The Cancer In Occupy

Illustrazione di un Black BlocChris Hedges writes about the Black Bloc at Alternet (thanks to Adam for the tip):

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.

Black Bloc adherents detest those of us on the organized left and seek, quite consciously, to take away our tools of empowerment. They confuse acts of petty vandalism and a repellent cynicism with revolution. The real enemies, they argue, are not the corporate capitalists, but their collaborators among the unions, workers’ movements, radical intellectuals, environmental activists and populist movements such as the Zapatistas. Any group that seeks to rebuild social structures, especially through nonviolent acts of civil disobedience, rather than physically destroy, becomes, in the eyes of Black Bloc anarchists, the enemy…

[continues at at Alternet]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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41 Comments on "The Cancer In Occupy"

  1. Giving protest a bad name. Way to make a stand and promote more violence. Grow up and exercise your freedom of speech. Not violence. It only gets escalated.

  2. This article is crap, and attributes a motive to a tactic. There are many black blocs with varying reasons. Most supporters of black bloc believe that there must be both a “violent” (violence against property is not violence, though I personally think a certain degree of actual violence will be necessary as well) and non-violent component in any movement for any substantial change to be accomplished. I agree with them.

    • Tchoutoye | Feb 10, 2012 at 10:45 am |

      That would be fair enough if they organised their own protests and actions. But the problem is that the Black Blocks are parasitical. They latch on to other protests that have opposing strategies, and then do nothing but sabotage them. 

      Furthermore their methods and violent strategy lend themselves all too easily for police infiltration or imitation. There are many videos on YouTube that show evidence of police agent provocateurs posing as Black Blockers. When the police seem to gain so much from the fallout from leftist/anarchist violence that they impersonate the Black Blocks, you have to question their political effectiveness.

      • sonicbphuct | Feb 10, 2012 at 11:12 am |

         while i agree with the general content of your post, it’s really fucking annoying to so many associate “anarchy” with violence. Is “anarchist violence” significant in comparison to “capitalist violence” or “industrialist violence”?

        Or is all violence “anarchist violence”?

        Jesus H. Christ – enough already, that “Emma Goldman has a little bomb under her dress” line is played out. Move the fuck on.

      • JohnFrancisBittrich | Feb 10, 2012 at 3:06 pm |

        They didn’t “attach themselves” to the Occupy movement. Anarchists, many of whom have used the black bloc tactic at various events for various reasons, were instrumental in the original Zucotti occupation from the get-go. A lot of the organizing principles of the movement were their ideas.

      • chris bushes | Feb 10, 2012 at 4:38 pm |

        shut up you know not what you talk about

    • I don’t see that. The police/army are well-equipped to deal with violence; it’s peaceful non-compliance and radical ideas that throw them for a loop. Once you throw a rock, you’re engaging the state on its own terms, and that’s a battle you’re going to lose. 

    • Tuna Ghost | Feb 11, 2012 at 2:47 am |

      But the fact that they are so easily infiltrated (as well as the results that follow) severely decreases any chance the ever had of being effective at anything besides provoking police to attack protests.

  3. Hadrian999 | Feb 10, 2012 at 11:10 am |

    the disorganized nature of the occupy movement lends itself to being co opted in this nature, they need to organize into disciplined squads with group leaders responsible for ensuring that all squad members are actually organization members and are acting in a proper way. the disorganized state of the movement make it impossible to prevent penetration by agent provocateurs, cops, intelligence agents, informants, as well, thugs and people of a character who will discredit the movement,

    • Liam_McGonagle | Feb 10, 2012 at 12:33 pm |

      Sorry–but is ‘organized’ resistance any LESS suceptible to co-option than un-organized?  Remember the Jubilee Plot?

      The grand-daddy of all black ops, the British secret service orchastrated a plot to kill Queen Victoria in 1887 and smear it all over the Irish Republican Brotherhood through a 25-year infiltration of the IRB board with a paid agent provocateur.

