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The Power of Nonviolence in History

civil disobedience Nazi Germany the power of nonviolence Denmark Norway

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#61
Shalilace

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I find nonviolence to be an appeal to a higher power. Whether its an international community or the current ruler. They rely heavily on the fact that the power is willing to see their way. If the power isn't willing, then it either falls to violence or goes to dissolution. Revolutionaries on the other hand are in direct conflict with that higher power. They do not seek to appeal, they seek to impose their own power over that which is above them. And you can't do it without violence, since violence has always been the tool to compel our opponent to fulfil our will, because what will that power have to fear but their violence, the very tool in which power is supposed to monopolize on?

 

DISCLAIMER I edited in some better wording, this was written in a sprint and doesn't represent a completed or particularly articulate argument. Rather, it represents a process of thought and reasoning that I'm currently crystallizing alongside other posts I've made and things I haven't posted on the forum into a more cohesive argument.

 

Absolutely. All politics rely on violence and domination of some form. All modern politics are power dynamics at play. Every ideology furthers its aims through exercising violence. They all rely on an outlet to enact violence upon.

Fascism relies on inhumanely marginalizing a minority for power.

 

Capitalism relies on violently suppressing the poor. (Edit: Rather, capitalism relies on commodifying of everything even humans themselves in order to create value. Which is an extremely violent and dehumanizing process that runs counter to the human spirit. I might say that capitalism serves something that isn't even human, it dominates in order to serve a concept.) The most forward thinking progressive still derive their wealth from the ongoing economic enslavement of the Global South.

 

Monarchism violently suppresses everyone but the monarchs and their nobles for the gain of said nobles.

 

Decentralization doesn't solve power politics either. (This is a recent realization) The Rwandan Genocide was no less a crime against humanity because it was carried out in a decentralized way.

 

Communism has never been achieved, but if it were, I believe it would be an evolution of human politics that eliminates power politics entirely. A lack of domination seems inherent to a classless, moneyless and stateless society.

 

This is where anarchism comes in. Modern anarchism also plays the game of power dynamics. The difference is that good anarchists enact their violence exclusively on people who themselves use violence to gain power. Cops, politicians, CEOs and monarchs are all examples of people in this category, they all gain their position through the direct and or indirect domination of others. In essence, anarchism seeks to abolish power entirely, for to be powerful is not to be free, just more comfortable in ones enslavement. True freedom implies that a person has as many options for interacting with the world as physically possible. Power is derived from oppressing others for one's own gain. But by doing that, the powerful eliminate the creative influence and potential of those they oppress from the world. In turn, they sacrifice the innovative capacity of a whole civilization in exchange for a short term, relatively minute increase in their own ability to be creative.

 

A medieval scientist can do more when the peasants cooperate and bring him supplies, but could never achieve the same measure of discovery as he would if all the peasants were themselves scientists he could collaborate with. By liberating them from their work in the fields and treating them as equals, he gains true freedom predicated on the fact that his creative capacity--his freedom--is inherently intertwined with theirs. Freedom is not a definite end state. One cannot every be truly "free," they can only be in the process of becoming more or less free. Freedom is an infinitely expanding process whose limit is truly defined by the laws of physics, not human culture. At least in a very physical sense, it remains to be seen if humans can socioculturally evolve enough to take advantage of this truth. I believe we can, it is my mission to show everyone that they are ultimately more free when the people around them are themselves free. Furthermore, by hurting others a person hurts themselves.

 

A capitalist can build a rocket ship to mars on the backs of their workers in a few decades. But a civilization liberated people all willingly and passionately working towards space colonization could probably have colonies on or in orbit of every major celestial body within the solar system in the same period of time. As an example, Elon Musk is working with a minute fraction of human capability, he's completely missing the big picture. In the same way that a feudal scientist can't compete with a capitalist scientist due to the resource, labour and intellectual constraints inherent to feudalism. A capitalist scientist can't approach the material and creative capabilities of a communist one. A communist scientist would have 7+ billion scientists, artists, spiritual leaders and otherwise actualized people mutually contributing to his project in some form whether that be directly through research and labour or indirectly through enriching his life by saturating society with art and good vibes. The capitalist scientist is limited by a small group of scientists who he dominates into control who themselves are backed by an army of disgruntled slaves.

