Swans Commentary » swans.com July 13, 2009  



Nonviolence International And Imperialism


by Michael Barker





[ed. note added on October 23, 2009: Michael Barker writes in the third paragraph that Nancy Nye is the wife of Michael Beer. She is not. Mrs. Nye is the wife of Mubarak Awad.]

"However much he deplored violence, Gandhi did deem it much preferable to inaction in the face of injustice. Should one be incapable of nonviolently resisting an outrage, the only honorable option would be to resist violently, whereas flight would be wholly shameful. For, if there was one thing Gandhi detested more than violence, it was 'mute submissiveness' -- and what was yet worse, such submissiveness masquerading as nonviolent resistance."
Norman Finkelstein, 2008.
"The question central to the emergence and maintenance of nonviolence as the oppositional foundation of American activism has not been the truly pacifist formulation, 'How can we forge a revolutionary politics within which we can avoid inflicting violence on others?' On the contrary, a more accurate guiding question has been, 'What sort of politics might I engage in which will both allow me to posture as a progressive and allow me to avoid incurring harm to myself?' Hence, the trappings of pacifism have been subverted to establish a sort of 'politics of the comfort zone'..."
—Ward Churchill, 2007. (1)


(Swans - July 13, 2009)   Radical activists have always sought to spread their revolutionary ideas globally, and the dissemination of such ideas is greatly aided by money. As such revolutionaries rarely accept financial support from those capitalist elites that they are seeking to oust from power, they usually tend to be short of cash. However, problematically this funding scarcity has led to a strange state of affairs whereby some groups and individuals professing to adhere to revolutionary ideals are working in close alliances (and are even being funded by) capitalist organizations whose primary objective is to pre-empt and defuse potentially radical social change. Nonviolence International is one such group. Indeed, just last week the director of Nonviolence International's Iran program, Sam Sedaei, participated in a forum entitled "The Role of New Media in the Iranian Elections" that was organized by the US government's leading imperialist democracy-manipulating group, the National Endowment for Democracy's Center for International Media Assistance.

Founded in 1989 by Palestinian activist Mubarak Awad, Nonviolence International is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that consists of a "decentralized network of resource centers" that seek to "reduce the use of violence worldwide." (2) For an organization that works closely with the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), it is clear that Awad must have possessed the right credentials to satisfy his imperial allies' desire for "justice." For instance, in 1988, when Noam Chomsky was asked about the "Palestinian intellectuals we hear so much about, people like Hanna Siniora and Mubarak Awad?" he replied that the people he had talked to in the Middle East "were contemptuous of them" and that Awad "does not have any relation to what is going on" and "is just splitting things." Notwithstanding such contempt of Awad's work, this did not mean that Israel itself was necessarily pleased with Awad, because three years after forming the Palestinian Center for the Study of Nonviolence (in 1985) he was deported back to the United States. Not one to be easily deterred, Awad formed Nonviolence International and subsequently obtained grants from the NED in 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1999 to carry out work in Palestine (see "Engineering Human Rights In The Israel-Palestine Conflict"). Unsurprisingly, Awad also went on to serve as an advisor to another NED-connected organization that disseminates the message of nonviolence globally, a group known as the Albert Einstein Institution (for related criticisms, see "Sharp Reflection Warranted: Nonviolence in the Service of Imperialism"). (3)

Since 1998, Michael Beer has served as the executive director of Nonviolence International, and from 2001 until 2004 he also acted on the international council of the radical pacifist group, Peace Brigades International (see later). Beer's wife, Nancy Nye, is in turn the executive director of Youth Advocate Program International, another US-based organization that was formed to promote and protect "the rights and well-being of the world's youth, giving particular attention to children victimized by conflict, exploitation, and state and personal violence." Fittingly, Mubarak Awad serves on Youth Advocate Program International's five-person-strong board of directors, while the board's two co-chairs are Mary King, who is a board member of the Albert Einstein Institution, (4) and Jack Healey, who formerly served for twenty years as the executive director of Amnesty International USA (for a critical overview of this group see footnote (5)). On top of these connections, one of Youth Advocate Program International's top five financial supporters is the Fund for Non-Violence -- a group whose Web site says they aim to cultivate and support "community-based efforts to bring about social change that moves humanity towards a more just and compassionate coexistence." This is notable because the Fund is part of a "humanitarian" association of grantmakers called the International Human Rights Funders Group whose ranks include key democracy-manipulating elites like the US Institute of Peace, the NED, and Rights and Democracy (the Canadian version of the NED), amongst many others.

