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Forum Post: Non-violence as Pathology in Occupy Wall Street

Posted 9 months ago on Oct. 14, 2013, 9:58 a.m. EST by sabokitty (6)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

Original post from April 2012: http://tmblr.co/Z0TBiwIz3PB7

A swarm of locusts descends upon a field. A volcano erupts, magma coursing through its earthen veins. The waves crash upon the shoreline. Where there is movement, there is repetition. In none of those cases would you expect the pests or the plate tectonics to go online and check how it had been done before.

But we’re people, not elements or locusts. We’re capable of learning from the past. Of seeing what was done correctly, and as much trying to build better methods when we’d met failure before. And the contradiction between non-violent activists, who likely make up a firm majority at Liberty Plaza, and those whose morality isn’t built upon pacifism is like a rerun. I hope it’s the one with the happy ending.

I understand pacifists. It’s an easy morality to base yourself upon. Hurting someone is wrong. We want a world where people don’t hurt people. Non-violence is mixed. In the OWS uprising, it has been a major asset. People have been brutalized. They have very rarely hit back. And we have survived and grown.

But as a dogma, non-violence is as its name indicates. It is exclusionary. Aside from the terms used to connote opposition to oppression (anti-racist, anti-capitalist, anti-corporate) it is the only exclusionary term that is found on the center-left with such frequency. Its proponents would claim it is equal to those other examples.

But at its worst, it is a dividing line that attacks people individually, rather than uniting us collectively. Liberty Plaza is intended to be a non-violent space. It is for the most part. If someone is assaulted by an aggressive drunk and defends themself, is that an act of violence? If people are brutalized or caged by police and defends themselves, is that violence?

Non-violence not only argues that protesters should turn on protesters, it opens the door to violence. Peace Police, marshals or violent pacifists manhandle those they see involved in behavior they disagree with. Some pacifists persist in attempting to invoke sympathy from a brutal and racist police force, while shunning their own brothers and sisters who have worked to build Liberty Plaza if they dare engage on self-defense.

And just as dangerously, many self-defined non-violent activists refuse to define violence. Violence is a person’s physical aggression upon another. It is not the smashing of a window, the slitting of a tire or the placing of a sticker. Those are destructive. And Liberty Plaza is a non-destructive space as much as it is a non-violent space. But the two shouldn’t be conflated. If you are opposing the theory of corporate personhood, you have to deny the idea that property has personhood as well.

In the past, we have seen such contradictions. There are two possible outcomes. There is either a split, a break in unity, some pacifists become snitches (and others absolutely don’t, refusing ever to collaborate with the inherently violent police state), and the movement collapses in division and badjacketing. OccupyWallStreet veers dangerously close to this edge.

Or something called a respect for “diversity of tactics” arises. Before that term applied, the Deacons for Defense would respect Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s non-violent marches but he must respect the presence of their armed guard to defend the people from white terror. The anti-war movements had to contend with the same issue, both around Viet Nam and Iraq. In Palestine, non-violent movements are emerging, but some of their participants are little old West Bank women who will hit an IDF soldier back if manhandled.

We dealt with this frequently in our summit-hopping days. In the Counter Globalization movement, and likewise at various Republican National Convention demonstrations. Different sides of the same movement would negotiate. The intention was to maintain our unity and genuinely respect each other’s styles and value systems. We would not denounce each other in the media. We would not lay hands upon each other. There would be no violence or destructive tactics near explicitly non-violent actions. There would be different zones (green, yellow and red) where there would be different degrees of activity, based on spectra of legality and militancy.

Here are some of the statements, that sometimes took weeks or months to negotiate. Sometimes groups locked themselves into rooms in order to hash out the particulars. And it worked. Far more than creating a movement where we respect every freely associated individual’s right to (non-hateful) autonomy… unless it encroaches upon our sense of morality.

At the RNC in Saint Paul in 2008 - http://rnc08report.org/archive/224.shtml

OccupyBoston Statement - http://www.occupyboston.org/2011/10/07/statement-of-diversity-of-tactics/

A good sum up on Diversity of Tactics - http://uppingtheanti.org/journal/article/01-anti-globalization-and-diversity-of-tactics/

A veteran non-violent activist’s thoughts - http://www.starhawk.org/activism/activism-writings/quebeclessons.html

Another writer talks about DoT and OWS - http://wagingnonviolence.org/2011/10/what-diversity-of-tactics-really-means-for-occupy-wall-street/

Original post: http://tmblr.co/Z0TBiwIz3PB7

9 Comments

9 Comments


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[-] 1 points by mideast (506) 9 months ago

