Bin Laden’s message was quite clear: The attacks were carried out in response to blatant and ongoing U.S. violations of the laws of war, together with almost every aspect of international public and humanitarian law. The matter, as he pointed out, is of no mere academic concern: over the past decade well upwards of a half million Iraqi children and at least a million of their adult counterparts have died as the result of pal-pably criminal U.S. actions against their country. United Nations officials have resigned in protest, denouncing what one of them, Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday, was widely quoted in the press describing as America’s “policy of deliberate genocide” against the people of Iraq…
Reaction among average Americans to revelations of the horror perpetrated in their name has been to all intents and purposes nonexistent. Since it can hardly be argued that the public was “uninformed” about the genocide in Iraq, its lack of response can only be seen as devolving upon a condition of collective ignorance—that is, of having information but ignoring it because it is considered inconsequential — as profound as it must be intolerable to those whose children lie murdered en masse. How, under these conditions, are the victims to claim the attention necessary to impress upon their tormentors the fact that they, too, count for something, that they are of consequence, that in effect they will no longer accept the lot of being slaughtered, conveniently out of sight and mind or with impunity?
…There is but one route out of this particular box. It traces the trajectory of an obligation inherent in the citizens of each country to do whatever is necessary to ensure that their government complies with the requirements of international law. Enunciated as part of the postwar Nuremberg Doctrine with the Germans in mind, the principle applies no less to Americans. Yet it is precisely this civic/human responsibility upon which Americans have defaulted so conspicuously in the aggregate of their willful ignorance concerning the ghastly toll exacted from Iraq.
The question reverts thus to whether, under the conditions at hand, there might have been some “more appropriate means” by which the victims of U.S. aggression might have conveyed the consequences of their agony. Posing it may best be left to the moral cretins who, having done so much to foment the situation in the first place, now revile and seek to exterminate the messengers, demanding “defense” against the truth of their statement. For the rest of us, the method of communication employed was what it was, a mere pinprick when measured against the carnage America so routinely inflicts on others, more akin to a wake-up call than anything else.
In retrospect it will be seen that September 11, 2001, marked the point at which the U.S. was put on notice that business-as-usual would no longer prevail: if Americans wish ever again to be secure from the ravages of terrorism, their top priority must at long last become that of preventing their own government from instigating and participating in it; if, in substance, they desire safety for their own children, they will first have to “stop killing other peoples babies.”
Pacifists tell us that the ends never justify the means. This is a statement of values disguised as a statement of morals. A person who says ends don’t justify means is simply saying: I value process more than outcome. Someone who says ends do justify means is merely saying: I value outcome more than process. Looked at this way, it becomes absurd to make absolute statements about it. There are some ends that justify some means, and there are some ends that do not.
Derrick Jensen, Preface to Pacifism as Pathology by Ward Churchill
There can be no absolution, no redemption of past crimes unless the outcomes are changed. So long as the aggressors’ posterity continue to reap the benefits of that aggression, the crimes are merely replicated in the present. In effect, the aggression remains ongoing and, in that, there can be no legitimacy. Not now, not ever.
The Rape of Pocahontas: Did We Eviscerate the Native Americans?
Well, if you look at the Howard Zinn narrative, it is a narrative of American oppression and theft. The reason…the purpose of this political narrative is to create an intellectual basis for justifying economic reparation and economic redistribution. So, once you prove that American history is an uninterrupted series of crimes visited upon Native Americans, visited upon blacks, visited upon Mexicans, then you can say, “look since the current affluence of America is made up of stolen goods, we have to give back the stuff we stole.” - Dinesh D’Souza
This is rather long but very important to the revisionist history perpetuated by leftist academics like Howard Zinn and Ward Churchill.
Thanksgiving is the day the United States celebrates the fact that the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony successfully avoided starvation during the winter of 1620-21.
But from an American Indian perspective, what is it we’re supposed to be so thankful for?
