London Indymedia

Why we need to NOT kick-off on Oct 20

Ralph | 14.10.2012 14:45 | Policing | Public sector cuts | Workers' Movements | London

Please read all these points carefully before posting responses -

The TUC have been correctly accused of not seizing the initiative after the massive public support for the huge demo they organised on 26 March 2011, when 500,000 people mobilised in opposition to the cuts, and for not forging ahead in supporting calls for a general strike, etc. So, with the next TUC national demo fast approaching on Oct 20, some activists have said radicals should either not support or should disrupt the Oct 20 demo, saying stuff like A to B marches are "boring" and "don't achieve anything", etc. Here are some thoughts about those arguments (please read these points carefully before posting any responses) -

1. There's no question the TUC havn't done enough to oppose the Coalition government and to stop the cuts, but the truth is the main evidence that the public don't support the cuts was the massive numbers who (directly and indirectly) supported the March 26 demo, which was organised by the TUC! If the task of mobilising against the cuts had been left to autonomous networks or to far-left groups, it's unlikely any demo would attract more than a few thousand, instead it attracted half a million. If we don't want the government and other members of the public to think everyone's lost interest in opposing the cuts, then we need to support the TUC demo on Oct 20 as well - and by "support" it I mean properly support it, not undermine it. Radicals can make themselves irrelevant to the anti-cuts movement if they really want to, but you don't need to either like or agree with the TUC to realise that it's the people they'll be bringing on Oct 20 who we need to show solidarity with.

2. Some activists have countered the opinion that what matters on protests is the size of the demo and the level of public support, by pointing-out that some tiny demos (eg - against Workfare) have been very successful. It's fantastic that small demos can have real impact, but that argument is still an example of trying to "prove" a case using a combination of selective evidence and false logic. While some small demos succeed, there are hundreds more tiny demos which achieve nothing, and even those small demos that do achieve results would be MORE successful if they'd been better supported. So, it's great that tiny demos occasionally achieve results, but in no way does that prove that public opinion doesn't matter or that numbers attending demos aren't important.

3. It's all very well parroting early 1980s rhetoric about the "victim mentality" and reveling in attacks on cops etc, but the experience of recent student protests (not to mention of the long-term failure of all the groups who advocated such militant rhetoric) shows most people are terrified of violence on protests. No-one's suggesting that if cops attack we shouldn't defend ourselves, but if cops or protestors kick-off and people get hurt, then, no matter who started it, as shown by the rapid decline of the student protests, people desert the protest movement in their tens of thousands. Yes A to B marches and speeches can be boring, but if you're not prepared to put up with a bit of hanging around, and put actual work into trying to achieve political ideals, your ideals don't stand much of a chance in practical terms anyway. We need to actively make sure maximum numbers of people attend the Oct 20 demo, and the way to achieve that is not to either threaten to kick-off or to come across like an army of extras out of the Mad Max films.

4. The other aspect of the disruption / violence debate is that EVERYONE is entitled to oppose government corruption and to oppose thefts of taxpayers' resources, and not all of those people are physically able to engage in the sort of opposition that forms the stuff of some activists' revolutionary fantasies. If the old dears and mums-with-kids think the activist movement holds their phyiscal safety in contempt, they'll see us as no better than the people who also endanger them by cutting NHS services, and the public will reciprocate by holding us in contempt, and we'll deserve it. If we can contribute anything to this movement, it's to put some graft in to encouraging non-TUC members to join Oct 20, and not gob-off about disrupting Oct 20 in ways that frighten potential marchers off.

5. The establishment wouldn't pour billions into manipulating the mass-media and into manufacturing consent if that didn't pay-off for them politically, so, like it or not, public opinion and media representations ARE important. Activists who aren't interested in PR are dead in the water. Boris Johnson is a jaw-droppingly upper-crust Tory, who supports Coalition butchery of NHS services and who wouldn't look out of place in a Fast Show sketch, but the media spun the "eccentricities" that conventional activist wisdom suggests should have destroyed Boris, to the extent that he's not only STILL running London but he might even do well running for Prime Minister. In an ideal world activists would be successfully using Johnson's obvious privilege as a weapon against the Coalition, but the reality is that it's his success that leaves him laughing at us, not the other way round. The lesson here is that kick-off artists need to understand that no matter how tempting it might be to let-off steam under cover of big demos, the political effect of what you do is not determined by what you think you've done, but by how other people perceive what you've done. Disruptive actions help the right-wing media, and disruptive actions WILL be used to drive a wedge between activists and the communities whose long-term interests we're trying to support.

6. Finally of course it's right that a few A to B marches won't cause the fall of capitalism, but nobody, except the stupidly naive, ever pretended they would. What A to B marches can do is to build-up the numbers of people who, after they've been robbed by corrupt politicians and failed by the mainstream opposition, might then be radicalised if and when the activist movement takes time to understand their grievances and offer viable solutions. Any demo might not succeed, but the only way to guarantee it won't succeed is to willfully undermine it, so please don't. For the time being at least, peaceful demos are good for both the mainstream opposition and good for radical activism.



Display the following 10 comments

  1. @Ralph — bite back!
  2. Good sugesstions Ralph — Keep Calm and Carry On
  3. *groan* — ...
  4. @Keep Calm and Carry On — bollocks to that
  5. You — Me
  6. TL / DR — anon
  7. Think again — RPGs
  8. not ready — fb
  9. Come to Trafalgar Square at 4pm on October 20. — coalition of resistance.
  10. Co-ops and Credit Unions — Itstheonlywaytowin


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