Militarization and Civilization: Articles from “Green Anarchist”
Militarism & Anti-Militarism
Green Anarchist originated in the 1980s protest milieu dominated by CND (the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament), a reformist anti-militarist umbrella group that numbered millions of members. At my last meeting with the late John Moore, he suggested GA run anti-militarism as a core theme. Given the economy’s domination by military production and the current bellicose international situation, I think it therefore only appropriate GA72’s core should be ‘Militarism & Anti-Militarism’.
As there has recently been too little contribution from readers to past such themes, I think it appropriate to say something about GA’s ethos here. We are not here to write propaganda and otherwise tell you what to think — a free society is one where people think for themselves. We are offering a free, uncensored forum where you can state and debate your own opinions — and then act on them. This is your forum, not ours! If the editors and a few of their mates are the only ones contributing opinion, it suggests that (1) we are clever and you are stupid, that we’ve got all the answers and you’ve got nothing to say, and (2) that we’re better writers than you. As you can see from my deathless prose so far, none of us are either Einsteins or Shakespeares and don’t expect you to be. You just have to feel strongly enough about something to take up the pen — something some find even more intimidating than taking up the balaclava and fair play to them as long as their activism isn’t totally mindless and / or manipulated by others. We don’t care if you’re particularly articulate (we aren’t ourselves!) — passionate and original will do. On the grounds our readers are wiser than we are, we make a point of publishing pretty much everything we receive short of complete word salads. History may be written by the highly literate but it is fundamentally made by those that are not, the marginalised and ultimately the repressed majority tapping into such undercurrents.
Without being prescriptive, I can see at least four areas of particular interest here, though feel free to contribute your own!
Militarisation and Civilisation
To oppose militarism, we need to understand it and where it came from. Lewis Mumford pointed out that the first forms of massified social organisation were probably the ancient labour gangs and armies of Mesopotamia, and Foucault later pointed out that the unique, surveillance-orientated organisation of modern society had its roots in Napoleon’s Grande Armee, a levy of unprecidented size and requiring new organisational forms. In charting the geneology of militarism, is it also possible to argue that it is intrinsic to Civilisation, with obvious implications for its future viability and ultimate downfall? Or can we have a ‘demilitarised’ civilisation, disarmed but preserving the old organisational forms or perhaps capable of armed defence but somehow organised in a different, freer way, Stuart Christie’s citizens militias perhaps?
Militarisation and the Movement
There is a species of revolutionary who — from the best of intentions or often not — decides the best way to effectively oppose the state is to imitate it in every respect except rhetoric, and even then feels no compunction at resorting to their own brand of propaganda. The defeated Ukranian nationalist Nestor Makhno well illustrates this. Having been defeated by the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War (1917–21), he proposed ‘the Platform’, Bolshevik (authoritarian) organisation for anarchists! His justification was the same as the Bolsheviks used to excuse their resort to systematic tyranny and brutality, so-called ‘war communism’ — as a necessary defence against ‘counterrevolutionaries’. There are few now that would bluntly call themselves ‘platformist’ in their praise of ‘organisation’ (of others) as their revolutionary panacea and they are ideologist fossils. More insiduous is the trend noted at the end of ex-Yippie Jerry Rubin’s biography of a vibrant, imaginative (albeit self-promoting) 1960s counterculture ossified into paranoid cliques all toting their arsenals and militaristic language — they are “armies” at “war”, their “soldiers” waging “offensives” against “legitimate targets”, etc. In his seminal Against His-Story, Against Leviathan, Fredy Perlman again and again illustrates how movements (e.g. Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, even Christianity) rebelling against oppressive Civilisation become civilisers and oppressors. To a certain extent, this is down to the ‘liberation theology’ becoming ideological cant voided of its original meaning, preserved mainly to be recited as a mark of loyalty to its dispensers. However, this is also down to the militarisation of the movement, that same old ‘defence of necessity’. As revolutionaries, we need to give very serious thought to identifying such trends amongst our own and finding means of effectively opposing them if any revolution is going to be meaningful.
