See, this gets me so steamed. Whether it’s conservative, Democrat Party hangers-on (like MoveOn.org) or ‘ultra-left’ adventurists (like Black Bloc), there is a shared anti-democratic approach to organizing that seeks to bypass or subvert accountability to the processes of open decision-making by communities and activists in order to impose one’s own narrow view on the movement.
In this case, by actively undermining accountability to collectively-made decisions by community activists, Black Bloc does a tremendous disservice to us all. Not only is it thoroughly authoritarian to try to take over a protest via aggressive march tactics (rather than patiently winning people to your viewpoint through democratic organizing), but it also throws the door wide open for any fool with a black ski mask (let alone police infiltrators) to destroy the movement under the banner of non-cooperation with — and unaccountability to — community organizers of a given action.
Moreover, I find it ironic that certain anarchists are so quick to derisively denounce as ‘protest police’ anyone who tries to prevent them from undemocratically highjacking an action. I wonder what these anarchists would do if someone suddenly appeared at one of their “Anti-Capitalist” marches and tried to unfurl a pro-Democratic Party banner at the front of the march, or tried to raise a phalanx of “state socialist” placards at the lead of the procession. We all know that in such a situation these people would unceremoniously dispense with any talk of “protest police” and proceed immediately to removing or otherwise preventing the offenders from taking over their action. (Indeed, this writer has been on more than one occassion attacked for even the simple act of diffidently passing out socialist literature in the midst of such anarchist-organized marches).
I say, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. You can’t denounce authoritarianism and the lack of democracy when it suits you, just to turn around and practice these exact same things when it doesn’t. Well, I suppose one literally can do that, but it only serves to undermine your credibility and influence among genuine activists, communities, and oppressed and working-class people.
THE MAY 1 demonstration in Chicago represented the hope and future of our struggles and movements. But it also raised challenges and questions we need to grapple with for our struggle to move forward. The actions of a small group of protesters could have undermined the success of the demonstration—and put fellow protesters, including many undocumented immigrants, at risk of arrest or worse.
Occupy activists joined with immigrant rights and trade union activists to organize a May Day march and rally for the 99 percent. Organizing meetings held at Occupy Chicago’s space discussed and voted on the character of the action, its theme, its demands and many other issues. An estimated 2,000 participated in the march and rally, even though it was held during work hours. Among those participating were workers who occupied their workplace, families fighting eviction and foreclosures, immigrant workers unjustly fired because of the E-Verify program, warehouse workers organizing for union recognition, workers who have been on strike, undocumented students and youth who have risked deportation to demand legalization, hotel workers fighting for a just contract, African Americans organizing to demand justice for family members murdered by Chicago police …
AS THE march progressed from the Near West Side toward Federal Plaza in downtown Chicago, masked Black Bloc activists and others who believed the march was too conservative—ignoring the appeals of march organizers—moved to the front of the demonstration, bypassing the lead banner, a contingent of disabled participants and a security line made up of union, immigrant rights, Occupy and faith-based activists.
Firecrackers thrown by some people landed among the marchers. From chants of “The workers united will never be defeated” and “¡ICE escucha! Estamos en la lucha,” the chant at the front of the march became “Fuck the police.”
Fortunately, the police didn’t attack the demonstration, and no one was injured. But there are a number of issues flowing from this experience that warrant further discussion.
The story sounds pretty similar to Oakland / SF in many ways, unfortunately. And the commentary about hypocrisy around “peace police” is spot on. In fact (according to Indybay) there was an incident on May Day here where some anarchos splashed water all over the lit table of a socialist group set up in Oscar Grant Plaza.
Don’t get me wrong, some ruined literature is not the end of the world and I don’t feel too much sympathy for the group in question, but this is precisely the kind of action against autonomous political action — not very far removed from physically driving people out of a rally or out of a movement — about which anarchists would raise hue and cry if it happened to them. It is vanguardism and authoritarianism without accountability of any kind, and it’s happening here more and more often I am afraid.