Revolution in Theory & Praxis (Part II)
Number5Toad: You’ve said in the past that things like cars and businesses are “inherently violent” because of the destruction to ecosystems and loss of natural life that are required to create them. By these standards, isn’t all of organic life then inherently violent?
Nathan: This is, if anything, a baited and loaded question, but it itself begs another very important question: at what point do human creations cross the line from “natural” and “organic” to “unnatural” and “inorganic”? This, as I see it, is a matter of semantic interpretation and definition regarding these dichotomous terms. It is certainly possible to pursue a line of logic that leads to the conclusion that nothing that humanity could do or create is “unnatural.” Again, this is a matter of semantics, but I would argue that the real issue is systemic environmental destruction and exploitation, not to mention the human costs, not whether or not we chose to label it as “unnatural” or not. Words are, after all, simply auditory symbols used to communicate ideas. They are mutable and subjective. The real issue is that the system we have created exceeds the carrying capacity of the planet, and is thus fundamentally and terminally unsustainable. Animals exceed the carrying capacity of their land base “naturally” all the time, but it is still not a state of existence you want to be in, particularly if you are a self-aware and self-reflective being who is also aware of your environment and the potential future consequences of your actions in the present. The result of any living being exceeding the carrying capacity of its land base is always a crash and return to sustainable levels of population. All biotic beings are subject to the limited parameters of the natural world, including human beings.
So back to your original question: regardless of whether “organic life” is violent or not (wherever you chose to draw that semantic line of definition), when the members of the natural world violate the parameters of their ecosystem and exceed the carrying capacity of their land base, there are consequences. This is a completely “natural” phenomenon, according to most definitions, but that doesn’t mean it is a good or even neutral thing. It is most definitely a bad thing, and something that should be actively avoided, again, particularly in species capable of such actions. The most simplistic answer to your question is that many aspects of the natural world could be considered “violent,” which, to be clear, doesn’t necessarily make it “wrong.” Living beings must consume other living beings in order to live. And even if that is within the realm of what you consider violence, it certainly isn’t done out of hubristic cruelty or for profit, and if it exceeds the carrying capacity of the land base, it will eventually, as a rule, collapse and return to biostatic equilibrium. So will we. Derrick Jensen has pointed out that the fundamental (sustainable) predator-prey relationship is that when any being consumes another, that being becomes responsible for assuring the continuation of the community of life from which they are taking. Wolves hunt in a way that maintains the health of the herd, and if they don’t, there are consequences.
Bart: I found it interesting to answer this question though it was not directed at my philosophy because it goes to the very heart of the question of violent vs. non-violent change. The short answer to your question is yes. Nature is violent, yet its violence is built into a larger system of harmony. It is through mankind’s disharmony with himself and the natural world that destruction is wrought. But that is what is key, the anarchy and devloution brought about by the violent overthrow of the current world system will create far more dysfunction and destruction than we can currently imagine. Humanity can not destroy nature, but human nature can destroy humanity. For there to be a future that encompasses both, we must evolve. We must transmute our current paradigm into a new one but this can only be accomplished by our collective choice to do so. The collective aspect is what is most important, this cannot be forced, it is a choice that the human race must make together, that is why education is so important in this struggle. Many would say this is not possible, my response is for them to look around the world today, because of the information revolution we have the tools to coordinate our evolution, it can not be stopped because the same system designed to enslave us has supplied us with the tools for our liberation, it is for this reason that so much effort is being put forward to forestall our uses of peacful revolution, it in fact offers the only true choice out.
Heatscore: To what extent do recent advancements in communication technologies and media consolidation affect the way that resistance is perceived by the actors involved? In what way – if any – does this alter the moral framework of choosing violent vs non-violent tactics?
