Santa Rita, I Hate Every Inch of You

Twen­ty-four hours into my incar­cer­a­tion in San­ta Rita Jail, I found myself in yet anoth­er tac­ti­cal con­ver­sa­tion, dis­sect­ing the numer­ous fail­ures that had led to the ket­tling and mass arrests of about 400 Occu­py Oak­land demon­stra­tors. This is one of the few upsides of a mass arrest. After get­ting the row­dy activists off the streets, the police find them­selves host­ing a three-day strat­e­gy con­fer­ence inside the jail. When­ev­er a con­ver­sa­tion begins to get stale, the guards show up and shuf­fle peo­ple into new dis­cus­sion groups, and the debate begins afresh.

For the most part, the atmos­phere in my cell was not one of defeat, but rather of rig­or­ous self-crit­i­cism. This is a nec­es­sary moment in the growth of any move­ment – com­ing up again­st the lim­its of the premis­es that under­lie a prac­tice – and it seemed to be get­ting under­way just hours after that prac­tice had col­lapsed on the streets of Oak­land. This was decid­ed­ly not the unre­flect­ing group of mil­i­tants that Chris Hedges has recent­ly accused of a patho­log­i­cal aver­sion to strate­gic thought.

Out­side of jail, the con­ver­sa­tion seems to have been some­what dif­fer­ent. The focus with­in the move­ment over the past week has increas­ing­ly been on the bru­tal­i­ty that we expe­ri­enced in jail. We were denied food and nec­es­sary med­ica­tion, lead­ing to seizures; we were abused both phys­i­cal­ly and ver­bal­ly; we were crammed into over­crowd­ed and inad­e­quate­ly ven­ti­lat­ed cells in which the tear gas that still clung to our clothes made breath­ing unbear­able. All of this is true. This was a trau­mat­ic expe­ri­ence for many of us, and the sup­port from cheer­ing crowds wait­ing with cof­fee and cig­a­rettes when we were released was pow­er­ful. This col­lec­tive heal­ing is impor­tant; it builds sol­i­dar­i­ties.

But we need to be care­ful. The dis­course about police bru­tal­i­ty that has been dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly fill­ing the Occu­py echo cham­ber this week is an essen­tial­ly lib­er­al one, and it tends to mask oth­er prob­lems that sur­faced on Sat­ur­day. There is always some­thing tau­to­log­i­cal about the com­plaint that one was treat­ed bad­ly in jail. It’s jail, after all. To focus on the bru­tal­i­ty of the expe­ri­ence as though this is some­how excep­tion­al is to mis­un­der­stand the basic func­tion of jails and police forces in soci­ety. The vio­lence that we came up again­st on Sat­ur­day is the vio­lence that is required dai­ly to main­tain and repro­duce soci­ety as it is present­ly con­sti­tut­ed. What we expe­ri­enced for a few nights, while awful, is sim­ply dai­ly life for the unpaid pris­on labor­ers who cleaned out our cells when we went home.

I know that this will not strike most of the peo­ple that were arrest­ed on Sat­ur­day as a par­tic­u­lar­ly con­tro­ver­sial point. Many of them are no strangers to the penal sys­tem them­selves. Indeed, Oakland’s rad­i­cal edge with­in the Occu­py move­ment large­ly comes from the fact that the quo­tid­i­an vio­lence that is required to repro­duce cap­i­tal­ism is closer to the sur­face here than in many oth­er com­mu­ni­ties.

But there comes a point at which the­se con­ver­sa­tions can hin­der fur­ther thought. I don’t want to nor­mal­ize or apol­o­gize for the bru­tal­i­ty of the sys­tem, nor do I want to lapse into a debate over what con­sti­tutes an “authen­tic” expe­ri­ence of this bru­tal­i­ty. Nev­er­the­less, we as a move­ment have to stop and ask our­selves what con­ver­sa­tions are being dis­placed by this exclu­sive focus on police bru­tal­i­ty. More than that, we have to look at this focus as itself a symp­tom of deep con­tra­dic­tions in our prac­tice, which we have been unable to come to terms with.

Chief among the­se is the fact that up until now Occu­py has expe­ri­enced its growth spurts as a result of con­fronta­tions with the police. The gen­er­al strike in Novem­ber was in large part made pos­si­ble by the exces­sive force with which the police evict­ed the campers at Oscar Grant Plaza. Sim­i­lar­ly pub­lic instances of bru­tal­i­ty at UC Berke­ley and UC Davis led to mas­sive mobi­liza­tions on all cam­pus­es across the UC sys­tem. The basic premise under­ly­ing Saturday’s action was in keep­ing with this pat­tern. By pick­ing a suf­fi­cient­ly ambi­tious tar­get and cast­ing the action in suf­fi­cient­ly antag­o­nis­tic rhetoric, a con­fronta­tion was with cops was assured.

