The Pathology of the New Progressive Violence
by Carol Moore
Table of Contents
Introduction: Radical Tactics Replace Radical Goals
Street Fighter Quotations
Why the Return to Violence?
Tenets of New Progressive Violence
Current Arguments for and Against Activist Violence
Ward Churchill: Guru of the New Progressive Violence
Negative Effects of Violence/Four Action Strategies
Case Study: Seattle, November 1999
Case Study: Washington, DC, April 2000
Marginalization of Street Fighters Begins & Links
Lessons for Nonviolent Actionists, Feminists and Libertarians
Is America Becoming A Police State? (1995 book excerpt)
198 Methods of Nonviolent Action
Quotes from M.K. Gandhi
Nonviolent Peacekeeping Techniques for Demonstrations
How Activists Accidentally Started DC's 1968 Riots
Nonviolence and Decentralization
How Violent Males Co-opt Woman-Initiated Movements
Woman vs. the Nation State
Men Working to End Dominance
Empire of the Rising Scum ("All about Apparatchiks")
Sunspot Cycles and Activist Strategy
I’m not so single-minded as to think that we would have had the same coverage in Seattle or Washington or anywhere, in Prague, without each other. In other words, what kind of coverage would we have had if there were not windows broken? Ruckus Society trainer Nadine Bloch at a public forum, October, 2000.
Having been at both Seattle and Quebec City, I can honestly say that Quebec City made Seattle look like a children's school yard fight. This was the heaviest street fighting I have ever seen. Some of the numbers I have seen reported include 30-35,000 demonstrators overall, two nights of rioting and heavy street fights throughout much of the weekend...Mark L. in widely distributed e-mail, April, 2001
I think the Mobilization [for Global Justice] is painting
into a corner with this bullshit talk about the Mobe and the protests
totally nonviolent. Street fighter "Black Bloc" spokesperson
Chuck Munson, September, 2001.
"*Respecting a diversity of tactics, we support the use of a variety of creative initiatives, ranging between popular education to direct action." From a June 28, 2001 press release sent out by Green Party Shadow Representative candidate Adam Eidinger announcing the Anti-Capitalist Convergence "Principles of Unity" for the September, 2001, protests.
You know the old saying, `No justice, no peace?' I think that's what we're seeing in action now. Ruckus Society trainer Nadine Bloch on relation of anti-globalization to peace movement after September 11, 2001 attacks, quoted in Boston Globe story.
What do you expect them to do when the press don't pay any attention? Green Party 1996 and 2000 candidate Ralph Nader at November 11, 2001 student conference in response to a question about activists scuffling with or throwing bottles at police for press attention.
an Old Tactic
The quotes above (and those below) reflect a new political reality in "progressive" activism in America and Europe--a widespread acceptance - especially in the 1999-2001 period -- of the return of “street fighting man.” Street fighting man is the violent protester (often anarchist, usually anti-capitalist) who takes to the streets to smash up windows, stores and banks, build barricades and burn dumpsters in the streets, and confront, fling stones, bottles and even "Molotov Cocktails" (fire bombs) at law enforcement and/or his ideological, religious or ethnic opponents. While some of these young street fighters are women, men still largely promote and engage in street fighting, joining the legions of males worldwide and throughout history who prove their manhood through violence.
Street fighting tactics are hardly “new,” just re-labled with the euphemism "diversity of tactics." They have existed throughout history, in every large city, on every continent, in almost every period of civil discontent--in this century from Hitler’s brown shirts to the Irish Republican Army to the American “Weather Underground” to the Jewish Defense League to the Palestinian Intifada. Many street fighters move on to armed struggle and terrorism in various leftist, nationalist or separatist insurgencies worldwide.
Street fighting as a tactic in First World nations existed on the fringes of the American and European anti-Vietnam War movements. It returned to Europe in the 1980s and 1990s, in part as a means of protesting any cuts in the welfare state. As one English organizer living in American told me, “Every time they cut the dole, we go out and have a riot.” American progressive reformist organizers also have admitted to me openly that if the press won't pay attention to them except if there is the possibility of violence, then they tacitly will encourage those who might do violence to come to their larger street protests.
Street fighting returned big time to the United States during the 1999 Seattle anti-World Trade Organization protests where anarchist organized into a "Black Bloc" smashed windows and stores and started fires in dumpsters. American street fighters were influenced also by radical environmental and animal rights groups which spike trees, damage vehicles, release laboratory animals and even burn animal experimentation laboratories and homes and resorts which they believe harm the environment, as well as by Ward Churchill's book "Pacifism as Pathology," described below. Street fighting quickly spread to non-anarchist leftists, as well as miscellaneous thrill seekers.
The next big protests, the April 16, 2000 protests in Washington, DC saw less property destruction and police and activist lawlessness than in Seattle, but far more than admitted by protest organizers. The first nine months of 2001 saw dozens of riotous "anti-globalization" protests around the world, due in part to the Internet's making it cheaper and easier to get the word out to thousands of people who would not have been reached formerly. Massive rioting in Genoa, Italy in July 2001 led to the burning of blocks of small businesses and the death of one activist.
Washington, DC activists were planning a late September 2001 protest predicted by some activists to be even more destructive than Genoa, when the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks put a massive damper on street fighting. However, a hard core of activists remain committed to diversity of tactics, just waiting for the time street fighting could begin again in earnest. While opposition to street fighting has increased since the attacks, the demand that activists accept a "diversity of tactics" (property destruction and attacks on police "in self-defense") remain a dark shadow over anti-war and peace organizing even today.
This e-book documents street fighting in quotes and photographs; explains why there has been a resurgence -- and later a diminuation -- in violent activism; lists street fighter "tenets" supporting violence and presents the counter-arguments to them; includes case studies of street fighting organizing in Seattle (1999) and Washington DC (2000); offers updated quotes as the inevitable Marginalization of Street Fighters progressed; looks at lessons from this sorry interlude that nonviolent activists and feminists must learn; and discusses what is necessary to do for those of us who want to create a successful anti-authoritarian, anti-state movement, i.e., a nonviolent one.
Progressives Encouraged Street Fighter Tactics
The violent protests of the 2000-2001 era were supported by formerly nonviolent careerists who work for various progressive organizations, many of them funded by protectionist trade unions or anti-development environmental groups. As one of their top publicists explained to me, their goals were thoroughly "reformist": small changes in the policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund; more government control over corporations; opposition to free market and privatization policies; various environmental, labor and civil liberties demands. They rejected more radical goals, be they abolition of capitalism or abolition of the state - the goals held by the extreme left and anarchist factions who usually made up the street fighting black bloc.
Their personal goals tended to be careerist: power and position in left progressive organizations and perhaps, someday, powerful positions in government. At least one attorney who subtly encouraged street fighting went on to win major financial settlements for innocents arrested by angry police.
These progressives worked openly with street fighters, even though they knew they intended to destroy property, rip down barricades, and assault police in their determination to get into meetings of international leaders and wreck havoc. They had discovered the threat of activist violence is the best way they know to get dozens of media representatives to press conferences--events the press used to shun. Of course, when the press tries to answer questions about violence, they either refused to answer the question or asserted that only the police commit violence. A second goal was intimidating the power structure into taking them seriously, something implied by the preoccupation of some with "winning."
Progressives supported street fighters by refusing to condemn or "marginalize" violent street fighters. Some even proclaimed solidarity with those who used a "diversity of tactics," even as they asserted that they themselves were nonviolent. More insidiously, these professional progressive activists joined street fighters in bullying into silence nonviolent activists who protest. Such intimidation included peer pressure, appeals to "solidarity," insults like “peace Nazi” and "peace cop" and threats of ostracism from organizing and social events.
Most of these "careerists" know full well that a prime street fighter strategy is to provoke police to beat and thereby radicalize nonviolent protesters and "grow" the street fighter movement. Needless to say, threatened and actual activist violence during anti-globalization protests, especially assaults against police officers, increased government pre-emptive, disruptive and violent actions in 2000 and 2001. These careerists then reacted in shocked outrage that police attack nonviolent protesters, cynically using the naive and bloodied protesters as fodder for their media machine. (These tactics probably were the main reason the rapidly pro-capitalist Bush Justice Department effectively re-defined terrorism in the Patriot Act to include acts like smashing police cars.)
Despite the usefulness of sreet fighters, the careerist-dominated coalitions politically marginalized them by refusing to include their most hardcore demands, like outright abolition of the World Bank and IMF or the right to create communities totally free of government control, in coalition demands. Nor were anarchists initially included in coalition press conferences. I attended the April 14, 2000 Mobilization for Global Justice where a reasonable and articulate anarchist, hair neatly cropped, dressed as conservatively as a "frat boy" in a white shirt and wool sweater, waited patiently for the half-promised opportunity to speak. But it never came. During two August, 2001 press conference for the September, 2001 demonstrations, leaders of all the major organizing groups were represented but mentioned the street fighting anarchists "Anti-Capitalist Convergence" only once, in a long list of other groups. Later press conferences usually featured low-key anarchist women as spokes people to both entice the media with the possibility of violence while presenting a non-threatening voice who would not yell something that might make the organizers politically liable for future acts of violence.
