Thursday, 31 March 2011

No War But Class War - March 2011

This month, the uprisings across the Arab world have been shunted from the media spotlight by the civil war in Libya. Libya's foreign minister has fled to Britain, but the rebels are in full retreat in many places and it is uncertain what will happen next. What we do know is that, even in victory, the Libyans will find it difficult to assert their independence now that the US and Britain have played their hand.

Elsewhere, Egypt is set to hold parliamentary elections in September. But in the meantime the army has succeeded in banning strikes and protests and enforcing a repressive new constitution. The state of emergency which defined the Mubarak regime remains in place, though the military have promised to lift it before elections. Whether or not that's true remains to be seen, as the top brass of the military own lots of land and factories and thus have an interest in repressing strikes.

There has been some continued resistance. The new laws against protesting have been met with calls for demonstrations, whilst the offices of the secret police were raided by demonstrators earlier in the month. Growing distrust in the new regime has also seen a low turnout in polls to rubber-stamp the new constitution.

However, building anything as large as the wave which swept Mubarak out of office will be difficult. Not only has the spotlight and people's attention shifted to Libya, but the US has moved in to consolidate the new regime with a pledge of millions more in aid. This has come as generals have realised that the working class's economic power needs to be curtailled. Those who "organise protests that obstruct production and create critical economic conditions that can lead to a worsening of the country’s economy" are "harming national security."

Even though the media has moved on, we should not forget that these struggles continue. Not just in Egypt, either. Movements are growing in Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria and Syria, too, and unlike the previous month's enthusiastic support for revolutions, we are now likely to see brutal repression under media silence. Those who continue to fight against that deserve our solidarity.

In the US, the IWW's Jimmy Johns union has been engaged in a campaign to force management to allow staff sick days. The company's policy sees workers disciplined if they call in sick without finding a replacement, and the union had been engaged in a propaganda campaign to highlight this to the public and encourage supporters to complain directly to the management. The company responded by firing six workers who had helped put up posters.

However, this has backfired and, according to the IWW website, "thousands of community supporters have jammed Jimmy John's phone lines and flooded the chain's Facebook page with messages of outrage and support for six whistleblowers who were fired for exposing widespread coercion to work while sick at the chain." Workers "plan to escalate actions against Jimmy John's until their demands for the right to call in sick, paid sick days, and reinstatement of the fired workers are met." They could do worse than following the example of workers at the Hilton hotels, who got their employer to listen to them on the back of a year and a half of pickets, lobby takeovers, boycotts, and short strikes.

Strikes have also hit Burma, where more than 1,500 workers at a factory in Rangoon have braved the heavy-handed reputation of authorities to demand an increase in their $0.70-a-day salary. This follows on from strikes the previous month in several shoe factories which won demands for improved working conditions. Likewise, in Vietmam, 3,000 employees from the Yamaha Motor plant struck for an increase in the current $78.57 monthly salary.

In Croatia, people have been taking part in weeks of protests and marches against the government. Different groups involved in the unrest have their own demands, but the MASA (Network of Anarcho-Syndicalists) states that "it didn’t take long for the protests to turn from anti-government into an expression of resentment towards all political elites, both the ruling and the opposition, those servants of capital who have equally contributed to economic collapse we face now." The point now, for them, is drawing focus from the self-publicising union leaders towards the capacity of ordinary people to bring about change for themselves.

In Britain, of course, the biggest event this month was the mass protest in London on March 26th. I have already commented on it here and here, so I won't repeat myself. What is worth noting, in the broader context, is that whilst for the unions this was it - at least until the public sector pensions strike come in June - others have been determined to turn it into a pivot for something far larger. The month before, as councils set their budgets and implemented austerity, their were a number of succesful and attempted town hall occupations across the country. These included Lambeth, Liverpool, Islington, Brent and Hackney.

March 26th added momentum and urgency to these actions. The success of the Radical Workers Bloc in evading the police and acting as a roving blockade to shut down Oxford Street on Saturday was undoubtedly important. It will have seen a surge of interest in anarchist organisations and direct action tactics from ordinary people as much as (more negatively) from the press and the police.

The point now has to be building upon this, and putting the strategy of grassroots mobilisation and economic warfare into practice. At the risk of repeating myself, yet again, only when the country is ungovernable will the cuts cease to be inevitable.

Monday, 28 March 2011

A letter to UK Uncutters from the 'violent minority'

Letter to UK Uncut members by members of the Solidarity Federation in the aftermath of the disorder on the March 26 TUC organised March for the Alternative. As I've just added myself to the signatories, I thought it worth reposting here.

We're writing this to you to try and prevent the anti-cuts struggle being split up and weakened by the media.

We are anarchists (well, anarcho-syndicalists, technically) – a word that is much misunderstood and misrepresented. We are also students, workers and shop stewards. We co-organised a 'Radical Workers Bloc' on the South London feeder march. The aim was to provide a highly visible radical presence within the workers movement of which we are a part, advocating strikes, occupations and civil disobedience.

Saturday's demonstration was far bigger than anyone expected, and saw thousands go beyond a simple A-B stroll to take direct action. The UK Uncut actions on Oxford Street and in occupying Fortnum and Masons provoked harsh treatment from police, including mass arrests.

When we reached Trafalgar Square, we headed for Oxford Street for the 2pm actions to put some of these words into action (anarchist and UK Uncutter were not mutually exclusive on the day!). When we arrived, we met up with other anarchists who had had the same idea. Wary of being kettled, we chose to stay mobile, causing disruption on Oxford St and the surrounding area, including to UK Uncut targets which were closed and guarded by riot police. Subsequently, several banks, the Ritz and other buildings were damaged or hit by paint bombs. There were some minor scuffles with police. There is a valid debate to be had over tactics - which ones further the anti-cuts movement or are counter-productive - and many of us would favour mass direct action over property destruction. Let's have that debate within the anti-cuts struggle, and not let the media divide us.

But think about it from the store owners' point of view: a broken window may cost £1,000. A lost Saturday's trade through a peaceful occupation would cost many times more. Perhaps this helps explain the harsh police response to the UK Uncut occupation: it hits them where it hurts, in the pocket. Traditionally, workers have used the weapon of the strike to achieve this. But what about workers with no unions, or unions unwilling to strike? What about students, the unemployed? UK Uncut actions have been very successful at involving such people in economically disruptive action – and this seems to be on the right track in terms of forcing the government to back down on its cuts agenda. More and bigger actions in this vein will be needed to stop the cuts (in France, they call these 'economic blockades'). Like those in UK Uncut, we recognise that just marching from A to B or waiting for the government to be fair is not enough. The government, rich and tax avoiders will continue to seek to make the poorest in society pay for the defecit unless we make doing so the more expensive option. As UK Uncut announced on the demonstration 29th January "If the economy disrupts our lives, then we must disrupt the economy". 

The press coverage since Saturday has gone into a well-rehearsed frenzy of 'good protestor/bad protestor'. Some UK Uncutters have expressed outrage at being lumped in with the 'bad protestors', (correctly) stressing the peaceful nature of the F&M occupation. We think the whole idea of dividing 'good' and 'bad' protest serves only to legitimise police violence and repression. As we saw on Saturday, repression is not provoked by violent actions, but by effective actions – there is a long history of peaceful pickets and occupations being violently broken up by police, from the Chartists to the Miners Strike. Indeed, UK Uncut have frequently been at the blunt end of this in recent memory yourselves, with police responding to non-violent occupations with pepper spray and violent arrests.

In this light, we would say keep up the good work. Let the mass arrests strengthen your resolve not deter you. And let’s not fall into the divide-and-rule tactics that are the oldest trick in the rich’s book. If we can help or offer any practical solidarity to the arrestees, please get in touch. We’ve previously hosted legal advice and training sessions with Fitwatch and the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group – we’d be happy to do this again. Or if the arrests are causing problems with employers, we'll help arrestees organise against victimisation. On Saturday most of the arrestees were UK Uncut activists. Next time it could be us. We – those of us fighting the cuts – are all in this together.

Signed, Brighton Solidarity Federation

Plus individuals from: Northampton, North London, Manchester, Thames Valley, South London and Liverpool Locals (our federal democratic structure means statements can only be issued in the name of a group if the group has had the opportunity to discuss it, and time is against us!)

Some additional notes on March 26th

Following on from my report on the ground in London, there are a few footnotes about the demonstrations on 26th March that I would like to draw people's attention to.

Firstly, of course, I was not the only person to do a write-up of the day. There are a number of different takes on events worth reading, especially from those who challenge the narrative of the mainstream media and the liberal/moderate left.

Political Dynamite is, over the coming week, running a series called What Really Happened on March 26th? It's aimed at gaining a broader perspective on the march by speaking to those directly involved, and it has thus far been instructive in debunking the lies from the media. At the time of writing, they have published a view from a bike, a view from Fortnum and Masons, and a view from the main march. More are to come, so it is worth staying tuned.

Other interesting first-hand perspectives come from as diverse sources as Josh White, UK Uncut, and the Whitechapel Anarchist Group. Both Laurie Penny and FITwatch tell the real story of violence from the day - that by police.

However, for an example of the profound stupidity of the argument that anarchists "hijacked" the march, we turn to UCU member Christopher Phelps;
These self-styled "revolutionary anarchists" are young and not, by and large, workers. They have at least enough money and privilege to risk a night or two in jail and to pay the fines. And they are as daft as Mr Block.
The most obvious point here is that Mr Block, the cartoon creation of the IWW, made a mockery (variously) of scabs and of those who refuted "radical" industrial unionism for mainstream trade unionism. That is, people like the self-righteous Mr Phelps.

Then there is the fact that anarchists aren't some preternatural "other," emerging from the shadows only to "hijack" demonstrations. We're workers, students, unemployed, old, young, and just as affected by everything that's going on now as anybody else is. The only difference is that we're under no illusions that marching from A to B and listening to a bunch of bureaucrats and Labour Party morons waffle at us will accomplish anything.

All of which is not to mention the irony of somebody who believes in the efficacy of passive protest sneering that anarchists "wonder why capitalist extremes continue uninterrupted."

At the other end of sublime idiocy, we have the "libertarian" blogger Old Hoborn, who spent the day trying to live-troll a 500,000-strong march. With a rather unimaginative banner. This, and his wafflings about "faux anarchists," place him squarely in the camp of the delusional. Trying to explain to him that anarchism wasn't just anti-state but anti-capitalism via Twitter was either a pointless endeavour or an act of self-torture.

But this was not the only absurdity that the "libertarian" right Tweeted, with more than a few self-styled liberty lovers cheerleading state violence. As Mr Civil Libertarian observed;
The concept of the “vulgar libertarian” is pretty well established amongst everyone but vulgar libertarians; those who proclaim to hold libertarian values, yet constantly confuse themselves between “capitalism” as a state supported economic system, and the “free market” they want to see. The type that will proclaim the wonders of corporate business, right up until some disaster like the BP oil spill happens, in which case the problem was “Ah, well the market is too regulated”. Much like the religious fundamentalist, to whom “God’s will” means those things that make God look good and “Free will” is those things that make him look bad, to the vulgar libertarian the positive elements of the modern economic system are the wonders of free market capitalism, whilst the negative results are either ignored as problems (massive inequality of wealth, etc) or are the fault of government intervention. Yeah, the same intervention that didn’t exist a minute ago.

But looking at my twitter feed today, I see something a bit more worrying than mere vulgar libs; I see a lot of people, and I shall name no names, who while proclaiming libertarian values generally, were more than happy to back the police in beating the shit of a few kids doing nothing in particular. Here we have libertarians who quite openly go against libertarian principles for those who don’t themselves profess the same, psuedo-libertarian values!

What to call such people? I propose they need something a bit stronger than just “vulgar”. How about “Establishment libertarians”? Those who are libertarian, as long as you remain within the established order. At least vulgar libertarians usually admit the faults of the status quo when pressed on the matter. This new type of “libertarian” seems to want to suppress any dissent they don’t approve of.
It would seem that there's some commonality between the libertarians and the liberal left after all. One side applauding state violence, the other pretending it doesn't happen so they can wring their hands over broken glass.

As a final note, for any such hand-wringers amongst either my readers or my friends, I would like to draw people's attention to this link (PDF). Maybe it proves your point. After all, even back in 1914 we had troublemakers distracting from the message of peaceful protest with their vandalism. I mean, it's not like those militant suffragettes ever achieved anything, is it?

