Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 9, 2012

Do the Greeks get it?

Filed under: black bloc idiots,Greece — louisproyect @ 6:09 pm

One of the main rebuttals to Chris Hedges’s attack on the black bloc centers on his support of the riots in Greece against the austerity drive. For example, “Nihilo Zero” (love those made-up anarchist names!) wrote an article for Anarchist News that stated:

Such a stance also often belies a hypocritical stance in regard to revolutionary self-defense and aggression when it occurs in their own backyards. For example… Chris Hedges in an earlier article about Greece wrote:

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.

So somehow the reader is invited to make a comparison between hundreds of thousands of Greeks, if not millions, pouring into the streets to fight the cops and destroy property with a couple of dozen people in Oakland spray-painting a Whole Foods window? At the risk of sounding like an instructor in Dialectical Materialism 101 at the University of Leningrad in 1954, I have to raise the question of quantity/quality. The quantitative difference between millions and a couple of dozen becomes qualitative. For example, there are neo-Nazi groups in the U.S. who occasionally hold a White Power rally somewhere. But for Pete’s sake, this is not Germany 1928 (even though some very otherwise reasonable people like Noam Chomsky make this mistake.)

There will very likely come a time in the future in which the attack on the working class in the U.S. will be as draconian as that taking place in Greece. And, as a result, there will be massive violent confrontations with the police. However, one thing is for sure. If we want to achieve victory, it will take a lot more than street fighting as a review of the situation in Greece would indicate. Despite over two years of massive confrontations, at times taking on the character of a civil war, the Greek government continues to make the workers pay for bankster chicanery and exploitation. Today’s N.Y Times reports:

After days of dramatic talks, Greek political leaders reached a deal on Thursday to support a package of harsh austerity measures demanded by Greece’s financial backers in return for the country’s latest bailout.

The deal is expected to unlock the 130 billion euros, or $172 billion, in new loans and save Greece from potentially disastrous default.

Talks between Prime Minister Lucas D. Papademos and the three leaders backing his coalition had stalled overnight over proposed cuts to pensions, but on Thursday leaders said they had found a way of plugging the 300 million euro shortfall by cutting defense spending and other expenditures.

“We have a deal,” a government official said Thursday afternoon. A statement by the prime minister was expected shortly.

At a news conference in Frankfurt, the head of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, said Mr. Papademos had called him with word that “an agreement has been reached and has been endorsed by the major parties” in Greece.

After more than seven hours, talks had stalled early Thursday between Mr. Papademos and the three political leaders in his government, who agreed on a range of steep wage cuts and public sector layoffs. But the politically unpopular pension cuts had proven most thorny.

Once again turning to the question of quantity and quality, it is significant that this pending victory of a united bourgeoisie takes place against a backdrop of one general strike after another. Unlike the Oakland general strike, whose impact should not be minimized, those that take place in Greece are like something out of the 1930s—including being led by a Communist Party. Alas, that partially explains why the bosses have been successful.

You have to keep in mind that this is a Communist Party that is far to the left of many others, as this polemic with the CPUSA would bear out.  While on record as favoring socialism, the KKE (Greek initials for the CP) has functioned far too long as an electoral party to switch gears and mount a challenge for power. It is hard to break with bad habits, particularly parliamentary cretinism. For example, at a rally in November, the party leader set his horizons low:

Down with the government and the parties which serve the plutocracy, as well as those parties which intentionally foster illusions amongst the people that another government with participation of these parties will solve the problem.

We do not conceal from anyone the fact that the class struggle must be directed towards one single goal, the acquisition of working class power, a power which serves the working class and the other popular strata.

They are lying that the timeline imposes the voting of the loan agreement before the election. We demand a caretaker government and elections in 20 days so that the people will be able to express their will with their vote. The controlled bankruptcy has already been agreed while there exists a serious possibility of an uncontrolled bankruptcy, it has not been cancelled out by the packages agreed with the EU, nor by centre-left or centre-right cooperation.

Somehow “down with the government” does not quite jibe with a demand for a “caretaker government”. Understandably, the counterpart of the American black bloc in Greece will have none of this. And once again, quantity becomes quality. In Greece the people who carry out black bloc tactics number in the tens of thousands not the hundreds. Moreover, they are much more violent than the American counterparts and willing to take on those on the left who stand in their way. One trade unionist in Oakland tackled a black-clad militant in front of a Whole Foods store, but that is like a drop of water in the ocean compared to Greece where the black bloc has declared war on the KKE and PAME, the trade union it leads.