Militarisation and Nonviolence
Despite a long history suggesting otherwise and ritualistic Leftist attempts to assert so now, anti-militarism has come to be seen as the almost-exclusive ‘property’ of advocates of nonviolence. I’ve already suggested the question of a future anti-militarist society also being a strictly nonviolent one needs to be discussed (is homo lupis a myth and if not, does this imply armies are ‘natural’ and inevitable?) — but also whether promulgating strict nonviolence is the best way to achieve it or the worth of such nonviolence as an end. The ‘body snatcher’ techniques of the Left — whereby lively, angry, loving people are transformed into will-less zombies zealously and frantically, but mechanically reciting canned dogma — has been touched upon above, but I’m not the only one to notice this applies equally to the hardcore devotees of the ideology of nonviolence. George Orwell, fresh from fighting Francoist fascism in Spain, called them “creeping Jesuses that should all push off back to Welwyn Garden City”. Nonviolence is ‘the answer’ to everything despite its shallow ‘tunnel vision’ analysis and its devotees will become evasive and aggressively defensive (typically by accusing their question of ‘verbal violence’) if put questions they’re not equipped to answer. Much emphasis is placed on conforming to higher prescriptive codes of personal behaviour — including the boycotting (tabooing) of ‘violent’ products — in a way that implies a closed cult whose main interaction with a ‘fallen world’ beyond is evangelising to it in the hope of ‘saving’ a few more ‘lesser mortals’. To me, this self-policing / self-repression seems unfree, unnatural and itself violence in a most perverted form (much more than S/M spanker types, who at least acknowledge their desires), but it is surely a bigger question how vwe avoid both the Scylla of movement militatisation and the Chabaris of ideological nonviolence.
I feel its important that this forthcoming issue is as much an activist resource as it is a forum for theoretical discussion — one should imply and animate the other. Factfiles documenting and analysing current trends in militarisation and effective opposition to it (e.g. the Spanish insumiso anti-conscription movement), interviews and campaign contacts are all eagerly welcomed.
Russian NRA Trial
On the 14/05/03 three Russian “New Revolutionary Alternative” (NRA) activists were given lengthy prison sentences for anti-war activities. A fourth defendant, Tatyana Sokolova, was given a non-custodial sentence after she “actively cooperated” with the authorities and informed on her co-defendants.
The three who were jailed are Nadezhda Raks who received 9 years in prison, Larisa Romanova who received 6.5 years (reduced to 5.5 years on appeal) and Olga Nevskaya who received 6 years imprisonment. All three are to serve their sentences “in a camp of normal regime”.
The NRA first appeared in Russia in the Autumn of 1996 when they attempted to burn down a military call-up (conscription) centre in Moscow. In a Communiqué the NRA explained that they took their action in protest against the Chechen war.
Over the next few years the NRA carried out a number of actions, mainly criminal damage but also a few symbolic explosions. The NRA targets included Government, military and police buildings including another military call up (conscription) centre. They also detonated explosives under a statue of Nikolai II.
On 04/04/99 the NRA caused an explosion close to an FSB (former KGB) building. Following the investigation into this a number of people where arrested leading to the arrests of Larisa, Nadezhda and Olga.
Out of the three, Olga Nevskaya defines herself as an anarchist. Olga is also an eco-activist and has been involved with Rainbow Keepers in the past. Larisa Romanova is a member of a Bolshevik group and has also been a member of Rainbow Keepers. Nadezhda Raks is a member of a Bolshevik but is also said to have links with far-right groups. Because of this GA is not supporting Nadezhda Raks but we do recognise the other two as Anti-War prisoners.
For more information including information about an active support campaign set up for eco-anarchist Olga Nevskaya contact P.O. Box 13, 109028, Moscow, Russia.
Larisa Valerevna Romanova, pos. Golovino, OD 1/2, Sudogordskiy Rayon, 601395 Vladimirskaya Oblast, Russia. New Revolutionary Alternative (armed left wing group) activist serving 5.5 years for various arsons, criminal damage & explosion actions against Government and Military buildings. Larisa is an ecoactivist and former member of Rainbow Keepers
Olga Aleksandrovna Nevskaya, UU163/5, 7 Otryad, pos. Dzerzhinskiy, Mozhaysk 140090 Moskovskaya oblast, Russia. New Revolutionary Alternative (armed left wing group) activist serving 6 years for various arsons, criminal damage & explosion actions against Government and Military buildings. Olga is an eco-activist and former member of Rainbow Keepers.
The Military Abuse of Animals
Chemical and biological warfare has been dubbed a ‘higher form of killing’. this is reflected in the military’s endless quest to ‘perfect’ the deadly nature of each compound through animal experimentation.
Killing and maiming is not enough, great importance is attached to the scientific nature of the weapon’s effect. Whether it is by burning, poisoning, suffocation, infection or attacking the nervous system, each method is meticulously ‘refined’ on sentient, unconsenting lab animals.
Napalm, Agent Orange, 245T have all been extensively tested on animals. So too will other weapons.
For example, rhesus monkeys and marmosets have been used at Porton Down in the UK to study the effects of the nerve gas Soman. Those receiving a high dose suffered violent convulsions and quickly collapsed. About 75% regained consciousness and experienced an incresed rate and depth of respiration. Some made attempts to crawl around the cage before eventually relapsing and dying one to two hours later.
Few published examples of military abuse exist. Everything is hidden under a ‘top secret’ label. Even the pathetic regulations applied in commerce don’t apply here. Sadistic or misguided freaks are free to act out whatever their sick imaginations can conceive of.
Each year in military establishments across the world, animals are shot, blasted, burnt and subjected to other forms of injury. All of this takes place against a backdrop of a violent world in which all of these injuries are being inflicted upon humans on a daily basis.
In Britain, information is scarce, but it is known that sheep, pigs, rabbits and monkeys have been wounded at Porton Down. One published experiment detailed how 20 anaesthetised rhesus monkeys were shot through the head with a 3.2 mm steel ball. They survived between 2 and 169 minutes. In Germany 20 dogs were shot in the hind leg from 50 metres, with the objective of fracturing the upper thigh, shattering the bone column and destroying the hollow marrow bone. Nine dogs died within 48 hours and the remainder were operated on and then treated for several weeks before being killed.
In the US stray animals can be bought and abused by the military. In 1983 public pressure forced them to stop using cats and dogs, but this only transferred the agonies to other species. In that same year more than 400,000 animals were massacred by the US military.
This immoral abuse of animal life has only one purpose — the development of even more deadly weapons and new methods of waging war. There will be no peace until we end our abuse of animals.
Ending warfare experiments would be a good place to start.
The above article was cobbled together mainly from an excellent pamphlet published in 1987 by the British Union for the Ablition of Vivisection and written by Chris Fisher. It can probably still be got from Turnaround Distribution, or BUAV.
ISBN 1 870356 00 4
Eternal Frontier — Eternal War
As I write this people are being killed systematically. As you read this people are being killed systematically. Bodies, lives, beings, torn to shreds by bombs, bullets, napalm, and flame: not just killing, but maiming, uprooting and devastating lives. Devastating life.
Right now that killing is going on in Iraq. The people being killed are children, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, and lovers. We see numbers. That is if we see anything at all. What people in Iraq see are bodies without limbs, people broken mentally and physically.
There is a movement to end the ‘occupation’ of Iraq. People want an end to wars. They march, hold signs, protest, get beaten and arrested, and occasionally attack the war machine symbolically.
But the end to war will not come. The end of war cannot come.
Wars may end, but not war.
For the most part, protestors can accept this. That is why they fight against wars. They are brutal and nasty. Most people know someone involved. They tie ribbons around trees. Somehow I doubt the trees care much about soldiers. But wars can and will end. Things can go back to normal for those not on the receiving end of the bombs.
Stop the wars and its back to business as usual. Back to everyday warfare.
Civilization is warfare.
This is not a rhetorical statement. Civilization is the culture of cities. Cities are permanent settlements with a lot of people on a little amount of land. All those people on that little amount of land need ‘resources’. Those have to come from somewhere. The countryside is the other half of cities. They are one in the same and they need each other.
This has always been the case. This will always be the case, if not locally, then globally. Rows of cash crops and mines on one end: rows of houses and people on the other. The people in cities will take what they ‘need’ to survive. They must because a city cannot support itself and the countryside must grow with it. Almost always this taking requires force.
This is what Stanley Diamond was thinking about when he wrote: “Civilization originates in conquest abroad and repression at home.” Where people cannot be coerced into giving on their own, there are armies and police to ensure that things run smoothly. Between states this is called war. But states do the same thing everyday to their citizens. It is still war, but we can’t call it that. The state can’t afford for us to call it that.
At the root of the problem, there are two things that happened to set all of this in motion: gardens and settlements. Both of which are usually tied, but not always. But the garden and the settlement represent two different aspects of war. There are ecological reasons and political reasons for war, respectively.
Gardening is about taming wildness. Pulling weeds, clearing forest land, and selective breeding are all methods of domesticating. This is as true for small scale horticulturalists as it is for industrial agriculturalists.
The damage that can be done depends on the relationships of the people to the land and the scale. Small scale horticulturalists typically see the earth as their home and have things like longer fallow periods and shifting gardens to make sure they don’t destroy it.
Industrial agriculturalists see the earth as something dead and use science to ‘fix it’. Naturally if they see the earth as dead matter, they have no real issue with killing it as they do.
Bioregions are picky. The healthiest ecosystem is a wild one, but a balanced ecosystem can take some sway. Horticultural societies can exist without tipping the scales.
Occasionally those scales do tip and something must be done to bring things back in balance. That can take days or years. Even if it takes over 6,000 years (as in our case), it is something that must happen. The far end of that balance is what is called carrying capacity. It means simply how much life can be supported by any particular bioregion.
