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Concerning violence advocates and nailing jello to walls

danps's picture

This was published with considerable feedback from several bloggers: DCblogger, affinis, lambert and okanogen. My sincere thanks to all of them for their help. Note: this post was updated shortly after publication.

When writing about violence at Occupy there seems to be a great deal of controversy over what the word itself means, so I'll lead this post with what I hope is an unobjectionable definition. Since it comes from Google (via) it may well be the most-read definition of violence in the English speaking world:

violence - noun - Behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.

Now, some don't think that's what violence is. Some strenuously object to the last two words and insist violence can only be done to someone, not something1.

For purposes of a public discussion, though, it's best to go with the commonly understood definition. That common understanding may be wrong, and you may think the vast majority of people are credulous fools for believing as they do. That's fine! Do your best to persuade them that violence cannot be done to some thing, only some one. (Or, if you want, that violence is really an ice cream sandwich.) Make that your project. Language evolves; do your part!

Until you reach that critical mass, though, you can't just redefine a word and then insist that your new definition be the one everyone uses. This is an example of the kind of frustration okanogen was referring to when he wrote "debating violence advocates [VAs] is like nailing jello to a wall." So once again, just to be extra clear, the definition of violence in this post is the common one: Behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.

VAs often seem to edge right up to approving of violence, but never take that last little step. For instance, Graeber writes: "While I have never personally engaged in acts of property destruction, I have on more than one occasion taken part in Blocs where property damage has occurred." He has the opportunity to disavow the violence (keeping in mind that under the novel VA definition property destruction is not violence), yet chooses not to.2

"While I have never personally engaged in acts of property destruction" is a curious construct. It reads as though he understands such violence would be widely disapproved of, so he does not want his own name actually attached to it - but that he is sympathetic to it. So he splits the difference; doesn't condemn it, but says he's never done it. Try that in another context and see how convincing it sounds: "While I have never personally engaged in [insert crime here], [finish sentence as best you can.]"

Then there is the conflation of objecting to violence with turning the violent over to police (or vigilante policing by activists). Much of the discussion by nonviolence advocates (NVAs) objecting to violent tactics has centered around finding ways to disassociate themselves from VAs. Violence advocates most often refuse to acknowledge that NVAs have any right to be considered separate from them. Again and again, attempts by NVAs to say "no, this is not us; no, this is not what we stand for" is flipped into a call for violence against the VAs themselves (and through the looking glass we go).3

One interesting result that has emerged from our conversations: The deep reluctance of VAs - who claim to really be in favor of nonviolence, just their own proprietary definition of it - to even theoretically endorse the idea of nonviolence as others have. Look at the thread that starts here. The talking point that there has only been one incidence of Black Bloc violence in 800 occupations quickly emerges. It's not true, incidentally - see below - but let's allow it for the sake of the argument.

Two responses: One, the time to speak out against violence is before it becomes common, and two, if it really is that rare then why not keep it that way or eliminate it altogether? VAs seem reluctant to address these points. This one commenter attempts to, but badly. "Let the throwing under the bus begin!" etc. These kinds of probably unrepresentative individuals are the best we seem to be able to find, though. Overall VAs are not interested in even paying lip service to nonviolence; they are more interested in erecting elaborate constructs to justify we-don't-call-that-violence.

Doing so reduces violence to but one item on a menu. In VAs formulation smashing windows is right there along with, say, a drum circle in terms of acceptability. If you think smashing windows is violent, though, and you are forced together with those with a, shall we say, more expansive view of acceptable behavior, then you have to make some choices. You can remain silent and risk having that silence be taken as approval, or you can speak out.

NVAs speak out with the goal of encouraging all like-minded individuals to voice their opinions, show what an unrepresentative minority VAs are, and (hopefully) isolate them from the larger group. Graeber insists this inevitably leads to either the dreaded snitching or the even more dreaded Peace Police (yes, he actually uses that term). Objecting to violence equals attempting to police VAs, and policing them equals violence. So if you object to someone trashing a local establishment, you're the real thug and oppressor.

Entering into that kind of Twilight Zone logic obscures what would otherwise be very clear: That there are irreconcilable differences between the approaches of VAs and NVAs. The strategy of nonviolence has certain qualities that cannot coexist with violence advocacy in general or Black Bloc tactics in particular.4 The most obvious quality is transparency. General Assembly and other meetings are open, actions are publicly discussed and debated, minutes are kept and posted, and participants show their faces. The consistent message is, we have nothing to hide. As affinis put it: "Straightforward honest communication builds trust and support."

Another difference is the spirit of inclusion versus exclusion. A nonviolent mass movement is open to all walks of life - from strollers to walkers. Introducing violence will keep away most of those with young ones who (rightly) would fear for their safety. It would also keep away many older people for whom a fall is not something they can just spring up from. And furthermore, the prospect of arrest is going to keep away many people of color. While arrest is a possibility with nonviolent civil disobedience, an arrest on violence charges is much more serious. Sachio ko-yin put it this way: "By making protest space even more unsafe for folks from communities of color, people who can't afford an arrest record, and working class people generally, the Black Bloc has always frustrated me."

Which leads to yet another difference: the willingness to be arrested. NVAs undertake direct action and civil disobedience with the understanding that they may be detained by police, perhaps unreasonably so and in poor conditions. VAs, on the other hand, regard the prospect of arrest as abhorrent. Now, there may well be stiffer penalties for property destruction than for a sit down strike, but the principle is the same either way: If you have the courage of your convictions you should be willing to pay the civil cost of your disobedience. NVAs have that courage; VAs do not. Look at the way one NVA movement approached it (in the context of a peaceful mass movement):

Towards the climax of their uprising in Serbia, the police started rounding up activists wearing Otpor! T-shirts and hauling them into the police stations. Naturally the kids were terrified. Otpor! set about defusing their anxiety.

"First we debriefed our people when they came out of the police station, then we briefed the people who were at risk of being arrested. We told them, you will be handcuffed, then if you are male you will be put in a cell with drunk people; if female, with whores. They will separate you from your friends, then after a few hours they will come and take your fingerprints and they will remove your belt and shoelaces and you will feel embarrassed because your trousers will fall down. Then after a few hours they will take you to an interrogation and this is the list of questions they will ask you and these are the answers you will give them.

"Meanwhile, we invited people to gather in front of the police station; everybody at risk of being arrested had lined up a lawyer in advance. Parents of the kids were informed, and we had a network of old ladies who called the police station continuously to ask about those who had been arrested. And now you are sitting there, and everything is happening as predicted, and the good detective is offering you a cigarette and the bad one is hitting you on the head and it looks like a bad joke. And the phones are ringing in the police station and nobody can do anything. And my question is, who is under siege now? This is not the most comfortable situation for the police: they deal with criminals. You block them from doing their normal job, traffic, looters, the things they should do instead of interrogating an 18-year-old kid for wearing a T-shirt..." And gradually that particular pillar of tyranny, the police, is weakened, one policeman at a time.

(Also note the conclusion of the piece: "He quotes Jorge Luis Borges: 'Violence,' the great Argentine writer put it, 'is the last refuge of the weak.'")

Which would you rather be a part of? And is it any wonder VAs are trying to blur the lines between themselves and NVAs? Even beyond the immediate case of arrest and detention, trace out the implication of NVA strategies versus VA tactics. One is sustainable, one is not.

For instance, what would VAs say to the woman who alleged to have been sexually assaulted at Occupy? She went to the police; was she a snitch? Should she have gone to VAs instead of authorities? Would they have handled it in-house, so to speak? Have VAs articulated some sort of neo-feudal code of chivalry by which its members will voluntarily restrain themselves - without resort to the legal system or the (eek!) Peace Police? 5 For those which such rosy dispositions, Willem Buiter: "Self-regulation is to regulation as self-importance is to importance."6

VA tactics don't work as a model because they are not designed to work as a model. Their main function is to shield those engaging in violence from the consequences of their actions. Whether it's the high minded "One expresses what solidarity one can with others who share the same struggle, and if one cannot, tries ones best to ignore or avoid them" or the much bolder "snitches get stitches," the result is the same: those who object are silenced. In fact, by playing directly into the media and political elites' preferred theme of violent confrontation, VAs are arguably more naturally allied with authorities than NVAs.

Identity versus anonymity; openness versus secrecy; direct action as preservation or improvement (i.e. Occupy Our Homes) versus direct action as destruction; mass movement versus insurgency; invitation versus exclusion. The two approaches could not be more different.

VAs want the halo effect. They want to force an association with a much larger group: one that enjoys much broader popular support; one that embraces values in many ways opposite from theirs. If they can do that, some of the shine of Occupy's good reputation might reflect on them. More probably, though, they will drag support down to their own unpopular level (via) - and will sharply reduce the number of people participating (via)7

I began with a definition of violence. There are other definitions obviously, and I have no desire to get into a game of Dueling Dictionaries with VAs. So I'll close with a multimedia illustration of what I consider violent. It focuses on events at Occupy only and is not comprehensive. It is simply a way to show what I'm thinking about when I'm thinking of violence. These examples are not characteristic of Occupy; so far incidents like them have been exceedingly rare. I'd love to see them stay exceedingly rare, or even better go away completely.

So, do the examples below contain violence? My answer precedes or is embedded in each link.








Hell yes.

Pay particular attention to that last video. Around 1:05 a protester - wearing a helmet but otherwise with his face clearly visible - tries to put himself in front of the ones smashing windows and pleads "No violence! No violence!" As he does so he is pushed and then surrounded by a masked, black clad group of, ahem, activists. This is not nuns protesting nukes.

It's a measure of how thoroughly inverted VAs have made the narrative that they claim in this scenario it's the man saying "no violence" and being menaced by a swarm of anonymous vandals who is the one doing violence - and the vandals here are the victims!

VA claims simply do not survive contact with reality. They are parlor tricks intended to be considered without reference to what is actually happening. And as far as I am concerned they are presented with the intent to deceive.

By my lights, anyone who thinks the linked content above is not violent acquiesces to violence at a minimum. They can more properly be called apologists for violence. The refusal to denounce it in the current context - namely, its imminent danger of discrediting a popular mass movement - could arguably (but less generously) be called advocacy. I don't feel especially charitable towards those who I think are lying to me about such a serious matter, so I have called and will continue to call them violence advocates.


1. I've mostly used quotes from Graeber to argue against for two reasons. One, his original piece and prominence as a spokesperson make him one of the more important voices out there in this discussion. Two, he stopped by my cross post on Daily Kos and shared some thoughts with the Kos community. This post is in part an extension of the dialog that began there. While I've used his arguments as the main ones to address, I've tried to keep the focus on principles and not personalities ("YOU'RE AN IDIOT" etc.) I've made an effort to keep this from reading as an attack on Graeber; it's his objectionable ideas I'm more concerned with. I've tried to write the post so it reads that way, and I hope it shows.

2. This is from the "I never inhaled" school of argument. Also note the passive voice "has occurred", as in "mistakes were made."

3. In his rebuttal to the previous piece in this series, Graeber claims to be compiling a list of violent actions taken by NVAs. Purely on the basis of making Occupy transparent and holding it accountable, all should welcome such a list, if and when it is presented. We look forward to its release.

However, such a list would prove the very case made here: (1) that violence as a strategy does not work - in this case, putting NVAs in a poor light (even if VAs going against GA NV commitments turns out to be the instigating factor) and (2) the need for explicit commitments to NV by Occupations, which all should adhere to.

4. See here for a good discussion of strategy vs. tactics - among other things.

5. Consider also the potential that such an honor system has for further exclusion. Women have learned to not set too much store on the purity of men's motives, and an environment where things are informally "worked out" seems much more prone to cover ups and conspiracies of silence. So you can add women to people of color, the very young and the elderly to those excluded by VAs tactics. Do the demographics seem to be narrowing towards a particular group here?

6. For those who think Anarchism is the answer, what kind of relevant real world examples can they supply? Because the tendency in the kinds of environments under discussion - socially unstable, developing and volatile - is for what Rachel Luft called disaster masculinity to emerge. See her Searching for Common Ground [PDF] for a useful case study. The experience described here seems much closer to reality than the utopian dream world VAs are trying to sell people on:

American individualism, exacerbated by men's sense of entitlement to autonomy, in the context of the pervasive [New Orleans large grassroots relief effort Common Ground Collective] CG do-it-yourself culture of decentralization, was deployed to resist accountability in the name of rugged freedom. As one white male volunteer with an anarchy symbol on his shirt retorted in response to the facilitator's suggestion about gender caucuses, "So you think homogenization is the key to antiracist growth?"

And please spare me the "anarchism cannot fail, it can only be failed" replies. An ideology that has no mechanism for restraining senses of entitlement or checking aggrandized egos is not one suited for planet Earth.

7. Much, much more from Chenoweth here and here.

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Clonal Antibody's picture
Submitted by Clonal Antibody on

Gandhi did not advocate "nonviolence." He advocated ahimsa ( I too an am advocate of ahimsa) - ahimsa has been translated as nonviolence, but it does not mean what you have implied above. Ahimsa

ahimsa, ( Sanskrit: “noninjury”) in the Indian religions of Jainism, Hinduism, and Buddhism, the ethical principle of not causing harm to other living things.

In Jainism, ahimsa is the standard by which all actions are judged. For a householder observing the small vows (anuvrata), the practice of ahimsa requires that he not kill any animal life. However, for an ascetic observing the great vows (mahavrata), ahimsa entails the greatest care to prevent him from knowingly or unknowingly being the cause of injury to any living soul (jiva); thus, ahimsa applies not ......

Also wiki entry of Ahimsa

Ahimsa (Sanskrit: ??????; IAST: ahi?s?, P?li: avihi?s?) is a term meaning to do no harm (literally: the avoidance of violence – himsa). The word is derived from the Sanskrit root hims – to strike; himsa is injury or harm, a-himsa is the opposite of this, i.e. non harming or nonviolence.[1] [2]

It is an important tenet of the Indian religions (Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism). Ahimsa means kindness and non-violence towards all living things including non-human animals; it respects living beings as a unity, the belief that all living things are connected. Indian leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi strongly believed in this principle.[3] Avoidance of verbal and physical violence is also a part of this principle, although ahimsa recognizes self-defense when necessary, as a sign of a strong spirit. It is closely connected with the notion that all kinds of violence entail negative karmic consequences
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi promoted the principle of ahimsa very successfully by applying it to all spheres of life, particularly to politics.[45] His non-violent resistance movement satyagraha had an immense impact on India, impressed public opinion in Western countries and influenced the leaders of various civil and political rights movements such as Martin Luther King, Jr. In Gandhi’s thought, ahimsa precludes not only the act of inflicting a physical injury, but also mental states like evil thoughts and hatred, unkind behavior such as harsh words, dishonesty and lying, all of which he saw as manifestations of violence incompatible with ahimsa.[46] Sri Aurobindo criticized the Gandhian concept of ahimsa as unrealistic and not universally applicable; he adopted a pragmatic non-pacifist position, saying that the justification of violence depends on the specific circumstances of the given situation.[47]

Clonal Antibody's picture
Submitted by Clonal Antibody on

are a different matter. I do personally believe that at this moment in time, damaging private or public property as a strategic or tactical move are counterproductive and ill advised, and OO should guard against that tendency -- primarily because even peripheral damage to property is likely to be played up in the media, and that will turn away potential sympathizers and supporters from the larger cause. The damage itself will only serve as an irritant, and will not affect the targets in any significant way. Damaging bank property may "feel good" on the dopamine and adrenaline rush, but again in my opinion is extremely unlikely to have the impact that will bring about the change we are all looking for.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

then an actual discussion would be possible. Instead, those who ceaseless harp on "black bloc violence" (which has not occurred as part of an Occupy event since ONCE, THREE MONTHS AGO, and will probably not occur again) have an agenda; probably the ouster of Anarchists from Occupy, so it can be turned into another Obama GOTV crop.

Submitted by lambert on

1. "will probably not occur again." Why?

2. How is advocating an explicit commitment to non-violence "harping on black bloc violence"?

3. The agenda of the post is quite clear: Mass participation in Occupy, which violence makes very difficult. What's your agenda?

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

1. I have seen no evidence of any preparation for such for Chicago May. Although there has not been an explicit statement that there won't be Black Bloc tactics, I see evidence that it is understood to have been a mistake in the one instance it was employed. Subsequent smashing has not been connected to Occupy (although it may have been in solidarity with it).

2. Because the only instance of a Black Bloc being employed in connection to an Occupy event was THREE MONTHS AGO! Why is it suddenly such a crisis?

3. Again, (never mind that property damage is not violence) there is not a crisis. Black Bloc is being used as a scapegoat for the rut Occupy is in.

Instead of this argument, imagine if we were planning more building occupations and moving homeless families into foreclosed houses. We could be talking about how OO's attempt to take a convention center was bold but, strategically, fundamentally flawed.

Instead, there is this witch hunt.

Submitted by lambert on

I'm going to take a bit to respond, so I don't respond out of anger again. You are not ignored.

Submitted by lambert on

[First, on the social context, on this blog a request for a link is partly "Prove it!" for sure, but links are also great because they preserve our history, and if we don't, who will? So...]

Once again, on "agenda": There are all kinds of favorable posts on Occupy on this site. It's violence vs. non-violence that's the concern, not Occupy as such. So to the people working on this post, that brings up the issue of mass participation, as many people as possible, with non-violence as a strategy and not as one tactic among others. This may be wrong, but it's "honest." If you look more around the site, you'll see that there's no desire whatever to make Occupy part of the The Drone King's campaign, and in fact there's plenty of concern that the Ds will co-opt it (which seems thankfully to have failed).

1. On the "no evidence of preparation for Chicago May." Yes, that's one of my concerns coming out of spring. I'd like very much to believe it's true. The thing is, would we evidence of such preparation even if it were being made? Probably not.

2. You write "there has been no explicit statement" and "is understood [passive voice] to have been a mistake." But there is no statement, and reading what you write, I can't tell who has the understanding (note the passive voice. The GA? The TAC? An online consensus somewhere?). Well, implicit statements made by unknowns translate to me that Occupy is no longer transparent, or accountable. Is that the picture you want to be painting? Think about it from the mass participation perspective again. We're caught up in an utterly corrupt system that's totally opaque and where invisible decision makers screw us at every turn. Millions on millions know this. It's an every day thing. It's an expectation. So, at least to me, one of the joyful and glorious things about Occupy was a decision making process that wasn't corrupt, that wasn't opaque, that was transparent, that was accountable. (Especially after the Obama administration, that was a systematic and brutal betrayal of everything the guy campaigned on. Even I didn't expect it to be as bad as it was, but many got sucked into the bait and switch.) What I hear you giving -- rightly or wrongly, that's what I hear -- is a personal assurance. But that's not the same as a GA. It's not transparent. It's not accountable. Now, one could argue that the Chicago Principles (last I checked on FB only, but maybe they're on the site) give an Occupy's assurance, but to me, they really don't. Diversity of Tactics means what it says, and includes violence.

3. Accepting "THREE MONTHS," first, that's not long ago (at least to me). Second, if "Black Bloc" was accepted as a mistake, I'd bet that the acceptance came at least partly because of pushback, some in the form of people no longer participating (falling numbers), and some in the form of pushback (like this post in fact). Third, it's not about "a crisis now." It's about good outcomes in the Spring. Now is the time to have this discussion, not in the midst of the events!

4. I'd love to have info on (non-violent) building occupations and helping homeless families. Post them!!!!!!!

Finally, if indeed violence has abandoned as a tactic, and if indeed violence was insignificant in the first place, why not advocate explicitly for adopting non-violence as a principle? That's pretty much Occupy's branding now, even after the media started the Goebbels stuff, and if people get involved in Occupy thinking it's non-violent, and then it turns violent, well, it's going to feel to them like another bait and switch, isn't it?

OK, gotta go garden now....

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

1. The thing is, would we evidence of such preparation even if it were being made? Probably not.

There is ancillary evidence, such as level of chatter. I haven't seen any at all regarding Chicago, except by the 'new' Occupy activists for their quasi-legal protests and encampments. I'm not sure exactly what the relative silence means, although I can hope that it points to an acknowledgment, finally, that the summit-hopping model isn't working.

2. "is understood [passive voice] to have been a mistake." But there is no statement, and reading what you write, I can't tell who has the understanding (note the passive voice. The GA? The TAC? An online consensus somewhere?)

Just the chatter I've seen. These kinds of decisions aren't made openly, to those not directly involved.

