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Bloodless Lies

The New Inquiry

November 2, 2016

By Lorenzo Raymond

56bloodless-social

This is an Uprising, a widely celebrated new book about how social movements change history, distorts their histories to celebrate non-violence

The black revolt of 2014 was a turning point in how Americans discussed the use of force in social movements. In the pages of the Atlantic, Ta-Nehisi Coates acknowledged that “violence works.” Rolling Stone and the Huffington Post echoed much the same sentiment. Laci Green–a YouTube star and one of the “30 most influential people on the Internet,” according to Time–posted a popular video drawing favorable comparisons between the Ferguson riots and the revolution depicted in The Hunger Games. This sea change was led by the movement itself as African American youth in Ferguson rejected Al Sharpton and other older leaders, partly due to disagreement on strict nonviolence.

this-is-an-uprising
Mark Engler and Paul Engler, This Is an Uprising. Nation Books. 2016. 368 pages.
The notable exceptions to this trend were those who spoke for the state. These parties advocated for nonviolent action in a most conspicuous way. On the eve on the announcement of the non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson, the killer of Mike Brown, Attorney General Eric Holder solemnly intoned that “history has shown us that the most successful and enduring movements for change are those that adhere to non-aggression and nonviolence.” In an ABC interview on the same day, President Obama urged that the “first and foremost” responsibility for Americans reacting to the verdict was to “keep protests peaceful.”

It shouldn’t be necessary to remind people of major public discussions from two years ago, but America is a notoriously forgetful nation. And when it comes to matters of protest, politics, reform, and revolt, many people are invested in this kind of forgetting. The stated purpose of Mark and Paul Engler’s new book This Is an Uprising (2015) is to work against this historical amnesia. The Engler brothers profess to build “a healthy movement ecology [which] preserves the memory of how past transformations in society have been achieved.” This is a worthy goal, and the brothers appear well-placed to realize it: one is a professional community organizer while the other is a fixture of progressive publications including Dissent and Yes! Magazine. The book has been praised effusively by lefty celebrities, including Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein, as the new authoritative text for mass civil disobedience. Yet rather than building on the nuanced understanding of street tactics that developed in the wake of Ferguson, the Englers selectively distort social movement history in a blind commitment to a particular kind of direct action.

The opening chapters are an introduction to the modern history of tactical pacifism as embodied in the practice of Martin Luther King’s Birmingham campaign and, later in the 1960s, by the theories of political scientist Gene Sharp. The authors contend that both these figures abandoned religious nonviolence to develop a rational, realist praxis known as “civil resistance,” not “pacifism.” The principle reason for this name change is that Gene Sharp rejected the P-word, arguing that the term only applied to private individuals operating from spiritual inspiration. The Englers affirm that Sharp’s “politics of nonviolent action” are distinct from pacifism because the latter is essentially apolitical.

What the Englers fail to acknowledge, however, is that virtually all the 20th century activists whom Sharp and his school hold up as role models did call themselves pacifists. A.J. Muste, Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King, and even Daniel Berrigan (who for a time defied strict Gandhism by fleeing imprisonment after an act of property destruction) all called themselves pacifists. When scrutinized, the switch from “pacifism” to “nonviolent action” appears to be a case of re-branding in response to the poor reputation pacifism had among young people by the end of the 1960s. This was hardly the first time pacifism was renamed rather than critically challenged: Leo Tolstoy referred to the use of civil disobedience without violence as “non-resistance.” Gandhi rejected that name, but employed essentially the same strategy; Tolstoy and Gandhi exchanged correspondence and agreed on practically all points.

In the 21st century, the term du jour is “civil resistance” and sometimes “people power,” yet the method’s founding father is still considered to be Gandhi. It also seems significant that in spite of “breaking from the earlier traditions of moral pacifism,” as the Englers put it, many of the major proponents of civil resistance, from Gene Sharp to George Lakey to Bill Moyer to Chris Hedges, come from highly religious backgrounds.

In addition to a re-branding, “civil resistance” is also a misbranding. The term is adopted from Thoreau’s 1849 essay “On Resistance to Civil Government,” but his use of “civil” referred to the type of domestic government being resisted, not to the method of civility deployed. Thoreau himself later said that John Brown’s violent lack of civility was the best thing that ever happened to the abolitionist movement.

These contradictions aside, the Englers trace how “civil resistance” has become increasingly accepted in mainstream political science. To demonstrate this, they introduce us to Erica Chenoweth, now one of the most celebrated social movement theorists working in the field. Chenoweth got her start producing the widely cited study Why Civil Resistance Works (2011) in collaboration with Maria J. Stephan of the U.S. State Department. According to the Englers, the study proved that “nonviolent movements worldwide were twice as likely to succeed as violent ones.” But the sample size of the study is far too narrow to prove such a sweeping claim. There are no civil rights or labor struggles included in the Chenoweth data set, which is focused exclusively on regime change. And, as Peter Gelderloos pointed out in his book The Failure of Nonviolence (2013), the outcomes of the nonviolent revolutions cited by Chenoweth have little to do with social justice or liberation. At best they replace one oligarchy with another, with no radical change in social relations or even net gains in quality of life.

