The fall-out from Saturday illustrates the limits of left pluralism


8:14 pm - March 30th 2011

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contribution by Owen from TheThirdEstate

This Saturday marked the point at which the strain finally became too much for this uneasy alliance. Despite universal agreement from everyone from yoghurt-weaving Guardianistas to dyed-in-the-wool Trotskyites on the importance of attending the March for the Alternative, there’s been a noticeable spike in backbiting and recrimination between various stripes of lefty in the aftermath.

You could probably hazard a pretty good guess as to the epithets being flung around: the Black Blocers who caused property damage in the West End are ‘louts’ who undermined the actions of the peaceful majority and only care about making a scene, while commentators who supported the main march and criticised the window-smashing are bourgeois milquetoast dilettantes who find anything more militant than the much-maligned ‘march from A to B’ too scary and radical to get involved with.

Added to that, of course, there’s the extra complication of UKUncut, whose Fortnum and Mason’s occupation has caused further splits in lefty opinion, as some who opposed the Black Bloc’s vandalism supported UKUncut’s non-violent action.

The disagreements about the events on Saturday aren’t just about tactics; they’re also about objectives. That being the case, and contrary to what some have argued, a broad united front actually isn’t desirable for anyone here.

Labour and the TUC are trying to win over mainstream opinion, and if they don’t condemn kicking in the windows of Santander and paint-bombing The Ritz, the rightwing press will demonise and marginalise them as crazy radicals.

Since they’re trying to build support among large swathes of people who aren’t particularly politically engaged and who could easily be driven away by footage like this, that’s clearly something they want to avoid.

Equally, though, there’s not much reason why anyone sympathetic to the Black Bloc would want support for their actions from the assorted soft lefties in Hyde Park – given that the hammers-and-paint-bombs brigade are presumably revolutionary anarchists. Why would they want the endorsement of a bunch of reformist social democrats? Surely Ed Miliband, Brendan Barber et al are all complicit in upholding the capitalist status quo, as far as they’re concerned?

Assuming they have at least some vague awareness of the likely media and popular reaction to TV footage of smashing stuff up and letting off fireworks, they’re pretty clearly not trying to win over wavering moderates to their cause, so why the shock and outrage when some of those moderates take to the airwaves or the web to criticise them?

If it were possible for the movement to remain cohesive and appeal to mainstream public opinion without losing its radical edge, then there wouldn’t be a problem, but the simple fact is that it’s not.

UKUncut have probably been better than anyone at walking this tightrope in recent months, but in trying not to disagree with anyone, all their spokesperson achieved on Newsnight the other night was to come across as evasive and unconvincing.

Of course, in many ways it would be lovely if we could all agree on what the anti-cuts/anti-government protests are trying to achieve and all work together all the time, but given the existence of such massive differences of opinion, a faux-unity where everyone pretends these fundamental disagreements don’t exist is neither attainable nor desirable.

I’m not arguing that hard and soft left can’t ever work together again; of course we can, and absolutely should; the fact that it’s not possible on this occasion doesn’t mean it can never be again. It’s just that pluralism can only go so far, and what happened on Saturday went beyond that.


Owen writes for the Third Estate, which has a longer version of this article.

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Reader comments


What I like about ukuncut is that they demonstrate that you do not need a hierarchy to create actions. Very well organised, they show that anarchist principles are effective.
As a marcher, caught up by the F&M ukuncut action, I was originally disgruntled but realised that, in the end, it was the police overreaction that held us up, noy ukuncut.
The police ignored much of the black bloc action as we can see from the arrest and charged figures; don’t let them (the police and black bloc) drive a wedge between “traditional” activists-and the many non activist first timers- and those who take non violent direct action.

I’ve never known a time when the ‘left’ hasn’t preferred Monty Pythonesque infighting over actually taking on their one true enemy…

Not a comment but more a point of order, and one steeped in irony at that: referring to Trotskyists as ‘Trotskyites’ could certainly be considered backbiting, as its almost universally acknowledged as an insult.

If people were more understanding of eachother and realised that different camps need to pursue different tactics and have different political sensitivities, then we could all continue as a movement quite happily. The problem is when people turn these needs into matters of “principle” and what “The Right” actions should be. And that doesn’t help at all.

