The irresistible rise of global anticapitalism


 Genoa: Testimony of Terror

When it was announced that the G8 were to meet in Genoa, many activists laughed with glee, anticipating a radical response from the infamous Italian movements. But as the date grew nearer, concerns were raised; three protesters were shot in Goteborg, and several predicted a death in Genoa. The first demonstration, organised by the Genoa Social Forum (GSF) and immigrant organisations, was a festive march. Despite the its nonviolent nature, the police presence was massive; somewhere in tanks with tripod-mounted machine guns, foreshadowing the days to come.

On July 20, thousands took direct action; by the end of that day, 23 year old Carlo Giuliani had been shot dead by police, and hundreds had been brutally beaten and arrested. The next day a 200,000-strong demonstration sustained police attack for hours; that night, the police raided the Indymedia centre / GSF headquarters and brutally attacked sleeping people in a school across the street.

International solidarity was astonishing. Demonstrations against the repression occurred in over 240 cities the following week, and in 250 cities one month after Giuliani’s murder. Because these events are so recent, so tragic, and so clearly indicative of a turning point for the movement, a few excerpts seem the only way to fill these final pages and move forward.

The first thing I noticed was that the people across the room were getting down on their knees and putting their hands up in signs of peace... I immediately did the same thing. The police rushed into the room... The first thing I recall the police doing was kicking a chair into the group of people kneeling on the floor.

I could hear things smashing this whole time ... One came over to our corner and, as I was kneeling with my hands extended, he kicked me in the side of the head, knocking me to the floor. Sherman and another man helped me back up to my knees. Another policeman came to where I was kneeling and started beating me with his club. I was up against the wall, and I curled over with my right side against the wall and my hands and arms covering my head for protection. I tried not to move because I thought he would stop beating me sooner if I lay still. I am not sure how many policemen were beating me. I looked up and saw Sherman being beaten.

After they stopped beating us, Sherman and I lay curled up by the wall for about five minutes or so... I noticed that there was a lot of blood around us, and that blood was smeared on the wall. I think it was our blood because we were both bleeding from the head, and I was bleeding from my hands and wrists.

At this point I noticed that my bleeding right hand was swollen, and my little finger was sticking out at a strange angle. Sherman’s eyes looked glazed and he wasn’t responding to questions normally.

excerpt from sworn testimony - Morgan Hager

Will A Death in the Family Breathe Life into the Movement?

The message from the world’s authorities is clear: “Go back to your homes, do not meddle in what doesn’t concern you, return to your televisions, and leave the intricacies of global economics alone - because if you don’t we will kill you.”

For decades, the poorest of the planet’s families from Asia, Africa and Latin America have been burying those who have dared to confront global capitalism. But Carlo’s death spells something different. For the first time the global elite has begun to kill the children of its own people. The whip of economic dictatorship is finally cracking at home.

True enough, there were cops in ski-masks leading attacks on corner shops, bus stops and post offices. But the agitators can be addressed. If everyone who takes action knows why they are taking it and what sort of action they think is necessary to achieve their goal, then the police will not be able to steer the crowds, the meetings, the discussion groups or “the movement.” The problem is less one of infiltration, more one of focus . If we put this dynamic to work away from the mega-summits we can become a threat again. But we need to be imaginative and we need to stay ahead of the beast. Where we choose to go from here is crucial to whether we are in the process of sparking serious global change or merely are in the death throes of another cycle of resistance.

excerpt from an email - el flaco

Embracing contradictions after Genoa

Genoa was a watershed for the anti-globalisation movement. It’s clear now that this is a life or death struggle in the first world as it has always been in the third world. How we respond will determine whether repression destroys us or strengthens us. To come back stronger, we have to understand what actually happened there. ... Let’s be clear: In Genoa we encountered a carefully orchestrated campaign of state terrorism. The campaign included disinformation, the use of infiltrators and provocateurs, collusion with avowed fascist groups (and I don’t mean fascist in the loose way the left sometimes uses the term, I mean fascist as in Òdirect inheritors of the traditions of Mussolini and HitlerÓ), the deliberate targeting of nonviolent groups for tear gas and beating, endemic police brutality, the torture of prisoners, the political persecution of organisers, and a terrorist raid on sleeping people by special forces, who broke bones, smashed teeth, and bashed in skulls of nonresisting protesters. They did all this openly, in a way that indicates they had no fear of repercussions and expected protection from the highest sources. That expectation implicates not only the proto-fascist Berlusconi regime of Italy, but by association the rest of the G8, especially the U.S. since it now appears that L.A. County Sheriffs helped train the most brutal of the special forces.

