Smash Pacifism; A Critical Analysis of Gandhi and King

  • Posted on: 14 November 2012
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>From <a href=" Publications</a>


Non-violence as an ideology adopted by social movements is a relatively new phenomenon. While people have used both violent and non-violent methods throughout history in struggles against oppression, depending on circumstances, it was not until the late 19th century that non-violence came to be promoted as a philosophy applicable to political action. By the early 20th century, groups began to emerge claiming nonviolence was the only way to establish a utopian society. Most of these groups and their intellectuals derived their philosophies from organized religions such as Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Within these religions were sects that advocated pacifism as a way of life. Often overlooked in critiques of pacifism, this religious origin is an important factor in understanding pacifism and its methods (i.e., missionary-style organizing, claims of moral superiority, appeals to faith and not reason, etc.).</td><td><img title="Short version: ideology bad." src=""></td></tr...

Ironically, considering that the most demonized group by pacifists today are militant anarchists, the leading proponents of pacifism in the 19th century also proclaimed themselves as anarchists: Henry David Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy (as would Gandhi). In 1849, Thoreau published his book Civil Disobedience, which outlined his anti-government beliefs and non-violent philosophy. This, in turn, influenced Tolstoy, who in 1894 published The Kingdom of God is Within You, a primer on his own Christian pacifist beliefs.

The idea of non-violence did not gain a large following, however, and indeed the 19th and early 20th centuries were ones of widespread violence and social conflict throughout Europe and N. America, as well as in Asia, Africa, and South America. The first significant movement to emerge proclaiming pacifism as the only way was led by Mahatma Gandhi. It is based on this that the entire pacifist mythology of nonviolent struggle is formed, with Gandhi as its figurehead. Yet, Gandhian pacifism would still be seen as a strictly ‘Third World’ peasant phenomenon if it were not for Martin Luther King’s promotion of it during the Black civil rights struggle in the US during the 1950s and ’60s. Today, there are many well intentioned people who think they know the history of Gandhi and King. They assume that nonviolence won the struggle for Indian independence, and that Blacks in the US are equal citizens because of the nonviolent protests of the 1950s.

Pacifist ideologues promote this version of history because it reinforces their ideology of nonviolence, and therefore their control over social movements, based on the alleged moral, political, and tactical superiority of nonviolence as a form of struggle. The state and ruling class promote this version of history because they prefer to see pacifist movements, which can be seen in the official celebrations of Gandhi (in India) and King (in the US). They prefer pacifist movements because they are reformist by nature, offer greater opportunities for collaboration and co-optation, and are more easily controlled.

Even recent history is not immune from this official revisionism. The revolts throughout North Africa and the Middle East in early 2011, referred to as the “Arab Spring,” are commonly understood to have been but the most recent examples of nonviolent struggle. While it was not armed, the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere, saw widespread rioting and attacks against police. In Egypt, where several hundred people were killed in clashes, nearly 200 police stations were arsoned and over 160 cops killed, in the first few months of the revolt. Taking their cue from the “Arab Spring,” many Occupy participants also parroted the official narrative of nonviolent protest and imposed pacifism on the Occupy Wall Street movement, which began in the fall of 2011.

But this narrative didn’t start with Egypt, it began with Gandhi and was modernized and popularized by King. Although there now exist a number of excellent critiques of pacifism, including Ward Churchill’s Pacifism as Pathology, and Gelderloos’ How Nonviolence Protects the State, they do not focus directly on the campaigns of Gandhi and King, the foundations and roots of pacifist ideology. In fact, it is their historical practise, and indeed the very actions and words of Gandhi and King themselves, that most discredit pacifism as a viable form of resistance. For this reason they are the focus of this study.

Zig Zag,
October 2012
Occupied Coast Salish Territory [Vancouver, Canada]


uhhhhhhh not gene sharp ftw?

Is "arsoned" a word? I kind of like it.

Sit down strikes and wobblys in the 30's...Although I agree in theory for every critique of pacifism there should be a critique of 'fetishized' violence and lack of direction or aim in its application. There's a couple on here. But there are a hundred trashing Ghandi and King. Imposing non violence on occupy imposing violence on one approached Occupy correctly. A handful of actions showed people on the same page leaning toward Anarchist insurrection. Then we saw backlash.

Occupy wasn't an Anarchist struggle. Ideologically attacking that, though stupid if in the end the people still want different ends is diferent than a handful of people showing up and doing nothing more than using the ns as their means. Fucking feeble really. in an unethical manner. Reach people on an ideological level or go your own way. Even if we could rationalize violence while being an ideological minority the best would be "shit happens, I have a right to be here.". I think the question is were Sacco and Venzeti Anarchists or proletariate on that fateful day?

Idealogically attacking violence/non violence is stupid if their aims are different, not attacking the actual ideologies, pacifism is a sliver of the problem

I have to agree. Fetishizing any tactic is a mistake, and ideological commitments to violence (or at least petty property destruction) usually ends up just as. "faith-based" as nonviolence.

Violence has consequences, and not always ones which liberate. Even attempted acts of resistance often end up with the opposite effect. Beyond getting comrades hurt/captured/killed, attacks can galvanize public support behind the state, familiarize them with our tactics or just really piss them off.

Fighting is not about catharsis. It doesn't care who "really tried their best" or had the best-articulated critique. Violence only cares who wins.

TLDR: The state can withstand your temper tantrums

truth will out

Not just that though you're right. But this isn't real violence were talking about, this is fetishized violence. Real violence are rockets crashing down around your city of habitance while you're walking home from work. Or drive by shooting on the south side of _______. Or teenagers inBarhan in bloc torching a police station. What we do is an attempt to inspire revolt by instigating violence. I believe in the ideoligical "smash the state," I believe in the physical "smash the state," but to just show up to movements like this in bloc ajd decide that whether there are kids there or not, and just start trwshing shit and presto chango these people with like, lives and opinions and deep rooted belief patterns and shit are going to suddenly realize the merit in widespread revolt is ideologically backrupt, pisses on all the actual organizing whether its for bloc or the hundred other issues we take direct action on, and reduces Anarchism to a cultural trend. I'm sure a lot of people do this and think they're right to do so. I'm sorry, its just fucking dumb. Not only are a lot of these peiple not Anarchists, most of them don't know much about the ideology.

Teach the people, tactics, consensus, teach them to resist ideological rigidity in the occupy movement. Take a syndicalist approach. Feminism,fuck, even music, d.I.y culture. Not emo the schoolyard bully. Look in Anarchism past to find its future and stop reducing Anarchism to white boy shit. Culturalbarrogance around inane vapid shit.
Fundamentalism oftentimes though not always or even mostly but fucking enough is a result of lazyness and fear. Someone will say "missionary work," but no matter what you're violating a boundary. Whether a personal one or another persons.

Look what the socialists were doing while we were arguing about "tactics."

You gotta have a passion for the most powerful act of proliferation: missionary work. Be as ethical as possible but Chris Hedges and the Crimethink guy were both in their bubble in an argument that came off as first world tongue in cheek to me. Id lean more towards the Crimethink guy (Greg?)only because someone actually exolained to the people the merits of active ("violent?) resistence.

You could have taught the people safety and self defense in dewling with the police since your presence or jot much of the time they were still engaging in direct action, resistance etc.

What the fuck

Black bloc presence acfounted for the most significant Occupy event, the 'move in day' in Oakland. But for all of 4 maybe 5 events that either due to luck, whatblittle creedence the religious aspects of insurrectionary Anarchism have or the solid ethical standards of, at least what the internet tells me the community in some places has, its fleeting unless ee have ideological foundations to which the state and its opportunistic liberal cronies can't piss on by bringing up Ghandi, MLK, and the fact that there are major holes in the Anarchist community that are easily fixable but you have to work together and stop telling peiple you hate them.

There's a reason why the states persecuting you, its just not enough thejustify dogmatic attitudes among people on the fringes who just don't give a shit. And focusing on the "violence/non violence" argument is vapid when there are better reasons why Occupy was a let down for w lot of the people who decided to get involved.

most people would probably say the port blockade was the most significant event of occupy oakland, i think.

"Workerism" is still "out" though.

And so is anarchy, while its being preached by a bunch of scenester brats who spend more time alphabetizing their collection of powerviolence EP's than studying their own positions.

The truth hurts.

OP here (tantrums) - "emo the schoolyard bully" - LOL

Before Occupy, organizers generally managed to (quietly) arrange for a bit of distance between open rioting and people with strollers - red/yellow/green actions and breakaway marches, for instance (Quebec City, 2001 etc). Didn't always work, and pigs/media rarely saw any distinction, but at least it was an honest attempt. The recent rash of conspiracy charges make this a lot harder these days, but no more difficult than most associated conspiring.

"Leaders" try to downplay it afterward, but most blocs aren't exactly 'uninvited'. Sometimes organizers issue thinly veiled call-outs ("radical anti-capitalist bloc"), other times anarchists play a considerable role in organizing. Often, there's a pretty open understanding that shit will go down, or simply that crowds will respond if provoked.

Perhaps this is why I find showing up at 'somebody else's demo' to fuck shit up so...obnoxious. That's what we do to fascists. Not only does it put people at risk (and not just people who followed the bloc wearing goggles to watch the show), but it kinda shits on everybody else's self-organizing efforts. I don't think boring peaceful marches are going to change the world alone, but neither is fucking them up. How does that make us any different than agent provocateurs, fascists, truthers (fascists) and others who show up seeking to derail and discredit protests? There's ways to riot which galvanize struggle, and others which just piss it away.

I'm saddened by those who seem to feel anarchism is nothing but "freakin' out the squares" with spectacular acts of chaos. That's what the authorities say we do.

Yeah but those accusations rarely reflect reality. As you said yourself, people will fling out accusations of "hijacking" a demo and if you only hear about the grievances later, you might take them for true. But every demo I've ever marched with the bloc at, people have said that shit and USUALLY I was involved with the organizing and knew it was totally untrue.

It's the lukewarm fairweather liberal protestors who show up to the demo on the day and don't know shit that usually make this accusation.

Totally true. Somebody will always accuse the bloc of being "outside agitators", someone else will accuse them all of being agent provocateurs, and others will denounce the targets chosen as "local small businesses". It's all par for the course.

My general point was directed toward those who advocate intentionally 'showing up uninvited' in order to provoke and escalate, as if that's how it's always been done.

gandhi was barely hindu, he was super ashamed of it. king hated black people.

By your weak logic, pacifism is not valid with those two because of two things not related to their tactics of pacifism? Okay.

no one said that except you. one might find it relevant that the primary people invoked by an ideology of being crushed under the state's boot might hate themselves though.

Bhagat Singh for president.

Me's, I see Occupy as a reform movement. Let's be real.
Anark scared the bejeesus out of most occupationists.
When the going gets radical, watch los gringos "revolutionistos" like Chris Hedges, David Swanson and Mr. Boots Riley running at top speed for their I-pads, used hybrids and sunday morning coffee klatches, doing everything but pole dancing to accommodate the stateside boojwa barbies.

Even reformista non-violent movements need 'goals' - like if you are going to do bank reform, occupy your congresspersons office for real. When they come to throw you out, make it impossible for the man to do that. Any takers?? Nah - this is revlon-utionary Merika where the revlon-ution must be painless and not involve unseemly repairs to my motorized tricycle. What's on TV? Who's sports team is...wah?

I mean, it would be ridiculous if it wasn't so hilarious.

Just very typical example of shallowly educated know it alls trying to be authorities with broad brushes painted narrowly with Gandhi and MLK. So much more than most know is out there in the hidden spaces of the utmost silenced: Traditional Hopi Indians among countless other groups who are always silenced whether by the state or authoritarian so called anarchists.

Too bad dogma one way or another is out to suppress unique forms of courage that never have been captured in the realm of nonprofits or other organizations. Sadly, who listens to resisting Indigenous elders or grandmothers for that matter? Ever heard of Brian Willson? Get a little more informed.

Dude, Mr. Willson is my facebook friend.

Even so, given the retarded greed addled state of the Gringos, I see according to Ghandi and co., we'll have to be on the 50 year plan here, to educate the masses and get them all on board before we start the keys to the old Ford.

Unfortunately the survivability of the planet doesn't have that kind of time. Did you miss the IEA report from 2 days ago?
Message to Ghandi - if this shit rolls on one more day we're all fucked. Or should I write that F-U-C-K-E-D! so that you better get the message.So, in the interest of social harmony are we supposed to all put the carbon tailpipe to our mouths and go out with a happy face? I mean, porcelain coffee cups make such a mess and nasty noise when they break but absent one or two of those, we are all going to march into the gas chambers. Sorry to ruin your day/life, but a whole bunch of fuktards have already ruined mine and my ability to have children or evern live.

When exactly do you predict that the gringos are going to look up from the Ipads and march by the millions on DC to close it down in the best spirit of uncle Malcolm? Methinks twill be as a march of cooked corpses, well done.

International Energy Agency - World Energy Outlook Nov. 12 2012: "No more than one-third of proven reserves of fossil fuels can be consumed prior to 2050 if the world is to achieve the 2 °C goal, unless carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology is widely deployed.

Guess how much of that we're going to burn, Dorothy?
Ask the Gringos, ask the Chinese, the Europeans, the Australians, the Russians, the Koreans, the Viets. Hell ask the Kiribatians - we're gonna burn it all and cook in our own juices.

And so your and Mr. Willson's plan is?

brian wilson was in the beach boys, right?

Brain Willson who sat on the railroad tracks at Concord Weapons based in Concord, CA blocking a shipment of weapons to kill people in Nicaragua. People are so under educated. This is simple ridiculous. Here is a photo of after he was run over. He rode his arm powered bicycle to the Veterans for Peace conference in Seattle in 2006 from Santa Cruz. You all need to meet some live truly courageous people instead of half assed efforts to keeping dissing a huge scope of nonviolent action none of you ever heard of. Talk about silencing by the state. Wake up and do some research instead of believing all these ill informed haters.

Results of Gandhi - A nuclear armed, hyper-capitalist India, no change in caste system

Results of King - Cursory change of some laws on the books, relatively minor shift in perceptions, a wild, out of control hyper-empire pillaging and destr-oying life on earth

Results of Mr. Willson - two great books, relatively minor shift in popular perceptions, some groovy posts on the internet, out of control hyper-empire pillaging and destroying life on earth

OK - they're all courageous and I am a half-assed hater. I accept that. Now I will wear sack cloth and condemn my arrogance and stupidity.

But excuse me I am also practical and I am not particularly interested in waiting for the racist pigs, over privileged Americans, their obsessive felaters, planet killers to grow a conscience. And those addicted to denial and moral superiority

I looked at the facebook to learn more about Brian Wilson. Pretty much right off the bat, I see that he has Senator Bernie Sanders listed as a positive role model or inspiration, etc.

Why should would someone risk their life trying to do something out of the ordinary and then endorse this politician bullshit ? Why can't people understand this simple simple simple premise ? ALL POLITICIANS ARE SCUM. THE IDEA OF POLITICIANS IS DISGUSTING. WE SHOULD BE SELF-GOVERNING INDIVIDUALS WITH SELF-GOVERNING COMMUNITIES. If people can't get the basic "Fuck All Politicians" aspect then don't bother.

I am glad you know everything there is. Such snap judgement reeks of domineering dogmatism that ruins all these tired white European male based philosophical attempts to have another damned bloody revolution to keep the killing going over and over and over and over. Nothing like instant gratification experts and actions. Y'all will bring yourselves way down. So old. Doesn't take much to keep the current form of black bloc puritanical pedestal dwelling superiority thriving on bullshit.

Brian, not Brain. I always do that. darn.

Early Christians (before inquisitions became fashionable) were known for pacifism, a form of asymmetrical struggle, if you will. Read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. Buddhism isn't 'religious' per se. Spiritual, yes. But it is a philosophy of how man may transcend his limitations through meditation, nonviolence, and peaceful coexistence with our environment and each other, doing harm to no one and no thing.

Humane actions are the foundation of the world's major religions. Those that vary (such as the Thugs of India) are short lived. Similarly, violence based social/political movements historically burn themselves out in short order. Violence is the very antithesis of anti-hierarchy by definition. Violence seeks to dominate, to force order or an outcome the perpetrator concludes is not possible by other means. Nonviolence invites inclusive participation. Violence invites exclusivity--what we cannot control, we shall destroy.

It needn't be theoretically dense. Common sense tells us family units based on violent resolution of conflicts are typically dysfunctional. Why would it be any different for tribal, community, or national groups? America and the world order are based on violence now. Is this not a dysfunctional order on the verge of collapse? We live in a modern age of nuclear MAD (mutually assured destruction) which, it can be argued, makes the tradition of violent resolutions obsolete. It is obsolete because it no longer leads to resolution, but annihilation. Today's technology enables the proponents of violence to obliterate each other both individually and globally, at every level. It has utterly destroyed privacy and now allows virtual thought control. Plotting violent revolution can no longer be carried out in secret. Whatever hope exists of a revolution will occur openly in the full light of public view. Thus, force or a blow for blow strategy is guaranteed to fail because it will destroy the substrate, the very goals it seeks to achieve unless those goals are by design or folly the continuation of the existing violent world order.

