The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Basic Ethics and When Violence Is Justified

The simplest of maxim in all of ethics is: “I don’t harm others, I don’t harm myself.”

The problem with this ethic arises when someone else hurts you.

What do you do?

Perhaps the first step is to ask them to stop. If they don’t, attempt to move away from them.

If you can’t or if moving away harms you, the next step is violence.

“If you won’t stop hurting me, I’ll have to make you stop.”

In a complex society like ours this becomes complicated. There are people doing harm to you and me right now. Rich people, mostly, and powerful people like politicians and senior corporate officers. They kill people, impoverish people and make people sick for their own benefit. They don’t stop when asked nicely, or even rudely.

They also use a lot of violence to get their way and keep hurting people. I trust this is self-evident. The police and military don’t serve “the people,” except incidentally. Some schmuck who does some drugs goes away for years, while the crooks who brought down the economy and left millions homeless and impoverished because of their fraud and corruption pay a few fines that are less than what they stole.

But, the bottom line is they hurt people and won’t stop when asked, nor can one move away from the hurt they are inflicting. This hurt is likely to kill some billions of people.

So violence is justified. This isn’t a moral/ethical problem, it is a tactical strategic question. It is no longer a question of whether violence is justified against people who are doing great evil and won’t stop when asked, but a question of whether it will work and what is required to make it work.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – July 6, 2019


Simple Decision Making


  1. Z

    Greed can never be satiated. The only cure for greed is fear.


  2. atcooper

    Having been compared to Kaczynski a few times, I finally read his manifesto. But for his bizarre definition of the left, I found him compelling.

    What IF there were a cadre of hackers with his vision? A group of saboteurs like that could accomplish quite a lot.


    In a complex society like ours this becomes complicated.

    Indeed it does. Instead of an army of Lee Harvey Oswalds and Sirhan Sirhans assigned to take out high ranking officials of both government and industry, we get an epidemic of public mass shootings where the victims are random recipients of the monsters’ rage aided and abetted by an industry that profits from the terror it helps inflict and incite.

  4. la mordida

    Sounds like basic self-defense to me.

  5. Willy

    Greed can never be satiated. The only cure for greed is fear.

    Well beyond ones own subsistence, well beyond the destruction of others, it sure seems like a pathology. Alcoholics usually rationalize all their behavioral effects on their loved ones. IMHO, so are our powerful elites, at least the ones who aren’t DSM psychopathic and couldn’t ever care less. Something is mentally wrong with them.

    I just watched the Jim Bakker show and saw some truth in it.

    Now that what’s left of my credibility has been completely shot, let me explain. What I found interesting was the guest Paul L. Williams, hawking his “The Killing of Uncle Sam” book. I looked it up, and once I got past all the neocon islamophobe racist conspiracy theorist skew, and the likelihood that the author’s gone well round the bend, I realized he may be seeing the same thing that progressives are (of course assuming he’s not just populist focus-grouping it for cash) – the international collusion of corporate and government elites, greed gone pathological.

    Are elites starting to lose their grip on the religious wrong? I’m curious how they’d try to re-divide populist left and increasingly populist right when both come to an agreement about what’s really happening.

  6. Violence can be subtler than guns, four, anything can be a weapon.

    This isn’t a moral/ethical problem, it’s a tactical strategum.

    Not unlike “You’re either with us, or against us.”

    Throw a monkey wrench in it.

  7. Arthur

    To think that there can be meaningful long term change without at least some violence is naive. When and how exactly this will play out is another question. Some folks believe that when the shootin’ starts the left or progs (as Morris Berman calls them) will quickly be decimated. I do not agree. I’m left and own a gun. I don’t plan to use it anytime soon, but it’s there if needed. I know many people who feel the same way. Right or left this would best be avoided if possible. After all, who knows who will side with whom. And we don’t know if the score settling will occur before or after the country begins to break up into regions. And what will that look like? Does Texas leave the union and then Austin leaves Texas. Well, I’m 64 and things don’t happen overnight so I probably won’t be around for the worst of it.

  8. BlizzardOfOz

    The simplest of leftist ethics: your speech is violence, my violence is speech.

  9. Willy

    Naw, only rich people mostly, and powerful people like politicians and senior corporate officers, who kill people, impoverish people and make people sick for their own benefit, and who don’t stop when asked nicely, or even rudely. That stuff probably shouldn’t be considered free speech.


    It’s instructive to look at the history of violence and analyze how it has played out as a stratagem against tyrannical oppression. My cursory review reveals it never quite, not by a long shot actually, plays out as intended and the ultimate recipients of the violence end up being those who never should have been targeted.

    Any stratagem must acknowledge that those who are prone to violence, the cowardly thugs, will gravitate to a strategized campaign of violence and usurp it and direct it against the most vulnerable and defenseless. This is what terrorists do. Terrorists are thugs and bullies who pick on, murder & maim actually, the most defenseless in society. Terrorists are very class-oriented in this regard. They’re too frightened to take it to the 1% and the enablers of the 1% and so, instead, hit defenseless targets because they’re cowards who are afraid of a real fight or because they perhaps, indirectly or directly, operate on behalf of the 1%, wittingly or not, as a pseudo Gladio type of operation to keep the unwashed off balance and in a constant state of fear & loathing.

    I know one thing, or two or three things to be more precise. Throwing concrete milkshakes at a defenseless Asian gay guy and beating him with crow bars isn’t going to get it done. It’s cowardice every bit as much as running a protester down with a car is cowardice.

    Talk about fear. Where are all the brave and noble souls ready to take the fight to the source and that source is what Willy just described in his latest comment? There are no brave and noble souls. No one steps up and takes it to the real target because they’re afraid. The 1% are not afraid. They don’t fear. They instead are feared and it’s why they are NEVER the recipients of violence.

    The 1% are likened to mad dogs. You will never make them fear you. Violence in this respect isn’t a matter of making the 1% fear you. It’s purely a matter of physically removing a mad dog’s jaws from your neck before it pierces your jugular vein. In this respect, violence isn’t about instilling fear, it’s about existential expediency because all else has failed. Your life depends on it.

  11. Watt4Bob

    “The IRA gave clear reasons for the execution. I think it is unfortunate that anyone has to be killed, but the furor created by Mountbatten’s death showed up the hypocritical attitude of the media establishment.
    As a member of the House of Lords, Mountbatten was an emotional figure in both British and Irish politics. What the IRA did to him is what Mountbatten had been doing all his life to other people;
    and with his war record I don’t think he could have objected to dying in what was clearly a war situation. He knew the danger involved in coming to this country.
    In my opinion, the IRA achieved its objective: people started paying attention to what was happening in Ireland.”


    The IRA are/were scumbags dealing guns and drugs with biker gangs in America. They’re lowlife thugs and goons and that’s why they ultimately failed.

    The most positive example to date of the use of violence against the 1% was Castro’s Cuba and the 1% globally made him and Cuba pay dearly.

    That’s one thing positive you can say about the 1%. When it’s under threat, which isn’t often as in almost never, they get each other’s backs and help neutralize the threat.

  13. scruff

    The 1% are not afraid. They don’t fear.

    I mean, neither would I if I could do whatever I wanted and had the Secret Service/Blackwater mercs to protect me from retribution. One might say that the accumulation of security resources is actually an indication of fear, not fearlessness.


    If a strategy of violence is motivated by a need to instill fear in order to obtain power, it is doomed to fail and will render you, ultimately, the same as those you decry. True terror comes in many forms and it transcends class. The 1% are the ultimate terrorists.

    This is one of their favorite shows and this is one of their favorite scenes from that show because it represents precisely how they think and feel. Matching that only makes you them. Instilling fear must never be your goal or any part of any strategy.

    We Make the Terror

  15. ponderer

    I think whether its justified is immaterial. The first question you should ask, is it effective. In most of the conflicts I’ve read about involving some type of strike where the national guard or militia becomes involved, or pinkertons / mercenaries. The Powers That Be, are the winners. I use miner /union strikes as reference because the people involved have legitimate grievances, are united about their cause, and don’t necessarily have a small number of leaders who can be murdered to dissolve the movement.