      The plot failed (naturally), not only in the ostensible goal to kill Victoria, but also to destroy the IRB or the Irish Parliamentary Party, despite extensive controlled ‘leaks’ of forged letters to the press purporting to show the IPP’s involvement.  Apart from a few token arrests and suicides of some of the double agents, the main impact of the affair was to deepen the mistrust between the various parties and prolong the conflict for over a century.

      This stuff goes on every day in organized groups.  Remember Scappaticci?

      It seems to me that the purpose of Occupy is to serve as the public face of America’s moral conscience, not some kind of corruptible top-down organization.  To that extent, organization could never help Occupy, only render it pointless.

      There are always going to be some diehard core of ignorant people who believe BB are representative of the overall Occupy movement no matter what happens, even if no arrests occur here in out.  What will determine the ultimate success or failure of the Occupy movement is how far it penetrates into the grass-roots realities on the streets.  Making people pay dues, register and show ID cards would only hinder that effort.

      • Hadrian999 | Feb 10, 2012 at 12:41 pm |

        it is very difficult to infiltrate a properly organized movement , but most dont properly organize the first rule is you never accept anyone that comes to you, you only want people who you have noticed and decided to recruit, then you have to vet them to make sure there are no portions of their personal life or character that lend themselves to being recruited by the opposition and finally you need members who’s sole role is counter intelligence, and never just one each CI needs to be watched by other CI’s. everything that comes out of your org needs to be on message and calculated to be a strategic move towards organizational goals. right now it requires almost zero effort to slip “black propaganda” ops, and snitches into groups like occupy and the teaparty

        • Liam_McGonagle | Feb 10, 2012 at 12:43 pm |

          Yeah–I guess 200 years of experience only qualifies the IRB and its successors as “rank amateurs”.

          So the Occupy organization you posit has–what, maybe 5 members? The potential effectiveness as a grass roots organization being . . . ?

          • Hadrian999 | Feb 10, 2012 at 1:08 pm |

            grass movements are good for cannon fodder  but it takes professionals to get anything serious done, the current movement has achieved very little besides giving pundits something to be snarkey about. when occupy brings down a government or bankrupts a corporation i’ll be impressed, frankly im not impressed by the irb, they have had 200 years and never achieved

          • Liam_McGonagle | Feb 10, 2012 at 1:19 pm |

            Professionals?  Like the CIA and the State Department in Iraq?  Wonder how well that’s going these days . . . .

            True, the Irish Republic has more than its share of problems, but I don’t think any realistic reading of history can dismiss it as “not an accomplishment”, or make any credible claim that the IRB was not a significant factor in the evolution of events that culminated in the creation of the Republic.

            Let’s face it, we all want a panacea, a sure-fire formula guaranteed to produce results fast,fast,fast.  But history makes it clear that it’s only widespread and general consensus that produces results.  An indispensable part of that equation is grass roots.

            Organization is also necessary, eventually; but it has to be an organization that serves the consensus interest.  We in America, I’m pretty sure, are no where near achieving that preliminary consensus. 

            Therefore Occupy’s logical (though not inevitable) place in history should be to pave the way for consensus building.  Organization, at this stage in the game, would likely only restrict the public’s access to Occupy, the very OPPOSITE thing  to that which is needed to achieve consensus.

          • Hadrian999 | Feb 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm |

            the public have to be guided, they are like a sculptors clay. they have to be shaped by artists to be anything usefull.  I think  the Don Lucchesi character in godfather 3 said it best “he who builds on the people builds on mud”

          • Its more like sentient clay, you can try to mold it, but there’s still a will of its own. You can try to shape it one way, but if it goes against its nature, it will not hold shape.

      • Tuna Ghost | Feb 13, 2012 at 3:30 am |

        To that extent, organization could never help Occupy, only render it pointless.

        So do you view the desire to engage in the political system to create real change, one that I wrote about recently, as counter-productive since that would almost certainly change the structure of the organization as it stands now?  

        • Liam_McGonagle | Feb 13, 2012 at 12:42 pm |

          No, I see organized politics and Occupy as 2 separate but complementary things.

          I like to think of it as a question of political ecology.  I think the most effective role for Occupy is to create the fundamental social conditions that will allow for political parties to function better.

          Just as in the biological universe plant life represents the foundational forms which nourish the others, so too in the political arena I see Occupy building, in a very non-partisan sort of way, the sort of moral and social normative consensus necessary to frame political activity in a meaningful way. 

          Cougars are meat eaters, but their prey all depend on vibrant vegetable life for their caloric intake.  Politicians can have the best and wisest policies in the world, but they will rot on the vine if the wider culture doesn’t appreciate or recognize virtue or wisdom.

          Curiously, I am coming to believe that identifying wise policies is NOT the most difficult or pressing challenge before us.  Rather, I think it is that American society is so weird, disgusting and morally perverse that it may take a generation or more of non-partisan activity like Occupy before there is even a basic consensus to get us going in the right direction.

          If that’s true, then organizing Occupy would be the worst thing possible at this stage.  Leave that to the B-list political hacks, whose job after all, should be pandering to the public; that is their role in the political ecology.

  4. Lee Swain | Feb 10, 2012 at 12:29 pm |

    My feeling has always been that the “Black Bloc”  are agent provocateurs. I know people often claim that police “pretend to be black bloc” sometimes but I’m pretty sure they are ALL g-men.

    They add nothing to the movement, all they do is serve to provoke violence against protesters and undermine movements.

    I would bet dollars for doughnuts that they are secret service front.

    • JohnFrancisBittrich | Feb 10, 2012 at 3:07 pm |

      funny, that’s how I feel about people like Hedges and Naomi Wolf when they take a radical movement that is gaining some mainstream liberal support and try to drive a wedge between those two sides of the movement, hence weakening it as a whole.

      • JohnFrancisBittrich | Feb 10, 2012 at 3:11 pm |

        also, if they are a “secret service front”, then how come the tactic was invented and much more widely used OUTSIDE of the US, where the secret service has no jurisdiction? Woulda been a more believable conjecture to say it’s CIA.

    •  Funny, I’ve always assumed the same thing about liberals showing up and watering protest movements down into ineffectiveness.  The Ghandi fever is usually a giveaway.

      • Tuna Ghost | Feb 13, 2012 at 3:35 am |

        So you’re saying violent protests that haven’t been watered down, presumably by non-violent protestors objecting to violence, are effective?  Or at least more effective than non-violent protests?  

  5. Anarchy Pony | Feb 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm |

    Keep on complaining Hedges, you aren’t going to get anywhere either way.

  6. I always have a hardy chuckle when people begin equating the “violence” black bloc actions cause to property with the violence of the police assaults that have been happening at the many OWS encampments.  And the idea that everyone who has ever put on a black bandana over there face is an agent provocateur is even sillier.  Sure, there have been instances of police infiltration spurring destruction (see Canadian G20 protests in 2010) but there have been informants worming there way into different movements for years.

    You may not agree with this these types of tactics and that’s fine, but dont say that they are always self defeating and counterproductive.  The Battle in Seattle in ’99 helped bring the anti-globalist movement to the forefront of political discourse in a way it had never really been before.  Direct action will always have a place in this fight.

    • Tuna Ghost | Feb 13, 2012 at 2:58 am |

      Sure, but I think there’s definitely a debate to be had on the nature of that direct action, and whether the black-bloc style is actually helpful.  It is so easily infiltrated and turn to the state’s advantage; is that really the hallmark of a useful ally?

  7. Bill Busse | Feb 10, 2012 at 1:25 pm |

    Read David Graeber’s response to Chris Hedges

    Concerning the Violent Peace-Police
    An Open Letter to Chris Hedges

    • Tuna Ghost | Feb 13, 2012 at 3:58 am |

      After the fiasco of Seattle, of watching some activists actively turning others over to the police—we quickly decided we needed to ensure this never happened again.