Gardens challenge carrying capacity because people settle around them. Being nomadic has shaped who we are as humans. Our ecological role has been defined by this. As nomadic gatherer/hunters, there are any number of ways to keep us within carrying capacity that are just inherent to that way of being. When people settle down, populations increase. Populations increase, more food needs to be grown. More food needs to be grown, more land must be cleared and used. When that land is being used by other people, there will be violence.
This is the formula for ‘primitive warfare’.
This kind of warfare serves a number of ecological purposes. For the most part it is largely symbolic. It is typically spaced at least ten years apart and has a minimum amount of casualties. In some ways it has been considered a kind of play.
It is easy to see why when you see the novelty size arrows shot high into the air or that the bulk of ‘fighting’ is really shouting insults which both sides may laugh at.
But it is still warfare. It is not unheard of for whole bands to be wiped out in raids or battle. This kind of warfare happens between people who know each other intimately. It is an accepted part of life. But it serves the ecological purpose of not tipping the ecological balance.
Warfare happens in time of ecological stress. People do die in raids and battle, but that is not the most effective way of keeping numbers down. In these societies, being a warrior is extremely important. Gender becomes an important distinction and raising strong boys takes priority. Having warrior sons becomes important. The result is female infanticide. The result of having far fewer women than men is there are fewer children in the end.
This is not what must happen, but this is what has happened over and over again. If you live a way that challenges carrying capacity, there must be some way of keeping the balance. Warfare and the values that come with it have been that solution for horticultural societies in almost every instance.
But this is not what has always happened. If it were, we wouldn’t be in our current dilemma. If it were, civilization would have never existed. We would never have to destroy it.
The problem is that not all societies went through a horticultural stage. The old lists of ‘social evolution’ are something that our linear/historical orientation needs, not something that necessarily happened or must happen. The societies that originate civilization typically skipped the horticultural step or barely went through it. They were settled people who technically lived by gathering and hunting. They cultivated fields and fields of wild grains.
Domestication came later, but they became settled and dependent upon stored grains first.
Politics can be created in two ways. In horticultural societies like the ones mentioned above. When the population does expand and people stick together rather than break apart and create new bands, there tends to be people who have more influence. These people are called Big Men (they are not always men, but most often).
Big Men talk. A lot. They rant about everything in the morning or the evening. They have an opinion and must voice it. For the most part, people don’t even notice. Lying in hammocks or around the fire, they can hear the rants. Sometimes they go listen, but not all the time. This ranting is important though. That is what a Big Man must do. They are typically no different than other people, but they gain notoriety because of their ability to convince and typically they are able to pull together more stuff for massive feasts or general redistribution.
The Big Man rants and the people tolerate it. Occasionally they listen to him. Occasionally he’s talking about raiding or attacking a neighboring village. Sometimes he can convince a number of people to get involved, but their decisions are always voluntary.
The Big Man has no power, no authority, and no ability to coerce. Only his voice. Nothing exists for him to hoard so much that he can control or attempt to control the actions of others. His position is far from permanent and a lack of a Big Man never hurt anybody.
They can wage wars, but only if other people are willing to go along with it.
That usually works for a raid or battle, maybe two. But if people had the choice to go to war constantly, they would chose not to. That has almost always been the case. There are no specialists. There are no armies: bands of people specialized in the art of taking lives.
Sometimes war just happens.
The other way power is created is through surplus. Some horticultural societies expand and some become empires. Power is held by chiefs or kings. The role of a chief can be slightly different than the role of a Big Man, but it can also be slightly different than the role of a king. A chief must be a good talker, but he has more than a voice. He has a surplus.
A chief and occasionally a Big Man will have multiple wives. What this means is that he has a number of gardens and a number of people working them. A single garden can feed the family that works it with relative ease, but there are times when they need more or crops fail. The chief, with a number of gardens, can compensate them. In fact, they must. This is where coercive power comes from: the perception of dependency.
The chief gives and talks. The people listen so long as the chief provides something for them and tells them what they want to hear. The power of a chief is not absolute. The position can be terminated. But the position does carry some power.
They are called in to settle disputes between people and in the process become the first true political institution. Politics are created here.
In return for these services, people will listen to them. The most authority they can possess is in times of war. Their voice has more sway in this time than a Big Man for two reasons: they already have an upper hand in the society and they are known for their prowess in battle.
Through all of these, the power of a chief is created and affirmed. They cannot force anyone into battle, but their decision becomes a political one and there can be consequences.
Civilization is really born in war. That is the essence of the state, of kingdoms, of empires.
The influence or power of a Big Man or some chiefs was never absolute, but absolute power is the basis for kings and some more powerful chiefs. How did this happen?
In the societies mentioned above, as long as the chief or Big Man had something to offer or was reasonable, people might listen to them. The only time this was ever truly exercised was during battle or war where some leadership is necessary.
But as populations continue to grow and devour the earth and its relations surrounding them, war becomes not an occasional ordeal, but a part of everyday life.
The origins of absolute power could only be created through fear. People don’t compromise their autonomy unless they must or they are convinced that they must. The need for land puts people on the offense. The knowledge that others may be in the same situation puts people on the defense. The role of those in power has always been to play up these two aspects. Society must be under attack. Society must be defended.
Under these premises people will be willing to compromise. Under these premises states, nations, and empires are created. The earth is attacked. People are attacked. Lives are destroyed.
This should start sounding familiar.
Eternal war is as tied to civilization as the need for the eternal frontier. There must be room for growth. There must be resources. There must be people willing to throw their lives away to defend the ‘greater good’.
States grow and roles become more and more specialized. Police can be trained and soldiers can be conscripted. People can dedicate their lives to advancing technology. The art of killing and maiming becomes increasingly efficient.
This is how civilization must be. The only thing that’s changed over the last 10,000 years is the scale and efficiency of tools meant to do nothing but destroy.
This is our heritage, reaffirmed daily. We remain distanced and entertained. But this is the true cost of our way of being.
No one really likes war. At least no one involved in the actual fighting. The actual destruction of life.
The very word can turn your insides. As long as we are entertained and distant spectators we’re fine. Pictures are posted of civilian casualties and people will react. They will react just enough to believe that their hands are morally kept clean.
Lately we’ve been hearing the word quagmire used in terms of the Iraqi War. It’s a flashback to the Vietnam War that we’re stuck in a completely undesirable situation, but one that must be dealt with. Whether we support the war or not it is still going on. That is the reality that has been created for us and we are told to deal with it.
It’s a depressing thought. No amount of good intentions or hope will bring back lives cut short, lives torn apart, or mend the very flesh of the earth: our home.
But this is our world. This is where we are.
This is a reality that we should never have to deal with. The power to destroy lives across the planet just by trying to survive is something that was never meant to exist. But it does.
Civilization should never have existed. Lives should have never been wasted serving rather than living. Our home should never be threatened.
Perhaps quagmire is the most appropriate word, not only for the war in Iraq, but for our entire way of life.
We should have never been in this situation; we should never have to destroy civilization so that we may one day live free. So that life may exist on this planet after we are gone. But we are in this situation and it is in our hands to do something about it.
Civilization is warfare. Like civilization, warfare has an origin. Like civilization, warfare will have an end. It will die with the system that creates and requires it.
Civilization can be destroyed and if we truly want an end to war, it’s time to pull the plug.
Faslane Peace Camp: 22 Years of Resistance
Faslane Peace Camp is situated 30 miles North of Glasgow, in West Central Scotland. Since 1982, peace campers have taken action against the Trident nuclear weapons system based on the nearby Gareloch.
Faslane has been UK’s longest-running peace camp. Can you tell us a little about how and why it started, and a quick history of the camp since?
How camp started has nowadays descended into myth. The most popular story goes as follows: There had been temporary camps happening at Faslane for a while. On 12th June 1982, another, longer temporary camp was supposed to start. It was meant to be closer to the base’s South Gate, but on the way a caravan broke its axle and couldn’t be moved. Camp was set up around that van. People decided they wanted to carry on the site, and 22 years later the “temporary” peace camp is still here! At first, the local council was West Dumbartonshire, which had an antinuclear policy. They supported camp and rented us the land for a pound a month. Then, 7 years ago, the council boundaries changed.
The newly formed Argyll and Bute Council was staunchly antipeace camp, and took out an eviction order against us. This actually worked in our favour — from having 2 burnt our residents, site became full of people determined to build defences and fight the eviction. Numbers hadn’t been so high since the 1980s heyday of the anti-nuclear movement. Nowadays the council still want to evict us, but can’t afford to politically or financially!
Can you fill us in on the background to Trident, UK’s so-called ‘independent deterrent’, and the direct action campaign the camp has led against it?
There are four Vanguard class subs at Faslane, which fire Trident nuclear missiles and are nuclear-powered. They are backed up by a supporting fleet of nuclear powered “Hunter Killer” subs which fire conventional Cruise missiles, as well as minesweepers, minelayers, frigates, tugs etc.
Trident was planned in 1982 and the first Vanguard sub arrived at Faslane in the early 90s. Trident a first-strike system, replaced Cruise, a secondstrike system, so the introduction of Trident clearly indicated that the UK was moving from a defensive to an offensive nuclear policy. The UK does not have complete control of the Trident system — it’s US technology and the UK depends heavily on the goodwill of the US to keep Trident running.
There are 16 missiles on each Trident sub, and each missile holds 64 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb. It’s worth pointing out that ALL the UK’s nuclear weapons are based at Faslane.
As anarchists we wouldn’t say we “led” the direct action campaign against Trident. We work with other likeminded groups and are always looking for new folk to do actions with. Our actions take in anything that can put a spanner in the war machine — blockades, fence cutting, smashing expensive equipment, office occupations, phone blockades, stopping nuclear warhead convoys and so on. We do a mixture of pixie (sabotage) actions and Ploughsharesstyle accountable disarmament. In general tho, peace campers see no reason to make ourselves accountable to the state.
How does the camp’s anti-Trident campaign link to other areas of contestation, for example re. the environment or human liberation? Is there some sort of concensus what it comes to a critique of militarism and if so, what is it? If not, what are the different viewpoints and principle debates?
Nuclear weapons cause massive ecological destruction and human misery even if they are never fired. For example, Uranium mining (carried out by Rio Tinto Zinc among others) is notorious for causing the displacement of tribal peoples. It also poisons ecosystems and people near the mine. At the other end of the process, decommissioned nuclear reactors from old subs are already causing problems here in Scotland. The Ministry of “Defence” is trying to find a community which doesn’t mind having radioactive waste dumped on it for the next few thousand years. Strangely, this is proving difficult.
Capitalism depends on the military for its very survival. Not only do arms companies rake in the profits, the whole “free” trade system is supported by militarism and ultimately by nuclear weapons. For this reason, all the residents at camp at the moment are anti-military, anti-capitalist, and anarchist. Some of us are also against industry and civilization. We do discuss the connections between war, industry and civilization, but have never agreed on everything so far! Anyone who is a positive force in anti-nuclear work, and who respects our community, is welcome at camp tho — you don’t have to share the political views of the current residents.
We tie in our anti-militarist stance to other struggles by encouraging and taking part in anarchist organising and ecological direct action throughout Scotland and beyond. Peace campers have been involved in direct action against GM food in Scotland, for example.
Many in the 1980s peace movement saw the peace camps as utopian experiments as much as loci of protest, particularly at Greenham, the womens’ camp against US nuclear Cruise missiles based in the Home Counties. Is there anything like that in Faslane’s ethos now and if so, what can you tell us about it?
At camp we try to live out an alternative to the society which created Trident. We believe that state society is nothing but the means of preparing for war, so for this reason we live along anarchist principles. Important decisions are made by consensus at camp meetings.
There is a strong emphasis on communal living and communal responsibility. We try to have a (vegan) group meal every day, and do big tasks as a group. We also help each other with personal jobs (babysitting, living space maintenance, legal/prison support) if need be. Camp has a mild work ethic and we generally find that working together helps build our sense of community. We also socialise together and consider each other as friends.
Although still very dependent on civilization, we do try to live more sustainably and closer to nature than mainstream society. We have a compost toilet, get heat from burning fallen wood, and use only a small amount of electricity from renewable sources.
Hopefully camp is a welcoming place for all sorts of people. Any sort of discrimination or intimidation is not tolerated. The newest addition to site is an extended wheelchair path. Wheelchair users and older people have lived here in the past, so don’t be put off if you’re not 18–30 and able bodied!
We understand that the Left-leaning Scottish National Party (SNP) were once very sympathetic to Faslane as part of their campaign against the militarisation of Scotland. How prominently do Scottish issues feature in camp discussions?
The destruction caused by nuclear weapons knows no borders, and is carried out in the name of global capitalist domination. Therefore we try to see our actions from a global perspective. That said, we do discuss Scottish issues a lot.
There is a definite nationalistic element to the Scottish anti-nuclear movement, because all the UK’s nuclear weapons are based in Scotland. Many Scottish anarchists also started out as Scottish nationalists, but became disillusioned with party politics and the inevitable rightwing tendencies of nationalism. (The SNP has become more and more conservative in many ways, although it is not a racist party). While it would be a definite victory to get rid of nuclear weapons from Scotland even by party political means, we don’t think it’s likely to happen that way.
A major concern for us is the lack of direct action in Scotland. We think this is due to two factors. Firstly, the left is much stronger here than in the rest of the UK. Both the Scottish Socialists (SSP) and the Scottish “Greens” (SGP) have considerable representation in the devolved parliament.
Prominent members of these parties have spoken in favour of direct action, but the party hierarchies all to often try to quash any real dissent (for example, trying to control civil disobedience at the begining of the Iraq war).
This isn’t really surprising as these people hope to form the government one day, and are scared of a population truly thinking and acting for itself! Secondly, there is a lack of autonomous spaces in Scotland, exacerbated by the anti-squatting laws here. Squatting has been illegal since the Highland Clearances of the 19th Century.
Highland peasants were cleared from their land to make way for sheep farming, and the law prevented them returning to abandoned homesteads. Things are improving tho — Faslane and Bilston Woods protest sites are doing well, there has been a resurgence of rented social centres this year, more housing co-ops are planned and there’s talk of starting a squatting movement in Scotland.
Is there anything practical readers can do help the camp and its campaigns?
Most of all we need people to come to camp, whether you can stay for a day or want to live here full time. There are loads of things you can do to help on site, from actions to daily tasks to baking vegan cake!
If you can’t make it here, camp also need money to keep running and fund actions. Please make cheques payable to Faslane Peace Camp.
And don’t forget, the Trident system stretches across Britain. People in England and Wales wanting to do solidarity actions will probably find a base near them that is involved with Trident in some way.
Peace camp contact details: Faslane Peace Camp, 81D Shandon, Helensburgh, Argyll, G84 8NT, SCOTLAND. www.faslanepeacecamp.org.uk
Telephone 01436 820 901
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
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A Band of Brothers?: Military manipulation of primal instincts
Be all you can be, Who Dares Wins... the army rhetoric is as bad as any advertising jingle. No-one could possibly take it seriously when you see what the brave ‘heros’ actually get up to. But soldiers are not exactly monsters either. Many are looking for somewhere to belong, some group to be part of. More than any loyalty to Queen or state is this strong group desire — the ‘band of brothers’ tribal impulse to belong to a group.
Most soldiers don’t swallow the patriotic bullshit any more than your average zombie — some do even less because they’ve seen the bloody workings of the state in action. Instead they act out of misplaced loyalty to their soldier comrades, to what they feel is their tribe.
In Mogadishu, Somalia in 1992, US special forces were shot down and stranded in the middle of a very hostile native force. Some of the men managed to escape back to base, most had been shot and injured, some quite badly. When they got back to base they were told they had to go back in again and rescue some of the men who’d become stranded.
While a loyalty to the American state is seen among these men, no amount of loyalty to an abstract concept is going to make them go back into such a nightmarish situation. A different kind of loyalty is at work here. A loyalty to their fallen soldier comrades, their drinking buddies and often best friends.
It is this loyalty, this sense of belonging to a group which makes them overcome their fear and go back. It’s not a rational feeling, but one which comes from their gut — a primal feeling which is far stronger than anything the State could have hoped for.
The State of course encourages this impulse. It’s a feature of military training to play on it. A soldier from a special unit in the second world war describes his experiences:
“The three of us, Jake, Joe and I, became... an entity. There were many entities in our close-knit organizations. Groups of threes and fours, usually from the same squads or sections, core elements within the families that were the same units, were readily recognised as entities...This sharing... evolved never to be relinquished, never to be repeated. Often three such entities would make up a squad, with incredible results in combat. They would literally insist on going hungry for one another, freezing for one another, dying for one another.”
Andy McNabb, a SAS man sent undercover to Iraq was captured and tortured for days.
“Hour after hour, day after day, beating after beating, taking my turn with the other two, lying curled up, cold and in pain, waiting for the terrifying noise of the door being kicked open...I knew one thing. I knew the other two weren’t giving up because otherwise my interrogations would have stopped. I kept saying to myself, it’s not going to be me, I’m not going to let them down, I’m not going to be the one to put the others in the shit.”
So the army nurtures this instinct because it knows that it will keep the men together far better than any other brainwashing trick.
Another primal instinct played upon by the military is the young male’s desire to prove himself in the company of other men. Although women are tolerated as long as they act like men, the average soldier would prefer them to keep out. The only woman I ever met who was in the army eventually left because she was raped by fellow soldiers.
So I think it’s fair to say that soldiers prefer a male environment and that in itself is not unnatural. Of course how they go about it is — but the desire to put himself through physical and mental tests in an exclusively male environment is something which most men have done in many different cultures.
The Australian aborigines have many different approaches to this. They believe that women don’t need to do all this silly stuff because women are of the earth already, but men are a different matter! They need to get some sense, often the very hard way.
Most of the ‘walkabouts’ common to native people are usually exclusively for men. They spend many weeks on their own trying to learn lessons which maybe the women instinctively know.
Robert Lawlor in “Voices of the First Day — Awakening in the Aboriginal Dreamtime” writes that “female initiation rites are always related to biological changes such as menstruation, defloration, preganancy and childbirth... women mark these stages by gathering together and performing certain rituals and songs.” Whereas men have elaborate, very serious rituals usually involving a lot of pain and hardship.
The military takes this masculine instinct and uses it for its own benefit. “Be all you can be!” Be a man, prove yourself, and at the same time supply us with limitless fodder for our nasty endeavours. Everybody hates the soldiers. But they’re no worse than a bank clerk or a supermarket attendant or a housewife.
The military cliche of regimented blind obedience is just as present in the hordes rushing to work every morning. The mindless workers waiting for their orders.
“Suits are the Descendants of military uniforms, unfold the lapels and turn up the collar and it resembles a high-collared military tunic.”
Aren’t we all manipulated into roles which destroy ourselves and our home, the earth? There’s no role within civilisation which is free from manipulation and perversion, there’s no-one who is free to follow these instincts in a natural way. Instead of demonising soldiers, it’s better to look at how we all allow ourselves to be manipulated and our energy channelled into keeping civilisation alive.
Of course, there’s no reason to romaticise them either. The current spate of special forces books (Tom Clancy, etc.) are cashing in on the average zombie’s fascination with those people who have some semblance of hunter-gatherer skills. From a bored housewife or harried office worker’s point of view, these skills must seem very impressive. Living vicariously through these superhumans’ exploits is about the nearest these repressed, dull couch potatoes ever get to ‘wildness’.
The skills the soldier learns are closer to what a hunter gatherer learns than any other profession. Tracking, survival shelters, finding food, etc. But they learn them in a spiritless way, a way which is utterly different from primitive people. This lack of spirit is crucial. It prevents the soldier from entering into any kind of meaningful relationship with himself and surroundings and despite his longing for a real tribe to belong to, it destroys any hope of attaining a community of kin. The soul-less knowledge leads to misery and frustration, death and destruction, with only civilisation (that soul-less monster) benefiting.
By not being able to immerse themselves in nature the soldier cannot learn what nature can teach. For instance, in Tom Brown’s “The Science and Art of Tracking” Stalking Wolf describes how in his tribe, by the time a child is five they can track a mouse across solid rock.
“By the age of six they could follow ants across the same rock. Yet this only qualified them to be considered common trackers.”
The master trackers, the Scouts, could track across solid rock with ease and identified well over five thousand pressure releases (each feature inside a track).
“They moved as the shadows, mastering camouflage and stalking to a point of invisibility. They could get right into the middle of an enemy encampment without being observed. They could read the symphony of movement and sound around them and know what was going on many miles away. Most of all they could glance at a track and read into the maker’s very soul.”
Compared to this don’t the special forces skills rapidly become less impressive? But to those who’s biggest dilemna of the day is what to have for lunch it’s not hard to see why the bluster seems good. If only they could see beyond the modern primitives cartoon version and see the far more impressive feats of huntergatherers.
 Stanley Diamond, In Search of the Primitive. New Brunswick: Transaction, 1987. Pg. 1.
 Andrew Vayda, ‘Expansion and Warfare among swidden agriculturalists’ in Vayda (ed), Environment and Cultural Behavior. New York: Natural History Press, 1969. Pgs 202–220.
 William R. Catton, Jr., Overshoot. Urbana: University of Chicago Press, 1982.
 Andrew Vayda, War in Ecological Perspective. New York: Plenum Press, ‘76.
 Roy Rappaport, ‘Ritual regulation of environmental relations among a New Guinea people’ in Environment and Cultural Behavior. Pgs. 181–201.
 Marvin Harris, Our Kind. New York: Harper Perennial, 1990. Pg. 297.
 Pierre Clastres, Society Against the State. New York: Zone, 1987. Marshall Sahlins, ‘Poor Man, Rich Man, Big-Man, Chief: political types in Melanesia and Polynesia’ in Culture in Practice. NY: Zone, 2000.
 Timothy Earle, How Chiefs Come to Power. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997.
 “Black Hawk Down”, Mark Bowden, Signet, 2001.
 “Band of Brothers”, Stephen E. Ambrose, Simon and Schuster, 1992, pg 21.
 “Bravo Two Zero — the true story of an SAS patrol behind enemy lines in Iraq”, Andy McNabb, Corgi, 1994, pg 318.
 Robert Gieves of Gieves and Hawkes, Saville Row. (Forbes, Nov 23, 1992)
 “Voices of the First Day — Awakening in the Aboriginal Dreamtime”, Robert Lawlor, Inner Traditions International, 1991, pg 204.
 “The Science and Art of Tracking”, Tom Brown, Berkeley Books, 1999, pg 21.
 Ibid, pg 4.