Questions and Answers on Riots and Violence
By a group of Maoists and antifascists. Originally published July 6, 2020.
In the aftermath of what commentators on Adresseavisen’s debate page have called “the first battle in the square we have seen in Trondheim since the 19th century”, there has been frenetic activist and debate in Trondheim. The system will as quickly as possible quell the rebellious youth.
The police and politicians, well-aided by individual youth politicians and volunteer organizations (NGOs), spread the harshest hate and ridicule against youth who fight against fascism and police violence. They also attempt to use all sorts of opportunistic methods to cover up and hide that the small battle was a great victory.
That it was a victory is clear in the fact that we see how much hate, ridicule, and concern has been raised by the police and other authorities. Their greatest fear is masses who combat and resist, because this is the greatest threat to their power.
It worries all those in power greatly when the police and the state’s authority is not accepted by the masses because, as they openly admit, it puts the entirety of their authority in danger. The police say that they cannot “do their jobs” without the trust of the population. They are expressing something important here. And we must emphasise that there is no reason to trust this state and their armed dogs in uniform.
In the broad debate surrounding the incident, a number of claims and questions have arisen, which we will answer here simply and briefly:
1. Violence Solves Nothing!
This is something one hears often. But we do not think that very many people actually believe this. How can one defend the police if violence never solved anything? What then, is the polices’ function if not to exercise “legal violence” on behalf of the state? What else is the police but an expression for the state’s monopoly on violence? They use violence all the time, each and every day, when they arrest people and imprison them. They strike with fists, they strike with batons, the spray with pepper spray and tear gas, and they use tasers and pistols. And they kill people! They kill people without even being suspended for it. If violence never solved anything, then why would they use it? And why in the world would someone who is against violence defend the very same who exercise violence?
Furthermore – we are revolutionaries, we are Maoists, and we are proponents of revolutionary violence. Karl Marx has established that violence is the revolution’s midwife. Mao established that the highest form for resolving contradictions, or problems if one prefers, is violence. All states are based on power through violence, and the only way to displace power based on violence is through violence. Mao says that communists will abolish war forever, but that it can only be abolished through war. The bourgeoisie says that there will always be war. We know that wars belong only to societies with exploiting classes, and by removing them, we can remove war forever. But they can only be removed with revolution, with war, with people’s war.
But one need not be a communist to understand that violence can resolve quite a great deal. WWII is a gigantic example of how violence resolved the problem with Hitler and his fascism. Unfortunately this was only temporary, since the capitalists and their states need fascism and protect it. But WWII showed that violence could solve the problem, and it also showed that dialogue and talks are obviously no solution.
2. Do you mean to say that violence is always good and that violence solves ALL problems?
We are against reactionary violence and for revolutionary violence. We are against unjustified violence and for justified violence. We are for the masses’ violence against the oppressors. We are against the oppressors’ violence against the masses. Nobody is for violence all the time, everywhere, and against whatever. But we have no doubts about who we are in the party with.
Furthermore, it is the case that if one cannot exercise violence, then one is dependent on somebody that can. Violence always wins against non-violence; otherwise violence would not exist. Therefore, it is good to learn how to fight. Otherwise, fascists and the police, who themselves train and harden themselves for violence, will dominate in the squares and on the streets.
Luckily, it is the masses who can and will fight. More of this is needed, not less. And it must be organized and led, so that it will go in the right direction and can further lead to lasting victory.
Violence does not solve all problems. All problems should not be solved through violence. A disagreement between friends, or a contradiction among the people, must be resolved through discussion and persuasion, not violence. But fascists, the police, and the bourgeois state are not friends; they are enemies. No dialogue will change this.
3. But don’t you think things were taken too far in the square in Trondheim?
No, things were not taken too far. It was not terrible, it was great. It was not sad and a shame, it was a joyous day. If it had gone even further, we would have rejoiced more.
