on Violence/Pacifism: A Class on the Philosophy and Politics

“We stand against the cuts, in solidarity with all the poor, elderly, disabled and working people affected. We are against all cuts and the marketisation of education. We are occupying the roof of Tory HQ to show we are against the Tory system of attacking the poor and helping the rich. This is only the beginning.”

Text message from the top of Conservative Party HQ, forwarded around many demonstrators and read out on BBC News

“It’s the terrified exhilaration of a generation that’s finally waking up to its own frantic power…

“They spent their childhoods working hard and doing what they were told with the promise that one day, far in the future, if they wished very hard and followed their star, their dreams might come true. They spent their young lives being polite and articulate whilst the government lied and lied and lied to them again. They are not prepared to be polite and articulate any more. They just want to scream until something changes. Perhaps that’s what it takes to be heard.”

Laurie Penny in the New Statesman

Daily Telegraph The image that will linger from yesterday’s protest is that of “a few hundred vicious hotheads” who “ransacked” the Tory HQ. Such “anarchic” and “infantile” behaviour is entirely “counter-productive” and demonstrates the consequence of “softly, softly approach” forced on police after G20.

Would people be interested in a class discussing the problems, immoralities and justifications of pacifism and violence. The role of civil disobedience in history and whether it is a valid tactic today?

In the light of the 2010 demo in Westminster, which ended with the breaking of windows and the occupation of Conservative HQ at Millbank, is this a violent action? Can you be violent against property. In the light of the Iraq War protests in 2003 (and the Suffragettes, the Civil-Rights Movement), is ‘peaceful protest’ a useful methods of dissent? Do politicians need to be afraid to change, was the stabbing of Stephen Timms a political act? What use is speech when people won’t listen?

A while ago myself and a friend proposed a class on

  • anti riot-police tactics,
  • building occupation tactics,
  • barricade-building classes.

What do we think?

“Some will inevitably try to paint imaginative, militant action as ‘violent’. So let me say this about the ‘violence’ yesterday. I’m not frightened by the media’s hysteria, or browbeaten by the servile centre-left that wants to keep opposition as timid as possible. When people ask why occupy a building, how that helps the cause, the answer is very simple: we want to disrupt the processes of power, and we want them be frightened to do what they’re about to do to us. We want them to be afraid of us. They’re about to dismantle our social safety net, shred higher education for millions of working class people, cut teaching in schools, raise the cost of living for everyone except the rich, throw hundreds of thousands of people on the dole, creating many more redundancies as a byproduct, and cheating a whole generation of the education and employment that they need for a decent life. That’s war, and you can’t do that to people and expect them to be polite about it. More occupations, protests, and strikes, would only be the moderate and sensible response to this government’s social vandalism.”

Richard Seymour at Lenin’s Tomb


http://www.newleftproject.org/index.php/nlpblog/fulltext/establishment_media_closes_ranks_against_student_yobbery/ – a very good run down on the media reactions to the occupation and violence, from a pro view.

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