    As effective tactics, you could look at what the Cartels employ combined with asymmetric warfare. I couldn’t stomach it personally, you have to know your limits, but it would probably work. If Bin Laden had really wanted to get the US military bases out of SA I think he could have done it. It wouldn’t have involved “symbolic” targets though.

    If you could get enough people to your cause I think not showing up for work for a few weeks would be enough.

  16. ponderer

    Assuming you don’t want to through away your life or freedom on this project I think the best strategy is to use the one they use against us (99%). Divide and conquer, that is support one faction against another faction until enough damage has been done. Then switch as appropriate. I view my Trump support at least partially in this light. At the same time, don’t fall for their propaganda, forget the one party two suits duopoly. Forget Antifa and Proud Boys as they are a trap and most likely state sponsered, stay off as many lists as you can. No facebook, no twitter. Always use a pseudonym.
    The Russia-gate affair looks like an opportunity to hold at least some accountable. It will most likely lead to further later retaliations. The Epstein case looks like some of the fallout and has a chance to implicate further insiders. Don’t excuse the malpractice of “your” elites no matter what. Use any opportunity to support Justice, even if it’s not applied “fairly”. Hurting half the elite now give the opportunity to punish the other half later.

  17. gnokgnoh There are hundreds of examples of uprisings or revolutions that succeeded, or by a narrow definition, overthrew the 1%, monarchy, dynasty, colonial power. I am sure that they all came at a cost, about that no one has any illusions. Everyone thinks that the 1% are invincible, until they are not.

    Examples include: Paraguayan Revolt 1811, Mexican War of Independence 1810 – 1821; Second Serbian Uprising 1813 and many of other wars for independence from the Ottomans and colonial wars for independence from European rule. Just in the 19th century alone, the list is endless. Many continued into the 20th century. Many others failed. These examples do not include empires or dynasties warring with each other for territory or resources.


  18. Willy

    As far as revolution goes, I belong to the critical mass camp, in that a critical mass of lemmings is needed to redirect the mindlessly determined horde away from the cliff. I’m not convinced that a few angry lemmings, right as they may be about the impending long fall not ending well, has the power to do so, mostly because of mob inertia. But on the positive (if there is one) polls demonstrate that there’s a significant potential progressive army just waiting to be awakened from their learned helplessness apathy.

    Every sociopath I know, every one, employs confusion as a tool. If you can’t control them with brilliance, then keep them baffled with bullshit. And squabbling amongst themselves.

    I’d love to hear from somebody from the rapture camp, about why ACGW wasn’t embraced as proof of our sinning earth’s impending doom. And what’s up with MAGA? How does making America great again fit in with just letting Revelations doom prophecy happen? Are you really that easily controlled?

  19. so

    Always do what you think is right. Trust your heart.
    As a person who believes in the eternal existence of my soul I find that violence is a waste.
    The wrong direction. Harder.
    Ever since I was a young child when presented with situations of abuse, physical or mental,
    no matter how angry i became my reaction was to walk away. Leave. Absorb and leave.
    The kind of anger that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
    Same as when I feel god around. Funny.
    Why would I kill someone in retribution? They get to go back.
    I have to stay here and still work out my stuff.
    Before the recession I used to build beautiful things for Billionaires.
    They have their stuff to work out too. Believe me.

  20. Joan

    In the case of the US, I worry any violence would just pit regular people against each other. The real alliance to be forged is the middle class with the working class, against the elites. Not the middle class siding with the elites against the working class. Politically, this is populist left and right against neoliberal and neoconservative. The elites love it that the left and right are too busy hating each other to notice we could bring down the elites.

    The left and the right will never agree on social issues, but that shouldn’t keep us from teaming up. Much more important is the economics of human dignity.

  21. different clue

    Is there such a thing as ” oh-so-exquisitely-technical non-violence” in a violent spirit? Can a peacefully violent spirit be used to organize and direct extermicotts against certain carefully selected companies or industries? ( An “extermicott” is a boycott designed to exterminate the targeted entity from existence and wipe it off the face of the earth. I freely donate the word “extermicott” to anyone who thinks they might like it).

    Has anyone thought about what sullen mass uncivil obedience would look like? ” We obey but we do not comply”.

    Every dollar is a bullet on the field of economic combat.

    Lead the money around by the nose.

    Nobody owes the rich a living.

    I am not my keeper’s brother.

  22. Hugh

    I used to write that there were 3 immediate problems which confront our world: kleptocracy, wealth inequality, and class war. The rich and elites steal most of the wealth out of our society. This creates enormous inequality in wealth as well as suffering and death among us in the lower 80% of society. And because they are few and we are many, they use class war to divide us, distract us, and set us against each other. If we are fighting each other, if we are afraid of each other, then we can not organize ourselves to challenge them.

    The important thing to understand about revolutions is that they are inherently violent. This is because they are themselves a response to violence, the violence that the few do to us when they rob us and make a good and decent life impossible for us, when they kill us by denying us healthcare or driving us to drugs, suicide, and despair. But the violence they do to us is seldom or never described as violence. Instead they say it is just the ways things are, can’t afford good things for you, it’s the business cycle, just can’t be done, we have a poll here that says you don’t want it anyway, socialism, etc. They can tsk-tsk about the violence that we do among ourselves, but what is really Violence to them is any hint of our challenging them and their monopoly on our society’s power and wealth. And to defend their ill-gotten gains they will use and justify any violence against us. And this is why revolutions are violent, because our ruling class will have them no other way.

  23. Ian Welsh

    Ok folks, I have no internet at home for a while (not sure how long), so approval of comments will be sporadic as it’ll be done once a day when I’m at a coffee shop. Regular posting will (hopefully) resume tomorrow.


  24. Watt4Bob

    I think the Vietnamese once used violence to solve their problem, took a long time, but they were successful.


    Spain in the 20th century is most instructive. It should be a lesson learned. Never give truck to the far right. Ever. Never. The anarchists threw their weight and support to Franco’s fascism and Spain got tyrannical brutality on steroids for nearly half a century. Same thing happened in Iran. The left in Iran joined with the right and once the revolution was complete, the right eliminated, quite literally, the left.

    It’s time to transcend the political spectrum entirely. If we can have fragrance free, we can have ideology free.

    Iran and the Left:
    Why They Supported Islamic Reaction

  26. Ten Bears

    There’s a bridge out there unimpeded. Top ten this morning.

  27. GrimJim

    Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.

  28. Jeremy


    \”The IRA are/were scumbags dealing guns and drugs with biker gangs in America. They’re lowlife thugs and goons and that’s why they ultimately failed.\”

    1.) What ever one\’s view of the IRA, the first sentence is just plain bizarre and entirely without foundation.
    2.) Good Friday Agreement. The Brits didn\’t come to the negotiating table out of charity. They never do. They came because they had no \”solution\” to the IRA who operated for over 35 years without defeat. They stood down.

  29. different clue

    When did the Anarchists give support to the Franco Right during or before the Spanish Civil War? This is the first I have ever heard of this.

    How many people have heard about this? Does anyone here have any links or sources to Spanish Anarchist support to the Franco forces during the Spanish Civil War?

  30. Watt4Bob

    @different clue;

    Although I don’t consider Wikipedia the surest source, I’d say their information about Spanish anarchists and the fight against Franco is enough for me to call BS on the comment you mentioned.

    Anarchists played a central role in the fight against Franco

    It’s clear that Spanish anarchists opposed Franco and fascism, and saying otherwise is clear evidence of an unhealthy disregard for the truth.

  31. different clue


    Thank you for the heads-up. I didn’t think I remembered the Spanish Anarchists being on the Franco – Hitler-Mussolini side.

    I suppose this means that every comment that offers will have to be similarly vetted before taking its truth-content for granted.

  32. MojaveWolf

    \”The IRA are/were scumbags dealing guns and drugs with biker gangs in America. They’re lowlife thugs and goons and that’s why they ultimately failed.\”

    1.) What ever one\’s view of the IRA, the first sentence is just plain bizarre and entirely without foundation.

    I have no knowledge of the truth or falsity of the IRA working w/biker gangs in real life, and I was just skimming comments in a hurry so no time to look it up, but I can tell you that it featured prominently in Sons of Anarchy, a pretty good TV show, a few years back. So there’s THAT foundation. 😛

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