Pacifism: How to Do The Enemy’s Job For Them

“As an ex-Indian civil servant, it always makes me shout with laughter to hear, for instance, Gandhi named as an example of the success of non-violence. As long as twenty years ago it was cynically admitted in Anglo-Indian circles that Gandhi was very useful to the British government. So he will be to the Japanese if they get there. Despotic governments can stand ‘moral force’ till the cows come home; what they fear is physical force.” — George Orwell

In 1942, George Orwell wrote, “Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense.” At first glance, this sentence from Orwell’s essay “Pacifism and the War” appears to be an outrageous defamation, a provocative statement by a writer seeking attention. How on Earth could anyone equate pacifism – seemingly the expression of love for humankind, peace and harmony, relentless opponent of all forms of violence – with support for fascism – the most reactionary, chauvinist, militaristic and bloodthirsty form of bourgeois rule, which at that time waged a genocidal war? Furthermore, how could one go further and call such a label “elementary common sense?”

However, if we do not let our knee-jerk reaction have the best of us but have a closer look, we will realize that both statements are true. Orwell continues:

“If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, ‘he that is not with me is against me’. The idea that you can somehow remain aloof from and superior to the struggle […] is a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security.”

He also points out that the Nazis actively spread pacifist propaganda in Great Britain and the USA. Whether we like the thought or not, it is the objective truth: in a war like World War II you had to choose sides, there was simply no way to remain neutral. Those who pretended to others and themselves to live in an ivory tower of peace and love for all of humanity while opposing all sides in the war were obviously blind to the enormous threat that the fascist Axis powers posed to the world.

“Well, that’s still a slanderous generalization”, a pacifist or sympathizer of non-violence philosophy might say, “World War II surely is a special case, and anybody who’d claim the same today as Orwell did in those days would be completely out of their mind. Today we aren’t in a total war over the future of humanity.” – Yes, we are! We are in class struggle against an enemy de-facto as merciless as the Nazis. Those propagating uncompromising non-violence, pretending to stand aloof from the mechanisms of society and condemning the mere thought of violent resistance must still be seen as “fascifists”.

In the following work we will see that the anti-pacifist statements above are also valid when applied to the class struggle. Instead of contributing successful tactics to the workers’ movement, pacifism hinders and hampers the struggle against the ruling class and this way effectively supports the latter.

The Class Base of Pacifism

Marxism-Leninism teaches that only the working class – because of its special place in the capitalist mode of production and the resulting role in bourgeois society – has a genuine interest in the socialist revolution and is solely capable of carrying it out, seizing the means of production, overcoming the class system together with it all exploitation of man by man. Therefore we have to examine the class base of pacifism. Is it a progressive expression of the class struggle, a tactic dictated by the needs and struggle of the oppressed and exploited, rooted in the working class movement? Does it pose a challenge, a threat to the existing class order, capitalism and the bourgeois rule?

On the contrary, pacifism is a product of the petty-bourgeoisie, the favorite of members of that class and liberal academics. We already saw that Orwell rightfully called it “a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security.” Realizing this origin, it is no longer surprising that pacifism often appears to be out of touch with reality, drenched with idealist notions. This and the refusal to recognize or grasp the essence of class struggle makes pacifism an obstacle to the working class movement and liberation struggles.

Class struggle is the driving force of history, inherent to class society. Marx and Engels showed that the bourgeoisie can only make profits at the expense of the working class while the working class can only advance its interests and better its situation at the expense of the bourgeoisie. In other words: the aims of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat are diametrically opposed, their antagonistic class interests are irreconcilable.

If we understand this, we have to realize that violence is inherent to class struggle. History has yet to record a ruling class voluntarily giving up its power and privileges. It has never happened and it will never happen.

Of course the pacifist is either ignorant of this, or knowingly complicit. The petty-bourgeoisie is essentially a doomed class and torn between supporting the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Most of the time they are drawn toward the bourgeoisie, but in case they support the latter it is not out of understanding the objective necessity to abolish capitalism and thus the existence of classes. Instead, they are driven by either rebellious adventurism or, in case of pacifists, an emotional humanism.

For them, violence is, far from an unavoidable consequence. It is merely a personal choice, the product of an irrational and brutal mind. After all, the pacifist fairy tale goes, everybody can be convinced by rational arguments. So let us “speak truth to power,” appeal to the good will, the rational and emotional side of those with power, and let us remind them of their “moral responsibility.”

It should be obvious that this is a naïve and idealist approach requiring nothing short of a miracle: the bourgeoisie denying their class interests and acting contrary to them would mean ceasing to be the bourgeoisie.

In his valuable book How Nonviolence Protects the State, the American anarchist Peter Gelderloos reminds us:

“The elite cannot be persuaded by appeals to their conscience. Individuals who do change their minds and find a better morality will be fired, impeached, replaced, recalled, assassinated” ( Gelderloos 22).

If the ruling class cannot be swayed, maybe at least “the ordinary man” will see the truth behind our words and rationality will celebrate its triumph this way?

If there was any truth to the anti-materialist assumption that it is all about propagating “the right idea” and everybody will have to see its beauty and truth, then there is absolutely no way to explain why we in the West do not already live in a socialist society. We should also wonder why there is still so much wrong with the world, despite so many people speaking out against out various problems in the most rational and agreeable manner for decades. Public support requires that sympathetic attention is drawn to the cause. The most important factor in directing attention and building public support is undoubtedly the media.

Who controls the media again and therefore has a monopoly in opinion making? Ah, right, the corporate elite. Back at the idealist appeals to the mercy of the very people we struggle against.

“… an ostensibly revolutionary movement would have constrained itself to a horribly mismatched battle, trying to win hearts and minds without destroying the structures that have poisoned those hearts and minds” (Gelderloos 92).

Expecting otherwise means taking a step back to the days of the Utopian socialists who argued and expected the same. We should ask ourselves: what compels one to hold similar naïve views after Utopian socialism was succeeded by scientific socialism, that is after Marx and Engels gave socialism a scientific base?

The answer lies again in the class base of pacifism. The petty-bourgeoisie does not want to overcome capitalism as this would mean them putting their privileged position at risk!

The Racism of Pacifism

The color of your skin is another factor greatly contributing to a privileged or disadvantaged position in society. Although Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi are used as figureheads, the overwhelming majority of pacifist adherents and theoreticians are also white, which leads to an Euro-centric view and little attention for the institutionalized discrimination people of color have to face on a daily base.

“Besides the fact that the typical pacifist is quite clearly white and middle class [sic], pacifism as an ideology comes from a privileged context. It ignores that violence is already here; that violence is an unavoidable, structurally integral part of the current social hierarchy; and that it is people of color who are most affected by that violence” (Gelderloos 23).

Instead of taking into account the different circumstances of people less well-off, oppressed, discriminated and brutalized, of oppressed minorities at home and peoples threatened by imperialism worldwide, the typical pacifist will moralize that “violence can never be the answer.” Successfully they manage to overlook the fact that in almost all the time violent resistance is, in fact, an answer – to even more violence experienced on a regular base, directed against people who simply have no choice than to fight back if they want to live!

Gelderloos points out that this is essentially a different form of colonialist thinking (“white man’s burden”), the expression of an underlying racism:

“the idea that we are all part of the same homogeneous struggle and white people at the heart of the Empire can tell people of color and people in the (neo-) colonies the best way to resist” (28).

That this is not just a wild accusation but a valid observation, proven by the attempts of supporters of white supremacy to utilize pacifism in general and especially colored pacifists to keep their movements down.

“Perhaps the largest of the limited, if not hollow, victories of the civil rights movement came when black people demonstrated they would not remain peaceful forever” (Gelderloos 12).

The ruling class suddenly discovered their concern for the rights of black people when the latter was fed up with months of non-violent protests and started to fight back against police violence, like in Birmingham in 1963. To prevent further situations like this the FBI focused on tracing and “pacifying” potential troublemakers. Gelderloos quotes a FBI memo worried about the rise of a “black messiah” like Malcolm X could have been if he was still alive then. The document continues:

“Prevent violence on the part of black nationalist groups. This is of primary importance, and is, of course, a goal of our investigative activity; it should also be a goal of the Counterintelligence Program [in the original government lingo, that phrase refers to a specific operation, of which there were thousands, and not the overarching program]. Through counterintelligence it should be possible to pinpoint potential troublemakers and neutralize them before they exercise their potential for violence” (Gedlerloos 47).

What the FBI policy meant in practice was impressively illustrated by the “neutralization” of activists of the Black Panther Party, for example.

The majority of the petty-bourgeois is incapable of being radical, “going to the root,” as this would mean critically questioning and in all likelihood endangering their own privileged role in capitalist society. The “lower classes” and the “colored folks” claiming their rights sounds like a threat to those who benefit of the current power structure. Even if they give in to their more rebellious feelings, they still enjoy more leniency from the ruling class than working class militants or militants from an oppressed minority could ever expect. The moment that they genuinely join the ranks of one of the latter groups the lose their status in society.

The “Victories” of Pacifism

Bearing this in mind, we should deal with the notion that pacifism is a successful approach which accomplished several historical victories. Heroes of non-violent resistance like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi immediately come to mind.

Previous articles in The Red Phoenix have already dealt with their alleged single-handed struggle and historical triumph. Nevertheless, let us hear what Mr. Orwell has to say:

“As an ex-Indian civil servant, it always makes me shout with laughter to hear, for instance, Gandhi named as an example of the success of non-violence. As long as twenty years ago it was cynically admitted in Anglo-Indian circles that Gandhi was very useful to the British government. So he will be to the Japanese if they get there.”

Peter Gelderloos similarly challenges the notion that Gandhi accomplished anything else than ensuring comfort and safety for British imperialism. He shows that the British were faced with the death toll of both World Wars, the immense destruction the German Luftwaffe caused and with the armed struggles in their Arab colonies. No matter what pacifists and the mainstream view would like to have us believe, it was not Gandhi’s civil disobedience that worried and compelled the British to give up their “jewel in the crown of the Empire,” as India was called. The British, responsible for several devastating famines that killed millions, were struggling with more compelling reasons to withdraw from India than the possibility of Gandhi starving himself to death:

“As part of a disturbingly universal pattern, pacifists white out those other forms of resistance and help propagate the false history that Gandhi and his disciples were the lone masthead and rudder of Indian resistance. Ignored are important militant leaders such as Chandrasekhar Azad, who fought in armed struggle against the British colonizers, and revolutionaries such as Bhagat Singh, who won mass support for bombings and assassinations as part of a struggle to accomplish the ‘overthrow of both foreign and Indian capitalism’” (Gelderloos 8).

Clearly the latter aim was not accomplished and we have a right to wonder together with Gelderloos whether the liberation movement in India was really as successful as we are told:

“The liberation movement in India failed. The British were not forced to quit India. Rather, they chose to transfer the territory from direct colonial rule to neocolonial rule,” What kind of victory allows the losing side to dictate the time and manner of the victors’ ascendancy? The British authored the new constitution and turned power over to handpicked successors. They fanned the flames of religious and ethnic separatism so that India would be divided against itself, prevented from gaining peace and prosperity, and dependent on military aid and other support from Euro/American states.” India is still exploited by Euro/American corporations (though several new Indian corporations, mostly subsidiaries, have joined in the pillaging), and still provides resources and markets for the imperialist states. In many ways the poverty of its people has deepened and the exploitation has become more efficient“ (Gelderloos 9).

On to Martin Luther King Jr., the alleged champion of the American civil rights movement. Unsurprisingly we discover the same pattern again: the role of a pacifist figurehead is generously exaggerated, the “victory” of the movement is attribute to non-violent spokespersons and tactics alone. Ignored are militant groups like the Black Panther Party and individuals like Malcolm X, ignored is the immense influence they had among the black community and ignored are their successes.

“According to a 1970 Harris poll, 66 percent of African Americans said the activities of the Black Panther Party gave them pride, and 43 percent said the party represented their own views” (Gelderloos 11).

The ruling class, as we already saw, actively sought to isolate and pacify these groups and individuals by instrumentalizing people like Dr. King to this end. Again, the alleged victory is not as complete as it is portrayed:

“People of color still have lower average incomes, poorer access to housing and health care, and poorer health than white people. De facto segregation still exists. […] Other races have also been missed by the mythical fruits of civil rights. Latino and Asian immigrants are especially vulnerable to abuse, deportation, denial of social services they pay taxes for, and toxic and backbreaking labor in sweatshops or as migrant agricultural laborers. Muslims and Arabs are taking the brunt of the post-September 11 repression, while a society that has anointed itself “color-blind” evinces nary a twinge of hypocrisy. Native peoples are kept so low on the socioeconomic ladder as to remain invisible, except for the occasional symbolic manifestation of US multiculturalism-the stereotyped sporting mascot or hula-girl doll that obscures the reality of actual indigenous people” (Gelderloos 11).

The list goes on and on. Non-violent resistance did not stop the US wreaking havoc upon Indochina in general and Vietnam specifically — the violent resistance of the Indochinese and Vietnamese people did. After defending themselves for years against the imperialist aggression, including the largest bombing campaign known in history and further genocidal acts causing unimaginable suffering, the ruling elites came to the conclusion that the war could not be won. To make things even worse for them, the troops became increasingly “infected” with militant working class and black liberation views. More and more demoralized the troops refused to obey their orders, resorted to sabotage and even the killing of hated officers. Even after the American ground troops withdrew they continued to support their puppet, the military dictatorship in the south. The peace movement could do the same about it as before: absolutely nothing. Many did not even care anymore after the US troops were out.

Needless to say, the same applies to more recent wars. None of them were stopped by pacifist appeals and demonstrations. Rather, the armed resistance in attacked and occupied countries bothers imperialist leaders and results in increasing calls for reducing or withdrawing troops.

The Immorality of Pacifism

Why this “principled” condemnation of violence? Why completely rule out the possibility of violent resistance accomplishing anything? Why this insistence that everything else but non-violent tactics are doomed to fail? What is the pacifist justification? The answer is very simple, namely that “violence is never the answer,” “all violence is bad” or because “violence is violence” or even that “violence begets violence.”

Time to examine this profound wisdom. Thoroughly applying it enriches us with even deeper insights. Looking back to Orwell and his article on WW2 we have to condemn not only all armies but also partisan groups fighting the Nazis because “violence only breeds more violence.”

So after all, Gandhi was right in recommending the Jews to stop resisting the Nazis and instead “offer themselves to the butcher’s knife.”

What right did the Vietcong have to take up arms against the US invaders, knowing this would lead to a “spiral of violence?”

Suddenly we discover that Israel deserves our sympathy because if these nasty Palestinians would not constantly resort to violence the poor besieged Zionists probably would have never been forced into bombing the Gaza Strip and similar “defensive actions.” Even if the bombing would have occurred anyway, this apparently would not justify Palestinian violent resistance in the least. The Palestinians only lose their moral high ground because “violence is violence,” “violence is never the answer” and “violence begets violence.” They should probably have a few sit-ins and candlelight vigils, maybe stick flowers in Israeli rifles or speak truth to the Knesset!

“If the Palestinians hadn’t made the Israeli occupation and every successive aggression so costly, all the Palestinian land would be seized, except for a few reservations to hold the necessary number of surplus laborers to supplement the Israeli economy, and the Palestinians would be a distant memory in a long line of extinct peoples. Palestinian resistance, including suicide bombings, has helped ensure Palestinian survival against a far more powerful enemy” (Gelderloos 122).

Pacifists often argue that those who use violence as “the easy way out” are bad, ignorant, emotion-driven and overall immoral while pacifists are good, enlightened rational people who are morally vastly superior. Yet again we see the moral and “principled pacifist position” playing into the hands of the ruling class and imperialism. Not violent resistance but pacifism is in fact “the easy way out” and by working into the hands of deeply immoral people (accepting that ridiculous “the good ones vs. the evil ones” moralizer approach for a second) pacifism becomes their accomplice. The examples above should have illustrated this logical fact but in case there is need for more Peter Gelderloos provides this prospect:

“Nonviolence declares that the American Indians could have fought off Columbus, George Washington, and all the other genocidal butchers with sit-ins; that Crazy Horse, by using violent resistance, became part of the cycle of violence, and was “as bad as” Custer. Nonviolence declares that Africans could have stopped the slave trade with hunger strikes and petitions, and that those who mutinied were as bad as their captors; that mutiny, a form of violence, led to more violence, and, thus, resistance led to more enslavement” (24).

