This essay is available as a hardcopy booklet. Please drop an email to MitchelCohen@mindspring.com to obtain a copy.

Note: I was not going to comment further on Chris Hedges’ widely published essay, “The Cancer in Occupy,”1 concerning tactics for Occupy Oakland (and by extension Occupy Wall Street). In that article, Hedges condemned tactics he attributed to the Black Bloc at the January 28, 2012 “Move-In Day” march where, according to one of many similar reports,2 Occupy Oak­land unsuccessfully attempted to take over the long disused Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center with the intent of convert­ing it into a community center. The peaceful protest of 2,000 was disrupted by police firing tear gas, smoke and pepper bombs into the crowd. It ended with police “kettling” marchers in a public park and in front of a YMCA. But after Hedges appeared on May Day on Democracy Now! and renewed his condemnations without reflecting at all on what folks in Occupy had been saying to him, I decided to publish this here.

Chris Hedges has and continues to make valuable and often blistering critiques of what he calls “corporate cap­i­talism,” and the role of both the Democratic and Repub­lican parties in crushing civil liberties, enacting imperial­ist wars and ravaging the planet in the service of the 1 percent. He is an inspiring ally (and, strangely, “not a member,” in his own words) of the Occupy Wall Street movement. But he has zero experience as part of a radical organization or even an affinity group, and it shows, especially when it comes to how to address differences of opinion and other concerns within a movement.

In fact, Hedges exhibits tremendous disdain for left move­ments that don’t conform to his increasingly moralistic mold. His book, Death of the Liberal Class, “is one of the worst misreadings of history by an acclaimed writer on the Left that I’ve ever seen,” says Brian Tokar, a veteran participant in nu­merous direct action campaigns and also a professor at the In­sti­tute for Social Ecology and of environmental studies at the Uni­ver­sity of Vermont. “Hedges honestly believes that the New Left accomplished almost nothing, except for some key figures he likes, such as How­ard Zinn and the Berrigans.”

In Death of the Liberal Class, Hedges (incredibly, to me) condemns the New Left for having “no political vision.”

“Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, with its narrator’s search for enlightenment, became emblematic of the moral hollowness of the New Left.” And he continues:

Protest in the 1960s found its ideological roots in the disengagement championed earlier by Beats such [as] by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William Borroughs. It was a movement that, while it incorporated a healthy dose of disrespect for authority, focused again on self-indulgent schemes for inner peace and fulfillment. … These move­ments, and the counterculture celebrities that led them such as the Yippie leader Abbie Hoff­man, sought and catered to the stage set for them by the tel­e­vision cameras. Protest and court trials became street theater. Dis­sent became another media spectacle. Anti-war protesters in Berkeley switched from sing­ing “Solidarity Forever” to “Yellow Submarine.” 3

Even if the New Left had focused on achieving inner peace and fulfillment, what would be wrong with that? But at any rate Hedges is just wrong; he misses completely the numerous contributions by participants in anti-war, Women’s, Black & Gay liberation, cul­tural, social justice and ecological movements of the last 50 years; he somehow also misses the free breakfast programs, clinics, community institutions and other forms of what we called “dual power strategies for revolutionary societal transformation” built by key sectors of the supposedly “self-indulgent” New Left (many of those projects crushed or co-opted by the State).

What Hedges chastizes as “self-indulgent” the New Left characterized as alienation from all aspects of capitalist society. That alienation that so marked the New Left is invisible in Hedges’ critique. Hedg­es turns the ’60s generation’s struggle against one’s own oppres­sion into, in his view, a con­temptible and immoral rejection of self-sacrifice on behalf of “others”:

The civil-rights movement, which was rooted in the moral and religious imperatives of justice and self-sacrifice, what Dwight Macdonald called nonhistorical values, was largely eclipsed by the self-centeredness of the New Left, especially after the assassinations of Malcolm X in 1967 [sic – Malcolm was killed on February 21, 1965, not ’67 – MC] and Martin Luther King Jr. a year later. And once the Vietnam War ended, once middle-class men no longer had to go to war, the movement disintegrated. The political and moral void within the counterculture meant it was an easy transition from college radical to a member of the liberal class. 4

Many did sacrifice for others and for principles of social justice. But that portrait of martyrdom is all Hedges desires in viewing his snapshots of the New Left movements of the 1960s and ’70s. He echoes the false duality of “altruism” vs. “self-interest” as the two antagonistic threads of social behavior, which is the mainstay of liberal social-psychology, a false duality that critical theorists on the Left and in the Women’s Liberation Movement scathingly rejected. (“The personal is political” was just one of the key synopses of those movements.)

Hedges is at best confused. He reduces the complexities of human actions and motivations to simplistic “either/or” categories. You either give up yourself in the fight for “others” (altruism) or you’re a selfish, immoral narcissist (or worse!). Thus, the civil rights, trade union and anti­war movements are powerfully attractive to Hedges largely because they were rooted, he imagines, in Christ-like self-sacrifice. But that kind of his­torical summary borders on the pathological. It’s as though Black people trying to register to vote; farmworkers trying to organize into a union; Vietnamese fighting against their country being bombed and their countryside poisoned had no self-interest in those move­ments, and for Hedges there’d be something wrong with them if they did. Hedges sits atop his judgmental throne unable to deal with the fact that huge numbers of people were seeking not to sacrifice their lives but to improve them, by participating in movements that would also improve the lot of everyone else. In fact, he offers such a cartoonish one-dimensional portrayal of the New Left and of what motivated its participants, that those who chose to fight for their own liberation as well as for others become, in his flawed frame­work, betrayers of the dream. Hedges’ martyr-filled conception of his­tory dis­tor­ts his understanding; his becomes the umbrage of the “sectarian betrayed.”

Hedges’ misreading of the history of social movements in the U.S. frames his conception of Oc­cu­py Wall Street — at least in his writings under review here — from which grow his proposals for effecting societal transformation. Here, for instance, is how he sees what he calls the “failure” of the Black Panthers and other groups:

The Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam, and the Weather Under­ground Organization, severed from the daily concerns of the working class, became as in­fected with the lust for violence, quest for ideological purity, crippling paranoia, self-exaltation, and internal repression as the state apparatus they defied. 5

“Lust for violence”? Here, as elsewhere, Hedges — the fine reporter in the context of the New York Times — morphs into a terrible historian of social movements. He equates the State’s repression — two million human beings murdered outright in Vietnam, 20-30 Panthers assas­sin­ated here at home, the earth held hos­tage — with windows broken by some protesters! The sheer magnitude of the daily horror was something that militant pacifist Dave Dellinger, who was (unlike Hedges) a strong supporter of the Black Panther Party, always distinguished from frustrated people’s some­times trivial or pointless venting. Had he bothered to put his reportorial skills to work and actually interview activists who were part of organizations engaged in what Hedges would call mindless “violence”, he might have learned that far from a “lust for violence”, most leftists involved in property damage were very circumspect about their actions and took pains to ensure that no people were injured thereby. (In transforming himself from a NY Times reporter to a progressive commentator, the lack of first-hand interviewing is a recurring problem in Hedges’ work.) While no one involved in those organizations would claim that they had overcome their serious problems and internal contradictions — contradictions within Left strategy and non-violent theory and practice that Dellinger, for one, never stopped exploring and was always trying to resolve — Hedges issues such blanket (and smug) dismissals, denouncing groups that do not tow his line, substituting his own goals for what the groups themselves say they are trying to accomplish, and basing it all on sweeping (and wrong) generalizations concerning U.S. history, that one has no choice but to question his honesty as he rewrites history to draw from it the “lessons” he has apparently already de­cided to promulgate.6

Radical violent groups cling like parasites to popular protests. The Black Panthers, the American Indian Movement, the Weather Underground, the Red Brigades and the Symbionese Liberation Army arose in the ferment of the 1960s. Violent radicals are used by the state to justify harsh repression. They scare the mainstream from the movement. They thwart the goal of all revolutions, which is to turn the majority against an isolated and dis­credited ruling class. 7

Here Hedges skews the history of the groups he men­tions, especially the Black Panther Party. He blames the trivial violence of some radical groups for the harsh repressive measures of the State, as though the extremely violent measures the capitalist state employs are in response to the minimal property damage caused by radical organizations and not the system’s need to police its everyday thievery of labor and resources globally. Hedges himself has taken courageous stands against the new and I dare say “fascist” legislation of the Bush and Obama administrations. Why then is he unable to see state violence for what it is: the norm perpetrated by the State in the course of its daily functioning? What “violence” by social activists in the U.S. “provoked” Obama to deploy drones to target individuals for assassination at the President’s personal edict? What leftist violence prompted legislation granting the State authority to arrest and indefinitely detain U.S. citizens, as authorized in the National Defense Authorization Act strongly pushed by President Obama?

In fact, NDAA’s co-sponsor, Senator Carl Levin (a Democrat), reported that it was the Obama administration, not the Republicans, that demanded removal from the bill language that would have at least protected American citizens from being subject to indefinite detention — not that anyone should be subjected to such Nazi-like roundups without trial.

“The language which precluded the application of Section 1031 to American citizens was in the bill that we originally approved … and the administration asked us to remove the language which says that U.S. citizens and lawful residents would not be subject to this section,” Levin said.

Levin, who Chairs the Armed Services Committee, continued: “It was the administration that asked us to remove the very language which we had in the bill which passed the committee … we removed it at the request of the administration,” said Levin, emphasizing, “It was the administration which asked us to remove the very language the absence of which is now objected to.”

No “violent leftist groups” were needed for the State to take such measures, as I’m sure Chris Hedges knows. So why is his analysis of Occupy Wall Street and the Left such a muddle?

Hedges’ invention of an intervening liberal class

Hedges pulls no punches in excoriating the behavior of liberals today (and I agree with him there), but because he never gets to the root of liberalism as the ideology of U.S. capitalism in its decades of global expansion (now at an end) he ends up unable to explain the roots of its collapse and its ramifications. And so, he invents a non-existent liberal “class” (the same sec­tor he rips into elsewhere) and expects its members to take up the revolution’s cause.

The real danger to the elite comes from déclassé in­tellectu­als, those educated middle-class men and women who are barred by a calcified system from advancement. Artists without studios or theaters, teachers without classrooms, lawyers without clients, doctors without patients and journalists without newspapers descend economically. They become, as they mingle with the underclass, a bridge between the worlds of the elite and the oppressed. And they are the dynamite that triggers revolt. 8

Hedges offers here a pale shadow of V.I. Lenin’s early argu­ment (later modified) in What Is To Be Done?, where Lenin posits the need for a “third party” made up of professional revolu­tion­ar­ies drawn primarily from the intelligentsia, to bring socialist consciousness into the working class movement that could not on its own develop a socialist consciousness.9 For Marx and Engels, on the other hand, consciousness is not some state of individual enlightenment to be attained from outside workers’ struggles as a class but is part of an ob­jective process inherent in, bound up with and emerging from those struggles. For Hedges, as with the early (and mistaken) Lenin, consciousness comes from elsewhere.10

Hedges posits a “liberal class” as that “somewhere else.” But he does so glibly, using terminology that doesn’t take into account the centuries of thought and political/philosophical stances that came before, which make up the history of the argument that Hedges now joins. In his book, Death of the Liberal Class, he offers the proposition that progressive changes have historically occurred when a sector of the U.S. intelligent­sia — which he incorrectly assigns to be a “class” separate from both the working class and the rulers — took up certain programs and forced society to adopt them. He blames the liberal class’ dem­ise on its failure to become more radical. His goal, thus, is to radicalize it in order to save it. To achieve a radicalization of the “Liberal Class” and not ali­enate its members, Hedges proposes that Occupy adopt a strategy of nonviolent civil disobedience. But he errs in assuming (or hop­ing) that radicalizing or even reaching out to the “Liberal Class” is Occupy’s goal. It’s not.

Therein lies the first disconnect. Hedges ends up hoping to achieve one set of goals for a movement he specifies he’s not part of (thank you very much!), while much of the Occupy movement does not accept that such a “liberal class” exists, let alone that Occupy is or should formulate tactics in order to influence it. Occupy is working towards different goals that require different and even antithetical strategies and tactics.

That disconnect underlies Hedges’ royal denunciation of the black bloc sector within the Occupy movement. He fears that by engaging in win­dow-breaking and other forms of property destruction, the Black Bloc undermines the moral suasion of symbolic civil disobedience on the “liberal class,” which, says Hedges, is the motor for social change.

Was there ever a “liberal ‘class’ ”?

Is it true that, as Hedges argues, up until World War I there was a liberal “class” in the U.S. that served as an effective and powerful advocate for social movements, and that after World War I that model abruptly un­rav­eled? Hedges fails to offer substantive analysis of the interaction between liberal advocates and the rise and fall of the working class (and other radical movements) in those periods.11 While there were certainly influen­tial pub­lic intellectuals who denounced capitalist conditions and supported rad­ical movements, at no time was liberalism a positive “intervention” by a class of individuals (as defined by their categorical relationship to the rela­tions of production and reproduction) on behalf of social movements. Nevertheless, Hedg­es views it as essential to win over liberals who do not participate, but who are potentially sympathetic and in­flu­en­tial, and who — as the primary agents of social change — would then presumably take on the demands of the 99 percent, just as (according to Hedges) they had done in the past, had they not been driven away by the militancy of protesters:

The danger the corporate state faces does not come from the poor. The poor, those Karl Marx dismissed as the Lumpenproletariat, do not mount revolutions, although they join them and often become cannon fodder. … In every revolutionary movement I covered in Latin Amer­i­ca, Africa and the Middle East, the leadership emerged from déclassé intellectuals. The leaders were usually young or middle-aged, educated and always unable to meet their pro­fessional and personal aspirations. They were never part of the power elite, although often their parents had been. They were conversant in the language of power as well as the lan­guage of oppression. It is the presence of large numbers of déclassé intellectuals that makes the uprisings in Spain, Egypt, Greece and finally the United States threatening to the overlords at Goldman Sachs, ExxonMobil and JPMorgan Chase. They must face down opponents who understand, in a way the uneducated often do not, the lies disseminated on behalf of corpo­ra­tions by the public relations industry. These déclassé in­tel­lectu­als, because they are conversant in economics and political theory, grasp that those who hold power, real power, are not the elected mandarins in Washington but the criminal class on Wall Street. 12

But while liberal leadership may emerge from among déclassé intellec­tuals who constitute, for Hedges, “the real danger to the elite” (and that raises the question of how can they act as a “class” if they are “déclassé”) — and please forgive me the repetition here — liberalism was never the province of a separate class, let alone one that interceded in the U.S. (positive or otherwise); rather, it was the ideology of the dominant arm of the U.S. ruling class itself during capi­tal­ism’s long period of expansion. Whether a liberal sector of civil society interceded with the state on behalf of the working class (as Hedges argues) or whether liberal re­arrangement of the workplace and related social policies were promulgated by the ruling class itself as a matter of its own eco­nomic class interest, is not a distinction without a difference. The institutions resulting from what Hedges sees as proof of historical “progress” in actuality were put into place to curtail radical influence and manage working class rebellions, not assist them.13 Issues like an end to racial slavery, the legali­za­tion of trade unions, and recognition of women’s and Black people’s right to vote were won by militant mass movements during which workers took direct action, even where they led to alienating intellectuals and capitalists.14 The 1917 Russian revolution — which no doubt alienated many — was also hugely inspiring to working class strug­gles everywhere. By the mid-1930s, workers occupied Ford and General Motors factories in Flint, Michigan, and were threatening to overturn the whole capitalist apple­cart.

The Roosevelt administration saved capitalism, by (in part) granting workers the right to legally unionize. That was a tremendous vic­tory for workers everywhere. But over time it turned out to be a mixed blessing. The 1935 National Labor Relations Act and other fed­eral laws allowed workers, for the first time, legal recognition to negotiate with their employers over a narrow range of areas, but only in exchange for accepting the legitimacy of the factory form of production, against which, historically, there had been massive struggles. The organized working class was required to recog­nize and ac­cept the boundaries circumscribed in the new social compact, particularly the alleged “right” of capitalists to fully own the product of the day’s labor and to dispense it in any way they wished — a “right” taken for gran­ted today but over which huge battles had been and would continue to be fought, before capitalism finally gained wide­spread acceptance in the 1950s of its full privatization of the labor product.

The liberal industrial and banking sector of the bourgeoisie, represented politically by Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s and early 1940s, desperately needed the support of the working class to defeat the policies of other capitalist sectors and con­solidate its hegemony over them. This battle between competing capitalist sectors had been going on for many years — each had their own way of organizing production, requiring different and often contradictory mechanisms of control and social policies. Roosevelt, on behalf of industrial and banking cap­i­tal, took control of the mechanisms of the state, with the help of organized labor and av­ow­edly Communist organizations singing the praises of the new liberal ideology.

The New Deal succeeded in salvaging capitalism by completing a process that had begun in the early 1900s with the Rockefeller-assisted ascension of the American Fed­er­a­tion of Labor, which — with the consequent defeat of the radical Knights of Labor, Western Federation of Miners, and In­dus­trial Workers of the World — codified certain union forms and stamped them with official state approval at the expense of other far more radical working class organizations, which allowed industrial capital, oil and high finance to gain hegemony over competing capitalist sectors.

To the extent that the liberal ideology began seeping into the ideo­lo­gi­cal pores of the system, it helped forge a national consensus behind the socio-economic approach of the most advanced wing of capital. A new “labor-management partner­ship” (discussed below, in the paragraphs per­taining to the Hawthorne studies) provi­d­ed Roosevelt with the “scientific” rationale he needed to legalize unions (under narrow conditions) and generate an alliance with them, enabling industrial and banking capital to wrest control of the federal state apparatus away from other com­peting sectors while systematizing production, investment and the flow of profits. In a sense, legalizing the right of workers to organize within well-defined boundaries co-opted working class struggles and upheld only those forms that were more amenable to the long-term interests of capital. Today, we call such legiti­mated working class formations “corporate un­ions.” Most Marxists and other socialists have expended immense energy defending workers’ struggles over the length of their chains, and no long­er over the existence of the chain itself.

American History Belies Hedges’ Claim

In actuality, what today we consider to be liberal “victories” came about in the period of expansionary U.S. capitalism, a result of the most advanced sector of U.S. capital fighting in its own self-interest against more backward sectors, and not as a result of the interventions of a separate liberal class standing outside of the interests of corporate capitalism.

Even the Civil War (and this is half-a-century earlier than the periods Hedges refers to) was fought essentially to provide cheap labor for expanding industrial capital­ism vs. the expense to rural agriculture of maintaining a slave labor system. Already in his famous treatise, Wealth of Nations (1776), Adam Smith had shown that slavery had become more expensive for the owner than wage labor. Whatever the indisputable moral imperative in the fight to abolish chattel slavery, eventually the freeing of the slaves served the interests of industrial capital. Freed slaves bolstered the Union’s depleted forces and then joined the burgeoning industrial workforce, where they were used to drive down wages. My point is that even in cases where such a stark moral imperative for social justice captured the imaginations and consciousness of much of humanity, capi­tal’s economic imperatives were dominant, and not the other way around.

Such was the case, too, when a few decades later the Workers’ Compensation board was established. This new arrangement grew out of the fight between different sectors of capital with competing interests, not working class demands. The owners of giant factories, refineries, railroads and mines needed to sys­tem­atize the increasing payouts to workers for their many injuries as a result of the new machinery;15 in fact, no working class organizer except the bought-off Samuel Gompers had been demanding such a “reform”. It is a serious error for us today to claim such a policy as “a victory” for the working class (it wasn’t). The ideological battles fought out within the ruling class had little to do with the needs of workers or other radicals, but were propa­gandized in time-honored fashion to win large sectors of the working class to do the bidding of one or another faction of capital. Famed robber baron and multi-millionaire power-broker Jay Gould (not to be confused with the wonderful science essayist Stephen Jay Gould a century later) bragged in the late 1800s: “I can hire one-half of the working class to kill the other half.”

In the early 1900s Frederick Taylor introduced his Time-and-Motion studies into industry and examined the fragmentary repetitive motions of the industrial labor process with the aim of increasing output and efficiency by subdividing each task and reducing each worker’s movements as much as possible to mimic the mechanical motions of a machine.16 One of the cor­porations adopting such methods was West­ern Electric, which had just built a huge factory in Hawthorne, Illinois. Workers there and elsewhere organized against the terrible conditions, culminating in new forms of rebellion at Hawthorne and by the mid-1930s brazen sit-down occupations of auto plants in Michigan and Ohio.

