As the political leaders of the American nation-states met to plan the newest trade agreements in Quebec City, protesters converged to disrupt the proceedings. Months in advance the city authorities had seen to the construction of a huge fence with the aim of keeping the protesters as far away from the summit meeting as possible.
From nearly three thousand miles away, it isn’t easy to know exactly what happened. The myriad accounts from journalists, the varieties of leftists and reformists, anarchists and black bloc participants, etc. present a chaotic and frequently fuzzy picture of events. It is clear from the outset that there were those who were determined to destroy the boundary mad by the fence. People climbed on it shook it and breached it in a few places. Police tried to protect the fence with huge amounts of tear gas as well as rubber bullets. Some of the protesters fought back using stones, sand-filled bottles, hockey pucks, molotov cocktails and the tear gas canisters that the cops had shot at them. Some of the people who broke through the fence attacked a bank and property of a few multinationals, but most of the violence was concentrated in the ongoing battle between cops and protesters.
It is important not to have illusions about what went on. While an active minority of the protesters made it clear that they held no illusions about having anything to communicate to those in the summit and instead put out the effort to disrupt business as usual, a large number of the protesters were there precisely to have their cause heard. While these delusional do-gooders were quick to complain about police excesses, they were equally quick to distance themselves from those who were ready to fight the cops and attack the institutions of capital. Some even went so far as to do the cops’ work for them. As one woman put it: “It was the protesters not the police who controlled the crowd.” The specifics of this control were manifest by the nonviolent protesters who stepped up to protect a bank from the attack of protesters who were more clear about their hatred of capitalism.
Once again the question needs to be examined: what is the project behind the summit-hopping and the ongoing street battles with cops? It is obvious by now that as anarchists we have little in common with a majority of the protesters who are full time activists with an agenda that challenges little. In fact, the anti-globalization movement is largely interested in reforming capital, not destroying it in order to transform the world, so we can expect to find ourselves perpetually confronting other protesters as well as police—they are not our allies.
Summit-hopping can easily become a substitute for struggling against capitalism and the state in one’s own life. The summits are spectacular focal points that can draw attention away from the daily confrontations with capital as one attempts to reappropriate one’s life in the face of its domination. Without an ongoing project of struggle aimed at the disruption and subversion of the social order wherever one confronts it, these summit protests are mere momentary irruptions. With such a project, the question becomes one of whether these summit protests can be useful in moving one’s project of ongoing subversion forward and, if so, how. Every act of revolt has my solidarity, but I want to see these acts become more intelligent and focused, more clearly and consciously insurrectional.