Anonymity

Since time immemorial there have been those who have realized and praised the potentiality of the use of anonymity. Only if someone is nobody one can avoid being recognized by their enemies. It's an old greek wisdom that seems to elude the anarchists of the Conspiracy Cells of Fire, some of which – in a document written from prison, signed also by an other imprisoned comrade and sent to an international anarchist encounter held in Zurich last november – dedicate ample space to the reasons behind the use of a name, an acronym, a precise identity with which to claim their own actions of struggle.

Anonymity

 

‘As he finished speaking I handed him the bright wine. Three times I poured and gave it to him, and three times, foolishly, he drained it. When the wine had fuddled his wits I tried him with subtle words: “Cyclops, you asked my name, and I will tell it: give me afterwards a guest gift as you promised. My name is Nobody. Nobody, my father, mother, and friends call me.” Those were my words, and this his cruel answer: “Then, my gift is this. I will eat Nobody last of all his company, and all the others before him”. As he spoke, he reeled and toppled over on his back, his thick neck twisted to one side, and all-conquering sleep overpowered him. In his drunken slumber he vomited wine and pieces of human flesh. Then I thrust the stake into the depth of the ashes to heat it, and inspired my men with encouraging words, so none would hang back from fear. When the olivewood stake was glowing hot, and ready to catch fire despite its greenness, I drew it from the coals, then my men stood round me, and a god breathed courage into us. They held the sharpened olivewood stake, and thrust it into his eye, while I threw my weight on the end, and twisted it round and round, as a man bores the timbers of a ship with a drill that others twirl lower down with a strap held at both ends, and so keep the drill continuously moving. We took the red-hot stake and twisted it round and round like that in his eye, and the blood poured out despite the heat. His lids and brows were scorched by flame from the burning eyeball, and its roots crackled with fire. As a great axe or adze causes a vast hissing when the smith dips it in cool water to temper it, strengthening the iron, so his eye hissed against the olivewood stake. Then he screamed, terribly, and the rock echoed. Seized by terror we shrank back, as he wrenched the stake, wet with blood, from his eye. He flung it away in frenzy, and called to the Cyclopes, his neighbours who lived in caves on the windy heights. They heard his cry, and crowding in from every side they stood by the cave mouth and asked what was wrong: “Polyphemus, what terrible pain is this that makes you call through deathless night, and wake us? Is a mortal stealing your flocks, or trying to kill you by violence or treachery?” Out of the cave came mighty Polyphemus’ voice: “Nobody, my friends, is trying to kill me by violence or treachery.” To this they replied with winged words: “If you are alone, and nobody does you violence, it’s an inescapable sickness that comes from Zeus: pray to the Lord Poseidon, our father.” ‘Off they went, while I laughed to myself at how the name and the clever scheme had deceived him.

Homer, Odyssey


 

 

Since time immemorial there have been those who have realized and praised the potentiality of the use of anonymity. Only if someone is nobody one can avoid being recognized by their enemies. It's an old greek wisdom that seems to elude the anarchists of the Conspiracy Cells of Fire, some of which – in a document written from prison, signed also by an other imprisoned comrade and sent to an international anarchist encounter held in Zurich last november – dedicate ample space to the reasons behind the use of a name, an acronym, a precise identity with which to claim their own actions of struggle.

Theirs is a particular text because, even though they are part of the most notorious anarchist armed group at the moment, in a certain sense they welcome and make their own the majority of the widespread critique towards armedstrugglism, rejecting any separation, any division of roles. They say there is no difference between comrades who are one the front line handling weapons while others are in the background handling paper, because every means is a weapon, one can grip a banner just as a torch, a stone just as dynamite. Steel is a prime resource that is used in pens just like in guns, there is no hierarchy between means, there is no technical fetishism. All comrades have to be able to use everything. End of specialization. Sure. There remains though, the insurmountable question of identity. To move in the shadows, and not under neon lights, is of no interest to these greek comrades.

Since they argued their choices, something that for many years many anarchists who shared their path did not deem necessary to undertake, making any debate on the matter therefore impossible, and having sent their text to an anarchist encounter, it is obvious that their intention is to finally open a discussion around these themes. Pleased of their decision, we intend to here bring our contribution.

Let's start from the question of means. After having pointed out that their intention is absolutely not to impose limits to the anarchist initiative and to not want to generalize every technical knowledge, these comrades write: “We believe that what is necessary to become appropriable is the will towards anarchist insurgency itself, and the means are nothing else than objects which our hands and our desires are capable of discovering. Therefore, we avoid the distinctions of low- or high-intensity violence, and we destroy the reproduction of the expertise myth. A typical example of polymorphous anarchist action is the experiment of FAI/IRF, whose members claim responsibility both for solidarity banners and blocking entrances of commercial stores with glue in Peru and Bolivia respectively, and the shooting of a chief executive of a nuclear power company in Italy as well as the execution of three municipal cops in Mexico. After all, as Conspiracy of Cells of Fire we started somewhat like this, too, and we were never tied up to an arrogance of the means and their unofficial hierarchy.” Clear words, unequivocal, but... accompanied by an example to say the least absurd. Because it is pure folly that an acronym claims actions so distant – let alone the consequences – as the hanging of a banner and the murdering of cops. The first is a common act, accessible to all, as opposed to the second one. Usually the authours of the first act are easily traceable, since it is not subjected to great precautions. But in the example they bring they would risk paying the consequences also of the second, particularly where both of these action happen on the same territory. Or should the anarchists of perú and bolivia of the FAI/FRI also forever limit themselves to banners and glue? Or are they suggesting that to carry through similar simple acts there should be the same attention necessary in very different forms of actions?

These greek comrades completely neglect to take into consideration certain repressive mechanisms, such as the use of crimes of association, which paradoxically and involuntarily are favoured by this identitarian outlet. To explain what we mean, we'll make two concrete historical examples. In spain in the last decades of the 1800, there were many social agitations. Especially in the lower part of andalusia, there were a multiplication of arsons on vineyards and crops, the illegal cutting of lumber, the theft of cattle, not to mention murders. Unlike the catalan anarchism, then a lot closer to legal positions, the andalusian anarchists kept a certain propensity towards direct action. In this setting, in 1883, the “Mano Negra” made its appearance, a phantom anarchist organization to which the authorities at the time attributed a conspiracy aiming at killing all the landowners of the region. Even though it is true that these facts aroused the sympathies of many andalusian anarchist, it is also true that the existence of this organization remains in doubt. For example the authours of the Millenarian Fire, the french Cangaceiros Delhoysie and Lapierre write: “It is also probable that a group or a secret sect called Mano Negra never existed; this name was used to indicate a ensemble of actions and sects without a name. In total, the amount of court cases against andalusian anarchist in the context of Mano Negra concluded with 300 prison sentences.” Aside from the doubt whether or not this “signature” was a pure police invention or an intentional choice of a few andalusian comrades, it is anyways certain that it on one had encompassed all the actions without a name carried through during those years, and on the other hand served the prosecutors to distribute high sentences to those who had participated to various social struggles of the time (beyond justifying many arbitrary executions of subversives). The authours of countless small actions saw themselves being hunted and condemned because accused of participating to an armed group which they had never belonged to (and that perhaps never even existed).

A few decades later, in France, a similar situation occurred. The actions that were carried through by a few individualist comrades were attributed to a “Bonnot gang” that was only born from the imagination of a journalist. In reality there was no structured gang, only a milieu of active and energetic comrades. Single individuals would meet, associate for an action, would separate, without any homogeneity. But the spectrum of an “organized group” was awoken by the courts which used it to incriminate dozens of comrades for crimes of association, which would later result in heavier sentences, and which would have been impossible to impose without the creation of that collective organizational spectre.

Whether it was a social movement or an “area” of specific movement, in both cases the small actions carried through by single comrades, expression that come out of that dark forest that is anarchy, were swallowed up by an Organization, by a Group, whether it was real or virtual. And it is in the best interest of the State that this occurs. On one hand, the State can spread the idea that it is only a few hot heads that are opposing it, that any insurrectional attempt is only the plot of a few subversives against the will of the many consenting citizens, in this way denying the social and generalizable qualities of subversion. On the other hand it can deal its enemies a heavy hand, increasing the sentences by using crimes of association.

Not only do the greek comrades only minimally keep in mind these aspects, which are mere security issues, but they aggravate them. In fact they claim that there is no difference between those who hang banners and those who kill cops. They should and have to be on the same level, they should belong to the same organization that needs to claim their actions, if it does not want to be drifting into inaccuracy. Music for the ears of the courts. If the umbrella-acronym works with the ALF it is because the actions made around the world by its activists are very similar, being mostly about the liberation of animals. But the examples given by the greek comrades are of a very different nature. Who is so crazy to be identified for a banner, knowing that they could be accused of murder? Should they then but up a piece of cloth with the same precautions with which they would plan the elimination of an enemy? In the long run, the hierarchy between the means that comes out of the door of good intentions of principle will come back through the window of the hard practical necessities.

Unfortunately for these greek comrades, there is only one way to avoid all these problems: anonymity. Up until now it has been proposed as a precaution, as a “strategic” choice. However this is only one additional aspect to the question, in our opinion not the most important. In fact, anonymity is also and most of all a method that corresponds to our desires. We do not consider it only useful and functional, we consider it above all right.

Anonymity eliminates the right of authourship on what has been done, it de-personalizes the action freeing it from the single human that has committed it. In this way it permits the action to become a potentially plural act (and never-mind if it excites the pettiness of some crypto-loudmouths). The anonymous action does not have owners, does not have masters, belongs to no one. Which means it belongs to everyone that shares it.

As shadows among shadows, we are all the same. No one is in front to lead, no one is behind to follow. What we do in the darkness only we will know. And this is enough. The darkness protects us from our enemies, but above all it protects us from ourselves. No leaders, no gregariousness, no vanity, no passive admiration, no competition, nothing to prove what-so-ever. The facts, only the nitty-gritty facts, without mediation. A bank is burned, a police station explodes, a high tension line is torn down. Who was it? It does not matter. Whether it was Tom or Dick, what difference does it make? It happened, it is possible to do it, so let's do it! In the darkness the action speaks for itself. And if it is not understandable, it will certainly not be that roaring claims swallowed by the propagandist machine of the State to give them a meaning. As it was already mentioned an action followed by a claim is like a joke followed by an explanation. In doing this the effect is not at all improved, it is banalized, it is ruined. If an action does not speak for itself, it is not by piling up words that the problem can be solved when, simply put, the wrong choice is upstream, in the choice of the target.

Actions of attack do not necessitate any a-posteriori justification. On a planet torn by wars, is it necessary to make it clear why a military base was attacked? In a world in prey of speculation, is it necessary to point out why a bank was attacked? In a society corrupted by politics, is it necessary to let know why a political party was attacked? No. The reasons are already under everyone's eyes, and there where they are not, it is up to the entire movement to spread that social criticism able to make them understandable, and therefore shared, and therefore reproducible.

Just as much as the desire to attack an enemy is human, spontaneous and immediate, the impulse to make propaganda on top of it, to claim its ownership, to claim its credit is artificial and calculated. For whose eyes? If the authours of a certain action want to come forward, it is because they want to be recognized, to stand out, because they want to be admired and followed. Here the spectacle starts, here begins the recruitment. Those who stand out end up inevitably speaking for others. It cannot be otherwise because all spotlights are turned on them, they have been passed the microphone. The others, if they do not want to feel used, will be obligated to also step forward; either to follow the footsteps of the first ones, or to take distance from them. The end of anonymity marks the end of equality, the beginning of representation. The medias are always available to amplify the words of those who knock on their doors, of those who accept the logic of the spectacle. And this amplification is gratifying, because it grants the illusion of strength. An anonymous act, as significant as it is, will be in all probability overlooked in silence, while a banal but “tagged” gesture will be trumpeted from the rooftops – see, they talk about us, look how strong we are!

