Resistance: Documents And Analysis From The Illegal Front was the inspiration/ template/blueprint for Arm The Spirit. That’s a fact.
Over the course of 10 years (1981 – 1991) there were 15 issues of Resistance published. As the title suggests, Resistance, for the most part, was comprised of communiques and documents from the armed clandestine movements in Europe and North America. Direct Action, Action Directe, Red Guerilla Resistance, United Freedom Front, Red Army Faction, Rote Zora, Revolutionary Cells, Revolutionary Anti-Racist Action, Red Brigades, Los Macheteros, Fighting Communist Cells, GRAPO… just some of the guerrilla organizations covered in the pages of Resistance and, for the most part, also covered in the pages of Arm The Spirit.
Its importance and its impact and influence on us, personally and politically, was immeasurable and Ron and I certainly saw Arm The Spirit as something of a continuation of the spirit (and politics/contents) of Resistance. Ron and I started Arm The Spirit shortly after the Toronto Anarchist Black Cross broke apart. As members of TO ABC (and even prior to our involvement in TO ABC) we’d both been involved in support work for folks arrested for being part of the armed clandestine movement, for example, the Ohio 7 (United Freedom Front), the Resistance Conspiracy Case 6 (Red Guerrilla Resistance), the Vancouver 5 (Direct Action) and others. It just seemed right to continue on with a publication that would not only support these, and other, political prisoners, but also lend support to those folks/organizations still struggling clandestinely.
Also a big part of the impetus behind ATS was the fact that, in 1990, other like-minded journals/zines, including Resistance, were coming out very infrequently or not at all.
As we noted in Arm The Spirit No. 17/January 2000:
“In the late 80s a small group of us had been doing solidarity work around political prisoners in the U.S., particularly around anti-imperialist guerrillas – the “Ohio 7″ and the “Resistance Conspiracy Case” – who were on trial for seditious conspiracy and other charges. At that time there were a few magazines (Resistance, The Insurgent, Breakthrough … ) that published documents from armed groups but they came out infrequently and some were in the process of ceasing publication (indeed none of them are around today). Also much of the solidarity work around the trials mostly consisted of a “right to a fair trial”, denouncing repressive measures in the courtroom, etc. We wanted to do more than this in our solidarity work by focusing on the political aspect of the armed struggle by disseminating documents from the armed groups and other related material. So in June of 1990 we started with a small 4-page bulletin that quickly grew in size over the next few years.”
And, in a 1992 discussion paper we started (but never completed) entitled “Armed Struggle And Anti-Imperialism In North America” (which was a response to another discussion paper entitled “Strategic Currents In North American Anarchism”), we had this to say of Resistance and Arm The Spirit:
“In many editorials, as well as interviews and discussions in other papers, Resistance has continually declared its main aim as being that of reprinting documents from armed or militant groups in advanced industrial nations; the purpose being to present discussion and information on the concepts of both armed and militant struggles and how they can be applied in North America. Resistance began publishing in 1981 and carried material on a wide variety of armed groups, including the autonomist Revolutionary Cells and Rote Zora in Germany, anti-imps such as Action Directe and the Red Army Fraction, anti-racist groups such as Revolutionary Anti-Racist Action and Militant Activists Against Apartheid, national liberation groups of New Afrikan, Puerto Rican and Basque nationalists as well as reports on militant demonstrations, squatting and riots. Resistance was also one of the only papers to reprint – in a principled manner- the communiques from anti-imp groups operating inside the US during the 1980s, such as the United Freedom Front, the Armed Resistance Unit and the Red Guerrilla Resistance, as well as the Canadian guerrillas Direct Action and Wimmins Fire Brigade.
Similarly, Arm The Spirit began publishing in 1990 as a newsletter focusing on militant and revolutionary struggles, with the aim of discussing and analyzing all forms of Left resistance. The material carried in Arm The Spirit is essentially a continuation of what Resistance covered, if not more internationalist in its scope in reprinting material from Central American and Kurdish guerrillas.
Taken as a whole, this material covers a wide spectrum of Leftist groups. Both papers have functioned primarily as information sources on armed and militant struggles, struggles that are rejected, denounced or censored by not only bourgeois media but also by significant segments of the Left (even amongst the revolutionary and anti-imp sectors).”
What follows below are several pieces, both by and about Resistance: Documents and Analysis from the Illegal Front … there’s a just-published overview of the publication and its politics, 3 editorials/introductions by the collective (Friends of Durruti) that published Resistance, an interview with Friends of Durruti and a response by Friends of Durruti to criticisms, published in No Picnic, of “its insistence on associating itself with anti-authoritarianism and anarchism, when in fact one is hard pressed to find anything truly anarchistic about any of the groups whose communiques it publishes, or about the way in which the paper is presented to the public.”
Click the link to get to all 15 issues of Resistance: Documents and Analysis from the Illegal Front . You an also find all the issues on this blog…just scroll down!
And, finally, it should be noted that the copies/issues of the majority of the publications mentioned in the pieces below – Open Road, Reality Now, No Picnic, Endless Struggle, Knipselkrant, L’Internationale , Black Flag, Libertad, Breakthrough, Ligne Rouge, Ecomedia, The Insurgent, etc – can all be found on the Arm The Spirit ISSUU site …
“Burn It Down!
