Posts Tagged ‘ward churchill’
by stuartbramhall in Inspiring Moments in Resistance
In my last post I wrote about the apparent defect in integrity and moral courage that plagues most American corporate and political leaders. This hasn’t always been the case. With the steady erosion of civil liberties and the Bill of Rights over the last decade, it’s high time we celebrated the real American heroes – the public officials who aren’t afraid to speak truth to power – often at great personal cost.
The Armed ATF Raid That Didn’t Happen
Few Americans have heard of Wes Uhlman, Seattle’s mayor between 1969 and 1977. According to his official biography, his main claim to fame was being the youngest Washington State legislator (at 23) and youngest Seattle major (at 34) ever elected.
Ward Churchill mentions Uhlman in his 1990 Cointelpro Papers. At the time, Uhlman declined to identify the federal agency he crossed swords with. Churchill misidentifies it as the FBI. In 2005 Uhlman disclosed, in an interview with the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History project (http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/Panther3_schaefer.htm#_ednref8), that the federal agency he stood up to was the Agency for Tobacco and Firearms. The ATF was the main agency responsible for the 1993 Waco massacre. In February 1970, they put strong pressure on Uhlman to agree to an armed raid on the headquarters of the Seattle Black Panther Party.
This was approximately three months after the December 1969 early morning FBI-police raids on the apartments of Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and Los Angeles Black Panther leader Geronimo Pratt. In Chicago a fourteen man team armed with submachine guns raided Hampton’s apartment at four a.m. on December 3rd. During the raid, they murdered Hampton and Peoria Black Panther leader Mark Clark in their sleep. Three days later a forty member Los Angeles SWAT team with 100 back-up officers staged a similar five a.m. raid on Pratt’s apartment. Pratt, having decided to sleep on the floor that night, miraculously survived. None of the LA Panthers, who defended themselves for four hours until the press and public arrived, were killed. Six were injured. All the surviving Panthers in both Chicago and Los Angeles were arrested for “attacking the police.”
Two weeks later Pratt was framed for a December 1968 murder the FBI knew he didn’t commit, owing to FBI wiretapping logs (which were concealed from the defense) that placed him 350 miles away from the murder scene. Pratt’s conviction was overturned in 1997. Following his release from prison, he emigrated to Tanzania, where he died on June 3, 2011.
Uhlman Threatens to Arrest the ATF
In his interview with the Civil Rights and Labor History Project, Uhlman reveals that an ATF agent contacted him only months after he took office in late 1969. His justification for raiding Seattle’s Black Panther headquarters was that they were stockpiling illegal weapons. Uhlman declined the offer. As he states in the interview, he feared for the safety of a police undercover agent who had infiltrated the Seattle Panthers. Moreover the police informant maintained all the Panther’s weapons were legal.
The ATF agent, infuriated when Uhlman refused to go along with the raid, threatened to carry it out without the city’s consent. Upon which Uhlman responded that he would encircle the Black Panther headquarters with cops, who would “determine who the aggressor was.” His clear message was that any ATF agents who attacked the Panther headquarters would be subject to arrest.
No Gestapo-type Raids in Seattle
The ATF promptly leaked the outcome of the meeting to the press, hoping to embarrass Uhlman as a “sympathizer of militants.” When the Seattle Post Intelligencer interviewed him in 1970, Uhlman stated he wanted no part of the “trend of attacks” on the Black Panther Party. He made specific reference to the Chicago raid in which the FBI murdered Fred Hampton. “We are not going to have any 1932 Gestapo-type raids against anyone.” He also pointed out that the Seattle Black Panthers only had a handful of members, even though numerous young blacks were “enthralled” by the group’s message. “If you give them a cause, they can make political hay out of it, and the kids will look on them like Robin Hoods. Then you wind up with 900 Panthers.”
In the aftermath of Uhlman’s controversial stand, Uhlman received letters from people all over the US. Many attacked the mayor for his decision. I am struck by a distinctive turn of phrase reminiscent of the comments intelligence trolls leave on some of my blogs:
- “When idiot public officials cast their lot with proven communist agitators and anti-american (sic) bastards as the BLACK PANTHERS then it is time to IMPEACH such public sons of bitches.”