While in anonymity there are no names, there are no identities, there is a heterogeneous movement, magmatic, fragmentary, frantic. No one gives orders, no one takes orders. Acts, just like words, have value because of their meaning, for their content, for their consequences. Not for the reputation of their authours. Instead of calling upon the end of anonymity in actions, it should be introduced also in words. To give life to a movement which is anarchist, autonomous, anonymous, decisive in its attacks, without feeling the need of giving any explanation to its enemy. Able to put forward theory and practice without building any podiums for the ambitious. The reasons of the actions are expressed in books, journals, posters, flyers and by all the theories brought forward by the movement in its entirety. The passions for these ideas are expressed in demonstrations, in sabotages, in fires, in attacks and by all the practices carried forward by the movement in its entirety.

The greek comrades write that “The name of each group we participate in is our psyche, our soul”. What a weird statement! What is there of more secret, of more intimate, of more unspeakable, than one's psyche, one's soul? Who would want one's psyche thrown on the front page, or their soul regurgitated by a cathode ray tube? A name is only an identity. It is only used to make oneself known and be recognized. It is nothing more than the launch a new logo. In front of the mediatic gossip, just as in front of the enemy, there are no doubts: silence is golden. Will medias attribute to anonymous actions the more congenial meaning to serve their own purpose, distorting them to suit their needs? Of course, it's their job. But the use of an acronym does not change this fact. It rather only participates this confusionism. It is quite naïve to think that it is possible to speak clearly within the media. It is after all the medias that use others to put forward their agenda.

And then, what to say about this idea that informal groups need to and have to discuss among themselves through communiquès! But, are we asking ourselves, to whom should we address ourselves to? To people on the street, to the exploited, and therefore potential accomplices, that do not understand the meaning of the action? Or to comrades elsewhere with whom to discuss? In the first case, beyond the illusion of being able to use the media, all those references to what is going on in the movement are not understandable: distorted messages, quotes, references, all things that make these claims un-understandable in the eyes of common people. Their reaction cannot be other than indifference towards the struggle of these strange anarchists who in the moment of action express an extremely limited mental universe, incapable of going beyond their own doorstep. Anarchists against the State, the State against anarchists: is that what social war is all about? In the second case it is unclear why it is necessary to make recourse to such a tool. Because why should a dialogue, a discussion, a debate among comrades, happen though a mass media instead of through the channels of the movement? Why should newspapers, zines, magazines or even blogs not be enough to engage in certain discussions? And in what are these discussions more interesting and valid if not carried forward by all comrades, perhaps even daily, rather than “the militants of combative organizations” in the occasion of their actions? In the meanwhile, while this game of pure self-reppresentation is in full force, the cops and the journalists that read our words, learn linguistic codes, take down notes on similarities, decipher references, hypothesize relationships, deduct responsibility... and prepare.

As it was pointed out by a comrade during the encounter of Zurich, during the '70s in Italy various armed organizations claimed hundreds of actions against the State. But outside of this political spectacle, which has much contributed to the creation of an insane revolutionary mythology which continues to this day to claim victims, there were thousands of actions. The media gave great silence to the first, but did everything possible to silence the second. Is it really necessary to explain again the reason? This is why we have carefully read the text of these greek anarchists, and we are more than happy that they have clearly expressed themselves on this topic. However between the hypothesis that the radical anarchist action is to be paired up with a Unified Front and Anarchist Federations (perhaps with their associative pacts to subscribe to), or one that propagates in small affinity groups, we continue to have no doubts. And to prefer a revolt that is anarchist, autonomous, anonymous...

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