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(en) Another Reflections on the Arterial Bloc* at the Counter-G20 Convergence in Melbourn Australia

Date Tue, 19 Dec 2006 14:46:24 +0200


"The Urge to Destroy is Also a Creative Urge "--- Normally, I would shy away from quoting antisemites, but in this case, the title quote from Bakunin seems eerily appropriate. --- In the capitalist media's reports on the counter-G20 convergence, creation has been subsumed and silenced in the images of destruction they have so enthusiastically plastered all over, and yet it is perhaps in that destruction that the most potent messages of all were sent. For a new world will not be ushered in through niceties or needless martyrdom, but rather through collective action towards, for want of a more eloquent term, smashing capitalism, the state and all of their apparatus of control. In refusing to play by their rules, in refusing to accept their definitions of what constitutes legitimate protest, we begin to approach what is necessary – a form of active dissent which bypasses the social control and co-optation which has been laid out and which has been so effective at defeating many real revolutionary prospects in modern society.

So then, if, at least for the purposes of this article, we can accept a framework of attempting to move beyond conceptions of spectacular protest, we can begin to critically examine the role of the Arterial Bloc at the counter-G20 protests. Perhaps the most important part is examining how democractically the Bloc functioned in two senses: within the bloc itself, and within the wider protest.

*Within The Bloc*

Prior to the G20, the Arterial Bloc engaged in extensive discussion (both formally in meetings and in informal chats) about how we would function as a bloc and how our internal practices could best embody the practices we hope to see in a (post) revolutionary society.

In adopting a method containing autonomous affinity groups working together towards common goals via spokescouncils and larger forums, we envisioned a future society where people work together on a basis of affinity, not compulsion.

So, how well did this model work? The main problem encountered undoubtedly was when the bloc was on the move. At strategic points when we needed to decide what to do next, often while the spokes were still meeting, some bloc members would end up forcing a de-facto decision by charging off, forcing the rest of the bloc to follow out of solidarity.

Despite this, however, I still feel that overall, democracy within the bloc was at a fairly high level, and regardless of whether every decision went through our formalised process, generally there was a high level of consultation within the bloc on most matters. However, even this consultation poses some interesting patterns, as it was almost always a limited few (and generally the same limited few) who were running around the larger mobilisation talking to the rest of the bloc – ie, those who were most passionate about keeping our internal democracy and communication flowing.

The Arterial Bloc meetings and spokescouncils outside the protests were another period where out internal democracy was tested, and perhaps the place where it came through the best. An all in discussion of options, followed by a split into affinity groups to decide on our preferences, before a spokes meeting to test for consensus amongst the affinity groups and, where needed, rebreaking into the affinity groups for further discussion.

One hardship to get through was the lack of established affinity groups prior to the G20 – with a few notable exceptions, most affinity groups were formed specifically for the G20, leading to a lack of real cohesion within many of the affinity groups themselves. Further thoughts on this topic already exist in the excellent article "Affinity Beyond The Barricades" located in the equally excellent zine Mutiny, so I won't go on too much further, but suffice to say that if we had had even a large majority of the affinity groups as pre-existing and therefore used to working together, our communication and internal democracy would have likely improved massively.

*Within The Wider Protests Against The G20*

Prior to the G20, the Arterial Bloc also conducted several discussions about how we as a bloc desired to interact with the wider protest.

Being aware that of the groups who had plans for what they wanted to do on the day, we were fundamentally different, we pondered a number of options for engaging with the rest of the protest without dragging anyone into a confrontation that they weren't prepared for and didn't desire to be a part of. However, we were also fully aware that despite our best efforts, it was also a matter that was fundamentally out of our hands, with the police just as willing and able and, it seemed, possibly even more willing, to target other groups where they felt they would receive less resistance (the disgusting, although not surprising, police violence at the pink Cadillac action on Saturday night and at the Museum on Sunday are perhaps the two most vivid examples of this).

I believe we made what I have stated in the previous paragraph perfectly clear at the wider spokescouncils to the other groups – I can recall in great detail the lengthy discussion we had simply to come up with a single paragraph message to send to one spokescouncil meeting. And yet, despite this, most other groups and individuals involved have been falling over each other to denounce the Arterial Bloc and deny any foreknowledge of our intentions. Groups that support the Make Poverty History campaign (which, of course, can never do anything of the sort) have joined with supposedly "revolutionary" socialist groups in attacking the Arterial Bloc, and, in some cases, so called "internationalists" have joined the corporate media in their xenophobic (and false) claims that the blame for the so-called violence lies with overseas anarchists, or at most interstate.

On the day, as we arrived at the first barricade, we made some effort to attempt to break through it. Some way behind us were the various socialist groupings, Greens and others, with those who saw what we were doing and wanted to join in moving towards the front. Unfortunately, thanks to the media, who occupied almost the entire front line, we were unable to get any sort of movement going. At this point, after a spokescouncil, the Arterial Bloc decided to move to a different area to test the barricades there. We spent approximately 5-10 minutes informing those around us of what we planned to do and inviting them to join us, and then, we moved. In doing this, we in effect created two zones of protest – one consisting of the Arterial Bloc, supporters and others who wished to confront the G20 actively, the other consisting of Socialists, Greens and others who wished to have a street party and simply voice their dissent. This was exactly what we had stated at the wider spokescouncils that we would attempt to do – have some geographical space between ourselves and the rest of the carnival. Whether that space would make any difference in terms of police response was up to the police, not us.

In choosing our costumes of white coveralls and masks, some have accused us of elitism, saying that this only went to show that we did not want to work with anyone else. Once again, a simple glance at photos or video footage of the day proves this claim to be false, with Arterial Bloc members freely mixing and working with clowns, cheerleaders, and a large and diverse group of other protesters, some masked, some not. Our costumes made it easier for us to identify each other in larger groups and for us to hide our identity in an effort to protect us from state repression post G20.

Yes, we wanted to work together, based on common understandings (see the Arterial Bloc callouts for those understandings). That is why we linked our affinity groups together into a bloc, and I would recommend the same for any other group. However, those who wished to join us on the day were more than welcome, and they were able to (and frequently did) participate on their own terms. The size of the space that was reclaimed in central Melbourne on the Saturday meant that people were able to choose what they wanted to do, and that this could change limitlessly – from dancing around the pink army truck to pushing back police lines, from chalking on the road to dance-offs with radical cheerleaders, clowns and zombies, from relaxing in the sun to throwing bottles at a police riot van (or the police themselves).

*Active and Passive Resistance*

The fetishisation of martyrdom amongst much of the left bewilders me. In any part of life, we must support those who are oppressed and repressed to fight back and reclaim power over their own lives. The concept of civil disobedience, of passive resistance, only reinforces the idea that it is our responsibility to simply sit back and take abuse, and if we take enough of it, the benevolent powers above (who are often the ones abusing us in the first place!) will come to the realisation that it isn't right and correct their behaviour. Fuck that. Direct action, active resistance to abuse, enables us all to reclaim our own lives, to demand freedom and take it. It acknowledges that any freedoms granted by the powerful can also be taken away by those same powerful, and that it is our responsibility to take and defend what freedoms we can, ever expanding our horizons and broadening our liberty.

It is my position that one of the most important realisations to come out of the counter G20 protests was the knowledge that we could fight back, and, in certain situations, we could win. The idea that we no longer have to sit screaming as we are trampled by horses to blockade a road, but rather can use the police's own barricades against them. That we no longer have to watch our comrades get dragged off into paddy wagons, but rather can actively confront the police and bring our comrades back into our reclaimed space. This is a realisation that those in other parts of the world have long known, but has now well and truly reached downunder.

Our aim now should be to ensure the lessons we learnt at G20 are not forgotten – and not just for APEC, not just for smaller protests between now and then, but for our everyday lives. For when we can fully engage with the concepts and lessons of direct action beyond political protest, we will truly be well on the path towards revolution.

By an Aotearoa anarchist
http://arushandapush.blogsome.com <http://arushandapush.blogsome.com/>
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* An antiauthotitarian anticapitalist initiative
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