Revolution

A PorcFest Debate About Force (Larken Rose, Carla Gericke, Varrin Swearingen, and Josie Wales)

At the beginning Varrin Swearingen discusses the rationale of the Free State Project in “unwelcoming” Christopher Cantwell. The board of the FSP — the Free State Project is a corporation — decided that Cantwell breached a policy on “violence, racial hatred or bigotry.” Specifically, violence. Larken Rose and Josie Wales protested this policy, both individuals having ethical (if not tactical) view similar to those of Cantwell on the use of force. Rose & Josie expressed their concerns that the FSP was excluding discussions on the use of force in the video R.I.P. PorcFest.

Although Cantwell didn’t make it to PorcFest, it seems as if Larken Rose and Josie were able to have their forum on the use of force. A few highlights:

  • (19:30) Josie makes a good point, explaining that the slave on a plantation is legitimate in using force to escape from the plantation. And there are still circumstances today where it would be ethical to use force. Josie uses the example of an innocent man who is arrested. He would be, morally according to Josie, within his rights to use force against the police even if it would not be a smart move tactically.
  • (33:00) Swearingen gets a half-boo from the audience for police apologism, specifically, opposition to state agents as “bigotry.”
  • (35:50) Josie on when it is acceptable to use violence against a politician. “It’s pretty much morally justified to do that to every single politician as well. Almost every single politician is participating in the oppression.” Josie rejects this type of violence from a tactical perspective.
  • (49:50) A good question by an audience member in respect to the police who killed Kelly Thomas. Larken Rose responds.

July 5th: Revolution As Crime, Then And Now

We just missed an American holiday, the Fourth of July, Independence Day. This is a day when Americans memorialize a capital crime: the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Fifty-six (56) men, including two who would become President and ten who would sit in the United States Congress, signed the document. All of these men were — I say this in the legal sense and not as a slur — traitors. It was an act of treason. The state could execute them. The punishments included hanging and dismemberment.

John Trumbull's "Declaration of Independence."

John Trumbull’s “Declaration of Independence.”

This story might give some Americans a patriot erection. It is the story of valiant men who stood up in the face of death. They created the American Revolution. They threw off the yoke of the Crown.

It is also a story of crime. It was a crime then and it would be a crime today. If fifty-six Americans signed a New Declaration of Independence today they would be condemned as domestic terrorists. The Joint Terrorism Task Force would be on the case. The patriots would have their phones tapped. Friends and families would be indicted for conspiracy. Paramilitary police would be used to counter militia movements.

Henry David Thoreau saw it:

“All men recognize the right to revolution: that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such is not the case now. But such was the case, they think, in the Revolution of ’75.”

Thoreau wrote this in 1848, but it is even more true today. Many Americans idolize a revolution, but the same Americans simultaneously believe that it would be illegitimate to have a revolution. The conditions are different, they say, just as they said in 1848. No doubt Loyalists also said this in ’76. But if men have a right to revolution then nothing has changed.

It was slavery and the Mexican-American War that made Thoreau believe a new revolution was justified. Compared to slavery and war, Thoreau said, the rationale for the American Revolution — taxation — was minor. Yet not only do Americans pay more taxes today (and with less representation), but they still suffer from slavery and war. Even excluding those how many new issues do Americans face that would justify a revolution? The prisons? The NSA? The War on Drugs?

Curry John Brown Mural

Curry’s “Tragic Prelude” is a mural celebrating John Brown on the wall of the Kansas Statehouse.

Thoreau had met an abolitionist named John Brown. John Brown wanted to free the slaves. He picked up a broadsword and killed five pro-slavery men in Kansas. This became known as the Pottawatomie Massacre. Then Brown raided the federal armory in Harpers Ferry. He was captured and hung. Two years later the American Civil War took place. John Brown had accomplished his goal from the grave.

John Brown would take his place as another contemporary American hero: controversial for a short period after his death, but a hero in the long run. As Emma Goldman said:

“If not for the direct action of a John Brown and his comrades, America would still trade in the flesh of the black man. True, the trade in white flesh is still going on; but that, too, will have to be abolished by direct action.”

How would America treat John Brown if he were alive today? How would America treat those who signed the Declaration of Independence? Most likely the way they were treated at the time. We could expect to see Benjamin Franklin or any one of the other fifty-six signers — not exclusively those who took part in the violence — in a cell next to Ted Kaczynski in ADX Florence, the Colorado supermax prison. Instead of hanging we would have seen John Brown strapped to a table and injected with a lethal mixture of sodium thiopental, pancuronium bromide and potassium chloride.

The methods may have changed, but the way the state responds to revolutionaries has not. Americans would see their Thoreaus, Franklins and Browns under surveillance, in prison or dead. Americans would treat their Thomas Paines as a Snowden or Manning.

This is why Americans need their Thoreaus, Franklins and Browns right now more than ever before. Not the idols, but the men. The criminals. And it must be accepted that all revolutionaries will be deemed criminal by the state they revolt against. Henry Thoreau believed that the rules came from the individual, Benjamin Franklin believed that the rules came from reason and John Brown believed it was God that made the rules. But none of these men respected the rule of law. It was that very willingness to break the law, noted Goldman, that made the revolutionary spirit possible, for “everything illegal necessitates integrity, self-reliance and courage.” All revolution is crime. If Americans are to be revolutionaries they, too, must become criminals.

Ricardo Flores Magón: “The Rifle”

The Springfield M1903 - weapon of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata in the  Mexican Revolution.

The Springfield M1903 – weapon of Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata in the Mexican Revolution.

I serve two factions: The faction that oppresses and the faction that liberates. I do not have preferences. With the same fury, with the same crack, I fire the bullet that snatches life away from the soldier of liberty or the henchman of tyranny.

Workers made me, to kill workers. I am the rifle, the killer of freedom when I serve those on top; the weapon of emancipation when I serve those below.

Without me, there would not be men who say “I am more then you”, and, without me, there would not be slaves who cry “down with tyranny!”

The tyrant calls me “buttress of institutions.” The free man caresses me tenderly and calls me “instrument of redemption.” I am the same thing, and yet nevertheless, I serve to oppress as well as to liberate. I am, at the same time, assassin and vindicator, depending on the hands that wield me.

I can also tell in whose hands I am. Do these hands tremble? There can be no doubt: these are the hands of a military officer. Is it a firm pulse? I say without vacillating: “these are the hands of a liberator.”

I do not need to hear cries to know which faction is using me. It is enough for me to hear the chattering of teeth to know that I am in the hands of oppressors. Evil is cowardly; Good is valorous. When the officer supports my chamber in his bosom to make me vomit out the death nestled in my cartridge, I feel his heart leap with violence. It is because he is conscience of his crime. He does not know who he will kill. He has been ordered: “fire!”, and there goes the shot that will perhaps venture through the heart of his father, his brother, or his child, through someone who has been summoned by the honorable cry “Revolution!”

I will exist on this earth as long as there is a stupid humanity that insists on dividing itself into two classes: the rich and the poor, those who consume and those who suffer.

When the last capitalist disappears and the shadow of authority dissipates, I will disappear in my turn, consecrating my materials to the construction of ploughs and the thousand instruments which men transformed into brothers will wield with enthusiasm.

Hedges on Thomas Paine

This is a pretty great article about some guy named Thomas Paine written by some guy named Chris Hedges.

We will ask whether the conditions for revolt set by Paine have been met with the rise of the corporate state. Should Paine’s call for the overthrow of British tyranny inspire our own call for revolution? And if it should, to echo Vladimir Lenin, what must be done?

Thomas Paine is America’s one great revolutionary theorist. We have produced a slew of admirable anarchists—Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, Dorothy Day and Noam Chomsky—and radical leaders have arisen out of oppressed groups—Sitting Bull, Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Fannie Lou Hamer, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Cornel West and bell hooks—but we don’t have a tradition of revolutionists. This makes Paine unique.

Read the full thing: Thomas Paine, Our Contemporary