The amusing contradiction of the ‘agitators’ from Saturdays protests


by Sunny
28th March, 2011 at 7:54 pm    

Saturday’s TUC march excellent and undoubtedly historic. After a bit though of walking I decided to head down to Oxford Circus to see what was going on.

There, I took part in a UKuncut action against Dorothy Perkins (owned by tax avoider Philip Green) – we all sat down peacefully at the entrance on Oxford Circus. A police chief threatened us with arrest for not letting customers out of the store, but we made space for them to leave. He also didn’t seem to have an identification number (when this was pointed out to him he abruptly left and didn’t carry out the threat).

That aside, I also saw ‘Black bloc’ kids walking up and down Oxford Circus with their black/red flags. There were also some people with the ‘global revolution’ flags and some Communist Party flags. It was people from these groups that were earlier seen throwing paint bombs at TopShop, and later burning the big paper Trojan Horse. That’s for a bit of context for those who didn’t attend.

Anyway, one of those ‘revolutionaries’ has written this cliche-ridden piece of hilarity for Guardian CIF, with gems such as: “To try to make distinctions between a “peaceful” and a “violent” protester is inherently flawed” – yeah Mahatma Gandhi, Dalai Lama and MLK jnr, you hear that? You lot were just middle-of-the-road half-assed revolutionaries who didn’t understand the need for violence! You failed with your silly preference for non-violent protest!

I find this bit of guff amusing too:

Something out of the ordinary is happening – parts of Britain aren’t bothering to be so polite anymore. Sometimes, to make your voice heard, you have to speak softly and carry a big stick.

That’s right – there was never any violence at protests before in the UK. Suddenly people getting angry now. This is all new if you’re 15, with a sense of history that stretches as many years, perhaps.

But here is the main point:

The point is to maintain a momentum, a united show of resistance, against a spectre that shadows us all.

That is perhaps the best illustration of how muddled how many people are. The black bloc crew and other anarchist grouups intent on ‘smashing the state’ have nothing in common with the public sector workers there who wanted the government to maintain spending. In that sense, the marchers have more in common with centre-right Tories than they do with this gaggle of libertarian-communists, anarchist and other assorted groups.

Its not just that, as Medhi Hasan points out, they don’t understand ‘solidarity’, it’s actually very unclear what solidarity means in this context. Do they really believe the fire-fighters, nurses, teachers etc marching that day share their goals? I highly doubt it.


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  1. worker — on 28th March, 2011 at 7:58 pm  

    Bollocks. Youre full of shit mate. I’ve been working in the public sector for 28 years and I thought it was fucking brilliant those kids smashing up the banks. I just wish they could have done more.

  2. earwicga — on 28th March, 2011 at 8:00 pm  

    My children asked why they were wearing masks. Easily answered with ‘because they are idiot anarchists’.

    It was a great day, and kudos to the TUC for getting so many people out from all over the UK.

  3. Anonymous — on 28th March, 2011 at 8:07 pm  

    As usual, yet another article says “IT’S THE ANARCHISTS FAULT” without any actual research.

    Still, not to worry, as this sort of violent direct action is going to be getting a lot more prevalent over the course of the next few years. Enjoy peacefully protesting while you still can, it’ll be illegal soon enough.

  4. Alex — on 28th March, 2011 at 8:15 pm  

    Social Anarchists have numerous types, but in particular the class struggle ones you declaim in your post have a concept, related to their wider analysis of the way the state and capital interact and the exploitation of capitalism in general called the social wage – which includes benefits and so on. There is no contradiction between them supporting public services and being against the state/capital – they seek to defend concrete gains in quality of life where possible. Otherwise why the heck would they be out considering this obviousness of what you are saying?

    Research please.

  5. Mark Richardson — on 28th March, 2011 at 8:28 pm  

    The edition of Newsnight the evening before the march on the 26th saw Mark Serwotka struggling to explain how just pursuing tax dodgers would pay for a ‘no cuts’ agenda. And just pursuing tax dodgers certainly wouldn’t pay for bringing back student grants, properly-funded council house provision, proper remuneration for nurses, teachers etc.

    The truth is that only a much more radical agenda could possibly pay for all this. And for the TUC to suck thousands of people into a march without using the sort of revolutionary rhetoric which would match the size of the social upheaval required to achieve it is an act of hijacking of much greater significance than what the Black Bloc did on Saturday.

    If the TUC were more honest with their rhetoric, perhaps there would be greater solidarity.

