(A critique of the TUC model of Demonstration- and a look to the Black Block)
Every smashed window is a portal into the future, as John Holloway might put it, a crack into the capitalist structures that exist now, and a temporary move into a future that looks beyond the idea of private property as an institution of any importance. Meanwhile, the politics of solidarity, mutual aid, horizontal organization, and direct action (by some accounts the corner stone’s of anarchism, at least in the libertarian communist trend) are at no point more alive than in the swiftly moving sea of black. An unidentifiable gender, race, and classless mass; each individual afforded their own autonomy to move or act in any direction whilst simultaneously forming parts of collective units (affinity groups) which all feed into a collective mass- this is self organization and leaderless management in action.
Meanwhile a mass of people are told by the bureaucrats and backstabber’s of the TUC that they are part of some mass movement, a movement stumbling towards “a future that works” and are consequentially lead like cattle to the slaughter to hear Edd Milliband talk about how Labour can co-opt the struggle against austerity and package it in a neat framework of reformist politics. The naming of the October 20th march, selection of certain privileged intellectuals to speak, and ideologically authoritarian pacifism (take for example the TUC stewards who attempted to prevent and break up the direct action by disabled people against the cuts when they tried to block a road) amount to little more than an attempt to crush intersectional approach to resistance, and effectively dump large diasporas of the anti austerity movement (e.g. queer, women’s, people of colour etc) into the thoroughly reformist box of workers against the cuts.
Imagine for a moment if “a future that works” was in fact named ” the future is now” and created a space where every section of anger could take steps relevant to them in a broad range of direct actions. Imagine the power of DPAC blocking either end of oxford street, whilst insurrectionist anarchists smash its shops to pieces, families use the distraction to occupy and take over closed down libraries and child care centres, UKUNCUT stunt against a tax dodging business, and unemployed people banner drop from the job centre. Imagine the power of 125 thousand people taking action for the now instead of being told to walk from embankment to Hyde park for the future. Instead of looking to Labour to reform our future, we must take it upon ourselves to liberate the present.
Most of all though, the TUC’s organizational steps in their so called protest do not represent a crack or attack in the status quo but in fact serve only to reinforce the position of our oppressors. First of all, within the discourse of “a future that works” we are offered not an alternative to those things that oppress us now; we are fed a future that is reliant on capitalist modes of relationship, that is locked squarely in the framework of bosses and workers, of some owning the means of production and others toiling in them- I don’t want to work, I want to live. My second point of issue, is the TUC’s insistence on the presence and inclusion of professional politicians and statists arguing the case for their political programme on a soapbox provided by the so called “resistance”; what kind of resistance is it that invites our oppressors (those who in the days of new labour began this austerity program) to lecture us from their ivory towers of luxury expenses and extraction from life as a prole/pleb on why we should pay for their crisis. Finally, the decision by the TUC, to work both for (supporting them in their so called struggle) and alongside (agreeing on a march root, attacking those attempting to take direct action etc) the police (those boot boys and murders who form a shield wall between us and the realisation of freedom, between us and the puppet masters) will always hamper the movement from self emancipation and smash its ability to self organise.
So, perhaps counter intuitively (given that the Black Block demands such a strict dress code) I argue that the TUC option of “demonstration” is the enemy of creativity, of imagination, and of real predigurative1 action; whilst Black Block creates a world of unlimited potential, individual expression, and all power to the imagination. There is perhaps and argument to be made, that the action of the Black Block are fundamentally machoistic and elitist both in there mode (often that of property destruction) and in its dominance of the discourse (e.g. March 26th in so far as “anarchist thugs” filled every major newspaper headline, whilst hundreds of thousands of other protesters were largely ignored). I will try briefly to offer a contrasting analysis to this position.
First, I would like to argue that the destruction of property is in fact a destruction of the male chauvinism, violence, and elitism on which institutions such as Banks, Government Buildings, and Anne Summers operate; and would further point to the multitude of actions beyond property damage that members of Black Blocks have participated in (from window cleaning of empty buildings and council housing to opening squats to provide homes for homeless families). The fact that Black Block also relies on personal autonomy and group solidarity, for me at least defies the accusation of elitism (so often cast upon this tactic by other leftists). Black Block is a tactic to protect everyone (regardless of their mode of action) from persecution by state or cop and within this sea of anonymity there is space for everything and anything from window smasher, to medic, theatrical protester to media person, five year old to grandparent. Never mind thousands of V’s Marching on Parliament, this is hoods and masks attacking the reasons of our sleepless nights and nightmarish day, attempting to shape a new society based on basic human solidarity; (exemplified through the diversity of action e.g. one person smashes a window, another helps to hide that person, another writes the literature explaining the whole action, and another tends the wounds of those injured rucking with the filth) Black Block- now recruiting!
As for arguments around the negative discourse of the Black Block, I would argue there is little any of us can or should do to influence the language and arguments the bourgeoisie press choose to use in attempting to undermine struggle; our actions must be judged by our own morality and by history, the Black Panthers, the ANC, even Ghandi were dismissed by their own press as criminals and yet today we hail them as heroes. We should not modify our politics or our tactics in order to suit other people’s ideas of “acceptable forms of resistance” and if anything the importance the mainstream media afford to Black Block should act as something of a call to arms to all those content to be confined to police kettles and pre agreed A to B’s. I argue we should be lead by what is effective and what we believe to be just, imagine if you will for a moment the power that the anti Iraq war movement would have held had it decided to mask up and occupy army recruitment centres, sabotage Ta Bases, and destroy machines in weapons factories- imagine for a second the power of one million E.D.O decomissioners. The power of the Black Block lies in its prefigurative and post capitalist approach to the notion of resistance; whilst the A to B of the TUC is trapped inevitably in a capitalist mode- marches are not the limit of our imagination speeches cannot contain our desires.
This then, is a call out to mothers and fathers, children, workers, unemployed, queers, people of colour, and all others to join the anonymous mass of the Block, not as a means to an end but as an act to change our reality in this moment, to reinvent the now. The tactic, the mode of action is ultimately for you to decide; but your family, your colleges; your friends are already your affinity group. Mutual aid exists in everyone’s lives: when we buy our friends a pint or make them a cup of tea; we organize horizontally when we pick a movie collectively or decide what toppings to have on a pizza, we show solidarity when we care for our friends children or visit them in the hospital when they are ill, and we take direct action when poverty forces us to shop lift or the cold forces us to rig the meter. We are all common sense anarchists; we need only to formulate our subconscious actions, conceptualize these divided thoughts to reach our potential- Black Block is one way towards this conceptualization. Next time the aparatchiks at the TUC organize a “mass show of strength” to bolster their outdated and irrelevant analysis; lets fuck them off and do our own thing, let us take action, and rather than allowing some smarmy fuckwit in a suit to tell us what our future is going to be, let’s be the change today, that we want to live tomorrow.
Smash Capitalism, Create Anarchy.