This isn't going to be an easy diary to write for a number of reasons. First and foremost because there is a lot of ground to cover. Understanding the black bloc and the political impetus behind it, when there is political impetus, requires a familiarity with anarchism and the radical milieu that the vast majority of people don't have, even here at Daily Kos. It isn't just a story of a few people breaking windows and throwing stuff at cops. It's a story of a broad group of building a community and the ideas and actions that come from that. It's also a story of history, a story of radical history which many know peripherally but don't tend to think about too much in depth. It is at its root a story of the evolution of anarchism and its evolution in response to state repression and liberal ridicule. Its evolution in response to accusations of being juvenile and not being realist. It's also a story of emotion, of hope and anger. What it isn't is a simple or short story.
The second reason this will be difficult is because it is personal. Because if I'm going to write this and be honest with this community, which I really feel a part of, then there is the distinct possibility of negative repercussions for me, mostly here, but possibly elsewhere. But given the subject matter and the fact that the overwhelming insult thrown when this subject comes up is "coward" I hope you understand my reluctance. Because this isn't just a story of other people, this is a story of me. This is a story that I am still very much involved in. If I wasn't already sure that the government wasn't at least aware of my activities, none of which by the way have been anything worse than infractions legally speaking, then I might worry about that. Luckily we're all under surveillance now so I have no worries on that front.
What worries me most is that this will be taken as fear mongering and an excuse to further attack anarchists. And by attack anarchists I mean attack my friends. My close friends, people who I've been friends with for a long time. For some of you this may explain why I get so heated in the discussions about anarchists and the black bloc, others may simply dismiss me at this point. Please don't, this is important. This is something that needs to be discussed.
With those disclaimers.I'll begin.
[Added disclaimers: I'm going to publish this as is. I'm going to do a three part series. I'm still kinda worried that this could get me baned.]
I was raised a poor black child. Wait, no, no, wrong beginning. I'm not black. No, I was raised a lower middle class boy. I came from a parents who had forsaken their class to live a worthwhile life. We lived in working class neighborhoods, mostly mixed race. And bear with me here, I understand you want to get to the meat of the diary but I can't tell this any other way and have it make sense. I came from an educated family. Both my parents had degrees and came from a background that wasn't exactly rich for back then but certainly looks that way to me now. I wasn't sheltered but I was separate.I read and read and read. And I was a loner. I wasn't bullied any more than was normal at the time, but I was certainly aware of the fact that I wasn't normal. It would have been worse but I was fair enough at sports without even trying. I hated school but loved learning. I got kicked out of my high school my senior year with a couple months left and ended up in a better school. Kurt Cobain died my senior year, if I remember correctly, and that's the first time I remember crying as an adult. I was in between generations. I was angry and bitter because I saw the world and knew it needed to change and didn't see a way to do it.
I voted for Clinton in '96, my first election. I protested Clinton at my old high school the same year. My first protest. As soon as I voted I hated politics. The fact that the person that I had just voted for had completely betrayed me by deregulating telecommunications pissed me off more than anything. After that I kicked around, working and going to community college(DVC which is an awesome college). I had no direction because I knew that everything was about to go to shit and committing to anything would have been the worst idea ever. I worked a series of shitty jobs and lived a party life, not caring what happened because everything was in the shitter anyway. Oh, if only I'd known.
And then it happened. 1999. Nineteen ninety fucking nine. The year of madness. First there was Columbine. I don't think I can explain how formative that was for me. Not in the sense that I could go out and kill people - because this is America, if anyone knows that we do - but in the sense of "Holy shit, these are my people. These are the people who were ignored in high school unless they were bullied." And I saw the reaction from mainstream America and I cried. Again. I cried because I knew that there was no way that I could ever convince these people that there was a reason this had happened. Not that there was a good reason, but that there was a reason.
But, 1999. Nineteen ninety fucking nine. Seattle. What most people remember is the broken windows. And to be sure I was aware of that. But I saw the videos, the real videos. The ones on union members and anarchists and greens and reds and high schoolers - seriously! fucking high schoolers! - blocking the delegates to the WTO. I had no clue what the WTO was. All I knew was that Clinton had ordered the protesters cleared. All I knew was that those people were my fucking heroes because they had done what the people at columbine had done but done it without killing people. They had FUCKED SHIT UP. Not in the pedestrian sense of breaking windows but in the real sense of stopping a conference from happening. And they were anarchists. And that was when it got drilled into my head: Anarchists get shit done. People pay attention to that shit. You know?
