If He Can't Lie, It's Not His Revolution: Chris Hedges vs. Emma Goldman

From New York Year Zero

Most people I know who actively work for social justice make an effort to ignore Chris Hedges. When he puked up a nasty little screed demonizing militancy in the Occupy movement last year, Hedges – in the words of Occupy Wall Street organizer Amin Husain – “almost derailed us” [1] (Sadly, Amin was wrong about the “almost” part). But it’s hard to look the other way when Hedges drags the name of several generations of anarchists through the dirt, as he did in a recent column; and it is perilous to ignore the fact that he represents a powerful network of liberal recuperators who have been undermining resistance in this country for years while claiming to promote it.

A few weeks ago, Hedges wrote a column entitled “Sparks of Rebellion,” which was one of his periodic forays into Grand Movement Strategy. [2] He opens with a shallow intellectual history of modern radicalism in which virtually none of the statements are true, particularly in regards to anarchists: Kropotkin was not a gradualist but a revolutionary – hence his autobiography is called Memoirs of a Revolutionist; Bakunin did not elevate déclassé intellectuals above the proletariat (or anyone else), but envisioned all oppressed classes making the revolution [3] – and so on and so forth. Hedges clearly believes his Pulitzer prize gives him entitlement to stuff a book’s worth of assertions into a paragraph without any supporting evidence.

Equally disconcerting is that once Hedges gets to introducing his own propositions about revolution, none of them are coherent: We’re told that a modern revolt must not be “reliant on the industrial or agrarian muscle of workers”, but will rely on “the dispossessed working poor”, but “It is not the poor who make revolutions.”, but “service workers and fast food workers…will be one of our primary engines of revolt.” Does anyone have any questions?

In the end, all this name-dropping and sophomoric analysis is a bait-and-switch for what Hedges really wants to talk about: the importance of pacifism – which he finally gets to in paragraph six. Hedges evokes the much-touted and under-scrutinized Harvard study by Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan which “examined 100 years of violent and nonviolent resistance movements and concluded that nonviolent movements succeed twice as often as violent uprisings.” To judge how accurate this study is, one might want to note that the authors omitted all civil rights and labor struggles from their data set. [4] Even more problematic is Chenoweth’s meaninglessly amorphous criteria of nonviolence which has no relationship to the strictures that Gandhi, Gene Sharp or Chris Hedges would impose on us: One of the study’s featured cases is the Philipine revolt of 1986 which originated as an armed coup, and climaxed with a bomb dropped on the presidential palace. [5] In the wake of the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Chenoweth took to publishing commentaries praising the Egyptian rebellion for its nonviolence even as hundreds of police stations firebombed by protesters were still smoldering. [6]

But the foulest aspect of Hedges’ scribble is the attempt to divide the present generation of militant anarchists from their respected classical forebears. The liberal journalist has never retracted a word of his “Cancer in Occupy” meltdown, and takes another passing shot at “the Black Bloc” in this article. In contrast to the cancerous youths, Hedges holds up a mature, mythologized Emma Goldman who “came to be very wary of…the efficacy of violence.”

The tendency of pacifists to co-opt every conceivable radical icon into their ideology never ceases to amaze; thus the new school of pacifist history portrays the Russian Revolution as nonviolent[7] – even though at least as much property was destroyed there as in Egypt [8] - and now Red Emma is assimilated as an apostate from militancy. How Goldman could also have been, in the last decade of her life, a key information officer for anarchist militias which executed fascist commanders with regularity isn’t explained. [9] Her correspondence during the Spanish Civil War shows distaste for the bloodshed, but it also records her explicitly rejecting Gandhian strategy as hopelessly naive.[10] Goldman was as nonviolent as Sherman was when he lamented that “war is hell” just before he burned down Atlanta – a common sense human impulse, not a strategic analysis; she was wary of every aspect of force except the efficacy of it. But if Hedges can’t lie, it’s not his revolution.

The grotesque irony here is that Emma Goldman rejected this game of demonize-and-assimilate whenever it was applied in her own time. Hedges claims to be “reading and rereading the debates among some of the great radical thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries,” but somehow he missed the debate between Goldman and V.I. Lenin during the Russian Civil War. In her autobiography, Goldman recounts how she and Alexander Berkman went to the Kremlin to protest the mass arrests of anarchists during the Bolshevik terror. Lenin dismisses the objections saying responsible anarchists like her are respected in Russia, and he only attacks “bandits” and “Makhnovtsy” (supporters of militia leader Nestor Makhno). Goldman recognizes the psychology of counterinsurgency immediately -

Imagine,” I broke in, “capitalist America also divides the anarchists into two categories, philosophic and criminal. The first are accepted in highest circles; one of them is even high in the councils of the Wilson Administration. The second category, to which we have the honor of belonging, is persecuted and often imprisoned. Yours also seems to be a distinction without a difference. Don’t you think so? [11]

Reading this passage, it’s striking how little has changed. It isn’t difficult to imagine, say, Rebecca Solnit – “philosophic” anarchist and Obama campaigner [12] – being feted at the White House in reward for her work bashing radicals, while at the same time “criminal” anarchists like Marie Mason and Oso Blanco rot in prison.

The revolution may not start tomorrow, and we hope it won’t be a bloodbath when it does. But diverse tactics are needed to end the assaults on the water, the air, the climate, on all our lives and dignity. The moribund pacifism of the establishment left has failed, and the failure is so terminal that they must stoop to falsifying history in order to even make a case for themselves.

by L. Raymond

Notes:

1. Democracy Now, “No Work, No Shopping, Occupy Everywhere”, May 1, 2012 – http://www.democracynow.org/2012/5/1/no_work_no_shopping_occupy_everywhere

2. https://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/09/30-6

3. As Paul Avrich has noted, Bakunin had a “conception of an all-encompassing class war.” This definitely included “fervent, energetic youths, totally declasse, with no career or way out,” but they were only one part of an ” ‘all-embracing’ revolution… including, besides the working class, the darkest elements of society…the unemployed, the vagrants and outlaws…the instinct of rebellion was the common property of all the oppressed classes of the population.” Avrich also writes that, “While entrusting the intellectuals with a critical role in the forthcoming revolution, Bakunin at the same time cautioned them against attempting to seize political power on their own…On this point Bakunin was most emphatic.” Paul Avrich, The Russian Anarchists (1967) – http://www.ditext.com/avrich/russian/1.html

4. Note 35 of Chenoweth, Stephan “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict” International Security, Vol. 33, Issue 1, Summer 2008 - http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/isec.2008.33.1.7

5. Monina Allarey Mercado, Francisco S. Tatad, People Power: Eyewitness to History (James B. Reuter, S.J., Foundation, 1986) p202-209

6. Erica Chenoweth, “Give Peaceful Resistance a Chance” The New York Times, March 9, 2001- http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/10/opinion/10chenoweth.html?_r=0 ; David D. Kirkpatrick, “Mubarak orders crackdown with revolt sweeping Egypt” The New York Times, January 28, 2011; Lorenzo Dubois, “PEACE AND FIRE: Diversity of Tactics in the Egyptian Revolution (Jan-Feb 2011)” -http://boston.indymedia.org/feature/display/214110/index.php

7. Jonathan Schell, The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People (Metropolitan, 2003) p169-170

8. Richard Stites, Revolutionary Dreams : Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution (Oxford University Press, 1988), p67

9. David Porter, editor, Vision on Fire: Emma Goldman on the Spanish Revolution (AK Press, 2006) p226 – http://zinelibrary.info/files/Goldman%20-%20Vision%20on%20Fire%20-%20Emm...

10. Goldman wrote to a young US anarchist in 1936: “…the organized force used against the followers of Gandhi has finally forced them to use violence, much to the distress of Gandhi…Most important of all is that mechanized warfare and violence used by the state make non-resistance utterly futile. What do you think non-resistance could do during bombardment from the air – a daily occurrence in Spanish cities and towns?” She concludes that “…as a method of combating the complex social injustices and inequalities, non-resistance cannot be a decisive factor.” David Porter, Vision on Fire, p239-240; Goldman also attributes the collapse of the social revolution to the CNT “suddenly turning pacifist” when it came to resisting internal repression from the Stalinists. “Gandhi could not have done better,” she notes with bitterness. Vision on Fire, p228 – - http://zinelibrary.info/files/Goldman%20-%20Vision%20on%20Fire%20-%20Emm...

11. Emma Goldman, Living My Life (Alfred K. Knopf, 1931), p766 – http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/goldman/living/living2_52a...

12. http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175598/

Category: 

Comments

this is great. straight to the point.

"The Failure of Nonviolence" addresses that Chenoweth study and debunks it pretty thoroughly, though I don't recall it mentioning that labor struggles weren't even included.

1. "Most people I know who actively work for social justice make an effort to ignore Chris Hedges.."

And, what, these active workers for social justice take the Black Bloc seriously? After how many fat blunts?

2. " When he puked up a nasty little screed demonizing militancy in the Occupy movement last year.."

"demonizing militancy?" Or rejecting tactics that alienated the hell out of the mainstream working people who would have had to become involved with Occupy for it to become something more substantive than the stuff that leftist protesters do all the time?

3. "Hedges – in the words of Occupy Wall Street organizer Amin Husain – “almost derailed us”...

Yeah, right. Someone else is somehow always to blame. If a single critical perspective makes it dry up and blow away, then it isn't much of a threat to begin with.

Occupy derailed itself by not becoming something of direct relevance to mainstream working class people who aren't turned on by stinky hippie tent encampments, specious collegiate theorizing and drum-circles manned by bare-chested subjectively insurrectionary career S.S.I. recipients.

4. "Bakunin did not elevate déclassé intellectuals above the proletariat (or anyone else), but envisioned all oppressed classes making the revolution..."

One stupid analysis among many from Bakunin. Bakunin was also for the perpetuation of commodity relations after "The Revolution." What's your take on that?

5. "But the foulest aspect of Hedges’ scribble is the attempt to divide the present generation of militant anarchists from their respected classical forebears..."

Hedges doesn't do this -- your putative "present generation of militant anarchists" do this without unnecessary external assistance.

For whatever their weaknesses of insight and analysis may have been, anarchist tendencies in the period of the classical workers movement were usually grounded in actual social struggles of the exploited social classes of their time and place; they were very much in and of the world around them -- they were not a Mountain-must-come-to-Mohammed, drop-out culture trip. For fantasy projection shit you mostly had to look to individualist fools. Show me a sign of credible ongoing real-world engagement with today's wage-earning class from your so-called "present generation of militant anarchists" in today's US -- after thirty years around your scene I might somehow have accidently missed something. The Black Bloc schtick is all about short-term kicks for the people who do it. It adds up to nothing more than that. It had failed to communicate anything or spread as a useful tactic among anybody outside of a tiny fedback-loop fraction of a single percentage point of the populace who are already inclined to do this kind of stuff.

You object not to the specifics of Hedges' historical analysis, but to the fact that he even attempts a historical analysis of class forces at all. And what's with the Rebecca Solnit shit? How is Hedges to blame for the deceitful liberal creep Rebecca Solnit? Take him to task for what he actually says, not for what someone else says. This is a guilt-by-association stunt on your part, and a sign among many that you need to put real time and effort into honing your polemical chops.

PS: I'm second to no one in despising Rebecca Solnit; she managed to misquote me three times in a single paragraph in her coffee-table-book-for-very-small-coffee-tables, whining about late 20th century San Francisco gentrification in 'Hollow City.

who gives a fuck about alienating liberals

I'm confused. If nobody cares what liberals think about us, why pay any attention to Hedges or his flock of morons? But wouldn't that mean reinforcing the same good-vs-bad protester narrative we complain about?

who the fuck pays attention to hedges

Go blow yourself, Keating.

1. why did you even post this? you quote some criticisms of hedges from the piece, then you don't even defend him, but rather make some straw man shit about the black bloc.
2. did you read the cancer in occupy piece? he literally said that people who use militant tactics were a cancer, while quoting a dude to support his claims who calls for assassinations and the large scale destruction of industrial infrastructure, derrick jensen. if that's not demonizing militancy (poorly) then i don't know what is
3. i'm sure there are plenty of things that were horrible about occupy, but if one of the organizers tells me that a particular thing made their ability to be effective more difficult, which it sounds like is the only thing Amin Husain is saying, then i tend to trust the people on the ground doing the work more than some asshat who sits back and writes articles criticizing what other people are doing, the whole time making clear he doesn't actually understand what they're doing.
4. so bakunin lived 150 years ago and had opinions that don't make sense in today's world. what's your point? because the point that the author made was that hedge's lied about what bakunin was saying, and since i don't see you disagreeing with that, i'm gonna chalk this one up to another straw man.
5. anytime someone goes to the thinkers of the past, the people who are looked to for inspiration by those who struggle today, and blatantly mischaracterizes or outright lies about what conclusions they came to and what beliefs they espoused, then, yes, they are clearly making an attempt to distance the people who struggle today, those whose idea of struggle is one that they disagree with, and to discredit those who fight. the only result is the splitting of resistance movements, from someone who screams for unity nonetheless, and the rewriting of history, dooming those who come after to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Keating, you fucking idiot.

--Do you think your precious working class is still a coherent social body, if it ever was?

Me, I think that the collapse of the post-war Fordist compromise has left "workers" & everyone else on the losing end of capitalism so precarious and fragmented that whenever we stand up for ourselves, we don't look like "workers," at least not to people with your woefully outdated class analysis.

--What do you think about the recent appearance of black bloc tactics in Egypt and Brazil, where they have been widely appropriated? Did you see the statement of support the teacher's union made about the 'bloc in Rio?

Me, I think that in the surveillance age, anonymity and the ability to act illegally will be essential to any potentially revolutionary movement, so we had better go about normalizing them now, even if it isn't popular at first. I also think that people like you who attempt to delegitimize every effort to do so are playing a concrete role in the perpetuation of our weakness vis a vis our enemies.

Finally, can you point to an example of the approach you'd like to say working lately? I think you can't because your framework is so pathetically outdated. See if you can catch up with the facts on the ground. In the meantime, fuck you for wasting everybody's time.

I agree. Bakunin it is in danger of becoming clichéd, and then where does that leave class consciousness. Revolution is the opiate of the intelligentsia and class distinction viz. prole, bourgeois, aristocracy is passé, there is now only one category, being in debt, and therefore forever enslaved to repay. There has been a retrogressive tendency to become sheepish peasants toiling for superficial gratification.

stupid liberal is stupid

you say;

“The Black Bloc schtick is all about short-term kicks for the people who do it. It adds up to nothing more than that.”

I would say that you are wrong. The Black Bloc lifts spirits. By accident I found myself right in the midst of a black bloc caper in 2000 at the Summit of the Americas protest in Quebec. the people in black moved in and started smashing windows in the CIBC bank right where I was standing. I was ‘shocked’ as in ‘surprised’ by the suddenness of it, and as I moved a few steps back and watched one of the group writing on a window, it was something really humorous like ‘the revolution owes you $50 ... and I can’t remember what it went on to say exactly, but it cracked me up at the time, and my spirits were lifted by this small but really attention-getting act of defiance and outright rejection of ‘the system and its laws that protect and preserve it’. [by the media coverage, you'd have thought it was the assassination of a president]. Every time I hear ‘Black Bloc’, I smile and my spirit is lifted.

I am not saying that spirit-lifting actions start and stop with the black bloc, there are those whose activism is so committed that they risk 20 year jail terms and their courage and commitment lifts the spirits of others in a similar way, as acts of defiance against ‘impossible odds’ tend to do. I am saying that even symbolic acts of defiance, in some form or other, are important to sustaining the ‘spirit of a movement’.

indigenous anarchists have continued to resist colonization even as it has come to dominate the common relational living space they and we all share inclusion in. the resistance is just as much about symbolic, spirit-sustaining actions as it is about real growth in material power [while material actions are visible, the condition of the ‘spirit’ is not directly visible thus we do not know ‘who is with us’ and ‘how strongly they feel’].

indigenous anarchists marching across the U.S.-Canada International border ‘without stopping’ to defy the notional ‘independent existence’ of colonial sovereign states is just one of many symbolic ways of remembering and having one’s children see and remember the strength of one’s commitment to ‘a more sane way of living’; i.e. a non-colonial, non-capitalist, non-sovereigntist way of living.

the indigenous anarchist ‘movement’ is alive and well and global in its ‘spirit’.

colonialism/capitalism continues to dominate the material aspects of social dynamics. that is where ‘it came in’. it overwhelmed, by force, ‘the way indigenous anarchist society does things’, and the indigenous anarchists have been compelled by the overwhelming force of the colonial/capitalist system, to comply with ‘the way capitalist societies do things’. All that is visible is the material aspect and there is no way to see the strength of the spirit. The prison-break comes unannounced. Who would know what sort of seething anger and commitment ferments in the slave colony who one sees dutifully and compliantly doing what they are told? Have they ‘been broken’ or are they a ticking time-bomb ready to explode? It doesn’t show itself in their visible physical behaviour.

colonizing governments have done their best to ‘co-opt’ the minds of indigenous anarchists to the point that people around the world describe the attempt as ‘cultural genocide’. supposing the colonizers had succeeded. There would be no more angry marches by indians across the ‘invisible boundary’ declared to mark the existence of the colonizer states. Would the absence of that ‘SPIRIT of rejection of capitalism’ matter? Of course it does, ‘showing spirit’ is infectious, like a smile is infectious. It gives a sense of brotherhood and camaraderie that is worth a lot.

materialists/physicalists don’t care about ‘spirit’, all they care about is what prevails in a materialist sense, which means they have a viewpoint like military commanders. all that matters is ‘who’s in control’ and who gives a shit what those ‘under control’ are feeling so long as they are ‘under control’ and complying with the directives of the control centre.

did the colonizers of africa and the americas ‘care’ about how blacks and redskins ‘felt about being under the control of the colonizer/capitalist system? did the colonizers approach them saying; ‘say, we have been considering taking control of your living space and exploiting the rich resources here and using you and your family members as labour to extract it, ... how do you feel about that?’.

sure. columbus knew from the beginning that he was leading a massive army of ‘conquistadores’ to whom ‘gold’ and ‘silver’ was far more important than the lives of indigenous peoples. the indigenous peoples were considered valuable for their knowledge of where the gold and silver were and for their labour in the difficult and dangerous business of getting it out of the ground.

so, now the conquistadores pervade the globe and wear suits and ties and program their Ipads to send them reports on the gold and silver production of the operations they have equity shares in. are they interested in reports on the lives and living conditions in the communities of columbian or peruvian indians etc. that are supplying labour for the mines? only in regard to disturbances and challenges to the operations of the companies they have equity shares in.

so what’s the point here?

chris hedges and many others judge the ‘success’ of an initiative by visibly manifest physical progress. for example, ‘Occupy’ was seen as a failure because, as a physical initiative, ‘it fizzled out’. But what, exactly, fizzled out? PHYSICAL resistance of indigenous anarchists also ‘fizzled out’ as far as manifest physical actions are concerned. Did the spirit snuff out or did it just ‘go underground’? periodic outbursts of defiance send a signal that the spirit is still alive and well. our invisible brothers and sisters are out there, we just can’t see and identify them by their physical actions, which are compliant due to the over-whelming force imposed on them/us/all.

if physical actions are an appropriate measure, we would judge the resistance of indigenous anarchists to ‘colonialism’ as being close to zero, as having ‘fizzled out’. but if you talk to indigenous anarchists, one after the other, you find strong, strong spirit of rejection of colonialism/capitalism. here are people who would not live under the flag of colonialism for one second longer if they could lift off the lid of by-force oppression. of course they are not going to wage suicidal physical war. they tried that and it didn’t work. in terms of acting physically in there preferred way, they have been defeated, but their spirit is unbowed.

The drum beating march across the colonizer state-declared borders is an open, spirited ‘symbolic’ act of defiance that registers their rejection of colonial/capitalist beliefs and it stirs the spirits of all oppressed indigenous anarchists. It helps to keep the anarchist spirit alive and healthy. It INSPIRES. It ‘openly spits in the face of the colonizing slave-masters/oppressors’.

But for people who judge things only in terms of physical actions, if a physical initiative is launched but endures only for a while, the military-minded man will see this in terms of the ‘struggle’ having ‘fizzled out’, ... as a ‘failed initiative’, because his measure is ‘control’ of space and those in it. If the military-minded person has control, his work is done. He is not going to go out in the street asking; ‘how do you feel about this’. That is not his ‘psychological temperament’ type.

The possibility is non-existent that in the wake of a group of drum-beating people marching across an international border without permission, the border guards are going to say to one another. ‘look, this is not working, people are not paying any attention to our imaginary boundary lines. we might as well abandon our border posts and go home.’

Nevertheless, acts of defiance rejecting by-force oppression that are purely ‘symbolic’, can re-kindle the spirit of rebellion and keep it alive. When everyone is forced to ‘keep their head down’ one can become anxious about the spirit having been broken and to give/receive a sign that it is still there renews and replenishes it.

Colonizer governments are military-minded governments. They are the legacy of taking things by force, ... the legacy of imperialism, ‘of ‘might-makes right’. That is the ‘mentality’ of colonialism. It is the mentality of the military mind which understands ‘taking control of territory and the people within it’ and imposing ‘military rule’ or ‘military-backed central control’ whether or not a puppet facade is installed to give it the appearance of a system that has consensus support.

Emma Goldman’s remark cited by L Raymond makes an obvious point that applies generally ‘in both war and peace’.

“Most important of all is that mechanized warfare and violence used by the state make non-resistance utterly futile.”

So who is ‘going to bet’ on a non-resistance based initiative to bring down colonialism/capitalism? ‘Listen general, we really do feel strongly about having a society that is not driven and directed by military-backed central control. We would appreciate it if you melted your weapons down and made them into ploughshares. If you accept our demands, we will welcome you in our new way of doing things with open arms. If you don’t, ... look out! Because if you force us to fight you over this. You are going to see just how tough and mean we can get. [raises dukes in joe louis pose]’

The path of negotiation leads nowhere.

The path of resistance and total rejection of colonialism is the only choice.

The periodic Black Bloc activities which ‘thumb-the-nose’ to the symbols of colonialism; i.e. the law protected capitalist exploitation symbolized by the banking system is like the annual thumbing of the nose to colonizer state-defined borders by indigenous anarchists. It raises the spirit of those who see total rejection of colonialism as the only path.

Reformists like Hedges deflate the spirit and rally people to an exercise in futility.

L Raymond’s article is ‘on target’ in this respect.

That being said, the battle is not with the ‘supporters of sovereigntism/capitalism’, it is a battle with the ‘Enlightenment European belief system’ that is its foundation. More important that ‘overcoming by force the supporters of colonialism/capitalism’ is to awaken our brothers from the delusional ‘reality’ that Western civilization has imprisoned them in. Acts of defiance, even if symbolic, are visible to the children. The children will of course be coached by their parents as to ‘how those actions are disrespectful and ill-informed’ but questions are raised in the child’s mind that may one day help them to break out of the delusional reality of the Enlightenment European mindset that has been infused in them. They may see that if cultural genocide has been largely successfully applied by their own culture on others, perhaps it is being applied by themselves on their own kind.

The root of the problem of sovereigntism/capitalism as the Enlightenment European delusional belief system [the archetype of man, organism and organization as an ‘independent reason-drive system’] is the gist of my other comment on this topic.

let's celebrate the symbolic acts of defiance. let's have more of them. let's make them more outrageous and amusing. spirit is where it all comes from and if the spirit is nurtured the rest will come.

please don't generalize

"-What do you think about the recent appearance of black bloc tactics in Egypt and Brazil, where they have been widely appropriated? Did you see the statement of support the teacher's union made about the 'bloc in Rio?"

I think that context is everything. What matters in Brazil is that you have large numbers of mainstream working people in action against what capitalism is doing to their lives, such as the aforementioned teachers, and mass transit system riders, and it is in this specific context that "their" Black Bloc isn't just irrelevant self-indulgent acting out. If you can't get what's different between the inert US right now and a situation of the mass mobilization of the Brazilian working class then this itself probably speaks to a need to emerge from a subcultural fantasy-projection life. The Black Bloc in Brazil may indeed be a secondary and useful product of mass action by the wage slave class; it isn't going to be the primary catalyst for some larger movement of society-wide revolt.

I've been around the US anarchist scene for a solid thirty years. In that time your scene has produced absolutely nothing that isn't already done in a more serious and determined manner by other left-wing of capital types and Solnit-stripe liberals, and that's on the rare occasions that self-styled anarchists deign to relate to the world outside of their feedback loop at all. This is a phenomenal and extreme measure of the irrelevance of a phenomenon that claims to be in total revolt against this social order. The current-day Black Bloc isn't an exception to this, it is an expression of it. Nobody pays attention to a few broken windows; there are plenty of critical examinations of what a substantive alternative to short-lived acting out amounts to on the 'Love and Treason' web page, at www.infoshop.org.

you would be making some good points, if it weren't for the fact that when there are black blocs or other types of militant demonstrations in north america that ARE supported by large numbers of "working people," the same criticisms get rolled out for those too. brazil is not the only place where non-anarchist, solidly working class people come out and support black blocs, but when it happens in the U.S., it is written off and ignored.

You're hallucinating -- this stuff is just to keep you entertained. Where do working people -- and not in quotation marks -- "support" BB antics?

I saw some brazilian anarchists on tour in the states the other day and some college liberal brazilians in the audience were all like "noooo! the black bloc is probably bad and why don't you focus on how awesome the peaceful students are!"

But specifically, the point of the presentation was that these sorts of protests have been happening and then fizzling out for years and years in brazil, and it wasn't until the appearance of the bloc and other militants that the protests started to pick up steam and more and more mainstream folks made it out into the streets. Black blocs and militancy in other countries ARE comparable in numerous ways to black blocs and militancy in street demonstrations in the US. They polarize people, yes, but when/if they actually start working, people come around.

"The tendency of pacifists to co-opt every conceivable radical icon into their ideology never ceases to amaze;" - there is no reason to be amazed at the way politicians of every ilk (I have met a few in anarchist circles) use every possible scenario - historical, current, mythological - to gain support for their cause cum ideology. That is the way the modern world operates in nearly every encounter. Not only nothing at all surprising, but, not at all interesting.

Misandry is the new mysoginist lie is the new religious fanaticism and the latest strategy by finance capital. TL:DR but the title fits. If the feminists want to castrate you, how come historically it has been the worst religiously fanatical and patriarchal societies that castrated little boys?

Misandry is a lie.

Chris Hedges, in spite of his mental confusion, does a service to anarchists and all social justice activists by making us think more deeply about what we mean by 'violence' and its origins.

The concept of revolution in the European sense is not in the ‘vocabulary’ of the indigenous anarchist. The ‘us’ versus ‘them’ issue is a secondary issue. A persisting master class and slave class are artefacts of ‘imbalance’ in the physical system. Nature is always seeking to restore balance.

If the people living downstream from you put their nets across the river that the salmon that feed you ascend so that you get nought but the fish heads and the tails they toss, RE-BALANCING action will be needed. A raiding party may do it, and while violent, there is nothing personal in it, and one need not take all their fish and horses etc. since the goal is ‘balance’. Revolution does not come into it.

In the European cultural evolution, though not in the world generally, certain ideas and ways of doing things were popularized which ‘interfered’ with natural balance-seeking processes. John Locke wrote about one of these, back in his ‘Two Treatises of Government’ in 1690; i.e. the new practice of one man managing far more land that one man previously could, due to the invention of money and wage-labour. He spoke of this in negative terms as the ‘unravelling of community’ since ‘community’ had previously been defined by the enfolding of one’s labours in with those of others.

There was another important, popular idea that changed things and this was the Enlightenment European archetype of man, organism and organization as ‘independent reason-driven systems’ interacting with other such ‘automatons’ in a fixed and non-participating containing space. This piece of absurdity became part of the European cultural belief system and led to an absurd system of values based on slogans such as;

“.. all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, ...”

By such ‘statements of belief’, people were asked to think of people (themselves) as a numerical plurality of discretely-existing ‘independent reason-driven machines’ that interacted in an absolute, fixed, empty and infinite space, that was also populated by a separate entity known as ‘land’. Pieces of ‘land’ were available for consignment to individual people, and Government was there to protect the right of each ‘independent reason-driven system’ aka ‘individual’ to permanently own discrete 'parcels of land' and other ‘property’ as might accrue from state authorized and protected exploitation of the land.

Furthermore, a ‘justice’ system was bundled into the system of Government and laws were enacted that all ‘independent reason-driven systems’, aka 'people', were obliged to comply with or suffer punishment by forfeiture of property and rights, incarceration or execution.

A ‘banking system’ was also established that further ‘unravelled community’ which had been ‘the banking system’ in naturally evolving communities. As the indigenous anarchist chief, Maquinna of the Nootka’s, put it, when he was told about banks;

"we have no such bank; when we have plenty of money or blankets, we give them away to other chiefs and people, and by and by they return them with interest, and our hearts feel good. Our way of giving is our bank."

In other words, 'banking' or 'savings' was enfolded into community along with labour, in the indigenous aboriginal tradition.

Money, wage-labour (wage-slaves), banks, commoditizing of land, right to own property, declaring people to be ‘independent reason-driven automatons interacting in absolute space’, together became a belief system that was a recipe for guaranteeing monotonic growth of imbalance in wealth and power.

Warriors as guardians and protectors woven into the fabric of community were replaced by mercenaries, wage-slaves in the employ of the retributive justice system which was the fortified lid on the pressure-cooker of rising imbalance in wealth and power. Unlike the restorative justice of indigenous communities where it was understood that people and the land were together part of a relational space in which the activities of individuals conditioned the dynamics of the common living space at the same time as the dynamics of the common living space condition the activities of the individuals sharing inclusion in the common living space; e.g. putting a net across the salmon river was an activity that transformed the fisheries upstream of the netting activity.

Since the Government and Justice system operated on a law-formulating and law-enforcing basis and since laws governed the actions of individuals seen as ‘independent reason-driven systems’, once ‘colonized’, the people of neighbouring families or communities or tribes no longer worked things out together in a ‘restorative justice’ fashion. That is, the ‘restorative justice’ of indigenous anarchism assumed that relations are the source of individual and collective behaviour rather than ‘reason’, the latter notion deriving from the ‘belief’ that people are ‘independently-existing reason-driven things-in-themselves’ interacting in a notional absolute non-relational, non-participating space’.

This brings us up to the present.

If an unnatural imbalance is accruing to a sub-class of people who have devised some sort of net-like wealth-gathering webwork, and a raiding party is in order, as nature would have it, the warriors and guardians of the health of the community are no longer bundled into the community, they have been unbundled and are now mercenaries commanded by the justice system which is merely a non-relation-sensing, logical interpreter of the law. Re-balancing initiatives or ‘raids’ typically involved violence but the animating source of the violence was ‘restoring balance’ first, and only secondly was it 'an attack on those who had been hogging the wealth and the powers that wealth gives'. The ‘Robin Hood’ ethic was well known and respected, even in Europe and in the myths that preserved it, the raiding party was a good-natured ‘merry band’ [unlike the serious wealthy, always having to be concerned with guarding against the loss of their disproportionate accumulations] that stripped the wealthy of their excess wealth, often giving them a lesson in the process, which made them the butt of their own joke for their unnatural silliness of trying to amass way more than they needed at others expense.

To a considerable extent, the popular understanding of ‘anarchism’ has been couched in ‘reason’ wherein ‘anarchism’ is seen as one species of a rational system of social dynamics management which is in competition with, and thus locked in a struggle with, a different system of social dynamics management known as ‘capitalism’.

As already mentioned, this European system [capitalism] is built on a number of ‘beliefs’ such as the belief that ‘man’ is an ‘independent reason-driven system’ independent of ‘land’; .. that ‘land’ is a commodity that ‘men’ have the right to own, a right that is protected by law and government, and a retributive justice system enforced by mercenaries that act on orders from those interpreting the law out of the context of relational experience. The ‘community’ has no voice in such things, since the approach for managing the social dynamic has shifted to a law based system governing the behaviour of individual ‘independent reason-driven systems’ otherwise know as ‘people’.