Western Electric commissioned a series of experiments that became known as the Hawthorne studies, to see if it was pos­si­ble to offset workplace tensions and thereby lessen rebellions affecting capital’s bottom line by instituting more sophisticated industrial managerial techniques — which they called “progress” and “liberalization” of the workplace. At no point did “progress” at Hawthorne entail altering the basic class relations of ownership and control of capital.

The Hawthorne studies propagated the myth that workers and bosses shared in the good fortunes of the company.17 The emergent new “science” of the industrial labor process propa­gated this liberal ide­ology. It averred that the capitalist relations of production, exploitation, and the factory form were good for worker and capitalist alike.18

Class harmony over allegedly common interests (within capitalism), said Mayo and Roethlisberger — the chief Haw­thorne researchers — must replace class struggle over exploi­ta­tion. Liberal management techniques were designed to foster that illusion; they soon congealed into a new dominant para­digm — that of the “partnership” between labor and capital — which offered a “democratic” framework for intensifying ex­ploitation and profit. All of this was, once again, not the positive result of working class organizing nor intervention by a liberal class (as Hedges would have it), but of the most advanced sector of capital pursuing its own self-interest.

It was essential, from the point of view of an ex­panding U.S.-based industrial capital, that all resistance to ex­ploitation be framed as an individual problem. This enabled capital to isolate and co-opt workers’ sense of meaninglessness and anger which rose from their increasingly Chaplinesque robot-like work, before it could erupt into systematic and organized hatred of the ruling class. The Hawthorne studies’ misinterpretation and false portrayal of data filled that important ideological function. It helped to rationalize a vile exploitative system, laying the ideological basis for the corporate liberalism — which included the cooptation of industrial unions — in the years to follow.19

But today, as the production base in the U.S. declines and neoliberalism’s “structural adjustment plans” and massive working class debt have become the norm, there is hardly room to win reforms within the disintegrating framework of the liberal expansive capitalism that used-to-be. The bright side, if we can call it that, is that as unions come under attack with such officials as Republican Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker threatening their legal right to exist, more and more unions are recognizing that they are less and less bound by the restrictions of that 1935 social compact, and new pos­sibilities open up. In fact, a number of unions have mobilized their members in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and other social movements, and are even probing, however gingerly, the possibility of raising envi­ronmental, anti-war and other social policy issues for the first time.20

Getting from Here to There?

Earlier, I quoted Chris Hedges as follows: “[Groups engaging in violence] thwart the goal of all revolutions, which is to turn the majority against an isolated and dis­credited ruling class,” and argued that Hedges was wrong historically in portraying the Black Panthers or the occasional (and insignificant) property damage done by the Black Bloc as “violent” and discrediting to those movements — especially in contrast to the overwhelming (and often hidden) violence that defines the everyday norm under capitalism and imperialism. But there is something else about Hedges’ statement I’d now like to discuss.

Is it true that “turn[ing] the majority against an isolated and dis­credited ruling class” is the primary “goal of all revolutions” at all stages in their development? If so — and let me for the sake of argument allow Hedges his assertion without challenge for the moment — what mechanism does he propose to enable the economic and social unease of the majority to congeal into actual revolution? How is that mechanism created, and by whom? How does Hedges understand that process? He writes:

Acts of resistance are moral acts. They take place because people of conscience understand the moral, rather than the practical, imperative of rebellion. They should be carried out not because they are effective, but because they are right. … [They are] the supreme act of faith, the highest form of spi­rituality … [that] cannot be measured by its utilitarian effect. 21

Well, perhaps, but that just begs the question: “What must the so-called ‘liberal class’ actually do to replace the system?”

Hedges is infuriatingly vague about this. How does one get to be in a position to even address questions about revolutionary process — by proving one’s moral commitment to self-sacrifice? That’s certainly not evident in the history of revolutionary movements in this or any century. Are civil disobedient actions able to flip the conscience of those in power against their own class interests, or at least their agents of repression en masse, as Hedges believes? As someone who has participated and been arrested in many civil disobedience actions, I view CD as a symbolic tactic that is obviously useful in many circumstan­ces and at certain stages — especially for calling public attention to particular inequi­ties — but of and by itself it is not and has never been a vehicle through which systemic change in the United States takes place.

There is thus a 2nd disconnect, this time not only between Hedges’ goals and those of the Occupy movement, but between the tactics Hedges promotes and the goals he wants them to achieve. And what to learn from those who actually succeeded in building revolutions? Undaunted, Hedges here continues his sweeping moralistic claims. He writes:

These violent fringe groups are seductive to those who yearn for personal empowerment through hyper-mascu­linity and violence, but they do little to advance the cause. The primary role of radical ex­tremists, such as Maximilien Robespierre and Vladi­mir Lenin, is to hijack successful revolutions. They unleash a reign of terror, primarily against fellow revolutionaries, which often outdoes the repression of the old regime. They often do not play much of a role in building a revolution. 22

Neither Robespierre nor Lenin “hijack[ed] successful revolutions … [and did] not play much of a role in building a revolution.” Whatever you think of the outcome, they were both instrumental in making those revolutions. But Hedges’ falsified history and simply appalling judgment lead him to proffer ineffective and disempowering strategies and tactics for Occupy today. In fact, the closest he comes to providing a potentially helpful overview of the revolutionary process is in his essay Why the Occupy Movement Frightens the Corporate Elite:

The end of these regimes comes when old beliefs die and the organs of security, especially the police and military, abandon the elites and join the revolutionaries. This is true in every successful rev­olution. It does not matter how sophisticated the repressive apparatus. Once those who handle the tools of repression become demor­al­ized, the security and surveillance state is impotent. Reg­imes, when they die, are like a great ocean liner sinking in minutes on the hor­izon. And no one, including the purpor­ted leaders of the opposition, can predict the moment of death. Revolutions have an innate, mysterious life force that defies comprehension. They are living entities.

Yes, revolutions are indeed living entities. And yes, large sectors of the military and repressive apparatus must come over to the revolution if it is to succeed, or at least refuse to follow orders. But instead of learning from such masterful works as Karl Marx’s The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bon­aparte and The Civil War In France, Hedges throws up his hands and declares that the revolutionary process “defies comprehension”, abandoning any hope for understanding what one needs to do to help nurture revolutionary movements, and leading him to make destructive errors.

A Question of “Violence”

In “The Cancer in Occupy,” Hedges equates the code-words “pro­perty damage” and “violence,” and then blames the black bloc for all random acts of property damage. This is simply wrong, as:

  1. like it or not, damaging corporate property simply is not the same as violence against people and other living beings, and should not invoke the same vituperative response;
  2. members of the black bloc do not generally engage in random acts of property damage; and,
  3. much of the property damage is done by cops wearing masks and posing as protesters, especially to Occupy-friendly local businesses (which is a legitimate concern that Hedges raises).

To me, this latter is the most serious and legitimate concern, and the black bloc does need to take responsibility for examining ways of preventing police agents in sheep’s clothing from wrecking the movement.23 But why assume that it is not doing so? (I’ve talked with many black bloc members who are concerned about that. There are many ways to root out, expose or contain police ag­ents in our midst.) Hedges’ public denun­ciation of all of those in­volved in some form of militant tactic is not constructive criticism.

In fact, Hedges calls on the Occupy movement to purge the relatively few individuals engaging in minimal property damage (such as breaking a few windows), going so far as to label them the “cancer of the occupy movement.” (We all know what the western prescription for “cancer” is, I reckon. It’s not homeo­pathy.)

And for what grievous act are we to spend endless months debating how to set up committees of public safe­ty to police our own movement? A kid who throws a soda can ag­ainst a window? An occasional individual who spraypaints graffiti on a friendly business? Even if one disagrees with or deplores such actions, does that make it okay to wreck a kid’s life by turning her over to the police (as a few folks did at the anti-World Trade Organization protests in Seattle, 1999) or purging her from the Occupy movement? Where’s the mor­ality (let alone the “non-violence”) in that? Think of the time and energy it would take to argue over and set up mechanisms for purges. Couldn’t it be spent more productively and compassionately? Hasn’t the Left been down that road before?

Our movements need to clarify the distinction between property destruction and physical violence against people — a distinction Hedges strangely fails to make; we should not use the same word “violence” for both. Had Hedges written about the futility of breaking a window here or there during a march as a tactical issue (as opposed to making it a question of morality) and brought it up for discussion within Occupy, surely I and most others would have agreed with him that the vandalism was counterproductive (depending on the target, timing and circumstances), although I wouldn’t have thought it to be that big a deal. But Hedges turned his annoyance into a crusade and fed the mainstream media’s frenzy to tar Occupy, especially those in the black bloc who generally do good work and don’t engage in the random vandalism — let alone “violence” — that Hedges is attributing to them.

Strangely, Hedges deplores the property damage in Oakland but applauds the far greater property damage engaged in by rioting and often-masked comrades in Greece (his May 2010 article in TruthDig praising rioters in Greece is accompanied by a photograph of fires raging):

Here’s to the Greeks. They know what to do when corporations pillage and loot their country. They know what to do when Goldman Sachs and international bankers collude with their power elite to falsify economic data and then make billions betting that the Greek economy will collapse. They know what to do when they are told their pensions, benefits and jobs have to be cut to pay corporate banks, which screwed them in the first place. Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare — the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it. … Barack Obama is simply the latest face that masks the corporate state. His administration serves corporate interests, not ours. 24

Wow. Exactly right in terms of understanding that Obama “is simply the latest face that masks the corporate state.” But not so fast, Chris Hedges, with the rest of it! Class conscious­ness entails identifying Goldman Sachs and the international bankers as part of the enemy, which is the system of capitalism based, as it is, on the exploitation of the labor of the 99 percent, production of commodities for private profit, the pillaging of Nature and private accumulation of resources — and control of the state apparatus to ensure the system’s ongoing authority. It is only when participants identify the source of the problems we face that we can take measures to prevent capitalism from reproducing itself through our own actions, social relations and commentaries.

The Dangers in not Naming the System

In Greece, there is an increasingly organized and growing fascist move­ment participating in the anti-austerity strikes, riots, occupations and shut-downs alongside their arch-enemy: the socialist, anarchist and com­munist Left.25 Hedges makes the mistake of praising the rebellions in Greece and Egypt while scolding activists in the U.S. who damage corporate property, calling them a “cancer” that must be extirpated. Hedges, who lived for several years in Egypt and reported on events there for the New York Times, has praised the armed bodyguards that ac­companied him there and in some of the world’s other hot spots. It was only their training in violence, and their machine guns, that protected him and allowed him to write his articles. He does make a point that he is not a pac­ifist, and in fairness he does makes the important distinction between the use of violence for individual self-defense and “violence” as the prevailing theme for a social movement. But he fails to consider that, compared with Greece, there has been virtually no vio­lence ag­ainst people perpetrated by the Occupy movement.

Writing from Cyprus, Petros Evdokas explores the on-the-ground manifestations such con­fusion leads to, in a more desperate stage of the resistance than exists currently in the U.S.

Popular leaders like Glezos and Theodorakis are the visible part of a humongous majority of activist-oriented millions of people in the country who have been organ­i­zing (and recently calling openly) for an uprising. The majority of people are behind this sentiment and support it, BUT, also the majority of people have the political maturity to desire an uprising that is as peaceful and mind­ful as possible.

The arson attacks against more than forty buildings on Sunday that burned down a large number of shops and buildings that have nothing to do with the regime of Corporate and State oppressors, took place against the wishes of the people-in-rebellion. They are actions of con­scious and unconscious agents of the regime — the truth is all in the photos. 26 Are these masked pro­test­ers “revolutionaries”?

There is nothing “revolutionary” about burning down classical architecture buildings that people love and iden­tify with, cafés and movie theaters that constitute some of the last remaining humane parts of the City’s downtown. 27

At this time, the debate among true and honest revolutionary networks has not yet concluded on what is the best way to revolution in this juncture. Strikes are more and more organized and well-attended, but takeover strikes (occupations) are only now in this last year begin­ning to appear, and only on a very small scale. Armed res­ponse teams capable of delivering meaningful blows to the regime (meaningful in the political sense), or capable of defending strikes, oc­cu­pations, and protests from the reg­ime, or capable of enforcing direct actions such as libera­tion and distribution of food in the cities or the country­side have not yet been formed because the people still do not support such a move. It might come to that, but popu­lar aware­ness, desire and willingness to engage in the rev­olution is the one and most important factor that we need to be in tune with. The only ones engaged in armed ac­tions in the last few years are the same fake anarchists and regime provocateurs who repeatedly pull off highly de­s­truc­tive (and sometimes leth­al) actions that erode the peo­ples’ morale.

Nobody wants to be part of a revolution that kills workers, attacks leftist demonstrators and firebombs small shops, and the people have repeatedly in the last few years immediately respond­ed to these actions by pulling away from mass mobilizations. That is exactly the reason why the regime seeks to instigate such actions, with the help of a few hundred brainless idiots who think that such be­haviour is “revolutionary.” 28

While Petros Evdokas’ critique might appear to lend support to Chris Hedges’ view, the concerns that go into it are very dif­ferent. Petros starts from the point of how to successfully organ­ize ourselves into a revolutionary force and whether the tactics attributed to the black bloc in Greece (in which three people were killed in a firebomb attack on a bank while people were inside) contribute to doing that. Hedges, on the other hand, is primarily concerned with creating a moralistic and almost reli­gious approach so as not to alienate the liberal class.

Drawing Baseless Conclusions

Chris Hedges’ tactical assessment of the black bloc is based on fiction, on (mis)information garnered from the same incendiary news broadcasts he elsewhere lambastes. Sur­pri­sing­ly, Hedges doesn’t bother to check their sources, but “confirms” his already-drawn con­clusions by quoting one (and only one) obscure teenager (nom de guerreVenomous But­ter­fly”) wri­ting in an equally obscure anarchist journal, Green An­ar­chy, 11 years ago — an article that at the time had every anarchist I know protesting its statements.29 He did not talk to ac­tual par­ti­ci­pants at Occupy Oakland, an ongoing problem in Hedges’ widely promulgated assumptions. Had he done so I sus­pect he would have been able to see the black bloc as a spe­ci­fic political formation around a strategy of dual power30 and not of symbolic tactics (although some might conclude — with good reason — that the black bloc’s “militancy” itself remains in the realm of the symbolic, too!); he would have been hard-pressed not to qualify or even withdraw the pronouncements he made about them.

Posing False Alternatives

Hedges sets up a flawed framework in which the poles of debate are either black bloc “violence” or non-violent civil disobedience. There is no such thing as “violence” in the abstract or “non-violence” in the abstract. Many proponents of symbolic nonviolent civil disobedi­ence seize on the misleadingly portrayed “nonviolent” revolu­tion in Egypt as an argument for what we need to do here, while not recognizing that almost 900 people were killed and 6,400 injured by government forces in the first two weeks of the “peaceful” occupation of Tahrir Square.31 Nor were the Occupyers united in nonviolence, especially when faced with needing to defend themselves. A letter of solidarity from Tahrir Square to Occupy Wall Street focuses on setting that record straight:

Those who said that the Egyptian revolution was peaceful did not see the horrors that police visited upon us, nor did they see the resistance and even force that revolutionaries used against the police to defend their tentative occupations and spaces. By the government’s own admission 99 police stations were put to the torch, thousands of police cars were destroyed, and all of the ruling party’s offices around Egypt were burned down. Barricades were erected, officers were beaten back and pelted with rocks even as they fired tear gas and live ammunition on us. But at the end of the day on the 28th of January they retreated, and we had won our cities.

It is not our desire to participate in violence, but it is even less our desire to lose. If we do not resist, actively, when they come to take what we have won back, then we will surely lose. Do not confuse the tactics that we used when we shouted “peaceful” with fetishizing nonviolence; if the state had given up immediately we would have been overjoyed, but as they sought to abuse us, beat us, kill us, we knew that there was no other option than to fight back. Had we laid down and allowed ourselves to be arrested, tortured, and martyred to “make a point,” we would be no less bloodied, beaten and dead. Be prepared to defend these things you have occupied, that you are building, because, after everything else has been taken from us, these reclaimed spaces are so very precious. 32

How to Welcome Different Views

The abso­lutist poles Hedges sets up with regard to Occupy Oakland are devoid of con­text. They present us with a false, moralistic and decontextualized narrative. Amin Husein, an organizer with Occupy Wall Street and editor of its theoretical journal, Tidal, spoke directly to Chris Hedges about all of this in a discussion broadcast on Democracy Now:

It’s an oversimplification to just say that the move­ment needs to make a decision [on the black bloc] without really kind of rethinking how we work. … In this context of [Hedges’] article, though very good points [were made] and many people in the move­ment felt it was good because it sparked a conversa­tion, it came at a time when it almost derailed us. And we worked with each other, you know, on the issue of Trinity and Duarte Square. … We would have appreci­ated a phone call, because we would have facilitated these conver­sations, which needed to happen. 33

Occupy activist and attorney Marina Sitrin hammers home the difference between discussing a tactic within Occupy and publicly blasting its proponents. The movement, she said, democratically decided to accept the diversity of tactics that Hedges opposed:

It’s actually not useful at all, from the outside, to tell the movements what to do, especially by people who have access to publish in certain places. And there’s quite a few. [Some are] well-meaning people [like Hedges and] Zizek, telling us we must be serious revolutionaries and anti-capitalists and do this, that and the other. And, you know, with all respect, either engage in the discussion, because it is open — all of it is open, and we need to have these conversations, and we’d love to have more intellectuals who relate to the movements relating to us directly and having the discussions, not telling us what to do. 34

The question of tactics is an ongoing discussion within the Occupy movement, as Husein and Sitrin explained. Unlike journalists (however supportive of a movement they may be), participants in movements engage each other in such discussions all the time. As a participant, Hedges’ views would have been welcome, just like everyone else’s. But Hedges makes clear he is “not part” of it, and so his thunderbolts are issued from afar, rather than put up for internal discussion. The fact that Hedges used his access to the media as the venue for this “fight” while others do not have such access, and called for the purging of those whose alleged actions he did not agree with, was extremely disruptive to the movement he supports.

Tactics “should not be about abstract principles of using violence or not,” writes Les Evenchick, a community organizer in New Orleans. “In­i­tiating violence serves the interest of the ruling classes unless you are in a position to win. And it should not be about trashing property but about seizing property. And the property that needs to be seized are the banks, the seats of government, the means of communication, and the centers of police and military organization.”

Would Hedges consider defense of seized property — say, a health clinic or library — to be violent? With violence pervading the entire society, the water we drink, the air we breathe, would removing the oppressor’s boot from one’s throat not be the nonviolent alternative, even if it takes some “force” to remove it? As beat poet Diane DiPrima succinctly put it: “Get your cut throat off my knife!”

Petros Evdokas adds:

Something that is almost always forgotten, is that organized revolutionary violence [as opposed to chaotic individual violence] is always the most peaceful solution. By comparison to a Corporate State reg­ime’s otherwise un­checked, perennial, chaotic and barbaric violence, organized revolutionary violence is the non-violent alternative. But in order to fulfill those criteria, in addition to what Les correctly points out above, [Petros continues], revolutionary violence:

1.Must be organized.

2. Must be under tight and disciplined control by a morally uncompromisable and politically aware leadership.

3.Must have clear, transparent goals, plus a strategy and tactics worked out beforehand.

4. Must have the support — or tolerance — of the majority of the population.

In other words, militancy in achieving a strategic objective is not the same as indiscriminate property destruction, even though some outside ob­servers may fail to distinguish the difference.

Occupying Property

What triggered Hedges’ ire was Occupy Oakland’s attempt to seize an abandoned city-owned property and use it to provide much needed social services for the community, devastated by cutbacks in jobs and social services that were part of the neoliberal structural adjustment program enacted by the Democratic Party politicians running that city. The cutbacks and layoffs were enacted only through violence, although it is a violence that is so much the norm it remains invisible and accepted in our everyday lives. Occupy Oakland’s shutdown of the ports and its attempts to occupy and open up abandoned city-owned property uncloaked that violent reality. Occupy was no longer simply engaging in symbolic civil disobedience but acting to establish and defend ac­tual spaces for peo­ple to use to meet their needs through direct action.

