The full weight of our entrapment in within this society presses down on us unbearably. Un-named grief, frustration, loneliness and insecurity are the stories of our lives for the most part, stretching back generations. Like money talks loudest and silences all other principles, like concrete and tarmac isolate us from the rest of the planet as it sickens, and like the dominant culture casts humans as robots to work-consume-reproduce-obey… we are physically and emotionally smothered every day by a cheapened, artificial existence keeping us far from our dreams outside the mould.
Awakening anger pierces the fog of confusion from our alienated condition, seeking out worthy targets for the rage. Any notion of truce with the ruling institutions aiming at reform only conforms to the disarmed roles they would coerce us into. Immediate insurrection seems vital. We raise our masks and step out into the night to speak through a language as old as Domination: sabotage and conspiracy.
” . . . what are your real desires? Sit in the drugstore, look distant, empty, bored, drinking some tasteless coffee? Or perhaps BLOW IT UP OR BURN IT DOWN” The Angry Brigade.
That’s why we claim responsibility for deploying a simple firebomb against the Barclays bank just off Bath Road in Brislington, Bristol, in the early hours on August 28. Candles burned down inside tyres (giving us time to withdraw) to ignite fuel-soaked rags, which set off three 5-litre containers filled with half petrol and half kerosene with crushed polystyrene (the incendiary) and around 1680 grams of camping gas canisters (the explosive). The bank branch was chosen for its lack of adjacent buildings, and to avoid the extremely low chance of passers-by in the area we positioned the device against the back of the building against a window, instead of multiple devices on opposite sides as is commonly recommended.
With this text we want to share thoughts on banks and the economy, on anarchist struggle against Power in all forms, and on the focus of attack specifically within that. First, our target.
i) THE IRON FIST IN THE VELVET GLOVE
The role and also the traps of the financial system are increasingly clear. The economic captivity they inflict on the masses is one of the strongest chains binding us today, despite recently widespread mistrust of the financial sector. Promises of a hollow “good life” through access to loans, credit cards and mortgages ensnare you, condemning you to sell away your days slaving for the economy to make your income even stretch past food and bills. Soon the oh-so-familiar cycle is at work: borrowing more, extra jobs, payday loans, debt, increased strain in nuclear families and higher levels of domestic violence, drink and drug habits (illicit or pharmaceutical) to cope with the stress, apathy, often snitching and grovelling to “get ahead”. You’re put to work digging your own grave for when you’ve been chewed up and spat out for the profit of the elite, diminishing rebellious spirit by crippling poverty and isolating jobs. And all the while the leering image of fulfilment through commodities is hanging just before your nose as the bar-coded walls silently fall into place around you to imprison your time and creative energy.
For those of us whose millenia-old ancestral knowledge of how to live on the earth independently was violently severed in past centuries at the birth of industrial capitalism (which also seized and fenced off the common land needed to do so), the cage of the economy is near total. And on it goes, while the very real maintainers of financial misery lay within arm’s reach…
Meanwhile during times of a historically unprecedented gap between the richest and the poorest, the banks funnel huge profits into financing capitalist development, sciences of control, military and civilian “security” technology and industrial infrastructure, suicidally poisoning all forms of life that make up our world as the cancer of Civilisation spreads. Exploitation is the norm of economic activity, not the exception.
Let’s take for example Barclays banking group. Let’s consider the fact they had the power, as the architects of a wealthy elite’s methodical plunder of the rest of us, to fix the Libor banking rate to further enrich themselves. Let’s consider that they are the UK’s largest investor in worldwide coal industry. Recently the largest global investor in the arms trade. Formerly the largest institutional shareholder in notorious animal-torturing group Huntingdon Life Sciences. Financers of ultra-polluting tar sand extraction in Alberta on indigenous territory, possibly the largest capitalist-industrial investment project on Earth and cause of the second-fastest rate of deforestation on the planet. Let’s consider their decision to sell the spending habits and mobile phone locations for millions of people to other companies and government departments. Let’s consider how many people here are caught in the financial prison they weave around us, which quickly becomes State prison in you break laws to make money because you can’t keep up with payments or just prefer it to kissing the bosses’ boots for a reward.
But infact, all these intolerable facts are not our primary reasons for the attack. We believe to constitute a potential threat to the stability of the dominant system, it’s necessary for an attack, on whatever scale, to contradict the core values of that system. For example, bankers openly lifting what they want from the coffers is not really in the interests of the system, which requires more sophisticated exploitation for the modern era. The banking “crisis” and the rate-fixing scandal will be managed by the system in a way that rehumanises its image while smoothly and professionally continuing the social plunder and eco-devastation. We won’t join the chorus simply condemning the banks for their “corruption” (as if an uncorrupted bank would somehow be excusable). Democratic totalitarianism excels at defusing this indignation into reforms, launching investigations, removing the “bad apples” (such as former Barclays CEO Bob Diamond, who walked away with a multi-million pound pension), and appearing to have changed.
In many cases, partial criticisms which don’t seek the roots of Domination infact help it survive, as it can “solve” threatening contradictions a little at a time while moving the problem somewhere else. Ending vivisection, for instance, wouldn’t necessarily harm the system on too major a level if the experiments became too much of an enraging factor to deal with (as happened when Barclays dropped Huntingdon Life Sciences, leading animal rights groups to cease targeting them): although aiming beyond at the cultural view of all life (especially non-human) as property to use at will names the domesticating process that has been there at every step into Civilisation, and aims for total liberation not rights sanctioned by the authorities. As another example, ending police violence in the streets is potentially in the interests of the system when pacification can be created through a culture of identifying with your own oppressor. Failing that, there’s always psychiatry, surveillance, media manipulation and the distracting rackets of various politicians. (But of course Power always relies on different forms of naked force wherever wild life still refuses to surrender autonomy.)
“The process of improving your ability to use materials and techniques is naturally a process of self-education . . . At no point should the level of sterile operational capacity intensify without a corresponding intensification of thought and discourse, and the same obviously holds true for the converse.” Imprisoned Members Cell of CCF-FAI.
Mobilising only around such immediate faces of the system doesn’t contradict its values, and neither does a revolutionary project that frames itself in the jargon of “inclusion”, “alternative institutions”, “ethical production” or “politics”. So it’s worth clarifying that our attack on this predatory institution aimed at the principle of civilised progress itself which banks represent so well: economic growth, development and expansion, which needs masses chained to their jobs and the earth to be ravaged, the essence of industrial capitalism with all the class slavery and domination of wildness that it requires. In turn, this system is just the latest manifestation of the estrangement and loss we experience everywhere complex societies replace human-scale, face-to-face and voluntary association.
Rejecting this whole narrative which we’ve been force-fed, we’ve unhesitatingly decided to attempt destabilising and destroying whatever forms the economic worldview, so as to experience a wild world of free lives in relationship: as opposed to mere mutually-reducing “resources”, human or otherwise. Rather than seek accommodation in the system or it to “improve” itself, we fully scorn everything its degraded existence can offer us, including the corpse of “rights” or “justice” which we have long since buried along with our obligations to civil society.
ii) CONSCIENCE IN FLAMES
Of course it could be argued that our attack was strictly symbolic, perhaps causing damages to one bank branch but no more. However the importance to us was breaking the complicity of silence, to leave signals of our determination to fight there for whoever feels the same, leaving a shadow of uncertainty as to when some element or another of those the system exploits will appear to shatter its practice, its property and its peace. In today’s world it seems like a distraction to (at least exclusively) direct our forces against the most spectacular faces of the State or capitalism: whereas the capillary network of branches and infrastrucure by which this world administered are within reach at all times. (Although that said, nothing warms our hearts like when the Barcelona stock exchange was stormed during the March 29 riots last year, a top Italian nuclear executive was ambushed and shot last May, or this very week anarchists destroyed a multi-million pound police firearms training centre outside Bristol with a huge fire!)
And then… who knows? Maybe we’ll live to see industrial society collapse under its own unsustainable weight, and make as best we can to relearn what Civilisation erased. Maybe we’ll encounter more comrades and see our worlds turned upside down by our struggle. Maybe we’ll die early in the attempt. Or maybe we won’t, but nothing will seem to change.
But for us everything changed when we decided to live like warriors instead of slaves. We honour our grief and frustration, our loneliness and insecurity, by neither suppressing or surrendering to them: we take these broken pieces of self in our hands to craft victim into fighter, and stand proud as antagonists in this world. To attack what attacks us.
“We believe that not everything depends on the context and the situation, like something external that floats in the air. Situations are made by us, by creating for ourselves, working hard and creating our own projects, being protagonists in the social war and having an active role, being the protagonists of our own reality and struggle . . . we consider that during and after an action or demonstration a series of things happen: first we gain – that is, we achieve the objective thereby concretely sabotaging the objective, and then we lose since we return to adhering to spectacular normality, we abandon the subversive role and we go on to exist within the networks again; thus and so far as it is possible, actions should go on extending themselves, perpetuating themselves and making themselves daily and habitual until – together with words, solidarity and every type of anarchist practice – they can create some subversive social fabrics and some strong bases of counterpower.” FAI / Anti-authoritarian Insurgency of Action.
In this way, we are armed as much with our resolve as with our bombs. What’s more, our friends, loves and co-conspirators know well that we embrace life with all the laughter, sweat and tears, because we strongly believe that there are many liberating ways to live, learn and fight. We’re overcoming our fears, resignation, muzzling, the light-as-silk collars that some almost come to love wearing. Our attack is one of many methods for this. In order to more clearly think, feel, act, heal, to relate to the place of our lives in profound connection instead of alienation. We want a community whose possibility lies past the ruins of Civilisation. We know that there are many other enemies of society, instinctive or conscious, that conspire and strike out without feeling the need for revolutionary identities or communiques. Setting out to battle everything constricting free life is an option open to everyone wherever you are, not the “job” of some militant elite.
The affinity group carrying out this action see ourselves as a single spear of the many-pronged anarchist attack on authority and alienation. A small circle meet to plot where, when and what to strike, minimally organised into a broader informal structure of mutual aid and complicity, floating on and as part of the vast sea of rebellious thought and practice in all its multiplicity covering ever-more aspects of our lives as we strive for coherency and responsibility to our values, towards freedom. A small circle that, above all, forms and dissolves itself according to the will of each individual participant based on its capacity to co-exist with their autonomy as well as providing access to a common front against diffuse Power and Civilisation.
Waging guerrilla war doesn’t make us martyrs, leaders, or preachers. We act purely on our own terms. We don’t see ourselves as “advanced” just because this time we chose a bomb over a brick. When we speak of what exists in daily life as social war, we are describing fighting against a complex web of false choices, physical controls, social pressures, limitations of time and habitat, the near-total rule of the economy, and more. We don’t see all of these battles as most appropriate for physical violence or property damage. In some, the insurrection is against the moralising, identity roles and domestication that society commands – tasks that must start at the individual level before being ripe for communal efforts, if desired. The anarchist guerrilla must struggle on all these fronts, but crucially doesn’t exclude targeting physical institutions and managers who enforce this world. Without readiness for the offensive (born of direct personal experience) we wouldn’t be ready to defend any of our individual or collective liberty from our enemies. Too often we see radicals step back from the clash and retreat into deluded narcissism or the relative comfort of those social movements who always put conflict at the bottom of the list of possibilities.
This is the first time we’ve used bombs as weapons, and we’re confident that they can be deployed without too much trouble. Pretty much anyone is capable of assembling devices similar to ours, just to dispel the myth of specialisation that often automatically accompanies them. We think though that at another time to someone else, smashing a single window could have the same significance (if the act doesn’t look for dialogue with the system or recognition from it). Most significant is the heightened possibility and pleasure unlocked by direct action instead of waiting and compromise. Besides, we agree with our unknown comrades of CCF-Russia (when claiming the arson on a motorway construction sight in July) that holding back from attacking for some “superior” level of technical expertise and equipment can lead to paralysis and inaction.
But in our own lives we decided to escalate our experience of the day-to-day war against Civilisation, to push ourselves beyond what we previously were familiar with, to widen our toolbox to live anarchy in our relationships and our revolt. The more methods we learn to have at our disposal, the more adaptable we’ll be in conflict and the harder it’ll be for our enemies to out-manoeuvre us. This is as true for our project of armed joy as our written communication, our own practical land-skills to survive and thrive in balance with other life, and our interactions which aim to undermine and annihilate all hierarchy. Revolt needs everything: posters and books, reflection and discussion, daggers and arson. The only interesting question, as has been said before, is how to combine them.
Precisely because we are not “experts”, because when we get home from the attack we too struggle with all our hypocrisies, our contradictions and humiliations that make up the apparatus of power relations in contemporary society, we have to pluck up the courage to go through with our experiments, our mistakes and successes. To keep our dignity, rebellion must be part of the fabric of our reality, not confined to demonstrations, anniversaries or moments of wider social upheaval.
iv) ALWAYS WITH THE REBELS
We also write to acknowledge and bolder the explicitly anti-authoritarian constellation of groups and individuals (whether we know their names or not) who take war to the system on all its fronts. Today we are seeing an intensification of openly combatative actions in the region and internationally. We are extremely proud of our comrades and hope this adds to them, as their words and deeds have enriched us. Seizing opportunities to send signals to them and stand by the prisoner-hostages is not at all an afterthought – it’s an inseparable part of who we are and what we fight for. It seems stupid to dismiss this as just being self-referential. Ever since we linked our individual revolts into a collective urge for destruction-creation, we decided that to neglect the prisoners in struggle was to forget the struggle itself. The important thing is never to blind ourselves to others who also rise up.
Our bombing fell during the announced month that class-struggle libertarians Marcelo Villarroel, Juan Aliste and Freddy Fuentevilla finally stand trial in Chile. Their combatative stance and letters from prison have been an inspiration since their capture in Argentina five years ago. Despite our differences we are joined by a minimal common aim: immediate uprising towards the disappearance of class society. They are a part of the ever-evolving anti-authoritarian territory across borders and languages. Here we can exchange ideas, practices and of course mutual critique, enabling us to grow and learn. So rather than absolute theoretical agreement (on say the nature of Society and Civilisation) today we experience a solidarity stemming from the shared passion to fight, here and now without delay, free at all times to walk the separate paths our analyses open. (For the class ideologues who slander the insurgents and still hide waiting for the mythical “necessary conditions”, however, our unreserved contempt.
” . . . in a sterile high-security cell, in the beautiful darkness of a mountain lined with clandestine footsteps, in anonymous urban sabotage . . . in a poem-song, in a declaration text, in an honest surrender to the heart . . . memory and subversion exist independent of the pounding waves of repression.” Marcelo Villarroel.
Strength to Marcelo, Juan and Freddy, and to Carlos Gutierrez who is still wanted in their case. The Greek anarchists arrested in Kozani and in Nea Filadelfeia and in Thessaloniki, Roger Clement (Fighting For Freedom Coalition-Ottawa), Marco Camenisch, and Walter Bond (Animal Liberation Front-Lone Wolf) are yet more reasons to stay firm in the struggle.
We call on anyone feeling discontent: establish the confidence in yourself to arm against authority and indifference. Let’s rise against banks, work, money and the Civilisation behind them. From banks robbed in Santiago, bailliffs shot in London, and factories overturned in Dhaka; from shoplifting to looting in Bariloche and Bristol, employment agencies smashed and jobcentres burned in Trento and Berlin; from insubordination, workplace sabotage and indefinite strike; from confrontational appropriations of buildings or land to free them from commerce in Cardiff or this last week in Girona; to the remaining indigenous resistance to prevent being assimilated into the global wage-worker economy… 10, 100, 1000 mutinies against the tyranny of the market.
And why stop there? Towards life without calculation and management, one of freedom and wilderness. Of anarchy. Let’s be the system’s internal enemy, unpredictable and uncontrollable.