Saturday, February 17, 2007

"Revolutionary Nonviolence (RN)." Quotes from Intro

Revolutionary Nonviolence (1971), by Dave (David) Dellinger may be the single greatest work regarding the practical theory of anti-violence/nonviolence/civil disobedience/direct action/waging love.... It was recommended to me by the heroic Kathy Kelly. This book should be read, and read, and read... These are just some highlights:

"This is... a country characterized by humanitarian rhetoric and, at the same time, actual disregard for the dignity of millions of persons who fall into negative categories - blacks, criminals, Communists, welfare recipients, young people, etc. In such a context there is a danger that social protest may function not as a revolutionizing force but as a soporific. Mass marches and reform candidates become opiates of people whose consciences have been disturbed by intrusions of reality. The existence of moderate (ineffective) dissent encourages the illusion that the country's goals are proper and its "shortcomings" are being taken care of within a context of political freedom. What other country in the world would allow a half million people to register their dissent in the nation's capital in the midst of and enervating war? But then, what kind of country is it in which the government can cushion and absorb widespread public protest without altering its policies of death and domination?"

"[I]n the normal course of events, the country will elect more and more black mayors and fund more and more black capitalists while continuing to deny the masses of people, black and white, the joys and dignity of political and economic equality."

"For Americans of goodwill who are not themselves prime victims of the current society, the temptation is to think in terms of restoring or bringing up to date the "normal" functioning of a basically humane and democratic system; they rarely trace the connections between the immediate abuse under attack and the fundamental assumptions and institutions of the society. Some abuses are thought to be carry-overs from the past, such as poverty and the oppression of black people - which is characteristically called the black problem, though it is clearly a problem created by white people an perpetuated by institutions that white people have established. Other problems, like the war in Vietnam, are thought to result from the mistakes or bad politics of individual office-holders, who can be persuaded to respond to reason or, if they do not, can be defeated in the next election. In the days since the United States dropped its atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and launched the Cold War, we have exchanged Truman and Acheson for Eisenhower and Dulled; Eisenhower and Dulles for Kennedy, Johnson, Rostow, and Rusk; Johnson, Rostow, McNamara, and Rusk for Nixon, Agnew, Laird, and Mitchell. Just a rundown of the names is reminder that changes in management have produced no fundamental changes in policy."

"The truth is, as Randolph Bourne wrote early in World War I, that "war is the health of the state." And three quarters of a century earlier, Pierre Joseph Proudhon enunciated the maxim that "property is theft." The failure of most Americans to believe and connect these two truths, [U.S. elite's addiction to war profits, and "property is theft"] and to become revolutionaries rather than reformers, helps explain not only America's repeated participation in imperialist wars, but also the continued existence of poverty and injustice in the richest, most technologically advanced country in the world... The health of the state conflicts with the health of the citizenry, and the prerogatives of property prevent the fulfillment of the people."

"America was promises," says an early poem by Archibald MacLeish. And large numbers of Americans have believed the promises, a fact which has encouraged domestic liberalism and stalled completion of the unfinished American Revolution. We have a genuine history of liberal reforms and elementary civil liberties. But neither the liberalism nor the civil liberties have extended far beyond the educated, white middle and upper classes."

"The Declaration of Independence, the first of the great promises, proclaimed that all men are created equal, but it was an in-group document which was aimed at the overseas rivals and exploiters of the early colonists. [The Declaration of Independence] did not apply to the people whom the colonists themselves wanted to exploit and control - the lower-class whites, the blacks, and the "under-developed" Indians, whose country our forefathers seized for the pursuit of their own happiness."

"If the tyranny of the opposing side and the loftiness of one's own announced goals were sufficient to justify a war, World War I would indeed be one of America's "good" wars. But shortly after the successful prosecution of the holy war [WWI] to end all war and to make the world safe for democracy, Woodrow Wilson, who had articulated much of the idealism, cried out in disillusionment: "Is there any man, woman, or child in this country who does not know - let me repeat, is there any child who does not know that this was an industrial and commercial war?"

