The Failure of Nonviolence : From the Arab Spring to Occupy

By Peter Gelderloos

Entry 6665


From: holdoffhunger [id: 1]


Revolt Library Anarchism The Failure of Nonviolence

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(1981 - )

In 2002, Gelderloos was arrested with several others for trespass in protest of the American military training facility School of the Americas, which trains Latin American military and police. He was sentenced to six months in prison. Gelderloos was a member of a copwatch program in Harrisonburg. In April 2007, Gelderloos was arrested in Spain and charged with disorderly conduct and illegal demonstration during a squatters' protest. He faced up to six years in prison. Gelderloos claimed that he was targeted for his political beliefs. He was acquitted in 2009. (From:


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When they poured across the border I was cautioned to surrender, this I could not do; I took my gun and vanished. [...] “Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing, through the graves the wind is blowing, freedom soon will come; then we’ll come from the shadows. -Leonard Cohen, “The Partizan” Introduction: Nonviolence has lost the debate Nonviolence has lost the debate. Over the last 20 years, more and more social movements and rebellions against oppression and exploitation have broken out across the world, and within these movements people have learned all over again that nonviolence does not work. They are learning that the histories of purported nonviolent victories have been falsified, that specific actions or methods that could be described as nonviolent work best when they are complemented by other actions or methods that are illegal and combative. (From :

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Chapter 1. Violence Doesn't Exist Perhaps the most important argument against nonviolence is that violence as a concept is ambiguous to the point of being incoherent. It is a concept that is prone to manipulation, and its definition is in the hands of the media and the government, so that those who base their struggle on trying to avoid it will forever be taking cues and following the lead of those in power. Put simply, violence does not exist. It is not a thing. It is a category, a human construct in which we choose to place a wide array of actions, phenomena, situations, and so forth. “Violence” is whatever the person speaking at the moment decides to describe as violent. Usually, this means things they do not like. As a result, the use of the category “violence” tends towards hypocrisy. If it is done to me, it is violent. If it is done by me or for my benefit, it is justified, acceptable, or even invisible. (From :

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Chapter 2. Recuperation is How We Lose The reason I am talking about methods of struggle is because struggle is a vital part of the lives of many people around the world. Sometimes we meet in the streets—in protests, occupations, demonstrations, festivals, talks, and debates—and sometimes we are separated by a wide gulf in our practices. What we have in common is that we want to fight against the current state of things, but we don't even agree on how to phrase this. Some would say we want to liberate ourselves from colonialism, others that we want to abolish oppression, and others that we want to change the world. One person might say we are working for social justice, and others, myself for instance, would counter that justice is a concept of the ruling system. I am an anarchist, but I fight alongside many people who do not define themselves the same way. We may all say that we want revolution, but we mean different things by this. (From :

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Chapter 3. The Revolutions of Today After demonstrating that the historical victories of nonviolence have not been victories from a revolutionary standpoint, that they did not bring an end to oppression and exploitation, they did not fundamentally change social relations, much less create a classless, horizontal society, one often hears the rebuttal, But violence has never worked! Moving past the moralistic simplemindedness contained in the belief that “violence” is a method, this statement conceals an important fact. Unlike the proponents of nonviolence, we (and here I only mean to speak for anarchists who believe in revolution, though many other anti-authoritarian anticapitalists as well as indigenous people fighting for their freedom from colonialism may identify) have never claimed victory. We have pointed to specific battles won, ground gained, or small steps ahead as sources of inspiration and learning, but we are not tryi... (From :

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Chapter 4. The Color Revolutions Since 2000, the most prevalent method of nonviolent action has been, without a doubt, Gene Sharp's method for regime change, as laid out in his bestselling book, From Dictatorship to Democracy. No other method has been explained in such concise, unambiguous terms, and no other method has been as reproducible. Whereas the previous heroes of nonviolence, people like Mohandas Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr., made complicated, intuitive strategic decisions in the midst of a movement that can inspire but that cannot be reproduced, what Sharp offers is not an example, and not a strategy, but a template. It is no coincidence, then, that so many people have seized upon this most reproducible of methods and attempted to reproduce it. From Dictatorship to Democracy (FdtD) was published in English and Burmese in 1994, and since then has been translated to over thirty languages, especially after 2000 when it was used as... (From :

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This argument is documented in How Nonviolence Protects the State. In sum, nonviolent organizations predicted, after the largest protests the world had ever seen, that their peaceful methods would prevent the war. When they were proven wrong, many people who believed in this nonviolent model for change became disillusioned and dropped out, whereas other people became frustrated with the enforcement of nonviolence and the parade-like, self-congratulatory character of the movement, as well as its refusal to express rage at mass murder or condone the sabotage of the war effort. The movement imploded and disappeared with spectacular speed. In Spain, self-appointed student leaders prevented a discussion of a diversity of tactics and physically ejected students who tried to mask up or practice self-defense in the protests. They organized a series of huge protests and university occupations in response to the privatization of... (From :


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