Anarchism, Activism, and the Vancouver Five, 1967 – 1985″
What follows is an excerpt about Resistance from a just published (Spring 2016) – and well recommended – dissertation by Eryk Martin entitled:
” This dissertation investigates the experiences of five Canadian anarchists commonly known as the Vancouver Five, who came together in the early 1980s to destroy a BC Hydro power station in Qualicum Beach, bomb a Toronto factory that was building parts for American cruise missiles and assist in the firebombing of pornography stores in Vancouver. It uses these events in order to analyze the development and transformation of anarchist activism between 1967 and 1985. Focusing closely on anarchist ideas, tactics and political projects, it explores the resurgence of anarchism as a vibrant form of left wing activism in the late twentieth century. In addressing the ideological basis and contested cultural meanings of armed struggle, it uncovers why and how the Vancouver Five transformed themselves into an underground, clandestine force. At the same time, it also situates these five activists into a broad social, political and cultural context that extends beyond the boundaries of anarchist armed struggle and beyond the local political environment in Vancouver”
Here’s the excerpt that focuses on Resistance:
“Beginning in 1981, activists in Vancouver organized another anarchist journal, Resistance: Documents and Analysis of the Illegal Front. Echoing the perspectives of earlier New Left groups in the city, Resistance argued that armed struggle was a necessary form of political struggle. … Resistance also emphasized that armed struggle activity was an important task for the radical left. As a result, the journal argued strongly in favour of armed action in order to “build a revolutionary movement capable of an offensive against the state.” Resistance aimed to support this process through the publication of revolutionary texts, arguing that “[e]ven if we are not involved in the armed actions ourselves, we must maintain active solidarity with the guerrillas that are.” As a result, the paper concentrated on the activity of armed struggle collectives and the work of their supporters. While later issues of the journal developed commentary – particularly surrounding the actions of the Direct Action collective – early issues stuck almost entirely to the reproduction of revolutionary statements, communiques, and analyses of different armed groups including the Black Liberation Army (United States), the RAF (West Germany), Armed Proletarian Nuclei (Italy), the June 2nd Movement (West Germany), Azione Rivoluzionaria (Italy) and many others.
If Resistance continued to define armed struggle as a critical form of political activity, it also articulated that importance through a transnational framework. To do so, the journal focused heavily on the lives of incarcerated guerrillas in different parts of the world, experiences used to highlight both the geographical scope of armed resistance as well as emphasize patterns of political and cultural exchange that took place between different movements. Themes of transnational solidarity were particularly prominent in the first issue of the journal. the collective published a statement by the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) that linked the fate of its incarcerated activists with imprisoned RAF militants who had recently initiated a hunger strike to protest the use of solitary confinement and other abusive forms of treatment. For the IRSP, the commitment to fight imperialism and the state repression that came in the wake of that struggle operated as a form of transnational connection that united Irish and German militants. Similar themes were reflected in a letter from Irish National Liberation Army prisoner Patsy O’Hara. O’Hara, who was on hunger strike in a North Ireland prison, also wrote to the RAF, declaring that “for a number of years I have followed your struggle and have always had the greatest respect and admiration for your stand against imperialism and native capitalism. I believe we have a lot in common in many ways.” The presence of state violence imposed through prison conditions and the fight against capitalism and and imperialism was not only used by O’Hara to link the Irish and German struggles, but it also enabled him to call for the unificiation of militant activists around the world. “I believe to achive our aspirations of socialism we cannot confine it to our national boundaries. By it’s very nature we must be internationalist in our outlook,, revolutionary organizations must co-operate towards this goal, the ending of exploitation of man by man.”
The journal also supported incarcerated guerrillas by printing statement from groups such as Relatives of Political Prisoners, a network who advocated on behalf of family members imprisoned in West Germany, Switzerland, and Australia for political activity. Like O’Hara and the IRSP, Relatives of Political Prisoners tied the specific struggles of their loved ones to the political struggles of militants in other parts of the world, particularly in Northern Ireland and the Basque region of Spain. A letter by an anonymous French revolutionary, written in celebration of International Women’s Day, like maintained that global struggles against imperialism could create important bonds between women “in spite of the enormous distances which actually separate us.” For Resistance, however, themes of transnational solidarity between armed groups and their supporters were not simply processes taking place elsewhere, but were also connected to the political motivations and aspirations of activists in Vancouver. In this sense the journal defined its very existence as an act of solidarity and a statement of support for armed struggle, patterns of connections that it built by emphasizing shared ideas of militant commitment, sacrifice and experiences with state violence.
While statements in support of the theoretical and applied notion of armed struggle connected Resistance to older patterns of New Left opposition in the city, the journal was clear that such activity was not the only acceptable form of militant politics, nor was it the specific fiefdom of a professional revolutionary unit. Publishing the work of a wide array of leftist guerrilla groups was clearly meaningful and important to the collective, but the journal maintained that its own political perspective was squarely with the anarchist tradition. For Resistance “[t]he part, the vanguard, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and other sacrosanct marxist-leninist conceptions can and do hinder the development of truly revolutionary societies. Instead, Resistance looked to armed struggle against the state as part of a panopoly of militant tactics. To this end, the journal called on activists to support a spectrum of tactics arguing that it was “in the interests of the police state that we condemn and withdraw support from our sisters and brothers who have taken up arms against imperialism just as it is in the interests of the police-state that we condemn those that choose unarmed forms of militant struggle i.e. squatting, demos, etc. We must recognize the enemy and support the different struggles against it.” In this sense, guerrilla activity remained a critical aspect of left struggle, but it was no longer a form of militancy that tied the political and cultural authority of revolutionary leadership to the ability and willingness to attack the state with arms.”
