Filed under: war-machine | Tags: anarchy, beginning, communism, indians, introduction, occupy, primitive, whitherburoo
“Thus in the midst of their greatest festivities, though physically thronging together, they live like wild beasts in a deep solitude of spirit and will, scarcely any two being able to agree since each follows his own pleasure and caprice. By reason of all this, providence decrees that, through obstinate factions and desperate civil wars, they shall turn their cities into forests and the forests into dens and lairs of men. . . Hence peoples who have reached this point of premeditated malice, when they receive this last remedy of providence and are thereby stunned and brutalized, are sensible no longer of comforts, delicacies, pleasures and pomp, but only of the sheer necessities of life. And the few survivors in the midst of an abundance of things necessary for life naturally become sociable, and, returning to the primitive simplicity of the first world of peoples, are again religious, truthful and faithful.”
-Vico, Scienza Nuova
1. It comes to pass, at last: this great Leviathan that has swallowed the whole world, now commences its death agony. The mechanical man likened unto the perfected State, with unweeping eyes and unfeeling heart, rusts from its own internal emptiness. The clockwork society breaks down. And the returning ghost towns, like a forgotten malediction, return to gaze mournfully at the passing of the glory of the world. The suburbs, this great gilded prison, agonize as they are left to return to nature, to slowly decay in their false-seeming gentility. The streetlights no longer illuminate the night on the edge of town, but cede way to their precursors, of which they are only the sad imitation, the moon and stars. The roads crumble into gravel, and from thence return to dust that they always were. Like unto like, America “is the nothingness that reduces itself to nothingness”, in the words of Hegel. Such are the heart-rending times the Americans inhabit.
This was the scenic backdrop of Occupy, which was not the beginning of anything new for America, as so many vulgar mediocrities would have us believe, but the faded repetition of its threadbare paltry ideals, and in truth, the pageant of the death agony of the American citizenry. The body politic will not revive: it is a corpse already beginning to putrefy. Who wants to be a part of death? There were those, with their prefabricated void collapsing of its own nullity, who wanted at all costs to stop this historically unprecedented implosion. They complained about rebuilding bridges, redistributing this or that. But look how intolerant their tolerance was: these liberals were openly working with the cops. Look how their spirits have so collapsed, these masterless slaves hate anyone acting manfully against the shameful degradation called American normality. And look how foolish these so-called educated are, who still believe they live in a democracy even while the police are throwing tear gas into their right to assembly, even while their beloved half-black puppet is currently giving the police the legal right to kill anyone. It is no great secret that America is terminally ill: it is clearly already braindead, its ever-feeble heart reduced to an automata of life support machines. One day, the de facto wards of this inhuman vegetable, the bankers and the military-industrial complex, will decide to pull the plug.
Before this predictable ignominious end, there was a message of hope, but not for the Stars and Stripes. The Occupy tents appeared in the heart of the grey steel cities, looking to the careful observer like a thousand Indian tipis had returned to the land they loved so dearly, exactly as they promised to do not so long ago. It had changed so much for the worse, but they still knew it as their own. It was as if they came back when Detroit and its productive apparatus lay shattered on the ground, when green shoots came into the crumbling brick and concrete buildings. When the long awaited wreck and ruin spoken of in the Ghost Dance was becoming so clear. When America was drowning in all the blood of the innocent it had spilled, and choking to death on all its ill-gotten plunder. The Indian spirits were completing their invisible revolution.
In these times, everything is progress towards the end. In America, all is progress towards the great collapse, the shriveling up and withering away of so much accumulated wickedness. Everyone contributes, willingly or no: the military and its totally failed, never-ending wars; the tea party cretins trying to refound their doomed American dream; a general culture spreading mindless saturnalian decadence, as before they danced in Rome even when the Empire was crumbling away; abused and neglected Mother Earth herself, and her beloved children, the ghosts of the Indians passed away in agony who haunt the dim-lit parking lots where nothing ever happens. . . everyone, in truth, longs for the collapse, because feeling and sentiment have retreated inside themselves to construct the world denied to them-all private life has become egoism and loneliness, an ornately gilded abyss. The public life of civic ideals no longer arouses even the scorn of laughter, so much has this passed into generalized derision with the growth of factional intrigues, conspiracies, crimes and murders. The American century is imploding, unmourned and unloved, from its own corruption and venality. Those who can still hear, let them hear.
2. The Americans have lived through a social movement, its ebb and flow, and now sit back and digest what they lived. They had forgotten their bodies, forgot the sting of tear gas and the feel of rocks in the pocket, a trusty stick in the hand, comrades all around. They had forgotten their bodies at the same time as history itself, because America is the most total alienation of humanity from itself.
To our eyes, the most remarkable thing, and most indicative of an alienation of intelligence from the mind, was the poverty of all hitherto-published analyses of Occupy. There was the predictable, hideous liberalism of Hedges and the rest of the peace police, that everyone knows only too well from the so-called antiwar movement. There was abstract graduate student Marxism, which only reflected the abstraction of their own lives. There was Crimethinc which now, having abandoned its previous lifestylism, has decided to become anarcho-insurrectionalist: the evidence of this turnabout is available to anyone who cares to read the back issues, or has some personal experience. But the same lack of principle is equally evident now: much like the spineless jellyfish that goes wherever the sea takes it, Crimethinc has now abandoned the anarchist identity of eating out of the garbage can for the anarchist identity of burning garbage cans. But that the latter is infinitely preferable to the former has nothing to do with an advance of Crimethinc, rather with the great sea tide of revolution of the past few years. One does not worry overmuch, as surely Crimethinc will be washed ashore and left to dry up in the sunshine of critique.
Various articles did remark on the incapacity of average people to connect America’s Occupy to its global contexts. They should have applied this critique to themselves, for how they failed to note how the global wave of revolts associated with Occupy- Cairo, Tunis, Madrid, Athens- were really only the globalization of American-style civil rights protests, and in our country that originated this type of civil rights protest, there was only a feeble imitation of elsewhere. Agamben was surely correct to see in Tiananmen the new face, the new type of revolt for the post-modern era. But it also means that America’s world-historic role to play, reducing everything to a nothingness of political debate, has ended. After all, in countries with more poverty, with more collective traditions, with less Protestant self-control, this same type of protest overthrows governments. At any rate, this means the end of a certain type of existence for the country itself.
What existence was there in America previously? It means very little to say, as the stock phrase would have it, that America was founded on slavery and genocide. So were many other countries. What matters is what is special about the American relation to their specific historical crimes? This, only a serious study of American history, and history in general, could give us. Unfortunately the so-called university intellectuals don’t spend their time reading, and what little they do is certainly not well-directed, just as so few monks at the end of the Middle Ages spent their time praying. Thus so few writers treated Occupy as a manifestation of the American phenomenon of Jacksonian Democracy as analyzed famously by De Tocqueville, or even further back to the troubles and arguments concerning the articles of confederation, the constitution, the period of the Alien and Sedition Acts, etc. To draw a line from these past moments, through the Civil War, the Populist and Progressive movements, to the New Deal, Civil Rights and 60′s, anti-globalization, and to Occupy, in short to treat Occupy in America as a specifically American moment, and Occupy globally as a moment of the globalization of American conditions, was lost on everyone. The growth of ideas of ideal citizen participation in a giant middle class system of representative democracy, with extreme energy but also reserve that rarely spills into violence, and never into revolution- this is the peculiarly American system. This is the system that worked, seemingly infallibly for a period, but now begins to collapse of its own perfection, like a towering house of cards that comes to put too much weight on its base. And in the gaps of the fallen cards new spaces of freedom appear.
But here was also remarkable: not only the feebleness of the previously existing reformist tension of the gigantic middle class, but the lack of any pretense at reform on the part of the politicians.
The Marxists, who only see the world in the night where all cows are black, have nothing to say to Americans other than the sad banalities they offer everywhere else. With this proviso, that here it is even a provincial and helpless variety. The Europeans can join Die Linke or Syriza, the American Marxists can offer only a ghostlike repetition of past failures, and an analysis of the economy in which no one believes anymore, and about which certainly no one cares. Moreover the Americans, with their fierce Protestant individuality, were never and could never have been attracted by Marxism. All the great heroes and traditions of American leftism are explicitly anarchist or anarchistic: Haymarket and May Day, the Wobblies, Sacco and Vanzetti, the Diggers and the counter-culture at large, the Battle of Seattle, the intellectuals of Bookchin, Chomsky, Graeber, etc.
