So, it’s been a busy week or so since I last wrote anything on here. The revolt in Tunisia’s really taken off, and the uprising in Egypt seems like a promising sign that the unrest could have the potential to go region-wide. This video is amazing:
Elsewhere, Albania looks like it might also be on the verge of an explosion, and, while it’s a lot closer to the territory of old-style activism (i.e. a small politicised minority smashing things up but not really shaking the power structure that much), the imminent eviction of Liebig 14 in Berlin looks like one to watch.
Back at home, things seem a little less exciting. The day of action around the scrapping of the EMA on the 19th seems to have been the first big national call-out since November to meet with really uninspiring results, with only a few hundred turning up in London. (The DSG’s write-up of it, while good overall, seems to fail to raise the question of why, if the crowd and the mood were really the same as they’ve been, they didn’t just sweep the NCAFC stewards aside like the NUS stewards previously.) I’ve not seen much to suggest that yesterday’s walkouts have produced anything more exciting, although things seem to have kicked off in Leeds (tho the numbers don’t sound brilliant, at least not as the BBC tells it) and Barnsley (not been able to find a reliable source for that claim yet, though). It’s possible that things will pick up again soon, perhaps after the end of exam season, but it’s also very possible that they won’t. The student movement did erupt pretty much out of nowhere, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if it fizzled out equally unexpectedly. The Greek revolt took a long time to regain the momentum it had after it wound down for the holidays at the end of 2008, and it’s possible that a lot of people weren’t prepared for a long fight after the rise in fees went through parliament. If the spirit behind the mass student and youth protests has died out, there’s not much that anyone can do about it – they largely spread through pre-existing organic channels of communication rather than being built by self-consciously political “activists”, so it’s hard to see how we could arrest their (possible) decline now (if that’s even what’s happening).
Still, that certainly isn’t the end of the story. Students and other youths were never likely to derail the government’s agenda on their own; what’s needed, as always, is a revolt taking off among the entire class, not just one specific section. On that front, there seems to be some ground for (cautious) optimism: Jobcentre staff (yeah, I know, a lot of them are bastards, but a picket line’s a picket line) and teachers in Rotherham have already taken action, and there’s threats of more from the national teachers’ and rail workers’ unions. The threatened library closures are getting a bit of attention, and some helpful soul’s produced a guide on how to occupy your library.
The last day of action against benefit cuts, called by Benefit Claimants Fight Back, sounds like the campaign’s gaining momentum, though still nowhere as big as it needs to be: the national round-up of events mentions a decent-sized event in London, Atos Origin being shut down in Leeds, a picnic and protest outside A4e in Newcastle, and even an event in Burnley. Laurie Penny and the Commune both have write-ups (well, Penny’s is more of a plug tbh). For those who’re into this whole web activism thing, a call-out’s gone out for constant trolling of Atos. And the Cardiff Daytime Discos for dole claimants also seem like a good move towards building up some kind of community among claimants.
The demos in London, Manchester and Sheffield this Saturday should be one early indication of how willing people other than youths and students are to get active. And finally, this piece on the left and anti-cuts front groups doesn’t really say anything you haven’t probably seen already, but it’s still be worth a look, might be worth directing other people towards if leftie sectarianism’s a problem in campaigns you’re involved in.