Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Knocking the Boots?

A Response to Mr. Riley Regarding the Bay and the Black Bloc

What follows is not an attack on Boots Riley’s recent facebook update, I’ll leave that to the hundreds of others. I’m not from, nor do I live in Oakland, I wasn't even at, nor participated in any of the actions last weekend, (Feminist Vigilante March into the ‘Decolonize the New World Actions’), however I've been out to most of the major actions in Occupy Oakland’s recent history (and been going to the bay for different events for a decade) and have many friends involved in the anarchist, Occupy, and the radical labor movements and have been very inspired by many of the actions that have come out of it. Boots brings up some interesting questions and points in his recent post; however, perhaps we are missing some of the bigger questions and possible debates that we could be having revolving around the black bloc, it’s influence, and the relation between those not involved in social movements and revolutionary militants.

The concerns that Boots brings up can be articulated into two basic points: 1.) People aren't into the tactic of black bloc. People do not understand the tactic, and thus it is detrimental. 2.) We lack the context for our actions to have a larger reverberation.

While I want to address these things, the questions that we should be asking, as anarchists and more broadly as revolutionaries and those against the present order are much bigger. Is there ever a 'right' time for such actions? Are such actions sometimes just a militant version of activism that cost us more than we gain? Do we lack the context for our actions to carry weight? And moreover, why is there such a lack of proletarian fight back in the US? Is it simply the fault of the revolutionaries or are there bigger issues and forces at work?

As to the concerns that Boots brings up, obviously the number of militants in the streets as ‘black bloc’ is small, and generally in the bay always have been. At the same time, there is no doubt that black bloc (a blanket term we will use here for anyone in masks that acts illegally, engages illegally with property, and is confrontational with the police) has made a large impact despite its small size on the street. In the bay area, the black bloc itself is also nothing new. As the recent ‘anti-colonial march’ on Saturday pointed out in its call-out, it drew inspiration in part from the black bloc that was formed in 1992 against Columbus Day in SF, one of the first in North America.

A trip down memory lane first…

During the era of anti-globalization, some black bloc actions were able to not only create dialog and discussion around the use of violence and tactics within the movement, but in some instances, push the actions of militants and activists out of the terrain of the summit and the protest, and into partially generalized conflict between people and the State. This includes when people in Seattle, as well as many militants, fought police during the WTO meetings in November of 1999 in response to a state of emergency curfew that included National Guard troops, as well as in places like Genoa and Prague, where residents joined in fighting the police and the looting of shops as activists stood by to guard the windows of the corporations. During the anti-war period in the US, black blocs were able, at times, to again have the same type of effect on the movement, challenging the liberal and Leninist currents, not only over tactics, but also over organization. Militant actions sometimes were able to move discussion on the war into a critique of capitalism as well as tactics, as anarchists often targeted recruiting stations and corporations directly tied to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In SF, black bloc actions also again, sometimes, were able to move anti-war events away from just being large marches and rallies, into actual street conflicts that hit specific targets, (as well as many other capitalist businesses) such as recruiting stations, embassies, and the INS building. While obviously this did not stop the war, it did give rise to a feeling of militancy and momentum as tactics were escalated within large masses of people. This culminated with the large scale disruption of San Francisco as the US ‘officially’ invaded Iraq in 2003.

In the bay, we saw the black bloc again within the riots and rebellions in the wake of the police murder of Oscar Grant as well as within the student occupation movement of 2009 – 2011. This of course is not to mention its use in a variety of other instances, be it in clashes with white supremacists ala Anti-Racist Action, or in demonstrations against police brutality across the country.

When Occupy began, we saw the black bloc’s return, largely in response to the camps across the country being raided as part of an attempt by the Department of Homeland Security and the Obama Administration to destroy the Occupy Movement. In Denver, St. Louis, North Carolina, Atlanta, NYC, and especially in Oakland, the debate over ‘black bloc’ raged.

I bring all of this up to point out that the black bloc tactic, especially in the bay area, is nothing new. This isn't to argue that “people” are “into” it, in one way or the other - I don’t think we really can have that debate in a completely definitive way. We can talk about when the tactic has been more useful however, and in what context it has been used, to different degrees of success in a variety of ways. Sometimes it has been as an intervention into wider movements, such as in the anti-globalization, anti-war, and Occupy periods, in which sometimes it was able to not only help foster a deeper critique of capital and tactics, but also to generalize, at times, deeper and more conflictual struggle with the State. An example of this would be the tens of thousands (I was there, I seen it), that participated in black bloc led breakaway marches in 2001 – 2003 during the anti-war period in SF. In some instances, the bloc played simply a defensive and strategic role, such as the wearing of masks during the student occupation movement to avoid police surveillance and blocking up for protection on the barricades and in defense of buildings or in the wake of Occupy encampment evictions. In others, the bloc was an auxiliary force in a larger rebellion, such as during the Oscar Grant riots, although its role was often over publicized, (sometimes by anarchists themselves), or demonized by the Left, non-profits, the media, and the State.

We should proceed with a critique of the black bloc in this light. All tactics and the context they are used in need to be held up and examined, especially when they have been used in a variety of situations and movements, over a period of several decades. Within Occupy, while the actions that have occurred by those “in black bloc” have never involved more than several hundreds or thousands, there is no doubt that there has been a radicalization process for many, mostly new to social movements, in part because of ‘black bloc’ type actions that is completely unrivaled. The rebellions that occurred and led up to the General Strike on November 2nd, in part grew out of the experiences of many people through the eviction of the camp and a very real taste of street fighting and an attempt to defend/reclaim Oscar Grant plaza and later, appropriate a building. While few that donned masks, engaged with the police, and broke the law during those nights probably thought of themselves as ‘black bloc’ or anarchist is besides the point – in doing the actions they became part of that current as they saw a need to rebel in a certain way and do it anonymously. By January 2012 in Oakland, there was an escalation of tactics and militancy leading up to the “Move-In Day,” although clearly the numbers that we had on November 2nd were not present.

Also out of these militant actions, we saw the rise of T.A.C., or the Tactical Action Committee, who also helped popularize the black bloc tactic through weekly ‘Fuck the Police’ marches, as well as the growth of a radical squatting scene in West Oakland, the degree in which I have not seen in any major metropolitan city in the US. T.A.C. also was a large part of carrying on such tactics into the Central Valley, participating with others from Occupy Oakland in clashes with police and Neo-Nazis in Sacramento, CA in February of 2012 and in demonstrations against the police murder of James Rivera Jr. and Luther Brown Jr. and others in Stockton, CA in the Spring and early Summer.

Also, I believe that the actions that followed both the police murder of Kenneth Harding Jr. as well as the recent shooting of the young man in the Mission District are very much worth noting. Within hours of Kenneth Harding’s murder, a march of several hundred formed in the Mission District, mainly as ‘black bloc,’ and marched and targeted banks and other capitalist institutions. This solidarity action was followed up by other marches and other actions, (as well as supporting actions being carried out by those in Bayview where Harding was killed). This activity helped to create a link with militants within the Bayview neighborhood and anarchists living in the Mission District and in Oakland. As someone who saw this solidarity, it is important to realize that it was through these actions themselves that this connection was created. (This of course is also not to downplay at all the very radical actions of those living in Bayview who took action themselves very quickly, targeting police as well as transit lines.) These events were followed very rapidly by actions surrounding the murder of a homeless man while on BART, which culminated in street actions and clashes which all saw a version of generalized ‘black bloc’ type activity with often minimal anarchist involvement. In July of 2012, protests in both SF and the Mission District were called in solidarity with the unfolding revolt against the police in Anaheim, which used ‘black bloc’ type tactics and destroyed property. In the Oakland march, participants targeted a bar frequented by police. In the case of the recent actions in the Mission District just weeks ago, anarchists were also the chief initiators of two nights of street actions which targeted banks, yuppie businesses, and the police station. These actions came hot on the heels of a pre-May Day militant march in April that also attacked businesses on Valencia Street, becoming a very real indicator that anger over gentrification had not washed away in the 1990’s with Kevin Keating’s posters.

In these instances, black bloc type actions helped to express solidarity and expand sites of resistance. They sought to draw people in and create a situation in which their rage could be expressed. It helped to create a set of consequences for the police, just as with the riots that followed the murder of Oscar Grant, that hopefully will dissuade police from carrying out such actions in the future as well as put them on the defensive. And, it also helped to create a link for others through action between the nature of the police in this society and their role within capitalism and as part of the process of gentrification and white supremacy.

Lastly, ‘black bloc’ type actions have also been an ongoing facet of militant feminist, queer, and trans revolt in the bay as well. As the recent actions at Pride such as 'Queers Fucking Queers,' against the H.E.A.T. conference, and the “feminist vigilante street marches” have shown, such tactics are clearly not been just the domain of straight white males as many would claim. Feminists and revolutionary queer and trans militants have also sought to foster militant responses to the murder of women, queer, and trans people, such as Brandy Martell, a black transwoman, who was killed in Oakland and left to die by police. In early May of 2012 in Oakland, a militant march and “Gender Strike Street Party,” comprised of many in black bloc, which was to remember Brandy and also call attention to CeCe McDonald, a black transwoman in jail for killing a Neo-Nazi attacker, was organized in Oakland that held the streets for hours and successfully gathered hundreds from the nearby Art Murmur while police looked on from the sidelines. This use of Art Murmur was again revisited in August as the city attempted to crack down on the street party by making people apply for permits. Anarchists responded by again calling for a street party which held the streets for several hours and ended with the attacking of the Obama HQ office.

