Like Lightning Against a Hollow Limb
Thoughts on Primal Geurrilla Warfare - PART 1
By Kevin Tucker
PLEASE NOTE: This is not an argument for or surrounding the reality of collapse, anarcho-primitivist critique, questions of wildness, or what a post-collapse world may look like - you'll find that elsewhere (much of it I've discussed in some depth in species Traitor 4). This is explicitly intended to lay out and explore tactical questions for those who recognize civilization as their enemy, its collapse as inevitable (regardless of how long 'inevitable' might be), and that action must be taken against it.
I've never been involved in guerrilla warfare. And I've never wanted to be. I have no innate hunger for violence or for a life on the run or any lust for the warrior imagery. I have, however, had to come to terms with the situation that we are currently facing and the direction we are heading in. That is, the
direction a dying civilization is taking us in.
In short, I have come to realize that this civilization, like all before it, is going to collapse. Being a global civilization driven by a massive technological infrastructure, it just means that this collapse is going to be equally massive and leaving the civilized infrastructure with nowhere new to spread and exploit. The technological lifeblood of this civilization is running thin with the looming end of cheap oil and a complete lack of substitutes as social, physical and ecological catastrophes climax.
The collapse is happening.
The collapse of civilization is a process rather than an event. Like civilization, it is not something external. It is not something happening to us or around us. It is our reality and it is a necessary process. Whether we like it or not, this is happening and it will continue to get much worse before it gets better. And I'm afraid of just how much worse it is going to get.
When I talk about civilization, I'm referring to a totality: that is the concrete structures of the city and countryside as well as the mentalities that create and maintain them. In response, I've put forward the idea of a primal war: a war against the domestication process and civilization itself. This is not necessarily the physical thing that we associate with war. There are no battlefields, there are no armies. Primal war is about overcoming the mentality
of the domesticators, realizing the primal urges that they have curbed, returning to wildness, and confronting the physical aspects of civilization.
I've been somewhat vague about what I think primal war means, and intentionally so. I have no faith in revolutions or similar types of movements. If this is going to be something sincere, on a personal level, it must come from within. 1 can give my take on everything, but I'm not offering a party line or agenda.
At least that's the limit for a grand vision of how things might turn. But considering the larger context of collapse, there isn't the optional luxury of being vague. Primal war is about being proactive. It is about accepting our place within civilization and its demise and acting on it rather than practicing routine and preparing while we wait for the dust to settle. It requires agitation and confrontation, not only on a rhetorical or psychological level, but on a physical level as well.
I have never wanted to take on a dying civilization, but am left with little other option. For the sake of ourselves, our bioregions, communities (future if not present), and wildness, an undesirable situation brings about undesirable responses. At some point, we are going to have to fight, both defensively and offensively, against this civilization and its remnants.
1 am not a military or strategic expert. I am not a scholar of guerrilla war or resistance movements. I am not a technician or mechanic. My intent here is not to write a textbook for primal guerrilla warfare, but to give some direction for others to take further. That is in terms of both defensive and offensive action. I'm offering an evaluation of past guerrilla activities and their relevance or irrelevance to where we are headed.
This is critique and application for those who, like myself, fear and welcome the collapse, and are no longer content to merely sit on the sidelines.
GUERRILLAS AND PRIMAL GUERRILLAS
What links primal guerrilla warfare and more typical guerrilla warfare is a matter of tactical approach.
Guerrilla warfare is not standard warfare. It is not engaged on battlefields. It is not equally sized and armed forces taking each other straight on. It is the way that a smaller, less armed force takes on a larger or more established military or state power. For the most part, it has been the tool of revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries worldwide. And it is this connection to revolution which has dictated exactly how and what kind of targets and activities make up that guerrilla warfare.
We'll start with the revolutionary guerrillas.
Perhaps no other revolutionary guerrilla has made a name for themselves like Che Guevara. To a degree, it's a well-deserved position. The role of guerrilla warfare in the Cuban revolution was pivotal in the larger chain of events. Based on his experiences there, Che would write the formulaic textbook for undertaking guerrilla warfare in a broader sense. Unfortunately for him, that formula didn't prove to be universal: he died while playing it out in Bolivia.
