My Thoughts: The lifestyle of the first world is maintained by violence that is exported to the third world. To claim a pacifist stance is naïve , you’re just letting someone else, somewhere else be violent on your behalf to ensure that you have gas to put in your car every day , buy clothes at affordable prices (child sweatshop labor), have a diamond engagement ring (child soldiers and child labor) and have a fancy new iphone. It is also a stance that comes from a position of privilege (white privilege, male privilege, cis privilege). People of color, women and trans* people are targeted by institutionalized violence as well as violence directed at them by individuals in a way that white people, men and cisgendered people are not. Survival as an oppressed person in this country may depend on being willing and able to defend one’s self, violently if necessary, because unwillingness or inability probably means death.
Also, to put violence in a different context, do you eat meat?
Before we get into the main points of this article we think it is best you understand two key questions:
1. What is revolutionary violence?
2. Who is revolutionary violence being defended from?
When trying to define revolutionary violence many descriptions can and have been used. For this particular situation we will use the following: Revolutionary violence is violence targeted at an oppressor (or a system that supports the oppressor) with the goals of liberating a group of people. Furthermore revolutionary violence is violence not sponsored, sanctioned or carried out by the state. Revolutionary violence is more often than not carried out by members of the civilian population often using methods of (but not limited to) guerrilla warfare. Revolutionary guerrilla warfare only targets the oppressor and never uses indiscreet, random violence against the general population (unlike the state).
Revolutionary violence needs to be defended from many organizations and people such as the state, a dictator or an invading army. But for this particular case we will be defending it from strict pacifist and close minded, so called progressives within the anti-capitalist and liberation movements who condemn acts of revolutionary violence on the grounds that it is morally wrong, inferior or counter productive.
Now that you understand what revolutionary violence is and who we are defending it from let us make one last thing clear. It must be understood that any struggle which seeks to liberate people from capitalism and U.S. imperialism will not succeed without the use of revolutionary violence at some point. In such a struggle we will be standing up to a super power. A power that has thousands of armed sectors which are trained and ready to act against us in order to maintain the states position of domination. As soon as the U.S. government feels any substantial threat to its position of capitalist dominance at home or its racist imperialism abroad it will react with repression and violence of its own. It will not hesitate at the idea of infiltration, sabotage, murder or outright war (for some examples of this within the U.S. itself see what happened to the Black Panther Party, the American Indian Movement, the Black Liberation Army, the Symbionese Liberation Army and the Industrial Workers of the World to name a few). There is no chance that the government will hand over its power to a more revolutionary structure peacefully. The state will never willingly hand over its power so it will have to be taken from them using a variety of tactics which will have to include revolutionary violence.
It is important when analyzing or choosing tactics to understand that violence already exist in the world and is a completely unavoidable part of the current political system. But perhaps even more important is the unavoidable existence of violence as an integral part of the entire social system that shapes your daily life. The current social system is one of great privilege for white people (especially the middle class and higher ups). White people have received and maintained this privilege through the state and its violent methods that target people of color and other minorities with much more aggression. That is why the vast majority of pacifist are white people-the state has set up a racist system that socially guarantees more safety for white people. The need for a more militant self defense and action is far less urgent amongst whites as is the need to struggle for liberation and acceptance into the statuesque (because generally speaking whites are already in the statuesque.)
For any pacifist to denounce militancy and only encourage nonviolence to people who belong to a targeted, less privileged social class is a racist concept. It is much easier for whites to stand on a step stool of social safety (with all its assured privilege) and say pacifism is the way to go. Nonviolence only helps to promote and maintain this racist, social system by discouraging people (especially of color) from truly challenging its existence. You must also stop and wonder if one reason why many white pacifist denounce violent tactics amongst oppressed people (especially minorities) is because it threatens the privileged position of power and safety that most whites don’t want to give up. White pacifist who claim the be struggling for liberation often feel uncomfortable with militant actions within the social system because they seek to destroy the very foundation upon which their privileged position rest. Imagine loosing (or better yet giving up) an entire social system that has been set up entirely to benefit yourself. To whites the collapse of our socially constructed worldview is unsettling; especially to pacifist who take more advantage of it. That’s why armed revolutionaries are so often viewed as bad or a threat to pacifist rather than liberators.
