SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Occupier’s Choice: Violence or Failure

Don’t Know What They Want, But They Know How To Get It

Here’s how U.S. state-controlled media covered events at Occupy Oakland:

“A day of demonstrations in Oakland that began as a significant step toward expanding the political and economic influence of the Occupy Wall Street movement, ended with police in riot gear arresting dozens of protesters who had marched through downtown to break into a vacant building, shattering windows, spraying graffiti and setting fires along the way,” reported the AP.

Then they quoted an Occupy Oakland member: “‘We go from having a peaceful movement to now just chaos,’ said protester Monique Agnew, 40.”

The lede of this November 3rd AP story frames a larger narrative. “Political and economic influence” cannot be achieved through violence. Ms. Agnew’s quote is used to support that framing. The move from “peace” to “chaos” represents a setback for the Occupy movement.

Violence = tragedy.

Considering that recorded history does not include a single instance of a nonviolent movement effecting radical change, it is interesting that anyone would argue that violence is by definition a negative development. It is equally astonishing that anyone would believe it.

In a revolution, one set of elites gets supplanted by another. There has never been a nonviolent revolution.

Never.

Gandhi was nonviolent. But his allies did resort to violence on numerous occasions. And India wasn’t a revolution. It was an independence struggle. The rich remained rich; the poor stayed poor. Conversely, there has never been a revolution in which violence was the primary tactic. Even the bloodiest revolutions—France, Russia, China—relied more on national strikes, sabotage, marches and demonstrations than shooting people. Revolutions are mostly nonviolent. But violence must always part be of the revolutionist’s toolkit.

Movements move.

Sometimes against the will of many of its members, the nascent Occupy movement is being propelled forward into its second phase: increasingly direct confrontation with the security apparatus of the American police state. The consideration of violence as a tactic is the inevitable result of Occupy’s own internal logic, resulting from a combination of its timing—at a time when revolution is needed and desired by millions of Americans, it’s the only insurrection in town—and its leaderless structure.

Never in history have the wealthy or powerful voluntarily relinquished substantial amounts of money or power. The corporate elite and the political class that enables them—the “1%,” as Occupy calls them—will never give into the Occupier’s demands to reduce their power or wealth unless faced with violence or the credible threat thereof.

As Peter Gelderloos writes in his book How Nonviolence Protects the State: “Time and again, people struggling not for some token reform but for complete liberation—the reclamation of control over our own lives and the power to negotiate our own relationships with the people and the world around us—will find that nonviolence does not work, that we face a self-perpetuating power structure that is immune to appeals to conscience and strong enough to plow over the disobedient and uncooperative.”

If voting or writing letters to the editor worked, we wouldn’t need Occupations.

The Occupy movement can wind up in one of two ways:

Failure.

Or success, partly via the occasional use of violence and/or the credible threat of violence that results from those sporadic outbursts.

First let’s define terms. Vandalism, theft and destruction of property are not violence. Inanimate objects do not suffer. Violence can only be inflicted upon living beings. Breaking a window may or may not be morally justified, but it is never violence. Further, violent self-defense is not the same as violence. Until now the violence at the Occupations has all been initiated by the police. When policemen fire rubber bullets, bean bags, tear gas and pepper spray at unarmed, peaceful protesters, their victims have every right to defend themselves—to run away, to avoid arrest and yes, to strike back.

Every civilized society recognizes the right to self-defense.

Perhaps because they were retroactively spooked by the bombings, bank robberies and kidnappings that marked the disintegration of the Vietnam protest movement, throughout the last 40 years American leftists have adhered to a strict code of militant nonviolence. Abandoning the tactics of disruption and non-cooperation (both of which were central to Gandhi’s approach), demonstrators’ ridiculous cooperation with government authorities reduced progressivism to farce.

Marchers apply for permits on public streets. Organizers give the police pre-printed lists, last name first, of activists who volunteer to be arrested; they are quickly booked and released, rarely less than $100 poorer. It is theater, a mere pantomime of genuine protest.

And it never works. You need only look back at the political history of the United States between 1971 and 2011 to see what 100% nonviolence has accomplished. Even under Democratic presidents and Congressional majorities, the Left has lost one battle after another.

The Left’s only major victory during that period followed the 1999 Battle of Seattle. Riots and broken windows disrupted the World Trade Organization for years. Countless American jobs were saved as a result. Yet liberals were ashamed.

Violence! How terrible!

Not as terrible as the wars and the massive unemployment, apparently.

At the core of the cowardice of protests carried out by establishment liberals has been slavish adherence to nonviolence at all cost. At most protests over the past few decades self-appointed “peace police” patrol the edges of crowds penned into “free speech zones” (which are inevitably placed out of the way, far from cameras). The peace police don’t lift a finger to protect demonstrators against police brutality. Instead, they act to prevent protesters from doing anything to “provoke” the cops, even when they are trying to protect themselves from brutality.

What makes the Occupy movement different and so compelling is that it moves beyond going-through-the-motions toward real resistance against tyranny for the first time since the 1960s. Seizing territory without a permit and refusing to relinquish it, as has happened at Occupy Wall Street and hundreds of other cities, presents an inherent threat to the system. The authorities can’t win no matter what they do.

They can’t do nothing. Tolerance signals legitimacy, even tacit approval of OWS and their message that rich individuals and big corporations have too much wealth and control over us. Can’t have that. Rupert Murdoch’s house organ, the New York Post, ran a front-page editorial on November 3rd screaming: “Enough!”

But crackdowns make the movement grow even bigger. A video of a NYPD official pepper-spraying four women at OWS without provocation inflamed public opinion and drew more people to Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. An announced plan to evict OWS was scrapped after hundreds of people traveled there to gird for battle.

Speaking for New York’s business community as well as Murdoch, the Post editorialized: “Time’s up. The Zuccotti Park vagabonds have had their say—and trashed lower Manhattan—for long enough. They need to go. Be it voluntarily—by packing their tents and heading off in an orderly fashion. Or by having the NYPD step in—and evict them.” They blame OWSers for urinating outside. Which merely reminds New Yorkers how unresponsive their government is: there are no public restrooms in Manhattan.

You can smell the fear along with the pee.

Meanwhile, as politicians feel more pressure to crack heads, Occupations will have to move indoors. Freezing temperatures have arrived in New York and much of the country. Tensions will rise. As clashes with the authorities intensify, the ridiculous fetish of nonviolence—a faith-based tactic with no more basis in historical fact or reality than creationism—will be forgotten and, one day soon, laughed at.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

36 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Occupier’s Choice: Violence or Failure

  1. Pingback: Stormtroopers gone wild! | Robert's Virtual Soapbox

  2. ex,

    I’ll make one observation — then it’s off to the store for a scratch ticket and a soda.

    Forget about how 9/11 was managed by less than 100 people with less than a million dollars altogether. In theory, the whole thing could have been carried off by 19 people with only a few tens of thousands of dollars. The ability for Person X to do something Big and Bad grows with each passing year. It’s called the Internet.

    Thanks to the Internet, Person X can find ways to make meth, LSD, explosives, etc. Person X can find accidentally misplaced files stored on a non-secure server. Person X can introduce computer viruses that can shut down company websites (and now, that’s the only way some of these companies are reachable).

    Can anyone here tell me with certainty that some mid-level tech down at Wall Street hasn’t figured out a way to gin the system? And what happens if he finally gets so fed up with his asshat boss that he exploits the loophole?

    Back in the day, humans were jammed into every phase of the equation. Pulling a scam required enormous care, and enormous skill. Now, one nerd in a basement getting in his 14 hours of surfing can stumble across the OFF switch. And one of these days, nerd is gonna flip it because he’s bought into the whole delusion that societal collapse will somehow be cool or exciting.

    Ted might be approaching the topic from the wrong angle, but the possibility of societal collapse is a very real one.

  3. @Ted Rall

    Talking about overthrowing the government is a waste of time, for several reasons.

    – Overthrowing the government is such a gargantuan task/concept/idea, most people wouldn’t even know where to start. You’re talking about dismantling the entire country. Civil war. Re-writing the Constitution. If you poll people, the thought of overthrowing the government is unthinkable. I dare you to go to Zucotti and poll then on if they want to “overthrow the government”. You’ll get almost no takers. Then ask them if they want to “de-infest corporate control of our government”. You’ll get almost everyone agreeing.

    – For once, people seem to understand who the real scoundrels are: Wall Street Banks. They’re not occupying the Lincoln memorial or the Capitol building, they’re occupying Wall Street. This is an astonishing turn of events that I cannot even imagine happen 25 years ago. Let’s take advantage of this rightfully focused anger.

