Subversive disassociation – Fragment against civil anarchism


The critique of ‘civil anarchism’, that has been put forward in a few fleeting texts by the nihilist-egoist comrades of Dark Matter Publications(1) and in an article by Venona Q, Scandalous Thoughts(2) has revitalised a needed rebuke against a typically British (but not only) line of thought. The critique hasn’t yet aimed to be comprehensive or even far-reaching, as it consists of only a few sketches, but it has hit a nerve. For the best part of a decade civil  anarchism in Britain has been perfecting its theoretical denunciations unchallenged, so it is refreshing to see it being taken to task. This fragment is meant to be another contribution to refresh
this critique of ‘civil anarchism’ with some of my thoughts.

If action is the defining feature of the new anarchic praxis which is antithetical to ‘civil anarchism’, I quote the CCF (Conspiracy of Cells of Fire) when they declare that “comrades who honour their words with their actions, constitute the most ideal beginning of an authentic dialogue between the tendencies of the anarchist movement. What we despise are the reformist-fake anarchists who make comfort and cowardice their political theory and idealize it.”

Civil anarchism is not so much a political current, but an open term to be used to outline the refuge of cowardly, reformist and collaborative individuals that use anarchism as a crutch to escape the repression in society and the necessity to act.

I don’t take issue with these people or their civility based on the form of organisation they adopt or the methods of “direct action” they choose, it is for them to persist in whichever way they like. It is not my concern, other than when they attempt to impose their will on me.

I have nothing against mass organisation per se and see it as an observably fundamental principle of almost all revolutionary activity, but from being close to this ‘civil anarchism’ for a considerable time, and having had space to consider its present development and direction, I believe this flock to have serious problems with allowing diversity of opinion and perspectives to be expressed that counters the group-think “party line”.

As anarchists, they believe in their heart, or at least their propaganda extols as much, that the human being, the bad animal, can be redeemed by their political program. Leaving that question aside for the moment, as anarchists we appear to share more than we disagree about, and I concede that followed to their conclusions the ideas of the civil anarchists could be congruent with a social insurrection, but I doubt they will be.

In Britain, one of the key values of civil anarchism seems to be activist political work as an end in itself, rather than as a means to an end; so, instead of moving towards social conflict and insurrection, it placed itself inside a small niche in the media/political-spectacle and largely avoids the necessity to put itself at risk. It can do this also because ‘democracy’ as a concept has been so completely misused for the neo-liberal project that an attempt to clean up its image and ‘get back to true and participatory
democracy’ (or citizenship and civil investment in government) is beginning to seem radical (although it is not). Anarchist legalism does not claim it’s force of negation, but becomes indistinguishable from the democratic politics it pretends to go beyond. Civil anarchism will never evolve into an identifiable feature of conflict on the social terrain, because it has no specific nature, it follows the footsteps of the crowd and jealously picks at the heads of those who dare calculate their refusal ahead of the rest.

These grouplets, because often they are so concerned with protecting their own existence in the face of society, adopt the least troubling position to power, and simply act as interest-groups for very marginalised people who are isolated and seeking power. Through the psychological substitution of power by the mechanism of the ‘formal’ organisation, bad behaviour attempts to be hidden with political reasoning. This is to reject, censor and vilify individuals and groups that they cannot control or influence, as they attempt to police the behaviour of others.

Civil anarchism turns on any anarchist or activist who dares reject the group-think and organise themselves outside of ‘acceptable limits’; and like all political groups, the civil anarchists tend toward homogeneity, centralisation, hierarchy, delegation and censorship, however much it is all dressed up as consensus. Despite the often stated emphasis that these methods of organising are actually something radical, they are casual, with almost no difference to the style of library and crèche rota found in community groups everywhere. If some anarchists find strength in this, I think they are naive about what they are fighting against.

Capital is not something that can be fought in the ‘workplace’ or one’s ‘community’ with certainty any more, unless I have mistaken the last 30 years of global economic restructuring and class recomposition as a victory for classical anarchist methods. I may be wrong, but I do not see any future for the traditional forms of anarchist organisation, as the social model they rested on has not only been defeated by capitalism, the conditions in which it had any relevance have changed.

This, naturally, brings me to my further point, what is revolutionary, or even, anarchist, about the adoption of Marxian and leftcommunist thought? I am not sure, though from looking at two decades of my personal experience, I would say “not much”. In the past couple of years the anarchist-insurrectionalist groups created a
cross-border destructive solidarity and next generation urban struggle. It is ridiculous to think that such groups come out of nothing and have no positive relevance. Civil anarchist methods and ideas have long been irrelevant in the struggle of the countries where they are largely based (if they were ever relevant at all in some places), but some claim a definitive historical legacy and method of practice and theory, and that is a starting point for my antagonism towards them, coinciding with my refusal to accept the “anarchist” disavowal of individual action and propaganda by deed.

I think it is accurate to say that the fullness of anarchist praxis – from organising in workplaces through to assassinations – is being reduced by these civil anarchist groups to only those methods which will not be seen as “alienating” democratic society. This is not the vision of the classical-era “social” anarchists and they have no right to claim any historical legitimacy. The conclusion is that I too declare myself as an antagonist to the fiction of civil anarchism and its aims.

Whilst this fragment does not focus on the social level of struggle in its entirety and is written in good faith to those who can be bothered to try and understand my points. This text is simply a short polemic and not particularly comprehensive or even coherent in its direction. With that in mind, I point out that the following verdicts have been issued by the anarchist management in Britain as elsewhere:

– “Dangerous” publications and anti-social ideas, particularly anticivilisation ones, are forbidden.

– Claiming your actions and life of refusal, sabotage and attack is forbidden.

– Expressing solidarity with specific anarchist prisoners and projects (often named terrorists) is forbidden.

If what you would expect from a vibrant revolutionary tendency is courage, discussion, debate and interchange, you’ll be disappointed as civil anarchism is not interested in your opinions, only your compliance.

When they are not looking away whilst comrades are being imprisoned, they are often helping with the repression, because they despise the idea of being misrepresented in the media and resent the anarchists of praxis for their actions. But the anarchists of praxis represent no-one but themselves and their actions belong solely to them, not to the movement, and that is the problem.

I dedicate this article to all those who are investigated and detained in Italy.


1. See Anarchy in the UK : August Riots 2011 (Dark Matter Publications)
2. See ‘Scandalous Thoughts – some notes on civil anarchism.’ Hailed as “an insult to anarchism itself” by an idiotic member of the Italian Anarchist Federation on See page 25.

Source: 325 [1], [2]

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