Black Bloc

Violence or nonviolence: where do you draw the line?


On Feb 6, America author and Occupy activist Chris Hedges wrote a piece for titled “The Cancer in Occupy.” In it he criticized the violent actions of Black Bloc operatives within the movement, saying they are the greatest threat to the future of Occupy. The article has generated a heated debate online about non-violence, political strategy and protest in America, and has garnered a response by Anarchist thinker Dr. Zakk Flash.

Read both articles and weigh-in.

The Cancer in Occupy by Chris Hedges

The Black Bloc anarchists, who have been active on the streets in Oakland and other cities, are the cancer of the Occupy movement. The presence of Black Bloc anarchists—so named because they dress in black, obscure their faces, move as a unified mass, seek physical confrontations with police and destroy property—is a gift from heaven to the security and surveillance state. The Occupy encampments in various cities were shut down precisely because they were nonviolent. They were shut down because the state realized the potential of their broad appeal even to those within the systems of power. They were shut down because they articulated a truth about our economic and political system that cut across political and cultural lines. And they were shut down because they were places mothers and fathers with strollers felt safe.


Hedging Our Bets on the Black Bloc by Dr. Zakk Flash

Chris Hedges has written some of the most insightful analysis of the U.S. war machine in recent years. His 2009 book “The Empire of Illusion” was an exploration of how exhibition has eclipsed truth and meaningful connection in American society. His acknowledgment of the ease in which one can buy into such spectacles is a small part of why it was so odd to read his article on Truthdig attacking both anarchists and black bloc tactics entitled “The Cancer in Occupy.”


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102 comments on the article “Black Bloc”

Displaying 51 - 60 of 102

Page 6 of 11


"Black BLOC"? ---That is showboating and counter-productive. It's always been my understanding that black CELLS (each limited to under a dozen members, albeit preferably half that number, w/ a liasioning code/system and/or a single member contact for coordinated/complementary actions with other such cells) is preferable if a cell/group wants to maintain both anonymity and security and the potential benefits of autonomous action combined with the element of unpredictability accrued thereby.


Wo wo wo.

Let's get this right, lest some idiot gets over-zealous.

Breaking a bank window is probably NOT violence.
Even if the bank starts to charge all its customers a "broken window" fee.

Breaking a single mom's house window so she has to spend the last of her food money to fix it or sit in the shivering cold is DEFINITELY very much violence.

So it IS possible for the destruction of inanimate objects to be VERY MUCH violence, contrary to the absolute tone some people are using.


I had a boyfriend once who knocked a jar off of the top of a fridge into my head. Even though he knocked it right in my direction, he could claim that he had never "been violent" but I had to go to the hospital with a concussion.

Breaking the windows of local businesses, be they banks or coffee shops, particularly when people are in them, is violent.

Throwing bottles that might actually break or hit someone, it's violent.


What constitutes violence?
It is a relative term depending on what we are facing.
Is it violence to come to the aid of a child being molested by a pervert? Is it violence to face someone who is trying to kill us? Is it violence to stop some one shooting at unarmed people?
I believe the Quranic advice is eye for an eye etc. ..... but there is a reward from God for those who forgive. I consider this sage advice
We should be reasonable middle of the road people at all times and avoid violence as much as possible.
All things in excess become bad, including non-violence.


I would add many more things, like is it violence the mere existence of police, army, prisons? who has the monopoly of violence and why


The ultimate restraint is always physical. That is why we need Police, Army and Prisons. But they should be used only if all else fails.
The present state apparatus refuses to deal with legitimate public grievances and opens the dialogue only with extreme violence. It is not interested in government for the people, it has become government for the moneylenders. The state apparatus is now used to deprive us of our hard earned wages, our possessions, our homes etc. for the benefit of the blood sucking moneylenders.
UNDERSTAND CLEARLY THAT THE PRESENT DEBTS CANNOT BE PAID. They will have to be refused, written off, repudiated or whatever word you want to use, and we will have to start with a clean slate. And to do that the government will have to start with the ABOLITION OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE - THE BIGGEST BLOODSUCKER OF THEM ALL.


Graeber's open-letter response to Hedges is right on the money, in that his screed is a dangerous attack on anarchists. I won't repeat the argument here, but in light of this, I hope that Adbusters will never publish or promote Hedges again. If you do, cancel my subscription (and fuck yourself). I won't economically support people who will give voice to those who generate propaganda that may result in me or people I care about being attacked.


Chris Hedges has a problem with THE BLACK BLOC not anarchism or anarchists. His writing clearly shows that. The whole mentality of "fuck the cops" "lets smash shit","etc. is what he is talking about. One can be an anarchist and think the Black Bloc is a put off at the same time btw. I think the reaction of many anarchists to his article illustrates his point clearly. The people I'm refering to seem to think that no criticism from "the left" should be aimed in the direction of any anarchists because they believe it will help the media paint a nefative picture of anarchists. Well, they already have, and they will continue to do so, and his point is that it will bury the movement in negativity. His point about the cynicism of many anarchists is proven by so many things I've heard certain anarchists say about him, calling him "privileged" and saying he doesnt know anything about journalism, etc. He's a liberal, etc. It all goes to further his argument about cerfain anarchists seeming more concerned about fighting with people in the Occupy movement whose politics aren't pure enough for Black Bloc types.


Hedges article is so rife with inaccuracies and strawmen arguments that I and most other anarchists I know actually thought it was some clever satire written under his name when we first read it. The idea that Zerzan directs black blocs, that a defunct minor green anarchist journal from years back has any bearing on current anarchist efforts, etc. is so absurd as to be laughable; a 14 year old doing a paper for their social studies class couldnt have gotten closer to the mark. Id laugh except theres no way to excuse this kind of crap - the only way to understand it is that its INTENTIONALLY dishonest.

The arrticle, alongside earlier pieces by hedges, also contains the worst kind of american nimbyism; approval of anarchists and other folks fighting cops in greece, as long as they dont do it here, etc. This is a tired old hypocrisy of american "radicals" and progressives; i was honestly surprised to see it so un-subtly trotted (unintentional pun?) out here again.

And, to be sure, this article IS understood as an attack not just on the black bloc as a tactic (which hedges erroneously terms a "movement") but on anarchists and our role in the occupy thing in general. This is clear in a number of sections of the article, but also just in the general thrust of the piece. It contains a number of blatant lies about anarchists that could be corrected with about 5 minutes of wikipedia research - instead it just rolls on ahead.

There are a number of viable critiques to made, as to how we can all better participate in social struggles in the US. Urging us to be nonviolent, smile for the cameras, etc. is not one of them. This critique only makes sense in the context of a liberal political position, one where Hedges essentially wants protesters to become political capital for progressive and democratic politicians. It would be fine if he would just acknowledge this political difference outright; instead he weaves an incoherent path of inaccuracies and blatant lies to argue that the conflict is over tactics rather than political aims.

A final note: if occupiers hope to win by looking good to the one percent, then they already lost before they began. To concede the terrain to your enemy (politics, corporate media, legitimate channels) is to concede the battle. If they hope to win by finding each other, building their power to challenge this economy, and ACTING, then theyre might be some hope left. The former offers an easy way out, one that is comfortable, well travelled, and although ineffective, offers the satisfaction of saying one tried. The latter is less known territory, but it is where we must go. Occupy Oakland, for all its problems, has already decided to go down that path, and is not only the most militant but also the largest occupy heart still beating. It has accomplished a general strike and a west coast port blockade that i never thought i would see. It has broken through a number of glass ceilings in american political activism. I can only hope it spreads. If Hedges is scared by this thought, he should at least get out of the way.


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