 

Returning back to anarchism here. Anarchism is the only ideology that seeks to confront the nature of power dynamics. Instead of relying on more domination to achieve its ideological aims, anarchism seeks to completely redefine society so as to eliminate domination. However, there is an understanding that this is a process, not a state. In this sense there are justifiable hierarchies, like the parent child relationship. Without some level of domination children cannot fend for themselves. It's important to not overdominate either as in the case of child abuse. And what an anarchist defines as child abuse is going to be much farther reaching than where modern society would normally define the concept. Anarchism digs deep into the core of what it means to be human. It recognizes that much of human interaction is domination of one person over another. Some anarchists would say all human interaction is domination, although, I don't go that far personally.

Finally anarchism itself is a process. It makes no claims to understand how a society free of domination would exactly manifest. Instead, anarchism seeks to push the boundaries of what liberation and freedom even mean by combating power predicated on domination and empowering everyone through mutual consent. For to empower means to consensually give another the ability to act. To dominate means to forcefully take the ability to act, in turn harming oneself. And when society adopts changes laid forth by anti-authoritarianism--anarchism again feels out the boundaries of definition and pushes them beyond the veil of the modern day.

 

No other ideology that I know of takes a fundamentally different approach to human politics like anarchism does. Democracy is simply majoritarian domination. Dictatorship is the domination of one over all. Fascism is ethno-nationalistic domination. Capitalism is the domination of the strong over the weak as all affluent private property can be historically traced to violent seizure. Anarchism though, is the domination of the dominator. 

Nonviolence is one of the most progressive forms of human activity in relation to another person. I am absolutely convinced of this, and all historical contexts, especially of the 20th century, prove this. I recently wrote a research essay on the topic of nonviolence and its historical examples. The service https://edubirdie.co...editing-service helped me a lot in finding the necessary literature and sources on the topic. Many historians and thinkers have officially proven that a non-violent way of solving a problem is the most effective in human history.

 

I'm open to other possibilities. Are their any ideologues that break the dynamic of power politics, that don't rely on violence at all? Well, partially answering my own question here. Absolute pacifism breaks the power dynamic by refusing to dominate at all, but there's no moral high ground from the grave, so that doesn't work in this period of history. Absolute pacifism only works if everyone else are absolute pacifists. Again though, if you or anyone on the forum knows of other ideologies that approach power dynamics differently, please speak up. I'd love to know :)

Some anarchist mantras:

  • Your Freedom is my Freedom.
  • Anarchism is order; government is civil war.
  • If Nature is Unjust, Change Nature!
  • Abolish Power!
  • Every Anarchist Should be a Scientist.

 

I absolutely agree with you. very deep thoughts that respond within me.


#62
PhoenixRu

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Absolute pacifism breaks the power dynamic by refusing to dominate at all, but there's no moral high ground from the grave, so that doesn't work in this period of history. Absolute pacifism only works if everyone else are absolute pacifists.

 

This, too, sounds a bit as the whole thread summary, don't you think so?

 

The main difference between anarchism and "classical" communism is not in their visions of desirable future. Karl Marx would completely agree with your "completely redefining society to eliminate domination" in advanced communist society. What he would not agree with (or would consider it harmful naivety) is the dream of doing it in a peaceful and evolutionary way, step-by-step and within already established class society. Thus, the social revolution and the political power of revolutionaries are necessary (but insufficient) preconditions to EVEN START this transition. And revolutions are rarely non-violent.

 

I don't know if Marx was right about the revolutionary transition to communism (at least, as it turned out, it is more difficult than he thought in 19th century). But, nevertheless, he was right about dreamers-utopists: there is no any smooth and comfortable road from modern capitalism to classless and stateless utopia.



#63
Erowind

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Absolute pacifism breaks the power dynamic by refusing to dominate at all, but there's no moral high ground from the grave, so that doesn't work in this period of history. Absolute pacifism only works if everyone else are absolute pacifists.

 

This, too, sounds a bit as the whole thread summary, don't you think so?

 

The main difference between anarchism and "classical" communism is not in their visions of desirable future. Karl Marx would completely agree with your "completely redefining society to eliminate domination" in advanced communist society. What he would not agree with (or would consider it harmful naivety) is the dream of doing it in a peaceful and evolutionary way, step-by-step and within already established class society. Thus, the social revolution and the political power of revolutionaries are necessary (but insufficient) preconditions to EVEN START this transition. And revolutions are rarely non-violent.

 

I don't know if Marx was right about the revolutionary transition to communism (at least, as it turned out, it is more difficult than he thought in 19th century). But, nevertheless, he was right about dreamers-utopists: there is no any smooth and comfortable road from modern capitalism to classless and stateless utopia.

 

 

I agree wholly. That's a long old post of mine from over two years ago. I don't make illusions about revolution being peaceful today. It's not impossible, as with the example of Salvador Allende's Chile, but in most cases unreachable. I find it hard to imagine the ruling class of America giving up their control without it being taken from them. I'm in a Lenin reading group right now believe it or not. We're on Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism. I can't make any definitive statements as of yet but the parallels between the early 1900s and now are striking. One thin on my mind is that I think Lenin underestimated how much room capitalism had to grow around the world before reaching a point of unsustainable saturation. Though this point was not reached in Lenin's time it may be reached in our own. Capitalism's ecological clock is ticking. 

 

Not all anarchists are pacifists, most of them including myself would support the people's militia. 



#64
Erowind

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I absolutely agree with you. very deep thoughts that respond within me.

 

 

Reading that post again triggered very strong flashbacks of the person I was at the time. I am mostly that same person now, but it was striking to hear my own words hit me and remind me again of where I have come from. I'm glad you found resonance in them, thankyou for your words.  



#65
PhoenixRu

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I'm in a Lenin reading group right now believe it or not. We're on Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism. I can't make any definitive statements as of yet but the parallels between the early 1900s and now are striking. One thin on my mind is that I think Lenin underestimated how much room capitalism had to grow around the world before reaching a point of unsustainable saturation.

 

It seems it was a common mistake of those days. The line of reasoning was this: for growth, the capitalist core needs a constant inflow of resources from the periphery (colonies and semi-colonies). But as soon as the entire periphery was already divided between rival great powers (no more room to expand), the whole system has reached the limits of growth and the further development was expected to become a zero-sum game with great powers attacking each other to redistribute the same constant amount of resources among themselves. And the world war of 1914, as it seemed, confirmed this theory...

 

And btw, about mistakes. Now, post-factum, we know that Lenin was wrong about limits of capitalism as well as about his expectation of a world revolution. But in his time all this was far from obvious and COULD really happen. The key event, IMHO, could become the successful (in our world failed) German socialist revolution of 1918 which could, in turn, trigger the whole chain of European revolutions sometime in 1920s-1930s. And then, the future historians of this alternate world would say Lenin was completely right.



#66
PhoenixRu

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^ ^ ^ (part 2)

 

There is the book describing this alternate world:

 

Lenin lives! Reimagining the Russian Revolution 1917-2017

 

Unfortunately, there isn't too much of that "reimagining". Author makes the typical mistake briefly explaining the failure of socialist revolution with Russia's general backwardness and isolation (OK, maybe) and taking for granted that in the West (Germany, France, or England) everything would be completely different: revolutions are brief and almost bloodless, and transition to socialism would surely happen "the right way", without these purely Russian deviations...

 

That's worse than just naive. The experience of the first socialist revolution is clearly worth studying. Not to pay tribute to the dead heroes (they no longer need it), but to understand the real reasons for their mistakes and failures, to not repeat them the next time.



#67
Yuli Ban

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It wasn't even the first socialist revolution

The first one just failed completely precisely because they didn't take the same measures the Russians did.


And remember my friend, future events such as these will affect you in the future.


#68
Zeitgeist123

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As a citizen of a country who happened to have a nonviolent revolution, i seriously do not believe that nonviolent revolution is effective. We have had it in the 1980s but there was no real change instead it simply installed another face. the people behind the face are still the same people fucking the country. 


“Philosophy is a pretty toy if one indulges in it with moderation at the right time of life. But if one pursues it further than one should, it is absolute ruin." - Callicles to Socrates


#69
caltrek

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As a citizen of a country who happened to have a nonviolent revolution, i seriously do not believe that nonviolent revolution is effective. We have had it in the 1980s but there was no real change instead it simply installed another face. the people behind the face are still the same people fucking the country. 

 

But for the last sentence, I think the same thing can be said of the Russian revolution.  Power is power, and changing personnel through violent means does not change the underlying relations of power. Labels may change - "Party Chairman" versus "Czar" ; "government" versus "private enterprise" etc. But that is about it. Citizens are still expected to blindly obey, and workers stay oppressed.

