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Craig Rosebraugh speaks on the 'Legitimacy of Political Violence'

a too-short account of an excellent evening. check back for AUDIO to be uploaded soon. (article 1)
Craig Rosebraugh speaks on the 'Legitimacy of Political Violence'
Craig Rosebraugh speaks on the 'Legitimacy of Political Violence'
Craig Rosebraugh speaks on the 'Legitimacy of Political Violence'
Craig Rosebraugh speaks on the 'Legitimacy of Political Violence'
Craig Rosebraugh speaks on the 'Legitimacy of Political Violence'
Craig Rosebraugh speaks on the 'Legitimacy of Political Violence'
Craig Rosebraugh delivered a lecture to an overflow crowd at the Laughing Horse Bookstore tonight. Folks were packed in as tight as sardines, and spilled out onto the sidewalk, but listened in rapt silence as Craig shared his thoughts and research from the work he has recently done on his Master's thesis. A sense of occasion unmistakably permeated the room, and Craig did not disappoint. I missed the first part of his three part lecture because I couldn't get in, but I managed to squeak in for parts two and three. Way in the back, I took notes as furiously as I could, but was unable to keep up with his quick pace, so I don't have much to share at this time. Fortunately the audio from the full lecture was captured and will be uploaded to the internet sometime in the next day or two. As soon as it is, a link will be posted here to portland indymedia, so check back for it.

Craig is a good public speaker. There was not a single "um" in the entire evening that I heard. You could tell he's been writing on these subjects a lot because of the many nice, tight phrases that he used. I had my eyes opened to some history I didn't know, and some concepts I'd considered, but not heard out loud (at least not so eloquently). He made no call for "violent revolution" and I don't know if that disappointed the cop in the room. (There was at least one, of course.) He shared the facts he'd found, and some insights he'd arrived at, but made no specific prescription for action. Nonetheless, the radical perspective he brought was refreshing in these peacenik-ridden times, when a call goes out for 100 peacekeepers but not one cop-watcher. (See Ward Churchill's "Pacifism as Pathology" for more on this topic.)

One thing he mentioned that made me think was the idea that non-violence will only work against an opponent who has "a healthy working conscience, decency and compassion" and can thus realize the error of their ways. Not all opponents will have this, and Craig named Hitler as an example of someone in the irredeemable category. The political violence that was used by the Allied Powers to stop his evil has never been questioned. Is Bush in that category? Is Capitalism? These are questions to consider.

From that same time period, Craig also cited the Jews who, on their way to the gas chambers, attacked their guards in an attempt to save their own lives. This was a situation where people turned to violent tactics because their own lives were threatened and they felt they had no other option. Are we at a point where the imminent destruction of the environment is leaving us with no other options but violence? Again, this is a question to consider. Craig offered no answer to either of these questions, and neither does this reporter, but I believe they are important to consider. The violence/non-violence discussion that keeps cropping up often spirals into speculative "what-ifs" without considering these, and other, important historical examples.

(BTW, Craig also quoted MLK and Gandhi speaking about the importance of self-defense, and the possible practicality of violence in the process of social change; it's interesting how the peaceniks ignore certains parts of the histories of these two icons when they don't come into focus with their fear-induced myopia.)

I, and other people, were left with a lot to think about. Craig brought the violence debate into new territory and raised some very challenging concepts. He didn't pretend to know the answers, but he certainly wasn't afraid of the questions, and that was great to see.

The three images accompanying this article are the notes Craig posted for people to reference as he spoke. They're kinda big, I know, but I wanted people to be able to read them.

[ Original event annoucement (worth a re-read) ]

revolution or violence: you can't have both 11.Jan.2003 05:39

strategy vs stupidity

> He made no call for "violent revolution" and I
> don't know if that disappointed the cop in the room.

It probably disappointed the activists.

That's the big problem. The vast majority of us *do*
want revolution. The present regime is totally fucked
up and we need revolutionary change. The question is
how.

Do you want reform, the result of the 1960s movements
in the US, France and elsewhere turning violent?

Or do you want revolution? As in the Philippines,
Czekoslovakia, Poland, Indonesia during the 1980s and
1990s? These happened thanks to massive civil
disobedience, not violence.

There are some ideas emerging for how non-violent
revolution might work in the United States of the
first decade of the 21st century. But *noone* has yet
come up with anything approaching a serious vision of
a *violent* revolution. It just won't work. It doesn't
mean that violence can never have any role, but better
think very, very carefully before you risk sabotaging
the civil disobedience revolution which is already
underway.

