[Marxism] Why Misogynists Make Great Informants: How Gender Violence on the Left Enables State Violence in Radical Movements

Patrick Scott redpatrick at gmail.com
Sun Jul 18 14:05:49 MDT 2010

Whilst I don't necessarily agree with everything the article says it is
certainly food for thought given that the likes of Mark Curtis and Tommy
Sheridan have their defenders on this list.

I have just submitted the first few paragraphs because the article is too
long to go on the list, so if you want to read it in full just click on the
link - PS.


In January 2009, activists in Austin, Texas, learned that one of their own,
a white activist named Brandon Darby, had infiltrated groups protesting the
Republican National Convention (RNC) as an FBI informant. Darby later
admitted to wearing recording devices at planning meetings and during the
convention. He testified on behalf of the government in the February 2009
trial of two Texas activists who were arrested at the RNC on charges of
making and possessing Molotov cocktails, after Darby encouraged them to do
so. The two young men, David McKay and Bradley Crowder, each faced up to
fifteen years in prison. Crowder accepted a plea bargain to serve three
years in a federal prison; under pressure from federal prosecutors, McKay
also pled guilty to being in possession of “unregistered Molotov cocktails”
and was sentenced to four years in prison. Information gathered by Darby may
also have contributed to the case against the RNC 8, activists from around
the country charged with “conspiracy to riot and conspiracy to damage
property in the furtherance of terrorism.” Austin activists were
particularly stunned by the revelation that Darby had served as an informant
because he had been a part of various leftist projects and was a leader at
Common Ground Relief, a New Orleans–based organization committed to meeting
the short-term needs of community members displaced by natural disasters in
the Gulf Coast region and dedicated to rebuilding the region and ensuring
Katrina evacuees’ right to return.

I was surprised but not shocked by this news. I had learned as an undergrad
at the University of Texas that the campus police department routinely
placed plainclothes police officers in the meetings of radical student
groups—you know, just to keep an eye on them. That was in fall 2001. We saw
the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, watched a cowboy
president wage war on terror, and, in the middle of it all, tried to figure
out what we could do to challenge the fascist state transformations taking
place before our eyes. At the time, however, it seemed silly that there were
cops in our meetings—we weren’t the Panthers or the Brown Berets or even
some of the rowdier direct-action anti-globalization activists on campus
(although we admired them all); we were just young people who didn’t believe
war was the best response to the 9/11 attacks. But it wasn’t silly; the FBI
does not dismiss political work. Any organization, be it large or small, can
provoke the scrutiny of the state. Perhaps your organization poses a large
threat, or maybe you’re small now but one day you’ll grow up and be too big
to rein in. The state usually opts to kill the movement before it grows.

And informants and provocateurs are the state’s hired gunmen. Government
agencies pick people that no one will notice. Often it’s impossible to prove
that they’re informants because they appear to be completely dedicated to
social justice. They establish intimate relationships with activists,
becoming friends and lovers, often serving in leadership roles in
organizations. A cursory reading of the literature on social movements and
organizations in the 1960s and 1970s reveals this fact. The leadership of
the American Indian Movement was rife with informants; it is suspected that
informants were also largely responsible for the downfall of the Black
Panther Party, and the same can be surmised about the antiwar movement of
the 1960s and 1970s. Not surprisingly, these movements that were toppled by
informants and provocateurs were also sites where women and queer activists
often experienced intense gender violence, as the autobiographies of
activists such as Assata Shakur, Elaine Brown, and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Maybe it isn’t that informants are difficult to spot but rather that we have
collectively ignored the signs that give them away. To save our movements,
we need to come to terms with the connections between gender violence, male
privilege, and the strategies that informants (and people who just act like
them) use to destabilize radical movements. Time and again heterosexual men
in radical movements have been allowed to assert their privilege and
subordinate others. Despite all that we say to the contrary, the fact is
that radical social movements and organizations in the United States have
refused to seriously address gender violence [1] as a threat to the survival
of our struggles. We’ve treated misogyny, homophobia, and heterosexism as
lesser evils—secondary issues—that will eventually take care of themselves
or fade into the background once the “real” issues—racism, the police, class
inequality, U.S. wars of aggression—are resolved. There are serious
consequences for choosing ignorance. Misogyny and homophobia are central to
the reproduction of violence in radical activist communities. Scratch a
misogynist and you’ll find a homophobe. Scratch a little deeper and you
might find the makings of a future informant (or someone who just
destabilizes movements like informants do).

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