This Was Our Job. But it’s not anymore.
Three years to the day of the first post to This Is Our Job, I’ve decided to end this particular anarchist project in order to devote myself to other anarchist projects. Primarily, I want more time to spend on the translation and preparation of book-length releases to be published through memory_lapse press, which is my own small printing initiative.
I’m still not sure what the first few books, if they ever do see the light of day, will consist of. Insurrectionary anarchism has meant a lot to me over the past four or five years, but in all honesty it’s also had certain negative effects on me that I need to distance myself from. So perhaps the books will deal with topics both confrontational and constructive, contemporary and historical, but always holding fast to a core of antiauthoritarianism and its undying relevance to those who can truly see the world through its veil of falsehoods, still certain that it should, can, and will be a far better place.
I have some things to say about the current shape of insurrectionary anarchism as a current within a broader antiauthoritarianism, as well as the role and effectiveness of what’s come to be known as counterinformation as a means of spreading the news and discourse stemming from anarchist insurgency. I must admit that I had reservations about going ahead and openly sharing what I wanted to say, but as this is my last post, I might as well make it everything that it should be.
Ever since my first exposure to insurrectionary anarchism, I’ve gradually distilled certain aspects of the theory behind it as essential and discarded the rest. To me, a fecund anarchist insurgency is diffuse, illegal, offensive, strategic, consistent, and ethical. Its primary aim should be to attack the physical infrastructure of repression, thereby reducing and eventually crippling the ability of that repression to function. What follows from this is not a wholesale destruction of every element of society as we know it, but the opening of space into which constructive anarchist initiatives can flourish. As domination is pushed back, liberation moves forward.
Yet in practice, this isn’t quite what I’ve been observing for the most part from action groups and individuals engaging in insurrectionary anarchism. Despite my enormous respect for their heroism in putting their lives on the line to attack the brutal irrationality of power, many of them have been seriously deficient when it comes to target selection and technical execution.
Without pointing the finger at specific examples of attacks that I’ve found rather pointless—attacks that were seemingly carried out solely to get a communiqué some exposure on the Internet and allow the participants to flex their muscles a bit, even if just for show—I feel that basic strategy isn’t being taken into consideration by those engaging in anarchist insurgency. This is leading to the lengthy imprisonment of many comrades, often in exchange for negligible infrastructural damage, and that is an unsustainable equation for a tendency already so marginal that it can only be considered the avant-garde of the avant-garde.
When attacking a target, a good first question to ask is: how much of a role does this specific target play in repression (or even, to what extent am I personally repressed by it?), and how much would its destruction hinder that repression? It’s a simple question, yet a review of most of what constitutes insurrectionary anarchist attack these days clearly demonstrates that it goes unasked.
The state deploys specific front-line repressive elements: police (precincts, vehicles, and other equipment), courts (and the buildings that house them), and prisons (including the private corporations and state agencies that manage them). The next line consists of intelligence agencies and their physical infrastructure (offices, vehicles, computer and communications networks, etc.). Finally, there is military infrastructure and all that entails.
On the capitalist side, repression flows from the financial industry, the advertising industry, and the manufacturing and retail industry, among others. But let’s take the financial industry as an example. Causing minor (or even major) damage to an ATM or bank branch is, to a banking conglomerate, largely equivalent to a mosquito bite. The true operational infrastructure of capitalism resides in offices and corporate headquarters, and while these targets may be difficult to access, they shouldn’t be neglected outright.
Yet such state and capitalist targets are rarely if ever attacked. Is it because the potential prison sentence for gluing shut an ATM card slot is far less than that of setting fire to a police helicopter? Is it a lack of vision, ambition, ability, resources? I wish I knew. All I can say for sure is that by attacking what I would deem to be low-value targets—targets whose repressive value to the system is so low that it may as well equal zero—insurrectionary anarchism is falling into the same trap as all the other anarchisms, relying solely on hackneyed routines that lead nowhere beyond the subcultural ghetto of those already involved.
As an adjunct to the above critique, I want to say something about bombs. I think it’s clear that the use of bombs by insurrectionary anarchists should either be discarded altogether or left to those who truly have an expert grasp on the fabrication of safe and effective improvised explosives. How many times have we read about bombs either not detonating at all, detonating at the wrong time and harming random passersby in the process, or detonating as planned yet causing ineffectual damage? This doesn’t even take into account the comrades who have already been killed or seriously maimed by the premature explosion of bombs they intended to use on targets. I feel strongly that, instead of bombs, a concerted effort should be made to use well-designed portable incendiary devices, since a potent raging fire will always do more damage than a low-strength explosion.
Now to counterinformation. My main frustration with This Is Our Job has been that very few people read it. Perhaps the blame for that is my own, as there might have been things I could have done to promote it more. But the dilemma remains: if the goal of counterinformation is to spread—as widely as possible—news and discourse stemming from anarchist insurgent action, then counterinformation itself must reach further than it does at the moment. I don’t really know how to make that happen, and that deficiency has troubled me for most of the three years that This Is Our Job has been active. I’m not privy to what kind of traffic other counterinformational sites have been getting, regardless of language, but I can say that my own numbers have been positively anemic.
So, given all of the above, it seems apt to put an end to the project at this particular point in time. The archives will stay online, in both the former and current locations. I will always try to fulfill any requests to retrieve specific pieces that were posted at some point. And I still welcome submissions for translation from the Greek- and Spanish-speaking milieus to the usual e-mail address: tioj[at]thisisourjob[dot]org. Perhaps they might make their way into a book at some point.
Finally, I want to thank all the comrades who took the time to read the site regularly and who contacted me personally to keep me informed, coordinate work, send me pieces for translation, or just say hello. I only hope that one day, somehow, we can meet face-to-face to share a drink, a meal, an embrace, and the whispered intimacies of our passion for liberation.
Up the rebels, always.
—Matthew (This Is Our Job)