An Anti-authoritarian Response to the War Efforts

by Marina Sitrin

September 21, 2001

Dear Comrades,

We are living through scary times. Clearly the US Government and its allies
believe they have a grand opportunity to realign domestic and  international
relationships in their interest. This is frightening: major shifts in the
political landscape threaten to tear the ground from beneath our feet.

However, these glacial shifts in the political scene also offer
anti-authoritarians a unique opportunity to obtain a new, more secure
footing in our struggle against economic exploitation, political hierarchy,
and cultural domination. Political conditions are changing radically and, if
we respond correctly, we have the chance to advance our movement to a
much higher level.

First of all, we must not be cowed by present circumstances, as disturbing
as they are. On the contrary: recent events call upon us to exercise
political leadership in the best, most principled and visionary sense of
the term. This is our challenge, and one that we can meet with an
anti-authoritarian vision and politics.

We believe it is imperative that anti-authoritarians formulate a coherent
response to the war buildup and their role within the growing peace
movement. We must not allow our perspective to be subsumed under more
prominent but less radical tendencies in the left. Also, the peace movement
is presently defining its politics and structures and we have a great
opportunity - at this moment - to engage the movement and push it in the
most radical direction.

This purpose of this letter is to explore the contours of an
anti-authoritarian position on recent events. We encourage you to discuss
this letter with your friends and comrades and to prepare for broader
discussions that we intend to initiate in the near future (we will send
more information soon).

We want to address three important issues in this letter: structure,
politics, and the future.

We anticipate that the anti-war movement will experience divisions similar
to those that beset the peace movement during the Gulf War. In other words,
national organizing efforts will be split into two organizations: one will
be pacifist and more libertarian in character, and the other will be more
militant and Stalinist. Both will be top-down mobilizations, built around
well-known “leaders”, and awash with a moralism that would turn off even
the most open-minded citizens and activists.

Thus, we think our immediate challenge is to ensure that the anti-war
mobilizations are decentralized and democratic in structure: specifically,
that those doing the work make the decisions in these organizations. We
recommend the model of assemblies, spokescouncils, or other horizontal
networks of small, decentralized groups that are unified around an
anti-authoritarian vision of social change. This will assure that those
at the base hold decision-making power and thus that the mobilization
reflects the political consciousness of the base, which is typically more radical
and sane than that held by the leadership. It will still be possible for
sectarian groups to infiltrate the base, but much harder for them to
seize control. We believe that instituting such a decentralized structure is
consistent with a principled commitment to democracy and should be our
first act of defense against the party building hacks and the omnipresent

Decentralized political structures have little significance unless
complemented by a decentralized, radically democratic politics. We need
to have radically democratic goals as well as methods, anti-authoritarian
means and ends. Our response to the war must be concrete, immediately
comprehensible, and one that gives political content to our democratic

Presently we are aware of two positions on the war:

The rightwing position asserts that the US is entitled to take
unilateral military action against whomever. This position is not reasoned, just
retaliatory, and is thus utterly barbaric. The argument crumbles when
faced with questions of social justice.

The liberal-left position condones military action against Osama Bin
Laden if - and only if - the UN or some pre-existing international legal body
decides that such action is required and determines its nature. This
appears to be Z Magazine’s position, as well as many others.

This position is inadequate because it appeals to the political
authority of the UN (and/or similar bodies). This is untenable because the UN is an
illegitimate political body and thus incapable of determining a just or
unjust response to the terror attacks. The UN is illegitimate because a)
it presupposes the nation-state, which is inherently anti-democratic and b)
because the US has veto power over many of the UN’s most important
decision-making bodies, such as the Security Council.

The anti-authoritarian position must obviously be much more radical than
the liberal-left position. We believe that anti-authoritarians should
advance the following demands:

·       First, all war criminals must be brought to justice (and judged by an
international people’s tribunal). Osama Bin Laden, Augusto Pinochet,
Henry Kissinger, and those who have committed acts of terror and violence must
be held accountable for their actions and dealt with accordingly.

·       Second, there should be an international grass roots
assembly/plebiscite/encuentro/assembly/truth and reconciliation
commission on global terror. This assembly will define the terms of terror and the
appropriate responses to it. There are existing decentralized,
grassroots networks and organizations that could provide basis for such an

·       Third, we must oppose military action against Osama Bin Laden,
Afghanistan, or anyone else until these first two conditions are met.

We believe that anti-authoritarians should work to radicalize the
anti-war movement. We should ensure that it is democratic and decentralized in
structure, that its demands are anti-authoritarian in content, and that
we use this movement to build cooperative relationships with the oppressed
and enraged throughout the world who share our horror at the US’s impeding
military action and the world it seeks to create.

We believe there is a great potential to create a radically democratic
and deeply oppositional movement against the war. We believe this movement
could sustain the accomplishments of the struggle against global capital and
bring our movement to a new level of engagement, diversity, and radicalism.

Another world is possible,
Marina Sitrin (active with the Direct Action Network) & Chuck Morse
(active with the Institute for Anarchist Studies)