cj#1027,rn,sm-> re2: revolution discussion

1999-12-04

Richard Moore

Friends,

Wow!  We've got a very productive discussion going. I have
the greatest respect for those who have been contributing -
we are 'collaborating via discussion', not 'arguing'. Since
this is going to several lists, everyone's contributions are
repeated here.

I'll try to put them in an order such that they help answer
one another.

rkm

============================================================================
Date:   Fri, 3 Dec 1999 10:44:56 -0400 (AST)
From:   Daniel Haran <•••@••.•••>
To: •••@••.•••
Subject: Re: cj#1025,sm,rn-> discussion re: revolution

RKM,

I have to disagree with the notion that a non-hierarchical
society can not defend itself against one that is, or that a
non-violent society can not effectively counter violence.
You may want to look at Gene Sharp's work on the subject.

I'm also a bit more pessimistic about the revolutionnary
potential of WTO demonstrations. They will indeed,
radicalize many people, and that's great. But let's not
forget that they are all reacting against the elites rather
than building the type of society that we want. The
coalitions that we now see between workers, students, etc...
will probably not hold.

We shouldn't be asking for a seat at the WTO talks or the
inclusion of labor and environmental standards in the
treaty.

Building more self-reliant local economies with community
control over the means of production is still the most
elegant way to undermine the corporate-capitalist system. At
the same time, we should be educating people about fair
trade. This is not new stuff; it goes back to Gandhi, picked
up through Schumacher and many others down the line.

Hopefully we can use the WTO events to educate others about
this type of solution. Otherwise the more reformist elements
will be co-opted in the WTO administration with the
responsibility to repress grassroots radicalism and the
veneer of democracy.

Peace- Daniel.

==============

Dear Daniel,

Thanks for your reminder about the power of non-violence.
I don't know Gene Sharp, but we all know about Gandhi & ML
King.  If non-violence had no power we'd have no hope of
ever overcoming elite capitalist oppression.

But these successes are in some sense heroic exceptions. The
lamb sometimes defeats the lion, but you can't count on it
generally.  The more typical historical picture has been one
of imperialism: violent, hierarchical societies subduing,
enslaving, or slaughtering less violent and less
hierarchical societies.  Furthermore, the gains of Gandhi &
King came at times when elites were ready to make changes
for other reasons anyway.  Gandhi would not have done as
well fifty years earlier, nor would have King.

I still claim that if we want to achieve a democratic and
livable world, the soundest strategy is to achieve it on a
global scale and then to create new structures which are
designed to prevent the rise of hierarchies of any kind.  An
ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

---

Your comments about the WTO demonstrations are right on the
mark.  The demos publicise trade as a political issue and
they radicalize participants and certain others.  More
important, the diversity of participants has been very
heartening and encouraging - and EMPOWERING.  But as you
imply, real change never comes through reaction and resistance
- it must come from a positive vision and positive goals.

And most certainly: reform of the WTO is the LAST thing we
want!  The most threatening thing that has happened in
Seattle was not the police suppression - it was Clinton's
words about opening up the WTO process.  OF COURSE such
'opening up' cannot possibly make any real difference in WTO
policies - but it can diffuse opposition.  The arrogance and
brutality of the globalization process is one of our most
valuable assets as revolutionaries.  It is very important
that widespread radicalization occur BEFORE elite elements
manage to get serious about co-option.  The seduced liberal,
after all, is revolution's worst enemy and tyranny's
greatest friend.

I consider this to be your most important sentence:

    Building more self-reliant local economies with community
    control over the means of production is still the most
    elegant way to undermine the corporate-capitalist system.

But I suggest 'means of production' is too limiting.
Communities should be the center of EVERYTHING, the
fountainhead of power and decision making.  And we cannot be
satisfied with undermining the system - that has happened in
the past and has proven to be temporary.  We must overcome
it TOTALLY and PERMANENTLY.

solidarity,
rkm

============================================================================
From: "D.A.HELLER" <•••@••.•••>
To: "Social Movements List" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: seattle "battle"
Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1999 12:20:34 +0000 (GMT)

rkm,

very thought provoking post, as always. In particular, I
would like to question a couple of comments that you make,
in relation to violence:

    I continue to _suspect PGA as being the instigator of the
    demonstrator-violence, but I'm not sure. <snipped> The
    establishment (in USA & UK especially) trains the police to
    be ugly & repressive in the hope that the movement will
    consider police to be the enemy.  If this strategy succeeds,
    then the movement becomes primarily violent and can only
    lose.  Strict non-violence is the only strategy that can
    succeed.

I find such comments entirely at odds with your desire to
build broad based coalitions. Let me attempt to explain
why...

For as long as i have been an activist, i have been an
active proponent of a nonviolent "praxis", but my
experiences in London on june 18th and my response to events
in Seattle and elsewhere in recent days has made me rethink
my previously somewhat dogmatic position. I am still, I
think, as committed to nonviolence as I ever was, but what i
have come to realise is that no group, or bunch of
individuals, can have a monopoly on revolutionary (or
demonstration) tactics or strategy, or on the meaning of
terms such as nonviolence. the use of the phrase "strict
non-violence" i find particularly problematic.

A bit of history... large sections of the british
antinuclear movement in the early eighties thought of
cutting fences round military bases as a violent act, along
came the "Snowball" campaign- accountable, symbolic cutting
of fences involving large numbers of people (I paraphrase
for brevity) and now we have several activists (most notably
acting under the banner of "ploughshares") taking hammers,
nonviolently, to the control panels of nuclear submarines,
and associated bits of hardware, to cheers of support from
across the peace movement and beyond, and very little
criticism, _if any_, from inside the movement. This shift
has taken less than 20 years, and as far as i can see is
entirely positive. It represents, primarily, the lifting of
bourgeois proscriptions on damage to property, and a
beginning of the questioning of the whole basis of private
property amongst people who should have been questioning it
years ago.

Similarly, breaking bank windows is not simply "violence",
especially in the context of what those banks stand for,
although this is not to suggest that such actions merely
represent two wrongs making a right, or a tit for tat
_re_action. Yes, the police will overreact to such actions.
But we have to prepare for this- something that appears to
have happened much more systematically in Seattle than in
London on j18. The police _are_ going to overreact, no
matter how "strict" the "non-violence" is, as soon as they
feel their interests being threatened. I lost my illusions
about the police being a neutral force or solely "workers in
uniform" during the police violence against the anti-nazi
march in welling, London some years ago. No, they are not
_as individuals_ the enemy, but we should have no illusions
in whose interests they are employed.

So, we need a plurality of approaches to demonstrations, and
to the extent that they _may_ represent a rehearsal for a
revolutionary scenario (infinitely debatable) we need:
preparation, "stewards", people who can throw things further
than the front line of protesters, less blaming radical
groups that are already marginalised (PGA, RTS) for
violence, more strategy in which buildings are targeted,
broad based support- including from people who may find
notions such as nonviolence entirely alien, and from people
who have a different idea of what the term means, or may be
willing to cross their particular boundary into violence at
a different point. fun and games, not as a precursor for the
"proper fight" of the afternoon, but valued in their own
right, less criticism of property damage from people with
too much property themselves, people willing to have their
own demonstrations (or riots) if they can't work within the
groundrules for a particular event.

any thoughts?

david

===============

Dear David,

The issue of violence is both subtle and crucial.  You make
very good points.  I have a STRONG personal aversion to
violence, but when I talk about 'strict non-violence' that
is only within certain contexts.  Violence was necessary and
correct in expelling the British from the colonies, the Tsar
from Moscow, Batista from Cuba, the Yanks from Vietnam - or
the oppressors from Columbia today.

In the context of revolution in the West however, the
question of violence is a question of STRATEGY.  The Western
regimes are among the most powerful, best organized, most
brutal, and best armed of any regimes that have ever existed
in history.  I agree with the U.S. militias and patriots
when they say they have the RIGHT to defend themselves and
their families if attacked.  Where I disagree with them is
about whether they would be ABLE to defend themselves.  I
think they would find their rifles useless against attack
helicopters & napalm.  WACO was not a mistake - it was a
lesson-in-miniature.

As you say, no one can have a MONOPOLY on strategy or
tactics - none of us can IMPOSE our values on others.  That
does not mean however that it is not important for us to
work together to AGREE on movement strategies and tactics.
In Seattle in '99, and in Geneva in '98, it was only the
establishment that benefitted from the slashed tires and
broken windows.  I do not object on bourgeois moral grounds
about those kinds of actions, but I claim they were
pointless and that they played into the hands of oppression.

More important - they were contrary to the spirit and intent
of the overwhelming mass of the participants.  It was the
few who were in effect IMPOSING their values on everyone
else.  They were inserting destruction into a primarily
peaceful event - NEUTRALIZING the overall strategy of the
event.  They acted as AGENTS OF THE ESTABLISHMENT - either
wittingly or unwittingly.

It is quite a different matter if the overall strategy of an
event is based on destruction.  Cutting down fences which
shouldn't be there or destroying submarines which shouldn't
exist is hardly objectionable.  But are such actions going
to overthrow capitalism??   That is the real question.  Such
events - like those in Seattle - can radicalize and educate.
But, as with Seattle, that is as far as it goes.  As the
movement goes mainstream we must outgrow such methods.  And
it MUST go mainstream to be victorious.  In the end it must
be a majority movement.  And the tactics of majority
movements are different than the tactics of minority
movements.

In fact, every revolution must make its own rules depending
on unique circumstances. Most of us have cartoon images -
unexamined assumptions - of what revolution is.  That will
not do. The French Revolution and the Russian Revolution are
NOT good models for us in the West today.  We do NOT live
under admittedly dictatorial regimes.  What we need is first
to achieve a radicalized majority.  Then we need to take
over peacefully. The biggest dangers facing us are (1)
co-option and (2) victory without adequate vision.

yours,
rkm

============================================================================
From: •••@••.•••
To: "Social Movements List" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Misconceptions about the PGA
Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1999 10:51:01 GMT

Dear Richard:

I was frankly amazed at your comments concerning the PGA.
You infer that it is some pseudo clandestine organisation,
implicitly condoning (and , indeed, organising) violence.
Such comments betray some deep misconceptions concerning the
PGA, perhaps born out of an over-academic analysis of social
change (the kind that place formations 'under the
microscope'). Indeed, I wonder on whose behalf you speak,
when you suggest that 'the PGA should be kept out of
organising until they change their Manifesto' ? Such
proclamations seem more intent on dividing those forces
arranged against the WTO rather than supporting them (or,
dare I suggest, actually getting materially involved).

I was involved in the second annual conference of the PGA
this summer in Bangalore. I do not 'speak for' the PGA, it
is not an organisation with leaders. However I am involved
in the process that the PGA is attempting to be. Just so you
are clear about the PGA:

The PGA is an instrument of coordination, not an
organisation.

Its main objectives are 1. Inspiring the greatest number of
persons, movements, and organisation to act against
corporate domination through non- violent civil disobedience
and people oriented constructive actions 2. Offering an
instrument for co-ordination and mutual support at global
level for those resisting corporate rule and the
capitalistic development paradigm 3/.Giving more
international projection to the struggles against economic
liberalisation and global capitalism

The hallmarks of the alliance are:

1. A very clear rejection of the WTO and other trade
liberalisation agreements (like APEC, the EU, NAFTA, etc.)
as active promoters of a socially and environmentally
destructive globalisation;

2. A rejection of all forms and systems of domination and
discrimination including, but not limited to, patriarchy,
racism and religious fundamentalism of all creeds.  We
embrace the full dignity of all human beings.

3. A confrontational attitude, since we do not think that
lobbying can have a major impact in such biased and
undemocratic organisations, in which transnational capital
is the only real policy- maker;

4. A call to non-violent civil disobedience and the
construction of local alternatives by local people, as
answers to the action of governments and corporations;

5. An organisational philosophy based on decentralisation
and autonomy.

Where they might be implied support of violence in the
Manifesto, it is with those struggles in mind, such as the
Zapatistas (or before them the Sandinistas), where people do
not have, because of circumstances, the luxury to proclaim
the purity of particular approaches to social and political
change such as nonviolence. However, the aforementioned
hallmarks make clear the nonviolent stance of the PGA.

Whether we are activists, or academics, or, indeed activist-
academics, shouldn't we be attempting to understand and
support one another in these crucial struggles rather than
grandstand accusations born out of incomplete analysis.

In solidarity

Pablo

==============

Dear Pablo,

I'm getting a little tired of the same old defenses of PGA
that I keep getting from people who "don't speak" for PGA.
I also find offensive your assumptions about 'academic'
analysis.  I spent hours talking with Sergio Hernandez in
Geneva, listening to his strategic thinking, watching how he
ran and manipulated meetings, observing how he and Olivier
ran the 'mobilization', and how they managed to create
violence without seeming to.  I dodged the tear gas and
watched the stones while the "official" PGA camp sat around
their campfire "seeing no evil".

I understand the principles of decentralization and the
meaning of legitimate anarchism.  I also understand the
meaning of covert manipulation.  PGA pretends to have no
leadership but it does have leadership.  And yet its leaders
refuse to enter into dialog or to explain their strategies.
Perhaps in the third world they are doing wonderful things.
But in Geneva and in Seattle their masked stone throwers
have been COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.  You and others always talk
about Chiapas - as a reason for the Manifesto's support of
violence - but it is in Geneva and Seattle that those
provisions are applied.  GET HONEST AND GET REAL.

Yes I am in favor of solidarity and inclusiveness.  In fact
I find 99% of what PGA says and does to be extremely
admirable.  But that 1% is POISON.  And I've found no one
from PGA who is willing to discuss that 1%.  I smell a BIG
RAT.  I've made every effort to get my objections in front
of PGA - sending to every address I could find - but never
have I received a reply that addressed the issues I have
raised.

Here is the testimony of an eyewitness student about the
masked stone-throwers in Seattle.  One begins to wonder if
PGA's "non leadership" was in close communication with
Seattle police all the while, coordinating how to minimize
the effectiveness of the demonstrations...

   "A number of times they had these 100 or so protesters caught
    between buildings and walls of police. They could easily
    have arrested and detained this small number of people and
    gotten it over with. Instead they would gas them and let
    them go. Then trap them again, gas them again, and again let
    them go. The cops made no arrests that I know of until late
    Tuesday night though the skirmishing was going on from three
    till 9:30. The cops would blockade three or five blocks of
    an area, give the angry kids room to operate, keep gassing
    them - when you gas a person, let me tell you, it gets them
    fighting mad.

   "Tuesday night the police gassed all of downtown. This was
    going on from 3 PM, till 6 PM.. Gas everywhere. The kids
    broke a few windows - McD's, Starbucks - small stuff -
    burned a few garbage cans. The police were using these
    people as extras. It was staged. I believe also the police
    had their own people in there, encouraging people to break
    stuff - if people think I may be exaggerating, I saw
    supposed protesters - they were screaming and so on - and
    then later, when everything was over, the same people
    tackled other protestors and put handcuffs on them."

I can only call a spade a spade.  Sorry.

rkm


-------------------------
Richard K Moore
Wexford, Irleand
Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance
•••@••.•••
http://cyberjournal.org


                Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful
                committed citizens can change the world,
                indeed it's the only thing that ever has.
                        - Margaret Mead

.


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