Anarchists Scapegoated for Ottawa Firebombing

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Statement issued on May 21 by Common Cause, an anarchist organization with branches in four Ontario cities.

Despite widespread claims by the media, there is no indication that the recent “firebombing” of an RBC bank branch in Ottawa was carried out by “anarchists.”

Nowhere in the statement or video that was published online was it claimed that those responsible were anarchists.

For the media to claim that this is the work of anarchists without any evidence is the worst sort of red-baiting and gets a F grade in basic journalism.

We have no idea what the politics of those who did this are. We also can’t rule out the possibility that this act was carried out by agent-provocateurs.

“This act should also be put in the context of the significant violence that is perpetrated on a daily basis by the state capitalist system such as the violence of war, poverty, colonialism and environmental destruction. While we seek to build resistance based on mass movements of working and oppressed peoples, we understand why people are angry at the banks,” says Common Cause Ottawa member Kyle James.

Anarchism is not about violence and chaos. Anarchism is about creating a highly organized and democratic society, free of hierarchy and exploitation.

As anarchists, we support the building of revolutionary, democratic, mass movements that will challenge capitalism directly through labour and community organizing and mass direct action such as strikes, picket lines and occupations.

We believe in the power of millions of working-class people standing together against the bankers, bosses, and their states. We need unlimited general strikes of all workers across Canada and internationally to defeat the attacks on the working class by the capitalists.

Workers, including bank workers, have nothing to fear from anarchists. Together the working class has the power to shut this entire capitalist system down and work for our own needs instead of the profits of the bosses.


  • I don’t want to get into a polemic about this, because we’re all on the same side of the mass movement vs. insurrectionism debate. I just don’t know what this act of arson has to do with the debate over “diversity of tactics”.

    I wasn’t aware that any left activists had ever given the so-called FFFC (whoever he, she, or they are) a “Get Out of Accountability for Free” card. For this reason I find that it smacks of straw-manism for anyone to attempt to lay this isolated act of arson – by a person or persons unknown – at the door of “diversity of tactics”. Nobody of any consequence on the left is attempting to justify the arson attack, and the worst you can say in your article is that “some activists have made a point of refusing to condemn the FFFC.”

    I wonder if those activists include the IEN, whose statement you have reproduced on your website? Rather than joining the chorus of condemnation, led by the state, the police, and the media, the IEN says not one word of criticism of the arsonist(s). You might even say they had “made a point of” not condemning them! The IEN simply reaffirms its commitment to non-violent direct action and calls on everyone to do the same.

    Even Common Cause, who as Daniel Serge says, “find themselves having to fight widespread demonisation” over this act of arson, does not explicitly condemn the arsonists in its statement above. Indeed, it even goes so far as to express sympathy for those who are angry at the RBC (the target of the arson).

    I don’t see anything wrong with those kinds of response in the crcumstances, and I certainly don’t think it appropriate to oblige anyone to pledge allegiance to the Criminal Code of Canada in order to avoid being labelled insurrectionist.

    There are excellent arguments to be made against “diversity of tactics”. Pointing to the Ottawa arson attack as an example of it is not one of them. This is an error that Daniel Serge’s article managed to avoid.

  • Well, I think the article we wrote speaks for itself. If you want to pretend either (a) that our article complained that FFFC violated the criminal code, or (b) that the Ottawa arson fiasco was either “an example of ‘diversity of tactics’,” or somehow happened because of ‘diversity of tactics, then it is clear that you’re not serious about discussing the substance of the article.

    We claimed that widespread attachment to the diversity of tactics dogma was insulating the Ottawa arsonists from being roundly denounced by all activists for the damage they did to the activist Left. We never argued that the arsonists should be denounced for damaging an RBC branch, which in any case barely even inconvenienced RBC, since they just had to send layoff notices to a bunch of workers and direct one employee to fill out an insurance form before waiting for a big cheque to arrive in the mail compensating them for any losses. (Contrast that with the actual campaigns against RBC, which really do organize events that cost RBC money.)

    Again, though, I’m not trying to argue that our article was better than Daniel Serge’s; only that it does make legitimate political arguments, including the arguments against ‘diversity of tactics,’ which (as you rightly say) had nothing to do with causing the actions of FFFC, but which (as your wrongly deny) does have a lot to do with the reluctance of some activists to condemn the obviously self-defeating tactical blundering of the FFFC ‘insurrectionists.’ Many anti-RBC activists, including me, have had countless hours of work sabotaged by a handful of foolish and childish people who wanted only to make a sensational youtube video. And any doctrine (such as DoT) that implies that they should not be called to account by other activists for this is a highly problematic doctrine.

  • I agree with Steve on this. The article he and Syrah wrote for The Bullet raised important issues that the left needs to discuss. “Diversity of tactics” has been used to shut down criticism: that needs to end.

  • You’re right about one thing: D. Serge’s article is excellent and we were right to recommend it in our article. By referring interested people to the article I co-wrote, I was not trying to suggest that our article was better than his.

    You’re entirely mistaken, however, when you suggest that our critique of ‘insurrectionism’ — as well as the diversity of tactics doctrine that insulates insurrectionism practitioners from criticism by more strategically sophisticated activists — is just a matter of “settling old scores with political opponents.”

    First, people who still buy into the ‘diversity of tactics’ doctrine are not our opponents, but only fellow activists who have made a strategic error which is worth pointing out.

    Second, ‘insurrectionism’ — which is the political theory/strategy embraced by the group that calls itself FFFC — is not just generic “violence” (as you call it, although our article doesn’t use that word). It is an increasingly influential doctrine within certain circles. When anyone steps up to criticize the best-selling book THE COMING INSURRECTION, by the ‘Invisible Committee’ (bought by many thousands of Glenn Beck viewers, but also by a few people on the Left), a bunch of insurrectionist adherents will rush to speak up in its defense. You can read the debate that ensued when a critical assessment of the book was published on ZNet (Chris Spannos, ‘The Coming Insurrection or the Arrival of Suicidal Nonsense?’) — Click my name for the link to Chris’s review.

    Serious people on the Left have no choice but take up this debate, and to make clear how deluded and self-defeating the “insurrectionist” project is.


  • I found Daniel Serge’s article much better than yours. It gave context and perspective to the violence of the arson attack within the violence of capitalist society, whereas your article was mostly polemical denunciation of the non-existent “FFFC”.

    Serge also got the message of non-violent tactics across clearly and effectively without appearing to be using this isolated incident as an occasion to settle old scores with with political opponents on the left who had nothing to do with this isolated act of vandalism.