Hello? What on earth does that mean?
Up front I’ll admit that this diary will seem like an overly-lengthy ‘shaggy dog’ story, one in which it’s easy to thrum one’s fingers on one’s knees, trying not to (visibly at least) roll one’s eyes at the teller, hoping against hope that the punch line will be a worthy enough sort of pay-off in the end. If you’re able to finish it, I hope you’ll consider the punch lines worth it.
You’ll no doubt remember Chris Hedges’ ‘Black Bloc: The Cancer in Occupy’ from Feb. 6, 2012; this was the overall theme:
“Black Bloc adherents detest those of us on the organized left and seek, quite consciously, to take away our tools of empowerment. They confuse acts of petty vandalism and a repellent cynicism with revolution.
The Occupy encampments in various cities were shut down precisely because they were nonviolent. They were shut down because the state realized the potential of their broad appeal even to those within the systems of power.”
(the 247 comments seemed largely in disagreement, as far down as I’d read, but sorry, Old Sourpuss: remember the many close-up photos of Vibram-soled boots which to many of us signaled agents provocateurs dressed in black bloc costumes?.)
The Occupy movement seemed to halt…to converse about ‘total nonviolence’ v. ‘diversity of tactics’ for a time.
Now because I had a blogging friend, e-friend in Oakland, her take on it caused me to believe that at the very least, GAs should decide which actions would be the former, which would be the latter. Often, she’d recounted, it wasn’t until late at night when most Occupiers had gone home that those decisions were made, and most often by academics from the local colleges. “Move in Day” turned out to be a moderate catastrophe, as I remember it, partially due to that opaqueness. And yes, the optics of ‘rioting’ were worth considering as questionable for me back in the day.
In any event, four days earlier, on Feb. 2, which timing I’d never noticed earlier, came ‘Erica Chenoweth: Confronting the myth of the rational insurgent’, by Erica Chenowith, Ph.D at nakedcapitalism.com
“Lambert here: Occupy’s public discussions on “diversity of tactics” have often lacked historical perspective; discussions, at least online, have tended to degenerate to “Ghandi!” “No, ANC!” Now, however, Erica Chenoweth has developed a dataset and analyzed the historical record. Below the fold are slides summarizing the results of her study of 323 non-violent and violent campaigns from 1900‐2006. (There are twenty slides…etc.)
I’d put up a version at My.Firedoglake and had pasted in some of the good questions Yves’ commentariat had asked, some noting that Erica had never defined ‘violence’. Garsh, Mickey.
Last June, Ray Valentine at orchestratedpulse.com (great site) had posted ‘You Call This an Uprising?’. He began with what a yawn Democracy Spring was, and cited organizer Kai Newkirk’s credo that the most important tactic was to get into the media spotlight by staging o many days of sit-ins, having so many arrested that it would lead to electoral reforms, including a repeal of Citizens United.
“In their attempt to win public attention with a staged confrontation, Democracy Spring couldn’t disrupt much more than the Hill staffers tasked with administering legislative gridlock. They described their actions as a drama, but couldn’t find an audience. A few blocks away, DC residents carried on with their lives without noting any significant disruption.”
But he was heading toward this:
“The strategic ideas guiding Democracy Spring didn’t come out of nowhere. The organizers declare their intellectual allegiance to the theories of brothers Mark (a journalist) and Paul (a professional organizer) Engler, and their “Momentum” school of thought, an approach to what the authors call nonviolent civil resistance. …the Englers have outlined their theories in a new book This Is an Uprising, which comes stamped with the approval of luminaries of the American left like Bill McKibben and Michelle Alexander.
The “momentum” theory has some momentum, and it’s worth taking a critical look at it, lest we repeat the mistakes of the people who have tried to practice it so far.”
