A letter to UK Uncutters from the 'violent minority'

Clashes erupted at Cambridge Circus HSBC

Letter to UK Uncut members by members of the Solidarity Federation in the aftermath of the disorder on the March 26 TUC organised March for the Alternative.

We're writing this to you to try and prevent the anti-cuts struggle being split up and weakened by the media.

We are anarchists (well, anarcho-syndicalists, technically) – a word that is much misunderstood and misrepresented. We are also students, workers and shop stewards. We co-organised a 'Radical Workers Bloc' on the South London feeder march. The aim was to provide a highly visible radical presence within the workers movement of which we are a part, advocating strikes, occupations and civil disobedience.

Saturday's demonstration was far bigger than anyone expected, and saw thousands go beyond a simple A-B stroll to take direct action. The UK Uncut actions on Oxford Street and in occupying Fortnum and Masons provoked harsh treatment from police, including mass arrests.

When we reached Trafalgar Square, we headed for Oxford Street for the 2pm actions to put some of these words into action (anarchist and UK Uncutter were not mutually exclusive on the day!). When we arrived, we met up with other anarchists who had had the same idea. Wary of being kettled, we chose to stay mobile, causing disruption on Oxford St and the surrounding area, including to UK Uncut targets which were closed and guarded by riot police. Subsequently, several banks, the Ritz and other buildings were damaged or hit by paint bombs. There were some minor scuffles with police. There is a valid debate to be had over tactics - which ones further the anti-cuts movement or are counter-productive - and many of us would favour mass direct action over property destruction. Let's have that debate within the anti-cuts struggle, and not let the media divide us.

But think about it from the store owners' point of view: a broken window may cost £1,000. A lost Saturday's trade through a peaceful occupation would cost many times more. Perhaps this helps explain the harsh police response to the UK Uncut occupation: it hits them where it hurts, in the pocket. Traditionally, workers have used the weapon of the strike to achieve this. But what about workers with no unions, or unions unwilling to strike? What about students, the unemployed? UK Uncut actions have been very successful at involving such people in economically disruptive action – and this seems to be on the right track in terms of forcing the government to back down on its cuts agenda. More and bigger actions in this vein will be needed to stop the cuts (in France, they call these 'economic blockades'). Like those in UK Uncut, we recognise that just marching from A to B or waiting for the government to be fair is not enough. The government, rich and tax avoiders will continue to seek to make the poorest in society pay for the defecit unless we make doing so the more expensive option. As UK Uncut announced on the demonstration 29th January "If the economy disrupts our lives, then we must disrupt the economy".

The press coverage since Saturday has gone into a well-rehearsed frenzy of 'good protestor/bad protestor'. Some UK Uncutters have expressed outrage at being lumped in with the 'bad protestors', (correctly) stressing the peaceful nature of the F&M occupation. We think the whole idea of dividing 'good' and 'bad' protest serves only to legitimise police violence and repression. As we saw on Saturday, repression is not provoked by violent actions, but by effective actions – there is a long history of peaceful pickets and occupations being violently broken up by police, from the Chartists to the Miners Strike. Indeed, UK Uncut have frequently been at the blunt end of this in recent memory yourselves, with police responding to non-violent occupations with pepper spray and violent arrests.

In this light, we would say keep up the good work. Let the mass arrests strengthen your resolve not deter you. And let’s not fall into the divide-and-rule tactics that are the oldest trick in the rich’s book. If we can help or offer any practical solidarity to the arrestees, please get in touch. We’ve previously hosted legal advice and training sessions with Fitwatch and the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group – we’d be happy to do this again. Or if the arrests are causing problems with employers, we'll help arrestees organise against victimisation. On Saturday most of the arrestees were UK Uncut activists. Next time it could be us. We – those of us fighting the cuts – are all in this together.

Signed, Brighton Solidarity Federation

Plus individuals from: Northampton, North London, Manchester, Thames Valley and South London Locals (our federal democratic structure means statements can only be issued in the name of a group if the group has had the opportunity to discuss it, and time is against us!)

