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There is always the conspiracy theory fringe diverting people away from serious analysis, and the events of the G20 convergence is no exception. Coming from Alex Jones and his rantings about agent provocateur and ‘the G20 being staged as sessions to practice local governments going under banker control’ an absence of reasoned analysis is expected. Conspiracy theorists are analogous to the sectarian parasites that have for years interfered with popular movements that are organizing around important issues.
The problem with the conspiracy peddlers, outside of the cynical manipulation of ‘facts’ for profit, is that they divert youth away from serious examination of issues and divest the young of the critical tools needed to examine the world for themselves. The Black Bloc action of June 26, 2010 is tailor made for conspiracy theorists and now it also seems ready made for so-called leftist intellectuals. The local ‘Independent Voice’ news magazine in my city carried an opinion piece by University of Regina sociology professor John Conway where he writes “Where were the police? Were they on an extended coffee break? Or did the G20 Integrated Security Unit command centre, in a secret location and under the direction of RCMP Superintendent Alphonse MacNeil, who in turn was under the political direction of the Prime Minister’s Office, order riot cops to disappear for over an hour to give the Black Bloc free rein?” Conway concludes with utter certainty that the events of June 26 were “…orchestrated in their entirety by the Integrated Security Unit under the direction of the Prime Minister’s Office” (“Arrested Democracy,” John Conway, Prairie Dog News Magazine, July 15-28, 2010). That included the deliberate staging of older model dummy police cars minus their license plates and the Black Bloc being aided by disguised police. This is of course unsubstantiated speculation missing one essential ingredient, evidence.
Questions could be put forward about police presence. Are police present among demonstrators? Probably. Does it matter? Not really if the protest is going to be disruptive. Does it matter to organizers? Yes, because if police or paid police informers are present at the planning meetings then the organizers face probable arrest and criminal charges. A different question also arises; why there is a predilection for conspiracy theories among some of the so-called intellectual left in Canada and how does it hinder the development of social analysis minus unreasoned speculation or down right stupidity.
Conspiracies are popular because they offer simplistic approach to complex situations. A group of evil doers are acting in a secret and nefarious fashion to undermine institutions that would otherwise operate more or less in a fair manner if not for their influence.
Conspiracy theories about police leaving police cars as props or as police starting fires themselves does nothing to grow a serious left in Canada nor assist the youth to develop critical thinking skills. What it creates is an environment whereby the state and capitalism are monolithic and unassailable, and serious analysis is to be abandoned for conspiracies. It suggests that we the protestors are to be spectators of action and not participants, or participants as sanctioned, directed and codified by the self-anointed leaders of the political left. The conspiracy theories diminish the actions taken by ordinary citizens and suggests to those considering participation in actions other than letter writing campaigns and peaceful protests in designated areas, that these actions are a waste of time because they are controlled by outside forces.
What we saw in Toronto was that the self appointed leaders of the left are only interested in protests within parameters they control and influence. However for a growing number of people they are going to move outside of sanctioned limits and they are developing different ways to organize and lead themselves. I say that the John Conways, Naomi Kleins, Murray Dobbins, Judy Rebicks, The Real News and all the rest of them can fuck off and take their conspiracies with them if they like. Vehicles burn and windows get smashed. That has been the fairly regular pattern of significant social change that has come down through history; perhaps it is ugly when you see it but who said social change must be polite with protesters cleaning up after themselves? There are vast majority of people out there who suffer everyday under our current political and economic organization. There are people who actually want to fundamentally change the world into one of freedom, equality and fraternity and their vision is not a return to an imagined kinder capitalist cage of a Keynesian economic past.
To repeat what I wrote in a previous article, what we saw in Toronto is similar to other global justice Convergences including the Olympic Resistance Network earlier this year in Vancouver. For some people, they have moved beyond the peaceful march and the letter writing campaigns and are experimenting with disruption of business as usual in the way they conduct themselves regarding the state security apparatus, the private property of capital and within the progressive left.
The actions we have seen such as those in Toronto can only be viewed as agitation and in no way have social movements pushed into the area of insurrection. Opportunities for moving into an insurrectionary position with many in of the leadership of the intellectual left telling the youth that the state and capitalism is monolithic and unassailable while also denouncing the courage and struggle of brave people on the streets of Toronto and Vancouver as the actions of the police makes it much more unlikely. This is not only cowardly but it is also factually wrong.
Current conditions as they exist could lead to an insurrectionary situation. No person who has any concern for others denies that our current social order is damaging to most of the world’s population and to the environment. Peaceful actions to have governments listen to them have been largely unheeded and no amount of walking around official parade routes is going to create change at a significant level. Powerful allies are not coming forward to side with progressive movements which might influence the current political alliances of wealth and political power. If it was going to happen it would have occurred by now. It is senseless and actually an act of cowardice to behave in a moral fashion that maintains the status-quo.
Affiliations are beginning to coalesce in Canada and the USA that are willing to adopt a disruptive posture regarding the state apparatus. To nurture the emerging affiliations organizing around issues of social, economic, gender, Indigenous, environmental and other issues of justice, self-appointed intellectuals of the left betray their privileged positions within society and their apparent lack of sense of urgency around social change. It is the role of left intellectuals to use their positions of privilege, not to deny the agency of disruptive movements but to tell the facts. One clearly identified fact is the futility of the existing debate for justice within the current framework of civil discourse.
Governments, capitalists and the security apparatus have exposed themselves for who and what they are for all to see. They are going to rule and for the most part the public will not be part of that debate or the decisions. Rather than obfuscate the situation for the youth with fantasies of state and security conspiracies, if they give a damn at all for the suffering in the world, then their role is simple: report the facts. The facts expose a situation where the possibilities of peaceful struggle for important social change have almost been exhausted. The outbreak of an insurgency is a possibility as conditions for the majority of the world’s population and the environment continues to deteriorate.