rn:Znet: tactics, nonviolence, cancelling debts


Jan Slakov

Dear Renaissance Network,

I find both these articles useful, especially the first. Glick's article
explains excellently why, tactically, we are better off not using violence.
I believe there are strong moral/spiritual reasons (which Glick alludes to)
as well...

all the best, Jan
Date: Sat, 28 Apr 2001 09:58:05 -0300
From: •••@••.••• (John DiStefano)
Subject: Quebec City
        ZNet Commentary / Naiman and Glick / Two: Goals, Strategies /
April 28
        Fri, 27 Apr 2001 09:49:20 -0400

On Winning Hearts and Minds
by Ted Glick

A year ago, on April 17th, 2000, I wrote a Future
Hope column which likened both the forms of action
and the relative organizational coherence of the
April 16th actions in D.C. against the IMF/World
Bank to a regular army without violent weapons, a
"non-violent army." After being in the middle of
the April 20 (and A21 and A22) Day(s) of Direct
Action against the FTAA in Quebec City, I think
some questions must be raised and addressed as to
if that description is still accurate, and the
political implications.

Make no mistake about it: the battle we are waging
against the global capitalist order is a political
battle, first and foremost, far and away. It is
not a military battle because if it were we'd be
snuffed out in a New York minute. It's not an
economic battle because, even with all of our
coops and alternative economic institutions, as
important as they are, our "economy" will never
just grow and grow to the point at which the
corporate economy is supplanted; it's not in the
cards. Our primary work, the touchstone of all of
our discussions concerning tactics, must be about
winning the hearts and minds of literally tens of
millions of North Americans. It is only that broad
base of support, out of which can grow a bigger
and bigger movement of organizers and activists,
which will make the changes we seek possible.

Based upon my experiences in Quebec City, as well
as in D.C., Philadelphia and Los Angeles last
year, I don't think all of those involved in this
righteous struggle share the view that it is
primarily political, that we need to develop and
adjust tactics with the hearts and minds of those
tens of millions in the forefront of our thinking.
I'm referring specifically to many-not all, but
many, it seems-of those who are commonly seen as
making up the Black Bloc.

Don't get me wrong. I view the Black Bloc and
individual members I know as friends and allies.
As I have gotten to know some of them individually
over the past year, I have come to respect their
commitment, their courage, their willingness to be
on the front lines in the confrontations with the
police and the military. I cheered on April 20th
in Quebec City when young people (all young men,
from what I observed), often dressed in black and
wearing gas masks and insulated gloves, repeatedly
pounced on the tear gas canister shells shot by
the police and hurled or kicked them back from
whence they came. When one young person dressed in
black, standing 10 feet from me, was hit directly
by a canister and knocked in great pain to the
ground, so badly hurt that he had to be carried
away by others, the angry language I used would
not have made my parents proud.

Yet I saw other things involving Black Bloc

After our huge march arrived at the Wall of Shame
close to the FTAA meeting site, and after portions
of the fence were torn down and tear gas began to
be used, I watched as young men on the front lines
threw snowballs, bottles, sticks and stones at
heavily padded police guarding the now-open area.
As the battle went on, it turned uglier, and not
just on the police side. Our front-line warriors
picked up foot square paving stones, broke them in
half and threw these chunks at the cops. I saw
none do any observable damage; the cops' clear
plastic shields, and their helmets and padding,
seemed to frustrate any direct hits. But what if
there had been direct hits?

Early the following morning, during a temporary
lull in the battle for control of the hilltop
plaza close to the FTAA meeting site, I checked
out the situation. I took a picture of the area
where the paving stones had been picked up and
broken. As I did so a man who talked and looked as
if he were a local Quebec City resident said to
me, "Those stones could have badly hurt one of the
police, and what if he were a father?" I agreed
with him, while also commenting on the violence of
the FTAA.

Or what about this: toward the end of the
afternoon, I watched as a young man from within
our ranks, without gas mask, bandana or any other
protection, courageously moved within ten feet of
the police lines at one point, saying something to
them, then turned to walk back to where hundreds
of people were sitting. Before he got back he was
hit by a large stone with a glancing blow to the
side of the head. The stone was thrown at the
police by one of us, someone who had little common
sense and a not very accurate arm. The young man
who was hit staggered for a few yards, then sank
to the ground. He had to be helped away by others.

And others have told me about seeing the use of
molotov cocktails by those from within our ranks.
Whether these were Black Bloc'ers or agent
provocateurs is unknown.

Which brings us back to the "hearts and minds"

It may be that individual Black Bloc'ers wouldn't
have been bothered if serious injury had been done
to one of the cops as a result of their actions. I
don't think that is a good thing, but I can at
least understand it. But they should care if the
tactics they use are directly responsible for
injury to those of us who are also out there
putting our bodies on the line, and they should
care about the effect of their tactics on those
broad masses of working-class people who know
little about either the FTAA or us and who,
unfortunately, rely on the corporate media for
their information. And although we don't control
that media, we can have some influence over how
and what they report depending upon what tactics
we use.

I can just hear what some would say in response:
pacifism and non-violence aren't militant enough.
We can't trust the media. We need to kick ass, let
them know of our anger, provide an example to
oppressed people of willingness to fight the
agents of repression.

I think of something Dave Dellinger once said
about non-violence. He was referring to the Cuban
Revolution, and he described it as "essentially
non-violent," even though Fidel, Che and his
compatriots were armed and attacked the military
forces of the Batista dictatorship. Dave explained
this by talking about how, after a battle, the
Cuban revolutionaries would take care of the
wounded Batista soldiers, bandage up their wounds,
encourage them to support the revolutionary cause.
Although armed, they understood that their
struggle was primarily political, and they did not
have a macho, militaristic mindset.

Che Guevera himself, according to an article by
Dellinger in a recent issue of Toward Freedom, is
quoted as saying that in the U.S., "the most
heavily armed nation in the world. . . the only
way to succeed was through nonviolent protests,
including civil disobedience."

And look at the Zapatistas! This is a present-day
example of a movement that understands clearly the
limits of violence and use of arms, that
comprehends at the core of their being the
overwhelmingly political essence of their struggle
and acts accordingly.

But we don't have to look beyond our shores for
examples of militant alternatives to Black Bloc
tactics. All we have to do is look at what was
really the most impressive and politically
powerful-if it could get through the media spin of
"violent protests"-aspect of the FTAA battles this
past weekend: the heroic, unarmed, non-violent
persistence of the overwhelming majority of the
direct actionists.

For upwards of four hours on A20 we held onto
significant portions of the Boulevard Rene
Levesque hilltop plaza area. Despite repeated use
of tear gas, and though we often had to retreat,
thousands of us kept coming back. We kept moving
closer and closer to police lines, using the
weapons of non-violent mobility, music, drumming,
frisbee-playing, to reclaim, little by little,
lost ground. One police line area, near Avenue
Turnbull, was essentially taken by us through the
use of these tactics. It was at this point, around
6 P.M., that the police must have decided that
more was needed from their side, and they
unleashed a massive barrage of tear gas while
advancing with dogs to force us off the plaza and
down into the side streets.

How did we accomplish this limited, tactical
victory of holding at least some of the plaza all

1) We had massive numbers, in the many thousands,
possibly as many as 20,000 people at the height of
the action.

2) Many of those thousands were organized into
affinity groups that had gone through training in
non-violent action.

3) There were people willing and prepared to risk
themselves by immediately picking up the tear gas
canisters and throwing them away from our ranks,
minimizing the tear gas effects. And there were
people willing to go up to the front and tear down
the fence, risking arrest or police attacks.

4) There were medics available to help with
injuries, and there was a spirit of cooperation
and mutual support within our ranks when someone
was injured.

5) There was extensive media presence with lots of

6) We had drummers, whistlers, musicians, chants,
radical cheerleaders, dancers, frisbee players and
flags and banners to keep our spirits up.

None of these elements involved violence against

We need to look a little more deeply into this
question of non-violence as it applies to our
movement against global capitalism.

As I have observed and experienced it,
non-violence can mean one of several things:

It can be a lifestyle, a conscious effort to, as
much as humanly possible, make one's day-to-day
thoughts, actions and living patterns do no
damage, physical, emotional or spiritual, to any
living thing. This means everything from refusing
to engage in physical fighting, to serious
reflection on racism, sexism, heterosexism, class
privilege and other forms of
domination/oppression, to vegetarianism and
veganism. The aim is to practice what we preach,
in a wholistic way, to be a love-and-life-centered

It can have to do mainly with the tactics used in
campaigns and movements for social change, as
referred to above.

