Monday, January 20, 2003

"Diversity of Tactics", "Solidarity", ...

There’s a dialogue about tactics that’s going on on the Alberta Indymedia website. The background is that at the peace action in Calgary this past Friday, some people engaged in tactics outside the bounds set by organizers (and, frankly, entirely inappropriate to an action which is calling for peace).

Specifically, the protest was organized on the basis of total non–violence (since we’re advocating for peace) as well as taking no illegal actions (because the core message was intended to be a call for the U.S. and it’s supporters to obey international law — kind of hard to be credible if we’re breaking the law ourselves).

Unfortunately, some in attendance took it upon themselves to act outside of that — although not in major ways: some chants with violent implications, some chalk graffiti using violent language, and chalking the sides of a building after being directed by police to not do so.

On “Diversity of Tactics” and “Solidarity”

Most actions (protests, rallies, etc.) are not appropriate for having a “diversity of tactics” used, unless explicitly defined as supporting “diversity of tactics”.

For those who do not favor, or find adequate, the tactics chosen by the organizers of an action — please refrain from undemocratically taking it upon yourselves to impose your tactics on the others involved.

If an action is organized on the basis of non–violence, no violence should be used (including violent words such as “fuck”, violent gestures such as giving the finger, and statements with violent implications such as “smash the state”.) Likewise, if an action is organized on the basis of being open to civil–disobedience and even targeted property damage, participants should not engage in tactics to halt such actions.

If you do not agree with (or find sufficient) the choice of tactics for an action you might otherwise support, there are a few reasonable routes you can take:

  • Pull together people who agree with the tactics you prefer and organize separate actions with them.
  • Organize a counter–action separate from, and perhaps in opposition to, the action you disagree with.
  • Express your concerns to the organizers and other participants (preferably by participating in organizing meetings).
  • Don’t participate.
  • Participate in the event itself using the tactics chosen, recognizing that genuine democracy is about sometimes accepting a route that is not what you want but is what the community wants and needs.

To claim status as a participant in an action, and then act counter to the action, is known as “disruption” and “agitation” — tactics well known to the forces of oppression.

A protest is much more than the people who show up for the few hours of action. Days, weeks — even months — of work and community building go into creating the framework and opportunity for people to come together in common action.

Yes there is a balance that must be struck between those tremendous efforts, and the interests of the participants at the event itself. However, by choosing to participate, individuals and groups are giving their support to — and hopefully as a part of — the community that has built the action.

Opposing those who unilaterally (I choose that word with no small irony) take it upon themselves to break with the will of the community at an action is not breaking solidarity — it is the disrupters who break solidarity by countering the purpose of the action and the community behind it.


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