“Progressive”Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry (part 1.)

Part 1. Part 2.  Part 3.

Pittsburgh City Council parking pass holder and self-described “liberal”, Bill Peduto, has gotten a little nutty in his attempt to reassure the people who shop on Walnut Street, that the unwashed masses have not taken Lucy Parson’s admonition to heart:

Let every dirty, lousy tramp arm himself with a revolver or knife on the steps of the palace of the rich and stab or shoot their owners as they come out. Let us kill them without mercy, and let it be a war of extermination and without pity

This year’s G8 summit in Germany prompted solidarity actions in the form of minor economic sabotage in a wealthy shopping district, a counter recruitment picket called for by local activists/anarchists, the Pittsburgh Organizing Group (POG), as well as minor damages to a locally owned coffee shop integral to the gentrification of the East End, and a food co-op which took it’s seat with Starbucks and the rest by doing what it had to do to thwart an IWW organizing drive, although in the case of the co-op and coffee shop, apparently no mention was made of the local issues, only the G8.

For once, the picket was not the problem, but a message board frequented by local hipsters and a parody by an anonymous poster (another anonymous parody quipped at the reaction) on the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center jumped to the same illogical conclusion favored by allegedly less thoughtful souls such as marine recruiters and right-wing, yuppie bloggers: that a non-violent, above-ground, group with ties to many other progressive organizations would put themselves and their supporters at risk with these kinds of actions. It is unlikely that POG would also seek to further polarize segments of the local social justice community. What was predictable was the outrage from the leisure classes, especially the ones who feel they can abate the ill effects of capitalism through responsible buying and selling, which is similar to their faith in the electoral process. Granted there is always a more appropriate window to break, but that’s not my decision.

This was all idiotic enough, but it didn’t go “through the looking glass” until District 8’s own self-described “progressive” Bill Peduto, staged a press conference to comfort his wealthy constituents, and possibly to impress some of the young ladies who frequent Shadyside’s public houses.

To be continued…

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3 Comments

  1. A fresh blog in Pittsburgh to ward off the rotten stench of the artistic class [sic].

  2. There’s “always a more appropriate window to break”? Really?

    Breaking windows does negligible damage to capital; such isolated attacks won’t even cause insurance premiums to rise. (Besides, we’re not talking about warheads here: the Quiet Storm, for example, is exploitative just like any other capitalist enterprise, but it also serves a *productive* social purpose, or at least could under workers’ control.)

    But more absurd is the suggestion that these attacks have inspired a fear of the “unwashed masses” in the yuppies. By and large, the masses are indifferent or opposed to such actions. Do you really believe that the same folks who put self-proclaimed “CEO of Pittsburgh” Bob O’Connor in office stand behind them?

    On the contrary, *elitism* is the very essence of this approach. The vandals’ actions betray a contemp for working people: a belief that they need to act as the saviors of those who they think are too stupid to act for themselves; or worse, that the people *themselves* are just as much an enemy as the employers. Thus, they have the gall to enjoin working people to “stop buying and selling”. (And of course, they don’t give a damn about the workers who have to clean up the mess they leave behind.)

    This isn’t to say, of course, that their grievances are unfounded — the Co-op’s actions during the IWW’s organizing drive were despicable, and the Quiet Storm is a contributor to gentrification. But the vandals aren’t the ones who should be addressing these problems: the people directly affected by them are. The thing to do isn’t to try to banish these institutions, but rather subject them to forms of democratic oversight.

    You’re right, of course, that Peduto’s using this as an excuse to crack down — and what bourgeois politician wouldn’t? If one good thing came out of this series of events, it was to reveal the bankruptcy of both the sectarians and the opportunists. It revealed both that these sorts of tactics provide an excuse for repression, and that our liberal “friends” are just itching to resort to repression.

    The bottom line is this: people aren’t radicalized by “propanda of the deed”. They’re radicalized through participation in *successful social struggle*, usually for reforms. When we’re on the verge of revolution, then we can (maybe) talk about breaking windows. Until then, however, breaking windows only staves off the revolution by *undermining* mass action.

    As for the culprits: we shouldn’t be pointing fingers (because really, who among us cares?), and of course we should defend POG against the attacks of Peduto, et al.

    That said, to characterize POG as you have is, I think, incorrect. While POG hasn’t broken windows (not “officially”, anyway), it has engaged in some pretty ridiculous adventurism, and *has* promoted “diversity of tactics” at the risk of endangering those around them. Moreover, POG is one of the most bizzarely sectarian groups I’ve ever encountered. They’re just fine with working with liberals, but will have nothing to do with “state socialists” (who, by the way, are pretty much the only ones consistently advocating mass action of the sort described above). Is it any surprise that they have not one concrete victory to their name?

  3. (Besides, we’re not talking about warheads here: the Quiet Storm, for example, is exploitative just like any other capitalist enterprise, but it also serves a *productive* social purpose, or at least could under workers’ control.)

    And all those fine weapons the US military has would serve a productive purpose in the hands of the people. You could say that about anything. “Those caged lions could rip out the throats of the capitalists, in the hands of the workers.”
    But more absurd is the suggestion that these attacks have inspired a fear of the “unwashed masses” in the yuppies. By and large, the masses are indifferent oropposed to such actions. Do you really believe that the same folks who put self-proclaimed “CEO of Pittsburgh” Bob O’Connor in office stand behind them?
    You don’t think yuppies fear harm to their persons or property? Or that the exploited classes harbor no desire to harm said persons and/or property?
    You don’t get out much, do you?

    On the contrary, *elitism* is the very essence of this approach. The vandals’ actions betray a contemp for working people: a belief that they need to act as the saviors of those who they think are too stupid to act for themselves; or worse, that the people *themselves* are just as much an enemy as the employers. Thus, they have the gall to enjoin working people to “stop buying and selling”. (And of course, they don’t give a damn about the workers who have to clean up the mess they leave behind.)
    This isn’t to say, of course, that their grievances are unfounded — the Co-op’s actions during the IWW’s organizing drive were despicable, and the Quiet Storm is a contributor to gentrification. But the vandals aren’t the ones who should be addressing these problems: the people directly affected by them are. The thing to do isn’t to try to banish these institutions, but rather subject them to forms of democratic oversight.

    Elitism (what’s with the asterisks?) figures prominently into your analysis of these actions. How do you know that whoever broke these windows wasn’t exploited by the co-op, or personally affected by the gentrification of Penn Avenue? IAnything not cleared with the Central Committee is somehow elitist? Trots who mention ‘democratic oversight’ are dishonest or ignorant.

    The bottom line is this: people aren’t radicalized by “propanda of the deed”. They’re radicalized through participation in *successful social struggle*, usually for reforms. When we’re on the verge of revolution, then we can (maybe) talk about breaking windows. Until then, however, breaking windows only staves off the revolution by *undermining* mass action.

    “First the War, then the Revolution” Where have I heard that one before? Let me guess, the ISO knows when the time is right, and what constitutes “successful social struggle” (those asterisks again). You are also experts in what “radicalizes people” . Had it ever occurred to you that people could act without your permission? I favor autonomous decentralized action, not the delusional failed strategies of red fascism.

    That said, to characterize POG as you have is, I think, incorrect. While POG hasn’t broken windows (not “officially”, anyway), it has engaged in some pretty ridiculous adventurism, and *has* promoted “diversity of tactics” at the risk of endangering those around them. Moreover, POG is one of the most bizzarely sectarian groups I’ve ever encountered. They’re just fine with working with liberals, but will have nothing to do with “state socialists” (who, by the way, are pretty much the only ones consistently advocating mass action of the sort described above). Is it any surprise that they have not one concrete victory to their name?

    You’ll have to forgive what you consider to be my ” incorrect characterization of POG” I am only speaking from my personal experience from working for several years with them. Who doesn’t know that dissenting in the US carries with it a risk of being exposed to violence? People who equate dissent with selling newspapers? In my experience, great care was always taken to inform and minimize the risk to participants in POG’s actions. It always seemed restrictive to me.
    I always understood POG’s relationship with various liberal groups to have arisen out practical necessity. That’s not to say I liked it, and it was ultimately was one of the factors that led to the end of my direct involvement with them.
    One of the reasons that POG wouldn’t work with red fascists, is that there is no reason to waste any effort to accommodate irrelevant historical reenactors. It’s funny too, that all it took to banish you Jehovah’s-Leninist paper machines was to ban the sale of your cult’s literature at their events. You can advocate all the “mass action” (no asterisks this time?) you want, but without a time machine, you’ll be lucky to find two dozen people who want to be subjected to your authoritarian nonsense.
    Another reason anarchists in general, won’t work with you, is due to your history of violent repression and opposition to direct democracy.
    What concrete victory do the trots have to their name, that didn’t involve the murder of anarchists?


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