Significantly, both the Fund for Non-Violence and Rights and Democracy are counted as institutional donors to Peace Brigades International (PBI) -- the group on whose international council Michael Beer recently served. (6) Such relations are problematic on many levels, particularly because such funders' motives for supporting PBI's activities are not as honest as those of the activists putting their lives on the line for PBI. (7) Needless to say, imperial democracy-manipulating elites, like Rights and Democracy, are not in the business of promoting a world "where human rights are universally upheld and social justice and intercultural respect have become a reality"; that is, helping implement PBI's laudable vision statement. Thus it is a sign of the times that a progressive group like PBI, whose "identity is built upon nonhierarchical structures and consensual processes," is funded by hierarchical capitalist governments and not-for-profit corporations. Moreover, although few constructive criticisms exist of the brave work undertaken by peace groups like PBI, it should not be assumed that their activism necessarily serves to progress a radical political agenda. (8) On this point it is worrisome that Amelia Parker, a member of PBI's national coordinating committee, maintains excellent ties to the broader democracy-manipulating community. (9) Likewise, it is equally troublesome that the treasurer of PBI's international council, Liam Mahony, was the editor of the controversial Kosovo Report of the Independent International Commission on Kosovo (Oxford University Press, 2000); while one of his most notable assignments was undertaken for the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue -- a group whose chairman, until recently, was Mike Aaronson, the former vice chairman of the British version of the NED, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

Given the direct connection that can be traced between Nonviolence International and the NED -- a government-funded body that overtly undertakes the work that was formerly carried out covertly by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) -- it is little surprise that last week the director of Nonviolence International's Iran program, Sam Sedaei, gave a presentation at the NED's Center for International Media Assistance. Sedaei, while committed to nonviolence (despite working with imperial elites), is of course no radical, and while at university he served as the president of the Kalamazoo College Democrats (2005-06), and then served as the leader of the economic equity team of the Chicago chapter of the liberal feminist outfit, the National Organization for Women. Thus while it is understandable how Sedaei was recruited by Nonviolence International, it is more disturbing that a radical activist like Andres Thomas Conteris, who "founded and supports the Spanish Headline News" for progressive media outlet Democracy Now!, currently acts as the director of Nonviolence International's Latin America programs.

Evidence of the existence of such close links between a progressive media outlet and Nonviolence International are problematic and require further critical attention. Furthermore, it is equally worrisome that in 2008, Scott Kennedy, the well respected co-founder of Witness for Peace (see footnote #8), the Interfaith Peacebuilders, and the Resource Center for Nonviolence, accepted an El-Hibri Peace Education Prize -- which is distributed by the "El-Hibri family, Nonviolence International, and the International Peace and Conflict Resolution program at American University." (10) However, in this case his receipt of the prize makes more sense when it is known that Kennedy already has relatively intimate ties to the democracy-manipulating community. Thus his US-based Interfaith Peacebuilders, which was founded in 2001 and "stand[s] in support with Palestinians and Israelis striving to end the occupation of Palestine," counts the National Peace Foundation among its four national partners -- a foundation that successfully lobbied Congress to create the Orwellian US Institute of Peace. (11) On top of this, Barbara Wien, who serves on the board of directors of Interfaith Peacebuilders, used to be a program officer for the US Institute of Peace, and formerly served for five years as the director of Peace Brigades International. It is also relevant that Kennedy's long-running Resource Center for Nonviolence (which was founded in 1976) is currently home to Nanlouise Wolfe, who acts as their comptroller. This is significant because Wolfe's husband is the noted anti-imperialist scholar Stephen Zunes, who with no sense of irony presently serves as the chair of the board of academic advisors of the controversial International Center for Nonviolent Conflict -- a group whose work is thoroughly enmeshed with leading members of the democracy-manipulating establishment. (12)

By critiquing a variety of proponents of nonviolent activism and their ties to imperial democracy-manipulating elites this article has not intended to suggest that all groups engaged in the promotion of nonviolent activism are working in the service of imperialism. (13) It is, however, extremely problematic that many non-violence "educators" imply that activists must forgo the use of violent tactics in revolutionary struggles; a strategic approach that is being solidified by the proselytising of groups like Nonviolence International. For individuals seeking radical progressive social change this is a dangerous dichotomy that can only weaken popular resistance to the ongoing ultra-violence of capitalism. (14) That said, as Ward Churchill clarifies in his powerful book Pacifism as Pathology (AK Press, 2007):

What is at issue is not therefore the replacement of hegemonic pacifism with some "cult of terror." Instead, it is the realization that, in order to be effective and ultimately successful, any revolutionary movement within advanced capitalist nations must develop the broadest possible range of thinking/action by which to confront the state. This should be conceived not as an array of component forms of struggle but as a continuum of activity stretching from petitions/letter writing and so forth through mass mobilization/demonstrations, onward into the arena of armed self-defense, and still onward through the realm of "offensive" military operations (e.g., the elimination of critical state facilities, targeting of key individuals within the governmental/corporate apparatus, etc.). All of this must be apprehended as a holism, as an internally consistent liberatory process applicable at this generally-formulated level to the late capitalist context no less than to the Third World. From the basis of this fundamental understanding -- and, it may be asserted, only from this basis -- can a viable liberatory praxis for North America emerge. (p.94) (15)

If we as progressive activists should have learnt anything from history, it is the imperative to engage with those criticisms with which we are least comfortable. This applies as much to proponents of violent activism as it does to advocates of strictly nonviolent approaches to social change. However, given the dominance of pacifism within US social movements, it is critical that all organizations committed to training activists dedicated to progressive outcomes must invite critical discussion as to the role of violence in revolutionary struggles. People must question the potential shortcomings of groups like Nonviolence International and the Albert Einstein Institution, and determine why they have obtained support (albeit limited) from imperial elites. For a start, a valid question to ask is "why doesn't the US government provide support to progressive (not to be confused with counterrevolutionary) activist groups with names like Violence/Nonviolence International or the Malcolm X Institute?" (16)

If Western groups that offer training to activists are serious about promoting the type of change that will eventually eradicate capitalism they should dedicate most of their meagre resources to supporting local (not foreign) activists. Furthermore, to counter the detrimental impact of elite power, the poorer super majority of the world must work to bring their massive collective resources together to support truly effective grassroots activism. If activists then decide that violent protest is not appropriate at this historic juncture, which in the U.S. at least will most likely be the case, then it is critical that they partake in principled rather than tokenistic nonviolent activism. Here it is fitting to end with Gandhi's reflections on this matter:

Hence I ask you, is our nonviolence the nonviolence of the coward, the weak, the helpless, the timid? In that case, it is of no value. A weakling is a born saint. A weak person is obliged to become a saint. But we are soldiers of nonviolence, who, if the occasion demands, will lay down their lives for it. Our nonviolence is not a mere policy of the coward. But I doubt this. I am afraid that the nonviolence we boast of might really be only a policy. It is true that, to some extent, nonviolence works even in the hands of the weak. And, in this manner, this weapon has been useful to us. But, if one makes use of nonviolence in order to disguise one's weakness..., it makes a coward of one. Such a person is defeated on both fronts. Such a one cannot live like a man and the Devil he surely cannot become. It is a thousand times better that we die trying to acquire the strength of arm[s]. Using physical force with courage is far superior to cowardice. At least we would have attempted to act like men. (17)




