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There are at least three completely separate issues being conflated here: non-violence, political conflict, and imperialism.

There appears to be a whole range of people (including possibly some signatories of the letter defending Sharpe) who appear to think conflict is bad, and even worse than conflict is conflict encouraged by a powerful party such as powerful, possibly imperialist, interests in the United States.

That is an extraordinarily naive and restrictionist view of both democracy and how to engage in political affairs among people. An alternative, more democratic conception is that contests over power are as inevitable a part of human being as love and sex, and that conflict is often a result of such contests.  Furthermore, such conflict can be as good as love and sex if conducted through non-violent means instead of through destructive force. Political domination (an extreme term used to illustrate my argument) by non-violent means (i.e., out-organizing political opponents) is therefore not in remotely the same category of human activity as domination through violent means -- killing people.

The Saul Alinsky school of community organizing puts it this way: There are two ways of organizing people to obtain the results of collective action: through violence, or through managing human relationships. If you're not doing it through relationships, then you are ceding the ground to those who will do it through violence.

Gene Sharpe, and Col. Helvey, and even US-government funded political organizers that have nothing to do with Sharpe, and might even include some CIA agents, are therefore doing good simply by engaging power through strictly non-violent means regardless of their political views regarding neo-liberalism or other "imperialist" frames.

Another way of putting this: Truth and justice are variables that are almost entirely independent of power, but only power can determine the outcome of any social conflict among people.  Therefore, truth and justice can only prevail over falsehood and injustice if justice-minded people are willing to engage seriously, and even ruthlessly with regards to managing human relationships, in political conflict with an intent to prevail over opponents. And engaging in such conflict -- becoming more powerful or even "imperialist" or "dominant" with respect to forces of falsehood and injustice -- is both good and a very useful and rewarding way of spending one's life.

by santiago on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 12:35:16 PM EST
santiago:
Political domination (an extreme term used to illustrate my argument) by non-violent means (i.e., out-organizing political opponents) is therefore not in remotely the same category of human activity as domination through violent means -- killing people.

The Saul Alinsky school of community organizing puts it this way: There are two ways of organizing people to obtain the results of collective action: through violence, or through managing human relationships. If you're not doing it through relationships, then you are ceding the ground to those who will do it through violence.

There's also economic dominance, economic force and organizing society through money.

Denying people money is not as destructive as killing them, but only just.

Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 12:39:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Economics is a subset of human, power relationships. That just speaks to the independence of methods and justice. One can use a perfectly good non-violent method for organizing a theft of the poor for the benefit of the rich, and doing it that way is clearly superior to doing it through violence.  It doesn't, however, change the injustice of the outcome or the need for people to combat it.  What Sharpe's (and others such as Alinsky's) writing has shown is that there are serious alternatives to violence for combating injustice, usually more effective alternatives, that can be employed by justice-minded people.
by santiago on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 12:49:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I find myself, to my amazement, in full agreement.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 10:19:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And by "here," I mean this whole discussion, not this diary specifically, which I think mostly gets it.
by santiago on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 12:42:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"And engaging in such conflict -- becoming more powerful or even "imperialist" or "dominant" with respect to forces of falsehood and injustice -- is both good and a very useful and rewarding way of spending one's life."

I completely agree only adding that to me the key is knowing when to quit so as not to repeat the cycle.

by Jace on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 01:44:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
are therefore doing good simply by engaging power through strictly non-violent means regardless of their political views regarding neo-liberalism or other "imperialist" frames.

Well, no.

