Strategy Rambles: After Convention Organizing?
<table><tr><td>When it comes to arrest potential, publicly organizing against a major summit is not that much different from locking yourself to a bulldozer. It's pretty much understood by now (after the 2008 RNC, Philly, Toronto G20, and now the so-called #NATO3) that if you are heavily involved in organizing a convention protest, you will be prematurely and violently arrested, in your home if possible. You will be charged with terrorism and a dozen other heinous things. You will be infiltrated. Someone you know and maybe trust will turn out to be a cop.
And then, once everyone's forgotten about you (except for the folks on your legal team, if you're lucky) the cops will drop most of the charges, or <a href= http://rnc8.org/>they'll go away or get downsized.</a> (Except for <a href= http://boredbutnotbroken.tao.ca>the folks serving years for Toronto G20</a> and probably more that I don't know about.)
</td><td><img title="yeah but it's like the bulldozer is on fire and totally fucking extreme!" src="http://anarchistnews.org/files/pictures/2011/understand.jpg"></td></tr><...
As far as I can tell, being relatively young, this is an evolution of state strategy since the <a href=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miami_model>Miami model</a>. Just as we learned to use conventions as proving grounds for strategies and tactics, the cops use them as tests for strategies of repression - both physical (kettling, mass arrests, tear gas, <a href= https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSMyY3_dmrM&t=0m20s>sound cannons</a>, armored vehicles) and judicial (terror charges, conspiracy charges, grand juries, and in Canada, <a href=http://www.crimethinc.com/blog/2011/11/24/g20-conspiracy-case-the-inside... clauses on bail agreements</a>).
<strong>Where do we go from here?</strong>
Obviously we'll solve the problems conventions pose by overthrowing the state and capitalism, but in the mean time, how do we deal? Does it make strategic sense to cede the space of "the convention" to the state, and choose not to play their game? With the events that continue to unfold in Oakland, it seems that localized insurgencies rooted in place might be a viable alternative to the model of militant resistance to the symbolic confluences represented by G8 and G20 meetings. Speaking as someone who is not from Oakland and hasn't participated there, a few of the advantages I can see are the following:
<ul><li> Smaller budgets for repression. Conventions bring in millions of dollars of money for tasers, sound cannons, and police weaponry - things that stay in the cops' arsenal for years after the protest ends. Oakland, on the other hand, has cut staffing and officer pay. Your hometown police force probably doesn't have the money or manpower to hold down a generalized insurrection, unless you live in NYC.</li>
<li> Increased possibilities for integration with "the general community". Oakland is one of a very few examples in recent US history in which anarchists and "the general community" have participated on even footing in militant actions. This, in my eyes, seems to allow for a greater possibility of a contagious ungovernability.</li>
<li> Long-term engagement. Summit hopping has been critiqued since Seattle at least because of the format of temporary, shallow engagement by visiting anarchists and activists, while local anarchist communities bear the brunt of burnout, repression, jail, fines, etc.</li></ul>
On the other hand, it will be difficult to give up on convention organizing, and it's not like we're at the point where we can recreate Oakland in every segregated city center. What's more, people still go to these shitshows, and if we don't organize, the liberals will. To abandon militant convention organizing would mean that we would forgo the regular, predictable spectacles of militant resistance to capital that we have developed for the past dozen years or more - maybe even a return to something like the Bush-era hegemony of the anti-war movement, which rejected militancy entirely. If Oakland winds down and is not reborn elsewhere, it might be a mistake to abandon convention organizing despite the inevitable repression that it entails. After all, there is a compelling argument that the kind of property destruction and highly publicized militant action that happens at conventions <a href=http://humaniterations.net/2012/02/29/you-are-not-the-target-audience/>can be a valuable movement-building tool</a>, especially outside white, middle-class demographics.
Abandoning convention organizing is not likely to happen anytime soon. That doesn't mean that we have to keep getting put in jail. Here are some half-formed thoughts about half-assed ways to keep doing what we're doing:
When talking about state repression at conventions, the suggestion invariably arises that we should take militant resistance to the periphery - away from the massive police presence near convention sites - and strike unpredictably while the cops are busy harassing, beating, and arresting harmless liberal marchers. Nonetheless, this never really happens - or, if it does, we don't hear about it. Why might that be? For one thing, this argument assumes that the main point of militant actions and property destruction at summits is to be a physical, rather than symbolic, threat. While a black-bloc that formed up outside the "protest zone" at a summit would likely be able to do more physical damage before dispersing, it would also lose much of its symbolism as resistance to the convention itself, and fail to fit in many people's narrative of what constitutes resistance. At the most basic level, there would be fewer cameras. <a href =http://anarchistnews.org/content/nyc-ftp-police-press>Obviously this is a good thing for at least a few reasons</a>.
Local communities could up and leave, and let visiting anarchist protesters fend for themselves. While I'm not in Chicago now, there were rumors that this is what many chicago anarchists did. This partially removes the possibility of a centralized hub for the cops to raid when repression time rolls around - of course they'll still arrest somebody, but without meetings to infiltrate and grandiose statements about burning the city down by enthusiastic organizers, there's less of a chance of the charges sticking. This may minimize disruption of communities and projects by the convention, but it might also lead to people saying your city "doesn't know how to throw down" on anarchistnews.org. It's up to you if you care about that, though.
As an alternative to leaving, we might also turn to non-public organizing when it comes to actions targeting conventions, and make serious efforts to prevent infiltration and subsequent arrests. This, of course, is a trade-off. In Saint Paul and Philadelphia, open organizing by anarchists preceded efforts by liberal organizers. As a result, diversity of tactics and solidarity with militant actions were enshrined in the <a href=http://rnc08report.org/archive/224.shtml>Saint Paul Principles</a> and <a href=http://pittsburghendthewar.org/PittsburghPrinciples.html>Pittsburgh Principles</a> - somewhat of a blow to liberal "peace police" types. On the other hand, scuffles with window-protectors are substantially less dangerous than infiltrators, and it may be pragmatic to simply not show up to pre-convention organizing meetings.
In the Twin Cities, there was an eventually successful movement to prevent the 2012 DNC from being held in Minneapolis - protesters (some anarchists and some others) picketed meetings, got press time, made dramatic statements on-air about marching thousands of people to the gates of the convention center, etc. Luckily for Minnesota , the convention didn't come. For anarchist communities already targeted by repression, this is one example of a way to handle conventions, if only as an attempt to avoid disruption of our communities.
Solidarity to all those targeted or imprisoned in relation to summit protests!
 - There are obvious problems with the paradigm that places anarchists outside of their local communities as "others" - either a vanguard or a troop of weirdo conspiracists - but in the case of most convention organizing, property destruction, etc, it seems to me that the generalization is mostly functional.