There is much talk about terrorism these days, in the wake of the 9-11 attacks, but there is plenty of confusion about what terrorism really is. Anarchists have been mistakenly called terrorists for a long time. This page will examine what terrorism is and isn't. It may turn out that "terrorism" is an emotional word with no value.

Our working definition of terrorism:

Violent actions by states or non-state actors against random people for political goals. This would include the bombing of people on a bus, the blowing up of a plane, or the mining of a Nicaraguan harbor by the U.S. government.

Against War and Terrorism

We refuse the choice that is offered by both sides in this conflict - you are either for us or against us. As anarchists we obviously see little attraction in the sort of religious state fantasised about by bin Laden and enacted by the Taliban, where the individual is controlled right down to forbidding the trimming of beards! But we also oppose the fake democracy of the western states where politicians are bought by oil companies, refugees are criminalised and where corporations rule.
Read or download the pamphlet

Pamphlet: S11: Truth or Consequences - Radical Perspectives on September 11

"Everyone's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really easy way: Stop participating in it." - Noam Chomsky

More news and analysis on terrorism.

Common myths about anarchism and terrorism

Anarchists are terrorists

Anarchists have been labelled as terrorists for many years, despite the fact that anarchists don't engage in the type of political violence that is typical of most terrorism. For one thing, many anarchists adhere to the philosophy of nonviolence. Other anarchists engage in violence, but it is usually directed at a specific political target, such as a police officer. Anarchism does have some history of political terrorism, but this has always been a small part of anarchist history. In fact, most of what has been called anarchist "terrorism" can be seen more accurately as political violence against political targets (cops, capitalists, and politicians). Of course, nothing anarchists have ever done compares to a typical day at the terrorist office for the Republicans and Democrats.

People engage in eco-terrorism

There is no such thing as eco-terrorism. The actions that are given this label are nonviolent actions against property. There is no intent to hurt or kill people. This label is an example of how capitalists and their sycophants engage in propaganda campaigns against activists.

Do anarchists support terrorism?

No, and this is for three reasons. Terrorism means either targeting or not worrying about killing innocent people. For anarchy to exist, it must be created by ordinary people. One does not convince people of one's ideas by blowing them up. Secondly, anarchism is about self-liberation. One cannot blow up a social relationship. Freedom cannot be created by the actions of an elite few destroying rulers on behalf of the majority. For so long as people feel the need for rulers, hierarchy will exist. As we have stressed earlier, freedom cannot be given, only taken. Lastly, anarchism aims for freedom. Hence Bakunin's comment that "when one is carrying out a revolution for the liberation of humanity, one should respect the life and liberty of men [and women]." [quoted by K.J. Kenafick, Michael Bakunin and Karl Marx, p. 125] For anarchists, means determine the ends and terrorism by its very nature violates life and liberty of individuals and so cannot be used to create an anarchist society.

Further reading