Dear Occupiers: A Letter From Anarchists


Seen at the Occupy SD Free Library last night...

[text from pdf pasted in by sdimc volunteer - thanks for posting!]

Dear Occupiers: A Letter From Anarchists

Support and solidarity! We’re inspired by the
occupations on Wall Street and elsewhere around
the country. Finally, people are taking to the streets
again! Th e momentum around these actions has the
potential to reinvigorate protest and resistance in this
country. We hope these occupations will increase
both in numbers and in substance, and we’ll do our
best to contribute to that.

Why should you listen to us? In short, because
we’ve been at this a long time already. We’ve spent
decades struggling against capitalism, organizing
occupations, and making decisions by consensus. If
this new movement doesn’t learn from the mistakes
of previous ones, we run the risk of repeating them.
We’ve summarized some of our hard-won lessons here.

Occupation is nothing new. The land we stand on is
already occupied territory. The United States was founded
upon the extermination of indigenous peoples and the
colonization of their land, not to mention centuries of
slavery and exploitation. For a counter-occupation to
be meaningful, it has to begin from this history. Better
yet, it should embrace the history of resistance extending
from indigenous self-defense and slave revolts through
the various workers’ and anti-war movements right up to
the recent anti-globalization movement.

The “99%” is not one social body, but many.
Some occupiers have presented a narrative in which
the “99%” is characterized as a homogenous mass. Th e
faces intended to represent “ordinary people” often
look suspiciously like the predominantly white, law-
abiding middle-class citizens we’re used to seeing on
television programs, even though such people make up
a minority of the general population.

It’s a mistake to whitewash over our diversity. Not everyone
is waking up to the injustices of capitalism for the fi rst time
now; some populations have been targeted by the power
structure for years or generations. Middle-class workers
who are just now losing their social standing can learn a lot
from those who have been on the receiving end of injustice
for much longer.

The problem isn’t just a few “bad apples.” The
crisis is not the result of the selfi shness of a few investment
bankers; it is the inevitable consequence of an economic
system that rewards cutthroat competition at every level of
society. Capitalism is not a static way of life but a dynamic
process that consumes everything, transforming the world
into profi t and wreckage. Now that everything has been
fed into the fi re, the system is collapsing, leaving even its
former benefi ciaries out in the cold. Th e answer is not to
revert to some earlier stage of capitalism—to go back to
the gold standard, for example; not only is that impossible,
those earlier stages didn’t benefit the “99%” either. To get
out of this mess, we’ll have to rediscover other ways of
relating to each other and the world around us.

Police can’t be trusted. They may be “ordinary
workers,” but their job is to protect the interests of the
ruling class. As long as they remain employed as police,
we can’t count on them, however friendly they might
act. Occupiers who don’t know this already will learn it
fi rsthand as soon as they threaten the imbalances of wealth
and power our society is based on. Anyone who insists that
the police exist to protect and serve the common people
has probably lived a privileged life, and an obedient one.

Don’t fetishize obedience to the law. Laws serve
to protect the privileges of the wealthy and powerful;
obeying them is not necessarily morally right—it may
even be immoral. Slavery was legal. The Nazis had laws
too. We have to develop the strength of conscience to
do what we know is best, regardless of the laws.
To have a diversity of participants, a move-
ment must make space for a diversity of
tactics. It’s controlling and self-important to think
you know how everyone should act in pursuit of a better
world. Denouncing others only equips the authorities to
delegitimize, divide, and destroy the movement as a whole.

Criticism and debate propel a movement forward, but
power grabs cripple it. The goal should not be to compel
everyone to adopt one set of tactics, but to discover how
diff erent approaches can be mutually beneficial.
Don’t assume those who break the law or con-
front police are agents provocateurs. A lot
of people have good reason to be angry. Not everyone
is resigned to legalistic pacifism; some people still
remember how to stand up for themselves. Police
violence isn’t just meant to provoke us, it’s meant to
hurt and scare us into inaction. In this context, self-
defense is essential.

Assuming that those at the front of clashes with the
authorities are somehow in league with the authorities
is not only illogical—it delegitimizes the spirit it takes
to challenge the status quo, and dismisses the courage of
those who are prepared to do so. Th is allegation is typical
of privileged people who have been taught to trust the
authorities and fear everyone who disobeys them.

No government—that is to say, no centralized
power—will ever willingly put the needs of
common people before the needs of the
powerful. It’s naïve to hope for this. Th e center
of gravity in this movement has to be our freedom
and autonomy, and the mutual aid that can sustain
those—not the desire for an “accountable” centralized
power. No such thing has ever existed; even in 1789,
the revolutionaries presided over a “democracy” with
slaves, not to mention rich and poor.

That means the important thing is not just to make
demands upon our rulers, but to build up the power
to realize our demands ourselves. If we do this
eff ectively, the powerful will have to take our demands
seriously, if only in order to try to keep our attention
and allegiance. We attain leverage by developing our
own strength.

Likewise, countless past movements learned the hard
way that establishing their own bureaucracy, however
“democratic,” only undermined their original goals. We
shouldn’t invest new leaders with authority, nor even
new decision-making structures; we should fi nd ways
to defend and extend our freedom, while abolishing the
inequalities that have been forced on us.

The occupations will thrive on the actions we
take. We’re not just here to “speak truth to power”—
when we only speak, the powerful turn a deaf ear to
us. Let’s make space for autonomous initiatives and
organize direct action that confronts the source of social
inequalities and injustices.

Thanks for reading and
scheming and acting.
May your every dream come true.

dearoccupiers.pdf ||