[News] Black Bloc Anarchists and State Terrorism

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri May 25 12:36:18 EDT 2012

Weekend Edition May 25-27, 2012

Of Property and Propaganda

Black Bloc Anarchists and State Terrorism


Renewed criticism of Black Bloc anarchists 
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 charges­if 
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

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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