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In Defense of the Diversity of Tactics

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo http://rabble.ca/news/2010/03/defence-diversity-tactics in his own words In
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1, 2010
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      in his own words
      In defence of the diversity of tactics
      By Alex Hundert
      March 1, 2010

      Judy Rebick, from her office in downtown Toronto, complained that "when
      a spontaneous anger against the Black Bloc emerged on social media,
      people berated us for ‘dividing the movement.'" She says that, in fact,
      "it is the Black Bloc that is dividing the movement."

      She is wrong.

      I have been involved in a wide array of coalitions on various issues
      over the past half decade, and never have I witnessed cross-movement
      solidarity like I have in the anti-Olympics campaign. In southern
      Ontario, as in Vancouver, radical groups from a variety of locations in
      the broader movement have come together to start to develop a shared
      anti-colonial analysis. This solidarity and unity, on the anti-colonial
      front, is deeper and stronger now than it has been at any point in the
      last 10 years.

      A strong example of that solidarity was on display during the Feb. 12th
      "Take Back Our City" march. That event saw upwards of 2,000 people march
      on BC Place during the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games, and was
      led by indigenous women. When the march reached the police line outside
      of BC Place that night, the cops started pushing and shoving the front
      line. Indigenous women called for the Black Bloc to move to the front to
      hold the line. When the elders amongst that leadership group decided
      that the crush from the police was too much, the Black Bloc made space
      for them to move to the back of the crowd.

      Twenty-first-century anti-colonial analysis is one that is able to
      identify commonalities between the struggles of the urban poor and those
      of indigenous sovereigntists. Where colonization is ongoing against
      First Nations, we are also able to see gentrification and the
      criminalization of homelessness and poverty as a form of urban
      colonialism. In Vancouver (and elsewhere) there is often no distinction
      between indigenous sovereigntists and the urban poor; they are often the
      same people.

      This 21st-century analysis is finally moving beyond political
      philosophies rooted in 19th- and 20th-century Eurocentric intellectual
      traditions (such as those fostered by anarcho-socialists like Mick
      Sweetman of Common Cause in Ontario, who still choose to see the world
      through the lense of an industrial workers struggle). This new
      anti-colonialism is one that seeks to push out the old colonial patterns
      of European intellectualism to make space for fundamentally different
      cultural ideas rooted in places other than Europe.

      This 21st-century analysis is moving beyond the empty rhetoric of
      "revolutionary acts." We no longer wish to seize the machinery of the
      State to use it for our own ends; we wish to see it dismantled, to be
      replaced by something other than a new Euro-American colonialism. A
      better world than that is possible, but it cannot come about until we
      move beyond the dominant paradigms of our culture. Statism and white
      supremacy must be resigned to the dustbins of history.

      Part of the strength of the anti-Olympic campaign, as a watershed for
      the new anti-colonial movement, has been the solidarity and unity around
      a "diversity of tactics." Part of that solidarity is rooted in the idea
      that you cannot attack one part of the movement without attacking the
      whole. When we remember to defend each other, we also remember to work
      together to build the movement and our communities. This cannot be done
      by succumbing to the classic colonial tactic of divide and conquer.
      Diversity of tactics means that one day we smash the system and the next
      we build alternatives. The Black Block is a wrecking ball tactic that
      makes space for more mainstream or creative tactics. The anarchists who
      participate in the Bloc are for the most part solid community organizers
      and people who are at the forefront of making space for creative
      alternatives to capitalism and colonialism. A diversity of tactics is
      meant to be complimentary -- different tactics demonstrate different
      values and objectives, and all must be viewed in sum.

      Mutual solidarity

      The highlight of the anti-Olympic convergence in Vancouver, for me, has
      been to see a coming together and mutual solidarity between Vancouver's
      Downtown Eastside (DTES) and indigenous sovereigntists (and their
      allies) -- two demographics whom have been especially under attack by
      the Olympic and State machines. In fact, on the streets of Vancouver,
      increasingly it would appear that the sovereigntists and the
      anti-poverty activists are often the same people.

      Working as allies, not just in a supporting role, have been a wide array
      of activists from many sectors. Prominent amongst the organizers in the
      Olympic Resistance Network (ORN) and throughout the convergence have
      indeed been anarchists who participated in the Black Bloc actions during
      the "Heart Attack" march on Feb. 13, 2010.

      What Judy Rebick, and many other critics who have had little to do with
      the anti-Olympic movement, have entirely failed to notice is the fact
      that the Black Bloc was supported by almost every constituency of the
      ORN. This show of solidarity was not divisive -- it brought us together
      and has built deep trust between activists who, in the past, have often
      had very little to say to each other.

      Organizations that were publicly represented include (or had individual
      members present and unmasked): No One Is Illegal, the Council of
      Canadians, PETA, the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), StopWar.ca,
      Gatewaysucks, the Vancouver Anti-Poverty Committee, Food Not Bombs, and
      many more. None of those organizations have denounced the actions of the
      Black Bloc that day. And they can't, because their members know that on
      that day, they were there to support the Black Bloc. Anyone who says
      that they didn't know what was going to happen is lying. There were 200
      people in black with masks on, and "Riot 2010" has been a rallying call
      for the movement for more than two years now. Everyone knew what was
      going to happen, and they all marched anyway.

      For Judy Rebick to claim that the Black Bloc had "come into the middle
      of a demonstration with black face masks [to] break up whatever takes
      their fancy when the vast majority of people involved don't want them
      to," is either dishonest, or a sign that she has stopped paying
      attention to what actually happens on the ground. The Black Bloc is not
      dividing the movement -- people with aspirations for mainstream
      acceptance who distance themselves from other activists are.

      Judy Rebick is going to have to decide whether she wants to be a
      celebrity, acceptable to the CBC and their mainstream audience, or work
      on the ground with people who are fed up with capitalism, with
      colonialism, and also with the paralyzing cult of non-violence. It is
      time to realize that there are people who are ready to fight back, and
      that it is time to support them.

      Unarmed activists do battle

      After the police clashed with the Bloc that day, and affinity groups
      were forced to scatter (the Black Bloc doesn't do peaceful arrests --
      the tactic dictates mutual protection from the police instead), the
      majority of the "non-violent" marchers continued in support. Some of
      them allowed themselves to be arrested by the frustrated police. Blaming
      anyone other than the police for the conduct of the police is merely a
      legitimization of the police presence on our streets -- it would be like
      blaming the poor for the criminalization of homelessness. I expect
      people to know better. Cops are no more than armed thugs-for-hire.

      In fact, the willingness of unarmed activists to battle with heavily
      armed riot cops, in order to de-arrest people they may have never met
      before and may never be able to identify, is one of the strongest forms
      of solidarity I have ever witnessed. We have to be willing to physically
      protect our own communities, no matter the cost, by any means necessary.
      This is the type of message that the Black Bloc sends. The point is that
      we don't need or want your cops or your capitalist colonial system. The
      point of such actions is not to convince bystanders or any particular
      audience to join us in the streets. The point is to put people on notice
      that there exists active insurrectionary resistance, right here in the
      belly of the beast.

      For Judy Rebick to suggest that Black Bloc tactics "put other people and
      the issues we are fighting for in jeopardy," is just preposterous. The
      mass audiences that dismissed the "Heart Attack" march are consistently
      the same mass audiences who generally dismiss every form of direct
      action and every radical cause. Judy may be too used to her celebrity
      status to notice, but most people aren't paying attention to start with.
      So-called "nonviolent direct action", with rare exceptions, is also
      summarily dismissed by most people, most of the time. They want us to go
      through so-called proper channels, not understanding that the system
      exists to perpetuate itself, not to accommodate change or the
      empowerment of communities under attack. Begging the government for
      change merely legitimizes their claim to be the rightful authority over
      land and people. Too many, enamoured with the cult of nonviolence, have
      too easily parroted the conservative media narratives that so
      predictably hamper our movements.

      Further, it is not unity under a commitment to a "diversity of tactics"
      that stifles debate within our movement -- that is what we call
      solidarity. It is a zealous adherence to dogmatic "non-violence" that
      shuts down any meaningful dialogue.

      Making Canadians stop and think

      An important point that nobody seems to have picked up on, is that the
      targeting of the Hudson's Bay Company actually opened up space for
      Canadians to stop and think about the colonial history of HBC, if only
      briefly. Those citizens still capable of critical thought were left with
      little choice.

      Two days after the "Heart Attack" march, there was an anti-poverty march
      which was attended by many liberals and so-called progressives -- MP
      Libby Davies, for example. A group broke off from that march, hopped the
      fence to an empty lot (owned by condo developers, under lease by VANOC)
      and cut the locks from the gates, opening them up for people to set up
      the Olympic Tent Village which will still stand at least until the end
      of the Olympics. Many activists who participated in the Black Bloc at
      "Heart Attack" have been there ever since, volunteering almost around
      the clock cooking meals, working security shifts, helping set up tents
      and keeping them dry, working the medic tent, organizing new actions
      with members of the DTES community. Meanwhile, more liberal folks (like
      Dave Eby of the BCCLA) showed up once or twice for photo ops without
      ever setting foot inside the camp or talking to any of the people
      without homes whom they build their careers speaking on behalf of.

      It is not the champions of civil liberties, the democratic reformers or
      academics who are down at the Olympic Tent Village. While they are in
      their offices, it is community organizers and radicals who are on the
      ground working side by side with neighbourhood residents, participating
      in real community building. At the Tent Village the State machine has
      been shut out from the site. Inside, residents of the DTES are rising up.

      I've been at the front gate doing security, for more hours than I have
      not, over the past 10 days. In that time many conversations with
      Vancouverites or Olympic tourists who pass by have turned to discussions
      of the "violence" on the 13th. I have watched multiple individuals take
      off their HBC red mittens and toss them in the garbage. While these
      people may not take any further action, in the face of the gross poverty
      on the DTES, they had no choice but to be ashamed. It was the broken
      windows which identified HBC's Olympic merchandise as an appropriate
      symbol to bear that shame.

      Stella August, an indigenous elder and a member of the DTES Power of
      Women group has publicly defended the Black Bloc's actions during "Heart
      Attack." Those who have chosen to denounce the action without any
      appreciation of the dynamics on the ground in Vancouver should be just
      as ashamed as the people wearing those mittens.

      People and communities are under attack and it is time to fight back. If
      you're not willing to stand up and fight, or to support those who are,
      please at least get out of the way.

      Alex Hundert is an organiser with AW@L and the Kitchener-Waterloo
      Community Centre for Social Justice. AW@L is a community-based direct
      action group and part of the Six Nations Solidarity Network and the
      Olympic Resistance Network-Ontario.

      Dan Clore

      New book: _Weird Words: A Lovecraftian Lexicon_:
      My collected fiction: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
      in charge on this island?
      Professor: Why, no one.
      Skipper: No one?
      Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
      -- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"
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