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Why I am Not a Pacifist

category international | the left | feature author Wednesday January 24, 2007 19:30author by Wayne Price - NEFACauthor email drwdprice at aol dot com Report this post to the editors

Revolution, Violence, and Nonviolence

Pacifists believe that a better world can be won without any use of popular violence. While nonviolent methods can be useful, they do not always work. Some conflicts have to be fought through. Revolutions may have to include violence.

We anarchists want a world without war or any sort of violence. But to get it, there will have to be a social revolution to completely change society, overturning the ruling class and its state. We will try to keep revolutionary violence to a minimum, but the vicious, brutal, nature of the capitalist class will require at least the threat of mass violence.


Revolution, Violence, and Nonviolence

Why I am Not a Pacifist

by Wayne Price

While absolute pacifists are a small minority in the general population, they are a large proportion of anarchists. Pacifists are completely against war or any type of mass violence under any circumstances, even in defense from military invasion or to make a democratic revolution. Naturally many pacifists are also anarchists--being against armies, they also oppose the police. It has been said jokingly (with what truth I do not know) that during retreats of the pacifist War Resisters League, softball games are played between the anarchists and the Socialist Party members.

When I first became an anarchist, it was of the anarchist-pacifist tendency. I admired the pacifist Paul Goodman, who was perhaps the most influential anarchist of the sixties. I also admired leading radical pacifists, such as the great A.J. Muste, David Dellinger, David McReynolds, and Bayard Rustin. These people combined pacifism with a radical, even revolutionary, critique of capitalism and the war-waging state. I studied Gandhi, who was no anarchist (he led a movement for a national state for India) but was a decentralist.

It should not be surprising that many good radicals are attracted to pacifism and its nonviolent program. The history of war-making has come to its climax in the potential for nuclear war. Humanity has to find a way to end war, if it is to survive. The history of violent revolutions has produced gains, but still leaves humanity with societies ruled by minorities which exploit the workers and wage wars of extermination. "Terrorist" tactics of violence by small groups of would-be revolutionary heros have had little result except to let the state increase repression.

But eventually I was persuaded that pacifism (and the version of anarchism which went with it) was not sufficient to make the revolution which was needed--but I respect those who believe in it. I do not share the views of Ward Churchill (1998, Pacifism as Pathology, Winnipeg: Arbeiter Ring) that a political belief in pacifism is a mental illness.

Rejecting pacifism does not mean that I am “for” violence. Personally I hate violence, like most sane people. But like 99.999...% of humanity, I believe that sometimes violence is justified, particularly in defense against the violence of others. I believe that there are two basic programmatic weaknesses in pacifism: nonviolence does not always work and some conflicts are irreconcilable.

Nonviolence Does Not Always Work

Pacifists argue that if negotiations fail, it is possible to use techniques of mass nonviolence. This includes strikes, boycotts, sit-ins, pickets, demonstrations, and other forms of civil disobedience. In mass nonviolence, the activists permit themselves to be arrested or beaten by the police or army, but do not fight back in any way. “If blood be shed, let it be our blood.” Presumably this leads to winning over the opponent, to reaching out to the good that is within them. Less emphasized is that this includes a certain use of power: boycotts and strikes cause financial loss to businesspeople and pressure them to do what they do not want to do, to make a deal with the demonstrators. Similarly, brutality against peaceful demonstrators, if widely reported, can appeal to decent people elsewhere, embarrassing the government, and causing outside forces to put pressure on local powers to let up (when the local cops or vigilantes would just as soon massacre the people).

These techniques work part of the time. The problem is that they do not work all the time. Pacifists do not say, Let us consider how to use nonviolent tactics when we can, or as much as possible. Pacifists say, Only nonviolent tactics should be used. Violent self-defense should never be used. To refute pacifism it is not necessary to show that nonviolence never works, just to show that it does not work all the time, that sometimes armed struggle is necessary.

Nonviolent tactics will fail when faced with an absolutely ruthless enemy. Gandhi suggested that the Jews should have used nonviolence against the Nazis. This would have been pointless. The Holocaust could have only been prevented by a workers’ revolution in Germany. Instead, it was finally ended through the Allied military victory. Similarly, a Nazi occupation of India--or a Japanese invasion, which could have happened--would have killed Gandhi and the membership of the Congress Party. Also, successful nonviolent methods require publicity, so the rest of the world knows about it and can put pressure on the oppressors. The Nazis or Imperial Japanese would not have let nonviolent campaigns be reported. Gandhi and Nehru would have vanished without the world’s knowledge. The same can be said of nonviolence methods when used against other ruthless and secretive regimes.

The two most famous nonviolent campaigns are the independence struggle in India and the civil rights movement of African-Americans. In India, the movement succeeded due to the weakness of the British imperialists. In the past, they had been willing to simply massacre the Indians, as they did with the Amritsar massacre (shown in the movie “Gandhi”). But they were being replaced by the U.S. (and the Soviet Union) as the world’s greatest imperialists. They no longer had the power or wealth to hold down India. The Japanese army softened them up in World War II. Had they repressed Gandhi’s movement, they knew they would have faced an armed struggle instead (after all, the Chinese revolution was happening next door). Finally, they knew that the issue was not all-or-nothing for British capitalism; after independence they had more investments in India than before.

Nonviolence worked in the African-American civil rights struggle because the South was part of the larger U.S. The national capitalists, while not supporters of Black people, had no essential need for Southern racial segregation. National politicians were embarrassed internationally as they competed with the Communists. Internationally and domestically their pretense of “democracy” and “freedom” were being given the lie. So they put pressure on the Southern racists to clean up their act and end overt Jim Crow. African-Americans remained on the bottom of U.S. society but were freed from legal segregation.

But if the Southern racists had been left to themselves, uncontrolled by national forces, they would have drowned the nonviolent movement in blood.

Nonviolence was always limited. Nonviolent demonstrators were often protected at night by local Black people patrolling their neighborhoods with rifles. As mentioned, boycotts and strikes were also means of coercion against the local power structure, not just means of appealing to their consciences. Efforts to use courts and to get laws passed are only seen as nonviolent because we are taught to ignore the violence of the state. Actually, court rulings for integration and laws against discrimination only work if they are backed by the armed power of the state. This became clear when the federal government had to call up the National Guard to integrate colleges and schools.

A test case came in South Africa after World War II. As parts of Africa won independence, the Afrikaners imposed a system of apartheid on South African Blacks. The Blacks organized a mass nonviolent movement. The apartheid regime brutally repressed the movement, shooting down demonstrators in cold blood at Sharpesville and elsewhere. The movement was disorganized and driven underground. Nelson Mandela and others had to give up nonviolence in favor of armed struggle. The system lasted for decades more, until economic weakness, combined with a violent rebellion forced the rulers to give up apartheid (although they kept the capitalist system under which Black workers remain oppressed and exploited). South Africa demonstrated that a ruthless enough power structure can defeat nonviolent methods.

Some Struggles Have to be Fought Through

Some social conflicts are simply irreconcilable. The two sides cannot come to an agreement. The enemy cannot be won over, except as isolated individuals here and there.

In India and the U.S. South, there were political changes but capitalism was not challenged. This was even true of South Africa. It was also true of the changes in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The rich mostly kept their wealth and power (Communist bureaucrats became private capitalists). They were willing, when it was necessary, to make changes which did not take away their control and ownership of the economy.

A socialist revolution would be quite different. The workers would take away the total wealth, power, and position of the ruling class. The capitalist class has educated itself that it stands for God and civilization. It believes it stands for law and order, against chaos and barbarism. It will not permit itself to be easily overturned. It will fight with the fiercest of barbaric brutality. Right now the U.S. ruling class supports dictatorships all over the world and wages cruel warfare against the people of several countries. It would not do less inside North America if it felt it was necessary. Like the rise of German Nazism or of Pinochet’s coup in Chile, the capitalist class is capable of overturning even its limited democracy and replacing it with the most horrific repression. We must not underestimate the vileness of the capitalist class of the big imperial states.

Such repression cannot be avoided by any attempt at humanistic or Christian reconciliation. I do not advocate any sort of premature or minority violence. But eventually there will be a confrontation between the working people and oppressed and the capitalists and their hangers-on and agents.

In my country, the United States of America (and in similar countries), I foresee one of two outcomes for a revolution. One is that a revolution may be a particularly bloody conflict, a vicious civil war. After all, the U.S. has a large middle class and a well-off layer of workers, with traditions of patriotism, religious superstition, racism and sexism, as well as the already-mentioned reactionary ruling class. Such forces may oppose a working class rebellion to the bitter end. It may be necessary for U.S. rebels to bring in a revolutionary army from Mexico.

On the other hand, it is possible that a U.S. revolution could be fairly peaceful and almost nonviolent. Unlike many other countries, the big majority of U.S. people are working class (perhaps 80%). Most of the military ranks are from the working class. Unity among the workers, as well as other oppressed groups, could prevent much violence. Especially if revolutions have been successful in other countries, the ruling class and its agents could be demoralized and easier to overthrow.

But even in the preferred case, violence will be kept to a minimum precisely if we are prepared, organized, and unified. The more prepared our class is to defend itself, the more likely the enemy is to be demoralized and to give up easily. And if an armed conflict becomes inevitable, as per the first possibility, then obviously it will be better to have been prepared. So either way, it is better for workers and the oppressed not to have illusions in the peaceful nature of the capitalist enemy.

Revolutions always use elements of what is otherwise regarded as “nonviolence.” Revolutionary struggles often include strikes and other mass actions which are often unarmed, at least at first. Also, revolutions always try to win over the troops on the other side (and no future revolution will succeed without winning over the troops of the empire’s army), as well as to raise the morale of the troops in any revolutionary army. Revolutions seek to win over the population behind the troops on the counterrevolutionary side as well as to encourage the population on the revolutionary side. Revolutions try to demoralize the core of hardened counterrevolutionary forces. These effects are done by propaganda but more than that, by politics. Revolutionaries raised demands for land, freedom, an end to poverty and oppression, and peace, and implement these ideas in whatever territory they control.

Strikes, propaganda, and political moves are all part of any revolutionary struggle--but they are not enough. For example, troops will not lightly come over to the workers’ side. After all, it is a very serious matter for soldiers to disobey their officers--they can be shot. Rebellious troops must believe that the people are prepared to go all the way, to protect them through a successful revolution. Nonviolent methods may be used, but are not sufficient.

We anarchists want a world without war or any sort of violence. But to get it, there will have to be a social revolution to completely change society, overturning the ruling class and its state. We will try to keep revolutionary violence to a minimum, but the vicious, brutal, nature of the capitalist class will require at least the threat of mass violence.

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author by Anonpublication date Tue Jan 23, 2007 20:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

While I agree with the over all idea of this piece, I still didn’t like it much.

First, I feel like it poorly represented anarchist pacifism. I always thought that pacifist anarchists objected to violence on the grounds that the ends were inseparable from the means. Thus, a violent revolution could only yield a violent society. I think the argument would change the approach to at least part of this piece.

Next, I don’t think Churchill said pacifism was a mental illness. He said it was pathological in the sense that it incapacitates a revolutionary movement from a realistic assessment of what that revolution will entail. He said it was delusional for some of the same reasons that this piece highlighted, namely, its ineffectiveness. Churchill also discussed at length the relation between privilege and American pacifist traditions, which I think is an invaluable part of any discussion of pacifism.

I get tired of the Holocaust example in critiques of pacifism. It is impossible to speculate what would have worked in stopping the Holocaust. The fact is, there was no widespread resistance amongst the Jews or other to the Holocaust, nonviolent or otherwise. Churchill uses this argument too and I think it sucks. Let’s deal with examples that don’t require us to speculate on alternate outcomes of history.

Nonviolence half worked in the Civil Rights struggle because it was a reformist struggle. Also, the threat of a militant radical movement made the non-violent movement the preferred option for those clinging to their privilege. And, as noted, the nonviolent movement was often protected by armed segments (Robert Williams, Deacons for Defense, etc).

I think ideas about class war are a bit ridiculous in 21st century America, where class is so muddled. There are white working class people who have more loyalty to their race and nation than economic class and white middle class people who make damn good allies. Ultimately, there are those who will fight for the liberation of all people and those who won’t, and a 100 year analysis of the demographics of those groups isn’t very useful. And since the labor movement has been dead for so long, why do we still fantasize about the workers?

“It may be necessary for U.S. rebels to bring in a revolutionary army from Mexico.”

This strikes me as a little fucked up. Capitalist America brings in Mexican immigrants to serve our food. Anarchist America brings in Mexican immigrants to fight our revolution. I think we should be helping them with theirs instead.

“Unlike many other countries, the big majority of U.S. people are working class (perhaps 80%).”

I think this is another example of the delusions of privilege. On the scale of global oppression and suffering, very few Americans, “working class” or otherwise, compare to what our lifestyles inflict on the rest of the world’s people. To set the record straight, as Americans, and especially for those of us who are white/middle class, we have an immense amount of privilege and access to resources. We should be helping Mexicans with their revolution, not the other way around.

Those are the big things that bothered me about this piece.

author by Wombatpublication date Tue Jan 23, 2007 20:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A few things. Wayne makes a few predictions, which isn't bad since he's just trying to make a point, but I feel it weakens the depth of his article and almost demands an explanation.

Not too long ago I challenged Wayne about the Greeks and how he felt about them and he implied a disagreement in how the Greek anarchists that have been attacking and claiming space resently. I wouldn't imply that America has the same circumstances as the Greeks, but I feel that Wayne would of had a stronger article had he challenged this side of the fence, detailing was he feels is the line.

I don't think organic, spontaneous actions are embraced by Wayne (other than a sympathetic aberration) and the composition of his revolutionary views hardly break from views on how a 20th century political revolution be fought. But this is beside the point.

Why don't we talk about space creation, direct action and community engagement? Every individual is a walking hub, through their words and their actions they can speak volumes to the lives they touch and we should encourage people to live exemplary lives and not accept the bottom dollar. Yet Wayne suggests just this. Many anarchists promote ideas of no compromise, not as a bludeoning moral force, but as a tendency within the working class and an attempt to create something full with our lives. Because many anarchists promote the ideas of self-organization, working people can take or leave what we say, but we can decide them together. This is when we talk about violence as a force of revolt. Understanding social justice issues (or other pet issues of tension) and applying that knowledge to your projects can create a community that seeks more than the average dollar.

I feel that much of his article sounds agreeable, but he doesn't explain the role of institutions, like unions in such a struggle, which he's explained in other articles. I feel this needs to be addressed because Wayne's moral roadmap is drawing lines with big events and no consideration for resistance now. The differences in his strategy to the project of revolt begin with how he precieves the worker. Wayne does not see the worker as a full person. They are an individual that fits a description that is supposed to be revolutionary according to accepted norms. Wayne, do you think that if we get these cardboard cutouts to all dance the way they should, the state will collapse? The worker is a social creature and has many other problems. Wayne does present ways to address these if I'm not mistaken, though I am not searching for his body of work right now. His method of neighborhood intervention mimics the same methods for union intervention. The blueprints of the left stand in our way. We aren't AFL-CIO light or nice ACORN. We seek opportunities to bring tensions to rupture. In order for us to move forward we need to change things.

If we are to find synthesis with work and unions, it is with all unions staying out of the business of revolt. NEFAC doesn't discriminate between unions and the reforms won. NEFAC is only a political organ that seeks workplace interventions and their views are hostile to the project of revolt. To discover an American vision for revolt in the workplace we either must reject all unions or find a way to cope with what exists now.

The Industrial Workers of the World is great as institution for collective bargaining when that is the bottom line accepted by the workers, but it is not the revolution. The IWW remains weak because it hasn't discarded those aspects of its revolutionary syndicalist past that hold it back. This union still demands a seat of power with the industrial organization of society within its structure. This is a pipedream.

Last century, IWW recogized workers as individuals wanting reforms through its body and their bureaucracy is built on this fact. Its one thing to say that workers can revolt, its quite another to invest worker empowerment in a structure built for an entirely different purpose. When a strike occurs, we succeed by not pressing for conditions on the strike, the strike itself is a measure of our success, not the end of the strike, which is where compromise and reform take place, this is the end of our success. We shouldn't press for reforms with our interventions, let others find that option and if that is the bottom line after all is said, so be it. This is how we don't fetish institutions while accepting the circumstances of the worker in their workplace. Perhaps its not an area of tension and we don't want to find revolt here, perhaps so, but we do it on our terms, not terms driven by mediation and paperwork.

Outside of the workplace, where the worker is actually concerned with the quality of life, other equally important tensions can be found. A whole world of possibilities exist for our interventions, each of which contains possibilities for violence whether we judge it or not. Our expressions for autonomy are often outside the workplace and our imagination is much more creative in such an environment. Power outside the workplace lets us do things like challenge the existance of certain types of work the world would be better without. It allows us to take on bill collectors, landlords, police brutality. It allows us to be positive. We want a life that is complex and interesting, where we express our desires for autonomy in ways that aren't bound by structure, that speak volumes about what we are for and not simply what we oppose.

This article is a great place to start a real dialog on what we can do in America now by what it is not. Though it is about violence, it also delves into revolution. It is not suggesting what violence means to us now, nor is it suggesting anything other than a moral compass, using the weight of the future to determine the outcome of revolution, presenting only two choices, civil war or a largely peaceful mass walkout. This is drawing lines where they don't exist. The tendencies of revolt don't breakout wholesale and we may never get the option to engage the ruling order in civil war or a mass walkout. Believing in their inevitable qualities doesn't help us. America has seen strikes and riots in the past century, but never had the circumstances to even assume something as bold as civil war or general strike as possible. What can Americans do?

author by Abe Karl-Gruswitzpublication date Tue Jan 23, 2007 21:31author email abe at gaiauniversity dot orgauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Ah, the old "creating democracy in Iraq" scheme! Violence is domination over others by force. It is the basic tool for hierarchy. It is how every state has kept its people fearful of thinking for themselves. "Violence" and "hierarchy" are near synonyms, if not identical.

You can get your revolution by violence, but then it will revolve again into another revolution again. You don't win the minds of the people by forcing them to do what you want. After you've murdered all the people of the state, then what do you do with the people of the state who disagree with your tactics? Do you use violence against them? Violent revolution is the creation of a dictatorship. History shows this. Any attempt Anarchists have done to create an anarchist revolution has turned into a dictatorship (ala the Bulsheviks).

The examples in this article of nonviolent movements failing is interesting. They do not point to where they failed, it just says, "Aha, I've got you, you didn't do it this time". I can name a number of successful non-violent actions. I can't name any violent actions that have created cooperativism, democracy, and mutual aid.



author by Waynepublication date Wed Jan 24, 2007 05:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Anon agrees with my ideas but does not like my article. He wishes I had discussed the pacifist argrument that means should be consistent with desired ends. Abe Karl-Gruswitz, who is a pacifist, raises the argument that all violence is heirarchical. Violence can only result in a new tryanny. These arguments go together.

I agree that means should be consistent with ends, which is the other side of saying that ends justify means (what else could?). The question is, What means will lead to a nonviolent society of socialist-anarchism? This is what I discussed in the article. I argued that nonviolent tactics can sometimes work, but not always, and that a willingness to result to revolutionary mass violence will be a necessary means to create a nonviolent society. If such means are necessary, then they are justified.

Central to anarchism is the belief that both the means and the end it desires are the self-organization of workers and the oppressed. As the old slogan goes, "The emancipation of the working classes can only be won by the working classes themselves." In this we insist that our means and ends be consistent.

This means that no one can do it for them (for us). "We want no condescending saviors," to cite a line from the Internationale. When the workers rise up and fight against their oppression, by nonviolence or violence--by whatever means necessary--this is a means consistent with the end of a self-managed society. This is not at all what Abe imagines me to be advocating, some sort of elite imposing its violence on the rest of the society. It is the liberating struggle of the oppressed.

But it is not the violence which is liberating. It is the mass struggle which is liberating. Unlike Wombat, I do not look for "possibilities for violence" by a minority of revolutionary heros. Nor do I sneer at the struggle for reforms, not if they can get the working class in motion. But both Wombat and Abe raise a number of questions about class struggle and strategy which are far beyond what I can respond to in this limited space.

author by Paddy Rua - WSMpublication date Wed Jan 24, 2007 23:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The important thing is to emphasize that for us violence is, in no way, a pleasure, or a principle. It is something we detest and we want to avoid it as much as possible. We want a world of equality, of freedom, of love, not a world of violence. It is because we know that capitalism dominates through violence that we assume it has to become a mean at some point, bit it is out of necessity. But we do not create situations of violence when there is no need. And we won't avoid it when it is strictly necessary.

author by j.l.publication date Thu Jan 25, 2007 03:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I believe Wayne is still misrepresenting what it is to say that the ends DOES NOT justify the means.

This is because, if we truly believe that the means should be consistent with the ends, then Wayne's question (what means will lead to nonviolent society?) answers itself. The answer is nonviolence (thus shifting the focus to determining what kind of nonviolent tactic will be most effective).

What some are forgetting is that Machiavelli, who is responsible for framing this debate by declaring that the 'ends justifies the means,' also wanted to create a peaceful world free of violence. He, like Wayne and Paddy, argued that sometimes we must be violent in order to bring about peace.

The logic then follows that, if we accept that we must sometimes use violence in order to bring about peace, then we had better learn how to be as effective as possible with our use of violence. After all, if violence can bring about peace, then why not use it as decisively as possible? This is how the use of violence quickly escalates into unintended atrocities.

author by Joe Licentiapublication date Thu Jan 25, 2007 07:09author email morpheus at mutualaid dot orgauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Machiavelli didn't really believe in peace because he believed in the state, which is the most violent institution in history. Everyone who believes in the state believes in more violence than even the most violent propaganda by the deeder.

Just because you use violence for one period of time doesn't necessarily mean you must use violence forever. For example, take the extreme case of a major nuclear war. Such a massive use of violence would guarentee no one would ever use violence again because no one would be left alive to use violence. Thus, a massive use of violence can result in a major reduction of violence afterward. The claim that violence begats more violence or that you cannot reduce/eliminate violence with violence is therefore incorrect.

Of course, we don't want to get rid of violence by mass extinction but violence can still be used to reduce violence. Most violence today is the result of several extremely violent institutions (government, capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and maybe a few others). The elimination of those institutions will result in a drastic reduction of violence even if violence has to be used to eliminate those institutions. There's no reason that violence has to be continued after those institutions are eliminated. We can use violence and then stop once wev'e achieved our goal.

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author by Waynepublication date Thu Jan 25, 2007 12:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

My critics could dispute my arguments about why nonviolent methods do not always work and probably would not work when we seek to overthrow the capitalist class and its state. Instead, like many pacifists, they prefer to deal in total abstractions. Violence causes violence (always?). Nonviolence is the best way to reach a nonviolent society (like saying that it is wrong for a surgeon to cut someone in order to cure them!). Abe: "Violence is domination over others by force" (unless an oppressed people use it to overthrow its oppressors, in which case it is liberation by force). And so on.

I can only ask my pacifist critics to read my essay, and to make specific responses to my arguments about why nonviolence does not always work and why violence is needed to free the working class and oppressed from the state and the capitalist class.

author by lady justicepublication date Fri Jan 26, 2007 00:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

While Wayne complains that those here arguing for the ideal of nonviolence appeal too often to abstractions, he fails to recognize that his own argument is itself based on a moral abstraction.

This moral abstraction is the concept of "oppression." Wayne is essentially arguing that nonviolence does not alway succeed in overthrowing oppression and that sometimes violence is necessary. But what constitutes oppression is, itself, highly subjective and moralistic. I have always considered oppression to mean "imposing one's will on another." This is why I, like many others, consider all forms of violence to be oppressive--because violence is the act of imposing one's will on another.

In this way, when an oppressed people uses violence to overthrow its oppressors, it replaces one form of oppression for another. The oppressed becomes the oppressor. Surely one could argue that one form of oppression is less hideous than another, but as anarchists we are against ALL forms of domination.

So, as an anarchist advocating limited forms of violence, Wayne has two choices: either (1) he considers some forms of violence to fall outside of his definition of "oppression"; or (2) his brand of anarchism allows that some forms of oppression are more desirable than others.

If instead, one considers all forms of violence to be oppressive, then nonviolent tactics are the only answer. If some nonviolent tactics consistently fail, then we should consider new nonviolent tactics, not turn to violent ones.

author by Waynepublication date Fri Jan 26, 2007 03:00author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Lady Justice writes: " I have always considered oppression to mean 'imposing one's will on another'." That is your definition. You are free to make up any definition you want; it is a semi-free country. By this definition, when the nonviolent civil rights movement of the U.S. South boycotted the stores of a city, they were oppressing the white power structure, by pressuring it to agree to end segregation at the stores and to hire Black workers. If the bosses cut the workers' pay and they strike to force the bosses to rescind the pay cut, they are "oppressing" the bosses by forcing them to do something they do not want to do. (Which is just what conservatives argue, of course.)

What Lady Justice does not understand is that there are real conflicts in which each side has a will of its own. The workers have a will and the bosses have a will. White supremacists have a will and the Black community has a will. The U.S. military has a will and the Iraqi resistance has a will. One side or the other will "impose" its will on the other. (Or there can be a compromise, in which each imposes some of its will and gets some of the enemy's will imposed on them.) But there is no way in which will-imposition can be avoided.

The question is always, Which side are you on. I am clear: I am on the side of the oppressed and exploited, the workers, the People of Color, the oppressed nation of Iraq. I want them to "impose" their will on the oppressor, the exploiter, the imperialist aggressor. The two sides are not equal in the eyes of justice, lady. When the oppressed impose their will on the oppressor, it is not oppression, it is liberation.

How do we avoid turning liberation into a new oppression (not of the old oppressors--I do not care about them--but of other former oppressed)? That is what the anarchist program is for.

author by lady justicepublication date Fri Jan 26, 2007 04:45author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Wayne, in all of that I still didn't get a very good sense of what your definition of oppression is. If we don't have a specific idea of what we wish to avoid, how can we avoid it?

Further, while most involved in the civil rights actions you speak of certainly weren't anarchists, I don't consider "not going to work" or "not buying something" imposing one's will on someone else. But I'm not sure if a protracted semantic argument would be that productive in this forum (for next we will have to debate the meaning of 'force').

What I object to most forcefully, because I believe this type of thinking almost always goes hand in hand with the promotion of violence (albeit limited in your case), is your embrace of the 'us' versus 'them' mentality. If a society of anarchism is ever to exist (and persist), it will only do so because everyone within the society participates


We will have to socially evolve to a point where the majority of humanity thinks it wise to work together, rather than compete, so as to avoid a scene of Hobbesian destruction (which is the mainstream view of anarchism). Otherwise, humanity will again revert to hierarchical government and the (false) security that the state provides. People cannot be forced into anarchism, because it defies the definition of what it means to be anarchistic. So if you are correct when you say that "there is no way in which will-imposition can be avoided," then anarchism is doomed--it can never exist.

author by Wiki on Oppressionpublication date Fri Jan 26, 2007 06:40author address author phone Report this post to the editors sociology, these prejudices are often studied as being institutionalized systems of oppression in some societies. In sociology, the tools of oppression include a progression of denigration, dehumanization, and demonization; which often generate scapegoating, which is used to justify aggression against targeted groups and individuals.

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author by Waynepublication date Sat Jan 27, 2007 04:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

L.J. seems to be saying that anarchism can never be achieved unless the rich and powerful are persuaded to voluntarily give up their power, wealth, prestige, and comforts, to be equal with everyone else. It will not due, she apparently believes, for the vast majority to violently take away the rulers' powers and wealth, it must be voluntary on the part of the capitalists and other oppressors.

I do not see this approach as either practical or moral. It means acquiesence in domination and exploitation.

author by lady justicepublication date Sat Jan 27, 2007 10:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors


You're probably not going to like it, but I agree with Thoreau when he wrote, "'government is best which governs not at all'; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which we will have."

Emphasis on "when men are prepared for it," and not "when the ruled class violently destroys the ruling class."

We can work to fight one form of oppression after another, but a sustained anarchic society can only be achieved when humanity has collectively earned it. In order to avoid the chaos that non-government would bring, humanity must evolve to such a high level that it has learned to trust and rely on one other instead of viewing the other as a potential enemy. This means that humanity will have to learn to resolve conflict and maintain peace through nonviolent means (because violence creates enemies and destroys trust). Otherwise, the fear and distrust of the other will keep humanity reliant on the systemic violence of government as a way to keep order and provide security.

Overthrowing capitalism via a violent revolution will not eliminate oppression and racism, because oppression and racism were a staple of human civilization long before capitalism arrived. Perhaps capitalism is the manifestation and perpetuation of oppressive desire, rather than its root cause. Forcing another human being, through violent means, to bow to one's political world-view is also a manifestation of oppressive desire, however good intentioned, and regardless of one's position of power.

author by Courtpublication date Sat Jan 27, 2007 11:07author email bachatero_bx at yahoo dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

The example of South Africa is one case where a nonviolent movement was drowned in many violent movements have met the same fate? Spain, the Ukraine, the Black Panthers, are a few that come to mind. One example of an unsuccessful nonviolent movement doesn't justify a violent one...I believe alot of anarchists, like myself and several other posters, have problems with violence because it's no different from the coercion that the state has used.

author by Waynepublication date Mon Jan 29, 2007 09:11author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Court writes, "One example of an unsuccessful nonviolent movement doesn't justify a violent one." He may have missed my argument on this point. Pacifism insists on only using nonviolent methods, on never using any violence, even in cases of group self-defense or the most libertarian or revolutions. Therefore I can refute the pacifist argument if I can show that sometimes (not always) nonviolent methods do not work and that (sometimes) violent methods are necessary. I gave reasons why this was true--both empirical examples (such as South Africa) as well as logical arguments from the nature of the state and of the capitalist class. I argued that the capitalist class is just not going to give up its wealth, power, and social standing without being coerced (violently and/or nonviolently). You do not engage my arguments, as is the case with most of the pacifist posters here.

Court says that "violence's no different from the coercion that the state has used." On one hand, the state uses violence to hold down the workers, People of Color, political minorities, and oppressed nations overseas. On the other hand, there is proposed that the workers, People of Color, and oppressed colonial people stand up for themselves, refuse to be oppressed, degraded, and exploited, and use force, when necessary, to free ourselves. This is the same thing? We must all decide which side we are on.

Like me, a Thoreau fan, J.L. does not think that socialist-anarchism will happen until ALL humanity is ready for it. Not just the overwhelming majority of humanity, but all of it, including the current rulers, oppressors, slave masters, and rich parasites. In brief, she gives them a veto.

So her pacifism leads to an acceptance of the existing system of oppression by minorities...until the masters are won over to the Golden Rule, something which thousands of years of Christianity have failed to achieve, alas. May I suggest that J.L. read Thoreau's "Homage to Captain John Brown" (I cite the title from memory), in which Thoreau praises John Brown's (non-state) armed struggle against slavery.

author by Scott Rittenhouse - WSA (personal capacity)publication date Tue Jan 30, 2007 00:59author address seritten@yahoo.comauthor phone Report this post to the editors

The fundamental weakness in pacifism is that (as Bakunin points out) the State, by definition, is capable of any depravity to promote its interests.

The nature of "evil" is that, unless a person is a sociopath or psychopath, their tendency to harm others is ties to how much it benefits them, and how they rationalize hurting others. Wayne points out that they indoctrinate themselves with a belief in moral superiority ["Police Psychosis", Paternalism] and, therefore the infereiority of their victims for some reason [e.g., "they're commies" or "they're illegals" or working class = "the scum of the earth" to the plutocracy].

Government never does anything unless someone is making money. Parliamentary government [constitutional government] was invented to serve the capitalist class.

An appeal to the morality of religion is also dilusional. The church and state have had an incestuous relationship since the State was invented, and especially since the invention of Christinity as the official religion of the Roman Empire. Protestantism [especially, puritanism] was empowered by the capitalist class to moralize profiteering which had been condemned by Catholicism. Its teachings turn capitalist exploitation into the rewards of "god" to the capitalists for their moral superiority on earth. Questioning an economic system, based on theft [capitalism], in their eyes, is "ungodly". Their zeal has not prevented them from burning people alive or linchings to promote secular interests [e.g., power, greed, cultural chauvenism, etc.]. They believe social wealth and power was given to them by "god" [like the so-called "divine right of kings"].

Capitalist Economics 101 will tell you that capitalists believe "rational" economic behavior to be greed. Capitalist economies and governments are systems of competing economic interests who exploit the remainder of the population. To beg to your masters is futile. To fight them where they are strong is conterintuitive.

Revolutions break out after a period of time where the status quo looses its "legitimacy". For example: When large numbers of people are hungry and or afraid and have no faith in the existing institutions of power to improve the situation.

