This paper aims to analyze the arguments of Petr Gelderloos in his writing, How Nonviolence Protects the State. I also provide an example from one case study to argue further if Gelderloos argument holds any merit. Nonviolence signifies the personal practice of not causing harm to others and one’s self under every condition. How Nonviolence Protects the State by Peter Gelderloos challenges the belief that nonviolence is the best way to fight for a better world. The writer invites activists to reflect various tactics in a way to stir controversy and lively debate, arguing passionately that exclusive nonviolence functions typically to reinforce the similar structures of oppression that activists pursue to overthrow. Just like him, I am a longstanding supporter of nonviolent action, so it is probable that I am critical of his arguments. On the other side, I believe that critical analysis is valuable. Nonviolent activists can turn out to be more effective by subjecting their views to empirical testing and logical scrutiny.
Peter Gelderloos writing is profoundly critical of nonviolence for being enfolded in authoritarian dynamics, and its outcomes are bound to meet government objectives over popular objectives. It additionally masks and promotes power dynamics and patriarchal assumptions. Its practitioners mislead themselves on several vital points, and its tactical options invariably result in dead ends. To access Peter Gelderloos views, I give special attention to his questionable assumption that violence normally triumphs over nonviolence. According to me, his arguments are based on persuasive double standards. He does not make it clear what types and levels of violence he considers acceptable; it is an omission that weakens his argument. Possibly the most significant argument against nonviolence is that as a concept is unclear to the point of being confused. It is subjected to manipulation, and its definition lies in the hands of the government and the media so that individuals who focus their struggle on attempting to avoid it will forever be taking cues and following the lead of those in authority.
Peter Gelderloos writing is a compelling and interesting analysis of pacifism as an ideological imperative. He illustrates that those who request strict adherence to the principle of nonviolence in social campaigns are talking from a self-serving, privileged, authoritarian, and delusional position. He argues that nonviolence is patriarchal, ineffective, racist, and tactically limiting (Gelderloos, 15). Apart from that, it is not truly “non-violent” as it prolongs a system of strongarm force to uphold the capitalist status quo. Gelderloos claims to advocate various tactics with which to attain transformation and social revolution. I think that he is an anarchist. He is against systems based on hierarchy and offers support to egalitarian social relations made and upheld by the individuals involved in them. He is opposed to capitalism, patriarchy, the state, and racism. Being opposed to capitalism places him on the left primarily, but being an anarchist, he is opposed to the state, including state socialism. He desires to destroy the state, racism, and patriarchy so that individuals can create their own non-hierarchical systems of self-governance.
Peter Gelderloos’s writing is the most direct and accessible challenge of pacific ideology since Ward Churchill’s writing, “Pacifism as Pathology”, over many years ago, and they share a lot of similar strength and weaknesses (Dunlap et al., 317). An essential argument of social change and the part of violence in this has been languishing for a long time among serious extremists: the optimistic value of Gelderloos’ writing is above all in bringing the matter of strategies for social change. He is also somehow right in his argument of the idea of revolution, the frequently very naïve perceptions on the state, and supposed integrally dehumanizing negative impacts of violence on people who resort to it. These analyses, together with a clear distinction at the start and conclusion of the writing separating the analysis of pacifism as an ideology from individual pacifists and their actions.
One example from the case study is India’s independence struggle. Nonviolent activist like to claim the achievement of the Indian independence movement. One of the popular views of India’s journey to independence from British rule is the well-known story of Mohandas Gandhi, who was an extraordinary campaign of non-violent protest. It is a legacy still clear nowadays during international state visits. When Gandhi got back to India, he urged individuals to boycott British jobs, goods, and honors. As a result, he became the face of the national movement of nonviolent resistance to British rule. On the other hand, he was also responsible for making a massive resistance campaign against the tax on salt. From India’s journey to independence, I think that the goal of nonviolent resistance is not to defeat any person but rather to create understanding and friendship. Rather than destroying the opponent, the nonviolent resisters attempt to awaken the sense of moral shame (Dunlap et al., 316). The end result is reconciliation and redemption. I think that in order to make the world a better place, it is significant to shun violence and understand the significance of nonviolence. If peace is all over, individuals can possibly work devoid of fears for very long hours. When there is no stress of any kind, individuals at large become happy and healthy. Mohandas Gandhi’s nonviolent movement is a critical case for understanding civil resistance.
Dunlap, Alexander, and Jostein Jakobsen. “Unraveling the Lies of His-story with James Scott and Peter Gelderloos: Peter Gelderloos. Worshiping Power: An Anarchist View of Early State Formation. Oakland, CA, USA: AK Press. 2017. $16.00. 277 pp.(paperback). ISBN 9781849352642.” (2020): 136-139.
Gelderloos, Peter. How nonviolence protects the state. Cambridge: South End Press, 2007.