinity groups or non-violence training sessions of the antinuclear movement. The accumulated value of this black intellectual labour force was then used against single capital factions, which refused to grant the corresponding wages and positions. Nonviolence was therefore a possible tactic. When later (Birmingham 1963) less valuable labour joined the movement, this tactic broke down as violent struggles in the urban ghettoes developed. It is significant that leaders like Stokely Carmichael, a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNNC), first committed to nonviolence turned later (Selma, 1965) into a propagandist of armed struggle. It was not an ideological critique of nonviolence or 'moral degradation' that brought this change, but the simple fact that the class-composition of the movement, and therefore its relationship with capital, had changed. Later, in 1971, the brutal repression of the Attica revolt showed drastically how capital deals with an unarmed 'cheap' labour force in rebellion.
It is no coincidence that at present, when capital has begun a devaluation-attack on certain sectors of the intellectual labour-force (expressed in the 'dim job-perspectives'), and when the class composition of the anti-nuclear movement is bound to change, the discussion about certain levels of non-violence (damaging private property or not) and the 100% consensus principle (which is linked to the problem of guaranteeing a certain class composition) arises sharply within the Clamshell Alliance and in the antinuclear movement in general. It is easy to see that a growing number of militants are beginning to reject the rigid non-violence-contract with capital because it is not useful anymore.
The discussion concerning the destruction of private property arose in response to the practical question of what to do with the fence around the Seabrook construction site and again when in the street-blockade of March 9 1979, some militants proposed to pour oil on the road to make it slippery and dangerous for the truck delivering the reactor vessel.

Civil Disobedience /Legalism

Nonviolent civil disobedience is a militant activist tactic. Some of its ideologists go as far as saying that it requires more courage than violent struggle because it is more risky for you can be easily caught by the police and jailed!
In this regard, nonviolence is in opposition to the legalism of most antinuclear protests by 'local' residents. In most illegal sit-ins and blockades, it was not possible to concretise the alliance of local residents and antinuclear militants on the level of participation.
The Clamshell Alliance felt so weak after these experiences, that it began to reject, temporarily, nonviolent civil disobedience and return to legalism. This happened, e.g., with the rally of June 24, 1978, which turned out to be a legal 'alternatives fair'. This decision, made by the informal leaders of the movement, was a first reaction to the changing class composition of the movement and to the 'leaks' in the social and ideological control over it. This was marked by the emergence of such groups as the Bostonian Clams for Democracy who were beginning to propose less 'peaceful' methods like breaking down the fence surrounding the plant put up by the authorities to prevent another occupation at Seabrook.
Harvey Wasserman, the most prominent supporter of the 'return to legalism', wrote in the June 22 1978 issue of WIN Magazine: "Nonetheless, it is time the movement recognised its growth and divisions. It seems almost inevitable that if the anti-nuclear movement is to proceed - which it must - then those who are dedicated to non-violence must proceed with their own organisations, and those who are not must move into new ones." (Our emphasis.) This is a clear declaration of his will to divide the movement in order to preserve its class-composition. Problems of consensus or democracy (what is they want to stay?) are put aside in such an emergency.
