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“STOP THE MACHINE” OR HOW TO DEMORALIZE A MOVEMENT

About the author: John Murphy was the independent candidate for House of Representatives in the 16th Congressional District of Pennsylvania in 2006 and 2008. He is one of the founding members of the Pennsylvanian Ballot Access Coalition , working to change ballot access laws in Pennsylvania.

“The protest planned by “Stop the Machine” will do more to harm the progressive movement than advance it. The organizers have misunderstood the messages of Gandhi and King. They are trying to make resistance harmless and turn it into a circus sideshow. Both violent and nonviolent tactics are necessary to end the corporate ownership of our government.”

“STOP THE MACHINE” OR HOW TO DEMORALIZE A MOVEMENT

John A. Murphy

04.10.2011

Members of the liberal intelligentsia, the liberal elite, are often heard to say things like “violence begets violence” or “if you use violence against exploiters, you become like the exploiter”. Where they got such notions no one seems to know. They probably picked them up on sale at the same place where they got the ideas that the nonviolent antiwar demonstrations of the 60s and 70s had something to do with ending the Vietnam War or that the nonviolent demonstrations of Martin Luther King resulted in the civil rights legislation of the 60s. The same superstore of revised history also sells an interesting yarn about how the nonviolent demonstrations of Mohandas Gandhi brought about Indian independence. In any event the members of the liberal intelligentsia are the people who have “organized” the “Stop the Machine” demonstration and sleepover scheduled for Washington DC in October.

It is difficult to imagine how it could be said that a woman who blows out the brains of a man who is attempting to rape her is begetting more violence. If someone kicks an IDF soldier in the groin and disarms him, preventing him from murdering a Palestinian family, it is hard to imagine how it could be said that this violence has begotten more violence. Violence, of course, can beget many things. Violence, for example can beget slavery and submission as when a master beats a slave. Some slaves will ultimately fight back, in which case nonviolence will indeed beget more violence; but some slaves will submit the rest of their lives. Some will even create a religion or spirituality that attempts to make a virtue of their submission. Some will write and others repeat that their freedom must not come at the expense of others. Some will speak of the need to love their oppressors. As the Wall Street capitalists have shown us, violence can beget material wealth. Violence can beget a cessation of violence when someone fights off or kills an assailant. But to suggest that violence begets violence as a general rule is clearly absurd. [6]

Equally absurd is the notion that “if you use violence against exploiters, you become like they are”. There is nothing in the real world that lends any credence at all to such a notion but that generally does not stop the people who have taken nonviolence and turned it into the religious cult of anti-violence. Their flawed assertion is based on the equally flawed notion that all violence is the same. Again, it would be obscene to suggest that a woman who kills a man attempting to rape her becomes like a rapist. It is obscene to suggest that the Jews who fought back against their exterminators at Auschwitz and Treblinka became like the Nazis. [6]

The leaders of events like “Stop the Machine” also tell us that violence never accomplishes anything. The tens of millions of Africans killed in the slave trade would be surprised to learn that slavery is not the result of widespread violence. The millions of prisoners stuck in gulags here in the United States and elsewhere would be astounded to discover that they can walk away any time they want, that they are not held in place by violence. Working people have not handed over their wealth because they enjoy being impoverished. Women do not submit to rape just for the hell of it but because of the use or threat of violence. One reason why violence is used so often by those in power is because it works. It works very, very well. Violence, however, can work for liberation as well as for subjugation.

EXPOSING THE GANDHI-KING MYTH

The same people who preach the false gospel that “violence begets violence” tell us that the anti-Vietnam war protests of the 1960s and 1970s ended, or helped to end the war on the people of Southeast Asia. A simple trip into history reveals something quite a bit different. Four students were murdered in 1970 at Kent state University by the National Guard. After that incident the antiwar movement was gutted and slowed dramatically. In 1973 president Nixon ended the draft and with the same stroke of the pen ended what little remained of the antiwar movement but the war continued on for another two years. The Vietnam War came to an end because of superior violence used by the North Vietnamese regular Army against the United States Army. The United States was militarily defeated and that is why the Vietnam War ended.

