Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 14, 2012

What do the Autonomen want?

Filed under: black bloc idiots — louisproyect @ 6:56 pm

{MSZ – Gegen die Kosten der Freiheit (Munich) 2/1988}

The worldview of the Autonomen is quite simple. It is only them and the “pigs” with their “system.”
What do the Autonomen want?
With “hatemasks” and “slingshots” …

The “hate mask” is the identification badge of the Autonomen. Originally, covering the face only served the purpose of concealing their bourgeois identities from surveillance by state agencies, which define any criticism as a potential threat to the state and democracy, preventively recording and carefully filing away any halfway organized statement of discontent in order to be able to apprehend the persons concerned.

For the Autonomen, this defensive act of disguise has become a symbol of resistance, a bit of material that no longer hides the identity, but makes it recognizable: the identity of the Autonomen as “street fighters.” With it they distance themselves not only from the enemy, the state power, but also from everyone else who is not quite sympathetic to them. They pride themselves on practicing opposition to the existing state. Their “combativeness” distinguishes them from all other protesters:

“What sets us apart from others on the left are the stones in hand and the billy clubs against our necks. In the tear gas clouds we feel most autonomous. What holds us together beyond that, we do not know.” (Autonomen Berlin leaflet)

The “hate mask” is an essential part of Autonomen clothing which – supplemented by combat boots, clubs, cushioned leather jackets and helmets – makes up the uniform of the “Black Blocs.” The uniform represents not only their subordination to a common purpose and the absolute right to exercise force, it serves primarily to distinguish between friend and foe in battle.

With their meager protective clothing and “stones in hand,” they oppose “billy clubs against their necks,” clouds of tear gas, mace sprays, and the state’s other order-maintaining household cleaning products; at most, with “slingshots” that in bourgeois horror scenarios are built up with chilling admiration into “precision catapults.” The very basic military superiority of the opposing side is no occasion for the Autonomen fighters to consider whether this fight cuts the mustard.

full: http://www.ruthlesscriticism.com/autonomen.htm


  1. So what’s the point? Are you suggesting this is a weird time travel interview with Occupy movement anarchists transported back to the world of twenty five years ago? Do you have evidence that this is the ideology of Occupy Oakland?

    Have you watched the videos of Oakland? The folks in masks and shields protected the crowd from the police provocations. Why don’t you have a discussion based on what is actually going on rather than a discussion of figments of your preconceived imagination?

    Oakland and Occupy are not the same thing as random globalization protests that ended badly.

    Comment by ish — February 14, 2012 @ 7:13 pm

  2. The folks in masks and shields protected the crowd from the police provocations.

    In an November 12 article that appeared on Znet titled “Throwing Out the Master’s Tools and Building a Better House”, Rebecca Solnit wrote:

    Another Occupy Oakland witness, a female street medic, wrote of the ill-conceived November 2 late-night antics, “watching black bloc-ers run from the cops and not protect the camp their actions had endangered, an action which ultimately left behind many mentally ill people, sick people, street kids, and homeless folks to defend themselves against the police onslaught was disturbing and disgusting in ways I can’t even articulate because I am still so angry at the empty bravado and cowardice that I saw.” She adds, “I want those kids to be held accountable to the damage that they did, damage made possible by their class and race privilege.” And physical fitness; Occupy Oakland’s camp includes children, older people, wheelchair users and a lot of other people less ready to run.

    As Oakland Occupier Sunaura Taylor put it, “A few people making decisions that affect everyone else is not what revolution looks like; it’s what capitalism looks like.”

    full: https://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/the-black-bloc-and-the-battle-of-seattle/

    Comment by louisproyect — February 14, 2012 @ 7:21 pm

  3. some of the people in the street on the night of 11/2 actually physically resisted the efforts of people from the camp to deescalate the situation

    people began leaving the camp afterwards, some departing to go to the nearby Snow Lake encampment by Lake Merritt

    if Hedges weren’t so blinkered, and so intent upon blaming the Bloc for things it didn’t do, he would have emphasized this instead

    the problem is, it’s way bigger than the Bloc, as related by Maxina Ventura in response to the Oakland Radicals Open Letter:


    Comment by Richard Estes — February 14, 2012 @ 7:33 pm

  4. I strongly suggest reading this article on the history of the German and Italian autonomist movements, the emergence of the black bloc tactic, and the need to find tactics that are appropriate for our contemporary context. Far more interesting than the standard black bloc bash and parry that’s been clogging the airwaves lately: http://libcom.org/library/black-bloc-salar-mohandesi

    Comment by dravensbe — February 14, 2012 @ 7:35 pm

  5. Who hasn’t, at one time or another, thrown stones at the police and been teargassed and hit in the head? It hardly qualifies as an experience, let alone the basis for a movement.

    Are these guys (assuming them to be mostly male) all students? It’s hard to imagine actual working people going in for this fantasy game crap.

    Comment by Joe Vaughan — February 14, 2012 @ 7:40 pm

  6. By golly, the dateline is indeed 1988. Oops.

    Comment by Joe Vaughan — February 14, 2012 @ 7:58 pm

  7. If we can’t learn from history we are doomed to repeat it. Almost all American Black Bloc analysis starts with Seattle WTO. It is vital to also look at the Autonome Ideology which from Italy 77, Holland 80’s and Germany 80’s and 90’s. An entire generation of intellectuals have already examined these issues. I am very happy that Louis Proyect is digging this history up again, and letting us see the kind of social relations that Hard Autonomism.
    I have been witness to most of the major Oakland events. I am an #occupy citizen journalist from oakland. 4 livestreaming critics of Black Bloc including myself have been subject to threatening warnings because of critical writing about BB, or incriminating videoing of Property Destruction. We are not so very far from a Berlin 1990’s situation.

    Comment by Oakland Jasper (@jaspergregory) — February 15, 2012 @ 12:16 am

  8. @#1 | Black Block Tactics protected protesters once fighting started. A fight creates esprit de corps. We know know that. The question is about the strategies that preceded the fight. What does the march do once it realizes that the Building is untakeable? In this case a few peeps decided to take down the fence which was the police’s first line of defense. Police escalated after this action, then things spun out of control.

    Comment by Oakland Jasper (@jaspergregory) — February 15, 2012 @ 12:21 am

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