The limits of pacificism
Pacifism as Pathology
By Ward Churchill
Published by Arbeiter Ring (e mail: email@example.com)
I would recommend to republicans a new book entitled ``Pacifism as
Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North
America.'' It is a re-introduction of an essay written by Ward
Churchill in 1984. This version includes a supplementary essay by
Canadian anti-imperialist Mike Ryan, and an introduction by
recently-released American anti-imperialist POW Ed Mead. I think it
could be a valuable resource for republicans and their allies.
Ward Churchill, who is of American Indian descent, served for a short
time as an Army Ranger in Vietnam. After a short time he realised
that he was doing to the Vietnamese what had been done to his people
by the US government. He refused to go out anymore, and was soon sent
Immediately after his plane landed in Chicago, he called Students for
a Democratic Society, and became an organiser with them. He lived in
Peoria, Illinois and had a room-mate who was a Black Panther, named
In December 1969, when Chicago Police killed Black Panther Fred
Hampton in a shoot-to-kill operation, they also killed Clark.
Churchill also became a member of the American Indian Movement at the
time that it was engaged in armed conflict with the Federal
government in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. He spent some time as a
national spokesperson for the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee.
Despite not having a PhD, Ward's incredible intellect and writing
ability has earned him a top place in the Ethnic Studies Department
at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I can hardly think of an
issue he hasn't written about, but along with his work in American
Indian Studies, he has also co-authored the standard works on the
FBI's ``internal security'' campaigns (such as against the Black
Panthers, labour, etc).
The book's main thrust is to analyze and tear apart the ideology of
pacifism, explaining how it is, in many ways (as it is usually but
not always practiced), a counter-revolutionary ideology. How in many
cases pacifism allows people to pose as revolutionaries while
ensuring that they are not in harm's way. Churchill argues that
pacifism leads to liberalism and limits the ability of popular
movements to create real change.
It is also argued that European-American pacifists, intentionally or
not, ensure that the burden of violence is on non-European-American
and Third World communities who are the most vulnerable to state
violence and often have no real choice other than to use physical
force in defence and in altering their situation.
Ward concentrates extensively on the Jewish Holocaust, pointing out
that the overwhelming response of Jews was non-violence, but that
when they did use violence they succeeded in destroying one entire
camp, and one of the furnaces at Auschwitz.
Churchill does not advocate a shift from pacifism (especially if
practiced in the purest form) to some kind of ``culture of violence.''
He is merely suggesting that left-wing and/or anti-imperialist
movements should feel free to keep all options open, from rallies and
petitions to armed self-defence to armed struggle and that this
should be accepted by those who are not directly involved but who
support the oppressed.
Mike Ryan quotes Martin Luther King, Jr. as saying: ``Whether they
read Ghandi or Frantz Fanon, all radicals understand the need for
action - direct, self-transforming and structure-transforming
action.'' The point is that opposing repression and poverty and
dismantling the structures which perpetuate them is more important
than keeping ourselves out of harm's way.
As Ed Mead puts it, ``the question is not whether to use violence in
the global class struggle to end the rule of international
imperialism, but only when to use it.''
By Tom Shelley
Some real decency and fair play
Dis/Agreeing Ireland: Contexts, Obstacles, Hopes
Edited by James Anderson and James Goodman
Published by Pluto Press
In all the self-conscious analysis of `Britishness' which is taking
place in Britain at the moment, the quality on which the British
nation seems to take greatest pride in itself is a historical sense
of `decency' and `fair play' and a willingness to support the
Over the Irish Sea, many people must view this rosy picture with a
mixture of incredulity, anger and amusement since (a) Britain's
relationship with its colony has been characterised by the
catastrophic absence of these things; (b) Britain built the world's
biggest and most exploitative empire which thrived precisely because
it was more than happy to beat the you-know-what out of every
`underdog' it happened to encounter; and (c) the British imply with,
some would say typical, arrogance that these qualities are somehow
Here Anderson and Goodman have made a reasonable attempt to expose
this disparity in the way the British see themselves and their role
in Ireland (decent, fair), how they present it to the wider political
community (neutral, altruistic), and the objective reality of the
remnants of colonial rule in Ireland (self-interested, undemocratic,
There is at present a glut of books earnestly analysing the political
situation of the six counties post-Good Friday Agreement and this
effort looks at first sight to be another worthy-but-dull collection
of well-rehearsed arguments to add to those languishing on the
political science shelves of university libraries.
But the editors' own chapter on `Nationalisms and Transnationalism'
provides a pretty good analysis of how British nationalism is
constructed, how much it is overlooked as a factor in the conflict
when it has actually dictated policy in Ireland, and the differences
between it and Irish nationalism: ``Whereas British nationalism has
state-sponsored, imperialist and sectarian origins, Irish
nationalism, by contrast, developed as an anti-colonialist movement
and is anti-sectarian in principle as well as origin, although in
practice it has often been imbued with Catholicism''.
Robbie McVeigh's excellent essay on `The British/Irish Peace Process'
is probably worth the price of the book on its own. He analyses the
conflict in terms of its colonial origins, clinically exposing the
`neo-colonialism' of present British state policy and the dishonesty
of its claim to be a neutral arbiter in a tribal war - one
manifestation of the `decency/fair play' myth: ``Attention to the
colonial legacy makes it clear that the British state is not a
disinterested observer. Britain has a selfish, strategic and economic
interest in Northern Ireland - that is why it claims sovereignty.
Moreover, a party that has had a multitude of selfish strategic and
economic interests in Ireland for the past 800 years is singularly
ill-qualified to play the part of `honest-broker' or `neutral
Also worth a read are essays on the historical role of the British
Labour Party in Ireland and the `Human Rights Deficit' by Jerry
Fitzpatrick and Conor Foley respectively.
Where the book differs significantly from many others of a similar
type, however, is that most of the contributors make a serious effort
to offer solutions, within the framework of the Good Friday
Agreement, to the problems they identify. What they broadly opt for
is inclusive and accountable government, the creation of powerful
cross-border bodies, massive human and civil rights reforms, the
disbandment of the RUC and the shelving of the D-word. Sound
By Fern Lane
On the Tiger trail
Inside The Celtic Tiger
By Denis O'Hearn
Published by Pluto Press
The idea of genres of economic books might sound implausible to most
readers but yes, they do exist and now An Phoblacht believes it has
discovered another in Denis O'Hearn's Inside the Celtic Tiger.
The easiest economics genre to read is the righteous polemic
established by Marx and taken up by Connolly. The dire prophetic
ideology of the New Right can make interesting reading but takes some
effort. Then there are the spoofers who hang a text on some populist
theory like the end of economics or the
One particular text which I was forced to purchase in college and
which has since gone into multiple editions reflected the crushing
monotone smugness of the lecturer who wrote it. Unfortunately this
particular style is recreated across the world. Then there are the
smug `we know so much we cannot possibly explain in it simple terms
to the plebs' sect who need not be named. Rest assured though we know
who you are. Garret FitzGerald ploughs his own furrow weekly in the
Irish Times serving up a mix of `baffle them with statistics' or
sometimes just baffle them.
Now enter Denis O'Hearn. His Inside the Celtic Tiger is an excellent
book. Why? Because it is an honest, accessible and insightful
analysis of the 26-County economy packed with an awesome amount of
references and sources. O'Hearn must have covered some ground in his
work for this book.
So what genre of economic writer is Denis? He produces a curious mix
of the clever detective with just a hint of the lonesome cowboy on
the trail. O'Hearn's writing smacks of an informed though slightly
caustic frontiersman. He crossed the desert to bring us this
analysis. He ain't bragging but when you read some of the more
personalised pieces you cannot help but thinking that there is a
simple truth in his writing. A truth that is absent in much of the
media and academic comment on the 26-County economy today.
O'Hearn shows by simple examples, such as the real cost of providing
a job in Intel (up to £140,000), the true nature of the Irish
economy. He presents, as he says himself, the real character of the
economic successes of recent years as being produced by a range of
contradictory factors. They include ``high growth of transnational
production and exports without correspondingly high investments or
job creation: Concentration of employment growth in services without
a correspondingly rapid growth of service provision; and rapid
overall economic growth with stagnant investment, sluggish or spotty
consumption growth and rising inequality''.
Most importantly, O'Hearn's work exposes `the look-no-hands' fake
magic of Dublin Government economic policy. By not understanding or
admitting the inconsistencies in economic performances over the past
ten years they have clearly shown themselves unable to deal with the
consequences of what happens next. Read this book. It tells a good
BY NEIL FORDE