Time For Reflection

After the events on Day X (Thursday 9 December), it’s worth taking time out to reflect on what has happened in the last couple of months and how things may pan out. On October 21st, the day the spending review was announced in Parliament, I vividly recall us sitting in a pub on Whitehall after a damp squib of a ‘protest’ rally outside Downing Street, feeling utterly demoralised. In our wildest dreams, we’d never have thought that a movement of not just university students but FE students, school kids and a fair few NEETs would be grabbing the headlines after a series of audacious and militant protests.

In the space of just five weeks, the dynamic of protest against the government’s austerity measures, particularly those relating to education, has changed utterly and let’s be honest, we didn’t see it coming. Despite all the media hype about protests being ‘hijacked’ by anarchists, for a lot of the time, we’ve been watching events unfold from a distance. We’ve been criticised by some elements for not being at the heart of this but to be honest, it’s fantastic that a new generation is being radicalised in such a short time and while we should offer some political context, they seem to be more than capable of developing their own strategies and tactics. While the more experienced hands in the anarchist movement do have a responsibility to offer advice on politics, strategy and tactics, it should just be that – advice and no more. This new movement has to be allowed the time and space to develop its own style and character and what is emerging is for me, one of the most exciting things I’ve seen in years.

The question is, why now? The kids involved in the current movement can see what the future holds for them, and while their political analysis may be patchy, they know enough to see that things are looking bleak. They are coming of age in the midst of an ongoing economic crisis. One which looks set to get worse with at best a jobless ‘recovery’ and what seems ever more likely, the demise of the Eurozone, sovereign debt crises and the ever growing threat of another banking crisis which would throw the economy into utter turmoil. They’re already facing the dire consequences of the first round of austerity cuts that are wrecking their chances of ever accessing higher education. They know they face an unforgiving, viciously competitive job market that will leave many of them out on the margins with no prospects for the future. While the kids may not have a full analysis of the scope of the economic crisis, they know it has the potential to wreck their chances which would explain their audacity and fearlessness – let’s face it, many of them have nothing to lose.

Can we draw any parallels with the 1980s when Thatcher held sway? The short answer is no. Firstly, the economy is in a much worse shape with manufacturing industry gutted, relying instead on the dodgy shenanigans of the financial sector and credit fuelled consumption. Secondly, during most of the 1980s, the state was confident in its institutions, most notably the police. Public order policing in that decade was done from a position of strength, as the police knew they had the backing of a government that was ruthless in pursuit of its ideological aims. The cracks only started to appear towards the end of the decade with mass resistance to the Poll Tax. The current government is an uneasy coalition of Tories and Lib Dems whose sole purpose appears to be placating the financial markets and the banks. Yet at the same time, while they are attempting to pursue the agenda of the financial elites, the government always seems to have one eye on the opinion polls as well, hence the air of uncertainty and backtracking when it comes to implementing policy.

Where does this leave the State with regard to enforcing its will on the people? From the sickening scenes of police brutality with horse charges and protesters being ruthlessly battered by police batons, on the surface it would appear that the state is acting from a position of strength. Yet if you take a look at how the police, particularly the Met, have responded to the series of student protests, every time they’ve been caught on the hop. This is because the state and the police do not know what they are dealing with. The ongoing wave of unrest has come completely out of the blue and the State and its friends in the media do not understand it and as such, cannot formulate a plan to deal with it. So far, they have been reduced to reacting and playing catch up but are still behind events on the streets.

The government is allowing the police, and it seems the Met in particular, off the leash, not from a position of strength but from one of fear. They are utterly clueless as to what’s going on and their only reaction is to lash out harder at each protest in the hope that it will intimidate the kids into acquiescence. The horse charges, the baton charges, police tooled up and dressed up RoboCop style, the extensive use of FIT in a bid to intimidate protesters, the hysterical condemnation in the media – these are not the actions of a government that is confident in itself and its institutions, they are the actions of a government and a State acting from fear. Yet the tactics are not working, far from being intimidated, the kids are coming back every time emboldened and up for it.

To conclude, this isn’t by any means a definitive analysis – it’s a snapshot in time. Given that what has happened so far has caught many people on the hop, to try and predict what is going to happen is difficult to say the least. What can be said is that there is a movement of radicalised kids and young people that has an excitement and promise. Couple that with a State that is acting and reacting from a basis of fear, then what can be said is that there is everything to play for…

32 responses to “Time For Reflection

  1. Whilst there is everything to play for there is also everything to lose. The state will become increasingly violent in its response especially when the nascent movement restricts itself to streetfighting. We need to develop new strategies beyond the demonstration and mobilise a range of resources across the spectrum to maintain the momentum. I guess it’s about staying visible but not detectable- last week’s anonymous group actions being an example of how to really hurt in a more or less random way. It’s probably more appropriate to bring down a bank or two…

    • You misunderstand. This blog is dedicated to maintaining “public” funds flowing. Dole, education, benefits, this blog DEMANDS that the state pay the lot innit. Up the workers, class war etc..

      Anything else would be…er….anarchy

  2. An “anarchist”, annoyed that the state is cutting funding stolen from shelf stackers on minimum wage and handed to the children of Volvo driving solicitors.

    Quite, quite remarkable.

    Anarchists do not tax the poor to pay for the education (via the State) for the likes of Charlie Gilmour.

    REAL anarchy is freedom from the State, not reliance on it. But then what would you know as you stand in line to cash your Giro? Up the workers, eh?

    • Oh do fuck of back to your homebrew and Freeman of the Land cockwankery Old Holborn. My view is, if there is a government and that government insists on taxing me, then I reserve the right to insist they spend those taxes on educating our youth, supporting those in need and generally managing the state in a decent way. NOT handing over all my tax pounds to fucking banks and making me pay for it. Yes, i’d prefer that the government didnt exist but wishing it away will not work. Nor will declaring my self a ‘freeman’ and running away and hiding on some fucking island as you plan to. I’d rather hang about and fight each issue as it arises. Okay with you?

      • Educating our youth in what, PMAC? Reproduction of the same social structures, specialisms and alienated culture that prevents any possibility of change, I’d say. Who do you think will ‘manage the state’, collect the taxes and extort money through the banks tomorrow – you’ve guessed it, the student youth of today!

      • You may as well demand the Slavemaster provide extra rations.

        You are happy to be a slave to the State as long as it houses you, feeds you and “educates” your child how to be slave at no cost to yourself (but naturally someone else, including minimum road sweepers and cleaners).

        Want an education? Read a book. Want a house? Build one. Want freedom from the banks? Don’t have a bank account. All are possible. Mankind has managed 2 million years quite well without diversity coordinators or socialist collectives.

        Instead of genuinely either abandoning the State or refusing to be governed (very easily done) as Libertarians and anarcho capitalists do, you are just violent and angry because YOU are not running the huge state and weilding it’s corporate power on your own vested interests.

        Marxists and Socialists had their attempt at being the Slavemasters during the last century. It didn’t end well, did it?

      • No. I do not believe that that the state should be involved in educating our youth at all, You are missing my point. They are at present and are taxing us to pay for it. Yet they happily give our money away to pay bankers off and charge us more. The state will not disappear because of some hign-minded theory, it will be a single issue that will spark change, be that student fees/EMA, welfare cuts or whatever, I really dont care what it is as long as it brings people out onto the streets.

        Old Holborn you loon – really couldnt give a fuck what you think. But the human race has existed in its present, modern state, for around 50,000 years. Not 2 million.

  3. I am an anarchist. I don’t want state involvement in education as I am not a socialist. Why were so many anarchists involved in protests supporting the involvement of the state in the indoctrination of freeborn children? Bizarre.

    • Yeah, sitting back and fidgeting over noble theories will certainly fuck things right up. Tell me Liam, would there be any financial costs involved in education in an anarchist senario? I’d say no. So why should we sit back and allow students to be charged £9k a year under capitalism? Are you happy enough for the government to take our money and give it to failed gambler bankers, then to make up for the shortfall after they gave all that money away, charge us even fucking more on top?

  4. Do you know what an anarchist is? Thought not, But that’s typical of the left to steal the language and twist it to your own ends, maybe change the name to something less misleading try Whitechaple Socialists.
    I feel for you being lied to an all but that’s politics get used to it. But dint ask me to pay for you, pay for your self, stand on your own two feet and be proud of your achievements, you did it on your own with put scrounging off other pepole

    • Twats
      It’s quite plainly you, and people like you, who don’t know what anarchism is.

      • It appears that you consider anarchy to be “not fighting to be free of the State but fighting for a larger slice of it yourselves”

        You and the bankers have more in common than you’d think

      • Says the cunt who wants to take all his money and run away to a desert island and live like a fucking hobo brewing his own beer. Please, for the love of god, go now OH. Why do you waste eveyone’s time making completely pointless arguments when you clearly couldnt give a fuck about anyone else?

  5. Really liked the honesty and insight of the post.

    That the old guard was caught napping surprises me not at all. I was in London recently for the anarchist bookfair. Saw familiar faces and friends from twenty years ago, a little greyer and wider of girth, but still there among the booted and black-hooded. Left halfway through the day demoralised and depressed by the comfy, self-congratulatory glow of the gathering. I don’t mean to diss any of the active individuals or the activities that they’re involved in, but the feeling of stale, off-the-boil, intellectualised disconnection did my head in. Your mention of damp squib rang a bell. Once there were such fireworks.

    I too celebrated on hearing of the spontaneous revolt, having despaired of it ever coming from that quarter. I’d intended starting a blog on the fifth of November, but was unable to for various reasons. I started it on the twenty fifth with a cheer for those ‘revolting students’.

    You’re right and, like I say, refreshingly honest about what ‘the old guard’ have to offer, and that the new branch of the tree needs ‘time and space to develop its own style and character’. I also think that we have something to learn from them. Already their use of technology not available back in the pre-Poll Tax and Poll Tax days has meant that, in addition to the increased ability for lightning mass organisation, the effectiveness of the government media mouth has been much lessened, while those present can provide a more accurate ‘citizen journalism’ that bypasses the state filters and reaches anybody with a computer or phone, which these days is just about everyone.

    It’s no wonder the state is scared. It’s too long since the government and its street soldiers were forced onto their back foot. Beating up teenaged students can’t be made to look good in any media, and that time-tested and effective government counter strategy of agent provocateurs won’t be available to them until they can recruit some teen-aged (looking) provocateurs.

    It’s great, and I’m excited too, in a way I so wasn’t a few weeks before. All is not lost.

  6. **@all you people above who claim to understand anarchism better than anarchists do, let me clarify a few things.**

    Anarchism is a political philosophy that strives to achieve total freedom and, subsequently, abolish authority.
    Anarchists understand that, at present, the biggest barriers to our freedom are the capitalist economic system and the nation-state that supports it.
    Anarchists, therefore, are mainly concerned with their abolition by means of revolutionary direct action (strikes, occupations, riots, sabotage, re-appropriation/expropriation etc.), self-organisation in the economic sphere and community control of resources.
    However, this is not an esoteric argument. WAG are not wealthy scholars living detached from society. WAG are ordinary people who, like those on the demonstrations over the past few weeks, dont want to see their lives get any more difficult than they already are. We dont want to have less opportunities to learn, no food to eat, no roof over our heads. As people who value freedom, we fight against any scenario in which we become more oppressed. Government austerity measures – cuts to education, healthcare, benefits, housing etc – are just that. To misinterpret the movement against the cuts as being pro-state is a fallacy. Just like the Anti-Poll Tax Movement before, it is far too diverse to claim any single, political voice. Therefore, to claim that Anarchists are in some way contradicting themselves when they get involved in such a movement is incorrect. On the contrary, no Anarchist would stand back and allow themselves to be further crushed under the heel of state and capital without putting up a FUCKING GOOD FIGHT!

    EVERYONE TO THE STREETS (A)

  7. A…..

    Your argument falls flat. The first few comments nailed it. If you’re a socialist just admit it.

  8. For me, anarchism means freedom from oppression.

    There are many, many forms of oppression in the world from sexism to ageism to racism yada yada yada. Yes there is state oppression, and in anarchist endgame the state oppression would be no more, the state would be superfluous. But to argue endgame is childish and pathetic rhetoric, we live in a constant struggle where political movements need to be made bit by bit dependent on the situation, like a game of chess. There are much more oppressive systems out there than the state, i.e that of the corporation. In fact some parts of the state represent a quasi-democratic barrier between the workers and the corporations, making law many things that anarchists and other social activists fought and died for. Protection of children gained in victorian times by philanthropists, labour day, blah blah blah. Removing the entire state tomorrow before first removing corporate oppression would leave the workers to the wolves in the form of an anarcho-capitalist world. We have to be sensible about what forms of oppression there are, and the root cause of that oppression. Contrary to popular opinion anarchism is not the opposite of capitalism but the opposite of fascism and therefor by definition, something that can not be forced upon people. I will stand up for the small gains made in our rich history, those small concessions in state, and continue to fight oppression in whatever way it manifests itself whether it is children being run down by horses or whatever.

    Freedom from oppression. Think about it. Whats wrong with working towards it? Whats wrong with pointing out the ills in the world and standing strong against them? Why not try every day to work towards a fairer and more just society? Think a little. Gandhi was a self identifying anarchist.

    Im sure I could articulated that better if I had more than 30 seconds and spell check.

    Solidarity.

  9. It is (and has to be) a game of chess but we need to identify where the roots of oppression are and whether the state depends on the economic order to legitimise its oppression or the other way round. Or both?
    Anarchism isn’t just a critique of the state, it’s a critique of exploitation in whatever form and we can’t ‘forgive’ democracy because of the Factory Act.

