Notes on Violence

Brother Rick Ayers on the NYT piece on protest, September 3, 2017:
I appreciate this piece – and it includes Berkeley’s own Michael McBride and other African American leaders on the debates about movement building and recent demonstrations. I find myself defending, or deflecting broad criticisms of, the Antifa activists just because so many of the criticisms strike me as wrong.

Here are a few reasons:

1) It is ridiculous to suggest that anyone who resorts to violence is “helping the enemy.” Violence is terrifying, problematic, heart-breaking. But it is not most important to be debating on the level of tactics – unless you are forwarding some kind of winning strategy.
2) But if you want to talk about violence, at least be honest. Too many people today praise the Black Panthers now that Cointelpro has safely defeated them. Just to be clear: they did not only do a breakfast for children program. If you want to condemn the Black Liberation Movement, the Vietnamese independence struggle, the Cubans, the Tupamaros, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, anti-Nazi guerrillas in Europe, John Brown and the (Black) 54th Regiment Massachusetts regiment during the civil war. Go for it. Be consistent. But don’t repeat Chris Hedges’ fantasy view of history, when he declared, “revolutions are always fundamentally nonviolent.”
3) Don’t declare that Antifa gives ammunition to the enemy, allows the Washington Post to equalize the protests and the fascists. No, that is you who are doing the work of the bourgeois press, you are doing the equalizing. I always find it funny to hear the bourgeoisie giving advice to activists as to how to build the movement. My suggestion: they probably aren’t interested in building a movement.
4) The movement will always have a large range of people coming out. You can be annoyed by whoever you want to be annoyed by. Personally I’m especially annoyed by the RCP who always shows up with their loudspeakers and their culty Bob Avakian lock-step. But I don’t write posts saying they ruined our demonstration.
5) You may feel that the fascist-confederate white supremacists are a tiny group who only get attention because of the reaction they provoke. That might have been true 30 years ago. Now they are clearly connected to the head of state, to the Breitbart-Trump-AltRight snake pit that is taking over. So it is no joke.
6) It’s not always about free speech. Sometimes it’s about a fight. I’m sure John Brown’s guerrillas, when they attacked Harper’s Ferry, were not respecting the free speech of the slave-owners they attacked.
7) You may find Antifa to be naïve, hyper-masculine (though many of those arrested in Berkeley were women), or mis-judging the time. I tend to agree with you. But when does the next phase start? I don’t know. Full disclosure: When Weather-SDS did the Days of Rage demonstration in 1969, I thought it was adventuristic and wrong. A year later I had joined.
8) My biggest complaint about all the Antifa-hate out there is that it is coming from a place of incredible privilege. I would ask: what have you done? How is it going on building a tremendous mass movement that is stopping the Trumpistas? You (and I!) are not speaking from a place of great success. Perhaps you are comfortable coming out for a stroll through the streets every few months. I would venture that such an approach is flabby and not nearly enough to confront a growing fascism. I’m struggling to know what to do next but I’m not interested in lecturing the militants to chill out. I keep hearing the words of Stevie Wonder:
• ‘Cause if you really want to hear our views
• You haven’t done nothing

So that’s my two cents worth. Hardly a definitive analysis. Just some thoughts.

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