nonv discussion


Jan Slakov

Dear rn list,   June 5

In discussing "the strategy of our fight" and the eternal question of "where
do we go from here?" the question of non-violence and what exactly we mean
by it, must come up.

Makere Hakawira, a Maori woman in Aotearoa, (New Zealand) wrote, following
some of that discussion:

>To all those who took part in and otherwise supported this non-violent
action in Geneva and elsewhere, he mihi whanui ki a koutou katoa. Kia kaha
koutou. I add my voice also to the condemnation of the actions of the
Geneva police and justice.  [although, as I (Jan) recall, Richard did not
condemn the Geneva police, au contraire...]
At the same time I also want to voice my support to the concept of
monitoring to ensure that our non-violent protests are not co-opted by
those whose have a different agenda or who choose other methods. Too often
our efforts are subverted by small groups who seize the opportunity to add
their voice to the protest - which in itself is wonderful - but who then
markedly lessen the opportunity to make an enormous impact for good, as
happened in Geneva. I believe that these protests have equally important
and simultaneous functions of conscientising as well as one of protest, and
to see the opportunities for large-scale conscientisiation lost and the
struggles of our friends being recast as one of violent agitation is deeply
Perhaps it would be opportune to have some thorough consultation on this
issue with a view to developing a policy that is both productive and
workable, and still remaining non-judgemental of those who choose different
methods and who may therefore choose a different forum without disrupting
that of others.

Heoi ano
Makere Harawira


As Greg Moses wrote in the note below, it is a topic which merits
consideration and reconsideration:

Date: Mon, 25 May 1998 20:23:19 -0400
From: Greg Moses <•••@••.•••>
Reply-To: •••@••.•••
To: •••@••.•••
Subject: nonv

I think nonviolence should be explored, discussed,
and affirmed on a regular basis.  I have been corresponding with at least
one other person related to this list, and my comments tend to reflect my
deepening commitment to the theoretical model of nonviolence that I have
learned from close study of the works of Dr. King. ...

  Take care--GregMoses


I think Greg was referring to correspondence between himself and Carolyn
Ballard, who found his points worthy of our attention and so shared them
with Richard and I:

From: Carolyn Ballard <•••@••.•••>
To: "Richard Moore (E-mail)" <•••@••.•••>
Cc: "Jan Slakov (E-mail)" <•••@••.•••>
Date: Fri, 22 May 1998 03:06:13 -0400

>From one of our potential writers....interesting thoughts/observations.
A _very thought-provoking question at the that we should chew on
and raise at the NS meeting, perhaps...

-----Original Message-----
From:   Greg Moses [SMTP:•••@••.•••]
Sent:   Thursday, May 21, 1998 11:18 PM
To:     Carolyn Ballard

Carolyn--I am happy to reply in the spirit that you have shown--not too
quick, reflecting on King's writings in the meantime.  I have also just read
Richard's dispatches from Geneva. The theory and practice of nonviolence is
a most rigorous challenge as the experience of Geneva shows.  All you need
is a dozen provocateurs to blow the movement for everyone.  This is what
happened to King in Memphis, partly because he rushed in too quickly,
trusting local organizers.  I have seen a few civil rights veterans in
action, and believe me, organizing a march is a serious logistical
commitment.  I read frequently about the alleged "lack of organization" that
characterized King's movement, but I'm betting that the anti-war organizers
mentioned by Richard  learned their marching discipline from King.

King is also honored for his charisma and emotional appeal, but again, it is
easy to overlook the contribution he made to revolutionary logic.  Surely it
is a fact that any movement arises because of a conflict between oppressors
and oppressed, so that the facts are indisputable that some folks are "us"
and others are "them."  And King does not deny this general feature of
struggle.  How could he?  Nevertheless, there comes a point where issues
must be carefully crafted for maximum peace.  And here we find King peeling
back the layers of the onion to get beyond first appearances.

In this light, I have been re-reading the Letter from Birmingham Jail, and
it is true that King mentions "privileged groups."  But he is more focused
on the issues of "segregation" and "racial injustice."  Just as Richard's
latest remarks mention "elites", he is also more focused on three times in
the interim, kept waiting for my thoughts/comments to "feel right," and have
_finally become comfortable with what I wanted to say in response !!  In the
meantime and in order to refresh my thinking on MLK's philosophy, I visited
a web site which archives his speeches and writings.  What a delightful and
inspiring read it was !  I had forgotten how powerful his philosophy and
writing was and was inspired anew by them....even forwarded a couple of my
favorites on to other CADRE team members.  Thank you for that unintended
"prompt" !
> Also, I think a Kingian framing of issues would not so easily slip into an
"elite vs. the rest of us" mentality.  Part of the art of Kingian
nonviolence is to see how opposing sides share a common predicament of
injustice.  Elite gameplans rely in part upon common constructions.  In
other words, King talked less about "racists" than he did about "bigotry";
so we might talk less about "elites" and more about "elitism"--the latter is
a value system that anyone can buy into, and that everyone has a moral
interest in overthrowing.  The former terms imply that the problem belongs
inherently to a particular group of persons.  In this assumption lie the
seeds of violence.
Carolyn replies:

      I do see your point and your concern here.  And the Kingian/Gandhian
philosophy of non-violent resistance IS at the heart of our revolutionary
consensus philosophy.  Like King and Gandhi, we do not want to perpetuate an
"Us vs. Them" mentality, rather an "Us" only view.  However, one of the
central rules of combat is "know your enemy."  And there is, in fact, an
elite minority which holds the reins of power over the rest of us and
intends to institute a new political/economic order which benefits only
themselves.  Were they alive today, both King and Gandhi would not turn from
informing the people of this fact, just as they did in their time.
"Resistance," after all, implies that you are resisting something or
someone.  For King, it was white elite oppressors.  For Gandhi, British
imperialist elites. The key, according to the Kingian/Gandhian philosophy,
is _not to resort to the same violent, oppressive tactics as our oppressors
and thereby become like them.  And in doing so, we make possible justice and
a viable world for ALL humankind.  In the final chapter and summation of the
book, this IS the message which we will clearly elucidate -- the hope of a
new, democratic world order which offers peace, justice and equality to _all.
>      I hope that I've assuaged some of your concerns, answered a few of
your questions, and encouraged you to offer up your own unique and inspiring
words of hope for the book....and for the people.  I thank you again for
inspiring renewed thoughts and perspective in _me!  That is always such a
wonderful and productive process of human dialogue !
> I look forward to hearing from you, Greg.
> Kind regards,
> Carolyn

PS to rn list: you can see the MLK archives (at Stanford U.) at this web site: