Michael Ryan is a Montréal-based translator and copy editor. From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, Ryan was active in Montréal’s Marxist and antiauthoritarian left. (He insists that the two are not mutually exclusive.) Ryan continues to believe that if we want true social change we’re going to have to kick it over.
Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America, Third Edition
Author: Ward Churchill and Michael Ryan • Preface: Ed Mead • Foreword: Dylan Rodríguez
Publisher: PM Press
Page count: 192
Pacifism as Pathology has long since emerged as a dissident classic. Originally written during the mid-1980s, the seminal essay “Pacifism as Pathology” was prompted by veteran activist Ward Churchill’s frustration with what he diagnosed as a growing—and deliberately self-neutralizing—”hegemony of nonviolence” on the North American left. The essay’s publication unleashed a raging debate among activists in both the U.S. and Canada, a significant result of which was Michael Ryan’s penning of a follow-up essay reinforcing Churchill’s premise that nonviolence, at least as the term is popularly employed by white “progressives,” is inherently counterrevolutionary, adding up to little more than a manifestation of its proponents’ desire to maintain their relatively high degrees of socioeconomic privilege and thereby serving to stabilize rather than transform the prevailing relations of power.
This short book challenges the pacifist movement’s heralded victories—Gandhi in India, 1960s antiwar activists, even Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights movement—suggesting that their success was in spite of, rather than because of, their nonviolent tactics. Churchill also examines the Jewish Holocaust, pointing out that the overwhelming response of Jews was nonviolent, but that when they did use violence they succeeded in inflicting significant damage to the nazi war machine and saving countless lives.
As relevant today as when they first appeared, Churchill’s and Ryan’s trailblazing efforts were first published together in book form in 1998. Now, along with the preface to that volume by former participant in armed struggle/political prisoner Ed Mead, postscripts by both Churchill and Ryan, and a powerful new foreword by leading oppositionist intellectual Dylan Rodríguez, these vitally important essays are being released in a fresh edition.
“This extraordinarily important book cuts to the heart of the central reasons movements to bring about social and environmental justice always fail. The fundamental question here is: is violence ever an acceptable tool to bring about social change? This is probably the most important question of our time, yet so often discussions around it fall into clichés and magical thinking: that somehow if we are merely good and nice enough people, the state will stop using its violence to exploit us all. Would that this were true.”
—Derrick Jensen, author of Endgame
“Although Churchill couches his psychological analysis in much more polite terms than I would, he believes that some white upper-middle-class activists are deeply conflicted about whether they really want to dismantle capitalism and give up their position of privilege.”
“The book’s main thrust is to analyze and tear apart the ideology of pacifism, explaining how it is, in many ways, a counter-revolutionary ideology.”
—Irish Republican News
For a calendar of speaking events, please click here
- A Nation of Prison Houses (Part 2) – Making a Buck in the Pig’s Pen
In August, we looked at runway imprisonment in the U.S. As disturbing as the numbers are, they are the logical extension of the general corporatization of prison – and it’s a heads we win, tails you lose situation for prisoners.
- A Nation of Prison Houses (Part 1) – Tallying the Damage Done
If Tsarist Russia was “a prison house of nations,” the modern U.S. might be called “a nation of prison houses.”
- Higher Education Hits a New Low
What happens when higher education becomes just another contested marketplace?
- De-Educating Society (Part 2): Squandering “Our Greatest Resource”
Our greatest national resource is the minds of our children. Walt Disney
- De-Educating Society (Part 1): Burning Down the House
The 2008 economic meltdown served as the signal to gut the public school system in the U.S.