Martin Luther King was a wonderful man who did much to call the nation’s attention to the Jim Crow laws and to have them abolished. His nonviolent demonstrations however had nothing to do with the policy changes, the civil rights legislation, of the 1960s. Those changes came about due to the violence in the streets by young African-Americans primarily the Panthers in the North and the Deacons in the South. But there was no way that the United States Congress would deal with people like Stokely Carmichael or H Rap Brown so they canonized Dr. King has the champion of civil rights. Even his campus supporters, originally called the “Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee” knew that nonviolence would not achieve their ends so they changed their name to the “Student National Coordinating Committee”. Ralph Abernathy was sure to appear in Congress to take advantage of the most recent street violence. In that way, Martin Luther King can be said to have contributed to the civil rights legislation but certainly not his nonviolent demonstrations. [5]

Similarly, in India, the nonviolent demonstrations of Gandhi came at the end of a 100 year period of violent revolution. Even while Gandhi himself was leading nonviolent demonstrations, other revolutionaries were destroying the infrastructure in India. Great Britain was burdened by the cost of two world wars and simply was no longer able to deal with the destruction caused by the violence of the revolutionaries. Just as the United States used Martin Luther King, so also did Great Britain make use of Gandhi. The British press turned Gandhi into a saint but nonviolent demonstrations only caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Hindus and Muslims since he was added to the committee which ultimately determined the nature of Indian independence.

Nonviolence has never brought about any kind of significant policy change in the United States or anywhere else. There are even members of the liberal elite who will claim that it was the nonviolent boycotting of South Africa which ended, apartheid forgetting all about the violence of the ANC and in particular of Nelson Mandela, who was called a terrorist by the British and is now called a hero and patriot.

Given that nonviolent protests, in and of themselves, have never produced major policy changes, why will all of the big names in the liberal elite, from the ridiculous to the sublime, from Medea Benjamin to Bill Moyer, be attending the “Stop the Machine” charade on October 6 in DC? The answer is disturbingly simple. On the one hand most of these people have actually bought into the revised history of nonviolent demonstrations and secondly, with no intended cynicism, these folks simply miss the real feel-good experience they have gotten from previous outings in Washington. The junket planned by “Stop the Machine” promises to be a particularly superlative feel-good experience featuring not only a carnival atmosphere, complete with an exhibition of real live unemployed people, but with all the warmth and sense of false community created by a sleepover motif.

A FORMULA FOR FAILURE:
CREATING THE CULT OF ANTI-VIOLENCE

There is a formula for this type of spectacle. First there will be the usual concert and then the congregation will be assembled in orderly fashion, listening to a cast of speakers calling for an end to this or that while condemning some lethal government action. They will be carrying signs “demanding” the same thing. The singers will be enunciating, lyrically, the worthiness of the demonstrators’ agenda as well as the plight of the various victims they are here to “defend” and – typically – the whole thing is quietly disbanded with exhortations to the assembly to “keep working” on the matter and to please sign a petition and/or write letters to Congress people requesting that they alter their offending actions. [6]

The “Stop the World” jamboree not only promises to follow this formula but has gone to extreme limits to turn this into a fundamentalist religious service in honor of the deity of anti-violence. Yes, they have taken the simple tactic of nonviolence and turned it into the cult of anti-violence! The “Stop the Machine” website is downright frightening; it might have passed for a bit of fiction from George Orwell. Not only are these people suggesting that this demonstration be nonviolent, the attendees are required to take an oath to that effect! [1]

But that is only the beginning! To ensure that no one breaks the anti-violent rules of the “organizers” there will be special marshals carrying “peace cameras” [2] and attendees are encouraged to bring their own cameras with them so that they can snitch on their fellow demonstrators who might break away from the orthodox fundamentalism of this perversion of resistance. Those who dare depart from this orthodoxy are of course branded “agent provocateurs” [2]. Yet that is not the end of the nightmare. There is a request that members of the congregation undergo “nonviolence training” while all have been assured that the entire carnival has been choreographed with the police. This is serious. This stuff is right out of the “How to Build a Cult and Recruit Members” handbook.

MAKING RESISTANCE HARMLESS

The whole atmosphere of “Stop the Machine” is shrouded in a kind of magical thinking which has given rise to propositions such as:
• Thou shalt turn thy “anger at injustice into a positive, non-violent force”.
• Thou shalt “embrace an attitude, as conveyed through [thy] words, symbols and actions, of openness, friendliness, and respect toward all people encountered, including police officers and military personnel”.
• Thou shalt “agree to be obedient to the organizers” of the action or be cast into exterior darkness. [3] Of course there will be:
• No destruction or vandalism of non-sentient objects; • No running or other “threatening” motions; • No insulting or swearing; • No verbal or physical assaults on those who oppose or disagree with us (i.e., police) “even if they assault us.” [3]

Getting arrested is all part of the act – the brass ring, so to speak. The police have told the demonstrators precisely which laws they can break and the folks taking place in this modern day revival meeting have been told that everyone will get a warning prior to being arrested so that everyone knows what to do, on cue. Just as the people who participated in the Keystone pipeline demonstration a few weeks ago were given the opportunity to have their pictures taken with their respective arresting police officers,[4] the same photo ops will be given, free of charge, to the folks in the “Stop the Machine” entourage.

When the nonviolent offenders are taken giddily off to the hoosegow, there will be attorneys there to represent them and make sure they are properly charged; there will be other people to provide food; other people to provide any bail necessary and people who have been designated to provide transportation for those happy campers who have nonviolently chained themselves to the White House and paid the unspeakable price of being arrested for disorderly conduct. This should prove to be a real feel-good experience for the attendees and the vicarious who will watch at home on Democracy Now.

“STOP THE MACHINE” COLLUDES WITH THE CORPORATE OWNED GOVERNMENT

What makes this demonstration so dangerous is not just its mystical believe in the power of nonviolence but that the organizers have even restricted their concrete, nonviolent activities to limits sanctioned by the state (the police). This identifies the protesters as endeavoring to displace resistance with opposition thereby turning the left into nothing more than a variant of “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition”. This attempt at disarming the left, while attempting to pacify resistance, is the goal of the very system which “Stop the Machine” purports to be “resisting” and puts them in direct collusion with that system.

How did such an incredible state of affairs come to be? How is it that a demonstration will take place in Washington which has no measurable, hence achievable goals, no strategy, no direction, no vision, no mission and no discernible leadership? Did somebody deliberately start out by saying, in the fashion of the old Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland movies, “hey kids let’s put on a show”? Did they deliberately start out to put together an event which does literally everything wrong?

Even the very place itself is wrong! One of the statements the group makes is that it plans to “kick off a powerful and sustained nonviolent resistance to the corporate criminals that dominate our government”. If they are out to “resist” the “corporate criminals”, what are they doing in Washington? Why are they not on Wall Street? Washington, the government, is simply the collective hit man for the top 1,500 multinational corporations. If the corporate criminals are to be symbolically resisted by a protest in Washington, one might expect that the demonstration would at least take place on K Street.

A quick look at the qualifications of the organizers gives a clear indication as to how this pre-Halloween party has materialized in such a puerile fashion. Here is a list of qualifications, taken from the resumes of the “Stop the Machine” “organizers”:

• long-time community organizer and peace and justice activist • a full-time peace and justice activist who serves on national boards or committees • She dreams of a world where war is no more, • 30-plus years of activism • organized and participated in protests for health care, peace and economic justice • a longtime antiwar and social justice activist • anti-war advocate since being chased off the campus of Cal State Northridge, California in 1968 • proud member of Healthcare-NOW!
• Full time organizer and activist for 11 years.
• a proud loudmouthed feminist and rabble-rouser • a recovering attorney and full-time, rogue peace and justice activist • a licensed addictions and domestic violence counselor • more than 30 years’ experience of writing, speaking and advocacy across a broad range of issues around peace, justice and democracy[8]

Not one MBA in the group! In fact, if the organizers had been told that they should have an MBA or two on their planning committee, they probably would have objected to such a notion since, after all, MBAs work in the business world! Conflating the business world with the corporate dominance of government is a common mistake made by people employed in public service or who have spent their lives as mushroom covered “activists”! MBAs are trained in strategic planning and, just like everyone else in American society, they run the gamut from devotees of Ayn Rand to a variety of anti-capitalists and Marxists. In any event, with qualifications like the “organizers” boast, it is no wonder why “Stop the Machine” has no goals, no direction, no purpose, no leadership, no vision, no mission and no discernible leadership!

“Do your symbolic duty” the organizers tell the feel-good group of nonviolent revelers, “then you can devote yourself to the prefiguration of the revolutionary future society which you think will replace the present social order, having persuaded the multinational corporations to voluntarily abandon their control of our government through the sheer moral force of your arguments”. The participants in this demonstration, which is barely even the husk of opposition, are every bit as guilty of global violence as are the perpetrators themselves.

PACIFYING RESISTANCE

The purveyors of nonviolence always promise that the harsh realities of state power can be transcended by way of good feelings and purity of purpose rather than by the necessary violence required for self-defense. These anti-violent fundamentalists, with all the force of the medieval alchemists, tell us that the negativity of the modern corporate owned government will atrophy through defection and neglect once there is a sufficiently positive social vision to take its place.

Violence is neither morally good nor bad; it is simply a tactic. It is a most useful tactic when employed for purposes of self-defense and following the same criteria as set down for the conduct of just wars.[7] The multinational corporations which are controlling our government not only want the liberty of the American people but their lives as well. They would see to it that Americans have the lowest paid jobs possible, that that have no healthcare other than that which they can purchase, that they would have no free public education. In short they would foreclose on lives as well as houses. Those who do not see the threat posed by these multinational corporations as mortal and deserving of the most efficient and effective means of opposition must be living in an alternate universe or have deeply imbibed of the anti-violent fundamentalists’ Kool-Aid served up by people like the “Stop the Machine” “organizers” .

The “Stop the Machine” demonstration will have a major demoralizing effect on those in the left who are serious about resisting corporate fascism. It is reasonable that they will see this demonstration as just another symbolic gesture in a long line of failed nonviolent demonstrations stretching back nearly a half-century. False hopes combined with naïve ideas are the parents not only of demoralization and frustration but of resignation. The best possible outcome for this misadventure would be that it receives little or no press and that it is forgotten as quickly as possible so that others might model future resistance efforts on those exhibited by American trade unions in the early 20th century.

THE INEFFECTIVENESS OF NONVIOLENT OPPOSITION

The thought of nonviolent opposition to our corporate owned government is as ludicrous as nonviolent opposition to National Socialism itself. One of the smartest things the Nazis did was make it so that every step of the way it was in the Jews’ rational best interest not to violently resist. Many Jews had the hope – and this hope was cultivated by the Nazis – that if they played along, followed the rules laid down by those in power, that their lives would get no worse, that they would not be murdered.[6] They were even told by their own leaders not to violently resist getting an ID card or they might get killed; don’t violently resist the Nuremberg Laws or they might get killed; don’t violently resist getting into a cattle car or say might get killed; don’t violently resist getting into the showers or they might get killed.