These developments: the growth of T.A.C., the spreading of the tactic outside of the anarchist ghetto, and the use of the black bloc by anarchists as expressions of revolutionary solidarity and as intervention into the tensions of everyday life, are much more interesting and exciting than the destruction of bank windows in any of the “official” marches or actions that occurred during the Occupy period.

Thus, one can't make the claim that ‘everyone’ isn't into the black bloc. Obviously, some people are, they keep happening! A better question is, what are the conditions and contexts for which they make the most sense and are able to actually spread and generalize revolt? Obviously, this is always changing and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it is offensive and sometimes it is defensive. Sometimes it is part of something else and sometimes it is called for solely by us.

Clearly, large amounts of people outside of established radical circles aren't flocking to the black bloc, but nor did those outside of the Left to the SF ANSWER march on the same day as the Sunday anti-war and anti-capitalist march that targeted bank windows. Again and again, militants and revolutionaries of all stripes ask the question of ‘where is the rage?,’ and ‘where is the action?’ only to be surprised when a riot kicks off in response to a police shooting or workers occupy the state capitol.

As anarchists, we are trying to engage in actions which bring people in and help give confidence and inspire forms of organization and methods of action. This is not always easy. But in the end, at least in the bay area, we need to ask ourselves in what ways have we been effective, and in what ways have we not? Have we allowed the relatively high number of anarchists in one place in the US to let us slip into inaction when it comes to engagement of those outside of our circles? Are we more interested in just organizing ourselves than those we face similar conditions with, possible affinities, or (maybe now) live around?

The numbers involved in each action as well as the outcome greatly affect how the ‘black bloc,’ or any antagonistic and confrontational proletarian force, is perceived. For instance, if on Sunday during the anti-colonial/war/capitalist march called for by Afghans for Peace, similar such actions would have occurred across the country, in which similar groups of several hundred would have converged, likewise targeting banks and capitalist property and fought the police, many would speak of a new rising fight-back and a return to an anti-war movement that in the face of Obama has seemingly forgotten that thousands in the Middle East are dying through military occupation, bombings, and now more than ever, drone strikes. If this context would have been different, those in the streets of Oakland would be seen as part of a return to a new militancy that sought to stop the war that much of the Left forgot about; complacent with the election of a President that simply continued the slaughter brought on by Clinton and Bush before him.

Imagine if across the US, similar actions such as the ones that were attempted in SF around Columbus Day were attempted throughout the Americas? Those 20, who with their mug shots plastered in the corporate press comprise a variety of gender and racial backgrounds, would be seen as heroes – with support and donations flowing their way.

But we cannot side step the statement made by Boots without taking it seriously, even if we do not agree with it. As he writes, “The use of the blac[k] bloc tactic in all situations is not useful. As a matter of fact, in situations such as the one we have in Oakland, its repeated use has become counter-revolutionary.” Clearly the use of black bloc is all situations has not been useful, which is why it has not been used in every situation, (i.e., anarchists are involved in a variety of actions). The point moreover, is that the tactic has not always been successful, both in generating involvement from outside the hardcore militants and in accomplishing its goals during various actions. But, to write off the black bloc completely is to write off over a decade of action in the bay that has seen the generalization of struggle, the deepening of conflict, and the inclusion of a variety of participants at times.

As the recent weekend of actions in the bay area have shown, anarchists, especially when they use the tactic of the black bloc on their own, often are isolated and easily contained and repressed by the State. While the actions over the weekend were praise worthy in the fact that they were an attempt to respond to calls for solidarity and involve the anarchist movement in anti-colonial struggles (especially when so much of the Left and ‘the working class’ refuses to support such struggles or even keep their torch lit), ranging from indigenous people to those in Afghanistan, it also shows the degree in which anarchists have few supporters (although a very large influence) in the streets outside of a radical hardcore.

Boots points out a difference in context between how the anarchists in Greece are seen as opposed to those in Oakland, by stating that those in Athens are from the areas in which they riot and are part of “militant campaigns” that happen throughout the year. But of course, anyone who knows anarchists well, even if they do not political or tactically agree with them knows that most anarchists are involved in publishing and propaganda, (AK Press, BayofRage.com, the Anarchist Bookfair, Little Black Cart, etc), the running of social and community centers (the Holdout, Bound Together Books, the Long Haul), and organizing work, ranging from action against foreclosures to Copwatch to squatting homes. Clearly, anarchists have also been very much involved in Occupy Oakland and have helped to push it in a direction that other camps have not. But moreover, the context of Greece is much different from Oakland, ranging from the history of the military dictatorship, the no-go zones for police on campuses, to the crack epidemic made real by the US government and the realities of the racialized order of US capital.

Despite the differences, it is worth noting by reading through, “We Are An Image From the Future,” a book written by Greek anarchists after the 2008 insurrection, that according to some, tactics that were used solely (or at least by and large) by anarchists prior to 2008 were picked up by others after the outbreak of the December 2008 revolt. According to the authors, it was the continuous and committed actions of anarchists throughout the years and in a variety of struggles that led to their actions having wider support and resonance within Greek society (and hey, looting grocery stores and giving shit away doesn't hurt).

Clearly, where there has been fire, anarchists have sought to bring gasoline. The argument that anarchists in the bay area have not been involved in ongoing struggles in the area is obviously false. The degree to the quality of this involvement is open for debate that I will leave to those who live in the area.

For many young people, both non-black youth from the bay area and Oakland itself, both from the working class or outside of it, as well as the young black youths from Oakland that I have met through Occupy Oakland - black bloc tactics have created a vortex in which many of us have the ability to meet in struggle. Hopefully out of these situations, other struggles, organizing, and action can continue. On the other hand, for many within the Left, the black bloc has been alienating. As for the ‘mainstream’ Americans, or those within Oakland that find themselves in agreement with the Occupy Movement yet still put off by the black bloc, ‘vandalism,’ or people wearing masks, I ask people like Boots Riley what kind of actions could be carried out which pull these people into political action yet still would represent a real challenge and contestation with the State and capital? While clearly, not everyone is at that point, we still most ask ourselves what struggles will get more people off the couch or away from their phones if not what we already have been doing.

Black bloc has alienated many, but it’s unclear if these people would support revolutionary action to begin with, or if the working-class or poor participants (largely youths) that have been drawn in by the militant actions of Occupy outweigh those that have been alienated by it (largely less radical and older). Perhaps we will never know. But we can start to and engage in projects that attempt to meet people where they are at, and attempt to speak with conditions and frustrations that we both feel together. For those interested in such a project we are often faced with a catch-22. We want to foster self-organization and direct action, but most people are often only interested in movements that can benefit them and get them things. We have to find the projects and struggles which do both.

For myself, a bigger question for anarchists everywhere, but especially those in the bay area, is why have we not played a larger role in the struggles that have broken out that were inspired directly by the Occupy Movement itself? I am speaking to the battle to occupy the farm near UC Berkeley, the occupation of public schools, and also the attempt to squat and form a library in East Oakland. Clearly, anarchists have been very involved in these struggles along with others since their beginnings, but if we are seeking to create situations in which more militant actions can have greater support it would seem that it would be here, in which the desire of people to take and hold space and use it in their own interests (at times) against capital, that we can find the greatest possibility.

Two recent conversations I had with two anarchist comrades, both recent residents of Oakland, one a woman of color and the other a white male, are telling. The former, when asked if they were still excited by Oakland and its revolutionary possibilities as when they moved there over a year ago replied to a conversation they had with a comrade in T.A.C. before May Day after they were asked if they were excited about the upcoming day of action. The comrade from T.A.C., who was heading off to help open a squat in East Oakland replied, “It’s just another day.” My friend commented that it seemed we were putting all of our energy into, “These big days of action,” as opposed to something deeper that was based around ongoing organizing and struggles. The latter friend later commented, “I’m sick of basing how good something is on the level of property destruction.”

These sentiments bring up an old tension: do we put more energy into larger events that are designed to bring in large bodies of people to do xyz, or do we spend our energy into organizing, infrastructure, or ‘educational’ campaigns that may involve smaller groups of people? Personally, I would like to see larger events or ‘days of action,’ come out of the struggles and organizing that we are doing on the ground, and the daily practices of class struggle we are engaged in throughout our lives. We need to build our capacity to defend our squats and radical spaces when they are evicted and attacked by the police. We need to build our capacity to respond to the State when it murders and attacks people. We need to build the networks of solidarity and support that strengthen working-class self-activity and direct action. We need to build our ability to grow our own food and solve our own problems outside of the State. ‘Black bloc’ type activity will be a part of all of these, sometimes offensively, and sometimes defensively, as the battle for control over the streets and territory in poor and working class areas will become more and more contested.

For those that were arrested both on Saturday and also took to the streets on Sunday, I have nothing but solidarity and support. I support those that took militant action just as I do the ILWU workers who destroyed EGT grain or those that looted Footlocker during the riots over Oscar Grant. To support proletarian action is to support proletarian action. The degree in which more and more people will be brought into revolutionary actions and situations is much more up to all people to come into conflict with class-society and their own conditions, than it is to the ‘revolutionaries’ who wear the titles of ‘activist’ or ‘anarchist.’ If we are able to meet these others and link up with them and aid their struggles, making them ours, is up to us.

Clearly though, for anarchists seeking a strategy which spreads tactics and ideas of self-organization and direct action without simply trying to “make people into anarchists,” we do need to think hard about how we go about such a project. We should be wary about trying simply to organize ourselves and only speak to each other – for it is exactly when we reach outside of our radical ghetto that we become the most powerful and the most influential – as well as the most subversive. Many will agree with me that there is more possibility in attempting to expand and deepen the existing struggles and tensions within class society, than an endless progression of days of action called for and attended by ourselves alone.