Posted By

Fall Back
Mar 28 2011 17:59

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  • The press coverage since Saturday has gone into a well-rehearsed frenzy of 'good protestor/bad protestor'. We think the whole idea of dividing 'good' and 'bad' protest serves only to legitimise police violence and repression. Repression is not provoked by violent actions, but by effective actions.

    Solidarity Federation

Attached files

Comments

jk
Mar 28 2011 19:50

..

Steven.
Mar 28 2011 20:14

Nice letter. I can't seem to access the Solfed site at the moment, so it's good it's duplicated here.

Auto
Mar 28 2011 20:22

Yeah, many thanks to Libcom for keeping this letter accessible. I think it's really important.

I reckon the SolFed website has hit an internet traffic perfect storm - releasing this right as the Guardian breaks the story about the UKUncut crew being lied to by the Met and arrested en masse.

Hopefully SolFed can come together and offer Solidarity support to those arrested and victimised.

Jenre
Mar 28 2011 20:25

excellent

Bluedog
Mar 28 2011 20:27

has this been posted on the guardian comments under that article by the woman saying something similar to the Brighton SF piece? I dont have a log in to do it.

Auto
Mar 28 2011 20:29
Bluedog wrote:
has this been posted on the guardian comments under that article by the woman saying something similar to the Brighton SF piece? I dont have a log in to do it.

I don't know, but Shiv Malik (another Guardian journalist) has linked to it on his twitter.

bricolage
Mar 28 2011 20:30

what is the solfed opinion on the politics of uk uncut?

Awesome Dude
Mar 28 2011 20:36

Excellent work comrades.

Joseph Kay
Mar 28 2011 20:43
bricolage wrote:
what is the solfed opinion on the politics of uk uncut?

plenty of opportunity to discuss that tomorrow or later in the week. with 150 arrested it hardly seems like the right time to write a critique of the politics of tax avoidance.

Joseph Kay
Mar 28 2011 20:44

The SolFed's gone down from traffic, it was peaking rapidly before it went down after UK Uncut retweeted it. Should fix itself as soon as incoming traffic dies down.

Auto
Mar 28 2011 20:47

Does anyone know exactly how UKUncut is organised (i.e. is it local groups, loose coalitions of individuals? etc.)

Maybe it might be a good idea for us to try and get in touch with local UKUncut groups/members on the ground.

cockneyreject
Mar 28 2011 20:56

I've been thinking about it and I'm not convinced it's just a coincidence the Solidarity sites are down. I'm starting to think it may be a DDos attack. I know i'm risking sounding like a paraniod conspiracy theorist here, but if freedom fighters across the planet are starting to use this technology what's to stop 'them' using on 'us'?

no1
Mar 28 2011 20:59

of course it's not a co-incidence: it went down when well over 100 people per minute were trying to read the article!

Auto
Mar 28 2011 20:59

I honestly think it's just traffic upsurge.

Twitter can provide just as much distruption as a DDos attack if it gets pointed in the right direction. tongue

radicalgraffiti
Mar 28 2011 21:00

its not at all surprising for a site to go down when it gets a lot more publicity the usual, it happens all the time when sites like slash dot link to some relevantly unknown site.

Indigo
Mar 28 2011 21:00

This is a great letter, its pretty astonishing to hear that solfed's sites down from traffic, the media response - predictable as it was - might be an opportunity more than a disaster.

Jim Clarke
Mar 28 2011 21:03

If people want to discuss the SF site being down could they perhaps start a new thread?

Has it been confirmed that people from UK Uncut have lost jobs over this? If it has we really need to get a solidarity campaign going (if that's what they want obv).

Auto
Mar 28 2011 21:07
Jim Clarke wrote:
Has it been confirmed that people from UK Uncut have lost jobs over this? If it has we really need to get a solidarity campaign going (if that's what they want obv).