  10. So this does not descend into nihilism, those who feel angry need something positive to work towards. At the moment, I think a sizeable amount of people are angry at the retreat of the state as a base of material support. Anarchism needs to be understood as an alternative to both market slavery and state oppression offering empowerment for the individual and community. It’s definitely NOT an appeal for state provision of higher education or higher unemployment benefits. That said, I don’t think that anarchists should not be present at these demonstrations, which highlight the contradictions between the promises of the system and the reality, which is scarcity and inequality.

    We can never have free education for all in this system and if we want it, we’ve got to have revolutionary change both with the overthrow of the government and a radical reconception of what education is (something that does not begin and end with a reading list and an exam, but perpetual discovery and the sharing of knowledge and a breakdown of the hierarchy between educator and students). That’s what needs to be pressed: anarchist education freed of the constraints of state and money. I also think that anarchists should, in a spirit of mutual aid, start their own self-educating study groups. I don’t mean in the form of SWP-style “Marxist University” where people are told what party line to believe and what Lenin said in 1917, but practical skills that can liberate us from a money economy and welfarism. On the premise that we all have something to learn and something to teach, why not ask the youth who are angry what they want to learn and what they can offer others? And then organise an autonomous space to learn and teach?

  11. I’d also like to point out that there are as many anarchist viewpoints as there are anarchists. There is no such thing as ideological ‘purity’. No-one is going to agree on everything, from ideology to tactics. But let’s not diss each other and doom ourselves to fractious defeat, like the Trots. OK, so I don’t agree with everything WAG is doing, but rather than attack people who are acting with good intent and get bitchy and narky it’s up to me to do my bit and voice my point constructively. I suggest others do the same.

  12. The paradox of opposing education cuts, while at the same time questioning the nature of state-organised education, is being discussed all the time in the occupations and organising groups. As for Old Holborn’s problems with people taking the state-funded part of the social wage, we know the answer – “Do they owe us a living? Of course they fucking do!”

    • No one owes me a living. I give nothing to them, I take nothing from them.

      If don’t want to be slave, stop demanding perks from the slavemaster.

      • While they insist on taking money from me, they do owe me a living. I’ll also insist on holding them to account on how they spend my money.
        Speaking of slavemasters, how many minimum wage staff do you have these days?

  13. Great article. The State is acting out of fear and ignorance as is its media, with very few exceptions. They certainly don’t begin to understand, but nor do many people who could be sympathetic. A short description of what anarchis is would be helpful as a leaflet in future demonstrations.

  14. I sympathise with your intentions in part, I really do and am glad the youth are taking a stand. The bankers need hideous punishment – taxes, removal of sickening levels of bonues, I could go on. Those atop the Ivory Towers hand out OUR taxes to those who are already rolling in it. They control a police force under threat of cuts too to adminster a few beatings to those doing nothing but trying to correct this injustice!! I don’t agree with violence against people from police nor protestor, but when the police attempt to silence us and are rude and agressive (the verbal provocation I recieved as a completely peaceful protestor Thursday was astounding) it’s no wonder people lash out!

    A letter to an MP or a vote in the ballot box is just not worth the paper it’s printed on these days.

    We risk being oppressed by this filthy Tory (might as well foget the useless Liberal half) Government. I don’t think the answer lies in complete Anarchy – the answer lies in genuine equality of opportunity. But as we vested any hope of that in the Fib Dems and have been monumentally let down , the options are near exhausted.

    I still condone hurting other people physically but thank you for standing up against this hideous Government and the oppression of the working classes!

    And in reality what’s a few broken windows for crying out loud – Cameron’s kid’s pocket money could probably replace those Treasury windows lol. A slight digression, but I do think that Charles and Cowmilla’s car was deliberately placed in the midst of protestors. It’s a bit of a slap in the face to place a car that could probably fund a degree at £9000 three times over amongst working class students that risk losing everything- a clever rouse to attract negative right-wing media coverage and satiate the press?
    Anyways, sorry to invade your page seeing as I’m not a complete anarchist, but yea just saying saying good work really!

  15. The ‘state” is controlled by churches and corporations. The focus should be to get both out of government. Both are using their power to enrich their own coffers. Both were created to serve the needs of the people. Both are using the people to serve their own agenda.

    • For anarchists, it’s not simply about getting one particular group out of government but about abolishing government and all other power structures. The so-called ‘working class’ are no more to be trusted with the state power than churches or corporations. It is power relationships that are the problem not who is in control.

  16. What is the difference between an anarchist and an insurgent? Doesn’t the use of obscenities weaken by some weaken the arguments of all?

  17. My hypothesis is that anarchy would substitute violent bullies for economic bullies – not only would be used but we would also be physically abused. Passive resistance is a`more rational solution

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