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Class war on the streets of London

So, it's been and gone. Perhaps the biggest event in a generation, the TUC's "March for the Alternative," is past. The media is filled with images of fires, riots, and broken glass, playing a narrative of "violent anarchists" who "hijacked" a peaceful demo. So what was the point of it all?

From the outset, "the point" depended entirely upon your perspective. Most of the people there were marching quite simply because their jobs, their services, and their livelihoods are under attack. This included those of us in socialist and anarchist blocs, who also argued for a much broader perspective and recognition that capitalism itself was the issue, not just the current "ConDem cuts." Whereas, for the TUC, the point was to stage-manage popular discontent and give the Labour Party a platform.

Arriving in London, myself and other members of the Liverpool Solidarity Federation headed to Kennington Park. This was where the South London feeder march would be assembling, and we met up with other SolFed members, as well as members of the Anarchist Federation and other class struggle anarchists to form the Radical Workers Bloc on that march.

Particularly amusing was seeing the Scum's prediction that "student protesters are building an 18ft wooden horse which they plan to burn together with a cart containing effigies of the royals" come true. Albeit in slightly less impressive form. Flanked by some superbly crafted effigies representing the four horsemen of the apocalypse and bearing the legend "TUC Armed Wing," it was less an imposing threat to public order and more a novel carnival float. But then, as one South London SolFed comrade put it, Chris Knight may represent the batshit-crazy wing of the anarchist movement, but he is at least entertaining.

After we set off, the march passed largely without incident until the police tried to direct us away from the route which would take us over Westminister Bridge and allow us to feed in to the main march. There were several moments of confusion, until a group decisively broke through and brought the rest of the march along with us. This led to a rather proud moment where a line of police blocking the bridge stepped aside for a mass of several hundred people, the Liverpool Solidarity Federation's banner at its head.

Crossing the bridge, what struck me was that we could see the main march snaking far ahead and far behind the point that we entered it. It was enormous, and densely packed too. Yet we couldn't see either the front or the back. The TUC states that they stopped counting at 250,000 people, and the media's most generous estimate is 500,000, but there had to be at least a million people protesting in London that day. If not more.

The result of this was that the march moved extremely slowly. It was so densely populated that holding a banner aloft was difficult at best.

We shuffled past the fortress that Westminister had become, lines of police staring stone-faced at us from behind crash barricades. The pace picked up as we went beyond Downing Street, where protesters engaged in pantomime by hurling a chorus of boos at the abode of a Prime Minister who was very far away from the protests against his government.

As we travelled down the route, we kept seeing the green bibs of Liberty, operating under the pretence of "legal observers." All had their backs to the police, watching the protesters. Later reports from other comrades suggest that they were pointing out people to the intelligence gatherers of FIT, and even taking photographs themselves. None of them handed out bust cards, as the genuinely independent legal observers of the Green and Black Cross were doing. They were, after all, part of the police operation rather than being there for our protection.

Finally, we reached Trafalgar Square, where it was possible to step out of the march for a break and some food and water.

Up to a hundred people were congregating around the base of Nelson's column, with a couple sitting on the backs of the lion statues. Further back, a huge banner had been unfurled that stated: "we demand regime change!" The occupation of the square was due to begin at 5pm.

Shortly afterwards, the rest of the Radical Workers' Bloc reached the square and stepped out of the march as well. Copies of the booklet No Comment: The defendant's guide to arrest (PDF) were handed out. The bloc then reassembled itself to march through Trafalgar Square, separate to the main march, and on towards Oxford Street. What followed was the source of the hysteria which defined reporting of the day.

The breakaway march was good natured and lively from the offset. North and South London SolFed's banners were at its head. Chants rang out: "1-2-3-4! This way to class war! 5-6-7-8! Organise and smash the state!" At this point, there were roughly 300 people marching.

When we reached Oxford Street, UK Uncut activists were already there to engage in actions against Topshop, Vodaphone, and others. However, as soon as the Radical Workers Bloc turned on to the street, the police started to draw together. It quickly became apparent that their intention was to kettle, and we turned off down another street to avoid them.

Marching around the streets behind Oxford Circus, the bloc held together impressively. Directions and information were relayed from the front to the back and vice versa through megaphones. We were able to respond rapidly to police movements, whilst not being reckless enough to rush cut differet sections of the bloc off from one another. The only question now was how long we could continue to lead this chase and exactly what the end goal was. At this point, nobody was entirely sure.

We managed to push back onto Oxford Street, and surged up the road, passing the UK Uncut demonstrators once again. Chants of "who's streets? Our streets!" rang out. Any police we passed were met with cries of "your jobs next!" Though not much sympathy for that fact. As we moved along, we passed several riot vans - all of them full and sat waiting.

Turning down another side street, we hesitated upon seeing police gather as if ready to seal off the route behind us. But the front of the march was already pouring out the other side, so it was safe to move on.

It was as we approached HSBC that genuine trouble flared. It was hard to tell exactly what happened in the mass of people. I heard cries of outrage somewhere ahead of me, and the section of the march ahead of that turn towards them. There was a scuffle, and I moved forward to see several cops being shoved back and a protester being helped to their feet. More cries of outrage and angry chants rose up around me.

When the march was in the process of turning down the road past HSBC, smoke bombs were set off. Red smoke rose into the air, followed shortly after by green smoke.Some people charged at the doors, attacking them with boots and flagpoles.

When the door fell in, the move to occupy it fell back at the shout of "here's the riot police." A significant section of the crowd surged backwards. Police in full riot gear moved to protect the entrace, shoving away anybody who was too close. This use of force in defence of property was met with a hail of paint balloons, sticks from placards, and bottles.

Though this has already been written up as "attacks" on the police, none of these things had the potential for any serious injury, and the bottles were plastic - most likely the ones people had been drinking from during the march. I'm also not going to apologise for or rationalise the damage to property on behalf of anybody. This was a legitimate expression of class anger and will be an inevitable part of any campaign to halt the cuts by inflicting damage upon the economy through direct action such as blockades and occupations.

Nonetheless, the police responded by attacking the crowd and there were fights as the bloc struggled to get away from this and move on. Unsure of what was going to come next several people, myself included, took this opportunity to avoid the scuffles and break away.

By the time Liverpool SolFed members regrouped in the pub, the march had moved on. We watched on the TV as BBC News described scenes of "violence" against such inanimate objects as windows and cash machines, trotting out various commentators to wonder why the police weren't more effective with the "law and order" of bashing people's faces in.

