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History is a Weapon
May 26, 2008 11:58 PM   Subscribe

History is a Weapon -- Featuring Propaganda by the inventor of modern PR, Edward Bernays, essays by Bill Clinton, Eugene Debs, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Mark Twain, the entirety of A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn, and much, much more.
posted by empath (55 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thanks for posting this. I had just been thinking about Eugene Debs earlier after reading this piece about the Vermont Progressive Party.
posted by homunculus at 12:51 AM on May 27, 2008


Napoleon had it right: "L'histoire est une suite de mensonges sur lesquels on est d'accord."

Amusing to see "socialist", "pacifist", and "nonviolence" tags next to each other. One of these things is not like the others.
posted by three blind mice at 1:00 AM on May 27, 2008


…only if you consider taxation violence!
posted by blasdelf at 2:04 AM on May 27, 2008


Amusing to see "socialist", "pacifist", and "nonviolence" tags next to each other. One of these things is not like the others.

You might be surprised at the number of people who think you can change political systems nonviolently.

I mean, I wouldn't, as I'm pretty much reconciled to the fact that idiocy seems to be a constant in human history, but some people haven't quite got there yet.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:09 AM on May 27, 2008


You might be surprised at the number of people who think you can change political systems nonviolently.

I think the success of Martin Luther King and Ghandi might have something to do with this impression.
posted by delmoi at 2:38 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Delmoi, I'd suggest that those are singularly bad examples to use, given that although neither of them advocated violence, violence accompanied and followed the changes they brought nonetheless.
posted by AdamCSnider at 2:53 AM on May 27, 2008


Amusing to see "socialist", "pacifist", and "nonviolence" tags next to each other. One of these things is not like the others.

From the OED:

Pacifism: (noun) the belief that disputes should be settled by peaceful means and that war and violence are unjustifiable.

Non-Violence: (noun) the use of peaceful means, not force, to bring about political or social change.

Socialism: (noun) a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

Pacifism doesn't fit because it is a belief or ideology, non-violence is unique because it's a specific technique towards affecting change, and socialism is the only political theory of the bunch. I assume that you mean that socialism not like the others because it's never pacifistic? Another definition to help you out:

Anecdotal evidence fallacy - (aka Confabulation fallacy) Attempts to establish a proposition as fact or as a universal principle based solely on anecdotes, personal experience, and testimony.

Many socialist governments have been associated with violent practices and the exercise of asymmetrical force, but socialism doesn't necessarily entail violence. I think we have a token/type miscommunication here.
posted by farishta at 3:09 AM on May 27, 2008 [8 favorites]


(on re-read:) That came out a lot snarkier than I had intended. Apologies for coming off like a philosophy grad student douchebag who reads Chomsky all day with a poster of Einstein sticking his tongue out next to his desk. That description is only, like, 20% accurate. I don't have any posters and I haven't read Chomsky in years. And I study the history philosophy of science... it's different... I promise.

I just have some sympathy for the ideals of socialism, and I think that there are some European countries that, with some helpful constrains and conditions, have something close to democratic socialism (yes, I'm thinking of Scandinavia, and yes, people say it's in decline, etc. etc.). My really lame snark about tokens and types was an allusion to this very important point: even if socialism, generally speaking, has been either unsuccessful or difficult or associated with violence, we shouldn't write it off as necessarily so.

Anyhoo, sorry for being an asshole! Hugs all around.
posted by farishta at 3:24 AM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think the success of Martin Luther King and Ghandi might have something to do with this impression.

Bad examples, both. First off, MLK wasn't out to change political systems; he was a reformist, seeking change within the system. Further, it's doubtful whether MLK would have been as successful as he was without other blacks who were perfectly willing to use violence. Without the threat of insurrection, King would have been in a much weaker position. With the presence of insurrectionist elements, the white man, so to speak, was offered the option of dealing with the comparatively nonthreatening King.

And much the same attaches to Gandhi. Gandhi's advocacy of pacifism and nonviolent resistance is, quite simply, a crock. First of all, the strategy of nonviolence is absolutely dependent upon an oppressor who, when confronted with nonviolence, approaches in a spirit in which the resistor is treated as an equally valid and equally powerful member of the interaction. When the oppressor refuses to accord this position to the oppressed (i.e., by definition, always), the result is simply violence, as seen in India. A resistance leader can be admired far and wide for his purity and morality, but if the British don't give two shits about it, it's not going to do a damn bit of good. The pacifist, then, is the best friend of the oppressor. Second, the strategy of nonviolent resistance didn't fucking work in India- the history books have this odd tendency to absolutely handwave the violent armed insurgency against the British.

Throughout history it has been the force of arms that has allowed the oppressed to throw off their shackles and which has been present at every major shift between political systems; there is no age in which the ruling classes suddenly come to their senses and start giving their power away. The myth of nonviolence- the ineffectual but oh-so-moral strategy that empowers the violent and actively serves the oppressors- has been elevated to a moral level, to the point that "pacifism" has intensely positive moral connotations. This serves the interests of the ruling classes; of course, it should surprise no one to learn that the ideas which have currency in a hierarchical society are those that benefit the ruling class.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:24 AM on May 27, 2008 [17 favorites]


Bad examples, both. First off, MLK wasn't out to change political systems; he was a reformist, seeking change within the system.

Splitting hairs.

I mean, I'm sure you could come up with arbitrary definitions of "political systems" and "change" so that your statement made sense, but that would be a rather pointless exercise. MLK archived a lot of what he wanted, obviously.

Another example would be the switch from communism to capitalism in Russia or China.

I mean obviously there is violence going all the time, the question is whether or not the violence levels are above background levels, and that the violence is not the result of 'opportunistic infections' that rise up in times of instability rather then true 'driving violence' used intentionally by successfully revolutionaries.
posted by delmoi at 3:59 AM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Very difficult to make myself click on the Clinton link. For a man who is so worried about his legacy, he certainly has done his level best to destroy it this year.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:02 AM on May 27, 2008


even if socialism, generally speaking, has been either unsuccessful or difficult or associated with violence, we shouldn't write it off as necessarily so.

Some of the worst violence of the 20th century - indeed in all of recorded history - was associated with the various forms of socialism.

Granted "we shouldn't write if off as necessarily so", but given the bloody empirical evidence of the movement, it would seem improper to associate socialism with pacifism and anti-violence.
posted by three blind mice at 4:21 AM on May 27, 2008


You just blew my mind, Pope Guilty. Gandhi's popularity as opiate of the masses.
posted by DU at 4:27 AM on May 27, 2008


Honestly, I don't think that socialism on the whole has a greater tendency to violence than any known alternative (taking socialism as a political system). National democracies and monarchies were involved in World War II and in the colonial adventures of the 1800s, fascism doesn't even have to be discussed - and lets not even get started on theocracies. I suspect that socialism gets a bad rap because it's main period of ascendency coincided with an upsurge of technological developments that made state violence easier and more efficient. And as mentioned above, socialism has been integrated into many modern democracies without causing bloodshed.
I'm taking socialism as a political system here, of course. If you view it as an economic system, well, capitalism has had some pretty nasty moments as well. I'm not quite sure how you would quantify comparing the two, since socialism has a much shorter history....
posted by AdamCSnider at 4:28 AM on May 27, 2008



what a great website, empath - thanks for the post
posted by jammy at 4:35 AM on May 27, 2008


Instant derail! Ah well, what can you do.

What a strange site. Primary sources for a few strands of American history--slavery, civil rights, a few items on radical labor. Very dated. It is like the reading list from some young radical professor's history seminar in 1971.
posted by LarryC at 5:20 AM on May 27, 2008


I'm not quite sure how you would quantify comparing the two, since socialism has a much shorter history....

Capitalism also tends to have its massacres be of the quiet variety, rather than the purges and such.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:58 AM on May 27, 2008


I'd like to chime in and echo jammy. Great post, empath, sorry for my part of the derail.
posted by farishta at 6:15 AM on May 27, 2008


Primary sources for a few strands of American history--slavery, civil rights, a few items on radical labor. Very dated.

the primary sources are dated? how is this a problem?
posted by jammy at 6:15 AM on May 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Prior to the emergence of socialism, matters of politics, the division of property and statecraft were conducted via needlepoint. Generous intercontinental traders gave people from Africa free lifts to job opportunities in the places that are now tourist destinations, such as the Caribbean; theological differences were resolved by gymnastic and circus feats such as seeing who could stretch their arms out longest on a rack or hold their whole body in the flames for the greatest period of time; peasants worldwide were kept trim by weight-loss programmes that restricted the excess intake of calories, a happy invention that doubled as a kind of contraceptive measure as it also shortened the time a family would have to care for a living child. Dark the day when the idea of socialism was mooted and this prelapsarian state was forever banished by the noisome demands of a few malcontents who didn't know how good they had it!
posted by Abiezer at 6:18 AM on May 27, 2008 [16 favorites]


Capitalism also tends to have its massacres be of the quiet variety, rather than the purges and such.

Right, sure, but the whole point is you said you can't "change government" without violence. but if capitalism involves violence, and capitalism is going on all the time, then you also can't have stasis in government without violence.

So, you have violence either way. The point is, you can effect change in government (for any reasonable definition of "change" and "government") without participating or causing violence, which is all that the non-violent pacifists are asking for.
posted by delmoi at 6:31 AM on May 27, 2008


The point is, you can effect change in government (for any reasonable definition of "change" and "government") without participating or causing violence

Change in government, yes. Change of government, no.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:40 AM on May 27, 2008


Mark Twain is my hero. Once again, he's spot on. That man could cut through bullshit like noone else.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:04 AM on May 27, 2008


I believe that it is metafilter's own History is a Weapon.
posted by serazin at 7:33 AM on May 27, 2008


it should surprise no one to learn that the ideas which have currency in a hierarchical society are those that benefit the ruling class.
posted by Pope Guilty

Eponysterical?
posted by blue_beetle at 7:55 AM on May 27, 2008


Amusing to see "socialist", "pacifist", and "nonviolence" tags next to each other.

It doesn't mean that every essay is all three, only that there are essays about all three subjects there.
posted by empath at 8:18 AM on May 27, 2008


I believe that it is metafilter's own History is a Weapon.

Well.. i'll be damned.
posted by empath at 8:21 AM on May 27, 2008


Regarding socialism as inherently violent AdamCSnider is correct in mentioning the fact that the majority of democratic modern states hold some socialist policies. This would seem to suggest that socialism does not automatically lead to violence. It would be ignorant to argue otherwise.

And regarding non-violent approaches to changing governments, I would have to disagree with Pope Guilty. The non-violent approach has shown successes when utilized against democratic nations. We must remember that its history is relatively short, but beginning with the moral force Irish in the nineteenth century, great freedoms have been won without resorting to killing. It appears to take longer and on the whole be more difficult to organize, but it is not unreasonable to expect a democratic government to eventually buckle under the weight of the people demanding change. History is replete with the successes of a steady non-violent constitutional approach towards solving political problems.
posted by boubelium at 8:34 AM on May 27, 2008


Change in government, yes. Change of government, no.

Pope Guilty - Check out Poland's history of Solidarity in the late 1980s for an example of a peaceful change OF government.
posted by boubelium at 8:45 AM on May 27, 2008


George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia has some interesting stuff about Barcelona's transition from "a town where the working class were in the saddle" to in-fighting among the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:10 AM on May 27, 2008


I'm with Pope Guilty on the myth of non-violence. It's bizarre to read Zinn's People's History, rife as it is with socialists, pro-civil-rights blacks, anarchists, and other fighters, then get to the end and realize that he expects a 60s-style "new, diversified, nonviolent culture, in which all forms of personal and group expression would be possible."

Sorry, but we already had one, and it was completely co-opted within twenty years. The idea that we can build an alternative society-within-society ignores the vast power differential between the government and the people; when those who are interested in "revolt" refuse to arm themselves, even against a police state which routinely kills people in the night, they have given the government carte blanche to act against them. Nonviolent tactics work when you're dealing with a society that's willing to negotiate; they also work as the "good cop", acting together with a violent "bad cop". When nonviolence stands alone, against a government willing to commit violence in order to retain power, it is often counter-productive.

