Friday, February 11, 2005

 

Carol Moore

With permission, I am posting this very interesting view of Ward Churchill (see below). Carol said in her e-mail to me that she does "happen to agree with his narrow point that the World Trade Center attack was a blowback from US policies", and I cannot help but agree with her. His words and his actions have been, however, poorly chosen, as has his determination to exploit the legitimate Native American population of the U.S. There have been others who have said plainly that our foreign policy is breeding hatred of us overseas, and yet they have all managed to do so without calling the innocent victims of 9-11 "little Eichmanns", a phrase that is almost guaranteed to knife to the very nerve of the entire Jewish population of the planet. I'm not trying to deny his right to say these things--but I am also laying claim to my right to be angered by his words, and to speak my own mind ;) Carol's website, linked in my sidebar to the left, has opened a vast new vista of things for me to read and ponder, and I highly recommend that you visit it. She also pointed me to another site with a libertarian view of Ward Churchill, Training for Change, that has some interesting points to make.

WARD CHURCHILL: GURU OF THE NEW PROGRESSIVE VIOLENCE (this is copyrighted by Carol Moore, so do not republish this without seeking her permission first via her contact information at her website, linked in my sidebar at the left)

The arguments supporting the “Tenets” above are drawn from various current progressive apologetics for violence, many influenced by Ward Churchill’s book “Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America” which was re-issued and widely distributed in 1998. The subtitle of “Return of Street Fighting Man”, i.e., “The Pathology of the New Progressive Violence,” is obviously a reply to his book, making the point that violence, not nonviolence, is the true destructive force.

Its publisher describes “Pacifism as Pathology” thusly: “Ward Churchill dares to ask uncomfortable questions, arguing that while pacifism promises that the harsh realities of state power can be transcended through good feelings and purity of purpose, it is in fact a counter-revolutionary movement that defends and reinforces the same status-quo it claims to oppose. Churchill debunks the claims of historical pacifist victories, and proposes ways to diminish much of the delusion, aroma of racism, and sense of privilege which mark the covert self-defeatism of mainstream dissident politics.”1/ This description is written more clearly than much of the book, whose meandering arguments are laden with convoluted sentences, intellectual jargon and erudite references.

Ward Churchill, a member of the United Keetowah Band of Cherokees, is a Professor of American Indian Studies at Sangaman State University, Colorado. He is best known as the author of “Agents of Repression: The FBI's Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement,” and has written a number of books on Native American and indigenous people.

Churchill does not call himself an anarchist but a revolutionary and an “indigenous,” i.e., a Native American who wants independence from the federal government. (Hopefully, he would extend to all Americans the same right to be free of federal control.) He is not a Marxist or socialist, dismissing both Marxism and capitalism as “Eurosupremacist.”2/ He definitely is opposed to white imperialism over people of color worldwide. As I will discuss below, this failure to detail a revolutionary alternative undermines his arguments, such as they are, for violence.

A footnote to “Pacifism as Pathology” explains: “Let's be clear on this point: ‘revolution’ means to obliterate the existing status quo and replace it with something else, not to engage in reformist efforts to render it ‘better’ while leaving it in place.” However, he admits the book’s “thrust has been more to debunk the principles of hegemonic nonviolence rather than to posit fully articulated alternatives.” As I shall illustrate, his refusal to reveal what he considers “reformist” and what he considers “revolutionary” undermines his arguments.

Churchill is quite controversial in the American Indian movement, which has factionalized over bitter controversies and accusations over the years. Charges of “sellout,” “informant” and “infiltrator” are quite common. Churchill is called both by some factions, as is his good friend well-known American Indian Movement activist and Hollywood actor Russell Means. (Search the Internet and newsgroups for numerous examples.) Churchill and Means have organized a number of protests and nonviolent civil disobedience to protest the celebration of Columbus Day over the last ten years.

I personally met Churchill in the fall of 1999 when he spoke on FBI abuses in Washington, D.C. and socialized with him at a party afterwards. I gave him a copy of my book The Davidian Massacre about the FBI’s massacre at Waco and he laughed heartily when I explained that it was written by a pacifist and libertarian who believes in the right to self-defense. It would be a few more months before I discovered he had authored “Pacifism as Pathology” and was the street fighter’s guru.

I also later was reminded that Churchill gave a nominating speech for Russell Means at the Libertarian Party convention in 1987 when Means attempted to gain the Presidential nomination. As a member of the party, I supported Means and attended the convention. (In 2001 Means considered running for Governor of New Mexico on the Libertarian ticket.) Since many libertarians also believe in keeping open the option of armed revolution, Churchill may feel as comfortable with libertarians as does Means. (This pro-nonviolent action e-book is written also for my libertarian friends.)

In January of 2001 Churchill spoke at the 2001 National Conference on Organized Resistance at American University. He prefaced his talk by inferring that he would call anyone who disagreed with him on any point a racist. (When I asked a question later, I began by telling him I thought sexual oppression was a more basic form of oppression than racial oppression, undercutting his ability to use that tactic.) It was in this speech he labeled himself an indigenous, but, as usual, refused to describe any alternative revolutionary vision. In addition to his arguments as described herein, Churchill stressed that the only thing that is moral is what works for the revolution, that a wide variety of types of violence is justified, that “winning” attracts people and losing does not, and that activists should prepare for the inevitable government crackdown by buying lots guns.

Looking to expose the inconsistencies of his advocacy of “any means necessary” political violence, I asked him if his position theoretically did not justify radical women castrating dominant abusive men as a political tactic. I even mentioned that I had noticed that several Native American women on news groups were extremely hostile towards him and that he himself theoretically could be the target of such a tactic. This was met with laughter by those who understood the question and outrage by those who could not follow the train of logic and thought I was calling for Churchill to be castrated.

In reply, Churchill only groused about " feminist eugenics." I later discovered I was more accurate than I knew. Churchill writes in “Pacifism as Pathology”: “Clearly, we recognize the right of women to respond to physical and/or psychological aggression using whatever means are necessary, up to and including armed or violent self-defense or retaliation.” (Emphasis mine.) However, Churchill never did answer the main point--where do you draw the line when you advocate violence?

I also commented that anyone who has the guts to stone cops and get into armed revolution, sure as heck better have the guts to stop paying taxes and thereby stop supporting the war machine and the militarization of law enforcement. He replied with an obvious lie, asserting that Jews in Nazi Germany did do tax resistance, as well as a great deal of other nonviolent civil disobedience, and it was all useless. However, in “Pacifism as Pathology” Churchill accurately claims that Jews were overwhelmingly passive either because they could not believe other Germans would violate their rights or because they followed Jewish leadership recommendations that they cooperate with the Nazis. It was only after Germany placed its Jews in ghettos and concentration camps that some began to resist.

Later that morning Churchill quickly walked by me, obviously eager to avoid more confrontational conversation. As he fled, I called out, "Hey, Ward, you've got to stop paying those taxes!!" One question I would have asked him, had he not fled, was how he would feel if street fighters disrupted his next Columbus Day protest with window breaking and rock throwing. It would be interesting to see if he respected a diversity of tactics when those tactics were used to disrupt his nonviolent demonstration.

On September 11, 2001, the day of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, I finally got around to sending out and e-mail about this e-book, including to Ward Churchill. I got this very typical reply:

Subject: Re: Renounce Activist Violence NOW!! Date: Tue, 11 Sep 2001 18:18:13 -0600 (MDT) From: Churchill Ward Ward.Churchill@Colorado.EDU
To: Carol Moore
Ms. Moore:
Displacement of systemic violence onto others is NOT "nonviolent."
Please send me no further nauseatingly self-indulgent and ultimately HYPERVIOLENT missives advocating the perpetuation of carnage in the 3rd World.
Instead, rather than bothering ANYONE with further unsolicited white supremacist sanctimony, I strongly recommend you seek therapy on an urgent basis.
racism and the other virulent delusions you seem to suffer CAN be cured.
Bye-by
Ward Churchill

These vignettes illustrate the problem with Ward Churchill and other street fighters' arguments for violence. They are based on inaccurate or manufactured “facts” and faulty logic, delivered with large doses of insult and intimidation (“ad hominem”) against anyone who disagrees. The title “Pacifism is Pathology,” is itself an ad hominem attack, since he compares a commitment to nonviolent action to a mental disorder.

A critique of nonviolence based more on rational arguments than "Pacifism as Pathology" is nonviolence activist Howard Ryan's on line book "Critique of Nonviolent Politics: From Mahatma Gandhi to the Anti-Nuclear Movement."

Also see Ryan's short and intelligent Nonviolence FAQ. And nonviolence scholar Brian Martin offers an excellent Critique of Violent Rationales which critiques Ryan's book and deals with many of the issues included in this e-book. Ryan evidently was too sensible, and insufficiently belligerent, to become the violence "guru" that Ward Churchill has become.

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