Some politicians disagree. Attorney Mal Burnstein — a member of the local Democratic Party organization in the Bay Area (and co-chair of the CA Progressive Democrats Caucus), as well as a wheeler-dealer for the “Save KPFA” faction on KPFA radio’s local board — introduced a resolution not to Occupy but to the Wellstone Democratic Renewal club, calling on Occupy to change a number of things in its basic procedures that had long been agreed to by participants, and to

honor previous decisions that have been democratically arrived at, such as the election of local officials, while never abdicating the right to challenge them on issues. 35

In other words, Burnstein proposed that the Democratic Party club advise Occupy to basically surrender its raison d’être and everything it has fought for. His call on Occupy to “honor decisions democratically arrived at” including the “election of local officials” is a veiled reference to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who unleashed the police against Occupy and whom Burnstein supports! and a misuse of the Democratic Party to hammer at Oc­cupy’s internal and democratically arrived at processes. Contra Burnstein, the community has not only the right but the responsibility to establish its own processes through which it will work — whether outsiders agree with them or not — and physically defend those seized buildings and the embryonic network of new people’s institutions attempting to be born.

Physical Force vs. “Violence”

Occupations and organized physical defense of reclaimed community property require all sorts of tactics, different ones at different times. We have to stop falling into the trap of arguing about the use of force and property damage in the abstract, as forms of violence.

The reality is, the “violence” Hedges deplores does not exist in the Occupy movement in the U.S. Almost all of the actual violence has been perpetrated by the police, in defense of the property relations of the 1 percent. Long time radical activist Chris Kinder reported from Oakland last October 25, 2011, as the Oakland Police Department, under orders from Mayor Jean Quan, cleared the encampments and attacked the ensuing march:

We marched and marched, seeing no cops, and getting enthusiastic welcome from the drivers whose cars were stuck at intersections that the march was passing through. In the streets the whole way, this march had grown as people heard news reports on KPFA and came down to join it. Very hard to say, but I think its peak could have been 3,000.

After a stop at Snow Park, on the shore of Lake Merritt (the site of a second encampment, which was also removed early Tuesday morning), marchers headed back up to 14th and Broadway. That’s when the serious battle erupted. This time, after the usual warning, marchers held their ground, and the cops unleashed a huge barrage of tear gas, which sent most of us off in different directions. At least one demonstrator was struck in the head by a tear gas canister.

The police were later quoted on local TV news as saying that they acted in self-defense, since they were being bombarded with rocks, bottles, and even knives. This is crap. I was watching the whole time from the outer edge of the crowd, and saw exactly one piece of something flying toward the cops.

It was now about 8 pm, and my companion and I escaped the tear gas and called it a night. But many marchers, fewer in number each time, kept returning to the scene at 14th and Broadway. According to news reports, three more barrages of tear gas were fired at ever smaller groups of protesters, the last one around 11 pm. And the maddening drone of helicopters never seems to stop, just one price of living in a war zone. 36

Tactics utilized in self-defense of a hospital or a community center that has been occupied and “opened up” for the com­munity have a different purpose than tactics employed for the purposes of symbolically calling attention to an issue. In engaging in symbolic civil disobedience as a form of lobbying for changes in policy, one is in effect accepting — even if just for that moment — the authority of those in power, even while ­des­pising it. Without transformative strategy (such as the occupation of buil­dings and the creation of institutions of dual power), one ends up relying on tactics that futilely try to shame the ruling class into “doing the right thing,” even though the bankers and their enablers could not care less ab­out self-sacrifice and civil disobedience as a moral force.

Outside Agitators?

Who’s to blame for inspiring the black bloc’s actions? Again, Hedges fails to do his proper research. He writes that “prim­itive anarchist” author John Zerzan is the outside-agitator leader of the Oakland black bloc. Even stranger, Hedges alleges that the black bloc anarchists disparage the Zapatistas, which is so much the opposite of the truth as to be laughable. Both declarations would be news to the 99 percent (so to speak) of its participants — something Hedges would have known had he bothered to actually interview actual participants, or even to read the decades-old arguments within anarchism between Zerzan and the Fifth Estate or Love & Rage newspaper collectives, as well as with Murray Bookchin’s social ecology school of anarcho-ecologists, and EarthFirst! He might then have been surprised to learn that the anarchists he condemns were actually not only among the most active supporters of the Zapatistas, but published many of the early communiqués and essential writings of Commandante Marcos immediately following the January 1994 uprising in Chiapas.37 In fact, the Zapatistas’ very elongated decision-making process was one of the great influences on Occupy’s (and the black bloc’s) consensus-based procedures. For someone of Hedges’ stature to fail to confirm sources or read the historical debates is not only poor journalism but a serious breach of the whole idea of Occupy Wall Street’s horizontal communication. As such, his assertions read simply as smears.

Meanwhile, the Oakland Police Department and city offi­cials, like so many before them, claim that Occupy Oakland is made up of outsiders who are not from Oakland. It’s true that many of the participants come from around the Bay Area and not Oakland proper. The Occupation there acts as a magnet for people trying to create new, non-commodified ways of relating to each other, and the attraction of meaningful ways of relating and living knows no municipal boundaries. But here’s what the press reports fail to mention: 93 percent of the Oakland Police Department lives outside Oakland. The cops come into the city each day as part of a different sort of “occupation” — that of an occupying army, which is the way the Maoist organization that Oakland Mayor Jean Quan belonged to had once put it.

Remember, 43 years ago the media was similarly replete with accusa­tions that the occupyers then were “outside agita­tors.” In May, 1969, people from all over the region converged on People’s Park in Berkeley to defend it from the University’s so-called “development” bulldozers ― they wanted to “pave paradise and put up a parking lot” . . . literally! One observer, James Rector, was shot and killed by police while sitting and watching from a nearby roof; the tear-gassing went on for weeks. Years later, 17-year-old Rosebud was shot and killed by a lone trigger-happy cop after she’d snuck into the Chancellor’s house — which turned out to be empty! — hoping to discuss the Univer­sity’s eviction of her friends from People’s Park. The struggle over Peoples Park and the role of U.C. Berkeley as a cor­porate and “developmental” powerhouse has been going on for decades.

The violence committed by the State, as Bay Area writer and activist Rebecca Solnit points out,38 has been over-the-top, immoral, and costly; it reveals the lengths to which the State is willing to go to protect the sanctity of corporate property when it is threatened — even if only ideologically — by peaceful activists seeking to have a say over how that pro­perty is used. The conclusion some are drawing — that Occupy should stop its seizing of abandoned municipal property for the public good because they “cause” the police to react violently in de­fend­ing the private profits of corporations and the authority of the State — is exactly the opposite of what needs to happen. Occupations need to expand. They need to seize back the municipal and private corporate properties that the 1 percent and its government have stolen, and put them to use in the service of the 99 percent.

In addition to occupying parks and pub­lic spaces across the country, Occupy Wall Street has begun to reclaim a few of the ten mil­lion homes and farms that the banks fore­closed on in the last few years, returning them to those who’d been evicted from them. What if we begin oc­cu­py­ing and directly open­ing up those schools, lib­raries, hospitals, firehouses, subway sta­tions and post offices that the government has shut down?

