A little more on the anti G-20 actions in toronto

July 31, 2010 at 8:41 pm (Uncategorized)

While looking at Wikipedia a couple of days ago, I came across the term Confirmation Bias. In brief, the term refers to the notion that when people are forming an opinion, they tend to accept information from sources that confirm their already existing beliefs.

No real surprises there, but it’s useful to see how this plays out in terms of the anti-G20 actions in Toronto in June.  In the days and weeks after the events of June 26, a wide range of opinions and analyses have been offered to explain what happened, so, let’s take an example in relation to confirmation bias. 

At its heart, social democracy sees nothing beyond the capitalist state; a kindler, gentler capitalist state not obviously bound by market forces. Perhaps a Sweden with an even better welfare state…capitalism.  

Therefore, when they marched on June 26, the goal was to draw attention to all number of good causes, which in their opinion, can be , but currently aren’t, a priority for capital: Money spent on human needs not arms war greed etc.  As if capitalism really could make its decisions on those priorities. When the Black Bloc broke from the larger loosely social democratic march and violated the protocols by engaging in its conception of anti-capitalism, the social democrats saw this as endangering their arguments and recoiled, arguing that the police hadn’t done their job properly! (In a sense, they were right about message as the focus became the destruction of property. Unfortunately, the Black Bloc failed to articulate any alternatives beyond sloganeering)

Likewise, the Black Block supporters. I’ve read piece after piece by Black Block supporters arguing that there was class war in Toronto on June 26.  day. “G20 Capitalism is attacked in Toronto”  was the title of one blog post. It’s still unclear to me how smashing a few windows and burning a cop car or two is attacking capitalism, especially when some made the argument that the attacks were only against corporate targets – small and family businesses were spared, suggesting not all capitalism is evil. this might seem like splitting hairs, but it points to a larger problem in methodology.

If your conception of anti-capitalism means the destruction of capital’s symbols, then here was ample proof that class war was being waged. The Black Bloc certainly proved elusive and extremely difficult to pin down, and it  made some for some spectacular  news coverage. There’s still a few questions about those burning police cars and just how they came to be abandoned that aren’t really clear to any one, but never mind.  Naomi Klein ought to have been proud so many people read No Logo, but instead she was in the first group moaning about the police not policing properly

The International Socialists , who are not by any stretch of the imagination Black Bloc supporters published a fairly “orthodox” statement on July 3,  making the point that ultimately it will take the moment of the class to make a real difference, not little vanguardist groups like the Black Bloc. Of course the IS see that movement as being through “official” organizations like the unions or ultimately through their so-called revolutionary party. 

The Sketchy Thoughts blog from Montreal does a nice job of laying out some of the positions of the various groups who participated in the actions, and summing up their attitudes in relation to the Black Bloc’s.    

I don’t mean to conclude by suggesting in a post-modern style that no objective truth can be deduced, and that every reality only reflects the biases of the observer.  It’s unlikely a consensus will emerge, but further discussion is healthy.

Post Script

And as an afterthought, for my money,  the winner for most horrible leftist argument about June 26 and after was that of Fightback, the Canadian representatives of the International Marxist Tendency. But then look at their history.

In the famous poll tax riot in London in 1990, the Militant tendency, the UK relatives of Fightback, initially offered to assist the police in identifying those demonstrators engaged in the violence. Militant later “clarified”  their stance to explain they hadn’t really meant that at all. Uh huh.

On June 30, Fightback  issued a statement arguing that the Black Bloc were not part of “our moment,” there was no difference between the Bloc and agent provocateurs, and that some of the Bloc were likely cops. It’s a particularly loathsome tactic, and one offered without any evidence:. Don’t like someone? Suggest they’re a cop.

Fightback also distinguishes itself on the left by arguing that cops are part of the working class.  But hold on, if cops are workers in uniform, and the Black Bloc were cops, then the Black Bloc were workers out of uniform … no, wait, I’m confused. Dreadful, simply dreadful.

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