Pre Gleneagles - Anarchist communists debate the Black bloc

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Jun 29 2005 15:41
Pre Gleneagles - Anarchist communists debate the Black bloc

Following the 2001 Genoa protests Red and Black Revolution carried a series of articles in which members of the WSM and a member of NEFAC debated what if any role remained for the Black Bloc. Other contributions are from the South African ZACF. In the run up to the G8 Summit protests in Scotland in July Anarkismo.net presents these articles and related links for debate and discussion.

http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=775

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Jun 29 2005 16:25

To be honest mate, I don't see how relevant a discussion by anarchist-communists on the black bloc is. I mean, I view politics very simply and all activity should have the following question asked of it:

How will this contribute to encouraging the communist tendencies within the working class?

So, best case scenario at Gleneagles: It kicks off big time, anarchists from across Europe and the UK run riot in Scotland. The British working class watch the whole thing on TV and go "fuck, that looks mental. Nice one strangely dressed anarchists!" The rioters go home, a few go to prison, we end up doing solidarity work i.e. send them books, about 30 people hear about 'anarchism' (in the meaningless, broad church sense of the word), maybe about half a dozen stick with it and develop a good, coherent class struggle analysis.

So was it all really worth it? Did the class feel so moved by watching activists run riot on TV that they started morphing into "the class for itself"? No, they just see another subculture on TV like all the other subcultures on TV, external from their everyday lives, struggles and desires doing something they may or may not vaguely support.

In my opinion, the anarchist-communist thing to do would be to not discuss the black bloc at all. Its quite a cool spectacle admittedly, but it has little (if anything) to do with the emancipation of the working class. And before you say it, no I don't care that this will be a chance to 'raise awareness' of 'anarchist communism' because anarchist communism isn't a rigid ideology but a living tendency within the class which needs to be encouraged. In my opinion, anarchist communists should be discussing the best ways to do this rather than discussing issues of little to no relevance to the working class.

PS Can I add that I find the article below the one you link to, Repressing Abortion in Ireland, is of far greater relevance to the working class and merits far more discussion than the black bloc.

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Jun 29 2005 17:26
Ed wrote:
To be honest mate, I don't see how relevant a discussion by anarchist-communists on the black bloc is. I mean, I view politics very simply and all activity should have the following question asked of it:

How will this contribute to encouraging the communist tendencies within the working class?.

Err well OK you've just done a good job of demonstrating why shooting your mouth off about something you refuse to read is neither big nor clever. Or assuming you already know all there is to know and have already thought all there is there to think. Incidentally the article you like is from the same issue of one of the magazines that the BB debate is on which should suggest to you that other people who you agree with on one issue may have a perspective on an other worth at least investigating before rejecting.

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Jun 29 2005 18:13

First off Joe, don't patronise me. I didn't patronise you (or at least didn't intend to!) so please don't patronise me. I decided to get in before revol did so that it wouldn't kick off and we could keep this discussion civil. So let's try.

Secondly, I have read all of the articles under the heading "The Debate" so I haven't "refuse[d] to read" those articles. Admittedly I haven't read the other two but I don't think you can hold that against me coz I'm just so cute.... tongue

Thirdly, yes, I know the article I liked is from the same issue as one of the Black Bloc articles. I have that issue at home. In fact, I have a distinct feeling you sold it to me at the last bookfair (by the description I've been given of you). This doesn't suggest anything to me apart from that the magazine had one article I liked and one I didn't.

JoeBlack2 wrote:
other people who you agree with on one issue may have a perspective on another worth at least investigating before rejecting.

Good point. How about you give it a go as well? Or are you automatically more open-minded than me because you're right?

My main gripe with the Black Bloc 'debate' is that it centres around protest and you're either pro-BB or anti-BB whereas I (and the working class in general) just don't care. As one of the articles says "The summits are themselves symbolic acts...This means that the protests against the summits are also symbolic actions, no matter how effective they are." So why do we participate in these symbolic spectacles? Why don't we try and concentrate our resources (i.e. time, money, energy etc) into organising at grassroots level, at work and in the community, where these policies actually take effect and where we can actually affect them?

Why spend months organising "symbolic actions"? Why spend thousands of pounds doing it? How much has all this anti-G8 business cost anyway? Don't you reckon that local community and rank and file workers' groups could've done with it more? Don't you think they could've done more with it?

Considering we agree on one issue (libertarian communism), how about you investigate my perspective on this before rejecting it?

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Jun 29 2005 18:28
Ed wrote:
Why spend months organising "symbolic actions"? Why spend thousands of pounds doing it? How much has all this anti-G8 business cost anyway?

It's got to be about £200,000 from the libertarian/anarcho side of things, easy. A disgusting waste if you ask me.

FWIW I broadly agree with what Ed has said above, except I think your "best case scenario" is very over-optimistic!

