an alarmist | 28.07.2012 19:22 | London
Everything went according to plan. No one disrupted nothing. Arriving at Wennington Green, we listened to a range of inspiring speeches, beginning with a rallying cry from someone who was introduced as the writer of a "great article in last week's Socialist Worker". Well done comrades for not jumping the gun and taking any precipitous action! We're still doing a great job of lulling the state into a false sense of security as, behind the scenes, our ninja army of highly trained cadres all get into position for the final reckoning.
There were a couple of touch and go moments. The demo paused outside the former Bryant & May match factory, site of the historic matchgirls strike of 1888 (google it), a key moment in British working class history. And now, renamed Bow Quarter yuppiedrome, site of MOD olympic surface-to-air missiles. Some at the back paused a bit too long, getting a tad over-enthusiastic in shouting and gesticulating at the squaddies with the bombs on the tower, but a good deal of berating from the stewards helped eventually move the march back onto the approved route.
Then, towards the end of the march, the forces of order made a move to grab one reprobate at the back who had allegedly been snipping the official Met police demo route tape with a pair of scissors. He was surrounded by a ring of blue for a stop and search. At this point, as our wise head stewards pointed out, there was a real danger that elements in the crowd would surge to the back to show misguided solidarity with the supposed snipper. This could have caused all kinds of inconveniences, particularly as the target picnic spot still lay a whole 50 metres further ahead, and the march had already fallen behind official schedule due to the match factory incident.
Indeed, now a group of self-styled anarchists from ALARM (All London Anarchist Revolutionary Mob: http://www.soundthealarm.org.uk/ effectively overrode the authority of the head stewards (two SWP bigwigs, or maybe ex-SWP bigwigs, who can keep up) and persuaded almost all of the demonstrators to stop and go back to the flashpoint. The crowd surrounded the police, who released their man.
The sun shone. Papers were sold. There was a display of folk dancing from a group protesting Russian oppression of the Circassian people (the 2014 winter olympics will be held in the black sea city of Sochi, claimed as the site of historic genocide by the Russian empire). There were also Turkish and Kurdish refugee groups, Global Women's Strike, Occupy London, Save Leyton Marsh, and many more, including our friendly police liaison officers mingling with the crowd in their baby blue bibs.
So, after all the heady juvenile days of Millbank and March 26 and the whatever spring and all that, it's reassuring to see that we've returned to the good old ways, the tried and tested ways. A to B marches. Speeches in a park. Some spineless trots. A pretty pitiful handful of anarchists with a black and red banner (though a pretty good ALARM free sheet which was handed to lots of people along the route).
(Disclaimer: don't get me wrong, it was really important that we were there, that we didn't let this crock of corporate shite go without even a whimper of protest. And it was really good to be out in the streets of east london, and talk to and give out info to lots of people. But is this really it for the olympics? Is that all there is?)
First, this article was a personal statement of one member, it doesn't speak for ALARM as a group. I should have made that clearer in the article. So do debate what I was saying, but other alarmists may well have different views.
I felt and feel pretty disgusted by the fact that the coordinators of the demo tried to move forward and leave someone to be arrested. It was more important, it seems, to get to a park on time than to show solidarity. This is not a comment on other stewards at the back who did show support, or on the vast majority of the people there themselves, who went back to the hotspot when they realised what was happening. It is a serious criticism of head stewards and the way the demo was run. And it was typical swappie behaviour, not surprising, but sad to see once again.
More broadly, I think all of us have questions to ask ourselves. Why was the turn out, especially of anarchists, so poor? Why did we go back to the A to B demo model? More broadly, what has happened to the street energy of 2011? (And, no, I don't just mean riots, but everyone who was pushing the boundaries of dissent in this city from the students to Occupy to UK Uncut, etc.) And, more importantly, how can we get it back again? The olympics have just started. And beyond that, how can we start thinking about building things up again?