Does anyone really expect us to give thanks for the fact that soon after the Pilgrim Fathers regained their strength, they set out to dispossess and exterminate the very Indians who had fed them that first winter?
Are we to express our gratitude for the colonists’ 1637 massacre of the Pequots at Mystic, Conn., or their rhetoric justifying the butchery by comparing Indians to “rats and mice and swarms of lice”?
Or should we be joyous about the endless series of similar slaughters that followed: at St. Francis (1759), Horseshoe Bend (1814), Bad Axe (1833), Blue Water (1854), Sand Creek (1864), Marias River (1870), Camp Robinson (1878) and Wounded Knee (1890), to name only the worst?
Should we be thankful for the scalp bounties paid by every English colony – as well as every U.S. state and territory in the lower 48 – for proof of the deaths of individual Indians, including women and children?
How might we best show our appreciation of the order issued by Lord Jeffrey Amherst in 1763, requiring smallpox-infested items be given as gifts to the Ottawas so that “we might extirpate this execrable race”?
Is it reasonable to assume that we might be jubilant that our overall population, numbering perhaps 15 million at the outset of the European invasion, was reduced to less than a quarter-million by 1890?
Maybe we should be glad the “peaceful settlers” didn’t kill the rest of us outright. But they didn’t really need to, did they? By 1900, they already had 98 percent of our land. The remaining Indians were simply dumped in the mostly arid and unwanted locales, where it was confidently predicted that we’d shortly die off altogether, out of sight and mind of the settler society.
We haven’t died off yet, but we comprise far and away the most impoverished, malnourished and disease-ridden population on the continent today. Life expectancy on many reservations is about 50 years; that of Euroamericans more than 75.
We’ve also endured a pattern of cultural genocide during the 20th century. Our children were processed for generations through government boarding schools designed to “kill the Indian” in every child’s consciousness and to replace Native traditions with a “more enlightened” Euroamerican set of values and understandings.
Should we feel grateful for the disastrous self-concept thereby fostered within our kids?
Are we to be thankful that their self-esteem is still degraded every day on cable television by a constant bombardment of recycled Hollywood Westerns and television segments presenting Indians as absurd and utterly dehumanized caricatures?
Should we tell our children to find pride in the sorts of insults to which we are subjected to as a matter of course: Tumbleweeds cartoons, for instance, or the presence of Chief Wahoo and the Redskins in professional sports?
Does anybody really believe we should feel honored by such things, or by place names like Squaw Valley and Squaw Peak? “Squaw,” after all, is the Onondaga word for female genitalia. The derogatory effect on Native women should be quite clear.
About three-quarters of all adult Indians suffer alcoholism and/or other forms of substance abuse. This is not a “genetic condition.” It is a desperate, collective attempt to escape our horrible reality since “America’s Triumph.”
It’s no mystery why Indians don’t observe Thanksgiving. The real question is why do you feast rather than fast on what should be a national day of mourning and atonement.
Before digging into your turkey and dressing on Nov. 23, you might wish to glance in a mirror and see if you can come up with an answer.
As the [Black] Panthers evidenced signs of making significant headway, organizing first in their home community of Oakland and then nationally, the state perceived something more threatening then yet another series of candlelight vigils. It reacted accordingly, targeting Panthers for physical elimination. When Party cadres responded (as promised) by meeting the violence of repression with armed resistance, the bulk of their “principled” white support evaporated. This horrifying retreat rapidly isolated the Party from any possible mediating or buffering from the full force of state terror and left its members nakedly exposed to “surgical termination” by special police units.
