Loukanikos, the Greek Riot Dog, from: http://rebeldog.tumblr.com/During the Occupy National Strategy conference call yesterday on the topic of Nonviolence and Diversity of Tactics, a fellow in Portland spoke about some incidents there during an anti police repression march last weekend in which cars and businesses were vandalized by an autonomous splinter group not affiliated with Occupy Portland. Because the action was taking place during an Occupy Portland event, the OPDX Spokes Council went into emergency session to consider and draft a document to clarify what sorts of action OPDX will not allow during its events and actions.
I saw some of the evening march in Portland last weekend on the video livestream, including some pretty hostile confrontations between police and demonstrators. The livestreamer explained that earlier -- and so far as anyone knew, still -- the police were conducting "snatch and grab" arrests among the marchers, targeting or sometimes just randomly going after individuals in the march, pulling them out of the crowd, beating them, arresting them, taking them away. He said it was terrifying to witness. He mentioned vandalism had occurred earlier, and he speculated the police were conducting these snatch and grab arrests to apprehend suspects who had engaged in vandalism, but no one actually knew why they were doing it and that was a reason why people on the march were being so hostile toward the police and why some were trying to protect others from these police tactics.
As more than a few people have pointed out, these and other indications suggest that the conflict between Occupy and the authorities in general is intensifying, and this kind of thing is not exactly family friendly.
And some of the scenes of the renewed Greek Riots -- that I've got on the livestream as I type this post -- are deeply troubling and fear-inducing. Is that what we're headed for?
I say no, we're nowhere near the Greek situation, and there's no sign whatever that if we were, Occupy would in the vanguard or even on the periphery, of the kind of popular revolt and rioting going on in Greece. That kind of thing is not found at all in the Occupy framework. ("But what about the Black Bloc???") Black Blocs basically don't figure in the context of Occupy, and to the extent they appear at all -- extremely rare -- they don't engage in the kinds of things we're seeing in Athens right now.
My knowledge of Black Blocs is limited, to be sure, and based mostly on personal contact and interaction with some of those who proposed to -- possibly -- form a Black Bloc and utilize Diversity of Tactics tactics. They're not hooligans, far from it. They've been extremely bright young people, strongly principled, and absolutists about not bringing harm to another human being, including the police. The ones I describe may or may not have participated in the Black Bloc in Oakland on November 2 of last year -- the only time a Black Bloc has appeared in Oakland during an Occupy event. That Black Bloc was autonomous, as they all are.
Just to review: participants in that Black Bloc engaged in strategic vandalism of targeted banks, businesses and institutions. They did not engage in random acts of violence, nor did they engage in actions that were intended to or were likely to bring harm to another human being even in self defense. Recall, some of the participants in that Black Bloc were physically assaulted by self-proclaimed "nonviolence" advocates, not the other way around.
I dispute the value of strategic vandalism in an Occupy context or in the larger context of the struggle under way -- which of course puts me on the other side in the Class War! Even as an "informational display" strategic vandalism has little resonance beyond its core of supporters, largely because of the conditioning Americans are subjected to regarding the sacredness of private property, Lifestyle and Nonviolence. In other words, even if the issue is one Americans tend to support, methods to highlight it that involve destruction of property or substantial disruption of normal operations of daily life are widely if not necessarily mindfully denounced.
This conditioning is a legacy of the Reagan Era, starting with his election as Governor of California in 1966, in which the power elites of that era vowed 1) to crush the student and civil uprisings then taking place, and 2) to NEVER let anything like it happen again.
So let it be written, so it has been.
The PTB has been engaged in a full-scale disempowerment campaign against students, workers, religious institutions, minority communities, indeed against any form of "unapproved" opposition or criticism ever since. Their strategies have now shifted to disempowering women, the "middle class," and even segments of the elites. It's been relentless, and it was largely successful. This disempowerment campaign has relied heavily on conditioning the masses to accept their lot, to engage in the pursuit of phantoms of wealth, to struggle among themselves rather than against the Overclass, and to be servile in the presence of Authority. Effective revolt and rebellion has been made all but impossible. Or so the Overclass assures itself.
Effective strategies to counter this state of affairs from below are very difficult to develop because this conditioning is so very strong, it involves every aspect of living that might in spire or lead to an effective revolt, and it has been going on for decades. Generations have been subjected to this disempowerment and conditioning and to the propaganda machine that helps sustain it. Another world may well be possible (it is!) but how to get past the barricades (behind which Our Rulers are cowering) to it is still not clear.