See your point but a bit OTT in your conclusions. While much (but certainly not all) of the more radical/hard Left is reluctant to criticise property damage, that doesn’t necessarily mean they regard it as a productive tactic or engage in it themselves. Therefore, once all the dust has settled, this won’t necessarily mean co-operation is impossible with the softer Left (other points of disagreement, such as Labour councils making cuts, may however make co-operation impossible in certain areas).

Where the unbridgeable schism exists is between those who condemn property damage and those who are determined to engage in it – but the latter group is fairly small compared to the entire anti-cuts movement.

The driver of much anti-cuts campaigning so far has been at local level – and where local anti-cuts groups stretch from the soft Left to the anarchist Left, they’ll be trying to ‘figure it out’ between themselves over the next few weeks. Some will be able to, some won’t and as a result will stop working with each other. But this is not the Great Schism you imply.

This shit annoys me.

I was on the TUC march with union members and branch activists. Everyone I was with seemed quite pleased that UKuncut had organised for the day, as they generally have been since that group began to take action. The general feeling is that members of UKuncut are putting themselves on the line for the greater good – certainly, for the good of people who provide and use public services. The people I was with also seemed to expect UKUncut to hold some sort of action on Saturday. Their kids knew about it, certainly, and they were looking to find out about it. Nobody said “don’t go to the UKUncut protest. Stay at our protest. We’re competing.” It’s struck me as quite odd since then to hear that TUC marchers expected to have the field for themselves, etc, and were really pissed off with the F&M thing. Hell – maybe a lot of TUC marchers were pissed off. Or maybe the press decided they were pissed off and reported to that effect. Who knows?

And – more to the point – who cares? This post (with respect to Owen, for whom I do have respect) seems to me a dreary recounting of lefty factionalism as it exists and evolves in the minds of a few, as it always will. It’s navel-gazing stuff. Some of us are aligned to no particular groups and are simply pleased to see protest against cuts breaking out in all shapes and forms. Want to kick in a window? Fine. Join Black Bloc. Want to sit-in and close a bank down? Good – sign up with UKUncut. Want to march with a big group of union members? Excellent. Head out with the TUC. It’s all part of the same thing – an angry reaction to Conservatism. Nobody owns any of it. Nobody has the right to say how protest should look, or what does and doesn’t work, or to try and define the tone. Some of us see the thing as a whole, not as a bunch of competing bits.

There’s been an awful lot of chat in the last few days about the rights and wrongs of Saturday’s various efforts, and bugger-all about the realities of what ordinary service providers and users are supposed to do next. Could we talk a bit about balloting, perhaps? I couldn’t care less who belonged to what protest group, or what Murdoch’s papers think of any of them. Main thing is that people are mobilising and doing so at their own speed. And may I make this point – people are DREAMING if they think the aforementioned Murdoch press would have covered the TUC march benevolently, and in detail, if Black Bloc and #UKUncut hadn’t “stolen” headlines. When the fuck has that EVER happened, please? If it had had the field to itself, the TUC march probably would have got about as much coverage as it ended up getting. It may even have got less. You could argue that various Black Bloc and UKuncut actions drew attention to the fact that things were happening at all.

@1

The issue though is the group isnt entirely leaderless as is claimed.

The notion of an autonomous group, meaning anyone can protest at their targets in a way they chose to meet the aims of the group. This means it cant be claimed with any certainty that anyone at a UK uncut protest location using extreme methods of protest as we saw on Saturday isnt UKuncut.

By not condemning the thugs using blackbloc tactics (keep reading blackbloc is a tactic, not a group), and seeing several of the uncut leadership/founders/stalwarts retweeting messages from these groups only muddies the waters further.

Discussing this online with Rosie Warin, someone working in PR, after her own blog post, not seeking to distance from the thugs is a major PR faux pas. It’s basically suggesting the actions were either welcomed, or could be used in the future by uncut themselves. http://www.forster.co.uk/blog.80.0.html

So for being peaceful, yes that has been whats happened upto March 26th. But UK uncut havent ruled it out 100% by their refusal to address this point.

8. Pauline Hammerton

Matt Wootton and Kate Belgrave express my own view very well. Why should anyone care that different groups employ different tactics to make their point? The point is that a huge number of people object in the strongest terms to the implementation of hard right ideological policies by the government, who are doing so without a mandate. The media will do what the media do (though arriving back home after a long long day on Saturday to see how the BBC were choosing to report events made my blood boil), if the various groups attempted to get together to please the media it would be hopeless. The windows smashed and the facades splashed with paint will be sorted – they’re all insured anyway -, nobody was hurt except those attacked by the police. We should listen to what the people are saying, rather than focussing on how they are saying it.

The Tories do not want a broad alliance with the BNP. Similarly the moderate Left should drop the Far Left ASAP.

Excuse my denseness, but why were UKUncut occupying F&M anyway?

I was under the impression that they don’t pay taxes like other companies because they’re owned by a charitable trust which, rather than paying tax, makes grants to various charitable causes.

Apparently, they’ve donated over £5.5 million to various arts projects, and nearly £12 million to various education projects – including £3 million to the British Museum for their Research Institute for Science. Then there’s the £1 million to the Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign, £0.5 to Cancer Research, along with 8 other grants of this amount, and a goodly number of other grants of under £250,000 to a variety of charities and organisations.

Surely there were better targets than this – or maybe not.

On the general matter of the Black Bloc, most people I know think they’re idiots. It has been said that you can tell a lot about someone from the company they choose to keep…

UKUncut have probably been better than anyone at walking this tightrope in recent months, but in trying not to disagree with anyone, all their spokesperson achieved on Newsnight the other night was to come across as evasive and unconvincing.

Surely you mean successfully not being led into parroting the “correct message” by Emily Maitlis.

“Labour and the TUC are trying to win over mainstream opinion, and if they don’t condemn kicking in the windows of Santander and paint-bombing The Ritz, the rightwing press will demonise and marginalise them as crazy radicals.”

How could the RWP be so unreasonable?

“given that the hammers-and-paint-bombs brigade are presumably revolutionary anarchists”

They cannot be anarchists. Why in the name of Aeth would anarchists be protesting to expand the government?

We all know that the conservative security service always place ringers in left wing protests who then cause trouble. Their media puppets can then blame the left.

Nothing new here, move along.

“Want to kick in a window? Fine”

No, not fine. Vandalism. Sure, support UKUncut. Support the TUC, too. Try to keep out of the factionalism. Even support the sit-in – as long as it doesn’t prevent customers from going about their business, because you’re not the enforcement authorities, whatever you think of the actual authorities’ actions. But when you get to vandalism you lose at least my support, and I would imagine – and hope – lots of others’.

Genuinely curious as to how many people think the pro-cuts pillagers and looters of our economy are the kind of people who will respond to politeness and colouring within the lines.

If you work to systematically disrupt the mechanisms which keep society together you end up with angry rioters. The welfare state was not built by bleeding heart liberals who wanted to be really nice to the poor. It was built by authoritarians who were worried the poor would set fire to their shit if they weren’t kept out of a certain amount of poverty. All the emergence of violence on the streets — and it’s a pretty low-key, safe and tame kind of violence by even European standards — is doing is educating these public-school insulated fuckwits in government about something else that their ahistorical vision of society got completely 180 degrees wrong.

For all the predictable recriminations, the protests did make a difference, as the latest polling data shows (Have posted on this here http://politicaldynamite.com/2011/03/why-demonstrations-matter/ ) .

The truth is that a number of tactics are needed. The failure of Saturday was in communication between people in Hyde Park and and people on Oxford Street. Whilst people’s main source of news is the mainstream press we are condemned to being divided and ruled. But as the truth comes out and we realise what a great step forward we have made, we can transform this in to constructive creative tension

Half “the Left” seems to be asking what riots accomplish while the other half seems to be wondering the same of the marches. I’m not sure that either have achieved much beyond provoking a lot of wibble about “the Left”.

chaminda: Therefore, once all the dust has settled, this won’t necessarily mean co-operation is impossible with the softer Left

That is what the conclusion says!

Its not just property damage though. The point about how Labour and the TUC are interested in appealing to the broader public, while many lefties are not, is another key issue.

Kate: Think you’re missing the point of the article completely.

Some of us are aligned to no particular groups and are simply pleased to see protest against cuts breaking out in all shapes and forms. Want to kick in a window? Fine.

Why don’t you ask unions whether they want to be associated with that? You may think its fine but many others don’t.

Just to clarify – this is not me (Owen Jones) but an Owen who writes for The Third Estate!

Thanks.

“They cannot be anarchists. Why in the name of Aeth would anarchists be protesting to expand the government?”

Jesus, can we please put an end to this Guido Fawkes-inspired rubbish. As I tweeted on Tuesday “There’s nothing inconsistent about being an #anarchist and hating rich tax evading scum. Libraries and hospitals are better than Top Shop.”

