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Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America [Paperback]

By Ward Churchill (Author)
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Item description for Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America by Ward Churchill...

"This extraordinarily important book cuts to the heart of one of the central reasons movements to bring about social and environmental justice always fail. The fundamental question here is: is violence ever an acceptable tool to help bring about social change? This is probably the most important question of our time, yet so often discussions around it fall into clichés and magical thinking: that somehow if we are merely good and nice enough people, the state will stop using its violence to exploit us all. Would that this were true."—Derrick Jensen, author of Endgame, from the introduction.

Pacifism, the ideology of nonviolent political resistance, has been the norm among mainstream North American progressive groups for decades. But to what end? Ward Churchill challenges the pacifist movement’s heralded victories—Gandhi in India, 1960s antiwar activists, even Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement—suggesting that their success was in spite of, rather than because of, their nonviolent tactics. Pacifism as Pathology was written as a response not only to Churchill’s frustration with his own activist experience, but also to a debate raging in the activist and academic communities. He argues that pacifism is in many ways counterrevolutionary; that it defends the status quo, and doesn’t lead to social change. In these times of upheaval and global protest, this is a vital and extremely relevant book.

Ward Churchill is a prolific writer and lecturer, having authored, co-authored, or edited over twenty books. He is a member of the leadership council of Colorado AIM (American Indian Movement).

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Item Specifications...

Pages   162
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.5" Width: 5.25" Height: 7.5"
Weight:   0.45 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2007
Publisher   AK Press
ISBN  1904859186  
ISBN13  9781904859185  

Availability  0 units.

More About Ward Churchill

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Ward Churchill (Keetoowah Cherokee) is professor of American Indian Studies and chair of the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado/Boulder. A member of the leadership council of Colorado AIM, he is a past national spokesperson for the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee. A prolific writer and lecturer, he has authored, co-authored or edited more than 20 books. Mike Ryan is a Canadian activist who has been involved with the peace movement and civil disobedience for nearly 30 years. Derrick Jensen is one of the leading voices of cultural dissent. He is the author of over half a dozen books, often tackling themes of environmental sustainability and resistance.

Ward Churchill currently resides in Boulder, in the state of Colorado.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Current Events > War & Peace
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Education > Education Theory > Contemporary Methods > Multicultural
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > General
4Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > Ideologies > Radical Thought

Reviews - What do customers think about Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America?

