---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2002 12:05:05 -0700
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: Revolutionary Suicide, Suicide Bombings
Future Hope column, April 10, 2002
Revolutionary Suicide, Suicide Bombings
by Ted Glick
The recent suicide bombings by young Palestinians inside Israel remind me
of something written about by Huey Newton, founder of the Black Panther
Party in the 1960's. Newton coined the term, "revolutionary suicide,"
referring to the need for Black people oppressed by racism and poverty to
risk their lives for the people, for positive change, by standing up to the
police and repressive government. He positively contrasted this with the
behavior of those who essentially chose what could be called "reactionary
suicide" through drug addiction, criminal activity and the like.
Newton and his compatriots in the Black Panther Party tried to build a
national organization based in part on this concept. For a variety of
reasons, particularly severe government repression, this effort eventually
died, as did Newton in 1989 in less than revolutionary circumstances.
I don't support suicide bombings or other organized attacks directed
solely against civilians. I don't believe such actions are "revolutionary,"
in the best sense of the term, in the sense Newton was using it.
I also am very aware that I am in a privileged position as a white, North
American man from a middle-class background. It is easy for me to take this
position. If I had experienced all that the people of Palestine have
experienced for so many decades, I could very well see things differently.
Does this mean that I, that we on the Left should be quiet and refuse to
speak to this issue publicly?
Some on the Left do take this position. They say that the choice of tactics
on the part of Palestinians fighting for their freedom should be left to
them, that we should have no words of criticism for suicide bombers. We
should instead just focus our attention on opposing the United States and
Israel in their carrying out of a brutal and violent, terroristic
occupation of what should be an independent Palestinian state. This is not
a majority position on the Left from what I can tell, but there are some
who hold it.
There is no question that our major focus must be on opposing U.S. support
for Israel's occupation. But not to be critical of armed actions of any
kind directed against unarmed and innocent civilians is to make a mockery
of what we say are our principles and beliefs. And ultimately, if we truly
want to see change in this violent, brutal world, holding fast to those
principles and beliefs is essential.
This is not coming from a pacifist position. Although I believe in the need
to be as non-violent as possible both in our personal relationships with
others and in the tactics we use in our struggle for a new world, I
believe, as with Gandhi, that armed resistance against oppression is
preferable to inaction and that there have been and are certain situations
where people serious about justice have no choice but to take up arms.
The key question, always, is whether or not a particular tactic has a
chance of making progress in building a mass movement for fundamental
change, in advancing a revolutionary process, while being consistent with
I think of another example of what could be called "revolutionary suicide,"
of the conscious use of a tactic knowing it could well lead to death but
believing it was the right tactic for the right time and that the risk was
James Connolly was a labor organizer, a socialist and a prominent Irish
nationalist. He was a leader of the April, 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin,
Ireland and was executed by the British in May of that year because of it.
In his last written statement just before he was killed he said, in part,
"We succeeded in proving the Irishmen are ready to die. . . I personally
thank God that I have lived to see the day when thousands of Irish men and
boys and hundreds of Irish women and girls were ready to affirm that truth,
and to attest it with their lives, if need be."
According to Carl and Ann Barton Reeve in their book, "James Connolly and
the United States: The Road to the 1916 Irish Rebellion," Connolly knew
that the odds were against the Irish revolutionaries in the spring of 1916.
He knew that they were taking a big risk in launching their uprising. But
he also believed that, if they were unsuccessful in a military sense, there
was a much better chance they would be successful politically in rousing
their countrymen and women to carry the struggle for Irish independence
forward because of the examples, the willingness to die, he and others
would be displaying. And he was right.
This evil system will not be changed without sacrifice. More of us will
be hurt, imprisoned or worse as our movement unfolds in the coming years.
Our tactics will shift and change. Let's show by the example of our lives,
by the strength of the movement that we build, by the risks we are willing
to take, as the non-violent International Solidarity Movement has been
doing in the West Bank for the last two weeks, that there is hope from
within the heart of the corporate beast. Ultimately, this is the greatest
contribution we can make to the building of an international movement that
presents a viable alternative to suicide bombings directed against unarmed
Ted Glick is National Coordinator of the Independent Progressive Politics
Network and is on the Steering Committee of the April 20th Mobilization. He
can be reached at futurehopeTG@aol.com or P.O. Box 1132, Bloomfield,
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