Anarchists are not protesting in favour of a bigger state, we’re protesting against greedy scum whose failure to pay their tax is leading to the Tories’ class war on the people. The Big Society is a reasonable idea in principle – if a bit fluffy mutualist – but it’s a great big con. The Tories are going to privatise as many things as they can before we finally kick them out and either we do it soon or there’ll be nothing left in four years.

Think how different Saturday would have been if the march had diverted at Picadilly and all 500,000 (give or take) had marched up to Oxford Street and stopped at Marble Arch? We could have disrupted the whole place and actually had some impact. And maybe the black blocers wouldn’t have felt the need to go smashing as much stuff, seeing that the trade unions were willing to get radical instead of standing in a field listening to speeches.

The unions need to get off their knees and start recruiting and fighting. I say this as a prominent trade unionist myself who also happens to be an anarchist. With a toe in both camps, I can see that both sides are partly right and partly wrong (and no, I’m not saying which parts).

21. Edward Carlsson Browne

@Kate – it’s not all part of the same thing. ‘An angry reaction to Conservatism’ is too large a heading to contain the different attitudes of the groups involved on Saturday.

Some people wanted a symbol of peaceful, dignified but forthright opposition. Some people wanted direct action. Some wanted to cause property damage and fight police officers.

The first group can make common cause with the second – although I for one would prefer that UKUncut, who don’t tend to have problems getting publicity for their demos, had let the TUC have the floor to themselves on this one day.

Likewise, many in the third group can manage quite happily with the second group.

But there is no alliance possible between the Black Bloc and the Labour Party. Because one group believes that breaking a few bank windows actually achieves something, that it’s a meaningful attack on capitalism. And the other group sees it as a pointless action which makes it harder to stop what we’re trying to stop.

No, the press wouldn’t have covered the march favourably if there had been no violence. But that’s fine – it’s coverage that was needed, not positive coverage, and what we got was a story about crime, not cuts.

Fundamentally, you can’t expect groups looking for majority support for their perspective to work with those who are happy to alienate the majority in support of their cause.

Anarchists are not protesting in favour of a bigger state, we’re protesting against greedy scum whose failure to pay their tax is leading to the Tories’ class war on the people.

Its easy to say you’re part of some broad alliance when you’re against the tories. But how do anarchists intend to do this other than smashing windows?

Also – this point in the article cannot be emphasised enough:
Why would they want the endorsement of a bunch of reformist social democrats? Surely Ed Miliband, Brendan Barber et al are all complicit in upholding the capitalist status quo, as far as they’re concerned?

I’m constantly amused at people on twitter expressing shock that liberal lefties or others on the centre left think these people are a bunch of indulgent tossers.

Some people spend half their day on twitter ranting against soft lefties or the Labour party and engaging in pathetic bitching. When it turns out those people are hostile back, then suddenly they start preaching unity. Gotta love it.

“But there is no alliance possible between the Black Bloc and the Labour Party.”

There should be no bloody alliance between anyone, including the trade unions, and the neo-liberal party that has betrayed its roots, spent 13 years in power refusing to give unions back their rights and wants to make deep cuts, just a little bit slower. The Labour Party are not the allies of anyone, they’re just desperate to get back in power so they can shit on us all again.

@20 “anarchism noun /?æn.?.k?.z?m//-?-/ [U]
Definition
the political belief that there should be little or no formal or official organization to society but that people should work freely together”

From here: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/anarchism

There is nothing consistent between what anarchism actually is and the black bloc idiot’s actions. I’m willing to believe they have a political philosophy but it isn’t anarchism.

“Its easy to say you’re part of some broad alliance when you’re against the tories. But how do anarchists intend to do this other than smashing windows?”

Sunny, you know who I am and what I do, so quit generalising and stop asking stupid questions.

Andrew Neil is not happy about London being regularly ”trashed”. They still haven’t fixed the Treasury windows (or something) he complained today. The police need to bang a few heads together (perhaps) he said.
Annoying Andrew Neil is a good thing.

One thing about this violence, is that it’s so half hearted and fey. It’s difficult to take seriously, as it seems more like a jolly caper. And there’s also something particularly irritating about the UKuncut protests that I’ve seen, where the police are provoked, maybe overreact a bit, and then within hours there’s threads on sites like this with a youtube of a police overreaction. Like the one with the CS spray.
That’s not to say the police have not been out of order on many occasions.
But there’s something of the cheating footballer who feigns injury about some of the antics I’ve seen. It looks a bit dishonorable. It’s the culture of dancing around in front of the police in hoodies, while a few people throw things and fifty people cheer and take photos of it. It’s been around for a long time – like the poll tax riot, and I didn’t like it then either.