The division of the movement in order to guarantee its class-composition and the control of its leaders over it is a well known procedure of reformist and trade-union politicians which serves capitalist domination. The history of the organisations of the working class is in fact a history of 'expulsions' of 'left-wing' factions. Real social movements, revolutions, are always parties which are taken over by uninvited guests. The threat to divide the movement if it does not accept the (informal) line must be rejected, while the recognition of `its growth and divisions' must occur within the movement.
As for legalism, this is not another possible compromise with capital, like nonviolent civil disobedience. Legalism always means disarming and paralysing the real social movement (direct action, 'subversive' behaviours, autonomous organisation) in order to get a broad representation on the level of anonymous, formalised, hierarchically controlled institutions (bourgeois democracy, media, unions). On this level, it is possible to get a representation which goes beyond limited class sectors. Capital allows the 'breakdown' of all class-divisions within the working class if this process is controlled by the State, i.e., by its own institutions. Referendums, elections, legal rallies, for example, 'overcome' such class-divisions as those between intellectual workers and local residents. But the price paid is that the movement no longer acts as a social movement. In reality, it is not acting at all but is only symbolically present. It exists only in relationship to State-institutions or the media. Going to such a legal rally does not mean that you are 'a lot of people', it means that you are 'nobody', only an abstract number, an element in a piece of 'art'. Totally legal gatherings demonstrate not the strength of the movement but the strength of State-control over it. It shows the that the State can allow such huge accumulations of people without any practical consequences - unless, the rally 'gets out of control'. At the same time, this type of legalism is a weapon against genuine autonomous organisation. First, because it drains away a lot of energy and time from (possibly modest) direct actions. Second, it discourages day-to-day activities and imposes rhythms on the movement which are not its own. Legalism is not a compromise with capital, it is the way capital deals with oppositional movements in 'normal times' (if it doesn't revert to fascism or armed repression).
This process of disarmament is exemplified by the struggle of the Granite State Alliance (Manchester, NH) against the electricity rate hikes and particularly the Construction Works in Progress (CWIP) rate hike. The CWIP increase was to be about 25% and was to finance the building of the Seabrook nuclear power plant. The class structure of the initial group was substantially the same as that of the Clamshell Alliance. However, starting with the rate-hike, which meant an attack on all wage-income levels, it was possible to extend the class-composition of the movement potentially to the whole working class and especially the elderly and low-income urban people. The GSA wanted to build a social movement on this basis, but it was used indirectly by the Democratic candidate for Governor, Gallen, who promised not to introduce CWIP and used this issue (in combination with clever TV tactics) for his campaign in the Fall 1978. Against the explicit will of the GSA, the social potential of the rate-hike was transformed into electoral, institutional powerlessness. The possible broad class-composition got diluted into individual votes. Gallen won, but the construction of the Seabrook plant goes on, with all the financial consequences for the rate payers. There will be no CWIP. However, the State of New Hampshire is now considering the purchase of a part of the shares of the Seabrook plant, through a new State Power Authority. Thus, the plant will be financed with tax money directly, instead of electricity rates, providing a further pretext to cut back vital social services. The defeat would not have been so painful if a lot of free work and political energy had not been exploited by institutional legal activity.

The European Movement

The main difference between the European and American antinuclear movements consists in the greater 'impurity' of the former. Though a strong tendency in Europe as well, the strategy of non-violent civil disobedience never became dominant or 'compulsory' as in the US. Urban unemployed or underemployed workers (mainly intellectual, but also service workers and manual workers), urban youth gangs, the political groups of the old and new New Left (in Germany certain sects of Marxist-Leninists: in France and in Switzerland, Trotskyites), 'regional' movements (the ETA in the Basque country, the Occitan-movement in Southern France) were the uninvited guests who spoiled the party from the very beginning. The control over the class-compositior was therefore loose. Demonstrations were proportionately much larger than in the US but at the same time unpredictable and often poorly organised. No formal grassroots model with the coherence of the affinity groups emerged. Alliances such as the Clamshell Alliance came into existence, but there was more instability and they were never `left alone'.
After the massive and deceptive wave of demonstrations in 1977, the informal leaders and leading organisations went back to legalism as in the US. In Germany, 'Gruene Listen' participated in local and regional elections. In France, several ecologist parties took part in the national elections. In Switzerland, various ecologist and left-wing organisations used the anti-nuclear issue in elections and in a national referendum (which was defeated by 49 to 51%). All these attempts had initial successes, but failed in the longer run. As the disaffection with political institutions is very strong among the European working class, the situation did not allow for such electoral games. Ecologists seldom took more than 3-5% of the votes, a percentage which does not correspond to the anti-nuclear attitudes found in the polls (in most countries a majority of the population is against nuclear plants).
The different and more 'diffuse' class composition of the European antinuclear movement found its most visible expression in the tactics of the police, which were much more belligerent than the police response in New Hampshire, despite the fact that NH is a 'law and order' State. In Europe, unprovoked police responded physically against the demonstrators, using tear gas, clubs, dogs, even grenades, causing hundreds of injured and even death (as in the case of Malville in 1977). Civil war-like street blockades, dozens of miles away from the demonstration-sites and at national borders (which despite 'European Unification' are now more intensively used than ever to control 'undesirable mobility'), were set up to hassle and withhold demonstrators. Trains were stopped, buses and cars blocked for hours, all 'weapons' (like lemons, handkerchiefs, motor-cycle helmets, raincoats and car tool-kits) were confiscated. In Kalkar, West Germany, on September 24 1977, 60,000 demonstrators made it to the the site, mostly walking dozens of miles. But more than 10,000 were blocked on the road. Using the official hysteria created around the Schleyer kidnapping which was going on simultaneously, the West German government mobilised 13,500 policemen, the largest police gathering in German history.
1977 marked a temporary defeat for the European antinuclear movement mainly on the military level. Nonviolent civil disobedience reached a threshold which made it obsolete as an effective or even possible tactic.
While a part of the movement went back to legalism, other antinuclear activists experimented with acts of sabotage against power-lines (France), railroad lines (Switzerland), construction sites (Spain), factories supplying nuclear plants (Switzerland; France), and installations of utility companies (bombs at the information pavilion in Kaiseraugst, Switzerland in the spring of 1979). Sometimes bombs were placed near nuclear cons-truction sites or plants, not to damage them but to demonstrate their general vulnerability.
This wave of 'violent' acts has triggered an intensive debate within the European antinuclear movement. At first the 'official' nonviolent organisations denounced these actions as 'directed against the movement and harmful for its growth'. But later this 'hard line' weakened and they sometimes accepted bomb-attacks, if the bombings were carefully and 'cleanly' executed without damage to the environment, nature or 'living creatures'. This debate concerning tactics is still going on, though it is often conducted on an ideological level. Significantly, Anna Gyorgy in her No Nukes mentions neither the violent (or technical) actions of the European movement nor this important debate on the future of the movement.2 By this nonviolent censorship, she withholds information from the US movement which could endanger the ideological control of its class-composition.
At this moment, especially after the Harrisburg accident, the European antinuclear movement seems, to have overcome its legalistic apathy. The 'politicisation' of the movement by traditional or new 'ecological' parties has only temporarily dis-armed the movement, while a more creative combination of 'nonviolence' and 'violence' has appeared in recent activities and demonstrations.