You cannot so neatly separate economic violence and physical violence. Economic violence is an inherent and inseparable part of neoliberal ideology. Privatising a poor man's drinking water kills him just as dead as a bullet to the head.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:19:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, that's just not true. Privatizing a poor person's drinking water, as bad as that might be, is in no way similar to shooting that person. Privatization may be reversed, for one thing, and it may be transgressed as well -- the poor person can simply refuse to cooperate with the privatization scheme and steal the water, for an extreme example.  Laws don't have to be obeyed in the same way that bullets must be.  And even without contesting the matter, privatization may also be adapted to for survival, at the very least, in ways that bullets cannot be.
by santiago on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:30:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it would be instructive to compare the body count from bullets with the body count from economic deprivation in neoliberal dictatorships like Chile and Indonesia.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:43:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the strict cases if Chile and Indonesia, the body counts would almost certainly have to land on the side of the bullets, especially once you allow for the positive offsetting effects of markets on human well-being in addition to the negative ones.  Better exhibits for your argument would be the famines of Ethiopia and Bengal.
by santiago on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:55:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
especially once you allow for the positive offsetting effects of markets on human well-being in addition to the negative ones.

Ah, no, you don't get to do that, unless you wish to postulate that those positive effects would not have accrued under the alternative development path where social democrats had prevailed over neoliberals. The alternatives are not neoliberalism or autarky, neoliberal propaganda notwithstanding.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 03:40:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, you do have to do that. Markets both help as well as harm people, even the same people, and even if a net result can turn out to be negative over all. As an example, more expensive water has to be weighed against better access to cell phones. Bullets are a bit more restrictive in that respect. The cases where there can be an upside to being shot are pretty limited.
by santiago on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 03:49:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was not arguing that you couldn't count the positive effects of markets under Pinochet in favour of neoliberalism at all. I was simply pointing out that you can not count the positive effects that would also have accrued under Allende. Just as it would be unreasonable to count the negative effects of markets that would have accrued under Allende against Pinochet.

Another way to make the same point is that if the market for a firm's products increases by twenty per cent, and a company's sales go up only fifteen per cent, then the CEO is underperforming by five percentage points, not overperforming by fifteen.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 03:58:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see what you're saying.  Good point.
by santiago on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 05:18:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's this? Intelligent discourse working?

On ET?  

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 05:44:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Print this exchange, chrome plate it and frame it.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 10:22:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good post, Santiago. The consequences of the hesitancy of The WestTM or Egypt*  to engage sufficiently to stop the slaughter in Libya, which could be done mostly by air power and probably in one night strike, is a testament to the importance of being able to publicly frame such arguments with coherence. Other than the oil producers, who may get a windfall for a period, I do not see how this paralysis helps any of the significant actors. Yet I can see that a prolonged period of high oil prices will do great damage to almost everyone else. The only bright spot might be were it to lead to a greater effort and urgency in the push towards renewables and energy self-sufficiency.

* (I do not know if Tunisia could bring this off even with some guidance and assistance, but if they could that should generate serious consideration. They are right next to Gadaffi's stronghold in Tripoli and have serious reason to be concerned with the refugee exodus and the instability currently on offer and also there may be considerable support for such action amongst the Tunisians - ex post facto.)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 04:35:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure it would do good things to Tunisian political culture if the first substantive foreign policy action of the liberation government were to be a foreign military deployment.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 05:58:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think military intervention would be a very bad idea, for all kinds of reasons.

Ironically, very careful and deniable covert aid and diplomatic pressure would likely be more successful.

Not through direct contact with Gaddafi - because he's a nutjob and his actions will always be reliably psychotic - but with tribal leaders (risky...) and the military brass.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 06:21:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Please don't compare that comment with what you've been saying about Gene Sharp's methods.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 06:44:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ironically, very careful and deniable covert aid and diplomatic pressure would likely be more successful.

I completely agree. Material and technical assistance could be provided to a group of individuals from an opposing tribe who have been trained for special operations. This could be a feasible means for destroying or disabling Libyan aircraft, for instance.

This is a delicate time in both Tunisia and Egypt, and the only reason to consider involving them is to minimize the slaughter in Libya and the resultant impact on them of masses of refugees. But, if such actions could be successfully accomplished it could lead to greater regional stability, with three adjacent reforming societies. The danger, of course, is that the militaries in Egypt and Tunisia would have their power consolidated as ruling institutions.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Feb 24th, 2011 at 09:58:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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