On October 19, 2011 the KKE/PAME organized a rally in front of the parliament building that was attacked by black bloc activists. Two days later the KKE issued a statement:

On this occasion organized groups with specific orders and anarcho-fascists unleashed an attack with Molotov cocktails, teargas, stun grenades and stones, in attempt to disperse the majestic rally of workers and people in Syntagma Square and especially in the area where PAME was concentrated. A result of this attack is the death of the trade unionist of PAME, Dimitris Kotzaridis, 53 years old, secretary of the Viron branch of the Construction Workers’ Union. Dozens more PAME demonstrators were injured.

The hatred of the hooded ones against the labour and popular movement and PAME expresses the fury of the forces which serve the system and bourgeois power. The government has massive responsibilities for this. The operation to intimidate, slander and suppress the labour and people’s movement is rooted in state structures, centres and services. History demonstrates this, today’s barbaric and murderous assault also proves this. The hooded ones, anarcho-autonomists, fascists or whatever they call themselves tried to achieve what the forces of repression, the blackmail and threats failed to do: to intimidate the people so that they submit. It objectively arises that the very same centres executed the provocateur murderous burning down of Marfin the day the Memorandum was voted on, 5 May 2010.

Anarchists have a totally different take on what happened that day. A website called Anarchist Theft wrote:

We all experienced the nightmare that the Greek stalinists in co-operation with other leftist trade unionists and the cops created during the 48-hour strike in Greece on October 19 and 20 and some comrades in the anti-authoritarian milieu are badly wounded. We refer to the policing role of the KKE members: they were stationed in military formation in the area around the parliament, armed with helmets and sticks, facing the demonstrators with the riot squads behind them, preventing anyone from approaching, even asking for reporters’ identities and attacking fiercely later those in the crowd who defied their cordons.

As the clashes started, the riot squads came for their protection attacking people with chemicals and flash-bang grenades evacuating the area. It was revealed later that the stalinists had made an agreement with the police so as to be allowed to police the demo themselves. According to our information, similar agreements were made between the KKE and other left parties’ or groupuscules’ unionists so that each was alloted a special place near the parliament accepting KKE’s hegemony. They later supported fully KKE in its denunciation of the ‘anarcho-fascists’, ‘parastatals’ etc, namely all those who were not part of the deal, not willing to accept it and tried to break their cordons.

Here’s a Youtube clip of what was happening that day, although it is difficult to make much sense out of it as to who is to blame:

You can get some inkling, however, of the dynamics from a report that showed up on the leftcom.org website:

Then blocks of anti-authoritarians arrived, as well as the Anarchists’ Assembly for Social Self-determination. Clashes erupted as protesters tried to reach the Parliament. An anarchist block attacked Stalinist lines. [emphasis added]

The Kasama Project, a group that is openly sympathetic to the Occupy movement and even far more open to black block tactics than me, is hostile to the KKE, describing it as “physically protecting the parliament building” and  “openly defending the state within a growing crisis that seems pregnant with the possibility of revolution” in October. It also conveyed the analysis of a group called the Communist Organization of Greece that shares its hostility to the KKE:

PAME (the KKE organization within the trade union movement) came under to a murderous attack by groups that have nothing to do with any militant ideology and perception. We saw stones, slingshot ammo and Molotov cocktails hurled into the bodies and heads of strikers and protesters.

These actions are characteristic of para-military rightists and fascists. The KKE leadership has been guilty of politically unacceptable stands — defending the parliament building, keeping radical protesters away from union forces and excluding them from political spaces — but such actions do not justify fascist-inspired assassination attempts. The day before this, teachers were also sent to the hospital with their heads split open from this kind of violent attack…

Mass political confrontation is an approach tied to a particular class outlook. Murderous attack and apolitical hooliganism is a quite different class outlook. These groups and their actions receive the support of the government counterinsurgency because they help the government’s counterinsurgency.

It is difficult to figure out whether the perpetrators of this attack were ultrarightists or ultraleftists, since they were all masked, but that points out to a serious problem with political activity of this sort. Relying almost exclusively on nihilistic violence by masked militants, it can be used for malignant ends despite the best intentions of some of the young people who carry it out.