The sentiment that 'God' dwells within is well taken if extended to the abstract or social transformation. The 'enemy' is more within than external. Change will come about only when we as a society, as a community, decide to change ourselves before we seek to have others join us.

"I have seen the enemy...and it is US!" -Pogo-

gods, I hate this particular brand of hippy bullshit (and yeah, I read Siddhartha). When everyone gathers in the streets, it's not the time to philosophize about how we might change ourselves fool. You have the *rest of your life* to do that when you aren't trying to reach critical mass in the streets.

its a good thing not all of us are humanists


If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.

You must be your own Buddha. Thus, the invitation to kill yourself (ego), the path to enlightenment.

Same for Jesus, and Lenin!!

Can someone please set up a boycott campaign against "Narco News", trying to get them to fire Al Giordano? He is one of the most sanctimonious of all contemporary pacifist asshats, single-handedly responsible for a huge percent of the historical whitewashing that's "pacified" the Arab Spring, revolt in Mexico, etc. etc. Ugh he makes me sick!


if you believe that humans are local, independently-existing material systems with their own locally-originating, internal process driven and directed behaviours, then you can only have one flavour of violence, and that is in terms of ‘what a thing-in-itself does’.

if, on the other hand, you believe that humans are dynamic forms in a relational space, then you have two types of violence; (a) rising to the occasion when your family space or community space is threatened [i.e. where violence is outside-inwardly orchestrated], and (b) attacking others with pre-planned intent to do injury from out of one’s own intellect and purpose.

russell means [wounded knee etc.] claimed that he and his people were violent only in the (a) context.

we all know how different it feels to (a) find ourselves in unfolding relational-spatial situations wherein we are exposed to outside-inward behaviour orchestrating influence and ‘rise to the occasion’, using violence to help defend a space occupied by friends/family community. it feels nothing like (b) ‘planning’ a violent attack and driving our behaviour inside-outwardly from our intellection and political purpose.

our western culture and its justice system only acknowledges (b) due to its ‘modeling’ of the human/organism as a local ‘thing-in-itself’, a LOGICAL ENTITY that moves about and interacts in absolute space [space that is non-relational and is therefore incapable of exerting outside-inward orchestrating influence to source inhabitant behaviours]. the standard western mindset which is in terms of ‘what things-in-themselves do’ is a logical model where there is no sense of the ‘sacredness’ or ‘sanctity’ of the inhabited home space and/or the inhabited community space wherein generations of one’s forebears lived, died and are buried, that associates with one’s ‘rising to the occasion and using violence to defend that space and all those inhabiting it.

the logical view in terms of ‘what things-in-themselves do’ assumes ‘absolute space’. a valid representation would be one in which everyone were in space suits with rocket back-packs living in ‘outer space’. one cannot have any ‘relationship’ with open space. open space is not ‘steeped in the history of one’s ancestors, including the old trees whose bark furnished great-great grandfather’s canoe. there is only one source for violence to arise in the rocket-pack community [i.e. from the internal components and processes of the rocket-pack equipped ‘thing-in-itself’]. that is, there is no sacred ground to defend, no ‘relational space’ wherein one would ‘rise to the occasion’ as if in an interdependent relational connectedness web, whose stability was being threatened.

discussing ‘violence’ versus ‘non-violence’ as in the above article is logical ‘idealism’ that is far removed from physical experience. our physical experience is of inclusion in a ‘relational space’ where our ‘violence’ can be either (a) ‘outside-inward orchestrated’ or (b) ‘inside-outward determined’. no natural-born human can miss the difference between these two distinct ‘sourcings’ of violence; i.e. the (a) outside-inward orchestrating mode where the heart is at the helm and the intellect is playing a supporting role, and the (b) inside-outward asserting mode where the intellect is at the helm [the heart is banished].

It would also be more worthwhile to try to communicate to peoole that thry had already particpated even lived in many cases in an Anarcho platformist environment. It was a hybrid of idealogies that was in the end constricting, but it also created a populist almost mass movement that at times Anarchists were able to seize and direct. This argument a hundred times over only reverberates with helpless babies who only care about bandanas anyway. We get it, you're right move on. Get original for once. The violence argument barely begins to address ideological differences which the movementwas supposed to be a representative model for solving and providing alternatives in the first place.

In the abstract, if Graebers an Anychist liberals stole your movement.

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
Enter the code without spaces.