IMHO, Zinn also underestimates the extent to which Americans aren't a homogeneous group with equivalent ideals and goals. Beyond our "submerged, deflected, common interest" lies severe social and moral differences, even among people in the same state and city. Those who pretend otherwise are doomed to failure, because the first thing those of the New Culture need to be able to do is to agree on what the New Culture ought to be like.

For example, a "new, diversified, nonviolent culture, in which all forms of personal and group expression would be possible" inherently frowns upon personal and group expression of old, non-diversified, violent cultures... i.e. most of them. In other words, it is not "diversified" at all -- it's more of the same watered-down, all-inclusive, everybody's-special-but-all-in-the-same-way crap, exactly the same stuff that eventually killed the passion of the social movements of the 60s. Those who want something more than to exist for existence's sake will be just as dissatisfied then as now, if not more so.

On preview: sure, if there's one nation known for its non-violent revolutionary movement, it's Ireland. Come on. Poland's Solidarity is a much better example, but it has also been completely co-opted by capitalist business-as-usual -- Poland is such a worker's paradise that tons of the workers left to find better-paying jobs in the rest of the EU!

Here is a critique of "moral force" with respect to British movements in the late 1800s; it's not an overstatement to suggest that the insistence on non-violence and peaceful negotiation led to the failure of Chartism in England.
posted by vorfeed at 9:18 AM on May 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


On preview: sure, if there's one nation known for its non-violent revolutionary movement, it's Ireland. Come on.

Read your history. Ireland serves as an excellent example of the repercussions of physical and moral force. The nation experienced repeated upswings in both directions, but its credentials in non-violence is strong. How can you dismiss Daniel O'Connell? Charles Stewart Parnell?

And you can say that Poland's Solidarity was co-opted by capitalist business as usual, but that doesn't address the fact that it is an example of non-violent governmental change.

Now your example of Chartism is an interesting one, though not for the reasons you may think. Chartism was ultimately vindicated through non-violent and constitutional means. While it failed spectacularly in 1848, its ideals lived on and almost all of its aims were accomplished in due time. How? Why through reliance on a moral force, constitutional approach. Again, read your history.
posted by boubelium at 9:42 AM on May 27, 2008


Poland's Solidarity is a much better example, but it has also been completely co-opted by capitalist business-as-usual -- Poland is such a worker's paradise that tons of the workers left to find better-paying jobs in the rest of the EU!

This is a deeply weird comment. Poland was a communist state. If one is leading a rebellion against a communist state, I would expect it to be capitalist in nature. The only reason those workers didn't leave before communism collapsed is that they weren't allowed to.
posted by empath at 10:30 AM on May 27, 2008


I think the key point is that non-violence only seems to work against relatively democratic nations with relatively high media consciousness (if you don't see/hear about what is being done to the protesters, you won't complain to the government about it) and a certain set of moral standards espoused by the population vis a vis treatment of protestors and the legitimacy of nonviolent opposition.
The problem is that a democracy with all those attributes is unlikely to be one in which anyone will be better off should there be a change OF government, rather than changes IN government, to swipe Pope Guilty's distinction, except perhaps in the case of foreign nations under the control of democratic governments - say the British empire, for example. And even those Irish and Indian nonviolence would not have worked particularly well without the home front solid citizens who were ambiguous already about the morality of empire, or the overseas folk in America and on the continent who joined in the clamor to let those populations go their own way.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:32 AM on May 27, 2008


Discussions like these about the efficacy of violent vs. non-violent approaches to social/political change are grounded in such overly-broad and useless abstractions that they're about as compelling and instructive as asking who wins: Ninjas or Pirates?

No force yet, apart from the slow progress of history and the natural decay that blooms in its shadow, has been shown to have any consistent power to put tyrants in their place without simultaneously elevating worse tyrants still.

Non-violent and violent tactics alike are only useful when they're skillfully applied. When skillfully applied, each can be effective in its own way. But violent approaches to promoting political change can quickly inflame human passions that make their skillful exercise significantly less likely.