… [I]t became fashionable to observe that the Panthers were “as bad as the cops” in that they resorted to arms…; they had “brought this on themselves” when they “provoked violence” by refusing the state an uncontested right to maintain the lethal business as usual it had visited upon black America since the inception of the Republic…
Such conscientious avoidance of personal sacrifice (i.e., dodging the experience of being on the receiving end of violence, not the inflicting of it) has nothing to do with the lofty ideals and integrity by which American pacifists claim to inform their practice. But it does explain the real nature of such curious phenomena as movement marshal, steadfast refusals to attempt to bring the seat of government to a standstill even when a million people are on hand to accomplish the task, and the consistently convoluted victim-blaming engaged in with regard to domestic groups such as the Black Panther Party. Massive and unremitting violence in the colonies is appalling to right-thinking people but ultimately acceptable when compared to the unthinkable alternative that any degree of real violence might be redirected against “mother country radicals.”
One conflation of terms that really bothers me a lot, which still seems to be plaguing the discourse, is the conflation of the term “nation” and the term “state.” You have this entity out there called “the United Nations.” It really should have been called “the United States,” because to be eligible even for admission to the Assembly you have to be organized in that centralized, arbitrary structure. No “nations” as such are even eligible for admission to the United Nations. “The United States” was a name already taken, however, and this was very useful in obfuscating the reality.
But the upshot of that is that you’ve got a whole lot of anarchists running around thinking they’re anti-nationalist, that nationality, nationalism in all forms, is necessarily some sort of an evil to be combated, when that’s exactly what they’re trying to create. You’ve got four or five thousand nations on the planet; you’ve got two hundred states. They’re using “anti-nationalist” as a code word for being anti-statist. With indigenous peoples, nationality is an affirmative ideal, and it hasn’t got any similarity at all to state structures.
You may have nations that are also states, but you’ve got most nations rejecting statism. So you can make an argument, as I have, that the assertion of sovereignty on the part of indigenous nations is an explicitly anti-statist ideal, and the basis of commonality with people who define themselves as anarchists. We’ve got to deal with our own bases of confusion in order to be able to interact with one another in a respectful and constructive way.
Ward Churchill, interviewed by Upping the Anti in 2003
The theoretical trajectory entered into by much of the American left over the past quarter-century exhibits a marked tendency to try and justify such evasion and squalid self-indulgence through the expedient of rejecting “hierarchy, in all its forms.” Since “hierarchy” may be taken to include “[any]thing resembling an order of priorities,” we are faced thereby with the absurd contention that all issues are of equal importance (as in the mindless slogan, “There is no hierarchy of oppression”).23 From there, it becomes axiomatic that the “privileging” of any issue over another – genocide, say, over fanny-pinching in the workplace – becomes not only evidence of “elitism,” but of “sexism,” and often “homophobia” to boot (as in popular formulation holding that Third World anti-imperialism is inherently nationalistic, and nationalism is inherently damaging to the rights of women and gays).24
Having thus foreclosed upon all other options for concrete engagement as mere “reproductions of the relations of the oppressed,” the left has largely neutralized itself, a matter reflected most conspicuously in the applause it bestowed upon Homi K. Bhabha’s preposterous 1994 contention that writing, which he likens to “warfare,” should be considered the only valid revolutionary act.25 One might easily conclude that had the “opposition” not conjured up such “postmodernist discourse” on its own initiative, it would have been necessary for the status quo to have invented it. As it is, postmodernist theorists and their postcolonialist counterparts are finding berths at élite universities at a truly astounding rate.26
To be fair, it must be admitted that there remain appreciable segments of the left which do not subscribe to the sophistries imbedded in postmodernism’s “failure of nerve."27 Those who continue to assert the value of direct action, however, have for the most part so thoroughly constrained themselves to the realm of symbolic/ritual protest as to render themselves self-nullifying. One is again hardpressed to decipher whether this has been by default or design. While such comportment is all but invariably couched in the lofty – or sanctimonious – terms of "principled pacifism,” the practice of proponents often suggests something far less noble.28
Ward Churchill, On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality
I have never been able to bring myself to trust anyone who claims to have saved a Jew from the SS. The fact is that the Jews were not saved… no one took the steps necessary to save them, even themselves. - Simon Weisenthal, 1967
Pacifism, the ideology of nonviolent political action, has become axiomatic and all but universal among the more progressive elements of contemporary mainstream North America. With a jargon ranging from a peculiar mishmash of borrowed or fabricated pseudospiritualism to “Gramscian” notions of prefigurative socialization, pacifism appears as the common denominator linking otherwise disparate “white dissident” groupings. Always, it promises that the harsh realities of state power can be transcended via good feelings and purity of purpose rather than by self-defense and resort to combat.