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Jun 29 2005 19:25

Anarkismo is a brilliant resource and IMO the black bloc debate is entirely relevant because it asks the vital questions about what we anarchists do as a movement, as protestors and in relation to the great congregations of capitalists and world leaders such as the G8/WTO etc. Personally I thought the WSM article, "Bashing the Black Bloc" was very good, and raised some important points about Black Bloc direct action and the summits themselves; namely that both are symbolic. Blockading them does not halt their organisation for profit and greed, but we should know that. It's just that you cant let such things go on uncontested and the greater disruption we cause to this very public, very important meeting the greater symbolic refusal we create against these representations of the system.

The secretive small "cell" structure of some anarchist groups, however, forgets and betrays the underlying reason for wanting to stop the G8 (etc.). We must try to make our organisation mass-based, open and democratic as far as possible. Taking on protests which exclude most people and isolate both anarchists and our ideas is not going to help us in the slightest; it's going to do the opposite in the long-run. Though I agree almost entirely with the WSM's criticisms, the response by the NEFAC on its applications to a black bloc is very useful...

"We, as anarchists, are not interested in watered down demonstrations, false declarations of war, or ritualistic spectacles. We are not interested in, and believe there to be no such thing as, common ground for dialogue with the rulers and exploiters of the world. Likewise, we have no interest in political maneuvers and schemes. We are indeed an "ungovernable force", content with nothing less than a total social revolution with the aim of creating a new society based on the principles of mutual aid, workers' self-management, decentralization, direct democracy, freedom, and communism." [NEFAC article, "Has the Black Bloc tactic reached the end of its usefulness?]

We shouldn't stop participating in these anti-globalisation because each time the summits get more secure, remote and defended. That is a hint of the power mass "rejection" of these events has had and continues to have. Likewise, because moderates and reformists hold the biggest part of the protest and sometimes try to make it the protest (the SF in Genoa or the "Make Poverty History Campaign" in Britain) it should not lead anarchists and revolutionaries to disregarding it because we're being isolated. Rather, by the use of a visible anarchist presence such as the Black Bloc, and indeed militancy etc. we can create an important alternative and critique of their "solution". We should in fact. The BB can be a large grouping of anarchists and anti-authoritarians, a major part of an anti-globalisation protest. Though ofcourse it must never amount to our sole action (even as a form of protest) it remains a much needed TACTIC.

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Jun 29 2005 19:34
John wrote:
It's got to be about £200,000 from the libertarian/anarcho side of things, easy. A disgusting waste if you ask me

You could look at it like that, but then what would removing an anti-authoritarian presence at globalisation events mean for our "movement"?

Probably,of all the effort involved in preparing for the protests, a lot is at the same time being generated in terms of publicity, support, funding for the anarchist stance. And indeed shouldn't we be trying to use every method at our disposal?

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Jun 29 2005 20:21
Ed wrote:
First off Joe, don't patronise me. I didn't patronise you (or at least didn't intend to!) so please don't patronise me.

I was reacting to the tone of your opening comments which did seem quite patronising. I don't know you (although that might have been me at the bookfair) so that was all I had to go on. To my mind the articles discuss the issue you bring up hence my assumption you hadn't read them. But apologies for assuming too much.

I'm worried that your PoV on this treats the working class as a rather abstract average. Your right that this average would have no interest or even awareness in anarchism. But people are not an average and in all countries there are very political people in the working class (like yourself?) who do take an interest in these things. Don't forget that on all the big demos 80% of the attendance is made up of rank and file union members. Clearly sections of the working class are very interested.

I don't think -even on very local issues - its ever a case of organising mr average. In Ireland at least a large percentage of those who turns up say a bin tax meeting will have some sort of political history in the widest sense of the word whether its union involvement or distant membership of something or other either directly or through a family member.

The flip side are the large number of activists who may very well be open to more local activity if they are not already involved. In discussions here already it has been clear that some of the more vocal critics of summit hoping were themselves politicised by these sort of protests - even if only watching them on Sky. Unless you believe a door has shut somewhere this still happens.

Finally the '200,000' wasted comment from John illustrates the bankruptcy of much of the antis. Why grumble about how some other group have spent the 200,000 they raised - why not raise this 200,000 yourself. Or is this grumble really just intended to cover your own lack of ability to motivate people to the same extent? In which case better to turn the critique on you own activity.

kalabine
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Jun 29 2005 22:33

what ed said

black bloc

Mike Harman
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Jun 29 2005 22:38
JoeBlack2 wrote:

Finally the '200,000' wasted comment from John illustrates the bankruptcy of much of the antis. Why grumble about how some other group have spent the 200,000 they raised - why not raise this 200,000 yourself. Or is this grumble really just intended to cover your own lack of ability to motivate people to the same extent?

Who's being motivated? To what ends? From where is the money being raised?

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Jun 29 2005 22:49

No worries Joe, I forgive you. Well, I'll do my best. You did hurt my feelings quite badly. Nothing a few nude pics couldn't help wink

Volin wrote:
the black bloc debate is entirely relevant because it asks the vital questions about what we anarchists do as a movement, as protestors and in relation to the great congregations of capitalists and world leaders such as the G8/WTO etc.

I would contest this on two fronts. Firstly, how vital is it that we ask questions about our involvement as 'protestors' (whatever that is)? And secondly, how can anything be relevant to working class politics if it doesn't ask questions about what we do as members of that class?

