How Nonviolence Protects the State

By Peter Gelderloos

Entry 6634


From: holdoffhunger [id: 1]


Revolt Library Anarchism How Nonviolence Protects the State

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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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This book is dedicated to Sue Daniels (1960–2004), a brilliant ecologist, bold feminist, passionate anarchist, and beautiful and caring human being who nurtured and challenged everyone around her. Your bravery and wisdom continue to inspire me, and in that way your spirit remains indomitable... ...and to Greg Michael (1961–2006), who embodied health, as a wholeness of being and an indefatigable quest against the poisons of our world, even in the unhealthiest of circumstances. From a bag of raisins stolen from the prison kitchen to the unfolding of memory on a mountaintop, the gifts you have given me are a salve and a weapon, and they will stay with me until the last prison is a pile of rubble. Special thanks to Megan, Patrick, Carl, Gopal, and Sue D. for proofreading or giving me feedback, and to Sue F., James, Iris, Marc, Edi, Alexander, Jessica, Esther, and everyone who came to the workshops for criticism valuable to this second edit... (From :

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Nonviolence is Ineffective I could spend plenty of time talking about the failures of nonviolence. Instead, it may be more useful to talk about the successes of nonviolence. Pacifism would hardly be attractive to its supporters if the ideology had produced no historical victories. Typical examples are the independence of India from British colonial rule, caps on the nuclear arms race, the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and the peace movement during the war against Vietnam. And though they have not yet been hailed as a victory, the massive protests in 2003 against the US invasion of Iraq have been much applauded by nonviolent activists. There is a pattern to the historical manipulation and whitewashing evident in every single victory claimed by nonviolent activists. The pacifist position requires that success must be attributable to pacifist tactics and pacifist tactics alone, whereas the rest of us believe that change comes from the who... (From :

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Nonviolence is Racist I do not mean to exchange insults, and I use the epithet racist only after careful consideration. Nonviolence is an inherently privileged position in the modern context. Besides the fact that the typical pacifist is quite clearly white and middle class, pacifism as an ideology comes from a privileged context. It ignores that violence is already here; that violence is an unavoidable, structurally integral part of the current social hierarchy; and that it is people of color who are most affected by that violence. Pacifism assumes that white people who grew up in the suburbs with all their basic needs met can counsel oppressed people, many of whom are people of color, to suffer patiently under an inconceivably greater violence, until such time as the Great White Father is swayed by the movement’s demands or the pacifists achieve that legendary “critical mass.” People of color in the internal colonies of the US canno... (From :

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Nonviolence is Statist Put quite plainly, nonviolence ensures a state monopoly on violence. States — the centralized bureaucracies that protect capitalism; preserve a white supremacist, patriarchal order; and implement imperialist expansion — survive by assuming the role of the sole legitimate purveyor of violent force within their territory. Any struggle against oppression necessitates a conflict with the state. Pacifists do the state’s work by pacifying the opposition in advance. States, for their part, discourage militancy within the opposition, and encourage passivity. Some pacifists obscure this mutual relationship by claiming that the government would just love to see them abandon their nonviolent discipline and give in to violence, that the government even encourages violence from dissidents, and that many activists urging militancy are, in fact, government provocateurs. Thus, they argue, it is the militant activis... (From :

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Nonviolence is Patriarchal Patriarchy is a form of social organization that produces what we commonly recognize as sexism. But it goes well beyond individual or systemic prejudice against women. It is, first of all, the false division of all people into two rigid categories (male and female) that are asserted to be both natural and moral. (Many perfectly healthy people do not fit into either of these physiological categories, and many non-Western cultures recognized — and still do, if they haven’t been destroyed — more than two sexes and genders.) Patriarchy goes on to define clear roles (economic, social, emotional, political) for men and women, and it asserts (falsely) that these roles are natural and moral. Under patriarchy, people who do not fit into or who reject these gender roles are neutralized with violence and ostracism. They are made to seem and feel ugly, dirty, scary, contemptible, worthless. Patriarchy is harmful to everybody, and it is... (From :

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Nonviolence is Tactically and Strategically Inferior Nonviolent activists attempting to appear strategic often avoid any real strategizing with intrepid simplitudes such as “Violence is the government’s strong suit. We need to follow the path of least resistance and hit them where they’re weak.” It’s high time to make the distinction between strategizing and sloganeering, and get a little more sophisticated. First, let’s start with some definitions. (The usages I will give for the following terms are not universal, but as long as we use them consistently they will be more than adequate for our purposes.) A strategy is not a goal, a slogan, or an action. Violence is not a strategy, and neither is nonviolence. These two terms (violence and nonviolence) ostensibly are boundaries placed around sets of tactics. A limited set of tactics will constrain the available options for strategies, but t... (From :

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Nonviolence is Deluded Ward Churchill has argued that pacifism is pathological. I would say that, at the least, the advancement of nonviolence as a revolutionary practice in the present context is dependent on a number of delusions. Where to begin? Often, after showing that the victories of nonviolence were not victories at all, except for the state, I have encountered the simplistic counterargument that because some particular militant struggle or act of violence was unsuccessful, “violence” is equally ineffective. I don’t recall ever hearing anyone say that the use of violence ensures victory. I hope everyone can see the difference between showing the failures of pacifist victories and showing the failures of militant struggles that no one ever claimed as victories. It is not controversial to assert that militant social movements have succeeded in changing society, or even becoming the prevalent force in society. To restate that: everyone mu... (From :

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The Alternative: Possibilities for Revolutionary Activism I have made a number of forceful, even vitriolic, arguments against nonviolent activism, and I have not diluted these arguments. My goal has been to emphasize criticisms too often silenced, in order to defenestrate the stranglehold pacifism has over the movement’s discourse — a stranglehold exerting such a monopoly over putative morality and strategic/tactical analysis in many circles as to preclude even the acknowledgment of a feasible alternative. Would-be revolutionaries need to realize that pacifism is so vapid and counterproductive that an alternative is imperative. Only then can we weigh the different paths of struggle fairly — and, I hope, in a more pluralistic, decentralized manner as well — rather than attempting to enforce a party line or the single correct revolutionary program. My argument is not that all pacifists are apologists and sellouts without redeeming merit or... (From :

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Some periodicals limited to the strictly anarchist milieu, such as Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed, are not at all pacifist. However, their influence, and the influence of their readership, can be clearly seen as marginal in areas where, otherwise, anarchists have a major impact. At mass mobilizations of the anti-war and anti-globalization movements, in which anarchists are key organizers, criticisms of pacifism are not even entertained; at best, some participants can successfully argue that watered-down forms of direct action really do qualify as nonviolent. Media widely available beyond anarchist circles, in the way progressive media are somewhat available to the mainstream, are almost exclusively pacifist, even when many of the volunteers that keep those media alive are anti-authoritarians who support a diversity of tactics. Because it may be presumptuous to refer to someone who is not engaged in open conflict with the state as a revolu... (From :


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