By Swaneagle Harijan
(In response to Chris Hedges’ article* on the black block, Swaneagle Harijan offers this analysis.)
Since the WTO i felt DOT (diversity of tactics) was double speak for “hit and running” leaving others to bear the brunt of poorly thought out and unprincipled property destruction. I saw many seasoned activists dance around the term in an effort to be inclusive. As is the case with drug addicts in occupy, the presence of DOT was not clarified in clear terms from the beginning, just as a clear “no drug use in camp” policy was not established at Decolonize Occupy Seattle’s 2 encampments. When clarity fails once trouble rises, then real problems development that become almost impossible to address.
I agree with some of what Chris Hedges is saying, but it also displays his relative newness to activism which i have seen in other articles lacking in depth of experienced history.
Many of those in the black bloc are young and some are quite expertly manipulated. One of the most disturbing problems i have had with DOT people is the dogmatism that refuses to dialog with others. One must pass thru some kind of convoluted system of approval in order to even talk to the holier than thous who are the in crowd of self described “authentic revolutionaries “. In public they wear masks and behave like paramilitaries. In the camp they did not talk to anyone even when spreading their dogmatic literature in camp. On their website, which i subscribed to after my experience watching them take over a march for murdered Indigenous wood carver John T Williams almost a year ago, i posted what i saw happen. I was called a “significant pathological pacifist agitator” which displays the influence of War Churchill, a person i have had issue with since the first draft i read of his book “Pacifism as Pathology”. I dare say it is his smallest, most poorly researched book, yet the impact on those anarchists in involved in the WTO was significant. I saw how Zerzan and Churchill shaped a nastiness among young anarchists, some of whom i had been working with for many years, that continues to this day. The mean spiritedness displayed towards those they consider “pacifist whimps” is superficially arrived at divide and conquer denouncement. It slams the door on meaningful communication.
Then you have anarchists who participate in the black bloc who have contributed in major ways to the humanity of how the Decolonize Occupy camp was maintained. To describe the black bloc as cancer is extreme. I would say the phenomenon is more like bronchitis that with the right care can be possibly cured. It is a huge problem, but i suppose if we are taking on this system that kills more people on the planet right now than any other force, we must find humane ways of addressing the conflict that now is deep and embedded.
No matter what the self described “authentic revolutionaries” say, many people have been driven away from occupy due to the hostile mistreatment of others whose ways may differ. I have heard the stories. Writing people off who do not fit into dogma displays dangerous, cultivated cultishness. That will relegate the black bloc to the same irrelevance that has saddled the RCP and other cultist “revolutionary” groups who to this day, annoy the crap out of most activists.
Sadly all too many DOT actions serve the purpose of infiltrators. So why is there no in depth analysis or openness to critique about the true long term impacts of property destruction? Why are any and all reactions from residents of Oakland who are very upset by the black bloc not heeded, but rather silenced? I am talking about several women of color who have expressed their deep dismay at these behaviors instigated by primarily white male anarchists that leave their community in shambles and push them completely away from occupy. Many men and women of color living in Oakland have told me themselves how upset they are by these developments and that the young people of color who join the black bloc do NOT represent the community or participants of color in Occupy Oakland. One Black father told me he is sick of cleaning up the mess the black bloc leaves behind and he is part of OO as well. There is a whole level of voices that are NOT heard on Democracy Now! or anywhere else for that matter.
Another aspect of DOT that has always bothered me is hiding not only who you are, but the whole truth of what happens. In Seattle, there is an effort to silence those who see people throwing rocks, bricks, rebar or paint bombs. Veiled threats have been made if occupiers dare take photos of such actions and too many people are being called snitches behind their backs.
The worst nastiness i have seen are online discussion groups. People who claim to be nonviolent are as vicious as those who ardently defend property destruction or fighting the cops. It is very ugly.
Then there are those who are somewhat taken in by the romanticism of the black bloc who also ostracize those perceived as being nonviolent whimps. The whole structure of how so many people are behaving reminds me of popular, good looking high school bullies who deem who is expendable and all their buddies and gals go along with the program.
In my experience, most anarchists, including those into DOT, have great respect for the Zapatistas. There are many facets to all groupings of people. It is not possible to completely peg anyone, but sadly, there is a blanket image of the black bloc that fits into much of what Chris Hedges is saying. This really needs to be examined by all who care about Decolonizing Occupy.
My biggest concern is how some activists can self elevate themselves to escape critique which is very danterous on numerous levels. It skirts around honesty, accountability and participatory solutions. No one person carries all the info. No one person can grab THE handle of what will and won’t work. We all deserve to have input and be included, but respect is essential that is all too often missing in the way those who engage in DOT behave and treat others. Disrespect has become a hallmark of DOT as well as secrecy. It is ultimately self defeating.
I am a Frontline Grandmother who has been on the streets and deeply involved in struggles for human rights, justice and authentic peace for over 30 years. My life as a silenced activist has given me a longterm outlook on what is happening now. I continue to be silenced. My long years of deep experience has no value to most cause i lack fame and the privilege to publish my extensive writings and documentation. I must say, it really bugs me how relatively new activist like Chris Hedges have such wide voice, but women like me do not and most likely never will.
The situation with the black bloc is indeed very serious. How we deal with it will decide the course of our current international struggle. We are all so deeply interconnected now. We cannot afford to throw all those involved with the misguided DOT away as cancerous. Rather, we must proceed with deep love, care and intelligence in shaping something that more precisely represents the goals and dreams we all can share in. This is not just the vision of people engaging in more domineering bully behaviors, but the joint efforts of each one of us. Please reconsider what you deem cancerous Chris Hedges, for it may rise out of this current turmoil as key to solution for us all. It is our challenge and our sacred duty to face this with all we know with all our hearts and all the voices still excluded.