      Ensure what never happens again?  The violence, or activists turning Black Bloc-ers over to the police?  One serves every protestor, the other serves only those in black.  

       What we found that if we declared “we shall all be in solidarity with one another. We will not turn in fellow protesters to the police. We will treat you as brothers and sisters. But we expect you to do the same to us”—

      Again, that seems to help those using Black Bloc tactics more than the majority.  If only a minority want to use violence, or at least feels that violence may be on the schedule or that violence is an option to consider, but ask that they be protected by the majority that doesn’t believe violence is an option at all, is that really going to seem fair to those who aren’t in favor of Black Bloc tactics?  

      –then, those who might be disposed to more militant tactics will act in solidarity as well, either by not engaging in militant actions at all for fear they will endanger others (as in many later Global Justice Actions, where Black Blocs merely helped protect the lockdowns, or in Zuccotti Park, where mostly people didn’t bloc up at all) or doing so in ways that run the least risk of endangering fellow activists.

      The “least risk of endangering fellow activists”?  I’m not sure how one measures that–it seems that any militancy is going to attract unwelcome actions by the police, and that attention will be focussed on everyone, not just the black bloc.  

  8. Propaganda Of The Deed.

    While I myself, an Anarchist, am in doubt that such a tactic still holds
    relevance in todays society, largely due to the lack of understanding
    the public has about Anarchism, and socialist movements in general…
    But it’s obvious the author of this piece knows next to nothing about
    Anarchist history, or it’s tactics – He should do a bit more research
    next time.

    Detest the organized left? What rubbish. Anarchists ARE leftists, and
    the system of governing we idealize is one of intricate organization and

    “The real enemies, they argue, are not the corporate capitalists, but
    their collaborators among the unions, workers’ movements, radical
    intellectuals, environmental activists and populist movements such as
    the Zapatistas”…. Oh wow, your ignorance towards Anarchism in general AGAIN shows.

    Anarcho-Syndicalism, the kind the black blocs follow, it is ENTIRELY
    based on the concept of unions! Also, the Zapatistas ARE anarchists
    (pretty much) – We hate capitalism. Anarchism is the battle against
    hierarchy – We seek one thing and one thing only – To abolish the
    private ownership of capital, and put it back into the hands of the
    prolitariat. Did you do one SHRED of research here?!

    • Psalms55 21 | Feb 13, 2012 at 6:43 pm |

      To abolish the private ownership of capital, and put it back into the hands of the 

      oh, wow. how you’re able to suspend logic to say a sentence like that is beyond me.

      are you abolishing private ownership or are you putting private ownership into other people’s hands?

      seems like… retarded.

  9. JohnFrancisBittrich | Feb 10, 2012 at 3:04 pm |

    Liberal BS. Without the anarchists Mr. Hedges is deriding, there would be no occupy for him to accuse them of destroying. I’d respond in greater detail, but the following response hits all the salient points on this topic for me:

    Personally, I’m half-convinced that people like Hedges and Naomi Wolf are on the take. Creating and promoting a rift between the militants and the liberals like this only serves to weaken the movement as a whole. It’s a damn shame.

    • Tuna Ghost | Feb 13, 2012 at 3:01 am |

      Could be I’m just under Wolf and Hedges’s spell (unlikely since I don’t often read any of their stuff), but I don’t recall anyone watching the black bloc in recent protests (G8 summits come to mind) and thinking “yeah, those guys are really helping the cause” except the police that got to take action because the black bloc gave them an excuse.

      • Tuna Ghost | Feb 13, 2012 at 3:25 am |

        This is embarrassing, but I read the article at n+1 and realize there’s more of a discussion to be had than this.

    • Tuna Ghost | Feb 13, 2012 at 3:24 am |

      “What’s more, when someone does throw back a tear-gas canister, or toss a bottle, or even spray-paint something, we can assume that act will be employed as retroactive justification for whatever police violence occurred before the act took place.
      All this will be true whether or not a Black Bloc is present”

      Okay, I read the article, and was actually very impressed with most of it.  But this bit here, I think, misses the point.  Not of Hedges’s article, but of the concern most have with the Black Bloc.  I think its true that the majority of protesters know very little about Black Bloc tactics.  But I don’t see that problem going away–you can explain the truth about Black Bloc tactics time and time again, but, if at every protest, there’s a guy in black with a mask (regardless of whether or not its an anarchist or a cop pretending to be one) causing property damage or engaging in violence, that is going to stick in their minds more than truth.  This is what causes the ridiculous “Peace Police”.  

      I believe the author when he writes that those involved with Black Block tactics have taken a non-violence stance, but Black Bloc tactics are obviously used very easily by the state to get exactly what they want.  In light of this, how useful is the “all black, plus mask” outfit?  How important is it to those in favor of Black Bloc tactics?  Would they be willing to give it up, since it is so easily co-opted by the enemy?

  10. JohnFrancisBittrich | Feb 10, 2012 at 3:15 pm |

    And here I thought disinfo readers could see through the fnords. It is, Hedges, Naomi Wolf and similar liberals and liberal groups that are the parasites. They are trying to coopt a movement that was radical and anarchist from its inception and turn it into a corporate, democratic party-run version of the tea party.

    This response says it better than I have time to for the moment:

  11. JohnFrancisBittrich | Feb 10, 2012 at 3:30 pm |

    Seriously disinfo, you should also publish the rebuttal:

    • Tuna Ghost | Feb 13, 2012 at 3:48 am |

      One of the ideas of having a Black Bloc is that everyone who comes to a protest should know where the people likely to engage in militant action are, and thus easily be able to avoid it if that’s what they wish to do.

      Fair enough, but isn’t the real complaint that everyone, not just those involved in the Black Bloc, will have to suffer the retaliation of law enforcement once things get violent?  The police will not bother to punish only those wearing black, they’re going to thump every skull they can get their hands on.

  12. chris bushes | Feb 10, 2012 at 4:36 pm |

    bla bla bla hedges is a pompus ass, divinity school serves him well

  13. The first question you have to ask yourself is,  why are you protesting?  Protesting means that you expect to receive something substantive from this systemic nightmare.  Protesting alone is a surrender of the power to the present false system,  revolution and overturning the system is to recognize the nature of the system and to assert that the true power belongs to the people.

    However,  it is true that those who recognize this above tenet (which is undeniable,  unless you have been living under a rock) invite any type of resistance,  be it peaceful or violent,  and only a mix of this nature has ever been successful.  So,  you cannot pit one against the other when they have historically worked in tandem,  and anyone who says that they have not worked together in any successful endeavor knows little to nothing about history – or,  has swallowed the emphasis set on the peaceful by the status quo (and in that instance,  all you have is the violence of the status quo which is active which always recuperates the “peaceful” alone group). Do you think you can echo those who always say “peace, peace” when this is what the current system invites – there is something wrong with that chorus.


    Instead of going into a long and drawn out dissertation why don’t you watch this (below):

    I promise you this is the truth,  it is the real issue we face.

    For those who are a bit more stout in their demands for proof I recommend –


    After you have read it in its entirety come back and chat (it is only 104 pages long).

    “This book will show that nonviolence, in its current manifestations, is based
    on falsified histories of struggle. It has implicit and explicit connections to white
    people’s manipulations of the struggles of people of color. Its methods are wrapped
    in authoritarian dynamics, and its results are harnessed to meet government
    objectives over popular objectives. It masks and even encourages patriarchal
    assumptions and power dynamics. Its strategic options invariably lead to dead
    ends. And its practitioners delude themselves on a number of key points.

    Given these conclusions, if our movements are to have any possibility of
    destroying oppressive systems such as capitalism and white supremacy and building
    a free and healthy world, we must spread these criticisms and end the stranglehold
    of nonviolence over discourse while developing more effective forms of struggle.” Book Excerpt

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