Please note that these opinions do not represent any 'movement' or 'organization'. They are collected thoughts of various green anarchists that Black and Green Network endorses.
These are not meant to be any 'authority' or final word on the subject. Please email us if you feel differently.
"...the struggle against His-story, against Leviathan, is synonymous with Life; it is part of the Biosphere's self-defense against the monster rendering her asunder. And the struggle is by no means over; it goes on as long as the beast is animated by living beings."
Refusal of IdeologyIt can not be stated clearly enough: there is no 'green anarchist' or 'anarcho-primitivist' ideology. Anarchists are essentially defined by a desire and actions towards a way of life that is defined by what is not present. Anarchy essentially means 'anti-authoritarian', and as is easy to see, that means different things all across the board. There is no single 'anarchist' vision.
The '-isms' used here are for conventional reasons only, to identify with a larger critique. Anarchists are those seeking a world free of domination, hierarchies: meaning the abolition of all state power. The 'green' prefix points to an extension of what those authoritarian structures are, namely pointing more towards technology, industrialism, and civilization itself (although these three categories do not apply to all 'green anarchists'). (see below for more on the various 'factions' of ga)
Ideology is a rigid belief system that carries its constituent through all realms of thought. It has a critique, plan of action and vision, embodied by organizations, platforms, and so on. A part of the green anarchist critique has been an understanding of the role of these kind of 'group-think' institutions. The left holds strong to ideology as a means to further revolution, while we feel that such a complete package doesn't seek to awaken people to their own potential, but only gives them something new to regurjitate. We feel that ideology is a tool of civilization, a part of the totality of civilized thought that keeps people in a constant droned state. Our interests are in bringing about a world of autonomous beings, not automatons.
This has given the leftists reason to criticize green anarchists for not being 'organized' and having only loose visions. However, we feel that this is an important step if we are to again be full beings.
Anarchy is NOT Democracy
Despite the efforts on behalf of aspiring populists to prove otherwise, anarchy is, by definition, not democracy (whether one calls it direct or social democracy). Needing to point towards this seems rather petty, but it’s hard to look at the huge amounts of anarchist literature without seeing the bulk of it as any more than ‘radical democracy,’ dressed up in anarchist rhetoric.
Let’s look at the word anarchy, stemming from the Greek an-, meaning without, and arkhos, meaning ruler. Put them together and you have without ruler, or more commonly, absence of any form of political authority.
Democracy, believe it or not, is a form of government. The suffix, –cracy, following the Latin –cratia, to the Greek –kratia meaning strength, power, translated to government, or rule (Greek: demokratia meaning people + government [dictatorship of the people or dictatorship of the proletariat for Marx]). And to step down one more notch here, a government is a governing organization, or the mediator of all social, economic, and political activities of a certain people. So, as we can see, anarchy, by definition, is not democracy.
Anarchists are for a complete rejection of all authoritarian institutions/structures on principle. All governments impose themselves on the Earth and all life on it. So long as they exist, autonomy cannot. This being established, we can move on.
There is no single strand of 'green anarchy' and there are surely as many divisions between ourselves as there are in anything. The unifying principle between green anarchists is an ecologically oriented understanding of power relations. Differences primarily arise from the extents to which we feel the initial terms this domestication can, or should, be overturned.
We lack the capabilities and want to list all different strands of 'green anarchism'. We want to emphasize that these categories are given not of want, but of simplicity. We have no interest in ideological restrictions and have no absolute faith in such abstracts. The distinctions point to specific critiques and are used for conventional reasons only!!
Here are some of the primary strands;
Anarcho-Primitivism: This critique looks to the millions of years of human wild co-existence within the community of life as a look at 'human nature' and capability. What is gathered from this is that contrary to the myths of the civilized, humans, given the chance, are not evil, although we feel that power corrupts absolutely.
The critique looks to domestication as the beginning of a process that has brought us to where we lie now. Our understanding is that not only are capitalist relations oppresive, but that sedentary, agriculture gave way to property and thus power. This point shows the beginning of the process of removing ourselves from the 'other' into an 'thingified' relation to the world, where all things are seen as objects for our use/manipulation.
