With his column “The Cancer in Occupy,” published earlier this week at Truthdig, Chris Hedges angered many on the radical left with his harsh criticism of the Black Bloc anarchists. Truthout’s J.A. Myerson, an activist and journalist involved in OWS since the occupation’s earliest days, got hold of Hedges by phone to press the issue. —ARK
J.A. Myerson at Truthout:
JAM: You speak of the black bloc as though it were a political organization with membership, a violent, secretive, nihilistic cabal, which calls to mind the Black Hand, conveniently. It sounds like a really snarky question, but I swear I am genuinely interested in your answer: were you aware writing this piece that that is not an apt description of a black bloc, which is no organization at all, but a protest tactic that does more than just smash and burn?
CH: I put in there that they detest organization of any kind. I use part of their jargon - “feral” and “spontaneous” protest - whereby you walk down a street and nothing is planned. You walk by a window and you break it. They feel that any kind of attempt to plan immediately imposes a kind of hierarchy that they oppose. That’s in the piece. There’s a limit to expounding upon the internal - I didn’t get into primitive anarchism and all this kind of stuff. But that was certainly part of the piece. It’s precisely because they detest - there’s a line in the article that says that they are opposed to those of us on the organized left. The operative word is “organization.”
JAM: What then is the solution to the problem? What is the prognosis for the cancer?
CH: There has to be a rigid adherence to nonviolence. That does not mean that the black bloc can’t exist. We saw a multiplicity of groups in the 1960s - from the Yippies to the Panthers to the Weather Underground - but the movement itself has to continue to operate in a way that it does not alienate the mainstream. If the security and surveillance state is able to alienate the mainstream from OWS, then OWS will be far more vulnerable to being destroyed. That’s very similar to the civil rights movement. I’m a huge admirer of Malcolm X. And, yet, the establishment didn’t really fear Malcolm X; they feared King. That’s true here. They fear OWS. They don’t fear the black bloc.