Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

‘Their Thinking Is Not Only Nonstrategic, but Actively Opposed to Strategy’

with 12 comments

UPDATE: A response.

Chris Hedges against the black bloc: The Cancer in Occupy. This piece is blowing up among the Occupy Oaklandistas in my Twitter feed right now.

Written by gerrycanavan

February 6, 2012 at 11:23 pm

12 Responses

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  1. There’s a smart version of that essay to write, I suspect, but Chris Hedges didn’t write it. It’s pretty clear that he only knows what BB is from what he’s read on the internet (or what Jensen told him?), and his account of event in Oakland is pretty uninformed. Ah, well.


    February 6, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    • Any chance we could impress upon you to write the smart version? It seems like a big issue whether or not the treatment here is adequate.


      February 6, 2012 at 11:40 pm

      • Susie Cagle is apparently writing a response for TruthOut. The real problem is that BB simply isn’t a thing that can be generalized about in this way; at root, it’s a tactic, at times it’s a tendency, and maybe it might occasionally resemble an ideology, but only occasionally. He makes it sound like a secret cult because he found some stuff on the internet, and that’s downright stupidity; it’s the sort of thing that someone would say who has no idea what he’s talking about. And to use it as a way of explaining what’s going on in Oakland is just wrong in so very many ways. I’ll save my breath tho, because Susie’s article will, I’m sure, hit the nail on the head.


        February 6, 2012 at 11:57 pm

      • I’m sincerely interested to read it, though I suspect my sympathies may lean rather more anti-BB than yours.


        February 6, 2012 at 11:58 pm

    • I’d love to see this justified. Writing from Toronto, the Black Bloc contributed much bad and did little good–upset with Black Bloc vandalism in downtown Toronto during the G20 summit may not only have given the Toronto police the political space necessary to make indiscriminate mass arrests, but it discredited by proximity peaceful anti-globalization activists.

      Randy McDonald

      February 6, 2012 at 11:46 pm

  2. this is an ok defense, from UK Uncut:

    everyone knows how much of a moralist hedges is by now, so it’s hard to get worked up over the piece despite how hyperbolically reactionary it is (no clue where he gets the idea that they’re ‘against’ the zapatistas).

    i will say i don’t think it’s quite right to call BB ‘just a tactic,’ there is an ideology behind it (if only as a set of reasons why individuals choose to participate), and broadly an anarchist one. i see it as a preemptive defense against the emergence of party discipline, for the right to individual freedom of action unequivocally supported by mutual aid. which cuts both ways, true, but there is time and space to think rationally about the implications of such a stance and its persistence. the idea that BB poses some kind of terrible threat to OWS or the left as they are is absurd.


    February 7, 2012 at 1:09 am

  3. Yeah, basically the defense of BB is: break a few windows, shitheads call you violent. Bash a few skulls, you’re “protecting and serving.” BB doesn’t want to passively accept batons to the head and tear gas to the face. Hard to get angry at them for that.


    February 7, 2012 at 1:43 am

    • Don’t we have to draw some sort of distinctive between defensive BB (“doesn’t want to passive accept batons to the head and tear gas to the face”) and “offensive” (for lack of a better word) BB (“break a few windows”)? The one doesn’t imply the other.


      February 7, 2012 at 1:51 am

      • also, as the rebuttal you just posted pointed out, polemical attacks on ‘the black bloc movement’ from the left (especially widely respected leftists like hedges) give prosecutors and politicians ammunition to make life more dangerous for anyone at a protest, which then intensifies internal divisions over ‘violence’ (mainly a PR issue at this point), and so on in a vicious cycle.


        February 7, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    • I don’t know. You get hit in the head enough times, the distinction loses its meaning. In any case, windows don’t have nerve endings.


      February 7, 2012 at 2:03 am

  4. Waiting with bated breat for susie_c’s piece on this, but in the meantime – as someone genuinely ambivalent regarding the use of these tactics and the intra-movement response to them, and having been rather insulted by Hedges’s approach to the issue – I heartily recommend the Jacobin magazine response. It came basically in line with Hedges’s point but was a much smarter critique of the tactical decision in appearing as a Black Bloc, although ultimately it left me unconvinced that BB types are strictly wrong. Both – indeed, all such pieces I have yet seen – rest on what I see as an inappropriate view of the BB presence as necessarily inauthentic; proper tactical criticism would start from acknowledging that the BB and eschewing more organization-focused tactics come from genuine frustration at an unresponsive political system AND unresponsive liberal infrastructure that forecloses the effectiveness of organizing in ways more conducive to the larger movement’s goals.


    February 8, 2012 at 1:51 pm

  5. […] another response to Chris Hedges’s anti-Black-Bloc essay, from Occupy Oakland’s Susie Cagle. Advertisement GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); […]

  6. […] another response to Chris Hedges’s anti-Black-Bloc essay, from Occupy Oakland’s Susie Cagle. Share […]

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