Sunday, March 31, 2013

8 Reasons Young Americans Don't Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance

Traditionally, young people have energized democratic movements. So it is a major coup for the ruling elite to have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance to domination.
Young Americans—even more so than older Americans—appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the corporatocracy can completely screw them and that they are helpless to do anything about it. A 2010 Gallup poll asked Americans “Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?” Among 18- to 34-years-olds, 76 percent of them said no. Yet despite their lack of confidence in the availability of Social Security for them, few have demanded it be shored up by more fairly payroll-taxing the wealthy; most appear resigned to having more money deducted from their paychecks for Social Security, even though they don’t believe it will be around to benefit them.
How exactly has American society subdued young Americans?

1. Student-Loan Debt. Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force. There was no tuition at the City University of New York when I attended one of its colleges in the 1970s, a time when tuition at many U.S. public universities was so affordable that it was easy to get a B.A. and even a graduate degree without accruing any student-loan debt. While those days are gone in the United States, public universities continue to be free in the Arab world and are either free or with very low fees in many countries throughout the world. The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives earlier this year to eliminate Mubarak, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War all had in common the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt.
Today in the United States, two-thirds of graduating seniors at four-year colleges have student-loan debt, including over 62 percent of public university graduates. While average undergraduate debt is close to $25,000, I increasingly talk to college graduates with closer to $100,000 in student-loan debt. During the time in one’s life when it should be easiest to resist authority because one does not yet have family responsibilities, many young people worry about the cost of bucking authority, losing their job, and being unable to pay an ever-increasing debt. In a vicious cycle, student debt has a subduing effect on activism, and political passivity makes it more likely that students will accept such debt as a natural part of life.

2. Psychopathologizing and Medicating Noncompliance. In 1955, Erich Fromm, the then widely respected anti-authoritarian leftist psychoanalyst, wrote, “Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man.” Fromm died in 1980, the same year that an increasingly authoritarian America elected Ronald Reagan president, and an increasingly authoritarian American Psychiatric Association added to their diagnostic bible (then the DSM-III) disruptive mental disorders for children and teenagers such as the increasingly popular “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD). The official symptoms of ODD include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules,” “often argues with adults,” and “often deliberately does things to annoy other people.”
Many of America’s greatest activists including Saul Alinsky (1909–1972), the legendary organizer and author of Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals, would today certainly be diagnosed with ODD and other disruptive disorders. Recalling his childhood, Alinsky said, “I never thought of walking on the grass until I saw a sign saying ‘Keep off the grass.’ Then I would stomp all over it.” Heavily tranquilizing antipsychotic drugs (e.g. Zyprexa and Risperdal) are now the highest grossing class of medication in the United States ($16 billion in 2010); a major reason for this, according to theJournal of the American Medical Association in 2010, is that many children receiving antipsychotic drugs have nonpsychotic diagnoses such as ODD or some other disruptive disorder (this especially true of Medicaid-covered pediatric patients).

3. Schools That Educate for Compliance and Not for Democracy. Upon accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award on January 31, 1990, John Taylor Gatto upset many in attendance by stating: “The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.” A generation ago, the problem of compulsory schooling as a vehicle for an authoritarian society was widely discussed, but as this problem has gotten worse, it is seldom discussed.
The nature of most classrooms, regardless of the subject matter, socializes students to be passive and directed by others, to follow orders, to take seriously the rewards and punishments of authorities, to pretend to care about things they don’t care about, and that they are impotent to affect their situation. A teacher can lecture about democracy, but schools are essentially undemocratic places, and so democracy is not what is instilled in students. Jonathan Kozol in The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home focused on how school breaks us from courageous actions. Kozol explains how our schools teach us a kind of “inert concern” in which “caring”—in and of itself and without risking the consequences of actual action—is considered “ethical.” School teaches us that we are “moral and mature” if we politely assert our concerns, but the essence of school—its demand for compliance—teaches us not to act in a friction-causing manner.