Imagine occupying and re-opening St. Vin­cent’s Hospi­tal in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The Republican Bloom­berg ad­min­is­tra­tion shuttered this essen­tial hos­pital — with the support of the Dem­o­crats. Christine Quinn, a Democrat and chair of the City Council, received large campaign contributions from “developer” Scott Rudin, who fêted her at banquets. It was Quinn’s approval, along with the Mayor’s, that closed the hospital and gave Rudin the go-ahead to turn it into luxury condos.

Imagine if Occupy Wall Street would re­claim that hospital, re-open it, and invite health care providers from around the world to come and treat people — as has happened in the past year in Greece and Chicago! Or, to start with something smaller, occu­py a lib­rary whose hours have been cut, keep it open 24/7, and move the People’s Library into it — as is happening right now in the Fruitvale section of Oakland.

“Occupy, Reclaim and Open-Up” is a direct response to the cutbacks, shutdowns and foreclosures forced on us through the everyday violence of the system, by those owning and administering wealth in this country. It’s the kind of direct action that we “99 per­cent­ers,” and maybe even some of the 1 percent, could get behind and participate in, involving wider sectors of society.

I urge Chris Hedges — and all of us! — to keep focus on who is the real enemy, and who is committing the real violence.


1 Chris Hedges, “The Cancer in Occupy,” TruthDig, Feb. 6, 2012.

2 “Occupy, Black Bloc & Liberal Pacifism: The Politics of Confrontation,” 1917: Journal of the International Bolshevik Tendency, May 2012.

3 Chris Hedges, Death of the Liberal Class, Nation Books: 2010. pp110-111.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid. p110.

6 There are dozens of excellent and readily available writings that examine the contributions as well as the contradictions of those organizations in detail, and for Hedges — an experienced journalist — to have missed all of that in his research on the New Left makes the entirety of his historical analysis untrustworthy. For starters, see Mitchel Cohen, Those Not Busy Born are Busy Dying, a Red Balloon Collective pamphlet in the Zen-Marxism series.

7 Chris Hedges, “Why the Occupy Movement Frightens the Corporate Elite,” TruthDig, May 14, 2012.

8 Ibid.





9 Mitchel Cohen, The Shortcomings of Traditional Leftist Strategy, Zen-Marxism #7, Red Balloon pamphlet series.

10 “What is class class consciousness and where does it come from?” was (and remains) a fundamental question for the New Left. Hedges assumes a certain “of course-ness” to how he answers it, reflecting his lack of familiarity with the perhaps unexpected historical as well as philosophical intricacies of that question. For some discussion of this, see Mitchel Cohen, Zen-Marxism 9: Out in Front of a Dozen Dead Oceans – Some theoretical and philosophical advances of the new left, and Zen-Marxism 7: The Shortcomings of Traditional Leftist Strategy, both published as booklets by the Red Balloon Collective. Also, see Georg Lucás, History and Class Consciousness, and, Wilhelm Reich, What is Class Consciousness?, in Sex-Pol.

11 See, for example, Meredith Tax, The Rising of the Women, which details the interaction between mostly desperate immigrant garment workers organizing into unions at the turn of the 20th century and the upper class women in the suffragette movement.

12 “Why the Occupy Movement Frightens the Corporate Elite,” op cit.

13 See Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch, for an examination of the function of capitalism in thwarting radical social movements via “managing” them, going all the way back to the transition from feudalism to capitalism.

15 James Weinstein, The Corporate Ideal & the Liberal State: 1900-1918, Beacon:1968.

16 Even V.I. Lenin enthused over this new “scientific approach” to the production process.

17 This was a bit difficult to do, as no one at the time could forget the 1915 disaster — one of the worst accidents in Chicago history — when the Eastland, a vessel filled with Western Electric/Hawthorne employees and their family members attending the company’s annual outing, capsized at its dock in the Chicago River, killing more than 800 people. See also Robert Tressell’s novel, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, which dispels the myth of “we’re all in this together.”

18 See Mitchel Cohen, Big Science, the Fragmenting of Work & the Left’s Curious Notion of Progress, Red Balloon Books: 1997.

19 Mitchel Cohen, Zen-Marxism #10: Big Science, the Fragmentation of Work, and the Left’s Curious Notion of Progress.

20 I discuss much of the new openings for unions in my book, What Is Direct Action?

21Death of the Liberal Class, p205.

22 “Why the Occupy Movement Frightens the Corporate Elite,” op cit.

23 See Brian Glick, War at Home, South End Press.

24 Chris Hedges, “The Greeks Get It,” TruthDig, May 24, 2010.

25 George Caffentzis, Greek Diary, August 2012; Alex Steiner, Athens: A View of the General Strike, http://forum.permanent-revolution.org, September 26, 2012; Greece in Flames: Prelude to European Revolution? A Debate Within the Left, posted to https://www.mitchelcohen.com.

26 If you think this claim is too extreme, please see the top photo of the new Cyprus IndyMedia article titled This is who burned down Athens, http://cyprus.indymedia.org/­node/88 .

27 I am reminded of the fires set during the 1992 LA Rebellion, in which buildings were “coincidentally” set ablaze all along the route of a proposed subway, making it much easier and less costly for the developers to lay claim to that land.

28 Petros Evdokas, private letter to author.

29 John Zerzan, an editor of Green Anarchy, writes: “Hedges finds it scandalous that Green Anarchy magazine published a brief article years ago (GA #5, Spring 2001) criticizing the Zapatista EZLN from an anarchist perspective. As an editor of GA at the time, I recall that we weren’t thrilled by the piece, but we ran it in the interest of provoking discussion. Hedges is evidently not in favor of open discussion, and nei­ther was the EZLN, which sent us a rather angry response (GA #8, Spring 2002). If it is scandalous to think critically about what is going on in Chiapas, it is worse to fail to learn from the evidence, from the record.” Fifth Estate, “Vagaries of the Left: John Zerzan answers liberal columnist Chris Hedges who charges the Black Bloc has ‘hi-jacked” the Occupy Movement,” Spring 2012.

30 See Mitchel Cohen, What Is Direct Action? Op cit.; Zen-Marxism #8: A Headful of Ideas that are Driving Me Insane; and Zen-Marxism #13: Fear & the Art of Neurosis Maintenance for discussions about Dual Consciousness and Dual Power..

31 Jessica Rettig, “Death Toll of Arab Spring,” U.S. News & World Report.

32 http://infrontandcenter.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/letter-of-solidarity-to-ows-from-tahrir/

33 Democracy Now! May 1, 2012.

34 ibid.

35 Resolution introduced to the Wellstone Democratic Party Club by Mal Burnstein and Pamela Drake, as reported on IndyBay.org on March 13, 2012.

36 Chris Kinder, Oakland Occupy Dispersed, but then … Oakland Erupts!, Oct. 26, 2011, posted to http://www.MitchelCohen.com.

37 See, for example, Zapatistas: Documents of the New American Revolution, Autonomedia: 1994.

38 “Occupy Heads into the Spring: Mad, Passionate Love — and Violence,” Le Monde Diplomatique, February 22, 2012.







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *