Black bloc?s history

The workers? movement internationally must establish its own commission of enquiry to investigate the activities of agents provocateurs in Genoa and on other anti-capitalist mobilisations. There seems clear evidence - for example cited by Tom Behan in our interview - that the black bloc section of the protest was peppered with police infiltrators and fascists.

Those who effectively alibi the anarchists do our movement a huge disservice. In effect, they facilitate the wrecking activities of the state. Take Workers Power. They write that, ?Those in the movement who have focused condemnation on the black bloc are wrong: the police raid on the Genoa Social Forum, the deliberate police tactic of pushing the black bloc into the non-violent demo, the appearance of police agents dressed as black blockers ? all these show that terror on a mass scale is targeted at the non-violent protesters too? (WP website).

This is dangerous nonsense. In fact, the political method of this trend - crassly anti-democratic, elitist and conspiratorial - makes it eminently susceptible to state penetration and manipulation. The line of demarcation between the forces of the working class and those of lumpenised elements must be clear and implacable.

It might seem odd that ostensible Marxists would succumb to this. After all, Marx?s battle against the forerunners of the black bloc was one of the defining elements in the creation of his world view, in his understanding of revolution.

In 1850, Marx and Engels wrote a review of two recent publications - Les conspirateurs by A Chenu, a police agent who operated in the pre-1848 secret societies, and La naissance de la r?publique by L de la Hodde, also a police spy. The article was a devastating critique of the Blanquist secret societies, a movement that was the historical progenitor of today?s black bloc, whatever the nuances of theoretical difference.

Chenu?s book, wrote Marx and Engels, ?demonstrates that a real revolution is just the opposite of the notions held by the mouchard [police spy], who, in agreement with the ?men of action? sees in every revolution the work of a small coteries?. On the contrary, ?all movements provoked more or less arbitrarily by coteries remained mere ?meutes [riotous outbreaks]? (K Marx and F Engels CW Vol 10, p314).

Marx describes the ?class? of professional conspirators as a part of the lumpen-boh?me of society, a sort of congenital pub-crawler with (revolutionary) attitude: ?The desperate recklessness that shows up in every Paris insurrection is injected precisely by these old professional conspirators, the hommes de coup de main [putschists]. It is they who set up the first barricades and command them, who organise the resistance ?? (ibid p318).

Yet this bravery does nothing to alter their negative role as a stratum: ?Their business consists precisely in forestalling the process of revolutionary development, pushing it artificially to crisis, making a revolution impromptu, without the preconditions for a revolution. The sole precondition of revolution, for them, is the adequate organisation of their conspiracy. They are the alchemists of the revolution, and they entirely share the earlier alchemists? disorder of ideas and narrow-mindedness in fixed conceptions.?

Crucially, these elements develop a symbiotic relationship with the police, who ?? tolerate them as centres easy to keep an eye on, where the most violent revolutionary elements of the society get together, as foundries of ?meutes, which in France have become a government instrument just as necessary as the police themselves, and finally as a recruiting place for their own mouchards? (ibid) .

Mark Fischer