A letter to UK Uncutters from the 'violent minority'

Clashes erupted at Cambridge Circus HSBC
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.

Submitted by Fall Back on March 28, 2011

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!)

Comments

jk

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by jk on March 28, 2011

..

Steven.

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Steven. on March 28, 2011

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

Auto

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Auto on March 28, 2011

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

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Jenre on March 28, 2011

excellent

Bluedog

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Bluedog on March 28, 2011

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.

Submitted by Auto on March 28, 2011

Bluedog

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

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by bricolage on March 28, 2011

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

Awesome Dude

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Awesome Dude on March 28, 2011

Excellent work comrades.

Submitted by Joseph Kay on March 28, 2011

bricolage

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

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on March 28, 2011

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

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Auto on March 28, 2011

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

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by cockneyreject on March 28, 2011

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

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by no1 on March 28, 2011

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

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Auto on March 28, 2011

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. :p

radicalgraffiti

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by radicalgraffiti on March 28, 2011

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

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Indigo on March 28, 2011

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.

Submitted by Auto on March 28, 2011

Tommy Ascaso

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

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by cockneyreject on March 28, 2011

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!

Submitted by bricolage on March 28, 2011

Joseph Kay

bricolage

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.

Submitted by Joseph Kay on March 28, 2011

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

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Bluedog on March 28, 2011

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

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Auto on March 28, 2011

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

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

Bluedog

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Bluedog on March 28, 2011

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 ;)

Auto

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Auto on March 28, 2011

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

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Incubus on March 28, 2011

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

Submitted by donnacha.delong on March 28, 2011

Auto

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

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ellar on March 28, 2011

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

donnacha.delong

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by donnacha.delong on March 28, 2011

It's not online yet: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0100sqs

Ellar

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ellar on March 28, 2011

ooops, fair enough

Mavi Gözlü

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Mavi Gözlü on March 28, 2011

Hi guys. I was one of the UK Uncutters arrested outside Fortnum and Mason on Saturday and have been involved in their actions since the beginning. Thanks for the solidarity. On the naviety issue although it's true that some of the less experienced among us thought the police were being genuine plenty of us were scepital too. I was pretty sure we were all going to be arrested because the police kept insisting over and over again that we weren't even when we didn't ask them that, way too obvious. And anyway everyone in there now knows never to trust the police.

Remember though, that this approach truly exposes the police for what they are. Now everyone who watches this video will have to accept that police are just protecting the super rich from the rest of society as well as being outrageous liars. This isn't about denoucing people who don't protest peacefully and I would never do so. We're just demonstrating that the police don't give a damn whether protest is peaceful or not but whether it's effective or not and will smash effective protest even if totally non-violent. I think it's important that the general public understands this if we are to organise serious opposition to the class war declared by the private tyrannies on the rest of us.

Hope to see you again on the streets soon.

All the best.

Salviati

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Salviati on March 29, 2011

Hello from a UK Uncut activist! Thanks for your letter and sincere intention to open up a discussion. No doubt there are many aims we would agree on. However, I must be honest and say that my over-riding feeling about the vandalism on Saturday was one of great annoyance, because I feel it was unnecessary in that context and seriously counter-productive.

I'm not saying that property damage is never acceptable. Far from it. The suffragettes used vandalism and went a lot further at times. But this is 2011, not 1911. The mass media is a vital weapon, and most of it is in the hands of the establishment. They don't need much encouragement to distort the truth, and they will also take any opportunity to bury the real message we are trying to deliver. It is especially important in these times to build broad alliances and not to alienate moderate voices - even if we feel they don't fully appreciate how corrupt and venal the ruling hegemony is.

I must admit there was part of me that cheered inwardly at the sight of damage to the Ritz Hotel, although I'm not sure Ann Summers is really such a great target. I suppose we could argue endlessly over such things, but the fact remains that such actions just sucked all the power out of the day, by giving the right-wing media an easy opportunity to divert attention away from the real issues and sow division among us on the left.

Also, I don't think economic disruption is really the key to victory in our battles. Direct action will never be more than a minor irritant to the forces of international capital, in terms of direct disruption. What they fear more than anything is the truth. They don't want people to know how the international banking system impoverishes all of us, how tax havens protect the wealth of the thieves, tyrants and fraudsters who buy our politicians. Smashing a window doesn't really get that message across; it just obscures it. It might work, sometimes, but only if the target is extremely well chosen and the context is just right - it's very tricky to pull off successfully.

So, I favour peaceful, creative direct action, because it is much more effective: It doesn't alienate (most) people, instead it tends to inspire. It also brings attention to bear on the issues. For example, tax avoidance is a terribly dull-sounding topic, and yet it is hugely important because it points the finger directly at the heart of a deeply corrupt global financial system which is instrumental in enslaving the entire world. UK Uncut have actually succeeded in getting it onto the media agenda, against all the odds, and I can assure you that major corporations, right-wing think-tanks, bankers and politicians are seriously worried about this. It goes to show what you can do, without having to throw a single paint-bomb.

Well, I hope that's constructive. I wouldn't condemn what you do, but you should really think hard about what you expect to achieve, and how. There's an article on LibCon, which I think is very helpful:

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/03/28/saturdays-protests-and-incidents-of-violence/

methinks

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by methinks on March 29, 2011

Like elsewhere around the world, black bloc is a tactic used by police to initiate violence in order for harsher police powers to be introduced. Ordinary people must and will be discouraged from protesting you see. So no, it will never be you who face mass arrests. The police within your ranks would never let that happen. How else could they create set piece acts of violence that look good on the front pages and news broadcasts? They need as many gullible little boys in hoodies as they can find. Gullible enough to follow the lead set by undercover officers when they attack the first window of the day.
Notice how there are always sufficient numbers of uniformed police around when you smash shit up yet nobody gets arrested?. Notice how the smashing of windows always happens early on in the day? Never see black bloc in use once night kicks in do you? That's all proof that you are doing exactly as they planned all along. Smash windows early on then they have reason to clampdown heavily on other protesters later on in the day. Peaceful protesters like UK Uncut who's heads were caved in by batons and who were arrested in large numbers because you did your job so well earlier, just like the police provocateurs among you intended.
Then you get ridiculous people like Ian Bone doing the state's work of stirring things up beforehand. Calling for people to stay for one day in Hyde Park!! The coward was safe at home tucked up in bed with his horlicks by 9pm. He had no intention of even staying for 12 hours let alone a day. He had to make sure he was available for his usual 15 minutes on Steven Nolan's Radio 5 Live phone in, while peaceful protesters were still on the street being beaten and arrested. What an odious, slimy little coward this creature is.
UK Uncut, steer well clear of these people. They are useful tools of the state and a valuable asset to police tactics, you will only end up beaten and arrested if you hang around them long enough..

methinks

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by methinks on March 29, 2011

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpk5JtMfEzY

Don't trust black bloc police led tactics. They will only get you nicked. Black bloc = police tool.

Submitted by Joseph Kay on March 29, 2011

methinks

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpk5JtMfEzY

Don't trust black bloc police led tactics. They will only get you nicked. Black bloc = police tool.

i'm not an uncritical supporter of the black bloc tactic, but of 149 people charged, 138 were UK Uncut people, and i don't think many, if any of the rest were black bloc. there's lots of criticisms of the tactic, but one thing its numbers, mobility, and willingness to fight its way out of a kettle means is you can often avoid arrest.

there were certainly undercover officers deployed on Saturday though, and the possibility of provocateurs is something advocates of black bloc tactics should take into account, as it could be used to set a trap.

General Strike

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by General Strike on March 29, 2011

Black bloc is one of the safest places to be.

Speaking of police crushing peaceful protest, can more of a fuss be kicked up about what happened in Trafalgar Square please? It was pretty damn horrific.

I have to say that the solidarity shown between UKUncut and anarchists is beautiful. Personally I think the combination of tactics of occupations and black bloc worked very well together.

Submitted by Awesome Dude on March 29, 2011

methinks

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpk5JtMfEzY

Don't trust black bloc police led tactics. They will only get you nicked. Black bloc = police tool.

The tone of your post = police troll

bricolage

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by bricolage on March 29, 2011

Newsnight; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IhS7yBcMnE

JoeMaguire

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by bricolage

Submitted by JoeMaguire on March 29, 2011

bricolage

Newsnight; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5IhS7yBcMnE

UK Uncut person did well to not be ram raided along a bad line of questioning, but seriously when did Paul Mason become such a cunt.

Ed

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Ed on March 29, 2011

That UKUnCut woman on Newsnight absolutely smashes it! The whole time I was watching it I kept thinking "Oh, I would've totally fucked up that bit".. the presenter was visibly frustrated.. good stuff!

Josef Wilhelm

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Josef Wilhelm on March 29, 2011

As both an anarchist and a UKUncut activist, it's a pleasure to read this article. I agree that greater dialogue between the two is to be desired, but as donnacha pointed out, UKUncut is essentially anarchist in its structure, so there's no central group to begin such dialogue with. Instead I'd urge local groups to make contact, as we've already done here in Edinburgh. Most of the weekly UKUncut actions here have had a large group of anarchists along with them, and we get a lot of good feedback when people ask us to explain what the flags are about. It's important that we do more than just run around with our faces masked - after all, there's a lot more to anarchism than just Black Bloc tactics. Anyway, good article!

veganpanda

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by veganpanda on March 29, 2011

The one thing that worries me about black bloc dressing this way, makes it very easy to be infiltrated. I was at the anti-cuts march and also marched/ran with the anarchists, I was alarmed to see some in black bloc wearing what looked like police issue boots... it was the calm way they went around smashing windows etc like they didn't fear arrest!!

Personally I think the peaceful a -b marches, UK Uncut direct actions and black bloc anarchists should definitely organise SEPERATE days to carry out whatever they want to do. But whatever is planned by whichever group is protesting, let it be as creative and successful as it can possibly be. Because it was quite obvious the scum police used what black bloc did, to attack/arrest peaceful protesters like those UK Uncut activists. The police are working for the government and they don't want the public to know about tax dodging, UK Uncut is obviously working so the police want to stop them!

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on March 29, 2011

Salviati

I'm not saying that property damage is never acceptable. Far from it. The suffragettes used vandalism and went a lot further at times. But this is 2011, not 1911. The mass media is a vital weapon, and most of it is in the hands of the establishment. They don't need much encouragement to distort the truth, and they will also take any opportunity to bury the real message we are trying to deliver.

Like you say, they need minimal encouragement, and they'll always find something. Notice how Tomlinson's death and the violent eviction of the Climate Camp at G20 was completely obscured by talk of stick-wielding Italians or whatever. Notice how MacIntyre and Meadows' beatings in Parliament Square were forgotten behind talk of smashed windows and a phantom petrol bomb. If you accept that they aren't on our side, then it follows that it's not really worth investing energy in trying to appease them.

However, if you look at what happened following Millbank, when a universally condemned occupation of the Tory HQ led to a mass student movement, then you can see the effectiveness of pushing boundaries.

(that's not a blanket condoning of everything that happened on Sat btw, I saw plenty of shit that I considered unnecessary. Like Matt EFC says, we don't 'control' the black bloc.)

I must admit there was part of me that cheered inwardly at the sight of damage to the Ritz Hotel, although I'm not sure Ann Summers is really such a great target.

I actually thought the Ann Summers attack was excellent! Apparently they're tax dodgers too, but someone scrawled something about heteronormativity across the front, and I figured that really everyone was doing it cos of their neutralisation of kinky sex (lol).

I suppose we could argue endlessly over such things, but the fact remains that such actions just sucked all the power out of the day, by giving the right-wing media an easy opportunity to divert attention away from the real issues and sow division among us on the left.

Well if we accept that the right will always have their agenda of discrediting us, and if you think that sowing division is a problem, then why do it? BTW I'd personally consider much of the march - those who support Miliband etc - to be technically right wing, not that it matters.

Also, I don't think economic disruption is really the key to victory in our battles. Direct action will never be more than a minor irritant to the forces of international capital, in terms of direct disruption. What they fear more than anything is the truth.

We had "the truth" on Feb 15, 2003, when 2 million people marched in London against the Iraq War. Did we succeed in stopping the bloodshed? What the ruling class really fear isn't the truth but the suspension of business as usual and the eradication of their profits. This is why - as another Uncutter points out above - they attacked the F&M occupation despite its evidently peaceful nature. The smashers and black blockers got off easier, not just cos they're tactically more adept at avoiding arrest but also cos smashed windows are a drop in the ocean for a bank's profits.

(Outta interest, my understanding was that UK Uncut is comprised by a lot of former Climate Campers. This is interesting cos CC always considered itself 'peaceful' until Bishopsgate in 09, when they found themselves on the wrong end of a police riot and moved away from pacifist moralism. I hope ex-CCers are making these arguments inside the group now.)

So, I favour peaceful, creative direct action, because it is much more effective: It doesn't alienate (most) people, instead it tends to inspire. It also brings attention to bear on the issues.

See I think many things can be inspirational. Definitely the most important event in the last 10 years of revolutionary politics in the UK has been the Millbank occupation though, which was characterised - perhaps unfairly you might say - as a lot of smashed windows, property destruction and an airbourne fire extinguisher.

I also refute the notion that the Working Class is uniformly anti-violence. You can't even finish the sentence without realising how ridiculous such a statement sounds, yet it is the implict premise behind every soft left/liberal argument.

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on March 29, 2011

Tommy Ascaso

was quite impressed with Laurie Penny as well.

Especially the bit where she claimed that TEH VILENZ would "alienate" people? Fuck off, same ol' shit. You let her off the hook cos she is female and you almost know her. :roll:

Submitted by gypsy on March 29, 2011

veganpanda

The one thing that worries me about black bloc dressing this way, makes it very easy to be infiltrated. I was at the anti-cuts march and also marched/ran with the anarchists, I was alarmed to see some in black bloc wearing what looked like police issue boots... it was the calm way they went around smashing windows etc like they didn't fear arrest!!

