No subject

Fri Jun 9 20:02:19 MDT 1995

On Fri, 9 Jun 1995, Howie Chodos wrote:

 I was
> arguing that there is a difference between justifying violence on the ground
> of self-defense, and justifying the use of violence to enact social change.
> The key to any transition from one to the other is the recognition that
> there is something about the system which will not go away by itself. It is
> not enough simply to defend oneself, but one has to be rid of the cause of
> the problem.

I guess I misunderstood your post, because I thought you were making just
this point!  The one about justifying revolutionary violence on the
ground of self-defense, that is.

Self-defense certainly isn't a "neutral" principle.  Its legitimacy
depends on the moral circumstances.  But given that capitalist oppression
-- and state support of it -- is unjust, and given that that oppression
kills, maims, and severely shrinks the life-expectations of so many
people, wouldn't violence against, in your words, "the cause of the
problem" count as (justified) self-defense?

But perhaps you are thinking of "acts of self-defense" in a narrower sense.

 I may have
> over-extended the notion of "self-defense" here, but I was trying to suggest
> that someone who is not convinced the state is the instrument of oppression
> could perceive state suppression of terrorist violence as a legitimate act
> of "self-defense".

So your worry -- I take it -- is not that the idea of self-defense
doesn't justify revolutionary violence, theoretically speaking, but
instead that *talking about* the idea of self-defense isn't a good way to
further revolutionary goals.  Have I got you right?

I suppose you're right that until a person is convinced that capitalism
oppresses, and that the state can be a tool of capitalism, talk of
self-defense isn't going to have much effect.  If a person doesn't
realize that the reason her pay and benefits are down, her work hours are
up, her work conditions are shitty, her choice of jobs is severely
limited, and so on, is the existence of a particular way of organizing
production, and not a worldwide Jewish conspiracy or immigrants or
homosexuals, she'll think: "self-defense against what?"

John D. Walker

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