Peter Gelderloos: Debunking the myths around nonviolent resistance

The Floyd rebellion follows a long tradition of movements using a diversity of tactics to achieve their goals, discrediting champions of nonviolence.

Roar Mag, August 22, 2020

For decades, police and prison abolitionists have repeated the same argument: police and prisons do not prevent violence, healthy communities do. Yet, it was not until the mass uprisings in hundreds of cities across the country in response to the murder of George Floyd when, suddenly, abolitionist ideas were propelled to the forefront of the American imagination. A counterhegemonic and politically radical viewpoint became perplexingly commonsensical overnight.

Impatient politicians, including Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, pointed to the disproven “outside agitator” myth in a desperate attempt to delegitimize the protests. Media and politicians tokenize “Black leadership” at the service of the ruling class, platforming establishment groups that argue militant resistance somehow detracts from the Black liberation message.

In the essay that follows, Peter Gelderloos, author of several books including How Nonviolence Protects the State and Anarchy Works, addresses the shortcomings of a well-known study by Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan promoting non-violence, darling of pacifists, politicians and both progressive and corporate media. In 2013, he critiqued the study’s flawed methodology that uses statistics to “obscure complex realities,” which, according to Gelderloos, “became popular because it offers a very comfortable view of social change that allows white activists to preserve their privilege and physical safety…”

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