Skip navigation

Churchill Pacifism as Pathology

Download original document:
Brief thumbnail
This text is machine-read, and may contain errors. Check the original document to verify accuracy.

Pacifism, the ideology of nonviolent political resistance, has been the norm
among mainstream North American progressive groups for decades. But to
what end? Ward Churchill challenges the pacifist movement’s heralded victories—Ghandhi in India, 1960s anti-war activists, even Martin Luther King’s civil
rights movement—suggesting that their success was in spite of, rather than
because of, their nonviolent tactics. Pacifism as Pathology was written as a
response not only to Churchill’s frustration with his own experience, but also
to a debate raging in the radical and academic communities. He argues that
pacifism is in many ways counter-revolutionary; that it defends the status quo,
rather than leading to social change.

Ward Churchill

for Survival (Cornville, Arizona: Desert Publications, 1983). Copy machines are, of course,
a handy aid in furthering dissemination - and to avert putting undue revenue into the hands
of the right. This is not to mention the incredible range of official military training and field
manuals (e.g., Ranger Training Manual; Special Forces Handbook; Booby Traps, Escape and
Evasion; Explosives and Demolitions; and Your M-16 Rifle) available by law at essentially no
charge through the U.S. Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C.

INTRO ______________________________________






THE COMFORT ZONE ________________________ 15
LET’S PRETEND _____________________________


172. This is to reiterate Che Guevara’s contention, “at the risk of sounding ridiculous,” that
the true revolutionary is guided by a sense of love rather than hate, and that “to love, one
must fight”; Michael Lowy, The Marxism of Che Guevara (op.cit. p. 54). Or, to return to Isaac
Deutscher (op. cit.): “There is a whole dialectic of violence and nonviolence implied in the
Marxist doctrine from its beginnings ... As Marxists, we have always preached... the need to
overthrow capitalism by force [yet retain] the aspiration to transform societies in such a way
that violence should cease forever as the necessary and permanent element in the regulation
of the relationship between society and individuals, between individuals and individuals. In
embracing the vision of a nonviolent society, Marxism... has gone further and deeper than any
pacifist preachers of nonviolence have ever done. Why? Because Marxism has laid bare the
roots of violence in our society, which the others have not done. Marxism has set out to attack
those roots; to uproot violence not just from human thoughts, not just from human emotions,
but to uproot [it] from the very bases of the material existence of society.” Although myself
strongly anti-marxist in my political perspectives and practice, I must admit that on these
points I wholeheartedly concur with the views expressed.

THE BUCK IS PASSED _______________________ 33
PROFILE OF A PATHOLOGY ___________________ 39
CONCLUSION _______________________________ 60
NOTES ______________________________________ 62


161. Louis Althusser, For Marx (New York: Vintage Books, 1970), p. 251: “Generalities I are
abstract, part-ideological, part-scientific generalities that are the raw material of science... “
162. Ernest Gellner, “Foreword,” in J. G. Merquoir, The Veil and the Mask: Essays on Culture
and Ideology (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979), p. 2.
163. Merquoir, op. cit., p. 29.
164. Those confused about the distinction inhering between reform and revolution might wish
to consult John and Barbara Ehrenreich’s “From Resistance to Revolution,” Monthly Review
(April 1968). Another useful perspective can be found in the section entitled “Rebellion and
Revolution,” in George Katsiaficas’ The Imagination of the New Left: A Global Analysis of
1968 (Boston: South End Press, 1987), pp. 179-86.
165. Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), speech at the Auraria Campus Student Center, Denver, Colorado, 24 Nov. 1985 (tape on file).
166. Put another way, it is simply to gain a different sort of appreciation of Karl von Clauswitz’s famous dictum that war is merely politics pursued by other means. Conversely, politics
would be war pursued in the same manner.
167. The same principle, of course, is inversely applicable to those who would insist that
armed struggle/terror is the “only appropriate means” of confronting state power under advanced capitalism. However, the scant number of those professing such a belief in the United
States — especially as opposed to the numbers of people advocating nonviolence as an
absolute - tends to speak for itself in terms of the emphasis accorded each problem in this
168. See Nicos Poulantzas, Fascism and Dictatorship: The Third International and the Problem of Fascism (London: Verso, 1979), especially “Forms of the Ideological Crisis: The Crisis
of Revolutionary Organizations,” pp. 143-46. Outcomes are posited, however unintendedly, in
Bertram Gross, Friendly Fascism: The Face of Power in America (Boston: South End Press,
169. The term is employed within its precise rather than its popularized meaning, i.e., from the
Greek radic, meaning “source” or “root.” The radical therapist is one who pursues problems
to their root or source. The psychological analysis and approach taken is that sketched out
in Jerome Angel, ed., The Radical Therapist (New York: Ballantine, 1971), and Rough Times
(New York: Ballantine, 1973).
170. This requirement may well lead to the application of a variation of the principle posited
by Frank Black Elk in his “Observations on Marxism and the Lakota Tradition,” in Marxism and
Native Americans, Ward Churchill, ed. (Boston: South End Press, 1983), pp. 137-56; people
who are not typically considered as therapists - and who may well not even perceive themselves as such - will be needed to provide therapy to many self-proclaimed radical therapists
before the latter can hope to extend assistance to others.
171. A quick sample of some of the best: Kurt Saxon, The Poor Man’s James Bond (Eureka,
California: Atlan Formularies, 1975); Lt. Col. Anthony B. Herbert, The Soldier’s Handbook
(Englewood, California: Cloverleaf Books, 1979); William Ewart Fairburn, Scientific SelfDefense (San Francisco: Interservice, 1982); and Tony Lesce and Jo-Anne Lesce, Checklist


It is the obligation of every person who claims to oppose oppression
to resist the oppressor by every means at his or her disposal. Not to
engage in physical resistance, armed resistance to oppression, is to
serve the interests of the oppressor; no more, no less. There are no
exceptions to the rule, no easy out... - Assata Shakur, 1984
Pacifism, the ideology of nonviolent political action, has become axiomatic and all but universal among the more progressive elements of
contemporary mainstream North America. With a jargon ranging from
a peculiar mishmash of borrowed or fabricated pseudospiritualism to
“Gramscian” notions of prefigurative socialization, pacifism appears
as the common denominator linking otherwise disparate “white dissident” groupings. Always, it promises that the harsh realities of state
power can be transcended via good feelings and purity of purpose
rather than by self-defense and resort to combat.
Pacifists, with seemingly endless repetition, pronounce that the negativity of the modern corporate-fascist state will atrophy through defection and neglect once there is a sufficiently positive social vision to
take its place (“What if they gave a war and nobody came?”). Known
in the Middle Ages as alchemy, such insistence on the repetition of
insubstantial themes and failed experiments to obtain a desired result
has long been consigned to the realm of fantasy, discarded by all but
the most wishful or cynical (who use it to manipulate people).[1]
I don’t deny the obviously admirable emotional content of the pacifist
perspective. Surely we can all agree that the world should become a
place of cooperation, peace, and harmony. Indeed, it would be nice
if everything would just get better while nobody got hurt, including
the oppressor who (temporarily and misguidedly) makes everything
bad. Emotional niceties, however, do not render a viable politics. As
with most delusions designed to avoid rather than confront unpleasant truths (Lenin’s premise that the sort of state he created would
wither away under “correct conditions” comes to mind),[2] the pacifist
fantasy is inevitably doomed to failure by circumstance.

Even the most casual review of twentieth-century history reveals the
graphic contradictions of the pacifist posture, the costs of its continued practice and its fundamental ineffectiveness in accomplishing
its purported transformative mission.[3] Nonetheless, we are currently
beset by “nonviolent revolutionary leaders” who habitually revise historical fact as a means of offsetting their doctrine’s glaring practical
deficiencies, and by the spectacle of expressly pacifist organizations
claiming (apparently in all seriousness) to be standing “in solidarity”
with practitioners of armed resistance in Central America, Africa, and
Despite its inability to avert a revitalized militarism in the United States,
the regeneration of overt racism, and a general rise in native fascism,
pacifism - the stuff of the spent mass movements of the ‘60s - not only
continues as the normative form of “American activism,” but seems to
have recently experienced a serious resurgence.[5] The purpose here
is to examine the pacifist phenomenon briefly in both its political and
psychological dimensions, with an eye toward identifying the relationship between a successful reactionary order on the one hand, and a
pacifist domestic opposition on the other.

Review Press, 1973), especially “Part III: Guerrilla Warfare,” pp. 75-112. For Mao, see his On
Protracted War (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1967); see also Stanley Karnow, Mao
and China: From Revolution to Revolution (New York: Viking, 1972), especially Chapt. 12,
“Out of the Barrel of a Gun,” pp. 276—96. Concerning Giap, see his People’s War, People’s
Army (New York: Praeger, 1962).
153. Blase Bonpane, Guerrillas for Peace: Liberation Theology and the Central American
Revolution (Boston: South End Press, 1985), p. 1.
154. Ibid., p. 8.
155. Significant portions of the Italian left have renounced nonviolence as a strategy or method altogether. See Allesandro Silj, Never Again Without a Rifle: The Origins of Italian Terrorism, Salvator Attanasio, trans. (New York: Karz, 1979).
156. It is instructive that practitioners of armed struggle from the Thud World context are also
quite vociferously condemned when they are audacious enough to carry violence into the
very industrialized nations objectively responsible for their colonization. The clearest examples
here are the extreme equivocation with which the Palestinian Liberation Organization is treated by most of the left within late capitalist societies and the outright revulsion visited by progressives upon Muammar Qadaffi concerning his practice of exporting violence back to the
societies with the dearest record(s) of engendering it. The same principle applies, of course,
to colonized First World nationalities such as the Irish, Basques, and Quebequois when their
military/political organizations — e.g., the IRA practice the same sort of “turn around” tactics.
This all corroborates the notion that the “mother country opposition” considers it a “right” to
be exempted from direct violence in any form. On the movements mentioned, see Assata
Shakur, Assata: An Autobiography (Westport, Connecticut: Lawrence Hill, 1987); Ronald
Fernandez, Los Macheteros (New York: Prentice Hall, 1987); Peter Matthiessen, In the Spirit
of Crazy Horse (New York: Viking, 2nd. ed., 1991); Tim Pat Coogan, The IRA: A History (New
York: Roberts Rinehart, 1993); Robert P. Clark, Negotiating with ETA: Obstacles to Peace
in Basque Country, 1975—1988 (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1990); and Tom Vague,
Televisionaries: The Red Army Faction Story, 1963-1993 (San Francisco: AK Press, 1994).
157. Tony Geraghty, Inside the SAS (London: Arms and Armor Press, 1980).
158. Robert Taber, War of the Flea: How Guerrilla Fighters Could Win the World (New York:
Cidatel Press, 1970); and Robert B. Asprey, War in the Shadows: The Guerrilla in History
(New York: Doubleday, 1975), esp. Vol. II.
159. For an interesting examination of “terrorist” thinking and methods, as well as adequate
reconstruction of its application between 1970 and 1995 — albeit within a rather reactionary
ideological framework — see Roberta Goren, The Soviet Union and Terrorism (London/Boston: George Alien & Unwin, 1984). Ideological balance can be obtained through Edward S.
Herman’s The Real Terror Network (Boston: South End Press, 1984).
160. The ineffectuality of the United States and other neocolonialist powers in attempting to
offset the proliferation of guerrilla wars since 1950, creating “counterinsurgency” doctrine
and units, is evident in a number of studies. A sampling would include Col. Charlie A. Beckwith, Delta Force (London: Fontana/Collins, 1983); Lt. Col. Anthony B. Herbert, with James T.
Wooten, Soldier (New York: Holt, Reinhart & Winston, 1973); and Donald Duncan, The New
Legions (New York: Random House, 1967).



cial Philosophy, T. Bottomore and M. Rubel, eds. (New York: Penguin, 1967), p. 83.


144. Karl Marx, The Poverty of Philosophy (New York: International, 1969), p. 173.
145. G. W. F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, ]. Sibree, trans. (New York: Dover, 1956), p.
146. Richard Kilminster, Praxis and Method: A Sociological Dialogue with Lukacs, Gramsci
and the Early Frankfurt School (London: Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1979), pp. 264-65.
147. This sentiment goes, of course, to Marx’s famous pronouncement that the object of
theory “is not to understand history, but to change it,” later recast by Lenin as the dictum that
“without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary practice.”
148. This is as opposed to the continuing elaboration of and increasingly esoteric preoccupation with “grand theory”: critical theory in the manner of Herbert Marcuse and Jurgen
Habermas (as well as the “Adorno revival”), semiotic theory in the manner of Umberto Eco
and Jean Baudrillard, structuralist theory in the manner of Louis Althusser, and so on. It is
also as opposed to journalistic sorts of endeavors recounting the concrete aspects of various liberatory struggles without attempting to extrapolate formal tenets of tactical praxis for
application elsewhere.
149. As Deutscher (op. cit.) observed, “It is said that Marxism suits the underdeveloped countries but not the advanced and industrial west.” In effect, Marx is stood squarely on his head
insofar as he was clear that his notion of revolution could only occur in the most advanced
150. Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution (New York: Pathfinder, 1971 edition); Jerome Ch’en, Mao and the Chinese Revolution (London: Oxford University Press,
1967); Che Guevara, Guerrilla Warfare (New York: Monthly Review, 1961); Joseph Kraft, The
Struggle for Algeria (New York: Doubleday, 1961); Henri Weber, Nicaragua: The Sandinista
Revolution (London: Verso, 1981); and David Martin and Phyllis Johnson, The Struggle for
Zimbabwe (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1981).
151. Ernest Harsh and Tony Thomas, Angola: The Hidden History of Washington’s War (New
York: Pathfinder, 1976); Gerard Chaliand, Armed Struggle in Africa: With the Guerrillas in
“Portuguese” Guinea (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969); Richard Leonard, South Africa at War: White Power and Crisis in Southern Africa (Westport, Connecticut: Lawrence
Hill, 1983); John Ya-Otto, Battlefront Namibia (Westport, Connecticut: Lawrence Hill, 1981);
Maria Esther Gilio, The Tupamaros Guerrillas: The Structure and Strategy of the Urban Guerrilla Movement (New York: Saturday Review, 1970); Neill Macaulay, The Prestes Column:
Revolution in Brazil (New York: New Viewpoints, 1974); Simon Strong, Shining Path: Terror
and Revolution in Peru (New York: Random House, 1992). For the most topical survey of the
Western Hemisphere, see Liza Gross, Handbook of Leftist Guerrilla Groups in Latin America
and the Caribbean (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1995).

I have never been able to bring myself to trust anyone who claims
to have saved a Jew from the SS. The fact is that the Jews were not
saved... no one took the steps necessary to save them, even themselves. - Simon Weisenthal, 1967
Pacifism possesses a sublime arrogance in its implicit assumption
that its adherents can somehow dictate the terms of struggle in any
contest with the state.[6] Such a supposition seems unaccountable
in view of the actual record of passive/nonviolent resistance to state
power. Although a number of examples can be mustered with which
to illustrate this point — including Buddhist resistance to U.S. policies
in Indochina, and the sustained efforts made to terminate white supremacist rule in southern Africa — none seems more appropriate than
the Jewish experience in Hitlerian Germany (and later in the whole of
occupied Europe).
The record is quite clear that, while a range of pacifist forms of countering the implications of nazism occurred within the German Jewish
community during the 1930s, they offered virtually no physical opposition to the consolidation of the nazi state.[7] To the contrary, there
is strong evidence that orthodox Jewish leaders counseled “social
responsibility” as the best antidote to nazism, while crucial political
formulations such as the zionist Hagana and Mossad el Aliyah Bet actually seem to have attempted to co-opt the nazi agenda for their own
purposes, entering into cooperative relations with the SS Jewish Affairs Bureau, and trying to use forced immigration of Jews as a pretext
for establishing a “Jewish homeland” in Palestine.[8]

152. Concerning Fanon’s theoretics in this regard, see Marie B. Perinbam, Holy Violence:
The Revolutionary Thought of Frantz Fanon (Washington, D.C.: Three Continents Press,
1982); see also Irene L. Gendzier, Frantz Fanon: A Critical Study (New York: Vantage Books,
1974), especially “The Question of Violence,” pp. 195—205. On Guevara, see his Guerrilla
Warfare(op. cit.); see also Michael Lowy, The Marxism of Che Guevara (New York: Monthly

All of this was apparently done in an effort to manipulate the political
climate in Germany - by “not exacerbating conditions” and “not alienating the German people any further” - in a manner more favorable
to Jews than the Nazis were calling for.[9] In the end, of course, the



Nazis imposed the “final solution to the Jewish question,” but by then
the dynamics of passive resistance were so entrenched in the Jewish
Zeitgeist (the Nazis having been in power a full decade) that a sort of
passive accommodation prevailed. Jewish leaders took their people,
quietly and nonviolently, first into the ghettos, and then onto trains
“evacuating” them to the east. Armed resistance was still widely held
to be “irresponsible.”[10]
Eventually, the SS could count upon the brunt of the Nazi liquidation
policy being carried out by the Sonderkommandos, which were composed of the Jews themselves. It was largely Jews who dragged the
gassed bodies of their exterminated people to the crematoria in death
camps such as Auschwitz/Birkenau, each motivated by the desire to
prolong his own life. Even this became rationalized as “resistance”;
the very act of surviving was viewed as “defeating” the Nazi program.
[11] By 1945, Jewish passivity and nonviolence in the face of the
Weltanschauung der untermenschen had done nothing to prevent the
loss of millions of lives.[12]
The phenomenon sketched above must lead to the obvious question:
“[How could] millions of men [sic] like us walk to their death without
resistance?”[13] In turn, the mere asking of the obvious has spawned a
veritable cottage industry among Jewish intellectuals, each explaining
how it was that “the process” had left the Jewish people “no choice”
but to go along, to remain passive, to proceed in accordance with
their aversion to violence right up to the doors of the crematoria - and
beyond.[14] From this perspective, there was nothing truly lacking in
the Jewish performance; the Jews were simply and solely blameless
victims of a genocidal system over which it was quite impossible for
them to extend any measure of control.[15]

131. This leaves aside the Eastern traditions of Hindu and Buddhist pacifism, which in certain
variants fuse theology and politics in the manner described; see, e.g., Adam Roberts, “Buddhism and Politics in South Vietnam,” The World Today, Vol. 21, No. 6 (June 1965). In the
West, we also find subsets which fit this pattern; see, e.g., Margaret E. Hirst, The Quakers in
Peace and War (New York: George H. Doran, 1923). Usually, however, we find a much shallower, less consistent and more opportunistic expression of such thinking in the U.S.; see,
e.g., William Robert Miller, Nonviolence: A Christian Interpretation (New York: Association
Press, 1964).
132. See, for example, Wilhelm Reich, The Mass Psychology of Fascism (New York: Farrar,
Straus and Giroux, 1971). On the other side of the ideological coin, see Richard Crossman,
The God That Failed (New York: Harper, 1950).
133. See Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (New York: Harper & Row, 1951). See also Reich, op.
cit. At another level, see Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (New
York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1958).
134. See Gould, “Taxonomy As Politics: The Harm of False Classification,” Dissent (Winter
135. The point can be illustrated anecdotally almost infinitely. For just one example, there
is a matter which occurred at the 1982 Midwest Radical Therapy Conference near Boone,
Iowa. Here, a noted “pacifist feminist,” who quite consistently and vocally prided herself on
never having lifted a finger in physical opposition to such state policies as oppression of the
domestic black community or genocide in Southeast Asia, and who was quite arrogant in her
superior disassociation from those who did not share her “correct” vision of political appropriateness in this regard, proceeded to physically assault a black man who failed to extinguish
his cigarette when she instructed him to do so. Similar examples are legion.
136. See Joel Kovel, White Racism: A Psychohistory (New York: Pantheon, 1970).
137. John Tomlinson, Cultural Imperialism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991);
The process works as well in reverse as it does when projected into the future; Robert Young,
White Mythologies: Writing History and the West (London/New York: Routledge, 1990).
138. Donald L. Nathanson, Shame and Pride (New York: W. W. Norton, 1992).
139. With only a minor reinterpretation, this point becomes an essential subtext of both Reich
and Marcuse; Paul A. Robinson, The Freudian Left: Wilhelm Reich, Geza Roheim, Herbert
Marcuse (New York: Harper & Row, 1969).
140. Hilberg, op. cit., 1961 edition, pp. 219-23.
141. For example, The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (1971 ed.) defines
praxis as “doing, acting, action, practice.”

The Jews having suffered horribly under nazi rule,[16] it has come to
be considered in exceedingly poor taste - “antisemitic,” according to
the logic of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith - to suggest
that there was indeed something very wrong with the nature of the

142. See Lawrence S. Stepelevich, “August von Cieszkowski: From Theory to Praxis,” History
and Theory, Vol. XIII, No. 1 (Winter 1974), pp. 39-52. The quotation actually derives from
Cieszkowski’s Prolegomena zur Historiosophie, published in Berlin, 1838.



143. Karl Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach,” in Karl Marx: Selected Writings in Sociology and So-

122. Witness, as but one example, that Gene Sharps “revolutionary” tract, Social Power and
Political Freedom (op. cit.) is introduced by no less than Senator Mark O. Hatfield.
123. For a very sharp framing of the question of white-skin privilege, see Lee Lockwood, A
Conversation with Eldridge Cleaver in Algiers (New York: Delta, 1970).
124. As Lucy Dawidowicz puts it, “Civil disobedience as a strategy of political opposition
can succeed only with a government ruled by conscience”; War Against the Jews, op. cit.,
p. 371. The assumption of American pacifism - contra evidence such as its endorsement of
black chattel slavery, expropriation of the northern half of Mexico, Hawai’i, Puerto Rico, and
the Philippines, and genocide of American Indians and Filipinos during the nineteenth century - has always been that the U.S. government is such an entity. In addition to the works
already cited, see also Clarence Marsh Case, Nonviolent Coercion: A Study in the Methods
of Social Pressure (New York: Century, 1923); Theodor Paullin, Introduction to Nonviolence
(Philadelphia: Pacifist Research Bureau, 1944); Gene Sharp, Exploring Nonviolent Alternatives (Boston: Porter Sargent, 1960); Harvey Seiffert, Conquest by Suffering: The Prospects
and Process of Nonviolent Resistance (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965); A. Paul Hare and
Herbert H. Blumburg, eds., Nonviolent Direct Action: American Cases: Social- Psychological
Analyses (Cleveland: Corpus Books, 1968).
125. The process has hardly been restricted to Germany. For a summary of its application
in Spain, see Hugh Thomas, The Spanish Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), esp.
pp. 1-116; for Italy, see Richard Collier, Duce. A Biography of Benito Mussolini (New York:
Viking, 1971), esp. pp. 83-133; for the USSR, see Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: Stalin’s Purge of the Thirties (New York: Macmillan, 1968). That the United States has already
flirted with the same process, even at the very height of its power, is amply evidenced in
Victory S. Navasky, Naming Names (New York: Penguin, 1981); see also David Caute’s The
Great Fear: The Anti-Communist Purge Under Truman and Eisenhower (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1978).
126. It should be recalled that the Jews were not the only, or even the first, “enemies of the
state” targeted by the nazis. Dachau and similar concentration camps were originally opened
in the mid-1930s to house communists, socialists, social democrats, key trade unionists,
pacifists, and homosexuals. See Helmut Krausnik et al., op. cit., pp. 145-214; and Hohne, op.
cit., pp. 199-204.
127. Bettelheim, op. cit., p. x; on the “it can’t happen here” syndrome, see Bud Schultz and
Ruth Schultz, It Did Happen Here: Recollections of Political Repression in America (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1989).

Jewish response to nazism, that the mainly pacifist forms of resistance
exhibited by the Jewish community played directly into the hands of
their executioners.[17] Objectively, there were alternatives, and one
need not look to the utterances of some “lunatic fringe” to find them
Even such a staid and conservative political commentator as Bruno
Bettelheim, a former concentration camp inmate, has offered astute
analysis of the role of passivity and nonviolence in amplifying the magnitude of the Holocaust. Regarding the single known instance in which
inmates physically revolted at Auschwitz, he observes that:
“In the single revolt of the twelfth Sonderkommando, seventy SS were
killed, including one commissioned officer and seventeen noncommissioned officers; one of the crematoria was totally destroyed and another severely damaged. True, all eight hundred and fifty-three of the
kommando died. But... the one Sonderkommando which revolted and
took such a heavy toll of the enemy did not die much differently than
all the other Sonderkommandos.”[18]
Aside from pointing out that the Jews had literally nothing to lose (and
quite a lot to gain in terms of human dignity) by engaging in open
revolt against the SS, Bettelheim goes much further, noting that such
actions both in and outside the death camps stood a reasonable prospect of greatly impeding the extermination process.[19] He states flatly that even individualized armed resistance could have made the Final
Solution a cost-prohibitive proposition for the Nazis:

128. Bettelheim, op. cit., p. xi.

130. This outcome runs exactly counter to the rationalist expectations so optimistically posited by Jurgen Habermas in his Knowledge and Human Interests (Boston: Beacon Press,
1971). It comes much closer to the son of irrationality disguised as rational opinion described
by Russell Jacoby in Social Amnesia: A Critique of Conformist Psychology from Adler to Lang
(Boston: Beacon Press, 1976).

“There is little doubt that the [Jews], who were able to provide themselves with so much, could have provided themselves with a gun or
two had they wished. They could have shot down one or two of the
SS men who came for them. The loss of an SS with every Jew arrested would have noticeably hindered the functioning of the police



129. See, e.g., Erik H. Erikson and Huey P Newton, In Search of Common Ground (New York:
W W. Norton, 1973).

Returning to the revolt of the twelfth Sonderkommando, Bettelheim
observes that:

eds. (New York: Macmillan, 1967), pp. 157—69. The idea was taken in a rather unintended
direction by Karen Ashley et al., “You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the
Wind Blows,” New Left Notes (18 June 1969), reprinted in Jacobs, op. cit., pp. 51-90.

“They did only what we should expect all human beings to do; to use
their death, if they could not save their lives, to weaken or hinder the
enemy as much as possible; to use even their doomed selves for making extermination harder, or maybe impossible, not a smooth running
process ... If they could do it, so could others. Why didn’t they? Why
did they throw their lives away instead of making things hard for the
enemy? Why did they make a present of their very being to the SS
instead of to their families, their friends, even to their fellow prisoners[?]” [21]

113. Two (among very many) elaborations of this view from the Third World itself may be
found in Frantz Fanon, A Dying Colonialism (New York: Grove Press, 1965); and Vo Nguyen
Giap, People’s War, People’s Army (New York: Praeger, 1962).

“Rebellion could only have saved either the life they were going to
lose anyway, or the lives of others.... Inertia it was that led millions
of Jews into the ghettos the SS had created for them. It was inertia
that made hundreds of thousands of Jews sit home, waiting for their
Bettelheim describes this inertia, which he considers the basis for
Jewish passivity in the face of genocide, as being grounded in a profound desire for “business as usual,” the following of rules, the need
to not accept reality or to act upon it. Manifested in the irrational belief
that in remaining “reasonable and responsible,” unobtrusively resisting
by continuing “normal” day-to-day activities proscribed by the nazis
through the Nuremberg Laws and other infamous legislation, and “not
alienating anyone,” this attitude implied that a more-or-less humane
Jewish policy might be morally imposed upon the nazi state by Jewish
pacifism itself.[23]
Thus, Bettelheim continues:

114. See Jean Paul Sartre, “Preface,” in Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York:
Grove Press, 1966), pp. 7-26.
115. See Michael Carver, War Since 1945 (New York: Putnam and Sons, 1981).
116. For a lucid articulation of this principle, see Joseph, op. cit., especially pp. 43-74. On military doctrines, see Major John S. Pustay, Counterinsurgency Warfare (New York: Free Press,
1965); Michael T. Klare and Peter Kornbluh, eds., Low Intensity Warfare: Counterinsurgency,
Proinsurgency, and Antiterrorism in the Eighties (New York: Pantheon, 1988).
117. Such a proposition, loosely termed “strangulation theory,” was quite broadly discussed
within the new left during the period 1967-1969 and found perhaps its clearest expression
in Bill Ayers, “A Strategy to Win,” New Left Notes (12 Sept. 1969), reprinted in Jacobs, op.
cit., pp. 183—95. It is quite instructive to note that much of the criticism of the undertakings
of Weatherman and similar groups by the left was that their actions were “premature” (see
Lerner, op. cit.). There also seems to have been a particular horror that it was white radicals
who were resorting to armed struggle. The whole debate appears to rest, at bottom, on a
perverse extension of Maoist principles of revolutionary warfare from the national to the geopolitical realm; see Mao’s On Protracted War (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1977).
118. For development of the concept of internal colonialism in a manner which can be readily
extrapolated to North America, see Michael Hector, Internal Colonialism: The Celtic Fringe
in British National Development, 1536-1966 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975).
With regard to positioning for armed struggle, see Abraham Guillen, Philosophy of the Urban
Guerrilla (New York: William Morrow, 1973); and Carlos Marighella, Mini-Manual of the Urban
Guerrilla (Boulder, Colorado: Paladin Press, 1985, reprint of 1967 original).
119. This is a pronounced trend in American leftist thinking. For just one among many possible examples, see Steve Rosskamm Shalom, ed., Socialist Visions (Boston: South End
Press, 1983).
120. Exactly why is it that the Third World is supposed to bear the brunt of destroying colonialist power while the “opposition” within the colonizing powers essentially sits by waiting for
“the moment”? How this bloody task is to be completed is never quite explained. The question of why it would not be more appropriate for mother country radicals to bloody themselves
going after the source of the problem while the Third World is busy themselves prefiguring the
outcome is apparently not considered a polite conversational topic by the American left. See,
e.g., Adam Roberts, Civilian Resistance as a National Defense: Non- Violent Action Against
Aggression (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 1968), p. 57.

“The persecution of the Jews was aggravated, slow step by slow step,
when no violent fighting back occurred. It may have been Jewish acceptance, without retaliatory fight, of ever harsher discrimination and

121. The kind of appropriation involved occurs intellectually as well as materially. For a classic
example of the former, see Jerry Mander’s In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1991).



103. Richard Boyle, Flower of the Dragon: The Breakdown of the U.S. Army in Vietnam (San
Francisco: Ramparts Press, 1972); Cincinnatus, Self- Destruction: The Breakdown and Decay of the United States Army During the Vietnam Era (New York: W. W. Norton, 1981); Col.
David E. Hackworth, About Face: The Odyssey of an American Warrior (New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1989).
104. It is an interesting commentary on the depth of American liberal racism that after the killings of literally hundreds of Afroamerican activists by police and military personnel — including
quite a number of black college students - responsible establishment types were finally upset
when four white kids were gunned down by the National Guard on a Middle-American campus; James A. Michener, Kent State: What Happened and Why (New York: Random House/
Reader’s Digest, 1971).
105. In some ways, the weight of this policy shift fell even harder on Cambodia; William
Shawcross, Sideshow: Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia (New York: Simon
& Schuster, 1979).

degradation that first gave the SS the idea that they could be gotten
to the point where they would walk into the gas chambers on their
own... [I]n the deepest sense, the walk to the gas chamber was only
the last consequence of the philosophy of business as usual.[24]”
Given this, Bettelheim can do little else but conclude (correctly) that
the post-war rationalization and apologia for the Jewish response to
nazism serves to “stress how much we all wish to subscribe to this
business as usual philosophy, and forget that it hastens our own destruction ... to glorify the attitude of going on with business as usual,
even in a holocaust.”[25]

106. Tiziano Terzani, Giai Phong! The Fall and Liberation of Saigon (New York: St. Martin’s
Press, 1976); Van Tien Dung, Our Great Spring Victory (London: Monthly Review Press,
1977); and Wilfred Burchett, Grasshoppers and Elephants: Why Vietnam Fell (New York:
Urizen, 1977).
107. As the marxist intellectual Isaac Deutscher put it to David Dellinger and A. J. Muste in
a 1969 discussion of strategy and tactics, “One might say there is an inconsistency in your
attitude, a contradiction in your preaching nonviolence and yet accepting morally... the violence applied by the Vietcong in Vietnam and probably by the FLN in Algeria”; “Marxism and
Nonviolence,” Liberation (July 1969).
108. Dellinger, Revolutionary Nonviolence, op. cit.; Sharp, The Dynamics of Nonviolent Action, op. cit.; Staughton Lynd, ed., Nonviolence in America: A Documentary History (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1966). For another broad articulation, see Richard Gregg, The Power
of Nonviolence (New York: Schocken, 1966).
109. Dating accrues from the point of initial publication of Lenin’s Imperialism: The Highest
Stage of Capitalism in Zurich; widely read at the time, the pamphlet has seen continuous
reprinting/distribution ever since.
110. There is by now a vast literature on the subject, either positing the thesis directly or
strongly implying it. The work of Harry Magdoff, Andre Gunder Frank, Immanuel Wallerstein,
Richard Barnett, Eduardo Galeano, and Regis Debray (to list only six prominent examples)
each falls within this classification, albeit on the basis of a wide range of precepts and motivations.
111. E.g., the 1961 Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries
and Peoples (U.N.G.A. 1514 (XV), 14 Dec. 1960); Burns H. Weston, Richard A. Falk, and
Anthony D’Amato, eds., Basic Documents in International Law and World Order (St. Paul,
Minnesota: West, 1990), pp. 343-44.
112. A seminal advancement of this view within the United States (new) left of the ‘60s is
found in Carl Oglesby, “An Essay on the Meanings of the Cold War,” in Containment and
Change: Two Dissenting Views of American Foreign Policy, Carl Oglesby and Richard Schaull,



I have no intention of being a good Jew, led into the ovens like some
sheep... - Abbie Hoffman, 1969
The example of the Jews under nazism is, to be sure, extreme. History
affords us few comparable models by which to assess the effectiveness of nonviolent opposition to state policies, at least in terms of the
scale and rapidity with which consequences were visited upon the
passive. Yet it is precisely this extremity which makes the example
useful; the Jewish experience reveals with stark clarity the basic illogic
at the very core of pacifist conceptions of morality and political action.
Proponents of nonviolent political “praxis” are inherently placed in the
position of claiming to meet the armed might of the state via an asserted moral superiority attached to the renunciation of arms and physical violence altogether. It follows that the state has demonstrated, a
priori, its fundamental immorality/illegitimacy by arming itself in the first
place. A certain psychological correlation is typically offered wherein
the “good” and “positive” social vision (Eros) held by the pacifist opposition is posed against the “bad” or “negative” realities (Thanatos)
evidenced by the state. The correlation lends itself readily to “good
versus evil” dichotomies, fostering a view of social conflict as a morality play.[27]
There can be no question but that there is a superficial logic to the analytical equation thus established. The Jews in their disarmed and passive resistance to German oppression during the ‘30s and ‘40s were
certainly “good”; the nazis - as well-armed as any group in history up
to that point — might undoubtedly be assessed as a force of unmitigated “evil.”[28] Such binary correlations might also be extended to
describe other sets of historical forces: Gandhi’s Indian Union (good)
versus troops of the British Empire (evil) and Martin Luther King’s non/8\

92. This notion of prefiguration is featured as a prominent aspect of much past and current
pacifist theory; see, e.g., Sharp, Social Power and Political Freedom, op. cit.; and Epstein,
op. cit.
93. This does not have to be so. As Gramsci and a number of subsequent theorists have
demonstrated, prefigurative revelations serve a crucial function within the context of revolutionary struggle. But saying this is to say something rather different than that they can supplant such struggle; see, e.g., Abbie Hoffman, Woodstock Nation (New York: Vintage, 1969);
and Jerry Rubin, We Are Everywhere (New York: Harper & Row, 1971). For a good summary
of Gramsci’s thinking on the matter, see Carl Boggs, The Two Revolutions: Gramsci and the
Dilemmas of Western Marxism (Boston: South End Press, 1984), especially pp. 289-91. See
also Walter L. Adamson, Hegemony and Revolution: A Study of Antonio Gramsci’s Political
and Cultural Theory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), especially pp. 207-22.
94. The psychosocial and political bases for this were well articulated by the early 1970s;
see, e.g., Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice (San Francisco/New York: Ramparts/McGraw-Hill,
1968), and Post-Prison Writings and Speeches (San Francisco/New York: Ramparts/Random House, 1969); George L. Jackson, Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George
Jackson (New York: Coward- McCann?, 1970), and Blood in My Eye (New York: Random
House, 1972). The conditions generating such sentiments have not changed much since
then; see Alfonso Pinkney, The Myth of Black Progress (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1984); Manning Marable, The Crisis of Color and Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage, 1992).
95. The relationship is not unlike that described by Angela Davis, bell hooks, and others as existing between women of colour and white feminism; Angela Y. Davis, Women, Race & Class
(New York: Random House, 1981); bell hooks, Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism
(Boston: South End Press, 1981), and Yearning: Race, Gender and Cultural Politics (Boston:
South End Press, 1990); and Elena Featherston, ed., Skin Deep: Women Writing on Color,
Culture and Identity (Freedom, California: Crossing Press, 1994).
96. Words are being put in no one’s mouth here. Anyone doubting American pacifism’s
pretensions to status as a revolutionary (rather than reformist) doctrine should see David Dellinger, Revolutionary Nonviolence (New York: Bobbs-Merrill, 1971). If a straw man is set up
by use of such terms, pacifists themselves constructed it.
97. See Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (New York: Alfred A.
Knopf, 1965).
98. Dellinger, Vietnam Revisited, op. cit.
99. See Paul Joseph, Cracks in the Empire: State Politics in the Vietnam War (Boston: South
End Press, 1981), pp. 245-86.
100. MacClear?, op. cit., p. 200.
101. One of the more interesting takes on this is offered by Norman Mailer in Miami and the
Siege of Chicago: An Informal History of the Republican and Democratic Conventions of
1968 (New York: Primus, 1986; reprint of 1968 original).
102. MacLear?, op. cit., pp. 229-30.


some key respects, the pacifist response to the war in Indochina was tantamount to arguing
that the appropriate response to nazism was not physical resistance. See again the above
sections of this essay devoted to the implications of any such attitude for those targeted
among extermination.
86. To take another example — this one concerning nineteenth-century white immigrant anarchists framed by police provocateurs in Chicago and subsequently executed by the State of
Illinois - see Bradford Lyttle, Haymarket: Violence Destroys a Movement (New York: Committee for Nonviolent Action, 1965). For the reality of what occurred - rather than Lyttle’s patently
victimblaming version of it —see Bernard R. Kogan, ed., The Haymarket Riot (Boston: D.C.
Heath, 1959); and Henry David, The Haymarket Affair (New York: Collier, 1963).
87. Frantz Fanon covers this aspect of displacement in a section titled “French Intellectuals
and Democrats and the Algerian Revolution,” in Toward the African Revolution (New York:
Grove Press, 1968), pp. 76-90.
88. In this sense, the term “responsible” should be considered as interchangeable with “respectable.” Neither term is self-explanatory, although they are invariably employed as if they
were. The relevant questions which should always be posed when such characterizations
come up are “responsible to what? and “respected by whom?”
89. “Radical movements” which devote themselves to liberally-sanctioned causes like First
Amendment rights, including those which appear temporarily most vibrant and energetic, are
ultimately self-coopting and diversionary in terms of real social issues. Their “victories,” in and
of themselves, tend to reinforce rather than erode the functioning of the status quo; for a classic illustration, see David Lance Goines, The Free Speech Movement: Coming of Age in the
1960s (Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 1993).
90. This is standard form in a liberal democracy, no matter how “conservative” its garb; see
Thomas I. Emerson, The System of Freedom of Expression (New York: Random House, 1970);
and Isaac Balbus, The Dialectic of Legal Repression (New York: Russel Sage Foundation,
91. An even more sophisticated approach was taken by West German counterterrorism expert Christian Ludtke in his advocacy of factoring a certain (containable) quantity of violence
by the opposition into elite calculations of the costs of maintaining the status quo. His point
was that the functioning of the modern state inherently generates such responses, and at
least tacit support of them across a fairly wide spectrum of the public. By absorbing an “acceptable” level of activity by small clandestine groups like the Red Army Fraction without
reacting in an overly repressive fashion, he argued, the state security apparatus could fashion
a useful sociopolitical venting mechanism which serves to preempt more threatening forms
or degrees of antistatist violence. Fortunately, the quality of Ludtke’s reasoning - which, if adopted as policy might have had the effect of reducing the potential for armed struggle to little
more than that of the “revolutionary theatre” already evident in the nonviolent movements of
most liberal democracies - eluded the bulk of his rather duller counterparts; see generally, Peter J. Katzenstein, West Germany’s Internal Security Policy: State and Violence in the 1970s
and 1980s (Ithaca, New York: Center for Studies in International Affairs, Cornell University,
1990). With respect to the idea of militant political staging, in this case within what became
the reformist wing of the Black Panther Party, see Robert Burstein, Revolution As Theater:
Notes on the New Radical Style (New York: Liveright, 1971).


violent Civil Rights Movement (good) versus a host of Klansmen and
Southern cracker police (evil) offer ready examples. In each case, the
difference between them can be (and often is) attributed to the relative willingness/unwillingness of the opposing sides to engage in violence. And, in each case, it can be (and has been) argued that good
ultimately overcame the evil it confronted, achieving political gains and
at least temporarily dissipating a form of social violence. To the extent
that Eichmann was eventually tried in Jerusalem for his part in the
genocide of the Jewish people, that India has passed from the control
of England, and that Mississippi blacks can now register to vote with
comparative ease, it may be (and is) contended that there is a legacy
of nonviolent political success informing the praxis of contemporary
It becomes quite possible for sensitive, refined, and morally developed individuals to engage in socially transformative political action
while rejecting violence (per se) as a means or method containing a
positive as well as negative utility. The ideological assumption here is
that a sort of “negation of the negation” is involved, that the “power of
nonviolence” can in itself be used to supplant the offending societal
violence represented in the formation of state power. The key to the
whole is that it has been done, as the survival of at least some of the
Jews, the decolonization of India, and the enfranchisement of Southern American blacks demonstrate.[30]
This tidy scheme, pleasing as it may be on an emotional level, brings
up more questions than it answers. An obvious question is that if
nonviolence is to be taken as the emblem of Jewish goodness in the
face of nazi evil, how is one to account for the revolt of the twelfth
Sonderkommando mentioned by Bettelheim, or scattered incidents
of the same type which occurred at other death camps such as Sobibor and Treblinka.[31] What of the several thousand participants in
the sole mass uprising of Jews outside the camps, the armed revolt
of the Warsaw Ghetto during April and May 1943?[32] May it rightly
be suggested that those who took up arms against their executioners

crossed the same symbolic line demarcating good and evil, becoming
“the same” as the SS?[33]

many of them ultimately went underground and/or to prison in pursuit of their beliefs.

One may assume for the moment that such a gross distortion of reality
is hardly the intent of even the hardiest pacifist polemicists, although
it may well be an intrinsic aspect of their position. Worse than this is
the inconsistency of nonviolent premises. For instance, it has been
abundantly documented that Nazi policy toward the Jews, from 1941
onward, was bound up in the notion that extermination would proceed
until such time as the entire Jewish population within German occupied territory was liquidated.[34] There is no indication whatsoever
that nonviolent intervention/mediation from any quarter held the least
prospect of halting, or even delaying, the genocidal process. To the
contrary, there is evidence that efforts by neutral parties such as the
Red Cross had the effect of speeding up the slaughter.[35]

78. Mairowitz, op. cit., pp. 221—26.

That the Final Solution was halted at a point short of its full realization was due solely to the massive application of armed force against
Germany (albeit for reasons other than the salvation of the Jews). Left
to a pacifist prescription for the altering of offensive state policies,
and the effecting of positive social change, “World Jewry” - at least
in its Eurasian variants - would have suffered total extermination by
mid-1946 at the latest. Even the highly symbolic trial of SS Colonel
Adolph Eichmann could not be accomplished by nonviolent means,
but required armed action by an Israeli paramilitary unit fifteen years
after the last death camp was closed by Russian tanks.[36] There is
every indication that adherence to pacifist principles would have resulted in Eichmann’s permanent avoidance of justice, living out his life
in reasonable comfort until - to paraphrase his own assessment — he
leapt into the grave laughing at the thought of having killed six million
Jews.[37] With reference to the Jewish experience, nonviolence was
a catastrophic failure, and only the most extremely violent intervention
by others saved Europe’s Jews at the last moment from slipping over
the brink of utter extinction. Small wonder that the survivors insist,
“Never again!”

77. Ken Hurwitz, Marching Nowhere (New York: W. W. Norton, 1971).

79. The best description of this development is found in Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp. 455-600. A contending (and erroneous) thesis is offered in Alan Andelson,
SDS: A Profile (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1972), pp. 225-70. See also Thomas
Powers, Diana: The Making of a Terrorist (New York: Houghton-Mifflin, 1971).
80. Michael Lerner, “Weatherman: The Politics of Despair,” in Weatherman, Harold Jacobs,
ed. (San Francisco: Ramparts Press, 1970), pp. 400-21.
81. Perhaps the preeminent topical articulation of this defection - an obvious precursor to the
sort of swill later produced by Ellen Frankfort and Robin Morgan (see endnote 74) - accrues
from another white feminist, Gail Sheehy, in her Panthermania: The Clash of Black Against
Black in One American City (New York: Harper & Row, 1971).
82. For details, see Jo Durden-Smith, Who Killed George Jackson: Fantasies, Paranoia and
the Revolution (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1976); Huey P. Newton, War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America (Santa Cruz: Ph.D. Dissertation, Dept. of Philosophy,
University of California, 1980); Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall, The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States (Boston:
South End Press, 1990), esp. Chapt. 5.
83. There is nothing at all metaphorical intended by this statement. Leaving aside the obvious holocaust embodied in the institutionalization of slavery prior to the Civil War, see, e.g.,
Herbert Shapiro, White Violence and Black Response: From Reconstruction to Montgomery
(Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988). For further details, see Stewart E. Tolnay and E. M. Beck, A Festival of Violence: An Analysis of Southern Lynchings, 1882-1930
(Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1992); W. Fitzhugh Brundage, Lynching in the New
South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993).
84. Irv Kurki, speech to the Bradley University Peace Congress at Bradley University, Peoria,
Illinois, 12 Dec. 1969 (tape on file). Kurki was at the time director of the local draft counseling
office in Peoria and downstate Illinois organizer for the Resistance organization. His views in
this regard were voiced in the wake of the December 4, 1969, assassination of Illinois Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark (head of the Party’s Peoria chapter) in Chicago.
The sentiments are shared in Frankfort, op. cit., and elsewhere. For the best elaboration of
what was known at the time about police operations to neutralize Hampton and the Party
more generally - and, consequently, the extent to which statements such as Kurki’s add up to
conscious victim-blaming - see Roy Wilkins and Ramsey Clark et al., Search and Destroy: A
Report by the Commission of Inquiry into the Black Panthers and the Police (New York: Metropolitan Applied Research Center, 1973). Further examination of the psychology involved
will be found in William Ryan, Blaming the Victim (New York: Vintage, 1971).
85. There can be no question that the magnitude of slaughter in Indochina was known by
American nonviolent oppositionists, even as it was occurring; see, e.g., David Dellinger, “Unmasking Genocide,” Liberation (Dec. 1967/Jan. 1968). Given this understanding, which undeniably equates the posture of the U.S. government with that of the Third Reich, at least in


72. Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara?, in an interview on Larry King Live
(May 1996), placed the overall tally of Indochinese corpses at 3.2 million; On Chile, see
Jorge Palacios, Chile: An Attempt at “Historic Compromise” (Chicago: Banner, 1979). On El
Salvador, see Maria Teresa Tula, Hear My Testimony (Boston: South End Press, 1994). On
Guatemala, see Edward R. F. Sheehan, Agony in the Garden: A Stranger in Guatemala (New
York: Houghton-Mifflin, 1989). On Grenada, see Edwin P. Hoyt, America’s Wars and Military
Incursions (New York: McGraw?-Hill, 1987), pp. 531-45. On Panama, see the Independent
Commission of Inquiry on the U.S. Invasion of Panama, The U.S. Invasion of Panama: The
Truth Behind Operation “Just Cause”(Boston: South End Press, 1991). On Nicaragua, see
Holly Sklar, Washington’s War on Nicaragua (Boston: South End Press, 1989). On the Gulf
war, see Cynthia Peters, ed., Collateral Damage (Boston: South End Press, 1992).
73. For a comprehensive study of such “overlooked” matters as the U S.-supported Indonesian genocide in East Timor, circa 1975-1977, see Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman,
The Political Economy of Human Rights, Vols. I & II (Boston: South End Press, 1979). See
also A. J. Langguth, Hidden Terrors: The Truth About U.S. Police Operations in Latin America
(New York: Pantheon Books, 1978), for an in-depth examination of such things on a hemispheric basis. William Blum’s Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World
War II (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage, 1995) will round out the picture through the end
of the 1980s. Daniel P. Bolger’s Savage Peace: Americans at War in the 1990s (San Francisco: Presidio, 1995) will help fill in gaps for the early ‘90s.
74. In her autobiography, Growing Up Underground (New York: William Morrow, 1981), Jane
Alpert offers vivid recollections of her fear that nonviolent “allies” would turn her in to the
police should her identity as a fugitive bomber of corporate targets become known to them.
Her “paranoia” was justified by the probability that Weather fugitives such as Cathy Wilkerson had already been apprehended on the basis of tips to the police provided by pacifists
with “principled objections to the Weatherman’s political violence.” For an amazingly candid
(if unintended) profession of support for the police vis-à-vis armed oppositional cadres by a
“pacifist feminist,” see Ellen Frankfort, Kathy Boudin and the Dance of Death (New York: Stein
and Day, 1983); that Frankfort’s incredibly racist and reactionary views are widely shared, at
least among pacifist feminists, is evidenced by the excellent reviews her book received. The
whole squalid trend probably culminated with the publication of Robin Morgan’s The Demon
Lover: On the Sexuality of Terrorism (New York: W. W. Norton, 1989).
75. David Dellinger, “The Bread is Rising,” in Beyond Survival: New Directions for the Disarmament Movement, Michael Albert and David Dellinger, eds. (Boston: South End Press,
1983), p. 33. One is at a loss as to what to make of such a statement. How does he know
such a program would be counterproductive, given support rather than obstruction by people
like him? Such a context, after all, has never been evident in the United States. Further,
Dellinger has often been quite vocal in his support for armed struggle elsewhere (e.g., the
National Liberation Front in Vietnam). Could it be that he perceives resort to arms to be more
viable when other than American activists will do the fighting? For further insight, see Dellinger’s Vietnam Revisited: Covert Action to Invasion to Reconstruction (Boston: South End
Press, 1986).
76. Sam Brown, “Statement to the Associated Press” (5 Dec. 1969). It is perhaps indicative
of Brown’s notion of the importance of symbolic rather than concrete actions against the government he claimed to oppose that he shortly thereafter accepted a position working in it. It
simply wouldn’t do to disrupt the functioning of one’s future employer, after all. The nature of
Brown’s own commitment can be readily contrasted to those he dismissed as “scruffy” in that


While other examples are less crystalline in their implications, they are
instructive. The vaunted career of Gandhi exhibits characteristics of a
calculated strategy of nonviolence salvaged only by the existence of
violent peripheral processes.[38] While it is true that the great Indian
leader never deviated from his stance of passive resistance to British
colonization, and that in the end England found it cost-prohibitive to
continue its effort to assert control in the face of his opposition, it is
equally true that the Gandhian success must be viewed in the context
of a general decline in British power brought about by two world wars
within a thirty-year period.[39]
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.
[40] Hence, while the Mahatma and his followers were able to remain
“pure,” their victory was contingent upon others physically gutting their
opponents for them.
Similarly, the limited success attained by Martin Luther King and his
disciples in the United States during the 1960s, using a strategy consciously guided by Gandhian principles of nonviolence, owes a considerable debt to the existence of less pacifist circumstances. King’s
movement had attracted considerable celebrity, but precious little in
the way of tangible political gains prior to the emergence of a trend
signaled in 1967 by the redesignation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC; more or less the campus arm of King’s
Civil Rights Movement) as the Student National Coordinating Committee.[41]
The SNCC’s action (precipitated by non-pacifists such as Stokely

Carmichael and H. Rap Brown) occurred in the context of armed selfdefense tactics being employed for the first time by rural black leaders
such as Robert Williams, and the eruption of black urban enclaves in
Detroit, Newark, Watts, Harlem, and elsewhere. It also coincided with
the increasing need of the American state for internal stability due to
the unexpectedly intense and effective armed resistance mounted by
the Vietnamese against U.S. aggression in Southeast Asia.[42]
Suddenly King, previously stonewalled and red-baited by the establishment, his roster of civil rights demands evaded or dismissed as being “too radical” and “premature,” found himself viewed as the lesser
of evils by the state.[43] He was duly anointed the “responsible black
leader” in the media, and his cherished civil rights agenda was largely incorporated into law during 1968 (along with appropriate riders
designed to neutralize “Black Power Militants” such as Carmichael,
Brown, and Williams.)[44] Without the specter, real or perceived, of a
violent black revolution at large in America during a time of war, King’s
nonviolent strategy was basically impotent in concrete terms. As one
of his Northern organizers, William Jackson, put it to me in 1969:
“There are a lot of reasons why I can’t get behind fomenting violent actions like riots, and none of ‘em are religious. It’s all pragmatic politics.
But I’ll tell you what: I never let a riot slide by. I’m always the first one
down at city hall and testifying before Congress, tellin’ ‘em, “See? If
you guys’d been dealing with us all along, this never would have happened.” It gets results, man. Like nothin’ else, y’know? The thing is that
Rap Brown and the Black Panthers are just about the best things that
ever happened to the Civil Rights Movement.”
Jackson’s exceedingly honest, if more than passingly cynical, outlook
was tacitly shared by King.[45] The essential contradiction inherent
to pacifist praxis is that, for survival itself, any nonviolent confrontation
of state power must ultimately depend either on the state refraining
from unleashing some real measure of its potential violence, or the active presence of some counterbalancing violence of precisely the sort

the early ‘60s. The SNCC training was designed to provide survival skills in the face of the
virtual certainty that volunteers would suffer vicious physical assaults from the police while its
supposed equivalent in the ‘80s (and ‘90s) is predicated on the opposite expectation. On the
nature and assumptions of SNCC training, see Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and
the Black Awakening of the 1960s (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1981). The same
general rule applies to the kind of instruction provided by the Revolutionary Youth Movement/
Weatherman wing of SDS; Kathy Boudin, et ah, The Bust Book: What to Do Until the Lawyer
Comes (New York: Grove Press, 1969).
66. A prime example is that of the annual protests of nuclear weapons testing in Nevada during the 1980s; this is well covered in Rebecca Solnit’s Savage Dreams: A Journey into the
Hidden Wars of the American West (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1994).
67. E.g., during a carefully orchestrated protest of the annual Columbus Day celebration in
1990, Russell Means, a leader of the American Indian Movement of Colorado, poured a gallon of imitation blood over a statue of the “Great Discoverer” in the city’s central plaza (He
was thereupon issued a citation for “desecrating a venerated object.”). Ultimately, in forcing
the cancellation of the Columbus Day event by 1992 - the 500th anniversary of the Columbian landfall - Colorado AIM used every nonviolent tactic mentioned in this section. What
separates AIM’s stance from that of the entities critiqued in this essay is that its strategy has
never foreclosed upon armed struggle. To the contrary, it has consistently employed the latter
as and when such methods have seemed appropriate. Hence, its strategic posture evidences
the full continuum of tactical options.
68. For a panoramic overview, see Barbara Epstein, Political Protest and Cultural Revolution:
Nonviolent Direct Action in the 1970s and 1980s (Berkeley: University of California Press,
69. Consider, for example, the perfectly orderly mass arrests of more than 500 individuals
protesting CIA recruitment on the University of Colorado’s Boulder campus in 1985. No bail
was required, and no cases were prosecuted. Instead, some arrestees were known to frame
their “obstruction” citations in the same manner that they might other honors, awards, and
diplomas. CIA recruitment, incidentally, continues at the institution more than a decade later.
70. There are, of course, exceptions, as when a group of pacifists from Silo- Plowshares
managed to get into a nuclear weapons compound near Chicago during the early ‘80s and
attempted to disable several missiles. The potential efficacy of this technique - as opposed
to holding “vigils” outside the facility’s gates - caused the government to make “deterrent
examples” of the “culprits.” The offending Plowshares activists were promptly labeled as “terrorists” - a matter which shows clearly that political effectiveness rather than use of violence
is the defining characteristic underlying official use of the term - and two of them were subsequently incarcerated in the federal “super-maximum” prison at Marion, Illinois, for several
years. So outrageous was the government’s distortion of the facts in this case that at least
one veteran FBI agent, John Ryan, resigned rather than participate in the frame-up; “Once a
G-Man, Now a Pacifist: A Costly Conversion,” Newsweek (23 Nov. 1987).
71. Again, there are always exceptions (which, of course, simply prove the rule). The Plowshares case mentioned in the preceding note is salient. The leadership of the AIM protests
mentioned in note 67 were prosecuted with the intent that they suffer a year’s imprisonment.
For another good illustration, see Daniel Berrigan, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine (Boston:
Beacon Press, 1970).


spiracy (New York: Coward, McCann? & Geoghegan, 1972).
53. This is well-covered in Reed Brody, Contra Terror in Nicaragua (Boston: South End Press,
54. See, e.g., Susan Zakin, Coyotes and Town Dogs: Earth First! And the Environmental
Movement (New York: Viking, 1993); and Judi Bari, Timber Wars (Monroe, Maine: Common
Courage, 1994).
55. Let’s be clear on this point: “revolution” means to obliterate the existing status quo and
replace it with something else, not to engage in reformist efforts to render it “better” while
leaving it in place. Revolution thus implies a fundamental rejection of things as they are; reform implies a fundamental acceptance.
56. For a summary of this trend, see David Zane Mairowitz, The Radical Soap Opera: The
Roots of Failure in the American Left (New York: Avon, 1974).
57. The principles are laid out clearly in Bradford Lyttle’s The Importance of Discipline in Demonstrations for Peace (New York: Committee for Nonviolent Action, 1962). Abbie Hoffman
does a good job of analyzing this phenomenon in his Revolution for the Hell of It (New York:
Dial, 1968). More broadly, see Dana Beal et ah, eds., Blacklisted News: Secret History from
Chicago, 1968 to 1984 (New York: Bleecker, 1983.
58. Excellent elaborations concerning police functions can be found in Lynn Cooper, et ah,
The Iron First and the Velvet Glove: An Analysis of U.S. Police (Berkeley: Center for Research
on Criminal Justice, 1975); David Wise, The American Police State: The Government Against
the People (New York: Random House, 1976).
59. At another level, see the critique offered by Daniel Cohn-Bendit of the Communist Parry’s collaboration to the same end with the Gaulist government during the 1968 French
student/worker uprising in his Obsolete Communism: The Left-Wing Alternative (New York:
McGraw?-Hill, 1968).
60. See Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance,” in A Critique of Pure Tolerance, Robert
Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore, Jr., and Herbert Marcuse, eds. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969),
pp. 81—117, especially pp. 101-02.
61. See Gitlin, op. cit., Chapt. 7, “Elevating Moderating Alternatives: The Moment of Reform,”
pp. 205—32.
62. New Left Notes (Apr. 1968).
63. For an excellent overall sampling of the more professional efforts at such advertising, see
Images of an Era: The American Poster, 1945—1975 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1975). See also Mitchell Goodman, ed., The Movement Toward a New America: The
Beginnings of a Long Revolution (Philadelphia/New York: Pilgrim/Alfred A. Knopf, 1970).
64. Barbara Epstein, “The Politics of Symbolic Protest,” Redline (Mar. 1988).
65. What is at issue is an altogether different matter from the identically named training
delivered to SNCC volunteers prior to their going “on line” in locales like rural Mississippi in


pacifism professes to reject as a political option.
Absurdity clearly abounds when suggesting that the state will refrain
from using all necessary physical force to protect against undesired
forms of change and threats to its safety. Nonviolent tacticians imply (perhaps unwittingly) that the “immoral state” which they seek to
transform will somehow exhibit exactly the same sort of superior morality they claim for themselves (i.e., at least a relative degree of nonviolence). The fallacy of such a proposition is best demonstrated by the
nazi state’s removal of its “Jewish threat.”[46] Violent intervention by
others divides itself naturally into the two parts represented by Gandhi’s unsolicited “windfall” of massive violence directed against his
opponents and King’s rather more conscious and deliberate utilization
of incipient anti-state violence as a means of advancing his own pacifist agenda. History is replete with variations on these two subthemes,
but variations do little to alter the crux of the situation: there simply has
never been a revolution, or even a substantial social reorganization,
brought into being on the basis of the principles of pacifism.[47] In every instance, violence has been an integral requirement of the process
of transforming the state.
Pacifist praxis (or, more appropriately, pseudopraxis), if followed to its
logical conclusions, leaves its adherents with but two possible outcomes to their line of action:
1. To render themselves perpetually ineffectual (and consequently unthreatening) in the face of state power, in which case they will likely
be largely ignored by the status quo and self-eliminating in terms of
revolutionary potential; or,
2. To make themselves a clear and apparent danger to the state, in
which case they are subject to physical liquidation by the status quo
and are self-eliminating in terms of revolutionary potential.
In either event - mere ineffectuality or suicide — the objective condi/13\

tions leading to the necessity for social revolution remain unlikely to
be altered by purely pacifist strategies. As these conditions typically
include war, the induced starvation of whole populations and the like,
pacifism and its attendant sacrifice of life cannot even be rightly said
to have substantially impacted the level of evident societal violence.
The mass suffering that revolution is intended to alleviate will continue
as the revolution strangles itself on the altar of “nonviolence.”

45. Even the title of King’s last book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?
(New York: Bantam, 1967), suggests he was consciously using the existence of an armed
or “violent” trend among politicized American blacks as a foil against which to further the objectives of his own nonviolent movement. In other words, without a number of his ostensible
constituents “picking up the gun,” King was rendered rather less effective in pursuit of his
own pacifist politics.
46. It can, of course, be pointed out that the Jews really constituted no threat at all to the nazi
state, and that assertions to the contrary (especially genocidal ones) were/are ridiculously irrational. True. However, this does nothing to disrupt the logic or structure of the situation. The
fact is that nazi theoreticians and policy makers perceived the Jews as a threat, and their programs were formulated accordingly. As Robert Cecil demonstrates compellingly in The Myth
of the Master Race: Alfred Rosenburg and Nazi Ideology (New York: Dodd Mead, 1972), the
nazis really did believe, among other things, in the existence of a “Red (communist), Black
(anarchist) and Gold (banker) Conspiracy” of Jews which they were duty-bound to eradicate.
The fact that their exercise of state power was completely irrational did nothing to alter the
fact of that power, or to save one Jew from the effects of it. Nor is the situation as aberrant as
it might first appear; the reader is invited to compare the virulence of nazi anti-Semitism during
the pre-genocidal 1930s to the nature of official U.S. anticommunism especially during the
McCarthy? era. This is but one parallel.
47. An interesting study in this connection is Mark Calloway’s aptly titled Heavens on Earth:
Utopian Communities in America, 1680-1880 (New York: Dover, 1966). It will be observed
that each pacifist “prefiguration” of a broader social application proved an abject failure (this
is as distinct from the much more sustained — but completely insular — employment of many
of the same principles by religious communities such as the Amish).
48. Sharp, Gandhi as Political Strategist, op. cit.
49. See, e.g., Seth Cagin and Philip Dray, We Are Not Afraid: The Story of Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney and the Civil Rights Campaign for Mississippi (New York: Macmillan,
50. A succinct but comprehensive elaboration of the literal context in which the self-immolations occurred may be found in Michael MacClear?, The Ten Thousand Day War: Vietnam,
1945-1975 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1981); on the monks, see pp. 63-64; for information on Morrison, see p. 143. For an assessment of the media context, see Todd Gitlin, The
Whole World Is Watching: Mass Media in the Making and Unmaking of the New Left (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980).
51. If, as has been plausibly suggested, the monks’ real agenda was more to eliminate the
Diem regime than American presence per se, their campaign must be assessed as rather
more successful than would otherwise be the case. Largely as a result of the furor and negative PR image generated in the United States by the self-immolations and Saigon’s utterly
callous response, Diem was ousted in a coup d’etat on the night of November 1—2, 1963.
It should be noted, however, that the coup was accomplished by the military and in an emphatically violent fashion (Diem and his brother, Nhu, were assassinated), an outcome which
is hardly pacifist. See Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History (New York: Penguin, 1984), pp.
52. Jack Nelson and Ronald J. Ostrow, The FBI and the Berrigans: The Making of a Con-



Horowitz, op. cit.


35. See generally, Henry L. Feingold, The Politics of Rescue: The Roosevelt Administration
and the Holocaust, 1938-1945 (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press,
36. For the best account of the apprehension of Eichmann, see Isser Harel, The House on
Garibaldi Street (New York: Viking, 1975). See also Arendt, op. cit.
37. Quoted in Arendt, op. cit., p. 17.
38. Gandhi himself is rather candid about this, as is evidenced in his autobiographical All Men
Are Brothers (New York: Continuum, 1982).
39. For an adequate assessment of this factor, see Alan Campbell-Johnson, Mission with
Montbatten (London: Robert Hale, 1951), pp. 119
40. Louis Fischer, The Life ofMahatma Gandhi (New York: Harpers, 1950), especially Chapt.
II; Leo Kuper, Passive Resistance in South Africa (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University
Press, 1957). This reality is a bit different from that claimed for the Mahatma by his adherents
from very early on; see, e.g., Krishnala Shridharani, War Without Violence: A Study of Gandhi’s Method and Its Accomplishments (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1939).
41. An excellent summary of the relationship between SNCC and King’s main organization,
the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, can be found in Howard Zinn, SNCC: The
New Abolitionists (Boston: Beacon Press, 1967). Further depth is added with regard to
the organization’s abandonment of nonviolent principles in Stokely Carmichael and Charles
V. Hamilton, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America (New York: Vintage, 1967),
especially p. 97.
42. H. Rap Brown, Die Nigger Die! (New York: Dial, 1969) contains a very lucid elaboration
of the context of Black Power. See also Robert F. Williams, Negroes with Guns (Chicago:
Third World Press, 1962); Nathan Wright, Jr., Black Power and Urban Unrest (New York:
Hawthorn, 1967); Julius Lester, Look Out, Whitey! Black Power’s Gon’ Get Your Mama (New
York: Dial, 1968).
43. Or most of it, anyway. It is clear that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover continued to manifest
a virulent hatred of King, personally, using the power of his agency in a relentless effort to destroy the civil rights leader; David Garrow, The FBI and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York:
Penguin, 1981). Rather murkier is the possibility that the bureau participated in orchestrating
King’s 1968 assassination; see, e.g., Mark Lane and Dick Gregory, Code Name “Zorro”: The
Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall,
44. The rider, attached to the bill by paleoconservative senator Strom Thurmond, made it a
federal felony to cross state lines “with intent to incite riot.” While enforcement of many of the
act’s ostensibly affirmative provisions has languished, the rider was immediately applied with
vigor in an effort to neutralize what was perceived by authorities as being the leadership of an
array of dissident movements; Jason Epstein, The Great Conspiracy Trial: An Essay on Law,
Liberty and the Constitution (New York: Random House, 1970).


Don’t speak to me of revolution until you’re ready to eat rats to survive... - The Last Poets, 1972
Regardless of the shortcomings of pacifism as a methodological approach to revolution, there is nothing inherent in its basic impulse
which prevents real practitioners from experiencing the revolutionary
ethos. Rather, as already noted, the emotional content of the principle
of nonviolence is tantamount to a gut-level rejection of much, or even
all, that the present social order stands for — an intrinsically revolutionary perspective. The question is not the motivations of real pacifists,
but instead the nature of a strategy by which the revolution may be
won, at a minimum sacrifice to all concerned.
This assumes that sacrifice is being made by all concerned. Here, it
becomes relatively easy to separate the wheat from the chaff among
America’s proponents of “nonviolent opposition.” While the premise
of pacifism necessarily precludes engaging in violent acts directed
at others, even for reasons of self-defense, it does not prevent its
adherents from themselves incurring physical punishment in pursuit
of social justice. In other words, there is nothing of a doctrinal nature
barring real pacifists from running real risks.
And indeed they do. Since at least the early Christians, devout pacifists have been sacrificing themselves while standing up for what they
believe in against the armed might of those they consider wrong. Gandhi’s followers perished by the thousands, allowed themselves to be
beaten and maimed en masse, and clogged India’s penal system in
their campaign to end British rule.[48] King’s field organizers showed
incredible bravery in confronting the racist thugs of the South, and
many paid with their lives on lonely back roads.[49]
Another type of pacifist action which became a symbol for the non/15\

violent antiwar movement was that of a Buddhist monk, Thich Quang
Duc, who immolated himself on a Saigon street on June 11, 1963.
Due’s protest against growing U.S. involvement in his country was
quickly followed by similar actions by other Vietnamese bonzes and,
on November 2, 1965, by an American Quaker, Norman Morrison,
who burned himself in front of the Pentagon to protest increasing levels of U.S. troop commitment in Indochina.[50] Whatever the strategic
value one may place upon the actions of Morrison and the Buddhists
- and it must be acknowledged that the U.S. grip on Vietnam rapidly tightened after the self-immolations began,[51] while U.S. troop
strength in Southeast Asia spiraled from some 125,000 at the time of
Morrison’s suicide to more than 525,000 barely two years later - they
were unquestionably courageous people, entirely willing to face the
absolute certainty of the most excruciating death in pursuit of their
professed ideals. Although the effectiveness of their tactics is open to
question, their courage and integrity certainly are not.

Barnes and Nobel, 1974). Other noteworthy contributions to the literature in this respect
include Isaiah Trunk’s Jewish Responses to Nazi Persecution: Collective and Individual Behavior in Extremis (New York: Stein and Day, 1979); and Yehuda Bauer’s “Jewish Resistance
and Passivity in the Face of the Holocaust,” in Unanswered Questions: Nazi Germany and the
Genocide of the Jews, Francois Furet, ed. (New York: Schocken Books, 1989). These efforts,
and others like them, perform an admirable service in fleshing out the woefully incomplete record of Jewish resistance - and perhaps to counter notions that Jewish passivity resulted from
congenital or cultural “cowardice,” misimpressions which should never have held currency
anyway — but they do nothing to render the extent of Jewish armed struggle greater than it
was. Arguments to the contrary - such as that advanced by the critics mentioned in endnote
17 are purely polemical (or emotional).

In a less severe fashion, there are many other examples of American
pacifists putting themselves on the line for their beliefs. The Berrigan
brothers, Phillip and Daniel, clearly qualify in this regard, as do a number of others who took direct action against the Selective Service
System and certain U.S. military targets during the late ‘60s and early
‘70s.[52] Cadres of Witness for Peace placed their bodies between
CIA-sponsored contra guerrillas and their intended civilian victims
along the Nicaragua/Honduras border during the ‘80s.[53] Members
of Greenpeace, Earth First!, and Friends of the Earth have been known
to take considerable chances with their own well-being in their advocacy of a range of environmental issues.[54]

30. This is the premise advanced in works such as Joan Bondurant’s The Conquest of Violence: The Gandhian Philosophy of Conflict (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973).

The list of principled and self-sacrificing pacifists and pacifist acts
could undoubtedly be extended and, ineffectual or not, these people are admirable in their own right. Unfortunately, they represent the
exception rather than the rule of pacifist performance in the United
States. For every example of serious and committed pacifist activism
emerging from the normative mass of American nonviolent movements

27. This “spiritual dimension” has in fact been one of the major thematics of the most noted
analysts of the meaning of the Holocaust, Elie Wiesel; see Confronting the Holocaust: The
Impact of Elie Wiesel, Alvin H. Rosenfeld and Irving Greenberg, eds. (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1978).
28. As to the implications of the disarmed and therefore utterly unprepared state of the Jewish resistance in its efforts to formulate an adequate response to the nazis, see Bauer, “Resistance and Passivity,” op. cit., pp. 240-41.
29. For a taste of such reasoning, see David Garrow’s Pulitzer Prize winning Bearing the
Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (New York:
William Morrow, 1986).

