The Communist Horizon: Joe Ramsey interviews Jodi Dean

Dean discusses with Ramsey the need for a communist party, the lessons of the Occupy movement, and the question of how to conceive of communist subjectivity for our times -- the whole version will soon be published in the July 2013 issue of Socialism and Democracy

www.sdonline.org 

 

Division and Desire:

Jodi Dean discusses The Communist Horizon

with Joseph G. Ramsey

Joseph G. Ramsey: How would you trace your own relationship to communism as a cause and a concept? You attribute the notion of the communist “horizon” to Bruno Bosteels (who takes up the term from the Bolivian Marxist theorist and rebel turned politician Álvaro Gercía Linera). For how long have you viewed communism as your political horizon? How has this horizon shaped your theoretical and practical work? Has communism always defined the end point, the horizon for you?

Jodi Dean: I don’t think of the horizon—or communism—in terms of an end point. The horizon is the division that marks where we are. The division that marks where we are with respect to politics is that between communism and capitalism. This has been true at least since 1917 and arguably since 1848. It’s important to think of communism not as an end but rather as the only condition under which a politics adequate to the needs, demands, and common will of the people is possible. Under any other conditions, interests other than those of the people rule (coerce).

I find myself feeling anxious about the term ‘your political horizon’ because it makes it sound as if the communist horizon (that is, the fundamental opposition between communism and capitalism) was subjective or personal rather than objective. The communist horizon isn’t something specific to anyone. It’s a fact of the world, the event of 1917.

I didn’t think about communism via the metaphor of a horizon until I heard Bruno use García Linera’s term at a conference in Rotterdam in 2010. The conference, called “Waiting for the Political Moment,” was completely interesting in part because it gave me the sense not only that communism was back on the table (which was already clear after the Birkbeck conference[1]) but that the tables had turned, so to speak. The arguments that had been so popular, the ones that had seemed to be winning in academic contexts, the ones associated with Foucault, Deleuze, deconstruction, a particular kind of post-structuralist theory, weren’t so persuasive anymore. The ones that were persuading people, that were the most compelling, were the ones coming from communist orientations.

            …

Ramsey: How would you characterize your relationship to Occupy Wall Street, from a practical and a theoretical perspective? The closing chapters of your new book both unite with aspects of this recent social upsurge and offer sharp criticisms of some of the ideological common sense that was very influential in Occupy. I think here of your take on concepts of horizontalism, direct democracy, autonomy, etc. To put it sharply: What are the problems with these concepts as political organizers for our fledgling radical movement?

Dean: Most succinctly put: the problem with these concepts is that they deny or obscure antagonism. They are insufficiently divisive in several senses. They do not break sufficiently with the dominant ideology that urges people to participate and that celebrates individual freedom. Autonomy in Occupy doesn’t seem to be pointing to autonomy from organized parties (as the term has done historically in Italy, for example). Rather, it blends together with libertarian emphases on the consent of each individual person. Horizontalism (which may well have been a powerful ideal in Argentina, and I take it that at least part of the emphasis on horizontality in Occupy comes from Marina Sitrin’s important work on horizontalidad in that country) resonated in the US primarily because it is part of the current neoliberal environment. For example, corporations (particularly Google; the New York Times runs laudatory pieces on horizontal decision making in ‘hip’ companies about every six months) celebrate their flat structures, their inclusive decision-making, that make them flexible and responsive. Or, think of Thomas “The World Is Flat” Friedman. The uncritical uptake of horizontality in Occupy needs to be read in terms of its setting in a critique of bureaucracy, regulation, and expertise that has been deployed by the libertarian right against the welfare state, against any government control of the economy, and against the academy. It should also be read in terms of communicative capitalism’s emphases on connectivity and communication such that all opinions and ideas are communicatively equivalent.

There is another sense in which the concepts of direct democracy etc are insufficiently divisive—they proceed as if all political ideas are equal. We saw this in some of the anti-party rhetoric last fall. On the one hand, this rhetoric voiced a concern with breaking out of the chokehold of the mainstream political parties—and of course I agree with that. On the other, the refusal to draw lines makes it seem like libertarians, anti-Fed Ron Paulites,[2] and anti-tax people are on the same side as people who want more control over the banking sector and people who are anti-corporate. Communists and socialists can work with the latter, but not with the former whose politics is basically one of expanding opportunities for the market.

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Ramsey: Throughout The Communist Horizon you frame an opposition between desire, which you tend to align with communism, and drive which you generally identify as a form of enjoyment that ensnares subjects in the existing networks of communicative capitalism? What does it mean to formulate communism from the standpoint of desire? Is drive always politically bad/suspect? Or can we speak of a drive that would be oriented towards communism?

Dean: Drive isn’t oriented toward something; it’s shaped from loss and just attaches to any old thing, easily moving from one object of intense attachment to another (I’m tempted to say that with respect to politics drive manifests itself as a kind of political Asperger’s syndrome; you know, how everyone is at one moment obsessed with binary oppositions, then fracking, then “isms,” then debt). It’s a repetitive circuit that results from failure, where people get off (get a little nugget of enjoyment) from failing. So drive also structures melancholia, as we see in Freud’s discussion in Mourning and Melancholia where he uses the language of drive that he develops in the The Instincts and Their Vicissitudes. This language is reflexive, inward-turning as well as self-loathing. I argue that communicative capitalism (and consequently contemporary democracy as well as contemporary media networks) exhibit the reflexive structure of drive. Examples: getting stuck in the intertubes, clicking around, looking but not finding, repeating the same gestures, having the same pointless arguments, getting invested in them even when (or especially when) they don’t matter.

Now, it’s possible for drive’s repetitions to have destructive effects as with vicious circles in feedback systems or when bubbles burst in markets. Žižek describes this version of drive as a kind of prior clearing that creates the space for something new. I don’t disagree with this, but I don’t think it provides a politics (or, the politics it suggests is one of waiting for the rupture—which Žižek sometimes suggests when he appeals to Bartleby[3] or when he emphasizes the importance of thinking rather than getting caught up in activity; I prefer to think of not getting caught up in activity in terms of working to break the hold of drive’s repetitions). Desire doesn’t turn inward; it looks outward, toward the horizon. A communism thought in terms of desire, then, is one that recognizes the necessity of breaking out of the trap of reflexivity, of installing a gap.

At this point, I am focused on thinking of communism in terms of a collective desire for collectivity. Because I understand communicative capitalism as structured in terms of drive, I don’t see the benefit in theorizing communism this way—communism is a break with this, a rupture of the circuit that lets us look outwards.

 

Ramsey: It’s difficult to miss the Lacanian influence here. I’ve seen some within self-identified socialist or communist circles writing about your book in somewhat dismissive ways, focusing on the ‘Lacanese’ you employ as if it is does more to obfuscate than to illuminate. What do you see as the value of Lacan here for radical theory and for the communist movement in particular?

Dean: The unconscious matters—we’ve been talking about desire and drive, both unconscious processes. Language matters. Understanding the subject matters. Psychoanalysis offers a theoretical apparatus that helps us think about these components of our thought and experience. It provides us with ways of addressing our attachments to dysfunction and self-hate, to perceived needs for guarantees and certainty, as well as to our ambivalence toward masters.

But, to use an odd cliché I may have never used before, ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating.’ If people don’t find Lacan/lacanese illuminating, it will be obfuscating. It’s that way with any specialized discourse or vocabulary.

Maybe an example will help. In The Communist Horizon I use Lacan to suggest an idea of the party as situated at the overlap of two lacks, such as the people’s lack of knowledge of what they desire as well as the party’s own lack of knowledge, the fact that it can’t guarantee a particular future. Given these lacks, the role of the party is to keep the site at which they overlap open as the gap necessary for the collective desire for collectivity. The question is then whether this formulation helps us think of new or better ways to organize.

 

Ramsey: Would it be fair to say then, building upon these “two lacks,” that the party you envision must be one that is able both to learn and to teach, and moreover to incite and sustain the collective desire to both learn and teach?

Dean: Yes, particularly the latter insofar as sustaining desire requires cultivating a kind of relation or orientation to what is lacking. I sometimes wonder whether prior visions or versions of the communist party have overplayed its teaching role and then in a backlash against this overplaying ended up fetishizing some kind of authentic workers’ or people’s knowledge that the party has to learn. What if instead we recognize that the party is a collective and that collectives bring together people with different skills, experience, and knowledge? A communist party orients its collective toward the truth of communism. The primary task of the party is the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism and establishment of communism. This is more than a pedagogy, to say the least.

Ramsey: In the book you cite Marx’s famous communist motto (a phrase that precedes Marx as well) “from each according to ability, to each according to need,” writing that “this principle contains the urgency of the struggle for its own realization” (15). I often speak of the communist kernel of hope as inherent in the fact that among the needs of human beings is the need to satisfy others’ needs (and perhaps to be or to feel needed by those others as well). How does your reframing of communism from the standpoint of desire relate to the (more traditional?) framing of communism as oriented towards the satisfaction of need, and the development of human abilities? How do need and desire relate within your thinking here?

Dean: Here’s the rub: we all know that people have needs. Even the worst capitalists know this. The political question concerns our relation to these needs. This is a matter of desire and will. Are needs to be addressed singularly or collectively? Desire, then, involves the politicization of needs.

Ramsey: Often it seems to me that communists put forth our goals as a matter of what we will eliminate or abolish (“the 4 Alls” etc. “the gaps” or divisions that are inherent in class society, etc). Not so much in terms of what we want to cultivate or unleash. Often when we speak of what we strive to unleash or cultivate (“global human flourishing” etc.) it is depicted as something that will come after the elimination or overturning of various oppressive institutions, ideologies, state structures, class relations, etc. I’m not suggesting that it is wrong to say we want to eliminate A, B, and C, or that we want to abolish or overthrow X, Y, and Z. But it sometimes seems to me as if desire and the pursuit of what we “really want” is positioned somehow “on the other side” of this abolishing, overturning, eliminating, etc. – now being the time for “self-sacrificing struggle” and the repression of desire for the sake of the greater good, of the collectivity, of the revolution down the road. Desire here may become something we’ll only get back to on the “other side” of some kind of revolutionary break. Nothing against revolutionary breaks, and the openings they provide, of course. But your focus on communism as a matter of desire–”the collective desire for collective desiring”–seems to me notable and refreshing as a way to bring that future flourishing we communists often imagine into the present, but in a way that still propels us forward towards cultivating human liberation. It gives a positive lean to communist subjectivity, even if that subjectivity continues to be defined (as desire) by lack.

Dean: I love the way you are putting this and will now have to use this! It’s nicely succinct and clear.

Ramsey: It seems to me that often on the radical left, we speak of pursuing the “satisfaction of human needs.” Everyone getting enough food to eat, clean, water, shelter, etc. All crucial stuff, obviously. But this emphasis on the emancipated society as a state of satiety and “satisfaction” may give short shrift to the way that – on another level– communism and liberation is not only, or even primarily, about satisfying people’s immediate material needs (though this too), so much as it is about cultivating a hunger, or, as you would put it, a desire. A political desire.

Dean: Sorry to keep interrupting but I like your expression ‘state of satiety and satisfaction’ and your evocation of a hunger — it reminds me of Benjamin’s critique of left melancholic hacks preoccupied with their digestion.

Ramsey: Something I’m just starting to think about is what the difference is between conceiving of communist politics as a matter of satisfying human needs – and cultivating new needs – vs. a matter of desire. What do you see as the stakes of foregrounding communism as a matter of desire?

Dean: The opening up of a gap so as to free us to envision new possibilities. You know how people tend to criticize the left for not having a vision, not having a goal, not having ideas? Well, this only makes sense for a left that has abandoned communism. Once we claim communism, then we insert ourselves into a logic of desire such that we have to think strategically as well as tactically, we have to start thinking in terms of what communism for us will look like and how we can get there.

Ramsey: In reading (and re-reading) The Communist Horizon I was struck by your rather complex, even vexed, relationship to the concept of the proletariat. On the one hand you give a forceful (and quite Leninist) account of the “dictatorship of the proletariat” as the organization of the exploited and oppressed to forcibly suppress the oppressor. Similarly you reflect that the current Left reluctance to identify with a Marxist term such as the proletariat may reflect chiefly the negative influence of decades of anti-communist (and anti-Soviet) propaganda. You in fact point out how Marx and Engels, as well as such contemporary Marxist thinkers as Étienne Balibar, contrary to pervasive anti-Marxist stereotypes, all have understood the proletariat precisely not as a straightforward empirical/sociological category limited to, say, factory workers, but rather as an open category encompassing all those who are structurally positioned opposite to and yet constitutive of capital and its ceaseless processes of accumulation.

And yet, after all of this rather firm defense of the concept, you reject the proletariat as a name for the subject of communism, at least in a contemporary US-European context. What struck me was the way, in the exact places where you reject the proletariat as a term (in favor of a notion of “the people as the rest of us” as shaped by and opposed to the process of proletarianization), you refer not just to the proletariat but to “the industrial” proletariat (77) and to “factory labor” (78). My question is: why the insertion of these qualifiers here? Is it possible to deploy a concept of the proletariat that is not centered on the site of the industrial factory? Why reject the proletariat as such, rather than just its narrow misconstrued empirical “industrial” image? Is your decision to reject the proletariat justified by the post/de-industrialization and/or financialization/precariatization of the US economy? Or more so by a pragmatic adaptation to contemporary ideology and popular misunderstanding? Is your sense that the proletariat as a concept—though used by Marx and Marxists in a more dialectical and dynamic sense that is intellectually still valid—is so mis-identified today with a narrow notion of clock-punching factory workers as to be politically unhelpful? Why not continue to fight for a dialectical notion of the proletariat (alongside the notion of proletarianization, which you more clearly uphold)? Why uphold the latter but not the former?

 

Dean: This is the part of my argument about which I am most ambivalent. As you suggest, financialization does not mean that there is no proletariat, especially when we follow Marx, Engels, and Balibar and recognize that ‘proletariat’ is not an empirical category. I ended up arguing for the idea ‘the people as the rest of us’, first, for pragmatic reasons. A year or so ago I gave a talk at No Space in Williamsburg. At one point, someone in the audience asked “who here is a proletarian?” No one raised a hand (I may be getting the details of this wrong, but this is how I remember it). So, even though a bunch of folks were unemployed and precarious, they didn’t feel right identifying themselves as proletarian. Since I was already fighting for the name communism (controversial to some folks), I decided not to hold on to proletarian. I also felt like there were good commie grounds for this, as Lukács argues in his book on Lenin. There he speaks of Lenin’s radical notion of the people.

 

Ramsey: And then of course there is your argument for speaking of the “sovereignty” rather than the “dictatorship” of the people (with people here substituted for the proletariat). What’s the significance of this shift in terminology?

Dean: The primary theoretical reason for the shift is that dictatorship is temporary. Arguments for the dictatorship of the proletariat occur in the context of the withering away of the state. I don’t accept such a withering away, particularly once we recognize the distributed and differentiated nature of contemporary states. State operations occur at multiple levels—local, municipal, national, international—and are distributed into a wide array of operations, from inspecting food production, to providing air traffic control, to funding infrastructure projects, to overseeing public health, to collecting and redistributing revenue. I don’t think these things will or should go away and I don’t think they should be handled via markets. They are matters to be determined by the people for their collective good. The state is a tool for the people to handle these things (of course, it isn’t now; now it’s the way capitalists keep themselves in power). I think it’s important to get away from claims regarding the withering away of the state—they seem to point to the end of politics, but politics won’t end as long as there are people.

Ramsey: This is very interesting, and not uncontroversial these days! Of course, perhaps predictably, some have criticized your book for continuing to uphold (some would say “falling back on”) the terms of Party and State. What is your response to those who argue that we must chart a communist road that does without these terms as anchor-points? How would the “State” which you envision for a communist movement be similar to or different from the state apparatus that exists today? Are we talking about taking over existing entities and running them under different leadership and with different methods or priorities? Or the sweeping away of existing institutions and the creation of new ones?

Dean: Here I agree with Žižek: politics without the party and the state is politics without politics. It’s a kind of hysterical provocation, or macho play-acting that eschews responsibility and reduces politics to fashionable sloganeering. Getting more specific can help: we can realize that there are different kinds of states and different kinds of parties. When people reject the party because they are rejecting electoral politics, they have a good point and a lot of history on their side. When people reject the state on the basis of the failure of socialism to develop into communism, they also have a good point. The underpinning of most of these discussions is a set of assumptions regarding the European experience, the Soviet experience, and the Chinese experience. But what if we attend more to Latin America? To Nepal? To the role of revolutionary communists in anti-colonial struggle? To the role of communists in anti-racist struggles in the US in the thirties?

We dismiss too much if we assume that the bad experiences of the French and Italians with their communist parties means that there is no role for an organization like a party in contemporary politics now. On the state: again, we can improve our thinking here by considering different state apparatuses and functions, the way they are distributed, the role of law, etc. I don’t think all existing institutions need to be eliminated—why reinvent the wheel? A jury system is a good idea. Layered institutions (local, municipal, county, state, region, nation, hemisphere) as well as economic sectors and sets of interests that crisscross one another also make sense for complex societies. And so does the rule of law – as long as this rule is exercised for and in the interest of the working class, the people as the rest of us (which is the basic idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat). Maybe the best way to put it would be in terms of the need to reevaluate all existing institutions from the standpoint of the people/working class, and seeing what is worth saving.