Unfortunately, the anarchist movement in Greece (I use this term advisedly since there is so much of an affinity for black bloc adventurism in its ranks) has had big problems reflecting on its role in the class struggle.

In May 2010 I wrote an article titled “Is firebombing a bank an acceptable tactic?” that considered the consequences of an anarchist fire-bombing of a bank that left three bank workers dead (supposedly the building was empty at the time.) Infoshop.org, one of the primary dispensers of black bloc nonsense in the U.S., published a communiqué just before the tragedy:

We stand opposed to all authoritarian mechanisms and to all snitches that assist their task and we directly take the counter-offensive for now and forever. On the night of 25th of April in Thessaloníki we attacked with fire a news agency delivery truck of “Evropi (Europe)” company in the area of Evosmos and a branch of OTE (National Telecommunications Organization) in Stavroupoli. We continued the next night again with an arson attack on a Eurobank branch in Kalamaria. [emphasis added]

Not long afterwards calmer heads in the anarchist movement did some soul-searching on this kind of nihilistic violence and issued this statement:

What the greek anarchist movement is experiencing at the moment is some total numbness. Because there are pressurising conditions for some tough self-criticism that is going to hurt. Beyond the horror of the fact that people have died who were on “our side”, the side of the workers – workers under extremely difficult conditions who would have quite possibly chosen to march by our side if things were different in their workplace – beyond this, we are hereby also confronted with demonstrator/s who put the lives of people in danger. Even if (and this goes without question) there was no intention to kill, this is a matter of essence that can hold much discussion – some discussion regarding the aims that we set and the means that we chose.

The incident did not happen at night, at some sabotage action. It happened during the largest demonstration in contemporary greek history. And here is where a series of painful questions emerge: Overall, in a demonstration of 150-200,000, unprecedented in the last few years, is there really a need for some “upgraded” violence? When you see thousands shouting “burn, burn Parliament” and swear at the cops, does another burnt bank really have anything more to offer to the movement?

This is the kind of anarchism I embrace, a movement that is capable of self-criticism and growth. One can only hope that it will prevail in Greece and have some influence on its American co-thinkers who in the name of “diversity of tactics” allow vandalistas to run wild and split the movement.

On a concluding note, a word has to be said about the somewhat depressing character of the clash between reformism and ultraleftism in Greece, personified by the KKE and the widespread anarchist movement. Anarchism prides itself on its detachment from state power and from politics, particularly electoral politics. Radical youth might have a natural prejudice against the KKE and PAME because it is so compromised with class-collaborationist coalition building. But instead of trying to figure out a way to win the ranks of the CP to the revolutionary cause, it sees its membership as part of the problem and not part of the solution.

In a very real sense, in countries undergoing a social political crisis of the sort that Greece is experiencing today or Argentina experienced a decade ago, you have massive workers parties that are obstacles to socialist revolution and ultraleft youth who reject building revolutionary parties as a kind of principle whether they are anarchists or autonomists, as was the case in the leadership of Argentina’s piqueteros.

So what you end up with is a bourgeoisie that can continue to push through austerity drives in the absence of a serious revolutionary opposition. What is needed now is the same thing that was needed during the last great period of social and economic crisis in the 20th century—the time of the Great Depression—is a battle-tested leadership that can move the struggle forward to a successful seizure of state power.

Despite the rather dogmatic sound of all this, echoing I suppose something that Trotsky wrote in the mid-30s, I still believe it is true. What I reject, however, is the claim that some “Leninist” groups have to the mantle of this leadership because they have some kind of “continuity” with Marx and Engels through Lenin as if a pedigree dog competing in a Westminster show. Leadership is achieved by actions that produce results, such as the Occupy movement that demonstrated just how ossified the traditional Marxist movement was. One can only hope that these good comrades, whatever their ideology, figure out a way to sustain the momentum of last autumn and draw new forces into the movement. I strongly urge them to put as much distance between themselves and the black bloc as possible since the greater its presence, the smaller and weaker the movement will become.

27 Comments »

  1. It’s numbers not tactics. If Black Blockers can come up with a vast number of spray-painters and window-breakers, great! The problem is that they won’t. They’ve gloomed onto Occupy because they don’t know how to organize. If I thought breaking windows would help swell and sustain the Occupy movement, I’d grab a brick. But it won’t.