There were two groups of disrupters on Saturday that worked against a peaceful brilliant march.

one – the idiots smashing windows and thereby helping to sustain a narrative that lefty protests are in sync with loonies and therefore do not deserve support;

two – the Opposition leader using rhetoric which is clearly inappropriate and drawing analogies which it shouldn’t be – and transforming an opportunity to a mockery;

The brilliant peaceful march was sidelined in all media stories and broadcasts – and the march was talked about in passing while contrasting its good behaviour and the next day the headlines were about Ed Miliband’s rhetoric. Spending cuts – public services closure were hardly mentioned – and today the news headlines are about his wedding and that David is not the best man.

To top it all off we had a UK Uncut representative getting on Newsnight and claiming asking her to condemn violence is a premise she cannot accept – and all those waverers sitting in front of the telly up and down the country goes – this is not what I want.

But why compromise with the electorate? They don’t know shit – that attitude and the arguments about why the violence was brought about by the government – the argument that this country is as bad as Egypt under MUbarak etc with rhetoric hyperbole from the Leader of the Opposition makes the entire left lose credibility.

@6

I’m amazed so many are overlooking how Joe Public perceives ‘radical action’, and the effect peaceful protestors’ failure to distinguish themselves from black blocers will have on public opinion.

It isn’t about appealing to the government directly, or pleasing everybody on the left. It’s about gaining so much public support – especially from centrists – that the government can’t ignore it.

It’s all very well having leftist solidarity (though why people with anti-state ideology would want to be aligned with anti-cuts and pro-tax protestors is beyond me) but if the public are confused about who is doing what, and perceiving radical action negatively, it will all be futile anyway.

In the letter from the ‘violent minority’ to UK Uncut, they admit:

“As we saw on Saturday, repression is not provoked by violent actions, but by effective actions”

If Black bloc methods are violent rather than effective (by their own admission!) why even have them on board? I couldn’t care less about banks being smashed up, but if UK Uncut aren’t prepared to distance themselves from actions perceived negatively by the public at large – as was the case on Newsnight – then confusion will remain and support will lose momentum. I fear it’s a strategic error. We need to be objective and keep the aim in sight; enacting political change.

The Labour Party are not the allies of anyone, they’re just desperate to get back in power so they can shit on us all again.

This is what I mean by people who have no intention of being in alliance with anyone other than those who rigidly agree with them.

So much for that broad coalition eh?

Sunny, you know who I am and what I do, so quit generalising and stop asking stupid questions.

Its not a stupid question at all… and my point is you’ve not thought this through at all.

But the point is, Labour is a political machine which can win power and pass laws. The trade unions are an organised structure that have different (usually legitimate) ways to put pressure on the govt in favour of their members rights.

Broadly, I have as much regard for anarchists as I do for libertarians – minor. But my opinions aside, what makes you think either care for or even should care for a few thousand anarchists? (the same applies to right-wing libertarians incidentally).

To put it rather bluntly, you wield no political power whatsoever. Because of your beliefs, you’re unlikely to either. Not only are your number minuscule, its also clear by the actions of Black bloc that you have no interest in reaching a large swathe of the population. That Millwall chant – ‘everyone hates us and we don’t care’ – comes to mind.

You guys are less influential than the Libertarian Party UK – and they had Chris Mounsey as their leader! I’m genuinely interested in what the anarchist method is of effecting any change.

The ‘black bloc’ are irrelevant; plan and simple. Major demos attract these particular anarchists, looking for a day out, the way all-day drinking invites fighting or football matches used to attract firms. It’s a shame that the anarchist movement has got trapped into this subculture, but it is not sign of a wider existential crisis.UK Uncut are only associated with them via a hostile press. I can’t personally speak for the trots, but they are also not currently a problem, as they are generally on their best ‘popular front’ behaviour at the moment, and more prepared to work electorally these days. The real problem, I fear, is with the Labour Party, rhetorically committed to an anti-cuts crusade while also implicated in its own spending reductions; the Labour right will certainly want to put some space between themselves and the movement in the next few years. Unfortunately, I am also not convinced that Ed Milliband is as good a public orator as such situations as Saturday traditionally demand, but that is another sign of the age we live in.

“But the point is, Labour is a political machine which can win power and pass laws.”

Sunny Hundal, Tory supporter: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/2064
Sunny Hundal, Lib Dem supporter: http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/05/01/my-endorsement-of-the-libdems-further-clarified/

“To put it rather bluntly, you wield no political power whatsoever. Because of your beliefs, you’re unlikely to either. ”

Bet they said that in Spain in 1935. And Paris in 1967.

“Not only are your number minuscule,”

There’s many, many more of us than you (I’m sure there aren’t many people who’ve flipped all the way from Tory supporter in ’98 to Labour in ’11 via the Lib Dems in ’10). Pop along to the London Anarchist Bookfair in October and you’ll see us in our incredible diversity.

“its also clear by the actions of Black bloc that you have no interest in reaching a large swathe of the population.”

What’s hilarious is that the black bloc – of which I was not part – was the largest this country has seen, probably since J18 back in 1999. I’m not a supporter of the tactic, by the way, as I’ve made clear on my blog (did you read it? http://donnachadelong.info/2011/03/28/reflections-on-the-26-march-demo/ ), but the numbers involved show that anarchist ideas are spreading like wildfire amongst those who have learnt that you can’t trust politicians and the police are your enemy.

You might want to read those links before you call me a Tory supporter. And yes, I was a Libdem supporter. Shocking isn’t it. Apparently 50,000 people have joined the Labour party since the election – many of them previous Libdems. So I’m not alone in this. However, that doesn’t really respond to my point about Labour being a political party and a machine, not a protest group.

Bet they said that in Spain in 1935. And Paris in 1967.
your answers really do get better! You know, people also didn’t think Hitler wouldn’t get into power. Clearly, that must mean fascism is also about to take over Britain.

There’s many, many more of us than you

Who’s me? I’m just me. You’re not answering my question. Why the fuck should Labour pay any attention to you guys, and who fucking cares who comes to anarchist bookfair?

What’s hilarious is that the black bloc – of which I was not part – was the largest this country has seen

Well, then you’re fucked aren’t you? I saw more people at the English Defence League demo / rally in Luton not long ago, and I’m not worried about them taking over the country either. Go back to your day-dreaming.

“It’s a shame that the anarchist movement has got trapped into this subculture, but it is not sign of a wider existential crisis.”

Ahem. I was on the march, proudly walking with my union. An anarchist comrade from the same union was beside (or just in front or behind) me all through the march. Don’t generalise when you clearly know absolutely nothing about the anarchist movement.

“UK Uncut are only associated with them via a hostile press.”

UK Uncut may only be associated with the black bloc by the press, but there are quite a lot of anarchists active in the organisation, thank you very much.

“I can’t personally speak for the trots, but they are also not currently a problem, as they are generally on their best ‘popular front’ behaviour at the moment, and more prepared to work electorally these days.”

I assume you’re not referring to the Socialist Party, who are busy denouncing everything and everyone and busying themselves setting up their own anti-cuts coalition via the National Shop Stewards Network.

@Sunny

Ha ha. Don’t you know that pragmatism and being non-partizan are sins, whereas blind allegiance to hopelessly irrelevant ideologies is virtuous?

35. Anon E Mouse

The point everybody seems to be missing is that it doesn’t matter what you think – all that matters is what the electorate in this country think since they are the ones that will vote for or against the Labour Party.

For the hapless Ed Miliband and his advisors to not consider that if there was trouble the chances were he would be displayed on a TV with his childish speech on one side and burning buildings on the other was just incompetent.

As unelectable as Ed Miliband clearly is, to keep ignoring the elephant in the room with this constant naval gazing means only opposition beckons and silly terms such as calling colleagues “comrades” (it’s 2011 for goodness sake) just makes the left less and less likely to ever govern this country again.

There is no excuse for wanton vandalism and criminal damage and if this occurs on the same march then all marchers will be tarred with the same brush. Grow up….

“Want to kick in a window? Fine.”

Fine for your opponents.

Carry on.

Glad to see we’re all concentrating on the violence and not on the government polices that inspired the violence. Well done everyone!

Meanwhile Evan Davis is eviscerating Ed M on Today prog….forced to admit that his cuts would still be 63% of Tory cuts…much spluttering.

Sunny – tis you who misses the point entirely.

