Some tentative and yet ad hominem speculations.

From the little I’ve seen of some of this insurrectionalist stuff, just from how some of the terms sound to my ear and from some comments on some web sites, it seems to me this is an ideology of intensification. Somewhere one of the black flame authors distinguished mass anarchism from insurrectionalist anarchism, and argued that the first has a tendency to degenerate into gradualism and the second has a tendency to degenerate into substitutionism. That seems fair to me. It also reminds me of this quote, one old Italian lefty, Sergio Bologna, talking about his one time comrade, leninist and insurrectionist communist Antonio Negri: “According to Bologna a problem with Negri’s political perspective, then and now, is to mistake the intensification of conflict for the process of class recomposition.” From here –

I also think it’s worth asking about some loosely related themes: violence (as practice and in rhetoric) and gender, notions of class as subtly gendered, and issues of discipline and responsibility.

On violence and rhetoric, maybe I’m imposing my own standards, and again I’m not up on this milieu, but it all seems really macho. And macho in… like… a geeky way. Like, it’s a machismo I remember from being a small early teenager good at chess and school and not so good at sports. Partially a matter of polysyllables taking the place of muscle- and penis-size, and partially a fantasy of having the context — a crew to back you up — to dish it out a little. The implied definitions of militancy and intensity just strike me as largely those of dudes, and I suspect some of this stuff may have elements which are both partial effect and partial cause of anti-feminist backlash. And again, dudes who are anxious about their masculinity. Furthermore, about their class status, in a sort of “we’re down with the people!” kind of way. I can’t put my finger on it, but there’s a tie here to the gendering of physical work (and of what counts as physical work — hammers and heavy machinery, physical; lifting babies and scrubbing floors, technically physical but not generally what many people think of when they think ‘manual labor’ … or ‘working class’ for that matter) – doing nonphysical work is less masculine, and this is an ideology of being down with the workers, at least sort of, so there’s both a ‘we are proles!’ class nervousness and a nervousness about masculinity. Getting aggro is a way to redeem oneself according to both axes at once, to be properly gendered and to be properly classed. (Note to self, find and review my notes on new left masculinity-and-class, the ‘sometimes we all get together and ball some chick’ quote among other things.) Only a partial bridge here, but there’s a resonance to the metaphors of civil and social war, war being generally a masculine domain, soldiering and all.

Setting aside the gender+class questions/ad hominem for a moment but sticking on war, some other tentative thoughts –

Even states do not wage war as an end in itself, only as a means. And wars are waged by two basic types of armies – disciplined ones, and thuggish ones. Those are poles in a continuum of course, ideal types, and there are other axes — relationship to base/constituency, for one. In any case, calls for war that are not also calls for discipline (rules of engagement, definitions of noncombatants, etc) are calls for thugishness. (Later I’ll post some of the discipline and regulations in John Brown’s army.) This goes doubly for any army that is to style itself or to be emancipatory.

Of course, many calls for war are not calls for discipline, and in some cases the practice is not war so much as a sort of fraternity boy sports riot, a collective individualism, thrilling but not a taking and holding of ground nor a building of forces.

for further reading –

older – use the wayback machine –
A Murder of Crows (
Venomous Butterfly
Killing King Abacus
stuff by Bonano

recent –
(look at the stuff people suggested in the comments on my blog post)