The fact is that all non-cooperation is not violent and non-violent non-cooperation can never be an act of violence.
—M.K Gandhi, in Non-Violent Resistance
The violent attack on Occupy Oakland should not have come as surprise. It was inevitable that some local authorities would eventually resort to violence. It will be a surprise if there are no further such assaults. The people who stand to lose if the Occupy movement succeeds are very wealthy and very powerful, and they control many aspects of national and local governance. They will not easily cede any aspects of power or any of their staggeringly disproportionate wealth. The stronger the Occupy movement grows, the more desperate will be those who would destroy it. If history is precedent, they will attempt many different means. There is one ideal means of countering those attempts.
Mass civil disobedience stands on a different footing. It can only be tried in a calm atmosphere. It must be the calmness of strength not weakness, knowledge not ignorance.
The Occupy movement already has succeeded in changing the national economic dialogue. All summer long, from most Democrats as well as Republicans, almost all we heard about was debt and deficits and austerity. We didn't hear much about jobs except as excuses for more of the market-based chicanery that has proven, at best, a failure and at worst, the latest means of extending and exploiting class warfare. All summer long, from most Democrats as well as most Republicans, we heard almost nothing about the financial industry crimes that nearly brought down the economy. It was a profound failure of the political system, and it seemed clear that the political system was not equipped even to begin to rectify it. The Occupy movement has changed all of that. The corporatist media have begun discussing jobs and wealth disparities and finance industry crimes. The Occupy movement gets full credit for that.
Only those who realize that there is something in man which is superior to the brute nature in him and that the latter always yields to it, can effectively be Satyagrahis. This force is to violence, and, therefore, to all tyranny, all injustice, what light is to darkness. In politics, its use is based upon the immutable maxim, that government of the people is possible only so long as they consent either consciously or unconsciously to be governed.
As Hunter noted earlier this week, the powers that be seem to have assumed that after a while the Occupy movement would just go away. They got some attention. They blew off some steam. Now back to business as usual. But that's beginning to change. The powers that be are beginning to realize that this movement is not going anywhere but forward. The demands are serious. The depth and breadth of change needed to satisfy those demands are paradigmatic. A bare awakening is only beginning. This is for real. There is no going back. And the response has begun to get nasty. It will get nasty. Sadly, that is one measure of the Occupy movement's initial success. But the Occupy movement's success thus far is but initial. The continuing path forward will grow more difficult and more complicated. And the Occupy movement needs to be prepared. And given that the Occupy movement has no leadership or hierarchy, is spontaneous and organic, and is both diverse and diffuse, that means that every single person involved with or supportive of the Occupy movement needs to be prepared.
Non-cooperation is not a movement of brag, bluster and bluff. It is a test of our sincerity. It requires solid and silent self-sacrifice. It challenges our honesty and our capacity for national work. It is a movement that aims at translating ideas into action. The more we do, the more we find that much more must be done than we had expected. The thought of our imperfection must make us humble."
A non-cooperationist strives to compel attention and to set an example by his unobtrusive humility. He allows his actions to speak for his creed. Neither in the Koran nor in the Mahabharata was there any sanction for and approval of violence. If the science of war leads to dictatorship, the science of non-violence leads to democracy. Today, more than ever before, there is a need to practice non-violent conflict resolution skills. Hence, at an individual and at a collective level, we have to seek viable alternatives to violence before we make our world an extremely hostile and unfriendly place.
Those who would destroy the Occupy movement will attempt many means, but one of the most obvious will be to attempt to marginalize the movement as extreme and irrelevant. Given that the economic issues driving the Occupy movement enjoy wide popular support, these attempts to marginalize will not focus on the issues, the facts or the goals. It will be an effort to undermine the movement as a movement, regardless of what it is about. What it is about seems too threatening to name. Therefore the attempts to destroy it will be about behavior. They will include attempts to provoke and to publicize any acts that can be construed as vandalism or violence perpetrated by anyone who can be construed as a member of the Occupy movement. And if history is precedent, that also will include such acts perpetrated by infiltrators. But whatever happens, the Occupy activists can only be responsible for their own behavior. And that not only must include refraining from any acts of vandalism or violence, no matter how abusive the tactics of authorities; it also must include attempts to condemn every possible such act as it happens. Even and especially when resisting new laws passed specifically to suppress the Occupy Movement.
Passive resistance is a method of securing rights by personal suffering; it is the reverse of resistance by arms. When I refuse to do a thing that is repugnant to my conscience, I use soul-force. For instance, the Government of the day has passed a law which is applicable to me. I do not like it. If by using violence I force the Government to repeal the law, I am employing what may be termed body-force. If I do not obey the law and accept the penalty for its breach, I use soul-force. It involves sacrifice of self.
Even and especially in the face of acts of violence perpretrated by authorities.
By noiselessly going to prison a civil resister ensures a calm atmosphere. The wrongdoer wearies of wrongdoing in the absence of resistance. All pleasure is lost when the victim betrays no resistance. A full grasp of the conditions of successful civil resistance is necessary at least on the part of the representatives of the people before we can launch on an enterprise of such magnitude. The quickest remedies are always fraught with the greatest danger and require the utmost skill in handling them.
The Occupy movement has, on its own, without hierarchy, embraced this concept. That has been one of the keys to its initial success. There has been training in non-violence at various Occupy locations. This reflects both the dignity and wisdom of those participating in this movement and the dignity and wisdom inherent in human beings.
How then can one be effectively non-violent? By simply refusing to take up arms.
In other words, trust the method. It is an ends in itself. It should not be confused with weakness or compliance or capitulation.
When we do not like certain laws, we do not break the heads of lawgivers but we suffer and do not submit to the laws. That we should obey laws whether good or bad is a newfangled notion. There was no such thing in former days. The people disregarded those laws they did not like and suffered the penalties for their breach. It is contrary to our manhood if we obey laws repugnant to our conscience. Such teaching is opposed to a religion and means slavery. If the Government were to ask us to go about without any clothing, should we do so? If I were a passive resister, I would say to them that I would have nothing to do with their law. But we have so forgotten ourselves and become so compliant that we do not mind any degrading law.
There is strength in resistance, but the greatest strength is in non-violent resistance. There also is the greatest opportunity for long-range success. At this stage, it's very much about perceptions. For this movement to have any chance at long-range success, this movement must progressively draw in more and more of the non-activist middle Americans who are for now mostly observing. And that means continuing to present to those mostly observing an ethos of determination, responsibility and non-violence. Let the tactics of those opposed to the Occupy movement reveal them. Let there be a clear contrast. This cannot be but a passing moment or a passing phase. It will take time and determination. And more.
And patience means self-suffering. So the doctrine came to mean vindication of truth, not by infliction of suffering on the opponent, but on one's own self.
This is up to every individual, acting in accordance with conscience. Things will grow more difficult as those who would destroy this movement grow more worried and inevitably more desperate. Means of obstruction and suppression and repression will proliferate. None can be allowed to succeed.
Disobedience without civility, discipline, discrimination, non-violence is certain destruction.
Given the political failures of the past years and the past decades, we cannot afford for the Occupy movement to fail. It is the best hope we have had in a very long time to build a better collective future.
Thanks for posting this, Gary. I only regret that the author did not touch on the value of a parallel constructive program to channel energies, generate goodwill and more or less eliminate misperceptions.
There is work, both life-affirming and life-enhancing, to be done in every community, even if the big inhumane system is unwilling to pay people to do it.
Dave, I'm sure there's more out there on the issue you mention. And there will be more as the movement matures--as I hope it will. in any case, I know there are plenty who think as you do.
"When Creating a Culture of Peace was a program of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Pact for Peaceful Witness was created to encourage nonviolent action and witness, especially in the build-up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Creating a Culture of Peace, now an independent organization, has trainers across the country -- please contact Janet Chisholm at CCP if you're interested in scheduling nonviolence trainings in your Occupy encampment or your community!
In addition to the religious peace fellowships included in the document, many other FOR affiliates also offer nonviolence training. FOR ally The Ruckus Society offers trainings in nonviolent action, and Ruckus has been deeply involved in many local Occupy encampments."
[from a message FoR sent me today]
An Open Letter to the Occupy Movement
by Starhawk, Lisa Fithian, and Lauren Ross (from the Alliance of Community Trainers)
Long Island Rose / Creative Commons
The Occupy movement has had enormous successes in the short time since September when activists took over a square near Wall Street. It has attracted hundreds of thousands of active participants, spawned occupations in cities and towns all over North America, changed the national dialogue and garnered enormous public support. It’s even, on occasion, gotten good press!
Now we are wrestling with the question that arises again and again in movements for social justice – how to struggle. Do we embrace nonviolence, or a ‘diversity of tactics?’ If we are a nonviolent movement, how do we define nonviolence? Is breaking a window violent?
We write as a trainers’ collective with decades of experience, from the anti-Vietnam protests of the sixties through the strictly nonviolent antinuclear blockades of the seventies, in feminist, environmental and anti-intervention movements and the global justice mobilizations of the late ’90s and early ’00s. We embrace many labels, including feminist, anti-racist, eco-feminist and anarchist. We have many times stood shoulder to shoulder with black blocs in the face of the riot cops, and we’ve been tear-gassed, stun-gunned, pepper sprayed, clubbed, and arrested.
While we’ve participated in many actions organized with a diversity of tactics, we do not believe that framework is workable for the Occupy Movement. Setting aside questions of morality or definitions of ‘violence’ and ‘nonviolence’ – for no two people define ‘violence’ in the same way – we ask the question:
‘Diversity of tactics’ becomes an easy way to avoid wrestling with questions of strategy and accountability. It lets us off the hook from doing the hard work of debating our positions and coming to agreements about how we want to act together. It becomes a code for ‘anything goes,’ and makes it impossible for our movements to hold anyone accountable for their actions.
The Occupy movement includes people from a broad diversity of backgrounds, life experiences and political philosophies. Some of us want to reform the system and some of us want to tear it down and replace it with something better. Our one great point of agreement is our call for transparency and accountability. We stand against the corrupt institutions that broker power behind closed doors. We call to account the financial manipulators that have bilked billions out of the poor and the middle classes.
Just as we call for accountability and transparency, we ourselves must be accountable and transparent. Some tactics are incompatible with those goals, even if in other situations they might be useful, honorable or appropriate. We can’t be transparent behind masks. We can’t be accountable for actions we run away from. We can’t maintain the security culture necessary for planning and carrying out attacks on property and also maintain the openness that can continue to invit
Damn comment word limits!
the article continues http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2011/11/10/an-open-letter-to-th...