Socialism Art Nature

What the fuck, people! Why do some people — generally associated with anarchist politics — feel the need to constantly pursue these types of idiotic actions? If you really want to see the dismantling of corporate power, why don’t you and your 12 friends put down the metal pipes, walk away from the window, and set about trying to actually organize broad actions with masses of people?

I mean, what really is accomplished by a handful of anarcho-fools setting about to terrorize the workers and customers of a local Starbucks, many of whom (including the exploited baristas inside) will not know what the fuck is even going on, by smashing a window that Starbucks will simply quickly replace?!

I’m really, really losing my patience with such childish, selfish, egocentric, elitist, undemocratic, and adventurist actions. Seriously. Such isolated actions carried out by a tiny handful of unaccountable anarchists do way more harm than good to the cause of winning masses of people to join the struggle against corporate power & for workers’ rights.


Time was, anarchists could simply look askance at a Starbucks’ big greedy oppression-symbolizing window and it’d shatter out of sheer terror. But in the age-old battle between anarchists and Starbucks, the coffeemaker appears to have gained the upper hand.

Saturday night, a group of a few dozen anarchists who’d been attending a nearby anarchist book fair marched on an East Village Starbucks, all hopped up on mate, shitty zines and Deleuze. It was time for a classic Starbucks smashing!

But they were foiled by Starbucks’ advanced anarchist-repelling window technology. The New York Daily News reports:

"Patrons at Astor Place coffee shop dashed underneath tables as metal pipe-wielding protesters attempted to shatter its floor-to-ceiling Plexiglas windows during a Saturday night riot, police and workers said.

"Luckily, the unbreakable panes prevented injuries, one barista said."

Three protesters were arrested and charged with assaulting a police officer, disorderly conduct and being so 2009. Haven’t you been reading The New York Times, anarchists? The only people who drink at Starbucks in New York City anymore are construction workers, college students and tourists. Any respectable coffee shop-smashing snob would demolish a Blue Bottle Coffee.


Jason Netek explains what Marxists have said about “propaganda of the deed.”

 … In 1911, Leon Trotsky wrote that propaganda of the deed “belittles the role of the masses in their own consciousness, reconciles them to their powerlessness, and turns their eyes and hopes towards a great avenger and liberator who some day will come and accomplish his mission.”

 … The great lesson of the revolutions of the last century is that there is no substitute for the self-activity of the working class. When discussing strategy and tactics today, we should start from this basic premise. Our tactics should be varied—and sometimes they may grab headlines. But more important than that, they need to be part of the building of a coordinated and participatory mass movement.


I don’t particularly give a damn about bourgeois or corporate property. I will shed no tear over a smashed window of a multi-billion dollar corporation. Nor will I feel bad for the owner of a police car destroyed by any group of protesters.

However, there is a difference between one’s abstract ideological sympathies, on the one hand, and the strategic application of concrete tactics in struggle, on the other. The tendency by some would-be ‘ultra-leftists’ to fetishize violence and property damage in all circumstances, is highly dogmatic, counterproductive, and ultimately undemocratic in the extreme.

In this way, the proponents of ‘propaganda of the deed’ who fetishize violence and provocative confrontation as the ’end-all, be-all’, are merely expressing the inverse of the irrational, undemocratic dogmatism of those pacifists who ceaselessly preach ‘non-violence’ in even the most revolutionary of circumstances.

I am a firm believer in the importance of mass, democratic struggle. At an early stage of the development of a struggle, this may mean nothing more than a peaceful, mass march. At another stage (for instance, see Egypt’s revolution or the 1992 L.A. Rebellion), this may mean physically attacking police, reactionary businesses, or political party offices.

The question in the end is simply one of accurately assessing the current mood and desires of the mass base of the movement and figuring out what tactic at a given juncture is best suited to both express the mood of the majority, while also seeking to push things forward as far as that majority is willing to go at that moment.

It does no good if you as an individual are ready to set up barricades in the streets and commence with a revolutionary struggle for power, if the mass of people are not. In fact, it actually tends to have a counterproductive effect, inviting mass repression by the police while also arresting or even retarding the process whereby masses of people are drawn into closer contact with and affinity for the more revolutionary-minded among their ranks.     


A successful campaign to end police brutality in Seattle will find it strength, not in tactics that confine themselves to a few activists, but in building relationships and bridges between groups, organizations and communities of color.