Another essay by Alfredo M. Bonanno: The moral fracture.
That an action is considered “just” is not a sufficient element of judgment for it to be put in action, executed. For this to happen other elements are necessary, some of which, like the final moral consideration, are completely alien to the objective basis and justice of the action in itself. This can be seen in the difficulty that every comrade comes across in the moment they find themselves undertaking actions that at the light of sole logic seem exemplary. It is, like I will try to demonstrate here, of a moral obstacle that must be overcome, an obstacle that leads to the creation of a real moral “fracture”, with consequences not always easy to foresee.
We have been sustaining for a long time, with multiple other comrades, the uselessness of mass movements, pacific and demonstrative. Instead, alongside movements of mass, organized in an insurrectionary fashion, we advocate for the possibility (the necessity, even), of small destructive actions, direct attacks against the structures of capital responsible for the current situation of exploitation and genocide at a global scale. Putting aside discussions on method and political validity, it seems useful to reflect a little on the diverse personal disposition of said actions.
Deep down, in each and every one of us, no matter how many theoretical analyses we’ve done, ghosts remain: someone’s property belongs to them. Others could be the someone’s life, God, civilization of behaviors, sex, tollerance for other’s opinion, and so on. We all are, to limit ourselves to knowledge, against property, but, the moment we reach out a hand to attack it, inside of us an alarm sets off. Centuries of moral conditioning act unconsciously and trigger two reactions, equal and contrary. On one hand, the shiver of the forbidden, which brings many comrades to senseless robberies often beyond immediate and inevitable need; on the other hand, the discomfort for an “immoral” behavior. Putting that shiver aside, which does not interest me and that I will gladly leave to those who enjoy such things, to those who want to insist on this “discomfort”. The thing is that we are all reduced to the status of animals in the pack. It is not here the case to quote and I do not accept any authority. The matter is obvious. The morality that everyone (“everyone”, so even those who negate it theoretically and then find alibis of every type to not turn this negation into praxis) shares is that “altruism”, gentlemanly in the behavior, tolerant in the relations, egalitarian and levelling in the utopias. And the territories of this moral are yet to be discovered. How many are the comrades who proudly declare to have visited some of them and then would back down horrified before the breasts of their own sister ? Maybe many, certainly not few. And we are always prisoners of an idea of slavery, said moral, when we justify before ourselves (and before the tribunal of history) our attack against private property, claiming that the expropriators shall be expropriated. In this way, we confirm the “eternal” validity of morality of our previous masters, deferring to those who will come later the task of judging whether we can or cannot consider expropriators those in whose hands we have put back what we have personally expropriated. Justification after justification, we almost build back the church. I have said “almost”, because deep down we do notice, but we are scared of it.
When we take away the property of others, this fact has a social meaning, it constitutes a rebellion, and precisely for this reason, the possessors of property that are attacked must be representatives of the class that detains property and not simple possessors of something. We are not aesthetes of the nihilist act, for which it would be ok to deprive charity from the dish of the poor because that “is” property. But the act of expropriation has a meaning precisely in its class context, not in the “wrong” behavior of someone we sought to expropriate has had in the past. Otherwise, we’d have to exclude because of legitimacy the capitalist who pays his employees according to the syndical rate and doesn’t deprive them of anything according to the law, moreover to not sell at exorbitant prices and does not commit usury. Why should we even care about such things ? The same problem emerges when we talk about “destructive” actions. Many comrades cannot stay at peace. Why these actions ? What is their finality ? What is their validity ? They do not cause utility to us, only damage to others. Attacking, for example, just for the love of discussion, a corporation which provides weapons to South Africa or funds the racist regime of Israel or projects nuclear plants or makes electronic devices that are then used to better address traditional weapons, and many other similar activities, the emphasis is not so much put on the specific responsibility of who we are attacking, as it is in its class position. Specific responsibilities are elements of judgment for the strategic and political choice, class collocation is the only element of judgment for the ethical choice. This way we can shed some light. The moral basis of the action resides entirely in the class difference, in the diverse affinity of two components of society that cannot be mixed or make pacts and whose existence will end with the destruction of either of them. The political and strategic basis instead determines a series of considerations that can also be contradictory.
