Do We Need a Militant Movement to Save the Planet (and Ourselves)?
Continued from previous page
TL: You are talking about wanting to stop the violence, but you're also talking about violence as a tool — violence against property and against people. In what ways do you think they're useful and in what scenarios?
AM: Well, I think that in the book we don't really talk about violence against people too much except to critique it and discuss the issues around that. In terms of property destruction, the main physical expression of this system has to do with infrastructure. Everything in this society — from the tar sands and the mountaintop removal to military expeditions and the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan — it's all about fossil fuel energy, cheap energy. That cheap energy allows a small group of people to project power and dominance in a way that wouldn't be possible otherwise.
And so, if we want to stop that system, if we want to stop the planet from being baked alive, one of the most important things that needs to be done is to actually physically disrupt those systems, and that infrastructure is very vulnerable. One of the things that resistance movements need to think about is about leverage, is about how much change you can make with how many people you have, because resistance movements are inherently outnumbered. And so they really need to look for the place with the most leverage. So far, the Left in North America has focused on areas where they have the least leverage — things like ethical consumerism.
DJ: I will add that infrastructure destruction has long been part of every military strategy as well — attempting to destroy one's enemy's capacity to wage war is central to any strategy. And, really, what we're talking about in this case is attempting to destroy the enemy's capacity to wage war on the poor and on the planet.
LK: Political change happens because it is forced upon the powerful, and the question that comes much later is, are you going to use violence to exert that force or something else? But you have to acknowledge that this is always a question of force. It does not happen by personal ephipany or persuasion or rational argument but by power. And usually what you're up against is a pretty sociopathic kind of system. I think about the French labor strikes that happened last October, where, in about three weeks, they had shut down the entire French economy simply by blockading the oil depots. No one got hurt. Yhey used human bodies and burning tires and trucks, and they blockaded the oil depots and the refineries. They stopped the basic energy from coming into the country, so that in three weeks, it was pretty much grinding to a halt. Given a realistic assessment of what we do have, the only strategy that matches the scale of the problem in the time frame that we have left to us, which is maybe 50 years, is direct attacks on infrastructure, so that's the strategy we are proposing. If you can show me a million people who are willing to blockade oil depots day after day and willing to block roads into West Virginia to stop mountaintop removal day after day after day, we can talk about using nonviolence, because I think it's a very elegant political technique.
But I don't see the numbers. You're asking the most privileged people on the planet to give up that privilege, and I don't think that is going to happen. In other countries, yes. In other countries, if their neck is being stepped on by the boot of power, yes, they know what is at stake, and you may be able to get enough numbers for a nonviolent resistance,. But in this country, I don't have a lot of hope for it.