Or it can be seen as a strategy for revolutionary
change, THE way that, over time, we will overcome
and replace an unjust and oppressive social order.
Alternative economic institutions, boycotts,
strikes, non-violent direct action are the main
ways this would happen.

It is important that we separate out these
different aspects of what people mean when they
say "non-violence." It is important because we
need clarity when we are discussing the question
at hand, how to win the hearts and minds of

Personally, I don't see "non-violence,"
non-violence alone, as a potentially winning
strategy. There is much more that we have to be
about, including the formation of an alternative
to the Democrats and Republicans, one which runs
independent candidates and is grounded in and
accountable to grassroots, broadly-based social
movements. On the other hand, I do believe that we
should all be striving to become as non-violent as
possible in the way we live our personal lives,
and I believe that, in the United States context,
creative, militant, mobile, non-violent direct
action is the appropriate set of tactics we should
be using in situations like A20.

What might this have meant in Quebec City? What
if, in advance, there had been an agreement that
only those types of tactics would have been
acceptable? What might have happened?

The fence would have been torn down. Non-violence,
to me, does not foreclose a limited amount of
focused property destruction. Some property should
not exist or should not be used in the ways it is.

In response to the police use of tear gas, instead
of throwing increasingly dangerous projectiles at
them, we would have done what we did later in the
afternoon: throw the tear gas back, hold our
ground as much as possible, come back from the
tear gas attacks, use creative tactics like music
and dancing to "calm the savage beasts" in their
Darth Vader uniforms, and get up close to police
lines. We would have talked to the cops-and been
overheard by the many reporters and cameramen
swarming all around-about why we were there, how
they also stood to gain from our efforts to
prevent the destruction of our environment and to
end poverty and starvation. If those would have
worked, at some point we might have begun moving
in an organized way to attempt to push through
those lines, determining the best place to do so
based upon the responses we were getting from the
other side. If, for example, one of the police
smiled at us, or indicated in some other way a
sympathy for what we were saying, that would
probably be the place where we would make our
first effort to deliberately break through.

Almost certainly, once we did this, or before
things got to this point, those higher up in the
police would react. They might well react
aggressively, either arresting or beating us. They
might use tear gas in massive quantities, although
they would be somewhat constrained by the mass
media being so close. Indeed, they would probably
have difficulty deciding what to do. Whatever they
did, they would be seen as the "bad guys." More
than likely, a good bit of the media spin would be
not about "violent protests" but, instead,
"violent cops."

Throwing dangerous stones, glass and sand-filled
bottles, molotov cocktails, using sling
shots-these are tactics our enemy welcomes.
Indeed, it is an established fact that
historically, agent provocateurs have infiltrated
movements like ours and done whatever they could
to get the rest of us to use violent tactics. This
allows them to more easily obscure our message,
come across as anti-violence themselves.

Disciplined, militant, creative, non-violent
tactics, in contrast, make it much more likely
that our basic message will not be as distorted.
We will gain more sympathy from neutral observers
who will want to learn more as they see us being
willing to face tear gas, pepper spray, water
cannons, plastic bullets, arrests, beatings, dogs,
horses or whatever else the rulers decide to use.
Less militant and partial allies will be
emboldened to speak up and take stronger action

What does this mean as far as our relations with
the groups/individuals who make up or relate to
the Black Bloc?

We need to separate our personal friendships with
individuals within this sector of our movement
from our strategic and tactical views of what is
necessary if we are to be ultimately effective in
our objectives. Families have internal
differences, even fights, and they still stay
together. They work out arrangements.

But we do need more conscious back-and-forth over
these questions:

-- How can we convince tens of millions of people
of the justice of our cause?

-- How can we integrate growing numbers of those
tens of millions into our organizations and

-- How can we build upon our tactical experiences
since Seattle and make adjustments?

-- Is mimicking the tactics of the U.S. military
and police consistent with the goals we have, the
new society we are striving to bring into being?