Introduction from Issue No. 1, dated June 25, 1981
“SOLIDARITY WITH THE GUERRILLA
We have printed the following declarations and communiques as an act of solidarity with the guerrillas of Europe. Although we recognize the revolutionary nature of the feminist, autonomist and other radical movements, we believe that armed struggle must be taken up in the Western world if we hope to build a revolutionary movement capable of an offensive against the State. It is in the interests of the police-state that we condemn and withdraw support from our sisters and brothers who have taken up arms against imperialism just as it is in the interests of the police-state that we condemn those who choose unarmed forms of militant struggle, i.e., squatting, demos, etc. We must recognize the enemy and support the different struggles against it.
The enemy, imperialism, takes many forms. It rapes and destroys the environment, starves, alienates, imprisons and deprives us of our humanity, gives us cancer, locks us up in suburban nightmares, inflicts holocausts, and makes sexist pigs out of us. We must recognize that this enemy is armed and violent. Even if we are not involved in armed actions ourselves, we must maintain active solidarity with the guerillas that are.
Although we do not agree with every aspect of the political ideology expressed in these declarations, it is nevertheless important that the politics of the guerrilla be available. Photocopy or reprint this pamphlet and pass it on to those that will learn from it and ACT upon it.”
Introduction from issue No. 2, January 1982
“There are classical leftist criticisms of the guerrilla that are heard time and time again.
It’s time that we respond to these criticisms. One of the most common critiques is that guerrilla actions bring down repression, that is, increased state repression. Of course any guerrilla action will result in a sudden increase of state repression because this is the reaction of the state to a threat. That cannot be disputed. However just because the state openly flexes its muscle after an action does not mean that the states isn’t always silently developing the mechanisms of repression to be used when needed; like a maggot quietly eating away the insides of a dog. Are guerrillas responsible for the development of police computer technology, special handling units, trials without defendants, anti-postering by-laws, gay bath raids in canada? We can be assured that whatever technology they developed in vietnam, ireland, italy and el salvador to put down the people there, will be used here. And if it isn’t used against the guerrillas in canada, it’ll be used against indians occupying their land, workers occupying their factories, prisoners righteously rioting or demonstrators.
Another common criticism of the guerrilla in the western world is that they haven’t emerged from a mass movement. this critique is a result of a superficial understanding of the development of revolutionary movements. Rarely do guerrilla organizations only emerge in the final development of a mass movement. They contribute actions and theory to the movement that other forms of radical struggle cannot inject. Guerrilla actions represent offensive actions rather than defensive reactions to the state. And the guerrilla develops the infrastructure of clandestinity which becomes important as the repression of the state escalates.
So let’s not let the mind control of the mass media lead us to condemn our sisters and brothers for their contribution to the revolution!”
“A Note To Our Readers” from Issue No. 8
(first issue to appear as an insert with Open Road news journal)
“We are convinced that armed struggle in the advanced capitalist countries is a necessity to ensure the success of Third World liberation movements as well as our own, through the reduction of the internal peace the imperialist countries need to enjoy if they are to engage in oppressing underdeveloped countries, and by developing here, in the centre, a clear break with reformism and presenting instead a revolutionary alternative.
As one of the very few English language periodicals which makes available the texts of clandestine organizations struggling in Europe and North America, we hope to assist in the development of this struggle through the stimulation of the debate. Our choice of material is essentially non-sectarian. The anti-imperialist politics of the RAF and United Freedom Front, the autonomist politics of the Revolutionary Cells, and the revolutionary nationalist politics of ETA and the Black Liberation army all share our pages. Our own background, however, is anti-authoritarian, so we are especially pleased when we are able to present material from such groups as the Vancouver Five, the RZ and Rote Zora and the Autonomous Anti-Capitalist Commandos as in this issue.
There is room for improvement in any project, certainly with ours. We would like to see a greater debate over the politics as presented in the various texts we have reprinted. We would like to see all who see themselves as part of this struggle, political prisoners, combatants, support groups and interested individuals, to consider this paper as a forum to express their opinions, as a place to develop a greater understanding and conception of urban guerrilla warfare in the First World and its relation to the world-wide struggle for liberation. We look forward to hearing from you.”
A Talk With Resistance
from Endless Struggle, No. 10, Summer 1989
Armed struggle is, like most critical aspects of revolutionary struggle, a topic that is
widely debated. Armed struggle means different things to different people; to some it is counter-productive and ultimately destructive, to others it is wrong because violence is wrong, and to still others, it is an important form of resistance. In North America armed struggle is limited and small, as is the discussion of it. Our information & news on clandestine groups and actions, primarily originating from European countries, is even more limited and small. Unless you happen to read the radical left press here, any knowledge you may have of a group or action is presented through the mainstream press, & of course that ignores the discussion on why a target was attacked & focuses instead on the “terrorist” angle & the fact that it was “illegal,”etc.
Resistance: Documents And Analysis Of The Illegal Front publishes communiques & articles of the armed struggle movement in the industrialized ‘first world.’ The approach is non-sectarian & so many of the groups vary greatly in politics, some being outright Marxist-Leninist vanguardist groups while others are autonomously organized & have an anti-authoritarian organization. There is always a tendency to generalize on armed struggle & say it is the work of “middle class intellectuals on a violence crazed ego-trip,” & of course this kind of argument gets us no where. What is the role of armed resistance in the fight for a free world? With that in mind we invited a member of the Friends of Durruti collective, which publishes Resistance, over to our small house for tea & a discussion of how they see armed struggle.
ES: What was the impetus for publishing Resistance?
FOD: Well, as you know, there’s been very little armed struggle in Canada, other than the FLQ. Resistance actually started before the Direct Action formed or anything…
ES: What year did Resistance begin publishing?
FOD: It was in 1981 that it first started. A bunch of us got together in Montreal & sat around a table and discussed the idea of putting together a paper like this in the winter of 1980.
ES: This was mostly inspired by the armed struggle in Europe?
FOD: That’s right. There was in fact a woman from W. Germany & she was talking about the struggle there, & some of the other people I was with were interested in this area of struggle. One of them had traveled to Europe & taken part in big demonstrations & visited some political prisoners & another one had been involved in support work in San Francisco. These people and myself thought this was a viable form and struggle & we wanted to publish material about it & so on.
ES: You’ve been an observer of the growth of the armed struggle movement in Europe, how do you view the development of the European struggle as compared to N. America?
FOD: The armed struggle movement, both in Europe & the US grew out of the student movement in the ‘60s; the Weathermen in the States, the RAF and Revolutionary Cells in Germany. So, in a sense they both grew out of maybe the frustration people felt with “legality” and so on. Why that in Europe there’s actually quite a bit of support for this type of struggle I’m not really quite sure. Except that if you do look in Germany, I think you’ll find there’s a lot more support for the autonomous type of group, ie, the RZ (Revolutionary Cells), than there is for the more Marxist oriented RAF. And so that type of politics that’s put forth by groups like the RZ, perhaps people can identify with that type of approach.
ES: It’s certainly more accessible.
FOD: Right. And, certainly the groups on the US in the ‘60s like the Weather Underground did have a more Marxist-Leninist position. One of the things the RZ has always put forward is that groups should make their own revolutionary cells without perhaps so much emphasis on “leading it all.” And also I think you should look a the very different economic situation & historical situation, Germany having gone through a period of fascism, & a much longer history going back hundreds of years where the communists have had a quite a larger influence. That’s certainly been absent in the US. So these sorts of things undoubtedly played a role.
ES: In some of the past issues of Resistance, such as issues 7 and 10, there seemed a broader focus on what the paper was. In issue 7 there’s an article on the BC General Strike,
the editorial talks about squatting & factory occupations, in issue 10 there’s an article on the Brixton riots. Within the last 2 issues, 11 & 12, the focus seems only on armed actions, is that a conscious move?
FOD: No, I don’t think it’s a conscious decision. We’ve always been interested in publishing material on armed and militant struggle. If it comes to us we’ll generally try to publish it. Groups do different actions at different times so we publish what is available to us. So that if there’s militant riots occurring, we’re happy to publish that as well as armed actions. Not all of them are on the same level. There’s assassinations, which is perhaps the most difficult, or has the biggest reaction of any action, on the other hand, there’s firebombings, etc. In the last couple of issues we’ve covered thins that happened in Holland, where a big subsidiary of a firm that was operating in S. Africa was attacked & last issue we covered some stuff by the Rote Zora (an autonomously organized feminist group who carry out actions primarily, but not limited to, the specific oppression of women. They work & have affinity with the Revolutionary Cells, both active in West Germany. , editor) where they had burned and trashed some clothing stores of a German firm that was active in S. Korea. I don’t think we have a specific focus on high-level actions.
ES: And I suppose a lot of these actions are also covered in other publications, Black Flag, etc.
FOD: Yeah, that’s true. And not only for actions. There’s a lot of things we don’t cover as much as we could, which could easily go in Resistance as well as other publications, & we haven’t covered them perhaps as much as we should have because of the fact that the stuff is available elsewhere. In the last issue we did stuff on prisoners, mostly West German prisoners, but we haven’t covered so much about the Ohio 7 (seven US revolutionaries arrested in 1984-1985 for the 10 actions of the United Freedom Front., editor), whereas in earlier issues we’ve covered their actions. But we feel … there’s a paper coming out from New York, and Open Road and Reality Now has covered the trial. We have a rather limited budget, so generally if other papers are carrying this information, then we let them do that.
ES: How do you go about selecting which groups or communiques will be published, have you ever published IRA or FMLN communiques & what distinction do you draw between, say, the IRA and RAF?
FOD: We have actually covered some of the FALN and Puerto Rican groups, but we haven’t had any IRA material. Again, there’s papers that cover the IRA that come out of Ireland, in english, that you can read. We don’t publish everything that we get. We did publish, in one of the very earliest issues, material from the Red Brigades, but after doing that, & getting an idea of what they were talking about, we didn’t publish anymore, because they were really heavy into the party building & all that. And of course the big difference between the IRA and RAF is Ireland is much more of a nationalist type struggle. I think there’s a lot you could learn from the IRA. As a guerrilla campaign they’ve obviously been quite successful, but we haven’t focused too much on the national liberation struggles. We only write about stuff that happens in the ‘advanced’ capitalist countries. There’s a lot of support groups for 3rd world struggles, we focus on what they call the “first” world. We feel it’s most easiest for people to relate to, & conditions in these countries are similar to ours. I think people can take from what these groups are saying & apply it to their own situation.
ES: Do you think the successes of the Rote Zora and RARA (Revolutionary Anti-Racist Action) have changed the context, or perhaps shown to more people what role armed attacks can play in revolutionary resistance? Do you think it’s opened up a bit more?
FOD: Yes, I think if you compare those types of actions with, say, some of the RAF’s earlier ones, I think people are generally more supportive for the RARA and RZ & I suppose they are similar to the Wimmins Fire Brigade here, in that they’re attacking an issue people can relate to more. It’s perhaps not so abstract as, say, “imperialism.”
ES: That’s a question we were going to ask here; do you think the RARA and RZ targets were more practical than the RAF ones, more realistic?
FOD: OK, yeah. If we look at the few actions of the RARA and Rote Zora, two of them have been quite successful. In the case of the Rote Zora, they managed to get the W. German firm to agree to the demands of the striking S. Korean and Sri Lankan women. So that was a major success & the company admitted it was because of the RZ. In the case of the RARA, they had attacked a multi-national involved in S. Africa & that multi-national said they would leave S. Africa as a result of these attacks. It ended up selling that firm to some other business so it basically continued on as before but with a different name. But they did actually force the company to do something, yeah.
But on the other hand, not all actions are gonna have those kinds of results. You may be successful in some cases, & some people have criticized that approach. I think there was a group in the US in the early ‘70s that did a lot of work, the New World Liberation Front, did some attacks in relation to prison conditions & I guess they were successful in forming the prison to change some of the conditions & that was successful in some way. Some people criticize that as “reformist” politics & not really revolutionary. But I think if people can actually do things like that & show that people can act in this manner & have some practical results – it’s a very positive step. And certainly, we’re not going to see revolutionary change for some time. It’s going to take an awful lot of work & so anything that does show something concrete to be gained is worthwhile.
ES: So, what purpose, and what role, does armed struggle play in revolutionary struggle, in perhaps not so revolutionary times…is it developing structures?
FOD: That’s right, I think if anybody looks at the situation it’s pretty obvious that the capitalists aren’t going to give up their position without a some kind of struggle. I mean, they show it all over the world against revolutionary movements, in the 3rd world, they’re quite willing to resort to violence. So I think some kind of militant armed struggle will be necessary at some point. I think that by making groups now that are active, you can build possibilities for the future, where you have a much larger role. And also I think it builds a revolutionary feeling amongst people.
ES: An attitude.
FOD: An attitude & it also builds a movement as well. Like in Germany, I think they’ve done that. It’s what, 17 years since the first actions & now there are 1,000s of people
involved in the movement. They’re not all of one idea, it’s parts of different ideas, like the women’s movement, the anti-nuclear movement, but there’s a lot of people that go out and do actions and I think they’ve developed a kind of revolutionary culture & that’s something important.
ES: Do you feel the discussion with No Picnic about Resistance,& many of the groups contained in it, expanded the debate on armed struggle?
FOD: I think, on the one hand it was good there was this discussion in No Picnic, because, otherwise, people don’t think of it unless they’re interested in it or pick up a copy of Resistance. There’s a lot of people out there who haven’t even heard of it, so that fact it was in No Picnic was a good thing. The same with the articles that have been in Open Road recently.
ES: “The Politics Of Bombs” …
FOD: Yeah, which I don’t think was the original title, but it’s making the debate come out in the public more. Some of the responses, after putting out a paper like this, you have heard before, and some of it’s fairly stereotypical.
ES: What are some of the more common arguments against armed struggle?
FOD: Well, Ok, that it’s elitist, it’s not gonna help anything, it’s just gonna help the state to arm itself & take away the rights of the citizens & it’s basically a waste of your life, and of course some people just basically come from the position that any kind of violence is just “incorrect” & that the only thing you can make out of using violence is a violent system…those are some of the more typical ones.
ES: One of the more common ones is ‘the time isn’t right.’ Going back to what we were talking about earlier, building for the future & trying to develop these structures now – discussing that with people, what’s your response seeing as it’s an ongoing process, & not a case of “the time is right now” & all of a sudden there’s 100 armed groups in Canada?
