Quebec City and "diversity of tactics"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Thu Sep 6 06:55:53 MDT 2001

[I posted my critique of Barbara Epstein's MR article on anarchism and
anti-globalization protests on the Socialist Register, where at least a
couple of the MR editors lurk. It prompted this very thoughtful reply from
a young activist. It suggests to me that a process of rethinking is going
on in this movement--thankfully.]

What follows is merely a reflection on my experience in Quebec City. I have
had very little to say on the whole matter largely because that weekend
left me incredibly saddened, angry and inarticulate.

I was in Quebec City, although not on a tour of adventurism as Louis would
have it, but, rather, to take a physical stand with other members of the
community against 25 years of an assault on the programmes and gains that
generations of our families have fought hard to win. Leading up to the
protest it seemed like the promotion of a "diversity of tactics" was a good
strategy. Unfortunately it became immediately clear that "Diversity of
tactics" was simply a convenient mechanism for dogging the hard work of
forging a solidaristic movement. It merely provides cover for every
sectarian group to do their own thing and self-validate to members of their
own clique. It made the job of the security forces easier not harder.

While the "diversity of tactics" worked well on one or two occasions it did
not serve us very well on the whole. For example, on Friday night a group
of twenty something's decided to block Rene Levesque blvd thereby
blockading the main entry point and preventing supplies from getting into
the conference site. The cops kept calling on us to leave the road or face
the dogs but we just stayed seated. The police simply ordered three of
their undercover agents to start hurling rocks, giving them the pretence to
beat the hell out of us. Given, the level of violence earlier in the day
the media simply went along for the ride. We did not know they were
undercover cops until we saw them jump into an unmarked van during our
retreat because we had no way to self-identify as a group nor did we have
an agreed upon strategy . In short, we got schooled all week end long
precisely because we lacked any cohesion as a group. I am more than willing
to put my ass on the line for comrades but I will not face the gas, dogs,
batons, rubber bullets, water-cannons and boots all in order to provide
cannon fodder for the diversity tactics brigades which may in the end turn
out to be cops.

I am disappointed about what happened in Quebec City. It was a missed
opportunity for acts of mass civil disobedience. We had the numbers. There
are several activities we could have engaged in that would have seriously
hindered the meeting and effectively countered the PR. None of which would
have involved violence on our part. That we could not do this, as has been
pointed out, was precisely because of the level autonomy maintained by each

I do think these events need to be protested, as they are largely public
relations exercises by state officials and representatives of capital.
Protesting through acts of civil disobedience can effectively counter the
PR value of these meetings. Moreover, they are also excellent venues for
building up networks of support for campaigns back in our own communities.
What, however, cannot not be accomplished through our counter
manifestations is a head-on assault against the state and capital. It must
be remembered that one of the primal roles of the state is war making.
Hence, why the cops looked like mercenaries that weekend. It is simply an
act of self-delusion, on a logistical level, to think that we can meet the
state on this terrain. It is equally an act of self- delusion to think that
pitched battles with cops will aid in the processes class formation and

It is time for this movement to mature.

In solidarity...if only


Louis Proyect
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