“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”
Humanity dwells in an increasingly hostile and dark world. People are inundated by mass shootings, warfare, and terrorism. Life is not sacred or respected. It is replete with seething anger and growing hatred. Even some voluntaryist segments of anarchism seem eager to shed blood under the alarmist call for pragmatism.
It is as if these anarchists have forgotten their roots and dispensed with the idea of peaceful resistance, communicative nonviolence, and what Gandhi called Satyagraha—nonviolent resistance to evil. My goal is to bring anarchists back this notion that peaceful resistance can incite change, and to create a burgeoning community of psychologically minded “lovertarians.”
There is absolutely no need to return to government agendas under the enchantment of “realism” or “practicality,” nor believe that government must be toppled with forceful aggression.
Throughout history, anarchists have rarely adopted a firm philosophy of peaceful resistance, because they have been wed to the idea of using defensive violence, which includes propaganda of the deed or retaliatory defense. But as an aside, most of this violence has stemmed from socialist anarchism. It is known that Emma Goldman harbored this viewpoint.
There simply has not been a libertarian figure who fearlessly and consistently advocated peaceful resistance. Anarchism needs a Martin Luther King JR or a Gandhi (preferably devoid of the hypocrisies). It needs someone who is willing to wield the bullhorn and call for civil resistance to foment change. There have been too many advocates for violence, even if it has been watered down with defensive rhetoric.
That is not to say that defensive violence or self-defense is morally wrong. And this position is not to paint anarchists as illogical or incorrect. It is not to create a divide between anarchist groups, nor advocate pacifism. The goal is to bring similar thinkers together for a common purpose: to spearhead an anarchist movement for the employment of peaceful resistance.
This return to the “love force” or “soul force” is critically important, because so many anarchists have sacrificed principle and duty. Several of the more popular anarchists have even vowed to use State violence to bring about anarchism.
They have infused their verbiage with the language of government, and some have even pandered to politicians like Donald Trump. This reversal of principle is now a hungry weed growing in the garden of anarchy. Many of them are dismissing the notion that change happen by noncooperation, verbal-online dispersion (employing mass change talk with people), and nonviolent deeds alone. They are watering this weed of corruption and tainting the soil of goodness. These cynical views are wrong, though. And there is evidence to prove it.
The Evidence for Nonviolent Resistance
Erica Chenoweth Ph.D is a researcher at the University of Denver. She is a known authority on political violence and its nonviolent alternatives. But interestingly, she was not initially interested in nonviolent resistance or dispersion techniques. She was skeptical that nonviolence could be used to depose governments and change society.
She believed that all the anecdotal evidence was not universal in cases of peaceful resistance. She thought its positive outcomes were based on luck. She admitted this in her blog Rationalinsurgent. She said,”Although I found the various cases of successful civil resistance interesting, I thought they were exceptional.”
She decided to research the phenomenon and to find out if it is a viable strategy. She had to know, even if she started with an agenda. When the research was completed and the results came in, she was shocked. The meta-analysis of nonviolent resistance showed that it works much better than armed and violent insurgency. This has been true even when governments use violence to quell peaceful protests and acts of noncooperation.
In the introductory paper on the subject, she said, “Our findings show that major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns.” She went on:
“Our findings challenge the conventional wisdom that violent resistance against conventionally superior adversaries is the most effective way for resistance groups to achieve policy goals. Instead, we assert that nonviolent resistance is a forceful alternative to political violence that can pose effective challenges to democratic and nondemocratic opponents, and at times can do so more effectively than violent resistance.”
She also mentioned that later research and analyses fleshed out the same truth and reached similar conclusions.
One of the reasons that nonviolent resistance and forms of empathetic self-defense work is because killing innocent and peaceful protesters automatically paints a government as evil. It makes the rest of the world despise that government. It further instigates movements for socio-political change.
However, peaceful anarchists should also remain rational while engaging in peaceful resistance. It is easy to get angered or become violently crazed when preparing for action.
Sadly, Many anarchists lack patience for these activities. But it is good to remember that abolishing the system takes time. It could even be a many-generational process. It will not happen overnight. Thus, it is the rational and patient anarchist that becomes the lovertarian and the harbinger of positive change.
With time, this rational focus on the ideas of lovertarianism will generate a consensus on how to make the world a better place. But liberty minded people must take the high road of peace and noncooperation. As Henry David Thoreau said, “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” The last thing anarchists want to do is go to the grave with the song of peace in mind. That would mean they deserted principle. It would mean they chose the path of destruction.
Instead, anarchists must yank the weed of corruptibility from the garden of truth. They must go forward with reason and compassion, and water the seeds of liberty through Satyagraha. It is the only way to obtain what they so longingly covet: absolute liberty.