Newsletter Numéro 44 4 octobre 2010
War, Resistance and Counter-Resistance
in Modern Times
Army Medical Examiner: “At last, the perfect soldier.”
(Cartoon by Robert Minor, from Golos Truda, Petrograd, October 27, 1917)
Francis McCollum Feeley, editor
These essays on war, resistance and counter resistance represent an original approach to understanding how political constraints on human behavior, and the resistance movements to which these restrictions give rise, produce counter-resistant forces which represent new constraints, which in turn often generate new and innovative behaviors which sometimes create new crystallizations of cultural expression and occasionally influence institutions and traditions. This new anthology offers a unique analysis of the important role political constraints play in the production of creative thinking and the development of systematic projects aimed at human liberation. In the preface, Francis Feeley clearly states the purpose of this book, which is to demonstrate how resistance movements have often given birth to counter-resistance measures employed mostly by state agencies aimed at stifling the self-realization of certain groups and promoting the self-realization of other organized interests. The following essays are a composite of writings by political activists, poets, and academic scholars. The introduction offers a brief description of major resistance movements in the United States. This historical overview presents a context for the appearance of the 20th- century resistance movements described in the following chapters. We are alerted from the start that one of the unifying themes of these essays is the dialectical relationship between social movements and political institutions, "producing democracy within American institutions"; another theme will be how these social contradictions which generate the growth of democracy have proven time and again to operate beyond the control of capitalist interests both in France and within the United States, thereby giving rise to many species of democratic expression... Gilles Vachon's description of his childhood impressions of Paris under the German occupation offers new insights into micro-resistance at the level of alternative perceptions and subliminal communications. George Brown's contribution to the thesis of this book, although first published in 1978, is his self-conscious description of one man entering into a dialectical relationship with prison reforms, which pushed him into a deeper understanding of the injustices that he had suffered as a child and young adult growing up Black in the United States. In the third chapter of this book Francis Feeley uncovers the economic interests behind the production of political repression. His analysis of the Homeland Security Act, and the growth of surveillance and security industry that it gave rise to, supports the main thesis of this book, namely that the contradictions which generate democracy exist beyond the control, and very often beyond the apprehension, of the society in which they are created. Patrick Litsangou's essay in chapter 4 contributes to our understanding of the dialectical relationship between the mainstream media and the alternative media, in the period of the U.S. military invasion of Iraq. He illustrates in this essay how the demise of mainstream medias independence gave rise to the extraordinary success of the alternative media, as large numbers of people living within the United States vigorously struggled to stay informed, in order to understand the palpable contradictions in their lives. In the fifth chapter, Peterson Nnajiofor recounts the histories of resistance and counter resistance around the aggressive activities of US petroleum companies in the Niger Delta, where class warfare has produced strategies and counter tactics that have been evolving for decades in the relationships between the inhabitants of the region and the transnational corporations which control their political economy to the almost unimaginable detriment of the environment. The last chapter of this book is an excerpt from Professor Anthony Wilden's classic work, "Man and Woman, War and Peace, the Strategists Companion" (New York, 1987). Despite having been published more than two decades ago, this theoretical study stands as a contemporary statement on the epistemology of strategic thought. The indirect approach, described here by Wilden complements Professor Feeley's thesis that the forces of resistance and the forces of counter resistance are intimately related; that from this interrelationship new cultural expressions are created, some of which have long-term effects on the society in which they occur. The formation of a revolutionary counterculture is but one example of the effects of this power interface. As professor Wilden notes, no confrontation occurs without some structural modification taking place. The forces of order are never the same after they successfully repress the forces of change, and guerrilla warfare tactics are constantly evolving, adapting to new conditions. Professor Feeley concludes this anthology by attempting to synthesize the main ideas presented in the seven essays in this book. The main thread running through these chapters is the idea that cultural order cannot be reduced to the natural order. This idea is clearly expressed in each of the essays found in this book, and the conclusion convincingly states the view that social science, like all other cultural expressions, exists beyond "being," in the realm of "becoming."
The very notion of resistance seems to lie somewhere between reform and revolution, and can evolve into one or the other (or, of course, disappear completely). But, for all its importance, the relationship of resistance to reform and revolution has never been adequately understood. Feeley's book seeks to clarify this relationship, first, by treating resistance as an evolving process rather than a stable activity, and, then, by examining this process in its interaction with the political repression that it is - in large part - responding to as well as furthering. The approach is also comparative, treating France and the U.S., and special attention is given to the effect of this crucial interaction on both the theory and practice of democracy.
Quite frankly, I cannot think of a more important cluster of interrelated topics to study, especially in our countries, especially now. I also believe that the approach sketched above is very well chosen to bring out the complex dialectical nature of the problem. I have read several of Feeley's works and have always been very impressed by the scholarly care and originality that they show. His knowledge of dialectics, in particular, is impressive. He also writes extremely well. In short, I think he is the perfect person to undertake this project, and I strongly recommend it to students of social sciences and the humanities.
Prof. Bertell Ollman, Dept. of Politics, NYU
Author of ALIENATION: MARX'S CONCEPTION
OF MAN IN CAPITALIST SOCIETY;
DIALECTICAL INVESTIGATIONS; and
DANCE OF THE DIALECTIC, among dozens
of other books and articles.