This I think is the main point. I doubt the mainstream unions will be too up for defending them - those that are in unions, that is.

cockneyreject
Mar 28 2011 21:08

Not sure why my post came up twice. Yeah I'll admit I now know for sure I was wrong, guess I been spending far too much time on my computer since getting back Sunday a.m! Maybe I do get a little parnaoid on occasions....I prefer to call it vigilant though!

bricolage
Mar 28 2011 21:15
Joseph Kay wrote:
bricolage wrote:
what is the solfed opinion on the politics of uk uncut?

plenty of opportunity to discuss that tomorrow or later in the week. with 150 arrested it hardly seems like the right time to write a critique of the politics of tax avoidance.

nah I was asking if you'd ever written anything before about uk uncut.

Joseph Kay
Mar 28 2011 21:23

ah ok! only in passing, site's down so can't link, but the gist was 'it's great to see loads of new people taking direct action, and seeing economic disruption as legitimate, but ideally it would broaden beyond 'tax dodgers' to the economy in general to exert political pressure on the government'. There's also a sympathetic article on the bottom of page 3 of the latest Catalyst (which was given out at the demo).

i've spoken to some local UK Uncutters before but only briefly, maybe it's worth writing something on tactics in the next week or so to continue the conversation.

Bluedog
Mar 28 2011 21:51

a UK Uncut activist is about to speak to newsnight about the violence on saturday. I wonder if she has read the open letter before she goes on air?

Auto
Mar 28 2011 22:19

Apparently the UKUncut activist has refused to condemn 'violent protest'.

...perhaps she did get a chance to read the letter.

Jim Clarke
Mar 28 2011 22:20

She was brilliant, was quite impressed with Laurie Penny as well.

Bluedog
Mar 28 2011 22:23

in the run up to her bit, luarie penny got interviewed, saying black bloc ppl used on saturday included those who used to be mebers of labour and liberals lol.

Anyway, lucy annson got interviewed, and she did really well in my opinion.

The BBC interviewer hammered away again and again trying to get her to condemn the violence and divide the movement. Asked whether she condemned the violence, Lucy said this was a simplification, and eventually replied that she rejected the premise of the question and the interviewer had to give up. She also emphasised how she wasnt a spokesperson for UK Uncut, but only for herself (she did say she personally wouldnt smash windows, fair enough). She was also asked whether UK Uncut were just becoming a conduit for anarchists, to which she replied something along the lines of UK Uncut is still young and developing.

Would have been good if she mentioned brighton solfed's letter on the tv though wink

Auto
Mar 28 2011 22:27

Just looking on Twitter, it seems like the liberals (as well as the conservative trolls) are getting all in a frenzy over UKUncut's 'implicit support for violence'. Hopefully the members of UKUncut will see through it.

Also, one of our members is looking to phone UKUncut again tomorrow to see what the deal is Re: lost jobs and to see if we can provide them with any help.

Incubus
Mar 28 2011 22:33

UKUncut need to leave their naivity behind-

“Police officers inside the building thanked protesters for their cooperation and promised that they could leave together without interrogation. Outside, however, riot police pushed those who exited into a small area where they were unlinked by force, photographed, arrested and led away. The protesters, who spent the night in police stations around London, believed they had been duped.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/some-food-for-thought-from-inside-fortnum-amp-mason-2254756.html#comment-173244966

donnacha.delong
Mar 28 2011 22:35
Auto wrote:
Does anyone know exactly how UKUncut is organised (i.e. is it local groups, loose coalitions of individuals? etc.)

Maybe it might be a good idea for us to try and get in touch with local UKUncut groups/members on the ground.

UKUncut is organised, well, anarchicallly! They're effectively a convergence-type group - someone suggests an idea or target and people turn up if they want to. They're a nice bunch and there are some anarchist-minded people amongst them, but definitely not exclusively (some mutualists, etc.).

Most of the key people I'm in contact with have been careful to point out their difference from the black bloc without specifically criticising them, which is good. They're really happy about the piece I've written: http://donnachadelong.info/2011/03/28/reflections-on-the-26-march-demo/

Ellar
Mar 28 2011 22:42

Has anyone got a link to the newsnight stuff with the uk uncut refusing to condemn violence?

donnacha.delong
Mar 28 2011 23:01