by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog
On December 5th France’s long, long, LONG-awaited General Strike against austerity measures began, and it was a huge success: 90% of trains were shut down nationwide, there was an unprecedented walk out by teachers, and as many as 1.5 million people marched despite temperatures near zero.
And yet the march in Paris was a total failure.
For nearly four hours I watched perhaps 500 Black Bloc members hijack the front of the march and stop an estimated 250,000 people from moving.
Just 500 unarmed Black Bloc – not battle-hardened, insane Daesh terrorists – stopped a quarter million people from advancing for FOUR hours!
The length of the delay was the only really notable aspect, because as far as violent demonstrations in Paris go it was pretty tame. A big reason for that is because the bottleneck Black Bloc chose meant cops couldn’t attack them from many angles.
However, I restate the facts: not Daesh, not armed, 1 Black Bloc for every 250 protesters, 4 hours of protester kettling (if you want to call one-way kettling, “kettling”).
December 5th was thus obviously a major victory for Black Bloc and their online propaganda, and for another reason as well: The bottleneck was also right in front one of the biggest union community centres in Paris. Black Bloc overturned a huge construction trailer and set it ablaze right in front of the center, which I’m sure is covered in black smoke tonight. Clearly, Black Bloc was expressing their total disregard for the unions and trying to say on a day which was to be lead by unions that Black Bloc was more powerful.
That’s understandable, for reasons I’ve listed here and elsewhere. This puts Black Bloc on the side of the Yellow Vests.
But only on this issue. The huge, flaming difference is that Yellow Vests are not about to violate the human right of their fellow citizens to march, AND on such an important day, AND at a protest where the whole point is to show how united the nation’s masses are against the 1%.
Hijacking the march simply defied logic of all who reject violent anarchism as a political goal: On Day 1 of the General Strike the whole point was to show Emmanuel Macron that national unity was strong enough to force the withdrawal of the still shrouded in mystery, far-right neoliberal, never before seen anywhere in the world, one-size-fits-all pension system. The demand of the protest couldn’t have been more nationally ratified, and yet Black Bloc’s actions showed that they insist that THEY are the vanguard party which is allowed to reject any democratically national ratification of something as important as preventing old-age poverty.
Do Black Blockers not want a pension, too?
They don’t matter: there are only 2 questions for Parisians to ask tonight.
How did this happen? What should be done?
There are only a few explanations possible for why 500 Black Bloc should have overpowered the 7-8000 cops drafted to be in Paris that day:
- Black Bloc is better armed.
This is absolutely not the case, and it just takes one look at a French riot cop to agree. Their entire bodies are defended from pain, whereas Black Bloc usually only has a mask. As far as offensive weapons Black Bloc doesn’t have many of those – otherwise, why were we all watching them break down a bus stop with their hands and feet a few hours ago? Why are they always digging up pavement for rocks to throw? Since the Bataclan attacks and subsequent 2-year state of emergency there are up to 10,000 warrantless searches of protesters at every major demonstration in France to prevent the appearance of violent weapons.
2) French cops are cowards.
They simply didn’t want to take them on, despite having far greater numbers, offensive weapons and defensive protection. Countless times I have heard this from Yellow Vests, who are pointing to Black Bloc, then to cops, then asking me to explain why cops aren’t earning their taxpayer-funded salaries and huge benefits.
3) French cops have orders from above to not engage with Black Bloc.
This is obviously partly the answer. Time after time French cops have stood and stared as Black Bloc tore up public property. At at the 1-year anniversary march last month cops watched Black Bloc deface a national monument and tear it apart for projectiles – all cops cared about was keeping protesters trapped inside the roundabout so they could not protest peacefully: Violence discredits protesters with the average person, obviously, and so cops/the government purposely provoke situations of violence/allows them to continue. On December 5th it was nearly three hours before cops seriously tried to disperse Black Bloc so that protest could take place.
4) Black Bloc is infiltrated by cops.
This is what everybody says, and why shouldn’t we believe it? If three or four young cops dress in black and all stand together, everybody in Black Bloc will obviously think: “Well, he must be ok, he’s got a few friends.” This is what I have long attested because I have seen Black Bloc commit crimes and do such absurd actions that nobody who gave a damn about any of the protest goals would possibly commit them, such were the heinousness of said actions. Attacking the Necker Childrens’ Hospital in 2016, at the height of the labor code rollback protests, is the most flagrant example I have debunked, but I have witnessed countless others.
Everybody knew Black Bloc was coming December 5th. Everyone also knew they were coming on May 1, world climate march day in September, the Yellow Vest 1-year anniversary and multiple other Yellow Vest days earlier in the year, and yet Black Bloc ran amok on all of them, except on May 1.
I say they didn’t dominate on May 1 because that was still quite close to when the Yellow Vests were really big: in late March the government started banning protests, gave orders to cops initiate “engagement” with protesters, and basically scared the average person away via threats of arrests, searches, fines, prison sentences, tons of tear gas and bodily harm. So May 1 was simply lined with cops from start to finish, and they ultimately kettled everyone section by section, which also prevented a united march and which also provoked the Salpêtrière Hospital Hoax, which I throughly debunked here.
Everybody knows Black Bloc is coming because these teenagers/young adults are all bragging about it online openly. There were obvious solutions to stop them, none of which are even taken.