As he considers the theory, he features this quote from the Englers’ book:
“Because momentum-driven efforts are focused on changing broad public opinion rather than securing a series of incremental gains, their progress is mainly measurable through polls rather than a scorecard of more tangible wins…once the public has moved, and an adequate number of props have fatally weakened, an edifice that looked inert and immovable can suddenly collapse into rubble. (p. 103)”
Valentime again: “No radical would disagree with the necessity of disruption, confrontation, and popular mobilization to bring about social change. But what is the purpose of rebellion? Do the masses move in order to seize control of their daily lives and challenge the power of their immediate oppressors like bosses, police, landlords, and the like? Should movements seek to directly reorganize society, or impose reform by force? Not according to the Englers. For them direct actions like strikes, sit-ins, and land occupations are successful insofar as they send the right message to “the public.” [snip]
“Who is this public that activists must move if they want to win? The implicit answer is a middle class media-consumer, people that are moved to support a movement because they see it in the news, not because that movement promises to win them a wage increase or stop their neighbor from being evicted or decontaminate the water supply. When discussing the phenomenon of violent repression inspiring more people to join a social movement, the Englers say people are inspired by empathy instead of solidarity (p. 206).
What’s missing here is any theory of class, or really of any other kind of structural system of power reproduced in everyday social relations. The most politically successful disruption is a disruption to the relations of dominance and privilege that are essential to the preservation of a stratified society, like obedience to bosses, fear of the police, deference to a dominant race or ethnic group, respect for property.”
He’s arguably taken aback by the Englers’ shallow (at best) school book formulations of the civil rights struggle having resulted in federal civil rights’ law due to the “symbolic victories” that affected a change in “the national consciousness” (p. 131).” He takes pain to deconstruct their claims… Again, that long section is worth reading, as well, especially given that ‘the people taking power’ should be the key incentive. Yes, he writes, the public may be upset by pictures of the rabble smashing glass, but may be just as alienated by sit-ins. But aha: enter Erica Chenoweth and friends…finally. In their book, the Englers have claimed that they have the data proving that non-violence works to sway the masses.
Referring to her murky data sets at length, I’d encapsulate these statements as the gist of his arguments:
“Such glosses and omissions are unfortunately common in the capsule historical narratives Chenoweth supplies. Classifying movements according to whether they are primarily nonviolent or violent is a curious thing, and many mass civilian movements are only nonviolent if we squint. Most civilians movements are surely “primarily” nonviolent most of the time, but they frequently contain moments of intensified militancy.”
Oddly, he says, she makes no mention of the armed wings of the revolutions she calls ‘non-violent’, and lumps years of revolutionary insurrections into one whole; and of course he’s not advocating armed resistance. He proceeds to examine Otpor!, Gene Sharp (the alleged author of the ‘Arab Spring’), and the darker side of billionaire investment banker Peter Ackerman’s International Center for Nonviolent Conflict (regime change by ‘soft power’), and notes that:
“The institutions that shaped and spread the doctrine of nonviolence resistance are closely linked to pillars of the capitalist global order like Wall Street and the State Department, and this may help to account for some of the limitations of the philosophy.” [snip]
When you sense you may have been conned, the rule is ‘follow the funding’.
“This is not the only instance of the US government’s interest in “nonviolent civil resistance.” Erica Chenoweth, the scholar whose research is used to demonstrate of the effectiveness of nonviolence, is affiliated with a center at the University of Denver that is funded by the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the Canadian government, and the CIA. Her co-author Maria Stephan is a former state department official who was responsible for liaising with the Syrian opposition in the early stages of the civil war. Federally-funded NGOs like the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, which are widely understood as organs of American soft power, train activists and “civil society” leaders around the world. These NGOs have supported some of the highest profile activists to employ the theory of nonviolence, like Otpor! In Serbia. Outside the immediate orbit of US foreign policy, elite foundations like the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (named for one of history’s most violent strikebreakers [Pinkertons v. labor strikers, etc.) are vocal advocates for nonviolent struggle.”
There’s a lot more good stuff in terms of class analysis, labor strikes, etc.
Now on May 5, I’d clicked into Michael Barker’s piece at CP reckoning that the title might offer some helpful hints on anti-capitalist revolutionary resistance: ‘Why Civil Resistance Works and Why the Billionaire-Class Cares’. Oh, yes, it was a whole lot more than that. Barker wrote a book that sounds just up my alley, maybe yours: ‘Under the mask of philanthropy’. After briefly satirizing David Rockefeller’s glorious 101 years of pleasant life on the planet, he mentions that billionaires feel it their duty to inflict pain on the global Rabble classes, and in Rockefeller’s case, he and his ilk’s darling, the Council on Foreign Relations, having had ‘a destructive impact on populations while serving as an effective instrument of class war’.
