About a day before I decided to write this me and a couple friends were having a discussion about the nature of the columbus activist community. A little joke came up between us where we gave our activist community a motto:"Welcome to Columbus! Please tone it down a little!" Now we all had a good laugh over this statement about what we consider to be the lack of tactical radicalism within our activist community here in Columbus, Ohio, but this is a very serious matter or at least I feel it is and it has compeled me to write this critique.

Before i get to the subject at hand let me say something about my bias. I feel it is important that a writer state her or his bias as everyone has a bias and it is dishonest to claim you don't and it decieves your readers to hide this bias. I find it cowardly and a hamperer of genuine debate. I am an anarchist communist and as such write from the opinon of someone for whom mere reform is not the ultimate goal. No! My ultimate goal is revolution, or to elaborate on that, to overthrow by peaceful means preferably and violent means if necessary the system of class privelege which divdes wealth in such a way as to create haves and have nots. I am an advocate of collective ownership of the means of production as opposed to ownership by an elite class and I favor dierect democeracy to a system of represenatives which, I feel, by the very fact that it is a minority of the population given the power to interpret the law that it will have agents of it's power enforce will always be at odds with the people at large. In other words I am opposed to both the state and the capitalists and in favor of a society in which people control the flow of information and production. I am in favor of self-government by the people based on education and debate followed out by and action and not by the dictates of some institution, elected or not, which has been given final power to interpret the law. But this is not the place where I will debate these belifes. I have merely stated them to show my bias to those concerned before I make the critique which I will come to prsently.

I will not name names in this critique, I will simply state a dominant attitude I find troubling here in the columbus activist community. I refuse to name names cause this is not something merely written out of spite, it is not a whitch hunt. It is meant as constructive critisism. Despite the dominant trends in our activist community that I will name I still feel it to be a comparitivly enlightend community of people who see through the rancid nationalistic patriotism and commercial distraction that dominate the landscape of our national debate on the corperate media. The people who are responsible for the trends I criticize have their hearts in the right place but just have, in my opinon, a lack of realism due to fear of confrontation which is part of genuine debate.

I start my critique off with a couple of personal experiences that happend to me at recent protests. The first has to do with an upside down American flag I own that says in all capital letters: "CAPITALISM IS ROBBERY! LIFE AND LIBERTY NOT WAGE SLAVERY!" next to this writing is an anarchy sign. This flag is a simplified expression, as are all our posters, of my deeply held convictions. The slogan represents my feelings about the nature of capitalism and the upside down flag represents my contempt for mindless nationalism which bows down to symbols such as flags and dominates the mainstream medias discourse on politics. At a recent anti-war rally I was told to put my flag away-which I did out of respect-as it would probably offend some people. The second incident is really more a common occurence then one incident. At a number of rallys I have attend we have been harassed by counter demonstraters and other closed minded indivduals yelling epitephs to the tune of "Nuke Iraq!", "Get a job communist!", or a simple "Fuck you!" to which I offten reply how I honestly feel:"Get a brain!", "Go home then and wallow in your must see TV cause you are scared to think for yourself!", a fact like "We armed Iraq in the first place and this whole war is about control of oil!" somethimes with "You moron!" tagged on out of anger, or simply, "Fuck you!" Sometimes people except my venting but more often then not I am told I am not being peaceful enough.

This brings me to my problem: the columbus activist community is dominated by liberals! Before I go on with this it is important to clarify my defintion of liberal. What I mean when I say this is someone who is so dominated by the notion of non-violence that they not only believe this tactic to be a sort of secular(and sometimes relgious)"one true faith" for activists to follow but they even strech the definiton of non-violence. They strech it thus: it is seen as not becoming of an activist to fight back in self defense should police or angry counter demonstraters physicaly attack them, not to resist arrest if you feel you can escape when the police come to take you away at an action, not to destroy property regardless of how that property effects others or to take property by force that has been stolen from the people, and not even to yell out things that may offend people as an expression of your anger at their ignorance by choice or at the system which has managed to make them ignorant. These liberals are what is known as total pacifists and they tend to put an enphasis on pleasing the mainstream, getting permits for your marchs so they aren't disruptive, and comprimise and reform within the current system rather than revolution against it.

