Toronto is burning! Or is it? Black bloc tactics play into the state's hands
Real News Network report of police violence against peaceful protesters on June 26, 2010.
By Judy Rebick
June 27, 2010 -- Rabble -- For people sitting at home and watching TV news last night, Toronto
was burning. The same police car on Queen St West burned and blew up over
and over again. The same image of a young man very violently smashing
Starbucks windows appeared over and over again. Windows smashed all
along Yonge Street. None of us had ever seen Toronto like this. It was
Most of the 400 protesters arrested last night and others who may
have avoided arrest didn't see that violence. From their perspective,
they were facing a violent police state. These demonstrations, militant
but overwhelming peaceful, were resisting the right of the police to
hold them to Queen Street. They think the people have a right to
protest in a place where political leaders can hear them. They had
nothing to do with torching police cars or trashing windows.
TVO host Steve Paiken was down at the Novotel last night with
peaceful protesters. He tweeted his experiences, "Shame on
those that ordered peaceful protesters attacked and arrested. That is
not consistent with democracy in Toronto, G20 or no G20."
I was on Queen West and Spadina when the trouble started. David
Fernandez has written an excellent report on what happened on his facebook
Rewind to just before the riot happened, thousands of us marched
in a very briskly moving group until we hit the intersection of Spadina
and Queen. Folks from the labour movement tried in vain to encourage
the march to move back up towards queens park, but the mood was clear.
Many thousands of protestors were interested in being closer to the
summit and letting the police know that we couldn't be intimidated.
But nothing official was planned. Labour walked back up the
street leaving thousands to mill about in the confusion of what to do
next. And in that confusion, several hundred people changed their
clothes and took off together running down queen street while thousands
of riot cops picked their noses. In full police view, they let a mob
destroy banks and trash Yonge Street.
And while riot cops had shields AND bikes and thousands of
dollars in body armor to protect them from the remaining peaceful
protestors, somehow they were so scared of us that they abandoned police
The police spokesperson told Metro Morning today that they waited
until later when it was safer to make arrests but that cannot be true. I
was there and like David I believe the cops could have arrested the
Black Bloc right at the beginning of the action but they abandoned
their police cars and allowed them to burn, not even calling the fire
department until the media had lots of time to photograph them. They
had a water cannon but they didn't even use a fire extinguisher. Why?
A comment released to a media outlet last night from official police
spokesperson tells some of the story, "We have never tried to curtail
people's rights to lawfully protest. All you have to do is turn on the
TV and see what's happening now. Police cars are getting torched,
buildings are being vandalised, people are getting beat up and the
so-called 'intimidating' police presence is essential to restoring
order. That is the reality on the ground."
Police playing politics, justifying the expense and responding to the
critiques building all week about excessive and arbitrary police
powers. A politicised police force is unacceptable in a democratic
society. There are serious questions that must be answered and they
have not been satisfactory answered.
People were shocked last night by a city out of control but the
Toronto police -- without all the huge expenditures, extra police from
across the country and sophisticated new toys -- have kept the peace in
riots with a lot more people and in hundreds of demonstrations much
larger and often angry. I disagree with torching police cars and
breaking windows and I have been debating these tactics for decades with
people who think they accomplish something. But the bigger question
here is why the police let it happen and make no mistake the police did
let it happen. Why did the police let the city get out of control?
And they did let it get out of control. The police knew exactly what
would happen and how.
The officers clustered and formed a line. A second picket of
officers lined up behind them, facing the crowd where I stood. They
started to move, but they weren't clearing the street; they were
clearing out and abandoning two police cars, including the one with the
In moments like this, someone needs to make a decision. This time
it was a man in dreadlocks and no shirt, red paint all over his torso.
He moved towards the police car, grabbing the squawking police radio...
Following the lead of the dreadlocked man, someone else pulled
what looked like a leather folder from inside the car and spread its
contents over the trunk. A kid wearing sunglasses, his face covered by a
scarf, inspected the paperwork. Soon after, the squad cars would be on
fire. (The gas cap appeared to have been removed from one of them even
before the crowd moved in.)
It was a perfect storm. A massive police presence who were primed
for "dangerous anarchists" after a week of peaceful protests. No more
than one hundred, probably fewer, young men who think violent
confrontations with the police will create a radicalisation and expose
the violence of the state. A new generation of young people who are
becoming activists believing they live in a democratic society and are
shocked by the degree of police violence arrayed to stop them.
it is the police that let the handful of people using Black Bloc
tactics run wild and then used the burning police cars and violent
images as a media campaign to convince the people of Toronto that the
cost and the excessive police presence was necessary. They knew what
would happen and they knew how
it would happen. It is the police that bear the responsibility for
what happened last night. They were responsible for keeping the peace
and they failed to do it.
G20 police let rioters run amok and then struck back
hard at all activists
By David Langille
June 27, 2010 -- Rabble -- Alongside my neighbours from the Danforth area, I joined the large
march on Saturday afternoon [June 26] on the first day of the G20 Summit in
Toronto. We felt proud to be there alongside more than 10,000 other Canadians
-- women, trade unionists, students, teachers, people of all ethnicities and
backgrounds -- demonstrating our commitment to peace and social justice.
We passed by hundreds and hundreds of police without an incident.
Soon afterwards, while catching a meal on the patio at Fran's
Restaurant on College Street, we heard glass breaking on Yonge Street,
and saw a mob of about 150 coming around the corner, hurling chairs into
windows. Someone threw a bottle through a window showering me in broken
glass. What was most striking was that there were not any police in
Evidently this group had started rioting on Queen Street over half an
hour earlier -- where the police drove one of their cars into the
middle of the group then abandoned it. It was soon set on fire -- making
a great photo op.
The group proceeded up Yonge Street smashing windows all the way up
Yonge Street, at least eight blocks, without being stopped by police.
There were reported to be 19,000 security people on duty, and a
senior officer told me they had 7000 police.
As an academic and an activist, I have participated in numerous
demonstrations in Canada, the United States, Europe and South America,
and I have never seen such a dereliction of duty.
Normally, there are buses full of riot police right in the downtown
core, ready to move at a moment's notice.
The police knew that they should focus their energies on the Black
Bloc, especially so late on Saturday afternoon.
But when the rioters came smashing their way up the main street of
Toronto, the police disappeared for half an hour.
It would appear that the security forces allowed this riot to happen
in order to justify the $1 billion which appeared to have been wasted on
security measures in Huntsville and Toronto.
They must not be allowed to discredit those of us who protested
We must hold this government responsible for wasting $1 billion
dollars on security measures, and then trying to justify it by allowing
people to riot.
[David Langille is the executive producer for Poor No More, a
feature documentary on Canada's working poor. These articles first appeared at Rabble.ca, a radical web journal in Canada.]
Mass arrests, the security state and the Toronto G20 summit
June 28, 2010 -- The Bullet -- The massive police presence in Toronto this week has been
officially justified on the basis of protecting the leaders of the G8
and G20 countries meeting in Huntsville and Toronto. We were told that
the creation of the fenced-in fortress, the massive mobilisation of
police (estimates ranging from 10,000-20,000) from across Canada, and even
the passing of a secret law on policing (by the executive of the Ontario
government without reference to the Legislative Assembly and the
opposition parties) that made it a crime to appear within five metres of
the security fence would protect our right to protest as well.
This is not what has unfolded in Toronto over the June 25-27 weekend.
Thousands of protesters marched peacefully on June 25, challenging the
purpose and agenda of the G20, although completely hemmed on all sides
by thousands of heavily armed police over the entire march (and severely
hampering the freedom of assembly). On June 26, in the midst of a
larger demonstration (estimated at between 10-25,000), organised by the
labour, anti-privatisation and peace movements, a series of unwarranted
acts of vandalism by a small number of protesters against stores,
vehicles and buildings, was used as an excuse for a massive unleashing
of repression and attacks by police against the democratic rights of
both protesters, and Torontonians as a whole. (Like what happened at the
Montebello Summit of North American leaders in August 2007, it will
come out over the next weeks how widely the police
had infiltrated some of the key groups – especially the so-called
Black Bloc, knew the planning and participated as agent provocateurs.)
There seemed to be no real efforts on the part
of the police to stop the attacks on the stores. As well, none of the
massive police contingents tried to stop some of this small group from
burning three of their police vehicles. It was as if the police weren't
all that concerned with these actions. Reporters from European
broadcasters and newspapers reported that this was totally out of
keeping with any real concern to prevent violence.
