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Occupy Draws Strength From the Powerless
Posted on Feb 13, 2012
By Chris Hedges
The organizer Lisa Fithian is an author of one of the most concise arguments for nonviolence, “Open Letter to the Occupy Movement: Why We Need Agreements.” The essay points out that without agreements that enshrine nonviolence, “the young [are privileged] over the old, the loud voices over the soft, the fast over the slow, the able-bodied over those with disabilities, the citizen over the immigrant, white folks over people of color, those who can do damage and flee the scene over those who are left to face the consequences.”
“ ‘Diversity of tactics’ becomes an easy way to avoid wrestling with questions of strategy and accountability,” Fithian and two other authors write of the slogan used by the Black Bloc anarchists. “It lets us off the hook from doing the hard work of debating our positions and coming to agreements about how we want to act together. It becomes a code for ‘anything goes,’ and makes it impossible for our movements to hold anyone accountable for their actions.”
“The Occupy movement includes people from a broad diversity of backgrounds, life experiences and political philosophies,” the article goes on. “Some of us want to reform the system and some of us want to tear it down and replace it with something better. Our one great point of agreement is our call for transparency and accountability. We stand against the corrupt institutions that broker power behind closed doors. We call to account the financial manipulators that have bilked billions out of the poor and the middle classes.
“Just as we call for accountability and transparency, we ourselves must be accountable and transparent,” the authors write. “Some tactics are incompatible with those goals, even if in other situations they might be useful, honorable or appropriate. We can’t be transparent behind masks. We can’t be accountable for actions we run away from. We can’t maintain the security culture necessary for planning and carrying out attacks on property and also maintain the openness that can continue to invite in a true diversity of new people. We can’t make alliances with groups from impacted communities, such as immigrants, if we can’t make agreements about what tactics we will employ in any given action.”
We must assume we are targets. And we must fight back by relying on our strength, which in the great paradox of resistance movements is embodied in our weakness. This does not mean we will avoid being repressed or persecuted. It will not keep us safe from slander, lies or jail. But it does offer the capacity to create internal divisions in the apparatus of the oppressors rather than permit the oppressors to create internal divisions within the movement. Divided loyalties create paralysis. And it is our job to paralyze them, not allow them to paralyze us.
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