Friends, Wow! We've got a very productive discussion going. I have the greatest respect for those who have been contributing - we are 'collaborating via discussion', not 'arguing'. Since this is going to several lists, everyone's contributions are repeated here. I'll try to put them in an order such that they help answer one another. rkm ============================================================================ Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1999 10:44:56 -0400 (AST) From: Daniel Haran <•••@••.•••> To: •••@••.••• Subject: Re: cj#1025,sm,rn-> discussion re: revolution RKM, I have to disagree with the notion that a non-hierarchical society can not defend itself against one that is, or that a non-violent society can not effectively counter violence. You may want to look at Gene Sharp's work on the subject. I'm also a bit more pessimistic about the revolutionnary potential of WTO demonstrations. They will indeed, radicalize many people, and that's great. But let's not forget that they are all reacting against the elites rather than building the type of society that we want. The coalitions that we now see between workers, students, etc... will probably not hold. We shouldn't be asking for a seat at the WTO talks or the inclusion of labor and environmental standards in the treaty. Building more self-reliant local economies with community control over the means of production is still the most elegant way to undermine the corporate-capitalist system. At the same time, we should be educating people about fair trade. This is not new stuff; it goes back to Gandhi, picked up through Schumacher and many others down the line. Hopefully we can use the WTO events to educate others about this type of solution. Otherwise the more reformist elements will be co-opted in the WTO administration with the responsibility to repress grassroots radicalism and the veneer of democracy. Peace- Daniel. ============== Dear Daniel, Thanks for your reminder about the power of non-violence. I don't know Gene Sharp, but we all know about Gandhi & ML King. If non-violence had no power we'd have no hope of ever overcoming elite capitalist oppression. But these successes are in some sense heroic exceptions. The lamb sometimes defeats the lion, but you can't count on it generally. The more typical historical picture has been one of imperialism: violent, hierarchical societies subduing, enslaving, or slaughtering less violent and less hierarchical societies. Furthermore, the gains of Gandhi & King came at times when elites were ready to make changes for other reasons anyway. Gandhi would not have done as well fifty years earlier, nor would have King. I still claim that if we want to achieve a democratic and livable world, the soundest strategy is to achieve it on a global scale and then to create new structures which are designed to prevent the rise of hierarchies of any kind. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. --- Your comments about the WTO demonstrations are right on the mark. The demos publicise trade as a political issue and they radicalize participants and certain others. More important, the diversity of participants has been very heartening and encouraging - and EMPOWERING. But as you imply, real change never comes through reaction and resistance - it must come from a positive vision and positive goals. And most certainly: reform of the WTO is the LAST thing we want! The most threatening thing that has happened in Seattle was not the police suppression - it was Clinton's words about opening up the WTO process. OF COURSE such 'opening up' cannot possibly make any real difference in WTO policies - but it can diffuse opposition. The arrogance and brutality of the globalization process is one of our most valuable assets as revolutionaries. It is very important that widespread radicalization occur BEFORE elite elements manage to get serious about co-option. The seduced liberal, after all, is revolution's worst enemy and tyranny's greatest friend. I consider this to be your most important sentence: Building more self-reliant local economies with community control over the means of production is still the most elegant way to undermine the corporate-capitalist system. But I suggest 'means of production' is too limiting. Communities should be the center of EVERYTHING, the fountainhead of power and decision making. And we cannot be satisfied with undermining the system - that has happened in the past and has proven to be temporary. We must overcome it TOTALLY and PERMANENTLY. solidarity, rkm ============================================================================ From: "D.A.HELLER" <•••@••.•••> To: "Social Movements List" <•••@••.•••> Subject: seattle "battle" Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1999 12:20:34 +0000 (GMT) rkm, very thought provoking post, as always. In particular, I would like to question a couple of comments that you make, in relation to violence: I continue to _suspect PGA as being the instigator of the demonstrator-violence, but I'm not sure. <snipped> The establishment (in USA & UK especially) trains the police to be ugly & repressive in the hope that the movement will consider police to be the enemy. If this strategy succeeds, then the movement becomes primarily violent and can only lose. Strict non-violence is the only strategy that can succeed. I find such comments entirely at odds with your desire to build broad based coalitions. Let me attempt to explain why... For as long as i have been an activist, i have been an active proponent of a nonviolent "praxis", but my experiences in London on june 18th and my response to events in Seattle and elsewhere in recent days has made me rethink my previously somewhat dogmatic position. I am still, I think, as committed to nonviolence as I ever was, but what i have come to realise is that no group, or bunch of individuals, can have a monopoly on revolutionary (or demonstration) tactics or strategy, or on the meaning of terms such as nonviolence. the use of the phrase "strict non-violence" i find particularly problematic. A bit of history... large sections of the british antinuclear movement in the early eighties