    – If you people go after corporations (their HQs, their execs), they’ll basically be fighting the cops. Go after the government and their entire military will be on your ass. Guess how that will turn out. If necessary, Obama would bring in foreign militaries to suppress an uprising against the government.

    Bottom line, our government would work fine if it wasn’t infested by corporations. Get them out and you already have the basis for a sound government. I’m for removing the cockroaches, you’re for blowing up the whole building and starting over. Which is more realistic thinking?

  4. Dear Mr Rall: I mention you and your columns frequently, when I refer a friend but also in correspondence with other bloggers. I mention you for two reasons: 1. You often write what I see avoided elsewhere, your column sub-titled “Violence or Failure” is a good example; 2. I never see a link to your columns on other blogs, and you merit reading. Just to let you know you are much appreciated!

  5. @Rall: If you ever create a second addition of the anti-American Manifesto, you should put this essay (or the same argument found here) in it. I think you have finally swayed me. In the words of Malcom X: “I am for violence if non-violence means we continue postponing a solution … just to avoid violence. ” and “I don’t even call it violence when it’s in self defense; I call it intelligence. ”

    @exkiodexian: “When will progressives come to understand that conservatives view violence as a language?” interesting, while we are on the topic of Malcom X, he once said:

    “He’s talking the language of violence…Let’s learn his language. If his language is with a shotgun, get a shotgun. If he only understands the language of a rifle, get a rifle. If he only understands the language of a rope, get a rope. Bu…t don’t waste time talking the wrong language to a man, if you want to really communicate with him. Speak his language. And there’s nothing wrong with that. If something was wrong with that language, the Federal government would have stopped the racists from speaking it to you and me.”

  6. @bucephalus

    We responded at the same time, so see my previous response. I agree with you, but I’m not talking about overthrowing the government. It’s not necessary. What necessary is a de-infestation of corporations from our government.

    I’d like to address one other point that Billy Mac made about elections and referendums. Elections are controlled by the same corporations to ensure that we can only choose from candidates that have already been pre-vetted by the shadow government (the shadow government simply being unelectable corporate elites).

    Referendums are a joke. If you want to put a stop sign at some busy intersection in your neighborhood, or float municipal bonds to improve your local water system – fine. Referendums are just fine for that. All referendums that matter are circumvented by corporations 100% of the time. Meaning, all decisions that actually matter are made by the corporate elite and their government benefactors. I could give example of example of referendum that the people voted for which government officials (as benefactors of corporate elites) then overturned, never allowing to become law. This is because they have an ideology: WE run things, not you. Not the people.

    The repeated overturning of referendums (using corrupt and meaningless reasons) is one of the reasons that violence is the only remaining options. When referendums are repeatedly overturned by bought-off politicians, the people are left with only one option: violence. The reason is because corporations are laughing in our faces. We pass a law, they laugh and have it overturned by buying off a handful of corrupt politicians.

    As noted, the culture runs from the top down and when you’re corporations and government are corrupt to the core there’s only one avenue left. The elites only have themselves to blame when they find themselves on the other end of a sharp stick.

    • @Exkio: When people like you talk about removing corporate control over government without overthrowing the government, I am dumbfounded. How would such a thing be possible? The 1% are not going to remove their tentacles voluntarily. The reason I advocate the overthrow of the government is that there simply is no other alternative. This system is impervious to reform. Wasn’t always the case—FDR managed to win enough support from the ruling classes to push through the New Deal. But it is the case now. There is still a division among the elites, between those who want to suck the world dry and leave nothing behind but an empty husk and those who prefer to be sane parasites, so they can feed later on down the road. But the balance has tipped so far to the former faction that revolution is required.

  7. Remember the scene in “To Kill a Mockingbird” where Atticus Finch shoots the mad dog? It’s like that. Some people can use violence when necessary and then turn away from it. Being able to shoot a mad dog in the street doesn’t mean you will become some unstoppable killing machine.

    But the people who run Wall Street? They already have more money than they can spend in their entire lives under any set of circumstances, and they still won’t stop. It still isn’t enough. And, quite simply, the majority of them got their money by skillfully thieving it from the system via loopholes and coning people. I wonder how many of them regret deeply that the days of blind men with tin cups are no more. Think of all those dimes they could have been quietly slipping out, one at a time.

