[Marxism] an anarchist wonders 'what are we doing?'

Dayne Goodwin daynegoodwin at gmail.com
Wed Sep 30 07:37:54 MDT 2009


. . .
It also became clear that our actions in the streets were not usually
connected to any real strategy to achieve change, no goals that we
could attain, no real meaning for being there at that time, besides to
ruin the party for the bigwigs...
. . .
But I am no longer lending my support to these acts if they are not
solidly rooted in an organizational and movement-wide foundation,
supported by large numbers of people who understand their purpose and
the steps to take afterwards...
. . .
On the question of "Violence VS Non-Violence" I opt out. I respond
with a better question: "What is your goal?". Then I consider the
goals, how they link up to a larger strategy, and how it effects its
movement as a whole. "Will it make you stronger?". "Will it hurt your
organizing efforts?". These are the relevant questions. Then I ask,
"What do you need to do to achieve your goal?". Then I consider the
question of violence or non-violence. It's more of a tactical concern,
and tactical concerns stem from a goal, which usually stems from an
even bigger goal, which stems from a strategy.

If you roll a dumpster at the police, why are you doing it? To prove a
point? To block a street? To open a street? To cause a diversion to
pull off another action? To impress the media? To impress your
friends? To get it out of the way? To get it in the way? These are
relevant questions, far more relevant than whether or not it's morally
acceptable to roll a dumpster around. But then you must ask yourself
why you are trying to achieve that tactical goal. Are you blockading a
meeting? Are you causing chaos to make the summit look bad? Are you
trying to get media attention? Do you want revenge on the police? Then
you must ask yourself why you are blockading the meeting or causing
chaos or trying to get on TV. Who are you trying to effect? Who's your
base? If you want media attention, who are you trying to reach out to?
What is your message for them? If you are trying to cause chaos, what
is the purpose? Who is it serving? How is it advancing your goals?
What effect will it have on your movement next week, next month, next
year? What is the follow-up to all of this?

That's how winning movements think. Those are the critical questions
to ask, among others. Unfortunately, I never experienced a single
anarchist group that considered any of this. We just went out and did
the craziest stuff, had a few parties/events in the next few months,
and started the next round of last-minute militant protest organizing,
building for our next street-fantasy, the omnipresent and mythological
"next Seattle". We were chasing a high that we didn't even understand.

In pursuit of this high, we got lost in our own imagery and rhetoric.
We convinced ourselves that we, the anarchists, were the movement. We
were the ones who were important, the ones who made the difference
between a dinky permitted march and a history-making mobilization. We
used Seattle as the ultra-reference, where a group of a few dozen
black bloc anarchists caused over 4 million dollars in property
damage. Nevermind the other 49,000 + people in Seattle's actions,
sacrifices, and hard work. Nevermind the union workers rushing into
downtown to defend those doing civil disobedience. Nevermind those who
locked down peacefully or used human chains to blockade delegate
hotels. We were too obsessed with ourselves to let other folks steal
our glory. We called them all "liberals", and this was the ultimate

A recent Crimethinc report on the Pittsburgh G20 says that the black
bloc-portion of the protests "signifies the survival of militant
street resistance in the Obama era.". But I ask to what end? Militant
street resistance against what? For what? What kind of vague movement
are we part of if we discuss our tactics as if they are the very point
of using them? Is "militant street protest" an end in itself? Why?
What about the "survival of a sustained movement for economic
justice"? Why don't we discuss the things we are working for? Are we
working for "militant street protests" or are we working towards a
broad social goal? Do anarchists no longer think in terms of issues,
goals, or things they care about? Just vague notions of "freedom"
(like the freedom to light a dumpster on fire) or "resistance" (a
habit of attending and organizing semi-annual pre-staged battles with
the police)?

This insurrectionary rhetoric that is so popular today among us young
anarchists is belittling and destroying anarchism. It's turning it
into a mythic fantasy world, where things magically change because
someone breaks a window or quits their job. And it's pulling a lot of
young people into situations where they are often hurting long-term
movements for change, rather than reinforcing them. Today's
"Anarchism" is too disconnected from larger movements, too fragmented
in it's own, and too carried away with it's own romanticism.
. . .

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