Greece, Hedges, black blocs, anarchy… Straya!

Update : #Anonymous Takes Down #Greek Police and Government Web Sites as #Athens Erupts (February 13, 2012) | Occupied London/From the Greek Streets and Teacher Dude’s Grill and BBQ provide ongoing coverage and commentary in English.

Here’s to the Greeks. They know what to do when corporations pillage and loot their country. They know what to do when Goldman Sachs and international bankers collude with their power elite to falsify economic data and then make billions betting that the Greek economy will collapse. They know what to do when they are told their pensions, benefits and jobs have to be cut to pay corporate banks, which screwed them in the first place. Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare—the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it.

~ Chris Hedges, The Greeks Get It, May 24, 2010

The Black Bloc movement is infected with a deeply disturbing hypermasculinity. This hypermasculinity, I expect, is its primary appeal. It taps into the lust that lurks within us to destroy, not only things but human beings. It offers the godlike power that comes with mob violence. Marching as a uniformed mass, all dressed in black to become part of an anonymous bloc, faces covered, temporarily overcomes alienation, feelings of inadequacy, powerlessness and loneliness. It imparts to those in the mob a sense of comradeship. It permits an inchoate rage to be unleashed on any target. Pity, compassion and tenderness are banished for the intoxication of power. It is the same sickness that fuels the swarms of police who pepper-spray and beat peaceful demonstrators. It is the sickness of soldiers in war. It turns human beings into beasts.

~ Chris Hedges, The Cancer in Occupy, February 6, 2012

Yeah well anyway, the Greek government is on the verge of approving has approved some new measures in the endless quest to keep Europe’s bankers happy–and the MPs responsible have repeatedly expressed the notion that ‘there is no alternative’.

Where have I heard that line before?

In some respects they are of course correct. So too, those who argue that whichever way the Greek government turns, it’s unlikely to be able to avert a social explosion. Precisely what form this takes and how many of the other PIGS join the revolting Greek masses is anybody’s guess. There have been large and militant demos in Athens and elsewhere in Greece (curiously, it appears that only Italian-language media is blaming The Black Bloc Anarchists™ for the smashy smashy) and at the same time Portugal has witnessed the largest public demonstrations in decades–which is kinda interesting.

Closer to home, multi-billionaire Gina Rinehart has written a poem complaining about oppressive tax regimes and the lack of cheap, quality labour, a recent study suggests many casual workers have difficulty paying the rent, and a few fools in Klan hoods have reportedly harassed members of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy.

Q. In which country is banging on windows and shouting stuff considered a ‘riot’?
A. Straya.

I am the cancer! I am the dynamite! I am the table! I am, I said!


Twitter informs me that some bloke called Chris Hedges has written a rather silly critique of The Black Bloc Anarchists™ called ‘The Cancer of Occupy’. It presents a rather daft (which is to say inaccurate) account of the origins of the black bloc and ascribes to its adherents a range of political positions which are rather, um, controversial. Naturally, his article has provoked a range of responses.

Two things.

Whatever its precise content in Oakland or elsewhere in the Occupy movement in the US, to the best of my knowledge the black bloc is better understood as a tactic having evolved among autonomist (or autonomous) social movements in Germany in the late 1970s and early 1980s, spreading elsewhere in Europe in the ensuing decade, and finally arriving at The Centre of the Universe in the early 1990s. See : George Katsiaficas, The Subversion of Politics, AK Press, 2006 (online) and David Van Deusen and Xaviar Massot (editors), The Black Bloc Papers, Breaking Glass Press, 2006 (online).

I dunno WTF is going on on the ground in Oakland but it’s kinda unfortunate that Hedges’ essay is as badly-written as it is as it addresses some serious questions regarding WITBD. Otherwise, the flaws in Hedges’ analysis are fairly self-evident I think; from his distorted account of the black bloc’s origins and conflation with a particular mode of anarchist politics (invoking John Zerzan, an essay not published by Zerzan on the EZLN, and so on), to an otherwise inexplicable reliance on Derrick Jensen for expert opinion and an under-theorisation *cough* of the relationship between violence and the state, police, media and social control.


More later maybe. Then again, maybe not.

Oh yeah. David ‘The Beast’ Graeber writes ‘Concerning the Violent Peace-Police: An Open Letter to Chris Hedges’, n+1, February 9, 2012; Peter ‘Monstrous’ Gelderloos dissects Hedges in ‘The Surgeons of Occupy’, Counterpunch, February 9, 2012.