2005/04/20

Communism and Violence

Gerry, in his comment to Reply to Gerry, asks me a direct question:

As a pacifist I would never align myself with a movement which condones violence as a means of achieving political aims, so, I now ask you outright, what is your party's view about this? Is it a declared pacifist party or would it justify violence under some circumstances?

The Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary defines pacifism as:

  • 1 : opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes; specifically : refusal to bear arms on moral or religious grounds
  • 2 : an attitude or policy of nonresistance
  • My understanding of pacifism is that violence cannot be used even in self-defense or in the defense of innocent people.

    The short answer to your question is that my party believes that self-defense is justified. This is not a pacifist position.

    The Program of the DSP makes the following points:

    Self-organisation of the masses and the struggle for power

    As the conflict between the major classes sharpens, the capitalist rulers will almost certainly resort to legal and extra-legal forms of violence against the workers and their allies. For this reason, the working people must be prepared to defend their activities, organisations, headquarters and press against such violence through the formation of broadly-based self-defence squads. [Emphasis Mine]

    Workers’ democracy and the defence of workers’ power

    All historical experience demonstrates that no exploiting class ever gives up its power and privileges peacefully. The capitalist class has repeatedly shown that it will cast aside its ``democratic'' institutions and unleash civil war against the workers to defend or re-establish its rule. As long as imperialism survives in major countries — and certainly in the United States — it will attempt to intervene through economic pressure and military force whenever and wherever it can to prevent or destroy any attempts by working people to establish their democratic rule. This has been the experience of every anti-capitalist revolution this century — from Russia, to China, to Cuba, to Vietnam, to Nicaragua. Any workers' state or group of workers' states will find itself in a permanent condition of armed truce with imperialism, that could, under certain conditions, lead to open war. The workers' state must prepare against that danger, as it has to be ready to help the insurgent masses of other countries facing armed intervention by imperialism. [Emphasis Mine]

    In Terrorism: A Marxist Perspective, there is a good summary of our position:

    How this struggle unfolds — whether it is peaceful or violent — does not fundamentally depend on us but on the ruling class. Will the imperialist bourgeoisie defend its rotten social order to the bitter end? Will it resort to violence and terror to resist the advance of the masses? We are not pacifists: we believe in the right of the people to defend themselves against the violence of their oppressors. All those struggling for a better world are necessarily forced to confront the question of violence — and terrorism — in its various forms. [Emphasis Mine]

    The violence of the state is directed the poor every hour of every day. This is manifest in the attitudes and actions of the security guards, transit officers, police officers, work supervisors, and every minor functionary who deals with the public. Their violence is mainly psychological in reminding the poor of their place in society. Woe betide anyone who loses their temper under such provocation. Then the physical violence descends without mercy. To be poor is to have infinite patience and forgiveness.

    15 comments:

    Gerry said...

    It seems my search for a pacifist revolution is not yet over, Douglas.

    Gerry said...
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Gerry said...

    I guess what I'm asking is, Douglas, when will there ever be a revolution utterly committed to non-violence, NO MATTER WHAT?

    Imagine the media impact of police/military beating up on people doing absolutely nothing to provoke it. Imagine the media impact of this being repeated time and again. Surely that would generate huge public sympathy and support for the revolution and huge disgust and anger with the authoritarian tactics of the authorities.

    Douglas said...

    Gerry,

    I have just come home from Uni so there will no long-winded answer tonight.

    The problem with your scenario is who controls the media?

    We have had demonstrations where the police attacked violently - eg S11.

    The publication of the photographs from the Ahu Gharib prison did not lead to the overthrow of GWB.

    Just a few random thoughts before I go to bed.

    Gerry said...

    Media control? What's this I keep hearing about the impending demise of the mainstream (controlled) media, replaced by an online independent media?

    Police violence: My argument is that until there is absolutely no violence, abusiveness, or provocation by the demonstrators it's crap to point at the police etc and bleat about violence coming from them. I don't know too many soldiers or cops who would use violence against utterly peaceful people behaving calmly and non-provocatively. Peace stuffs them.

