Is violence ever acceptable?

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2existis2resist
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Nov 28 2006 12:19
Is violence ever acceptable?

Before I looked into anarchist theory I, like most ignorant people was convinced that all anarchy wanted was a violent chaotic world with winner take all. I have been proved wrong but there are those who insist on non-violence whilst other anarchists are all up for killing. Any thoughts anyone?

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 28 2006 12:19

yes. yes it is.

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madashell
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Nov 28 2006 12:22
2existis2resist wrote:
there are those who insist on non-violence whilst other anarchists are all up for killing. Any thoughts anyone?

I think you've got a bit of a false dichotomy going on there.

Violence is not a good thing, it should not be fetishised under any circumstances, but sometimes proportionate, well targetted violence is useful.

rich
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Nov 28 2006 12:22

I don't think it's "up for killing" more like we feel it is permissible to use self defence, and it is an act of self defence to throw off the yoke of our oppressors (and, yes, people will die on both sides). Violence as a tactic in most contexts is counterproductive. If you counterbalance it to the 30,000 kids that'll die today...

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Rob Ray
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Nov 28 2006 12:25

There's no point in breaking stuff just for the sake of it, but if it'll help achieve better conditions for the working class (eg. Poll tax riots) then it becomes viable.

If you consider it as a tactical option in certain circumstances for certain groups, rather than as integral to the operation of a libertarian society (unlike with our friend capitalism) then you'd probly not be too far off.

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Khawaga
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Nov 28 2006 12:50

In you violence/ non-violence dichotomy do you mean violence against humans, or do you include "violence" against property?

Violence can be acceptable, but it can also be a stupid tactically or strategically when it is acceptable, so it all depends on the context.

In general I am all for doing everything non-violent (though I do not consider smashing up banks, cars etc. violence), but probably when the shit hits the fan there will be violence.

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 28 2006 12:57

i think the thing is, where do you draw the line between violence and other forms of coercion? i mean slavery isn't necessarily violent, until the slaves try and leave, or sell the products of their labour themselves. equally bosses and the state aren't necessarily violent until we disobey them. So often revolutionaries are seen as 'starting it' because they draw out the unspoken everyday violence needed to make capitalism work, when in fact the violence is already there as congealed 'constituted power' as opposed to our creative-destructive 'constituting power'.

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Khawaga
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Nov 28 2006 13:11

Good post Joseph, though would like to add that slavery is inherently violent as becoming a slave means violent disposession of the body (I mean they didn't just volunteer to be slaves).

I would also argue that the state is inherently violent. They were founded upon violence, and its monopoly on violence is essential for the existence of the state. Civil wars usually happen because there is a challenge to the state's monopoly on violence. The problem is that the state's power is ahistorical, and that is why revolutionaries are seen as "starting it".

Your point reminds me a lot about Palestine. When the shebab started throwing stones journos would often state that skirmishes broke out because of that, completely decontextualizing it into a mini-struggle with no reference to the occupation or the fact that village land was being stolen right in front of their eyes.

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 28 2006 13:14
atlemk wrote:
Good post Joseph, though would like to add that slavery is inherently violent as becoming a slave means violent disposession of the body (I mean they didn't just volunteer to be slaves).

yeah i agree, but like with the state, after the necessary foundational violence, the veneer of 'peace' reigns.

atlemk wrote:
Your point reminds me a lot about Palestine. When the shebab started throwing stones journos would often state that skirmishes broke out because of that, completely decontextualizing it into a mini-struggle with no reference to the occupation or the fact that village land was being stolen right in front of their eyes.

yep, the same way British and American troops in Iraq get called 'peacekeepers' grin

2existis2resist; a slogan that sums this up which you might have come across is "against capitalist war and peace" - capitalist peace is simply when there is no resistance to the everyday violence of bosses and bureaucrats.

nosos
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Nov 28 2006 14:29

There are presumably situations in which violence would seem acceptable as a means to some further end. However the idea of laying down outright that violence either is or is not acceptable just seems silly. It’s like pacifism. I think most people, most of the time, self-consciously or not live their ways in a pacifistic way and would accept the general moral tenor of pacifism. It’s just that the idea that you can never use violence is fucking absurd.

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 28 2006 14:32
nosos wrote:
It’s just that the idea that you can never use violence is fucking absurd.

indeed, and leads to stuff like Gandhi suggesting german jews should kill themselves en masse so as to avert the violence of the holocaust. which pisses me off no end.

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Demogorgon303
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Nov 28 2006 15:16

I don't think anyone advocating class struggle can be a pacifist. Of course, I think we'd all wish the ruling class would throw in the towel and give us the keys to the shop but they just aren't going to do it.

I think the question here is the kind of violence used. I think the use of terror is foreign to the proletariat - although much is made of the Bolshevik's "Red Terror" it was quite restrained and they displaced great hesitancy in setting it up. Nonetheless, the Red Terror ultimately did nothing for the proletariat in Russia save to alienate other classes and transform the CHEKA into an organ of oppression.

