Friday, 25 March 2011

Quote of the day...

...comes from Andy Hayman, former Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police for Specialist Operations, writing for Policy Exchange;
There is strong intelligence that extremist groups are planning illegal acts of violence at the TUC march and rally on Saturday with the sole aim of disrupting a well intended peaceful protest. This pattern of behaviour starts to call into question whether it is at all possible for any law abiding group to exercise their democratic right to protest without interference from violent activists.


The police must start to be more intrusive and active ahead of any planned illegal demonstration. By ruthlessly testing the open source information that is easily accessed they can start to aggressively target activists. Ahead of Saturday’s event it is curious that such a variety of sources seem to be pointing towards an unlawful protest and yet the police do not appear to be acting on the information preferring to deal with things on the day.

Both types of protest are incompatible; they stretch police resources and usually end in violence. This is a trend that must be stopped if we are to protect our democratic right to peacefully protest.
There are two points to be made here.

Firstly, we know - not least from the police declaration in the Guardian that they are preparing "for the violent minority" - that the propaganda line has begun in earnest. Namely, that any violence can be squarely placed on the heads of protesters, just like the batons swung by police.

Good liberals must see the occupation of space or damage to inanimate objects as at least equivalent to the bloody beating of a living human being. If not worse. After all, "some [protesters] want to occupy buildings and that is an offence." Whereas vicious and unprovoked violence that nearly kills a young lad (for instance) is just something which puts the police "under fire" and leaves them only with a "dilemma" about "the degree of force" needed. Their right to a monopoly of violence in the first place remains unquestioned.

Indeed, the reasoning behind the propaganda line about a "violent minority" is simple - to turn the debate inwards between different sections of protesters, leaving the external police role unchallenged. We know that Brendan Barber (and almost certainly other trade union bureaucrats, including the so-called militants) are ready to follow Aaron Porter's line and throw about condemnations of all direct action.

But this isn't enough, a significant section of the rank-and-file needs to do it to, to quell the spirit of resistance with misguided peer pressure and defuse the threat to the status quo. Thus, as the movement dies, one side blames it on the "violence," whilst the other blames it (with far more justification) on the unwillingness to be anything other than passive and compliant.

The second point is that Hayman's candid point exposes what I and others have been arguing all along. That the "violent minority" is not anarchists or any other militant segment of the working class. It is the ruling class of liberal democracy.

Indeed, as Adam Smith (one of the most important thinkers of liberalism) put it;
Laws and government may be considered in this and indeed in every case as a combination of the rich to oppress the poor, and preserve to themselves the inequality of the goods which would otherwise be soon destroyed by the attacks of the poor, who if not hindered by the government would soon reduce the others to an equality with themselves by open violence.
This is exactly Hayman's worry. When he says that "unless the police become more proactive in disrupting the activists before the event it will be impossible to ever stage a protest without it being infiltrated by extremist groups," he is making the call for the "combination of the rich to oppress the poor" in order that established power is not "soon destroyed by the attacks of the poor."

That this open advocate of police repression believes in the same "democratic right to peacefully protest" as the TUC should tell you all you need to know about its efficacy as a tactic for change.