Solutions to protect the right to protest… which are never taken
- Put a 1,000-strong police contingent at the front of the march.
This is obviously not desirable, but at what point does France become wiling to sacrifice aesthetics for a successful, peaceful protest? The French adore their aesthetics, and this is why they keep losing and have become so faithless but sell out painting museums, but shouldn’t peace and order prevail?
2) Forbid anyone wearing all black from marching, or at least from congregating in large numbers.
This not only violates French ideas of the vital necessity of fashion rights, but also their notion of liberty of expression. What they fail to realise is that they are caring more about liberty of personal expression than they are about the human right to demonstrate – which is the highest social expression there is: political – and on a macro level.
3) Demand unions provide security, if they don’t want cops to be there.
The head of the cortege is reserved for the union bigwigs – they are not going to push past Black Bloc. To me, this makes them not worthy of bigwiggedness, but if security cannot be ensured at the head of the cortege they have to fall back behind their own security members. I have zero doubt that rail workers and steel workers are tougher than Black Bloc – this type of union security is always present at such demos for the union elite and they do not mess around. Unions have to provide better security.
4) Citizens must stand up and push past Black Bloc.
Ultimately, the only way to defeat Black Bloc is if the average citizen pushes past them time after time. Full stop.
It is clear that cops are not going to help.
Union security most likely pleads that this is the cops’ job, so they are not going to help either.
And the People should have pushed past them on December 5: I couldn’t believe how long they waited. I would have pushed past them out of sheer annoyance! Out of sheer cold, just to get the blood moving! For three consecutive hours I did live interviews at the same place at Place de la Republique. “Who on earth is leading this demonstration, and why are they just standing there and not rallying the troops,” I wondered repeatedly?!
The discrediting of protests by Black Bloc is a tactic which is old, obvious and a guaranteed winner for the reactionary side. There is absolutely no reason why the huge, huge crowd – I initially wondered if it was the biggest since Charlie Hebdo, it was so big – chose to wait 4 hours just 20 meters from wide-open Place de la Republique.
Therefore, if cops, unions and the government are unwilling to confront Black Bloc it is the job of media to encourage all citizens to push past them and to not be pushed around them.
Before you start to laugh… I know such a call will never be voiced by France’s Mainstream Media. That is a shame – it would work, such a media campaign. What else can I do but my little part here?
I can’t stress enough how much protesters – especially the truly politically engaged ones – hate Black Bloc for discrediting them. They told me to discredit them in my PressTV report, and I did, and with their willing quotes.
The people who liked Black Bloc on December 5 were the young students…who are NEVER at Yellow Vest demonstrations, as I explained here. These newbies thought the rather piddling level of smashing and the 2 or 3 fires were some kind of big deal. To that I say “Hah! The damage was way, way, way worse at least 20 other times this year but you, young Paris punk, were too cool or too scared to join us.” I must admit that Black Bloc provides a beat-up protester populace, like the Yellow Vests, with a sense of satisfaction: “Yeah, give the cops a taste of their own medicine,” is a thought impossible not to have when you have been tear gassed all day… and all month, and all year. However, Johnny-come-lately students have done NOTHING to merit a sense of justified revenge – therefore, they are merely revelling in excitement and sensuality, in typical Parisian fashion, to the total detriment of a national political movement.
The General Strike is the union’s baby – either they win, or they lose face nationally in a perhaps fatal fashion, meaning nobody will take them seriously anymore (the Yellow Vests already don’t). The Yellow Vests are secondary now, and they are happy, mostly, to “converge forces”, finally: they tried to force the government’s hand and could only win some minor concessions but they all know that they obviously, undoubtedly provided the spark for the General Strike. They have redeemed France’s revolutionary heritage (which I explained here).
What Black Bloc did was pure thuggery because all they wanted to do was show their force. That’s what thugs do – thugs are thugs because they are willing to use violence where and at levels normal, good people will not. But a thug’s victory is small potatoes, and short-lived.
They were in charge of the union-led protest for a few hours, but they didn’t possibly overtake the lead of the unions on the General Strike issue: no worker is abandoning their union’s counsel for Black Bloc’s online ranting about “revolution” because of what occurred in Paris on December 5. Their actions were pure self-aggrandisement or sabotage of national unity, and the vast majority of protesters already believed that for years. Black Bloc did not at all beat up cops and replace them as the nation’s toughest force – there wasn’t even a confrontation!
When I see Black Bloc smashing something my usual journalistic play-by-play is along the lines of, “Take that! You convenient stand-in for my father!”
Just… pathetic. Childish. Inflated sense of importance. Check the scoreboard two paragraphs up – you are the only ones impressed with yourselves, Black Blockers.
And so, the Paris protest debacle notwithstanding – which was obviously orchestrated by the French Deep State (what else should we call the illegal infiltration of Black Bloc?) in order to give plenty of protest-besmirching footage to the Mainstream Media, which is in cahoots with the 1% and the aristocrats which France calls a Parliament – the General Strike is off to a great start! Huge turnout, 70% support – a great, historic start, indeed.
France will be shut down this weekend for certain – we’re all waiting to see if the strike is still strong next week? The government will finally reveal the details of the pension reform next week, which will surely inflame people even more.
Black Bloc… thanks for nothing, as usual. Your father was right: you’re incredibly weak (socially and politically).
In fact, you’re now old news, already.