Pacifists, with seemingly endless repetition, pronounce that the negativity of the modern corporate-fascist state will atrophy through defection and neglect once there is a sufficiently positive social vision to take its place (“What if they gave a war and nobody came?”). Known in the Middle Ages as alchemy, such insistence on the repetition of insubstantial themes and failed experiments to obtain a desired result has long been consigned to the realm of fantasy, discarded by all but the most wishful or cynical (who use it to manipulate people).
All of this was apparently done in an effort to manipulate the political
climate in Germany - by “not exacerbating conditions” and “not alienating
the German people any further” - in a manner more favorable
to Jews than the Nazis were calling for. In the end, of course, the Nazis imposed the “final solution to the Jewish question,” but by then
the dynamics of passive resistance were so entrenched in the Jewish
Zeitgeist (the Nazis having been in power a full decade) that a sort of
passive accommodation prevailed. Jewish leaders took their people,
quietly and nonviolently, first into the ghettos, and then onto trains
“evacuating” them to the east. Armed resistance was still widely held
to be “irresponsible.”
Eventually, the SS could count upon the brunt of the Nazi liquidation
policy being carried out by the Sonderkommandos, which were composed
of the Jews themselves. It was largely Jews who dragged the
gassed bodies of their exterminated people to the crematoria in death
camps such as Auschwitz/Birkenau, each motivated by the desire to
prolong his own life. Even this became rationalized as “resistance”;
the very act of surviving was viewed as “defeating” the Nazi program.
By 1945, Jewish passivity and nonviolence in the face of the
Weltanschauung der untermenschen had done nothing to prevent the
loss of millions of lives.
The phenomenon sketched above must lead to the obvious question:
“[How could] millions of men [sic] like us walk to their death without
resistance?” In turn, the mere asking of the obvious has spawned a
veritable cottage industry among Jewish intellectuals, each explaining
how it was that “the process” had left the Jewish people “no choice”
but to go along, to remain passive, to proceed in accordance with
their aversion to violence right up to the doors of the crematoria - and
beyond. From this perspective, there was nothing truly lacking in
the Jewish performance; the Jews were simply and solely blameless
victims of a genocidal system over which it was quite impossible for
them to extend any measure of control.
The Jews having suffered horribly under nazi rule, it has come to
be considered in exceedingly poor taste - “antisemitic,” according to
the logic of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith - to suggest
that there was indeed something very wrong with the nature of the Jewish response to nazism, that the mainly pacifist forms of resistance
exhibited by the Jewish community played directly into the hands of
their executioners. Objectively, there were alternatives, and one
need not look to the utterances of some “lunatic fringe” to find them
Even such a staid and conservative political commentator as Bruno
Bettelheim, a former concentration camp inmate, has offered astute
analysis of the role of passivity and nonviolence in amplifying the magnitude
of the Holocaust. Regarding the single known instance in which
inmates physically revolted at Auschwitz, he observes that:
“In the single revolt of the twelfth Sonderkommando, seventy SS were
killed, including one commissioned officer and seventeen noncommissioned
officers; one of the crematoria was totally destroyed and another
severely damaged. True, all eight hundred and fifty-three of the
kommando died. But… the one Sonderkommando which revolted and
took such a heavy toll of the enemy did not die much differently than
all the other Sonderkommandos.”
Aside from pointing out that the Jews had literally nothing to lose (and
quite a lot to gain in terms of human dignity) by engaging in open
revolt against the SS, Bettelheim goes much further, noting that such
actions both in and outside the death camps stood a reasonable prospect
of greatly impeding the extermination process. He states flatly
that even individualized armed resistance could have made the Final
Solution a cost-prohibitive proposition for the Nazis:
“There is little doubt that the [Jews], who were able to provide themselves
with so much, could have provided themselves with a gun or
two had they wished. They could have shot down one or two of the
SS men who came for them. The loss of an SS with every Jew arrested
would have noticeably hindered the functioning of the police
Returning to the revolt of the twelfth Sonderkommando, Bettelheim
“They did only what we should expect all human beings to do; to use
their death, if they could not save their lives, to weaken or hinder the
enemy as much as possible; to use even their doomed selves for making
extermination harder, or maybe impossible, not a smooth running
process … If they could do it, so could others. Why didn’t they? Why
did they throw their lives away instead of making things hard for the
enemy? Why did they make a present of their very being to the SS
instead of to their families, their friends, even to their fellow prisoners[?]”
“Rebellion could only have saved either the life they were going to
lose anyway, or the lives of others…. Inertia it was that led millions
of Jews into the ghettos the SS had created for them. It was inertia
that made hundreds of thousands of Jews sit home, waiting for their
Bettelheim describes this inertia, which he considers the basis for
Jewish passivity in the face of genocide, as being grounded in a profound
desire for “business as usual,” the following of rules, the need
to not accept reality or to act upon it. Manifested in the irrational belief
that in remaining “reasonable and responsible,” unobtrusively resisting
by continuing “normal” day-to-day activities proscribed by the nazis
through the Nuremberg Laws and other infamous legislation, and “not
alienating anyone,” this attitude implied that a more-or-less humane
Jewish policy might be morally imposed upon the nazi state by Jewish
Thus, Bettelheim continues:
“The persecution of the Jews was aggravated, slow step by slow step,
when no violent fighting back occurred. It may have been Jewish acceptance, degradation that first gave the SS the idea that they could be gotten
to the point where they would walk into the gas chambers on their
own… [I]n the deepest sense, the walk to the gas chamber was only
the last consequence of the philosophy of business as usual.”
Given this, Bettelheim can do little else but conclude (correctly) that
the post-war rationalization and apologia for the Jewish response to
nazism serves to “stress how much we all wish to subscribe to this
business as usual philosophy, and forget that it hastens our own destruction
… to glorify the attitude of going on with business as usual,
even in a holocaust.”
AN ESSENTIAL CONTRADICTION
I have no intention of being a good Jew, led into the ovens like some
sheep… - Abbie Hoffman, 1969
The example of the Jews under nazism is, to be sure, extreme. History
affords us few comparable models by which to assess the effectiveness
of nonviolent opposition to state policies, at least in terms of the
scale and rapidity with which consequences were visited upon the
passive. Yet it is precisely this extremity which makes the example
useful; the Jewish experience reveals with stark clarity the basic illogic
at the very core of pacifist conceptions of morality and political action.
Proponents of nonviolent political “praxis” are inherently placed in the
position of claiming to meet the armed might of the state via an asserted
moral superiority attached to the renunciation of arms and physical
violence altogether. It follows that the state has demonstrated, a
priori, its fundamental immorality/illegitimacy by arming itself in the first
place. A certain psychological correlation is typically offered wherein
the “good” and “positive” social vision (Eros) held by the pacifist opposition
is posed against the “bad” or “negative” realities (Thanatos)
evidenced by the state. The correlation lends itself readily to “good
versus evil” dichotomies, fostering a view of social conflict as a morality
There can be no question but that there is a superficial logic to the analytical
equation thus established. The Jews in their disarmed and passive
resistance to German oppression during the ‘30s and ‘40s were
certainly “good”; the nazis - as well-armed as any group in history up
to that point — might undoubtedly be assessed as a force of unmitigated
“evil.” Such binary correlations might also be extended to
describe other sets of historical forces: Gandhi’s Indian Union (good)
versus troops of the British Empire (evil) and Martin Luther King’s non-
without retaliatory fight, of ever harsher discrimination and violent Civil Rights Movement (good) versus a host of Klansmen and Southern cracker police (evil) offer ready examples. In each case, the difference between them can be (and often is) attributed to the relative
willingness/unwillingness of the opposing sides to engage in violence.
