"And so I come to this – white liberal Christian friends, I’m talking to you. I’ve seen a lot of condemnation of “violent response,” lots of selective quoting Dr. King, lots of disparagement of antifa and the so-called “alt-left,” a moral equivalency from the depths of Hell if I ever saw one. You want to be nonviolent? That is good and noble. I think…I think I do, too. But I want you to understand what you’re asking of the people who take this necessary stance against white supremacy, the people who go to look evil in the face. You’re asking them to be beaten with brass knuckles, with bats, with fists. To be pounded into the ground, stomped on, and smashed. You’re asking them to bleed on the pavement and the grass. Some of them are going to die. And you’re asking them to do that without defending themselves.
Are you willing to do that? Are you going to to go out when the Nazis come here, to the Bay Area, next week? Are you going to offer your body to them? No? Are you willing to take a bat to the head? To be surrounded by angry young men who want nothing more than to beat you unconscious, like they did Deandre Harris? Are you going to rely upon a different type of violence – that imposed by the state – to protect you – even knowing it is a danger to your neighbors? To outsource the violence your safety requires to someone else? Or are you just not going to show up, at the rally or afterward? To choose passivity over pacifism – because let’s be clear, nonviolence is still about showing up.
If you are unwilling to risk your bodily integrity to stand against literal Nazis, but you are willing to criticize the people out there who are taking this grave threat seriously but not in a way of which you approve….I just don’t know what to say to you. Truly. Your moral authority is bankrupt and you’re not helping. You’re a hypocrite."
In the end, in this situation, yes, I would rather defned myself, or others, or have others defend me, than be beaten into a pulp by Nazis. I cannot say that pure non-violence is the right answer all the time.
Here's where I still believe in non-violence though:
There is far, far, too much fucking violence in the world. Too many people, even those with good ultimate intentions, are too quick to resort to violence, or to support violence by others, as the solution to problems.
And there is far, far, too little non-violence. By which I mean, active non-violence. There is far too little thinking and praxis about opposing evil without using violence. Lots of people are willing to say "Fight hate with love", but very, very few actually have any clue or willingness about how to put that into practice beyong sharing memes on Facebook. There are people who do this, and who think about it and develop creative ideas, but there are far too few. I think there are a lot of situations where active, creative, large-scale non-violent methods could achieve an enormous amount, ultimately at less cost in lives and pain than violent methods.
You do not have to be a pacifist to engage in active non-violence. A non-violent approach says "I am going to confront you, but I am going to do so, as far as I possibly can, in a way that does not inflict harm and that does not succumb to hate". But one can do this and still say "But if this does not work I am not going to let you beat me or my neighbour to death if I can stop you by whatever means at my disposal".
It is not just about avoiding harm to the other side. It is not just about the state of your soul. It is about what comes next after you have beaten the immediate threat or got rid of the immediate tyranny. If the revolution is achieved by force of arms, then the people in charge after the revolution will not be the ones with the most popular support or the best ideas, but the ones with most firepower. And if the first against the wall are the old regime and their elite cronies, then the second against the wall will be the revolutionaries who are seen as a threat to the ones who gain power.
(The best case, though, is where one never actually faces this dilemma, 'cos you outnumber the fash 1000 to 1 like we did in Boston last weekend, and the fash have to be surrounded by a giant police cordon before being escorted away in a police van with their tails between their legs. Yes, I like that scenario.)