1.  Ward Churchill, Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America (AK Press, 2007 [1986]), pp.60-1.  (back)

2.  "'We, the Left, have been described as being weak, fractured, disorganized. I attribute that to three things: COINTELPRO. 501(c)(3). Capitalism,' deadpanned Suzanne Pharr, while speaking before an audience of 800 at the historic 2004 conference The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond the Non-Profit Industrial Complex." Eric Tang, "Non-Profits and the Autonomous Grassroots," In: INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence (eds.) The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: Beyond The Non-Profit Industrial Complex (South End Press, 2007), p.215. For Suzanne Pharr's full talk see "Funding Our Radical Work."  (back)

3.  Similarly, Philip Bogdonoff, the former executive director of Nonviolence International, from 1992-93, has also served as an advisor to the Albert Einstein Institution.

In addition to obtaining NED support for their work in Palestine, Nonviolence International has received two further grants from the NED to aid their work in other countries: one in 1997 to undertake a "project which seeks to invigorate a self-critical examination of intellectual, cultural, and spiritual resources for nonviolent change found in Islam" and to work "toward the establishment of an indigenous Islamic Peace Association"; and a second in 2007 to "enhance local officials' ability to enact the new federal law on local government in a democratic manner" in Russia.  (back)

4.  As well as serving as a board member of the Albert Einstein Institution, Mary King is Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at the University for Peace, and she has written a number of books on nonviolent action including Freedom Song: A Personal Story of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement (which "won her a Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Award in 1988"). King is also a former member of the international advisory board of the elitist Auroville Foundation (another former advisor was Maurice Strong), and she presently serves as the secretary of the Arca Foundation -- a liberal foundation that supports a large number of progressive media projects in the U.S.; e.g., Media Matters for America and the Prometheus Radio Project.  (back)

5.  While this article is certainly not the place to undertake a critical review of Amnesty International's ties to the democracy-manipulating community, suffice to say that despite doing much commendable work, the organization is highly elitist in structure and has come under fire from a number of authors regarding the negative repercussions of some of their work (e.g., see the writings of Michael Mandel, Diana Johnstone, Joe Emersberger, and Paul de Rooij). Given these criticisms it is no surprise that in 2006 the new executive director of Amnesty International USA, Larry Cox, had been a senior program officer for the Ford Foundation's human rights unit. Incidentally, Cox was replacing William Schulz, who had headed Amnesty since 1994, and now currently rubs shoulder with various "democratic" luminaries like the former NED chair, John Brademas, through his position on the advisory council for the Initiative for Inclusive Security.

Michael Mandel, How America Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage and Crimes Against Humanity (Pluto Press, 2004); Diana Johnstone, Fool's Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions (Pluto Press, 2002); Joe Emersberger, "Amnesty International's Track Record in Haiti since 2004," HaitiAnalysis, February 7, 2007; Paul de Rooij, "Amnesty International: A False Beacon? Double Standards and Curious Silences," Counterpunch, October 13, 2004.  (back)

6.  Other notable current institutional donors of Peace Brigades International, as listed in their 2007-08 Annual Review (pdf), include the Canadian International Development Agency, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ireland Aid, and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Another important former institutional donor of Peace Brigades International's activities is George Soros's Open Society Institute.  (back)

7.  "The aim of PBI's international presence is to accompany both political and social processes through a joint strategy of deterring violence and promoting active non-violence. Our international teams of volunteers use methods such as protective accompaniment, peace education, independent observation and analysis of the conflict situation. In addition, PBI learns about, develops, and models forms of nonviolent intervention. Where possible, we initiate contacts with all the parties to a conflict in order to inform of our presence."  (back)

