To start off with, thoughts on the Tower Hamlets EDL demo: clearly, overall the state was in control the whole day, which is never good news for us. There were three moments that were clear positives on the day: the solidarity showed by tubeworkers attempting to stop the EDL travelling – sadly, they weren’t able to keep them off the underground altogether, but the fact that the attempt was made was really positive, and definitely something to build on in future. The smashing of their coach in the evening was clearly an effective piece of direct action by anyone’s standards – if events like that spread, so carrying the EDL becomes a potential financial liability rather than a way to make money, they could find it a lot harder to find transport in future, and finally I’ve seen one report suggesting that there was a large squad of anarchists and local youths operating together in the evening, which sounds really good.
So, those are the positive aspects: but overall I’m not sure it can be called a win, especially taking into account the bigger picture, which is that the Tower Hamlets mobilisation managed to catch the attention of radicals enough that there was little or no organised militant opposition to the Government’s Health and Social Care bill, which passed through Parliament this week and seriously fucks the NHS. With so many anarchists and socialists focusing their attention on Tower Hamlets, there were small local protests up and down the country, but nothing offering a really inspiring alternative to the TUC’s laughably shit candlelit vigil, and the politics of lobbying MPs – or, even more pointlessly, trying to lobby Lords, despite the fact that those aristocrats don’t even pretend that we can hold them accountable for their decisions (short of a revolution, of course). I’m not naive enough to believe that more and better protests would have defeated the bill, but they would have been an opportunity to make our ideas and tactics visible and accessible to militant health workers and patients who actually wanted to win the fight, rather than just lighting candles to commemorate our inevitable defeat.
Looking to the future, the next big event the left’s focusing on is the Tory Party conference. Nearly a year ago, one of the very first things I wrote on here was a discussion of the pointlessness of a call-out to “smash“ that year’s conference, and I stand by the criticisms I made in that, but a lot’s changed since then, and I’m a lot more hopeful about the chances of something worthwhile happening this time around. The Occupy Manchester initiative looks worth keeping an eye on. I’ll probably write more about it closer to the time, but it strikes me that one of the really interesting questions is how the people who rioted in Manchester and Salford will react to the whole thing – will they see it as an opportunity to kick off again, either in the city centre or by taking advantage of the concentration of cops around the conference to to start shit in some of the outlying areas where the cops’ll be fewer on the ground? Or will they just see the whole thing as totally irrelevant? Either way, the results will be an interesting insight into how far the two forms of rebellion are separated from each other.
Meanwhile, the struggle in the construction industry continues to look seriously interesting. London SolFed report on last Wednesday’s demo that saw about 200 people attempt to close a building site, and the Electricians Against the World blog has more info, including some very interesting news about the dispute spreading to Manchester, Newcastle and Glasgow. It looks like there’s a lot coming up to get involved in, and this kind of grassroots militancy is the sort of thing that anarchists should be all over like a rash. Not been able to find much more info so far, but the twitter tag thing is “#siteworker”.
Looking abroad, this week’s also seen increasing clashes between the Israeli state and the social movement there, with 40 arrested in an attempt to clear Tel Aviv’s tent city. And this week also saw the biggest protests in Israel’s history. It looks like the myths about Israelis (and Palestinians) being united across class lines by their shared national interests have been well and truly shattered. Over in the US, the Seattle Solidarity Network are continuing their impressive winning streak of direct action victories, and in Italy there’s been a general strike. Oh, and on a less dramatic note, the South African anarchists at Zabalaza Books have a new website – if you have access to a printer, their site will let you build up a decent library of anarcho pamphlets very quickly.