Sunday, June 5, 2016

Amster's Nonviolent Anarchism

Randall Amster asserts in “Anarchism and Nonviolence: Time for a ‘Complementarity of Tactics’” that for anarchist movements to organize effective action they must gain legitimacy by proclaiming nonviolent effort. Amster supports this claim by showing the trajectory of anarchist dismissal, presenting the historically nonviolent principles of anarchism, and calling anarchists to reclaim and proclaim their nonviolent intentions. Amster presents this support through logos moves that offer evidence and deductions as well as ethos moves that offer appeals of solidarity among anarchists. Finally, the performative of unifying with a discredited movement reveals Amster’s anxieties and true thesis. Before arriving at his true thesis, I shall present Amster’s argument in support of the following explicit thesis: “The point of offering this nexus between anarchism and nonviolence at this juncture is simply to suggest that we look for ways to support and bolster both paradigms since they are increasingly coming into contact with one another in the real world of on-the-ground activism and organizing.”
            Amster’s title immediately articulates his persuasive goal. By saying “Time for a ‘Complementarity of Tactics,’” Amster calls anarchists and nonviolent protestors to action to identify the commonalities between their respective movements. Amster’s title sets the expectations for an essay that will persuade respective protestors of the solidarity shared in their movements. The essay concludes in the same vein as the title, with the following command, “Anarchists ought to publicly and demonstrably proclaim their nonviolence, especially in the context of mass demonstrations.” Amster says this, in bold, to utter the same call to action as his title does. Amster brings his essay full circle in persuading his audience to take action and reclaim the nonviolent tactics of anarchist movements.   
            Amster’s introduction offers the evidence from which he derives his call to action. The introduction functions as a logos move to show how the media highlights violence to dismiss anarchist movements. Amster says,the media highlight the purported “destruction” before moving on to the next big story.” Amster claims this causes “More rifts [to] develop in the streets, and although a tenuous solidarity is at times expressed as well, the lasting images once again are of anarchists acting in seemingly unproductive ways that put the interests and safety of larger movement contingents in jeopardy.” Hence, Amster using evidence of media portrayal and the resulting image to deduce that the violence of anarchist movements jeopardizes their effectiveness. Likewise, Amster claims the anarchist community’s inability to define itself as a hindrance: “…anarchists generally eschew doctrinaire definitions and ideological litmus tests, suggesting that people ought to be free to define their own actions and ideas in the manner of their own choosing.” He concludes this logos presentation of evidence to deduce that violent anarchists cause their own dismissal.
            Amster continues to present evidence to show the nonviolence of anarchism. At a workshop he ran: “One of the exercises we did in these workshops was to create a working definition of anarchism, and then one of nonviolence. Comparing the two lists, many overlapping values emerged…” Here, Amster uses data to show that the definitions of anarchism and nonviolence overlap, not by his definitions, but by the definitions of people participating in his workshops. Amster validates his own claim with this logos move by introducing the collective findings of other people that anarchism and nonviolence movements share common goals. Following this evidence, Amster quotes scholarly descriptions of Goldman and Ghandi’s view on the nonviolence of anarchism. After making these logos moves, Amster he turns to employ his deductions and evidence to make an ethos appeal.
            Amster begins his ethos appeal with “It seems to me that this is a matter of urgency for our movements.” Amster identifies with anarchists with the pronoun “our” before “movements.” He makes this appeal for solidarity once more through the use of collective pronouns: “I am, however, strongly suggesting that anarchists consider the implications of the moment in which we find ourselves.” Amster makes this appeal to unify the movement and further persuade anarchists to reclaim their nonviolence. By using solidarity, he makes his appeal imperative for others and for himself. He brings himself closer to anarchists by including himself in the audience he addresses. Amster’s ethos appeal gains persuasive ground by offering his solidarity, inspiring camaraderie between himself and a perhaps more sympathetic anarchist audience.
            Amster does not consistently identify with the anarchist movement. After the aforementioned moments of solidarity, Amster reverts to alienating pronoun use: “…it cannot even be certain any longer whether anarchists themselves are in fact guiding their own course of conduct and self-definitions.” Amster’s use of “their” breaks from his previous use of collective pronouns. He distances anarchists again: Anarchists ought to publicly and demonstrably proclaim their nonviolence, especially in the context of mass demonstrations.” The use of “their,” a stark contrast to the previous “we” and “our,” reveals the anxieties Amster’s thesis raises. Amster claims that the anarchist movement must unite and proclaim nonviolence to remain legitimate. But the disidentification Amster performs reveals his anxieties in joining a movement already deemed illegitimate. This anxiety to join certain anarchists and not others, reveals Amster’s true thesis which rejects violent anarchists as a part of the movement.
            Amster’s explicitly legible thesis calls anarchists to reclaim nonviolence to protest effectively. Amster appeals to his audience through logos moves of deductions, data, and evidence, as well as ethos moves of solidarity and identification. However, Amster’s appeals do not hide the anxieties revealed towards the end of his essay. Amster’s inconsistent pronoun use in identifying with anarchists performs the rejection of violent anarchists and acceptance of nonviolent ones. For Amster, I would articulate his claim to be that violent anarchists are not true anarchists, and that they need to stop identifying as anarchist because they harm the historically nonviolent anarchist movement.


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