No, Extinction Rebels, nonviolence is not the only way
In this study from 2008 by Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth, which XR quote for proof, a “nonviolent” protest movement is defined as one in which fewer than 1,000 people were killed. Let that sink in. I could go out tomorrow and murder 999 people in the name of any given cause and this study would still classify me as a nonviolent protester. Glib hypotheticals aside, this has led to some serious rewriting of history by XR. They frequently claim to draw inspiration from nonviolent movements such as the suffragettes. Let us be clear: the suffragettes were arsonists. They undertook a bombing campaign. They learned martial arts to fight the police. They were not nonviolent, they used a diversity of tactics and to claim otherwise is damaging to the collective memory of struggle. This misreading of history is something which seems to happen regularly with XR as they also claim to draw inspiration from the anti-apartheid movement which they say was nonviolent. I imagine this will come as a surprise to the families of the thousands of people who died during that armed struggle. Furthermore, the paper that is frequently referenced by XR clearly states that it does not include campaigns such as the civil rights movement because it looks specifically at regime change or ending foreign occupations and not “social and economic campaigns”. Unless I have misread the objectives of XR, it does not advocate regime change and so falls into this category. It seems odd to generalize the results of a study that states that it specifically does not apply to your movement’s objectives, unless of course you are searching for data to justify the opinion you always held. Sadly, the quoting of statistics from this paper adds an air of scientific rigor to XR’s claims which has convinced a lot of people of their validity. These statistics are treated as gospel despite the paper acknowledging that their dataset on nonviolent campaigns is biased towards success because campaigns crushed through repression in their infancy are not reported.
John Warwick in No, Extinction Rebels, nonviolence is not the only way (Roarmag)
5 reacties op “No, Extinction Rebels, nonviolence is not the only way”
Some what more detailed piece about the Chenoweth study, the examples used by XR, and why their extremist interpretation of NVDA stems from a misunderstanding of social science, history and power relations: https://libcom.org/library/has-xr-successful-strategy-save-planet
Another piece that cannot confirm why violence would bring us any closer to our goals. Violence is defined as physical force to living beings. Property damage lies at the boundary and it depends on the context (firefighter-like context like Ploughshares-like sabotage of military equipment vs the abusive context of breaking windows like a white cis male blac blocker suffering from toxic masculinity) whether the general public will see it as violent. All these kinds of articles miss the point. The only morality you can confer to tactics is whether they will be effective at reaching any goal of reduced human suffering. Summarizing:
– Violence is not prefigurative (a prerequisite for most anarchist or libertarian socialist action, but sadly ignored by the majority who subscribe to these traditions), the means do not reflect the ends of wanting a society with *less* human suffering. Using violence trains people at using more violence. It is not a morally neutral tool.
– Violence breaks down more “good” social structure than it does “bad” social structure (any capitalist or police person is often also a parent, wielding violence against them pushes their family and network more away from us)
– Violence recreates hierarchy, between those wielding it and those who don’t
– Ultimately, violence is exclusive, because only fit able-bodied men with a certain psychological willingness to use it can participate.
The social science done by Chenoweth and Sharp and the like is not 1 on 1 applicable to the current contexts but it gives a good solid foundation.
The article does not plead for violence, in my opinion. It wants to make clear that non-violence is not the only strategy that works in any situation.
Many points you make are valid, I think, especially thise about mtoxic asculinity, etc. Although, defending yourself and using violence is fortunately not something only men do.
But at the same time I think to always plead for non-violance in a society that is based on structural dayly violence, is a bit misguided. And to exclude in this way any people who would use violence in selfdefense in certain situations is to choose sides with the oppression forces in all future situations.
I would rather put my energy into pleading for capital and the state to start being non-violent (which will only happen when they are both abolished). For their violence is immeasurably larger than anything we from below could ever do.
In your place I would argue: why does a father become a policeman and feels he has the right to beat up or even murder people? The people he hurts or even kills could be his children. And I don’t feel people (and their families and networks) who are obeying orders to hurt us should be coming nearer to us. I think we should make them stop hurting people. And then we can talk.
Possibly you have positive experiences with the police. That could be due to your position in society. Many people in this society haven’t any positive experiences, maybe we should listen more to them, and realise that talking about policemen as fathers, instead of as people who hurt or even kill other people, does not do justice to the reality of many people in precarious positions. And telling them to be non-violent in any situation in which the police are hurting them is nog very nice, to say the least…
> It wants to make clear that non-violence is not the only strategy that works in any situation
Right – it doesn’t make that clear at all. For the context of radicalizing progressive sections of the middle class to utilize their privilege, the “diversoty of tactics” schtick makes no sense. It does not give a clear case where violence makes sense. I can think of two – Rojava and the Zapatistas. Are we in their position?
> But at the same time I think to always plead for non-violance in a society that is based on structural dayly violence
I don’t plead for principled nonviolence out of moral reasons. It simply doesn’t work in rich powerful countries and it won’t for years to come. We’re not in Rojava, we’re not Zapatistas. We’ve seen it over and over (anti-WTO, Occupy, anti-G20, even the squatting movement) what violence does to the image and effectiveness of social movements in our context. And that is exactly what XR is saying, I invite you to check out their about page.
> And to exclude in this way any people who would use violence in selfdefense
The article discusses a social movement, not personal self-defense. There is no question to what a someone should be able to do when their life is on the line. Let’s be honest though – a lot of people on the hard-left conflate this with meaning you should be able to punch any cop or nazi at any time. Strategically unsound.
> And I don’t feel people (and their families and networks) who are obeying orders to hurt us should be coming nearer to us.
How do you propose people with weapons come in a moral crisis when shit hits the fan (whether it be fascism, revolution or the climate crisis)? Violence won’t convince them, fraternization and public pressure are the only realistic options. Again, in the current context, this necessitates pragmatic nonviolence.
> Many people in this society haven’t any positive experiences, maybe we should listen more to them
We should always listen to people who are being oppressed. But analysis is not equal to strategy. The analysis of black people being beat up more often by the police does not strategically imply all white people should have a grossly improductive hostile attitude towards police people (which frankly doesn’t change anything). Controle Alt Delete also isn’t hostile to them. We can at the same time agree on the police having structural problems and leverage the privilege white and middle class people have over them.
> And telling them to be non-violent in any situation in which the police are hurting them is nog very nice
Again, the only moral imperative there is IMO, is whether tactics and strategy are effective or not. It is hugely contested whether it would be effective for a black people or people of color to physically resist state violence in the US and Europe. Would it be understandable? Sure. Does that mean I should say it is the right thing to do? No!
Thanks for your thoughts, in solidarity, Malcolm
Voor wie verder wil lezen over de problematische strategie van XR:
– Extinction Rebellion: Not the Struggle we Need, Pt. 1
– Extinction Rebellion: Not the Struggle we Need, Pt. 2
– The flawed social science behind Extinction Rebellion’s change strategy