Chapter Four
Strange Victories: The Antinuclear Movement and the Nuclear Industry

The immediate enemy of the antinuclear movement is the nuclear industry. This industry is apparently a 'single capital' which, however, has financial and technological roots in many other capitals and represents the most 'general' single capital so far. In practically all countries, the nuclear industry is tightly linked to the State which has developed and financed its technology through the nuclear weapons industry. This fact alone makes it clear that the struggles around the nuclear cycle, from inside or outside, are immediately concerned with a State/capital and reach the highest levels of class-contradiction.

The Nuclear Plan

The nuclear industry was planned throughout the fifties and sixties as a response to the unreliability of domestic coalminers and oil workers in the Middle East (of the Suez crisis in 1956). It was conceived as the source for a new capitalist accumulation, a new model of capitalist command, control and territorial organisation. The 'nuclear worker' was to be the standard for a new class-composition: a model of discipline, responsibility and political reliability.
The higher level of discipline was to be achieved by a militarisation of the nuclear cycle. 'Atoms for Peace' was to be a mere extension and toned down version of the terroristic impact of the nuclear weapons industry. In the late sixties the construction of 1,000 power plants by the year 2,000 was planned. This Plan meant the full 'nuclearisation' of US territory and would have been a marvelously powerful but subtle means of social control. The Plan envisiongd that the production of 30% of the energy supply would be nuclear. If this had succeeded, the industry would have been able to bust all the struggles of the coal miners and oil workers. The planned location of the plants was also dictated by the need for class control. The plants were sited around the major metropolitan areas, so that the State could impose evacuations or other emergency measures and blackmail the population with radioactive danger in times of 'social unrest'. (It would not make any difference if the danger were real, for with radioactivity 'you don't feel anything' until after the damage is done). The same command-functions could have been exerted on an international level through the control of the uranium cycle. For example, the European nuclear industry depends completely on US and Canadian uranium and to a large extent on US nuclear technology.
This plan suffered one major internal contradiction: though planned as a profitable single capital, the nuclear industry turned out to be completely unable to function capitalistically. One problem was the immaturity of nuclear technology itself. The political pressure of the working class did not give capital enough time to resolve all the technological problems ('safety', waste, environmental problems). Another problem was the over-extended circulation period of nuclear capital. It takes ten years to plan a plant, four years to build it, another 15 years to completely pay off the investments, by which time it is technologically obsolete. This makes the costs of a nuclear plant virtually incalculable, for in this long period many external influences (inflation, changes in the supply costs, changes in the environment) can intervene. Thus the huge cost overruns.
The extended circulation-period of nuclear capital is not a mere financial or economic risk, it is also politically dangerous. It imposes a rigidity on capital which can be 'exploited' by the working class's power of surprise. Between the planning stage of the recently built plants and today, there was the students' movement, the anti-war movement, a new situation in the Middle East, a general loss of credibility in the ideology of 'progress', a breakdown of the family, the crisis after 1973. The antinuclear movement itself is both a part of these general developments as well as their expression. Capital has invested deeply in a future it really does not control. In a sector with short profit-return periods, capital can adjust, quickly to new situations without losing huge amounts of already invested money - not so in the nuclear industry.
All these working class surprises forced capital to give up the idea of a really profitable nuclear industry. One response was to make energy in general artificially more expensive. This began in earnest in the oil-crisis of 1973. Once oil was made two times more expensive than before, nuclear energy became more competitive. At the same time, the additional oil-profits could be used to finance the nuclear industry which is connected with the oil-trusts through the banking system. Further, the oil companies are directly interested in the nuclear industry because they control a large share of uranium mining and can coordinate the price of uranium with that of oil (e.g. between 1973 and the present the delivery price of uranium oxide has gone up from seven dollars to more than twenty.)
This profit injection into the energy industry as a whole has been paid for by the working class in the form of higher gasoline prices and inflation. The State organises the inflation of energy prices since it guarantees the electric companies' profit with money taken from the working class either in the form of taxes or by granting higher utility rates. Further, the State lowers the real cost of nuclear plants because decommissioning costs are not charged, while the liability of the companies is reduced by a law which artificially lowers their insurance costs (the Price-Anderson Act limits liability to a ridiculously low 560 million dollars.)
The nuclear industry is not operating on conventional capitalist cost-principles or, rather, far less so than other industries. It is more like a branch of 'State socialism' where the State pays and the industry receives 'fake' profits. Its economic function can best be compared to that of the war industries, for it is only under such 'para-military' conditions that the nuclear engineering and utility companies survive financially. The 'flip side' of this State/capital relation is that the nuclear industry has become a subtly powerful instrument of State planning in the crisis.
Higher energy prices and the ease of price manipulation afforded by the nuclear industry impose higher basic costs on all capitals. Nuclear prices force them either to raise their capital-intensity (rationalisation, automation) or, if they are not able to do this, to raise the rate of exploitation (lower wages, longer hours, faster work rhythms) or both. Not only are workers forced to work more, but single capitals are forced by general capital (the State) either to exploit them more effectively or face bankruptcy.
If we compare the nuclear plants with their actual achievements we find them in a very critical situation. Only 72 plants are operating in the US and most of them are operating far below their capacity. In 1978 no new nuclear plants were ordered while almost every day we read that plants have been cancelled or will be shut down. In March 1979, five plants in the Northeast were shut down by the nuclear Regulatory Commission because of 'earthquake dangers'. The Seabrook plant is struggling with serious financial problems. The Three Mile island plant is lost. In Europe, dozens of plants have been cancelled or delayed. In Austria, a completed plant will not go into operation after a referendum on nuclear development. It will become a silent and ugly monument of the 'nuclear age' in that country. If we compare this situation to the original plans, we can speak of a 'victory' against the nuclear industry. But whose victory? And is it really a victory?

