“Diversity of Tactics” and Ottawa Bank Bombing

In their article on the bank bombing in Ottawa, Steve D’Arcy and Syran Canyon write this about “diversity of tactics” — or rather about the way this idea is often understood by radicals in Canada today (people don’t always mean the same thing by it):

“If all that anyone meant by diversity of tactics was that our movements should make room for a variety of approaches to organizing protest, with some opting for more militant and disruptive tactics, and some opting for more low-key and non-confrontational tactics, such as conventional marches or rallies, then who could object? But for most of the people who use this expression, the diversity of tactics doctrine has a very different meaning. In essence, what it means is that one sector of the activist Left, namely those who identify with the tactic of media-spectacle property-destruction, should receive a special exemption from public criticism by other activists, no matter how badly their choice of tactics undermines the organizing efforts of others on the Left. It seems clear that no radical activist would deny that when a social democratic politician, NGO activist, or union official does something foolish and short-sighted, which undermines months of movement-building work by other activists, it is perfectly legitimate for others to subject their actions to critical scrutiny, and to voice their criticisms and insist on accountability. But, in the name of ‘diversity of tactics,’ many people believe that certain kinds of self-styled ‘radicals’ should be exempted from this kind of criticism.”

I think this argument deserves to be taken seriously.  “Diversity of tactics” is often criticized by social democrats and others who oppose all forms of direct action and militancy, but what D’Arcy and Canyon argue is quite different.