Orga­niz­ers were ready for this. I was ready for this. If “Move-in Day” was suc­cess­ful, so much the bet­ter – if not, the inevitable clash with cops would unmask the absur­di­ty of a sys­tem that would use such force to keep an emp­ty build­ing from becom­ing a com­mu­ni­ty cen­ter.

The prob­lem is that police forces can adapt. On Sat­ur­day there was no dra­mat­ic image that crys­tal­lized the bru­tal­i­ty of the police state, just a whole lot of the stan­dard vio­lence that is inher­ent to the nature of polic­ing. Even the tear­gassing of chil­dren is, by this point, more or less nor­mal. Whether we admit it or not, we were implic­it­ly rely­ing on the spec­ta­cle of police bru­tal­i­ty to catch nation­al atten­tion. This didn’t hap­pen as it did in Novem­ber. And it couldn’t hap­pen, pre­cise­ly because it already hap­pened in Novem­ber.

When this nar­ra­tive of vic­tim­iza­tion was not imme­di­ate­ly forth­com­ing, we kicked into high gear to man­u­fac­ture one. This is ulti­mate­ly what under­lies the focus on bru­tal­i­ty. It’s not that any­thing that is being said about our expe­ri­ences in San­ta Rita Jail is incor­rect, and of course we need to denounce police bru­tal­i­ty wherever it exists. The Nation­al Lawyers Guild class action law­suit should go for­ward, and for those who had their first mate­ri­al encoun­ter with the vio­lence of the state, the lessons learned last week­end can only have a rad­i­cal­iz­ing effect. But we also need to under­stand why this essen­tial­ly lib­er­al dis­course about rein­ing in police excess­es has become so hege­mon­ic amongst rad­i­cals. It points to a deep­er prob­lem with­in Occu­py: so many of our actions are premised on pro­duc­ing nar­ra­tives for lib­er­al con­sump­tion. Scott Olsen was one such sto­ry. The attack on stu­dents on the “Mar­io Savio Steps” in Berke­ley is an even clear­er exam­ple. The­se can be use­ful orga­niz­ing tools when they present them­selves but they can­not be the basis of the actions we plan from here on out.

I don’t want to gloss over the huge advances that Occu­py Oak­land is con­tin­u­ing to make. There has been a chron­ic prob­lem with build­ing occu­pa­tions in the recent past. Typ­i­cal­ly, the bulk of plan­ning goes into the actu­al takeover of a build­ing, while the ques­tion of what to do with the space once it’s occu­pied is an after­thought. Saturday’s action marked an advance inso­far as there was clear­ly a tremen­dous amount of work that had gone into “plan­ning for suc­cess.” A sched­ule of events was made, mate­ri­als were gath­ered, and it seemed like there were the num­bers to sus­tain an indef­i­nite occu­pa­tion. But at a more fun­da­men­tal lev­el, suc­cess was not the point. It was more or less a con­tin­gen­cy plan for what to do in case we acci­den­tal­ly suc­ceed­ed. The roman­ti­cized con­fronta­tion was still the uncon­scious premise of our actions, no mat­ter how many peo­ple out­ward­ly believed we would win the day.

In the hold­ing tanks of San­ta Rita, we dis­cussed the­se ques­tions. Many of us were com­ing to grips with the recog­ni­tion that we went into Sat­ur­day think­ing that there was a crew of rad­i­cals in Oak­land who had it all fig­ured out. All we had to do was show up at their event and things would go off with­out a hitch, which is how it had worked at the gen­er­al strike and the port shut­down.