But his death says more about the nature of guerrilla warfare and revolution than what his book alone can say (which does have some finer points, which we will return to). For revolutionary guerrilla warfare to be successful, you need that larger revolution. The role of guerrilla warfare is not to topple the state on its own, but to get things moving and to expose the weaknesses of the state to the general population enough for them to unify in opposition to it. Simply put, you need mass support or you'll fight an all too bloody battle well beyond any point for potential success. (I'm thinking here particularly of the remnants of the Shining Path in Peru and FARC in Columbia, both failing to gain much support as their unending wars drag on turning increasingly to terrorizing indigenous and peasant populations into joining their ranks on par with the state.).
The situation in Cuba was ripe. You had a standing totalitarian government whose oppression was unquestionable, clearly cut class divisions between the rapidly modernizing state and racist tourism industry and the wider Cuban populace, and blatantly corrupt tunneling of outside disaster support for recent earthquakes which shook the island nation: a situation which brewed contempt for those in power, while leaving the promised life of modernity just close enough to see and feel, but not enough to grab. Though largely unsuccessful in a strategic sense, the first actions of the Cuban revolutionary guerrillas drew attention to an underlying current and exposed not only the hope and anger that many felt, but a glimpse of what could happen.
Though a number of key revolutionaries at this point were communists, the revolutionary propaganda was not. Fidel's early stance was liberal populism, like many of the Latin American revolutionaries. And that was the face of the revolt that people were seeing. Che was one of the communists, as all of Cuba would become within a couple years of the revolution. The 'success' in Cuba was just one victory for communist sympathy throughout the Latin American populace, which has largely felt and still feels the brute force of colonial turned imperial pressures rarely broke down class barriers.
So you had some support in Bolivia, peasants, urban poor and college students like in Cuba. But Che was unable to predict that the goals of the communist resistance were no more appealing than the goals of the state to the native Kayapo population, whose support he was naively counting on. And they had good reason, communists embraced the same modernity that the democratic and totalitarian (for all they can be separated) governments dangled before the people. Indigenous, largely self-sufficient populations have rarely had much interest in revolutions because modernity runs against what they know and feel. They've almost always wanted only one thing: to be left alone.
There was not enough solidarity and so the revolt failed.
Primal guerrilla warfare has more in common with the goals of the Kayapo, the highlanders of Papua New Guinea, and other earth bound societies world wide: we want to be left alone. That doesn't mean allowed to live, or given the right to live, or given the chance to purchase our freedom's, and it certainly doesn't end on reserve* or reservations. To be left alone means to live in the way that humans have lived for millions of years: without work, without technological systems, without governments, and as part of a wider, sane environment.
In the world of modernized civilization, this isn't about personal desires, it is about anti-political aspirations. This life is antithetical to civilized existence which must spread, must devour, and must destroy the earth. While it exists, we can never be left alone. We cannot live with factories, power plants, mines, oil spills, tree farms, fur farms, concrete, and microwaves. And even though all of these things are killing us and dropping the chances of human survival rapidly, they cannot be stopped through the system which creates them. You can't end civilization through politics. No one is going to vote out electricity.
And most people are not going to give up the system that is killing and enslaving them.
That is a basic reality that we are going to have to come to terms with. That doesn't mean there's no point in talking with people or anything like that. There is always plenty of common space between two beings for making a connection. With most it comes through a hatred of work, with others it comes through an interest in becoming self-sufficient, there are all kinds of different frustrations people have arising from an innate feeling that there is something wrong with the world we're being sold.
These channels are what revolutionaries count on being able to tap. This is what they must do to be successful. Intents dictate action. To reach the people, actions taken must be strategic in the same way that propaganda is created. Any attacks on the state are done to try to weaken those holding power, not the State itself: that level of political and social institutions that bind an urbanized society together. Revolutionaries need the infrastructure intact, because they plan on using it. As far as classical Marxist thinking goes, this is a matter of social evolution that the capitalists create a level of industrial society that is intended to be turned over to a socialist state and then the communist Utopia.
This is where primal guerrilla warfare parts ways.
The goal of the 'attacks' that I'm calling primal guerrilla warfare are not to slow a particular government down, but to destroy the base of it and any other potential government. In this way, the term 'warfare' might be more misleading. As we'll see, there is every reason to believe that at some point.
Physical confrontation with other people may be inevitable, but people are not the targets here, things are. More to the point, our targets are the kind of things that make electricity (the new opiate of the masses and iron fist of the state) possible.
In terms of guerrilla warfare, this isn't particularly new thinking. Nearly every revolution of the past century has made strategic attacks on electric distribution systems. But strategic in a more immediate sense, such as the way FARC regularly disables outlying power substations so that they can rob banks and loot other necessary equipment. They're not out to permanently disrupt electrical networks. There are exceptions too: knowing full well that the entire reason the Middle East was colonized, cut up, redistributed and been the focus of war over the past century and a half is 'resources' (though now almost exclusively oil), Iraqi insurgents have taken to burning the precious oil fields and reserves in the Gulf. They realized that the costs far outweigh any benefits.
The real connection here is with counter-revolutionary guerrilla warfare. That is when outside governments, like the U.S., don't think highly of the political and economic implications of successful revolutions in places like El Salvador, and, in turn, directly support and train Contra forces to make sure that the government is never able to assert itself in that initial transition period. These attacks largely take the form of sabotage on the economic and political lifelines of any state. That means digging up chunks of major roadways, blowing apart railways, taking out power stations, substations, and vital cables, cutting off major ports, keeping down phone lines and other communications networks.
They attack these things in a way that revolutionaries don't, because they can. They have the funding and ability to bring it all back online. Revolutionaries typically don't. They know that any state needs these things (at least currently), because they need them as well. And this is the leverage states have against revolutions and just one more reason why it is easier to disable the whole system than to take it over and go from there.
I can't overemphasize this point. This is the underlying distinction between primal guerrilla warfare and any other type of guerrilla warfare. And the implications of this will only become clearer as we look further into the underlying motivations, applied technical skill, knowledge and enactment of primal guerrilla warfare.
THE NATURE OF PRIMAL WAR
Primal war certainly didn't begin with me. The term may be new, but the emotion and rage of being confined to an external order goes back to the rooting of domestication.
Regardless of what you call it, it is there. For most of us, it comes out as hatred of work, or of school or laws. It's the drain of spending your waking hours doing things that make self-sufficiency nearly impossible, or the feeling of having to wake up for someone else. Or it's like when you get your paycheck and utter a thank you when the money was already used up to pay for bills and food weeks ago. There is a choking feeling of never being able to get out of debt: a debt that binds us to jobs in stores, factories and kitchens just as it bound our ancestors to turn fields of crops, tear down ancestral forests, dig canals, and wipe out their neighbors.
Powerlessness has become our ancestral heritage and pathological bondage.
In wildness, there is no true control. You can't control everything that can and will happen to you. But this lack of complete control is not like the powerlessness we feel. All beings do things that have strong effects on the lives of others. That is the nature of being, living and existing. You don't have complete control, but nothing has complete control over you.
Domestication, by its nature, changed that relationship. Though only in minute and sometimes frivolous ways during its long inception period, the very word: to make for domestic use, implies the violence of breaking a wild spirit so that it can be turned into controlled fodder. That applies to domesticated humans as much as it does the plants, animals and environments that have been brought under this perceived realm of domination.
And it turns inwards. When our world has been put in terms of control, we can only see it that way. We respond to the lack of control we have over our lives as a whole and embrace the minor choices we can make as a sign of our control. We become psychological predators: embracing the carrot dangled before our eyes and waving our piece of it before others as an example of our level of control.
A part of the rewilding process means coming to terms with our lack of control. And rather than seeing this as the powerlessness we feel in the hierarchy of civilized society, using this as a vantage point to understand that wildness is not about a Darwinian battle for survival or the dialectic of nature, but about the flow of energy.
That is cooperation rather than competition. And that is the underlying distinction between civilization and wildness.
Flow has long been an essential part of martial arts. It applies the basic principles of wildness to understand and better utilize the human body and then spread outwards. The rigorous training is meant to condition and imprint the muscles with certain types of movement, but beyond this, the underlying element of nearly every form of martial arts is that you cannot control what movements your opponents will make, but when you see how their energy flows, you can redirect it and use it against them.