Eventually, many ended up rallying outside or joining the UK Uncut occupation of Fortnum and Mason. There, again, we saw the police fulfill its role upholding the state's monopoly of violence, containing people even as they ended the sit-in of their own accord.

But if you wanted to witness police brutality (and media bias) at its height, you had to watch the coverage of the Trafalgar Square occupation. Those who took over the space were not, even if you accepted the mainstream definitions of violence and direct action, thugs or hooligans. They were revellers, building fires and setting up campsites in order to make a stand for 24 hours.

This, after being made a fool of by anarchists earlier in the day, was more than the police could tolerate. Reports from those in the area came, via Twitter, of journalists being forcibly removed before the protesters were kettled and attacked. Both Sky and BBC News showed lines of police and, beyond them, people doing nothing much at all that could threaten law and order. But their rhetoric went on as though the police were valiantly battling a dissident army intent on carnage and murder. A BBC newscaster, talking to Laurie Penny from inside the kettle, chastised her to "be absolutely objective about this" when she challenged the official narrative.

All of which, incidentally, was broken up with interludes from Libya. There, those opposing the government don't have plastic bottles, sticks, red-and-black flags, or catchy chants. They have machine guns. As it happens, I agree with them fighting tooth-and-nail to oust Gaddaffi. But seeing the media cheerlead them whilst describing domestic protesters as "hooligans," "thugs," and "criminal mobs" should be eye-opening for anybody not already familiar with the standards of established power.

However, I won't labour the point about the press and the establishment. Nor about the TUC and the absurdity of the reformist, social-partnership position. I've done that numerous times before, and anybody who wants to read it can do so here, here, and here, for instance.

The important point is that whilst the aim of local protests is to draw people in to a movement as something to build from, national protests need to be built to. The sheer weight of effort required to build up numbers that means something needs to come out of them other than a passive march from A to B and some speeches at the end. Break-away marches and direct action as an expression of class anger are more than justified in that respect.

But even so, they mean and accomplish nothing if that is the end of it. If anarchists went to London for a riot and that's that, there was no point. However, if we are able to push the momentum of the direct action into a broader movement of active resistance, then it becomes a genuinely pivotal event.

What has to follow next is to build from attacks upon the economy in the middle of London to attacks upon the economy as a whole. We are already active on the picket lines of striking workers, fighting our own bosses and showing solidarity with the struggles of others. There have also been occupations of closing services, and moderate examples of economic blockades which could be far more effective if fired with militancy.

The point now is to turn them from outstanding events into the norm, not as part of an "argument," but as a tactic. If we want the government to back down, the cuts must become the more expensive option. We have to make the country ungovernable.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

It's finally here!

As I write this, I'm on the train down to London Euston. From there, I'll be taking the tube to join the radical worker's bloc on the South London feeder march. What happens after that is anybody's guess.

Where possible, I'll tweet what's happening. No doubt many others will too, so if you're not on the march you should be able to follow with ease what's going on, and beyond the official reporting of the mainstream media. There's lots going on, from several feeder marches and blocs to UK Uncut planning to shut down Oxford Street, so it's worth keeping an eye on.

For my part, contrary to the police/state line, I'm not out for "violence" or a "riot."

Do I believe that a militant challenge to the state is necessary? Absolutely. If we don't make the cuts impossible to implement, or at least the more costly option, they will go ahead. No matter how much people petition those in power. That said, punching a cop or lobbing a petrol bomb is not a radical challenge to the foundations of society. Perhaps necessary in the face of attack, as a legitimate act of self-defence, but hardly an end in itself.

But, as I say, what happens next remains to be seen. Either way, it is bound to be interesting to say the least. So stay tuned!
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

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.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

On the university picket lines

The following is cross-posted from the Liverpool Solidarity Federation blog.

Today, Liverpool Solidarity Federation visited the UCU picket lines in Liverpool City Centre to show our support for those coming out on strike.

Whereas Tuesday’s strike had been over attacks on pensions, today’s was in protest at the threats to members’ jobs. An 80% cut in teaching budgets from the government means that 40,000 jobs are at risk. This represents not only an attack on jobs but also on the education sector as a whole, as pickets were keen to stress when they handed leaflets to students urging them not to attend lectures.

One picket on Brownlow Hill told us that the area was a lot quieter than it would normally be first thing in the morning. There had been good support from UCU members, however by the same token the density of non-union members amongst the staff meant that there were still people going in to teach.

There was almost a disappointed resignation to this fact, and to the broader number of students not respecting picket lines, in some places. Combined with the sheer volume of university entrances, this meant that there were a lot of tiny picket lines spread across a large area, with individual strikers handing out leaflets – one aimed at staff, one aimed at students. At some entrances it was students from the Merseyside Network Against Fees and Cuts who were the picket line.

Liverpool SF's ad hoc lecture hall picket
When 10 o’clock arrived, we found ourselves by a lecture theatre that had no picket line in front of it. With students due to attend lectures at this time, we put practical solidarity into action and formed the picket ourselves. This allowed us to engage with the students and to ask them to show support by refusing to attend lectures. We were able to turn several small groups and individuals away, though far more people crossed when in large masses. Nonetheless, it brought home the message that this was not a normal day and hopefully has encouraged people to think hard about the attacks we’re facing as a class at present and the need to stand together.

Particularly gratifying was seeing one large number who refused to honour the picket line have to walk back out again because their lecturer was on strike anyway.

After this, we visited several other picket lines to express our support and offer solidarity, before heading to the rally at University Square. There, the message was the same – we are facing attacks as a class, and workers from all sectors and students need to stand together against them. There were no calls for militant direct action, but there is certainly a growing realisation amongst rank-and-file workers that we need to make the cuts the more expensive option if we want the government to back down.

Liverpool Solidarity Federation will continue to support workers in struggle on the streets, in occupations, and on the picket lines. To defeat the attacks by the government, we need working class unity and the will to make the cuts impossible to implement.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The English Defence League is not a human rights organisation

The English Defence League are still trying to push the "we're a human rights organisation" line. They're now even going so far as to threaten action through the Press Complaints Commission against any media outlet that refers to them as "far-right." So great is their delusion.

Should any media now refer to the EDL as "Far Right" or associated terms with negative or extreme conotations, without providing justifying evidence and giving the EDL a right to reply, as they are required to do by Press Complaints Commission (PCC) Editors' Code section 1-i and 1-ii (Accuracy) & Section 2, we will have to consider an official complaint to the PCC.

As the EDL has a large following among ethnic minorities, different religions and differing sexualities, who are happy to stand up for the England they want to live in, describing these people as "Far Right" is inaccurate, insulting and morally wrong. The EDL has an obligation to protect its supporters from this accusation and will act accordingly.
However, given that the title of the press release is "The EDL Is A Human Rights Organisation," they are hardly ones to throw stones about accuracy of terms.

As I noted when I dissected their mission statement, "if I was inclined to sell the group to non-members, to make it credible, the last phrase I would ever use is "human rights organisation." At least not to anybody who had the slightest clue what a human rights organisation actually does."

There are a number of reasons why, but key is the fact that, "as an organisation, the EDL do not pass out advice and information, engage in legal work, lobby MPs and provide briefings to parliament, or utilise petitions as part of their campaigning. In fact, I think shouting "Allah is a paedo" and "we hate Pakis more than you" is probably the extent of their "lobbying.""

On the contrary, however, the traits of a far-right organisation fit them perfectly.

Taking the Wikipedia definition that they cite, far-right politics "commonly include authoritarianism, nativism, racism and xenophobia." Such as going to Asian areas of big cities and attacking people, homes, and businesses, or issuing threats to Asian taxi drivers, perhaps?

The defenition that they claim doesn't fit them also "include[s] fascism, Nazism and other ultra-nationalist, religiously extreme or reactionary ideologies."

This only makes the point more obvious given that the organisation is saturated with nationalist symnbols and icons, from their constant flag-waving to the George Cross facemasks and the emblem ripped off from the Templars. Their reactionary stance is also hard to doub when they do things such as threatening Christmas mayhem on the back of tabloid myths.

Thus, if the EDL demands that they are not referred to as far-right "without providing justifying evidence and giving the EDL a right to reply," I invite journalists the world over to recycle and re-use the above as they see fit. For, to repeat my own conclusion from last time I covered this, "whilst they may be refining their rhetoric," the English Defence League "remain fundamentally a fascist organisation. Not a human rights one."

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Quote of the day...

The thousands of trade union members coming on Saturday from across the country, along with the representatives of service users, and countless other voluntary and community groups who oppose the cuts, know that the objective of this demonstration is to send a strong message to the government through our unity and a huge turn-out. I want nothing to distract from that.
This was not the rallying cry of a militant trade union boss, leading the fightback against the government. (Even if you believed in the existence of such a mythical creature.) It was an utter, bald lie by a self-aggrandising collaborator defiantly maintaining a death-grip on his delusions.

There is nothing new in his statement. We know that talk of "distracting" from the "strong message" is a red herring, because society is "primarily a power struggle, not a moral argument." As such, Barber's "united message to government ministers" will inevitably fall on deaf ears. Only by tipping the balance of class forces, putting the economy under seige and making the country ungovernable so that implementing the cuts becomes the more expensive option, do we stand a chance of victory.

Likewise, we know that the police's "duty to facilitate our right to protest" is nothing of the sort. The police's role is to maintain the states monopoly of violence, "exercised to defend the privilege of the propertied minority." As such, aside from ignoring the realities of power in liberal democracy, Barber's claim of "our responsibility to run a well-organised and disciplined event" is a pre-emptive capitulation to the ruling class. It is an agreement to stage-manage protest, and box it into the extremely narrow parameters of acceptable dissent. Challenging established power is quite simply not an option.

The problem for Barber and the TUC is that, whether they like it or not, they're mobilising class anger in London, a million strong. He can do an Aaron Porter and denounce "violence" after the fact, but must know he is likely to face roughly the same response. As such, what we are witnessing is a concerted demobilisation effort, aimed at deflating the March for the Alternative into the wet fart of an event it was originally conceived as.

The only problem he has is that he's moved far too late. Because plans and mobilisations for widespread disruption and direct action are already in place.

UK Uncut have their sights set on Oxford Street. There are plans for coordinated flash mobs to shut down London. Despite being officially disowned by the TUC, the various feeder marches continue to grow and there will be a number of anarchist and radical blocs on both them and the main procession. Full details are listed on the Freedom Press website here.

Most importantly, whilst the human rights organisation Liberty is thoroughly compromised by its collaboration with the police, there will be genuinely independent legal observers there. The Legal Defence Monitoring Group, Green and Black Cross, and FITwatch will all have a presence, and they and others will be offering legal advice and bust cards to protesters. Not to mention doing what Liberty will undoubtedly fail to do - monitoring the activities of the police and acting to warn and protect people faced with state violence.

But it is not just the police who we need to keep a close eye on. Senior stewards will be sharing intelligence with police, who will have access to their radio systems. Route stewards have been trained as a "first response" to "troublemakers," alerting senior stewards and the police. The entire "official" stewarding and legal observer operation is part of the policing operation, even to the point of having a seat in central command.

Brendan Barber, along with the Met, is "confident that our planning and well-trained steward team" means that, whilst dissidents cower under the blows of police truncheons, the struggle against the cuts dies by his hands. We have a duty to disappoint him.

Divergent fates in the Middle East

The western bombing campaign in Libya has given the western media the perfect excuse to fall head-first into war porn. We have long expected it of the Scum, but the BBC are in on it too. With the debacle of Iraq behind us, war is in season once more.

The Independent - which after Iraq has a reputation has an "anti-war" paper - ponders "the sensitive politics of humanitarian intervention" and urges the West to "win the propaganda war." Some might say that they've already won it. The narrative that this is a "humanitarian intervention" is unchallenged in the mainstream media. The paper which once labelled the inquiry into Dr David Kelly's death a "whitewash" is now concerned "if civilian deaths are verified" only because "undermines the legitimacy of the intervention."

Before the intervention began, there was some disagreement on this issue. The United States and EU originally opposed a no-fly zone because they weren't quite ready to play all their cards. As soon as it became obvious that Gaddafi was too much of a liability to play his former role for western oil interests, the elite consensus swung neatly against him.

