FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Black Bloc Anarchists and State Terrorism

by ROB URIE

Renewed criticism of Black Bloc anarchists (link) ties in a tangential way to the arrest on terrorism charges of three youths in Chicago prior to recent anti-NATO protests. The anarchists raise the question of the legitimate use of violence to achieve political ends. The arrest of the youths on trumped-up charges with what credible sources (National Lawyers Guild) believe is manufactured evidence suggests that as far as the state is concerned, they’re going to make up charges anyway. So what is the difference?

Terrorism charges have long been used for political repression because they are premised on the legitimacy of state violence versus the illegitimacy of non-state violence. But the question of legitimacy was in fair measure the reason why anti-NATO protesters were in Chicago. Member states claim the right, through NATO, to commit political violence at will. The protesters, rightly in my view, counter that (1) the reasons given by NATO for committing violence are lies intended to deceive populations into supporting armed aggression and (2) were the real reasons for NATO violence given they would be deemed illegitimate and therefore the violence itself is illegitimate.

Criticism of Black Bloc tends to center around public relations– the fear the media will focus on property damage to the exclusion of the protesters’ broader message. But the dominant media in the U.S. are corporations that have demonstrated that they will promote a broad corporatist agenda at all costs. The Chicago Police Department and the coordinated state “security” apparatus understand this and they are using terrorism charges as propaganda to try to draw a line between protesters and the growing millions of disenfranchised citizens.

The state knows from experience that when it comes to “terrorism” the dominant corporate media will report what the state tells it, most probably with more sensationalism than the state could hope for. So to those worried that Black Bloc generates bad publicity, the government / media line is all bullshit all of the time anyway. And Black Bloc neither causes this nor will “polite” behavior by protesters produce favorable media treatment, particularly if protests begin to become politically effective.

To the issue of property damage, this is a right wing canard. Were the state and media interested in property damage we have Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Here at home we have millions of empty houses and destroyed neighborhoods thanks to specific, actionable crimes committed by specific banks and bankers that the government is protecting. Then there is the world-threatening environmental damage produced by specific corporate actors that are also being protected by the government. So to Black Bloc critics worried about property damage, ending state violence by asking politely that the state stop committing it runs into the paradox that the state is using political violence to crack open the heads of the protesters who are politely asking that the state stop committing political violence.

State violence deemed illegitimate calls into question the very premise of terror charges—if state violence is not in all circumstances legitimate then how can non-state violence to end illegitimate state violence in all circumstances be illegitimate? The states’ public position, articulated by recent presidents, is that protesters have every right to peacefully protest the use of illegitimate violence by the state. But as a purveyor of illegitimate violence, what right does the state retain to claim that legitimacy distinguishes state from non-state violence? The state is either forced into the profoundly undemocratic position that its legitimacy is self-generated, and therefore not a function of the consent of the people, or that its legitimacy does derive from the consent of the people and therefore when that consent is withdrawn, so is the states’ legitimacy.

The issue of consent, or rather its absence, gets to the very heart of the protesters’ criticism of NATO. If the U.S. state, under the guise of NATO, the ‘coalition of the willing,” or any other umbrella group, actively deceives the public to gain support for acts of political violence, then in what sense can consent be said to have been given? And if consent hasn’t been given, in what sense is the state violence legitimate? Finally, if state violence isn’t legitimate, under its own legal premises, neither then are terrorism charges.

So on to Black Bloc: the anarchists’ inclination toward radical democracy has resonance across the social / political movements that have arisen in recent years. So in the most fundamental sense, there is at this level general agreement amongst us. The difference seems to be one of tactics. Was there a playbook, a guide, to successfully creating social and political change, it would also be in the hands of those who oppose change. No one of us knows where collective political action will take us. My suggestion is that inclusion is better than exclusion, particularly when there is at some level a coincidence of interests.

The state and corporate media will make up any lies they deem necessary to shut effective political opposition down. However, the disenfranchisement that leads to political opposition to the plutocrat-state is factually a product of the plutocrats and their servants in government, and not the protesters. This is to say that the forces of effective propaganda are on the side of the state but the facts of political, economic and social disenfranchisement are with the forces of change. And the facts will ultimately determine if change will come, not the turgid nonsense put out by the corporate media. Property will come and go. As long as Black Bloc is on the side of people, they have a place.

Rob Urie is an artist and political economist in New York

 

Rob Urie is an artist and political economist. His book Zen Economics is published by CounterPunch Books.

More articles by:
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull, 500 Years of Trauma
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Gordon Smith
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
stclair
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered, Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail