How Nonviolence Protects the State
How Nonviolence Protects the State is the title of a 2007 book by Peter Gelderloos. It can be downloaded free at http://zinelibrary.info/files/How%20Nonviolence%20Protects%20The%20State.pdf
As a long time activist, I have always been troubled by the militant nonviolent perspective that dominates the progressive movement in the US. In some circles, the taboo is so absolute that activists are systematically demonized for raising the subject. I tend to get suspicious whenever I see the politically correct thought police swing into action – especially when they embrace views that are clearly counterproductive to successful organizing (the US left, in contrast to other countries, is a shambles). An arbitrary taboo against specific topics is often a sign that your movement has been infiltrated, either by Cointelpro or left gatekeeper agents.
The systematic misrepresentation of Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King’s views on violence also puzzles me. Neither were militant pacifists. Gandhi clearly articulated situations in which he would advocate violence as a strategy. Whereas as Mark Kurlansky describes in 1968, King employed violence strategically in some of his marches (in which female protestors slapped cops to provoke a violent overreaction) to maximize media attention.
Likewise I have never understood the failure to distinguish between property destruction and interpersonal violence. If anything progressive organizers come down harder on activists who break shop windows (because of its greater harm to corporate interests?) than those who get into scuffles with cops or counter protestors.
Alienating the Working Class
As an organizer, however, what bothers me most is that militant nonviolence is totally alien to working class culture and creates a major stumbling block in drawing blue collar workers into the movement for change. We try to recruit working class activists by appealing to their deep resentment over the unfairness of wage exploitation and privilege. Then we outlaw their natural reaction – to level that privilege by destroying property and looting (to reclaim what they believe is rightfully theirs) or bashing a cop or security guard who is manhandling them or standing between them and food for their kids. I have repeatedly seen blue collar activists marginalized and demonized in these debates. And yet people wonder why they are drawn to the Tea Party movement (which isn’t bound by politically correct niceties) rather than the left.
Reviving the Debate
Obviously I’m extremely pleased to see Gelderloos, American Indian Movement activist Ward Churchill, environmental activist Derrick Jensen and even the culture jamming group Adbusters revive the debate. In 2008 Churchill released the second edition of Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America. This can also be downloaded free at http://www.cambridgeaction.net/images/c/c7/Pacifism_As_Pathology.pdf
Moreover I am unsurprised to learn that the taboo against violent protest isn’t a spontaneous development in the American progressive movement. As in the case of alternate media outlets that refuse to report on 911 or the JFK assassination, there is increasing evidence that government-backed left gatekeeping foundations have carefully inserted themselves into roles where they dominate the dialogue around the issue of violence.
The Government Role in Promoting Nonviolence
Australian journalist and researcher Michael Barker is one of the most prolific writers about the role of CIA, Pentagon and State Department linked foundations in the nonviolent movement. The ones he has followed most closely are the National Endowment for Democracy, the US Institute for Peace, the Albert Einstein Institute, the Arlington Institute, Freedom House, the NED-funded Human Rights Watch, the International Republican Institute, and the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/38214).
Most of the research into these foundations focuses on their work overseas, particularly their active role in creating “color” revolutions in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. However as Barker points out, the ICNC also has major influence, via its workshops, literature and documentaries, on progressive organizing in the US.
To be continued