I like to think of Sun Tzu or the Tao Te Ching and ask myself how an institutionally weaker but morally superior ideology like Anarchist Socialism might instigate the demise of the status quo. I have seen a lot of tactics which are capable of weaking the "legitimacy" of the status quo ["Legitimacy"=people's willingness to tollerate the exercize of authority over aspects of their lives]. The path towards Social Revolution must include a "softening-up" of the status quo by deligitimizing its institutions. For example, anti-militarism, and anti-police statism [Non-cooperation with, and undermining of the military and the cops---like, exposing corruption, racism and sexism]---Just say no to cops and military recruiters, help military enlistees to un-enlist, help working class people find work or school so they won't be tempted to join the military, encourage cooperation and mutual aid in our neighborhoods rather than calling the cops or politicians in response to problems. I think we make ourselves more free every time we remove dependence on or tollerance of authoritarianism in our lives.

Part of the process of deligitimizing the status quo is the social struggle against capitalism. In this struggle, Direct Action tactics are not passive. They are a form of industrial warfare designed to hurt the profits of capitalists. I this class struggle, the corporate capitalists have become very strong. They are also afraid of social unrest. I infer this from their obsession with cops, Jails, and surveillance; which was followed by growing militarism, imperialism, and domestic spying.

I should add that it is common for failing regimes [or capitalists loosing money due to industrial actions by workers] to resort to violence and repression in order to maintain wealth and power. They are not above tricking exploited people into negotiations so they can have them murdered or "dissappeared" later. For that matter, "democratic" elections can be a smoke screen to expose cantidates from the resistance to political murder. in the face of people who will kill to keep power, wealth or profit, workers self-defense is moral, necessary, and likely to save more lives than "passive resistance" [see also, Malatesta on violence]. We can begin by protecting our privacy and fighting government attempts to legislate away our freedom. I will continue to fight with my brain before I'm forced to pick up a gun.

In the mean time, we can also watch the crucibles of insurgency and guerilla warfare for ideas. I was in the Army and have been asked by kids how to build a bomb. My response was that learning to cooperate with each other is more necessary [a more powereful "weapon"] than blowing shit up. I refer to the arguments in the pamphlet _You Can't Blow Up A Social Relationship_ (by Australian Anarchists). We can begin "building the new society within the shell of the old." I like counter-institutions, but I believe that this phrase means unlearning bad habits from liberal reformism [and High School cliques] and learning to work better with each other, as well.

For Class War Anarchism


author by lady justicepublication date Tue Jan 30, 2007 02:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

W wrote: "Therefore I can refute the pacifist argument if I can show that sometimes (not always) nonviolent methods do not work ... You do not engage my arguments, as is the case with most of the pacifist posters here."

No, you can't, maybe this is why most have not confronted the specifics of your argument. You would have us believe that every time nonviolent tactics are used, they must be effective, or else violent tactics should have been used. I see two problems with the structure of this argument (regardless of the truth of your specific examples).

First, it would seem shortsighted to simply judge the effectiveness of a tactic based on whether it had accomplished its short term goal. Many times (even in violent wars), situations that appear to be a short-term defeat often contribute positively towards the greater end (think of the oft-used cliche, 'lose the battle, but win the war'). So, it may be too soon to say definitively whether any nonviolent actions that appeared to be defeated have in fact significantly contributed to lasting worldwide peace.

Second, the apparent failure of any specific nonviolent tactic in any particular aim does not render the entire range of nonviolent tactics ineffective (thereby leaving violence as the only solution). Instead, it points to the necessity of greater concentrated effort being applied towards imagining new, more effective methods of nonviolence.

W wrote: "will happen until ALL humanity is ready for it. Not just the overwhelming majority of humanity, but all of it, including the current rulers, oppressors, slave masters, and rich parasites. In brief, she gives them a veto."

This is a straw man argument. I said no such thing. It's interesting that you would put in all-caps the very word that I didn't use. I was speaking to what the general condition of human society must resemble in order for worldwide anarchism to persist, and how violence does more to distance us from such condition than to work towards it.

W wrote: "her pacifism leads to an acceptance of the existing system of oppression by minorities...until the masters are won over to the Golden Rule, something which thousands of years of Christianity have failed to achieve"

This is more straw man. (First, I would never call myself a pacifist, because I think the term commonly connotes a condition of acquiescence, where I am instead a proponent of active nonviolence.) More importantly, I have written absolutely nothing that would indicate an acceptance of the existing system of oppression. Rather, I intend to fight it as firmly as possibly by nonviolent methods. Second, I think it is far more important to "win over" those that are facilitating the system of oppression through their inaction (the vast majority that does what power tells it to on a daily basis), than "winning over" the masters. The 'masters' will lose their power when the oppressed citizenry collectively decide it is no longer in their best interest to obey such power (unlike today, where most people still believe that they need government for security). For most Americans at least, violent tactics just reinforce their perception that they need the police in order to be kept safe.

author by L. Sionnach - The institute for Experimental Freedompublication date Tue Jan 30, 2007 03:15author email ief-southeast at riseup dot netauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

This essay approaches the subject of violence in a peculiar way. Focused on the ciritque of violence as a mode of coercion and intent on supplying the classical anarchist notion of coercion reflecting a state-form. Perhaps this is the consenquence of the wrong question.

While, it may be kitch to hold a pacifist position within older activist sub-culture--similar perhaps to a position of abuguity, lifestylism and anarcho-liberalism held in most of the younger US anarchist sub-culture--,it would appear delusional at best from a real reading of history, one's own and the broader western notion. However, let's engage with this obtuse reading.

An anarchist position on violence should be part and parcel of anarchist philosophy grounded in the material world. In my material world, moralism about violence is a mute topic. There has not been a causal relationship between individual acts of violent rebellion or social acts of violent rebellion and the decernable emergence of a state-form (i.e. modern notions of Marxist/Lenist armed struggle via the vanguard.) Contrary to this notion, there has always emerged a scandal--hand wringing and so on--when anyone mentions the utility or desire for violent rebellion; this particulary being located within the confines of activists' social movements. That is to say, violence is a topic that scandalizes movements concerned with liberal notions of democracy, equality, peace and justice. Reasonably so considering violence as a social and political tool is perhaps anti-democratic in so far that it asserts a sort of anti-modern consciousness unthinkable by proponents of enlightenment notions of common good and consensus via democratic process.

I think the better question is why is violence and with it, anti-democratic acts so terrifying to activism? Which inturn unearths a different question about how anarchist should engage with enlightenment notions. Namely, concepts of equality, democracy, justice, and progress.

In the US, the discourse about violence within activism is largely framed by morality, ethics and concepts of privilege. In Noel Ignatiev's "Introduction to the US: an autonomous political history" we see a connection between violence as defining feature of racialized and class power relations and the inability of one component within this framework to recconcile this disconnect. Even going to great lengths to avoid approaching this contradiction. The Weather Undergournd, for example, distancing them selves from real violence in favor of "armed propaganda"--and by that they mean non-violent symbolic property dammage--did so as a desire to claim their politics as contiuation of the enlightement as many communists do. Within this framework violence against legitimate political targets is "terrorism" and "terrorism is wrong."

Presently, we can examine both features of radical Earth liberation movements and anarchist communists engaged in labor struggles to see not simply an inability to talk about violence--people talk--but a rather what would appear to be an existential crisis for subjects, namely whitened subjects (or perhaps for europe, super-colonized) of civil society grapling with the above notions of privilege. The whitened subject knows what it means to be privileged and knows what it means to be radical but cannot recconcile this with an intellectual deconstructing of race nor a practical transformation of privilege to material solidarity. Which is to learn that the political process that would dissolve racialized power relations will not fit into a democratic discourse, even the so-called "radical" one that anarchists wish to claim for our own.

from en essay I'm working on (missing the footnotes):

"Excluding pacifists, most well intentioned whitened radicals can believe in and even talk about the necessity for armed struggle at some time in the far future. Yet we are not willing to assert that violence is not only necessary in certain situations, but that it is imperative to an authentic struggle. This may be because what passes as “radicalism”(and anarchist politics) in the US is defined by it’s most visible contingent: a predominately white-privileged 18 to 20-something movement more concerned with changing its life-style or confronting vague and abstract concepts than changing The World—or destroying it. This may be because whitened radicals in the US are still thinking in terms of activism and not critically attempting to locate an authentic struggle to destroy all systems of oppression

[...] Activism is a broad category that includes on one side state-sponsored and private entities that attempt to democratically engage with the State and capitalism through lobbying and petitions and on the other, a more spectacular role of legal and extra-legal activities of groups and individuals attempting to reform, pressure or change society. Although the organizations and individuals located on this spectrum may argue otherwise, they are all intrinsically linked by their desire to change or pressure to change systems of oppression—to negotiate a peace treaty with civil society. Activism has space for both Left and Right ideologies that conform to The Enlightenment project. That is to say, it is a space for transparent dialogue about how to make this World—the world of capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy/gender, etc function better and more efficiently. Activism is space to critique the world of hierarchy while remaining loyal to its larger project of progress and liberal/social democracy—to prove that democracy works because "the protesters were allowed to protest." While the former side of the spectrum plays a role of pro-capitalist small-scale change (i.e. the "victories" of Public Interest Research Groups or Sierra Club), the latter maintains a space for radicals with a broader critique of hierarchies to have their say and create new youth-demographics marketing possibilities. Moreover, even false conflict with real consequences is useful to civil society. With a sense of Us vs. Them, the "radical" spectrum maintains a cultural identity of "authentic rebellion" and can continually lose participants to "burnout" whenever more spectacular state-repression is necessary to keep an insurrectional trajectory from broadening and disintegrating the category of activism. Activism becomes an arena of and for the reproduction of civil society and in our context, the US, this means that radical activists against war, capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy actually help create the conditions for the reproduction of these oppressive institutions."

I've only touched on this slightly and in fragments but I think it is much more at the root of the problem than concerning our selves with the coercive impact of violent rebellion. Maybe it's useful to raise an old point by Bonanno that violence is best, when it's least organized into a coherent military force. Even examining the militias in Spain, we see an obvious violent rebellion diverging from the parameters of democratic process--obviously the whole of the anti-facist front could not and would not consent to certain anarchist violence aimed at pushing social war to its limmits, rather than merely fighting fascism. In Spain, perhaps the existential crisis was one of class privilege...

I would be interested in hearing other prespectives on the relationship that "privileged" subjects have with violence in other parts of the world--how that relates to class, gendered and racialized power.


author by randy - ctc supporter (per cap)publication date Tue Jan 30, 2007 03:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

lady liberty wrote:

"...The 'masters' will lose their power when the oppressed citizenry collectively decide it is no longer in their best interest to obey such power..."

Well, yes. But what if most of the citizenry decides to stop obeying, but enough remain with the old ways to man(sic) the guns of the state?

author by Waynepublication date Wed Jan 31, 2007 08:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Lady Justice says I misunderstood her post. But she said, "that humanity will have to learn to resolve conflict and maintain peace through nonviolent means (because violence creates enemies and destroys trust)." So until humanity (which I assumed meant all humans) has learned to use nonviolence, then we are not supposed to take power away from the capitalist ruling class. Randy asks the right question, the key question: what if the capitalists have a layer of committed counterrevolutionary forces which is prepared to shoot down the workers? Does that mean that we have to wait until they can be overturned by nonviolent means? I regard this as giving the rulers a veto over socialist revolution, as, in effect, capitulating to the existing form of oppression.

L.J. also wrote that humanity will have to stop seeing the other as a "potential enemy." This is the case today on class issues. The workers do not see the rich and powerful as their enemies. There will only be progress when people realize that the exploiters are indeed our real enemies (and that other people of different races, genders, nationality, etc., are not our enemies). To deny that the oppressor is the enemy of the oppressed is to capitulate to oppression.

I agree with Scott. However, I have no idea what L. Sionnach is saying. Does L.S. think that he (?) is communicating with others? Who does he or she think is his or her audience?

author by liam sionnach - the institute...publication date Wed Jan 31, 2007 08:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Does L.S. think that he (?) is communicating with others? Who does he or she think is his or her audience?"

I was under that impression. I think my audience is anarchists interested in useful questions. Perhaps I'm wrong.


author by Kim Keyser - Anarkismopublication date Thu Feb 01, 2007 11:55author address Oslo, Norwayauthor phone Report this post to the editors

It's true that Liams comment is a bit irrelevant to the discussion of pacifism (it talks more about activism, privileged whites and so forth, though it also touches upon pacifism). Also, I interpret Liam as follows: "violence is not only necessary in certain situations, but that it is imperative to an authentic struggle."

I couldn't see the argument for WHY it's imperative though...

However, there's no need for Wayne to ask his question in such a way (I interpreded his questions as beeing somewhat condescending - excuse me if I'm wrong). Let us together nurture Anarkismo as a place for open and constructive debate.

author by Kim Keyser - Anarkismopublication date Thu Feb 01, 2007 12:41author address Oslo, Norwayauthor phone Report this post to the editors

I very much agree with Wayne in his defence of a pragmatic class struggle perspective. However, I feel there's one more thing to add concerning violence - for the sake of clarity it should be divided in two categories: control of violence and exertion of violence.

Some nonviolent folks I discuss with start off with the false assumption that anarchists who don't agree with dogmatic nonviolent ideology, as being proponents of violence. As Wayne points out, this is of course wrong! We'd like to be as nonviolent as possible. However we won't tolerate being shot down for abstract and moral nonviolent values, if we'll be confronted with such a situation.

However, even though we (as workers, not the anarchist organization or similar), won't like to EXERT violence, we do want to CONTROL it. Let me explain:

In 1918 there was a revolution in Germany. It started when military navy units simply refused to fight (and thus putting a final end to WWI). In this faze they controlled the violence, but did not exert it. The reason was that the ruling class didn't dare to deploy the army to crush the mutiny, as the privates would most probably refuse to fight and instead become infected with the revolutionary spirit of mutiny (indeed, they did, even without being deployed to crush the mutinies). Neither could the ruling class organize a counter revolutionary army out of the blue, and neither could they have deployed it if they could organize such an army (it would've been a suicide mission, as the rebellious soldiers outnumbered them by far). Thus, there was no need to exert violence.

This is the ideal revolutionary situation - a rather peaceful and nonviolent transition (it'll always be incidents though - as it was in the early faces of the German revolution too). The chances for such an outcome can be maximized by working hard to build the consciousness and organization necessary, before the revolution (ie: now).

However, if we're not strong enough (i.e. if the ruling class is given confidence by our class' vacillation) they'll no doubt initiate an armed counter revolutionary attack. This was what happened in Germany as soon as the working class showed they were not completely ready for the revolution (if there ever was such a thing). Thus the revolution developed to a bitter civil war, and was finally defeated.

I do know that my historical references are somewhat simplified, due to the space limitations (and my limited ability to force my eyelids to be open and my brain to function at this time of the day). But my point should nevertheless have been elucidated: There's a crucial difference between control and exertion of violence. Anarchists should support and work for the former, and only use the latter when there's absolutely no other choice. When it is necessary though, we should not vacillate even for a split second.

author by Waynepublication date Fri Feb 02, 2007 10:12author address author phone Report this post to the editors

(1) As for Kim's distinction between wanting violence and trying to control violence, I would just emphasize that we should always WARN the workers that the rulers and their stooges will attack as soon as they think they can get away with it. In Germany as in italy, they sent organized ex-military men, early fascists, to attack the workers in one region after another, to break up the workers' organizations. Therefore the workers should prepare to DEFEND ourselves against fascist attacks.

(2) What I object to in Liam's comment is not at all its content but his manner of writing, his style. This is highly academic and alienated, jargonish and murky. If I have difficulty in figuring out what he is talking about, then I assume that a lot of other people do too. I find this approach to be condescending to the readers of Anarkismo. If my comments sounded irritated, it is because I was. I believe that modern political writing (I almost wrote "discourse") has been polluted by Hegelianism, faddish French philosophy (as Liam's title indicated), and academic Marxist high-falutin' fashions. We should all re-read George Orwell's essay, Politics and the English Language.

Apparently Kim does not see Liam's post in this way and Liam certainly has no idea what I was annoyed about. So I should have explained better.

author by radical jonnypublication date Fri Feb 02, 2007 16:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is simply impossible to protect or maintain the humanity and dignity of one by threatening or inflicting violent harm on another.

Our resistance should be nonviolent. But make no mistake: our nonviolence should be resistance.

author by Waynepublication date Sat Feb 03, 2007 03:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Radical Jonny writes: "It is simply impossible to protect or maintain the humanity and dignity of one by threatening or inflicting violent harm on another." Well that is his opinion; it may seem self-evident to him. But unless he wants us to accept his views on faith, I have to ask, "Is it true?" Is there evidence for this view? Are there logical reasons for believing it?

This is why I wrote my essay. I gave arguments why nonviolent methods would not always work, especially if we want to completely change society. If nonviolence does not work then it cannot "protect and maintain the humanity and dignity" of the oppressed, can it? And it can be shown that violent revolutions have improved the dignity and humanity of some. The U.S. revolution gave us bourgeois democracy, a significant improvement. The French revolution gave land to the peasants and wiped out the landlord class. The Civil War abolished slavery. World War II ended Nazism. And so on. Not the establishment of international anarchist-communism, but big steps forward.

In any case, R.J. does not bother to respond to my arguments. He just makes a self-righteous declaration, speaking ex cathedra, from the mountaintop. I wonder how he would "protect the humanity and dignity" of working people when fascists and racists come into town and start murdering and raping? No doubt by the methods of nonviolent resistence which Gandhi urged on the German Jews against the Nazis.

author by Justin Operable - Anarchistpublication date Mon Feb 05, 2007 17:03author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Non-violent actions that seek to impose the will of the non-violent over the will of the bosses are hierarchical too. No matter what, a revolution involves people imposing their will on others. The only way this can be reconciled is if it is in reaction to violence met upon us. It's been said a thousand times but self-defense is absolutely necessary. Non-violence in my opinion is admirable but it is essentially a dead end. We will never live in a world without violence, there will always be fights, but there are fights now on a much grander scale, and we can reduce the violence and end much of the oppression by toppling the United States government. Non-violence has only ever worked because it was able to mobilize the sympathies of international entities, and usually it resulted only in the removal of a colonial power, or in reform, I cannot recall one instance where completely non-violent people toppled a government when that government was not already in total collapse. Say then that we do attain Anarchy through non-violent means. It certainly wont be worldwide all at once, there may at best be outposts, and they will have to be fiercely defended. Imagine, an anarchist area prospering in an area the size of a few states, outside of this area there is an ultra right wing fascist proto government that has risen from the ashes, and they come with guns to take back the land and resources we won and institute their racist fascist worldview on all of us. I don't know about anyone else but I will absolutely defend to the death my right to total freedom and the well being of others who seek to live in harmony. It is not in opposition to Anarchist ideals to defend yourself from tyranny.

p.s. I for one like the idea of Mexican Fighters by our side, but only because that entails that there was enough of a movement in Mexico that they could spare the troops.

author by nestor - Anarkismopublication date Mon Feb 05, 2007 20:10author address author phone Report this post to the editors

This article in Dutch (Nederlands):

Related Link:
author by Dendrocpublication date Mon Feb 19, 2007 14:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

i don't consider myself a pacifist, either, simply because pacifism is a form of absolutism: it states that nonviolent means are _always_ the best. even though i personally despise violence, i don't think the world is a simple enough place for such "x is always the best way" statements to be universally valid.

that said, i think both sides in this debate are correct: violence is probably both inevitable and intrinsically authoritarian. any successful revolution is going to have groups that both employed and foreswore violence; even if necessary or inevitable, it has to be struggled against and its toxic effects fought. even after the revolution triumphs the various factions will be debating whether such and such a battle _really_ was necessary. plurality is essential; there is no one monolithic "way".

regarding the holocaust, as some have already pointed out, in general it was not opposed by _any_ means, violent or nonviolent.

that's because the typical experience the jews had was with pogroms, where a few might die but most would be allowed to live if they did what they were told (which typically involved leaving town). as an outnumbered people in a land full of hostility, such a policy allowed them to survive for centuries and it became second nature to cooperate. that strategy didn't work so well when an enemy came on the scene that wanted to kill them, not just make refugees of them.

not many people are aware of it, but the holocaust actually _was_ nonviolently resisted (by all of society, not just the jews) in both denmark and bulgaria, and quite successfully. In both countries, only a tiny percentage of the jews fell victim to the nazis.

author by Aaronpublication date Fri Mar 09, 2007 14:48author address author phone Report this post to the editors

It may be possible that nonviolence is not always answer...but who determines when it is or isn't? To answer this question gives authority to the person designated to make that decision, which, would go against Anarchy itself. What you speak of requires a decision to be made to determine when violence is or isn't needed. To believe this is not Anarchist...sorry.


author by Kim Keyser - Anarkismopublication date Fri Mar 09, 2007 22:41author address Oslo, Norwayauthor phone Report this post to the editors

As far as I understand Aaron seems to think making decisions is not anarchist: "What you speak of requires a decision to be made to determine when violence is or isn't needed. To believe this is not Anarchist...sorry."

Making decisions is of course not adverse to anarchism. In fact anarchists make decisions all the time. We use direct democracy in the decision making process, in order not to give an unhealthy amount of authority to any single person or group, but instead distribute it as evenly as possible. But of course anarchists do make decisions.

Is it me who misunderstands Aaron or is it Aaron who misunderstands Anarchism (if so he has a serious misconception!)

author by just gregpublication date Sat Mar 24, 2007 11:22author email just_greg at riseup dot netauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

The flaw in this response is to suggest that the Bolsheviks were some off shoot of the Anarchist movement, the fact is that there was a very small and disorganized anarchist movement in Russia around the time of the revolution in which folks like Lenin and Trotsky did not have nor wanted any part, so to suggest that anarchist failed the revolution is a bit like suggesting that the Durruti Column lost the Spanish civil war. In both cases there were too few anarchist, too much discord and in the case of Russia, some very coniving yet competent revolutionist working behind the scenes for interest other than that of the Soviets and the whole of Russian society in general. As far as pacifism goes, it has it merits and may well be useful within limits, but the idea of it as an alternative to liberatory praxis for oppressed people seems one built upon the oppressors philosophy. As a person of color, I have spent most of my formative years being told to turn the other cheek or to ignore my tormentors yet, the state uses violence each and every day to oppress while teaching nonviolence as a form of social progress. Seems to me that what is good for the goose must by all practical logic be good for the gander...

author by just gregpublication date Sat Mar 24, 2007 11:25author email just_greg at riseup dot netauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

The previous post was in response to " violence is hierarchical" by Abe Karl-Gruswitz Tuesday, Jan 23 2007, 1:31pm.
Solid, just greg

author by Waynepublication date Sat Mar 24, 2007 12:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Just Greg's comments are right on the mark about violence and nonviolence. This does not prevent us from writing about the anarchists in the Russian and Spanish (and other) revolutions, especially where they went wrong --such as their disorganization, failure to sink roots in the working class, and so on. I expect that Just Greg agrees with this.

author by Drishtar - None.publication date Mon Apr 02, 2007 04:09author address phone NoneReport this post to the editors

Where's the action?
what's up? What's going on with our ideals right now
First off, I would like to say 'Hi!'.
Secondly, I would like to give my point of view on the anarchist movement in Argentina and some events that have given way to misconceptions.
There has been a huge misinterpretation over the events that took place in Dec.,2001. It was not a "people's uprising" as most of you may think; it was a movement generated by political leaders of oppossite parties to take over government. As simple as that. If lots of other people were out in the streets, only a handful were really clashing, the rest were just robbing, loitering, looting (so much for an uprise!). There was no organization whatsoever, at all. Not even from us.
Now, as the title teases, what's up? What's going on with our ideals right now. Well, I would pretty much say they are frozen. And here is the core of the article: what are we suppossed to do and how can we do it, if almost 70% (that could be a gross exaggeration but the number is not that far away) of the population is ignorant, if they do not care nor have any intention to? Are we suppossed to sit and lecture whoever comes our way about the possibilities of anarchism when we know they won't listen to it, when we know it is fruitless to do so? I believe that education IS a powerful weapon, but so are bombs, but so are strikes, but so are clashes, but so is violence.
I am not justifying violence as it is, but trying to remember that the status quo will not change without an attack to its evil heart. Educating people IS and SHOULD BE the first aim of ours, but parallel to that we should be ripping out the seeds that corrupt the world and whose muddy and stincking pestilence splatters us all. We should not remain silent to what we see, nor should we be send astray by a bunch of ignorant pigs that control the media, the whole establishment.
We need and we must stop it, NOW! Before it's too very late to do anything. Otherwise, we are just as good as them, we are nothing.
Let us remember Malatesta, let us remember DiGiovanni.
Let us learn from the past, but let us also remember that old past techniques do not apply to our present nor to our future. We cannot rely on agricultural revolutions or past manifestos for they were the product odf the revolutionaries of their time, and we are certainly not there. The grip of the machine is tightening up, and it will choke us.
Let us destroy it.
Let us start.
Once and for all.

author by Waynepublication date Wed Apr 04, 2007 06:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

According to Drishtar, 70% of the population is uninterested in radical politics, rebellion, or anarchist socialism. (This is about Argentina. In the US, we would be overjoyed if we thought that 30 % of the population was radical and rebellious!)

