Resistance nowadays seems to be pure spectacle: actors know what their roles demand and act out more or less predictable routines. The characters on stage are: the bad guys - them(TM) and the good guys - us(TM). Usually it ends with the good guys being detained in pens or other temporary prisons and suffering some extent of physical injuries. Sometimes they end up dead.
It has gone so far that we(TM) talk about having been successful if they(TM) didn't get into fits of violence.
Doesn't this make anyone think again? Think about our(TM) goals and strategies. Think about the immense waste of energy that doesn't get us anywhere. Think about throwing away people who didn't know the rules. Think about effectively more participating in the bigger picture of capitalist spectacle by providing excuses and legitimizations than getting any closer to the end of capitalism.
22nd October Collective Revisited
Some days ago a bunch of people got thinking: "A call to attack and block capitalism, Towards an inventive strategy" ( http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/10/354175.html) an article by the 22nd October Collective was published on Indymedia UK. There were no additions, no comments, it didn't get promoted. True it's not news. We've heard it all before, talked about it. But it's the first attempt in a long time to seriously talk strategies. To set off a bigger discussion about what we are doing, why, where we want to go and how we can get there.
A short summary of the article:
We've been successfull when we were following strategies not expected by them(TM). As soon as we start repeating strategies, they(TM) are prepared. They(TM) will always have better resources (-> capitalism) so we fail. A general success of summit mobilizations was networking, building international relationships.
We don't have their(TM) resources but we do have our unpredictability and the element of surprise on our side. Sabotage can sometimes be more effective and less dangerous than mass action.
The 22nd October Collective calls for an attack on the circulation of capital across the world. "The target should not be Heiligendamm but the global economy."
To keep the moment of networking they suggest disconnecting convergence from action to evade repression as far as possible. Converge to conspire.
"We need opportunities to strategise. We are committed to transnational acts of sabotage but we need to learn ways of theoretically discussing them as the police are in all our meetings."
This text should not disappear into the archives of indymedia. It has been the most inspiring and practical text in a long time. At last an attempt at analysis that could kick off.
Summit Mobilisation RIP
The summits were a big thing as long as it lasted. But if we don't come up with some new strategies, we'll just waste our time and resources. We've done the big mobilisations. They(TM) know exactly what's coming. It will be years until we stand a chance to shut down summits the way it worked in seattle. If we take a closer look at why and how our successes came about, often catching us by surprise the same as anyone else, we can recognize a couple of steady points in the fog of global decentralized preparation and organization:
*Surprise* We were doing something new. Someone had actually taken the time to think of a strategy. They(TM) weren't prepared to what was going to happen.
*Mobilisation* The mobilisation had by far outgrown us. There were groups mobilising, that had the capacity to bring a lot of people. And those people did not expect the repression we are used to.
*Diversity* The spectrum of people interested got broader than the usual suspects
Our strategies are old. They(TM) are prepared. And they(TM) have the better resources. During the last few years successes have grown rare.
Russia might have been an exception. Maybe from an western long term activists point of view, nothing much happened there. But there were a lot of first times. Russia was new not because the play itself changed, but because the setting changed. The setting, the context defines the meaning.
But other than that the last years have been repetitious on our side. We're going through the motions of a routine. It's still nice, but more a social event really than holding any insurrectional potential.
Mass mobilisations with the goal to shut down the summit by stopping the delegates to get there are dead. Or at least asleep.
This strategy has been done too often. They(TM) know how to deal with it. It's been documented so well that it will be years until it could be a success again in terms of actually shutting down a summit. It's exactly what they(TM) expect us to do.
They(TM) are making the rules. They(TM) adjust their strategies.
The summits have been moved to secluded rural areas. In rural areas there is hardly any infrastructure we could attack. There are few people who could see our protest. We're as secluded as the area and any movement of large groups of people can be detected easily. And more easily be trapped and held.
Rural areas need continuous steady work that includes the locals. Not a big invasion of "foreigners" who cause mayhem and then fuck off again.
Our playground is the urban space. A space where we can appear and disappear. Where we can cause disruption in the everyday flow of capital. Urban centres are more vulnerable. It's a place where we are seen and they(TM) are seen when they(TM) take off their masks and are betrayed by the pure violence of their(TM) means.
By taking summits to rural areas they(TM) are setting the rules. Either we play along their(TM) rules, or we make our own rules. We need to take back initiative and choose the setting and the strategy that favours us.
Everything has been done before. So lets do something else. Lets step outside the traditional routines and take a close look at successful social movements.
