Activism

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Sulejman Brkic
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Aug 11 2009 04:06
Activism

HIDING BEHIND PACIFISM

Protest is when I say this does not please me.
Resistance is when I ensure what does not please me occurs no more.
Ulrike Meinhof

On a damp night in February 2003 as the U.S. prepared to invade Iraq, five Catholic Worker activists scrambled across runways and broke into a hangar at Shannon airport. Swinging hammers and a pickaxe, they did more than $ 2.5 million damage to a U.S. Navy transport plane.
The five were hit with the full weight of the law, and were quickly condemned by the media and much of the anti-war movement. But three-and-a-half years later a Dublin jury decided they were innocent of any crime.

The above passage was taken from the back cover of the book Hammered by the Irish: How the Pitstop Ploughshares disabled a U.S. war-plane with Ireland’s Blessing by Harry Browne with an introduction by Daniel Berrigan.

First of all: Bravo! To the these brave activists.
As for the much of the anti-war movement that condemned them: Shame on you!

Here in Japan, lots of us live practically surrounded by terroristic U.S. military bases, between 40 000 and 50 000 U.S. mercenaries are stationed here (mainly in Okinawa) to protect Japan from North Korea, which is total bull-shit but I won’t get into that now, it’s too ridiculous to be worth explaining.
What I am aiming at is the abundance of opportunity for the Japanese anti-war movement to put its words into practice. There are at least 4 U.S. military bases in the area where I live, a 5 minute train ride to the closest one.
In my 18 years in Japan, as you may know a major launch pad for Yankee wars of plunder and a country that pretends to be peace loving but follows and supports every single criminal war adventure in pursuit of plunder undertaken by its master Uncle Sam, in my 18 years here not once have I heard a call for action of the kind carried out by the brave Irishmen mentioned above.
Beside the circus-like peace parades organized around Tokyo in which I have taken part, in my memory the lowest point of the Japanese peace (brain dead, no balls) movement, I mean really pathetic, was when a guy, an activist, stood up at some gathering in Tokyo just before another one of their colorful anti-war prancing and suggested that the few people who were still raising a clenched fist during a march stop doing that. Can it get more pathetic? Supposedly it was too aggressive and it might alienate people. And I won’t even get into what hurts the most the Japanese Left: its sectarianism.

To get back to the Pitstop Ploughshares, in the opening passage taken from the book I mentioned it says that they (the five Catholic Worker activists) were quickly condemned by the media (the government lackeys) and much of the anti―war movement.
Condemned by much of the anti-war movement.
Why am I not surprised?
What else is to be expected from cowards? Yes! Cowards!
The Pitstop Ploughshares are pacifists, too, yet they have engaged in direct action.
How dare the spineless anti-war movement condemn them?!
But the fact is that there are very few pacifists like them.

At one of my gatherings, I brought up direct action for discussion (mentioning the Pitstop Ploughshares and Shannon airport), out of about 30 people only 2 agreed with the need for it. Although I tried to explain that direct action doesn’t necessarily mean violence, that the Pitstop Ploughshares’s actions were not violent, not violent, that they were right in every sense of the word, that they did save lives by destroying a U.S. military killing machine, that they had sent a strong message to the warmongers that people will no longer just stand by or prance in the street while innocents are being slaughtered for economic gains, that, if possible, we should all try to engage in such actions if we are at all serious about preventing our countries (Japan did take part in the U.S.-U.K.-led illegal war on Iraq and the peace-loving Japanese people a r e responsible for the death of over 1 million innocent Iraqis who were killed so that the Japanese and all those who took part in this war could get very, very, very cheap oil) from going into wars in order to preserve our comfortable, materialistic, parasitic, empty way of life.
The more I kept talking like this, the more cowardice became palpable. The usual excuses to avoid doing more were at hand, how we should keep organizing, how direct action would only alienate people, how we should preserve the moral high ground, how it’s counterproductive…bla, bla, bla…..Hell, nowadays coward pacifists are trying to avoid the topic of direct action altogether.
We have assumed the name of peacemakers, but we have been, by and large, unwilling to pay any significant price. And because we want peace with half a heart and half a life and will, the war, of course continues, because the waging of war, by its nature is total-but the waging of peace, by our cowardice is partial.
Fr Daniel Berrigan

A comment on the side for all those of you who don’t know much about Japan, it is a country with a total lack of solidarity. In case you get involved in direct action here, do not expect any sympathy from the public or a sympathetic jury. Cowardice feeds on cowardice here.