The BB debate only asks whether a tactic on a protest is still workable or desirable, it doesn't ask whether the entire spectacle of protest itself is desirable! What makes these "vital questions" about what libertarian communists do "in relation to the great congregations of capitalists and world leaders" so vital if we already accept that not only are our actions symbolic, but even the summits themselves are symbolic?

Globalisation, free trade, privatisation etc aren't symbolic. They have real effects here. Why don't we organise against those as militant workers rather than engage in symbolic protests as activists?

Volin wrote:
We shouldn't stop participating in these anti-globalisation because each time the summits get more secure, remote and defended. That is a hint of the power mass "rejection" of these events has had

Hmm, not really mate. Football hoolies aren't a threat to the status quo, but the state probably puts as much effort into surveillance, infiltration and disruption of them as they do for activists. So they don't like you smashing their windows. No surprise. Is that gonna effect the vicious spread of neo-liberalism across the globe. Of course not. Just coz coppers film you at a demo doesn't mean you're fucking Makhno!

JoeBlack2 wrote:
I'm worried that your PoV on this treats the working class as a rather abstract average. Your right that this average would have no interest or even awareness in anarchism. But people are not an average and in all countries there are very political people in the working class (like yourself?) who do take an interest in these things. Don't forget that on all the big demos 80% of the attendance is made up of rank and file union members. Clearly sections of the working class are very interested.

Sorry mate, you misunderstand me. I don't doubt that there are gonna be lots of TUists etc but that doesn't take anything away from my original point: that these protests seperate politics from everyday life experience. Capitalism isn't a summit that happens every year in a country somewhere in the world. Its when you do a days work and get paid 1/6 of the profit you create (for example). We don't fight capitalism at these summits, we fight it at work, we fight it in our communities. The only way we fight capitalism is by creating institutions of working class power and self-organisation to build class solidarity and confidence in our own power (nice rhetoric, hey? I bet pingtiao just came in his pants tongue ). So once again, the question I asked at the beginning needs to be answered:

How will this (in this case, summit protests) contribute to encouraging the communist tendencies within the working class?

JoeBlack2 wrote:
Finally the '200,000' wasted comment from John illustrates the bankruptcy of much of the antis. Why grumble about how some other group have spent the 200,000 they raised - why not raise this 200,000 yourself.

Oh come on Joe, be real. It's very difficult to raise 200k. An advantage that the Resist G8 lot have is that a lot of them are full-time activists. Its easier to raise this sort of cash when that's all you do. For those of us with jobs, kids, studies etc its very difficult to find the time to do ANY political organising let alone any on that scale. Not to mention I have a feeling that there was at least one very rich man donating money to the Resist G8/Dissent network.

And anyway, if I come round to yours to see you've pissed your weeks wages on coke, I think I'm well within my rights to say: "What the fuck have you spent 'X amount' on coke for? You could've done loads more constructive stuff with that". Sorry but the whole 'Its my money I'll do what I like with it' line doesn't wash with me!

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Jun 30 2005 09:38

I think Eds elucidated what most people believe whether theyre attending the G8 or not. I dont think any protest that is removed from the community or workplace and as such detatched from the basis of capitalism is revolutionary, but who does? Surely every anti-capitalist who goes to gleneagles knows that capitalism isnt going to crumble even if you have the most vivid of riots which culminates in Bush, Putin, Blair et al all getting lynched. If we we're organising militant struggle for self management in our work places and communities, no one would be going to gleneagles, there would be no need, it is a substitute for more meaningful action but thats only because there is so little meaningful work based action happening, its not as if we're all leaving the blockades, disputes and councils for a few days break in the scottish countryside, of course we should be fighting the bosses and capital at the point of exploitation but its not as if the G8 summit is going to dampen our appetite for everyday struggle or that we're somehow avoiding it by going to the G8.

I also think that no matter how symbolic the protests are (arent most protests?) there will be people watching the news who'll be inspired by a huge demonstration or a riot breaking out just a few miles from where the worlds guard dogs for capital are meeting, surely people remember seeing demonstrations such as the Poll Tax riots, seattle or genoa and wondering what people are so pissed off about and how there is tangible discontent at the way the world is being regimented.

Quote:
Capitalism isn't a summit that happens every year in a country somewhere in the world. Its when you do a days work and get paid 1/6 of the profit you create (for example). We don't fight capitalism at these summits, we fight it at work, we fight it in our communities. The only way we fight capitalism is by creating institutions of working class power and self-organisation to build class solidarity and confidence in our own power

Ed turn this into a nice snappy slogan, it needs to be put on a placard!

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Jun 30 2005 09:46

My take on why we need a debate on the BB. At our meeting this week, we were having a dicussion about raising our profile/what kind of stuff we should be doing.

We started by going around the room & saying what got us into anarchist politics. And the youngest member of the group (who will remain nameless wink ) said,

Quote:
I saw some Mayday stuff on TV, and I thought, "That looks like fun."

Now black blockery might not be what keeps us in the movement (insofar as there is one), but it appears to have been a motivation for a fair few folk getting involved. And as such, I think it's worth debating. (And just to make it clear, it's certainly not where our young comrade is coming from nowadays).

I reckon future historians will look back on the BB in much the same way as we look back the "propaganda of the deed" period.

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Jun 30 2005 10:32
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
I think I know who that is... grin

As regards to this thread...

I agree with Ed. :)

Well, obviously my lips are sealed, but if you wanted to speculate.........

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Jun 30 2005 10:38
Ed wrote:
I would contest this on two fronts. Firstly, how vital is it that we ask questions about our involvement as 'protestors' (whatever that is)? And secondly, how can anything be relevant to working class politics if it doesn't ask questions about what we do as members of that class?

I've nothing against asking question (indeed that is exactly what that sequence of articles is intended to do). But the willingness to ask questions seems pretty one sided as shown by the responses to the 200,000 question.

Ed wrote:
What makes these "vital questions" about what libertarian communists do "in relation to the great congregations of capitalists and world leaders" so vital if we already accept that not only are our actions symbolic, but even the summits themselves are symbolic?

Because anarchism isn't just about getting local problems sorted out but also about creating an alternative to global capitalism. That means at some point moving the critique from the local (and often quite individual) level to the more abstract global level. One of the odd things about the current period is that many workers particularly the young find it easier to engage at the more abstract global level - it is not unusual for someone first to be motivated by a riot on Sky and only later come to a more local critique of capitalism in their life. I'm not saying this is a good thing but it is a reality we have to deal with.

Ed wrote:
Why don't we organise against those as militant workers rather than engage in symbolic protests as activists?

Why not do both?

In particular as the evidence to date suggests that doing one actually helps rather than hinders doing the other.

JoeBlack2 wrote:
I don't doubt that there are gonna be lots of TUists etc but that doesn't take anything away from my original point: that these protests seperate politics from everyday life experience. Capitalism isn't a summit that happens every year in a country somewhere in the world. Its when you do a days work and get paid 1/6 of the profit you create (for example).

Actually capitalism is both - its not simply explotiation it's also all the mechanisms that organise that exploitation and protect it. Otherwise we'd be living in some stateless libertarian free market utopia where taking over the workplace would be as easy as ganging up on the boss. Any effective fight against capitalism has to be a fight against all these mechanisms as well.

JoeBlack2 wrote:
The only way we fight capitalism is by creating institutions of working class power and self-organisation to build class solidarity and confidence in our own power

Unfortunatly in this context this is simply a meaningless slogan behind which to avoid activity. The discussion after all is not about whether 'working class power and self-organisation' is a good or bad thing but rather what anarchists can do towards aiding in its creation. And that has to include getting workers to think that there can be an alternative to capitalism. TINA was one of the best weapons Thatcher had in the 80's.

Ed wrote:
Oh come on Joe, be real. It's very difficult to raise 200k.

That was my point - the ability for a gang of anarchists to raise 200k in Britain today actually demonstrates something about them that goes beyond rhetorical arguments on bulletin boards. If nothing else they are taking themselves seriously.

That the sections of the movement that fancy themselves as the more serious end can't even imagine doing this also says something. As does the fact that they couple this with a dismissive and arrogant attitude that all too often on this board has included an open hope for failure.

Basically the (daft) decision that seems to have been made by many early on was 'Lets not only cut ourselves off from all those going to Scotland, lets do so in a nasty snide way so no one will even listen to our critique of summit hoping'.

If as seems to be accepted here in the past people have moved from BB style stuff to more serious class struggle politics this sort of attitude seems tailor made to ensure this does not happen this time. You don't win people over by pissing on the work they are doing. Solidarity and mutual adi are not just slogans but something to be built.

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Jun 30 2005 10:44
JoeBlack2 wrote:
If as seems to be accepted here in the past people have moved from BB style stuff to more serious class struggle politics this sort of attitude seems tailor made to ensure this does not happen this time. You don't win people over by pissing on the work they are doing. Solidarity and mutual adi are not just slogans but something to be built.

Fully agree with this. Shit, when I think that I got interested in anarchism through being a member of CND in the early 80s eek . Luckily the small matter of the miner's strike & the Falklands sorted my politics out. Well, a bit. wink

I've said it before, but the most grating thing I find on these boards is the impression that certain posters give sometimes of having sprung out their mother's womb with immaculate politics, fully-formed.

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Jun 30 2005 16:15
Ed wrote:
Firstly, how vital is it that we ask questions about our involvement as 'protestors' (whatever that is)? And secondly, how can anything be relevant to working class politics if it doesn't ask questions about what we do as members of that class?

"Protest" (demos, subvertising, propaganda etc.) remains a major part of anarchist and libertarian communist activity, it always has done and will undoubtedly continue into the future. That's why it's important to ask what we do as protestors and how we integrate that with grassroots organisation/community projects. You sound like you believe protest is worthless and that it is always seperate and counter to more active organisation. I'd disagree with that, but then by default you're already involved in the debate. Why doesn't it ask questions about what we do as members of the working-class? It's doing exactly that! The BB is only a part of protest work but it's only one tactic used in that and necessarily brings up its relation to the bigger "movement". BB strategies aren't only used against summits by the way, as the NEFAC article states they've been used (especially in their earliest applications) to more constructive activity such as in targeting localised fascism, anti-immigration policies and squat breaking. "In fact, we feel the largest potential for future black bloc lies precisely in not being limited to summits, but becoming a regular staple of community and workplace struggles, adding an often much needed militancy and power to such conflicts."

