In a previous post (Who Will occupy Whom? A Warning for OWS) I warned about threats to the occupy movement and suggested a general strategy for achieving popular empowerment, peace, justice, and personal freedom. That post was prompted by, and included, an insightful article by Richard K. Moore. This one is stimulated by an article by Chris Hedges that highlights a more immediate threat that has recently developed in Oakland and elsewhere. That threat appears in the form of violent mob action that goes under the rubric of The Black Bloc. According to Wikipedia, “The Black Bloc is sometimes incorrectly reported as being the name of a specific anarchist group. It is, rather, a tactic that may be adopted by groups of various motivations and methods.” Those methods include violent confrontation with authority and destruction of property, tactics that play right into the hands of domineering oligarchs intent of preserving their privilege and hold on power. No doubt, the actions of many Black Bloc protesters are motivated by their ardently held, though misguided, ideology, but it seems likely that there are among their leadership agents provocateur who are intent on helping to maintain the present power structure by discrediting any opposition to it.
The media have generally characterized these anarchist actions as being part of the Occupy movement, but as Chris Hedges points out in his article, The Cancer in Occupy, The Black Bloc is no friend to the Occupy movement which began as peaceful expressions of discontent with the status quo, and is hopefully maturing into a progressive movement toward popular empowerment. Hedges calls the Black Bloc anarchists “the cancer of the Occupy movement,” and I’m inclined to agree. One feature of the Black Bloc protesters, and the basis for the name, is that they dress in black clothing and use ski masks, scarves, sun glasses, and other means to obscure their faces. But anonymity and concealment are antithetical to civil society and are more likely to enable criminal and anti-social activity rather than protection for the legitimate assertion of people’s rights.
Any movement will eventually develop factions that diverge on the basis of philosophy, goals, strategies and tactics. The mainstream of the Occupy movement must find ways to distance itself from such groups and tactics because, as Hedges points out, “Once the Occupy movement is painted as a flag-burning, rock-throwing, angry mob we are finished. If we become isolated we can be crushed.” One way to preserve the legitimacy of the movement is to insist on openness and transparency. If that can be expressed strongly enough, it might preserve in the public mind the identity of Occupy as a benign and creative force.
I believe that the ends are inherent in the means and that, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12, KJV). The Occupy movement must move toward disciplined organization and employ tactics that are at once compassionate and effective, tactics that even progressives who work within the establishment can embrace. It must be a form of organization that relies not on power hierarchies, but on solidarity and consensus within small communities of peers organized into large networks than can enable concerted action.
The real threat to the powers that be, (and the most promising path toward our goals) is intelligent, non-violent, empowering actions that make them and their systems irrelevant.
The way forward, as I see it, is to assert our fundamental rights and to organize better ways of providing for our basic needs. Yes, there will be adverse consequences, but ultimately right will prevail. I am reminded of a scene from the film Gandhi, in which the mahatma leads a large number of people on a march to the sea—to make salt. Why was that a revolutionary act? Because the British government had a “legal” monopoly that forced people in India to buy their salt from that single source. What a patent absurdity, to tell people that they are prohibited from making their own salt. What a gross infringement of basic human rights!
But people everywhere today suffer under equally absurd “laws” that force people to rely upon banking cartels to provide government-approved forms of money to enable the exchange of the goods and services we all need. In some places, competing forms of currency and financing alternatives are prohibited outright, in others they are impeded by onerous taxation and reporting requirements. But ultimately, the people will reclaim the credit commons and free themselves from oppressive systems of money and finance. I urge you again to heed the prescriptions outlined in my book, The End of Money and the Future of Civilization.
Viva la revolución pacífica!