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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)
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 (19,820 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.

+2 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 (5,770 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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