4. “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” The corporatocracy has figured out a way to make our already authoritarian schools even more authoritarian. Democrat-Republican bipartisanship has resulted in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, NAFTA, the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, the Wall Street bailout, and educational policies such as “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” These policies are essentially standardized-testing tyranny that creates fear, which is antithetical to education for a democratic society. Fear forces students and teachers to constantly focus on the demands of test creators; it crushes curiosity, critical thinking, questioning authority, and challenging and resisting illegitimate authority. In a more democratic and less authoritarian society, one would evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher not by corporatocracy-sanctioned standardized tests but by asking students, parents, and a community if a teacher is inspiring students to be more curious, to read more, to learn independently, to enjoy thinking critically, to question authorities, and to challenge illegitimate authorities.

5. Shaming Young People Who Take EducationBut Not Their SchoolingSeriously. In a 2006 survey in the United States, it was found that 40 percent of children between first and third grade read every day, but by fourth grade, that rate declined to 29 percent. Despite the anti-educational impact of standard schools, children and their parents are increasingly propagandized to believe that disliking school means disliking learning. That was not always the case in the United States. Mark Twain famously said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” Toward the end of Twain’s life in 1900, only 6 percent of Americans graduated high school. Today, approximately 85 percent of Americans graduate high school, but this is good enough for Barack Obama who told us in 2009, “And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country.”
The more schooling Americans get, however, the more politically ignorant they are of America’s ongoing class war, and the more incapable they are of challenging the ruling class. In the 1880s and 1890s, American farmers with little or no schooling created a Populist movement that organized America’s largest-scale working people’s cooperative, formed a People’s Party that received 8 percent of the vote in 1892 presidential election, designed a “subtreasury” plan (that had it been implemented would have allowed easier credit for farmers and broke the power of large banks) and sent 40,000 lecturers across America to articulate it, and evidenced all kinds of sophisticated political ideas, strategies and tactics absent today from America’s well-schooled population. Today, Americans who lack college degrees are increasingly shamed as “losers”; however, Gore Vidal and George Carlin, two of America’s most astute and articulate critics of the corporatocracy, never went to college, and Carlin dropped out of school in the ninth grade.

6. The Normalization of Surveillance. The fear of being surveilled makes a population easier to control. While the National Security Agency (NSA) has received publicity for monitoring American citizen’s email and phone conversations, and while employer surveillance has become increasingly common in the United States, young Americans have become increasingly acquiescent to corporatocracy surveillance because, beginning at a young age, surveillance is routine in their lives. Parents routinely check Web sites for their kid’s latest test grades and completed assignments, and just like employers, are monitoring their children’s computers and Facebook pages. Some parents use the GPS in their children’s cell phones to track their whereabouts, and other parents have video cameras in their homes. Increasingly, I talk with young people who lack the confidence that they can even pull off a party when their parents are out of town, and so how much confidence are they going to have about pulling off a democratic movement below the radar of authorities?

7. Television. In 2009, the Nielsen Company reported that TV viewing in the United States is at an all-time high if one includes the following “three screens”: a television set, a laptop/personal computer, and a cell phone. American children average eight hours a day on TV, video games, movies, the Internet, cell phones, iPods, and other technologies (not including school-related use). Many progressives are concerned about the concentrated control of content by the corporate media, but the mere act of watching TV—regardless of the programming—is the primary pacifying agent (private-enterprise prisons have recognized that providing inmates with cable television can be a more economical method to keep them quiet and subdued than it would be to hire more guards).
Television is a dream come true for an authoritarian society: those with the most money own most of what people see; fear-based television programming makes people more afraid and distrustful of one another, which is good for the ruling elite who depend on a “divide and conquer” strategy; TV isolates people so they are not joining together to create resistance to authorities; and regardless of the programming, TV viewers’ brainwaves slow down, transforming them closer to a hypnotic state that makes it difficult to think critically. While playing a video games is not as zombifying as passively viewing TV, such games have become for many boys and young men their only experience of potency, and this “virtual potency” is certainly no threat to the ruling elite.