4. Why is resisting the police good?
The police are the state’s apparatus of violence. The state is the bourgeoisie’s—that is, the capitalists’— state. It is a state that maintains exploitation and that oppresses the masses, particularly the poorest among the working class. They exercise extra violence and oppression against sick people, against black people, against trans and queer people and all others who experience particular oppression in this society.
In the particular case of Trondheim, they defend and promote the police officers who kill. The man who murdered Eugene Obiora in 2006 today has a leadership position with the police in Trondheim. Everybody who works with him accepts the situation. There are no decent cops in Trondheim. Each and every one of them deserves rotten eggs thrown at them, and much more.
5. Why is it wrong to distance oneself from damages to old buildings; surely it isn’t optimal for windows to be broken?
It is not optimal for fascists to show themselves in public and spread hate and harassment. It is not optimal that the police use enormous resources on defending the racist hatred. It is perhaps not optimal that the police put plexiglass in front of the fascists instead of putting them in front of a historical building, or that they placed the fascists right next to a historical building.
But when people let their rage fly, throw eggs, break down barriers, drive the police away, destroy the fascists’ sound equipment and propaganda, increase the pressure on the fascists and the police with chairs and other projectiles, this is not only optimal—it is great! It is better than optimal!
To distance oneself from some elements is to stab those who fight in the back. It is completely ridiculous to cry over a few broken windows when the masses rise up against police violence in country after country because the police MURDER people, and that one rises up against the police who defend fascists in the country where Breivik killed 77 people, Manhaus killed his sister, and where Nazis killed Benjamin Hermansen.
It is peace and order and “distancing” that is despicable here, not the breaking of windows.
Moreover, perhaps it is real damage to a property that is needed to put a stop to the police helping fascists to organize themselves and spread their propaganda with the taxpayer’s money. It is after all only property that is sacred in this society. Perhaps this is the key to stopping SIAN’s square meetings? For property managers and owners to unite themselves against fascist square meetings, out of fear that their sacred wallets and portfolios might be damaged?
Most pathetic here are those who wish to raise money for broken windows. One does not know whether to laugh or to cry.
6. Couldn’t active violence against fascists and the police alienate or scare away potential allies?
No anti-fascist becomes a fascist suppert because of violence carried out against fascists. Such violence may scare some away from participating, but we do not believe that it will scare anybody away from being allies. But we nonetheless see that the overwhelming majority keep their distance from demonstrations. Not only because they are afraid of them, but because they for different reasons do not find them to be important or effective enough, because they do not know that they will happen, or because they simply do not care enough to take the time.
But the fact of the matter is that when a number of people showed up in 2019 to protest against SIAN, the SIAN demonstration lasted 2 hours. For 2 hours, they were able to spread their poison. They were disrupted and drowned out, but this year’s demonstration was of course a much greater defeat for them. Limited violence ended the demonstration in just 20 minutes. It appears as though if just a few people carry out active violence, they accomplish more and in less time than many who practice “non-violence”.
If the goal is to stop fascism, genuinely stop it, then in other words, whether or not it scares others is secondary.
Nonetheless, those who are scared the most are the fascists and the police, and we do not just think that this is good, but very good.
7. Doesn’t violence lead to more focus being put on the form than on the content, i.e. that there is more focus on the fact that things were destroyed than on the struggle against fascism?
There is no danger in there being a little focus on the form. Of course, the content is most important. We defend the violence precisely because it is directed towards the fascists and the police. It is their content that makes us support the form.
But if it is the focus one wants, compare the number of articles in the media after this year’s demonstration with those from last year. Last year, there were only one or two articles, and this year there have been issue after issue published on the event. The total focus is enormously greater. Limited violence has created enormously more awareness. This awareness also benefits the cause. It reveals SIAN as fascists, it shows the anger of the masses towards the police, it shows the polices’ weaknesses in confrontation with angry youth, as well as many other rich lessons.
It has been a long time since there was this much awareness around the struggle against fascism! And all of those who say that they are against violence also insistently claim that they are against SIAN and fascism.