I have a friend who is "obsessed" with history repeating itself and is an expert in world history and believes that the people will get fed up and violently revolt. When I point out the the French & Russian revolutions occurred when a gun could shoot roughly a bullet a minute, and America's military has guns that shoot hundreds of bullets per minute, and that there is no more loyal group than the military, this approach is absurd. If we do not sever crapitalism from democracy, I see a soylent green society in 50-100 years.
1% kochs
5% bull conners
94% us


would you speculate on where we would be today -
if OWS concentrated - from October2011 -
getting rid of the 1% stooges in Washington


[Removed]

[-] 0 points by Narley (-624) 9 months ago

You make this much more complicated than it really is. Violence will alienate the masses. Violence will turn the people against us. For example, the news stories and Youtube videos about the black blocs breaking store windows did irrefutable damage to OWS. Peaceful protest and civil disobedience is the only way to win hearts and minds. Non-violence is the only way,

[-] 0 points by sabokitty (6) 9 months ago

You didn't respond to anything in the passage. That's not non-violent. It's dismissive, and, like some pacifists are, abusive. And who the fuck are you to speak "for the people." That sounds like a Democratic or Republican politician, always telling us what "the American People think."

[-] -1 points by Narley (-624) 9 months ago

Don't try to change the subject. You can attempt to demonize non-violence, but it really is the only way for meaningful change.

[-] 0 points by sabokitty (6) 9 months ago

I don't demonize non-violence. I think all sets of tactics and many ways of resisting have their places in various different struggles. I suggest neither that militancy should trump or exclude non-violence, nor that non-violence should exclude militancy. There is a time and a place for each in winning strategies. You, however, changed the subject and responded to the original post without responding.

[-] -1 points by Narley (-624) 9 months ago

Sorry my friend. I can not agree that violence is ever a solution. Militancy? I'm not sure I understand the context. If you're saying violence is sometime OK then I can't agree.

Violence begets violence. Violence escalates. Once violence becomes a tool for change then any moral high ground is lost. Violence just means whoever has the biggest gun wins. I can't accept that, and neither should you.

[-] 1 points by sabokitty (6) 9 months ago

How Nonviolence Protects the State offered here for free.

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/peter-gelderloos-how-nonviolence-protects-the-state

[-] -1 points by Narley (-624) 9 months ago

Way too long to read and absorb in one sitting, so I just skimmed it. So allow me to be more specific. When I say I don’t believe in non-violence, what I mean is using violence to further a cause or overthrow a power structure almost never works. As I said earlier, violence begets violence, and it just escalates. Just look at the world. Wars almost never end. Once they start most will continue for generations or even centuries. Just look at the world we live in today. Most conflicts have roots over a century old.

The bottom line is if you commit violence on people they will respond in kind and the cycle will continue. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe in violence because it won’t work in modern society. But I’m not a pacifist. I’m a Vietnam combat veteran (artillery), and I own several gun. Guns are a hobby for me and I carry a gun every day. If someone threatens me I will defend myself.

My point is violence today will be met head-on by more aggressive violence. Our weapons and military technology, even among civilians, are 100 time more lethal than just twenty or so years ago. Violence to further social or political change will fail miserably in the modern world.

[-] 0 points by nazihunter (320) 9 months ago

A lot of chickens squawked all the way to the head chopper. It didn't help them. I agree with the assertions on solidarity despite disagreements and so forth. But when you're talking about well-trenched power brokers with their heels dug in and more trick bags than you could possibly imagine. They are already plotting against you because you have 2 cents left and they want it. If you look at the big picture in history..from man's beginning until right now, you'll know they have never relented and they seize every opportunity. I mean all you have to is go back to the Great Depression. People as a whole were completely demoralized. Unfortunately, it was the war machine that brought them out of it. And ever since, the unrelenting powers have been dismantling every gain they made. My parents' generation turned a blind eye to this because they knew it wouldn't affect them. They won't admit it. How often do people admit their failings nowadays? They don't. They betray themselves and others. When you're talking about the powerful against you, they would have no problem killing and dismantling each and everyone of you. They'd start all over with a small group of slaves if they had to. They buy politicians like breath mints and write every law and rule in their favor. When push comes to shove, you can peace 'em to death and they will laugh. HOWEVER! Let us not cite other words, let us cite the actions where this has not been the case. Martin Luther King was murdered, as was a lot of Vietnam demonstrators, others were thrown in prison. Still others are being defamed and shamed to this day. What brought Vietnam to an end was Nixon's desire to be re-elected. Not one thing else. Have you noticed that there is not one faction of OWS in the South that seems to be even remotely as active or successful as there is in the North and other strongholds for Democrats in the Midwest or Cali? Old habits die very hard. Worse, they are ingrained in the children. I would love you to prove me wrong BTW!