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“To have any possibility of destroying this prison society and averting
the horrible destiny that is unfolding
around us, it is indispensable: to stop
conceiving of our weakness in terms
of dissemination; to abandon the
practice of recruitment and the delirium of mass organization that it represents; and to energetically criticize
those currents that make use of marketing and populism. But much more
than attacking our errors, we have to
mark out other paths to follow, with
actions more than with words.
It cannot be a single path. No
one practice is capable of including
all the activities necessary for a revolution. We must think of revolt as
an ecosystem. If we try to be the only
species, we kill the revolution...”
Anarchist organization, the Islamic State,
the crisis, and outer space
Originally published in Spanish in Catalunya, autumn 2015
Translated into English and published in North America in early 2016
Design & mise en page: firstname.lastname@example.org
The text face is José Mendoza y Almeida’s resilient neohumanist
Mendoza Roman & it’s lovely italic, released by itc in 1991.
Footnotes, table of contents & other business c/o Officina Sans,
another robust early 90’s face designed for itc by Eric Spiekermann & Co.
The title is set in AVENIR BLACK OBLIQUE becuase,
in 1988, Adrian Frutiger made a wager on Futura.
The Successes and Shortcomings of Anarchism
The Islamic State
Collapse or Technosocialism
Of Classes and Technocrats
The Promises of the Left
The Anarchist Proposals
Populism and Revolutionary Suicide
Those who dedicate themselves to the attack have not
been able to maintain it in the face of repression. Those who
do not dedicate themselves to the attack have not avoided their
own pacification. Those who have gone to the countryside have
not left capitalism behind. Those who stayed in the city have not
been able to plant any seeds in the cracks they have opened in
the asphalt. We have to put these distinct tendencies in common
again, so that a creative and fecund tension exists between them.
The paths that have already been marked out only lead to
a horrifying future.
...we have shared an evaluation of the current stagnation of the anarchist movement. We have considered the need
for anarchists to seriously position ourselves with respect to certain global forces: the total transformation of society by emerging technologies and the geopolitics of antiterrorism. We have
looked at possible outcomes of the crisis in capitalism and how
these might affect the strategies we use.
In order to meet all these challenges, to break out of stagnation, to spread anarchic relations, to influence the outcome of
social conflicts, and to stake a position outside the sterile contest
between democracy and terrorism, I have proposed using a chaotic, pluralistic, ecosystemic vision of revolt and society in order
to organize our activity in a way that opens new dimensions of
struggle and avoids the dangers of centralization; in order to seek
complementarity and creative conflict between different currents
rather than trying to impose unity; and to reframe our activity
as the reconquest of life (with all the concrete skills and questions of survival that entails) rather than as the production or
negation of abstractions (dissemination, recruitment, ideological
May these words serve for further debate, and the honing
of our practices.
a wager on the future 47
matic anarchists, from the populists to some of the antisocial
anarchists, only reinforce.
To speak concretely, this synthesis might take the form
of a network of social and antisocial comrades, of artists and
theorists, of those with a propensity for care and those with a
propensity for the attack, who admire the skills and capacities of
the others, who don’t insult one another behind their backs, who
use their talents not to boost egos or achieve personal advancement but for the benefit of all, who conceive of themselves as a
community of struggle and search for a complementarity in their
actions, not always agreeing, but maintaining a basic feeling of
solidarity, mutual aid, and respect.
Projects that increase our capacity for struggle might take
the form of a healthcare group that offers its skills to people
injured in protests or comrades coming out of prison; of rural
projects (those that often end up isolated) that act as spaces for
gatherings, for rest, and also for physical work for the urban assemblies that maintain an unsustainable rhythm; of combative
comrades who risk their bodies and their freedom not to target
enemies who are often symbolic (also a necessary activity, albeit
limited), but to defend a garden, a clinic, a house or a social
center against eviction; of a group specialized in propaganda and
dissemination helping to spread the most radical, provocative,
and marginalized ideas; of networks of people who manage to
meet ever more of their needs without recourse to monetized,
commercial relations, not running from conflict with capitalism
but inviting more people to join them in their mutiny.
As a Mapuche comrade said, explaining a project for generating electricity in a community in resistance, “We don’t want
to generate our own electricity just to achieve self-sufficiency.
By making our own electricity, we can attack and sabotage the
infrastructures of the State and the companies that occupy our
territory, infrastructures we currently depend on.”
That’s what is meant by amplifying our capacities of
struggle. And since the revolt is an ecosystem, each of us has
our own role. Separation in different ideological currents, normally indicative of differences in character and not lucid critical
theories, is another function of capitalist alienation in our own
46 a wager on the future
the successes and shortcomings of anarchism
At a moment when anarchism is growing worldwide, we
also find, curiously, a waxing feeling of cynicism, loss, or existencial crisis, experienced individually as much as collectively,
which is stronger, it seems to us, than the cycle of generational burnout typical of the last decades. Many anarchist tactics of
destruction and confrontation—for example ways of rioting and
attacking with covered faces—have been adopted by many people
outside of anarchist circles, and in places such as Egypt, Greece,
the US, Brazil, or Spain, we know that the passing on of tactics
has been in part direct. The silence in which society tried to bury
anarchism for decades has been definitively broken. In countries
from Greece to Chile to the US, anarchism has become a political
force, capable of influencing social discourses and unmasking at
least some of the discursive defenses that democratic states use
to achieve their goals. And here in the Spanish state we have seen
the phenomenon of #yotambiensoyanarquista [#iamalsoananarchist], by which masses have positioned themselves on the side
of anarchists who have not only been repressed but also labeled
by the State as “terrorists”.
Meanwhile, the positive ideas and practices of anarchism
have not kept pace. And it is not due to a lack of familiarity.
On the contrary, in many social movements that created important experiences and conflicts, practices of decision-making
in assemblies, consensus, and a rejection of political parties and
representatives, have been momentarily generalized, only to be
abandoned. Self-organization spreads more and more, but distancing itself from a revolutionary horizon, championing instead
financial feasability, productivity, alternative currencies, and other capitalist tools, disguising this blind path with a false sophistication, as we can observe in the most dogmatic sector of the
Cooperativa Integral Catalana (which, to be clear, also includes
many important and radical projects).
a wager on the future 3
Ever more comrades in ever more countries have lived
through surprising conflicts in which all the sacred lies were
questioned, new complicities and broad relations of solidarity
were opened up, and the forces of order lost control; but afterwards, everything went on as before, perhaps with a change in
the configuration or the disguises of power.
It is true that struggles, as with everything in nature, are
cyclical, and we must learn to abide this cyclicity. In that vein,
the comrades from CrimethInc. have made a compilation of texts
about what to do “After the Crest,” recently translated to Spanish. But the current loss of morale goes much further. We believe
we are on the brink of losing our chance of intervening in the
conflicts underway and frustrating the attempts of capitalism to
adapt itself to the new crises, that flash out worldwide and transthematically, crisscrossing the arenas of the ecological, economic, ideological, political, technological, and cultural.
With urgency we must analyze the shortcomings of an anarchism on
the rise in the last years. Why is there so little complicity with anarchism’s positive practices?
We cannot blame a lack of dissemination, although
more propaganda always comes in handy. The mechanisms of
anarchist propaganda have improved greatly in the last decade.
And outside of our own activity, as concerns the reactions of official society to our presence, many academics and celebrities have
mentioned and even adhered to anarchist ideas. Today, radical
books can become bestsellers, as The Coming Insurrection proves.
I don’t mention this to celebrate it, but to prove that in many
countries at least, anyone who wants to get to know anarchist
the islamic state
Neither can we blame media distortion for spreading an
erroneous idea of anarchism. The press fabricate their defamations and their police narratives constantly, and they have to be
4 a wager on the future
can be powerful, but it is the most dangerous organization, from
an anarchist viewpoint.
In Greece, probably the country with the greatest anarchist density, there are currently two federations in the process
of creating themselves. It seems to be a good signal that both
of them pose the question of how to relate with the extensive
sectors of the anarchist space that does not participate in either
federation. Neither of them seek to include or absorb the whole
of anarchist activity.
