The following was written by J. Sakai in response to the G20 “debate” on the left in the hot summer of 2010:
The biggest problem with the “Mr. Black Bloc Has Fun in Toronto” debate, is that it’s so unrealistic. More like the two-dimensional scenery “flats” on school theatrical stages.
Take the cardboard, conspiracy-nut assumptions being used, apparently without any thought at all. Like, that the police are all-powerful and can easily snuff out hundreds of black-masked anarchists in the middle of many thousands of other protesters and bystanders on crowded streets, any time they wish just by snapping their fingers. Or the assumption that if the police did back off from sending major detachments after boys and girls wearing black, it could only be for one reason – as a propaganda maneuver against the Anti-Globalization mass hiking expedition. And Ritch Wyman of “International Socialists” knows all this because he can think just like the top police commanders. Cardboard assumption piled on top of cardboard assumption.
The simplest possible reason why the police let the Black Bloc test the tensile strength of store windows and the barbeque-ability of porkmobiles, isn’t that its an assignment for Consumer Reports. It’s that intercepting and capturing/shooting down anonymous people in black ( headline: “Editor of Vogue Tasered By Police, Dies”) in the middle of tens of thousands of marchers and onlookers and others, is a big mess. Potentially far more costly politically than it’s worth. Remember what it cost the capitalists politically when Italian police shot and murdered just one protester? That’s why the Darkest Duds hide out amidst and pop in and out of the big crowds on hike-around-the-city day.
That’s why when the Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA championship a few years back, the cops moved out of the way and let the “rampaging” basketball fans trash rows of parked cars, outside, including cop cars, as well as generally smash into stores and run riot. Same with Montreal in 2008, as we all know, when the police stood back and let not four but eleven cop cars get torched in the “hockey riot”, after the Canadiens won the Stale Cup. Were those all sinister police conspiracies, also?
This may be shocking to the white collar middle-class world, but not in the real world. Tactical episodes only have meaning within the larger scope of political factors, and on the larger terrain of the political-military battleground as a whole. In the class war, as in all other wars, the battleground is a large, constantly-changing area partially obscured by “the fog of war”. In which no side has infinite resources and perfect position. And in which risks are made and mistakes and surprises are always happening to the combatants. In which events are guided not only by tactical decisions and limitations, but by mistakes and unforeseen developments offstage.
In this real world we actually live in, there’s tons of things that the capitalist state tries to stop and cannot. Or wants to stop but can’t find a cost-effective way to. As we all know. And there are many decisions by the most powerful capitalist “brain trusts” that are complete blunders. Like the “can’t wipe your own ass” wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. So these are the folks who are incapable of not shooting themselves in the foot in Baghdad, too dumb to live, but who are suddenly so clever “geniuses” in Seattle and Toronto? Not too likely, i’d bet.
By the way, even if the Toronto big cheese of police gave a tv interview, where he shouted at the top of his lungs, “I CONFESS, WE GIVE THE BLACK BLOC A PASS TO USE AS PROPAGANDA AGAINST THE ANTI-GLOBALIZATION MOVEMENT!”, that doesn’t mean that their smash and run tactics aren’t working. After all, we aren’t guided – or, at least, most of us aren’t guided – by the police commanders about anything else. This is an interesting truth, although inconvenient to some theatre critics.
If we go into the capitalist counter-insurgency history, where the facts are on the table, we can see this kind of strategic gambit over and over. Like when the old Russian Czarist secret police made the strategic decision to have “legal marxism”. Individual marxists were still being arrested for specific illegal acts, but for a space marxism as a political current and the teaching of marxism were legalized. Since to the state, their real destabilizing danger seemed to be the popularity of terrorist assassinations of high officials, done by anarchists and the left social-revolutionaries. Lenin and what became the Bolsheviks benefitted greatly by this temporary “free pass” for marxism, which in retrospect most capitalist police would agree was an overly-slick big mistake. Or the many years that the Zionist political police gave “free passes” to Hamas, awarding them early prison releases and the right to conduct fund-raising, covertly helping islamic-right activists in a strategy to counter what seemed like the much greater threat of the PLO and secular radicalism… That didn’t quite work the way they thought. That’s what struggle in the actually-existing world is like. Grow the fuck up.