thought of cutting fences round military bases as a violent act, along came the "Snowball" campaign- accountable, symbolic cutting of fences involving large numbers of people (I paraphrase for brevity) and now we have several activists (most notably acting under the banner of "ploughshares") taking hammers, nonviolently, to the control panels of nuclear submarines, and associated bits of hardware, to cheers of support from across the peace movement and beyond, and very little criticism, _if any_, from inside the movement. This shift has taken less than 20 years, and as far as i can see is entirely positive. It represents, primarily, the lifting of bourgeois proscriptions on damage to property, and a beginning of the questioning of the whole basis of private property amongst people who should have been questioning it years ago. Similarly, breaking bank windows is not simply "violence", especially in the context of what those banks stand for, although this is not to suggest that such actions merely represent two wrongs making a right, or a tit for tat _re_action. Yes, the police will overreact to such actions. But we have to prepare for this- something that appears to have happened much more systematically in Seattle than in London on j18. The police _are_ going to overreact, no matter how "strict" the "non-violence" is, as soon as they feel their interests being threatened. I lost my illusions about the police being a neutral force or solely "workers in uniform" during the police violence against the anti-nazi march in welling, London some years ago. No, they are not _as individuals_ the enemy, but we should have no illusions in whose interests they are employed. So, we need a plurality of approaches to demonstrations, and to the extent that they _may_ represent a rehearsal for a revolutionary scenario (infinitely debatable) we need: preparation, "stewards", people who can throw things further than the front line of protesters, less blaming radical groups that are already marginalised (PGA, RTS) for violence, more strategy in which buildings are targeted, broad based support- including from people who may find notions such as nonviolence entirely alien, and from people who have a different idea of what the term means, or may be willing to cross their particular boundary into violence at a different point. fun and games, not as a precursor for the "proper fight" of the afternoon, but valued in their own right, less criticism of property damage from people with too much property themselves, people willing to have their own demonstrations (or riots) if they can't work within the groundrules for a particular event. any thoughts? david =============== Dear David, The issue of violence is both subtle and crucial. You make very good points. I have a STRONG personal aversion to violence, but when I talk about 'strict non-violence' that is only within certain contexts. Violence was necessary and correct in expelling the British from the colonies, the Tsar from Moscow, Batista from Cuba, the Yanks from Vietnam - or the oppressors from Columbia today. In the context of revolution in the West however, the question of violence is a question of STRATEGY. The Western regimes are among the most powerful, best organized, most brutal, and best armed of any regimes that have ever existed in history. I agree with the U.S. militias and patriots when they say they have the RIGHT to defend themselves and their families if attacked. Where I disagree with them is about whether they would be ABLE to defend themselves. I think they would find their rifles useless against attack helicopters & napalm. WACO was not a mistake - it was a lesson-in-miniature. As you say, no one can have a MONOPOLY on strategy or tactics - none of us can IMPOSE our values on others. That does not mean however that it is not important for us to work together to AGREE on movement strategies and tactics. In Seattle in '99, and in Geneva in '98, it was only the establishment that benefitted from the slashed tires and broken windows. I do not object on bourgeois moral grounds about those kinds of actions, but I claim they were pointless and that they played into the hands of oppression. More important - they were contrary to the spirit and intent of the overwhelming mass of the participants. It was the few who were in effect IMPOSING their values on everyone else. They were inserting destruction into a primarily peaceful event - NEUTRALIZING the overall strategy of the event. They acted as AGENTS OF THE ESTABLISHMENT - either wittingly or unwittingly. It is quite a different matter if the overall strategy of an event is based on destruction. Cutting down fences which shouldn't be there or destroying submarines which shouldn't exist is hardly objectionable. But are such actions going to overthrow capitalism?? That is the real question. Such events - like those in Seattle - can radicalize and educate. But, as with Seattle, that is as far as it goes. As the movement goes mainstream we must outgrow such methods. And it MUST go mainstream to be victorious. In the end it must be a majority movement. And the tactics of majority movements are different than the tactics of minority movements. In fact, every revolution must make its own rules depending on unique circumstances. Most of us have cartoon images - unexamined assumptions - of what revolution is. That will not do. The French Revolution and the Russian Revolution are NOT good models for us in the West today. We do NOT live under admittedly dictatorial regimes. What we need is first to achieve a radicalized majority. Then we need to take over peacefully. The biggest dangers facing us are (1) co-option and (2) victory without adequate vision. yours, rkm ============================================================================ From: •••@••.••• To: "Social Movements List" <•••@••.