Egypt and the Black Bloc

by Darth Nader, @thatkhaleeji on February 24, 2013

Originally posted at DarthNader.net — The emergence of a “Black Bloc” in Egypt on the two-year anniversary of the Egyptian revolution has sparked the interest — and criticism — of many.

Black Bloc’s militant tactics are almost always characterized as “senseless violence” or “violence for the sake of violence.” At best, Black Bloc participants are written off as “insurrectionary Anarchists,” at worst as “stupid kids.” But senseless violence is, in theory, inimical to what Black Bloc tactics stand for.

Black Bloc is not a group of people, but a tactic. In any protest or social movement where a large number of people are participating, nonviolence is usually the preferred mode of struggle. However, given that a social movement has no leaders and no laws on its own, it is up to every individual to decide whether they want to use nonviolent pacifist tactics, or militant (militant not necessarily meaning violent in this context) tactics. Thus, the term “diversity of tactics,” is not, as some liberals insist, code for “let’s use violence.” It is simply an acknowledgement of the reality that in social movements, no discipline can be enforced on any people. The only way to enforce a strictly non-militant nonviolent discipline on people involved in a movement would be through use of violence. This is exactly as ridiculous as it sounds, yet it has occurred on many occasions. On one occasion in Oakland during the Occupy Oakland General Strike, many “nonviolent” participants used physical violence against people engaging in militant tactics, insisting that “the movement must remain nonviolent!”

BBIn essence, no one can enforce strategic discipline in a mass movement. There will always be some prepared to use militant tactics. Black Bloc is simply a way to do this in an organized fashion. People dress in black to safeguard their anonymity, but also to show other participants in the movement that one is prepared to use militant tactics if necessary to protect protesters, and that if some are uncomfortable with these tactics, then they should make sure to keep a safe distance. These tactics should be strategic actions to protect a movement, and not “senseless violence” that attempt to “hijack a movement” and “elicit a harsh police response.” One example of a militant tactic frequently employed by Black Bloc groups is marching at the front of a march with shields to protect protesters from police batons. Black Bloc participants should also, ideally, have an intimate understanding of how the police work and what tactics they use, and therefore be the most most capable of keeping protesters safe. That isn’t to say that they should lead, but rather that they’re best equipped to deal with the threat of confrontation with security forces.

However, a fringe element of Black Bloc participants haven’t always adhered to this role historically. There have been instances where people allegedly participating in Black Bloc have engaged in counter-productive insurrectionist actions (within anarchist circles, these actions are not celebrated and are, in fact, often blamed on police infiltrators aiming to give Black Bloc a bad name). Black Bloc is a tactic, like any other, that if used correctly, can be beneficial, but if done in a chauvinistic manner with little concern for the safety of others, will elicit the contempt of fellow participants in the movement (which is what really counts, as the media will portray the Black Bloc negatively no matter what they are doing).

There is an underlying logic in Black Bloc tactics, which is to facilitate the necessary protection for protestors through the use of direct-action. And there is potential for this logic to be utilized in a way that is beneficial to people engaged in a movement, especially in a place like Egypt, where Ikhwanji’s and police forces alike have shown a willingness to inflict harm on protestors. Although people supposedly participating in Black Bloc can do stupid things, Black Bloc itself is not a stupid, senseless tactic, and should not be written off.

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  • Reza Lustig

    Although to an extent I can believe the Egyptian “Black Bloc” being an exception to the rule (and corresponding to a different political/economic/social situation), I think the author of this article runs the risk of underplaying the harm that such “tactics” can do the mass movement. As Louis Proyect has himself pointed out several times, even if most BB participants are not undercover police provocateurs, they are objectively helping the police state by giving them an excuse to use force. Unlike the obviously bored suburban youth of the American BB (again, I am unaware as to the social makeup of the Egyptian BB’ers), most Occupiers cannot afford to be beaten and arrested; they have jobs (the lucky ones) and families to think about as well.

    In addition, as was seen in the coverage of the “Battle in Seattle,” the BB are a godsend to the corporate press; they are given the opportunity to paint the movement as a whole as nothing but a bunch of black-clad hooligans taking their anger out on grocery stores and fast-food chains.

  • Richard Estes

    “Unlike the obviously bored suburban youth of the American BB . . . . ” Amazing how this myth persists. The BB in Oakland was not “bored suburban youth” as demonstrated on a number of occasions. As I have said elsewhere, there is an urgency towards trying to understand who is participating in the Bloc and why there are doing so. In Oakland, the Bloc appealed to an array of young people across the spectrum of class and race. What motivated them to adopt Bloc tactics instead of alternatives?

  • http://magpie68.blogspot.co.uk Brian S.

    In so far as this tries to deal with general rules for social movements:
    If “black bloc” was a tactic then it should be used tactically – ie in particular specifiable situations for specific objectives. Until someone can tell me what those are I refuse to believe it.
    ” a social movement has no leaders and no laws on its own, it is up to every individual to decide whether they want to use nonviolent pacifist tactics, or militant” That is both wrong and a non sequitur. Of course social movements have leadership – and they certainly should have “laws” – otherwise they are just an inchoate mass. No serious anarchist should argue this -anarchism is not a recipe for rampant individualism, but a belief that leadership, order, discipline, and coherence can be created organically by masses in struggle, and need not be imposed from above or bureaucratic in form.
    The individualist choice of violent forms of struggle is in conflict with a genuine anarchist spirit – it actually prevents the creation and application of organic collective choices: if a thousand people on a demonstration want to make the strategic choice to demonstrate in a non-violent form and 20 others choose to start trashing storefronts, it is the actions of this small minority that will determine the character and dynamic of the protest (which is why it becomes such a happy hunting ground for agent provocateurs) . Any real anarchist would be prepared to use whatever means necessary to prevent them from doing so.
    In so far as we are talking about Egypt:
    As Reza L., says we have to evaluate groups like this in the context in which they emerge. In the case of Egypt, this means an incredibly repressive police order in which its unusual to have large demonstration that isn’t accompanied by a fatality, and in which dominant political groups routinely use thugs to attack their political opponents. The formation of “black block” groups for self-defence of the movement is wholly justifiable, and they represent something very positive in the Egyptian revolution – their committment, militancy, and resolution – which needs to be nurtured and integrated into a movement to push the revolution forward. The tragedy is that the Egyptian political opposition, in almost all of its forms, is no more coherent than they are; and the danger is that their energy will be dissipated in fruitless outbursts.

  • David Berger

    Darth Nader: Black Bloc’s militant tactics are almost always characterized as “senseless violence” or “violence for the sake of violence.”

    David Berger: There’s a reason for this. It is usually impossible to distinguish between BB tactics which are “sensible,” assuming for the moment that such exist, those that are “senseless” and those which are a result of police provocation. Since the Black Bloc does not submit its tactics for consideration by the movements they participate it, it is impossible to make this distinction

    Darth Nader: At best, Black Bloc participants are written off as “insurrectionary Anarchists,” at worst as “stupid kids.” But senseless violence is, in theory, inimical to what Black Bloc tactics stand for.

    David Berger: This may be so, but proclamations declaring the “sense” or meaning of BB tactics do not necessarily justify them. What to BB participants is sensible, may to others appear to be senseless. What you are saying is that the BB should be the judge of its own tactics. This is nonsense.

    Darth Nader: Black Bloc is not a group of people, but a tactic.

    David Berger: Actually, it’s both: a tactic and group of people who tend to favor this tactic. It’s important to realize that BB tactics are foolish (at best) to most people in mass movements (at least in the US), and that it is a small group that keeps bring them up time and again.

    Darth Nader: In any protest or social movement where a large number of people are participating, nonviolence is usually the preferred mode of struggle.

    David Berger: And this is, of course is a tactical issue. Unlike in former days, there are very few people who espouse nonviolence as an absolute. So, the choice to use nonviolence or not is a tactical and, of course, a political question.

    Darth Nader: However, given that a social movement has no leaders and no laws on its own

    David Berger: This is not usually the case, especially as time passes. For example, once Occupy Wall Street was expelled from Zuccotti Park, the groups that survived have begun to develop democratic leadership, which is empowered by its membership to make decisions, especially tactical ones. And this leadership, along with the leadership of other groups, has made such decisions. They are not “laws.” They are decisions democratically arrived at. Facinating that a group of, basically, anarchists, views the democratic decisions of a radical movement to be “laws.”

    Darth Nader: it is up to every individual to decide whether they want to use nonviolent pacifist tactics, or militant (militant not necessarily meaning violent in this context) tactics.

    David Berger: As your previous assertions on leaderlessness is wrong, so is this statement. Once the leadership of a movement is chosen and makes decisions, it’s incumbent on those who participate to carry them out.

    The consequences of not doing this can be illustrated by last year’s May Day march in New York. A small group of people decided that they would not abide by the decisions made by the group that was organizing the march (which consisted of representatives from unions, left-wing groups, immigrant groups and Occupy Wall Street). They insisted on the right to use violence. The result was that the mainstream press concentrated on this small group of a few hundred, taking coverage away from the march itself, which was as many as 30,000 people. In addition, large contingents of immigrants did not march because they were afraid of arrest due to the BB-style tactics that a few insisted on.

    Darth Nader: Thus, the term “diversity of tactics,” is not, as some liberals insist, code for “let’s use violence.”

    David Berger: Actually, it is. In practice, the “diversity” has involved the use of violence. No other kind of diversity is controversial. The May Day demos in New York involved a huge diversity of tactics. It was only the espousal of violence that was a problem.

    Darth Nader: It is simply an acknowledgement of the reality that in social movements, no discipline can be enforced on any people.

    David Berger: Apparently, the notion of self-discipline in a democratic situation is unknown to some people. In addition, movements always involve the use of “marshalls” or some other group that can exert discipline. We’ll be discussing the implications of this below.

    Darth Nader: The only way to enforce a strictly non-militant nonviolent discipline on people involved in a movement would be through use of violence.

    David Berger: Since the Black Bloc has no problem with violence, why should they object to it here? BB members have no problem with putting people in jeopardy or using violence against other demonstrators. Why should they be surprised if such violence is used against them? In addition, we have the very real problem of the infiltration of the BB by cops and their stooges, who love this stuff.

    Darth Nader: This is exactly as ridiculous as it sounds

    David Berger: It’s not ridiculous at all. So long as the Black Bloc is willing to use violence when a democratic decision within a movement has been made not to use it, they should expect such things. It’s the equivalent of scabbing. During a strike, if a person crosses a picket line because their conscience tells them to do it, or, conversely, if they engage in violence when it hasn’t been decided on to use it, they should expect back whatever they get.

    Darth Nader: yet it has occurred on many occasions. On one occasion in Oakland during the Occupy Oakland General Strike, many “nonviolent” participants used physical violence against people engaging in militant tactics, insisting that “the movement must remain nonviolent!”

    David Berger: What they were doing was trying to prevent a movement from being hijacked by people who refuse to cooperate with democratic decisions made by the movement.

    Darth Nader: In essence, no one can enforce strategic discipline in a mass movement.

    David Berger: Yes they can if they’re prepared to do it.

    Darth Nader: There will always be some prepared to use militant tactics.

    David Berger: And they need to be informed that this will not be tolerated, and should they try it, there will be consequences.

    Darth Nader: Black Bloc is simply

    David Berger: There is nothing simple about Black Bloc.

    Darth Nader: a way to do this in an organized fashion.

    David Berger: If the BB is so organized, what is their problem with participating in democratic decision making?

    Darth Nader: People dress in black to safeguard their anonymity

    David Berger: Nonsense. The cops know better than anyone who is doing what.

    Darth Nader: but also to show other participants in the movement that one is prepared to use militant tactics if necessary to protect protesters

    David Berger: More nonsense. The BB actually makes things more dangerous for the rest. Does anyone in their right mind really think that a few dozen people dressed up like Halloween, can protect us from the increasingly heavily armed cops?

    Darth Nader: and that if some are uncomfortable with these tactics, then they should make sure to keep a safe distance.

    David Berger: Actually, it’s the BB, acting undemocratically, that needs to keep a “safe distance,” from demonstrations, like in another county.

    Darth Nader: These tactics should be strategic actions to protect a movement, and not “senseless violence” that attempt to “hijack a movement” and “elicit a harsh police response.”

    Darth Nader: But the fact is that they are all of these things. Unions often employ “flying squads” to protect picket lines. However, these groups are under the control of the union and are only used when a decision is made to use them. If this is what the BB seeks to be, then they need to be under the same democratic discipline that other marchers are under. Or are they too impulsive and immature to do this?

    Point out one occasion since the advent of the Occupy movement where the Black Bloc actually aided and enhanced a political situation. If you manage to find one, and I don’t think you can, I will counter it with a dozen where they were a political hindrance.

    Darth Nader: One example of a militant tactic frequently employed by Black Bloc groups is marching at the front of a march with shields to protect protesters from police batons.

    David Berger: Whether or not that’s a good tactic in another country is open to debate, but in any case, it should be debated and democratic decisions made. For a Black Bloc to take such a decision unilaterally is anti-democratic at best and a provocation to the rest of the marchers and the cops. In the US, such tactics, especially if not democratically decided on, are crazy.

    Darth Nader: Black Bloc participants should also, ideally, have an intimate understanding of how the police work and what tactics they use, and therefore be the most most capable of keeping protesters safe.

    David Berger: This is the height of silliness and self-importance. If BB members have such knowledge, it should be shared in workshops so that people designated have such knowledge and that everyone has at least some forewarning.

    Darth Nader: That isn’t to say that they should lead, but rather that they’re best equipped to deal with the threat of confrontation with security forces.

    David Berger: You’re kidding, right? What you are saying is that a small minority of young people, who may or may not be organized into their own groups, who may or may not have engaged in mutual education, which they don’t seem willing to share, is better able to deal with the cops than an organized demonstration with experienced movement people, marshalls, medical teams, press, lawyers, etc. I’m tempted to say, and I will: “Get over yourselves!”

    Darth Nader: However, a fringe element of Black Bloc participants haven’t always adhered to this role historically.

    David Berger: That’s an understatement if I’ve ever read one. Many of us would say that the BB has never adhered to your fantasy of them.

    Darth Nader: There have been instances where people allegedly participating in Black Bloc have engaged in counter-productive insurrectionist actions

    David Berger: True, and how do you deal with this, except through the auspices of a democratic movement? Beat them up later?

    Darth Nader: (within anarchist circles, these actions are not celebrated and are, in fact, often blamed on police infiltrators aiming to give Black Bloc a bad name).

    David Berger: How, in practice, do you distinguish between the acts of people who are politically crazy and cops?

    Is the Black Bloc prepared to use violence against them? Is the Black Bloc ready to accept the movement as a whole using such violence?

