Comments on

"The Relevance of Antonio Negri

to the Anti-Globalization Movement"

As the Belgium government held the final EU meeting of their six-month Presidency, cops were out on the streets of having a good old ruck with protesters at the summit of Laeken. Undercover cops, dressed in black, were seen directing protesters to smash up the Palace and attack shops, only this time the international black bloc were having none of it. Instead of following their instructions protesters surrounded the 15 cops and herded them into a corner and held them there until riot cops had to rescue their mates. -- SchNEWS, Issue 336, Winter Solstice 2001, paraphrasing Indymedia's coverage of 14 December 2001 protests.

Even months after de anarho-demo in Brussels I cannot stop thinking about what happened. Trying to not be influenced by other opinions I can write only what I saw with my eyes. The march of the anarchists was really great (around 5000 people) there was no any sign of violence or something like that. In a moment the cops blocked a square in the centrum of the city and all the people were caught in a mousetrap. Then the organisators desided to turn bach to Midi Station. Then I noticed a group of 10-15 guys in black and masks comming from a strange direction where the cordon of the cops was placed. A few minutes later they attacked with stones a single cop from the trafic police. The strange was that they gave him a time to escape !?! A bit later when cops reinforcements arrived the same guys in blach started to trow stones and 2 or 3 fire bombs. I never have trew Molotov coctail but for me it is logical that if somebody wants to do it he is going to trow it against the target (the police car)directly. That was obviously NOT in that case. The fire bomb was trowen up vertical and it fell maybe 5 meter before the police car while the distance between th! e guy who trew it and the car was not more than 20-25 m. Strange, a? Later the same guys in black attacked some marrocians and even chased them further - the reason was obviously not friendly... So, the conclugion I can take is that I can take is that there were people specialy trained for that kind of action and they did there job pretty well doing a provocation without hurting any cop. -- Posted to on 19 February 2002.

We here at NOT BORED! received a large number of responses to our essay The Relevance of Antonio Negri to the Anti-Globalization Movement, in part because it was re-printed by a popular anarchist website as well as posted to a couple of sites associated with the Independent Media Center, for which the essay was originally written. Most of these responses were highly critical. The essay was taken to task for basing all of its positions on a handful of old and obscure situationist pamphlets, for discouraging people from reading Negri & Hardt's book Empire, and for conflating Negri's "communism" with the "Communism" of the Italian Communist Party, among other things.

All of these criticisms have merit; but it is also true that none of them address the main point of our essay, which doesn't concern Antonio Negri but his relevance to certain events that allegedly took place at the huge protests outside the 20-23 July 2001 summit of the leaders of the so-called G8 (Great Eight) Nations in Genoa, Italy -- in particular, the widely reported incidences in which anarchist "Black Bloc" formations were either infiltrated or completely faked by police provocateurs. We argued that, in the same way Toni Negri personally suffered because in the 1970s he was slow (for a long time he refused) to recognize the possibility that the "revolutionaries" in the Red Brigades group had been infiltrated or even replaced by government spies and provocateurs, those of us who are active in the anti-globalization movement might also suffer if we are "slow" to believe the reports of fake Black Blocs in Genoa. If we refuse to believe these reports -- and too many anarchists have indeed refused to believe them -- we, like Negri, might be positioned by unscrupulous police officers or district attorneys as the Black Bloc's "theoreticians" or "leaders," precisely because we've spent our time criticizing the "mistakes" of "well-intentioned" people like ourselves, instead of denouncing the incredible lengths to which the State will go to justify and protect itself. When you've been arrested and imprisoned on false charges -- as Negri was in 1979 and then again in 1997 -- it hardly matters if you are a "communist" or a "Communist." In either case, you're still in jail, as Negri still is.

As we noted one month after our essay on Negri's relevance was written, unfortunately one can cite other recent instances in which a government or one of its "secret services" has perpetrated a despicable act of violence, blamed it on people who have already been vilified, and then used it to justify and provide the pretext for a pre-planned attack against them. As we noted on 3 September 2001, it has been confirmed since our essay was written -- and by none other than the former Chief of the Genoan Police Department, who resigned in the aftermath of the G8 protests -- that approximately 600 neo-nazis from both Germany and Italy were in fact allowed to enter the city and "participate" in the protests, even though the Italian government knew full well that both the presence and the behavior of these people would be disruptive, to say the least. But disrupting the protests -- either by allowing the protesters to be attacked by brutal goons or by blaming the protesters for violence perpetrated by brutal goons -- was precisely what the police and the pro-globalization politicians intended to do. (The ex-Chief of Police appears to have made no reference to the allegations that some or all of these neo-nazis were dressed like and pretended to be "black bloc" anarchists once they entered Genoa.)

Had it not been for the 11 September 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, we would have been content to continue to attach similar footnotes to the original essay, if and when they were needed; we wouldn't have undertaken to write a second essay or comments such as these. But these attacks -- or, rather, the nature of the United States government's response to them -- necessitates such an undertaking.

In the aftermath of the attacks, during America's self-righteous "war on terrorism," there is no longer an analogy one might draw between the Red Brigades of the 1970s and the Black Bloc(s) of today: there is now a direct connection. On 16 December 2001, the Australian news magazine The Age reported that,

US Attorney General John Ashcroft wrapped up a tour of European capitals today with a pledge of closer cooperation between Italy and the United States on intelligence sharing in the fight against terrorism.

Ashcroft held talks with Italy's Interior Minister Claudio Scajola, at which they decided to revive a bilateral commission as a vehicle for the heightened cooperation.

The US official was completing a tour which included meetings with his counterparts in London, Berlin and Madrid on developing cooperation on extraditing terrorist suspects arrested since the September 11 attacks on America [...]

Ashcroft is keen to establish a clear modus operandi with European countries because between them they hold dozens of suspects linked to terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network, blamed for the September 11 attacks.

Washington is determined to bring bin Laden and his associates to justice [...]

He [Ashcroft] said Scajola "clearly understands and recognises that terrorism is international and that the threat to liberty and freedom, and order, and government is international".

The US official said Washington could learn from Italy, which "has known of terrorism in ways that the United States has never experienced" - an apparent reference to bombings by left-wing extremist groups like the Red Brigades in the 1970s and 1980s.

Scajola, who is responsible for Italy's anti-terrorist police [and for the actions of the carabinieri in Genoa during the G8 Summit], said: "Italy stands side by side, shoulder to shoulder with the US, in the spirit of solidarity with the US people."

Unlike the writer of this story, we're not sure Ashcroft was in fact referring to the Red Brigades when he spoke of terrorist attacks "that the United States has never experienced." As a matter of fact, there were groups like the Red Brigades or, rather, there were left-wing extremist groups (the Weather Underground and the Symbionese Liberation Army, among them) that conducted bombing campaigns in the 1970s that were intended to terrorize the American government. Perhaps Ashcroft intended instead to refer to such uniquely Italian manifestations of terrorism as the 1981 assassination of Pope John Paul or the 1993 bombing of the Uffizi Art Gallery (commonly attributed to the Mafia). Both events are truly without parallel in American history. . . . More than likely, Ashcroft was referring to the "terrorism" of the anti-globalization protesters at the G8 Summit in Genoa, which was "so severe" that the carabinieri had no choice but to kill one of the protesters, a 20-year-old man named Carlos Giuliani. While there have been several large and violent anti-globalization protests in the United States, none of them has resulted in a fatality. And so it's possible that our reporter has Ashcroft referring to the Red Brigades when the Attorney General was actually referring to violent anti-globalization protesters.

The significant thing about this "mistake" is the fact that it may not be a mistake at all: it might be a helpful hint from either the reporter or his/her editor as to what's more likely to rally public opinion against the anti-globalization movement. The public won't believe there's a connection between the anti-globalization movement and Al Qaeda, that is, unless you insert the fiction of the Red Brigades between them. You've got to compare Al Qaedea to the Red Brigades (not as they really were, but as they've been portrayed), and then compare the Red Brigades with the anti-globalization movement, before you can make a connection between the anti-globalization movement and Al Qaeda. Otherwise, the lie is too transparent to work.

And so, once again, it is clear to us that the anti-globalization movement must re-familiarize itself with the Red Brigades and, by extension, with the sad case of Antonio Negri. The movement must learn that Negri, whatever the merits of his books, made a crucial and foreseeable mistake about the Red Brigades back in the 1970s, and that contemporary anti-globaliztion protesters are at risk of making the same sort of mistake today where fake Black Blocs are concerned. To avoid Negri's fate, we must not assume that "unusual" or "suspicious" Black Bloc formations are made up of well-intentioned comrades who are weak on revolutionary theory, inexperienced or prone to making mistakes; we must not attack the integrity or credibility of those who bring back reports of Black Blocs that have behaved as if they were made up of police officers or neo-nazi thugs; and we must commit ourselves to investigating such reports and then, if and when we are satisfied that they are accurate, to publicizing their contents.

But there's more to it than just that. The anti-globalization movement must be prepared to turn the Red Brigades "trick" back on the people who would play it. That is to say, the anti-globalization movement must be prepared to say (must have the facts to back up the assertions) that, just like the operatives in Osama Bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, the members of the Red Brigades were once on very close terms with the CIA, and that the CIA used both groups as weapons in its "cold war" against global communism.


17 December 2001

Note added 20 March 2002: today, a group of terrorists calling themselves "The Red Brigades" -- supposedly "the same" Red Brigades that was active in Italy in the 1970s, back in action after 20 years' of silence -- took credit for the assassination in Bologna of one Marco Biagi, a university professor who, on behalf of Berlusconi's government, was preparing to repeal key measures of Italy's landmark 1970 labor relations law.

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