[written to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the LA riots, one of the most significant events in recent US history – r&d]
LOS ANGELES, March 3, 1991 – On the shoulder of the freeway, police are beating a man. Because we are in the US, and because the man is black, we will know that this is a routine event, an ordinary brutality, part of the very fabric of everyday life for non-whites. But something is exceptional this time. There is an observer, as there often is, but the observer holds in his hands an inhuman witness, a little device for producing images which are accepted as identical with the real. The images – grainy, shaking with the traces of the body behind them – enframe this event, defamiliarize it, make it appear in all its awfulness as both unimaginable singularity and example of a broader category of everyday violence. The recorded beating of Rodney King marks, as many have noted, the beginning of one of the most significant episodes of US history. But few have examined this event in terms of the transformative effects it exerted upon contemporary spectacle and its would-be enemies. By spectacle, we mean here those social relations and activities which are mediated directly by the representations, whether visual or verbal, which capital has subsumed (that is, remade according to its own imperatives).
For us, the advent of the Rodney King video marks the first major shift in the political economy of spectacle, which we choose to describe as a passage from passive to active spectacle, from spectacle as pacifying object of passive consumption to spectacle as the active product of the consumer (whose leisures or recreations have long since become forms of work). In its classical form, spectacle creates a situation in which “spectators are linked solely by their one-way relationship to the very center that keeps them isolated from each other” (Debord.) But at a certain point in its development, spectacle dispenses with the need for centralization, finding that passive consumers can quite easily be recruited to the production of spectacle. The shift from unilateral toward multilateral relations does not promise an end to isolation, but rather its perfection. We might think of the distinction here as the difference between the television screen and the computer screen, but since we are talking about a set of social relations as much as technological apparatuses, we should be careful to avoid identifying such relations with any particular technologies. The video camera is merely one of many devices which assist in the transformation of administered life into self-administered life.
February 5, 2012
On Saturday night a group apparently semi-related to Occupy Williamsburg threw a party in a vacant condo building. The party and its riotous aftermath have been covered by the New York Times, Village Voice, and the Daily News to name a few, but so far only one statement has been released from the occupationist side: a tract posted on anarchistnews.org titled “Enter the Vandalists” and signed by the “Geiseric Tendency,” possibly a reference to the historicVandal King.
Resorting to an automatism characteristic of their class, the gentry of Williamsburg summoned their militia to dissolve the siege being laid to a conspicuously empty palace of banality, newly erected in the heart of their spectacular playground. The vandalists had recognized the inhospitablility to life of this sarcophagus for the young professional class, and did not shy from the conclusion that it lent itself only to defilement. The object of their critique was not limited to the class for whose consumption the condominiums that cover Williamsburg are produced, but included the extreme boredom that the proliferation of these kinds of spaces induce. The prevalence of the condominium is a symptom of the spreading homotopia that is the Metropolis—the endless repetition of the same forever.
The vandalists will not reconcile themselves to merely appropriating these habitats—designed for gradual atrophy, optimized for the most comfortable postponement of death. Rather, they want to see them recycled in the urban biosphere; turned into manure from which unforeseen species might emerge.
It will not only be the police, the rich, and the reactionary press that will slam the vandalists—activists will likely join in as well, decrying the occupation as not being social enough, not populist enough. Why did it have to be a party, with booze, hip hop music, and NO RULES? Why not an attempted squat? Why was the media not called? Why was the action not ‘consensed’ upon in some public group? No one will understand the vandalists because they are not of either world; they seek neither professionalist capitalism nor professionalist activism. Perhaps if squatting a social center were still sometimes tolerated this desperate mayhem would not have occured, just as if there were anything to be gained from joining Organized Labor or Revolutionary Parties perhaps we would not see the global masses chaotically rising against singular abstractions of all authority (Wall Street, Mubarak, the IMF, Money, etc).
Activists call protests, the vandalists instead call potlucks. Potlucks of destruction.
We can expect more Occu-parties and general bad citizenry from these vandalists leading up to an ultimate act of descecration, an intelligibility strike, on May First.
December 4, 2011
The following text comprises a presentation and analysis of the Occupy movement in the United States, by the Lost Children’s School of Cartography. The text was used as a basis for an event on the Occupy movement, that took place at the Skaramanga occupation in Athens, on November 25th, 2011. The brochure published for the event, including this text in Greek, along with the video screened on the night are available here.
Lost in the Fog: Dead Ends and Potentials of the Occupy Movement
So what do you make of this Occupy movement in America? Of course it is the news that everyone wants to hear about. Al Jazeera claimed shortly after the encampment near Wall Street was founded that the Occupy movement in America was facing a mainstream “media blackout.” But in reality, it seemed that nearly every media source was dedicating coverage nationally and internationally. Despite all the press, if one added up the total number of participants in the fledgling occupations throughout America at that time, he would end up with far less than the total number of demonstrators at a general strike in Athens, or a single American anti-war demonstration from 2004.
This alone should serve as a cause for skepticism, although perhaps it is only predictable that in America, of all places, a social movement would arise firstly as the mere spectacle of revolt. After all, its initial coordinators intended from its inception that the Occupy movement of America be a copy of a copy. The genuine, spontaneous, and seemingly unstoppable surge of rage–the insurrection–in the Arab world had already been watered down into the pacifist indignados movement of Europe. Next the American radicals who called for an occupation of Wall Street would try to copy-and-paste the indignados movement to America by sprinkling a tactic–occupation–on what they hoped would prove grounds fertile enough to grow a movement.
That movement now seems to be swept up in its own momentum, and every day there are new developments in what seems to be a genuinely unpredictable and leaderless social reaction. While the occupations were perhaps first populated by the same cliques of activists who had championed the previous failed American social movements, the encampments and demonstrations have grown because they have attracted the self-identified American “middle class.” As American society comes under further blows of the so-called “crisis” of capitalism, the illusion of middle class comfort dissipates, revealing its previously hidden, but now more apparent, dispossession. The Occupy movement is an opportunity for the middle class to protest the “unfairness” of their proletarianization. In part thanks to widespread disillusionment with political representatives, previously non-activist citizens are suddenly eager to participate in an activist social movement. Paradoxically, the brightest hope we can find in this situation is also the grimmest fact: the increasingly dire economic situation is not turning around, and life will not go back to the way it once was. It is precisely because the movement for a preservation of the illusory American dream is doomed to fail that the Occupy movement has the potential to supersede itself.
Of course, regardless of its active decomposition, the middle class carries its values into the movement–the ideological values of the good citizen. One could characterize the Occupy movement as a citizens’ movement for the survival of capitalist democracy in a moment ripe with potentials for true rupture. Here, self-described radicals, anti-authoritarians and in some cases even anarchists may play the most critical but hidden roles in recuperation, if in their well-intentioned attempt to “build the new world in the shell of the old” they actually succeed at protecting the core of the old world in the shell of the new. (We will elaborate on this in a moment.)
But there is also a beautiful discord within the situation. The Occupy movement can hardly be summed up by any particular ideological stance, and its greatest potentials spring from its chaotic features and resistance to definition. Anarchists who have stubbornly refused any participation in what they have disregarded as merely a bourgeois movement have safeguarded their identities as the most radical of all at the cost of guaranteeing their own irrelevancy in the developing situation. In order to move the Occupy movement in the direction of genuine upheaval, anarchists must participate to cause sustained and intensifying disruption and destruction of the apparatuses of capital in order to make this movement a threat to capitalism, aiming to outflank the state by generalizing these tactics. We will also explore the developments in this direction so far as well as some future potentials.
Tables of Contents
- Introduction to March 4th
- October 24th Compromise
- City committees: Oakland and LA, Class Struggle Left Committees
- San Francisco: Center Wins Over Left
- UC Berkeley vs. UC Santa Cruz: Campus Committees Choose Focus
- UC Davis and CSU Fresno: Central Valley Consciousnesa
- Seattle: Worker-Student Power
- Canada Community College
- UC Berkeley marches to Oakland
- Youth lead in Oakland
Spirit is indeed never at rest but always engaged in moving forward. But just as the first breath drawn by a child after its long, quiet nourishment breaks the gradualness of merely quantitative growth – there is a qualitative leap, and the child is born.
March 4th provides us with a snapshot into the strategic and theoretical frameworks used by the Left to understand, develop and radicalize consciousness; we begin to see patterns emerge as this consciousness is translated into working class action, and we begin to ask ourselves what is needed to learn from these actions and begin developing a revolutionary consciousness and practice to address the ongoing crisis of capital.
March 9, 2010
In California, they face the same shit. Critiques of the so-called “white anarchist male outside agitator” emerge and simultaneously erase all the power and agency of the inside agitators, of all the nonwhite nonmale nonanarchists who know how to fight and don’t play by the activist rulebook. In solidarity with our comrades in Cali, we post the following three letters below, letters which take such critiques to task. Enjoy!
Response to a Critic of the “White” Student Movement by The Invisible Women Committee
Rebuttal to “Why Did the March onto the 980 Freeway Happen” by Melissa Merin
Following Thursday, March 4th’s Berkeley to Oakland march and rally at Frank Ogawa Plaza for the statewide strike and day of action against budget cuts, layoffs and furloughs to public education, a second march commenced. 200-250 students, educators, and activists marched from the close of the rally to the exterior of Mark Yudof’s office for a street dance party. The group then made their way toward the I-880 freeway, where 150-200 elected to enter on foot to shut down traffic.
All traffic slowed to a stop, and no individuals were in in any danger of being struck by automobiles. The riot police pursued them as they hopped over barriers in an attempt to make their way to the Jackson street off-ramp. As police closed in, most of the group sat down in anticipation of being arrested.
The police were violent with many of the protesters, using excessive force with their riot batons. None of the arrested were reported to be carrying weapons of any kind, and none were attempting to attack any of the officers. The police shut down the freeway in both directions, handcuffed and escorted the marchers to the Jackson street offramp where police busses slowly arrived to take the prisoners to North County and Sana Rita Jail facilities.
155 individuals were reported to have been arrested, in addition to some minors who were released into the custody of their parents. Francois Zimany was taken to the hospital after either falling, jumping, or being pushed by police off of the freeway, and is now at home with his family. The group was held over night, and released periodically throughout the day on Friday.
You can learn more by visiting indybay.org. All photos were taken by BLR DJ Paisley Cuttlefish who was among those arrested. She sustained a bad fracture to her elbow after being hit with a police baton.
November 23, 2009
Outraged by the eviction of the Wheeler Occupation and the police violence around Berkeley Friday, over 100 students seized UC Headquarters demanding to talk to UC President Mark Yudof.
With supporters and riot police massing some administrators apparently talked to the students for 2 hours, and the students left by the time the building closed. This tweet indicates a very phoney sounding compromise on the part of a UC administrator. Nonetheless, action continues throughout California.