Whether the Russian proletariat rises up to end the imperialist war and the tsarist reaction or whether the Tsar orders his troops to shoot into an unarmed crowd of peaceful protestors (speaking truth to power) – it does not matter because “violence is violence.” The pacifist approach ignores concrete conditions and thus cannot grasp that not all violence is bad and that there are different “violences” in motivation, content, quality and quantity.

Pacifism does not care to differ, instead it throws around an over-simplified term evoking negative connotations. Instead of showing support for the liberation struggles of the oppressed, pacifism ends up at victim-blaming and advising them to wait for miracles to happen. Because apparently if we do not want to fall victim to an endless cycle of violence we have to ensure that only non-violent tactics are followed. Funny that we seem to have a free choice now to reject violence and embrace pacifism but are inevitable predestined to drown in blood if we dare take up arms. Why should people not be able to turn their backs to violence after their country was liberated from imperialism or after the revolution succeeded – if not it is so easy to reject violence once and for all?

“Pretending that all violence is the same is very convenient for supposedly anti-violence privileged people who benefit from the violence of the state and have much to lose from the violence of revolution” (Gelderloos 123).

The Tactics of Pacifism

The petty-bourgeois class interest can be observed not only in its ideological expression but also in the concrete tactics and aims. The preconditioned rejection of violence under any circumstances of course considerably narrows the pool of tactics available, such as sit-ins, candlelight vigils, chanting songs, etc. That is all fine and well, sure a lot of fun for everybody and clearly shows that those protesting are good people morally vastly superior to their corrupt opponents. But unfortunately we can conclude together with Orwell:

“Despotic governments can stand ‘moral force’ till the cows come home; what they fear is physical force.”

Gelderloos adds:

Put simply, if a movement is not a threat, it cannot change a system based on centralized coercion and violence” (p. 22).

That is exactly what the state is — it not some neutral and benevolent entity worried for the well-being of society but an instrument of class rule eager to ensure its monopoly on violence. It does not do so out of an irrational savage instinct. On the contrary, centralizing and institutionalizing violence is vital for the survival of the ruling class. If this state monopoly is challenged the ruling class will react fiercely as a plain look at the news or a history book shows.

“At the absolute best, strategies of this type will lead to an oppositional but passive majority, which history has shown is easy for an armed minority to control (colonialism, for example)” (Gelderloos 92).

Insisting on exclusively non-violent tactics therefore only ensures that any chance for real progress is effectively wasted and that discontent is kept under control and directed into harmless channels. Thus we can say that pacifists, far from challenging the ruling power, actually consolidate it. While governments all over the world react more and more violently to protests questioning their policies we are told to disarm, to not even think about the mere possibility of resisting violently.

Gelderloos quotes another FBI memo to local police officers, explaining what constitutes an “extremist.” Their most outstanding, terrible and inexcusable characteristic is that “extremists may be prepared to defend themselves against law enforcement officials” (47).

The depravity of these “extremists” knows no end, listed are the wearing of sunglasses and scarves “to minimize the effects of tear gas and pepper spray,” using shields and body equipment for protection and they even may – Good God! – “use intimidation techniques such as videotaping and the swarming of police officers to hinder the arrest of other demonstrators!” Needless to say that under such grave circumstances “law enforcement officials should be alert to these possible indicators of protest activity and report any potentially illegal acts to the nearest FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force.”

Luckily the FBI and the law enforcement officials are not alone in their heroic struggle against these dangerous “extremists;” the strict adherents of non-violence come to our rescue! Their rationale goes like this: “Since all violence is bad and since extremists are obviously immoral people threatening the whole movement with their thirst for violence they have to be isolated, pacified, ousted and if necessary handed over to the police. If the movement demonstrates good-will to the state and its representatives and makes clear that it cannot tolerate any acts of violence under any circumstances it will surely be received far more sympathetic. Who can blame the police if they have to restore order after some irresponsible short-minded and -tempered brutes started rioting? All these violent people achieve is giving the state and the media a reason to go after us and crush the protest.” Apart from pondering why suddenly police violence would be “justified” while “violence is never justified” we should be realistic about this:

“The state is not a passive thing. If it wants to repress a movement or organization, it does not wait for an excuse, it manufactures one […] About such campaigns, the FBI says, “It is immaterial whether facts exist to substantiate the charge….[D]isruption [through the media] can be accomplished without facts to back it up” (Gelderloos 57).

After the uncompromising pacifists have thus succeeded in keeping discontent in acceptable, harmless forms and the people helpless and dependent on the sudden enlightenment after “speaking truth to power” they have to be rewarded. They can have their protest and their media coverage. Nobody really cares, nothing really changes, some liberals can feel like real rebels and most important, the facade of social peace, freedom of speech and democracy is kept up. Successfully the ruling class has prevented the possibility of violent resistance destroying the image of social peace, love and harmony.

“Permitting nonviolent protest improves the image of the state. Whether they mean to or not, nonviolent dissidents play the role of a loyal opposition in a performance that dramatizes dissent and creates the illusion that democratic government is not elitist or authoritarian. Pacifists paint the state as benign by giving authority the chance to tolerate a criticism that does not actually threaten its continued operation” (Gelderloos 53).

How can another phenomenon the pacifist movement likes to credit to itself, the so-called “non-violent revolutions,” be explained then? The state and the ruling class were challenged, maybe they used the police against protesters but no bloodshed worth speaking of occurred and definitely no civil war erupted. Yet these regimes collapsed and the people triumphed. What do we make of all that Velvet, Orange, Rose and other “Color Revolutions?”

It is sad and once again shows the naivety of the non-violent movement that you even have to answer such a question. Are they not self-explanatory? What was the result of all these “revolutions?” Did they really succeed? Did anything really change for the better? Do people in the countries where these “revolutions” occurred now live in pacifist wonderland?

“In its long history, this strategy type has not succeeded in causing the class of owners, managers, and enforcers to defect and be disobedient, because their interests are fundamentally opposed to the interests of those who participate in the disobedience. What disobedience strategies have succeeded in doing, time and time again, is forcing out particular government regimes, though these are always replaced by other regimes constituted from among the elite.

[…]

It is not even proper to say the old regimes are “forced out.” Faced with rising disobedience and the threat of real revolution, they choose to hand over power to new regimes that they trust to honor the basic frameworks of capitalism and state. When they do not have the option of a transfer of power, they take off the gloves and attempt to brutalize and dominate the movement, which cannot defend itself and survive without escalating tactics.” (Gelderloos 100 ).

Conclusion

As we have seen, pacifism:

“assumes a society without race and class hierarchy; without privileged, powerful, and violent elites; without a corporate media controlled by the interests of state and capital, ready to manage the perceptions of the citizenry. Such a society does not exist among any of the industrial, capitalist democracies” (Gelderloos 59).

Does this mean that all peaceful tactics are completely useless or that we should stay at home when non-violent protests and rallies take place and should rather seek to escalate violence whereever and whenever possible? Is throwing Molotov cocktails at every occasion what we have to do?

Of course not! Marxism-Leninism condemns individual terrorism and counter-productive inciting of violence. Such would indeed only alienate potential supporters and give the state a reason to increase its reactionary pressure. Agitation and propaganda are of utmost importance and both are non-violent tactics. Peaceful tactics can be a useful and effective mean for gaining attention, support and minor victories such as reforms. But we have to keep in mind that peaceful tactics never be more than means to achieve our final goal, socialist revolution, which will be necessarily violent. This article is directed against denial of the latter fact and an outright rejection of anything else than pacifist tactics, seen as an end within themselves.

There is no way around this fact and no matter how much we try to ignore it, no matter how safe we feel in our dream world and ivory tower, reality will catch up; hopefully it will not take us by surprise. When the time has come we both have to be prepared to defend ourselves and answer violent reaction by violent means as well as preparing and arming the proletariat in theory and practice for the inevitable violent showdown with the bourgeoisie, the revolution.

Everything else would mean to “give up militant revolution (which is to give up on revolution as a whole),” as Gelderloos correctly states (126). The ruling class will not go peacefully, they will not stand by and simply watch us taking the base of their power and wealth. If we do not want to work into the hands of our class enemy we have to realize that there is a war going on and that pacifism is still pro-fascist, pro-bourgeoisie and pro-imperialist.

“Privileged activists need to understand what the rest of the world’s people have known all too long: we are in the midst of a war, and neutrality is not possible. There is nothing in this world currently deserving of the name peace. Rather, it is a question of whose violence frightens us most, and on whose side we will stand” (Gelderloos 134).

“We must realistically accept that revolution is a social war, not because we like war, but because we recognize that the status quo is a low-intensity war and challenging the state results in an intensification of that warfare” (142).

To conclude, we might paraphrase Engels with an excerpt of his work Anti-Dühring:

“To [the pacifist] force is the absolute evil; the first act of force is to him the original sin; his whole exposition is a jeremiad on the contamination of all subsequent history consummated by this original sin; a jeremiad on the shameful perversion of all natural and social laws by this diabolical power, force. That force, however, plays yet another role in history, a revolutionary role; that, in the words of Marx, it is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one, that it is the instrument with the aid of which social movement forces its way through and shatters the dead, fossilised political forms — of this there is not a word in [the pacifist]. It is only with sighs and groans that he admits the possibility that force will perhaps be necessary for the overthrow of an economic system of exploitation — unfortunately, because all use of force demoralises the person who uses it. And this in spite of the immense moral and spiritual impetus which has been given by every victorious revolution! […] And this parson’s mode of thought — dull, insipid and impotent — presumes to impose itself on the most revolutionary [class] that history has known!”

Sources

Engels, Frederick. Anti-Dühring. 1878.

Gelderloos, Peter. How Nonviolence Protects the State. South End Press, 2007.

Orwell, George. Pacifism and the War. London: 1942.



Categories: Anti-War, Books, Britain, Colonialism, Discrimination, Government, History, Imperialism, Imperialist War, India, International, Israel, Labor, Palestine, Police Brutality, Racism, Racist Oppression, Revolutionary History, Science, Second World War, Theory, U.S. News, United Kingdom, United States History, Vietnam, Workers Struggle, World History

7 replies

  1. This is a great article! Very perceptive. I learned some new things from your research.

  2. Nonviolence is an essential means to achieve a real revolution, but it also only works if your opponent has a conscience. It is foolish to continue hoping a sociopath will change, and that is when we need to examine our definitions of violence. True nonviolence would not encourage a people to continue to accept abuse upon themselves. But what is “reasonable force” in self-defense? Is it reasonable to poison our own land,air, & water to build the guns, bombs, & chemical warfare we in our fears rationalize we need to defend ourselves?

  3. What poppycock Earthspeak, perhaps you smoked too much reefer and dropped too much acid to realize that revolutions are always violent if they achieve anything in the slightest. A revolution is where one class overthrows another and as such the dominating class uses every and all means to maintain control. Don’t bring your bullshit violence begets more violence quotations around me you hippy. You can non-violently resist all you want but the only way your gonna get anything out of it is if they are afraid that you will turn violent. Rock on Red Phoenix, finally there is a voice out there on the left who actually understands what the hell they are talking about.

    • Yeah, Billy Wang, it’s certainly clear how effective the violence of the Weather Underground was in the 1960s….not. You remind me of the tea party idiots who are oh so eager to load their semi-automatic weaponry and take on all comers. You sound like a foolish child, with no understanding of political reality.

  4. millions marched in the streets all over our country and the rest of the world in Febuary 2003 and the next month George Bush started the invasion of Iraq anyway. So long as the ruling class has no fear of violence nothing chages.

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