Saturday, June 25, 2005

In Defense of Violence But Not Terrorism

In Defense of Violence But Not Terrorism
by John Spritzler (

There is a classic and very sophisticated method of propaganda known as the "false dichotomy." To defeat idea C, do not ever mention idea C. Instead, only present ideas A and B which, though different, both contradict idea C. Claim that A and B are the only possible and logical alternatives, and promote a widespread and heated debate between advocates of A versus B. Ruling elites have been using this propaganda against us for a long time.

During the Vietnam war, idea C was "The war is for a bad cause (oppressing Vietnamese peasants) and the U.S. ought not to win it." This idea never saw the light of day in the mainstream media. Idea A was "The war is for a noble cause (defeating Communism) and the U.S. should therefore fight to win it." Idea B was "The war is for a noble cause (defeating Communism) but it is a mistake to think we can win it so we should end it." Politicians and the media encouraged Americans to debate A versus B throughout the war.

Of course underlying the Vietnam War's ABC shell game was the more fundamental ABC shell game of the entire Cold War period. During the Cold War (and still today), idea C was this. "We should have a genuine democracy in which the values of ordinary working class people -- values such as equality, solidarity, fairness, and trust among people -- truly shape society, and the values of elites -- such as inequality, competition and top-down control -- do not."

The mass media never expressed this idea. Instead they told us that the choice we faced was either idea A, capitalism, or idea B, Communism. Communism and capitalism each claimed to be the only alternative to the other, and each told people that they had to support a ruling elite, either one based on private wealth or one based on holding leadership positions in the Communist Party. The entire Cold War was a kind of propaganda against idea C, the idea of genuine democracy. By encouraging us to debate Communism versus capitalism, the elites obscured the fact that both ideologies were fundamentally elitist and profoundly anti-democratic because they both said that economic production trumped the concerns of ordinary people for establishing equal, solidaristic and trusting relations between people.

Non-Violence versus Terrorism

Another very useful (for elites) pair of A and B ideas that are now frequently debated are a pair of ideas that, while seeming to be the only alternatives to each other, are actually fundamentally similar in one crucial respect: they both exclude the possibility of an idea, C, which oppressed people need if they are to have any chance of defeating the ruling elites who oppress them.

Idea C is this. "The struggle between oppressive elites and ordinary people is a clash between the opposing values of ordinary working class people versus elites. Despite efforts of elites to foment mistrust and hatred and even war between ordinary people of different races or religions or nationalities as a means of controlling them, ordinary people of different ethnic groups share working class values in common which are the opposite of their elite rulers. Elites will never, as a class, be persuaded they are wrong. The side that prevails is the side that brings the most force (which includes threatened or actual violence) to bear against the other. Ordinary people should therefore use persuasion to build trust and solidarity with each other, but they are justified (when it makes tactical sense) in using force against the ruling elite and against any other individuals who enforce elite oppression violently, for example armed soldiers who attack innocent people."

Idea A is the philosophy of non-violence, as described by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. According to this philosophy, force and violence are immoral. Oppressed people should seek to persuade the oppressor of the wrongness of oppression, and to do this by demonstrating the strength of their convictions by willingly accepting jail and violence upon themselves without responding with force or violence.

Idea B is the philosophy of violent terrorism, which is advocated by groups like Hamas in the Palestinian context, or Osama bin Laden in the more general Muslim context, or the IRA in the context of English rule in northern Ireland. Violent terrorism, in contrast to idea C, is based on race or nationality or religion but never on class. The idea of violent terrorism is that the enemy -- defined as an ethnic group based on race, nationality or religion -- will not yield to persuasion but only violence. The difference between ideas B and C is not violence versus non-violence, but violence against whom?

There is a lively debate now between ideas A and B, usually perceived as a debate between "non-violence" and "violence." If I had a nickel for every time I've read an article on the internet's anti-establishment and anti-war web sites, in which "violence" was used as a synonym for violence against unarmed civilians of the "oppressor" ethnicity, I would be rich. Sometimes the author's point is that violence is necessary or justifiable or merely understandable, and sometimes the author's point is that violence is wrong and only non-violent methods of persuasion are right. But the debate, whether engaged in sincerely or not, acts as a kind of propaganda against idea C.

