Special Challenges for Modern Abolitionists: Part 2

Preface:  This article is the second installment in a series discussing obstacles to abolition—the ending of all slavery—that movements for proto-abolition—the ending of human slavery—did not have to face.

Collective resistance

Another significant difference between ending human slavery and ending slavery of other animals pertains to collective resistance, armed revolt, and organized rebellion:  when humans are slaves, the potential for an armed, organized slave uprising is present at virtually all times.  This threat puts pressure on the oppressor class, forcing them to spend a significant portion of their resources on precautionary measures to guard against a revolt.  In short, the “slave front” drains the oppressor’s resources in its war against the slaves.  Moreover, actual slave uprisings, e.g., Nat Turner’s Rebellion (the “Southampton Insurrection”) (1831), sometimes break out despite the oppressors’ safeguards, inflicting damage directly upon the slaveholder class, their persons and their property.

Unfortunately, however, a full abolition movement can expect to receive very little assistance from the slave front.  The possibility of, for example, laboratory rats organizing a coordinated, armed, violent uprising is virtually non-existent.  The same goes for, say, farmed animals who are slated for slaughter:  a collective revolt comprising sheep or cows or chickens is just very unlikely.

Yes, occasional acts of individual heroism do occur, as in the case of a lion or tiger who kills a circus trainer.  But collective, sustained revolt from within the slave class will not happen.  To my knowledge, only primates and elephants have been documented to engage in substantial, coordinated retaliatory action against homo sapiens.

That a full abolition movement cannot expect to benefit from help of the slaves themselves does not itself, of course, render abolition impossible.  We will win.   But it is helpful to appreciate that the challenges facing a full abolition movement are substantially larger than those that have been surmounted by proto-abolition movements and that some of the resources with which to meet those challenges are not as readily available to a full abolition movement.

A look ahead…

In this “Special Challenges” series, we’ll explore additional ways in which proto-abolition or proto-emancipation movements differ from abolition and emancipation movements.  If you have comments, suggestions, or contributions, please feel free to send them along.

Laguna 3
Laguna 3

(Original article pub date:  11/24/13 (FB); 12/3/13 (EthicalVeganism))