8.  The first work that Peace Brigades International was engaged in revolved around their solidarity with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua (in late 1983), with 10 PBI volunteers "interposing themselves between US-backed contras and the Sandinista forces in order to deter hostilities." This dangerous activism was shortly taken over by another newly formed peace group called Witness for Peace. However, while the work of such pacifist groups is highly commendable, Ward Churchill observes that their "principled and self-sacrificing" position "represent[s] the exception rather than the rule of pacifist performance in the United States." Moreover, even in these rare cases, the strategic application of such activism does not always match the inherent radicalism displayed by their on-the-ground practitioners. For instance, former Witness for Peace Nicaragua staffer (1985-88), Ed Griffin-Nolan observed that "more radical members bemoaned the fact that Witness, as it grew, came to focus on short-term goals." Griffin-Nolan notes:

"The focus on legislation, effectiveness, and 'respectability' had important long-range implications for Witness. It won acceptance and cost a bit of prophetic zeal. Witness gained a spot in the national debate about contra aid but had no chance to challenge the assumptions underlying foreign policy. It gained adherent in the East and lost them in the West. It truncated the nature of the dialogue occurring between U.S. and Nicaraguan people of faith by reducing many issues to a question of how they affected votes on contra aid. As the need to dialogue with and curry favour with legislators became more prominent. Witnesses found that they had to be on top of the legislators' agenda (U.S. national security), which was a world away from the agenda they heard expressed by the Nicaraguan campesinos (peace and life for them and their children).

"It also kept Witness primarily within a middle-class constituency and may have been an important reason why Witness 'won' the battle against contra aid and the most important reason they 'lost' the struggle to change U.S. policy at its core."

Ward Churchill, Pacifism as Pathology (AK Press, 2007), p.60; Ed Griffin-Nolan, Witness for Peace: A Story of Resistance (Westminster John Knox Press, 1991), pp.100-1.  (back)

9.  Based at American University Washington College of Law, Amelia Parker is the program coordinator for the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. The Center is headed by Hadar Harris, an individual who formerly served as the Director of Program and Resource Development for the Ford Foundation-funded Association for Civil Rights in Israel. However, it is the Center for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law's co-directors who are best connected to the "humanitarian" democracy-manipulating establishment: the Center's co-directors include NED-contributor Herman Schwartz, who is a former board member of Helsinki Watch (now Human Rights Watch), and a former board member of the similarly elitist Foundation for a Civil Society; "new humanitarian" warrior Diane Orentlicher who is a member of the elite think tank the Council on Foreign Relations, and is special counsel for George Soros's Open Society Justice Initiative; while two of the other three co-directors, Robert Goldman and Claudio Grossman, are former presidents of the Organization of American States' Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and are members of the general assembly of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights (see below).

The Inter-American Institute of Human Rights (IIDH) is an academic institution that was formed in 1980 "under an agreement between the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the Republic of Costa Rica": their Web site adds that they are "one of the most important world centers for teaching and academic research on human rights." The Institute obtains financial support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, and US Agency for International Development to maintain their Web site, and they also note that their work is made "possible thanks to the support of governments, international agencies of cooperation, foundations, non-governmental organizations, agencies of the United Nations system, universities and academic centers." Unfortunately, their Web site provides no further details regarding their funding, but it does appear that the Ford Foundation has been a major supporter of their work, as in 1998 they gave IIDH a $0.5 million grant.

The IIDH's executive director is Roberto Cuellar, an individual who also serves on the Americas Advisory Committee of the NED-connected Human Rights Watch; while IIDH's president, Sonia Picado Sotela, also has strong links to democracy-manipulating elites as she has acted as the co-chair of the board of directors of the Inter-American Dialogue, and serves on the international advisory board of the Democracy Coalition Project -- a project that was initiated by the Open Society Institute in 2001 to undertake "research and advocacy relating to democracy promotion policies at the national, regional and global levels." IIDH's general assembly is home to a number of 'democratic' representatives from across the Americas, and the four representatives from North America are honorary president Thomas Buergenthal (U.S.), Robert Goldman (U.S.), Margaret Crahan (U.S.), and Gisele Cote-Harper (Canada) -- the latter of whom was the founding chair of the board of the Canadian equivalent to the NED, Rights and Democracy.  (back)

10.  The El-Hibri Peace Education Prize was established in 2007 by Fuad El-Hibri to "honor individuals who have dedicated their lives to peace education in their community" with the inaugural 2007 prize being awarded to Abdul Aziz Said. Considering that the chairman of the prize's selection committee is Mubarak Awad, the founder and director of the NED-funded Nonviolence International, it is hardly surprising that the award's first recipient is a former board member of both Nonviolence International and of the aforementioned Youth Advocate Program International.