Having said that, to the comrades facing jail time and fines, beaten by the SFPD, can we give them anything but love and support? Slandered in the media, demonized by much of the Left, and cast out by former comrades, these people heeded a call for a day of action in solidarity with Native and anti-colonial struggles and decided to risk their freedoms and take to the streets. Such a desire is as noble as it is revolutionary. For those that question their tactics, I ask only what you would suggest in their absence.

Black bloc type actions will not cease – they will continue; across the world, and especially in the bay area. More and more, proletarian activity, as it comes into conflict with the State and its police forces, will continue to look more and more like 'black bloc,' (as the recent events in the Middle East, Chile, London, Greece, Spain and elsewhere point to everyday...) although more and more, hopefully it will refuse to identify as such. At the same time, more and more, those engaging in such tactics will care more about defending territory and neighborhoods than breaking the cars of someone within them. We will care more about looting grocery stores than trying to find the one bank window on the street that will break. We will care more about physically taking out the infrastructure of the State than we will about symbolic property destruction. We will spend more energy defending what we have from the State while at the same time expanding our occupations, squats, gardens, forms of organization, and associations. If we are to continue in our revolutionary project, this will be something forced on us by present conditions at one point or another. The question is: can we ready ourselves now for what is to come?

More and more, riots and full on rebellions will be a recurring response to police violence and repression and collective acts of rebellion will become more conflictual and seek ways to stay anonymous. For revolutionaries, we must seek to deepen these situations, to make them more subversive, and connect the seemingly disconnected nodes of class struggle that exist. We will not be able to call for the day in which the halls of power are stormed, but we can help to create the affinities and relationships which can help us maneuver in the coming terrain. As the economic and ecological crisis deepens, the need for total social revolution and the complete destruction of capitalist civilization is needed now more than ever.

Someone that has not yet run out of bullets, but will still continue to grab rocks.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Saturday, December 31, 2011

You Are not Durutti, But We Are Uncontrollable: Beyond a Critique of Non-Violence

At a recent forum on “non-violence” vs a “diversity of tactics,” an event that was attended by over 400 people for the purpose of discussing the role of violence within Occupy Oakland, the MC of the event, Rahula Janowski, put many things in context. “The occupy movement, the movement of the 99%, has already had a pretty enormous impact. I’ve been seeing the language of the 99% and the 1% coming up in places like San Francisco Board of Supervisors…I’ve seen it in movie reviews, there’s a new occupy related meme on the internet practically every day. It’s not surprising given that growth that there are divisions…”

For the Left, (the Democratic Party, the unions, non-profits, various Marxists sects, liberals, activists, etc) the Occupy Movement then is simply a democratic, albeit directly democratic push towards reforming the state and how it manages capital. We hear talk of abolishing the federal reserve, giving more power to the unions, and stronger taxes on corporations. These are not even reforms that seek to gain concessions that might make life better for the working class; they only attempt to make capitalism ‘work better,’ or give more power to the institutions that manage the proletariat.

To the Left, the movement is showing signs of changing society when elected leaders and various social managers (media, academics, etc) begin to use the language that movement leaders (including both Marxists, unionists, Leftists, and anarchists) have been using towards us. The question of violence then for the Left is not then an attempt at dialog on revolutionary strategy, or even a ‘moral’ question, but instead a discussion on how tactically should the movement proceed in attempting to reform and work within the state structure. Thus, for many on the Left, violence is problematic because it scares the state structure with the possibility of open revolt – not because people are opposed to violence, per se. On the contrary, they support the monopoly of violence that is the state itself. Perhaps some Leftists will even be made to believe that ‘violence’ (often ill-defined), will be good for the movement as long as it is used to maneuver within the state structure. For us though, the dividing line is more fundamental. 

For revolutionary communists and anarchists, we must understand this clear difference. The question of violence is secondary to the question of how the movement organizes itself and how we see our activity directed. Is it against the state or is it not? We are not here to pressure the state into adopting our positions or ‘our language.’ We do not measure our power in such a way, instead these are examples of recuperation; the process in which antagonistic ideas and movements that could possibly negate class society are instead used to make it stronger. Revolutionaries, which have pushed so hard in the Decolonize/Occupy Oakland movement, must again now draw clear lines in the sand as they have done before. This means coming into complete conflict with much of what makes the Occupy Movement what it is.

The Language of Leaders, Movement and Otherwise

          Since the start of the Occupy Wall Street protests, the concept of the 99% has spread throughout the world and become a new identity in which many within the Occupy Movement see themselves a part of. Some radicals heralded this new classification, proclaiming a return to ‘class consciousness’ in the United States. Others, while critiquing the exact semantics, still agreed that at least it was ‘better than nothing,’ and at least offered a start to analyzing society on which a better critique could be built. Leftists (including many ‘Marxists’) and liberals were overjoyed that many ‘anarchists’ and ‘anti-authoritarians’ had handed them such an easy made package that in fact swept away a class analysis of society and replaced it with something much more sinister.

          The idea that the Occupy Movement has returned a sense of class consciousness holds several false narratives. It implies that people’s understanding of power relations and their position within the dictatorship of capital comes outside of their own experiences and that moreover, it takes a vanguard of specialized activists to reinstitute such an understanding back into their lives. As the anarchist journal A Murder of Crows wrote in an interview with Modesto Anarcho:

[W]e don’t need to be reliant on the Left for developing class-consciousness. Class-consciousness is not as scarce as some assume it to be. The widespread destruction of businesses and the attacking of the police in many riots make this very clear. What is not present is class solidarity and widespread class conflict. We believe that the experiences of the exploited, through direct action and social conflict, are the main force for transforming people’s perspectives and relations.     

[T]here are many on the Left who are much more ideologically committed. These people propose more symbolic activity intended to appeal to those in power, or activities that seek to show large numbers of people while deemphasizing direct action. On occasion they propose direct action as a last resort and as simply a tactic –a means— towards political power.

[In every revolutionary moment and struggle] the Left recuperated and liquidated uncontrollable radical and anarchist elements. People should really study and learn from the history of failed social struggles. We’ve got to think about these things and be sharp in our criticism and opposition to the Left, not through obsessive anti-Left ideologies that become ends in themselves, but in order to understand how we deal and interact with them.

          Activists believe that consciousness is something that comes from the Left (the management of the proletariat), and is something that must be raised and mass produced, until the number of adherents have reached a point of intensity where enough converts can then change society. On the contrary, consciousness instead comes from the experiences of people in their everyday lives and is not something that has ceased to exist since the ‘passing’ of the worker’s movement or the liberation struggles of the 1960’s and 70’s. Furthermore, much of the delusions that many have that act as real barriers during class conflict and help to hinder solidarity between people, are the ideologies which have been imposed from above as well as from much of the Left. Thus, one of the tasks of revolutionaries is to attack these false concepts be they nationalism, statism, pacifism or the concept of the 99%. As the communist theory site prole.info wrote in an interview:

I'm skeptical of the approach that people need to recognize something or see something clearly and then they will start trying to change things. People's consciousness is a very contradictory thing...even people who have very well-thought out political views on things. In most workplaces I've ever worked, everyone steals from work. At the same time, the people stealing from work, if asked, would probably say that of course they're for private property and are likely to be in favor of harsher sentences for people caught stealing. The point is that I DON'T think that "consciousness raising" does much of anything.

Being working class means struggling, even if it's just struggling to survive. Just standing up for our own interests brings us into conflict with capital. Your average wage worker has any number of problems that are the same as everyone in their workplace and similar to those that workers have all over the world. By fighting together, against the boss, we can begin to see each other as allies. The stronger the struggle, the more we will see as possible. Of course, we need to put forward our ideas in the clearest and most coherent way we can, and argue for them strongly, but much more important than that is to make concrete contributions to the struggles that happen in our workplaces, neighborhoods, cities, etc…  The only thing that is a real threat to the system is a class movement—working people coming together, fighting for our interests, refusing to work, blocking the flows of commodities, fighting the powers that hold this society together and finding other ways to produce and live collectively.

          Far from generating a critique of daily life, the occupy movement has instead attempted to sweep away the class analysis which inherently exists in many of us. Police, landlords, prison guards, border patrol, most politicians, property owners big and small, members of the extremely rich but not the “1%,” are all considered now part of the 99%, and thus according to the current analysis, all have similar interests in common. We do not have anything in common with police because we are the ones they police. We have nothing in common with the landlords, or the banks that hold us hostage through rent and mortgage payments in exchange for shelter. We have nothing with property owners, be it Goldman Sachs or the Co-op down the street because we do not own property – we are slaves to the regime of work. The concept of the ‘99%’ sweeps away the very real dynamics of power we all feel everyday in attempt to create some vague form of populism that hopes to manage the economy, but preserves the regime of capital and the state that manages it.  

          We can clearly see the recuperation of the Occupy Movement’s language (which itself is an attempt to recuperate organic class consciousness) from state institutions such as the Oakland Police Department which proclaims itself to be “part of the 99%.” It has also been a way for activists and Leftists to try and actually cool down class conflict by trying to manage those who engage with property or their protectors (the cops), by stating that they are attacking other sections of the ‘99%.’ For instance, during the end of the General Strike, some people wrote graffiti and looted businesses in the wake of the absence of police in the area. Many within the movement condemned the vandalism even though such actions were very logical for many of those there, (and were also a feature at past conflicts in Oakland, namely the riots around Oscar Grant). It is the police themselves that ensure a relationship to property and which keeps people from expropriating commodities, and with the General Strike having pushed them out, some followed this logic to its end. Thus, when the innate ‘consciousness’ of people (who by and large were not activists or even ‘anarchists,’) came out, it was condemned by those who screamed the loudest about the ‘99%.’ Any ideology that seeks to manage class conflict is the enemy of the proletariat and must be destroyed.

