A reply to Chris Hedges' 'The Cancer in Occupy'>
A reply to Chris Hedges' 'The Cancer in Occupy'
February 14, 2012
Quotes from Chris Hedges' 'The Cancer in Occupy'.
"I don't have a problem with escalating tactics to some sort of militant resistance if it is appropriate morally, strategically and tactically," Jensen continued. "This is true if one is going to pick up a sign, a rock or a gun. But you need to have thought it through."
This quote, if I am to agree with it, is with regard to clearly stating the morality of our movements objectives, and the strategies and tactics required to achieve the goal.
Before any consideration of whether the Movement is to use signs, rocks, guns, tanks, bombs, etc, there must be an Internet discussion of all concerned, debate in the Assembly and polemics in the press and media supportive of the 99% Movement.
We must collectively state, debate and polemic by democratic procedures to achieve a majority consensus regarding specifically what is the objective of our Movement: the occupy Movement. This process will bring out every person's opinion and consider his or her agenda by being subjected to debate and criticism.
If what is meant by the ethical basis for our movement, the winning of the objective we are fighting to achieve, it is determined by those objectives, our strategy determine the tactics adhered to for the implementing of this strategy and its moral directives and limits. The Revolutionaries are not terrorists.
There is a constant analysis of what we do in its axiological content, analysis as strategies need be altered by tactical mistakes and failures engendering critical analysis. Throwing out the words moral and immoral without defining what it is and its parameters is demagoguery and not categorical imperatives. It may be that we made an incorrect analysis, thus wrong strategy and failed tactics. The moral aspects of the objectives and of the strategy and tactics is posited and explicated by the activities themselves.
The State, also has its purpose, its objective is the maintenance of the existing order by deception, violence and repression as called for. Chris Hedges admits that the State is brutal and draconian in it's measures of repression but does not get beyond the discussion of "peaceful" v 'violence'. Yet, the words violence and non-violence are presented by him in isolation without contextual content, that is without articulating the objectives of the social class or movement.
The fact is that the goals of a social movement determine strategy to achieve those goals, and tactics evolve in the course of implementing that strategy.
Martin Luther King Jr is often mentioned in connection with non-violence, but rarely that it was a strategy inhering in tactics of civil disobedience toward mass mobilizations against the State enforcements of reactionary racist laws. Non-violent civil disobedience was peaceful but not passive submission. Civil disobedience is law breaking that put the laws and indeed the repressive State itself on trial by exposing the violence of State repression required to enforce those laws - 'the whole world was watching'!
The difference between the Ku Klux Klan and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, between the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan and Martin Luther King Jr wasn't just that the Klan was violent and the SCLC was non-violent, but that these antithetical organizations were organized to achieve opposite objectives; the KKK was reactionary in its strategy to divide the working class and place its racists at the disposal of the capitalists to attack and terrorise both Black civil rights activists and trade unionists, whereas the civil rights and labor movements objective was to unite all workers in defense of minority and labor rights and to push the workers movement to the consciousness of a struggle to abolish poverty as well as racial, gender and ethnic oppression and State repression.
Black Bloc portends to promote and be violent resistance, which is self-contradictory insomuch as their childlike provocations of the State's armed agents, throwing rocks and bottles at uniformed armed killers, was to bring violence down on protesters and there was no objective to be realised by the provocation of this violence. There is no objective served by throwing rocks through windows or at cops but instead fits the objectives of the State by making it appear the violence of the State is moral and just.
As far as the Black Bloc or Anarchists, I would agree that they are a convoluted mix including provocateurs, as well as anarchists and adventurists. Their convoluted rhetoric articulated and infantile rock throwing does not reflect mature analysis derived strategy or tactics toward achieving of an objective. But, this diversionary activity is possible in part because the Occupy movement itself had not as yet articulated an objective the achievement of which would flow strategies and tactics leaving a void for anarchists and adventurists tendencies to exploit this lack of objectives.
Yet, Chris Hedges' also benefits from and thus advocates this leaderless character of Occupy, and because it has no clearly stated class character and objectives as a working class youth movement is able to exploit this lack of political content to advocate Democratic Party leaning policies in opposition to anarchists.
Most (mostly young) folks, who present their position as anarchist, that I have debated with, have very little or no knowledge of theory. Nothing about the historical origin of the state, the modes of production and reproduction, Proudhon, Bakunin, etc, etc. The anarchist grouping with its seemingly irrational forms of anti-authoritarianism, anti-organisation, so-called "horizontal structures", anti dictatorship or even organisation of the proletariat, spreading confusion in the minds of the workers, is a hindrance to the development of an intelligent and ultimately revolutionary working class political movement here in the US. Most all anarchists that I've debated with or read, are more passionate about "individual liberty" (petty bourgeois) than the condition of the population in general. The Black Bloc (if indeed they are anarchists) is not the only strand of anarchists within Occupy, at least here in LA. I met anarchists here in LA during the encampment at city hall who did not dress in black or cover their faces, etc but, nonetheless, condemned organisation and command structures even within a working class movement.
Occupy is learning and capable of weeding out provocateurs as well as reformist analysis, demands and actions coming from within it's ranks. This is evident by the blocking of, preventing Democratic Party politicians and functionaries from speaking at their general assemblies (Atlanta and Los Angeles) as well as Occupiers in Oakland denouncing those who smashed windows, etc during their actions.
Chris Hedges does not define what he means by revolution, doesn't use a class analysis, doesn't put forth what his analysis is in terms of political economy.
"systems of power"
What is "systems of power"? The state? But the state is the product of the division of human society into classes, the exploiting appropriating class (as against the exploited producing class) has, since its inception as a social institution, whether historically in China, India, South America, Mesopotamia, Egypt, etc, been in control of this state. The state and its organised monopoly of force exists to keep the general population, the producing class, down.
"Any group that seeks to rebuild social structures..."
What is meant by "rebuild social structures"? "rebuild"? Chris Hedges wants to bring back "social structures..." that are progressively disintegrating by the march of technology, changing men and women, and consequently undermining and assaulting the old institutions that had/have become fetters. But what past "social structures" does Hedges refer to? He is mimicking the reactionary Tea Party, whose slogan is also 'we want our country back', and claim to want to rebuild America's moral structure, the restoration of the patriarchal monogamy - the 'nuclear family' - father the bread winner and 'knows best; children in their bed room doing home work, momma barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen cooking and feeding the family. The 'Christian Conservatives' want to restore the social structure of abortion made illegal and capital punishment legal all over this country. They, like Hedges, use the same language, 'restore America' - 'rebuild social structures' is not just not 'progressive' but down right reactionary!
Revolutionaries want to free the productive forces and emancipate the working class from the capitalist character of production and appropriation. This objective determines working class strategy and tactics, including support of the progressive advances of industry and technology that transcend national borders and freeing workers from border restrictions. We reject the Democrats and Republicans attacks on China because tariffs are not in our interests, and we reject their attacks on immigrant workers as well. Thus, our morality is consistent with our interests as a class, our revolutionary objectives, strategies and tactics are both moral and practical.
Throwing rocks through windows and at cops is rejected because it is not in the interest of winning the objective of social revolution, and is not rejected because it 'isolates' Occupy from the Democratic Party or interferes with winning over members of the State. This is capitulation to the Democrats and the State and is antithetical to our objective of ending the capitalist society, which the Democrats in the State represent.
The Occupy Movement must develop strategies and tactics to change the existing relations of production vis-a-vis the productive forces: to End wage labor exploitation and commodity production by wage labor. Society in general will hold and direct the productive forces and the distribution of the social product.
The "cancer" of Occupy is the lack of a thorough analysis of the economy in the US and worldwide, a thoroughgoing analysis of political economy. Another cancer eating at Occupy are those attempting (through cleverly strategically presented rhetoric) to pull it into the Democratic Party. The way that this is done is, in part, to present the Democratic Party as sharing a common opposition to 'the rich not paying their fair share' of taxes to funnel money from finance capital into the domestically repressive and internationally belligerent and aggressive Military Industrial Complex.
"Organization, in the thinking of the movement, implies hierarchy, which must always be opposed. There can be no restraints on "feral" or "spontaneous" acts of insurrection. Whoever gets hurt gets hurt. Whatever gets destroyed gets destroyed. "
"There is a word for this- 'criminal'".
"criminal" according to whose law? Bourgeois/capitalist class law?
We (proletarian revolutionaries) don't measure the action in relation to the laws of any ruling class and the working class had no say in the writing of these laws and thus whose law does Chris Hedges appeal to in defining Black Bloc behavior as criminal? Capitalist law because there's no other in this country.
Hedges wants to talk against insurrection as being illegal and those who break the law and charged with insurrection he calls criminals. Yet, he and those of his stripes want at the same time to praise non-violence and promote Thoreau, Gandhi, Jesus and Martin Luther King as examples of 'non-violence. Jesus, Gandhi, Thoreau, King were all law breakers, each of whom went to jail and therefore were criminals. Jesus, Gandhi and King were tried for insurrection!
"The Black Bloc movement is infected with a deeply disturbing hypermasculinity. This hypermasculinity, I expect, is its primary appeal. It taps into the lust that lurks within us to destroy, not only things but human beings."
So Hedges posits that a "lust" "lurks within" humans to "destroy, not only things but human beings." Where is the data that establishes this? This sounds like so much Hobbsian "war of all against all" or nineteenth century social Darwinism!
"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 corporate state..."
The state in the US is not a "security and surveillance" or a "corporate" state as Hedges alleges , but a state of the capitalist ruling class. Why does Hedges use such indefinite, inexact and downright incorrect concepts as it relates to social science?
"Solidarity becomes the hijacking or destruction of competing movements, which is exactly what the Black Bloc contingents are attempting to do with the Occupy movement."
Perhaps, on the surface, it might look like Black Bloc is attempting to defeat Occupy but this charge is mere speculation at this point.
"Marching as a uniformed mass, all dressed in black to become part of an anonymous bloc, faces covered, temporarily overcomes alienation, feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness and loneliness. ...It is the same sickness that fuels the swarms of police who pepper-spray and beat peaceful demonstrators. It is the sickness of soldiers in war. It turns human beings into beasts."
Police and soldiers don't beat, pepper-spray and kill because they are "marching as a uniformed mass" or because of "sickness" or that they are "beasts" but because they are hired and empowered by the capitalist state to do so.
And what is Hedges' solution?
"struggle to win the hearts and minds of the wider public and those within the structures of power (including police) who are possessed of a conscience. It is not a war. Nonviolent movements, on some level, embrace police brutality ...call for simple acts of justice..."
"brings some within the structures of power to our side"
Whom might that be? Clarence Thomas? Ruth Bader Ginsburg? Sonia Sotomayor? Elena Kagan? Hillary Clinton? Susan Rice? Charlie Gonzalez? Emanuel Cleaver? Judy Chu? Barak Obama? Eric H. Holder?
But what constitutes "justice" for such vague detailers as Hedges and a whole bunch more so called "progressives" or "social democrats" that make the rounds in the medias today? Perhaps a state that is not a "corporate" state or a "security and surveillance state", but a state of an exploiting class nonetheless?
The State is the State - a bureaucratic-military apparatus that is an instrument of class domination. Regardless of color and gender of the members of the Democrats and Republicans and the rhetoric of 'justice' it is a State that conducted the affairs, nationally and internationally, of the class that controls the productive forces, controls social production and distribution, and thus also controls the distribution of the wealth (necessary and surplus value) that is produced by the working population.
And what is Hedges writing of whose side is "our side"? On what basis is "our" defined? And how can those "within the structures of power" be on "our" side? Logically, it would seem, that those "within the structures of power" are part of the "corporate" and or "security and surveillance" state? The changes in the color of the skin or the gender of its members does not change the essential function of the power of the State as an apparatus of class rule!
"The corporate state understands and welcomes the language of force. It can use the Black Bloc's confrontational tactics and destruction of property to justify draconian forms of control"
The State doesn't need "the Black Bloc's confrontational tactics...to justify draconian forms of control." The state historically has never been lacking in the most brutal, destructive and murderous forms of violence to put down slave, peasant or wage workers attempting to make demands or otherwise organise themselves as a force for their own. The Black Bloc did not precipitate the dropping of nuclear weapons, by the US ruling class and their state, on Hiroshima or Nagasaki, the invasion of Vietnam or Iraq, the killing of students at Kent State or Jackson State, the mass extermination of North American indigenous populations, etc.
"If we become isolated we can be crushed."
Who is "we"? Chris Hedges thus intimate himself as a representative and spokesperson of Occupy. Yet, he is unelected as such but is self- appointed. He doesn't represent anyone but himself, although ideologically he speaks the same language as the Democratic Party in articulating their approach to the Occupy movement.
"These anarchists represent no one but themselves. Those in Oakland, although most are white and many are not from the city, arrogantly dismiss Oakland's African-American leaders, who, along with other local community organizers, should be determining the forms of resistance."
When he writes of the anarchists not representing anyone but themselves he needs to look into the mirror, as ditto: Who is Chris Hedges referring to when he mentions "Oakland's African-American leaders"? Democratic Party "leaders"?
Oakland is primarily working class and not exactly an exclusively African-American city having sizable populations of workers from Mexico and Central America as well as people of European and Asian origin. Hedges is saying perhaps that the skin color of a movement that is comin' out of any area should coincide with the skin color of the people who live in the area? That's the language of Democratic Party 'identity politics'.
Besides, most of the cities across the country wherein Occupy free assemblies have been crushed by brutal, pepper-spraying and baton swinging police are governed by city councils with mayor executives 'of color' and both genders, including the city council and mayor of Oakland. What they have in common is not that they are 'representatives of oppressed people of color'; but,they are all Democratic Party politicians, political lackeys of the capitalists, the same as are the 'people of color' of both 'genders' that comprise the Obama Administration's domestic repressive and internationally aggressive policies of American capitalists and imperialists.
Democrat or not, Hedges in any case is clearly no revolutionary, as he does not discuss or advocate for such essentials as the transfer of the productive forces into the hands and control of the working class, the relations of production, surplus labor time, surplus product, rate of profit, exploitation, etc, and thus is a conservative reformist in that by pushing the interests consistent with the policies of the Democratic Party and the media, including demonizing the anarchists for making the Occupy movement appear unacceptable to the Democratic Party and recruiting its members of the 'power structure' and police into it, or in any event, winning their 'sympathy'.
The Cancer in Occupy
Posted on Feb 6, 2012
By Chris Hedges
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