Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My Refutation of a "Refutation" of the Hedges article

The Hedges Article denouncing the black block.

The Gato Article denouncing Hedges.

I'm with Hedges. See the points I have previously made. And now, for the speedy demolition of Gato's emotionally changed and factually baseless rhetorical attack on Hedges.


Gato's article isn't quite a great "refutation" of Hedges.

Where to start? Hmm... well first, Gato attacks Hedges for thinking that black block ish ness is a movement, and not a tactic. Well it is both. And so is Occupy. Occupy is a tactic, that then became a movement when a whole lot of people started to do it. Sitting in a Sit in was a tactics some folks at a lunch counter in Greensboro, NC tried back in the early 1960s. It got a lot of press, caught on, and then soon became a mass movement. It happens. Today, there is (something of) a movement among several people to use black block tactics. Amazing, isn't it? I must be some awful journalist as well to repeat such obfuscating generalizations. Next.

According to Gato, "rabble rousers" wear black to "not get pinched by the pigs." Well that is pretty cool. But why then do they so often join protests where many people have not been informed or convinced that they should wear black clothes and conceal their faces and tattoos to prevent themselves from being arrested or identified? Why is it so often the black clad ones with bandannas, "prepared for arrest" (but dressed in hopes of evading it) who feel the need to do things that get so many more other non-black wearing people arrested? Is it possibly because their ideas and their theory is not very effective or welcoming, and they must attach themselves like parasites to larger movements with better (initial) messaging in order to find a crowd of people large enough to attract glamorous police attention? Yuppers.

Gato praises the heroic black block in Oakland which on the day of a recent attempt at occupation that turned repressive "looked mostly defensive." No where does the Gato's article admit that the black block people threw things at police, which they did, and which is a great provocation. Or what about the reputation that black clothes possibly have? Is that a defensive way to dress around a bunch of nervous, amped up cops in riot gear? No. It is an aggressive and tension raising way to dress. If I wear red into a bull pen and start throwing things at a bull, and then the bull kicks my ass, I am not going to write myself an article about how "mostly defensive" I was because I carried a shield into the bull pen. Dressing all black block puts cops on edge and takes the safety's off cans of mace faster than you can say "police state". It's dumb. Period. And I have no sympathy for anyone who tries it and then gets arrested. Non.

Next, the article attacks Hedges for discussing in his article the influence of John Zerzan. In Hedges' article he mentions Zerzan because he is talking about where the black block ideas started to get known about to many people in the United States back in the early 2000s and Zerzan happened to be a fellow who was actively promoting them at the time. He doesn't claim anywhere that Zerzan is controlling the black block "movement" today, like it is some kind of organization with a shadowy mastermind. Nowhere. Nope. Sorry. Not there. Amazing what a hyper defensive person will infer, and invent, and take personally, but which was never origionally said at all. Next again...

Are black block tactics of provoking fights with police and throwing things at them "hypermasculine"? I think they are. How are they not? Isn't it pretty "macho" to dress tough like someone who starts fights, and then go do stuff that makes fights happen? If a woman joins the marines and gets her kicks being arrogant and rude and killing a lot of people she's never met, we might criticize her for indulging in the worse parts of hitherto known as masculine behavior. Her participation in the behavior might however mark a moment in time of transformation for our understanding of the behavoir the word has hitherto be used to describe, based on the kind of people who hitherto were usually the ones involved in that behavoir. Perhaps at such a moment we should indeed change the adjective used from "masculine" to "boneheaded", "neanderthalian", "rude", "mean", "hyper violent", "meat headed", or something else. But whatever word we pick. That's not the point. The point is that the behavior sucks. I don't care if it's men or women or gay people who provoke the police to attack a movement. I still think it sucks they are doing it. And so does Hedges. And if he uses the word "masculine" in pointing this out, I think arguing over semantics isn't really the point. At the end of the day, no one cares if you are a woman or gay behind that bandanna. We just care that you are helping the cops destroy a movement and beat up a lot of people who you have never met and who you never asked how they'd feel about being beat up that day.

Now there's the point about a Double standard in Hedges' thinking, where he has said the "riot" tactics are okay in Greece when used to fight austerity, but that they are not okay in the US. Okay, well that is a good point of contradiction in thinking. I reckon it exists. That means that Hedges may have some contradictory and inconsistent ideas. That is fine. But it doesn't make him a liar or make his piece false. His piece stands as strong as ever.

Gato is very concerned with his black clad friends being arrested and mistreated by the cops. Well that is fine and he has a right to feel that way and it is always unfortunate when the cops arrest and mistreat people. But a political movement that is ostensibly claiming to speak for "99%" of society, particularly the most downtrodden and ripped off, but which allows its messaging and its potential to be determined by a few non-elected actor's "forms of recuperating needed and justified rage", is going to be a short lived political movement that rapidly looses support. And I don't care if your rage is morally justified or politically justified. They way you choose to act it out is politically damaging and you're probably just going to be more unhappy at the end of the day after you helped destroy the one movement that might have actually helped to make the world a better place. So I guess it is good you have all that black to wear because you are going to be a negative and unhappy person for a long time to come I reckon.

