Blockades

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zugzwang
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May 17 2018 20:31
Blockades

http://novaramedia.com/2016/09/21/4-reasons-protesters-block-roads/

What are people's opinions on these types of activities? Still not sure what to think myself. I have nothing against obstructing pipeline construction, or striking railroad workers preventing employers from moving a train, etc. The "foes" and objectives are obvious in those cases I think. (But I also think attempts should be made to minimize discomfort resulting from those actions. The recent WV teachers' strike handled that well, providing meals with schools being closed.) Blocking busy roads however seems like it's targeting workers, and it also feels like that's playing more into the hands of employers who want to keep groups/people divided, and I feel less sympathetic when the people involved have questionable political goals.

Mike Harman
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May 17 2018 22:48

Might be worth retitling this to blockades?

If it's a specific action to block traffic, then it makes sense to blockade in the morning when people are on their way to work, not in the late afternoon when they're on their way back from work (or trying to collect kids from school). That's one way to put the disruption on the economy rather than people's own time.

zugzwang
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May 18 2018 11:01
Mike Harman wrote:
Might be worth retitling this to blockades?

If it's a specific action to block traffic, then it makes sense to blockade in the morning when people are on their way to work, not in the late afternoon when they're on their way back from work (or trying to collect kids from school). That's one way to put the disruption on the economy rather than people's own time.

That makes sense I guess. I'd still rather have the drivers/workers consciously doing that however.

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dark_ether
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May 21 2018 23:16

There is a trade off, all protest is going to inconvenience someone, somehow. Very probably a member of the working class. How they react to that inconvenience will of course vary immensely.

Whilst not as severe as a blockade, even the most policed A2B march will create some traffic disruption.

I think general economic blockades of an area / major trafic route, work best as part of an escalation of a long running campaign. Ideally one that has already made enough of an impact that most people already have some idea of what its about, and ideally with many who support it.

The Stimulators analysis of the Quebec Student Strike shows this quite well : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zO9d4ODtP4

zugzwang
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May 24 2018 10:17

I agree about it being a better tactic when it's related to an issue with mass support, in addition to the instances I brought up. As I said I think I'd rather have people "disrupting capital" because they want to and not as an annoyance imposed on them.

And is it really the case that people react positively to being held up in traffic, and does that really win support? Just from watching clips/interviews on YouTube of people being held up (e.g. BLM blockades in UK), that's not the impression one gets; and of the people sympathizing with the issues, most seem against the tactic itself.

I don't suppose anyone here argues that every case of blockading deserves support? For example, two or so people deciding today they'll "disrupt capital" -- or deciding they'll "bring attention" to an issue. So when are these actions legitimate and deserving of support and when are they not? When does it also cross the line (do we actively prevent people from passing)? I don't like the part of the Novara piece where they try linking themselves to Rosa Parks, making it where nobody can disagree with whatever they do.

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R Totale
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May 28 2018 20:11

I think I might have said this before, and I appreciate that the Invisible Committe isn't to everyone's tastes, but you might find "Power is Logistic - Block Everything" interesting here, along with "Blockading the Port is Only The First of Many Last Resorts" - but see also the critical discussion following that piece.
I can't really put my opinions on the subject into a coherent form, but it's kind of "something something, most effective tactic available to those who're outside of the waged workplace and so can't affect capital by withdrawing their labour directly, as in Argentina, something something, important because the current configuration of capitalism puts such a high emphasis on the circulation and transportation of commodities", if that makes sense? But maybe someone who understands capitalism better than I do will come along and contradict me on that second point.

zugzwang
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May 29 2018 03:41

I've never heard of the Invisible Committee. I appreciate all the links, but I don't think they help me that much.

I.C. wrote:
If they got inside, even the most fervent conspiracy freaks would find nothing arcane there; the truth is that power is simply no longer that theatrical reality to which modernity accustomed us.

I realize individual capitalists and politicians are not the issue, being part of a system where they're forced to act "selfishly" (to not be steamrolled by the competition) or "corrupt" (to have successful careers) and so on.

I'm not against disrupting the order of things, through blockades or other means. When blockades are used in worker struggles against employers I think they're particularly effective. I don't like the idea of small groups of people targeting or "punishing" average people whenever they feel like it, though. Novara's activities don't sit well with me, and I'm not convinced by the arguments in their support. There are issues besides those raised by BLM (the Novara article is a response to criticism of a 2016 BLM blockade). Should we have small groups carrying out "daily blockades" to draw attention to all these issues or what?

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R Totale
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May 29 2018 20:10

I guess the difficulty is that I tend to be less-than-convinced by arguments about disruption and public support, because transport workers' strikes are always very disruptive, and I think we'd always tend to support those even if the actions aren't that popular with "the general public". Let alone other stuff like health workers' strikes and so on. More broadly, our lives and reproduction are so tied up with capitalism that it's difficult/probably impossible to ever disrupt capital without also having a huge effect on people's lives. So do we always support that disruption if it comes from workers taking strike action, but not if it comes from road blockades? It's a tricky one, imo - I guess I kind of come down on the side of "always support" or at least "might argue for other tactics a lot of the time, but wouldn't condemn", but am not totally sure about that.

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jef costello
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May 29 2018 20:19
zugzwang wrote:
II don't like the idea of small groups of people targeting or "punishing" average people whenever they feel like it, though.

Do you have any examples of this?
I just received an email threatening staff if they don't enter grades at my workplace. I don't think we can be dismissed but they imply that we can be. Some people have refused to enter grades, some have been entering high, identical grades for every student. I handed mine in because I didn't realise this was happening. So the argument would be that teachers are punishing these stuents by witholding their grades. Which is true to an extent. But it is in protest at a law designed to cut access to university and make the system even more elitist. So many of the students who are inconvenienced today are the students who won't have this opportunity in the future. IT's great when an action onmy affects the bosses, for example if strikers close a coffee shop and all of the customers go to a rival. But life isn't that simple and blockades are a way for people who have less, or not power to create and economic stike participate in class struggle and defend their interests. I agree with what Mike said about scheduling road blockages to screw over bosses rather than workers, although you could also argue that making people late for work punishes them because some employers will dock wages.

Mike Harman
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May 29 2018 20:28

Just remembered I wrote this a while back about blockades and transport strikes: https://libcom.org/news/scuttle-shuttle-lyft-strikes-blockades-22062017

zugzwang
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May 30 2018 02:50
R Totale wrote:
I guess the difficulty is that I tend to be less-than-convinced by arguments about disruption and public support, because transport workers' strikes are always very disruptive, and I think we'd always tend to support those even if the actions aren't that popular with "the general public". Let alone other stuff like health workers' strikes and so on. More broadly, our lives and reproduction are so tied up with capitalism that it's difficult/probably impossible to ever disrupt capital without also having a huge effect on people's lives. So do we always support that disruption if it comes from workers taking strike action, but not if it comes from road blockades? It's a tricky one, imo - I guess I kind of come down on the side of "always support" or at least "might argue for other tactics a lot of the time, but wouldn't condemn", but am not totally sure about that.

I would hope strikes are carried out competently enough, not just "letting the public suffer" so that workers might win a small concession. Is a modest pay increase or change in the workplace really worth a few patients dying? If patients are forced to seek more expensive treatment as a result of a strike, wouldn't that just shift the burden to them? (That's not the strikers' fault of course - but I think support should then be extended to them as well. I guess I'm against the idea of isolated struggles, certain workers only looking out for their interests.) I think those are things to consider when planning a strike, be it wildcat or not. The West Virginia teachers' strike is a good example of not letting the public suffer (and there are arguably better ones).

zugzwang
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May 30 2018 01:45
jef costello wrote:
Do you have any examples of this?

I think small groups deciding when people get to drive their vehicles (in the name of "economic disruption" or of "highlighting an issue") is kind of punishing them in a way, and also pretty random. Not to downplay the importance of the issues (depending on what it is), but I'm not entirely convinced deliberately making other people's lives more difficult is the way to go. (It sort of reminds me of harassing/"punishing" people for purchasing Nike because of their use of sweatshops.) I still don't understand all the "intricacies" and rules of blockades of the Novara type.

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R Totale
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May 30 2018 20:29
zugzwang wrote:
I would hope strikes are carried out competently enough, not just "letting the public suffer" so that workers might win a small concession. Is a modest pay increase or change in the workplace really worth a few patients dying?

Oh yeah, I agree, but I think it's worth being very aware that no matter what happens, any effective disruption will always be portrayed as letting the public suffer. Like, the doctor's strike a few years back was very much against the running down of the NHS, and so in defence of patients' interests, and they were still careful to provide emergency cover so no-one would die as a result of the strike - which the government and media then spun as being a failure of the strike - "look how many doctors are at work", as if they were breaking the strike and not deliberately carrying out duties that the strikers had agreed would be provided.

Quote:
If patients are forced to seek more expensive treatment as a result of a strike, wouldn't that just shift the burden to them? (That's not the strikers' fault of course - but I think support should then be extended to them as well. I guess I'm against the idea of isolated struggles, certain workers only looking out for their interests.) I think those are things to consider when planning a strike, be it wildcat or not. The West Virginia teachers' strike is a good example of not letting the public suffer (and there are arguably better ones).

Yeah, I agree that's a good way to go. But, as a counterpoint, a few years back in the UK there was a one-day teachers' strike in the UK where one kid who wasn't in school died in an accident in the park, and the Daily Mail tried making it out to be the teachers' fault because if the kid has been in school she wouldn't have had the accident. Which is obviously nonsense, on a par with saying that school shootings are teachers' fault for not going on strike and letting schools stay open, but it does go to show again that... I kind of think "don't disrupt the public" can't be a rule we live by, because any action, even the most totally innocuous, will always be painted in the worst possible light.

As a sidenote, just saw this today (not asking you to agree with the politics of the Defend Afrin demonstration, just thought it was an interesting look at how the tactics of something like this can play out in practice):

Quote:
After this the demonstration dispersed and Plan C members left Parliament Square, when police made a targeted arrest of a leading member of the Kurdish youth assembly and another who came to their aid, an action undertaken, according to a cop (number FH152), because they ‘failed to provide a name and address’. This was a blatant tactic to intimidate Kurdish youth and their allies, and to prevent their militancy on actions and demos. The attempt completely backfired when community members of all ages and their allies, including Plan C members, went to Charing Cross station and blockaded the road outside, preventing all vehicles from moving (apart from an ambulance and volunteers delivering food to a homeless kitchen), turning back an unmarked police car, three squad cars, and two vans including one carrying militarised officers with handguns and submachine guns.
zugzwang
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May 30 2018 22:01
R Totale wrote:
I kind of think "don't disrupt the public" can't be a rule we live by, because any action, even the most totally innocuous, will always be painted in the worst possible light.

I agree. I'm not against disruptions. The predictable outcome of any disruption is what should be considered, e.g. patients dying (and that's a pretty obvious cause-effect). I don't argue workers should avoid an action because of how business-influenced media might portray them.