“You hear that?”
It was a warm evening, our leather-shod feet treading slowly over ancient cobble. Strasbourg, last summer, a few days visiting a friend before my companion headed to Germany and then returned to the US.
“Yes.” She said. The worry on her face probably reflected mine. “It’s like They’re shouting, war.”
I nodded. That was exactly what I heard, too.
A few days later, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, abandoning Liberal Democracy’s greatest experiment, one touted as a way not just to bring economic prosperity to an entire continent and nearby islands, but also to make a group of nations so inter-connected that their leaders would never again call for war against each other.
While much of the liberal-left who’d opposed that vote (as well as even those on the right who’d supported it) expressed wild shock that Brexit had been successful, neither my companion nor I were surprised.
It was no different with the election of Donald Trump as the next leader of the American Empire. While every major newspaper and ‘scientific’ prediction site assured us that Hillary Clinton would win handily, the voices I’d heard made clear that’s not how the future would be.
That same companion heard them too.
We called each other after the election results were announced. She was eerily calm. So was I. “I almost convinced myself otherwise,” she said.
“I know. I tried, too.”
We both sighed, perpetually reluctant Cassandras in a tragedy that is only just beginning.
The Drums of War
I HAVE NO special powers of prediction. I also do not need them to see what is happening, nor do you. To follow the threads of actions now to consequences and likely re-actions later, one need only disengage a bit from the narratives with which our governments, political parties, and the capitalists who fund them assure us that their actions are just. One need also disengage from the stories we tell ourselves, the pretty lies by which we live in willful ignorance of the damage we do to the world.
Stand outside those, for just a little while, and the inevitability of war becomes frightfully apparent. From outside those narratives, we start to see things we conveniently ignore, counter-narratives, ‘natural’ forces and societal limits which threaten our ‘peace’ and ‘security’ much more than any foreign power or terrorist act could dare dream to do.
Climate Change (the Anthropocene)
Since the start of the industrial (counter-)revolution and the birth of capitalism, the inherent resilience of forests, oceans, the atmosphere, and all other bio-regions has been damaged beyond the point of healing. So much carbon has been shit into the air that ancient ice is melting, weather patterns are changing, and ocean currents which make densely-populated lands livable are shifting, threatening the wealth those nations accumulated through militant and economic conquest.
The damage done to bio-systems particularly affects those in what is often called the Global South. South America, Africa, and many small Pacific Island nations face massive flooding and die-offs of ecosystems on which the people who live there rely for subsistence.
Industrial Capitalism (and its Chinese cognate, Industrial Authoritarian Communism) relies on relentless extraction of resources in order to fuel the engines of economic control of its citizenry. Petroleum feeds everything, from the automobiles and lorries which move products and people between businesses and homes, to the products being constructed, sold, consumed, and discarded at the altars of ‘economic growth,’ to all the infrastructure in between: even the roads connecting cities and people are made of petroleum (asphalt).
Petroleum, Coal, and the other primary resources which feed the furnaces of capitalism are finite resources, swiftly depleting. Even the ‘renewable’ resources are dwindling, unable to replace themselves swiftly enough to meet our rapacious demand. The oceans are over-fished, forests cannot grow back as fast as they are cut down, and the natural systems which sustain them have been so severely damaged that they are close to (if not already at) collapse. Many systems are on life-support: soil stripped long ago of its nutrients only ‘produces’ food now on account of industrial fertilizers and pesticides, often themselves a product of petroleum.
Depleted resources and climate destruction are not mere esoteric problems to be debated with sad faces in coffeeshops and classrooms. They directly affect the ability of billions of humans to survive, and humans do not generally let themselves die without a fight. The Middle-East, where the largest remaining reserves of oil exist, is increasingly swept by mass uprisings and civil strife violently subdued by totalitarian governments propped up by one or more foreign powers. Syria, Iraq, Afganistan, Egypt, Turkey, and others have all becomes sites of international political struggles resulting in slaughter, while quasi-religious ideologies such as Wahabism embolden the disaffected to claim new power through terrifyingly violent frameworks.
That same unrest has awakened in the nation-states which gain most from the strife elsewhere. Europe, particularly, is witnessing a virulently fascist backlash against the refugees and immigrants fleeing foreign conflict and resource depletion, while simultaneously seeing a new resurgence of anti-capitalist organizing that threatens the political structures even more than the fascist threat. Politicians and capitalists there, as in the United States (which boasts the largest, most-funded military in the world), have chosen to ally with the racists and nationalists against that leftist threat, promising a ‘return’ to economic prosperity and stability.
