In his article “The Cancer in Occupy” posted on Truthdig in February, Chris Hedges criticized Black Bloc activists, saying their use of violence in the streets would alienate the Occupy movement from mainstream Americans and legitimize the use of police violence in the eyes of the public. Black Bloc supporter Brian Traven debated him in New York City last week.
Activists and journalists involved in the Occupy movement have been engaged in a bitter argument over the use of violence against people and property in the seven months since the publication of Hedges’ article. Supporters of the Black Bloc assert that they have the right to engage in protest as they see fit, and demand that others respect their decision to employ what they call a “diversity of tactics.” Their detractors, of whom Hedges may be the most visible and outspoken, cites his decades of experience as a reporter covering violent revolutions to argue that violence hinders such diversity, and that nonviolent resistance stands as the movement’s best chance of gaining the public support it both deserves and needs.
Journalist Ari Paul, writing in The Indypendent, had this to say about the Black Bloc, both in the streets and at the debate:
[T]his kind of entitlement to be at once disruptive and immune from accountability is emblematic of the kind of dish-it-out-but-can’t-take-it attitude they have displayed in reaction to Hedges’s original article. If they’re still having a tantrum about Hedges’s article, how can we expect them to hold up against the 1 percent shock troops?
This is why I think it is ultimately wrong to classify this particular group as anarchists—that would sully the names of various movements past and present that have used and currently use non-hierarchical structures in anti-capitalist organizing. This particular clique is explicitly and actively against the left, and there’s a reason the CrimethInc book Days of War, Nights of Love reads like the ideological bastard child of Karl Marx and Ayn Rand. It rails against corporate control, but replaces class struggle with libertarian individualism. Capitalism and the state are oppressing you, and their flavor of anarchism is your struggle to liberate yourself from the mediocrity of the bourgeois state. You have to do whatever you can to do to save yourself.
This is why Hedges and Traven couldn’t come to a consensus. Hedges wanted to know what kind of society Black Bloc anarchists wanted to create, but never got a real answer, and that’s because they’re currently living in it. They’ll roam the city streets, living in squats, riding on freight trains, mocking all the losers in suits and blue uniforms for squandering their days for paychecks and health insurance. They live off the waste of capitalist society (if they don’t already have trust funds), cocooned in their punk rock Neverland. Their utopia isn’t a liberation of oppressed society but their personal secession from it.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.
Occupy Tactics: Violence and Legitimacy in the Occupy Movement and Beyond from brandon jourdan on Vimeo.