Pacifism has failed.

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eumaas
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Re: Pacifism has failed.

Post by eumaas » 13 Aug 2017, 12:48pm

"The only thing that really occurs to me that I can say on this is to point out how fascinating it is that the Hassan-i-Sabbah archetype keeps turning up over and over again ... He disappears up into the mountains and is never seen again. Believe me, he'll never be seen again. He'll live forever because of that."

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Re: Pacifism has failed.

Post by Dr. Medulla » 13 Aug 2017, 3:18pm

Don’t worry, Gene, I didn’t think you or anyone else was seeking to single out me or anyone else. I simply felt obliged to assert another option besides a lust for an escalation of violence.

I have no problem whatsoever with self-defence groups. They are, in fact, an entirely sensible strategy that builds unity and confidence, and can help expose neo-Nazis for the cowardly rats they are. It can also serve as an organizational model for alternate policing. A lot of the community work of the Black Panthers, for example, was quite praiseworthy.

And I agree that a bloodletting is likely inevitable, but it’s not something that should be greeted with glee. Killing another human being should never be seen as virtuous, and that’s one of the things I’m pushing against—that people deserve to die, even if their views and actions are vile. (For those who think the horseshoe theory has no validity whatsoever, guess where the virtue of ideologically rooted murder sits?) The question I have for those who see virtue in killing racists is: Are you prepared to do it? Are you prepared to take a life and live with the consequences, even if you don't go to jail? Or are you just content to let someone else do it so you can revel in their actions? I’m serious here. One thing that has long struck me when reading about Weatherman is that, with the exception of some early bombing plans, the members couldn’t follow thru and kill. Members weren’t able to shoot and kill another human being face to face. And they were committed radicals who in so many other ways sacrificed much in their lives for the cause. But for all their romanticization of violence and rhetoric of armed insurrection, on a gut level they grasped the difficulty of killing another human being. When one person kills another, that is a failure. We can sometimes contextualize it sufficiently to see it as a necessity, but there is nothing good about the chain of events that culminated in a killing, whether it’s a fascist killing a leftist or a leftist killing a fascist, or crimes of passion, etc etc.

Personally, I find the obsession with what centrists are saying isn’t all that productive. Among other things, it’s a convenient excuse not to be more self-critical. Especially when so much of the carping about centrists so often strikes me as attacking caricatures (and, by the same token, centrists attack caricatures of leftists, so isn’t that a wonderful, mutually supportive relationship?). As I’ve said over and over, I want my side, however disconnected I feel from them, to be better, to be smarter, to offer a positive alternative, not to be cynical and smug and lazy. For example, how willing are we to criticize (constructively, I hope) Antifa activists? I read one account the other day that some were threatening journalists in Charlottesville and threw shit at them. Don’t know whether it’s true, but can that be acknowledged as a plausible occurrence and how should we regard it? Criticizing liberals or even Nazis is, frankly, low-hanging fruit, especially when there isn’t a whole lot of nuance to it or appreciation of liberalism as an ideology. Criticizing (again, constructively) our own beliefs and aims is a way of staying humble and sharp, of offering smarter critiques of others, of just plain being better.
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Re: Pacifism has failed.

Post by Flex » 13 Aug 2017, 3:20pm

I think the debate on whether pacifism works with actual fascists is an interesting one. I'm not opposed to committed pacifism, but that definitionally also has to include ardent anti-capitalism and opposition to state violence in all its forms (something most of the comfortable liberals forget or marginalize about MLK). Seeing centrists embracing trump's "bothe sidesism" (even if they claim to oppose his particular statement) rings hollow when, in the next breath, they play up the virtue of the police and the state. I also have a hard time telling someone it's wrong to defend their comrades against nazis on the attack.

I've gone back and forth over the years on this issue. Ultimately, my answer is somewhat meaningless since it's 99% academic. I am neither a substantially serious target of fascist violence nor am I really manning the barricades at counter-protests.

Addendum: written before seeing Doc's latest reply.
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Re: Pacifism has failed.

Post by Flex » 13 Aug 2017, 3:32pm

yeah, if evidence is provided that an antifa group was threatening reporters then I would feel comfortable saying that's not a thing they/we should be doing.
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Re: Pacifism has failed.

Post by Dr. Medulla » 13 Aug 2017, 3:48pm

Flex wrote:
13 Aug 2017, 3:20pm
Ultimately, my answer is somewhat meaningless since it's 99% academic. I am neither a substantially serious target of fascist violence nor am I really manning the barricades at counter-protests.
That's something that really does need to be recognized in all this (I have the further strike against me, at least in the present context, of not being American). The integrity of the people out in the street is beyond admirable. I'm reluctant to downplay it all as academic, tho, and, I hope, not just for self-serving reasons. Discourse does play a role, however indirect and meandering it might be (as others have stated, Marx changed the world sitting on his carbuncled ass in the British National Library). I have a perhaps naive faith that my side benefits from critical appraisal of the world, and encouraging people in our lives to be more critical will result in more turning to the left. That's one of things that keeps me going.
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Re: Pacifism has failed.

Post by BostonBeaneater » 13 Aug 2017, 7:47pm




These guys are huge wimps. Bringing out the bats will do a lot to chase them back into their basements.
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Re: Pacifism has failed.

Post by Inder » 13 Aug 2017, 8:36pm

Dr. Medulla wrote:
13 Aug 2017, 11:13am
I think I’m the only confirmed pacifist here and even tho I know there ain’t whole lot of sympathy for that position these days, I’ll offer up a counter on the chance that anyone wants to have a meaningful discussion.
Note: I don't want to enter a debate, but just want to add some quick observations.

The framework you've set out here seems to rely on performance and persuasion — that by enduring the violence enacted upon them and committing to inaction, the oppressed and marginalized demonstrate its emptiness to its perpetrators and impress outside groups with their conviction. Putting aside the rather offensive notion that the persecuted are required to submit and appeal to those very structural forces that perpetuate injustice, I find it troubling how this position subordinates beliefs, ideals and goals (racism is bad and must be resisted, for instance) to the acceptance of abuse and humiliation. It requires the re-victimization of the already victimized.

As you've described it, the success of pacifism also requires martyrs or people risking their lives, etc. What happens in instances where this fails to inspire change? For that matter, what exactly occurs during the supposedly transformative stage between submission to violence and meaningful social/political/etc reform? There are already plenty of martyrs to the cause of justice, and I wouldn't be keen on adding to that count.

Also, questions like 'Do we look at those who risked their lives to register voters in the South as a bunch of morons for not bringing guns and shooting racists?' don't seem particularly productive. It's possible to regard these people with admiration and be at peace with beating the shit out of racist aggressors. Completely divorcing context and contingency from political action and ethics — a commitment to non-violence whether you're dealing with shoe salesmen, lady Mormons, Nazi thugs, florists or Islamists — doesn't strike me as useful or effective.

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Re: Pacifism has failed.

Post by Dr. Medulla » 13 Aug 2017, 8:52pm

You raise some valuable critiques, Inder, a couple that I agree problematizes a non-violent approach (and if I gave the impression that pacifism is easy or obvious, that's my error). But given that you don't want to debate this, I won't elaborate. But your comments are definitely worthy of consideration by everyone.
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Re: Pacifism has failed.

Post by Flex » 13 Aug 2017, 9:26pm

Inder best me to a point I was going to make, and made it probably more accurately. For the sake of the public record, I was going to say the thing a out pacifism as a tactic of persuasion is it seems to rely on participants all being basically saints. The larger issue is probably described by Inder well, but there's also a practical standpoint: how realistic is it to be able to command this kind of approach amongst an entire movement over the... decades? Centuries?... that the struggle persists. Especially in the 21st century where the microscope is on even marginal participants in a movement, and any movement is comprised of any number of micro-factions. The fracturing of culture with the rise of the internet didn't just change music and tv tastes, ending monoliths, I suspect it had the same impact on organizing and political participation.

Related to the issue, I've just started reading this page on how antifa unsuccessfully and then successfully confronted Nazis in Dresden in the 90s and 2000s. I need to read the whole thing, but it's fascinating: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-Naz ... in_Dresden
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Re: Pacifism has failed.

Post by Dr. Medulla » 14 Aug 2017, 7:50am

Flex wrote:
13 Aug 2017, 9:26pm
The larger issue is probably described by Inder well, but there's also a practical standpoint: how realistic is it to be able to command this kind of approach amongst an entire movement over the... decades? Centuries?... that the struggle persists. Especially in the 21st century where the microscope is on even marginal participants in a movement, and any movement is comprised of any number of micro-factions. The fracturing of culture with the rise of the internet didn't just change music and tv tastes, ending monoliths, I suspect it had the same impact on organizing and political participation.
The timeframe question is just as problematic when considering an armed struggle—how does any oppositional movement maintain group integrity and faith in the cause?

But you raise a significant point about fracturing and the internet. A fine book from a few years back by Daniel T. Rodgers, The Age of Fracture, argues that the dominant them of American life since the early 70s has been splintering and a loss of ideological cohesion, all across the spectrum. We are less likely to identify with big ideas and commonalities than more narrow self-interests. The Internet certainly amplified that impulse and so, despite being an impressive communication tool, it may actually be a hindrance to mass action. And it's a huge reason why I lean pessimistic about the future. As I've argued before, the left made a tactical error decades ago in emphasizing personal liberation over mass identity, celebrating our differences than our commonalities. Which isn't to say that the gains the left made were useless or illusory—the achievements to make society more inclusive to various peoples traditionally marginalized has been marvellous—but promoting difference does run counter to mass action and the accompanying assumption of personal sacrifice to the larger group. (Indeed, none of those aspects threaten capitalism, which benefits from social fragmentation.) I don't know much about modern fascist and white nationalist groups, but they do promote well an identity and ideology of commonality. If they have done a better job at creating psychological and ideological conditions for mass action, especially via the Internet, they're in a much better position going forward.

edit: Coincidentally, The Tyee posted a piece this morning about Richard Rorty that says a lot of what I tried to get across (in no small part because Rorty's book has had a significant impact on my reconsiderations). https://thetyee.ca/Culture/2017/08/14/W ... ft-Failed/
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Re: Pacifism has failed.

Post by JennyB » 14 Aug 2017, 9:34am

I am probably one of the more "centrist" people here - I don't consider myself a centrist, but my support of the right of Israel to exist has made me feel unwelcome in more lefty circles of which I used to be a part. Let me also add that nobody here has ever made me feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. And I'm not trying to #notallliberals this conversation, either. Just want to express my personal feelings. There are only two elements at fault for this weekend - the Nazis and Trump. Not the DSA, not BLM, not IWW. Nazis and Trump. And they want us all dead. There is only one good side in this fight. Most people with my political leanings feel the same way, at least those I know. So hopefully that provides some insight into what I and others are thinking. Any liberals or centrists that feel otherwise can fuck right off.
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Re: Pacifism has failed.

Post by Flex » 14 Aug 2017, 10:42am

Dr. Medulla wrote:
14 Aug 2017, 7:50am
The timeframe question is just as problematic when considering an armed struggle—how does any oppositional movement maintain group integrity and faith in the cause?
Well, I think it just means there's some logic to accepting a diversity of tactics, no?
But you raise a significant point about fracturing and the internet. A fine book from a few years back by Daniel T. Rodgers, The Age of Fracture, argues that the dominant them of American life since the early 70s has been splintering and a loss of ideological cohesion, all across the spectrum. We are less likely to identify with big ideas and commonalities than more narrow self-interests. The Internet certainly amplified that impulse and so, despite being an impressive communication tool, it may actually be a hindrance to mass action. And it's a huge reason why I lean pessimistic about the future. As I've argued before, the left made a tactical error decades ago in emphasizing personal liberation over mass identity, celebrating our differences than our commonalities. Which isn't to say that the gains the left made were useless or illusory—the achievements to make society more inclusive to various peoples traditionally marginalized has been marvellous—but promoting difference does run counter to mass action and the accompanying assumption of personal sacrifice to the larger group. (Indeed, none of those aspects threaten capitalism, which benefits from social fragmentation.) I don't know much about modern fascist and white nationalist groups, but they do promote well an identity and ideology of commonality. If they have done a better job at creating psychological and ideological conditions for mass action, especially via the Internet, they're in a much better position going forward.

edit: Coincidentally, The Tyee posted a piece this morning about Richard Rorty that says a lot of what I tried to get across (in no small part because Rorty's book has had a significant impact on my reconsiderations). https://thetyee.ca/Culture/2017/08/14/W ... ft-Failed/
It's interesting because I think of antifa's historical predecessors as being turn of the century union organizing. Lot of the same tactics, even the same goals (hell, the person killed was an IWW member and the people counter-protesting in VA were IWW/DSA/etc. Very much the kind of folks who would agree with a lot of this critique.
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Re: Pacifism has failed.

Post by Flex » 14 Aug 2017, 10:42am

JennyB wrote:
14 Aug 2017, 9:34am
I am probably one of the more "centrist" people here - I don't consider myself a centrist, but my support of the right of Israel to exist has made me feel unwelcome in more lefty circles of which I used to be a part. Let me also add that nobody here has ever made me feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. And I'm not trying to #notallliberals this conversation, either. Just want to express my personal feelings. There are only two elements at fault for this weekend - the Nazis and Trump. Not the DSA, not BLM, not IWW. Nazis and Trump. And they want us all dead. There is only one good side in this fight. Most people with my political leanings feel the same way, at least those I know. So hopefully that provides some insight into what I and others are thinking. Any liberals or centrists that feel otherwise can fuck right off.
Exactly right.
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Re: Pacifism has failed.

Post by Dr. Medulla » 14 Aug 2017, 11:10am

Flex wrote:
14 Aug 2017, 10:42am
Dr. Medulla wrote:
14 Aug 2017, 7:50am
The timeframe question is just as problematic when considering an armed struggle—how does any oppositional movement maintain group integrity and faith in the cause?
Well, I think it just means there's some logic to accepting a diversity of tactics, no?
I agree because whatever my preferences/emphases, I realize a need for flexibility and self-criticism (meaning openness to reconsideration based on new evidence or contexts), especially when such a minority position.
It's interesting because I think of antifa's historical predecessors as being turn of the century union organizing. Lot of the same tactics, even the same goals (hell, the person killed was an IWW member and the people counter-protesting in VA were IWW/DSA/etc. Very much the kind of folks who would agree with a lot of this critique.
Right, and I should have made the distinction clear between the people on the streets, who obviously understand the importance of commonality, sacrifice, and mass action, versus those who are primarily involved in discourse and more formal politics. Indeed, that is and should be one of the key distinctions between the left and liberalism. Liberals have done fairly well in adopting cultural left positions, in no small part because it doesn't compromise their disdain for mass actions and it offers a distinction to rightist positions on culture and identity, so pursuing mass politics is a distinct space for the left.
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Re: Pacifism has failed.

Post by Dr. Medulla » 16 Aug 2017, 3:22pm



Oh my goodness, this is precious and delicious. It's a white nationalist sobbing like a girl whose daddy won't buy her a new iPhone about unfair treatment. We just want to torment and terrorize women, minorities, immigrants, liberals, and leftists!
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