"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Nov 14, 2011


So, there was this religious non-violence (written by Starhawk, no less; heh) screed being passed around, reproving folks for failing to act in accord with the creed of non-violence. Demanding a "strategic non-violence" which demonstrated, ultimately, that the posture is a bourgeois one. Was going to write a critique.

Realized the violent crackdowns on Denver, Oakland and Portland Oregon spoke volumes, instead.

All that non-violence, and the cops were still sent in to swing their batons.

ADDED in edit: Heh. This post addresses the positions taken by Starhawk and her associates. Starhawk is a widely published spiritualist, somewhat famous also for once being in a relationship with a (now) defrocked Theilhardian Catholic priest. Starhawk is not poor. Starhawk, from what I gather, is actually rather well off. Book sales can do that for a person.

It does not address every single person who thinks "non-violence" has tactical value. It addresses "moral non-violence" and "spiritual non-violence," the sort common to bourgeois property owners who've projected their concerns for the loss of property outward on to other forms of property.


Richard said...

I'm not into spiritual non-violence, either, but the rejection of the Black Bloc and a diversity of tactics is coming from the base and not from people like Starhawk. I'm certain that the people in Occupy Oakland made a conscious decision not to resist this morning, just as the people involved in Occupy Portland did.

I pay more attention to what those involved in the occupations say and do, and very little to those on the outside say, like Starhawk, Michael Moore and others, whether I like them or not.

Pham Binh of NYC told me a few weeks ago that this is a good practice in regard to the occupations, and so far, he's been right.

There are a lot of webpages, livestreams and Twitter feeds connected to the occupations, they provide a lot of insight as to the challenges facing the movement.

Jack Crow said...

Agreed, Richard. These last few posts aren't a recommendation to engage in active revolutionary violence.

But, I keep reading from people who are not engaged in occupations that the only way they can be spiritually sound is if they meet the expectations of spiritualists.

Seamus said...

I understand, I think, your arguments against the dogma non-violence.

But on this very specific point, isn't it fair to say, even in the case of Gandhi and the rest, that the purpose of non-violence is to provoke violence?

That is: the fact that the cops were still sent in "to swing their batons" after "all that non-violence" is the point, isn't it?

The goal of non-violence is to provoke a response, namely violence, in order to delegitmize the people in power.

One and agree or disagree with whether it works, but I'm just saying: that's one of the points of it, right?

Seamus said...

(heh. and sorry for the repetitive nature of the question)

Richard said...

perhaps, tactically, yes, non-violent direct action is understandably designed to expose the violence and corruption of the system

but there is a radical, anti-authoritarian case for it, beyond what Starhawk probably said (I don't have the patience to sift through that sort of thing)

the anti-authoritarian critique of capitalist society is that it concentrates wealth through the perpetuation of violent hierarchies

accordingly, by participating in non-violent, non-hierarchical forms of social organization, one prefigures the alternative

accordingly, if one is not to embrace non-violence in a spiritual, religious fashion, recourse to violence would be limited to situations of self-defense, with the collective approval of the group, where the violence used is proportional to the threat

Rhys Ap Thomas said...

Yeah, all those mother fuckers counseling non-violence? I'd like to have them spend a week with Geronimo around 1895 or so.

Fuck them. They use their fear as an excuse.

They would have counseled the Sioux at the Bighorn to give up to Custer.

Well we saw how that worked out for them at Wounded Knee.

Jack Crow said...

I'd like to quote a paragraph from a comment written by Wayne Kasper, below:

"...If liberalish-leftists want to appease mainstream ideology, they need to remember that [that it is the impression of victory which persuades people to join a cause]. I'm finding it somewhat delusional this idea that 'violence would alienate the public'. ??? It's the USA, for God's sake! I can't even keep up with how many wars it's currently engaged in, and smashing windows isn't on the same level of bombs, or even trigger-happy cops."