As for specific tactics, samba bands are nice, but often the music can hardly be called that. The Infernal Noise Brigade was founded to "to provide the soundtrack for actions". Nowadays it is more common that samba bands provide not the soundtrack but the main entertainment of any march.
Pink Silver was a great idea, a great strategy in Prague. With iron welded costumes that were as much armour as they were spectacle. The usual pink and silver since the no border camp in Strasbourg is not radically confrontational like the original idea, but like most samba bands provides entertainment on marches where nothing else happens.
Besides the concept being adopted without being fully understood in its radicality and thus turned into something useless to harmful, it is a well known strategy. The fact that it worked, that it was a success in itself makes it very likely that it will not work again. Because they(TM) are prepared. Because they(TM) will analyse and evaluate their(TM) documentation.
As for the clowns, well, the radical or confrontational or even rebellious aspect of that form of action is very hard to discover. The clowns never had any big successes. This concept that attracts so many people to repeat (and thus be doomed to fail even more) can only be explained by intellectual laziness.
There is a point in celebrating life, in creating energy with drums and sound and to subvert the stereotype of protesters. The samba and pink and silver groups have a certain point. But the clowns?
This weekend an Indymedia reporter was shot on the barricades. He was not the first and not the last victim. In Europe we might be relatively safe. But to have clowns jumping around "interacting" with exactly the people who would shoot them without a second thought in certain situations is not only dumb. It is utterly disrespectful to the fights and struggles of people elsewhere, with less "security" and privileges. In itself it is ignorant and obscene. masked and unmasked
Our goal of fundamental social change has after temporary hype during the antiglobalisation movement become a more distant prospect again. The repression against latter and the no war movement, that in spite of its immense size has not succeeded in changing policies have caused a lot of disappointment and disillusionment.
There are too many pressing issues. We need to find a way to effectively connect those issues we are working on and set goals that can actually be achieved. To step back and take an analytic look at what's going on to figure out what should be the next strategic step.
So we can fight effectively and celebrate solid successes.
2 – Never go outside the experience of your people. When an action is outside the experience of the people, the result is confusion, fear, and retreat.
3 – Wherever possible go outside of the experience of the enemy. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.
4 – Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules. You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.
5 – Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counterattack ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, who then react to your advantage.
6 – A good tactic is one that your people enjoy. If your people are not having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.
7 – A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag. Man can sustain militant interest in any issue for only a limited time, after which it becomes a ritualistic commitment.
8 – Keep the pressure on, with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.
9 – The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.
10 – The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.
11 – If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counterside; this is based on the principle that every positive has its negative.
12 – The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. you cannot risk being trapped by the enemy in his sudden agreement with your demand and saying “You’re right—we don’t know what to do about this issue. Now you tell us.”
13 – Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.
Ok, Ok, Ok, I get all the stuff about not repeating formulaic actions, marching around to bad samba-bands or bravely sitting in police blocks boring each other to tears - I've been avoiding the pull of big mobilisations on this basis for years now... but there is no need to be dismissive of the clowns.
Clowning is not entertainment, it’s not about just keeping things fluffy and trying to get the police to smile – it’s certainly not an insult to ‘real people’ with ‘real struggles’ many of whom have strong clown traditions of their own .
Clowning teaches people to disobey, it de-stabilises the rules of the game as set out by ‘them’, it creates ridicule, dis-order and the unexpected – all the things the article call for. It certainly stops people moping, but not because it cheers them up, more because it frees people of the expectations they have of themselves and how they are ‘allowed’ to act. Plus ‘they’ look pretty stupid shooting the clowns and I’m not in favour of people getting shot. We don’t need any more dead heroes.
Clowning of various sorts has grown out of resistance movements, particularly in the theatre traditions of Brazil. In Europe traditions of wandering players, mummers, May days etc. were all subversive, anti-authoritarian and great sources of ‘misrule’. What about situationism, dada, surrealism etc? What about Dario Fo and Franca Rame?
If the clowns are not having much success yet it’s because we need to be better clowns – not smirkless revolutionaries. Send in the clowns… something wicked this way comes.
Rachel Feminista [the Andrea's collective]
You have no idea how frustrating it is for a samba band having to turn out for fluffy march after fluffy march where nothing happens and nothing gets done. Too often the players are the most radical people around and all the other self proclaimed anarchists do is wave their flags and go home frustrated too.
For samba to work we need you guys to tell the SWP to fuck off, stop reminiscing about past times and actually fucking do something! We can use the noise and driving rhythym of samba to urge you on as you take action against the multinationals, or the climate criminals or whoever the fuck your target is today. We can use the police paranoia about us to distract them while you start something interesting.
But if all you want to do is go for a walk then all we can do is entertain and hate ourselves for it.