Some libcom posters wear army issue boots it does not mean they are the filth. I take on board your point about the anonymity of the black block increases the chance of infiltration by police.

Rob Ray

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Rob Ray on March 29, 2011

Hey she's moved a ways from where she started dude, from Lib Dem to a tacit acknowledgment on Newsnight that the system is rigged, that the black bloccers have at least some justification and that anarchist doesn't just mean hooligan isn't bad for a Guardian/ New Statesman writer ;).

Caiman del Barrio

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on March 29, 2011

So what, she also deliberately manipulated and misquoted a number of people in the student movt who were well-intentioned enough to treat her as a friend, and has leeched off of genuine radicalism for her own purposes. i still find her highly disagreeable and potentially quite dangerous.

Rob Ray

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Rob Ray on March 29, 2011

Oh sure, I'm not saying she's a saint, but she's also not been around long and is a step ahead of Mr "surely anarchists are against organising" Dimbleby!

Caiman del Barrio

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Caiman del Barrio on March 29, 2011

Not really a derail, seeing as how she represents the soft liberal apologist for UK Uncut, we should probably analyse the terms in which she 'supports' them/'us'. She did roll out the "alienation" fallacy, which you may have missed...

tofu68

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by tofu68 on March 29, 2011

Libcom Mar26 article is informative and resolves a few issues, but doesn't address the fact that the majority of people marching do not want a violent element to hijack the day and consequently the media.

It's not that other marchers disagree with the idealogy behind Libcom, but simply want to have their voice heard and not overshadowed in anyway. Just for one day... Libcom is all 'let's work together' but was there any agreement or understanding of how this would all work ahead of the march??

The bottom line is the 'authorities' used the black clad army to infiltrate much more modern, peaceful and thought provoking protest (ie UKUncut). Protest involving damage to property is way too easy and crude. But if Libcom et al insist on it, do it alone. Is that too much to ask?

akai

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by akai on March 29, 2011

There are German and Spanish translations up on this blog:
www.internationalworkersassociation.blogspot.com
Use the SF tag to seach.

Submitted by bricolage on March 29, 2011

Josef Wilhelm

UKUncut is essentially anarchist in its structure

is there really such thing as an 'anarchist structure' though? anarchism is a transformative and revolutionary project, not something that can just be reduced to decentralisation or 'fluid networks'. so while radical organisation is necessary to sustain radical politics, radical organisation on its own does not necessarily lead to radical politics. of course we can then argue about how 'radical' these forms of organisation are in the first place...

i think people have over fetishised uk uncut because they employ these 'anarchist' tactics and/or organisation without really thinking about the, rather limited, politics behind it.

obviously right now its about supporting those who were arrested, not least because this isn't an attack on uk uncut for its politics but for the fact that people involved in it exercised social disobedience and hence the state is attacking all social disobedience. still though there are important issues at stake here.

Submitted by bastarx on March 29, 2011

tofu68

Libcom Mar26 article is informative and resolves a few issues, but doesn't address the fact that the majority of people marching do not want a violent element to hijack the day and consequently the media.

How do you know this? Please cite a public opinion poll or somesuch or else SFTU with your ridiculous, submissive claim to know what the majority want.

Submitted by JoeMaguire on March 29, 2011

tofu68

The bottom line is the 'authorities' used the black clad army to infiltrate much more modern, peaceful and thought provoking protest (ie UKUncut). Protest involving damage to property is way too easy and crude. But if Libcom et al insist on it, do it alone. Is that too much to ask?

The state behaves like a state, like any state does, and you want to hold to account people who resist :confused:

bastarx

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by bastarx on March 29, 2011

No doubt most of them will fuck off of their own accord within a few days but can the clowns who've signed up just to parrot the outrage of the media about a minor amount of vandalism please be banned. They add absolutely nothing to libcom and many have no desire to debate in good faith.

Django

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Django on March 29, 2011

Tofu68

Protest involving damage to property is way too easy and crude. But if Libcom et al insist on it, do it alone. Is that too much to ask?

'Libcom', is an open site whose contributors hold various views, so as a whole it is incapable of advocating much. When black blocs have been advocated on here, they tend to receive more criticism than support, for sensible reasons such as it being dangerous (as far as the risk of conviction goes) for marginal effect, and potentially alienating and vanguardist. The idea of radical workers blocs or concerted attempts to engage the crowd tend to be more popular.

However, pointing out that property damage isn't the same as violence, that police being present renders any protest 'violent', or pointing out that we're letting the agenda be set by the media isn't advocacy. Nor is it to refuse to condemn the black blockers.

Submitted by Django on March 29, 2011

Peter

No doubt most of them will fuck off of their own accord within a few days but can the clowns who've signed up just to parrot the outrage of the media about a minor amount of vandalism please be banned. They add absolutely nothing to libcom and many have no desire to debate in good faith.

This is ridiculous - people can register to debate, that's the point of a discussion board. If you're unwilling to defend or argue for your politics when its as easy as it is on the internet then what's the point in having them?

Submitted by bricolage on March 29, 2011

tofu68

The bottom line is the 'authorities' used the black clad army to infiltrate much more modern, peaceful and thought provoking protest (ie UKUncut).

I don't understand, are you actually trying to argue that anyone committing property damage was an agent of the state?

Submitted by gypsy on March 29, 2011

Peter

No doubt most of them will fuck off of their own accord within a few days but can the clowns who've signed up just to parrot the outrage of the media about a minor amount of vandalism please be banned. They add absolutely nothing to libcom and many have no desire to debate in good faith.

I agree with you about them adding practically nothing and some having no desire to debate in good faith. However a ban is out of the question, I have seen much more sinister users been allowed to remain unbanned such as the EDL clown 'arthur' until he crossed the line.

GuyDeBord's Optician

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by GuyDeBord's Optician on March 29, 2011

Have UKUncut 'officially' responded to this? I know they're federated and de-centralised, but has any actualy group responded in an official capacity?

Submitted by Salviati on March 29, 2011

Caiman del Barrio

Salviati

Also, I don't think economic disruption is really the key to victory in our battles. Direct action will never be more than a minor irritant to the forces of international capital, in terms of direct disruption. What they fear more than anything is the truth.

We had "the truth" on Feb 15, 2003, when 2 million people marched in London against the Iraq War. Did we succeed in stopping the bloodshed? What the ruling class really fear isn't the truth but the suspension of business as usual and the eradication of their profits. This is why - as another Uncutter points out above - they attacked the F&M occupation despite its evidently peaceful nature. The smashers and black blockers got off easier, not just cos they're tactically more adept at avoiding arrest but also cos smashed windows are a drop in the ocean for a bank's profits.

I think this is where we differ most sharply, although I agree with you about Millbank. I'm pretty certain that the F&M arrests were not motivated by a desire to avoid economic damage. I'm sure a cup of tea there is pretty pricey, but I don't think we cost them much in terms of disruption; customers and staff were still able to go about their business. Frankly, I've been on other occupations with UK Uncut which caused a lot more disruption and we were never even threatened with arrest. No, this was a calculated political move to:

1) Discredit UK Uncut by associating it with the 'violence' going on outside

2) Intimidate the participants and deter them from future actions

3) Get the arrest figures up to a suitable number, so that they could credibly claim that there had been a 'riot'.

They really aren't bothered about losing an hour's business, or even a day's business here or there. I know this for sure, because in the past Vodafone (for example) has chosen deliberately to close its doors for the whole day, rather than let us do an occupation for a single hour. Other shops have followed the same strategy. It's the bad publicity they really fear. As you said, they're even less bothered by the odd smashed window, which only adds to my feeling that the latter is a futile tactic against economic targets. Perhaps it works better against a symbolic, political target, for which few people feel any sympathy. But remember that ordinary people work in shops: they may get scared and don't necessarily know that you're smashing the shop on their behalf!

So if smashing stuff up is futile and alienates potential allies, why do it? I can think of good targets for vandalism, but they need to be deeply unsympathetic. Personally, I would cheer to the rafters if you smashed up the printing presses or offices of the Sun, for example. Nobody likes tabloid journalists, and if you can take their presses down for a day you'd not only hit them financially pretty hard; you'd also stem the flow of vile, racist, misogynist, homophobic, heteronormative, extreme right-wing drivel that gushes from it's putrid arse. Just an idea ;)

One other observation: getting arrested for peaceful protest is not necessarily a bad thing in the scheme of things. This mass arrest at F&M is shaping up to be another huge PR disaster for the police, because we now have solid video evidence from the legal observers that prove police misconduct and probable wrongful arrest:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/mar/28/cuts-protest-uk-uncut-fortnum

This follows the earlier CS Spray incident where a police officer went berserk on video. So, it looks like UK Uncut 2 Police 0. It would have had more impact, though, without all the disorder on the day.

(Aside: As for Iraq, I don't think most people got the truth until after the invasion, sadly. It's possible that violence would have been the appropriate response on that occasion, but we have to understand why).

Submitted by donnacha.delong on March 29, 2011

bricolage

is there really such thing as an 'anarchist structure' though?

Not really, which is why I prefer to use anarchic (or the clumsy anarchically!)