    S11? First get S11 to stop behaving like yobboes before telling me peace can't work or blaming the cops.

    I know the existing anti-establishment propaganda seeks to deny this, Douglas, but (shock, horror) most soldiers and police are actually decent human beings who have to do some really crap work and they would soon refuse to follow orders if they felt they were being used to savage their own citizens who were behaving peacefully and non-provocatively in exercising their freedom of speech.

    First give peace a chance before being so sure it can't work. In fact I argue that if you just never give in to the urge to retaliate, abuse, provoke, attack, they run out of reasons to use violence against you and they sart to question their own violence and ultimately they would cease to follow orders to attack.

    I still say that truly peaceful methods used properly constitute a tactic they have no answer for. It (peace and calm) will overcome them. But you've got to get rid of the hotheads and those who justify violence under _any_ cicumstances before you can possibly test what I'm proposing. Then you'd still have your hands full trying to neutralise and eject the agents provocateur inserted into your protest by your political opponents. Restrain those bastards and hand them over to the police to be taken away, making it clear to the cops that these guys are not part of your protest. I'm talking about stuff no one I know has ever tried in this country so I don't know where the evidence is that it doesn't work.

    Abu Ghraib? I didn't know that anyone expected the publishing of those photos to result in the overthrow of GWB.

    As I've said elsewhere, if all of those Republicans and Democrats who oppose the Iraq war and Bush's mad foreign policy objectives were to organise effectively to stage massive and ongoing peaceful protests in Washington, they theoretically have the numbers (millions) to gridlock Washington till Bush resigns. All it would take is cranking up the commitment in ordinary people to take to the streets to effect regime change. But the organisers would owe it to those people to keep it peaceful and orderly. It could be done. As I said thousands of camcorders feeding images to the independent media would get the news out there.

    You'll never see me at a non-peaceful demo, and if I'm at a demo and the demonstrators turn violent, abusive or ugly, I and everyone else who is committed to peaceful methods would just walk away from it. You'd lose the numbers game big time every time, and once gone, those numbers take a lot of convincing before they'll ever trust the organisers again. Violence is the enemy of any cause.

    The days of violent uprising are over unless you want to see a bloodbath. It's no longer pitchforks against muzzle-loading muskets. Don't make me give you a tactical rundown as to why violence actually plays into the hands of the establishment.

    But I don't see a problems because I assert that peaceful protest is the most powerful and effective weapon the people have. Done properly, it will bring any unpopular regime to it's knees.

    All you need is the numbers, and that's not a problem because in democratic terms, without the numbers you don't have the right to assert your will anyway, and once you have the numbers you don't need to sabotage your cause with stupid violence. It's Neandethal. The world has morphed, Douglas.

    Pat said...

    Hi Douglas, I have been meaning to link your site for some time (unfortunately I am being oppressed by management;-). I read your posts in relation to mine and was flattered that you gave it some thought. I like your forthright attitude (certainly not your politics) and well constructed arguments. Hope you keep up the blogging.

    Re: violence in pursuit of political goals, communists are top shelf in that regard. I don't believe in pacifism politically but I do spiritually. Once you deny your soul your left with flesh only. Being what we are, human animals, violence is instinctive. Communism is what your left with once you lose your love of self and others.

    Anyway, I look forward to reading more of your posts. All the best.

    Gerry said...

    Pat, I've got a few problems with what you said:

    (1) "unfortunately I am being oppressed by management"

    Perhaps one of the socialist or communist unions would better look after your rights as a worker than your managers, being as they are, the bosses' prostitutes. I should know, Pat, I've been a suck-hole for the bosses, Pat. Have you?

    (2) "Re: violence in pursuit of political goals, communists are top shelf in that regard."

    You seem to forget that there's about a 10:1 ratio of capitalist-inspired wars to communist-inspired ones, Pat. Also, capitalist-inspired wars account for the vast majority of people killed all wars in the last 100 years. Please don't make me give you a lesson in history, Pat. I venture to say that you'd lose miserably.

    (3) "I don't believe in pacifism politically but I do spiritually."

    A peaceful soul cannot kill, Pat. You have to kill the peace within your soul in order to be able to kill another being. I should know, Pat, I've killed a few of those "dirty, stinking Vietnamese commie bastards" on behalf of your shiny clean white Capitalism, Pat. Have you?

    With respect, Pat, I think you're talking utter twaddle. But hey, do come back and convince me with a well-reasoned riposte. I'm waiting...

    (4) “Being what we are, human animals, violence is instinctive.”

    What seperates us from animals is our ability to overcome instinct with reason. With reason and benign intent, political conflicts can be resolved without the use of violence. Read a bit about Gandhi, and also stuff he wrote, Pat. You might get educated in the process.

    (5) “Communism is what you're left with once you lose your love of self and others.”

    Pat, where do you get this twaddle from? Communism is about the sharing of the communal wealth in an equitable way with all of the members of your community. I would argue that in order to want to be part of such a community, you would first have to find your love of self and others (and to keep it, you'd have to conduct yourself along strictly pacifist lines.)

    Pat said...

    Hi Douglas, I certainly didn't intend to annoy you with my comments. The comment about management was meant to be a jibe in good spirit.

    Having worked as a young fella on building sites I have heard the union rhetoric, usually with a thick scottish accent, about management, the bosses, the workers, oppression etc. I worked out for myself that the unions were and are just as oppressive and more violent than management.

    As for being a suck-hole, sometimes it can be like that but overall I believe that I choose my destiny and that what some see as suck-holing for others it is getting on with the job.

    I'd like to see your list of 10:1 ratio of capitalist:socialist wars. I am more than willing to learn.

    I take it from your point 3 that you are a Vietnam vet. If so, then please allow me to sincerely thank you for putting your life on the line for Australia and the Vietnamese. I have utmost respect for the military, as they walk where others just talk.

    I don't believe the war was for capitalism as much as it was to oppose to communism - and a particulary brutal one at that.

    Totally agree with you on point 4.

    Communism/socialism in theory is what you say it is in point 5 but I believe that because Communism destroys individual incentive and replaces it with a collective it is inherantly flawed economically. I think history has borne that out. Having said that I don't think capitalism is "shiny clean white". Like all isms I don't bow down before false idols. It is a theory that has many practicle benefits and many flaws which overall prove vastly superior to practical communism.

    Socialism is utopian, and it would be great if the world could act instinctively collectively, but it just doesn't. Capitalism takes into account our flaws and redirects it to of purpose that has a great utility. Communism imposes itself on the individual and seeks to reshape the individual or destroy him in the process.

    That's how I see it - but I am very interested to be proved otherwise. Like I say, I like your blog and look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

    Gerry said...

    Hi Pat, first thing I've got to say is that is that I'm not Douglas. I'm Gerry. Douglas would have been far more polite. :-)

    I'd like to see your list of 10:1 ratio of capitalist:socialist wars. I am more than willing to learn.

    Well, Pat, maybe you want to start here. and then, while you're reading my blog, you might like to check out a few more of the books in my book list. I think the picture will get pretty clear after a while...

    ...please allow me to sincerely thank you for putting your life on the line for Australia and the Vietnamese.

    We were not fighting for Australia. We were fighting for the Yanks and their "interests". Their trick was to deny Vietnam free and fair elections, in 1956, to divide the country, to install "democratic" puppet government which was subservient to America, and to murder over 3 million Vietnamese people in the process of forcing them to accept a US-dominated "freedom". the only Vietnames I fought for were those who thought they'd get rich under corrupt American puppet regime. But I didn't know that at the time. back then I stupidly belived the Liberals' lies and propaganda.

    I'll leave it for Douglas to educate you about communism and socialism. It's his blog. I've done enough damage here already. :-)

    Pat said...

    Hi Gerry, no wonder I was confused by the tone of your reply and the normal pace of Douglas' comments (wry smile).

    Without making light of your depression the first thing I recommend is selling all your Vidal and Chomsky tomes as I did. The 2nd hand bookshop at Katoomba was quite happy to receive them free and no doubt sold them at a considerable price to all the left wing acolytes that inhabit these otherwise happy mountains.

    Both authors are complete clowns and would do very well at Cirque Du Soleil.

    You believe the Vietnam war was for the yanks and their interests. Well many others see the yanks interests as our interests. As do many Vietnam Vets that I have met or know of. Our own Governor General differs with your conclusions.

    But I am happy to be proved otherwise, though references to anything by Vidal or Chomsky (what next - Pilger?) are as usefull as getting financial advice from a proctologist.

    Gerry said...

    Pat, you dissapoint me. You dismiss Chomsky and Vidal but you don't mention why. Is their research faulty? Are the facts on which they base their commentary false? Why do you dismiss them? Which of their books have you read and why do you dismiss them? What about the other books in my book list - do you dismiss those authors too? And if so, on what basis?

    Yes, many vets and even the Governor General disagree with my views - and your point is?

    Yes, many see America's interests as our interests - and your point is?

    Gerry said...

    Pat, Pat, wherefore art thou, Pat?

    One more thing, Pat: You said "Well many others see the yanks interests as our interests." Well, Pat, you might like to read this before being so sure that hanging onto America's coat tails is the way to go.

    Pat said...

    Gerry, sorry for not replying earlier. I have read and owned (or at least made numerous attempts to read) Gnome's "Manufacturing Consent" and "World Orders Old and New". I have read various essays by Vidal as I have of Pilger. All three are smitten with a deep hatred of the west.

    Reading Gnome is like reading an encyclopedia from cover to cover, full of facts but no topic necessarily is linked with any other and if one were to draw a coherant theme from the lot then one is making such a stretch as to be disingenuous at best.

    By the way I have also read Peter Singer's "Practical Ethics" and keep it by my bed. One thing I will say positive about Singer is that he is an honest person and genuinly seeks to humanely (in his mind) solve ethical dilemnas.

    I have never read any Michael Moore or watched any of his movies except for the beginning of his last one. I happened to see it as it was an in-house movie at a motel I was staying at. I was incredulous that people could actually believe his barefaced distortions. I think people read him and the authors you cite to reinforce their own hatreds not to learn. None of them (except Singer) are objectively analytical. They are all propogandists IMO.

    johnno said...

    I like many others in this country are tired of this government in many ways & what this country is becoming with the rich getting richer & the middle class disappearing as it's heading quicker & quicker downhill! I'm not politically educated but I know that this country could better serve the "average" Australian and "average" is not those on 52K income which the government continues to call average income! I am slowly educating myself and will be hoping to, if it's not already happening, start a movement towards a revolution in this country because I've had enough & I have spoken to "many" other people (both friends & strangers) who appeared entusistict in supporting such a movement! I know this country has 20 million people but surely you would not need every single Australian supporting such a thing as quite clearly there would be at least 5-10% who support the government in all it's ways as it supports their wealth and there would be probably 10-20% who would be in the next class of well off class who would probably not bother as they see themselves in the 5-10% wealthy category soon but that would leave 40% of average Australians who've had enough like most of us & 30% in the lowest class who just don't wanna get out of bed every day, if they sleep in one! So that would be 70% or so of the population that would not really need much convincing! The time is now to get the ball rolling!

    I am now working on starting the "A.R.M" (Australian Revolution Movement)

    Douglas said...

    Johnno,

    A revolution is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end.

    From your comment, I gather that you are in favour of a fairer distribution of wealth and income.

    The questions you should be looking at are:
    (1) What type of ecomony are we living in now? (My answer is Capitalist)
    (2) What type of economy would be better for the majority of people? (My answer would be Socialist followed by Communist)
    (3) How do we get from where we are now to where we want to be? (My answer would be a revolution lead by a Lennist Communist party)

    I think your plan about educating yourself is a good one. I would suggest that you keep these three (3) questions in mind while you do your reading.

    Be aware that there is a lot of literature out there on these questions. You have to pick and choose.

    A good start would be Statistics and Logic for the People in which you would learn how to approach the different ways to argue points.