Colonization: Deciding It’s OK to Steal Someone Else’s Land (and/or Body)

In the following presentation, Native American activist Ward Churchill offers ones of the most fascinating explorations of colonization I have ever encountered.

He maintains that indigenous people have an inherent right both to self-determination and to fulfill their duty to manage land and habitat to guarantee the survival of their descendants for seven generations into the future.

With colonization, colonists dispossess a native population of their land for some alternative use.

He explains the concept of “settler colonialism” – giving the Nazi occupation of Europe as the prime example (along with the Israeli colonization of Palestine, the European colonization of North and South America and the English colonization of South Africa, Australia and New Zealand).

He also introduces the concept of “false colonization,” which occurs when settlers continue to deprive native peoples of  their land and rights despite breaking away from the mother country.

He blames the plight of African Americans on “black colonies,” which he defines as “internal colonial constructions.”

Churchill believes Europeans themselves have been colonized, which he traces back to Charlemagne (737-814 AD), when early European tribal groups (“barbarians”) were dispossessed of their land and right of self-governance in the formation of nation states.

The Long US Government War Against Americans

The Cointelpro Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States

by Ward Churchill* and Jim Vander Wall

South End Press (1990)

Free PDF: Cointelpro Papers

Book Review

As the authors describe, the FBI Cointelpro program first came to light in letters and memos seized when antiwar activists broke into an FBI field office in 1971 looking for draft cards. Using these and other documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the authors make it clear that the FBI has infiltrated and sabotaged every major citizens group since 1945.

The Cointelpro papers should be required reading for high school graduation. It’s essential to realize that government wire tapping, stalking, covert break-ins and infiltration of community groups didn’t start in 2002 when these activities first became “legal” under the Patriot Act. In fact, it’s extremely well documented (by University of Wisconsin professor Alfred McCoy – see Spying on Americans: the Ugly History) that it first began during the US occupation of the Philippines in 1898-1901.

This book had great personal importance in my life. There are a number of parallels between Jean Seberg’s case (see below) and the FBI harassment I began experiencing in 1987 related to my work with two former Black Panthers.** Along with four other African American activists, they had occupied an abandoned Seattle school in 1985 to transform it into a community-controlled African American Heritage Building and Cultural Center.

The section of Cointelpro Papers I found most illuminating describes the death squad activity that occurred on the Pine Ridge Sioux reservations during the 1970s – fifty-plus murders were never even investigated, much less prosecuted. Most Americans assume forced disappearances and extrajudicial assassinations only occur in Third World countries (thanks to the excellent CIA training their military officers receive at the School of the Americas in Fort Benning Georgia). Learning of scores of documented instances on US soil is extremely troubling.

The book also reproduces chilling FBI memos related to the coordinated FBI/police attack and murder of Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and the attempted murder of Los Angeles Black Panther leader Geronimo Pratt (who was subsequently imprisoned for 27 years on fictitious charges). The book goes on to recount to the brave refusal of Seattle mayor Wes Uhlman to consent to a similar FBI/police raid on the Black Panthers in Seattle (see The Mayor Who Said No to the Feds).

The saddest chapter describes the sadistic campaign of personal harassment Hoover undertook against actress Jean Seberg, a white actress who provided the Black Panthers with financial support. As a result of rumor campaigns and vicious gossip columns planted by the FBI, Seberg and her partner ultimately committed suicide.


*Ward Churchill is a well-known American Indian Movement (AIM) activist and former professor of ethnic studies at University of Colorado.

**Which I describe in my memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee

The Mayor Who Said No to the Feds

Uhlman

from Seattle City Archives

The Armed ATF Raid That Didn’t Happen

Few Americans have heard of Wes Uhlman, Seattle’s mayor between 1969 and 1977. According to his official biography, his main claim to fame was being the youngest Washington State legislator (at 23) and youngest Seattle major (at 34) ever elected.

Ward Churchill mentions Uhlman in his 1990 Cointelpro Papers. At the time, Uhlman declined to identify the federal agency he crossed swords with. Churchill misidentifies it as the FBI. In 2005 Uhlman disclosed, in an interview with the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, that the federal agency he confronted to was the Agency for Tobacco and Firearms. The ATF was the main agency responsible for the 1993 Waco massacre. In February 1970, they tried to strong arm Uhlman to agree to an armed raid on the headquarters of the Seattle Black Panther Party.

This was approximately three months after the December 1969 FBI/police raids on the apartments of Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton and Los Angeles Black Panther leader Geronimo Pratt. In Chicago a fourteen man team armed with submachine guns raided Hampton’s apartment at four a.m. on December 3rd. They murdered Hampton and Peoria Black Panther leader Mark Clark in their sleep.

Three days later a forty member Los Angeles SWAT team with 100 back-up officers staged a similar five a.m. raid on Pratt’s apartment. Pratt, who by chance was sleeping on the floor, miraculously survived. None of the LA Panthers, who defended themselves for four hours until the press and public arrived, were killed. Six were injured. All the surviving Panthers, in both Chicago and Los Angeles, were arrested for “attacking the police.”

Two weeks later Pratt was framed for a December 1968 murder he didn’t commit. The FBI knew he was innocent from wiretapping logs (which they concealed from the defense) placing him 350 miles from the murder scene. Pratt’s conviction was overturned in 1997. Following his release, he emigrated to Tanzania, where he died on June 3, 2011.

Uhlman Threatens to Arrest the ATF

In his interview with the Civil Rights and Labor History Project, Uhlman reveals that an ATF agent contacted him in late 1969, only months after he took office. The supposed justification for raiding Seattle’s Black Panther headquarters was that they were stockpiling illegal weapons. Uhlman opposed the ATF plan. As he states in the interview, he feared for the safety of a police undercover agent who had infiltrated the Seattle Panthers. The informant had assured him the Panther’s weapons were legal.

The ATF agent, infuriated when Uhlman refused to go along with the raid, threatened to carry it out without the city’s consent. In response, Uhlman threatened to encircle the Panther headquarters with cops and arrest any ATF agents who broke through police lines.

No Gestapo-type Raids in Seattle

The ATF leaked the outcome of their meeting outcome to the press, hoping to embarrass Uhlman as a “sympathizer of militants.” In a Seattle Post Intelligencer interview, Uhlman made reference to the FBI raid on Fred Hampton’s apartment. He stated he wanted no part of the “trend of attacks” on the Black Panthers.

“We are not going to have any 1932 Gestapo-type raids against anyone.” Adding that the Seattle Black Panthers only had a handful of members, he pointed out that numerous young blacks were “enthralled” by the group’s message. “If you give them a cause, they can make political hay out of it, and the kids will look on them like Robin Hoods.  Then you wind up with 900 Panthers.”

In the aftermath of Uhlman’s controversial stand, he received letters from all over the US. Many attacked the mayor for his decision. Bloggers who are visited by intelligence trolls will recognize the distinctive turn of phrase, especially in the third:

  • “When idiot public officials cast their lot with proven communist agitators and anti-american (sic) bastards as the BLACK PANTHERS then it is time to IMPEACH such public sons of bitches.”
  • “I don’t see why the federal agency had to ask a jerk like you whether they could stage a raid on the black panthers. (sic). This organization is downright rotten, but it takes a rotten jerk to know a rotten organization.  I hope one nite (sic) one of your soul brothers slits your throat.”
  • “Uhlman, you stupid ass, you are just as bad as the people, who are making such an issue of the two panthers who were killed in Chicago.”

An equal number of letters applauded Uhlman’s decision for upholding the Bill of Rights protections against warrantless search and seizure:

  • “You have GUTS—and even more…it would appear you do support the TRUE American spirit and the Constitution of this country.  Let’s keep the principle…MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL!”
  • “As a fifty year old veteran of WWII [with] twenty-one years active military service allow me to extend heartfelt gratitude and congratulations in your brave decision to put the Bill of Rights, for which I have served so long, into effect.”
  • “We need more like you.  I don’t necessarily agree with the Panthers, but the tactics of the Police, et al, frightens me more.”

Despite the controversy, Uhlman won his campaign for re-election in 1973. He retired from politics in 1978 to focus on his legal practice.

A great pity, as Seattle and Washington State lost a true statesman. No current mayors have the testicularity to protect their constituents against flagrant Bill of Rights violations by the Obama administration and US intelligence. At least they didn’t in November 2011, when they colluded with the FBI and Office of Homeland Security in orchestrating a brutal crackdown on Occupy protests.

How Nonviolence Protects the State

how nonviolence protects the state

(more from my research for A Rebel Comes of Age)

How Nonviolence Protects the State

Peter Gelderloos (2007 South End Press)

Book Review

How Nonviolence Protects the State takes up where Ward Churchill’s 1985 Pacifism as Pathology leaves off – expanding on Churchill’s basic premises (see previous blog) with more recent historical examples. Like Churchill, Gelderloos bemoans the determination of nonviolence proponents to impose their ideological views across the entire progressive movement. He blames this mainly on The Nation magazine and other “alternative” media outlets for falsely framing the debate as a question of “nonviolent” vs. “violent” organizing strategy. No one, he argues, endorses pure violence as a tactic.

Gelderloos divides his book into seven chapters. Each explores specific weaknesses of exclusive nonviolence as a political strategy:

Chapter 1 Nonviolence is ineffective – Here Gelderloos exposes the falsified history of “successful” nonviolent resistance movements – which he maintains are neither exclusively nonviolent or successful. In the case of Gandhi’s Quit India campaign, the Mahatma was elevated to fame by the British press. The latter chose to focus on his acts of civil disobedience, rather than the hundreds of freedom fighters who were planting bombs and assassinating British officials and native civil servants.

Gelderloos describes a parallel process occurring in the case of Martin Luther King’s nonviolent civil rights campaign. The mainstream media never reported on the Birmingham civil rights marches that degenerated into riots, which, in many cases, were the real trigger for both local and federal law changes.

He also contrasts the millions of peaceful demonstrators who were unable to stop the 2003 US invasion of Iraq – with the single 2004 train bombing that led Spain to withdraw their troops from occupied Iraq.

Chapter 2 Nonviolence is racist –  Gelderloos agrees with Churchill that the vast majority of dogmatic nonviolent proponents are privileged middle class whites, for whom the full repression of the capitalist state is never a genuine fear. Black looting (usually for food and basic necessities) is condemned as “violence.” In cntrast, white activists cut a chain fence to trespass on a military base are embraced as “nonviolent” and acceptable. White progressives are also quick to condemn third world autonomy movements, such as the Iraq and Afghan insurgencies against US occupation.

Chapter 3 Nonviolence is statist (i.e. serves the state) – Nonviolent activists share the fundamental view that the state (via police, FBI, CIA and military) should hold the monopoly on violence. In moments of conflict, they always line up with state authority. Among other examples, Gelderloos cites the Poor Peoples March at the 2004 Republican National Convention, where Mayor Bloomberg handed out badges to protestors who committed to nonviolent protest. When the police manhandled and arrested protestors (without badges) who were either black, covered their faces or refused to submit to arbitrary searches, white nonviolent marchers failed to come to their defense and blamed the arrestees for the police decision to target them.

Chapter 4 Nonviolence is patriarchal (i.e. supports male oppression of women and sexual minorities) – The nonviolent movement only permits women to use violence to defend themselves in individual cases of attempted rape. It’s not considerable acceptable in situations of ongoing domestic violence. Nor against the gradual systemic violence – for example the harmful corporate-produced chemicals in their breast milk – that is gradually poisoning their children.

Chapter 5 Nonviolence is tactically and strategically inferior – The nonviolent movement is totally focused on short term tactics and unable to show how any of these tactics will achieve their long term goals. When confronted with their inability to achieve goals, nonviolent advocates give the pat response: “Political change takes a long time and may not come in our lifetime.”

Gelderloo bemoans the millions of dollars wasted on grassroots lobbying, which is almost never effective. Even when Congress meets your demands on paper, they always backtrack. He gives the example of the School of the Americas (SOA) campaign, which sucked up years of organizing and nonviolent protests When enough public pressure built up, the Pentagon simply closed the SOA and reopened it under a new name.

He proposes the provocative question: ” Does it make more sense to blockade a bridge for a few hours by forming a human chain – or putting it out of commission for six months by blowing it up?”

Chapter 6 Nonviolence is deluded – The nonviolent movement is full of extreme contradictions. Nonviolent advocates support state violence all the time, simply by paying taxes. Activists from the privileged class need to understand what the rest of the world has known all along: neutrality isn’t possible. The question is which violence scares us the most and which side we will stand on.

Chapter 7 The alternative: possibilities for revolutionary activism – Gelderloos finishes with his vision of strategies that are most likely to succeed in dismantling corporate rule. He envisions building a loose confederation of local autonomous groups that will form non-corporate structures (free clinics, cooperatives, farmers markets, etc) to meet local needs. While he sees no need to convert everyone to anarchism, he warns of the need to be continually on guard against cooptation by the Institutional Left. And the need to learn self defense. If activists occupy a building to create a free clinic, they need to make sure the police can’t take it away from them.

A PDF of Gelderloos’ book can be downloaded free at zinelibrary

***

Rebel cover

In A Rebel Comes of Age, seventeen-year-old Angela Jones and four other homeless teenagers occupy a vacant commercial building owned by Bank of America. The adventure turns deadly serious when the bank obtains a court order evicting them. Ange faces the most serious crisis of her life when the other residents decide to use firearms against the police SWAT team.

$3.99 ebook available (in all formats) from Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/361351

Pacificism as Pathology

pacifism as pathology

(more of my research for A Rebel Comes of Age)

Pacifism as Pathology: Reflections on the Role of Armed Struggle in North America

By Ward Churchill (2007 AK Press)

Book Review

Pacifism as Pathology is a collection of essays centered around Ward Churchill’s original 1985 essay “Pacifism as Pathology: Notes on an American Pseudopraxis.” The premise of the essay is that the militant nonviolent stance assumed by the US progressive movement is based on irrational psychological reasons rather than strategic reasons or moral principle.

Viewpoints from a Range of Activists

The 2007 edition contains a preface by Derrick Jensen, who lays out compelling reasons for the necessity of “violence” in bringing about genuine political change in his 2006 book Endgame. Jensen’s argument, as in Endgame, is primarily ecological. Humankind is being systematically killed off by the capitalist class, via their poisoning of the air, water and food chain, as well as their heedless imposition of catastrophic climate change. Jensen poses the very reasonable question: are we willing to retaliate violently to save our own lives and those of our children and grandchildren?

The next essay is Ed Mead’s preface to the 1998 edition of Pacifism as Pathology, immediately following an 18 year prison term as a result of armed actions (bombings of state and federal buildings in Washington State) conducted by the George Jackson Brigade. Based on his experiences, he arrives at the following conclusions: 1)  pacifism as a strategy of achieving social, political and economic change can only lead to dead end liberalism – the most vicious and violent ruling class in history won’t give up privilege without a physical fight; 2) because 99.9% of practitioners of political violence will eventually confront death or imprisonment, it’s imperative that political violence be carried out in a manner calculated to win; and 3) although the George Jackson Brigade applied the tool of revolutionary violence when its use wasn’t appropriate, he feels pride that they erred on the side of making revolution instead of the alternative.

The book also contains an afterwards by Canadian Activist Mike Ryan describing his frustration after 20 years of nonviolent resistance as part of the Canadian peace movement – and his conclusion that violent resistance must be allowed as a tactic for genuine political change to occur.

Churchill’s Infamous Assault Rifle Workshop

Churchill explains, in his 1998 introduction, that Pacificism as Pathology was originally written in 1985 as part of a four year debate over a workshop “Demystification of the Assault Rifle” that he gave at a 1981 Radical Therapy conference. He was invited to give the workshop owing to an admission by many activists that their fear of weapons was chiefly responsible for their rejection of violence as a political strategy. The reaction of some conference participants was to pass a resolution banning similar workshops in the future, as well as the presence of firearms (except those of the police or military) at any Radical Therapy conference. Churchill was invited to write an article on his views for the magazine Issues in Radical Therapy, which was subsequently Xeroxed and distributed widely throughout North America. While Churchill acknowledges the right of all activists to personally reject violent strategies and tactics, he challenges the right of nonviolent proponents to condemn activists willing to embrace property destruction and/or armed self-defense among a diversity of strategies. As he points out, activists willing to engage in violent resistance wouldn’t dream of trying to force their views on nonviolent activists.

Armed Jewish Uprisings Under Nazi Occupation

For me, the most valuable part of the book is the first section about Bruno Bettelheim and Jewish armed uprisings, in the Warsaw and Bialystok ghettos and in numerous concentration camps during the second world war. This is an aspect of World War II history I was totally unaware if, as the work of Bettelheim and other scholars documenting armed Jewish resistance are carefully sanitized from the history textbooks served up to US high school and college students.

Bettelheim, who contrasts the Jews who resisted violently with the majority of Jews, who followed the Nazis passively to the camps and even to the gas chambers, makes a strong case for his belief that the persecution of the Jews was aggravated by the pervasive lack of fight back. He blames their failure to resist on strong psychological denial – a pathological need to cling to an illusion of “business as normal” – that ultimately overwhelmed their basic survival needs. The logical position would have been to accept the cold reality that their own lives were doomed and to use their deaths to save the life of other Jews by making the extermination more difficult. He points out that Jews had easy access to guns in 1930s and 1940s Germany, and there was no reason why every Jew that was arrested couldn’t take one or two SS officers with them.

Churchill describes how all the revolts inflicted significant damage on the Nazi machine. The revolt at Auschwitz killed 70 SS officers and destroyed the crematorium. Armed rebellions at Sorbibor and Reblinka were even more effective, and Sorbibor had to be closed following the uprising. There were also lesser insurrections at Kruszyna, Krychaw and Kopernik.

Militant Nonviolence: Racist, Deluded and Irrational

Churchill devotes the rest of the book to correcting historical distortions regarding Gandhi’s and Martin Luther Kings nonviolent resistance movements (which have been totally whitewashed by the ruling elite); a brief historical overview of the ineffectiveness of nonviolence in contrast to campaigns incorporating violent resistance; an analysis of the inherent racism implicit in the dogmatic nonviolence promoted by white upper middle class activists; and an outline of the irrational psychological motivations underlying militant nonviolence.

According to Churchill, the main reason white upper middle class activists reject violent resistance relates to intense ambivalence whether they really want to dismantle capitalism and give up their position of privilege.

Pacifism as Pathology can be downloaded free from Prison Legal News

Ward Churchill is a Native American author and American Indian Movement (AIM) activist. He was a professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado Boulder from 1990 to 2007. His best known book is the 1990 Cointelpro Papers.

***

Rebel cover

In A Rebel Comes of Age, seventeen-year-old Angela Jones and four other homeless teenagers occupy a vacant commercial building owned by Bank of America. The adventure turns deadly serious when the bank obtains a court order evicting them. Ange faces the most serious crisis of her life when the other residents decide to use firearms against the police SWAT team.

$3.99 ebook available (in all formats) from Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/361351