•••> Subject: Misconceptions about the PGA Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1999 10:51:01 GMT Dear Richard: I was frankly amazed at your comments concerning the PGA. You infer that it is some pseudo clandestine organisation, implicitly condoning (and , indeed, organising) violence. Such comments betray some deep misconceptions concerning the PGA, perhaps born out of an over-academic analysis of social change (the kind that place formations 'under the microscope'). Indeed, I wonder on whose behalf you speak, when you suggest that 'the PGA should be kept out of organising until they change their Manifesto' ? Such proclamations seem more intent on dividing those forces arranged against the WTO rather than supporting them (or, dare I suggest, actually getting materially involved). I was involved in the second annual conference of the PGA this summer in Bangalore. I do not 'speak for' the PGA, it is not an organisation with leaders. However I am involved in the process that the PGA is attempting to be. Just so you are clear about the PGA: The PGA is an instrument of coordination, not an organisation. Its main objectives are 1. Inspiring the greatest number of persons, movements, and organisation to act against corporate domination through non- violent civil disobedience and people oriented constructive actions 2. Offering an instrument for co-ordination and mutual support at global level for those resisting corporate rule and the capitalistic development paradigm 3/.Giving more international projection to the struggles against economic liberalisation and global capitalism The hallmarks of the alliance are: 1. A very clear rejection of the WTO and other trade liberalisation agreements (like APEC, the EU, NAFTA, etc.) as active promoters of a socially and environmentally destructive globalisation; 2. A rejection of all forms and systems of domination and discrimination including, but not limited to, patriarchy, racism and religious fundamentalism of all creeds. We embrace the full dignity of all human beings. 3. A confrontational attitude, since we do not think that lobbying can have a major impact in such biased and undemocratic organisations, in which transnational capital is the only real policy- maker; 4. A call to non-violent civil disobedience and the construction of local alternatives by local people, as answers to the action of governments and corporations; 5. An organisational philosophy based on decentralisation and autonomy. Where they might be implied support of violence in the Manifesto, it is with those struggles in mind, such as the Zapatistas (or before them the Sandinistas), where people do not have, because of circumstances, the luxury to proclaim the purity of particular approaches to social and political change such as nonviolence. However, the aforementioned hallmarks make clear the nonviolent stance of the PGA. Whether we are activists, or academics, or, indeed activist- academics, shouldn't we be attempting to understand and support one another in these crucial struggles rather than grandstand accusations born out of incomplete analysis. In solidarity Pablo ============== Dear Pablo, I'm getting a little tired of the same old defenses of PGA that I keep getting from people who "don't speak" for PGA. I also find offensive your assumptions about 'academic' analysis. I spent hours talking with Sergio Hernandez in Geneva, listening to his strategic thinking, watching how he ran and manipulated meetings, observing how he and Olivier ran the 'mobilization', and how they managed to create violence without seeming to. I dodged the tear gas and watched the stones while the "official" PGA camp sat around their campfire "seeing no evil". I understand the principles of decentralization and the meaning of legitimate anarchism. I also understand the meaning of covert manipulation. PGA pretends to have no leadership but it does have leadership. And yet its leaders refuse to enter into dialog or to explain their strategies. Perhaps in the third world they are doing wonderful things. But in Geneva and in Seattle their masked stone throwers have been COUNTERPRODUCTIVE. You and others always talk about Chiapas - as a reason for the Manifesto's support of violence - but it is in Geneva and Seattle that those provisions are applied. GET HONEST AND GET REAL. Yes I am in favor of solidarity and inclusiveness. In fact I find 99% of what PGA says and does to be extremely admirable. But that 1% is POISON. And I've found no one from PGA who is willing to discuss that 1%. I smell a BIG RAT. I've made every effort to get my objections in front of PGA - sending to every address I could find - but never have I received a reply that addressed the issues I have raised. Here is the testimony of an eyewitness student about the masked stone-throwers in Seattle. One begins to wonder if PGA's "non leadership" was in close communication with Seattle police all the while, coordinating how to minimize the effectiveness of the demonstrations... "A number of times they had these 100 or so protesters caught between buildings and walls of police. They could easily have arrested and detained this small number of people and gotten it over with. Instead they would gas them and let them go. Then trap them again, gas them again, and again let them go. The cops made no arrests that I know of until late Tuesday night though the skirmishing was going on from three till 9:30. The cops would blockade three or five blocks of an area, give the angry kids room to operate, keep gassing them - when you gas a person, let me tell you, it gets them fighting mad. "Tuesday night the police gassed all of downtown. This was going on from 3 PM, till 6 PM.. Gas everywhere. The kids broke a few windows - McD's, Starbucks - small stuff - burned a few garbage cans. The police were using these people as extras. It was staged. I believe also the police had their own people in there, encouraging people to break stuff - if people think I may be exaggerating, I saw supposed protesters - they were screaming and so on - and then later, when everything was over, the same people tackled other protestors and put handcuffs on them." I can only call a spade a spade. Sorry. rkm ------------------------- Richard K Moore Wexford, Irleand Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance •••@••.••• http://cyberjournal.org Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, indeed it's the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead .