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Is revolution possible? Is it actually possible for anarchists to help bring this about?

+1 vote
Is the big world anarchist revolution just a religion?
asked 1 year ago by anonymous
You need to say what you mean by "revolution."
1 year ago by lawrence (18,440 points)

2 Answers

–1 vote
Yes, but it's probably not going to happen on a global scale. Either way, we can still do our best to destroy that which destroys us and to manifest our visions and dreams of a better world as much as possible. The zine "Desert" covers this really well.
answered 1 year ago by AutumnLeavesCascade (10,210 points)
Prove me wrong.
1 year ago by AutumnLeavesCascade (10,210 points)
–3 votes
To your first question: Yes, revolution definitely is possible and it already happened multiple times throughout history. Of course revolutions most times do not end in anarchy being obtained.

To the second question: I cannot see how anarchists would be different from anyone else in this regard, so I think they are. Although I also think that those seeking to prevent revolutions are better at it.

To your third question: I do not believe that any global event can culminate in global anarchy. How exactly should one achieve that? You would need a massive shift in how people think for there being no big groups that would revert anarchist achievements and also there is the problem of how one would coordinate anarchists on such a scale.
Most anarchists I know are pacifists also, so I don't see how those would be fine with a global war (and a global revolution means war, I am certain of that).
answered 11 months ago by Weltraumschlange (720 points) edited 11 months ago by Weltraumschlange
Had to downvote for "most anarchists are pacifists also". Categorically untrue.
11 months ago by Rice Boy (10,560 points)
Corrected.

I know one anarchist that is not a pacifist. The rest I know are.
11 months ago by Weltraumschlange (720 points)
Really? I'm curious as to what anarchist circles you belong to where most people are pacifists. I have literally never met an anarchist pacifist in my life (outside of the internet), and I have met dozens of anarchists. Every anarchist blog and news site I see is decidedly not pacifist. Not calling your statement into factual question, just finding this to be a strange phenomenon.
11 months ago by Rice Boy (10,560 points)
After being involved in this anarchy stuff for a little more than 30 years, I encountered plenty in the 80s and 90s, but most of them drifted away from anarchist projects when tactics beyond their little cliques began being discussed and enjoyed. Especially after Seattle.

In all those years, I've known possibly four (if you extend the already porous edges of what an anarchist is) committed pacifists who knew enough about the actual ideas and practices of anarchists to be considered anarchists by most other anarchists. One of them died earlier this year, so that brings the total back down to three.

Weltraum, I'm sorry for you that you're apparently surrounded by them, and I'm glad I don't live near you.
11 months ago by lawrence (18,440 points)
I am not sure why you feel sorry for me. I am a pacifist myself. I also am not sure whether we have the same idea about what qualifies as pacifism or being an anarchist.

I am not in the USA and I don't know anything about Seattle or whatever happened there.

Using force to impose ones views on others is considered incompatible with anarchist ideas here. This, of course, especially includes views on social/political/economical matters, so forceful revolution is entirely out of the question for ethical reasons alone. You cannot be an anarchist if you consider views different from your own to be unworthy enough to be suppressed violently. Giving in to some kind of reasoning that it won't work any other way is basically seen as admitting (whether rightfully or not is open for your personal interpretation) that anarchy just cannot work. It's basically the same argument that anarchists use when arguing that communism can't work - you cannot reach the desired goal by using hierarchies and neither you can reach it by using force. History speaks for itself - take a look into what happened in Spain and the Ukraine. The latter even had a functioning military and still couldn't survive throughout a war.
Personally I believe that use of force generally causes more problems (for me, personally) than it can ever solve, so I won't use it. Why would I use a tool that isn't helping, that others can easily use and turn against me?
The only situation I can imagine where using force leaves me better off is when my life is directly threatened. Using force anywhere else makes it just more likely I'll end up in a situation where my life is threatened.

The only reason to use force considered compatible with anarchism is to defend life and personal freedom. What that means is open to debate and I guess this is where one might consider some of the people here not to be pacifists.

I am not sure what you mean by
"but most of them drifted away from anarchist projects when tactics beyond their little cliques began being discussed and enjoyed."
11 months ago by Weltraumschlange (720 points)
I feel sorry for you that you are surrounded by pacifists; the meaning of that sentence is clear. But since you are also a pacifist, it makes perfect sense that you're surrounded by them; that's what I meant when I mentioned "little cliques."

Let's start by trying to agree on definitions. What is pacifism? You allude to what you understand and mean by it when you say "Using force to impose ones views on others," but then qualify that when you say "The only reason to use force... is to defend life and personal freedom."