Were the Nonviolent Activists?
Street fighters did, and still do, openly mock pacifists as "peace nazis," "peace cops" and "paci-sissies." The Gandhi graphic illustrates the depth of their contempt. (It was criticized by some street fighters only for its "racism.") Yet even as such violence has waned, relatively few nonviolent activists or groups will speak out against such past or future violence. Some are fearful of destroying "movement solidarity." Some have been intimidated by insults or fear political ostracism. Many hope the new street fighting “phase” will pass without their having to act. Others have accepted street fighters' propaganda that they are relative innocents compared to the police. Those who speak out still risk censure.
Voices against violence include the War Resisters League, whose July-August 2001 issue of The Nonviolent Activist included pointed criticism of street fighter violence. Leading nonviolence trainer George Lakey, author of the web article (PDF) "Nonviolent Action As 'The Sword That Heals': Challenging Ward Churchill's 'Pacifism As Pathology'". Ward Churchill is the author of the influential book “Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America.” Its re-issue in 1998 greatly influenced the revival of street fighting. The subtitle of “Return of Street Fighting Man”, i.e., “The Pathology of the New Progressive Violence,” is obviously a reply to his book, making the point that violence, not nonviolence, is the true destructive force. (In this e-book Arguments for and Against Activist Violence details problems with Churchill and other street fighters' arguments--including the failure to disseminate a vision so radical and compelling it does not need to resort to violence to succeed.)
Brian Martin's 2001 article Nonviolence Vs. Capitalism argued nonviolence as a superior tactic for anti-capitalists. Stacia Brown's 2002 Sojo.Net article Swinging Back:Violence in the anti-corporate-globalization movement took on the issue squarely, though it wrongly assumed that all violence was "anarchist" as opposed to anti-capitalist. Later
Corporate statists, anti-leftists and free traders were delighted to see the anti-globalization movement destroy its credibility through engaging in or condoning street violence. However, pacifists and nonviolent activists worry that such violence only discredits true nonviolent activists, drives away other activists and increases police power (as it has helped do in the Patriot Act), as well as the public's willingness to tolerate police abuses of all protesters.
11th Terrorist Attacks Effect on Street Fighting Man
Even before the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon I predicted the inevitable fall of street fighting man in America. If the attacks had not occurred and the September 29-30, 2001 protests had proceeded as planned, there probably would have been at least as much property destruction and violence as at Quebec City--or even Genoa. Instead that fall a rather subdued "black bloc" of several hundred young people scuffled only briefly with police before joining up with a peaceful anti-war rally.
However, the shock and revulsion of those September 11 mass murders had some effect on street fighters and their supporters. I went to a September 13 "community sharing" meeting which turned out to consist mostly of young street fighters and their supporters. The violence and death toll of the attacks shocked many street fighters and their supporters, especially women. It was heartening to see the most nonviolent individuals finally emboldened to speak out and the street fighters crying that they should not be "marginalized." I remember one woman crying as she denounced the street fighting tactics she had supported just three days before. I expressed how my feelings of fury at American imperialism made it possible for me to understand Arab and Muslim fury, but I still knew that intellectually and morally that violence was not the way to end that oppression.
Jacob H. Fries, in a January 28, 2002 New York Times article about the upcoming World Economic Forum protests described one anarchists position. "David R. Graeber, 40, an assistant professor of anthropology at Yale University who is a founding member of the Anti-Capitalist Convergence, an anarchist group, said that right after the World Trade Center attack, even aggressive anarchists lost their taste for confrontation. 'For obvious reasons in the wake of Sept. 11, the very militant stuff didn't fit with anybody's state of mind, especially in New York where many people were directly affected,' he said. 'But there's a feeling now that enough time has passed, that the issues we raise are as relevant as ever. A lot of people think the first major protest since the attacks must send a pointed message.'" (Such sentiments did not deter some from rioting just two months after the attacks. See photos of the November, 2001 Ottawa, Canada protests against the World Bank and IMF.)
Typical of those who rejected street violence was “L.A. Kauffman,” who called her now defunct web page “free-radical.org” a “chronicle of the new unrest.” Kauffman defended diversity of tactics, with some caveats, until the September 11 attacks. Then she called for a new strategy and started organizing for the newly formed United for Peace and Justice antiwar coalition. Leslie Kauffman is now retired to domestic bliss with her children, leaving behind the days when she encouraged other peoples' teenagers and young college students to engage in tactics that, despite her denials, did endanger other protesters, not to mention passer-bys and police.
In a September 17, 2001 article entitled “All Has Changed” she wrote in part: ...the September 11 attacks definitively interrupted the unfolding logic of the movements for global justice. The IMF/World Bank protests in D.C. were going to be simultaneously broader, more diverse, and more intense than any demonstrations in recent U.S. history. The AFL-CIO was pouring unprecedented resources into the events, mobilizing its membership on a massive scale, and faith-based and non-governmental organizations were activating thousands of people who had never come to a globalization protest before. Meanwhile, more and more people were embracing the philosophy of "diversity of tactics," shifting away from the strict nonviolence guidelines that have been the hallmark of large-scale direct actions for two decades, and agreeing to respect those who chose to engage in more confrontational or property-destroying tactics, so long as they didn't directly endanger other protesters.
"Diverse tactics" are clearly off the table for the time being, especially in New York and Washington, where the sound of breaking glass connotes death and devastation, and the masked uniform of the Black Bloc will only inspire fear.
While their numbers and ferocity were diminished by the attacks, soon enough street fighters were trying to bring the street fighting ethos into the "anti-war" movement. Some proponents slyly allowed the many new activists who entered a re-newed peace movement to misinterpret or misunderstand the phrase as meaning a variety of nonviolent tactics. Others thought it meant that those who wanted to use property destruction and aggressive actions against police promised to stay away from nonviolent protesters.
Street Fighter Philosophy Marches On
Despite the September 11 attacks, the passing of the oppressive Patriot Act and the creation of a Department of Homeland Defense, street fighters still asserted their right to street violence. While some progressive careerists and pro-violence representatives of peace groups deserted them, others, as well as many grass roots left activists, continue to condone street fighter tactics--or at least refuse to condemn them. They do so in solidarity with their shared commitment to "justice"-- usually some form of socialism.
For example, in November, 2001, faced with proposals it adopt nonviolent principles, pro-street fighting and street fighting-apologist members of the DC Anti-War Network wrote up and passed an alternate statement: "We believe that nonviolence guidelines will have little actual effect on the actions of people during our events, and if actions fall outside of our guidelines, we should not be committed to condemnation." While some naive people thought this meant that the group only would not condemn activist violence under some very special circumstances, those in the know knew it meant that only the most extreme violence might possibly be condemned. Two years later the group adopted a more explicit nonviolent statement, stating opposition to "all forms of national, racial, economic or religious violence and bigotry."
When anti-capitalist and anti-globalization activists became leaders of the peace movement, they largely quelled their habits of attacking vocal nonviolent activists as "peace nazis." Additionally, more radical activists stopped calling for violent "black bloc" protests --where property destruction and taunting of police were encouraged -- during the major peace rallies organized in 2002 and 2003.
However, violent protests against a growing White Power movement, which often organizes rallies around white power rock bands, did continue. The largest one was in York, Pennsylvania in January, 2002, where left activists attacked white power advocates in their automobiles. On August 24, 2002 about forty "anti-fascists" allegedly attacked white power activists getting on a bus in Baltimore with gas grenades, tire irons, baseball bats and hockey sticks. (Photos on the Internet showed several people, including women, definitely had been injured.) Two dozen anti-fascists were arrested, and many charged with felonies. The charges later were dropped, evidently because there was no evidence to counter their assertion that "other people" attacked the "Nazis" and they merely showed up later. Before that event members of one activist group tried to pass a resolution that their group should not criticize such violence but their resolution was quickly shot down.
In September 2002 "anti-capitalist" activists who promote a "diversity of tactics" organized a "People's Strike" against capitalism on September 27, 2002 in conjunction with the September 28-29 IMF/World Bank protests, whose web site linked to them. Some anti-capitalist activists early on crowed about the possibility of Quebec City or Genoa-like violence originally planned for September of 2001, before the September 11 terrorist attacks. However, on-line and public discussion of such violence was discouraged. Organizers were so paranoid about police infiltration that they made activists jump through numerous hoops to be "qualified" to attend the important scenario organizing meetings. Some anti-capitalists even actively discouraged such violence, something that would have been severely punished a year before.
Nevertheless, D.C. police, remember the "Black Bloc" attacks on police during the April, 2000 protests threatened "pre-emptive arrests." On September 27 they were ready in force with almost twice as many police (3,000) than protesters. Police did in fact illegally arrest -- without warning -- over 600 relatively tame protesters -- as well as bystanders -- who marched without a permit, having announced their intent of shutting down D.C. streets. In doing so they merely fulfilled the desire of the most radical street fighter organizers to provoke the police to illegal action there by "radicalizing them." It also allowed a couple of civil suit attorneys who had egged them on for the last couple years to finally have a solid reason to file multi-million dollar law suits against the city of Washington, D.C. Of course, they never admitted these goals to the many clueless people who attended the event -- or were arrested while walking by.
Since that event the D.C. area "Anti-Capitalist Convergence" itself has collapsed because of infighting and as most activists graduated college and took jobs or moved into peace or other activism. Now a days just wearing a black outfit and a scarf as a mask so annoys police and the general public that "black bloc" types don't have to do much more than that to make their statement!
Street fighting saw a resurgence during the 2003 Miami anti-globalization protests and some street fighters boasted that even the AFL-CIO was on their side! Some of these same individuals started a campaign for major direct actions at the April 2004 IMF/World Bank protests. Local DC activists who protested were treated as viciously as in the hay day of street violence, April 2000. Some DC activists started a petition. Not only did there end up being little violence, but the main IMF/World Bank protest drew only a few dozen people.
In the organizing for the January 2005 protests against George Bush's inauguration, once again street fighters tried to throw their weight around, demanding that activists agree to defacto co-conspire to their street violence. They issued a "Proposed Mutual Assurances between Groups and Organizations Planning Inauguration Related Protest Activities" which included the following " agreements:
By late 2005 the DC Mobilization for Global Justice, in
leading organization promoting diversity of tactics, had become a small
organization including a number of woman and people of color.
Evidently they became fed up with the faction of the group
diversity of tactics, even if at this point that meant mostly only
about property destruction and provoking the police. Members
nonviolence statement and those promoting diversity of tactics left the
group, taking up their tactics in the DC Antiwar Network, leading to
more quarrels and disputes. Finally, DAWN effectively re-defined
diversity of tactics to mean "NOT smashing things
or putting others at risk." Whether this was a cynical attempt to
manipulate pacifists in the group or a definition written by truly
clueless individuals is unknown. (See marginalization section for more details.)
As detailed below, the pressure for street violence will continue as long as males believe they must employ violence to prove their manhood and as long as anti-capitalists feel they have the right to use any means necessary to destroy whatever they define as "capitalism," be it only big corporations or the local mom and pop shop. Also, as explained below, it may remain strong for at least another decade because it is based in part on demographics: a large number of "excess" males in their twenties who cannot find women and therefore join violent gangs, be they criminal, sports or activist. However, due to the earth going into the low cycle of the 11 year sunspot cycle described below this phenomena should remain relatively low key until around 2010. After that, street fighting man may return in force.
Until humans finally reject political violence, there always will be new, young generations of males looking to prove their manhood through street violence. Meanwhile nonviolent activist must continue to educate until the negative effects of violence become apparent even to violent street fighters. It is only a matter of time before most activists recognize and admit that street fighting drives away less committed activists; intimidates, demoralizes and divides committed ones; and gives the police an excuse to spy on, disrupt and destroy movements which use street protest, civil disobedience or nonviolent direct action. Today activists again are again willing to discuss nonviolent action guidelines and talk about organizing peace keepers, though whether that is a stalling technique, time will tell. However, even as the worst violence passes, street fighting strategy represents a challenge to nonviolent philosophers, trainers and activists--and especially to nonviolent anarchist and libertarian organizers.
As an activist in the radical feminist, anti-nuclear, peace, libertarian, Green/bioregional, radical decentralist/secessionist, drug legalization and consciousness movements for almost 30 years, I have been one of the earliest and loudest critics of street fighting strategy. (See my Case Study of the April, 2000 IMF/World Bank demonstrations in Washington, DC.)
I have written this web page e-book to help those committed to nonviolence to understand, confront and transform the consciousness of those who espouse, practice or condone street fighting or terrorism and armed rebellion. Two generations of nonviolent activists working together could have a powerful effect. I also have written it to encourage libertarians, anarchists and decentralists of all stripes to recognize that anti-state, pro-freedom movements can succeed only if they are united on a common anti-state strategy and make sure that strategy is nonviolent.
(and those who support them or condone their activities)
clarifications in [brakets]...quotes verbatim...
What is at issue is not therefore the replacement of hegemonic pacifism with some “cult of terror.” Instead, it is the realization that, in order to be effective and ultimately successful, any revolutionary movement within advanced capitalist nations must develop the broadest possible range of thinking/action by which to confront the state. This should be conceived not as an array of component forms of struggle but as a continuum of activity stretching from petitions/letter writing and so forth through mass mobilizations/demonstrations/onward into the arena of armed self-defense, and still onward through the realm of “offensive” military operations (e.g., elimination of critical state facilities, targeting of key individuals within the governmental/ corporate apparatus, etc.). Ward Churchill in “Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America”
On November 30,
groups of individuals in black bloc attacked various corporate targets
in downtown Seattle...This activity lasted for over 5 hours and
the breaking of storefront windows and doors and defacing of facades.
newspaper boxes, sledge hammers, mallets, crowbars and nail-pullers
used to strategically destroy corporate property and gain access (one
the three targeted Starbucks and Niketown were looted). Eggs filled
glass etching solution, paint-balls and spray-paint were also used.
The black bloc was a loosely organized cluster of affinity groups and individuals who roamed around downtown, pulled this way by a vulnerable and significant storefront and that way by the sight of a police formation....We refuse to be misconstrued as a purely reactionary force. While the logic of the black bloc may not make sense to some, it is in any case a pro-active logic. N30 Black Bloc Communiqué, by ACME Collective, December 4, 1999
There's no point. It's just fun! Seattle local who joined in the rioting November, 1999 shown on network television.
How can peaceful marchers, those who engage in illegal civil disobedience, and those who engage in illegal acts of destroying corporate property coexist without turning on each other and detracting from the power of each other’s efforts?... We work to allow ‘different strokes for different folks’ in a way that permits each constituency to act on its ideals and logic, but without diminishing or confusing the actions of others much less usurping the zones others occupy. Michael Albert in Znet Commentary, “Who owns the movement?” December, 1999
I'd like to make it perfectly clear that there was no violence in Seattle save the violence done by police to people and protesters in the street. There was property destruction. We witnessed people using different tactics from hand holding, to sit-ins, to property destruction....[E]verybody who's going to be out on the street is going to be there because they're motivated by the same great feeling of anger and frustration about the ability to set their future direction in this world and stand up for environmental rights and human dignity. And so we cannot control the masses of people who will be coming to Washington... [W]e cannot take responsibility for people who do other things outside these [nonviolence] guidelines. April 16th organizer Nadine Bloch at the March 14, 2000 Mobilization for Global Justice Press Conference
The Mobilization has also been a learning experience of respectfulness about diversity of tactics....a real dialogue with anarchist groups supportive of property destruction, not based on dogma, moral condemnation, or marginalization [of those who would engage in violence] but a real dialogue based on shared values of political effectiveness and not undermining the political work of others; and even though property destruction is outside of the action guidelines for the Mobilization, we expect that if property destruction does take place in Washington, it will have a different political character than it did in Seattle. Robert Naiman in an April 12, 2000 ZNet Commentary
[On April 16] shit definitely got smashed, and anarchists were far more confrontational with the police than in Seattle... “Mark L.” on an anarchist list, April 2000
Despite the scare tactics, the threats, the harassment, the surveillance, the helicopters over head, the raid of our workshop area and teaching area, we will not be silent. And the sounds of this repression will serve as an amplified call to action.” Nadine Bloch, hypocritically wearing a “This is a Nonviolent Protest” T-shirt, at a televised April 16, 2000 press conference
What happened on Sunday (April 16, 2000) furthered these developments by showing the black bloc to be of great aid to the rest of the demo that otherwise might have opposed street fighting tactics..... But the willingness to push the police back was not limited to the black bloc however much they served as a lighting rod for stronger tactics. Their was no clear line between those who would maintain a strictly pacific response to police aggression and those who would fight back more directly. The willingness of pacifists to use the black bloc inevitably has the effect of undercutting strict pacifist tactics/politics within the movement. “Mark S.” on an anarchist list, April 2000
Smashing a window or fucking up a store is not violent. You can't ‘hurt’ property. It is inanimate. Some people argue that property trashing causes emotional damage to people. This is the argument of a pro-capitalist liberal. These folks are not our friends. The same goes for so-called pacifists who have trouble dealing with their anger and violent tendencies, and thus threaten other activists with arrest and imprisonment. I think we have to spit and piss on the cops more often. Chuck Munson on an anarchist list serve, May, 2000
These two dynamics - a broad sense of momentum and growth, and an increasingly combative culture of street protest - give this moment a feeling of promise, unpredictability, and peril. It's a time of great excitement, daring acts, much serious organizing, and some very stupid posturing. "L.A. Kauffman" in May 2001 Free Radical.Org article #16 "Turning Point."Here are PDAG's founding principles as I understand them.
We agreed on these and
only these principles early on.
My opinion: each individual will decide for themselves what they consider violence and what their own response will be if they are being attacked by police (for instance). Our ORGANIZATIONAL guidelines seem sufficient enough to me. It is in our best interest to accept our differences of opinion and politics and unify around what we can agree on.
"Susan" on a Republican National Convention protest organizing list, June, 2000. [NOTE: These guidelines later changed to add a prohibition on "initiating" violence against human beings.]
Last night's [August
8, 2000] 30 minute downtown rampage in philly was really intense!
have a lot of thoughts on it i'd love to share with you all but alas,
medium won't do... the one defining element is i think the rising
against the cops - people's willingness to fight back. something i
seen before. there were some inspiring scenes...20 trashed cop cars, a
lot full of slashed federal vehicles,TONS of graffiti, and at leats 3
cops - one with a serious head injury. a memorable scene: a cop bike
hurled through the air - and i dont mean by the cop either. i saw 5
and others have confirmed at least 8-10 more throughout the day.
"Global Action" on an anarchist list, August, 2000
What happened post-protests with the jails, the droning INPEG "S26 evaluation" meetings, and the conversations I had with all kinds of people about the protester-police interactions made me reevaluate my position on the Molotov cocktails and their throwers. The people who threw the Molotovs weren't bullshitting around; they were acting honestly, which is much more than what many of us can say. Unfortunately, many of us who "took charge" set the tone for the rhetoric to follow by chastising the cocktail throwers from the start. "Lauri"--a participant in the September 26, 2000 demonstrations in Prague, on an anarchist list [typical of the inconsistencies of liberals who condone violence to protect the welfare state, "Lauri" works for a gun control organization!!]
We are in this because we want to focus on the issues we want to talk about, not the tactics we choose... We cannot, we will not let them divide and conquer us over these distinctions, which are talking about tactics, not about issues...Don’t say violence when you are talking about property destruction. Unless you’ve defined it, because people don’t understand what you’re saying. And don’t just say property destruction if you can be more specific. If you can say window smashing, if you can say blowing up people, if you can use specific items, say those things, because it will much more easily define the parameters that you’re working within. ...The other thing is that I really refuse to limit the tools I have in my nonviolence toolbox, it’s pretty big because I refuse to limit those tools...I’m not so single minded as to think that we would have had the same coverage in Seattle or Washington or anywhere, in Prague, without each other. In other words, what kind of coverage would we have had if there were not windows broken?..This is not to say that the goal is to get people arrested, or to smash windows, or march down the street, but that when we do these things, we need to coordinate and be very smart about it...When someone does an action that is off the scale or pushes things one way or the other, it makes those of us who aren’t on the extreme end look more possible. We have to acknowledge that that is a good thing, whether we engage in those edge actions. Nadine Bloch, identified as “the Washington DC representative of the Direct Action Network and the Ruckus Society” at an October 26, 2000 “Nonviolence and the Black Block” Forum
I think it is so important to do stuff like knocking the Chief of Police off his bike. Yes, you risk felony charges, but if you can do this from the safety of a group and get away with it, you start to split up the police. In other words, we give them a taste of their own medicine. Chuck Munson at an October 26, 2000 “Nonviolence and the Black Block” Forum
...Respecting a diversity of tactics, the ACC [Anti-Capitalist Covergence] supports the use of a variety of creative initiatives, ranging between public education campaigns to direct action. From the statement of principles of the Anti-Capitalist Convergence, the main group organizing the June 2001 Quebec City protests.
Having been at both
and Quebec City, I can honestly say that Quebec City made Seattle look
like a children's schoolyard fight. This was the heaviest street
I have ever seen. Some of the numbers I have seen reported include
demonstrators overall, two nights of rioting and heavy street fights
much of the weekend (which often took place simultaneously in a number
of different areas of the city), thousand of rounds of tear gas used,
police injured (with probably twice that many injured protesters),
of molotov cocktails used, 60 fires throughout the city on Saturday
burning barricades and barrel fires on street corners), a few
worth of security fence torn down, over 400 arrests (with at least a
dozen, probably more, pre-emptive arrests, which have received
charges), a few banks destroyed (with at least two set on fire), many
multinationals, a damaged water cannon, a damaged tractor (which was
to drive at anarchists who tore down a section of fence), a number of
cars and riot vans destroyed, and some of the most organized and
acts of resistance I have personally ever ever witnessed.
I find profound inspiration in knowing that the largest security operation in Canadian history could not stop a few thousand anarchists and a determined resistance...Mark Laskey in widely distributed e-mail, April 2001
Contrary to the media and police lies, the black bloc and anarchists do not engage in mindless violence or in actions which will endanger other demonstrators. While most activists may disagree with them, the BB consistently targets police, chain stores, jails and banks not small shops and the cars of ordinary civilians, as happened in Genoa....I want to make very clear that there was unquestionedly (sic) present at Genoa a "real" black bloc numbering in the thousands and many thousands more non "color coded" activists who participated in street fighting and targetted property destruction. E-mails from "Eddie" who was is Genoa
...[T]housands of anti-capitalists, anarchists, environmental militants and radicals, as well as members of the labor movement, students and the rest of civil society, are expected to converge on Washington DC [September, 2001] to protest, challenge, disrupt, and potentially crush the global Joint Annual General Meeting. The confrontation could end up being the largest and most militant anti-capitalist showdown Washington has ever seen. Already, hundreds of affinity groups are forming, plans of attack are being drawn up, buildings cased, and gas masks stockpiled....Scenes of Washington DC, the center of "freedom" and "free speech", surrounded by razor wire, of police dressed as storm troopers firing tear gas at fleeing crowds, of thousands, hands raised above their heads, marched to detention centers at the points of bayonets as the city burns. From article "Upcoming Battle of Washington," by P.B. Floyd at slingshot.tao.ca/
....Respecting a diversity of tactics, we support the use of a variety of creative initiatives, ranging between popular education to direct action... Anti-Capitalist Convergence Principle of Unity condoning street fighting for September, 2001 Protests vs. IMF/World Bank in Washington DC
There are many answers to the general question on violence among groups planning actions, but several common themes emerge: first, destruction of property (in particular barricades and other things that symbolize the division between the haves and the have-nots) is not usually described in the same way as violence to people. Second, most groups have struggled to develop statements of points of agreement or action guidelines that help members of those groups to plan activities with a shared expectation of what the action might be. From a FAQ at the Mobilization for Global Justice web site for the September, 2001 Protests vs. IMF/World Bank in Washington DC
Let's use this list
brainstorm ways that we can work together on non marginalization [of
those who would engage in violence] - and come up with a phrase
is not inherently negative. Here are my initial reasons why I think
lousy- please ad reasons and a new name for the list and let's make a
Reasons Why Marginalization Bites
* Fight the Bank, the Fund, the Man, Capitalism, NOT others working for justice.
* When we're talking tactics (to the media, in the public part of our meetings) we're not talking about the issues.
* We don't have a monopoly on the truth.
* We need all the voices, all the energy we can get!
* Divide and conquer kills movements; do we have to do the Feds job for them? Alix Davidson, leading organizer of World Bank/IMF Demos, Washington, DC September 2001 on organizing e-mail list
We're of one mind on
A great deal of work has been done and is being done on
this. This will get better. Part of the problem now is that most folks who shot their mouths off about Genoa were disconnected from our process. That is already getting better. I personally have squashed a lot [of protest about violence] in the last week or so, and I know others have done so as well. Robert Naiman, leading organizer of World Bank/IMF Demos, Washington, DC September 2001 on the organizing e-mail list.
The action vision and the principle of nonmarginalization are core agreements of MGJ, and no one is suggesting any alteration of those. Robert Weissman, leading organizer of World Bank/IMF Demos, Washington, DC September 2001 on the organizing e-mail list.
These days every anti-globalization activist is confronted in meetings and private conversations with a hotly debated issue of street tactics...Regrettably, some liberals in the anti-globalization movement have joined in the alarm. They are trying to carve out for themselves the role of the "good protester" who can be patted on the head for good behavior by the corporate media as these media try to prepare public opinion for repression against the militant "bad protesters." Brian Becker, leading organizer of World Bank/IMF Demos on Aug. 16, 2001 issue of Workers World newspaper
It is the responsibility of protesters to march and assemble in any groups and with whomever they wish to assemble. It is the responsiblity of each person to take the actions that they believe are in accordance with their conscience. That is the responsibility of people and of protesterst... What I’m saying is it’s the responsibility of every individual to be responsible for their action. Mara Vanderheyden Hilliard of Partnership for Civil Justice at a September 2001 protesters' press conference answering reporters' questions about whether protesters will try to prevent or denounce violence.
There are numerous reasons for the return to violent progressive activism, and the successful squelching of opposition to it, especially by younger activists. I first list political reasons leading to the violence and then various probable underlying issues. Knowing the causes makes it easier to create solutions, some of which are implied below.
Failures of Reformist Movements: Despite at least 30 years of effort, progressive, leftist and libertarian groups have not been able to break the control of corporate, bureaucratic, military and other special interests worldwide. Most organized groups have been co-opted by the state into seeking only minor reforms through the legislative process. Many accept government money or pro-government foundation money. Liberal progressive groups have been tainted by their affiliations with corporate statists, leftists by their loyalty to failed and abandoned Marxist states worldwide. Their strategic recommendations are greeted with contempt by many young activists who have focused all their fury on "capitalism" and prefer making political points with nonviolent civil disobedience–or rocks, mallets and Molotov cocktails. (See also Failures of Nonviolent, Feminist and Anarchist/Libertarian/Decentralist Movements described below.)
Movements: Statist, socialist and communist economic policies
in nations worldwide have resulted in poverty, stagnation, inflation,
unemployment, shortages and repression of liberties. This has
policy makers and publics to support some measure of free market
such as tax cuts, cutting social welfare programs, firing bureaucrats,
curtailing burdensome regulations, increased privatization and freer
Economic booms in those nations which most heartily adopt these
bolster libertarian and conservative arguments against state control of
economies. Politicians in many nations have been forced to adopt
just enough quasi-free market "Neo-Liberal" policies to pump up their
However, corporate, bureaucratic, military, welfare state and other special interests remain firmly in control of these Neo-Liberal policies, ensuring that those with money and power, both within and among nations, are the biggest winners. Seeing old allies join the allegedly “free market” enemy has weakened some liberal and left coalitions, making it necessary for such activists to build new ones–even if with young anarchist street fighters.
Excess of Single Young Males
A relevant demographic trend relates to the fact that there are several million more available or eligible males between 18 and 27--the prime years for male violence--than there are females in that age group. Males born between 1966-80, when the number of babies born dropped quickly to lower levels than 1946-66, have a much harder time finding mates for two reason: a) there are fewer younger females to choose from, though sex selection with abortion does not seem to be practiced as much in this country as in China or India and b) because the larger number of older 1950s-60s born males are mating with women two, ten and even 25 years younger, ensuring millions of young males will never find long term relationships. Marriage lowers testosterone levels, tones down more aggressive male tendencies and keeps males preoccupied with family life. However, being chronically single leads too many young males to make their most important social bonds various types of male "gangs" -- be they criminal, sports or political -- where proving your manhood through violence is the primary values. (This also applies to some who join the military or police.) See a relevant academic article or search web on the topic.
A whole book has been written about this phenomena in countries like India and China where millions of girl babies are aborted. It is Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. Den Boer's Bare Branches: The Security Implications of Asia's Surplus Male Population.
An MIT Press description of the book includes: What happens to a society that has too many men? In this provocative book, Valerie Hudson and Andrea den Boer argue that, historically, high male-to-female ratios often trigger domestic and international violence. Most violent crime is committed by young unmarried males who lack stable social bonds. Although there is not always a direct cause-and-effect relationship, these surplus men often play a crucial role in making violence prevalent within society. Governments sometimes respond to this problem by enlisting young surplus males in military campaigns and high-risk public works projects. Countries with high male-to-female ratios also tend to develop authoritarian political systems.
The fact that young women have more choices, means many will choose higher income over lower income males. (As opposed to when females are in predominance and are happy to get any man, no matter how poor--something I can attest to being in that older generation.) This is a double insult to often low income anti-capitalist males who are rejected for their poverty as well as their politics!
1986 - 1990
1981 - 1985
|born 1976 - 1980
1971 - 1975
1966 - 1970
1961 - 1965
Male Co-optation of Female Initiated Movements: The surplus of young males has lead to males dominating activist groups more than they have since the early 1970s which just aggravates something noted by sixties bomb-building-street-fighter-turned-feminist-activist Robin Morgan, in her book Demon Lover: On the Sexuality of Terrorism. In it she describes how women start many movements, men co-opt them just as they start to become viable, and then turn them into excuses to prove their “manhood” through violence, thereby harming the movements. (See excerpt describing this process.) This co-optation already has happened in the environmentalist and animal rights movements, which are very popular with young activists. So it is not surprising that the anti-globalization movement now has been so co-opted. After I put Morgan's excerpt on an anarchist feminist list, one woman wrote back: “I couldn't say that womyn are the only ones in this movement but the ideas were definitely politicized by womyn first.” She then provided a long list of such women activists and women-led groups, including: Lori Wallach of Public Citizen, Vandana Shiva, Wangari Maathai, Sarah Van Gelder, Vicki Robin, Quebec longtime organizers who created the World March of Womyn, Sally Soriano, Priti Ramamurthy, Frances Moore Lappe. None of these women expected that their decades long efforts would become merely one more movement in which macho, young, mostly white males could prove their manhood.
Influence of Violent European Activists: Europeans have a long history of violent street fighting revolutions, from the siege of the Bastille, to the revolutions of 1848, to the Paris Commune of 1870, to early 20th century Irish Republican street fighting, to the street battles between anarchists, socialists and communists in Germany in the 1920s, to uprisings against Communist Hungary in 1956, to youth uprisings all over Europe in the 1960s. Street fighting has continued in Europe as fighting between leftists and right-wing skinheads, and, even more so, as organized left opposition to capitalism and to any attempts to cut welfare state benefits. (European stagnant economies result in many young intellectuals supporting their political activity by living off the relatively generous dole.) The rise of the Internet has allowed American and European activists to communicate more quickly and intimately and share strategies, tactics and experiences. That street fighting is practiced in many "third world" (or "global south") nations is also used to support street fighting in America -- ignoring that many of these nations also have strong non-violent movements.
Careerists: A member of Black Planet Books wrote in a year 2000
email: “Tactically, it
in the best interest of reformist factions to continue to use the
to blame for violence even while benefiting from the extensive media
violence against property achieves and the fear it puts into the hearts
of the reactionaries they hope to obtain concessions from.” The
of some progressives employed by top progressive organizations to
activist violence is based on just those motivations. (A
of them are quoted in the street fighter quotes section.) As
activist Nadine Bloch said in 2000 in a public talk in Washington DC:
not so single-minded as to think that we would have had the same
in Seattle or Washington or anywhere, in Prague, without each
In other words, what kind of coverage would we have had if there were
One sees a number of mid-thirties professional career activists working for left-leaning organizations subtly or openly encouraging confused and angry young males in their teens and early twenties to engage in property destruction and even assaults on police in order to use resulting publicity and establishment discomfort to increase their personal and organizational power vis a vis the establishment. This unholy alliance between ambitious 30-something “progressive” leaders and 20-something street fighters will only last as long as it benefits the careerist "apparatchiks." (See excellent article The Empire of the Rising Scum regarding the "apparatchik" phenomena.)
While some anarchist street fighters deny they are supported and manipulated by progressive careerists, without their good will violent activists would be shut out of meetings, list serves and convergence centers, driving them to the margins of protests by firm and discouraging nonviolent peace keepers. This has been happening to some extent after the September 11th attacks and as the first decade of the century progresses.
of Anarchist/Libertarian/Decentralist Movements: If one
the whole spectrum of anarchists, libertarians and radical
committed to freedom from state power, the number is doubtless far
than those of various left statist factions. However, the freedom
movement worldwide is divided into ineffectual left and right wings
both claim "ownership" of the words "anarchist" and "libertarian."
The “left” tends to be anti-property, communalist and very “politically correct.” In the United States this wing might comprise several hundred thousand individuals who believe anarchism, and libertarianism, stand for an anti-state political philosophy, with hundreds of thousands more worldwide. (Many more confused individuals think it is merely an extension of statist anti-capitalism, an organizational strategy or an invitation to nihilistic destruction.)
Many left, anti-property anarchists have accepted the notion, advanced by leading anarchists like Noam Chomsky, and leftist like Michael Albert of Znet who try to appeal to anarchists, that capitalism and/or corporations cause most of the world's problems, that a strong state is needed to control them, and that a solid welfare system is needed to deal with the inequities caused by corporations and/or capitalism. These anarchists believe these state institutions will be dismantled after anarchist alternatives are created, naively assuming this controlling nanny state even will allow such freedom-oriented alternatives to be created. While leftists after the Russian Revolution and the Spanish Civil War shot their former anarchist comrades, in most modern nations they simply regulate them into irrelevance. Some "anarchists" even go to work for state-controlled labor unions or the government itself.
The “right” tends to be pro-property, individualistic and “politically incorrect and proud.” It takes very seriously the "right to alter or abolish" government asserted in the Declaration of Independence. Its numbers have been increased by decades of popularity of individualist anti-state novels by Ayn Rand, Robert Heinlein and L. Neil Smith. Probably ten million Americans could be described as propertarian libertarians or anarchists. (While the number of such self-described libertarian activist worldwide may not be as large, the number is growing.) The activists among them have emphasized taking power in order to roll back the state. They join the Libertarian Party or comprise the libertarian fringe of the Republican Party. They sparingly engage in protest or civil disobedience. Some are rugged individualists and even survivalists who withdraw as much as possible from state control and await (or quietly plan) its demise.
Many left anarchists, like right libertarians, recognize that most huge corporations would not have been created or grown so large without the tens of thousands of government laws, regulations and taxes benefiting them. But most leftists have been indoctrinated by anti-capitalist ideology into believing in the predestined and inevitable accumulation of capital, especially in the form of big corporations. They refuse to believe that in a society free of state endowed privileges half of the Fortune 500 corporations would collapse and the rest would either shrink substantially and/or break up into many small entities.
More importantly, most left anti-statists are opposed to anyone owning any more property, or making any more income, than their particular sectarian viewpoint allows. They are so obsessed with economic ideology that they refuse to realize their natural allies are other anti-statists whose economic views may differ, not anti-capitalist statists. Pro-property libertarians have no problem with left anarchists' commitment to co-operative and communal alternatives and would never use state or private violence to prevent the creation of such alternatives. However, they justly worry that left libertarians would use force against any individual or group whose wealth exceeds that deemed politically correct by any left anarchist tendency. See my section on Lessons for Nonviolent Actionists, Feminists and Libertarians of All Stripes.
“Lost Cause” Turning to Violence: Some anti-capitalists may have turned to violence from the unconscious knowledge that neither state socialism nor anarchist communism can ever dominate the means of production. Many anarchist communists must realize that any general dissolution of large states would result in a world more like that described by anarchist capitalists and libertarians. After all, massive state power has been necessary in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, Cambodia, Cuba, etc. to crush the natural human desire to own property and trade with others. True freedom will mean the freedom to pursue economic activities which anti-capitalists consider vices and even crimes. Rather than admit the limitations of their philosophy, they pump themselves up with the moral superiority of their cause--a moral superiority which excuses violence against property and people. It is not surprising, therefore, that some anti-capitalists will settle for nothing less than total destruction of all capital and modern technology. For only that can insure a world without inequality – i.e., one where every one will be equally impoverished.
Failures of Feminist
If anyone doubts that the American feminist movement has been co-opted
by the Democratic Party, they have only to witness the disgusting
of the feminist movement to denounce former President Bill Clinton
multiple allegations of rapes and assaults against him. The National
for Women stated in a February 25, 1999 press release titled
Women's Rights Laws”: “We will likely never know the truth about
Broaddrick's accusation against Bill Clinton. It's virtually
to prove or defend against a 21-year-old rape charge. Perhaps the best
way to respond is to call on President Clinton and his supporters not
launch a broadside against his accuser and to urge the president and
Congress to work to improve the status of women.” NOW refused to
call for enforcement of existing laws against a powerful ally; if a
President had been accused of rape, we can bet there would have been
More insidiously, feminist groups have focused on passing laws allowing women to do everything men can do – including playing football with boys and killing other women's children in war – instead of creating a world where superior might and violence no longer rule. Establishment feminists only have helped women gain greater ability to operate within male created culture, assuming they must adapt to that culture; they have not helped women fashion visions and use strategies that will help women create a world that reflects their needs and visions, as well as men's.
Given the pro-male bias of establishment feminists, it is not surprising that younger women have little consciousness of the link between nonviolence and feminism. In fact, many young feminists seem to think being as aggressive and violent as males means they are truly liberated! Those women who refuse to jump on this male violence bandwagon are as thoroughly bullied into silence, including by women who, as I like to say, are "standing by their violent man." These women play the same role as have male-identified women through history--putting down “uppity” women. Of course, these women do not recognize this more subtle form of enslavement, in part because left males have learned enough feminist theory and practice to create clever rationales for their defacto dominance. In my experience, sometimes it is easier to deal with the ignorance, indifference or open contempt of many "right wing" political males.
As older activists predicted, the new emphasis on violence has given renewed power to the most dominant, sexist and even sexually abusive males. For the first time in decades, young women are beginning to organize feminist groups not merely because it seems the politically correct thing to do, but out of real and even desperate need. As one woman wrote on the street fighter "Anti-Capitalist Convergence" page: "It has come to my attention that there have been in the last year several disturbing incidents and accusations of sexual harassment, abuse, and even rape in the anarchist community in the DC/Maryland/Virginia region. I am one of many anarchists [female and male alike] who are concerned about these and are working on sane responses to them including proposing that a safespace for women [activists not just anarchists] be founded and that more discussions on patriarchal behavior occur." What is missing is the awareness that when activists condone violence, they attract and support males who abuse women.
of Nonviolent Action Movements: Most individuals and groups
or using nonviolent action have little real understanding of Gandhi's
of satyagraha or truth force, i.e., that most conflicts are really
over competing versions of truth and that is why only nonviolent
of conflict is warranted. Most engage in "duragraha," pressure
aimed at winning. (See
Action Strategies which delineate the difference between these,
fighting and terrorism/armed rebellion.)
Most nonviolent actionists are pro-state reformists. Their moderate reformist demands make it difficult to create nonviolent actions that clearly and dramatically expose great wrongs--or attract people to engage in civil disobedience that might lead to arrest. Even pacifist groups that destroy military equipment and then patiently wait for arrest lose some moral authority if they also engage in picketing the government to use its violence to raise and spend tax money on domestic programs. Some allegedly nonviolent people emphasize that "poverty is the most violent force in the universe," inferring that activist violence may be a justified solution.
Because of these ideological failures, the ability to inspire and train committed nonviolent actionists has suffered. Too often nonviolent action has become just a tactic taught by careerist “nonviolence trainers” with little feeling for the spirit of nonviolence; these individuals have shown a great willingness to manipulate it to maintain “movement solidarity.” The nonviolent spirit has been so thoroughly dissipated that there was little solidarity among those committed to nonviolence when the new activist violence reared its head in 1999.
Spirituality: In his reply to street fighter guru Ward Churchill,
Lakey writes that "Pacifism” (as opposed to the more pragmatic
action) “is an ideology, a belief system that holds that it is immoral
to injure or kill people to achieve your goals. Pacifists believe that
good ends can't justify killing...They believe that both morality and
sense require that we ‘live the change we want to see.’”
A large percentage of committed pacifists are Buddhist or Christians. Many others are Wiccans who believe one should “do as thou wilt, but harm none.” Others have naturalistic or eclectic perspectives that consider violence to be “low consciousness” behavior that destroys the web of life. However, none of these spiritual views have proved sufficiently inspiring, nor have their adherents engaged in sufficient proselytizing, to counter the spiritually bankrupt materialist world views of reformist statism and violent anarchism. People who know the true meaning and purpose of reality, and how to live in accordance with it, should never need to resort to violence to fulfill their needs and destinies.
The current solar cycle height runs from early 1999 to mid-2003. The rise in solar activity was just the trigger needed to send hundreds of thousands of people into the streets, organizing the “issue of the decade”– the left and labor union-inspired anti-globalization movement. And just the trigger needed to push potential street fighters straight out into the streets. Of course, as the sunspot cycle–and correlated activism--wanes, there is much breast-beating about the causes of the dissolution of the anti-globalization movement. (A hard core anti-war and peace movement reacting to Bush's wars does survive.) Some of it will be rightly blamed on street fighter violence. But much of it will be explained by the waning of Sunspot Cycle #23.
How will this newest and most virulent round of street fighting end? In
the dreams of the most fascist law enforcement that mounting street
between leftists, police and even right wing groups will lead to a
police state? In the dreams of the largely anarchist street fighters
want the destruction of capitalism and the state? In the dreams of
World people who want the benefits of investment and trade without
re-colonized by wealthy nations? In the dreams of left progressives
hope street fighters will help them advance their political and
agendas and even elect progressive Democrats or Greens to office?
In the dreams of the anti-globalization policy wonks who want a seat at
IMF/World Bank meeting tables? In the dreams of the labor unions who
to suppress any trade that threatens union jobs? The last three
more likely than the first three.
With continued illegal police state repression, the self-destructive pathology of street fighter strategy will become more evident to, and divisive among, activists. (See negative effects of activist violence.) As this year 2000-2003 height of activism waned, as activism does in regular cycles, activists began to re-evaluate strategies and tactics -- especially after the September 11, 2001 attacks. As had been predicted in earlier drafts of this e-book, left progressives who once encouraged street fighters marginalized them to maintain credibility with the progressive establishment and return to to more traditional street protest and party politics. Anti-globalization policy wonks wanted to keep their places at the tables of international organizations. Anti-globalizers turned peace movement leaders after September 11 knew they could not promote peace and diversity of tactics simultaneously.
Regardless, nonviolent activists and feminists, the two groups that most obviously failed to live up to their own principles during the rise and fall of street fighting, should have had the most internal self-analysis and self-criticism. Nonviolent and feminist activists should have reviewed their failure to stand up to mostly male activist violence, including the psychological and even physical abuse of nonviolent and women activists. Instead, the whole matter quietly faded, as professional activists adjusted to the times and new activists were left largely clueless.
People Must Deepen Commitment to Nonviolence
However, this tendency to street fighting will doubtless renew itself during the next rise in the solar cycle. Pacifists and nonviolent people, including in the feminist, anarchist and libertarian movements, must deepen their commitment to nonviolence in order to rectify their sorry lack of organized and effective response to the 2000 cycle renewal of activist violence. They can do so in five ways: by increasing their understanding of nonviolence, by refusing to be swayed by street fighters' pro-violence propaganda, by building nonviolent solidarity, by assertively rejecting activist violence--even as they continue tactical discussions, and by re-evaluating their own belief in state violence.
Understanding of Nonviolence: The reason so many nonviolent
have not been able to confront those who espouse violence is their lack
of understanding of, or commitment to, the basic principle of “Gandhi’s
Truth.” M.K. Gandhi wrote: “Satyagraha [truth force] is a
search for truth and a determination to search truth...What may appear
as truth to one person will often appear as untruth to another
But that need not worry the seeker....Truth and untruth often co-exist;
good and evil often are found together.... Satyagraha has been designed
as an effective substitute for violence.”
In practical terms this means that almost all human conflicts involve conflicting views, each of which may contain some measure of truth, some measure of falsehood. Rather than resort to personal, activist or state violence to resolve the conflicts over versions of truth, one gets together with ones' "opponent" and uses nonviolent means to resolve the dispute. This spirit of a mutual search for truth is too often missing from discussion, and especially practice, of nonviolent action. (Lacking an adequate support group of others who understand these principles, I myself frequently fail to use them.) See Four Action Strategies that describe the varieties of nonviolent and violent action.
Practical methods of resolving conflict include: listing and comparing differences in viewpoints, looking for areas of mutual truth and agreement, using these as a stepping stone to resolve other differences. Sometimes the “opponent” is intransigent, especially if the opponent holds the greater power in a relationship. Those seeking discussion may engage in nonviolent, non-hostile actions (letters, publicity, public protest, public sit ins) to get their attention and win them over to discussion. Threatening to bust their windows, invade their property and possibly do them violence is NOT the way to gain their trust and cannot lead to truly fruitful discussions.
Even nonviolent activists who grasp these principles when confronting the government or other powerful opponents may be reluctant to use them in internal organizational disputes. This has proved particularly devastating with the return to street fighting by especially dominating and intimidating individuals. Why? In my experience this is because these “nonviolent activists” are more committed to attaining their political goals than to using nonviolent political means. That is why violent activist’s appeals to solidarity are so effective. And that is why we must repeat over and over Gandhi’s famous quote: “They say the means are after all just means. I would say means are after all everything. As the means, so the end.”
Please do read my page Current Arguments for and Against Activist Violence. Also see nonviolence activist Howard Ryan's on line book "Critique of Nonviolent Politics: From Mahatma Gandhi to the Anti-Nuclear Movement."
to Be Swayed By Street Fighter Manipulations: It is sad to see
nonviolent activists who have been committed to nonviolence (as opposed
to those who consider it to be merely a tactic) twist or even abandon
in order to maintain solidarity with street fighters and their
One obvious example of this is well known author ("Drawing Down the
and other works) and nonviolence trainer “Starhawk.” After
street fighters trashed stores in Seattle, she denounced them, and even
led the blocking of consensus on doing jail solidarity with those
with violent felonies in Washington, DC during April 2000
However, after experiencing street battles in Quebec City in April,
she began trying to re-define nonviolence to include limited street
In July, 2001, after watching police take out their rage against street
fighters on nonviolent activists at the Genoa Social Forum center, she
became an apologist for them. Her conversion shows how successful
can be street fighters' cynical tactic of provoking police to violence
against nonviolent activists and then claiming they did not do so--or
the police would have been that violent anyway. It is important
share the quotes below to show how insidious street fighter propaganda
In her June, 2001 widely distributed e-mail article “Quebec City: Beyond Violence and Nonviolence” Starhawk writes: “I’m not suggesting some middle ground between the Gandhians and the Black Bloc. I’m saying that we’re moving onto unmapped territory, creating a politics that has not yet been defined.” She calls her new approach “empowered direct action” and says its goal “is to make people believe that a better world is possible, that they can do something to bring it about, and that we are worthy companions in that struggle. And then to bring to life that world in the struggle itself, to be the revolution, to embody and prefigure what we want to create. Empowered direct action doesn’t simply reject or restrict certain tactics: it actively and creatively searches for actions that prefigure and embody the world we want to create.”
This sounds good to nonviolent activists until Starhawk continues with more questionable statements: “We’d encourage the development of a spectrum of targets, tactics and strategies that encompass many levels of risk...We’d do our best to orchestrate our different approaches, to negotiate time, space and targets, to make them most effective. We’d also understand that the more confrontational the tactics, the more clear the message needs to be, and the more we need to be sure we have a base of support for the tactics we employ.”
However, in the real world Starhawk’s empowered direct action is little different than Ward Churchill’s “continuum of activity” from petitioning to assassination. She sugar coats it with the “better world is possible” sloganeering. She attempts to discourage violent tactics by referring to “prefiguring” the (assumedly nonviolent) world activists want to create, the necessity of having a “base of support” for confrontational tactics and having “means consistent with our ends.” However, the difference between nonviolence and violence remains much too stark in most activists minds, despite street fighter propaganda, to permit pacifists and nonviolent activists to make such ambiguous appeals.
In August, 2001, Starhawk issued another widely distributed piece, "After Genoa: Asking the Right Questions" where she asks just the questions street fighter' strategy has manipulated her into asking: "Acts were done in Genoa, attributed to protestors, that were irresponsible and wrong by anyone's standards-but it seems likely now that most of them were done by police. Or if not, police provocateurs were so endemic that it's impossible to tell what might have been done by people in our movement or to hold anyone accountable. So the issue Genoa presents us with is not 'How do we control the violent elements among us?', although that conceivably might be an issue someday. It's 'How do we forestall another campaign of lies, police-instigated violence, and retaliation?" She goes on to admit that after her experiences with the Black Bloc in Quebec City and Genoa: "I'm bonded. Yes, there have been times I've been furious with some of them, but they're my comrades and allies in this struggle and I don't want to see them excluded or demonized." She applauds them "for rage, for impatience, for militant fervor" and contrasts that with the "compassion and faith" of "Gandhian pacifists," as if pacifists--or nonviolent actionists--cannot be angry, impatient and assertive. She had been brainwashed by street fighters' dishonest and insidious propaganda. [Note: I ran into Starhawk in Washington, DC after the September 11 attacks and it was clear that she had snapped back to reality, as have many others!!]
Nonviolent Solidarity:If one’s own (usually sectarian) vision
peace or justice or liberation is more important than the means to
it, obviously the appeal to “solidarity” made by violent activists is
to be more powerful than any appeal to solidarity by nonviolent
However, such sectarian solidarity too often is really a command to
obey ones defacto leaders for the good of the "one true cause."
sectarian solidarity is too often bought at the price of human
Those outside the sect or ideology are demonized as “not human” and
targets of destruction. Just ask the 20th century's hundred million
of Stalin, Hitler, Tojo, Mao, Johnson-Nixon, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Saddam
Hussein, Milosevic, et al.
A myriad of racial, ethnic, religious, linguistic, territorial, economic, social and political sectarian versions of truth divide humanity. Only the commitment to resolving these differences nonviolently can lead to true human solidarity. We need human solidarity first, before solidarity with any ideology or tactic.
Those who truly seek to be satyagrahis–even if their practice is less than perfect–can experience that kind of solidarity. And it is far more satisfying than the “mass hysteria” of rage, thrills and sense of victory experienced by rioters smashing and burning property and assaulting human beings in service of narrow sectarian viewpoints. It is solidarity based on consciously chosen principles which bring the greatest benefit to all.
What kind of solidarity can nonviolent people have with those whose prime commitment is to venting their rage, enjoying the thrill of destruction or coldly manipulating violence for political gain? How corrupting is it to work with people who believe they have the truth and they have the right to force it on others? How disempowering is it for a nonviolent person to always have to “walk on eggs” to avoid triggering accusations they are “peace Nazis” or “cops” or to always have to wonder if street fighters will bust into their nonviolent protests and actions followed by dozens of furious baton-wielding police? Probably as disempowering as it is to live with an abusive husband or parent who is constantly ready to explode in violence directed at oneself.
Activist Violence and Demand Discussions of Tactics: The answer
for nonviolent activists held captive by street fighters and their
is similar to that for abused family members, i.e.: keep away from the
abuser until the abuser is ready to change and renounce his (or her)
and violent ways. Nonviolent activists must boycott all
with nonviolent activists except discussion of tactics.
surprisingly the street fighter rule is nonviolent activists must work
with violent activists but are not allowed to discuss
Also, knowing that street fighters react to peace keepers like vampires
to garlic, we must make it clear we will have them at all our
protests and actions.