Please read the debate between Churchill and Lakey:
don't think you're the first person to question
non-violent action as a tactic. The topic *is* open
for discussion, but please first get to know *what*
other people have already thought through and
experienced - there's no point going around and around
in circles.

 http://www.trainingforchange.org/reports/2001/sword-that-heals.html

A few key quotes:

> A huge majority of those who engage in nonviolent
> action in the U.S. are not pacifists. Dr. King knew
> very well that most African Americans who risked
> their lives in his campaigns were not believers in
> pacifism; they used nonviolent action situationally.
...

> Mixing "nonviolent action" and "pacifism" with
> "nonviolent revolution" muddies the waters even
> more. The "Manifesto for Nonviolent Revolution", (3)
> the most widely-adopted statement of this position,
> is much more radical than most users of nonviolent
> action or most pacifists are willing to go. ... More
> radical than the Marxist-Leninists by far, the
> "Manifesto" seeks to learn from the failures of the
> Left to point to fresh and creative approaches in
> the future.
...

> Activists frequently discover the weakness of
> violence through our own experience. I remember
> during a training for the United Mine Workers Union
> talking with a leader who was recalling his days as
> a teenager in the coal mines. "I have to tell you
> that I prefer the good old days when a strike meant
> that we could also tear things up, beat up scabs,
> shoot at company trucks -- you know, we had a lot of
> guns and knew how to use them. But," he sighed,
> "that stuff doesn't work any more. Go ahead, teach
> us nonviolent struggle!"
...

A Manifesto for Nonviolent Revolution:
> This document was created out of an international,
> collective process and published in a number of
> languages. George Lakey, "A Manifesto for Nonviolent
> Revolution" (Philadelphia: Movement for a New
> Society, 1976), reprinted in Richard Falk, Samuel
> S. Kim, Saul H. Menddlovitz (eds.), "Toward a Just
> World Order" (Boulder, Co.; Westview Press, 1982)
> pp. 638-652).


There's a whole lot of other stuff in the ZNet section
"Violence and non-violence":

 http://www.zmag.org/stratvision.htm

Read it.


intended audience of nonviolent action 11.Jan.2003 06:45

anon

If the intended audience of nonviolent action is the larger public, not authorities, then it doesn't matter if the authorities don't have "a healthy working conscience, decency and compassion", only that members of the public do.

wrong 11.Jan.2003 10:31

?

the intended "audience" isn't the only consideration. even if you have a sympathetic "audience," it doesn't mean shit as long as those in power have no conscience or intention to act lawfully. that's always relevant.

ZMAG - CIA-funded defanged activism 11.Jan.2003 14:33

GRINGO STARS gringo_stars@attbi.com

Pacifica, Zmag, FAIR, etc - all funded by CIA proprietaries. Hence, of course they are against violent activism, anarchy, socialism and communism - all these things will be considered "out of the question."

Know your media. The "left" that is so well-funded by Ford, Soros, etc is a distraction - a limiting of political dialog so that the ruling elite will never be threatened with real change.

"The problem of democracy ... lay deeper, beyond the Constitution, in the division of society into rich and poor. For if some people had great wealth and great influence; if they had the land, the money, the newspapers, the church, the educational system -- how could voting, however broad, cut into such power? There was still another problem: wasn't it the nature of representative government, even when most broadly based, to be conservative, to prevent tumultuous change?"
-- Howard Zinn, "A People's History of The United States"
chapter 5: "A Kind of Revolution"
(pg. 96, Perrenial paperback edition)

corrections 11.Jan.2003 17:26

get it right

"On-the-spot reporter" was apparently too busy gushing with teenage-girlish enthusiasm to consider the veracity of some of his/her remarks. I'm assuming that these are paraphrased versions of some of Rosebraugh's less-informed statements:

"Nonetheless, the radical perspective he brought was refreshing in these peacenik-ridden times, when a call goes out for 100 peacekeepers but not one cop-watcher."

This is a stupid hyperbole-driven statement designed to portray non-violent activists as fascists. Members of the National Lawyers Guild usually attend the large rallies, marches, and protests as legal observers. They're the folks with neon green baseball caps, notebooks, and camcorders. One of their primary intents involves observing police behavior and recording potential abuses that the police commit. Therefore, there's no _need_ to put out a call for "cop-watchers" because they're already supposed to be there.

"Not all opponents will have this, and Craig named Hitler as an example of someone in the irredeemable category. The political violence that was used by the Allied Powers to stop his evil has never been questioned."

Bullshit! There were tens of thousands of conscientious objectors to WWII, people who refused to kill other human beings because of religious and ethical reasons. Here's a link:
 http://www.pbs.org/itvs/thegoodwar/ww2pacifists.html

Subsequent generations have grown up reading textbooks which force-fed us the view that the war was absolutely necessary, and that's why few people question it _now_. If the Allies hadn't imposed such brutal economic violence against Germany following WWI (and if people like Preston Bush, George W's grandfather, hadn't bankrolled Hitler), then the whole fiasco might have been avoided. There are plenty of questions to ask about the Allies' political violence.

