On the weekend stretching from April 27-29, the Carnival of Anarchy blog will touch upon the important question of anarchism and violence. It has been a topic of contention among political radicals for ages and I hope there will be a diversity of opinion displayed. The contributors to the carnival are asked to provide posts on anything related to this vital topic they can think of. Some ideas I’d throw out to help those folks out who aren’t so sure what to contribute include discussions of whether violence is ethical, wise, desirable, necessary, and so on.
I haven’t delved into this enough, but I’m sympathetic to the peaceful route. And not simply because it more easily avoids the problem of injury against innocents and their property. (Though of course I’d rank property damage far below that of people damage – that is, damage to property in one’s self – on the atrocity scale; property damage is also subject to much easier methods of restitution.) The power of persuasion, in the end, does far more for effecting change, because the “compliance costs”, as it were, are much lower. When people have internalized the superior mindset, and thus superior kinds of behavior, you have a self enforcing way of maintaining a more just social order. What’s the better method of ending the Iraq War? The occasional angry G.I. who hurls grenades at his superiors, or the mass defection and non-cooperation of the military rank and file? Boots Riley of The Coup is currently agitating for the latter. (And, well, maybe a little of the former too, as implied in the phrase “By Any Means Necessary”.)
On the other hand, I’m no Tolstoyan pacifist either. Only a (perhaps kind hearted) fool would deny that there are instances where self-defense involving violence is the only solution. On ethical grounds this form of violence is justified, regardless of whether or not it is always strategically intelligent. When Robert F. Williams of proto-Black Panther fame took up arms against the hordes of racist white civilians and their pals in law enforcement, he was engaged in an attempt to save the lives of actual people in the here and now. Forget “long term tactical considerations” – he was doing what needed to be done. That is, even if the boycotts, sit-ins, the gradual persuasion of the white establishment and the subsequent long, slow march toward more equal treatment before the law did more to change society for the better, Williams represented the plight of the individual in immediate danger, back against the wall, shorn of the luxury of hindsight and without any desire to be a martyr.
Anyway, the COA discussion should be good. Tune in.