A response to "Revolt's Firemen".


 

WHO ARE THE WHITE OVERALLS? AND WHY ARE THEY SLANDERED BY PEOPLE WHO CALL THEMSELVES "ANARCHISTS"?

A busload of lies exposed, appended with a vivid depiction of the Italian scene and a lot of links and references by an informal group of people wearing the white overall, July 2001

An impressive amount of smears, distorted quotations (or quotations from people who have nothing to do with us!) and tons of lies about the White Overalls in Italy was recently put into circulation by some people who describe themselves as "anarchists". They are erroneously perceived as a sort of Italian branch of the Black Bloc (which never existed in Italy). This happened while white overalls were suffering preventive arrests (Rome), police searches in our flats (Genoa), threats of violent evictions from our squats while we'll be demonstrating in Genoa (Vicenza) and terrible provocations from the Italian intelligence services. When you're suffering all this, and read that you "have explicitly moved away from conflictual action towards mediated, public spectacles, often arranged with the police in advance" (check at http://italy.indymedia.org/front.php3?article_id=2516&group=webcast)… well, what are you going to do?

Owing to the fact that most of our comrades are not very fluent in English, and the fact that we know who these hateful slanderers are and have long been trying to ignore them (a very easy task, indeed, for they're doing nothing at all whatsoever!), we have underestimated the impact of their "document". Now we understand that many American and European activists are puzzled and bewildered, for those sources are perceived as reliable ones.

We must set the records straight.

1. THE ANARCHIST MOVEMENT, THE BLACK BLOC AND US

As people who wear the white overall, we respect the anarchist movement, however, some idiots and saboteurs also happen to call themselves "anarchists", and this is the case. The people who wrote "Revolt's Firemen" and those who penned the pieces from "Umanità Nova" trust on other people's unawareness abroad, for in Italy they no longer have any credibility. Why do these people remain silent on their present, "unnatural" collaboration with stalinist groups and utterly authoritarian networks?

For example, they publish their hateful rants on a newsgroup called "Movimento" (http://www.ecn.org/lists/movimento), which is attended by people whose only common ground is anti-White Overall envy and rancour: visitors may even bump into brazen faced pro-Milosevic propaganda, "third-positionist" fascism, conspiracy theories about the CIA funding the Zapatistas (and the white overalls being an asset of the Italian state) and other reactionary crap, as well as endless quarrels on nothingness. That's the "laboratory" where lies about Ya Basta! and the white overalls are fabricated. That's where the degeneration of some anarchist groups is ending up to. Recently, some comrades described the "Movimento" people in a very effective way: '…."antagonists" worn out by years of grudges, paranoid conspiracy theorists denouncing presumed traitors of the Cause, sad people who wasted their lives assaulting those who seemed to be a quarter of a millimeter leaning on the "right". No joy, no desire to win any battle, only "defeatism", rancour and foaming mouths.

The people whose identity is based upon aversion to the status quo (rather than upon the joy of community-making), they will always try to stop any social change. This is Movimento: a sad and gloomy site of putrefaction.' These slanderers "charge" us with talking to "institutional" leftists and green party activists, "fluffy" non-profit associations (even catholic ones)… But they never mention their own surrealistic alliances: in the past year they've rubbed shoulders with some of the verygroups that _they_ used to attack as "bolshevik butchers". Some sections of the Federazione Anarchica Italiana are dangerously close to becoming satellites of the most conservative current of the former Autonomia. These people attack us because we say that we DON'T want to "seize power" or "take over the state", and we mean it, we want to extend networks between grassroots, self-managed communities, we are not interested in nation-states. This is unacceptable for leninists. Why do people who call themselves "anarchists" side with leninists instead of siding with us?


Again, the only common ground is hatred and fear (for social changes would threat their identity as "eternal antagonists") and _envy_ for the consensus we were able to build among the multitudes. In spite of our dis-respect for these shitheads, we never failed to denounce judiciary frames and police actions against them, nor did we ever single them out as "the villains" or "the bad ones". If some of us ever seemed to do so, it was all hack job (everybody knows that interviews are edited). Of course some of us _criticized_ such people as the so-called "anarcho-insurrectionists". Perhaps they did it in the wrong time, but we never supported their repression or made the cops' job any easier. Some of our comrades published an extensive counter-information enquiry on emergency legislation and police repression in Italy, dedicating one of the longest chapters to the way Turin's anarchists were framed in 1998 (Luther Blissett Project, *Enemies of the State*, 1999 - an English version of the intro is downloadable at http://www.wumingfoundation.com/italiano/downloads.shtml) It is false that we are hostile to affinity groups choosing straight ahead "unpadded" direct action. We respect all tactics and approaches. In Quebec City we _admired_ the way the Black Bloc acted, and wrote it in a document titled "Comments on the Quebec City Riots", which was published on many Indymedia sites and is now available at http://www.wumingfoundation.com/english/giap/giapdigest10.html. In Goteborg, white overalls and Black Bloc worked together with no prejudices, and that's the main reason why the cops went mad.

What's more, we have spent the last months defending the Black Bloc when the Italian media slandered them and depicted them as brainless, drooling Pavlov's dogs: on June 19 we wrote a document titled "Stop the encirclement of the Black Bloc" [Contro l'accerchiamento del Black Bloc], whose Italian version is available in the "Forum" section of www.tutebianche.org (by the way, the "moderator" of the discussion forum is an anarchist). We must repeat that the Black Bloc never existed in Italy, and make clear that there very few Italian social centers are run by anarchists (most of them in Turin), which means that most of the social centers whose activists despise and slander the white overalls and Ya Basta! are run by stalinists, hardcore leninists and a few die-hards from the Seventies. Believe us, these people are far from being anarchists. By the way, why are we not anarchists ourselves? And why don't we even call ourselves "communists" anymore? As far as the practical critique to hierarchies and authoritarianism is concerned, we don't have any catching up to do. The fact that we don't call ourselves "anarchists" stems both from the history and the present of the European far left, whose most advanced and intelligent currents have long bridged the gap between "socialists", "communists" and "anarchists. For example, Deleuze & Guattari (half-jokingly, but not half-heartedly) described themselves as "the last Marxist die-hards", and nobody can say they advocated Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, Trotskyism and all that stuff. Felix Guattari even co-authored Communist Like Us with Toni Negri, while the latter was in prison (1983 - English version published by Autonomedia, NY). That book was a call to a "re-composition of the movement", beyond ideological prejudices.


There's a long tradition of anti-authoritarian communists who antagonized Stalinism, the Soviet Union and the party-form itself, even in the darkest years of the XXth century, long before 1968, guys like Anton Pannekoek in Holland and Otto Ruehle in Germany. Several decades later, in the 1970's, Italy became a social laboratory for so-called "automous marxism", a current that advocated the refusal of work and the complete political autonomy of the working class, re-defining the way the working class is perceived, cutting loose from from the 2nd, 3rd and 4th internationals at once. This heterogeneous network had a great influence on social movements, counterculture and the squatters' scene, holding a position traditionally occupied by anarchists in other countries. Even the approach to cyberpunk and net-culture in the 1980's and 1990's was heavily affected by that discourse and theory. Even the Luther Blissett Project (http://www.lutherblissett.net/primer/), which was wildly horizontal and spontaneous, was knee-deep in "autonomous marxism", however, it moved farther beyond any neat label and description, as Ya Basta! is doing now. Our theoretical approach still derives from Karl Marx's Grundrisse and the texts of "autonomous" thinkers like Toni Negri (and the notion of "cultural hegemony" devised by Antonio Gramsci seventy years ago), at the same time, we are beyond all that and have a clear Zapatista influence in the way we speak, organize and take action. Our feet are in the XXIst century. Most anarchists are also our contemporaries, and yet some of them (just like die-hard communists) seem to be hopelessly entrapped in the nightmarish landscape of the Steel Age and try to blame us for what happened in Kronstadt in nineteen-fucking-twenty-two or the way Stalinists acted during the Spanish civil war. As an Italian idiom goes, these people are "slamming open doors down" [sfondano porte aperte] and don't have a clue of what's been goin' on in the left (and in the society) in the past three decades.]

 

2. WHAT IS A WHITE OVERALL?

We're going to expose all the lies spread by people who describe themselves as "anarchists", and we'll do it while explaining what the white overall means. The white overalls are not a movement, they are a tool which was devised in the context of a broader movement (the social centers of the Charta of Milan) and made available to an even broader movement (the global one). Nowadays the white overalls exist in many countries. The white overalls are neither an institution nor a political current, nor are they to be strictly identified with Ya Basta! and the social centers of North-East Italy. Anybody can wear the white overall as long as they respect the white overall's _style_, which entails a practical refusal of the violence/non-violence dichotomy, a constant reference to Zapatism, a detachment from most XXth century experiences and the awareness of how important symbols are. One of our soundbites is: "We're wearing the white overall so that other people wear it. We're wearing the white overall so that we can take it off someday". The white overall is not a"uniform", as written by the authors of "Revolt's Firemen". It hasn't got militaristic origins: back in Autumn 1994 the Mayor of Milan evicted the Leoncavallo squatted centre and stated: "Squatters are nothing other than ghosts now!". His description was accepted ironically, and thousands of people dressed in white stormed the streets of the city and rioted for hours.

That was the real debut of the white overalls, and it wasn't a "fluffy" one. Sandra K. (the author of the slanderous pieces from Umanità Nova) purposefully lied about it when she wrote that the white overalls were born in 1998 at the meeting that approved the Charta of Milan. It's not a small detail, it makes a hell of a difference. After that debut, the imagery of the white overall was enriched by ironic references to the "blue overalls" [tute blu, the Italian correspondent for "blue collars"]: nowadays labour has changed, in the northern hemisphere"flexibility", part-time and precarious jobs have made exploitation less visible, there's a new "ghostly" working class. The white overall is a practical joke. Again, white is the synthesis of all colours. Actually some people who wear the white overall may mistake it for a "uniform", but they're utterly wrong. The white overall is not an identity, it is a tool. One shouldn't even say "I'm a white overall", the correct phrase should be: "I wear a white overall". The people wearing the white overall are funny and ridiculous, they look as the tire man in the Michelin logo. The people wearing the white overall burst into laughters when they see each other, and when the cops charge they can't run away, (after all, they "dress up" in order NOT to run away), and they're an easy target, like a cow in a lobby. The semi-official salute of the people who wear the white overall is ridiculous as well (a fist with the little finger raised, check a nice picture at: http://www.wumingfoundation.com/english/giap/giapdigest9.html , scroll down till you find it. We wave those fingers at the cops, which means: "Come on, break it!". Most actions of the people who wear the white overall are comedic ones, as are their slogans, like "Peace & Love" associated to images of violent riots, or "Here we come, bastards! Here we come!", sung on the melody of "Guantanamera" while they move towards blood-thirsty coppers, hands up, expecting to be beaten up savagely (Bologna, June 14th 2000). The people who wear the white overall are consciously ridiculous, and that's the point. When they cease to be funny, the movement will need another tool. Anyway, things are working fine so far.

 

3. THE MEDIA AND US

We always try to be where the media don't expect us. We usually _announce_ what kind of tactics we'll employ during the demo, but we employ it in such unpredictable ways that the media are taken aghast. The slanderers say that we're slave to the "spectacle". Well, we've got rid of all paranoic hegelism, "negative dialectics" and so on. In this respect we're even less "communist" than most anarchists, who still accept situationist pseudo-definitions and adopt a do-nothing-unless-it's-nihilist attitude. To fetishize the "spectacle" (and "recuperation") has only caused inaction, frustratrion and grudge. We are not interested in showing off the maximum of formal radicality, and who gives a fuck if nobody understands. We have no paranoic feelings about "recuperation", we want to take part in actual social conflicts, communicate with as many people as possible and aim at _concrete achievements_.

We achieved a concrete goal in via Corelli, Milan, January 2000, when we clashed with the police and managed to enter a zone that was forbidden even to the press, i.e. the administrative detention center for "clandestine" migrants, which was a real concentration camp. We won the cops' resistance, the journalists could enter the center and describe what they saw. After that, the center was shut down.

We achieved concrete goals after the Mobilitebio demonstrations in Genoa, May 24-26th 2000. We clashed with the police in such an unprecedented way that the media simply couldn't _criminalize_ us. After that, the Italian government was forced to ban GMOs. During the no-OECD demonstration in Bologna (June 14th 2000) we were attacked by the police, four of us were mliterally _grabbed out_ of the testudo and got their skulls smashed in. It was a hard clash, as the video footage proves: white overalls lying on the ground with packs of coppers kicking and clubbing them. The pseudo-anarchist slanderers say that it was all staged, that there was an agreement with the cops. This is bullshit, and a shameful lack of respect for the injured comrades. Anyway, the TV news showed that we were just _protecting_ ourselves with shields, that violence was only on the part of the police.

In the weeks before the G8 summit on environment in Trieste, april 2001, the town was sealed and invaded by thousands of cops. The local press turned things upside down and made the inhabitants expect us to be barbarians, ready to set fire on the town. The demonstration was shielded and ready to self-defense, but it was also pacific, ironic, culturally diversified. The news media were forced to admit that _nothing had happened_ , and the population questioned the authorities about the discomforts the cops' invasion had caused. In the past two months of preparation for blocking the G8 in Genoa, the white overalls have proved to be able to avoid stereotypes. They forced the media to schizoid interpretations. Hacks were totally unable to label the white overalls either as "good" or "bad".

On the other hand, it is partially true that the white overalls have been "over-exposed" to the media, their spokespersons were quoted even when there was no need for it, however, this is only a side effect of a "cure" that's making the movement powerful and _credible_ with no "fluffiness". We should avoid the classic "situationist" error: as soon as many people start to understand what you're doing, it means that the message is not "radical" anymore, they're fucking us, they're "recuperating" us, we have to switch to other strategies if we don't want to become parte of the "spectacle". Useless bullshit, this is a rhetoric machine that justifies elitism. We must refuse it. The trouble of "over-exposition" can be solved by continually shifting routes: They say you're violent? You upset the debate on violence and non-violence by proposing tactics that cannot be pidgeon-holed. They say you're just a fringe, a tiny minority? You infiltrate pop culture, build consensus, throw ordinary representations into disorder.

They change strategy and try to describe you as "reasonable", while the Black Bloc is "evil"? You throw all your weight in defending the Black Bloc, against all slanders and stereotypes. They try to describe you as if you're the whole movement, and then try to force you to "negotiate" with the government? You say that there's nothing to negotiate, all the government has got to do is cancel the summit (that's the position we've always held).

4. "REFORMISM"? WE'D BETTER LEAVE THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

The slanderers wrote: "At the same time negotiations had been undertaken with mayors--right-wing ones as well--to obtain political recognition, and legalize squatted centers with the claim that they were offering public services and entertainment, organized through social cooperatives, tied to the "non-profit" sector." (Sandra K.)

Actually the local councils- were persuaded (or _forced_ by mobilizations) to seize the squatted buildings (in the case they were private property) or give them to the squatters (if they were public property) and recognize the right not to be evicted. Now Venice-based "Rivolta" can give hospitality to migrants and refugees from Eastern Europe without the cops molesting them. Bologna-based "TPO" can be converted as an anti-G8 infopoint with cops having no right to tresspass, and so on. Sandra K. regards these as defeats. On the contrary, we see them as little steps forwards on the path of social self-management, and think that Sandra K. and her buddies are deeply disturbed by victories taking place (probably because they support defeat as a way of life).

"Some of their leaders like Casarini and Farina took part more than once in elections, even in the 2001 ones" (Revolt's Firemen).

Farina and many other comrades simply entered (as _independent_ candidates) either neighbourhood or town councils (not the Parliament!), thousands of people elected them because it is useful to have a spokesperson for social centres in places where decisions are made. We have always rejected the party form. This is an experiment, and it's far from being the only thing we do. It is only one of the decisions our local victories required. By the way, brother Casarini NEVER took part to any election.

As to "reformism", this is an interesting excerpt from a document written by two comrades after the EZLN's March of Dignity: "At last Zapatism gets rid of the XXth century, this is an irreversible and unnegotiable break-away from the imagery of the European left-wing. It gets beyond every classic opposition of XXth century political tradition: reformism vs. revolution, vanguard vs. movement, intellectuals vs. workers, seizure of power vs. exodus, violence vs. non-violence etc. It also bypasses marxist theorizing on crisis and its necessary acceleration by the antagonist movements: the Zapatistas are aware that this system of production and domain prosper on its own permanent crisis. This is not a possibility of liberation per se, but it is the landscape in which we can move autonomously, and build conflict, self-government and possible alternative lives. From this point of view, Zapatism gives up any prometheic and linear vision of history […] The Zapatista practice does not dream of a brave new world, it makes experiments in order to build many possibile worlds. Thereby, Zapatism is not a theory, it is an undefinitely re-adaptable method."
Be open-minded, comrades!

5. EXPOSING A FEW OTHER LIES

"They're going on TV to declare war to police for the Genoa G8, but in this days they are 'contracting the demo' with the italian Foreigner Ministry Ruggiero!)" (Revolt's Firemen)

Completely false. A delegation from the Genoa Social Forum (which includes more than 700 groups, of which Ya Basta! is only one) met the ministry and told him that the occupation of Genoa by military forces was a clear violation of civil rights. Thereby they asked the government to allow the demonstrations to take place (as yet the demonstrations are unathorized). The speakers' council of the white overalls publicly stated that the government was trying to "fool" the delegation and there was nothing to negotiate about.

"Part three: they appear at marches with their pads, helmets and protections, display in the frontlines, take care that nobody has the insane idea to do something else (above all to smash banks' or multinationals' windows) and that the march can have place without any "problems"."

False. We are not anybody's security system. We believe in the logic of "affinity groups". Anybody can choose their own tactics as long as they are not devised to sabotage our efforts. At Mobilitebio (Genoa 2000) there were two marches, one (very big) including the people wearing white overalls actually clashed with the police. The other one (very tiny) was very, very, very calm and "fluffy", despite all the people posing as macho warriors. What happened is that the ones who went "fluffy" during their own demo (the cops could butcher them in the twinkling of an eye), infiltrated _our_ demo and started to smash windows, because they felt safe, they knew that the police was after us, not after them. Their only aim was to disrupt the demonstration and make our civil disobedience uneffective. (Revolt's Firemen).

"Part four: here is where they try to get revolutionary credibility... clashes with police! They use to confront police at the end of the route with plastic shields and no offensive object, pushing in order to pass the "red line". But these clashes are fake ones! They usually take place when most protesters have gone away, but tv cameras are still present, and last just a few minutes. Moreover police don't use tearing gas, which is their favourite arm during clashes or riots." ("Revolt's Firemen")

Disgustingly false, stomach-turning. Hundreds of gas canesters were shot in Milan, January 2000. And the confrontation is far from being fake, this is insulting for all the people whom the cops knocked down unconscious.

"Another important role they play during protests is also that of white-dressed cops. Many times t.b. tried to isolate, demask or physically attack those who passed to action." (Revolt's Firemen).

It NEVER, never ever happened. In Trieste (anti-Balkan war demo, 1999) we kicked a creepy guy with a pro-Milosevic placard out of the demonstration, that's all.

"More examples come from Ancona, where in May 2000 they lined between anarchists and cops, or Bologna, where a couple of months earlier at an anti-fascist demo they preferred the usual fake clashes rather than attacking fascists." (Revolt's Firemen).

It is unbelievable to see truth turned upside down in such a heinous way! That day, the people wearing white overalls were the only ones who _actually_ marched towards the Nazi congress, clashed with the police, returned to the rally point and moved ahead again backed by more than 10,000 demonstrators! The self-acclaimed "bad boys" did a lot of muscle-flexing and showed off with their sticks for the photographers. As soon as the cops moved one foot, the "bad boys" ran away, hastily dropping their sticks! It was absolutely ludicrous. As is ludicrous this attempt to smear thousands of people whose only fault is trying to do something instead of spending days on a "revolutionary" arm-chair looking at their own "revolutionary" navels.