Almost impossible to refute  May 21, 2008
I came to the conclusion that armed struggle was necessary before reading this, but I find it hard to imagine any pacifist reading this and not being convinced of Churchill's argument.
A Review of Churchill's, "Pacifism and Pathology"  Jun 26, 2007
Over the last few years, I have published articles about issues of US Imperialism and the social struggle movement. I came upon Ward Churchill's book "Pacifism and Pathology," as almost last minute. I had never read or taking seriously Ward Churchill's view, though I have affiliated myself as a member of the anarcho-syndicalist movement. But after reading his book, I realized my deep personnel connections with Dr. Churchill's frustrations and agony with the American social struggle movement. For some time, I affiliated myself with a social struggle movement in the University I am attending, and after almost a month I left. My reasons for leaving, where the same reasons Dr. Churchill explained in his book as the growing disorganization of these movements, and also the misunderstanding that state and private tyrannies; which have amassed great ideological confusion towards vast social and economic control, cannot be countered with the basic techniques used by the social struggle movement in the past. Indeed, Dr. Churchill warns the reader that there has been a tremendous misunderstanding with how non-violent resistance was actually used in the past. That it was a actually a mixture of both the practice of violence and non-violence, for which, if the use of non-violence was so much more tantamount, then the rewards of almost a decade and a half of resistance could not have been achieved.
Though I can connect with the social struggle movement on this university campus, it is deeply polarizing. Such polarization; I felt, was the reasons why on a number occasions they were unsuccessful in reaching out to others, and at the same time, form a coherent bases of action and influence on this campus i.e., they're not taking very seriously.
The tactics used by leaders of the social struggle movement in the United States, and even around the world, vary. I agree with Churchill on the realization that non-violent resistance can only work on a marginal basis. Indeed other countries, which implement vast terror and intimidation towards their own population, cannot rely on peaceful means to take down and tear the authoritarian political and economic system, without resorting to actual self-defense through violent means.
As the world witnesses the tearing apart of the Palestinians states, and perhaps even the fall of Palestine itself in the coming months, it is important to realize that the Palestinians; who have long tolerated state and military terror by Israel and the IDF, cannot be heard by the world through the same methodology used by American peace activists. It just does not work, and to do so, would mean the quick destruction of the Palestinian state.
But what I have to say, in a slight disagreement with Dr. Churchill, is that though the methodology of resistance to state and private terror has to change. The US cannot be won by the means of violence. Our cultural and political system is far more advance and ready for change, without the use of arm resistance and violence. Though in the media it may depict the sense of polarization and a deep divide, consensus by national polls indicate quite strikingly that the vast majority of the population is far to the left than the political and intellectual establishment wants to believe.
The means for political and social change in the US--for which, I agree with Churchill, cannot be won by the same tactics that inhibit a pathological tolerance towards the abuses that private and state systems implement on other populations and even their own. Even the possibility that these groups may be motivated for other reasons besides social change; political power, vanguard social party, all these are plausible reasons as to why Americans are stigmatized by the social struggle movement (as is the rise of the Bolshevik Party in the Russian Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party in China).
The goal of the intellectual is the most profound insight that Churchill explains. It has been a realization among many left-wing intellectuals, that the intellectual must be motivated as the tool maker and as the teacher, for which, he could impart the capacity for others to defend themselves and to act accordingly in such self-defense. His leadership is marginal at best, but his capacity to impart to others the lessons of the past and the understanding of the rich knowledge of the praxis of social change; starting with Hegel, then Marx, and many others, can be seen as the best weapon to revitalize the movement in the US. Also to realize the essential need to understand that other nations; other struggling groups, must partake their own way of defending themselves, and thus earn their capacity for a revolutionary change towards freedom and liberty.

