Sunday, August 27, 2017

On Antifa and my 20-year-old revulsion with black bloc tactics

For people who are new to discussions about Antifa and black bloc tactics: Antifa is short for anti-fascist. It does not refer to a formal group like the Weathermen or Students for a Democratic Society. It refers to groups who share the same ideology. "Black bloc" is also not a group: it refers to dressing up in black and wearing masks to make it harder to be accountable for illegal actions ranging from vandalism to assault and battery.

This is the bulk of a comment that I left at Being mean online: a few observations | Cautiously pessimistic:
As for the description of the black bloc in “Oakland’s Third Attempt at a General Strike”, it’s consistent with the first time I observed black bloc tactics. In the 1990s at a protest against Iraq sanctions that was supposed to be peaceful, their violence sent adults with children fleeing and ended the protest early. Which must have pleased the police.

Hieronymous’s account tells how the black bloc hindered rather than helped:

“The masked-up black bloc opted for breaking a few windows and spraying some graffiti instead of something in solidarity with the workers inside the store.”

“…we did see some of the destruction at the Wells Fargo Bank at 12th and Broadway, where a circus of moral indignation was no longer directed at the banks, but was directed at the black blockers instead.”

“The tactics of the black bloc quickly hit a practical dead-end and brought on the same pointless violence vs. non-violence debates that are just as divisive today as they were in 1967…”

“Without a strategy, the black bloc becomes a form devoid of a theoretical basis in the content of what is being struggled for, which can be summed up as a form of violent activism. It is clearly not class struggle…”

“…black bloc activists think it possible to smash a social relationship away by mere might…”

“The insurrectionists in the black bloc want to create an orgy of destruction, believing that social relations can be simply removed through negating their forms, by smashing them, totally oblivious to the content of capitalism – both in theory and in practice – as well as the possibility of finding working class allies in the stores they are smashing. Those low-income hyper-exploited wage slaves often hate work as much as — or more than — the black blockers.”

And Gerard had this comment:

“The smashing of windows of course led to lots of arguments. I took turns defending the black blockers and criticizing them, just to try to get conversations going. My own criticism is based on tactics. I couldn’t see any long-term good coming out of the destruction, no matter how much I may hate banks or supermarkets. The young people in black were well organized but it seemed like theatrics more than anything else, and not the kind most working-class people are attracted to. People were working in those banks. I was a lot like the young people in black once, so I sympathized, but, as the saying goes: “I wish I knew then what I know now.””
A reminder that police provocateurs love how easy it is to infiltrate groups that wear masks:

Quebec police admit they went undercover at Montebello protest - Canada - CBC News



Related:

Boots Riley on black bloc tactics.

Free speech, not street violence, ended Milo Yiannopoulos's career. (Yes, my title underestimated Milo, but my point doesn't change: black bloc tactics just gave him free publicity. What hurt him were revelations about his past.)