I’m sick of these so-called “anti-fas” cowardly fucks on the left who claim they are fighting on behalf of the oppressed while showing up in masks hurting innocent citizens and failing to actually effectively get our message across. They make us look weak and they make it hard to determine who the actual fascists are. They also just look like cowards. This is NOT how real men handle their problems where I come from, so let me show you how this is actually done.
Your issue is with what Milo is saying, right? You believe our side is right, correct? You believe we got the evidence and we are strong enough to handle a debate like grown ups, right?
Ok, well, then I’m calling Milo out.
Milo, I challenge you to a debate. You pick the stage and the time and I’ll be happy to come and debate you on some issues I think are important to our side. Here are some terms I think both sides can agree to.
- This is an intellectual and academic debate, which means intellectual and academic rules hold. No fallacies and both sides get a fact checker of their choosing to check the other side. As a classroom teacher, I banned the basic fallacies including ad hominem and hasty generalization, but I’m willing to talk out a list in advance of possible fallacies we can take off the table as well as other logic rules you might want to hold me to.
- Three topics chosen each, in advance I’m telling you mine are: poverty, education, and veterans issues. I think the questions should be chosen and moderated by an independent body and given to both sides in advance for research purposes in the interest of fairness and because I want this to be a thoughtful and intelligent debate. You are welcome to pick any topics you like. For the purposes of preparation, I’ll be happy to give you the contents of my body of work.
- I want a panel moderation that represents a broad ideological spectrum of hard hitting elders. We can negotiate how that is selected and who will serve on that panel. I suggest three, one selected by each of us, the third selected by the other two panelists.
Email me if you down to handle this like a real man. The rest of these leftists are pretenders. My email is Mrs.Raffin@Protonmail.com
I remember the first rally I was involved in planning quite clearly, though I never talked about it until now. The reason I never talked about it is because I don’t really consider it a big deal and I don’t really think of it as mine. This was a community victory, that I was proud to be part of, and I didn’t feel the need to bring it up until I kept having other leftists tell me who was in my community. You see, according to the left, white people and black people always live apart, never intermarry and apparently never go to school together before college. This was news to me and if you had told me this when I was a child I would have laughed in your face. When I tried to laugh in the left’s face for the same offense, I got called racist and then told to shut up. Because clearly the goal of the left is to end racism by stopping poor whites from suggesting that they live with, love, and feel a part of the black community. That’s obviously a problem worth fighting. Still, I didn’t want to bring these inconvenient facts about my upbringing up because I was trying to keep my mouth shut for the good of the group. But because the left went and got Trump elected and have clearly demonstrated that they have NO IDEA what they are doing, I’ve decided to stop doubting myself and explain to you why I think this whole idea is complete bullshit.
I grew up in a black community. The whole time. I have black family members and neighbors. I love them. And if you try to do anything to them, I will fighting cut you the same way they promised to cut people for me when I was a 15 year old girl and the other white girls at my high school were threatening to jump me and the black girls told them that if they came for me, they’d better come for them too.I have not forgotten who I still owe. And I owe the black community a lot. They have been my home and my shelter even when I was cast out from my actual family. And then I got to college and this curious thing happened and people kept telling me that I hated black people. This was extremely confusing, because my first thought was, “why the fuck would I hate my own people?”
You see, the idea that we are somehow separate was not mine and I know this for a fact because I remember the community I was raised in. I went to high school with the children of actual Black Panthers and the real grassroots folks of Civil Rights. They were vets, factory laborers, and yes, hookers and drug dealers too (if you are judging right now, you have the problem, people need to feed their kids). Though you certainly could not tell who’s parents held what job by their race (that’s right kids, trafficking can happen to anyone even white girls who went to Stanford!). I don’t remember EVER being in the racial majority in school and I don’t remember ever being that upset about it. It never really seemed strange because these were my neighbors and friends. We grew up together. We got in fights. We fell in love. We died beside each other in battlefields. We were married into each others’ families. The very first question everyone asks me when they visit Stanford for the first time is, “why are there so few interracial couples?” And maybe this world isn’t yours. Maybe that’s not in your sociology books or it doesn’t reflect your lived experience. I don’t know, but it is mine, and I’m proud of it and I’m sick of apologizing for it. We did some beautiful things in this world.
When I was 14, I had just been elected class president. In February, it was brought to my attention by my people that our school, despite being majority black, didn’t have a Black History Month Rally. We found that rather egregious, so in addition to the normal basketball homecoming festivities, we decided it was time for our school to represent basic reality. Although I helped plan the basic logistics of that rally, I had very little to do with it day of, and in fact sat in the audience. Instead, I handed the microphone to my good friend who gave what I still consider the best spoken word piece ever written outside the Civil Right’s era and then the black community ushered in their own traditions because it was THEIR show.
I’m not here to change that. Black people have their own histories and struggles and pain, and some of that struggle has been in common. Some of those issues we can fight together on, but no movement for justice in this country can happen without black leadership. I know this, everyone who truly does this work for any period of time knows this. If given power, the first thing I will do is hand over the mic to my black friends, family members, community leaders and activists LIKE I HAVE SINCE I WAS 14.