The Americans are not even aware of their own history, perhaps even more so for radicals, and thus the turn of events of Occupy also makes no sense to them. Tom Hayden, in his excellent study The Love of Possession is a Disease With Them, remarked how when he visited the North Vietnamese, they knew more of America’s history than he did. They studied it as one studies an enemy from afar. How more greivous is the error when one does not study an enemy up close? The only branch of the workers’ movement that had some staying power, some cultural resonance and grounding in the U.S. was Anarchism, and that on the West Coast. Which is not to overstate the case: the French wrote that one cannot transpose Greek conditions to France, the land of the period of revolution from 1789 to 1871. How much more so would this be true for the Americans. Yet the Beat poets were aware, and wrote, that in some small way the wobbly spirit had survived to live on in the West. One might attribute this to the cultural dimensions of the restlessness of the frontier spirit, admirably captured by Frederick Jackson Turner, that, having reached the Pacific, turns inward against the newly constituted social order. The frontier only closed in 1890 with the Ghost Dance War, the wobblies were battling shortly thereafter. From thence to the struggles of the Depression, and the counterculture of the 60′s, then to the Battle of Seattle, the green anarchy movement and the student skirmishes of the past few years: only on the West Coast is there a tradition, however small, and only there is there the tiniest acceptance of political violence, as demonstrated in the refusal of Occupy Oakland to condemn property destruction. And if the complaint of the pointlessness of going to Oakland seems to have finally been taken into account on May Day, then so much the better. Berkeley and San Francisco offer better chances and targets, and it makes more sense for white revolutionaries to trash their own neighborhood rather than the visibly dilapidated and impoverished downtown of Oakland.
General analyses of America divide it roughly into a North, South, and West. The West has specific historical conditions that allow a form of Anarchism to exist there in some force, under its own banner. But not so elsewhere. Thus it is simply unreflective to demand that others emulate the West Coast in areas that are, effectively, separate countries, just as in Europe, Spaniards and Greeks can share aspirations as Mediterranean nations with a long history of extreme political violence, but the idea of transposing Greek tactics to Germany or Sweden, for example, makes absolutely no sense. We know from history the former two regions of North and South are so different as to have been separate countries at war for years. They are Sparta and Athens, one a landed aristocracy, the other a city-based democracy. Neither of the two have a tolerance for political violence; but the South for violence in general, yes, whereas for the North, not at all. The South is the bucolic countryside, the North is the urban sprawl of one contiguous ‘megalopolis’ from Boston to Washington. The South has Poe and Faulkner, terror and madness, the brooding over lost wealth; the North Thoreau, Whitman, the spirit of quaker pacifism, Anglophilism, and tolerance.
Finally the South deserves notice because it is the heart of America, America’s America of tiny towns and well-trimmed lawns, contentedness and civic pride. This is because it was the South that won the victories of the revolution, the planter aristocracy giving forth victorious Washington at Yorktown along with Jefferson and other theorists. After all, even the acts of treason to the Union in 1861 are constituted on the basis, the exact blueprint, of 1776, with the calling of state representatives to decide for independence and forming a new government. Hence the South is the cultural heart of America, and no wonder it gives such undue support to the Republican Party and the Army. However now Southern conditions are about to be generalized: only in the South has great wealth been lost in disastrous wars, and on the riverboats that the stock markets come to resemble more and more, and poverty nestled among American masses, and a universal reprobation met its abhorrent behavior. But now all of America has lost its war on terror, the money is drying up, and because of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, the general society all of America now deserves to be treated as was the South during Civil Rights, namely, as infamous and uncivilized. Agamben also writes that all societies go bankrupt in their own fashion: the Italians under Berlusconi, the Germans of 1933, etc. America has become spiritually bankrupt, much as MLK warned, and whenever this happens material bankruptcy is not far off in arriving.
Thus the real issue now posed to the Americans is: how to relate to the collapse? The U.S., the land of micro-fascism and molecular capitalism par excellence, is now evaporating, molecule by molecule. There is no austerity plan to protest against because the austerity is already being carried out in the hidden corners of the country. The small town library closes, the post office shuts up for good, the mayor’s office declares bankruptcy. Without as many police the people decide to police themselves, as we read for Vallejo, Ca. Americans are in a more revolutionary situation than they realize: they are in a situation like the end of Rome, where objectively a revolution should have happened long ago, but did not, and now the society is decaying and dying, like a butterfly too weak to shed its chrysalis: the last kernel of loyal citizenry has been wrecked by the War on Terror, they no longer believe in anything but suicide. Just read a newspaper. Graffiti is sprouting up everywhere. There is only a police force that everyone hates, and taxes and debt and no jobs. The society is collapsing in an orgy of its own violence: the violence that constituted the social fabric of the Americans, this blind bloodlust of Custer that so horrified the Indians, is now turning against the social fabric itself. The Hobbesian myth is becoming an unreal reality, for a time, before peace and contentedness return to this shattered, wounded, ancient land. But the Americans are lucky: whereas Rome collapsed into a foreign and inferior superstition of feeble-minded slaves and jaded aristocrats, the Americans fall back on what existed agelessly before their unhappy civilization. Indian simplicity, harmony with nature, collectivism, simple and unadorned love and devotion, guerrilla bravery. . .these are the things to remember. Americans don’t have to worry about a state to smash-they won’t even be at any comparable level of strength for years, they only just now begin a process of decades- they rather have to find something redeeming worth living, to save something from the final suicidal catastrophe of the American death culture.
The whole new world opens up. Communism is first posed, abstractly, in a seeming plenitude: the life lived inside Occupy. Then the real world arrives with its numberless police, and even attempts to squat are dislodged. The question is of such utmost importance: where to nurture communism? It almost poses itself in the sense of Deleuze, of considerations of geophilosophy. If, on the West Coast, where the mountains descend to the sand and cliffs of the blue Pacific, the radicals go “up country”, as it was once called, they will still find old hippies in the countryside who will help them, who lived through the past era of revolution, and will find a life free from the expense and madness of the decaying American cities. In fact the expropriated farm at Berkeley offers the perfect bridge in its location at the end of the city, both to the countryside and to the past history of People’s Park, of American utopian experiments in general. The Americans have their own history of retreating to the land, that runs like a hidden current through their history. If Americans look hard at their own history they will find Utopia trying to emerge on the farm. Even in our general anglophone culture, Occupy the Land was the slogan of the original Diggers of the 1640′s. Or if the comrades in the Northeast go upstate, as happened previously at Oneida and with such stunning success at Woodstock, or even further to the tiny towns of Vermont, the land where Shays lived the rest of his life after his failed rebellion, and where Bookchin and his followers went. Perhaps those from the South can find something in the mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia, where John Brown planned to base his apocalyptic guerrilla war, and where the miners have struggled so fruitlessly, and for so long, against such odds. There is no great city to seize in America: just look at the wars with the British, they seized capital city after capital city, the Americans simply moved away. If there are only a few people in the countryside, there are only a few people in the cities worth talking to anyways: most of them are human wrecks of capitalism. If strategically and historically, space in America is almost flat, tending to zero, then go where no space exists: follow the heart, where it manifested in history, where kindness ends distance.
But the main point is to consolidate the gains of Occupy-these gains were very real, invisible only to historical materialists and skeptics- they were the friendships forged in prison and in the skirmish, the new world in the once-lonely hearts of millions of children of suburbia. Occupy, in its American context, means: the thawing of the glacial American sociality, on the route to its final evaporation. When Seattle was smashed again, the whole lost decade of the War on Terror is ended; the perspectives briefly glimpsed in the anti-globalization movement return, at a higher level. There are some days worth decades, and some decades worth days. The War on Terror decade had not the worth of one fine day in May.
In response, the police have begun to designate anarchists in general as public enemy number one. In fact, they are now to be treated as ‘the internal enemy’ of counter-insurgency theory. Thus, it is nowhere a question of repression, in the sad binary model of a power and a people. So many have read Foucault but so few have understood: what is at stake is not just repression but repression and then the creation of a subjectivity to be repressed apart from the general populace. There are no judicial questions (as even in the U.S. entrapment used to be not allowed as evidence before its terminal decadence) but military-strategical questions. The anarchists are to be presented as those trying to perform fantastic and disconnected acts of violence (which ironically will probably backfire and make anarchists even more beloved to all those who want the collapse, just as the majority of the world loved September 11). Even so, one cannot really count on a prevailing nihilism in American life to combat these strategies, as they are factors in play, not a strategy in itself. In fact rather than reaffirming whatever unimportant if not non-existent Anarchist identity existing America, as so many would be tempted to do (and here Crimethinc presents itself in its negative aspect, as the retarded consciousness of U.S. Anarchy in their latest anti-repression pamphlet), one would rather refuse this identity and merge into indistinction. In fact this idea has already been circulating amongst those repressed of the eco-anarchist movement about their aggressive veganism-puritanism, moralism, anti-humanism, etc. Thus it is clear to anyone that anarchists in general will be attacked the way the green anarchists were: but has no one even read what the prior generation of eco-radicals themselves have written? Certainly it’s not theoretical enough for the university Marxists, but other radicals have no excuse not to read what was written by those involved in the eco-scare cases. In any event, the question is not one of solidarity, which is unconditional, but on what basis and to what end. To try to free comrades, to not assume any political identity, or to affirm a feel-good label of extremism on the basis of a forthcoming political movement? A movement of American anarchism exists marginally, and only on the West coast because of cultural factors there: in a certain sense the Americans don’t have to go through the arduous process of evolution and internal critique of Greek Anarchy as documented in the excellent texts of flesh-machine, or rather, they shouldn’t. They don’t have to drive across the distance of a Siberia for a few days of tiny disturbances in a police state city, as in Chicago, or previously, any summit really. They can strike where there are, or go elsewhere for the duration. They don’t even have to wear black. Their extreme backwardness and weakness can become a blessing: they can fight oppression and build new lives without labels, as just humans.
Everyone asks, after the storms of battle, what next? We lost so many friends and lovers to the emptiness that we too, became loveless, and empty. But now there is a chance for building new buildings, for loving new lovers, for filling old emptiness, to end the wandering. In sum, Occupy, for the 1% of those who wanted to radicalize it, centers on resurrecting the counter-culture, with its urban space and its rural space, where anyone with a free heart could move like a fish in the sea. Now we, gasping fish dying of the outside world, have to cobble together our own new sea. Without the silliness, the drugs, the mysticism, the apathy. And this time, to last. Neither to rot in isolation nor to get lost in the normality of the American way of life after a rebellious youth. To escape from the life of student and barista, homeless and stay-at-home. Too many are rotting in the basements of their parental homes or at school. Provide the means for massive societal defection and it will surely come to pass-this is Grogan’s great lesson! In our lonely age of concrete, the guerrillas have to become farmers of the spirit, to plant the forest in which they will move. With the societal implosion, Americans will be forced into a new sociality, a new relationship with themselves and nature. It is already underway, with the market gardens of decaying suburbia springing up everywhere, and weeds and vines taking over the indifferent brick buildings. Those who read the signs, and act resolutely, will be all the better placed to profit from the generalized dissolution.
The Americans are only beginning to learn about sadness. When they have spent all the money and lost all the wars they will have only their own emptiness reflected back at them in their crumbling country with its abandoned factories and rotting monuments. . . but for the Indians, for all those who want the collapse, it is the beginning of the new life, it is the passing away of a world, the negation of the negation of the American way of life.
Escape. Rebuild the counter-culture, commune by commune. What care we of collapse, so long as we find one another? Let America and its glittering emptiness perish- we are for the Indians, we are for primitive, pure communism.
And we are beginning. .
Filed under: Milwaukee area | Tags: anti-capitalism, austerity, black bloc, crowds, elections, milwaukee, occupy, recall, rowdy crowds, scott walker
Four arrests Wednesday evening. A “keep it in the streets” protest in downtown Milwaukee followed the re-election of Governor Scott Walker, and was scheduled to respond to the victory of either politician. At this time, four have been released and cited with disorderly conduct and one more recently released back into our arms a day later than the rest. The five that were arrested were almost arbitrarily chosen for their close proximity to the blind and fevered panic of the police. The police, despite their smirks, had far less control over the situation than they want to say. At moments they had to put their hands on their guns just to convince themselves of who was in control. Shit was out of control.
After a year and a half being wasted on a recall election, after all of the energy put into the Capitol occupation and state-wide strikes was funneled into useless electoral politics, there is now room to breathe and begin again. This newfound freedom to act was seen in the streets of Milwaukee with surprising clarity. What started as a gathering of talking heads quickly escalated into a push and shove match with police, whose aim was to corner and stop any unpermitted march from taking place. Within seconds of the march, protesters took to the streets as dozens of cops in riot gear attempted to contain them. The crowd was unwilling to be pushed aside, and worked together to shove back and wind around the horses, motorcycles, and beefy baton-wielding helmets.
The black bloc, though dormant in Milwaukee for years, seemingly reappeared (some in all black, some with red bandannas, and some other groups and individuals who wore some form of the mask) and it both engaged in confrontation and helped to defend individuals in the crowd, while others that weren’t bloc’d up joined in and initiated their own actions. Its very presence declared non-violence an impossibility.
Police tried to stop the crowds, but failed again and again to contain its excesses. People pushed against police lines and horses and pulled their friends to safety as cops attempted to arrest them. One startled cop had some unknown liquid thrown at his face during the first attempted kettle. At another moment of police provocation a member of the crowd wrested a baton from the grip of a cavalry officer, hit him, and threw the baton at another, then jumped into the cloak of the crowd. It was unruly, disobedient, and willing to shove, at least 150 deep.
After twelve or so blocks of low-intensity conflict, protestors made it to Zeidler Park, the planned to be space of occupation. At this point the PA once again became an instrument of boredom as the crowd was talked at by people that wanted to give speeches instead of dance, or eat, or fight. Attention was then shifted to supporting those arrested, and a small crowd moved to the local police station to await their release. No occupation happened, but for now that is ok. All in all, the event was a short but inspiring leap away from the silly matter of a recall election.
When asked about the protest, police chief Flynn was quoted saying that it was MPD’s job to “babysit” the crowd while they “pretend to be relevant protestors”. We couldn’t disagree more. It is only now that the police have been identified as a thing to be fought, and the recognition that democracy will always fail to appease its audience that Wisconsin joins relevant contemporary struggle. Last year at the Capitol there was some confusion as to whether or not the police could be considered a part of the working class and it is very nice to see this question can put to rest. There is nothing more salient to present-day politics than an antagonism towards police.
Meanwhile, the media acted with calculation, minimizing and simplifying events, as they are expected to, creating a safe distance from any possible intensity. To them, it was simply a protest, it was “40”, it was “several”. It marched roughly half the actual distance down the forgettable avenue of Plankinton, when the wildness really cut through Water Street, the center of downtown. We blocked traffic “briefly” (ahem, forty god minutes at least). Their tendencies are to be non-descriptive, to imply that those that got arrested deserved it, and to minimize the actual event as much as possible, acknowledging it only so as to explain it away.
Similarly, the Left attempts to erase the excitement and power we experienced at the march. They talk about a peaceful, nonviolent protest where police officers unjustly arrested individuals to stifle free speech. From their press releases to the photos they post, the shining activists of the 99% were all but crushed, helpless victims.
The truth is that the march wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been as unruly and forceful as it had been, and there would have been many more arrests and injuries at the hands of the police. There was anger, and there was power.
To the rest of the world that is fighting and making 2012 the year that the world ends: Don’t wait for us, we’ll catch up!
We were not the 99%. We were 150, and we were angry.
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: anti-state, eviction, midwest, occupy, occupy wallstreet, police, st. louis
From Anti-State STL:
“Last night close to 150 people from the occupy movement – ourselves, our friends, and comrades – took over Compton Hill Reservoir Park. Met with overwhelming police force intent on evicting the camp, protesters marched into the streets. Where they were met with batons, pepper spray and fists… at least fifteen were arrested and three hospitalized, with severe facial injuries, concussions, staples and stitches in the head, and broken bones.
Unfortunately the cops’ brutish reaction to last night’s events does not really evoke surprise in us. As the armed thugs of the state and wealthy, they go about their business striving (though often failing) to thwart our attempts to escape our material conditions, even if only for a moment. We feel the state’s presence in our lives on a daily basis, both informing and enforcing our every move.
Nevertheless, we refuse to take a passive position in regards to last night’s events: we will not and cannot sit idly by as they carry on fucking with us. Our antagonism for the police is a bottomless pit, and we cannot easily let the images of our comrades bloodied faces pass from our memories.
If you desire something more than the mundane hellishness of everyday life, if you have any love for those who fight back:
SMASH > ATTACK > OCCUPY > EXPROPRIATE > BLOCKADE
TOTAL SOLIDARITY WITH THE ACCUSED!!!
Links to videos of the evening:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5LS9b9U_sXc (bloodied comrades at 9:10 and 10:00)”
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: anarchy, anti-globalization, black bloc, chris hedges, journalism, living and fighting, occupy, occupy everything, occupy wallstreet, terrorism, the movement of occupations, unitied states, violence
From Crimethinc and the IEF:
To counteract the recent backlash led by professional journalists against diversity of tactics in the Occupy movement, we sought out our comrades from the heart of the black bloc and asked them to tell their side of the story: where they come from, why they participate, how they see the world. Here follows an in-depth personal reflection on why the black bloc is so contemporary and what this means for social movements of all stripes.
The past few months have seen a backlash led by professional journalists against diversity of tactics in the Occupy movement. Rebecca Solnit represented our Dear Occupiers pamphlet as “a screed in justification of violence” simply because it endorsed diversity of tactics. Chris Hedges followed up by calling “black bloc anarchists”—an invented category—“The Cancer in Occupy.”Both allege that a violent fringe is undermining the movement and must be excluded from it.
What is taking place here is a kind of silencing. Defining people as “violent” is fundamentally a way to delegitimize them; Solnit and Hedges feel entitled to spread falsehoods about their political adversaries because their goal is to shut them out of the discussion entirely. That’s why Hedges acknowledges he never spoke to anyone involved in a black bloc in the course of composing his diatribe. Perhaps we shouldn’t expect better from journalists with their own wikipedia pages and glamor shots, who have much to lose should popular movements cease to be managed from the top down.
To counteract this silencing, we sought out our comrades from the heart of the black bloc and asked them to tell their side of the story: where they come from, why they participate, how they see the world. We do not accept the terms set by the mudslingers: our intent is not to compete for ideological legitimacy on a battlefield of abstractions, but to foster mutual understanding grounded in personal experience. As the expression goes, God only knows what devils we are: He can’t know anything else.
God Only Knows What Devils We Are
an apologia for the black bloc from the community that has no community
courtesy of the Institute for Experimental Freedom
Have you ever worn the mask one-two one-two,
(M) to the (A) to the (S) to the (K)
Put the mask upon the face just to make the next day,
Feds be hawkin me Jokers be stalking me,
I walk the streets and camouflage my identity,
My posse in the Brooklyn wear the mask.
My crew in the Jersey wear the mask.
Stick up kids doing boogie woogie wear the mask.
Yeah everybody wear da mask but how long will it last.
That’s why I live illegal
All my life I live illegal
Don’t give a fuck bout the law
When my pockets reaching zero
I’m fresh out the ghost town similar to your town
I’m probably where it goes down
He pretends he tolls down
-Ski Beatz & Freddie Gibbs
or thirteen years, for over a decade, I have donned the black mask. “Seattle”—that word still means “the days the world stood still” to me. “Genoa” still holds more terror and perversity than the North American September 11. In experiencing anonymous collective force, I have gained far more than a diversity of tactics in my tool box. The black bloc is not merely a tactic, as so many anarchist apologists claim; it’s more of an aesthetic development in the art of street confrontation. The black bloc is a methodology of struggle; it goes beyond a single color, and its intelligence reaches beyond the terrain of protests. The black bloc is irreducibly contemporary because only in its opacity can a ray of light from the heavens finally reach us. Allow me to explain.
It’s the summer of 2000. Many of us have given up on both Democrats and Republicans. The sense is that “anti-globalization” poses the only alternative to advanced capitalism. The Democratic National Convention: I am marching, drenched in sweat, through the catacombs that hosted the Rodney King riots. Sadly, the only remnant of those fateful days is a militarized police force that anticipates our every move.
We walk into an enormous play pen—the “free speech zone”—surrounded on all sides by a sea of navy blue wielding pepper balls and batons. Amid the most dreadful speeches and rebellious rock music, we find each other: the stupid, isolated, alienated, and utterly lost children of capital, just beginning our downward spiral—just beginning a precarious life, without promise and without hope.
We organize ourselves at the center and proceed to the margin, where things are unpredictable. Someone climbs the tall fence, reaching the limit of free speech; and then another, and another. A black flag is unfurled, and a figure waves it with pride, claiming this as a site of freedom with that stupid gesture. The pepper balls crash against your skin; they collide against your frail bones, exploding on impact and releasing a furious burning that traps itself in your oily clothes and sweat. The crowd collectively gains intelligence and transforms the signs bearing socialist slogans into shields for cover. We brace each other and press the signs against the fence. Shot with pepper balls, a figure falls from the apex of the fence; arms and femur bones snap against the concrete.
That putrid smell, the eyes glossed over in tears, the stomach churns and nausea overwhelms you. Vinegar-soaked rags help to soak up the poisonous clouds, but you can hear screaming everywhere as the blue tide comes rushing in, and your nerves twist and vibrate as the CS gas and police mutate into a single hostile terrain.
Suddenly, I am with six or ten people. I don’t know who. We’ve found a large road sign and we’re lifting it slowly. Plastic bottles soar impotently overhead. A small rock or two hits an officer. We press with what was once our labor power, straining to hurl the worthless product of our grandparents’ toil back at our overseers. The object tilts over the fence and falls to other side: clong. We cheer and revel in our functionless gesture. “Fuck the police” resounds throughout the night, however foolishly. A few bank windows collapse in glittery confetti. Spray paint decorates a wall. We journey to the end of the night; at its perimeter, we share drinks and laughs over our absurd gestures. Finally, back at the union hall, we crash in our sleeping bags, exhausted and dehydrated, to dream of the abolition of capitalism.
I am irreparably transformed.
Lets rewind. Sixteen years ago, I am an adolescent teenager. I have entered Alcoholics Anonymous—somewhat earlier than most of my family. There, I witness one friend’s overdose, another friend’s relapse and subsequent incarceration for manslaughter, and the spread of methamphetamines throughout my neighborhood. I watch Requiem for a Dream some years later, horrified by the cinematic juxtposition of “normal” and “marginal” addiction—it feels so familiar.
I am watching 20/20, an episode exposing Nike sweatshops. Through some extended leaps of logic, I recognize a link between those exploited by sweatshops and my own condition. With this heightened sensitivity, I conclude that
1) addiction has an economic function
2) the economy includes industries that tend to harm people—through exploitation, alienation, and immiseration, the reproduction of addiction being a subset of the last of these
3) the economy tends to hurt people generally.
My initial moral indignation passes; my sensitivity shifts from a moral compass faulting individuals for their choices to something more like class consciousness. The broke-ass cars in the yard appear starker. The drive-by shootings in our neighborhood gain a new meaning. The empty refrigerators’ sad grumble reverberating in our empty stomachs, my many stepbrothers’ sweet mullet haircuts—these bring me a certain revelation: I am white trash.
Seattle: the anti-globalization summits and corresponding riots. The beautiful rhythm: work, misery, chaos. They kill Carlo and we meet at the intersection of Colfax and Broadway to block traffic, frantically trying to show our tears and rage. The war. My sister is deployed to Iraq. We wear helmets and anachronistically chant “Bring the war home!” We spray slogans and burn effigies. We block the flows of the metropolis. As if to baptize our newfound agency, we are showered in pepper spray. Tear gas spreads across entire continents. We go from basement hardcore shows to warehouse parties. Our friends learn to DJ. Cocaine comes back into style and claims two victims; heroin gets a few more. The boredom and stupidity is suffocating. We attempt to wrest the noose from our necks. Democracy sweeps Bush back into office. We’re trashing a gentrified district of Adams Morgan. My friend records an MP3 of her heartbeat, shouts and heavy breathing accentuated by shattering glass and anxiety.
In the US, we hit a lull. Everywhere else the world burns.
As we get older, we find new ways to survive. A small meeting of coworkers transforms into an ambitious conspiracy. Without making any demands of the boss, we increase our pay and our quality of life. We eat well, we can afford cigarettes, we travel where we want to: Scotland and France, Italy and Germany. Can’t stop the chaos.
In Europe, the black bloc means “no media!” I watch a snitch in a tie go down among the kicks and punches of the hooded ones. A car burns. As the police battle two thousand rock throwers, a couple hundred advance through the marketplace, smashing everything. “Tremble Bourgeoisie!” is scrawled across a temp agency service.
Back home, our own temporary involvement in the economy—our precarious life—is reflected in the windows of the temp agency, the retail shop, and the café. The image of our desire is captured in the commodities to which we have no access. Our needs are displayed in advertisements that sell us happiness and grocery store aisles that mutate our tastes and relations to other living beings. Smashing, burning, and looting make sense to us in this context like nothing else could.
What Chris Hedges fails to understand about black bloc activity is that it arises from a real need. The “cancer” that Chris finds so disturbing—the contagion of an anonymous collective force—is precisely why and how it continues to outlive every social movement from which it emerges. These generations—we who fantasized about Columbine and now only know metal detectors at school; we who expected September 11 and now only know the politics of terror; we who grew up as the world crumbled all around us and now only know the desert—we need to fight, and not just in the ways our rulers deem justified and legitimate.
As workers, we’re excluded from unions, from collective arrangements of any kind. When we manage to find employment at all, it is meaningless labor that corresponds to our own superfluousness in the economy. We were raised by a generation so thoroughly defeated that it feared to pass on its history. We are the inheritors of every unpaid bill, of every failed struggle, the products of the insanely selfish individualism of advanced capitalism in North America.
Our entire environment feels hostile. Hence our hostility.
Chris Hedges cannot understand this because he misses the real historical conflict expressed in contemporary struggles. As David Graeber points out, his exhumation of the decrepit journal Green Anarchy shows how out of touch he is. The black bloc spreads because of a real need to take back force, which has been monopolized by the police. The black bloc spreads because it is a living practice of collective intelligence, redistribution of wealth, and improvisation; it spreads because it interrupts the ways we are confined in our identities as subjects within capitalism. The black bloc is tuned to the uneasy pulse of our time.
A paradigm of life is coming to an end. The black bloc is irrevocably contemporary because our age of unrest is reflected in this gesture. Populations everywhere are becoming ungovernable and doing so by casting off the fundamental assumptions of government, the techniques of policing, and laws of the economy. The paradigm of sovereignty is collapsing.
To see what is changing, we have to understand the nature of sovereignty. The modern state is founded upon an anthropological fiction of human nature and the surgical extraction of violence from living beings. Thomas Hobbes argued that the establishment of the civil state conveyed the human being from the state of nature—a war of each against all—to the loving arms of the sovereign, rendering him a citizen-subject on the condition that he leave “nature” at the door. But this discourse separates each being from collectivity: the subject of sovereignty is always already an isolated individual. And the arrangement keeps war at the center of the state, as the sole dominion of the sovereign. Ironically, what the subject lays down in return for security—the capacity to use force—is precisely what the sovereign must wield in order to ensure it: and this is wielded above all against subjects.
The form of sovereign power shifted as democratic governments replaced autocracies, but the content of state sovereignty remains. The modern state has shifted from techniques governing territory to techniques governing populations.
It is increasingly difficult to distinguish between totalitarian and democratic governments, as policing is identical under both. The police have the power to let live or take life—biopower—and the distinction between democratic and totalitarian becomes even more muddled as management and medicine also gain this power, determining who can access fundamental human needs. The mediation of capital creates a hellish environment in which practically everyone is integrated into a single hostile terrain, subject to its violence and its justice. If the cause du jouris enunciated as “fuck the police,” this is because the police are the living embodiment of Hobbe’s Leviathan, the state that keeps us at arm’s length from our own potential.
“The police” includes all who police; policing is an array of techniques, not all of which demand uniforms. Hedges’ cancer metaphor exposes his penchant for order, translating it explicitly into the language of biopower. Remember how Oakland’s Mayor, Jean Quan, and other authority figures used the discourse of health and risk to justify the repression of occupations around the US? Hedges continues this work of policing with his metaphor of an unhealthy social body in need of surgery. Whenever the basic assumptions of sovereignty and capitalism are called into question by those who defy state violence and the sanctity of property, the police are mobilized to discipline them. This disciplining is carried out by both the armed wing and the necktied wing of the police. It’s not a coincidence that Hedges invokes biopolitical language just as a portion of the population is beginning to discover the power of their bodies.
Less than seven years ago, in New Orleans an entire population was forced into a concentration camp by militarized police forces acting on a juridical state of emergency. The ones who did not obey this order could be gratuitously shot down. The justification given during Katrina was the health and well-being of the population. One can’t help but notice this same paradigm at work, albeit with less racialized brutality, in the violent evictions of the occupations. Safety, Health, Security: Necessity knows no law. These police actions only deviate slightly from the norm in terms of intensity, frequency, and grammar of “protection.” The deaths of Oscar Grant and Sean Bell attest to the murderous day-to-day operations of the police. The other casualties, the forgotten, continue to haunt every city block, where the police function to eliminate useless surplus—either out of economic utility or biopolitical necessity.
There is no document of civilization that is not at the same time a document of barbarism, as Walter Benjamin spells out in Theses on the Philosophy of History. It is terrifying to face the wreckage of history that constitutes the present. One loses count of the tragedies. Despair, recoded as “happiness,” runs through every aspect of social life, increasingly reflected by Hollywood and ironic television sitcoms as if to anesthetize us.
The arguments for orderly, passive demonstrations by Hedges and other liberal pundits miss all this. One doesn’t sweep the floor in a house falling off a cliff. In a world that feels absolutely hostile and alien, every element of social life acquires a sinister glow. In this light, the black bloc appears as a ray of optimism because it creates an opening that leads through to the other side of despair.
The new struggles increasingly take place outside of legitimate and traditional venues. When the factory was the contested site, the workers’ movement was the most vibrant and decisive space of contestation. During the shift from a factory-centered economy to an economy integrating social life, we saw the emergence of social movements contesting social spaces. Now that social life has been fully subsumed within capitalism, the mutant offspring of the proletariat and the counterculture is appearing outside the legitimate parameters of the old movements. This explains the spread of anti-social violence, anomic play, self-destructive revolt, irony. Chris Hedges may wish to turn away his gaze, but society is imploding.
We accept our conditions and get organized accordingly. Compared to the fatal and fatalistic strategy employed by school shooters, terrorists, and isolated individuals marked as insane, the black bloc, rioting, and flashmobs are collective and vital forms of struggle. The Left is obsolete—rightfully so, as it still clings to this collapsing society at war with its population. Society is decomposing and nothing will or should bring back the the good ol’ days—the days of slavery, hyper-exploitation of women, apartheid, homophobic violence, Jim Crow. We wager that organizing our antagonisms collectively and attacking this society where we are positioned, without anything mediating our force, is our best chance for a life worth living.
Remarking on how the black bloc assaults the sanctity of property, Chris says “there’s a word for that: criminal.” Even here he is behind the times. Once, it seemed that crime designated specific transgressions of the law, such as breaking a window. Today, this fiction is evaporating as crime is openly integrated into the economy. The black market, the gray market, the war on drugs, the war on terror. Branding criminal is not simply a maneuver in a public relations war—though it is that too; crime is the excess of law. Security cameras and Loss Prevention are not there to stop shoplifting and workplace theft any more than borders exist to stop illegal immigration. The designation of criminal is simply one more tool for managing populations, another line along which to divide and exploit.
The cynicism of the justice system is surpassed only by capitalism itself. There’s not enough money circulating any more for us to be fully integrated, so entire economies of ultra-flexible, superfluous, and precarious work have arisen. We don’t do anything that appears to matter, but somehow we have to do it all the time. Just to count as people, we have to gain all sorts of stupid commodities—a cellphone, a laptop, a specific knowledge of culture. Because our wages are so low and we work so much, our only options are illicit. Petty drug dealing, sex work, and pirating movies and music have become at once a normal practice for us and a constant opportunity for the police to rein us into the justice industry. The black bloc makes sense to us because it offers an intelligent way to do what we always have to be doing without getting caught.
If Chris Hedges is really concerned about crime, perhaps he shouldn’t praise anything in the movement of occupations. What attracts us to the black bloc is exactly what draws us to the occupation of a public square: all the different people with different experiences coming together to steal back the time stolen from us by work and the spaces stolen from us by ownership and policing, the collective crime of revolt. Hum the national anthem all you want and sing “dissent is patriotic” to the media, but the reality is that anything that breaks with the way things are is categorized in the same sphere of crime as “violence” and treated accordingly. So why not do it together and with intelligence?
Above all, the black bloc is contemporary because it is a site of self-transformation. Even the abused corpse of Gandhi is in accord: if we want to change the world we must change ourselves. To take this further, we might say we have to abolish ourselves.
Capitalism has only managed to stave off revolution by constantly reordering and diffusing social antagonism. At the center of the economy, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between citizens and police, yet at the same time they appear to be at war with each other. At the margins, everything that once made antagonistic groups into “revolutionary subjects” is extracted—think of the fate of the Black Panthers—and the remaining husk works to gain entrance to the center or manage the disorder of the margins. Only an immediate break with the process by which we become subjects can open a window of potential. This self-transformative gesture is where tactics and ethics meet. If liberal commentators can’t handle the implications of this, this just shows the widening abyss between those who would defend citizenship and those who refuse to be governed.
Allow me to elaborate from our side of the barricades.
The black bloc is an anonymous way of being together. Anonymity allows me to shed the mask I have to wear at school, at work, in your parents’ house, in casual conversations at the bar. The black bloc enables us to interrupt the processes that make us into subjects according to race, gender, mental health, physiological health. Here, we can cease worrying about how power will extract the truth from us, and we can reveal truth to each other.
The black bloc assumes an intense ethics of care. Hedges alleges that it is “hypermasculine.” Not everyone who dons the black mask reads feminist and queer theory—Bell Hooks, Judith Butler, Selma James, Silvia Federici, Guy Hocquenghem—but these are extremely influential on our discourse. Had Hedges taken the time to research his subject, he would have found multiple discussions about the gender of anonymity.
Via the black bloc, we open the space to play with power. We radically reverse its operations on our bodies. Casting off the assumption that our bodies need to be protected, that we should give them over to the care of the state, we collectively re-inscribe them as as source of power. We also reverse the notion that freedom ends at the boundaries of individuals. I want you to put me at risk: in this axiom, we find the basis of love, friendship, and death, the three irreducible risks of life.
The black bloc is the site for a new sentimental education: a political reordering of our sentiments. We learn new sensations of love, friendship, and death through the matrix of collective confrontation. In the obscurity of the black mask, I am most present in the world. This unfamiliar way of being compels me to focus and intensify my senses, to be radically present in my body and my environment.
In the black bloc, I have to reconceptualize geographies. The event of the riot gives us a new mobility and space, a laboratory in which to experiment with public space and the relations of property and commodities. Moving through a one-way street backwards, I note how a slight displacement causes the flows of capital to malfunction. The metropolitan environment ceases to appear as a neutral terrain: suddenly I can identify all the ways it functions to channel all activity into a very narrow range of possibilities.
Drifting thus through urban centers, I become attuned to all the apparatuses at work and to how they can be caused to break down. Newspaper boxes and dumpsters can be moved into the street, blocking police from entering the space we are creating. Cars—the individualizing apparatus par excellence—can be put to collective use. All the pretty commodities in the window, usually the breadth of an entire social class away from me, are now a mere hammer’s distance from my proletarian hands. I can move through these spaces in which I am not authorized to be, transforming them. I can dance with mannequins or use them to smash out the windows of a storefront. I can trade the insanity of everyday misery for a collective madness that devastates the avenues of wealth.
For those of us who were excluded from the community of good workers, there is the black bloc. Like the myth of the historical proletarian community, it has no single organization, no membership, no written constitution. Through the black bloc, we find collective power, a sense of camaraderie, a historical tradition of living and fighting. It offers the possibility of immediately changing our conditions and immediately changing ourselves. Those who say it doesn’t act in the workplace misunderstand the forms work takes today and where it takes place. The black bloc has been instrumental in the recent port blockades on the West Coast and in the occupations of universities through Europe, the UK, the US, and Chile; the method is constantly being appropriated and adapted. When coworkers outsmart the cameras to take money from the register to share—when the hungry pocket goodies from an expensive health food store—when Anonymous strikes the credit card companies—wherever we use anonymity offensively, there is black bloc.
As I write this, Greece burns yet again, and more of the flexible, unemployed, and immigrant populations appropriate the tactics of the hooded ones—and vice versa. The black bloc can’t be cut out of the movement of occupations: there is no surgery that can extract the need for redemption from history, and there is no method better tuned to that task than this vital opacity. On the contrary, the so-called cancer will grow, spread, and mutate—and the movement of occupations, like other movements, will increasingly be indistinguishable from the black bloc.
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: capitalism, occupy, occupy everything, OWS, port blockade, the economy, west coast
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: anti-capitalism, bay area, general assemblies, general strike, oakland commune, occupy, occupy everything, oscar grant plaza
In the early hours of Monday morning (11/14) the police conducted the second eviction of the Oakland Commune. Far less spectacular than the first, a few hundred campers and supporters picketed and protested inside police perimeters and under the ruthless lights of helicopters for hours. Numbers dwindled down to dozens by 9 a.m. The following day, as planned, a large rally was held at the downtown Oakland Public Library followed by a march back to Oscar Grant Plaza (OGP). Upon arriving at OGP no tents were raised, the kitchen was not re-established, and there was no library, no free store or medic tent. By the mayor’s orders, the plaza was to be open to the public for 24 hours a day, but no camping would be tolerated and the plaza would be under police supervision for 3 full days thereafter. Next to the mud puddle that used to be our strong, police-free common space, we held our regular Monday night General Assembly under the eye of more than one hundred police, paddy wagons on hand. Despite how uninspired and crushed one could feel at this time, it was hard to forget, after all we’ve been through, that this is still Oakland.
On Tuesday, a contingent of Oaklanders marched from OGP to UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza to join the students’ second attempt at an encampment on the evening of their campus-wide strike (called for the evening of their first attempted encampment of the plaza). As the march approached the University, rich with the history of 2009′s student occupations, they chanted “Here comes Oakland!”. Occupy Cal’s General Assembly was attended by thousands, and they set up camp and partied late into the night. Police presence was minimal compared to the first day of Occupy Cal. This day’s activities overshadowed and largely disregarded the death of Christopher Travis, a UC Berkeley student who was shot and killed by the UCPD that same day (allegedly for having a gun on campus, though details are unclear).
Wednesday’s GA drew out a rough blue print for actions to come. A proposal to establish a new camp at 19th and Telegraph[link], blocks away from OGP, passed among a crowd of at least 250. This was a particularly bold proposal because every detail of the event was disclosed publicly. It was a testament to the collective confidence and loss of fear that informs the people of OO.
At around 10:30pm it was brought to the attention of the new encampment that the sound truck (used during many marches and throughout the day of the General Strike) had been stopped by the police. This was clearly unwarranted harassment, but the pigs used the excuse of a local anti-sideshow law to impound the vehicle. Campers ran with excitement to 17th and MLK to try and stop them. After the drivers had left the truck, a cop got inside to drive it away, but people had it surrounded. It was only minutes after comrades responded that the police responded too – about 30 riot cops, running towards the comrades with their batons drawn. One of them, in an unmarked crown vic, drove into two people, leaving them without injury but in a fit of rage.
Occupy Oakland has received the warmest statements and actions of solidarity and inspiration from comrades in Chapel Hill, Seattle, Egypt, Mexico, St. Louis and many more. It is clear that Oakland has found a place in the hearts of rebels far and wide. But this is not enough. We must challenge ourselves to create our own media and to secure consistent communications among the rebels who carry each other. Meet these ends creatively and not under the illusion that we can subvert the mass media any more than we can subvert the banking industry, the misery of service work, or the police. May these lines of communication open as the veins and vessels in our own bodies did during the inception of Oscar Grant Plaza. Let’s assess our thought processes and the practical application of our most complex theories and simplest desires. If your heart beats to see the world in communization, negated or in total ruins, you know that you will not find your revolution here. Your absent future, on the other hand, may be further realized at this time.
Like the impressive actions of those in black bloc during the Nov 2nd General Strike, or the spontaneous eruptions of spray painting, minor looting and window smashing of that evening, it is important that our demonstrations necessitate creative use of our bodies and minds. Saturday night, 500 or more people participated in tearing down the fence surrounding the lot on 19th and Telegraph. The collective realization that this barrier between Oaklanders and a vacant space could be destroyed spread like wild fire in a matter of seconds. Where we are economically and emotionally alienated from each other, we are also alienated from our own bodies, our desires, our individual and collective potentials. Many in Oakland have resolved to stop asking for their most basic needs to be met. Many more linger in the absence of artillery – friends.
If this movement really is doomed, we must push it to its limits, suspend ourselves in time and space for just now, and redecorate the insulting facade of this world with indications of its destruction. If not for today, than for the security of the network of rebels we must depend on tomorrow. #Occupy is the perfect example.
Keep in touch,
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: municipal courts building, n17, occupy, occupy everything, occupy st. louis, st. louis
Filed under: Milwaukee area, war-machine | Tags: austerity, collective bargaining, madison, milwaukee, occupy, occupy everything, occupy MKE, occupy wallstreet, politicians, public space, take, take things, the rich
Filed under: Milwaukee area, war-machine | Tags: down town milwaukee, general assemblies, milwaukee, occupations, occupy, occupy everything, occupy MKE, the left
This is a brief summary and commentary written by someone who participated in the occupy MKE events thus far. There is still an ongoing occupation in Milwaukee, but it’s laden with problems and at an extreme lowpoint in participation of actual occupation (outside of marches and General Assemblies). We’ll try to post further updates here when more develops.
I was excited when the occupation movement finally came to town. Almost a month after New York, Milwaukee would finally get a piece of the action. Nothing really exciting has really happened since the occupation at UW-Milwaukee, and I was excited to write the wrongs of the past.
When myself and several comrades arrived at the Zeidler Park for the kick-off march, the number of people already there was encouraging. The crowd was estimated between 2500 and 3000 people, much more than any other Milwaukee event in recent memory. What was not encouraging was the ominous proliferation of FRSO and WWP members and their respective newspapers. Even so, the presence of a first aid tent and people with masks kept me hopeful. According to a comrade who was at the planning meeting for the occupation, there would be marshals and the march would be permitted, but the peace police were limited to leading chants and directing the march leaving plenty of space for possible intervention.
Our interventions, though minor, were successful. As our black flags flapped in the wind we undermined the authority of marshals telling everyone to slow down by walking right past them, challenging them to “try and fucking stop us.” We also introduced a fun new chant of our own (Kill the rich, arm the poor; our one demand is civil war) much to the dismay of the pacifist organizers. When the march arrived at the Chase Bank there were several speakers. One of them tried to start chanting “thank you” to the police. He was countered by a “fuck you” chant and quickly gave up expressing his gratitude. While these minor interventions probably didn’t accomplish much, they were often appreciated by the other marchers who appeared to appreciate a break from the recycled liberal rhetoric they had been hearing since Madison.
After returning to Zeidler Park, the occupation acquired a festival atmosphere as it continued through the day. As expected, there was a potluck and pizza. At 7pm the GA started. The fail was soon to follow. The “General Assembly” that evening consisted of a small faction of the organizers talking at what remained of the occupiers (about 80 people). Anarchists intervened once more, calling out the organizers for engaging in negotiations with the police without the consent of the larger group. The discussion then shifted to whether or not people would risk arrest to continue the occupation in Zeidler Park. My comrades and I found ourselves on the same side as local SDS members, arguing that it’s not an occupation until it comes into conflict with the police. Unfortunately when the matter came to a straw poll of the crowd, we allowed the organizers to get away with phrasing the question as “Who wants to get arrested staying here?” Not calling that out was probably our biggest mistake. Naturally, the crowd of nervous occupiers erred strongly in favor of going home and coming back the next morning.
At 10pm there were four of us standing the the center of Zeidler Park squaring off against about 30 MPD officers. We decided that we’d rather spare ourselves the humiliation of being arrested on the local news and left after a couple warnings. It’s difficult to tell what would have happened if we stood our ground, but I have no regrets about not spending the night occupying a Milwaukee County Jail cell for a bunch of cowardly liberal organizers.
While we were being routed, another contingent of occupiers attempted to occupy a second location and, by the time we met up with them, were being told off by the police. The occupation spent the rest of the night roaming around downtown Milwaukee looking for a new encampment. This was the most enjoyable part of the evening as it evolved into a drunken game of cat-and-mouse with MPD in which the risk of arrest was extremely low. We went to a park, the cops showed up and stationed a few horse cops there, and then we moved to the next park. We finally found a privately owned park where we set up camp for the night.
In the morning, those of us who spent the night returned to Zeidler Park to be joined by occupiers who had left earlier. The general assembly which started at 1pm went on for five hours. During that assembly, the GA adopted a system of decision making which took the worst aspects of consensus decision-making and combined them with the worst aspects of Robert’s Rules of Order. This, combined with completely incompetent facilitators, resulted in an overly powerful GA which required a 75% majority vote to do anything and a hyper-bureaucratic system of committees.
With a GA that didn’t uses consensus and only two or three anarchists present at any given time, we were totally silenced at the second GA. None of us have returned to occupy Milwaukee as of this posting. Luckily for us, the occupation is already fizzling out due to disinterest and the comical incompetence of the organizers (for example: they don’t have control over their own website, so they can’t post updates on what’s happening or where they’ve moved.). Also, it’s getting really cold.
I think some of the lessons to be taken away from this are as follows:
1. Know the organizers – We were caught off guard by not immediately knowing who was in charge and found ourselves unable to intervene in time to prevent the manipulation of the first GA. Had we intervened more effectively, we might have been able to maintain control over Zeidler Park.
2. Assume the worst, hope for the best – I, for one, assumed that the GA would immediately adopt a consensus based decision-making model in which I would be able to block shitty proposals (like the formation of endless committees). This assumption proved costly as there weren’t enough of us present in the second GA to block the aforementioned proposals in a system where we needed +25% vote share to block.
3. Facilitation is key – Experienced anarchist facilitation of the first couple of GAs proved decisive in saving the UW-Milwaukee occupation from immediately becoming stupid (although it eventually succumbed to that fate) and inexperienced liberal facilitation ensured that occupy Milwaukee became a clusterfuck of fail.
Filed under: war-machine | Tags: autonomous, banks, bay area, bay of rage, liberated space, occupations, occupy, Occupy oakland, occupy wallstreet, oscar grant plaza
From Bay of Rage:
Social rebels from around Oakland have descended upon Oscar Grant Plaza and have created a genuine, autonomous space free of police and unwelcoming to politicians. Whereas other occupations have invited the police and politicians, or have negotiated with them, Occupy Oakland has carved a line in the cement. That line of demarcation says: if you pass this, if you try and break up or over shadow this autonomous space, you are well aware, as observed over the last couple of years, what we are capable of.
This article is a report back on the first week at Occupy Oakland, a reflection on problems we have been facing and some thoughts on moving the occupation forward; onto some next level shit.
After much organizing, logistical coordination, joy, sweat and tears, we’ve managed to hold down the first week of the occupation of Oscar Grant Plaza (conservatively known as Frank Ogawa Plaza). The police have not stepped foot inside the parameter of the occupation without an impassioned, hostile response. Likewise, the people who do enter the space have not left without an inspired and rebellious spirit – a fever.
On the first night, there was concern about how many people would show up or if any of them would feel empowered enough to stay the night. Despite the rain, at least 1,000 attended the rally and about two dozens tents were erected. After food was served, the first general assembly took place in the amphitheater of City Hall. In the form of a speak-out, an amplified sound system and an open floor made way for those in attendance to passionately talk about why they were there – why they hate capitalism, its pigs and its prisons. Here, people could speak their minds without the obstacles of an agenda or decision-making.
Different from many other occupations in the occupation movement, organizing took place for a week prior to the plaza takeover. On the very first day, the camp had a fully functional kitchen, an info-tent and a supply tent. By the end of this week there was a medic tent, art supply tent, an insurrectionary library, a free store, the Raheim Brown Free School, a media tent, a POC tent, a Sukkah, a DJ booth, and not to mention hundreds of sleeping-space tents. In addition, the rotating kitchen crew has been feeding everyone consistently from 8am until midnight and throwing spontaneous BBQs. Despite a few hiccups, these designated areas and tents have been beautifully maintained and non-exclusive – functioning to attract new-comers, leaving little prospect for anyone to feel like a spectator.
Immediately, different logistical issues that had to be dealt with spawned various working groups, or committees. These committees are in constant rotation. This “beauty in chaos” allows for a loose, flexible structure. Simultaneously, people are freely organizing and interacting with the camp however they desire. A few crucial sub-committees that the occupation hasn’t necessitated until recently, but have since been created (and experimented with) are: security (dealing with outside forces such as police, who from the beginning were not welcome), mediation (dealing with internal conflicts and dynamics), a facilitation working group (which organizes the agenda and shapes the process of the general assembly), a POC caucus that has been meeting every day, and finally, a newly formed anti-authoritarian/anti-capitalist caucus and a queer working group. People are no longer spectating the increasingly rapid destruction of their everyday life, instead they are actively participating in breaching normalized boundaries – how people relate to one another in a way that empowers everyone involved.
The General Assemblies, or “GAs,” are places where the people of the occupation can get updates, have debates, plan for actions, and decide on proposals. The GA Facilitation Working Group came up with a modified consensus process where a 90% majority – instead of 100% – is sufficient to pass a proposal. However illusory or “democratic” this process functions, its strategic implementation strips power away from potentially authoritative individuals who might hijack or otherwise sabotage our ability to make decisions and move forward. Because there is a specific group working on the facilitation process, the GAs operate smoothly and are usually quite exciting. Additionally, a lot of people that speak at the GA are really fucking on point. Thus far the general assemblies (of 200-300 people nightly) have passed decisions to never endorse political parties or politicians, to send a solidarity statement to comrades at Occupy Wall Street and another to those on hunger strike in the Pelican Bay state prison. This is also a space where anti-state and anti-authority sentiments flourish, be they against the police or the city government. As can be expected, some people say some really fucked up racist/sexist shit, but they are usually booed off stage. With what may be a perfect ending to the first week, a letter from the city (delivered en mass 30 minutes before the GA) was read aloud. The city detailed specifically what must be improved or taken care of “for our own safety” (when did the city ever care about our safety anyways?). Boldly (you could feel tension when the idea was initiated), some began chanting, “Burn it”. Without hesitation, someone took a lighter to the letter. Another person added lighter fluid to the burning, single sheet of paper. The flames raged wildly for a full minute. The crowd of at least 300 cheered and hollered with an enthusiasm unprecedented at any prior GA. For some reason, we feel that Occupy Oakland is different…
In addition to the amazing infrastructure and the excellent facilitation that has been set up, the organized events are extremely diverse and most of the time explicitly political. Each of the events throughout the first week nurtures the overall, vengeful tone of the occupation – performances, Hip Hop shows, poetry slams and movie showings. In each case, people find time away from hard work to enjoy each other’s company. In addition to planned events, numerous impromptu ciphers, dance parties and performances break out – accentuating a generalized desire to cultivate autonomous actions. One day a SambaFunk Band marched their way into Oscar Grant Plaza, proceeded to play for almost an hour – hundreds surrounding them, dancing. This beautifully unexpected addition to the occupation, along with others like it, demonstrates a recurring spontaneity. Multiple times throughout the day you hear people exclaim how inspired they are by this occupation and what is possible here. In addition to the more creative and fun events, workshops take place during the day and have been explicitly nonconformist. The workshops range from topics such as contemporary uprisings in Greece, Chile, and Oaxaca to Occupy Everything, which connect the student occupations to what is happening here. This upcoming week, everyday from 1-5pm there are more of the same: specific talks discussing particular political topics such as “Police/State/Prison” and “Oakland schools are being shut down! What are we gonna do?” Notably, the very first demonstration out of Occupy Oakland was an anti-capitalist march where over 200 people marched through downtown Oakland chanting, “1, 2, 3, 4 – organize for social war!” — among other things . This march attracted a diversity of people. Over 200 rebels chanting these radical slogans chill you to the bone. The following night, a queer march left from the occupation and went to Hella Gay, a queer dance party in Oakland. Upon reaching the club, marchers demanded to be let in for free and the venue acquiesced.
Incessantly, Occupy Oakland startles and excites many with its implicit radicalism. On Saturday, October 15th, MoveOn.org (a “grassroots” organizational front for the democratic party) organized a march and demonstration in conjunction with the national occupation movement’s day of action. They attempted to exploit Occupy Oakland when they announced that it would draw to a close in Oscar Grant Plaza with a series of speakers including several mayors from around the Bay. Upon this announcement, a proposal was brought to the GA: a refusal of special treatment and/or endorsement of politicians and political parties/organizations. It passed like a maple leaf in the wind. After negotiations with MoveOn, and based on our own policies, no politicians would be allowed to speak on behalf of their party at that event and thereafter. Surprisingly, MoveOn eventually complied with our demand. When someone broke the agreement (rather, they took advantage of a loophole) and began reading a statement from Congresswomen Barbara Lee, someone from the occupation promptly told those from MoveOn how they broke the agreement and how the democratic party is “counter-revolutionary.” At this point those who were brought to the occupation via MoveOn’s march begun to disperse and explore the camp (perhaps because it was far more interesting than hearing all of the old boring democratic rhetoric that has been said time and time before).
Over the past few years, Oakland has demonstrated its uniqueness in social conflict and protest. This distinctiveness isn’t anything new; rather, it has just reemerged. To elaborate, a comrade wrote in The Occupation Movement: On Greed, Unity & Violence:
“Oakland is currently under occupation by the police. The form of this occupation varies; the situation is much different in Temescal than in deep East Oakland. We live in a militarized space. Whether it’s police executions of Black youth, police harassment of sex workers along International Boulevard, or the city council’s racist legislation in the form of anti-loitering laws, gang injunctions or the suggested youth curfew, this paramilitary occupation is a project of local government to pacify and contain the city so capitalism can go about it’s business uninterrupted.
But Oakland doesn’t just have a violent, repressive contemporary situation; we have a vibrant history of struggle and resistance. From the 1946 General Strike to the formation of the Black Panther party in 1966 to the anti-police rebellion following the execution of Oscar Grant in 2009, Oakland has long been a city full of people that refuse to sit down and shut up. Despite every attempt by the state to kill that spirit, it lives on and will be out in full force over the coming days.”
Occupy Oakland reflects Oakland’s radical history. Because of this, an overwhelming anti-police sentiment guides the conversation about and the reaction to police. The GA has refused to comply with the city’s demand that we apply for permits (which we were told would automatically be accepted without charge). This lawlessness has played out when police have attempted to enter the occupation. On several occasions, many surround the approaching police and in unison began chanting “Pigs go home!” and “Cops get out!” When the police officers realize their lack of power, they have no other option but to leave. This tactic of resisting the presence of the police started spontaneously, but has since been the usual response. We hope that other occupations will look to this practice and realize its significance.
Despite the brilliant infrastructure, there have been problems. Some extremely important committees have been slow to respond to the growing need of the camp. Some of this is due to the transient nature of the groups, where people come in and voice their disagreements and then take off, leaving the work to the people in the committees who are already stressing about getting things done. Although there is “beauty in the chaos,” it has become evident that to some degree, disciplined organization is imperative. Ideally, a harmony of chaos and composition will surface.
One of the biggest problems emerging in the camp is specific dynamics of racism, sexism and other oppressive habits. In the first several days, excitement and festivity ruled the commune. This slowly transitioned into over-frequent dance parties that spilled late into the nights. Excessive drinking, unwanted sexual advances, harassment, and fights persist daily. This behavior, it should be mentioned, also exists without the presence of alcohol, but takes on a different form with alcohol. [NOTE: we are beginning to see reports of delinquency, drug use and violence in the media that may begin to duplicate in other media outlets. This could be the beginning of a campaign against the occupation. We would like to mention that these problems exist everywhere, as this occupation is to some extent a microcosm of Oakland, and until there is incentive to unlearn these behaviors, “peace” cannot be actualized. Again, this is not to say that they are not serious or that they are tolerated.] All of this has led to concern about the camp developing a Burning Man or Woodstock environment, devoid of almost all political content (other than the politics of culture, sub-culture and counter-culture which have a very limited potential and ultimately alienate people from one another). What is desired is a complete transformation (or destruction) of society, not just a cultural one. These dynamics are not unique to the occupation, but rather happen every day in Oakland and everywhere – they are symptomatic of a society that has broken all of us. In reaction, a mediation team has been set up to deescalate situations and allow for dialogue between those in conflict, resulting in much benefit. Despite all of this, Occupy Oakland is magnificently self-regulating – when a fool’s gotta go, a fool’s gotta go. This occupation is constantly growing and expanding – becoming more and more dissident by the day, pushing us all to our limits. Let’s see what else this occupation movement has to offer…
Beneath the internal conflicts lies an aching desire to externalize such wrath. Hundreds upon hundreds of people simply talk and mingle, discussing politics and life. You can almost taste a collective hostility towards each individual’s own socialization. People are learning how to be human beings without the mediation of capitalism and its apparatuses. Whereas alienation and isolation rule our every interaction, it has been replaced by the crisis of remembering the last 10 names of those you’ve met in the past hour. The war on alienation and isolation is fought through complex and voluntary social experiments, ultimately revealing the gaps of power relations that are facilitated, in part, by capitalism
Another pressing issue is that of expansion. The plaza now hosts somewhere around 150 tents on the grassy areas alone. Sunday night, 30 minutes before the GA, a letter from the city was delivered en mass to people in the occupation. It detailed the city’s intolerance to many things, among them, camping in the concrete area of the plaza. Logistically, moving to the concrete would be the most immediate remedy to the growing population density of the occupation. Are we to push that boundary? Already, a small encampment has manifested in Snow Park, which is a few blocks from Oscar Grant Plaza. Almost all of the grass is taken up at this point and if we are to push the boundaries with the city, we must be prepared to defend the spaces we select to house us next. Expansion onto the concrete would only be a temporary solution. If we are to expand to another location, we must nurture the crisis of the occupation – population density – and encourage many more from the street find a home in the occupation movement and seduce others out of their homes to do the same. [NOTE: Those occupying Snow Park stand their ground against police who tell them they are not allowed to be there due to a school being nearby. Since then, to some extent, the school and its students have announced support of the occupations in OG Plaza and Snow Park. However, Snow Park is in need of a greater occupying force. As of tonight, we are unsure whether that extension of the occupation can be held through the following day.].
The recent letter from the City gives light to their attempt to stifle our capacity. With good reason, they are afraid. It is likely the occupation will attempt a diversity of expansion strategies through the coming week. Undercover police are naive to think we haven’t noticed their technique of dividing the occupation on already present tensions – some COINTELPRO type shit. The camp is vulnerable – bearing wide-open entrances in almost every direction. Do we look to barricades? Do we take the barricades into the street? These are questions that will be answered in either a collective, intuitive and organic response to police eviction or in much planning and preparation. One thing is certain: the people of Occupy Oakland are well prepared to defend their new home.
Occupy Oakland (as you may have gathered at this point) is unlike any other. We begin to appreciate this when we realize our potential and current condition – that we are a force to be reckoned with, a danger to the capitalist functioning of Oakland. Police attack is no more imminent than the all too likely opportunities of widespread insurgency. Strategizing in accordance to our immediate geography’s potential as well as its weaknesses is key. Unions, schools, libraries and more, they are already our allies, as we are theirs. An overpowering confidence saturates the air of Oscar Grant Plaza – a threat and a promise.
Occupy Everything! Demand Nothing!
-Autonomous individuals among the liberated space known as Oscar Grant Plaza.