Why the 1% Love "Anarchist Violence"

A good friend just sent me this article by Steve Weissman, which roused memories and emotions or not-so-long-ago.

Why the 1% Love "Anarchist Violence"

Astute analysis. It makes me think back on my own experience, which was different because my theater of operations then was the Chicago area.

There our movement started out on the campuses — I had founded an SDS chapter at Northwestern by bringing together three or four separate single-issue clubs already recognized —but reached out to link to community groups, especially (in Evanston IL and Chicago) black, mostly church-based organizations. They got us to contribute to demanding better housing and better schools by sit-ins, marches and heavy leafletting, and we helped them make their constituents more aware and more angry about the toll theirs sons were paying in the US's futile and odious Indochina war. Such days. We, or some of us, also made contact with young labor activists. These were workers and mostly union members from those other ethnic communities — Polish, Italian, Ukrainian, Czech, even some Irish — some of whom were discovering Marxism-Leninism through the small, short-lived W.E.B. DuBois Club, where I came into contact with them.

It was during the Democratic Party Convention of 1968 that for the first time in the most dramatic ways we did face the issue of provocateur violence. And especially the absurd plots that the police attributed to the Chicago Seven and the even more absurd (and much funnier) fantasies that the Yippies invented in reply.

We continued to draw on students from many Chicago-area campuses, but the twin issues of racial and ethnic discrimination and the Vietnam war brought us together with young labor activists and then, increasingly, other non-student youth from the several ethnic communities (Appalachian whites in the "Young Patriots", Puerto Ricans in the "Young Lords", Mexicans in a couple of separate "Raza" groups) systematically and intelligently politicized by the Black Panthers, under the very capable leadership of Fred Hampton.

The Panthers made a display of self-defense, but that was mostly a pose; the real violence always came from the police. They assassinated Fred in his bed shortly before Christmas 1969, but he had established a strong enough base that the movement survived and gathered new support — since the murder had been so blatant. (For much more on this, including video clips of Hampton showing why he was such an effective leader and thus such a threat to the likes of Atty. Gen. John Mitchell, FBI chief Herbert Hoover and Nixon, see this 2009 broadcast The Assassination of Fred Hampton on Democracy Now.) The day Fred's lieutenant Bobby Rush sought and received refuge in the church of Jesse Jackson, icon of ML King's non-violent movement, marked a major breakthrough for all of us, a joining of hands of dissheveled young radicals and well-groomed, church-attending family folk who just weren''t going to take it any more.

In sum, what I've taken from all those experiences is that nonviolence must be the preferred strategy — as it was for Fred Hampton — but not an unwavering principle. Not when, as Hampton put it, the enemy doesn't even know what "peace" means, when like the US's Cointelpro then or Bashar al-Assad's tanks and planes today they threaten to wipe out your whole community. But that is not (yet) the nature of conflict in Oakland. As long as possible, nonviolence has to be the preferred strategy because it is the most effective, because the victory sought is not a shift of rulers over the same system but a social transformation, making the blind defense of privilege impossible. But you knew that already.

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