Biden Staffers Mobilizing Non-Violent Resistance against the US Government
I need to finish part two of the mini-series about China decoupling as far-right accelerationism, but wanted to quickly shout out the (mostly young) staffers in the Biden administration who have not lost their moral nerve and refuse to stay quiet while their government gives aid and comfort to the mass slaughter of innocents.
The White House chief of staff held a morale-boosting party for his workers—a totally routine occurrence. Except the reason a morale pick-me-up was needed is the ongoing war in Gaza and America’s role in propping it up.
I’m heartened that Biden administration staff issued the following statement, calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, the right of Israelis and Palestinians to live (seems like a low bar), and a boycott of the “morale booster” event.
My peers back when I served in government are now the out-of-touch execs running the show, but this is a different government than the one I served in less than a decade ago. I mean that both in the sense that, back then, we weren’t supporting genocide1 and there was no political consciousness among bureaucratic staff.
We are in uncharted territory, and no presidential administration the past 40 years has been denounced by its own staff like this—not collectively, not so publicly, and not with this regularity. And in that dissent there is something resembling hope.
As I wrote previously, I don’t know if quitting is the answer. I mean, if the contradictions keep you up at night, then obviously quitting is the answer in your case. I just don’t know if that’s scalable.
But if you’re going to stay, refusing to succumb to the self-aggrandizing cynicism that romanticizes American power and the violence it sows is as hard as it is vital. And agitating from within is a valid strategy. But how to think about it?
May I suggest Gene Sharp and his work on strategies of non-violent resistance.2 He has an incredible body of work on how to think about non-violent uses of power by civil society actors—we just never contemplated his lessons as being applicable within the US. He had a very short book in particular that democracy and peace movements in dictatorships have used to agitate for change.
Protests are one tactic. Quiet quitting, sick outs, and boycotts in various forms are others. Sharp catalogues many such tactics (198 of them!) as part of a non-violent repertoire to bend the oppressor’s will by a process of withdrawing the consent that they need to rule.
If you’re at least as serious about changing US policy and forcing a ceasefire as you are about staying in government, then it’s worth consulting the “Machiavelli of nonviolence.”
In the meantime, much love to the anguished souls who won’t stay silent.
Actually there was a genocide going on back then, in Myanmar, of the Rohingya. And thanks to the makers of the pivot to Asia, we big fat supported it. China’s the bad one, after all. Though our quiescence in Myanmar’s genocide was quieter, and less direct than what’s going on now. But it should be lost on nobody that if we support despots and genocidaires in one instance we surely will in another. And that’s why any security built on actual human fucking sacrifices is chimerical at best.
I’ve been planning to write about Gene Sharp for some time but I imagine it will finally happen in 2024, given all the bullshit.