Wayne is spot on. Context matters. Historical circumstances matter. Americans have a high tolerance for violence. A case could me made, I think rather obviously, that this tolerance decreases in relationship to the concentration of melanin per square inch a person might have; and that it rarely extends to minority groups, or to people who are publicly challenging the status quo ante.

So that, yes, tactically it's quite unwise to form up revolutionary cadres in order to attempt a Maoist guerrilla war against state and corporate holdings, persons and interests. At this moment.

This doesn't change the observable fact that non-violence is still, especially for its compulsive advocates, a bit of theater.

To quote Ms. Roy, again:

"...what are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to go on hunger strike? Can the hungry go on a hunger strike? Non-violence is a piece of theatre. You need an audience. What can you do when you have no audience? People have the right to resist annihilation.”

It's spectacle, even when it's tactically appropriate.

What more, as Seamus rather lucidly argues/questions above, non-violence is by its application literally dependent upon...


The point of non-violence, as resistance, as a tactical effort to provoke those with power into embarrassing themselves, or de-legitimizing their claim to authority, is to compel one's opponents into responding violently.

There are advantages to doing so.

But there is nothing to be gained, except self righteousness, in internalizing that "Non-Violence" as a spiritual claim to authority over the reactions of others, or as a title and deed to resistance itself.

Because, and this cannot be repeated often enough, non-violence is tactically useless unless the opponent reacts violently.

Those who spiritualize non-violence are fucking hypocrites, most especially because they want others to embody and enact violence so that they can claim moral superiority.

They want non-violence for the sake of having others be violent.

It is, I think plainly, cowardice.

Jack Crow said...

And to expand on what was (lazily) written in the original: the police did not sweep through and expel the Occupiers in Salt Lake City, Denver, Portland and Oakland because those people were engaging in non-violent civil disobedience.

Their presence was civil disobedience. Defying the eviction order was disobedient.

But the police took their orders and expelled the campers, squatters, occupants and protestors in a naked act of Enclosure.

This was not a reaction to the methods of the protestors.

It was a reaction to their ongoing presence in public spaces, making transparent and collective public choices in an appeal to the sentiments of the wider public.


The reclamation of tangible, material real estate as a public Commons will be met with a new Enclosure, now and in the foreseeable future, regardless of the occupiers methodology.

Because that reclamation is itself the real and enduring threat.

Jack Crow said...

For your reading pleasure:

But, but, I've got a degree! Why won't the peasants listen to me?

And g'night.

Jonathan Versen said...

I guess resisting the baton with your skull is ok.

Jack, I wonder if you've ever had this discussion with anybody, whether on the blogosphere or the 3d world, going something like this:

A: It's reasonable for people to wonder if the police plant agents in the crowd, to act as agent provocateurs, to "force" the cops to break it up and to thereby make the protesters look bad.

B: No way! The police wouldn't do that. Even if they feel scorn for the protesters they don't want to get hurt themselves, and they would be afraid it looked bad if it got out that they do that.

A: But if you feel you know they wouldn't do that, and most people start from that assumption, isn't that part of the reason they don't have to fear that they'll look bad?

B: You just hate the police, don't you?

(Thanks, btw for the kind, as BDR would say. Just saw that.)

Jack Crow said...

I haven't had that conversation, Jonathan. Way I see it, police infiltration is a given. And pretexts for official violence come off a list hundreds of bullet points long. So worrying that the city's dons will tell the complicit press is fruitless.

From the start, members of a protest group or resistance aren't allowed to have flaws. They aren't allowed the humanity for which they struggle. Any faults they have, in individuals or collectively, are magnified. Any mistakes or missteps, published far and wide. Should they wish to propose, as a counter, that the people condemning them are also possessed of human frailty, they are met with an unreasonable expectation: to be better than their betters, while excusing the flaws of those who rule them.

In short, those who resist are required by the PTB to be angels who simultaneously and lovingly forgive the PTB for failing to live up to the cherubic standards which the PTB insist their lessers keep.

