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.