Ed wrote:
What makes these "vital questions" ...so vital if we already accept that not only are our actions symbolic, but even the summits themselves are symbolic?

You’re assuming that anyone in agreement with using the BB in summits and relatively symbolic protest is therefore against working in more practical local projects. I’m certainly not, the former is just another method we can use and should never stop us from doing other organising. But large “symbolic” protesting is an important activity since by necessity it unites great numbers of visible anarchists and international solidarity. The protest is not “isolated from everyday life”, it does mistake an individual summit for capitalism itself and should not be the sole act done by us to strike at that system. However we anti-capitalist Scots living and working where we are cannot allow the greatest congregation of world “leaders” to come here uncontested. It is an opportunity to voice our disgust at the capitalist system, to speak against the conditions most of the world live in and our own everyday struggle against authority and private again which so often are not even noticed. And even today one of the best ways of doing that is in the formation of a Black Bloc.

Not all anarchists, anti-authoritarians and libertarians need join that but it remains a vital means of anarchist representation and expression.

Ed wrote:
Why don't we organise against those as militant workers rather than engage in symbolic protests as activists?

From a personal standpoint I’d advise every Black Blocer to do exactly that, however a good deal of those involved do it anyway or have the potential to do that. The origins of the tactic are in worker militancy.

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Jun 30 2005 21:26
Vaneigemappreciationclub wrote:
If we were organising militant struggle for self management in our work places and communities, no one would be going to gleneagles, there would be no need, it is a substitute for more meaningful action but thats only because there is so little meaningful work based action happening

This isn't a very good argument Van. So basically you're saying, there's not much good stuff going on so rather than do some worthwhile political organising, let's spends months organising a symbolic protest that we know is only a subsitute for the worthwhile political organising we crave. Tell me, why not just do the worthwhile organising?

the button wrote:
I reckon future historians will look back on the BB in much the same way as we look back the "propaganda of the deed" period.

Exactly. And the propaganda by deed period was shit.

JoeBlack2 wrote:
Because anarchism isn't just about getting local problems sorted out but also about creating an alternative to global capitalism.

Who said anarchism was just about sorting out local problems? All I'm saying is that the most effective way we can organise against the problems of global capitalism is by fighting them in our workplaces and communities. Take the time to listen to what I'm asking: Where can we most directly affect the policies of the G8? On a golfcourse in Scotland with a week of rioting or in our workplaces and communities, where these policies actually take affect?

Local organising doesn't need to reject global analysis. If anything, it needs it. Think global, act local (as they said in BioDome tongue )

JoeBlack2 wrote:
Actually capitalism is both - its not simply explotiation it's also all the mechanisms that organise that exploitation and protect it. Otherwise we'd be living in some stateless libertarian free market utopia where taking over the workplace would be as easy as ganging up on the boss. Any effective fight against capitalism has to be a fight against all these mechanisms as well.

Agreed. So where does a riot on a Scottish golfcourse come in here?

JoeBlack2 wrote:
Unfortunatly in this context this is simply a meaningless slogan behind which to avoid activity.

Two points:

1) I'm not scared of inactivity. I'd rather sit around with my mates and get wankered in a pub than spend my time in endless meetings organising the next North London 'encuentro' so we can 'network' with other people organising similar 'encuentros'. Just coz you're 'doing something' doesn't mean you're doing anything useful. I personally try my hardest to avoid activity which I think is both time-consuming and a steaming pile of shite. I hope you do to.

2) There are a lot of people dedicated to exactly this sort of meaningless slogan. Whether we do it in local groups like Hackney Independent, our local TU branch, a rank and file industrial network, a residents' association or just on our own trying to help out mates who need our advice on their rights at work, in the benefit office or with the council we're still doing it. But if its easier for you to write off our work by saying we're just trying to "avoid activity" then fine, cheers for your support and I hope you feel better.

JoeBlack2 wrote:
the ability for a gang of anarchists to raise 200k in Britain today actually demonstrates something about them that goes beyond rhetorical arguments on bulletin boards. If nothing else they are taking themselves seriously.

Aye, good point. Shame no one outside the activist movement or alternative/punk subculture does.

the button wrote:
I've said it before, but the most grating thing I find on these boards is the impression that certain posters give sometimes of having sprung out their mother's womb with immaculate politics, fully-formed.

Where did you get this idea from? I've never claimed this. I don't even think my politics now are immaculate. But this argument of tolerating activist bollocks coz it'd be a shame to stamp on youthful enthusiasm is fucking toss. A lot of people develop libertarian communist politics from the SWP. Should we engage in fruitless alliances with them too?