Some major points of contention as far as this critique lie in its implications. John Zerzan contends that to overturn civilization would require abolition of symbolic thought, whereas others would say that symbolic culture is a bigger and more realizable issue. Both agree on the need to turn back from agricultural sedentism.
Anti-Civilization: This critique is similar in it's understanding to anarcho-primitivism, but it's constituents tend to feel that anarcho-primitivism over idealizes a certain peoples/time. The convention of this strand is to remove itself from the baggage that anarcho-primitivists tend to carry.
Green Anarchism: This is used as a general term for those who don't use either of the above categories and this definately has no pure consistency, and the broad title is not intended to group these folks entirely.
Distinctions within this category lie primarily in questions of how far back to look for understanding the destructiveness of civilization. Some would say that domestication and agriculture can be ecologically 'sustainable' and preferrable. Others would contend that technology itself is not an inherent problem.
The unifying principle lies in an ecological basis and understanding of the megatechnological State as destructive.
The above mentioned philosophical strands tend to be accompanied by another factor (although not necessarily as divisive or particular). That lies in;
Revolutionary Green Anarchists: Those seeking a mass movement and revolution as means to an anarchistic world. and,
Insurrectionary Green Anarchists: Those who seek revolt here and now as a means to abolish the system on a more individual basis.
There is rarely a genuine split here, but the distinction tends to have a larger impact on the approaches one takes to destroying the totality of civilized existence.
A large contention remains that the two are not inseparable and that any act of revolt strikes a blow to the civilized order. Some would point that insurrection is the breeding ground of revolution. For an example of debate between the two strands, see Ted Kaczynski's 'Hit Where it Hurts' (Green Anarchy #8) and Primal Rage's 'Hit Where it Hurts, but in the Meantime' (Green Anarchy #9).
A Note on Social Ecology
Social ecology, generally related to Murray Bookchin and his Institute for Social Ecology has typically been held as one constituent within green anarchy. The Black and Green Network, Coalition Against Civilization, 'Bring on the Ruckus' Society, and Green Anarchy magazine have both publically denounced that this strand has no relation to anarchy. Bob Black's Anarchy After Leftism (Columbia: C.A.L., 1998) further draws on the authoritarian principles that underlie this strand.
Social ecology, or libertarian municipalities, are inherently authoritarian, democractic utopias that seek only to make a green civilization. We have no interest in relations with those who actively seek to reform and carry on such a mundane, destructive reality.
The following sections are from the Black and Green/Green Anarchy "Back to Basics" Primer from Green Anarchy No. 9 (2002)
We’re now seeing the end-point of civilization: for one thing, the complete domination-and soon to be destruction-of nature. And, as Freud predicted, a nearing state of universal neurosis. In spades.
Paul Shepard said that the step to genetic engineering, including human cloning, is implicit in the first step: domestication. The urge to control and dominate is the cornerstone of civilization. The inner logic of this orientation toward the world and the life upon it is reaching its completion.
The founding spirit of civilization begins, most likely, in a gradually developing division of labor or specialization. Inequities of influence come about via the affective power of various kinds of experts. The road to civilization was paved by the domestication of animals, plants and our own ancestors only 10,000 years ago, which ended a state of natural anarchy that had prevailed for about 2 million years.
Prior to civilization there generally existed ample leisure time, considerable gender autonomy and equality, a non-destructive approach to the natural world, the absence of organized violence and strong health and robusticity. Civilization inaugurated warfare, the subjugation of women, population growth, drudge work, entrenched hierarchies, and virtually every known disease, to name a few of its “benefits”.
Civilization begins with and relies on an enforced renunciation of instinctual freedom and Eros. It cannot be reformed and is thus our enemy.
Domestication began - first in the (once) Fertile Crescent in the Near East (modern day Iraq) - some 12,000 years ago. Though it took a few thousand years for this process and the property and power it produced to necessitate the military defense and social control strategy of civilization, it was the first mistake in the series leading to modernity.