Now I am a man who believes strongly in diversity of tactics so I have nothing against these liberals based merely on the fact that they have chosen the paths of pacifism and/or refromism(it is important to realize not all pacifists are reformists). My problem rests with the fact that these people have imposed the principals I speak of as a sort of tactical straight jacket for activists. When actions are held by these people, which they usualy are in Columbus (which, from what I have seen on my travels, is not a very radical activist community), all individuals are expected to play within this tactical range and moving beyound it is seen as a sort of heresy. I am not joking about this, I have heard some activists say others should be removed from the action for getting too "violent" with their speech and I have even heard such utterances as "If you don't vote you have no right to complain!" from people who I know are aware of the corrupt nature of our elections which are based on class privelege and big money. This is a huge problem to me, it is only slightly removed from some of the incidents I have heard of where liberals in the anti-war, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist ect.. movements have been doing things like turning the anarchist black block in to the police. I feel that we need to diversify our tactics or we are not facing reality and not being consistent with our claims of being democratic.

We get together in groups to discuss plans for actions and to carry them out but each individual gravitates twoards these groups based on her or his own convictions. It follows that as individauls who have these convictions we necessarily come to different considerations of what tactics would be best, balanced out of, course, by the situation. Some of us feel that non-violence is the right way to go and others of us feel we have a right to defend ourselves and our goals by any means necessary. I am one of the latter, I see non-violence as tactic and not an immutable law and I also realize there are those who refuse ever to utilize vilonece in any form be it in defnse against hostile people and law enforcement, violence against property, resisting arrest, or violence in the form of angry language. In betweem these extremes on the spectrum are those pacifists who are willing to use violence against property but not in self defense against a human opponent, or who are willing to express themselves when they are enraged but will not use violence against property or in self defense against people and along the whole spectrum some are willing to risk arrest and some find it more moral to let themselves be dragged off to jail and/or see resisting arrest as a from of violence. I think that if our activist communities are truly to be considered democratic then there will be a place for all of these types so long as we remember that we express our actions ethier as indivduals or a group of indivduals within a group/protest and are not necessarily represenative of everyone else in the group or at the demonstration.

Such diversity of tactics and mutual respect between different viwes makes a much better statement and is much more effective then frocing all into one straight jacaket labeled non-violence. First of all it more effectivly reaches people because despite the corperate medias attempts to merge everyone into one big featureless mass, every person is still unique and different people are influenced in different ways plus it shows us to be open minded and democratic rather than colsed minded and totalitarian, which as we know, our opponets just love to paint us as. This diversity is also more effective because it shows to the establishment not only that a very diverse group of ideolgies is united in it's opposition to their game but that some among them are not afriad to raise a fist against them and could thus be a very genuine threat to them should they choose merely to laugh us off or otherwise ignore us as insignificant. If not for warriors such as the Black Panthers and Malcom X the establishment would not have been compeled to listen to the likes of Martin Luther King and make the consessions they did which were of course limited so they would still preserve the power structure that protected their priveleges but where none the less progress, narrow as this victory may have been. You see the establishment feared such people and it made them quicker to negotiate with the less extreme groups within the movement in an attempt to placate the anger of such groups.

Now I will never be placated by mere reforms, as I said earlier, but I see no problem with activism for reforms. I have been involved in many such things, as these reforms have a cumulative effect, at least, of bettering the conditions of oppressed people which makes them stronger and better able to more fully attack the system as well as limiting the effects of certain imperialist policys so that at least some people can survive them. So on that level of at least achieving some progress I very much support reforms that will bring more concessions from the government even though I know it is only a public realations ploy to placate the people in order to preserve elite power. Limited as this is it is still progress and progress makes us stonger which is why we have had to fight so hard even for what concessions we have managed to grab throughout history like desegragation, the eight hour work day, acsess to abortion, women sufferage and the like. Let us not forget that the elite are resistant to anything that in any way limits their power.

But, as I said, me and many other people i know are not willing to settle for mere reforms and want to work to destroy the current exploitive hierarchial structure of soceity in favor of our various egalitarian visons. As I believe the rights of the reformists must be respected so should our rights and when you threaten the interests of people like us by forcing us into a universal tactical straight jacket like non-violence as the only tactic, you alienate us from you, loose our respect and earn our animosity which is a situation none of us want. In closing I would like to say that I understand why some people refuse to use violence and I find most of these peoples reasoning to be admirable so long as I believe they have truly liberatory aspirations. I wish I could feel the same way but I can't. violence is certainly nothing to be entered into without thought be it against a human opresser or opression caused by property which pollutes our land or has been stolen from us. but due to my convictions about self defense I recognize it as necessary and even as ineveitable so long as exploitation continues. I respect those who are pacifists at any extreme of that spectrum I mentioned earlier but only if they are willing to respect me too!

Tim Lemmon
Columbus, Ohio