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(en) Red & Black Revolution #7 -

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Tue, 16 Dec 2003 06:50:30 +0100 (CET)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E
News about and of interest to anarchists
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Where to Now? Anti-capitalist protest - global and local
by Gregor Kerr

Debate on the effectiveness of the Black Bloc tactic could well go on
forever. At the end of the day, in relation to the question of why its
effectiveness has waned somewhat, it is probably true to say that
both the original article by Ray Cunningham and the article in this
magazine by Severino have some of the answers.

What is not in dispute is the fact that the big 'set-piece'
anti-capitalist/ anti-globalisation demonstrations appear to be
becoming less effective and attracting less media coverage than
earlier demos such as Seattle, Prague and Genoa.

June 2002 saw one of these demonstrations - against the EU summit
in Seville, Spain. A general strike across the Spanish state on
Thursday 20th June was a resounding success. Posters, graffiti and
banners advertised the general strike in all the major towns and cities.
Even on the tourist coast most shops and restaurants closed. Large
demonstrations of 100,000 and more took place in many Spanish
cities, with the Seville demo attracting up to 100,000 participants
including a sizeable red and black contingent. Union figures estimated
support for the strike at 84%. All of the Spanish trade unions,
including the big reformist unions - the UGT which is linked to the
Socialist Party and the Communist Party dominated CCOO - put a
huge effort into building for the general strike.

The June EU summit planned to set up a Europe-wide anti-immigrant
police force - another brick in the wall of Fortress Europe. It further
aimed to continue the project of building Europe for the bosses, a
Europe where workers will be forced to compete in the 'race for the
bottom' and where power will be more and more centralised. An
additional item on the agenda of specific interest to Irish workers was
to find ways to force Irish voters to vote yes to the Nice treaty, which
had been rejected in a first referendum twelve months previously.
Damp squib

Up to 100,000 people turned out in Seville on Saturday 22nd June to
demonstrate their opposition to this agenda and to further
globalisation of capital. Despite the size of the demonstration
however it turned out to be something of a damp squib, having been
planned from the start as entirely non-confrontational (the demo
actually taking place after the summit had concluded, thus ruling out
any possibility of a blockade). This was mainly due to the fact that
the protest was principally organised by the Socialist Party who are
actually in government in the Andalucia region of Spain, although they
are in opposition in Spain. From the start, the Socialist Party made it
clear that confrontation and direct action - in reality anything which
would make the demos effective - had no place in their plans.

If you were to rely on the Irish media for your information you would
be forgiven for thinking that the Seville demonstration never actually
happened. (Indeed the demonstrations which had taken place in
Barcelona in March and had attracted an estimated 500,000
participants received just as little coverage in the mainstream media.)
In fact you could have been a delegate to the EU summit in Seville
and remained unaware that any protests took place. It was surely a
testament to their ineffectiveness that they passed by relatively
unnoticed outside of Seville.

Without doubt the reason for this lack of coverage was the absence
of any form of direct action on the protests and the fact that they
seemed to have reverted to the old-style stage-managed protests of
pre-Seattle days. The staging of the main demonstration after the EU
summit had already concluded showed that the organisers were
actually going out of their way to ensure that direct action aimed at
blockading the summit or at least making life slightly less comfortable
for the delegates, did not happen. While the protests can be said to
have had a degree of success in that the vast majority of participants
were members of the local working-class, the ritualistic nonsense of
staging demonstrations so far from the summit venue makes it all
seem something of a waste of time.
Serious questions

The fact that the protests 21 months earlier in Prague (against the
World Bank meeting, September 2000) had attracted less than 20% of
the numbers who protested in Seville and yet received far more
coverage - and led to much more debate in Ireland and elsewhere -
raises serious questions for the movement. For us in Ireland, these
questions must be answered in the context of preparing for the EU
summit due to take place here in 2004. In this regard, the domination
of the protest organisation in Seville by reformists is a major problem
(the effects of this are adequately dealt with in Severino's article,
even though it was written before Seville).

It is certainly hard to avoid the conclusion that anti-globalisation
protests that avoid direct action will kill off the movement, or at least
greatly reduce participation in it. The severity of the state repression
that took place at the Genoa protests in 2001 succeeded in pushing
large sections of the movement onto the defensive, from the NGOs to
the Trotskyists. After Genoa, many of these groups dedicated acres
of newsprint to not alone distancing themselves from but also directly
attacking 'direct action' protestors from the Black Bloc to the White
Overalls. Since Genoa - both as a result of increased state repression
and as a result of these reformists 'taking over' the organisation of
protests - the protests that have taken place have adopted a passive,
nonconfrontational tone. The result has been that protests such as
those in Brussels and Seville have seemed to be merely token.
Direct Action

This is not to say that all that is needed is for every protest to adopt
Black Bloc or White Overall tactics. Indeed Genoa also demonstrated
that these tactics were no answer to the increased militarised
violence of the state. The Black Bloc's isolation from the rest of the
protestors in Genoa meant that in the aftermath many protestors fell
for the slander that it was entirely a state creation intended to provide
an excuse for the repression. This despite the fact that the Italian
police were to admit that they had infiltrated every section of the
demonstrators. Whether Ray Cunningham's article in R&BR6 or
Severino's in this magazine has the correct analysis of why the Black
Bloc was so isolated in Genoa - or whether, as I suggested earlier,
each of them has part of the reason - is only important in so far as it
helps us to answer a much more important question: how do we win
large numbers of people away from the non-confrontational line of the
Trotskyists and the reformists? And in the first instance, how do we
win working-class people who are not currently part of the movement
over to becoming part of the anti-capitalist struggle?

The one lesson that can certainly be learnt from the success of the
anticapitalist demos to date has been that it is possible to involve
'ordinary' working class people in coming out to participate in them. It
can certainly be argued that the principal thing which has brought
people out to demonstrate has been the feeling that the demos have
been effective, that they have involved a degree of confrontation and
direct action. Perhaps more importantly, the fact that they haven't
involved ritualistic wandering up and down through city streets has
given people a reason for taking part. Compare these two figures, for
example: in 1996, protests against the G7 Conference in Lyons were
attended by about 5,000 people, 4,000 of whom were anarchists. In
March 2002, 500,000 people - a very large majority of whom were
ordinary working class people from the city itself - protested against
the EU summit in Barcelona. This surely proves that the anticapitalist
movement has begun to attract huge numbers of ordinary working
class people. The principal reason why it has done so can be put down
to the change of tactics which emerged in Seattle and Prague - direct
action/confrontation has given people a feeling of power and a belief
that there is a reason for protesting.

The lesson of this is that if the protests revert to ritualistic walking up
and down, if they are seen to be something of a waste of time, a lot of
these people are likely to stay at home. The challenge therefore is to
find a way to keep people involved, to find a way in which the tactics
used are seen to be effective and therefore attract the maximum
number of people to participate in whatever protests are held.
Furthermore, it is necessary to look for ways to establish structures
which will allow for maximum participation in discussions as to what
these tactics should be.

In this context, it is clear that the most successful aspects of
demonstrations to date have been the use of direct action as in
Seattle and the breaking up of demonstrations into different zones as
happened in Prague and Quebec. This allowed people to participate at
the level with which they themselves felt comfortable - be that direct
confrontation, passive resistance, or participation in a totally
nonconfrontational way. This is what we must look to replicate in
future demonstrations if they are to be effective. As we in Ireland
look towards the EU summit here in 2004*, this is our challenge.

In addition any protests organised here must have a definite focus and
an immediate aim or achievable objective. This might be to blockade
the summit venue, the delegates' hotels, their route from the airport or
whatever. In other words, something should be done to disrupt the
event in some way or at least make life more difficult for those
attending it.
Meaningful and Relevant

The breaking down of the isolation between 'the movement' and 'the
people' will require us to use all our abilities to communicate our
ideas, and to make these ideas meaningful and relevant to
working-class people's day-to-day lives and struggles. It means
explaining clearly and precisely the links between refuse charges,
privatisation, pollution in the form of incinerators and the agenda of
the EU bosses, for example. It means exposing the hypocrisy of a
system that wishes to dismantle all borders to the flow of money,
capital and business while at the same time making it ever more
difficult for people fleeing poverty and injustice to gain entry to the
'developed world'.

What is needed is that the anti-capitalist movement takes seriously
the slogan 'Think Global, Act Local'. The tens of thousands of people
refusing to pay the double tax refuse charges can - if the arguments
are properly made - form the backbone of the anti-capitalist
movement. When the Euro Summit circus comes to Dublin in 2004,
these should be the people prominent in the protests. The organisation
for this must start now. The focus of that organisation must be on
using the opportunity to build a mass self-organised anti-capitalist
movement as well as getting the numbers out on the actual protests.

From the outset there must be open and frank discussion and debate
about the type and form of protests which will be organised.
Anarchists and libertarians should argue against the 'one size fits all'
model being pushed by the Trotskyists and reformists, and which
would amount to little more than a parade up and down O'Connell
Street. Instead, as happened in Quebec and Prague, there should be
space created for a diversity of tactics with people being able to
choose an area that meets their need.

*It now seems that this summit will not take place in Ireland, the
points made still hold true in general terms however

More info

Has the Black Block tactic reached the end of its usefulness?
by Severino (Barricada Collective)
As class struggle anarchists who recognize the importance of a
diversity of tactics in order to attack Capital, the State, and
oppression in an effective manner, we see the black bloc as an
important tool of struggle. Only one tool among many, but an
important one nonetheless.

* Against capitalist globalisation http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/wsm/global.html
This page is from Red & Black Revolution
(no 7, Winter 2003)
Print out a PDF file of Issue 7

Most recent Red and Black Revolution

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Workers Solidarity Movement

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