Friday, May 18, 2012

Eidolon rebellion? No glory here.

There's an interesting discussion taking place here , which harebell takes to task over the apparent support of  violence and intimidation by some groups of the protesting students.
But as many people have demonstrated in the recent and distant past, sinking to the methods of those who will oppress you doesn’t work. Ghandi, the US Civil Rights movement etc are fine examples of how an ethical and peaceful resistance effort can have long founded and positive repercussions on a country.
But then that's the problem with all rebellions. They are messy, ugly things. Like any struggle, the victors, and particularly those who weren't there, tell themselves stories about it all afterward and gloss over the awkward facts and uglier moments. The US Civil Rights movement and the Indian independence movement were extremely violent in places, and there were a great number casualties in the latter which weren't a result of Imperial bullets and batons. Had neither of these succeeded, the other side would be telling nasty stories about the brutality of one element or another. Despite noble intentions a pure campaign non-violent resistance is more myth than practice. "Leaders" cannot control the actions of all those who share the share the same grievances. Fear, and the seduction of the moment, and indeed circumstances will drive some to extremes. This cannot be avoided without careful, deliberate, and long-term planning. The running battle of the student rebellion does not have this luxury of time.

We can try as much as possible to not reflect the state's violence, but we are not all people who share our viewpoints. Students in the streets who see their peers bowing their heads and lining up for class are justifiably enraged as this represents a lack of solidarity at a critical time. The success of the rebellion is contingent on a unified front and detractors represent lines of division which the Quebec government will exploit. Indeed, they are doing so now through brutal and potentially unconstitutional legislation aimed breaking the protests and the larger student right to collectively resist. This could get much uglier still.

There's no glory in any of this. Quebec is the latest exemplar after Toronto of the broader and increasingly brutal struggle between citizens and their increasingly alien political class. Progressives, much used to civil deliberation and peaceful protest are learning effective resistance means risking personal security in all its forms. It means friends become enemies when they bow to intimidation and threats from power or simply try to protect themselves when those actions subvert the movement. It means making decisions and taking actions that will hurt people who have done nothing deserve it, such as students wishing for little more than to complete their studies. It means recognising that the state as it stands now simply will not act in good faith and will unblinkingly smash the window and blame you for it if you don't do it yourself. It means much fear, anger, and uncertainty.

It means accepting casualties and preparing for them. There will be more.


Beijing York said...

Beautifully written, Boris.

Your second last paragraph is definitely critical food for thought. These governments no longer represent us and are taking divide and conquer strategies to a whole new level. And when you stop to think of it, the fact that they resort to military tactics against citizens is proof that they don't give a rat's ass about any of us.

harebell said...

I have no problems with protesting and defending oneself from the violence that the cowards in uniform mete out. That defence can be violent and is totally justified in my mind, because we as individuals and as a population do have a right to defend ourselves.
You highlight the diversity of the protests and it's inherent uncontrollable nature, but then insist that the response by ALL students needs to be unified. Why?
Some students disagree with the protests and wish to go to class, that is their right. It is not somebody else's right to decided that they need to be forced to do as they think, even if it means intimidating them into doing it.
Just how unified an action is it is some people are forced to support it with a fist in their face? It's not a unity I recognise.
Nobody elected the thugs who acted as judge, jury and executioner in those classrooms; they were a self appointed mob.
I see no difference between their thinking and the same thinking by cops that they rightly confront.

Boris said...

Glad these posts are provoking some discussion. I hope I have not left the impression that I support the raiding of classrooms. I do not, and there's no excuse for manhandling ones peers or anyone else. However, divide and conquer is a difficult problem to overcome with a nascent movement, as is the discipline of all members of a particular movement. My overall point is that it means things get sickening ugly all around.

thwap said...

In a free environment, the students who want to dilute the protest, acquiesce to the government's policies, get on with their lives, roll-over to the corporate agenda, whatever, should be free to destroy the protest movement, and the students who want to interrupt their classes, yell at them for breaking ranks, fight-back against the corporate agenda, defend themselves against police violence should be similarly free.

Let them have it out.

The central point remains true: Quebec, like all the other provinces and the federal government, slashed taxes for corporations and the wealthy, gave up tens of billions of dollars in tax revenue during that process and have FAILED TO DELIVER on the economic prosperity they said would result from their tax-cuts.

The students protesting this crap are right and whatever brings them victory (short of murder and terrorism and thuggery for its own sake) is necessary.

harebell said...

I've no problems with the yelling, but the smashing of phones man-handling of people and throwing of chairs at them, crosses a line.
It is thuggery for it's own sake, just as the cops behaved like cowardly thugs initially.
People in the right do not use the tactics of those who they claim are in the wrong. Even if they transcendentally know that something is absolutely correct.
History is littered with folk who knew what was right and were willing to do whatever it takes to bring about the creation their utopia. Harper is a good modern example of such a zealot, so are some of the students to a far lesser degree.

thwap said...


From the newspaper accounts that I read there was only disruptive yelling, banging, and face-to-face shouting session betwixt striking students and scab students.

If they were throwing chairs directly at people, then those individuals have crossed the line.

Of course, given the media, this presupposes that the scab students were peaceful as lambs.

sunsin said...

What we forget when we read about Gandhi was that if he had been ignored or severely repressed, the Indian National Congress and associated movements were prepared to set India on fire from end to end. I'm not denigrating Gandhi's role, it was central, nor his tactics, which kept enough civility in the interaction that the British were able to pull out of India without six-figure death tolls on both sides. But if it had JUST been Gandhi, he would have been ineffectual. It was a good cop/bad cop setup, and since the end was unchangeable and inevitable anyway, the British decided to go with the good cop.

harebell said...

As a trade unionist and a student unionist, I have experienced the role of scab/blackleg labour; students are not really able to be termed scabs as there is no real substitution of the workforce by scab workers.
But it is a nice label for those who think these disputes are simple and full of black and white situations to use.
As someone who has rehearsed many an "armed intruder" scenario in colleges as faculty and in fact responded as a professional to such a scenario, it stuns me that those folk in classrooms were so understanding. Who could tell who was coming through the door all masked up and belligerent? I mean it wasn't that long ago I was remembering the slaying of quite a few women at a Quebec college.
It wasn't thought through and it was at best stupid and at worst violent bullying.

harebell said...

thwap maybe you need to read more
Chairs etc thrown, phones destroyed etc.

DFH said...

thwap11:48is right. and the numbers/quantity of us matter. harebell20:45- thwap reads mad.