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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail