Keepers of the Flame

Keepers of the Flame

With mainstream activist groups lying low, this weekend’s World
Economic Forum (WEF) in New York looks like a coming-out party for
the new leaders of the global justice movement: the
anarchists.

As Esther Kaplan reports in The Village Voice, the
post-9/11 political climate has caused organizations that were
active players in the Seattle WTO demonstrations, such as the
Sierra Club, Global Exchange, and the AFL-CIO, to limit their WEF
presence, leaving the heavy lifting to a growing network of
anarchists. But such a development isn’t as surprising as it may
seem, Kaplan notes. ‘As the months have rolled by since Seattle,
more and more activists, with little fanfare, have come to
explicitly identify as anarchists, and anarchist-minded collectives
are on the rise,’ she writes. ‘The anarchist fringe is fast
becoming the movement’s center.’

In New York, that means the only group granted a permit to march is
the anarchist collective Another World is Possible. And that
worries movement stalwarts such as Kevin Danaher of Global
Exchange, who fear a reprise of the violence that characterized
Black Bloc actions in Seattle. ‘The test of any tactic is whether
it builds the movement,’ he says. ‘And you don’t attract people to
a movement that looks dangerous and messy.’

But Kaplan notes that since Seattle, the growing network of
anarchists have helped build a nationwide infrastructure that
includes more than 175 Food Not Bombs chapters, some 60 Independent
Media Centers, nearly a dozen People’s Law Collectives, as well as
countless puppetistas troupes, and even medic teams. ‘In debates
over the sustainability of the global justice movement, the
anarchists are mostly chalked up as a problem,’ writes Kaplan. ‘But
their spirit of cultural celebration, combined with an elaborate
web of small, accessible collective endeavors, has clearly provided
activists with skill, support structures, and points of
entry.’

And they’ve had the kind of media impact that other dissident
groups can only dream of. ‘To be honest, what the left has done
since the ’60s hasn’t been that successful, and we can’t afford to
embrace tactics that don’t work,’ says Warcry, part of the large
anarchist contingent in New York. ‘I don’t think Seattle would be
on the map if it weren’t for the catalyzing level of rage that was
made visible through property destruction.’
–Craig Cox
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