I'd been a punk for a while at this point, which meant I'd been exposed to anarchism. I knew that it existed and I had the same general sense of it that many people have, that it's all about breaking shit and making noise and making yourself special. But this was different. This was a whole bunch of people getting beaten and arrested because they opposed this weird political thing I'd never heard of. WTF is WTO? And they made me ask that question. And again, to be clear, it wasn't the black bloc in downtown Seattle breaking the windows of NikeTown that I was wondering about, although I thought that was awesome too. It was the people that were literally putting their bodies on the line for people they had never met. That was what was amazing. The other black bloc, the one people don't remember.
So I was an anarchist now. I read whatever I could find. I read Goldman and all that other shit. Although Emma has always been the best, to this day. I immersed myself in it. Which wasn't hard in the punk scene. And I wasn't the only one. After Seattle it was everywhere in the punk scene. Again, not just the people breaking windows but everyone. Everyone. And I knew that I was a radical. I was going to be a part of the big change.
And then I voted for Nader. It was a compromise, voting. And it was dumb. I was in California and it didn't really matter who I voted for, but still, fuck that self indulgent asshole. But I was a radical, a radical that compromised by voting, even if it was for Nader. And then Bush won. Oh god Bush. Fuck him. Fuck him. Fuck him. I still remember the inauguration. So few people do. Do you remember the fact that he was the only president that didn't walk the last few blocks to the white house? You know who did that? It was the anarchists throwing rotten fruit and vegetables. Along with others of course. But according to the news everyone was an anarchist.
And why not? Anarchism was safe to hate. It was leftist, which was proved wrong by the fall of the soviet union. It was actually made up of a fairly small community. And it wasn't actually dangerous as far as the government was concerned. Yes, the perfect culprit. No one would defend it and not enough people knew actual anarchists to know that the caricatures were incorrect. But I knew better. I knew the whole community. I knew that these were real people who really fucking cared. Cared enough that they would risk arrest to get their point across. This was real. A level of real that just didn't exist at the time, and really still doesn't.
The first black bloc I participated in was during an antiwar march in San Francisco. Here's the thing that you don't get from from the news about being in a black bloc: most people don't break windows. This seems to be the big misconception. That a black bloc is a whole bunch of people who all go crazy and break shit and attack the cops. But that's just not true. A black bloc is mostly people who are fine with people breaking windows and attacking the cops but don't do it themselves. It's not that I wanted to be violent, it's that I wanted to be able to support those who were.
Now, I understand how that looks. And this is what I was talking about at the beginning of this diary. I've done things that can get me arrested and advocated for things that could get me baned from DKos. Don't pretend like you tell all your secrets here, because we all know you don't. I actually never broke a window or threw anything at a cop. I tried to rally people to charge the cops the day the war in Iraq started, but it didn't work.
But lets get back into the nitty gritty of it. The other black bloc, the one that went around and busted up stores during the Seattle protests, was a bunch of anarcho-primitivists. You might know the ideology from Chris Hedges article on how the black bloc is a cancer. For some reason he decided that an ideology from ten years ago, which has no influence in the anarchist milieu now, is the problem. This is when I flipped my shit about the attacks on anarchists.
Primitivism is this absurd shit that idolizes hunter gatherer society as the best anarchist societies ever. Nonsense that played well with the youth because they believed the bullshit from the press about the other black bloc in Seattle. Primitivism is based around the idea that civilization itself is the problem. Not the form of civilization we have, but civilization. It includes Ted Kaczynski, AKA the unabomber, in it's required reading. They rejected metaphor. Stuck around for a while but ultimately they decided that arguing with people about ideology was a compromise. Some of them are still living out in the woods I hear.
If you're still reading I just have to remind you that I warned you, this will be long. We're more than half way through though. I'm going to end this diary here because I need to collect my thoughts. Remember, the past is prelude.