Friday, May 21, 2010

The recent firebombing of a Royal Bank branch in Ottawa has been headline news for the last few days. These sort of tactics come to the surface at various times and places, and they present a typical chicken and egg problem. Are they symptoms of a movement in decline, driven to desperation by its gradually shrinking relevance or are they a direct cause of such decline. The answer is actually both. I do not mean by this that "anarchism" is a declining movement. Quite the contrary. The actual anarchist movement, true to its heritage of libertarian socialism, continues to grow and develop. What is declining is the fashionable "activist culture" that has been popular over the last two decades. The rent-a-riots get smaller and smaller. The police pretty well perfected their methods of control of such things while many of the present participants were in diapers. This "culture" is "anarchist" only in the sense that anarchism is one of an almost endless laundry list of "isms and anti-isms" that participants are expected to profess their belief in. The historical heritage of organization for class struggle and a classless society is pretty well absent from the "activist" world view.
Regular readers of this blog know my opinion of this sort of petty childish attempt at terrorism. I expressed it as recently as a couple of days ago when I opined on events in Greece. I'll have more to say later. For now all that I will reiterate what a stupid irresponsible act committing arson in an urban area is. Especially when it accomplishes sweet bugger all. To avoid the deaths of innocent victims the firebombers depend on the omnipotence of the fire departments. Fire departments are certainly better than in the old days when whole cities could burn down. They are not, however, invincible, and many innocent people can be killed by arson. This sort of thing, however, doesn't seem to register in the minds of the true believers.
Well, I'll say more at another time. For now here's another opinion, from the Linchpin website of the Ontario platformist organization Common Cause, that points out the difference between real anarchism and actions such as those of the Ottawa firebombers.
Anarchists scapegoats for RBC arson
May 21, 2010

Despite widespread claims by the media, there is no indication that the recent "firebombing" of an RBC bank branch in Ottawa was carried out by "anarchists".

Nowhere in the statement or video that was published online was it claimed that those responsible were anarchists.

For the media to claim that this is the work of anarchists without any evidence is the worst sort of red-baiting and gets a F grade in basic journalism.

We have no idea what the politics of those who did this are. We also can’t rule out the possibility that this act was carried out by agent-provocateurs.

"This act should also be put in the context of the significant violence that is perpetrated on a daily basis by the state capitalist system such as the violence of war, poverty, colonialism and environmental destruction. While we seek to build resistance based on mass movements of working and oppressed peoples, we understand why people are angry at the banks”, says Common Cause Ottawa member Kyle James.

Anarchism is not about violence and chaos. Anarchism is about creating a highly organized and democratic society, free of hierarchy and exploitation.

As anarchists, we support the building of revolutionary, democratic, mass movements that will challenge capitalism directly through labour and community organizing and mass direct action such as strikes, picket lines and occupations.

We believe in the power of millions of working-class people standing together against the bankers, bosses, and their states. We need unlimited general strikes of all workers across Canada and internationally to defeat the attacks on the working class by the capitalists.

Workers, including bank workers, have nothing to fear from anarchists. Together the working class has the power to shut this entire capitalist system down and work for our own needs instead of the profits of the bosses.

Common Cause is an Ontario anarchist organization with branches in Ottawa, London, Toronto and Hamilton.

A french translation of this press release can be obtained here.


Larry Gambone said...

Until now we have managed to avoid this sort of thing, since the ill-fated Vancouver 5 almost 30 years ago. Well, I guess it had to happen some time. Thankfully the contemporary movement is vastly bigger than this faction, if indeed it was done by people who are anarchists.

Werner said...

There has been some loose talk about police infiltrating these "black bloc" types. This has happened in the past. It's like the idea that the Vancouver five must have been working for the police because the technical competence needed to blow up hydro towers was not a common feature amongst radicals of that time. It would be nice if those things were all true. It is possible for people to be both competent and evil.