This log­ic broke down on Oak Street. Sat­ur­day clear­ly demon­strat­ed the lim­its of a mode of orga­niz­ing that has thus far been suc­cess­ful. Up until now, Occu­py has involved a con­tra­dic­to­ry and unsta­ble mix­ture of lib­er­al and more rad­i­cal ele­ments held togeth­er by a thin tis­sue of sto­ries of injus­tice and vio­lat­ed “rights.” This fact has led to end­less unpro­duc­tive dis­putes about the role of “vio­lence” in our move­ment, of which Chris Hedges is just the most recent and banal exam­ple. The prob­lem is that if our uni­ty can be reduced to our shared vic­tim­iza­tion, we are reliant on police and civic offi­cials to con­tin­u­al­ly give us the­se sto­ries. As police tac­tics adapt, and as the demands we make of the sys­tem become more rad­i­cal, this will become increas­ing­ly dif­fi­cult. The basis of the con­nec­tions we make with­in the move­ment must involve a deep­er sort of rad­i­cal­iza­tion. The cen­tral antag­o­nism is not between the police state and the peo­ple, but between labor and cap­i­tal. The anti-police repres­sion march­es that are now hap­pen­ing week­ly in Oak­land, while focused on a cru­cial issue, tend to side­line this larg­er point. To the extent that this dis­course dom­i­nates our prac­tice, we are oper­at­ing with exact­ly the same lim­it­ed and mor­al­iz­ing con­cep­tion of our movement’s uni­ty as our lib­er­al crit­ics. The roman­ti­cized pic­ture of the bru­tal repres­sion of peace­ful demon­stra­tors that Hedges fetishizes is on a con­tin­u­um with the images of vic­tim­iza­tion in many of our own actions. We need to tell a new sto­ry.

After we expe­ri­enced the mate­ri­al lim­its of this type of orga­niz­ing, some very nec­es­sary con­ver­sa­tions began in San­ta Rita in earnest. The focus on the bru­tal­i­ty has its uses, but to the extent that it stands in as a sub­sti­tute for this more sub­stan­tial self-crit­i­cism, it allows the ten­u­ous alliance between adven­tur­ism and human­i­tar­i­an lib­er­al­ism to per­sist. While we are all jus­ti­fi­ably angry at the Oak­land Police Depart­ment and the Alameda Coun­ty Sher­iffs, what comes out of this expe­ri­ence needs to be more than sim­ply a strength­ened con­vic­tion that we hate the cops. If we don’t swift­ly move towards the self-crit­i­cism that we need, the oppor­tu­ni­ty will be missed.

Jeb Puruck­er is a grad­u­ate stu­dent in Lit­er­a­ture at UC San­ta Cruz and a mem­ber of UAW Local 2865.

Author of the article

is a graduate student in Literature at UC Santa Cruz and a member of UAW Local 2865.

34 Responses

  1. Jesus del Rio
    Jesus del Rio at |

    Jeb, we can’t tell a new sto­ry because the one we began to tell last Sep­tem­ber is still run­ning its course. The nar­ra­tive is still in its infan­cy. This is the sto­ry that will help tell the next one, the one you’re point­ing to when you say, “The cen­tral antag­o­nism is not between the police state and the peo­ple, but between labor and cap­i­tal.” As you point out, there will come a time, may­be soon, when there will be no need to depend on sup­ply­ing spec­ta­cle to the lib­er­al media to get our mes­sage across. Rad­i­cal­iza­tion of the Occu­pa­tion should take us away from the ide­al­ized “anar­chism” and future chris­tian-like utopia of the Chris Hedges in the move­ment and into the clear con­tra­dic­tions of the class strug­gle.

    1. paine
      paine at |

      the move to gen­er­al­ize from occu­py wall street to occu­py the cor­po­ra­tions
      is not a nar­ra­tive change its a devel­op­ment

      i take the cap v labor nucle­us of strug­gle to sug­gest that dire­tion of sto­ry devel­op­ment

      1. Jesus del Rio
        Jesus del Rio at |

        If you’re sug­gest­ing that “devel­op­ment,” because of the dialec­ti­cal nature of the strug­gle, is a bet­ter word to use than “change,” I will agree. But I was using “change” in Jeb’s orig­i­nal con­text.

        Labor vs cap­i­tal is more than occu­py­ing, the aim is to ulti­mate­ly destroy the cor­po­ra­tions--whose sole inter­est is to accu­mu­late wealth and rule over us--and build a new soci­ety based on human needs. To do this we must take the side of the only REVOLUTIONARY social class, the work­ers, and make their strug­gle for a HUMAN, just soci­ety ours.

  2. josh brahinsky
    josh brahinsky at |

    Nice­ly put Jeb - to empha­size fight­ing the police almost seems an entry-begin­ning-ado­les­cence into the process of fight­ing the sys­tem they sup­port and may­be one that we can move on from -- is that what you mean? is that the lib­er­al in rad­i­cal cloth­ing?

    It strikes me this way because I don’t see clash­es with the police as poten­tial­ly gen­er­a­tive of actu­al mil­i­tary vic­to­ry - they are either rad­i­cal­iz­ing tools, pub­lic­i­ty stunts (at times quite effec­tive) or (when cho­sen by only a small group in a big crowd), poten­tial­ly mar­gin­al­iz­ing of a broad­er move­ment

  3. josh
    josh at |

    in oth­er words, - of course the police are vio­lent - of course jails suck - are the­se real­iza­tions part of impor­tant learn­ing? or impor­tant pub­lic­i­ty? do we need to reit­er­ate them? and what is the next lesson - or how do we learn it?

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  6. Jericho Black
    Jericho Black at |

    I think that Mr. Puruck­er is right that a log­ic of con­fronta­tion under­girds the Occu­py move­ment. But I don’t think it is at all cor­rect to sug­gest that it is an “uncon­scious premise,” as if it were strate­gi­cal­ly cho­sen by Occu­py Oak­land (or Wall Street) or what­ev­er. It is more of an envi­ron­ment or ter­rain than it is a premise. Is there the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a social move­ment that does not involve con­fronta­tion with the state? When we look at the present wave of strug­gles -- in Egypt, Chile, South Africa, Spain, Greece, wherever -- do we see exam­ples of alter­na­tive paths? I think that, rather, the log­ic of con­fronta­tion is struc­tural. It has to do with the char­ac­ter of cap­i­tal­ism. There is no real way *around* the state, at present. Ques­tions of strat­e­gy then become ques­tions of how we relate to this ter­rain…

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  8. totalizingcritique
    totalizingcritique at |

    While there’s much to agree with here, it’s hard to see how, to stick to the terms of the analy­sis, the cen­tral strug­gle isn’t labor and the sub-pro­le­tari­at and cap­i­tal, espe­cial­ly in Oak­land. Ignor­ing the pow­er of the sub-pro­le­tari­at to gen­er­al­ize social antag­o­nism in order pre­serve a sim­ple dialec­tic that posits nega­tion as with­in a sup­posed whole of social rela­tions which is in fact only part of a big­ger set seems to lim­it tac­ti­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties here.

    1. josh
      josh at |

      can you say that again more sim­ply - i wan­na under­stand - but i dont

      1. Chris
        Chris at |

        What Josh said. I taught social the­o­ry for ten years I don’t get what you mean.

        1. Capitalism or Democracy-Choose One
          Capitalism or Democracy-Choose One at |

          “While there’s much to agree with here, it’s hard to see how, to stick to the terms of the analy­sis,…”
          “can you say that again more sim­ply – i wan­na under­stand…”
          “I taught social the­o­ry for ten years I don’t get what you mean…”
          oh woe oh me oh …

          I sup­pose I shouldn’t answer for Jeb Puruck­er but… what the hell. Did you care­ful read­ers miss this?

          “The cen­tral antag­o­nism is not between the police state and the peo­ple, but between labor and cap­i­tal.”

          How about all caps? I know, it’s obnox­ious, but I guess some­times obnox­ious is nec­es­sary:


          Get it?

          1. bankrobber
            bankrobber at |

            The ques­tions of the last two folks that you quot­ed were not direct­ed at Jeb, they were direct­ed at the author of your first quote.

          2. Jericho Black
            Jericho Black at |

            The prob­lem with this state­ment is that it implies that the police state is some­how sep­a­rate from cap­i­tal rather than “a com­mit­tee for man­ag­ing the affairs of the whole bour­geoisie.” In oth­er words, how does one con­front cap­i­tal with­out at once con­fronting the state? I don’t see many exam­ples -- his­tor­i­cal­ly, at present, what­ev­er -- of attacks on cap­i­tal which don’t at once bring the state into play.

          3. Oliver Hellenbach
            Oliver Hellenbach at |

            Not in the US. Sim­plis­tic paleo-Marx­ist analy­sis is at best use­less, reflect­ing as it does a pecu­liar kind of polit­i­cal nos­tal­gia. It’s not the 1880s any­more, or even the 1930s.

          4. RaulReyes
            RaulReyes at |

            Oh, real­ly? “Paleo” and “nos­tal­gic,” just because you said so? And how “paleo” and “nos­tal­gic” is this oth­er “cliche”: “Work­ers of the world unite. You have noth­ing to lose but your chains and a world to win?”

            Too sim­plis­tic? Not enough to scare the shit out of the 1%? Sounds like an old wast­ed dream to you, Oliv­er, or not rev­o­lu­tion­ary enough?

