"Direct action" can be defined as any action which directly addresses an issue, making a physical difference in the world, in and of itself, without regard to anyone's perception of it. Its primary effect is to cause an actual change in the physical world--and this may or may not end up changing others' mental worlds. (In example: If you feed a person who is hungry, you are directly, physically causing a change in the world--addressing a concern that you see. This action may or may not end up changing anyone's opinion about the issue--but the issue has been addressed in the physical world, whether or not anyone's mind gets changed.)
Lawrence Jarach offered a useful further explanation in his article, "Instead of a Meeting":
"This term [direct action] has become twisted and misused by various political activists in the past 30 years. In its original anarchist meaning, the term refers to any action undertaken without the permission, and outside the interest of, governmental institutions. It can refer to volunteering with Food Not Bombs, going on strike (especially without the approval of a union), shoplifting, or setting up a micro-powered radio station. It doesn't mean engaging in civil disobedience in cooperation with the police; it doesn't mean breaking the law or breaking a window if the intention is merely to register public disapproval of some governmental policy. Breaking things can be examples of direct action--but the intention behind these acts are what is important, not the acts themselves. Direct action has nothing to do with pressuring any part of a government to alter a policy; it is by definition anti-statist. Attempting to alter a government policy is called lobbying; it is aimed at representatives, and so cannot be direct action. Presenting a list of demands or protesting a particular policy, in the hopes of getting noticed by the state (whose rulers will then somehow change something about the way it operates), is never direct action, even if the means used to pressure legislators are illegal. Direct action is when we do things for ourselves, without begging, asking, or demanding that someone in authority help us."
A third, excellent delineation of the meaning of direct action was offered in an article called, "(What could there possibly be) Beyond Democracy?" which was featured in Harbinger #3, a publication put out by CrimethInc. Here it is:
Autonomy means direct action, not waiting for requests to pass through the "established channels" only to bog down in paperwork and endless negotiations. Establish your own channels. If you want hungry people to eat, don't just give money to some high-handed charity bureaucracy; find out where food is going to waste, collect it, and feed them. If you want affordable housing, don't try to get the town council to pass a bill—that will take years, while people sleep outside every night; take over abandoned buildings and share them, and organize groups to defend them when the thugs of the absentee landlords show up. If you want corporations to have less power, don't petition the politicians they bought to put limits on their own masters; find ways to work with others to simply take the power from them: don't buy their products, don't work for them, sabotage their billboards and buildings, prevent their meetings from taking place and their merchandise from being produced or delivered. They use similar tactics to exert their power over you; it only looks valid because they bought the laws and social customs, too.
Don't wait for permission or organization from some outside authority, don't beg some higher power to organize your life for you. Act.
Editorial from an ELF spokesperson
The ways, which we go about pursuing social change, are unnatural. They have been developed to nullify the just desires we all have for autonomy, while placing no real threat on the structure, which creates our vast universe of oppression. Our revolutionary spirits have been co-opted by fundamentally flawed methodologies, which prove unsuccessful time and time again.
When faced with oppression, is it a natural reaction to write a petition, mail a letter to your representative, lobby congress or file a lawsuit? Is it a natural reaction to organize a protest, partake in a sit-in, lock your neck to a piece of equipment and go limp while the cops beat you and drag you off to jail to be fingerprinted? When faced with the current magnitude of oppression, it is logical to even consider single-issue reform as having any vague resemblance to a solution?
Preconceived concepts of what is and is not proper action to take when pursuing social change have mutated to a level of going unquestioned. These ideas have entire movements hypnotized; they have misdirected many individuals away from legitimate struggle. These avenues have been paved by the same governmental structures, which cause the oppression they pretend to be solutions for. Activism detours potential revolutionaries while reinforcing the misconception that capitalist society can be reformed. It keeps us juggling the symptoms of an illness which goes untouched, all the while smiling like clowns.