And, in each case, it can be (and has been) argued that good
ultimately overcame the evil it confronted, achieving political gains and
at least temporarily dissipating a form of social violence. To the extent
that Eichmann was eventually tried in Jerusalem for his part in the
genocide of the Jewish people, that India has passed from the control
of England, and that Mississippi blacks can now register to vote with
comparative ease, it may be (and is) contended that there is a legacy
of nonviolent political success informing the praxis of contemporary
It becomes quite possible for sensitive, refined, and morally developed
individuals to engage in socially transformative political action
while rejecting violence (per se) as a means or method containing a
positive as well as negative utility. The ideological assumption here is
that a sort of “negation of the negation” is involved, that the “power of
nonviolence” can in itself be used to supplant the offending societal
violence represented in the formation of state power. The key to the
whole is that it has been done, as the survival of at least some of the
Jews, the decolonization of India, and the enfranchisement of Southern
American blacks demonstrate.
This tidy scheme, pleasing as it may be on an emotional level, brings
up more questions than it answers. An obvious question is that if
nonviolence is to be taken as the emblem of Jewish goodness in the
face of nazi evil, how is one to account for the revolt of the twelfth
Sonderkommando mentioned by Bettelheim, or scattered incidents
of the same type which occurred at other death camps such as Sobibor
and Treblinka. What of the several thousand participants in
the sole mass uprising of Jews outside the camps, the armed revolt
of the Warsaw Ghetto during April and May 1943? May it rightly
be suggested that those who took up arms against their executioners crossed the same symbolic line demarcating good and evil, becoming
“the same” as the SS?
One may assume for the moment that such a gross distortion of reality
is hardly the intent of even the hardiest pacifist polemicists, although
it may well be an intrinsic aspect of their position. Worse than this is
the inconsistency of nonviolent premises. For instance, it has been
abundantly documented that Nazi policy toward the Jews, from 1941
onward, was bound up in the notion that extermination would proceed
until such time as the entire Jewish population within German occupied
territory was liquidated. There is no indication whatsoever
that nonviolent intervention/mediation from any quarter held the least
prospect of halting, or even delaying, the genocidal process. To the
contrary, there is evidence that efforts by neutral parties such as the
Red Cross had the effect of speeding up the slaughter.
That the Final Solution was halted at a point short of its full realization
was due solely to the massive application of armed force against
Germany (albeit for reasons other than the salvation of the Jews). Left
to a pacifist prescription for the altering of offensive state policies,
and the effecting of positive social change, “World Jewry” - at least
in its Eurasian variants - would have suffered total extermination by
mid-1946 at the latest. Even the highly symbolic trial of SS Colonel
Adolph Eichmann could not be accomplished by nonviolent means,
but required armed action by an Israeli paramilitary unit fifteen years
after the last death camp was closed by Russian tanks. There is
every indication that adherence to pacifist principles would have resulted
in Eichmann’s permanent avoidance of justice, living out his life
in reasonable comfort until - to paraphrase his own assessment — he
leapt into the grave laughing at the thought of having killed six million
Jews.With reference to the Jewish experience, nonviolence was
a catastrophic failure, and only the most extremely violent intervention
by others saved Europe’s Jews at the last moment from slipping over
the brink of utter extinction. Small wonder that the survivors insist,
While other examples are less crystalline in their implications, they are
instructive. The vaunted career of Gandhi exhibits characteristics of a
calculated strategy of nonviolence salvaged only by the existence of
violent peripheral processes. While it is true that the great Indian
leader never deviated from his stance of passive resistance to British
colonization, and that in the end England found it cost-prohibitive to
continue its effort to assert control in the face of his opposition, it is
equally true that the Gandhian success must be viewed in the context
of a general decline in British power brought about by two world wars
within a thirty-year period.
Prior to the decimation of British troop strength and the virtual bankruptcy
of the Imperial treasury during World War II, Gandhi’s movement
showed little likelihood of forcing England’s abandonment of
India. Without the global violence that destroyed the Empire’s ability
to forcibly control its colonial territories (and passive populations),
India might have continued indefinitely in the pattern of minority rule
marking the majority of South Africa’s modern history, the first locale
in which the Gandhian recipe for liberation struck the reef of reality.
Hence, while the Mahatma and his followers were able to remain
“pure,” their victory was contingent upon others physically gutting their
opponents for them.
Similarly, the limited success attained by Martin Luther King and his
disciples in the United States during the 1960s, using a strategy consciously
guided by Gandhian principles of nonviolence, owes a considerable
debt to the existence of less pacifist circumstances. King’s
movement had attracted considerable celebrity, but precious little in
the way of tangible political gains prior to the emergence of a trend
signaled in 1967 by the redesignation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee (SNCC; more or less the campus arm of King’s
Civil Rights Movement) as the Student National Coordinating Committee.
The SNCC’s action (precipitated by non-pacifists such as Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown) occurred in the context of armed selfdefense
tactics being employed for the first time by rural black leaders
such as Robert Williams, and the eruption of black urban enclaves in
Detroit, Newark, Watts, Harlem, and elsewhere. It also coincided with
the increasing need of the American state for internal stability due to
the unexpectedly intense and effective armed resistance mounted by
the Vietnamese against U.S. aggression in Southeast Asia.
Suddenly King, previously stonewalled and red-baited by the establishment,
his roster of civil rights demands evaded or dismissed as being
“too radical” and “premature,” found himself viewed as the lesser
of evils by the state. He was duly anointed the “responsible black
leader” in the media, and his cherished civil rights agenda was largely
incorporated into law during 1968 (along with appropriate riders
designed to neutralize “Black Power Militants” such as Carmichael,
Brown, and Williams.) Without the specter, real or perceived, of a
violent black revolution at large in America during a time of war, King’s
nonviolent strategy was basically impotent in concrete terms. As one
of his Northern organizers, William Jackson, put it to me in 1969:
“There are a lot of reasons why I can’t get behind fomenting violent actions
like riots, and none of ‘em are religious. It’s all pragmatic politics.
But I’ll tell you what: I never let a riot slide by. I’m always the first one
down at city hall and testifying before Congress, tellin’ ‘em, “See? If
you guys’d been dealing with us all along, this never would have happened.”
It gets results, man. Like nothin’ else, y’know? The thing is that
Rap Brown and the Black Panthers are just about the best things that
ever happened to the Civil Rights Movement.”
Jackson’s exceedingly honest, if more than passingly cynical, outlook
was tacitly shared by King. The essential contradiction inherent
to pacifist praxis is that, for survival itself, any nonviolent confrontation
of state power must ultimately depend either on the state refraining
from unleashing some real measure of its potential violence, or the active
presence of some counterbalancing violence of precisely the sort pacifism professes to reject as a political option.
Absurdity clearly abounds when suggesting that the state will refrain
from using all necessary physical force to protect against undesired
forms of change and threats to its safety. Nonviolent tacticians imply
(perhaps unwittingly) that the “immoral state” which they seek to
transform will somehow exhibit exactly the same sort of superior morality
they claim for themselves (i.e., at least a relative degree of nonviolence).
The fallacy of such a proposition is best demonstrated by the
nazi state’s removal of its “Jewish threat.” Violent intervention by
others divides itself naturally into the two parts represented by Gandhi’s
unsolicited “windfall” of massive violence directed against his
opponents and King’s rather more conscious and deliberate utilization
of incipient anti-state violence as a means of advancing his own pacifist
agenda. History is replete with variations on these two subthemes,
but variations do little to alter the crux of the situation: there simply has
never been a revolution, or even a substantial social reorganization,
brought into being on the basis of the principles of pacifism. In every
instance, violence has been an integral requirement of the process
of transforming the state.
Pacifist praxis (or, more appropriately, pseudopraxis), if followed to its
logical conclusions, leaves its adherents with but two possible outcomes
to their line of action:
1. To render themselves perpetually ineffectual (and consequently unthreatening)
in the face of state power, in which case they will likely
be largely ignored by the status quo and self-eliminating in terms of
revolutionary potential; or,
2. To make themselves a clear and apparent danger to the state, in
which case they are subject to physical liquidation by the status quo
and are self-eliminating in terms of revolutionary potential.
In either event - mere ineffectuality or suicide — the objective conditions leading to the necessity for social revolution remain unlikely to
be altered by purely pacifist strategies. As these conditions typically
include war, the induced starvation of whole populations and the like,
pacifism and its attendant sacrifice of life cannot even be rightly said
to have substantially impacted the level of evident societal violence.
The mass suffering that revolution is intended to alleviate will continue
as the revolution strangles itself on the altar of “nonviolence.”
PSA: Andrea Smith and Ward Churchill are NOT indigenous
For those who are interested in indigenous academics and their respective work. Please recognize that two of the most widely cited authors in most Native Studies discussions ARE NOT indigenous and do not have the right to claim any aspect of the First Nation perspective.
“…the Cherokee nation challenged and rejected Andrea Smith’s claim to status.” “[Andrea Smith]’s not a descendent. She’s not a resident of a Cherokee community. It really does not matter which credential you accept. She’s a fake and in spite of the understanding Richard Allen of the Cherokee Nation government and I thought we had that she would quit making the false claim and we would quit bringing up her name.”
“Churchill claimed varying degrees of Native American ancestry, but a Rocky Mountain News investigation “identified 142 direct forebears of Churchill and turned up no evidence of a single Indian ancestor among them.””
“In biographical blurbs, [Churchill] is identified as an enrolled member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees. But a senior member of the band with access to tribal enrollment records told Indian Country Today that Churchill is not listed. George Mauldin, tribal clerk in Tahlequah, Okla., told the Rocky Mountain News, “He’s not in the data base at all.’‘
Violent intervention by others divides itself naturally into the two parts represented either by Gandhi’s unsolicited “windfall” of massive violence directed against his opponents and King’s rather more conscious and deliberate utilization of incipient anti-state violence as a means of advancing his own pacifist agenda. History is replete with variations on these two subthemes, but variations do little to alter the crux of the situation: There simply has never been a revolution, or even a substantial social reorganization, brought into being on the basis of the principles of pacifism. In every instance, violence has been an integral requirement of the process of transforming the state.
Pacifist praxis (or, more appropriately, psuedopraxis), if followed to its logical conclusions, leaves its adherents with but two possible outcomes to their line of action:
1. To render themselves perpetually ineffectual (and consequently nonthreatening) in the face of state power, in which case they will likely be largely ignored by the status quo and self-eliminating in terms of revolutionary potential; or,
2. To make themselves a clear and apparent danger to the state, in which case they are subject to physical liquidation by the status quo and are self-eliminating in terms of revolutionary potential.
In either event - mere ineffectuality or suicide - the objective conditions leading to the necessity for social revolution remain unlikely to be altered by purely pacifist strategies. As these conditions typically include war, the induced starvation of whole populations and the like, pacifism and its attendant sacrifice of life cannot even be rightly said to have substantially impacted the level of evident societal violence. The mas suffering that revolution is intended to alleviate will continue as the revolution strangles itself on the altar of “nonviolence”.