About half my facebook friends shared this article today. It sucks.
What can I say about Hedges' article which hasn't already been said? It's full of misinformation, non-sequiturs, dubious definitions, and out-right fallacious reasoning. For example, it's a huge mistake to call the Black Bloc a "movement". It's not a "movement" by any means nor is it an actual group; it's a tactic, and one based on self-defense at that. As well, it is hardly "violence for the sake of violence" as many media outlets paint it as. Rather, it is a form of resistance. The police are known to use violence against activists and demonstrators, so it's hardly surprising that activists would join together in such ways to protect themselves. I'm in contact with a comrade who actively participates in Occupy Oakland. He assured me that the activists don't go around committing random acts of destruction. They only targeted big business chains, and the ones who targeted small businesses were later discovered to be cops. Hedges' initial criticism are completely unfounded. How are the tactics used by the Black Bloc a form of "hypermasculinity", as he puts it? Are such actions unique to males? Of course not. In fact, I would call such wording an insult to female and queer activists.
We shouldn't forget, Hedges is a social democrat, and his alliances are with state-socialists and reformists, not anti-authoritarians. I'm much more surprised at Jensen, who goes along with Hedges' nowhere arguments.
I think I should mention, as many others have, that two years ago Hedges wrote this piece in praise of the anti-austerity riots in Greece:
See the hypocrisy? Though it's not really unique to Hedges. Many times I've read pieces by American pundits who attack radical activists in the US but praise uprisings in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and everywhere else on the planet. The "not in my backyard" mentality is alive and well.
I take it that many on the reformist left think of OWS as some kind of public relations stunt where the sole purpose is to draw attention to the grievances of those who have been fucked over by this economy. Therefore, in their view, any action other than the usual marching and chanting runs a chance of "discrediting" the movement, thereby preventing it from having influence over politicians. Of course, we should realize by now that the state has very little interest in serving us. If we hold any chance of getting a $20 minimum wage or a guaranteed national income anytime soon we would see these things being debated in Washington right now.
But that's not the point, at least not the way I see it. I would argue that the defining factor of OWS is not going to be what it accomplishes on a political level, but what it accomplished on a social level. It has shown us, as Cindy Milstein so nicely put it during her talk last month, that we are perfectly capable of creating and organizing a new society. The occupations in themselves are what make this a revolutionary movement. Young people who once believed all the red herrings about human nature not being compatible with self-governance and direct democracy start changing their tune as soon as they start participating. That's what I predict will be the ultimate aftermath of this movement. Let the assholes in DC keep feeding the rich; we'll be creating a new system from below.
With all of that said, I'm reminded of something else Cindy brought up during her talk: that being the presence of the Ron Paul campaigners and their reluctance to join in with most of the other occupiers. For all the Ron Paul crowd's talk of anti-statism and self-rule, I find it ironic that so many of them would diss the occupy movement. Of course, some of the demands that many in OWS make are most definitely social democratic and state-socialist in nature, but - as I just said - the occupations themselves are an example of what an anarchistic society would be like (for the most part anyway). We have no centralized authority, no social hierarchy, everyone voluntarily associates with one another, food and medical care are given for free, all the "big decisions" are decided by consensus, and all actions are - gasp! - voluntary. Of course, they will say, direct democracy (even on a decentralized level) is antithetical to their version of an anarchist and/or libertarian society because it is "collectivist", but to that I would ask, how can a stateless society be organized other than through direct democracy and consensus? Human beings are not islands, nor would we retreat to proverbial little islands when the state dissolves. We interact with one another and form collectives every day. Better get used to the procedures now.