Sunday, September 7, 2008

The RNC protests and the lessons from them

reposted from

A Tale of Twin Cities in the Age of Desperation

As more and more information surfaces here in the Twin Cities—beyond the news or more raids, mass arrests, brutality, etc—I cannot help but feel like I am taking a step back to see a more complete, more startling picture than what I had previously seen, and I know I am not alone in this.
The first revelation, ironically, was that the seemingly gargantuan forces at work to bring the streets of St. Paul to a standstill were little more than a determined core of militants, who were admirably committed but desperate enough to create a facade that victory was all but certain, in the hopes that such blind optimism would bring forth a cascade of young anarchists to flood the streets—not so dissimilar from the posture of the Weathermen when they were promoting their national action, known later as the Days of Rage. There were, however, hundreds of militants who were both tactical and disciplined in their efforts, but this could not substitute for the shortcomings of the organizational model being utilized. This is the most obvious thing that one is struck by when assessing the situation on the ground, but this simple truth is perhaps inconsequential compared to what is becoming more and more evident.

The second thing that has become clear is the level of infiltration of the RNC Welcoming Committee (RNCWC) anarchist group by the authorities. The affidavit given to the judge who signed-off on the warrant to raid a number of spaces all over the Twin Cities reveals that there were, at least, one undercover cop and two paid informants (rats) within the ranks of the relatively small RNCWC. This must necessarily call into question the level to which their work was compromised, manipulated and/or sabotaged. There was, for example, an early split within the group over the question of doing community outreach around the actions, with the faction opposing this course of action remaining, and the few in favor leaving to do separate work. This point is crucial, of course, because it has become all too obvious that the militant actions this week had virtually no base outside the radical activist milieu, and have quite effectively been isolated in the public eye via the mainstream media (MSM).

This course of events suggests that the state recognized the potential of a second Battle of Seattle, which at face-value was in many respects similar to the 2008 RNC. In the current situation, however, there is seemingly no solidarity from organized labor like in Seattle which greatly contributed to the presence of bodies in the streets in defiance of the police state, as well as putting pressure on the state to release those who had been jailed when the ILWU threatened to strike the Port of Seattle. There are of course other factors, such as the inoculation against independent media reporting; the MSM now generally ignores any reporting that isn’t “on-message,” and the state aggressively attacks anyone with “illegitimate” press credentials.

There are many conclusions people could take from this snapshot described above. We could resign ourselves from taking part in direct action in the streets, retreating into this Party or that like so many radicals did in the wake of the utter organizational destruction left by COINTELPRO in the early 70s; we could join the North American underground in the hopes that maybe, this time, the people will be moved to action by the propaganda of the deed; or we could write-off social action entirely in favor of personal redemption via lifestyle choices or identity politics. Each generation of movement activists has to make this choice, and the answer we give determines what mark we will leave on history. My hope is that we have come far enough on the US far left to be strong and determined enough to stand tall in the face of repression, tighten our ranks, and to continue putting down our roots wherever we may find ourselves. I don’t consider this a difficult decision to make, so much as it will be difficult to carry out and convince others of. For those of you who are like in mind, my advice is to lead by example, and don’t be too startled when others begin to walk along beside you.

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