I strongly believe it is impossible to be nonviolent in a violent world because even when you refuse to harm anyone, if you are attacked and let yourself be harmed, the end result is harmful. Similarly, if someone else is attacked unjustly and you stand idly by, you are complicit in that violence and so that is not nonviolence either, nor is it nonviolence if you put yourself in harms way intentionally in protest (i.e. in front of a bulldozer that is going to destroy someone’s home, a useful form of protest but shouldn’t be considered nonviolent nonetheless). And it is not enough to be another martyr or victim because there have been and are billions, and what changes? Slavery is alive and well and according to the Walk Free Foundationi there are, in fact, 21-29 million slaves worldwide predominately in countries like India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mauritania, (where 4.3% of the population is enslaved) and the Ivory Coast. Mass executions committed by the state of innocent women, children, and men are swept under the rug by political, corporate, and media powers. The victims are labeled “terrorists”, “insurgents,” or the news about their deaths is suppressed. One way or another they get away with it, so don’t think for a second sacrificing yourself to the state, police, or some corporate monopoly is going to result in a media firestorm and spark reforms, much less a revolution. You may be in the right but it likely won’t matter. So many times, nothing happens and the blood unjustly spilled just adds nitrogen to the soil. Non-violence does not mean refusing to protect yourself or others. Even Martin Luther King had an arsenal of weapons at his house after his house was firebombed. So while I like many others would love nothing more than a world with total peace and justice, it is something that must be fought for, not aimlessly, of course, but very carefully and in a very organized way. We must fight for peace as diligently and with as many resources as the reactionary hawks of the world fight for war.
There are people in this world who will not be convinced to lay down their arms and join common people in our struggle for basic human dignity, autonomy, and environmental justice. If we just wait until these people die off, all of the damage they do will be on us. (These people also breed children who they brainwash to think the same way and the cycle continues.) We will be complicit, so we cannot let this occur. One major advantage the war hawks, bigots, and violent psychopaths who act as foot-soldiers for the state and those with real power have over us is that they are very organized and they have put more effort into war and its study than we because they are enamored by it. They want power and conquest, so they are far more effective in dominating our society with force and manipulation, whereas decent, common people simply want autonomy, justice, and peace. There are no power-hungry leaders in a true autonomous collective, and a common trait of many true revolutionaries is that they refused positions of power because they didn’t believe in ruling. But what makes spontaneous, horizontal, leaderless revolutions great can also be their downfall as they lack organization, which is taken advantage of by the very organized, militant opposition. So how exactly do we win a war against the war hawks and the psychopaths when we don’t want war, domination, or conquest? This I believe is one of the most important largely unanswered questions facing activists today. We can talk all about what we need to do. But how do we convince others who cling to their reptilian instincts? Do we even try or do we simply fight them?
Ideally, education can win the hearts and minds of the people on the wrong side. We can spread information and compassion and improve education, but this is a very long-term solution and, as mentioned, some people will never be convinced. Therefore, we must fight them with our actions. We have to study warfare. Most importantly, we need a worker’s army. The most successful revolutions had them. Although the Paris Commune failed in the 19th Century, it wouldn’t have even begun without France’s National Guard made up mostly of working-class people who believed in autonomy, social justice, socialism, and worker’s rights. They were essential. Similarly, Nestor Makhno’s Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine (also known as the Makhnovshchina) was essential for the defense of Ukrainian common people from the terror of the Soviet Union and the White Army. The reason most revolutions fail is because they lack a strong enough people’s army to defeat the opposition and the reactionaries. The mostly peasant led Spanish Revolution of 1936 was squashed incredibly violently by the Nationalists (monarchists) led by Francisco Franco and supported by the governments of Nazi Germany, Portugal, Italy, and the Iron Guard because the Spanish Revolution lacked a people’s army strong enough to defend itself from these oppressors. The CNT / FAI and José Buenaventura Durruti Dumange’s column just weren’t enough. While very skilled and determined, they lacked the equipment required to win the war. The workers weren’t building ammunition and guns unlike their rivals with vast capitalist, military industries and factories only concerned with profit. Most of their ammunition, in fact, was pilfered.)
One might ask can a people’s army comprised of freethinkers who don’t take orders but rather think critically about everything asked of them before doing it ever defeat an army comprised of statist maniacs ready to die at the whim of some “superior” who commands them without any regard to their safety? Certainly, having soldiers like that can be advantage in war. But the answer lies in the numbers, organization, and training. If a People’s autonomous militia is large enough, sufficiently equipped, trained, organized, and disciplined, they will win regardless. Therefore, while we may hate war, we must be ready to fight. So how do we create this autonomous, People’s militia?
We must do everything we can to convince people on the wrong side (police, all branches of the military, marines, navy, the coast guard aside from their search and rescue operations during natural disasters, intelligence agencies, even reserve military branches like the national guard when they are deployed to quell local protest and dissent) to come to our side. These jobs currently do far more harm than good. We must convince them to join our side or disband. The most heinous actions ever committed in history were performed by people “just following orders” like the pilots who dropped nuclear weapons over Nagasaki and Hiroshima or the officers of concentration camps like Dachau or Auschwitz commanded by their “superiors.” Because they were just listening to their commanding officers, they were able to absolve themselves of all responsibility for their actions. Their commanding officers often did the same as they argued they merely gave commands and their foot soldiers made the decision to listen and put them into action.
The “elite” 1%, the rulers of the pathocracies of the world only have so much power because we give them their monopoly on force. Without that they are mere peons like the rest of us like lone kings on a chess board. Their titles become meaningless when they are surrounded. They can’t defend themselves once their armies have disappeared or stopped fighting for them. If we can convince the foot soldiers of the 1% to come to our side, then the revolution doesn’t have to be so bloody. More common people don’t have to kill more common people by the orders of their masters for political or economic gain. We must try to wake these people up, even though they are the hardest to wake up. The people with perhaps the most potential to do this are veterans and currently enlisted soldiers against war. Those who have been or are in the military generally have far more power to influence current and prospective soldiers than regular civilians. They must dissuade everyone they can from joining or staying in the military. They have to make their voices heard as loud as possible and use their platform as current soldiers or vets against war to promote their message.
Fundamental in people’s armies is that the positions constantly shift based on individual interest and merit, so that no one is merely a solider until death. We are all capable of playing a myriad of roles, even at the same time. One could be a solider one year, a medic the next, a baker next, and so on. This way these positions don’t “go to people’s heads” and soldiers don’t feel superior to everyone else or alienated such that they feel common people don’t understand their plight. When this psychology infects soldiers, they stop listening to civilians against war. In their minds, they just “don’t understand” because they “weren’t there.” We must all be “potential soldiers,” as in a certain set of circumstances we may all be required to fight. Even those who aren’t physically capable of defending others can keep watch and play an important role as witnesses. As Mikhail Bakunin said, “All that a well-organized society can do is, first, to assist at the birth of a revolution by spreading among the masses ideas which give expression to their instincts, and to organize, not the army of the Revolution – the people alone should always be that army – but a sort of revolutionary general staff, composed of dedicated, energetic, intelligent individuals, sincere friends of the people above all, men neither vain nor ambitious, but capable of serving as intermediaries between the revolutionary idea and the instincts of the people.”
There are many examples of vets against war (like Veterans for Peace) and others who have refused vile drafts. Omer Goldman is an example of the latter who refused the IDF’s despicable draft, despite her father, Naftali Granot, and his position as former deputy to Mossad’s chief, Meir Dagan, and she now rallies against the IDF’s crimes, despite serving jailtime twice for her refusal to join. Marinaleda Spain has shown the world in the same way we don’t need police as they abolished their police force. These examples just need to spread. We must convince soldiers of state armies and police forces that they don’t work for the people. They aren’t serving and protecting anyone but themselves and the rich and powerful. They must stop preying on common people because they disagree with us or we have a different skin color or religion or whatever else.
We can learn a great deal by studying warfare (guerrilla, urban, aerial, naval, and so on) and those who are in the military already have that advantage. They were trained and they can spread that knowledge. I believe the vets who now despise war are the key to real revolution. Active military are also key because they have access to military equipment. Active soldiers who despise war can be hard to find but they are important to seek out. They ought to liberate small arms and give them to common people and sabotage and destroy larger weapons. One may argue the despots at the very top who send men to war are the real enemies, and there is truth to that, but the even larger enemy is their power to command and convince others and the institutions that prop them up. Without that power despots would just be lunatics, easily defeated. So the muscle needs to be targeted.
It may seem counterintuitive but if you hate war I believe you must study it, prepare for it, and try to bring the people on the wrong side to the right side. There is no other way to win. Some liberal friends of ours sometimes rail against “gun nuts” understandably as their politics are generally xenophobic, racist, and imperialistic. But there’s no reason we can’t be as well armed as they are. In terms of tactics, it seems war requires leaders. While there can be no rulers in an autonomous army, there can certainly be leaders elected by autonomous platoons formed as well through free association. Orders can always be violated in a free-thinking army but leaders communicating with various other platoons with a great deal of experience to evaluate situations on the battlefield can be invaluable. Because governments have highly organized armies and police forces, People’s militias must match their level of organization. Key to organization, aside from leaders is communication. Platoons must be constantly in contact with one another, so that if one platoon or position is attacked by the majority of the opposition, other platoons can join them to fight. This is important so that no platoon in the People’s army is left behind. Apart from being immoral, abandoning one platoon or position can demoralize an entire militia, thus greatly decreasing chances for success. This tactic is important even in protests and not just all-out war. If one protester is being attacked, the others must leap to his or her defense so that the opposition never has an advantage. Similarly, I believe police forces attempting to quell or push back a protest should be met with asymmetrical resistance from protesters. Police generally attempt to form lines. This is where they get their strength. If they are separated from one another, however, they scare and retreat more easily. Police lines can be broken up by throwing molotovs, tear gas, and similar tools where they intend to march forward. If police are hurting protesters, molotovs can break them up and keep them at bay. Tear gas can be thrown back by those with gas masks and protesters can bring their own shields and “riot gear” for self-defense. Flanking is another tactic illustrated in this graphic, which can be useful against riot police.
This next graphic offers some insight into general riot police tactics and how to counter them:
Barricades can be another important tool as this graphic demonstrates:
This graphic demonstrates how forming your own lines with other protestors can be effective against police lines but this tactic should be used in conjunction with asymmetrical tactics:
Another important tactic is secrecy. Although I believe transparency is key to any kind of democratic institution or organization to be fair, militias may need to be more secret to avoid persecution from the state until they reach a critical mass and can’t possibly all be prosecuted by the state. When they are bigger than the state armies and police we have now, then it will be possible to operate openly and abolish these state-run institutions. Even protesters would be wise to hide their identities with masks or bandannas (as black blocks do) because freedom fighters and political dissidents the world over are unjustly targeted everyday. To keep their efforts going, they must hide their identities, especially when taking actions considered “criminal,” not out of fear but because this system is unjustly weighed against us.
We must also target the financial institutions that rob us blind and control our government. Secrecy will be key in these endeavors. But as we recognize the state is illegitimate, what is lawful means little. We can help workers take control of factories by protecting them during strikes and showing our solidarity with them. We can make road blocks if necessary and damage the company’s property if we need to. We can sabotage and destroy oil rigs, logging equipment, all environmentally destructive tools along with large weapons manufacturers. The banks above all also must be targeted unrelentingly. Secret militia groups ought to rob banks and the Federal Reserve of all of their capital, especially gold, in order to redistribute the wealth into the deserving hands of the public. Skilled hackers can also use their abilities to do the same electronically like Hamza Bendelladj, also known as Bx1, creator of the Trojan horse Spyeye who stole millions from bank accounts, which he gave to Palestinian charities
What I’m suggesting may seem radical to statists but what is actually radical is our states, bloated armies, corporate giants, and military equipment capable of destroying the Earth many times over that are well on their way. It is insane for the United States to have over 900 military bases in 134 countries for economic conquest. It is insane for the US police to kill over 1100 civilians a year. It is insane that the 2.4 million people are being tortured in prison cages. It is insane for corporations to destroy the Earth’s priceless ecosystems to build more condos, cut down the trees that sequester carbon and allow us to breathe, poison our water, extract water from aquifers, and extract fossil fuels from the Earth to burn adding to the pollution and melting the ice caps simply so a minority of greedy misanthropes can get rich. The status quo is insane and it must be stopped. These people do not listen to reason. Darwinism has been replaced by “survival of the richest.” Greed, bigotry, disregard for the Earth, and destruction are actually traits that are admired and propped up to be emulated by the powers that be. The American media’s admiration of Donald Trump is proof of that alone.
Demonstration and protest won’t win this war alone. We need soldiers and we need the means to take away the powers of states and destructive corporations. The war must be social and economic more than violent. We must expropriate the largest land estates and the largest corporations and reclaim them as property of the People. Where we cannot or do not want to take the property, we must destroy it, especially border walls, police property, large weaponry, and prisons (after emptying them, of course). I am sick of hearing “moderates” condemn protesters or black blocks who destroy the property of tyrants as not the “real protesters.” I say the people who simply hold up signs and wait to be arrested are not the real protesters. They are doing nothing but begging for change from their masters who do not care about us. Let riots occur but let our targets be clear. Our enemies are not local, small businesses but giant monopolies and violent governments. We must win this war or we will face extinction, maybe not now but soon as the state and corporate power tightens their grip on the Earth, suffocating everything of value on the only known habitable planet in the universe. We are already seeing increases in “natural” disasters across the world as a result of global climate change and fracking, logging, and resource exploitation on an incredible scale, and loss of half of the world’s biodiversity. We must fight for a habitable, just, diverse, and peaceful planet. We cannot afford to wait for change or reforms any longer.
iWalk Free Foundation, Global Slavery Index, 2014.