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Author Topic: Defining Violence  (Read 1015 times)

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Offline ChrysippusTopic starter

Defining Violence
« on: August 05, 2013, 11:58:40 AM »


At my second job I do a lot of work with strikes and protests in general trying to create a sort of general handbook for nonviolent direct action. One thing that comes up frequently is drawing the line between nonviolence and violence. Right out I should say that our general policy is that nonviolence is not equivalent to peace; nonviolence is a method or strategy of agitation which, though we advocate its universal use, can be put next to violent methods as "extralegal things you can do to break the status quo."

So in the wake of the recent protests around the world you may notice that media reports like to say that a protest has "turned violent" when the only evidence they give is that protesters are destroying property or looting. This leads to that vacuous term "rioting" which was notably defined by the British Empire in the 1800s as "a gathering of more than 3 people." It's our policy, however, that violence is only ever "intentional harm to one or more human beings." So this excludes property damage and looting. Throw as many firebombs, turn as many cars, loot as many stores as you like and we're generally indifferent, although as a tactic it is not always strategic. Throw a firebomb at a police officer or even just throw a stone at a car with someone in it and that's violence.

The line is when someone damages property with the intention to harm other human beings, like slash and burn tactics or destroying a human expression like a work of art.

What do you think? Also, I am not advocating any kind of criminality here or endorsing any given political position, this is a philosophical question.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2013, 12:09:26 PM »
Fires have a nasty habit of not doing what people want them to do.  A thrown object cannot be redirected once it leaves the hand.  As Zechariah Chafee once said, 'Your right to swing your arms ends just where the other man's nose begins.'

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #2 on: August 05, 2013, 12:28:48 PM »
The line is when someone damages property with the intention to harm other human beings, like slash and burn tactics or destroying a human expression like a work of art.

Trouble is you could classify absolutely any concrete object as the latter.

Property destruction should be classed as violence, I think. But then, deliberately trying to impoverish and starve people and expose them to pollutants and toxins for profit (essentially, poisoning) should be classed as a far worse form of violence, and so should taking up firearms in its defense, and that's the context that corporate media very carefully has to avoid. It's "class warfare" when the poor or middle class lash out, never when they are systematically assaulted.

The result is the distorted funhouse mirror through which protest is seen depending on the interests of the reporting media: and the Western media have reached comical levels of absurdity on this point that used to be reserved for the stations of state-run dictatorships. Hence when the protesting is seen as favourable to Western corporate interests, it's the Prague Spring all over again only moreso (cf. the absurd fantasy narrative surrounding the demonstrations after Morsi's ouster in Egypt, with people claiming literally half of Egypt's population was jubilantly flooding the streets), and if not, then obviously it's Kristallnacht all over again only moreso.


(I kind of want to subtitle the image heading up this post: "It seems you have forgotten our little deal, Lebowski.")
« Last Edit: August 05, 2013, 12:32:01 PM by Cyrano Johnson »

Offline meikle

Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #3 on: August 05, 2013, 12:29:17 PM »
I don't think it's violence if it's not force targeted at a person (at a person, and not at their possessions.)  Blowing up an empty car isn't violent; setting yourself on fire in protest is.

Blowing people's cars up is a good way to escalate from nonviolence to violence, though.

In the United States, I think you'll see people treat violence against property as interchangeable with violence against people -- it's pretty much hardcoded into a lot of our population that My Things are worth more than Your Life, so actual violence springs pretty easily from non-violent destruction here.  Presumably, this is why you saw things like the civil rights movement embracing peaceful protest rather than just non-violent protest.

Edit: on the other hand, violent protest has its place, too; the French didn't stop at firebombing wagons when they got fed up with things at the end of the 18th century.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2013, 12:37:47 PM by meikle »

Offline Kythia

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Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2013, 12:35:42 PM »
Do you have a cite for that "more than three people"?  I've never come across it before and Google gives nothing.

I personally fail to see the difference between blowing up someone's car that they need to get to work, damaging the business they work in so that it closes or other things you've classified as "non-violent" with punching someone.  Both have the potential to cause massive amounts of physical and mental suffering and I think your line is a little arbitrary, leaving out the excellent points about the "controllability" of some actions.

Offline Oniya

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Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2013, 12:37:03 PM »
Okay, say you flip over a car. (I'm going to hold off on the whole 'blowing things up' angle for a bit.)  Just like that, you've done severe damage to (if not destroyed) someone's ability to get themselves to and from everything from their job, the grocery store, the doctor's office, etc.  You have severely impacted their ability to provide for themselves and their family.  How is this not 'targeted at a person'?  Just because you don't know the person whose car you've flipped?  Just because they don't happen to be in it at the time? 

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2013, 12:40:01 PM »
Do you have a cite for that "more than three people"?  I've never come across it before and Google gives nothing.

I think it is humour, lampooning the Imperial policies that led to events like the Amritsar Massacre.

Offline meikle

Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2013, 12:40:47 PM »
Okay, say you flip over a car. (I'm going to hold off on the whole 'blowing things up' angle for a bit.)  Just like that, you've done severe damage to (if not destroyed) someone's ability to get themselves to and from everything from their job, the grocery store, the doctor's office, etc.  You have severely impacted their ability to provide for themselves and their family.  How is this not 'targeted at a person'?  Just because you don't know the person whose car you've flipped?  Just because they don't happen to be in it at the time?

If I point a gun at someone's car and put a bullet in it, it might make their life worse, but it is not the same as putting a bullet into that person.  I wouldn't really want to follow the "anything bad that you do to someone is violence" route, because at that point, maybe writing a harshly worded letter to someone on a bad day is violent because it was the last straw before they took a dive off a bridge or something.  Violence is the use (or threat of) force against someone that has potential to result in injury or death.  Knocking their car over when they're not around isn't going to do either of those things.

Edit: I guess some people like to deal with the idea of non-physical violence, but I feel that that approach dilutes the term to the point where it no longer means anything, ie, strongly worded letters are violence.

Edit2: This is purely a semantic point I'm making.  I don't feel that there is a significant moral distinction between blowing up someone's car to frighten them or threatening to kneecap them if they leave their house or whatever.  I just think that putting the person as the target of the force is important to the definition.  There are better words, I think, for targeting objects to get to people (coercion, for example.)
« Last Edit: August 05, 2013, 12:57:23 PM by meikle »

Offline Kythia

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Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2013, 12:40:58 PM »
I think it is humour, lampooning the Imperial policies that led to events like the Amritsar Massacre.

Ah, you're probably right.  Curse my overly-literal reading.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2013, 12:55:31 PM »
If I point a gun at someone's car and put a bullet in it, it might make their life worse, but it is not the same as putting a bullet into that person.  I wouldn't really want to follow the "anything bad that you do to someone is violence" route, because at that point, maybe writing a harshly worded letter to someone on a bad day is violent because it was the last straw before they took a dive off a bridge or something.  Violence is the use (or threat of) force against someone that has potential to result in injury or death.  Knocking their car over when they're not around isn't going to do either of those things.

Edit: I guess some people like to deal with the idea of non-physical violence, but I feel that that approach dilutes the term to the point where it no longer means anything, ie, strongly worded letters are violence.

I take your point, meikle, but the OP says her organisation(?) defines it as "intentional harm to one or more people".  I think my and Oniya's point was that looting someone's store and possibly destroying their livelihood - an action specifically allowed by the OP - causes an awful lot more harm than a punch to the face, one which she forbids.

Offline meikle

Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2013, 12:58:57 PM »
I take your point, meikle, but the OP says her organisation(?) defines it as "intentional harm to one or more people".  I think my and Oniya's point was that looting someone's store and possibly destroying their livelihood - an action specifically allowed by the OP - causes an awful lot more harm than a punch to the face, one which she forbids.

