Can a Global Revolution Be Non-Violent?

Turning the Other Cheek or an Eye for an Eye?

September 17, 2012  was  the one-year anniversary of the Occupy movement, and sadly enough it was a sentimental fare illustrating not only the good intentions but also the enormous limitations of the movement. In New York, Occupiers got pushed around by the NYPD without much resistance; 200 of them got handcuffed in plastic ties and briefly arrested applying, above all, their golden rule of peaceful non-violent protest. While the strategy of “turning and giving the other cheek” is a cornerstone of the Christian faith, it is not exactly a very useful tool for a revolution in progress. Jesus’ rejection of “an eye for an eye” to favor offering the other cheek indicates a submission to oppressors. Such calls to submit to total non-violence become, in fact, calls for complete non-resistance, facilitating aggressions from police-state governments bent on using police or military force. But ultimately, what made the non-violent message of Jesus so powerful was his own sacrifice in the extremely violent act of the crucifixion. Martyrdom is what gave Christianity its political power, and how it eventually sapped the Roman empire. Strangely, a political protest by self-immolation from a modest Arab street vendor is what started the Arab spring last year.

The Emasculation of Occupy by the “Left” Intelligentsia

The beauty of Occupy was its genuine grassroots birth: its horizontal structure. One of the main problems of Occupy was when intellectuals and pundits started telling the “base” what to think from the comfort of their respective ivory towers. Even though they did not originate the global movement, some quickly started to pretend they did for the sake of their over-inflated egos and/or, more prosaically, to sell books or TV appearances. Considering everybody knows who they are, why not name the usual suspects of this so-called “radical left” intelligentsia: it is, in no particular order, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein and, last but not least, Chris Hedges. Hedges, in particular, quickly made it his business to tell Occupiers what to do and think. Occupy was always a patchwork of different ideologies, from peace movement activists to neo-Marxists and Anarchists. By calling anarchists the “cancer of Occupy”, Hedges drove a wedge in the movement and did the bidding of the Obama administration. His action to drive the Black Bloc out of Occupy completely emasculated the movement in North-America.

Revolution: What Fuels the Fire is Anger and Rage

Even so, Occupy still has a lot of “chapters” all over the world. Some have decided to re-brand the movement: it is the “Indignados” in Spain, and the “Indignés” in France. But maybe, just like Occupy, the branding is still weak, a bit scared. To occupy  public places or to be “indignant” is unlikely to be efficient enough to move the dial. If they want a much needed global revolution, the Occupiers and Los Indignados have to “crank up the volume” and must call themselves by what they have to be: revolutionaries. For the past two weeks, the Middle-East and most of the Muslim world has erupted in violent demonstrations against the United States, Israel and the West. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said a few days ago that “The Arab Revolutions did not trade the tyranny of  dictators for the tyranny of the mob”. First of all, is Hillary Clinton the spokesperson for the Arab Revolution? Secondly, she failed to mention that the dictators in question were supported by the US, and that some of the “revolutions”– Libya — were military interventions by the US and NATO.

So yes, Hillary Clinton, Arabs are mad as hell that their revolution was stolen by the West with the help of Saudi Arabia; Afghans and Pakistanis are mad about being invaded, exploited and killed by American drones. It is an healthy dose of anger and rage that is propelling Greeks and Spaniards to take over the streets in protest against the tyranny and slavery imposed by the IMF and the global banking system through austerity policies. Today, a general strike turned violent in Greece, with police using tear gas. The demonstrators fought back using stones and Molotov cocktails. What were they supposed to do? Listen to the pontiffs of US Occupy such as Mr. Hedges and reject violence to “turn the other cheek”?

Revolutions: the Power of the Mob Reaching Critical Mass

What Hillary Clinton doesn’t seem to understand are the basics of a revolutionary process. Like all Americans, she was taught in school’s textbooks that the US had a revolution. In what Americans call their revolution, the land/slave owners stayed in power. The socioeconomic power structure remained identical. Instead of a revolution, what the former British colony had was a successful colonial war — with critical help from France — against the British empire. Absolutely no social changes or wealth and power redistribution occurred in the process. None. Because of this lack of revolutionary experience, it is completely unlikely –providing that it will happen — that a global revolution could start in the US. A great fear of the police state repression apparatus is a key ingredient in this. Sadly enough, I would say that, as opposed to the lofty non-violent credos, this fear is actually the main deterrent against Occupiers fighting back.

Meanwhile, if one considers any successful real revolutions in history, some form of violence has always been present. The mechanics, the social forces driving countries to revolutions have many things in common. For example, if you take either the French, the Haitian, the Russian or the Cuban revolutions, they could only be successful when the misery of most people reached a point of no return. Or when the proverbial 99 percent had absolutely nothing to loose. Spain has currently 25 percent of people unemployed, and it is getting worse every day. What will be the magical percentage of unemployed when “Los Indignados”  will storm their parliament and get rid of the government? This factor of common misery reaching critical mass applies also to Greece, Egypt, Pakistan, etc. It is time for Occupiers and Indignados worldwide to fight fear, and discover their backbones to become united in this global revolution. It is time to harvest the power of the mob, the power of the 99 percent. Revolutions have villains, heroes, martyrs and footnotes. They are very much like omelets: eggs must be broken to make them.

Editor’s Note: Photographs number three, four, five, six and seven by “How will I ever”.



5 Responses to Can a Global Revolution Be Non-Violent?

  1. george September 30, 2012 at 5:30 am

    There is one way to change peacefully everything,but it needs the participation of all the people except those in uniform.If everyone else stops working,stops producing,stops selling to these perverts,they will be forced to join the ranks of the revolt,as they will need to eat ,and survive .we only need to show them that we are more dependable than their bosses the few rich .we need to remind them that without us they will also be discarded by the few and left to die.And we will show them this in practice.but we need to be united.we need to burn down the flags,the nation symbols,we need to destroy anything that separates us from our fellow human(religion included). And, in order to do that we need to create a much bigger challenge for the war is the answer after all? Was Kissinger right? Do we need to kill each other to survive? I think not. Lets not fall in this type of violence.Leave the police all the freedom to gain its reputation of violent bastards, and let’s maintain our moral integrity and we will eventually win.for sure.and if not we can always then revert to weapons/killings/destruction

  2. tedvim October 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    A small correction: The Spanish “Indignados” originated independently from Occupy and before Occupy. The first OWS protest was September 17, 2011. The first “Indignados” protest was May 15, 2011. So it’s hardly a “re-branding” of Occupy. Of course, both share the same global context, contacts and are part of a larger global movement, but they are not chapters of Occupy.

  3. Gilbert Mercier
    Gilbert Mercier October 1, 2012 at 9:31 pm


    In order to be accurate a correction of your “small correction” comment is needed. “Indignez-vous!”, a pamphlet written by French author Stephane Hessel-former diplomat credited as one of the editor of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights- is actually at the origin of the Spanish term “Los Indignados”. I also want to add that our own publication was discussing the same thematic than Hessel, the Indignados in Spain and what would become Occupy as early as the fall of 2010. We were also one of the first publication to forecast a global movement spreading from the Arab Spring in December 2010 and January 2011. So, branding or re-branding doesn’t really matter as long as the movement expands and unifies. Occupy was just more successful as a brand. Twitter accounts with the name Occupy are all over the globe, it is the same on Facebook. My point is that to be “indignant” or to be an “occupier” is not quite enough….it is time to embrace a bolder word like revolutionary.

  4. freebird dreaming October 2, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    Love the thoughts… wrote something much like it when Hedges first made his asinine privileged remarks… was banned many places for just saying it.

    We’ve a problem with the way in which you use the term ‘revolutionaries’. We can’t be revolutionary, until re rebel… this would make us rebels and our progress dedicated to rebellion.

    and that is not just me.

    Again… please…. more, oh so more from you and turn up your volume. If you ever need a hole to lay low in… heh.

  5. aegizi October 7, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Brilliant observation and article. Hedges, too, made me very upset with his emotional response, as opposed to an educated response.

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