The Black Bloc was not the source of the problem in Genoa. The problem was state, police fascist violence. So the issue is not “How do we control the violent elements among us?”, although that might be an issue someday. It’s “How do we forestall another campaign of lies, police - instigated violence, and retaliation?” There’s no easy answer to that question. The simplest strategy would be to go back to a strict form of nonviolence, which many people are proposing. I don’t know why I resist that answer. I’m a long time advocate of nonviolence. ... One reason might be that I can no longer use the same word to describe what I’ve seen even the most unruly elements of our movement do in actions and what the cops did in Genoa. If breaking windows and fighting back when the cops attack is ÒviolenceÓ, then give me a new word, a word a thousand times stronger, to use when the cops are beating nonresisting people into comas. Another might be just that I like the Black Bloc . I’ve been in many actions now where they were a strong presence.

In Seattle I was royally pissed off at them for what I saw as their unilateral decision to violate agreements everyone else accepted. In Washington, I saw that they abided by guidelines they disagreed with and had no part in making, and I respected them for it. I’ve sat under the hooves of police horses with some of them when we stopped a sweep of a crowded street using tactics Gandhi himself could not have criticised. I’ve choked with them in the tear gas in Quebec City and seen them refrain from property damage there when confronted by local people. I’m bonded. Yes , there have been times I’ve been furious with some of them, but they’re my comrades and allies in this struggle and I don’t want to see them excluded or demonised.

We need them, or something like them. We need room in the movement for rage, for impatience, for militant fervor, for an attitude that says “We are badass, kickass folks and we will tear this system down.” If we cut that off, we devitalize ourselves. We also need the Gandhian pacifists. We need room for compassion, for faith, for an attitude that says, “My hands will do the works of mercy and not the works of war.” We need those who refuse to engage in violence because they do not want to live in a violent world.

How do we create a political space that can hold these contradictions, and still survive the repression? How do we go where no social movement has ever gone be fore? Maybe these are the questions we really need to ask. In a life or death situation, there’s a great temptation to attempt to retreat to what seems like safe ground. But all my instincts tell me that going back to what seems safe and tried and true is a mistake. I no longer see any place of safe t y. Or rather, I see that in the long run our safest course is to act strongly now. ... Either we continue to fight together now when we can mount large-scale, effective actions, or we fight them later in small, isolated groups, or alone when they break down the doors of our homes in the middle of the night. Either we wage this struggle when there are still living forests, running rivers, and resilience left in the life support systems of the planet, or we fight when the damage is even deeper and the hope of healing slim. We have many choices about how to wage the struggle.

We can be more strategic, more creative, more skilful in what we do. We can learn to better prepare people for what they might face, and to better support people afterwards. But those choices remain only so long as we keep open the space in which to make them. We need to grow, not shrink. We need to explore and claim new political territory. We need the actions of this autumn to be bigger, wilder, more creatively outrageous and inspiring than ever, from the IMF/World Bank actions in Washington DC at the end of September to the many local and regional actions in November when the WTO meets in Qatar. We need to stay in the streets.

excerpt from: Why we need to stay in the streets, and After Genoa asking the right questions - Starhawk.

Protecting the Movement and its Unity: a realistic approach

Genoa showed that anti-globalisation has become a vast social movement: 2-300,000 people demonstrated, despite the intense criminalisation campaign conducted since Prague and Goteborg . And opinion polls in countries as different as Greece, Switzerland, France and Italy indicate that a large majority is in favour of the movement.

To this massive popular pressure, our rulers (right and “left”) have not made even the slightest, the most reformist concession, over the past three years. They have only one answer: police violence. Their plan is simple: frighten as many as possible so that they stay home and condemn the radical part of the movement; radicalize and criminalise the rest.