A senior ranking professor at American University, Abdul Aziz Said is an important member of the democracy-manipulating community as he presently serves as a board member of the NED-funded Search for Common Ground, and sits alongside the former US Agency for International Development administrator (Andrew Natsios) on the board of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy -- a center whose president, Douglas Johnston, recently served as the chief operating officer of the neoliberal think tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Based at the American University, Abdul Aziz Said heads the Center for Global Peace, a research unit that counts Fuad El-Hibri among its founding donors. Two notable scholars-in-residence at the Center who boast good democracy-manipulating credentials (as far as this article is concerned) are Albert Einstein Institution board member, Mary King, and Pamela Day Pelletreau, who is married to former US Assistant Secretary of State Robert Pelletreau, Jr., who in turn sits on the advisory council of a corporate front group called the American Iranian Council. On the other hand two particularly well-known progressive scholars who are members of the Center for Global Peace's academic council are Patricia Aufderheide, who is a senior editor for In These Times, and Joseph Eldridge, who is the co-founder of the Washington Office on Latin America.

The mix of democracy-manipulators and progressive scholars residing at the Center for Global Peace is intriguing, but like the trustees of the American University itself it appears that these progressives are the exception rather than the norm. Thus one finds that the president of the American University, Cornelius Kerwin, used to be the chair of the University's Center for the Global South, a center that is headed by Clovis Maksoud (who is a member of the advisory board of the imperial Tahirih Justice Center); while other interesting trustees of the University include Gary Cohn (who is the president of Goldman Sachs), and Mark Schneider (who is a senior vice president of the democracy-manipulating International Crisis Group). Finally, El-Hibri Peace Education Prize founder, Fuad El-Hibri, who formerly served as a senior associate at Booze-Allen & Hamilton and as a manager of Citicorp, also currently resides on the board of trustees of the American University.

On top of Fuad El-Hibri's excellent corporate credentials, he is the chairman and CEO of Emergent Biosolutions, a biopharmaceutical company that produces BioThrax, "the only vaccine licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the prevention of anthrax." Other notable board members of Emergent Biosolutions include Sue Bailey, who from 1998 to 2000 served as the US Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs), and Ronald Richard, who in addition to being a former board member of the Council on Foundations (2006-07), had formerly been the chief operating officer (2001-02) of In-Q-Tel, "a venture capital fund that provides technologies to the Central Intelligence Agency." That such close relations exist between the military establishment and would-be peace activists is more than a little concerning, but hardly surprising, as former Emergent Biosolutions' board member William Crowe, Jr. (1998-2005) had previously acted as the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1985 until 1989. Another unrelated example of similar military-peace links comes through James Woolsey, the former head of the CIA (1993-95), who served as the chair of Freedom House's board of trustees from 2003 until 2005, and was then replaced by Peter Ackerman, the primary funder and chair of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.  (back)

11.  Interfaith Peacebuilders' three other national partners are the Fellowship of Reconciliation, American Friends Service Committee, and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.  (back)

12.  For a recent criticism of Stephen Zunes's commentary on Iran, see David Peterson, "A Reply to Stephen Zunes," Znet Blog, July 5, 2009; and for a complete examination of Zunes' problematic relationship with the International Center for Nonviolent Conflict, see http://michaeljamesbarker.wordpress.com  (back)