Those liberal commentators who remain against intervention call this bombing "hypocrisy." They argue that "the contrast with the western treatment of the rest of the region could not be more stark," pointing to Saudi intervention in Yemen and Bahrain, and the lack of support for suppressed protests elsewhere in the Middle East. They're right, of course. But this discrepancy isn't hypocritical. It's consistent with the guiding principle of the foreign policy deployed by all world powers: to serve the interests of the political and economic elites.

As such, I've stated previously and reiterate here that "rather than speculating on the power plays of the ruling classes and presuming benevolent motives that aren't there, we should be taking the side and agitating in the interest of ordinary people. Everywhere. Always."

This remains true. Especially given that revolts, uprisings, and clashes between the people and the state continue across the Middle East even as the media gorges itself on Libya. In Saudi Arabia, a protest demanding the release of political prisoners was met only with arrests. In Syria, the military has fired on demonstrations and more troops have been deployed in continuing efforts to quell the unrest.

More positively, people in Yemen have seen army units deployed to protect them. As President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared that "the great majority of the Yemeni people are with security, stability and constitutional law," a significant number of military commanders and ministers defected.

Major General Ali Mohsen Saleh declared "our peaceful support of the youth revolution and their demands and that we will fulfil our duties." Unlike his Syrian and Libyan counterparts, he feels that the army's role is as "an integral part of the people, and protectors of the people." This gives the Yemeni uprising a much greater chance of success, though in the aftermath we will no doubt discover whether the army's "peaceful support" is revolutionary fervour or just pragmatism.

All of this fits with my previous predictions that "the result [of popular uprisings] could be radically different in each locality." In Egypt and Tunisia, it saw the ousting of dictators, though the maintenance of the same rough infrastructure they presided over. Elsewhere, protests have been met with brutal violence or concessions have been offered to head off the possibility of demonstrations. And in Libya, of course, protests became an armed insurrection and civil war which has now attracted western bombs.

Whatever happens next, it remains true that there is only one consistent approach for working class militants to take. It is the approach that leads to both opposing western intervention and supporting the struggle against Gaddaffi. That is, support for the masses of ordinary people, in their struggle against all rulers.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Calling Danny Alexander's bluff

Writing in the Guardian, Liberal Democrat chief treasury secretary Danny Alexander claims that, "once you take all the coalition's personal tax changes into account, everyone earning under £35,000 will be better off." The point of this post is pretty much to declare this as bollocks.

First of all, let's look at what he calls "the first big step" towards the goal "that no one should pay any tax on the first £10,000 they earn." This was to "increasing the [tax-free income] threshold by £1,000, from £6,475 under Labour to £7,475 this year." As a result, "from next month, almost a million of the lowest paid won't pay any tax at all."

As the lower tax rate is 20%, this means that people will pay £200 less income tax a year. Or, if you will, £16.66 a month. This isn't to be sniffed at when you're on a low income, it's true. But it hardly amounts to dragging people out of poverty. But this is counterbalanced by an increase in National Insurance rates from 11% to 12%, and the withdrawal of tax credits from those earning more than £6,420 going from 39% to 41%. All of which increases the marginal tax rate for someone earning a quarter of the national average earnings of £26,000 goes up to 73%. So much for not paying any tax at all.

This is not all. If you take into account that VAT has risen from 17.5% to 20%, the estimated 6.5% rise in food prices, and the sharp rise in fuel and energy prices which has prompted the chancellor to promise a duty freeze, the picture becomes starker. Not least because, workers - if they get a pay rise at all - are getting raises which amount to an average 2.9% cut against an inflation rate of 5.1%.

Of course, a pedant might point out that Alexander wrote only about workers being better off in relation to "personal tax changes." But, aside from this not being true anyway, trying to argue this in isolation from broader policies and trends is akin to saying "let them eat iPads."

Likewise, when Alexander insists that the Lib Dems should be judged "on how we deliver our own agenda," he is asking us to take a single point in isolation. Even taking this sophistry at face value, his claim crumbles on the barest examination. Putting it into the broader context of he and his party collaborating with a period of heightened class warfare in which people are finding it ever harder to make ends meet, the judgement he seeks only becomes harsher.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Destroying the myth of Labourism is integral to building effective class struggle

Joe Anderson, Liverpool's council leader, has given four Sure Start centres in Liverpool a 12-month reprieve from closure. This comes after Ed Miliband told the Federation of Small Businesses that Anderson "is doing a fantastic job in trying to protect against the impact of public sector cuts." Miliband is wrong, and it remains true that unity with people like Anderson would choke the life out of effective class struggle.

The reason that the Labour Party leader singled out Anderson for such (undeserved) praise was to head off criticism by David Cameron. The Prime Minister accused Anderson and Liverpool City Council of "politically motivated" cuts, claiming that they had imposed more drastic cuts than necessary to undermine his government.

Whilst Cameron accusing anyone else making cuts of being politically motivated is more than a bit rich, there is also a degree of truth to it. After all, Anderson reacted with fury when Liverpool's Lib Dem contingent tabled an amendment to the city's budget that would have reduced the cuts by £1 million. This was hardly a radical move when the cuts would still have totalled £90m, and was almost certainly a play for electoral credibility. But responding to a proposal to save Sure Start centres and moderate care for the elderly by claiming it is based on "Alice in Wonderland" maths is not the act of an anti-cuts champion.

When you add in that the Lib Dems' reasoning for the amendment was that they "could not support the budget as it stood with the proposed closure of four Surestart children’s centres in West Derby, Hunts Cross, Childwall and Allerton," Anderson's cynicism becomes more apparent. They are, after all, the same four centres he has just granted a 12-month lifeline to.

Of course, it goes without saying that this reprieve is to be welcomed. Those struggling to save the centres deserve our solidarity in their fight and I sincerely hope that they succeed in keeping them open.

However, to believe this chance they have been given comes from the City Council's good will, or anything other than a calculated slice of realpolitik with local elections coming up in May, is guilty of the most staggering naivety.

That said, it remains a fact that illusions in the Labour Party are amongst the most significant hurdles to building effective working class militancy. For example, LabourList reports that "since the general election, Young Labour membership in the North West has risen by over a thousand." More and more young people are buying the fairy tale that "the Labour Party is still fighting for them," and "nowhere is this more evident than in the North West."

This can only be seen as a significant failure of the radical, libertarian left. More and more young people are waking up to the attacks that we all face, and the importance of class solidarity. Yet we are just watching as that spirit, that potential, is led down the blind alley of Labourism.

