Posted 2 years ago on May 1, 2012, 3:46 p.m. EST by flip
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CHRIS HEDGES: My concern is that the tactics of people who identify themselves as Black Bloc—i.e. petty vandalism, taunting the police, covering your faces—are the portal by which the agents provocateurs can enter and destroy the movement. The power of the Occupy movement is that it is a mainstream movement. It expresses and articulates the grievances of the mainstream, which are not articulated during this political process. They are not articulated on MSNBC or Fox or any of the other commercial, corporate networks. If you look at the opinion polls, whether it’s on healthcare, whether it’s on the looting of the U.S. Treasury and the largest transference of wealth upwards in American history, whether it’s on foreclosures and bank repossessions of homes, whether it is this failure to confront egregious levels of unemployment, especially for those under the age of 25, the Occupy movement expresses what the majority feels. And the goal of the security state is to sever the movement from the mainstream. And the way they will do that is by using groups—and some of these people may be well-meaning—but by using groups that will frighten the mainstream away. You do not want to have demonstrations where you permit people to cover their faces. That’s a gift to infiltrators. We cannot beat the security and surveillance state at their own game. We can’t. Our power — and Václav Havel wrote this in his 1978 essay, "The Power of the Powerless" — there’s a kind of incongruity to it, but our greatest strength is our powerlessness and our transparency. And we can’t give that up.
And, you know, I’m not a member of Occupy. I’ve never identified myself as a member of Occupy. I’m deeply supportive of the movement. But I think, like any writer or any intellectual, you know, one has to be critical. And I know that this has caused a great deal of dissension, because within the movement there is this noble idea that, you know, we can include everybody, it can be all-inclusive. But, in fact, in order for the movement to survive, it’s going to have to make some tough decisions about agreements, about nonviolence, about transparency, because the way that revolutions work is that you create paralysis within those pillars of authority.
Most revolutions, including the Russian Revolution, were nonviolent enterprises. It’s when you have the Petrograd riots, the bread riots in 1917, the Cossacks are sent down to quell them, and they don’t—they join the crowds. The storming of the Bastille was only made possible because French troops defected and joined the crowds to overthrow the prison. This is always how revolutionary movements work. And the fact is, because we articulate a truth, because we expose the deep corruption within the system, there are always elements within that system that are hesitant to use force, or use force effectively, because they know how rotten it is. And I saw that in East Germany, when—which I covered, the revolution there. Erich Honecker sends down an elite paratroop division to Leipzig, where the candlelit vigils that eventually swelled to half-a-million people, and the paratroopers wouldn’t fire on the crowd. Honecker lasted another week in power.
And so, my criticism of the Black Bloc is one over tactic. And I will just conclude by saying I’m not a pacifist. I was in Sarajevo during the war. Human beings can be pushed to a point—you were in East Timor—where violence is the only way that they can protect themselves, their families, their communities. But we’re not there yet. And hopefully we’ll never get there.
AMY GOODMAN: Amin Husain, can you respond to what Chris Hedges has said? Do you think—
AMIN HUSAIN: Well, I mean, I respect Chris Hedges a great deal, and he’s been a great supporter of the movement. I do think think that the word "movement" constrains our thinking. And I think, in the 21st century, where capitalism is everywhere, there needs to require a new type of struggle and reconceptualization of how that works. I think the way decisions get made in Occupy is by dialogue and by impacting each other in our way of thinking and growing together and building power within and amongst each other. And the statement—the concerns, though valid—and I was in the Palestinian uprising—
AMY GOODMAN: When?
AMIN HUSAIN: —and we covered our faces, in the first Palestinian uprising. And we did cover our faces, and then we made decisions at certain times not to cover our faces, depending on what action we were doing. And I think you have very smart people in this movement who are aware of the provocateur, which, covering your face or not, won’t necessarily stop that from happening, right? And Marina Sitrin has a great article in the second issue of Tidal talking about provocateurs and in this context of a movement and how we’re organized, how they can be very effective in disrupting that. But I want to get back to that.
There’s also, we have to rethink what is "we," because I think—and this ties into what you were saying, and the idea is like, we have demands of each other, right? We are not speaking to power, because we don’t think it’s legitimate. Our actions, by taking public space and having and doing mutual aid type of stuff—and I am—I don’t identify myself as an anarchist. I am coming from a strategic standpoint. Nothing is off the table. You empower individuals. You know—you don’t disempower them. There are smart people that are making strategic decisions over here. It’s an oversimplification of—to just say that the movement needs to make a decision without really kind of rethinking what—how we work.
The other thing I want to add is like, in this context of, you know, the article, though very good points and many people in the movement felt it was good because it sparked a conversation, it came at a time when it was—it almost derailed us. And we worked with each other, you know, on the issue of Trinity and Duarte Square, and it’s like, we would have appreciated a phone call, because we would have facilitated these conversations, which needed to happen. And because of—thanks to your article, we’ve overcome it, and we have a deeper sense, because we’ve talked about violence versus diversity of tactics back in August, and it was heated conversations. But many other people joined, and the conversation needed to be had again. And this is why we have Tidal, to always have these conversations.
AMY GOODMAN: Marina Sitrin, what about that issue of provocateurs?
MARINA SITRIN: I mean, there’s always—that is what the state will do, is try to disrupt this movement or what—it’s even more than a movement, because so many people, probably millions of people, identify with Occupy and whatever that means. And so, is that dangerous to institutions of power and the banks, like we saw in the earlier video? Yes, it definitely is, because we don’t even want to recognize that power, in the sense of we’re looking to one another and we’re trying to create something different. So, will they try to disrupt the movements? Yes, that’s history, and that’s why we do popular education, and it is why it’s so important that we talk with one another and create these horizontal spaces to do it.
It’s actually not useful at all, from the outside, to tell the movements what to do, especially with people who have access to publish in certain places. And there’s quite a few. Whether well-meaning—people, Zizek, telling us we must be serious revolutionaries and anti-capitalists and do this, that and the other. And, you know, with all respect, either engage in the discussion, because it is open—all of it is open, and we need to have these conversations, and we’d love to have more intellectuals who relate to the movements relating to us directly and having the discussions, not telling us what to do. That part is not useful. But we’re organizing despite all of it, and the movement is flourishing.