Thursday, 30 September 2010

Where the libertarian left and right overlap, or don't - a response to John Demetriou

On Sunday, a conversation on Twitter with John Demetriou - a right-libertarian blogger - inspired him to write a post called "What have left and right libertarians got in common?" What follows is my response.

Demetriou, hereafter JD for brevity, is an interesting case amongst right-libertarians. I've cited him previously as being "far more honest and consistent in his libertarianism" than his peers, and I stick by that. He realises the utter lunacy of "anarcho"-capitalism and is closer to mutualism in his ideology.

But I digress. His post was prompted by my tweeting that "there are lots of areas of agreement between libertarian right and left. But blogging only seems to overlap on economics [where we disagree]."  And "it would be interesting, for example, to read right-libertarians on fascism, illegal wars, nationalism, migration, et al."

With a rapidity that my response has failed to match, JD rose to the challenge, offering his opinion on exactly those subjects.

On fascism, nationalism, and migration, his perspective diverged from mine quite broadly. I will come to that. However, having already written a great deal on the irreconcilable differences between left- and right- libertarianism - see here, here, here, and here - I would like to go first to the commonalities.

On this point, JD is quite eloquent;
I think the best way to improve relations with other countries and to encourage better relations across the world is to essentially trade. Trade civilises. Trade is good. Business and commerce is good. Why drop bombs on Afghanistan, when we should legalise all drugs and buy their heroin from them and sell it at below dealer rates in the UK in order to destroy the illegal drugs industry?

Why feed despotic, pernicious regimes in the Middle East (like Saudi) because we want to sate our miserable addiction to oil, when we can simply junk our dependence on oil and move towards a transport system based in renewable energy?

This is where left libertarianism comes in - it can energise and educate people to realise the destructive nature of the oil industry and why it poisons just about everything in the world.

Left and right libertarianism has much in common, and while our differences may seem stark, and our paths meander off into random directions, we can agree and shake a friendly hand on the fact that our one main enemy is the state. The further you go to the extremes (anarchism, Anarcho-Capitalism), the more you believe the state should not exist.

Let me leave you with this image from a great film I watched recently called 'The Bucket List' with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. If you have seen it, you might want to muse on why I draw the parallel between this discussion and this film.

Because for me, Freeman's character is like a left libertarian and Nicholson's is like a right libertarian. One is a rich billionaire, the other is a man of modest means. One is brash, caustic and obnoxious, the other is charming and a gentleman. When brought together, they have a turbulent relationship, but dedicated common ground can bring great things...
I'm not of the opinion that the libertarian spectrum can or does play out like a political buddy movie. There is common ground, and there are even areas where opinions from the left and right compliment one another. But the elephant in the room is the economy, stupid, at as a result there will always be antagonism.

Perspectives on the state are part of this. For left libertarians and anarchists, the state is our enemy because (to varying degrees) it represents an authoritarian and hierarchical structure. We are equally suspicious of such structures outside of the state, whilst with many - if not all - right-libertarians there is the suggestion that authoritarianism is acceptable if privatised.

Nonetheless, sticking to common ground, I would agree there is a lot of it. For example, whilst we lefties "come in" on the issue of foreign wars and the oil industry, I have no problem letting the libertarian right have at it on smoking bans, free speech, and other such issues.

Going back to fascism and such things, here we find that common ground remains, but it is an awful lot more sparse.

For example;
For me, fascism cannot be blithely dismissed as a right wing political creed. This is lazy. Fascism is extremely similar to its opposite number; communism (or hardened socialism). They both want a massively powerful state, led by an elite, who dictates everything on behalf of the people who they pretend to laud and love. Both communism and fascism are scathing of capitalism, and Jews, and they are quite aggressive and imperialistic, though for slightly different reasons.

I believe the differences are tiny. The reason fascism gets the right wing tag is pretty much because of its latent nationalism and obsession with race and eugenics.
Although there is an issue with calling fascism "right wing" or "far-right" in terms of the economic left-right line, it does not follow from this that it is socialist or left wing.

As I have argued before, fascism is the logical, extreme of the status quo. That is, corporatism, nationalism,  authoritarianism, and rigid bureaucracy. It has traditionally found support from the business classes, and been used to smash picket lines and organised workers as a movement.

It should also be noted that capitalism is not synonymous - or, for that matter, at all compatible - with free markets. It is a social order, wherein state and corporate power are intertwined.

I won't defend "Communism," quite simply because I don't believe in it. The oppositional perspectives of anarchists and Marxist-Leninists is well known and doesn't need rehashing here. Suffice to say that the USSR wasn't socialist after 1921. At the latest.

JD's claim that "as long as left libertarians constantly see fascism as a right wing movement, they will persistently fail to spot the inherent flaws in socialism" is at best facile. We know well what socialism is and what it is not - which is why we are in non-hierarchical, decentralised groups such as the Solidarity Federation rather than towing the line of the Socialist Workers' Party.

Further to which, the idea that "can only really ever exist where it is guided by a very strong, coercive elite in dominance of a very strong state" is a falsehood.

Though it was short-lived, the Spanish Revolution showed communism to be quite the opposite. In fact, as in Russia, it was clearly the case that those "in charge of a very strong apparatus of thuggery and tyranny" destroyed communism rather than bringing it to pass.

JD is harsher on nationalism than I. I would agree that it is "an emotional sop" and "pointless way of seeking an identity and a way of seeking meaning."

However, where I have sought the root of such sentiments and ways to challenge it for leading working class discontent up a blind alley, he simply writes those who think that way as "the types of people who flip burgers and fit tyres to down tools every generation or three in order to 'defend the realm'."

Beyond which, JD is "ot one of these cunts who wants to do away with 'countries' and just have the world as one big meadow of goats with no borders and loads of women with lank hair dancing round Maypoles." But I am, and as he points out whilst there are a fair amount of minarchists on the libertarian right, they are few and far between on the left.

I won't go into the arguments in detail here. But in response to his suggestion that a minimal state is neccesary and anarchism "would only work in a very ideal world which can never exist," I suggest he reads my case against borders, and my posts on how community self-defence and self-organisation would work.

Anarchism is not a pipe dream invented by stoned students - it is an idea rooted in over 150 years of trial and error. After all, an ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.

Returning to the original point, I would say that there is far too much difference for any kind of consensus between the libertarian right and left. But we are not two separate, homogenous camps - there is an entire spectrum of libertarian thought and so great potential for overlap.

With the exception, of course, of anarcho-capitalists, Randian objectivists, and big-L Libertarians like Ron Paul. I'm unrepentant that they're just corporate capitalists lacking access to the whip.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

No War but Class War - September 2010

This month ends with a 24 hour general strike in Spain, and other protests and actions across Europe in solidarity.

This is a strike about which the CNT are, reasonably, sceptical. They note that although "we have more than enough reasons to strike," it can be said that "a one-day strike (or rather, a workday of symbolic unemployment) is too little too late." An act of wrangling by bureaucrats keen for a seat at the top table.

But rather than heckling at the sidelines, they are responding with action;
Therefore we are calling for participation in a strike, a real strike, not so that they will call on us to negotiate a reform and some cuts to which we are radically opposed, but to throw the reform and the cuts out altogether. But above all, to take the first step in the reconstruction of a class-conscious unionism, one that will defend the interests of everyone who's been suffering from the downpour of the last two years while the state unionists have participated in the spectacle of giving out subsidies and cutting rights. And we are going to do this while following the principles we've always had, without accepting state subsidies or delegating our power to others.

We will call for the strike, we will form pickets and we will protest. Direct action will be our identifying mark on September 29th. We will do this to try to demolish the labor reform that cheapens firings, facilitates layoffs, favors pulling away from labor agreements (including salary tables), and grants full powers to the union bureaucrats in the critical sectors to negotiate with the employers to the detriment of the workers' assemblies...

Worker, unemployed, student... it's past time to reclaim what is ours, because if we don't they will continue to strip our rights. If you're fed up with seeing how the state unions boss us around, and you want to take part in the construction of revolutionary unionism, a unionism that doesn't sell itself to our enemy in exchange for a plate of state subsidies, come to the branches of the CNT or contact our workplace branch in your company.

Starting on September 29th and even before, we'll see you in the street, against the abuses of the employers, the politicians, the bankers, and the pickpocketing so-called "unions", because the struggle doesn't stop here.
As I write, the strike continues and reports have not yet come in. However, it is clear that the course taken by the CNT is the one that anarchists and radical workers need to take.

We should not merely be hecklers on the sidelines, deriding "reformism." Alongside a solid analysis of the flaws of the mainstream union movement, we need to provide an alternative and make the case for it directly to the working class. And the best way to do that is by acting.

At the very beginning of the month, we saw what results such action can achieve. In Warsaw, tenants are celebrating a successful campaign to prevent the sell-off of publicly owned housing.

In the first round of protests, the campaign managed to prevent the sell off of one building under claim, which ,means that all buildings in the same property will remain municipal housing. And the struggle continues, with a rent strike called for October 1st by the anarcho-syndicalist ZSP.

This demonstrates the efficacy of grassroots organisation and direct action. But it also shows that cuts and privatisation can be resisted communally as well as in the workplace.

In Minneapolis, workers at the fast food chain Jimmy John's have formed an IWW-affiliated union, presented demands for better wages and more control over scheduling, and held large pickets. Following the precedent set by the Starbucks union, this clearly shows the efficacy of the libertarian organising model over traditional unions in mobilising casualised workers.

In a similar vein, the Seattle Solidarity Network have helped a woman hounded out of her job by racism to win her dispute with Lorig Associates. Despite heavy-handed union busting tactics, a determined 18 months campaign saw the company drop their lawsuits and pay out $22,000 compensation.

In France, the government's proposal to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 was met with street protests and a national strike against the measures. This was not a one-off, with two more such events later on in the month. It follows an earlier action in May.

This is in stark contrast to Britain, where such measures were met with little to no reaction. Which is part of a broader inaction against government class warfare, the occasional march notwithstanding.

In Ankara, contractors in one of the biggest university hospitals in Ankara have gone on wildcat strike over wages. They did not receive their pay for August and only got half for September. The workers have vowed to continue their strike until they will receive their wages.

In Poland, LibCom reports on a similar dispute;
A group of hospital cleaners from the Specialized Hospital in Dabrowa Gornicza had a meeting with their new bosses at the Municipal Office in the presence of members of the City Council. The workers are trying to get the city involved in the fate of the hospital staff since it is a public hospital. Still the President of the City claims they are "not a party" in the conflict.

The problem is that the hospital outsourced their work six years ago. The workers became employees of a private firm called Aspen. In the last public tender, a firm called Naprzod won and will now be their employer.

37 cleaners have refused the conditions of the new contract. They are asking for permanent contracts with a minimum guaranteed salary. In other words, they are also concerned that the company can cut their working hours.

Naprzod wants to give the women 3 year contracts. Those trying to convince the workers to accept this point out that Naprzod's contract with the hospital, which they won in a public tender, is only three years long.

The struggle then is in fact against the outsourcing and the way people are hired in public health care. In recent years, the majority of health care workers have lost their labour relationship with their hospital as part of reforms connected to the commercialization of health care in Poland.

The cleaners had no luck talking to their new employer or the city so they decided to occupy the office. The security guards then locked the door of the top-floor conference room where they were meeting. In this way, they tried to get them out, by among other things, cutting their access to toilets. But the women were able to get onto the roof, from where their protest became visible. They spent the night on the roof and say they are waiting for the President of the City to speak with them. 
Migrant workers in Greece have responded to police violence and harassment by striking. As the culmination of a long campaign of racism and terror, police inspired their employers to evict them. The strikers demands are human housing, decent wages, and legal status / asylum for migrants and refugees.

We should hope that they get solidarity from native Greek workers and follow the same example here. Class solidarity - not nationalism - is the only sensible solution to capitalist abuses.

Still in Greece, "struggle season" has once more begun anew;

The massiveness of what in the last decades has become a 'traditional' and usually lukewarm protest march, accompanying the Greek PM's economic plenary speech in the Salonica Expo was not matched by any considerable pulse on the part of the protesters. Surrounded by thousands of riot policemen, who did not hesitate to apply the Socialist Party's new repressive method, i.e. preemptive detainment of some 35 "anarchist-looking" folk before the start of the march, the protest was more massive than the last years but equally numb and silent. Held in one of the most conservative cities of Greece where the extreme religious element mingles with a long-standing antisemitic nationalism it is no wonder that the man arrested after throwing a shoe at the PM wailed about some "United Patriotic Front". The two marches (one by the GSEE and the other by the grassroots unions) numbered up to 30,000 people under rain.

Nevertheless, the marches during the Expo always mark the beginning of the so-called 'struggle season', which even the most conservative estimates expect to be angry and unpredictable. Even the right-wing daily Kathimerini figured a Friday front-page predicting that numbness will soon lead to rage and perhaps bloodshed. The prospects of a social explosion have risen considerably in the last weeks after the government has proved insensitive enough to introduce a new heating fuel tax that will double the price of heating petrol, amounting to an extra lost salary p.a. Statistics have shown the GDP to have plunged by almost 3,5% in the last 6 months, while unemployment up from 8 to 12% with modest expectations of it to rise to 20% by December. At the same time 20-25% of high-street shops remain shut due to the recession, while 3/4 of the stock-market registered companies have recorded losses. The picture becomes really absurd if one adds to it the fact that the Athens Mayor has announced a budget of 4,000 Euros per uniform, in order to dress his municipal policemen, while the government announcing a multi-million emergency budget for upgrading the police forces. With nearly 90% of the population declaring in various polls that it is against the government and its handling of the economy, the recent reshuffling of the government cabinet has done little to appease the wide spectrum of discontent.