At one point, the Englers note that the same political science prize that Chenoweth won–the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award–was previously bestowed on Henry Kissinger. This, for them, is the height of irony: Chenoweth is, after all, the opposite of the Kissingers of the world. But while they may represent different sides of the aisle in terms of American political divisions, Chenoweth’s work is, in many ways, just as useful to the U.S. empire.

At the height of the Cold War, the government used Kissinger’s work to justify the “hard power” of the arms race and violent intervention against communist regimes. Today Chenoweth’s work helps to justify–and in this case, mystify–Obama’s “soft power” agenda of “democracy promotion” exercised through seemingly benign agencies like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United States Institute of Peace (USIP)–the former organization was recently caught covertly organizing against the Castro government in Cuba. And while direct U.S. government involvement with pacifist academics is a relatively new development–emerging in the mid-2000s, around the same time that Gelderloos first observed that “nonviolence protects the state”–their financial relationship goes back at least to Gene Sharp’s first doctoral work in the late 1960s, which was funded by the Department of Defense.

But if the American empire promotes strictly nonviolent movement-building to overthrow its enemies, wouldn’t that demonstrate that it’s as powerful a method as its proponents say it is? The short answer is no. When civil resistance works–and when the U.S. government deploys it abroad–it’s almost always in combination with more violent forms of pressure. To illustrate this, one need look no further than the Yugoslav movement to unseat President Slobodan Miloševi?, which figures prominently in Chenoweth’s famous study and takes up more than thirty pages in This Is an Uprising. In the Englers’ version, this regime change is primarily attributable to Otpor, a “leaderless” student group from Serbia. Otpor promoted nonviolence in the Sharpian model, with an official policy to submit to arrest and abjure any kind of self-defense, even when the police physically abused them. In this way, they won the sympathy of the public and even the Serbian establishment.

But Otpor didn’t operate in a vacuum. Not only did they overthrow Miloševi? in the period when he had just lost a war with NATO, but also, in the midst of Otpor’s campaign, Miloševi? was being challenged by the armed insurgency of the UÇPMB (successor group to the Kosovo Liberation Army). On top of this, militant groups in Montenegro threatened to secede if he was re-elected. The Englers quote Otpor veterans’ claims that the NATO raids undermined the opposition and strengthened the regime, but the record shows that Otpor prospered in the aftermath of the bombing. One prominent civil resistance study acknowledges that “a number of middle and higher-ranking police and army officers made secret pacts with the democratic opposition and helped the movement forward.” Furthermore, Otpor’s victory was not strictly nonviolent: Anti-Miloševi? protesters rioted in October 2000 when the president refused to concede the election. The Englers admit, in passing, that things “got a little out of hand,” but they fail to describe the full extent of the insurrection: not only was there arson and other property destruction in Belgrade, but also the fact that an Otpor supporter killed a civilian by driving over him with a bulldozer.

This cherry-picked example of civil resistance winning its demands occurred in a context where both NATO and an armed guerilla group simultaneously made the same demand. And yet, under today’s political science taxonomy, this is what’s considered a nonviolent victory. Such dubious classification is common in the civil resistance world: Peter Ackerman, the venture capitalist who has funded much of Gene Sharp’s work, once claimed that Ukraine’s Euromaidan movement should be considered nonviolent because only a minority of the protesters threw firebombs and brandished guns.

A good faith argument for pacifist success in such cases would credit the intervening factors as a diversity of tactics supporting a nonviolent core, or attribute it to what is known in social movement theory as the “radical flank effect,” which argues that the presence of radical militants in a social movement helps make the less militant actors seem reasonable and worthy of having their demands met. Yet not only do the Englers undervalue such phenomena, they actively denounce them.

In spite of primarily advocating for nonviolent direct action, the Englers express support for electioneering, stating that while it is a separate tactic, it can complement civil resistance. If they are genuinely non-ideological strategists, they should take the same position towards guerilla activity. But, while the Englers repeatedly speak of the need for movements to “escalate,” they jerk back from any overlap with property destruction. This flinching is excused with a fable of the radical environmental advocacy movement Earth First! in the 1990s. The Englers paint the picture of a movement with a macho fetish for violence that was set right by the influence of the more moderate feminist Judi Bari, who enforced nonviolence and built the populist Redwood Summer campaign of 1990, winning political victories against logging in the Pacific Northwest. This success, the Englers claim, was in marked contrast with the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), the monkeywrenching eco-saboteurs who left defected from Earth First! after the rise of Bari.

The ELF is portrayed as a gang of clowns who accomplished nothing besides getting themselves imprisoned. Yet the Englers also tell us that “in the end, Redwood Summer did not produce immediate legislative gains.” The best they can claim for the nonviolent campaign is “a 78 percent drop in logging in national forests.” The ELF began carrying out its arson and sabotage attacks on the logging and tourism industries in the Pacific Northwest in 1996; these years of victory were among ELF’s peak years of activity, when it was clearly functioning as the radical flank of Earth First! But the Englers’ attitude towards militants is eliminationist, not just separatist: the ELF shouldn’t have just left Earth First!, they should have ceased to exist at all. Such absolutism is completely contrary to Bari’s actual policy: “Earth First!, the public group, has a nonviolence code,” she wrote in 1994, “monkeywrenching is done by [the] Earth Liberation Front […] Civil disobedience and sabotage are both powerful tactics in our movement.”

The double standards that the authors apply between violent and nonviolent actors undermine their claims of unbiased pragmatism. When pacifist organizers provoke violent repression, the Englers regard it as a necessary cost of the campaign–“leading proponents of civil resistance emphasize that strategic nonviolent action […] may result in serious injuries and even casualties”–but when black blocs draw repression, it’s completely unacceptable. ACT UP are praised as “desperate, aggressive, and often exceptional young men,” who had the courage to risk “potentially alienating the very people that advocates want to win over.” The ELF, on the other hand, are pictured as fanatics with no strategy. When the civil rights movement employed “often unpopular” tactics, generating “overwhelmingly negative” reaction in public opinion polls, this was admirable; when the Weather Underground and other Vietnam-era militants defied public opinion, they were simply out-of-touch adventurists (even though the latter’s action led to massive troop withdrawals and a constitutional amendment to lower the voting age).

The Englers, it must be noted, have attempted to apply their precepts, not merely theorize them. In the wake of Occupy Wall Street, they helped organize the 99% Spring campaign, a coalition dominated by Moveon.org that aimed to put “hundreds of thousands” of people in the streets to change foreclosure policy. Coalition spokesman and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) executive Stephen Lerner promised to “engage the millions of people we need to do [sic] to build the kind of movement we need at this time in history.” According to him, this was a job that Occupy was not capable of doing without their guidance. In the end, the 99% Spring mobilized a few thousand people–far less than Occupy did nationwide–and had no impact on banking foreclosure policies, which remained abysmal. More recently, the brothers were involved with a nearly identical coalition–Democracy Spring/Democracy Awakening–based around campaign-finance reform. Initially, Democracy Spring seemed more tactically ambitious with a program of organizing mass civil disobedience at the Capitol Building. However, press coverage of the arrests turned out to be so meager that most of the campaign’s supporters were left distraught.

As historians and theorists of social movement, the Englers might have been able to see this failure coming, since they actually describe a precedent for their ineffectual campaigns in This Is an Uprising. In his 1962 project in Albany, Georgia, Martin Luther King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) left a yearlong campaign with no tangible civil rights advances achieved. King had been thwarted by Chief of Police Laurie Pritchett, who capitalized on SCLC’s nonviolent strategy by avoiding any appearance of brutality and de-escalating conflict between police and protesters, thereby pre-empting any dramatic scenes that could draw national attention. King’s reputation within the movement declined until the spectacular victory of the following year’s Birmingham campaign. The Englers spend over twenty pages on Birmingham, promising to demonstrate just why it succeeded while Albany failed, but they never do.

In truth, the Birmingham campaign benefitted from having both a police force and a protest movement that was markedly less peaceful than in Albany. King wasn’t able to get consistent media coverage until after protests became, as Taylor Branch put it, “a duel of rocks and fire hoses.” One of King’s aides, Vincent Harding, later acknowledged that the black youth who came to dominate the campaign’s street action were “the children of Malcom X” and that their escalation to “a burning, car-smashing, police-battling response” marked Birmingham as “the first of the period’s urban rebellions.” Historian Glenn Eskew wrote that “the aftermath of national protest, international pressure, and inner-city riot convinced a reluctant Kennedy administration to propose sweeping legislation that, once passed as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, marked a watershed in race relations.”

Yet these events of the Birmingham campaign are never mentioned in the Englers’ book in any form. It is here that the brothers step into outright dishonesty: they know very well that the scholarly consensus on Birmingham is that the violent protesters made an invaluable contribution (Eskew’s book is one of their sources). Yet in spite of spending a tenth of their book’s text on Birmingham, they refuse to even acknowledge the violent protesters’ existence.

Such historical censorship rationalizes the choreographed civil disobedience that the Englers help organize today, which quarantines “good protesters” from “bad protesters.” This, in turn, enables the same counter-strategy that Laurie Pritchett employed so effectively against King in Albany. What the Englers call “discipline” is actually de-escalation that facilitates police crowd control. Indeed, there is now a fully developed police doctrine known as “negotiated management” based on the avoidance of direct conflict with protesters. The National Lawyers’ Guild official, Traci Yoder, has written that negotiated management “is in many ways more effective […] in neutralizing social justice movements” than overt state repression.

But while the brothers focus on the SCLC at length, they fail to discuss the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) who, the brothers passingly admit, pushed SCLC into its most productively confrontational actions. This is not only because the history of SNCC began with Gandhian practice, but also because it rapidly progressed beyond it. Although its militancy is sometimes attributed to Black Power-era missteps, SNCC’s commitment to a genuinely grassroots politics led it to work with openly armed African Americans as early as 1961 in Monroe, North Carolina, as well as with more discreetly armed black peoples all over the South. By spring 1964, SNCC associates in Cambridge, Maryland were having gunfights with the National Guard and one of the group’s advisers, Howard Zinn, noted that the movement had reached “the limits of nonviolence.” But it was crucial that those limits were reached, or there wouldn’t have been a Civil Rights Act.

