Friday, 18 February 2011

Why we should stay for one day

Yes, it's another post about March 26th. However, given how much hangs on what happens that day, it has to be discussed. The problem still remains of how to stop the bureaucrats of the TUC killing the struggle against austerity.

Of course, many will argue that we should pull against everything hingeing upon a single day of action, and they're right. See, for example, my argument for occupations, strikes, and economic blockades as a way to attack the capitalist economy and build the strength of the working class. This remains a necessity. But it doesn't reduce the importance that - for a number of reasons - March 26th still holds.

The TUC called this demonstration, months ago, to placate those petitioning them to act against the cuts, and saw it as a hook on the back of which they can get away with doing nothing. But now, estimates place the number attending at a million plus. It will be the largest mobilisation of the working class in at least a decade.

That is why the TUC is afraid. They are doing their best to derail militancy by making the event as tightly stewarded as possible, and by agreeing to absurd concessions such as sending coaches away to Wembley to park, so people have to get the tube in to the march. They're putting Ed Milliband on the stage with a line-up of bureaucrats, and will be doing their best to see that people listen to speeches, wave flags, and go home. Deflated. To watch the movement die.

For the same reason that the TUC is afraid, those of us who want effective opposition to the government's agenda should be hopeful. No, it isn't the be-all and end-all of this fight. But it will be an important milestone, and we need to see it bear the fruits of mass militancy.

This is why the plan currently gaining momentum, to "turn Hyde Park into Tahrir Square for 24 hours," is exciting. The whole point, rather than for a few people to show off their radical credentials, is to encourage mass action. In essence, it boils down to occupying the park for 24 hours following the TUC rally. But the potential is for much more than that.

In the words of the Resist 26 website;
Imagine a village within central London where people can camp, organise, relax, eat, dance and hatch plots.

Imagine a having a space to create a truly free micro society based on mutual aid, universal respect and combined power to hold a siege of London, that will have those in power running for the panic room!

Because going home empty handed is not an option. 

But mainly: We need a place to celebrate the death of apathy.
And this is the point. We don't merely want a big set-piece, to give our "leaders" a nice photo opportunity, we want the ruling class running scared. And that only happens when those they rule become ungovernable. When they feel the balance of power shift.

That can only happen if everyone protesting against the government is willing to not just wave a placard but actively disobey.

Actions like the seige of Millbank Tower saw the movement explode into life, rose class consciousness amongst the young, and galvanised untold numbers who had never taken to the streets before. But there were (and are) still too many convinced by liberal and bureaucratic hand-wringing over "violence." They still believe that society is a debating chamber, and that if we only win the argument then the powers-that-be will be reasonable enough to back down.

We can change that mindset, but to do so we have to draw people into the power struggle - to take them beyond protest into the realms of direct action.

Occupying Hyde Park is perhaps the best way to do that. After all, "if we chose to take parliament square whilst everyone else gets the coach home, we lose a vast amount of people and taking the space will almost certainly result in some confrontation." This will allow the bureaucrats to turn people against militancy with greater ease, whereas "Hyde Park is a neutral place for people to decide what actions they want to take part in."

This can, ultimately, involve taking Parliament Square, or any number of other actions. Already, a number of different possible actions in the pipeline, and Hyde Park (like Tahrir Square) will serve as more of a hub than a stand-alone event. Because what happens next has to be organic.

Nonetheless, it should now be self-evident what needs to happen next. We need to sell this. The Resist 26 website is serving as an online hub for information about the day, whilst you can find the "Stay 4 1 Day" Facebook event here, and the "Fuck off Ed Milliband" event here. "Puppets for Protest" and the "Pink and Black Bloc" are also worth checking out. But not everybody is online. Groups and individuals need to spread the word as far as possible, with leaflets and word of mouth, not only on the coaches and trains but before the event - encouraging people not only to come down, but also to stay.

We need to strive for a wave of militancy which maintains the momentum up to and beyond March. But it is equally important that March 26th is truly monumental. If we let the bureaucrats have their way, it will be much harder to effectively fight back.