An Open Letter to Anarchists from a Nonviolence Practitioner


Chances are you’ve never heard of me, but if you have heard of me at all, you probably know me as the nonviolence guy that wants to pacify the movement, is funded by the CIA, and wrote this piece.

While my stance on nonviolence and property destruction hasn’t changed since writing that, one thing that has changed is my understanding of what many of you were trying to do.  When I wrote that piece, I admittedly didn’t know much about anarchist theory, and the intent and strategies behind your actions.

A lot of conflicts in our society begin when we assume we know what the other side is about.  And since that time, I’ve gotten to better know some of the thinking behind some of the actions.

I’ve gotten to know some of you personally, and all jokes and differences aside, I admire the loyalty that many of you show to your people and the courage you show in putting your body on the line for a cause that you believe in.  I believe that more people need to show that type of courage, as I believe that we are in a time in history where radical change is necessary. And to get there, we will need soldiers who are willing to risk their safety.  Just like the Panthers did in the past, just like Che did, just like King did, just like Gandhi did.

And when it comes to mobilizations and setting up camps and the like, few people have the skills and knowledge that many of you do.  You are right to claim much of the praise for the success of the General Strike and for setting up the camp.

But we do have some differences.

Before I go further, I want to say that both “anarchists” and “nonviolence” are words with big umbrellas.  Some believe that property destruction is nonviolent, and some anarchists are committed to nonviolence.

But I’ve come to learn that some in the Anarchist community believe in creating chaos, and that is simply part of your strategy.  One philosophy I heard and read about says that the chaos will radicalize people and it will spread, eventually forcing the system to crumble. And out of that rubble, a new, more equitable society will emerge.

I disagree with that, but since coming to understand the thinking behind it, I can respect it as a perspective and a theory.

From the perspective of Kingian Nonviolence, we believe that if you create that sort of tension, it will also widen the division between communities. Our strategy is to reconcile conflicts, and to create more unity between those different communities.  That will result in creating more communities that are in equitable relationship to each other.

When you raise the level of tension between the police and the community for example (or the tension between communities in the “movement”), it makes that conflict harder to reconcile.  Even if you are successful and the system does crumble, you are still left with the people who lived under that previous system and the conflicts that existed then. The old conflicts between our communities don’t just disappear because a system goes away. It carries over, and your only options are to reconcile it or wait until it erupts again.

And no one disputes that at some point, we will come to a head against individuals who are protecting the interests of injustice.  But in nonviolence, our goal is to try to confront those powers and respond in a way that resolves the conflict while leaving open the possibility for reconciliation afterwards.  People are not our enemy, injustice is.

So there is a fundamental difference in our philosophy and our theory of change.  But you know what the crazy thing is?  I think we’re actually trying to get to the same place.

If I described the vision of the society I want to create for the next generation, and if you all shared yours, I bet that those visions would be pretty similar.

I believe in a world where all people have the resources, the opportunities, and the skills necessary to pursue happiness, along with the sovereignty do so.  I believe in a world with equitable relationships between races, cultures, religions, genders, and whatever other ways we divide ourselves today.  I believe in a world where we can live free from the fear of violence and oppression.

And I feel like most of you would be okay with that.  In Kingian Nonviolence, we call that a “pathway conflict” – a conflict that is rooted in two parties having the same overall goal but different ways of reaching them.

So if we are trying to get to a similar place, I wonder if maybe we can carpool for a little while? Maybe, despite our differences, there is a way to work together.

Then again, maybe not.  But if we at least got to know each other better and understand each other’s perspectives a little better, at the very least we might learn that we are not actually enemies and that we are actually trying to create the same change.  Just differently.

In Solidarity,



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: