I'll begin by stating clearly: this column should not be construed as anti-Occupy or even anti-anarchist. I'm not sure if I'm in favour of diversity of tactics, but I'm definitely in favour of diversity of thought. Please consider these serious if somewhat barbed questions from an enthusiastic Occupy supporter who considers himself a tentative but cautious ally of those of a more Bakuninan persuasion.
1. We are repeatedly told that black bloc is not a group, that it's a tactic. I accepted the company line about this for several months, but now I'm wondering...who, precisely, decided to make this rather fine distinction?
The word 'bloc' is defined by the Free Dictionary as:
1. A group of nations, parties, or persons united for common action
2. An often bipartisan coalition of legislators acting together for a common purpose or interest
Did a convention of anarchists pass a resolution changing the definition of the word 'bloc', or is this merely obfuscation or misdirection on the part of those who like to fuck shit up? The implication is that 'anyone' can participate in black bloc tactics, but that there's no group of hardcore black bloc practitioners...which is obviously not the case. It seems to me that this really gets to the heart of the 'diversity of tactics' versus 'non-violence' argument: those who subscribe to 'diversity of tactics' want to reap the benefit of being able to blend back into an otherwise non-violent gathering after chucking a bottle or setting off a firecracker. You know, having their peaceful protest cake and throwing it at OPD, too.
Of course, I'm still not entirely convinced that 'black bloc' wasn't cooked up by the CIA or FBI as an excuse to crack down on dissent. I'm paranoid that way.
2. As a hardcore pacifist who will not respond with violence or defend myself if attacked, I don't understand the following January 20 tweet from someone named 'Comrade Kalamity':
"Pacifists are the enemy of revolution. Too cowardly to step out of the cage, afraid to move or breathe."
May I be indelicate for a moment and call bullshit? Which is more cowardly: to get pepper-sprayed by UC Davis police (to cite one obvious recent example) and take it; or to throw a bottle at the police but almost hit your fellow protesters (as happened at FTP two weeks ago) and then hide in the safety of the crowd? Would it not be more logical and courageous to throw your bottles and stay 'out of the cage'?
I guess it also depends on your definition of 'revolution'. If it means fucking shit up, yes, I'm a coward. If it means changing the system, I'll take my lumps.
3. Finally: I know there are different flavours of anarchism, but I find much of the language of the anarchist/black bloc movement hyper-masculine and very rigid. For example, the Anonymous-inspired aphorism 'we do not forgive, we do not forget' is heard repeatedly at Oakland's FTP marches, but what does it really mean in the context of Occupy Oakland and FTP? In regards to what is forgiveness off the table?
Yes, yes, I know...some things can't be forgiven or forgotten. The slave trade, the annihilation of Native Americans, the (to quote Raul Hilberg) Destruction of the European Jews, the dropping of the atomic bomb. I agree. We should not forget, and we should not forgive, those crimes against humanity. But never forgiving is a slippery slope that can lead to untold pain and suffering, both for individuals and for societies.
I am lucky. I have not been beaten by the police. I have not been arrested on trumped up charges. I have not been subjected to the daily harassment dealt out to many of you. But does police brutality rise to the same level as a crime against humanity; does it rise to the same level as the war crimes our governments commit every day? Though a memorable and powerful phrase, 'we do not forgive, we do not forget' leaves me deeply uncomfortable. Perhaps all I need is a good tear-gassing to make me change my mind...but I hope not.
4. Finally: ditch the balaclavas and ski masks, guys. You know who else wears those nasty things? The fascist thugs of the English Defence League, that's who. If you're genuinely as fearless as you claim to be you should be willing to show your face. After all, once the revolution is won, you'll want everyone to know that you were amongst the vanguards on the front line.
Comments and dialogue are welcome...
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