          Furthermore, the ‘99%’ is presented as a collection of people who come from ‘different communities’ yet share common interests in that they are not the ‘1%.’ This further helps to fractionalize the proletariat from itself while helping to maintain the various divisions that are created from class society’s existence. “People of color” are thus one community that thus has something in common with “police” who are “workers,” and they have something in common with “small business owners” and “trans people.” This “analysis” does nothing to examine the realities of patriarchy, heterosexism, and white supremacy within class society and instead glosses over very real class antagonisms. As prole.info wrote in their classic booklet, Work, Community, Politics, War:
The whole point of talking about class and “the proles” is to insist on the very basic way in which people from different “communities” have essentially similar experiences, and to show that people from the same “communities” should in fact hate each other. This is the starting point to fighting the existing communities. When we begin to fight for our own interests we see that others are doing the same thing. Prejudices fall away, and our anger is directed where it belongs. We are not weak because we are divided. We are divided because we are weak.
The Occupy Movement and the concept of the ‘99%’ strengthens the separations within the proletariat which help keep it divided and society constantly reproducing itself. It is an activist invention that revolutionaries need to attack at once. We must destroy this populist language and politics and expose it for the counter-revolutionary swill that it is.

          Anarchists and communists, especially those that choose to speak in front of cameras or update websites in which the movement is ‘represented,’ who still choose to use this language should stop – now.

Creating the Sea for Sharks to Swim 

          Anarchists and revolutionary communists have done something that the current Left in the US never could – they have created a situation and the context for the forming of real human relationships and experiences in which actual change on a mass scale feels possible. In doing so, they have brought together much of the Left in the process – the very same people that we know will sell us out and destroy us. While often not our own intention, we have created a new pool in which groups like ANSWER, the ISO, the RCP, and more can recruit from. People that before had politics totally antagonistic towards horizontal decision making and direct action now sell paper outside of General Assemblies and on the sidelines of riots. While these groups have remained on the sidelines, we must ask ourselves why we are allowing space to our political enemies and what we are doing in order to drive them out of the movement – or at least render them impotent.

          The issue of unions is even more problematic. Many were excited by various union locals endorsing the General Strike as they scrambled to be two steps ahead of their own workers. Local union leaders, in an attempt to stop wildcat strikes from spreading and workers walking out, instead offered various ways in which workers could ‘legally’ strike or at least claimed they would not be disciplined if they did participate. This was an attempt to remain legitimate but also to keep workers from taking action on their own. In this way, if workers were joining in the General Strike at least they were doing so under the direction of their own local leaders and as union members. And, moreover, they would be ensuring that the strike wouldn’t move into a permanent general strike.

As in the case of the port shutdown on December 12th, unions such as the ILWU even reached out to those within the Occupy Oakland movement in an attempt to help them shut down the port in their battle against grain exporter EGT (which threatens ILWU labor control over that market). However, while many of us stood in front of police and waited for a labor arbitrator to rule that the port ‘had been shut down,’ ILWU members went home with a day’s pay. Like a giant puppet, the corpse of activism was again raised, as people blocked the coming in of trucks in a symbolic fashion that had no intention of blockading the flows of capital beyond ‘a warning shot to the 1%.’ (Fuck warnings, shoot ‘em!) We were in solidarity with port workers, but these workers largely (with exceptions) refused to even join us on the picket lines much less walkout in wildcat strike.

          It seems that many anarchists and communists have forgotten that ‘the representation of the working class has become an enemy of the working class.’ Those that seek to manage the proletariat do so in order to stop workers from taking the kind of actions that many of us believe are necessary to create a revolutionary situation. This is not to say that we should stop encouraging union members to participate in actions or join us on the barricades (although we should be conscious that union members make up only a small number of workers in the US). Instead, we need to encourage people to take action outside and against the unions. We must also be clear that the unions have been one of the main institutions helping to push through austerity measures (such as the SEIU) – we must harbor no illusions that even a defensive struggle against attacks on the working class means an offensive attack on unions as labor brokers and policing agents of the proletariat. We must resist the forming of popular fronts with other organizations of the Left, be they unions, Leninists, or liberal non-profits. Not only will these people always sell us out, but they are antithetical to doing what must be done.

This is not just wishful thinking, it is also possible. By sheer will, revolutionaries within Occupy Oakland found comrades that like them, refused to work with police, politicians, and political parities – and together create real moments of rupture and attempts at non-mediated and non-alienated forms-of-life. What is to stop us from taking steps further and realizing the managers of the working class to be what they are? The union boss needs the cop and the Democrat just as much as Quan does.

Movement Vs Insurrectionary Situation

          Anarchists and communists often talk about social movements (read, popular fronts) yet rarely talk of class conflict and actual social struggles happening within society. What social movements have happened in the US since the anti-globalization movement that have not either been strange collections of Leftists or been completely recuperated by Leftists? None.

When anarchists and communists intervene in such movements, it is always to break these movements out of control of the Left and to push the subversive and insurrectionary tendencies to their fullest extreme. We seek to push the breaking of windows into full-scale looting. To push street battles with the cops into full blown revolts of entire neighborhoods against the security forces. In doing so, we come up against the activists that put their bodies in front of the property of capital (hey, two for one right?) and the ‘movement leaders,’ from Leftists like Klein to ‘anarchists’ like Starhawk. Other social movements, ones that often originate outside of the established Left, such as those that developed against HR-4437 or SB-1070 (anti-immigrant legislation), included real genuine class conflict as people walked out of school and work in mass, sometimes getting into battles with police as they held the streets. Of course, these movements were quickly recuperated, and with the defeat of much of the legislation, for fear of an immigrant uprising, the momentum that developed soon dissipated. Other social struggles and eruptions of class conflict, such as the riots against police follow a similar trajectory. 
          When revolutionaries get involved in social movements, it is always to expand class conflict into full generalized revolt against the control of managers and Leftist politicians and activists. When revolutionaries intervene in class conflict and social struggles, it is always to support the subversive elements of these struggles and to try and connect them to others that are acting against class society.

          ‘Social movements’ often act as blankets to keep the fires of class conflict from erupting. More and more, it is the insurrectionary situation where the possibility of revolution comes from. It is the psychological break that people experience when they realize that revolt is possible and that enough people have the ability to attack this society that often comes in the wake of a police shooting or some other egregious offence. It is no wonder that in these insurrectionary situations; Oaxaca 2006, the Arab Spring, Greece 2008, and the recent riots in the UK – that that very real antagonisms within (at least some of) the proletariat often slip away. Social crime and gang tensions, racial divisions and neighborhood drama – all are often superseded by the desire to attack the forces of misery. These insurrectionary moments draw directly from the experiences of class conflict and social struggles (the London rioters noting their awareness and participation in the UK student revolts for instance), and the very real daily hatred of the realities of this society.

Thus, the communist movement is nihilistic, in that it is a conscious negative force that attacks the existing order as a means of demolishing the dictatorship of capital. Yet, at the same time it is also a positive material force that while destroying the separations between us, it communizes the means of existence in the same breath. There is no way to separate these things; for they must be one or not at all.

Likewise, for many people involved with the occupations, their revolt against work (from the homeless person to the declassed petite-bourgeoisie) couples itself with a very real desire to share in collective living, decision making, and labor with other people. This desire is much stronger and always more subversive than a push to return to working class drudgery “before the crisis.” But in experimenting with these occupations, the very real nature of a state based on constant counter-insurgency comes directly out in its very naked and brutal form. We are then left with the task of either getting serious - or going home.  

Anarchists and communists involved in ongoing actions within Decolonize/Occupy Oakland should keep all of these things in mind. Social movements, consisting of popular fronts of various Left groups, will not create the insurrectionary situations that are needed for the transformation of society – they will only attempt to smother such things from taking place. Thus, when such actions do appear to be taking place (or have the possibility of taking place) we must defend and deepen them not only from the state, but also from the Left.    

We Are Still the Crisis

          Many anarchists and communists busy themselves with “fighting the crisis,” or attempting to create social programs which will respond to attacks on the working class. It seems that many have forgotten the call of “We Are the Crisis!” and the very real threat of the realization that the proletariat – the force of generalized human negation of class society – will be the gravedigger of the old world. Capital creates crisis, and in an economy based on speculation and boom and bust will continue to create crisis after crisis, war after war, and disaster after disaster, just as capitalism itself is built on the struggle between the classes. This is not to say that we should not take care of each other in our times of need, but simply that our revolutionary program must not be one of charity and social service. We are not here to help people get through the hard times because we are activists and we feel bad. On the contrary, we are here to push the realities of the crisis to its most subversive and explosive end – the complete destruction of our current way of life and the end of the separations between us.

          Many who talk of occupations often talk about fighting this or that offense for this or that subjectivity, or this or that part of the proletariat. Students, for instance, or to be more precise, student struggles, have often blocked those outside of the academic world. Despite this pettiness, the student struggle must be superseded by the communization of (and thus destruction of) schooling. The mass occupations of universities and schools must begin at once. Namely because the degree in which these buildings can be used for our own purposes is so great; the infrastructure is so inviting. As an essay written by ‘Three Non-Matriculating Proletarians’ after the occupation of UC Berkeley in 2009 stated:
Going halfway always spells defeat, and so, the spreading of movement is our only assurance against this stagnation. Complete self-abolition necessitates that the logic of revolt spill out of the universities and flood the entire social terrain.
Renew the strikes and extend their reach. Occupy the student stores and loot them. Sell off the computers in the lab to raise funds. Set up social spaces for students and non-students alike to come in and use freely. Appropriate the copy machines and make news of the revolt. Takeover the cafeterias and bars and begin preparing the communal feast. Burn the debt records and the construction plans. Chisel away the statues and vandalize the pictures of the old order. In short, create not an ‘alternative’ that can easily make its fit within the existent, but rather a commune in which power is built to destroy capitalist society. When faced with a university building, the choices are limited; either convert it to ashes or begin the immediate materialization of the international soviet. 
To all waged and unwaged workers – students or not, unemployed, precarious or criminal we call on you to join this struggle. The universities can become not only our playgrounds but also the foundations from which we can build a partisan war machine fit for the battle to retrieve our stolen lives.
While we must push for the occupation and then communization of universities now, many have begun the process of taking over buildings and other terrains as we speak. Squats, foreclosure defense, and community centers have all sprung up. All of these things are needed and all of them meet real needs, and we must only expand this process, defend what we have, and deepen the degree in which we can expropriate the means of existence and bend them to our own will. But we must also think beyond taking only shitty homes and property that banks currently aren’t using. We must think of the ways in which we can meet our real material needs food, clothing, water, and space in other ways.

The Days to Come

          On one side stands Leftist populism; with its desires to reform the state to better manage capital and in its most cray cray form, to prop up a certain leadership to carry out that management. On the other side us, we wish to completely and utterly negate all that makes us who we are as proletarians and create an entirely new way of living, meeting our needs, and actually being human. We are faced with a question of whether to build popular fronts with those that do not share our politics (albeit often begrudgingly), or to push and expand unmediated class conflict, expand social struggles, and deepen and defend insurrectionary situations. The fires lit in Oakland will not die out; the processes, experiments, and beginnings of communization will not soon be smothered. We must understand the tensions that exist in the revolutionary movement and proceed, attacking what makes us not free, taking space that we need, and forever trying to divorce ourselves from the regime of work, diving into the joy of the commune.

          We must popularize new practices, normalize certain ideas and actions, defend with greater intensity what we have taken, and draw lines in the sand with those that refuse to do so.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

“To Our Friends, We Are Here. To Our Enemies – We Are Coming!”

In Defense of the Revolutionary Politics and Actions of Occupy Oakland


I went on strike on November 2nd in Oakland. I am not from Oakland, nor do I live there. I live in the Central Valley of California, about an hour and a half away. I work two jobs. I pay a mortgage. I am a member of a union. According to the discourse of the mainstream media, I’m middle class. According to the welfare office, I live in poverty. According to the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement, I’m part of the 99%.

I am neither. I am part of the working class, which through our waged and unwaged labors creates everything. But I am also a proletarian. I strive for a world without class, towards a human community free of capitalism. I have been an anarchist for over 10 years. I was not in Oakland when the camp was raided, but I had been to the occupation several times before and many of my friends, from former Panthers to anarchists, were involved. On the night of Tuesday, October 25th, I, along with thousands others, attempted to retake Oscar Grant Plaza. I returned the next night for the general assembly which called for a general strike. I returned for the strike and in the days that followed began working on this piece in response to some of the critics of the day’s events.

In a revolutionary struggle, there will be violence. The state is violent and it will use violence to destroy threats to it. It will protect the property and capital of the economy. We must defend ourselves against this attack and be able to defend our movement. In this struggle people will engage the police as well as the property of their enemies. More and more, people are going to break the law in large groups. They will go on strike largely without union support, occupy their workplaces, students will walkout of school and occupy them, people will expropriate goods from businesses, and people will engage with the police. These are all things that have already happened, in this and other struggles, and will continue to happen as part of a revolutionary struggle against capitalism.

As we engage ourselves in this process; as more and more people become part of the movement and start to fight back, the task is on us as revolutionaries to make real and genuine human connections with people that convey our ideas of why capitalism must be destroyed and a new world built. Our struggles, occupations, and projects must communicate to others a logic and a reason for other people to get involved. In doing so, the media, the mass representation of ourselves to a large audience, will always be distorted. Those that cry we are hurting the movement’s image do nothing to actually articulate what the movement is to anyone, they simply are waiting for our enemies to do it for us. The media will scare people. They will repeat the lies of the police. They will also justify the raids on occupations. It is time to start thinking about occupying and taking media away from the bourgeoisie, just as in Oaxaca and in Greece.

Lastly, as anarchists, we should not be surprised that many within the movement will turn on us and sell us out. They have allowed us to do so much of the ground work and now they want us to leave and turn the occupation movement into just another election campaign or union drive. And, as anarchists, we should not be surprised that some within our own ranks will turn on us and denounce certain parts of our movement, just as those that joined the Republican government in Spain.

Yours in the class war,

"To Our Friends, We Are Here. To Our Enemies - We Are Coming."

“It is not our desire to participate in violence, but it is even less our desire to lose. If we do not resist, actively, when they come to take what we have won back, then we will surely lose…[A]s they sought to abuse us, beat us, kill us, we knew that there was no other option than to fight back. Be prepared to defend these things you have occupied...”
– A Letter of Solidarity from Egypt

On Wednesday, November 2nd, history was made in Oakland. In the streets, history was lived. Numbering in the tens of thousands, people from across Oakland and Northern California converged, responding to a call for a general strike called for by the Occupy Oakland General Assembly a week prior. Upwards of 50,000 (and some say as high as 100,000) collectively went on strike, broke the law en mass, shut down the flow of capital, and defied police orders for hours. The crowds were a wide section of the poor and working population: students, union and non-union workers, and the poor and the homeless. 14th and Broadway was occupied from early in the morning until later at night when police used flash grenades and tear-gas to remove the crowd. In the intersection of the general strike, a huge banner over hung across the streets that read “Death to Capitalism” and “Long Live the Oakland Commune.”

The Oakland Commune refers to the occupation of Oscar Grant Plaza, (formerly known as Frank Ogawa Plaza), the small park that exists outside of city hall which has been occupied since October 10th. In the early hours of October 25th, acting on orders of former union and Communist Labor Party organizer mayor Jean Quan, the camp was raided with extreme force. Police from various agencies evicted the camp, arrested many, and shot tear-gas and other weapons into the camp which included families and children. A rally of over 1,000 followed that night, and people marched back to the plaza only to be met again with tear-gas and flash grenades. One protestor, Scott Olsen was hit in the head with a tear-gas canister and was critically injured. Driven by a desire to not only protect the occupation, but also to defend the very real community that had been created, people marched and tried to retake the plaza several times until the early morning. Some courageously fought with police, threw back tear-gas towards the cops, and busted up police cars. The next day, people again reconvened at 14th and Broadway as news of Scott Olsen had settled in and the Mayor, who had been out of town during the raid, returned to the city. Police were nowhere to be seen, and after the security fence was dismantled, a general assembly of several thousand decided almost unanimously in favor of a general strike. The occupation began again, and has once again become home to hundreds of people who have created an encampment complete with a kitchen, library, medical space, kids’ space, and much more. Decisions are made without leaders or hierarchy; instead through working groups and in mass general assemblies. Furthermore, the camp has also decided to not work with police, the city, or any politicians or political parties. This has been a major step forward for the occupy movement, and shows the extent in which anarchist ideas have had a huge influence on the camp itself.

During the strike on November 2nd, speakers addressed the crowd and messages of solidarity were read from as far away as Pakistan and earlier in the week, people in the US as well as in Egypt marched in solidarity with Oakland; in Cairo they carried signs that read “Fuck Police.” News commentators even mentioned how just the mood was different than that of Occupy Wall Street in New York. People here were willing to fight and also name their enemy: capitalism, and the governments that protect it and their police that enforce it. As a solution, people needed only to look at the world in which had been created out of the occupation, one of mutual aid, horizontal decision making, and solidarity. The general strike was not an attempt to ask or dialog with anyone in power; people were consciously refusing to sell their labor and reproduce this capitalist society. Together, en mass, as poor and working people, we took a side in the class war and started to hit back.

Starting at 9 in the morning, several large marches took place, which marched on banks, forcing many to close, as well as several businesses which did not allow their employees to strike and threatened several with reprimand. In one instance, a coffee and pastry shop was closed down after only several minutes of picketing and the boss allowed workers to leave with a full day’s pay. In the afternoon, an anti-capitalist march began, which marched with over 1,000 people. The stated goal of the march was to force businesses, especially corporations and banks, to close their doors. Windows at various large banks were broken and a fire-extinguisher filled with paint was used to write “STRIKE” in huge letters across Whole Foods. People chanted: “Union busting is disgusting!,” as the windows were broken and some of the patio furniture was taken and placed in the street. Whole Foods has a history of stopping the forming of unions at its stores and firing its workers for organizing. Later, as the march returned to Oscar Grant Plaza, many of the widows of the front of the nearby Wells Fargo were broken out by a large crowd.

Then, at 4 and 5 PM, literally tens of thousands of people marched from Oscar Grant Plaza to the Port of Oakland. There, earlier in the day, some Longshore ILWU workers walked off the job or simply did not come into work and helped shut down the port. By 5pm, the thousands of people began to arrive at the port, and it was effectively shut down and workers were sent home with pay. The occupation of the port by thousands of people cost literally millions of dollars and disrupted one of the largest and most important flows of capital on the west coast. At one point, a worker drove his car into the path of several protestors, threatening several with injury. Quickly the car was surrounded and the drivers tires were slashed and the car was pushed out by protestors with the driver still inside. As night came, thousands of people began leaving the port after word was given that as of the 8 PM shift change, the port was shut down. At around 10 PM, about 100 people marched from Oscar Grant Plaza to the Traveler’s Aid Society on 520 Broadway, a building that was recently foreclosed on and had once housed various programs for homeless people in the local area. After several hours of people enjoying the space and listening to speeches and music outside, word began to pass around that the police were on their way.

Fearing massive police violence on the same level as the raid against the occupation at Oscar Grant Plaza last Tuesday, people began building barricades on either side of the street and prepared for a police raid. As the police arrived, the barricade on Broadway was set ablaze, in an attempt to stop police from entering the street and help kill any possible tear-gas. This was also explained through a ‘mic check.’ When police finally did arrive, they quickly began firing tear-gas and throwing concussion grenades in an attempt to get people to disperse. At some point, many people left the occupied foreclosed building and went down Broadway or into the end of the plaza. Windows of the nearby police recruiting station, which had already been smashed out during a recent anti-police brutality march, were once again broken and defaced, as many people took out their frustrations in nearest possible manifestations of the police – their building. Two businesses were also looted and graffiti artists used this time to write various slogans, including, “Kill Cops,” Occupy Everything,” “Party like its 1946,” “Oakland Commune,” and “Until the Last Capitalist is Hung with the Guts of the Last Bureaucrat.” The police attack continued into the early morning, and many people were afraid that there would be an attempt by the authorities to evict the plaza once again. While the plaza eviction did not occur, police did make up to 80 arrests and finally took back the streets surrounding Oscar Grant Plaza by around 4 AM on Thursday, November 4th.

In the wake of the latest police attack, some within the occupation have called for the expulsion of anarchists. They have called for the repaying of the banks for their broken windows, and for a formal apology to be made by Occupy Oakland (OO). Furthermore, they are attempting to condemn anyone who promotes “violence,” and to ensure that OO will from now on take a completely “non-violent” approach to organizing in the future. Lastly, and most sinister, is the slander that anarchists are all police themselves, simply agent provocateurs sent to ruin the movement.

This essay is written in defense of the Oakland Commune, as well as the revolutionary actions that have been taken to make Occupy Oakland a revolutionary project against capitalism.

We Had No Right To Be There, Only the Organized Power to Be So

“I got a letter from the government

The other day
I opened and read it
It said they were suckers.”
Public Enemy

            Watching a video in support of Occupy Oakland produced by Moveon.org, a group which supports and raises funds for the ruling Democratic Party, one is lead to believe that those in the plaza were exercising their “first amendment rights” of speech and peaceful assembly, and in turn were attacked by a police force that does not respect those rights. This narrative has been picked up by many within the occupy movement and within OO, and it is important to counter it. Because, quite simply, it is a lie.

            The occupation of Oscar Grant Plaza (OGP) was possible because people took the space. They did not ask, and they did not have the ‘right’ to be there. The current laws on the books say that camping in a park overnight is illegal. You are not supposed to have amplified sound and be able to cook and serve food without permits. Even the decisions made en mass by the general assembly, which forbade police from coming into the area, are of course a direct violation of the law. But there is nothing wrong with this; this in fact is a good thing, dear occupier.   

            People did not hold the space at OGP because they had a right to do so given to them by the government of the United States – they made the occupation possible by their sheer will and numbers. They took something and held their ground. What’s more is that they asked for people to come and join them in breaking the law, to make their movement bigger, and they did. In doing so, they created a base from which the camp could organize and run itself. They also created a material force in which they could support other struggles as well. This is why the General Assembly (GA) passed an agreement stating that they would offer material solidarity to anyone occupying schools and foreclosed properties.

We must also keep in mind the very radical nature of the encampment itself, which, as one news commentator described as, “More Malcolm X than Martin Luther King…” To the authorities, a growing illegal occupation of public space that openly denounces and does not want to work with the police or city government – is problematic to say the least. Furthermore, a growing section of the occupation was clearly anti-capitalist and revolutionary. This is something that the state could not have allowed to continue. And, is it any wonder that when police were cracking down on Occupy Oakland they were also arresting people in other cities and making plans to move on Occupy SF? If they can’t co-opt the movement, they will try to destroy it.  

            It is this reason that the city had to come up with a way to evict the camp. Using their trusty friends, the corporate media, a picture was painted of a violent and dirty camp spinning out of control without the help of a benevolent police force and a sympathetic city government. OO was said to be swimming with rats and filth, dirty kitchens and the ‘stabby’ kind of hobos. A series of warning letters and notices of eviction were sent out to the camp, and finally, on Tuesday morning, the state had had enough. With the mayor signing the order and then heading out of town, the police were left to do the one thing that they do well…

            At this point, many people can agree that the reason that the state gave for the raid had nothing to do with the state’s real desire to destroy the occupation. It goes without saying, but clearly the government and the power structure do not want this movement being able to organize like Oakland has done. As one comrade said in the early days of the camp, “This is America, you’re not supposed to be able to do this.” And so, as the flash grenades exploded and the tear-gas filled our lungs, the police weren’t directed to do so because someone forgot to read their constitution; it’s because our material force, our occupation, stood in direct opposition to everything that the power structure is. The way of life that is capital cannot allow ours to exist.

            Many people quickly grasped this concept, and cast no blame to anyone, who facing down rubber bullets and gas, picked up a tear gas canister that could have been aimed at anyone’s head, and threw it right back at the pigs. No one seemed to cry when the cars of the officers who attacked and hurt us had their windows smashed into oh-so many lovely pieces. No, people understood in an instant that this is war, and we will fight. Just as the Egyptians did, just as the Greeks did, and just as the kids in the UK did. After the first raid on the camp, many people came to a very simple, yet an important conclusion: the government lies and the media helps them. Their eviction had nothing to do with keeping the park clean and protecting that tree – it had everything to do with maintaining its power.

After the raid, the media continued its blatant whitewash. The police had to fire on us because protestors were throwing rocks, they cried! We don’t know who shot the tear-gas, it must have been the protesters, parroted the media for the police. We read the headlines and shook our heads.  

            The occupation of Oscar Grant Plaza was not an exercise in our ‘rights’ as Americans, it was an expression of our power as human beings. In flexing that power, we were met with the violence of the state, but we held our ground. On the night of November 2nd, we escalated again. Knowing that the cold weather was only going to get colder, knowing that just as in taking the plaza we can take other things, and knowing that capital will never meet our needs and only exploit us, a foreclosed building was occupied. It once offered services to the homeless and the idea was to create more services for the community as well as for the movement. In keeping with the decision passed by the General Assembly, hundreds came out to the occupation and also to defend it. Soon the police arrived, and began to clear people from the occupied community center just as they did at Oscar Grant Plaza only a week before. Nothing was different, everything was exactly the same.  

            That night, and into the next day, the media attacked us with the same ferocity that the police did. Just as the media was used to spread lies about Oscar Grant Plaza, and thus give endorsement and build popular support for the raid against it, this time the media gave justification for the police attack and helped demonize anarchists who attempted to open a community center. Thus the media gave us gems such as the police came to the area only after people started a bon-fire, perpetuating the lie that the police just wanted to keep residents safe. They said that anarchists wanted to burn the building down, which hides the truth that we opened the building for all and for the community surrounding it. That the police arrived after people began writing graffiti and breaking windows, when in reality this happened largely after the police violence began. This last narrative attempts to split the occupiers between “violent” and “non-violent.” It also hides the targets which actually were attacked, and the degree in which graffiti artists of all types took to the walls to write revolutionary messages. And, out of that tension, the corporate media gives us a hero – the fighter of anarchists and the defender of the “peaceful protest:” the peace police.

Peace Police

“Just how deep do you believe? Will you bite the hand that feeds? Will you chew until it bleeds? Do you want to change it?”
Nine Inch Nails

            A violent contingent stalks Occupy Oakland. They have been known to assault protestors while on marches, call people who they disagree with or don’t like the look of “faggots,” and do their best to stop the actions of anyone who they do not agree with through the use of violence. No, it’s not the black bloc. It’s the peace police (PP).

            For those fortunate enough to exist outside of the world of protest politics, you may be unclear as to what the ‘peace police’ are. PP are those that at demonstrations, try to get people to stop doing things that they consider to not be ‘non-violent.’ Case in point, when people spontaneously began to dismantle the fence around OGP on October 26th before the GA, PP screamed, “Stop! Stay non-violent.” Thus, for many of the PP, “violent” actions are more realistically anything that can be seen as confrontational, spontaneous, militant, and forceful, just as the occupation itself has been. That is to say, to the peace police, violence equates to actually being effective.

            And the corporate media, the lap-dogs of the ruling class, LOVE THESE PEOPLE. In one video shot from a news commentator, they show PP ‘bravely’ placing themselves in between “anarchists” and the windows of a bank in order to stop people from banging on it to force it to close. In other situations, PP have become extremely violent towards individuals just for expressing their opinions. During one march, a PP attempted to start a fight with an anarchist who was chanting against the police and explained that the cops are not part of the ‘99%,’ they are the dogs of the ‘1%.’ During other situations, PP have used violence or fought those that attempt to break or paint over the property of the 1%, namely the windows of large banks or the walls of corporations.

            As someone wrote in the online essay, We Laugh at the Waves as they Crash on Us!

