Separated from these foundations, the black bloc has continued to live on as a kind of floating tactic. Now in its afterlife, the idea of the black bloc explicitly reproduces a single tactic in the hopes of rediscovering the strategy it emerged from. At a superficial level, it was a street-fighting tactic that used black clothes and masks to anonymously confront the state, and occasionally destroy property. But after its death and rebirth, the black bloc has become a particular ideology of street-fighting: the use of confrontation with police to displace contradictions internal to the movement. And the movement is left to oscillate between two supplementary ideologies, two unconscious strategies, in the name of the “diversity of tactics.”
The first involves deliberately planning police confrontations in the hopes of spectacularizing the movement for liberal consumption. More of a formula than a strategy, it is applied indiscriminately, with little concern for the specific context, and paradoxically makes the survival of the movement dependent on getting the state to listen.
The second involves trying to force the social centers, once the base of the black bloc, back into existence. Cut adrift, without the social centers that first called them into being, the black bloc ideology now tries to institute them by force. The extraordinarily hostile legal situation, and the overwhelming military power of the state, turn the taking of the building into a framework for street-fighting. And to a certain extent, it’s difficult to think past the performative gesture of reconstituting a social space, which seems to be the goal in itself, rather than the actual construction of the center. We have no reason to believe that a social center can be constructed in the context of street-fighting. The armed Autonomen never created the squatters’ centers; it was the archipelago of autonomous spaces that created the armed Autonomen. And recent experience indicates that in the context of an advanced neoliberalism, social centers probably won’t be the form that organized proletarian self-activity will take today.
In the first case, then, we have a liberal ideology of the present; in the second, a communist ideology of the past. One has led some of the most militant, energetic, and dedicated elements of the movement into unintentional reformism; the other has led these elements into fulfilling the directives handed down from a past that no longer exists.