Yeah I think it's a silly and arbitrary line.  Mine is mostly a semantic argument (and I'm drawing from the World Health Organization's definition of violence, though I guess I may be misreading it.)

I don't think that there is a significant moral difference between stealing the engine from someone's car to stop them getting to work and threatening to break their knees if they try to go to work, but I think the latter is closer to violence than the former.

That's why I said earlier I think, you see people go with peaceful protest (boycotts, sit-ins, mass demonstrations) rather than "nonviolent protest."  The idea that you're not going to see violence erupt when you start smashing people's stores and blowing up cars is a joke.  If you want to start a fight in the name of your cause, start it ... but don't firebomb cars and destroy people's stores so that you can, I don't know, decry the violent response of the police as disproportionate or something.  If your cause is worth fighting for, then I think the only right thing to do is to fight for it, to do it with conviction, not to use tactics that are reminiscent of children playing the I'm not touching you game.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2013, 01:07:44 PM by meikle »

Offline Kythia

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Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2013, 01:08:39 PM »
You're a lean mean editing machine today meikle.

Offline meikle

Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #12 on: August 05, 2013, 01:10:04 PM »
Yeah I am.  I get into these kind of threads and I think I've said what I meant, and then I work it over and come up with a better way to say it, and I'm really bad about doing all of that before I hit 'post'.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #13 on: August 05, 2013, 01:12:28 PM »
I do exactly the same.

But yeah.  On topic, I agree with you fully.  Childish is an excellent word for it, drawing an arbitrary (and presumably unilateral) line and then saying "we're not doing anything wrong, we didn't cross this line."

Offline Oniya

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Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #14 on: August 05, 2013, 01:14:33 PM »
There's also the point that the stores that get looted and the cars that get flipped are rarely (if ever!) the stores and cars of the people whose actions are being protested.  The cars and stores that are damaged belong to people who are either uninvolved, or worse - the very people who are being impacted by the people whose actions triggered the protest!  Not to mention, once one store or car gets messed with, you get the scavengers who really don't give a damn about what you're protesting swarming in with the 'Free Stuff!' attitude.

Offline ChrysippusTopic starter

Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #15 on: August 05, 2013, 01:26:20 PM »
I think it is humour, lampooning the Imperial policies that led to events like the Amritsar Massacre.
Ah, you're probably right.  Curse my overly-literal reading.

Sorry, yes, it was chiefly meant to be humor, the official Riot Act of 1714 defined a riot as 12 or more people gathered in a public space for an hour or more. But colonial Governors sometimes mandated the number lower after declaring martial law, or just because--try looking up some of the Caribbean protests in the 1800s, but I'm not sure how forthcoming the internet will be on this.

Trouble is you could classify absolutely any concrete object as the latter.

True, which is why that is a very grey area that my coworkers and I take very seriously. We tend to consider works of art that represent significant effort and creativity as being sorts of extensions of the person responsible for them (I'm sure the writers here agree that creative expression represents something more intense and personal than, say, a business letter or a bumper sticker), whereas while we might call erasing graffiti or street art "repression" in a more general sense I at least would not want to call it violence.

I don't think it's violence if it's not force targeted at a person (at a person, and not at their possessions.)  Blowing up an empty car isn't violent; setting yourself on fire in protest is.

Blowing people's cars up is a good way to escalate from nonviolence to violence, though.

Actually this is an interesting point which is up for debate. I consider self-immolation or really any form of expressive suicide to be nonviolent, but my personal philosophy is that ones body is just a sack of a meat we as human beings happen to be attached to. You'll find, for example, that Tibetan Buddhist monks, known for this tactic, are divided on this issue; moreover, they're divided regardless of age, level of conservatism, level of political activity, etc. But that's a different issue.

And I'm going to use this response to sort of lump together the "controllability" worries; my position is that property destruction is nonviolent but is not frequently a good idea. Blowing up a police riot van with no one in it but maybe a bunch of guns or tear gas or something might be a good tactic but blowing up a bunch of civilian cars is almost certainly not a good tactic, since protest campaigns should aim for popular support if they'd like to survive and justify their populist underpinnings. Tactically speaking, in other words, property destruction is hard to control and so can lead to accidental harm, can escalate quickly when neither side understands its purpose, and can turn a population against your movement, so it's probably best to avoid.

Yeah I think it's a silly and arbitrary line.  Mine is mostly a semantic argument (and I'm drawing from the World Health Organization's definition of violence, though I guess I may be misreading it.)

I don't think that there is a significant moral difference between stealing the engine from someone's car to stop them getting to work and threatening to break their knees if they try to go to work, but I think the latter is closer to violence than the former.

That's why I said earlier I think, you see people go with peaceful protest (boycotts, sit-ins, mass demonstrations) rather than "nonviolent protest."  The idea that you're not going to see violence erupt when you start smashing people's stores and blowing up cars is a joke.  If you want to start a fight in the name of your cause, start it ... but don't firebomb cars and destroy people's stores so that you can, I don't know, decry the violent response of the police as disproportionate or something.  If your cause is worth fighting for, then I think the only right thing to do is to fight for it, to do it with conviction, not to use tactics that are reminiscent of children playing the I'm not touching you game.

Thanks for this response, and to others who have expressed a similar worry about damaging a person's livelihood, which is one major line of defense for the idea that property destruction is violent (the other is the Lockean principle that property is essentially an extension of its owner). So setting aside the fact that destroying people's property is not a good way to garner their support, I think that the instances where property destruction are more appropriate might shed light on my position. Early labor movements frequently destroyed the property of the companies they worked for in order to stop production (the goal of the strike), to illustrate offenses like pay-to-play trade shops that force laborers to pay most of their wages for the tools they need to work, or sometimes to steal food and other necessities from local social elites that maintained near monopolies on those supplies. These kinds of cases show that the very idea that property is essential to living is a consequence of the economic/social apparatus that some movements are campaigning against. While a Communist or Anarchist that destroys or steals property from other repressed members of society (as they see them) is a fool, one who destroys or steals the property of the ruling class is simply using extra-legal means to execute a redistribution she believes is just according to her theory of social organization.

So if that's violence, shouldn't it also be considered violence for the so-called ruling class to prevent that redistribution? That thought is a line that more militant leftists take to advocate the idea of a perpetual class war which permanently justifies violent response. I tend to think that while class war may be a reality, it's a good idea to separate out which elements of that struggle are violent and avoid/oppose those regardless of which side they're on.

There's also the point that the stores that get looted and the cars that get flipped are rarely (if ever!) the stores and cars of the people whose actions are being protested.  The cars and stores that are damaged belong to people who are either uninvolved, or worse - the very people who are being impacted by the people whose actions triggered the protest!  Not to mention, once one store or car gets messed with, you get the scavengers who really don't give a damn about what you're protesting swarming in with the 'Free Stuff!' attitude.

A significant part of my work is researching cases of nonviolent protest throughout history and across the world and I can say with some authority at least that looting and that kind of chaos in general, especially against members of the same class, is not prevalent in organized campaigns. You're a lot more likely to see that when people take to the streets without any organization or leadership specifically advocating for nonviolence, which is why people like Gandhi and MLK and organizations like the IWW were/are so important.

Sorry for the super long response, just trying to get everyone in there! Thanks for responding! 

C:)

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Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #16 on: August 05, 2013, 01:29:16 PM »
Many people tend to think violence perpetrated by an army, or by the police forces of a legit state, is far more acceptable than the acts of dispossessd people, of militant movements and so on. Gaza vs Israel is an example plain to see: that tiny, crowded area has been kept locked-off under impossible and inhuman conditions for many years, and some people from there propel rockets and ramshackle missiles (not nuclear or TNT-like misiles) into Israel. The casualties and precision of those attacks are mostly low. This thing is condemned all around the world. When the Israelis bomb residential blocks in the strip in retaliation and kill hundreds or thousands of people, it's billed as self-defence.

 Plainly there's a double count going on: for one thing, Israeli lives are instinctively seen as much more valuable than Palestinian lives, and the other thing is, the Palestinian actions are seen as the work of outlaws, terrorists, hatemongers and robbers while the Israeli response is carried out by a properly uniformed army or air force, so it's seen as quite legitimate. The purpose, to strike fear into the enemy's civilians, and to kill some of them, even their kids, is exactly the same though.

Note, I am not defending suicide bombings of course, but in a situation like the Palestinian one, I think the heavy-handed response, the lack of recognition of the problem, and the ongoing oppression can really push people to go for such desperate actions to make their point.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2013, 01:32:51 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Oniya

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Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #17 on: August 05, 2013, 01:31:47 PM »
Okay, I'm a little confused here. 

It's our policy, however, that violence is only ever "intentional harm to one or more human beings." So this excludes property damage and looting. Throw as many firebombs, turn as many cars, loot as many stores as you like and we're generally indifferent, although as a tactic it is not always strategic. Throw a firebomb at a police officer or even just throw a stone at a car with someone in it and that's violence.

I'd like to see where it is even suggested that Gandhi and/or MLK would be 'generally indifferent' to those actions.  I rather suspect that both men would have advocated strongly against them.

Offline meikle

Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #18 on: August 05, 2013, 01:40:01 PM »
Quote
I consider self-immolation or really any form of expressive suicide to be nonviolent, but my personal philosophy is that ones body is just a sack of a meat we as human beings happen to be attached to. You'll find, for example, that Tibetan Buddhist monks, known for this tactic, are divided on this issue; moreover, they're divided regardless of age, level of conservatism, level of political activity, etc. But that's a different issue.

The World Health Organization cites the primary cause of violent death as suicide; with that in mind, I would certainly call suicide protest an act of violence.

It is probably very worthwhile to understand that I do not think that the violent/nonviolent divide is very meaningful.  Violent is just a word, a category for a group of actions, and so skirting as close to 'violent' as you can without stepping over doesn't hold any water for me.  Likewise, I don't think less of the dude who blew himself up in a Chinese airport (and didn't hurt anyone but himself) for using a violent method to get his point across.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2013, 01:42:45 PM by meikle »

Offline Kythia

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Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #19 on: August 05, 2013, 01:46:02 PM »
The World Health Organization cites the primary cause of violent death as suicide; with that in mind, I would certainly call suicide protest an act of violence.

It is probably very worthwhile to understand that I do not think that the violent/nonviolent divide is very meaningful.  Violent is just a word, a category for a group of actions, and so skirting as close to 'violent' as you can without stepping over doesn't hold any water for me.  Likewise, I don't think less of the dude who blew himself up in a Chinese airport (and didn't hurt anyone but himself) for using a violent method to get his point across.

Indeed.  It seems the primary goal in OP's "non-violence" is a PR one, allowing a movement to bill itself as non-violent using its own inconsistent criteria and attempt to ideologically ally itself to King, Gandhi, etc when, as Oniya points out, they would likely oppose the sort of extreme methods advocated.

Further, this bit:

Quote
While a Communist or Anarchist that destroys or steals property from other repressed members of society (as they see them) is a fool, one who destroys or steals the property of the ruling class is simply using extra-legal means to execute a redistribution she believes is just according to her theory of social organization.

So if that's violence, shouldn't it also be considered violence for the so-called ruling class to prevent that redistribution? That thought is a line that more militant leftists take to advocate the idea of a perpetual class war which permanently justifies violent response. I tend to think that while class war may be a reality, it's a good idea to separate out which elements of that struggle are violent and avoid/oppose those regardless of which side they're on.

is inconsistent.  Why is it acceptable for a person to use extra-legal (incidentally, does that mean anything other than "illegal"?) methods to execute a redistribution they believe is just if they are destroying or stealing the property of the ruling class, but the ruling class is not allowed to execute a redistribution they believe to be just according to their "everything belongs to me" theory.  It seems the logical outgrowth of your position is that the ruling class can confiscate or impound whatever the hell they want with the full support of your position.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2013, 01:50:39 PM by Kythia »

Offline ChrysippusTopic starter

Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #20 on: August 05, 2013, 02:14:28 PM »
Okay, I'm a little confused here. 

I'd like to see where it is even suggested that Gandhi and/or MLK would be 'generally indifferent' to those actions.  I rather suspect that both men would have advocated strongly against them.

I agree with you on this, but I do not agree with Gandhi or MLK on everything. Also it's relevant that Gandhi adopted a "no-property-destruction" policy partially to improve his movement's image in the eyes of the British people, who were/are quite capitalist and property-centric in the middle classes. A huge part of MLK's strategy was to present the black people in his movement as respectable citizens. Tactically it was genius to so openly oppose property destruction. I brought them up as examples of people who successfully communicated a cohesive nonviolent philosophy and strategy to a popular movement. Labor organizations like but not limited to the IWW, on the other hand, have sometimes openly adopted a strategy of property destruction while very explicitly advocating nonviolence to their members. Or environmental groups that carefully train their members but adopt strategies like spiking roads and destroying logging equipment (on a personal note I'm less sympathetic to them because spiking roads and tree-spiking are both quite dangerous for loggers. Tree-spiking especially I think is violent because it works specifically by threatening the loggers with personal injury. Road-spiking is a little more ambiguous but I would definitely oppose it as just being too obviously dangerous. I'm ok with destroying equipment. I hope that clarifies the vagaries of my position a little.)

The World Health Organization cites the primary cause of violent death as suicide; with that in mind, I would certainly call suicide protest an act of violence.

It is probably very worthwhile to understand that I do not think that the violent/nonviolent divide is very meaningful.  Violent is just a word, a category for a group of actions, and so skirting as close to 'violent' as you can without stepping over doesn't hold any water for me.  Likewise, I don't think less of the dude who blew himself up in a Chinese airport (and didn't hurt anyone but himself) for using a violent method to get his point across.

I'm committed to nonviolence because I believe that history shows that violence begets violence and nonviolence begets nonviolence. The power of nonviolence comes from solidarity and popular conviction; that's the only way it works. A successful popular movement achieves its goals because the authority cannot stomach the level of violence necessary to quash it; unlike, for example, Tiananmen Square. Syria is a darkly but amazingly ambiguous case from a research perspective because it seems the government can both stomach extraordinary violence and the movement quickly became violent itself. The power of violence, on the other hand, comes from coercive capability or outright murder, forcefully carving a space in the power dynamic to insert yourself in it. The blood necessary becomes a legacy and the power dynamic doesn't change anything but hands.

Indeed.  It seems the primary goal in OP's "non-violence" is a PR one, allowing a movement to bill itself as non-violent using its own inconsistent criteria and attempt to ideologically ally itself to King, Gandhi, etc when, as Oniya points out, they would likely oppose the sort of extreme methods advocated.

Further, this bit:

is inconsistent.  Why is it acceptable for a person to use extra-legal (incidentally, does that mean anything other than "illegal"?) methods to execute a redistribution they believe is just if they are destroying or stealing the property of the ruling class, but the ruling class is not allowed to execute a redistribution they believe to be just according to their "everything belongs to me" theory.  It seems the logical outgrowth of your position is that the ruling class can confiscate or impound whatever the hell they want with the full support of your position.

By extra-legal I mean outside of the legal apparatus, meaning that the "perpetrator" is claiming some other form of legitimacy. A common criminal might claim egotism or whatever else as a form of legitimacy but this is not likely to be recognized by many. But it's not a great term and I'm not ultimately concerned about the legality of the action, although again, I do advocate illegality.

