Monday, February 15, 2010

Olympic protests and the Black Block. . .

Many people have been very upset by the so-called Black Block protesters at the Olympics. These self identified young 'anarchists' show up many of these international events, often wreaking havoc with their militant and sometimes violent tactics. They are a very loose affiliation of activists who have some very basic, gut-reaction objections to the inequities of modern capitalism and the power of what they consider to be an international ruling capitalist class that effectively controls much of thee agenda through a rather strong strangle-hold on the media. Thus they often target international meetings which they see as a reflection of this elitist control of democracy, media, and resources. Their basic strategy is fairly simple: create a certain degree of chaos on the street through mildly violent action, thus attracting media attention which, despite a large degree of corporate control still reports on these actions. 

Of course one can largely agree with the analysis of these people concerning the injustices of the international relations of  production and distribution without agreeing with their tactics. But the argument is not at all as clear as one would like it to be. Those who opposes such actions contend that they fail to progress the cause of greater international justice and democracy because they alienate many of the people who could be converted to the cause. ON the other hand, many of these anarchists would argue that without such actions there would be little or no coverage of the opposition to these international events, leading people to believe that these is no real problems with the international bodies such as the G20, the IMF, the World Bank etc. 

To a certain degree both these arguments are correct. In the face of a media controlled almost everywhere by a small group of corporations which, naturally, pursue a certain narrow corporatist agenda, it is near impossible to proliferate the debate concerning the corporate roots of global inequities and injustices. However, there are many who, if they really knew what was going on, would be profoundly opposed to much of what is really happening in the pursuit of international profit. But many of these people are just turned off by the sight of youths dressed in black breaking storefront windows and fighting with police. 

However one feels about these people and their actions, it would be folly not to take what they have to say seriously. There is an ever growing opposition to the inequities of the international economic system. These people are informed, often well educated, energetic, and committed. This is exactly the constituency of many of the worlds great revolutions. They are struggling for the same things that inspired those who fought the French revolution in thee 1789 and in many ways the goals of their cause are becoming ever more popular. In the years preceding the Revolution in France there was a tendency among the ruling class to ride in ever larger and more extravagant coaches as the desrepenciee in wealth become more pronounced in French culture. Today the differences between rich and poor are steadily growing, and the ultra-wealthy drive ever more extravagant vehicles and Wall St. and Bay St. Bankers and investors are making money that normal people can hardly imagine. 

And perhaps even more importantly many average people are feeling alienated by a system that is supposed to be democratic but is increasingly rarified and controlled by a political and economic elite. The very institutions that were supposed to guarantee the voice of the people are becoming more or less the 'playthings' of the rich and powerful who are able to manipulate them in their interests. This tendency causes a vague feeling of unease among people which, though they cannot necessarily express it in clear and rational discourse, slowly undermines the system's legitimacy. I believe the fairly strong reaction to the recent prorogation of parliament is a small example of this unease. The people in the so-called Black Block are just one of the most obvious expressions of this sentiment. But just as Parkinson's disease may begin with a very small tremor in the hand, social movements which lead to major social upheavals begin with a ragtag group of malcontents. Disregard them or condemn them if you will but you do so at your folly. 

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