Submitted by Joseph Kay on March 30, 2011

GuyDeBord's Optician

Have UKUncut 'officially' responded to this? I know they're federated and de-centralised, but has any actualy group responded in an official capacity?

a load of us in Brighton SolFed met with some Brighton Uncutters tonight and there's hopefully a reply/letter forthcoming from them too.

bricolage

i think people have over fetishised uk uncut because they employ these 'anarchist' tactics and/or organisation without really thinking about the, rather limited, politics behind it.

i disagree. i mean it's incredibly easy to make a libertarian communist critique of UK Uncut: they want the state to follow it's own rules and collect taxes (which implicitly or explicitly will solve the deficit); libertarian communists oppose capitalism and the state and understand the crisis not as a lack of cash so much as an attempt to further shift the balance of class forces in favour of capital.

but imho that misses the point. UK Uncut is interesting precisely because they've managed to involve lots of new people in direct actions explicitly aimed at disrupting economic activity. I would say that's more radical than the stated politics, and also has a transformative effect on participants who both gain a sense of the power of collective action, and learn that the role of the police and state isn't for 'the people' but the ruling class (that doesn't mean they'll all become anarchists, nor should they, but it's a 'practical education in social philosophy'). it's also more significant than anything the TUC, Trots or anarchists have done, if we're honest with ourselves.

it's not that i'm uncritical, but i think the ideological element is kinda boring tbh; practice often runs ahead of ideology - i mean in some of the epic strikes in the US documented in Jeremy Brecher's 'Strike', some of the most militant workers were self-identifying church-going patriots, but in practice were basically acting like libertarian communists. there's actual and potential problems with UK Uncut tactics, and i hope to write something up on this (and other tactics) in the near future, but i think the tactical discussion is more important than the ideological one, which kinda follows on in the pub afterwards, figuratively and literally.

DZA

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by DZA on March 30, 2011

So much respect for that UKuncut lady on Newsnight, totally annihilated the journalist!
I'm so fed up with the BBC lately...

Harrison

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Harrison on March 30, 2011

she did well on the bbc interview, especially her refusal to divide issues into the 'bad violence' and 'good peaceful protest' narrative.

for any UK uncutters, i'll repeat something i read and discussed on another thread. this is representative of a sizeable portion of people on libcom (but there are those who disagree):

its not a question of us morally condemning Black Blocs or property damage - the media calls this 'violence' - , it is a tactical question. we also have a political commitment to stand in solidarity with those who were part of it. however, we debate how it works as a tactic, and a lot of us are fed up with the way it can divide us from other protesters and make us appear like a hard unapproachable cadre.

by the way, i thought this letter was really well written!

Submitted by Salviati on March 30, 2011

Joseph Kay

bricolage

i think people have over fetishised uk uncut because they employ these 'anarchist' tactics and/or organisation without really thinking about the, rather limited, politics behind it.

i disagree. i mean it's incredibly easy to make a libertarian communist critique of UK Uncut: they want the state to follow it's own rules and collect taxes (which implicitly or explicitly will solve the deficit); libertarian communists oppose capitalism and the state and understand the crisis not as a lack of cash so much as an attempt to further shift the balance of class forces in favour of capital.

I need to correct a misapprehension about the nature of UK Uncut. I know a lot of us probably do come across as naive, tree-hugging, hummus-munching, single-issue softies, but this masks a very deep and subtle politics in which many of us are very well versed. There are long-time committed anarchists among us, as well as ex-Lib-Dems, angry with Nick Clegg. Personally, I would describe myself more as a liberal socialist, if you absolutely forced me to wear a label, but such discussions always end up like that scene from the Life of Brian ...

The 'tax avoidance' issue is a crow-bar with which to open up a massive crate of worms. Once people understand the extent and purpose of the offshore banking and tax systems, it will become clear that the entire global, financial-capitalist edifice is built on nothing but lies and deceit. We want to build a genuine mass movement around such 'crowbar issues', using peaceful civil disobedience tactics.

The time for this kind of movement is ripe, because the internet has given us the tools to challenge the corporate lie-machine. We have our own mass media now, ironically donated by capitalism: Twitter, youtube, the blogosphere. We can also build alliances with liberal left elements in the mainstream media.

Obviously, if we went around shouting 'smash the state' or 'down with capitalism', no one would listen to us. Most people are not interested in abstruse political theorising, either. The message needs to be simple to be effective. That doesn't mean there's no deep politics behind it.

Rob Ray

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Rob Ray on March 30, 2011

It's the bad publicity they really fear

No, it's not. Gaining publicity can by its very nature only ever be a means to an end - people knowing about something means nothing unless they act on that knowledge.

What the corporates fear is the potential physical effect of bad publicity - encouraging others to do the same, encouraging others not to buy their products, encouraging staff to join in the rebellion. When they react by closing a shop rather than let you occupy for an hour, they're playing off the small financial loss of a day's closure of one shop against the potential for things to happen which are actually damaging.