It is important to ask ourselves if the methodologies we subscribe to have any chance of success. Have they been formed through a natural and logical process of strategical utility, or have they simply been handed down to us by those that have found them self-gratifying in the past? It is possible that our strategies have been designed and promoted by those in power in order to keep us chasing our own tails?
To argue that the limited success gained by movements, commonly represented by Gandhi, Martin Luther King and others, is attributed entirely to their practices of non-violence is an uneducated misconception. They were simply parts of larger movements, which utilized a wide variety of tactics. If we wish to gain even the limited success that these movements have gained we need to embrace an equally wide variety of tactics. If we wish to truly succeed we need to learn from their mistakes.
Along this line of thought we no longer have interest in the same tired voluntary arrests, which rely on a fundamental faith in the system, and which simply aren't an effective means of achieving true revolutionary change. From now on let us engage in legitimate struggle; struggle which has proven to be effective action against those who work daily to destroy life.
On Wednesday, July 26th (2000?) Terry Turchie, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI Counterterrorism Division appeared before the U.S. House Government Reform Subcommittee to discuss domestic terrorism and national security. Turchie testified:
"The threat of special interest terrorism…. most notably emanating from animal rights and environmental extremists…. is emerging as a significant threat in a growing number of communities throughout the United States…. During the past several years, special interest extremism…. As characterized by the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front…. has emerged as a serious terrorist threat."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation can easily be viewed as the defense system of the machine, which these organizations struggle to destroy. For the FBI to state that these groups pose a "significant threat" is to confirm the effectiveness of their actions. Threat to what? There has been no threat to any natural form of life posed by either of these organizations, in-fact they both struggle to "liberate" life. The threat they pose is to 'national security', to the continuance of our genocidal and suicidal societal practices. A threat to those who kill and destroy everything that lies between them and profit. A threat to the power they hold over our lives and all life on earth. This "threat" sounds an awful lot like a blessing to me.
Since 1997 [to 2000?] the Earth Liberation Front has claimed responsibility for over 19 direct actions of economic sabotage, causing well over $34,131,000 in damages. These actions are being taken against those who profit from the destruction of the natural environment. No harm has ever been brought to any form of natural life, nor have any individuals been apprehended for any of the actions, which have been claimed by the Earth Liberation Front. [Since this was written there have been a couple arrests of those suspected of ELF actions].
The Earth Liberation Front does not commit merely symbolic acts to simply gain attention to any particular issues. It is not concerned merely with logging, genetic engineering or even the environment for that matter. It's purpose is to liberate the earth.
The earth, and therefore all of us born of it, are under attack. We are under attack by a system which values profit over life, which has, and will, kill anything to satisfy its never ending greed. We have seen a recent history rich in the destruction of peoples, cultures, and environments. We have seen the results of millions of years of evolution destroyed in a relative blink of an eye. We watch as our governments justify murdering millions of people for oil, and call the Earth Liberation Front special interest terrorists.
How can protecting the livability of our environment be called a special interest? How can self defense be called terrorism?
The only problems I find with actions like these are that they aren't happening frequently enough, and at severe enough levels. That the press offices aren't so flooded with communiqués and media calls that all forms of electrical communication are shut down. That entire industries aren't driven to extinction due to profit losses caused by covert direct action campaigns. That areas of North America aren't completely protected from capitalist exploitation by clandestine guerilla organizations. That the oppressive system itself isn't brought to it's knees by the people taking direct action and fighting back. Though I can see all of this potentially becoming reality in the near future. What other choice do we have?
