I KNOW THE FOLKS who transformed a remarkable, peaceful show of power against the WTO into a media-characterized "riot." At least some of the vandals and looters who took advantage of the cover of the most significant mass direct action in Seattle history were from the group of Eugene anarchists I went down and interviewed last summer. Their spokesperson, anarchist author and theoretician John Zerzan, and I have kept in touch since then; we were to meet during the WTO. We didn't. If we had, I would have spit in his face. Consider this the written equivalent, and I hope he reads it.
An agreement was in place between the loosely knit group of West Coast anarchists that "organized" for the WTO and the Direct Action Network to respect the nonviolence code downtown during the day of November 30. I don't consider property destruction violent in and of itself—I consider property violent, actually—but that's beside the point. November 30th's shutdown of the WTO was designed as a protest that a broad cross section of our society could support—and that meant no property destruction.
Obviously, our Eugene friends intentionally disrespected their agreement to abide by the protest's nonviolence code. That makes them liars, and it makes their word for any future political alliance less than meaningless. All sides calculated, correctly, that even the breaking of a few windows would overpower months' worth of organizing work and the concerted efforts of thousands of people in the media, and public, eye.
The anarchists' enemy here was not the state, nor corporate America. Those windows cost a few bucks; the expenses will be picked up by insurance companies. The real damage was done to the integrity of an action that was successful enough to shut down the most powerful organization on earth. That reality was lost in the overreaction to property damage. However unfairly, and to whatever degree it exposes an ugly truth—to most people, it doesn't—America cares more about property than it does about democracy in action. The Eugene anarchists' actions were a calculated attack not on the corporate state, but on the resistance to it.
For 25 years, I have considered myself an anarchist. I believe in the power of self-government because it speaks to the best in people, because it is the only practical path to a nonexploitative world, and because mutual aid kicks ass. The direct action that shut down the WTO was the genuine anarchism in action last Tuesday. The glass-breaking and graffiti was, however unwittingly, abetting the state.
In the face of this attack, there were some heroes. One story I heard was of Peace Action's Fred Miller, who, along with his daughter, held up a banner to protect the windows of NikeTown against the predations of the anarchists' hammers. Fred wasn't protecting NikeTown—or more accurately, their insurance company—he was protecting the integrity of thousands of dissidents' hard work. Despite the efforts of Fred and the overwhelming majority of protesters who deplored the vandalism, a few thugs carried the day. In the future, in our trainings and preparations for such actions, we will unfortunately have to learn to do more of that. We will have to learn to protect ourselves and our actions from being hijacked by small gangs of cowards who won't take risks and can't organize their own revolution, and so find themselves—much like the sectarian left they despise—using other peoples' work for their purposes.
It's bad enough having to confront the awesome power of the police state. That was brought down in nearly full ugly force for the rest of the week not because of the vandalism, which largely hadn't happened when the first tear gas flew at 6th and Union at 10:05am, but because thousands were nonviolently effective. But the public approved of police tactics—pepper-spraying people on the ground, shooting fleeing protesters in the back with rubber bullets, and denying constitutional rights to freedoms of speech and assembly—thanks to our "anarchist" enemies. That was the true violence of the week, not the shattered glass.
Let's be clear. These aren't anarchists, and they are certainly not interested in building their movement. True anarchists—as with the Seattle General Strike of 1919—work through mutual aid, not through taking their most likely compatriots, some of whom also self-identify as anarchists, and kicking them in the teeth. That's the state's job, and the Eugene clique helped out admirably. A few minutes of glass-breaking was far more effective than months of police infiltration would have been—sad, but true. Now, the question is: How do we deal with it in the future?
Possibly the most significant mass action I'll ever see was a lot less effective in its global message than it could have been thanks to a few dozen people. The revolution we are trying to create didn't and doesn't need these parasites. It's not the property destruction we resent—it's the deliberate sabotage of our work. To John Zerzan, Brenton Gicker, all you other little punks in the Eugene clique, and their cohorts, fuck you. Fuck everything you stand for. And stay the fuck away from our revolution.