While the nationalist, racist, and fascist currents in Liberal Democracies (as well as the totalitarian religious ideologies seen primarily in the Middle-East) offer a coherent and pristine (but terrifying) political narrative to lead people through the current crises, ideologies generally associated with ‘the left’ are in utter disarray. This is particularly true in the United States, where the centrist/capitalist party (Democrats) have long co-opted organized opposition, the name ‘Marx’ or the word ‘insurrection’ evoke embarrassed gasps from even those who dedicate their lives towards activism.
Instead of organized opposition to state structures, ‘leftists’ have been happy to justify the recent U.S. military actions in Syria as justified, while embracing a constructed conspiracy narrative that Donald Trump is a puppet of a foreign power, rather than an inevitable symptom of America’s inherent imperialism.
There currently exists no significant internal opposition to the United States’ drumbeat of war. Decades of attempting to appear sympathetic to the employees of the military and defend against right-wing charges of ‘anti-Americanism’ has created a Liberal Nationalism which only argues over how wars are conducted, not whether they should be conducted at all. This was seen most clearly in the campaign of Hillary Clinton, who threatened even harsher foreign action than Donald Trump has currently enacted, while cynically using “Feminism” to distract women and minorities from her nationalist platform.
War is Already Here, And Is Coming
THIS IS WHERE we find ourselves now, and also how we got here. All this has led us to this point where war is inevitable, where the entire world sits upon a powder keg while a few reckless leaders drunkenly play with matches. However, the coming war is not the only war we must worry over.
Those of us in Liberal Democracies often forget that the economic and military dominance of the nations to which we are subject comes through war. War is never just soldier against soldier, gun against gun, nation against nation. War is what has been waged against the forests and the oceans since the birth of capitalism. It is what was declared against the peasantry during the Enclosure Acts, what was fought against witches and heretics and rebels who dared fight back.
War is what was waged against the indigenous peoples of the Americas in order to found the United States, an undeclared war against the land and its human and non-human inhabitants still being fought to this day. War is what kills the unarmed Blacks in the streets of cities, what drags them to misery in prison complexes. It is what has been declared upon the poor of all races, not ‘collateral damage’ but direct casualties. The homeless are refugees in their own lands, the jails filled with those dragged there by uniformed occupiers, hospitals filled with victims of systematic destruction.
War is coming, but it has already been here.
Sadly, we surrendered, laid down our own arms, chose obedience and misery rather than insurrection. Worse, many of us not only do not fight, but tacitly and often willfully support the enemy. Opportunists content to profit within regimes of exploitation, obedient servants to Empire and Capital, corporations, politicians, and individuals occasionally muttering words about ‘social justice’ yet eagerly collaborating with conquest and slaughter as long as the profits still roll in, as long as capitalism keeps them better fed than the rest of the world.
War is already here, and it is also coming.
Unspeakable weapons now used casually, military maneuvers, call-ups of reserve soldiers and media campaigns tell us what we do not need gods to hear. As the numbers of the poor and disaffected in Liberal Democracy crush upon the system, the leaders have decided they need gainful employment. Young men told they are inherently dangerous and violent by Liberals and encouraged to be so by Conservatives will soon be trained and armed to do what society demands of them. They will now be joined by women, a victory of Liberal Democratic equality that will no doubt prove to their bleeding, dismembered victims that America is truly a land of the free.
European nations struggling under the weight of their own contradictions and threatened by their peoples’ demands for more freedom may join these wars, though if real resistance arises against this new militarism, is it much more likely on the continent than in the United States. In France, a Communist candidate has almost as much of a chance to win the next election as the Fascist candidate; Germany seems safe for now, and anti-statist movements are flourishing in countries ruined by Liberal capitalist policies (like Greece, Italy, and Spain). The people on the continent from which I write may be resilient enough to stand against the calls to slaughter. They may also not be.
WAR IS ALREADY HERE, and war is coming, but it can be stopped. Even the gods cannot predict the future when the weavers of fate and destiny intervene.
Those weavers are us.
How might we stop the coming slaughter? By taking up our own arms, enjoining the war that is already here. Not against other nations, not against the poor or the hired soldiers of other lands, but rising up against our occupiers, our imperialist masters and their collaborators.
Those squeamish about violence and insurrection are right to be so, but they cannot ignore that war has already been enjoined. In some cases, this may mean taking up literal weapons. In some cases, it may not. In all cases it will involve intentional resistance, actively engaging in struggle against those who would lead us to the destruction of the earth and world-wide imperialist war.
I am amongst those who do not intend to take up weapons, so I offer here a strategy of war based on attrition and sabotage rather than armed conflict. Others more ready, skilled, and trained to offer force to fight Empire no doubt can outline their insurrectionist strategies better. I will not oppose them, and suspect these strategies will complement theirs.
The Path of Desertion
States rely heavily on obedience, submission, and passive participation in the political and economic systems which sustain them. Capitalists need workers to show up, to produce, to spend their incomes on products and services. Politicians need their subjects to give away their own power and invest it in government and political parties instead.
The Path of Desertion is an act of war against this.
We must stop ‘showing up’ to work, stop relying on the capitalists for the means of our survival and existence, and stop giving away our power to those who demand it from us. But desertion is not just a cessation; neither the soldier who leaves his post nor the worker who quits her job are engaging merely in passive resistance: they are affirming and embracing their own power, their own will, and their own desire.
We must do this, too.
Deserting is not just walking away, but it is also walking away. It means abandoning our posts and quitting our jobs while also posting and employing ourselves elsewhere: our families, our networks, our friendships, our chosen (not ‘enforced’) communities. It means producing our own goods, growing and cooking and consuming our own food. It means making our own art, telling our own stories, creating our own narratives completely outside the narratives of power-over.
Deserting means no longer doing our ‘duty’ to report crimes to the government and their hired thugs. It means no longer paying our taxes, no longer paying our rents and mortgages. It means no longer serving in their wars, literally deserting their armies.
It means admitting that the nationalist nightmare of The United States–or any other construct–is over, and then acting as on that acknowledgment. Liberal politicians in the US are hoping those who oppose Trump will still cling to the American political system long enough for them to have a chance to take the reigns again. In effect, they are demanding we keep ‘showing up’ to the American project, even as it slaughters. We must desert them, too.
The Path of Sabotage
If the Nation is an imperial occupation upon the land and the people, those who would follow the path of sabotage seek to weaken the occupation. Guerrilla warfare is not just fought with guns; its strongest weapons are disruption, infiltration, and sabotage.
Centuries ago, textile workers who wished to retaliate against their bosses threw their wooden shoes into the machines, irrevocably destroying them. These shoes were called sabots, and those who used this tactic were saboteurs.
Like the path of desertion, the path of sabotage is an active choice to take up arms, to enjoin war against those who make war against us. Unlike the path of desertion, it involves direct antagonism, direct action, in support of both the deserters and the insurrectionists.
There are relentless ways to throw our shoes into the machines, damaging the ability of the rich, the police, and the military to enact their war against the earth and all that live within it. Port blockades, strikes, work slow-downs. Theft from businesses, squatting of private and government-owned land. Destruction of oil pipelines, transport networks, mass take-overs of government buildings and capitalist businesses.
Sabotage can be loud, and it can also be subtle. Those who unmask the motives of politicians (liberal and conservative alike), unearth the exploitative histories of business figures, or create counter-narratives to the dominant propaganda machine are as engaged as those who do more visible acts.
Sabotage is often done best when it is done by those without names and faces, so that our enemy cannot know which of we ‘obedient’ house-servants left the front door unlocked for the field-servants to kill the master. When it is public, it is done best to inspire others to do the same.
Notes on The Path of Armed Struggle
It is up to others to define the Path of Armed Struggle. The beginnings of it have already awakened in the streets of large American cities; many trans, disabled, queer, and Black folks have begun training in weapons-use. Many soldiers in the US army–as with other nations–may desert. Some have already joined anti-capitalist and anti-imperial struggle elsewhere, and perhaps they will offer their training to those wishing to follow their path. Armed resistance has long been the path of those in the Global South fighting off capitalist (particularly US) imperialism. They have much to teach as well.
For many, this will be the path of least fame and least support. I am sorry for this. Even now, no doubt some readers are appalled it would even be considered. To them I can say only, ‘if it is not your path, find your own,’ as I am doing.
Some of us will take up direct arms against Empire. Some will desert. Some will sabotage. Many will engage in all three. It is time. But it has always been time. War is coming, but war has already been here.
We have a world to win.
Rhyd is the managing editor and a co-founder of Gods&Radicals. He is a poet, a writer, a theorist, and a pretty decent chef. He can be supported on Patreon, and his other work can be found at Paganarch, and shirtless selfies occasionally seen on his FB. and also his Instagram
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