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As I read this defense, I can't discern an explicit strategic justification for the actions taken by the black bloc on Saturday morning, much less of how such action is likely to be represented and recuperated within the dominant (media) discourse. There is merely a tacit appeal to an arguably fetishized "autonomous direct action." Part of the argumentative appeal in this communique is to the "courage" of heroic (if anonymous) individuals, who come together in solidarity (at significant physical and legal/juridical risk to themselves) to take the all-important "direct action."
What is strange, however, is that in terms of direct harm to the corporations, smashing (insured) windows and knocking over newspaper boxes is of absolutely no consequence whatsoever. If there is any value in such "direct action" it as at the level of the symbolic, of the images and contexts in which representations of the actions circulate, not in their immediate material effects. But how symbolic acts are interpreted is largely a function of the dominant ideologies of an age (particularly as manifest in media). A key question then, is whether a particular symbolic act (always mediated except for those present at the event) has the power to puncture the dominant ideology, to somehow point to the unspoken but necessary contradictions of the object or system under critique or attack (in this case the divide between Olympic propaganda and the reality of the Olympics' devastating impact on communities, the poor and marginalized (Housing), indigenous rights, social services, the environment, democratic transparency and accountability, artistic freedom, and the commons most generally).
The authors of this communique recognize the importance of holding up a mirror to the system when they contrast the black bloc's minor incursions on corporate private property to the indefensible systemic violence (against people and the earth) of corporate capitalism itself.
If I were to offer a critique of this communique then, it would be that in a feat of uncanny ignorance of its own, it pretends not to have known how the mainstream media (and more diffusely the dominant ideology) might recuperate such "rioting" into the hegemonic liberal democratic discourse, which can generally accommodate peaceful "free speech" and deliberation, but not militant, embodied confrontation (especially when the action is of no material effect). Meanwhile, CTV, CBC and the other corporate media inevitably broadcast some earnest schmuck with a microphone standing outside Hudson's Bay, quoting security officials about "reckless," "criminal elements," and a huge share of the public have their reactionary biases confirmed about any and all resistance to the Olympics. Virtually nobody but anarchist, anti-capitalist sympathizers reads a communique like this, meanwhile. The relation between the audience of a major news network's coverage of the black bloc's actions and the make-up of the readers of this pro-black bloc communique is nonetheless formally symmetrical, in that neither seems capable of altering or penetrating the other's thinking or actions.
Given that the actions of the black bloc were of negligible material ("direct") impact, and given that they have all too readily been incorporated into existing thought and attitudes at the level of the symbolic, I'm uncertain of their value beyond affirming the individual heroism and courage of those involved--and the call to join them.
These thoughts are not intended as a denunciation of the black bloc or their tactics but rather as reflections on the tactical and strategic merits of such “direct action” in this case (In principle, I am certainly not opposed to destruction of corporate property or physical confrontations with the police).
~ Andrew Loewen