So if UK Uncut condemns disruptive actions, all it is left with is hoping the state will sort things out - the same state which in response to its actions so far has cut corporation tax by 2% and "set up an inquiry" (which if left to its own devices, I'll predict here and now will come up with a couple of derisory suggestions which'll simply get crushed by the lobbyists).

And if that is the aim, how then would that process be different from just playing the PR game as normal and does anyone really think that asking the government to behave itself when the markets are standing over it with a big stick will work?

Joseph Kay

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on March 30, 2011

Salviati

The 'tax avoidance' issue is a crow-bar with which to open up a massive crate of worms.

Yeah totally, i can understand the tactic of picking a weak spot/hypocrisy and prying at it. it's another reason why 'ideological' critiques miss the point, imho. yeah the thousands of participants in UK Uncut actions don't all have a fully-worked out critique of capitalism and the state. no shit, nor does 99.99% of the working class, but it would be mental to dismiss all strikes, pickets etc on that basis.

Josef Wilhelm

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Josef Wilhelm on March 30, 2011

Just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of "let's not dismiss UKUncut because of their apparently capitalist ideology". As everyone else has been saying, this movement, whatever it is, can only serve to help expose the contradictions of capitalism at the same time as legitimising 'radical' tactics to 'normal' people. By taking part quit visibly as anarchists, and offering our own perspective on the issues at hand, we can hopefully spread our own views more widely as well.

Submitted by JoeMaguire on March 30, 2011

Rob Ray

It's the bad publicity they really fear

No, it's not. Gaining publicity can by its very nature only ever be a means to an end - people knowing about something means nothing unless they act on that knowledge.

Not sure if I get you right, but just to point out - the shenanigans of the weekend could quite easily crystalise an interpretation of anarchism that we don't all tactically see as preferential.

There is no harm done in any real sense from stirring things up despite the wobble we may have had because of the liberal backlash but we need to ensure that what transpired (property damage and black bloc'ing) does not become a semi-permanent strategy of large visible section of anarchism. Because there is alot of potential that this sort of thing could throw open the door for people whose political understanding is lifted entirely from a bourgeois interpretation of anarchism. Were a tiny movement with very little roots and our ideas can't compete with capitalism hegemony. I am sure we have all had facile understanding of one thing or another, at some point in our political trajectory, so I hope this point is understood and not misinterpreted. I could go on about how I think 80's/90's anarchism was stuck in a similar position because this was a role Class War played but I am sure I am not really saying anything new for some people.

Also to add; our prospects of being infiltrated by the state are now at an all time high. :bb:

Chilli Sauce

13 years 2 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Chilli Sauce on March 30, 2011

Have UKUncut 'officially' responded to this? I know they're federated and de-centralised, but has any actualy group responded in an official capacity?
.

Can an organisation like UnCut be federated, tho? There's not a membership organisation and from what I understand any group undertaking UnCut-type actions can call them UnCut actions. I'd say it's a network at best.

Not that I mean that as a criticism, but I as the fantastic woman on the bbc interview pointed out, she can only speak as an UnCutter and not for the organisation.

Submitted by gypsy on March 30, 2011

JoeMaguire

Rob Ray

It's the bad publicity they really fear

No, it's not. Gaining publicity can by its very nature only ever be a means to an end - people knowing about something means nothing unless they act on that knowledge.

Also to add; our prospects of being infiltrated by the state are now at an all time high. :bb:

I take it as a given that we are allready infiltrated by the state. Not much we can do about it.

bricolage

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by bricolage on March 30, 2011

I think there’s been some confusion here, I am not ‘dismissing’ (which I think is a harsh word) uk uncut because they do not have fully formed politics (I don't care if people aren't shouting smash the state, a lib dem voter on a picket line for a 5% pay rise is worth a thousand bakunin reading, kapital quoting anarchists pontificating) but because they explicitly do have fully formed politics. It seems misleading to just position this as ‘new people’ when the majority of its core has come straight outtta activism (climate camp, people & planet, anarchists without adjectives and so forth), arguably it has engulfed a lot of people from the student demonstrations but I’d question how much this is really comprised of the fabled ‘ordinary people’ so fetishised by the left. There were a lot of ‘new’ and ‘ordinary’ people out on saturday but they were on the march, despite the clear limitations of the tuc schlep it’s something that has to be taken into account. so...

i mean in some of the epic strikes in the US documented in Jeremy Brecher's 'Strike', some of the most militant workers were self-identifying church-going patriots, but in practice were basically acting like libertarian communists.

yeah the thousands of participants in UK Uncut actions don't all have a fully-worked out critique of capitalism and the state. no shit, nor does 99.99% of the working class, but it would be mental to dismiss all strikes, pickets etc on that basis.

This is completely true, my go to passage here is always this one by Martin Glaberman;

That these things happen should not be a surprise. That labour unions do not seriously resist them, given the bureaucratisation of the labour unions, should not be a surprise. But it also shouldn't be a surprise that there will once again emerge a militant American working class which will create organisations that it feels it needs, not necessarily consciously, not particularly consciously, to take back what it has been losing and, hopefully, to go further. Something Marx wrote can help put this in a fundamental theoretical framework. In The German Ideology, one of his early writings, he wrote:

"Both for the production on a mass scale of the communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men on a mass scale is necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution; this revolution is necessary, therefore, not only because the ruling class cannot be overthrown in any other way, but also because the class overthrowing it can only in a revolution succeed in ridding itself of all the muck of ages and become fitted to found society anew."

I suggest that this is the opposite of what most people think Marx said. Marx didn't say we have to create new people in order to make a revolution. He said we have to make a revolution in order to create new people. Where does the revolution come from? Do you mean that the American working class, the sexist, racist, American working class can make fundamental changes in this society? It has over history. But if you think that you are going to reinvent the American working class first, and then make fundamental changes, you might as well retire and leave the struggle. It just doesn't work that way. Revolutions are made; the CIO upsurge was made, by ordinary people with all the limitations of the society "” driven by 36 seconds for the rest of your life. If you can live with that daily reality, there will not be any fundamental change.

Events determine ideas not the other way around, this has always been the case. What matters is where the events actually come from in the first place.

Yet a quick point of economic blockades, animal rights activists have been doing this for years with restaurants, shops, mcdonalds, and noone gave them the time of day, football fans have been fighting the police but dismissed as ‘thugs’ and ‘chavs’ by the left, and so forth... obviously there is some kind of political consideration here and I think it’s disingenuous to claim it is all about tactics.

Matt_efc

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Matt_efc on March 30, 2011

On the animal rights activists point I dont think thats an entirley fair one by my understanding of what you are saying. I mean a genuine working class movement (which I think is whats being talked about in terms of economic blockades) would be far more wide reaching than the animal rights movement, and from what I understand of the situation the AR movement has been a slight thorn in the side of its targets.

I still dont know what the answer is. I think the fact that an anarchist group that I largely agree with has been able to send a letter which has obviously opened dialogue to a wider movement can only be a good thing, and as pointed out a lot of the "outrage" wouldnt change regardless, so I dont really think we've shot ourselves in the foot (forgive my use of "we").

I really do think its important to critique the idea of propaganda of the deed though, and not in largley archaic theoretical terms, but in grounded experiences and the failure of the anti globalisation movement etc... because what we certainly dont need is another decade of protest hopping. Personally I dont think there has been enough in the realms of thinking about and discuissing violence, even within revolutionary circles its still quite taboo, with people falling into "camps" rather than having actual debate, thats as much aimed at "spikeys" as "fluffys" (and that in 2 words frames everything wrong with the debate as it seems to stand). I can understand that might be tilted towards my view that a tactical discussion is primary but I dont think its unfair to say that most postions in this debate could have been written 20 years ago, and the world has changed, and events dictate ideas (as you rightly point out).

Joseph Kay

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Joseph Kay on March 31, 2011

bricolage

obviously there is some kind of political consideration here and I think it’s disingenuous to claim it is all about tactics.

if that's aimed at me, i'm not saying it's all about tactics. i've written loads of theory, analysis etc, and i think it's important. but it's not the basis of solidarity within the anti-cuts movement. i think within a context of real solidarity it's possible to have frank political discussions and honestly disagree with one another over tactics or politics, but if you start from the political discussions you just reinforce separate identities and make it harder for real solidarity to emerge.

Submitted by Harrison on April 1, 2011

gypsy

JoeMaguire

Also to add; our prospects of being infiltrated by the state are now at an all time high. :bb:

I take it as a given that we are allready infiltrated by the state. Not much we can do about it.

just be careful splits don't happen in organisations, and keep the close working relations between the different groups (solfed, afed etc). Infiltrators try to expand petty arguments (i think i read something about the cardiff undercover cop doing this)

LBird

13 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by LBird on April 1, 2011

bricolage

Events determine ideas not the other way around...

Matt_efc

...events dictate ideas...

I think this formulation is too one-sided. Although we can separate the two concepts theoretically, in reality 'events' and 'ideas' are inextricably interlinked. This is not to become an idealist or voluntarist, but to see that we can play some role by constantly providing ideas for the critical proletariat, of which we are ourselves a part.

Marx

The weapon of criticism cannot in any case replace the criticism of weapons, material force must be overthrown by material force, but theory too becomes a material force as soon as it grasps weapons.