FOD: Well, when is the time going to be right? As you were saying, I mean, if we look at the situation here, let’s say on the question of the environment, the firms can go on polluting the environment while we are eating carcenogenic foods, the lakes, rivers & oceans are polluted, the temperature is rising & all this, and when is the time to stop that? When are people going to try and do something about it? And another thing, in this particular
society, where there’s so much wealth, can we realistically think that at some point in the near future, 10 or 20 years, that the mass of workers are suddenly going to rise up & decide they don’t want the system as it is? I can’t see that the unions are really gonna change their ways, which is basically to go along with capitalism, so I don’t really see too much hoe for just peaceful organizing. I don’t see how it will have a real effect. Whereas if people try to organize now, in a real sort or militant fashion, & try and develop a different attitude amongst people, an attitude which is along the idea that it’s necessary to break the balance of legality to get ahead. I think that’s the route we have to go. Also, I think it’s something the Tupamaros (the Urugayan MLN, Movimiento Liberacion National, formed in the early ‘60s & active for about 9 years. A highly organized guerrilla. At one point it’s number was estimated at 3,000 members – editor) first said, & actually a lot of the groups in Europe, the Tupamaros were a sort of impetus to them. The first June 2nd Movement communique almost sounded like a repeat of the Tupamaros, but what they were saying about it was that the revolutionary creates the time by acting. And you could have a million different parties saying whatever they want, but until people actually start acting, nothing is going to change. So that is the process of arming themselves & taking action, they’re going to create the revolutionary time.
ES: Another common argument is that of retaliation from the state…
FOD: Of course people have definately made that criticism before Especially in Germany where they were saying “look what the State has done as a result of the RAFs actions, look at the controls & laws they have…129A where if you even put out pamphlets in support of a guerrilla you’ll be called a member of that group & jailed in an isolation prison…” I mean, obviously the State has acted fairly repressively, but a lot of those laws were on the books a long time ago. A lot of them came from the nazi period & a lot of the people who were in the judiciary had been involved in nazi Germany and were fascists. So it’s more of a continuation of the policies that they had before rather than something new that came up because of the RAF. So I think a lot of these laws, the state was already interested in using them & used the actions of the group as a pretext to put them into effect. Ant the other thing is that if you are going to be effective the state’s going to fight back. Even if it’s some kind of civil disobedience or whatever, if these actions have a ‘heavy’ effect, the state is going to fight back. So I think people have to realize that state repression is an inevitability, it will come sooner or later, whenever it is necessary. An certainly for people in the 3rd world, it’s right there, right now. The fact is that we live in the 1st world & we have it fairly well off here, because it (state repression) isn’t needed here, and people aren’t struggling against it.
ES: On the other hand, what has the N. American radical movements reaction been to Resistance and the ideas it represents…do you receive a lot of ‘resistance?” (Ha ha)
FOD: Well certainly there’s been a lot of controversy over Resistance. We actually did a survey when Resistance was being published with Open Road & people at Open Road wanted to find out how this was being taken by the readers & they asked the readers to respond. Really, the response wasn’t as great as we’d hoped, it was fairly mixed. There has been a lot of criticism of Resistance because of the material it publishes, & because it is not primarily of anarchism. And people have been very critical of publishing material of the RAF, and even the United Freedom Front, & saying “oh why do you even publish the Marxist-Leninist stuff at all, they’ve got their own propaganda machine, etc” and then of course some people are really definately opposed to armed struggle so they don’t even want to see this stuff. But on the other hand, we do receive a lot of support, prisoners especially write us & they really appreciate receiving copies & we sell them in bookstores…so there’s both a negative & positive response.
ES: The bulk of your readership is, because of your purpose, in N. America.
FOD: That’s right. We do send it to Europe, but it’s more to get people there to realize it exists and have them send stuff, etc.
ES: In the autumn issue of No Picnic, there’s a letter from Bob McGlynn I think, & he was discussing the position paper on the peace movement, put out by Rote Zora and Revolutionary Cells, and his criticism was that they had a kind of “chauvinism” to the Eastern Bloc activists, & that they were generally less critical…
FOD: Yes, that’s right, but, actually, if you look at the article, you’ll see that there is criticism of the Soviet Union. The article actually talked about the Soviet Union & its imperialism, so I don’t think that argument is valid, even though it’s true that generally there is more of a focus on NATO, the Western system, etc. But that’s natural because that’s where these groups are active, they’re not fighting against the Soviet Union, they’re fighting against the capitalist interests in their own countries.
ES: I can remember, about 2 years ago when I was turning to the ideas of anarchism & so I was picking up all these papers & one of the first ones I picked up was Resistance No. 11. I was flicking through the pages, & some of the actions were like knee-capping and assassinations. It was a big shock to me! You don’t’ read that kind of stuff. It seemed extreme of course. Do you make any attempt to present these communiques or documents to people that might be picking up an issue for the first time? I know you mentioned that it’s more of an esoteric publication of interest to those who have a basic knowledge and interest…
FOD: Yes, well actually I think it would be more effective if we attempted to present it a little more with an introduction to articles, etc. One of the problems is we don’t really have all that much background information ourselves. For instance, we suddenly got communiques from this group in Belgium, the Fighting Communist Cells & we had never heard of this group nor did we know too much about the situation in Belgium. So how are we to publish interesting, thought-provoking intros to those articles, when we ourselves don’t have that level of contact. Basically our contact has been with a few different publications, & we translate and publish. It would be great if we had more resources, if more people sent us material, translate, so we could put more of an intro to articles. I do think it leaves a lot of people out. If mean, if you look at W. Germany again, we’re publishing only a very small number of actions that actually happen. Besides all the actions, which might be 1,000s in a year, there’s all sorts of conferences & discussion papers. There’s a whole level of discourse that we never even hear about.
ES: That would be an important part of trying to build up those kinds of structures.
