Sunday, August 30, 2009

What If the Black Bloc Held a Summit and the G20 Had a Bake Sale?

Last summer, I got in a small bus and headed across the county to participate in the DNC and the RNC protests. I a small interest in the events; although I mostly wanted to meet people and also see what would come out of the protests. I met many great people, and made many connections. However, the infrastructure that was created is now gone, some friends have gotten some charges and bigger records, a lot of money has been spend, and we again enjoyed our time on the news as the “masked hooligans.”

With the coming of the g20 protests, I've been thinking a lot about summit protests in general; especially in the context of the lack of class struggle in the US. The general anarchist response to the summits is summed up by groups like Crimethinc, (to which I made some responses to bellow to the blog they wrote about the convergence). They basically go on to purpose that the summits are an opportunity for anarchists to prove to others that they have ideas and modes of operations which are worth checking out.

The next perspective, the insurrectionary one, which is exemplified by a close comrade, who explained their position to me basically as such. That, in such a context of a lack of class struggle, these events give us the petri dish to test our skills and play dress up for the real thing. Also, in a time of such low class struggle, these events and the conflict that they generate are perhaps some of the only real and tangible scenes of actual combat that this system sees.

Another perspective also put forth, is that of groups like Letters Journal, coming out of the German and Dutch Ultra-Lefts and writers like Sam Moss, is that basically revolutionary groups are an impediment to the self-organization of the class, and all revolutionary groups should disband for the purpose of waiting for their time to intervene in history. Thus, in this context, such actions like at the summits still are only the left of activism; even if it riots. These events are basically meaningless until class struggle heats up. (For more, check out xDon'sx 3rd and 4th issues of xTotal Destructionx, which are great.)

As to the first, the 'general anarchist response' to the summits: I disagree. Saying that summits offer us an opportunity to share our ideas to the rest of the world and they'll pay attention if we make enough of a ruckus I think is false. The time, energy, and money that goes into these events could actually be put into creating lasting infrastructure that could be used by a movement that plans to be around for a long time and intervene in the class struggle over a long period.

This logic is also kind of like, “If the Packers win the Superbowl, everyone will like the Packers!!!” Sure, a lot of people will see anarchists in Pittsburgh that go crazy (if that happens) and be like, “cool, these people want to fuck shit up.” But, I think getting more people into the movement is a lot more complicated than just looking pretty for the cameras. Radicals have been successful in world events when the have intervened in their historical contexts with a clear direction (the Ukraine, Spain, Paris 1968), often after years of organizing and 'building the communes,” as we are so found of saying now days. Also, as it is stated in the new Politics is Not a Banana, there is more importance in a shared practice than a shared set of ideas. By this, I think that people will come to us when they see like we do that there is something to be gained by insurrection, occupying things, taking things back, collective mass direct action.

As to the second, more insurrectionary tendency, which I guess I have more affinity for, I guess I also disagree. Even if protests or even riots at summits are the only real examples of conflict in society, then the still represent 'real' leftist events like protests or marches getting out of control. Which is cool. But of course, we need this to move away from such an arena and into the stadium of everyday life. The question is how to do this. I think moving away from putting so much energy into summits is part of the solution, and using the resources that we use on summits towards such an end. I'm more interested in mobilization the 'war machine' around stuff that we can set the agenda on. A big strike for instance. Or occupying something.

It seems interesting that so much of the insurrectionary tendency is wrapped up in the Invisible Committee, yet does things that seem to be the opposite of what they put forward. We love to hate on activism, yet spend a lot of our time trying to be the ugly more terrible version of it.

As for the position of Letters Journal, I guess I would disagree with it, although it makes a lot of sense to me. How will we know when class struggle will explode? Would have they stated in Greece before they shot Alex that the insurrection in December was going to explode? How will we know who to intervene if we aren't doing it all the time, where ever conflict appears, no matter how small?

Anyway. If I had the means to go to Pittsburgh, I probably would. Which seems to be part of the problem. We go because it's fun, not because we should be spending our time and resources on it. We know comrades will be there. So we go. When do we change this. When do we start to strategically start to plan riots around what we want to? Can we even do so?

Some notes on the Crimethinc blog:

“It’s ironic that anarchist opposition to capitalist institutions—and anarchist emphasis on alternate lifestyles making the best of poverty—reached their peak a decade ago during a period of apparent prosperity, when they could be so much more persuasive today.”

It really seems that Crimethinc is shooting itself in the foot here. They seem like they want to talk away from the “if you're not having fun, you're not doing [poverty] right” aesthetic of their past, but then they write stuff like that. If you're in poverty, dumpsterdiving, squatting, and the like may make things at times 'easier;' meaning, at least you'll have trash to eat and perhaps a place to get some sleep (while waking up every three minutes when you hear something) for about a month. But these things don't make the 'best' of poverty, they help you survive a little better. I go out and dumpster food a couple times a week here in Modesto, but besides filling up my fridge with shitty food I probably wouldn't buy in general, it just takes a very small financial burden off my wallet. This does nothing to change my class position in society, nor does it make the 'best' out of it.

Also, if Crimethinc is getting at the idea that 'alternative living' should be promoted more now, due to the recession, also is missing the point that at this time we should be promoting much more than dumpsterdiving the like. We should be promoting wildcat strikes and workplace occupations, defense against evictions and all the like.

“Since Obama’s election, some of us have waited impatiently for a chance to bring opposition to global capitalism back into the public eye.”

This statement makes it seem like this only happens when radicals get in the street at summits and at times get crazy and maybe even 'riot.' Do people only oppose capitalism when they are vocal that they are opposing capitalism?

“Effective anarchist resistance in Pittsburgh could shatter the illusion that Obama and his class represent the longings of the public for a better world, focusing attention on more radical responses to the present crises.”

Also, I think a lot of people have lost the illusion that Obama offers anything but a new face to the same shit. Is this convergence the best way to go about 'proposing an alternative?' Which begs the question how we can propose an alternative to Capital even as we are out rioting against it? That isn't a problem, but lets be clear. When we attack capital, we aren't proposing an alternative as so much are we trying to get it the fuck out of our lives.


  1. Crudo. You seem to assume the same form of organizing happens around each summit, no matter where it is, whether it was 8 years ago or today, and regardless of what the local landscape of resistance looks like. You also seem overly focused on what happens during the summit itself.

    Here's my criteria for whether the choice to resist the G20 was worthwhile.

    1: Did it get anarchists to break out of just talking to each other and start interacting with neighbors and the communities they live in?

    2: Did it help individuals to break through previous limits? Did the person who only went to a meeting before start stickering or wheatpasting at night?

    3: Did it help reveal to everyone the true nature of the police and politicians?

    4: Did it cause the formation of tighter and longer lasting affinity groups/crews that stay active after?

    5: Did it provide points of collection and dispersion for the distribution of new ideas?

    6: Did participants have fun? Did they leave more empowered?

    7: Were local points of resistance strengthened?

  2. i think the greek and european lesson in general is more often than not, they riot at home. they are intervening such locally. summits are still great and all because it can reinvigorate communities like the poster above has shown, but we need to be intervening in our local class struggles way more, and use that intervention to highlight what is happening elsewhere from time to time.

  3. Dear first anonymous poster. While I like the spirit of what you're saying, that a massive project like this will get anarchists to interact with people around them, I still disagree on some of your logic. Whether or not the G20 summit is stopped or not, or there's a riot, it probably won't mean much to the people around them. Any disruption or sabotage will largely be symbolic. It's not like if there's a riot and the G20 is canceled certain things will be gained by people. It might be an empowering collective experience for those involved, which is great, but it will still probably only be contained within 'the anarchists.' I thought that the biggest missed opportunity of the RNC, was after the riot on Monday in September, everyone left and a lot of people came out to see a repeat, but the anarchists were gone.

    "1: Did it get anarchists to break out of just talking to each other and start interacting with neighbors and the communities they live in?" -

    Again, in spirit I agree with this. It's a good thing for us to talk to other people. But I feel like we should be doing this about the stuff that affects us and those around us at work, on our blocks, at school, etc. If the summit is the start, then so be it, but it's been 'the start' for a long time.

    "2: Did it help individuals to break through previous limits? Did the person who only went to a meeting before start stickering or wheatpasting at night?"

    You're making it seem like the summit is kind of like a Food Not Bombs project. If we can get kids to do x, then they'll go out and do y. Which is cool. But again, I think we need projects and forms which speak to our conditions and pull people in based on those shared conditions.

    "3: Did it help reveal to everyone the true nature of the police and politicians?"-

    I doubt a summit is going to revel the 'true' nature of the police or the state to people who already experience it on a day to day. Who are we talking about that doesn't already know that? Do we even want to speak to them in the first place?

    "4: Did it cause the formation of tighter and longer lasting affinity groups/crews that stay active after?" -

    The problem with that though is that any organization is going to be based around fighting the G20, not creating permanent forms in Pittsburg for years to come. Think of all the stuff that went into Unconventional Action, from the propaganda, the convergence space, and all the local groups. Most of those are all gone now. We did get Bash Back! and UA in the Bay, but no national network came out of the convention protests.

    "5: Did it provide points of collection and dispersion for the distribution of new ideas?" -

    I'm all for this...

    "6: Did participants have fun? Did they leave more empowered?" -

    What kind of question is did they have fun? Sure fun is important, but seriously, when I was at the RNC, gettinig a text every other second about a house getting raided, having my friends get massive charges - none of that was fun. Sure there was a lot of fun, but fun wasn't why I was there.

    "7: Were local points of resistance strengthened?"

    Again, I don't feel like summits do much to strengthen local organizing. I mean, maybe they do. But most of the people who come in to organize around these things will soon take off after the protests are done. All of the infrastructure that was created will disappear.

  4. ... Crudo, check out the Gwangju uprising in South Korea circa 1980. George Katsiaficas has written much about it on his webpage Not too many anarchists know about this one (eurocentrism?) but i think it illustrates the insurrectionist approach quite well.

  5. Like usual, Crudo be on top of the game.

    I feel like Crudo's saying what most "jaded" anarchists have been saying for years. No wonder there's such a high turnover rate past like 25.
    No fucking listens to them 'cause there's the tendency to say they're just getting old and "selling out".

    Fuck that. I'mma be 50 and still act out vengeance for every fucking moment of my life that was never mine.

  6. i dont really have much to say about summits except its weird to say that we're in a low period of class struggle. a low period of fightback perhaps. there is hella class war going on. we are just getting our asses handed to us, as usual.

    you're right there seems to be this odd chain of thought linking the invisibles' exemplification of the banlieu revolts as something that happened totally in the absence of, in fact in opposition to conscious activist projects (shades of md's nihilist communism and the "resistance of the body"), to u.s. insurrectionists using the social capital of activist networks to try and build a riotous social body almost out of thin air. (i think its worth noting that all the excessive activism-hating that they, you and i do is based on the fact that we were all activists at some point!)

    then on the other hand i think letters has some good points, but its another odd chain of thought that links the mule like, incoherent resistance to an abandonment of ones own potentiality to fight for waiting for the right moment, the "critical rupture" or "fatal contradiction" so beloved of marxist teleology. maybe what we are missing is that nothing guarantees the "endgame" regardless if we're talking the green or red variety. nothing is guaranteed. period. on the other hand, maybe it's just saying that busting windows isn't the only thing for insurrectionaries to be doing, - a straw man position, perhaps; - and/or that busting windows isn't necessarily a step towards anything at all other than reifying ones own role as say, a post activist new jack insurrectionist kid - and honestly this position seems to have had no shortage of champions lately including myself in some of my own more manic moments.

    then again, the more busted windows and general uncontrollability the better i suppose. zooming out into the really big picture just makes my head spin... sorry, don't really know where i'm going with this.

  7. ps. sorry i never made those shirts or anything. i dont have a way to send money but i will support when i can. good luck, as usual.