The PJ Tatler

Internal rifts as Occupy tries to "shut down" San Francisco today

Today is the day: The end of capitalism as we know it.

At least that was the overly optimistic pronouncement from Occupy Wall Street West, the new regional protest conglomerate composed of former Occupy crews in Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley and elsewhere in the Bay Area, all of whom were evicted last year and decided to merge into one large mega-Occupy.

They’ve been all over the media in recent weeks, predicting that today’s protest would rival in size the anti-war protests of early 2003, which drew hundreds of thousands of attendees.

Note to the foolish: Announcing that something will be true won’t make it come true. Your cringe-inducing flamboyant promises of mass revolution only make your movement seem more puny and ridiculous when only a comparatively tiny number show up.

But most interesting of all is the very public rift between the two main Occupy factions: The nonviolent anti-capitalists versus the violent anti-capitalists. Whereas the putative leaders of today’s event dub it a “Nonviolent Mass Occupation,” plenty of frustrated fellow protesters are basically calling for a riot, “Because we have nothing; because we want everything; because we hate the pigs; because fuck capitalism.”

The public can get a glimpse of the in-fighting on a fascinating thread at Indymedia, the online clearinghouse for far-far-left activism. Since Indymedia blocks incoming links from most non-radical sites, to see it you’ll have to paste this URL into a new browser window: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2012/01/16/18704831.php?show_comments=1

Some of the arguments are worth preserving for posterity, because they show in a microcosm what always happens to leftist movements: clashes between control-freaks and anarchists, between “work within the system” incrementalists and “smash the system” rabble-rousers, and amongst various revolutionary ideologies claiming the moral upper hand, always lead to internal disintegration. And both sides descend into a maelstrom of spiraling conspiracy theories about who is or is not an undercover agent.

I’ll paste some of the arguments below for those unwilling to risk a visit to Indymedia. On purely logical grounds the violent anarchists actually seem to win the argument over the neo-communists seeking to clamp down on dissent. But that’s just my take on the debate: What do you think?

Keep in mind when reading the following text that both sides of the dispute are so far off the left end of the political scale the average person couldn’t even tell them apart; the argument begins at the starting point of “Capitalism must be utterly destroyed forever”; the point of dispute is “How do we destroy it?”

The news these days is all about how the Republicans are tearing themselves to shreds; but the GOP in-fighting is nothing compared to this:


Rebels want to shut down San Francisco’s financial district on January 20th. Count us in!

WHAT: A ferocious, mobile, well-prepared, fearless and autonomous bloc within the J20 City Shutdown of San Francisco.
WHO: anti-capitalists, anti-authoritarians, anarchists, rebels, antagonists, hooligans
WHEN: assemble at 5PM, January 20th, 2012
WHERE: corner of Market and Stuart, Justin Herman Plaza, San Francisco, CA
WHY: because we have nothing; because we want everything; because we hate the pigs; because fuck capitalism
HOW: oh, you know…

TO WHAT EXTENT: as hard as we can!

INSTRUCTIONS: make plans, bring your crew, bring supplies, wear street clothes, disregard the peace-police, go for it!


Joke or Agent Provocateur?
by MindFulloStrategy

Funny or fishy? Those who think violence or heavy property damage is effective can try that on OTHER days, rather than cowardly piggy-backing on powerfully peaceful protests. Provocateurs often do that. Don’t get caught holding the bag. The pro agent leaves (w/ a fat paycheck) and misguided “activists” end up doing time. Many examples lately of entrapment–young people getting hit with 4 years or more in the slammer. Also, violence or heavy property damage destroys public empathy so the resistance movement doesn’t continue growing. That’s why they pay agents to instigate it. Also, the means are the ends.


Wingnut or conspiracy theorist?
by (a)

First off, there is no call for violence. Secondly, just because someone decides to take a risk and use property destruction as a tactic, it doesn’t make them a cop. If you dont like the tactic, that is fine (and perhaps even worth debating), but to blindly call anyone who uses these tactics ‘agent provacatuers’ is misguided and dangerous.


