This piece is dedicated to George Jackson.
What exists in leftism outside of the stickers and pamphlets and essays and buttons and T-shirts and hammer and sickles and black flags and other symbols and imperatives? People and the material space of the internet and in-person sites for disruption and protest and battlegrounds. What do these people do on the internet and at in-person sites for disruption and protest and at battlegrounds? They mostly do what they are told.
The symbols of leftist space are not however obedient. Symbols of course, are neither able to be obedient nor are they disobedient; after all, they are but symbols. For example, men-yoroi (面鎧), which were masks worn by the samurai class in feudal Japan regularly had representations of demons and they were used as symbols of horror to confuse and terrify enemies on the battlefield. Now, there were likely instances in the phenomenology and carpentry of time and history that involved the child of a samurai putting on their father’s men-yoroi. Depending on who witnessed such a sight this could have been seen as amusing or even the first steps towards following a family tradition in the positive sense or disrespectful or ridiculous in the negative sense. In both senses though, the child wearing the men-yoroi does not produce the affect of horror. Likely, horror at its height, an affect which can startle and produce shrieks and shouts was not even the effect of an adult wearing such a mask on the battlefield. But a muscular, trained warrior holding a sword that he has the skill to wield who has donned a mask with representation of a demon might produce in an opposing samurai or foreign enemy the thought this is a threat.
In leftist space, there are symbols of power and threat but there is a disconnect between the symbol and the utilizer of the symbol. To be clear, the phenomenology of the leftist space, particularly so-called “militant” leftist spaces is somewhat akin to the men-yoroi example where the affect is not quite produced. This isn’t to say that the affect is amusing or even negative like silly but the affect isn’t threat. And the effect of the affect not being threat contributes to the effect of leftist space lacking power. In fact, there is such an unfortunate disconnect between intention and impact in a multitude of terrains of affect and performance (visual and tactical) that the notion or belief in a concrete leftist militancy is problematic.
Clearly, there exist intentions of a leftist militancy but these intentions fall short of being actually militant. Nonviolent civil disobedience organizations such as the War Resisters League might refer to their tactics as militant non-violence but that is a language game in the philosophical sense or a terministic screen in the rhetorical sense. It doesn’t mean anything materially speaking. Or rather, it no longer means anything material speaking. When Gandhi and later Martin Luther King Jr. utilized civil disobedience the tactic had efficacy. Now, cops have created entire presentations of strategy on diffusing a civil disobedient battleground that both eliminate the public nuisance and do so in a way that make them either appear sympathetic or at the very least not hostile. The strategy of nonviolent civil resistance is stagnant in the united states of america and not because it poses minimal danger to participants or because it is easily accessible to a variety of types of participants (these dimensions are fine). The strategy is stagnant because the low impact, low danger and high accessibility praxis has been coopted as militancy and praxis beyond such action has been branded as unacceptable, criminal and even terror by the very actors who find civil disobedience militant.
This initial address of the misplaced concreteness of leftist militancy addresses the more moderate left and liberal side of the leftist spectrum but the joy di vivre certainly rubs off on the wavers of the red and black flags. While anarchists of both the individualist and social varieties are more likely to approve of property destruction and socialists and communists might be willing to open carry in an act of intimidation of police and other far right organizations, the further left groups typically do not engage in activity that steps beyond the limits of what the protest space has been established as by the moderate left. And the moderate left have established the protest as a sort of Victorian stroll where at various points one may take a picture or read a moving sign that tugs on the heart strings and chant some variation of Kumbaya and then everyone goes home, far removed from the violence (unless of course you are unfortunate enough to be part of the jaunt AND also simultaneously exist as a person whose identity enables you to be assaulted by state violence on a regular basis). So anarchists might take the stroll and block traffic and throw some rocks or a Molotov cocktail at a few banks and socialists and communists might do the same thing while carrying a rifle in the low ready position. It is the same strategy from a play book the state knows all the plays in. They know all the variations. The protest path is not going to yield desired changes and the state does not care about them.
The 2021 capitol coup attempt by the right-wing was innovative and it is the type of tactic that the far left should strategize about. Protests or political jaunts have their use for the support of the actual militants — the people who will do what is necessary to end oppression. It takes all types of labor to establish a revolution but it is the warrior that deserves the title of militant!
The anti-war movement in the u.s. while competent enough to address the problems of u.s. colonialism and imperialism lacked nuance on the matter of who is going to protect u.s. citizens from u.s. threats. Jane Fonda and other mavens fought to turn u.s. army soldiers into pacifists — they were quite effective. Organizations like Veterans for Peace have emerged to further the narrative of the true cost of war. And the left from moderate to extremist in the u.s. quivers at the idea of asymmetric warfare. But wouldn’t it be a maven who holds the lowest in power as the most accountable? And wouldn’t it be the soldier, the lowest in command, who places the burden of war on their shoulder like the burden they placed in their rucksack for the state, who gets told “Shame on you!”? The CEO does it to the individual for pollution even though it is the company damaging the environment on a scale the individual could never damage in a thousand life times. The scapegoat is always the weakest because it is a strategy the powerful use to avoid accountability.
The left needs a concrete militancy. The left needs to end its opposition to soldiers and sailors and marines and other military personnel and should construct persuasive strategies and solutions that can bring those people into left operations. The problem is not the warrior and not the existence of war but the wars that that the warrior has been fighting. There is nothing wrong with a leftist guerrilla force or leftist paramilitary force engaging in a war against the united states of america. In fact, songs and poems should be sung for people willing to engage in such a struggle. And protests should be formed when one of the militants becomes a prisoner of war with signs that tug on the heartstrings of moderate leftists on the track of their jaunt.
If this idea disturbs you or you find it offensive and almost laughably so for how violent the idea is I suggest you check yourself for your naivety. Do you realize the powers of the state? Do you realize how much terror the state inflicts on a daily basis from state to state in the form of police power? In prisons? In war zones? In black sites or secret global prisons? And it’s not as though these structures exist simply because it has to be this way or this is the way the world has to work. The state demands and enforces a harsh standard. There is physical training and weapons training and there is training to survive, evade, resist and escape (SERE) enemy prisoner of war camps and there is training that reverse engineers SERE for the purpose of torturing enemy prisoners of war (think of all of the atrocities at Guantanamo Bay).
The state has never adequately been opposed from the inside. It is time for anarchists and socialists and communists to answer the call! Physically train. Receive weapons training. Learn from your enemy via military training if you need. We need the state to actually wonder if George Soros is backing our activities. We can create the world we long for but we must fight!