To answer your objection, that's exactly what I think in terms of a violent/nonviolent distinction. I researched a case where a Communist government wanted to seize some land owned by some peasants so they set up a settlement for the villagers to move to (with supposedly equal or better accommodations). The villagers resisted and refused to leave, so the police burned the village down. Assuming that the alternative settlement was actually equal or better and no harm to the villagers was intended, I'm relatively happy to call this tactic nonviolent at the same time I'm happy to call it completely terrible and horrifying. If a capitalist government responds to unionists destroying factory equipment by levying a higher tax or extra fines, that's a nonviolent response (sort of, the problem being that both the tax and the fines presumably have repressive backing...So maybe better if they just took it or something.) If a government responds to unionists by burning down all of the surrounding farms so they can starve the movement out, that's violence.

Anyway my lunch hour is over so I'm going to step back and watch from the sidelines, but I love the input so please continue.

PS--You can think of my organization as a sort of think tank or research group that is attempting to build a modern philosophy of nonviolence in order to provide guidance for various activist groups in planning and executing direct action. We as a group do not have any specific political agenda besides advocating nonviolence generally and opposing violence just as generally. Individual members have individual attachments but once we're at the table our job is to hash out ambiguities just like this.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #21 on: August 05, 2013, 02:16:56 PM »
[In reply to Kythia above] To be fair, there is a certain element of disagreement about the content of beliefs that advocate the concentration of wealth and those that advocate its distribution to the broader society. One goal can in fact be more just than the other, and thus have a better claim on the use of extra-legal violence if legal routes have been closed to it. They aren't interchangeable.

Having said that, while I agree that trying to treat property destruction as "violence" on the level of violence against persons is ridiculous... trying to rule it out as "violence" altogether is not only inconsistent, but also foolhardy. Violence against property can actually be a very useful tool of protest and political leverage, and is certainly preferable to murdering or beating people -- but be real with yourself that it is violence at a certain level, it does intimidate and frighten people, and it's not to ever be used lightly or as a "generally indifferent" tool.

[Basically, randomly torching cars and tossing firebombs around is what people do when they're out of ideas and don't have a plan. It plays into the opponent's hand just as surely as when states try "shock and awe" bombing to make the people of a country "rise up" in their behalf (a tactic which, like random firebombing, has worked about zero times). Unless you're trying to "heighten the contradictions," which AFAICS was one of the worst ideas Marxist and anarchist revolutionaries have ever tended to have, there is no point giving the enemy an excuse to terrify its mainstream populace with footage of your mobs and hooligans, and there's no point in reframing your rhetoric to try defending that behaviour.]
« Last Edit: August 05, 2013, 02:28:12 PM by Cyrano Johnson »

Offline meikle

Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #22 on: August 05, 2013, 02:19:45 PM »
Quote
I'm committed to nonviolence because I believe that history shows that violence begets violence and nonviolence begets nonviolence.

Man, not the kind of nonviolence that says it's okay to firebomb things.  That isn't the kind of nonviolence that "begets nonviolence"; people fight back when you start blowing their stuff up!

Offline Oniya

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Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #23 on: August 05, 2013, 02:28:14 PM »
Having said that, while I agree that trying to treat property destruction as "violence" on the level of violent against persons is ridiculous... trying to rule it out as "violence" altogether is not only inconsistent, but also foolhardy. Violence against property can actually be a very useful tool of protest and political leverage, and is certainly preferable to murdering or beating people -- but be real with yourself that it is violence, it does intimidate and frighten people, and it's not to ever be used lightly or as a "generally indifferent" tool.

Yes.  This is what I was trying to say.  They are not equivalent, but they are still close cousins.

Offline ChrysippusTopic starter

Re: Defining Violence
« Reply #24 on: August 05, 2013, 03:11:56 PM »
Yes.  This is what I was trying to say.  They are not equivalent, but they are still close cousins.

This is essentially the position of my group. My personal  position is that only tactically relevant destruction is ever warranted but shouldn't be a first move in non labor campaigns. But I also won't call it violence, which may be semantics, but in a media-driven world semantics are important. Just so you know I'm not just spitting venom I'm a delivery driver and would be forced out of my apartment and into bankruptcy if someone ever blew up my car.