Something really good has happened. I can’t say about anywhere else, but where I live the ice is starting to melt. This is nice in and of itself, because it means you can walk up the street without risking falling over, but it’s also good because it provides me with a convenient metaphor for what’s been happening this week. For the first time in a generation, the ice is starting to crack, and the green shoots of a genuinely defiant, mass working-class movement are becoming visible.
Before moving on to the big day itself, it’s worth taking note of a few other things that have happened this week, and are too exciting or important to be obscured behind Thursday’s attention-grabbing events: Whitechapel Anarchist Group managed to pay a visit to a Tower Hamlets council meeting despite a massive police presence, and the Civic Centre in Newcastle was similarly occupied. And, as I’ve already noted, Birmingham students have taken the fight to inside their MP’s office.
Meanwhile, occupations have started to spread to sixth forms, led by Camden School for Girls, and with pupils at Acland Burghley school attempting to take similar action. And that still doesn’t even begin to cover the whole story: the occupation of Tate Britain on the night of the Turner Prize giving, the solidarity demonstrations in Greece on the week of the second anniversary of Alexis’ death… and Aaron Porter being exposed once again as being an utterly evil little shit.
But on to the day itself: what to make of it? In many ways, it seems like the headline should be either “politicians act like utter bastards” or “coppers act like utter bastards”, but I’d argue this impulse is mistaken. Apart from anything else, neither of these stories really count as news. As Robinson Jeffers said, “be angry at the sun for setting if these things anger you.” They were just behaving like politicians and coppers have always behaved. Yes, we should condemn the police pulling Jody McIntyre from his wheelchair (twice), the police beating and kicking people on the ground, the bastards who gave Alfie Meadows a brain hemorrhage, and the kettling of kids in the freezing cold till past 1am, but can anyone really honestly say they’re still shocked when the police act like this? Perhaps if you’re a 15-year-old who’s never encountered the police before (of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that lots of kids that age are already very well acquainted with them), but after Blair Peach and Harry Stanley and Roger Sylvester and Jean Charles de Menezes and Ian Tomlinson, only an idiot could expect the cops to not behave like cops (of course, as climate camp last year proved, there are still a fair few idiots around). The real story to take away from yesterday is not just that the bastards carried on fucking us over as usual, but that people are no longer prepared to go on being passive victims. WAG, Ian Bone, Laurie Penny, Paul Mason, lolrevolution, the Commune and Truth, Reason & Liberty all have reports up which are well worth reading, along with this bit of musing on the slogans of the day, but here’s my personal list of a few highlights:
A cop coming over all Bodger & Badger:
The book bloc comes to London:
I can’t say I was that inspired by some of their choices, but it’s always nice to see a bit of Debord:
Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and Lord Palmerston all received some attention, along with the attacks on the Treasury and the Supreme Court, and of course Charles and Camilla. (That BBC video is also notable for its attempt to recycle the tired old “few anarchist troublemakers” myth, this time choosing to blame the Wombles. Yes, those Wombles, who stopped existing in summer 2006, for fuck’s sake.) The protesters in Glasgow, Newcastle and everywhere else also deserve recognition.
At the end of the day, the vote may be over, but the class struggle certainly isn’t. The rise in fees may have been voted through, but so was the French CPE and the poll tax. It was always very unlikely that the students alone would be able to beat back these specific attacks on their own; what is needed, now as before, is a joint struggle. We already have the National Day of Protest Against Welfare & Housing Benefit Cuts (with the accompanying Troll a Tory Day) and Tube strikes in London to build for this week alone – the disruptive potential of student protests taking place that day in solidarity with the Tube workers could be intense. Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive…