'Hijacked by Anarchists!'

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union_activist
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Mar 27 2011 18:58
GuyDeBord's Optician wrote:
We have to match our tactics to thebattles of today; smashing a few windows doesn't abolish the present conditions, but it does, concretely alienate people who are otherwise sympathetic and make them think anarchists are complete twats. Later, when these people go on strike, or are on a demo, or in the pub and somebody starts discussing libertarian communist politics they will immediately be defensive. Our PR isn't particularaly stirling as it is.

I think this is far less black-and-white than most black-and-reds would like to think.

I think we've found our common ground. So long.

Wellclose Square
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Mar 27 2011 19:07

OK, I haven't much time, and no time to wade through the 64 posts on this thread... and I'm writing as a non-attendee, having spectated from the comfort of the sofa.

I've got very little time for the whiny posts which have berated the black-clad 'adventurists'/hooligans/mindless thugs/criminals (delete as applicable depending on what shade of social democrat - ICC, TUC, Leninist - or copper you are). Yes, it looked 'messy' at times (the little girl terrified by the thunderflash, for instance), at other times inspirational (the window of Santander in Piccadilly exploding after the umpteenth attempt at smashing it). There was much that could be said to be unsatisfactory, which I'm sure others are addressing, but there was much vicarious delight in this household at seeing the destruction meted out. People might mention the substitutionism and the 'adventurist' actions which don't involve the many - a factor jumped on by the bourgeois media and echoed in the unthinking responses of some marchers and some libcommers, it seems. But here's a question:

What is the bigger problem - the audacity of a minority of window-breakers and trespassers, or the numbing, sheep-like passivity of 'the majority' (marchers or stay-at-homes), content to repeat the plaintive mantras about 'anarchist hijackers' and 'criminals' presented by the TUC, the Met and the bourgeois media?

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Rob Ray
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Mar 27 2011 19:15
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Because they mobbed up separately and then infiltrated the main body of the march

union-activist, joining/rejoining a march is not the same thing as infiltrating it - it's not like they were kneeling on their shoes pretending to be part of the buggy bloc.

What you're doing there is simply repeating a narrative provided by the press, who use words like that to de-legitimise people they don't like. It's fine if you disagree with the tactic and want to discuss it, but a trade unionist should know better than to regurgitate this kind of reactionary abuse - I'm sure you get pissed off about the likes of the Telegraph when they talk about "union bullies" no?

Fwiw I had mixed feelings about the direct action, the tactics were well structured, and frankly despite the media screaming I don't think many people will be too bothered about some broken windows and graffiti unless they're a leftie who buys into the "we have to be fluffy for the media" stuff, but there were some points where it endangered or threatened to engulf people who it shouldn't (particularly parents and their kids).

While samotnaf is right that people getting caught up is always going to happen on any big set piece event, the black bloc ethos emphasises not hurting or endangering non-participants and that clearly wasn't followed as well as it should have been at times, particularly once the main march had been rejoined.

That's generally a big problem afaics for the tactic, at least in my experiences/reading of it thus far - anonymity and adrenaline can lead to some stupid individual actions particularly if (as seemed to be the case given the numbers) there's a lot of new or inexperienced people around.

If I was to guess at the government view on all this, they were probably expecting the march to be around that size and won't lose any sleep over it (just as Labour never have), but may have been a bit shocked by the size of the militant/radical groups and will be watching developments carefully to see if it needs to intervene more forcefully. Infiltration is likely for all named groups, maybe alongside a campaign of vilification and media "exposes" etc to keep the pressure up.

In terms of its impact on policy the march will amount to precisely zero, because it's asking rather than telling and offered no muscle to back its words - all this talk about the "media impact" is a pointless exercise in that sense.

Similarly, the property damage might have frightened some folk at Topshop head office, but that will translate into demands for heavier police coverage, not a reversal of cuts or payment of taxes because it's not a sustained or irretrievable loss (in fact only insurers are really out of pocket from yesterday).

As far as building the conditions for concerted mass action go it might have been helpful simply by putting so many in touch, bucking up people's views that they aren't alone in opposing cuts etc and I don't think the black bloc's actions will have had one iota of impact on that.

For the anarchist movement, it'll have good and bad points. On the good side, it'll be a big morale boost for a load of different tendencies to see the cops wrongfooted, that the City isn't invulnerable and that numbers are up in such a spectacular way, something which may drive recruitment amongst some sections of society.

On the downside, it probably will put off other sections of society, increases the amount of tedious debate we have to go through with randoms to explain we're not just about breaking shit and draws the state's eye to us in a potentially unwelcome way (but that'll happen if we're effective in any fashion, tbf).

axiom
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Mar 27 2011 19:20

Moving rapidly through the streets of Soho in a large crowd was fairly exciting. Although
seeing some masked-up character arbitrarily throw a firecracker from the crowd towards the pavement which exploded right next to the head of a building worker was unacceptable. He was shocked and angry. If I was him I certainly would have wanted to react physically.

cobbler
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Mar 27 2011 19:21
no1 wrote:
Let's be clear: breaking window is not violence, it is property destruction. Violence is what the cops did in Trafalgar Sq last night. Hurting human beings and breaking things are completely different things and should not be conflated.

We're risking a semantic discussion here, but the word 'violence' does not specifically apply to acts against people. If I loose my temper and kick the shit out of a door, then I would say that it was an act of violence. On the other hand, if someone attacks me and I take them down, I would not necessarily think I'd committed an act of violence: it would entirely depend upon how I did it.

Property damage is not necessarily violence but it can be, and it's those incidents which come across as unnecessarily violent which I don't think do us any good as a movement.

Of course I wouldn't conflate that with the police using violence against otherwise peaceful protesters, but that's not really the point.

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Rob Ray
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Mar 27 2011 19:22

Alright maybe (though I'm sure you can insure for loss of business as well), point still stands though.

gypsy
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Mar 27 2011 19:24
axiom wrote:
Moving rapidly through the streets of Soho in a large crowd was fairly exciting. Although
seeing some masked-up character arbitrarily throw a firecracker from the crowd towards the pavement which exploded right next to the head of a building worker was unacceptable. He was shocked and angry. If I was him I certainly would have wanted to react physically.

That is unacceptable. Problem with black blocs is there is always the chance of agent provocateurs, although I am not saying that the idiot who threw that was one! I think we were in the same group moving through soho, although I didn't see that (I was at the front).

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Rob Ray
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Mar 27 2011 19:28
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If I loose my temper and kick the shit out of a door, then I would say that it was an act of violence.

Like "liberal" and "social democrat" in the US, the two concepts of property destruction and physical attack have been deliberately conflated to make them seem like equally repulsive concepts. It's quite important for us to make the distinction because most anarchists I think would accept that the former is far more easily justified as part of a class struggle than the latter.

Sir Arthur Stre...
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Mar 27 2011 20:08

It seems to me that serious class-stuggle types, spend 99% of their time in workplace organizing, community projects, fostering solidarity etc etc with varying levels of success. This generally happens on a relatively personal level, is non-vanguardist and almost always goes completely unnoticed by people outside of the specific struggle.

Then every so often an event like yesterdays take place and the media is all over it like a rash, condemning 'anarchists' for their predictable 'violence' and 'thuggery'. Radical left politics gets another bad rap. Any progress that have been built up through everyday activities is placed under threat.

Now I am under no illusions when it comes to the media. I am well aware that they will always hammer us, no matter what we do. We are a scapegoat, a distraction from the issue at hand and we fit perfectly into their narratives of fear, obedience and respecting the democratic process. It is a tragedy that we are never given a platform to discuss and debate our methods and beliefs, but at the same time it would be incredibly naive to hope for one.

A-B marching serves no purpose other to swell the egos of the organizers. This has been proved time and time again. However what is often missed is that spectacular property destruction almost always serves no purpose either, Ok it shows that people are angry, it breaks the barrier between what is perceived as possible and impossible, it exposes the police for what they are, it makes a boring trudge exciting... But what does it actually achieve in terms of furthering the struggle? Working Class people are in no better shape to resist the the assault that cuts represent.

There is a dichotomy between 'peaceful protest' and the 'violent minority' now. The media enforce this, and both types of protestors, A-Bers and direct action types are convinced of the others failure. For me they are both failures.
The TUC had their day in the sun, but so did the radicals. Big Woop.

cobbler
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Mar 27 2011 20:17
Rob Ray wrote:
Quote:
If I loose my temper and kick the shit out of a door, then I would say that it was an act of violence.

Like "liberal" and "social democrat" in the US, the two concepts of property destruction and physical attack have been deliberately conflated to make them seem like equally repulsive concepts. It's quite important for us to make the distinction because most anarchists I think would accept that the former is far more easily justified as part of a class struggle than the latter.

I don't disagree with that, and as I pointed out this little bit of discussion could end up being semantic.

petey
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Mar 27 2011 20:42

kudos to cobbler for his post 72, it says things i've thought but have hesitated to say because of the tenor of libcom on this topic

Rob Ray wrote:
the former is far more easily justified as part of a class struggle than the latter.

so is it a matter of the property smashed? personally owned v. corporately/commercially owned? can you always tell?

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jonglier
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Mar 27 2011 20:47

samnotaf said it best in this thread i think, when it comes to these protests:

samnotaf wrote:
If you want to fight the rulers you fight to win, not for some politically acceptable fashion show. The media are part of the enemy. Until you occupy the Daily Mail offices, Wapping or the BBC, worrying about how good the arguments are presented by the enemy means that the enemy has totally defined the field of battle and you're about as dangerous as someone worrying about how their hairstyle looks on camera.
no1
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Mar 27 2011 20:57
cobbler wrote:
Rob Ray wrote:
Quote:
If I loose my temper and kick the shit out of a door, then I would say that it was an act of violence.

Like "liberal" and "social democrat" in the US, the two concepts of property destruction and physical attack have been deliberately conflated to make them seem like equally repulsive concepts. It's quite important for us to make the distinction because most anarchists I think would accept that the former is far more easily justified as part of a class struggle than the latter.

I don't disagree with that, and as I pointed out this little bit of discussion could end up being semantic.

If you kick the shit out of a door in my presence, then I would probably find that pretty intimidating (depending somewhat on why exactly you lost it) - I would feel that I could also potentially be the target of your violence. In fact, if you lost it as a result of us having an argument and you kicked a door in, then I would see that as you re-directing towards an object aggressiveness you feel for me.
I think it's a bit similar with yesterday's property damage: a lot of workers will feel put off by it because at some level they feel that they could potentially become targets of the same kind of "political violence" - although that is obviously not the case. I'd say that people are put off by it because they identify with capital at some level, and that's why the media portrayal of events does have some power to divide anarchists from other workers. That is why I think it's very important to challenge the perception that this constitutes violence.

jonglier wrote:
samnotaf said it best in this thread i think, when it comes to these protests:
samnotaf wrote:
If you want to fight the rulers you fight to win, not for some politically acceptable fashion show. The media are part of the enemy. Until you occupy the Daily Mail offices, Wapping or the BBC, worrying about how good the arguments are presented by the enemy means that the enemy has totally defined the field of battle and you're about as dangerous as someone worrying about how their hairstyle looks on camera.

I don't think any of us care for media respectability. What we are concerned about is how well we communicate our political ideas to workers.

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Rob Ray
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Mar 27 2011 20:56
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so is it a matter of the property smashed?

Sorry not sure I understand the question. I'm comparing physical violence to property damage, not comparing different types of property damage.

GuyDeBord's Optician
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Mar 27 2011 20:57

Jonglier; the problem is that we (anarchists, libertarian communists) are losing the class-war and getting our arguments across to workers is paramount whilst we're on the backfoot. Smashing windows does not bring the revolution any closer no matter how anarcho-purist it might make you feel.

Of course, we should give no quarter and do any action that advances our cause no matter what the bourgeois press says about it. But when there is no concrete material gain for workers but substantial damage to the communist movement we should err on the side of caution, surely?

radicalgraffiti
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Mar 27 2011 21:14

i'm not convinced it does any damage to the communist movement. Almost all the objections seem to be that it makes us look bad, not that the person objecting actually has a problem with it, just that they believe other people will be scared away. But the kind of person who has a problem with property destruction, or defending your self from the police, is mostly the kind of person who thinks we need the cuts and thinks we should all shut up and accept it. the people who would be put of the anti cuts movement buy a few broken windows were never going to join in with a campaign of direct action aimed to disrupt the economy until the state gives in.

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Mar 27 2011 22:35

A lot of people seem to be divining the Eternal Spirit of the Working Classes and speaking on their behalf on this thread so i thought i would have a go as well.

I think there are a lot of poor young men and women who would love to vent their rage in a riot, but doubt that they would be able to get away with it, or would rather watch a bunch of tax dodgers kick a ball about. As for others doing it - "fair play", the whispering winds of the workers say.

All i know is i saw a lot of older working class men and women, some who have unfortunately gone a bit too cynical about each passing generation, wearing big stupid fucking grins yesterday, and that in itself made it worth while.

Yep, i agree, 99% of the work needs to be done in the local anti-cuts groups and other alliances. There will be a lot of explaining to do at the next meetings by those who openly back rioting as a tactic, and criticisms must be listened to and taken on (on an individual basis, not in response to vague Voices of the People). This is a major downside, and a difficult task, but if that's honestly what we think, that's what we think, and any alliance wouldn't last long if we tried to hide it.

But for me it was worth it. To see normally haughty arrogant police officers nervously hurry past you with their heads bowed - for a few hours our relationship changed. Part of our defence to the criticisms of the rest of the Left must be that yesterday we regained our pride, and lost some of the fear built up by years of being physically defeated.

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Mar 27 2011 22:35
RedEd wrote:
What they were absolutely not effective at was stopping the cuts or for that matter raising the general level of militancy amongst most students, as is evident from the round of elections that have taken place in student unions around the country in the last month.

A ludicrous argument! This is evidence of nothing other than students' complete contempt for the idea that their student unions are effective bodies for political struggle.

Caiman del Barrio
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Mar 27 2011 23:04

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vre9X49S2pM

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subprole
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Mar 27 2011 23:12

very nice: http://signalfire.org/?p=8938

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Mar 28 2011 04:40

I don't think putting in windows up oxford street is the best tactic in the world, and i think it can tend to reinforce the false idea that we think capitalism is about banks, consumerism or bad businesses rather than the everyday social relationship tat capitalism is in reality. Although that said most people i spoke to found it amusing and lively and it was far better than listening to ed milliband and some tedious shite in hyde park, not that thats exactly high praise.
However, its hadly worth the hysterical liberal squawking of some on here. I mean jesus if the working class are so socially conservative that they're deterred from social revolution by a few broken windows then we're pretty much fucked.
After watching the pensions protests and banileu riots and the french occupy universties and train stations, and after watching the demos in the middle east surly its fair to say this is pretty tame stuff really and cant really be classified as violence* compared to what would happen if anything really got going.

*Also agree with the person earlier on this thread who pointed out that property destruction is hardly the same as violence. Its generally going to be the state that starts any violence on demos by cracking you over the head, not some kids knocking in a few windows.

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Mar 28 2011 06:56
union_activist wrote:
I guess the Poll Tax riots have some kind of comparison. I recall that was begun by similar groups but in that instance plenty joined in from the main march. Yesterday, I saw little appetite for that. And even then, its hard to say just how much value the violence in the Poll Tax march added to the more large scale non-payment and civil disobedience that was taking place around the country.

