Two and a half years ago, anarchists pushed their Trojan horses into city parks for Occupy Wall Street. Now they are piling back into the horse, once again hoping to be pulled through the gates of popular credibility. Can we be surprised twice? Or do we liberals so yearn for urgency and passion that we want to flirt with anarchist dreams again?
Martin Luther King Jr. was much quoted throughout Occupy, which the anarchist movement hopes to revive with Worldwide Wave of Action, launched on Dr. King’s assassination anniversary, April 4. Since November, apocalyptic Occupy graphics and Anonymous videos have enlisted Dr. King’s powerful oratory as an endorsement of “autonomous nonviolent direct action.”
Internet users and celebrities stirred by pulsing propaganda may not know Dr. King wrote this about Little Rock: “I believe firmly in nonviolence, but, at the same time, I am not an anarchist.” His next sentence leaves no doubt. “I believe in the intelligent use of police force,” wrote a man who understood both police brutality and provocation.
Dr. King also agreed with other civil rights leaders when concealed identities were discussed and rejected as childish in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955. Like all good leaders he sought and nurtured leadership qualities in others. Most importantly, Dr. King knew how to work with other leaders and supporters to craft practical demands.
These are only the handiest indications of anarchism’s tragi-comic divergence from the civil rights movement. Organized, unwaveringly emphasized nonviolence is different from the libertarian “diversity of tactics” embraced by today’s anarchists, a nonviolent nod to property destruction and riots. Just to be sure.
Wave of Action has far less in common with Martin Luther King Jr. in Montgomery or Birmingham than Abbie Hoffman in Chicago; less I Have A Dream than Revolution for the Hell of It, the title of Hoffman’s first book. There can be no push for major new legislation, and certainly no revolution resulting from Wave of Action, we can be sure. However, there will likely be dispersed but not wholly disorganized provocations of police.
Writing from Oakland, California, where anarchist insurrectionism announced itself most plainly during Occupy, I have a few observations to share.
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