What shut down Milo Yiannopoulos?

February 14, 2017

DEREK WRIGHT ("Making sense of what happened at Berkeley") and Mukund Rathi ("Thousands confront the right at UC Berkeley") are too quick to dismiss the Black Bloc's role in shutting down Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California-Berkeley. They are right that smashing windows off campus served no useful purpose, but on dubious ground when they imply (or state, in Derek's case) that the white nationalist event would have been shut down without the Bloc's intervention.

It's impossible to say with certainty, but I saw a handful of event attendees or organizers slip through the crowd prior to the Bloc's entrance, and from my vantage point, it seems unlikely that a simple blockade would have worked without either more numbers or better organization.

In any case, it seems clear that the Bloc's attack on the student center was, as things actually played out, one of the reasons that university police made the decision to call off the event--a decision which was a blow to the far right and a morale boost for our side. This remains a victory even if the means of winning it left the majority of protesters playing a more passive role than we might desire.

Image from SocialistWorker.org

The reason this matters is not that the general arguments Mukund and Derek make against the Black Bloc are wrong. The Bloc, at least in its U.S. incarnation, has not been a tactic either aimed at or useful in building the mass movement we desperately need.

The reason is simply that accurately describing the pros and cons of different tactics is necessary to formulating a strategy for the new political period inaugurated along with Trump. Street-fighting tactics have helped the left at various periods of history, and even if we don't think that will be true in the next months and years, we should base our assessment on present reality.

We should also avoid speculating without real evidence that protesters might be undercover cops. This is unnecessarily divisive in an argument about tactics and strategy, and sowing suspicions of infiltration has itself at times been used as a repressive tactic by the state.
David Judd, Oakland, California

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