Resistance, non-violence and civil disobedience

Those of you who’ve been here a while will probably be aware that I have been calling for revolution in the USA ever since Trump appeared.

Quite frequently, people react to this by accusing me of promoting violence. Which is, to be honest, rather frustrating. I have never called for the use of aggressive violence, and I consistently promote methods of non-violent resistance.

However, it is true that I believe that oppressed people have the moral right to defend themselves and pursue justice by any means necessary.

So why do I promote non-violence?

Because it works.

Those figures come from this 2013 presentation:

I strongly recommend watching it. But, if you prefer a quick read, see here:

Note the numbers: 3.5%. It is not an impossible mobilisation of people. You just need to get them organised.

It is important to note that civil disobedience does not mean “polite, non-disruptive protest”. And that non-violence on the part of the protestors does not magically force non-violence on the state response.

If your protest does not upset the authorities, it isn’t a protest; it’s a parade. People need to get in the way, make noise, and disrupt society. They need to actively prevent the continuation of “civil” business as usual. And they need to keep doing it for as long as necessary.

Anyway: this thread seems like a good place to discuss tactics of non-violence, the history of such methods, etc. etc. Or anything else that seems appropriate.


The thing is, sometimes non-violent revolution turns violent, because the enemy gets a vote. Which is what it is, and sometimes there’s a time for revolution both non-violent and violent if it comes to the latter. Sometimes though you come across as so disdainful of non-radical methods that it has a with me or against me vibe. Most here know I voted for Sanders in the primary and against Trump in the general election, but there’s a tendency within the center-left to left to treat anyone less radical as a traitor, even among fellow Bernie supporters.

Sometimes you also seem to be intimating to people that voting is a waste of time and effort. I don’t know if that’s what you think, but it comes across that way when you suggest that people who advocate for voting for actual progressives in the mid-terms only care about voting, and that too is a little frustrating, because a lot of people who consider voting important also support peaceful protest and direct action. It’s not one or the other.

All that said, although I wasn’t certain in the months after the 2016 election, I think anyone who’s paid attention to your comments here should long since have realized that you’re not a casual advocate of violence.


The state will almost always respond with at least some violence; that’s regrettably unavoidable. Many theorists of non-violence (most obviously, MLK) explicitly based their strategy upon provoking one-sided violence from the state.

Police repression does not automatically convert non-violent resistance into a violent uprising. It just means that the violence of the state is exposed.

OTOH, the “appeal to their conscience” path is not the only way to do it. Non-violent direct action works as well; strikes, disruption, etc. The state cannot function without the passive consent of the people. Violence is not required to paralyse a factory or a city.

I do get a bit impatient at times with folks who do not see that which is, to me, obvious. I try to keep a lid on it as much as possible, but I don’t always succeed.

There’s a bit of historical perspective underlying that.

The rise of fascism in 1930’s Europe would not have been possible without the collaboration of the centrist parties. European liberals repeatedly displayed a preference for fascism over socialism.

Similarly, the political history of the 20th century USA is one of liberal and conservative factions uniting in the violent suppression of leftists. The Red Scares were bipartisan efforts.

The left doesn’t spend much effort in talking to the right, because it’s pointless. Converting fascists into decent people is not a viable strategy.

OTOH, lefties do spend a fair bit of time shouting at centrist liberals, because those folks may still be reachable.

It’s worth noting that a great deal of the online left/liberal squabbling appears to be deliberately manufactured by organisations funded by the establishment Democrats, as a means of disrupting leftist reform within the party.

To clarify:

  1. I do not think that voting is a waste of time. Everybody should vote whenever they have a chance. In particular, get out to vote for Sheriff, District Attorney, Mayor, Governor, etc. They control the police and the National Guard, and that’s where we can actually make a difference by electoral means. Boot out the corrupt incumbents, replace them with genuine representatives of the people.

  2. I do think that voting is a lost cause as a means of removing the Trumpists from power, and I’ve been saying that for over a year now. Fascists are counting the votes, and they will not allow themselves to be defeated by a method that is under their control. They’ll resort to full-scale election rigging if they have to, but that is unlikely to be necessary; gerrymandering and voter suppression will probably be enough on its own.

I have no objection to a diversity of tactics and I have no objection to using every tool available. I celebrated Ocasio-Cortez’s win as much as anybody.

But, in my view, a purely electorally-based response demonstrates a severe failure to grasp the urgency or seriousness of the situation.

If the new American Revolution goes hot, the left is almost certain to lose. And then the US right will turn their guns on the rest of the world.

Which is why I’ve been pushing so long and hard for a non-violent revolution. It’s the only way to avoid the violent one.


I think there are a fair number of conservatives who are worried about the rising fascism, the not quite police state, the disappearing rule of law, increasing corruption, growing poverty, and President Trump. The great majority of Americans would agree to the list above this sentence.

While the social beliefs between the fairly left and right are real, the economic differences are mostly not. The growing divide as well as what supposedly are the American leftist/liberal/conservative views are manufactured by the political regime seeking to create factions that they can manipulate and used.

Please do not discount talking to those labeled as conservative especially if they are of the lower middle class and lower.

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They think that means people of color and women in positions of power, not, you know, ACTUAL fascism.


Yes, some sorry racist fools, fearing women and non-whites, are foolish enough to fear our government(s) because those people are a part of it; whatever “they” might think, fascism is an ideology that can used by anyone on anyone. The American version has its tendrils in from the (center-right) Democratic Party and its roots in the (extreme-right) Republican Party. Neither party really represents the majority of Americans that are socially conservative/economically social democratic or economically socialist/socially leftist.

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Fascism is a specific political ideology that aligns with the far right wing. Words have historical meanings. Not EVERYTHING is actually fascism.

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While we’re all peasants to the .01%, it is still true that there are substantial economic class differences in play.

On average, GOP voters are significantly wealthier and whiter than the Democrats’ voters. And those Democratic voters are in turn substantially whiter and wealthier than the non-voters and the socialist left.

Class shapes ideology, as it always has.

That is true to a degree. Although the ideology of the factions do represent genuine clashes of class interests, they are also manipulated by the factions of the American plutocracy.

The crude plutocrats want fascism, the subtle plutocrats would prefer a continuation of neoliberalism. None of the plutocrats want socialism.

The left puts plenty of time into working class communities; most of the best activists are working class people, anyway. But they spend that time building community with their good neighbours, not in trying to reform the asshole down the street with the MAGA hat.

Most working class people aren’t Republicans. They’re non-voters. And even within the voters, most of them voted for Clinton. The lower income groups were the only ones that did not support Trump.

The core of the Trumpist base is not the working poor, it’s the white suburban low-education middle class. Middle managers, sales reps and small business owners. Fascism is a middle-class pathology.

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