Respect Diversity of tactics.
by Fuck the police

You’ve got people involved in the resistance for all different sorts of reasons and they all come with different ideas of how to fight back.

Putting revolutionaries in the same category as the CIA is not only dangerous but asking to get punched in the face.


solidarity
by @SFOCCUPY

The call out from occupy and other folks self organizing the day is for mass direct action and occupation and all of our groups organizing have made a conscious strategy to not smash stuff or street fight in order to mobilize the diversity of participants needed-pretty much every neighborhood and community will be in the streets. Anti-capitalists bloc; cool–Please act and be in solidarity.


respect the Occupy movement
by Carlos

While I do respect a diversity of tactics, and do consider myself an anarchist/anti-authoritarian, I am worried that this action may not be in cooperation with the many organizers of the action (some of whom also may identify as anti-capitalists or anarchists), who have made a strategic choice to use nonviolent (but militant) tactics to shut down Wall St. West. The Occupy movement is founded on many of the values and tactics that anarchists have always promoted: direct democracy, consensus, direct action, occupying space, etc. If a small group plans an action outside of the General Assemblies and the democratic planning bodies that are making this action happen, then they are violating the anti-authoritarian principles which guide this movement. I really urge the folks planning the “anti-capitalist bloc” to act within the strategy and principles of the day and not violate the principles of the movement. I understand the hostility toward those who advocate “nonviolence” in our protests. Sometimes nonviolence is used as an excuse for organizing ineffective actions, put together by people who don’t want to risk their privilege by challenging the system. But I don’t think that the call for nonviolence in Friday’s action is a result of the privilege of the organizers, or the lack of revolutionary consciousness (take a look at some of the organizations putting it together. it’s not like it’s being organized by Moveon.org…). Let’s remember that anarchist movements have often used nonviolent tactics, such as the sit-down strike, the general strike, and blockades, to mobilize people for revolutionary action.

I don’t think that implying that this Bloc will engage in property destruction is in anyway objectionable. This is what has happened in other recent Occupy actions. Some shadowy group announces an “anti-capitalist bloc” i.e. shit gets broken. Thats what happened at the General Strike. And it’s what has happened at other actions labelled “Anti-capitalist.” I think it is obvious that this is an action which will be high-risk and will most likely result in a confrontation with police and broken shit. People need to be up front about that. Accountability and transparency should be hallmarks of revolutionary movements, not dirty words.

Lastly, I just want to say that, as a low-income worker, I am very much interested in smashing capitalism. I am very involved in Occupy Santa Rosa, about an hour north of SF. Many of our folks are coming on Friday to participate. Our people do not want to be exposed to violence. Many of us cannot risk a confrontation with police because we would lose our jobs, our houses, and our means of living. Many of us are anti-capitalists, but we think that we need a mass movement to destroy capitalism. We do not think that we can defeat capitalism by engaging in tiny acts of property destruction. Actions which the mass of people can participate in are most conducive to revolutionary change (such as the Port Shutdown and the General Strike).

Undoubtedly, the police have infiltrated various levels of the Occupy movement. Sticking to our principles of consensus, transparency, direct democracy and accountability, will ensure that their efforts at disrupting us will fail. Organizing actions without consensus of your comrades is only bound to breed mistrust. Please re-think your actions on Friday and get plugged in to the overall strategy


The black bloc doesn’t take off until the end anyway so no worries.
by a

Most people will have gone home by then.

Non-confrontational shit during the day.

Confrontation during the night.

LONG LIVE THE OAKLAND COMMUNE!


And besides, protests in America are disproportionately peaceful 99% of the time.
by Even Steven

If you can’t stick around for the militant actions, don’t stick around to risk getting arrested. There will be fun and games well into the night.


Are you cops fucking kidding me?
by Jackrabbit

This drivel came from one of two sources: 1) Cops 2) a 14yo boy who’s parents took away his porno mags.

If the idea of ‘fucking shit up!!!’ appeals to you – please stay the fuck away from our movement.


My response to Carlos
by pat

Carlos says, “If a small group plans an action outside of the General Assemblies and the democratic planning bodies that are making this action happen, then they are violating the anti-authoritarian principles which guide this movement.”

So let me get this straight: Acting independently and not bowing down to authority somehow violates anti-authoritarian principles?

Thanks for letting us know, you fascist.

This is how it begins: Self-appointed leaders and “assembly spokesmen” telling people what they can and cannot do, “for the good of the movement.” Can’t you see that you have already become the thing you are fighting against? The Occupy movement is already philosophically bankrupt if the “Carlos”s of this world get to dictate what is or what is not acceptable behavior within an anti-authoritarian context.

You are the next generation’s cadre, the next bolshevik, the next “new boss” bully-boy seeking to establish the rules system that everyone must follow. I will resist you as much as I resist the current power structure. “Occupy” is not longer a people-powered movement (not that it ever really was, but you know what I mean); it’s just a word, a label that power-hungry unconscious crypto-fascists use to justify their nascent totalitarianism.


revolutionary self-discipline
by carlos

every revolutionary movement, anarchist or otherwise, has understood the need for self-discipline and group discipline. We need this because the state is sophisticated and spends a good chunk of its time figuring out how to destroy us. If we do not have a plan and if we are not acting together, then the state will have a much easier time infiltrating and destroying our movements.

I don’t mind being called a fascist. I’ve heard it before. I recommend studying other anarchist or anti-authoritarian movements that cleared the way for today’s anarchists. They all had one form of group discipline or another. All anarchist institutions have agreements that the group is expected to abide by. In a future society, without states or bosses, there will always have to be agreements that people collectively adhere to. This is one of the fundamental aspects of anarchist philosophy.

If a liberal group or socialist group showed up to one of our actions, without planning with us before hand, and just had their own little event, we would accuse them of attempting a co-optation. That sort of behavior is not ok when liberals or state-socialists do it, and it’s not ok when anarchists do it. Many people show up to these actions having no idea that there is all this bullshit going on behind the scenes. All they see is a small group of people going off on their own and smashing shit and it gets associated with anarchism. If nothing else, this is a terrible strategy for bringing more people into the anarchist milieu. People will mistrust anarchists and generally be afraid to participate in anarchists actions in the future.

Once again, the General Assembly process is a tool developed largely by anti-authoritarian struggles around the world. Go through that process, make proposals, and try to convince people that we need to accept a diversity of tactics. If your comrades agree with you, then your action has a popular following behind it. If people generally feel like it’s not the best strategy, then you have to live with that. It’s called cooperation and it is one of the fundamental principles of anarchism. We have to respect our principles, or else we have nothing. Please re-think your actions tomorrow. Plug in to the strategy developed by the good people who planned this action and who are your comrades. Pick a target, set up a hard blockade, or occupy a building. Just do it within the context of the action so that we come out of tomorrow stronger, and not divided on the question of whether or not it was ok to smash some stupid window, which does nothing to threaten capitalists. it just makes them look like the victim.
There’s nothing anarchist about not having a strategy, not working with others, not cooperating with the democratic processes of the movement, and threatening to punch anyone who disagrees with you. In fact, it is ANTI-anarchist. It is bullying. It is divisive. Please stop, and use your rage intelligently and strategically. Please. If you fuck shit up tomorrow, virtually no one will have your back. You might feel righteous about it. But you will be alone, and that’s not a good place to be if you plan on one day overthrowing the state and capitalism.


“Oakland Commune” (sic)
by JB

Quit signing “Oakland Commune” to every half-baked, unintelligent stunt you pull. And quit cop-baiting and “fascist”-baiting everybody who objects to it!

Admittedly there is an age thing going on with this. When I was 22 to 32 I thought this bust-shit-up-on-each-and-every-and-all-occasions stuff was the bee’s knees. Unfortunately, and much to my own profound personal disappointment, the larger goal of doing what we can to help engender a mass social movement of working people to overthrow and abolish the capitalist mode of production may somewhat, ever so slightly, outweight the need to get a quick kick at each and every demo.

I am against pacifism. I hate the police. I hate Stalinism, and I hate liberalism. The struggle against this social order is not and will not be exclusively non-violent, and personally I was glad to see the windows of some appropriate targets get busted on the day of the attempted Oaktown General Strike. But I’d trade all the broken windows in the world for an increasing percentage of wage earners getting involved and combative — and not just at demos, but on the everday life terrain that matters most; where we work, where we live, where we shop, and how we get around. Sometimes a few broken windows help, sometimes not. And doing it all the time cheapens it, lessens its impact, and gives the larger world, especailly all those socially conservative and ever-more hard-presed mainstream proles who need to get involved with something authentically combative the impression that you are not out for anything more than a little extremely fleeting fun, and that you and anyone associated with cannot be taken seriously.


Some people want reform while others want revolution. Lets be a little more blunt shall we
by -A-

Because of the threat of losing ones job, home and social status i.e. middle class white privilege in general, you will not act and you will attack anyone who does because rioting and revolution is a direct threat to your capitalist interests. The only thing you are here to do is save the capitalist system from its own demise. You see us as the threat. You are not anti-capitalist. You are reformists who love the police and believe in government. You do not want to overthrow the system. There are major class contradictions here. You middle class non-violent type don’t want a revolution. You spend 365 days a year working to feed the capitalist system and the police and military and out of those days you spend maybe 2-3 days marching against Wall Street and expect the world to change but only change for your self and the people who are middle class. You don’t give a fuck about the poor who have been living in a depression their entire lives so fuck off!

You have patients only because you have more money and life is easier so you have hope in the system if we just march peacefully then they will change and be nice to us. FUCK YOOOOOU!!!!!!

Maybe you should lose your job and your house so you’ll see the light one glories day. You need to wake the fuck up. Not everybody is in this to protect the middle class from disappearing. Some are here to ruin the middle class because they view you as nothing but a thorn in their side and buffer between the poor and the enemy being this fucked up system you are protecting with your non-violence.

We have had nothing but peace at every fucking demonstration with no fucking guts or self-dignity. You should be a fucking shamed of your selves.

You don’t dislike the police because you never have to deal with them in your life. You do not get profiled because of your white face and white neighborhood you live in. We the jobless, underemployed, unemployable, poor, homeless, anarchists and people of a revolutionary bent don’t appreciate you for holding us down and forcing us to accept this system and forcing us to accept your domination of protest and how we are supposed to conduct our selves. We fucking hate you. Get the fuck out of our way and stop trying force the systems shit down our throats. We cannot take this shit any longer.

If you want militant groups to respect you and obey your shit, your’re going to have to make some changes.

1) stop sending in middle class “peace police” (BRATS) to militant actions in Oakland.

2) create some parameters i.e. fucking rules for your so called “non-violent” actions if that is truly what you want everybody to obey and start respecting the fucking parameters of “FUCK THE POLICE” actions in Oakland or get your ass kicked next time.

I don’t even understand why I have to explain this.

Also, isn’t anti-authoritarian bloc supposed to take place after all the peacenicks go home so how the fuck are militants getting in your way. Stop telling us what to fucking do.
Bunch of spoiled brats.

Get along with us or don’t interfere. Go home.


Meanwhile, the protests have already started, though (predictably) on a much smaller scale than the organizers had predicted.

The Occupy Wall Street West home page has a scrolling news feed of the latest “direct actions” if you want to keep abreast of the latest hijinx.