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On Boots and the Black Bloc October 9, 2012

Posted by Summerspeaker in Anarchism, Decolonization, Occupy Wall Street.
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See here and here for context.

Throwing a table through a window constitutes effective communication if the intended message was as follows: “Get out of my neighborhood, gentrifiers!” Anarchy based on fear isn’t what I dream of, but terror has immediate practical utility. Whether we’re talking about breaking windows or locking down to disrupt business as usual, the project of material interference involves negative reinforcement: Stop oppressing us or we’ll do things you don’t like. I prefer a strict stance against physically hurting human beings; barring that, I favor inflicting injury only in direct defense of self and others. However, I recognize my preferences as fairly arbitrary. They likely reflect my culturally bourgeois and Baha’i upbringing.

I’m sick to death of trying to appeal the mythical mainstream. That strategy has at least has dubious as history as the tactic of going smashy smashy, given the time folks have devoted to it and the results it’s produced. Like sharing food, sabotage has the inherent advantage of direct action. Even when the symbolism fails, you’ve materially affected the system. In our present context of liberal hegemony and the endless horrors of industrial capitalism, I’m going to celebrate almost any revolt against the nightmarish status quo. If nothing else, let the history books record that some of us cared enough to fight back.

I suspect Boots ain’t lying about how at least many Oakland residents view smashy smashy. The key points for me are that Serious Organizing (TM) should be able to happen regardless and that trying to be respectable doesn’t have a meaningfully better record than insurrection. I don’t see how revolution can happen without the sort of sustained local engagement Boots advocates, but I’m super skeptical of the fetishization of normal everyday folks and working-class people who drive BMWs (that one really took me by surprise). If Serious Organizing (TM) means not offending successful working-class people who do the normative car-house-family thing, that puts me and most of the folks I love out of the picture. I offend and confuse straights by my very presence. Lots of my friends don’t have cars, much less nice cars; some are houseless. Others of us come from comfortable culturally bourgeois families and exemplify downward mobility, so there are lots of contradictory class dynamics going on. But ain’t going to sacrifice myself, my comrades, or my dreams to appeal to genuine [implied straight] working-class people who make more $ than most of us have ever seen. The revolution I seek embraces rather than distances itself from the freaks, outcasts, criminals, queers, and rioters.

To make an analogy, personal experience, shared stories, and mass media all identify the presence of houseless people in the Occupy/(un)Occupy/Decolonize movements as a popular complaint. The iconic [fully imaginary] working-class person fears and despises the houseless from what I’ve seen; that’s the hegemonic discourse, after all. Does that make having houseless folks at our camps and in our movement counter-revolutionary?

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