Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 15, 2011

Shining a light on the black bloc, part 1: Italian autonomism

Filed under: black bloc idiots — louisproyect @ 7:28 pm

The young Toni Negri

Starting with Seattle in 1999, there has been controversy over the role of black bloc tactics in major mobilizations. Although I have had plenty to say about it in the past, I never really got to the bottom of where it came from. This is the first in a series of posts that will try to answer that question as well as review the impact it has had on various mass actions, starting with Seattle and ending with recent events in Oakland. While these articles will probably not change the minds of anybody who advocated vandalism or other forms of the “propaganda of the deed”, I do hope that they will give Marxists a better handle on the challenge they face in the mass movement and strengthen their resolve not to adapt to it in the spirit of a weak-kneed “diversity of tactics” liberalism. The stakes are very high indeed in a period of deepening class polarization when the heavy battalions of labor will begin to act in their own interest. Anything that stands in the way of their participation has to be challenged mercilessly.

In today’s post on Italian autonomia and the one that follows on German autonomen movements that invented the black bloc tactic, I will be drawing from Georgy Katsiaficas’s “The Subversion of Politics: European Social Movements and the Decolonization of Everyday Life“. This book, along with Steve Wright’s “Storming heaven: class composition and struggle in Italian autonomist Marxism“, are essential reading despite their frequently self-serving character, a function obviously of the authors’ autonomist affinities. Wright and Franco Barchiesi, a South African professor, started a mailing list titled aut-op-sy (Autonomia, Operaismo, and Class Composition) sometime in the 1990s that was shut down in 2004. It was restarted in 2008 and its archives can be read here.

Katsiaficas is virtually rapturous about autonomism although he is at somewhat of a loss on how to define it. To some extent, that is a function of its refusal to define itself:

Indeed, actions speak for most Authonomen, not words, and the sheer volume of decentralized happenings generated by small groups acting on their own initiative prohibits systematic understanding of the totality of the movement, a first step in the dismantling of any system. No single organization can control the direction of actions undertaken from the grass roots.

Unfortunately, Katsiaficas does not bother to address the question of what to do when actions go against the wishes of the broader movement.

I am not sure whether American activists were inspired by what was happening in Europe in this period, but they pretty much followed the same norms when they created “affinity groups”. It is entirely possible that the affinity group model predated autonomism, a research project for some graduate seminar on radical politics it would seem. Starhawk, a website committed to leftist activism of an anarchist/autonomist bent, has a write-up  on affinity groups that would lead one to believe that this form of organization—so to speak—is still going strong:

Organize in clusters! Form a group with your friends! Be loud! Look exciting! Have fun! What is an affinity group?

An affinity group is a group of people who have an affinity for each other, know each others strengths and weaknesses, support each other, and do (or intend to do ) political/campaign work together. Most of us will have had some childhood/formative experience of being part of a group whether informally, as in a group of kids that are the same age and live in the same street, suburb or town, or formally, as in being involved in a sports team. However, affinity groups differ from these for numerous reasons, as explained below, (hierarchy, trust, responsibility to each other etc).

The concept of ‘affinity groups has a long history. They developed as an organising structure during the Spanish Civil war and have been used with amazing success over the last thirty years of feminist, anti-nuclear, environmental and social justice movements around the world. They were first used as a structure for a large scale nonviolent blockade during the 30,000 strong occupation of the Ruhr nuclear power station in Germany in 1969, and then in the United States occupations / blockades of the Seabrook nuclear power station in ’71 when 10,000 were arrested and again many times in the highly successful US anti-nuclear movement during the ’70’s and ’80’s. Their use in sustaining activists through high levels of police repression has been borne out time and again. More recently, they have been used constructively in the mass protest actions in Seattle and Washington.

I hate to sound like an old stick-in-the-mud, but urgings to “be loud”, “look exciting” and “have fun” are lost on me. Now it is true that being 66 has a lot to do with this, but I wasn’t much different when I was 26. I have no objections to others wanting to have fun, just as long as it doesn’t involve vandalism or any other provocation that leads to a police riot.

The term “autonomous” can of course be used in a variety of ways. It can mean autonomy from bourgeois society, including its repressive family institutions, dress codes, and 9-5 drudgery. To become part of the autonomist movement implies cutting yourself off from the mainstream and living a kind of left-bohemian existence—of course with its own particular social pressures.

You really have to wonder how someone over 40 will fit into the autonomist milieu since everything about it suggests that is exclusively the domain of young people without any family or job responsibilities. In my visit to ANC headquarters in exile in Lusaka, Zambia back in early 1990 I was taken by how well integrated men and women in their 70s and 80s were. I strongly believe that this is the kind of revolutionary movement that we need. I of course am not endorsing the ANC’s politics but its willingness to create a big tent for everybody willing to fight on its issues, whatever their age.

Autonomists were affected by the “tune in, turn on, drop out” zeitgeist of the 1970s, no surprise given the mood of the time. A group in Hamburg issued a proclamation in 1982 that said:

The aspiration for autonomy is above all the struggle against political and moral alienation from life and work – against the functionalization of outside interests, against the internalization of the morals of our foes … This aspiration is concretized when houses are squatted to live humanely or not to have to pay high rents, when workers call in sick in order to party because they can’t take the alienation at work, when unemployed people plunder supermarkets … because they don’t agree with absurd demands of unions for more jobs that only integrate people into oppression and exploitation. Everywhere that people begin to sabotage, to change the political, moral and technical structures of domination is a step toward a self-determined life.

Given today’s realities, this sneering at the demand for “more jobs” is about as passé as a Nehru jacket. You can find elements of it in Hardt and Negri’s “Empire”, a book that was capable of being written only in a time of economic expansion. From my review of this best-seller:

What they call “antagonism and autonomy” resides not in trade union struggles, but in a phenomenon they call “refusal to work.” For those of us old enough to have danced to Janis Joplin, this phenomenon would be as familiar as an old pair of bell-bottom jeans. Just to make sure that everybody gets the message, this section includes an epigraph by Jerry Rubin: “The New Left sprang from … Elvis’s gyrating pelvis.”

So what was this “mass refusal of the disciplinary regime, which took a variety of forms” and which “was not only a negative expression but a moment of creation” but “what Nietzsche calls a transvaluation of values”? This mouthful of ungainly academic prose amounts to praise of the following:

  • Going to live in Haight-Ashbury.
  • College students experimenting with LSD instead of looking for a job.
  • “Shiftless” African-American workers moving on “CP” (colored people’s time).

In 1969 Italy went through what was called the “Hot Autumn”, a mass movement that had a lot in common with the revolutionary upsurge in France of May-June 1968. As is the case with the unfolding Occupy movement of today, you saw workers and students joining together in militant protests against capitalist misrule.

Like France, the powerful Communist Party of Italy did everything it could to put the break on the movement, many of whose most determined activists were either hostile to Stalinism at the outset or grew hostile after seeing it in action.

Although Italy, like France, was plagued by warring Trotskyist and Maoist sects, a majority of activists on the far left could be described as “new leftists” who were trying to develop their own approach. One trend was called Operaismo (“workerism” in English) that would eventually morph into the autonomist current proper. Italian “Workerism” did not have the same meaning it had in the American left at the time, where it was applied pejoratively to obscure Marxist-Leninist groups or factions within such groups that viewed all movements outside the point of production as “petty-bourgeois”. In Italy the term had more to do with a particular interpretation of Marx’s writings about class even though in practical politics it did mean focusing on working class struggles. It also meant trying to organize workers outside of the framework of Stalinism, avoiding or even confronting most of the traditional trade union organizations where the CP enjoyed hegemony.

Potere Operaio (Worker’s Power), one of the most important workerist groups, was launched in 1968 by Antonio Negri and others. PO then evolved into Autonomia Operaia (Worker’s Autonomy) in 1973, one of the first autonomist groups in Italy. There is a lot of overlap between the ideologies of both movements, but autonomism broadened the scope beyond the point of production and soon became closely identified with the squats occupied by young radicals throughout Western Europe.

While Autonomia Operaia retained much of Potere Operaio’s orientation to working-class struggles, other campus-based groups in the autonomist camp had much more of a counter-cultural character, especially the Metropolitan Indians, a group that dressed up and put on war-paint like indigenous people in the U.S., a sign of their “autonomy” from bourgeois society. Among their demands were free pot and LSD for anybody who wanted to use them and occupying empty buildings as sites for alternatives to the nuclear family. It was the “sixties”, after all.

In 1973 they stormed a jazz festival in Umbria and harangued the audience with the message that the “weapon of music cannot replace the music of weapons”. Apparently, they had a big fetish over the P38, a pistol made by Walther. (James Bond used the Walther PPK.) Obviously we are dealing with some very humorless people despite their feeble attempts to the contrary.

As was the case in the USA and Japan, European radical politics grew increasingly ultraleft in the 1970s, a function of frustration with the movement’s inability to make a serious dent on class society. Increasingly adventurist tactics, including robberies and bombings, led to stepped up repression by the state. By 1977, things were coming to a head in Italy. A nation-wide student occupation protesting an education “reform” bill prompted the CP to intervene on behalf of the government. On February 17 a two thousand strong detachment of CP trade unionists accompanied CP leader Luciano Lama to the campus of the University of Rome where he intended to deliver a speech against the occupation. Not long after Lama’s talk began, the Metropolitan Indians donned masks and led an assault on Lama and his supporters.  At least fifty people were seriously injured in the fracas. This violent attack gave the government the pretext it needed to launch an assault on the university. Two thousand cops raided the campus and used tear gas and clubbed everybody in sight. Sort of rings a bell, doesn’t it?

In my view it was a serious mistake to prevent Lama from speaking, no matter how repugnant his message. Radical politics has to proceed on the basis of vigorous debate, not fisticuffs. Furthermore, no matter how integrated the CP was in the Italian state, it was necessary to find ways to win the rank and file away from bureaucrats like Lama. This cannot be done by beating him up.

Lenin wrote “Ultraleft Communism: an infantile disorder” to help orient impatient young revolutionaries on how to orient to the SP and Labour Parties, the CP’s of his day. As difficult as it is to maneuver around such a hidebound party, you create more difficulties for yourself by trying to confront it physically. As a sign of the possibilities that existed in this period, a large crowd of CP members chanted for unity in Bologna in 1977 against government repression, something that was only met by contempt by the autonomists as Katsiaficas reports with relish. One doubts that such unity could ever have been possible given the fact that at a conference of the far left that year, some 8000 people “divided and clashed among themselves, smashing chairs over one another’s heads and failing to arrive at any solution,” according to Katsiaficas. If the far left couldn’t unite, how could it ever unite with the CP?

Some activists drew the conclusion that it was time to launch an armed struggle. The Revolutionary Brigades became the best known urban guerrilla group, becoming the counterpart of the Red Army Faction (Baader-Meinhof) in Germany and the group of the same name in Japan.

In a landmark legal case, Antonio Negri was found guilty of abetting the Revolutionary Brigades, who had kidnapped and murdered parliamentarian Aldo Moro, and spent four years in prison until his exoneration.

Negri’s defense was that he was merely a theorist working with an autonomist group that had no connection to urban guerrilla warfare or terrorism. While this was true, a close examination of Autonomia Operaia will reveal Metropolitan Indian styled “violence within the movement”. As was the case with the Stalinist movement it so despised, the autonomists frequently relied on physical intimidation against their opponents.

In the 2002 edition of “What Next”, a British journal with Trotskyist leanings, you can find an article by Tobias Abse titled “The Professor in the Balaclava: Toni Negri and Autonomist Politics”  that was written on the occasion of the publication of Hardt-Negri’s “Empire”.

Abse’s portrait of Negri is not very flattering:

[Giorgio] Bocca, an expert on terrorism who interviewed many BR members, many of whom he saw as misguided idealists, had no liking for Negri, whom he subsequently described as “that little university Lucifer” and “a narcissus with a subtle brain”, one of those who use “a powerful memory purely to assist their tricks”, remarking that Negri “knew how to copy well from books that had not yet been translated in Italy”. Bocca has no doubt that Negri, whom he sees as far more influenced by Nietzsche’s and D’Annunzio’s ideas about “the superman” than by Marx, lived out his fantasies, albeit by proxy.

The two concrete instances he gives of Negri inciting others to commit criminal acts on his behalf have a definite ring of truth; they are precisely the sorts of crime one can imagine amoral academics engaging in. Firstly, when Negri lived in Milan, he used to send the young autonomi he regularly received in his house out to the nearest bookshop to steal all the books that interested him. Secondly, and rather more seriously, he asserted his power in Padua University by getting his “reactionary” colleagues kneecapped, and then used to theorise in his usual jargon-ridden style that “the levels of the use of force of counter-power have been exemplified by the punishment of teachers who are particularly zealous in anti-proletarian initiatives: Galante, Santo, etc”.

In a review of Hardt-Negri’s “Empire” in the New York Review of Books, journalist Alexander Stille provides some detail on the kneecapping charge:

Professors and former students at the University of Padua, where Negri taught, describe a reign of terror in which, for about three years, the autonomi, who recognized Negri as their principal leader, took over buildings, disrupted classes, shouted down opposing speakers, set off bombs, humiliated and beat up professors, and intimidated dissenting students. During their so-called Nights of Fire, Autonomia set off bombs in several different places in or around Padua.

The gestures of what Negri called “proletarian self-affirmation” assumed truly grotesque forms: under threat of violence an elderly professor was forced by the autonomi to give an oral examination to a dog. Guido Petter, a psychology professor who had supported the student demonstrations of 1968, was so badly beaten with iron bars that he was taken to a hospital. Oddone Longo, a professor of ancient Greek literature and the dean of the literature department, was also savagely beaten by three autonomi wearing ski masks and wielding metal wrenches.

This attack was particularly cowardly: Longo already suffered from a congenital limp and walked with great difficulty so that he could neither defend himself nor run away. He was able to get his hand over his head so that when they tried to smash his skull, they ended up breaking the bones in his hand instead. Along with his effort to maintain the ordinary meeting of classes in his department, Longo’s principal offense was being a member of the Italian Communist Party—the bête noire of Negri and Autonomia. When I asked Negri about the beatings of professors at his old university, he dismissed them as the work of “a few stupid students,” for which he had no responsibility, and he became annoyed at my bringing them up. But if Negri disagreed with what was going on around him in Padua, he did not object to it at the time.

Just in case anybody is harboring suspicions that the Unrepentant Marxist is stacking the deck against Italian autonomia, I would advise you to read the chapter in Wright’s “Storming the Heavens” titled “The Collapse of Workerism”, and the section titled “The Movement Loses Direction” in particular. He states that by 1977, almost weekly confrontations between activists and cops undermined the movement’s ability to consolidate and extend itself, especially given its determination to define itself as a “youth” movement that had turned its back on the “older generation”.

Autonomist theorist Marco Belotti complained about the: “[t]he perverse spiral of raising the stakes in the direct clash with the repressive apparatuses of the state IN PRACTICE conceded hegemony to the deliriums of the armed struggle ideology [combattentismo].”

Considering Katsiaficas’s embrace of “anti-politics”, Wright’s observations, including another citation from Belotti, are particularly germane:

In this context, the refusal of politics became ‘the exclusive privileging of the “military'” dimension, while ”’revolutionary radicalism” became measurable only in terms of the hardness of the clash with the adversary, whether this be the state or the “deviationist comrade'”. At the same time, in many parts of the movement,

the unconscious/thoughtless [incosapevole] introjection of the thematic of ‘two societies’ turned snobbish, the total exclusion of any relation with the city’s working-class and proletarian fabric. (ibid.)

And finally, this rather devastating charge by Wright against a movement he is known to have championed over the years:

That the majority of autonomist groupings, by their arrogance, had recently squandered enormous opportunities was now also apparent to Scalzone. The ‘micro-factions’ of the Area, he noted in December 1978, had begun to reveal their fundamentally conservative nature earlier that month, when they had chosen to isolate themselves from the demonstrating metalworkers, ‘not all of whom, certainly, were union functionaries’. Amongst other things, this demonstrated that the attempt to apply ‘the classic model of democratic centralism’ within the various segments of the ‘organised’ Area had only generated ‘monsters’.

The combination of autonomist thuggery and Red Brigade terror had a lot to do with the implosion of the Italian left. While the Italian bourgeoisie was ready to carry out a repression even if the left had been far more intelligently organized, this was no excuse for carrying out tactics calculated to drive the average working class person into the arms of the government in the name of “security”.

Revolutionary politics is really a project that is designed to win people to a cause. This involves patient explanation. Once someone develops a revolutionary consciousness, there is little that the state can do to vanquish it. A broken window can easily be replaced, but a revolutionary mind is permanent.

70 Comments »

  1. What I think is more interesting and relevant is how the “occupy everything, demand nothing” trend inspired OWS. The Black Bloc has yet to rear its head outside of Oakland in any real sense, so I’m not sure it’s worth really dissecting their origins and politics.

    Comment by Binh — November 15, 2011 @ 8:13 pm

  2. I agree that it has not been a problem outside of Oakland but it is a world-wide phenomenon. Lots of my readers are from places like Germany and France where ultraleftism is a problem, even if it doesn’t take the specific form of vandalism, black denims, etc.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 15, 2011 @ 8:15 pm

  3. It’s worth discussing black bloc tactics because provocateurs and sincere ignorant people advocate them. Louis has nailed the truth in his last paragraph.

    Comment by Will Shetterly — November 15, 2011 @ 8:25 pm

  4. Yes, it is worth it, even if at present its reverence appears limited to Oakland, precisely because the OWS movement was consciously (and correctly) organized around a tactic of nonviolence. This the BlocHeads will find antithetical on principle, and in Oakland they had an opportunity to intervene against the nonviolent tactic due to local differences in composition of the Occupy Oakland movement, as there exists here a relatively broader layer of already radicalized youth (like my two children, 18 & 28, for example) *not* integrated into the OWS style, but accessible to it, as the relative success of the “general strike” demonstrated.

    Consequentially we can and should see the BlockHeads not as mere idiots – it is the reactionary effect of their tactics that is idiotic, not the individuals themselves – but as carrying out a well articulated, coherent political line expressing overt political hostility to the OWS. In short, they attacked the OWS that night in Oakland. The movement should proceed accordingly.

    Comment by Matt — November 15, 2011 @ 9:08 pm

  5. Not terribly good work. If folks want to know about the Italian workerism and autonomia, I’d recommend Steve Wright’s Storming Heaven. Proyect makes some basic mistakes here. He repeats the logic of the Italian state by collapsing the Red Brigades with the various Autonomia organizations. The reason why BR folks hated Negri so much is that he went out of his way to condemn their actions, particularly when they began assassinating people. Negri was at one point on a list of people they wanted to shoot. Additionally, Negri was certainly an influential figure within the Autonomia circles, but he wasn’t the only one, and the groups didn’t always align with him. Ultimately, you’re cherry picking. If you read the entirety of Wright’s work, you’ll get a much more nuanced picture of the situation, one in which a group of activists attempted to create new forms of worker self-organization, and had to respond to both a lot of state violence as well as the complicity of the PCI. Not surprisingly, they made some mistakes, but they also contributed to a remarkable attempt to challenge the Italian state.

    Comment by robert wood — November 15, 2011 @ 10:20 pm

  6. If folks want to know about the Italian workerism and autonomia, I’d recommend Steve Wright’s Storming Heaven.

    Apparently you commented here without reading what I wrote in its totality. I quote Wright at the end of the post, including this:

    That the majority of autonomist groupings, by their arrogance, had recently squandered enormous opportunities was now also apparent to Scalzone. The ‘micro-factions’ of the Area, he noted in December 1978, had begun to reveal their fundamentally conservative nature earlier that month, when they had chosen to isolate themselves from the demonstrating metalworkers, ‘not all of whom, certainly, were union functionaries’. Amongst other things, this demonstrated that the attempt to apply ‘the classic model of democratic centralism’ within the various segments of the ‘organised’ Area had only generated ‘monsters’.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 15, 2011 @ 10:23 pm

  7. I read. I also read the entire book, which presents a strongly sympathetic perspective on the group. I did read your entire post, which as I note, cherry picks the movement, ignoring its victories and reveling in its mistakes and defeats.

    Comment by robert wood — November 15, 2011 @ 11:18 pm

  8. It is sympathetic. That is why his comments about the arrogance of the autonomists, their militarism, and their contempt for the working class after only 4 years of existence is so telling. It took the SDS in the USA a good 10 years to achieve the idiocy that the autonomia reached in only 4.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 15, 2011 @ 11:21 pm

  9. This Judge’s ruling on the Occupy protesters in NYC is pure rubbish.

    They arrested protesters at the Wall Street Church that was sympathetic and allowed them to be there.

    They arrested members of the Associated Press and stifling the freedom of the press.

    The protesters have had their private property confiscated.

    And the Judge thinks the NYPD acted accordingly and ruled they can’t camp out in a public park?

    This is justice under our legal system?

    This is MARTIAL LAW AND A POLICE STATE.

    Why have a constitution with laws that supposedly protect free speech and the right to protest and unlawful search and seizure (i.e. confiscating property with no warrant or probable cause) when the POLICE STATE just throws out the document and makes up its own rules as it goes along.

    The worst of it is that a Judge should be fair and impartial. In this case, it’s painfully obvious whose side this Judge’s bread is buttered on.

    Comment by Deborah Jeffries — November 16, 2011 @ 12:25 am

  10. I appreciate that Louis is putting some time on this, I do think that it is a needed discussion on the marxist left. Ultra-leftism can obviously be a serious problem in building movements. The sixties/seventies are littered with examples of this. I do think, however that a more balanced summation of the legacy of autonomism is needed then what is presented here. Black-blockism is hardly the only legacy of autonomism, just the one which has drawn the most attention to itself. As Binh points out (why is it that whenever Binh writes something I find myself agreeing with it? The guy is sharp.) it hasn’t really presented itself as a problem in the Occupy movement outside of Oakland, and arguably the reason why it was a problem in Oakland has a lot to do with certain localized aspects of the activist scene there. In Oakland this sort of thing isn’t new.

    As someone who was radicalized in the course of the GJM, I think that while on-balance the Black-block was a liability, often a serious liability, it seemed to me that some of the tensions between the black block and other aspects of the movement lessened over time. I had the distinct impression toward the end that the black block had laid off a lot of the really stupid and destructive stuff and were increasingly functioning as a sort of defense guard for marches so that when the police attacked they would be there defending the crowd with their body-armor, shields, gas-masks, etc. It did win them a certain amount of sympathy and frankly made me and many others feel a little more comfortable being there. It should also be pointed out that what ultimately killed off the GJM was 911 not the black-block and the worst violence and police riots, at least in the US, which were in Miami in 2003 for the FTAA, were not provoked by the black block. Also, I am not a sociologist but the dismissal of the black block as middle class kids with trust funds strikes me as really off (not a description you give here but in earlier posts and comments there has been some discussion/debate about this). Not saying there aren’t any of those, but the mileau seems not so much a product of the ‘middle class’ as a product of its breakdown under neoliberalism. In this way I think it is different than the Weather-underground and other similar sixties/seventies phenomena.

    I raise this because, while I agree combating ultra-leftism is needed when it starts to pose a threat, I also think that a one-sided summary will not help our cause. Ultimately building a new revolutionary left will require winning a decent chunk of the vanguard to some historically relevant form of revolutionary marxism. Revolutionary marxism has not been the dominant type of ideology among radicalizing young people (at least in the US) for some time (since roughly the fall of the eastern block), that honor would have to go to a vague melange that usually goes under the rubric of ‘anarchism’, but it is an anarchism that draws heavily on autonomism and other forms of left-communism. Why is this? Why did this set of ideas become dominant? Is it simply a result of the defeat of ‘actually existing communism’ and subsequent demoralization? Is there anything we can learn from this?

    If the legacy of autonomism is solely or primarily some combination of the worst types of ultra-leftism and go-nowhere “tune in, turn on, drop out” 60s zeitgeist then really we have nothing to learn from it and probably should ignore it except, perhaps, as a warning to the young. Of course that does nothing to explain why it is now so influential among the young, or what they have found in it.

    First, lets admit that the breakdown of ‘actually existing communism’ has a lot to do with this. Students radicalizing now don’t even remember a time when there was such a thing as world communism or when communism was a legitimate force that had to be taken seriously. Their sole horizon is that of consumerist neo-liberalism. Even for those, like me, old enough to remember, there is the background suspicion that communism is something that was, at least on some level, tried and found wanting.

    The collapse of world communism changes the calculus of movements and radicalization, sometimes in subtle ways. When communism was a really existing force in the world, one with both a past and a possible future, then it is easy to see oneself as a part of that and to identify with that, even if only critically, as in the case of Trotskyism. World communism gave us both a past and a future as well as comprehensive theory about how it all fit together. There was a lot that was attractive about that but 1989 took much of that attraction away. For those coming into radicalization post-1989 there is no clear future, there is no clear past and there is no clear theory of how it all fits together. One result of this is a preference for politics with immediate results that one can ‘feel’. The admonition from Starhawk to ‘have fun’ protesting and the inclination to turn every protest into a carnival of sorts is best understood in this light. Also the sort of ascetic outlook of traditional communist parties just doesn’t seem to make as much sense when the big-picture long-term goals that had animated that asceticism have become murkier and more difficult to see. Indeed the really ascetic communist groups, the ones were communism determined everything about how you lived your life, have almost all collapsed or been reduced to cults and pale shadows of what they once were and sane people have no interest in joining them.

    Is this situation good or bad? I don’t know. I think there are good things about it and bad things about it but most important is to recognize that this is in fact what the situation is and has been for sometime now. The focus on immediacy, taking some small measure of power in the here and now, explains some of the appeal of autonomism and until another long term project can be reconstructed from the ashes of the old, some amount of focus on immediate, take power here-and-now type of actions is probably both inevitable and beneficial. The working class needs to feel its power in order to eventually become a ‘class-for-itself’. Of course, this is where a more traditional marxist could jump in and say that is all the more reason to build the traditional institutions of the working class: build and fight within the labor movement, build and fight within a labor party. Laudable goals certainly, I know people who have given there entire lives to these activities and I admire them very much. However what has happened to these traditional working class institutions? And what indeed has happened to the traditional working class? There have been massive tectonic shifts in the working class in the last few decades which the traditional left has for the most part ignored except in some cases as an excuse to abandon the working class altogether.

    Autonomism at least attempts to address these shifts in the working class, something which along with its focus on finding ways to take gain control over aspects of life in ones immediate situation explains much of the utility that young people have found in it and why it has been so influential. If I were to expound on what I think the uptake from this should be for those of us who are not autonomists but who want to formulate a historically relevant revolutionary marxism, it would first be that we need a better and more relevant class analysis. We need to take stock of the changes that have taken place in the past 40 years and be honest about there likely theoretical consequences. And we shouldn’t look down so much on pre-figurative here-and-now types of political projects (and after all that is largely how OWS got started), at least until we are able to found a new project with the sort of hegemonic force to be able to attract people to its long-term vision.

    Comment by dave x — November 16, 2011 @ 12:38 am

  11. Dave X, I respect your views but as a revolutionary marxist my question to you is how would change come about in this country without a revolutionary movement like in Egypt and Libya?

    If the citizens in those countries didn’t mobilize in great numbers to oust the dictators, they would still be living under the kingdoms of Mubarak and Quadafi.

    How do you change a system full of inequity and class oppression if not by force (by the people)?

    The ruling class won’t listen to marxist or socialist dialogue because with greed comes stubborness.

    I’m afraid no discussion of our point of view will convince the bourgeois to be open to the idea that the wealth of the nation belongs to all of its people not just a privileged few.

    Comment by Deborah Jeffries — November 16, 2011 @ 2:39 am

  12. The thing most clear is how alien Italian workerism and autonomia is from Bolshevism in which hard organizational work amongst the masses, indefatigable patience, and perhaps the sheer will power of cats like Lenin laid the ground work for a successful proletarian uprising over the prior 2 decades before 1917.

    That’s not to say that everybody else has to follow that model like some Canonite blueprint but ignoring or obliterating the most fecund aspects of Bolshevism’s organizational success is done only at a modern revolutionary movement’s peril.

    I’m all for novel ideas in the class struggle but convergence theory shows that it’s no accident that birds, insects & jet fighters all rely on WINGS to move through the air.

    One thing that I found puzzling is Lou’s statement that “journalist Alexander Stille provides some detail on the kneecapping charge:” but then what follows are no examples of actual kneecappings, that is, nobody mentioned got an actual bullet (Walther or otherwise) into their kneecaps? I realize in fact there were actual kneecappings in those days, a terrible thing insofar as human kneecaps are one of the most complex and fragile structures in the universe, it’s just that no examples of victims of actual kneecappings were provided?

    That’s not to say I’m necessarily against kneecapping per se, as I’m old and bitter enough to fantasize that if I were King for at least a day that I’d hobble enough degenerate bankster swindlers, militarists & degenerate derivative speculators that ancient Chinese footbinders would have nothing on my dynasty, but that’s another story….

    More instructive on the lessons of the pitfalls of Italian workerism and autonomia are found not in Europe but in Latin America, particularly in Argentina, which historically had lots of Italian emigres and big working class uprisings during the late 70’s & early 80’s. There the black bloc universally drove the working class into the police state mentality (just google it) that mirrors the pathetic platitudes & disgusting patriotism of the post-911 landscape.

    Bottom line is the black block is essentially a form of terrorism (like the Narodniks during Lenin’s time) and terrorism has it’s own sociological laws. These laws are IMO best articulated by a distinguished professor who back in the early 70’s was an SWP (Chicago branch) fellow traveller named Richard E. Rubenstein who later wrote a great book called: “Alchemists of Revolution: Terrorism in the Modern World — A clear-eyed look at the terrorist mentality, its origins, and consequences”: (originally published in 1987), which relies heavily on the voluminous insights of Lenin’s & Trotsky’s writings on individual terror. (His NOTES at the back of the book are an unprecedented gold mine of Bolshevik writings against the tactic of Narodniki, aka, black block terror.)

    In his “Conclusion” Rubenstein writes that “terrorism, as opposed to other forms of protest or resistance, is produced by a social and moral crisis of the intelligentsia; that serious terrorist movements have local roots and are not mere products of outside manipulation; that the logic of terrorist action is INHERENTLY CONSERVATIVE (emphasis added); and that terrorism has proven more useful to conservative or moderately liberal nationalists than to advocates of social revolution. …[M]ost terrorists are not insane fanatics, career criminals, or government hirelings, but normal people driven to extremes by their situation and by mistaken political conceptions. …[N]o solution to the problem of terrorism is conceivable that does not reconnect politicized young adults to society by involving them in mass-based movements for change. Where militant political movements are not massive, and where mass movements are not militant, terrorism may seem the only way of keeping the faith.”

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — November 16, 2011 @ 2:45 am

  13. Deborah, I am not sure where you get the impression that I don’t think we need such a movement, in fact more than that I think we will need a mass-based revolutionary party that has absorbed most of the lessons of the revolutionary marxist tradition. The point of my post was to try and reach a more balanced summation of the legacy of ‘autonomism’ and what we might draw from it.

    Comment by dave x — November 16, 2011 @ 3:02 am

  14. Oh sorry Dave X, I misconstrued your previous post apologies for that blunder.

    Your thoughts are true and very necessary. I think with all of the uprisings going on in the world, we will see a revolution here undoubtedly.

    Though in all probability it won’t be fought by the Occupy movement, however, they have certainly opened the doors and have inspired many which will lead to the inevitable uprising of the proletariat.

    It’s no longer a question if a new revolution will overthrow capitalist America, it’s a question of when.

    Our government should not underestimate the power of the angry masses.

    Comment by Deborah Jeffries — November 16, 2011 @ 5:51 am

  15. One point that seems left out is the radical Italian Left was riddled with police agents; the most famous instance perhaps is the Aldo Moro kidnapping. The Left may have imploded on it’s own, but the fact remains that this subversion of the movement was a crucial in swaying public perception of utlra-left organizations.

    Comment by Jeffrey Masko — November 16, 2011 @ 7:28 am

  16. Thanks for the enlightening post. Didn’t know much about the Italian 70s and I’ve been curious about it.

    I do think shining a more appreciative light on autonomism than this is welcome though. Anarchist ideologies has been energizing young people into activism more than any other the last 30 years. The beginnings of occupy movement mostly comes from these scenes. I think dave x is completely right with his point on the fall of ‘actually existing communism’ as well. A couple of months ago I saw this video ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jrn1d1ppgWg ) and it blew my mind. Being born in the Netherlands in 1987 I never knew these movements in Europe were that gigantic. I thought these kind of propaganda-istic mass rallies only happened in the Soviet Union/PROC/N-K, with people being basically forced to attend. But this is Italy, only 11 years before Berlusconi seized power. Biggest funeral in Rome’s history, more people showing up than for any Pope’s funeral. I don’t know why, but growing up in the Netherlands doesn’t get you to know the history of socialist struggle around here.

    As for youngsters being more into these autonomist/anarchist scenes rather than signing up for a local SWP. I don’t think you can really blame the idealistic youngsters that want to dissent neoliberal consumerist system from not wanting to (and not believing in) spending their time convincing the trash tv watching working masses that are feeling comfortable as they are. This is slowly changing now as the common people in the “West” figure out their comfortable lifestyles are not as secure as they once were.

    Also, having lived in a city like Amsterdam, you find out that the energy of autonomists has led and continues to lead to beautiful things. The squatting movement, while not as big as in the early 80s, continues to provide the most best things you can find in many European cities. People’s kitchens, political libraries, saunas, debates, art galleries, concert venues. It are the only spaces in our neoliberal consumerist system where pure anti-commercial counter-culture finds its outlet. It politicized me. If it wasn’t for that kind of counter-culture, and also bands like Crass (or personally more importantly; Fugazi, The Ex), I doubt I would’ve ever ended up on this blog.

    I think you can make a slightly similar analysis in the Netherlands as in Italy with the autonomist movement. When people started out squatting here, it had a widespread popularity in the population and mainstream media. Tens of thousands were daily involved in it. But then the more radical autonomist movement within the squatting scene went more and more for direct confrontation with the state apparatus, leading to situations where you had for the first time tanks driving through Amsterdam in support of police for the first time since WW2. In the Netherlands this stuff was much bigger than anything that happened in the 60s. The squatters lost much of their popular appeal when the autonomists disrupted the Queen´s crowning under the slogan “geen woning, geen kroning” (“no house, no crowning”). This led to the biggest riots ever all over the city centre, and with the police massively outnumbered right outside the Church, where you could hear the noise of sirens, shouting and hovering helicopters. Afterwards, much of the Dutch population changed their mind a bit on the squatting movement.

    Comment by Alright Jack — November 16, 2011 @ 7:38 am

  17. […] Marxists do historically, we often forget our past failings, our co-options, and our history. Take Louis Proyect’s recent writings on the black bloc,  which he links to the Marxist Italian automatists to recent black bloc tactics in #Occupy.  The […]

    Pingback by An Open Letter to My Fellow Marxists Who Critique Anarchists with Blatant Dismissal: You’re Communists First! « The Loyal Opposition to Modernity: — November 16, 2011 @ 3:34 pm

  18. At the coverage of the victory General Assembly at about 18:25 someone with “The Other 99” asks how much Black Bloc and their imitators must be paid by the Koch Brothers: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/18544151

    Comment by Binh — November 16, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

  19. Comment No. 17, you’re right we as marxists have to be willing to own up to past mistakes and shortcomings.

    Just as not every communist leader was a hero either historically or of today.

    A prime example of a so called communist nation getting it wrong is China, a nation that is supposedly the embodiment of Redness, was recently reported to have installed ATM machines throughout
    the country that dispense 24 karat gold bars instead of money.

    Looks like Red China has been bitten by that nasty bourgeois bug which has swarmed over America for years.

    I would definitely say today’s China is an example of a communist government that has lost sight of what communism really is.

    Comment by Deborah Jeffries — November 16, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

  20. I second most of what Dave X wrote. He says: “Ultimately building a new revolutionary left will require winning a decent chunk of the vanguard to some historically relevant form of revolutionary marxism. Revolutionary marxism has not been the dominant type of ideology among radicalizing young people (at least in the US) for some time (since roughly the fall of the eastern block), that honor would have to go to a vague melange that usually goes under the rubric of ‘anarchism’, but it is an anarchism that draws heavily on autonomism and other forms of left-communism. Why is this? Why did this set of ideas become dominant? Is it simply a result of the defeat of ‘actually existing communism’ and subsequent demoralization? Is there anything we can learn from this?”

    These are exactly the questions that the socialist left should be asking.

    OWS is the vanguard, as is the occupy movement. It has mobilized more workers and oppressed people in 4 weeks than the entire American Marxist left put together has in 4 decades. How and why this has come to pass, what to do about it, and what we can learn from all of it are also key questions for us.

    Unfortunately it seems like these issues are only being hashed out in the comment threads of various blogs than through the existing publications and groups such as they are. For example, in Todd Chretien’s article (http://socialistworker.org/2011/11/09/debating-our-tactics-oakland) on the Oakland Black Bloc and Traveler’s Aid society actions, he argues that the Traveler’s Aid Society action was folly because it didn’t go through the G.A. This betrays a severe misunderstanding of how occupy works; the G.A. does not operate along the lines of “democratic centralism.” Not every action will go through the G.A., even if it involves a lot of people. People do things autonomously, on their own, without official sanction, and people are free to join or not as they please. Most of the daily protests at OWS do not go through G.A., which would become even more of a bureaucratic clusterfuck than it already is if they did. The problem with the TAS action was: 1) they didn’t sneak into the building and begin building fortifications inside to truly occupy and hold the space 2) after taking the building, they set up (ineffective) barricades on the street in front of the place, and then set them on fire, attracting police attention and 3) they got a lot of people outside the “Black Bloc” involved in an exciting action that was ill conceived, poorly executed, and an avoidable failure (they had to abandon the building). I suspect this was the first time the planners had ever tried to seize a building, so some of these mistakes were due to inexperience, which is unavoidable (the only folks who don’t make mistakes are the people who don’t do anything or take any action).

    Furthermore, he rips the anarchist ultra-lefts but completely fails to note that both actions led to intense debate among anarchists, with quite a few of them ripping the ultra-left arguments to shreds. The anarchists are portrayed one sidedly as immature adventurist fools when in reality a lot of them realized the mistakes of the ultra-lefts and nailed them for it. Those are people we should seek to work with! Instead, we choose to ignore them and go after the easy targets (the Black Bloc).

    In my view, anarchism is more attractive to this wave of radicalization because the existing socialist left’s practices are by and large viewed and deeply felt to be sterile, rigid, “boring”, and therefore decidely unrevolutionary despite its theoretical and rhetorical pretensions to the contrary (see my comments here for more on this: https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/pham-binh-radio-interview/).

    Anarchism has filled the void where Marxism used to be many decades ago because they are leading the movement and we, the socialist left, are tailing them in practice. They set the terms of the debate, shape the language and ideas of the movement, and their notions of autonomy, horizontal organizing, “diversity of tactics,” and consensus predominate because these are the ideas of the people who are leading in action, in practice, just as the I.W.W.’s ideas of “One Big Union”, rejection of “sewer socialism,” and militant tactics prevailed on the American radical left prior to the Russian Revolution (once that event happened, the ideas of Bolshevism predominated internationally).

    The Black Bloc is just one consequence of the Marxist left’s inability to integrate itself with and lead mass struggle. The terrorist/adventurist trends were fatally weakened and almost completely eliminated in Russia with the rise of the RSDLP. Their persistence here and in Europe is an indirect indicator we are doing something wrong.

    Our main task is provide better practical leadership that fits with and corresponds to people’s needs and feelings in this movement than the forces leading it now, not ideological clarification (“a better and more relevant class analysis”).

    Plenty of occupiers are fed up with the G.A. and feel oppressed by the existing processes of the occupy movement, but the Marxist left has yet to connect with that sentiment and work with people to change the way decisions are made at the micro, grassroots, working group level. This would involve building relationships with anarchists, anarcho-communists, anarcho-syndicalists, autonomists, and other like-minded people to fix, modify, and change the existing processes mostly inspired by their ideas and traditions in a way that will help lead the movement forward in the real world.

    From what I see here at OWS, the Marxist left only bothers to get deeply involved with the few working groups (Labor, Demands) where they feel most comfortable (i.e. least challenged). It’s as if we think we can influence the direction of a war by only partaking in recon and artillery operations but then we wonder why most of the soldiers on our side pay us no mind when we point out that the army as a whole is making some mistake or other.

    Comment by Binh — November 16, 2011 @ 5:39 pm

  21. The idea of a vanguard is what are keeping workers from joining the movement. No matter how prepared a professional socialist leadership may be, socialism from above will not convince workers to support them. This is the reason for the record setting wildcat strikes of the early seventies; the rank and file knew that the union leadership was not representing them and looking after their own interests. This is not very removed from the attitude of workers today, especially those from Central and South America. I work with hotel workers from Unitehere! Local 2 and their is a suspicion that they are pawns in a larger political struggle that will abandon them when their goals are achieve.

    Comment by Jeffrey Masko — November 16, 2011 @ 7:25 pm

  22. I was reading an interesting article in my local paper discussing how Judges in our courts are overturning federal legislation in various jurisdictions nationwide.

    The article goes on to say that is turning the courts into legislators rather than dealing with the judicial issues which is the job of the judicial branch of our government.

    Not surprising when you see a Judge in NYC siding with the police state by evicting the Occupy protesters and trying to silence their free speech rights in a public park.

    Another inequity in imperial America where the constitutional protections are obviously for the ruling class and not the rest of us.

    The constitution is not worth the paper it’s written on if it’s a conditional document.

    You have to be from the right class and that’s what it really boils down to.

    Comment by Deborah Jeffries — November 16, 2011 @ 7:58 pm

  23. Lou,

    You are a fucking dinosaur.

    Comment by The Idiot — November 16, 2011 @ 9:03 pm

  24. The wages of opportunism are ultra-leftism and ultra-leftism is substitutionism. So little did the Bolsheviks think of themselves as the movement that when the Russian revolution actually broke out Lenin was genuinely shocked believing at the time that the collapse of Tsarism was probably years off. Contradictorily it was the anti-revolutionary Mensheviks who were claiming to be the leading lights of the Russian Revolution in February. But Lenin was politically astute and flexible and able to react and take advantage of the years of preparatory political work and agitation he and his comrades had put in. Lenin was always aware that the working class is `seven or eight times more revolutionary’ than any party in practice if not in theory. The ultra-leftists delude themselves that they in fact are `seven or eight times’ more revolutionary than the masses. Opportunists hope that the masses are not revolutionary at all, fear that they are but certainly know that they themselves are not.

    Comment by David Ellis — November 16, 2011 @ 9:08 pm

  25. There is much that I could argue about in Louis’ analysis, it is a too reductive for me, even though I have no love for the Bloc. It is a paramilitary, vanguardist organization that considers most of the populace incapable of grasping the necessity for a revolutionary transformation of society unless involuntary placed in situations of risk and potential violence. And, autonomia is a politically richer and diverse social movement than described here.

    But that would be a waste of time, because the larger point, about the urgency of creating an inclusive social politics that truly reaches the working class is correct, and I’m not interested in becoming a self-taught historian on recent Italian social history today. And, along these lines, both Binh and dave x have written insightful responses to this post, and I agree with Binh in regard to this statement: “The Black Bloc is just one consequence of the Marxist left’s inability to integrate itself with and lead mass struggle.”

    Indeed. And this is what happened in Italy, too, in the 1960s and 1970s, as young workers were alienated from the PCI and its autocratic labor unions that imposed bad contracts upon them in the name of the efficiency required for the purported creation of a modern Italian economy. Both Robert Lumley (“States of Emergency”) and Rossana Rossanda (“The Comrade from Milan”) explain this sad process, and the movements that emerged as a consequence of it. Rossanda, of course, was kicked out of the PCI in 1969 for her efforts to push the PCI away from Fordist collaboration with the state.

    In regard to the immediate issue about the Bloc, it has been pretty much repudiated by the movement. In Oakland, the overwhelming sentiment has been one of opposition to property destruction and confrontation with the police, even if the assembly has been tied in linguistic knots over the wording of possible proposals on the subject. For now, it may be best for everyone to move on and stop worrying about pleasing others by passing a resolution about it. In Berkeley last night, students setting up an encampment there said that anyone who planned to engage in property destruction was not welcome. In Portland, Oakland and NYC, the police raided encampments without any major violent incidents, probably because, in each instance, those involved in the occupation addressed the issue of how to respond to the raid in advance, and the decison was made to respond non-violently.

    In other words, the movement may be farther down the road in regards to an inclusive, Camejo inspired approach than we realize. If the issues surrounding the GA decision making process can be resolved, we may yet again be surprised by its accomplishments.

    Comment by Richard Estes — November 16, 2011 @ 9:11 pm

  26. @23; Lou may indeed be a “fucking dinosaur” but as it turns out all evidence shows that dinosaurs were remarkably intelligent & sensitive beasts that would likely still rule the world if it weren’t for a fluke calamity of devastation & destruction from far abroad that let blind shrews, moles & trolls like “The Idiot” gain a niche foothold in the slime & muck rooting for tubers.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — November 17, 2011 @ 1:50 am

  27. Right as usual Karl about The Idiot being a troll and I will add not the brightest lightbulb if the best he can come up with is a short sentence calling Lou a dinosaur.

    But the moniker he uses pretty much says it all. If anyone calls himself The Idiot, is one. Checkmate.

    Comment by Deborah Jeffries — November 17, 2011 @ 3:14 am

  28. My first question is, why are so many on the left putting more of their word-generation capability into attacking a small group of people who broke a few windows than into attacking the massive violence of the capitalist state? Moreover, why isn’t opposition to U.S. imperialist violence in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Libya, and U.S.-financed and U.S.-supported violence by the local ruling classes and their international backers in places like Colombia, Bahrain and Haiti being made central by genuine internationalist leftists in the ‘occupy’ movement?

    Until the “occupy” movement gives up representing the “99%” and becomes a movement in the interests of the real victims globally of capitalism and imperialism, who may not include even a simple majority of the U.S. population, genuine leftists should be very careful not to be swallowed by it while participating in it.

    Comment by Old Red — November 17, 2011 @ 7:54 am

  29. My previous warning would not apply to single-issue movements that make demands or take direct action around, say, issues of housing. The trouble with the ‘occupy’ movement is that it doesn’t do these things but, instead, promotes a vague and false populist ideology that obscures the real class structure of global capitalism.

    Even the worthy effort to reclaim public space is marred both by treating it as a free-speech issue and by not trying to reclaim privatized space except in very limited situations.

    Comment by Old Red — November 17, 2011 @ 8:13 am

  30. What world do you live in, Old Red? Do you have actual contact with any Occupy movement….or any actual leftists for that matter?

    My question is why are so many “Old Reds” so totally dismissive of a movement that is achieving such a sea change in popular consciousness. This Old Red is inspired and excited by OWS.

    Comment by ish — November 17, 2011 @ 12:43 pm

  31. Old Red needs to remember that even the simple claiming of public space as a free speech issue at Berkeley campus in the early 60’s lead eventually to the biggest antiwar movement in American history and an enormous awakening of social consciousness.

    If Old Red wants to know what the origins of revolution look like in the 21st century — it’ll look like the OWS movement, only 60 days old and still the biggest killer of political apathy in half a century.

    History shows that all the small groups of stone throwers can accomplish is draining the movement’s energy & momentum by ratcheting up the state’s repressive apparatus. When Russian anarchists repeatedly tried throwing bombs at the Czar, which lead to all kinds of police crackdowns that thwarted revolutionary organization, the Bolsheviks patiently explained to the workers that killing the Czar does not kill Czarism.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — November 17, 2011 @ 2:08 pm

  32. Interesting material. If there’s any reason why you gave up this research ten years ago, Louis, its because there’s little motivation. It’s not effectual to try converting the black bloc away from this adventure business in my opinion. Is it a teaching tool of what not to do in politics? Maybe so. Is guilty by association with historical antecedents a good way to marginalize these characters from the movement? Probably not. Does it provide a good teaching exercise that could inspire revolutionary politics? This is possibly true. However, the limits to revolutionary politics in the US is liberalism and the Democratic party not ultra-leftism. The best case that the black bloc isn’t working is the video you posted a few weeks ago of the events in Oakland in front of the Whole Foods store. There’s no accountability in the black bloc, as Binh attests to, and it seems a larger movement means you’ll get what you want here, Louis.

    My concern is that this research comes off with a tone of admonishment from an elder who’s on the outside looking in with some citations to first-hand movement literature but more often influenced by the shorthand media accounts of the black bloc that make them as repulsive to old folks as the beatniks were 50 years ago.

    I’m not familiar with Starhawk, but don’t see any problem with New Age elements joining the movement any less than Catholic elements.

    I disagree with others that the problem is a lack of revolutionary Marxist ideology and so on. The insinuation is that autonomous movement is well read in other types of ideology. No, these folks are just winging it. Our generation can’t even inherit any semblance of a labor movement from our parents less protest experience.

    Comment by Aaron — November 17, 2011 @ 2:36 pm

  33. It’s not effectual to try converting the black bloc away from this adventure business in my opinion. Is it a teaching tool of what not to do in politics?

    But that’s not my motivation. I write this primarily to satisfy my own curiosity on how this came to pass. In fact 95 percent of what I write is to fill a vacuum. If somebody else had written a kind of Marxist history of the black bloc, I wouldn’t be bothering with this. It’s the same thing with my film reviews. If there was anybody else out there paying attention to obscure documentaries, Korean films, I wouldn’t bother.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 17, 2011 @ 2:56 pm

  34. PS Starhawk is a feminist pagan priestess and ecologist; she’s about as far from black-block violence as you can get. She’s a radical utopian. Her spiritual books (which imply a feminist/antiauthoritarian political bent) include The Spiral Dance and Dreaming the Dark; she has a worth-reading utopian apocalyptic novel called the Fifth Sacred Thing.

    Comment by ish — November 17, 2011 @ 3:00 pm

  35. Starhawk:does, however, buy into the “diversity of tactics” nonsense:

    http://www.starhawk.org/activism/activism-writings/ottawa.html

    Comment by louisproyect — November 17, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

  36. Ok, seems like Starhawk is grasping at straws to inspire radical politics. In her mind, the black bloc is as much an effective tactic as spiral dancing — sounds like something akin to organizing the movement around Christian prayer actions.

    > If somebody else had written a kind of Marxist history of the black bloc, I wouldn’t be bothering with this.

    I wasn’t intending to deter you from writing, either. Keep “shining a light”.

    Comment by Aaron — November 17, 2011 @ 3:46 pm

  37. I think it’s important to draw a distinction between workerism and autonomism. The Italian workerists actually did some interesting things that are, I think, worth studying pretty seriously. For example, the idea of “class composition” might be useful for those interested in studying the structure of the working class today, at a time when a lot of Marxists seem to know more about Vyborg metalworkers in 1917 than they do about workers in their own neighborhood.

    In the same vein, the workerists made a serious, if unsuccessful, attempt to root themselves deeply in what they thought were the most important centers of working-class strength–the Italian auto plants. They used used questionnaires to figure out what were the main concerns of the workers and started organizing on that basis. That sort of strategic thinking and commitment to patient implantation is worth emulating today.

    As to the question of the Black Bloc today…accusing them of being police agents is totally missing the point. The debate is around the relationship of militant minority to the mass of radicalizing workers and youth. The left-communist/anarchist/autonomist kids have a lot of guts, but they keep throwing themselves way out ahead of where most other people in the movement are willing to follow. It doesn’t help that they do this without any consultation with the majority and with a real sense of hostility to the idea of democratic accountability. This leads to them getting arrested, isolated and frustrated, or alienated from the rest of the people they should be working with. Contrary to Binh’s assertion, criticizing that has got nothing to do with “democratic centralism”–it’s about how to most effectively build the struggle. That’s why I think Todd C. had it dead right in his SW article on the events in Oakland.

    Finally, while I appreciate the yeoman’s work Binh is doing as a one-man external faction of the ISO, I’m beginning to wonder if his obsession isn’t becoming a little unseemly.

    Comment by James — November 17, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

  38. James, I’m not a one-man external faction. The ISO will remain my point of reference for many years because I was a member for a while and because it proclaims itself to be the “largest” radical/socialist group in the U.S. If you can’t handle the weapon of criticism, you are in the wrong line of work because the ruling class will use the criticism of weapons if the ISO ever becomes something that worries them the way occupy has.

    Todd’s point was that the Traveler’s Aid action was a mistake partly because it did not go through the G.A. Do you agree with that or not James?

    Most of the actions taking place in the occupy movement do so “without any consultation with the majority” and the sooner we get our heads around that fact and plan our strategy and tactics accordingly, the better.

    Comment by Binh — November 17, 2011 @ 7:16 pm

  39. “Starhawk:does, however, buy into …”

    In fairness, that piece you linked to was dated November 20, 2001, i.e. a whole decade ago. Is there something more recent as a reference? The piss-poor character of Black Bloc tactics should be clearer to someone today than perhaps it was for early beginners in activism in November 2001.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — November 17, 2011 @ 7:17 pm

  40. Starhawk is not that bad:

    Lack of agreements and lack of accountability leaves us wide open to provocateurs and agents. Not everyone who wears a mask or breaks a window is a provocateur. Many people clearly believe that property damage is a strong way to challenge the system. And masks have an honorable history from the anti-fascist movement in Germany and the Zapatista movement in Mexico, who said “We wear our masks to be seen.”

    But a mask and a lack of clear expectations create a perfect opening for those who do not have the best interests of the movement at heart, for agents and provocateurs who can never be held to account. As well, the fear of provocateurs itself sows suspicion and undercuts our ability to openly organize and grow.

    full: http://starhawksblog.org/?p=675

    But there’s something equivocal about it, I’m afraid. Anyhow, I was far more interested in her take on affinity groups than what she thought about vandalism.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 17, 2011 @ 7:33 pm

  41. Binh, if you were a member then you know we deal with much harsher criticism than anything you’ve brought to the table. It just seems a little odd that you chose to lead the group many years ago but make most of your web-based political interventions in terms of what the ISO is or isn’t doing. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.

    And yes, I agree with Todd, for exactly the reasons I outlined above. I think unity in action is the best way to raise the level of struggle, confidence, and consciousness in the movement as whole, whereas the “advanced actions” of an unaccountable minority often have the opposite effect. Not always, but often. The GAs, if they could be strengthened and reorganized in some way, could be a vital part of building such unity. There’s a lot of work to do on that score.

    I’m actually quite sympathetic to folks in the autonomist/left-communist current–much more sympathetic than Louis and other commentators on this blog. I have a lot of friends in that milieu, people I think of as comrades, as I’ve spent many hours debating with them over the last couple of years in particular.

    I’ll repeat here what I said above: the question is how the militant minority can best relate to the broader forces in the movement. At the moment the debate gets framed in the moralistic and basically liberal terms of “diversity of tactics” and “autonomy of action.” That’s all very well, but the question is whether it actually *works*.

    Comment by James — November 17, 2011 @ 7:46 pm

  42. This isn’t about Binh, so let’s put the gratuitous sniping away.

    “Todd’s point was that the Traveler’s Aid action was a mistake partly because it did not go through the G.A. Do you agree with that or not James?”

    And had it gone through the GA, (as it claimed to do, as I reported before) it would have been a much bigger mistake.

    Comment by Matt — November 17, 2011 @ 8:41 pm

  43. Direct action has been an essential part of the movement, and will remain so, with all the contradictions that it presents. But there is a way to go about it with some intelligence, which the Traveler’s Aid Society action lacked. But, as Binh has said, you can’t get away from the learning process of trial and error, so we can only hope that the learning process overcomes any short term political setbacks.

    Comment by Richard Estes — November 17, 2011 @ 8:54 pm

  44. Black Bloc tactics are counteproductive.

    I’ve previously stated that Occupy needs some fine tuning, but we must bear in mind the movement is still in its infancy.

    Just look at what’s going on today at 5 p.m. with Occupy NYC and that should tell you the movement is definitely not waning.

    All hell is breaking loose in NYC today and it’s a good thing.

    Go Occupy NYC.

    Comment by Deborah Jeffries — November 17, 2011 @ 10:24 pm

  45. Now the main point: I’m not particularly worried that the revolutionary Marxist left is not leading this movement *right now*. This is totally predictable when one steps back and takes into account the objective (and subjective) reality of the past 70 years, internationally and in this case, the U.S. Internationally we’ve had the oppressive existence of “Stalinism” in all its variants, together with the historic failure of the revolutionary alternatives, whether Trotskyist or “State-Cap”, to overcome the Stalinist dominance, degenerating into a sect “doppelganger” caricature of its opponent, for reasons that cannot be gone into here. Nor do we need to, for as I never tire to repeat: the era in which all of these legacy groups were formed IS OVER.

    In addition to these “subjective” problems, there has been in the case of the U.S. the truly objective problem of the real non-revolutionary character of its working class since the beginning of the postwar. Over the longer term history of the U.S. working class, this last period has been exceptional in the formation of a very substantial privileged layer or caste, compared to other countries, of a profoundly conservative, and subsequently pro-capitalist, pro-imperialist working class. One particular source of this social conservatism has been the fact of mass worker landownership, so that the United States was the site of the historic appearance of a caste of worker landowners, of *worker landed property*, owners of land necessary for the reproduction of their labor power. This caste in turn hegemonically dominated the U.S. working class as a whole, in the ideological form of the “American Dream”, and even extended itself as a conservative caste to other privileged working classes such as in Western Europe and especially Japan. It is a caste status officially acknowledged and blessed in the government statistics, where the BLS CPI classifies owner occupied housing as a “capital asset”, rather than a wage good expenditure. Of particular note is that this caste could live rent free once the mortgage was paid off – and it should be noted that even now some 30% of owner occupied homes are owned free and clear in the US – meaning that these workers shared in the rent distribution of surplus profits like any other landowner as described by Marx in Vol III of Capital.

    What does this have to do with the OWS? Refer again to my comments on marxmail on the otherwise cynical, philistine slam of OWS by Michael Neumann on Counterpunch http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/11/16/love-those-occupiers/ Neumann hinges himself on a germ of truth as described above. If this was the youth movement of the 60’s and 70’s, Neumann would be correct. But what is ignored is the process of the gradual decomposition of this conservative caste since the end of the 1970’s. Accelerating with each passing decade, in a process whose relevant details also cannot be covered here, the decomposition has since 2008 reached a qualitative inflection point that is beginning to crack the ideological hegemony of this caste within the class, hitherto having remained intact through previous crises. Not accidentally, then, the 2008 crisis broke upon precisely the primary economic basis of this caste: owner-occupied working class housing. Now, how about loving *those* “occupiers”? Nor is it accidental that OWS features a focus on “occupying spaces”, as if acolytes of the theories of David Harvey (hardly an anarcho-syndicalist), as this movement has had ties from the beginning to resistance to the mortgage banker foreclosure drive impacting workers. To Neumann this is just the same old anti-banker, anti-foreclosure of ancient American folklore; but he does not see that this is *not* the same old working class of the 19th and early 20th century. Any mass entry into the class struggle by *this* working class will be for all intents and purposes, new and fresh and without historical precedent.

    Therefore contrary to Neumann, I think the road is open, and will widen – as this has been a long term process of decomposition of the caste, it did not just emerge yesterday and is not a ephemeral phenomenon – for OWS and any other such movement that can focus correctly on this historic process. That is why now Oakland was the site of a “larger working class mobilization than the revolutionary Marxist left has ever led in the last 40 years” (paraphrased), though having been in attendance on Nov. 2nd, if that was a working class, then it was mostly made up of *young* workers 😉 That is, I don’t think substantial sectors of the working class have yet mobilized into the breach created by OWS, though Oakland was a move in that direction. Our revolutionary Marxist time has not come yet, though it may come sooner than we think; now is the time to organize ourselves for what is to come; and yes, doing so in a fresh, innovative way in regards to tactics and operational strategy.

    -Matt

    Comment by Matt — November 17, 2011 @ 10:26 pm

  46. [@#41 James said: “I’m actually quite sympathetic to folks in the autonomist/left-communist current–much more sympathetic than Louis and other commentators on this blog. I have a lot of friends in that milieu, people I think of as comrades, as I’ve spent many hours debating with them over the last couple of years in particular.”]

    ——————————————————————————————————————–

    On the contrary James, I think you’d actually find that most of us here, even Lou, are also “quite sympathetic to folks in the autonomist/left-communist current” because they tend to be class conscious proletarians who like us, are more often than not AGAINST the vandalistic tactics of the black bloc being counterproductive insofar as they tend toward bad mojo & police riots.

    I too “have a lot of friends in that milieu, people I think of as comrades” but virtually all of them, particularly the anarchist minded youth 20 & 30 years younger than me, have a distinct aversion to the mindless violence & vandalism associated with one-off provocations & masked property destruction.

    It’s no accident that virtually every country except for the US & its Protectorates celebrates May 1st as May Day in honor of the publicly hanged anarchist martyrs of 1886 in Chicago’s Haymarket Square, who IMO were more than likely set up by agents provocateur, that is there’s a damned good chance the police set up the “incident” while one of their agents actually did the deed.

    I’d argue that the left in general, and the old left in particular, greatly underestimate the Chomskyesque anarchist sensibilities of the IWW thriving amongst today’s anti-corporate/globalist youth currently leading the OWS movement’s worldwide.

    In the age of instant communications this is a worldwide movement. This movement is therefore quite capable of changing the world. There hasn’t been an opportunity like this for the world’s toilers since WW1 (the war to end all wars).

    Contrary to the critics from both the Marxist left (relatively few) and the Reactionary Right (not so few) this convergence of increasing class consciousness combined with increasing capitalist crisis (a Great Depression really) has enormous, even unprecedented, revolutionary potential, particularly since part of the movement’s initial success, not despite but because of the attempt to uphold the values of an organic horizontal organization with no clear cut leadership — still effectively sheds light, via de facto occupations, on the criminal status quo, which is obviously an effective tactic, just now awakening the apathetic masses, that is, the 99%, who’ve now lost most of their incentive for couch potatoism.

    For all the Old Red critics & doubters on the one hand, or reactionary haters on the other, this 2 month old baby named OWS has done more to objectively target (and potentially thwart) this inherently predatory system that now generates most of its non-service industry jobs not from consumer production like automobiles, bicycles, juke boxes or roller skates but speculation on debt derivatives & junk bond paper by a class of crony casino capitalist technocrats bolstered equally by hubris & weapons systems dreamed up by neocons in the Pentagon & the jack boots of militarism which inexorably diverts public resources to owning the funding process of departments in the university system — so that history & humanities personnel starve — while laser guided weapons technology rules.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — November 18, 2011 @ 2:27 am

  47. Binh’s focus on the ISO makes sense even if he wasn’t a former member. Not because the ISO is the worst or especially problematic, but because its the best of what is out there and they are the ones who could potentially do something. The ISO should welcome criticism, we are going to need a lot more of it if are going to build a healthy mass revolutionary movement.

    Comment by dave x — November 18, 2011 @ 5:56 am

  48. “I too “have a lot of friends in that milieu, people I think of as comrades” but virtually all of them, particularly the anarchist minded youth 20 & 30 years younger than me, have a distinct aversion to the mindless violence & vandalism associated with one-off provocations & masked property destruction.”

    Given what has transpired in the Bloc’s heartland, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the extent to which it is being repudiated by those for whom it purports to act, I suspect that the Bloc is facing an existential crisis. Conversely, the calm that OWS participants show in the face of police intimidation and violence, conducting impromptu assemblies moments after attacks like the one in Liberty Square yesterday, is one of the amazing displays of political maturity that I have ever seen.

    Comment by Richard Estes — November 18, 2011 @ 7:45 am

  49. ish @30: “What world do you live in, Old Red? Do you have actual contact with any Occupy movement….or any actual leftists for that matter?”

    I participated in the Port of Oakland shutdown on November 2 and I participated yesterday in a rally and march in Miami, where most of the participants were immigrants. I explained to a number of those participants what my criticisms are of some of the movement slogans, particularly of “We are the 99%”, and had some good conversations that might have lasted longer if not for the music that drowned them out.

    Comment by Old Red — November 18, 2011 @ 8:21 am

  50. Matt, I missed your report about the action going through the Oakland G.A. Could you post a link to that comment/report? From what I am reading here (http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2011/11/03/18697018.php?show_comments=1) the action was not approved by the G.A. Even if it had gone through the G.A., the tactical details (putting barricades in the streets versus sneaking in and fortifying) probably would not have been discussed or mandated by the G.A. (hopefully not, anyway). Almost none of the marches, intersection blockades, fence topplings, spontaneous attempts to get past the police checkpoint at Wall Street and Broadway that happened yesterday on November 17 had G.A. approval.

    Also, to be clear, I did not expect the Marxist left to lead the movement from its inception (although it would be nice if we really had our shit together and were on-point enough play a vanguard rather than a rearguard role). What bothers me is the refusal to learn from, engage, and understand what the movement is, how it works, and make the necessary adjustments to fit new, unexpected, unique conditions we are now dealing with. Without that the Marxist left is going to remain mostly marginal rather than mostly central to the creation of legions of (young) people who consider themselves revolutionaries and rebels hell-bent on changing the world. The way things are going we won’t lead or significantly influence the movement at *any* stage of its development.

    Comment by Binh — November 18, 2011 @ 2:42 pm

  51. If I made big bucks trading derivatives, you bet I’d want my opponents committing low-level, chump-change property crimes, if only to give cops an excuse to crack skulls, if only to persuade voters to not outlaw what I do.

    Comment by townsendharris — November 18, 2011 @ 3:44 pm

  52. Binh,

    I may have posted that to either an OccupyOakland site, or here, or marxmail, but I do clearly recall the gist of it: it was not a claim that the TAS building occupation was approved by any GA, rather it was to report that the claim was made that a GA had “endorsed” such an action, and that this claim was propagated live on the scene over Dennis Bernstein’s KPFA show that same evening of the 2nd (Bernstein of course being a unwitting as anybody else at the time, including me). That is where I fist heard of this action, and naturally though that OO was extending their tactics to building occupations. The next day it was clear that Bernstein’s unnamed source was (also unwitting or not) spreading disinformation. I definitely found that troubling. That motivated my report.

    Likewise I reported on another now troubling incident in front of the Oakland dock gates on that same evening. The march column, having arrived, well someone decided to do a “mike check”. Keep in mind I have no idea who the people at the scene were at the time. Various statements were made, than someone stated “We have news that a group of Occupy SF are marching to the (Bay) Bridge!” The “mike” discussion then became about whether the Oakland side (us) should join them (!) There was much enthusiasm about the idea, with chants of “On to the Bridge!” arising from the crowd. At that point I had to leave, and the next day discovered that no such thing had ever occurred from either side of the bridge. Later I recalled the Brooklyn Bridge entrapment incident from the early days of the NY OWS, and did a face palm at the sheer idiocy of the whole thing.

    Beyond the GA, the whole syndicalist MO of the Occupy movement is like a made to order petri dish for practicing the arts of police provocateurship. I am no inveterate paranoid, I can get caught up in the enthusiasm like anyone else, and *that* is what is troubling.

    It certainly is a vivid illustration of why political parties exist, if only to filter out the noise. The trick is to come up with, not merely a non-sectarian party, but a consciously *anti-sectarian* party, a science of anti-sectarianism in parallel with the scientific anti-capitalism that defines Marxism. One that will be simultaneously anti-bureaucratic, for bureaucracy and sect have a particular internal relation not yet well understood.

    -Matt

    Comment by Matt — November 18, 2011 @ 6:31 pm

  53. Matt: this is a thorny problem without an straightforward solution. For example, the recovery of the plaza in Oakland after the first early morning raid occurred because a group challenged the police in an attempt to gain reentry to it late that afternoon, despite the objections of others who considered the effort “violent”. After the public response to the police assault that subsequently took place, they were able to retake the plaza the following day and the movement was reenergized. Was that a mistake? By procedural standards, yes, and also to the extent that it may have placed others in harm’s way, but, in terms of the result, it wasn’t. Such a dilemma raises the question as to whether it is realistic for people to expect to be able to engage in radical political action with full knowledge of when there is a prospect of police violence and when there isn’t. Obviously, the answer is no, because the police decide, not those who participate in the movement, as clearly revealed yesterday in NYC. And many in the movement recognize this, hence the emphasis upon planning actions in a calibrated way, as we’ve seen recently in Oakland and NYC, with foreknowledge that the police may prove them wrong. People seem willing to accept these risks when they feel as if they are acting in a collectively political appropriate way, not when the purpose seems to be a conscious intention to provoke the police. The startling thing is that so many appear to willing to do so.

    Comment by Richard Estes — November 18, 2011 @ 7:28 pm

  54. Last night at Foley Plaza in NYC the cops had the rally and later the march needlessly penned in by rows and rows of metal barricades. But several times I witnessed people removing, pushing away, opening, or in one thrilling moment, pushing over dozens of these barricades. It was done where there were a lot more protesters than cops, and nobody got busted for it. While in all instances the cops recovered their ground, I thought all of these were useful displays of resistance without being overly adventurist or “violent.” The movement is not going to militarily defeat the police through counter force, but as reminders of who is in the actual majority I thought these moments of civil disobedience were exemplary and inspiring.

    Comment by ish — November 18, 2011 @ 7:54 pm

  55. Ish is making an essential point. These fucking “veal pens” that the NYPD sets up are an attempt to throttle *all movements*. There have to be challenges to this system all along the line, just as long as they are tactically adroit as seems to be the case here. When I went to the rally last night, I was hanging out on Lafayette Street watching the crowd across the way when a bunch of cops began forcing us to go through their gauntlet to get to the rally, I felt like cattle. If the people around me had fought the cops over this, I would have seen the sense behind it even if it had not been tactically sound. This is a lot different than ritually throwing rocks through Starbucks’s windows.

    Comment by louisproyect — November 18, 2011 @ 8:09 pm


  56. ^- This is Beaver St. near the intersection of Broad Street. Workers are joining the battle with their class muscle, union leadership not withstanding, because of OWS’ leadership.

    Comment by Binh — November 18, 2011 @ 9:07 pm

  57. In case you can’t tell from the footage, they are blocking traffic with the truck. At the intersection itself, hundreds of protesters created their own checkpoint across Broad, something the cops didn’t expect because they had only a small number there, so they called massive reinforcements. When I got there, the garbage truck was gone and protesters and cops were pushing and shoving each other on the curb (the street was clear) while tons of people filmed from across the street where the Duane Reade is located. That’s where I heard the chant, “Wall Street, beware! Liberty Park is everywhere!” As I walked away, hundreds were chanting and drumming in time to, “Get up, get down! There’s a revolution in this town!” Indeed.

    Comment by Binh — November 18, 2011 @ 9:11 pm

  58. “Veal pens” is a very apropo point. There’s something about a mass demo with thousands of people in the streets, particularly at night in Manhattan, that gives off a certain electricity of “revolution in the air” (to use a line from Bob Dylan’s “Tangled up in Blues” song) — but nothing sows more contempt for the system than the NYPD’s tactics of crowd control which trample underfoot the Bill of Rights and the 1st Amendment so crudely & perniciously.

    All power to the people who ad lib ways to snooker these tactics on the fly, which have nothing in common with a handful of masked cowards smashing windows, overturning cars, & lighting tire fires.

    That’s not to say such actions don’t have some legitimacy, like when historically oppressed peoples in Nicaragua, eg, Sandinista youth in ’79 were up against Somoza’s National Guard goon squads, or even more recently in riots from LA to France & England where the downtrodden brown masses took to the streets, but nothing we’ve seen from the largely white bread demos in Canada or the US going back to the WTO protests in Seattle through today’s OWS protests justify such black block stupidity, a dozen or so 20 something white males wearing masks & possibly infiltrated and egged on by police agents, busting up property against the wishes of the vast majority of occupiers trying to harness & focus the energy of peaceful protest toward meaningful structural change.

    Rock throwing masked white boys need to get their asses over to the West Bank & Gaza and learn something from the Intifada before they go fucking up this incipient movement with their misplaced juvenile rage.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — November 19, 2011 @ 1:29 am

  59. I am one of those who criticizes (NOT ‘sneers at’) any demand for jobs that doesn’t specify what kind of jobs, i.e., jobs doing what?, are demanded. Socialists should always point out that having to sell one’s labor power to live is a capitalist, not a human, necessity, and that unemployment and socially destructive labor should both be eliminated by abolishing socially and environmentally harmful work and sharing work that benefits humanity and the biosphere.

    Always keep in mind, and in the public mind, that an activity that is harmful doesn’t cease to be harmful and become supportable because one person pays another person to do it.

    Comment by Old Red — November 19, 2011 @ 7:47 am

  60. This footage is before the sanitation workers helped block the intersection (I think): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFIpAqZJGYQ

    Comment by Binh — November 23, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

  61. Direct action is always the catylist to revolution. It’s an historical fact.

    Comment by Frank bloc — November 24, 2011 @ 4:28 pm

  62. Direct action is always the catylist to revolution.

    What is a catylist? Is that something like Katy’s List, a website for bridal gowns?

    Comment by louisproyect — November 24, 2011 @ 4:37 pm

  63. Wow, what an intellect. You got me on an iPhone typo; and the joke was poor. Give me one example of a non-violent revolution you fucking impotent dinosaur. Mental masturbation is not a particularly effective tactic in perpetuating grass-roots movements of any kind. Answer the question without a loquacious cop out, or a reference to a bridal mag.

    Comment by Frank bloc — November 25, 2011 @ 10:33 pm

  64. All revolutions involve violence. But what does that have to do with a bunch of pimply 18 year olds living with their parents in suburbia vandalizing a grocery store?

    Comment by louisproyect — November 25, 2011 @ 10:41 pm

  65. Hey Kid Frank Bloc. You want to help change the world? Or are you just a police stooge troll plant provocateur?

    If not the latter then do the movement a favor and Google a quick search of Jack Reed’s “10 Days that Shook the World”. He didn’t just pluck that title out of thin air. Of course it’s been a hundred years elapsed but there isn’t that much difference “structurally” between the rancidity of Czarism & the abject bankruptcy of Crony Capitalism in the USA today when it comes to actually delivering a sustainable life to the masses.

    The point is to save & organize any potential violence for the counterrevolution.

    The fact is the Bolshevik’s took power 11/7/17 about as peacefully as it gets.

    Meanwhile if you work to get the American masses in the streets — the police state has a seriously hard time coping with non-violent resistance of the masses and may just collapse like a hissing broccoli plant.

    What does that “hissing broccoli” mean exactly? Well one summer in the early 80’s my girlfriend planted a vegetable garden in the Spring in Ohio and later that summer when she went to harvest this big brocolli stalk, the plant, when she pulled at it, made a loud hiss and then collapsed in a rotten hulk and then released a foul burst of what seemed like a nasty Bhopal gas cloud. That’s right, some kind of pocket in the base of the plant formed a cave full of rotten gasses (undoubtedly organic) that was killing the plant from within and it was all released in a foul burst of poisonous smelling gas rendering the whole plant immediately dead funk

    That’s what OWS is potentially doomed to become if it doesn’t organically form something like “flying squads” (A UAW term born in the heyday of Flint, MI sit down strikes) that regulates violence (just like an embryonic state) to ensure that mass marches, gatherings, sit-ins & occupying sit down strikes are reasonably marshaled enough to thwart senseless provocations & police infiltrated sabotage designed to undermine the movement.

    If you honestly think the Black bloc is the vangaurd future of the OWS then just study the politics of Argentina over the last 4 decades.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — November 26, 2011 @ 1:54 am

  66. I would only add that: “The fact is the Bolshevik’s took power 11/7/17 about as peacefully as it gets. ” is conditioned only by the reality that after WWI the world united bourgeoisie’s opposition to Bolshevik power, the audacity of united organized proletarian & peasant resistance was so extreme & unrelenting that they were compelled to send a coalition of at least 18 of the world’s most well equipped advanced imperialist army legions against the soviets that Stalin ism was almost certainly the inevitable outcome of global class struggle when you consider the autarchy that was the 10 time zones of the USSR in a beleaguered and isolated euro-asian backwater.

    Like Kruschev used to say — there’s plenty of documented American Marines buried on Soviet soil (circa 1919) but how many Red Army soldiers are buried on US soil? — the answer is none.

    With all due respect to contributors like Manuel Garcia Jr., the greatest philosophical crime of a forward looking movement like OWS is to associate Bolshevism with Stalinism — which is something that youth educated in the bourgeois milieu are extremely susceptible to when they rely solely on the commercial media for their worldview.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — November 26, 2011 @ 4:23 am

  67. […] (Second in the series of posts on the black bloc. The first is here: https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/shining-a-light-on-the-black-bloc-part-1-italian-autono…) […]

    Pingback by German autonomen: morality police « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — December 6, 2011 @ 9:24 pm

  68. […] Italian autonomism […]

    Pingback by The black bloc and the Battle of Seattle « Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist — January 11, 2012 @ 8:54 pm

  69. […] para cima ↑ Louis proyect. Shining a light on the black bloc, part 1: Italian autonomism. 15 de novembro de […]

    Pingback by Grupo de afinidade | Acordo Coletivo (Petroleiros, Bancários, Prof de Saúde) — March 5, 2014 @ 1:40 pm


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