FOD: Sure, that’s all part of the movement, that’s right. That’s essential. Just like all these groups, like the Ecomedia, Endless Struggle, No Picnic, etc, these are all just parts of the movement. In other countries, where the movement is a bit more built up, you’ll find a lot more. You’ll find whole sections of the city where left things are happening, bars where all the leftists go…
ES: A community.
FOD: A whole community, sure.
ES: You’ve been involved in the anarchist movement for a number of years now. Do you see it developing towards a more militant stage? There seems to be a segment that wants to raise the level of militancy, to raise the level of actions, such as the controversy over the Day of Action at the Anarchist Gatherings…do you see it as approaching a turning point?
FOD: Obviously, these gatherings represent a fairly big step forward. In the real recent history, besides going back to the time of the Wobblies, this is pretty new. And the actions
of Direct Action and the Wimmins Fire Brigade didn’t really catch on so that groups like that became active…still, the gatherings where people discuss this and then actually have a DoA, that’s a real positive step. And the fact that there is a big discussion about it does show it is a turning point. If people decide, well from now on we won’t a DoA & we’ll just have a little conference, well then maybe that’s all that’ll happen in the future; there’ll be all these little conferences. And the thing about these gatherings is it’s really the only time where a large number of anarchists can actually come together & do something, because, in most cities there aren’t really many anarchists to take part in militant demos. I think it’s also really important and that it bolsters people’s confidence & the idea that they’re no just alone, 5 people or something.
ES: What’s the future for your publication?
FOD: Well, I think it’ll continue to be an irregularly published paper, even though we’ve always wanted to come out more frequently, we’ve never been able to. We might change the format, we might go magazine style. And also I think we’ll try to have more letters…that’s something we hoped to do in the last issue but we weren’t able to. Part of the problem is we got a lot of material & at some point we have to decide “do we want this or that” and what’s more important… But actually I think letters are important, it shows the readers are interested and everyone like to read their own comments.
ES: How do you see the publication as having developed? Has there been any turning points in its history?
FOD: Well, when it was first published we only did 200, it was xeroxed and in pretty poor condition. So technically, it’s changed quite a bit, & the biggest change was when we started coming out with Open Road (Resistance No. 8). Because we were publishing with OR it meant we could increase our distribution. But in terms of content it hasn’t changed too much. There’s been other changes, we used to get info from one paper from France, L’internationale, but that was closed down. So that mean making contact with a newspaper in a different language and that meant a whole new group of translators. And that paper is being boycotted by the movement. That paper is Knipselkrant, which means “newspaper clippings” in Dutch. They got in a bit of controversy & now they are on the blacklist. So, we’ll have to depend on other sources. But, in terms of content, it really hasn’t changed.
from No Picnic, Spring 1988
The article “Resistance or Authoritarianism” published in your January 1988 issue contains some inacuracies and distortions which we, the Friends of Durruti collective would like to dispel.
We reject the inference that we are responsible for the local anti-authoritarian community appearing “rootless, uninformed and ignorant” and we don’t see our role as that of a perpetuator of confusion within the anarchist movement. We have a much less exaggerated view of our influence in the local area, and indeed throughout the rest of North America, where the bulk of our issues are distributed.
We believe the theme of Resistance, revolutionary armed and militant struggle, cuts across ideological barriers on the Left. In this sense it differs from such papers as Open Road which are explicitly anarchist in perspective. Our objective is to develop an
understanding of the tactics and politics of armed/militant action as it is currently being practiced in in advanced capitalist countries through first hand documentation. We hope that by our publication of communiques, interviews and hunger strike statements, we can dispel the media generated image of the “mindless terrorist” and instead present a truer picture of committed revolutionaries who, thoughtfully and courageously, attempt to put their ideas into practice. We hope to illustrate that armed and militant struggle is a real possibility; that others in similar circumstances have been able to create illegal structures from which to fight the system and, if fact, that we can to.
As we have stated before in our editorials, we don’t agree with all the material that we publish: the collective considers itself to be anti-authoritarian and so does not support the creation of states or political parties, which is the intention of some of the groups whose communiques we have published. We believe that the anarchist movement has a very strong tradition of armed revolutionary struggle, from the insurrections in Italy, the guerrilla army of Makhno in the Ukraine, to the Spanish revolution; and so we expect this movement to have an interest in what we present. But Resistance is not intended solely for the anarchist community. If our publication gives heart to a supporter of the United Freedom Front in U.S., so much the better: at this stage of the struggle any display of revolutionary outrage is better than none.
Many of the communiques we publish present a thorough critique of their targets, whether this be NATO, the European Space Agency, or a bio-genetics firm. It would be simplistic to disregard this information just because it came from a Marxist group. We believe it is of value to anarchists to understand the politics of other ideologies and that there are many things that can be learned and applied from a study of guerrilla groups of differing perspectives.
To illustrate this point: the West German Red Army Fraction is one of the oldest of the modern European guerrilla groups. In its 16-year history, the situation of its political prisoners, kept in conditions of extreme isolation, has been one of its primary concerns. The strength of the political prisoners, their determination to maintain their political identity is exemplary. Though we may reject their political project, we can learn from their experience.