The same can be said of random violence and riots. Smashing shop windows, burning cars, fighting with the police for its own sake offers nothing to the working class. If anything, these actions merely show impotency and despair. The bourgeoisie is well aware of this which is why they take great pains to publicise them so widely.

Nonetheless, in order to overthrow the bourgeois state, the working class will have to produce its own organs of violence. It will need armed Red Guards to defend workers against the bourgeoisie, it will need "police" of the kind that appeared in the Seatle general strike (elected from the mass assemblies and authorised by the strike committee to keep order), etc. It will need to use violence to overthrow the state and once in power it will need some sort of armed force to defend itself against the inevitable interventions of other bourgeois states and against counter-revolution.

But the real weapons of the working class are its ability to organise and generalise its class consciousness. This is the best way to disarm the bourgeoisie by pulling workers into the proletarian orbit and convincing members of other strata to align with (or at least not oppose) the workers' cause. This strength of class consciousness appears to me to be largely inversely proportionate to the need to employ violence.

Black Flag
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Nov 28 2006 17:20

Is violence ever acceptable?Yes, aslong as it is necessary.This is why some pacifists(yep I cannot spell)support violence.

Black Flag
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Nov 28 2006 17:24

oh wow I can spell.

Black Flag
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Nov 28 2006 17:28

So really you can be a class struggle anarchist and be a pacifist as long as you use violence in a necessary way.

ticking_fool
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Nov 28 2006 17:36
Quote:
So really you can be a class struggle anarchist and be a pacifist as long as you use violence in a necessary way.

Which would make you not a pacifist.

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Tacks
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Nov 28 2006 17:48
Tim wrote:
Is violence ever acceptable?Yes, aslong as it is necessary.This is why some pacifists(yep I cannot spell)support violence.

i'm pretty sure they wouldn't be pacifists then; in the past pacisifims referred more to war, an lots of progressives called themselves such. Now i think in the last 50 years its a general rejection of all violence, a la the 1960's.

Violence is neccessary, and it is crucial that anarchists are at lest familar with it and no what they are capable of, to avoid dangerous situations or humiliating defeats. It is importnat to know how u or ur cmrds would react if a member of the public/copper/scab/fascist suddenly got in your face.

I for one, know i am absolutely terrified of dogs, not really bothered by cops, and relatively terrified of people in general grin IE i'm not volunteering for antifa any time soon.

But it can become infectious and be part of a wider macho image; people should be free to say they do not find unneccesary violence acceptable without fear of ridicule. Saying that someone getting a kicking at closing time on a saturday is to be expectd is fine; saying that its also acceptable/not really a problem is out of line.

some Uk @ attitudes to hooligans, frinstance, seem to be 'let them get on with it'. But any proper look at Footy hooligans and outside the set pieces with other groups, they attack and harass loads of random people. The danger is that hard young men and women will not notice how older and less confident people are affected by anti-social behaviour, cos it doesn't effect them.

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Tacks
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Nov 28 2006 17:55
guydebordisdead wrote:
Gandhi's logic found it's ultimate critique when he was shot dead.

did that have as much to do with him being in a leader position as anything else tho? Would he have been offed if he'd not taken it up?

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There's nothing more self-defeating than pathological pacifists who still chant "peaceful protest" as the cops crack their skulls.

Indeed. I wish people would understand being marginally spikey, moving about, pushing back and generally standing ur ground is not violent.

Its pretty stupid when a group of masked kids pretend that it is, just as much as when pacifists do.

I suppose it comes down to knowing what ur capable of: simply having a big group of ppl in masks doesn't mean its going to hold firm.

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 28 2006 17:58
guydebordisdead wrote:
Gandhi's logic found it's ultimate critique when he was shot dead.

yes of course, he really should have assassinated himself to prevent violence grin

James Woolley
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Nov 28 2006 17:59

In self-defence.

But the notion of anarchists becoming 'militarised' or whatever is horrible.

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Tacks
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Nov 28 2006 18:03
James Woolley wrote:
In self-defence.

But the notion of anarchists becoming 'militarised' or whatever is horrible.

no not at all; its essential.

Even nonviolent action requires proper militarism. And the need to get away safe and dry will increase if it is actually effective/the lvel of struggle rises, cos the state will become more repressive.

rouchambeau
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Nov 28 2006 18:35

"How Nonviolence Protects the State" is a REALLY good book on this subject.

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Lazy Riser
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Nov 28 2006 18:45

Hi

Quote:
yes. yes it is.

The funny thing is though, anarchists always take this as a cue to argue the politics of various proportional responses, not to mention the ethics of military organisational modes. This demonstrates the yawning cavern that continues to exist between lefties and normal sane people who find violence broadly acceptable as entertainment and an appropriate response to being looked at in a funny way, let alone an unequivocally effective deterrent to those who might obstruct their plans.

