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Can anarchists who join others' action separate themselves from those who planned the event?

+1 vote
Specifically, actions organized by Black people for calls for social justice are almost always planned to be non-violent/nondestructive. Anarchists (black bloc) have attended the actions and done property destruction. The originators are then discredited. Can anarchists speak out to be sure their participation was not part of the planned action? They tend to attach themselves to it. The origininators get the blame.

So, anarchists who act out in ways not consistent with originators can they:

1. Create their own actions calling for social justice separate from someone else plans?

2. If they use that same time & space, can they be sure they are known to be distinct from originators, that is not co-opting others work?

3. Learn how to cooperate w/o ending up dominating the planning?

I know no individual talks for a group or other individual, but I think the intrusion in to carefully planned actions is unfair. I would not see it as very live & let live as I imagine anarchy to be.

Thank you for your input.
asked Jun 11 by zz (260 points)
i haven't heard this reasoning for a long time. thanks for asking this question. it allows us to think about things like, who owns a protest? do the organizers own it, or does it belong to the people who are angry about a topic, and who come to it (of whom the organizers are presumably a part, of course)?

what does it mean to build credibility in social movements? who benefits from that, and what does that benefit get them?

are protests stronger for a diversity of tactics, or weaker? or both, in which case when is it one and when the other?

finally, something you might be interested in reading (or maybe you already have) is pacifism as pathology by ward churchill (or how nonviolence violence protects the state by gelderloos, if you want a more contemporary title). i'd be curious on your thoughts once you've read either or both of those, specifically about the relationship of different branches of popular movements, how they help/hurt each other.

edit: removed paragraph. 'cause blah.
This is definetly a contention and issue for people who don't have darker skin as well. One time, me and friend held signs in the middle of our town in protest of the local police department for shooting a completely unthreatening person 20 times just because he was being defiant (and being black, fwiw). I put something on my sign that was really upsetting to the local police department, and some local activist type i knew before talked to me later about how I shouldn't have done that because this wasn't "my" issue, and how I'm interefering with the progress of the family's lawsuit against the police department (yeah right, the activist in question was not in anyway associated with the guy shot or the court case! ), but the problem is, I live in the same town, and cop's have harrassed and shot white people before on numerous occasions.

I feel that your issue is that you don't think other people should be raining on other people's parade, and this is not something to be scoffed at, but I don't attend protests hardly every because I find them to be very boring and ineffective. I went to the trump inaugural protest for excitement, but I kinda wished I was able to watch those anarchists bust the windows of the limousine and set it on fire.

Now, anarchists themselves have their own set of organizational issues, the people who tend to control the discussions make everyone at the meetings feel like they need to be walking on eggshells.
As I was writing the question a common sense solution came to mind but was interested in your thoughts.

If people want to participate in a planned action, then those actions need to be coordinated. Otherwise you are just using all the work someone else did for your own purposes. I call that capitalizing off of someone else's work. But that is just me.

The problem with me suggesting that is that you might do it. Black Lives Matter ppl may not be too happy with me. White men, which most of you are, often have no problem taking charge when they have been invited to join in.

I don't think it is hard to prove at all. They are usually marches, a die-ins. They are essentially non-violent.

I am aware that there is a debate about the effectiveness or not of non-violence. I accept that Black people often choose non-violence. They don't want to give cops any more reason to beat them up. Being black is enough for a cop to beat them up. Adding other reasons makes it worse. In addition, most people don't realize the cops beat them up for being Black. When any sort of overt resistance is shown, many white observers then say, "the cops had the right to beat on them."

 I don't care who throws the rock or yells at cops, Black people will get blamed and suffer the consequences.

That is why you are asked not to be destructive or overtly agressive (including rock throwing.) Unless you are Black, you have the greatest chance of going home. And if you do go home, getting there unscathed. Meanwhile Black bodies have less chance of doing either.
i removed my paragraph about data and evidence and proof because it's not an interesting direction for me (although you just saying "it's not hard to prove" hardly counts as convincing). i have been around people who convincingly argue both sides of this. The other side from yours, apparently, is that people of color, absolutely including black people but not confined to them, are more interested in, excited by, and respectful of, actions that are aggressive and take some risk from the cops (a corollary argument being that people who claim otherwise are social reformists, who only desire a piece of the pie, rather than the destruction of the whole system).

obviously people of color are targeted by the cops more than others. different people of color have different responses to that, and choosing who to listen to ultimately has to do with what we think makes the kind of change we're looking for, right?

"White men, which most of you are, often have no problem taking charge when they have been invited to join in."

So am I supposed to take this comment personally, I am the white man who wants to take charge? I don't take charge of much of anything other than things that I'm directly involved in. I certainly don't consider stating my opinions on the internet to be "taking charge".

And for your information, I have very little interest in actually participating in any "violent" actions or riots, i said in my previous comment I wished I had watched. To me, all political organizing just boils down to telling people what to do, and whether your white or black, it no longer interests me

edit: also, zz, i wanted to imply in my previous comment that I do see a problem with piggybacking on some event that people didn't plan themselves, or trying to steer it in a different direction. If I were a politically active anarchist, I would want to start my own points of contention with authority figures, and I certainly wouldn't want to tell a group of BLM protesters that they aren't being violent enough, or even that they should just stop what they are doing because it's ineffective. This is an internet forum, btw, the only thing I can do on here is either troll or state my opinion.

I appreciate your comment about piggy-backing.

In fact, it is the dominant social/cultural group that tends to rise to dominate any gathering. Today, for instance, Pride parades were sponsored by white gay men which gives them tacit leadership. It drowns out the voices of people normally stifled.

When women's issues come up, white women take the mic and limit the voices of the others.

Women's fight for equal pay is based on $. 71 difference. Let's say, that becomes equalized. Women who aren't white will still be getting paid less. The fight has to be for Latinas who have the greatest disparity in the wage gap. But the system points out $. 29 difference, hence silencing the other women.

You can take it personally if that is useful for you or you could assess your actions when the situation arises.

I personally agree with sabotage when it means preventing ruining lives and Earth.
i don't represent any group, and no group represents me. so yeah, i can "separate myself" from any group, if that means taking my own actions and not expecting anyone else to feel, think, or act exactly the same as i do. but mostly, all this talk of black/white/men/women/etc, etc, just stirs up the same feelings for me as listening to politicians and ceo's....every person as a category, an identity, an organization...and i want to scream at the top of my lungs.

and as someone who desires anarchy, i don't want "credit" from any hierarchy head or media outlet, but i understand other people do, which is why i don't attend events organized by people looking for credit from the powers i wish to see destroyed.
Some people aren't able to live w/o worrying about labels. They are reminded every day, and many moments during the day that they are other. So, until such time that everyone feels as you do, I think you will have learn to tolerate the discussion or ignore it.

I am not sure what you are addressing when you say you don't want credit. For me the issue is: groups that co-opt a planned action will not be the ones blamed for the disruption. Hence they will not suffer the consequences.
by saying i don't want credit, i meant to refer to the part of your question about discrediting people. when you talk about "known to be distinct from..." or "discrediting", who are you talking about? known to be distinct by whom, discredited by whom? i assumed you meant authority and media organizations.

and thanks for the advice about tolerating or ignoring discussions, but i also can still scream at the top of my lungs, and sometimes do.

but as i said, in a partial answer to your question, yes, i can separate myself from any group (although perhaps not in the way you mean, which i think means to appeal to police, media, etc.).

i get labeled often myself....i don't know anyone who doesn't. i want to discuss things in a way that breaks down those labels, rather than reinforcing them.

edited: for clarity, additional thoughts....
"yes, i can separate myself from any group"

I think this is a good point in response to this question. I'm not going to feel compelled to be beholden to any group or their interests.
I don't think embracing these labels that the ptb created and placed on everyone is a good way to destroys said labels. It seems rather circular and never ending to me
Also, the 3 questions comes off as the privatization of organizing/protests and parallel with capitalism, imo. The way the question are phrased make it seem like copyrighting a plan or method of organizing or something.

 I think there is a flaw in the organizing if it's relatively easy for someone to come in, and rather than cooperating, they dominate it. There should be efforts or methods to attempt to prevent someone from dominating the group, or it will be common. Trying to depend on others to stop it with their crap, announce who they are and their goals sound implausible and doesn't seem like a good idea to announce anyways. I understand it's not the easiest thing to do as leftists, but there should at least be plans for what to do if it happens, and/or attempts at preventing it.
What does "ptb" stand for?
From the comments in general, I am seeing no empathy for the people who are oppressed by the state, media and corps. More or less, your way or the highway.

I Would avoid that even if it was anarchy I chose as a way of life. If they/we could just walk away from it, we would. The state makes sure that can't happen.

I see their actions as attempts to get what freedom they can today while working for long term goals of a different system altogether.

I think Paul Robeson, maybe not an anarchist, is a good example of someone who worked in his present moment while working for long term changes. MLK, Jr was killed because he was beginning to work for the bigger picture.
Ptb= powers that be.

I don't understand where you got that no one here gives a shit about the oppressed from? Seems like black & white thinking to me.
zz, if you're saying that there's only one way to talk about or understand oppression and how to resist it (and you're assuming that people here are not oppressed), then i can imagine these responses have been unsatisfying to you. a number of the regular posters on this site have done activism and organizing for many years and have seen how, even at its best, it doesn't work for anarchists. if you're not an anarchist, that is, if you don't see the state as a significant part of the problem, then it doesn't bother you that not only have significant icons like MLK and Robeson not made a difference in the power of the state, but anarchists like Alexander Berkman, Lucy Parsons, Emma Goldman, Leon Czolgosz, (only a small fraction of the anarchists who were imprisoned and killed for their activities), haven't put any real dents in the power of the state either. that leads me, at least, to question what will actually make a difference. i haven't found any answers yet (i have to consider that there might not be any), but we all continue looking for ways to do things better, yea?
(that said, there are MANY anarchists who agree with you that leftist conceptions of what power is and how it should be fought are still the ways that make the most sense.)
I am glad to hear of people's experiences though they are frustrating to say the least.

I came here because I have little knowledge of anarchism. It seems undefinable in the big picture.

I do see the state as the problem. I am not knowledgeable enough about any system or non system to say what I might think would work in the long haul.

My observations are that attempts of any non/system is taken over by individuals do not work. Greed and power tend to "win."

I think some one said that change must come in small pockets and over time. That I agree with.

But in the meantime, changes must be made for now. Black people in particular cannot wait for big changes. Their lives are destroyed in multiple ways. The state makes sure of that.

So, I don't think it is either/or but both/and. It is not either radical take over of government or do nothing. It is prepare for the future while working to makes lives better than they are. It is why I hold my nose and vote for the best of the worst. It is what I can do in the now.

No doubt none of this is new to any one. Maybe my standard newbie questions will give you all some new energy.
human, I appreciate your patience and pointing out the B/W perspective.

I was wrong to make the accusation about lack of empathy. I knew that after I posted it but decided to let it stand.

Why I said that about empathy was because in the discussion about whether or not anarchists should interrupt Black Lives Matter actions, I saw no understanding about what said disruptions would mean to the POC participating in the main action. It is Black people who will be targeted no matter who creates the chaos.

Also, I saw the discounting of Black Lives Matter for not being radical enough in their design as lacking empathy or at least awareness. They are fighting for their lives for today. As I said elsewhere, they cannot wait for the revolution.

It is true that most people are living in the consequences of oppression. Some of us definitely more than others. I see it as my role to help people who are suffering under the hand of it more than I am while not ignoring its impact on me.
How do you know these people are anarchists rather than an agent provocateur/infiltrator per se? People wearing mask breaking shit doesn't necessarily mean anarchists. It does seem, in your question, that you're playing up the hyped caricature about those anarchists being violent again, just like the media and others portray them. Not saying that some don't do that.

I went to the protest bmore a couple of years ago and people were using a variety of tactics to get their message across. With that, blaming an outside source for stuff like breaking shit is denying people of color would do such a thing, which in turn denies them the anger that they have towards the capitalism/state (police). Since MLK has been brought up, I'd like to mention that he understood and wouldn't condemn people of color that engaged in "rioting" as they were the voice of the unheard.

Does black lives matter do more than just protesting? Like things within the community and what not. People here, I assume, are well aware and understand the oppression of people of color as with people being oppressed in other ways.
human, in the case I was thinking of black bloc, who I understand to be anarchists, said they were responsible fir the destruction. I should have asked them that question, not anarchists 101. My apologies.

I would say, yes, i am playing up the hyped caricature that the ptb created and perpetuate. Thank you for pointing that out. I did base the main question on the fact that Black q bloc took responsibility for the destruction. But presumed from there, anarchists in general could answer for them.

I do disagree that I am denying Black people the right to act out on their anger. In this situation, Black Lives Matter says they are having non-violent actions. Anything to disrupt that and they are jumped on by the public. They don't care what the public thinks except that, for the present, their actions are non-violent. This is totally my opinion. I have no connection w the group.

I cannot say whether the official group of BLM does only protests. I know the broad community of activists know the limited effect of protests.

Another observation is that the protests have brought greater awareness to the issue of police brutality and mass incarceration of Black people. In that, their protests have been effective. How much further their impact can go is yet to be seen. Without a doubt, if they stop protesting the general population will go back to ignoring the issue.

I believe there is a hierarchy of oppression. People tend look for someone they can belittle. Black people seem to be the bottom of the barrel. I think there is even a hierarchy w/in the Black community.

Thank you for reminding me that other people are oppressed, too. It is easy to loose perspective when becoming initially aware of an issue.

Thank you for the discussion.
you've also been willing to hear other people's perspectives, which is nice, zz.

on the one hand your question brings up a basic level of respect between groups of people ("this is what we're trying to create, we are hosting, respect that").

on the other hand, many anarchists (but also unaffiliated angry people) have become very wary of people and groups who try to manage revolt (the politicians, religious folks, sometimes family members) who assume they can and should speak for the people in the street (who don't necessarily want to be spoken for, as we all have our own voices), who negotiate with the cops, and who try to control what people do. and the issue (whether it's defined as abuse by the cops or systemic racism in every part of the state) is obviously bigger than any single group or protest...

i would say both of those perspectives are valid, and certainly they exist at the same time and all the folks present (and some who are not) are negotiating them at every event.
1.Thank you.

2. I agree w what you say about uninvolved people trying to manage actions. I think, might be wrong, this is where MLK's statement about the people who say such things  as calm down, not, down, dress respectably, etc. can be more of an obstacle than a help.

I don't see my comments about ppl interrupting protests around Black issues in the same light. They are not calling for respectability. They just know that any thing any one does will discredit Black people. This in turn means any progress at all will be lost.

IT must be remembered, IMOBIESHumble, that there is a fair size contingency of people out there who think Black people are less than human,. In fact, call them animals. So when a group like black bloc creates chaos, the knee jerk reaction of some is to reinforce that image of Black people.. Hate media will reinforce that stereotype and the problem is worse than before.

Hate radio will not be saying, "Oh, never mind, that was white people." The ptb want that image reinforced. As you know, the more the division, the longer they hold power.

From what I read on Black Twitter, which is a daily journal of Black responses to present day activity, they are very aware of the ineffectiveness of respectability politics. A meme was posted that showed the '60's activists in suits. The comment was, "they still killed him."

As for negotiating with cops, I have seen 2 specific philosophies. Both voiced on Black Twitter. One is reform but recognizing that cops, at least in part, were organized as slave patrols. IOW, there history is flawed from the start. The other group is people wanting to abolish the (in)justice system.
you continue to sound like the people at a protest have much to say about how the cops react. do the cops need excuses to kill people of color? do racists need excuses to be stupid (and sometimes murderous)?
it's tempting for abused people to try to manage the abuse, but the argument is that it's short sighted and will never work. you might be interested to read ward churchill's pacifism as pathology (probably available online somewhere). among other things, it talks about the relationship of MLK and malcom x, between a more peaceful vs a scarier agent of change, who gets state recognition, who gets remembered glowingly in the history books (comparatively, anyway), etc.

you argue the depths of racism, and then act like that can be mitigated by behavior at a protest...
(i understand that you don't know who you're talking to when you talk on line, but i have been engaged in anti-racist thinking and organizing for thirty years.)
also, i don't know what IMOBIESHumble means/is. :)

another interesting read is an interview done by studs terkel of an ex-grand cyclops of the kkk. off topic and totally not anarchist in any way, but still interesting. it's in the book, working.

I am giving you the wrong impression then.

For example, one protest was concluding. People were disbursing. *Then* someone acted out and the cops let loose.

I Think (for some reason when I type here the word after "I" as the first word gets capitalized. Weird.) the cops use the slightest reason to let loose. If any one is going to create the chaos, it should be the people leading the action. Esp, it shouldn't be white people who won't suffer the consequences as much. I think that is my key point through out. I as a white person need to know my actions as a white person  may cause negative consequences to Black people. That is a frustration I have seen on voiced social media

I Am aware that sometimes it is the cops themselves or the people in cahoots who will cause the chaos. In Ferguson, it was said that the cars that were on fire were likely set by the people who owned the cars. They could blame the fires on the "rioters" and claim the insurance. Still, it is the Black people/Black Lives Matter that will get blamed and discredited and the stereotype reinforced.

I know you didn't want to flash your credentials. Mine obviously are limited. I am the enthusiastic fresh blood in this area.  Never been an activist, likely won't be. Tend to work better behind the scenes.

IMOBIESH= in my opinion, be it ever so humble.
APpreciate the suggestions. I Downloaded the one by Churchill. It is 89pp PDF. I assume that is the full work. Or no? No promises on the Terkl one. No promises on the Churchill one but more like since it is so easily accessible.
"pacifism as pathology" is certainly an interesting book, even though I don't see violent revolt as being particularly effective either except maybe in certain circumstanses.

A lot of what inspires me in ferguson and baltimore about people in the ghetto smashing shit is they doing it out of therapuetic enjoyment, responding to their extremely stressful social situation by saying "fuck this, fuck everything", even if it doesn't gain them anything politically. I think the game of trying to gain anything politically in this system is a complete joke. The socio-economic system is so powerful because power/authority is omnipresent and decentralized, which is why what has ultimately happened for civil rights is that blatant racism has become an impersonal institutional racism...and you ultimately can't harm unfeeling institutions in the same way that you can harm an animal, so politics is just thoroughly stressful and frustrating, none of the people controlling their positions willing to budge as long as their paycheck depends on it...

@zz"White men, which most of you are, often have no problem taking charge when they have been invited to join in. ... I as a white person.

You kinda jus proved your own point unintentionally. ;)

You mentioned in a few posts of some protests. Could you explain which protest you were at or heard of and the day it occurred? Like which city and date you are meaning *i.e state city,) and roughly the time these protests were happening and stuff? I'm of the understanding/impression Minneapolis, MN?. 

I would try comment further but I need a bit more about the protests you are meaning. That probably came off weird against.

I've never read on one of the books dot mentioned, except How Nonviolce Protects the state by Peter Geraedloss and read it and it's a good book. That's how I heard about it from dot or someone else of this site.I personally like the book about civil rights movement call This Nonviolent Stuff'll Get You Killed by Charles Bonns jr.

@nihilist, you were at dc/bmore protest for the's Donald inauguration?  I didn't go, but did watch Dubya put a pancho on his head. I saw on the news there were a bunch of people that had a sign saying not muh president.  When Obama: Deporter in chief was relected,  i did go, that one.  The deporter in chief didn't speak too much to seeing if he could break his previous record of how many people he could deport in one year and hold hundreds of thousands people in one giant portapotty type of conditions and said he ordered this because according to Obama, the hispanics he was either deporting or holding in record numbers, that they all were violent criminals and rapists. 

Trump said something similar and then the liberals began to pretend to care again, while outright ignoring Obama was escalating the deportations of folk from Mexico and holding them in shit conditions.

This is compleltly irrelevant. But watching Trump getting into twitter battles with rappers or movie stars is funny.

If an of this seems werid. I wass coming off  mind alternating substances . But my migraine I was having went awat so yay wirh it. goodspeed., so that good.

Edit: Tried to cleanup my entirely incoherent comment to be somewhat more coherent.

lol human...

yeah i live out near martinsburg west virginia, which is like an hour+1/2 from baltimore and dc, you can send me a private message if you have more questions
If *they* are the ones doing the smashing, I agree.

I Think sabotage can be very effective.

2 Answers

+3 votes
I'm gonna take a stab at an answer, though I think the comments are all as valid responses as what I might write, and anyone reading this should read all the discussion related to this question.

To start with the assertion that actions organized by black folks are almost always nonviolent/nondestructive is a canard. Most actions (by which I am talking about demonstrations, protests, etc. as opposed to say, living and acting in a capitalist world, wherein violence is inherent and mostly invisible) taken by anyone are nonviolent/nondestructive. I have rarely attended a demo that was explicitly like “we’re gonna go fuck up the cops and smash as much shit as we can,”* even the WTO protests in Seattle used coded language and property destruction/fighting back against the cops was seen by many participants as hijacking the event. One reason anarchists use events others have organized as a jumping off point is that if anarchists just called for their own thing detached from a larger mass, it would be immediately kettled, contained and marginalized. I also want to challenge the language of “social justice”. It is common language, and I feel like it lumps anarchist goals/politics/whatever in with a much broader progressive/left agenda that I have nothing to do with, personally. When people talk about social justice, they are mostly talking about compromising with the state in ways that might be necessary, but are not ever where this anarchist wants to set his sights.

That doesn’t mean that we (anarchists) should just show up to any old thing with the intent of doing smashy, nor do I mean to imply that breaking shit is even the most effective tactic we have available. Assuming that anarchists will attack, and that we will attack the things we hate (windows, cops, newspaper boxes, et. al.), some strategy is important. Specifics are going to vary, but things I have seen that have been more or less effective have included specifically calling for a section of the demo/part of the town designated as a “red zone” (meaning shit’s gonna get conflictual) , calls for breakaway marches (look for the black flags, if you want to get rowdy, meet up and mask up), or just straight up taking over marches that are seemingly losing steam or not tapping the anger and rage of the crowd fully.

Regarding planning, anarchists have been involved in larger planning of actions. Most often it isn’t us (anarchists) who dominate the conversation, but liberals who seek meager reforms or, alternatively, socialists (Trots, most often) who seek inroads to political power. There is nothing to be gained from working with any of these folks on an organizing basis. Our politics and agenda will always be too extreme. That doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes show up to actions that I know are going to be super liberal/vanilla, it means I don’t pretend that these are my people or that I want to have a thing to do with them on a more than episodic basis.

I want to end by going back to the part of your question that focuses on organizers being blamed for anarchist actions. So first, this assumes the organizers aren’t anarchists (not always the case, in my experience), while it also seems to imply that we should not act if it potentially tarnishes others. This is an impossible standard to meet, unless you want to see us only hold signs and march in orderly circles at a time and place determined by the state. How a protest is portrayed by the media and the state is simply out of our control, and is always going to be framed in terms of either threat or nuisance. An associate wrote a whole master’s degree thesis on this, I’ll see if I can convince them to get on this site and address some of that.

*it’s happened, it was fun, it is not a sound tactical strategy in every case.
answered Jun 24 by ingrate (19,990 points)
edited Jul 5 by ingrate
ingrate, thank you for taking the time to address the question. You said a lot and my brain is getting tired (low stamina, here.)

I Hear what you are saying about the liberal vanilla. I understand about not wanting move the checkers around the checker board. One side wins, one side loses but they are all playing the same capitalistic/corporatist/etc. game.

The one thing I want to clarify. I do not say that people/anarchists should not use others venues for their own gain in order to not "tarnish" the original organizers, I say it because they often are not the people who will suffer the consequences. From the other posts/comments, you are likely to understand that I think it is the Black people who will suffer the consequences. Cops just have a thing about Black people. Maybe it is partly because some of the roots of present day cops goes back to slavery patrols. For whatever reason, they do.

The externalization of consequences is a real thing, and I do think that should play a factor in how decisions get made about tactics. This is getting to the level of strategy, which is an interesting level to think on, and makes my head spin.

I don't know if it would be your thing, but Shon Meckfessel (who is definitely from a different corner of the big tent of anarchy than I am) just wrote a book called Nonviolence Ain't What It Used to Be (AK Press) that you might find interesting. On the topic of strategy, etc. Tom Nomad's book The Master's Tools: Warfare and Insurgent Possibility (Little Black Cart) might be of interest, though it might be a bit outside of what you are exploring.

I would also encourage a few zines that analyze specific situations. The ones I am most familiar with are from the area I live and located here. There is also a short, brief zine called 10 Points on the Black Bloc that is a response to the anticapitalist Heartattack march against the Vancouver Olympics. Crimethinc. also had some good analysis of the G20 action in issue #9 of Rolling Thunder (this pdf seems to be the best link I could find, as the issue is now out of print).

edit: if you can find a copy, the original unabridged version of Queer Ultraviolence: A Bash Back Anthology (published by LBC, but now possibly only available as an abridged version?) contains communiques and discussion of events that were extremely controversial for similar reasons to what you are talking about. It is also an interesting inside look at one of the most interesting North American anarchist tendencies of recent years.

+3 votes

I haven't read and digested everything on this page but this question evoked something in me that I want to get out. I know you're aware that not everyone is onboard with the ideology of non-violence and a lot of my answer is going to focus on that, so this might not be very helpful to you, but it is an authentic anarchist response:

Can they? Well sure, it's possible for anarchists to do any of the three things you suggested. Will they? Or should they? No, they won't and I don't think they have any moral obligation to, and I also don't think you need to be concerned about anarchist violence 'delegitimising' your protest.

Maybe that's because I think moral obligation is limiting and contrary to the goals of my anarchism, or maybe it's because of my general disdain for the cult of 'non-violence' and how it sublimates the rebellious energies of anger and frustration into something that doesn't challenge or transgress authority in any meaningful way and instead becomes part of the supporting apparatus of the state. It's probably both if I'm honest with myself.

Non-violent protest is 'legitimate' because the state legitimises it. It isn't disruptive to the status-quo, it's a safety valve that the state is happy sanction. So what if your protests are 'delegitimised' by anarchist (or non-anarchist) violence? The powers that be weren't going to acquiesce to your demands (because why should they?), and it's not going to effect some kind of sea-change in public opinion on the matter unless there's massive police brutality at your 'legitimate' protest to evoke sympathy (which there won't be, the state learned from the civil rights struggles in the 60's), because no one sees a placard on the news and thinks to themselves 'oh damn, thousands of people disagree with me, I need to change my opinion'. Now that we have mass communication you can always find forum in which your existing ideas and attitudes are affirmed. Non-violent protest (without an external implicit threat of violence) is only good for one thing - making you feel like you've done your bit and that you're part of something bigger than yourself.

I'm pretty young, but I've witnessed a lot of non-violent protests lead to nothing. When the country I live in decided to join the US in its invasion of Iraq millions of people took to the streets with placards and loudspeakers and chanting and all that stuff, but the government participated in the invasion of Iraq nonetheless and was returned to power at the next election.  I've also been to protests where anarchists (and police agent provocateurs) committed violence against property and nothing changed; I'm not saying that anarchist violence at protests is particularly effective either. The only protest that I've seen amount to any real change were the London riots of 2012, which started as non-violent protests over a police shooting of a black man, quickly escalated to violent but explicitly political protests and then turned into a city-wide riot. When it was all over the government quietly pressured the police into curtailing their racial profiling and stop-and-search policies. 

I just want to emphasise that contrary to your assertion that black protests for social justice are turned violent by non-black people, the London riots were planned as peaceful protests by groups that were predominantly black, and escalated into rioting by predominantly (but not exclusively) black youth. The point here being that in the one case I've seen protesting change anything at all it wasn't because the protests were peaceful, and it wasn't because some anarchists crashed the party and smashed shit up, it was because the state was pushed into a corner and understood that unless they addressed at least part of the source of the rage that lead to widespread property destruction it would happen again. The moral of that story is that political protest does not alter structures of power but ontological rebellion (a rebellion of being and action rather than thought and speech) can. Of course rebellions of thought and imagination are a necessary precursor to ontological rebellion, and ontological rebellion doesn't have to be violent. Just don't confuse marching and chanting (expression) with actually changing shit (doing).

So to conclude, I don't want to tell you how to feel, if you're angry that outsiders are crashing your protest, that's fine, I won't tell you that you shouldn't be angry. However I do think there's no need to worry that they're making your protest less effective, because it was never going to be effective, that's why it was allowed to take place. I also think it's worth thinking about how participating in the the spectacle of sanctioned dissent may reinforce what you're trying to fight, and how you might try to fight what your fighting by transgressing, transcending or subverting it, rather than just expressing your opposition to it.

Sorry if that came across as a bit rant-y but it's an emotive subject for me.

Edit: Also sorry if I came across as condescending, I don't intend it that way, I'm a work in progress.

answered Jul 4 by Yosemite (5,810 points)
edited Jul 4 by Yosemite

ingrate, thanks. Comic sans is the best thing microsoft has ever implemented ;). I've never seen someone killed by the police in person, but have seen the police beat the shit out of folk in person. When I was a younger lad, I saw a childhood friend whooped by the cops right in front of me. It's like they made a spectacle out of it to show me and the other people that we were with to not disobey/run from them in the future. It was quite disturbing to watch and not being able to do anything about it made it all the more disturbing to me.

zz, I don't know which tactics to use to topple the state & capitalism. All the ones I know of haven't accomplished that goal yet. I think the asking/begging the state, without any force, to do/give this or that won't accomplish anything but sore feet. I don't think it's possible to live free of the state & capitalism at this moment. One can try to limit it in their lives by trying the more "off-grid" way or in one of those various somewhat self-sustaining collectives throughout the US and elsewhere, but they still have to live within the state rules and capitalism.

zz, you mention unique experience, yet you keep referring to "their" experience, and "them", which sounds like not a unique experience.

regarding the "animal" connotation....i wonder why describing someone as acting like an animal means a bad thing....no other animals seem to destroy the planet or kill their own species the way humans do...call me an animal any time.

baa, I've wondered if the animal thing has to do with the domestication of humans thousands of years ago. I guess, you could say self-domestication. Kind of like other domesticated animals are more docile, humans are also quite docile, imo. While an undomesticated animal is more aggressive and, I suppose, more unpredictable. I'm not sure why being viewed as an animal is a negative thing, other than the individual's behavior breaks from norm, but that doesn't really explain why it's a negative either.

Ba@

I Agree about the animal things but it doesn't change that white people mean it as a slur against Black people. Or that others use it as a slur.

UNiue to a group of people. When cops attack Black people, they attack anyone one Black. Cops will beat up anyone one. But their first target is Black people.

I Know that all Black people  are different. That doesn't mean that that state doesn't target them as a group. Or that the state hasn't created & disbursed propaganda against a group. Many groups, but some groups more harshly than others.
I See the primary effect of protests of sorts as creating awareness. It may not bring immediate change policy wise. It does push the boundaries of awareness. The size of our country impedes change.

KXL blockade started with a couple of guys in trees saying no to a pipeline. That grew to the stopping of the tar sands oil being sent. Now they may not even have a market for the oil.

Water protectors in ND started pipeline awareness and now there are multiple places where people are protecting the water from pipelines.

DOes it bring the ultimate change? No, it puts out fires. That is necessary to survive in the present.
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