We have also published some material from the Italian Red Brigades; they are a Stalinist organization committed to the creation of a fighting communist party. One text was from a Red Brigadist who had undergone torture at the hands of the Italian police and had described how one could resist the techniques of the torturers. An anarchist might find that perspective of great importance some day.
The ETA, the national liberation movement committed to the creation of socialism in the Basque region is another groups whose communiques we have published. In Resistance
No. 8 we included an account of how one of the organization’s leaders became involved in the struggle, along with an interview with an anti-authoritarian urban guerrilla group, the Autonomist Anti-Capitalist Commandos, of the same region. We thought it would be useful to compare the perspectives of these two groups. In our last issue we published a text from ETA political prisoners about the execution of a former member who had renounced the armed struggle and had begun to aid the Spanish government. The problem of turning is one which guerrillas have to face and it is of value to see how this problem is dealt with by various groups.
We publish as much material as we can from anarchist and anti-authoritarian groups. There are very few guerrilla groups currently active which are explicitly anarchist. Many of the founders of the French group Action Directe considered themselves to be anarchist; in Italy during the 70’s, there was the anarchist Revolutionary Action; and there is Anarchist Cells now active in West Germany (our next issue, out this summer, includes a text from this latter group). In Italy and West Germany there are also many small groupings which carry out actions, send out short communiques and then disband but these communiques, when we are able to acquire them, are generally of little use due to their briefness and concern with local issues.
In West Germany, the autonomist movement is very strong and dwarfs the anarchist and anti-imperialist (RAF) movements.. The autonomist movement has within it, feminists, squatters, anti-nuclear activists, pro-immigration activists, etc. It is a non-authoritarian, non-hierarchical movement and among its most militant members are the Revolutionary Cells and the feminist Rote Zora. This movement, and these groups, cannot be considered Stalinist in any way. We have devoted a considerable amount of space to the Revolutionary Cells and Rote Zora because we find their analyses to be particularly insightful, well written and politically close to our own. In our next issue, besides more material from these two groups, we will publish an interview with the Autonomist Cells, which has been involved primarily in the fight to stop the construction of the nuclear processing plant at Wackersdorf.
A word about dogma and jargon. Some of the material in Resistance is hard to understand. Part of that difficulty is due to the problem of translation, some is due to the lack of context, and some to the use of political jargon. The RAF and CCC are perhaps the worst for using dogma/Leftist terminology. The RAF has, in fact, been criticized for this in West Germany. Keep in mind that these texts were not written for us; they were intended for their political supporters in Europe. Generally speaking, the level of political discourse is much higher there than it is here in North America; the left-wing ideologies of anarchism and Marxism originated in Europe over a hundred years ago, and have played a much greater role in the histories of these countries than they have in our own.
A few last points: given our coverage of armed struggle, we believe that our choice of Durruti – a passionate advocate of the same, prior to, and during, the Spanish Revolution – for the name of our collective is an appropriate one. It is our tribute to the memory of this anarchist guerrilla leader, and serves to reaffirm the role of armed struggle in anarchist revolution. Our critic writes that groups such as ETA caused his death, but that is quite untrue; Durruti was killed by a fascist bullet coming from the Guardia Civil who had taken the Clinica Hospital in Madrid, as he was encouraging a group of militiamen to return to the front.
Compliments to our friend on his multilinguistic abilities if he finds it so easy to acquire and translate the type of material that is found in Resistance. Our own translators find it to be a difficult task, one that takes months of hard work. It is quite untrue that “all of
these groups regularly publish their communiques and discussion papers throughout Europe and North America as well.” American and Puerto Rican groups publish their communiques in such papers as Libertad, Insurgent and Breakthrough, but European communiques are quite rare in North America except in Resistance. There are a few journals in Europe which publish communiques from the guerrilla, but they frequently are closed down by the police, their editors jailed and their publication confiscated. We suggest that our critic’s unstated, but hinted, opposition to “guerrillaism” is the reason behind his attempt to invalidate Resistance by claiming its contents to be so easily available elsewhere. We believe that our acquiring and translating statements by the guerrilla to be very useful to those in North America interested in this topic.
Our critic must confuse us with someone else when he writes that we publish communiques from “in many instances racist units.” We do not publish any racist communiques, but we have published a number of anti-racist ones such as those from the Dutch Revolutionary Anti-Racist Action and Split Apartheid, as well as the American United Freedom Front which attacked a number of multi-nationals heavily involved in South Africa. Gratuitous slurs such as this can hardly be considered to be in the interest of a “constructive, mutually respectful discussion.” But, perhaps our comrade is referring to the bloody anti-semitic attacks which occurred a number of years ago in Paris and were blamed on Action Directe; if so, our critic should check his facts and make sure he is not parroting the official government line. We published an interview with AD founder Jean Marc Rouillan and some communiques from this guerrilla organization in which they denied involvement in the attacks and pointed out the government’s motives in slandering them.
We are not sure what our critic meant when he said Resistance is not presented in an anarchist fashion. Resistance might be considered an esoteric publication; it is not that useful to the general reader, but it is for those who have a particular interest in its subject matter. We tend not to repeat introductions to the various groups whos statements are reprinted, but if this is causing confusion among our readers we will consider placing more attention on this part of our work. We always welcome letters from our readers.
Keep up the good work of your paper!
The Friends of Durruti collective.