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Posts Tagged ‘anarchism’

on ‘diversity of tactics’

After what happened in Toronto last weekend with the G20 meeting, I’ve been trying to figure out what I think of black bloc tactics. At a general level I suppose a good place to start is to consider the place of anarchism within the (global) movement for social justice. Anarchists1, very generally, believe that capitalism must be overcome in order to rid the world of great social injustices, like racism, poverty, homophobia, colonialism, and inequality in general. Also fundamental, is opposition to all forms of heirarchy and external control; this means opposition to all supra-local government, and support for local autonomous communities. As David McNally says in this interesting interview on the CBC last week, many anarchists are prominent and active community activists, starting and leading local activities that contribute to vibrant and strong communities. There are some anarchist that embrace ‘black bloc tactics’ which seek to radicalize people by provoking displays of violent force by the state, violence which is perpetrated in different less visible forms all the time (e.g. cutting support for the poor and unemployed, racial profiling (e.g. Maher Arar), breaking unions (e.g. USW in Sudbury)). Their tactic for provoking this display of violence by the state is often to the destroy property of the state and complicit corporations.

Leading up to the G20 protests, I had a sense that the organizers of the large protests that were to take place had managed to create a broad coalition of labour, socialist, and anarchist groups that respected each other’s ‘diversity of tactics’.2 At the big ‘Shout Out For Global Justice’ event on Friday night organized by the Council of Canadians, there was a, I thought, a noticeable tension between the labour speakers and the anti-poverty, indigenous rights, social justice speakers (e.g. difference b/w Leo Gerard, United Steel Workers president,and Naomi Klein). But I was hopeful that these differences were being broached by a shared commitment to justice and ending capitalism.

Regardless of the amount of destruction committed by police agents provocateurs, some anarchists embrace black block tactics, and it is worth thinking about whether their actions are helpful and strategically useful, or if they are individualistic and strategically poor.

I was going to write/think about this more, but this article called “In the Aftermath of the G20: Reflections on Strategy, Tactics and Militancy” does a better job.

  1. here’s an interesting article on anarchism by Noam Chomsky; qt: “The problem of ‘freeing man from the curse of economic exploitation and political and social enslavement’ remains the problem of our time. As long as this is so, the doctrines and the revolutionary practice of libertarian socialism [aka anarchism] will serve as an inspiration and guide.” []
  2. Toronto chief of police Bill Blair (shame!) at a press conference recently said “They embraced a euphemism they call the diversity of tactics. That is their diversity of tactics,” and pointed to a display of captured implements of destruction. []

On Homage to Catalonia by Orwell

From December 17, 2008:

“Just finished reading Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell. Though repetitive, confusing, and rambling in style, it is still a very interesting book about fighting for one’s ideals and the realities of war. It is also a window into a time when other political systems were available options in the West, i.e. communism, anarchism, and fascism, which is interesting to me because communism and anarchism now are dismissed as impossible or dead, though I suppose “socialism” is alive and well. [interestingly, in some left-history and writing on that time period, i.e. early to mid 20th century, socialism or social democrats are disparaged as sellouts or collaborator, mostly because they are anti-revolutionary, unlike the anarchists and communists. In this light, it is disappointing that social democracy seems to have emerged from the left as the victor, disappointing in so far as it is the most accepting of capitalism, the least threatening towards it....] The book is also interesting to me because it talks about Spain and Spaniards and makes me think of recent experiences in Tegucigalpa with Spaniards. Orwell’s portrait of them resonates with me: paradoxical, romantic, passionate, giving and friendly, in an unassuming way, almost blind or ignorant in that exuberance, full of a joie de vivre. I feel that I expected to have more thoughts related to the book, and even while reading it I didn’t. It just sits there. It is what it is, an account of a young man going to fight. But the Spanish war experience was different. The war comes across as necessary but disappointing due to the infighting between anarchists and communists, and the general (and later aggressive) anti-revolutionary policy adopted (by the communists) as time went on. Though, Orwell says that the big hope was to stop fascism in Spain, as an example to the rest of the world, and by setting this example perhaps stop the looming WWII.

It is strange to me to read of intra left wing fighting, the 3rd International, the anarchists, the Trotskyists, etc.  It seems so petty and distracting to me having grown ip in a time when destructive capitalism has prevailed, and the right is so powerful. The luxury of having debates and rivalries within the left!”

That being said, I recently read something by Naomi Klein arguing that it is important to have debate within the left, or rather that it is important to voice opinions that are farther to the left in order to try to shift the centre leftwards, rather than to subdue one’s political views with the hope of attracting a wider audience of people closer to the centre….