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Chris Hedges proves our movement is dead if we do not fight back

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The Nature of Our Coming Victory
(Letter to comrade X)

-- Part 2 --
We Need to Put Our Heads Together

Chris Hedges proves our movement is dead if we do not fight back

Mayor Quan of Oakland was not bluffing. She said she would call down
the wrath of the "national leadership" on our heads. Now it has happened.

I am referring, of course, to Chris Hedges' article on the "cancer"
that is us.

The Occupy movement has had a dual nature from its beginning. Activists
with a social democratic ideology started it. They opened the door.

Once the door was open, the class struggle flooded in and gave it power.

The problem is that Hedges' arguments appear, on the surface, to be
quite reasonable. We must recognize this. If I did not know the context
of his article, what led to it and why he writes it--I would probably
be foaming at the mouth against the dastardly "black bloc" hooligans who
throw flowerpots at the cops and upset our chances to win decisive support
from people with power and influence in the ruling class.

What is our response to Hedges?

We do not have a good response. Not yet.

We need to put our heads together.

Hedges arguments are sophisticated because, of course, they are not his
alone. Hedges talks to, and represents and an entire layer of social
democratic thinkers and professional misleaders. They can create powerful
arguments because they work together.

So can we.

We can put together a statement that sums up what is going on from
a class perspective. Hedges' attack must be understood as an attack
on a movement that has an independent character and is based on
mass democracy.

That is what the ruling class opposes. That is what we must defend.

Hedges' statement is part of a broad capitalist counter-offensive
against our movement. Since Hedges is a leading intellectual and
has become something of a movement spokesman, his statement will have
broad influence and impact everything, including the air we breathe.

It would be the height of folly to ignore it.

If we can forge a joint statement that expresses our defense of
a movement with an independent character based on mass democracy,
if we can do this in a powerful and concise way, and in a timely
manner--we can transform this attack against our movement into a
victory that will have a significant and long lasting impact on
the consciousness of an entire section of activists.

You saw the low level of movement consciousness at the debate
Saturday night. This is our opportunity to end the darkness
and turn on the fucking light.

I understand your time is extremely limited.

I believe that your limited time would be well used to encourage
others to work together for a common statement.

I initiated an attempt to put together a common effort in this
direction in November (see reference 3 below). Eric has backed
away from this effort at collaboration because (in my view) you
have failed to indicate that you are committed to it in any
significant way. Eric, frankly, has no interest in working with
me. He is interested in working with you. I do understand that
it is unfair to you that you are perceived as a "hub". On the
other hand, we all must deal with life on life's terms.

I believe that even a relatively small expenditure of your time
(ie: three or four sentences in a post to that thread--now possible
because RevLeft has opened up registration) would encourage Eric
(and others) to participate (whether on that thread or in some other
electronic public forum) in a common process to sort out how best we
can defend, from a class perspective in a powerful, concise and
timely statement, the independent and mass democratic charater
of our movement.

All the best,
Ben Seattle

-- 1 --

A response to Chris Hedges

> Hedges like the Socialist Worker, joined the capitalist media’s
> campaign against militant anti-capitalists. [...]

> the tendency of reformism and capitalist collaboration that Hedges
> represents hopes to usurp the “undecided” proletariat within the
> occupy movement—that is, those persons who have not firmly sided with
> either the anti-capitalists or the reformists. The capitalist
> collaborators hope to take advantage of any weakness in theoretical
> understanding by the militant anti-capitalists, arrogantly pushing
> for a premature split. Unless anti-capitalists can learn to work
> together, create trust, open lines of discussion, comradely critique,
> and forge a unified alliance and network—we will be divided and
> conquered.

-- 2 --

The Death & Forbidden Rebirth of the Oakland Commune

Mike Ely:
> I would love to see someone refute Hedge’s inexcusable and shabby
> arguments — his broad smearing brush — which (like all bad polemics)
> springle important truths in a field of terribly wrong conclusions.

Whose violence & whose immaturity? Revolutionary strategy around #Occupy

-- 3 --

Draft Statement and Proposal: No to the Co-optation of our Movement!

Ben Seattle (November):

> Hedges, it seems to me, is nostalgic for "the civilities
> of a liberal democracy" and would like to be part of
> "the veneer of virtue and goodness" that used to exist.


> The role of the social-democrats inside the movement
> is closely tied to the role of more establishment
> social democratic orgs standing outside and trying
> to control it from there.


Updated 7th February 2012 at 18:14 by Ben Seattle

To hell with the reformist ideology and influence!


  1. Ben Seattle's Avatar
  2. Ben Seattle's Avatar
    Some links to various related articles:

    (1) The Kasama thread (referenced above) has had some good discussion (and it is
    where i got these links) "The Death and Forbidden Rebirth of the Oakland Commune"

    Mike Ely:
    There is a demand being raised (right now, literally by the ruling class itself)
    for distancing by responsible activists from “those who advocate violence”
    (see Eric on Mayor Quan's outrageous demand for splitting and distancing).

    And now Hedges has responded, literally within hours — in effect (whether
    consciously or not) nominating himself as the responsible leader to be
    promoted by the machinery of the system … in a process that is very
    very well known in this country).
    [my boldface above--Ben]
    (2) To Be Fair, He Is a Journalist: A Short Response to Chris Hedges on the Black Bloc (Don Gato)

    (3) Counterpunch: A Bustle in Hedges' Row (Randall Amster)

    We are the Radical arm of Occupy LA. We have come together in an online black bloc
    against the Obstructionists, the Reformists, and the Liberals who have occupied the
    choke points of presumed power and leadership roles within our leaderless movement
    in order to further oppress marginalized voices, promote lies, and foist their own
    insidious agenda of abusive control upon OLA.