As a nightmare coming back alive, fuel carrying truck drivers have decided to end their peace with the government and resume striking from Monday. News agencies report that on that day the drivers plan a huge motorised march to the capital where they will give the keys to their vehicles to the Transport Ministry refusing to serve under the civil conscription orders that linger over their heads since late July. 
But, with protests and strikes flaring up all over the world in reponse to what is quite clearly a global consensus of austerity, the dilemma is how to turn a "season" into a tidal wave.

Too often, a "winter of discontent" will peter out after much bluff and bluster. The ruling class remain unharmed, as does the social order that perpetuates them. Whilst the masses are in a worse off position than before having been demobilised by their "leaders."

That pattern needs to be challenged. As the CNT are, we need to push for resistance led from below by the rank-and-file. We need to argue and agitate for effective direct action over collaboration.

In individual struggles, the anarcho-syndicalist model has claimed impressive victories. But across the broader movement, we remain a minority. If we are able to put across our perspective through growing and effective organisation, that may not remain the case for too long.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Something for the weekend...

It's only Tuesday. But with several long days ahead of me and lots to do, I'm already harking towards the weekend. And with good reason - this Saturday sees the arrival of the Manchester Anarchist Bookfair.

The talks on offer include;
“Everything you wanted to know abut anarchism but you were too afraid to ask”Members of different anarchist groups including Class War, the Anarchist Federation and Solidarity Federation talk about their organisations and offer their definition of anarchism.
This will be followed by a Question and Answer session.

“Steal a little and they throw you in gaol. Steal a lot and they make you king”
The case for prison abolition
Professor Joe Sim: Liverpool John Moores University

"Nick Heath - the Third Revolution”
Nick Heath on the wave of rebellions and uprisings of rank-and-file Russian workers and peasants across the country in 1919-1921 against the Bolsheviks, who were consolidating their grip on power. Contrary to the Bolsheviks' claims, these rebellions were not reactionary but in fact in support of the original aims of the revolution: socialism, and workers' and peasants' self-management. Taken together they can be referred to as a Third Revolution.

“Class Struggle in India, Gurgaon Workers' News”
Gurgaon Workers' News are a libertarian communist group in the Indian city of Gurgaon, who publish a newspaper of the same name and actively participate in the various struggles taking place in this industrial hub. A friend of these comrades, who has stayed and worked in Gurgaon for some time, will be discussing the experience, and shedding light on class and class struggle in India.

“Education: Students and Staff Working Together”
Like the rest of the public sector, higher education faces years of savage cuts. This will effect students and university workers alike. Over the last year there has been a number of examples of students and workers joining together to defeat planned cuts. The education workers network has organised this meeting to discuss ways students and staff can work together both locally and nationally to defeat the cuts.

“Zapatista Solidarity Group”
The Manchester Zapatista Solidarity Group and the Honduras Solidarity Group collaborate on the stall and the talk at the Anarchist Bookfair.
Since the coup in Honduras in June 2009, the Human Rights situation in this country has deteriorated dramatically. Labour activists, environmental activists and human rights activists are among the main targets of repression. The Honduras Solidarity Group monitors the situation and publishes a monthly newsletter.

3.30pm: Radical History Walk
Let the Loiterers Resistance Movement take you on a radical history tour of Manchester. Covering politics, culture, communication and more...
(Leaves Dancehouse at 3.30pm)
All in all, a very interesting lineup.

For me, it will also mark a pleasant repreive after two weeks of solid activism, where antifascism, anarchism, and trade unionism have clashed and collaborated to leave me having very little sleep.

Though I will be taking time out to attend PCS's "young workers united against the cuts" demo in St Peter's Square, and - as at the recent Radical Workers' Bloc - making the case for a more militant and libertarian workers' struggle. No rest for the wicked, I guess.

Before then, there is much to do. I will find time to write-up the latest update in the No War but Class War series, and offer a full response to this article by John Demetriou. But not today.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Israel asks for "peace," whilst resuming colonisation

Israel's 10-month moratorium on construction in the West Bank is over. Construction contractors are expecting to begin work on 500 to 600 new homes in the coming month. As a result, several Palestinian organisations are opposed to continuing direct negotiations with Israel.

However, according to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said that this shouldn't affect "the goal of reaching a historic  peace agreement between our two peoples."

In full, he said;
I hope that President Abbas will remain in the talks and continue with me on the path of peace which we started three weeks ago, after many in the world have now realized that my intentions of reaching peace are serious and sincere and that I honor my commitments.

I say to President Abbas, for the sake of both our peoples, let us focus on what is truly important – accelerated, sincere and continuous talks to reach a historic framework agreement within a year.
The only problem is that, for the vast majority of Palestinians, these settlements are "truly important." They represent the steady colonisation by Israel of all viable land within the occupied territories, whilst any "historic framework" will merely leave Palestinians crowded into the barren remains.

Already, Israel is siphoning off water supplies for itself and pumping raw sewage - shit, in a word - back to the Palestinians. And alonside the theft of resources is the physical occupation of land.

Before the moratorium was imposed, Israeli settlements saw their population grow over from 177,411 to 267,163in just the seven years from 1999 to 2006. At the same time, the Palestinian refugee population has been growing at a rate of 100,000 per year, the fallout from the 1948 and 1967 wars compounded by the continuing forced eviction of families to make way for settlers.

And the rhetoric of Danny Danon, Ayoob Kara and Tzipi Hotovely from the Likud Party, quoted by Ha'aretz, made clear the nationalist ideology underpinning the occupation;
"This is what I wanted to see - blue and white in every corner," said Kara, speaking to around 2,500 people at the annual World Likud convention at Revava. "I came to be with you all. Residents here respected the freeze; the most important thing is to continue the peace process. The result of the freeze was zero. It gave us nothing and it gave the Palestinian Authority nothing. As a wounded Israel Defense Forces veteran I think Israel's security depends on your settling here." 

Quoting a Talmudic saying, he said, "If [a man] comes to slay you, slay him first." 

Zeev said: "This day unites the entire people of Israel, not only World Likud. The residents of Judea and Samaria are native to Israel through a historical link. That's the issue that should lead us today regarding our rights in the face of the Quartet and the United Nations. We were born here and this is the land of our fathers forever. In the name of God we will succeed." 

Hotovely told the crowd she was "proud to be a member of a party that was elected to preserve our right to exist in this country."
One could well imagine the same rhetoric coming from any hard-right party in Europe or America. It is nothing less than the doctrine of racial-religious nationalism.

With such a tendency prevailing amongst the settlers, it is easy to be sceptical about any "restraint" they may show. And certainly ordinary Palestinians have no reason to trust that we won't merely see the continuation of business as usual.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has already complied with Netanyahu's demand not to protest the end of the settlement freeze. Repeated threats of a walk-out have come to nothing.

But Abbas appears to be in it for his own gain. His presidential term expired in 2009, and his unilateral extension a year later. Still, he remains at the head of the Palestinian Authority, his own position apparently the only thing he has managed to secure.

And with Hamas out of bounds for negotiation, based on wholly hypocritical reasoning, ordinary Palestinians have no voice.

No matter how "historic" the "framework agreement" may be, there will be no serious peace . Not when those negotiating at the top table are a nationalist pursuing a policy of colonial expansion and a "leader" willing to sell out the rights of his people to maintain his own position.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Quote of the day...

...goes to the Daily Mail, in their continual quest to out-sensationalise themselves;
As the son of a North London Marxist intellectual, you might expect Ed Miliband to have a less than conventional approach to traditional family values.

And the birth certificate of his 15-month-old son, Daniel, would appear to bear this out, as it includes everything except any mention of the boy’s proud father.

Although the section headed ‘Father’ is blank, Daniel’s mother Justine Thornton is named, along with her Manchester birthplace and profession, barrister.

Daniel was born on June 2 last year and the birth ­certificate was signed by Justine in Camden, near the couple’s London home, five weeks later on July 9.

There is no suggestion that Ed Miliband is not Daniel’s father and when asked why his name is not on the register, a spokeswoman for the new Labour leader suggested he simply had not had time to fill in the form.

This is not the only unusual aspect of his private life, as Mr Miliband is also the first leader of a major British political party to be living with his family out of wedlock. He and Justine, who will give birth to the couple’s second child in little over a month, are not married.
Are you not outraged? Do you not have the urge to grab your letter-writing pen and stab it at some paper in a paroxysm of rage, or yell ill-informed rhetoric into the phone at a talk-radio host? Are you not worried that society is crumbling around your ears and the anti-Christ is cometh?

If you answered no to any or all of the above questions, then you're sane. You're also a member of the far-left-Marxist-politically-correct-homosexualist-brigade and should be ashamed of yourself.

Of course, the Mail stands out as the lunatic fringe of the mainstream media. But its "go against our wishes and you instantly become the embodiment of all we hate" mentality prevails elsewhere. Hence how a fairly dull, upper middle class career politician who follows the traditional centre-right line about the "squeezed middle" class has been branded "Red Ed," stooge of the unions.

In reality, nobody who asks that unions (already reformist safety valves for worker discontent) show "restraint" about the cuts cannot seriously be labelled as a "red."

Not that this matters. The point is that serious efforts to defend the working class are preemptively attacked as "extremist" and "radical," and that Labour are unsubtly reminded to stay within the narrow confines of the mainstream political spectrum. Even social-democratic capitalism is worryingly "red."

To which, the "out of wedlock" story only adds a delightful sprinkle of nuttiness. As if we needed proof that the media was utterly out of touch with the concerns of ordinary people.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

On the new Labour leader

Ed Miliband has been elected leader of the Labour Party. He snatched victory at the last minute in a leadership race that remained uncompromisingly dull and irrelevant to ordinary people. With the race over, that dull irrelevance is the Official Opposition to the Government's aggressive class war.

As I wrote three months ago, too much of the left still clings hopelessly to Labour, and has been watching this obscenely long contest with bated breath. But there was nothing new on offer.

Ed Miliband said "I get it" over and over. He has been talking about winning over the working class and reinvigorating the "left." But this is part of the same "change" rhetoric that everybody - including Tony Blair and David Cameron - is so fond of when seeking election.

But to see what we're looking at now, we only need to look at his record;
  • Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war.
  • Voted very strongly for more EU integration.
  • Voted very strongly for introducing ID cards.
  • Voted very strongly for a stricter asylum system.
  • Voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws.
  • Voted very strongly for introducing a smoking ban.
  • Voted moderately for replacing Trident.
Or, as I noted back in July, he is a "moderate hawk in terms of the mainstream political spectrum" and doesn't "not represent genuinely left-wing views" let alone "come close to the libertarian left."

Not to mention that, if we look at Barack Obama's record on "change" (or Tony Blair's), we find that a wave of enthusiasm swept in a candidate who was an eloquent speaker and very charismatic, but still an enemy of the working class. Although, in this case, you don't really have the charisma.

Ultimately, Labour have a faceless, personality-free drone as their leader. Those of us concerned with the class struggle faced by ordinary people ought to dismiss this irrelevance and move on.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Why the police are the last people we need to reclaim the streets

Yesterday, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) published a report titled Anti-social behaviour: stop the rot (PDF). As summed up by Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Denis O'Connor, the conclusion was that the police need to "reclaim some neighbourhoods." The idea is a troubling one.

In essence, the report claims that uncertainty over "what priority ASB [anti-social behaviour] should ... be given by police forces" has led to"an increasing acceptance or “defining down”" of ASB.

The response to this should "draw on the evidence of the different intensity of the impact that ASB has on particular groups of people and in particular areas, together with ‘what works best’ in police systems." Such a "damage limitation" strategy should run alongside "an early intervention strategy, similar to those in health and education sectors."

Hence, police should focus on "what causes harm in communities, rather than what is or is not a “crime”, or what can be managed out of police systems."

As O'Connor told the BBC, this equates to "feet on the street." It needs to be remembered that "the public do not distinguish between anti-social behaviour and crime. For them, it's just a sliding scale of grief." Moreover, anti-social behaviour "is the precursor to crime - stop this, and a lot of other things will happen."

He's not entirely wrong, and certainly there are a lot of issues around anti-social behaviour that need to be examined in more depth and better handled. But there are ways to do that without reactionary demands for more police. 90% of people may give them primary responsibility, but this doesn't just further disempower communities - it effectively consents to the state monopoly on violence.

The murders of Ian Tomlinson and Jean Charles de Menezes are just the two most high-profile examples of the police being a law unto themselves. They exist, as an institution, to contain and control dissent, and subjugate the working class through force.

As we saw with the (wholly misguided) support for Raoul Moat, an awful lot of people are aware of this and don't trust the police as far as they could throw a Paddy Wagon. And rightly so.

Will this change with Theresa May's promise to "put communities at the heart of the solution" by "mak[ing] police more accountable through elected Police and Crime Commissioners?" It may well. But, in my opinion, it really shouldn't. Especially as it's likely to make the problem worse.