  6. @mummylion — on 28th March, 2011 at 8:31 pm  

    i wish i could have been there with my son at the weekend but i’m a bit nervous about coming to demos any more because of the violent minority. shame, as i do feel strongly about this issue.

    not that the government will listen anyway *raises hands in despair*

  7. MaidMarian — on 28th March, 2011 at 8:49 pm  

    Well… I wasn’t there (Australian Grand Prix qualifying was on), but this is very interesting.

    ‘That is perhaps the best illustration of how muddled how many people are. The black bloc crew and other anarchist groups intent on ‘smashing the state’ have nothing in common with the public sector workers there who wanted the government to maintain spending. In that sense, the marchers have more in common with centre-right Tories than they do with this gaggle of libertarian-communists, anarchist and other assorted groups.’

    So put another way, ‘what are you protesting against – what have you got?’

    This is not a coherent movement against cuts or anything else. In the way that stop the war muddled itself by morphing into StW/FfP so the anti-cuts movement will flounder on the rocks of differing agendas. This is a lot of people blowing off steam. Anger dissipates, real protest is more than this.

    Indeed Sunny, the ‘occupation’ of Fortnum and Masons highlights the muddle – this was not anti-cuts, that was expressly soak the rich. Where in the past the left would look to the aspirational working man, seeking betterment – now it actively hands down moral condemnation by metaphor.

    Indeed, it was hard not to wonder if the anarchists had done the right a massive favour watching the TV coverage. Those scenes let the word ring out – you are with us or you are against us.

    Alex – ‘to their wider analysis of the way the state and capital interact and the exploitation of capitalism in general called the social wage.’ But surely such an analysis would need to be reified in some way by these people living out the cause? How can an analysis be sustained from the outside of its endpoint. There was no attempt at synthesis in this protest. Unless these people are Surrey bankers by day and out giving to the poor at night, surely their analysis is at best untested and at worst an article of faith?

  8. Don — on 28th March, 2011 at 9:17 pm  

    Incoming sock puppets.

  9. Kismet Hardy — on 28th March, 2011 at 11:14 pm  

    “As usual, yet another article says “IT’S THE ANARCHISTS FAULT” without any actual research.”

    That’s the whole sodding point though isn’t it? What was supposed to hit home the facts about the protest to middle england, whose opinion really sway the votes, was always going to be given a front page side-bar or a inside page news story in the Mail and the Express, but your action allowed it to dominate as a front page splash, pissing all over the good intentions of thousands that wanted to show we had a point.

    “Enjoy peacefully protesting while you still can, it’ll be illegal soon enough.”

    Why? Because your lot give them a cause to get the support.

    You’re a bunch of mindless fucking hooligans no different than the EDL and you should be ashamed of yourselves

  10. damon — on 29th March, 2011 at 12:15 am  

    A spokeswoman for UKuncut on Newsnight tonight was very poor I thought.
    She wouldn’t ”comdemn” any violence, as she didn’t like the way that was even being asked of her ….or something. What she was saying was rather muddled I thought. A bit like the whole movement really.
    It is bound to get out of control sometimes, as the people organising it are not sure who will turn up.

    Although from a completely different social demographic, the EDL also have this problem. We have no problem attacking them for the dregs they attract, and looking at the woman on Newsnight, UKuncut can’t distance itself from the people who turn up that easily.

    God, it’s 1am, and Mike Graham has just come on for his overnight show on Talk Sport radio. He’s talking about saturday, Fortnam and Mason and UKuncut.
    He’s pretty dull-witted and reactionary, but is probably more representative of the average Brit on this issue than the people protesting in Oxford Street and Piccadilly.

  11. douglas clark — on 29th March, 2011 at 12:35 am  

    Well, I agree with Kismet Hardy. This is becoming an increasingly worrying, and often, state of affairs.

    ;-)

  12. Sunny — on 29th March, 2011 at 1:04 am  

    There is no contradiction between them supporting public services and being against the state/capital – they seek to defend concrete gains in quality of life where possible.

    What if those concrete gains in quality of life come via capitalism. Let’s say, you know, buying iphones or televisions from capitalist companies such as Apple, Sony. Are these anarchists against that or for it, out of interest?

    also Alex – its not clear which anarchists you’re referring to. Are Blackbloc anti-state or not? How do you suppose they think the NHS or education will be delivered then?

  13. Refresh — on 29th March, 2011 at 2:03 am  

    It will be very interesting how this plays out. A fortnight ago I had a discussion with a successful, well-heeled businessman. He expressed astonishment (and I strongly suspect dismay) that the country hadn’t already rioted.

    He was angry that he, his business, his employees and his customers were being forced (not asked) to foot the bill for the bankers. He also intimated that he would not be alone amongst the business community to hold that view.

