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(en) The Red & Anarchist Action Network (RAAN) Praxis #1 - CRISIS OF THE CRISIS-MAKERS

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://www.kazm.net/)
Date Thu, 3 Jul 2003 08:55:08 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

> By RedLibertad (with contributions from members of the RAAN online community)
[Most of this pulls from the former Autonomist traditions and tactics
of Europe. I do apologize for the Euro-American-centrism, but for the
purposes of the Praxis journal, this is article is limited to the North
American anti-authoritarian movement and its roots.]

For the most part, the black bloc experiment has failed. The original
aims and purposes of the black bloc as pioneered by the German and
Northern-European Autonomen were not necessarily to provide a
stage which to launch hostility. While the general portrayal of the
Autonomen was much the same as the black bloc in North America,
the Autonomen also pioneered successes in terms of “the buildup
of their own ‘revolutionary dual-power’”. While the
anti-authoritarian ‘culture’ has fostered these, the black bloc
tactic and dual-power have remained two distinctly different attitudes.

The long debate over organizations as effective organizing bodies vs.
organizational fetishism is beside the point for this article’s
explorations. Both organizationalism and spontaneity have their
strengths and weaknesses, the discussion of which is not our purpose
here. A much deadlier task at hand is affinity and spontaneity
fetishism. The only thing that autonomous revolutionaries can claim as
theirs and theirs alone is spontaneity. The black bloc is quickly
becoming part of an elitist segment of the political mill. It is being
formally recognized by both the mainstream left and the police as a
coherent body of resistance. The mainstream left has disowned the
black bloc tactic, which should be no surprise, but anti-authoritarians
are embracing this revulsion.

While the culture of anti-authoritarians has always had a consistent
amount of ineffectual organizations that exist only to reaffirm their
revolutionary status, capable of nothing more than theoretical circle
debates and periodicals, it has been the body of direct action--for our
purposes the black bloc--that has remained untainted by the
sub-culturalization (or “sceneism”) of anarchism. Now with
the fetishization of affinities and anti-organizational tactics, the black
bloc has been diluted into a Hot Topic commodity, an anti-political self
gratification: driving to your local demo with your ski mask and flag.

And thus it appears that the modern “black bloc” will remain
the only universally accepted and recognized face of anarchism within
the bourgeois-liberal protest tradition. If the Red & Anarchist Action
Network (RAAN) rejects permitted demonstrations and marches as
fundamentally capitalist and liberal avenues of “dissent” where
we will always find ourselves at least one step behind the state, how
should we nevertheless act as an organized mass within the bloc?

The problems with the black bloc are as follows:

1) The tactic fails to be anything other than a counter-culture attribute,
a stimulus to a coming war, the expansion of global capitalism, or any
ceremony of the state (IE: a presidential inauguration).

2) In that it can only be a reactionary force, it has failed to make the
connection to organizational and anti-organizational instances of

3) In its co-option by the general public as a sub-culture, it has
become less militant and more flamboyant

4) The failure to have any defensive measure other than the critical
mass tactic and the freedom to go beyond it in somewhat smaller
tactics (vandalism, sabotage, etc) to create temporary autonomous

“Social activism, without the principals inherent to it being
internalized, will end up being co-opted by capitalism through
institutionalization, crimilaization and/or spectacularization (that is:
made into a spectacle to be watched, perhaps even while one is
participating, and thus alienated from)” -Commie00

1: A Reactionary Tactic

In the first instance, we can only pluralize the aim of the bloc.
Whereas we’ve used it against War, for May Day, against
political gatherings, and against economic conferences, the tactic
should be diversified to more common instances. While the black bloc
has been called for Mumia Abu-Jamal marches, little has been done
other than the sub-cultural solidarity for our own prisoners. Black
blocs should be formed in solidarity to Jeff “Free” Luers and
other anti-authoritarians caught by the system. There is no appropriate
setting for the black bloc, so we should not limit ourselves to any kind
of presence. This is not exclusive to prisoner support, either. The
black bloc should be utilized in all situations with potential to be

Accomplishing this means that we must begin from the understanding
that the only possible outcome for a conventional block bloc directly
confronting the state within a “protest” setting, is defeat.
RAAN does not seek to actively undertake the massive chore of
changing the course of the black bloc’s historical development
(either to return it to its roots or otherwise); rather we seek to
minimize the destructive effects of our movement’s current
fetishization of the black bloc tactic as an effective means of struggle.

However, this also presents us with the problem of diluting the tactic.
One of the benefits of the black bloc is the constant revision of tactics
and the imagination for new actions. While we have been responsible
for vandalism and sabotage on a large scale, the sabotage of ships
leaving ports and planes refueling at war stations keeps the black bloc
tactic of surprise alive. With the examination of these tactics, we also
have the problem of experience and activist careerism. Nothing but
caution can be done to prevent this and it is the inevitable reaction to
any prolonged struggle. This is also another topic which will not be
thoroughly explored in this article.

2: Dual Power – both organizational and anti-organizational

It can be said quite accurately that most disregard anarchists, or those
that would side with them (IE: libertarian communists, autonomist
Marxists, etc), as destructive nihilists. This is not to get into the old
quibble over public image, quite the opposite. Much to the extent that
many enter the black bloc only expecting the public image (but due to
unfamiliarity and the general inert militancy of the black bloc, fail to
initiate contestations to power), people will latch onto the black bloc
as the “cool” activism, but ignore the other side of dual-power,
both the organizational and anti-organizational (Food Not Bombs
would be an example of anti-organizational dual-power). Much of this
ties in to the third and fourth points of interest.