The police then unleashed waves of repression against the legitimate
protesters, those who wished to push toward the security fence – in an
effort to challenge the militarisation of the streets and demand that
the G20 leaders respond to concerns about austerity and attacks on poor
and working people – those who were simply voicing their concerns about
the G20 agenda (with its radical austerity agenda of having the public
sector and the poor pay for the bailout of the banks), journalists and
even innocent and curious bystanders. In one attack on a “free protest”
zone (previously negotiated with the police) rubber bullets and tear gas
was used, and people were indiscriminately taken down, beaten and
In all, by June 27 estimates were that some 500 people were
arrested (and there have been hundreds more over the course of June 28);
it is impossible for anyone to know how many of these were the
instigators of violence and how many were people simply exercising their
right to protest. But clearly the mass majority were only protesting
and exercising their rights to assembly and free speech, which the
Toronto police and the wider security forces have been systematically
The temporary jail that protesters have been placed in is located at
the old Toronto Film Studios on Eastern Avenue in the eastern edge of
the downtown, converted into a series of cages in essentially a huge
warehouse. The jail is described by inmates as a kind of Guantanamo
North: cold, dirty and especially humiliating for those who were said to
have refused arrest. People have been held for hours without recourse
to legal representation, of which there has been a large legal team at
hand. Protesters hoping to provide some type of support for those
incarcerated, have themselves been attacked, tear-gassed and dispersed
by police violence.
Listening to the mass media and the interviews with the police and
security spokespeople for Toronto and the Canadian state, one would have
thought that there was full scale rioting, and that the massive,
billion dollar spending spree on security for the summit – that angered
people across the country – was somehow worth it. As part of this, all
protesters are being demonised and the police are being portrayed as
heroes, notably by the political leadership and the Mayor of Toronto,
The message of the protests (and of the thousands who protested
across the week at hundreds of talks, meetings, protests, cultural
events) – that the G20 meeting reflected the underlying agenda of the
corporations and the political elites, to make sharp cutbacks across the
public sector, to impose wage cuts, to not raise significant (or any)
new taxes on financial capital and to impose new forms of hardship in
the form of higher taxes and cuts in benefits for working people and the
poor – was to be drowned out in a demonising of the entire project of
the protest. That is, that the ruling classes in the G20 were doing
everything in their power to have the working classes pay for the crisis
and their project of re-constructing neoliberalism and the political
hegemony of the banks and financial capital.
The police and much of Toronto's political and economic
establishment, sought to use the incidents to change the entire
discourse of the G20 week.
Socialists, of course, take their distance from the foolish acts of
the few who confuse violent attacks and trashing with revolutionary
politics. This is to substitute individual acts of dissent for the
working class and the mass movement as a whole. It is the adventurism
that calls forth the most violent features of the security and policing
apparatuses of the state, catching hundreds of innocents in the wake,
and helps justify to the endless expansion of the security state. To
challenge the neoliberal globalisation agenda of the G20, and overturn
all the undemocratic exploitative relations of capitalism, we need to
build a political movement in Canada, based among the working classes
who don't earn their income from capital ownership, and who also are
oppressed by the unequal relations of race, gender, sexuality and
At this moment, it is a point of fundamental solidarity to denounce,
as forcefully as possible, the police repression being unleashed against
G20 protesters. We insist that those incarcerated on Eastern Avenue
have their full civil rights restored and that civilian authorities take
control from the Toronto Police Services of oversight of these
proceedings. They have proven incapable of protecting – and
understanding – basic civil rights (starting from the special emergency
powers asked for by Police Chief Blair, and granted by stealth by
Premier Dalton McGuinty). The accused should immediately be released
without charge, or be freed on bail and given the right to defend
themselves in open courts (not the kangaroo courts with limited or no
public access that have been operating over this week).
The police occupation of Toronto should end immediately, and our full
civil rights – and especially our rights to our city and streets – be
restored. There clearly will need to be a full and independent
investigation about the role of the police in the violence of the last
few days, the role of agent provocateurs and plants in the planning of
these events and the astonishing violation of the rights of ordinary
people and protesters alike on the streets of Toronto over the last
The MDC's Summit Legal Support Project is appealing to the movements
it supports to mobilize a show of political strength and solidarity for
the nearly 500 people arrested in the last four days. The Toronto Police
and the ISU appear to have lost control of their ‘prisoner processing
center,’ denying arrestees meaningful and timely access to counsel while
beating and arresting those peacefully protesting their detention
Despite assurances to the contrary, only a handful of people have
been released, including those held for many hours without charge.
Arrestees are given incorrect information about the bail process they
will be subjected to, and friends and family members gather hours early
at the courthouse, located far from the city center and inaccessible via
Our lawyers call in and are told that there is no one available to
make decisions or wait for hours at the detention centre, only to be
denied access to their clients. Almost 500 people are in custody and we
know from experience that the vast majority of those charges will
disappear and yet the cell doors remain shut.
