“The revolt of the individual against society is not given by that of the masses against governments. Even when the masses submit to governments, living in the sacred and shameful peace of their resignation, the anarchist individual lives against society because he is in a never-ending and irreconcilable war with it, but when, at a historical turning point, he comes together with the masses in revolt, he raises his black flag with them and throws his dynamite with them.
The anarchist individualist is in the Social Revolution, not as a demagogue, but as a inciting element, not as an apostle, but as a living, effective, destructive force…” – Renzo Novatore, “Anarchist Individualism in the Social Revolution”
Somewhere along the line, probably back in the 90’s when Kurt Cobain still had a face unmarred by shotgun pellets, a very weird and unhealthy idea spread like wildfire among the Individualist milieu: that revolt of any kind was a fool’s errand. I can’t say for sure what caused this, perhaps planetary influences or the mass arrival of demons, but most Egoists that hail from that weird era in American history seem to scoff and laugh at the mere notion of lifting the world’s boot off your neck. They laugh at Antifa, they laugh at riots, they laugh at their own impotency as a small dribble of piss curls down their leg and they dare to call it “Egoism.”
For Egoists like Emma Goldman, Novatore, Ravachol, Bonnot, and Marius Jacob one’s individuality could not be separated from the material reality of existence; to find one’s liberation required a changing of those conditions. Those ideas however became unfashionable in the United States, and we were left with a collection of authors and thinkers who considered not having kids the pinnacle of revolt while scoffing at the idea of armed insurrection.
These people of course irritate me like no other. Many a night I’ve paced back and forth, furiously chewing a toothpick and ruing the generation before mine. “It’s not that I want to kill them,” I tell my wife, “just maybe pull a few of their teeth out with pliers. Bash their kneecaps in with a wrench, fire a .357 into their foot. Kid stuff.” Those are the nights the high-octane rum comes out and you loom out your window like an unrepentant ghost, a twisted nightmare looking to fuck over the first living thing you see. No cure for it, strictly terminal, a vicious response to an existence modulating wildly between absolute disgust and pure fucking hatred; rage so deep for a system and its enablers you can feel it burn across previous lives.
But I mean you can’t write shit like that.
Maybe I take it too personally, but how could I not? These people took the philosophy that once assassinated Kings and Presidents and turned it into discourses on the morality of eating bacon; where once the Illegalists struck out at world that would deny them freedom these Nu-Egoists merely wanted a warm place to die. American Anarchism became unhindered masturbation and much like their hippy forebears Gen-X retreated from the world as soon as the WTO went home, happily clutching their Tool albums and snorting pure lines of hubris. They had it all figured out: you can’t change the world, man; don’t get caught up in society, dude.
All good and well for the white people living in Portland. For anyone darker than Greek yogurt the world chugged right along and at fullstop violence. Economic conditions fell, the housing market dried up, and now an entire generation looks out at a world with no future, no hope, and no way outside of juggling multiple jobs to keep from drowning in debt.
Times change, and while some Egoists confined themselves to journals and rural corners where they could get high in peace, others decided to fight back. Places like 325 and Insurrection News detailed thousands of actions, from arsons to bombings, by individuals around the world who refused to let Capital and the State have the final say on existence. A new black banner rose across the planet, a chorus of insurrectionary voices determined to destroy all that which desired to enslave them.
This is an interview with one of those voices.
Comrade Q(“as in Queer,” he would tell me) is an Egoist and Insurrectionist who took part in the massive G20 protests that saw 10,000 Leftists hit the streets and give Germany hell. He is an individual in revolt, an Egoist seeking to be free, and an example to all the puttering dipshits who cannot fathom the vulgar slavery that surrounds them.
Tell me what it was like, and how it fit with your politics
“For me as an egoist anarchist, my visit to the G20 protests was rewarding in many different ways. First and foremost there were many opportunities to express aspects of myself that I have wanted to express, feelings of rage and desire for vengeance for all the pain the system has caused me, frantic ecstatic joy as you see police-officers loose control over situations, the joy that everyday boredom became ruptured, the fear that you could get hurt, the adrenaline of causing problems – reminding me of my years in the prison called ‘school.’
Secondly it is also a means to increase your awareness of how bad the alternatives to egoist anarchism actually are, the people you are walking with that believe in ‘righteousness,’ ‘justice’, ‘a new order’ with religious fervor are so similar to devotees of Pentecostalism that when they truly get to express their principles in union with other like-minded people – the reality becomes clear. Walking through a Stalinist protest after acting together with other insurrectionary individuals is very much like walking by a Jehovah’s Witnesses stand after partying with a couple of friends.
It is one thing to inform myself and others about the disgusting system I find myself chained within and a completely different thing to be able to participate in a strong tidal wave against the system. For me, to participate in the insurrectionary tradition of trying to dismantle the statist-capitalist-patriarchal system is not a holy quest or something that ‘ought to be done’, but rather an expression of what I want to do – because I like to do it! Politically there was a lot of problems of course, collectivists, ideologues and hippies all participated shouting out their hatred towards ‘Capital’, in some sense the egoist who as seen through the veil of ignorance regarding all pretense of objective values is in an awkward position during such mass protests. But however, it was also quite clear that the Spectacle of mass protests during the G20 meeting actually enabled something entirely different (than saying things to people in power that never listen) – for a time there were areas in Hamburg where people actually did what they wanted (expropriated stuff from stores, attacked the pigs, built barricades and lit fires that very clearly reflected our rage). ”
What was the day-to-day like?
“To make a movie comparison it actually felt as if the working-class areas of Hamburg had a collective ‘Falling down’ moment during G20. Prior to the G20 meeting the police helicopters had been flying 24 hours a day for a week, regular people became infuriated with the level of social control and disruption caused by politicians who had decided to have a G20 meeting in a city famous for its anti-establishment leftist culture.
The bourgeois media of course emphasized the insurrectionary moments, probably thinking that by focusing on such activities the overall anti-establishment attitude of most Hamburg-citizens will not be the focus. All over the place store owners of local shops closed with notes saying ‘Next time we bring the party to you Merkel!’, ‘Fuck G20!’ and so on. Apart from politicians and police most people actually intensely disliked this meeting, in particular the people living in St. Pauli district (famous for its autonomous-left scene and soccer team with anti-fascist hooligans)
The day-to-day was busy, busy, busy; actions and spontaneous mass meetings happened all over the place. Wherever you went you found police occupying streets and causing problems – there was no discrete presence but it was pretty clear that the cops acted like a band of thugs looking for protesters to beat up. A lot of people were beaten and the cops didn’t even care to arrest people most of the time. At first we were really surprised that we only saw a single person arrested, but it became clear that for every single ‘block’ of policemen there was a person running in the back with a selfie-stick, filming every single thing that happened around the block. We heard rumors that the cops then moved on to the locations where people camped and pinpointed individuals they identified through surveillance responsible for ‘crime.'”
Did you guys feel like a revolution was at hand? What stopped the violence?
“As to why the violence stopped is was pretty clear that the sheer force of the militarized police with automatic rifles brought in during the insurrection in St. Pauli next to the social forum Rote Flora, stopped a lot of the insurrectionary comrades – for the moment. Even though the numbers and sympathy of local people was with the opposition, the final word is the gun – and the pigs had tons of them. You can never reach that far with rocks, glass-bottles and molotov cocktails against automatic weapons. In some sense we are nothing but angry schoolchildren causing a ruckus at the schoolyard as long as the real weaponry is in the hand of the pigs. What is burning a car compared to the a cop having a rifle that could kill 50 people in 5 minutes. Everybody knows that, the cop and the anarchist – which was why the stated goal of different coalitions of affinity groups in Hamburg was to ‘disrupt the meeting’ and that’s that. That goal was accomplished, Melanie Trump didn’t get her happy tour around Hamburg, the meeting didn’t go according to schedule and the state had to pay a lot more money than they probably expected. In order to get into a revolutionary situation, you would have to have a generalized conflict – where workplaces, homes and all social fields are destabilized. A battle for the streets is not sufficient to make the system crumble.”
How do you see the Egoist fitting in revolution or social revolt?
“What place does the egoist anarchist have in a social revolt? I think that at some level it is a matter of interpretation, the religious socialists interpret situations like the Hamburg G20 protests according to abstract entities at action – rather than concrete persons making choices coordinated through spontaneous agreements. If egoist anarchism is about being personally committed to your own liberation from the chains that bind you and the hands that are currently suffocating your throat – social disruptions like mass protests are a very good occasion to practice what you want to do and grow in your commitment to your own liberation. It is also a perfect occasion to get move your motivations, dreams and desires from your mind to your entire body – moving in opposition and breathing in air of what freedom actually could be. It is an occasion to grow in courage, to destroy your own fears and for a moment really enjoy being a pebble in the shoe of authority.”