By discrediting revolutionary violence pacifist provide yet another obstacle for the entire liberation movement. Overall nonviolence protects racist, state systems that create white supremacy through out the world. Once so called progressive whites begin to reject their social privileges they will be better able to understand why revolutionary violence is an often preferred tactic among so many oppressed people of this world.
Nonviolence is also sexist for its strong companionship with patriarchy which gives more power to straight men than to women and gays and transgender peoples. Many pacifist (and reformist feminists) accuse militant activist of being sexist and non-inclusive to women (in individual cases this can be true but not as an all across the board statement as it is often used.) In fact such a view is the sexist one. It goes along with patriarchal thinking by spreading the idea that woman can not take part in violent activism and must remain in their prescribed roles as a generally pacified (or defenseless) people. Do pacifist really expect nonviolence to free women from patriarchy? What liberation can women hope for if the struggle doesn’t include the basic idea that women are able to defend themselves? Pacifism suggest that women should step aside and wait on protection from a larger, sexist social structure instead of being prepared to protect themselves. Besides we can take one quick look to see that as a whole the current social structure doesn’t really have a big interest in protecting woman (especially those of color.)
A woman can fight off a male attacker by herself. It isn’t a matter of who’s physically stronger-it is a question of training. This mixture of patriarchy and a general acceptance of nonviolence is what has created so many support groups and systems for women who have been raped, attacked or abused. At first glance this might seem rather good but if we take a closer look we will see such systems create the idea in society that women should accept their role as the victim from the get go. It implies that women should submit to assailants with hopes of preventing any further violence. In reality submitting will only contribute to future violence against others. Their is a rather large number of organizations that aim to support women after they fall victims to acts of patriarchy but it is sad how few are focusing on helping women to be prepared for and prevent such acts. It is the nonviolent, patriarchal mentality that suggest a women who is being abused by a male partner should give up what she has, move out of her home and find someplace new and completely start over instead of forming a group ( preferably of women) to confront the man, kick his ass and force him to leave.
The idea that militancy is male dominated and that violent revolution excludes women, queers and trans people is ridiculous. Fighting back has never overlooked such people. What has been overlooked is the woman martyrs of the Palestinian Intifada, Nigerian women occupying and sabotaging petroleum plants, the thousands of women guerrillas who fought in the Viet Cong, The Mujeres Creando anarcha-feminist in Bolivia, the queer and gender warriors who rioted at Stonewall and all the women leaders in the Black Panthers, native resistance movements, the Weather Underground, the Zapatistas, the Symbionese Liberation Army and many other guerrilla groups. Patriarchy clearly creates one sided male violence through out our society. Supporters of nonviolence only encourage us not to disturb this patriarchal social system which (like racism) is maintained with help from the state.
Many pacifist would also argue against revolutionary violence in favor of education on the liberation struggle. While education is important in moving forward towards liberation pacifists have placed way too much emphasis on it. The media is controlled by the state (which is racist, sexist and capitalist) and the liberation movement can never come close to competing with the state when it comes to media power. The state has far superior resources and funds and will easily crush any media campaign waged by revolutionaries. We must understand that the government has us beaten when it comes to media and not over focus our energy there.
A flyer, article or poster might catch the average citizens attention for a moment and even cause them to think about it’s meaning for a bit. But can we really expect it to turn the majority of society into revolutionaries-I doubt it. But on the other hand if society witnesses acts of revolutionary violence directed against the state they can not as easily walk away from it. Unlike reading a flyer; if society sees revolutionaries fighting directly for their freedom they can not simply blow it off as fantasy. They are forced to confront the reality of the situation and hands on action would be more likely to convince people than mere words on a piece of paper. This is not to say that their should be no attempt to educate society about liberation. Education is important but it would be much easier to educate society about the particular acts of revolutionary violence occurring and why they should support them rather than educating them about general liberation and hope they agree with you about it and hopefully support it. It would be much easier to win a violent revolution than it would be to win the hearts and minds of an entire society or country.
Nonviolence contributes to many dynamics of the racist and sexist social system that in turn contributes to maintaining and empowering capitalism, the state and its wide scale oppression. We are not suggesting that revolutionary violence replace pacifism (or any other form of resistance) but rather it be accepted as one part of a large process toward our total liberation. As a movement we will be unable to fight and win in the future if we do not begin to understand, accept and use revolutionary violence in the present.
PICK UP THE GUN!