Bad Surprises

These victories cannot be due to the antinuclear movement alone because the movement had a direct impact only in a few situations (as in Whyl, West Germany). For example, the referendum in Austria was supported by the conservative Volks-partei against the Social-Democrats and was not started by the anti-nuclear movement. This 'victory' occured, moreover, in a period of open defeat of the movement in Europe.
The nuclear industry puts the blame on, 'rising costs' and not on the anti-nuclear movement. This is superficially true. But 'costs' are only an expression of the social processes that cause them. One very important (if not the most important) element of these 'costs' are the nuclear workers themselves, including all types of scientists and the social context in which they move. Nuclear plants were designed for the responsible progress-abiding, intellectual-technical workers of the fifties. The high capital-intensity and the centralised existence of nuclear capital require stable, socially settled 'family men', 'militarily' disciplined workers, truly 'scientific' Stakhanovites of the second half of the 20th century.' It is no accident that the race to develop the atomic bomb also produced the first 'peaceful' atomic workers. War has always been capital's laboratory for developing new production processes and forming new types of workers.
The sixties and seventies put this 'new' worker in crisis. Wives, mothers and lovers no longer produced stability and discipline, the universities didn't produce reliability, while academic unemployment ruined the 'pride' of these workers.
As this disillusioned, cynical, unstable intellectual proletariat emerges, the future of such capital-intensive industries like the nuclear industry is endangered.
Because of its long planning period, the long term future affects the immediate behaviour of the nuclear industry more than any other branch of capital. The nuclear industry is in crisis because its future is in crisis: not its technological future, but the relationship between its technology and labour force, between technology and 'humanity'. The last few years have seen a whole wave of nuclear 'desertions'. Scientists and even members of the NRC went over to the 'enemy'. Some of these deserters helped make the film China Syndrome. In West Germany, the most spectacular case was that of Traube, the director of the national nuclear power plant programme, whose telephone was tapped by the police because he was suspected of having contacts with the Red Army Faction of Baader-Meinhof. This accusation could not be proven but Traube was fired and then joined the ecological movement. Recently, Kathy Boylan, whose husband is an employee of the nuclear department of the Long Island Lighting Company, pronounced herself against nuclear power. Asked whether her stand against nuclear power could jeopardise her husband's job, Mrs Boylan replied, "It might." (N.T. Times, April 6 1979)
The undermined discipline of the nuclear workers imposes, high 'Costs' on the nuclear industry, i.e., costs for 'safety and protection' against its own employees. Sabotage or 'human error' are in fact main concerns of the NRC. In 1978 the NRC demanded that all plants apply new, tougher safety procedures: more personnel, introduction of the 'Two man rule' (all employees dealing with vulnerable operations should always be accompanied by another employee to prevent sabotage), installation of TV-supervision and new safety clearances of two-thirds of all employees (which costs 6000 dollars per person). It seems that a number of companies refused to apply these rules and risked the loss of their licenses (the deadline was first August 1978 and later extended until February 1979)2 : But these new procedures did not do the job. In fact, the NRC blamed the Three Mile island accident on 'human errors', for the system itself worked fine! Nuclear workers have protested against the 'two man rule' and other safety procedures because they consider them a declaration of mistrust. They are right: capital does not trust them. For capital must not only deal with the question: who educates the educators? but, most crucially in the nuclear industry, it must pose the question: who controls the controllers?3
Though no nuclear plant has been shut down due to a wage dispute, nuclear workers have been visibly struggling for more safety for themselves against radioactive dangers.
Karen Silkwood has become something of a national martyr because she was murdered in 1974 when she tried to make public information about health dangers in the nuclear processing plant where she worked. In 1976 workers in a nuclear reprocessing plant in La Hague went on strike for about six months protesting radioactive contamination at the plant. Most recently in February 18, 1979, nuclear workers at the nuclear power plant of Caorso, Italy went on strike demanding safety guarantees from the company against radioactive dangers. The 'leaks' of discipline within the nuclear cycle seem to be enlarging and capital must have strong doubts about the command-creating function of the nuclear industry.