What we found comical about this whole event was that the liberal pacifists themselves destroyed the myth of ideological pacifism, although from their position they are not able to see this. In the process of smashing bank windows, there were a couple protestors that took more hardline stances on pacifism, with a couple individuals going as far as grabbing, hitting, and tackling the people smashing windows. There was also talk from some of the “peaceful protestors” of forcefully removing peoples masks. Of course the sweet sweet irony in all of this is that while property was being destroyed (and it should be made clear here that it was only banks and union busting businesses that got destroyed – not that we, the authors, have any problem with small businesses being attacked. In fact, we absolutely love it as ALL business is still business.), the only violence directed toward actual human beings was on the part of the “peaceful protestors.” We notice here that the projected goal of pacifism, a peaceful world, is not possible through pacifism. We also notice a definite difference between non-violence and pacifism: the former being a specific tactic individuals might choose to employ; the latter being an ideology forced onto other people. It is here that we see the very same logic of the state and the police embodied in actual bodies. That peace has to be forced upon other people, regardless of how this happens. It should bring you joy then to hear that the peace police were beaten Greece style with wooden dowels and poles.

But why have the media demonized the anarchists and herald the peace police as heroes? It is simple. Because the anarchists are revolutionaries and the peace police are not. The anarchists promote a world that is based around the same anti-hierarchal organization that the camp is run on. They actively defend the occupation of OGP and of foreclosed properties from the cops. They are willing to use direct action to occupy space and to also attack the property of the 1%. The peace police are not. They do not want things to be confrontational. They do not want things to escalate. They do not want a revolution.

            It is telling that to this day, only the police, whether the Oakland Police or the Peace Police have been the only ones that have used violence against people to make them do what they want or in a non-defensive way.

Perhaps this goes without saying, but, fuck the police.

The Property of the ‘1%’

“We’re not hurting anyone man, we’re setting em’ free!”
Fight Club

            The strike on November 2nd cost the city of Oakland and various banks, city governments, and multi-national corporations, millions of dollars. This was paid in the way of overtime for police, the money lost by banks and businesses shutting down, the millions of dollars lost from the port closure and workers wildcat striking, and in the destruction of property of banks and large corporations.

            It is the latter that has caused so much disagreement. According to the PP, reformists, and others, it is ‘violent’ to break the windows of banks and corporations. Since property is not alive and cannot feel pain, many people instead contend that in the destruction of property people are being forceful, violating, and destructive, and thus in turn, are violent. But if one contends that the breaking of a non-living windows or the spray painting of a wall is somehow violent on these grounds, then how is the shutting down of the port or the occupation of a public space not violent in the same manner? Based on sheer numbers alone, the occupation of the port cost banks and corporations millions of dollars more than the windows that were broken just hours before. And, the shutting down of the port was forceful: people refused to leave and physically blocked the movement of goods and workers. It violated the ability of the port to function as such, and it destroyed the ability of capital to reproduce itself. The same goes with the occupation. People forcibly took the space and violated the ability of the city and police to function as such, thereby destroying the park as the property of the city and recreating it as Oscar Grant Plaza.

            There is also something to be said about the very targets which were attacked. Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo, and corporations like Whole Foods. The hatred for banks should be very clear and easy for anyone to grasp. They’re helping to evict millions of people, hold them hostage with debt, invest in coal and other destructive industries, and many of them are investors in private prisons and immigrant detention facilities. Whole Foods had “strike” written across it with a paint filled fire extinguisher, and several of its windows attacked. When some in the crowd started chanting “peaceful protest,” the anarchists in the black bloc, (who hide their faces in masks and wear all black), responded by chanting “Union bustin’ is disgustin’!” Some may be too young to remember or completely unaware, but Whole Foods has a long history of gentrification, firing workers for organizing, and low wages. Furthermore, it is a corporation like any other and failed to close for the general strike. Thus, smashy smashy.

            But while some people may not believe that the breaking of a window isn’t violent, they still buy into this idea that it is the destruction of property that causes the police to react the way that they did later that night. The only problem with this line of thinking is that the police were nowhere to be seen during the anti-capitalist march which attacked banks and corporations, nor where there any arrests. There were no arrests and the only physical violence that happened was fights between peace police and those beating off their attacks. Furthermore, when compared with the costs of everything else that day, namely the shutting down of the port of Oakland, the cost of the windows was miniscule. The reason that the police arrived later that night on Broadway was very clear: they were there to defend the property of the bank which owns the occupied building. And, once the police began to defend that property, people responded by defending themselves, breaking the windows of a police recruiting station, and the writing of revolutionary slogans.

            Some people have tried to make the argument that the actions against bank windows “violated the trust” of other strikers because they did not announce to the crowd what was going to take place. We find it hard to believe that when an anti-capitalist march is called and anarchists dressed in ski-masks and all black are chanting, “What bails out, must come down, burn the banks to the ground!,” people are surprised when this starts to happen. If people felt uncomfortable during the march, they had every opportunity to leave and at no point was there a police presence or any clear threat of arrest. 

            But it is not even the actions which seem to be the problem, only the image in which they create. An image that has the opportunity to scare some people as images in the media have always done, regardless of if they are of immigrants, black males, or anarchists. Of course, this had been the problem from the start. The media has always been able to put this idea into people’s heads in order to justify whatever the government was doing. The image, the spectacle of ourselves will always be problematic and the media will never be neutral. The sooner we can except that and begin to make real, on the ground human connections with people the sooner we will begin to overcome these divides.

One of these narratives that has been perpetuated by the media is this idea that the ‘bad protesters’ ruin ‘good’ movements, which is a lie that has been sold again and again to people. What we should not be doing is allowing our enemies to define what the reasoning for them attacking us is. It isn’t the attacking of property, the shutting down of a port, or the occupation of a building, it’s that all of these things mean that we have lost our illusions of capitalism: that private property is something to be revered and that we aren’t willing to play the nice and peaceful game of petitioning the government for change. It signals that we are getting organized, getting powerful, and escalating the struggle against those who are exploiting us.

            The government will attack any and all movements that are effective and seek to disrupt the status quo. Over the last 100 years, two of the most influential and radical organizations to come out of the US, both the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense (from Oakland), suffered at the hands of the state and corporate powers. Their members were beaten, killed, imprisoned, and slandered in the media. They too were blamed for ‘ruining’ social movements and bringing the very police violence that was dished out to them. The IWW promoted sabotage as a legitimate tactic in the workplace and encouraged workers to strike across racial lines, building for a general strike which could expropriate the means of production into the hands of the working class. In May of 1990, a IWW organizer Judi Bari who was working to bring radical environmentalists together with union loggers was almost killed when a bomb exploded under her car. It’s worth noting that the bomb went off in Oakland, and that the attack was carried out in part by the FBI who wanted to stop Judi’s organizing efforts. The Panthers, who packed guns and patrolled the police also engaged in a variety of tactics and did not see a distinction between the self-defense of people against the police and government and the building of a revolutionary force through community organizing and ‘survival programs.’ For this, J Edgar Hoover named them the most dangerous group in the country and quickly a massive police and government campaign against them began, resulting in assassinations, frame-ups, counter-intelligence operations, and the imprisonment of its members.

Repression of social movements is not caused by “bad protesters,” it is caused by a conscious waging of social war by the authorities against anyone and anything that threatens its power. It is also nothing new, either in Oakland or across the world. The state will continue to repress social movements in order to stop threats to the status-quo.  

            As the anarchist journal A Murder of Crows wrote:

When repression strikes and comrades are arrested…the reaction of many is to disassociate themselves from those who are being attacked by the state. Liberals, progressives, and most activists draw up official statements denouncing violence, sabotage, and illegality, all in hopes of proving to the government that they are just good citizens who like to follow the rules and who are interested in "positive" social change. This spineless response is standard for the left, and serves to flank the state's actions. Disassociation is not only a cowardly act, but is also based on faulty logic.

The underlying premise of disassociation is that the state has reacted to a specific occurrence and that those being persecuted are responsible for bringing repression upon themselves and everyone else. Certainly there are specific acts that the state responds to…but this is not where repression stems from. In actuality, repression is a long-term strategy employed by the state regardless of specific illegal acts and is an attempt to maintain the status quo by any means necessary. Repression, then, is always present in many forms. It is the police, the courts, the prison system, the proliferation of security cameras, the immigrant detention centers and the like. If anyone needs further proof that the state doesn't merely punish people for breaking its laws, and instead represses in order to destroy its opposition, one need only take a look at recent events.

             We understand that many people are upset about the property destruction that happened on Wednesday that might normally be sympathetic to us. We also understand that this is largely because of how that destruction was presented in the mass media and viewed by people both in and out of the movement. But we must be clear that this spectacle that is presented is exactly the same one that we have faced from day one from the state. The protest is okay, but stop camping. The occupation is okay, except for the violent homeless people and the rats. The police are okay, the protesters threw rocks first and that’s why we gassed them. The general strike was peaceful, except for when people broke windows. The people that broke the windows were anarchists. Everyone is okay, except the anarchists. And on and on…Just as we have seen in the last few weeks, the image that is presented to the rest of the world will always be one that portrays us in a negative light and hurts our movement. Just as the media smear campaign against every victim of police brutality, from Oscar Grant to Kenneth Harding seeks to squash popular resistance to the police, so does slander against those who take action against capitalism.