    Comment by Rojo — February 9, 2012 @ 7:29 pm

  2. So somehow the reader is invited to make a comparison between hundreds of thousands of Greeks, if not millions, pouring into the streets to fight the cops and destroy property with a couple of dozen people in Oakland spray-painting a Whole Foods window? At the risk of sounding like an instructor in Dialectical Materialism 101 at the University of Leningrad in 1954, I have to raise the question of quantity/quality.

    If melodrama like Chris Hedges’ leads to the Black Bloc or its equivalent becoming the “terrorist” or “communist” scarecrow of the next decade, then you really do have “gift to the repressive state” or whatever the phrase was. Otherwise, how important are they really?

    Surely the best tactic, especially if these are really just a bunch of cowards behind a screen, would be to ridicule, minimize, and marginalize them, not compare them to a scourge of nature (“Cancer!!”) and cry out for help in suppressing them.

    What about the possibility that the Black Bloc are entirely or to a significant extent police provocateurs?

    Solid proof of this would cause the Black Bloc to disintegrate overnight–thus freeing everyone to deal with more important matters.

    Comment by Joe Vaughan — February 9, 2012 @ 7:37 pm

  3. personally, I think that Hedges, like a lot of people, wrote something about Greece without being well enough informed

    as a result, he comes across as someone who vicariously supports political violence elsewhere in an exotic locale, like Greece, but not close to home

    wouldn’t be the first time

    as for the Bloc, I agree with your general condemnation of this sort of violence and vandalism, but doubt that it can be so easily addressed through the repository of the Bloc, as I discuss here:

    http://amleft.blogspot.com/2012_02_01_archive.html#1697410525937666235

    Comment by Richard Estes — February 9, 2012 @ 7:42 pm

  4. oops, meant to say that “wouldn’t be the first time that has happened”, not necessarily that Hedges has displayed that sort of thing before

    Comment by Richard Estes — February 9, 2012 @ 7:43 pm

  5. Kudos for recognizing the socialist left internationally has tended to ignore in its discussions on Greece: the 1% there is winning and extracting pound after pound of flesh from the workers, i.e. the general strikes are not succeeding in their aims. This is probably a big reason why people (young people) are getting fed up with demonstrations that don’t storm parliament because the parties of the left refuse to allow things to go that far. The mistake is in totally rejecting parties as such because some of them get in your way; it would be like turning down the use of weapons because weapons were used against you, an understandable but mistaken conclusion.

    Joe, there will never be the kind of proof you are talking about. Almost 50 years after Malcolm X’s assassination it is still unclear if an FBI informant/agent high up in the Nation of Islam leadership gave the order to kill him, and the NYPD’s role in letting it happen (he was under their protection towards the end) is also suspicious but there is still no really solid evidence they purposely stood down that day. The closest thing we have to “proof” re: Black Bloc is the clip at the beginning of the Anon video, and yet here we are.

    Comment by Binh — February 9, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

  6. Put this under: The Psychopathology of Anarchism.

    “Black =>BLOC<= of anti-authoritarians", how Monty Pythonesque. These people clearly don't know who they are, objectively. Reminds me of the time the Trotskyist group that I was a part of then was working in the California P&FP. There was a sizable number of self-described "independents" at the annual convention, and at one point our group proposed a voting scheme by politically defined "blocs". Immediately all of the "independents" stood up in UNISON, EN BLOC, as one, to vigorously oppose this proposal, shouting "We are not affiliated with any party, we are independents!". It was hilarious. Always amusing to watch people negate through their actions the very essence of the "being" they imagine they are presenting to themselves and others.

    The Anarchist is truly a stranger to him or her (but mostly him, so I hear) self. Guess that is where the preference for black colors comes in. It represents the blacked-out self unconsciousness at the center of the anarchist soul.

    This self-ignorance shows in Greece, too, where the anarchist BLOC wasted their time attacking the Stalinists rather than attacking the Parliament and shutting down the main instrument for the assaults on the working class. If these knew who they were historically and materially, they would have done so. And if the Stalinists were actually trying to protect parliament, then the Black Bloc'ers would have been justified in attacking them, too.

    Oakland of course is a totally different situation. And the City Hall stunt was effectively a police provocation, even if no police were ever involved in it.

    Comment by Matt — February 9, 2012 @ 8:52 pm

  7. I think what you have to consider is the fact that a lot of young people are completely alienated from not only main stream politics but also much of the organised left. For a lot of them the previous tactics of building a revolutionary party have not worked. Now there is the spread of the direct action campaigns such as the occupy movements. While these are highly commendable at the end of the day the forces of the state will have their way in removing them. of course the biggest obstacle is the pusillanimity of many of the labour leaders both in terms of the unions and the political parties especially throughout Europe. this is the nub of the problem and there cannot be a quick fix solution. Unfortunately many seek this whether through urban terrorism or joining in the mass demonstrations to create as much havoc as possible. This unfortunately will not carry the revolution forward one iota indeed will only provoke a right wing backlash. What needs to be considered is how does the revolutionary left engaged with disaffected youth and I@m not sure I have the answer.

    Comment by rabsblog — February 9, 2012 @ 9:32 pm

  8. I don’t think there will be some future attack on the working class here because it’s already been destroyed. I definitely see a future attack on the starving paupers that used to be the working class.

    Comment by par4 — February 9, 2012 @ 9:50 pm

  9. rabsblog, your observations about youth alienation is right on. The only solution is engaging in revolutionary education in the manner that Louis does in this piece for instance. He offers a better alternative than the position papers handed down by steering committees of socialist formations with youth in their ranks that only happen to draw the relatively same conclusion. Louis comes off as a grumpy old lefty in his other anti-black bloc pieces, but the style in this article bookends the series pretty well by showing what’s at stake in very specific and well-reasoned terms.

    Comment by aaron — February 9, 2012 @ 10:55 pm

  10. Yo, rabsblog, you’re right that youth today are alienated both from mainstream politics and the organized left. Unionizing has nothing to offer an American youth when he or she lives in a nation where three quarters of economic output comes from the service industry. These are throwaway jobs created by corporations offering throwaway services; what’s the point in unionizing when you’re just going to tell your manager to take this job and shove it? I’ll point out, too, that as the state will have its way in removing all occupations, it will have just as much its way in removing any thing else you put in its path.

    Comment by Hank — February 9, 2012 @ 10:56 pm

  11. Good lord your blog is so full of crackpot ideas. Now you’re repping the Greek communist party, who are openly Stalinist, and according to nearly all reliable sources blocked that massive demo from storming parliament and collaborated with the police in beating protesters. Of course they’re going to protect parliament! They have members sitting inside!

    This whole obsession with numbers in relation to tactics is odd. I’m not a marxist, so I don’t have any strange fetish for “workers.” I don’t think rough tactics are great when carried out by big, burly union men and unacceptable when carried out by young unemployed people wearing black (not that all black bloc participants are young and unemployed, but it’s probably not a totally unfair stereotype).

    The anarchist idea is that no one has a right to tell you how to struggle, no one can give or deny permission. We act in solidarity with everyone fighting, but we don’t take orders, and we don’t wait for some magical number before beginning to fight.

    Comment by Karen — February 10, 2012 @ 1:08 am

  12. Also, the black blocs in greece do not number in the hundreds of thousands. There are maybe a couple thousand anarchists in Athens.

    Comment by Karen — February 10, 2012 @ 1:09 am

  13. The anarchist idea is that no one has a right to tell you how to struggle, no one can give or deny permission.

    Did you become an anarchist after your mom told you once too often to clean up your bedroom?

    Comment by louisproyect — February 10, 2012 @ 1:27 am

  14. Couldn’t come up with anything better than that, huh? Pretty lame, Louis.

    Comment by Deimos — February 10, 2012 @ 1:53 am

  15. “This whole obsession with numbers in relation to tactics is odd.”

    It looks like Karen could use some “Dialectical Materialism 101.”

    Comment by Jack Emm — February 10, 2012 @ 5:37 am

  16. If one doesn’t have a ‘fetish for workers’ then who should one have a fetish for ?
    Bosses?

    Comment by schoolteacher — February 10, 2012 @ 1:31 pm

  17. Very disappointed to read such misinformed views from Louis Proyect on Greece. There’s hardly thousands of black blockers, but there are dozens of police provocateurs, who went straight for the PAME contingent of the protest, armed with police gear including radio equipment (i wonder they got it) to coordinate the attack that led to the death of one worker, and then accuse the KKE of …”defending bourgeois democracy”, by not getting beaten up and have their demo broken by assorted nazis, anarchists and police agents!

    And as for KKE’s “parliamentary cretinism” perhaps LP can show us another organisation that is at the forefornt of helping creating hundreds of people’s committees (let’s call them by their proper name: SOVIETS) that now exist and fight across Greece. In any country. Any trots perhaps? Don’t think so.

    Comment by Antonis — February 10, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

  18. Hi,

    Hope all is well.

    I am urging the Nation of Grenada on July 4, 2012 to.

    Default on all their World Bank loans- these loans are a mockery of reality. The Europeans came to the ‘new world’ and stole all the lands as they initiated genocide. Then they used brutal slavery to steal all the resources. When these countries gained some semblance of independence the Europeans maintained the economic domination. If anything Europe owes the oppressed indigenous peoples and the former chattel slaves enormous payments for their blood, sweat and tears. If a person had an ancestor and put a thousand dollars in a bank no matter what amount of time that had passed that descendant would want pay back. The idea the third world owes anything is so absurd that it is a mockery.

    Also all resources of the country will be nationalized. As when Maurice Bishop took away the private beaches and opened it up to the citizens of the country a people have the right to own what is in their country for their own benefit.

    The people of Grenada who have a nation rich in resources could self sustain themselves. All citizens should be put into the development of agriculture and infrastructure. Of course a good number of people in parasitical positions would need to be reassigned.

    I beseech the people of the world to support this brave effort.

    This in not occupy Wall Street at all! This is evicting Wall Street!

    Long live the revolution!! The dream of Maurice Bishop has not been forgotten, it is alive and well.

    I hope following the brave example of Grenada all the English speaking nations of the Caribbean will enact identical methods. The humming bird shall fly higher than the eagle.

    These actions are of course legal and more importantly just.

    May Allmighty God, the Father of my Lord and Savior Jesus bless us.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by john kaniecki — February 10, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

  19. Any trots perhaps? Don’t think so.

    I guess this is a reference to this blog’s 24/7 touting of the magnificent achievements of Trotskyist groups.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 10, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

  20. >I guess this is a reference to this blog’s 24/7 touting of the magnificent achievements of Trotskyist groups.

    Haha! Fair enough. I think the video you posted above brings some context to the discussion about Greece. The Greek “black bloc” and their tactics has been exposed as the work of police provos, especially during the riots a few years ago following the police shooting of a teenager in Athens. No matter how these organisations begin as, due to their nature and politics, they are very easily infiltrated by the police and can be turned into sort of paramilitaries doing any thug work the uniformed police are ashamed to do themselves…

    Comment by Antonis — February 10, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

  21. Binh–thanks for your civil response. Since you are actually part of the movement you know the situation on the ground better than anyone else here so your word carries a lot of weight.

    There is nevertheless a big difference between a once-off conspiracy to assassinate and a routine bureaucratic operation like an undercover activity by local police. The latter is carried out by larger numbers dumber and less skilled people at a lower level of organization who come and go on the scene repeatedly, are easier to observe, and probably have loose lips if one only knew whom to talk to. Moreover, since they probably aren’t actually killing people (yet), they have less to hide and therefore less incentive to keep stumm. It seems to me (how easily the old recommend actions to the young) that a clever reporter (not a self-obsessed and probably arthritic showboat like Hedges) could probably find out quite a bit about such an operation, which is bound to leave tracks everywhere.

    In any case, I just think it’s a mistake to fan up the eternal flame of the “violence is evil” meme, which I regard as probably the single greatest obstacle to political clarity of any kind in the united states.

    Hedges himself is putting a lighted petard into the hands of the state by taking the stance he does. Who’s the provocateur?

    Louis understands Dialectics 101. Even if he weren’t building a case for the terrorist-hunters, Hedges doesn’t have the brains and is merely contradicting himself. He’s as dangerous in the long run for that reason as (e.g.) Glenn Greenwald is because of his Libertarianism. How can one encourage the public to wallow in such delusions?

    Comment by Joe Vaughan — February 10, 2012 @ 4:41 pm

  22. – Widespread alienation from impotent leftist parties, be they Trotskyist or reformist.
    – Condescension (or glib quips – see above) from the above, when even politely challenged on their (assumed) superiority to any other political grouping or the cast-iron theories that are making them such a whopping success at the moment.
    – If not outright condescension, self-serving quotes from Lenin or Trotsky dug up time and time again. Or, if from the hipster-friendly ‘new school’, smoke-and-mirrors gibberish derived from clowns like Zizek or Badiou.
    – Non-stop – and very public – infighting between leftist groups, or the cacophony of fragile egos aiming to get the top of a very narrow pile. Or lifelong grumbles from former disillusioned members of them. Usually based on petty beefs or scholarly arguments (usually about the same four or five tired subjects) that are relevant to significantly less than 1% of the population.
    – Social democracy already a hollow joke, largely mythical to anyone born after the mid-70s, younger generations also have less and less time for ‘reformist’ bullshit (‘reform’ now means privatization in Europe). This, as social democracy’s remnants kowtow to bank plunder, environmental catastrophe and the murderous agenda of the Pentagon.
    – Then, as crisis and ‘austerity’ threatens the last scraps of security they have left, taking matters into their own hands – however misguided, divisive or ineffective – they see themselves demonized as ‘cancerous threat’ to the left, the working class, democracy and ‘civilization’ itself. Coming from aging pundits who never tire of telling us that we’re all morally bankrupt and going to hell in a holy handcart.

    Keep it up, and the ‘reactionary elements hell-bent on mindless violence’ that you and Hedges are dreaming up will end up becoming just that. The power of the far-right is always partly a result of the (complacent) failures and compromises of the left. Regard the more alienated, impatient sectors of protest movements as animals, and they could end up all-too happy to oblige your attitude to them.

    Have you ever considered being the kind of club that more people would care to join?

    Comment by David W. Kasper — February 10, 2012 @ 8:47 pm

  23. Kasper, instead of writing flatulent prose like this, why don’t you just write a defense of vandalism? I understand that anybody with a blog called Pere Lebron or whatever it is likes the sound of his own words but please try to write something substantive next time.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 10, 2012 @ 9:02 pm

  24. I would, but I was busy destroying all the traffic lights in the city. Had about three left to go, but Chris Hedges showed up with the Truthdig Militia. Now they’ve got me locked up in a cellar, while they go to get back up from Clay Claiborne and the NTC.

    This comment was patiently written out in morse code, by tapping on the cellar wall. I was gonna use a chisel to break out, but that kind of vandalism would make me a threat to the international proletariat. God forbid I damage any property. There might be a health food shop next door or something. I suppose I’ll just wait and see if Chris and Clay sentence me to hang, or just starve me to death.

    Comment by David W. Kasper — February 10, 2012 @ 10:07 pm

  25. Joe: there is a big difference between undercover operations targeting allegedly criminal activities and those targeting political activities that are supposed to be protected by the Constitution. The people who don’t make the cut for the latter stay in the former. Probably the only way we’ll ever get evidence on that stuff is if there’s a whistleblower on the inside who goes the Wikileaks route or if they somehow earn the ire of Anonymous who posted the personal information of high-level BART officers: http://gawker.com/5831894/anonymous-leaks-bart-officers-emails-and-passwords

    Comment by Binh — February 11, 2012 @ 7:41 pm

  26. Karen: “This whole obsession with numbers in relation to tactics is odd. I’m not a marxist, so I don’t have any strange fetish for ‘workers.’ I don’t think rough tactics are great when carried out by big, burly union men and unacceptable when carried out by young unemployed people wearing black (not that all black bloc participants are young and unemployed, but it’s probably not a totally unfair stereotype). The anarchist idea is that no one has a right to tell you how to struggle, no one can give or deny permission. We act in solidarity with everyone fighting, but we don’t take orders, and we don’t wait for some magical number before beginning to fight.”

    That’s not what this is about. Some tactics are more effective than others; some are counterproductive. It depends on the situation. Numbers is just one factor, but not decisive.

    Do you agree/disagree?

    Comment by Binh — February 11, 2012 @ 7:45 pm

  27. Karen, you know who has an “obsession with numbers”? Black-blockers. They need others to organize enough people to slow down the police chasing them.

    If numbers aren’t important maybe I’ll don a bandana and go throw a bank throught the Citibank on my corner. Just me. That’ll change things.

    Comment by Rojo — February 12, 2012 @ 11:14 pm


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