In spite of its name, SNCC’s principles always had less to do with nonviolence than with organizing from the bottom-up. The group’s guiding light was Ella Baker, arguably the most important African American leader of the 20th century. As many have noted, Baker preached neither strategic nonviolence nor strategic violence. Drawing from her decades of experience, Baker counseled SNCC organizers to distance themselves from institutional power; they might maintain dialogue with the establishment left–trade unions and NGOs tied into what she called “the foundation complex”–but they should be wary of entering into partnerships with them. Instead they should follow the lead of working-class communities on the ground. This repeatedly led SNCC organizers away from nonviolence. Then as now, serious movements make serious enemies (think of the shootings last year in Charleston and Minneapolis) and self-defense quickly becomes paramount for frontline activists. Baker’s longtime friend and biographer Joanne Grant recounted that as pacifism faded away in SNCC, Baker “turned a blind eye to the prevalence of weapons. While she herself would rely on her fists […] she had no qualms about target practice.” At the same time, the failure of peaceful reform logically led oppressed communities towards insurrection.

It is often said that without the guidance of an anti-authoritarian and non-ideological figure like Ella Baker, the Black Power militants of SNCC began to lose perspective. Yet it can equally be said that the pacifists lost their way as well. The cause of social justice in America has been suffering from believing the former but not reckoning with the latter for the past forty years.

 

[Lorenzo Raymond is an independent historian and educator living in New York City. Lorenzo blogs at Diversityoftactics.org]

 

WATCH: This is What Activism Looks Like

This is What Courage Looks Like…

This is What Direct Action Looks Like…

This is What Civil Disobedience Looks like…

A short documentary portrait of Jonathan Paul, former Animal Liberation Front member who was sentenced to 51 months in federal prison for his part in the 1997 Cavel West arson.

A Dog Park Production.

For more information on Jonathan Paul read: “My brother is in prison. He is my hero…” at this link:

http://alexandrapaul.com/alexandras-corner/my-brother-is-in-prison-he-is-my-hero/

‘Rain & Fire’ – A Brilliant Statement from a UK FAI sector

Rain & Fire

This text was written during the course of the growing European social war, and our attempts to situate ourselves in the context of that, whilst in the midst of rising fascism, complicity from most of the society and a fractured and divisive anti-capitalist ‘movement’. These scant few pages cannot express the complexity of the various situations being described in any great depth, but we write so that other rebels at the edges can know how it is for us here. As we were putting the final touches to the text, cities in the UK exploded and remain volatile. However this is not an analysis of the riots – this is a text from inside the social conditions which gave rise to the insurrection.

This text has been collaboratively written by many individuals in our network over a period of discussion, planning and attack. We have been brief in our communiques so far, but we felt it was time to write something longer.

“Why are we writing?” Because we know how important it has been for us to hear the knocks on the wall from other renegades in other cells, and because we would like to reach out beyond the people we already know, beyond the realities we have lived in, created, abandoned or remain tied to. As revolutionaries, we are highly critical of these realities and of ourselves, and we write because just, as individuals, we strive to be ‘better’ than we are, we also desire for this world to be better than it is. We are open to the fallacy of our opinions and wish to surpass our expectations, such as they are. We also try to communicate with those outside our circles, and we attempt to staunch the tendency towards self-referentialism which is endemic to many forms of communication. In the end, we have to accept that this text is written to persons unknown and that wherever it is read and whoever it reaches, there will be those who will have an understanding of what is written here – and this is for them.

There is no longer any sure statement that can be made about this changing world, which catches fire more and more, everyday.

The present day United Kingdom is a controlled theme-park, covered in surveillance cameras, vehicle tracking, identical housing estates, post-industrial zones and sprawling road and train networks. There is virtually no wilderness left, the powerful and rich control the ‘countryside’, as much as, or even more than the cities, and there is little freedom beyond the mainstream, unless you take it – the same as anywhere else. The prison of everyday life is so total here that the only choice remaining is its complete destruction.

We welcomed the renewed call by the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire / Informal Anarchist Federation for a world-wide informal anarchist structure based on revolutionary solidarity and direct action: the International Revolutionary Front. As we continue to develop our own project of revolutionary organisation, we affirm the global informal ‘network’ or ‘federation’ of revolutionary groups in existence who are developing, encouraging and participating in uncontrollable confrontation against State and Capital, whilst organising and developing their own initiatives of attack: this is our signal of collaboration.

There has been a significant upsurge in attacks against prison, financial, police and communications targets in the UK, but the obvious truth is that these attacks are few in relation to the task to be undertaken, and the level of engagement with the enemy is still in the early stages of its development.

Over the last two years we have begun a newly co-ordinated revolutionary project. It is our way of starting something new. Something that won’t just disappear like words against the wind. We are some of those who think that the possibility of a conscious, cohesive social revolution involving a critical mass from the general population of the UK is frankly remote. However, we think – and have seen – that widespread chaos and social insurgency are inevitable, and from this, new and better forms of human values could emerge.

If we were to reflect on human life experience – both individual and collective – we would perhaps understand the wisdom that sometimes it takes a total breakdown for things to change. Of course, some people are scared of change, of the unknown. People limp along miserably in all sorts of dysfunctional conditions for years – relationships, jobs, towns etc. – rather than face the necessary and radical alteration of those conditions into a future they cannot yet imagine. And because society is made up of individual human beings, then society is no different. People lap up the distractions being offered – TV, consumables, mainstream cultures, drugs, subcultures, actions, gatherings, spiritual panaceas, anything… so long as they can put off confronting the essential emptiness of everyday life. We are living in the midst of a culture where endemic use of anti-depressants, for example – as Aldous Huxley predicted in Brave New World – keep people from changing what is making them unhappy and instead make them accept what it is that is making them unhappy. When the individuals in a society are struggling just to get up in the morning because the system exploits them every minute, these people have no energy to revolt against the system. They are caught in its claws. They don’t even seem to recognise this. The totality of this techno-industrial society enslaves them into patterns of repetition, damaging themselves and each other, oppressed on the outside and repressed on the inside. The fundamental distinction between inside and outside prison does not seem to exist in the same way any more: daily life attempts to subject us to a regime of control and routine in every aspect.

In the foyers of the supermarkets and the shopping malls, in pubs and bars, places of work and transport hubs we find, more often than not, those whom the consumer democracy has bought off with the looted capital of those less fortunate. Regularly, we are in the presence of willing captives, of society’s sickness, of reactionary grasping for the means of survival – the exploited against the exploited. People have made a fool’s bargain and have handed over their health, intelligence, curiosity, sense of solidarity, personal authority, and the earth and all that lives and grows on it in exchange for the latest technology, fast food, flash car or social network.

Although present reality shows us an intensification of social conflict with some promising characteristics, we do not yet see ourselves standing amongst a potentially revolutionary mass. We appear to be standing knee-deep in the bloated carcass of a dying civilisation.

Almost seven billion people across the world are hooked into a genocidal and tyrannical system that has insinuated itself as a life-support machine. Civilisation gives the impression that its destruction would mean the end of all life; however an extinction wave is already happening which, if it did continue, would have that exact result, accompanied by near total-victory for the capitalist techno-industrial-military system and the financial power which underpins it.

Environmental catastrophe roars across flooded continents; vast tsunami, extensive desertification and decimated forests. The modern totalitarian nation-states and their imperialist groupings like the G8, G20, NATO and so on, are committed to the murderously terrorist capitalist system as their vision of the future. To a future where everything and everyone is a commodity logged and valued in a mechanical world devoid of any possibility of wildness and freedom. A world of perfect control and domestication. An impossible world. A world which every sane human being and wild creature already fights against – from each and every area regardless of race, creed or species.

We are in the midst of an unprecedented ecological collapse. Various tendencies in the scientific and political communities have spent many years arguing amongst themselves as to whether global warming is or is not a result of human behaviour, citing natural disasters and mass die-offs in pre-history. These arguments are now irrelevant. It is undeniable that grotesque species extinction, habitat loss, light/noise and air/land/oceanic pollution on a worldwide scale, desertification, human encroachment on wilderness are a direct result of human attitudes and economic greed. For decades, changing this was a possibility, now it is too late.

We are witnessing our species suicidally contaminate and destroy its own habitat and that of every other species on the planet: an expanding population which prioritises itself and its own prescribed and enforced lifestyle above all other considerations, living in complete disharmony with the natural world and destroying the fragile eco-system upon which we depend.

The built environments we inhabit are unsuitable even for humans. Land that used to be covered in forest, supporting a wide range of species, becomes ever more covered in concrete. Every available piece of ‘wasteland’ is being sold off for development. Civilisation is genocidal, homicidal, ecocidal and suicidal. From poverty, abuse and domestic unhappiness to the reckless drivers risking pile-ups to get home a couple of minutes faster, to the regular ethnic cleansings and the total pillage of the environment in the scramble for money and control through the securing of natural resources to exploit. This is a violent system, and millions are dying as we speak, here and everywhere: of obesity and malnutrition, of traffic accidents, industrial diseases, war, substance abuse, depression and loneliness. Meanwhile, the comfortable arrange their knives and forks and settle down in front of the television; their empty, meaningless conversations blurring into hollow silence.

These modern societies have come to mean that dreams and desires are warped and dictated from birth (work ethics, conformity to roles, competition, separation, jealousy, class and social deference to authority, the nuclear family, domestication); so much so that it is hard to even know what our unconstrained lives might look like when the State and Capital’s projects and rule are finally rejected en masse.

In Britain, there is a massive amount of class anger encountered every day, but until 7th August 2011 when rioting erupted in London and swept through the country, there has been barely any widespread manifestation of this anger against the capitalist system or government.

There is a sheepish terror amongst the people here that gets into the bones, and although there is a desire for destruction and for attack, there is also a deep fear that paralyses. A consensual censorship exists, between almost every strata and structure of society, that prevents even the ability to express and manifest dissent unless it is within permitted parameters. In such an advanced surveillance society, when the risk of getting caught even for writing some rebellious words on a wall is so seemingly great, it is easy to give into the fear and to imagine that it is a fact that you are going to get caught. The surveillance technology is extensive and reaches inside – if you let it do so. That’s why we love the ‘feral underclass’ who the politicians and their police despise, those who lost their fear from growing up in a police-state – because that is what Britain is, a police-state.

And like any police-state, it only exists because of a vast consensus of subservience from the society. Who has let the social terrain become overrun with surveillance technology? Who has become the eyes and ears of the State? Who turns their own children in to the authorities? Who has watched the Muslims and immigrants become vilified without acting? Who has let the police become embedded in all aspects of the ‘community’? Who has accepted their own powerlessness and swallowed the lies of the media, allowing the politicians to manipulate them and the bankers to rob them? It is the “citizens” themselves.

The reactionary mass of people here are lost in comfortable illusions, bought off by the delights of consumerism. They put out of their minds any actual realities of oppression or exploitation. Of course, they feel deeply the misery of their daily grind, but here they make the bosses’ choice: to be angry with the immigrants, the impoverished and the marginalised, otherwise amusing themselves with the sports section, the lottery, the televised media spectacle of rivalry and competition. Benefiting from and perpetuating a system of global violence, we have little more than scorn for the waste these people make of their lives.

At the same time, the food prices go up, the fuel price goes up, the wages go down, pensions and benefits are cut, mass redundancies are effected (some staff to be rehired if they apply for their old job again, but only at a lower wage). There will be no more inheritance. There will be no more security, even for the nuclear families who bought into the dream of the faded Empire, rotting in sub-standard housing surrounded by decay and breakdown. We see how the technological-capitalist system ties people into ‘needing’ the computer, mobile telephone, car, TV, because putting those things aside means social and cultural isolation and no opiate to bury the alienation, misery and desperation. Nothing exists but a trace of a way of life promised to an elite. The majority are living in debt, and/or hand to mouth; the fortunate are living on their reserves; and the very few are living off everyone else, enjoying the present and securing the future for themselves.

We act against the State and the symbols of the State for many reasons. And of course, one of those reasons is a desire to move beyond ourselves and our small circles. We hope that these attacks will resonate with others and will spread, and indeed they have.

We are not so stupid that we think our attacks – however worthy the targets – will alone bring down this system. We understand that there are other social factors which are necessary. We know that the process of planning and carrying out attacks changes our immediate social relations and our relation with our own sense of self and personal power, so that gradually our actions become bolder, wilder, harder to ignore. This process also changes the general atmosphere, creating an environment where more is possible because less is impossible. We have contributed to a whole plethora of anti-system activities, of which repeated attacks by smaller and larger groups over the past year on infrastructure, banks, and prison institutions have played a part.

With all the billions of people who live in the world, there will never be a time when a particular act against the State and Capital is felt by all or even the majority of people to be appropriate, ‘good’ or desirable. Our small affinity groups – of two, three or more people self-organised into a larger informal structure – simply act according to their own rage, their own analysis, their own choice and at their own risk. To pretend to be someone other than we are is useless, dishonest and lacking in integrity, a posture which could only slowly devastate us and ultimately any collective project arising from this.

By publicising our attacks, we hope to inspire unknown combatants and to disseminate those methods so that they are easy to reproduce by others. This is why we make sure always to communicate them through the independent media, as otherwise there is a media black-out on reporting the claims of sabotage and covering subversive activity in this country, preferring, as it does, stories centred around personalities and the seemingly designed-to-be-unchangeable current political structures. It is important for us who wish to confront and bring down Capital to know that others are attacking the enemy, in order to dismantle any sense of isolation and powerlessness. It is vital to organise, communicate and co-ordinate attacks.

We are very proud of the relationships we have built as individuals together through our project of destruction, as we are of each of our actions, even those that did not meet our expectations. Each of us are individuals who believe that the fundamental base of a strong and healthy way of life is comprised by the individuals themselves, in their decisions, choices and values that go towards freedom and responsibility.

Our project is to quicken the breakdown of society. As revolutionaries, we are a minority – but do not say that we are few. We don’t make predictions as to how society will re-form after the breakdown, although, of course, as anarchists, there are some basic ways we want things to change. And those dreams coincide with those of revolutionaries throughout human history, and indeed they are being realised already across the world.

We are bored to death with reflection, statement and opinion – and even of this analysis – on the condition of this society. We must only attack and destroy – which means using revolutionary violence, in our hearts and in our hands, until our freedom to act is permanent. This continuous project of attack is in order also to break down our fears and to heighten the tension that exists, to give it expression. To understand that in a police-state and surveillance society where fear and paralysis are a daily condition, it is still possible to revolt and to attack, to overcome those that have inserted themselves into positions of power based on the obedience of the crowd.

We are poised at an exciting time in history, although it seems at times like a most relentlessly depressing one. As the material base of people’s lives is tipped into ever increasing fragility and as the sensation of daily precarity and inequality grows, the results are entirely unpredictable (as we have seen here this August in the widespread violent uprising) and it is exactly at such times that even small acts can have the most unpredictable effect.

We want to contribute to the opening up of new possibilities. In a highly symbolic, abstracted and post-modern culture and way of life, and in a situation where even work now is largely providing service and information, there seems to be no end to the targets we can attack – our actions are themselves an exploration. Of what is worthwhile to strike and what is not.

Corporations and government targets are attacked across the world in coordinated and constant acts of direct action. Land and property are occupied in defiance of speculators and landlords. Animals are liberated, bio-science laboratories burnt down. Transgenic crops trashed and business people intimidated. Banks and courthouses are blown up, judges shot and stabbed. Police and their stations are attacked with Molotovs, sticks, dynamite, firearms. Energy supplies are disrupted, television infrastructure attacked, internet cables and mobile-phone masts sabotaged. Supermarkets and department stores are looted and their products distributed. People go on strike, blockade the economy and occupy their places of wage-slavery; ‘labour’ disappears into the generalised insurrection.

Prisoners rebel and overtake their guards, some escape or are freed by their compatriots on the ‘outside’. Communiques of revolutionary international solidarity are circulated by anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist and anarchist groups of the new urban guerilla war; objectives are discussed, concepts exchanged, methods revealed, tactics refined and words of armed joy and love spoken. A sprawling economic and technological apparatus of social control stutters in seizure and fragmentation.

A message to all those who have not yet begun the fight but see the looming clash on the horizon: prepare yourselves, because there is a fierce conflict ahead for the future of our changing world. And this planet is ours. Ours, like the streets of the cities in which we set our barricades. Ours, like the houses, corners and cafés where we meet our friends and accomplices. Ours, like the stones we throw and the fires we set. Ours, like the infinite anarchic dream which wrote itself into existence.

This is a new era of international urban low-intensity war, and our insurrectional project is forged from the multiple efforts of many autonomous and independent combative groups, developing new lines of attack and coordination whilst retaining the individualist character of their own principle concerns and objectives.

It’s not enough to rot our dreams with the incontinence of inaction. The future is yours with every dream you make into reality, and every refusal you make concrete. Whether locked down in jail, on the street, or imprisoned in the family or workplace, each moment of your life depends on your ability to scheme and rebel against anybody and anything which tries to put their authoritative hand upon you; you are the future and the world is yours.

We consider our network a section of the Informal Anarchist Federation / Earth Liberation Front / International Revolutionary Front

We send our solidarity and respect to all those fighting against the system around the world and here in the UK. Our love and drive for freedom to all the comrades in prison and also the dignified prisoners who are in rebellion.

International Informal Anarchist Federation / FAI

http://325.nostate.net/?p=3032

Eyes Wide Shut | The Tar Sands Action Protest & The Paralysis of a Movement – Excerpt

Eyes Wide Shut | The Tar Sands Action Protest & The Paralysis of a Movement – Excerpt

Eyes Wide Shut | The Tar Sands Action Protest & The Paralysis of a Movement

August 30th, 2011

Cory Morningstar

Following is an excerpt from Ward Churchill’s Pacifism as Pathology, first published in 1986. For anyone interested in mitigating the global collapse of all ecosystems and deterring planet-wide and species-wide genocide, this is essential reading.

For anyone wishing to take a critical look at the Tar Sands protests by groups funded (in some cases created) by the Rockefellers and other corporate foundations – who will stop at absolutely nothing to keep the current power structures intact – the excerpt from this essay is sure to wake one from the paralysis trapping and constraining movements and societies to the status quo.  The parallels of Churchill’s essay and events in Washington DC being celebrated and endorsed, while the planet rests on the precipice, are nothing less than Orwellian.

The question central to the emergence and maintenance of nonviolence as the oppositional foundation of American activism has not been the truly pacifist formulation, “How can we forge a revolutionary politics within which we can avoid inflicting violence on others?” On the contrary, a more accurate guiding question has been, “What sort of politics might I engage in which will both allow me to posture as a progressive and allow me to avoid incurring harm to myself?” Hence, the trappings of pacifism have been subverted to establish a sort of “politics of the comfort zone,” not only akin to what Bettelheim termed “the philosophy of business as usual” and devoid of perceived risk to its advocates, but minus any conceivable revolutionary impetus as well.[55] The intended revolutionary content of true pacifist activism — the sort practiced by the Gandhian movement, the Berrigans, and Norman Morrison – is thus isolated and subsumed in the United States, even among the ranks of self-professing participants.

Such a situation must abort whatever limited utility pacifist tactics might have, absent other and concurrent forms of struggle, as a socially transformative method. Yet the history of the American Left over the past decade shows too clearly that the more diluted the substance embodied in “pacifist practice,” the louder the insistence of its subscribers that nonviolence is the only mode of action “appropriate and acceptable within the context of North America,” and the greater the effort to ostracize, or even stifle divergent types of actions.[56] Such strategic hegemony exerted by proponents of this truncated range of tactical options has done much to foreclose on what ever revolutionary potential may be said to exist in modern America.

Is such an assessment too harsh? One need only attend a mass demonstration (ostensibly directed against the policies of the state) in any U.S. city to discover the answer. One will find hundreds, sometimes thousands, assembled in orderly fashion, listening to selected speakers calling for an end to this or that aspect of lethal state activity, carrying signs “demanding” the same thing, welcoming singers who enunciate lyrically on the worthiness of the demonstrators’ agenda as well as the plight of the various victims they are there to “defend,” and – typically – the whole thing is quietly disbanded with exhortations to the assembled to “keep working” on the matter and to please sign a petition and/or write letters to congress people requesting that they alter or abandon offending undertakings.

Throughout the whole charade it will be noticed that the state is represented by a uniformed police presence keeping a discreet distance and not interfering with the activities. And why should they? The organizers of the demonstration will have gone through “proper channels” to obtain permits required by the state and instructions as to where they will be allowed to assemble, how long they will be allowed to stay and, should a march be involved in the demonstration, along which routes they will be allowed to walk. Surrounding the larger mass of demonstrators can be seen others — an elite. Adorned with green (or white, or powder blue) armbands, their function is to ensure that demonstrators remain “responsible,” not deviating from the state-arm banded sanctioned plan of protest. Individuals or small groups who attempt to spin off from the main body, entering areas to which the state has denied access (or some other unapproved activity) are headed off by these arm-banded “marshals” who argue — pointing to the nearby police – that “troublemaking” will only “exacerbate an already tense situation” and “provoke violence,” thereby “alienating those we are attempting to reach.”[57] In some ways, the voice of the “good Jews” can be heard to echo plainly over the years.

At this juncture, the confluence of interests between the state and the mass nonviolent movement could not be clearer. The role of the police, whose function is to support state policy by minimizing disruption of its procedures, should be in natural conflict with that of a movement purporting to challenge these same policies and, indeed, to transform the state itself.[58] However, with apparent perverseness, the police find themselves serving as mere backups (or props) to self-policing (now euphemistically termed “peace-keeping” rather than the more accurate “marshaling”) efforts of the alleged opposition’s own membership. Both sides of the “contestation” concur that the smooth functioning of state processes must not be physically disturbed, at least not in any significant way.[59] All of this is within the letter and spirit of cooptive forms of sophisticated self-preservation appearing as an integral aspect of the later phases of bourgeois democracy.[60] It dovetails well with more shopworn methods such as the electoral process and has been used by the state as an innovative means of conducting public opinion polls, which better hide rather than eliminate controversial policies.[61] Even the movement’s own sloganeering tends to bear this out from time to time, as when Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) coined the catch-phrase of its alternative to the polling place: “Vote with your feet, vote in the street.”[62]

Of course, any movement seeking to project a credible self-image as something other than just one more variation of accommodation to state power must ultimately establish its “militant” oppositional credentials through the media in a manner more compelling than rhetorical speechifying and the holding of impolite placards (“Fuck the War” was always a good one) at rallies.[63] Here, the time-honored pacifist notion of “civil disobedience” is given a new twist by the adherents of nonviolence in America. Rather than pursuing Gandhi’s (or, to a much lesser extent, King’s) method of using passive bodies to literally clog the functioning of the state apparatus — regardless of the cost to those doing the clogging — the American nonviolent movement has increasingly opted for “symbolic actions.”[64]

The centerpiece of such activity usually involves an arrest, either of a token figurehead of the movement (or a small, selected group of them) or a mass arrest of some sort. In the latter event, “arrest training” is generally provided – and lately has become “required” by movement organizers – by the same marshals who will later ensure that crowd control police units will be left with little or nothing to do. This is to ensure that “no one gets hurt” in the process of being arrested, and that the police are not inconvenienced by disorganized arrest procedures. [65]

The event which activates the arrests is typically preplanned, well publicized in advance, and, more often than not, literally coordinated with the police — often including estimates by organizers concerning how many arrestees will likely be involved. Generally speaking, such “extreme statements” will be scheduled to coincide with larger-scale peaceful demonstrations so that a considerable audience of “committed” bystanders (and, hopefully, NBC/CBS/ABC/CNN) will be on hand to applaud the bravery and sacrifice of those arrested; most of the bystanders will, of course, have considered reasons why they themselves are unprepared to “go so far” as to be arrested.[66] The specific sort of action designed to precipitate the arrests themselves usually involves one of the following: (a) sitting down in a restricted area and refusing to leave when ordered; (b) stepping across an imaginary line drawn on the ground by a police representative; (c) refusing to disperse at the appointed time; or (d) chaining or padlocking the doors to a public building. When things really get heavy, those seeking to be arrested may pour blood (real or ersatz) on something of “symbolic value.”[67]

As a rule, those arrested are cooperative in the extreme, meekly allowing police to lead them to waiting vans or buses for transportation to whatever station house or temporary facility has been designated as the processing point. In especially “militant” actions, arrestees go limp, undoubtedly severely taxing the states repressive resources by forcing the police to carry them bodily to the vans or buses (monitored all the while by volunteer attorneys who are there to ensure that such “police brutality” as pushing, shoving, or dropping an arrestee does not occur). In either event, the arrestees sit quietly in their assigned vehicles – or sing “We Shall Overcome” and other favorites — as they are driven away for booking. The typical charges levied will be trespassing, creating a public disturbance, or being a public nuisance.

Purchase the book: http://www.akpress.org/2007/items/pacifismaspathologyakpress

Read the full essay online (original): http://zinelibrary.info/files/pap_imposed.pdf

Read the updated version online (2007): http://bit.ly/qujy8b

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