Sunday, April 08, 2012


The Violence of OWS

To begin, I am no a pacifist. Revolutions seldom reach their climax without plenty of blood being spilled. However, systemic change of the kind we desperately need will not come simply from random violence or guerrilla tactics. The state very much has the upper hand in terms of the means of violence. Any movement needs to consider a variety of approaches but always based on objective conditions at the time with an eye on the future.

At present OWS is still a young movement that still needs to develop clear strategies and leadership, if not specific leaders, before even considering taking on the State on its preferred terrain. Its best option right now is non-violence so as to unequivocally expose the brutishness of the state and also not alienate many people who sympathize with the young movement but have not yet reached that level of consciousness and commitment necessary to join the fray. This is why I look at these so called Black Bloc'ers that sometimes accompany protests and go around ripping stuff up with very much jaundiced eyes. In most cases, they are probably police provocateurs used to discredit a movement and provide a pretext for a police crackdown.

Whatever Occupy as movement may believe about its means and ways, civil disobedience, boycotts, sit downs, occupations strikes and alternate ways of governance (meaning independent expressions of power)are in some senses forms of violence. Just like the ways and means (i.e. attacks on wages, mass layoffs, artificially inflated prices for goods, rollback of the social safety net) are forms of violence against us, the 99%. We all know that the ongoing social counter revolution waged most intensely in the past thirty years has cost many people their lives. Not to even mention the lives that now lay in ruins. Because the 99% is now fighting back using tactics designed to inflict discomfort and some level of pain on the system, the 1% thus reacts with the naked force that is their strong suite and ultimate guarantor of their power. From their point of view Occupy represents a violent threat in the same way they know that their own tactics, as described above, are violent. No direct mano-a-mano fighting just a steady attack on the opposition by indirect, impersonal and institutional, though no less effective or even, at times, deadly, means. Not coincidentally, it is the way that both racism and sexism is largely now experienced by people of color or women respectively. It is insidious, pernicious and, most importantly for the 1%, stealthy. In response, Occupy is resuscitating the indirect tactics, means and ways movements in the past have all employed to counter the 1% while trying to add in some new wrinkles. But again, is it really non-violent if we take non-violent to mean no harm done either directly or indirectly to people or institutions?

From my point of view, violence can take different forms. Their is the violence of the type that has befallen Occupy. But there is also the violence of the type used against Cuba and the ongoing economic embargo of that country by the US or the burgeoning economic strangulation of Iran by Western countries led also by the US. The key, as explained earlier, is not so much violence versus non-violence, but which way for a movement to move forward given certain conditions at any one moment in time. In the end, any violence of the naked type that may issue forth from the movement will be a reaction to the heavy-handedness of the State and should be both largely defensive and tactical in nature. It'll also occur within the context of a solid mass movement that has absolutely discredited the state and has greatly weakened it with the body blows of mass civil disobedience, general strikes, boycotts, desertions by the parts of the military or security apparatus and, of course, protests. Like any good boxer knows, you attack the body before going for the head. One punch knockouts are rare and hard to come by. Moreover, the fighter looking for that one punch is usually desperate, reckless and ripe for being on the receiving end of a one punch KO.

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