The Opposing Viewpoint

In my previous post, I tried to explore some of the problems of non-violence, namely the difficulty of dealing with a collective that is willing to harm you and is not concerned with your moral arguments why what they are doing is a bad thing. [stderr] At what point do you treat all of the individuals that make up your attackers’ forces (or even the attackers’ civilians) as targets?

The other view is argued in Peter Gelderloos’ The Failure of Nonviolence. [wc] I’m going to say this book shocked me in many ways – immediately because it’s (in my opinion) extremely well-argued, clear, and unambiguous. Gelderloos makes a lot of assertions without all of the supporting arguments, but I think it still works well, because his assertions have a strong tone of obviousness. What is not obvious is his conclusions. But, I have to say this book resonated very strongly with me and it seemed to explain a lot of things that I simply hadn’t understood because I had the wrong perspective. “Eye opening” is a good expression for it.

Nonviolence has lost the debate. Over the last twenty years, more and more social movements and rebellions against oppression and exploitation have broken out across the world, and within these movements people have learned all over again that nonviolence does not work. They are learning that the histories of purported nonviolent victories have been falsified, that specific actions or methods that could be described as nonviolent work best when they are complimented by other actions or methods that are illegal or combative. They are learning that exclusive, dogmatic nonviolence does not stand a chance of achieving a revolutionary change in society, at getting to the roots of oppression and exploitation and bringing down those who are in power.

He is not necessarily saying that violence always has to happen – but, rather, that violence has been deliberately taken off the table as an option by the elites, because it’s effective and it’s really hard for the elites to ignore. [stderr] You can tell that violence is an important way of making your point because that’s what the establishment uses, to make their point against you. But, then, they wring their hands and say “violence is not the answer” after the police put away their clubs and shields. Thus we have the weird situation I’ve remarked upon before, that protesters go to a march, expecting that they may get beaten up, but also accepting that they won’t do anything to the pig that is breaking their bones, to dissuade them. How does that even make sense? The way to successfully protest police violence is not to stand up and let them knock out your teeth.

The workers on Blair Mountain, after a few of them were hurt and had family members killed by corporate goons, got their hands on military rifles (a lot of them were WWI vets) and shot a few corporate goons. That shocked the hell out of everyone. But, why? It seems to me (and Gelderloos, apparently) that shooting someone who just killed a family member is a perfectly reasonable response. And shoot their friends, too. Those cops in Rochester who got all tough on an 80 year-old guy (look at them and look at their body language) would certainly think 2, maybe 3 times about marching down the middle of the street like that, if someone shot a few of them with a .308 from a block or two away.

Gelderloos’ point is that we refrain from such things not because we think it’s the right thing, but because the forces that oppress us have already figured this out and that’s why they come with overwhelming force. They’re trying to deter people from responding to their violence with violence in return, because they know that they will lose if that happens. As long as all they have to worry about is nonviolent protesters and 80yo hippies, they can crack skulls ’till their arms get tired.

The elite, as has been the case at most times in history, did not have a single set of interests, but conflicting interests and differing strategies regarding how to maintain and amplify their power. Different sectors of the elite generally had their own newspapers, and these featured competing discourses. However, when popular movements were particularly strong, such that they presented a threat to the social pyramid, it was crucial for the elites to get over their differences and join their forces to trample down those on the bottom. Therefore, the newspapers began to deploy some of the key euphemisms they were already circulating in order to signal a moral panic, an ungodly threat to the ruling order that required the whole ruling class to unite.

Aside from uncleanliness or hygiene, the principal term used to unleash a moral panic and mobilize elite action was “violence”. Among the elite, then as now, in Barcelona as in the English-speaking world, “violence” was a euphemism for a threat to the ruling order and its illusion of social peace, with which the class struggle, the brutality of patriarchy, and the murderousness of colonialism are hidden. The newspapers did not talk about violence when cops killed strikers, when landlords evicted families, or when poor people died of hunger. They talked about violence when workers went on strike, when tenants stopped paying rent, when street vendors refused to surrender their wares to the cops (who would harass them at the behest of store owners) and when anarchists carried out sabotage or held impromptu marches.

This book is not only for anarchists, but it is written from an anarchist perspective, based on the belief that no matter how people understand their problems, rising up to solve them will necessitate conflict with the state, and those problems will not be solved until the state is destroyed.

Many readers may not agree with this contention, but if they continue struggling for their own version of freedom, the debate will come up again and again, because their struggle will bring them into conflict with the state, and if they should ever win, and have the opportunity to build a better state supposedly compatible with their liberation, they will be sorely disappointed, and all their dreams will be corrupted, as has happened so many times in the past. In the meantime, we can agree to disagree and focus on the fact that struggling for a better world means conflict with the current system.

Gelderloos then goes on to describe how governments through time, everywhere, have used various counterinsurgency paradigms to suppress people, with varying effect. A little mental review of history leads me to realize that religious wars are usually just counterinsurgencies, where the state is repressing some religious movement or other, generally in order to take control of their real estate and other assets. Or, to stop an actual revolution or demand for change. The French revolution (the big one) was contemporaneous with a long-term insurgency (1793-6) that featured much more intense, but localized, violence than the revolution itself. It’s just one example that popped into my head. In fact, most revolutions – even the “peaceful, non-violent” ones – are accompanied with significant side-portions of violence, elsewhere (e.g.: India’s nonviolent liberation from the British Empire only worked because the British were distracted by fighting World War II)

Recuperation is the process by which those who rebel and break away from current power structures are induced to rejuvenate those power structures or create more effective ones. They either turn their rebellion into the mere symbol of rebellion, as a way to exorcise whatever anger or discontentment led them to rebel, or they direct it against only a small part of the system, creating a change the allows the state to function more effectively overall. Recuperation is when countercultural movements like punk or the hippies become just new ways of buying and selling, new product lines, a new niche within the diversity of capitalist democracy. Recuperation is when workers’ movements around the world form political parties that enter into government and sell out their base, or when labor unions come to convince workers of the need for bosses, for example accepting voluntary pay cuts for the good of the company.

The civil rights movement in the US was recuperated when it was convinced to fight for voter registration instead of any material equality or meaningful freedom.

Ow. Given the current stuff going on, with the politically inert democrat party using the overturn of Roe V Wade as a means or fun-raising and churning their base for mid-terms, instead of actually attacking the problem they have been studiously ignoring for decades: the destruction of “one person, one vote!” [stderr] Gelderloos’ point resonates: this is all futile because the system will heal itself and be more powerful once it’s all said and done. The system is like a rapidly-evolving hydra that gets stronger the more times you lop a few of its heads off; it actively appreciates your efforts while it laughs in your face.

Gelderloos’ analysis feels disconcertingly like a judo-throw: one of those maneuvers the republicans pull where they accuse the opposition of doing what they’re actually planning to do. But I’m sure he’d say that’s the point of how the system operates.

One of the main functions of nonviolence, both in the last two decades and historically, has been to attack currents of struggle that actually threaten the state. In recent years that has meant that nonviolent activists increasingly assume the role of peace police who help criminalize and marginalize those who riot, be they anarchists in a Black Bloc or residents of an urban ghetto.

… or Black Panthers. At its height, the Black Panther’s children’s breakfast program was feeding 10,000 kids a day. But white America focused on the BPP’s gun-carrying warriors, not its cooks. And, while the BPP leadership was being assassinated by the FBI, the BPP did not get in gunfights with the cops. The whole idea of what they were doing was for armed black people to be observing when police interacted with (usually black) citizens; the theory was that a racist cop would be less likely to beat or kill a black citizen if there were 4 or 5 other black citizens with military rifles observing the interaction. That worked. It worked so well that the system had to kill them for it because the BPP had discovered a flaw in the system: policing does not work unless cops feel they have a local monopoly on violence.

This makes my imagination wander. What if police showed up to beat up some protesters and a small contingent approached them under a white flag. Then, they explain that the police are standing in a cross-fire of sharpshooters with scoped high-powered rifles (anything bigger than a .223 will go straight through cop body armor without slowing down, and the damage will be massively worse since it takes pieces of the former body armor into the wound with it. So if you’re hunting cop, make sure you’re using a .308, .300 w/m, .338 lapua, or .50BMG!) (I assure you that the first time a cop hears the boom of a .50BMG a half mile away, they will vacate the field) they explain to the police that nobody’s going to get hurt – on either side – because if the cops start beating up defenseless citizens, a bunch of them may wind up dead or maimed. That’s nonviolent, right? I guarantee one thing: if that happened a couple of times in a couple of places, the police would pull their horns in a bit. Of course the state would respond with: a massive propaganda campaign about the evil violent threats (that’s not really a “threat” it’s more like “a promise of retaliation”) and an assassination campaign aimed at the leadership of the new movement.