The debate almost always tacitly assumes (without calling attention to the fact) the premise that our ruling elites want us to accept -- that the lines of conflict in the world are racial, religious or national but not class. The advocates of non-violence implicitly emphasize ordinary people when they argue for tactics which aim at persuasion. The advocates of violent terrorism implicitly emphasize elites when they argue for violence. But each side also implicitly rejects idea C, by either wrongly claiming that persuasion can win over elites, or wrongly targeting violence against potential friends whom we should try to win over by persuasion (or at least avoid driving into the arms of their elite rulers by violently attacking them.) The debate itself only serves the elite by suppressing idea C, an idea oppressed people need to embrace in order to win the class war.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Fighting Zionism with a Class Analysis on the Streets of Somerville

Fighting Zionism with a Class Analysis on the Streets of Somerville
by John Spritzler ( )

Yesterday my friend and I were collecting signatures on Elm Street in Somerville, Massachusetts, a predominately working class town. We need about 4,000 signatures to put a referendum on the Somerville ballot that would let people vote whether the Somerville Retirement Board should divest its Israel bonds. One man, walking to the nearby supermarket, stopped to talk, but wouldn't sign. He was a young teacher; I think he said he taught high school economics. He said he just didn't want to sign. My friend asked him if he thought people should be able to vote on the question and he answered yes. Why then, my friend asked, would he not therefore sign, since the signatures were required for the referendum to appear on the ballot and that was the only way people would be able to vote on it? The teacher got annoyed at having his illogic pointed out to him so directly. He said he didn't like being pressured to sign something, and if he didn't want to sign that was his business, and we should leave him alone. Then he started to walk away, but my friend wouldn't take no for an answer and repeated the question, challenging the teacher to respond logically. Some more charged words were exchanged and then the teacher finally left, angrily insisting that he didn't need to explain his reasons to us.

My friend and I then discussed the teacher. My friend said he thought that the teacher was actually a pro-Zionist who didn't want to admit this to us and therefore used an illogical argument to avoid signing. Usually one never gets a chance to find out the truth. But this time was different.

After a while the teacher emerged from the supermarket with groceries in hand and retraced his path. I was alone this time as the teacher approached me. As he came by I said to him, "Hi, I know you don't want to sign, but just for my own edification, please tell me, is the reason really because you actually support Israel?" He said, "Yes." I said, "I don't understand how you can support Israel when you know that Israel engages in ethnic cleansing." He said, "I don't support ethnic cleansing but I think you're way too one-sided with your divestment against Israel." I said, "Please tell me how you characterize the two sides in this conflict, because I suspect that we may not even agree on this and we should clarify it." He said, "Why don't you tell me how you define the sides, first?"

I said, "I think that one side is the elites -- Israeli and Arab and American. And the other side is ordinary people, both Jews and Arabs. The elites want to foment an ethnic war between Jews and Arabs for the purpose of social control, to make it easier for elites to control their own people. When Jews and Arabs are at war with each other, their respective elites have a much stronger grip on 'their own' people than when there is peace. That's why the so-called peace efforts have failed for 50 years; they were only pretend. The elites don't really want a peaceful resolution of the conflict. U.S. leaders want Middle Eastern elites to stay in power because otherwise the oil and other wealth of the region would fall into the hands of ordinary people instead of the American and local upper classes. Israel's ethnic cleansing and racial discrimination against Palestinians is designed to foment a Jewish-Arab war. The result is obviously terrible for the Palestinians, but also bad for ordinary Jews who live in fear, who are blamed for the terrible crimes of their government, and who would much rather live in peace and security. Divestment from Israel would help both ordinary Palestinians and ordinary Jews because it would help end an ethnic war that benefits only the elites. Why would anybody want to help the other side, the elites?"

I know this sounds a bit like over-the-top propaganda for my point of view, but the truth is -- I swear! -- that the teacher then said he would like to sign, and he did.

Following this encounter a woman stopped to talk. She too wasn't sure if she wanted to sign or not, even after I talked about how Israel was engaged in ethnic cleansing and apartheid practices. I then told her what I thought were the two sides in the conflict. She then asked me if I was Jewish. I said my ancestry is Jewish although I don't think of myself that way. She said she was Jewish too. And then she signed.

OK, its true: later on a woman who was, I think, Jewish and who was extremely pro-Israel heard me give the same explanation of the two sides but she still refused to sign. (We spoke for a long time, however, despite the fact that she had an impatient child with her, and I think that when she left there was some real doubt in her mind that maybe the Israeli government was wrong.)

What this experience demonstrates is that a class analysis of the conflict in the Middle East is extremely powerful. It resonates with people. It makes it very clear that the values shared by virtually all decent people in Somerville are in conflict with the values of self-serving elites, and that our divestment campaign is simply applying the values that most people share to this faraway conflict. Furthermore, this kind of class analysis frames the discussion in a way that makes it clear that the conflict in the Middle East is just another battle in the same class war that goes on in Somerville as much as elsewhere -- a war between the working class values of equality and solidarity and democracy versus the elite values of inequality, competition (when necessary for social control, even the extreme version of ethnic war) and top-down control.

This class analysis framework allows people to take the insights that they have about class conflict in their own lives and use this insight to understand the conflict in the Middle East. Instead of Somervillians seeing the conflict as one between faraway Jews versus faraway Arabs, they can see it as one between ordinary people like themselves and elites like the ones they face in Somerville. This in turn encourages people in Somerville to feel a solidaristic connection to people in the Middle East fighting apartheid Israel. Spreading this kind of understanding and solidarity is the way we can build a world-wide revolutionary movement to defeat the elites and make a world like the one that billions of people really want.

Saturday, June 04, 2005



by John Spritzler (

"Hello Mrs. Smith, I think you and all of your neighbors should die a violent death at the hands of oppressed people of the world, and I was wondering if you would sign this petition against the U.S. government's crime of ..."

Apparently, this is how Richard Hugus thinks radicals should organize in the United States. In his emailed article (copied below), Mr. Hugus defends terrorism against ordinary Americans, such as was carried out by whoever did the 9/11 attack. Mr. Hugus's email was widely distributed by the New England Committee to Defend Palestine (NECDP), in reply to my previous post, "The 9/11 Litmus Test for American Radicals." In my "9/11 Litmus Test" post I said that terrorism against ordinary people, like the 9/11 attack, is morally wrong. Furthermore, supporting such terrorism in the name of "radicalism" sabotages the efforts of genuine radicals to build a popular mass revolutionary movement. It plays right into the hands of ruling elites who try to portray those opposed to them as terrorists who are a threat to innocent people. This is so obvious that a number of individuals asked me why I even bothered to post a long article making these points which everybody already agreed with.

As if to convince skeptics that there really are people posing as radicals who support 9/11-type terrorism against random Americans, along comes Mr. Hugus, speaking apparently for the New England Committee to Defend Palestine, who actually equates radicalism with support for the 9/11 terrorists. I think that is the only possible interpretation of his words when he writes:

"He [Spritzler] attacks the 9/11 bombers. And then he attacks the people who support them. The CIA couldn't have found a better agent - one who claims to speak for radicals while denouncing everything they do, and ignoring the entire history that led them to it."

There aren't very many people in the United States with the pro-terrorism views of Mr. Hugus. But if you want to find them, the place to look is in organizations, like the NECDP for example, which oppose U.S. imperialism and/or Israeli oppression of Palestinians, but on a basis which is morally and politically corrupt. We need good radical organizations that expose and organize against U.S. crimes abroad and Israeli apartheid, but we need the likes of Richard Hugus like we need a hole in the head.

There are basically just two ways to frame our opposition to the very real crimes that the U.S. and Israeli governments commit against people around the world. One way can succeed in stopping these crimes, and the other way only helps the criminals stay in power.

We can truthfully frame the crimes as things that elites do to strengthen their undemocratic control over ordinary people, "their own" people as well as those they label the enemy. Or we can wrongly frame them as crimes of one entire people (Americans or Israeli Jews) against another people (Muslims, "people of color," Palestinians etc.)

In the first framework, the logical strategy is to call on ordinary people everywhere to oppose these crimes, in the name of the values that most people share: equality, solidarity and democracy -- values that are the opposite of the elite values of inequality, pitting people against each other, and top-down control. In this framework, violence against Israeli soldiers and armed civilians who violently enforce racist oppression of Palestinians, or violence against American soldiers who violently attack Iraqis, is justified; but violence against non-combatants (like random Israeli or American civilians) is not justified. This is the framework and strategy I advocate, and this is the way we can persuade millions of people to join us. Obviously, we cannot appeal to people on this basis while simultaneously supporting those who intend to kill them with 9/11-type attacks.