- “I don’t see why the federal agency had to ask a jerk like you whether they could stage a raid on the black panthers. (sic). This organization is downright rotten, but it takes a rotten jerk to know a rotten organization. I hope one nite (sic) one of your soul brothers slits your throat.”
- “Uhlman, you stupid ass, you are just as bad as the people, who are making such an issue of the two panthers who were killed in Chicago.”
The Civil Rights and Labor Project reports there were just as many letters applauding Uhlman’s decision for upholding the Bill of Rights protections against warrantless search and seizure :
- “You have GUTS—and even more…it would appear you do support the TRUE American spirit and the Constitution of this country. Let’s keep the principle…MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL!”
- “As a fifty year old veteran of WWII [with] twenty-one years active military service allow me to extend heartfelt gratitude and congratulations in your brave decision to put the Bill of Rights, for which I have served so long, into effect.”
- “We need more like you. I don’t necessarily agree with the Panthers, but the tactics of the Police, et al, frightens me more.”
Despite the controversy, Uhlman won his campaign for re-election in 1973. He retired from politics in 1978 to focus on his legal practice. A great pity. It seems that not one current mayor had the testicularity to say no to the Office of Homeland Security about the brutal crackdown they orchestrated against Occupy Wall Street sites.
by stuartbramhall in Inspiring Moments in Resistance, Things That Aren't What They Seem
Debating the Government Monopoly on Violence
It will be instructive over coming months to watch the response of OWS protestors to the orgy of militarized police violence that has all but shut down the major public occupations. In just two months, the Occupy movement has used the combined tools of social networking, strategic outreach, consensus governance and mass civil disobedience to build the largest mass resistance in the US since the 1930s. The Office of Homeland Security and other federal agencies coordinating the simultaneous crackdowns seem to think a show of force will persuade protestors to give it up and return to their former lives. As many have nothing to return to (no jobs and, in many cases, no homes), I think this may be a serious tactical error. Even before the police crackdown, there was growing concern about keeping numbers up over winter, as well as inadequate representation of women, minorities and unskilled and blue collar workers. With a little nudge from the authorities, Occupy activists have made a good decision to regroup and engage in strategic planning.
I believe there will be strong consensus to resume their public occupations when the weather warms up. Nothing crosses the digital divide quite so effectively to Americans without Internet access. How committed the government is to stopping them is uncertain. Are the 1% and their lackeys are determined to suppress the Occupy movement by any means necessary? If so, how far are OWS participants are willing to go to preserve their movement?
Our Culture of Violence
As OWS groups across the country strategize over winter, younger activists, especially, will ask why the police should have a monopoly on violence. These discussions won’t take place on Facebook or Twitter, but they will happen (at least they are happening in New Zealand). A pending bill to authorize the indefinite detention of American citizens without criminal charges amplifies the urgency of these discussions. Violence is an integral part of the American psyche, as demonstrated by the continuing upsurge in gun ownership. We are all bombarded on a daily basis with mindless violence, through TV, movies and videogames. The view of American foreign policy presented by the mainstream media centers around violent retaliation. The vast majority of Americans will tell you that the US had to attack Afghanistan and Iraq to retaliate for the 3,000 Americans killed on 9-11. This pervasive emphasis on violence occurs in an intenseley competitive, consumer-driven culture in the absence of any moral framework to channel aggression into more “humane” or “civilized” outlets.
Government Violence Against Minorities
In this social context, the OWS commitment to non-violence will be extremely difficult to maintain, especially as the movement reaches out to traditional blue collar and minority communities. I can’t name a single working class or minority activist I have worked with in the last thirty years who would stand or lie there passively while the police beat them in the head or squirted them in the face with pepper spray. Police violence in minority communities is a daily occurrence.
The treatment of minority activists, even non-violent ones, is especially brutal. December 4th is the 42nd anniversary of the unprovoked raid on Fred Hampton’s apartment, in which the FBI and Chicago police murdered the Black Panther leader in his sleep. Four days later, on December 8, 1969 they carried out a similar raid in Los Angeles that Black Panther leader Geronimo Pratt miraculously escaped. This was followed by years of federally sponsored “death squad” activity on the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation in South Dakota (which Ward Churchill documents with FOIA memos in his 1990 book Cointelpro Papers), culminating in an armed FBI siege against American Indian Movement activists who had come to protect older residents. In 1985 the Philadelphia police, with federal support, destroyed an entire neighborhood by dropping a bomb on a household of activists belonging to the black liberation movement Move.
Fast forward to 2011, and police shootings of unarmed black men are so commonplace they are almost never prosecuted. This is on top of the thousands of cases of sub-lethal police violence (beatings, tasering, pepper spray) that all minority communities struggle to cope with as they go about their daily lives.
To be continued.
by stuartbramhall in Attacks on the Working Class, Things That Aren't What They Seem
In How Nonviolence Protects the State (2007 South End Press), Peter Gelderloos takes up where Ward Churchill’s 1985 Pacifism as Pathology leaves off – expanding on Churchill’s basic premises (see “Pacifism as Pathology” http://stuartbramhall.aegauthorblogs.com/2011/04/27/pacifism-as-pathology-book-review/) with more recent historical examples. Like Churchill, Gelderloos bemoans the determination of nonviolence proponents to impose their ideological views across the entire progressive movement. He blames this mainly on The Nation magazine and other “alternative” media outlets, which falsely frame the debate as a question of “nonviolent” vs. “violent” political change tactics. What Churchill, Gelderloos, Jensen and others actually propose is an organizing approach that incorporates a diversity of tactics.
Gelderloos divides his book into seven chapters, each debunking a specific myth about nonviolence:
Chapter 1 Nonviolence is ineffective – Here Gelderloos exposes the falsified history of supposedly successful nonviolent resistance movements. On close examination, none of the examples commonly promoted by nonviolent proponents is either exclusively nonviolent or successful. In the case of Gandhi’s nonviolent campaign in India, Gelderloos points out that the Mahatma was elevated to fame by the British press, who chose to focus on his acts of civil disobedience, rather than the hundreds of freedom fighters alongside him who were planting bombs and assassinating British officials and native civil servants. Gelderloos also points out that India (and Pakistan) remain deeply oppressed and exploited countries. That their “independence” in 1947 merely transferred them from direct colonial to neo-colonial rule (economic domination enforced by the World Bank and IMF).
Gelderloos describes a parallel process occurring in the case of Martin Luther King, highlighting that the mainstream media never reported on the Birmingham civil rights marches that degenerated into riots – but which were always the real trigger for both local and federal law changes. Among numerous other examples, he contrasts the millions of peaceful demonstrators worldwide who were unable to stop the 2003 US invasion of Iraq – with the single 2004 train bombing that led the Spanish government to withdraw their troops from the “coalition of the willing.”
Chapter 2 Nonviolence is racist – In this chapter, Gelderloos agrees with Churchill that the vast majority of dogmatic nonviolent proponents are privileged middle class whites, for whom the full repression of the capitalist state is never a genuine fear. He cites the example of black looting (usually for food and basic necessities) being condemned as violent, whereas actions in which white activists cut a chain fence to trespass on a military based are embraced as “nonviolent” and acceptable. Similar condemnation of third world autonomy movements is extremely common among white progressives. As an example, Gelderloos highlights the near universal condemnation of both the Iraq and Afghan insurgency against US occupation. He also points out that by refusing to engage in violent resistance themselves, US antiwar activists essentially abandon Iraqi and Afghan insurgents to battle the US military industrial complex on their own.
Chapter 3 Nonviolence is statist (i.e. serves the state) – Nonviolent activists share the fundamental view that the state (via police, FBI, CIA and military) should hold the monopoly on violence. In addition to frequently calling on the police to protect their privileged status, in moments of conflict, they always line up with state authority. Among other examples, Gelderloos describes the Poor Peoples March at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York, where Mayor Bloomberg handed out badges to protestors willing to commit to nonviolent protest, and where the police manhandled and arrested protestors (without badges) who were either black, covered their faces or refused to submit to arbitrary searches. Not only did the nonviolent marchers fail to come to their defense, but they essentially blamed the arrestees for the police decision to target them.
Chapter 4 Nonviolence is patriarchal (i.e. supports male oppression of women and sexual minorities) – Gelderloos points out (with examples) that both the mainstream and alternative media refuse to acknowledge the extreme sexism and homophobia of Martin Luther King. He also describes how the nonviolent movement only permits women to use violence to defend themselves in individual cases of attempted rape, and not in situations of ongoing domestic violence. Or against the gradual systemic violence – for example the harmful corporate-produced chemicals in their breast milk – that is irreparably damaging their children’s health.
Chapter 5 Nonviolence is tactically and strategically inferior – Gelderloos demonstrates that the nonviolent movement is totally focused on short term tactics and unable to show how any of these tactics will achieve their long term goals. When confronted with their inability to achieve goals, nonviolent advocates typically come back with the pat response: “Political change takes a long time and may not come in our lifetime.”
Gelderloo bemoans the millions of dollars wasted on grassroots lobbying, which is almost never effective. Even when Congress meets your demands on paper, they always backtrack. Gelderloos gives the example of the School of the Americas campaign, which sucked up years of organizing and nonviolent protests When enough pressure built up, the Pentagon simply closed the SOA and reopened it under a new name. He asks how many social centers, free clinics, prison reform groups, etc. – with the potential to produce real change – could have been built with this wasted money.
He also compares specific tactics that have a goal of disrupting “business as usual.” Does it make more sense to blockade a bridge for a few hours by forming a human chain – or putting it out of commission for six months by blowing it up?
Chapter 6 Nonviolence is deluded – Gelderloos uses this chapter to outline the extreme contradictions in the views embraced by nonviolent advocates. He points out that they support state violence all the time, simply by paying taxes (at present many support the NATO attacks on Libya). Privileged activists need to understand what the rest of the world has known all along: neutrality isn’t possible. The question is which violence scares us the most and which side we will stand on.
Chapter 7 The alternative: possibilities for revolutionary activism – Gelderloos finishes with his vision of strategies that are most likely to succeed in dismantling centralized state and corporate structures. In doing so, he stresses that localized groups will need to self-organize and decide on strategy, based on peoples’ strengths. He envisions a loose confederation of local autonomous groups that will form non-corporate structures (free clinics, cooperatives, farmers markets, etc) to meet local needs. While he sees no need to convert everyone to anarchism, he emphasizes the need to be continually on guard against cooptation by the Institutional Left – by ensuring decisions are made based on circumstances, not arbitrary ideology.
He also stresses the absolute necessity for these groups to learn self defense – to ensure if they occupy a building to create a free clinic the police can’t take it away from them.
A PDF of Gelderloos’ book can be downloaded free at http://zinelibrary.info/files/How%20Nonviolence%20Protects%20The%20State.pdf – but without the extensive endnotes. If you want the endnotes, you have to buy it. Even so, Gelderloos, a true anarchist, gives suggestions at his PDF site on how to pirate the endnotes if you can’t afford the book.
by stuartbramhall in Attacks on the Working Class, Things That Aren't What They Seem
Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America
By Ward Churchill (2007 AK Press)
Pacifism as Pathology is a collection of essays centered around Ward Churchill’s original 1985 essay “Pacifism as Pathology: Notes on an American Pseudopraxis.” The premise of the essay is that the militant nonviolent stance assumed by the US progressive movement is based on irrational psychological reasons rather than strategic reasons or moral principle.
Viewpoints from a Range of Activists
The 2007 edition contains a preface by Derrick Jensen, who lays out compelling reasons for the necessity of “violence” in bringing about genuine political change in his 2006 book Endgame. Jensen’s argument, as in Endgame, is primarily ecological. Humankind is being systematically killed off by the capitalist class, via their poisoning of the air, water and food chain, as well as their heedless imposition of catastrophic climate change. Jensen poses the very reasonable question: are we willing to retaliate violently to save our own lives and those of our children and grandchildren?