Look, this argument is really fucking boring. It seems like everyone here accepts that activism is bollocks but that its worth it coz some of us got involved in good politics through it. But that's not what we're about though, is it? Once again, we're trying to encourage the libertarian communist tendencies within the working class not recruit people to the ideology of Libertarian Communism. How many people hear about 'libertarian communism' at these protests is irrelevant (or at least negligable) in judging how effective they were, its how effective they were in encouraging these militant tendencies that counts.

Mike Harman
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Jun 30 2005 22:27

The reason a lot of people got involved in libertarian communist politics through summit protests is likely to be because there wasn't a libertarian communist presence where they lived - it'd be their first and possibly only point of contact. Simply because many of us (not me though) got involved through that kind of protest, doesn't mean that new people necessarily should if there's more effective political alternatives on their doorstep (literally sometimes), then that'll be the entry point.

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Jul 1 2005 09:02
Quote:
So basically you're saying, there's not much good stuff going on so rather than do some worthwhile political organising, let's spends months organising a symbolic protest that we know is only a subsitute for the worthwhile political organising we crave. Tell me, why not just do the worthwhile organising?

I dont think that its a matter of doing one as opposed to the other, maybe some groups have spent months organising a symbolic protest but arent these people members of mostly liberal lefty groups like Dissent? I dont know of anyone whose been putting real struggle to one side in order to concentrate on the G8 meeting. Plus i'm taking a week off work to go to the G8 and with regards the work i'm doing thats about the height of any struggle that i could forsee happening here apart from everyone launching their computers out the window.

Mike Harman
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Jul 1 2005 12:41

Lots of people appear to refer to Dissent as "anarchists" not "liberal lefties" though, I think that's where it gets confused in these discussions.

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AndrewF
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Jul 1 2005 14:06
Ed wrote:

Who said anarchism was just about sorting out local problems?

You keep counterposing local activity to summit type stuff. I'm on the other hand suggesting both are part of the same process and while it might make sense at times to prioitise the local writing off the 'global' axs you appear to be doing makes no sense in terms of anarchism.

Ed wrote:
Local organising doesn't need to reject global analysis. If anything, it needs it. Think global, act local

But it is more than global analysis its also a needed element of doing global. Even if only for the contacts and exchange of experiences this gives you. The horizons of much of the British anarchist scene are even more limited than that which is found in the USA (which is saying something). Basically you stay on your national boards and argue with each other about how local you are. From an outside perspective you've ended up with some very sterile debates and an introspective analysis.

JoeBlack2 wrote:
Any effective fight against capitalism has to be a fight against all these mechanisms as well.
Ed wrote:
Agreed. So where does a riot on a Scottish golfcourse come in here?

G8 is not a Scottish golf course but one of the most powerful of the 'mechanisms' I refer to. Have a look at what they are debating and work out how many people their decisions will literally mean life or death for. The summits are symbolic PR exercises to give a group photo and a public face to these decisions but the G8 itself is anything but symbolic.

JoeBlack2 wrote:
Unfortunatly in this context this is simply a meaningless slogan behind which to avoid activity.

Two points:

Ed wrote:
Just coz you're 'doing something' doesn't mean you're doing anything useful.

True but I'm having a go at the tendency to piss on the work of others rather than that individuals and groups may have come to different decisions about what is important. There is also a discussion to be had around that but it is a much friendlier one.

Ed wrote:
But if its easier for you to write off our work by saying we're just trying to "avoid activity" then fine, cheers for your support and I hope you feel better.

I think you'll find I neither said nor suggested this was the case.

Ed wrote:
Where did you get this idea from? I've never claimed this.

He may not have been addressing you but rather those he knows to be reading this thread. This would also be true of many of my comments here - the 'you' is often plural rather than singular..

Ed wrote:
How many people hear about 'libertarian communism' at these protests is irrelevant (or at least negligable) in judging how effective they were, its how effective they were in encouraging these militant tendencies that counts.

So how do you seperate 'How many people hear about 'libertarian communism' from 'encouraging these militant tendencies'. It's quite clear that the first has quite a strong potential relationship to the second.

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Steven.
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Jul 1 2005 16:23
JoeBlack2 wrote:
Finally the '200,000' wasted comment from John illustrates the bankruptcy of much of the antis. Why grumble about how some other group have spent the 200,000 they raised - why not raise this 200,000 yourself. Or is this grumble really just intended to cover your own lack of ability to motivate people to the same extent? In which case better to turn the critique on you own activity.

Sorry Joe but I don't think it's entirely fair to criticise an anarchist for not being rich!

Being who you are, I'm sure you're aware that stuff like that is bankrolled hugely by a small number of rich individuals*. In addition almost all of the rest is raised by full-time professional activists, mostly from relatively privileged backgrounds, who have dropped out of work and mainstream society.

* see this thread for example:

http://libcom.org/forums/viewtopic.php?t=1907

Mike Harman
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Jul 1 2005 16:38
JoeBlack2 wrote:
Ed wrote:

Who said anarchism was just about sorting out local problems?

You keep counterposing local activity to summit type stuff. I'm on the other hand suggesting both are part of the same process and while it might make sense at times to prioitise the local writing off the 'global' axs you appear to be doing makes no sense in terms of anarchism.

Ed wrote:
Local organising doesn't need to reject global analysis. If anything, it needs it. Think global, act local

But it is more than global analysis its also a needed element of doing global. Even if only for the contacts and exchange of experiences this gives you. The horizons of much of the British anarchist scene are even more limited than that which is found in the USA (which is saying something). Basically you stay on your national boards and argue with each other about how local you are. From an outside perspective you've ended up with some very sterile debates and an introspective analysis.

Joe, it's not like there are local groups all over the country which meet up once a year for a summit. The entire world (apart from the oceans, some deserts and tundra) is local to the people who live there. The decisions of the G8 may be supra-national, but they'll also affect people and be carried out at a local level, and it's their ability to have those decisions carried out at a local level we should be challenging, not the specific decisions they make.

I want to see internationalised activity - but for it to mean anything at all it has to be co-ordination between different locales, and between localities and workplace organisations. That's real internationalism - federation of actually existing activity which exists independent of the co-ordinating structure. However that activity has to exist in the first place for this to happen. The idea of Dissent as "national network" after the G8- what's it networking? - people who want to network? Plan for the next big summit? Set up more conferences? Go to more meetings? As has been pointed out by people involved in Dissent over on Urban, a lot of the people (especially those occupying the informal hierarchy) are radical liberals, not anarchists, and are pushing the organisation in an overarchingly liberal direction. Montevideo and Thora - not people I find myself in agreement with very often, let's be honest, have both voiced serious criticisms of the organisation. And it isn't a case of "if more anarcho-communists got involved it wouldn't be like that" - the entire rationale behind summit-protests comes from a lobbying/pressure group mindset - no matter how radical the rhetoric attached to what is essentially a petition.

Again, the answer to people starting in summit protests then moving on to (what you admit is) more useful activity, is to offer that alternative on their doorstep, so their first contact with radical politics isn't on TV, but directly where it affects them.

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Jul 1 2005 20:53

The pros and anti of Dissent really don't interest me that much. To me the purpose is to build a movement that can meet people on the door and as testified by more than a couple of posters here this is just what summit protesting encouraged them into. If you want to ignore that fine - your just pissing into the wind for no good reason I can see but oddly thinking that this shows how smart you are!

Over on Anarkismo.net we have some good audio reports and photos via cell phone of our buses being stopped and searched as they come off the ferry. The cops even stole a copy of Red And Black Revolution! See http://www.anarkismo.net/newswire.php?story_id=832

redyred
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Jul 1 2005 23:11
JoeBlack2 wrote:
One of the odd things about the current period is that many workers particularly the young find it easier to engage at the more abstract global level - it is not unusual for someone first to be motivated by a riot on Sky and only later come to a more local critique of capitalism in their life. I'm not saying this is a good thing but it is a reality we have to deal with.

And? My first taste of radical politics was joining the SWP, as it was for a fair few libcom types. Does that mean we as libertarian communists should continue to support the SWP?

JoeBlack2 wrote:
Ed wrote:
Why don't we organise against those as militant workers rather than engage in symbolic protests as activists?

Why not do both?

In particular as the evidence to date suggests that doing one actually helps rather than hinders doing the other.

Really? You don't think anti-capitalist protesting has massively tainted the general public image of anarchism/socialism?

JoeBlack2 wrote:
Unfortunatly in this context this is simply a meaningless slogan behind which to avoid activity. The discussion after all is not about whether 'working class power and self-organisation' is a good or bad thing but rather what anarchists can do towards aiding in its creation. And that has to include getting workers to think that there can be an alternative to capitalism.

And the point is summit protest does not do this. OK, so 100,000 or a million or however many people stand up and say "I disapprove of capitalism" - where is the alternative to capitalism here? As Ed said at one point, it's little more than a breathing, walking and very expensive petition, and one pretentious enough that it is against the whole of capitalism.

Alternatives to capitalism are not built in huge international gestures, they are built in the workplace and the community, where the social relationship of capitalism is played out.

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Jul 2 2005 22:07
redyred wrote:
You don't think anti-capitalist protesting has massively tainted the general public image of anarchism/socialism?

Actually whatever protest/action/sausage anarchists make you'll find the media doesn't teeeend to support it -to say the least. So we can do whatever we want, but if it's going to be radical and suggest or build upon a real alternative to existing society (ie. subversion) you're going to find the mouthpieces of the status quo will try to rubbish our image. I can say then with some strength that most protests anarchists have undertaken, especially those which have involved illegal direct action, will be grossly exaggerated and distorted despite what we actually do. The same goes for community projects or any other example of practical action, it will either be ignored, ridiculed and undermined or attacked.

It isn't a few anti-capitalist protests that have "tainted our image", we've faced an uphill battle from the get go. People dont even know what anarchists are, instead associating the term with the usual stereotype, and it's not because we are chaotic (even in protests) it's because we're portrayed as being chaotic. I'd say however that black bloc on it's own is not going to change that; we need a breadth of organisation and "propaganda" and the main place for that is in the workplace and community.

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Jul 3 2005 20:37
JoeBlack2 wrote:
The pros and anti of Dissent really don't interest me that much.

So I make a criticism which you then slate me for, and then when I respond you don't say anything! You did this to me on that "are you going to the G8" thread too...

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Jul 3 2005 21:06

Volin, though I agree with you regarding the media, redyred said "PUBLIC image" not media image. Considering anarchism's history of grassroots organising in the workplace and community, I'd say the Black Bloc does give a false illusion about anarchism in that it associates what is actually one of the richest traditions of autonomous workers' struggle with activist bullshit which isn’t just unproductive but also really, really lame (I mean seriously, have you seen this? How the fuck are these wankers tolerated?).

JoeBlack2 wrote:
So how do you seperate 'How many people hear about 'libertarian communism' from 'encouraging these militant tendencies'. It's quite clear that the first has quite a strong potential relationship to the second.

Yeah, it might do, but then it might not. As a libertarian communist I care about increasing the strength and confidence of the working class because it’s in that strength that libertarian communism (at least the tendency) is found. I don’t really give a toss how many of the people call themselves a libertarian communist or how many of them subscribe to Red and Black Revolution (though I would always argue for them to do both wink ) because libertarian communism isn’t an ideology, it’s a living tendency within the class that needs encouragement and only a small part of that encouragement can be done through propagandising, we need to show that our ideas can get results on a day-to-day level. Of course, if a lot of people went around calling themselves libertarian communists then that would be very promising, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the class is any stronger, which at the end of the day is all I give a shit about.

There are also a few other points we've been making that need addressing, the main one being the one which Catch has put beautifully and plainly than I ever could have:

Catch wrote:
The reason a lot of people got involved in libertarian communist politics through summit protests is likely to be because there wasn't a libertarian communist presence where they lived - it'd be their first and possibly only point of contact. Simply because many of us (not me though) got involved through that kind of protest, doesn't mean that new people necessarily should if there's more effective political alternatives on their doorstep (literally sometimes), then that'll be the entry point.

Also, redyred’s question also needs answering:

redyred wrote:
My first taste of radical politics was joining the SWP, as it was for a fair few libcom types. Does that mean we as libertarian communists should continue to support the SWP?
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Jul 4 2005 10:43
Ed wrote:
because libertarian communism isn’t an ideology

Yes it is!

I'm no fan of this retreat from unpopular terms, ideology plays a very important role in shaping things - people are not blank slates whose thoughts are formed only by their everyday experience. Unlike monkeys we can read and communicate complex abstract ideas. This is a good thing and it is also 'ideology' in the broad sense of the word. (BTW if you want to avoid soft unpopular terms like ideology why on earth use a hard one like communist?)

Ed wrote:
There are also a few other points we've been making that need addressing

Actually I don't think these do need addressing but as you repost them

Catch wrote:
The reason a lot of people got involved in libertarian communist politics through summit protests is likely to be because there wasn't a libertarian communist presence where they lived - it'd be their first and possibly only point of contact. Simply because many of us (not me though) got involved through that kind of protest, doesn't mean that new people necessarily should if there's more effective political alternatives on their doorstep (literally sometimes), then that'll be the entry point.

Well first off who do you expect is going to argue for 'less effective' forms of doing anything? (In italics above). You can't assume the answer and then use your assumption to prove the answer!!!

Secondly the 'if' in bold is very important. In many cases there is not much happening on a local basis to get involved in - the summit stuff may well give people the knowledge/ confidence to go home and initate stuf.

Thirdly the 'should' in italics is either meaningless or based on the assumption that there is some sort or conflict between local and global action. As argued many times not only does this not exist but the evidence points to the opposite - that is that both forms complement each other.

redyred wrote:
My first taste of radical politics was joining the SWP, as it was for a fair few libcom types. Does that mean we as libertarian communists should continue to support the SWP?

This was so cheap I didn't think it deserved any response - on the level of calling everyone who disagrees with you a fascist.

The reasons I and I presume you reject the SWP have almost nothing at all to do with summit protests. If I thought the real agenda behind summit protests was the constrution of a new party to rule over the working class then the comparison would be valid. But put like that the comparison seems just as daft as it is.

redyred
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Jul 4 2005 11:41
JoeBlack2 wrote:
redyred wrote:
My first taste of radical politics was joining the SWP, as it was for a fair few libcom types. Does that mean we as libertarian communists should continue to support the SWP?

This was so cheap I didn't think it deserved any response - on the level of calling everyone who disagrees with you a fascist.

The reasons I and I presume you reject the SWP have almost nothing at all to do with summit protests. If I thought the real agenda behind summit protests was the constrution of a new party to rule over the working class then the comparison would be valid. But put like that the comparison seems just as daft as it is.

Yes Joe, it is exactly like calling everyone who disagrees a fascist. Are you just terminally dense or something? You stated more than once that the fact that many youngsters start off being attracted to riots at summit protests and later end up with a more rigourous critique of capitalism, and that this in itself was a reason why the G8 protests were a good thing. I pointed out that plenty of youngsters start off by joining the SWP and later end up with a more rigourous critique of capitalism. Is that a valid enough comparison for you?