Rethinking Violence: Against Instrumentalism

I was having a conversation the other day and the topic of bombings came up, much to my excitement I will admit. The conversation eventually wound its way into a discussion on the motivations of bombings and beyond this into a discussion of extremist violence in general. As the conversation unfolded and afterward as the thoughts continued to ferment in my mind I started to see that there is a deeply rooted instrumentalism in our modern attitudes toward violence. How many times have we seen people crying “Why? What was the point of this?” after some shooting, some bombing, etc.? Lamenting the apparent mindlessness of the violence, for it served no conceivable ends. And it seemed to me as I continued to dwell on this point that our deeply rooted instrumentalist perspective is one of the causes of discomfort with regard to the manner in which much of the violence related to eco-extremist action unfolds.

As noted, there is a great degree of discomfort surrounding acts of violence which are not somehow justified by recourse to some larger progressive aim, message, or context within which the violence is cleansed and made pure, baptized and made suitable to our modern sensibilities. We are afraid of violence which is not enacted in the service of a “higher good.” For example you see this commonly in anarchist circles when they engage in LARPing about their glorious anarchist revolution (still waiting on that, btw). Whenever violence is discussed here it is always with a sense of that oh-so particular hyper-civilized squeamishness and apprehension surrounding violence. And so the vulgarity and depravity of violence is only made “pure and good” in their eyes by recourse to its revolutionary necessity in suppressing counter-revolutionary forces or whatever, in its necessity in ushering in the kingdom of solidarity, equality, and whatever other new anarcho-catchphrase will be realized in the revolution.

The reason that eco-extremist violence makes people uncomfortable, or one of many, is that in its blatant disregard for “means-and-ends” calculations it is so vehemently anti-instrumental. A very illuminating example was the bombing of the Codelco official (partly because the extremity of the attack is an even more clear expression of the point). Though as an aside, one could easily find numerous examples in any number of communiques which recount their exploits or in the hronologies published in various issues of Regresión Magazine. But to continue: After such a monumental attack ITS did not release some kind of communique demanding that Landerretche step down as the chair of Codelco. ITS did not release some kind of communique demanding some series of policy changes to make Codelco’s rape of the earth a bit more gentle. Rather the attack on Landerretche is the embodiment of an animus delendi unleashed as a response from the dark abysses of the earth itself. In their own words:

“This attack was not a political act. Politics do not interest us. We are rabidly anti-political individuals. We don’t give a shit about social struggles and their leaders. We shit on the citizenry and the people who are accomplices to the techno-industrial system. We don’t aim to denounce Codelco with this attack. We don’t want them to start using electric trucks or solar panels. We don’t want them to dump slightly less toxic waste. We don’t want them to be socially responsible with regards to the environment. None of that. […] This was an attack of Wild vengeance, in the name of the Earth that dies because of human progress.”– Twenty-First Communique of the Individualists Tending Toward the Wild

Against this progressive, instrumentalist attitude of violence is the anti-instrumentalist release of violent forces, a form of “total-war” channeling the indiscriminate power and violence of the earth itself. Eco-extremist violence (as I have understood and felt an affinity for it) has always had elements of this embodiment, this shamanistic approach of channeling the spirit world and its primordial energies that sets a primal chaos upon the phantasms men have wrought upon the earth. These acts are the messages of the earth sent on the wings of dark angels to remind men of their smallness before that indomitable and primordial abyss, a confrontation with that ever-present wildness which refuses all of mens machinations with the blast of a bomb and torn flesh. Even in its deployment of violent attack against its enemies eco-extremism continues to situate itself vehemently against modern techno-industrial civilization in all of its forms, down to the very form of war itself.

It should be noted that I write this as a person who was once, if not opposed, then at least skeptical of the eco-extremist approach to violence. When I first encountered the work of the tendency my reactions were not unlike some of the responses which questioned the efficacy and purpose of the actions which eco-extremists engaged in, even if I found a deep affinity with the spirit which was motivating the actions. At that point I was coming from a much more orthodox Kaczynskian perspective which approached attack from a much more modern, instrumental, militaristic approach. This seems to be the approach/perspective that colors much of our thoughts on “waging war,” on the purpose and aims of violent attack.

But the eco-extremist position offered and continues to demonstrate a stark counterpoint against our more modern understandings of the place and role of violence and our conceptions of war. The eco-extremist war, unlike that of, say, the more instrumental and militaristic approach of Kaczynski inspired eco-radicals, is the embodiment of a form of primal violence and a state of total-war which mirrors the violence of nature itself. The eco-extremist form of war is a coherent continuation and enactment of their anti-modernism, anti-progressivism, anti-humanism, and the like. Its war spits on the hallowed decrees of law and order which are imposed even on the forms of violence which are seen as acceptable in the eyes of the hyper-civilized. In place of the rules of engagement of men it offers only the natural law, primal violence.

Sokaksin