Hum. Re-write of history alert.

First, while the sitdown opposite Downing St may have brought the horses into Whitehall, what really kicked off the 1990 Trafalgar Square riot was the British Transport police driving 3 vans full tilt down the Strand into the tightly-packed crowd (the media archive clips always shows the guy putting the scaff pole through the window of the cop car that followed the 3 vans, but never the perfectly good footage of the cop vans ramming into the crowd, funny that...) followed by the (somewhat ineffective) horse charges. I've no doubt if the cops had rammed 3 vans and a horse charge into the TUC march on Saturday, there would have been plenty of people prepared to defend the demonstration.

Secondly, yes the poll tax riots (there were several, Hackney Town Hall anyone?) took place within the context of a mass non-payment campaign of 14 million households around the country. But given that Thatcher resigned as an immediate result of the Oct 20 Brixton riot, and that effectively was the end of the Poll Tax (every candidate that stood to replace her had its abolition as the main plank of their platform), to say "it's hard to say how much value" these direct confrontations with state territorial power had, is obtuse, to say the least.

Tommy Sheridan is 47.

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Mar 28 2011 08:28

Looks like the IWWs made the national press. I wont lie, what happened on Saturday is going to make it bloody hard to defend anarchists and libertarian communism within the labour movement. I think it might be worth while for afed and solfed to put together a common press strategy that clearly marks out and defends mass social anarchism from minority vanguardist insurrectionary varieties.

By the way comrades telling ourselves that the main steam of workers are intelligent enough not to listen to the slanders of bourgeois presses is a fatal delusion. The press is a decisive instrument in social control. We've lost a lot of well placed liberal 'friends' (like the guardian who publicly defended some of the student violence and anarchists last year but are now going to silently condone that anyone arrested for 'violence' gets hanged by the courts).

In Britain libertarian communism for the foreseeable future is chiefly a propagandist cause. The Trots and other reactionary lefties must be loving this and wont waste the opportunity to shit on us. Apologies for the pessimistic tone and naturally our energies must now turn to defending those youngsters who now find themselves at odd with the legal and physical instruments of the capitalist class.

EDIT: at least some of the comments in the guardian story see through the reactionary media bull shit

Samotnaf
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Mar 28 2011 08:30
Quote:
The press is a decisive instrument in social control. We've lost a lot of well placed liberal 'friends' (like the guardian who publicly defended some of the student violence and anarchists last year but are now going to silently condone that anyone arrested for 'violence' gets hanged by the courts).

Are you seriously complaining about this loss of well-placed liberal 'friends'? Or what?

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Mar 28 2011 08:40
ocelot wrote:
But given that Thatcher resigned as an immediate result of the Oct 20 Brixton riot, and that effectively was the end of the Poll Tax

Thatcher resigned on 28th October, not specifically due to the poll tax, but due to the fact that her own party was no longer willing to support her. Of course the poll tax didn't have nothing to do with this but the immediate causes were Howe's resignation speech and the loss of the Eastbourne by-election.

Devrim

raw
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Mar 28 2011 08:49
blackrainbow wrote:
I think it might be worth while for afed and solfed to put together a common press strategy that clearly marks out and defends mass social anarchism from minority vanguardist insurrectionary varieties.

I think this is unadvisable in how it was phrase. What needs to happen is a political justification to what happen rather than splitting the movement. "mass social anarchism" vs "minority vanguardist insurrectionary" is a false division, especially when it was the black bloc who clearly were the mass representation of anarchist politics on the day and were anything but minoritarian in that context.

If libertarian communists want to enter the debate then they will have to do from inside rather than outside. Defend those that took action and propose a what next strategy. Economic blockades and actions during strike action may be the next phase that will need many who were attracted to the black bloc to be involved in.

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Mar 28 2011 08:51
Samotnaf wrote:
Are you seriously complaining about this loss of well-placed liberal 'friends'? Or what?

Purely from a strategic point of view, not from principals (the guardian has shitted on anarchists before for lesser bourgeois crimes). Libertarian communism is not a large enough tendency to suffer too many fatal blows. We need to carefully pick our fights and that should be on terrain where we have a decisive advantage like workplace and community struggles. It is on that terrain that the bourgeois press is irrelevant and we can turn to our local self produced radical press. On Saturday we exposed ourselves to the national bourgeois press and sometimes its necessary. But we should only do so when the momentum favours our direct action tactics (like the student demos where most of the 'violence' was carried out by the student: the actual oppressed subject as opposed to a vanguard minority).

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Mar 28 2011 09:14
crows wrote:
RedEd wrote:
What they were absolutely not effective at was stopping the cuts or for that matter raising the general level of militancy amongst most students, as is evident from the round of elections that have taken place in student unions around the country in the last month.

A ludicrous argument! This is evidence of nothing other than students' complete contempt for the idea that their student unions are effective bodies for political struggle.

You know, amazingly, most students haven't read the left communist/anarchist critique of unionism. All the most politically active students vote in student elections. In fact the electorate is to the 'left' of the actual student population. And they still vote for new-labourite scabs. All that happened this year is the the usual lot of trot presidential candidates lost by a slightly slimmer margin. Go talk to students who don't vote and ask why. The answers you'll get range from 'I didn't know there was a student union' to 'I don't care about student politics', not once, even from anarchists, have I heard 'I don't vote/participate because I reject the usefulness of student unions for political action'. Also, student unions are good for some things, like getting money for coaches to the demos. If the SUs hadn't funded those, trust me, they would have been much smaller, tamer affairs.

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Mar 28 2011 09:16

Thing is it wasn't 'a vanguard minority'. There were thousands on Oxford street, dancing at Oxford circus, at Piccadilly... Just because some people learned to cover their faces after the student demos doesn't make it substitutionist. When i was heading to hyde park thousands of people were streaming past me towards oxford circus, several seeing my red/black flag and saying 'you're going the wrong way!'. I mean look at the videos, there's loads of 'normally' dressed people involved in clashes, if that's your barometer. The demographic of the riots was very similar to the student demos and in many ways was a direct continuation in terms of tactics and personnel. Now you could argue that's a problem, and that young radicals failed to connect with the trade unions, but if that's to happen it will be on picket lines not A-Bs imho. I mean Sussex students have been visiting picket lines since at least the Cityclean strike a year or so ago.

The 'libcom criticism' of black blocks has always been a criticism of substitutionism, not of property destruction or bashing some cops. I don't think Saturday was comparable to some activists spending a year building for a big summit spectacular, then coming home to spend a year planning the next one. I know some people who've come back from saturday wanting to plan a ritualised repeat on eg mayday, but most of the main groups involved in the two radical blocks (AF, SolFed, IWW, student occupiers) are involved in long-term, practical stuff rather than focussing on one riot then the next. Coupled with the fact this was *not* just 'a black block riot' apropos of nothing and I don't think the substitionism charge really sticks.

For the cops part they policed it very intelligently, using their small numbers to guard buildings, letting the stewards police the march and report any breakaways (thus avoiding antagonising and radicalising those content to march A-B) and deploying TSG at targeted locations. Unluckily for them they were outmanoeuvred by a mobile crowd, and ended up taking it out on partyers. However whenever the cops adopt intelligent tactics they get slaughtered in the press with calls for more head-cracking, so wouldnt be surprised to see a reversion to more aggressive methods for the inevitably smaller next london demo.

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Mar 28 2011 09:25

Good post Joseph - and great post Samotnaf in response to union_activist above.

I think one thing worth considering is that even if no anarchists had got involved in property destruction or fighting with the police, other people would have done anyway, and anarchists would have still got the blame (like Millbank) so I really don't think there is any need to worry about the PR angle. The media is always going to hate on us!