Diversity of Tactics means Violence

The most vexing and important question for the next generation of Occupy is what do we think about violence as a part of protest.

There is a philosophical framing of this argument as the acceptance or rejection of the strategy of a diversity of tactics.    The unofficial spokes persons for the black block are the CrimethInc Kids who have a tight case for the activist right to violence

What is violence? Who gets to define it? Does it have a place in the pursuit of liberation? These age-old questions have returned to the fore during the Occupy movement. But this discussion never takes place on a level playing field; while some delegitimize violence, the language of legitimacy itself paves the way for the authorities to employ it.

can we explode our way into peacefulness?

The case against violence in the context of Occupy’s daughter movements is one of parasitism and culture.  The black block attends events in which the principal organizers have declared that the philosophy of the event is a non-violent one.  The event maybe family friendly, it might even be a permitted protest (something i would not recommend, but happens).  So hundreds or perhaps even thousands of people show up expecting to have a certain type of experience.  They come planning to express their political descent with a certain  personal risk.

The black block is often seeking confrontation with the police.  They are generally a small fraction of these larger events.  By fighting with the police, they are basically using the other protesters who signed on to a different set of agreements as there shields and foils.  Children might get tear gassed, grannies might get beat up by the cops, pacifists might end up in jail unexpectedly.

Can we disagree and still be friends?

Can we disagree and still be friends?

Of course if the black block wants to organize an action where the agenda of fighting with the police is explicate and is known to the participants, i have no problem with this.  i might not choose to attend, or might choose to support it in some indirect way (i’ve done plenty of fighting with the police, i am currently retired from this sport), but i would not feel like a larger group of non-violent protesters was being used.

The real problem with the black block at Occupy and other non-violent identified events is that they damage  the movement.  It is often a stretch for people to come out and protest, they are taking personal risks to do this type of activity.   Generally movements succeed by being persistent, by growing and by being clever in their tactics.  If a minority of protesters, violating the spirit of the events agreements causes other protesters not to return to future events, they are setting the cause backwards.

clowns and cops

who is fooling who?

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About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

11 responses to “Diversity of Tactics means Violence”

  1. santalorena says :

    On May Day in Asheville, about three years ago, some out-of-town kids organized a “worker’s march,” and locals signed on. The march started with a party in a downtown parking garage, at which beer was served (stupid mistake #1). The organizers also passed out anarchist gift bags, with things like black bandanas in them (stupid mistake #2). Most thought, “oh, how cute.”

    Once the march started, it moved peacefully through the downtown retail district (comprised of 90% locally owned businesses). But at the procession continued onward, people at the front started to play smashy-smashy, busting windows, overturning newspaper dispensers, shattering an ATM display… The overwhelming majority of property damage was to buildings in which local, independently owned businesses operated–stupid mistake #4).

    As those following started to realize what was going on ahead of them, it was too late; a police presence emerged. By that point, the folks who caused the damage had changed clothes (they were wearing casual clothing under their black anarchist wear) and disappeared.

    The cops, of course, had to arrest someone, even though there was no evidence any of the people they detained had known anything about what was going on. The “Asheville 11,” the only ones for whom charges stuck, had to endure a travesty of a court process that went on for years, even after the APD evidence tampering scandal that erupted soon thereafter, in which there was no doubt people on the police force were guilty of.

    This is a small-scale example of why it’s fucked up to use peaceful protesters as human shields against the cops–particularly if you’re too much of a coward to stick around when it heats up.

    I wish I could say that the incident was an act by agent provocateurs, but sadly, I believe it was all perpetrated by a handful immature, self-aggrandizing “radical punks” (no disrespect to anarchist organizers who may also describe themselves as radical punks).

    I can’t say that I’m 100% against the use of the people’s violence to fight the establishment’s violence (and am especially fond of property destruction, especially in the class war), but all participants must be fully aware of the plan before committing to it.

    • paxus says :

      Great response Vermin – good sad story.

      • Chris Hables Gray says :

        Sad to hear self-proclaimed anars are doing this shit. My first bust (1972) was similar…the local Maoists (Revolutionary Union…later became RCP) led many of us newbies into a police trap on the edge of Stanford campus on purpose hoping would be beat up and radicalized. Ironically, I was already radicalized, but it also confirmed my anarchist and feminist tendencies. Now, over 40 years later, Marxism is in the dustbin of history, but elitist assholes now use anarchism as a label to hide their authoritarianism and elitism. Two steps forward….one step back. love and rage, crystal

      • santalorena says :

        Crystal, I’d be interested to hear more about your thoughts on modern-day anarchists being authoritarian. Elite, I can see. Most anarchists I know are middle-class white kids. But I’ve never personally know an anarchist who wasn’t vehemently anti-authoritarian.

  2. richard w. lisko says :

    camus wrote a wonderful book called Art and Revolution that still is my go to on this subject. in short, his argument states that terror and violence always reinforces the power of state. the terror which overthrows the state becomes the new violent king of the hill. “Black bloc” might as well be on the po po payroll from this point of view.

    i once heard the spokesperson for elf speak and advocate “do something” from the stage. with him was ramona africa, a fellow philadelphian whose story i was very familiar with. elf seemed ok with violence against property as i rember it.

    in portlandia i worked briefly with tre arrow. he spent a spell on the run after being turned on by some conspirator and then did time. when i worked by his side we were dishwashing (of course, eh?) and he had this big tracking device around his ankle and he had to be at home or at work at specific times. this brings me to my last idea on this whole topic which i learned reading the complete sherlock holmes by sir arthur conan doyle: safest is the plotter who plots alone. though the una bomber comes to mind immediately suggesting no method is fool proof.

    me, i’ll stick with camus on the side of art being the best tool to fight the mean and nasty robots.

    can festivals save the world? yeah, especially when they exit the desert and wilderness and join the marchers in the street. send in the clowns! i like that photo you posted above.

