[Marxism] On the black bloc

Sophia Burns sophia.burns at protonmail.com
Fri Feb 10 16:46:12 MST 2017


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

Fetishes go both ways, and maybe fixating on protesters wearing black as somehow responsible for the massive expansion of state political repression that's emerged since (and was rhetorically justified by) 9/11 (while not actually engaging with the fact that, yes, it is important for mass protests to be able to defend themselves, and it's hard to imagine what that would look like except as a Black Bloc, and that is indeed one of the roles that Black Blocs materially fill) is itself dodging the question.

I agree that the Left is internally in a terrible state. But that's not because of Black Blocs. It's because the activist subculture is dominated by academia, NGOs, and the middle class, who have a material stake in keeping "dissent" toothless and manageable. Of course, scapegoating the Black Bloc does play into their narrative, where "legitimate" activism is always being derailed by "extremists" (i.e. anyone to the left of the current Hillary analogue). That's why it'll always get plenty of sympathetic coverage from liberal-capitalist, Dem-aligned media outlets.

Black Blocs can be done well or poorly, but I've seen them done well often enough not to assume they're always done poorly - and I've seen the police attack enough times without provocation (honestly, I don't know that I've ever seen violence at a protest where the police didn't strike first without provocation) to know that when push comes to shove (literally), the people in black make things more safe for the rest of us, not less.

As far as strategy - personally, I think that our top collective priority ought to be building up a network of autonomous, participatory-democratic institutions focused both on defending the people and on meeting needs capitalism can't or won't. In Gandhian language, that's the obstructive program plus the constructive program, with the constructive program being more important but both of them ultimately necessary.

And finally - Jeffrey is right that, even when they don't do it well, the Black Bloc is often the only visible challenge within mass protests to liberal-middle class-NGO-Dem hegemony. And that, alone, deserves praise, no matter what criticism ought to accompany it.



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-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Marxism] On the black bloc
Local Time: February 10, 2017 1:34 PM
UTC Time: February 10, 2017 9:34 PM
From: marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu
To: Sophia Burns <sophia.burns at protonmail.com>

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No, I studied under John McCarthy (if course we had our differences) but
thanks for assuming I don't know the subject.

On Fri, Feb 10, 2017 at 1:29 PM, Jeffrey Masko <j.alan.masko at gmail.com>
wrote:

> No, I studied under John McCarthy (if course we had our differences) but
> thanks for assuming I don't know the subject.
>
> On Feb 10, 2017 12:21 PM, "Louis Proyect" <lnp3 at panix.com> wrote:
>
>> On 2/10/17 2:51 PM, Jeffrey Masko wrote:
>>
>>> The black bloc may make incorrect decisions about direct action, but
>>> they recognize this and are trying to resist protests that do nothing by
>>> assuaging liberal feelings of doing something.
>>>
>>
>>
>> It sounds to me like you don't understand the purpose of mass
>> demonstrations. I invite you to read John Berger:
>>
>> https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/newspape/isj/1968/no034/berger.htm
>>
>


--

J.A. Masko
College of Communications
Penn State University
State College, Pa 16801

"The challenge of modernity is to live without illusions and without
becoming disillusioned."

Antonio Gramsci.
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