Types of Repression: Provocation

A provocateur is when either a member of a state agency or someone being paid by a state agency or enticed as part of a plea deal attempts to disrupt or divide an organization or movement in order to make it ineffective. Provocation can take many forms and usually it relies on using existing weaknesses of the movement and/ or unresolved conflicts. 

Here are some specific examples: 

  • encouragement to take a very escalated action like bombing something or assassinating someone
  • providing weapons like guns to people
  • spreading rumors that someone is an agent or that someone is an abuser
  • anonymous posts online fingering someone as a cop or abuser
  • getting people involved in selling drugs or running guns
  • bullying people to take specific kinds of actions
  • abusive or oppressive behavior towards specific members of the group
  • incoherent or constantly changing political positions


If you think someone is a state agent or in the employ of a state agency, it is important that you have credible visual evidence of this before you accuse them within your organization or publicly. It can be very dangerous to accuse someone of being an agent or paid by the state if they are not. Credible visual evidence would be a copy of a plea deal, pay stubs, or other documentation that connects them directly to a specific state agency. 

Unfortunately, people‚Äôs behavior can have the same impact as provocateurs without actually being a state agent or encouraged by the state to take these actions. So focusing on addressing the set of behaviors that are disruptive is often more effective at dealing with these types of issues than focusing on outing someone as a cop. 

Developing practices and group cultures that center and value building compassionate, direct and resilient relationships and preventing, confronting, and healing harm done by oppressive behavior are a starting point to dealing with behavior that is disruptive and divisive. Engage in long term political study and develop a clear set of politics in which you collectively envision different possibilities of a liberated world.  This process allows organizations and movements to have open and generative political debate. They can bring to light people whose politics are inconsistent or harmful to the movement. Encouraging people to talk about concerns they have with comrades behavior or raising issues they are having with other comrades in a safe space that is not public can help to identify disruptive behavior earlier and make it easier to deal with. Creating a movement-wide culture of first bringing rumors or real instances of conflict or abuse directly to organizations or the people involved and attempting to deal with them outside the public eye can also undermine the work of disruptive people and provocateurs whose main goal is to divide and destroy relationships and movements.  These are just a starting point for dealing with the kinds of problematic behavior that impact the work of organizations and movements working towards building a liberated world.