We need to step it up and build a political response. We need many
more voices – especially prominent ones – to say that the abuse and
incompetence at 629 Eastern Avenue must stop. We must demand that all
levels of government take control of the police forces under their
command. We need to ensure that courts and crown attorneys act to
enforce constitutional rights rather than collude in their violation.
July 3, 2010 -- The events at the Saturday G20 demonstration in Toronto last week
have provoked a series of responses already. This article is not meant
to review the events of the day itself, but to look at the questions
raised by the demonstrations and tactics used for the left.
Suffice to say the reaction of the police, in arresting, detaining,
and brutalizing nearly 1,000 people in the largest mass arrest in
Canadian history, exposes the serious attacks on civil liberties the
On the Friday before the demonstration I was having a beer with a
comrade in Halifax and, of course, discussion turned to the G20. We both
agreed that this would be the perfect demonstration to go off without
any property damage. If at the end of the day tens of thousands marched,
thousands did sit-ins by the fence, but the tactic of smashing windows
was not employed, then the Summit would be a defeat for [Prime Minister]
Stephen Harper's Conservative government.
We drew this analysis based on the fact that everywhere you went
there was anger at the billion dollar price tag for security. At a time
when thousands are struggling to make ends meet and see the cost of the
Summits as exorbitant. Many, consciously or not, recognize that this
money is being spent on the architects of the crisis, protecting those
who gave billions to the banks while leaving workers and the poor to pay
for it. Furthermore, in the lead-up to the Summit, there was a growing
polarization of opinion in Canada with many being angry or frustrated
with Harper's attacks on civil liberties, on women's rights, on the
climate, on the economy, and more.
A Protest Pattern
To have had a day of mass demonstrations and militant but non-violent
action would have left Harper with egg on his face, and given more
confidence to those who want to find ways to challenge Harper and the
Instead, the day followed, in many ways, a clock work pattern – much
like other summits. First, there's a mass demonstration. Then a layer of
people do a split from that march and, sooner or later, some engage in
expressing their rage against the system by smashing windows and other
acts. Given the world we live in, it is surprising that more of this
doesn't happen more often.
In response, the police hold back until the main march disperses.
They wait for some damage to be done, and then they go on the offensive.
They round-up and brutalize everyone left on the streets, including
passers-by, peaceful protesters and those engaged in property damage. In
Seattle, Québec, Genoa, and others, this script has played out over and
over again. The police wait until the mass organizations leave, then go
after the rest. This strategy suggests that the police and the state
are keenly aware of who they want – and don't want – to provoke.
Within this context, the “Black Bloc” and their supporters utilize
the larger rally and split marches to launch attacks on property and the
police. Usually the police wait long enough for damage to be created
before they respond. It is one of the few times the police wait to crack
Then, when the cops attack, the Bloc usually retreats and tries to
merge with others. In Genoa, the Black Bloc ran through a group of nuns
engaged in a sit-in which resulted in the police attacking the nuns. In
New York City, at a demonstration against WEF (World Economic Forum),
the Black Bloc ended up running from the police and trampling down women
Steelworkers from Toronto, who were then attacked by the police as the
Bloc hid behind the Steelworkers.
Then the media and police trot out the usual line ‘We are ok with
protests, but a small minority of criminals can't be tolerated.’ Those
innocents that were arrested were an unfortunate by-product of
protecting the city and its inhabitants. The police and politicians then
justify the violence against protestors as necessary to stop any
In the process, hundreds get arrested while the media spends the next
several days reducing the estimated numbers of demonstrators, erasing
on-site reports of police brutality, critiquing the police as being too
passive. Then the police say they weren't able to protect property at
the start because they were committed to facilitating the peaceful
protest. Afterward they ‘did everything possible to restore order.’
Throughout all this, stories begin to emerge about undercover officers
mingling with crowd, engaging in and trying to stir up ‘action.’
Eventually a handful gets charged with some serious offences and the
majority arrested get released with few or no charges.
What Are the Lessons?
Despite the media hype there was nothing new about the events in
Toronto. The question for militants is: what are the lessons? How do we
interpret events and what do they mean for the left?
To answer, we need to look at what the mobilizations can achieve and why
they are important. This is the critical starting point. Since the rise
of the anti-globalization movement, this has been a point of debate.
The mobilizations around Summits are important, first, because they
provide an opportunity to mobilize people beyond the ranks of those
already active. It is more possible because the media builds the events
far beyond the reach of the left. The fact that the summits raise a
broad set of issues, mean that they unite in opposition broad sets of
movements. The demonstrations that result can often be greater than the
sum of the parts of movements. They unite various movements – labour and
environment for example. They provide an opportunity to bring wider
layers into the movement.
Some have argued that these demonstrations are pointless one-off
events and that those who go to them are “summit-hoppers.” Strangely
these critiques are often raised by people who themselves go to the
events. But this misses the point that while the mobilizations are
one-offs they are important in the sense that they pull struggles
together and allow those not plugged into activism to find a space to
join the movement.
Secondly the protests show to millions of others that there is mass
opposition to the system. The idea that the protests themselves will
stop the overall agenda of the rulers is mistaken, while the protests
can hinder the implementation of certain policies, they cannot by
themselves stop capitalism in its tracks. But the more important point
of the protests is their ability to galvanize and mobilize opposition to
the system. For the left and the movements, the demonstrations offer a
crucial opportunity to grow and sink deeper roots in new areas. These
mobilizations also help maintain momentum and break down barriers
between struggles that often go on in their own silos. In short, these
protests forge new bonds of solidarity.
So it is important to mobilize against these Summits, not because we
can directly change the agenda, or that capitalism will grind to a halt
if the Summit is shut down. Some thought because of the collapse of the
World Trade Organization talks in Seattle, or the inability to get a
deal at the Free Trade Areas of the Americas meeting at Québec City,
that capitalism would be forced into a retreat. But the reality is that
these Summits are attempts to overcome divisions between various ruling
classes in various nation states. What they can't get through global
agreements, they will try through regional agreements. What isn't
accomplished regionally is taken up bi-laterally. Basically, Summits are
where the world's largest economies jockey with each other for a better
deal for their own ruling classes.
This doesn't mean we can't wrestle reforms from these leaders, and
without the demonstrations it would be even harder to win reforms or
prevent even more damaging policies from being implemented. Even NGOs
who aren't committed to the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism
understand that mobilizing is vital to back their call for reforms.
In this context, the object of mobilizing for the Summits should be to
try and take advantage of the moment presented to broaden and deepen the
left and build the movements.
This is the objective from which our tactics flow. It is not the
Summit itself that matters but the ability to draw larger numbers onto
the streets and into action. It offers the potential to increase
people's confidence and consciousness.
Strategy Versus Tactics
To establish tactics before determining the larger strategic
objectives, raises tactics to a point of principle and robs the working
class of the tactical flexibility that will maximize success. Tactics
are the tools we implement to bring about a result. Common sense tells
us that a desired outcome be discussed first, then the strategy to get
there, and, finally, what tactics would best deliver the outcome. To
start with tactics is wrongheaded and creates the quixotic adventures we
saw on June 26 in Toronto.
So what about “diversity of tactics” and the Black Bloc?
It should be clear that the actions of the Black Bloc reflect their
politics. The actions in Toronto mirror the tactics used elsewhere. The
tactics and politics regardless of their intent are inherently elitist
and counter-productive. In fact they mirror the critique of reformism
many on the left have. The NDP says ‘vote for us and we'll do it for
you’; the Black Bloc says in essence the same thing – ‘we will make the
revolution for you.’
At best the tactics of the Black Bloc are based on a mistaken idea
that the attacks on property and the police will create a spark to
encourage others to resist capitalism, at worst they are based on a
rampant individualistic sense of rage and entitlement to express that
rage regardless of the consequences to others. The anti-authoritarian
politic they follow is imposed on others. Very rarely will you see a
Black Bloc call its own rally. Instead the tactic is to play hide and
seek with the police under the cover of larger mobilizations.
Further, as has been noted in many cases, the tactics and politics of
the Black Bloc – and some anarchists and some others on the left –
leave them prone to being manipulated by the state. In almost every
Summit protest, police and others (in Genoa it was also fascists),
infiltrate or form their own blocs to engage in provocations. The
politics of secrecy and unannounced plans and a quasi-military (amateur
at best) approach to demonstrations leave the door open to this.
The tactics also open the door for the justification of further
police repression. This has been debated before, with some arguing that
the state doesn't need justification for repression. The idea that the
state doesn't need justification for further repression exposes the
total lack of understanding of both the state and the consciousness of
If the state didn't need justification for repression, then we would all
be in jail. Capitalism isn't a democratic system, but needs the facade
of liberal political rights to maintain legitimacy about how free and
equal we all are. If the state didn't need justification for repression,
then we accept that people are just automatons who do what they are
But the reality is that most people oppose police brutality and most
people believe we are living in a democracy. Therefore, when the police
go on a rampage, they have to have an excuse. It is highly naive to
think that the police and the state won't and don't need a justification
to repress people. If they didn't we wouldn't have a war on drugs – it
would have just been called what it most often has been – a war on the
What is Radical?
Some argue that we have to support some of these tactics because they
are “radical.” But what, indeed, is so “radical”? Let us put aside the
notion of “economic disruption” caused by a few burning cop cars and
broken windows, as some use this to justify so called militant actions.
Let us take another example. The reality is the Tamil community created
much more economic disruption with their non-violent occupation
of the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto, and their sit-ins shutting
University Avenue. Further, the workers in Sudbury
valiantly fighting Vale Inco are doing much more to disrupt the
economy than a thousand Black Bloc actions ever could.
The tactics of the Black Bloc make it clear that, for them, it is
more important to smash windows than to try and march with thousands of
workers and engage them in arguments about how to move struggles forward
or that the problem is capitalism.
So how radical is it to trash a few windows? It depends on what one
means by radical.
For us, radical is about workers gaining confidence and consciousness
to fight back, not just at work, but in solidarity with others. Radical
is about developing a sense of mass power, organising based on moving
others into struggle, winning others to challenge the power in their
workplace or community collectively, beyond the individualization of our
society. Radical is about going to the roots of the system – not
trashing its symbols.
So it is much more radical organising a Starbucks, or winning
co-workers to fight homophobia, or defending women's rights, than it is
smashing a window.
When the Black Bloc does its thing, does it move struggles forward or
backward? Does it in the eyes of those questioning the system, or
moving into struggle, or thinking that something is wrong, radicalize
them and give them confidence?
The answer is that outside of a small minority, these actions at best
can inspire passive support from those who do not like police. But the
majority have no confidence to engage in these actions themselves or
agree with them. Instead of giving confidence, the tactics generally
produce confusion and play into the hands of the state that would prefer
it if no one ever protested. They allow the state to justify its
repression and expenditures. In essence outside of an already
radicalized minority they don't leave anyone with a deeper sense of
confidence about the ability to fight capitalism. Instead at best they
leave the impression that the fight against capitalism can only be
carried out by a heroic minority, at worst they leave people worrying
about going to demonstrations. The tactic is far from radical because it
does nothing to challenge capitalism in any way; it does nothing to
instil confidence in others to resist.
The debate shouldn't be about violence, per se, but about tactics and
strategy. Of course we defend the right of workers and oppressed
communities to self-defence. The response from the left to the riots in
Toronto after the Rodney King beating by police in Los Angeles is a good
example: many defended the justified outrage at both the racism of the
justice system and the beating of King. It was a justifiable rage
against a system of racism. But it wasn't a strategy to defeat racism.
The Black Bloc, however, isn't even an oppressed community resisting
oppression and defending itself. Those on the left who see the problems
with the Black Bloc, and the cover given to them by those who elevate
“diversity of tactics” to a principle, need to organize coherent
responses to this.
Debating Strategy and Moving Forward
We need to join the battle for interpretation without getting
distracted by blanket pronouncements of “pro” this or “anti” that. We
need to focus on strategy and the tactics that flow from it. This will
allow us to regroup those activists who see the centrality of the
working class as the key to social change, who recognize that intended
or not, “diversity of tactics” is not radical but a cover for
self-aggrandisement by some tiny groups who have no faith in the
self-activity of the working class.
The need for a bigger stronger socialist movement in Toronto couldn't
be greater than it is now. The role of socialists isn't to tail
gingerly those who support “diversity of tactics,” but to politically
debate and expose the bankruptcy of those ideas for moving struggles
forward. And it goes without saying that while we do that, we must also
be defending those arrested, exposing the brutality of
the police and patiently explaining to co-workers and neighbours what
really happened and why people protested.
We need this clarity to avoid the sort of splits in the movements
that occurred after Québec City and after 9/11. We need this clarity and
upfront politics to win those pulled by the anger at the system and its
barbarism to a more effective – if less sexy – strategy, based on
building a mass struggle against capitalism that can pull the system up
by its roots. •
[Ritch Whyman is a member of the International
Socialists of Canada. This essay is part of a series of articles to be published
in the upcoming issue of Socialist Worker which can be found at www.socialist.ca and issuu.com/socialistworker/docs.