“In the ongoing and intensifying class war that is being waged upon us, there is nothing that elites fear more than genuine democracy and the potential it has to unite the working-class against the violent edifice of capitalism. This is why elites based at think tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations continue to worry about where the next potential threat to their oppressive system may come from.”
And he also brings in former CFR poisonous sect member…Peter Ackerman and his ICNC.
“Ackerman and his Centre’s work are misleading to say the least, that is, if you are concerned with truly understanding the relationship between mass movements and the governments they have overthrown.
Another member of the Council on Foreign Relations elite creed who, so to say, has picked up on Ackerman’s profound interest in civilian resistance is Professor Erica Chenoweth; an individual who in addition to serving as the co-chair of the ICNC’s advisory board, is the co-author of Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia University Press, 2011). Chenoweth prefers not to concern herself with the finer details of U.S. foreign policy, which have seen her pals in high government install and sustain dictatorial regimes across the world, while simultaneously acting to overthrow democratically elected government deemed too democratic for billionaires.”
Yes, he concedes:
“Of course it is self-evident that any sustainable and successful campaign to overthrow a government is predicated upon having overwhelming public support. But just because such mass democratic campaigns should rely upon nonviolent strategies to win power, does not mean that those same individuals do not have the right to forcibly defend their gains from the same viciously violent forces of reaction that they displace. The anti-democratic representatives of the billionaire class are certainly not known for their peaceful acceptance of socialism, or even justice for that matter.”
Elite experts like Chenoweth are therefore considered to be a vital asset to the full armament of the ruling-class, all the better that they may intervene to undermine the threat to their rule posed by civilian resistance.”
His hyperlink above goes to a 2010 piece he wrote about DCR Congo, ‘Preventing Independent Action in the Congo’, showing how resource-greedy CFR and their brothers-in-arms are, but citing lies that “combating insecurity in the east and promoting sustainable development” were their actual concerns. But of course, part of the truth is that corporate plunder can proceed more readily with a ‘stable’ Western puppet government is in place, can’t it? He continues to narrate the incestuous relationship of so many of the players in the various ‘helpful’ (especially as to the upside-down nature of their names) NGO community in actual alliance with the largest and often ugliest multinationals and faux ‘environmental’ organizations.
Again, if one feels further cons in aid of the capitalist class are coming: follow the money.
Noting the title of Chenoweth’s newest publication at the Journal of Conflict Resolution, Barker calls it ‘appropriate’ that she notes at the end:
“This research was partially supported by the Political Instability Task Force, which is funded by the Central Intelligence Agency.” (p.320). He continues:
“Of course this funding relationship is no anomaly for Chenoweth, as in recent years — as openly highlighted on her online CV — the peace-loving professor has received millions of dollars of funding from elite sources. (Recent financiers for her terrorism or nonviolence-related studies have seen the professor in receipt the following grants: $270,099 from the CIA-backed Political Instability Task Force, $150,000 from the Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, $1,665,000 from the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, over $2 million from the Minerva Initiative, U.S. Department of Defense, and just short of $1 million from the Carnegie Corporation.)”
Given that there are a couple of long ‘funding sources’ pages at his link to her CV, I’m not sure how Barker chose those, myself.
Having seen that the Popular Resistance newsletter had featured links to essays by the peace-loving Erica, and having ignored them while mentally shrugging my shoulders, this was eye-opening, and demonstrates another meaning within his title.
He writes that clearly Chenoweth ‘seems unhappy’ that Herr Trump was elected President, she’s being published at the Washington Post and the Atlantic, and in Feb. 2017, the New Republic: ‘Violence Will Only Hurt the Trump Resistance’. You decide, cuz millions marching in pink pussy hats and vulva costumes masks was ‘empowering revolutionary resistance’ against Herr Trump. Of course we’ve never had other misogynist, power-sex addicts as Presidents, have we?. Clinton, for instance, never got caught on a live-mike saying such horrendously misogynistic things about his proclivities…. just acted them out, instead, under the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office, the greatest seat of power in the world.
Bonus: ‘Hillary Clinton to launch political group as soon as next week’, Gabriel Debenedetti, politico.com, 05/04/17 03:47
“On Tuesday, for example, she appeared at a Women for Women International event in New York, forcefully repeating to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour her belief that Russian interference and FBI Director James Comey’s intervention were the proximate reasons for her loss in 2016.”