31. Lesser insurrections “took place in Kruszyna, Krychow, and Lublin prisoner-of-war camp,
the Kopernik camp at Minsk-Mazowiecki, at Sachsenhausen, and perhaps elsewhere”; Bauer,
“Resistance and Passivity,” op. cit., p. 243.
32. For an excellent account of the only recorded mass Jewish armed resistance to extermination, see Emmanuel Ringlebaum, Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto: The Journal of Emmanuel
Ringlebaum (New York: McGraw?-Hill, 1958). A much smaller ghetto revolt occurred in Bialystok in August 1943. Additionally, there were “three armed revolts [and] four attempted
rebellions” in ghettos in the Polish General Government area during 1942-1943; Bauer, “Resistance and Passivity,” op. cit., pp. 241-42.
33. Again, to be fair, it wasn’t just the SS, a point made long ago by Gerald Reitlinger in his
The SS: Alibi of a Nation (New York: Viking, 1957). Aside from this exterminatory elite, large
numbers of rather common Germans participated voluntarily and with enthusiasm in the Final
Solution; see Christopher R. Browning, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the
Final Solution in Poland (New York: HarperCollins?, 1992); and Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
1996). Indeed, there is substantial evidence that a majority of Germans knew of and to varying extents endorsed the nazi Judeocide; John Weiss, Ideology of Death: Why the Holocaust
Happened in Germany (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1996).
34. See Gerald Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution (Berkeley: University of California Press,
1982); Hohne, op cit.; Hilberg, The Destruction of European Jews, op. cit., 1961 edition; and


accept it or reject it, but one cannot do both at once (as my critics seek to do). And, to label
as “anti-semitic” the application of an explicitly Jewish term to a context and in a fashion in
which it has already been emphatically applied by Jews? Unto me giveth a break. This is not
constructive criticism. Rather, it is the use of name-calling and factual distortion to foreclose
on inconvenient discussion. One solace is that being subjected to such nonsense places me
in some pretty good company; Jewish scholars like Hannah Arendt, Raul Hilberg, and Arno
J. Mayer have suffered similar indignities at the hands of their own community after raising
comparably uncomfortable issues with respect to the Judaic response to nazism; see Dwight
Macdonald, “Hannah Arendt and the Jewish Establishment,” in his Discriminations: Essays
and Afterthoughts (New York: Grossman, 1974); on Hilberg, see Michael R. Marrus, “Jewish
Resistance to the Holocaust,” Journal of Contemporary History, No. 30 (1995); and Arno J.
Mayer, “History and Memory: On the Poverty of Remembering and Forgetting the Judeocide,”
Radical History Review, No. 56 (1993). For further, and entirely cogent, consideration of the
“like sheep to the slaughter” phenomenon and its implications, see Robert G. L. Waite, “The
Holocaust and Historical Explanation,” in Genocide and the Modern Age: Etiology and Case
Studies of Mass Death, Isidor Wallimann and Michael N. Dobkowski, eds. (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1987).
18. Bettelheim, op. cit., p. xiv.
19. It should be noted that similar revolts in Sobibor and Treblinka in 1943 were even more
effective than the one at Auschwitz/Birkenau a few months later; Sobib6r had to be closed
altogether, a reality which amplifies and reinforces Bettelheim’s rather obvious point; Miriam
Novitch, Sobibor: Martyrdom and Revolt (New York: Holocaust Library, 1980); Jean-Francois
Steiner, Treblinka (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1967); and Yisrael Gutman, “Rebellions
in the Camps: Three Revolts in the Face of Death,” in Critical Issues of the Holocaust, Alex
Grobman and Daniel Landes, eds. (Los Angeles: Simon Wiesenthal Center, 1983).
20. Bettelheim, op. cit., p. xi.
21. Ibid., p. vi. Similar observations have been made by others, notably Hilberg in the 1985
edition of The Destruction of the European Jews (op. cit.); and Arno J. Mayer, in his Why Did
the Heavens Not Darken? The “Final Solution” in History (New York: Pantheon, 1990), as
well as elsewhere.
22. Bettelheim, op. cit., p. viii.
23. A succinct overview of the Nuremberg Laws and related pieces of nazi legislation can
be found in Stefan Kuhl, The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German
National Socialism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 73, 97-98.
24 Bettelheim, op. cit., p. x.
25. Ibid.
26. It is apprehension of precisely this point, whether concretely or intuitively, which seems
to be guiding a school of revisionism which seeks to supplant images of the passivity of the
preponderance of Jews during the Holocaust with a rather distorted impression that armed
resistance to nazism was pervasive among this victim group. Probably the definitive effort in
this connection is Reuben Ainsztein’s massive Jewish Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Eastern
Europe: With a Historical Survey of the Jew as Fighter and Soldier in the Diaspora (New York:


since 1965, one could cite scores of countering instances in which
only lip service was paid to the ideals of action and self-sacrifice.
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,” not only akin to what Bettelheim
termed “the philosophy of business as usual” and devoid of perceived
risk to its advocates, but minus any conceivable revolutionary impetus
as well.[55] The intended revolutionary content of true pacifist activism — the sort practiced by the Gandhian movement, the Berrigans,
and Norman Morrison - is thus isolated and subsumed in the United
States, even among the ranks of self-professing participants.
Such a situation must abort whatever limited utility pacifist tactics
might have, absent other and concurrent forms of struggle, as a socially transformative method. Yet the history of the American Left over
the past decade shows too clearly that the more diluted the substance
embodied in “pacifist practice,” the louder the insistence of its subscribers that nonviolence is the only mode of action “appropriate and
acceptable within the context of North America,” and the greater the
effort to ostracize, or even stifle divergent types of actions.[56] Such
strategic hegemony exerted by proponents of this truncated range of
tactical options has done much to foreclose on what ever revolutionary potential may be said to exist in modern America.
Is such an assessment too harsh? One need only attend a mass demonstration (ostensibly directed against the policies of the state) in any
U.S. city to discover the answer. One will find hundreds, sometimes
thousands, assembled in orderly fashion, listening to selected speak/17\

ers calling for an end to this or that aspect of lethal state activity,
carrying signs “demanding” the same thing, welcoming singers who
enunciate lyrically on the worthiness of the demonstrators’ agenda
as well as the plight of the various victims they are there to “defend,”
and - typically - the whole thing is quietly disbanded with exhortations
to the assembled to “keep working” on the matter and to please sign
a petition and/or write letters to congresspeople requesting that they
alter or abandon offending undertakings.
Throughout the whole charade it will be noticed that the state is represented by a uniformed police presence keeping a discreet distance
and not interfering with the activities. And why should they? The organizers of the demonstration will have gone through “proper channels”
to obtain permits required by the state and instructions as to where
they will be allowed to assemble, how long they will be allowed to stay
and, should a march be involved in the demonstration, along which
routes they will be allowed to walk. Surrounding the larger mass of
demonstrators can be seen others — an elite. Adorned with green
(or white, or powder blue) armbands, their function is to ensure that
demonstrators remain “responsible,” not deviating from the state-armbandedsanctioned plan of protest. Individuals or small groups who attempt to spin off from the main body, entering areas to which the state
has denied access (or some other unapproved activity) are headed off
by these arm-banded “marshals” who argue — pointing to the nearby
police - that “troublemaking” will only “exacerbate an already tense
situation” and “provoke violence,” thereby “alienating those we are attempting to reach.”[57] In some ways, the voice of the “good Jews”
can be heard to echo plainly over the years.
At this juncture, the confluence of interests between the state and the
mass nonviolent movement could not be clearer. The role of the police, whose function is to support state policy by minimizing disruption
of its procedures, should be in natural conflict with that of a movement
purporting to challenge these same policies and, indeed, to transform
the state itself.[58] However, with apparent perverseness, the police

12. The most careful recent estimates indicate that approximately 5.1 million Jews perished
in the Holocaust, 1.1 million in Auschwitz/ Birkenau alone; Raul Hilberg, The Destruction
of the European Jews, 3 vols. (New York: Holmes and Meier, rev. ed., 1985), Vol. 3, pp.
1047-48,1201-20. See also, Franciszek Piper, “The Number of Victims,” in Anatomy of the
Auschwitz Death Camp, Yisrael Gutman and Michael Berenbaum, eds. (Bloomington: Indiana
University Press, 1994), pp. 61—76.
13. The question is posed in a number of places by various authors. The particular version
used here was framed by Bruno Bettelheim on p. ix of his Foreword to Nyiszli, Auschwitz,
1960, op. cit.
14. Again, the references on this point are quite numerous. As examples, see Hilberg, The Destruction of European Jews, op. cit.; Hilberg, Martyrs & Heroes Remembrance Authority, The
Holocaust (Jerusalem, Palestine: Vad Yashem, 1975); and Irving Louis Horowitz, Genocide:
State Power & Mass Murder (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Books, 1976).
15. E.g., Yehuda Bauer, The Holocaust as Historical Experience: Essays and Discussion
(New York: Holmes and Meir, 1981).
16. But not, as assorted zionist propagandists such as Yehuda Bauer, Deborah Lipstadt,
Emil Fackenheim, Lucy Dawidowicz and Steven T. Katz would have it, to a degree unique
in all history. Slavs, Gypsies, homosexuals, and leftists shared a similar fate under nazi rule.
Approximately two thirds of Europe’s Jews were exterminated by the nazis, while at least the
same percentage (and probably more) of all North American Indians were slaughtered by
the United States and its colonial antecedents. The butchery of Armenians by Turks in 1915
also rivals the Holocaust in intensity, if not in scale, as does the genocide of East Timorese by
Indonesia between 1975 and 1977, and - in some respects - the treatment accorded Palestinians by Israel today. See generally, Bohdan Wytwycky, The Other Holocaust: Many Circles
of Hell: A Brief Account of the 9- 10 Million Persons Who Died with 6 Million Jews Under
Nazi Racism (Washington, D.C.: Novae Report on the New Ethnicity, 1980); Frank Chalk and
Kurt Jonassohn, The History and Sociology of Genocide: Analyses and Case Studies (New
Haven: Yale University Press, 1990); Michael Berenbaum, ed., A Mosaic of Victims: Non-Jews
Persecuted and Murdered by the Nazis (New York: New York University Press, 1990); and
Alan S. Rosenbaum, ed., Is the Holocaust Unique? Perspectives on Comparative Genocide
(Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1996).
17. Actually, to be fair, such accusations transcend zionism. A classic example occurred during the preparation of this manuscript. It was sent out for review and comments to a Denverbased anti-zionist Jewish organization, which was sharply critical of the use of the Holocaust
to illustrate many of the points made herein. The very first objection raised was that using
“’Like Lambs to the Slaughter’ as a heading is just asking to be called anti-semitic, especially
since the argument does not reflect the facts.” Interestingly, among the materials sent along
to “correct” my factual understanding of the extent and effectiveness of Jewish armed resistance to the Holocaust was a xeroxed excerpt from Lucy Dawidowicz’s War Against the Jews,
1933-1945 (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Wilson, 1975) containing the following passage at
p. 423: “The only question facing the Jews [announced a zionist leader in 1943] was how
to choose to die: ‘either like sheep for the slaughter or like men of honor.’ Among the Zionist
youth in the resistance movement, ‘like sheep for the slaughter’ became an epithet of ignominy, divorced from its original [Hebraic] meaning of martyrdom. These young Zionists, in their
statements and proclamations, [expressed] a feeling of anger against Jewish passivity.” I may
perhaps be forgiven for observing that this is exactly the argument I’ve been making. One can


1. On the matter of alchemy, at least as intended here, see Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier, The Morning of the Magicians (New York: Stein and Day, 1964) pp. 62-90.
2. V. I. Lenin, State and Revolution (New York: International, 1932).
3. The tally of twentieth-century revolutions accomplished through nonviolent means is exactly zero (see the critique of the Gandhian “exception” in the section “An Essential Contradiction”).
4. E.g., Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES).
5. Probably the best elucidation of the “oppositional praxis” at issue here can be found in
Gene Sharp’s 902-page trilogy, The Politics of Nonviolent Action (Boston: Porter Sargent,
1973), “Part One: Power and Struggle”; “Part Two: The Methods of Nonviolent Action”; and
“Part Three: The Dynamic of Nonviolent Action.” Meanwhile, on the steady growth of native
fascism, see Phillip Finch, God, Guts and Guns: A Close Look at the Radical Right (New
York: Seaview, 1983); James Coates, Armed and Dangerous: The Rise of the Survivalist
Right (New York: Noonday, 1987); and Russ Bellant, Old Nazis, the New Right, and the
Republican Party: Domestic-Fascist Networks and Their Effect on U.S. Cold War Politics
(Boston: South End Press, 1991).
6. See, e.g., Gene Sharp, Social Power and Political Freedom (Boston: Porter Sargent,
7. Virtually all extant literature on the subject, which is considerable, leaves the same impression on this point. William L. Shirer, “The New Order,” The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich:
A History of Nazi Germany (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1960), Chapt. 2, pp. 937-94, still
provides as good a capsule view as any single volume.
8. On this point there are also numerous sources. For example, see Hannah Arendt, Eichmann
in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York: Penguin Books, 1963), pp. 41-48;
Heinz Hohne, The Order of the Death’s Head, Richard Barry, trans. (New York: Coward McCann?, 1970), pp. 346-47; and Helmut Krausnik et al., Anatomy of the SS State, Richard
Barry et al., trans. (New York: Walker & Co., 1968), pp. 54-57.
9. Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews (Chicago: Quadrangle, 1961), pp.
122-25, 297, 316.
10. Isaiah Trunk, Judenrat: The Jewish Councils in Eastern Europe Under Nazi Occupation
(New York: Macmillan, 1972); Raul Hilberg, “The Judenrat: Conscious or Unconscious Tool?,”
Proceedings of the Third Vad Yashem International Historical Conference, 4—7 April 1977
(Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1979).
11. See Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity (New York: Collier
Books, 1961); Miklos Nyiszli, Auschwitz (New York: Fawcett Books, 1960); and Terrance
Des Pres, The Survivor: Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1980).


find themselves serving as mere backups (or props) to self-policing
(now euphemistically termed “peace-keeping” rather than the more
accurate “marshaling”) efforts of the alleged opposition’s own membership. Both sides of the “contestation” concur that the smooth functioning of state processes must not be physically disturbed, at least
not in any significant way.[59] All of this is within the letter and spirit of
cooptive forms of sophisticated self-preservation appearing as an integral aspect of the later phases of bourgeois democracy.[60] It dovetails well with more shopworn methods such as the electoral process
and has been used by the state as an innovative means of conducting
public opinion polls, which better hide rather than eliminate controversial policies.[61] Even the movement’s own sloganeering tends to
bear this out from time to time, as when Students for a Democratic
Society (SDS) coined the catch-phrase of its alternative to the polling
place: “Vote with your feet, vote in the street.”[62]
Of course, any movement seeking to project a credible self-image as
something other than just one more variation of accommodation to
state power must ultimately establish its “militant” oppositional credentials through the media in a manner more compelling than rhetorical speechifying and the holding of impolite placards (“Fuck the War”
was always a good one) at rallies.[63] Here, the time-honored pacifist
notion of “civil disobedience” is given a new twist by the adherents
of nonviolence in America. Rather than pursuing Gandhi’s (or, to a
much lesser extent, King’s) method of using passive bodies to literally
clog the functioning of the state apparatus — regardless of the cost
to those doing the clogging — the American nonviolent movement has
increasingly opted for “symbolic actions.”[64]
The centerpiece of such activity usually involves an arrest, either of a
token figurehead of the movement (or a small, selected group of them)
or a mass arrest of some sort. In the latter event, “arrest training” is
generally provided - and lately has become “required” by movement
organizers - by the same marshals who will later ensure that crowd
control police units will be left with little or nothing to do. This is to en/19\

sure that “no one gets hurt” in the process of being arrested, and that
the police are not inconvenienced by disorganized arrest procedures.

we must first break with it in overcoming its root causes. Therein, however, lies our only hope.

The event which activates the arrests is typically preplanned, well
publicized in advance, and, more often than not, literally coordinated
with the police — often including estimates by organizers concerning
how many arrestees will likely be involved. Generally speaking, such
“extreme statements” will be scheduled to coincide with larger-scale
peaceful demonstrations so that a considerable audience of “committed” bystanders (and, hopefully, NBC/CBS/ABC/CNN) will be on
hand to applaud the bravery and sacrifice of those arrested; most
of the bystanders will, of course, have considered reasons why they
themselves are unprepared to “go so far” as to be arrested.[66] The
specific sort of action designed to precipitate the arrests themselves
usually involves one of the following: (a) sitting down in a restricted
area and refusing to leave when ordered; (b) stepping across an imaginary line drawn on the ground by a police representative; (c) refusing
to disperse at the appointed time; or (d) chaining or padlocking the
doors to a public building. When things really get heavy, those seeking to be arrested may pour blood (real or ersatz) on something of
“symbolic value.”[67]
As a rule, those arrested are cooperative in the extreme, meekly allowing police to lead them to waiting vans or buses for transportation
to whatever station house or temporary facility has been designated
as the processing point. In especially “militant” actions, arrestees go
limp, undoubtedly severely taxing the states repressive resources by
forcing the police to carry them bodily to the vans or buses (monitored
all the while by volunteer attorneys who are there to ensure that such
“police brutality” as pushing, shoving, or dropping an arrestee does
not occur). In either event, the arrestees sit quietly in their assigned
vehicles - or sing “We Shall Overcome” and other favorites — as they
are driven away for booking. The typical charges levied will be trespassing, creating a public disturbance, or being a public nuisance. In


In the contradiction lies the hope. - Bertholt Brecht
This essay is far from definitive. Its composition and emphasis have
been dictated largely by the nature of the dialogue and debate prevailing within the circle of the American opposition today. The main weight
of its exposition has gone to critique pacifist thinking and practice; its
thrust has been more to debunk the principles of hegemonic nonviolence rather than to posit fully articulated alternatives. In the main,
this has been brought about by the degree of resistance customarily
thrown up, a priori, to any challenge extended to the assumption of
ontological goodness pacifism accords itself. The examples it raises
are intended to at least give pause to those whose answers have been
far too pat and whose “purity of purpose” has gone unquestioned for
far too long.
A consequence of this has been that the conceptualization of other
options, both within this essay and in the society beyond, have suffered. As concerns society, this is an obviously unacceptable situation.
As to the essay, it may be asserted that it is to the good. The author
is neither vain nor arrogant enough to hold that his single foray could
be sufficient to offset the magnitude of problematic issues raised. Instead, it is to be hoped that the emphasis of “Pacifism as Pathology”
will cause sufficient anger and controversy that others - many others
- will endeavor to seriously address the matters at hand. Within such
open and volatile forums, matters of therapeutic and praxical concerns
can hopefully advance.
In concluding, I would at last like to state the essential premise of this
essay clearly: the desire for a nonviolent and cooperative world is the
healthiest of all psychological manifestations. This is the overarching
principle of liberation and revolution.[172] Undoubtedly, it seems the
highest order of contradiction that, in order to achieve nonviolence,

the heavy instances, the charge may be escalated to malicious mischief or even destruction of public property. Either way, other than in
exceptional circumstances, everyone will be assigned an arraignment
date and released on personal recognizance or a small cash bond,
home in time for dinner (and to review their exploits on the six o’clock
In the unlikely event that charges are not dismissed prior to arraignment (the state having responded to symbolic actions by engaging
largely in symbolic selective prosecutions), the arrestee will appear on
the appointed date in a room resembling a traffic court where s/he will
be allowed to plead guilty, pay a minimal fine, and go home. Repeat
offenders may be “sentenced” to pay a somewhat larger fine (which,
of course, goes into state accounts underwriting the very policies the
arrestees ostensibly oppose) or even to perform a specific number
of “public service hours” (promoting police/community relations, for
example).[69] It is almost unheard of for arrestees to be sentenced to
jail time for the simple reason that most jails are already overflowing
with less principled individuals, most of them rather unpacifist in nature, and many of whom have caused the state a considerably greater
degree of displeasure than the nonviolent movement, which claims to
seek its radical alteration.[70]
For those arrestees who opt to plead not-guilty to the charges they
themselves literally arranged to incur, a trial date will be set. They will
thereby accrue another symbolic advantage by exercising their right to
explain why they did whatever they did before a judge and jury. They
may then loftily contend that it is the state, rather than themselves,
that is really criminal. Their rights satisfied, they will then generally be
sentenced to exactly the same penalty which would have been levied
had they pleaded guilty at their arraignment (plus court costs), and go
home. A few will be sentenced to a day or two in jail as an incentive
not to waste court time with such pettiness in the future. A few less
will refuse to pay whatever fine is imposed, and receive as much as
thirty days in jail (usually on work release) as an alternative; a number

of these have opted to pen “prison letters” during the period of their
brief confinement, underscoring the sense of symbolic (rather than
literal) self-sacrifice which is sought. The trivial nature of this level of
activity does not come fully into focus until it is juxtaposed to the sorts
of state activity which the nonviolent movement claims to be “working
on.” A brief sampling of prominent issues addressed by the American
opposition since 1965 will suffice for purposes of illustration: the U.S.
escalation of the ground war in Southeast Asia to a level where more
than a million lives were lost, the saturation bombing of Vietnam (another one to two million killed), the expansion of the Vietnam war into
all of Indochina (costing perhaps another two to three million lives
when the intentional destruction of Cambodia’s farmland and resultant
mass starvation are considered), U.S. sponsorship of the Pinochet
coup in Chile (at least another 10,000 dead), U.S. underwriting of the
Salvadoran oligarchy (50,000 lives at a minimum), U.S. support of the
Guatemalan junta (perhaps 200,000 killed since 1954), and efforts to
destabilize the Sandinista government in Nicaragua (at least 20,000
dead).[72] A far broader sample of comparably lethal activities has
gone unopposed altogether.[73]

nying the practice of mainstream dissident politics in contemporary
America. At another level - if widely adopted - the model will be of assistance in allowing the construction of a true liberatory praxis, a real
“strategy to win,” for the first time within advanced industrial society.
This potentiality, for those who would claim the mantle of being revolutionary, can only be seen as a positive step.

While the human costs of continuing American business as usual
have registered well into the seven-digit range (and possibly higher),
the nonviolent “opposition” in the United States has not only restricted
its tactics almost exclusively to the symbolic arena denoted above,
but has actively endeavored to prevent others from going further. The
methods employed to this end have generally been restricted to the
deliberate stigmatizing, isolation, and minimization of other potentials
- as a means of neutralizing, or at least containing them — although at
times it seems to have crossed over into collaboration with state efforts to bring about their outright liquidation.[74]
The usual approach has been a consistent a priori dismissal of any
one person or group attempting to move beyond the level of symbolic
action as “abandoning the original spirit [of North American oppositional politics] and taking the counterproductive path of small-scale


The role of the therapist during this phase is unlikely to be that of
trainer (although it is possible, given that he/she should have already
undergone such training). Rather, it is likely to be that of suggesting the appropriate trainers and literature, and serving as discussion/
group facilitator for participants.
Reevaluation. In this final phase of therapy, remaining participants will
be led into articulation of their overall perspective on the nature and
process of revolutionary social transformation (i.e., their understanding of liberatory praxis), including their individual perceptions of their
own specific roles within this process. The role of the therapist is to
draw each participant out into a full and noncontradictory elaboration,
as well as to facilitate the emergence of a potential for future, ongoing
reevaluation and development of revolutionary consciousness.
The internal composition of each phase of this therapeutic approach
in resolving the problem of hegemonic (pathological) pacifism is open
to almost infinite variation on the part of the therapists and participants
involved in each instance of application. Even the ordering of phases
may be beneficially altered; for example, what has been termed “reality therapy” may have independently preceded and triggered the perceived need for values clarification on the part of some (or many) participants. Or, independently undertaken evaluations may lead some
participants to enter values clarification and then proceed to reality
therapy. The key for therapists is to retain a sense of flexibility of approach when applying the model, picking up participants at their own
points of entry and adapting the model accordingly, rather than attempting some more-or-less rigid progression.

violence now and organizing for serious armed struggle later.”[75] This
is persistently coupled with attempts to diminish the importance of actions aimed at concrete rather than symbolic effects, epitomized in the
question framed by Sam Brown, a primary organizer of the November
1969 Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam (when perhaps 5,000
broke free of a carefully orchestrated schedule of passive activities):
“What’s more important, that a bunch of scruffy people charged the
Justice Department, or that [500,000 people] were in the same place
at one time to sing?”[76]
Not only was such “violence” as destroying property and scuffling with
police proscribed in the view of the Moratorium organizers, but also
any tendency to utilize the incredible mass of assembled humanity
in any way which might tangibly interfere with the smooth physical
functioning of the governing apparatus in the nation’s capital (e.g.,
nonviolent civil disobedience on the order of, say, systematic traffic
blockages and huge sit-ins).[77]
Unsurprisingly, this same mentality manifested itself even more clearly
a year and a half later with the open boycott by pacifism’s “responsible
leadership” (and most of their committed followers) of the Indochina
Peace Campaign’s planned “May Day Demonstration” in Washington.
Despite the fact that in some ways the war had escalated (e.g., increasingly heavy bombing) since the largest symbolic protest in American history — the Moratorium fielded approximately one million passive
demonstrators, nationwide - it was still held that May Day organizer
Rennie Davis’ intent to “show the government that it will no longer
be able to control its own society unless it ends the war NOW!” was
“going too far.” It was opined that although the May Day plan did not
itself call for violent acts, its disruption of business as usual was likely
to “provoke a violent response from officials.”[78]

In sum, it is suggested that the appropriate application of the broad
therapeutic model described in this section can have the effect of
radically diminishing much of the delusion, the aroma of racism and
the sense of privilege which mark the covert self-defeatism accompa-

Even more predictably, advocates of nonviolence felt compelled to
counter such emergent trends as the SDS Revolutionary Youth Movement, Youth Against War and Fascism, and Weatherman.[79] Calling



for nonattendance at the demonstrations of “irresponsible” organizations attempting to build a “fighting movement among white radicals,”
and wittily coining derogatory phrases to describe them, the oppositional mainstream did its utmost to thwart possible positive developments coming from such unpacifist quarters. In the end, the stigmatized organizations themselves institutionalized this imposed isolation,
their frustration with attempting to break the inertia of symbolic opposition to the status quo converted into a “politics of despair” relying
solely on violent actions undertaken by a network of tiny underground
cells.[80] The real anathema to the nonviolent mass, however, turned
out not to be white splinter groups such as Weatherman. Rather, it
came from a militant black nationalism embodied in the Black Panther
Party for Self-Defense. After nearly a decade of proclaiming its “absolute solidarity” with the liberatory efforts of American blacks, pacifism
found itself confronted during the late ‘60s with the appearance of a
cohesive organization that consciously linked the oppression of the
black community to the exploitation of people the world over, and programmatically asserted the same right to armed self-defense acknowledged as the due of liberation movements abroad.[81]

be skilled in their use. For example, a “fear of guns” is intrinsic to the
pacifist left, as is sheer irrational terror at the very idea of directly confronting such mythologized characters as members of SWAT teams,
Special Forces (“Green Berets”), Rangers, and members of right-wing
vigilante organizations. The outcomes of such mystification tend to
congeal into feelings of helplessness and inadequacy, rationalization,
and avoidance. Sublimated, these feelings reemerge in the form of
compensatory rhetoric, attempting to convert low self-confidence into
a signification of transcendent virtue (i.e., “make the world go away”).

As the 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.[82]
To cover this default on true pacifist principles - which call upon adherents not to run for safety but, in the manner of Witness for Peace,
to interpose their bodies as a means of alleviating violence - it became
fashionable to observe that the Panthers were “as bad as the cops” in

Here, “hands-on” training and experience is of the essence. The basic technologies at issue — rifles, assault rifles, handguns, shotguns,
explosives, and the like, as well as the rudiments of their proper application and deployment — must be explored. This practical training
sequence should be augmented and enhanced by selected readings,
and continual individual and group discussions of the meaning(s) of
this new range of skills acquisition.[171] It should be noted clearly that
this phase of therapy is not designed or intended to create “commandos” or to form guerrilla units. Rather, it will serve only to acquaint each
participant with the fact that s/he has the same general information/
skills base as those who deter him/her through physical intimidation
or repression and is at least potentially capable of the same degree of
proficiency in these formerly esoteric areas as their most “elite” opponents. At this point, nonviolence can become a philosophical choice
or tactical expedient rather than a necessity born of psychological de-



Hence, while few participants will at this juncture be prepared to honestly deny that armed struggle is and must be an integral aspect of the
revolutionary interest which they profess to share, a number will still
contend that they are “philosophically” unable to directly participate
in it. Clarification is obtainable in this connection by bringing out the
obvious: knowing how, at some practical level, to engage in armed
struggle and then choosing not to is a much different proposition than
refraining from such engagement due to ignorance of the means and
methods involved.

tives” to armed struggle), there must come a period of independent
and guided reflection upon their observations and experiences “in the
real world.” This can be done on a purely individual basis, but generally speaking, a group setting is best for the guided portion of evaluation. A certain recapitulation/reformulation of the outcomes of the
values clarification phase is in order, as is considerable philosophical/
situational discussion and analysis coupled to readings; role-play has
proven quite effective in many instances.
The point of this portion of the therapeutic process is to achieve a
preliminary reconciliation of personal, subjective values with concrete
realities. A tangible outcome is obtainable in each participant’s formal
articulation of precisely how he/she sees his/her values coinciding
with the demonstrable physical requirements of revolutionary social
action. Again, it should be anticipated that during evaluation a segment of participants will arrive at the autonomous decision that their
aspirations/ commitments are to something other than revolutionary
social transformation.
The role of the therapist during this phase is to serve as a consultant
to participant self-evaluation, recommend readings as appropriate to
participant concerns/confusions, facilitate role-play and other group
dynamics, and assist participants in keeping their reconciliations free
of contradictions in logic.
Demystification. It has been my experience that, by this point in the
therapeutic process, there are few (if any) remaining participants
seeking to extend the principles of pacifist absolutism. And among remaining participants — especially among those who began with such
absolutist notions - there often remains a profound lack of practical
insight into the technologies and techniques common to both physical
repression and physical resistance.

that they had resorted to arms (a view which should give pause when
one recalls the twelfth Sonderkommando); they had “brought this on
themselves” when they “provoked violence” by refusing the state an
uncontested right to maintain the lethal business as usual it had visited upon black America since the inception of the Republic.[83]
In deciphering the meaning of this pattern of response to groups such
as the Panthers, Weatherman, and others who have attempted to go
beyond a more symbolic protest of, say, genocide, it is important to
look behind the clichés customarily used to explain the American pacifist posture (however revealing these may be in themselves). More to
the point than concerns that the groups such as the Panthers “bring
this [violent repression] on themselves” is the sentiment voiced by
Irv Kurki, a prominent Illinois anti-draft organizer during the winter of
“This idea of armed struggle or armed self-defense or whatever you
want to call it... practiced by the Black Panther Party, the Weathermen
and a few other groups is a very bad scene, a really dangerous thing
for all of us. This isn’t Algeria or Vietnam, it’s the United States... these
tactics are not only counterproductive in that they alienate people who
are otherwise very sympathetic to us... and lead to the sort of thing
which just happened in Chicago... but they run the very real risk of
bringing the same sort of violent repression down on all of us (emphasis added).”[84]

A typical psychological manifestation of such ignorance is the mystification of both the tools at issue and those individuals known to

Precisely. The preoccupation with avoiding actions which might “provoke violence” is thus not based on a sincere belief that violence will,
or even can, truly be avoided. Pacifists, no less than their unpacifist
counterparts, are quite aware that violence already exists as an integral component in the execution of state policies and requires no
provocation; this is a formative basis of their doctrine. What is at issue
then cannot be a valid attempt to stave off or even minimize violence
per se. Instead, it can only be a conscious effort not to refocus state
violence in such a way that it would directly impact American pacifists



themselves. This is true even when it can be shown that the tactics
which could trigger such a refocusing might in themselves alleviate
a real measure of the much more massive state-inflicted violence occurring elsewhere; better that another 100,000 Indochinese peasants
perish under a hail of cluster bombs and napalm than America’s principled progressives suffer real physical pain while rendering their government’s actions impracticable.[85]
Such conscientious avoidance of personal sacrifice (i.e., dodging the
experience of being on the receiving end of violence, not the inflicting of it) has nothing to do with the lofty ideals and integrity by which
American pacifists claim to inform their practice. But it does explain
the real nature of such curious phenomena as movement marshals,
steadfast refusals to attempt to bring the seat of government to a
standstill even when a million people are on hand to accomplish the
task, and the consistently convoluted victim-blaming engaged in with
regard to domestic groups such as the Black Panther Party.[86] Massive and unremitting violence in the colonies is appalling to right-thinking people but ultimately acceptable when compared with the unthinkable alternative that any degree of real violence might be redirected
against “mother country radicals.”[87]
Viewed in this light, a great many things make sense. For instance,
the persistent use of the term “responsible leadership” in describing
the normative nonviolent sector of North American dissent - always
somewhat mysterious when applied to supposed radicals (or German
Jews) — is clarified as signifying nothing substantially different from
the accommodation of the status quo it implies in more conventional
settings.[88] The “rules of the game” have long been established and
tacitly agreed to by both sides of the ostensible “oppositional equation”: demonstrations of “resistance” to state policies will be allowed
so long as they do nothing to materially interfere with the implementation of those policies.[89]

pacifist or otherwise. Avoiding direct encounters with these circumstances as well as knowledge of them is to avoid revolutionary reality
in favor of the comfort zone.
This experience should be followed by a similar sort of exposure to
conditions among the oppressed within one or more of the many Third
World nations undergoing revolutionary struggle. When at all possible, a part of this process should include linking up directly with one
or more of the revolutionary groups operating in that country, a matter
which is likely to take time and be dangerous (as will, say, living in an
Indian village in Guatemala or Peru). But, again, this is precisely the
point; the participant will obtain a clear knowledge of the realities of
state repression and armed resistance which cannot be gained in any
way other than through direct exposure.
Finally, either during or after the above processes, each participant
should engage in some direct and consciously risk-inducing confrontation with state power. This can be done in a myriad of ways, either
individually or in a group, but cannot include prior arrangements with
police in order to minimize their involvement. Nor can it include obedience to police department demands for “order” once the action begins; participants must adopt a posture of absolute noncooperation
with the state while remaining true to their own declared values (e.g.,
for pacifists, refraining from violent acts themselves).
The role of the therapist - who should already have such grounding
in revolutionary reality him/herself - during this phase of therapy is to
facilitate the discussion of the process in both individual and group
settings. The therapist must be conversant with the realities being
experienced by participants to be able to assist them in establishing
and apprehending a proper context in each instance.