Nathan: I would argue that first and foremost changes in communications technology have not only allowed for a greater degree of communication between isolated resistance groups around the world (see, for example, the recent articles about the role of communications technology in the recent Greek uprising), but has also allowed for the global resistance to be more effective in getting their own voices and messages out to the global community. Though the mainstream media continues to serve the interests of the elite, Web 2.0 technology has allowed for the proliferation of a plethora of alternative voices of resistance and revolution. Of course, it is a matter of seeking these sources out, but they are nevertheless present like never before. This undercuts the ability of the mainstream media to inaccurately portray the actions and motivations of the global resistance. People, if they wish, can now read our words and judge for themselves.
Bart: It alters it on every imaginable level. Whoever can frame the debate of their resistance to the population will win this struggle. So long as the power structure can point to some outside threat and convince the people of that threats reality they can and will enforce their own legitimacy. Our task is to show the illegitimacy of the system and its controllers, we can only do so by our own willingness to force that system to reveal its oppressive, authoritarian, and violent nature. We struggle against not flesh and bones, but ideas.
Bodo: Doesn’t form of resistance used depend entirely on context?
Nathan: Yes. Absolutely. All forms of resistance are necessary.
Bart: Absolutely. Like I sated in my opening, every human being has the right to defend themselves from direct aggression. But for any mass movement to succeed against the military industrial complex, possessing the most armed and technologically advanced weapons systems in the world we have to target the human element that controls those systems. While the overlords that control that system would be more than happy to destroy us the operators of those systems must believe that they are essentially doing what is right, that they are good people. If you rob them of that illusion then you have begun the process of unraveling the psychology and sophistry that allows them to continue. If society unravels then prepare yourself for survival in the cyber punk anarchy that will follow. No one will be spared and the chances for humanity to survive let alone evolve will be almost nil.
Bodo: How can any one tactic be held up as superior when the effectiveness of that tactic depends entirely on the context in which it is used?
Nathan: One tactic or strategy of resistance should not be held up as superior, but rather, as your questions rhetorically indicate, strategies and tactics of resistance are completely contextual.
Bart: It can’t. It is entirely dependent on the context of the situation and the struggle. But what is mot important to remember is that we currently live in western liberal democracies, these democracies have certain beliefs about human rights and dignity (albeit these views are many time completely hypocritical in regards to reality) yet that is why framing and propaganda management of the human being is so key to domination. People like to believe that they are good and doing the right thing. To transform our current society into a new order will require effective perception management. By using violence we supply the outside threat that further legitimizes the states oppression of any alternative to it from forming.
Bodo: What is more vital to the success of a resistance movement; abiding by ideologically articulated principles because they are philosophically or morally “correct”, or abiding by pure tactical prudence in which resistance stratagems are formulated according solely to the practicality of their projected efficacy?
Nathan: I would argue that this is a false dichotomy, and that both are equally necessary (lest we become the mirror of that we seek to destroy) and complimentary of one another, rather than mutually exclusive. In our struggle to be tactically pragmatic in our praxis of resistance, we must hold true to our values, which are intimately connected with our struggle and the passion and ferocity of our resistance, so that we always know where we stand. In order to fight well, you must have a solid stance and footing.
Bart: They are one in the same, what is philosophically or morally correct will lead to the best solution for all of humanity. Yet some ideologies are superior to others. They must be judged by their fruits in a historical context. With that said, the day we crystalize truth it becomes a dead thing incapable of functioning in a living and dynamic world, we should constantly re-examine our tactics and beliefs to try and be most effective, being pragmatic is very important. I stand by my argument that non-violence at our current stage and setting is the only viable solution and rest that argument on the shoulders of history.
Bodo: What should be the higher priority to subversives dedicated to the success of a resistance; proving themselves right about their philosophy or ideology through endless bickering and conflict, or unity and resolve between their varying political factions until such a time arrives that their differences may amount to palpable change in the system?