  8. Billy Mac is exactly right: in almost all violent revolutions, the ones who use violence more effectively or employ the most violent thugs succeed and proceed to use that violence to crush down everybody else. Be careful what you wish for.

  9. @Billy Mac

    “Violence is effective, but it means that the people who are most effective at utilizing violence rise to the top of the new order. Thats Robespierre, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc.”

    I’m not talking about overthrowing the government. In fact, nothing of the sort. I’m talking about forcibly removing the corporations from it. The corporations that have virtually co-opted our democracy by infesting the government with their cronies at every level. If we can succeed at that, which I’m pretty certain we can’t, our government would function quite well.

    “At least capitalism gives you the choice of whether or not you wish to be a slave.”

    This is true, and not true. I am fully of the belief that we Americans have chosen to be slaves, and therefore we are responsible for that fate. But, it’s come to the point where a middle class existence is only possible by becoming an indentured servant. Sixty years ago, you could have a solid middle class existence without being an indentured servant to debt. Today, you pretty much have to be. Not coincidentally, this is one of the grips of OWS, and rightfully so. My dad had his house paid off in 10 years, which he originally bought in 1967. Today, that would be impossible for any middle class person. Today, you’d have to get a 30-year mortgage and you will likely never own the home. Add to that college costs, car costs (which are all musts for middle class existence) and you are an indentured servant. This is by design, make no mistake about it. Sixty years ago you can have the American dream. Today, you have to finance it. The banks are siphoning off the productivity of every American, without providing corresponding value in return. It must end.

    “The U.S. has generally adhered to the rule of law throughout its history.”

    This is so untrue that I really can’t respond in full here, as it would take up so much space. The truth is the exact opposite, right to this day. If you aren’t aware of that then I suggest the work of Glenn Greenwald or Noam Chomsky, both of whom have amply evidenced that America has generally NOT adhered to the rule of law throughout its history. That goes for corporations, elites, and the government itself.

  10. Billy Mac,

    “At least capitalism gives you the choice of whether or not you wish to be a slave.”

    Actually, it doesn’t. I went to school, I accumulated work experience, and I now must compete with millions of someones overseas willing to do pretty much every job for $2 an hour, a salary I simply cannot live on, regardless of how many jet skis I do not buy. In fact, capitalism ensures that slavery will be the eventual outcome because capitalism encourages cost-cutting to remain competitive. Once ONE employer starts outsourcing to slavelandia, all the other employers must follow suit or else be unable to compete.

    Similarly, because some people still cannot grasp this (e.g., the morans who keep telling the 99%ers to work harder and quite whining and then produce a completely unbelievable story about how they’re working two full-time jobs, going to college full-time, maintaining a 3.7 GPA, drive a car, own a home, etc., etc., all on their own Heinleinian/Randian pluck and will-to-power, so we should make Medicare and food stamps illegal, etc.) they vote for politicians who are bought and told to support trade policies that ensure the companies that hire slave labor get protections and tax benefits (for even more profit).

    We can go up to the mansion, with our hats respectfully in our hands and our eyes on the ground, and ask that the overseers use a little less wrist action when “motivating” us, but the reality is that the only way the system will change is if we all go up to the mansion, after slitting the throats of the overseers in the night, nail all the windows and doors shut, and then burn the whole building to the ground.

  11. Lets be clear about the consequences of these actions. Violence is effective, but it means that the people who are most effective at utilizing violence rise to the top of the new order. Thats Robespierre, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc.

    At least capitalism gives you the choice of whether or not you wish to be a slave. You don’t have to take out a third mortgage to buy his and her jet skis. A revolutionary council can send someone away for re-education because understanding compound interest reveals bourgeois tendencies.

    Should I go blow my life savings on scratch-offs today so I can be just as poor as every other dumb shit once the revolution comes?

    The U.S. has generally adhered to the rule of law throughout its history. The laws were often unfair but people acting clearly above the law has been the exception rather than the rule. That is part of what allows people in the U.S. and other modern democracies such a high standard of living. We should not be so quick to give it up. Let the other side circumvent the law first. OWS, or s group with similar goals, should state its case, put referendums on ballots, on and endorse a slate of candidates. If there’s clear election fixing, bribery, or blackmail to prevent lawful change than a violent revolution is justified. We really haven’t tried the first step yet.

  12. exkiodexian,

    Absolutely. I see that you are employing — my people call it maize — a logical progression. You start with ONE goal (Goldman Sachs), with the clear notion that similar goals (Monsanto, other corporations) will follow.

    Compare to OWS which wants (or doesn’t, because they aren’t really demands, just sort of, um, I guess, somethings) about 15 different things that are mostly impossible, all at once. And how will they accomplish their not-goals? By, um, serving food to each other while being good neighbors.

    You know the one thing about Americans? We love to back winners. I mean, really, we can’t get enough of it. But to be considered a winner, you have to win something. And that’s the only thing that’s scaring the 1%: the realization that JUST ONE SUCCESS — one Goldman Sachs bastard in the perp walk orange-jumpsuit — and it could all simply go into a chain reaction no one will be able to stop. Just a little momentum and it could become a staggeringly huge revolution.

    But it has to be done right. It has to be done right the first time. And it has to be done right, the first time, and with no soft-squishy mercy.

    Look up Mike’s speech to Walter on the youtube about full measures vs. half measures in Breaking Bad. It’s exactly what I mean. Whatever group rises up has to keep itself from becoming delicate and weak. “Well, can’t we just make these banksters write an essay?” NO! You put them in jail for decades for destroying the economy. You don’t have them process their feelings; you have them make little rocks out of big ones, and you hold them up as examples for all the years to come: if you want to be a finance wiz, this is what’s waiting if you get too clever. So grow some decency before you start wiping out the economy to fatten your wallet.

  13. I agree that mob violence is useless. A bunch of DFHs running around fighting with the cops achieves nothing. It might scare a few people, but nothing more. Certainly nothing useful.

    Coordinated violence with purpose and intended outcomes is what’s required. That’s what the state sanctioned entities that use violence do, why wouldn’t OWS? For instance:

    ————————–
    OWS demands an end to the corporate infestation of our government, which is the primary force behind the hijacking of our democracy. OWS demands the immediate resignation of all SEC personnel who were formerly employed by Goldman Sachs. If said employees do not resign within 24 hours, Goldman Sachs HQ will be stormed by 5,000 aggrieved Americans who are fighting a war to save our democracy. The Goldman execs will be apprehended and publicly tarred and feathered. All attempts to stop this just action will result in whatever means are necessary to defend ourselves.
    ————————–

    This demand can be reconfigured to remove all the banks’ former employees from our government, which is supposed to be policing these criminals – not enabling them. I’m not singling out GS, just using them as a starting point for the template.

    Then, we can move to other industries. Demand the removal of all ex-Monsanto employees from the Dept. of Agriculture. If not, Monsanto will be stormed.

    And on and on, until every last corporate scoundrel is removed from our government.

    The point is this: We have tried to do things peacefully, and the end result is always the same. Not only does nothing change, it gets worse and worse. This is because corporations believe they have the inherent right to co-opt our government and subvert democracy as they see fit. They don’t call themselves “Masters of the Universe” for nothing.

    If such steps were actually to be taken, the propaganda would be relentless – which is why it must be ignored. These sorts of moments in history are not pretty, and it’s not going to be perfect. You have to plow through it though, with brute force. You have to accept that mistakes will be made, innocents killed, etc … But that’s EXACTLY the same logic your state uses when trying to explain away the bombing of children. What are they called again? Collateral damage.

    The only person who can be against such action is a person who believes the state has a monopoly on the use of violence. My opinion is this: When a state is corrupt, then that axiom no longer holds to be true. And our government is corrupt to the core.

  14. Spacious,

    Agreed. Mob violence is almost impossible to use as a tool. At best, it provides “cover” while something more tactical occurs (e.g., a radicalized movement could decide it needs to hold up a bank. However, the cops will get there too quickly, so the group organizes a riot for the purpose of sending in a small group to rob the bank under the confusion and delay).

    “What role does public opinion play in quasi-legal financial scheming, predatory lending, evictions, politics or the crowd control weapons a police force may use on a given frosty evening?”

    None whatsoever. Evaluate the concept through the “battered wife” mindset. People are evicted because they somehow deserve it. If they hadn’t burned the pot roast, the cops wouldn’t have had to break their arms. Etc..

  15. I’ve been in protests that have turned violent. In all cases, the violence that occurred was chaotic mob violence. Very difficult to utilize as a tool for anything. And, naturally, whatever destruction or injury that occurs leads the next day’s news.

    I think that there is a generalized “liberal” belief that, if the protests turn violent then public opinion will turn against the protests. I’m simply going to ask a question: “What role does public opinion play in quasi-legal financial scheming, predatory lending, evictions, politics or the crowd control weapons a police force may use on a given frosty evening?”

  16. “Do you mean give class war a chance??”

    I mean completely ignoring propaganda like your statement. That’s part of what OWS needs to do if they want to succeed. As Kristol notes, war is bloody and brutal and no one WANTS war. But, at certain junctures it is the only path. Once that path is taken, tuning out propaganda is essential.

  17. Chris Hedges is part of the problem. I too have read his work and he’s a smart guy who understands that unfettered capitalism is unsustainable. Unfortunately, Hedges is religious and part of the whole “give peace a chance” scene.

    I say let’s follow the advice of William Kristol who wrote a column called “Give War a Chance”. I couldn’t agree more. When will progressives come to understand that conservatives view violence as a language? When will progressives understand that the culture runs from the top down? Read again: William Kristol implored Americans to “give war a chance”. I agree. It’s time that progressives give war a chance, inspired by the state-sanctioned violence conservatives like Kristol wholeheartedly support. Kristol told us this because the notion is that although the violence is bloody and brutal, from it will arise a new hope: democracy. Again, I couldn’t agree more. The same will hold true here in America. The violence will be bloody and brutal, but from it will arise a new hope: democracy.

  18. The big question is the simple question: If the 99ers started applying active resistance and obstructionist tactics, how long could the city hold out? I think that, if they were properly organized, the 99ers could have the city agreeing to put Tony Bologna on trial in under a week. I think they could get the DA to start investigations — public investigations — of every Wall Street banker in under a month.

    But they won’t get shit by holding consciousness-raising sessions or shouting “shame” at the cops. The events in Chicago, where some unknown trader drops letters and job applications on the protesters shows exactly why those traders are winning. As he explained it, his attitude is that when he finishes eating his lunch, his next move is to eat the food off YOUR plate. He is quite proud of his ability to, using the rules of the system, take every penny he can get away with.

    People, you all need to wake the fuck up. You’re acting like those people who buy aggressive Rottweilers that attack other dogs and people uncontrollably. That level of aggression should never have been breed into the animal. But now that it has been, it must be eliminated. Either have the dog put down, or isolate it behind bars so that it cannot harm the innocent. But don’t try to reason with it.

    The same thing should be the core concept in any dealings with Chicago traders, mace-wielding cops, etc. They are violent, uncontrollable animals that cannot be reasoned with. At the very least, they must be made harmless by any means necessary. Fire them, bar them for life from the finance industry, put them in prison, but stop thinking you can negotiate with them.

    One you grasp that, the rest is simplicity. All this OWS protest should be aimed right at the DA. Make the man’s life hell on earth until he finally throws his hands in the air and screams, “Alright! Alright! I’ll do my goddamn job an enforce the Constitution. Just stop the drum solos!”

  19. Occupy Oakland people tried to occupy a building, the former Travelers Aid Society:
    (from indybay website)

    Statement on the Occupation of the former Traveler’s Aid Society at 520 16th Street
    by some friends of OO
    Thursday Nov 3rd, 2011 11:01 AM

    Last night, after one of the most remarkable days of resistance in recent history, some of us within Occupy Oakland took an important next step: we extended the occupation to an unused building near Oscar Grant Plaza. We did this, first off, in order to secure the shelter and space from which to continue organizing during the coming winter months. But we also hoped to use the national spotlight on Oakland to encourage other occupations in colder, more northern climates to consider claiming spaces and moving indoors in order to resist the repressive force of the weather, after so bravely resisting the police and the political establishment. We want this movement to be here next Spring, and claiming unused space is, in our view, the most plausible way forward for us at this point. We had plans to start using this space today as a library, a place for classes and workshops, as well as a dormitory for those with health conditions. We had already begun to move in books from the library.

    The building we chose was perfect: not only was it a mere block from Oscar Grant Plaza, but it formerly housed the Traveler’s Aid Society, a not-for-profit organization that provided services to the homeless but, due to cuts in government funding, lost its lease Given that Occupy Oakland feeds hundreds of people every day, provides them with places to sleep and equipment for doing so, involves them in the maintenance of the camp (if they so choose), we believe this makes us the ideal tenants of this space, despite our unwillingness to pay for it. None of this should be that surprising, in any case, as talk of such an action has percolated through the movement for months now, and the Oakland GA recently voted to support such occupations materially and otherwise. Business Insider discussed this decision in an article entitled “The Inevitable Has Happened.”

