A few hours ago, activists broke into two Swedish arms factories and vandalised weapons destined for US and Indian military forces. Among other things, they rendered twenty m/48 Carl Gustaf bazookas inoperable.
This really takes me back. An older cousin of mine used to be an activist in the Plowshares Movement. In 1993 him and some friends broke into a military airfield outside Linköping and, using hammers, disarmed a number of JAS 39 fighter planes. They made no attempt to escape afterwards, quietly got arrested and spent a year in jail.
While in prison, my cousin was called “Jesus” by the other inmates. I corresponded briefly with him. When I voiced doubts about his actions he called me “more a passivist than a pacifist”. Not very charitable of him perhaps, but then, he was in a stressful situation. And he was way more idealistic than I am. Today he’s a priest in the Swedish church, working on a PhD thesis in theology, analysing the Gospel of Matthew from a post-colonial perspective.
Pacifist or passivist, I really don’t like the arms trade. I think it’s a disgrace that the state I’m a citizen of allows the selling of arms to nations at war. But I do like democracy and the rule of law. And so I’m no fan of destructive direct action. There’s nothing built into direct action that ensures that it will only be employed by people whose opinions I support. Indeed, I don’t think Swedish law should recognise adherence to my personal opinions as grounds for special rights. If we allow peaceniks to vandalise arms factories, then we can’t in all fairness forbid neonazis to vandalise synagogues or satanists to burn down Medieval churches.
So, to the people who just got arrested for pacifist vandalism: I admire your commitment, but I think you’re hurting our cause. Not least by getting thrown into jail where you can’t do any useful work for peace.