  3. Chris Hables Gray says :

    Pax’s comments are a good start for a conversation but rather sweeping. For example, what about property destruction? The first action I did with clear (planned) diversity of tactics were the CDAS sieges of the Seabrook nuke (a bit over 30 years ago), which was organized by many of us who believe that destroying property that is violence is not violence (think of the ploughshares actions against nuclear weapons). But, some people wanted to protest without attempting property destruction so they were given a gate to block. As it turned out, we did not have the numbers to tear down the nuke, so the whole action became a very very strong attempt to occupy with no real property destruction taking place. We also took over a courtroom and did other great stuff. One of the best protests I ever took part in.
    Of course, nonviolent protest DOES NOT mean there is no violence. Just that “our” side doesn’t do it. If the NV protest is strong, the police or army will respond with violence, which reveals the nature of the system, and also upsets the instruments (police, soldiers) who express it. But real sacrifice will have to take place….In India hundreds died in nonviolent protests, which were successful because in Britain and the world the call for freedom was heard. In Syria recently, thousands (YES, thousands) died in nonviolent protests but the world did nothing and so finally the revolution turned to violence there. I can’t blame them.
    Also, it is worth noting that nonviolence IS NOT pacifism. Often, pacifist principles come forward in talking about nonviolence, but it is important not to confuse the two, especially if someone is trying to sexually assault you in jail! It is also worth unpacking certain ideas, such as saying mean things to the police is always violent. Really? I think it is stupid as shit but not necessarily violent, not compared to what they do to us (lots of bad language of course, but lies under oath, taking our money, and beating, killing, locking in cages as well). I am a revolutionary and want to win over enough police and soldiers so that they no longer are effective violent instruments of the state. I have no interest in creating an effective violent counter to the State’s monopoly on violence, as it turns out that revolutionary experts in violence have a way of taking over revolutions (Washington, Napoleon, Stalin, Mao, the Korean Kims, Ataturk, Mugabe, Pol Pot…). Very few of them resist becoming dictators (Washington and Ataturk and notable partial exceptions).
    The Zapatistas have a little army and Egyptian revolutionaries defend themselves with rocks and pipes when attacked sometimes, but both of these ongoing revolutionary struggles think of themselves as nonviolent because they use limited (and almost always nonfatal) fighting tactically, not strategically. In other words, they have no illusions that they can take power through violence. Unlike the majority of pro-violence advocates (so often published by fine anarchist presses, sadly) who not only don’t know anything about real war, but operate by an impoverished epistemology that separates ends and means, whose real goal seems to be to perpetuate patriarchal elitism. To the anar theorists who claim to be serious about violent revolution…join the Marines. Learn how violence is really done. Then come tell us how great it is. Why do you think the VVAW (before the RCP assholes took it over) was so nonviolent? These guys knew how to use violence, and knew it is a profoundly immoral and clumsy tool for social change.
    A number of us on the West Coast are putting together a collective to create a graphic book on revolution, nonviolence and violence. If you are an artist, collagist, writer, or just interested, write chris.hablesgray@stanfordalumni.org

    peace in, crystal

    • santalorena says :

      They aren’t true anarchists; we are! 😉 Thank you for your very well conveyed explanation. I totally get you. I’ve always adopted a more Kropotkinesque and Proudhonesque view of anarchism (I prefer that term over anarchy, but people will argue for days for one over the other): mutual aid and building dual power structures. That’s where I’ve spent most of my energy focusing on.

      BTW, a dear friend coined the word “anarchyism” to help bridge to two opposing sides. 😉

  4. Chris Hables Gray says :

    On anarchists as authoritarians. It is one thing to profess anti-authoritarianism, another thing to struggle against it, in yourself as well as others. Hijacking protests organized by others so as to throw rocks and run away is authoritarian in my view. The widespread sexual violence in some anarchists communities (such as the anarcho-primitivists in Eugene) is partriarchal (so clearly authoritarian). The common “you aren’t an anarchist and I am” discourse in some anarchist communities is a power trip as well.
    Once, traveling in Spain with two anarchist women (Kaky and Avi) we were trying to explain to a group of anars in Valencia why we were anarchist-feminists. Several men said that our principles were clearly anarchist. Then Mercedes, one of the few women there, said, “I see. Anarchism is the theory; feminism is the practice.”
    Humans are social animals. We form groups and hierarchies. We are biologically adapted to have leaders and followers . Look at the social science research on what happens when scientists arbitrarily make someone a leader in a group. the “leader” has their testosterone and estrogen go up (whether male or female, both sexes have these hormones) and everyone else has their sexual hormone levels decline (the same thing happens with winning and losing teams in sports). The “leaders” get ruder (eat more cookies) and stupider (won’t listen to advice, overvalue their own perceptions).
    So, the goal of anarchist feminists is not to give in to biology, but to transcend it. To develop flexible and expanding conceptions of leadership, to reconfigure power, to learn how to work together horizontally. Social science research also shows that hierarchical organizations do not perform as well as distributed networks. To be free, we have to kill the boss in our heads first.

    • santalorena says :

      They aren’t true anarchists; we are! 😉 Thank you for your very well conveyed explanation. I totally get you. I’ve always adopted a more Kropotkinesque and Proudhonesque view of anarchism (I prefer that term over anarchy, but people will argue for days for one over the other): mutual aid and building dual power structures. That’s where I’ve spent most of my energy focusing on.

      BTW, a dear friend coined the word “anarchyism” to help bridge to two opposing sides. 😀

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