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"How non-violence protects the state" UK tour with author Peter Gelderoos

alx_womble | 03.01.2008 20:43 | Analysis | Free Spaces | Repression

Jan 23rd - Feb 2nd 2008

*Gandhi said it's better to resist violently than to use nonviolence to
hide your passivity. Meanwhile, Bono, the Burmese military, and 9 out of
10 humanitarian NGOs agree, peaceful resistance is the best!*

Violence never solves anything. Violence begets violence. The government
is strong when it comes to violence, we need to attack them where they are
weak! Everyone working for social change is familiar with the cliches of
pacifism. And to many people it seems that using more radical, illegal,
or violent tactics is naturally isolating. But what if it's actually our
supposed allies, or our own revolutionary practices, that are isolating
us? What if violence is something diverse, undefinable, a hopelessly
broad category that encompasses institutions that perpetuate oppression
and actions that can empower and liberate us? What if we are all cogs in
a violent system, and what if pacifists are tools of a violent system?

People working for social change face plenty of difficult questions, but
sometimes matters of strategy and tactics receive low priority. Among many
activists, the role of nonviolence as the default mode of struggle bears
little scrutiny. Even as it pretends to contain moral strength,
nonviolence is a major obstacle in global movements for social change.
Nonviolence is based on a number of historical falsifications that enforce
an inaccurate understanding of revolution, it protects white privilege and
the privilege of the Global North, it can reinforce patriarchal dynamics,
and it makes anti-authoritarians complicit with the authorities,
preserving the State monopoly of force.
Ultimately, nonviolence is created and encouraged by the State, and
antithetical to anarchist revolution.

[Tour dates]

Wednesday 23rd Jan @ Kebele Social Centre (Bristol) starts 7pm
14 Robertson Road, Easton, Bristol, BS5 6JY
Tel: 0117 9399469

Thursday 24th Jan @ PAD (Cardiff) starts 7.30pm
118 Clifton Street, Adamsdown, Cardiff, CF24 1LW

Friday 25th Jan @ Next to Nowhere (Liverpool) starts 7pm
96 Bold Street, Liverpool, L1 4HY
Tel: 0151 703 6806

Thursday 31st Jan @ Common Place (Leeds) starts 7pm
23 - 25 Wharf Street, Leeds, LS2 7EQ
Tel: 0845 345 7334

Friday 1st Feb @ Cowley Club (Brighton) starts 6pm
12 London Road, Brighton BN1 4JA
Tel: 01273 696104

Saturday 2nd Feb @ Ramparts* (tbc) starts 7pm
15 -17 Rampart Street, London E1 2LA (near Whitechapel, off Commercial Rd)
Tel: 07050 618445

[Extra Dates]
Glasgow // Saturday 26th Jan (tbc)
Edinburgh // Monday 28th Jan (tbc)

*Ramparts is under eviction, please keep checking Indymedia for updates.

For more info on the tour see shortly:



Hide the following comment

Passivism not pacifism is the problem

04.01.2008 18:09

I'm glad Peter is coming over - its good to have the debate - but saying nonviolence protects the state is nonsense - passivism not pacifism is the problem. In my expereince most people committed to nonviolence are active.

Peter Gelderloos argues that simply by being pacifist or nonviolent - he uses the words interchangeably - we are allowing the state to be violent and repressive; more than that, we are “endorsing” the right of the state to be so. Indeed even when pacifists respond to the latest piece of state violence by, for example, protesting at a military base, our very existence is making the state look “benign” and “humane” as it tolerates our presence (not very often in my experience). “Sticking a flower in a gun” he goes on to say, “does not impede the ability of the gun to fire”.

By contrast those who are “militant” or “use a diversity of tactics” (he’s a bit coy about the word ’violent’) receive an emphatic and violent response from the police and the state - from surveillance, to imprisonment and beatings, to assassinations - and must therefore be more effective.

Underneath his critique of nonviolence I believe that he is really attacking what he sees as the conservatism of much of the nonviolent movement and its understanding of power and social change. As he states in his introduction, the glue that binds the nonviolent movement together is a commitment to nonviolence, not a commitment to revolutionary change. In this respect Gelderloos is echoing AJ Muste famous quote “In a world built on violence, one must be a revolutionary before one can be a pacifist; in such a world, a non-revolutionary pacifist is a contradiction in terms, a monstrosity.” It seems that Gelderloos has reached the stage of being a revolutionary but not yet a pacifist.

This book hasn’t changed my mind about pacifism in the slightest – its suggestion that violent repression from the state is a sign of effectiveness is grotesque - but I have to admit that on the whole I have found the book interesting and challenging.

As I say - look forward to the debate

Disarming Man
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