Showing posts with label pacifism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pacifism. Show all posts

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Fighting for Peace


"If your enemy has massive capacity for violence - and modern governments today have massive capacity for violence - why deliberately choose to fight with your enemy's best weapons? They are guaranteed to win, almost certainly." 
- Gene Sharp
To the average person Marxists are regarded as ultra- revolutionaries who advocate of violent overthrow of all constituted order in government. The Socialist Party of Great Britain has not been enamoured with the idea of violence. We are not  insurrectionists. But we are realists. Above all do they try to guard against the sporadic, meaningless and inevitably self-defeating violence that suffering and resentment are so likely to prompt. We have never advocated the use of indiscriminate violence.  Nor do we incite needless bloodshed. Our position is non-violent resistance  is a more effective method for bringing about desirable social change in the modern world than violence. We are not interested in maintaining that non-violence is morally preferable to violence, but that non-violence is superior as an instrument to bring about social change. And we are speaking of non-violent resistance, not of non-resistance, which is a very different proposition. We do not argue that Man is innately good which will lead to the capitalist and the worker clasping hands in brotherly love. Men are “innately” neither good nor bad. The interests and values they hold to are based upon the objective historical conditions of their lives. What we insist is that violence alone will not achieve socialism and we will judge the effectiveness of non-violence on its efficiency.

In capitalism private property relations can only be protected by coercion – the have-nots had to be coerced by the haves, just as in feudal or slave society, expressed in the police, the laws, the standing army, and the legal apparatus of the bourgeois State. Man cannot but act. And since man is always acting, he is always exerting force, always altering or maintaining the position of things, always revolutionary or reactionary.   The web of physical and social relations that binds men into one universe ensures that nothing we do is without its effect on others, whether we vote or cease to vote. Man can never rest on the absolute; all acts involve consequences, and it is man’s task to find out these consequences, and act accordingly. Therefore it is man’s task to find out the consequences of acts: which means discovering the laws of social relations.

The support of large numbers of people begins to increase consciousness and when enough people withdraw their cooperation the government begins to break down.  The use of non-violent methods of action comes to be seen as the most effective use of force open at present to socialists. Commitment to civil disobedience is more than sore feet on marches and cold arses on wet pavements.

Hating the violence of the capitalist State, the revolutionary must produce a society which needs neither violence in peace nor in war. We must seek the only path by which capitalist social relations of violence can be turned into peaceful communist social relations. To expropriate the expropriators, to oppose their coercion by that of the workers, to destroy all the instruments of class coercion and exploitation crystallised in the capitalist State, is the first task. Violence departs from the world of men. Man at last becomes free. It is difficult  to see another way.

The Socialist Party is a revolutionary party, but not a revolution-making party. We know that our goal can be attained only through a revolution. We also know that it is just as little in our power to create this revolution as it is in the power of our opponents to prevent it. It is no part of our work to instigate a revolution or to prepare the way for it. And since the revolution cannot be arbitrarily created by us, we cannot say anything whatever about when, under what conditions, or what forms it will come. We do know that the class struggle cannot end until the workers deprive the employers of political power and come into   full possession of the political powers to use them to introduce socialism. We do know that this class struggle must grow both extensively and intensively to achieve this. But we can have only the vaguest conjectures as to when and how the last decisive blows in the social war will be struck. Since we know nothing concerning the decisive battles of the social war, we are manifestly unable to say whether they will be bloody or not, whether physical force will play a decisive part, or whether they will be fought exclusively by means of economic, legislative and moral pressure. We are, however, quite safe in saying that in all probability the revolutionary battles of the proletariat will see a much greater predominance of these latter method over physical, which means armed force.

In ‘Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict’co-authored by Erica Chenoweth, an assistant professor of government at Wesleyan University, and Maria J Stephan, a strategic planner with the US State Department, they analysed  323 examples of resistance campaigns and rebellion from 1900 to 2006, Chenoweth and Stephan conclude non-violent campaigns have been twice as successful as violent campaigns in achieving their objectives. They contend that this difference is down to non-violent campaigns being more likely to attract mass support. Non-violent resistance is not a magic wand and does not guarantee success. However, the hard evidence shows it generally has the strategic edge over violent resistance.

What gives a government -- even a repressive regime -- the power to rule? The answer, Sharpe realized, was people's belief in its power. Even dictatorships require the cooperation and obedience of the people they rule to stay in charge. So, he reasoned, if you can identify the sources of a government's power -- people working in civil service, police and judges, even the army -- then you know what a dictatorship depends on for its existence. Once he'd worked that out, Sharp went back to his theories of nonviolent struggle: "What is the nature of this technique?" he asked himself. "What are its methods ... different kinds of strikes, protests, boycotts, hunger strikes ... How does it work? It may fail. If it fails, why? If it succeeds, why?" If a dictatorship depends on the cooperation of people and institutions, then all you have to do is shrink that support. That is exactly what nonviolent struggle does. By its very nature, nonviolent struggle destroys governments, even brutal dictatorships, politically.  All power has its sources. And if you can identify the sources you can cut them off.

Non-violent means will increase your chances of the soldiers refusing to obey orders. But if you go over to violence, the soldiers will not mutiny. They will be loyal to the dictatorship and the dictatorship will have a good chance to survive. A non-violent struggle can be successful without a leader but people need to understand what makes this succeed, and what makes it fail. If they have no leader, this can be an advantage at times, because then the regime cannot really control the situation by arresting or killing off the leadership. But if you are going to do it without leaders, you have to do that skillfully, and know what you’re doing. If you spread information about what is required, and have a list of “do this, and not that”, and everybody understands that, the struggle can have greater chances of success. If you don’t have that basic understanding of what you’re doing, then you’re not going to win anything.  It is possible for ordinary people to maintain non-violent discipline, maintain their courage, to continue the struggle, despite the repression. Non-violent struggle opens the door to greater control over your society and makes democracy durable.