Sunday, August 07, 2005

A Response and Rebuttal to Our Points of Unity Statement

Dancing Dragon, in response to our Points of Unity Statement, wrote:

What about workers who are also landowners, or such? It's nearly impossible to separate people into black and white, one or the other. There are a lot of real people who work as cleaners, retail workers, in the working class, who also own land which they make money off of other people from, as one small example.

What is effective? Is violence effective? How effective have the War in Iraq and violence in Israel/Palestine, etc. been in achieving anything. Choosing effective tactics is good. But who can say what is effective...

To Dancing Dragon:

Thank you for your comment. I'll just clarify a little bit. When we say landowners, we of course stress people who own land that is used to take money away from people that the landowner does not rightly deserve. That money is a product of the labor of an individual and should, therefore, belong to the individual who worked for it, not the landowner. Anarchists during the Spanish Revolution burned land deeds and declared, "The people who live in the house own the house." I’m sure most anarchists understand that the landlord, not necessarily personally but as a job description, is part of the problem.

Personally, I don't know many retail clerks or house cleaners, as you suggest, that are also in roles of illegitimate authority, such as a landlord or a large business owner. The main problem, of course, are corporations who own large tracts of land, the airwaves, control wage-slaves, etc. We have to understand though that the problem lies very deep in the structure of the institutions of society. If we truly believe in democracy, in democratic institutions, we have to understand that capitalism inherently breeds top-down structures, which are not democratic at all. Therefore, we must oppose capitalism in all its parasitic forms, including the landlord. Again, the landlord or CEO might be a good person in his personal life. So were many Good Germans though. And I don't think many working class people, as you suggest, have that kind of authority.

As far as violence goes, I think you've missed the point. We don't say we're for violence. We simply state that the movement should be pragmatic rather than dogmatic when it comes to tactics. On top of that, I think you're confusing the violence of the oppressed with the violence of the oppressor, something we warn against in our Points of Unity Statement. You ask has violence been effective in Iraq and Israel? To answer your question: yes, it has been. Violence has been very effective in those cases for the ruling elites of the U.S. to push their economic and military goals through. However, these tactics are very different than tactics that could bring social change. The tactics you describe only as violent are part of a strategy to maintain and strengthen the status quo.

You then at the end imply that violence is never effective and, rather contradictory, write, “But who can say what is effective…” We certainly can't say for certain.But, for those who do care about creating fundamental social change, we should think about what is effective rather than sticking to the same old pacifist and militant arguments. That’s all our Points of Unity Statement suggests.
I would further suggest you look at the role of violence in social change a little closer. For a recent and quick example, in Bolivia, protests have forced their president out of office and, dare I say, there was violence at times. They also, thorough militant struggle, forced Bechtel to stop being in control of privatized water, making water publicly owned once again. Another example: in decolonization struggles, there was heavy violence in social change. However, I would say most social change movements are at least 90% nonviolent in their tactics. If you’re interested in reading more, I suggest you read Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth or Ward Churchill’s Pacifism as Pathology.

The question of tactics is something that must be learned about through both theory AND action. Unfortunately, I see less people learning about tactics through action, which is depressing considering the fact that it’s action that will create social change. Action, that is, that has realistic goals and tactics. Hopefully we can learn to think more critically about these important subjects.

We have to understand, as well, how we in the Left play into the hands of what the ruling classes want us to do. Yes, they want violence from the oppressed that they can use to justify further repressing the population. But they would also prefer passivity. Not just apathy, but passive tactics as well. Chomsky writes:

“From the doubly privileged position of the American scholar, the transcendent importance of order, stability, and nonviolence (by the oppressed) seems entirely obvious; to others, the matter is not so simple. If we listen, we hear such voices as this, from an economist in India:

“’It is disingenuous to invoke ‘democracy,’ due process of law,’ ‘nonviolence,’ to rationalize the absence of action. For meaningful concepts under such conditions become meaningless since, in reality, they justify the relentless pervasive exploitation of the masses; at once a denial of democracy and a more sinister form of violence perpetrated on the overwhelming majority through contractual forms’ (From Chomsky on Anarchism, p. 19).”

Chomsky goes onto say “Moderate American scholarship does not seem capable of comprehending these simple truths.”

To those seriously committed to doing away with injustice and the organizations that perpetuate it, the question of nonviolence vs. violence is not so clean cut. There must be more debate and, more importantly, more action, before we become too dogmatic on the question.


Rob of the Peninsula Anarchist Collective.


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