So, to start off with: looks like I was totally wrong to say the Camden protest this week looked like “one to watch”, since I’ve seen nothing to suggest it was anything other than a totally standard, business as usual protest. I don’t have a problem with admitting that I frequently get this kind of thing wrong, since I’m not claiming to be the bearer of any kind of pure, infallible class consciousness or the “correct line”; I’m just a more-or-less ordinary person trying to sort out my understanding of the world into some kind of a coherent form, and, at best, trying to help a few other people to do the same thing. That’s all any of us can hope for.
Also, is everyone aware how amazing the Italian protests this week have been? Cos they’ve been pretty amazing. The uniriot site looks worth keeping an eye on. I love the “book bloc” tactic:
Back in the UK, it looks like political divisions are starting to emerge in the occupation movement: The Edinburgh occupation have written a piece arguing for a “chaotic swarm” in response to an attempt to push through a national occupation manifesto, and the Really Open University lot currently have a lot of texts criticising the authoritarian left within the Leeds occupation. It is worth saying that these pieces, and particularly some of the ROU ones, aren’t without problems of their own: a lot of them are written in that kind of post-modern, vaguely insurrectionist-influenced, very academic jargon that I find incredibly offputting. In a movement where slogans like “Nick is a Dick!” “Cuts are nuts” and “Dumbledore wouldn’t stand for this shit” are popular, advising people to “Develop action, thought and desires by proliferation, juxtaposition, and disjunction, and not by subdivision and pyramidal hierarchization” is not going to have much of an impact, and anyone who can say that “What is needed is an anti-Oedipal wake up call” and then in the next paragraph criticise someone else’s “alienating language” is clearly suffering from a serious lack of self-awareness. It’s things like this that make me regret Class War’s recent lack of visibility – for all their mistakes and problems, their central idea of creating revolutionary propaganda that’s fun to read and not unreadable is still a very important one, and one that’s often overlooked.
More generally, one question that seems to need addressing is this: in a situation where vast numbers of people are more-or-less spontaneously adopting the kind of militant tactics that normally only tiny groups of anarchists and communists argue for, is there still any particular role for those tiny groups? Having thought it over, I think there’s a few things we can usefully be doing:
1) Setting up legal defence campaigns. Clearly, a lot of tactics can spread very quickly without needing to be particularly organised – the idea of occupations, the militant spirit that saw Millbank trashed and stopped the kettle, and so on. But, without wanting to be too pessimistic, I don’t think that legal defence campaigns are going to spontaneously spring into being without being organised, and, since this movement is clearly not willing to stay within the bounds of legality and the police have already started making mass arrests, they are definitely necessary. Supporting anyone who gets caught up in the legal system is something that those of us with organising experience can usefully do without setting ourselves up as any kind of an ideological elite.
2) Communicating with each other. In view of the divisions which are already beginning to emerge, it seems fairly safe to say that, at some point, some factions within this movement, probably quite well-organised ones, are going to try and stop us being as effective – that is to say, disruptive – as we can be. It’d be naive to think this isn’t going to happen at some point and in some form, so it can’t hurt to be prepared for it. Anticuts.org.uk is potentially a really useful resource precisely because it’s a non-aligned hub, and not under the control of any particular faction, but clearly one website is not enough. Those of us who want to take this particular phase of the class struggle as far as it can possibly go should start sharing information and tactics, and make sure that we have independent channels of communication that are open, democratic, and not easy for anyone to take over. We shouldn’t be relying on NCAFC’s good intentions, we need to make sure that we have the ability to communicate with each other nationally even if the NCAFC leadership and the admins of the big facebook groups go lukewarm.
3) Spreading the struggle. Ian Bone’s said that we need to see more “neets on the streets”, and it makes a lot of sense. In some ways, the unemployed are the group most similar to school students: a lot of them aren’t much older, they’re both quite difficult to effectively discipline, and there’s a similar lack of formal structures – neither schoolkids or claimants have an Aaron Porter claiming to represent them. If many of them do start turning up on the streets (which they can do without even having to formally bunk off anything), it could add another potentially explosive element to an already unstable situation. But there are also important differences: all schoolkids spend a vast amount of time in the presence of other pupils, whereas the benefits system is pretty much set up to keep the vast majority of claimants separated from each other as much as possible. It’s much harder for word of mouth to spread through a jobcentre that most people visit once every two weeks than it is for it is to spread through a school that everyone spends five days a week in. The national day of protest against benefit cuts that’s been called for the 15th is a good start, but there’s no reason to assume benefits claimants will automatically know about it. Where Defend Welfare or Disabled People Against Cuts groups already exist, it’s worth getting in touch with them, where not anarchists – especially those of us who’re on the dole – should be taking the lead in leafletting jobcentres to publicise anti-cuts events.
The days ahead are crucial. Let’s not waste them. (I was going to try and write my analysis of all the UK uncut stuff at this point, but it’s already 7 on a Friday night and I have other priorities. Sorry. Next time, I promise.)
Oh, and finally, hahahahahaaha fuck the Lib Dems hahahahaha.