    We are well aware that such an action is illegal, just as it is illegal to camp, cook, and live in Oscar Grant Plaza as we have done. We are aware that property law means that what we did last night counts as trespassing, if not burglary. Still, the ferocity of the police response surprised us. Once again, they mobilized hundreds of police officers, armed to the hilt with bean bag guns, tear gas and flashbang grenades, despite the fact that these so-called “less-than-lethal” weapons nearly killed someone last week. The city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect one landlord’s right to earn a few thousand every month. Why is this? Whereas the blockade of the port – an action which caused millions of dollars of losses – met with no resistance, the attempt to take one single building, a building that was unused, met with the most brutal and swift response.

    The answer: they fear this logical next step from the movement more than anything else. They fear it because they know how much appeal it will have. All across the US thousands upon thousands of commercial and residential spaces sit empty while more and more people are forced to sleep in the streets, or driven deep into poverty while trying to pay their rent despite unemployment or poverty wages. We understand that capitalism is a system that has no care for human needs. It is a system which produces hundreds of thousands of empty houses at the same time as it produces hundreds of thousands of homeless people. The police are the line between these people and these houses. They say: you can stay in your rat-infested park. You can camp out here as long as we want. But the moment that you threaten property rights, we will come at you with everything we have.

  20. The vast majority has no stomach for violence, as this MSNBC story makes clear:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45144941/ns/us_news-life/

    Chris Hedges, a self-appointed leader of the “lambs to the slaughter” contingent, is quoted in the article.

    “Chris Hedges, who [was] demonstrating at Goldman Sachs’ headquarters in New York, said the clashes in Oakland are a reminder to protesters that they should only respond peacefully to police actions.

    “‘It’s awful. But police want people to break windows and set cars on fire, because it’s the kind of thing they know how to master — with force,’ he said before being led quietly away in handcuffs.”

    Thanks for nothing, Chris.

    How in the hell do people such as Hedges think we as Americans were able to enjoy the benefits that accrued from implementation of the eight-hour workday, the forty-hour work week, overtime pay, and all the rest? By standing meekly in front of a building housing financial overlords, mumbling an encomium to non-violence, and then ‘being led quietly away in handcuffs’!?

    That would be news to those who gave their lives in support of the rights of workers (Homestead, Haymarket, Pullman, Republic Steel, and on and on we could go).

    As long as Hedges and those like him serve as the voices of the Occupiers, there will be no hope of victory.

    • @ntm: Exactly. I like Hedges’ writings but they simply don’t go far enough. Like many establishment liberals, he simply doesn’t have the stomach for what we all know—for what HE knows—is necessary.

      I don’t enjoy violence. I oppose the system because it is violent. But it’s ridiculous to think that 100% nonviolent tactics have ever accomplished anything radical or dramatic.

  21. ted, i think you’re gonna be the first american public persona arrested and charged with inciting violence/ terrorism. and i think that’s what you want. i think you want to be our generation’s malcolm x. good luck with that.

    ex, first off, the 1% are on their way out as well. they have pillaged and plundered america to no end, until there was almost nothing left to justify occupying us anymore. this was a paradise before the brits arrived (massacred the natives, settled on their land, started a revolution, became americans) and squeezed it dry until it became the shithole that we know today. when the 99% began our movement, the 1% were leaving anyway. we are merely the little kick in the pants as they go through the exit door. nothing more. nothing less.

    secondly, social media is just coming into existence as a powerful force for social change and the 1% really don’t know how to frame us. we end up garnering a lot of sympathy and support as the little people against the great empire. even as this is happening today, in a world where media empires and governments have mastered the art of relentless propaganda, we can’t be successfully cast as violent terrorists hell bent on destroying america because the majority of americans don’t even pay attention to mass media anymore. luckily, we have our own form of communication (whether it be the internet or actual face to face interaction) to frame ourselves exactly as we are.

    if we choose violence, then that is what people will see. to say we should be violent because they might end up thinking we are anyway is ridiculous. is it possible we will have to resort to violence at some point? of course. but why instigate it? we will certainly come out the losers. let them strike first. and second. and third. let them strike as many times as necessary until enough people are angry enough that when we strike back, we have enough strength to strike a fatal blow to the system. there’s no rush.

    buce, it’s not about more or less regulation. it’s about real, effective regulation and it’s enforcement. and the support of famous “democrats” isn’t a threat to the movement. just because someone tries to co opt us doesn’t mean they’ll be successful.

    and to the rest of you negative nancys, why so pessimistic?! if there was ever a time for optimism, it’s now! we aren’t going anywhere! i urge you to go to the closest occupation and spend time talking to the people there. i promise you, you will feel a flicker of optimism, possibly for the first time in your life! 🙂

  22. Violent repression will probably not be necessary. First, there’s the weather: it’s a lot less inclement in Cairo or Tunis around the year, than Boston or NYC in, say, February. Then, there’s creativity from the powers that be: I hear Gauleiter Bloomberg is using the city code and regulations to confiscate heaters and shutdown impromptu kitchens. Curiously, most of the protesters seem to think more regulation, by all spheres of government is the solution to America’s problems.

    But the greatest threat to the OWS movement is, like I already said, is its undergoing co-optation and absorption into the Democratic party. When you have folks like Keith Olberman dropping by, cozying and them claiming to support you, you know you’re doomed and have failed miserably at shaking the establishment.

    • @Bucephalus: Indeed, nothing will OWS more effectively than its co-option by the corporate stooges that pass for unions and the Democrats. Fortunately I haven’t seen much love for Obama at the Occupations. He simply isn’t mentioned.

  23. “If OWS turns violent, it will become the textbook example of a pyrrhic victory. And here I thought “we had to destroy the village in order to save it” thinking went out of vogue after Vietnam.”

    The multiple ironies in your statement are quite funny.

  24. If OWS turns violent, it will become the textbook example of a pyrrhic victory. And here I thought “we had to destroy the village in order to save it” thinking went out of vogue after Vietnam. Silly me, it just shifted from being right wing thinking to left wing thinking, apparently.

    OWS wont last the winter. They’re going to fizzle out without a nanometer of positive progress on the goals they claim to want. Sych a shame, really; properly applied all that energy could’ve accomplished a great deal.

    • @Whimsical: You may be right, perhaps OWS will fizzle out. If so, they will not mark the end of the Big Thing but merely the beginning, much the way the Free Speech movement marks the beginning of 1960s radicalism. The system is on the way out. Nothing can change that. The only question is how it will go down and what comes next.

  25. Ted, this is one of your best op-eds ever. Brave too. Not many political commentators have the courage to write what you just wrote. I expect you’ll receive backlash for it from high-profile progressives, and likely be ignored by the rest. Shame on all of them.

    Gandhi’s “revolution” was one of the most misunderstood events in history, especially with respect to the non-violence approach.

    First off, the British were on their way out anyway. They had pillaged and plundered India to no end, until there was almost nothing left to justify occupying them anymore. Bangladesh was a paradise before the Brits arrived and squeezed it dry until it became the shithole that we know today. When Gandhi began his movement, the Brits were leaving anyway. He was merely the little kick in the pants as they went through the exit door. Nothing more.

    Secondly, world media was just coming into existence as a powerful propaganda force and the Brits really didn’t know how to frame Gandhi. He ended up garnering a lot of sympathy and support as the little man against the great empire. If this were happening today, in a world where media empires and governments have mastered the art of relentless propaganda, Gandhi would have been successfully cast as a violent terrorist hell bent on destroying Britain. He would have been framed as a master of violent terror that required a dedicated drone attack to suppress. You know, the Karl Rove strategy: frame the person as the opposite of what they are. Gandhi non-violent? No! He’s the most violent of them all!! And, it would have worked.

    For the OWS movement, it’s really going to come down to two things:

    1. Understanding what Ted just described, and FULLY embracing it.
    2. Tuning out the propaganda channels, and I mean completely tuning them out.

    If the momentum build, the propaganda will be relentless. It will be dirty. It will be whatever it takes to stop any real change from happening. Only if OWS actively tunes such propaganda out will there be a chance for success. The mindset needs to be, we’ve heard all the lies for years, we’ve heard the propaganda and manipulation, the framing of debate, and all that STOPS NOW! Anything less is just a guarantee of more of the same.

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