You ask whether the unions want to be associated with kicking in windows. My point is that nobody particularly needs to be associated with anyone. Why isn’t it possible for different groups to pursue different tactics? Why can’t groups operate independently? Why do you insist and insist on collaboration and on everyone gathering under your Labour umbrella as the only way forward? And why do you think anyone only every achieves anything if they perform in a way that will satisfy our incredibly conservative and increasingly un-read mainstream press? This is the press that has, after all, sat back on its arse for the past few months while budgets have been cut and services abandoned, and said bugger-all. The Guardian has started to cover council cuts in more detail in the past week or two – now that they’ve happened. It’s just too bloody late. That paper is dancing at a wake. I also thought the TUC march, while good on the day, was too bloody late. Far too late. The money’s gone and the jobs are gone. So – please don’t be sitting there trying to argue tactics with me. The tactic so far – particularly from the great god Miliband – seems to have been “sit around and let it happen.”

And Owen Jones – as I’ve said on twitter, it never occurred to me that you wrote this article. Amazingly – I mean, fuck me – you never even came into my mind. Why do all bloody men automatically imagine that people are thinking of them? Apart from anything else, you publish on this site with your full name. I know the third estate, thanks so much, and managed to figure out that there was more than one Owen in the world and that this piece was very likely by the one associated with the third estate. I mean – it said so on this article. I came to that conclusion with my tiny female mind and everything.

Jesus Christ.

Jesus H Christ, do none of you ever sleep?

Lots to respond to here, but sadly I have to go to work – will try and post a longer comment this evening. And no, I’m not Owen Jones – sorry for any confusion (I’ve had a piece up on LibCon before without anyone getting us mixed up, so I assumed it wouldn’t be a problem)

Well, I certainly didn’t mix you up, so Owen Jones can retract that tweet.

I’m inclined to agree with Kate. Frankly, the bleatings about including Labour are laughable – Labour has excluded itself from the anti-cuts opposition (which was what Saturday was) by almost completely buying into the government agenda (see today’s interview on Radio Four) and not having repudiated the neoliberal deregulatory practice that allowed the crash to have such deep consequences here, not to mention the euthanasia of manufacturing which continued under Blair and Brown. Labour is dead as anything other than a slightly-less-guilt-inducing party of the rich, which is (I imagine) why so many of you are fine with it.

Saturday was about a broad coalition of people who are *completely* against the cuts agenda. The unwelcome interlopers were the Westminster village types who think that two-thirds of the cuts would be just fine, etc. Most trades unions are sick of Labour, as far as I can tell, but the leadership mostly remain loyal (they should do on those salaries, shouldn’t they?). On the whole, people I spoke to were viscerally angry. The parliamentary process has failed them completely. They were much more receptive to the more militant parts of the rally and many people voted with their feet by turning up for the march but ignoring the hackneyed claptrap that was on the stage the rest of the time.

And on the point of public perception – it is actions like Saturday which will *change* public perception. The left pandering to middle England’s prejudices (by worrying about a few shop windows) is a large part of how we ended up with the strange concoction of neoliberal authoritarian New Labour.

Also: Saturday was not a violent protest (though violence was certainly meted out on some people by the police). Not by any stretch of the imagination. Stop regurgitating this Daily Mail rubbish. Eleven arrests for disorder or violent conduct, as far as I can tell. That’s just one-fifth of the arrests for violence at football matches *every week* of the season.

“And why do you think anyone only every achieves anything if they perform in a way that will satisfy our incredibly conservative and increasingly un-read mainstream press?”

Perhaps because a dislike of windows being kicked in, or even stores being “peacefully” occupied, is not restricted to those quarters but (it may surprise you to learn) is actually quite widespread.

Still, carry on….

Though of course you are right that if you want (the hopeless dream of) “no cuts” you won’t get much help from Miliband given his admission on Today.

@39 I didn’t even realise Owen Jones comment at 19 was directed at you, I assumed he was just ensuring that absolutely no one mistook him for the author of this risible OP.

“The left pandering to middle England’s prejudices”

Poor baby.

The reason why Labour “pandered” to middle England is because that is where elections are won.

@cjcjc Well that hardly contradicts my point. I’m arguing precisely that worrying about getting elected by doggedly sticking in the centre will only make it that much easier for the government to pass their dream Hayekian policies, and in any case the current political alternative (unreconstructed New Labour) is not that much more acceptable. Which is why marches, sit-ins, strikes etc. are likely to be the only ways to halt the process.

I do love the hyperbole.

