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East Bay | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism

The Colonization of Occupy Oakland
by Jaime Balius
Tuesday May 1st, 2012 7:15 AM
Text of a flyer being distributed today.
THE COLONIZATION OF OCCUPYOAKLAND

American anarchists haven't experienced this much positive public attention since the euphoria and aftermath of N30 in Seattle. We also haven't been this embattled since then; once again it's open season on anarchists of all stripes, and from all directions, including attacks coming from other oppositional figures. These are among the more insidious obstacles to a world without cops ordering us around, bosses exploiting our labor, and bureaucrats managing our struggles.

May Day, International Workers' Day, is a commemoration of the events surrounding the 1887 judicial murder of the Haymarket anarchists. For most liberals and leftists, these anarchists are considered nothing more than railroaded Labor Martyrs, casualties in the fight for the 8-hour day. The mutual flirtations of Labor Solidarity Committee activists with official Labor Councils and low-level union bureaucrats (up to and including contacts with people close to Mayor Quan's husband) is only the latest manifestation of this colonization of the much more fundamental struggle against Capital and the State. If the radical anti-statist and anti-capitalist views of the Haymarket anarchists (or Sacco and Vanzetti, those other famous "labor agitators") are acknowledged at all, it is only because they represent the only kind of anarchist that union hacks are able to tolerate: dead ones, who can't cause them any more trouble by calling into question their self-appointed role as the specialists and mediators of other people's discontent.

As if the non-violence fetishists were not bad enough on their own, the conjoined twins of Identity Politics and white (male) guilt had already injected the poison of nationalism and essentialism prior to the attempt to change the name of what we were doing in and around the Plaza to "Decolonize." To be clear: it was not the proposed name change that we found obnoxious, but the all too familiar guilt-mongering with which the proposal was introduced and discussed. The remains from that attempted coup include a caucus who cry "racist!" and/or "sexist!" as soon as anyone dares to question their motives, their methods, or their goals. Such despicable and transparently authoritarian posturing that precludes good faith dialog should remain relegated to the sectarian Leninist rackets who pioneered it in the 60s, and who continue to promote it today. In addition, the privileged leftist intelligentsia (the most prominent being Marxist professors and grad students) continue to insinuate themselves into the mix by using currently fashionable anti-authoritarian terminology as a cover for their grandstanding and careerism.

In the next ring of the anti-anarchist circus we are treated to the campaign of the electoral clowns of MoveOn, who have lifted the anarchist term "direct action," using it as (what they hope will be) an enticing replacement for the distinctly unappealing strategy of organizing a voting bloc inside the Democratic Party machine. But direct action is actually a refusal to beg for permission from anyone to implement our visions and desires. The organizers of OccupyOakland made it a principle even before we took the Plaza, refusing in advance all interactions with any part of the City of Oakland. To have the liberals expropriate such a fine term disgusts us as much as when the armed bullies of OPD invoke "mutual aid" to reinforce and multiply their brutality, or when the champions of the dictatorship of the marketplace call themselves "libertarians." The same goes for the "solidarity" of leftists who condemn those anarchists they can't control.

OccupyOakland has consistently been an important location of an inspiring and unique radicality among an otherwise mostly staid constellation of Occupys. The bureaucrats and bureaucrats-in-training (professional and amateur alike) who are constantly trying to rein in, harness, or merely squander the contagious energy of self-organization that we've created and extended in OO need to be exposed and treated with contempt. They need to be confronted for attempting to set up hierarchical and authoritarian structures to negotiate or plead with elected officials and their appointees.

This has already begun, if only in an exploratory manner. Now's the time to publicly and loudly denounce these wannabe politicians, those who are uneasy as parts of OccupyOakland continue to move beyond their managerial capacity, even as they see their involvement in OO as their surest path to power. The attacks against anarchists in OO (and at plenty of other Occupy locations) began early, and continue, at least partly fueled by the silence of many anarchists -- an acquiescence that only compounds the split that our enemies are trying to foment between the "good" anarchists (the ones who created much of the familiar and positive infrastructure of OO when it existed in the Plaza) and the "bad" anarchists (the ones who break shit).

But we need to remember that, in the eyes of all those parts of "The 99%" who find any explicitly anti-capitalist and anti-statist project objectionable, we are all bad anarchists. Let's be bad anarchists together, finding ways to use our creativity and innovation to spread an anti-authoritarian sensibility, not just as a vital component of OO, but throughout our collective projects to abolish all forms of domination.
We will be worse anarchists when we will have lost the initiative, when we can be easily demoralized, divided, manipulated, marginalized, and dispensed with by our enemies on the left. It seems long overdue to celebrate, if not embrace, the defiance of the Haymarket anarchist Louis Lingg who, in response to being sentenced to death, replied, "...I despise you, I despise your order, your laws, your force-propped authority. Hang me for it!"

Oakland, May Day, 2012 Anarchist Anti-Defamation Caucus of the Anti-Bureaucratic Bloc antibloc2012 [at] gmail.com

The Anti-Bureaucratic Bloc is an ad hoc cluster of anarchist and anti-state communist individuals and affinity groups who have come together in an effort to counter the incipient growth of a self-selected cadre of professional activists and others with managerial aspirations.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by reader
Tuesday May 1st, 2012 9:14 AM
In the past few months my experience with people I've talked to when I've mentioned Occupy Oakland is that its a bunch of violent thugs that taint the Occupy effort. These are all types of people, some of whom consider themselves activists and one of whom lives in Oakland. None ever went to Occupy Oakland.


by another reader
Tuesday May 1st, 2012 9:44 AM
"Anti-authoritarian"? You're the authorities' best friends. They're endlessly grateful to you for giving them an excuse to attack the movement as a whole, not to mention tarnishing the entire movement in the public's eyes.

You window-breaking idiots may as well just put on uniforms and jackboots, since that's who you're working for.
by PS
Tuesday May 1st, 2012 10:18 AM
And because of that these elements are allowed to thrive and destroy it from the inside better than any polce action could. Clear out the anarchist thugs, blackbloc brats, and others who have hijacked it in the bay area. Then focus on the main message of Wall Street. Once that's fixed then you can go after other agenda items.
by Jack Straw
Tuesday May 1st, 2012 1:08 PM
People saw "focus on the main message of Wall Street." What "main message" is this? That we BEG of Wall Street to throw some more crumbs our way, while the global structure of state and capital continue to run all our lives, everywhere, in every facet of daily life? The responses to this excellent post are a perfect example of how liberal cluelessness run rampant amongst the ranks of "activists." That is, assuming none of the posters are out-and-out trolls.
by The Authorities
Tuesday May 1st, 2012 4:02 PM
The Oakland and San Francisco Police Departments would like to formally thank the black bloc for saving us the trouble of using our own agents provocateurs. Keep up the good work.
by Common Cause
Tuesday May 1st, 2012 5:33 PM
You are not Anarchists, not in my opinion. You seem to want to glorify yourselves and are also in my opinion completely lacking in any respect for democratic values. You all-(sorry it fits) "PUNKS" have nothing to offer,read the responces to your diatribe, you seem to have the same "Im the important one here and everyone else can go to hell" attitude displayed by the 1%. Hope your trust funds dry up fast and you settle up with mom and dad quick so y'all can join them in their struggle on the board of directors. And the poor folk punks that are following the rich folk "trust fundy" punks, wake up and join us in a constructive movement.
See what response you get. One drone strike by the Empire often kills innocent people and destroys a lot of property. That I know of, the anarchists have not killed anyone (although Oakland police almost killed two Occupy protestors) and the property damage done by the anarchists would be nothing compared to the damage of one US drone strike.

But here in the "homeland", the empire, people seem much more at ease focusing their anger at anarchists than at the violence perpetrated by their own government. The SF Sheriff spousal abuse seems to have aroused much more passion that the manslaughter of 8 people by PG&E in San Bruno.

But hey, this is the "homeland" - people are expected to be respectful here while their government does massive damage to other people that we never ever see. I think the anger is really misplaced but hey, this is a PR campaign to win over the masses who really seem to care less unless they are somehow inconvenienced.
by abc
Tuesday May 1st, 2012 9:48 PM
So anything the black bloc does shy of launching drone strikes and killing innocent people is a-ok, and any tactic that doesn't involve smashing windows or throwing bricks in people's faces is as worthless as voting for Obama and writing your Congressperson. Got it.
by oleolo
Wednesday May 2nd, 2012 8:34 AM
Good article, solid critique of leftists in occupy, and the responses here are predictable. But anarchists do need to recognize the often silly ritual of masking up and window breaking as a far cry from the most radical gesture. Its often no more of a canned go nowhere activity than the leftist liberal march in circles, only slightly more cathartic for those involved. When the time comes, we will make it so that the banks can't repair and rebuild. Until then black bloc folks need to be less movie star about their behavior.
by Puzzled
Wednesday May 2nd, 2012 1:40 PM
I really don't understand the attack on the Labor Soldarity Committee . And they certainly don't have anything to do with any friends of Oakland's Mayor . Matter of fact i heard one of their activists state during a radio interview how he thought not only should the cop that almost killed Scott Olsen be tried for attempted murder but so should Quan. Not exactly the position of the Alameda Labor council !
by an anarchist
Wednesday May 2nd, 2012 7:40 PM
colonization is a term that CANNOT be used against the attempted co-optation by liberal forces. that reminds me of when stupid white folks throw around the term lynching in ways that have nothing to do with racialized violence. while i agree that the demonization of anarchists is fucked up, it is NOT comparable at all to colonization, and to make that comparison reaffirms the imagined white supremacy and other forms of privilege within anarchist ideologies. so fuck that bullshit, this term is not for anarchism (unless, of course, you are talking about anarcha-indigeneity, in which case it MIGHT be a LITTLE BIT applicable).

that being said you obviously have no idea who called for the Decolonize proposal, and you obviously have no idea that "Occupy Oakland" was initially called for by indigenous folks and was at first called "Decolonize Oakland." Then it was switched to "Occupy" by all the libs wanting to stand in solidarity with OWS against the fallacy of corporate greed, as if capitalism isn't already greedy. Fuck that noise. But fuck this half-assed critique more. The Decolonize proposal was brought by INDIGENOUS PEOPLE and you just discursively recolonized them by, one again, silencing them and erasing them. Oh, and by using the violent rhetoric of colonization as if it applies to this situation.

Disgusting.
by Konsider
Thursday May 3rd, 2012 2:37 AM
Why do people wear masks? I was at Occupy Oakland on May day, waiting in the food line, and the guy in front of me, pointing to the building beside the front of OGP, said " look up at the third floor, to the window on your far right". I looked up and there was a cop with a camera snapping photos at us. I've had more than a few friends singled out, grabbed, thrown in jail for nothing, and/or beaten after demonstrations. Some people such as Chris Hedges are more trusting, and haven't experienced such repression, but those who attend actions regularly can be a bit more edgy. Than there's the issue of tear gas. People are free, as long as they don't practice that freedom.



by oleolo
Thursday May 3rd, 2012 10:28 AM
An anarchist you sound like a classic ideologically hidebound activist yourself condemning the use of words by certain people. California defines lynching, punishable by 2–4 years in prison, as "the taking by means of a riot of any person from the lawful custody of any peace officer". It was historically associated with vigilante mobs breaking into prisons to take someone out before a trial and kill them, usually by hanging. It is of course most grotesquely associated with racist violence in the US during Jim Crow. But it is a word that has various contexts and your liberal moral foundation funneled through half baked radicalism prevents you from understanding that. I could go into the word colonization but DIY kid.
by Reguardian
Thursday May 3rd, 2012 11:34 PM
It''s not that the flyer doesn't have relevance, rather it's way too overbearing, that is, way too long and, I hate to say it, boring. Further, the flyer is way too righteous, rather than provide an analysis, and perspective, it goes off on a rant about "the way things are." Another way to put it is the leaflet fetishizes it's own position. I am not saying that there are not apt, important points made, just that I don't think any influence is going to made from the text you've written. This post is more interesting because of the conversation in the comments.
by Konsider
Saturday May 5th, 2012 12:46 AM
Good point. It reads more like an article than a leaflet.
by miles
Saturday May 5th, 2012 11:11 AM
Make your own bumperstickers then.
by Konsider
Sunday May 6th, 2012 12:25 AM
I never said a bumper sticker. As an article the leaflet is interesting. As a leaflet the article is too long.