Anarchists, .... at least ‘indigenous anarchists’, ... reject the entire bullshit structure, ... that Europeans have developed in their unravelling of natural community. Indigenous anarchists hold the community directly responsible for problems arising from the untended to growth of imbalance. “It takes a whole community to raise a child”. Indigenous anarchists reject the notion of man as an ‘independent reason-driven system’ that interacts with other such systems in an absolute fixed and non-participating space that also includes, as a separate and mutually exclusive entity, ‘land’. They reject this as absurdity, an absurdity that is proven to be such by our common sensory experience of inclusion in an unequivocally RELATIONAL space.

The goal of indigenous anarchists is not ‘revolution’ in the sense of replacing one reason-based system of social dynamics management with another reason-based system of social dynamics management, it is to ‘get real’ and work together to cultivate, restore and sustain balance in a relational sense. The ‘violence’ as it may associate with efforts to restore balance, does NOT come in ‘two flavours’, (1.) ‘the good violence’ proclaimed to be such by the prevailing ‘authority’ as associates with protecting the 'civil rights' of individuals and corporations [e.g. to own and exploit land], and (2.) ‘the bad violence’ defined by the prevailing ‘authority’ to be ‘any violence that is not officially endorsed by the prevailing authority’.

The subtlety here is that the continued building of tensions due to rising imbalance are protected by government, law and the mercenary standing army of law enforcement that takes commands from the government and justice system [enforcing laws promulgated by government]. As imbalance rises and relational spatial tensions rise accordingly, the ‘rebalancing’ attempts will inevitably/naturally be in the form of ‘reactive disturbances’ as those who are being most squeezed and oppressed by power and wealth imbalance are orchestrated in their individual and collective action by bloating takeover of the relational space of the common living space by the disproportionately wealthy and powerful.

Meanwhile, the retributive justice system orients to individuals seen as ‘independent reason-driven systems’ and the law correspondingly prescribes allowed and prohibited behaviours of people seen as ‘independent reason-driven systems’. This means that law enforcement orients strictly to the ‘behaviour of the people seen as independent reason-driven systems’ out of the context of relational experience, thus, ... ‘disturbing the peace’, ... and, ... failing to ‘obey the law and the instructions of law enforcement officers’, ... are dealt with as activities ‘in their own right’ even though they arise within the relational activity continuum as the manifestation of natural ‘balance-restoring tendencies’ within the community [refer to Nietzsche's 'double error' which applies here]. Those who are amongst the increasingly wealthy and powerful are not even personally called into question re the growing imbalances in the community and the problems and suffering arising from it. The ‘put down’ of natural ‘Robin Hood’ forces is achieved without consideration of any imbalances, by the mercenary warriors of the standing army of government and its justice system, on the basis of logical abstractions; i.e. on the basis of laws governing the behaviour of notional ‘independent reason-driven automatons’ otherwise known as ‘people’ or ‘humans’ or ‘organisms’, ... laws that give these ‘independent reason-driven automatons’ the right to own and accumulate as much of the independent commodity called ‘land’ as they may acquire by whatever means that cannot be shown to violate the law. the 'land' is yet another notional 'independent inhabitant' of the notional absolute space operating theatre made foundational in the charters and institutions of the self-declared ‘independent’ sovereign state which itself owns a notional discrete and independent, imaginary-line bounded ‘piece of land’ to hold and to do with what pleases it in its God-given right to its pursuit of happiness, a destination set and steered to by each incumbent crew of politician-helmsmen.

‘Imbalances’ lead to ‘disturbances’. To outlaw ‘actions that disturb’ in the presence of ‘growing imbalances’ is to forcefully protect the rise of imbalances’. If we have enough money to purchase technology that could suppress that actualizing of small earthquakes, we could postpone the tension-relieving ‘disturbances’ [earthquakes] and let the tensions build until our technology was no longer capable of holding it back, at which point there would be one massive release that we refer to as ‘the big one’ which corresponds to ‘revolution’. Movie scenes that capture bewildered elite class families in Russia as poor people off the streets move in with them in their extravagantly furnished apartments recall the tsunami that brings the belongings of those living in tin shacks on the beach into the courtyards of nearby five star hotels, dissipating in one fell swoop, all of that segregating of order from chaos that distinguished the elitist master class realm from the common working class realm.

Conclusions;

1. The word ‘violence’ is commonly used in conjunction with the absurd Enlightenment European model of a man, organism, organization, as an ‘independent reason-driven system’ with its own internal process driven and directed behaviour that interacts with other such automatons in an absolute fixed, empty and infinite space which is also, notionally, inhabited by an independent commodity called ‘land’.

That is, ‘violence’ is officially and institutionally seen as a behaviour that ‘jumpstarts’ out of the interior of an ‘independent reason-driven system’ aka 'human individual'.

In nature, ‘violence’ describes the continual tendency in nature’s dynamic; i.e. in the continually transforming relational spatial plenum, ... to restore balance in the presence of transformation-of-relations-induced imbalance. That is, a transforming relational space ‘charges and discharges like a network of springs that are continually and spatially, anisotropically loading up energy and discharging their load of energy, as with the continual converting of kinetic energy to potential energy and vice versa in the total energy conserving dynamics of nature’.