          5. Oliver Hellenbach
            Oliver Hellenbach at |

            No, it’s paleo and nos­tal­gic because it con­sists most­ly of rhetoric and tac­tics that arose from and were applic­a­ble to a set of objec­tive con­di­tions on the ground that no longer apply. As one exam­ple, the US doesn’t face a sit­u­a­tion where an oppressed urban pro­le­tari­at are work­ing their butts off for next to noth­ing to make cig­ar-smok­ing top-hat­ted cap­i­tal­ists rich while police and/or hired thugs pre­vent strikes or labor orga­ni­za­tion. Rather, a huge num­ber of the urban poor have either minor and eas­i­ly-replaced roles or no role at all in the mod­ern US econ­o­my, which would frankly be mate­ri­al­ly bet­ter off if a whole bunch of them were sim­ply to dis­ap­pear entire­ly from the face of the earth. And they lack the polit­i­cal, eco­nom­ic, or social means to become eco­nom­i­cal­ly rel­e­vant. This is real­ly quite dif­fer­ent. (Har­ry Bridges rec­og­nized the direc­tion of things 50 years ago when he nego­ti­at­ed a con­tract to allow attri­tion of the longshoremen’s work­force via automa­tion and improve­ments in tech­nol­o­gy while guar­an­tee­ing their wages would rise with over­all pro­duc­tiv­i­ty. He used to say, “At this rate, by the year 2000 there will be one long­shore­man on the West Coast. But he’ll be the high­est-paid son of a bitch in the Unit­ed States.”)

            As an exam­ple of sim­i­lar nos­tal­gic fan­tasies at the oth­er end of the polit­i­cal spec­trum, con­sid­er the claim of pro-gun fetishists that it’s the Sec­ond Amend­ment and the pri­vate own­er­ship of weapons that stands between us and (a) for­eign inva­sion and (b) domes­tic dic­ta­tor­ship. And while they pol­ish their deer rifles in self-con­grat­u­la­tion, oth­er forces con­tin­ue to rapid­ly de-democ­ra­tize the polit­i­cal sys­tem.

            Just as the 1% aren’t wor­ried about gun-cult lunatics like Tim­o­thy McVeigh and his ilk (or their pale imi­ta­tions in the Tea Par­ty) putting an end to their priv­i­lege and their grip on the polit­i­cal sys­tem, nei­ther are they quiv­er­ing in their boots by the chant­i­ng of 150-year-old slo­gans or the threat of work­ers on the bar­ri­cades a la the Paris Com­mune. At this point they’re a lot more wor­ried about leg­isla­tive action to increase their tax­es or restrict their finan­cial schemes than about the ris­ing of the pro­le­tari­at wav­ing the Com­mu­nist Man­i­festo or what­ev­er oth­er doc­u­ment-based fetish you might pre­scribe. And they’re prob­a­bly delight­ed that back­ward-look­ing fire­brands man­que are mud­dy­ing the waters and wast­ing the ener­gy of the poten­tial­ly polit­i­cal­ly-engaged with con­tin­ued rants again­st the out­rages of the 19th and first half of the 20th cen­tu­ry.

    2. Adam Cornford
      Adam Cornford at |

      TC, I don’t think we should be mak­ing a dis­tinc­tion between “labor” and the “sub­pro­le­tari­at.” Marx defines the pro­le­tari­at as the class that is the dis­so­lu­tion of class­es--because it absorbs all the oth­er class­es below the cap­i­tal­ist class, like the peasant/small farmer class, the self-employed arti­san, and so on--and because as the “uni­ver­sal” class, pos­sess­ing only its pow­er to work, its dis­pos­ses­sion is rad­i­cal. Bor­di­ga fur­ther defines the pro­le­tari­at as the class of “those with­out reserves” (i sen­za-ris­er­va). The last decade has seen the repro­le­tar­i­an­iza­tion of the “mid­dle-class” lay­ers of the work­ing class via asset-strip­ping--the loss of their reserves. The back-to-the-wall strug­gle of the Wis­con­sin pub­lic work­ers last year that led to the occu­pa­tion of the state capi­tol was the sig­nal that this process was well advanced. I could be wrong, but the sta­tis­tics sug­gest that the rough­ly 30% of the US pro­le­tari­at that is “work­ing poor”--people who work for wages but don’t earn enough to live on--blends pret­ty seam­less­ly into the unwaged, which is the lay­er I assume you’re refer­ring to as the sub­pro­le­tari­at. Between the minor­i­ty of sta­bly employed, ben­e­fit-receiv­ing work­ers (“labor”) and the des­per­ate bot­tom lay­ers are the “precariat”--the casu­al­ized work­force, some of it skilled and edu­cat­ed, who more or less man­age to get by. What I believe we began to see in Octo­ber and Novem­ber in Oak­land was a ten­ta­tive indi­ca­tion of class recom­po­si­tion--a nascent alliance between the remains of “orga­nized labor” and the rest of the work­ing class and the unwaged. This is only pos­si­ble because the sta­ble “mid­dle” work­ing class is rapid­ly los­ing its reserves. Find­ing the strat­e­gy that will bring the­se lay­ers togeth­er in com­mon strug­gles for lim­it­ed objec­tives is the task of the hour. If Longview hap­pens, it will be an impor­tant step for­ward in the process.

      1. Jericho Black
        Jericho Black at |

        “with­out reserves” is Marx’s char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, not Bordiga’s, just fyi.

        1. Jericho Black
          Jericho Black at |

          also, longview already hap­pened -- local 21 and EGT decid­ed made nice and signed a con­tract. quelle sur­prise!

  9. James Jr
    James Jr at |

    Reblogged this on JHN­Con­nect.

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  12. Kieran
    Kieran at |

    While all in all not a bad arti­cle, some­thing gets lost in the mix here, which is that even if the police pre­vent­ed OO from seiz­ing the con­ven­tion cen­ter, and this was to an extent pre­dictable, that doesn’t reduce the mean­ing of the action to a con­fronta­tion with police. The pur­pose of the event was still to com­mu­nize a build­ing for the com­mu­ni­ty, and in this it still had as its focus the con­tra­dic­tions of cap­i­tal­ist prop­er­ty rela­tions. It’s not the same thing as orga­niz­ing the unem­ployed, the pre­cari­at, or the undoc­u­ment­ed into mass class actions, but that doesn’t mean it’s reducible to a grudge match with the Oak­land pigs either. As to whether the FTP march plays a pos­i­tive role in ant­i­cap­i­tal­ist strug­gle, it would seem that a pre­con­di­tion of mount­ing a seri­ous strug­gle again­st cap­i­tal­ist social rela­tions does imply a clear demar­ca­tion between the repres­sive state appa­ra­tus and those with whom one is in sol­i­dar­i­ty. You can­not afford to con­fuse the­se things. So if this march helps to insist on this divid­ing line, it serves a func­tion. Which means at the end of the day, nei­ther the move-in day nor the FTP march­es should be seen as a ‘dis­trac­tion’ from the main antag­o­nism, i.e. between labor and cap­i­tal (though that pre­sumes that labor isn’t per­me­at­ed through and through by cap­i­tal­ist forms of life). It just means there’s a lot of oth­er things one can be doing at the same time, and in the future. To think that you can strug­gle again­st cap­i­tal­ism with­out strug­gling again­st the police-state-pris­on appa­ra­tus that ensures its repro­duc­tion is absurd.

  13. RB
    RB at |

    This is by far the best piece I’ve seen on the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion. How­ev­er, Jeb fails to acknowl­edge that the ten­u­ous alliance of lib­er­als and rad­i­cals has been SIMULTANEOUSLY the strength and the weak­ness of Occu­py. He seems to want to dis­solve this alliance in favor of a “new sto­ry” about the antag­o­nism between labor and cap­i­tal.

    No, the con­tra­dic­tion between labor and cap­i­tal remains large­ly sub­merged at this his­tor­i­cal moment, in the US any­way, and what­ev­er we may wish or do, there is lit­tle indi­ca­tion that it will emerge into the open any time soon. If you agree with that assess­ment, you are left with an (essen­tial­ly pop­ulist) antag­o­nism between the 99% and the 1%. I say let’s be hap­py with what we got and make it work, i.e. use our “rev­o­lu­tion­ary imag­i­na­tion” to fur­ther the 99% move­ment. OWS emerged from that imag­i­na­tion (Ad Busters’ fan­ta­sy and Grae­ber & friends’ act­ing it out). So did the imag­i­na­tive (hyper­re­al?) Oak­land “Gen­er­al Strike”. Much has been accom­plished. “Chang­ing the con­ver­sa­tion” is no small achieve­ment.

    But the time for com­mu­niza­tion -- should it come -- is when the social order is real­ly break­ing down, when cap­i­tal­ism can no longer meet basic needs and mass­es of “ordi­nary peo­ple” see their very sur­vival at stake. That time is not now. A cou­ple of thou­sand activists -- includ­ing some very smart, well-read UC San­ta Cruz grad­u­ate stu­dents -- do not a rev­o­lu­tion­ary pro­le­tari­at make.

    I know that when you live in an insane asy­lum, it is tempt­ing to “want a rev­o­lu­tion, and want it NOW!!!” I say, main­tain your san­i­ty. Don’t replay the six­ties.