 

I would argue that when significant change really does occur, it is because of a change in consciousness.  Not every nonviolent revolution reflects such a change, certainly not every violent revolution.  

 

Hannah Arendt made the interesting point that "revolution" derives from the word "revolve".   In her view, revolutions most often involve a revolving back to some condition that at one time existed. I would make the extension that such one time condition was probably achieved through largely peaceful means involving consciousness and new expectations regarding consciousness. Under such circumstances, there is always a possibility of reactionary forces seeking to take back power that has been granted to or won by the people. It is the resistance to that taking back of power that often ends up being what people call a "revolution".  

 

Even in the American Revolution, the colonies had at one time achieved a remarkable degree of autonomy from British rule. It was only when the king sought to re-establish centralized control from Great Britain that a revolution occurred. 

 

There is also the confusion regarding a "bourgeois" revolution versus a "socialist" revolution.  A bourgeois revolution involves ending a rule by monarch and replacing it with a more democratic process. Some times that process does not extend to everyone, but may only involve owners of property.  In the case of the United States, the right to vote was then expanded in stages. First, to all white men regardless of whether they owned property. Then to liberated slaves (albeit first only on a temporary basis), then to women, then from those over age twenty one to those over the age of eighteen.

 

In Marxist theory, society must undergo first the kind of change brought by a "bourgeois" revolution before a "socialist" revolution can occur.  Russia just proved the difficulty of collapsing the two stages together into one process. Hence its failure. This may be an oversimplification, but I think it is one that is consistent with Marxist thought. 

 

Democratic practices do not emerge fully matured simply by the result of one violent insurrection. They must develop gradually.  One problem in the U.S. is that although universal suffrage has been achieved, there is still the inordinate political influence of the moneyed interests. They not only influence the outcome of elections, but government bureaucrats are all too often ready to defer to such interest on the assumption that they wield such inordinate power.  That reputation for power becomes power itself.  Hence the need for workers to organize just too demonstrate that they too wield power. Ditto environmentalists, civil rights activists, etc. All of this organizing can be done through essentially peaceful means, assuming a basic respect for freedom of speech, assembly, etc. The absence of such freedoms is also an occasion for struggle.    

 

I am reminded of a university professor whose lectures I attended.  He developed a lot of ideas regarding power structure analysis that in turn were derived from his mentor, C. Wright Mills.  So he developed a whole methodology for identifying movers and shakers within a local community.  After attending his class, I became employed in county government in a jurisdiction that neighbored the county he taught in.  One day I received a call from one of his students notifying me that I had been identified as a mover and shaker in our community The caller expressed puzzlement at how that could be since it was in contradiction to conventional (socialist) power structure theory.  Off the top of my head, I answered that perhaps knowledge was power, and that I had simply used my knowledge of government regulations to assist my community in accessing federal resources. Hence the recognition given me as a "mover and shaker."  

 

Although I didn't mention it in the interview, I think my attitude toward the local moneyed elite was also a factor.  I looked for ways to work around their monopoly of power. After all, they were not automatically opposed to the receipt of government resource into their area. Their opposition only came when they felt threatened by such activities. I simply wasn't perceived as a threat.

 

I also remember a co-worker of mine in a nonprofit community development corporation where I was briefly employed. He was educated as an economist at Stanford. He told of his work in some third world country. There, he was approached by one faction for consultation regarding a set of economic policies that they wished to have adopted. After helping them sharpen their arguments, he was then approached by representatives of an opposing faction who in turn asked for assistance in developing their counter arguments.  He dutifully complied by also assisting them.

 

I had a similar experience in regards to a particular local city in our county.  I had befriended a local property owner who also happened to be employed by the county government in a mid-level management position. So we discussed plans he had for developing his property as well as other political issues affecting his city. Turned out there was another employee of the county who had been elected the mayor of that same city. I also befriended him and found myself giving advice to two people who took opposite sides in some of the issues of the day in that city.

 

So also this talk of the "ruling elites" and comparisons to how helpless the proletarian masses are just cracks me up. It is the very process of classifying those elites as having political power which gives them their power in the first place. 

 

Question authority. Do so effectively, and you yourself will gain authority.  At least in a society where a certain level of freedom already exists.  Of course, count on you yourself then being questioned.

 

Any questions?


The principles of justice define an appropriate path between dogmatism and intolerance on the one side, and a reductionism which regards religion and morality as mere preferences on the other.   - John Rawls






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