Boots Riley “Tweets” Some Wisdom
The following are “tweets” originally sent out on the social network, Twitter, by Boots Riley of The Coup and posted to Marxism, The Mail Archive by Louis Proyect, the list moderator1. (The shorthand is because you can only “tweet” 140 characters in a single message.) You can follow Boots Riley on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/bootsriley —Socialist Viewpoint
An extended series of Tweets from
Mr. Riley from Friday, November 24:
Not that we need that, but some dedicated non-violent folks in the movement should know that u have2work with others to make change.
Folks dedicated to blac bloc tactics shuld understand working w/others as well. We can’t be dedicated2a tactic. We must b dedicated2winning.
I believe that breaking windows is not “wrong”—it just doesn’t work. For a number of reasons. That is a tactic that puts the mask wearers
in a “vanguard” position. It says “We are the revolutionaries- everyone else needs to wake up!” This either turns ppl off cuz their not at
that point yet, or it causes people to simply cheer from the sidelines. It’s problematic in a mass action where the masked ones know what’s
about to happen and everyone else is caught off guard and more vulnerable to the police. The other problem is one of analysis. If we are
in the middle of one of the biggest, most overtly class conscious acts of the last 65 years—one that has the unity of action of 50,000 ppl—
one that caused millions in damage through an action that teaches class analysis and builds an apparatus for future action-why would u think
breaking a window at whole foods is taking it to another level? Its not. The message it gives to most is one of futile frustration. It makes
many feel that they can’t win, that all we can do is break windows. We are making a movement that can stop the wheels of industry. That’s
much more powerful than breaking some windows. Those tactics are ones that could b of use when masses of ppl aren’t taking action. But w/an
action in which 50,000 people are making a huge step and having a general strike, the message should just be “We are all awake.”
But, I think there is an ideological trend that I have encountered that leads to this- one that thinks that the ppl can’t win.
When I critiqued someone around a similar action a few years ago, saying it didn’t pull ppl in, & u can’t win w that tactic. they
responded: “You can never win, you can only choose how to lose.” Versions of this idea are at the heart of some of this, I believe.
I believe, now even more than a few months ago, that we can win. This is a new era. People are ready. We can win.
The other thing that I left out is that when a group of masked white kids break windows in a city that’s many ppl of color, it feels like
the white kids are claiming ownership, not saying that this city is all of ours. It makes it harder to build a viable mass movement.
I’m saying this knowing the truth, many masked blac bloc folks are NOT white. But, if everyone perceives u as white cuz u have a mask on-
then it has the same effect. We need tactics that help build that movement. That’s all. Black folks in the community I come from look at
marches on Washington and breaking store windows in a similar light—that they’re futile appeals to power. So people stay away.
The thing is, no one can show me a successful revolutionary organization who relied on the tactic of breaking windows as a lynchpin.
It’s like saying, in war, that ur gonna use 1 tactic in every battle, even if it doesnt work.
To be clear, I am speaking to people that I consider comrades. There is no “Blac Bloc”, it’s just ppl who deciding to use that tactic at that
To be clear, I’m speaking to folks as comrades. Blac Bloc is not a group, its folks deciding2use that tactic at a certain time.
But, I have to say, there is a reason why ppl suspect that as bein done by agents:
Recently- During the OscarGrant case, proven police agent, Mandingo, did similar things. There r other cases as well. The problem comes w
using those tactics in a crowd. If u wanna break windows do it separately, don’t have the crowd b the buffer btwn u & police.
Now, the only tactics I’m speaking of are vandalism and why that doesn’t work. There are other tactics that do work.
There are tactics I’ve seen, and that we used for the march to the port, in which we have a group of folks with shields that can push thru a police line, blocking themselves from batons and bullets & creating a spearhead for the march to go thru. That’s a good one.There r others
Often as seen in OO’s thanksgiving video, police will charge@ one person, causing our line to break and allowing them thru.
We can use our own distractions as well2get thru their lines. This takes not being dedicated2 a certain tactic, but being dedicated2winning.
The main thing I’m saying is that every situation, every terrain, calls for different tactics.
For example, most of you wouldn’t know me if I had just made an album w different versions of “The Internationale”. We’re in a new situation.
For everyone quoting Gandhi: His movement wasnt the only reason India gained independence. U think the British were only fighting Gandhi?
India had been fighting for its independence for decades via MILITANT movements that still existed during Gandhi’s time.
Britain was involved in a BLOODY conflict w Palestine that soaked up resources. The Hollywood version of Indian independence amazes me.
Gandhi called strikes violent cuz they physically kept scabs out. He was at odds w many others in movement.
Lastly,2supporters of blac bloc tactics: it keeps folks away that would otherwise be militant supporters otherwise. We need the numbers.
We must be guided by what’s right, not what’s legal. Blockin the port: illegal. Did we do it? Yes. Will we do it on Dec 12? Hell yes.
To answer some tweets—Nothing I said advocates assault. I advocate using numbers2make it so police can’t stop our movements.
Sidenote: I’m in Paris, doing shows. When I say I’m from Oakland, many say “Oh! Caleeforneea!” but half say “Oui! Occupy Oakland!”
—Marxism, The Mail Archive, November 24, 2011
1Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist