Exploring Violence, Non-violence & Extinction Rebellion - where XR gets the research wrong

From Anarchist Writers by Andrew Flood

Disagreements about the role of violence in political movements is at least as old as those movements. Extinction Rebellion have tried to short cut such discussions through reference to a piece of research they suggest shows non-violent movements are twice as successful in achieving their objectives. In this episode of We Only Want the Earth I examine what this paper actually claims and use this as a way to talk about non-violence and recent radical political movements.


It's a journey that will take us through the research paper itself to the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement, the murderous state repression of Bloody Sunday 1972, Reclaim the Streets and the summit protests of the early 2000s to argue that simplified versions of tactical debates around non-violence are worse than useless and do nothing to prepare XR activists for the years of struggle ahead.

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Vaguely remember when this study got some attention years ago, I first heard about it here on @news. Here's Chenoweth giving a TED talk on the topic and she's not exactly what I expected but still, so many typical problems with peak liberalism.


She surprisingly, started off assuming violence was a superior form of resistance (after washing out of the army) and then flipped after the results of their study but the research itself suffers from huge problems with defining violence and oversimplifying far too broad of a data sample, among other things like the typical liberal false dichotomy. In all fairness, she claims that there's very little prior research on the subject and unfortunately, this first attempt reflects too many failings of analysis to be taken seriously. Better research would likely be very interesting.

Apparently this miserable failure to "study" the topic is still useful to liberal demagogues though … so that's great for them!

Gelderloos' The Failure of Nonviolence is literally a (non-academic) study of what works and what doesn't with regards to violence/nonviolence. He actually bothers to define goals, what it actually means to be successful.

The trouble is though, that success is a remnant of the Western eschatological methodology carried over from the Enlightenment.

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