Terrorism and human rights as bourgeois concepts
a summary of discussion in Belgrade Monday 25th of July 2004. 3 - 5 PM
This was also one of the discussions organised in Athenaeum of anarcho-syndicalists, parallel but not as part of the PGA conference. I publish this in conference website and PGA process list as well, because most of the people who participated came there for the PGA at the first place, and those who missed the event might be curious what was the discussion about. Topic of this discussion was also proposed in Alter-EE
mailing list, and the original idea of the concept was the following:
"Especially western-european leftists but also some anarchists are getting often fascinated by all kinds of national liberation movements, armed guerrillas, etc. Probably they see them as projection of their own blurry masturbation with visions of "more real" struggle, which they are not able to live in their reality, so they are frustrated by their own unabilities. On other hand every ambitious coward can hide (and call it "solidarity") him/herself behind images of (mostly) men with the guns from somewhere else.
Nationalist IRA or ETA, islamistic/anti semitic Hamas, Stalinist warriors somewhere in Latin America. Their goals, structures, tactics are not much questioned, as they are seen as "armed fist of oppressed". Also for many is somehow easier to "support" all these oppressed somewhere else (Tibet, Chechnya) than confront oppresion right here, coming from "their own" State or people against any of "minorities". On other hand plain racism and eurocentrism doesn't allow to see clearly other realities, which often created circumstances for such and not other political choices and allow to easily say what or not is legitime. What is our, as class-war anarchists political position? how and if can look solidarity, how we see those described as terrorists, what are the so-called "human rights" etc. Each barricade has only 2 sides, but they are different barricades all over."
However there was little discussion about national liberation movements and armed guerilla. Although a few more examples of strange forms of solidarity in TV society were mentioned (Turkish anarchists organising solidarity for Chiapas during ethnic cleansing of Kurdish, a solidarity concert for resistance in Argentina in much more poor Serbia), most of the time topic of the discussion was the concept of human rights as such.
In reality, many very different concepts are united under banner of the human rights, often in an inconsistent manner. For example in Germany, human rights for immigrants mean something completely different than human rights for natives. Why free speech is a human right, but a right to land is not? Concepts such as human rights and terrorism are ever present in political discussion, but their content is blurred at least.
There was a disagreement wether human rights may be considered as an anarchist concept in the first place. Concept of human rights is for sure core idea of enlightment of the 18th century, and it was argued that anarchism was "enlightement taken to its logical extreme", whereas marxist materialism in its rejection of humanism was a departure from enlightement which opened a way to leninist totalitarism. In this sense, anarchism would be an ideology bourgeois in heritage, although anti-bourgeois in practice. But this point of view was opposed - it was argued, that anarchism is fundamentally materialist, and that for anarchists (just as for marxists) class division of the mankind is a more fundamental concept than human rights. Anarchist revolution would be a step forward from a bourgeois one.
However, person arguing against human rights as a concept, did not saw a moral problem in using them as an argument in practice, for example when defending rights of workers against illegal sacking. There were both good and bad experience about liberal human rightists and consistency of their practice in regards to rights of anarchists - for example ACLU of USA has always standed by anarchists when their civil rights have been violated, whereas in contrary Amnesty International does not support anybody who has for example been defending himself (such as anti-fascist Tomek WIlkoszevski doing 15 years in Poland), and very seldom those who have been framed for committing criminal offences (such as anarchist Aleksei Cherepanov in Russia).
Self defence should not be less of a right than free speech, everybody should have a right to kill a violent nazi. Self-defence should not be a privilege of statists. In another hand, mob justice is far too often glorified by anarchists, image of a lynch mob may hardly suit promoting direct action among such groups as black people.
Plenty of participators had first-hand experience of terrorist hysteria, for example recently an anti-terrorist case was opened against Bulgarian anarchist for distribution of leaflets only. Bosnian anarchists told which kind of advertisement NATO and SFOR are paying in the local press - corpses in bodybags under header "terrorist, this is your destiny"... although during 9 years of defacto colonial occupation there has not been a single terrorist attack against NATO or SFOR troops in Bosnia! Which of course does not mean that suspected people are not sent to Guantamo... 200 years ago concept of terror was reserved for States only, nowadays it is even used in the context of property destruction.