What should be done about this? We say, patiently educate the workers and other oppressed people. Organize that 30% (Drishtar says that the anarchists were not organized enough). If 30% is potentially revolutionary, the way should be open to building mass revolutionary organizations! Participate in mass struggles, such as strikes, demonstrations, and popular uprisings.

Drishtar says that since the people are apathetic, we should explode bombs and do other forms of violence. An elite of revolutionary heroes will blow things up even though there is no popular support for revolutionary actions. Apparently we are to make a revolution for the people, as a vanguard force. In fact, what will happen will be that the people will pull back from us and become even more apathetic. I suggest looking at the effect of 9/11 on the left in the U.S., for example, The result was a great wave of popular support for the state.

As Jose Antonio has argued, violence-mongering is making a fetish of a tactic (just as the pacifists do with nonviolence), instead of analyzing the situation and matching tactics to the current reality.

author by Kim Keyser - Anarkismopublication date Thu Apr 05, 2007 21:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I completely agree with Wayne here, in that one should try to organize those who already are radical, as well as spreading our ideas to make the pool of radicals bigger. I also agree that anarchist individuals/small groups must abstain from using bombs etc. in more or less stable capitalists societies (contrary to for instance a means - though not a primary means - in civil war).

However, there's no need to misrepresent Drishtars words. Wayne writes "Drishtar says that since the people are apathetic, we should explode bombs and do other forms of violence."

This is not correct. Drishtar actually wrote:
"I believe that education IS a powerful weapon, but so are bombs, but so are strikes, but so are clashes, but so is violence." S/he didn't explicitly endorse it (s/he might actually do, but nothing in the text says so). This is merely Waynes interpretation.

author by Drishtar - Nonrpublication date Fri Apr 06, 2007 15:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Let's get something done!
In Argentina, libertarian communism is what unites all anarchists who work, think, and believe in the ideal and dedicate their lives to it.
In Argentina, libertarian communism is what unites all anarchists who work, think, and believe in the ideal and dedicate their lives to it. They fight, they struggle, and they get things done, on their own, for themselves. I totally admire their generosity and support - even if you are not into the communist side of our movement, if you want to call it that. I, on my part, I'm for organized violence. I really am. I'm into destroying this fu***** system that betrays our beliefs, that turns around our priorities in life and serves us venom on our tables. I say, 'Let's bring it down!'. Most of the ones who are to blame are the media, the biased ink on the papers, the corrupt TV producers, and well, all of those old motherf****** politicians who have, in one way or another, participated in the last de facto government. Hypocrits! And everyone still believes in democracy's tricks: that by voting you can change the establishment. See what that word means: an established status quo, a pain that goes on and on and on.
Now, let us suppose that we destroy it all; there's always the question of, 'what do we do afterwards?'. Well, who cares? Only we do. We the ones who invoke destruction of this system - the rest, well... you can call them sheep. And I mean the non-believers, the ones who do not see anarchism as the purest form of thought, of life, of action.
In countries like ours (Argentina), the popular alternative is ole damn communism, because, even though they want no more injustices, they still want to be governed. And I'm not discriminating anyone here, alright?And I ask myself, do we really need government with all the enforceable corruption politicians like to so gleefully enjoy? Do we really need government at all?
But the most important question is: what to do with all those people who, after the government is overthrown and nobody is in charge, will dedicate to rob, kill, rape, destroy and inflict worse damages to "society" than what we may have done. Becasue those people are reckless, have no thoughts whatsoever; all they do, and the only thing they do, is surviving in a concrete jungle. It really is the survival of the fittest. Do you really think education could solve those things? Can education teach a child not to rob and kill even when his father is a killer and a thief?
I said before, in another article, that I believed in education; yes, I do, because is necessary. I would not be thinking this way if it were not for education; because of it I can think for myself and don't let anybody fool me or tell me what to do. I have a voice that growls in anger or speaks softly and gently if I want to.
But, maybe society is so fu**** up beyond repair, and maybe we live in 'save-yourself-kind-of-world' in which nobody cares about anybody in the end.
All I can say is, Long live Anarchy!!! (At least in our hearts and in our minds; and if we can make it contagious to those around us, the better!!!)

author by Abe Karl-Gruswitzpublication date Wed May 09, 2007 00:38author email abe at emersonlilyfreeschool dot orgauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

It is interesting to hear the depictions of pascifists and to hear what non-pascifists believe pascifists are depicting non-pascifists.

Non-violent tactics do not require the whole population to agree with their philosophies to have progress. I assume that the non-pascifists aren't proposing that every oppressor be oppressed either.

Pascifism doesn't just come out of some activists concepts of morality. I, for one, do not believe in universal morality, a universal "right" and "wrong", or justice. My pascifism comes out a belief in functionality. If we want to get to there, how do we get there from here. The ends justifying the means concept ignores living in a world of cause and effect. You get to the end by the means. Some means create certain ends and some create others. If you want to create a society free from oppression, you don't use oppression to get there. There is no way that using violence will create a non-violent society. So where do you want to go from here? If you want a society of people fighting each other for what is they believe is "right", then you fight your way in. The "us vs. them" concept will always create a "them". The idea that we are doing this for humanity, not just the "oppressed", has potential, if done well, of dissolving the civil war of the "us's" and "them's".

So where is it that we want to be headed? What does this anarchist society look like? If you don't know it's impossible to get there. To me, I want a society based in cooperativism, direct democracy, and mutual aid. This would be a culture that would have no currency, just the labor it takes to support ourselves. This society would have no bosses, it would be people making decisions collectively for themselves and having the access to resources that support them.

This picture does not require that all people agree with me. It does not require that there not be any form of oppression be anywhere else in the universe.

So how would I propose we could get there? Finding the translation point from capitalism to mutual aid is tricky, but I've formulated my own ideas on it. I've been working this out in my head, but I hope to create this within the ecovillage I am helping to create in New Jersey. One method might be to create a worker collective, run by Consensus, which has the goal to create enough products that one could have all they need from this collective. The idea is to create a self-reliant, ecologically sustainable, and democratic local economy. The self-reliance is the biggest hurdle. The products would all be land-based using permaculture methods, and come from the resources of the local region. Workers would recieve equal pay per the hours they contribute. There would be a labor budgetting and distribution system that I took and adjusted from the Twin Oaks community system (which you can find on their website). It would be a system where the workers would calculate about how much labor each product or sub-business would require. Then labor is distributed. Workers can request working on a specific product one day and another another day, and each empty and overlapping slots are worked out. Workers would know more than one business, to avoid one business dying out when the one person who knew the business leaves or dies. This is also helpful with land-based businesses which change with the seasons. It give job stability for its workers. Consumers would have their own consumer cooperatives and would resemble the Community Supported Agriculture structure as much as possible.

The idea is that it would be very hard, if not impossible, to gather a group together and say, "OK, let's support each other only by mutual aid. OK, who know's how to blacksmith?" To create the society based in mutual aid, the self-reliance question has to be answered. So, this worker collective would get to the point of self-reliance, working on agriculture and food, water, housing, clothing and textiles, household products, healthcare, and social services, and then would stop using currency and just be a collective of people managing labor together, creating their own sustainance, and giving away the excess.

I think this model, if it can get to that point eventually, would have a great propagation. I think it would appeal to a great many people who don't consider themselves anarchists, but never thought it possible. If it can offer work to those who otherwise would have difficulty finding work, then it would spread even faster.

With or without a violent revolution, the question of how we sustain ourselves in a non-hierarchical manner needs to be answered. So, why not do it now?

Now look at the violent revolution tactic and look and this one model. If they both get to their goals, what do you think the reaction would be? Violence begits violence. I think you'll find a whole world of people feeling threatened by a violent revolution, and reacting with violence to stop it from ever happening again. I think not many people are going to feel threatened by the above model, until it's too late. I doubt many people would think it is possible, and it is a monumental undertaking. Once it has happened, it would have been proven that it can happen, and then the seed is planted and it will spread like wild fire.

This model is a huge undertaking and it is expensive to start. Imagine trying to start this after the chaos of a state-less society. It will be time-consuming, and so now is a good time to start.



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