[Marxism] On the black bloc

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Feb 10 10:09:35 MST 2017

A comment on my "Vanity of the Bonfires" article by Farans Kalosar:

I am opposed to Black Blocs. It’s only a tactic, as its adherents repeat 
nauseam and it is now and always has been a self-defeating one.

I witnessed a few hundred anarchist protesters, as far as one could tell 
(BTW) all white, marching down 13th Street in DC before the mini-riots 
about which such a convenient and exaggerated fuss was made in the media.

They contingent I saw were followed by a massive police convoy 
comprising at least nine brand-new Ford Transit vans packed to the roof 
with police as well as a substantial contingent of police cars 
containing two or more policepersons. There were anywhere from eighty to 
a hundred armed and well-organized police just following the 
demonstration. The long procession of police vehicles took longer to 
pass than the demonstration itself.

What did the demonstrators do? They marched into a police “kettle” in 
which a few more of their comrades were already contained, and then 
proceeded to break windows and set fires while completely surrounded. 
(It should be noted, by the way, that Black Bloc tactic has now fully 
legitimized the police “kettle” tactic which was formerly banned.)

More than half of the protesters were arrested and subjected to felony 
charges, as were any journalists unlucky enough to find themselves swept 
up in the totally predictable police response.

The DC police, while they love to cultivate a kind and gentle persona 
for public consumption, are notoriously absolutely ruthless in attacking 
not only spontaneous protest of all kinds but also for their violent 
suppression of anyone recording what they are up to inside their 
“kettles.” I have witnessed this on more than one occasion. In fact, 
while I was attempting to record the events I witnessed, a policemen in 
one of the following cars motioned to me to stop. I have no doubt that 
if he could have done so without breaking formation, he would have 
arrested me and another chap with a better camera who was also recording 
the procession–I hope with better results than I got.

The actually illegal tactics used by the police in response to this 
provocation are now standard because of it, and represent only the 
beginning of the tactics that will soon be deployed against all protests 
and mass meetings, peaceful or otherwise.

Now, you can talk all you want about the legitimacy and value of riots, 
but you have to understand that even if one could deliberately start a 
truly massive riot (I happen to think the real ones are always 
spontaneous), it is physically impossible and profoundly stupid to do 
attempt this when one is completely surrounded by an enemy possessing 
more than enough force to neutralize every single effectif involved in 
the action. Such a course has only symbolic value, and very little of 
that. A few adventurists may be recruited, but the mass of the people 
will not respond.

If the massive and highly popular Women’s March had not followed this 
idiotic debacle, largely erasing the sinister impression that it made, 
the result would have been a calamity for the forces of resistance in 
this country.

I confess that I hate Milo Whatsopoulos like the plague. He is an insect 
who, in the best of worlds, would be squashed in some place where his 
filthy joices would not contaminate the human environment. And I will 
concede that at least the Berkeley protests as a whole were massive 
enough to qualify as spontaneous.

But the left has to wise up about the use of force and coercion. Working 
people, especially people of color, have none of the traditional means 
of exerting force that were available during the long-vanished days when 
we had a fighting union movement and–yes, for all the errors of 
Stalinism–a fighting Communist Party (and IWW).

This means that all of us are naked before the enemy. Never at any time 
have the masses of the people been as weak as they are today. Why else 
would we be running to the thoroughly discredited Democratic Party as 
though there were no alternative?

The answer is that, at present, there is no alternative. The task is to 
build one.

In this scenario, in order to win support, the only practical tactic is 
an essentially nonviolent one. The Left should be organizing among 
immigrants, among working people facing job loss, among the least 
well-educated and least prestigious of our comrades as well as among the 
educated who find the promise that has enslaved them so irrevocably to 
crushing debt is a broken one

We should be a disciplined and helpful presence in the lives of those 
who suffer most from the declining capitalism that, in its decadence, 
wields more power over the live of ordinary people than it has at any 
time in the previous history of this country. We should engender trust, 
not seek to inspire fear.

We are not in a revolutionary situation in this country, but we are deep 
in counter-revolution, and can only neutralize this through highly 
disciplined and personally perhaps not very gratifying organization.

This has nothing immediately to do with the Sunday-school moralism so 
often asserted in support of non-violence. It is a question of tactics, 
which should in turn reflect a strategy.

The fetishization of a self-defeating tactic like Black Bloc merely 
signals the absence of an effective strategy and a powerful organization

I can’t imagine the unemployed coal miners who voted for Donald Trump 
coalescing in full support of this epicene and contemptible subhuman 
piece of shit. But the sort of Black Bloc idiocy on display in 
demonstrations across this country–while it will never yield the kind of 
truly massive support the left needs to build a new movement–will 
certainly make this evil-smelling little bug look like a prince to at 
least some people who hadn’t previously heard of him. This will not help 
the cause.

Nor will it enable effective resistance to the waves of violent 
repression that are certainly coming and cannot be stopped by a few 
trashcan fires and a little pile of black bandages.

This comment was banned on a well-known pseudo-radical blog.

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