OK: we've heard what you, the professionals (the professional newspaper writers, television commentators, politicians and leftist activists) think about the violence in Seattle this past week.
Apparently a diverse group -- indeed, the leftist activists among your ranks would have it believed that they are not part of and are actually opposed to the politics of the mainstream writers, commentators and politicians -- you have nevertheless reached consensus, which you are now repeating on every occasion and on all channels, as if there could be no disagreement: the violence in Seattle was perpetrated by protesters against property; the violence was regrettable, counter-productive, stupid and ineffective; the violence was caused by a small "isolated" group of protesters, upon whom you have poured insults, calumnies and contempt; the protesters who self-righteously denounced and tried to detain "the violent anarchists" were courageous and brave, even heroes; and the police should have reserved their armoured personnel carriers, three-foot-long solid-oak clubs, pepper spray, tear gas, and rubber bullets for the violent protesters, and let the non-violent protesters alone.
OK: we've heard what you've said; now shut the fuck up, if only for a second, and let other voices be heard.
We, like the rioters in Seattle, are sick and tired of your monopolization of communication when it comes to the pressing issues of the day. Despite what you tell us, we know that you do not speak for us and your opinions do not represent what we think. This is especially true for the professional leftist activists who actually defended Starbucks and Niketown against attack, and now feel no shame in proudly reporting this ignominious fact to whomever will listen. These activists, some of whom have in the past actually pretended to protest against Starbucks and Nike, have nevertheless, at the most basic level, always defended them. But now these phony revolutionaries have visibly become what they essentially always were. The hypocrisy of the professional newspaper writers, television commentators, and politicians -- as well as their eager collaboration with the police and special services -- are well known; we intend to make the hypocrisy and collaboration of the "anti-violence" leftists infamous.
But, first and foremost, we must declare our unconditional support for the anarchists, who came to Seattle armed with a well-thought out form of protest that is different from and intended as an explicit alternative to those forms of protest practiced by the conventional leftist groups (rallies, marches, demonstrations, sit-ins, die-ins, street theater and "festival"). The anarchists -- an organic community able to take organized, collective and militant action against their real enemies -- formed themselves into "black blocks" (so named for the black clothes and masks the anarchists wore) and systematically attacked unoccupied corporate chain stores such as McDonalds, the Gap, Nike, Nordstrom, Levi, and Disney, as well as the notoriously corrupt Bank of America. That is to say, the anarchists -- unsatisfied with protesting indirectly against an abstraction -- directly attacked the physical manifestations in real space of "the global economy" to which the World Trade Organization is committed to furthering, not people or "mom and pop" stores.
Adherents to non-violent protest methods have always preached in the most self-righteous of tones against the strategy of targeting corporate property. We feel that their "morality" is actually an uncritical acceptance of the essence of corporate ideology, which elevates fictional corporate entities to the status of human beings, violently imposes an identity between these two categories of "persons," and thus demands "equal protection" under the law for both. Because corporations (only) serve the interests of certain individuals, the inevitable result of this "equal protection for all" is actually double-protection for corporate "persons" and no protection for real ones. The destruction of corporate property is the positive affirmation of autonomous human society and its right to be in control of its institutions, rather than be controlled by them.
But, this time, in Seattle, the "moral" non-violent protesters did more than preach to the unconverted: they actually acted like cops until the real cops came and took over. Using their numerical advantage, the non-violent protesters surrounded, denounced, un-masked, beat up and actually turned over to the police the practitioners of violent protest. In doing so, the "moral majority" among the anti-WTO protesters not only helped the police and the National Guard do their dirty work, but they also assisted in the larger and more long-term effort to criminalize radical political philosophies that is taking place all over this country and through-out the rest of the world. Ironically, the "moral majority" was compensated for its counter-revolutionary efforts with indiscriminate and unprovoked beatings, gassings, shootings and arrests.
It is both appalling and quite telling that none of the professionals who have denounced the controlled violence of the anarchists -- neither the mainstream commentators and politicians nor the leftist activists -- have denounced the unrestrained violence against people (not property) committed in Seattle by the police forces and the National Guard. According to several eyewitness reports, the police tear-gassed "shoppers and people getting dinner, as well as protesters," and that they did so both in downtown Seattle and in the neighborhoods outside the city limits "where the regular people live." In the words of eye-witness Jim Desyllas,
If you were alive, the police gassed you. People got gassed for coming out of restaurants and bars and coffee shops. People coming back from work, kids, women, everyone. People would go out of their houses to see what was happening because these tear gas guns sound like a cannon -- and they would get gassed. A block away there was a Texaco gas station -- [the riot police] threw tear gas at gas pumps, believe it or not -- they were like vandals. They gassed a bus. I saw it with my own eyes. A bus. The driver, the riders, the people just abandoned it.
According to Desyllas, a reporter from Portland, Oregon, "this was not, as Pres. Clinton claims, a peaceful protest marred by the actions of violent protesters. This was a massive, strong but peaceful demonstration which was attacked repeatedly by the police with the express purpose of provoking a violent response to provide photo opportunities for the Western media" and thus "discredit the movement against the WTO because they couldn't dilute it." Desyllas believes that, "This whole thing, this police attack, this was US foreign policy, not some action decided by some bureaucrat in Seattle. This was the State Department." Eye-witness Damon Krane agrees: "By repeatedly attacking and torturing non-violent protesters, the Seattle police sought to incite a riot and finally succeeded to a small degree."
Thus, the anarchists did not precipitate the vicious crack-down, as all the professionals are alleging; rather, the anarchists knew it was coming and acted accordingly. That is to say, they refused in advance to let the outcome of the inevitable struggle for the streets of Seattle be yet another one-sided victory for the forces of order. Though you wouldn't know it from the reports of the professionals, the crack-down had the effect of radicalizing a great many people, that is, bringing people around the anarchist position, not putting them off from it. Jim Desyllas reports that , "because they were gassing everybody, the local people got mad too and they joined the 100 who had been herded out of the city. So soon there were 500 including the neighborhood people and all very angry. Then people set up barricades."
For as long as they lasted, those barricades kept out both vicious police squads and "morally superior" leftists. For as long as we last, let us not forget the clear division that the barricades made between those who are truly opposed to this society and those who are not.
[2-5 December 1999]
[LETTRIST INTERNATIONAL ARCHIVE] [SITUATIONIST INTERNATIONAL ARCHIVE]