But here you fall into the typical pacifist contradiction. On the one hand,  you're talking about "views" or opinions or theory, and you state that using force "to impose" them on others is incompatible with anarchism. So far so good. I'm not interested in imposing my views on others, but really, nobody who isn't already in a position of power and authority can do that. You and I don't have access to the institutions of education, media, and other forms of cultural influence that shape/alter/confine people's ideas. The so-called marketplace of ideas is not a level playing field (if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor). If your goal is to influence people to want anarchy, you need to make it attractive, and have a way to broaden the scope of your individual and collective influence. One way is to have your own media; websites, social networks, activist formations. To draw attention to your cause, what do you do? If the goal is to score some adherents through passionate or rational (not trying to make a binary here) argument, then you need people to pay attention to you. What are your strategies for that? What are your tactics?

In your original post, you say that an anarchist revolution would "need a massive shift in how people think." This is not actually an anarchist argument. To assert this position is to retreat to a position where the time is never ripe. Aside from that, it is super patronizing (and therefore authoritarian) for you or anyone else to decide when that "massive shift in how people think" has been achieved - and therefore when "people" are somehow now ready for anarchy.

The best way to be free is to practice being free, and there's no future time when that magically becomes possible. This is the much-touted "prefiguration" of most contemporary anarchists.

The second part of the pacifist contradiction is that you use the same idea of "force" when discussing defending "life and personal freedom." Surely this is not the same. The first part is about ideas, and now we're in the realm of action. I don't want anyone to use force on me to make me do something I wouldn't choose to do myself. This is the core of an anti-authoritarian perspective. And once again, that playing field is not level. There are many more people who allow authoritarians to control the world than there are conscious anti-authoritarians. They are perfectly happy to threaten and use force to impose not only their ideas, but also their laws, their punishments, and their exploitation on everyone else. If you want to defend yourself against that kind of daily, hourly, assault you'll get no argument from me. How and where you do that is your choice. If you are committed to refusing to use force, you will be overpowered, every time; the forces arrayed against you are more numerous, more entrenched in cultural institutions that compel you to be suppressed.

For me, the choice is about how and when to fight back. What I don't want is for someone else to decide for me when and how to fight back. Pacifists always and everywhere have already made that decision, not only for themselves, but for everyone else who is allegedly on the same side. I have witnessed self-declared pacifists physically restrain people who were engaged in actions they didn't approve of (like throwing things at windows or police). I have witnessed self-declared pacifists telling cops what was about to happen at actions. I have witnessed self-declared pacifists point out other activists to the police for arrest. I have witnessed pacifists standing in line in front of businesses to prevent people from breaking windows. None of that is cool. All of that is the use of force to compel others to desist from any activity the pacifists decide is not allowed.

In short, pacifists, by limiting the options for resistance to the authoritarian system, are being authoritarian. They impose their ideas of proper resistance and frequently use the force of the status quo to make sure that all resistance remains pacifist. When tactics beyond the horribly christian idea of bearing witness start to be discussed, pacifists get really uncomfortable. When tactics beyond bearing witness are actually used and enjoyed, pacifists tend to retreat from places where they can be reasonably certain that those tactics will be used again. That's what I meant by that last sentence.
11 months ago by lawrence (18,440 points)
Oh fuck, I've got the feeling I might come across as a bit confrontational. I am very sorry if I do.

First to dot's comment: While reading at the first link I thought that somehow the naturalistic fallacy (something that is natural must be good/desirable) had to be at work because nobody talked about how and why violence fits into the anarchist idea but only how it is natural. At least that's what I read.
"i hope weltraum will reply"
That is nice to read, thank you!
It also sounds kinda strange to me because when you translate "weltraum" it means "I hope space will reply."

Now, to lawrence's:
My anarchist friends are pacifist (safe one, ass far as I can tell) and most of my communist ones are too, but there's a lot of other people I associate with who are not.

"I'm not interested in imposing my views on others, but really, nobody who isn't already in a position of power and authority can do that."
This is false. Violence is a tool that is used to keep members of social groups in line or (think of school) even to pressure people into joining certain groups. You and I could do that very well if we were physically and mentally capable of trying.
I think you are underestimating the power of fear to change how people think. Ideas aren't bulletproof.

"In your original post, you say that an anarchist revolution would "need a massive shift in how people think." This is not actually an anarchist argument. To assert this position is to retreat to a position where the time is never ripe. Aside from that, it is super patronizing (and therefore authoritarian) for you or anyone else to decide when that "massive shift in how people think" has been achieved - and therefore when "people" are somehow now ready for anarchy."
You seem to assume that I want worldwide anarchy. While the idea certainly is very nice I do not think that worldwide anarchy is something that has to be achieved. Personally I prefer to shape my immediate environment.
And your last sentence just is why I think worldwide revolution is not desirable: Nobody can decide when people are ready to live in anarchy and I don't have the right to forcefully override other peoples misguided ideas of how to live their lives.
Additionally what appeals to me especially in Anarchism is the idea that people can decide for themselves. Living that idea means accepting my capitalist neighbours.

"The best way to be free is to practice being free, and there's no future time when that magically becomes possible."
No argument there. I will try as good as I can to live it now instead of fighting for something I do not believe in.

"If you are committed to refusing to use force, you will be overpowered, every time;"
The thing is that if I use force I will be overpowered just the same and will get additional problems on top. I don't see how this would help my cause.

"In short, pacifists, by limiting the options for resistance to the authoritarian system, are being authoritarian. They impose their ideas of proper resistance and frequently use the force of the status quo to make sure that all resistance remains pacifist."
My choice to be a pacifist is entirely personal.

To summarize: I won't force you to be a pacifist. I won't force anyone to follow anarchist ideas. I don't believe that resistance by using force would be helping me. I spread anarchist ideas mainly around people I can talk to face to face.
11 months ago by Weltraumschlange (720 points) edited 11 months ago by Weltraumschlange
Really Weltraum, peer pressure and the personal use of threats (of what, exactly? You have still not made any attempt to say what "force" is) is hardly comparable to the various methods the state has for imposing the views/morality/values of the dominant class on the rest of us. Typical for pacifists, you equate the harm (real or potential) being done to a person whose feeling get hurt by someone yelling at them and the harm (real or potential) being done to a person beaten by cops. But the difference is not just in scale; the obstacles to altering the harmful behavior of an individual are not the same as those that exist when you try to change the harmful effects of various interlocking institutions that are supposed to keep people from harm (the state). There is a qualitative as well as quantitative distinction. The pacifist position is that all harm is equally harmful, regardless of the source, regardless of the protective ideology that permits/sanctions/mandates the harm. I even saw a particularly obnoxious pacifist (in a short high school video on violence in Occupy for which I was also interviewed) say that sarcasm is a form of violence. Really? Hurting someone's feelings is the same, morally, culturally, and physically, as when the cops kick the shit out of you? Really?

I don't assume you want worldwide anything. Your initial response was that IF such a thing were possible, it would REQUIRE a "massive shift in how people think." I think your ambitions are limited because you don't believe that people can take care of themselves and their neighbors with the way they think now. I believe that, left to their own devices, they will do just fine - and without the dubious benefit of a new consciousness (imposed or not). Like many other anarchists, I believe that people are ready ANY time (past, present, future) to live in anarchy; no consciousness alteration required. Your insistence that people have "misguided ideas of how to live their lives" is predicated on no external factors being altered. Within an industrial capitalist environment, there are few motivations for non-political people to change anything; most of their immediate needs get met with minimal effort, going along to get along. In situations where those banal infrastructures are removed (in the First World/Global North, that usually happens as the result of a so-called Natural Disaster: earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, etc), people sooner or later come together to organize their basic needs with whatever resources are at their disposal. Sometimes it happens well, sometimes not so well. But that's not the point. The point is that it happens, and often with results that don't surprise anarchists and other anti-state radicals, precisely because we have studied history and understand what humans are capable of given the proper circumstances. It only surprises those people who have no trust in regular folks to be able to control their lives with other interested people without the interference of cops, social workers, and other people involved in trying to keep people dependent on unequal power relations. In a small way, Occupy had a similar effect on people who participated; unexpected friendliness among folks who, in other, non-Occupy settings, would never have spoken to each other, let alone lived with each other. I think your pessimism is tied into you belief that human beings cannot be trusted to find what works for themselves.

I accept that most of my neighbors and co-workers are capitalists, but that's something I'd like to alter. I actually have discussions with people about taking care of ourselves (individually, in small groups, in larger formations like neighborhoods/workplaces), and a lot of folks share your pessimism. "It's a nice idea, but what about stupid people? What about sociopaths?" I don't have fully satisfactory answers for those questions, but they at least show that most people trust themselves to do the right thing.

Your choice to be a pacifist is definitely personal, but what I'm talking about is the pervasiveness of pacifism within oppositional political projects and activities, where the moralism and authoritarianism of the pacifist perspective permit pacifists to curtail the choices of other oppositional activists. It's as if being a pacifist gives the pacifist some special privilege to dictate the proper parameters of protest and resistance; it does NOT. You have completely ignored that entire paragraph, as if it were about someone else.

You cannot force me to be a pacifist. I used to be one, and my ideas were constantly confronted with the facts of how people interact, how the state forces people to behave, and how opposition to the status quo is possible. Pacifism harms people, pacifists and non-pacifists alike. I don't really care that pacifists are harmed by pacifism - that's your choice. It's when pacifism harms non-pacifists, or curtails the choices and opportunities for resistance among radicals that I have a problem. I have been physically confronted (with the implicit threat of being restrained) by pacifists at demonstrations where I felt (and began to act on) that a more vigorous form of resistance than sitting down and locking arms was needed. That's not okay. I'm waiting for you to say that's not okay, too.
11 months ago by lawrence (18,440 points)
"Your choice to be a pacifist is definitely personal, but what I'm talking about is the pervasiveness of pacifism within oppositional political projects and activities, where the moralism and authoritarianism of the pacifist perspective permit pacifists to curtail the choices of other oppositional activists. It's as if being a pacifist gives the pacifist some special privilege to dictate the proper parameters of protest and resistance; it does NOT. You have completely ignored that entire paragraph, as if it were about someone else.

You cannot force me to be a pacifist."
I don't try to. That's what I meant when I said that being pacifist is a personal choice for me - it is a choice I and not you made, so its a choice that's valid for me and for me only. I cannot and will not choose for you. If you wanna throw stones, fine, but please deal with the consequences yourself and leave me out of it, thank you.

You can tell me all you want about all those evil pacifists who ratted others out to the police (which I would never do) or tried to keep someone from smashing in windows (which I wouldn't do either, I want to smash those in sometimes myself (I hate advertising with a passion), I just don't think it's worth the trouble) but that's just some pacifists and frankly I don't know why the pacifists in your area seem to be such assholes.
It would be nice if you would just accept that I don't want to use force (physical or psychological violence) against anyone on what scale ever because I am not comfortable with it. It feels wrong and it frightens me. I will always search for an alternate solution first and running away seems far more appealing.
If you think I cannot be an anarchist only because I don't want to take part in your guerrilla war I think you need to once again think about what anarchy means.

If you want you can call me spineless or whatever, but accusing me of forcing my pacifism on others or sabotaging your precious revolution is kinda mean because I don't do either. You are capable of making your own decisions and I don't see why I shouldn't tell you that I think you're making a mistake.

"I accept that most of my neighbors and co-workers are capitalists, but that's something I'd like to alter. I actually have discussions with people about taking care of ourselves (individually, in small groups, in larger formations like neighborhoods/workplaces), and a lot of folks share your pessimism."
I am not pessimistic. I believe in anarchy being possible, I just don't think it will come with one big sweep all across earth and I don't think that revolution is the way to get it.

"I don't assume you want worldwide anything. Your initial response was that IF such a thing were possible, it would REQUIRE a "massive shift in how people think.""
I meant: IF there is a massive shift in how people think THEN worldwide revolution could work- I do not believe in such a massive shift, thus I do not believe in worldwide revolution. Strike the 'r' and everything will be okay.

"I think your ambitions are limited because you don't believe that people can take care of themselves and their neighbors with the way they think now."
I am simply not ambitious and I have never been. Like you said: The best way to bring about anarchy is to live it.

"I believe that, left to their own devices, they will do just fine - and without the dubious benefit of a new consciousness (imposed or not). Like many other anarchists, I believe that people are ready ANY time (past, present, future) to live in anarchy; no consciousness alteration required."
Yes, right, if you take people individually they probably would get along just fine when thrown into an anarchic world.
But if you have worldwide revolution you still have what's left of armies and governments and lots of people still loyal to beheaded nations. It's not the people who are the problem, it's the organizations the form. How in all eternity are you going to forcefully disband all those organizations without causing resistance in the people who formed them in such a short time that anarchy can come about without new organizations, trying to take control, popping up?
Natural disasters don't compare to a revolution. You have nobody to direct your anger at when a huge wave swept everything away. If a horde of raging anarchists kill the president you loved and battered the police you think protected your safety you will probably find people to help you and do something against those anarchist maniacs.
This will probably lead to a growing gap between anarchists and other political groups, to radicalization and finally a revolutionary of whatever ideal will come along and think that maybe a transitional period to allow reeducation of those poor misguided people would be nice and will get followers and then you have the next dictatorship on your hands. Or you have your revolution (more realistically) started somewhere, let's say in the USA. Now, recent presidents of the USA didn't seem that keen on liberty and all that stuff, so there will probably lot's of police force and when that doesn't suffice there will be military and drones and all that stuff. And if you would come to the point where maybe there is the hope that the US government is falling probably Europe and Arabia and whoever else will intervene because, well, if anarchy takes hold in America no government is safe anymore. And as one could see in Spain once a civil war is started it's a nice way to get really powerful because now you don't need to pretend anymore that human rights mean anything to you.
Ah, and then there's the people who are talking about all those pesky counterrevolutionaries. You might remember that word from when someone told you about the French Revolution (we all know how successful the anarchists and even the democrats where back then) or from Russian history. You don't want those kind of people on your side? Hm, maybe you should go kill them. Or you prevent them from entering the revolution somehow, because that's totally going to work. Or maybe you are going to first unite in a big party and agree that you won't kill people just because they have differing ideas of how to go about living. Wait a second, that was what you didn't like about the pacifists in your area, so I guess you don't want to do that either, even when one could seriously assume that such a scenario was somehow in any way realistic.
Hey, but you could just do your revolution completely secretly-like, with kidnapping politicians and stuff and then the government will just fall apart, just like it did in Germany when the RAF was around. Oh, wait, the Federal Republic of Germany is still around and as you know, you only hit a person and never the system. And, to make everything even better, thanks to the RAF Anarchy in Germany for a long time was more closely associated with terrorism then with utopian ideas.
11 months ago by Weltraumschlange (720 points)
"I think your pessimism is tied into you belief that human beings cannot be trusted to find what works for themselves."
No, it is grounded in my experience of how unwilling people become to change their beliefs when they are pressured with violence. When you're mad it's really hard to think straight and if people believe that those exerting the power are in the wrong they won't even try.
Note that "changing your beliefs" is quite different form "changing your loyalties". Governments have it easy, they mainly need loyalty. Anarchists need other people to believe that you can get along with each other without having a fixed authority.

"Really Weltraum, peer pressure and the personal use of threats (of what, exactly? You have still not made any attempt to say what "force" is) is hardly comparable to the various methods the state has for imposing the views/morality/values of the dominant class on the rest of us."
Yeah, no, you see, i wasn't talking about peer pressure but about getting beaten up daily. "Hardly comparable"? Sorry, it's the same psychology, the same mechanism. Just take a look at how the USA and the UK are acting right now. They're big bullies, pushing people around, intimidating them with how much muscle they have and how they're going to punch your face in if you dare to help Snowden.
Yes, of course, there's also propaganda.

"Typical for pacifists, you equate the harm (real or potential) being done to a person whose feeling get hurt by someone yelling at them and the harm (real or potential) being done to a person beaten by cops. But the difference is not just in scale; the obstacles to altering the harmful behavior of an individual are not the same as those that exist when you try to change the harmful effects of various interlocking institutions that are supposed to keep people from harm (the state)."
That's right, you need different methods when you want to change how a big organization behaves as compared to individuals. Still violence doesn't work. First, big organizations are better at using force than you. Second, they are better at using your violent behaviour to spread bad propaganda about you than you are at doing the same with their violent behaviour. Why do you think that violence is *the* tool to change how big organizations work? You would need to be a big organization yourself before you could do that. I don't think you want to go that far.

"The pacifist position is that all harm is equally harmful, regardless of the source, regardless of the protective ideology that permits/sanctions/mandates the harm"
No, this is not "the" pacifist position, it is "a" pacifist position and one which I do not hold. I certainly know the difference between calling someone names, bashing someones face in and following someone along the street while shouting threats and I know the difference between standing in front of one aggressive asshole and standing in front of a wall of cops. I do not know how it is to be threatened with a weapon but I can guess that it's much worse.
And to make this absolutely clear: I do not think that one should just lie done and take a beating instead of defending yourself and it is certainly decent to help someone who is being beaten up.

"I even saw a particularly obnoxious pacifist (in a short high school video on violence in Occupy for which I was also interviewed) say that sarcasm is a form of violence. Really? Hurting someone's feelings is the same, morally, culturally, and physically, as when the cops kick the shit out of you? Really?"
No. Of course you could have probably guessed that answer from my paragraph about how well revolutions work above.

It would be really nice if you would refrain from reducing to pacifism to... that. I can't even find a fitting word for the stupid crap you are telling me is my philosophy.
11 months ago by Weltraumschlange (720 points)
"I can't even find a fitting word for the stupid crap you are telling me is my philosophy."

Let's see:
1. If you wanna throw stones, fine...
2. If you think I cannot be an anarchist only because I don't want to take part in your guerrilla war...
3. accusing me of forcing my pacifism on others or sabotaging your precious revolution is kinda mean...
4. Why do you think that violence is *the* tool to change how big organizations work?

These are three very big assumptions you make about what I've been saying, simply because I have not said anything at all about them. I have not mentioned throwing stones. I have not mentioned guerrilla war. I have not accused you of spinelessness or sabotage. I have not mentioned violence (and I would certainly never bring it up without first defining what I mean when I use that word) as any kind of method for anything.

Then there are the weird statements.
1. "please deal with the consequences [of throwing stones] yourself and leave me out of it." This is precisely the reasoning of pacifists when it comes to non-pacifists resisting in ways that offend them: pacifists are frightened that they might be mistaken for so-called violent resisters, and pacifists are frightened that their message is thereby tainted by these horrible stone-throwers. They do everything they can to curtail these mythical creatures from defending themselves however they see fit, from trying to shame them, to physically restraining them, and often pointing them out to the cops. I'm not saying that YOU engage in such obviously authoritarian antics, but pacifists in the US do.

2. "It would be nice if you would just accept that I don't want to use force (physical or psychological violence) against anyone..."
I DO accept it; I don't see why I shouldn't tell you that I think you're making a mistake. The pacifist position is based on bearing moral witness to injustice in order to call into question the legitimacy of some law, some policy, some ideology. Knock yourself out. I'm not trying to stop you from doing what you need to do to register your discontent. BUT by the same token, you'd better not try to stop me from doing what I believe necessary in any given context. If you want to sit on the ground, or lock yourself to a doorway, or throw paint on a tank, fine. Just be prepared to deal with the consequences, and leave me out of it.

3. "I just don't think it will come with one big sweep all across earth and I don't think that revolution is the way to get it."
You're presuming that I (and possibly others who consider themselves revolutionaries) am aiming for some sudden, cataclysmic, class war that spreads as quickly as someone's tweet. This is an absurd allegation, just as it's an absurd scenario. Revolution (if there is to be something like an irreversible abolition of the state, commodity production, wage labor, and the various institutionalized hierarchies that keep the project of Herrschaft going) will most likely be confined to a specific geographical region for some time, with fits and starts, successes and defeats, and might perhaps spread through example to other places, regardless of proximity. I would think something like that taking place in the Global North would be much more destructive (much more like a series of civil wars) than something similar taking place in the Global South. Perhaps not. I don't know, and really I don't care. It's still a goal worth aiming for, because the alternative (the full catastrophe of modern post-industrial capitalism and its innumerable wars, skirmishes, and territorial disputes that wreak havoc all over the globe - but hey, you can still work at carving out a little anarchist pacifist paradise where nasty people just leave you and your friends alone) is unthinkable. The future of sentient life on this planet is in peril, simply because the present is crushingly oppressive. That you want to retreat is your prerogative, but don't preach to me about revolution being destructive. With the combined might of the institutions that exist to perpetuate and extend the ever-tightening grip of transnational corporations and their mercenaries, any attempt at derailing their project will be met with force. Revolutionaries won't be able to withstand most of the unleashed repression that any perceived challenge to capitalist hegemony. But do you think that by resisting politely and with the limited tactics provided by pacifism, that you'll thereby be protected from the wrath of the state if they think your evolutionary pacifism is a serious enough challenge?

4. "thanks to the RAF Anarchy in Germany for a long time was more closely associated with terrorism then with utopian ideas"
The last time I checked, the RAF were Marxist-Leninists, not anarchists. They never tired of trying to correct that confusion that was deliberately pursued by the stupid Springer press and the state-controlled media. The RAF was never anarchist, never had anarchists in it (at least not openly), and was not interested in any anarchist goals. You are treading on dangerous ground with obviously false caricatures.

5. "Sorry, it's the same psychology, the same mechanism. Just take a look at how the USA and the UK are acting right now. They're big bullies, pushing people around, intimidating them with how much muscle they have and how they're going to punch your face in if you dare to help Snowden."
Another typical pacifist analogy, and all analogies are equally absurd. Comparing the antics of a government to bullying is ridiculous. It is the policy and purpose of government to coerce people, whether "their own" citizens, or some scapegoated minority, or some other government. This is the basis of government, it is not an aberration that's happening "right now"; it is happening ALWAYS. The bully who beats you up every day will give up if you kick his ass; until then, he's free to continue bullying you. You can try to "reeducate" the bully, but you'd only be engaging in behavior modification, not dealing with the reasons for the bully to be a bully. If the mechanisms and the psychology are the same, how come you're not dead? And why speak of psychology at all? Because apparently you know what's going on in the minds of individual bullies and institutional bullies. Again, that's some weak authoritarian bullshit right there.

6. "I do not think that one should just lie [down] and take a beating instead of defending yourself and it is certainly decent to help someone who is being beaten up."
And how would you defend yourself against a beating? Running away is one option, but what are the others you have in your toolbox? How would you "help someone who is being beaten up"? Berate the batterer using shame? How about using physical force to restrain or otherwise incapacitate the batterer? That's not any kind of pacifist strategy I'm familiar with. You need to explain what you mean by self-defense and what helping someone who is being beaten up looks like.

Stop with the sarcastic fantasy scenarios; they are a distraction. Stick to what I say, not what you think I might be thinking, or what you think I might believe. Be clearer about what you mean by pacifism if you think my characterizations are unfair; I'm just going by my own experiences as a recovered pacifist and someone who is forced to deal with pacifists locally. Tell me what self-defense and intervening to help someone being beaten look like.
11 months ago by lawrence (18,440 points)
"Stop with the sarcastic fantasy scenarios; they are a distraction. Stick to what I say, not what you think I might be thinking, or what you think I might believe."
Sorry, I have mixed up the original question with what you wrote.

To "sarcastic fantasy scenarios": They may be sarcastic but it's all stuff out of history class. Of course that most likely is biased information but the point still stands that revolutions in most instances made things worse for decades instead of better, measured by the standards of the people who started the revolution in the first place.

To the RAF: I was commenting on the methods, not on who used them.

"I have not accused you of spinelessness"
I know, it just seemed appropriate to say, as I will give up anarchy and run before I put my life into danger. It seems there are a lot of people who would call that spineless.

I use the terms "use of force" and "violence" interchangably in this discussion.
Violence is hard to define, but here are some guidelines.
- something which is likely to cause lasting damage (bashing someone on the head)
- something which is foremost causing fear
- causing pain without any other purpose (like medical ones)
- putting someone under artificial pressure

Pacifism for me means taking the way of least violence. In most instances using violence will cuase more and not less violence.

Sorry, I am running out of time.

I don't want to answer directly anymore because I noticed that I am unable (or at least challenged) to discuss fairly that way. I feel (most likely unfairly) attacked by you. Of course I will continue the discussion, I just want to take a step back.
11 months ago by Weltraumschlange (720 points)
You feel attacked? I'm basing my arguments on more than 30 years of experiences both as a pacifist myself (for several years at the beginning of those 30) and as a non-pacifist being forced to deal with pacifist so-called allies. I am not using biased (in your case, nearly counter-revolutionary) history or fantasy scenarios. I am using my own experiences, and have challenged you to make your positions clearer and distinct. You attribute fantasy opinions to me, but you feel attacked? Nice.

The methods of the RAF were mandated by their ideology and their strategies, neither of which had anything to do with anarchism. Bringing them up as a negative example is bogus. I loathe their methods too, but for different reasons from you (I think). If you had used the example of the French illegalist anarchists, or the Spanish cenetistas who used similar methods (armed robbery, burglary, forgery, arson, murder), then we would have had something to discuss, since they were anarchists who argued that their methods were compatible with anarchism. But the RAF? That's more than a distraction; it's 100% bad faith, verging on the dishonest. Perhaps it's just a more spectacular and spectacularly failed project? Why not bring up the Bewegung 2. Juni or the RZ? Both were far more anti-authoritarian in their ideologies and their methods than the Stalinists (to the point of working with the Stasi!) of the RAF.

If pacifism "means taking the way of least violence," then that's a new way of understanding pacifism. In my experience, from having been a pacifist, to being forced to interact with pacifists, pacifism means taking the way of no violence, ever. My challenge to you is to show me how "least violence" differs from "no violence."

You already hinted that you reserve for yourself the power to defend yourself and someone else who's being beaten. I have asked you to explain this. You have not, which is seriously disappointing. Why have you avoided this? You seem to want to distinguish your own positions from those I have examined, but you haven't said how they are distinct. Saying "well, I'm not THAT kind of (asshole) pacifist" is unsatisfying.
11 months ago by lawrence (18,440 points)
"I feel (most likely unfairly) attacked by you."
I think that may have been misleadingly written. What I *meant* to say was that my feeling of being attacked probably is not fair to you. It is still there, which probably leads to a less fulfilling discussion for all involved parties.
Your attributions seem to me just fantasy the same because I never have known such militant pacifists. I may have less life experience then you and it probably does matter a lot, but PLEASE would you just consider giving me some leeway and space to think? Just asking for general clarification again and again won't help me in trying to find words to give you what you want. I am not even sure why you didn't already understand what I meant with pacifism with my last post. I thought it provided two useful definitions one could work with. If that's not the case you can try to ask nicely instead of accusing me of dodging questions. I am not dodging them, I have trouble answering, just because of my (probably mislead) emotions, just like I tried to say back then at the end of said post.

Could we please just drop the RAF topic? I tried to make a point of why I think revolution doesn't work and I mentioned the RAF because they had a different approach from the other ones I mentioned before and it just didn't work, just like the other ones.
I couldn't bring up the Bewegung 2. Juni or the RZ because I never heard of them before. Yeah, I am uneducated like that.
Maybe you could point me to a revolutionary effort that actually worked and is somehow applicable to our modern conditions. Or you could tell me why people calling "counterrevolutionaries!" at any opportunity won't be a problem. You know, that would be an actual counter argument instead of just yelling at one of my examples just because that one needs a crutch.

"If pacifism "means taking the way of least violence," then that's a new way of understanding pacifism."
I am more interested in math then in history, so I can explain that one. I think of my life as an optimization problem and it has certain constraints. When there is no way of no violence there is no way I could ever be a pacifist and in tune with reality. Because I am aware that there is violence and that I am incapable of completely banning it from my life I am talking about the way of least violence.
Because I am not only a pacifist, but also an anarchist and a consequentialist and a hedonist and whatnot else that can't be put into a few words, the optimization problem that is my life gets more complex.

"You already hinted that you reserve for yourself the power to defend yourself and someone else who's being beaten. I have asked you to explain this. You have not, which is seriously disappointing. Why have you avoided this?"
Because it''s fucking hard to have a seemingly specific situation for which you have to explain how you would react when it's actually a very complex question! It's like people asking anarchists how an anarchist society would deal with murderers or rapists or even with how to reach common decisions - it depends on the concrete society you are in, what customs the people have, how they are used to living and all that stuff.
It depends on the situation what is appropriate. If cops are taking someone to questioning I won't intervene - why should I, it's not like that's going to actually change anything besides me joining them too. If someone gets beaten up by cops it's a question of whether I feel capable of intervening, what tools I have available and if I can work up the guts to do what I think is necessary and sufficient. I won't throw stones at them, I am mentally not capable of that. The fear of causing lasting damage to anyone and being responsible for that is genuinely scary for me. The same goes for the use of other weapons. Maybe try to distract them, but I have no idea whether that's even feasible so maybe... I don't know, the question is totally removed from my reality. I live in the country, I want to care for our goats and I want to program and I've only once been in the position to intervene when someone was being beaten up by a teenager and I failed at that (because I was afraid) and all my experience of physical violence and outright oppression have been on the receiving end (as far as I can tell), so how the hell am I supposed to answer that question?

"You seem to want to distinguish your own positions from those I have examined, but you haven't said how they are distinct. Saying "well, I'm not THAT kind of (asshole) pacifist" is unsatisfying."
Why is "I don't force others to be pacifists" unsatisfying? The pacifists in your area are militant pacifists, completely unable to accept that other people have reasons for thinking that violence can be a valid answer even if there are other options available and some are even naive enough to think that you can avoid all of it in your life. I already said that and I can't see why you are not accepting that as a distinction.

And once again this post is written with the feeling that I need to defend myself. I only want to tell you why I think the way I do and all that time you seem to be asking me why I think my view on the world is more valid than yours. I KNOW you never wrote that and that feeling probably is wrong but I need to write this answer right now and not in a few days when I had the chance to calm down and forget even more of the discussion. Every time I read a new answer from you it starts with how you accuse me of accusing you of things that I never intended to say about you, of course that's enraging. Heck, obviously it's making you at least a bit uncomfortable, too!
I am trying to be constructive but I am failing because of miscommunication. English isn't my mother tongue and for a long time I had no real opportunity of discussing ethics with anyone who was really interested in the topic. Now I found a community that seems fine because here I thought I could have dissenting views without provoking a flame war.
11 months ago by Weltraumschlange (720 points) edited 11 months ago by Weltraumschlange
You brought up the RAF, and have a German screen name, English is not your first language, so I concluded that you were at least as familiar with the other underground groups in Germany during the same era. I'm find with dropping it, but remember, YOU brought it up! If you're uncomfortable with a topic being used against your own arguments, then you've learned something valuable: don't bring up topics you know little about to try to make a point.

I am still unclear about your use of the term "violence." The way you use it seems to mean "anything that is not pacifist," since you use it so frequently, and without any kind of qualification. That kind of polarization is not very useful for a discussion about pacifism, and leads me to conclude that you have not thought very much about a topic that would appear to be fundamental to your self-understanding. All I have done is to pick at what I see as the weak spots of your positions, to challenge you clarify them. It's not my fault if you don't have the language for this.

You constantly presume that I'm talking about "violence" when I am not. I am talking about the limitations of pacifism. Your use of bad history and presumption is what has led to miscommunication. I don't think you are using "flame war" correctly either.
11 months ago by lawrence (18,440 points)

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