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Why Civil Resistance Works and Why the Billionaire-Class Cares

To live for 101 glorious years like the recently departed David Rockefeller (1915–2017) is a pleasantry that most of us will never enjoy. Every year untold millions of lives are unnecessarily cut short because of poverty and war; all because a ruling, billionaire class, feels obliged to inflict violence upon the rest of us to enhance their own profit margins. Mr Rockefeller was fairly typical in this regard, and his callous disregard for humanity was best expressed in his devoted support of murderous dictators and despots whenever democratic imperatives threatened to impinge upon his class’s wealth.

The troubling legacy of the billionaire class’ murderous and uncivil politics recently gave the American electorate a nasty choice between two Wall Street politicians (Trump and Clinton), both of whom had dedicated their lives to serving the needs of the super-rich. The result of such a monumental failure of the democratic process was never going to be good for the 99%.

Just one of the late David Rockefeller’s continuing billionaire-club projects is something known as the Council on Foreign Relations – an organization which Laurence Shoup correctly referred to Wall Street’s Think Tank in his recent book on the Council. In a review of this important study, Noam Chomsky concludes how the elites running the Council on Foreign Relations “have set the contours for much of recent history, not least the neoliberal assault that has had a generally destructive impact on populations while serving as an effective instrument of class war.”

In the ongoing and intensifying class war that is being waged upon us, there is nothing that elites fear more than genuine democracy and the potential it has to unite the working-class against the violent edifice of capitalism. This is why elites based at think tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations continue to worry about where the next potential threat to their oppressive system may come from.

One such member of this poisonous sect, who has gained notoriety for his unwelcome historical tales of how mass organizations succeed in overthrowing governments, is Peter Ackerman, a former financier, who until undermaskofphilrecently served as a board member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is the coauthor of A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict (St. Martin’s Press, 2001), and is the founding chair of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC). Ackerman and his Centre’s work are misleading to say the least, that is, if you are concerned with truly understanding the relationship between mass movements and the government’s they have overthrown.

Another member of the Council on Foreign Relations elite creed who, so to say, has picked up on Ackerman’s profound interest in civilian resistance is Professor Erica Chenoweth; an individual who in addition to serving as the co-chair of the ICNC’s advisory board, is the co-author of Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia University Press, 2011). Chenoweth prefers not to concern herself with the finer details of U.S. foreign policy, which have seen her pals in high government install and sustain dictatorial regimes across the world, while simultaneously acting to overthrow democratically elected government deemed too democratic for billionaires. (Chenoweth’s detailed, albeit problematic, engagement with the dynamics of the people-power movement in the Philippine’s — that ousted their dictator in 1986 — capably illustrates her own class orientation and the limitations of her analyses of popular struggles.)

The good professor’s message is apparently a simple statistical truth, as Chenoweth repeatedly draws attention to the findings of her book, that: “Between 1900 and 2006 campaigns of nonviolent resistance against authoritarian regimes were twice as likely to succeed as violent movements.” Of course it is self-evident that any sustainable and successful campaign to overthrow a government is predicated upon having overwhelming public support. But just because such mass democratic campaigns should rely upon nonviolent strategies to win power, does not mean that those same individuals do not have the right to forcibly defend their gains from the same viciously violent forces of reaction that they displace. The anti-democratic representatives of the billionaire class are certainly not known for their peaceful acceptance of socialism, or even justice for that matter. 

Elite experts like Chenoweth are therefore considered to be a vital asset to the full armament of the ruling-class, all the better that they may intervene to undermine the threat to their rule posed by civilian resistance. Making this point clearly, the title of Chenoweth’s most recent academic article asks “Can Structural Conditions Explain the Onset of Nonviolent Uprisings? (Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol.61, No.2, 2017). She writes how “exploring generalized correlates of nonviolent uprisings is valuable for several reasons” and then proceeds to outline how she hopes that her statistical analyses may help her to predict the occurrence of popular uprisings. Needless to say, one can well imagine why members of the capitalist class may find it useful if Chenoweth can stumble upon a Rosetta stone that enables them to foresee immanent threats to their misrule. So it is appropriate that she reports, at the end of the article, that: “This research was partially supported by the Political Instability Task Force, which is funded by the Central Intelligence Agency.” (p.320)

Of course this funding relationship is no anomaly for Chenoweth, as in recent years — as openly highlighted on her online CV — the peace-loving professor has received millions of dollars of funding from elite sources. (Recent financiers for her terrorism or nonviolence-related studies have seen the professor in receipt the following grants: $270,099 from the CIA-backed Political Instability Task Force, $150,000 from the Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence, $1,665,000 from the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, over $2 million from the Minerva Initiative, U.S. Department of Defense, and just short of $1 million from the Carnegie Corporation.)

Chenoweth, like many Americans is not too happy about the election of Donald Trump, but given her elite credentials she has the fortune to be able to blog about these matters for the Washington Post. In January this year she blogged that she had just initiated (on a voluntary basis) a project called the Crowd Counting Consortium that aims “to continually keep track of how many people are protesting” and where, not just anti-Trump demos. Last month Chenoweth and the other co-director of the project, Professor Jeremy Pressman, concluded that so far, “we think our tally gives us a useful pool of information to better understand political mobilization in the United States — particularly how reports of crowds change from month to month.” A glowing interview with Chenoweth and Pressman carried in The Atlantic reported that the pair are…

“thinking about ways to institutionalize their ad hoc head-counting operation to track future events. For now, they hope that a running count of will offer march leaders and participants a rare commodity in organizing: a way to measure their success.”

Whether individuals and groups choose to pass on details of their protests to Chenoweth is their own decision, although a good case can be made that this project is not quite as useful as people might first expect. However, what is certain is that the endless poverty and wars that the billionaire class continue to enforce upon us will, in the coming months and years, be resisted with increased vigour both in America and all over the world. For instance, moves are already afoot to organise city-wide one-day general strikes across America, with hopes to expand such plans to incorporate a national one-day general strike. So let us continue to unite as a class and make sure that the nightmares of the billionaire class, and those who work for them at the Council on Foreign Relations, are soon made all too real.

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Michael Barker is the author of Under the Mask of Philanthropy (2017).

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