    (5) The Folly of Christopher Hedges

    "Here’s to the Greeks. They know what to do when corporations pillage and loot
    their country. They know what to do when Goldman Sachs and international bankers
    collude with their power elite to falsify economic data and then make billions betting
    that the Greek economy will collapse. They know what to do when they are told
    their pensions, benefits and jobs have to be cut to pay corporate banks, which
    screwed them in the first place. Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city
    centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare—
    the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus
    the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it."

    But what has changed now that radicals in Oakland California have called a general
    strike, incited to riot, attempted to shut down city centers, and talked the language
    of class warfare? Why now condemn them as "the cancer of the occupy movement,"
    as Hedges has done? Why are such actions in the U.S. "a gift from heaven to the
    security and surveillance state," according to Hedges? To me, such conflicting
    sentiments smack of the hypocrisy that comes about when one changes their opinions
    with the shifting of political winds. Hedges is not sticking to his proverbial guns, he is
    merely going with the flow to appease the leftist sycophants who comprise his cult
    of personality. It's sad, disgusting, and shameful.
    (6) Up until now, Occupy has involved a contradictory and unstable mixture of liberal
    and more radical elements held together by a thin tissue of stories of injustice and
    violated “rights.” This fact has led to endless unproductive disputes about the role
    of “violence” in our movement, of which Chris Hedges is just the most recent and
    banal example. The problem is that if our unity can be reduced to our shared victimization,
    we are reliant on police and civic officials to continually give us these stories. As police
    tactics adapt, and as the demands we make of the system become more radical, this will
    become increasingly difficult. The basis of the connections we make within the movement
    must involve a deeper sort of radicalization. The central antagonism is not between
    the police state and the people, but between labor and capital
    Updated 9th February 2012 at 13:34 by Ben Seattle
  3. Ben Seattle's Avatar
    Peter Gelderloos replies to Chris Hedges:
    (thanks to Art for finding this article)

    (-- excerpts --)

    Ironically, Hedges refers to the famous Birmingham campaign
    attributed with achieving the end of segregation. What Hedges
    and pacifist ideologues like him fail to mention is that
    Birmingham was a repeat of King’s Albany campaign, which
    ended a total failure, all its participants locked up, and
    no one slightly moved by the supposed dignity of victimhood.
    The difference? In Birmingham, the local youths got fed up,
    rioted and kicked police out of large parts of the city for
    several days. The authorities chose to negotiate with King
    and replace de jure segregation with de facto segregation in
    order to avoid losing control entirely. [...]

    It’s election year. Those who still have faith in the system,
    or those whose paychecks are signed by the major unions, the
    Democratic Party, progressive NGOs, or the left wing of the
    corporate media, know it’s their job to forcibly convert any
    popular movement into a pathetic plea to be made at the ballot
    box. The unmediated, experimental politics of the Occupy
    movement must give way to symbolic protest and dialogue with
    the existing “structures of power” whose members must be brought
    “to our side”. For the Occupy movement to be sanitized and
    converted into a recruiting tool for the Democratic Party, it
    will have to be neutralized as a space for real debate,
    experimentation, and conflict with authority. Its more
    revolutionary elements will have to be surgically removed.
    It is an operation the police, the media, and some careerist
    progressives have been engaged in for months, and Hedges’
    contribution is just the latest drop in the bucket.

    This form of co-optation and manipulation is nothing new for
    a movement that cynically harvested a few images from Tahrir
    Square–an unfinished popular uprising in which hundreds of
    thousands of people defended themselves forcefully from the
    cops, ultimately torching dozens of police stations–to declare
    a victory for nonviolence.

    Around the world, people are fighting for their freedom and
    resisting the depredations of the rich and powerful. In the
    United States, there is plenty of cause to join this fight,
    but as long as people continue enact a fear-driven,
    Not-In-My-Backyard pacifism, and to pander to the corporate
    media as though they would ever show us in a positive light,
    the rich and the powerful will have nothing to worry about.
  4. Ben Seattle's Avatar
    For the Occupy movement to be sanitized and
    converted into a recruiting tool for the Democratic Party, it
    will have to be neutralized as a space for real debate,
    experimentation, and conflict with authority. Its more
    revolutionary elements will have to be surgically removed.
    It is an operation the police, the media, and some careerist
    progressives have been engaged in for months, and Hedges’
    contribution is just the latest drop in the bucket.
    It is difficult to improve on some of the formulations by Peter Gelderloos
    (above). Maybe the next step might be to survey the outpouring of
    responses to Hedges.

    (Kasama) Diversity of Tactics or Diversion from Strategy?

    Susie Cagle
    Activists and Anarchists Speak for Themselves at Occupy Oakland

    Chris Hurl
    Anti-Globalization and “Diversity of Tactics”

    The Voice of Our Enemy:
    (WSJ) ‘Black Blocs’: An Intra-Occupy Debate

    Jay Moore
    The Black Freedom Movement and Chris Hedges' Misuse of History

    I have not had time read (much less study) all of these (much less
    look for more).

    It would be useful to create a chart, or table, of articles which include
    a summation of strong and weak points as well as overall political line.
    This can help us better understand the big picture of what political
    principles are (and are not) widely understood.
    Updated 17th February 2012 at 15:58 by Ben Seattle


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A Quick Update on Hedges: « artfrancisco

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