The responsibility of the oppositional leadership in such a trade-off

Evaluation. For those who complete phase two (and a substantial degree of attrition must be anticipated in association with reality therapy,
especially among those who began by espousing nonviolent “alterna-



tion leading to some outcome other than the total transformation of
the state/liberation of the most objectively oppressed social sectors.
It would be possible at this point to posit a procedure for attempting
the alteration of nonrevolutionary values. However, the purpose of a
radical (as opposed to bourgeois) therapy is not to induce accommodation to principles and values other than their own. In the sense that
the term is used here, “values clarification” is merely an expedient to
calling things by their right names and to strip away superficial/rhetorical layers of delusion.
Reality Therapy. Those - including self-defined pacifists - who in the
initial phase of the process have coherently articulated their self-concept as being revolutionary will be led into a concrete integration with
the physical reality of the objective bases for revolution, as well as
application(s) of the revolutionary response to these conditions. This
phase is quite multifaceted and contains a broad range of optional
In short, this second phase of the therapeutic process will include
direct and extended exposure to the conditions of life among at least
one (and preferably more) of the most objectively oppressed communities in North America, for example, inner-city black ghettos, Mexican
and Puerto Rican barrios, American Indian reservations or urban enclaves, southern rural black communities, and so on. It is expected that
participants will not merely “visit,” but remain in these communities for
extended periods, eating the food, living in comparable facilities and
getting by on the average annual income. Arguments that such an undertaking is unreasonable because it would be dangerous and participants would be unwanted in such communities are not credible; these
are the most fundamental reasons for going - the reality of existing in
perpetual physical jeopardy (and/or of being physically abused in an
extreme fashion) precisely because of being unwanted (especially on
racial grounds), while living in the most squalid of conditions, is precisely what must be understood by self-proclaimed revolutionaries,

is to ensure that state processes are not threatened by substantial
physical disruption; the reciprocal responsibility of the government is
to guarantee the general safety of those who play according to the
rules.[90] This comfortable scenario is enhanced by the mutual understanding that certain levels of “appropriate” (symbolic) protest of
given policies will result in the “oppositional victory” of their modification (i.e., really a “tuning” of policy by which it may be rendered more
functional and efficient, never an abandonment of fundamental policy
thrusts), while efforts to move beyond this metaphorical medium of
dissent will be squelched “by any means necessary” and by all parties concerned.[91] Meanwhile, the entire unspoken arrangement is
larded with a layer of stridently abusive rhetoric directed by each side
against the other.
We are left with a husk of opposition, a ritual form capable of affording
a sentimentalistic “I’m OK, you’re OK” satisfaction to its subscribers
at a psychic level but utterly useless in terms of transforming the power relations perpetuating systemic global violence. Such a defect can,
however, be readily sublimated within the aggregate comfort zone produced by the continuation of North American business as usual; those
who remain within the parameters of nondisruptive dissent allowed
by the state, their symbolic duty to the victims of U.S. policy done
(and with the bases of state power wholly unchallenged), can devote
themselves to the prefiguration of the revolutionary future society with
which they proclaim they will replace the present social order (having,
no doubt, persuaded the state to overthrow itself through the moral
force of their arguments).[92] Here, concrete activities such as sexual
experimentation, refinement of musical/artistic tastes, development
of various meat-free diets, getting in touch with one’s “id” through
meditation and ingestion of hallucinogens, alteration of sex-based distribution of household chores, and waging campaigns against such
“bourgeois vices” as smoking tobacco become the signifiers of “correct politics” or even “revolutionary practice.” This is as opposed to the
active and effective confrontation of state power.[93]

Small wonder that North America’s ghetto, barrio, and reservation
populations, along with the bulk of the white working class - people
who are by and large structurally denied access to the comfort zone
(both in material terms and in a corresponding inability to avoid the
imposition of a relatively high degree of systemic violence) — tend
either to stand aside in bemused incomprehension of such politics
or to react with outright hostility. Their apprehension of the need for
revolutionary change and their conception of revolutionary dynamics
are necessarily at radical odds with this notion of “struggle.”[94] The
American nonviolent movement, which has labored so long and so
hard to isolate all divergent oppositional tendencies, is in the end isolating itself, becoming ever more demographically white, middle-class,
and “respectable.” Eventually, unless there is a marked change in its
obstinate insistence that it holds a “moral right” to absolute tactical
monopoly, American pacifism will be left to “feel good about itself”
while the revolution goes on without it.[95]

pists might begin to work through the pacifist problematic in both individual and group settings.[169] It should be noted that the suggested
method of approach is contingent upon the therapist’s own freedom
from contamination with pacifist predilections (it has been my experience that a number of supposed radical therapists are themselves
in acute need of therapy in this area).[170] It should also be noted
that, in the process of elaboration, a number of terms from present
psychological jargon (e.g., “reality therapy”) are simply appropriated
for their use value rather than through any formal adherence to the
precepts which led to their initial currency. Such instances should be
Therapy may be perceived as progressing either through a series of
related and overlapping stages or phases of indeterminate length.
Values Clarification. During this initial portion of the therapeutic process, participants will be led through discussion/consideration of the
bases of need for revolutionary social transformation, both objective
and subjective. Differentiations between objectively observed and
subjectively felt/experienced needs will be examined in depth, with
particular attention paid to contradictions - real or perceived - between
the two. The outcome of this portion of the process is to assist each
participant in arriving at a realistic determination of whether s/he truly
holds values consistent with revolutionary aspirations, or whether s/
he is not more psychically inclined toward some variant of reforming/
modifying the status quo.
The role of the therapist in this setting is to be both extremely conversant with objective factors, and to lead subjective responses of
participants to an honest correlation in each discursive moment of
process. Although this portion of therapy is quite hypothetical/theoretical in nature, it must be anticipated that a significant portion of
participants who began defining themselves as pacifists will ultimately
adopt a clarified set of personal values of a nonrevolutionary type, that
is, acknowledging that they personally wish to pursue a course of ac-





A reversal of perspective is produced vis-à-vis adult consciousness:
the historical becoming which prepared it was not before it, it is only
for it; the time during which it progressed is no longer the time of its
constitution, but a time which it constitutes... such is the reply of critical thought to psychologism, sociologism and historicism. - Maurice
Merleau-Ponty, 1947

Are you listening Nixon? Johnson refused to hear us, and you know
what happened to that ol’ boy... - Benjamin Spock, 1969

The pervasiveness of “pacifism” within the ostensibly oppositional
sectors of American society appear grounded more in a tightly intertwined complex of pathological characteristics than in some well
thought through matrix of consciously held philosophical tenets. To
the extent that this is true, the extrapolation of pacifist ideological
propositions serves to obfuscate rather than clarify matters of praxical
concern, to retard rather than further liberatory revolutionary potentials
within the United States. Such a situation lends itself more readily to
the emergence of a fascist societal construct than to liberatory transformation.[168] Thus, the need to overcome the hegemony of pacifist
thinking is clear.
However, as with any pathologically-based manifestation, hegemonic
pacifism in advanced capitalist contexts proves itself supremely resistant - indeed, virtually impervious — to mere logic and moral suasion.
The standard accoutrements (such as intelligent theoretical dialogue)
of political consciousness raising/movement building have proven relatively useless when confronted within the cynically self-congratulatory obstinacy with which the ideologues of pacifist absolutism defend
their faith. What is therefore required as a means of getting beyond
the smug exercise of knee-jerk pacifist “superiority,” and into the arena
of effective liberatory praxis, is a therapeutic rather than dialogic approach to the phenomenon.

American pacifism seeks to project itself as a revolutionary alternative
to the status quo.[96] Of course, such a movement or perspective
can hardly acknowledge that its track record in forcing substantive
change upon the state has been an approximate zero. A chronicle of
significant success must be offered, even where none exists. Equally,
should such a movement or perspective seek hegemony of its particular vision - again, as American pacifism has been shown to do
since 1965 - a certain mythological complex is required to support its
contentions. Generally speaking, both needs can be accommodated
within a single unified propaganda structure.[97]
For proponents of the hegemony of nonviolent political action within
the American opposition, time-honored fables such as the success
of Gandhi’s methods (in and of themselves) and even the legacy of
Martin Luther King no longer retain the freshness and vitality required
to achieve the necessary result. As this has become increasingly apparent, and as the potential to bring a number of emergently dissident
elements (e.g., “freezers,” anti-nukers, environmentalists, opponents
to saber-rattling in Central America and the Mideast, and so on) into
some sort of centralized mass movement became greater in the mid80s, a freshly packaged pacifist “history” of its role in opposing the
Vietnam war began to be peddled with escalating frequency and insistence.[98] It is instructive to examine several salient claims still extended by pacifist organizers.

What follows, then, is a sketch of a strategy by which radical thera-

The nonviolent mass movement against the war forced Lyndon Johnson from office when he failed to withdraw from Vietnam (picking up
a theme topical to the antiwar movement itself). Actually, as has been
conclusively demonstrated, it was “Hawks” rather than “Doves” who



toppled Johnson.[99] This was due to the perceived ineffectiveness
with which he prosecuted the war, brought about not by pacifist parades in American streets, but by the effectiveness of Vietnamese
armed resistance to the U.S. military. The catalyst was the Vietnamese
Tet Offensive in January 1968 after U.S. Commanding General William Westmoreland announced he had “broken their ability to fight,”
and the general’s resultant request for another 206,000 troops to
augment the more than one half million men already at his disposal.
[100] At this point, the right wing decided that the war was lost and to
begin a process of cutting losses, thereby forcing Johnson out.

[167] The dismantling of the false consciousness inherent in the ideology of “nonviolent revolution” is therefore of primary importance in
attaining an adequate liberatory praxis.

To discern where the balance of power lay and begin to unravel who
did what to whom, one need only look at the fact that the antiwar candidate of the 1968 campaign (Eugene McCarthy?) was never in serious contention as Johnson’s replacement, and that it was the choice
of the right (Richard Nixon) who became the successor.[101]
The self-sacrifice of such nonviolent oppositional tactics as draft resistance seriously impaired the functioning of the U.S. military machine
(picking up another topical theme). Actually, there was not much selfsacrifice or risk involved. Of the estimated one million American males
who committed draft offenses during the Vietnam era, only 25,000
(2.5 percent) were indicted, and a total of 3,250 (0.3 percent) went
to prison. As many as 80,000 went into voluntary exile in Canada
where they noted the penalty of “being lonely.”[102] The other 91.5
percent of these self-sacrificing individuals apparently paid no price at
all, remaining in the comfort zone relative to both the military and the
supposed consequences of evading it.
It may be that draft resistance on this scale somehow affected the
reserve manpower of the military but not its main force units. What
did affect the functioning of the military was the rapid disintegration
of morale among U.S. combat troops after 1968 as a result of the
effectiveness of Vietnamese armed resistance. The degeneration of
effectiveness within the U.S. military, which eventually neutralized it


“If we are to consider ourselves as revolutionaries, we must acknowledge that we have an obligation to succeed in pursuing revolution.
Here, we must acknowledge not only the power of our enemies, but
our own power as well. Realizing the nature of our power, we must not
deny ourselves the exercise of the options available to us; we must
utilize surprise, cunning and flexibility; we must use the strength of
our enemy to undo him, keeping him confused and offbalance. We
must organize with perfect clarity to be utterly unpredictable. When
our enemies expect us to respond to provocation with violence, we
must react calmly and peacefully; just as they anticipate our passivity,
we must throw a grenade.”[l65]
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., elimination of critical state facilities, targeting of key individuals within the governmental/corporate
apparatus, etc.).[166] All of this must be apprehended as a holism, as
an internally consistent liberatory process applicable at this generallyformulated 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.

in the field, included mass refusal to fight (approved, undoubtedly, by
pacifists), spiraling substance abuse (ditto), and, most effectively, the
assassination of commissioned and noncommissioned officers (well,
that’s going too far).[103]
The most effective tactic the nonviolent movement could have engaged in to impair the U.S. military was therefore the one thing it was
most unprepared to consider: making the individual personal sacrifice
of going into the military in a massive way in order to quickly subvert
The nonviolent mass antiwar movement’s solidarity with the Vietnamese undercut the political ability of the U.S. government to continue
and forced the war to an early close (a stated objective of the movement of the late ‘60s). This claim is obviously closely akin to the contention concerning Johnson, although it should be recalled that even
U.S. ground forces remained in Vietnam for another four years after
that “victory.” Actually, there was no mass antiwar movement in the
United States, nonviolent or otherwise, by the time the war ended in
1975. It had begun to dissipate rapidly during the summer of 1970 in
the wake of sustaining its first and only real casualties - a total of four
dead at Kent State University in Ohio that spring.[104] By the time
the last U.S. ground troops were withdrawn in 1973, Nixinger had
suspended the draft, and with the element of their personal jeopardy
thus eliminated, the “principled” opposition fueling the mass movement evaporated altogether while the war did not.

It should by now be self-evident that, while a substantial - even preponderant - measure of nonviolent activity is encompassed within any
revolutionary praxis, there is no place for the profession of “principled
pacifism” to preclude — much less condemn — the utilization of violence as a legitimate and necessary method of achieving liberation.

That the war then continued for another three years with U.S. technological and economic support at the cost of hundreds of thousands
of Vietnamese lives but absent even a symbolic mass American opposition worthy of the name says volumes about the nature of the
nonviolent movement’s “solidarity with the Vietnamese.”[105] And, as
always, it was the armed struggle waged by the Vietnamese themselves - without the pretense of systematic support from the American
pacifists - which finally forced the war to a close.[106]



It is evident even from this brief exposition of fact versus fantasy - and
the analysis could be extended to much greater length with the same
results - that a certain consistency is involved. As with earlier-developed mythologies concerning Gandhi and King (i.e., that their accomplishments were achieved through application of nonviolent principles
alone), the current pacifist propaganda line concerning the Vietnam
war reveals a truly remarkable propensity to lay claim to progress attained only through the most bitter forms of armed struggle undertaken by others (all the while blandly insisting that the “resort to violence”
was/is “inappropriate” to the context of North America).[107]
This already-noted cynical mindwarp holds little appeal to those residing outside the socioeconomic limits of the American comfort zone,
and can hardly be expected to recruit them into adhering to nonviolence. However, this in itself explains much about American pacifism’s
real (perhaps subconscious) agenda and reconciles a range of apparent contradictions in the postures of American pacifist strategists.

logical consciousness (i.e., dogma) rather than the manifestation of a
truly praxical outlook, pacifism dovetails neatly with Ernest Gellner’s
observation that ideological “patterns of legitimacy... are first and foremost sets of collectively held beliefs about validity. The psychological
ground of legitimacy is in fact the recognition of the validity of a given
social norm.”[162] Or, to take the matter further, we might turn to the
conclusion of J. G. Merquoir:
“[A]s far as belief is concerned, ideological legitimacy is chiefly, though
not exclusively, for internal consumption. Its function is really to act as
a catalyst for the mind of the group whose interest it sublimates into
a justificatory set of ideals. Outside the interest bound class circle,
ideology consists primarily of unchallenged, normally tacit, value orientations which, once translated into the language of purpose, amounts
to the ‘manipulation of bias’ in favor of privileged groups. (emphasis in
This perception of pacifism as a self-justifying ideological preemption
of proper praxical consideration, subliminally intended to perpetuate
the privileged status of a given “progressive” elite, is helpful in determining what is necessary to arrive at a true liberatory praxis within
advanced capitalist contexts. The all but unquestioned legitimacy accruing to the principles of pacifist practice must be continuously and
comprehensively subjected to the test of whether they, in themselves,
are capable of delivering the bottom-line transformation of state-dominated social relations which alone constitutes the revolutionary/ liberatory process.[164] Where they are found to be incapable of such
delivery, the principles must be broadened or transcended altogether
as a means of achieving an adequate praxis.
By this, it is not being suggested that nonviolent forms of struggle
are or should be abandoned, nor that armed struggle should be the
normative standard of revolutionary performance, either practically or
conceptually. Rather, it is to follow the line of thinking recently articulated by Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) when he noted:



virtually any revolutionary struggle. The “big battalions” — and balance
of physical power — inevitably rest with the state’s police, paramilitary,
and military apparatus, at least through the initial and intermediate
stages of the liberatory process. Consequently, Third World revolutionary tacticians have compensated by emphasizing tenets two and
three (surprise and flexibility), developing the art of guerrilla warfare
to a very high degree.[158] Within the more industrialized contexts of
Europe and North America, this has assumed forms typically referred
to as “terrorism.”[159] In either event, the method has proven increasingly successful in befuddling more orthodox military thinking throughout the twentieth century, has led to a familiar series of fallen dictators
and dismantled colonial regimes, and has substantially borne out the
thrust of the “dare to struggle, dare to win” axiom.[160]
The hegemony of pacifist activity and thought within the late capitalist
states, on the other hand, not only bows before the balance of power
that rests with the status quo in any head-on contest by force, but also
gives up the second and third tenets. With activities self-restricted to
a relatively narrow band of ritual forms, pacifist tacticians automatically
sacrifice much of their (potential) flexibility in confronting the state;
within this narrow band, actions become entirely predictable rather
than offering the utility of surprise. The bottom-line balance of physical
power thus inevitably rests with the state on an essentially permanent
basis, and the possibility of liberal social transformation is correspondingly diminished to a point of nonexistence. The British Special Air
Force motto is again borne out, this time via a converse formulation:
“Who fails to dare, loses ... perpetually.”
It is evident that whatever the attributes of pacifist doctrine, “revolutionary nonviolence” is a complete misnomer, that pacifism itself offers no coherent praxis for liberatory social transformation. At best, it
might be said to yield certain aspects of a viable liberatory praxis, thus
assuming the status of a sort of “quasi-praxis.” More appropriately,
it should be viewed more at the level of ideology termed by Louis
Althusser as constituting “Generalities I.”[161] As a low level of ideo/48\

We support the just struggles of the NLF in Vietnam... - David Dellinger, 1969
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 U.S. 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. The situation is all the more problematic when one
considers that these leaders, each in his/her own way, also advocate
their followers’ perpetual diversion into activities prefiguring the nature
of a revolutionary society, the basis for which cannot be reasonably
expected to appear through nonviolent tactics alone.[108]
This apparent paradox erodes a line of reasoning that, although it has
probably never been precisely formulated within the North American
nonviolent movement, seems likely to have informed the thinking of
its more astute leadership. Its logical contours can be sketched as
Since at least as early as 1916, the importance of colonial and later
neocolonial exploitation of the nonindustrialized world in maintaining
modern capitalist states has been increasingly well understood by the
revolutionary opposition within those states.[109] Today, it is widely
held that removal of neocolonial sources of material and super profits
would irrevocably undercut the viability of late capitalist states.[110]
Beginning in the late 1940s with the emergence of both decolonization mandates in international law[111] and the proliferation of armed
liberation movements throughout what became known as the “Third

World,” it became obvious to the opposition within developed states
- of which the U.S. had by then assumed hegemonic status — that
precisely such an undercutting removal of profits and raw materials
was occurring.[112]
It required/requires no particularly sophisticated analysis to perceive
that the imposition of colonial/neocolonial forms of exploitation upon
Third World populations entailed/entails a degree of systemic violence
sufficient to ensure the permanence of their revolt until it succeeds.
[113] Similarly, it was/is understandable that Third World revolution
would continue of its own volition whether or not it was accompanied
by overt revolutionary activity within the “mother countries” (advanced
capitalist states).[114]

disease - are not dealing with the real world.”[154]
The “real world” of Third World liberatory praxis thus necessarily incorporates revolutionary violence as an integral element of itself. The
principle is also extended to cover certain situations within the less
industrialized sectors of the “First World,” as is clearly the situation
relative to the Spanish Civil War, Irish resistance to British colonial
rule, resistance to the Greek Junta during the ‘60s and 70s, and - to
a certain extent at least — within the context of revolutionary struggle
in Italy.[155] Hence, only within the most advanced — and privileged
— sectors of industrial society is armed struggle/violence consigned
to the “praxical” realm of “counter-productivity,” as when the pacifist
left queues up to condemn the Black Panther Party, Weatherman, the
Baader-Meinhoff Group, or its offshoot, the Red Army Faction.[156]

These understandings are readily coupled with the knowledge that the
types of warfare evidenced in decolonization struggles were unlikely,
under normal circumstances, to trigger superpower confrontations of
the type which would threaten mother country populations (including
their internal oppositions).[115] Instead, the existence of armed Third
World liberation movements would necessitate a continuing range of
(token) concessions by the advanced industrial states to their own
populations as a means of securing the internal security required for
the permanent prosecution of “brush fire wars.

Aside from the obvious moral hypocrisy implicit in this contradiction,
the question must be posed as to whether it offers any particular revolutionary advantage to those espousing it. Given the availability of selfpreserving physical force in the hands of the state, within advanced
capitalist contexts no less — or even more — than in colonial/neocolonial situations, the question presents itself “at the bottom line” as an
essentially military one.

It follows that it is possible for the resident opposition to the advanced
industrial states to rely upon the armed efforts of those in the colonies to diminish the relative power of the “mutual enemy,” all the while
awaiting the “right moment” to take up arms themselves, “completing
the world revolution” by bringing down the state. The question then
becomes one of when to “seize the time,” and who - precisely - it is
who will be responsible for “picking up the gun” within the mother
country itself.[117]

Within this analytical paradigm, three cardinal tenets and an axiom
must be observed. The tenets are: (1) the Napoleonic credo that “victory goes to the side fielding the biggest battalions” (i.e., those exercising the most muscle tend to win contests of force); (2) that sheer
scale of force can often be offset through utilization of the element of
surprise; and (3) even more than surprise, tactical flexibility (i.e., concentration of force at weak points) can often compensate for lack of
strength or numbers (this is a prime point of ju jitsu). The axiom at issue has been adopted as the motto of the British Special Air Service:
“Who dares, wins.”[157]

From here it is possible to extrapolate that when state power has been
sufficiently weakened by the liberation struggles of those in the col-

The first tenet is, to be sure, a hopeless proposition at the outset of



vacuum of this sort, the analytical default has been filled with the most
convenient and readily accessible set of operant assumptions available, in this case with pacifism, the doctrine of “revolutionary nonviolence.”
Predictably (for reasons already elaborated), the same situation does
not prevail with regard to liberatory struggles in the Third World. In
terms of both historiography and mythology, it is considered axiomatic
that revolution in nonindustrialized areas all but inherently entails resort
to armed struggle and violence.[149] This remains true whether one
is considering the Bolshevik revolution, the Chinese revolution, the
Vietnamese revolution, the Cuban revolution, the Algerian revolution,
decolonization struggles in Africa during the 1950s, the Nicaraguan
revolution, the Zimbabwean revolution, or any other.[150] The same
principle also holds with regard to Third World liberation movements
such as the ANC in South Africa, SWAPO in Namibia, the Tupamaros
in Uruguay, the Prestes Column in Brazil, Shining Path in Peru, and so
on.[151] In each case, the fundamental physical relationship between
armed struggle/ violence and liberatory posture is clear.
As a matter of praxis, this relationship has been clarified (even codified) by theorists as diverse as Frantz Fanon, Che Guevara, Mao Tsetung, and Vo Nguyen Giap, to name but a few.[152] The accuracy of
their articulations is so compelling that even such a devout (and principled) North American pacifist as Blase Bonpane has observed that,
in the Third World, armed struggle is required because “passivity can
coexist nicely with repression, injustice, and fascism.”[153] Bonpane
goes on:
“Unfortunately, we have been brought up on parlor games, where the
participants discuss whether or not they are “for” or “against” violence. Can you picture a similar discussion on whether we are for or
against disease? Violence, class struggle, and disease are all real.
They do not go away through mystification... those who deny the reality of violence and class struggle - like those who deny the reality of

onies (read: nonwhites), the most oppressed sectors of the mother
country population itself (again read nonwhites, often and accurately
described as constituting internal colonies) - which are guided by motivations similar to those in the Third World - will be in a position to
wage successful armed struggles from within.[118] Such dissolution
of the state will mark the ushering in of the postrevolutionary era.
It is possible then to visualize a world revolutionary process in which
the necessity of armed participation (and attendant physical suffering)
by white radicals is marginalized or dispensed with altogether. Their
role in this scenario becomes that of utilizing their already attained
economic and social advantages to prefigure, both intellectually and
more literally, the shape of the good life to be shared by all in the postrevolutionary context; it is presumed that they will become a (perhaps
the) crucial social element, having used the “space” (comfort zone)
achieved through state concessions generated by the armed pressure
exerted by others to the “constructive rather than destructive purpose”
of developing a “superior” model of societal relations.[119]
The function of “responsible” oppositional leadership in the mother
country - as opposed to the “irresponsible” variety that might precipitate some measure of armed resistance from within before the Third
World has bled itself in diminishing state power from without (and who
might even go so far as to suggest whites could directly participate)
- is first and foremost to link the mother country movement’s inaction
symbolically and rhetorically to Third World liberation struggles. The
blatant accommodation to state power involved in this is rationalized
(both to the Third Worlders and to the movement rank-and-file) by professions of personal and principled pacifism, as well as in the need for
“working models” of nonviolent behavior in postrevolutionary society.
From there, the nonviolent American movement (by now overwhelmingly composed of white “progressives”) can be steered into exactly
the same symbolic and rhetorical “solidarity” with an emerging non/35\

white armed revolution within the United States and - voila! - positive social transformation has not only been painlessly achieved (for
whites), but they (being the prefigurative nonviolent “experts” on building postrevolutionary society) have maneuvered themselves into leading roles in the aftermath.[121]
All of this, of course, is predicated on the assumption that the colonized, both within and without, will ultimately prove equal to their part,
and that revolutionary transformation will actually occur. In the event
that the colonizing state ultimately proves the stronger of parties in
such a contest, the nonviolent movement — having restricted its concrete activities to limits sanctioned by that same state - will have a
natural fall-back position, being as it were only a variant of “the loyal
opposition.”[122] The result of the carefully-constructed balance (between professed solidarity with armed Third World insurgents on the
one hand, and tacit accommodation to the very state power against
which they fight on the other) is that North American adherents to nonviolence are intended to win regardless of the outcome; the comfort
zone of “white skin privilege” is to be continued in either event.[123]
Or this is the outcome that fence-sitting is expected to accomplish.
The range of tremendous ethical, moral, and political problems inherent in this attitude are mostly so self-evident as to require no further
explanation or consideration here. Before turning to the purely pathological characteristics associated with such monumental (attempted)
buck-passing, there is one other primarily political potentiality which
bears at least passing discussion. It is a possibility typically omitted or
ignored within discussions of “the praxis of nonviolence” in the United
States, largely because its very existence would tend to render pacifism’s pleasant (to its beneficiaries) prospectus rather less rosy (read:
less appealing to its intended mass of subscribers). Undoubtedly, the
oversight is also bound up in pacifism’s earlier-mentioned arrogance
in presuming it holds some power of superior morality to determine
that the nonviolence of its relations to the state will necessarily be
reciprocated (even to a relative degree) in the state’s relations with

cerned history had a consciously appropriable meaning in the blindly
developing but ultimately self-rationalizing development of its successive social structures.”[146]
In other words, praxis might be accurately defined as action consciously and intentionally guided by theory while simultaneously guiding the evolution of theoretical elaboration. It follows that any liberatory transformation of society is dependent upon the development/
articulation of an adequate praxis by which revolutionary struggle may
be carried out.[147]
There are a vast range of implications to the praxical symbiosis of
theory and practice in prerevolutionary society, most especially within
an advanced capitalist context such as that of the United States. To
a significant extent, these implications are intellectual/analytical in nature, and the great weight of praxical consideration has correspondingly focused itself in this direction. Insofar as such concerns might
rightly be viewed as “strategic,” this emphasis is undoubtedly necessary. This is not to say, however, that such preoccupations should
be allowed to assume an exclusivist dominance over other matters
of legitimate praxical interest. In this regard, the short shrift afforded
the more pragmatic or “tactical” aspects of praxis in contemporary
dissident theory is, to say the least, disturbing.[148] Such uneven development of praxis is extremely problematic in terms of actualizing
revolutionary potential.
A clear example of this tendency may be found in the paucity of recent
literature attempting to explore the appropriate physical relationship
between the repressive/defensive forces of the late capitalist state
on the one hand, and those avowedly pursuing its liberatory transformation on the other. Little intellectual or practical effort has gone
into examining the precise nature of revolutionary (as opposed to ritual) confrontation or the literal requirements of revolutionary struggle
within fully industrialized nations. Consequently, a theoretical - hence,
praxical - vacuum has appeared in this connection. And, as with any

The variegated canvas of the world is before me; I stand over and
against it; by my theoretical attitude to it I overcome its opposition to
me and make its contents my own. I am at home in the world when I
know it, still more so when I have understood it. - G.W.R Hegel
While standard definitions tend to restrict the meaning of the term
“praxis” to being more or less a sophisticated substitute for the words
“action” or “practice,” within the tradition of revolutionary theory it
yields a more precise quality.[141] August von Cieszkowski long ago
observed, “Practical philosophy, or more exactly stated, the Philosophy of Praxis, which could influence life and social relationships, the
development of truth in concrete activity—this is the overriding destiny of philosophy.”[142] For Marx, the essence of praxis lay in the
prospect that the ongoing process of changing circumstances (i.e.,
material conditions) could coincide with a human self-consciousness
which he described as rationally conceived “self-changing” or “revolutionary praxis.”[143] In a dialectical sense, this entailed a process
of qualitative transformation at the level of totality, from practice (relatively unconscious world-making activity) to praxis (less determined,
more conscious world-constituting activity); the distinction between
practice and praxis Marx defined as being between something “initself” and something “for-itself.”[144]
Thus, as Richard Kilminster has noted, for Marx:
“The famous ‘cunning of Reason’ in Hegel’s The Philosophy of
History[145] ‘sets of passions’ of individuals and the collective aspirations of nations ‘to work for itself’ in the process of historical self-realization of what it essentially is, as comprehended and exemplified by
Reason at its later stages. Strong teleological overtones are present
in this conception as they are also in what we might analogously term
Marx’s implicit notion of a cunning of praxis, through which he dis/44\

pacifists.[124] Whatever the basis for generalized silence in this regard, due consideration must be given to the likelihood that the state,
at some point along its anticipated trajectory of strategic losses in the
hinterlands, will experience the need to reconstitute its credibility internally, to bring about the psychic consolidation of its faithful (“morale
building” on the grand scale) by means of a “cleansing of national life”
from within.
Such a transition from liberalistic and cooptive policies to much more
overtly reactionary forms is certainly not without precedent when states
perceive their international power positions eroding, or simply undergoing substantial external threat.[125] Invariably, such circumstances
entail the identification (i.e., manufacture), targeting, and elimination
of some internal entity as the “subversive” element undercutting the
“national will” and purpose. At such times the state needs no, indeed
can tolerate no hint of, domestic opposition; those who are “tainted”
by a history of even the milder forms of “antisocial” behavior can be
assured of being selected as the scapegoats required for this fascist
sort of consensus building.[126]
While the precise form which might be assumed by the scapegoating
involved in a consolidation of North American fascism remains unknown, it is clear that the posture of the mass nonviolent movement
closely approximates that of the Jews in Germany during the 1930s.
The notion that “it can’t happen here” is merely a parallel to the Jewish perception that it wouldn’t happen there; insistence on inhabiting
a comfort zone even while thousands upon thousands of Third World
peasants are cremated beneath canisters of American napalm is only
a manifestation of “the attitude of going on with business as usual,
even in a holocaust.”[127] Ultimately, as Bettelheim observed, it is the
dynamic of attempting to restrict opposition to state terror to symbolic and nonviolent responses which gives the state “the idea that
[its victims can] be gotten to the point where they [will] walk into the
gas chambers on their own.”[128] And, as the Jewish experience has
shown for anyone who cares to look the matter in the face, the very

inertia of pacifist principles prevents any effective conversion to armed
self-defense once adherents are targeted for systematic elimination
by the state.

difficult pathology to treat and a long term barrier to the formation of
revolutionary consciousness/action in the North America. Yet it is a
barrier which must be overcome if revolutionary change is to occur,
and for this reason, we turn to the questions of the nature of the role
of nonviolent political action within a viable American transformative
praxis, as well as preliminary formulation of a therapeutic approach to
the pathology of pacifism.



with delusional characteristics of the pathology.[138]


Pacifism is suicidal. In its core impulse to prostrate itself before the
obvious reality of the violence inherent in state power, pacifism not
only inverts Emiliano Zapata’s famous dictum that “It is better to die
on one’s feet than to live on one’s knees”; it actually posits the proposition that is it best to die on one’s knees and seeks to achieve this
result as a matter of principle. Pacifist Eros is thus transmuted into

I just came home from Vietnam where I spent twelve months of my
life trying to pacify the population. We couldn’t do it; their resistance
was amazing. And it was wrong; the process made me sick. So I
came home to join the resistance in my own country, and I find you
guys have pacified yourselves. That too amazes me; that too makes
me sick... - Vietnam Veteran Against the War, 1970

While it seems certain that at least a portion of pacifism’s propensity
toward suicide is born of the earlier-mentioned delusion that it can
impel nonviolence on the part of the state (and is therefore simply erroneous), there is a likelihood that one of two other factors is at work
in many cases:
1. A sublimated death wish manifesting itself in a rather commonly remarked “gambler’s neurosis” (i.e., “Can I risk everything and win?”).
2. A desublimated death wish manifesting itself in a “political” equivalent of walking out in front of a bus (“Will it hit me or not?”).
In any event, this suicidal pathology may be assumed to follow the
contours of other such impulses, centering on repressed guilt neuroses and associated feelings of personal inadequacy (in all probability
linked to the above-mentioned subliminal racism) and severely complicated by a delusional insistence that the death wish itself constitutes a
“pro-life” impetus. It is interesting to note that the latter claim has been
advanced relative to European Jews during the 1940s.[140]
From even this scanty profile, it is easy enough to discern that pacifism - far from being a praxis adequate to impel revolutionary change
- assumes the configuration of a pathological illness when advanced
as a political methodology. Given its deep-seated, superficially selfserving, and socially approved nature, it is likely to be an exceedingly

A number of logical contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of political reality present themselves within the doctrinal corpus
of American pacifist premises and practices (both as concerns real
pacifism and relative to the modern American “comfort zone” variety).
Matters of this sort are usually remediable, at least to a significant
extent, through processes of philosophical/ political dialogue, factual
correction, and the like.[129] Subscribers to the notion of pacifism,
however, have proven themselves so resistant as to be immune to
conventional critique and suasion, hunkering down instead behind a
wall of “principles,” especially when these can be demonstrated to be
lacking both logically and practically in terms of validity, viability, and
The “blind faith” obstinacy inherent in this position is thus not immediately open to pragmatic, or even empirical, consideration. It might
be more properly categorized within the sphere of theological inquiry
(particularly as regards the fundamentalist and occult religious doctrines) - and, indeed, many variants of pacifist dogma acknowledge
strong links to an array of sects and denominations - were it not that
pacifism asserts itself (generically) not only as a functional aspect of
“the real world,” but as a praxis capable of engendering revolutionary
social transformation.[131] Its basic irrationalities must therefore be
taken, on their face, as seriously intended to supplant reality itself.
Codification of essentially religious symbology and mythology as the

basis for political ideology (or the psuedoideology Weltanschauung) is
not lacking in precedent and has been effectively analyzed elsewhere.
[132] Although a number of interesting aspects present themselves
in the study of any specific fusion of spiritualist impetus with political
articulation/practice, the common factor from one example to the next
is a central belief that objective conditions (i.e., reality) can be altered
by an act of “will” (individual or collective). This is often accompanied
by extremely antisocial characteristics, manifested either consciously
or subconsciously.[133] The political expression of pacifism confronts
us with what may be analogously described as a (mass) pathology.

sonal superiority vis-à-vis those who “fail” to make overt professions
of nonviolence, and sporadic lapses into rather unpacifist modes of
conduct in interpersonal contexts (as opposed to relations with the

As with any pathology, pacifism may be said to exhibit a characteristic
symptomology by which it can be diagnosed. Salient examples of the
complex of factors making up the pathology may be described as follows:

Racism itself has been accurately defined as a pathology.[136] Within
the context of pacifism, the basic strain must be considered as complicated by an extremely convoluted process of victim-blaming under the
guise of “antiracism” (a matter linking back to the above-mentioned
delusional characteristics of the pathology of pacifism).

Pacifism is delusional. This symptom is marked by a range of indicators, for example, insistence that reform or adjustment of given state
policies constitutes a “revolutionary agenda,” insistence that holding
candlelight vigils and walking down the street constitute “acts of solidarity” with those engaged in armed struggle, or - despite facts to the
contrary — that such things as “the nonviolent decolonization of India”
or “the antiwar movement’s forcing the Vietnam war to end” actually

Pacifism is racist. In displacing massive state violence onto people
of color both outside and inside the mother country, rather than absorbing any real measure of it themselves (even when their physical
intervention might undercut the state’s ability to inflict violence on nonwhites), pacifists can only be viewed as being objectively racist.

Finally, both displacement of violence and victim blaming intertwine
in their establishment of a comfort zone for whites who utilize it (perhaps entirely subconsciously) as a basis for “prefiguring” a complex
of future “revolutionary” social relations which could serve to largely
replicate the present privileged social position of whites, vis-à-vis nonwhites, as a cultural/intellectual “elite.”[137]

Finally, it must be pointed out that many supposed “deeply principled”
adherents are systematically deluding themselves that they are really
pacifists at all. This facet of the symptoms is marked by a consistent
avoidance of personal physical risk, an overweaning attitude of per-

The cluster of subparts encompassed by this overall aspect of the
pacifist pathology is usually marked by a pronounced tendency on
the part of those suffering the illness to react emotionally and with
considerable defensiveness to any discussion (in some cases, mere
mention) of the nature of racist behaviors. The behavior is typically
manifested in agitated assertions - usually with no accusatory finger
having been pointed — to the effect that “I have nothing to be ashamed
of” or “I have no reason to feel guilty.” As with any pathology, this is
the proverbial telltale clue indicating s/he is subliminally aware that s/
he has much to be ashamed of and is experiencing considerable guilt
as a result. Such avoidance may, in extreme cases, merge once again



At another level — and again despite clear facts to the contrary - insisting that certain tactics avoid “provoking violence” (when it is already
massive) or that by remaining nonviolent pacifism can “morally compel” the state to respond in kind must be considered as deep-seated
and persistent delusions.[134]