  14. Rosalee Wollman
    Rosalee Wollman at |

    The police are the branch­es of the cap­i­tal­ist tree, not the cor­po­rate or leg­isla­tive root. Prun­ing the branch­es that rep­re­sent 99% of the tree still allows the 1% to grow strong.

  15. Beyond the Spectacle of Police Brutality | Possible Futures

    […] Puruck­er takes this insight, as well as Hedges’ dis­mis­sive cri­tique of anar­chism, as an occa­sion to con­tem­plate an ade­quate tac­ti­cal respon­se. Read the whole essay here. […]

  16. Garalt Canton
    Garalt Canton at |

    An excel­lent arti­cle and yes, it has nig­gle points but it is cogent and well thought through. I feel at a dis­tinct dis­ad­van­tage to the oth­er peo­ple com­ment­ing on this post. If I may, I want to offer my opin­ion for what it is worth.

    My point is this: Occu­py is the result of the push­ing down of a sig­nif­i­cant pop­u­la­tion (the aspi­ra­tional low­er mid­dle class) to their own detest­ed lev­el of ‘pro­le­tari­at’ hav­ing had their reserves and their accu­mu­lat­ed sav­ings wiped out as part of an exer­cise that serves no pur­pose but to pro­mote one cur­ren­cy over anoth­er. This group has caused Occu­py to take the form it now pos­sess­es.

    This sig­nif­i­cant group has joined in the over­all protest move­ment and has tem­pered the approach to protest so much as to cause the enor­mous dichoto­my between protest approach and police respon­se. This is a tac­tic that reveals a dimin­ish­ing return as the blog states (police adapt to the­se tac­tics and tem­per their respon­se too) and, again­st the wider con­text of the pro­test­ers of the Arab Spring deal­ing with much high­er odds and greater risks, Occu­py is suf­fer­ing from a ‘com­pe­ti­tion’ that is more sym­pa­thet­ic and more news­wor­thy.

    For Occu­py to adapt, to pro­gress and to gen­er­ate a new tac­tic it requires a diges­tion of the facts of the protest to date and an acknowl­edged com­par­ison with his­tor­i­cal par­al­lels. What I am see­ing is an effec­tive check­mate or Mex­i­can stand-off. Nei­ther side wish­es to esca­late the inten­si­ty of engage­ment under­stand­ing that, to do so, would result in a ‘loss’ for their agen­da. This sit­u­a­tion threat­ens a vol­un­tary move­ment more than it does a pro­fes­sion­al secu­ri­ty body. Occu­py may com­pete for arts and com­mu­ni­ty cen­tres all over Oak­land but that is a cul-de-sac because such a ven­ture could quite legit­i­mate­ly be nego­ti­at­ed at the endgame with no objec­tions. The­se ‘bat­tles’ do lit­tle to pro­mote Occu­py as a seri­ous move­ment for cul­tur­al change and actu­al­ly may harm the over­all move­ment focus­ing on stunts that are trans­par­ent­ly con­trived to elic­it an emo­tive respon­se when the news also cov­ers the actu­al bloody mas­sacres of pro­test­ers for democ­ra­cy. THAT is the point of this arti­cle in my opin­ion and I think it is a very time­ly and rel­e­vant point.

    Act­ing out sim­u­lat­ed hor­ror when very real atroc­i­ties are being enact­ed else­where under­mi­nes any cred­i­bil­i­ty the move­ment might hope to engen­der with their tar­get audi­ence. They, the elec­torate that rewards or pun­ish­es the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the pow­ers that be, are the ulti­mate point of the Occu­py exer­cise oth­er­wise it would be a sim­ple case of tar­get­ed assas­si­na­tions, right?

    I believe the time has come to acknowl­edge that the ini­tial mes­sage of Occu­py has been ade­quate­ly deliv­ered. The cen­tral point of Labour V Cap­i­tal is the guid­ing star. Expos­ing the obvi­ous is point­less; banks acquire, that is the nature of banks. What is per­ni­cious is the influ­ence Cap­i­tal has upon the ‘gov­er­nance’ of Labour. This is the pres­sure point that needs a squeeze. The lob­by sys­tem with­in US and UK pol­i­tics is the actu­al agent of influ­ence and it has remained large­ly untouched, unnamed and unfrus­trat­ed. Add to this, the false war between the two main par­ties in the US which pre­serves a dys­func­tion­al polit­i­cal sys­tem from a bygone age (GOP V Democ­rat = Whigs V Tories in 19th Cen­tu­ry UK pol­i­tics) and we have some frame­work in which to increase the polit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion for diverse con­stituen­cies and improve the over­all func­tion of the State to bet­ter reflect the real­i­ty of life in the West.

