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Libertarian Opinion

Rioting: NOT a Form of Protest or Activism

The thesis of this image is that doing the peaceful thing didn’t garner them the attention they wanted, so doing the violent thing is worth a try, and, lo!, it worked. It got them the attention they wanted/deserved. Mission accomplished!

What a disgusting moral bankruptcy. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Just because someone hurts you or won’t listen to you doesn’t give you any justification to hurt someone else by looting their shop or burning their house and car. You haven’t garnered media attention for the injustice you suffered. You garnered media attention for the injustice you caused.

The cops are out of control in many parts of the world. They are hurting people, ruining lives, committing murder. Many people don’t see this or want to see this. They need to know what is going on. But burning their house down just reinforces their misplaced desire for a strong monopoly police force. You’ve just shot yourself in the foot. You destroyed your own cause.

The above image also reflects not just a pathetic laziness but also a false dichotomy. There are many choices between peaceful protest that goes unnoticed and wild, violent rampage that makes news across the globe. But most of those options require work. And that seems to turn people off. Pamphleting, writing, newspapers, activism, civil disobedience, website production – these are all proven alternatives that don’t require either submission or repetition of the cycle of violence.

Don’t be lazy. Do the right thing. Don’t riot. Agitate for change instead. Be the change you want to see in the world. We are the good guys. Act like it.

By George Donnelly

I'm building a tribe of radical libertarians to voluntarize the world by 2064. Join me.

23 replies on “Rioting: NOT a Form of Protest or Activism”

Interesting language Cory, do you think Mahatma Ghandi was spineless? what about Martin Luther King? or John Lennon? And what about Thich Nhat Hanh?

Just because you choose what is right (peace) does not make a person spineless. The people currently wrecking the livelyhoods, homes and peace in London and other places in the UK are not making any other statement than that of hate and violence which, unfortunatly, will result in more hate and violence.

Fire is not killed by adding fire, change can be made without violence and has been made without violence

There actually is a rational and legit reason for rioting. When the system has treated you like trash, and there’s no other way that authorities will listen to your voice, you have no choice but to go all-out. Sorry, but I just don’t see how the state is supposed to “go away” without *some* use of force (you should read what Peter Gelderloos says on the topic, for example). The notion that people on the top of the hierarchy will just “give up” after the general populace stops “believing in them” is a pipe dream. That has NEVER happened before in history and it never will. Every huge revolutionary transition – including Indian independence – came with some form of violence and/or force. Every single one.

Let’s put it this way: you claim to be against aggression. So philosophically speaking, would you agree with me if I told you that the use of *some* aggression is justified if it prevents an even bigger and worse form of aggression from taking place? (I’m not saying this is a one-size-fits-all kind of concept, but still.) So for example, if you knew that the only possible way to create a voluntary society and defeat the state was to use force, would you?

That’s bullshit. People just need to learn how to organize better. With organization, dedication and continual effort, comes success. It has been done, is being done now and will continue to be done.

Peter Gelderloos is also full of it.

Your preventive aggression concept is no different from the idea of preventive war-making that has the people of Iraq in a terrible bind. You should know better.

I don’t swear off all force. I accept that defensive force can be justified and correct in certain situations and with certain limits. But this is not defensive force, not for the most part as far as I can gauge.

The bottom line is that nonviolence is a more effective means of effecting change than violence. For one, it is the state that uses violence. If libertarians and/or anarchists are to mount a viable opposition, we can hardly be credible if we also advocate using violence to effect change. Just more of the same.

I do not support violence, but neither do I support bad parallels. Fire is, on occasion, actually fought with another fire. A controlled fire used to contain an uncontrolled one, by depriving it of fuel to burn.

Seriously?? there is no rational and legit reason for a riot. I have friends in London who have had their homes burned to the ground, with this all their family pictures, all their memories, taken. Their small bussinesses wrecked and burned and looted some probably won’t recover from this. this is hurting people not the government!

Have you ever heard of Thich Nhat Hanh? He is a zen buddhist monk living in France after having been kicked out of his home country, Vietnam. This one, tiny, softly spoken person has done more for peace than any riot ever will. He uses no violence whatsoever. I would suggest you look him up and see what he has managed to do.

As for the what if scenario, please! its like asking a vegan would you eat a chicken if it magically falls from the sky…..

Thanks Ryan. It is important that, in this highly charged atmosphere, we not resort to extreme positions or polarizing ourselves too much.

Thich Nhat Hanh, I will look him up. Thanks Anarchist mum.

Ryan, I apologize, Enlish is not my first language and that saying is commonly used in my native language.
You cannot stop a flood by adding more water? :)

How about a general strike. Shut down the UK. Block streets. Stop transportation. Issue demands. Make speeches. Hold rallies. Make the nation understand the injustice that occurs on a daily basis. Make them understand why the corporate state must be rolled back.

This requires a lot of organization.

“That’s bullshit. People just need to learn how to organize better. With organization, dedication and continual effort, comes success. It has been done, is being done now and will continue to be done.”

Yeah, and once we’re “organized”, what do we do then? What kinds of actions do you suggest people take? Run around Keene naked? What?

This is why no one takes “anarcho”-capitalists and “voluntaryists” seriously: your views are so far removed from the current reality that it makes people vomit (especially when you present yourselves as all deep and philosophical when nothing you say has any basis in history or reality).

“Peter Gelderloos is also full of it.”

I take it you’ve never read him?

“Your preventive aggression concept is no different from the idea of preventive war-making that has the people of Iraq in a terrible bind. You should know better.”

Last time I checked, resistance to a tyrannical and unjust system isn’t the same thing as committing genocide against people for their natural resources. I take it you failed logic 101 the first time you took it.

“Yeah, and once we’re “organized”, what do we do then?” The same thing Gandhi did, stop obeying government employees…

I am still failing to see how “getting rid of the state” as Julia first stated somehow necessitates burning down the homes and businesses of random people (who may have nary a connection to the state at all), while also looting their possessions, as the events in London are marked by.

How about a general strike. Shut down the UK. Block streets. Hold rallies. Give speeches. Issue a list of demands. Now that will make an impact without setting fires, hurting people and smashing shop windows.

I’m not an an-cap. I am a voluntaryist+ (mutualist).

Ad hominem is neither useful nor welcome.

Nicely said, Brodie and Ian.

“Interesting language Cory, do you think Mahatma Ghandi was spineless? what about Martin Luther King?”

Actually, this is what MLK had to say on the topic of riots:

“…But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It could be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”

But MLK did not participate in any riots as far as we know.

On an anarchist blog, it almost goes without saying that the conditions of corporo-statism are intolerable, but nor does that excuse the rioting.

Let me ask you this question:

How is it possible to achieve a stateless and/or voluntaryist society *without* having to resort to the use of *some* kind of force (and I use the term “force” loosely to denote anything that goes against the religiously-held NAP including non-violent forms of “force” like workers’ strikes or refusing to pay rent to landlords)?

I’m reading “The Russian Revolution in Ukraine” right now. Okay sure, call Makhno a “terrorist” or “murderer” all you want, but the point is he and his comrades succeeded in creating a stateless society for the time it lasted. To them, a NAP was not an option, and I don’t see how it could be in today’s society. The idea that free staters will end the state in NH by taking over the state and privatizing state functions (which is, if I remember correctly, what Rothbard proposed doing) all they’d essentially do is move control of the monopolies from the state reps to these private little groups. Or control of the state would simply go to the hands of the fatcats living in Windham and Bedford, as the rich have every incentive on earth to keep the state so they can secure their wealth and power (if you’ve read Benny Tucker’s writings you’d know as well as I do that the rich don’t become rich due to free markets but due to things like land monopolies and patents and the like, which are all secured by the state).

As such, the only way I could see a stateless society coming into existence is through using *some* kind of forceful action. Non-aggression doesn’t work. Agorism and alternative economies by themselves won’t work. You need to take head-on direct action against the ruling elites as well if you’re going to destroy power and hierarchy, and that’s going to mean using what you call force. Get rid of the state tomorrow through “privatization” and the capitalist fatcats will just bring it back. This has happened before in history and will happen again.

I don’t think that non-payment of rent is a NAP violation. Nor are workers’ strikes IMHO.

I favor a duel power evolutionary approach. Slowly but steadily, we build alternatives both in real life and in people’s minds. It’s a process of empowering people to change their own fate, to become more independent from government.

I don’t rule out all use of defensive violence. I just don’t think it’s practical or useful right now and I suspect little or none will be needed at the end of this evolutionary process.

I actually admire fighters like Makhno, Tuvia Bielski and even some aspects of Che Guevara’s life. There may come a time for that. But right now, the time is for evolutionary duel power. So let’s leverage that to the hilt.

I don’t support privatization and I don’t support most of the goals that FSP members have in mind. I do and will always support and respect courage displayed by people in the face of police oppression, such as what the Free Keene folks do.

I don’t disagree regarding your analysis of the rich. In fact, I think that the illicit riches acquired by certain people needs to be liberated in the transition so that it can not be used to enslave and oppress again. This idea is even in the work of (gasp) Ayn Rand, in the form of Ragnar Danneskjold. So this is not alien to even right libertarians.

Even if you are convinced that violence is the answer, surely you must recognize that using it right now is a failing strategy. The media will not understand, you will be crushed and likely face long jail sentences. What is the point?

Even if your endgame is violence, your nowgame should be evolutionary dual power so that people will understand the violence when it happens and so that the violence will have a power and funding base to predispose it to success.

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