Are 'anarchist blocks' on demos worthwhile?

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Devrim
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Sep 16 2006 07:23
Are 'anarchist blocks' on demos worthwhile?

There was talk on another thread of having an anarchist block on a demonstration in Manchester. I can see that this has some advantages, but I am not totally convinced that it is the right approach.

I think that one of the best things that you can do on demonstrations is to interact with other people. We give out leaflets (which isn't the same as in the UK. Few groups do it, and people are actually eager to take them as opposed to Britain where you can collect quite a large amount of recyclable paper), and try to talk to people. I am not saying that having a block on a demonstration isn't a good idea. I am saying one of the most important things about a demonstration is to communicate with people, and possibly a bloc isn't the best way to do it.

Devrim

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Joseph Kay
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Sep 16 2006 07:31

yeah the danger is a block just draws a line around a subculture ... but as you know leafletting demos in the UK is often a lot of energy for very little return, so at least a block creates a visible anarchist presence, and there could always be leaflets for the curious/gawping bystanders etc grin

Pilgrim
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Sep 16 2006 08:38

It isn't tactically safe if your group is planning any sort of action, either.

I was on the Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh during the G8 and the 'Black Bolc' stood out a mile.

They were all dressed in black, carrying red/black and black flags and masked up.

The result was that they were immediately obvious to the police and were followed around all the time.

If you're planning any sort of action around a demo then you want to blend in in one's and two's and disperse yourselves, only meeting up when necessary at some agreed point.

Standing out in the open is only good for two things, one is to act as a distraction, the other is if a highly visible presence is needed.

There is the issue of solidarity, in that folk can feel more secure in large groups, but it's bad tactics to troop around in one single block sticking out like a bunch of sore thumbs, IMHO.

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JDMF
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Sep 16 2006 09:24

hey is this a humorous thread? I mean if there is a "block" it does by no means remove the interaction, leafletting, talking etc. I think Devrim you are thinking from the point of view of ICC numbers that there are only half a dozen of us and we would all need to do our utmost to intervene wink

We have a joint leaflet by AF and solfed produced for the event which will be distributed and at least this time we will have a visible identity which differentiates us from the swp types.

hey in the end of the day, it is fairly impotent leftist activism, but it should be a great day out of talking to people, networking, good convo and a laugh. Oh and there is a peace demo as well in the process wink

Steve
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Sep 16 2006 09:31

If any silly sod intends to come 'masked up' then stay away from me!

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Devrim
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Sep 16 2006 09:41

To JDMF

JDMF wrote:
hey is this a humorous thread? I mean if there is a "block" it does by no means remove the interaction, leafletting, talking etc. I think Devrim you are thinking from the point of view of ICC numbers that there are only half a dozen of us and we would all need to do our utmost to intervene wink

No, it isn't meant to be humorous JDMF, nor is it meant to be a criticism of your block in Manchester. I was actually talking from our point of view, and yes we will be able to get about half a dozen people on demos. We do actually have slightly more, but some people will always be working etc, and it is only slightly. On last years Mayday demo (which I wasn't at as ı was working) there was talk from the anarchists, and the autonomists of making a block together. We thought it was more important to mingle, and give out leaflets.

Of course it is connected to numbers, and 'demo culture' in particular countries. Here people will take leaflets, and also the 'party blocs' are more off putting than in the UK.

I just thought that it was something worth discussing rather than for people to just automatically assume that it is a good thing.

Regards,

Devrim

knightrose
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Sep 16 2006 11:30

I think it is worth having a block. There's a lot of alienation from the SWP at the moment. It gives us a chance to make our presence obvious - we're reckoning 50 or more people. We've done a joint Manchester AF/Solfed leaflet and are producing a special issue of Resistance for the event - which will be on af-north.org tonight,
We should be seen and heard. Don't forget that many people on this demo probably will not be trad leftists.
Anyone masked up can just fuck off though.

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Sep 16 2006 12:07

It depends on how you view anti-war demos, IMO.

I see it as more of a show of solidarity with the victims of war, rather than a form of action in itself. In which case, it's a good idea to have a visible presence on the march, one which is distinct from the trots.

Plus all those red and black flags in one place will look really fucking cool wink

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Sep 16 2006 13:42
madashell wrote:
Plus all those red and black flags in one place will look really fucking cool ;)

Plus I love seeing the looks on the faces of old SWP comrades. I left the Manchester group without actually telling them and just turned up at the next demo with some anarchos. grin

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Sep 16 2006 13:57

*shifty eyes*

Caiman del Barrio
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Sep 16 2006 15:45

No it's completely useless and redundant. I honestly don't see what function is has, other than from an aesthetic point of view. But then, I'm pretty unconvinced as to the worth of participating in the anti-war movement.

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Devrim
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Sep 16 2006 16:53
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
No it's completely useless and redundant. I honestly don't see what function is has, other than from an aesthetic point of view. But then, I'm pretty unconvinced as to the worth of participating in the anti-war movement.

I can understand your feelings about the anti-war movement, Alan. However, it is an opportunity to meet with, and put our ideas across to people, and as such I will be on the next demonstration here arguing the same tired old left communist line.

Devrim

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Sep 16 2006 17:59

It's nice to have both.

Anarchist blocs are a good way of showing some visible strength (even if we are mostly weedy twats), telling the world that we exsist, in other words a big public advert for anarchism. Just need to keep the masked up fuckers away, as they're a very bad advert for anarchism. And yes, we need to have people mingling with the rest of the crowd, spreading our ideas.

Caiman del Barrio
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Sep 16 2006 18:06
Devrim wrote:
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
No it's completely useless and redundant. I honestly don't see what function is has, other than from an aesthetic point of view. But then, I'm pretty unconvinced as to the worth of participating in the anti-war movement.

I can understand your feelings about the anti-war movement, Alan. However, it is an opportunity to meet with, and put our ideas across to people, and as such I will be on the next demonstration here arguing the same tired old left communist line.

Well I understand your praxis, but let's be frank, outside of the SWP and various reactionary religious organisations, there is no "movement". There is a general anti-war feeling throughout every stratum of society, but only a tiny minority of those who don't "believe" in the war bother to show up to the demonstrations. So why should this sort of activity be focused around these tiny, insignificant demonstrations? Seems like more ghettoisation to me.

I'm doing some anti-war stuff of a very different kind focused around the various radical liberal student publications that poison my student union. More on that when I get round to it.

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Sep 16 2006 18:48
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
There is a general anti-war feeling throughout every stratum of society, but only a tiny minority of those who don't "believe" in the war bother to show up to the demonstrations. So why should this sort of activity be focused around these tiny, insignificant demonstrations? Seems like more ghettoisation to me.

i dont think this is true. There has not been an anti-war demo this size in Manchester before, and as a consequence i hear from my workmates how they are going to go, and at my gym a bunch of the powerlifters are going to come. So while majority will be some kind of politicos, we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

plus, it will be a good day out and chance to catch up with friends grin There will be about 20 odd sol fed members i think so we get a chance to catch up and plot the master plan to set up combatting anarcho syndicalist union in this country wink

Caiman del Barrio
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Sep 16 2006 19:00
JDMF wrote:
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
There is a general anti-war feeling throughout every stratum of society, but only a tiny minority of those who don't "believe" in the war bother to show up to the demonstrations. So why should this sort of activity be focused around these tiny, insignificant demonstrations? Seems like more ghettoisation to me.

i dont think this is true. There has not been an anti-war demo this size in Manchester before, and as a consequence i hear from my workmates how they are going to go, and at my gym a bunch of the powerlifters are going to come.

Have you had a hand in that perchance? If so, why? I mean, I've persuaded plenty of friends and acquaintances to go to, amongst other things, anti-war demos, only to profusely apologise for the entire day for all the things that are clearly wrong with it. I mean, if we accept the complete futility of peaceful demonstration, why are we encouraging people with legimitate anger about the status quo to release their angst this way?

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Sep 16 2006 19:11

actually i wasn't the one getting the idea in their head. The powerlifter dudes have never been to a demo, so lets see if they dare venture out on that day. I did however prep them already about how a demo like that doesn't change fuck all, and got into good discussions on what would make some change. I still hope they will come and perhaps learn a thing on two on the day.

And to answer your question: one reason why we do release the legitimate anger this way is that we are so unorganised that we cannot offer anything but empty words about alternatives.

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jef costello
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Sep 16 2006 23:51
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
I'm doing some anti-war stuff of a very different kind focused around the various radical liberal student publications that poison my student union. More on that when I get round to it.

I'm intrigued. Let me know if you need a hand.

Caiman del Barrio
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Sep 17 2006 01:16

Oh it's honestly nothing, barely even worth a mention. It's more of a way of just bringing me pleasure by unleashing my vitriol on deserving targets.

JDMF - so basically, chances are that they'll either go and hate it, or go and feel it was worthwhile and get dragged into a useless, neverending cycle of protests and liberalism (or, worse, Trotskyism wink). What is stood to be gained from that? Moreover, why do you conflate organisation and anti-war demos?

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Sep 17 2006 08:26
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
JDMF - so basically, chances are that they'll either go and hate it, or go and feel it was worthwhile and get dragged into a useless, neverending cycle of protests and liberalism (or, worse, Trotskyism wink). What is stood to be gained from that? Moreover, why do you conflate organisation and anti-war demos?

hey man, you are too young to be that cynical!

The fact that they come out shows political interest, it is an opportunity to talk politics, learn, exchange ideas and thoughts - much like these stupid one day strikes, on all three that i have been involved in have been utterly useless, but fantastic opportunities to talk, network, learn and what not. A good day out IMO, and i would not recommend anyone not to participate.

Basically the situation is this: you have a bunch of people who are not politicised and are willing to take part. Only game in town is an anti-war demo, which i dont think is utterly futile, eventhough it is not very relevant or useful. What should i say? Nah, dont go mate, rather organise at your workplace and communities wink

Actually, i am curious, what would you say Alan?

Caiman del Barrio
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Sep 18 2006 02:24
JDMF wrote:
The fact that they come out shows political interest, it is an opportunity to talk politics, learn, exchange ideas and thoughts

So how, in good conscience, could you let them see something that is actually a barrier to real social change?

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much like these stupid one day strikes, on all three that i have been involved in have been utterly useless, but fantastic opportunities to talk, network, learn and what not.

Well yes I agree that one day strikes more closely resemble protest than direct action, but at least they represent an initiation of some sort of class struggle which can be built on.

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A good day out IMO, and i would not recommend anyone not to participate.

Do you mean strikes or peace marches? I would seriously attempt to talk anyone I knew out of going to an anti-war demo, for a variety of reasons, most of which will be familiar to you and I daresay you'd probably agree with.

Quote:
Only game in town is an anti-war demo

When is it ever though? Fuck, you live in Manchester!

Quote:
Actually, i am curious, what would you say Alan?

Hey, I know plenty of people who go to anti-war demos (or at least talk of it at 3am after 3 bottles of wine, or in a Camden dive over the backdrop of indies posing). You're forgetting I'm a student. wink When it does happen, I'm completely honest with them. I talk about how these anti-war demos are primarily instigated as a means of recruiting and self-perpetuation for the various organisations under the StWC umbrella, and how they act as a moral pressure valve for the majority of attendees. I'd talk about the increasingly overt pro-"Islamist" (for want a better word, pro-Hezbollah, pro-intifada) content of these marches. I'd talk about the hypocrisy and bandwagon-jumping of the politicians and celebrity figures at its figurehead. Most importantly, I'd emphasise that Iraq is far from a exception or disproportionate in terms of governmental foreign policy (I may even sneak the dreaded "I" word in somewhere), and how ultimately, it was instigated by the forces of capital.

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Sep 18 2006 07:33

i say pretty much the same things, though dont use the same kind of terminology (forces of capital etc), so we are on the same page there, but the conclusion is still different?

I dont think the demo is counterproductive, or even sterile, eventhough it has very little value.

And yes, it is the only game in town unfortunately sad

Caiman del Barrio
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Sep 19 2006 01:17
JDMF wrote:
i say pretty much the same things, though dont use the same kind of terminology (forces of capital etc)

Well sooner or later over the course of a political discussion, they're gonna piece together your personal perspective anyway (especially when you turn up to the demo holding a fuckoff massive red and black flag). And not talking about capital is like trying not to stare at the giant pink elephant in the room.

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And yes, it is the only game in town unfortunately :(

Seriously? Why don't you take them on the piss with all your incredibly fun and normal comrades (er, sorry, I meant to say "mates") in Manchester Solfed? wink

I guess I wouldn't personally go to an anti-war demo (at least not until the next invasion), so I see no point in encouraging others.

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Sep 19 2006 07:20
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
Seriously? Why don't you take them on the piss with all your incredibly fun and normal comrades (er, sorry, I meant to say "mates") in Manchester Solfed? wink

hey lets scare these guys off totally ok wink

So options are: go to a demo or a pub, yeah, quite a spread of options!

anyways, lets see what happens.

Pilgrim
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Sep 19 2006 10:52

Why not do both, the demo and the pub?

Seriously, an anarcho bloc on a demo isn't a bad thing if you want a visible presence and to remind people that we exist. In that respect it works quite well.

It's just that, as in Edinburgh, it's utterly pointless tacically if you're planning any sort of action around the demo except as a decoy or distraction.

If you're not planning anything I don't have anything against a bloc on a demo.

Whether or not demo's in and of themselves are worth much depends on the size and coverage afforded the demo by the press and the reaction form the public.

I'd argue that the only really good thing about mass demo's (and I've been on many including Debruary 15th) is that they can cause a lot of embarassment to the powers that be. I remember the 'Evening Standard' headline on February 15th was 'Blair Fury At Peace March.'

The huge marches were looked at further afield than the UK, that much is certain and they had some effect in terms of our being able to say that the war wasn't some crusade supported by all here in the UK. As such I don't regret having been on them.

And there's always the possibiility of some folk taking a more than casual interest in who we are what we do. If an Anarchist bloc comes away from a demo with even a couple more people willing to get involved and take action then that's no bad thing, IMHO.

Caiman del Barrio
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Sep 19 2006 13:56
JDMF wrote:
So options are: go to a demo or a pub, yeah, quite a spread of options!

Obviously I was being somewhat flippant (as in, the demo's so pointless that you'd be better off in the pub). There are all sorts of options available. If they're interested in the theory side, some sort of reading group might be worthwhile. If they simply wanna act, then yes, I'd definitely suggest encouraging militancy in their workplaces and communities. Yeah that's right, I'm boring like that.

Re Public
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Sep 19 2006 14:34
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
There are all sorts of options available. If they're interested in the theory side, some sort of reading group might be worthwhile. If they simply wanna act, then yes, I'd definitely suggest encouraging militancy in their workplaces and communities. Yeah that's right, I'm boring like that.

This above statement shows everything whats wrong with anarchist/anti-state politics and its written in under 50 words! Well done Alan!

RP

P.s. your not a student are you? Just figures thats all!

Re Public
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Sep 19 2006 14:40
Jack wrote:
Re Public wrote:
This above statement shows everything whats wrong with anarchist/anti-state politics and its written in under 50 words!

Yea, I well hate militancy in workplaces and communities too.

Theres militancy and theres handing out leaflets, theres militancy and theres campaigning for more speed humps.

Caiman del Barrio
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Sep 19 2006 14:50
Re Public wrote:
P.s. your not a student are you? Just figures thats all!

Come to think of it, your tabloid style of empty rhetorical flannel sounds familiar. You're not in Class War are you?

Re Public
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Sep 19 2006 15:13

No I'm not in Class War. Are you a student?

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Sep 19 2006 16:00
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
There are all sorts of options available. If they're interested in the theory side, some sort of reading group might be worthwhile. If they simply wanna act, then yes, I'd definitely suggest encouraging militancy in their workplaces and communities. Yeah that's right, I'm boring like that.

reading group? you have to be fucking joking man! How many workplaces have you been where you have set up a reading group?

I mean i dont want to diss your opinion, because i have a lot of sympathy with that, i'd just like to see you apply those outside of group of students who are already politicised either via experiences with political issues or some sub cultural way.

And "encouraging militancy" id not conflicting with the demo - in fact i think it is great because i have already had a chance to talk about the limitations of the demo, and perhaps they will be able to meet a bunch of anarchists in our block who are - suprise, suprise - fairly normal and varied bunch of people.