Back in March, the Indymedia article described Firebox as "a political cafe in Central London", as a "vital centre of sedition in increasingly uncertain times", and pictured (what it described as) "crowds at our grand launch". The phrase "central" London belies a relatively obscure back-street location, and, far more than being "political" as such, Firebox was in fact set-up by the Leninist group Counterfire, it's debatable whether the café's contribution to "sedition" was ever particularly "vital", and (while it's obvious there were some more people at their launch out-of-shot) the "crowds" depicted in the original photo on Indymedia numbered at best (count 'em if you don't believe it) 15 people [not including the kid with the white balloons] -
In my opinion Counterfire should be given some credit for the tenacity and organisational skill they brought to bear on recent protests, but criticised for the ideological egotism that helped drive thousands of people from more sustained engagement with those self-same protests. It's obvious that almost no-one in Britain warms to the prospect of exchanging the evils of Capitalism for the horror of Leninism, but, at the end of the day, perhaps the worst accusation that can be leveled at Counterfire, is not to re-hash any ideological slapping-contest, or to pretend any ideologically-definied piss-up-in-a-brewery squad could have done it better (simply because they're not Leninist), but to point-out that that Firebox wasted financial and human resources on an ego-driven and (albeit unsuccessfully) commercial vanity-project.
Firebox wasted time and money which could have been spent plastering the streets of London with stickers and posters advertising the demonstrations which, for a while, electrified radical politics in the UK (and if they're serious about achieving political change, they won't do it again). The last thing "progressive minds" needs is a "haven". What "progressive" minds need is to communicate with the LARGEST AUDIENCE possible. Communication is however by definition a two-way process, and what might draw "ordinary" people into communication with radical politics is not bleating about historically-discredited and hopelessly-outdated ideological positions, but the pragmatic delivery of actual RESULTS, and to achieve results activists (of all ideological stripes) need to park their egos, swallow hard, ditch the ideological cultism, and get out on the high-street and communicate with ordinary people about the issues that actually affect them in the here-and-now.