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Author Response to review of "How Nonviolence Protects the State"

Peter Gelderloos
Date Published: 
May 24, 2008

Dan Horowitz de Garcia's review of How Nonviolence Protects the State is so full of misrepresentation and personal attacks, I was disappointed to find this level of discourse within a movement journal such as Left Turn. His review falsely portrays the arguments in my book and does a disservice to readers by lying to them about the criticisms I make of pacifism. I want to respond to four of his specific points, although he makes at least a dozen false claims in the course of a short review.

Garcia omits that I give a practical reason for lumping together pacifism and nonviolence, falsely claiming that I fail to distinguish between a lifestyle and a method when in fact an entire chapter is devoted to analyzing nonviolent strategies, including distinctly lifestylist and methodical varieties.

Garcia claims that I present the civil rights movement as monolithic when in fact I do the opposite in an attempt to break the mainstream image of an entirely peaceful movement united by one spokesperson. He claims that the book "merely mentions" one piece of evidence, a 1970 poll on black power, in discussing the contradictions and tensions around issues of nonviolence within the civil rights movement when I actually include dozens of histories, facts, and at least 12 different citations in at least 2 different chapters.

Garcia says that my historical analysis "undermines his own argument" or "doesn't hold up." The only examples he gives are the aforementioned fabrication regarding civil rights and his response to a comparative study I provide between the IWW and the Galleanist anarchists and how they fared under state repression, to refute the idea that violent resistance is suicidal. Garcia manipulates my argument into saying "we need to diversify tactics because it will take the government a few more weeks to destroy us." More dishonesty. In actuality, I discuss the abilities of these two groups to survive, evade prison, stick to radical objectives rather than moderating them under pressure, develop versatility and continue activity over decades despite heavy repression.

One of his worst attacks comes in his response to my chapter on nonviolence and patriarchy. I say that patriarchy is so deep-rooted that it will be ended gradually rather than overnight. Garcia, a terminably bad reader, takes the license to insinuate I believe in a meek approach to taking on patriarchy (I clearly state the opposite in my book) and that I'm "surrounded by men who (surprise!) are taking a "gradual" approach to gender liberation. "

Garcia has no right to make this utterly misinformed personal attack. The chapter on patriarchy is full of the words of women and trans people, including comrades who informed my own understanding of patriarchy (and including the feminist and friend to whom the book is dedicated). Most of the chapter attempts to overcome the prejudice that women are excluded by violence by quoting at great length from women and trans warriors who have given their lives fighting patriarchy and capitalism. If Garcia has any shame, he would be embarrassed to learn that a lesbian separatist group here in Spain has translated this chapter and distributed it as a pamphlet because they believe it makes a valuable contribution to the topic in a country where many male anticapitalists believe that gender liberation was achieved overnight when they became radicals, and does not require years of continuing work. Given that the chapter also advocates women who bomb corporations that traffic women and kill rapists, I don't know how he could have interpreted my approach to patriarchy as gradual in the sense of beingapathetic or uncommitted, unless he intentionally set out to misinform readers or only read the first couple paragraphs of that chapter before writing the review.

I hope readers will look into the book themselves rather than trust Garcia's review.