Domestication is the process by which human beings tame, control, breed, and genetically modify other forms of life. It is also the process by which previously nomadic human populations shift towards a sedentary or settled existence. The first kind of domestication, that of the human control of life, necessitates a totalitarian relationship with both the land and the plants and animals being domesticated. Whereas in the true state of wildness, all life competes for resources in a limited way (i.e. seldom is more taken from any resource than needed at one time); domestication destroys this balance. The domesticated landscape (e.g. pastoral lands/agricultural fields, and to some extent -- though to a much lesser degree-- horticulture and gardening) necessitates the end of open sharing of the resources that exist or formerly existed on that landscape. The domesticated landscape is the statement that where “once this was everyone’s, it is now mine”. Arguably this notion of ownership laid the foundation for social hierarchy as property and power emerged. Domestication does not only change the ecology of the landscape from free to totalitarian, it enslaves the species that are domesticated. While the wheat and corn, pigs and horses were once freely dancing in the chaos of nature, they have come under the control of human captors that literally twist their genes to their will. Generally the more an environment is controlled, the less sustainable it is: the most sustainable types of domestication in existence are the practices of horticultural gardeners that work within -- not against -- natural cycles and are small scale.
The second kind of domestication -- that of the humans themselves -- involves many trade-offs in comparison to the foraging nomadic mode. It is worth noting here that most of the shifts made from nomadic foraging to domestication were not made autonomously, they were made at the tip of the sword and gun. Whereas only 2000 years ago the majority of the world population where hunter/gatherers, now it is .01%. This fact is not a result of a collective informed decision of the last wild and free humans to go the way of slavery and ruin.
The path of domestication has involved more than the enslavement of once free populations throughout the planet. It has meant myriad pathologies for the conquering population and the originators of the practice. Several examples include a decline in nutritional health due to over-reliance on non- diverse diets, almost 40-60 diseases integrated into human populations per domesticated animal (influenza, the common cold, tuberculosis, etc.), the emergence of surplus which can be used to feed a population out of balance and invariably involves property and an end to unconditional sharing, the first ever problems resulting from disposal of and proximity to excrement, the rise of ideal host environments for parasites, and the capacity for diseases to be carried on through generations as the artificial environment buffers natural selection.
Industrialism - the existence of complex mechanized systems of production that are built upon centralized power and the exploitation of people and nature. A critique of industrialism is a natural extension of the anarchist critique of the state, because industrialism is inherently imperialistic, genocidal, ecocidal, and patriarchal. In order to maintain an industrial society, you must set out to conquer and colonize lands in order to acquire non-renewable resources to fuel and grease the machine. This colonialism/ imperialism is rationalized by racism, sexism, and cultural chauvinism. In the process of acquiring these non-renewable resources, you must force people off of their land. And in order to make people work in the factories that produce the machines, you must enslave people, or hoard the resources that they are dependent upon for their survival, as a means to coerce them into entering the mines, toiling in the factories, and otherwise subjecting themselves to the destructive industrial system. Industrialism cannot exist without massive centralization because it cannot exist without massive specialization; class-domination is a tool of the industrial system that denies people access to knowledge, making people helpless and easy to exploit. Furthermore, industrialism demands that resources be shipped from all over the globe in order to perpetuate its existence, and this globalism undermines local autonomy and self-sufficiency. Industrialism is inherently patriarchal because it is essentially anti-life and objectifying by its very nature. In the eyes of the industrialist, women and nature are here for men to exploit for material gain. It is a mechanistic world-view that is behind industrialism. This is the same world-view that has justified slavery, exterminations, and the subjugation of women. It should be obvious to all that industrialism is not only oppressive for humans, but that it is also fundamentally ecologically destructive. Industrialism means sucking the earth dry with mining operations and oil drilling; contaminating ecosystems, the air, and the water, with chemical agents. Nuclear energy, the backbone of the advanced industrial economy, may soon render this planet uninhabitable if it is not deconstructed. For these reasons and others, we are uncompromisingly against industrialism.
Technology is more of a process or concept than a static form. It is a complex system involving division of labor, resource extraction, and exploitation for the benefit of those who implement its process. Technology is distinct from simple tools in many regards. A simple tool is a temporary usage of an element within our immediate surroundings which is used to help with a specific task. Tools do not involve a complex system which alienate the user from the act. Implicit in technology is this separation, creating a mediated experience which leads to various forms of domination. Our domination increases every time a new “time saving” technology is created, as it necessitates the construction of more technology to support, fuel, maintain and repair the original technology. This has led very rapidly to the establishment of a complex technological system that seems to have an existence independent from the humans who created it and where the power relationships between the “inventor” and the “invention” clearly favor the interests of the Machine itself. Discarded by-products of the Technological System are polluting both our physical and our psychological environment. Lives stolen in service of the Machine and the toxic effluent of the Technological System’s fuels -- both are choking us. Technology is replicating itself now, with something resembling mechanical, artificial sentience. The Technological System is a planetary infection, propelled forward by it’s own momentum, that is rapidly ordering a new kind of environment, one designed for mechanical efficiency and technological expansionism alone. It’s questionable whether the ruling class (who still benefit economically and politically from the Technological System) really have any control over their “Frankenstein monster” at this point. The Technological System methodically destroys, eliminates, or subordinates the natural world, and does not allow the earth to restore itself or even to enter into a symbiotic relationship with it. Technology is constructing a world fit only for machines and the ideal for which the technological system strives is the mechanization of everything it encounters. If we want to be more than “servo-mechanisms” or cyborg lackeys of technology then we have to recognize its domination over us and work to dismantle the system that has been built around the needs of machines, and not free life-forms.
The tragic irony of revolutions is that many of the “successful” ones in modern times have actually reduced the level of freedom and authenticity in society. This is the case when the root causes of oppression and estrangement are not addressed, when the god of progress/development/domination of nature is perhaps ever more fully obeyed than before the Revolution.
For revolution to have meaning, substance - to be liberatory - certain hitherto unquestioned institutions must be undone. Civilization is the fountainhead of all dominations: patriarchy, division of labor, domestication of life, warfare, on down the line to its present ghastly fullness.
The “revolutionaries” who fail to indict and move against these fundamentals, who only wish to re-arrange or reform the ensemble of technology and capital, offer only a prolonging of what is so deeply objectionable.
For us, if the word has any meaning it entails the dismantling of the whole thing.
LEFTISM AND LIBERALISM
The two main failed and exhausted means or approaches towards change in recent times have been liberalism and leftism.
What really remains to be said about the liberal or reform outlook? It’s an endless masochism, time and energy wasted in pursuit of negligible crumbs, while society and the biosphere become evermore impoverished and ruined. Liberals of all parties, and including virtually every pacifist, continue in denial as to the deepening crisis everywhere. Some of them will apparently never wake up to the depth and scope of what is wrong. Faithful voters and recyclers, they cling to the palpably false claim that an all- destructive system can somehow be redeemed, can somehow serve life.
As for the Left, where it can be distinguished from liberalism, we find it hard to imagine a more discredited, dead-end. It has failed universally in terms of the individual and in terms of nature. It is an albatross to be thrown off.
Basically it appears in two forms. The first is the more overtly reformist, in which more “radical” goals are hidden from the “masses” it seeks to attract. Manipulation and lack of transparency (e.g. the Green Party) define this brand of Leftism. The overtly “radical” form is straight- up authoritarianism and has proven so in every instance in history. The so- called “small c” communists will never escape this baggage, rejected everywhere. Leftism approaches extinction, the sooner the better.
Insofar as anarchists cling to the left and define themselves in its terms (e.g. anarcho-syndicalists) they will go nowhere. Technology, production, hierarchy, government, ecological destruction, and ideas like “progress” continue to go unquestioned by most who would identify with the left. In U.S. history, the Left, even in its best opportunities, failed miserably and current prospects are even worse now that its record is known to all. Everyone knows something different is needed.
The world population is out of balance; we aren’t suggesting a strategy to deal with this, we just think there is data about the situation that should be known. For one thing, for about the last 200 years the human population growth curve has shifted from the normal mammal “s” shape to the more viral “j” shape. Essentially this means that population has been dramatically increasing at an ecologically lethal rate and the behavior of this increase is much like that of viruses (which is to consume the host until both the virus and the host are dead). This is a very serious reality that previous social movements have neither considered nor had the tools to consider.
We now have many tools to understand this and the population problem cannot be tabled as one of many “issues” to one day address after some eventual revolution. Addressing this issue should not, however, equate to devising means of population control; rather population awareness would be the anti-authoritarian approach. Because as anarchists we seek no means to impose a “sustainable” number on the world’s populations, we choose to disseminate understanding and awareness of the problem for anti-authoritarian and autonomous action to be based upon. What is needed to approach the question of population is a understanding of context. This can include the world population, those of given bioregions, the consumption habits per population, etc. Of particular importance to green anarchists would be an understanding of the contexts of local limits of both numbers of people and consumption habits. As it stands the most unsustainable populations have less to do with actual numbers, it is more a matter of cultural behavior. The billions of rural farmers -- literally half the world’s population -- while responsible in many places for deforestation and land degradation are, in ecological terms, far less impacting than the destruction wrought by the cultural behavior (i.e. consumption habits) of the urbanized and “first world”. While it is true that the current population is out of balance and headed for a crash, the blame must be placed on the populations that are most responsible for ecological destruction, not simply on numbers alone.
In this context, it is more than the population which must be stopped; it is the cultures whose behaviors represent many times the destructive impact of non-industrialized population growth centers of the world.
Ultimately, the industrialized North will pay the price of un-sustainability far more than any others as its inhabitants have lost the knowledge of land-based survival, unlike half the population of the world.
As anti-authoritarians, we hope that autonomous populations and autonomous communities will live within their means, and we have faith that the imbalances that imperialism, capitalism, and globalization have caused in the third world will quickly subside once the industrial system is gone and natives of the planet can return to their stolen and lost ways. And this will be based on collective autonomy and ecological awareness, not external authority or nation-states.
A revolutionary movement that does not address the reality of the original inhabitants of the land is a movement doomed to failure. We believe that one of the reasons that past revolutionary movements have failed miserably in their attempts to create a free, egalitarian society, is because they have not adequately addressed issues concerning the right of indigenous peoples to secession, sovereignty, or self-determination.
Movements that don’t attempt to build egalitarian relations with Indigenous communities and assist them in their struggles for autonomy will never have the support of those communities. In fact, if a supposedly “revolutionary” movement does not address the issue of de- colonization, it will most likely only contribute to the marginalizing of Native peoples and turn them into enemies.
State-communist movements have been outright genocidal in their practice towards indigenous peoples. These movements regard indigenous peoples as “pre-capitalist” artifacts that stand in the way of socialist evolution and industrial progress. The conditions faced by indigenous people’s under “revolutionary” “communist” governments and proto-governments in Russia, China, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Peru, Columbia, and elsewhere, have differed very minimally from the oppressive conditions they faced under capitalist governments.
The anarchist movement does not share the communist movement’s gross history of subjugating indigenous peoples, but anarchists have largely failed to address the reality of indigenous peoples at all. This is extremely unfortunate because the anarchist movement finds natural allies in the Indigenous sovereignty movement.
Many anarchists regard Native issues as “nationalist” and therefore irrelevant. This is extremely flawed because it holds that any distinct culture that takes action against a colonial power is “nationalist”. Some Indigenous movements are indeed “nationalistic” - but usually not in the sense of a nation-state, but rather in terms of a distinct culture with distinct customs that has the right to exist freely within its own bioregion. The efforts of Native peoples to declare their sovereignty is often fully consistent with the anarchist desire for decentralization.
Our movement needs to realize that the struggles of Native peoples are issues that should be of major concern to all who consider themselves opponents of oppression. Indigenous peoples have always engaged in struggles against the state, industrial expansionism, and corporate exploitation. They are the only communities that have maintained a relatively harmonious relationship with the natural world. They have and continue to wage impressive battles against the status-quo. These battles often have the objective of forcing corporations off of sacred land, rejecting the arbitrarily imposed laws and ordinances of the State, and ending industrial developments which threaten the well-being of humans and animals. These issues are fully consistent with anarchism, and here we find the potential for powerful alliances between sincere anarchists and radical ecologists, and Native peoples.
Anarchist solidarity with Native peoples must not resemble, in any shape or form, the “solidarity” of “New-Age” cultural appropriationists - whose idea of “solidarity” with Natives really consists of stealing their traditions and exploiting them for personal gain and profits. Rather, anarchist solidarity with Natives must be genuine, concrete, and, most importantly, egalitarian. When our support is welcomed by them, we should accept it and join them on the frontlines in the battle against colonial domination.