Reply to 'get it right 11.Jan.2003 22:56

on the spot reporter

You said:

"This is a stupid hyperbole-driven statement designed to portray non-violent activists as fascists. Members of the National Lawyers Guild usually attend the large rallies, marches, and protests as legal observers."

The statement was not designed to portray non-violent activists as "fascists" but as myopic (a concept I refer to later in the same essay. That the NLG is at some events (but not enough) does not mean that no one else needs to be doing copwatching. The NLG doesn't have the resources to adequately cover all the situations that need copwatching. I say this as a big fan of the NLG, btw.

No, what the peaceniks need to do besides call for "peacekeepers" is call for more copwatchers too. I am assuming (and I hope I'm not being to generous here) that the peacekeepers for the 18th will be trained at least partially to deal with defusing conflicts between marchers and non-participants (especially those in cars, who are pissed that their route is blocked by an expression of free speech in a public venue) since those situations can turn ugly fast. That's an important role. Also, people to march along and be ready to deal with other situations in which people might need help (medical emergency, lost children, etc.) is a great idea. But, teaching people in the peace movement that cops are *not* our friends, as an institution, and must be watched like hawks is very, very important. Cops often (though not always) will behave themselves better when witnesses with knowledge of rights and the law are nearby to remind them.

Also, there will be times when participants will need to be rallied to pressure the police to do the right thing, as was needed on November 17. ( See  http://portland.indymedia.org/n17 ) The idea that anyone who is pulled out of a crowd by the police "had it coming" is central to the myopia to which I refer. What we need on Jan. 18 is more people watching cops, and some of them trained to help coordinate a rapid response when (not if) necessary. That is my complaint about the call for peacekeepers.

As a sidenote, at the Oct. 5 protest ( See  http://portland.indymedia.org/o5 ), I stood in front of an SUV that wanted to plow down the street where the marchers were. There was a permit, so the driver had no right to be there. I would've blocked him even if there wasn't a permit, because it just wasn't safe, and impatient people like that need to learn that the world is not going to be open to them all the time, and that they can't just bully their way into getting what they selfishly want. With the help of a couple friends, I held him off for twenty minutes until a police officer came along, asked what was going on, and -- after berating me -- offered to take care of the situation. She made the truck back down and go another way. Did any of the peacekeepers at this march help with this situation? No. Perhaps none even passed by during that time, but a little later I was blocking a car again that was trying to turn into a line of people, and was berated by a peacekeeper for doing so. My explanation did not go far with her, and she told me to keep moving. That situation, and her attitude were, in a word, bullshit. The idea of more of this crap is not appealing to me.

--

I wrote: "The political violence that was used by the Allied Powers to stop his evil has never been questioned."

You responded: "Bullshit! There were tens of thousands of conscientious objectors to WWII". True enough, and they were true heros for doing so! But within liberal educated circles, the same ones with the pathology of pacifism, rarely question the violence of the Allies against the Germans. Commonly, the Holocaust is cited as a justification for the mass killing of German civilians. I won't argue that point at all, but to believe that is to be inconsistent with the pleas for non-violence in all other cases since then. By the same token, would it have been justified to nuke the Russians because of the millions (at least 20 million, by most accounts) that Stalin killed? Or the Chinese because of the tolls taken by the Cultural Revolution and other atrocities? I believe most pacifists are grateful that those choices were never made. This is to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of indigenous people killed by the U.S. government and military, or the enslavement and brutal mistreatment of an untold number of Africans, brought here to be slaves. Should U.S. citizens have been bombed and slaughtered to stop those heinous acts? Again, I will not take a stand on any of these examples within this reply, but I feel that it's worth it to note the inconsistency within mainline pacifist circles about the use of violence when talking about WWII.

To their credit, many people point to Dresden, the firebombing of Tokyo, and the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki as being over-the-top. I completely agree that these were unspeakably evil acts, tantamount to Hitler's slaughters for their sheer brutality and racism. But were these just times when the Allies went too far and the rest of the killing was acceptable. I am a bit troubled by this, the more I think about it, I admit.

--

You also say: "If the Allies hadn't imposed such brutal economic violence against Germany following WWI (and if people like Preston Bush, George W's grandfather, hadn't bankrolled Hitler), then the whole fiasco might have been avoided."

That's good to point that out, especially the Bush complicity, which is still far too unknown. But it does not address the contemporary pacifist acceptance of the killing that occured during WWII.

