The cops caused all the problems at the October Critical Mass ride. If they hadn't been there, the usual mellow good time would have prevailed. But there are some among us who think "real politics" or at least "real militance" means facing off with the cops. People who think it's radical to get into fights with the police just haven't thought it through. In fact, most of the time, such people are not inclined to think anything through and prefer to imagine that "thinking" is part of the problem and what is needed is "action." For those who may have to engage in this argument, or who are open-minded enough to consider the fallacies of their own assumptions, here’s the rub:

The cops are the domestic equivalent of the military. They are well-armed, well-trained and can ALWAYS bring more force to bear than any opposing group. Attempts to push mass political action (like Critical Mass) into violent confrontations with the law are attempts to militarize social opposition. Once militarized, the process of any social movement becomes narrowed: clandestinity, cells, arms, secrecy, unknown leaders calling the shots (often at the expense of innocent bystanders), and so on. This process guarantees defeat because they can always bring in bigger guns and more troops. Worse still, our own activity loses its basis in pleasure and conviviality and becomes an urgent, scary duty rife with danger. And even if the militant street fighters win a skirmish here and there, what's accomplished? Few people identify with the "militant" activities, and any vision of a different way of life is utterly lost in the predictability and mundanity of this kind of ostensible opposition. Finally, militance of this sort strongly reinforces the police state. Without foolish young men running around posing as radicals and picking fights with cops/rich people/car drivers/etc. how can the cops justify their repressive behavior towards political dissent? The cops need rioters just as much as these rioters need cops. If there weren't individuals whose politics led them to fight police, the police would have to hire actors to fulfill this function. Police have often employed agents provocateurs to incite violence when masses of people had better ideas.

This is not an argument for pacifism. Pacifism is a basically religious concept holding that superior moral behavior (absolute nonviolence) will ultimately shame the oppressors into abandoning their ideas/values/power. That seems very naive, especially in light of the ease with which the U.S. and its puppets have employed death squads against anyone or any movement that has opposed their interests (remember, most Latin American death squad members were trained at the U.S. Southern Command facilities in Panama). When violence is brought to bear on us, we should be ready to defend ourselves by any means necessary. But it is crazy and self-defeating to hasten this process, and actually we should be actively trying to prevent it as long as possible, even if we can see that realistically it will come eventually.

— The Central Committee for Decentralization
November 1993

A challenge to the "Real Militants" out there:

You want real action? You want to strike a heavy blow against the status quo? You think anything short of direct confrontative action is boring and a cop-out (so to speak!)? Well, what better time than during the Critical Mass on the last working Friday of the month? Get together with your associates (you know who they are) and plan an action that takes place far away from the Critical Mass and the dozens of police it has tied down directing traffic. Five to twenty-five militants on bikes could hit-and-run any of several dozen symbolic and meaningful targets with propaganda strikes or more. If you are bound and determined to follow this well-known, utterly predictable path of anarchic exemplary acts (vandalism, graffiti, looting, etc.), go ahead and do it, but don't do it as parasites on the Critical Mass! Critical Mass is actually trying to follow a different path which involves hundreds of self-motivated, self-responsible participants creating a pleasurable social space of direct face-to-face communication while riding bicycles through the streets, making the implicit critique of the auto/oil/throw-away society. You don't have to like what we’re up to, but you have no right to impose your narrow, unimaginative, hormonal behavior on the rest of us! Take your anger somewhere else and HAVE FUN!

— Chris Carlsson, November 1993


Drawing by Jim Swanson

A few words from Officer Frank Friendly:



For over two years the San Francisco Police Department has tried different tactics to either break up Critical Mass or bring it under our control. In spite of our best efforts to demoralize and intimidate you, your numbers have grown dramatically and we have been forced to tolerate you. We have even tried to appear supportive in the hope of gaining your passive acceptance of our leadership and authority.

Now that you've started splitting into two groups we have decided to again increase our efforts to take over. Our demands are circulating on a less direct flyer, but make no mistake — nothing worries us more than a free, uncontrolled public space ... why, you don't even have any low-level merchandising going on!!

You never asked for police escorts, and for the first six months actually had things well organized and safe without us! But this is a terrible threat to the American Way of Life and we are at the Mass to make sure you don't get even more ideas about doing away with organized government! We don't want to get violent — er, ah, well, yes we do. In fact, we can barely restrain ourselves as it is, so don't try us! If it weren't for the wimps making policy we'd have busted your heads and stopped this lunacy long ago. So if you persist in organizing yourselves without central leadership and continue to flaunt the accepted rituals of political demonstrations, watch out! You may not want us here, but if you can't work with us, WE'LL TAKE YOUR BALL AND GO HOME!

Don't call us — we're filming you!


November 1994

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