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After Genoa, How Do We Protest?
On our side, we should try to do anything that works and is within our capacity. However, the best tactics are those that increase our size and strengthen our commitment. If rallying does that, good. If teach-ins do it, fine. If sit-ins, blockades, and/or more aggressive tactics do it, that's fine too. Debates over whether to trash windows or throw Molotov cocktails or block buildings or hold teach-ins or have rallies and marches or do all or only some of these options, and in what combination and sequences, are not about what the evil in the world warrants or about the courage of potential participants. They are about what works to build a more effective movement.
July 20 began a series of demonstrations in Genoa against the G8 (major industrialized nations) meetings (see Starhawk's article in this issue). As with demonstrations in Seattle, Prague, Quebec, Melbourne, and throughout the third world, activists tried to reverse worsening rules of international cultural and economic exchange as well as to address sexist, racist, statist, and capitalist injustices.
Steadily growing opposition to capitalist globalization has caused Bush, Berlusconi, and others to fear that if a huge mass of humanity gains sufficient knowledge, hope, and confidence, it will force more participatory outcomes against the tide of their elitist globalization.
Bush, Berlusoni, et. al. thus decided in Genoa to send a message: oppose us and you will pay a high price. They set their police loose to brutalize activists via torture and shooting and to intimidate not only the dissenters in Genoa, but also the broader public. Bush, Berlusconi, et. al. want to instill fear and thereby ensure, for example, that at the next go around in Washington, DC, starting on September 28, there will be a small manageable turnout, rather than the immense outpouring of dissent and resistance they fear.
So how should we respond? Encountering their predictable violence, we should not grasp defeat from the jaws of victory. We have made them fearful and we are still growing. We will have more victories if we can handle new stages of size and conflict. Fear will exist—what the police did in Genoa was scary—but we shouldn't become passive. We shouldn't do their work for them, by dwelling on our physical pains and their violent tactics. This will disrupt our mental focus, induce paranoia, and interfere with our broader message about globalization. Nor should we react in a dance of danger, thinking we must escalate our actions in the same terms they think about escalating theirs.
The compelling answer to state violence is to educate more widely about the issues and to attract and sustain ever wider and more lasting support. Our demonstrations must include so many people, from so many backgrounds, from so many parts of society, and with such clarity of purpose and intent, that the effect of elite repression will not diminish our efforts, but rather enlarge them. We must make elite's repressive tactics benefit us, not them. That is the road to victory.
Leading up to Washington's late September demonstrations, our movement must be busy being born, not dying. Z