by Dr. Steven Best
I’ve read so much pacifist drivel from the Stockholm-Syndrome suffering peaceniks at so many occupation pages and in countless media interviews, the same ones cooperating with cops and perhaps the FBI to identify the “violent protestors” who could tarnish the bad name of the occupation struggles. This article (“7 Occupations That Changed US History“), along with Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States, and countless other credible historical sources, shows that many advances were made in winning rights and justice by using tough tactics as part – along with creative nonviolent civil disobedience and resistance — of the overall arsenal of strategies that moved history forward in progressive directions.
While of course the state has the overwhelming advantage in the monopolization of violence, it can and will exploit violent resistance to its advantage, and will go so far as to plant agent provocateurs to legitimate moving in with force, none of this detracts from the fact that many key battles for justice and progressive social change – from the abolitionist and suffragettes to the defeat of the US war machine in Vietnam — have used violent tactics with effective and positive results. As Vietnam shows, violence does NOT always create more violence, it often secures the peace, for the Viet Cong, not US hippies, forced the US out of Vietnam through military victories on the battlefield, as similarly decades of armed struggle brought peace to EL Salvador in the 1980s and ended the brutal US-backed junta. It is just as much as error to deny these facts — and pacifists are experts in historical revisionism and falsification of reality — as it is to recklessly initiate violent conflict with the state. Rarely does one find nuanced, balanced, and historically accurate accounts of the dynamics of modern history and social progress.
The only rule is there is no rule. Pacifists are religious fundamentalists and seek easy truths in a complex world, I use a flexible, complex, case-specific analysis and never speak in generalizations. One needs a pluralist approach and a contextualist analysis to see which tactics might work best in what situation; just as it will not always been pacifism, nor will it always be violence. Where pacifists want to take tactics off the table and to limit and weaken us, I want to put more tactics on the table, to give us more diversity and strength. Needless to say, you need intelligence, but that is amplified with flexible tactics.