George Walford: Riot Against Revolution

High among anarchist journals stands the American publication Anarchy, a Journal of Desire Armed.[1] Aggressive, outspoken, provocative, highly literate, excellently edited, maintaining professional standards of production, stretching through the bars of the anarchist ghetto to reach the bookstalls, we highly recommend it. (As an added attraction, it vigorously opposes the ideas put forward in IC, Beyond Politics and Angles on Anarchism).

The issue for Winter 1993 leads off with ‘Preparations for the Next Riot,’ by Adam Bregman. This welcomes last year’s riots in Los Angeles as a true expression of popular resentment of the System, a demand for freedom and equality: ‘people showed they could take the streets back from the police, if only for a night or two. Poor people were able to obtain things they could otherwise never afford… People felt free.’ ‘communities came together to burn down the local liquor store, to surround the local police station… Most of the rioters and looters were having a grand ole time. Together they helped fend off the police with rocks and bottles. They mutually aided each other in tearing off the metal gratings of stores.’ At last the people have risen! Next time The Revolution!

Perhaps not quite. In winding up his article Adam Bregnan finds it necessary to explain to would-be rioters that last time they got it wrong. They ought to choose different targets; not the corner store, the library and the bookshop but Beverly Hills, the offices and banks of the super-rich. They have to stop pleasing themselves, give up looting the liquor and luxuries they want and destroying the books they have no use for. They have to suppress their personal interests, start taking the action needed to change the social system.

Against Adam Bregnan’s intentions, his article makes it clear that the Los Angels rioters did not break through the conventional restraints towards The Revolution. Just the contrary; they moved farther away from the ideals of the revolutionaries, reverting rather than advancing. The state, with its coercive forces, restrains the primal impulse to take what you want and destroy what you don’t like; in doing so it takes us a step forward along the path leading towards the theories of socialism, communism and anarchism, movements that seek to impose still more rigorous restraints on self-interest.

[1] Anarchy; a Journal of Desire Armed: C.A.L., [address and subscription rates].

from Ideological Commentary Number 60, May 1993.