Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Could We Have An 'Anonymous' Revolution?

The leaderless nature of Anonymous makes it harder to attack than WikiLeaks
Officially there is no such organisation as Anonymous. It has no physical address, no membership fees, and naturally no membership list. And yet it does exist, as shifting as smoke, as hard to pin down as water. Simply put, Anonymous is just a non-hierarchical group of unidentified people who like to do things on the internet. But these people have started to do things of big significance for the global class struggle.

If we can speak of a 'founding' date for Anonymous, it is 2006, when anonymous individuals banded together to take down the website of white supremacist talkshow host Hal Turner, costing him thousands of dollars. In late 2007, Anonymous people played a role in the arrest of paedophile Chris Forcand, by keeping records of a honeytrap, in which Forcand typed such things as "i want to show you my cock but my son is here right now and we are going out to church. can i show you later when he is back home?" Another early target was the social networking site Habbo, although the motivations for this were less well defined. Many actions, such as YouTube porn day and - to a lesser extent - the war on Scientology, were largely undertaken "for the lulz" - mere interest value, and with apparently no greater political or social significance.

Anonymous has been greatly radicalised since the onset of the financial and economic crisis towards the end of the last decade. There is nothing surprising about this, as billions of people throughout the world have been compelled to examine the social roots of their individual situations in life. However, Anonymous started taking direct action against political targets long before people started occupying squares in major cities. When these real life events do occur, they now feed back into Anonymous online activities.

Anonymous solidarity played a part in the Egyptian revolution
Last December, Operation Avenge Assange was launched, after Amazon, PayPal, MasterCard, Visa and the Swiss bank PostFinance stopped people donating to WikiLeaks using their services. Similarly, when suspected WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning was isolated at the Quantico Marine Corps Brig, Operation Bradical attacked the servers of the Marine Corps, while Operation Leakspin helped to sift through and publicise certain overlooked cables published by WikiLeaks.

During the recent Irish elections, the website of now governing party Fine Gael was hijacked, with the normal campaign pieces replaced with the Anonymous logo and the words "Nothing is safe, you put your faith in this political party and they take no measures to protect you. They offer you free speech yet they censor your voice. WAKE UP!" In January, while Tunisians were on the streets demanding the exit of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Anonymous took down eight Tunisian government websites. The same fate awaited Egyptian government pages during the Egyptian revolution. Anonymous hactivists have also tried to help working people fighting back in Wisconsin and Spain.

After all this success, Anonymous looks like a partial realisation of Marx's prediction that economic globalisation would require communications channels that would link global working class resistance. But it takes more than online disruption of ruling class order to bring down a government, and even more to bring about an order shaped by working class needs. Unlike WikiLeaks, its leaderless structure makes it impossible to decapitate. On the other hand, the anonymous nature of Anonymous leaves its name open to abuse by ruling class agents and other troublemakers - this must be suspected in the case of the 2008 Epilepsy Foundation forum invasion, and will surely occur more and more as the positive impact of Anonymous increases. The revolution won't be Anonymous, but - to borrow a corporate slogan - 'every little helps'.
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