Panther Breakfast Program

Panther Breakfast Program

With the dust fully settled over the streets of St. Paul, its storefronts gleaming with fresh plate glass, we call for a critical look at our methods of resistance. The authors of "wrecking you again for the very first time" paint property destruction as the physical manifestation of all our desires. It is our view that our dreams and desires amount to so much more. To view minor economic damage as the only legitimate attack on state and capital is both short sighted and dangerous. We agree with their goals; all of us want a world without cops, without meaningless employment, without the general malaise and gloom that our culture produces. We too want to fight back in real, everyday ways-but these ways are multiple, complex, and include many different kinds of activities.

On Violence

Don't get it fucked up-it is difficult to contain our delight as we watched bricks sailing through windows. Seeing people finally push back against the pigs is an inspiration. We have never considered ourselves pacifists and cringe when critics of the RNC actions speak of "bringing us down to their level" or some other such nonsense. However, we refuse to imbue violence with a kind of awe that makes it impossible to view it critically. We believe it is another tool in our toolbox, and as anyone who's been inside of a shop can tell you, the first rule of working on something is that you use the right tool for the job. Get sloppy in choosing a wrench, and you end up stripping a nut, leaving it permanently in place instead of removing it. In the same way, it's essential to look at our goals, and to see how these particular forms of violence help us to accomplish them. There is a sense that the people who wrote “Wrecking You” think there is no other goal than destruction and violence, and we will address this below, but first we will look at the other goals one might use violence to accomplish.

Economic Damage, Property Destruction, Globalized Property Destruction

It is likely the authors of "wrecking you" would argue that causing economic damage was not the point of their actions. However, it is a common explanation and so needs to be debunked. The cost of plate glass, while substantial for individuals is negligible for the corporations attacked, even with the economy (hopefully) tanking. Similarly, broken cop car windows, while even more satisfying, are also as easily replaced, given that the cops rarely have to fight to preserve their budgetary requirements. Had the anarchists and other assorted rebels in St. Paul been interested in inflicting maximum economic damage, they would likely have quickly jumped inside these storefronts to disable computers or other electronics possibly destroying important data. This lacks the emotional resonance of shattered glass, however, and may be easier said than done in the heat of a riot. No, economic damage was just a happy side effect.
These authors also make clear that disrupting the convention was not on their to-do list. They argue that to focus on this is to only add to the spectacle as a whole. They scorn those organizers who, either through marches or blockades fought to make some impact on the dog and pony show. These actions are both ineffective and easily co opted, they say. Property destruction, while perhaps not understood when transmitted through the media, is the only act that can't be co opted and they only act that legitimately expresses the feelings of the alienated.
We disagree with this and will talk more about it in a minute, but if the goal is indeed property destruction itself and, moreover, seeing those actions reproduced on main streets throughout the U.S., then the goal can roughly be called propaganda of the deed. To show the world that these black-clad anarchists are not special or unique. You, too, can do this in your hometown. They seek to "break the spell", attacking the veneer of invincibility that surrounds the state. Given the arrests of the main organizers, along with the felony charges of those nabbed during the protests, the events at the RNC can hardly convince us of the state's weakness or vulnerability. In fact, with the huge numbers of police and national guard, all armed with live ammunition, the results of the St. Paul demonstrations speak more to state restraint than protester power. The state could easily have used substantially more violence, and probably opted not to because it wasn’t worth the effort and money, and/or because they thought the liberal media would grab hold of it. So, outside of continued legal battles, what is the legacy of St. Paul? In searching for an answer to this, intimating the social war is not an adequate response.

It would seem that the best case scenario for the authors of “Wrecking You” would be if demonstrations and actions in the year to come represent the ripple effect of St. Paul. The more militant the crowds, then perhaps, the more closely people were watching. But even with riots in the streets of every major city, smashing the windows of corporate storefronts, where does it leave us? Not only we as revolutionaries, but the population at large. Given past experiences, it may largely leave us jailed and confused.
As a marginalized movement, we have developed some unusual gages of success. In the face of a massively powerful state, the ability to physically disrupt the operations of daily life, even if only through minor property damage, comes to be seen as a victory. Further, we tend to rate our own power in relation to the number of police we can bring out to the streets or by how repressive their responses are. As long as these continue to be our focus, we will remain marginalized. But what alternatives exist?
Any movement that has sought to subvert the state, or to abolish it all together, has always had a base in their local communities. For most, this has been out of economic necessity. These communities provided the material base for continued resistance to the state. While this is certainly true of guerrilla struggles that have been waged throughout the global south, it is also true of struggles that have played out closer to home. While we may not agree with all of their politics, there is no way that we can not acknowledge the influence that the liberation movements of the sixties, seventies and eighties have on us today. Specifically, many of us have found inspiration in many of the programs and ideas of the Black Panther Party.
The BPP militancy was used in defending communities that were under attack. The necessity for defense was not developed in response to the formation of the BPP; rather, that need existed and the BPP arose to fill it. As the organization grew, its view became more global, and the BPP began to see itself as part of an international battle against imperialism and capital. Even as their scope broadened, however, their roots and their base remained in the community. Most of us know the breakfast program, the education programs, the health programs and other ways that the BPP made sure it stayed a relevant part of the community, rather than an outside group of people posturing and bringing down repression on the neighborhood. As the demise of the Black Liberation Army shows, as community support dwindles, groups will become more marginalized, and more easily repressed.
A further example of a militant group basing themselves in the community can be seen in every anarchist's favorite Southern resistance movement-the Zapatistas. Here is a movement that began it's presence on the global stage with an armed uprising that drove the Mexican military back out of Chiapas. This uprising was predicated on deep community support that continues to today, through the building and maintenance of institutions that benefit communities. While the Zapatistas clearly have an eye to the international scene, they realize where their base is, and realize that to lose community support would render international support useless. In our struggles here in the US, we've been able to avoid developing roots in our geographic communities in large part because of the relative privileged positions of US anarchists. As a group, we have a large amount of access to resources, which has allowed us to remain isolated and marginalized, even among our neighbors. It is time that this change.

What do we fight for?

If we are going to fight, let it be for something worth defending. The authors of “Wrecking You” write that “We stress that no one has felt a comparable pleasure in America in the last five years” than they did in St. Paul. In an article that echoes some similar sentiments, “Plan B”, we find “There is nothing in the world of capital that compares to the feelings of comradery and power in the moments when it is only possible to speak of I-as-we----something that is felt precisely when one is linked to five thousand others destroying everything that prevents us from inhabiting the world”. While we may agree that the “I-as-we” is at the crux of an anti-capitalist drive, we must ask, when did we decide that destruction (in its small definition of destroying things of the state) is the only collective activity worth our spit? “Wrecking You” says “From here on, beauty, decadence, and orgy can only connote immediate destruction.” But why? Is there a coherent argument that shows why destruction and not community-run childcare, education, or food programs are really beautiful and revolutionary, and pose a relevant threat to the system? Further, if one does not personally feel the urge to destroy, does not feel that destruction is the ultimate of orgy and resistance, is one not *really* revolutionary? If one finds beauty and orgy elsewhere (because we do!), if one finds things worth defending other than destruction, are we not actually part of the struggle?

Our emphasis needs to shift, towards building counter institutions that can strengthen our communities – and we do have communities, whether or not we want to believe it. We have political communities, where affinities in belief are shared and explored, and we have geographic affinities – we share something with neighbors and the people we see everyday, and we should accept and explore that, too. This is where we begin to build means of living without capital or the state. And the kind of joy and ecstasy that can be found in wreaking havoc and destruction on the material instantiations of capital can also be found in this building, this learning. Without this work building, even if we manage to finish off capitalism, we'll have no resources to enable us to live a better life! Until people, including ourselves, really see an alternative to this system in our backyards, then it will be near impossible to rally any kind of support for militant struggle. This can mean alternate ways to meet our basic needs of food or shelter, or education programs or childcare, community response rather than policing, or whatever other needs exist in our neighborhoods for which there are people willing to work. Then, when we find ourselves in direct, physical conflict with the state, our success will be gauged on the basis of the survival of these institutions and the safety of the people in our communities.

While we can never lose focus of the bigger political picture which will eventually shape our everyday realities (and this bigger picture is still, and always will be, in-the-process), the only way to subvert power and control is to start at the most basic level. As of now, we must rely on the state and its armed agents for a host of things and structures that are necessary for life. If we form the connections and networks of support that have been essential to every other struggle, then we and people in general will not be forced to rely on oppressive structures of support when things begin to change. And when our bases in the community become strong enough, then we can much more assuredly go on the offensive to hasten the state's demise.