By rail and coach the WAGs made their way to Birmingham on Sunday 3rd October to join the anarchist contingent on the Right To Work (sorry, that should read the Right To Be Exploited) protest organised by the usual suspects in the unions and on the left. The anarchist contingent with a reasonably healthy turnout of around 100 was made up of Black Bloccers, the IWW, Hereford Heckler and Class War.
The Right to Work march was the usual predictable gesture of marching from point A to point B along too many backstreets and too few main streets with a decent number of onlookers. There were hardly any Tories to heckle or abuse although the few that did venture past got an ear bashing!
The march simply ended up in a coach park so people could be spirited away as soon as possible to leave the streets of Birmingham safe for the Tory scumbags. The protest was activity of the lowest common denominator in that it gave people the chance to participate in what was essentially a totally futile gesture that on the following day, received hardly any coverage in the mainstream media. Dragging people onto a walk, following a route agreed with the West Midlands Police, through the backstreets of Birmingham on a Sunday afternoon in the autumn rain and drizzle isn’t going to change a thing.
The noisy and combative anarchos did try to make a difference but the overwhelming police presence at certain key points, most notably near the entrance to the Secure Zone and the conference venue ruled out any attempt at large scale disruptive activity. Having said that, the anarchos and a few others stopped at the entrance in an eyeball to eyeball stand off with the police for long enough to make them more than a tad nervous. Moving on from that point we had a line of police dedicated to walking alongside and keep their beady eyes upon us. It was at this point we noticed the deployment of police dog handlers in some of the sidestreets. Cue for one of the funnier chants of the march – ‘keep the animals off the dogs’ – for some strange reason, the plod were not too impressed with this!
Approaching an underpass and an elevation to the ring road, us anarchos seized the opportunity to break from the main march and swiftly make our way up the elevation. Given the overwhelming number of cops, they soon caught up with us and after some pushing and shoving plus a fair bit of verbal going back and forth, kettled us in. Once we’d been kettled in, moral support was offered by a number of other protesters who weren’t going to move until the kettle was lifted. One thing that struck me was how unconfident and nervous a lot of the plod and their commanders were which probably explained their exaggerated reactions to the slightest provocation from our side. On reflection, that’s something that should have been exploited. However, the point is to not get kettled and that means being more flexible and thinking on our feet so we set the agenda.
Once the kettle had been shuffled down to the coach park where all the other marchers were dispersing, it was off to the pub and a fine one it was – a classic back street boozer with no pretensions but a friendly welcome. Also a delighted publican and barman who saw their Sunday takings soar – sterling work from them was rewarded with a whip round for a tip. After sustenance further into the city centre, it was back to the station the slow way to seek out as many Tories as possible to give an ear bashing to. Onto the train and some more ear bashing for the few Tories who were going back to London that night. The really sour note was the train being locked down at Euston, the police coming on to investigate an alleged ‘assault’ on a Tory and then a pointless arrest.
Did the day achieve anything? To be brutally honest, no. The ruling class is set on imposing drastic austerity cuts that will wreck our lives in order to keep their rotten system staggering on through its crisis. They will not notice a few marches, regardless of how large they may be. Direct action on a mass scale is the only thing that will make them pay attention. Suffice to say, when they do start to pay attention, that’s when the battle will really begin!
Workers, claimants, tenants – regardless of who we are or where we are – we all have to fight back in whatever way we can. This means wildcat strikes, occupations, work-to-rules in the workplace supported by solidarity action across the sectors. When the union bureaucrats stand in our way, they have to be swept aside. Evictions from homes have to be resisted by mass community action. Schools threatened with closure have to be occupied. Soaring rents have to be met with rent strikes.
The fightback starts with each and everyone of us. There are many ways in which we can disrupt those in power, starting on our estates, in our communities and workplaces, and taking it onto the streets where they cannot ignore us!