There needs to be a much greater effort, not only to put forward the argument against this approach, but also to present a viable alternative. Online and in books, there is plenty of material arguing in favour of an anarchist worldview for those who go looking for it. But those willing to do that are nearly always already won over to the cause. In the case of everyone else, we should be out there looking for them.

To be fair, this does happen to a significant extent. Liverpool SolFed, certainly, have always tried to produce materials advocating anarcho-syndicalist aims and methods (PDF) to distribute to people, whilst our comrades in Brighton have even gone so far as to hunt out unorganised workplaces to inform workers of their rights and how to fight for them. Certainly, of late, anarchists have been far more effective and active in spreading our ideas than we've been perceived to be in the past.

But much more still needs to be done. Joe Anderson is only the most visible and obvious face of the Labour Party's duplicity, and there needs to be a push to make sure more people are aware of what they really stand for. This includes those at a rank-and-file level who have already fallen for the con and thrown their lot in with Labour.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Spontaneous demonstration called on Facebook attracts half a million in Lisbon

The following account comes from

Following the events of Tunisia, Egypt and other Southern Med States where a popular people’s movement was started over the Facebook and Social networks, a small group of Portuguese youth started up a Facebook page-calling for a million people march on the main street in Lisbon, Avenida da Liberdade, for March 12th 2011, to fill up the entire street. They called themselves the “Geracao A Rasca” or the “Angry Generation”.

Most people thought it was a joke but the emails, Twitters and SMSs went on and on and went around until lots of people began to take it seriously. Political Parties, unions and most of the press ignored it but it just gathered force. Other emails were circulating at the same time about a possible popular demo in Zimbabwe and also in Angola (both quickly repressed), with very little mention in the press.

Portugal is going through an economic crisis like Greece and Ireland and the IMF are at the door, although like what happened in Ireland very recently, the ruling Socialist Party is in denial (In the Nile as us Irish would say). Merkal denies it and says that Germany/France are not forcing Portugal into any agreement but just like in Ireland it is only a question of what percentage the country will have to pay, open markets have now risen to a 7.3% bet on Portugal and the EU can offer 6%, the same figure as in Ireland –which after the recent elections is now trying to renegotiate this figure. Portugal’s economic madness was not based on the foolhardy bank loans to property builders and speculators like in Ireland but on crazy infrastructural investments like the proposed third bridge across the Lisbon Tagus River, a third unneeded airport for Lisbon and the TVG fast train service linking France and Portugal across Spain. Portugal now has more motorways per population than England and huge vanity construction projects like the ugly Aquarium Project which cost billions near Lisbon and which turned out to be just huge white elephants.

Though Portugal may have changed into ‘a modern consumer society’, people are shit poor, there are huge pockets of poverty hidden behind the glitzy veneer of modern hotels and golf courses, there are no jobs, no cheap labour. Immigration has always, like in Ireland, been a major problem but unlike the Irish they don’t have the skills or the language to go to such places as Australia or Canada. And of course who would want to go to the US anymore, what with their paranoia about terrorism and Mad Hatter Tea Parties, this despite the illusory hopes inspired by Obama.

So in Portugal there is no choice (well, where is there?) The left parties, the Communist Party (PCP) which has had a long struggle against Fascism and has just celebrated its 90th birthday, operate within narrow boundaries. It works through the traditional trade union methods but is always very cautious to not to lose political credibility and so turns to a conservative methodology (although the unions, especially the teachers’s unions have been particularly radical). The far left which have now aligned into a Left Alliance (Bloco do Esquerda, BE) play the parliamentary game while pretending to be revolutionary, but have really nothing to say.

So those young people whose parents were revolutionary in 74-75 during the “Carnation Revolution” have nowhere to turn to. They are a lost generation, the “geracao a rasca” and have no choice but to go out on the streets and shout out loud “Enough is Enough”. So while in Greece there are still political parties/trade unions that can at least call the attention of young people and while Ireland has a language and educational card to play for its migrants, the youth of Portugal have nothing, nothing at all.

This is why some 300,000 according to the police, actually more like half a million people, turned out to a demonstration called on Facebook and which no-one believed would happen. A daughter of a friend called me earlier in the day asking me if I was going, I messaged back to say I was but she said she had no credit on her phone. I did meet up with her and she had a load of Post-Its, those little yellow stickers to hand out to people. Another good friend I met had made up her own little poster saying “Uma Avo a Rasca” (An angry Granny). The demo started on the Avenida at 3 o clock. It started slowly but soon grew huge. Everywhere there were home-produced posters and slogans as well as the slogans which had been suggested on Facebook, Against instability, Music and drums and slowly the whole avenue just filled with half a million people. Pure Magic.

Probably nothing will come of it. Like the huge marches against Blair’s war in Afghanistan. It seems we have to burn down a few buildings before the political class take notice of us. And tomorrow’s news, a Tsunami in Japan or some massacre in Libya or somewhere else (all of which are dreadfully serious) will grab the headlines and make it all seem like nothing. But it wasn’t nothing.

A half a million people marching angrily in a demonstration organised through Facebook is a new phenomenon. The growth of decentralised self-organisation leaves the political parties, the unions and the left with something to think about –their possible eventual obsolescence.

See for more pictures.

An observation on Japan, nuclear energy, and capitalism

As well as shock and empathy, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan have inspired heated political debate. In particular, the fear of catastrophic meltdown and subsequent efforts to reduce the risk, have ignited arguments about whether nuclear energy is a safe and viable power source.

I don't know enough about nuclear energy as a whole to comment on this point. There are a variety of arguments both for and against it, and recent days have seen a rehashing of many of them. However, I'm going to reserve judgement on that issue until I've had the chance to look into it and review the evidence. Instead, with thanks to Adam Ford for bringing it to my attention, I wish to raise a more pressing point.

As Ford puts it;
The Fukushima Daiichi reactors currently being drowned in sea water by the Japanese military have 'Mark 1' containment vessels, which are apparently substandard, but far cheaper than 'Mark 2' vessels. 'Mark 1' has been known to be deficient since the 1970s, when Stephen Hanauer of the US Atomic Energy Commission declared that they should be discontinued due to "unacceptable safety risks". Radiation leaks have been measured at 1 millisevert - ten times the yearly dose correlated with a 1 per cent rise in cancer cases.
Even if we presume nuclear power to be a safe and viable long-term option, it is quite clear that all necessary precautions should be taken to make sure it is utilised safely. Arguing in favour of nuclear power, Greg at The Anti-Politician points out that because nuclear energy "has dangers just like any fuel system," it requires "the massive benefits of modern technology" to utilise it, rather than the "Soviet-era reactors and operative incompetence" that caused Chernobyl.

That the massive benefits of modern technology are not being implemented is just another example of, in Ford's words, "government unwillingness to spend money satisyfing poor people's needs." Hence why "the extent of the crisis which develops out of" any natural disaster "always reveals stark truths about the capitalist system."

As such, one thing we know for certain is that we cannot trust the safety and efficiency necessary to operate nuclear energy to an economic system which incentivises negligence and short-term gain over long-term viability.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Some thoughts on census campaigns

The 2011 census has started dropping through people's doors. Mine is sitting on top of my stove, waiting for me to get around to it. Whilst I procrastinate, huge amounts of money, time, and energy are being spent campaigning upon this form. It's hard to know what to make of it all.

Firstly, there's the ad campaign encouraging us all to fill the form in. "It's essential that you fill it in and help shape what your community really needs," apparently. However, as the census is compulsory, going to all this effort to persuade people to fill it in seems rather redundant. Either have it be mandatory, and leave it at that, or make it a voluntary undertaking and use the adverts to encourage people to take part.

The other significant census campaign is the one being run by the British Humanist Association. Their tagline - "if you're not religious, for God's sake say so" - pretty much covers it. They want people who have no religious affiliation to tick "no religion" on the form.

The reasoning for this is that "the figures on religion produced by the 2001 census gave a wholly misleading picture of the religiosity of the UK" and "approximately cut the number of non-religious people in half." This was because the question "assum[ed] that all participants held a religious belief" and thus "captured some kind of loose cultural affiliation." 70% of respondents claimed to be Christian, "a far higher percentage than nearly every other significant survey or poll on religious belief in the past decade."

According to the campaign, this matters because "the figures collected were used to justify the following policies;"
  • Increase in the number of faith schools
  • The continuation of collective worship in schools
  • The public funding and support of ‘interfaith’ and faith-based organisations above the support offered to secular organisations
  • Suggestions of an increase in the role of faith in Britain under the coalition government
  • The appointments of government advisors on faith
  • Contracting out public services to religious organisations
  • Keeping the 26 Bishops in the House of Lords as of right
  • Continued high number of hours dedicated to religious broadcasting
  • Specific consultation at government and local level with ‘faith communities’ over and above other groups within society
  • Continued privileges for religious groups in equality law and other legislation
All of which are fair points. I have no more love for the privileging of religion in society than the BHA, and have more than once argued against both the rise in faith schools and the division of the working class into mythical homogenous "communities" under the guise of multiculturalism. There is no need to give the state ammo to justify its policies by claiming a religious affiliation when you have none.

However, it would be naive to presume that state policy in this area can be tackled using reason. Where there is statistical evidence which appears to back up the argument being made, it will be used. But the government has not done the things listed above on the back of an apparent demand from a faith-based majority. It has done so because the "culture wars" that such policies generate are beneficial to the ruling class.

I have explained this phenomenon in more depth in The propaganda function of political correctness. However, this passage from Noam Chomsky provides an apt summation;
Educated and privileged sectors, reasoning along Ricardo’s lines, see little problem in the fact that policies are executed in “technocratic insulation,” unimpeded by public interests and concerns. But the population has to be controlled somehow. For obvious reasons, one cannot appeal to them on grounds of the intended effects of the policies that are being implemented. So other methods are required. There are standard devices. Many can simply be locked up or confined to urban slums. Others can be entrapped by artificial “creation of wants” or other forms of diversion. They can be left in confusion and despair by corporate and other propaganda, a huge industry in the United States for many years. Or they can be mobilized in fear and hatred – of foreigners, of one another – or by religious fundamentalist appeals.

To mobilize popular forces, the corporate world has been compelled to resort to what are called “cultural issues.” But its troops are now prepared to fight the “culture war,” as Pat Buchanan and others refer to the various forms of fanaticism they are seeking to engender. That process has opened a “culture gap,” … The CEOs are generally liberal in cultural attitudes. They don’t want their children to be forced to pray in schools or taught “creation science.” They want their daughters to have opportunities. They not only tend to be pro-choice, but about 60% of CEOs are “adamantly pro-choice, agreeing with the statement that `a woman should be able to get an abortion if she wants one, no matter what the reason’.” They do not want to live in a society and culture dominated by Christian fundamentalists, people who worship the Enola Gay or run around with assault rifles, or who debate subtle points about Beast 666 from the Book of Revelations and listen to Pat Robertson explaining how Presidents from Wilson to Bush may have been pawns of “a tightly knit cabal” run by Freemasons and “European bankers,” who seek “a new order for the human race under the domination of Lucifer.” But these are the sectors they are forced to turn to as a popular base for their assault on democracy and human rights.
The British parallel is not (yet) as explicit as in America. We don't have a Bible Belt, or people who take creation as literal fact forming part of mainstream discourse. But we do still have religious temper tantrums by those who claim Christianity is "under attack," outrage over the "gay agenda," and other such outbursts of irrational nonsense. The British religious right is just as tangible as its US counterpart.

This is why, if the census comes back with a more accurate reading of people's religiosity, it will not mark a roll-back of the above initiatives. It will spark a backlash from those dedicated to organised religious anger. Perhaps accusations of "fixing." There may be concessions to the non-religious majority, and there may not. But all of this will be incorporated into the ongoing culture war narrative with ease, and the antagonisms which exist to distract from more pressing realities will continue to fester.

As for helping non-religious people gain official recognition, this is dealt with by NO2ID in their round-up of "the ten worst lies you will be told in the coming weeks;"
Whether a group is "officially recognised" is a political decision, not the same as individuals being located and categorised. 390,127 people recorded their religion as Jedi in 2001; they have yet to be officially recognised. More seriously, the Board of Deputies says the census underestimates British Jews, precisely because some of that community are nervous of officials knowing where they live.
This is not to say that people shouldn't tick "no religion." If you're going to fill out the census, then I'd advise taking the campaigns advice. But we should be under no illusions, certainly not to the tune of £20,000, that this will make any significant impact upon British politics.