Am I wrong in my thinking? I think that it would be awesome if I was wrong. Please please let me be so out of touch that I have failed to see how the American working masses and broader popular classes have suddenly decided that throwing small rocks and "funny objects" at the police is a good idea or laudable behavior. That would be quite amazing for the prospects of trans formative change here. Sadly I do not think it is the case, and I do think that Occupy Oakland is going to see a decline in support in public opinion polls, as well as public responses to its subsequent calls for action, as a result of ill-advised actions taken by black clad individuals there recently.

Refute that.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chris Hedges on The Cancer in Occupy



(Not a really surprising ending...)

“If their real target actually was the cops and not the Occupy movement, the Black Bloc would make their actions completely separate from Occupy, instead of effectively using these others as a human shield. Their attacks on cops are simply a means to an end, which is to destroy a movement that doesn’t fit their ideological standard.”

Events in Oakland, and elsewhere, involving "black block" style provocations have brought the question of such a presence at Occupy events to the fore. Chris Hedges recently wrote a terrific piece on the subject.

In my own political experience over the last decade or so, I've become more and more convinced of the destructiveness of these kind of tactics. Not that I needed much convincing in the first place. But I have seen this in action time and again, usually breaking stuff and graffiti type behavior increases as the political frustration of a movement increases during a period of stagnation or retreat. The search for a way out is abandoned, and those without the patience to build a movement that relates to non-participants put their intelligence on hold for the sake of frustration-venting.

In my opinion, the "black block" is something like a political black hole from whence no protest generally emerges. It is possible that they weren't origionally invented by the media or the police, but in action that possibility is meaningless. Their function, consciously understood or not, is to drive a wedge between any protest they are part of and working class, minority, and mass participation.

"Diversity of Tactics" is the slogan under which movements time and again, with the motivation of being inclusive and open to militancy, have allowed ultra lefts and provocateurs to invite repression and marginalization on movements. 1960s non-violent protests worked, and got popular sympathy, because they were disciplined. That meant they had marshals at the demos who told people, "no, you can't do this at our protest." Maybe that is "authoritarian". And I don't care if it is. Because it worked. Unlike the "anarchism" of the black block, which has left a legacy in the US only of failure, despair, and disintegration.

Let's not confuse "radical" with "violence", or "extreme". Radical means you are interested in getting to the root of the problem, which for us means looking at a systemic analysis and thinking about systemic change.

Radicals with a social perspective, who are not technocrats or part of the bureaucracy, see the main problem isn't just that the capitalists have all the power and the workers don't, but that right now the workers (and many more) are completely disempowered and deliberately under developed politically. There's not a culture of political decision making, thinking about the issues that affect us and our communities, where we live, or our environment. People aren't used to making decisions, speaking their mind, or exercising control over their lives.

A movement that sees the solution to this problem as being key to the solution to the problem of the destructive and unequal economic system we live under is going to have to work to bring people into political struggle, to fight for changes and learn how to organize, responsibly and effectively.

The goal of leadership (and anyone who identifies as an anarchist, reads, produces, and distributes literature and shows up to meetings to organize is a leader in their community whether they want to acknowledge it or not) is to make itself replaceable, to teach others how to do things, because you are not always going to be around. If a movement isn't growing, it is shrinking. If you're not bringing more people into political life, whatever changes you manage to make will stagnate and eventually be threatened by the apolitical masses, over whose heads most evil is secretly (or publicly) conducted.

With that kind of philosophy, you begin to understand that the point of a protest is to bring people out of their rut and into political action. It's not just for you to show up because you will be enough. You won't. But you all might.

Things that invite arrest and police repression will scare most people away, like people who have to show up tomorrow for work because they have kids and rent due and car payments, or maybe undocumented immigrants, or maybe black people already subjected to greater than usual police oppression. These people are not going to be part of a movement they see as having its level of "intensity" determined by an unaccountable group of usually white, usually middle class young people who are not going to suffer the same consequences of arrest as they would.

Being radical, and targeting the system as a whole, the question of violence or non-violence isn't one of principles or morals. It is one of effectiveness. And that is something George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and everyone else who was part of the violent American Revolution understood. You don't just put up flyers building the minutemen militia today. You've got to have the Boston tea party first.

If we can win without violence, so much the better. If violence is necessary for a people to exercise their democratic right as a majority to alter or abolish their form of government, that argument can't be won among a small group of isolated activists in a room somewhere. It is won in a society.

But society is never even going to have that conversation as long as entities like the Black Block continue doing their best to isolate "activism" into a cultish "subculture" rather than a popular, mass activity.