When tactics become appearance, on the fetishizing of the black bloc.

Opinie, gepost door: nn op 19/01/2022 01:05:16

The anarchist scene seems to be growing the last years which is awesome. The amount of actions and narratives that are being discussed and new groups that are formed warms my heart. However, there is always a ‘but’ after such a positive statement. And my but is about the tactic ‘black bloc’. An effective tactic, maybe even one that shaped the anarchist image to a certain extent. But just like every other tactic, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.

History of the black bloc, blatantly summarized and taken from wikipedia
The tactic of covering yourself up to stay anonymous and thus avoid prosecution is as old as humanity. Watched enough old heist movies to know that this has been a thing for some time now. Wearing specifically black and mask up for political demonstrations seems to have happen first in 1967 in New York City. Later on it was developed in Germany where it became a tactic of dealing with police violence. From that point onwards not a whole lot has changed about the working mechanism of the tactic itself. Except that police got better at what they do. So now not only do we have to deal with the police themselves but also cameras, facial recognition, which shoes you are wearing and in the future they will probably identify you by the specific way of how you walk.

The tactic works, it actually fucking works. Right?
Now that we have a solid complete historical background and lovely future perspective /s. We can talk about the usage of the tactic itself. In short, when does it work? If you are doing something illegal or there is a likelihood of illegal activity happening, if you are in a big group, if you can bloc and debloc safely without being recognized and if the bloc was deemed necessary for the action to be successful or safe. So i just quickly wanna glance over the statements

If you are doing something illegal or there is a likelihood of illegal activity happening
Direct action can be sustainable in a way that by avoiding police repression allows you to do more activist work and reduce physical and psychological trauma. It also gives confidence in getting away with stuff. And might save you some difficult discussions with your boss. Ensuring anonymity during events and thereby getting away with it helps. And we should use tactics for that. However A black bloc can also scare away people and alienate us from people that might be interested in anarchist ideals or that want to speak to us on the demonstrations. To quote a friend seeing the black bloc for the first time; “Are those the good guys?”

If you are in a big group
One solid big black bloc is the most ideal situation to stay anonymous or avoid being singled out by the police. If you do something go back in the bloc they will probably lose track of you pretty quickly. Since you know all clothing is black and people are moving around in such a situation. This however doesn’t really work if you are with a small group like 4 people, because you will still be recognizable be it by height or they spotted your shoes or a brand on your clothing. Which makes a nice bridge to the third point.

If you can bloc and debloc safely without being recognized
Have you seen a group of 4 people walking in black bloc trying to be anonymous and avoiding police? It is a beacon for the police of potential illegal activity and you might as well burn those flares in your pocket cause everybody is already looking at you. The police stops you and if you didn't bring your ID you are probably going straight into the police van on some bullshit APV law. And if you did bring it they got your ID and photo and the whole point of anonymity seems a bit, well pointless. So what to do? Arrive at the demo in normal civilian clothes, bloc there away from the eyes of the state, do your thing, and debloc away from the eyes of the state. Go your way in normal civilian clothes and disappear in the (shopping) crowd.

Speaking of this, if you are not willing to dress or look like a civilian to get away with serious allegations but are willing to do radical actions you need to reconsider your tactics. Cause that's what it about, tactics. Think about it, if you walk away looking like a punk, crust, casual or something else sub-scene how easy it is for a snitching bystander to describe you to the police. As opposed to everyday clothes and disappearing in the crowd. Buy some at the second-hand store or get some at the freeshop, trust me it will be worth the money in the end.

If the bloc is deemed necessary for the action to be successful or safe
If it is not necessary, why do it? It is a way to get away with potential incriminating stuff, but it also spotlights you on a demonstration. It tends to increases police repression and there is a higher likelihood for the demonstration to get out of control. Although we can act tough about it, this will also alienate us further from other non or less politicized people. Which we are trying to engage in the struggle remember? Sometimes we must let demonstrations out of control don’t get me wrong, but this isn’t always the goal. We also need to talk with people, explain our worldview, solutions and expand our message. Believe it or not, but it tends to help if you are not wearing your black bloc outfit with a balaclava.

Pick your moments!
Contrary to popular belief nowadays, if one of those above 4 statements is a No. Then it is not necessary nor effective to form a black bloc. Of course we can hypothesize all these nice “but what if” exceptions that rarely happen. But those exceptions are not what I am trying to talk about here and neither should that be your counterargument. If there is a valid counterargument please say so in the comments.

Most people reading this will remember the encirclement of the black bloc on the Erasmusbrug during the housing demonstration. Soon after it happened images started to circle on the internet of the now infamous black bloc being held by the police. And after a while some were freed by the house on wheels, while the remainders were transported away from the demonstration by the police on the suspicion of carrying weapons. People walking with political party banners showed huge solidarity and support but were swept by the police in the end. In order to justify this form of state repression the police and media went into damage control, blaming the “anarchist and antifa” for being potentially violent. This was in my humble opinion a good black bloc tactic. Multiple people were enclosed, some got freed and the police will have a very difficult time knowing who those people are. We have seen what happened in Amsterdam during the housing demonstration and confrontation with the police was a realistic scenario thus black bloc was justified.

So I am not saying that we shouldn’t do black bloc at all, I am merely pointing out the fact that there are more appropriate moments and more inappropriate moments to do it. And we should consider this for each action, think about this within your affinity group, organizing group and when writing a callout. Don’t go in default mode for every action that we do. Cause the black bloc tactic will backfire if not done properly. Effective direct action, public perception and long term political consequences are way too complex to do stuff just for the sake of doing stuff and we anarchists should know better.

This isn’t supposed to be a deterrent to performing black bloc tactics. It isn't even a criticism, because in the end what you do is up to you. This is an advice to get away with shit without getting arrested, ID checked or in any other way harassed by the cops. While at the same time trying to expand our movement.

Cause in the end it's a tactic, not a fashion statement.

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