When they tell you that WE HAVE TO BE separate, know that is their game. Know that it has taken an army of subversive poor white folks who have believed that we can love each other to get me to this point. We don’t have to let the likes of Steve Bannon and Richard Spencer speak for us. First of all, they ain’t working class and secondly, they don’t know our people. And if they so much as look at my community the wrong way, they aren’t going to have to worry about sucker punches. I don’t sucker punch. I bare knuckle box because I was raised right by a community that loved me, and by a community that was majority black. There ain’t nothing those racist pieces of shit can do to me to make me forget that and don’t for a second think they haven’t tried. Know that I also know it has taken an army of subversive black folks who have also believed in love to get me to this point too. They all paid the price for it. And I know who I owe and who I serve.
Let me explain something to you, to all of you on the left. I hate the vast majority of you. I think your ideologies are stupid and that half the time you are acting as the oppressor. Every single leftist connected group and organization has does something actively horrible and oppressive, personally, to me over the last 28 years. But if Trump tries to oppress you, I still consider it my responsibility to try to stop it the best I can, because that’s what a real leader does.
I ain’t Mexican but if Trump comes for Mexican people I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back and let him come for the Mexican people I love, and if you don’t have anyone who fits that demographic that you love, maybe you are the problem.
I ain’t queer but if Trump comes for queer people, I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back and let him come for the queer people that I love and if you don’t feel that way about people you claim to love, maybe you are part of the problem.
I ain’t black but if Trump comes for black people, I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back and let him do that shit on my watch without any opposition. You don’t come for people I love without my fighting like hell for you.
I have people I love in every marginalized group in the leftist coalition and I have since I was a kid and we fucking look out for each other. He comes for one of us, he comes for all of us.
But even if I didn’t have people that I loved in these categories, even if I hadn’t experienced poverty and gender violence and oppression firsthand, I would still fight anyone who would seek to hurt other human beings because that is the right thing to do. It is just the right thing to do. Everything I have ever done in social justice has been for someone else. I did not benefit in any tangible way from starting FLIP. I alienated myself socially, professionally, and personally defending the marginalized. I have a list of actual physical beatings I have taken for other people and injuries I’ve endured defending the defenseless. I did this stuff while I was homeless, while I was sick, while I was myself being tortured and abused. I don’t do any of this shit for me or what I can get out of it and I sure as fuck don’t do it for my mental health. This is service, if you aren’t willing to do it, that’s fine. This isn’t for everyone and I respect that, but if you call yourself a leader then the first thing you need to learn is that it isn’t about you. If your work costs you nothing, I doubt it is as subversive as you think it is.
I don’t stand in solidarity with specific groups or ideologies. I don’t have particularly strong affinities for any of your parties or for the work that most of the left does. I’ve never had a home on the left, and the left has done almost as much to oppress me as the conservatives. I do my work in solidarity with the people and the children. If you can’t handle doing that, it’s not something I would brag about and it certainly isn’t a legitimate policy position for a movement to have.
And before you lecture me about self care, I don’t want to hear it. I’ve been going through a hell that none of you can even imagine over the last month and I have still managed to be strategic and thoughtful in my organizing. Let me tell you about some memories that I’ve been battling over the last month and half since Trump has been elected and you guys have been whining about the mourning you still have to while giving a fascist advanced warning of terrorist acts that you half-assedly planned. I’ll name just three, but there are more. 1) It turns out that my family has tried to kill me on four separate occasions all occurring before the age of 13, two of which happened when I was an infant. 2) When I was 9, I was so violently raped by my father as punishment for resisting his advances that I needed 6 stitches in my vagina. My own mother helped him cover it up. 3) I was trafficked as a child more than once , at least as early as 8.
I’ve been spending the last month and half processing all of that while listening you guys whine and complain and give privilege lectures, and you guys can’t even be bothered to properly plan things so that you don’t screw over the working class with your bullshit. So look, if you don’t want to stand in solidarity with all childhood trafficking victims, and everyone who has gone hungry and anyone who might be the target of state repression, then fine. Now you are corroborating with the oppression of others. And if you are doing that, frankly, I’m not terribly interested in your help or your opinion about anything.
Don’t you think it works to Trump’s interest if we are constantly doing this to each other? They are planning for us to do this and you are playing right into their hands. Divide and conquer is a very old strategy indeed. But you guys aren’t actually interested in doing anything to stop him are you? Because you live in a magical land where the consequences never affect you and where the working class will take all of the bullets for you anyway. You’ve lived there for so long that you can’t even properly plan basic safety tips for a protest during a Republican administration. We don’t need more “leaders” who put their own needs first. We don’t need more “leaders” who expect other people to act as their cannon fodder or pawns. That is not good leadership, that is childish. This is service. You are here to serve. If you are not here to serve then WE DON’T NEED YOU. You are no good to us until you get the ability to make decisions that will put other people’s needs first. Social justice is not a brand. It is not a t-shirt you put on or something you wear when it is convenient. Social justice is about liberating the actual people who aren’t free yet, and if you have the luxury to say, “I won’t be disciplined and thoughtful enough to do what is needed to free the most people that I can” or “I won’t be adult enough to put aside my own feelings for the good of others in the name of liberation” then I don’t know what form of imprisonment you’ve experienced but it was very different from the one I experienced.
When you are hungry, there is no room for error.
When they can and do torture you, there is no room for error.
When the consequence is death, there is no room for error.
When rape is a form of punishment, there is no room for error.
You sure as fuck don’t make mistakes because you are too lazy to plan if it means someone is going to kill you, what is even more monstrous is to make these mistakes on someone else’s behalf when the consequences don’t affect you. Do you know what it is like to be threatened with someone else’s pain and to offer to take the beating instead? I do.
My bottom line is this: all this theoretical bullshit was fine when it was on your college campuses and no one was getting hurt. But if you become a reason that people might get hurt, even if it’s because you are incompetent instead of just straight evil, then you are right that we aren’t in solidarity with each other. Because I consider you part of the problem and you can either get your shit together or else you can find out just how fiercely I fight on behalf of the oppressed.
Here’s something I know about all of you, you hit like a bitch.
In the past decade alone, the deaths of Egyptian Khaled Saeed, Iranian Neda Agha Soltan, and other fatalities caused by repressive governments ignited nation-wide revolutions which were recognized and lauded internationally. A youtube mashup by Andreina Nash of violence against student protests in Venezuela brought international attention and pressure on their government. The massacre of dozens of civilians in Sharpetown by South Africa’s apartheid government crushed their reputation internationally. Same goes for Gandi and the British empire. And today we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. who brought “Bloody Sunday” to the nation’s television sets.
These are all considered examples of “political jiu-jitsu,” when activists use a regime’s repressive actions to damage the regime’s own pillars of support. It is arguably the most powerful weapon available to activists in a nonviolent struggle.
Yet when nearly two million Indonesians were slaughtered within a period of months in 1965, the international community shrugged, domestic reaction was muted, and the authoritarian Muhammad Suharto rose to power and reigned for the next thirty years. Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt best summed up the western world’s reaction to this genocide in commenting that he was pleased since “‘with 500,000 to 1,000,000 [of them] knocked off… it is safe to assume a reorientation has taken place.”
The difference in results lies in whether the activists or the opponent are better able to manage the outrage or backfire resulting from repression. While the majority of readers may find the above quote by the then-Prime Minister abhorrent in its current form, more than a few would be pacified if the brackets were replaced with “terrorist sympathizers.” The Prime Minister was talking about “communist sympathizers.”
Political jiu-jitsu can nonviolently coerce opponents or even ignite the disintegration of the opponent’s regime. When properly crafted, even if the regime chooses not to repress activists, activists will still be able to claim a victory. On the other hand, if the regime successfully defends against political jiu-jitsu, they can violently repress dissidents without fear of consequence. To understand how regimes fight political jiu-jitsu, the core assumptions behind nonviolent struggle must be examined.
WHY DOES POLITICAL JIU-JITSU WORK?
Perhaps the biggest difference between modern pragmatic theories of nonviolence and Gandi’s beliefs involved explaining the success of this jiu-jitsu. Gandi believed that forcing police to violently repress peaceful civilians would throw off the policeman’s “moral balance” (what Richard Gregg called “moral jiu-jitsu”). This process would be mainly psychological. However, later studies of the Dharasana salt raids found that if the policemens’ moral balance was thrown off, their behavior was certainly not effected. Observers noted that many police became angry at the lack of resistance and even more enraged. Professor Gene Sharp (whose book “From Dictatorship to Democracy” was a guide for several 21st century successful nonviolent revolutions) , proposed that the effectiveness of Gandi’s acts were due to political, not psychological, processes. Namely, the backlash from Webb Miller’s graphic reporting on the British government’s political, social, and economic pillars of support.
Political jiu-jitsu aims to make repression “backfire” in that it creates more support for activists. This is best done by leveraging the pre-existing beliefs of a regime’s supporters against the regime itself. For instance, the Ukranian student resistance group “Otpor” crafted dilemma demonstrations by identifying regime policies that conflict with widely held beliefs and then forcing the government to choose between doing nothing or applying sanctions that violate those beliefs. If the action goes forward without repression, it accomplishes something worthwhile related to the issue. If the regime represses these actions in a way supporters find intolerable, the regimes pillars of support are eroded and the activists gain even more attention.
If, instead, the action can be ignored or tolerated (such as an antiwar rally on Hiroshima day in Japan) or if the repression does not generate popular concern (such as arresting a protester who punches a policeman), there is no dilemma for the regime. In these cases, the regime will always have the option of avoiding political jiu-jitsu.
HOW REGIMES MANAGE OUTRAGE
Violent suppression does not guarantee political jiu-jitsu will occur. This will only happen if two conditions are met. First, individuals with influence over the regime’s pillars of support must believe the repression is unjust, unfair, wrong, or inappropriate (a receptive audience). Secondly, information about repression must be accurately conveyed to those individuals (a secure communication channel). An empirical study of violent repression against nonviolent protests from 1989-2012 found that regardless of severity of repression, the biggest predictor for the success of political jiu-jitsu was pre-existing campaign or communication infrastructure. For instance, what if Gandi had failed make sure reporters like Miller would cover the march? What if Miller’s newspaper was only read by a handful of British citizens, none of whom could include the relevant pillars of support? This was not the first time police had beaten innocent civilians. It was the first time that these acts were conveyed through a secure communication channel to a receptive audience.