8. Fundamentalist Religion and Fundamentalist Consumerism. American culture offers young Americans the “choices” of fundamentalist religion and fundamentalist consumerism. All varieties of fundamentalism narrow one’s focus and inhibit critical thinking. While some progressives are fond of calling fundamentalist religion the “opiate of the masses,” they too often neglect the pacifying nature of America’s other major fundamentalism. Fundamentalist consumerism pacifies young Americans in a variety of ways. Fundamentalist consumerism destroys self-reliance, creating people who feel completely dependent on others and who are thus more likely to turn over decision-making power to authorities, the precise mind-set that the ruling elite loves to see. A fundamentalist consumer culture legitimizes advertising, propaganda, and all kinds of manipulations, including lies; and when a society gives legitimacy to lies and manipulativeness, it destroys the capacity of people to trust one another and form democratic movements. Fundamentalist consumerism also promotes self-absorption, which makes it difficult for the solidarity necessary for democratic movements.
These are not the only aspects of our culture that are subduing young Americans and crushing their resistance to domination. The food-industrial complex has helped create an epidemic of childhood obesity, depression, and passivity. The prison-industrial complex keeps young anti-authoritarians “in line” (now by the fear that they may come before judges such as the two Pennsylvania ones who took $2.6 million from private-industry prisons to ensure that juveniles were incarcerated). As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: “All our things are right and wrong together. The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike.”

Bruce E. Levine is a clinical psychologist and author of Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite  (Chelsea Green, 2011). His Web site is

Saturday, March 23, 2013

"Rape Happens": The ‘normalcy’ of violence—sexual violence being the most perverted—is India’s lot. One girl’s nightmare focuses the light.

“Didi has always made us proud. Aisa kabhi nahin hua ki hamein unki wajah se kuchh sunna pada. Woh hamare parivar ka garv hai (We never had to hear anything on account of her. She is our family’s pride),” say the two brothers (18 and 20 years old respectively) of the girl whose rape and brutalisation a fortnight ago has stirred the whole nation. They were seated outside her ICU room at Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi, hours before she was flown out to Singapore for further treatment.
It often takes one crime or individual to be the pivot of an issue that had never hitherto received its due attention. The young girl, who was the victim of brutal gangrape and savagery has become just that: a hero for thousands across the country. As Jagruti continues to fight for a life that will have to be reconstructed with a lot of medical help and her own tremendous will, fighting alongside her is a whole gamut of Indians: from big towns and small, students and professionals, middle-class individuals to activist groups, women, and men. They are marching in protest, holding candle-light vigils, and venting ire on social networking sites. We at Outlook have decided to name her Jagruti: the awakening. She is our woman of the year.
“I feel for this girl from my heart,” says Valerian Santos, father of Keenan, who was killed last year after he and his friend Reuben tried to intervene in a sexual harassment case in Mumbai. “Perhaps more than my son.... I was crying for her.”

Singapore-bound Jagruti being taken to the airport. (Photograph by Hindustan Times)

Till the other day, Jagruti was like any other ordinary girl, who had gone for a movie with a friend and was coming back home by bus. Her friend’s objection to lewd comments by six men on the bus visited upon her a nightmare from which only death seems to promise an early exit. If she fights off the physical odds, which we hope she will, full emotional recovery will likely take longer. Gratifyingly, Jagruti has shown immense determination so far, telling her friend who was with her through the ordeal, “mujhe sangharsh karna hai (I have to fight)” when he went to Safdarjung Hospital to meet her (see interview).
Rape is a sordid reality in India, in all its gruesome manifestations (see column by Meena Kandasamy), so routine that, most often, it evokes no notice. Jagruti’s case has brought the reality closer home, shaking the indifference of middle-class India, reminding them how vulnerable women are in a world both modern and traditional, a world with antiquated attitudes towards women, a world of strange predators in the guise of men, a world of perverts who prey on children....

Photograph by Jitender Gupta

And so the anger erupted. There was the genuine citizen came to express his or her solidarity, along with the curious onlooker, the rabble-rouser and those keen to get a piece of the political and human action. The media kept a constant vigil as  well, both outside the hospital where Jagruti lay and with relentless coverage, in print and on television.

First, the political class treated the protesters as an administrative problem, then they started to deliver political homilies.

A political class with credibility should have been able to strike a chord with protesters expressing human concerns. Instead, they first treated the process as an administrative problem, then started to deliver political homilies. Eventually, the scale of public outrage compelled high offices to speak up: the prime minister on television, the President and the Lok Sabha Speaker, a sitting judge of the Supreme Court. The government also set up several committees to look into the incident as well as the overall issue of women’s safety. Union minister of state for home R.P.N. Singh told reporters that photographs, names and addresses of the rapists will be uploaded on the Delhi police website ( He also said the government-run National Crime Records Bureau had been told to prepare a directory of convicted rapists and upload their photos and personal details on its official website ( But the statistics remain depressing. The young Akhilesh Yadav, on assuming the chief ministership of Uttar Pradesh, had promised to deliver better law and order. In the 10 months of his leadership, 35 cases of minor girls being raped and killed have been registered. There were 1,895 rapes in the state in 2011. “There is no denying that men are getting increasingly insolent in committing crimes against women,” says Arun Kumar, the state’s additional director-general of police. “In fact, the women’s powerline service that we launched to curb harassment of women through crank calls received 61,000 complaints in just one month.”
In Mumbai, the Maharashtra State Commission for Women has been without a chief for four years. “It’s meaningless to have a commission without a head as no one can put pressure on the government to act,” says a former chairperson. “Women actually have no one to go to now.” In fact, fed up with the inaction of the administration and the corruption of the police, victims of sexual abuse in Lucknow have organised themselves under the banner of what they call the Red Brigade. Comprising largely of young girls in the 17-25 age group, they wear red kurtas and black salwars and help victims fight rape cases in court.

Felled by the mob? Grieving family of Delhi cop Subhash Tomar. (Photograph by Jitender Gupta)

Jagruti’s case has become a lightning rod for all such women across the country. There is outrage in Calcutta as well and as sociologist Bula Bhadra there says, “The act of rape, as the one that happened in Delhi, is the manifestation of a complex social problem which does not have a ready solution. It requires a complete overhaul of the system where we look at many different aspects of society. From the patriarchal content of our children’s textbooks to the manner in which advertisements portray women, society is perennially conditioned to treat women as subservient. Rape and molestation of women in our society is a reflection of this.”
Indeed, women in India regularly deal with objectification, trivialisation and different forms of sexual harassment. Jagruti is typical of the young urban woman in modern India—educated, ambitious, wears western clothes, visits malls, watches movies, uses public transport—yet struggles to negotiate her space in a society ruled by archaic values.
The eldest of three siblings, Jagruti had just finished a four-year course in physiotherapy at a private medical college in Dehradun. Her father, who has a modest job in the aviation sector in Delhi, had sold his ancestral land in his UP village to ensure an education for all his children. He thought himself a “lucky man” as his children were the first generation to be educated in his family. His daughter was doing her internship before she would start her career as a paramedic.
She was alert, say doctors, when she was brought into emergency at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences before she was taken to Safdarjung Hospital. Her state had left even the hardened doctors shaken. The unspeakable acts of bestiality had ruptured her intestines and damaged her reproductive organs. The doctors did not think she would survive the night. At the time of writing, she has survived a fortnight.
Her condition looked “positive” in the first three days, with her being able to communicate clearly with the doctors through writing. She told the doctors that her throat felt itchy with the ventilator. She had written—“there is irritation in my throat, please clean it with suction”—according to Safdarjung Hospital medical superintendent B.D. Athani. A paramedic herself, Jagruti perhaps understands her situation better. She has had to give her statement to the subdivisional magistrate twice, partially in writing, with gestures and responding to questions.
However, once the infection spread, her condition deteriorated, with doctors claiming that the iron rod inserted into her body could lead to septicemia. She has already been through three major surgeries in the last 10 days, one in which most of her large intestine had to be removed. Then she developed respiratory problems and suffered two cardiac arrests. She was critical before being flown to Singapore for organ transplant.

Although her family is grateful for all the support and help, they are upset over the problem between the SDM and the police over taking their daughter’s statement. Says D.K. Mishra, uncle of the male friend who was with Jagruti, “This fight between the police and SDM has been very disappointing and diverts the focus from the issue. One should not go after publicity in such sensitive issues wherein every word matters. It would have been encouraging had it been handled more responsibly.”

“From the patriarchal content of textbooks to ads portraying women, our society’s conditioned to treat women as subservient.”

Likewise, while people have every right to express this scale of indignation at what happened to Jagruti, they also have to be responsible in their reactions and desist from vigilantism. “Hang them,” has been almost the universal reaction, and castration a close alternative. It brings to mind the December 2008 incident in Andhra Pradesh when two women engineering students of Warangal—T. Pranitha and K. Swapnika—became victims of an acid attack by three young men. The main accused, Srinivas, was apparently targeting Swapnika as she had spurned his advances. People were angry, and three days after the attack, the police shot dead all three, allegedly “in self-defence”. Swapnika died a month later. Human rights activists raised the issue of “mob justice”, but to this day, the then Warangal SP, V.C. Sajjanar, is hailed as a hero for the “encounter” and “instant justice” he delivered. The Lucknow-based Red Brigade, of whom we have spoken earlier, also admit to vigilantism. “Yes, we believe in public thrashing of people who indulge in physical exploitation of women or sexual abuse with minor girls,” asserts Usha Vishwakarma, the brigade’s ‘commander’. Basically, it speaks of a yawning deficit in justice delivery, which the people are themselves seeking to fill.
The rage in Jagruti’s case has been unprecedented. But it should not make us blind. The outrage has touched various strands of society. But there cannot be a kneejerk reaction to a complex issue. Even on the night Jagruti was being flown out to the state-of-the-art Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, a 42-year-old woman was gangraped by three men in a vehicle and then dumped in Kalkaji in south Delhi, some kilometres away from the mall Jagruti and friend had gone to and returning from where they had boarded a bus that was to become a chamber of horrors.

Rape And Our Politicians
No sitting member of the Lok Sabha faces a rape charge
  • Six persons who declared that they had rape charges against them contested the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. Of them, one is from the Rashtravadi Communist Party, one from the RPP, a third from the Bahujan Samaj Party, another from the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha while two were independent candidates.
  • Political parties gave tickets to 27 candidates who contested state elections in the last five years and who declared they had rape charges against them. Of these, seven were independent, five from the SP, two each from the BJP and one from the Congress. Ten of these are from UP alone and five from Bihar.
  • Six sitting MLAs have declared rape charges against them. They are Sribhagwan Sharma (SP, Khurja, UP), Anoop Sanda (SP, Sultanpur, UP), Manoj Kumar Paras (SP, Nagina, UP), Mohammad Aleem Khan (BSP, Bulandshahr, UP), Jethabhai G. Ahir (BJP, Shahera, Gujarat) and Kandikunta Venkata Prasad (TDP, Kadiri, AP).
  • When Outlook called Paras, he said the Delhi gangrape incident was “shameful”. “The culprits should be punished. It’s an open-and-shut case.” But what about the charges against him? “They are politically motivated and were slapped on me by someone who was instigated by the BSP.”
Source: Individual affidavits/Association for Democratic Reforms