You mentioned the ultimate power the cops wield when they have guns. Do you think Anarchists should start arming themselves?
“I think it is absolutely necessary that anarchists have the ability and resources necessary for armed attack. That is not to say that armed attack is the optimal strategy for spreading subversive attacks against the system for the moment, but without this capability our claims to be insurrectional remains a hogwash dream instead of an actual threat against the system.”
In your view how can actions like G20 spread? It caught on very fast, what was the organization behind it?
“There was a great variety of movements (reformist and revolutionary) behind the protests, but above all the instinctive and spontaneous reaction of socially excluded or ‘subversive’ individuals (read: excluded minorities), political dissidents against the centrist powers and the ‘common mass’ participated in a wide variety of protests. It was obvious that no particular organization can take credit for this situation – rather the people of Hamburg together with militants from other European countries cooperated according to solidarity in struggle and mutual aid.
Actions like the ones in Hamburg spread because the political establishment has very little influence in a significant portion of the Hamburgian social environment.
I think such successful attacks against the system depends on a broader subversive environment where the hegemonic ideology of the system has a weak support. Autonomous social centers, general social ‘problems’ like violent youth gangs/hooligans and so on all contribute to the possibility of a swift disruption of social fields.”
How were the groups co-ordinated? Were you with other Egoists? How did you own organizing fit Stirner’s concept of “A Union of Egoists?”
“I wouldn’t say that self-identified egoists organized consciously in the sense that a particular group of union of egoists proclaimed an egoist message. But the general insurrectional anarchist tradition in Europe has very clear influence from Stirner. I would even say that loose networks of affinity groups correspond rather perfectly to Stirner’s ideal of a union of egoists”
What do you wish to tell the other Egoists of the world who say this can’t be done, or even worse that such mass actions should be avoided? If you could grab the entire scene by the ear and force them to listen to you, what would you say?
“I would say, if you sincerely believe that – then listen to the network of IAF (informal anarchist federation) and the Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire. There is no reason to replace hegemonic ideologies with a supposed perfected egoist-nihilist method of action, rather form your own cell with people whom you share affinity and commit yourselves to direct action rather than babbling and wasting your time on the Internet. To people who understand the need of mass insurrection, make sure that you aren’t tricked by the almost religious ecstasy of mass protests, there are always tyrants willing to use such mass action for their own purposes. Rather participate and make sure your own aims of liberation are realized in the very act of insurrection against the system.
What I mean by listening to the IAF and Cells of Fire is that they can commit themselves to direct action outside the scope of mass protests. And that’s up to them of course, the individualist anarchist who has a too firm rejection of mass attacks against the system is really excluding the possibility that individuals participating in such protests actually act upon their own – though in sync with other people. As long as a particular ideological organization is absent as ‘leader’ you could even label it as individualist. The only thing common between people active were their common rejection of capitalism, which is a pretty small common denominator. It lacks the structure of formal anarchist or non-anarchist organizations and is basically just a mass get together of people with very different aims and ideas.”
For some Egoists and Individualists the world is far too scary to confront head on. It is easier for them to find small nests to hide in and quietly pray the screams of millions just go away. They can watch as the Earth is destroyed, as children go hungry, and as people are killed for the color of their skin. They have lived so long on their knees they can’t imagine doing anything else. These Egoists will be the ones staring into the sky as the last bourgeois shuttle breaks free from the atmosphere, coughing the poisonous fumes that pass for air as cancer slowly eats away at every cell.
They are a doomed lot and reek of cowardice. The less thought of them the better.
That doesn’t have to be our future.
Almost 100 years ago in pamphlets found at a series of bombings against capitalist targets American Anarchists wrote “We are not many, perhaps more than you dream of but are all determined to fight to the last…never hope that your cops, and your hounds will ever succeed in ridding the country of the anarchistic germ that pulses in our veins. We know how we stand with you and know how to take care of ourselves.”
Reading those words I can feel the microbes boiling my blood and inspiring my hands to action. On the barricades, in the riots, and in the hearts of Egoists like Comrade Q that anarchistic germ is once again on the rise.
Here’s to hoping it gives the world a violent and fatal infection.
Gonzo Journalism at no cost is my gift to you. Like what you read? Want to keep me writing? Do me a favor and become my patron for as little as $4.99 a month. You’ll get access to exclusive videos about my essays as well as making sure I have enough booze to pickle a yeti.