Swinging Back | Sojourners

Swinging Back

Violence in the anti-corporate-globalization movement

Kadd Stephens, 24, longs for "a world free from violence." An anarchist from Washington, D.C., Stephens numbers himself among an increasingly visible group of anti-corporate-globalization activists whose dreams of world peace coexist—critics say illogically—with strategies of violent resistance.

The upswing of anarchist sentiment within the anti-corporate-globalization movement has nonviolent religious activists uneasy. While supporting the aims of the movement—whose concerns range from animal rights to corporate reform and environmentally responsible trade—persons of faith are questioning the assumption of the new anarchists that peaceful ends justify violent means. Some feel the movement has been "hijacked by street tactics," says Robert Collier, who has covered international trade policy for the San Francisco Chronicle.

In criticizing violent activists, however, religious and other nonviolent protesters are coming under fire for their refusal to welcome a "diversity of tactics." Many perceive themselves in a no-win situation. If they embrace the anti-corporate-globalization movement without qualifiers, they compromise their nonviolent commitments; but if they take a stand against violent protests, they risk splintering a transnational coalition for economic, social, and environmental justice.

In response to this dilemma, some nonviolent activists are taking a closer look at the militant new face of activism, hoping to educate themselves and the public about the costs of a pro-violence stance. What motivates some anarchists' rejection of nonviolence in favor of what critics see as little more than random acts of vandalism?

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2002
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