Another point that raises: the state is perfectly comfortable with assassination campaigns, so long as it’s them doing the assassinating. I do not understand how it is that oil executives can go out in public without being doused with diesel fuel. I do not understand how it is that the supreme court justices’ life-time appointments are not simply shortened, suddenly. For that matter, dipshits like Lauren Boebert seem to think that carrying a glock makes them a badass, when any shooter knows a glock is out-ranged by nearly 1/2 mile by a .338 lapua round. These people are actively trying to kill us all, why not lay down some defensive fire? The whole system fails – and fails hard – as soon as the people stop playing by its rules. Well, the whole point of “changing the system” is that the people are not willing to play by its rules any more.

Gelderloos also points out something that ought to be obvious: the state employs religion as one of its many tools for social control. Have you noticed how sometimes some preacher or other, or group of missionaries, wade into a protest, expecting to be treated better than the common-or-garden protester? Malcolm X pointed this out about MLK; he was observant. What that maneuver by the state accomplishes is that it says, “listen to the preachers in this moral crisis, because they are moderates.” Malcolm did not use the word “moderate” – he said, “they seem to think they came over on the Mayflower.”

The question of whether our tactics are violent is a waste of time. Assigning such labels is the job of moralists, journalists, or cops, and frankly we should not care how they decide to categorize us.

Well, the Trump administration tried to categorize Antifa as terrorists, because that allows the surveillance state full run of its tools. They already have and use those tools, it’s just window-dressing. But, what the surveillance state is doing/able to do, is identify movement leaders and their communications – like they manifestly failed to do with the Proud Boys – but it’s nothing more than an upgrade to the covert penetration ops like COINTELPRO that Hoover’s FBI used to identify, track, and kill the dangerous leaders of the civil rights movement. The state believes in violence; they just insist it be only a one-way street. What a coincidence!

Gelderloos reveals himself to be a bit of an idealist, toward the end of the book, when he writes about freedom. I happen to agree with him, and I think he’s largely right, but “freedom” as the anarchist ideal seems to me to be too nebulous. It’s not sufficient to say we wish to be free of state interference, because we actually don’t – we want to be meshed harmoniously with a state that shares our interests and our understanding of what is right and wrong. Anarchists like Gelderloos, who lean toward to more “pure freedom” end of the spectrum come off to me as close to anti-social: they want to reject civilization because civilization, as Rousseau points out, has its costs as well as its benefits. I’ve talked to many anarchists and one of my favorite questions is “what would your ideal society look like?” I have tried to answer that question [stderr] and it’s hard. But its difficulty should not be used to excuse sloppiness as is often done regarding the US’ founding fathers, “oh they didn’t know slavery was bad.” Yes, they did, there were anti-slavery movements that were quite outspoken and were making strong moral arguments, and the founding fathers knew them – they just preferred to protect their wealth and privilege rather than do the right thing.

I feel that Gelderloos’ argument(s) are timely and important. We’re just now at the cusp of seeing that the enemy was comfortable deploying violence to get their political ends. They were just incompetent enough, barely, that it didn’t work. At the same time, we are confronted with a glaring example of how “playing by the rules” is irrelevant because the forces on the other side are able to remove one of our sides’ most useful tools – violence – by making us feel bad if we deploy it. Imagine for a minute how the situation might have changed if some nerdy looking guy was chased into a dark alley by a couple of proud boys, and there were hammering and crunching sounds, and none of the proud boys came out of that alley until, a while later, someone brought them out on stretchers? I guarantee you that the proud boys would not be so aggressive. I have mentioned this before: when the “open carry” guys parade around with their weapons, they are there to threaten cops, not the other citizens. And, it works. The cops won’t touch them. But they absolutely freak the fuck out if a bunch of black combat veterans show up toting killing tools and killing skills that the combat cosplayers lack.

This asshole is no danger to anyone. He’d piss himself if someone told him to stand real still and shot a few holes in his shitty truck.

Liberals have done a really good job, by adhering to the doctrine of nonviolence, of allowing the fascists to conclude that liberals can’t or won’t stick up for themselves. And, maybe it’s just too un-progressive. I don’t know. I’m pissed off by this shit, and by the failure of nonviolence, that I have to say I’d cheer if someone dropped some artillery on these open carry assholes, so they could see what a real insurgency feels like. Just one round from an 81mm mortar. These dipshits always cluster up, because they think they’re at a barbecue, not a battle. That would change real fast after the first round hit. I feel a new respect for my Irish kin, who were not afraid to gun up and start killing their enemies when their enemies refused to negotiate honestly. Did you notice how that worked out? The British are still afraid to push the Irish around – they appear to have learned a thing or two. I think anyone from either side of The Troubles will tell you it wasn’t a sudden love of peace that made things settle down, it was that the British realized that they could keep escalating things and that one or the other Irish side would escalate, too.

When I’ve pondered violence against the system in the past, I have tended to think of it personally. The cop who shoots an unarmed black guy? Would he still be alive if he had shot a made guy? The cop who get acquitted by an obviously rigged DA’s obviously rigged grand jury? Why hasn’t someone blown a hole through the cop and the DA? Why hasn’t Joe Manchin’s yacht been burned to the waterline by a drone strike? I’m asking these questions with the full awareness that what such things would accomplish is to apply evolutionary pressure on the fascists, to make them fascist better. But, seriously, the cops who beat down 80-year-old Gugino – why hasn’t someone parked a car on their chest and kicked them in the face a few times so they can experience the pleasure of traumatic brain injury. Retaliation, of course. One cannot do these things and get away with it. The cops can. It’s the system protecting itself. In fact, every time the system gets away with some shit, it’s practically guaranteed it’ll do it again and again because it got away with it. After a while, that shit is now tradition.*

Napoleon’s “whiff of grapeshot” – how brutal authoritarians negotiate with a mob of protesters

The problem with letting the system protect itself is that it’s going to use its power and it will not accept resistance. Unless the system is challenged with an unacceptable cost in return, it will continue exactly the way it does. We will continue to see protesters marching toward an expected beating from cops as though that’s somehow going make the cops feel bad. They won’t feel bad, they probably go home and laugh about it. We are dealing with people who have taken themselves off the moral playing field, but they insist we still respect the rights they do not respect in others.

Andrew’s comment recommending I take a look at Gelderloos’ [stderr]

Lois McMaster Bujold: on Barrayar if something happens once, it’s an accident. Twice it’s a tradition.


  1. StonedRanger says

    Yes. They go home and laugh. The Portland Oregon Pig Department had almost all of its emergency response team quit en masse because they were told they could no longer use excessive force on protestors. Now when you call the police in portland, they may or may not respond. Unless its a shooting somewhere, then they send all available cops to the shooting site and they spend six hours standing around while the investigation happens and the rest of the city can suck it as far as “police protection” goes. This is called the Illusion of Security. Until the police get as good (or bad) as they give, nothing will change.

  2. consciousness razor says

    It’s pretty wild for an anarchist to be making claims about the purported ineffectiveness of an ideology. When is the last time anarchism got any results along the lines of “bringing down those who are in power,” much less “until the state is destroyed”? Normally you would want to fight these sorts of battles on your own turf, so to speak, where you have a strong position. But it’s a bold strategy; I’ll give it that much.

  3. says

    @conscioisness razor:
    The anarchists aren’t saying anarchism is a strategy, perhaps that’s what you misunderstand – anarchists oppose the system but aren’t advocating a particular replacement for it, because they think they can live in a world without a system. I think that’s worse than dangerously naive, and I want anarchists to strategize toward a specific proposal – a protest vote is not a system of government.

    Extremely lightweight governments don’t seem to me like they’ll work because they can’t build the military organization necessary to defend themselves.

    [we may be violently in agreement?]

  4. Oggie: Mathom says

    Perhaps non-violence works if it is backed up by the threat of violence? Martin Luther King said (paraphrasing here) that you can deal with me, or you will have to deal with Malcom X.

    And right now, the militarization of the police (and, to a lesser extent, of the reactionary populace) kinda precludes the whole ‘deal with me or . . . “

  5. consciousness razor says

    The anarchists aren’t saying anarchism is a strategy

    I don’t think of pacifism as “a strategy” either. But just in terms of effects, if you had to say anything about their relative impact on real world events, then we’ve had a lot more peace around the world because of pacifism than we’ve had anarchy because of anarchism.

    [we may be violently in agreement?]

    I’m opposed to violence, so even if we are in disagreement, that wouldn’t be on the table, unless you’re bringing it.