--

You end with: "There are plenty of questions to ask about the Allies' political violence." I absolutely agree. And I'd like to hear the adherents to non-violence address some of those questions. I believe that was the point Craig was making.

easy homework 12.Jan.2003 08:42

eddy

Okay, anyone except the anti-TV curmudgeons and those with an attention span so rotted by MTV can do this:

Rent Gandhi and "X."

Both are about great individuals who moved masses.

Though both died by the sword, I challenge anyone to say that Gandhi (subsequently MLK Jr.) had a lasting impact on inequality.

Malcolm X has some great photo ops with a carbine, but I challenge someone to show me that anything came of his vision except some hats and t-shirts about ten years ago when folks were getting the green, black and red in.

Easy? homework 12.Jan.2003 12:31

Tom

Easy Homework? Rent Gandhi and Malcom X--

You won't find it easy to do this homework, because it is not really clear whether history makes great men (and women) or the reverse. But society has arguably become less tolerant of brutality-- while at the same time becoming more brutal.

From the prophet Isaiah to Jesus to Martin Luther to Gandhi-- leaving out dozens-- one can trace progress in human thought and a refinement of human sensibility, even if human nature doesn't really change.

Politics is about promoting sensibilities and beliefs--which can be done-- not about trying to change human nature -- which can't. So obviously it is hard work, and most people won't want to do it.

But great leaders have succeeded. And the greatest and most lasting have done it non-violently. Not to be confused with *passively*.

Great nonviolent leaders? 12.Jan.2003 12:56

Jeff

Tom wrote,


"But great leaders have succeeded. And the greatest and most lasting have done it non-violently. Not to be confused with *passively*."

This is interesting Tom. Surely this is what Hollywood and absolutist nonviolence followers believe and preach but realistically what "great" and "lasting" leaders have done it nonviolently? And please don't spout the rhetorical and misleading examples of Gandhi and King.

Surely there is an importance difference between nonviolence and pacifism but still neither has been able to, on its own, create a revolutionary outcome in times of political and social change. No matter how "nice" and "morally justifiable" these tactics may appear to be, their usefulness is limited to occasional reformist gains.

Intensify the stuggle 12.Jan.2003 13:44

Green Hornet

Criag's teach-in was the real deal goods. Thanks CR for kickin' the ballistics and sayin' the shit that neeeds to be said. I'd love to see the discussion move away from 'whether' to use political violence to 'when' to use it. Keep spitin' the real story of social and political strife 'cuz whats passed off as dissent in amerika is bullshit. So now we know... and knowing is HALF the battle.

Reply to Jeff 12.Jan.2003 17:40

Tom

When a weak force confronts an overwhelming force, the outcome is certain destruction for the weaker force if it tries to provoke violence or rebel violently. Read Sun Tsu-- 2500 years old, but nothing has really changed. There may be a place for violence, but it is not in the present American situation-- the Government would just love the excuse to kill a bunch of hotheads.

In fact, the stronger force tries to incite violent activity in the weaker force to justify a violent reprisal. The US government feeds on violence-- the only force that can stop it is non-violent resistance.

I'm not sure why you so quickly dismiss Gandhi. There were problems (and he was never able to get the Muslims to go along with him), but the English left, and there was never wholesale bloodshed-- certainly nothing, like say, the Congo.

The gains of the Civil Rights movement in our country are by no means complete, but now it is at least politically incorrect to be racist in public. And that is a big difference from 1948. What was gained, was gained non-violently. The losses were often the result of violent breakdowns-- many of them caused by FBI provocation to justify violent reprisal.

The Russian Revolution might have succeeded if Trotsky hadn't been killed by Stalin.

Examples; Vietnam War - Gandhi 13.Jan.2003 23:49

GRINGO STARS gringo_stars@attbi.com

Vietnam resisted the puppet government of S. Vietnam/USA violently. They lost many battles but won the war. They had moral high ground and convinced US (working-class) grunts to questioned what they were dying for (promotions for middle-class officers). The soldiers revolted - USA lost tens of thousands of lives, all soldiers - Vietnamese lost 2 to 3 million lives - alomost all civilians. But Vietnam won. They were out-gunned and out-resourced by the Americans, but it was their morale and high moral ground that led them to victory:

 http://www.isreview.org/pdfs/09/soldiers_revolt.pdf

Hollywood fed us "Gandhi" for a reason. Indian revolt against British rule was anything but nonviolent. Gandhi's tactical ideas, moreover, had serious limitations as a guide to struggle. Movements that began under Gandhi's sponsorship often ended in premature retreats or escalated into physical confrontations. And the final ouster of the British in 1947 can't be counted as a victory for Gandhi's methods, since India's independence came as the movement was shoving Gandhi and his nonviolent philosophy to the political margins:

 http://www.isreview.org/issues/14/Gandhi.shtml