It’s amazing that so many insurrectional anarchists allow themselves to be drawn into energy-draining, rhetorical debates with liberals who attempt to turn strategic issues into moralistic ones, i.e. their attempts to define property destruction and economic sabotage as “violent”, and thus, control the rage of those who have clearly identified their oppressors and who are rising up against their rule. Reverence for property is loyalty to capitalism and to the values of the system that some of us are serious about destroying, not reforming. We know that our enemy worships property, and that the source of their power - in the world that they’ve created - is their stolen property and wealth and we have no reverence whatsoever for anything the system uses to oppress us. If we’re attempting a genuine jailbreak out of the prison of this society, if we’re ready to make a move on our oppressors while there is still time, then we have to strike blows against them that hurt, and this is not going to be accomplished through voting or peace vigils. Our enemy - the industrial mega-machine - has to be weakened before it can be completely destroyed, and this can be very effectively accomplished by striking ruthless, crippling blows at the System’s key, strategic pressure points, with the intent of impairing the industrial cancers’ ability to spread and replicate itself. Movements like the Earth Liberation Front have demonstrated that economic sabotage can be effective in forcing specific industries out of business; our task now is to put this system in it’s totality out of business.
While most of us strive for a peaceful and harmonious existence among ourselves and the rest of life, it is important to recognize the context we currently live within. Most of the world’s people are living under deplorable conditions, not because they have not become “civilized” or “modernized”, but instead are forced to be the workforce and dumping ground for, or dependent on, the so-called “first world” powers. Those of us living in the “first world” are also suffering from this rotten set-up. With extreme alienation, physical deterioration, psychological distortions, and spiritual emptiness, there is no question we are all quickly headed down a one-way path of ultimate doom. Needless to say, it is also undeniable that we are on the verge of ecological collapse. With this being said, it is important for us to take responsibility for this situation and to take action now. . . as we understand that time is running out!
Inherent in being a revolutionary anarchist is the notion of insurrection, or the promotion and insurgence of uprising for the purpose of liberation. This can take many forms, but reform of the systems of domination cannot be viewed as revolutionary. While most actions anarchists take would be considered non-violent, there can be no limitation set on our resistance. As anarchists, we should flatly refuse any ideological and philosophical confines to how we choose to resist. Physical interaction with authority needs to move beyond the passive and symbolic. In fact, many anarchists embrace revolutionary violence as a necessary and natural reaction to oppression. If we look anywhere in the natural world, we see that self- defense is instinctual. This cannot be overridden by hypothetical ideals. It is important to question ideological limitations stemming from a place of extreme privilege. Most people on earth do not have the comfort to decide what the most "righteous" response to domination should be, and often the stakes are life and death. It is not a matter of individual reflection or ideological refinement; it's do or die. This is not to say that everyone needs to engage in violent resistance, but rather, to say that it exists, it is justifiable (in many situations), and should not be condemned. Revolutionary violence, in a variety of forms, is a necessary response to the system’s institutionalized violence, and necessary for the continuation of all of life. Yes, we need to heal the wounds caused by this death-trip we call civilization, but the healing process can only go so far until we are able to stop the infliction of these wounds by our oppressors. As Franz Fanon suggested, there is also a kind of catharsis and deepening in connection between one another in the act of revolt and in the physical removal of one’s oppressor. Although some cannot or refuse to see that we are all looking down the barrel of a gun, it is there and we must respond to it in an act of self- defense and of liberation.
BACK TO BASICS
Based on what we know of what has worked in the past, many anarcho- primitivists (APs) envision a post-industrial future of decentralized autonomous village-like communities. Housing collectives, community gardens, free schools, barter networks and community centers are great examples of ways people can begin creating such networks for mutual aid. It is no longer enough to assume that ecological sustainability will come naturally after “the social revolution”. We must assume that sustainability has already existed. The struggle to return to our wild roots and to destroy authority and domination is one struggle.
While some APs believe humanity can only be free when we can return to our hunter-gatherer roots, others see a sort of blend of appropriate technologies, permaculture and natural farming methods, and wild food gathering as good models for post-industrial communities. Despite these differences in perspectives, APs agree about the necessity of a future without mega-technology and industrialism.