Thank you!
Small but indispensable book  Aug 22, 2005
One of the previous reviewers sums it up very well: In this book, and pulling no punches, Churchill lays out his case against white progressives-to be precise the liberal/social democratic complacent legions of mostly well-educated midlle and upper middle class activists-who are delusional not only in the ineffectual tactics and strategies they pursue (which the ruling elites are only too happy to accommodate as per a well-scripted minuet), but in the belief that they are actually performing revolutionary acts...So, like it or not, Churchill is correct in pointing out that these liberals will do everything except assume actual risk in opposing the system..and that, being mostly interested in practicing "comfort zone" politics, they will almost invariably indulge in essentially worthless "cathartic" posturizing instead of solid opposition. By the way, the same writer is NOT correct in saying that nonviolence has achieved huge transformations. The Iranian revolution (1979) was far from a nonviolent process: the Shah had been opposed for decades by above ground and underground groups, several of which practiced armed struggle and paid a horrific price for it, while the last month of his rule saw masses of people in most Iranian cities, but especially Tehran, literally storming strong points and tanks in the streets with their bare chests and being mowed down...until more and more soldiers simply gave up and melted away or switched sides. As for the collapse of the USSR (1991), that came about as a result of complex processes that did not involve invested CLASS PRIVILEGES, as we have here and in other corporate-dominated nations. As for South Africa, the end of apartheid did not issue from a nonviolent process. Decades-long protests against the fascist legislation escalated until 1958 when the tragedy of Sharpeville occurred. Soon thereafter the government tried to suppress opposition through the sledgehammer approach of bannings and systematic "targeted repression". The first to be hit were the ANC and the PAC, but such bannings merely caused the organisations to go underground and become even more militant. The "armed struggle" therefore began in earnest in 1958 and by 1970 was beginning to affect the South African economy as greater and greater manpower was required to maintain an ever increasing army. Thus, Mandela's organization, the ANC had both a civil and a military arm, even if the latter developed after all roads to a peaceful elimination of Apartheid had proved futile, and long after the beneficiaries of the status quo had demonstrated through their unrelenting savagery that only armed struggle would move history forward. As for the much revered Arundhati Roy I do not think for a minute that she got it right in her speech in New York, where she argued "that there is no way to defeat the Empire by force and that its component parts must be isolated and paralyzed one by one." Sounds terrific and we only wish it were true, but Ms. Roy is also, like her liberal counterparts, utterly delusional. Furthermore, all the acclamation in the chi-chi salons and media precincts she's accustomed to will not change that simple fact. How does she propose to paralyze these component parts of the most heavily armed, cynical, and ruthless class privilege system in history without some form of REAL confrontation? With 2-hour candlelight vigils and some symbolic arrests which, by the way, may or may not be reported by the corporate-owned media? If THAT was all that was required to get rid of an immoral, deeply rooted capitalist system, a Nazi terror regime, a vicious landowning oligarchy as in Salvador, and so on, humanity would have moved past these filthy horrors decades if not centuries ago. As Churchill points out in his book, Nazi Germany was defeated by the massive application of force; the racist American South was similarly juridically defeated in the 1860s by massive military force, by organized all-out violence, (I say juridically because in practice it took 100 more years of struggle that saw innumerable crimes before African Americans could begin to take their rightful place among their fellow citizens)...There is not a single case in history where a deeply entrenched system of class or racial exploitation was overthrown by moral suasion and symbolic protests...If real change came about it was because force was being applied somewhere else alongside the nonviolent tracks...That's the point that Churchill is making in this book. It's a discomfiting point, but I'm afraid it is a true fact. Social change does not come cheap. Well, I could go on, but if you're a liberal I'm sure that facts will matter far less than attachment to convenient fantasies.
comfort zone politics  Jul 24, 2005
I loved this book. I think it teaches the reality of our current situation. The "progressive left" in North America are practicing "comfort zone politics". The protests that the progressive left organizes (with permission) hardly cause the state any harm. As mentioned in the essay by Mike Ryan, "They(the protests) reinforce the popular myth of American democracy." You have to wonder how effective these practices of soley using nonviolence really are. In my opinion, I think that you can't have one without the other. Yes, nonviolence can be effective, but so can violence (or rather self-defense). We should never completely throw out the use of violence in our constant struggle for justice. The comfort zone politics of the progressive left have only slowed down the emergence of any real revolution that we hope to achieve. There is a quote in the book by The Last Poets that says, "Don't speak to me of revolution until you're ready to eat rats to survive..." This keeps playing over and over in my head. Stop being so delusional...we will never achieve our goal as long as our movement consists of only pacifist ideologies. That is what I got out of this extremely informative book. It is important to note (which Churchill states in the conclusion) that the purpose of the essay was to critque pacifist thinking and practice, not to give alternatives.
A sobering assessment of white illusions  Apr 16, 2005
In this book Churchill lays out his case against white progressives, who he feels are oblivious to the ineffectiveness of their efforts. He indicts them for a phony pacifism that seeks not to embrace risk in a confrontation with state power, but rather, to avoid risk entirely in an effort to substitute feel good symbolism for real change. He suggests most white progressives are kidding themselves about favoring revolutionary change. Their simplistic ideas are delusional and their "comfort-zone" politics self-serving.
Churchill's frustration with the rituals of marching in circles, "demanding" change by carrying signs, and lighting candles for peace is certainly understandable. And he is right that such tactics are impotent without force being exercised somewhere else. His prescription for white progressives to become intimately acquainted with this fact through a kind of "revolutionary therapy" strips away many layers of pseudo-pacifist illusion in very short order. Churchill does not call for the abandonment of nonviolent action, merely for the recognition that without force being part of the equation other tactics are doomed to failure. I can't dispute the essence of what he says, but think he overplays the violence angle. While not due to pacifist action per se we do nevertheless have examples of sweeping social change occurring without violent revolution . . . . . the Iranian revolution (1979), the collapse of the USSR (1991), the end of apartheid . . . I think Arundhati Roy got it right in her speech in New York just after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. She said there is no way to defeat the Empire by force and that its component parts must be isolated and paralyzed one by one.

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