There is something important to remember however, the Jews who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, including those who went on what they thought were suicide missions, had a higher rate of survival than those went nonviolently into the showers. Never forget that. The obligation of those who resist the corporate ownership of our government is not to be personally pure. “The obligation is to affect measurable change.” [6]

There will never be a group of nonviolent demonstrators who will force American corporations to give up their control of government by the sheer force of their moral argument.

Imagine that Ted Bundy is still alive and it is 1976 again. It would be difficult to comprehend that someone would seriously believe that they could sit down with Ted Bundy and talk him out of committing his gruesome murders and unspeakable obscenities. Again, imagine that the suave, urbane, erudite fictional character, Hannibal Lecter, could be real for a little while. Once more it would be difficult to comprehend that someone would seriously believe that they could talk some sense into Dr. Lecter. A few minutes into the conversation the good doctor would have already ordered the fava beans and Chianti and the anti-violence fundamentalist would be on the menu.

WHAT MUST BE DONE

What should a real resistance movement do to end the corporate control of our government which spreads war and misery on a global scale, sacrifices the economic well-being of its own people to that of corporate greed while eroding its citizens’ civil liberties? Would it organize nonviolent demonstrations? Would its members put together strongly worded protest signs? Would they write letters to the editor? Would they sign thousands of petitions to the President and the Congress? Would they vote for the lesser of two war criminals?

The type of action required is what is usually called guerrilla warfare or urban guerrilla warfare. This would entail organizing groups consisting of no more than 12 to 15 people. Appropriate targets would be identified; participants would do what is required and disappear into the night. While this type of political violence is called “terrorism” by the government, it must be understood that one person’s terrorist is another person’s patriot. Nelson Mandela comes to mind immediately. What is definitely not required is an attempt to attack the police or the military or even the CEOs and major stockholders of the top 1,500 corporations. The attack would be on the corporate property and so-called private property of those people.

Corporations make their major policy decisions taking into consideration a cost-benefit analysis performed on those policies. As long as it is cost-effective for corporations to own our government, they will continue to do so. The only way that corporations would relinquish their ownership of government would be when the cost of ownership becomes too high. It is the job of a resistance movement to change the balance of that ratio; to increase the cost by massive destruction of property. Unfortunately, the “Stop the Machine” organizers are more interested in discovering what kind of politics in which they can engage that will both allow them to posture as progressives and allow them to avoid incurring harm to themselves.

How long would Caterpillar continue selling their equipment to Israel so it can be used to destroy Palestinian homes once a resistance movement starts blowing up their machinery or some of their manufacturing plants?

How long would take corporate America to get the message if there were massive violent attacks against the corporate property and so-called personal property of the senior managers and major stockholders of the top 1500 US corporations?

*****
John Murphy was the independent candidate for House of Representatives in the 16th Congressional District of Pennsylvania in 2006 and 2008. He is one of the founding members of the Pennsylvanian Ballot Access Coalition , working to change ballot access laws in Pennsylvania. He can be reached at: johnamurphy.

[1] Stop the Machine! Create a New World!
http://october2011.org/statement
[2] Facebook Statement about Provocateurs http://october2011.org/blogs/margaret-flowers/facebook-statement-about-provocateurs

[3] Non-violence Guidelines and Principles http://october2011.org/pages/non-violence-guidelines-and-principles

[4] Daryl Hannah Arrested At Keystone XL Pipeline Protest http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/30/daryl-hannah-arrested-keystone-protest_n_942072.html

[5] Nonviolence: Its Histories and Myths Professor Michael Neumann, http://tamilnation.co/ideology/neuman_on_non_violence.htm

[6] Pacifism as Pathology
Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America Ward Churchill Introduction by Derrick Jensen AK Press,
2007

[7] Can Terrorism be Justified?
Tomis Kapitan
April 28, 2007
http://www.niu.edu/phil/~kapitan/pdf/CanTerrorismbeJustified.pdf

[8] “Stop the Machine”: About Us
http://october2011.org/about

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3 Comments on ““STOP THE MACHINE” OR HOW TO DEMORALIZE A MOVEMENT”

  1. Lucius Says:

    Well….Certainly a different take on getting it done. Back in the day it was called ‘monkeywrenching’ (see Ed Abbey’s “The Monkeywrench Gang”). It’s also known as corporate sabotage. The only question is, as a strategy for systemic change where has it been successful?

    I would agree that non-violence as a tactic is pointless in the face of guns. That was the immediate, irrefutable lesson of Kent State. However, massive non-violent protest can also galvanize public opinion and that can lead to the election of representatives who actually represent We the People. A long shot, no doubt, but at least it’s an option. Scenes of civil rights demonstrators being attacked by rabid dogs or stories of workers being lynched or killed and churches being firebombed brought home to the American public the need for change and political candidates got the message. When the innocent are killed by the powerful most people are outraged and demand of their government that the circumstances that cause such obscenities be changed.

    I would also agree that violence or the threat of violence can be a very effective tool. Those early workers’ Union organizers had a fight on their hands and they knew it. Facing off against those with power also meant the willingness to suffer the consequences. However, there is a vast difference between the mine or factory owner who lives nearby and a vast anonymous corporation. Threaten a man and he may hire some thugs, threaten a corporation and it will hire an army and write the laws that enable it to prevail.

    And besides, even given Ninja style ‘terrorists’ acts against these top 1500 corporations, in what way would they change? Become humane, moral, disinterested in the bottom line? Or become uber-predators in an increasingly repressive fascist state? You simply cannot threaten the survival of a corporation and not expect serious repercussions. If the system of corporate capitalism is sick, then what medicine can We administer without hurting ourselves? Because there would, of necessity, be considerable ‘collateral damage’. And who is willing to advocate for that possibility?

    What this essay calls for, ultimately, is a kind of economic revolution. And hidden in that word is the idea of evolution. We must force corporations to evolve into responsible citizens by creating the conditions that mimic those of natural selection. We must write the laws and enforce the regulations that create the environment wherein the corporation must adapt or die. We cannot do it solely by violent acts of terrorism. We must also have a government that is beholden to and represents human beings not an inhuman master.

    Reply

  2. Calm Says:

    I’ll refer to the Civil Rights Movement in order to sort of further explain my views on the topic.

    Martin Luther King and The Boys did not get everything they wanted or every demand met. However; after political negotiations, laws were enacted which gave the protesters something.

    I am no dreamer …. the system is the system. It can and will never be changed. It can be “Tinkered” with, but not “Altered”.

    I only need to recall how many human beings have been killed by the U.S. Capitalists around the globe as they set out to destroy any type of “Socialist” competition. I don’t know of any country in the universe which the U.S. Capitalists “Allowed” or “Encouraged” to enjoy a bit of socialism. The countries were mocked, threatened and sanctioned. The Capitalists formented and financed civil unrest. Thus forcing the “Socialist” country to invest in military and a police state and not their people.

    I easily recognize the power which the U.S. Capitalist System wields.

    And obviously; I know that not all the “demands” of the protesters will be met.

    When Roosevelt introduced the New Deal, it was not “Kind To Animal Week”.

    There was violence taking place all over the country. Threats and plots to take over the White House by the Bonus Army is what had Roosevelt “Tinker” with the System abit.

    The protesters never got all their demands met, but were satisfied with the changes or the tinkering.

    I know the the Capitalists can only be pushed so far and that when push comes to shove, the “Powerful” will win.

    I’m only suggesting a little push or a little shove might accomplish some “Tinkering”.

    I don’t know anybody who is demanding or expects to accomplish a “Heaven On Earth”.

    I think that the Occupy Wall Street protesters or demonstrators are asking or expecting just a little bit more of “Purgatory” (Not quite heaven.) and must be prepared to push and shove in order to get it.

    Calm

    Reply

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