-- How should those of us who believe that, yes, a
"non-violent army" is what we need get ourselves
connected so that our views can be put out more
broadly within the overall movement?

-- How should we relate to the Black Bloc?

Quebec City was a victory for our movement. It
could have been a bigger victory, but it was a
victory. Bush, Cretien, Fox and their ilk were on
the defensive because of the hard work of
thousands of people and the depth of support for
our basic message. But this was only one battle in
an on-going war. Before the next battle, let's
check ourselves out. The need is urgent.

Ted Glick is the National Coordinator of the
Independent Progressive Politics Network
(www.ippn.org) and author of Future Hope: A
Winning Strategy for a Just Society. He can be
reached at •••@••.••• or P.O. Box 1132,
Bloomfield, N.J. 07003.

Debt Cancellation, Not Corporate Trade Deals,
Would Help the Poor

By Robert Naiman

The verbal flubs of President Bush in Quebec City
were widely reported to the amusement of the
educated. He referred to the language of Mexico
(Spanish) as "Mexican" and called the Canadian
leader "amigo" (rather than using the French

Attention to these "dumb" things that President
Bush said overlooked something truly dumb he said
which, unlike knowing the foreign word for
something, actually matters.

Bush, appealing for support for the "Free Trade
Area of the Americas," claimed that "free trade"
creates new jobs and income, "lifts the lives of
all our people," and addresses the needs of the

This may have escaped ridicule since many of the
educated folks who make fun of the President are
just as dumb as he is about "free trade."

Advocates of "free trade," when they are honest
and competent, admit that "free trade" is not
about job creation, as Federal Reserve Chairman
Alan Greenspan asserted in his recent testimony
before Congress. Unemployment is largely
determined by the economic policies of the Fed.
What "free trade" does is move people from one
area of employment to another. The relevant
question is who wins and who loses from these
shifts and whether the costs outweigh the benefits
for the majority of people.

A recent report from the Economic Policy Institute
estimates that the U.S. lost half a million
manufacturing jobs during the operation of the
North American Free Trade Agreement due to
increased trade deficits with Canada and Mexico.
Surveys indicate that when workers displaced by
trade liberalization do find new jobs, their wages
fall, with earnings declining by an average of
over 13%. "Free trade" may lift some, but
definitely not all. Poor workers in the U.S.,
having fewer skills, are the most likely to lose.

Economic theory predicts that national income will
rise as a result of trade liberalization. But the
predicted gains are so tiny as a share of our
economy that they probably can't be measured, and
the majority of people are likely to see their
incomes fall.

As for the poor in developing countries, their
leaders are told that to raise living standards
they must increase exports to the U.S. While
increased exports could support development, there
is no guarantee that they will. Without a reversal
of the policies to which these countries are
subjected by the International Monetary Fund and
the World Bank, increasing trade as a share of
their national economies will only lead to deeper

To service their foreign debts, these countries
are pushed by the IMF and the World Bank to
increase exports to the U.S. and reduce imports,
because it's the difference that is available (at
most) to service debt. But Argentina's debt
service is seven times its exports to the United
States. Halving Argentina's debt service would
have the same effect as importing four times as
much from Argentina as we do today, while not
increasing exports. Halving Brazil's debt service
would have be tantamount to tripling imports from
Brazil, while not increasing exports.

When these countries export to service debt, money
generated is not going into to infrastructure
investment nor human welfare. Productive activity
is being diverted from producing goods and
services for people in these countries.

The debt burden is leverage for the IMF and the
World Bank: every debt negotiation brings new
conditions. This leverage has been used to
restructure national economies to produce for
export, lower living standards to attract foreign
investment, and reduce the role of government in
providing public services.

The World Bank has aggressively promoted water
privatization. This is ironic considering that the
United States, the dominant shareholder in the
Bank, provides 80% of its water publicly. Water
privatization in Bolivia caused an uprising there
when Bechtel hiked fees for access to water beyond
the reach of poor residents. The World Bank has
also aggressively promoted privatization in
education and health care. It has pressured
governments to impose user fees on access to
primary health care and education. This has led to
falling school enrollments in countries like

Canceling external debt and ending IMF-World Bank
economic mandates are far more likely to help the
majority of people in Latin America than would the
creation of an FTAA.