"Having beaten back the challenge of their industrial and commercial rivals, the Allies showed little interest in freedom or justice or democracy for the German people, who were, after all, the first victims of the Kaiser and of the German landowners and industrialists."

"I... know of decent Germans who reluctantly supported Hitler. Their rationalization was: "We don't like some of his methods, but there is no one else strong enough to break the Anglo-American stranglehold."

"Perhaps the early Americans believed that "all men (except blacks and Indians) are created equal," but if so they were determined that they should not remain equal. The same year that the colonists produced the Declaration of Independence, the mother country produced Adam Smith's "The Wealth of Nations," the theoretical and moral justification for capitalism. Smith, a conventionally religious man, argued that if every man pursued his own selfish economic interest, the invisible hand of God would see to it that the result would be prosperous and just society... Capitalism exalts not equality, liberty and fraternal solidarity; but private ownership of the natural resources and accumulated productive capital, usury (all interest and other payments on capital are usury, as the Jewish prophets and early Christians well knew), and private profit from the labor of others. [Embracing emerging capitalism] was the Achilles' heel of the great American experiment. [Capitalism] sanctioned selfishness, excused vast inequalities in wealth and power, and denied the legitimacy of economic equality even as a goal."

"Without economic democracy, political democracy didn't amount to much. In the first place, capitalism removes one of the most important areas of a person's life from even the pretense of democratic decision making: the factory or other enterprise where he works."

"The sacrifices of thousands of heroes and martyrs finally established the legitimacy of labor unions, thus giving some workers some bargaining power over their wages and conditions of work, but to this day the unions do not claim the necessary right of the workers to own and manage the enterprises democratically."

"In a money economy, inequalities in wealth automatically create an unequal political competition between rich and poor, much as an inequality in weapons would rule out the possibility of a fair duel."

"In theory, a poor man has an equal chance in political decision-making in this country. In fact, the poor man's legal right to finance an effective campaign, address the public on television, or organize a lobby is of the same general utility as his legal right to buy a yacht, gain control of GM, or own a newspaper."

"When effectively disenfranchised people try to redress the balance by taking to the streets of progressing from electoral politics to active resistance, the government has property laws, trespass laws, permit regulations, anti riot laws, police and national guard procedures to curb them."

"All of America's foreign wars were fought in the name of political democracy but increased the wealth and power of these whose business were exempt from democracy and subject only to the most minor and indirect controls."

"In WWII the country's youth were conscripted on the theory that the preservation of civilization was at stake. Those who refused to offer up their lives to the military were put in jail, [or shot]... But... industry would not offer its cooperation unless guaranteed substantial profits. So industry was not conscripted... The appalling principle should have been clear. In time of war, as in time of peace, this is a society in which profits and property are more sacred than human life itself."

"This is a society in which profits and property are more sacred than human life itself."

"The United States was not interested in the dignity or economic well-being of black people or of any of the residents of America's slums. "

"Given the conflict of interest between the requirements of corporate capitalism and human need, [the United States] was interested only in pushing through enough reform to pacify the poor and to turn them into profit-yielding consumers, producers, and tenants for the power elite."

"The United States had always had two sides to its foreign policy: the promise and the reality. The fact that many Americans believed in the promises and laid down their lives or otherwise labored heroically to make them come true did not mean that thy were ever the dominant reality."

"I am convinced that capitalism is already a disaster [for this country] - not only for the blacks, the poor, the disadvantaged, and the foreign victims, but for the so-called privileged classes as well."

"Those who supposedly benefit from capitalism [the so-called privileged classes] sell their birthright of love, self-respect, and human solidarity for a mess of plastic pottage."

"Those of us who oppose the violence of the status quo and reject the violence of armed revolt and class hatred bear a heavy responsibility to struggle existentially to provide nonviolent alternatives."

"Histories are written by intellectuals, who generally give undue credit to other intellectuals for making history. History is made by people who commit themselves, their lives, and their energies to the struggle."

"The best history is made by people who struggle against war, oppression, and hypocrisy and who struggle to incorporate into their own lives and organizations the values that led them to oppose these evils in the first place."

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