There’s no justice, just us! Subversion

Dockers and Reclaim the Streets vs police, London 1996

The March for Social Justice in London, supporting the Liverpool Dockers, saw another explosion of violence against the police. In opposition to those who say the rioters 'spoilt things', we published There’s No Justice, Just Us!. From Subversion #22 (1997)

Submitted by Juan Conatz on February 4, 2010

The "March for Social Justice" on April 12th illustrates well the contradictions involved in the struggle of the Liverpool Dockers and the broader movement of which it is part.

There is for instance the title of the march and the "people's charter for social justice" to which it is linked - an attempt to take the struggle down a straightforwardly reformist, i.e. bourgeois democratic path.

However, in this article I want to talk specifically about the violent confrontation (the 'riot', 'mini-riots' whatever people want to call it) between some of the demonstrators and the cops and some of the response to it.

Some people who consider themselves on the said of the working class struggle nonetheless saw fit to condemn those working class people who fought with the cops, accusing them of 'spoiling' what was a 'peaceful event' or words to that effect.

Subversion's position is quite clear. We fully support working class resistance to the police, the state and the ruling class, whatever form that takes, violent or otherwise.

On the other hand, we are well aware of the need for violence to be on our own terms and our own 'turf' - some violence on demos has frankly been stupid from a tactical point of view. (These ideas were well explored in the recent 'Hungry Brigade' leaflet.)

We further recognize that the more the class struggle escalates, the more the ruling class will resort to violent suppression - our class has to be prepared to meet fire with fire.

It is to be expected that all manner of liberals and moderates will raise their voices in outrage whenever the working class uses violent means. This includes a significant part of those false-friends of the class, the left.

The 'cancer of moderation' also exists among some of the dockers themselves, and among a part of Reclaim the Streets, which is a somewhat amorphous group containing a significant liberal element alongside a class-struggle element.

And if the local Liverpool Daily Post is all to be believed, this attitude has been expressed in no uncertain terms by Mike Carden, a leader of the dockers' struggle widely respected among the dockers involved.

It quotes his words as follows:

"Those people who caused the trouble have nothing to do with the dockers. We don't want them on our demonstrations. We're disgusted at the way they behaved.

"It was very sad and it blighted what should have been a peaceful day ...

"We didn't see much of the trouble because we were at the front of the march. But we were surrounded by riot police and kept in the Trafalgar Square area for over an hour. My son was very frightened...

"The first we knew of trouble was when we saw a flare set off in Downing Street, but we still didn't know how far things had gone.

"We've always had good relations with environmental groups. But if we find Reclaim the Streets were involved, we'll sever links with it."

(Daily Post, Monday April 14th, page 13)

It has been suggested that the above comments are a distortion of Mike Carden's views, but it is difficult to see what 'context' could excuse it. Unless it is a straight fabrication by the Daily Post.

Whatever the truth of the above, the dockers' stewards have given their official statement in the
Dockers' Charter #15. In this, although they blame the police and the press (with some justification), they still bemoan the fact that the 'peaceful objectives' of the march were thwarted, and declare their support for 'democratic principles' and 'justice'.

Moderation is a mindset that finds its wellspring in the idea that the state is in some sense NEUTRAL - an impartial arbiter standing above and apart from social conflict. Given the dockers' own experiences at the hands of the police and previous articles in the Dockers' Charter on the role of the police, such 'moderation' on their part is a little surprising to say the least.

Let us state the number one lesson for revolutionaries: THE STATE IS NOT NEUTRAL. It cannot be persuaded. It cannot be reasoned with. It doesn't have our interests at heart - only those of our rulers. It will not hesitate to use whatever violence it sees fit in order to crush opposition.

The ideas of 'Justice', 'Democracy' etc. are just con tricks to keep us poor slaves happy.