This crisis of command-creation within the plants (or the nuclear cycle in general) is intensified by the crisis of command over the socio-political environment around the plant. Site planning is obviously sensitive to this environment. Thus, in Italy the nuclear programme is relatively modest (11 million people per plant site). This is not surprising in a country with high levels of 'mass terrorism' and a general credibility gap between the State and the working class. Capital-intensive industries like nuclear power are too risky there. At the other extreme is Switzerland which has the largest nuclear programme proportional to the population (900,000 people per plant) supplying 25 per cent of its electricity.4 Again this is not surprising for Switzerland is known for its political and social stability. Instead of increasing control over the site environments, however, the construction of nuclear plants has provided an ideal target for social movements of different origins. Many times, the plants 'organised' social insubordination around themselves. The high concentration of capital and the 'visibility' of this capitalist 'fortress of confidence and progress' attracted all types of protest, attacks and threats. For example, in the US, 175 threats or acts of violence against nuclear plants were reported. One of the most spectacular occurred on August 27, 1974 when an incendiary bomb exploded near Pilgrim 1 in Massachusetts while the plant was at one of its rare moments of full power. Nuclear capital could not anticipate this type of reaction which was based on social processes that emerged after the nuclear plants had been put on line. Attacks on the nuclear industry were not only used by the anti-nuclear movement. They were also enmeshed with other political purposes (e.g. struggles for national or regional liberation or for more traditional 'party-games'). Thus the anti-nuclear movement is only one of the social movements which forced higher 'costs' on the nuclear industry from the outside: These 'costs' include: expenses for the military defence of the plants, propaganda and lobbying efforts, additional safety measures, legitimation (safety studies, legal actions), 'lost time' and interest charges.
Even the accident at Three Mile island, the first real-life rehearsal of nuclear command-creation, indicated more symptoms of the decay of command than of its strengthening. Thousands of workers took advantage of the situation and did not show up for work, while the credibility of State and nuclear officials reached only 16 per cent in the polls. On the one side, workers who were told not to leave did leave; on the other side, those told to go often did not go. As Woodrow Miller, 63, former mayor of the town of Goldsboro (near the reactor) explained the attitude of the later type of refusers: "What is the difference if you stay in New York and die from carbon monoxide or I stay in Goldsboro and die from radiation?" Given the fact that the crisis, the higher costs of living, the cut-backs of social services have generally created so many risks for health, many people are perhaps willing to take the additional radioactive risk, stay in an evacuation area and try to make use of the situation in the form of looting or riots. The renewed interest by the government in 'civil defence' and mass, police-run evacuations indicates that nuclear plants are not terrorizing and commanding enough for the working class of the seventies.
Even in this critical situation, with all these 'strange victories', the nuclear industry (and even less capital in general) is not yet defeated and has other choices. State/capital wants us to pay a high price for our unexpected victories and lack of devotion to its plans. For if splitting atoms cannot do the job of controlling our lives, maybe decaying dollars can.
At this moment, capital is obviously testing out two possible futures: a risky, capital intensive nuclear future and a labour-intensive, low-energy version. Neither is very tempting though there will always be, after the priority is set, a combination of both. The choice we are offered is one between cancer and misery. The. 'loyal opposition' to capital within the anti-nuclear movement seems to accept such a blackmail and is campaigning for the 'misery' version: 'Solar jobs', conservation and 'labour-intensive' production. In this sense, they are 'educating' the masses, but they face the same problem the dominant capital faces with its cancer-option. Imposing labour-intensive production on a working class that has. been fighting around the refusal of work is as hopeless as the search for responsible high capital-intensity workers. However, if we are not able to reject the choice between cancer and misery, we will surely get both.