"Well, implicit statements made by unknowns translate to me that Occupy is no longer transparent, or accountable."

Occupy is not a Party. Not every action taken by anyone has to be vetted by the whole. Strategic decisions, from the encampments to foreclosure resistance, have spread memetically.

"Think about it from the mass participation perspective again."

Mass participation is no substitute for organization. I, for one, don't want a "mass"-based society; and therefore I, and I think most other Anarchists, have no interest in mass-based strategy, because how you are organized while working for a 'revolution' is how you will be organized 'after' (I say those words in quotes because 'the revolution' is not really seen as a one-time 'event' anymore, just a framing or concept). The Anti-Mass: Methods of Organizing for Collectives

"So, at least to me, one of the joyful and glorious things about Occupy was a decision making process ... that was transparent, that was accountable ... What I hear you giving -- rightly or wrongly, that's what I hear -- is a personal assurance. But that's not the same as a GA. It's not transparent. It's not accountable."

The difference is that no one is coercing you into participating in any of these things, unlike government. Why should I be transparent and accountable to you, if what I do does not affect you?
It would be fair to argue that the Black Bloc at the Oakland General Strike was infringing on the rest of the day's actions and marches, but I can't apologize for something I wasn't personally involved in. This debate has not occurred within the Anarchist milieu, I'll admit.

"Now, one could argue that the Chicago Principles (last I checked on FB only, but maybe they're on the site) give an Occupy's assurance, but to me, they really don't."

The Chicago Principles seem to be a copy-paste of the St. Paul Principles, which were apparently adhered to by all sides. There was a separation of time or space for all actions, and criticism was kept internal. This allowed the focus to stay on criticism of those we were there against- for example, at one point a lead organizer for the permitted march (and a known Communist sect leader) was asked about violence at a press conference; she replied with something like, "The violence you'll see that day from any protesters pales in comparison to the violence done every day by the occupation of Iraq."

3. "Accepting "THREE MONTHS," first, that's not long ago (at least to me)."

It's fully 60% of the life of the movement ago!

"Second, if "Black Bloc" was accepted as a mistake, I'd bet that the acceptance came at least partly because of pushback"

I can't say specifically but it appears partly to be the case- there was a Black Bloc, some windows were smashed, and the only result was a lot of hate. By any measure that is not a success.

"It's about good outcomes in the Spring. Now is the time to have this discussion, not in the midst of the events!"

If it is a discussion. I'm trying to stay civil. Hedges' diatribe was not a healthy way to start things off.

4. "I'd love to have info on (non-violent) building occupations and helping homeless families. Post them!!!!!!!"

"Finally, if indeed violence has abandoned as a tactic, and if indeed violence was insignificant in the first place"

I can't let this misuse of language ("violence") go unchallenged.

"why not advocate explicitly for adopting non-violence as a principle?"

First, because Anarchists don't consider property damage to be violence, so by our measure the Black Bloc WAS non-violent. Second, because Anarchists don't reject ANY tactics out of hand. Property damage, real violence, even terrorism and assassination remain in the playbook. They are extremely dusty and I hope they remain that way, and I can't think of a scenario in which they would be employed; but everything is subservient to strategy and goals. As I said, tactics reflect outcomes, and I don't want a world in which those things exist, but just because I can't think of a good reason to use them doesn't mean there aren't any. I won't advocate for them (unless they end up being necessary, which is, again, extremely unlikely) but they're just tactics.

Submitted by lambert on

... because I have to garden.

First, I hear personal assurance here. That's good, but I don't see how it scales to mass participation. That's what principles that GAs adopt do: They scale. Now, if one doesn't want mass participation as a strategy, that's another question.

Second, if nothing is ruled out, then people can't truly know what they're getting into when they support Occupy -- even though the perception (branding, marketing) of Occupy is non-violent; and very succcessfully created by the initial organizers! Leave aside the issue of what happens when perception changes to meet reality, I'd argue, in principle, that this approach not ethical. It's like getting people involved in a medical experiment without their informed consent. And that's about as unethical as can be (and doesn't involve property, by the way, but the body).

UDPATE It's not a "misuse of language." It's a refusal not to use a word in the way that most people understand it.

"Oh, you're misusing the word vegetable. By vegetable I really mean vegetables and meat."

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

"First, I hear personal assurance here. That's good, but I don't see how it scales to mass participation. That's what principles that GAs adopt do: They scale. Now, if one doesn't want mass participation as a strategy, that's another question."

I can't do much but recommend you read that Anti-Mass document. "Mass" and "a large number" do not mean the same thing. A lot of people working together is good. Mass is a terrible way to organize it.

"Second, if nothing is ruled out, then people can't truly know what they're getting into when they support Occupy -- even though the perception (branding, marketing) of Occupy is non-violent; and very succcessfully created by the initial organizers! Leave aside the issue of what happens when perception changes to meet reality, I'd argue, in principle, that this approach not ethical. It's like getting people involved in a medical experiment without their informed consent. And that's about as unethical as can be (and doesn't involve property, by the way, but the body)."

That is actually a fundamental flaw of mass organization- you don't know who you're dealing with! With Collective-based organization, all participating groups know who they're dealing with and in general what's planned (or, at least, how to stay out of each other's way).

"UDPATE It's not a "misuse of language." It's a refusal not to use a word in the way that most people understand it."

1) By refusing to acknowledge that we do not consider property damage to be violence, you are misrepresenting us as being "violence advocates" even though we do not see ourselves as such. It's simply being pointlessly provocative. It's like calling pro-choice advocates "pro-abortion".
2) I don't care that "most people" think (in your opinion) that property damage is violence. If they do, it is based on nothing; that definition is, as I've said, wrong by virtue of being irrational.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

"1) By refusing to acknowledge that we do not consider property damage to be violence, you are misrepresenting us as being “violence advocates” even though we do not see ourselves as such. It’s simply being pointlessly provocative. It’s like calling pro-choice advocates “pro-abortion”."

This is the crux of the frame of the argument- if you persist in calling us "violence advocates," we will have no choice but to consider you to be nothing but assholes. If you are willing to at least recognize that we are human being with similar frustrations with capitalism and government, albeit with a different analysis and expressed in different ways, then find a term that is not insulting. Will you do this, or not?

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

re point #1

re "Subsequent smashing has not been connected to Occupy (although it may have been in solidarity with it)."
Window smashing announced as being "in solidarity" with Occupy is not "connected" to Occupy. Hmmm - I'm sure everyone will understand that distinction.

re point #2 "the only instance of a Black Bloc being employed in connection to an Occupy event was THREE MONTHS AGO!"
There are others as well.
And if you include material that's clearly Occupy-related, there's much more. e.g.

re "property damage is not violence"
See comment by bobobo.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

And how many of those infringed upon Occupy events, hm? They were separated by time and/or space. No one not directly affected has any standing to complain. Those kind of things have been happening for years.

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

"And how many of those infringed upon Occupy events, hm? They were separated by time and/or space." - As expected, ur responding without reading.

"No one not directly affected has any standing to complain." - Cute.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

Gandhi's My experiments in truth, but my recollection is that none of his protests involved property damage. Gandhi's practice of non-violence was what anyone would think of as non-violence, neither violence to people nor property.

Clonal Antibody's picture
Submitted by Clonal Antibody on

Himsa which has been commonly translated as violence is the striking, or hitting (meaning causing physical harm) another living being.

Destroying or hitting a chair or a table for example, is not considered himsa.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

You take comments out of context, in the same paragraph as you accuse others of doing the same.

You dismiss without argument or principles the ideas of those you attack.

You slander.

You ignore hypocrisy when it is favorable to your argument.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

"Lotta words, no evidence or reasoning

Smarter violence advocates, please.

Sure, I can see you're angry. And?"

Submitted by lambert on

Only if you believe that humans are not capable of self-deception can you believe that emotions are always honest. (You could also look at successful corporate marketing campaigns as successful attempts to implant fake emotions.)

Futher, granting that all emotion is honest, that doesn't mean that all honesty is emotion.

Submitted by lambert on

Let's take one of the accusations you make. Here it is:

You dismiss without argument or principles the ideas of those you attack.

1. Who is the "you"?

2. Where is the dismissal?

3. What arguments and principles are missing?

If you want to argue "on that level," then do it, please.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

1. The author(s) of this piece

2, 3. "under the novel VA definition property destruction is not violence" and "Until you reach that critical mass, though, you can’t just redefine a word and then insist that your new definition be the one everyone uses." and "Do your best to persuade them that violence cannot be done to some thing, only some one."

Language is not the result of debate, but of use.

Our definition of violence is based on the principle that violence can only be done to living things. Violence is the unwanted infliction of negative feelings such as pain or fear; violence is not possible against non-sentient things. We would never call demolishing a decrepit building "violence" even though it is causing "damage" to that building. If that IS "violence," then the term is meaningless, because it's undeniable that there is a qualitative difference between inflicting damage to people/animals and inflicting damage to property such as in the way I described.

This definition is based on anti-capitalism; or, rather, the capitalist definition of 'violence' is based on its own bizarre principle that property ownership is as inherent to a person as their limbs are- that there is no difference between taking someone's titular property and cutting off someone's finger.

We disagree with that concept of property. Therefore we have a different idea about whether or not property damage is necessarily violence. IMO the main point of property damage in these cases is to demystify property- to show that, no, it is not the same as people. A window is just a window. Yet from the outrage you'd think we were murderers. The reason Black Bloc gets so much hate isn't because of the actual damage done, but because they dare to question the Commodity Spectacle itself! Well, hasn't someone got to point out that the Emperor is naked?

That's what an argument based on principles looks like.

Submitted by lambert on

1. If indeed language is the result of use, and not of debate, that means the Google definition is the appropriate definition for us to use, since the most people use it.

2. But of course, debate is one use of language, since we use language in debate. In fact, we may debate exactly in order to change the language (as the poster argues that violence advocates do). (For example, the redefinition of the word "gay" was debated all across the country and ended in a great triumph that defined more people as being fully human.)

3. In fact, we do argue from principle, though perhaps not from yours. DCBlogger wrote: "The bank can replace the window. Or they can shut down the branch. Washington DC’s riot corridor was a ghost town for 30 years. The damage of a riot lives a long time after the riot. I hate to think what business insurance is in Oakland right now.” How was creating a ghost town not "damage to living things"?

4. You write "Our definition of violence..." and "We disagree..." Who is "our" and who are "we"? If Occupy, then point me to the minutes where Occupy says that -- and I could be wrong! Somehow, though, I don't think that Occupy the SEC would agree with you.

As for the Commodity Spectacle and the Naked Emperor.... Everybody who's been illegally foreclosed on or thrown out of work or had their insurance company screw them or been forced to go deep into debt to be taught by adjunct professors making ten bucks an hour or watched relatives die because they can't get health care knows the emperor is completely naked. (Part of the problem is that the emperor is so naked, so Full Monty naked, that it's hard to accept it; the mind shuts down.) But I don't think, if this is what you're implying, that the answer to the Commodity Spectacle is a different form of Spectacle. I think that the answer is a different and available and trustworthy form of society-wide decision making, I think Occupy pre-figures that (as did both Tahrir Square and Madrid) and that's why I keep focusing on transparency and accountability and the GAs and the minutes and the process of how decisions get made.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

1. "Do your best to persuade them that violence cannot be done to some thing, only some one. ... Make that your project. Language evolves; do your part!"

2. I have debated. You have been nothing but dismissive of my arguments. This is why examples are necessary.

3. Your argument seems to be that empty buildings is somehow the same as physical suffering. You're going to have to clarify.

4. "Who is "our" and who are "we"?"

As for decision-making: Yes, GAs are well and good, but they should only be used when appropriate. Shall I ask for your consent before making a sandwich? Does that agree with our statement of principles as a movement? That road ends in a desert of 10-hour meetings.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

Are you saying that Occupy(tm) is a wholly owed subsidiary of Anarchy, Inc.? Its "property" as it were? But since there is no such thing as proprtty, then you can't own it. Or can you? I'm confused. I aren't smart like a anarchists is.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

Perhaps you should read the entire exchange before deciding which orifice to talk out of.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

Now what kind of way is that to talk? And yet you can't muster the chops to answer the question.

But I have read the entire thread, and still its unclear. Do anarchists believe they "own" Occupy? If do, how for you square that with not believing in the concept of property? If not, why do you think you get to dictate terms and rule behind the scenes? Screw anarchists. Occupy has obviously outgrown you. The child has grown, the dream is gone.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

Is based on a delicious layer of vanilla ice cream in between two slices of chocolate sheet cake. Yum!

Submitted by lambert on

... so can you!

Longer: RanDomino isn't inventing a private language (see plergb).

I think his definition is internally contradictory and tendentious and (to those who don't have a context for the debate) open to bait and switch, but that's not the exactly same as this:

'And only one for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!'

'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'

Except for the last line, of perhaps...

UPDATE I don't mean "lay down" as in "lay down fire." That i know how to do all too well. I mean "lay down" as in "relinquish."

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

For purpose below.

What I'm gathering is that anarchists such asa randomino and Graeberthe believe they "own" Occupy. Which is both sad (because it has obviously outgrew them if it ever were true in the first place), and self-contradictory (because their ideology is there is no such thing as property).

Clonal Antibody's picture
Submitted by Clonal Antibody on

Would you classify the acts of Father Daniel Berrigan and Father Philip Berrigan as violent or non violent? Historically these acts have always been classified by the peace movement as non-violent. Yet your definition of violence would classify those acts as violent.

Both brothers have always been considered to be non-violent peace activists with extremely strong moral stances. You would then be reclassifying them to accord with the FBI's classification, and not the judge's version which always classified them as non-violent law breakers (even when they served prison sentences for vandalizing government property.)

affinis's picture
Submitted by affinis on

Reasonable point.
But the Berrigans were never out to frighten or threaten, while with BB the opposite is true.
(11/4 statements from an Oaklander: "My neighbor works at Whole Foods....She came home shaking and in tears on Wednesday""She came home crying because she was scared for her fucking life when 50 people covering their faces, attacked the store")
And for the Berrigans, random destruction was never allowable (e.g. David Berrigan gives the example - throwing trashcans = random destruction). Berrigan actions were carefully planned, generally with an overt spiritual element.
And the Berrigans/Plowshares exclusively did damage to military tools of death (e.g. typical Plowshares action = striking concrete cap of missile silo with household hammers).

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

I love it when others speak for me.

"the reason the window is there in the first place is that people are in the world, and some of them have invested their own time/money into having a window, and usually because they really do need to have it for their livelihood. Others then recognize this fact and so perceive the breaking of someone else’s property to be very similar to assaulting that person themselves because it undermines their livelihood and drains resources, and so feel upset when they see people breaking other people’s windows."

I already addressed why that's bullshit. "Property = people" is the exact liberal-capitalist (as in classical liberalism, from when private property was actually radically libertarian because it was in contrast to the despotic mercantile-feudal systems dominant at the time) idea that we're against.

"A modified version of this is: a corporation is not a real person, and so it has no feelings; which completely ignores the fact that corporations are made up of people, regular people who hold the same beliefs as many of us, and who are irritated or threatened when a group of people come along and intentionally start smashing up their place of work."

“Corporations are people, my friend, ... Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to people. Where do you think it goes?” - Mitt Romney

"And through their rhetoric about symbolic action against institutions, its becomes clear that they, the breakers themselves, see destroying a window as violence, since the whole reason they did it in the first place was to send a threatening message to the banks, or Burger King, or that dude with a coffee cart who stores it in someone else’s shop, or whatever."

Again, that's simply wrong, as I've already said. The reason is to attack the mystical-spectacular perception of property, as a concept. To send a threat to capitalism, maybe- and who's that? But even if what bobobo says is true, again, who is a corporation? Are you now arguing that corporations are people?

And I think you'd be hard-pressed to convince anyone willing to physically attack corporate property that these places are not also tools of death, either because of the environmental impact of their products or because of the alienating nature of wage-labor. "Vive sans temps mort" refers exactly to such things.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

That entire post described how people "hate" black bloc because "they"i dare to "question" by engaging in those acts which undermine Commodity whatever. Your use of "they" was completely consistent with the way you formed the comment. Including the word "we".

Are you sure you aren't an undercover agent provocateur?

We advocate no illegal acts here!

Who is this?
Wrong number!
Wrong number!

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

Does it stop a foreclosure? Does it make a bankster back down from a destructive action? Does it persuade a politician to act in a manner for for the people's welfare? How does breaking a window or any property damage ever make anything better?

There is a long list of how campaigns of sustained non-violence have made things better, but how does violence make anything better?

And anyone accusing this blog of being shock troops for Obama should read it for 20 seconds.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

Submitted by cg.eye on

I know, I know, defining of terms are necessary, but look at the time spent and benefits gained.

As is usual with newbie provocateurs, if those who never gave a damn about Corrente before tie up its most engaged minds in games of definition, what's not being posted about? What's being ignored? And note the lack of cross-posting from Naked Capitalism and other blogs. It's like a system process that's burning up CPU resources.

Trolling is its own violence -- it stirs up blood, to no benefit; it shuts down beneficial discussions and differences of opinion, by hardening those opinions; and, if we take Obots as our model, it costs trolls nothing -- as usual, someone, somewhere, is getting paid. That's why it's kewl to own the discourse, even as professed anarchists, and it's best to shut down discussion entirely, because no one will pass the newbies purity test.

I'm just saying, once you notice you've passed that spot on the merry-go-round, you've got the right to step off, with honor.

coyotecreek's picture
Submitted by coyotecreek on

And throughout, an older maxim carries an eternal message: the means are the ends, as Gandhi taught. If you use violence, you are likely to get violence.

Like his famous Salt March (or Salt Satyagraha), the ideal political protest is the one that embodies the change you wish to see. Do it yourself, and nonviolently.

Self-organized, nonviolent action by the many, consulting all those affected: some would call these methods anarchism, but if so it is a very gentle kind. In fact, these techniques amount to a politics of modernity, of complexity, a politics most appropriate to our current state. These methods also inhere in a new economics, for Marx was in this sense correct: the economics makes the politics.

Clonal Antibody's picture
Submitted by Clonal Antibody on

Ahimsa, generally in the spiritual texts of Hinduism and Buddhism has been written and taken as causing no harm to a living being. At the same time, these same religions extoll the virtue of non attachment to possessions and property, and consistently maintain that loss of a property or an object of attachment is not a loss. So therefore damaging property would not have been considered "himsa" or violence.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

What Gandhi thought.


Even if true, which is obviously contentious, so irrelevant (see my sig). I care about my own and common definitions, not what a few hundred anarchists or pedantic, supposed Gandhi scholars think.

Submitted by cg.eye on

unless Clonal Antibody were discussing tactics separately with you?

Is disrupting Corrente a black bloc operation?

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

coyotecreek said something. Clonal Antibody responded to it. okanogen replied with "I don't care," as if the conversation was for his personal benefit. Seems rude.

Submitted by lambert on

The argument is over whether a faction within Occupy will be able to use a definition of violence that doesn't conform to the understanding of most people who use the word (and most especially those who aren't deep into the technical and semantic aspects of the discourse).

Unfortunately, "live as if you were already free" doesn't necessarily work in the semantic realm. Sometimes, but not always.

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

(unfairly) embeds one side of the argument within it.

One could just as easily say the argument is whether a faction within Occupy is able to use a definition of violence that is consistent with how the word has been used in other nonviolent resistance movements. (And people can argue the degree of consistency and all that.)

Given that the context is a nonviolent resistance movement, that alternative framing seems just as reasonable, if not more.

That said, I think it's an irrelevant debate because the argument relating to strategy, whether one agrees with it or not, is the same either way: a resistance movement that explicitly excludes physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something as a strategy is more effective than one that does not.

In other words, it's entirely reasonable to say (from my point of view) whether or not damage to property is considered violence, either by formal definition, common understanding, or historical context, it is better to exclude damage to property as a strategic option explicitly [for whatever reasons]. (I'm not saying right or wrong there, just reasonableness.)

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

This debate could be a lot of things, but one thing it isn't is irrelevant. In fact, for Black Bloc and, apparently, at least a faction of anarchists*, this debate is actually existential. Defining destruction of property as non-violence is seemingly so vital to the core of their existence that they are using every tool at their disposal to ensure their definition holds.

On the other hand, there are people, like myself, like many here, like, I think, the general public, who see the way they have gone about their property damage and recognize it as inherently violent. So we are standing up to it as a moral stance. Are we supposed to blithely ignore our own morals and shift to determining whether what we morally abhor is only "practical"?

Also, if you read randomino and Graeber's comments, apparently they view Occupy as theirs, they are the ones who get to define the terms, not "the masses", whoever that may be. They are dictating the terms. Occupy is their baby, and they want it back.

So no, this debate is not irrelevant at all.

*leaving aside the strong possibility this may (or may not) be an agent provocateur ratfucking operation.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

The definition of property damage as not violent is existential for Anarchists, yes, because the idea of property is fundamental to the capitalist/anti-capitalist debate.

If you "morally abhor" property destruction in the same sense that you morally abhor violence against people, you need to question why you find inert objects so sacrosanct. That belief leads directly to capitalism, which will always re-create the present crisis if it exists in any form.

We are not 'dictating' the terms. I'm sorry if you don't recognize what actual debate looks like. The atrophying of such skills in society is one of the more tragic aspects of modern capitalism...

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

Apparently this is your level of discourse, but if my "debate skills" are so atrophied, how is it that I was able to get you to confirm that describing wanton, deliberate property damage as "non-violent" is an existential battle for anarchists such as yourself (all anarchists?)? Plus, I deliberately described it "as done by", I didn't even say it as "at all", so you misrepresent me, but what the fuck ever, I expected no less. Regarding your laughable a::b::c, that sounds like "The Otter Defense". Youtube it. If you don't understand "::", then google it.

So, when anarchists present a successful, practical model of their utopian world-view of "no property", please post it on the internets. Because out of the thousands of cultures existent on the planet, there isn't one that can point to yours. F'rinstance, if you destroy an eskimo's igloo because after all, it's just "property", you should probably arm yourself.

Meanwhile, please feel free to use the property (computer or device) which you own (or utilize) to converse across the servers (that you exploit), with the electricity (which you use) created by the machines (which you know not of), transmitted across and supported by the infrastructure (which you dismiss), to put forth your "opinions", which are poorly-formulated.

Can we get better equipped VAs please? This is almost making me miss che pasa.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

I'm not sure why I'm wasting my time, but I'll bite. First off, Anarchism is not against 'property', just against the capitalist form of it, which is based on title. Anarchist property ownership is based on use- property in which a person has no personal involvement does not belong to that person; their opinions on its use can freely be ignored by those who actually use/own it. So you own your house and your car etc; you and your neighbors own your neighborhood; you own your workplace and tools collectively with all the others who work there, and so on. Obviously this is not recognized by the State and those who benefit from capitalism, but it is the natural (and therefore inherently understood by all) form of human relation to property.

Second, I'll just note you didn't actually respond to my argument, other than to insult me and declare what I said to be some kind of logical fallacy by citing your supposed use of the phrase "as done by" which didn't actually appear in your previous post.

As for an example of a functional Anarchist society- I'm sorry, but maybe you never heard of this "Occupy" thing, there were quite a lot of these camps, you see, which were functioning well with as close to Anarchist principles and systems as we can expect in a TAZ surrounded by capitalism and government; I understand if you didn't know about "Occupy" as it was pretty well under the radar so you might want to do some research about it, maybe try to find some old news stories.

And now back to your regularly-scheduled idiotic rambling...

Submitted by lambert on

If your goals are to figure out how to persuade some poor schlubs out in the 99% of your views, maybe it's good practice and you're not wasting your time. Certainly I'm learning some things, though so far I don't agree with most of it.

Submitted by lambert on

... this is the picture: "you own your workplace and tools collectively with all the others who work there."

So why is OK to smash the Starbucks window?

Because it is not collectively owned?

Because it is not owned by the person doing the smashing?


NOTE Once again, on title, that's exactly what NYCGA complains about the theft of (link above). So do you advocate that the NYCGA declaration should be changed? Ignored? Since it clearly does not reflect anarchist principles in what you regard as their key aspect: Title.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

Shoot me for paraphrasing the following:

On the other hand, there are people, like myself, like many here, like, I think, the general public, who see the way they have gone about their property damage and recognize it as inherently violent.

My meaning, which you still ignore, couldn't be more clear. The property damage tactic Black Bloc employs is deliberately violent. It is violent in it's intention, and violent in it's reception. It is meant to intimidate and cause fear and that is exactly what it does.

As for whether I know what "Occupy" is, well my insulting friend, I did know what that was, but was not yet indoctrinated to hear that is actually (by deliberate design? Adopted as after? or should I have said "supposedly") a structure which employs anarchistic values of property. Which is pretty damn interesting, because as Lambert notes elsewhere, at least one of the goals put forth and even stated are to stop foreclosures and mortgage fraud and respect people's home titles, end looting of bank accounts, and other "capitalist" elements. So what is it? A cat or a dog?

But maybe then, it's the "anarchy" that is exactly the element of fail in Occupy we have been debating. Because although Occupy is really, really good at some things, obviousl there are some things it is really, really bad at. One aspect of Occupy we have been discussing in our own little side cabal is that by its very structure, there are some things Occupy just isn't very good at. And one of those things is that due to the nature of the "leadership" structure, a small and unrepresentative, but highly focused and organized group (a "Shadow Bloc" as it were) can fairly easily take control and make the puppet dance. Combating that takes alot of energy, energy like what we are spending right now. Energy which could more usefully be used finding additional and alternate means of ending the oligarchy and restoring some justice to our society. There are more things Occupy isn't good at as well, and a lot of energy is spent there too, alternative policing ("report your rape here"), etc., while nice in theory, often aren't seen to sustain in practice. These seem to be the elements you say are "anarchy".

Anyway, tell me again which argument did you want me to refute, the first one where you said I should read the whole thread before I decided which orifice to write out of? Because that didn't really seem like an argument.

Submitted by lambert on

... have to do with the Occupy movement as such?

I'm coming to understand how the logic fits togther (at least for whichever flavor or version of anarchism we're dealing with here) but in order to establish relevance to this thread, it would be nice to see that a GA has adopted your view. For example, here's the first Declaration of the Occupation of New York City:

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

In my reading, that assumes both private property and the authority of the law, both of which (in my limited understanding) anarchism rejects.

So how can the views of anarchism on property (hence, as I understand it, their views on violence) have to do with Occupy? It's just one perspective, no more or less relevant than Buddhism or Christianity.

Submitted by Fran on

of property; it matters what the owners of the property think of it.

Also, in Occupy, it matters what the group (GA) has decided. Each Occupy group is its own, self organizing (an anarchist idea!), group. Occupy Philadelphia has decided that destruction of property is not a strategy or tactic they endorse - as far as I have been able to determine.

I went to a meeting last night, where some of the people involved with OP were presenting. I particularly wanted to hear from the person who was a trainer in non-violence. A homeless man spoke at length about his organizing of homeless people, and a Quaker lady, who had helped organize the Interfaith group spoke. (The Interfaith tent was, she said, where the Muslims came to pray, feeling it the only safe place to do so.) The meeting was at a Mennonite church.

I did not find out as much as I hoped to, but I asked the trainer what OP was doing about the anarchists (whom I saw 'in action' at a GA). Apparently they tolerate them, but will not adopt their tactics.

I was thinking about the Civil Rights movement and SNCC and the SCLC (did I get these right?.) They were organized, very well trained and had a strategy. The bus boycott was organized by union organizers. Non-violence is not passive, and to do it effectively requires discipline.

Do anarchists believe that they MUST destroy property? If so, their approach is exclusionary. Non-violence groups are more inclusive because they will allow anyone, as long as they are non-violent. Certainly millions of people, who marched against the war in Iraq, did not find it necessary to destroy property, and they would seem to represent a lot of people!

As far as I am concerned, the Black Bloc can go form their own group with tactics they like, instead of trying to impose their beliefs and will on an existing group.

If you want change, you have to be willing to hang in for the long haul. People who have been activists for decades have not failed. They have succeeded in staying with it. My organization, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, was a founding member of Move to Amend. That has been many years in the making, as an example.

Churches are one of the few organizations left that actually have a membership base that can mobilize people, and resources to help. You also have community groups that have the roots necessary to mobilize people. Occupy needs that community support, as well stated by Soul in Oakland. Who did the anarchists there think they spoke for? It is rather insulting to the people who have actually been living with, and working to address, the problems there.

The synergy of existing groups, many rallying to Occupy, but continuing their work also, is what is giving energy and expanding the base of people for a movement for change.

btw, Consensus does not mean that everyone agrees. It means that people who disagree are willing to stand aside for the good of the group.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

I will invite you again to read the document I posted on Anti-Mass. "Large" and "mass" are not synonymous. "Mass" has been fetishized to the detriment of real organization.

Submitted by lambert on

But right now, there's an outstanding, prior question above:

Refresh my memory, please, on what anarchist views of property have to do with the Occupy movement as such?

I don't see an answer.

So far as I can tell, the NYCGA is fine with private property. I care about Occupy, not anarchist theory, so right now I don't see a reason to invest time in the document you invite me to read.

UPDATE Snark deleted.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

The language is from the perspective of people who consider themselves "middle-class," because that's how they've been socialized; they don't have the words or practice to articulate what they really mean. The concepts and principles are Anarchist.

Submitted by lambert on

The twentieth century has some cautionary tales about revolutionary vanguards who "articulated" what the larger population "did not have the words for." Most of those stories ended very badly indeed.

I do try to fight for better language all the time, but it's extremely difficult and requires constant testing and feedback from readers and speakers.

Submitted by lambert on

Of course Black Bloc is a group. If it were not, the talking point "Black Bloc is just a tactic" wouldn't have propagated so rapidly, effectively, and so uniformly.

That doesn't imply the group is especially structured, but group it is.

RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

The reason the 'talking point' propagated so rapidly is because we've been dealing with this shit for so long, and it's always the same.
('we' meaning anarchists, not black bloc, obviously; but apparently I need to make these kind of inane clarifications)

Submitted by cg.eye on

only that the means of propagation are smooth and unchallenged -- which goes against very principles Occupiers have tried to maintain, in questioning media of all sorts, as being one of the Master's tools.

And ain't it peculiar that the suppression of cameras and reporters is now desired, when part of the strengths of the Occupy movement were citizen reporters, being able to film agents provocateurs as they worked and oppressed? And now black bloc adopts the Stop Snitching meme?

We know that gangbangers were supported by government interests that wanted guns and drugs in the hood, where they were useful profit streams. Community activism, conveniently enough, was also suppressed. NV advocates wanted more mikes, more cameras -- the better to show the world just what was going on.

Now, media over-control? Big guys telling folks to shut up -- and the abuse that again becomes systemic, in the dark? Fuck that noise. Sounds like Winnie Mandela's beastie boys, to me....

Submitted by cg.eye on

that if violent protest is codified as an acceptable Occupy tactic, the entire movement will fall under RICO prosecution? It's crime, and organized -- it's *organized crime*, baby. And no matter what good the ends were, the means will guarantee Occupy's painful death through dishonor.

I thought people who were tired of gangs and thugs who took over neighborhoods, their banks, their corporations, wanted to join Occupy to cast greater and lesser thugs off their backs. Why would they want new thugs to replace the old ones?

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

So this would be a ratfucking three-fer:

1. We all spend tons of time, energy and goodwill defining just how violent we want to be.

2. It diminishes and marginalizes Occupy by not forecefully disavowing it.

3. "Organized" crime.


RanDomino's picture
Submitted by RanDomino on

Technically it already does, since the occupations themselves were illegal. Assuming that Occupy is a 'group' which may be difficult to show given its amorphous nature.

tom allen's picture
Submitted by tom allen on

I think you're all overlooking the clowns. The traditional role of a fool in any movement is to gladly take the violence -- toned down, of course, from bullets to pies, from bombs to rotten tomatoes -- that can't and shouldn't be aimed at those in authority. That way the bloc works off its anger, the larger crowd enjoys a spectacle, the authorities suppose everything's OK, and the fool gets his rocks off.

Meanwhile the movement grows, the subversion intensifies, the regime changes, and the fool gets the last laugh. :-P

Submitted by lambert on

... because I sat down at the keyboard three years... typo, three hours ago and the tyranny of the urgent overwhelmed the necessities of the important.

Anyhow, and not responding in detail to anything, these are the buckets that I think most of the discussion falls into:

1. The existential nature of the violence question for [some flavors] of anarchism [including and perhaps even especially black bloc]. This for me leads on to the question of Occupy's future trajectory, whether mass movement or insurrection or something else. And of course the trajectory is for all of us in the 99% in part to determine....

2. The existential nature of the group or faction question [judging existential by the intensity of the push back only, not anything analytical]. From the Barcalounger, there are plenty of "groups" that wear costumes and come together temporarily and then disperse; the Mummers, for example (who also wear masks ;-) There are also plenty of "groups" that don't publlcly identify, like the Masons or AA. And the simultaneous and virtually instant production of identical discourse across space is one excellent test of a distributed group; the Obama fans certainly operated that way.

3. The need to look at history. I don't think it's possible to claim "only 800" and simultaneously claim expertise in Black Bloc subject matter all the way back to autonomous factions in Germany (if that's the right lineage). If "group" rankles, call it a tendency; the tendency as a whole really needs to be assessed, not this or that month's manifestation. I'm not saying simply "Black Bloc is ____, look at _____ in the year _____." Things aren't static that way! But the dynamic needs to be assessed.

And lastly personally and no doubt unfairly, it strikes me that there is probably one class of people in the country today, and in the world!, who could be said to be "autonomous" (acting independently or having the freedom to do so, sense 2, since sense 1 is for the context of countries or regions). That would be the 1%. And their characteristics are well known! That's why the assurance that violence will not be used ("dusty") reminds me forcibly of the language used by elite power brokers, like "off the table." Since what is "off the table" can be put back on! I've got zero interest in any "meet the new boss" scenario, and I'd bet most of the 99% would be with me on that...