Complex problems are rarely solved through the exercise of the passions. (Ever try to change a tire by getting mad about it?) Violence quickly becomes self-sustaining, like a fire of irrational passions whose oxygen is human lives, with people fighting and killing each other not over legitimate grievances or ideological differences, but in retribution for the inevitable casualties of violence, over personal grudges, and out of raw frustration.

Violence is the most dangerous and least reliable approach to bringing about a particular kind of social or political change. Yes, of course, it can bring about rapid social and political change, but the odds are worse than a crap shoot that the change will go in the direction the participants intended.

Meanwhile, non-violent approaches can be a lot more effective than some in this thread suggest when it comes to achieving a specific set of desired political outcomes. The Nazis didn't have to resort to violence to radically reshape Germany's political and social landscape. They just waited for the right moment in history and took over the old fashioned way, using the ballot box. If a movement as fundamentally amoral and power-hungry as the Nazi party can make such significant progress toward achieving its political goals without resorting to violence (the failed beer hall putsch aside), then what excuse do ostensibly more liberal political movements have to resort to violence?

As Isaac Asimov wisely observed: "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."
posted by saulgoodman at 11:23 AM on May 27, 2008 [5 favorites]


Um, thanks, yall. We appreciate the praise and I'll be sure to pass it around to the other people who work on the project. As for the violence and socialism discussion, we invite you all to our map which we could re-title capitalism and violence (I'm assuming that self-linking in this instance isn't seen as crass self-promotion). Some of the primary documents are a little dated, but if people have recommendations, we take them all the time.
posted by history is a weapon at 11:27 AM on May 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


Read your history. Ireland serves as an excellent example of the repercussions of physical and moral force. The nation experienced repeated upswings in both directions, but its credentials in non-violence is strong. How can you dismiss Daniel O'Connell? Charles Stewart Parnell?

I'm not "dismissing" them. As I said above, nonviolent tactics work very well, in concert with violent tactics. For this reason, Ireland is simply NOT a good example of change through non-violent means -- change was achieved there through a classic combination of violent and non-violent tactics.

And you can say that Poland's Solidarity was co-opted by capitalist business as usual, but that doesn't address the fact that it is an example of non-violent governmental change.

The problem is that being co-opted by the mainstream isn't an isolated issue -- this is exactly what tends to happen to non-violent protests over time. To those who urge non-violence at all costs, this seems to be a feature, not a bug, but I'm not so sure.

Also, I'm not saying that non-violent protest never works. Again: "Nonviolent tactics work when you're dealing with a society that's willing to negotiate". Due to the government's desperation, Poland in the late 1980s was exactly such a society, thus the Roundtable Talks. For a guy who likes to trot out the "read your history" line, you sure don't seem to have read my post!

While it failed spectacularly in 1848, its ideals lived on and almost all of its aims were accomplished in due time. How? Why through reliance on a moral force, constitutional approach. Again, read your history.

The Hyde Park riots had as much to do with the passing of the Second Reform Act as "a moral force, constitutional approach" did; rural unrest had a lot to do with the Third. Again, I don't think England is a particularly good example; their reform process was accompanied by plenty of violent unrest.

This is a deeply weird comment. Poland was a communist state. If one is leading a rebellion against a communist state, I would expect it to be capitalist in nature.

The Polish Solidarity movement was anti-Communist, but I would still call many of their goals socialist -- they were a trade union demanding equal wages, a minimum income, and an end to worker exploitation. In a lot of ways, the capitalist Poland of today is a betrayal of many of Solidarity's original goals.
posted by vorfeed at 11:47 AM on May 27, 2008


The Nazis didn't have to resort to violence to radically reshape Germany's political and social landscape. They just waited for the right moment in history and took over the old fashioned way, using the ballot box.

You are ignorant of the history of the rise of the Third Reich.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:14 PM on May 27, 2008


You are ignorant of the history of the rise of the Third Reich.

No, I'm not. I may be oversimplifying it a little, but then, I'm not writing a book on the subject. By and large, unless you count the Reichstag Fire (which is debatable) and the Beer Hall Putsch (which failed miserably and actually turned out to be a major setback for the movement), the Nazi's took Deutschland over by non-violent means.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:03 PM on May 27, 2008


There is this idea that violence never solves anything. And that is just not true. It's just that violence tends to be a very poor solution. But it certainly can solve political problems in short order. If we can learn anything from history it is surely that.

Non-violence is a much harder and longer road. But it can yield a more solid foundation for change. However it rarely works until violent means have exhausted or shamed the parties involved.

When I think of the use of non-violence in the modern context I actually think of where it hasn't happened and where it SHOULD happen.

Palestine is a good example. If there is any place in the world where violent change has steadfastly refused to yield anything but continued misery it is in Israel/Palestine. I am continually surprised to find the same insane use of violence by the same political groups over and over and it only worsens their positions. Aren't they all tired of this shit yet? I honestly believe that the Palestinians have literally nothing to lose at this point and should throw down their weapons and embrace only non violent means and they would more likely get what they want.
posted by tkchrist at 3:04 PM on May 27, 2008


Nazi's took Deutschland over by non-violent means.

Krystal Nacht?

Look they may have not used open violence all that often (though they did use it and I think your discounting Nazi sponsored hooliganism) but the threat was certainly there—they had the guns and the goons. Never question what can be accomplished through hostile intimidation of cowed populace.
posted by tkchrist at 3:07 PM on May 27, 2008


how is this site/project different from "voices of a people's history of the united states," by howard zinn and anthony arnove, the primary-source companion to "a people's history..." ??

many/most of the sources listed in the "and many, many more" link, above, have already been compiled into the zinn/arnove companion piece. people all over the country have been performing dramatic readings from "voices" for several years. there's even a non-profit that's been formed around "voices"

not that i'm preferring one over another -- it's just that this present site/project seems to be a few years behind zinn/arnove.

for the record, i agree with many of the comments in this thread which are critical of zinn's work in "a people's history...." i'm not just a zinn cheerleader
posted by CitizenD at 3:11 PM on May 27, 2008


i'm totally surprised that there hasn't been an FPP about voices of a people's history of the united states, by howard zinn and anthony arnove.
posted by CitizenD at 3:14 PM on May 27, 2008


and here's a search page on youtube for over 120 videos from dramatic readings from "voices of a people's history..." from all over the U.S.
posted by CitizenD at 3:16 PM on May 27, 2008


the Nazi's took Deutschland over by non-violent means

The Nazi ascent to power was greased with violence from top to bottom - unending street violence, thuggery, rioting, disruption and organised hooliganism. The SA was an organisation with two aims - protect the leadership and create chaos. "Only we can stop the violence," they said, and it was true - they were causing it in the first place. Violence was their political currency.
posted by WPW at 4:09 PM on May 27, 2008 [3 favorites]


Never forget, boys and girls... while you’re smashing the state... to always keep a smile on your face and a song in your heart
posted by Huplescat at 4:50 PM on May 27, 2008


The map about America and the World is interesting, but also misleading and has mistakes.

Part of me doesn't like the American centricness of the map. France, for instance, has made many more terrible interventions in Africa than the US has. And Britain invented the concentration camp (in the Boer War), and has done some pretty damn horrific things (like the supression of the suposed Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya). I realise that this is an American site, and there are limits to any map, but if History is about learning more about the world, this is a serious bias.

Also, the bit about the US unilaterally blocking UN intervention in Rwanda? I don't think that's true - the then Rwandan gov't was on the security council and was blocking action against their supporters, for one thing, and I believe that France also acted to delay action (for their own reasons).

It's important to raise awareness of serious and immoral actions by the US and other democratic countries so that none of us think that our countries have never assasinated leaders, massacred people and generally f'ed things up. But we should also not exagerrate the badness of our own countries, or downplay the bad actions of others because any historical inaccuracies or biases will make the argument about the bad actions of our own country lose credibility.
posted by jb at 7:07 PM on May 27, 2008


The Nazi ascent to power was greased with violence from top to bottom - unending street violence, thuggery, rioting, disruption and organised hooliganism.

There was a lot of petty violence generally speaking in Germany around that period. There were Nazi (right-wing) thugs, sure, but there were plenty of leftist thugs and just plain old thug-type thugs.

In fact, a big part of what contributed to the Nazi's electoral successes (and it's non-controversial that the Nazi's enjoyed a considerable base of popular support) was the party's promise to restore law and order. Sure, they scapegoated leftists, but some leftists really were engaged in political violence. Sustained violence, in general, inevitably serves the aims of authoritarian movements, regardless of where those movements fall on the political spectrum.

In general, I agree with the latter part of tkchrist's comment: Sometimes violent means can be used to bring about a set of political ends without too many long-term negative repercussions, but those kinds of positive outcomes are much more difficult to achieve and sustain than the kinds of outcomes that result from sustained and vigorous non-violent resistance campaigns. But that doesn't just mean taking an extra-long lunch break, or boycotting a particular brand of bottled water. It means seriously committing, on a large scale, to radical non-violent action. And being prepared to commit to it again if the powers-that-be start to offend again.

But it's a moot point, because radical non-violent movements never really gain much traction in a country like America, where the particular brand of coffee a person drinks or the model of car that person drives is likely to make others with nearly identical socioeconomic backgrounds and political outlooks want to avoid associating with him or her.

Krystal Nacht?

Respectfully, Kristallnacht occurred after the Nazis were well in control of the state apparatus.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:24 PM on May 27, 2008


Respectfully, Kristallnacht occurred after the Nazis were well in control of the state apparatus.

Oh. Yeah. But before that there was continued low level thuggery. And some very extreme intimidation. In the Shoah Museum they had banners and posters that clearly stated you were gonna be killed if you opposed the Nazis... or opposed the Nazi "movement". Some of it was indirect and sly some of it was out and out ... well, like illustrations of people getting their throats slit and shit like that. Lots of businesses were threatened windows smashed, threatening Graffiti, all that kind of shit. The police being in cahoots (or being active members) of the gangs doing this kind of thing meant there was simply no recourse.

Implied violence and thuggery is a very effective tool to gain control. Just look at the mob?

Slobodan Milosovek in Serbia and his cadre of football hooligans basically did the same thing to take over.
posted by tkchrist at 8:18 PM on May 27, 2008


JB, the map is titled "Everything* you ever wanted to know about U.S. foreign policy that history books tend to neglect." That's why it's America-centric. And if you find mistakes, email the site.
posted by chelseagirl at 11:45 AM on May 28, 2008


Saul, the fact that Weimar Germany suffered endemic political violence on all sides doesn't change the fact that the Nazi ascent to power was inherently violent. It was carried along on internal violence, far more organised and institutional than simply low-level thuggery by an undisciplined youth wing. You might as well argue that Zanu PF is non-violent because it maintains power by outwardly democratic means.

radical non-violent movements never really gain much traction in a country like America, where the particular brand of coffee a person drinks or the model of car that person drives is likely to make others with nearly identical socioeconomic backgrounds and political outlooks want to avoid associating with him or her

On the left, maybe. On the right, it's a different story, as the political ascent of the evangelical Christian right demonstrates.
posted by WPW at 12:52 PM on May 28, 2008


On the left, maybe. On the right, it's a different story, as the political ascent of the evangelical Christian right demonstrates.

Proof that you're wrong: "argula".
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:45 PM on May 28, 2008


Proof that you're wrong: "argula".

Sorry PG, I don't understand this. (Am British. Please speak slowly and clearly.)
posted by WPW at 7:17 AM on May 29, 2008


Every goddamn time we have an election the wealthy, elitist fucks in the GOP try and run with the narrative that the Democratic Party is the party of "elitists", which is code for "is among the ranks of the filthy literate and fucks other men". The latest salvo stems from Obama addressing a room full of people who grow, among other things, argula and commenting on the high price of argula. (It's a leafy green, goes well in salad.) Because only an effeminate French liberal pussy elitist faggot would eat salads, let alone salads containing anything more exotic than iceberg lettuce, the GOP has seized upon this as a sign that Obama is out of touch with the REAL AMURIKANS.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:45 AM on May 29, 2008


Argula?

I thought you meant it was the name of a vampire Count who likes to argue all the time.
posted by tkchrist at 4:58 PM on May 29, 2008


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