In short: violence creates much more focus on the struggle against fascism than the non-violence struggle. One may believe what one likes to believe about this, but this is an incontestable fact and therefore the claim that it “overshadows” is completely false.
But again, when all this is said, we would also wish to have a little focus on the methods as well. To see which methods work, which methods actually stop fascists, is very interesting and important. The only thing to do here is to learn and be inspired.
8. What about the free speech of the fascists?
What about it? What about the law against racist hate speech? The bourgeois state breaks its own laws against racism when they protect fascists. They break their own obligations to the UN on prohibiting such harassment. And they pretend as if there exist no limits to free speech, even though they do not hesitate to prohibit others from demonstrating, even when they have filed for them beforehand, and even though they prohibit pornography and tobacco commercials on TV.
In other words, they could have stopped the fascists from organizing themselves and spreading their hate with the law on their side. But they choose not to.
Nonetheless, this is not our law. The Norwegian law was created by the bourgeoisie for their state. It is not our state, it is not our laws—we answer only to that which serves the masses, that serves the people, that serves the proletariat.
Many would say that the fascists exceeded their freedom of assembly and freedom of speech when they began the industrial genocide of Jews and started WWII. The terror attack at Utøya on July 22 is a grotesque reminder of what freedom of speech for fascists leads to.
The right to hate, harass, assault, and terrorize does not weigh heavier than the right not to be subjected to it. Muslims and others who are exposed to racism have an inalienable right to not be subjected to it, especially not in public and especially not with police protection.
9. But wouldn’t there be more participants if we are more peaceful?
This is a hypothetical claim. Recent protests and riots in the US have gathered more people than they have in a long time, even though there has been more violence than in a long time. The demonstration in the square this year gathered more than last year. And, in turn, it was greater than several earlier counter-demonstrations against NDL. There does not appear to be any direct correlation here.
Perhaps there are a number of people who would rather come if there were more noise? Nonetheless, what should drive people to demonstrate against fascism is the desire to stop fascism. If so, then the goal is not simply to “gather more” but rather to use methods that are effective. The more effective, the better.
We are proponents of mobilizing the masses. We want people to take matters in their own hands. But who fights and who condemns? Normal people fought hard in the square. Poor people, proletarian people, youth, antifascists. Who condemns? It is politicians, the petty-bourgeoisie, academics, middle-class people, police commissioners, journalists, and NGO leaders. Maybe what we need is more of the first category, and maybe it would not be so bad if we had fewer of those in the second category? Perhaps it is not so bad if some are scared away, since the only thing they appear to want to do is turn their backs, remain silent, and condemn those who fight, stab them in the back, snitch on them, and give flowers to Obiora’s murderer.
10. Those who organize the demonstrations should themselves be responsible for peace and order, instead of the police.
There’s a thousand ways to kill a rebellion. The enemy uses all means. Some shout, others whisper. Some strike, some embrace. It’s a carrot and stick, it’s “good cop, bad cop”. The goal with suggestions like these is to hogtie riots. It is to domesticate and quell people. It is to make activists police themselves.
They want to have guards, they want to have “responsible organisers”, and they want everything to fall neatly within the system’s acceptable framework. This is the social democratic method for smothering a rebellion. Activists ought to outright refuse to become volunteer police. In this way, one turns oneself into a lackey for the state instead of a free activist who fights against this system.
We are for demonstrators taking care of themselves. But not to ensure bourgeois peace and order. Not to help the police with their job, or to pay attention to traffic so that the least amount of people possible notice that the demonstration is being held. Demonstrators ought to defend themselves against attack. They ought to reveal and cast out plainclothes officers and informants from their ranks. They ought to organize themselves for disciplined, active, and uncompromising struggle. In this way, it can take seconds—and not minutes—to clear out a square.
This is not the situation yet, but we know that the day will come when the proletariat, organized in a militant manner, execute their own laws after their own morals, and exercise their own power. A power that can only be based on revolutionary violence, on the masses’ own justified exercise of violence, in a society without fascism, without racism, and without police violence.