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More nonsense from respectable members of the left February 6, 2012

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Queer politics.

Chris Hedges has just published an impressively inaccurate attack on “Black Bloc anarchists” as the scourge of the Occupy Wall Street movement. I recommend Don Gato’s response, but feel compelled to engagement myself as well because of the sheer absurdity involved. To begin with, Hedges makes the truly bizarre assertion that black bloc folks hate the Zapatistas. Let’s look at this in detail:

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.

As Don Gato rightly points out, the black bloc isn’t a movement or tendency but a tactic employed with various different aims. That problem alone makes Hedges’ piece incoherent, but I want to push this further. In my experience, fans of the black bloc tactic and direct action also love the Zapatistas. One of my comrades who participated in Occupy Oakland has also visited and supported the EZLN. I’ve never known anarchists to denounce the Zapatistas, though I could imagine some postleft people doing so. I can only explain Hedges’ charge as a projection. In this piece, ey does exactly what ey claims the black bloc anarchists do: condemns those resist the system rather than the system itself. While some who use black block tactics indeed rail against authoritarian and reformist trends in protest movements, they consistently target the state and capital.

Consider the similarities between black bloc masks and those worn by the EZLN as well as other revolutionaries:

Hedges – with some help from Derrick Jensen – constructs eir black bloc anarchist adversaries as irrational and essentially savage. They care only about destruction and abhor strategy. The revel in unleashing the bestial lusts civilized people are supposed to repress. This rhetoric easily could have come form the nineteenth century; eugenicists racialized radicals in similar terms. I’m wary of any argument that channels such oppressive narratives. As Hedges damn well knows given eir celebration of Greek rioters, revolutions always or almost always include considerable destruction. The dreaded violence of the mob often has its basis in class struggle. I don’t view black bloc tactics as universally appropriate, but I stand in solidarity with diverse forms of resistance and reject these attempts to discipline bodies. I oppose the nightmarish system, not my comrades.



1. Summerspeaker - February 7, 2012

Also see these two critiques.

Black Guy from the future past - January 22, 2013

You are so blinded by your own ideology of “anarchism” which is contradictory to say the least, that you the fail to see the stupidity, violence, and even racism within it. Ishmael Reed has already excoriated black bloc among other things in his acerbic and biting piece called “phasing out the brothers”, I recommend you read it… IN FULL. http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/08/17/phasing-out-the-brothers/

“And, ironically, the vast majority of the Black Bloc vandals (and the police agent provocateurs among/instigating/inspiring them) are *WHITE* (black clothes typically being the only black thing about them)! The city across the Bay, San Francisco, where one of the largest instances (“Black Bloc”/provocateurs) of indiscriminate, ‘Occupy-associated’ violence against property occurred (in another largely minority area)

Summerspeaker - January 23, 2013

The racial political of the black bloc indeed merit scrutiny, but Ishmael Reed’s article neatly illustrates how calling the black bloc racist comes in the service of anti-anarchist politics. Reed encourages folks to vote for Obama in that article; his dreams differ from mine. Blacks and other people of color don’t need to choose between Obama, Romney, and white-privileged dudes in dark clothing smashing up things. Existing anarchist movements indeed support dominant white supremacist order at times. Radicals of color can and do respond by calling racist bullshit and organizing autonomously. While perhaps useful, these critiques of the black bloc from Reed and Joseph Anderson ignore the many black revolutionaries who mask up or support black-block actions. See here for a perspective from Oakland.

2. Black Guy from the Future Past - January 23, 2013

So I read the entire article you recommended to me. Few things I want to touch on. First, anarchism is a contradiction, order and society is an instinctual animal trait in human beings, that right there rules out any “anarchy” long or short term,.The breakdown of our current hegemonic authority under the United States will result in smaller hegemons under individuals who will fight and die to protect prime and open real estate, not only will there be those who want to protect their lands, but some of the more venturous and daring will want to expand, through force. Also I fear the breakdown of US will result in the tightening vice grip of corporations. Even with the state still intact corporate influence in American culture and society, nay world culture, is indelible. The breakdown of current society would be open season for these wealthy and powerful corporations.

What is needed is radical democratization of the United States of America. This will be a difficult arduous and deadly task. Combined wit the fact that we have multiple parties interested in preserving current power structure and also the fact that we have a plethora of groups invested in altering the current structure, whether it be by peaceful protest or violent agitation, it seems the article is prescient when it makes mention of the coming need for “revolutions within revolutions”, because with all these groups vying against each other (undoubtedly there will also be cooperation as well, both in preservation and in alteration of power structure), I agree with the fact that it is impossible and a detriment to create a single encompassing movement that seeks to create “sameness” among diverse peoples.

Despite the fact that diversity is imperative and hegemonic conglomeration of resistance groups futile, there is still a dire need to root out some of the dark influences of racism and division coloring these groups. But a more pressing concern is, is this really possible seeing as how these groups have not many things in common and are disorganized? In my analysis we cannot avoid the need (or problem?) of centralization. Otherwise we have a bunch of different groups squabbling among each other and even antagonistic toward each other (OWS vs Black bloc) and nothing gets done.

Summerspeaker - January 23, 2013

Why do you believe anarchism inconsistent with “order and society”? Are you familiar with the ideology and its history?

The notion that anarchism will lead to some sort of Hobbesian state of nature or corporate feudalism assumes we anarchists will fail in our objectives. Expropriation, for example, goes hand in hand with smashing the state.

I understand the arguments for centralization in radical democratization, but I find the empirical evidence ambiguous and my heart certain in its desire for freedom.

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