The Colonization of OccupyOakland

May 01 2012

Infoshop News

Contributed by: lawrence

American anarchists haven’t experienced this much positive public attention since the euphoria and aftermath of N30 in Seattle. We also haven’t been this embattled since then; once again it’s open season on anarchists of all stripes, and from all directions, including attacks coming from other oppositional figures. These are among the more insidious obstacles to a world without cops ordering us around, bosses exploiting our labor, and bureaucrats managing our struggles.

May Day, International Workers’ Day, is a commemoration of the events surrounding the 1887 judicial murder of the Haymarket anarchists. For most liberals and leftists, these anarchists are considered nothing more than railroaded Labor Martyrs, casualties in the fight for the 8-hour day. The mutual flirtations of Labor Solidarity Committee activists with official Labor Councils and low-level union bureaucrats (up to and including contacts with people close to Mayor Quan’s husband) is only the latest manifestation of this colonization of the much more fundamental struggle against Capital and the State. If the radical anti-statist and anti-capitalist views of the Haymarket anarchists (or Sacco and Vanzetti, those other famous “labor agitators”) are acknowledged at all, it is only because they represent the only kind of anarchist that union hacks are able to tolerate: dead ones, who can’t cause them any more trouble by calling into question their self-appointed role as the specialists and mediators of other people’s discontent.

As if the non-violence fetishists were not bad enough on their own, the conjoined twins of Identity Politics and white (male) guilt had already injected the poison of nationalism and essentialism prior to the attempt to change the name of what we were doing in and around the Plaza to “Decolonize.” To be clear: it was not the proposed name change that we found obnoxious, but the all too familiar guilt-mongering with which the proposal was introduced and discussed. The remains from that attempted coup include a caucus who cry “racist!” and/or “sexist!” as soon as anyone dares to question their motives, their methods, or their goals. Such despicable and transparently authoritarian posturing that precludes good faith dialog should remain relegated to the sectarian Leninist rackets who pioneered it in the 60s, and who continue to promote it today. In addition, the privileged leftist intelligentsia (the most prominent being Marxist professors and grad students) continue to insinuate themselves into the mix by using currently fashionable anti-authoritarian terminology as a cover for their grandstanding and careerism.

In the next ring of the anti-anarchist circus we are treated to the campaign of the electoral clowns of MoveOn, who have lifted the anarchist term “direct action,” using it as (what they hope will be) an enticing replacement for the distinctly unappealing strategy of organizing a voting bloc inside the Democratic Party machine. But direct action is actually a refusal to beg for permission from anyone to implement our visions and desires. The organizers of OccupyOakland made it a principle even before we took the Plaza, refusing in advance all interactions with any part of the City of Oakland. To have the liberals expropriate such a fine term disgusts us as much as when the armed bullies of OPD invoke “mutual aid” to reinforce and multiply their brutality, or when the champions of the dictatorship of the marketplace call themselves “libertarians.” The same goes for the “solidarity” of leftists who condemn those anarchists they can’t control.

OccupyOakland has consistently been an important location of an inspiring and unique radicality among an otherwise mostly staid constellation of Occupys. The bureaucrats and bureaucrats-in-training (professional and amateur alike) who are constantly trying to rein in, harness, or merely squander the contagious energy of self-organization that we’ve created and extended in OO need to be exposed and treated with contempt. They need to be confronted for attempting to set up hierarchical and authoritarian structures to negotiate or plead with elected officials and their appointees.

This has already begun, if only in an exploratory manner. Now’s the time to publicly and loudly denounce these wannabe politicians, those who are uneasy as parts of OccupyOakland continue to move beyond their managerial capacity, even as they see their involvement in OO as their surest path to power. The attacks against anarchists in OO (and at plenty of other Occupy locations) began early, and continue, at least partly fueled by the silence of many anarchists — an acquiescence that only compounds the split that our enemies are trying to foment between the “good” anarchists (the ones who created much of the familiar and positive infrastructure of OO when it existed in the Plaza) and the “bad” anarchists (the ones who break shit).

But we need to remember that, in the eyes of all those parts of “The 99%” who find any explicitly anti-capitalist and anti-statist project objectionable, we are all bad anarchists. Let’s be bad anarchists together, finding ways to use our creativity and innovation to spread an anti-authoritarian sensibility, not just as a vital component of OO, but throughout our collective projects to abolish all forms of domination.

We will be worse anarchists when we will have lost the initiative, when we can be easily demoralized, divided, manipulated, marginalized, and dispensed with by our enemies on the left. It seems long overdue to celebrate, if not embrace, the defiance of the Haymarket anarchist Louis Lingg who, in response to being sentenced to death, replied, “…I despise you, I despise your order, your laws, your force-propped authority. Hang me for it!”

Oakland, May Day, 2012
Anarchist Anti-Defamation Caucus of the Anti-Bureaucratic Bloc

The Anti-Bureaucratic Bloc is an ad hoc cluster of anarchist and anti-state communist individuals and affinity groups who have come together in an effort to counter the incipient growth of a self-selected cadre of professional activists and others with managerial aspirations.

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