Strange Victories: Introduction to 1985 republication
- Foreword to a 1985 republication of Strange Victories: Analysis of the Antinuclear Movement in the U.S. and Europe
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These new forms of repression must be understood if we do not want to remain tied to out-of-date forms of revolutionary activity.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 orginal 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 aggressivity, directing this impetus of rebellion towards activities that are dissent merely in appearance, 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 at 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 totally in 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 holes to wait for the next time to repeat the sacrosanct ritual of the eternally obvious.
The worst, those in bad faith, are the sceptics 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 goods 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 more reason then for a critical re-reading today.
- Alfredo M. Bonanno, 1985