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Joe CorbettJoe Corbett has been living in Shanghai and Beijing since 2001. He has taught at American and Chinese universities using the AQAL model as an analytical tool in Western Literature, Sociology and Anthropology, Environmental Science, and Communications. He has a BA in Philosophy and Religion as well as an MA in Interdisciplinary Social Science, and did his PhD work on modern and postmodern discourses of self-development, all at public universities in San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at [email protected].


Reply to Benjamin on the Usefulness of Violence

Joe Corbett

Just like the extinction of species and ego-death, class warfare to the bloody end is integral to further development and evolution.

With all due respect to Elliot Benjamin and peaceful means, let's be clear that Gandhi never would have achieved peaceful revolution without the threat of violent revolution lurking beneath him from the communists that was very real, and which the British were desperate to avoid. So Gandhi actually needed violence as the background for his success, and we should never forget this, as history is full of hidden variables and unsung heroes. Second, toward the end before he was assassinated, MLK was coming to the realization that the Black struggle for civil rights was part of a much wider struggle for economic and social justice against the predatory imperialist system of the West, and he knew that although desirable, peaceful protest in all circumstances may not be possible.

The strategy of cutting off the head of the leaders of the 1 percent, so as to take the life out of the planning and institutionalization of their agenda by those who are most influential and effective, is not a new idea, and in fact it is the exact same strategy that is being used by America right now to fight 'terrorists' all over the world. As with the left, the Americans understand that a full-blown ground war against the enemy is not possible and would be a losing strategy even if it were possible, so instead they must make surgical strikes against the key leaders of the opposition. The Americans have done so at the human cost of thousands of innocent lives, with hundreds of children among them, and this they have done as foreign invaders to opponents who are in their own chosen homeland territory. If the equivalent were to happen in America from foreign invaders we might think it was the end of the world and be willing to fight until our righteous and holy death. If the equivalent were to happen in America upon its own citizens who are within its territory, we might think it was the end of America as we know it, thankfully, and take up arms alongside our fellows in a sentiment of power to the people.

As for the Tea Party putting together a group of counter-assassins, who are they going to target that would damage the leadership of the left? Corporate democrats like Obama and Al Gore? Where are the left-loonies in Congress and the radical left think-tanks and media pundits? How many billionaire philanthropists on the left can they target? The advantage in that scenario is clearly on the side of the left, that is, for what exists of a left these days. And remember in any case that the stakes aren't a few dozen or a few hundred lives that would fall in revolutionary sacrifice, but hundreds of millions if not a few billion lives will fall from inaction and the pacified neutralization of the urgency of the situation we are in. So what is the true ethical and moral choice here?

The strongest argument against the use of violence for social transformation seems to be that it would result in increased state oppression. But even here, if that comes to pass, America's facade of freedom and democracy is up, a spade will finally be called a spade, game over. The Tea Party and the radical left could find common cause against the oppressive corporate-military-police-state apparatus, and the whole of America would know what every Black and Latino in the inner city already knows about the police and the system. The purpose of the right to bear arms against your oppressors will never be more clear than when the government overtly turns against its people and sheds the covert antagonism it currently has in its partnership with the 1 percent.

So while violence may breed more violence in the short-run, in the long-run nothing ever changes without violence. In fact, the cycles of history and life itself show this to be the case. In the rise and fall of civilizations the natural course of accumulation and routinization or ossification of institutional laws and norms within the relations of society eventually become the fetters on further (and much needed) social development, at which point there needs to be a radical transformation of the social relations to accommodate (or to be the new vessel, temple, or collective body of) the underlying potentials that so desperately need to be developed. This historical cycle is also built into the universal developmental process as a series of accumulations and ossifications at each new stage. Each new self-society-species recapitulates the need to build its new forms on the out-moded foundations of the old, and then eventually ossifies to the point of rigor mortis (inflexible adaption), which then needs to be autopsied and dismantled by dissection (slaughtered, extinguished) before it is burned and buried for good, making way for the generation of new forms of life.

Just like the extinction of species and ego-death, class warfare to the bloody end is integral to further development and evolution. Sounds like a violent process to me, but ultimately life-sustaining.

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