The next essay is Ed Mead’s preface to the 1998 edition of Pacifism as Pathology, immediately following an 18 year prison term as a result of armed actions (bombings of state and federal buildings in Washington State) conducted by the George Jackson Brigade. Based on his experiences, he arrives at the following conclusions: 1) pacifism as a strategy of achieving social, political and economic change can only lead to dead end liberalism – the most vicious and violent ruling class in history won’t give up privilege without a physical fight; 2) because 99.9% of practitioners of political violence will eventually confront death or imprisonment, it’s imperative that political violence be carried out in a manner calculated to win; and 3) although the George Jackson Brigade applied the tool of revolutionary violence when its use wasn’t appropriate, he feels pride that they erred on the side of making revolution instead of the alternative.
The book also contains an afterwards by Canadian Activist Mike Ryan describing his frustration after 20 years of nonviolent resistance as part of the Canadian peace movement – and his conclusion that violent resistance must be allowed as a tactic for genuine political change to occur.
Churchill’s Infamous Assault Rifle Workshop
Churchill explains, in his 1998 introduction, that Pacificism as Pathology was originally written in 1985 as part of a four year debate over a workshop “Demystification of the Assault Rifle” that he gave at a 1981 Radical Therapy conference. He was invited to give the workshop owing to an admission by many activists that their fear of weapons was chiefly responsible for their rejection of violence as a political strategy. The reaction of some conference participants was to pass a resolution banning similar workshops in the future, as well as the presence of firearms (except those of the police or military) at any Radical Therapy conference. Churchill was invited to write an article on his views for the magazine Issues in Radical Therapy, which was subsequently Xeroxed and distributed widely throughout North America. While Churchill acknowledges the right of all activists to personally reject violent strategies and tactics, he challenges the right of nonviolent proponents to condemn activists willing to embrace property destruction and/or armed self-defense among a diversity of strategies. As he points out, activists willing to engage in violent resistance wouldn’t dream of trying to force their views on nonviolent activists.
Armed Jewish Uprisings Under Nazi Occupation
For me, the most valuable part of the book is the first section about Bruno Bettelheim and Jewish armed uprisings, in the Warsaw and Bialystok ghettos and in numerous concentration camps during the second world war. This is an aspect of World War II history I was totally unaware if, as the work of Bettelheim and other scholars documenting armed Jewish resistance are carefully sanitized from the history textbooks served up to US high school and college students.
Bettelheim, who contrasts the Jews who resisted violently with the majority of Jews, who followed the Nazis passively to the camps and even to the gas chambers, makes a strong case for his belief that the persecution of the Jews was aggravated by the pervasive lack of fight back. He blames their failure to resist on strong psychological denial – a pathological need to cling to an illusion of “business as normal” – that ultimately overwhelmed their basic survival needs. The logical position would have been to accept the cold reality that their own lives were doomed and to use their deaths to save the life of other Jews by making the extermination more difficult. He points out that Jews had easy access to guns in 1930s and 1940s Germany, and there was no reason why every Jew that was arrested couldn’t take one or two SS officers with them.
Churchill describes how all the revolts inflicted significant damage on the Nazi machine. The revolt at Auschwitz killed 70 SS officers and destroyed the crematorium. Armed rebellions at Sorbibor and Reblinka were even more effective, and Sorbibor had to be closed following the uprising. There were also lesser insurrections at Kruszyna, Krychaw and Kopernik.
Militant Nonviolence: Racist, Deluded and Irrational
Churchill devotes the rest of the book to correcting historical distortions regarding Gandhi’s and Martin Luther Kings nonviolent resistance movements (which have been totally whitewashed by the ruling elite); a brief historical overview of the ineffectiveness of nonviolence in contrast to campaigns incorporating violent resistance; an analysis of the inherent racism implicit in the dogmatic nonviolence promoted by white upper middle class activists; and an outline of the irrational psychological motivations underlying militant nonviolence.
Although Churchill couches his psychological analysis in much more polite terms than I would, he believes that some white upper middle class activists are deeply conflicted about whether they really want to dismantle capitalism and give up their position of privilege. Thus they adamantly reject any approach incorporating violent resistance, owing to its historical record of effectiveness.
Pacifism as Pathology can be downloaded free at http://www.cambridgeaction.net/images/c/c7/Pacifism_As_Pathology.pdf
by stuartbramhall in Attacks on the Working Class, Things That Aren't What They Seem
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