'Non-Violence or Non-Existence?'

'For a Peaceful Insurrection'

Sandeep Banerjee

This has reference to 'Non-violence on Non-existence?' by Robert J Burrowes, (Frontier, Vol 50, No 43, Apr 29-May 05, 2018). 222 years after the fall of Bastille people saw big squares in several cities being taken or occupied by the indignados, many of who were directly or indirectly influenced by the idea originating from a book written in Paris 2010: INDIGNEZ-VOUS by Stephane Hessel. From the #Jan25 Tahrir Square, Cairo, through May-August Spain-Greece, till the so-called demandless #Occupy September-November days, echoes of that indignation were heard. Hessel batted for nonviolence throughout the pamphlet. Under the subheading 'Nonviolence: the way we must learn to follow' he argued, "It is necessary to arrive at negotiations to remove oppression; it is what will allow you to have no more terrorist violence. That's why you should not let too much hate pile up. The message of Mandela and Martin Luther King finds all its pertinence in the world that overcame the confrontation of ideologies [e.g., Nazism] and conquered totalitarianism  [e.g.. Hitler]. It is also a message of hope in the capacity of modern societies to overcome conflicts by a mutual understanding and a vigilant patience. To reach that point is necessarily based on fights, against which violation, whomever is the author, must cause our indignation. There is to be no compromise on these rights". These lines were followed by the subheading: 'For a peaceful insurrection'.

The same spirit was present in the article of R J Burrowes, and the concluding line was "Reverend King posed the fundamental choice of our time: nonviolence or nonexistence. What is your choice?" In this violence ridden world indeed such words are becoming more precious. But the question is at times, do people really have any choice?

'Could once resistance-fighter Hessel's co-fighters choose ways freely in the dark days of Paris under fascist seize?' Hessel wrote, "When I try to understand what caused fascism, what made it so we were overcome by Hitler and the Vichy [French government that collaborated with Hitler], I tell myself that the propertied, with their selfishness, were terrifically afraid of Bolshevik revolution. They were allowed to lead with their fear. But if, today as then, an active minority stands up, it will be enough; we shall be the leavening that makes the bread rise. [Mais si, aujourd'hui comire alors, une minorite active se dresse, cela suffira, nous aurons le levain pour que la pate leve.]" And how did that 'active minority', that 'leavening', actually act? Can one leave the Maquis, the maquisards without any mention, who collected and distributed weapons, fought and even tried to sabotage the fascists? (And was not there a chance, even if a slim chance, of emergence of a red Paris again?) What else could the resistance fighters do? What choices did they have? If people are permitted to raise more questions, we may conjecture, 'can we write off any particular tactic beforehand?' The whole of the anti-fascist fight in Europe, from what one heard about the Arditi del Popelo which was supported by Gramsci, and also from Clara Zetkin's call in Germany 1923, till the final days of Mussolini and Hitler, people saw anti-fascist actions. ("The proletariat must have a well organised apparatus of self-defence. Whenever Fascism uses violence, it must be met with proletarian violence. I do not mean by this individual terrorist acts, but the violence of the organised revolutionary class struggle of the proletariat. Germany has made a beginning by organising factory "hundreds." This struggle can only be successful if there is a proletarian united front. The workers must unite for this struggle regardless of party. The self-defence of the proletariat is one of the greatest incentives for the establishment of the proletarian united front". Fascism, by Clara Zetkin, 1923)

Of course one cannot replicate some part of history.

Humanity will always abhor bloodshed; humanity will despise violence, war, civil war. But Lincoln had no alternative, and many others too did not have; thousands and thousands of freedom fighters of colonised countries had no alternative than to rebel, to take up arms. And many a time a liberation 'war' in some country was de-facto helped by 'non-violent' movement elsewhere (as in the case of the Vietnam liberation war and the anti-war movement in the USA).

Citing some examples of the twentieth century, it may be argued that the results of violence, results of armed revolutions, were ultimately seen to be futile; armed revolution leading to some kind of dictatorship, to fractured societies, heightened inequalities and so on. But then the same argument can be used against the fruits of non-violent struggles, after decades of nonviolent movements what people got in South Africa so far, or, why 50 years after the assassination of rev Martin Luther King and even after 8 years of Obama presidency, the coloured still need 'Black Lives Matter'? Although, such arguments will not be judicious, a century or half is not a very long period with respect to history.

Only last year people crossed 100 years of November Revolution. For young communist activists it would not be a waste of time if one reads Plekhanov's The Bourgeois Revolution—The Political Birth of Capitalism (This essay was originally printed in Die Neue Zeit (a socialist weekly published at Stuttgart, Germany, under the editorship of Karl Kautsky), Volume 9, nos 4 and 5, 1890-91. Originally it bore the title 'Wie die Bourgeoisie ihrer Revolution gedenkt'

Interestingly, one subheading in that article is: Desperate Situation Called For Desperate Measures.

People must respect the courage shown by the great nonviolent fighters; and here is great Pete Seeger who wrote such lines in his late eighties in the song Take it from Dr King'—
"Don't say it can't be done
The battle's just begun
Take it from Dr King
You too can learn to sing
So drop the gun".

Vol. 51, No.5, Aug 5 - 11, 2018