AN OPEN LETTER
TO THOSE INVOLVED
IN THE BLACK BLOC
The anti-globalization movement has brought with it an increase in public confrontations with those in power. Of course, anarchists have been there. One of the tactics anarchists have used in these situations is that of the black bloc. I am not interested in going into a thorough discussion of the effectiveness of this tactic or discuss its merits as an anarchist practice. Rather I want to deal with a somewhat troubling recent development that has made its appearance in discussions about the black bloc. In the Summer/September 2001 issue of Barricada and in the October 2001 issue of Tute Nere there are articles discussing the tactics of the black bloc. This is certainly not surprising, nor is it uncalled-for after two years of regular summit demonstrations as well as other demonstrations in which black bloc participates were involved. What bothers me is the direction in which the examination of the black bloc has gone.
It has been said over and over again that the black bloc is not an organization, but a tactic. The organizational framework in which it has operated has been the affinity group (or at least, the small group of friends—each such group can decide for itself to what extent to which it has made a determined effort to achieve true and deep affinity). The purpose for wearing black has been anonymity and a visual statement of solidarity not the formation of an anarchist army. I am convinced that this informality has been the real strength of this tactic, providing flexibility and leaving real choice of action in the hands of individuals in relation with others of their choosing. The tactical organization here reflects the aim of a world without delegation or hierarchy, a world where the separation between decision and action has disappeared, at least to some extent.
But the context for which the black bloc was developed and in which it has been used is that of mass street demonstrations, often involving attacks against the symbols of the state and capitalism and pitched battles with the police. It was, of course, inevitable that some would start to raise the question of how to better coordinate black bloc activities. Unfortunately, this question has been raised without first dealing with more fundamental questions which would effect it and which I feel should not be ignored or given second place by those seeking to develop a specifically anarchist revolutionary practice. I would assume that very few if any anarchists would say that the defeat of the police in street battles is the central aim of anarchist struggle. Nor, for that matter, is the destruction of as much capitalist property as possible (as enjoyable and potentially useful as such destruction may be). Rather these are specific moments in the struggle that can certainly serve important purposes but that need to reflect the greater aim of an anarchist insurrectional project.
Yet in the articles in Tute Nere and Barricada, the questions raised are purely strategic, questions of immediate effectiveness. The greater question of what it is we are really struggling for is lost. And so the solutions brought up involve an increasing centralization and militarization of the black bloc, an embrace of “tactical” delegation and hierarchy. The writer of “The Communiqué on Tactics and Organization…” in Barricada even goes so far as to talk of “elected tactical facilitators” (emphasis mine) and “anarchist principles of tactical leadership” with no hint of irony. The only aim reflected is that of out-maneuvering the police during demonstrations, as if these demonstrations represented the essence of the anarchist struggle. Putting the ideas of this communiqué into effect would transform the black bloc from a tactic taken up by individuals with those they know and trust into a formal and basically military organization. In my opinion, this would itself constitute an immediate defeat of our anarchist aims in our own practice here and now regardless of what improvements there might be in black bloc street maneuvers.
As I see it, the central aim of anarchist struggle is the subversion of existence, the reappropriation of life by each of us as individuals, the creation of our relationships on our own terms free of all domination, all hierarchy, all delegation and every chain of command, even those which claim to be merely tactical, and the destruction of everything that prevents or suppresses these possibilities. Rather than examining our practice first and foremost on the level of tactics and strategies, of effectiveness in battle, our first priority should rather be to examine them in terms of whether they indeed reflect and are therefore capable of creating—not just in the future, but also here and now—our aims. Do they reflect in practice the principle of individual self-determination and the collective struggle for individual realization? Military methods involving tactical leadership are founded on chains of command, that is to say on hierarchy and obedience. As such they are in contradiction with the aims of anarchist struggle.
As I see it, the questions those involved with the black bloc need to be asking is: how do we carry out this specific method of struggle in such a way that it reflects our aims? Can this tactic be effective as a specifically anarchist tactic in the context of demonstrations? If not, then should we maybe consider the other areas of our struggle where we can continue to fight in a way where our practice reflects our aim?
The struggle against this order is the place where we can most completely implement the aims of anarchy here and now. If we give ourselves over to the domination of the strategic, to the ideology of efficiency for its own sake, we have lost what is most essential—what is left of our life. Our anarchy becomes just another political program, and not the life we desire to live here and now. I reject the sad and desperate slogan, “By any means necessary”, in favor of the principle, “Only by those means that can create the world I desire, those means that carry it in their very practice as I carry it in my heart.”