AntiNote: More and more people are beginning to notice and remark upon the rapidly intensifying nature of state authority in the United States, typified by the militarization of local police forces but also noticeable in related areas of the penal and immigration systems. Phrases like ‘prison-industrial complex,’ ‘school-to-prison pipeline,’ and ‘the carceral state’ are finding their way into mainstream discourse. More familiar terms like ‘political prisoners’ and ‘show trial’ appear to have regained some of the resonance they had lost through years of overuse or their near-exclusive application only to Other contexts.
Perhaps it is just a matter of my own perception, but I find it is becoming more common to encounter news stories and public figures—not to mention friends and family—looking askance at manifestations of state authority that in the past were, for most people, an unremarkable feature of an unremarkable status quo.
Of course, the authorities aren’t doing themselves any favors. The media is still hesitant to use appropriately critical terminology, but we are being ever more frequently confronted with concrete instances of obvious and frankly appalling overreach, misconduct, abuse, and illegality of authorities, from high profile police killings of unarmed black men to refugee internment camps to cruel experimental executions.
People are beginning to draw parallels and make unfavorable comparisons to historical systems of authority that we have been taught to despise and condemn out of hand. The Gulag. The Stasi. Jim Crow. It is no longer necessarily a violation of Godwin’s Law to refer to brownshirts.
This is a sign that many people are not merely calling into question previously accepted (or, more likely, ignored) aspects of the system—like solitary confinement, child prisoners, forced deportations, and the War on Drugs, to say nothing of surveillance—but also its fundamental underpinnings: most famously capitalism, but also prisons and borders as such, or the state monopoly on violence.
We are living in a crucial time. The American state’s legitimacy in the eyes of its people is in decline at the same time that its capacity for violence against these same people is increasing. Of course this is true of many states, currently, and has been true of the United States for longer than many of us more privileged (read: white) Americans may realize. But as dissent increases and also becomes increasingly dangerous, there needs to be a clear-eyed and open discussion about what to do when we inevitably come face to face with the terrible power we would try to dismantle.
Peter Gelderloos is not satisfied with the current boundaries of this discussion. In an interview with Tavis Smiley and Cornel West last fall, he explained why. Á propos of the current debate about ‘proper’ responses to state violence that was sparked by the police murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the ‘riots’ that continue, Antidote presents the second in our series of authorized Smiley and West transcripts. Enjoy!
by Errico Malatesta
Originally published in Umanita Nova (New Humanity), December 1921
Anarchists are opposed to every kind of violence; everyone knows that. The main plank of Anarchism is the removal of violence from human relations. It is life based on the freedom of the individual, without the intervention of the gendarme. For this reason we are enemies of capitalism which depends on the protection of the gendarme to oblige workers to allow themselves to be exploited – or even to remain idle and go hungry when it is not in the interest of the bosses to exploit them. We are therefore enemies of the State, which is the coercive, violent organisation of society.
“My biggest error, and to a certain extent the error of many contemporary LGBT activists, is in my analysis of what has made the continuing struggle for LGBT rights succeed—in some places—where other social justice struggles have failed. It is an error that is referred to as white-washing: ignoring the effectiveness, even the existence of militancy, of messiness, of outright rebellion.”
By AntiDote’s Ed Sutton
AntiNote: In keeping with our goal of amplifying the voices of those struggling against political repression and social domination, we have reprinted below an English translation of the manifesto issued today by 18 hungerstriking Iranian asylum-seekers in Bern, reacting in part to Switzerland’s easing of sanctions against the country they fled.
Their focus, understandably, is on human rights violations in Iran. We wish to call attention, however, to the refugees’ plight here in Switzerland, which they humbly relegate to point 2 of their demands.