To have any possibility of destroying this prison society
and averting the horrible destiny that is unfolding around us, it
is indispensable: to stop conceiving of our weakness in terms of
dissemination; to abandon the practice of recruitment and the
delirium of mass organization that it represents; and to energetically criticize those currents that make use of marketing and
populism. But much more than attacking our errors, we have
to mark out other paths to follow, with actions more than with
To start with, it cannot be a single path. No one practice
is capable of including all the activities necessary for a revolution.
We must think of revolt as an ecosystem. If we try to be the only
species, we kill the revolution.
But, in whatever form, we must all start posing the question of survival. This means that the projects and activities we
encourage and amplify through organization should concern
themselves with the self-organization of life; that they should be
useful for us as well as for other people; that they should support
and augment our capacities of struggle, understanding struggle
as a basic aspect of survival for people who desire liberty; and
that they should take into account the possible changes in the
capitalist system, from collapse to a profound transformation in
the architecture of the world system.
We should also seek out initiatives of synthesis, which
confuse the categories of capitalist alienation and join distinct
forces in order to overcome the typical divisions that the doga wager on the future 45
700 years old and it has served to resist various attempts to impose state authority.
The cnt is the most potent and effective confederation
anarchists in the West have erected in their history. Within 26
years, it turned into a hierarchical organization, imposing state
authority on a large part of the lower classes in Spain, where state
power had been negated in the insurrection of July 1936. In a
wide territory, governmental authority had disappeared, replaced
by self-organization. The cnt, above all its local groups and lower
levels, initiated part of this self-organization, but another part
was spontaneous, whereas the leaders of the cnt stopped the
expropriations and collectivizations that were opposed by the
government. Only the cnt was capable of reestablishing state
authority in the free zones (or impeding an insurrection when
the communists and republicans crushed the free zones) by way
of the antifascist politics of the Popular Front.
The difference between the two federations, the successful one and the failure, is that the local groups of the Haudenosaunee were villages or communal houses with a high degree
of self-sufficiency, and that the importance, the strength, lay in
what Westerners would call the “lower” levels of the federation,
while in the cnt it was the other way around: it was the statewide congresses and committees that exercised power. Among
the Haudenosaunee no one occupies a post in the central level
and the assemblies of the totality of the confederation occur irregularly, in cases of need. Which is to say, the central or “superior” level of the federation normally does not exist. Another
difference is that the societies that compose the Haudenosaunee
are more or less anti-patriarchal (with differences between one
nation and another) while the cnt was clearly an organization of
men, even though women played a vital role in the contemporary
If comrades in a specific place decide—with lucidity and
a studied familiarity with our history—that the degree of tight
coordination made possible by a federation is advantageous or
necessary, they should go right ahead. But it is vital that they never seek to be an all-absorbing organization, that they maintain a
certain equality and solidarity with the revolutionaries (anarchist
and otherwise) who stay outside the organization. A federation
44 a wager on the future
countered, but it would be victimistic to hand them the responsability for our isolation. We can make use of a comparison to
put the problem in perspective: in the media, no one gets worse
coverage than the Islamic fundamentalists. They are portrayed as
the most extreme terrorists and monsters. Nonetheless, a large
percentage of marginalized youth in Europe sympathizes or even
directly support jihadist movements. Of course they tend to be
immigrants from Muslim countries, but many of them were born
here and were not convinced by “democratic Europe”. There is
also an important margin of converts. In fact, it is a very significant phenomenon for our age that the most attractive antisystem
movement is jihadism. Or more precisely: attractive for some and
totally repulsive and horrifying for others.
How do the jihadists recruit? Largely through Twitter
and chatrooms, media that anarchists have been using for years,
without achieving similar results.
If a comparison between the propaganda of the Islamic
State and that of anarchism comes off as absurd or morbid, if it
recalls the pseudo-intellectual operations of rightwing journalists
and academics trying to connect different species of subversives,
it is because its purpose is satirical. Today, the system comprised
by the police and media once again oblige anarchists to play the
part of terrorists, at least in some countries. But it is a casting
that ridicules the very director, because in the spectacle of terrorism we anarchists can’t keep up with the competition: we are
not on par with the jihadists. It’s as though Chuck Norris, after
defeating an alien invasion of three-meter insects armed with
lasers and chainsaws, had to beat a delinquent pizza delivery boy.
It doesn’t make a good sequel.
The specter of anarchist terrorism also ridicules those
comrades who put great emphasis on the practice of atentados
[atentats, attacks that function as “propaganda by the deed”]—
in an age when the State is ever more capable of absorbing and
taking advantage of the shocks caused by atentados much more
devastating than our own—and those comrades who imagine
themselves the unbreakable enemy of the State—in an age when
the war is ever more unilateral. Perhaps our attacks need to take
on a new symbolic meaning and a new relation with social cona wager on the future 5
flicts. They are not the most important blows in a dramatic war,1
but a sort of antimachine that we introduce into the breaches
opened by social conflicts, so that they generalize and sabotage
the materialization of the relations of power.
However, the satire is above all directed at those populist comrades who try to reproduce the propaganda successes
of any entity, no matter how distant it is from anarchism, such
as leftwing parties or marketing companies. They would never
dare to copy the recruitment formula of the Islamic State, not for
any critique of the incompatibility of anarchist and authoritarian
methods (which would also bar their copying of marketing techniques and the recruitment organized by political parties), but
out of an acritical impulse to flee from the things that generate
bad press, the same way that they flee from those anarchist practices that are also stigmatized by the media.
The success of the Islamic State disproves any attempt to blame the
failures of anarchism on defamation, ignorance, or bad press.
If there were anything attractive about anarchism, it would shine
out despite the defamatory campaigns of the press. We will not
find our shortcomings in the arena of dissemination and propaganda. Anarchist ideas are not hidden, rather they are not being
looked for. They are not distorted, except insofar as no one cares
to clarify them. If they are not triumphing, it is because they are
If the failure of anarchism has resulted in the rise of new
leftwing parties, as we will see further on, it can be said that the
failure of the insurrections of the banlieue [the poor suburbs of
France, where major riots broke out in 2005, similar to subsequent riots in the UK] has contributed to jihadism. In both cases,
large sectors of society failed in their attempts to self-organize
1. In fact, it is necessary to underscore the fact that since the Second World War, wars
no longer consist of battles between armies, but of the production of metamachines that
mobilize destructive and organizational forces. Their field is none other than statistics.
To those readers who take this for empty verborrhea, I recommend an analysis of the
methodological contributions of Robert McNamara, previously of the Ford Motor Company,
to the Office of Statistical Control and the US Defense Department; or of the management
by MI6 of the intellectual production of the mathematicians of Project Ultra.
6 a wager on the future
In order to function as a federation, all the local groups
that compose it must be symmetrical (for example, they must
all be neighborhood assemblies, or syndicates, or free schools,
etc.). If not, the federation is illusory.7 These groups are not autonomous, rather they aim for a certain unity; and the contact
between them is not flexible, rather it aims to be long-term or
Unlike a coordination, the federation can create new
participant groups and change the way in which the base groups
relate. It works by delegation. Although the plenums might be
open to all members in order to encourage transparency, each
participant group must speak with one voice, an artificial imposition that comes with authoritarian tendencies, given that no
human group is truly homogeneous.
If one were to sketch the organizational schema of a federation, the result would be a triangle. The horizontal line contains all the base groups. In the middle are the intermediate levels
of organization, successively narrower, and the tip is the central
space that unites the whole federation: the superior assembly
with its committee or secretariat, if there is one. It is vital, from
an anarchist perspective, that the tip of this triangle is on the
bottom and not on the top, because the triangle with the tip on
top is also the organizational schema of the State.
What does all this mean, beyond clichés? That the most
important organizational level and the concentration of force
must reside among the local groups, and that the central assembly must have a limited importance and frequency. For example,
a large part of the initiatives could arise from the local groups,
reaching the intermediate levels and from there spreading to other local groups; the local groups could be self-sufficient in a large
part of their activity and only go to the higher levels to seek resources or amplify their results, instead of always waiting for the
campaigns and directives set out by the central level.
We can compare two federations of interest for anarchists. The Haudenosaunee, or “Six Nations,” are a confederation of six indigenous nations in North America, among them
the Mohawk and the Oneida. Their confederation is more than
7. Leaving aside the possibility of a confederation of federations, each of which organizes base groups of a different type.
a wager on the future 43
which might or might not work given the number of participants
and the degree of difference among them.
The coordination [coordinadora] is formal, but it also
places great emphasis on the autonomy of its members. It can
serve to share resources and proposals—by adhesion or in a decentralized way—and also to plan unitary actions and campaigns.
The participants can be individuals and collectives, or only collectives, but the coordination is distinct from an assembly or
collective because it is a focal point for multiple forces, and the
force available to it surpasses that of all the individuals present in
the space. It is also assumed that its participants have their own
struggles, resources, and networks. Planning in the coordination
can be carried out by work groups, in the assembly itself if it
is not too large, or member collectives can bring proposals that
have already been elaborated. In any case, a process of delegation
exists to communicate proposals between the central assembly of
the coordination and the collectives that compose it.
In a coordination, participants can organize debates, but
it is not such a common activity, given that they are not seeking
greater unity, as in a federation, nor a deepening of relationships,
as in an encounter, but a pragmatic contact for concrete activities.
The federation is formal and centralized. To be a true
federation it needs at least three organizational levels: that of the
local groups; an intermediate level for groups in the same area or
region; and a high level that includes all the groups. Nonetheless,
some very reduced federations only have the first and third level.6
Parallel to the assemblies or plenums at each level, there can also
be a secretariat or committee. This greatly augments the bureaucracy and the danger that it becomes an authoritarian organization (as has been the case for much of the trajectory of the CNT,
the largest anarchist federation in history), but such structures
can be necessary to give consistency and agility to the work of
the organization. If the federation is anarchist, the posts in the
secretariat and committee will be rotating and revokable.
6. There are also various affinity groups, assemblies, or coordinations that call themselves “federations” owing to an organizational fetish.
42 a wager on the future
their struggles, and subsequently, they searched for the power to
achieve the changes they were seeking.
Power itself is the key element. A movement without social power, like anarchism, that, what’s more, seeks to dissolve
or decentralize power cannot copy the formulas of a movement
that does exercise power. A fish has a better chance of learning
locomotion from a duck.
Power always attracts more followers than a beautiful
idea, and thanks to the geopolitical situation in the Middle East
and the extremely myopic policies of the world’s superpower, the
United States (for some years now in an irreversible decline), the
jihadists have been able to seize a significant quantity of power
and to appear as the most dedicated and fierce opposition to the
symbols and presumed leaders of the current world system.
And here we find the true importance of the figure of
jihadist terrorism. Since 1991 and the fall of the Soviet Union,
the capitalist world system has lacked an oppositional dichotomy
that can modulate and recuperate all dissident movements. Liberal capitalism was the most effective in the developed countries
and also on the global scale, whereas state capitalism (the USSR,
China, Cuba, etc.) was at least as effective in underdeveloped
countries where revolutionary movements might potentially
abolish the economic system (capitalism in such countries needed the state to play a stronger role in its development, and also
to institutionalize or neutralize the dissident forces that might
For decades, all the social movements in the world had
to subordinate themselves to one of these two paradigms, daring
at the most to constitute a loyal opposition. Since 1921—with
the imminent Bolshevik victory in the Russian Civil War and
the defeat of revolutionary movements in Italy and Germany
(thanks to the bureaucracy of communist and socialist parties,
as well as that of anarchosyndicalist unions), which inaugurated
a statist realpolitik among the leadership of the USSR, who for
decades dedicated themselves to suffocating any revolutionary
movement that they could not control or that did not respond to
their geopolitical interests—the revolutionary horizon had been
blotted out. Any rebellious movement was conditioned to accept
a wager on the future 7