At the invitation of Team Colors, who are coordinating the publication In the Middle of a Whirlwind: 2008 Convention Protests, Movement and Movements, we present a full analysis of the strategic opportunities and challenges presented by the 2008 Democratic and Republican National Conventions. We hope this will contribute to ongoing discussions about whether and how anarchists should participate in them.
For internet casualties who don’t have the attention span to read an actual text, here are the basic points:
-We believe that mass mobilizations still have potential if we choose carefully when to focus on them. Successful DNC and/or RNC protests this summer could energize local direct action organizing throughout the US.
-In an era when most had deemed them obsolete, the so-called “anti-globalization movement” reinvented street demonstrations and used them to great effect. After 9/11, liberal and authoritarian groups hijacked that model and ran it into the ground with willfully ineffectual spectacles. Now that the antiwar movement has exhausted itself, there is once again a vacuum in the streets. If anarchists fill it with effective organizing, this could enable us to regain the initiative.
-Following the collapse of the antiwar movement, liberal hopes are pinned entirely on electoral politics, at a time when the discredited electoral system is attempting to rehabilitate its image—in part by co-opting grass-roots dissent. In this context, it is strategic for anarchists to focus on contesting the electoral spectacle itself, thus differentiating ourselves from the rest of the political spectrum and demonstrating an alternative for other disillusioned and disenfranchised demographics.
-Though it would be ideal for anarchists to emphasize both equally, we fear the RNC protests will be significantly better organized than the DNC, and offer a better bet for a successful mobilization.
-Though it is hardly original, the blockading strategy proposed for the RNC protests is currently the most promising option on the table, and we urge anarchists to plug into it. That means getting organized now, not simply showing up in St. Paul without a plan or affinity group.
-Based on recent precedents and the current national context, it seems that the authorities desire to avoid the brutal violence employed at the FTAA protests in Miami in 2003. Using such force against demonstrators at the RNC would frame the US government as repressive during an election that is intended to clean up its image. It would also embarrass the liberal local government of St. Paul, and spotlight anarchist resistance at a time when the powers that be hope to sweep all opposition into the Obama camp.
-In this context, the demonstrations in St. Paul need not shut down the RNC to succeed—they need only provoke a dramatic confrontation that foregrounds the anarchist critique. If we get tear-gassed in St. Paul, we’ve won. It remains to be seen whether US anarchists are currently equipped to accomplish this; but the answer to that question is partly up to you, dear reader.
For the reasoning behind these theses, read the full report.