Love

LR

2existis2resist
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Nov 29 2006 12:01

The idea of violenece does not appeal to me although obviously there are situations which call for destruction of property which can be acceptable.
My main problem with violence is how it is turned against us. During the poll tax riots many violent acts played right into the Institutions hands, images of violent protests deter people from the real issues, those commiting violence are labelled as 'thugs' and 'mindless', as far as possible non-violence shows the state up for the inherent violence it is built upon and can only strengthen the cause of the protest. It is counter-productive at times and just strengthens the states hand as it gives the public justification for extra riot police and loss of civil liberties.. any thoughts?

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Joseph Kay
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Nov 29 2006 12:05

it certainly can be counter-productive, i think thats what people are getting at talking about it being a tactical issue rather than (or as well as) a moral one ...

Steggsie
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Nov 29 2006 13:00

I'm glad that violence doesn't appeal to you, 2exist2resist, and I think we all feel the same, at least most of the time. However, as people have already commented, violence may be a tactical necessity, and not just against 'property', but also against people (assuming, of course, that police count as people). Call me old fashioned, but Reinhold Niebuhr's Moral Man and Immoral Society (1941) is still a good starting point on these questions.

Your point about how violence is turned against anarchists is more valuable, because it situates the 'violence question' in the real world and doesn't posit the debate as matter of abstract principle.

The media will of course always spin violent action in the ways you describe. The portrayal of violence is carefully manipulated by the media. I think it was the BBC, for example, which reversed the order of footage of the 'Battle of Orgreave' during the Miner's Strike, so that miners were misrepresented as attacking police lines and the riot police were presented as merely responding (first hand accounts, I believe, suggest otherwise).

The question for me is: to what extent should we care about how the media spin anti-capitalist / anti-State violence? Do we care more about getting bad PR from the media than about other outcomes? I tend to think we shouldn't compromise with the media, since they will always misrepresent the nature and motives of violent struggle; but again, we should be practical and wary of dogmatism.

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Lazy Riser
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Nov 29 2006 14:20

Hi

Quote:
It is counter-productive at times and just strengthens the states hand as it gives the public justification for extra riot police and loss of civil liberties.. any thoughts?

By this argument you shouldn't ever do anything that might cause the authorities to respond. Violence isn't a special case, it's just a thing. What's the difference between throwing eggs or throwing rocks? There both violent, it's just a liberalist question of degree and "fair proportional response". Typical anarchist navel gazing again.

Quote:
it certainly can be counter-productive

You're making assumptions regarding the goals of its protagonists. They might just like the thrill of it.

Love

LR

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coversall
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Nov 29 2006 15:32

I think a fundamental part of this discussion should be around the perception of violence. Authority creates a monopoly over the definition and legitimacy of 'violence'. I don't think there can ever be a definative description of violence that can rigidly characterise one act as being violent or not. The word itself strikes me as extremely counter-productive for activists etc under the current conditions and presupposisions of our society.

Violence, I think, is portrayed as an act carried out by those without the authority to take such actions. It carries connotations of the traditional view of the bomb throwing anarchist, intent on destroying everything that society stands for, in opposition to the up-standing, pillar of the community police officer. This police officer (soldier etc.) is seen to be acting less as a fully independant, self-consious human being maybe but as the reification of a legitimate authority based on the undeniable and sound foundations of liberal democracy (or whatever form of ideology etc that controls authority). With this in mind media vilification of police officers and soldiers who deviate from this supposed norm always annoy me in ways...creating scape goats for the real problem.

It seems to me that discussing violence under the sort of terms some here have is useless (or possibly just flawed). A new conception of these acts, events is needed.

I'm not really sure what I would propose though...which probably makes me just as useless smile hoho

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Tojiah
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Nov 29 2006 17:31
Joseph K. wrote:
i think the thing is, where do you draw the line between violence and other forms of coercion? i mean slavery isn't necessarily violent, until the slaves try and leave, or sell the products of their labour themselves. equally bosses and the state aren't necessarily violent until we disobey them. So often revolutionaries are seen as 'starting it' because they draw out the unspoken everyday violence needed to make capitalism work, when in fact the violence is already there as congealed 'constituted power' as opposed to our creative-destructive 'constituting power'.

A while ago, I came up with an apt analogy: suppose you needed to pee. And suppose there is a toilet available, only the entrance to it is blocked by an individual, who refuses to let you in. This person just stays there, while the pressure in your groin increases, until you can't stand it anymore, kick the "toilet guard" aside, and go use the toilet.

Who would you blame for the violence in this situation? Would you really act this way, or would you find another solution? Is this action illegitimate in principle?

powertotheimagi...
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Nov 29 2006 18:34

Violence isnt ideology, it is a tactic that is used when there are little, if any, other open options.

'violence' can never be done against a non-living object, only a living being.

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revol68
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Nov 29 2006 18:39

i'm glad to see lazy's sticking to being a gobshite on threads i can't be arsed reading.