Every objection aforementioned is obviously traceable at this second aspect and does not influence the moral basis. But, without even noticing, it is in the territory of the decision that many of us find difficulty. Deep down, mass movements, pacific (or almost), simply declarative of intents “against”, was a whole other thing. Even the extremely violent clashes against the police are another matter. There is a halfway place between us and the “enemy” object, a reality which lets us save our moral alibi. We felt sure to be in the “right”, even when we had – in the dimension of democratic dissent – positions not shared by the mass of protestors. Even when we broke some windows, things were always kept in a state that could be repaired. Directly facing the attack, we, all alone, or with other comrades that could never give us that psychological “blanket” like the one we received so easily inside “the mass”, things are different. We are, alone, to decide our attack against the institution. We don’t have mediators, we don’t have alibis, we don’t have excuses. We either attack or back off. We either accept to the end the logic of class conflict like an irreducible contrast without solutions, or we go back to compromise and linguistical and moral messes. If we reach our hand, deteriorate someone else’s property, but always property of the class enemy – we have to take on all the responsibilities, without finding any excuses in the alleged conditions of the collective situation in its entirety. That is to say we cannot defer the moral judgment, relative to the necessity of attacking and hitting the enemy, at what the others think, who participate altogether in determining “the collective situation”. Let me explain. It is not that I am opposed to mass effort, counter informative and preparatory, to those intermediate clashes that still have to exist in conditions of exploitation and misery. I am against a symbolic setting (exclusively symbolic) of these conflicts. They have to be directed at obtaining, even if partial, concrete, immediate and visible results, but with the precondition of an insurrectionary method, that is, a method based on the refusal of representation, on the autonomy of intervention, on permanent conflict and on autonomous basic structures.
What I disagree with is the stubbornness of some on the necessity to stop here, when they do not declare to stop before, at a simple wrestling of counter information and of denunciation, orchestrated and rythmed at the pace of oppression.
It is possible, necessary even, to do something else, and this something, at the moment, in a phase of violent and swift restoration, it seems possible to individuate in direct action, scattered, towards small objectives of the class enemy, objectives that are well visible on the territory (and when they are not visible, the work of prior counter information can make them visible with some effort). I don’t think there would be anarchist comrades who would be against these practices, at least in principle. There could be those (and there are) who declare themselves as fundamentally against a general consideration of the social and political situation, because they don’t perceive in it a constructive massive freeing, and I can understand that. But there cannot be a priori disapproval. The thing is that those who distanciate from these practices are by far less than those who, even if accepting them, do not perpetuate them. How to explain all this ? I think it can be explain with this “moral fracture” that the overstepping of the threshold of the other’s “right” entails in many comrades, like me and many others, educated since infancy to thank and to forgive continually.
We often talk about the liberation of the instincts and — without really having a clear mind – we talk about “living one’s true life” (complex argument which deserves an in depth analysis). We talk of rejecting the illusory ideals transmitted to us by the bourgeoisie in it’s victorious moment, at least of rejecting the forged terms by which these ideals were imposed on us through the current morality. Finally we talk of the real satisfaction of our needs, which are not only the so called primary needs of simple physical survival.
Well, I think that for all of this beautiful program, the words won’t be enough. When we stayed still on the shore of the old class conception, based on the desire of “reappropriation” of what was unjustly taken away from us (the product of our work), we were able to “speak” properly (even though we’d then badly ramble) of needs, of equality, of communism and even of anarchy. Today, when this phase of simple reappropriation has been quickly modified under our very eyes by capital itself, we can’t use the same words, the same concepts. The time of words is slowly coming to an end. And every day we notice to be tragically backwards, to be enclosed in a ghetto of discourse in which we linger to chat on arguments nowadays void of real revolutionary interest. And in the meanwhile people travel rapidly towards other meanings and other perspectives, phonily pushed by the improbable but efficient insistence of power. The enormous work of liberating the new man from ethics, this gigantic weight that was constructed at its time in the laboratories of capital and smuggled among the ranks of the exploited, this work practically hasn’t even begun.
Alfredo M. Bonanno, 1988.
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