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Thu Feb 9, 2012, 06:20 PM

David Graeber's rebuttal to Chris Hedges: Concerning the Violent Peace-Police

Definitely an interesting read. It's written as a rebuttal to Chris Hedges' article The Cancer in Occupy


The entire letter is at http://nplusonemag.com/concerning-the-violent-peace-police , but that site is down or slammed right now.

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

David Graeber

I am writing this on the premise that you are a well-meaning person who wishes Occupy Wall Street to succeed. I am also writing as someone who was deeply involved in the early stages of planning Occupy in New York.

I am also an anarchist who has participated in many Black Blocs. While I have never personally engaged in acts of property destruction, I have on more than one occasion taken part in Blocs where property damage has occurred. (I have taken part in even more Blocs that did not engage in such tactics. It is a common fallacy that this is what Black Blocs are all about. It isn’t.)

I was hardly the only Black Bloc veteran who took part in planning the initial strategy for Occupy Wall Street. In fact, anarchists like myself were the real core of the group that came up with the idea of occupying Zuccotti Park, the “99%” slogan, the General Assembly process, and, in fact, who collectively decided that we would adopt a strategy of Gandhian non-violence and eschew acts of property damage. Many of us had taken part in Black Blocs. We just didn’t feel that was an appropriate tactic for the situation we were in.

This is why I feel compelled to respond to your statement “The Cancer in Occupy.” This statement is not only factually inaccurate, it is quite literally dangerous. This is the sort of misinformation that really can get people killed. In fact, it is far more likely to do so, in my estimation, than anything done by any black-clad teenager throwing rocks.


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Reply David Graeber's rebuttal to Chris Hedges: Concerning the Violent Peace-Police (Original post)
backscatter712 Feb 2012 OP
mahina Feb 2012 #1
backscatter712 Feb 2012 #2
provis99 Feb 2012 #3
tkmorris Feb 2012 #4
starroute Feb 2012 #5
Leopolds Ghost Feb 2012 #6

Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Thu Feb 9, 2012, 06:30 PM

1. Interesting, thanks.

I knew David in the late 70's, but not well.

I wouldn't have come across this rebuttal if you hadn't posted it. Thanks.

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Response to mahina (Reply #1)

Thu Feb 9, 2012, 10:31 PM

2. It's definitely a good read.

And I think people are failing to adequately tell the truth about the "EEEEEEEEEEEEEVIL Black Bloc!"

Like facts that show that it's actually a tactic, not an organization, that not all of them are anarchists, they're usually non-violent (unless they're provocateurs or non-political hooligans), and that it's the police responsible for 99.9% of the unlawful violence

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Fri Feb 10, 2012, 01:53 AM

3. Chris Hedges's article will get Black Bloc people killed?


this moron just reminded me again why I hate anarchist idiots.

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Response to provis99 (Reply #3)

Fri Feb 10, 2012, 02:13 AM

4. If you read the ENTIRE letter

Later on he lays out point by point why he believes this to be the case (That Hedge's article, and specifically the thinking therein, is dangerous and might get people hurt or killed). It's difficult for me to fault his logic, but if you are so inclined please do so.

To wit:"The reason I say this is because, whatever your intentions, it is very hard to read your statement as anything but an appeal to violence. After all, what are you basically saying about what you call “Black Bloc anarchists”?

1) they are not part of us

2) they are consciously malevolent in their intentions

3) they are violent

4) they cannot be reasoned with

5) they are all the same

6) they wish to destroy us

7) they are a cancer that must be excised

Surely you must recognize, when it’s laid out in this fashion, that this is precisely the sort of language and argument that, historically, has been invoked by those encouraging one group of people to physically attack, ethnically cleanse, or exterminate another—in fact, the sort of language and argument that is almost never invoked in any other circumstance. After all, if a group is made up exclusively of violent fanatics who cannot be reasoned with, intent on our destruction, what else can we really do?"

I do encourage you to read the piece in it's entirety though, excerpts can only tell part of the tale.

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Response to backscatter712 (Original post)

Fri Feb 10, 2012, 02:49 AM

5. I'm torn, because I can see reasonable arguments on both sides

I did think Hedges was a bit over the top in his article. But on the other hand, Graeber seems to leave out some important points.

One is that the actual black bloc may consider themselves to be self-disciplined and to select from the range of potential tactics only those which are appropriate to a given situation. But if they use property destruction at all, it gives a license to any juvenile idiot who thinks it would be cool to do the same.

Another is the whole transparency vs. secrecy issue, which is swirling in particular around livestreamer Tim Pool. OWS has gotten a great deal of mileage out of doing things in public and making decisions in open forums. But if you're going to engage in black bloc tactics, that means by definition setting it up privately and secretly -- and thereby creating a self-appointed elite.

For those reasons, I submit that the loss of transparency is a bad thing in itself -- even before you get into issues of police infiltration and the opportunities for betrayal raised by operating in secret.

And for whatever it's worth, there's a heavily anti-black bloc video that's been circulating for a few weeks and which purports to be from Anonymous. The comments on it at YouTube are largely negative, but I think it does need to be taken into account.

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Response to starroute (Reply #5)

Wed Feb 15, 2012, 05:56 AM

6. What irritates me are people on the comments section of Chris Hedges article basically saying that

Last edited Wed Feb 15, 2012, 06:33 AM - Edit history (1)

they are shocked -- shocked!! -- that anti-authoritarians and radical populists are at the heart
of the movement all along, and that "this needs to be exposed."

As if they are unfamiliar with how Occupy Everywhere got started...

As the video above demonstrates; Not all anti-authoritarians support this stuff. In fact the
people who "invented Occupy" are the ones who repudiated these tactics. Some are actual
populists who have no problem working with anypony that wishes to be part of the movement.
After all, the central value of anti-authoritarianism is NOT wishing to co-opt and control other
people's efforts -- UNLIKE the values of the hard left, many of whom are seeking to divide the
movement by red-baiting. Not all left-libertarians are anarchists, either. The 60s was a
left-libertarian movement at heart.

That being said, while I realize it was Anon's strategy to not use public anonymity when
operating in the Occupy movement or anywhere off net for that matter (if you meet anon at an
occupy he/she will be the person least likely to be masked up -- the popularity of the Mask is a
side bonus as it diverts attention) it is kind of silly of them to call out anyone wearing a mask
as "pretending" to be Anonymous. Anonymous is not a membership organization... in fact they've
had lots of internal conflict, so I hear, between anons who feel that anyone who self-identifies
and engages anonymously (while online) is anonymous.

They should be more clear about the distinction between anti-authoritarian populism or libertarianism
(basically the ethos of Anon -- mostly left-libertarianism these days -- given the moral bankruptcy of
Ron Paul and his ilk is finally being seen for what it is) vs. the pointless antinomianism of most
self-proclaimed blackbs. (which also originated as merely a tactic, to avoid being photographed and
put in an activist database) but as (this?) Anon points out, a tactic that is not very useful to the aims
of the Occupy movement which is to build a broad-based populist uprising where there is nothing
to be gained from singling out individuals because there are too many of them to single out.)

Anon seems to be primarily concerned with saying that they are nopony's personal army. The purpose
of the Occupy method being anti-authoritarian in the first place is that it is self healing. If a group of
kids insist on masking up to engage in disorganized property damage, as opposed to obscuring their
faces simply to avoid being photographed or peppersprayed (which is what MOST people wearing
bandannas are peacefully trying to do), all it takes is another group of people (ideally anonymously,
instead of grandstanding) to call them on it. It doesn't require all the pointless circular firing squads
by self-appointed leaders who insist on putting their name out there, and [font color="green"]round table discussions[/font].

Keep in mind that none of these are elected leaders, so it serves no purpose to have self-appointed
leaders of a populist movement just so they can claim to have leaders, especially when such leaders
have been traditionally ineffectual or lightning rods for criticism (just look at Kevin Zeese).

What's my beef in all this? Basically neither side has a monopoly on idiocy. Picking a fight with either
side is arguing over narrow leftist turf that should not interest Anonymous or true populists. Although
it's right for them to call these people out and put a check on such nonsense. I'm a pretty moderate
left-libertarian more into the '60s tradition. I recall the recent campaign by people to provoke
Occupier's into physically assaulting masked individuals (or people wearing anon masks!)
on the theory that they were all undercover cops. Smart.

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