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The Heart of Nonviolence

- by Sachio
Dear Friends,

Here at the prison camp, I'm so honored by "Ahimsa". We have such hopes for the future, for a popular movement that understands the link between freedom and peace, and that such a movement could open up a justice for both the strongest and the meek, and explore the complements of communal society and individual freedom. Who knows what its beginnings are right here in "Ahimsa?" It's one of the very few publications that connect nonviolence and non hierarchy. What a rare and precious thing! So to be part of this project makes my prison time a joy.

I'd like to continue my thoughts from my previous article, moving toward an introduction to nonviolent anarchy. I'd like to focus a little more on what nonviolence implies in the deeper sense, not just as a method.

Nonviolence may be suited to our movement as a form of social conflict which is the least authoritarian and the most respecting of the individual. (Even the individuality of the opponent!) Still, the social conflict is just one part of it. Nonviolence has an even deeper implication for anarchists, and one that can go to the heart of revolutionary theory, the social revolution.

Nonviolence is unique in not separating our life from our politics, or the goals we work for. Not that this isn't true of other philosophies, but nonviolence, as clarified by Gandhi, is built on this idea, that ends and means are inseparable. If we use authoritarian methods, even with the most libertarian aims, our result will be violent and powerful, rather than "open" and empowering. So nonviolence puts tremendous emphasis on human relationships, in the 'present', not just when the government does, or capitalists do, but specifically before them. If these institutions still have the mind set of elitism and holding power, it's something unique we can contribute if our collectives are as we wish they were, respecting their humanity before they respect ours, and doing so, regardless of whether they ever respect ours. This is the essence of the freedom culture. If we can't do it before the transformation, what makes us think we can do it after? And if we establish this culture now, it's continuance and growth in the future seems far more realistic.

During a transformation, our attitude and way of conduct will have everything to do with our results. We've seen where violence and authoritarianism lead, in the 1790's of France, we saw the reign of terror; in Bolshevik Russia, the similar crushing of left dissenters in the cause of freedom. The "terror" and dictatorship (not of the proletariat but of bureaucrats) might have been in theory, temporary, but their conduct in the present destroyed their highest principles, and became their future (specifically in Soviet Russia.) So this is why we need to change our way of relationships before the opponent; it's the very keystone of nonviolence, and of communism in its purest sense. So the social revolution won't pop out of nowhere when the capitalists are challenged, but will have occasion to flower from an already established culture, embodied in the popular movement itself.

Anarchism is all about this change in relationships. It's part of what makes it so problematic, as well as so promising. So long as governments are organized, the people will not be. The majority of people have little or no experience in group process. It's not part of our culture, and under government, it doesn't need to be. Under capitalism, the necessities of food and medicine become profitable opportunities for someone, and surviving in the labor force makes it look like a luxury. But not only does this deprive us of independence (as government is, in a sense, an 'occupying' force), it keeps us from community and separates us. It keeps us dependent on the government's order and unmindful of our growth as a species.

Community, on the other hand, has everything to do with relationships and process. And it's so hard in these days because it is so foreign to capitalist society with its isolating narcotic of consumerism. We have not been raised to really take part in each other's needs, so nonviolence and the communal cause is really going against the culture. When we take all the energy we once put into reforming the state and invest it in community and the popular movement, we're doing something that's alien to our world, something as incredible new as it is ancient. We're shifting our focus from the state to the individual, a return to humanity, the very heart of nonviolence.
- Sachio

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