[Marxism] black bloc

John Reimann 1999wildcat at gmail.com
Tue Feb 7 18:53:59 MST 2017

I was intimately involved in Occupy Oakland from the first planning meeting
to the end. I spent every day, most of the day and into the evening there
while it existed. I knew and worked closely with the (non)leaders, who
composed a small group of anarchists, a group that was part of what came to
be known as the black bloc. I say this to say that I saw the functioning
from the inside, from start to finish.

In the first few weeks, these (non)leaders played a largely positive role;
they kept the influence of the liberals, including the liberal political
establishment and their left supporters out. Because I was just about the
only person closely active with them who supported the opposition to the
liberal establishment, I worked closely with them and had a lot of
credibility with them. For example, it happened that the union leadership
had planned a march to Oscar Grant Plaza scheduled for about a week into
the occupation. They were forced to meet with us to see if we would give
them permission to hold the rally there. We gave them permission, based on
our having three speakers. This little anarchist group assigned me to be
the opening/welcoming speaker. Here
is a video of the speech I gave. As you can imagine, the union leadership
was not exactly thrilled with it.

The problem with the role of this (non)leadership was that they were in
principle opposed to developing any clear and explicit program - a clear
statement on what we were fighting for. Connected with this, they opposed
having a clear, leadership that would be democratically elected based on
what they stood for. But all movements have a leadership, one that will be
open and whose program and strategy is clearly understood, or one that
operates behind the scenes. In fact, I was at one meeting of this small
group in which I suggested that we organize an election for just such a
leadership. They all opposed it, but one of them - one of the more
thoughtful ones - did say, "well, we have to admit that pretty much
whatever we decide on is what will happen."

At first, the union leadership pretty much just ignored occupy Oakland,
figuring it would go away without affecting their members. But around the
time of the general strike, it started to look like it might have an
affect; the radicalism might infect their members. So a layer of the
leadership started to get involved. Like the missionaries who preceded the
occupying armies of the colonial powers, the socialist left also started to
get involved -- on behalf of the union leadership.

A key, telling moment came when it was agreed to hold an occupy/union joint
march and rally. Each side was to have three speakers. At the "Labor
Outreach Committee" (really the Bureaucracy Inreach Committee) of Occupy
Oakland, it was decided to have only speakers who would not challenge the
union leadership. Some of the main ones from that small anarchist group
joined with the union bureaucracy socialist missionaries to push the
decision through. Sensing an opening to real power, they capitulated to the
liberal establishment in the form of the union leadership.

At subsequent events they did the same thing.

In sum: Sure, the vandalism and property damage did not help, but no way at
all was this the main reason for the demise of Occupy Oakland. The main
thing is that no movement can continue on a steady diet of mobilization and
confrontation, as necessary as those elements are for any movement. At some
point, things will die down, and when it does some sort of organization
with a clear program and strategy and perspectives has to be left behind.
The fact that that did not happen, more than anything else, was the failure
of the black bloc and their type.

John Reimann

"No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them."
Asata Shakur
Check out:https:http://oaklandsocialist.com and //

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