Nathan: Our priority must be to rise up and defend our planet, which is under attack. While precious time should not be wasted arguing with those who seek only disruption and combative polemics, debate however remains a valuable tool, if only it can be done with a degree of civility and mutual respect for differing opinions and ideas. This does not mean, however, abiding by the absurd principle that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Many enemies of our enemies remain, nonetheless, our enemies. As an anarchist, for example, I oppose the State in all its various and insidious forms, be it capitalist or communist or socialist. That I share the common enemy of capitalism with communists and socialists does not mean they are my allies, or that we share a common struggle. They are equally my enemies, and our common enemy is only incidental. Where anarchists have fought along the side of State communists and socialists in the past, we were betrayed and systematically exterminated after the “revolution.” The tactical option, rather than siding with one enemy against another, perhaps greater enemy, is to play your enemies against one another, without compromising by siding with either.
Bart: Obviously we have to have solidarity now to resist the police sate that is unfolding. We must stop the police state because it is that state of being that will be used to dissolve our ability to affect any kind of change. On every level we must resist that system.
Science: How do you determine your allies? How do you determine your friends?
Nathan: This question is the hardest of all for anarchists, as they inherently oppose a greater swath of society than most other political theories and philosophies. Anarchism doesn’t just challenge one form of hierarchy such as capitalism, the nation-state, or patriarchy, but rather, challenges the idea of hierarchy itself, as it exists everywhere in society, from the State and economic system to gender relationships and the family. Our enemy is hierarchy in all its myriad of forms. That said, my allies will defend me, not attack me. My allies will defend the earth, not attack the earth. My allies will defend one another, not attack one another.
Bart: By their works ye shall know them. Find like-minded people you trust and work with them to effect the change you believe in.
Bodo: Would the movement behind Gandhi have succeeded without the simultaneous violent resistance of groups like Anushilan Samity, Jugantar, and the Bengal Volunteers and vice versa?
Nathan: Though I cannot say with absolute certainty, I highly doubt it (on both counts).
Bart: Yes. Many violent attempts had been to overthrow the British and retake their country, yet this type of resistance was calculated for and was in fact part of the colonial system. Many in the British leadership felt that Gandhi’s type of resistance in fact helped to diffuse “real” resistance. It was a shock to this leadership how effective Gandhi’s methods later proved to be. The violent groups never worked and could never work, the best they could do was to hi-light the alternatives. Most importantly, from a historic perspective the Indian movements and attempt to throw off colonial rule show us the futility of engaging a parasitical system with your energy only by starving that system of your energy can you remove it.
Bodo: How many examples of purely non-violent revolutions are there really?
Nathan: None (that I am aware of).
Bart: This depends on what kind of revolution you are talking about. Revolutions brought about by force alone rarely last, only revolutions that can capture the imagination of the people have any kind of foundation to stand upon. The birth of Christianity, the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, the end of segregation and apartheid all where revolutionary movements that changed how people thought or viewed their world and were in fact the most lasting. Each of them were birthed out or darkness, abuse, and misery, barely a generation before their occurrence no one but the most heretical prphet would have believed a world different that the status quo could be achieved, to think otherwise you would be branded a dreamer, fool, heretic, or all three. That is what true revolution is however, to dream the impossible, but to know it is not only possible, but necessary. Every true revolution in the human experience has been a revolution of the mind, and that is exactly the kind of revolution we need, one that will seek to transform our very understanding of our world. As with all the past revolutions in the human experience they have begun first in the mind, then the material world. This is one of the primary points I fell my opponent fails to recognize, his process to revolution seeks anarchy as its final synthesis, this type of reductionist thinking can not achieve any kind of productive outcome.
Bodo: Again, what role does technology (or dispersion of technology) play in the success of either form of resistance (“violent” or “non-violent”)?
Nathan: The more decentralized the technology is in the hands of the resistance and the supporting populace, the more successful the revolt, as a rule. But this is not to say that resistance within the context of a situation in which there is a high degree of concentration and control of technology by the elite. We don’t need access to and control of technology to resist, but it sure helps.
Bart: As Carrol Quigley correctly rights in Tragedy and Hope, technology has been the prime motivator and shaper of human history. It plays the most central and critical role for two reasons.
1. Humanity has the technology to communicate amazingly complex ideas, information, and solutions to its combined problems. Because this group mind has existed, even if the networks the helped to foster the mass awakening we have been experiencing the cat is already out of the bag, far too many are aware of this system and is destructive nature. It is for this reason that the resistance movement must be so careful in maintaining the moral high ground and never allow the establishment to cast the resistance movement as the aggressors or root cause of the coming and ongoing turmoil. So long as we occupy that position the controllers can mount no effective attack against the people. I have written about this continually and in fact have made predictions regarding spectacular attacks linking those in the resistance movement to violence. The establishment understands the scenario we are in and will not only encourage violence, but will create false flag terror to create this perception. This is where the infowar becomes so important, those would resist this must continually be on guard for these tactics. Without the Internet and the collective intelligence it has created we would have long ago been provoked into more wars of aggression, just look at the Cheney navy seal story as reported by Seymore Hersh. We have already come dangerously close to Gulf of Tonkin type scenarios, the only reason they have not happened is because the public wouldn’t buy the goods. But ask the question, why wouldn’t they buy that story? Because in major national polls the people no longer trust their government or media establishment, this has been a direct outgrowth of the explosion of alternative media.
2. If we start down the dark path of violence, the population will managed crisis after crisis into smaller compact cities and emergency camps” the police, doctors, and military will follow orders believing what that they are protecting the people from the “terrorists”. The people in herd mentality will flock to the welcoming arms of their protectors and those small groups of rebels will be hunted down one by one and eliminated.
Zephid: Should the effectiveness of a resistance’s message be judged by the political process it seeks to change (or replace), or by how many of the masses eventually support it?
Bart: The masses must support revolution for it to succeed. Resistance should be judged by its outcomes.
Nathan: The latter, of course, but this hinges upon your usage of the word “message.” If you had asked if the effectiveness of a resistances intended goals should be judged on the process it seeks to change or replace, or by how many people support it, my answer would have been the former. I say this because for many of us, the goal of resistance has moved beyond the message, and beyond attempting to “change minds” or convince the masses of the veracity of our praxis of revolt, but rather, to take direct action against the machinery of death and destruction that is systematically destroying the land base and eradicating its inhabitants. The goal of true direct action is to stop something from taking place, not to convince people not to do it or to join your cause.
Zephid: Following that, should the tactics for effective resistance consider as a variable the broadest possible appeal to those not of like mind but open minded, i.e. should they beware of alienating the masses?
Bart: This is the core of my argument: the masses are what matter, because the bulk of the herd must be steered either towards tyranny or liberation.
Nathan: If their goal is to convince the masses to join them or to convince people to change their minds about a particular subject, then yes, they should be wary of this. But again, this is not the goal of the vast majority of armed resistance and direct action.
Also, the premise that radicals and militants somehow alienate the general public or the mainstream movements isn’t necessarily a correct or valid one. It is often argued, for example, that the actions of groups like the ELF alienate people from the environmental movement, but in reality, such radical groups make more mainstream, moderate groups seem less threatening to the governments and the corporations they serve, as well as to the public. There was a time, before Earth First! and the ELF, that groups now considered moderate, such the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society, were—being practically the only environmental groups in operation—considered extreme and a threat to business interests around the nation. Thanks to radical environmentalists, they are now, by comparison, the moderates.
Obscur: At what point is a peace officer just doing his duty within reasonable means?
Bart: Within the bounds of morality. But his perceptions of morality might differ from yours or mine. This is why it is so important to change his mind.
Nathan: In so far as his real duty is to protect the status quo, the ruling-class elite, and their property and other interests, almost any means are deemed necessary to carry out this duty.
Obscur: At what point is it right to disobey and even violently act against one in a scene of chaos where collateral damage is a very real possibility?
Bart: When your personal morality dictates it. There is no formula to this. It is based on individual acts of conscience.
Nathan: At the point the actions of the police officer are going to cause harm to others, human and non-human alike.
NotNada: Are your two ideologies symbiotic?
Nathan: That, I suppose, is yet to be determined, but as it stands, my analysis is based on the premises that the current levels of human (and human-propagated) population levels are fundamentally unsustainable, that it was created by an era of cheap and abundant energy that is now coming to a close, and that no combination of advanced alternative energy technologies will allow us to continue business as usual or anything even close to it, whereas Bart’s analysis is based on the premise that advanced technology can and will solve the exigencies that accompany having vastly exceeded the carrying capacity of the land base.
Bart: To a degree yes. While the violent approach can be used as a foil to show the attractiveness of the non-violent approach it is not necessary to accomplish objectives. Overall the non-violent approach is the one necessary to mobilize the population en mass. Resistance is resistance, more of the nature of effectiveness should be judged by the timing of when the resistance occurs. In the initial stages of revolution the peaceful approach is what is necessary so that the battle line between the oppressor and oppressed can be clearly drawn and recognized by the home population. Everything must focus on the framing of the struggle morally and politically.
Truthcansuk: I have never felt oppressed. I have been given every chance to succeed, raise happy children, and give back to my community through both charity and volunteer work. Since I see no reason to overthrow such a system, where do people like myself fit in your worldview, and if/when the revolution happens, what advice could you give me that would help me cope with my eventual becoming collateral damage?
Nathan: While I disagree that you will become collateral damage (and realize you’re just being a general pain), I would hope that if you truly have never felt oppressed, you certainly won’t feel oppressed after you and your community have direct control over the decisions that actually effect your lives, rather than some bureaucrat in Washington who has no true familiarity or vested interest in the issues of your community. Nor will you need my advice. Rather, you can look to yourself and your immediate community to answer your questions.
If you have truly been given the opportunities you claim, then you will give yourself the same and more. What’s more, others (who, under current conditions, suffer under exploitation to provide you with the privilege you boast of) will be afforded the same privileges you have benefited from.
That you think a system of global (or even national) control knows what’s good for you and your community, and how to bring it to you, better than you and your community do, is symptomatic of the hegemonic disempowerment pervasive in our culture.
Bart: Unfortunately you don’t realize that this system is slowly murdering you and your children. You are already collaterally damaged. You and your children have been and are being poisoned on your food, water, medical care, and education. War is being waged against you with soft kill weapons that are slowly moving towards hard kill means, the sooner you recognize this the better chance you will have at saving yourself and them. If you cannot (or will not) recognize any of this then sadly your only fate is to be a victim of forces you cannot understand and refuse to face. For years I have catalogued the very nature of the scientific dictatorship, a system of control that euthanizes resistance by enslaving people through comfort. It is the ultimate system of human control, a system that can murder, retard, and mutilate vast portions of the human race to their eager cries. It appears you occupy the position of one of the cheering masses being lead to their own slaughter.
Bacchus: Do revolutionaries, especially revolutionaries who advocate the violent overthrow of existing structures, have any responsibility to have a workable plan or at least a clear articulation of the ultimate goal they have in mind? If the goal is to replace the old system with a new system, do revolutionaries have a duty to the masses to have a clear idea of the new system they wish to create? If the goal is to have no system to replace existing systems, do revolutionaries have an obligation to at least be honest about the likely implications, such as how people will be fed, clothed, housed and kept healthy in the absence of current structure? If not: why not?
Nathan: Of course they do. Absolutely. On all counts. But that does not mean it is up to each and every revolutionary, as an individual, to be able to provide all these solutions. There is a large community that together possesses the collective knowledge to create viable and sustainable alternative modes of living in harmony with the planet and its countless other inhabitants. That said, it is essential for every individual, family, collective, community, bioregion, etc., to learn to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves in ways that do not lead to the ultimate destruction of the natural world. The more decentralized this knowledge is, the better.
Bart: Yes absolutely they do. Revolution without goals can only be destructive by its very definition. Take this analogy; imagine the current world system as bus careening out of control along a narrow and winding mountain pass road. the bus driver is a greedy, self obsessed lunatic. You and the other passengers have watched him degenerate over time and are increasingly becoming worried as his increasingly erratic and illogical behavior has not only severely damaged the bus but with each hair pin turn the bus comes closer and closer to flying off the cliff. To save yourself and the other passengers you must not only eject the bus driver, but you must regain control of the bus. To boot him out of the drivers seat without a plan on how to get control of the bus and put it back onto a safe path is to commit to the same course set upon by the original bus driver. We must not only eject the controllers who have brought us to this state but we must re-chart a system that can safely guide this highly technological, complex, and dangerous machine. To simply try and deconstruct it in the middle of the current crisis would be irresponsible in he extreme. My opponent’s remedy to the current crisis is to generate one as dangerous if not more so to our current one. My process seeks for humanity to evolve the current system, to take what is best from and leave the junk behind, his seeks to devolve into some noble sate of nature that I am not sure ever existed while ignoring all of the dangers, suffering, and complexities created by his method and goals.
RossCairn: What happens if the revolution succeeds?
Nathan: That would depend, of course, on whose revolution you are talking about. Any revolution that fails to totally abolish centralized and vertical/hierarchical forms of authority in favor of horizontal, bioregional decentralization and egalitarian redistribution of power dynamics into the hands of communities themselves (whose lives the decisions made actually effect), will be a partial revolution at best, and will, for anarchists at least, necessitate a continuation of the struggle towards total liberation and true freedom for all.
Bart: Then humanity has been afforded one more chance to prove that it is worthy to survive. Then we will be given one more chance to try and move forward as a species and exist as a healthier and more-noble expression of itself. This is not hyperbole but reality. We have reached a wall in our collective experience and must evolve or die.
Trainspotter: Accepting for the moment that for the state violence is a means of control, it is “their game”, they make the rules and carry the largest sticks; what of the repercussions of attempting to play their game against them? Inviting potentially massive repercussions is irrelevant for the sake of advancing the cause? Or there is no other option plain and simple?
Nathan: The premise that we cannot use the tools that the system controls and uses to control has always been a hollow argument. The system controls information and money as well. Should we not use those tools just because they disproportionately control them? I think not. The State possesses vast quantities of money in comparison to the global resistance movements, but I would not argue that because of this we should not use money as a tool to advance our strategies and tactics of revolt.
That said, “their game” is not just predicated upon force, violence, and physical coercion, but rather on a very specific formation of force and the centralization and monopolization of legitimized violence. So playing their game really means continuing to buy into the premise—which they put forward to keep us from rising up to begin with—than violence is illegitimate when exercised by communities or individuals, even in self-defense and in defense of one’s land base.
Bart: You can’t beat them at their game. Hypothetically, you’re talking about engaging the most powerful military complex in the history of the world. Its not the death star, your not going to blow it up with one well-timed strike. The most important thing to remember is that we are the system, it is us, violence is the fuel and energy that drives it. Cut off the fuel and the system becomes a lifeless hunk of metal incapable of harming anyone. that is its true weakness, it is for this reason so much effort is put into creating conflict and resistance, because all direct resistance feeds itself back into the system as a whole. You have attack the source of the problem, which is the belief in the system. It is the belief in the system that gives it its power. Violent action only feeds into the feedback loop that empowers the system as a whole. We must enjoin those who operate and enforce the systems edicts into understanding that the system is destructive to them and their future, you can only do that by your example. You have to show them you are right, this cannot be forced. Any attempt to do so will only drive them further into a siege mentality.
Bart Black is a patriot libertarian who produces and hosts the TV show Frequency Clear.TV, Media rights and 9-11 truth activist, End the Fed organizer, writer, blogger, and reporter. He has interviewed Greg Palast, Alex Jones, Dr. Jerome Corsi, Dr. Ron Paul, and many others. You can read more of his work at frequencyclear.tv, or by searching for HackMkUltra online.
Nathan Coe is a guerrilla journalist and rebel insurgent residing in the mountains of Southwest Colorado, who also works with SW(A)RM, subMedia, and Indymedia. Nathan has written numerous articles about the impending global economic collapse and police state, as well as resistance movements around the world. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or via his blog at ShiftShapers.gnn.tv