Chapter Five

The Anti-Nuclear Movement in the Cities

One of the major achievements of the anti-nuclear movement and its militants (even its 'solar capital' planners) is to have created a social movement practically from zero. In the midst of the general decay of old 'New Left' organisations, anti-nuclear militants took a practical chance that lots of 'pure revolutionaries' didn't even perceive. But this world is ungrateful and militant merits are not eternally respected because all movements, if they remain alive, change continuously. The anti-nuclear movement emerged with a class composition linked to a type of highly valued intellectual labour force in rural and suburban regions. Will this be the social and geographic limit of the movement? With the Three Mile Island accident and the energy price attack, capital is saying to this movement: "Okay, folks, you got a point. But what about food-riots in the cities, which side will you be on?"
This may appear exaggerated, but this question expresses the main problem the anti-nuclear movement will necessarily face in urban areas. The urban working class forces a choice on the movement: will it stick to its old class-structure or will it try to extend beyond these limits? Will it be a movement of concerned intellectual workers, dealing with problems of antiplanning, restricting its form of struggle and organisation to this class sector or will it deal with more immediate issues such as rate hikes and food prices. The anti-nuclear movement is still pondering over the risks of enlarging its class composition (which could mean self-devaluation) versus the advantages of conserving its own value as a labour force. (For example, at one of the first major occupations of a nuclear plant site after Three Mile island - the one at Shoreham, New York on June 3, 1979 - nonviolence training has still been declared compulsory by the organisers).
The anti-nuclear movement has developed a certain rigidity and a fear of uninvited guests. While being harmless in rural areas, this rigidity can become a danger in cities where different class-sectors live closely together. 'Doing your own thing' in a city can immediately mean doing it against others, for everything is so directly interrelated. The apparently innocent act of installing a windmill on the roof and saving energy is an attack on a neighbour who probably doesn't have the necessary money for such an installation and is left alone in the struggle against rising electricity bills. One arm of the anti-nuclear movement, 'alternative energy' can become just another hobby for higher income people or people with special educations. Thus, Carter's energy bill subsidizes the installation of solar heating devices through tax write-offs, but only those who have houses to install them and taxes to write off can take advantage of the deal. In general, such individual or class restricted energy solutions put poorer sectors in an even tighter squeeze and deepen the divisions within the class. If a nuclear shut down only means solar privileges for some people, capital can divide the possible movement of all energy consumers and we will lose the nuclear battle.
Not to deal with the problem of energy prices at the urban community level means to automatically play the game of capitalist class division, consciously or not. All types of symbolic or legal activities, like 'making the link with the atomic bomb' (can you practically attack an atomic bomb by 'attacking' the Pentagon?) divert from possible activities in the community. If we are not able to deal with the local, electric company, how can we deal with the Pentagon? Why should we go to Washington if we have never been to the corner utility office?
These questions concerning the movement's direction must be asked now, for the anti-nuclear movement has a real chance to play a role as a catalyst for struggles in a very critical situation in the cities. The Harrisburg accident has legitimated this movement on a mass level and has 'educated' people about the lies of the government and the nuclear industry. Being anti-nuclear means to be against capital, against the energy squeeze, against the 'Choice' of cancer or misery. The anti-nuclear issue is a possibility of autonomous organisation outside of all types of compromised party, union and ethnic organisations, and open field of creativity for all types of people. The characteristics of the 'rural' anti-nuclear movement are partly an obstacle for such a function. The urban anti-nuclear movement has to develop its own ways of organis-ing, making decisions, and acting. It must insist on its own rhythms and cannot just be an appendix of the established organisations.
April 26, 1979


Chapter 1

1) Whyl in Germany was a christian-democrat (conservative) stronghold, the political attitudes could be described as 'law and order', 'defense of private property', 'anti-communist'. Nevertheless, it became the centre of a very militant activism of local people against the planned nuclear reactor and against the christian-democrat government.
2) In Whyl, the quality of the wine would have declined due to climatic changes; the value of the real estate would have gone down; milk production would become problematic, etc.
3) Similar 'factors' emerged on a lesser scale in other places, including the Denver-Aspen area of Colorado; around Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Madison, Wisconsin; etc; in sum, in centres of 'alternativism' which co-exist with centres of the education industry.

Chapter 3

1) Stokely Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation In America (New York, 1967).
2) Anna Gyorgy and friends, No Nukes: Everyone's Guide to Nuclear Power, Boston, 1979).

Chapter 4

1) According to G. Daneker and R. Grossman, Jobs and Energy (Washington, D.C., 1977) p. 15, the ratio of professional and technical workers in atomic plants is 33 per cent of the total plant employment; in manufacturing this ratio is 10.2 per cent while in mining it is 12.6 per cent, Handbook of Labour Statistics 1976 (Washington, D.C., 1976).
2) Interview with R. Jungk, Tages Auzeiger, March 6, 1979.
3) The typical nuclear plant employs about 733 persons a year according to Ron Langue, Nuclear Power Plants: The More They Build, The More You Pay (New York, 1976). The average cost per plant completed in 1976 is about $ 2 billion, e.g. Seabrook will be about $2.5 billion on the basis of 1978 estimates. Thus the average investment a worker handles in a year is $2.7 million. The investment per worker per year in petroleum is $150,000 while in textiles it is $18,600, Statistical Abstract of the US 1978, Washington, D.C., 1979), p. 567. Thus the nuclear worker has to be 16 times more reliable than the petroleum worker and 145 times more disciplined than a textile worker.
4) Calculated from the Statistical Abstract.