  6. consciousness razor says

    Oh, maybe I get where the confusion comes from…. When I said “a bold strategy” at the end #2, I was talking about the argumentative posture that was taken, not trying to characterize anarchism itself.

  7. says

    specific actions or methods that could be described as nonviolent work best when they are complimented by other actions or methods that are illegal or combative. They are learning that exclusive, dogmatic nonviolence does not stand a chance of achieving a revolutionary change in society,

    I take this as muddled and a bit of a straw man. Who said non-violence precludes something like a sit-down strike or any other kind of passive resistance and must be “dogmatically pure”? That’s part of what he’s eluding to in the first sentence (strikes of that kind typically are illegal). The one thing I will say about non-violence is that it can only be effective if either your enemy or the larger society of which they are apart, have a conscience (i.e., other countries shaming your enemy).

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    … if they should ever win, and have the opportunity to build a better state supposedly compatible with their liberation, they will be sorely disappointed…

    Gelderloos does not seem to apply that to his own philosophy, nor to say why not.

  9. snarkhuntr says


    This is something that came up for me a lot during the Floyd protests. Having been a cop for a while, I advise everyone to try to imagine what it’s like being a cop on these riot lines. First and foremost: it’s a job. You get paid to be there. You might want to be there (most tactical troop/riot officers volunteer for this duty) but it’s still a job. You have bosses to impress, colleagues to satisfy and a self-image to uphold. Most of the officers I know who chose to go into this kind of work had pretty specific ideologies. I knew a few guys with “down, hippy!” shirts; if you imagine the quote in a speech bubble and a hand holding a truncheon in the image, you’d have the idea. These guys value ‘order’. To them, ‘order’ means that either no-one who opposes them politically talks in public, or if someone does, they get to hit/mace/pepperball them, and then go home and grill a steak. They cannot imagine a world where there might be consequences for being brutal towards ‘hippies’, ‘commies’ or any other group their supervisors tell them to crack down on.

    When you see the guy in full-body armour, helmet, riot-shield, armoured gloves, missing-name-tag, etc – remember that his work day *ends*. He fully expects to spend 10-14 hrs smashing hippy skulls, and then go back to either his suburban home or a nice air-conditioned motel room (if he’s seconded from out of town). These people aren’t hardened warriors fighting for what they believe in. They’re jobsworths, people doing a mundane civil-service job who expect that no matter what they do it will not redound into their personal lives.

    Break that, and you break the police. You see this already in the absolute terror that cops have about ‘doxing’. The very idea that they might be identified as the officer who shot the unarmed suspect, or that any consequence might flow from their professional misconduct into their personal lives is abhorrent to them. This is what I kept thinking during the Floyd protests: “These shock troops have to sleep somewhere”. If your average riot-line cop thought that there was any possibility that their comfortable home life would be disrupted (never-mind ended) as a consequence of what they do on the job, there would be a lot fewer officers on the riot-line.

  10. says

    Your comment about “oh, they didn’t know slavery was bad”, combined with the upcoming 4th, prompted me to look at Jefferson’s comment in his draft Declaration of Independence, the part that was excised by the rest of the Continental Congress:

    He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the christian king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce:[11] and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.

    Oh, yeah. They knew.

    It strikes me that there we see young and idealistic Jefferson. As he got older he realized how much freeing slaves would personally cost him, and he went for comfort instead. I also notice in the above that some of the outrage expressed there is not with the slavery, but with King George inciting them to attack the southern colonists.

  11. lorn says

    It is always easier to persuade a side to come to the negotiating table, to behave civilly, to show common decency and respect for your side if they understand at a visceral level (the gun is loaded and you are willing and able to use it) that violence is not off the table. People too quickly forget that democracy and political discourse, as messy and inefficient as it may be, is the alternative to settling things the old fashion way.

  12. tuatara says

    The first time I saw a riot I was about 11. My mother had taken us down to the beach to see in the new year. It was a tradition there at the time. There were hundreds of people milling about (the free rock concert had finished at about 11:30). Then the cheers rose out of the darkness and everyone was happy celebrating the turning of the year. Within about 10 minutes a mob of police charged up the beach in riot gear, at which point violence erupted, instigated entirely by the police.

    My mother led us up a side street out of the way, and I still remember the screams and soumds of bottles smashing behind us as we fled.

    News later emerged that the local council had decreed the beach to be clear by 00:30.

    The next year the council imported extra police resources due to the violence ‘perpetrated by unsavoury member of the public’.

    A decade later, at the same town, my sister was renting a room from a young police couple. I was invited by her to a party at the house for the birthday of my sisters then boyfriend. There were a half-dozen cops there drinking beer and smoking pot. Because it was November, I asked them if they were hoping for a trouble-free new years eve at the beach.

    Their answer? They couldnt wait to be in a batton charge. The 00:30 clearance was still in force and they were itching to blow off some steam by cracking heads!

    For many years I have treated all police with suspicion. Many of them are thugs who relish the power they think they weild. I do not trust them. Luckily for me I look white enough to avoid the worst of their attention.

    Another story, from the religious boarding school I suffered an education through. One day in our French class our elderly master was feeling particularly sadistic and was hitting us on the shoulders with his cane as he paced the aisles between the desks. Everyone in the class of 30 received at least one stroke.

    My friend leapt up and wrestled the cane out of his withered hand and said (forgive his unsavoury language but I will not sanitise it here);
    “Come on you old cunt! I will take you on!”

    The silly old fart then tried to placate my friend with noises to the effect of “there is no need to resort to violence”.

    So, yeah, give em a bit of their own violence back and they soon ease off, at least at the time.

    We were of course all interrogated sbout the event later. Because we all had the same story, the old bastard was retired at the end of term.

    And what of my friend? Not much happened to him. He did not return to the school the mext year and I have never seen him again. We were firm friends at the time, but perhaps just because we were sharing in a common suffering.

  13. says

    It strikes me that there we see young and idealistic Jefferson. As he got older he realized how much freeing slaves would personally cost him, and he went for comfort instead.

    Maybe I’m giving him too much benefit of doubt, but it seems to me Jefferson wasn’t going for “comfort,” he was just admitting that overthrowing British rule AND freeing slaves was simply not politically feasible in his time. And it’s not like he was the only one who admitted this. As for “comfort,” had they actually managed to abolish slavery, I’m sure most of the former slaveowners (the biggest ones at least) would have found ways to keep themselves comfortable as they managed the transition to a fully free society.

    I also notice in the above that some of the outrage expressed there is not with the slavery, but with King George inciting them to attack the southern colonists.

    Yes, and this is something fascists and reactionaries do all the time: manipulate those who suffered from their policies into attacking some other designated scapegoat, rather than unite against their real common enemy. Even if it was right for slaves to kill their owners, the resulting bloodbath would not have led to their liberty, it would have led to horrific civil strife and division that could easily have prevented the Colonies from becoming a stable independent nation.

  14. snarkhuntr says

    @Raging Bee

    “As for “comfort,” had they actually managed to abolish slavery, I’m sure most of the former slaveowners (the biggest ones at least) would have found ways to keep themselves comfortable as they managed the transition to a fully free society.”

    When do you think that transition might begin to take place? Certainly replacing property slavery with debt-bondage and a penal-slavery system isn’t the end of that particular arc.

    “some other designated scapegoat, rather than unite against their real common enemy”

    I think a slave’s primary enemy is the person who owns them, and the system that enables it. Slaves killing their owners, or the owners of other slaves, would be precisely focused on their real common enemy.

    ” it would have led to horrific civil strife and division that could easily have prevented the Colonies from becoming a stable independent nation.”

    The area that was the colonies would have eventually become some kind of stable, independent nation (or nations) no matter how divided and strive-riven it was at any given point. Perhaps newly-self-liberated slaves would have made common cause instead with the indigenous people and formed nations that way – fighting off the evil of peoples that believed their skin colour and nation of origin gave them the right to steal land, food, resources, even life from anyone made differently than they. It’s all a thought exercise at this point, but I’m in no way convinced that whatever nation emerged from a self-liberated army of former slaves fighting their racist masters would be *worse* than the USA today is.

  15. says

    I think a slave’s primary enemy is the person who owns them, and the system that enables it. Slaves killing their owners, or the owners of other slaves, would be precisely focused on their real common enemy.

    Killing one’s owners is relatively easy. Going on from there to destroying “the system that enables it” — while they’re mobilizing to crush the slave revolt — is a whole ‘nother ball game. Would the king who encouraged the slaves to kill their owners have done anything to help them attack his own empire’s slave-labor system? Not likely: he probably would have told those who use or profit from slave-labor that they needed him to keep the slaves under control, and thus get their unwavering support. That would not have resulted in the Colonies becoming a stable independent nation.

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