Frederick Douglass

"Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them..." Frederick Douglass

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Article O' The Day, 14 April, 2012: You Can't “Grow The Movement” By Dissing The Kids: On Chris Hedges And Occupy

Terrific piece! Acosta's elucidation is the best I've read on the topic of the troubled, rapidly deteriorating Mr Hedges.

You can link through to another of her pieces which is equally good. Here's the video she links to:

And Here's a response by a questioner at the event:

I wrote about Hedges' screed at the time in this space, as did other anarchists elsewhere on the web.

A few observations about Hedges and his views: My main objections are discussed in the entry linked above, beyond those he is remarkably intolerant of those whom he condemns for intolerance. He's also not above employing the "linguistic violence"--calling BBers "stupid"--he finds so distasteful in others.

Of greater importance, the real issue is whether violence, using the term in the capacious, Hedgesian sense, is acceptable/beneficial/tolerable etc.

Hedges says that the movement must be mainstream, and will require defections on the part of the security state to be successful. This is a topic to which I've devoted much time and consideration, and in short I agree. He's correct when he says we will not defeat the security state at it own game. The question is what is the objective: reform or revolution? A liberal or radical movement?

Non-violence is not controversial nor unpopular--only savages want destruction of any kind. But if the goal is revolution, the unseating of the ruling elite, then violence may be inevitable. The movements Hedges cites (US civil rights, anti-communist revolution in eastern Europe and India etc.) all saw varying degrees of carnage.

He speaks glowingly of MLK's liberal movement (and rightfully so), but the success of the civil rights campaign (to the degree it can be said to have been successful) was not due entirely to King's efforts, laudable though they were. There were militants like Malcolm and Angela and Stokely and the Panthers et al who played crucial roles. It goes without saying that the ruling class had to consider what the alternative to MLK's reforms was.

However, when the goal is a radical one, the elimination of capitalism and the state, then the ruling class has no option but to employ violence. It will never agree to the end of its hegemony without a fight, it never has and it never will. The vandalism and occasional violence employed by BBers is meant to show that the people are willing to fight back. It may give the state some useful propaganda, but it also might give courage to those who are afraid to rebel. It serves the same function within the anti-capitalist movement as Malcolm X did within the civil rights movement.

While I have never BBed, and generally agree with Hedges' critique, his intransigence and myopia becomes neither him nor Occupy. He talks about the movements he's experienced with the confidence and presumption of an demagog. If Hedges would just climb down off the cross for a moment he might see that, tragically, no great social movement, liberal or revolutionary, has ever succeeded unoccasioned by violence, however lamentable that may be. I too wish the window-smashing and taunting of police would end as they are counterproductive, but as I am, unlike Hedges, not omniscient, not the oracle of history, I do not slander those who think a show of force might do some good.

It is difficult to gauge what Hedges' politics are as his public pronouncements have been contradictory, but some of the things he says send chills down the spine of this anarchist. He has expressed affection for Karl Popper and often quotes him. Popper was an ardent defender of capitalism who equated it with liberty. He also had close ties with Western intelligence, an odd subject of veneration for an "anti-corporatist" like Hedges.

He also likens the movement against Milosevic in Serbia to those against the heads of state in East Germany and Romania. Aside from each being supported by the West, they were quite different.

International capital wanted to destroy socialism in Yugoslavia, and hatched a plan to break it up into ethnic statelets. Milosevic resisted, hence the war, the merciless bombing campaign, the endless defamation of him in the Western press, and the military, financial, and strategic support for the movement in Serbia against him. The war in Yugoslavia was initiated by capital to capture their markets and resources, it is hard to imagine that anybody calling himself a leftist could speak as supportively of Milosevic's removal as Hedges does.

Lastly, Hedges emphasizes that if the movement can be disciplined and "confront and expel" those who do not comport themselves in agreement with the liberalist principles he endorses, then it can succeed in bringing down the "corporatist state."

Hedges describes himself as an anarchist. For us the corporatist and capitalist state are undifferentiated, and no state is acceptable--that is to say no institution(s) apart from and above the people and having power thereover. Anybody who suggests that there needs to be agreement on tactics, or calls for any discipline other than self discipline, or inveighs for an authority empowered to confront and expel dissenters, may be many things, but one thing such a person is not is an anarchist.