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  • William H. Douglas

Overwhelm The State

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. (Matthew 5:41)

As a tactic, this one is fairly straightforward. Sometimes the best thing to do to shutdown the system is to glut it. You fill its cop cars, its prisons, and its jails. You have so many being constantly arrested that every cop is so busy arresting people that they cannot do anything else- including trying to attack those not being arrested. The system can only hold so much. So you overwhelm it. And in overwhelming it, you shut it down. You, in essence, use the system against itself until it is paralyzed with its inability to do anything. And then, when it is full to the rafters, it will either have to break its own laws about treatment and occupancy or it will have to let you go. It doesn’t have the bedding, food, water, or space to do otherwise.

If it does the former, then it opens itself up to crippling suit after suit that takes from it precious treasure and time. If the latter, then you merely go from the jail cell back to the front of the protest. In these ways you apply enormous pressure to the system itself, to the point that it cannot function. And when it cannot function, it cannot go about the legal rituals that act as its justifications and mental loopholes that justify the system in the eyes of the masses. And even if it does decide to break its own laws and pack more and more people in unsanitary conditions, then you still fill the prisons and jails. The breakdown of the system is proof that your tactics are working and therefore should be intensified, not reduced.

As that system breaks down so will the trust of the people in the organization which uses that system as justification for its existence.

The outcome of this will be to make the laws unenforceable and the actual job of the police -to violently compel obedience to the State- likewise impossible. Mass noncompliance will overwhelm them with more law breakers than they will have place for them. Those lawbreakers willingly going to jail will then overwhelm the system itself and cripple its ability to do the job it claims to do. There are more of us then there are of them. We can keep constantly overwhelming their system by filling their jails to the brim and occupying the attention of every single cop while still carrying on active and powerful nonviolent protests and getting well rested and refreshed people cycled in every day. The mere act of doing their job will exhaust them beyond weariness and not only will their ability to do their jobs be broken, so will be their will. This will cripple even the ability of brutal totalitarian regimes to enforce their will on the public. Without our mass compliance they have no power. Through peaceful means we will make their domination impossible and live as if it didn’t exist at all. In doing so it will become reality.

On of our favorite examples of this is Gandhi’s Salt March of 1930. By 1930, salt production and distribution in India had long been a lucrative monopoly of the British. Through a series of laws, the Indian populace was prohibited from producing or selling salt independently, and instead Indians were required to buy expensive, heavily taxed salt that often was imported. This affected the great majority of Indians, who were poor and could not afford to buy it and yet still needed it to survive, especially in the hot and humid temperatures of India where people lose a lot of salt through sweat. On March 12, Gandhi and several dozen followers set out on a march across part of India to the sea, where they announced they would openly break the law by harvesting salt for themselves. After each day’s march the group stopped in a different village along the route, where increasingly larger crowds would gather to hear Gandhi speak against the evils of the salt tax. Hundreds more would join the core group of followers as they made their way to the sea. On April 6th, Gandhi and his followers openly harvested salt from the ocean.

For the next two months, Gandhi crisscrossed India, exhorting other Indians to break the salt laws by committing acts of civil disobedience. Thousands were arrested and imprisoned, including Gandhi himself in early May after he informed Lord Irwin (the British Viceroy of India) of his intention to march on the nearby Dharasana saltworks. News of Gandhi’s detention spurred tens of thousands more to join the campaign. The march on the saltworks went ahead as planned on May 21, and many of the 2,500 peaceful marchers were attacked and beaten by police. By the end of the year, some 60,000 people were in jail.

After months of disruption, Lord Irwin finally released Gandhi in January 1931. Irwin began negotiating with Gandhi, asking him what it would take to end the campaign. The result of this was the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. Gandhi pledged to give up the resistance campaign, and Irwin agreed to release those who had been imprisoned during it and to allow Indians to make salt for domestic use. Gandhi had successfully forced the most powerful empire on the planet to not just sit down at the negotiating table with him, but to give in to his demands. All without violence. He did this by overwhelming the British state itself. It didn’t have the money, the men, or the resources to compel obedience from the masses of India and, when faced with the organized resistance of a populace no longer terrorized into obedience through the fear of the power of the government, it had to give in.

We can already anticipate counter-arguments to the above. “That may sound great when you’re talking about the British, but it would never work against the real totalitarians like the Nazis, or the Soviets, or the Chinese today.” And I can understand the apparent logic of this argument. But for all that it seems right, it is in fact wrong. Remember, the government is made up on and relies on your obedience and subservience in order to exist. And the totalitarian regimes, because they are so rigid, are the most fragile of all. Even the least wind of successful disobedience can shatter them, which is why they come down so brutally on everyone – to prevent the public from realizing how brittle the regime is and how easily overthrown it can be. And this isn’t theory – its proven. Dr. Erica Chenoweth has determined and demonstrated that civil resistance, civil disobedience, overwhelming the state, not only works, but it has more effect than any other form of resistance – including revolutionary violence. An introduction to this can be seen in Dr. Chenoweth’s address, The Success of Nonviolent Civil Resistance.

Remember, the government is not some monolithic entity. That is propaganda. The truth is that there are always more of us than there are of them. A population as small as 3.5% can bring even the most totalitarian regime to its knees. And you don’t need guns, bullets, or bombs to do it. You simply need determination and the will to resist. People who will not submit cannot be conquered. Do not submit.

“And when human slavery in all its forms shall have disappeared, I fancy that the credit of this victory will be given quite as exclusively to the Anarchists” ~ “The very purpose of the State is to make the mass of the people the slaves of the privileged classes. The State, in its very nature, cannot be of the people and by the people. It is of the few and by the few by virtue of its organic structure.” – Benjamin Tucker (20th Century Abolitionist)

“Liberty defined and limited by others is slavery.” – Josiah Warren (19th Century Abolitionist)


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