    Darth Nader: Black Bloc is a tactic, like any other

    David Berger: Hardly, as, I think, I have demonstrated. The fact that members of a Black Black are prepared to ignore democratic decision making and, on their own, engage in violence, is quite different from “any other” tactic.

    Darth Nader: that if used correctly, can be beneficial

    David Berger: Again, show me one situation in the US where this was true, and I’ll show you plenty where it was a detriment.

    Darth Nader: but if done in a chauvinistic manner with little concern for the safety of others

    David Berger: Which is exactly what does not happen. The fact that the BB does not engage in democratic decision making with other groups makes this negativity inevitable.

    Darth Nader: will elicit the contempt of fellow participants in the movement (which is what really counts, as the media will portray the Black Bloc negatively no matter what they are doing).

    David Berger: This contempt already exists, for all the right reasons.

    Darth Nader: There is an underlying logic in Black Bloc tactics

    David Berger: There sure is.

    Darth Nader: which is to facilitate the necessary protection for protestors through the use of direct-action.

    David Berger: While this may, and I mean “may,” be true in limited situations in other countries, this is absolutely not the case in the US. The Black Bloc served to disunite the movement, was an inordinate subject for the press and provoked the police.

    Darth Nader: And there is potential for this logic to be utilized in a way that is beneficial to people engaged in a movement

    David Berger: What you are saying is that the only way a movement can protect itself is through an undisciplined, unelected, tiny, anonymous minority. Again, the history of unions in the US, for example, shows other ways that don’t involved role-playing by post-adolescents.

    Darth Nader: especially in a place like Egypt, where Ikhwanji’s and police forces alike have shown a willingness to inflict harm on protestors.

    David Berger: Again, you are assuming that the only defense of a movement lies outside that movement. The situation in Egypt demands a political discussion, not a few surface observations.

    Darth Nader: Although people supposedly participating in Black Bloc can do stupid things, Black Bloc itself is not a stupid, senseless tactic, and should not be written off.

    Darth Nader: Let me say, in response to the above, that any use of BB tactics has to be evaluated by the movement it is supposed to defend, not the Black Bloc. The fact that the Black Bloc refuses to be involved in democratic decision making means that they have to be “written off” so that the movement can grow in self-confidence and strength.

  • http://rdwolff.com Deran

    Oh, dear, I find myself in almost complete agreement with David Berger in this case.

    In Seattle. in 1999, during the WTO protests the Black Bloc acted as “combat engineers”, emergency medics and such. Now Black Bloc is not a protective or self-defense function of mass protests, BB has become the Mary Sweeney Brigade (Wisconsin Death Trip), adoring the sound of breaking glass over integrating into larger mass nonviolent protests in the original role of sappers and engineers. BB has become a subcultural fetish of white suburban youth.

    In Oakland we saw BB in their current form, and they ended up getting their asses kicked by the other Occupiers.

    On the other hand, in Egypt, the mass protests are openly attacked by the state and paramilitaries, BB as angry youth serve the same function as the Ultras did during the initial protests that brought down Mubarak. Does anyone know if the Egyptian BB are former/current Ultras? Even if the Ultras can be soccer hooligans, I trust the authenticity of their willingness to physically fight the forces of the state than I do of the fashionista Black Bloc.

    • http://magpie68.blogspot.co.uk Brian S.

      I think its unlikely that there is significant overlap between the Ultras Ahlawy and the BB. The former are primarily football fans with a strong sense of group solidarity and a common hatred of the police because of the way they have been mistreated.Beyond that they have little political identity. (Binh has documented on the Arab Spring thread how even their more political leaders fell out with opposition demonstrators because they did not support anti-Morsi chants.) The BB on the other hand have much more political awareness: they are explicitly and vociferously opposed to both the (former) regime and the Muslim Brotherhood (although I’m not sure that they clearly distinguish between them).

  • David Berger

    I wonder if this thread needs to be split into a discussion of the Black Bloc in Egypt and the general issue of the Black Bloc?

  • Louis Proyect

    My problem is that I don’t have enough information on the Egyptian black bloc to really comment on their role. I can say that in the early days of the autonomist movement in Germany, the black bloc was very effective at beating back neo-Nazi attacks on immigrants. It is only when it began to try to impose its will on the left that it became a real problem. In any case, I have spent a fair amount of time researching the history of the black bloc, which actually originated in autonomist Marxism rather than anarchism. Comrades can check out my articles here:

    http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/category/black-bloc-idiots/

    If I had it to do all over again, I would have not used the WordPress category “black bloc idiots” but I was really riled up at the time over what was going on in Oakland.

  • Arthur

    Its necessary to organize disciplined groups that can train together to work together in mass protests in ways that strengthen the movements ability to use both defensive violence against police attacks, and where appropriate raise the offensive level of militant confrontation. These may be in direct opposition to marshalls approved by “leaders”.

    The main orientation of such groups has to be immersion in and organization of the mass of protestors. This is directly opposite to the explicitly elitist black block and would result in such genuine groups helping organize the mass of protestors to drive the Black Block out. Any mild tendency towards elitism would require immediate dissolution of such groups as the dangers are so obvious, let alone the utter caricature represented by theBB.

    BTW, although its a separate issue, the “Guy Fawkes” mask adopted by the BB and many others who are not BB is a tribute to the really awful politics of a film explicitly advocating individual terrorism and treating the masses as mere robots to be maipulated (and even tortured) by the “hero”.

  • David Berger

    Arthur: Its necessary to organize disciplined groups that can train together to work together in mass protests in ways that strengthen the movements ability to use both defensive violence against police attacks, and where appropriate raise the offensive level of militant confrontation.

    David Berger: And what political tendency is going to do this. With all due respect, this is ridiculous. What you are positing is independent groups, trained by someone, somewhere, or by themselves, to act as self-appointed defenders of a larger movement and, on their own initiative “raise the offensive level of militant confrontation.”

    Whatever happened to a democratic movement? This is a kind of vanguardism that only lurks in the minds of post-adolescents.

    Arthur: These may be in direct opposition to marshalls approved by “leaders”.

    David Berger: So these actions could put large numbers of people in jeopardy without their consent. It is exactly this kind of adventurism that kept large numbers of immigrant workers away from the May Day march in New York last year. This is exactly the tactics of the Black Bloc.

    Arthur: The main orientation of such groups has to be immersion in and organization of the mass of protestors.

    David Berger: Make up your mind. Either you’re going to be part of a larger movement and its elected leadership or you aren’t. By the way, your rhetoric sounds really silly.

    Arthur: This is directly opposite to the explicitly elitist black block and would result in such genuine groups helping organize the mass of protestors to drive the Black Block out.

    David Berger: Actually, it sounds to me just like the Black Bloc.

    Arthur: Any mild tendency towards elitism would require immediate dissolution of such groups as the dangers are so obvious, let alone the utter caricature represented by theBB.

    David Berger: And how and by who are they going to be dissolved? When are you going to stop this pseudo-30s Third Period stance, as if revolution is a science and you are the guardian of the truth?

    • Arthur

      In the current state of the left in developed countries I am familiar with there is no tendency that coud organize the sort of disciplined groups I described. When there is a left again such issues will arise again. Meanwhile I think it is safe to assume such groups do exist in countries like Egypt. The fight put up against police and their thugs at Tahrir square requires significant levels of organization.

      When there was a (small) mass based left in the 1960s such groups did exist and were highly effective. Their tactics were nothing like the Black Block and, as I mentioned they would have helped organize the forcible exclusion of elements like the Black Block.

      They helped defend protestors, not endanger them. For example people were far more intimidated by risk of arrest and subsequent loss of employment etc than by direct force used by cops (we were not facing use of firearms – only clubs). Often efforts to prevent an arrest would simply result in more arrests for “hindering police” etc etc. “Official” marshalls often acted as less violent auxiliary police rather than helping organize defence of protestors. Disciplined groups were able to take on the spot decisions to either perorm a successful “rescue” or not attempt one at all when it would be unsuccessful. This greatly reduced the numbers of arrests.

      Marshalls appointed by the “official” peace movement dominated by the revisionist “Communist” Party were far from democratic (as is very often the case with trade union officials).

      Two examples of how such groups can be dissolved, from my personal experience in Australia:

      1. At Monash University we briefly had a “Monash People’s Militia” authorised by a mass student general meeting. It was dissolved and replaced by self-defence classes for protestors following a larger referendum of the student body.

      2. WSA (Worker Student Alliance) led by communists was main organizer of militant Vietnam solidariy protests in Melbourne. Associated disciplined groups with regular training were dissolved by their leaderhip when the level of police violence and militant protests started subsiding and people in the groups started showing tendencies to put on elitist airs (imagining themselves to be more important than other activists because they attended secret training).

  • patrickm

    As a mate of mine used to say; ‘if you leave Darth’s argument in the sand box the cat will cover it over’. The only way to enforce a strictly militant yet ‘nonviolent’ discipline on people involved in a movement is through the use of force in self defense and naturally it has occurred on many occasions. Apparently Darth was surprised that ‘On one occasion in Oakland during the Occupy Oakland General Strike, many “nonviolent” participants used physical violence against people engaging in militant tactics, insisting that “the movement must remain nonviolent!”’ the Darth sorts fuck off out of their midst etc!

    Darth and his Black block thug mates think that ‘In essence, no one can enforce strategic discipline in a mass movement’ so therefor he can hide within the mass and then do whatever he likes as and where he sees fit; and so he gets very upset when spotted and shunned and told to fuck off for wanting to do just what he has detailed! Make no mistake Darth, people sure as hell can enforce discipline in their section of the world and physically expel people from their midst who want to use them as cover.

    There will always be some black block rat-bags prepared to use other people – to hide among them – just as any planted provocateur direct from the owning class would – and then spring out and throw their tomato or stone; or use their ever so ‘militant tactics’; so they ought to be identified and dealt with and the earlier the better. Pretending Darth is anything other than a rat-bag to be watched and dealt with as he inevitably seizes his chance to start HIS action is more delusion and a residue of people’s time spent in Neverland.

    When the masses take to the streets people like Darth see the rest of ‘us’ as just stage props for him and his kind to use. If other people are stupid enough to let him use them then good luck to him. Their misfortunes are their own as they get their own share of hard won lessons and they will get them.

    Naturally, most people aren’t prepared to be used by the ‘Protective’ Black Block and prefer to let them hide in the ranks of the pseudo-left where they belong. Both pest formations are bound to turn up and proceed to be marginalized when any mass movement with a genuine future gets going. They get shoved aside and show up in their own ‘no future’ actions.

    Truth is, none of them have troubled the masses very much of late while whingeing about globalization, or parading as Al Gore’s inconvenient ‘scientific’ anti-carbon goon squads, trying to panic people into carbon-taxing their way to more expensive commodities (read lower their real wages). If you are serious about this issue (and 80% of young people that come out of Neverland are) keep your eye open right now on what the Bulgarian people are up to, and what has happened to the green taxing proposals in the Greece; Italian; Spanish; or Irish; context right now. The whole issue is between the rock and hard place where issues go to die! Keep your eye on what the masses in Australia do in 7 months time when they trash a government that introduced this carbon tax.

    Black Bloc wankers should make sure to keep a safe distance from militants who are quite prepared to deal with them if they show up. But as far as I can see they are more a problem and that the other sect style pseudoleft groups have had a problem dealing with. I don’t think they will really trouble the proletariat when the class is forced to move as they have in the last couple of weeks in Bulgaria.

    The big issue in Bulgaria, and this issue is right through the Greek; Spanish; Italian; Libyan; Turkish; Cypriot; Syrian; Tunisian; Egyptian; Palestinian; Lebanese; Israeli; Jordan revolutionary hot spot is cost of living, and lack of employment and the struggle for more democracy.

    Large numbers of the proletariat (especially as they leave universities, schools and trade training institutes of one sort or another) can’t find a buyer for their labouring power that is on offer. These countries now have fully 50% plus of youth unemployed and huge levels of underemployment. The people in the street are there because unemployment is high and growing. That is THE issue, and it is not going away.

    Actions against the Black Block participants will be to protect any movement, and not senseless violence that attempt to hijack their black block movement that they are always most welcome too. They must be forced by isolation to elicit a harsh police response only to themselves and not be permitted the safety of the ‘herd’, which is exactly the way they feel about anyone who actually maintains a solid discipline when they are preparing to (usually throw stones from our midst) spring from our midsts and then run back to shelter among us etc! They hold us in contempt as we do them and we must not take any pity on them and make excuses for them when they get what is coming to them in the form of arrests and court appearances.

    One example of a rat-bag tactic frequently employed by Black Bloc groups is marching at the front of a march. Black Bloc is game playing of the worst kind. Real movements like those in Northern Ireland, and Palestine deal with Black Block fools, and have never been short of militancy or rock throwing and street fighting as required.

    As if radical democrats can’t tell clowns who would want to hide within our midst and use us as shields and cover for them to have a little bit of useless ‘sport’ with the cops! Protect us demonstrators indeed! Anyone that has been involved with the post 9/11 anti-war demonstrations, the anti-carbon green movement and anti-globalization junk is not best equipped to deal with the threat of confrontation with security forces at all.

    • Louis Proyect

      Now there’s something you don’t see every day. An anti-BB rant mixed with global warming denialism. In fact the only time I’ve seen such an amalgam in the past was from Alexander Cockburn except he was pro-BB.

  • http://magpie68.blogspot.co.uk Brian S.

    We need to recognise that these are indeed tactical matters (although I don’t think that the BB treats them as such) and that there are different left traditions on their adoption, usually conditioned by different experiences of state repression. Much of the continental european left has faced a “hard state” for several generations, and they have indeed responded – often quite successfully – in the way Arthur summarises (interesting to hear that this tradition had spread to Australia, even if rather ephemerally). I think the BB is largely a reflection of this tradition. But such things don’t travel very well – as the US Spartacist League discovered in the 70s when they turned up in London with a squad outfitted in crash helmets and carrying 3 ft staves: people though they were some sort of comedy spoof.
    As I’ve said above, Arab Spring protestors have excellent reasons for following the European model.

    • Arthur

      There was more such disciplined combat capable organization in the USA in the sixties than in Europe or Australia.

      The mentality of the Black Block would be more like the (terrorist) Weathermen or Symbionese Liberation Army (but caricatured).

      As for earlier traditions, the German “Red Front” paramilitary had about 130,000 members in 1929.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotfrontk%C3%A4mpferbund

      Outside Europe the Chinese red army was much larger.

      More recently Nepal’s paramilitary Young Communist League had more than half a million (cf about 300,000 in party and about 20,000 in People’s Liberation Army).

      • http://magpie68.blogspot.co.uk Brian S.

        What are you referring to in the USA?

      • David Berger

        Arthur: There was more such disciplined combat capable organization in the USA in the sixties than in Europe or Australia.

        David Berger: I … don’t think so. Name them.

        Arthur: The mentality of the Black Block would be more like the (terrorist) Weathermen or Symbionese Liberation Army (but caricatured).

        David Berger: Probably so.

        Arthur: As for earlier traditions, the German “Red Front” paramilitary had about 130,000 members in 1929.

        David Berger: No parallel. This was the paramilitary arm of a mass partyl, not a bunch of trick or treaters who forgot that Halloween was over.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotfrontk%C3%A4mpferbund

        Arthur: Outside Europe the Chinese red army was much larger.

        David Berger: Again, a false parallel. Without getting into sectariana, the Red Army was an army 0f national liberation led by the Maosists.

        Arthur: More recently Nepal’s paramilitary Young Communist League had more than half a million (cf about 300,000 in party and about 20,000 in People’s Liberation Army).

        David Berger: Again, a false parallel. These were components of a national liberation army. (It’s instructive that as the Maoists have become the capitalist party of Nepal, the have dissolved the PLA and disarmed the YCL.)

  • David Berger

    Arthur: In the current state of the left in developed countries I am familiar with there is no tendency that coud organize the sort of disciplined groups I described.

    David Berger: In addition, there is good reason to believe that the formation of such groups should be undertaken with great care. You formulation is rigid and invites the notion that such groups exist or that such knowledge has already been developed.

    Arthur: When there is a left again such issues will arise again.

    David Berger: Yes, but the utmost care must be exerted. Your formulation, as you stated it in your original posting, is cocksure and carries a distinct know-it-all air: as if such knowledge already exists, which it does not.

    Arthur: Meanwhile I think it is safe to assume such groups do exist in countries like Egypt. The fight put up against police and their thugs at Tahrir square requires significant levels of organization.

    David Berger: I’ll leave that to people who are knowledgeable about Egypt. It would be useful for such people to comment. My personal impression is that the defense groups in Egypt did not seem well organized.

    Arthur: When there was a (small) mass based left in the 1960s such groups did exist and were highly effective.

    David Berger: Such groups did not exist in the USA. If they did exist: (1) I would know about them; (2) their existence would have been rejected by the mass movements that existed.

    Arthur: Their tactics were nothing like the Black Block and, as I mentioned they would have helped organize the forcible exclusion of elements like the Black Block.

    David Berger: If you are talking about the US, I have no idea which groups you mean. There were no self-appointed groups that “defended” demonstrations.

    Arthur: They helped defend protestors, not endanger them.

    David Berger: Like I said, I can’t recall any instance of this in the US. As to the Spart group mentioned elsewhere, I never heard of them. For a group to appear like that at a demo in the US would be asking for arrest. Groups did not engage in violent confrontations with the cops back then. It would have been virtual suicide.]

    Arthur: For example people were far more intimidated by risk of arrest and subsequent loss of employment etc than by direct force used by cops (we were not facing use of firearms – only clubs). Often efforts to prevent an arrest would simply result in more arrests for “hindering police” etc etc.

    David Berger: I gather you are talking about Australia.

    Arthur: “Official” marshalls often acted as less violent auxiliary police rather than helping organize defence of protestors.

    David Berger: This may well be true, and I have often been frustrated by the conservatism of the marshalls of demos I’ve been on. However, in general, I am opposed to groups unilaterally breaking out on their own. On one of the first demos I was ever at, a group engaged in unilateral action (blocking an avenue), and the cops used this as an excuse to charge the crowd on horseback. Several people were hurt. This was irresponsible.

    Arthur: Disciplined groups were able to take on the spot decisions to either perorm a successful “rescue” or not attempt one at all when it would be unsuccessful. This greatly reduced the numbers of arrests.

    David Berger: I’m sure there are isolated situations where such can be done. However, again, at this stage of the game, I trust the marshalls more than any
    Black Bloc.

    Arthur: Marshalls appointed by the “official” peace movement dominated by the revisionist “Communist” Party were far from democratic (as is very often the case with trade union officials).

    David Berger: All true, although in the US it was the Orthodox Trots who were often the marshalls. However, the decisions as to the nature of the demos were made by coalitions of groups. In general, they were democratic. Even so, again, most Black Bloc activity can be termed adventurist. We are dealing with politics here.

    Arthur: Two examples of how such groups can be dissolved, from my personal experience in Australia:

    1. At Monash University we briefly had a “Monash People’s Militia” authorised by a mass student general meeting. It was dissolved and replaced by self-defence classes for protestors following a larger referendum of the student body.

    David Berger: Are you talking about (a) a “militia” to defend the cops violently against the cops and (2) training students for violent self-defense against armed cops? If you are, that’s crazy.

    Arthur: 2. WSA (Worker Student Alliance) led by communists was main organizer of militant Vietnam solidariy protests in Melbourne. Associated disciplined groups with regular training were dissolved by their leaderhip when the level of police violence and militant protests started subsiding and people in the groups started showing tendencies to put on elitist airs (imagining themselves to be more important than other activists because they attended secret training).

    David Berger: You have just described what, basically, is wrong with the Black Bloc: It is undisciplined (fantasies to the contrary); unelected and unnecessary.

    I notice that Darth Nader has so far failed to reply to any criticisms of his post.

  • Arthur

    I just referred to “disciplined groups” in Australia. I doubt that people involved in or aware of similar groups in the USA would give them a specific name either. “Unlawful Drilling” has been a serious crimnal offence since Chartism and has subsequently rarely been conducted publicly or identifiably.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chartism

    It should be obvious from the intensity of Vietnam era police violence in the USA that such organizations were needed and existed. Trots were quite insignificant in the US Vietnam movement and more likely to act as “Marshalls” in very tame protests. You would not become aware of the functioning of such disciplined groups as a result of association with Trots.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Day_Protests_1971

    Incidentally the highest level of such organization was among GIs and resulted in widespread mutinies, fragging of officers etc

    You certainly won’t find much literature from insiders naming or describing how that was organized internally. But here’s an outsider’s description of the resulting collapse of the US Army that is well worth understanding:

    http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/Vietnam/heinl.html

    Certainly the German “Red Front” and Chinese and Nepalese military and paramilitary organizations were connected with much larger mass revolutionary parties. But although it was very much smaller and less developed, a mass based revolutionary tendency did exist in the USA sixties and so correspondingly smaller and less developed defence and combat organizations also existed.

    As I have said repeatedly the Black Block are a caricature in direct opposition to this tradition.

    • http://magpie68.blogspot.co.uk Brian S.

      Arthur your sectarian ignorance of the US anti-war movement is glaring. The only groups of the type you describe I ever encountered in association with the antiwar movement were the Weathermen – and they were not concerned with protecting the mass movement but substituting for it. The reason that the “Trots” of the US SWP were so prominent in marshalling the antiwar demonstrations is that they were a key component of those organising them. While they may have been “tame” they brought hundreds of thousands out onto the streets of US cities and were an important force in containing and eventually terminating the war .
      There was very little “organisation” of GIs in Vietnam (for obvious reasons) – but a great deal of spontaneous discontent. What coordination there was was mostly the work of the “Trots” who were among the few (if not the only) left organisation to encourage their members to accept the draft and enter the army. There was of course an important movement of returning Vietnam veterans, in which the Trotskyists played a significant role.
      A similar story could be told of the role ofthe Trotskyists in most European countries.

      • Arthur

        Follow the links before commenting.

        “There was very little “organization” of GIs in Vietnam (for obvious reasos) – but a great deal of spontaneous discontent. What coordination there was was mostly the work of the “Trots” who were among the few (if not the only) left organisation to encourage their members to accept the draft and enter the army.”

        This conclusively demonstrates such complete ignorance as to make any response to your other claims about knowledge of the US sixties movement superflous. One could only get that impression from relying on Trot histories, not from being around at the time.

        Though I also can’t help mentioning that they weren’t at all like the Weathermen or the Black Block so you wouldn’t “encounter” them unless you were part of them. You can see their existence from the level of actual organzed resistace to police attacks.

        As mentioned in the article on “The Collapse of the Armed Forces” there were about 150 regular underground GI newspapers linked through a GI press service. We used to help distribute some of them to GIs on R&R in Australia and there was nothing remotely Trot about the ones I saw. The article even mentions a law office in Saigon for the numerous court martials. They were so organized that fresh troops (and Australian troops) were segregated from those already in country who were already fragging their officers and flatly refusing to fight. A few were even fighting for the “Viet Cong” and not many units ignored the underground press advice to play loud music on their transistor radios whenever forced to “patrol” in the jungle as required by Vietnamese liberation forces to provide warning and indicate lack of desire for “contact”.

        If you want to catch up actual history of the US sixties movement, some primary souces are available:

        http://microformguides.gale.com/Data/Download/9151000C.pdf

        • http://magpie68.blogspot.co.uk Brian S.

          @Arthur – you have a short memory, otherwise you would recall that I have been around just as long as you and that the facts I cite I know from first hand (or second hand in the case of frontline Vietnam, from friends who were there).
          You also appear not to read your sources very closely – otherwise you would see from your link that two members of the Student Mobilisation Committee steering committee were from the SWP/YSA.
          From one academic history of the movement: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=IJrzaNOjjzwC&lpg=PA41&dq=the%20spitting%20image
          “The relationship between the anti-war movement and the Vietnam-era soldiers and veterans was galvanized during 1969. The two organisational elements in that chemistry were the GI movement and Vietnam Veterans Against the War. The impetus for a GI movement against the war came as a result of the involvement of the Socialist Workers Party in the anti-war movement. The SWP and its youth affiliate the Young Socialist alliance were opposed to the war but viewed draft resistance as futile and class-biased. The YSA was very influential in the Student Mobilisation Committee.”
          And from another:
          “GIs united against the War was one of the outstanding examples of GI organizing by left wing groups. Led by (Fred) Halstead the SWP committed considerable effort to promoting anti-war sentiment in the army. The Student Mobilisation Committee also influenced by the SWP created contacts between the civilian and military anti-war movements. Andrew Pulley, one of the Fort Jackson Eight (threatened with court-martial for anti-war activities), became a prominent SWP member …”
          http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_Spitting_Image.html?id=IJrzaNOjjzwC

          • David Berger

            This pretty much corresponds to my recollections and experience below. Let me reiterate the point of contention against Darth Nader: There were, in the USA during the 1960s, no significant organized groups, GI or civilian, that engaged in, or even advocated, any kind of violent actions against the police.

  • David Berger

    Arthur: I just referred to “disciplined groups” in Australia. I doubt that people involved in or aware of similar groups in the USA would give them a specific name either. “Unlawful Drilling” has been a serious crimnal offence since Chartism and has subsequently rarely been conducted publicly or identifiably.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chartism

    David Berger: There were no such “disciplined groups” that I know of in the US that got beyond tiny sects with revolutionary fantasies. As to “unlawful drilling,” in the US you can march or drill all you want.

    Arthur: It should be obvious from the intensity of Vietnam era police violence in the USA that such organizations were needed and existed.

    David Berger: Having been in the teeth of activity during the “Vietnam era,” I know of no such underground groups that were organized to confront police violence with violence. They did not exist.

    Arthur: Trots were quite insignificant in the US Vietnam movement

    David Berger: Which goes to show how little you know about that movement. The SWP (US) was perhaps the largest left-wing entity in the antiwar movement. And they frequently provided marshalls.

    Arthur: and more likely to act as “Marshalls” in very tame protests.

    David Berger: Almost all anti-war protests in the US were “tame.” The movement was, by and large, nonviolent. To carry batons, etc., to a demonstration was not done. In New York, for example, placards could not, by law, even be held up with wooden sticks. They were either held in hand or with hollow cardboard tubes.

    Arthur: You would not become aware of the functioning of such disciplined groups as a result of association with Trots.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Day_Protests_1971

    David Berger: If you read the above link, you will find no evidence of violence against the police. In fact, it was the police who engaged in violence with no “fighting back.” The tactics of the May Day Tribe involved blocking traffic. Any attempt to use violence against the cops and the military would have been met with overwhelming counter-violence. The fact that the government had to pay demonstrators fines for violation of rights is precisely because the demonstrators were not violent.

    And, by the way, are you Trot-baiting me?

    Arthur: Incidentally the highest level of such organization was among GIs and resulted in widespread mutinies, fragging of officers etc,

    David Berger: There was no evidence of wide-spread “organized” mutinies, fragging, etc. Such things did exist and did happen, on a small scale, but they were not the result of the activity of organized groups. And we have come a long way from your assertion that there were groups involved in confrontations with police.

    Arthur: You certainly won’t find much literature from insiders naming or describing how that was organized internally. But here’s an outsider’s description of the resulting collapse of the US Army that is well worth understanding:

    http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/Vietnam/heinl.html

    David Berger: Do you really want to use Grover Furr, an apologist for Stalin, as a source? In any event, it would take days to unravel what is written in the link. That the US military was at the point of collapse is true. That it was the result of organized groups is a dubious proposition at best. And to speak of “soviets,” as Furr does, is laughable. In any event, whatever organization there was in the military had little or nothing to do with the civilian antiwar unit and was not involved in overt antiwar activity.

    Arthur: Certainly the German “Red Front” and Chinese and Nepalese military and paramilitary organizations were connected with much larger mass revolutionary parties. But although it was very much smaller and less developed, a mass based revolutionary tendency did exist in the USA sixties and so correspondingly smaller and less developed defence and combat organizations also existed.

    David Berger: There was no “mass based revolutionary tendency” in the US as Marxists understand it. I was in the thick of left-wing political activity through the entire 60s. Would that such a tendency existed. And no defense or combat organizations existed, unless you want to count groups like the “Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers.” (I kid you not: such a group existed on the Lower East Side in New York.)

    Arthur: As I have said repeatedly the Black Block are a caricature in direct opposition to this tradition.

    David Berger: The Black Bloc is bullshit. But to compare it to a nonexistent revolutionary movement in the US is politically dishonest.

    • Arthur

      David, your claim that the article “THE COLLAPSE OF THE ARMED FORCES” by Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr. in the Armed Forces Journal, 7 June, 1971 is not a credible source because “Grover Furr” is an “apologist for Stalin” would be a suitable excuse for Trot baiting you if I was inclined to it. But to be fair to Trots your pathetic argument suggests illiteracy rather than any political tendency.

      Your account of US anti-war protests is likewise hallucinatory. Unlike Europe or Australia the level of organized resistance to police violence in the USA went well beyond what the police could cope with. Nixon had to mobilize another division of troops to occupy US campuses when he sent some divisions into Cambodia.

      In the student strike of 1970 more than 450 university, college and high school campuses across the country were shut down by student strikes and both violent and non-violent protests that involved more than 4 million students. 30 ROTC buildings went up in flames or were bombed. There were violent clashes between students and police at 26 schools and National Guard units were mobilized on 21 campuses in 16 states.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Student_Strike_of_1970

      Brian,

      Nobody would suggest that Trots were underepresented in the writing of academic histories.

      Nor would anybody suggest that Trots have not made a point of attempting to tke over the national committees of various coalitions.

      Nevertheless neither activity has reflected much influence on the ground.

      For example the role of YSL in SDS, which was of rather greater significance than the Student Mobilization Committee, was basically manning a literature stall alongside many other such groups at SDS conventions.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Students_for_a_Democratic_Society

      The COINTELPRO book you cite has a whole chapter on the SWP, presumably because documentation was obtained as a result of the SWP law suit against the FBI. But the other chapters of the same source make it perfectly obvious that others were far more significant.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/COINTELPRO

      • http://magpie68.blogspot.co.uk Brian S.

        Much as I hate to gainsay what are obviously the cries of a drowning man -
        The YSA never took part in SDS – by political choice. So your Wikipedia link is irrelevant – Except:
        If you’d kept reading the article you would see “In the spring of 1968, National SDS activists led an effort on the campuses called “Ten Days of Resistance” and local chapters cooperated with the Student Mobilization Committee”.
        You’d also have seen that the SDS was of no significance in the huge anti-war demonstrations that took place from November 1969 onwards for the simple reason that it didn’t exist: it had split violently into the two RYM factions in June 1969 , losing most of its membership in the process. The anti-war mobilisations were were organised by a series of ad hoc mobilising committees in which (as your microfilm index confirms) the SMC (and the SWP/YSA) were major players. I don’t know what you’re talking about with regard to COINTELPRO – I haven’t cited any book on this; but noticeably the only group mentioned in your Wikipedia article in the context of targetting the anti-war movement is – the SWP!
        I think its time you gave up on this one, Arthur – Your just going to dig yourself into a deeper hole.

        • Arthur

          Sorry I must have opened a window to Ward Churchill’s COINTELPRO book myself from a google search (eg on SWP and Vietnam). I wrongly thought only 1 of your two links was “The Spitting Image” and this was the other one:

          http://books.google.com.au/books?id=DFlIcxsGUEIC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Ward+Churchill+cointelpro&hl=en&sa=X&ei=KjguUav0LIiPkAXjroGwCw&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA

          All 3 major SDS factions were much more significant than SWP/YSL.

          BTW the mention of two YSAers in the minutes I linked to was because of discussion about excluding them. But you are right that I didn’t actually read the document. It was intended as just a pointer to the existence of primary source archives (which are also available for the GI underground, the civil rights movement etc) from which one could get a more objective perspective on the significance of Trot groups in the Vietnam movement than from the memoirs of Fred Halsted.

          Of course you would not find any minutes of disciplined groups in such primary sources, and hence are also less likely to find references to them in academic histories, because such groups do not keep written records. The ones in Melbourne certainly did not and I don’t think they have been referred to in relevant literature.

          I am curious as to how either of you would explain the US government calling out the armed forces given how heavily armed US police are. If the opposition the police faced was so peaceful, and unorganized as claimed why couldn’t the police maintain control without the Army?

          • http://magpie68.blogspot.co.uk Brian S.

            @Arthur. The Google version of the Churchill book only contains the introduction and the notes – neither of the chapters on the SWP and the New Left – so how you can draw any coclusions from that is beyond me. You say “All 3 major SDS factions were much more significant than SWP/YSA”. But significant in what respect? I’d certainly like to know what you see as the signficance of RYM I/Weatherman and RYM II?
            Just to remind you, this started as a discussion about the role of different political forces in the GI anti war movement and the mass anti war movement. If your claim is about that it is nonsense – which is of course why you haven’t been able to find a shred of evidence to support it.
            David’s claim about the 1970 campus protests being generally peaceful is not just his – your own Wikipedia source states “For the most part, however, the protests were peaceful — if often tense. ”
            I’m not sure what you’r referring to when you talking about the “armed forces” being called out. Do you mean the National Guard? They are generally at the disposal of the State Governor who can call them out at the drop of a hat, often as a political statement or for intimidation or just sheer bloody mindedness. Read Wikipedia’s account of the Kent State massacre to see what it toook to get the National Guard called out there.

            • Arthur

              1. Google version of COINTELPRO book allows access to most of it, including both chapters on SWP and New Left – follow links for about this book and preview to see more convenient interface than the scroll bar:

              http://books.google.com.au/books?id=DFlIcxsGUEIC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

              2. See above for comparative significance.

              3. Vietnam protests were “generally peaceful” in Europe and Australia too. Some were not and there were far higher levels of police violence and consequently also of resistance to police violence in USA than elsewhere.

              4. Earlier in this thread you acknowledged that “Much of the continental european left has faced a “hard state” for several generations, and they have indeed responded – often quite successfully – in the way Arthur summarises…”

              http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=6830#comment-34451

              Now you are claiming BOTH that the “hard state” in the US produced no such response from the American left AND that the SWP was central to the American left. These claims are closely related and fall down together.

              5. In support of your sudden switch mid-thread you are also quibbling about the National Guard and claiming that the use of the armed forces was not a response to the police being overwhelmed – and that well after my link on the 1968 Washington riots which confirmed:

              “On Friday, April 5, the White House dispatched some 13,600 federal troops, including 1,750 federalized D.C. National Guard troops to assist the overwhelmed District police force.[2] Marines mounted machine guns on the steps of the Capitol and Army troops from the 3rd Infantry guarded the White House. At one point, on April 5, rioting reached within two blocks of the White House before rioters retreated. The occupation of Washington was the largest of any American city since the Civil War.”

              6. This is getting close to the level of David Berger’s “apologist for Stalin” and I really lose interest in further discussion.

              • http://magpie68.blogspot.co.uk Brian S.

                1.Nope – not in my part of the world. But I doubt it matters.
                2.Nothing in your comments about the significance of the SDS factions
                3.If you think that police violence was higher in the US than in Europe you’ve never met the CRS.
                4. The “hard state” was a big shock to white, middle class kids in the US in the 60s: one of the reasons Weatherman developed as it did (as they readily acknowledge.) The European left had grown up with it. (I remember being puzzled why a Belgian comrade who joined us in Canada brought a bag of marbles to a demonstration.)
                5. I didn’t “switch mid-thread” – I was just politely trying to figure out what on earth you were talking about. It was you who switched from a discussion about anti-war demonstrations to throwing in something about a ghetto uprising. I also know more about that than you do (although Detroit not Washington) and David has already answered you capably.
                6. me too

                • Arthur

                  1. Strange.
                  2. See above referred to item 1, ie COINTELPRO book. BTW in case its relevant, there were 3 major factions in SDS and WSA in Melbourne got its name and some of its ideas – certainly including (unsuccessful) attempts to encourage activists to be drafted (and perhaps also disciplined groups for demos) from the WSA faction that had majority at the SDS split convention.
                  3. I’ve never met the CRS (and never studied the level of violence in France or elsewhere in Europe apart from Britain). Didn’t have the impression they were shooting people as happened in USA. Did they?
                  4. Same in Australia (and I would have thought Britain also, though my impression was it didn’t get as heavy there and consequently no disciplined groups similar to elsewhere)?
                  5. Ok, let’s not call yours a “switch mid-thread” (my reference to ghetto uprisings was admittedly widening the topic but not “switching”. I was referring to your earlier agreement that such groups were formed in continental Europe and Australia and to me puzzling belief that similar (but much heavier) factors to Australia and Europe in USA would not result in same response. That’s better described as “puzzling” than as a switch.
                  6. Yes, lets agree that this topic is exhausted.