We must create a movement that actually has the ability to better people’s lives, create a new way of living, meet our needs, and relate differently to each other, and also empower ourselves to carry out the revolutionary struggle which is needed to get there. This is why when Whole Foods was attacked you heard former workers in the crowd saying, “Hell yeah, I worked there and fuck that place.” Or others, “I worked there and they fired us for trying to start a union.” This is why when the bank windows were attacked the first reaction of people was to throw their fists into the air and cheer with joy! As anarchist Margaret Killjoy wrote about the days events:

Immediately after the property destruction began, the debate raged: was this okay? Did this represent “us”? The only violence I personally witnessed was perpetrated by people screaming “non-violence” who attempted to hurt people who had just defaced property, but it was clear that the march was of two minds. Still, when a group tried to split the march (“non-violent go this way, violent go that way”) they were met by apathy and abandoned their plans. What was fascinating to me, though, was I encountered at least as many non-masked participants who were enamored – or even participating –in the destruction than those who felt alienated or betrayed. One man I saw, shouting into the broken windows of (I believe it was) Bank of America at the bankers on the inside: “Do you hear us now? We tried everything: we wrote letters, we signed petitions, we protested, and you didn’t listen. Did you hear that though? Do you hear us now?”  

Furthermore, it is worth pointing out, that one of the stated purposes of the shutdown of the Port of Oakland was to act in solidarity with Longshore ILWU workers in the Pacific Northwest who are fighting the grain exporter EGT. In this struggle, ILWU workers have fought with police and damaged property, largely EGT grain. We must ask ourselves why we choose to support these workers yet demonize anarchists for breaking the windows of a bank?

Been Down this Road Before

In the first early hours of 2009, Oscar Grant was shot and killed by BART Police. His murder led to a round of riots in Oakland, many also taking place on 14th and Broadway. The largest of which occurred in July of 2010, after Grant’s killer,
Johannes Mehserle, was cleared of murder but found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. The riots lead to the looting of businesses and large amounts of vandalism (graffiti) and the breaking of windows. Much has been written about Oscar Grant’s murder and the movement against police brutality that it helped breathe life to, but we want to go back and reiterate the push from both the media, mainstream non-profit organizations, and the police who were united in pushing a line that sought to divide the protesters along lines of being “violent” and “non-violent” in order to break the movement and keep people from coming together in common struggle.

This line first came from the police that white anarchists were outside agitators, coming into Oakland to disrupt the legitimate protests of black residents, who wanted to largely remain peaceful, according to police and the city government. Non-profit groups largely picked up this narrative, calling on protesters to remain “non-violent” and to not “trash Oakland.”

As one black anarchist in the bay area wrote in the text, They Can’t Shoot Us All:

Many non-profits…oppose the collective uprisings and spontaneous activity because they feel the need to control the movement. These organizations view themselves as the saviors of the downtrodden; when dominated people rise up on their own terms, it threatens the position of leadership these organizations occupy in their imaginary worlds.

We have also come under attack from non-profits that operate entirely under the influence of the city government. One of these city-funded non-profits has taken up a full-fledged assault against us, using some of the $2 million in city money they have received to wage a propaganda campaigning against the unity we have found with each other through this struggle. They have even used city money to pay young people to come to their indoctrination workshops where they speak of the evils of people coming together and standing up to their enemies.

They have also helped to spread the absurd logic of the Mayor’s Office that only people born and raised in Oakland have the right to take to the streets. This...is an attempt to foster collaboration between disenfranchised people and their exploiters in a united front against the enigmatic “outsiders.”

In the past, our enemies have attempted to divide movements by distinguishing the “good” element from the “destructive” elements. This time, it seems that the primary division they created was not between the “peaceful” and the “violent,” but a racial division wedged between groups in the uncontrollable element in an attempt to neutralize our collective strength.

It would be wise to keep these words in mind, as once again we face the possibility of our movement becoming divided and broken apart. Once again, the lesson of the struggle for Oscar Grant shows how much the police, media, and much of the Left were united in holding a line that tried to break any sort of militant resistance by fostering perceived divisions between protesters based on racial or tactical lines. Remember who tries to make these divisions and it is even more important not to allow them to make them. It is also important to keep in mind that militant resistance on the streets of Oakland is nothing new and will continue to happen. 

A Living, Breathing, Anarchy

Anarchism is the idea that the state exists to keep the inequalities and divisions within society in place that give power and privilege to a ruling class through massive amounts of violence; from the bureaucratic to the repressive to the racist, patriarchal, and hetronormative. This is the nature of all states, to preserve the existence of a class divided society and an economic system where the mass amount of the population is indentured, enslaved, indebted, displaced, imprisoned, or wage-slaves in a system that generates massive wealth for a small minority. Thus, the state is not a neutral force, it cannot be reformed or taken over to serve the people; it is an instrument against the people in order to preserve the inequalities that exist between us. Anarchists think that the way that we organize ourselves must prefigure the ways in which we want to live in a world without capitalism.

But what then, do anarchists want? Anarchists believe in non-representational forms of decision making; hierarchy, meaning, ‘from the head.’ Instead, we believe in horizontal organizations of power; anarchy, ‘from the base.’ This can be seen best, in the General Assemblies that take place at Occupy Oakland and across the country at different occupations. Here, mass groups of people organize themselves and make decisions without hierarchal organization or leaders. This is power spread out horizontally, instead of concentrated at the top. Anarchists also believe that labor should benefit human needs and that just as we all should share in decision making of things that affect us, we all should have control over what we produce and how. We can see this already happening in the camp, where ‘work’ is performed by free autonomous groups along the lines of mutual aid and human solidarity. People make food and feed each other, some donating labor, others donating food. People organize to protect themselves against the police and also help settle disputes. We hold workshops and classes, create newspapers and spread information, make music, hold meetings and make decisions, all without a central hierarchy or bosses of any kind.

Many of the values and organizational models of the occupation movement are anarchist values. They come from the anarchist movement, even if many do not use the name or understand it. It is of no surprise that the GA has supported many anarchist positions that other occupations would not. It does not cooperate or work with the police: it expels them from the camp. It does not work or cooperate with politicians or political parties. It does not make demands to the power structure it is fighting; it organizes itself to fight that power structure. It does not ask for the things it needs, it takes them, occupies them, and uses them for its own benefit.

But many will ask how we get there? How do we organize ourselves into a revolutionary force that can make Occupy Oakland into Occupy Everything? Anarchists do not believe in working within the system. We do not participate in elections or encourage people to vote, we encourage people to self-organize where they work, where they live, and where they go to school. People need to take direct action and occupy space from which to organize from and to meet their needs directly. But anarchists do not believe that the state will ‘wither away’ under the ground swell of an ‘alternative society,’ (co-ops, etc) or even from the occupations themselves. The state will use violence to crush threats to its power and to also destroy revolutionary or potentially revolutionary movements. This is why we saw the state respond to Occupy Oakland on 25th in just the way that it did. Thus, a revolutionary struggle must be waged against an apparatus that uses massive violence to protect this class society that ultimately destroys the state. Such a movement must defend itself from the violence of the state or it simply will be crushed.

Such a struggle must use a variety of tactics to not only spread our occupations, strikes, and direct actions, but also to defend the spaces in which we have already taken. Those that scream “non-violence” to those fighting back against police who have just raided a camp of people asleep have no solution in this regard. They have no idea of how to defend themselves or the rest of us. We must defend ourselves from the state and their police; if our movement is to survive and if our movement is to grow.

As things heat up and more people start to take action. As workers go on strike, students walkout and occupy their schools, as people fight the police, as those in their homes, apartments, and trailers take back their living space, the property of the capitalist class will be attacked. It is going to happen. People will riot when the police kill someone just as they did when Oscar Grant was shot. They will loot stores when they push the police out and retake the things that other poor and working people have made. They will spray paint the walls with slogans and messages. Homeless people, those foreclosed on, and our own movements will take over buildings, plazas, and property. They will break the locks and move in. Workers on strike will attack scabs, fight police, and destroy company property, just as some of the ILWU workers have done in the Pacific Northwest. People on a march against capitalism who pass by banks and understand them to institutions which are part of a system that they want to destroy will break their windows. As the economic and ecological crisis deepens, as the struggle escalates, and as more people are drawn into taking action, things will continue to happen. People will defend themselves and they will engage with their enemies. They will organize and they will act en masse. This is not a new struggle - it is one that has existed since capitalism began.

We can still feel ourselves flinching as the flash grenades explode in our memories. Our noses and skin still burn and tingle from the tear gas. Our bruises have not healed and we wonder if anyone we know is still in jail. But we also remember that sea of people who responded to a call for a general strike. We remember the workers who went on wildcat and called out sick, the tens of thousands that shut the port down, those who bravely stood up to the police, and those who took action against the banks. We remember the students who walked out of class and the kids who came with their parents. We feel amazing warmth for everyone who braved rubber bullets and tear gas canisters to defend the occupation. We remember it all, for on that day we walked along streets where the police were not allowed in. We walked into liberated spaces and occupied buildings, as music and laughter filled what was once nothing. We saw graffiti on the walls and it brought smiles to our faces because it was exactly what we were thinking.

Indeed our comrades are here with us. They are all welcome here. We are in Chiapas, on the very first day of 1994. We are on Ohlone land, occupying Glen Cove in Vallejo only a few months ago. We are back in Oakland, during the general strike of 1946. We are in Exarchia in Greece, right after Alexis was murdered and we are spilling into the streets with so many thousands of others. We are ourselves only a year ago, rioting on 14th and Broadway as Footlocker is looted and someone is writing “Riot for Oscar” on a wall. We are in Egypt. We are in London. We are Orwell in Barcelona and we see the red and black flags waving and we know now what he meant when he wrote what it was like to be in a city, “where the working class was in the driver’s seat.”

We are coming. We are already here.