20 Horrific Cases Up To December 2012

  • 1973: Aruna Shaunbag: A junior nurse at King Edward Memorial hospital in Mumbai, tied with a dog chain, assaulted and raped by a ward boy. She lost her eyesight and has been in a vegetative state since. SC turns down mercy killing.
  • 1978: Geeta and Sanjay Chopra were kidnapped for ransom in Delhi in the infamous Ranga-Billa kidnapping case. The culprits raped Geeta before killing them both.
  • 1982: Tulasa Thapa, a 12-year-old Nepali girl, was repeatedly raped before being sold into prostitution. Ten months later, she was brought to JJ Hospital in Mumbai where she died of brain tuberculosis and three sexually transmitted diseases.
  • 1990: A 14-year-old school girl was raped at her residence in Calcutta and killed by a security guard. Dhananjoy Chatterjee was executed in August 2004, the country’s first hanging since 1995.
  • 1996: A 16-year-old girl was sexually harassed and assaulted continuously for 40 days by 42 men in Kerala. In 2000, a special court sentenced 35 persons to rigorous imprisonment but the Kerala High Court acquitted them in 2005.
  • 1996: 25-year-old law student Priyadarshini Mattoo was found raped and murdered at her house in Delhi. Ten years later, the Delhi High Court found Santosh Kumar Singh guilty.
  • 1999: The estranged wife of an Indian Forest Service officer, Anjana Mishra’s car was stopped at a desolate place on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar. She was gangraped in front of the friend she was travelling with.
  • 2002: A fourth-year medical student was gangraped at knifepoint on the terrace of the Khooni Darwaza monument situated on the busy Bahadurshah Zafar Marg in the capital.
  • 2003: Shari S. Nair, a teenaged girl hailing from Kiliroor, Kottayam, Kerala, was sexually abused after being promised roles in TV serials. Shari later died after giving birth to a daughter.
  • 2004: 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama was tortured and allegedly executed by personnel of the paramilitary force of 17 Assam Rifles stationed in Manipur, after being picked up from her house.
  • 2005: 28-year-old Imrana was raped by her father-in-law in Uttar Pradesh. The village elders and Sharia courts nullified her marriage saying her husband was now her son.
  • 2005: A Delhi University student was gangraped by four men inside a Santro for several hours and dumped in south Delhi, unconscious and without clothes.
  • 2009: Two young women were raped and murdered in Jammu under mysterious circumstances, allegedly by CRPF personnel. One of them was two months pregnant at the time.
  • 2010: A 30-year-old BPO employee was raped by five men near her home in south Delhi. The woman was pulled into a mini truck, raped repeatedly and thrown out two hours later.
  • 2011: A nine-year-old mentally disabled girl was raped on a Mumbai train in front of five other passengers. The child could not scream or shout or speak because she was disabled.
  • Feb 2012: A 37-year-old woman was gangraped in a car on Calcutta’s Park Street after coming out of a bar. Mamata Banerjee first said the case was cooked up to embarrass her government.
  • Dec 2012: An eighteen-month-old baby, the daughter of pavement dwellers, was found by her mother one morning covered in blood. Doctors said she had been raped and tortured.
  • Dec 2012: A two-year-old was raped, allegedly by her maternal uncle, and thrown into a thorny bush in Baroda, Gujarat. She died after being taken to the hospital.
  • Dec 26, 2012: A 20-year-old woman was allegedly gangraped by 10 people on the banks of Manimuktha river near Virudhachalam in Tamil Nadu, according to police.

By Amba Batra Bakshi and Chandrani Banerjee with Prachi Pinglay-Plumber and Prarthna Gahilote in Mumbai, Sharat Pradhan in Lucknow, Madhavi Tata in Hyderabad and Dola Mitra in Calcutta


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Letter to the Egyptian Black Bloc from U.S.A. anarchists

We present here, in Arabic and in English, an open letter from participants in black bloc actions in the United States to participants in the Egyptian black bloc, aimed at initiating a dialogue beyond the exchange of youtube videos. This is of interest to everyone around the world struggling for liberation, so please print and distribute widely:

pamphlet in English:

pamphlet in Arabic:

The emergence of the black bloc in Egypt at this time should not surprise us as much as it surprises pacifists and authoritarians. The struggles of the 21st century will not be limited to nonviolent civil disobedience, nor to reformism; they are bound to involve open conflict with the state. Moreover, they will be increasingly international in scope and character. Whenever anyone anywhere around the world stands up for herself or himself—however awkwardly, however humbly—it sets a precedent for the next generation of resistance. Let’s rise to the occasion.

“Black Anger” by MC Sayed appeared on the two-year anniversary of the Egyptian uprising.These clumsy subtitles are part of our effort to facilitate intercontinental communication.

The criticisms of the black bloc in Egypt are all too familiar. Those who have more privilege and power than you accuse you of being spoiled rich kids. Those who are not willing to run the same risks accuse you of cowardice. Those who have different goals than you complain that you are not strategic. Those for whom democracy means the amplification of their own voices insist that you should submit to majority rule in order to silence you. Those who depend on foreign military aid, who bow to foreign political pressure in selling out the people of Egypt, accuse you of importing foreign tactics. You are blamed for the violence of the police, when the police are always precisely as violent as they have to be to maintain their supremacy, and their ongoing violence is only visible because you resist it. Above all, authorities of all kinds do everything they can to isolate you from others who might resist.

To the Egyptian Black Bloc

from “black bloc anarchists” in the US

You strike the note—it sounds in us.

It is an honor to address you on account of your courage in the struggle still unfolding in Egypt.

For a decade and a half, we have participated in black bloc actions in the US and elsewhere around the world. Of course, we do not represent anyone or anything; the black bloc is a tactic, not a group—that is what makes it so frightening to our rulers. But on the basis of our experience with this tactic, we would like to share some of our perspectives in hopes of establishing a more explicit intercontinental dialogue.

We have already been in a kind of dialogue with you, exchanging signals of revolt across the ocean. We’ve circulated reports of your struggle here, and now we are seeing photos and videos of our actions appear in youtube collages from Egypt. But we want more dialogue than youtube collages allow. We want to be able to discuss strategy as well as tactics, and goals as well as strategy.

First and foremost: you are not alone. You are part of a struggle against oppressive power that is taking place all over the world. The same economy that is plundering Egypt wrecks our lives and land here in the US; the same networks of armed force that tear-gas you in Cairo maintain “order” in New York City. If we are to win anything in this struggle, we can only do so internationally.

It is embarrassing that it took us so long to address you in Arabic—that shows how unprepared we are for the opportunities history is offering. But that may change quickly in the coming years. It will have to.

We have gained our experience with black bloc tactics under what you might call adverse conditions—as a small minority acting against a stable power structure, without much support from the rest of society. The black bloc evolved in that context, and it is interesting to see it appear in a situation of more generalized revolt.

Indeed, the longevity of the black bloc surprises everyone; over and over it has been pronounced dead, yet it keeps coming back. This is because, like Anonymous, it expresses the spirit of our times. In an era when tremendous disparities are maintained by surveillance and policing, any meaningful movement is bound to involve anonymity and clashes with the authorities.

The black bloc is important because it gives that anonymity and antagonism a political content: it ties specific struggles against oppression to the possibility of a generalized struggle against all oppressive power. It is a coup to “brand” anonymous collective confrontation with the authorities as anarchist—this means that everyone who stands up for himself against the authorities must ask, sooner or later, what his relationship to others’ struggles is.

It is fitting that the black bloc emerged in Egypt on the two-year anniversary of an uprising that only replaced one tyranny with another. The problems caused by capitalism and government cannot be solved by a mere change of regimes. It will take a struggle from the ground up—the emergence of social formations that can defend themselves against government and capitalism. This is not a matter of addressing demands to those in power, and it is not something that can be won simply by attacking presidential palaces. It requires us to oppose the structures of domination everywhere they appear, shifting our strategy from mere protest to the assertion of another way of life.

The criticisms of the black bloc in Egypt are all too familiar to us—we have watched reactionaries read from this same script since 1999. You are blamed for the violence of the police, when the police are always precisely as violent as they have to be to maintain their supremacy, and their ongoing violence is only visible because you resist it. Those who have more privilege and power than you accuse you of being spoiled rich kids. Those who are not willing to run the same risks accuse you of cowardice. Those who have different goals than you complain that you are not strategic. Those for whom democracy means the amplification of their own voices insist that you should submit to majority rule in order to silence you. Those who depend on foreign military aid, who bow to foreign political pressure in selling out the people of Egypt, accuse you of importing foreign tactics. Above all, authorities of all kinds do everything they can to isolate you from others who might resist.

Indeed, in our experience, this is the greatest risk in using the black bloc tactic: in giving an identity to anonymity and struggle, it offers the authorities an opportunity to make an “other” out of us, to quarantine our revolt and our ideas. It is a mistake to view ourselves as separate from the rest of society. The black bloc is powerful and dangerous only so long as it remains a space of revolt that anyone can flow into—the tip of the iceberg of something much broader. Our rulers do not fear anarchists—they fear that anarchist values and practices will spread.

It is important not to impose a dichotomy between being honest about our goals and participating in movements larger than us. On one hand, we must be clear that we reject all forms of domination; if we do not, everyone will have to learn again and again how little police and the poverty they impose change from one government to the next. This is why we should not hide our values under the same vague banner of “democracy” that disguises others’ hunger for power: doing so only legitimizes the structures that will be used against us later. But at the same time, we have to maintain the openness that enables tactics and ideas to circulate. Anarchism is not an identity, it has no meaning in isolation; it is a relationship that must spread.

In the United States, anarchists have erred on both sides of this dichotomy. Often, we have served as shock troops and free labor for liberal causes, taking great risks to advance their agendas while failing to act on our own analysis. We hoped this would connect us to the rest of society, but connections that depend on us hiding our values are meaningless.

Other times, anarchists have acted as though we could accomplish our goals on our own, winding up in a private grudge match with the state that everyone else assumed had nothing to do with them. Certainly, we can’t wait for mass consensus to begin our project of revolt; we can only find others in revolt by rising up ourselves—but the point is to find others. Over and over, we’ve thought our own dreams too wild to propose, only to see other people enacting them spontaneously. In fact, the time is ripe for us to advance our proposals: capitalism is in crisis around the world, and soon billions will have to choose between totalitarianism and the kind of freedom no government can provide.

If it is true that the state cannot solve our problems, all who wish to wield its authority will discredit themselves once they assume power. The sooner all the Muslim Brotherhoods of the world associate themselves with the state the better: this will clarify things for those who do not yet understand why anyone would be an anarchist. When the opposition parties join the rulers in telling everyone to get out of the street and the streets remain full, this suggests that people are catching on. In this situation, anarchists could help turn regime change into social revolution, a full-scale transformation of everyday life.

The US government needs Egypt to have a government with whom to coordinate the resource extraction necessary for global capitalism. The black bloc scares them because it is not legible in their conception of politics—it offers no one to negotiate with. They want to bring all the political parties into “dialogue” in order to map everything in their structures of power; we want to take the struggle out of the hands of political parties entirely, establishing dialogue among people rather than with parties or governments. We seek to spread struggles in which we communicate with and inspire others directly, as you have inspired us.

We will continue this dialogue in the most meaningful way we can—by continuing to challenge the power structures here in the United States, which underpin those in Egypt and elsewhere around the world. But if any of you can send us reports from your struggles, or translate materials between English and Arabic, we would be glad to hear from you. May we meet in the streets of a stateless world.

contact: rollingthunder @

Further Reading

10 Points on the Black Bloc [Video]
Introduction to the Black Bloc
Black Bloc Safety and Fashion Guide
Debate about Black Bloc Tactics