Ramsey: I was struck by the fact that there is nowhere in The Communist Horizon an overt argument for “communism” as being a better or more useful name for the emancipatory project than, say, “socialism” is. Why is communism the name of the horizon for you? What is the significance of the name here?

Dean: This is a good question. For the longest time I thought of myself simply as a socialist and didn’t worry about the difference. Then, I guess it was Negri who started to emphasize the accomodationism of European socialism (although on that note one can say the same about, say, the Italian communist party). The difference matters in terms of installing a gap: communism opens us up to something else in a way that socialism doesn’t. And why is that the case? Because we know that socialism doesn’t require the abolition of capitalism. It works for capitalism with a human face. Is this an option? I don’t think so. And, if it could be an option, it would only be in the context of the political space secured by active, militant communists.

Ramsey: And the fact that the über-capitalist dictatorship of China still refers to itself as “communist” and thus taints this name?

Dean: No one thinks China is communist.

New pamphlet: The occupy moment, daring to dream dangerously

Special thanks to Ish Daniels for assembling this collection of Kasama pieces on Occupy.

Download it here, or order it in full color!

the occupy moment:
introduction

Within moments of its beginning, cynics declared the movement that came to be known simply as “Occupy” irrelevant, dead, or worse. Those of us around the Kasama Project thought otherwise, and many of us jumped right in. Others of us actually came to Kasama via Occupy. For us, Occupy was an incredibly important watershed moment that served as a reminder that resistance to capitalism is possible, and, more signifcantly, that resistance can, if only for a moment, capture the imagination of a broad segment of the population.

What the long-term legacy of Occupy will be is a story yet to be written. Now, long after the smashing of the Occupy encampments, and now that the movement has morphed into a broad milieu of activists without quite the same determination, excitement, or numbers of late 2011, a lot of Occupy veterans are fguring out what to make of what just happened, and trying to fgure out what to do next. This pamphlet is not the necessary last word and evaluation of the Occupy experience: that remains to be written. Instead, it’s a series of writings taken mostly from the Kasama Project’s website as Occupy was unfolding. Here is inspiration, context, intervention, reportage and critique from activists themselves. From communists looking to analyze and motivate. From revolutionary thinkers trying to understand and explain a sudden apparent rupture in capitalism. From dreamers daring to imagine a new world.

Upon their appearance on the Kasama Project website, many of these pieces were discussed and expanded upon by readers in the comments. We urge interested readers not only to engage these articles in new study and discussion, but to go back and read the original discussions they sparked. Keeping that discussion going is one of the ways
revolutionaries will be ready for the next rupture we know is coming.

This pamphlet is just the beginning of a necessary process of evaluating what happened and preparing for the future. The articles in this pamphlet just scratch the surface of topics and issues made relevant by the Occupy movement: there are many more subjects to be discussed, many more lessons to be drawn. The discussion needs to continue. What can activists, revolutionaries, communists, do to be ready? You can be a part of continuing and deepening that crucial discussion. — ISH Daniels

Spanish: Maoist Communist Party on Turkey Uprising

¡Resistamos y luchemos! – Declaración del MKP (Partido Comunista Maoísta Turquía – Kurdistán Norte) 3 Junio 2013


Nota – El siguiente texto y declaración del MKP Turquía-Kurdistán Norte han sido extraídos del blog Maoíst Road (La Vía Maoísta) y tomado del blog Democracy and Class Struggle (Democracia y Lucha de Clases). La traducción al español es responsabilidad de Gran Marcha Hacia el Comunismo. Madrid, junio 2013.

(La serie de sucesos de resistencia y rebelión de masas que está teniendo lugar en Turquía, ha despertado gran curiosidad entre las personas de izquierda de todo el mundo. Pero con excepción de algunas discretas noticias e imágenes, la falta de declaraciones concretas de organizaciones de la izquierda turca nos ha dejado a todos un poco confusos y perplejos. Por lo tanto consideramos nuestra responsabilidad publicar una reciente declaración de una de las organizaciones de Turquía, el Partido Comunista Maoísta (MKP) – Turquía y Kurdistán Norte, que esperamos pueda arrojar alguna luz sobre las recientes revueltas de masas en Turquía.

Presentamos a continuación una versión traducida de la declaración original en turco del MKP que se puede encontrar aquí
Consejo Editorial de TND (Toward a New Dawn) [Hacia un Nuevo Amanecer] (traducida por el camarada Gediz y ha sido corregida ligeramente para mejor comprensión)

Democracia y Lucha de Clases agradece a los camaradas de TND por ponerlo a disposición de todos.

¡RESISTAMOS Y LUCHEMOS! – MKP (PARTIDO COMUNISTA MAOÍSTA – TURQUÍA- KURDISTÁN NORTE) 

3 Junio 2013

El Partido Comunista Maoísta Turquía-Kurdistán Norte ha emitido una declaración sobre el incesante movimiento popular de masas.
"¡En tanto que las masa sean torturadas, abatidas a tiros y masacradas, los proletarios revolucionarios no pueden ser espectadores!"

"¡La lucha codo con codo está creciendo con las masas resistentes y alzándose!"

¡A nuestros camaradas que están luchando!

¡Aquellos que deben estar dirigiendo están actuando hoy como seguidores de las masas!

Los comunistas y revolucionarios están hoy atravesando otro examen. Es la hora de la lucha abnegada sin desestimar al movimiento como espontáneo. La definición del movimiento revolucionario o de la ola revolucionaria es que la práctica que las masas manifiestan.
¡Las masas son revolucionarias, su reacción es democrática, la rebelión y alzamiento es legítimo!

Como requiere nuestro papel de dirección, tenemos que estar en primera línea de la lucha con las masas incluso aunque se desarrollara con nuestra ausencia.

¡Resistiremos, lucharemos y pagaremos el precio!

¡En tanto que las masas sean torturadas, abatidas a tiros y masacradas, los proletarios revolucionarios no pueden ser espectadores!

A Nuestras Apreciadas Masas:

Las masas que están llenas de odio debido a la presión y violencia reaccionarias han sacudido a la clase dominante y al Gobierno turco.
Avanza el alzamiento en masa causado por el intento de destrucción del Parque Gezi para beneficio de la burguesía.

Una vez más, las masas que gritan han mostrado a los voraces neoliberales que el pueblo puede tomar su destino en sus propias manos. La fascista opresión salvaje del Gobierno del AKP no ha logrado detener la resistencia.

Las masas continuaron luchando y no cejaron en sus demandas democráticas incluso aunque resultaron heridas, detenidas, golpeadas y torturadas.

Pese al silencio de los escritores burgueses y los vendidos medios de comunicación turcos, la resistencia fue capaz de atraer la atención y apoyo del mundo.

La presencia de ingentes masas se ha convertido en la pesadilla para el AKP y la clase dominante opresora y reaccionaria, que ni siquiera reconoce sus propias leyes. ¡En el tercer día, las masas que comenzaron protestando por la destrucción de la naturaleza se han transformado en revolucionarias y las masas clamaban victoria por haber forzado al AKP a dar marcha atrás!

Los defensores de la reaccionaria y corporativa burguesía feudal y burocrática han seguido su tradición histórica y tratado de rebasar las demandas democráticas de las masas utilizando la violencia y un baño de sangre. Por el contrario, la creciente determinación de las masas ha hecho que el movimiento crezca y continúe pese a pagar un precio por ello.

Miles de personas en decenas de distintas ciudades se han unido como una sola en las calles para juntarse con la Resistencia del Parque Taksim Gezi.

La historia de las clases reaccionarias ha sido siempre la de oprimir y explotar a las masas y su propensión a causar cualquier tipo de dolor en ellas. A fin de mantener su gobierno y dominación, nunca se han abstenido de utilizar la violencia reaccionaria contra el pueblo oprimido y pobre.

Las clases reaccionarias organizadas que están recibiendo los beneficios del capitalismo siempre han mirado con desprecio a las masas y les han causado dolores bárbaros. Han promovido la alienación entre el proletariado y le han forzado a vivir en el hambre y la pobreza.

Pero el pueblo le ha recordado a la clase reaccionaria que son el pueblo los que son los verdaderos héroes y que con su propio destino en sus propias manos a través de las acciones revolucionarias, han causado que el sistema se ponga boca abajo. Las masas revolucionarias han demostrado de un modo inolvidable que la burla de la clase dominante, como "los tres o cinco con las piernas al aire" o "los saqueadores" carecen de base. ¡Este hecho histórico se ha materializado por completo en contra del fascista AKP a través de la resistencia de las masas, de las etnias y grupos marginados en Turquía-Kurdistán Norte!

El líder del AKP y la "República turca", el presidente Erdogan, insultó y humilló descarada y arrogantemente a las masas alzadas afirmando que eran "docenas de saqueadores". Incluso llevándolo a más amenazando: "Como partido puedo congregar a un millón".
Desafortunadamente para él, ¡una vez que estos "saqueadores con las piernas al aire" despierten, ni las amenazas ni los colmillos de vampiro apestando a sangre les detendrán!

El mismo belicista de doble cara Erdogan que criticó la dictadura de Assad por brutalizar a su pueblo, se ha hundido lo bastante como para llamar a sus propias masas "una pareja de saqueadores".
¡Lo que le hace tan andrajoso no es otra cosa que el mido de su propio pueblo alzándose!

El gobierno de doble cara del AKP está utilizando tácticas de "sacerdote-ejecutor" [una referencia a la masacre de los aztecas por los españoles] para reprimir las llamas del alzamiento mientras trata de contentar a sus propias masas.

Mientras Bulent Arinc, el portavoz del Gobierno Cemil Cicek y un par de dirigentes del AKP han tratado de suavizar a las masas diciéndoles que la demanda popular es democrática, Erdogan no está dando ningún paso atrás mostrando sus colmillos.

El proletariado y las masas no son lo suficientemente crédulas para dejarse engañar por estos trucos. Todas sus tácticas se golpearán contra una muralla de bronce y demolerá vuestro poder. La resistencia no ha terminado, continúa. La pesadilla de los reaccionarios que calificaron a las masas como "saqueadores" continúa. Quien es el saqueador y quien es el héroe ya se ha demostrado y continuará poniéndose al descubierto.

En Conclusión:

Nosotros, proletarios revolucionarios, no estamos absolviendo a los partidos fascistas burgueses tales como el CHP. El MKP ve la rebelión democrática de las masas como una reacción revolucionaria y saluda los alzamientos del pueblo oprimido.

¡Hemos jurado luchar contra la tiranía codo con codo con las masas y es nuestro deber revolucionario!

Con idéntica actitud, condenamos la tortura y violencia fascistas utilizadas contra el pueblo, y a cerrar filas para oponerse a esta opresión fascista. A fin de lograr un movimiento revolucionario más eficaz, adecuado y organizado, bajo la dirección del proletariado, ¡llamamos a todas las fuerzas democráticas y revolucionarias a unirse! Por esta razón, llamamos a todo el proletariado de Turquía-Kurdistán Norte, al pueblo pobre oprimido y a los camaradas a hacer combatir a la clase dominante reaccionaria al igual que al sistema capitalista.

Sabemos que con nuestra Guerra Popular y su fuego abrasador, seremos capaces de destruir este sistema reaccionario. ¡El gobierno del pueblo y construir el socialismo y finalmente el comunismo se logrará a través de la Guerra Popular!

Es nuestro deber y necesidad desarrollar la lucha revolucionaria uniendo las rebeliones de todas las masas democráticas y revolucionarias con la ideología del marxismo-leninismo-maoísmo bajo la bandera del proletariado.

¡Ningún obstáculo se puede alzar ante las masas populares! La fuerza reaccionaria hará que se materialice la fuerza revolucionaria.
La fuerza revolucionaria que se materializa en las manos de las masas es legítima y necesaria.

Porque es el método que se alzará contra las clases reaccionarias y conducirá a la democracia, la libertad y la sociedad comunista.
Las masas que se unen, resisten y luchan no serán derrotadas.
¡Igual que esta, todas las fuerzas reaccionarias y las clases que se apoyan en ellas están condenadas tarde o temprano a perder!
¡Son las masas revolucionarias y sus acciones revolucionarias las que escriben la historia!

¡Viva la legítima resistencia democrática y la lucha del pueblo!

¡Viva la rebelión revolucionaria unida del pueblo!

¡Viva la guerra popular!

Work with those that destroyed our camps and murder Black youth? A critique of the NGO model.

Kasama received this debate unfolding within the movement in Atlanta. It mirrors debates happening everywhere: are NGO assumptions about organizing a basis upon which Occupy should continueitself? Are the police part of the 99%? Can collaborating with them help occupy? Take Back the Block offers a thorough and resounding “NO.”

“OOHA’s reliance on this model, most importantly, leaves behind so many people from dispossessed black and brown communities. Narrating these stories perpetuates a culture of victimization – not a culture of collective resistance. The message is always, “I did everything right, I was an upstanding member of society and then extenuating circumstances hit and I am in deep water.” The underlying logic: “good” people deserve housing- it is counter to the society we are fighting for that housing is a privilege, not a basic necessity that we must provide for each other. It is important that OOHA does more than proclaim that housing is a basic human right; w must always demonstrate that in our work as well. The “exceptionalism” of each case doesn’t demonstrate that.

A culture of collective resistance would be one which stresses the agency of communities to actively fight against the banks, the state that bailed them out while our bank accounts hit negative, and the police who enforce their will. When we victimize ourselves and then rely on enemy forces we are immediately weakening our position as active agents against our own oppression.”

OOHA DEFENDS THE COPS; WE DO NOT

The intention of this article is both to clarify our position on the police, and to engage in principled dialogue about tactics and strategy in the anti-eviction movement. Take Back the Block realizes that we have made some of the same mistakes that we now see in the movement. In order to build a strong movement, we must constantly examine ourselves and others, pushing each other forward always.

“Those who do not move, do not notice their chains,” wrote Rosa Luxemburg. The true nature of police, the enforcer of chains, is less clear for the majority of the population during low movement times. This has never been the case for black men, immigrants and homeless people who feel the clarity, the mandate of the cops every day through bruises on their bodies and the threat or experience of imprisonment. This wall was broken for a few months when a mostly white, disillusioned section of the population poured into underused parks that were quickly surrounded by police in cars, on motorcycles, on bikes and horses, with the single intent of crushing peaceful gatherings and encampments. While the police trampled on tents, waving batons and laughing at us for demanding jobs and healthcare, they left shoppers alone who were camped out on sidewalks all day and night to buy discount deals on Black Friday. The police force under the orders of the mayors could not maintain the façade of contradiction: their essential role is to keep us subjugated and intimidated and to protect the rule of the rich (despite the often referenced basic duties of police, like traffic control).

While the newly active people in Occupy were painfully discovering the role of police, the Atlanta area police continued their killing spree of unarmed black youth. This led to frequent marches steaming with rage, pouring into the streets of downtown Atlanta, with chants ranging from “Fuck the police” to “Hey pigs, what do you say, how many kids have you killed today?!”. Joetavius Stafford, a 17-year-old high school student who was gunned down by police officers in a MARTA station on his way home from homecoming, was on everyone’s minds. Then there was Ariston Waiters, another unarmed youth, who was murdered by a police officer behind a shed, out of sight from witnesses. His family began to attend marches and rallies calling for justice, which they continue to do today, unwilling to be forgotten as another casualty of white supremacy. Personal experiences were creating an understanding across racial and class lines, obliging solidarity between the more privileged occupiers who were experiencing police repression for the first time and those that experience police terror daily.

Things in Atlanta exploded even more when news of Trayvon Martin’s murder reached the city. The Atlanta public packed out rallies again, speaking out against racism and police brutality. During these months, many Atlantans were openly disillusioned with the APD and the institution of policing. Though the diagnosis and solutions varied, many people were taking a stand. Some were standing up against police brutality or the racism of individual officers, and others were against police altogether. As the last remnants of the parks were cleaned out by police and the steam evaporated from the national popular demonstrations, most of us were forced to go back to normalized routines. The “moment’ of exposed contradictions–the small rupture of clarity we experienced–is now just a memory and we are still trying to make sense of it. The APD successfully broke up resistance and continues its murderous practice. Even the mildest reforms to humor the public haven’t been taken–APD has not fired its officers who were directly implicated in the high-profile murders, nor stopped their practices of harassing and targeting black and brown people.

How does Occupy Our Homes Atlanta (OOHA) tell a different story?

A couple of weeks ago, national newspapers ran stories of Occupy Atlanta and the Atlanta Police Department repairing their relationship. The press release was sent out by an organization called Occupy Our Homes Atlanta (OOHA), an NGO-style, anti-eviction, activist group that formed from the ashes of Occupy Atlanta. The story was highlighting OOHA’s latest campaign to protect a retired police woman named Jacqueline Barber and her family from eviction. Jacquelyn served the Atlanta Police Department (APD) for 20 years as an undercover narcotics detective. She was injured on the job in 1998, forcing her into early retirement. Years later, she developed cancer and underwent treatment. She lives in Fayetteville, Georgia with her daughter and 4 grandchildren, in a house much larger than those OOHA generally defends.

Most outsiders cannot distinguish between OOHA and the Occupy movement which was a broad tent of resistance. The Occupy movement has disintegrated mostly due to heavy police repression, but groups like OOHA were able to grow. OOHA has participated in various campaigns to keep individuals in their homes, many times successfully. Their usual formula in developing campaigns is as follows: find a foreclosure victim who is relatable and safe; help them sculpt an emotional personal interest story; launch an aggressive media campaign; ask people to donate money and supplies; and work with the bank to agree on a more manageable mortgage. When the threat of eviction arises, OOHA uses tents and activist support in the yards of the houses to stall the police from removing the families from their homes, which are tactics left over from occupying the parks. These campaigns rely heavily on the sympathetic charity of outsiders, the interest of the media, and good faith in banks to work outside of their interests.

OOHA’s choice to defend Jacqueline’s home betrays the experiences of Occupy. One of the most dynamic struggles in Occupy Atlanta was the rejection of police brutality and the police as a force that served and protected the people. This lesson was learned in a multitude of ways from sympathizing with police brutality victims such as Joetavius Stafford, Ariston Waiters, and Troy Davis (Woodruff Park, where OA was based, was actually renamed to Troy Davis Park by the occupants), to actual lived experience of massive, baseless arrests, police scare tactics and the brutality on Occupy activists. Although many claim–namely the mainstream media–that Occupy had no real demands, lessons or aim, many of those that participated in Occupy were bonded together by a rejection of the cruelties of the ruling class. Throughout the process of Occupy, we were reminded that the police were the hired guns of the 1%, who, though often poor and struggling, fight against their own interests in maintenance of the status quo. OOHA’s choice to defend a former undercover cop’s home is not only in opposition to the ideals of many of the Occupy activists, but a betrayal of learned experiences.

The implications of adopting this case reach beyond OOHA. Since the beginning of Occupy Atlanta, many non-activists have understood activism as in relation to Occupy, so when news headlines read “Occupy Atlanta Joins Forces with Police to Save Retired Detective’s Home,” it may as well have read “Atlanta Activists Join Forces with Police.” These outright fabrications and lethal distortions are perpetrated by a group that is fighting for justice. It was not the propaganda of the APD or the ruling class to promote that “cops are here to serve and protect,” but the propaganda of OOHA. This act was committed with good intentions but is nevertheless inexcusable.

OOHA’s organizing model leads them to make bad strategic choices because the success of their campaigns often relies on the conscience of enemy forces and elite public figures. The non-profit like model of OOHA creates the necessity to “sell” to a specific audience the legitimacy of a fight, requiring the sympathy and interest of mass media. Mass media outlets that reported only a year ago on the battles between occupants and cops are now able to weave a tale of redemption in which occupiers admit their previous immaturity and reach out to a cop as a sign of peace and reconciliation–an olive branch. In the meantime, Occupy activists are still undergoing cases from unjust arrests made a year ago (some of which have been stalled because cops have destroyed or withheld evidence).

Some tactics have also been proven unwise. When the stories fail to rally up the public and the police come down heavy handed to enforce the bank’s eviction, Occupy Our Homes often must rely on their bodies to defend the homes. A common tactic used during an attempted eviction, blockading the house, has proved unsustainable and costly to the movement. In one Occupy Our Homes Minnesota case, the group attempted multiple blockades resulting in 23 total arrests.

OOHA’s reliance on this model, most importantly, leaves behind so many people from dispossessed black and brown communities. Narrating these stories perpetuates a culture of victimization – not a culture of collective resistance. The message is always, “I did everything right, I was an upstanding member of society and then extenuating circumstances hit and I am in deep water.” The underlying logic: “good” people deserve housing- it is counter to the society we are fighting for that housing is a privilege, not a basic necessity that we must provide for each other. It is important that OOHA does more than proclaim that housing is a basic human right; w must always demonstrate that in our work as well. The “exceptionalism” of each case doesn’t demonstrate that.

A culture of collective resistance would be one which stresses the agency of communities to actively fight against the banks, the state that bailed them out while our bank accounts hit negative, and the police who enforce their will. When we victimize ourselves and then rely on enemy forces we are immediately weakening our position as active agents against our own oppression. Banks will never be our allies; they concede to small struggles for the sake of PR, not for the sake of progressing humanity. Mass media, which is funded by corporations, cannot be trusted to work for our defense. We must be able to struggle collectively against the forces daily suffocating us, and we cannot do that by having to appeal to those that put us there in the first place. We must be able to at the same time build collective refutation of ruling-class institutions, build alternative community institutions to fill the gap. This “one home, one compelling story” is barring us from actually developing a real praxis of liberation. It may have been the police that physically destroyed the camps and arrested us but it is groups like OOHA that are distracting us and themselves from creating a real movement that we so desperately need. Ultimately, the OOHA model replicates the narrative of appealing to the conscience of our oppressor. Stokely Carmichael, a Black Power leader, hit the nail on the head when he pointedly stated that the oppressor has no conscience, to rely on that is to fight a losing battle.

#OccupySandy fosters fresh spirit of mutual aid


This comes from our comrade ish at the Cahokian blog.

That’s All Right, We Got This

At the height of hurricane Sandy on Monday night, lower Manhattan was plunged into darkness. As the wind buffeted the city and the waves overran low-lying coastal areas, electric power failed in many parts of the city. My Brooklyn neighborhood was lucky, surviving with only a few downed trees. In lower Manhattan, one building stayed alit: the headquarters of Goldman Sachs, the massive Wall Street firm legendary for corporate greed on a massive, should-be-criminal scale. This symbolic coincidence has not been lost on the people of New York City. Fuck Goldman Sachs. Fuck Wall Street. We don’t need you.

While Mayor Bloomberg debated cancelling the New York Marathon with the tabloid press, while President Obama claimed to be sending massive amounts of FEMA assistance, as the Red Cross started cranking up its donation engines, the people of New York also noticed something else: nothing was actually happening on the ground to help the thousands of people either displaced by wind, flood and fire, or trapped in powerless, heatless homes no longer served by public transportation. Enter the Occupy movement, yes the Occupy Wall Street movement derided as dead by so many on all sides of the media. Occupy activists gathered together and quickly formed “Occupy Sandy Relief: NYC,” simultaneously unveiling a Facebook page and going out to the ravaged Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook to see what was up with our neighbors and try and lend a hand. Fuck the liberals who are phonebanking for Obama this weekend. Fuck the smug pundits writing their contemptuous obituaries for Occupy. Fuck you Mayor Bloomberg and your private NYPD army. We don’t need you.

Within a day the Occupy Sandy activists had a food kitchen set up near a blacked-out low-income housing project and were prowling the flooded streets reaching out to frightened hurricane survivors. In a few hours they expanded operations to the Rockaways, both to the middle-class neighborhood ravaged by a massive fire, and the working class areas full of people seemingly abandoned by the city and alleged relief agencies. They soon began to reach out to Staten Island, where angry residents were feeling ignored and forgotten. (While Staten Island is home to a notoriously right-wing white community it’s also home to large working-class communities of color: A community of color which just lost two of its youngest sons, swept away in the flood to their deaths as their mother cried for help, ignored by cold-hearted neighbors.) Politicians started to tour the scenes of devastation. And yet, people were still left to fend for themselves. Grassroots organizations started to follow Occupy’s lead and soon started helping to fill the void. But one thing became very clear: those who were most effected by Frankenstorm Sandy needed mutual aid. We would have to do this ourselves.

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Revolutionary symbolism for our times…

We recently posted an article by Tim Rezeti on the need for new communist symbolism that can speak to our times. Tim just sent us a link to the artwork of Michael Thompson as an example of symbolism and art which speaks to the revolutionary moments of today. Abduzeedo.com introduces Thompson’s work with the following message:  

“Michael Thompson also known as Freestylee wants to create global awareness to many social issues and he has been doing that through his art. Designing some really cool and powerful posters to send the message of peace activism. Take a look to see what he has done and share your thoughts with us.”

Here is some of Thompson’s art.

 

E4E talks: Revolutionary strategy today


A panel of revolutionary speakers gathered on August 12 at the  Everything for Everyone Festival. The engagement was marked both by unities and diversity.

The talks confronted a key issue facing communist regroupment and action: How do we build a revolutionary movement today in the belly of this beast?

Let’s engage this discussion — and deepen our common purpose.

The audio of each talk is presented here in YouTube and MP3 format — in the order that they spoke at the  E4E plenum.

The speakers are:

  • Mike Ely, Kasama Project
  • Geoff Mc, formerly with Bring the Ruckus
  • Shemon Salam,  Fire Next Time, formerly w/ Unity and Struggle
  • Kali Akuno, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
  • Sopiko Japaridze, Take Back the Block, Atlanta
  • Question and answer session 

 

* * * * * * * * *

Mike Ely, Kasama Project:

MP3 – Mike Ely

* * * * * * * * *

Geoff Mc, formerly with Bring the Ruckus:

MP3 – Geoff Mc

* * * * * * * * *

Shemon Salam,  Fire Next Time, formerly w/ Unity and Struggle

MP3 – Shemon Salam

* * * * * * * * *

Kali Akuno, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement:

MP3 – Kali Akuno

* * * * * * * * *

Sopiko Japaridze, Take Back the Block, Atlanta:

MP3 – Sopiko Japaridze

* * * * * * * * * *

Red Spark statement against repression in San Francisco


The following statement comes from our comrades at Red Spark.

Resistance is Legitimate and Necessary: Statement against repression in San Francisco

On Columbus Day weekend, people from around the country met in San Francisco for the Decolonize the New World Convergence, a four-day anti-colonial, anti-capitalist event to speak out against 500-plus years of colonization and genocide. During the march on Saturday, police harassed, attacked, and arrested 22 participants.

 

We in the Red Spark Collective stand in solidarity with those arrested in San Francisco. In our collective struggle against this system, resistance is both legitimate and necessary.

The media has echoed police assertions that demonize the “Black Block street gang”. Contrary to this characterization, the black bloc is a specific tactic. Furthermore, their portrayal is a part of a broader atmosphere of repression that paints those who resist as domestic terrorists. The implications of this are chilling, especially given the context of the severe and ongoing repression, whether it is Grand Juries, militarized home raids, or the NDAA. In fact, it is often difficult to imagine a future where people will even be able to attend protests or be opposed to the status quo without hiding their identity for fear of tyrannical surveillance and violence from the political police.

After the last year of uprising around the globe, the state clearly understands the deep hatred people feel against this old world. It is right to fight for a new world. It is right to support those facing repression for doing so.

We call on our friends and comrades to support the arrestees by making contributions to their legal funds.

An anarchist replies to Boots Riley…

We have recently posted a facebook comment by Boots Riley on the question of Black Bloc tactics and there role in building a movement for revolution. The following response appeared on the blog We Want Some Food

Knocking the Boots?

A Response to Mr. Riley Regarding the Bay and the Black Bloc

What follows is not an attack on Boots Riley’s recent facebook update, I’ll leave that to the hundreds of others. I’m not from, nor do I live in Oakland, I wasn’t even at, nor participated in any of the actions last weekend, (Feminist Vigilante March into the ‘Decolonize the New World Actions’), however I’ve been out to most of the major actions in Occupy Oakland’s recent history (and been going to the bay for different events for a decade) and have many friends involved in the anarchist, Occupy, and the radical labor movements and have been very inspired by many of the actions that have come out of it. Boots brings up some interesting questions and points in his recent post; however, perhaps we are missing some of the bigger questions and possible debates that we could be having revolving around the black bloc, it’s influence, and the relation between those not involved in social movements and revolutionary militants.

The concerns that Boots brings up can be articulated into two basic points: 1.) People aren’t into the tactic of black bloc. People do not understand the tactic, and thus it is detrimental. 2.) We lack the context for our actions to have a larger reverberation.

While I want to address these things, the questions that we should be asking, as anarchists and more broadly as revolutionaries and those against the present order are much bigger. Is there ever a ‘right’ time for such actions? Are such actions sometimes just a militant version of activism that cost us more than we gain? Do we lack the context for our actions to carry weight? And moreover, why is there such a lack of proletarian fight back in the US? Is it simply the fault of the revolutionaries or are there bigger issues and forces at work?

As to the concerns that Boots brings up, obviously the number of militants in the streets as ‘black bloc’ is small, and generally in the bay always have been. At the same time, there is no doubt that black bloc (a blanket term we will use here for anyone in masks that acts illegally, engages illegally with property, and is confrontational with the police) has made a large impact despite its small size on the street. In the bay area, the black bloc itself is also nothing new. As the recent ‘anti-colonial march’ on Saturday pointed out in its call-out, it drew inspiration in part from the black bloc that was formed in 1992 against Columbus Day in SF, one of the first in North America.

A trip down memory lane first…

 

During the era of anti-globalization, some black bloc actions were able to not only create dialog and discussion around the use of violence and tactics within the movement, but in some instances, push the actions of militants and activists out of the terrain of the summit and the protest, and into partially generalized conflict between people and the State. This includes when people in Seattle, as well as many militants, fought police during the WTO meetings in November of 1999 in response to a state of emergency curfew that included National Guard troops, as well as in places like Genoa and Prague, where residents joined in fighting the police and the looting of shops as activists stood by to guard the windows of the corporations. During the anti-war period in the US, black blocs were able, at times, to again have the same type of effect on the movement, challenging the liberal and Leninist currents, not only over tactics, but also over organization. Militant actions sometimes were able to move discussion on the war into a critique of capitalism as well as tactics, as anarchists often targeted recruiting stations and corporations directly tied to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In SF, black bloc actions also again, sometimes, were able to move anti-war events away from just being large marches and rallies, into actual street conflicts that hit specific targets, (as well as many other capitalist businesses) such as recruiting stations, embassies, and the INS building. While obviously this did not stop the war, it did give rise to a feeling of militancy and momentum as tactics were escalated within large masses of people. This culminated with the large scale disruption of San Francisco as the US ‘officially’ invaded Iraq in 2003.

In the bay, we saw the black bloc again within the riots and rebellions in the wake of the police murder of Oscar Grant as well as within the student occupation movement of 2009 – 2011. This of course is not to mention its use in a variety of other instances, be it in clashes with white supremacists ala Anti-Racist Action, or in demonstrations against police brutality across the country.

When Occupy began, we saw the black bloc’s return, largely in response to the camps across the country being raided as part of an attempt by the Department of Homeland Security and the Obama Administration to destroy the Occupy Movement. In Denver, St. Louis, North Carolina, Atlanta, NYC, and especially in Oakland, the debate over ‘black bloc’ raged.

I bring all of this up to point out that the black bloc tactic, especially in the bay area, is nothing new. This isn’t to argue that “people” are “into” it, in one way or the other – I don’t think we really can have that debate in a completely definitive way. We can talk about when the tactic has been more useful however, and in what context it has been used, to different degrees of success in a variety of ways. Sometimes it has been as an intervention into wider movements, such as in the anti-globalization, anti-war, and Occupy periods, in which sometimes it was able to not only help foster a deeper critique of capital and tactics, but also to generalize, at times, deeper and more conflictual struggle with the State. An example of this would be the tens of thousands (I was there, I seen it), that participated in black bloc led breakaway marches in 2001 – 2003 during the anti-war period in SF. In some instances, the bloc played simply a defensive and strategic role, such as the wearing of masks during the student occupation movement to avoid police surveillance and blocking up for protection on the barricades and in defense of buildings or in the wake of Occupy encampment evictions. In others, the bloc was an auxiliary force in a larger rebellion, such as during the Oscar Grant riots, although its role was often over publicized, (sometimes by anarchists themselves), or demonized by the Left, non-profits, the media, and the State.

We should proceed with a critique of the black bloc in this light. All tactics and the context they are used in need to be held up and examined, especially when they have been used in a variety of situations and movements, over a period of several decades. Within Occupy, while the actions that have occurred by those “in black bloc” have never involved more than several hundreds or thousands, there is no doubt that there has been a radicalization process for many, mostly new to social movements, in part because of ‘black bloc’ type actions that is completely unrivaled. The rebellions that occurred and led up to the General Strike on November 2nd, in part grew out of the experiences of many people through the eviction of the camp and a very real taste of street fighting and an attempt to defend/reclaim Oscar Grant plaza and later, appropriate a building. While few that donned masks, engaged with the police, and broke the law during those nights probably thought of themselves as ‘black bloc’ or anarchist is besides the point – in doing the actions they became part of that current as they saw a need to rebel in a certain way and do it anonymously. By January 2012 in Oakland, there was an escalation of tactics and militancy leading up to the “Move-In Day,” although clearly the numbers that we had on November 2nd were not present.

Also out of these militant actions, we saw the rise of T.A.C., or the Tactical Action Committee, who also helped popularize the black bloc tactic through weekly ‘Fuck the Police’ marches, as well as the growth of a radical squatting scene in West Oakland, the degree in which I have not seen in any major metropolitan city in the US. T.A.C. also was a large part of carrying on such tactics into the Central Valley, participating with others from Occupy Oakland in clashes with police and Neo-Nazis in Sacramento, CA in February of 2012 and in demonstrations against the police murder of James Rivera Jr. and Luther Brown Jr. and others in Stockton, CA in the Spring and early Summer.

Also, I believe that the actions that followed both the police murder of Kenneth Harding Jr. as well as the recent shooting of the young man in the Mission District are very much worth noting. Within hours of Kenneth Harding’s murder, a march of several hundred formed in the Mission District, mainly as ‘black bloc,’ and marched and targeted banks and other capitalist institutions. This solidarity action was followed up by other marches and other actions, (as well as supporting actions being carried out by those in Bayview where Harding was killed). This activity helped to create a link with militants within the Bayview neighborhood and anarchists living in the Mission District and in Oakland. As someone who saw this solidarity, it is important to realize that it was through these actions themselves that this connection was created. (This of course is also not to downplay at all the very radical actions of those living in Bayview who took action themselves very quickly, targeting police as well as transit lines.) These events were followed very rapidly by actions surrounding the murder of a homeless man while on BART, which culminated in street actions and clashes which all saw a version of generalized ‘black bloc’ type activity with often minimal anarchist involvement. In July of 2012, protests in both SF and the Mission District were called in solidarity with the unfolding revolt against the police in Anaheim, which used ‘black bloc’ type tactics and destroyed property. In the Oakland march, participants targeted a bar frequented by police. In the case of the recent actions in the Mission District just weeks ago, anarchists were also the chief initiators of two nights of street actions which targeted banks, yuppie businesses, and the police station. These actions came hot on the heels of a pre-May Day militant march in April that also attacked businesses on Valencia Street, becoming a very real indicator that anger over gentrification had not washed away in the 1990’s with Kevin Keating’s posters.

In these instances, black bloc type actions helped to express solidarity and expand sites of resistance. They sought to draw people in and create a situation in which their rage could be expressed. It helped to create a set of consequences for the police, just as with the riots that followed the murder of Oscar Grant, that hopefully will dissuade police from carrying out such actions in the future as well as put them on the defensive. And, it also helped to create a link for others through action between the nature of the police in this society and their role within capitalism and as part of the process of gentrification and white supremacy.

Lastly, ‘black bloc’ type actions have also been an ongoing facet of militant feminist, queer, and trans revolt in the bay as well. As the recent actions at Pride such as ‘Queers Fucking Queers,’ against the H.E.A.T. conference, and the “feminist vigilante street marches” have shown, such tactics are clearly not been just the domain of straight white males as many would claim. Feminists and revolutionary queer and trans militants have also sought to foster militant responses to the murder of women, queer, and trans people, such as Brandy Martell, a black transwoman, who was killed in Oakland and left to die by police. In early May of 2012 in Oakland, a militant march and “Gender Strike Street Party,” comprised of many in black bloc, which was to remember Brandy and also call attention to CeCe McDonald, a black transwoman in jail for killing a Neo-Nazi attacker, was organized in Oakland that held the streets for hours and successfully gathered hundreds from the nearby Art Murmur while police looked on from the sidelines. This use of Art Murmur was again revisited in August as the city attempted to crack down on the street party by making people apply for permits. Anarchists responded by again calling for a street party which held the streets for several hours and ended with the attacking of the Obama HQ office.

These developments: the growth of T.A.C., the spreading of the tactic outside of the anarchist ghetto, and the use of the black bloc by anarchists as expressions of revolutionary solidarity and as intervention into the tensions of everyday life, are much more interesting and exciting than the destruction of bank windows in any of the “official” marches or actions that occurred during the Occupy period.

Thus, one can’t make the claim that ‘everyone’ isn’t into the black bloc. Obviously, some people are, they keep happening! A better question is, what are the conditions and contexts for which they make the most sense and are able to actually spread and generalize revolt? Obviously, this is always changing and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it is offensive and sometimes it is defensive. Sometimes it is part of something else and sometimes it is called for solely by us.

Clearly, large amounts of people outside of established radical circles aren’t flocking to the black bloc, but nor did those outside of the Left to the SF ANSWER march on the same day as the Sunday anti-war and anti-capitalist march that targeted bank windows. Again and again, militants and revolutionaries of all stripes ask the question of ‘where is the rage?,’ and ‘where is the action?’ only to be surprised when a riot kicks off in response to a police shooting or workers occupy the state capitol.

As anarchists, we are trying to engage in actions which bring people in and help give confidence and inspire forms of organization and methods of action. This is not always easy. But in the end, at least in the bay area, we need to ask ourselves in what ways have we been effective, and in what ways have we not? Have we allowed the relatively high number of anarchists in one place in the US to let us slip into inaction when it comes to engagement of those outside of our circles? Are we more interested in just organizing ourselves than those we face similar conditions with, possible affinities, or (maybe now) live around?

The numbers involved in each action as well as the outcome greatly affect how the ‘black bloc,’ or any antagonistic and confrontational proletarian force, is perceived. For instance, if on Sunday during the anti-colonial/war/capitalist march called for by Afghans for Peace, similar such actions would have occurred across the country, in which similar groups of several hundred would have converged, likewise targeting banks and capitalist property and fought the police, many would speak of a new rising fight-back and a return to an anti-war movement that in the face of Obama has seemingly forgotten that thousands in the Middle East are dying through military occupation, bombings, and now more than ever, drone strikes. If this context would have been different, those in the streets of Oakland would be seen as part of a return to a new militancy that sought to stop the war that much of the Left forgot about; complacent with the election of a President that simply continued the slaughter brought on by Clinton and Bush before him.

Imagine if across the US, similar actions such as the ones that were attempted in SF around Columbus Day were attempted throughout the Americas? Those 20, who with their mug shots plastered in the corporate press comprise a variety of gender and racial backgrounds, would be seen as heroes – with support and donations flowing their way.

But we cannot side step the statement made by Boots without taking it seriously, even if we do not agree with it. As he writes, “The use of the blac[k] bloc tactic in all situations is not useful. As a matter of fact, in situations such as the one we have in Oakland, its repeated use has become counter-revolutionary.” Clearly the use of black bloc is all situations has not been useful, which is why it has not been used in every situation, (i.e., anarchists are involved in a variety of actions). The point moreover, is that the tactic has not always been successful, both in generating involvement from outside the hardcore militants and in accomplishing its goals during various actions. But, to write off the black bloc completely is to write off over a decade of action in the bay that has seen the generalization of struggle, the deepening of conflict, and the inclusion of a variety of participants at times.

As the recent weekend of actions in the bay area have shown, anarchists, especially when they use the tactic of the black bloc on their own, often are isolated and easily contained and repressed by the State. While the actions over the weekend were praise worthy in the fact that they were an attempt to respond to calls for solidarity and involve the anarchist movement in anti-colonial struggles (especially when so much of the Left and ‘the working class’ refuses to support such struggles or even keep their torch lit), ranging from indigenous people to those in Afghanistan, it also shows the degree in which anarchists have few supporters (although a very large influence) in the streets outside of a radical hardcore.

Boots points out a difference in context between how the anarchists in Greece are seen as opposed to those in Oakland, by stating that those in Athens are from the areas in which they riot and are part of “militant campaigns” that happen throughout the year. But of course, anyone who knows anarchists well, even if they do not political or tactically agree with them knows that most anarchists are involved in publishing and propaganda, (AK Press, BayofRage.com, the Anarchist Bookfair, Little Black Cart, etc), the running of social and community centers (the Holdout, Bound Together Books, the Long Haul), and organizing work, ranging from action against foreclosures to Copwatch to squatting homes. Clearly, anarchists have also been very much involved in Occupy Oakland and have helped to push it in a direction that other camps have not. But moreover, the context of Greece is much different from Oakland, ranging from the history of the military dictatorship, the no-go zones for police on campuses, to the crack epidemic made real by the US government and the realities of the racialized order of US capital.

Despite the differences, it is worth noting by reading through, “We Are An Image From the Future,” a book written by Greek anarchists after the 2008 insurrection, that according to some, tactics that were used solely (or at least by and large) by anarchists prior to 2008 were picked up by others after the outbreak of the December 2008 revolt. According to the authors, it was the continuous and committed actions of anarchists throughout the years and in a variety of struggles that led to their actions having wider support and resonance within Greek society (and hey, looting grocery stores and giving shit away doesn’t hurt).

Clearly, where there has been fire, anarchists have sought to bring gasoline. The argument that anarchists in the bay area have not been involved in ongoing struggles in the area is obviously false. The degree to the quality of this involvement is open for debate that I will leave to those who live in the area.

For many young people, both non-black youth from the bay area and Oakland itself, both from the working class or outside of it, as well as the young black youths from Oakland that I have met through Occupy Oakland – black bloc tactics have created a vortex in which many of us have the ability to meet in struggle. Hopefully out of these situations, other struggles, organizing, and action can continue. On the other hand, for many within the Left, the black bloc has been alienating. As for the ‘mainstream’ Americans, or those within Oakland that find themselves in agreement with the Occupy Movement yet still put off by the black bloc, ‘vandalism,’ or people wearing masks, I ask people like Boots Riley what kind of actions could be carried out which pull these people into political action yet still would represent a real challenge and contestation with the State and capital? While clearly, not everyone is at that point, we still most ask ourselves what struggles will get more people off the couch or away from their phones if not what we already have been doing.

Black bloc has alienated many, but it’s unclear if these people would support revolutionary action to begin with, or if the working-class or poor participants (largely youths) that have been drawn in by the militant actions of Occupy outweigh those that have been alienated by it (largely less radical and older). Perhaps we will never know. But we can start to and engage in projects that attempt to meet people where they are at, and attempt to speak with conditions and frustrations that we both feel together. For those interested in such a project we are often faced with a catch-22. We want to foster self-organization and direct action, but most people are often only interested in movements that can benefit them and get them things. We have to find the projects and struggles which do both.

For myself, a bigger question for anarchists everywhere, but especially those in the bay area, is why have we not played a larger role in the struggles that have broken out that were inspired directly by the Occupy Movement itself? I am speaking to the battle to occupy the farm near UC Berkeley, the occupation of public schools, and also the attempt to squat and form a library in East Oakland. Clearly, anarchists have been very involved in these struggles along with others since their beginnings, but if we are seeking to create situations in which more militant actions can have greater support it would seem that it would be here, in which the desire of people to take and hold space and use it in their own interests (at times) against capital, that we can find the greatest possibility.

Two recent conversations I had with two anarchist comrades, both recent residents of Oakland, one a woman of color and the other a white male, are telling. The former, when asked if they were still excited by Oakland and its revolutionary possibilities as when they moved there over a year ago replied to a conversation they had with a comrade in T.A.C. before May Day after they were asked if they were excited about the upcoming day of action. The comrade from T.A.C., who was heading off to help open a squat in East Oakland replied, “It’s just another day.” My friend commented that it seemed we were putting all of our energy into, “These big days of action,” as opposed to something deeper that was based around ongoing organizing and struggles. The latter friend later commented, “I’m sick of basing how good something is on the level of property destruction.”

These sentiments bring up an old tension: do we put more energy into larger events that are designed to bring in large bodies of people to do xyz, or do we spend our energy into organizing, infrastructure, or ‘educational’ campaigns that may involve smaller groups of people? Personally, I would like to see larger events or ‘days of action,’ come out of the struggles and organizing that we are doing on the ground, and the daily practices of class struggle we are engaged in throughout our lives. We need to build our capacity to defend our squats and radical spaces when they are evicted and attacked by the police. We need to build our capacity to respond to the State when it murders and attacks people. We need to build the networks of solidarity and support that strengthen working-class self-activity and direct action. We need to build our ability to grow our own food and solve our own problems outside of the State. ‘Black bloc’ type activity will be a part of all of these, sometimes offensively, and sometimes defensively, as the battle for control over the streets and territory in poor and working class areas will become more and more contested.

For those that were arrested both on Saturday and also took to the streets on Sunday, I have nothing but solidarity and support. I support those that took militant action just as I do the ILWU workers who destroyed EGT grain or those that looted Footlocker during the riots over Oscar Grant. To support proletarian action is to support proletarian action. The degree in which more and more people will be brought into revolutionary actions and situations is much more up to all people to come into conflict with class-society and their own conditions, than it is to the ‘revolutionaries’ who wear the titles of ‘activist’ or ‘anarchist.’ If we are able to meet these others and link up with them and aid their struggles, making them ours, is up to us.

Clearly though, for anarchists seeking a strategy which spreads tactics and ideas of self-organization and direct action without simply trying to “make people into anarchists,” we do need to think hard about how we go about such a project. We should be wary about trying simply to organize ourselves and only speak to each other – for it is exactly when we reach outside of our radical ghetto that we become the most powerful and the most influential – as well as the most subversive. Many will agree with me that there is more possibility in attempting to expand and deepen the existing struggles and tensions within class society, than an endless progression of days of action called for and attended by ourselves alone.

Having said that, to the comrades facing jail time and fines, beaten by the SFPD, can we give them anything but love and support? Slandered in the media, demonized by much of the Left, and cast out by former comrades, these people heeded a call for a day of action in solidarity with Native and anti-colonial struggles and decided to risk their freedoms and take to the streets. Such a desire is as noble as it is revolutionary. For those that question their tactics, I ask only what you would suggest in their absence.

Black bloc type actions will not cease – they will continue; across the world, and especially in the bay area. More and more, proletarian activity, as it comes into conflict with the State and its police forces, will continue to look more and more like ‘black bloc,’ (as the recent events in the Middle East, Chile, London, Greece, Spain and elsewhere point to everyday…) although more and more, hopefully it will refuse to identify as such. At the same time, more and more, those engaging in such tactics will care more about defending territory and neighborhoods than breaking the cars of someone within them. We will care more about looting grocery stores than trying to find the one bank window on the street that will break. We will care more about physically taking out the infrastructure of the State than we will about symbolic property destruction. We will spend more energy defending what we have from the State while at the same time expanding our occupations, squats, gardens, forms of organization, and associations. If we are to continue in our revolutionary project, this will be something forced on us by present conditions at one point or another. The question is: can we ready ourselves now for what is to come?

More and more, riots and full on rebellions will be a recurring response to police violence and repression and collective acts of rebellion will become more conflictual and seek ways to stay anonymous. For revolutionaries, we must seek to deepen these situations, to make them more subversive, and connect the seemingly disconnected nodes of class struggle that exist. We will not be able to call for the day in which the halls of power are stormed, but we can help to create the affinities and relationships which can help us maneuver in the coming terrain. As the economic and ecological crisis deepens, the need for total social revolution and the complete destruction of capitalist civilization is needed now more than ever.

Someone that has not yet run out of bullets, but will still continue to grab rocks.

Boots Riley on Blac Bloc Tactics in Bay Area


Boots Riley has played an important role in Occupy Oakland from its inception.

Boots Riley, a revolutionary artist and Occupy activist, weighs in on the strategic wisdom of Black Bloc tactics being employed and their affect since the ebbing of the Occupy movement. Boots wrote this comment in reference to a recent  action in Oakland (not the 10/6/12 action in San Francisco where 22 activists were arrested). The following comment by Boots was posted on facebook.

by Boots Riley

The use of the blac bloc tactic in all situations is not useful. As a matter of fact, in situations such as the one we have in Oakland, its repeated use has become counter-revolutionary.
Yesterday in Oakland was a good illustration of this, in which the blac bloc kids- besides busting up bank windows- also busted wind

 

ows of parked cars and threw stuff at another car- to which the Black driver of said vehicle got out looking to fight the crowd.

 

Similarly, the crowd of folks at Somar were there for the end of Matthew Africa’s memorial- DJs and artists, and generally a group of folks who collectively probably know everybody in Oakland- I’m not exactly sure what or if anything happened before I saw the scene, but folks poured out of the club en masse to protect it, yelling at the march and telling folks to go home.

If “the job of the revolutionary is to make the revolution seem irresistible”, the use of blac bloc has been making a revolutionary movement pretty damn resistible in Oakland, CA.

When almost every conversation I have with folks from Oakland about Occupy Oakland, has the smashing of windows brought up as a reason people don’t like that grouping, scientifically it means the tactic is not working. It doesn’t matter that technically it’s only smashing corporate windows. It matters that people don’t want to join because of that. It’s not about violence/non-violence. The truth is that it’s not always corporate windows. I’m for certain tactics that would be classified as violent- even ones that have to do with fighting human beings. But what it’s about is a tactic that is detrimental in this situation. I would like to win, thank you. Not just lose with style. A style that the people around you don’t understand.

Many folks bring up Greece when debating these things. I’ve been to Athens. What I witnessed there was that the movement was tied in with the people. Most of those involved grew up in Athens, they also are part of militant campaigns that happen throughout the year, which the people support, moreover, they just know the people of the city of Athens. And, perhaps due to this situation, there are way more of them.

It’s not due to lack of outreach that Saturday’s “West Coast Anti-Capitalist March”- meaning, one that not only reached out to the whole west coast- was only able to draw 150-300 people. It’s because it’s not what the people care about- not framed in that way- and because others are either bored with the tactic or scared of being arrested because some kid breaks the window of some used car that probably costs less than their own Honda Civic. But, that was in SF. Most of the folks doing this don’t know anyone from Oakland, and- I believe- don’t plan on doing any sort of base building to find out where the pulse of the people actually are.

If you ask most people in East or West Oakland what their problems are- they’ll say being broke is there number one problem. Campaigns that use militant mass movement tactics to achieve changes in that situation are ones that have a revolutionary potential.

I’ve talked to many a person in Occupy Oakland and even in some anarchist collectives who agree with me on this, but the idea is that to criticize this publicly is to make the movement look divided. But, the public non-critique of this has the effect of making the movement look monolithic, hegemonic and uninviting. Instead, people talk shit about each other behind their backs, split and divide into smaller and smaller affinity groups. All the while, not critiquing the counter-revolutionary bullshit that’s making them irrelevant in the minds of the people they ostensibly want to organize.

Let’s get this shit right and win.