Critical Mass

…In San Francisco’s July 25 Critical Mass bike ride, more than 5,000 bicyclists ignored a ludicrous agreement between SF Mayor Willie Brown’s stooge, Supervisor Michael Yaki, and servile SF Bicycle Coalition members and disrupted automobile urbanism in the Financial District. It was a defeat for Brown, for sell-out bike-liberals, for the cops, and for the business interests who control them all. Our action also exposed the police function of the corporate news media; bourgeois journalists’ sham of objectivity evaporated in a torrent of lies, all deploring the fiasco and mess we caused for yuppies whose race to get their sport-utility vehicles stuck in normal freeway traffic was delayed for 30 minutes…

…What subservient souls decry about Critical Mass are its most vital features; its confrontational character and its highly effective anarchistic form, without leaders or representative figures to be co-opted by capital and the state. An absence of formal organization is not always a good thing, but here spontaneity functions well. Several thousand people took direct collective action against oppressive social relations without voting or groveling to bureaucrats. On that beautiful Friday evening we experienced solidarity and real community, unlike the atomization and defeat imposed by wage slavery and the market economy.

Since I have no respect for law or morality of any kind, I don’t see this issue in moral terms; it’s not a question of virtuous hippies on bikes versus evil car drivers. I don’t exaggerate the significance of bikes. Working class and poor people in particular have had automobile use forced on them by social engineering imposed by business interests; it has become hard to exist in this society without a car. But I feel nothing but contempt for people who identify with their role as car owners and whine about their supposed persecution by Critical Mass.

The automobile is the most murderous technological construct in history, not an imaginary problem or a disaster in the future, but as J.G. Ballard wrote in the introduction to his novel Crash, a pandemic cataclysm institutionalized in all industrial societies that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year and injures millions. Cars are causing unprecedented damage to the Earth’s atmosphere. Major wars are fought over their fuel sources. Car culture has deformed the face of the planet and the character of human beings’ relationships with one another. The automobile is the key commodity of a society where everything is a commodity, and as such is a legitimate target for attack.

Any mass collective action outside of and against the corporate order enrages our rulers–and can become a lightning rod for the discontents of a repressive alienating system. The cops are walking around with bruises on their butts. They’re running scared–how could they ticket or arrest thousands of combative bicyclists? Willie Brown better get Harrison Ford and Batman to help him out. We’ve proven we can take the streets–and there’s nothing he can do about it.

For full text contact: The Poor, the Bad and the Angry, POB 3305, Oakland, CA 94609.