Regimes can prevent backfire by ensuring one of the two above conditions are violated. Brian Martin outlined five such methods: cover ups, devaluing the target, reinterpreting what happened, using official channels to give the appearance of justice, and intimidating or rewarding people involved. Cover-ups involve restricting media access, censoring the media, and discrediting any sources. Devaluing innocent Indonesian women and children as “communist sympathizers” allowed the Australian Prime Minister to condone Indonesian atrocities without so much as an angry letter to the editor. Americans in Guantanamo Bay tortured “terrorists” and “criminals” not “men and women imprisoned without due process.” The fairness of repression can be reinterpreted by lying, minimizing, reframing, and blaming. When first asked about the Santa Cruz massacre in East Timor, the Indonesian government claimed that the protesters were carrying weapons (they weren’t), that only 19 people died (271 people were murdered), and that the protesters instigated violence (they didn’t). The American government claimed it did not engage in torture since waterboarding and stress positions leave no lasting (observable) injury. And even if the American government tortures a few arabs, it is just because the alternative is letting a “ticking bomb” detonate on American soil.
One of the more insidious means for regimes to manage outrage is the use of official channels to give an appearance of justice. Ombudsmen, courts, commissions of inquiry, panels of experts, grievance procedures, and any other formal process for dealing with problems can be exploited to reduce public outrage by creating the perception that the problem is being dealt with. Due to the slow and technical nature of these channels, people’s outrage dies down as time passes. Reports are issued, low level lackeys are sacrificed, charges are dropped as public attention dwindles. When questioned about massacres, the Indonesian government claimed they were investigating the issue of “rogue soldiers” killing civilians. Many committee hearings and investigations occurred into Abu Ghraib, but only a few privates were convicted while the preponderance of evidence showed the abuses were systemic.
Notice how each of these five techniques effect either the secureness/accuracy of a communication channel or the receptivity of the audience. Cover ups prevent either condition from being fulfilled. Devaluing targets lowers the receptivity of the audience by lowering the resulting disgust or outrage. What is unjust about mistreating an inhuman target? Believing the victims were violent or aggressive makes violent repression appear to be a more reasonable (less unfair) reaction. It can even be considered “just” to kill peaceful protesters as long as the audience believes these protesters were a serious threat. Similarly, a sense of unfairness about the repression can be dampened with the appearance of sanction through official channels.
If activists have no control over communication channels, the regime can flood the audience with propaganda aimed at lowering their receptivity or discrediting the very existence of the repression. While the internet has provided an invaluable opening for communication, regimes have equal if not superior access to that channel. If every major newspaper and blogger claims violent repression did not happen, even photographic evidence of the act may not convince the relevant audience. In the future, however, the greatest challenges to the truth will not come from an unified “cover story” but from multiple disinformation narratives that create debates over what should be basic factual information. The recent controversy over “fake news” is a good example of this. What if an activist’s website gets labeled “fake news?” What if a trusted source is secretly turned by the regime and comes out against the activists? What if everyone has a different explanation for what happened because the opponent has purposefully created multiple, contradicting narratives?
COUNTERING REGIME “OUTRAGE MANAGEMENT”
Each regime outrage management technique can be countered. Most immediately, the regime’s cover up will fail if activists can expose the actions with video, photographs, eyewitness accounts, and other forms of evidence. In 1991, Indonesia endured yet another massacre, this time two hundred and fifty civilians. The government informed the international community that it was a “misunderstanding” due to protester-instigated violence. Same as they had for decades.
However, these civilians were part of a funeral procession covered by journalists like Amy Goodman and videographers like Max Stahl. The footage was broadcast across television networks inciting international outrage that lead the US Congress to cut off Indonesia’s military aid. However, had this occurred a decade earlier, Suharto’s iron control over media access would have prevented the story from coming out. The cover up would be complete.
Once repression is exposed, activists must be sure to validate the victim. The regime depends on dehumanization to lower the outrage of the public at a perceived injustice. As noted above, simply referring to civilians as “communist sympathizers” allowed the leader of a western nation to condone borderline genocide without raising an eyebrow. However, what if activists had been able to put names and faces on these “communist sympathizers?” At the very least, the Prime Minister’s reaction to the massacres would not have been so flippant.
If the repression cannot be covered up and the victim’s humanity has been acknowledged, the regime must invalidate the injustice itself. The perception of injustice depends on the perception of the government having a disproportionate reaction to the activists. So, the opponent and activist’s struggle is over how the audience perceives the event. The regime’s lying, minimizing, reframing, and blaming must be actively countered. This is why pre-existing procedures and institutions for communicating activist viewpoints was the best predictor for success in political jiu-jitsu.
Only a deep knowledge of the relevant political institutions will protect activists from being entangled in meaningless official channels to give the appearance of justice. The difference between “congressional hearing” and “independent inquiry” could be the difference between a scapegoated bureaucrat and an overthrown dictator. In many cases, no good official channel exists and nonviolent struggle is the only option. Psychological preparations must be made for resisting regime intimidation or bribes.
Successful political jiu-jitsu is not a simple matter of activists encountering repression. Even genocide, carefully reframed, can be stomached by the masses. Every photograph of Martin Luther King Jr. marching depicts the tip of an iceberg: below it are months of planning and the careful crafting of dilemna demonstrations. This means forcing the government to choose between allowing activists to accomplish a protest-related goal or increasing activist support through repression.
If the regime completely dominates the receptive audience’s information channels (ex. news media, AM radio, internet, etc), it can cover-up violent repression, devalue the victims, reinterpret events as not being an injustice, dampening outrage with the appearance of justice, and even bribe or threaten witnesses and sources into recanting. In response, activists must collect the evidence needed to counter official regime statements that the mainstream news media may parrot as truth. They must actively humanize victims that the regime seeks to dehumanize as unworthy of outrage. Careful analysis by relevant experts must be undertaken before allowing regimes to resort to official channels. The longer the regime can drag out an event, the more activists must fight to mobilize people to maintain outrage. Political jiu-jitsu is not a result; it is a process. And when successful, it can crush the world’s most dangerous and most powerful tyrants.
Editorial Addendum 9/8/2017: When I first asked my husband to write this post, he thought he didn’t think it would be necessary. Since this post was written, the need for it has only grown.
guest post by Ross Raffin
In order to lead a successful movement, it is not sufficient to simply state “I don’t believe in violence.” Activists must be able to explain to their most extreme colleagues why nonviolence will succeed where violence will fail. And make no mistake, violence will fail.
But will nonviolence succeed?
SUCCESSES IN NONVIOLENT STRUGGLE
In just the past twenty years, repressive, violent dictatorships were overthrown by nonviolent conflict in the Philippines (1986), Czechoslovakia (1989), Bulgaria (1989), Mongolia (1990), Latvia (1991), Thailand (1992), East Germany (1993), Serbia (2000), Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004), Lebanon (2005), Nepal (2006), Tunisia (2010), Egypt (2011), and Ukraine again (2013). The Global Nonviolent Action Database has recorded nearly 70 successful, nonviolent regime changes in the past 100 years. The same techniques used by Martin Luther King Jr., Gandi, and Harvey Milk lead to the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic (killed major political opponents), Victor Yanukovych (imprisoned one opposition candidate and poisoned another), and Ben Ali (top world contender for freedom of press violations in 2000).
As is evident from above, sympathetic state leaders are not necessary for success. Initial approval from the masses is not necessary either. Under Milosevic, many citizens feared that protests would lead to worse conditions. Because they did not believe they were capable of resisting the state, they tried to stop a nascent group of young Serbians called “Otpor.”
This is a commonly ignored part of nonviolent struggle: empowering the masses to resist on their own terms. Otpor’s strategic use of nonviolence chipped away at the myth of Milosevic’s omnipotence and showed the people how they could resist tyranny. By the time they launched the final round of protests, hundreds of thousands of Serbians participated. However, had they acted violently they would never have attained participation from the masses. This makes more sense when considering the motivation behind violence by the state against activists.
VIOLENT REVOLUTION IS INHERENTLY FLAWED
The goal of government repression is to silence and discredit current and potential activists in order to maintain their power. This means state violence not only aims to inhibit activists, it also aims to PROVOKE activists into behaviors which can be used to inhibit their recruitment of potential activists. This is the entire reason for “agent provocateurs.” It is ironic that some activists, then, are preaching the violent doctrine that the repressive state most desires.
Those who see benefits in revolutionary violence do not understand its natural consequences. Violent revolutions depend on secrecy and concentration of power within a core of people with access to weapons and the perceived authority to direct violence. After this new government of killers takes control, the people will remain unempowered against this violent core unless they wish to engage in their own counter-violent revolution.
On its most basic level, violence simply isn’t as effective. A study of conflicts between states and non-state actors found that between 1990 and 2006 violent revolution succeeded only 26% of the time. Nonviolent resistance succeeded 53% of the time. Controlling for level of repression does not change the trend.
The proponents of violent activism also tend to have a tenuous grasp of history. For instance, the American revolution would have been crushed by England’s naval superiority and economic blockades without France’s navy on their side. During the Chinese Revolution, the Nationalists were fighting an invasion by Japan while looting and raping the countryside. Even then, the result was a concentration of power at the expense of the masses. This out-of-touch clique was single-handedly responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of the very people they claimed to represent. The French revolution resulted in the Reign of Terror and Napoleon. The Haitian Revolution was against a distant colonial government; they fought mostly well-armed slave owners who were outnumbered 10:1. France eventually sent in an extra 6,000 soldiers, but Spain invaded mid-way through the revolution and fought alongside Toussaint Louverture. At both stages of the revolution, the rebels firepower matched their opponents.
Considering the on-the-ground experience of most activists, it is entirely understandable that they have bought into the myth of violent revolution. The difference between their experiences and the above campaigns, however, are rooted in differences in how they view a dictator’s power in relation to his subjects.
GOALS OF NONVIOLENT STRUGGLE
A campaign of nonviolent struggle aims to produce certain behaviors from opponents (for instance, congress passing a Civil Rights bill or a dictator fleeing the country). These behaviors come about from one of four end results:
1. Conversion – The opponent accepts the views of activists due to rational argumentation or emotional appeals. For a variety of reasons, this is unlikely to work, namely that conversion of the opponent doesn’t happen without changing their worldview and core beliefs. Among hundreds of recorded cases of nonviolent struggle, only a handful of conversions of opponents have ever achieved anything of value.
2. Accommodation – Opponents do not change their beliefs but give in to activist’s demands because it is calculated to be in the opponent’s best interest. Continual nonviolent conflict creates a spectrum of problems for opponents (internal dissent, hurt profits, hurt reputation, etc) which may not be worth the trouble of fighting.
3. Nonviolent coercion – Widespread noncooperation and other methods paralyzes the opponents ability to stop activists from achieving their goals. A dictator faced with a civilian protest may call for his army to open fire, only to find that they refuse to shoot their own people. A trucking company with unethical practices might find itself economically crippled by mass strikes and cross-industry union support.
4. Disintegration – The destruction of the opponent’s entire system to the point where no organization remains even to accept defeat. While this may make sense when dealing with dictatorships and even managed democracies, there has yet to be a good case for disintegrating a constitutional democracy. Any constitutional amendment imaginable can result from conversion, accommodation, and nonviolent coercion.
These four goals can each be achieved through the same set of nonviolent methods. But to understand why these methods lead to the above goals, it is necessary to talk about the relationship between a dictator and his subjects.
WHY NONVIOLENCE WORKS
A dictator’s ability to suppress dissent depends on maintaining the following myth: “Rulers hold and exercise power, using it to coerce others. The dictator will suppress any who challenge him, and his overwhelming firepower guarantee victory. “
The truth is that no leader, including the most brutal dictator, can rule without the consent of their subjects. That obedience is what gives the dictator power, so power is sapped from a dictator by convincing people to withdraw that consent. The dictator can respond by calling for the army to gun down these activists… except the army happens to be full of “people” as well. The dictator can buy mercenaries… except no tax revenue is coming in because the people refuse to pay, workers are on strike, and bureaucrats refuse to help process existing returns.
Nonviolent struggle, then, aims to sap or sever the sources of the dictator’s power as well as increase the power of the grievance group (those directly effected by the dictator’s oppression) until one of the above four goals is achieved.
THE ORIGIN OF POLITICAL POWER
Power comes from six main sources. Authority or perceived legitimacy leads people to accept the right of a person or group to lead and be obeyed voluntarily. Even with authority, the ruler cannot turn his desires into a reality without human resources (specialists, labor force, bureaucrats), some of whom must possess the necessary skills and knowledge to keep the country’s infrastructure, equipment, and economy running smoothly. Psychological and ideological factors like habit, feelings of moral obligation, self-interest, cultural attitudes towards obedience and submission, presence of a common faith ideology, and other intangible measures contribute to a ruler’s power. The degree to which the ruler controls a country’s material resources (property, natural resources, financial resources, communication and transportation, etc.) also impacts his power. Perhaps the most important resource available to a dictator is is sanctions, the enforcement of obedience. Sanctions can be violent (stopping a protest with deadly force) or nonviolent (seizure of property for those who do not obey).
In order to increase these sources of power, the dictator must rely on a set of institutions and people such as the army, police, business community, religious leaders, working class laborers, and other pillars of support. If the opponent is a business, pillars of support might be their consumers, their suppliers, regulatory agencies, and legislators. Withdrawal of support from enough pillars will diminish the opponent’s power until they must accept the activist’s demands or risk disintegration.
The purpose of nonviolent methods is to withdraw the consent of an opponent’s pillars of support, weakening the opponent’s relative power until they agree to the activist’s terms. This is not done by alienating or trying to destroy pillars of support. Instead, this is done by eroding the loyalty of those institutions until they withdraw their support from the opponent. This is how Slobodan Milosevic, a genocidal maniac who killed anyone who challenged him, was overthrown nonviolently by a student group call “Otpor.”
HOW TO ERODE A DICTATOR’S POWER
When activists are properly disciplined and trained, then any ensuing state repression will drastically erode a dictator’s pillars of support. While Gene Sharp listed nearly 200 different nonviolent methods to erode the opponent’s pillars of support and increase relative power, he grouped these into three overarching categories.
1. Nonviolent Protest and Persuasion – This is what most people think of when they hear “nonviolent activism:” Public speeches, rallies, marches, petitions, symbolic displays, street theater, walk outs, and teach-ins. These are intended to send messages to the opponent as well as shape the perceptions of people the opponent depends on. In democracies, this usually means shaping the perceptions of the voting public.
At the same time, this method aims to empower the grievance group (those most directly oppressed the opponent) to join activists in their efforts. Unfortunately, modern activists have focused almost exclusively on this category. As Gandi learned when fighting for human rights in Africa, the opponent group (oppressors and their core supporters) rarely undergoes conversion. However, if the opponent has vulnerable pillars of support (in the case of the British government, their businesses and the popular support), then protest and persuasion can decrease the opponent’s relative power by eroding the loyalty of those pillars.
2. Noncooperation – This involves people withdrawing consent by choosing not to participate in certain public actions. The most common manifestations are strikes, boycotts, withdrawal of bank deposits, refusal to acknowledge government institutions, nonobedience in absence of supervision, even simple bureacratic footdragging. This is a safer option when struggling against the most repressive dictatorships. Eroding one pillar of support can indirectly erode others. If noncooperation erodes a dictator’s ability to gain tax revenue, he cannot pay his military. The military pillar of support then depends entirely on loyalty to the dictator which depends on the pillar related to perceived legitimacy.
3. Nonviolent Intervention – these methods actively disrupt the normal operations of policies or systems psychologically, physically, socially, economically, or politically. This involves sit-ins, fasts, nonviolent obstruction, guerilla theater, alternative social institutions, overloading facilities and administrative systems, among other active measures. However, they are also the riskiest for whoever is participating.
The risk involved for any given nonviolent method depends on the country’s responses to actions outside their particular range of normal political action. In a constitutional democracy writing letters to politicians, voting, and public campaigning constitute normal political action and will not be repressed. As long as it is not considered a serious “public disturbance” or sense of challenge to authority, many democracies will even permit nonviolent methods technically deemed illegal (majority of 2003 Iraq war protests without permits or in violation of municipal laws.) Those same actions in a ruthless dictatorship could lead to extra-judicial executions.
While no one should seek out high risk situations, violent repression can drastically increase the ACTIVIST’S power. But this only happens if they can manage how they are perceived by constituents of the relevant pillars of support. A single rock thrown through a window can turn a perceived “peaceful march” into an “anarchic riot.” Opponents, especially those with influence over the media, will use any excuse possible to prove that the activists are so dangerous that violent repression is justified. Appealing to the public’s perception is especially important in democracies where the politicians must justify their repression to potential voters. The same applies if a business’ consumers are the average citizen as well as if the business’ suppliers primarily depend on average citizens as a consumer base. For more repressive regimes, perception by the entire country’s populace may less important than the perception of those in charge of economic and military pillars of support. If activists can maintain nonviolence, they have access to one of the most powerful weapons in their arsenal: political jui-jitsu (covered in the next article).
Whether by conversion, accommodation, nonviolent coercion, or disintegration, nonviolent struggle has accomplished incredible things over the centuries. But this will be impossible if all activists not only practice nonviolence but understand why nonviolence is superior. It isn’t a matter of morality of religion; it’s a matter of history, strategy, and power.
Next week, we’ll look at the most powerful weapon in an activist’s arsenal: political jiu-jitsu.
There are a lot of skill gaps among folks on the left that need to be addressed if we are going to deal with the problems we now face as a result of the fact that the Democratic party can’t get its shit together. Therefore, I am reluctantly coming out of retirement to start addressing those issues since no one else has stepped up to do it and everyone is running around still acting like delusional morons and pretending we didn’t just get our asses handed to us electorally. Instead of spending the last month and a half grieving this loss and coping with the fact that my holiday season involved the unlocking of memories that included my family trying to kill me, I’ve been busy trying to organize and think through the best way to do this. I kept coming back to the fact that we’ve failed to communicate to people in a language they understand. Since text, and especially academic text, is accessible to only a small portion of the population we are now adding a video series on organizing in the age of Trump. Fans of my actual writing will still see long form essays. We are also looking to expand voices that aren’t normally heard by the left. I’m especially interested in giving space to working class writers who can’t get published elsewhere. If that sounds like you, please email Mrs.Raffin at protonmail.com.
Wake up and get to work.
For more videos check out the You Gon Learn channel.
I’ve been in the community organizing and activism game for a long time. I was an activist in junior high, which is when I got a teacher fired for being both incompetent and bigoted by circulating and organizing a petition. I’ve been doing that work ever since. In high school, myself and other community leaders ended the racial violence that permeated our poor, but diverse campus. I helped bring the first Black History Month rally to our campus. I also intervened to get access to advanced classes for my friends, among many other fun stories I’ll save for another time.
When I got to college, I wanted to study and not be involved. But unfortunately, as one of only 12 percent of the Stanford campus that was poor and one of the 3 percent that was both poor and white, I sort of realized quickly that I didn’t have a whole lot of choice in the matter. Among my many acts on campus, I was instrumental in creating the first group for poor and first generation college students at an elite institution. I also forced Stanford to adopt class as part of their Acts of Intolerance protocol and participated in creating and advocating for training for staff members who were dealing with poor and traumatized students. One of my last acts was to speak at a rally against Arizona’s “show me your papers law” as a working class person who implored others to fight alongside my immigrant neighbors and to fight racial injustice. As a teacher, my curriculum included the teaching of every single movement in the 60s and my signature unit was on the Black Freedom Struggle where I featured the Black Panthers. I also closed the achievement gap between my nonwhite and white students and poor and rich students in my first semester of classroom teaching. So now that I’ve stated my credentials, I hope you can hear what I am about to say to you. Race is a profoundly salient and destructive construct, whose systematic oppression has brought hell on earth for far too many. I will fight it, always. I would happily die for the cause of fighting it.
But if you think that my talking about class or my talking about being poor and white is somehow taking away from that fight or demonstrates that I think class is more important, you are being an unhelpful dick and I have to question your motives.
Do you know how many universities in this country even have researchers studying class as a category of analysis? I do. And it’s very fucking few. There is very little research that has been done and this is partially why I am not in a doctoral program. I was rejected from several schools because I studied class, even though my work also involves the study of race.
Here’s how little we understand about class in this country: several of you require that I regularly provide evidence that I grew up poor. All the time. Everyday. Every fucking day for ten years, I have had to prove that poverty was a problem for me to self proclaimed socialists and Marxists.
Only one editor on the entire Stanford campus would accept my writing on class and I’m married to him. When I got to Stanford they wouldn’t even use the word “low income” because of the “stigma” involved. It took four years just to get them to do that. I hate interacting with most of the people who claim to be my ally because say things like, “those people are poor because they don’t work hard enough.” I spent four years just fighting to be able to say the truth, and most of my opposition came from people who claim to be helping the oppressed.
And I get this. There are limited resources and people of color have suffered a lot and it feels like and has historically been the case that we’ve pitted these two against each other. I understand why that concerns people. I understand why people assumed things and silenced me. That fear is real.
But… I also think we are ALL adults who can do things differently and talk about both at the same time. And I also think that dividing us up, such that we don’t work together is exactly what the oppressors want. We can support each other at the same time. I can ride hard for people of color and also get justice for the poor. I can even do it with my white passing skin.
How do I know?
I’ve been doing it my whole life.
Because I’ve never lived anywhere where I was in the racial majority and my family is mixed and I’m also mixed. And this is true for literally every poor white person I know, including the bikers. And we don’t let people we love be oppressed without at least trying to do something about it. We see it as a communal struggle, regardless of how we personally identify.
I am not asking to take anything anyway from anyone. I am simply asking, rather nicely, for a fucking seat at the table. Need me to do something to fight racial injustice? I will happily show up anytime. So if you could stop misrepresenting my position that would be great.
I’ll never forget the last night of the monologue show I put together my senior year while three of my relatives died due to substandard healthcare. We called it Wealth of Words and it was a series of monologues where people simply spoke about what it was like to be poor at Stanford. During the Q&A, a very prominent activist for the Asian American community asked me if we “were engaging in class warfare?”
It’s funny how they only call it class warfare when it’s the poor fighting the rich, isn’t it?
You want to tell people to check their privilege? Then check yours first. Y’all have been talking a big game about socialist uprisings, now is the time to see if you mean it. Because here’s what I know, the people that will be paying for the left’s failures to stop Trump are mine. The college kids at Yale are protected and sheltered. It’s my people who will pay the cost of this in their blood. I have played nice up until now, but if it’s the difference between hurting your feelings or having all of you hate me and preventing the deaths of my own folks, you might as well start hating me now. This is the last time I’ll be asking.
Let’s play a fun game. I’m going to post two images and you try to guess which members of the political spectrum posted them.
Some context, I was on Facebook yesterday and both of these images appeared in my feed at roughly the same time. Both people in question are life-long educators. Both of them represent one side of the political spectrum on a very consistent basis.
Here’s image 1
Here’s Image 2
Let’s deconstruct the images a bit before we make any guesses. That’ll make the game easier. The first one is saying that coal miners, in their insistence on having jobs, are dumb because coal is outdated and no longer relevant and these stupid idiots want to keep their jobs. Of course, none of that considers a few things
- We still use coal
- No one is a coal miner because it is fun
- These people d0n’t have alternative jobs or the education to get new jobs.
Now, my guess is that the person who posted this is a perfectly nice person. I’ve known them to be a good person, and my guess is that they didn’t know these statements or didn’t think about the implications of what they were saying. Also, they must never have met any coal miners. But I’m here to let you in on a secret, people with power and privilege don’t decide to be coal miners. And the people who are still living in West Virginia in coal mining areas, didn’t move there for the summers. They moved there because mining has always been one of those shit jobs we pretend no one has to do. It’s dangerous, brutal and poorly paid. The people still living in these areas don’t have access to education or anywhere to go. It’s damn hard and costs a lot of money to just move, especially when there is no guarantee of a job when you move.
I could go on and on about how hard this life is, but I’ll let you experience it through music. When you are done crying, you can move on
Anyway, the point is that the people who post this meme clearly know very little about coal miners, about the life they are living and about their struggle.
Now let’s talk about image 2. Image two suggests that there are morals and values that come from poverty. Image 2 puts the elites to task for their immoral behavior. It assigns agency to the poor and is a subversive critique of the rich.
Wanna guess which person posted 1 and which one posted 2?
Did you guess it was my Trump supporter, white male, old former teacher who posted the pro-poor message? Did you guess that it was a Hispanic educator with a PhD in education and a female who posted the first image about what IDIOTS the coal miners are?
Ok, because that’s what actually happened. Yes, that’s right folks, I woke up to classism yesterday from the left and support from the right.
Still confused as to why people don’t vote for the left? I’m gonna give you some time to get there yourself.
But what I will say is that is wasn’t always like this. There’s a reason the old rust belt was blue until recently. I’m a lifelong Democrat from a family of lifelong Democrats. We used to offer solutions to these people. We used to say, “hey, we are going to help you find better jobs than coal mining” or “we are going to give education and training to find a new job.” We used to honor their struggle and their work. We used to talk about how we were going to help them and how noble that struggle was, and its the same struggle that makes it possible for us to post memes to Facebook. This country still runs on coal.
This country is still built on the backs of poor coal miners, and poor fieldworkers, and poor service workers. The poor is so fucking racially diverse and we all have histories of exploitation. WITHIN LIVING MEMORY, my family was a group of sharecroppers. My great grandmother was repeatedly raped by her boss, had her children taken from her by the state, one was sold, and two of her sisters sterilized. My great grandmother isn’t some distant relation, I knew her in my childhood. My great grandfather was a poor half-Indian sharecropper who stole passage on trains at the age of 15, lied about his age so he could join the army and serve in three foreign wars. He did it because he was starving. And I knew this man, he had a big influence on me. He was alive until my senior year of college.
This is the problem with the kind of identity politics we’ve been playing. It let’s people off the hook for what they believe. It allows us to say, “oh, hey, my background says I’m not responsible for this, because I’m so woke and I’ve experienced oppression.” So let, let you in on a secret we need to get in on now. WE ARE ALL FUCKING RESPONSIBLE FOR OPPRESSION.
Good. Are we done whining now about how it’s not our fault? Glad we could all be adults about that.
If you think you are woke because you read Angela Davis and because your people have historically been oppressed, then maybe you are. But let me tell you something, if you think its ok to mock the poor for their lot in life, then you aren’t as woke as you thought.
So now, can we stop with the self-righteous diatribes about how superior we are to the Trump supporters? We need to start doing the real work of analyzing our own bullshit and changing our tactics and attitude.
And everyday we waste not doing that, is another day that someone else is going to be oppressed.
You want to stop Trump? Give these people a viable alternative.