G20 and the moral relativism of using violence

This article is a translation of "De G20 en het morele relativisme van geweld"

I have a confession to make. I am an anarchist. Scared yet? I can imagine. Maybe you even will stop reading now, especially after you watched the news about the G20 riots in Hamburg, which for most people only confirmed the brutality of anarchism in action. But if you continue reading you may get some new ideas.


As revolution is undeniably part of the socialist canon, this does not entail it has to be violent. On the contrary, the anarchist tradition holds foremost that the means to conquer the “Ancien Regime” should be mirrored in the utopia envisioned. Ends should imply means. So if you want to attain a peaceful society, a sudden violent takeover by a few professionals will probably not help to achieve this. History could supply us with tons of examples violence mostly breeds more violence. Thats why anarchism endorses foremost civil disobedience and methods like the general strike.

So war is not a solution. Most lasting revolutions arrived from making use of a legitimacy crisis that the current regime was entangled in. When needs are not met, the justification of the ruling order is no longer widely held and popular support diminishes, a new society can emerge from the seeds that were sown before through the ongoing revolution of everyday life at the grassroots level.

Unfortunately, nowadays also actors without grassroots basis know how this works. For example, the concept of the color revolution tries to incite a crisis in legitimacy of a targeted government that needs “regime change”. It does so by filling the streets with dissenting people and launching a media strategy in which the current government is discredited as being unable to support popular needs and as consistently violating the universal rules of legitimate democratic conduct.

Anyway, a crisis in legitimacy involves large popular resentment of the old and support for something new in a wave of a new consensus. Above all a revolution needs to be inclusive, engage as many people as possible. The Occupy movement tried to do this by incorporating all kinds of movements to resist the illegitimate regime of the 1%, which impoverished and dominated the other 99% and followed a rule book of legalized corruption to enrich itself.

So why alienate shopkeepers and scare ordinary people living in the neighbourhood of the G20 summit? How does looting, demolishing property of powerless individuals and setting cars on fire contribute to a new society? How do you want to sustain a revolution with only a few diehard black hoods? What could possibly be won with this? I really can’t think of any sound reason.

The violence a tiny part of the protesters at the G20 indulged itself in, was strategically stupid and very unhelpful. It gave the media and conservative people on social media ammo te denounce the entire protests and to associate the protesters and their goals with violence.

So I should say, as an anarchists I condemn the empty violence inflicted by this socalled Black Block of a few hundred or maybe thousand “autonomous” men dressed in black and wearing balaclavas. Its destructive without any constructive side to it, it has no plan, it has no ideological consistency.

Some weeks ago Aleksej Navalny, a Russian politician running on a anti-Putin platform, organised a demonstration at a national day of celebration and led his followers to a site that was not communicated to the law enforcers. In every country this would have been seen as a problem of public order, but Navalny got his way.

Hundreds of protesters were arrested, as it appeared for no reason, strengthening the idea Putin’s Russia is a country in which freedom of speech is not allowed. That way Navalny got all the right attention from the (pro)western media corps. Although this corps has affiliated itself with the status quo in our society, pursueing a Navalny tactic at the G20 would have been far more effective.

In fact, most protesters of the G20 encountered a very brutal police force trying to silence them with provocation, violence and exclusion. Many weren’t even allowed to enter the country to join a peaceful demonstration. The Black Block decided to crush this clear PR advantage. Apparently changing the system, foremost by exposing its hidden and less hidden methods of violence, is not what they aimed for.

But let us be very clear. The G20 states and their leaders do not care for pacifism and certainly do not renounce violence in itself. They only disapprove of violence that encroaches upon their own monopoly or when this can be exploited for their own goals. Its not only hypocrisy that is at play here. There is moral degeneration involved too.


For instance, the (pro)western centrists endorse the protests in Venezuela, where opposition politicians are inciting violence, where destruction of community property is promoted, where lootings and “Guarimba” tactics (barricades to disrupt city life) take place and where several police officers and dozens of citizens have been murdered by the opposition rioters.

They also hailed Ukraine’s Maidan revolution, a series of events that in the end showed a lot of street violence with thugs carrying heavy weapons, large fires and barricades, a lot of damaged property and violence against representatives of the eastern parts of the country. This street revolt ultimately resulted in the death of dozens of police officers and protesters in an operation probably carried out by neonazi forces tied to the highest political echelons.


Apparently there are “worthy” and “unworthy” protests, a morally questionable division not noticed by the entire free (pro)western press corps. Even when this Black Block never kills any people and the endorsed protesters elsewhere do. Even when the police brutality at the G20 reached levels of serious crime.

These few self-acclaimed “worldleaders” of the wealthiest nations are not elected by us in these positions to rule the world population this way and are democratically unaccountable. In fact the political-economic system they represent enslaves us in debt, kills the ecosystem, spreads death, destruction and perpetual war and hunger in many countries all over the world and leads militarized police forces to quell any sign of dissent. Nonetheless they are met with utmost respect by most western media.

The destruction of a little private and state property is denounced morally with deeper abhorrance than the destruction and exploitation of the entire world and its population. Let the perverted reality of this moral relativism sink in for a while.

Hector Reban

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