For example, when the atmosphere is differentially infused with thermal energy by anisotropic solar irradiation, such imbalances are continually resolved by the formation of storm-cells [convecting cells] which disperse/redistribute imbalances in energy accumulation. The ‘violence’ of the storm-cell does not jumpstart from the interior of the storm-cell but is outside-inward orchestrated by the dynamics of the relational space the storm-cell is included in. Similarly, those that withhold the sharing of food from another man’s starving child see their own actions [neglectful of natural balancing actions] ‘brew up a storm’ in the neighbour whose child is starving. The Enlightenment European archetype for man as an ‘independent reason-driven system’ be as it may, ... our own sensory relational experience affirms that it is the spatial relational dynamic [e.g. salmon being netted by the family downstream] that is the source of the rebalancing dynamic.

That is, ‘violence’, in the manner that it is commonly used in noun-and-verb European language-and-grammar refers to the ‘doer-deed action’ of a man as a notional ‘thing-in-himself’. As Nietzsche points out, this concept results from making two mutually offsetting errors;

“Our judgement has us conclude that every change must have an author”;–but this conclusion is already mythology: it separates that which effects from the effecting. If I say “lightning flashes,” I have posited the flash once as an activity and a second time as a subject, and thus added to the event a being that is not one with the event but is rather fixed, “is” and does not “become.”–To regard an event as an “effecting,” and this as being, that is the double error, or interpretation, of which we are guilty.” – Nietzsche, ‘Will to Power’, 531

In other words, ‘violence’ understood as an author-jumpstarted action is abstraction born of noun-and-verb European language-and-grammar that has no place in the physical dynamics of nature. In nature, violence arises from balance-restoring dynamics within a continually transforming relational spatial plenum aka 'relational activity continuum'.

If the raiding party seizing some of the salmon from those who have put their net across the river has to do violence to others and their property who are resisting their rebalancing initiative, the ‘violence’ is not sourced by the ‘independent-reason-driven automaton’ dishing out the violence because he is NOT REALLY an ‘independent reason-driven automaton’, ...that is just the Enlightenment European ‘archetype’ for man, organism, organization; i.e. it is an absurdity, and abstraction that tends to be confused for ‘reality’.

Does it make natural sense for balance-restoring motivations to animate individual and collective actions? ... YES!

Does it make natural sense to attribute the source of balance-restoring actions fully and solely [in a locally jumpstarting sense] to internal processes within man seen as an ‘independent reason-driven automaton’? ... NO!

All of this talk about ‘violence’ as if we could trace its authorship back to the interior of a notional ‘independent reason-driven automaton’ where 'the buck starts and stops' is thus ‘incoherent’ talk founded on absurdities.

The indigenous anarchist is seeking the restoring of natural balance-oriented social behaviours and IS NOT SEEKING ‘revolution’ in terms of the replacement of one reason-based system of social dynamics management [capitalism] with another, allegedly superior reason-based system of social dynamics management [anarchism]. Indigenous anarchism rejects the noun-and-verb European language-and-grammar based models of society in which ‘men’ are absurdly depicted as ‘independent reason-driven automatons’ who move about and interact in absolute, non-participating, non-relational space, an idealized, abstract space that also numbers amongst its independent inhabitants ‘independent tracts of land’, commodities to be ‘owned and exploited’ by their mutually exclusive ‘owners’; i.e. by ‘independent reason-driven automatons’.

The talk of ‘violence’ is a distraction. It is a distraction because ‘violence’ is popularly intended in the European colonizer culture, as an action that is locally jumpstart-sourced from internal processes within a notional ‘independent reason-driven automaton’ when our experience screams out to us that it is sourced by imbalances arising within the continually transforming relational spatial plenum. Violence is a result of the illness rather than a cause of illness in society. ‘Societal healthiness’ lies in 'social relational balance’, ‘illness’ is ‘falling out of balance’, and the result of ‘falling out of balance’ is balance-restoring ‘disturbance’ in the relational spatial ‘social corpus’.

The violence of the hurricane is ‘Robin Hood to the rescue’. As meteorologists say; ‘there is no other reason for a hurricane to exist but to transport thermal energy from thermal energy-rich equatorial regions [which keep accumulating more than their balanced share] to thermal energy-poor polar regions [chronically starved of their balanced share].

Imbalance is the source of violence. Violence may manifest via the actions of relational forms but it does not jumpstart from the interior of these relational forms and therefore talk of managing ‘the violence of people’ is misguided abstraction that orients to 'symptoms' as if they were 'cause'. Another way of saying this is that the Enlightenment European concept of man as an ‘independent reason-driven automaton’ is an absurdity which has been institutionalized by European colonialism within its sovereign state government, its corporate enterprises and its retributive system of governance, an absurdity which is the source of rising socio-environmental incoherence.

Please don't generalize.

Quickly sucked out whatever joy might have been found here! Well done master trolls ... well done.

He wrote it because people stopped going to his speaking engagements. Period. He needs to sell books and if no ones buying, he realized Anarchists (and Palestinian solidarity) pretty much are the radical left in the United States. Like, pretty much all of it.

If that's true, WE'RE DOOOOMED, DOOOOOOOOO-MUH-ED

Worthless politics always lead to a worthless argument in favor of those worthless politics. Case in point; the ladies and gentlemen of the not at all anti-capitalist, not at all relevant to real life and not at all subversive Black Bloc, above.

fuck you liberal

A characteristic eloquent and thoughtful response from the zero-real-world credibility temper tantrum brigade.

you mean zero liberal credibility

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