So, why worry it?

Jack Crow said...

...and that's what the believers in the creed of non-violence have internalized - the ruling class demand upon its captive populations to be morally better than those who rule.

Who makes a morality profit off the production of that play, I wonder...

Justin said...

...and that's what the believers in the creed of non-violence have internalized - the ruling class demand upon its captive populations to be morally better than those who rule.

Nope. The ruling class has convinced that an absolute commitment to passivity and self-containment has an inherent moral virtue. Violence is morally neutral, how is it immoral to defend oneself when being hit, raped, or killed? I said once here, I think, that no violence is morally righteous, only understandable given context. This is what I meant.

Jack Crow said...

Aren't we saying the same thing, Justin? That the "guardians" have to be dirty, and are therefore excused from the moral purity required of those they guard?

Justin said...

I mean to write in a spirit of agreement and extension. Woops.

When you say they demand the mob to be morally better, I am saying they are duping the mob into believing in a moral code that does not exist in any practical way.

Walter Wit Man said...

Tactically, the vote Richard refers to above was a mistake. As 85% of the GA in Oakland was voting to be non-violent and not engage in vandalism that night, the non-violent protest in Berkeley was being met with violent force by the police.

The call for non-violence was a mistake because, first, it implies the protesters committed violence that they needed to denounce. They didn't. They should have been denouncing police violence that night instead because it was only the police that had committed violence up to that point. The police were the only ones promising violence in the future as well. So why does the non-violent side have to denounce violence? Why should it?

When Mayor Quan denounced "violence" she was actually conflating vandalism with violence and excepting police violence from her description of violence (this was even before the murder happened). So why legitimize this propaganda?

And all the good it did. Just check out the SF Chronicle's coverage of the violence in Berkeley on the night the protesters were going out of their way to be peaceful. Here's the description in one story of the action, after referring to violence without describing who initiated or committed the violence: "After a brief scuffle, police broke through their line . . . ."

Here's another article that cites a police dude saying, "39 protesters were arrested Wednesday after they clashed with police trying to dismantle a small camp next to the main plaza."

I can't find the online articles as they appeared that night but I remember them having very charitable descriptions of police activity. As in, "the police placed batons against protesters ignoring lawful orders . . ." and then I noticed a few hours later that night they changed the wording to be a little more accurate but still sound downright weird because they were avoiding the most obvious description of the actions, "the cops struck/hit protesters with batons."

Then, the University came out and said the protesters were being violent by linking arms and disobeying orders.

I have seen this point of view reflected in all the local media in the Bay Area and for all the protester efforts to prove they were non-violent, the message didn't seem to get through--except for people that already believed this. The media didn't mention the GA vote in Oakland and they didn't mention the fact that the protesters in Berkeley were extremely peaceful, even though they were being struck by wooden clubs.

Meanwhile, contrast the media treatment of the violence in Berkeley and Oakland with the media treatment of this scene from October in New York. The media immediately denounced this protester "violence", although to me it's not so clear. To me it looks like the cop rushed in and did a basketball style hip block, and the protester put his hands up, avoiding locking his arms, which is the opposite of tackle.

Anyway, as Jack says, trying to get favorable treatment from the media or politicians is a fool's errand.

Jack Crow said...


A minor quibble: quietism is an existing moral code. And it works. People who live quiet lives are perhaps even rational in their self-preservation.


I'm no fan of the so-called "Revolutionary War," but its conduct, as a revolutionary conflict, at least demonstrates that there is no need to get an entire populace behind a cause in order to win key aspects of the contest.

Richard said...

the movement is growing because it is aware that violence alienates its from many supporters, people like, for example, African Americans and homeless people in Oakland, and that any violence that it could unleash would result in a brutal crackdown that it could not defend itself against

people in Oakland, Portland and now NYC have figured that out

in many instances, the participants are all too familiar with the police and what police officers can do, and have decided to take a different tack

given that I'm not willing to stick my head out and get it busted by the cops, I'm going to support them

85% of the assembly in Oakland voted against a diversity of tactics resolution, and it might be a good idea to engage them as to why, instead of lecturing them about what happened at UC Berkeley, a subject that they know more about than we do

Walter Wit Man said...

