Notes on the October Rebellion

october

Tactical Feedback from the Streets of Georgetown, October 19, 2007

Friday, October 19, over two hundred people staged an unpermitted march in one of the expensive shopping districts of Washington, D.C. to manifest opposition to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. To our knowledge, this was probably the most—if not only—effective use of the black bloc tactic in Washington, D.C. since the Presidential Inauguration in 2005. This is promising, given the opportunities for mass action coming up in 2008. At the same time, there were some things that could have been improved, which we chalk up to inexperience and the usual internal dissension; in the interests of constructive criticism, we’ll chiefly be reviewing those here.

To disclose the limitations of this analysis at the outset, none of us were involved in the organization leading up to the march, only in the action itself. We’ll leave it to others to derive and share specific lessons from the organizing process.

For more background: www.octoberrebellion.org -:- youtube footage

SCHEDULING

There were several other events in the course of the weekend; focusing on this one here is not intended the undercut the significance of the others. At the same time, it strikes us as a tremendous missed opportunity that so many “national mobilizations” in D.C. were scheduled for different days in October. Earlier in the month there had been an anti-war march, and the following Monday there was civil disobedience on the theme “no war, no warming”—and to make matters worse, an hour away in Baltimore there was a radical bookfair running the entire weekend. One of the lessons of the so-called “Anti-Globalization” movement was that the more events coincide with each other, the more effective each can be. The “no war, no warming” blockades on Monday morning—basically just lines of people with their arms linked together—could only have lasted longer than the few minutes they did if the police had been busy dealing with a militant march like the one that took place Friday night. Whether this was a failure of communication, diplomacy, or imagination, let’s hope that next time organizers will coordinate their efforts.

getting arrested

LOCATION

Anyone who misses the connection between playgrounds of the wealthy such as Georgetown (the D.C. neighborhood in which the march took place) and the destructive policies of the IMF and World Bank needs to take Capitalism 101 over again.

Georgetown was an excellent location for this march. Some unpermitted marches in D.C. have passed through essentially empty streets, framing the anticapitalist struggle as a private grudge match between anarchists and police. It made a lot more sense to be in a space full of witnesses—this not only increases the visibility of our resistance, but also ties the hands of police, who prefer not to use chemical agents in spaces crowded with civilians or brutalize protesters in full view of the liberal bourgeoisie. A busy street also offers more crowd cover for safe dispersal and escape.

POLICE CONDUCT

Wealthy liberal bystanders or no, the police had their hands tied by stronger cords—the consequences of the various lawsuits brought against them following their outrageous conduct at earlier demonstrations, including the “People’s Strike” protests at the IMF/World Bank meetings five years previous. This was a real boon to Friday’s march: though several hundred police accompanied the protest, attempting to line it on both sides with motorcycle cops and trailing it with an entourage several blocks long, the police stayed away from the front of the march and did not try to penetrate its lines even when participants began throwing bricks and tearing up trash cans. Years ago, such a march would almost certainly have ended in an attempted mass arrest; this time, when the police finally moved in to cordon off the march after a full hour in the streets, they didn’t even search people, instead allowing them to leave in small groups.

This hesitancy on the part of the police is a priceless gift from the ghosts of IMF protests past. It is up to current protesters to take maximum advantage of it, while not forgetting how to stage unpermitted marches without such restraint on the part of the police. If we ever become as effective as we were in 2000-2002, the police will return to their old methods no matter how much it costs them.

Many of the participants in the march were not familiar with the recent history of anarchist and police activity in D.C., and so were not equipped to predict probable police tactics. It is extremely important that people study the precedents before participating in an action—asking what has happened when people have tried similar tactics in the same place, and how things have changed since then. The October Rebellion march had a lot in common with the “Smash the State of the Union” march of 2003—and in fact the authorities used the same strategy to police both, right down to the line of motorcycles around the march, although this time they were more restrained.

The organizers of the October Rebellion would have done well to have distributed more information about the precedents for Friday’s action—presuming they’ve been around long enough to be familiar with them. At the convergence point Friday night, around the time the march should have been getting started, many people were still milling around the periphery in small groups, afraid that they would be mass-arrested if they dared venture across the street. Can you imagine how much safer it would be for everyone if we showed up all at once at exactly the time called for and set out right then—instead of walking around for an hour, passing the same police and cameras over and over without masks on, waiting for someone else to go first?

