Open Letter from Anarchist Participant in The General Strike.

Categories: Open Mic, Reflections

An open letter from an Anarchist with Occupy Oakland.

by Anonymouse
After the successful national day of action and general strike in Oakland, naturally, we see the topic of violence and non-violence growing within our movement and within the voices of corporate media networks. Obviously this is a result of certain actions that individuals and groups within the movement decided to partake in. Unfortunately we are hearing a great deal of slander, and nonsense at the forefront of this discussion. As someone who has been with the occupation as much as possible, I feel it’s necessary to confront this.

Isolating people based on their willingness to engage in self-defense by actively protecting the spaces we’ve all worked so hard to build together, and the symbolic defiance of exploitative property by making absurd claims of them being “Outside agitators” as if it they are some how separate from the many people who have been actively involved in building these spaces of ‘direct-democracy’ and communal living should not only be considered an attack on solidarity, but an attack on movements of the people. What divides movements of the people, weakens movements of the people.

Many of us out there today and tonight were Anarchists, but many were also not. We are the ones who were in the streets, ready to provide support & solidarity with all of our brothers and sisters. We were ready to brave against the violence of the state arm and arm with you, to protect one another, and provide medic support to anyone who fell victim to the police assaults. We are the ones whom also involved themselves with serving food to the commune, providing sanitation, organizing actions and broadening the movement. We are not separate from the movement. We are not outside agitators. We are a part of the movement, we are involved with the struggle. We stood with the occupation before day one, we stood with the occupation tonight and will continue to do the same in the future. Don’t let age old divide and conquer tactics convince you otherwise, please.

What do I mean when I say “by actively protecting the spaces we’ve worked so hard to build together”? Well I’d like to invoke a quote taken from a statement of solidarity with the occupy movement written by Egyptian activists and rebels, “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.” Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, those of us who belong to the community and movement of many Occupations around the globe can relate to this quote all too well. They continue to attack us & our reclaimed communal living spaces with a clear display of intimidating tactics, force, and brutal violence. To only add to this, their militarized presence alone is a form of violent authority.

Is it correct to call defense of our direct-democracy,our autonomy, our communities, and bodies senseless, and violent? Is it OK to attack the legitimacy of the countless struggles that have chosen to do this? Were individuals on the Nile bridge (Egypt) whom, literally, fought off police attacks senseless? Were the Argentinians resisting the ruling classes in 2001 by combating police attempts to violently remove them from the city center by charging down riot squads, senseless? Are the Greek anti-austerity mass gatherings and ‘occupy Athens’ senseless for doing the same? These are questions we must ask ourselves. I’d quickly respond saying,No,Not at all. Actually the strength of these movements grew and expanded in these moments of resistance. To quell spontaneous and energetic moments many people within the movement take part in, would be to to essentially contribute to extinguishing the collective power we’ve created. It’s important to remember our ability to adapt to situations and repression in necessary but diverse ways is what helps us become unpredictable, and a force to reckon with. This is what we need in order to remain strong under serious repression. It’s why we were able reclaim the Plaza, and it’s why we had the streets without much trouble from police for most of the day during the strike.

Now onto what I mean when I say “exploitative property”. We all see the sinister nature of most of these large financial institutions & multinational corporations, that’s why we’re all coming together to denounce them. Property owned by the 1% is used to exploit the labor of the people for the creation of wealth; The rights of their private property are continuously trumping the rights of the people. We can see this on physical display when veterans are getting shot at in Oakland, or when 3rd world Coca-cola union organizers are being killed by private militias and police enforcing ’property rights’. Hence, the use of the words exploitative property. You may say breaking a window is not largely effective, and I would agree with you 100%. That is not the point I’m implying. We call this violent, yet that very property some people wish to target is property used for the exploitation of the globe. Being starved is violence. Getting your arm cut off in a factory is violence. Development on indigenous lands is violence. Having your home foreclosed by Bank of America is violence. More than thousands of people being incarcerated is violence. The ‘rights’ of their property is upheld by violence, clearly. If certain people want to take part in acts against “property rights” of corporations as a symbol of defiance towards institutions of private tyranny, then so be it. I’ll send more solidarity their way than the way of the property of a bank. After all, who is more likely to help me set my tent up in the plaza, or to provide me with water as tear gas is launched. Who is anyone to shun, and demonize them blindly and rampantly? Lets not play into the role of the corporate media here, by becoming a mouth-piece of the interests of the “1%”.

Everything I’ve experienced with you all here in Oakland this Wednesday was for the most part exhilarating, amazing, and even inspiring. It’s great to see so many people uniting, and coming together to fight against the economic conditions the people of the world are subjected to. My intention with this letter was to express the need for the solidarity within the movement to remain strong; Diversity needs to be accepted. We are not blind, the situation is escalating and the movement must not devote itself to one approach with senses of dogma. As said before, strength comes from the ability to adapt when under attack. Don’t be fooled, we are under attack. Every single day, directly and indirectly. Do not denounce the courage of those willing to defend themselves and our collective spaces of direct democracy. Just as we shouldn’t denounce the courage of comrades who use their bodies in non-violent resistance. Know your friends, and don’t confuse them as your enemies. Support them. We’re all out here together, don’t let anyone change that. We have a beautiful thing happening in Oakland. LETS KEEP IT UP!

your friendly occupying Anarchist.


17 Responses to “Open Letter from Anarchist Participant in The General Strike.”

  1. JavierLope

    I’m not sure who wrote this, and I didn’t participate in the Oakland General strike directly, since I’m down in San Diego, so I cannot speak directly for the author. However I can speak from a position of how I personally interpreted the message it attempt to put forth. So far the responses seem to be making the assumption that he or she is arguing for or defending a certain tactic from a strategic standpoint, when it seems to be the opposite since they clearly state property damage is “largely ineffective”.

    I think the implications I interpreted from the message of this letter are important ones to discuss. When our movement grows and becomes broadened, and we run without central authority (which is what makes this thing so new and refreshing) certain individuals and groups of individuals taking different courses of action is inevitable. It’s happened within every social movement in history. This letter makes a very clear point; what does expecting people to religiously follow a certain path of action mean for the movement? What does diversity mean for us, and our strategy? I have some criticisms of this writing but it provokes concerns and questions that need to be discussed, and not ran from. Which is what sparks my interest.

    Also, to the claim that any of these actions we’ve all seen created some sort of high-risk environment any more than the basis of many of the actions that occurred on the general strike seems like a ridiculous and flawed notion. The riot squad didn’t move in for the assault when banks got physically targeted. The riot squad didn’t violently remove or attempt to prevent the takeover of the port. They very well could have, and actually the take over the port is more likely to get attacked physically. The fact that it didn’t happen until the takeover of a building is surprising. A window costs how much?? The flow of a port being blocked for a day can be millions. Let’s face the truth, the police protect the interests and property of the 1%. We’re always under the threat of police attacks, because we are fighting against the systems that protect their interests. Not because of some kid with a mask on.

    (Also the GA has constantly expressed solidarity with longshore workers, especially in the context of inspiration for the blockade of the port. They used tactics of ‘sabotage’.. for example destruction at a grain facility as they attempted to block the flow of trains. So wtf? Also, this day of action went beyond ‘occupy oakland’ when it called for a general strike. GENERAL means all types of people coming together, with a various amount of actions planned. Diversity is what general means. To call for the general strike is to attempt to expand beyond what is called ‘occupy’ and extend to a larger mass of people, is it not?)

  2. Maigesheng

    That was a beautiful reply. The part about demanding whole foods, per aw, to shut down is absolutely wonderful! I had never thought of anything do ballsey!

  3. Maigesheng

    I can respect the notion that we should not fetishize non violence. I agree that the banks perform violence against us. But breaking their windows is not self defense. It is retaliation. It does nothin to ward off daily bank attacks. Instead, it encourages more police brutality and discourages most people from joining this movement. I understand that the police will attack unprovoked but, but by encouraging them, we tell fence sitters that we desire the instigators.

    If anarchists believe that there is place for aggressive vandalism and propert damage, then they should, by all means, maintain their convictions. But they should think to the next step, which is clearly resentment toward the movement that the anarchists represent. Perhaps the anarchists can perform their actions with express pulic announcements that they are autonomous actions.

    With all that said, It is telling that you would believe that your violence toward the police ( which I understand and respect) is what kept the police away during the strike. This is naive and pushes the boundary of delusions of grandeur. The police were clearly absent because of city politics and public image. It is quite plausible that they were absent deliberately to watch the anarchists go to work. And as someone else said, “if they were not being paid, then they were doing the state’s work for free.”

  4. AbouBenAdhem

    You underestimate the power of the popular will.

    So long as Occupy Oakland has sufficient support from the people, no amount of force can permanently destroy it. The powers opposing OO are not remotely afraid of smashed windows or rocks thrown at police; cops and windows are completely expendable to them. What they do fear is tens of thousands of OO supporters choking off their economic lifeblood. And it’s that fear—not the threat of violence—that has preserved the existence of the Occupation for the last ten days.

    Occupy Oakland’s greatest vulnerability now is that the media will use fear of violence to alienate the occupation from the people. If they succeed at that, the movement is doomed no matter how well it “defends” itself.

  5. occnoaklnd

    Anonymouse, you speak about the “heroism” of your faction + direct democracy + this and that. The vandalism your group engaged delegitimizes the 99%. It HIJACKS the message to the outside world + DIVIDES us further weakening OUR movement.

    +1 for David, entirely agree

  6. john seal

    Dear anarchists,

    When you stop playing testosterone-overloaded super ninjas, stop writing tendentious literature that is more revealing about your sexual hangups than anything else (love the line about the cock in my supple hands), and start developing some sort of coherent strategy that doesn’t involve smashing things, burning things, loudly saying naughty words, and acting high and mighty, I’ll start taking you seriously.

    Yours sincerely,


  7. madstork

    Why is my reply still awaiting moderation, when another has come up after it? Is this an oversight.

  8. Winstanley

    I generally agree with David Heatherly, although I don’t understand the KKK analogy. The people I know in this movement are fighting a battle bigger than just holding on to certain occupied spaces. We don’t have the numbers to fight the cops and small groups doing so is not attracting many others to that scene. Black blockers seem to claim to be with “the people” and all that but they’ll fuck shit up even when its obvious that isn’t what the vast majority of the people around them want. That’s not comradeship that’s vanguardism. If defending our spaces is what you want to do, you need to find some more defenders and, since this isn’t exactly Egypt or Greece where hostility towards the cops runs a lot higher (in Greece the pigs collaborated with the fascists during WW2), you’re going to have to find a more effective way of doing so. Condemning pacifists as if they were cops is not the way either, that just makes you look like an idiot, an asshole, or both.

    Nobody want to “extinguish collective power,” its more about TACTICS. Let’s fight to WIN, not just to make a good show of force for people watching the tube somewhere. As for property, I don’t give a shit about corporate property either, but what we want to do is TAKE THIS OVER. One goal of the general strike is to shut down business- Men’s Warehouse did shut down and even put up a poster claiming solidarity but they got smashed up too. Maybe they were being insincere, but maybe they weren’t. Who knows, maybe employee pressure had something to do with their decision. On that topic, think of the possibilities of a general strike and the crowds we had on Wednesday! Imagine if, instead of playing smash-up on whole foods a group of us went in there, while the place was surrounded by a thousand plus people, and demanded that they shut down and give their workers a full days pay? This is the point of a general strike, it’s not a cover to get away with futile blows against property it’s an example of how much THEY NEED US AND WE DON’T NEED THEM. It’s our power to build (and take over), not to destroy.

  9. David Heatherly

    This is a very well written and respectful piece. I even have a feeling I know the author, because it’s very similar to some discussions I had out there with people last week. Unfortunately, what you’re saying is still naive and misplaced.

    People in America are simply not desperate enough, do not feel disenfranchised enough, to support a violent uprising on a massive scale. Perhaps the need for revolution is greater in America than elsewhere, but the need is not felt as strongly as it should be. So these violent and destructive tactics will inevitably lead to OWS being marginalized as a radical extremist movement, and it will have no effect.

    There are some in the movement who do support these tactics, but for the most part I’ve seen them practiced by people who are indeed “outside agitators” — the same bunch of so-called anarchists who use “black bloc” tactics and show up at any SF area protest that’s large enough to allow them to commit property destruction with impunity. They probably will also smash windows if we march against plastic bags or to save the dolphins. They are NOT part of the 99%er movement and they do not care about our goals.

    Now as far as this stuff about “protecting the space we’ve all built together”, this is another slogan without much substance. You will not “defend” or “protect” the encampment with bottles, rocks, burning dumpsters. Unless you are ready to make something other than a symbolic defense of the space, all you are accomplishing is to justify what the cops do. Let them take our space, and we will re-take it. If you refrain from violence, the community of Oakland will bring tents, tarps, food, etc. We will rebuild as often as they tear it down. But you cannot “defend” anything from the forces that are up against us. That is just a game, please don’t expect us to take it seriously. If it comes to a physical battle, we are definitely going to lose.

    It is not the pacifist who is playing “divide and conquer.” Rather, we are responding to the threat that your group represents — a threat to all the women, children, and handicapped in particular who would otherwise march with us. And asking us to march with you and to tolerate your behavior is essentially like asking the Freedom Riders to march in solidarity with the KKK. Many pacifists are opposed to corporate power and the military-industrial complex; we cannot march in solidarity with those who employ the same violent tactics as the police and military. You cannot expect us to do that in the name of solidarity or inclusiveness. If you are not willing to disavow the divisive tactic of violence and property damage, then it is YOU who is dividing the movement.

  10. madstork

    I agree that it isn’t fair put all anarchists in this group and try to isolate them from Occupy, it’s not any more fair then saying “the protesters” broke windows and spraypainted walls. And I appreciate the fact that the anarchist contingent are largely responsible for galvanizing and organizing this movement in the beginning, and continuing to give ground support like medical aid. I know many here do “fetishize” non-violence, but the divide in the group isn’t about that; it’s about the simple fact that no matter what people’s reasons are, destroying things rather than building them or standing in solidarity WILL help the media and the city dismantle Occupy Oakland. I could personally give a shit that some bank windows got broken, and I sympathize with the urge to defend in whatever way our rights and what is rightfully ours.

    But the fact remains; if we continue to march, strike, and occupy peacefully, we will grow, and win. And if some of us insist on lighting fires, throwing things (which encourages, rather than stops police from using violence) and breaking windows, we will divide, and lose. I would love to, but I cannot be in solidarity with people who endanger the entire movement, not to mention the defenseless people around them (Yes I know, the police are to blame if they open fire on a crowd, but when you know that’s what will happen, and you decide to do it anyway, there’s no way I can think of to defend that). We are not armed or organized to fight like guerrillas, and the 99% which we claim to represent does not want to be associated with destructive people, and will shun us like the media wants them to. It doesn’t matter if the destruction is justified. I’m talking strategy. The strategy of peaceful civil disobedience has been enormously successful, and there’s no reason to stop. If peaceful civil disobedience STOPS being possible, then that is a different story. Let’s occupy some foreclosed buildings, let’s organize, and do it so it’s not easy for them to just shut them down. Being peaceful makes it harder for them to stop us, being destructive makes it so much easier.

    in solidarity with anarchists,

  11. Gerry

    I think that Anonymouse makes some good points in arguing for his anarchist viewpoint. Certainly, the contradictions in our capitalist democracy have been heightened since the 2008 economic collapse, and people are suffering at the hands of corporations and their government allies in Congress. We all admire the struggles that took place in the Arab Spring, struggles that resulted in the overthrow of oppressive regimes. Yet, Oakland is not the Middle East and, situated in the bluest state in the country and in one of the most progressive areas of the state, many people in the community are already sympathetic towards the message of the “Occupy” movement, even if they are not supporting the movement in the street yet. I agree that we cannot be “fetishing non-violence”. However, given the supportive nature of the community around you, non-violent protest is what the majority of people in the movement desire. While I cannot argue with assurance about what happened on the two nights in which there was violence and destruction, I can say that this is not what most people want, and I doubt that it will help in building a mass movement. In fact, it is more likely to create a reaction among those who are sympathetic and supportive. Your willingness to “engage in self-defense” sounds like an excuse to provoke a reaction. In acting out your “defense” of the movement, I think you have and will continue to hurt the movement. I would urge you to rethink your tactics.

  12. Mick

    I will definitely not stand with anyone who chooses to ‘speak their mind’ by using a broom, bat, or club to break windows or otherwise cause damage to private property. Trying to justify that kind of behavior strikes me as the worst kind of non-equivalence.

    The author says that the violence caused by anarchists on the 2nd is a response to the violence perpetrated by massive corporations and the machinery of State on the largely defenseless. And there are serious problems with the way police and government entities enact their policies, and many of the results are easily classed as violence.

    But to say that breaking the window of a local Citibank is a response to private militias killing Coca Cola organizers in the third world, or is a reasonable way to show dissatisfaction with the way banks have been allowed to handle foreclosures? That’s absurd and wrong-headed.

    Respond in kind to the people, the actual entities themselves, who perpetrate the violence. That’s the only way there’s any kind of equivalence. Even then, I’m not sure it’s justified.

    I’ll happily stand by a chanting crowd, but I’ll also try to find a willing group of people to physically restrain and deliver to the police anyone who ‘speaks their mind’ with a brick or a bat.

    THAT is what is important; that we continue to show up, we continue to march, and that together, as a united front, we denounce in the strongest terms anyone who commits vandalism (or what we might hilariously dub “property expression”). That’s what we can unite behind.

  13. daddyo14171

    What a load of crap. If you want to don a mask and burn the banks down do it on your own. Cowardly hitching on to a peaceful movement’s coattails and claiming solidarity is a pathetic guise meant to serve the selfish and violent desires of a small minority.

  14. Jetrauben

    How much “solidarity” can there be when you and your fellows have been captured, repeatedly, on video -attacking- those protesters who attempted to stop the vandalism and destruction engaged in?

    How much “solidarity” is there when a significant part of the movement views any acts of violence as not only pointless but counterproductive?

    If this is truly a movement of the 99%, then it must represent a consensus of that 99%’s collective interests and attitudes. Many amongst us are not anarchists, just as many amongst us are not communists or libertarians. We do not agree on much. What this movement must be about is what we -do- agree upon, NOT one faction of the 99% using the others as bullet sponges and tacit validation. The former is consensus. The latter is exploitation as real as the exploitation of big business.