Slightly modified from the opening editorial of Resistance: Journal Of The North American Earth Liberation Front Press Office, Issue 1, 2000(?). Available through:
P.O. Box 4783
Portland, Oregon, 97208
assume all correspondence is monitored
Thoughts on Strategy and Tactics
"These tactics will be condemned to theoretical hibernation if they cannot, by other means, attract collectively the individuals whom isolation and hatred for the collective lie have already won over to the rational decision to kill or kill themselves. No murderers--and no humanists either. The first accepts death, the second imposes it. Let ten people meet who are resolved on the lightening of violence rather than the agony of [mere] survival. From this moment despair ends and tactics begin!"--Raoul Vanegeim
[The following two articles were written by Ted Kaczynski, an individual who, in our view, sometimes hits the nail on the head, but who is also sometimes very dismissive of the value of the social struggles which are interconnected with the larger ecological struggle--on occasion his writing has even included some homophobic/sexist/speciesist/other-oppressive-mentality slants (whether subtly or overtly). We firmly disagree with devaluing/dismissing these struggles (i.e. those against homophobia, sexism, and other manifestations of patriarchy, etc.) & their interconnection with the larger ecological struggle and hope not to do this ourselves. We've included the articles for the aspects within them which we see as accurate and informative. We hope they will be good starting points for discussion and action.]
Industrial Society and Its Future
Hit Them Where It Hurts
Part 2 (free reader required)
A Note to the Underground
Action Stations! - Tips For Planning Direct Actions
Earth Liberation Front
Animal Liberation Front
Billboard Liberation Front
Ecodefence: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching
How to Circumvent A Security Alarm in 10 Seconds or Less
Ozymandias' Sabotage Handbook
School Stoppers Handbook
Steal This Book
The Nighttime Gardener - A guide for the shy gardener in North Amerika - destroying biotech!
Riots, Demonstrations, etc.
Theory of Demonstrations, Demonstrations of Theory
Bodyhammer: Tactics and Self-defense for the Modern Protestor Following in the wake of police brutality against protestors, some activists have turned their attention to protecting their bodies. Topics covered include variations on constructing shields, armor, group movement, shield wall formations, and charges. Nice photos.
Health and Safety at Militant Actions A good guide for street medics and protesters. Dealing with chemical weapons, injuries, and stress while in street battles.
Another Good Site: Black Cross Health Collective
Dealing With The Empire
Culture Basics COINTELPRO: The Danger We Face Outlines covert operations by the FBI to eradicate dissent. It also makes suggestions on coping and dealing with government repression. After reading this, the value of affinity group/cell organizing becomes obvious. Mass organization is easily destroyed.
Your Friends Wisely for Illegal Activities Mail
Signs of Covert Eavesdropping or Bugging Computer
Police Tactics and
Your Legal Rights
Anarchist Survival Guide For Understanding Gestapo Swine Interrogation Mindgames by Harold H. Thompson
Creating A Culture of Security: Living Under Surveillance
If an Agent Knocks: Federal Investigators and Your Rights
Preparing for Raids
Without A Trace: A Forensics Manual for Me and You
Research for Radicals (free reader required)
Anarchist Survival Guide For Understanding Gestapo Swine Interrogation Mindgames by Harold H. Thompson
Let's be done with waiting, doubts, dreams of social peace, little compromises and naivete. All metaphorical rubbish supplied to us in the shops of capitalism. Let's put aside the great analyses that explain everything down to the most minute detail. Huge volumes filled with common sense and fear. Let's put aside democratic and bourgeois illusions of discussion and dialogue, debate and assembly and the enlightened capabilities of the Mafiosi bosses. Let's put aside the wisdom that the bourgeois work ethic has dug into our hearts. Let's put aside the centuries of Christianity that have educated us to sacrifice and obedience. Let's put aside priests, bosses, revolutionary leaders, less revolutionary ones and those who aren't revolutionary at all. Let's put aside numbers, illusions of quantity, the laws of the market. Let us sit for a moment on the ruins of the history of the persecuted, and reflect. The world does not belong to us. If it has a master who is stupid enough to want it the way it is, let him have it. Let him count the ruins in the place of buildings, the graveyards in the place of cities, the mud in the place of rivers and the putrid sludge in the place of seas. The greatest conjuring spectacle in the world no longer enchants us. We are certain that communities of joy will emerge from our struggle here and now.
And for the first time life will triumph over death..."
Armed Joy - Alfredo Bonanno