DIVISION

The march divided into two groups, apparently following conflicts over tactics in the organizing process. Whatever factors led to this—and we are not situated to comment on them—let us note that historically, the organizers of black bloc actions have rarely displayed excellent social skills. This is a black eye for anarchists, in that it gives the erroneous impression that we engage in violent tactics because we are jerks. Ideally, those who organize the most militant actions would be the gentlest and most sensitive, so as to be best prepared to deal with the intense stress involved in such organizing and to avoid making hotheaded decisions. The better our social skills are, the more broad-based our mobilizations can be and the more effective our efforts will prove.

While some have complained that it was unfortunate that the march was split in two, this division could conceivably be regarded as a clever strategic move. Not only did it create space for participants who had different needs, it also stretched the police out over a space of several blocks, which must have further limited their capabilities. In the future it might be a good idea to plan for two contingents from the outset: this could enable a wider range of people to participate, and avoid needless conflicts over tactics.

A rumor has reached our ears that the non-violent section of the march was identified as the “anarchafeminist” contingent. If this was intended to differentiate it from the more militant bloc, it was in markedly poor taste. The militant contingent included people of a variety of genders, and the anarchafeminist tradition has included a wide range of orientations towards violence. If a sub-group in the march organized as an explicitly anarchafeminist cluster and then decided to march separately from the rest of the group, it makes perfectly good sense that they called themselves the anarchafeminist contingent. But if a group deciding to avoid potentially violent confrontation then dubbed themselves the “anarchafeminist” group in order to make a gendered moral stance out of their decision, or others subsequently identified them as anarchafeminist on account of that decision, that is either grossly manipulative or grossly sexist. Anyway, we don’t know enough to say more than this.

ENERGY, EQUIPMENT, AND MESSAGING

black bloc 2

The energy and enthusiasm of the participants was inspiring. Several dozen came equipped with helmets; there were enough people with shields to comprise at least one full shield wall spanning the width of the march, though it wasn’t always at the very front where it should have been. The majority of the participants seemed to be organized in affinity groups, which is essential for any militant march; most of the crowd behind the shield wall walked in lines with arms linked, like the black blocs in Germany during this past summer’s anti-G8 protests. There was a palpable difference between Friday night’s passionate chanting and the tame chants heard Monday morning during the No War, No Warming blockades: it’s one thing to mumble “Whose streets?” from the sidewalk as you watch the police drag off arrestees, another thing entirely to roar “Our streets!” from the pavement when you’re prepared to defend them.

We can’t draw conclusions about the police response described above without taking these factors into account. Rather than drawing police repression, militant preparation often discourages it—police will generally push a crowd as far as they think they can, civil liberties or no. Readiness to stand your ground will usually get you a lot further than a paper permit.

There was a little property destruction, too—the odd rock hitting a corporate window, including one belonging to Starbucks. It was nothing compared to the damage that occurred the night of the last Presidential Inauguration—but there were no police around the march that night. This time they lined the march on all sides, so it was impressive anything took place at all.

That’s the good news. But it must be said that this seemed to be a fairly new crowd—most of the participants were probably just getting involved in things like this around the time of the last Inauguration, and that’s not a lot of time to build a skill base, especially in a relatively quiet era. If the police had forcefully attacked the march rather than simply accompanying it, who knows whether the kids holding shields would have stood their ground or broken ranks and fled? Hopefully those who participated have gained enough experience and morale to be more prepared for such a situation next time. It’s one thing to look militant, but another thing entirely to deal with the terrifying situation of actual street fighting. Looking at pictures from the G8 demo on the internet is not enough to prepare you for that.

As for preparation, all the shields looked impressive, but hard banners—long, solid banners made out of wood or insulation board, such that police cannot smash them or snatch people through them—have proved more effective in practice. [Let it be said once again here that PVC pipe is NOT useful for defense, as was demonstrated most recently at the daytime march during the last Presidential Inauguration!] Police can pierce a line of kids with shields easily enough, but a solid wall of full-height hard banners is hard to penetrate, and you can’t get an assault charge for holding one; several hard banners can be linked together into a jointed mobile wall to safeguard an entire crowd. Perhaps people feared it would be difficult to get such massive items past police to the departure point, but they could have been stashed early along the march route and brought into it as the crowd passed.