If street fighters and their allies continue to refuse to discuss tactics with us, it would be necessary to organize a campaign to bring them into discussion. Tactics would include: talking with as many as possible one on one; inviting them to discussions via e-mail and by leafleting all general activist and street fighter meetings. If they remain intransigent, nonviolent activists might even picket their meetings and protests!
Yes, this means effectively marginalizing violent activists from organizing in our demonstrations. That will happen soon enough, one way or the other. The larger questions are: Will those who have passed through activism as street fighters bother to stay on when the violence ends? Will they join small violent groups and end up dead or in prison? Or will they return to “private” life with a legacy of rage and righteousness that they will take out on women and children?
We must find positive ways to speed up the process of street fighters learning the inevitable lessons about the negative effects of violence on internal organizing, public perception and establishment behavior, not patiently wait for that learning curve to take hold. (Doubtless the police state is doing the same in a much more negative way.) This strategy is far more moral and courageous than what seems to be too many nonviolent activists' strategy: waiting for violence to wane and then pretending it never happened.
Let those who tout “social responsibility” start with our responsibility to help naive and angry young activists understand the limitations of violence as quickly as possible. Saying that “It is the responsibility of each person to take the actions that they believe are in accordance with their conscience,” as did Mara Vanderheyden Hilliard at an August, 2001 Washington DC protesters' press conference, is at best a cop out and at worst a cynical manipulation for political gain. Once street fighters' “consciences” lose their usefulness the most hypocritical activists’ “social responsibility” might require them to call for imprisonment of the "hooligans."
Finally, nonviolent activists must hold responsible those progressive leaders who promoted and condoned violence, and insulting and intimidating nonviolent people. They should not allow these individuals to hold leadership positions in coalitions with nonviolent groups without apologizing for their behavior and forswearing such advocacy in the future.
Beliefs in State Violence: In the introduction I note
many street fighters have turned to violence because they are convinced
that progressive's nonviolent means is the problem.
as I argue in my critique
of Ward Churchill, the greater problem is reformist goals
can never end corporate, bureaucratic, military, special interest
Most groups cannot even bring themselves to call for an end to United
imperialism! They therefore have little credibility with today's
radical young activists, not to mention street fighters who want to
everything from capitalism to statism to Western Civilization.
Most pacifists and nonviolent activists are deep in denial about their own attempts to increase state control and violence over the lives of their fellow human beings. If there is any “pathology” of modern “pacifism,” that is it!
Gandhi wrote: “Government control gives rise to fraud, suppression of Truth, intensification of the black market and artificial scarcity. Above all, it unmans the people and deprives them of initiative, it undoes the teaching of self-help...It is a blasphemy to say non-violence can be practiced only by individuals and never by nations which are compose of individuals...A society organized and run on the basis of complete non-violence would be the purest anarchy.” (See Gandhi quotes on government, violence and how to organize a nonviolent government.)
Every government law, regulation, rule, tax and fee is enforced by the threat of police violence in arresting and imprisoning those who disobey. Can we really justify that sort of violence except in the most extreme situations of personal self-defense in nonpolitical situations? Many progressives disdain such violence to protect private property. Yet they are willing to use it to enforce every law, regulation, rule, tax or fee they believe is justified.
This would be wrong even if all laws were passed by consensus of all citizens voting. But we all know that because of the many “no shows” and "can't shows" at the polls and in legislatures, most representatives are elected by less than a quarter of all eligible voters and most laws are passed by a minority of “representatives.” Thus most laws and taxes benefit the wealthy, powerful and well-organized at the expense of everyone else.
Feminists Must Stop
to the Violent Patriarchal State for Salvation
As pointed out earlier, too many establishment feminist groups have focused on passing laws allowing women to do everything men can do so women can adapt to and succeed in male-created culture. Their goal definitely is not the power to create a world that reflects women's needs and visions, as well as men's. One unintended consequence of this has been phenomena like young street fighting women verbally assaulting any woman who critiques or condemns male-dominated street fighter tactics, as I and other nonviolent women have discovered in meetings and on list serves. Some women stand by their violent men, dividing the feminist movement.
I include quotes below from my article Woman vs the Nation State that reflect analysis and alternatives shared by many nonviolent anti-authoritarian women.
Patriarchy and patriotism — both from the same root word, pater (father) — are simply two sides of the same authoritarian coin. Patriarchy is the ideology that males should rule. Patriotism is the worship of male-dominated states. Males have created — and still create — political culture worldwide, so it’s no surprise that male values, needs and ambitions dominate.
Male-dominated culture — patriarchy — discourages individual men and women from expressing the mix of assertion and cooperation, independence and compassion that is natural to individual men and women. Our culture indoctrinates men — often savagely —into dominance and aggression, and bullies women into dependence and passivity....
Anti-authoritarian feminists — anarchists, libertarians, decentralists and ecofeminists — believe that women have the least to lose and the most to gain from the dissolution of centralized nation states.... Anti-authoritarian feminists decry the fact that large nation states control the most personal aspects of their lives, destroy local economies and communities, despoil the environment, and use military might to control their citizens and threaten people of other nations.
The predominant argument anti-authoritarian feminists use against patriarchal nation states is that males maintain their dominance primarily through the threat and practice of personal, political and military violence. They see a spectrum of male violence from violent pornography, forced prostitution, child abuse, woman-battering, activist violence, criminal and police violence, political oppression, and environmental destruction to weaponry, militarism and war. Anti-authoritarian women go beyond opposing mere initiation of force, distrusting the violence some libertarian men, left and right, revel in when they discuss personal or national defense or political revolution. Such feminists believe only a culture as free as possible of violence can ensure women’s freedom.
Institutionalized violence results in centralized, elite control of economies, which entails inequality and poverty for women and powerless classes. (Some call this “structural violence,” but it boils down to real violence: economically unjust laws enforced by threats of police violence.) So long as it remains legitimate for men to dream of gaining and maintaining centralized power through revolutionary or state violence, violence against individual women will remain a small matter....
Women must realize that so long as the patriarchal nation state survives men retain the delusion that they are superior to women who are at the “bottom of the hierarchy.” They will continue to deprive women of respect, love, and opportunity. When women challenge the legitimacy of the nation state, they deprive men of the ultimate trappings of pride and power.
If enough women call for the abolition of the patriarchal state, they might convince men that women are serious about demands for liberation. Eventually, men might give women love and respect equal to that which women have traditionally given men.
The article describes non-nation state alternatives. “Anti-authoritarian feminists offer as an alternative to the nation state decentralized, non-violent communities joined only in voluntary regional confederations. Women hold diverse visions of the political, social and economic makeup of the ideal community. Men and women might create an endless variety of communities once freed from centralized control: women’s communities, gay and lesbian communities, religious communities, “proprietary” communities run like hotels, socialist communities, wilderness protection communities, farm-based communities, urban yuppie communities, business park communities, etc. Their sizes could range from a few thousand to several hundred thousand individuals.“
The article also lists very specific gains women will realize from such alternatives. These include an increase in love and respect, an end to political oppression, an equalization of political power, the minimization of violence and crime, an end economic exploitation, improvements in social welfare and protection of the environment.
Women activists must concentrate on honest and equalitarian processes which allow women to have a greater voice in activist organizational decision-making. It is refreshing to see men organize their own groups to deal with their dominance issues (see relevant articles ). However, women will never be equal until they learn to assert themselves in ways that men can neither ignore nor ridicule--nor merely co-opt by making the woman an "honorary man." It is hard work but work women must do - as must men. See articles by Men Working To End Dominance.
It is important that women not get caught up in the obsession of males (right and left) with economics, an obsession probably more based in deep fears about personal wealth and manhood than in concerns for helping the poor, most of whom are women. Women must continue emphasizing creating concrete and workable economic and political alternatives--and show less patience for constant male bickering over abstract economic ideology. Most importantly we must stop supporting male obsessions with proving manhood through violence.
In short, we must not be mere servants of "left" males who obsessively and sometimes violently pursue the violent state power to control the "right" males who obsessively pursue the almighty dollar. Nor must we be servants of “right” males who obsessively plot violent self-defense against the “left” males out to steal their wealth. 10,000 years of this patriarchal madness is enough!!
Libertarians Must Transcend Sectarianism and End Obsession with Violent RevolutionDivided freedom movements left and right, religious and secular, have done a poor job of stopping the increase of state power under the reign of George W. Bush. Attempts to fight back in a disorganized and violent fashion only will increase repression. Unless all libertarian movements along a great left-right spectrum work on ending sectarianism, violent political action, and co-optation by statists and start focusing on common principles, goals and strategies, the authoritarians will continue to control us.
PAYPAL takes credit cards!