While the black bloc has been embraced as a social phenomenon, the
counter-institutional work has existed as a separate entity, whose
strength isn’t reflected by the growth of the black bloc in any
proportion. The end result is several apprehended black bloc
participants with no solidarity and a retrospective realization of their
visit to the “political Disneyland.” This has rendered many
places (to remain anonymous for constructive reasons) into
self-loathing (anti)political ghettos. Diversity of tactics has been
replaced by prioritization of tactics and many of those prioritizing the
fetishization of the black bloc are not necessarily those that are
devoted to the aims of the black bloc: militancy. The black bloc has
instead become a synonym to anti-authoritarian (anti)politics. This
was never the aim of the black bloc. The black bloc is a tactic, not a

3: The Real Fashionarchy: militancy in the black bloc

We are confronted with one question on the resulting waning
militancy: are too many latching onto the black bloc instead of utilizing
the other principles and setting up counter-institutions, or has the
black bloc just not been militant enough? While the black bloc has
functioned in North America as a fringe to expose the violent nature of
the State and agitate for militancy, the black bloc has matured much to
the point where we may have to question whether or not we need to
have militant agitation within the black bloc to have it agitate in turn.

The position of RAAN is to represent a broader anti-authoritarian front
of militancy. To both represent libertarian communist and anarchist
unity, as well as agitate the bloc into a greater sense of militancy,
restoring the original tactics of the black bloc. Agitating for
“greater militancy” does not mean attacking police, smashing
windows, or calling for more similarly useless symbolic acts. Rather,
we need to find ways to apply the black bloc while at the same time
refusing to maintain it as an easily targeted interest group within the
larger liberal (or even leftist) march.

The San Francisco actions of M22 shattered the common
“Seattle” tactic formulated under N30. While the mass
numbers were still to account for the success, M22 showed us that
decentralized resistance—resistance by several small clusters of
people—is able to shut down an entire city. With this in mind,
RAAN subscribes to these developing tactics and takes it as its
active position.

The strength of any movement can be judged by its disruption or lack
of regard to authority. Militancy and violence are integral parts of that
equation, something that revolution—or any change for that
matter—cannot do without. Our violence is merely the direct.
Indirect capitalist violence is not excusable and condoning it goes
against any revolutionary cause; for us, that cause is to end violence
and exploitation, both direct and indirect.

4: The People Armed

In the end, the Italian Autonomia was caught between two different
fronts, one against the police, and another against Fascists. The police
saw common ground with the Fascists and repression directed against
them was always secondary, if considered at all. Critical mass tactics
had, up until that point, only served as gung-ho confrontations. Police
assassinations and Fascist skirmishes outside of this protective mass
left the Autonomia vulnerable. As a result the Red Brigades, Prima
Linea, the Red Zorras, and several other guerilla groups were formed,
subjecting police chiefs and judges to a broader autonomous
resistance. Much like the black bloc tactic, guerilla violence is only
one expression of our tendency and should not be made a crutch for an
inert revolutionary movement. But to deny it as an option is to give the
State one more advantage.

Any participation by RAAN in black blocs will put us at a distinct
advantage, in that we are an organized mass with a developed
theoretical and practical unity within the largely anonymous, tactically
diversified bloc. To use this advantage to its fullest, RAAN
collectives must develop a coherent and pre-planned strategy of action
as it relates to the rest of the bloc. Obviously this strategy will not
have as its goal to put RAAN in a “leadership” position in the
bloc, or to incite pointless and counterproductive scuffles with the
state forces, but rather to minimize the harmful effects of such events
when they do occur, and to overall highlight and feed the remaining
positive aspects of the bloc.

When it comes up against police charges and targeted arrests, the
standard black bloc responds by linking arms and trying to hold their
ground against the pigs. This in itself is a good tactic, and can be
especially helpful if it keeps the police from charging over a comrade
who has fallen down, or if someone who was not involved with the
bloc is nonetheless being targeted and pushed aside by the police. In
these situations, the tactic of “bloc’ing up” can be
improved upon if RAAN members have prepared themselves for the
eventuality of a police charge, and can quickly fall into interlocking
defensive lines that will form much faster and be much stronger than
the usual haphazard linking of arms thrown together in the midst of a
police attack. Such a pre-planned quick response defense can
significantly stall a police charge, at least to the point where the rest
of the bloc has time to organize themselves and strengthen it. Such a
coherent, pre-planned response mechanism within the bloc can also be
used to protect non-bloc sections of larger protests, which often get
trapped in the police violence when a confrontation erupts. Our
ultimate goal is not to push the bloc into fights that it cannot hope to
win, but rather to use our own bodies to create a sturdier defense of
our comrades. That and that alone should be the ultimate goal of
RAAN within the black bloc, as the current application of the tactic
itself does not present an opportunity for successful street battles
with the forces of the state. The ways and extent to which this
coordinated defense can be planned and implemented will rely on each
individual collective, especially in regards to the number of RAAN
members available, the use of items like helmets, and what formations
will be discussed and practiced in the pre-planning stage.

Our involvement within the black bloc does not need to stop there,
however. For example, although street medics are often available at
marches, having basic supplies or training at our disposal can prove to
be invaluable; menstrual pads to soak up blood, apple cider vineger in a
ziploc bag to prepare masks for a chemical attack, and liquid antacid
for the eyes and throat in the event of such an attack. RAAN militants
should also carry with them at all times bottles of water and some
type of vegan snack (Granola bars, for instance). These items should
then be freely distributed to the entire bloc at a time when the police
are not attacking or the march has stalled. This will bring the bloc
together physically, as well as create a temporary safe space where
people can regroup and share what they have (bottled water is also
essential for flushing out eyes in the event of a pepper spray attack).
These tactics will help in cementing the practical application of
anarchist/communist unity, as the broader movement will see RAAN
taking tangible steps towards making the bloc a safer, more
successful, more accessible tactic.

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