Burning police vehicles and drunken protestors running amok – you don’t have to be a professional spin doctor to know that these were not the images that Canada wanted broadcasted around the world over the weekend. The violence and chaos flared up as the leaders of the G-20 countries met in Toronto, Canada’s largest city.
After a Saturday filled with clashes between Toronto police and demonstrators, Sunday was more peaceful, although the day did begin with police raids on suspected militants plotting more mayhem.
Many reports on the Toronto G-20 refer to the “black bloc tactics” used by the more radical protestors on Saturday. But the “black bloc” approach is more than just a book of tactics – it is also an ideology, to quote one analyst, based on “rage…impatience [and] militant fervor.”
That is, these tactics are a mask for an ideology of violence that knits together a shadowy, loose network of self-described anarchists stretching across the Atlantic Ocean.
The Toronto G-20 is just the latest large international meeting targeted by the “black bloc” types. (Remember Seattle? Remember Genoa?) This persistence in showing up at such meetings demonstrates that, claims to be dedicated anarchists aside, the “black bloc” types have a distinct long-term political agenda.
One part of that agenda is to legitimize the “right” of violent demonstrators to break shop windows, vandalize banks, and generally raise hell during international meetings like the G-20.
The black bloc seems well on its way to normalizing this aspect of their activities. We almost take it for granted now that international political meetings in any city will be accompanied by widespread property destruction, as occurred in Toronto.
Another part of the black bloc agenda is to demonize all efforts to restrain violent protestors as illegitimate and automatically suspect, and to condemn any police response as brutal, repressive, etc. Accepting these arguments would go some ways to encourage the rest of us to also accept that violent attacks on police officers by demonstrators are also a “normal” part of G-20 and similar international meetings.
It may sound far-fetched, but the long-term strategic goal of the black bloc-types is likely to create such chaos at some future date that a determined anarchist formation could “kidnap,” figuratively speaking, an international meeting.
One version of this scenario has been outlined in a paper published by the Transnational Institute, a vocal anti-globalization think-tank that has tried to portray the black bloc as "against violence." A dearly-held wish of some radical ideologues (as the paper states) is for "the struggle that was born on the streets" -- that is, the anti-globalization demonstrations seen in Seattle, Genoa and now Toronto -- "to expand both in breadth and in depth" to the point that black-bloc-type activists can call for "workplace strikes" by workers sympathetic to their cause.
Just imagine a future G-20-type meeting where the street demonstrations are coordinated with widespread strikes - a real recipe for chaos in any large urban center. As the tension builds outside the meeting, the political leaders inside begin feel like they must “negotiate” with the black bloc-types, in order to diffuse the tension. What a victory that concession would hand to the black bloc's leaders.
From this perspective, as mad as the black bloc's gameplan in Toronto looks, "there is method in it," as Shakespeare wrote.