Fazal Rahman, Ph.D. Completed on November 10, 2011
First posted on Dandelion Salad
In this article, a dialectical approach to the strategy and tactics of non-forceful and forceful forms of struggle, in face of the all-round violence of the capitalist-imperialist state, is proposed. As some of the pacifist, progressive, and anarchist or anarchist-like speakers and writers of the 2011 American Protests (Occupy Protests) are absolutizing the non-violence-not only as a tactic, but also as a permanent strategy and philosophy of the struggle-a brief critique of them is also included in this paper. Also as some, like Chris Hedges, are misrepresenting the meanings, relevance, and role of Marx and Marxism, Bakunin and Anarchism, 1960s anti-Vietnam War Movement, and Black Panthers struggles etc., specific refutations of their specific distortions have also been presented here.
Constructive critiques of Occupy Protests
For the leftists, it is not easy to be objective and critical of a developing movement, like the Occupy Protests (OP), which has emerged from a politically brain-washed, brain-dead, and money-things-power-worshipping society-after decades of walking-deadism-as all leftists, Marxists, and other good-willed and social justice oriented people identify with it, want it to grow and succeed, and want to focus on its positive qualities and potentials, especially when the right-wing pundits and politicians are vilifying and slandering it. However, constructive critiques and identification of the flaws and deficiencies, by the Left, is most essential, as these are of such great importance that if these are not faced head on, it will inevitably lead to failure and dispersal, in relation to all the major politico-economic problems and issues. So far, such constructive critiques have been very rare (for example 1, 2, 3). Overwhelming majority of the articles of progressives and leftists have only focused on the positive qualities and potentials of the OP. There is no doubt that the emergence of OP in-itself constitutes a great positive development. Even if it does not aim for or achieve the essential larger politico-economic goals and objectives, and only attains partial and limited reforms, it will be a step in the right directions, and will be useful for subsequent revolutionary developments, just like the failed 1905 Russian Revolution had paved the way for the successful October 1917 Russian Revolution.
As William Bowles pointed out, the S-word (Socialism) seems to be a taboo in the OP (3). This is the greatest, most crucial, self-defeating, and self-destructive flaw in the developing OP-a result of the cradle to grave Pavlovian prejudicial conditioning against socialism in this advanced alienated society, which has made overwhelming majority of protesters unable to see the obvious and self-evident truth that socialism is the only real and effective solution to the great politico-economic, social, cultural, and mass psychological problems that have developed and accumulated in this extremist capitalist-imperialist society over decades and centuries. As pointed out in an earlier article (1), all the objective conditions for transition to socialism and socialist solution are over-ripe in the Advanced Capitalist-Imperialist Technocratic Society (ACITS). It is only the deformation, mutilation, and stultification of the Subjective Factor, mass subjectivity, and mass psychology, which are the greatest barriers to this and preventing this, at this stage of the history of ACITS.
Forms of violence of the state and forms of resistance
US society is one of the most violent capitalist-imperialist societies in the entire history of mankind, which subjects very large numbers of people, within its own boundaries, as well as in rest of the world, to numerous forms of violence, the most brutal physical-military forms unleashed on countries of the Third World that are no match for it in conventional military warfare and strength. The brute physical violence is only one of these forms. Economic and financial violence is another major form, which, in some ways, is even worse than the former. Blacks and other minorities have been subjected to this latter form throughout its sinister history. In fact, the Great Depression never ended for the Blacks and other minorities. Now, large numbers of Whites-who were complicit and silent on this great oppression and repression of minorities-are coming out and protesting, because they are also being subjected to some of the same deprivations that Blacks and other minorities have suffered for decades and centuries. These are irrefutable historical facts, which the current mostly White and White-lead developing movement must face, if they wish to bring large numbers of Blacks and other minorities into the movement. Most Whites, including those in the Protests, are conditioned in the WASP mass psychology, and are unable to relate to or incorporate ideas, analyses, thoughts, and feelings that come from outside the boundaries of that mass psychology. The origins of this mass psychology involve very complex politico-economic, cultural, philosophical, and technocratic factors-as well as the powerful influences of various forms of positivism and neo-positivism, operationalism, scientism, technicism, and dollarism, which have not only conditioned the academia, but also much of the society, as well-which this paper cannot go into here. However, its most important, debilitating, and self-defeating flaw is that it, by and large, is very shallow and superfluous and tends to float on the surface of phenomena, without relating them to their roots, essence, and fundamental causes. And, it does that most self-confidently, self-righteously, and arrogantly, with the pretensions and illusions of practicality and factuality.
The essence of current Protests is that the discarded progeny of Capital is demanding a small share of Capital. It has no larger politico-economic goals or agenda, at this stage. Only a very small part of it has such goals and agenda. Without such goals and agenda, nothing will change. Even if, somehow, most or all the protesters got their small share of the Capital and got employed, they will only become part of the greedy, corrupt, exploitative, dehumanizing, and repressive system, corporations, and companies. That may solve their personal financial problems, but will do nothing to solve the incomparably more important and larger politico-economic, social, cultural, and mass psychological problems. To the contrary, it would feed into and enhance these problems. That is what inevitably happens when a predominantly utilitarian approach to such problems is adapted and practiced, instead of one based on concrete principles, developed on the basis of deeper analysis and understanding of problems, their appearance, and essence.
Police, military, intelligence agencies, the Orwellian justice and court establishments are only the most visible institutions of repression and violence. All the other major institutions of this society-as integral parts of the system of domination, control, exploitation, and violence-are also practicing, perpetuating, and enforcing these.
Within such an environment, when protests, like the current ones, explode, it is essential to see the overall reality and multidimensional nature of the violence of the system and the society it has created-the worst of which is inflicted on the human nature itself-if real solutions, goals, strategy, and tactics are to be developed. The Protests neither have such deeper understanding of the complex problems, nor have any effective goals, solutions, strategy, or tactics, at the current stage. Instead of dealing with such fundamentally important matters and problems, and establishing the essential solid foundations to stand on and operate, they are spending almost all of their time, energy, efforts, and resources on the creation of bureaucratic procedures, committees, beating the drums, chanting slogans, and occupying some tiny areas of various cities. Some of the Occupy web sites are even purging and censoring the writings and comments of genuine leftists and Marxists from their sites, like that of New York Occupy Wall Street (OWS), and Occupy Chicago-latter being the worst, as it has installed a moderator, with power to censor comments and posts, even before these are posted, thereby making it impossible for anyone to know which posts were censored and why.
Non-forceful and forceful forms of struggle
Mankind is living in an era which is dominated and saturated by massive brutal violence of the capitalist and imperialist states, first and foremost, that of the Godfather of Imperialism, the USA, in all its numerous forms. Almost every important domestic and international issue and matter is being ultimately decided by brute force. In certain situations, like the current one in the US-in which the balance of forces is entirely against the resistance-it is necessary to resort to the tactic of non-forceful struggle (as the term violence has negative and unethical connotations, it is hereby proposed that it should be reserved for the unjust use of force, in the service of injustice and repression. The just and ethical resistance to that force, in the service of justice and freedom, needs a different terminology. Here, we will use the terminology of non-forceful and forceful forms of struggle, for that purpose). However, it is a great strategic and intellectual blunder to elevate the non-forceful struggle to the level of exclusivity and general strategy. Non-forceful resistance is predominantly associated with Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy and struggle for the independence of India. Combined with other forms in an extremely diverse society, it was successful in India primarily because the British imperialism was exhausted during the Second World War. However, it is important to note that forceful resistance of Afghans in Afghanistan had succeeded decades earlier, against the British Empire. The civil rights movement of the 1960s had also used this tactic and was able to achieve partial legislative success in civil rights, which also resulted in economic improvement for a tiny section of Blacks and other minorities that became part of the White bourgeoisie and middle class, but left overwhelming majority of them in the same or even worse economic deprivations. Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence has failed even in India, his home country, which has now become one of the most militarist states, with insatiable lust for nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and has been colonizing Kashmir and slaughtering its Muslim inhabitants for decades, killing at least 100,000 of them and wounding and inflicting other deprivations on countless others. The current Indian politico-economic system and mass psychology are diametrically the opposite of Gandhi’s philosophy and practice of non-violence.
The key point here is that to achieve success, the forms of struggle will need to be dialectically flexible, in accordance with the changes in the balance of forces.
Contradictions of the progressives: example of Chris Hedges
There are numerous progressives, whose activities and writings on the OP reveal contradictory qualities and tendencies. A good example in this regard would be Chris Hedges, whose numerous writings have appeared, among other media, on Dandelionsalad. On the one hand, as a reporter, he is presenting good empirical information and participating in the teach-ins about peaceful and non-violent protests. However, on the other hand, he is absolutizing these, not only as a tactic, but also as a permanent strategy and philosophy. Moreover, in some of his articles, when he ventures into the theoretical politico-economic matters and comparisons of OP with the 1960s anti-Vietnam War movement, he falls apart and starts misrepresenting the historical facts and the role, accuracy, and impact of some of the founders of Marxism and anarchism (e.g., 4, 5).
On 1960s anti-Vietnam War Movement and Black Panthers
After some good analysis of the important problem of alienation of minorities from the White liberals and their movements, in discussing the 1960s anti-Vietnam War movement, Hedges tends to tailor the facts to fit them into his subjective preferences and engages in astounding generalizations about a very complex and diverse movement (4). Even though, hippies and hedonists only comprised a part of the diverse groups of that movement, he focuses on those, as if they represented the whole or major part of the movement. Students for a Democratic Society had a very large membership and, in spite of diversity in its leadership, the top intellectual leader was Tom Hayden, who was very well-read, well-informed, and serious leftist. Hedges does not even mention him. Under his leadership, the movement was in the process of developing anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist positions and had established contacts with the revolutionary movements in the Third World, including that of Vietnam. Hedges selectively focuses on some of the obvious flaws and weaknesses of some selected parts of that movement, exaggerates and generalizes them, and omits its strengths and positive qualities and accomplishments. Similarly, he greatly exaggerates and generalizes the positive qualities and potentials of the current Occupy Protests and omits their flaws and weaknesses, most probably not even perceiving them as such.
Perhaps the worst blunder Hedges made, in this regard, was to equate the forceful resistance of the Black Panthers (BP) with the violence of the capitalist-imperialist-racist state. In fact, BP advocated the right to defend themselves and their communities with arms, against the routine armed violence of the forces of racism. They had also started community service programs, like free breakfast for children. In some cases, the FBI and police forces disrupted those services and destroyed the food supplies. In addition to direct violence of the FBI, police forces, and agents provocateur-planted by them against the BP –violence between the BP and some other Black groups, like United Slaves, was also plotted and instigated by them. Even the in-charge of the BP security in Chicago turned out to be a FBI plant, who provided crucial inside information that lead to the brutal murder of BP leaders in Chicago by the police. BP had become the main target of FBI’s Black Nationalist Counter-intelligence Program.
Organized Vs spontaneous nature of social revolutions
Like numerous anarchists and Trotskyites, Hedge’s characterization of social revolutions in Russia and other countries as spontaneous is also totally erroneous (5). Both Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917 were the result of highly organized working class and peasant strikes and actions. They had started the working class councils in various cities in 1905 that became soviets during 1917 and played a major role in the October Revolution under the leadership of Bolsheviks, which later became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Similarly, the revolutions in China,Vietnam, and Cuba were anything but spontaneous. These were the result of formulation of concrete goals, agenda, plans, strategy, and tactics. In the former two countries, these were carried out under the leadership of communist parties, and took decades of military and political struggle to succeed, while in Cuba, the revolutionary leadership formed and merged into the communist party after the success of the revolution.
On Marx Vs Bakunin
Like overwhelming majority of Americans, Hedges reveals himself to be an anti-Marxist and starts denying and obscuring the enormous and unmatchable contributions of Karl Marx to political economy, philosophy, and world history (5). Before it was betrayed in USSR,China, and Eastern Europe, Marxist socialism had been established in numerous countries, containing around one-third of the world population, and had resulted in unprecedented rapid development in all areas of life there, including social justice. He omits and ignores these great historical facts and attempts to resurrect the anarchist Bakunin, stating and implying that he was right and Marx was wrong. In fact, Bakunin and other anarchists had produced some minor and mediocre works that neither contained any analysis of the political economy of capitalism nor of anarchism. These were mostly demagogic and appealed to peoples’ emotions for freedom and individuality, without identifying the concrete chains in which these were shackled in the political economy of capitalism, or the effective methods of breaking those chains. They advocated an immediate transition to a stateless and governmentless society. They and their followers were totally unsuccessful in creating any stable anarchist society anywhere. Wherever they tried on local levels, like Barcelona, Spain, these were very short-lived and resulted in chaos, anarchy, and misery, as well as damages to the war efforts of the Republican forces, against the fascist forces of Franco and their allies in Nazi Germany and fascist Italy, in effect, strengthening and benefiting the fascists. Marx had an enormous reservoir of knowledge at his disposal, while Bakunin and other anarchists had very limited knowledge in the relevant areas. Marx spent all his life, much of it under conditions of poverty and misery-in which some members of his family died, due to poor nutrition and untreated illnesses-in writing the most original, in-depth, and comprehensive analyses of capitalism, its political economy, and concrete and specific methods of freeing society and human nature from its sinister shackles, in history. No other intellectual contributions come even close to his. Even though, his focus was on the production of the most essential theoretical and intellectual work, he also found time to participate in the practical actions of the working class, like in the International Workingmen’s Association (the First International) and the guidance and advice to the Paris Commune of 1871. More than anything else, Marx was a philosopher and political-economist of social revolutions. And yet, in one of Hedges articles, one finds this astounding statement, “Bakunin, however, unlike Marx, was a revolutionist.” (5). He also totally misrepresents Marx’s objective and dialectical analyses of the contradictory roles and relative importance of petty bourgeoisie, peasantry, poor, and the lumpenproletariat in the revolutionary process. Before, during, and after the October 1917 Russian Revolution, under Lenin, who understood and applied Marx’s strategy and ideas of class struggle better than anyone else, the importance of peasantry for the success of revolutionary struggle and the revolution was fully recognized, and was second only to that of the working class. Hedges reduces all the complex dialectical analyses of the contradictory roles and relative importance of peasantry and other groups, mentioned above, in the revolutionary process, by Marx and Marxism, to completely erroneous, shallow, and distorted assertions, as if Marx and Marxists had nothing but contempt for them. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
Jean Paul Sartre, the famous French existentialist philosopher, who wrote incomparably more comprehensive, important, and deeper works on the nature and problems of human freedom, individuality, capitalism, and Marxism, than Bakunin and other anarchists, was forced to conclude that it was impossible to go beyond Marxism at the current stage of world history. A profound statement, the full explication of which will lengthen this article even more. Very simply put, what he meant by it was that as long as capitalism and imperialism exist, there is no alternative to Marxism. Only when these are replaced by socialism globally, will it become possible for a new philosophy and political economy to emerge and develop. Until then, all such efforts, in their essence, are doomed to end in the pre-Marxist and pre-socialist philosophies, political economies, and ideologies.
In some of his articles, Hedges admits the usefulness of vocabulary of Marx, but only in abstraction and fragmentation from its meanings and objective references. In other words, he wants to reduce Marxism to empty words that can be used freely by him or anyone else, for any purpose (6)! Like many other anti-Marxists, he put a short quote of Marx, taken out of context, at the end of one of his articles, supposedly in support of some of his anarchist or anarchist-like assertions about the OP (5).