While the proclamation of the Informal Anarchist Federation/International Revolutionary Front (Nicola and Alfredo Cell) about the sabotage on Coca-Cola and Nestle products hadn’t even been widely spread yet, and despite the fact that the activists had totally achieved their goal in just a few hours, since the Coca-Cola Bottling Company announced a precautionary removal of “every single plastic bottle 500ml PET of Coca-Cola Light and Nestea (of all tastes),” an endless nagging began from each side—even from people who claim to oppose capitalism and who want not only themselves but also their friends to think (of them) that “they belong to the movement”— concerning the political correctness of the action, its moral dimension, its effectiveness from the perspective of movement/revolution, etc.
The objections of the (consuming) public
It seems that every person who cannot shake off their consumer dimension, which appears to be one of the major dimensions, will always be able to come up with a thousand objections, plausible or even reasonable if seen from a “capitalist” point of view, in their attempt to dismiss any action that goes out of bounds of legality within a system that otherwise they are supposed to fight. As a result, a chief executive of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company in Greece doesn’t need to pay for a new communication campaign: the client generates and reproduces arguments in favor of them, and for free.
Thus, a murmur began about how dangerous is to sabotage two brands of wide consumption: “what if a small child drank from a sabotaged bottle? What if one of your close ones was poisoned? Your beloved ones? The priest of the parish? Innocent people will incur the consequences once again and nothing’s gonna change…”
Others focused on the fact that two multinational companies-colossuses like Coca-Cola and Nestle wouldn’t even feel the blow, that such a damage means nothing to them, that even if a sabotage took place on a global level, “they would find the way to surpass it, changing the packages for example so that they could not be adulterated, relocating the cost to the poor consumer again,” or “the consumer could easily buy, for a couple of days, another brand of cola or ice tea, and there would be no damage to the system itself.”
Naturally, every annoyed movementist ended to the stereotype conclusion that this specific action “can only harm the movement, defame the movement, intensify repression against the movement, and these activists are nothing but a bunch of idiots who act disruptively,” and so forth.
They didn’t even bother to think, not even at the level of logic workout, the counterargument.
a) This specific action in fact never put in danger anyone’s protected legal asset, apart from the broader economic interests of the two multinational companies. It did not put in any real danger any innocent citizen, any kid, or any irrelevant and unsuspecting consumer. The warning was prompt, effective and emphatic (both with the proclamation and the video, and with the whole strategy), while a four-day deadline has never been given before in comparable circumstances (similar instances never existed, at least in Greece). It was more than certain that the identical to the adulterated products would be withdrawn immediately from the market, and this would easily be accomplished; not because of humanitarian reasons but because the two multinationals wouldn’t risk their commercial reputation, and an enormous economic damage. When someone threatens the king in chess, the opponent simply moves the king if the latter can still afford the move, and in this case they did afford it. The sacred profit would never be jeopardized. They would rather lose several (or many) thousands of euros than lose everything. Both the activists and their adversaries were well aware of that. Some will argue, “What if the proclamation was never disclosed?” In that case, the multinationals, the journalists who received the proclamation, the police, etc. would have the sole responsibility for what might have occurred. All (or those) of them who would decide to let a potentially adulterated merchandise go on sale, in order to prevent short-term damage of one or the other multinational.
b) The fact that the opponent will possibly try to find ways to come out on top is totally reasonable and expected. It does not mean that the sabotage didn’t work; on the contrary, it worked so much as to force the opponent to react in costly and troublesome, for them, manner. As for the consumers: if a product is unprofitable and disproportionately costly for what is really worth, they will simply not buy it… Isn’t this what the capitalists want to tell us with fairytales about the free market, etc.? Why should they be bothered if their word would come true for the first time?
If, in the future, the authorities decide not to intervene in a similar case, they’re gonna be solely responsible for anything that happens. They would have put profit over any value; they would have concealed a danger, even if they keep saying crap about freedom of expression and flow of information.
c) The State does not seek pretexts to implement even the most repressive policy against those who stand against it with hostility. The eviction of squats, the unrestrained violence against demonstrators, the tortures in the Athens police headquarters, the provokingly racist statements of senior officials of the Greek police should have already convinced everyone that state violence has no need to justify itself, at least not in this period of time. Also, truth be told, a “Movement” does not exist. On the contrary, the challenge is to find the ways to create a Movement.
d) The traditional forms of anti-government/anti-statism struggle have caused the perceptible movement to reach a saturation point. The way protest marches take place in recent years, even when massive, renders them only at the level of spectacle, without any result. Eventually even the most aggressive political milieu, the anarchist space, finds itself in a permanent state of defense, having only short bursts, constantly running behind the aggressions of the State, and self-trapped in a continuous single-issue antifascist struggle. Revolutionary imagination is good when expressed on walls, blogs and lyrics; but even better when it goes on the offensive against the capitalists, depriving them even a sip of champagne, giving the movement small or large victories.
What this action accomplished in reality
Apart from the damage itself against the two multinationals, there are some new elements which were curiously not evaluated by any movementist…
– The immediate and complete success of the action (product recall).
– The wide and rapid dissemination of the proclamation; that is, the political message behind the action reached every corner of the society, every home, every consumer.
– The bloodless, the absolutely non-violent strategy (for those who condemn violence wherever it comes from; unless one also considers violence the economic attack on multinational giants, even when the action did not turn against any person whatsoever).
– The fact that only the multinationals were the target and suffered losses, and no one else, but also the fact that capitalism, instead of certain people-representatives of capitalism, is thus clearly and at last unequivocally called the adversary, for being an economic/value system. The action does not personify the target but, instead, focuses on a system without using any particular person-enemy.
– The safety of the action for the activists themselves. It is obvious that, after the withdrawal of affected products, there is no reason for anyone of them to risk by placing adulterated products on shelves where there are no similar products left (precisely because of the product recall)… The adulterated products will never be placed on any shelf because the action’s purpose has been fully achieved. Anything else would entirely contradict logic.
– The fact that the opponent’s means were used: The whole game was played through the threat of jeopardizing the reputation and clientele of both multinationals. What was at stake (as the big-time journalists say) was in fact the profit and how the affected multinationals would estimate the situation, what reaction would yield the least possible damage for them. Here are the new strategies for those tired of demonstrations and clashes with fully armed policemen, for those who dismiss armed struggle, for those who give weight to an appeal to society. It’s a big deal to exploit the core of the opponent’s “civilization” in order to overthrow them. It was a strike (symbolic and real) at the heart of capitalism, the only “value” that they hold in reality: profit. Profit at all costs, against people, nature and reason.
– The revolutionary/anti-consumerist (having said all of above) education/awakening (inside or outside quotation marks) for those who can think dispassionately on the specific sabotage; and there are quite a few out there. In truth, how many are saddened that our favorite soft-drink companies suffered even the slightest damage? How many identify themselves with their economic interests, and finally, those who do, what kind of movementists are they really?
On activism and “moral inhibitions”
Regardless of how someone imagines the means by which they can reach the revolution, the subversion of this world, the rebellion (call it what you will), a discussion on these means is inevitable. Unfortunately, the elites will not give up simply on their own their privileges and the power that they directly or indirectly exercise.
The position of anyone who does not wish to cause a rupture is acceptable. They may not want to because they just don’t want to, because they’re afraid, because they don’t know how to, and so on. These are all acceptable. However, once they discuss all of above, they necessarily have to consider how; that is, if they have some self-esteem.
And if they don’t agree with a sabotage like the specific one (an acceptable point of view), they should suggest their own “how to”; not to these people or the other, but to themselves. They need to rethink the effectiveness of all methods that were previously mentioned here, or not, but have been put to the test throughout history, they should honestly tell themselves what exactly is it that annoys them in the means of struggle called sabotage, they should see the point they want to reach before condemning others who acted in a specific way, (the latter) avoiding all of the objections raised in the past.
Criticism is easy to do. Struggle is difficult to do. Reprehensible is not (in principle) the fact that one does not struggle, nor the fact that one struggles making mistakes every now and then. Reprehensible is to criticize from the fighter’s perspective those who struggle (with their rights and wrongs), when in fact you worry unnaturally above normal about every act of fight without fighting yourself. Revolution should and must have morality, but when the (vicarious) moral inhibitions don’t let it unfold, it is the one with the inhibitions that has the problem, not the revolution.