I watched the German film The Baader-Meinhof Complex and I was praising their actions and the actions of other urban guerrilla groups such as The Red Brigades, The Tupamaros and so on…to a friend of mine and he said that those groups had done a great deal of damage to the Left that was trying to organize a mass movement .
I don’t think so.
Let’s turn that argument around and I say that it is the rest of the Left that damaged itself by refusing out of cowardice to lend support to those urban guerrilla groups and betrayed those groups by refusing to join them in their/our armed struggle against capitalism/imperialism.

Simply put: The threat today is not passivity, but pseudo-activity, the urge to “be active”, to “participate”, to mask the nothingness of what goes on. Slavoj Zizek

My message to you so-called pacifist activists is: Stop pretending!
Stop pretending you are doing something. Your ways, combining hesitance with cowardice, have never achieved anything! Name one example in History where pacifism has actually brought about meaningful social change, alleviated suffering of mankind, instilled fear into capitalist/imperialist dogs, restored justice…
It is the collective responsibility of the citizens in a modern
State to ensure by all means necessary that its government
adheres to the rule of law, not just domestically but internationally. Karl Jaspers
Your ways, your flowers in the barrel of the gun are an insult to all those who came before you and really fought, who put up a real fight, who resorted to all kinds of direct action, who died so that you and I would have the right today to prance in the streets daring to pretend that your/our clownish activism is gonna save Iraqi, Palestinian….lives. All you are doing is legitimizing dictatorial democracies!
And don’t even dare to talk about Martin Luther King Jr. without mentioning The Black Panther Party and Malcolm X or Gandhi without Chandrasekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh. We need a combination of tactics!

Much of the anti-war movement is about the first part of the quote by Ulrike Meinhof at the top of this piece. The Pitstop Ploughshares is about the second part of the same quote.

By condemning the five Catholic Worker activists, much of the anti-war movement took sides. It allied itself with the State, the lackeys in the media, it allied itself with the U.S. killing machine!
What much of the anti-war movement did and has been doing is, in the words of the title of a book by Romeo Dallaire, shaking hands with the Devil!

Sometimes doing nothing is the most violent thing to do.
Slavoj Zizek from his book Violence

We need a combination of tactics!

Brkic Sulejman
24/07/2009

Udo_Bukowski's picture
Udo_Bukowski
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Aug 11 2009 06:29

Stop.

Think.

Do you need advice and support from the gaijin here? Do they know what you want to achieve?

Oh, and learn a realistic name if you're going to go to all the effort of pretending to be A) Catholic, and B) a reader of Zizek. They're equally wrong. To quote either is to lose face.

Your favourite sukebe-jijii, Udo.x

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Udo_Bukowski
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Aug 11 2009 07:33

Bin this.

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husunzi
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Aug 11 2009 16:44
Udo_Bukowski wrote:
Oh, and learn a realistic name if you're going to go to all the effort of pretending to be A) Catholic, and B) a reader of Zizek. They're equally wrong. To quote either is to lose face.

Your favourite sukebe-jijii, Udo.x

Udo_Bukowski wrote:
Bin this.

Could someone explain what's going on in this exchange? Sounds like some personal squabble among foreign leftists in Japan...

Udo, do you mean Catholics & Zizek are equally wrong? Or that Brkic is not really Catholic or a reader of Zizek?

To respond to Brkic's post itself, along with his other post here & another article I just discovered on the web that got him banned from this site (for the wrong reason, imo): I think they all raise some important points, & "Terror?" has some facts & figures that may be useful when debating with potential allies who still think the present world system is basically fine or getting better. But I think part of the problem with your approach to politics is that it doesn't seem to be rooted in the struggle of the oppressed against that oppression (including the struggle of workers against capital - the focus of libcom). Instead, your politics, like those of the urban guerrillas you refer to, seems to be based on moral indignation about how unjust the world is, and then directing that indignation at individuals that you blame for that injustice - in the hopes that this will prevent them & other power-holders from contributing to this injustice in the future. I think you're barking up the wrong tree by pointing to the cowardice of the left in failing to support such actions. I think the more important problem is that these power-holders are merely instruments of a social system or process that requires injustice & unjust acts to be done. Many power-holders feel bad about their actions. But someone has to do it if the system is to reproduce itself. So even if you kill, kidnap, or threaten power-holders, someone will take their place, or perhaps that one instance of injustice will be spared, but the system & its processes will remain intact & new forms of injustice will arise again & again. Sorry to speak so abstractly - hopefully someone else can do a better job than me. But my point is just that, in my understanding, & the understanding of most people on this site I think, is that the global social system that inevitably produces injustices can only be transformed through mass movements fighting to change it, not through isolated attacks on individual power-holders. Even the old anarchist assassins (who were always an exception to the norm of anarchism, in my understanding) regarded assassination as "propaganda by the deed" - that is, they only regarded it as useful if it encouraged masses of people to join the fight to change or destroy the system. And the fact that this never really worked is the main reason most anarchists & leftists abandoned it.

More specifically, I & most of the people on this website (I think) regard the center of today's world system that inevitably produces & reproduces injustice is capital, which is based on an antagonistic class relation between workers & "capitalists" (people enacting capital's drive to expand through making workers produce, sell & buy more commodities - be those "capitalists" the actual owners, managers, politicians promoting "economic development," or the workers themselves in cooperatives). If this is true, this means that probably the only way to change or destroy the system is through the escalation of workers' struggle against capital to the point that capital & its supporting institutions break down, & ex-workers are able to take control of the resources capital presently monopolizes & use them in a different way, for the good of all.

So, according to this understanding of the unjust world system, the sort of politics you promote is wrong not (only) because it's violent - in fact, some kind of violent struggle with the institutions propping up the capitalist mode of production will probably be unavoidable. Your politics is wrong because it does not seem to be grounded in the proletariat's struggle against capital. At best it might prevent a few isolated acts of injustice. At worst it might do as you note left critics of such approaches have said before: that is, seriously hurt the prospects of building mass movements to transform the system by alienating many potential allies, ideologically, & shrinking the spaces available for anti-capitalist struggle, in terms of state repression.

Boris Badenov
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Aug 11 2009 17:52
SULEJMAN Brkic wrote:
My message to you so-called pacifist activists is: Stop pretending!

you tell those stinking pacifists where they can stick their pseudo-activity!

Udo wrote:
Bin this.

or at least move to libcommunity for a peer review.

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Steven.
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Aug 11 2009 18:00

Udo and Vlad, this thread is not in libcommunity. If you don't want to engage in the discussion in a constructive fashion then don't engage at all. Further rude posts will be deleted.

Boris Badenov
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Aug 11 2009 18:07

with all due respect, the OP has nothing to do with Japan, so it is technically spam. Also, the poster is making a pretty banal, and blatantly incorrect, as husunzi has already pointed out, point that is not likely to create any "serious discussion" imo.
I stand by my comment.

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Steven.
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Aug 11 2009 18:39
Vlad336 wrote:
with all due respect, the OP has nothing to do with Japan, so it is technically spam. Also, the poster is making a pretty banal, and blatantly incorrect, as husunzi has already pointed out, point that is not likely to create any "serious discussion" imo.
I stand by my comment.

the poster is in Japan, hence its being here. I don't agree with the original post either, and husunzi posted an eloquent, well argued rebuttal, which is a good example of a piece of "serious discussion".

Any more off topic posts will be deleted.

akai
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Aug 11 2009 20:41

Steven is correct. I personally think it's worth debating with Sulejman's points since he's not the only person who might share them. The question of violence cuts across many areas of activism. I also appreciated Husunzi's response.

Sulejman's point about the Catholic Worker is clearly not related to any claims of him being Catholic - he is simply commenting on their direct action strategy. I don't know why anybody thinks he's pretending to be a Catholic or inventing fake names; as far as I know it's his real name and neither name is unusual in Bosnia.

One of my friends was one of the Pitstop Ploughshares people, so I've discussed this action quite a bit. I think that comparing their action to groups like Baader Meinhof is really off the mark since the Catholic Worker people dislike violence against people and also have a deep sense of morality. The forms of direct action practiced by the two groups are hard to compare.

I would add about groups like Baader Meinhof that they were also entrenched in struggles which defined "oppressed peoples" along national criteria and that often they incorporated the language and methods of the authoritarian left.