Anarchists and communists debate the Black Bloc

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Anarchists and communists debate the Black Bloc
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The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: Anarchists and communists debate the Black Bloc. The discussion was initiated by KT.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

Anarchists and communists debate the Black Bloc

I agree with this article’s conclusion on the need for the widest possible debate about how revolutionary (or anti-capitalist, if you prefer) forces can act collectively and effectively in the kind of mass demonstrations we saw on in London on March 26 (and those that are to come).

On Saturday 26th, you had anything up to a quarter of a million people – mainly workers and their children – marching to protest against cuts in pay and services. Objectively, you’d have to say that such people are not innately hostile to alternative ideas about how to turn their demands into reality.

A  sizeable minority of this gathering consisted of revolutionaries (anarchists, libertarians, communists, whatever) who are convinced that only mass, direct action by workers in struggle can even begin to push back the attacks of the state.

How does that significant minority (which, I acknowledge, is far from homogeneous) best communicate its ideas, its proposals, to a majority under these circumstances? I don’t have answers (which is why I welcome further debate) and no doubt activity will depend on the nature of future demonstrations, who has called them, under what circumstances and why.

All I do believe is that it didn’t happen at all effectively on 26th March, and that in this instance, a certain focus on smashing bank windows or occupying outlets favoured by the ruling class (ie Fortnum and Masons) was a diversion from the task at hand, just as speeches by union and Labour Party hacks served to mask the real issue: What is to be Done?

So the debate you report from was an interesting moment in the necessary self-critique that proletarian political minorities must undertake.

Unfortunately it seems to me that libcom itself is not that happy to hold the debate – at least not with ICC participation. When an ICC comrade forwarded his view of some events on the 26th, a libcom administrator called him a “fucking prick”, before his comment was eventually removed without trace (probably by the same admin who posted it). Neither libertarian nor communist but certainly cowardly!

Furthermore, any links to articles written by the ICC, however relevant to the topic at hand, are deleted as “irrelevant” and labelled “ICC spam”. The ICC – whose members work well with anarchists and libertarians in organisations like The Midlands Discussion Forum and The Manchester Class Struggle Forum and elsewhere – is placed by libcom on the same level as the purveyors of porn or the promoters of consumer goods: spam.

Why are links to ICC articles on libcom banned when links by and to other organisations are not? When was this decided and by whom? Where is the announcement that this is now libcom policy (because it hasn’t been in the past).  Guess I should ask libcom.

In addition, it appears that at least one ICC member who has attempted to post links on libcom has been denied access to the site.

So comrades, press ahead with the debate. It’s just a pity that a vanguardist minority at libcom – and who’d deny it’s an important resource – are trying to silence you on their site.


Do anarchists really exist? I suspect a lot of so-called anarchists don't really know what they think - haven't had the time or opportunity to find out what they think - and use the label 'anarchist' as a flag of convenience. So they inhabit a vale of insecurity. They're not sure if they completely want to throw in their lot with the working class - the workers are okay up to a point: until that is they start formulating ideas about what they want to achieve, at which point they break unwritten, unformulated, and even unthought anarchist rules. (For if these were rules that we'd actually thought, or admitted as being thought, then we wouldn't be anarchists would we?) Similarly we don't know if we can write a letter to a bougeois newspaper, because the newspaper is part of the state, and we don't believe in the state, or even have any belief. If we had beliefs we wouldn't be anarchists would we? Being an anarchist is very very difficult. It doesn't match up with being a human being, cos humans by definition have thoughts and feelings which benefit from formulation, and that leads to actual definite nameable commitments: and anarchists are not allowed them. If we had quite definite commitments, like for example wanting to overthrow capitalism and to replace the bougeois dictatorship with a proletarian one, Well, that would just be embarrassing wouldn't it, for we wouldn't be anarchists anymore would we? And so we go round in circles.

anarchists - all or even 'a lot of them'?

I do believe an anarchist (and/or 'libertarian' and/or 'anti-capitalist') milieu exists. What King Lear writes above may apply to certain individuals or even organisations within it, but I would not make such generalisations and tar all or even a majority of anarchists in such a fashion. 

Agree with KT

 I agree with KT - there have always been anarchists in the workers' movement and they do have a conception of organisation, not all of which we disagree with. 

Anyway, thanks to KT for the expression of solidarity over the libcom ban. This has provoked a very long discussion on libcom, and a very encouraging number of comrades have criticised the ban, which was clearly an excessive 'punishment'.

However, I could have shown a better tactical sense in the way I posted a link to our article, given recent furores on libcom about alleged ICC 'spam' (ie posting links to our site too much). Perhaps if I had introduced the article in a different way, the discussion would have continued about the black bloc and March 26 and all that, instead of becoming yet another discussion about the iCC and its 'behaviour' on libcom. Still, that discussion too can also lead to a good deal of clarification, especially about the organisation question.  

I agree with a lot of

I agree with a lot of Kinglear's sociological critique of anarchism, even if it is a bit of a caricature and misses the diversity of opinion that has always existed within the anarchist movement. He raises some good points about the inherent contradictions in a certain kind of anarchist thinking that shares a lot with post-modernism. Its not for nothing that many anarchists identify with post-modernist and post-structuralist ideas and vice versa. 

I don't know what to say about the Libcom situation. I agree with Alf that there could have been a more tactical approach to the ICC's intervention there (and on other forums). It seems far too easy for the ICC's interventions on these forums to be turned into evidence of its supposed "monolithism" and desire to dominate discussions. But Alf is of course right, that these kind of criticisms should lead to a broader discussion of organization, method of debate, etc. How do we move the discussion in that direction?


jk21 is right about my caricature of anarchism. But what about this? In causing a lot of disruption, and in seeking a high profile, as on March 26, and in thus distracting the media from focusing on the legitimate gripes of the main march (even if it was organized by the TUC) don't anarchists function for the bourgeoisie? Are they not (at least some of them) the sort of explosive, violent nihilist aspect of the bourgeoisie itself? They are employing a sort of scorched earth policy. Capitalism is in trouble: many people are clearly pissed off with it (some are even making plans for getting rid of it) so if we as anarchists start attacking it instead - smash a few shop windows: scare a few people: perpetrate some gratuitous but violent acts: that could be useful for the system. Alternatively, we might set out to help others destroy it completely, out of overwhelming feelings of frustration that it no longer works properly. But after the destruction, don't ask for help in building something new. Nothing new or better is possible! This is where the nihilism of the bourgeoisie kicks in.

Anarchists : reply to kinglear

" ..and so we go round in circles...." ...vicious circles

Indeed in Capitalist society , the bourgeoisie's practical oppression is vicious and it's ideological dominance circular : i.e. it pre-supposes what it has to prove or well basically 'makes it up ' , propaganda , debasing the very meaning of words to mystify us all .

However : perhaps there is a way out of the vicious circle : that is what Marx believed : that a class IN civil society but not OF it had finally arrived 'on the stage ' as it were .The IN and OF distinction is not just semantic and I will leave a quote which may show that one cannot equate 'dictatorship of the bourgeoisie' with 'dictatorship of the proletariat' : the prospect is brighter than that .....

It is not just the same 'machine' with a different class driving it : it is the abolition /transcendence of the machine itself


" If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled by force of circumstances to organise itself as a class by means of a revolution ,makes itself  the 'ruling class' and as such sweeps away by force the old condition of production',then it will along with these conditions have swept away the very existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally ..and will thereby have ABOLISHED ITS OWN SUPREMACY as a class ."

I know it is hard to conceive of all the machinery and illusions of an epoch swept away because we are a) knee deep in history and b) up to our necks in ideology and mystification .

It's not about a different class running 'The State ' , for the very idea of 'state' is an oppressive bourgeois instrument whoever is 'operating' it .




Whatever errors were made on

Whatever errors were made on libcom here by the ICC and those that have been made in the past, there is an element on libcom that want the ICC banned, silenced, whatever it does or doesn't do. It's a question of "the line" among some.

One encouraging point about Alf's ban has been the amount of generally positive discussion and critiques about it, showing the vitality and positive nature of libcom overall. The necessary discussion on black bloc's, ie, minority actions and window breaking during demonstrations, and the related discussion on blockades has, however, died a death - or, more accurately, been smothered. I'm not surprised that the banning should be over this topic, where criticism of pointless acts of minority violence, which mainly intimidates workers, is called by some as taking the same position as the police. I would argue that the police have a vested interest in minority acts of violence now and probably work towards them.

I wanted to post on the question of blockades on libcom but, frankly, was put off  by the abuse that I knew I would get.

Common ground : receptive minds ....

I have little knowledge or experience of libcom. itself but these posts at least encourage me to find out something about this contemporary expression of Anarchy.

As others have described above Anarchist history is full of examples of now stronger , now weaker links or commonalities with the workers' struggle and action, communist theory and practice and involvement .

Even before Marx was born : 'Les Enragés' played a role in the French Revolution with a formulated set of demands : 'pre-anarchists ?'

Proudhon :'Property is theft ' : in the century before : Winstanley and The Diggers .

A common anarchist platform in history : not just the overthrow of the state , but its abolition : no rule , no state , no law , no religious servitude and ideas like 'spontaneous order' are not anathema to revolutionaries .


KInglear seems to represent a no less serious but harder to fathom Anarchy : he says things like : ' well if we made committments , had thoughts or formulated anything  'we wouldn't be anarchists would we '?

In  which case Proudhon , Kropotkin ,Bakunin , and countless other individuals and Anarchist groups who seem to me to most definitely have 'thought about it 'and how to to act to abolish the oppressive relationships and falsehoods of ideology of Capitalism and the state are de facto by his criteria defined out the anarchist milieu : I can't say I agree : cf jk's comment about 'tarring all with the same brush '


Re The Black Bloc : who seem certainly 'The Enraged Ones ' simplistically or,as kinglear suggests, nihilistically vent their fury only to ignorantly strengthen the oppressors .

Emma Goldmann : American Anarchist pre-WWII and a friend did plan , I think , an assassination - described by their particular line as 'propaganda of the deed' : a premeditated violent act : at the other end of the spectrum she was imprisoned for distributing leaflets about birth control : hardly an act of random or premeditated violence.


Some food for thought :

Engels wrote in the Preface to The German Edition of the Manifesto (1890) with regard to the coming into being of The International Working Men's Association :

" Its aim was to weld into one  huge army the whole militant working class of Europe and America .Therefore it could not set out from the principles laid down in The Manifesto .

It was bound to have a programme which would not shut the door ( my emphasis ) on the English trade unions , the French , Belgian , Italian and Sanish Proudhonists and German Lassalleans .

This programme was drawn up by Marx with a master hand acknowledged even by Bakunin and the Anarchists . For the ultimate triumph of the ideas set forth in the Manifesto , Marx relied solely and exclusively upon the intellectual development of the working class as it necessarily had to ensue from united action and discussion .

So if at present the possibility of any "united action or discussion" is blocked by The Block then it is no shame to be 'put off by the abuse' that one knows will come .

The at present dysfunctional relationship - 'blockaded' for whatever reason - can only thrive on antagonism .

Posting would surely only present another opportunity for the 'effing prick' response ?