13.  Most nonviolent movements are not fronts for Western powers, although Western groups that maintain close funding connections (and/or overlapping staff) with well-known imperialist organizations should be designated as fronts for Western powers, unless they can prove otherwise. At the very least such controversial groups must publicly debate and explain how their connections to imperial elites has no bearing on the legitimacy of their work; they should also indicate why corporate and political elites would fund the work of a group that is a proponent of revolutionary social change. There is no question that in many parts of the world there are thousands of desperate citizens who will take aid from anyone (even imperial elites). However, although their activism will most likely serve their funders' long-term imperial interests, this does not mean that their political beliefs align with their would-be manipulators. Here it is evident that the lack of public discussion of such funding dilemmas (especially in the U.S.) has meant that many dedicated progressive activists often end up promoting political changes, that in the long-run, actually run counter to their own best interests. A perfect example here is the US progressive communities' largely uncritical support for the Democrats during electoral campaigns.  (back)

14.  For example, Ward Churchill writes that as the Black Panthers "evidenced signs of making significant headway, organizing first in their home community of Oakland and then nationally, the state perceived something more threatening than yet another series of candlelight vigils. It reacted accordingly, targeting the Panthers for physical elimination. When Party cadres responded (as promised) by meeting the violence of repression with armed resistance, the bulk of their 'principled' white support evaporated. This horrifying retreat rapidly isolated the Party from any possible mediating or buffering from the full force of state terror and left its members nakedly exposed to 'surgical termination' by special police units." (p.69)  (back)

15.  Ward Churchill comments: "It is immediately perplexing to confront the fact that many of North America's most outspoken advocates of absolute domestic nonviolence when challenging state power have consistently aligned themselves with the most powerful expressions of armed resistance to the exercise of US power abroad. Any roster of pacifist luminaries fitting this description would include not only David Dellinger, but Joan Baez, Benjamin Spock, A.J. Muste, Holly Near, Staughton Lynd, and Noam Chomsky as well." (p.77)  (back)

16.  It is important to remember, as Mike Ryan writes, that the differences between radical activists like Malcolm X and moderate leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. "are not so great as we have been led to believe." Thus in a 1965 interview Ryan cites Malcolm X as saying:

"I don't favour violence. If we could bring about recognition and respect for our people by peaceful means, well and good. Everybody would like to reach [our] objectives peacefully. But I am also a realist. The only people in this country who are asked to be nonviolent are [the oppressed]. I've never heard anyone go to the Ku Klux Klan and teach them nonviolence, or the [John] Birch Society, or other right-wing elements. Nonviolence is only preached to black Americans and I don't go along with anyone who wants to teach our people nonviolence until someone at the same time is teaching our enemy to be nonviolent. I believe we should protect ourselves by any means necessary when we are attacked by racists."

Mike Ryan, "On Ward Churchill's 'Pacifism as Pathology': Toward a Revolutionary Practice," in Ward Churchill, Pacifism as Pathology (AK Press, 2007), p.142.  (back)

17.  On Gandhi and the relation between nonviolent and violent strategies, Ward Churchill observes that: "Prior to the decimation of British troop strength and the virtual bankruptcy of the Imperial treasury during World War II, Gandhi's movement showed little likelihood of forcing England's abandonment of India. Without the global violence that destroyed the Empire's ability to forcibly control its colonial territories (and passive populations), India might have continued indefinitely in the pattern of minority rule marking the majority of South Africa's modern history, the first locale in which the Gandhian recipe for liberation struck the reef of reality. Hence, while the Mahatma and his followers were able to remain 'pure,' their victory was contingent upon others physically gutting their opponents for them." (p.55) Here Norman Finkelstein points out that it is noteworthy how Gandhi, the "world's most famous exponent of nonviolence recruited an ambulance corps for the British side in the Boer War and Zulu War, again offered to raise an ambulance corps to serve the British army during World War I, and then recruited Indians to take up arms and fight in the war."  (back)


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Michael Barker is an independent researcher who currently resides in Australia. In addition to his work for Swans, which can be found in the 2008 and 2009 archives, his other articles can be accessed at michaeljamesbarker.wordpress.com.



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Published July 13, 2009