We must all abandon (at least in the short run) our self-important illusions that we can persuade or impose a single perspective on the whole movement. Debate must continue of course, but whatever our particular position within the movement, the really subversive approach is to think how to protect the whole movement and make it grow. This is true of movements in general, and even more of this one in particular, for whom diversity is a central value and goal. Any attempt to hegemonise the movement is a blow against it.

Over and above our very real differences , paradoxically we actually need each other. Without the “radicals” this whole movement wouldn’t have existed and would now be quickly recuperated. Without the “reformists” we would be isolated and wiped out. We are at once opposed and allied. And the sooner the regime can drive a wedge between us, the more difficult it will be for us. So we would like to say to the “nonviolent” side: - If you try to impose nonviolence without discussion as though it was obviously the only legitimate means, you will lose all credit with the young radicals, for you will appear to align yourselves on the position of the police and to implicitly accept the idea that the changes needed are possible without challenging the rules of the game set by the regime, and its legitimacy. Should we really scrupulously respect.the property of multinationals amassed through murder and exploitation?

Rightly or wrongly, violence of different kinds has been inseparable from practically every movement for radical change in our culture, and has often been considered necessary to provoke real change.

The “Black Block,” as such, doesn’t really exist. There are just different persons and groups - often dressed in black - who share the opinion that destruction of property, and in some cases violence against police, can be an effective and legitimate political tool. Implicitly, they invoke the legitimacy of self-defence against a regime whose own illegitimacy and incredible violence is every day more obvious.

So repeating the enemy’s revolting propaganda a bout these people (that they are purely destructive, “nihilists,” etc.) will not moderate or dissuade them. On the contrary, it can only confirm them in their desperate suspicion that they are alone in a sea of corruption and political naivety. On the other hand it is urgent to start a serious debate on the pros and cons of violence with them. Because we have been through all this already. We have seen the most generous and determined of a generation 96 abandoned in isolation cells, suicided or killed. And the world is in too bad a state to let history go on stuttering.

To the “Black Block,” we could say: By violence we refuse to renounce the right to violence as a legitimate right of self-defence against an inherently violent system. And that is an important idea. But at the same time we recognise that perhaps our principle demand is a less violent society and that the movement that builds that society must resemble the society we want. So our violence must always be as minimal as possible. We won’t win by force, we will win because people like our practices and the ideas behind them. And the right to self-defence is just one of our ideas. Let’s not get hung up on it or identified politically only with that.

Another of our ideas is precisely that we want a less macho society in which force isn’t the only recognised way of deciding things. And that idea is much better expressed by consequent nonviolent direct action, by the sober and determined refusal to accept injustice. Yet another idea is that we are for a diverse and non hierarchical society in which all can be heard, without being silenced by the behaviour of others.

It is also important that our movement should not always be expressing rage, but also the joy, the life and laughter of a real movement of liberation . We want to leave this grey and violent world behind, reproducing it as little as possible in our forms of struggle. All these ideas, and more, are as important as the legitimacy of our violence, and can all be eclipsed by the excessive imposition of violent methods...

Victorious movements are ones that can adapt to circumstances, use violence when really necessary, but also humour, music, reason, patience. Which can be stubborn in one case and negotiate in another. Flexibility is the secret of survival for any living thing.

Anyhow, no one part or tendency of the movement can seriously expect to convince the others in the short term. And if they seek to destroy the others, they will assure the victory of the enemy. For me, consciously trying to spoil other groups’ game or to impose their opinions on others is the only thing that can de facto put a group outside the movement. Whether those who do this kind of thing consider themselves anarchists or autonomous or pacifists, they are acting like stalinists. The movement must be like the society it is building: a place of autonomy, diversity, and respect.

Objectively speaking, this movement would not exist without the “radicals.” It was non-violent but illegal action and the Black Block that reawoke the world’s political imagination. But without the mass of “moderates,” the radicals would all be in jail already. Is it not possible for us to see, beyond our narrow views, how to preserve the whole movement, keep ALL of it as safe and wise as possible, make it grow?

The debate will continue. But there are also other urgent things to discuss. In particular, how to profit from the truly historic opportunity, that the human tide of Genoa is a small part of. The regime has not appeared so totally illegitimate for decades. In three years, anti-globalisation movement has practically become a subject of consensus.

Anti-capitalism is following close behind.

[excerpt from an email discussion] - Olivier