The "more accountable" police will have "the right tools and powers" to "crack down" regardless of whether you're actually breaking the law. This will only make the problem of state violence against the marginalised more acute. Hence it will increase the disenfranchisement and alienation that are at the root of anti-social behaviour.

The elected commissioners need not worry about this affecting their careers. Sensationalist and reactionary election campaigns and media stories will drum up support for this on the back of deliberate falsehoods and misrepresentation. As we see with elected politicians and just about every issue going.

If we want to challenge anti-social behaviour, then the only serious way to do so is through community self-defence. This is something the Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) have tried to put into practice in various areas and achieved some success with.

As such, its programme on this issue is not to be sniffed at;
Antisocial Behaviour

A combination of unemployment, the withdrawal of funding for youth facilities and the selling off of playing fields, drugs, and police indifference has left the vulnerable in many communities frightened to leave their homes. Burglaries, street crime and joy-riding have destroyed morale in many working class communities, making it all too easy for politicians to sit back and manipulate the situation to their advantage.

The IWCA will work for:
  • The drawing together of all sectors, including official agencies, toward the goal of the working class ownership of local communities
  • The reforging of pride in the community by organising clean-ups of estates, removing graffiti, and getting burnt-out cars taken away
  • The ending of curfews for young people
  • The proper funding of youth facilities
  • The isolation by the community of those who persist in making life intolerable for the community
Community Restorative Justice

Community Restorative Justice (CRJ) is a new way of dealing with antisocial behaviour. It is a cost-effective way of tackling the causes behind crime and the resulting breakdown in the relationships which connect people with a community.

It also brings attention to the imbalance of resources within the current justice system. At present the bulk of investment is spent responding to crime on a retributive basis—fines, court orders, prison.

By comparison, when CRJ is used, tiny amounts are invested in trying to resolve problems in a long term way. CRJ works to bring people together to resolve differences within a mediation process. It can play a vital role where the police and local authorities have lost the respect of local communities and where there is a stigma attached to cooperating with them.
  • The IWCA will encourage the establishment of Community Restorative Justice
    Schemes within working class communities

Nationally and locally the war against drugs has proved disastrous for working class communities in general. In some areas the drug culture has destroyed community cohesion, setting young against old, neighbour against neighbour.

Despite all the talking from politicians and experts, the situation continues to deteriorate. Overwhelmingly, working class communities carry the cost of this failure. At issue is not whether some drugs or all drugs are bad, but how the resulting problems can be managed.

As part of a broader review, the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act, which introduced the prohibition on buying and selling drugs and the criminalisation of drug users, needs to be assessed to determine what role the criminalisation of drugs may have played in the subsequent massive rise in heroin addiction.

IWCA policy objectives are:
  • The isolation by the community of drug dealers who prey on the community
  • The proper provision of locally based and funded detox centres
  • The establishment of a social contract with users for the proper disposal of needles etc.
  • The decriminalisation of cannabis
  • GPs to be allowed to prescribe heroin in order to administer dosages safely, remove the need for ineffective methadone substitutes and undermine the criminal black market
  • A review of the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act
There are issues with the IWCA's programme and the ideas behind it, from an extremely narrow, cultural definition of class to its willingness in some areas to accept the restraints and parameters of capitalist society. Nonetheless, it has done what so many on the left have failed to do.

Self-defence and self-sufficiency for working class communities lies at the heart of a solution to the problem of anti-social behaviour. It is also a viable alternative to the half-baked pseudo-localism of Cameron's "Big Society." And, in a time when the government is looking to make us pay for the frivolity of the ruling class with austerity measures, it reminds people how to stand up for themselves.

On top of which, it means that we don't have to beg the government to give more power to an already violent and oppressive police force.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Support Chris Moyles? I'll pass, thanks

On the lighter side of the news today, we discover that radio "personality" Chris Moyles hasn't been paid by the BBC for two months;
Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles hit out at his BBC bosses yesterday in an extraordinary rant on his breakfast show, accusing them of “a huge lack of respect” and revealing he had not been paid since July.

Moyles told listeners he was “very, very angry” about the situation, and said he thought about not coming in to present the show.

He said the corporation could not “be bothered” to pay him, and asked: “Why should I come in? It’s a two-way street. What annoys me is the fact I mentioned it to people this week. Fix it, just get it fixed. It’s a huge lack of respect and a massive ‘FU’ to me.”
As a result, a semi-ironic "Twibbon" has been launched, allowing users to support the DJ through their Twitter profiles. It is also suggested that they "could donate some tins of beans, or some old clothes or something." You could even "just let him sleep on the sofa."

Some might think it wrong to take the piss out of a worker denied pay by their bosses. Even such an overpaid, reactionary gasbag as Chris Moyles. But I beg to differ.

Not least because he's a scab. Moyles crossed a BBC picket line in 2005, ignoring the wishes of workmates who were fighting to prevent 4,000 job cuts. In order to "grace" the airwaves with his banal idiocy, he betrayed people paid a lot less than him trying to hold onto their livelihoods.

As such I don't have an ounce of sympathy for the worthless fat cunt.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Debunking the "Islamisation" myth

Via Five Chinese Crackers, I find that Edmund Standing has produced a report called "Debunking the Islamisation myth" (PDF). It is well worth a read.

There are issues with the report. 5cc mentions Standing's naiveté in believing the press about "white liberal do-gooders," though from my own perspective it's the lack of class analysis and the vague, civic nationalist undercurrent that is most worrying.

Nevertheless, the conclusion is worth quoting as it is a point I have made before;
The widespread acceptance of the ‘Islamisation’ myth illustrates the ascendancy of cultural pessimism in the West, at a time in which we actually have more to be happy about than at any other period in history. In the past hundred years, overall living standards and wealth have increased greatly in the West. We no longer live in fear of diseases such as diphtheria, polio, and typhoid; tap water is safe to drink; good sanitation is the norm; cheap food is widely available; life expectancy has risen hugely from 45 years for males and 49 years for females in 1901; all children receive an education; overseas travel is no longer something just for the rich. Yes, of course there are many problems in society, but at what period in human history has that ever not been the case? Each new generation seems to look back to its childhood as a better time, or to an idealised past in which things supposedly ‘weren’t so bad’. Yet, objectively speaking, no period in human history has been as good as the one we currently live in.

There will always be cultural pessimism, and there will always be those who want to turn back the clock. Indeed, we Brits seem to be experts at holding a gloomy view of the world. The ‘Islamisation’ myth is based in an outlook of despair, an almost apocalyptic fear that an old world is dying and a terrible new age is dawning, but in this there is nothing new. As noted earlier in this text, theatre, poetry, books, novels, newspapers, photography, the music hall, television, and so on, have all been seen by successive generations of pessimists as harbingers of doom.

Today’s pessimists, when they’re not engaged in attacking many of the same things that have been attacked for centuries, are busy working themselves into a frenzy about ‘Islamisation’ and the death of the West. Yet, as I hope I have demonstrated, such panic is not rationally grounded. Islam is not a powerful global force on the verge of ‘taking over’ Britain. Muslims are not a powerful group in society, or indeed in the world as a whole, and besides, the majority of Muslims in Britain have no interest in creating an Islamic State and imposing Sharia law, even if they did have the power to do so.

That the ‘Islamisation’ myth is growing in popularity should be of concern to those who seek a more rational world. It is not the irrationalism of Islam that poses the greatest threat (or even any significant threat) to Britain, but rather the growth of a culture of despair, for despair creates an environment in which the irrational, the violent, and the oppressive really can flourish. Undoubtedly, the pace at which change progresses is dizzying for many, and the collapse of some of the old institutions such as the Church that once gave society a unified narrative has created something of a void, as has a loss of faith in the political process.

However, the answer to a rapidly changing world is not to sink into despair and perversely comforting myths of grand conspiracies and inner enemies. Anyone with an awareness of Twentieth Century history should know where a society based on belief in hidden powers and scheming minorities can end up.

Through thousands of years of wars, plagues, and natural disasters, Britain has survived and stood tall. Despite losing more than a million of its citizens in two world wars, Britain has survived and prospered. Are we now to seriously believe that Britain is finished because a religious minority, many of whom are poor and powerless, and very few of whom are found at the heart of our economy and our political process, has arrived on our shores? And are we to seriously believe that the majority of the population has a collective death wish and will idly sit by and allow a handful of religious fascists led by the likes of Anjem Choudary take over the country and create an Islamic State? Is this what we have come to?

The ‘Islamisation’ myth is fallacious, dangerous, and pathetic. Islam is not taking over Britain, nor will Britain ever be an Islamic State. The extremists can scream their mantra ‘Islam will dominate the world’ as much as they like, but in fact it can’t, and it won’t.
It's just a shame that, due to the propaganda model under which the media functions, the vast majority of people will never even hear this argument made.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Liberal Democrat members beg to get fooled again

In recent days, with Liberal Democrats have apparently decided that it was politic to come out with some pronouncements to sate the social democrats within their ranks.

First, Nick Clegg told party members that they must "hold our nerve." The Lib Dems had not "lost our soul" by entering into coalition with the Conservatives. They "haven't changed our liberal values" and "will have changed British politics for good" by the end of it.

He then had a pop at the last Tory administration, promising to "not repeat the mistakes of the 1980s, in which whole communities were hollowed out." Even though the cuts agenda remained the "only choice."

Then he repeated Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander's promise to target rich tax-avoiders in an effort to reduce the deficit. Playing it straight down the middle, he said "We all agree it's wrong when people help themselves to benefits they shouldn't get. But when the richest people in the country dodge their tax bill that is just as bad."

It was hardly a revolutionary line. Especially with a promise to "be tough on welfare cheats" preceding that to "be tough on tax cheats too." But he had a go at the rich, so he's not as bad as the Tories. Right?

Hot on the heels of that, we have Business Secretary Vince Cable taking it to the banks
Vince Cable has told the BBC that ministers are considering "potentially quite tough sanctions" against banks which give out large bonuses.

The business secretary said bankers should not walk away with "outrageously large sums" while others suffered due to a crisis caused by banking.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg also said the government would not "stand idly by" if "offensive" bonuses were handed out.

A bank levy set to raise £8bn over four years is due to start in January. 

But Mr Cable and his party leader both suggested on Tuesday that the government could go further if banks paid out unreasonably high bonuses.

The business secretary was speaking during the Liberal Democrats' conference in Liverpool, at a fringe event organised by BBC Radio 4's World at One.

He said that, at the modest end of the scale, the government was looking at how to implement the Walker report into the corporate governance of UK banks, and force banks to disclose more information about bonus payments.

Bumper bonuses
"At the other end of the scale, there are potentially quite tough sanctions in terms of tax policy," he said, suggesting the government could look at a tax targeting high profits or a financial transactions tax.
All of which, clearly, is targeted at the "left" wing of the Liberal Democrats. The Yellow Tories are offering people a little more yellow in the hope that they'll notice a little less Tory. But we shouldn't be fooled.

Notice, in Cable's speech, how the fact that "others suffered due to a crisis caused by banking" isn't singled out as something to be rectified. Indeed, Clegg had already defended attacks on the public sector and working class by insisting that "you cannot build social justice on the sands of debt."

But, by saying that they were going to target those responsible for the crisis (alongside those who weren't, of course) he gives his party some political wiggle room. For those whose politics is confined to the minute differences between three capitalist, ruling class parties, it will be enough. Those who can see beyond that and realise just how narrow the mainstream spectrum is can be safely ignored.

Which is why there really is no point to mainstream politics. Those who pin their hopes on the Lib Dems, or any other party, are barking up the wrong tree. Our votes make no difference, our opinions are not taken into account, and our needs will never be met. It is a game for elites.

As I've noted before, there is an alternative;
Politicians play up a political bitch-fest for the benefit of a few who still believe in electoral politics, and pour scorn on a so-called "apathetic mass." But not caring about party politics does not mean people don't care at all. They want something different, and know that voting won't get it. Talking to them one to one, too, you soon realise that anarchism - but for the stigma of the name and a lack of exposure to the ideas - makes a lot of sense to people.

There's potential there. They already don't vote. The trick now is to get them to organise.
With the "nice" Liberal Democrats now in government, colluding with the "nasty" Tories, that potential is all but bubbling over. People know politics is bunk - now we need to give them ideas on what to do about it.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Why having a pint with the EDL might not be a completely crazy idea

Yesterday, I reposted a report by Liverpool Antifascists on the English Defence League's brief and fruitless appearance in Liverpool. No longer feeling too tired to do so, I would like to articulate the thoughts I had about this particular event.

Once we knew that the EDL were contained in the Baltic Fleet, I headed to Slater's Bar with several comrades who - like me - had been marching all day. We needed to put our feet up and wet our lips. This also provided the opportunity for some discussion on the particular EDL brand of fascism. What follows is largely informed by that discussion.

The problem with the EDL, as opposed to more traditional fascists like the BNP or National Front, is that it is tricky to define. As I wrote over at Property is Theft, it is a fascist organisation,in the broader history of such movements, and its activities are certainly underpinned by a traditional fascist agenda.

But it is also not a homogenous organisation. Whilst the EDL may be fascist, with a leadership drawn from the ranks of the far-right, the majority of its ordinary members and supporters are not neo-Nazis.

The organisation is far from short of seig-heiling morons. But it also contains loyalists, civic nationalists, football hooligans just looking for a barney, and - most importantly - working class people looking for an outlet for their anger and a target for their grievances.

The problem is, in general, that much of the left has utterly detached itself from class struggle and made itself irrelevant, even oppositional, to such grievances. Thus the EDL, like the BNP et al, can twist them and distract from the real issue by offering a scapegoat.

This is why, while thousands marched in opposition to a cuts agenda threatening to devestate working class communities, they came out to protest a perceived "refusal to tackle the threat of Islamic Extremism."

It is also why the EDL's Merseyside Division have - without any acknowledgment that they are creating a lie - posted to their wall a picture of local trade union leader Alec McFadden. The signs he is holding, advertising the march against the cuts doctored to replace "cuts" with "troops." There can be no clearer proof that they exist to distract from genuine issues based in class by waving patriotic totems.

The problem is that responding to such propaganda, reinforced by a deep anger looking for a release, is hard to counter. You can reach the general public with leafletting, and as in Bradford provide a physical barrier to attempts at violence. But how do you reach those drawn into this web of bullshit?

To my mind, the fact that the EDL begin and end their events by congregating in pubs is something we have to sieze upon. Not by complaining to the landlord, but by going in for a pint.

The best way to make people think about the beliefs they hold is, quite simply, to challenge them. This is what I tried to do on Saturday by getting in the face of BNP members and arguing the toss. When it's ideas - rather than force - you want to challenge, you can't beat the word of mouth.

As one comrade suggested, there would be the potential for an antifascist "Philosophy in Pubs" to become a bar-room brawl. But this is something that could be taken into account based on the numbers present, on both sides, and how you approach the EDL. Obviously, if you don't want your head kicked in you don't stroll over and make a crack about their mums.

What I'm suggesting isn't a "solution" to the EDL. We will not convince the hardcore goons to turn over a new leaf. There will still be a need for physical opposition when they hold a demo.

But if we want to offer a way out for those who aren't hardcore fascists, or who simply haven't been offered any other viable alternative to the status quo, then there are far worse approaches to take than having a pint with them.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The Radical Workers’ Bloc makes its mark whilst an EDL flash demo fail to ignite Liverpool

As I said on Twitter today, "After a weekend of fighting fascists, promoting anarchism, and stomping across the city, I'm fucking knackered."

Thus, in the spirit of lazy blogging, I'll let the Liverpool Solidarity Federation tell the story of today's march;
Today, over 4,000 people braved wind and rain to march and protest against the Lib Dems and the cuts agenda. It was a demonstration of the level of anger people feel - but also the willingness of their "leaders" to merely act as a safety valve, defusing that anger before it reaches the ruling class.

People assembled by the Anglican cathedral to march down to the docks where the protest was held. There were a number of trade union banners, as well as the banners of the Solidarity Federation and Anarchist Federation, whose membership made up the Radical Workers' Bloc. Despite the rain, the huge turnout and musical accompaniments made it a lively atmosphere.

But whilst the spirit of the rank-and-file made the march vibrant, this was in spite the planning done by trade union leaders, not because of it.

The TUC simply accepted the police moving them away from the Echo Arena, though they later moaned about it to the Liverpool Echo. With the march. Rather than go through the main part of City Centre to the docks, the route may as well have been calculated to garner the smallest possible audience.

But we've seen this show before. Union leaders putting on the appearance of being oppositional to authority whilst following orders and acting as a conduit to get the working class to do the same.

It became farcical when the layout of the roads meant the march had to go past the point of protest and turn back upon itself to be able to feed into the rally. There was some laughter and cheering as the Radical Workers' Bloc simply bypassed this by crossing the road and ending up at the front of the demonstration, beyond even the police.

However, there were cries of "no anarchists" from the Liverpool Socialist Singers and the police rushed forward to overtake us. This protest against the government was going to do exactly as it was told by the state, every step of the way.

At the rally, where 4,000 trade unionists were all-but funneled into a protest pen, various cossetted union big-wigs took to the stage to offer a bark which is never matched with bite.

Merseyside's anarchists took this opportunity to hand out a pamphlet titled No War but Class War and make the argument for a self-organised workers' movement that could not be demobilised from above. The response was largely receptive, and we were able to distribute several hundred leaflets.

We then took the lead from many others who left the bureaucrats to their speeches and went to warm up in the pub. One thing that we have seen, time and again, is that ordinary trade unionists share our assesment of their leaders. But anarchists often consigned themselves to shouting from the sidelines and alienating those who would perhaps be most sympathetic. We wanted to break that mold.

All-in-all, bar a brief and largely pointless appearence from the English Defence League later on, the day was a good one. But it will only be a success if people are motivated to organise themselves against capitalism, and rid themselves of the chains of union bureaucracy.

You can download a PDF of the leaflet we distributed today here.
And, for more on the appearence of the EDL, Liverpool Antifascists;
Word reaches Liverpool Antifascists that the English Defence League made an appearance in Liverpool today.

Witnesses on the ground described the event as not up to much. Nonetheless, it presents a worrying precedent and a reminder to antifascists to remain vigilant.

In the early afternoon, thousands of trade unionists, socialists, and working class activists marched from the Anglican Cathedral to protest at the Liberal Democrat conference, against that party’s support for attacks on the working class. Liverpool Antifascists – as an autonomous group set up and run by ordinary people rather than politicians or bureaucrats – wholeheartedly supports this. Indeed, many of our members were present at the event under different banners.

What we do not support is the message the EDL offered in the same area, just hours later.

We are told that 20-30 EDL activists, including many from the EDL Merseyside Division, unfurled banners for what amounted to a photo op before retreating to the Baltic Fleet for a meeting. According to some who were present, one of the topics for discussion was the formation of a political party to contest elections. Though they didn’t seem optimistic about the political calibre of those present.

Soon enough, antifascists got wind of what was going on, and a few scouted the area to see that the police had them contained and under control. With that in mind, and better things to do, they left them to it.

It is clear that the EDL were just testing the waters today. They want to see if they can “conquer” Liverpool, but we’d advise against it. When they do it for real, so will we.

Whether that’s from the state, from Islamic extremism, or from fascists looking for a fight, Liverpool is a city that can defend itself.
All in all, an interesting day. Indeed, an interesting weekend. But, frankly, my legs are very glad it's over.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Spontaneous antifascist protest sends BNP packing in Liverpool

Today, members of the British National Party - including Nick Griffin - held a stall in Liverpool City Centre. They were, perhaps, hoping to show that they stood tall after their trouncing at the General and local elections. Instead, what it showed was the strength of antifascist sentiment in Liverpool.

Within minutes of the BNP setting up shop in town, word got out. The BNP were on Church Street and texts and phone calls went out across the city warning people and asking for them to turn out in opposition. I was walking the dog at the time, and so and hour elapsed between the time I was first told and the time I reached the crowds. And yes, I do mean crowds.

Nick Griffin had been there, but he fled with his minders the second opposition showed up. As Peter Tatchell opined when he confronted him, the BNP chairman is a gutless coward.

But the local branch of the BNP stayed behind in Griffin's stead, offering the members of the public a "petition" (PDF) to "Bring Our Boys Home" from Afghanistan. But as Griffin admits on the BNP website, this is not a petition that will be presented to anybody, or even a serious effort to raise the issue of the war in Afghanistan.

Although they will be "under the banner of “Support Our Troops — Bring Our Boys Home”" their true purpose is "the biggest co-ordinated nationalist recruitment campaign ever run outside of an election period." Hence who signatories "authorise the British National Party to contact" them or send "future promotional, electoral and fund-raising material."

As I have argued before, the BNP are not an anti-war party. In fact, their 2010 election manifesto explicitly stated that they opposed the Iraq war only on the grounds that "there were no strategic or commercial interests to defend" and "the same applies to the current war in Afghanistan."

Hence, if a BNP felt there were British strategic or commercial interests at stake (as Blair did in those two wars), then they would have no moral qualms about sending "Our Boys" to die. For the BNP, imperialism's only bad when you're not in the seat of command.Which is why the banner of the Stop the War Coalition could be found in the group opposing the BNP.

Unfortunately, their ruse was fooling a lot of people, the anti-war message drawing people away from the fact that this was a fascist recruitment drive, as they planned. Hence why opposition was vital.

Very quickly, a sizeable crowd had gathered, and the BNP found themselves closed off from public view by a semi-circle of very loud antifascists, some bearing banners and signs from various groups. This, in turn, drew members of the public - most notably young teenagers - into the impromptu demo.

While the police held the main demo back from the BNP, some antifascists took the opportunity to talk to people. The general public were receptive to the idea that the BNP were an anti-working class party, offering division at a time when we are facing huge attacks from those in power, and that any pretensions to the contrary (including on the war) were political opportunism.

That their (pre-recorded) chants echoed the Tory party line with calls to "Smash the TUC" certainly didn't help the fascists' case.

Arguing the point with the BNP themselves, for those listening in rather than with hope of converting die-hard BNPers, also went in our favour. People can tell the difference between a valid argument and rhetoric, and what Peter Tierney and his friends offered was certainly the latter.

With the rain pouring down, and some people who had arrived earlier on having to leave for other commitments, still the antifascist crowd continued to grow. The BNP struggled to pass out their leaflets or to get many people to sign their petition-cum-covert-recruitment-form. But still they tried to fight a war of attrition, making a show of themselves for a full six-and-a-half hours.

Ultimately, however, over 100 antifascists and local people watched and jeered as the fascists packed their gear into two cars and drove off, protected by a flank of police. No doubt they will try and sell it differently, but for British nationalism this was undoubtedly a failure.

Elsewhere, the BNP's dissident faction claims that "four teams of two" were "out in Liverpool, Sefton and Knowsley, handing out BNP literature to commuters and the General public." However, even on the basis of their own piss-poor website all they can prove is that Steve Greenhalgh appeared outside Orrell Park Station and Bootle Strand to give letters to ... err, nobody!

But they, like the Griffinites, are promising to be out every Saturday for the next few weeks. On which note, the promise from Liverpool Antifascists is that we will be watching when you turn up again.

Friday, 17 September 2010

The TUC, the Echo Arena ban, and the Radical Workers' Bloc

In Liverpool, organised workers and trade unions are gearing up for a march and demonstration against the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference on Sunday. As are those arguing for a more radical approach to the present crisis. But it seems their original plans have been scuppered. 

According to the Liverpool Daily Post;
TRADE unions have been banned from protesting outside the Liberal Democrat conference which gets under way in the city this weekend.

Union leaders attacked the ban as an “outrageous” restriction on freedoms enjoyed since the signing of the Magna Carta.

The Lib-Dems deny the ban is at their request, claiming the decision was the police’s on “safety grounds”.

The police claim that the area around the Arena is “not suitable for protest of any size”, although demonstrations were allowed outside the venue during last year’s TUC conference and the National Rail Conference.

Merseyside trade union campaigner Alec McFadden said there could be no excuses for denying the public the right to express their anger at coalition cuts.

He said: “It’s an outrage, a disgrace. Since the Magna Carta, every person in this country is entitled to petition and argue with ministers.”

A TUC spokesman added: “Our regional secretary had a number of meetings with police and other people inspecting the site, and there was no reason to question we wouldn’t be able to protest outside the Arena.

“But recently we had a meeting with the police, who are piggy in the middle in this, who told us they had been advised by the landowner [ACC Liverpool] that the client [the Lib-Dems] has refused us access to carry out our protest on their land.”

A Lib-Dem spokesman last night said: “It is completely untrue we have asked for it to be moved.

“There were two sites proposed by police and we allowed them to choose whichever they felt was the best. We have absolutely nothing against peaceful protests organised through the proper channels.”

The protesters will be expected to demonstrate from the entrance to Salthouse Dock, hundreds of metres away.

A police spokesman said: “For a number of reasons, including the area around the Albert Dock and ACC Liverpool being private property, the conference venue itself and surrounding area is not suitable for hosting a protest of any size.

“The presence of a number of temporary structures has limited the options for locating a protest site any nearer to the conference centre than the Salthouse Dock.”
Or, more succinctly, the police have done what they always do and found a pretense under which to keep protesters away from the objects of their demonstration. The TUC have pissed and moaned about the injustice, but ultimately are complying.

Thus, union leaders put on the appearence of being oppositional to authority whilst following orders and acting as a conduit to get the working class to do the same.

We oughtn't be surprised. This is, in fact, a microcosm of how the TUC and the unions under its steer act more generally. It is the very reason that the Solidarity Federation and Anarchist Federation are staging a Radical Workers' Bloc and arguing for a different approach in the first place.

It is also why we will be following the TUC to the Salthouse Dock rather than splitting off to attempt an "invasion" of the Echo Arena. Such a stunt would, without large numbers, achieve a grand sum of nothing. It would also be counter-productive.

Causing chaos and carnage would merely reinforce the media stereotype of anarchists and grab a few headlines. It would also prove that we offer nothing concrete to workers' struggles.

Clearly, this is not what we want to achieve. Instead, our aim is to make the case for militant self-organisation directly to other organised workers. This is not about gesture politics but about building a movement that can take on capitalism.