This is as important an exercise as it is a lesson. And with our limited ability to see wildness on its own terms, this will have to be a vantage point for our discussion.
I'll get into the importance of martial arts as training in a later section, but flow is about more than fighting, it's about looking differently at the way the world interconnects, and that is applicable on every level. By applying this to the nature of technological civilization, it helps to understand how it carries on and where its weaknesses are (a lesson indigenous resistors have been successful in pushing on). This understanding is essential to the process of rewilding. It has been said that you can survive off of primitive skills, but the ability to live in wildness comes through primal knowledge and primitive life ways as a holistic approach rather than just having a hammer stone instead of a hammer. And the same goes for applying this in your personal life: it is about understanding the nature of powerlessness rather than just looking at where control lies. It is about understanding what it means to be up against a system that is both psychological and physical
Taken together, this is an entire way of approaching the world rather than just a laundry list of what is good and bad. And it is about efficiently targeting that system. Revolutionaries, never questioning the issues of control, have only sought to reassert their power the only way they know it be it reclaiming their labor, or their land (usually meaning their farms), or through religion. You take back your labor, but you still have to work. It's a never-ending cycle, and one that fails to recognize the source of that innate feeling of unease about the direction our lives are heading.
And in this sense, revolutionaries only replace one philosophy with another. They put all their trust in the world that lies awaiting and the assurance that the Revolution will change everything. But rewilding, the anti-domestication process, is not something proscribed or some path to follow. It is about establishing connections on a personal and unmediated level. There are skills and words that can give direction, but it's not about waiting for the Revolution or Insurrection to create or unleash something within: it is about finding that here and now.
You can't touch wildness, but you can feel it. It's something knowable.
Communism, socialism, and anarchism, like Islam. Buddhism. Christianity, and Judaism, are ideas that we believe in time will prove themselves true. You wait, you act and you're either wrong or you're not but these are causes. These are matters of belief rather than experience (or, in the case of religion, dictated experience).
The nature of primal war lies in these feelings and experiences, not just the ideas of them. Like anything, there is always the risk that this becomes rhetoric rather than genuine, and certainly with some people it has. But the real difference lies in the attainable nature of wildness. It creates a known conviction unlike a known belief.
But most of us have never known what its like to live among a wild community. We haven't had that experience, at least not with a wild human community. But the steps are there and with growing strength, they are being taken. It's part of the larger process.
And, as I said earlier, that is a process that goes back way before us.
Primal guerrilla warfare is no more recent than primal war. That is in terms of reality instead of terminology. We can look immediately towards the type of resistance earth based societies have taken against colonizers and the armies of expanding states.
Largely, the concepts of conquering and complete annihilation have no point of comparison in indigenous societies. They don't have that created competitive drive that fills mass graves. What colonizers were doing was often not seen for what it was because it was so unthinkable. But, this was not always the case. There was never a completely successful case of conquering without resistance. And where that resistance laid, though only a footnote in history, it was hardly insignificant
As well see in more detail in the next section, the very nature of a wild life puts everything in place for would-be guerrilla warriors. Hunting is about stealth, evasion, tracking, and stalking. Making your own tools makes you less likely to be wasteful and pushes you to practice aim under any number of circumstances. Foraging and trekking make you more aware of your Surroundings and give a deeper insight into the nature of ecosystems.
These are just a few general elements of the awareness that spread from necessity and the flow of wild living. But more to the point for our purposes here, all of this comes together in a spiritual sense That's just the way humans have interpreted our relationship with our bioregions and communities. And a part of that is a sense of being defined not by territory or boundaries or something external, but between the complete interconnectedness of beings: the realization that we are not an isolated Self in competition with the external Other. Life is wound up with community, both human and non-human.
When you understand life in this way and have this kind of connection, you wind up with primal warriors who fight in defense of what they know rather than over ideals (like the spread of Democracy and Freedom, for example). This is heart and soul, not fodder. And this is an incorruptible desire to remain wild. And this is the kind of spirit of resistance that has been nearly universal when it comes to the defense of indigenous societies against this global empire.
This is the spirit of primal war. And this is something no revolutionary could ever understand.
Taken from Arson #2 zine.