The cancer in Occupy

Chris Hedges writes: The Black Bloc anarchists, who have been active on the streets in Oakland and other cities, are the cancer of the Occupy movement. The presence of Black Bloc anarchists—so named because they dress in black, obscure their faces, move as a unified mass, seek physical confrontations with police and destroy property—is a gift from heaven to the security and surveillance state. The Occupy encampments in various cities were shut down precisely because they were nonviolent. They were shut down because the state realized the potential of their broad appeal even to those within the systems of power. They were shut down because they articulated a truth about our economic and political system that cut across political and cultural lines. And they were shut down because they were places mothers and fathers with strollers felt safe.

Black Bloc adherents detest those of us on the organized left and seek, quite consciously, to take away our tools of empowerment. They confuse acts of petty vandalism and a repellent cynicism with revolution. The real enemies, they argue, are not the corporate capitalists, but their collaborators among the unions, workers’ movements, radical intellectuals, environmental activists and populist movements such as the Zapatistas. Any group that seeks to rebuild social structures, especially through nonviolent acts of civil disobedience, rather than physically destroy, becomes, in the eyes of Black Bloc anarchists, the enemy. Black Bloc anarchists spend most of their fury not on the architects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or globalism, but on those, such as the Zapatistas, who respond to the problem. It is a grotesque inversion of value systems.

Because Black Bloc anarchists do not believe in organization, indeed oppose all organized movements, they ensure their own powerlessness. They can only be obstructionist. And they are primarily obstructionist to those who resist. John Zerzan, one of the principal ideologues of the Black Bloc movement in the United States, defended “Industrial Society and Its Future,” the rambling manifesto by Theodore Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber, although he did not endorse Kaczynski’s bombings. Zerzan is a fierce critic of a long list of supposed sellouts starting with Noam Chomsky. Black Bloc anarchists are an example of what Theodore Roszak in “The Making of a Counter Culture” called the “progressive adolescentization” of the American left.

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4 thoughts on “The cancer in Occupy

  1. Colm O' Toole

    I disagree, but Chris, as always makes a good case. I wish I could ask him what he thinks of the vital role played in Egypt by the Ultras football hooligans?

    There is no doubting that the labor unions working with the tech savy activists were the brains of the revolution in Egypt. But hey, brains aren’t too good in a dog fight. The Ultra’s may have been thugs but they kept the police out of Tahrir by staging pitched street battles on all the side streets leading to the square.

    There is a role for everyone to play in Revolutions.

  2. Norman

    delia ruhe, you make a very good point. Indeed, whose side are they really on? Unless one is intricately involved, it’s hard to tell. Considering that the government has coordinated much of the police resistance, it may be a safe bet to say that they are the ones behind such.

  3. Tom Hall

    I agree with Chris Hedges. The spectacle of black-clad ninja anarchists staging their contempt for the people on whose supposed behalf they are rioting is indeed a gift to- and in some cases from- the police.
    The use of smirking masks derived from a comic-book character underscores both the adolescent nature of their revolt and their flight from revolutionary accountability. At a time when great numbers of people are struggling to break free from the anonymity imposed by corporate rule, such tactics display a perverse misunderstanding of mass movements on the left.
    These outriders of civil protest employ theatrical violence and masking not to expose the tyranny of capitalism. That reality is lived daily and profoundly comprehended by workers and their families around the globe. Their real targets at any march or action is the marchers themselves, who are trying to exercise their citizenship using the most potent tool available to the dispossessed- their undisguised identities. Public space and all that goes with it will never be reclaimed by masked vandals. But a face that refuses to be hidden, a voice that will not be silent- this is true defiance.
    Incidentally, there is a documentary film called “Berlusconi’s Mousetrap” which recounts the events of the Genoa protests and the role played by police agents in stimulating and directing violent actions among self-professed anarchists. The utility of such agents, or their narcissistic counterparts among the intransigents, in discrediting dissent and supplying pretexts for further repressive measures, ought to be sufficiently clear as to require little elaboration.
    I’ll close with a couple of personal observations- of those I’ve met professing militant adherence to anarchist principles, none were of peasant or working class backgrounds, and none had ever sought out or even heard of the basic texts of the political philosophy they claimed to espouse. They were in fact deeply anti-intellectual in spirit and of a frustrated, individualistic, ultimately conservative outlook.

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