Recently after one of the organizing meetings for Food Not Bombs Las Vegas
, Charles "Radgeek
" Johnson and I engaged in a conversation with a friend who has attended the A-Cafe
several times over the past few months. At one point, the issue of an Anarchist society's ability to defend itself against a statist country was discussed, with the contention that the Anarchists would be unable to defend themselves against an attack by the army of an invading state. More specifically, our friend was of the opinion that Anarchists would be unable to organize themselves in order to fend off such an attack without an hierarchical structure of leadership.
I brought up the Ukrainian Revolutionary Black Army
during the Russian Revolution as an example of a force organized along Anarchist, bottom-up principles that was very capable of standing up to statist forces. Another example that was mentioned was the Workers' Committees of the Spanish Civil War, as well as various instances where guerrilla warfare has proven effective against rigidly organized forces.
The perceived flaw with the examples of the Black Army and the Spanish Revolutionaries was that in both cases they were eventually defeated by an alliance of statist forces, due to being vastly outnumbered. In the case of the Black Army there were as many as six separate armies opposing them at any given time, while the Spanish Anarchists were left alone against communists, fascists, and nationalists within Spain, which were supported by the governments of Mussolini, Hitler, and Stalin from outside Spain. Yet both groups held out for some time and achieved several significant victories during their respective periods.*
So, this is where the Billy Jack reference comes in to play. Anybody that has seen the movie (has anybody not) is aware that Billy Jack was one of the biggest bad asses in movie history, who routinely pummeled anyone that transgressed against his group of outcasts and undesirables (which was just about every scene). However in the end, he meets his match when pretty much every guy in town surrounds him in a park and one of them eventually manages to crack him across the back of the head with a stick.
So the question would be, does the fact that Billy Jack eventually loses to an enemy with far superior numbers somehow invalidate the fact that he was more than able to defend himself, even at times when he was outnumbered to a lesser extent?
The fact that we are surrounded and vastly outnumbered by the State and its supporters is a serious issue that necessitates caution for us outcasts and undesirables within the Anarchist movements. However, it is no reason to conclude that we are incapable of defending ourselves without the State, in spite of obvious evidence to the contrary. Nor is it a reason to throw our hands up in the air and concede defeat without even trying. We can learn from the mistakes of the "Billy Jacks" of the past (try to stay out of the park = lesson number one) without accepting slavery as an inevitable circumstance.
*I realize that this is an extreme simplification of the subjects, but I didn't want to engage in a fifty page history lesson just to make what should be a rather simple point.