[Marxism] [Pen-l] An analysis of the G20 protest and the black bloc

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 2 19:09:43 MDT 2010

Greg McDonald wrote:
> For what it's worth, I think this is a very good point. I just wish
> you had made it at the outset of this particular conversation. It
> might have saved a lot of bandwith.

How the founder of American Trotskyism put it:


Also, defensive formulations are an indispensable medium for teaching 
the masses, who will not be convinced by theory but only by their own 
experience and propaganda related thereto. This experience of the masses 
proceeds in the main along the line of defensive actions. That is why 
defensive formulations are most easily comprehensible and represent the 
best approach of the revolutionary Marxists to the masses. Finally, it 
is a tactical and legal consideration of no small importance in a 
bourgeois-democratic country that defensive formulas partially disarm 
the class enemy; or in any case, make their attacks more difficult and 
costly. Why should such advantages be thrown away?

Defensive formulations retain their efficiency in all actions involving 
masses, from the most elementary economic strikes to the open struggle 
for power. Those who aspire to organise action ought to know this.

American economic strikes have been explosively violent and the violence 
has not all been on one side. The instinctive militancy of the workers, 
as revealed in these strikes, would indicate that when the time comes 
for grandiose revolutionary actions, these same workers will remain true 
to their tradition and not be paralysed by Quakerism.

Every strike leader worth his salt knows, however, that strikers are not 
mobilised and sent into action against strikebreakers, thugs and 
lawbreaking cops by lecturing them on the virtues of violence and 
"calling" them to take the "offensive". The workers, militant and 
courageous as they may be, prefer victory by peaceful means; and in this 
they only show good sense. In addition strikers, at the beginning, 
almost invariably entertain illusions about the impartiality of the 
public authorities and tend to assume that they, as well as the bosses 
and their hirelings, will respect the rights of the strikers and the 
justice of their cause.

They need experience, which as a rule is soon forthcoming, to change 
their attitude and move them to militant action. They need also some 
assurance that legal right is on their side. Strike leaders who seek not 
self-expression but victory in the strike, who understand that it can be 
won only by means of mass solidarity and mass action, must take these 
illusions and sentiments of the workers into account as the point of 
departure. Strike leaders can in no case begin with loose-mouthed 
"calls" for violent offensive action by the strikers. The first task is 
to explain the implacable nature of the struggle in which the 
self-interest of the bosses excludes fair play, and the role of the 
public authorities as political servants of the bosses; the second task 
is to warn the workers to expect violent attacks; and the third task is 
to prepare and organise the workers to defend themselves and their 
rights. Along these lines, and as a rule only along these lines, the 
struggle can be consciously developed in tempo and scope The most 
effective mass action of the strikers, as every experienced organiser of 
mass actions knows, is organised and carried out under defensive slogans.

Matters are no different when the workers' mass action ascends from the 
elementary field of the economic strike to the topmost peak of the class 
struggle-the open fight for political power. Here also the action 
proceeds under defensive slogans and, to a very large extent also under 
cover of legality. Trotsky has demonstrated this so convincingly in his 
monumental History of the Russian Revolution that there remains no 
ground for serious debate in our ranks on the subject. To the student it 
should be sufficient to say: There is the book; go and read it. To the 
critic who imagines, without having thought the matter out that, 
defensive formulations signify squeamishness or hedging on principle, we 
say and we shall prove: That is the way the great Russian Revolution was 
organised and carried through to victory.

Here is the way Trotsky explains the question:

	The attacking side is almost always interested in seeming on the 
defensive. A revolutionary party is interested in legal coverings. The 
coming Congress of Soviets, although in essence a Soviet of revolution, 
was nevertheless for the whole popular mass indubitably endowed, if not 
with the whole sovereignty, at least with a good half of it. It was a 
question of one of the elements of a dual power making an insurrection 
against the other. Appealing to the Congress as the source of authority, 
the Military Revolutionary Committee accused the government in advance 
of preparing an attempt against the soviets. This accusation flowed 
logically from the whole situation. Insofar as the government did not 
intend to capitulate without a fight it could not help getting ready to 
defend itself. But by this very fact it became liable to the accusation 
of conspiracy against the highest organ of the workers, soldiers and 
peasants. In its struggle against the Congress of Soviets which was to 
overthrow Kerensky, the government lifted its hand against that source 
of power from which Kerensky had issued.


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