In the second framework of Mr. Hugus, we would view ordinary Americans as the enemy. The strategy which this logically implies is to seek out the few individuals who share a contempt for ordinary Americans, and then to commit or support those who commit terrorist acts like 9/11.

When confronted with the wrongheadedness of their pro-terrorism views, the Richard Huguses of the world have no convincing arguments. So they rely on childish name-calling and invective. And they try to guilt-trip people into not thinking for themselves.

If you find there are Richard Huguses in an organization you are part of that is trying to persuade Americans to oppose the crimes of the U.S or Israeli government, do not fall for their guilt-tripping or their contemptuous views of ordinary people as being guilty of the crimes their governments commit. These pro-terrorists are an albatross hanging around the necks of good people working to build a popular movement to make the world more equal and democratic. If pro-terrorists prevail, we will have perpetual war between peoples of different ethnic or national groups, spurred on by all the fear and hatred that terrorism against innocent people fuels. And we will have elites firmly entrenched in power over all of us.

When we knock on Mrs. Smith's door, petition in hand, if she asks us what we think about 9/11 or Palestinian suicide bombers, let's tell her the truth -- that we agree with her: killing people for the crimes of their government is wrong. And then we can talk about why it is also wrong to use the terrorism of some as an excuse to support even bigger crimes of others, like apartheid Israel and the U.S. war in Iraq.

From: <>
Sent: Tuesday, May 24, 2005 1:37 PM
Subject: [NECDP-Announce] Thank You Mr. Liberal

Thank you, Mr. Liberal, for wringing your hands for us.

by Richard Hugus

May 23, 2005

In his article, "The 9/11 Litmus Test" John Spritzler puts himself up as a radical, and speaks for what "we American radicals" need to do to remain credible to the rest of the country and world, but the more Spritzler talks the more he looks like just another liberal, worried and wringing his hands about the impoliteness of resistance movements around the world, and their failure to adhere to moral niceties that he has the privilege of explaining to them. In fact, privilege is exactly where Spritzler speaks from. The only place this "radical" has been operating from is his armchair. On the streets of Boston, at demonstrations and protests and direct actions here, he is a complete unknown. His sphere of actual activism has been his workplace, the Harvard School of Public Health, where he has demanded that a hearing be held on injustices in Palestine.

With apparently unlimited time to write and profess, Spritzler engages people in debate and then attacks them in straw man arguments and theoretical debates based on false premises. Now, suddenly there are "pro 9/11ers" out there, and people who believe in and support "killing random people at bus stops in Tel Aviv." Once this is established, simply by his declaration, this pedant goes on to instruct the world, in lengthy and boring detail, on the danger such people pose to efforts of serious people like him to stop imperialism. The man's indulgence in intellectual horseshit says more about his politics than anything we could add. He has not been there. He hasn't been beaten by a cop. He hasn't been in jail. He hasn't lived under occupation. He hasn't been harassed at checkpoints. He hasn't seen his country raped for over half a century while the world stands watching. He doesn't understand, and doesn't bother to examine, what steps could have led a Palestinian martyr to retaliate against an Israeli. His essays are entirely about acts of resistance which he finds offensive, and nothing about the oppression which led to those acts. His concern is with "random people in Tel Aviv", not random people in Jenin or Ramallah, Iraq, or Vietnam.

This writer's job is to put out the fire of our belief in the legitimacy of resistance. The more rampant US imperialism becomes, the more obvious it is that this fire is justified, and the more people see the necessity of stronger action. The Weathermen of the 60's saw the US committing mass murder in Vietnam with impunity. Spritzler attacks them. He doesn't attack the US government; he attacks the Weathermen. He attacks martyr bombers. He attacks the 9/11 bombers. And then he attacks the people who support them.

The CIA couldn't have found a better agent - one who claims to speak for radicals while denouncing everything they do, and ignoring the entire history that led them to it. It's a good sign these Judas goats have been sent to mislead us. It means the liberals are worried. It means the pigs are worried. It means radicals are gaining ground. Thank you, Mr. Liberal, for wringing your hands for us. Now, stop trying to destroy the movement.

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