The lack of banners of any kind—or any kind of coherent messaging whatsoever—in the militant contingent was a real missed opportunity. A big, artfully painted banner across the front of the march would have made all the difference. We want it to be clear to everyone exactly why we’re doing this, don’t we? When the crowd was first gathering, lots of locals were asking what the march was about, and few people took the time to explain in detail. A couple skaters who did receive a satisfactory explanation chose to come along—let’s never underestimate the importance of articulating what we’re doing and why.

Finally, though the chanting was refreshingly passionate, why was there no drum corps? There was barely a five gallon drum to be seen, and only one whistle. Music helps maintain the spirits of a moving crowd; if we can’t follow the Europeans in accompanying our marches with techno-blasting sound trucks, the least we can do is pull together a few percussion instruments.

TRAGEDY

A stray brick, thrown apparently without careful aim or consideration, hit a spectator in the head. She wasn’t a police officer or even a heckler, just a person passing by.

This is totally unacceptable. If anything separates us from police and other terrorists, it is that we do not countenance so-called “collateral damages.” People are bound to get hurt in a revolutionary struggle, but this was utterly pointless: the fact that so few bystanders have been injured at black bloc actions in the past decade attests to this. We may throw rocks at police, but they know exactly what they are getting into—and we do so not because they deserve to be injured, but because it is necessary to defend ourselves and the freedoms for which we struggle. From a purely tactical perspective, a person who wishes to throw a brick at a corporate window should wait for an absolutely clear shot, or send a friend to clear the sidewalk (just as well-organized black blocs used to be accompanied by a person whose task was to dissuade photographers), or else aim at the endless line of police windshields behind the crowd.

Head trauma can cause long term effects that drastically impact a person’s life. Let’s all hope that this woman recovers completely, and that no bystanders are ever injured by projectiles from our marches again. A personal apology is in order from whomever threw that thoughtless brick; it will have to be anonymous, seeing as how we can’t trust the “justice” of the state, but if accountability means anything in our circles, he or she should assume responsibility for the consequences of that poor decision.

DISPERSAL, DISPERSAL, DISPERSAL!

The mistake most frequently made in organizing unpermitted marches and similar actions is that insufficient attention is given to how the affair will end. Perhaps this issue was discussed in the organizing for this march, but it was impossible to tell by the results: the police eventually trapped everyone and let people out in small groups, on the condition that all disturbances cease. If we plan realistically for how our actions will end, we can conclude them on our own terms; this is safer for us, and usually avoids needless arrests. It’s always better to quit while we’re ahead, retaining the initiative and the sense that we control our own destiny, than to continue aimlessly until the police figure out how to shut us down. Really tight black bloc planning involves getting into the area, going through the target zone, and getting the entire group to a place where everyone can disperse safely.

After the march disbanded, it was distressing to see many people nonchalantly walking down the street blocks away with their masks and gear still on. This may be safe enough in D.C. right now, but in just about every other time and place the rule is that masked individuals away from the main bloc are ruthlessly targeted by police. Those who cut their black bloc teeth in D.C. last Friday should not expect things to be so easy ever again. One of the essential challenges of participating in a black bloc is transitioning in and out of your gear quickly, out of sight of police and cameras, without spending any more time than necessary running around by yourself in a sketchy outfit.

PRELIMINARY CONCLUSIONS

Contrary to post-9/11 alarmism, it’s still possible to pull off militant unpermitted marches. In fact, as the effects of police misconduct during the last round of mass actions set in and the pendulum swings back to the Left in parts of the US, it may be more possible than ever.

SDS, whatever some say about it, offers a concrete convergence point for young people to get involved in revolutionary struggle; the networks it offers appear to be catalyzing new organizing efforts. This bodes well for 2008. Hopefully the SDS groups scattered across the nation will inspire non-affiliated anarchists to form their own affinity groups, so organizational structures will already be in place when radicals come together next summer for direct action at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions.

Finally, it was notable that very few of the participants in this march were involved in the black blocs that took place around the turn of the century. That’s bad news in that it suggests either a high turnover rate in participants or a poor rapport between longtime activists and this new generation… but we could look at it as good news, as well. Imagine if all the people on the East coast who were involved in black blocs seven or even three years ago had turned out for this one—it would have been huge, and the results would have been truly unpredictable! If the latest wave of radicals can establish bonds with the alumni of earlier generations, the results will be historic. That’s a big challenge, and a big opportunity, for this coming year.

28 thoughts on “Notes on the October Rebellion

  1. Thanks for the valuable advice. Anyone know about precedents for police conduct in response to the kind of actions being planned against the RNC in St. Paul? There will potentially be militant marches, blockades, barricades, and civil disobedience.

    Love from Milwaukee!

    http://mkeanarchy.bravehost.com/index.html

  2. I don’t really understand the return to ‘counter-summit politics’ within anarchist circles, but I don’t like it. I think it speaks to a general lack of creativity and failure to understand or critique the ‘anti-globalization’ thin that came before.

    My confusion may speak to how far I have diverged from contemporary anarchism and activism, but how the hell can anyone be excited about protesting at the Party conventions?!? I hope people have fun in the streets, but the amount of sacrifice and division of labor/hierarchy that goes into these attempted ‘artificial riots’ is painful for me to contemplate.

    “the pendulum swings back to the Left in parts of the US”

    Hmm, I would say that the Left is just as much the enemy as the Right and that it would be way more interesting if radicals attempted to dismantle the re-emergence of the extraparliamentary left (ie. destroy SDS and other similar things).

  3. I think the event went good for the most part. I think we made some sort of attempt within the Georgetown neighborhood, well an impact of some sort. I didn’t like that the anarchafeminists decided to branch off from us in a “non-violent” march, we needed solidarity with everyone participating, I think.

    As far as the girl who got hit with the brick – I saw it right afterwards and it was unfortunate it happened. I do believe it was an accident and as mentioned in the article – things like that are bound to happen and perhaps the person throwing should have looked for things to be clear -but maybe she stepped just in time to get hit, we don’t know.

    I also think as far as causing sorts of destruction within a rich privileged community – that we need to understand the people who are going to be cleaning up. Sadly .. it’s not going to be the ones were aiming to revolt against. It’s going to be us, the people were are struggling with.

    And yes, the ones still in gear, people of color, trans, etc can and will be targeted by police and that’s a very good thing to point out.

  4. xdx–

    The mention of the “pendulum swinging to the Left” is not approving–yes, they are as much the enemy as the Right. The only reason that is mentioned is that when politicians who present themselves as Left hold office, police repression tends to be more restrained (ask Daniel McGowan and company, they’ll tell you the same thing). We should take this into account when planning tactics and strategy–so no, I don’t think the “return to anti-summit politics,” as you put it, is necessarily a bad thing. Show me a better idea and I’ll probably be interested, but when the thrust of a statement is criticism per se rather than a counterproposal, there are limits to its usefulness.

    HeatherJ–

    As a person who worked food service jobs for minimum wage at an establishment that was occasionally the target of pranks or low-grade property damage, I personally cleaned up some of the destruction of which you speak. It was a great break from the mind-numbing boredom of my rote tasks. I actually had a conversation with a couple rank and file maintenance workers today who hated their bosses so much they wished somebody would come fuck things up around their workplace–every worker in that situation has a plan all worked out for how he or she would do it, but they can’t do it because of their vulnerable position.

    If anything, messing things up in places like Georgetown creates jobs–liberals should be thrilled about it, since they haven’t been able to accomplish that avowed goal with their own policies. If they have to hire extra workers or pay overtime to clean up, that’s a little more money being spread around rather than going right into the rich people’s coffers.

  5. Indeed, my comments are not useful, but I am not a fan of utilitarianism…

    I have no strategic counterproposal or political position to advocate other than, maybe we would like each other more if we gave meaning and direction in our lives in ways other than strategy and politics. Lately I’ve been relearning how to play trumpet, learning how to play Go, trying to find people to discuss books with, and so on. Of course, none of these things are useful to “building a political movement” or whatever y’all think you’re doing. Is this a retreat on my part? Is my movement away from confrontational actions a sign of failure or weakness?

    A personal aside: now that I’ve left activism behind, I feel more confident in asserting my interests in the workplace. Not necessarily a direct connection, but I do find that constantly fighting for things other than myself mystified what my interests were and made me unable (or unwilling) to apply my theory and critique to myself. I’m learning how to be selfish again, and it’s really wonderful.

  6. We should be using summits as ways to develop a praxis and learn how we can open spaces to assert our agency together (also present alternatives through action). We do after all have a lot of learning to do and it will take many individuals working together and separately to end the misery of civilization. I don’t think this has to be limited to the sterile confines of activism and quantitative logic.

    Why create these binaries with only clandestine/individiual action and only collective mass action?

  7. What do we learn from dozens of people spending a year or more of their life and thousands of dollars, hundreds more travelling a great distance, and so on to create the possibility of a day-long ‘aritificial riot’? I guess one can learn things from wild street situations, but if one looks at the riot in Toledo or wherever else, anarchists and other ‘specialists in street fighting with police’ never really match up to the intensity of spontaneous riots.

    A lot of people approach these summits as ‘training exercises’, but I think that trained cadres are less capable than everyone else because they’re shackled by their politics and organizations.

    Another aside: the black bloc has been one form where anarchists (in the US anyway) have sided very clearly with the rest of the Left… members of the Maoist RCP youth group participated in black blocs and black bloc communiques always celebrate the unions. Why do the most ‘militant’ expressions of ideologies seem to always tend towards leftism? This goes for the insurrectionary anarchists as well.

  8. I would never argue that we should only riot during summits, nor would I agrue for a specialization in struggle, but I don’t see a problem with taking advantage of the situation and presenting other alternatives to people.

    On the aside: I don’t see why because certain tactics have been associated with the left that means that we can no longer use them as tools for our own. A police officer shoots a gun. I don’t really know what point your trying to make by saying that people have sided with the left. Insurrectionary anarchists are pretty obviously critical of the left also.

  9. xdx–

    In reference to Toledo, I think it’s pretty banal to point out that specifically anarchist street actions are not as crazy as generalized street riots–that should be obvious, as there are more pissed off people than self-identified anarchists. I don’t believe, as you seem to, that anarchists automatically exile themselves from the category of potentially dangerous pissed off people just by being anarchists.

    But here’s the rub–if street actions like this are not central to your idea of effective anarchist (or liberating, or etc.) activity, that’s absolutely fine–please focus elsewhere then… both for your sake, and for the sake of those who do find them worthwhile. I daresay those who are currently involved with them, invested in them, and experienced with them will probably have the most useful critiques to offer of them.

  10. ret marut

    Very good point about what you stated in response to my thoughts on the damage of things. I admit when I have worked in types of jobs like that – I did not mind doing the cleaning up, going outside to clean up the lot, etc …

    As well as what you responded to xdx about effective anarchist direct action and taking a part of these things. And I do agree the people that have partcipated in these actions, perhaps may have the best critiques and ideas about them. This was my first major black bloc and just reading this blog gave me good ideas for the future.

  11. I recognize that this is incredibility simplistic but are not both the left and the right expressions of the same ideological system that identifying one self as an anarchist traditionally represents opposition to? If either can ever be used to our advantage I’m all for it, but either in power is never to our advantage.

    I suspect that in our lifetimes keeping the vision of resistance alive will be the most effective thing we can do, and any venue that creates and maintains a context for struggle in they eyes of the “common” person aids us in that it plays against the idea that a black bloc is just a nihilistic machine bent on destruction.

  12. “I daresay those who are currently involved with them, invested in them, and experienced with them will probably have the most useful critiques to offer of them.”

    If you do not participate, do not critique… if you have nothing useful to say, stop talking… but I don’t want to worship at the altar of pragmatism! Someone who is invested in summit protests is going to defend their investment in the market, especially if they have invested a lot.

    More friends than I would like to admit are very much involved in this new circulation of summit protests, so I think it’s reasonable for me to raise my objections and confusion. I would like to see the coalitions and organizations involved in counter-summit demonstrations dissolved and pro-revolutionaries, if they must direct their activity ‘strategically’, focus their attack on the Left, especially SDS where ‘anarchists’ rub shoulders with Maoists or other groupings that push anti-imperialism, support of the unions, and so on.

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that organized anarchism will be a recuperating force if another cycle of class struggle emerges in the US (with leninists of various stripes joining leftist anarchist federations and groups), so what better time to dismantle them then now, when they are weak and the historical situation is not in favor of their expansion?

    If I want to attack & ‘shake up’ the “DIY Left”, then yes, for my sake I will continue to be critical, though you are right that my critiques are not useful; they are (almost) purely negative.

  13. “If either can ever be used to our advantage I’m all for it, but either in power is never to our advantage.”

    henro—i don’t think you’ll hear much argument here that the left and right are both our enemies. i think the point you are responding to was a tactical reference, stating that police repression is generally more mild when the “left” holds office—which is something we should be aware of and take into consideration when planning our strategies.

  14. As one of those unfortunates getting involved in this round of summit stuff, I think xdx’s comments are extremely valuable and useful; like he said, those of us who “invest” ourselves and energies into ‘summit politics’ have a skewed view and will probably (obviously) come to the conclusion that summit politics are productive/valuable/etc. These self-critiques often fall into the trap of how to produce better summit spectacles, not how to spread the social war.

    False optimism and rose-colored goggles (no matter how shatterproof) pose more of a danger than police repression to widening class struggle, as the emphasis becomes “building a movement” rather than building genuine human community and winning the war.

  15. d-

    the problem is that critiques that are mere criticism, offering no alternatives, many times only further divide the activist community. we need to embrace the diversity of tactics—what works for one person will not work for everyone. when you support others, you’ll often find that they’ll support your endeavors as well—whether or not you both completely agree with each others’ strategies. that’s what mutual aid means to me, and without it, we have little chance of winning “The War” as you put it.

    if you don’t find that mass mobilizations are effective, by all means do what works for you. and please don’t hesitate to share your projects and ideas—that’s the only way we have a shot at changing things.

  16. What constitutes the “activist community”?

    How is holding back criticism a way to “support” someone?

    Shouldn’t we be challenging and engaging with each other, rather than constantly patting each other on the back?

    At the end of the day, some activities – like summit protests – play right into the hands of capital and are merely choreographed dances “on the stage of (eventual) renunciation”, involve unspoken/invisible hierarchies, and create an atmosphere of moralism/leftism. They leave people either devastated and burned out or with a false sense of agency, even when successful on their own terms. Why would I support such endeavors?

  17. hey xdx,
    you didn’t address @dams points. you misrepresented his statements in isolation, ignoring his primary point about diversity of tactics, and then criticized them. that doesn’t make this discussion any better. if you are just looking for a place to argue and ‘win’ then this isn’t it. please be constructive or leave.

  18. im not suggesting that you hold back your criticism. im saying be careful where you direct it. if this form of organizing isn’t effective and is in fact creating an atmosphere of moralism from your perspective, what could go in it’s place? nothingness?

    when you criticize someone on a message board in response to an essay they have written with very little to offer beyond “what you’re doing is ineffective”, it makes it very hard for one to understand what point, if any, you are trying to make.

    attacking others’ efforts without offering an alternative has yet to produce results from my count.

  19. I think I understand exactly what point xdx is trying to make. In his own words:

    “Summit protests … play right into the hands of capital and are merely choreographed dances “on the stage of (eventual) renunciation”, involve unspoken/invisible hierarchies, and create an atmosphere of moralism/leftism. They leave people either devastated and burned out or with a false sense of agency, even when successful on their own terms.”

    Believing this, he has every reason to interfere unconstructively with any more specific discussion of how to improve on DA tactics for mass mobilizations. If we try to talk about how to be safer in the streets, he’s going to see it as his job do his best to shut the discussion down. There’s an unbridgeable gulf.

    For those of us who feel there is some potential in mass actions, I think it probably makes the most sense to use this space to speak about the specific issues brought up in the original article, and use other spaces to discuss the worth or worthlessness of the “summit protest” model. I’m interested in that discussion as well, but if he’s the only one who thinks that’s the best possible use for this space, the rest of us shouldn’t thoughtlessly switch focus against our own intentions and interests.

    In contradiction to the suggestion I just made, I can’t resist saying that it’s difficult to imagine how someone who has had so much different (dare I say so much less!!) experience with mass actions than I have could possibly make a persuasive case to me for any one of the assertions above. I’ve read some of the same authors xdx is influenced by on this issue and I think it’s a bunch of drivel. But if others here want to back up to discuss whether mass mobilizations “play into the hands of capital” and involve “unspoken/invisible hierarchies” and so on any more so than, say, bickering on message boards, perhaps we could have another thread on that subject.

    My guess is that that subject is of interest only to a small minority of readers here.

  20. I don’t mean to be inconsiderate or shut a discussion down. I figured (wrongly?) that a post about summit protests was a suitable place to discuss my thoughts on summit protests. For what it’s worth I did make a practical suggestion, that could conceivably happen at one of these things :

    “I would like to see the coalitions and organizations involved in counter-summit demonstrations dissolved and pro-revolutionaries, if they must direct their activity ’strategically’, focus their attack on the Left, especially SDS where ‘anarchists’ rub shoulders with Maoists or other groupings that push anti-imperialism, support of the unions, and so on.”

    A final thought before leaving this discussion, as a few people suggested I do: when you say that repression of activists is less when Left governments are in power – and this is true, to a point (extremist elements are oftentimes repressed just as harshly) – why is this? Perhaps because Left governments are able to diffuse or integrate activism and thus have no need to attack it with outright repression? This seems to me to be of very high practical importance when thinking about confronting the State in a large street event or wherever else.

  21. Seeing as xdx was the second poster, it can hardly said he was trying disrupt an ongoing discussion. I don’t think the essential questions he raises are ones that we can answer once and then move on. We should always look critically at what’s going on as a part of strategic planning so as to be able to root out those invisible hierarchies, to eradicate leftist influences, and to avoid burn-out and the illusion of success.

    I also don’t understand why criticism needs be “constructive” all the time. After all, much of the anarchist conversation with/criticism of neo-liberal capitalism is not ‘constructive’ at all. Plus, being ‘constructive’ (inasmuch as we’re talking about strategy & tactics) prioritizes action, any action, over what might actually be worthwhile… to paraphrase a zine I just read, it responds to the urgency of the situation with urgent action. I guess I see xdx’s position as ‘loyal opposition’ within our own ranks, although I think the reaction to his comments is largely indicative of how the contemporary N.A. anarchist movement handles dissent within. There’s no reason this thread must only contain one discussion.

    To get down to the “practical” aspect then, I’ve had on my mind the question of “messaging,” which seems to always come up after some adventurist outburst. There was some talk about this after the parade at this year’s CI. convergence, too. I think in these situations messaging is of secondary importance, especially if the action is something that is supposed to speak for itself. On the one hand, folks said they were trashing Georgetown b/c it was a ‘bastion of power’ or whatever, but on the other then folks are saying there should be some sort of outreach. I think it’s kind of crazy to say “We’re gonna come in to your neighborhood and trash the place, here are some good ideas to think about.” The attitude of the march – Destroy Georgetown – pretty much speaks for itself, and skateboarders aside, I’d wonder why you’d think people living/shopping in that neighborhood would be receptive to whatever message would be given out.

    At anti-war breakaway marches or other mostly symbolic stand-around kinda protests, of course ‘messaging’ is important, it’s basically the only reason anyone is out there in the first place, to spread ideas. But for something really aggressive and confrontational, with the explicit purpose of destruction, the medium is the message.

  22. “I also don’t understand why criticism needs be “constructive” all the time. After all, much of the anarchist conversation with/criticism of neo-liberal capitalism is not ‘constructive’ at all.”

    It doesn’t all the time. To compare criticizing your enemy where no dialog is occurring to criticizing your ally in a place that exists solely for dialog (i.e. this comment section) is dishonest, and is the kind of internet-arguing that is not welcome here. You should be less worried about proving you are ‘right’ and more concerned with adding value to this discussion. We have high standards here, and we aren’t interested in offering a soapbox for individuals, but instead in offering a platform for people to discuss ideas and collaborate together. It is essential for all criticism here to be constructive—if you disagree, we don’t need to hear about it, just leave (there are plenty of places on the internet for you to engage in heated, pointless, destructive arguments); on the other hand, if you want to to engage in a constructive conversation, please stay.

  23. xdx is right to point out that under Left regimes, overt repression is usually limited to “extremists,” while cooption becomes the more significant danger for other radicals. This is especially complex for anarchists who wish to work with people who don’t explicitly share their politics–broad alliances can accomplish goals small, ideologically homogenous groups cannot, but they also involve tremendous risk of anarchist efforts being absorbed into authoritarian projects. I think a lot of us are watching SDS trepidatiously, waiting to see to what extent the authoritarians involved are going to get the upper hand; at the same time, I don’t think it is helpful to the antiauthoritarians involved to write SDS off at this point. If SDS can serve as a focal point for new momentum, that will be a good thing, unless that momentum is totally coopted.

    Messaging is another tough question. It’s no good to be out in the street as foot soldiers looking only to serve a Message, whose actions and experiences are meaningless except as advertising for it. At the same time, if we’re seeking new relationships, new dynamics with others, it’s probably counterproductive to remain willfully incomprehensible to those around us. The skaters may indeed join in because they’ve always wanted to trash their neighborhood, and perhaps that in itself is legitimate, but there are plenty of others–some of them fascists, for example–who would gladly get involved in trashing for its own sake too. What separates our trashing from theirs? If the medium is the message–destroy, destroy, destroy and no more than that–we might find ourselves with the wrong bedfellows (Kristallnacht, anyone?). One purpose of messaging is to make it clear exactly what currents we’re trying to nurture.

  24. I’m very far removed from the collective and its been 8 years since I was in the streets so I don’t feel like I can add anything constructive to this discussion. I would like to say that it’s an intense relief to me that there’s life in it. No blanket statements about how nothing we can do will work or even anything that strikes me as truly pessimistic.

    I don’t know any of you but I love you all. Thanks for Being.

    Excuse my soy cheese…

  25. couple things- I appreciate the xdx posts. Sometimes we don’t feel right about something but genuinely can’t conjure up an alternative. It’ still good to speak those criticisms, maybe it can spark someone else to offer an alternative!

    Either way, the issues xdx has and their response (turning inward and developing one’s self) is a very common one happening in anarchist circles here in Denver. Many comrades are conflicted over the DNC and how it will help or harm anarchist work.

    I personally see self-work, community organizing and (mass) protest as all very essential and in many ways interlocked. The coming DNC has given many of us anarchists here the impetus to start getting our shit together more. Go out and do all those things we’ve been meaning to do for so long…make a rad indymedia group that will outlast the convention, firm up current coalitions and forge new ones, improve our own intra-anarchist communication and action, and establish links with other radicals outside our city.

    Already I have made great connections with people that stand on their own, the DNC was the spark, now they’re there. People forget that much of the hard work that goes into these events continue on long after the streets are cleared.

    This comment is long so I’ll just end by briefly saying that I am really encouraged and inspired by the re-emergence of more militant tactics accompanied by some really thoughtful analysis afterwards. Our brains are raging here in Denver trying to figure out this DNC thing, it’s nice to see others are doing the same across the country.

  26. I’ve been really pushing for De-Arrest workshops in the aftermath of the October rebellion.

    This is why.

    A cop speared me from one side of the bloc and pushed me all the way to the opposite side of the bloc. So, 2 pigs pushed 1 person through 200 people in black watched and the ones in black seemingly were unwilling to take the small risk of grabbing on to me and keeping me from being arrested.

    There was one person that grabbed onto me in attempts to de-arrest me, she was also arrested.

    On a good note though, after my release I talked to some people and 3 out of 4 people said that after that people woke up and even chanted things like, “if someone grabs you, grab them back!”.

    So, although I feel sort of like a guinea pig, I’m glad that something was learned (there was apparently a lot of talk of de-arresting in the de-briefing too).

    I feel that the same goes for every other topic that came up about the march. The bottom line is that shit was learned and they’ll be ready next time.

    But through this entire happening the image of police being an insurmountable force with super humyn strength completely shattered.
    This cop was big and fat just like the rest but was hardly stronger then me. It was only when another cop latched on that I felt like I wasn’t in control.

    As far as the organizers go, I had the opportunity to speak with them and find out the reasons why they didn’t cooperate with no war, no warming. It was because of their top down organizing and the fact that they have no connection (or will to connect) with the lower class that founds this movement.
    They’ve tried organizing with them in the past and I guess the October rebellion group just got shit on by these dudes.

    I feel like they could have done better on a lot of different fronts, but this one is one I can kind of feel for them on.

    But fuck, I would say it was one hell of a night.
    I feel like we’ve definitely set the stage for the DNC and RNC.

    P.S. DC HOLDING CENTERS ARE COLD, DAMP, AND HAS THE WORST GRAFFITTI I’VE EVER SEEN. WHEN IN DC, GO TO GREAT LENGTHS TO STAY OUT OF THE HOLDING CENTERS!

  27. Word to notafed. I think if more people were involved in de-arresting, obviously something would have come differently out of this. I think some de-arresting workshops would be VERY beneficial for the DNC and RNC events coming up. We need to be prepared for this.

  28. Pingback: jury finds police officers not liable for occupy portland activist’s injuries | activist defense

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