"Another way" is necessary. The standard revolt-revolution pattern is all but non-functional. This includes the strategies of the advocates of nonviolent resistance. They don't work any more; they've been disempowered, quite deliberately.
We see this disempowerment constantly in the Occupy Nonviolence vs Diversity of Tactics conversations. So many people in so many segments of the Occupy Movement are so conditioned to believe that "nonviolence works" (so long as it strictly adheres to MLK/"Ghandi" principles) that they are incapable of seeing that it doesn't work anymore, nor can it work again due to the prevalence of strategic disempowerment and conditioning. Their devotion to what they believe took place in the past is touching, but their obliviousness to a) context of the times, and b) what was actually taking place that led to MLK/"Ghandi" victories is striking. Even some of those who were there don't seem to remember any more. I can still remember some things, not everything to be sure, but the deliberate whitewashing of what was really going on Back In The Day, along with intense conditioning to believe and revere myths about King and Gandhi and their movements, myths that largely obscure the truth, is quite apparent to me. I keep wanting to say, "It wasn't like that!" but, quite literally, what the hell do I know anyway!?
During yesterday's conference call I spoke up a few times, in what I thought would be a futile effort to bring some kind of perspective to the discussion, but I was surprised to find that some of the rigidity of viewpoint about the effectiveness of strictly mythological "Ghandian" nonviolence has essentially crumbled. New methods and approaches to effective nonviolent resistance may not have been found, but more and more of those engaged in the struggle are rejecting the strict-adherence to ineffective tactics and methods as a way forward, whether those methods are categorized as "violent" or "non-violent."
Yay. The categories are becoming irrelevant.
As I wrote on Saturday, and have repeated in other fora, "it's about trust." And one of the reasons I feel I can trust the Occupy Movement, even when I'm opposed to something that's going on or to methods of operations (for example, the Spokes Council model adopted in New York and some other places), because -- surprise -- it's working, and the process is one of discovery of possibility not one of imposition of ones own ideological demands and desires. I don't have to get my way, in other words -- and I often don't -- in order to trust that things will ultimately turn out right, or at least OK. I don't have to agree with everything that goes on, and I don't have to like the individuals involved.
And there is no requirement that I or anyone else "Occupy." Stepping back and standing aside are quite all right. No opprobrium accrues for doing so. This Revolution continues with or without any particular individual.
I was chatting with someone very close to me about the local first pre-Occupation meeting that we both attended -- seemingly so long ago now. We were recollecting how diverse the assemblage was, and how rough the operating format was. It was actually pretty chaotic, and if it hadn't been for a Peace and Freedom Party apparatchik in attendance to give some pointers on :horizontalism: and working groups and such, I'm not altogether sure we could have gotten through it. As it was, some of the elements that were decided at that first meeting were simply forgotten or so it seemed by the time the local Occupy emerged into public view a few days later.
We were remembering how some of those in attendance assured the multitude that the local OWS (as it was at the time) couldn't work unless this or that hierarchical political-party-union-nonprofit-organization-charted format and method of operation were adopted. This insistence was so rigid and absolute among some of the attendees; and they didn't get their way. Others expressed their strong reservations about this "leaderless" notion, and offered all kinds of advice about how movements are "supposed to be done." Some people left in a huff because they weren't getting their way.
That's the right thing to do. It's OK. No one is required to Occupy, and there is no requirement that Occupy appeal to everyone all the time, or even necessarily to the majority at any time. Big marches and rallies are great, but they aren't required. There's nothing wrong with clearly stated ideologies and elaborate rules, but they aren't required, either. Occupy is not like movements of the past, it's forging new paths to the future. It may not work. But so far it has worked remarkably well given all the catcalling and sniping from the inside and outside. Its resilience and adaptability have been severely tested, and it's come through the fire even stronger.
It's sure not what I thought Teh Revolution might look like, but even at its rowdiest, it's nothing at all like the Greek Riots, nor, so far as I can tell, can it become anything like that.
Meanwhile, what is wrong with the Rulership of Greece and Europe, and everywhere else that they are oblivious -- or is it indifferent -- to how badly they have fucked up? Where do they expect to flee?