    What is at stake is the RIGHT to par­tic­i­pate mean­ing­ful­ly in our soci­ety as opposed to select­ing the colour of the win­dow dress­ing. For this right to be earned the amaz­ing social exper­i­ment in group net­worked sen­tience that is Occu­py must con­tin­ue but I assert that the prize is a soci­ety that is robust and expan­sive in as non-tox­ic a man­ner to our habi­tat as we can make it not the destruc­tion of the pow­ers that be.

    Occu­py is not sim­plis­tic Anar­chy but con­sid­ered social­ly pow­ered rejec­tion of an inherit­ed oppres­sion. The next lev­el of action must reflect an acknowl­edge­ment of this real­i­ty and the ‘vic­tim’ men­tal­i­ty must be done away with. From now on, I urge Occu­py Oak­land and oth­er move­ments for social change to tar­get their action in such a man­ner that the over­all soci­ety is not pun­ished and that those agents that cause harm are immo­bi­lized.

    I am, as always, con­tactable.

  17. Janet Weil
    Janet Weil at |

    I took part in J28 from noon­ish to 4 PM, and left right before the “bat­tle for Oak Street” feel­ing dis­mis­sive of the shield-bear­ing anar­chists. Now I feel I should have stayed. Lots of dif­fer­ent feel­ings about it all. Great arti­cle and I have sent it on to a friend. BUT I do not agree that “THE CENTRAL ANTAGONISM IS NOT BETWEEN THE POLICE STATE AND THE PEOPLE, BUT BETWEEN LABOR AND CAPITAL.” I think the “cen­tral antag­o­nism” or to put it into my own words, the core strug­gle, is between ideology/abstraction and lived expe­ri­ence. The pow­er of the occu­py move­ment, imo, is not its ideas - there’s been plen­ty of ant­i­cap­i­tal­ist analy­sis, dis­sent, orga­ni­za­tions etc over the decades - it is the actu­al, phys­i­cal real­i­ty of being togeth­er, sleep­ing and eat­ing and talk­ing and smok­ing and med­i­tat­ing and shar­ing space and march­ing (strolling, real­ly, most of the time) and being face to face and shoul­der to shoul­der. That’s why the encamp­ments were a heresy to the Exist­ing Order and “had” to be smashed - not because they were so dan­ger­ous to reg­u­lar peo­ple, but because they were a prac­ti­cal exam­ple of what those reg­u­lar peo­ple could do for and with each oth­er, and the exam­ple spread quick­ly, as goofy/iffy/tenuous as a bunch of strangers sud­den­ly camp­ing on the con­crete in cities was/is. “Labor and Cap­i­tal” -- what does that mean to any­one, real­ly? I know, I can look it up and read and actu­al­ly I am famil­iar with the­se con­cepts and I got a his­to­ry degree at UC Berke­ley and all that. The “cen­tral antag­o­nism” is between the Few with Too Much and the Many with Not (Quite) Enough, or Not (Even Close to) Enough, and the Stocky Blue Line between them, enforc­ing the will of the Few to try to express it less abstract­ly.

    But of course argu­ing again­st abstrac­tion while using words is an absur­di­ty, a para­dox.

  18. Sunday Reading « zunguzungu
    Sunday Reading « zunguzungu at |

    […] San­ta Rita, I hate every inch of you […]

  19. On the Black Bloc « Viewpoint Magazine
    On the Black Bloc « Viewpoint Magazine at |

    […] delib­er­ate­ly plan­ning police con­fronta­tions in the hopes of spec­tac­u­lar­iz­ing the move­ment for lib­er­al con­sump­tion. More of a for­mu­la than a strat­e­gy, it is applied indis­crim­i­nate­ly, with lit­tle con­cern for the […]

  20. Diversity of Tactics or Diversion from Strategy? « Kasama

    […] delib­er­ate­ly plan­ning police con­fronta­tions in the hopes of spec­tac­u­lar­iz­ing the move­ment for lib­er­al con­sump­tion. More of a for­mu­la than a strat­e­gy, it is applied indis­crim­i­nate­ly, with lit­tle con­cern for the […]

  21. On the Black Bl… « blackflagfreedom

    […] delib­er­ate­ly plan­ning police con­fronta­tions in the hopes of spec­tac­u­lar­iz­ing the move­ment for lib­er­al con­sump­tion. More of a for­mu­la than a strat­e­gy, it is applied indis­crim­i­nate­ly, with lit­tle con­cern for the […]

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