  • Arthur

    BTW the discussion has focussed on Vietnam related protests. Its also worth noting that groups like the Black Panthers were armed and that Vietnam stuff in the US followed on from the civil rights movement. The 1968 riots affected 110 cities with Federal troops, not just National Guards deployed because the police were overwhelmed. Armed police do not get overwhelmed entirely “spontaneously”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Washington,_D.C._riots

    Also, worth mentioning. The claims that violence was either purely spontaneous or from fringe elements like the Black Block are closely connected to sectarian conceptions of how politics is organized. The sort of disciplined groups I mention arise from the actual requirements of the struggle and are merged with it, helping to organize it in the same way that non-sectarian political organizations help raise the level of other aspects of the struggle. The underlying mass movement has to actually be there or such organizations, unlike poliical sects could not function at all. But purely spontaneous activity either results in higher levels of organization or dissipates or gets diverted and/or crushed.

  • David Berger

    Arthur: BTW the discussion has focussed on Vietnam related protests. Its also worth noting that groups like the Black Panthers were armed.

    David Berger: Yes, they were armed, to a certain limited extent. However, their arms were defensive. And the result of their being armed is that many of them were killed by the police. I repeat, there were no organized groups in the US that undertook violent offenses against the police or the armed forces over the issue of Vietnam.

    Arthur: and that Vietnam stuff in the US followed on from the civil rights movement.

    David Berger: Yes, the Vietnam actions followed the civil rights movement, but the civil rights movement was nonviolent.

    Arthur: The 1968 riots affected 110 cities with Federal troops, not just National Guards deployed because the police were overwhelmed.

    David Berger: This is true. But it did not stem from the civil rights or black power movements, except indirectly.

    Arthur: Armed police do not get overwhelmed entirely “spontaneously”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968_Washington,_D.C._riots

    David Berger: The uprisings in the black communities were spontaneous, and no one has ever been able to show otherwise. If you know of evidence to the contrary, post it. I am sure that after the risings began there was organization, but I know of no documentation, nor did the organization that took place continue later on.

    Arthur: Also, worth mentioning. The claims that violence was either purely spontaneous or from fringe elements like the Black Block are closely connected to sectarian conceptions of how politics is organized.

    David Berger: The problem is that that is way it happened in the US in the Sixties, as has been shown over and over again. You keep on asserting that there were clandestine, organized groups that were dedicated to violent protest. Prove it by evidence, not assertion.

    Likewise, the violence that occurred in and around the Occupy movement was also carried out by fringe groups, like the Black Bloc.

    Arthur: The sort of disciplined groups I mention arise from the actual requirements of the struggle and are merged with it, helping to organize it in the same way that non-sectarian political organizations help raise the level of other aspects of the struggle.

    David Berger: The problem is that such groups do not exist. And if they have ever existed, you have not demonstrated it with any kind of proof. Instead, you have been continuously blowing smoke and shifting the goalposts.

    Arthur: The underlying mass movement has to actually be there or such organizations, unlike poliical sects could not function at all.

    David Berger: And since such a revolutionary movement has never existed in the US, likewise such groups have never existed.

    Arthur: But purely spontaneous activity either results in higher levels of organization or dissipates or gets diverted and/or crushed.

    David Berger: I guess so. Some examples of “higher levels of oganization” would be nice. Another alternative is that the groups you describe become underground sects or cults of violence like the Baader-Meinhoff group.

    In any event, getting back to the orginal point of all this, it is obvious that the Black Bloc is a useless growth on various mass movements, lacking discipline, program or strategy. It’s gratifying to note that it has disappeared in the US. In my opinion, it’s appearance in Egypt is a sign of defeat, not victory.

    • Arthur

      We are agreed concerning the Black Block.

      As for the rest, simply repeating yourself adds nothing while your failure to correct your “apologist for Stalin” stuff after it was demolished confirms the futility of arguing with you about anything.

      Since you cannot even admit you were wrong about that, why should I assume that there are people reading what you say who take it seriously enough to beworth refuting. You certainly don’t take your own claims seriously.

      • David Berger

        Arthur: We are agreed concerning the Black Block.

        Dvid Berger: Cool.

        Arthur: As for the rest, simply repeating yourself adds nothing while your failure to correct your “apologist for Stalin” stuff after it was demolished confirms the futility of arguing with you about anything.

        David Berger: Not cool. You have tgotally failed to make any case for the existence of clandestine, ongoing groups in the USA who engaged i9n violent attacks on the police. Neither in the US among civilians, nor in the armed forces, did such groups exist to any signficant degree.

        You might have mentioned, as an example, the Symbionese Revolutionary Army, which did correspond to your description. However, the vast amounts of publicity they received notwithstanding, they were an utter failure politically. Likewise, you might have detailed the few violent confrontations the Panthers had with the pigs. As a politcally strategy, assuming it was a planned strategy and not the actions of few crazies in the organization, it was also a disaster.

        Arthur: Since you cannot even admit you were wrong about that,

        David Berger: Wrong about what? That significant numbers of underground, organized, actively violent revolutionary groups existed in the US or in the armed forces? I’m not wrong?

        That Grover Furr is an apologist for Stalin?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grover_Furr#Stalin_Defense_Controversy

        Arthur: [W]hy should I assume that there are people reading what you say who take it seriously enough to beworth refuting. You certainly don’t take your own claims seriously.

        David Berger: You can assume what you like as to who takes me seriously. Personally, if I were you, I would be worried about who takes you seriously. But please be assured, I take myself and my “claims” quite seriously. I have been around left politics in the USA for a long time. People like me do not “survive” unless we take ourselves quite seriously, indeed.

        • Arthur

          1. Your repetition and quoting creates an appearance that you must have read and and understood what you quote, yet it is obvious that you simply don’t.

          2. I have repeatedly stressed that I am talking about disciplined groups that defend against police violence. Your repeated replies about groups who engage in “violent attacks on police”, Symbionnese Liberation Army reflect deliberate dishonesty, not mere incomprehension.

          3. I linked to an article on “THE COLLAPSE OF THE ARMED FORCES” by Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr. in the Armed Forces Journal, 7 June, 1971. You descibed it as an article by “Grover Furr” discredited as an “apologist for Stalinism”. Instead of taking another look at the actual link you simply repeat yourself with a plaintive “Wrong about what?”. That is so absurdly pathetic that I am quite prepared to believe it must be the result of genuine incomprehension rather than dishonesty. Nevertheless it is the sort of INVINCIBLE incomprehension that I don’t have time to be botheed arguing with. You are simply unable to comprehend the possibility that you could be wrong about ANYTHING and flatly WILL NOT to even follow a link instead of pathetically wondering “Wrong about what?”

          Here again is the link REPEATEDLY described by you as an “apologist for Stalinism” for the benefit of anyone wondering whether I might be a little harsh in regarding you as a total fuckwit simply not worth arguing with.

          http://msuweb.montclair.edu/~furrg/Vietnam/heinl.html

  • jim sharp

    david berger
    arfur lad paints himself as an “epimarxian”
    who don’t know he’s as dead dodo thus
    he replaces marx’s old aphorism that says
    when one stop struggling you’re dead for all that
    with his own silly aphorism you’re not worth
    arguing with as if winning arguements
    changes wage-slavery struggles for all that
    but then the lads cerbrals have been ossifying since 1968

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