Black Bloc: Two Wrongs Never Make a Right!

photo by Lauriel

Had enough of discussions about Black Bloc? No? Good! Because we’re running a three-day series on Black Bloc tactics. Click the Black Bloc Series tag to read the other articles, delving into the controversy currently sparking throughout the Occupy movement and beyond.

By Vargus Pike

In the realm of mathematics two negatives when added together become a greater negative. A positive when added to a negative serves to overcome the negative. If the positive is greater then the result will always be positive. The realm of morality and ethics have an additive property similar to mathematics. Add the negative actions of the police with negative actions from the protesters, and you will always result in a greater negative. Oppose a negative with strong enough positive action and you will always result in a positive.

A greater negative serves no one but the established negative which the protesters are attempting to change. Shouting obscenities, throwing bottles at police, vandalizing public or private property, and burning flags all only serve to provide those police with the community sanction they need to become even more brutal than they already are. It has the effect of providing them with carte blanch to violate the civil rights of the protesters and of the general public in the name of safety and security. It feeds the politics of fear that is already so pervasive in America today. Two wrongs will never make a right. Two wrongs will only serve to destroy the rights that we still have.

Conversely, meet the brutal actions of the police with unified passive resistance, meet them with dignity, meet them with respect and the police who purport to be emperors of freedom and public safety will be revealed to have no clothes.

When this happens, then and only then will the general public recognize the cause as true and just.

To effect real change any movement must have the support of the general public or it is doomed to failure. The Boston Massacre in 1770 galvanized the colonists and most certainly served to sanction the act of civil disobedience known as the Boston Tea Party. If the order of events had been reversed the revolution may never have happened. When John Brown raided Harper’s Ferry in 1859 he failed to start an armed revolt against slavery. He succeeded however in galvanizing the South to arm in anticipation of more raids. The North, while admiring his motives, nonetheless considered his actions to be those of a madman. On February 12, 2012, the leader of Peru’s Shining Path, a Maoist organization, was captured by Peruvian authorities. This capture may very well be the death knell of the organization which controlled a significant portion of the Peruvian countryside in it’s heyday. Due to it’s brutality however, it never succeeded in gaining the support of the people and so eventually withered and essentially has died.

Now contrast these examples of violent action with the likes of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Rosa Parks. All gained the support of the general public through positive action exemplifying dignity and respect. Once they garnered public support, real change resulted. Look to the examples of dignified protest in Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria. Two of the three governments have fallen and Syrian actions have almost certainly doomed it as well for it has lost the support of the majority due to it’s blatant brutality against dignified peaceful protest.

History shows repeatedly that violence only brings more violence. Unless one has the means to physically conquer one’s enemies the only way to bring about meaningful change is through passive resistance until such time that the goodwill of the people has been secured. Then, and only then, if the powers that be refuse to bend to winds of change, can the violence of revolution be justified or sustained.

Editor’s Note: This Tuesday, Feb. 21st, come to the basement at St. Francis at 7PM for a community discussion on the black bloc and the future of Occupy Portland tactics

  12 comments for “Black Bloc: Two Wrongs Never Make a Right!

  1. Stephen Guilland
    February 18, 2012 at 1:58 PM

    If there such a thing as an absolute truth, that’s it. The Black Bloc faction isn’t helping the public perception. As such, they are damaging the movement and should be shunned as a matter of policy. Shaping the public persona is still in the early stages, and if this movement is really going to grow some legs, we need to keep the people on our side. The MSM isn’t going to be on our side anyway; we can’t afford to give them any more ammunition to use against us if we can possibly avoid it.

    • rothstei
      February 18, 2012 at 2:31 PM

      Speaking personally, shunning the Black Bloc would make me leave this movement. In fact, people who suggest such a thing at all make me disappointed in this movement.

      Those of you who are against Property Destruction need to realize that you are not the only voice in this movement. Your attempts to “purify” the message, even after you realize that the MSM isn’t on our side anyway (we were accused of rape before we were accused of destroying property) are in fact alienating many of the hardworking people who are here.

      • Vargus Pike
        February 18, 2012 at 3:11 PM

        Please explain what property destruction accomplishes. How does it serve the cause in itself and as a product of a larger ideal. How does it persuade those on the fence to join us in solidarity either in spirit or fact. How does it make the movement grow and prosper so that an environment for real and lasting change can occur?

        • rothstei
          February 18, 2012 at 3:58 PM

          The easiest answer is that I would not have learned what anti-globalization was without the press coverage of Seattle in 1999.

  2. StJason
    February 18, 2012 at 2:08 PM

    Disagree. We’ve seen time and time again that in the court of public opinion, a positive and a negative is always a negative. If we are actually out to change the world (as opposed to breaking things because it’s fun), then we need to not support the things that hurt the people we are fighting for, hurt the movement, and often hurt the members of Occupy.

  3. Hard Luck
    February 18, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    This is insane. Are you saying the property destruction by rebelling colonists was only fair after people were slaughtered? Are you suggested we get massacred before we start to fight? You know there was a protracted and brutal military conflict that happened afterward, with colonists taking up arms to defeat the British. But they were wrong? Or were they right because the British were understood as the aggressors? What would have happened if they refused to fight? And are you comparing instances of light property damage with the guerrilla warfare and terrorism of Shining Path? Modulate much? Liberation struggles often occur in a milieu of many different and diverse actions, all of which are confrontational and some of which can be considered violent. Our differences are those of subjectivity. Our system is violent, greedy and destructive. Doing everything we can to stop it does not make us morally equivalent with the people we’re fighting. And I don’t want the masses to get behind me if I have to lose my dignity. I want to be your ally and would gladly fight with you if I didn’t feel like you would turn me over to our common enemy.

    • Vargus Pike
      February 18, 2012 at 6:39 PM

      What I am saying is that without the support of the people violent and destructive actions will be seen as unjustified and will only serve to harden peoples hearts against the movement dooming it to failure no matter how just the cause. Conversely by taking the high road and passively resisting violent oppression by the authority’s enforcers whoever they are, a movement will gain greater support of the people until one day actions that were once considered a negative by many are now considered a positive. Remember too the Boston Tea party was not random bit of window smashing and destruction during a protest march, it was a focused and concerted action against the profits of the one percent of the day, The East India Company. It could be argued that the modern day equivalent is the Martyrdom of Scott Olsen on the 27th of October 2011 and the subsequent port shutdown November 2nd. Like the Boston tea party, Scott Olsen’s martyrdom was not the only factor for the action but it most certainly facilitated it’s justification in the eyes of many. Two more points. 1)True dignity is never lost it can only be given away. 2) Just because I am advocating for a non violent approach in the face of violent opposition it does not mean I am going to turn you or anyone else over to a common oppressor. Each person must do what they think is best. All I can ask of anyone including myself is that we consider the course of our actions in a broad context and whether or not those actions will do more harm than good or good than harm.

  4. Phil Lesh
    February 18, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    Non-violence did not work out for the Syrians and Libyans. It also did not work out too well for the 90% of the jewish faith in the Eastern European Pale of Settlement who did not resist the Nazis. Why is there this faith in American Exceptionalism that those in power will give up that power when their police forces beat up one too many peaceful demonstrators?

    • Vargus Pike
      February 18, 2012 at 5:40 PM

      It is not a matter of faith it is a matter of turning the will of the people to your side. The reason the Libyans were able to overthrow Gaddafi is that enough of them supported the rebellion to make the force of arms effective. The reason the Syrian government will eventually fall is that for every person who dies ten more join the opposition. Although extremely corrupt our government still has limits to it’s power placed upon it by mutual consent of the governed. That consent can and will be revoked if the governed see a need to revoke. When the police force are clearly seen as oppressors then that consent weakens. When they are perceived as victims due to aggressive counter actions then their actions are seen as warranted.

  5. Ben
    February 18, 2012 at 4:07 PM

    You use the Boston tea party as an example of justified nonviolence that made the rest of the revolution possible. The Revolutionary WAR.
    You use the “examples of dignified protest in Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria” as well, But in all of these country’s police and government buildings are burned, Police and military are repelled with rocks and molotovs, and in the case of Syria there is a full on armed militia movement of military defectors.
    Mass peaceful demonstrations have played a very large part in these revolutions, And they have been gassed and beaten without provocation, but there is no way that they could have lasted as long as they have without militant defense on the front-lines.

    • Vargus Pike
      February 18, 2012 at 10:11 PM

      You are correct, the key words you use are “militant defense”. That is not the same as “Shouting obscenities, throwing bottles at police, vandalizing public or private property, and burning flags”. I am not saying that at some point in a conflict active resistance is not justified. I am saying that movements will get no traction until they prove to the general populace sitting on the fence that they have the moral high ground. In our society naked aggression is deemed to be wrong. Self defense is considered a right. But first the need to exercise that right must be clearly and repeatedly demonstrated. The longer the urge to actively defend against aggression from an opponent the greater will be the support one garners from an indifferent public.

  6. Ben
    February 20, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    So don’t denounce Black Bloc as a tactic. Support what targets and actions you personally agree with, and don’t support the ones you do not.

Comments are closed.