    On reflection this should not have surprised me. Businesses too are being denied any banking facilities whilst the banks claw back and make up for the lost capitalisation of the last few years. Despite the fact that small and medium sized businesses are the mainstay of the economy and the banks.

    I don’t share Mehdi Hasan’s view that we the people should be policed by the media: Murdoch, Daily Mail or the Express. The fact that UK governments are fearful of the media does not mean the people should also be cowed. Yes do criticise the ‘alternative’ protesters who were responsible for the violence but don’t forget to take to task the media coverage.

    Looking ahead I believe Cameron and Osborne are attempting to dismiss this massive demonstration in much the same way Blair did the anti-war demo. This will be a mistake, as people will feel the noose tightening for a long while yet – perhaps even as long as the length of the Iraq war – there will be daily reminders of the government’s cuts strategy.

  14. Kismet Hardy — on 29th March, 2011 at 6:18 am  

    Well, when you put it like that refresh, maybe a molotov cocktail might not be such a bad idea after all… But only up cameron’s arse. Back in the days of bonging around the Anarchist Cockbook I used to agree rich people were scum and all that bollocks, but considering half the people who squatted and marched back then now drive their kids in a nice car to visit their well-off grandparents in the country, I think it’s only fair to say anarchists who still bleat about fucking over the rich are simply envious and in need of growing up after all. Punk rage without a point is as depressing as butter without anything to spread on or heat up

  15. Kismet Hardy — on 29th March, 2011 at 6:21 am  

    *Anarchist Cookbook. A slip of the finger, but after their recent antics, I think Cockbook can suffice for now :-)

  16. MaidMarian — on 29th March, 2011 at 9:20 am  

    Refresh –

    ‘On reflection this should not have surprised me. Businesses too are being denied any banking facilities whilst the banks claw back and make up for the lost capitalisation of the last few years. Despite the fact that small and medium sized businesses are the mainstay of the economy and the banks.’

    This is an important point, and it is one that I suspect some people at the protest did not get. It is rare that I agree with the Governor of the Bank of England, but he set this out very well recently.

    The Coalition analysis is effectively that the public sector is to blame for banks hitting the rocks. This is asking people to pay for first the banking system’s problems and second to rescue it via recapitalisation.

    It’s not the cuts as such that are the problem here – those are ultimately political desicions in a fiat money system. What the arguments here are about is the place of government in standing behind particluar industries. Arguments about cuts have in one way or another been ongoing for decades, what we are seeing now is different and UK uncut seem to misunderstand that.

  17. skidmarx — on 29th March, 2011 at 11:04 am  

    What if those concrete gains in quality of life come via capitalism. Let’s say, you know, buying iphones or televisions from capitalist companies such as Apple, Sony. Are these anarchists against that or for it, out of interest?
    I think those concrete gains come through the labour of workers that is appropriated by the capitalist class.

    Having been outside Dorothy Perkins when the UK Uncut action started I can see some sense in recognising that they and the black bloc aren’t the same thing, but to fall in with the narrative that all that stops greater coverage of the march and its aims is a bit of public paintball practice would seem to direct energies in the wrong direction.

  18. Refresh — on 29th March, 2011 at 11:56 am  

    Kismet,

    I’ve never quite grasped anarchism as a system. The temptation to read up on the philosophy was, for me, very shortlived mostly because there were too many long words involved and far too much sophistication in the arguments presented for what is supposedly a simple concept.

    As for the those who now drive nice cars is concerned, and the rest of us, people are having to come to terms with the fact that the ‘abundance’ of the last decade was nothing more than an aberration. Cameron and Osborne are happily reminding us who really owns and who runs the country and for whose benefit.

    MaidMarian,

    I think UK Uncut do actually get it, better than most. From what I’ve seen they are the ones who are pointing the finger firmly at the bankers and the tax avoiders. Their strategy seems to be disruptive but non-violent.

    I don’t believe they’ve been named as the source of the violence. It would be wholly wrong to undermine them for the actions of the so-called BlackBloc.

    And if they remain non-violent (and listening to the UK Uncut woman on Newsnight) then I expect their stock will rise.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/it-was-my-first-protest-now-i-might-lose-my-job-2255730.html

    ‘It was my first protest. Now I might lose my job’

    Case study: Protesters said they had been assured by police they would not bearrested if they had caused no damage”

  19. Chris — on 29th March, 2011 at 4:58 pm  

    The contradiction is enormous and it would be amusing if it weren’t so tragic. The march on Saturday was all about the clients of the state wanting their role preserved. It was as far from anarchy and smashing the state as you can get. These are people who are angrily demanding more state.

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