If there is hope, it lies with the kids? More thoughts on J30

It’s been an interesting week. The event that grabbed my attention the most was yesterday’s Greek general strike and blockade of Parliament – see Occupied London for indepth coverage, and Paul Mason’s blog for analysis from a somewhat more mainstream perspective. Elsewhere, there’s been a dramatic class struggle taking place in the Canadian post office, the bill that caused so much controversy in Wisconsin has finally been passed (although at least American anarchists are trying to draw serious strategic lessons from that defeat), and riots and strikes continue to kick off across China. Back in the UK, we’ve seen a harsh police clampdown on a student demonstration in London, as well as the city’s first Slutwalk, which got enthusiastic write-ups from both the Commune and Tower Hamlets ALARM, and more pickets against Atos recruitment events. More upsettingly, Pat Rolfe died at the age of 23 last Friday. I don’t think I ever met him in person, but I know a few people who were friends with him, and I’d read some stuff he’d written, and some of the campaigns he was involved in (particularly Vestas and the Sussex Six) were very inspirational to me, and no doubt many others. A short life, but one well-lived, by all accounts.
Of course, on a national scale the major development in the class struggle this week has been the confirmation that the NUT, UCU, ATL, PCS and RMT tube workers will all be out on June 30th. The last one is particularly interesting, since it’ll cause huge knock-on disruption to the economy, and potentially give thousands of sympathisers who aren’t officially striking a “legitimate” reason to be absent from work. One idea that I think should be seriously considered is the possibility of having a presence at busy roundabouts and junctions during rush hour to try and create a similar amount of disruption in other towns. This needn’t be in the form of the usual leftist rally or activist protest – it could equally well be a game of football, a Lady Gaga dance party, or whatever else you think would be appealing enough to get people out of bed that early in the morning. Or you could not do any of those things, but make it sound plausible enough that the police will feel obliged to have a presence there while you just head to the pickets and chat to striking workers, there are many possibilities.
A lot’s been said about J30 already – see here for an interestingly negative and critical piece from the Fargate Speaker, as well as more straightforwardly upbeat ones from Nottingham AFed and Brighton SolFed – but one thing I haven’t seen discussed much is the potential for school students to play a major part on the day. (I should stress here that the title of this blog shouldn’t be taken literally, dismissing everybody who’s over the age of 18 would be as bad as the mainstream left’s attitude of ignoring anyone who’s not a unionised public sector worker.) Back in November and December, I’m sure that practically every anarchist and socialist must have found themselves thinking or saying something along the ones of “wow, this is great, but what we really need is a movement that combines the spirit of the youth revolt with the power of the class as a whole” – the exact terms of the formula may vary according to your precise political beliefs, but the general spirit was pretty widespread. What I’ve not yet seen anyone talk about is that June 30th could, potentially, be that moment – schools will close putting massive numbers of kids on the street while the most important strike action we’ve seen in years is happening. Of course, there’s all sorts of reasons not to get too overexcited about this – to name just a few:
1) the fact that schools will be closed means that pupils can do whatever they want with their day instead, whereas during the walkouts it was a much narrower choice of go to school as usual or take the day off to protest.
2) the strike is officially about public sector pensions which, compared to EMA and fees, is a much vaguer and more abstract issue to most young people.
3) the movement was defeated back in December 2010, and we’ve not seen much of it since. As history shows us again and again, mass movements can be very short-lived things, and they may not leave any visible remnants after they’ve gone. Anarchists and socialists talk a lot about May 1968; what happened in June and July 1968 was a lot less exciting.
4) Of the minority who decided that, rather than giving up, they wanted to stay around and commit to the long-term fight against the system, a substantial number will have been enticed into the arms of one of the various Leninist groups. This doesn’t make them bad people, and many of them will eventually see through it, but until they do, their new ideology will require them to oppose any action that goes beyond what their leaders say is acceptable.
But, despite all that, I think that trying to encourage school and college students to join the protests is still worthwhile. If the veterans of Millbank and the student walkouts are on the streets during the protests, it’s unlikely that they’ll be satisfied with standing around listening to local TUC bureaucrats, so their presence will be a massive boost to those of us who want to see an ungovernable, defiant, and genuinely effective movement. It should, of course, be noted that the original walkouts were, for the most part, not created by any organised radical group, but spread by the students themselves, but it’s also the case that the call-outs put out by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (and, lest we forget, even the NUS before the leadership realised what they’d unleashed) played an important role in getting things started. If we play our cards right (and, just as importantly, we’re lucky) radicals could play a similar role again – not leading, or even really organising, the walkouts, but providing the spark that sets off a much bigger, uncontrollable, boom. Leaflets have been produced by both SolFed and the NCAFC (it should be possible to edit the latter design to replace the NCAFC contact details with those of your local group if you’re not comfortable promoting something that seems to be in serious danger of turning into a straightforward AWL front), so get out there and raise hell!

About nothingiseverlost

"The impulse to fight against work and management is immediately collective. As we fight against the conditions of our own lives, we see that other people are doing the same. To get anywhere we have to fight side by side. We begin to break down the divisions between us and prejudices, hierarchies, and nationalisms begin to be undermined. As we build trust and solidarity, we grow more daring and combative. More becomes possible. We get more organized, more confident, more disruptive and more powerful."
This entry was posted in Anarchists, Internationalism, Protests, Strikes, Students and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to If there is hope, it lies with the kids? More thoughts on J30

  1. mcauter says:

    Its all about making our day seem to them more fun that a day hanging out with mates and that would be really, principle will drive many to come, but to get the unconverted along we need to appeal to their sense of fun, and convert them once they are here.

    convert ? sound like a zealot, just be lazy.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.