Is the movement growing because it's nonviolent?

First, I don't know if it's growing. My memory is that polls of the general public show support slightly declining, although support started out much higher than I could have imagined. Political and official support is waning. Based on the number of locations and number of protesters nationwide it may be growing . . . but I don't know if it's growing because all walks of life are being welcomed or because people are committed to the underlying causes. The greater violence by the police, and the relative acquiescence to these police tactics, guarantees only the hard core will show up in the future. Hell, linking arms and pitching a tent are now capital crimes, it seems.

Also, I'm not lecturing OO. No more than those that are asking for pledges of non violence or suggestions of non violence are lecturing.

Hell, the vote itself was a lecture. Demanding non violence from people who have not been violent and in fact were victims of violence is itself a lecture. It feels similar to making a woman pledge not to wear short skirts and get drunk again or she is going to be raped again (or at least not to associate with those loose women).

Look, I'm not arguing protesters should go out and commit violence or vandalism. This request for non violence may not be the biggest deal in the world (and it may serve some good to convince some people it's non violent). But to me it has all the familiar feelings of every other media ratfuck where the protesters are damned if they do or damned if they don't. It's a trap I feel that Occupy is falling for.

If I were talking with a Block Black activist I would have probably expressed my opinion that I understand their anger but it probably wouldn't be helpful that night. And btw, I missed the GA discussion of the diversity of tactics resolution, but I was watching the live feed linked via your blog, American Leftist, the other night, and the only hint of promoting violence came from two guys that kind of looked like Black Bloc guys who were there when the police were staging for the raid and said something along the lines of "time to raise a ruckus. Why aren't YOU DOWN HERE? [staring intently into the camera] We should be throwing tear gas at the police!" Then the videographer, Spencer, moved along and commented on the diversity of opinions at OO but asked the audience to be nonviolent.

A resolution lecturing these two guys for their anger just didn't feel appropriate. And the only violence they are contemplating is theoretical or defensive.

There will be a violent crackdown no matter how many non-violent resolutions Occupy Movements issue. The resolutions only serve to justify the unjustifiable use of force. I would prefer resolutions and actions condemning the police state rather than non existent protester "violence", in my very humble opinion.

Walter Wit Man said...

I'm also unclear about what exactly got voted on. I see that Ian Welsh claims that OO voted down a resolution that banned all violence or vandalism.

Was the vote you were referencing Richard only applicable for that night?

Thanks for trying to keep track of this stuff btw. The media certainly isn't doing it.

Richard said...

Walter: There is an ongoing debate on this subject in Occupy. But from what I saw through livestream and limited first hand experience in regard to Occupy Oakland is that there is no support for any actions that they think will bring down the police.

Sure, the OccupyCal effort got attacked. But the threat of violence wouldn't stop that, only intensify the response. If the movement grows, will there eventually be a violent confrontation? Probably. Will the people involved be prepared for it and respond as necessary? Hopefully so.

Walter Wit Man said...

Exactly Richard. I haven't heard of any serious plan or threat of a police attack. Which is why it's odd that people demand Occupy renounce violence.

At the 13:30 mark of this video, is the section I reference above. Upon reviewing it again I see that the guy (and I don't know why I characterized him as Black Bloc before) is making more of a rhetorical statement than a serious plea to tear gas the police.

Jack Crow said...

I understand the argument from consensus, but I don't see how it can or ought to be binding on those who do not want to democratize themselves into torpor and stupor.

That said, if folks want to engage in more committed forms of, er, disruption it's probably best to be the red hand about it.

If the self-assigned leadership of a protest movement wants to pick lint from its collective navel, more power to 'em.

They can be the hand which is seen...