I doubt whether Hayek would have considered government spending at 40% of GDP (the 2016 target – it’s 48% now) his “dream”!

Of course it’s a degree of hyperbole, but you recognise that the intention (and direction of travel) is there.

One thing I would like to know, and presumably those fighting the cuts should have this information to hand, is what taxes you would put up to pay for the “no cuts” policy. I take it that even the most rabid anti accepts that you can’t just keep borrowing more and more money for ever.

50. Anon E Mouse

cjcjc – Forgotten how good a word “eviscerating” actually is and bang on the money in its use regarding Ed Miliband’s mauling on Radio 4 this morning.

The man is a hopeless dud and irrespective of the message, Labour need to get real and dump this guy ASAP.

They didn’t have the nerve to ditch Brown – some Labour supporters even excused his behaviour and it came back to bite them – not getting rid of Miliband will be even worse.

Time to grow up and lose the student debating society tendencies. Middle England, Worcester Woman – whatever – is what wins elections in this country.

Labour’s finest Prime Minister ever, Tony Blair, knew it. Why don’t you?

“Want to kick in a window? Fine.”

Agreed. I’d prefer a custodial sentence, but our prisons are full enough as it is. Couple of thousand quid should do it.

I’m with Kate Belgrave on this.

Furthermore, the fight that we have on our hands isn’t just against this cruel, backwards-looking government, it’s a fight for the truth, The Murdoch press isn’t known for its factual or honest reportage and believes that it sets the agenda on behalf of whoever is in power (usually the Tories) I suppose I really shouldn’t ignore the Torygraph and Rothermere press in all of this either, because they both work, as Chomsky would put it, as an unofficial ministry of information. Just look at the all the foaming-at-the-mouth blogs in the Torygraph in the wake of the protests. All of them filled with the usual hyperbole, lies and distortions.

Labour and the TUC walked into the trap laid for it by the Tory press – as they both had done in the 1980’s. We need to keep both of them honest. The task is a tough one but it’s one that we cannot afford to shy away from.

“Of course it’s a degree of hyperbole, but you recognise that the intention (and direction of travel) is there.”

Not really, no.

Lowest Thatcher ever achieved was 39%.
Lowest recent share was 37% – in 2000!

40% is a pretty average level.

Do you really think that government can’t do all it needs to do with 40% of national income??

Not in a massive recession, no. That’s the point.

“We need to keep both of them honest.”

And thus, in Labour’s case, unelectable.

Excellent.

“Not in a massive recession, no. That’s the point.”

How fortunate then that spending will still be 46% of GDP in 2011-12, 44% in 2012-13, 43% in 13-14, 41% in 14-15, and only reach 40% in 2015-16.

@55

I really can’t take you seriously.

It’s notable that the criticism towards the mainstream media for focussing too much on the black blockers could be applied to blogs like this too. Most of the discussions that have really taken off have been over the issue of where we stand relative to each other.

I can’t help but feel that though there may be some common cause against the current government that there will always be a fundamental division between those who believe government is necessary and those who would do away with it and think smashing things will help.

Those who bother to think things through have probably recognised that anarchist ideals are OK but that they are hopelessly idealistic. The people who think breaking the windows of shops and banks is a political gesture will never persuade general opinion that they have an argument worth listening to, and that is what the left needs to do.

Well, you obviously think that the current slowdown is just temporary, which is one opinion. Mine is that it’s likely to be just the start of a long, disastrous slump, which could only be avoided by a big, targeted slug of spending. Ironically, Osborne is having to borrow considerably more despite spending so much less – don’t you think that disproves your implied theory that cutting spending is desirable regardless of context?

@56 and it would help if our tax take wasn’t so pathetically low too

I’m have a bit of a “what about the workers moment” . Because the thing that bothers me about this post is that, discussing the political effects of the march , we get mentions of all kind of participants, yoghurt eating and otherwise – but no mention of the hundreds of thousands of local trade union delegations who organised and made up the march – the march isn’t just a PR exercise, an attempt to get in the press, it is an act of solidarity. All those union contingents will have come away feeling a bit more encouraged and a bit less isolated – which is why, say, Merk Serwotka’s call to build strike action on the same basis as the demonstration is important. this is the real potential political effect of the march – putting the possibility of strikes and solidarity action at the centre of the anti-cuts campaign (which, as all the active trade unionists contributing to this thread know, is not that easy thing to pull off, but is probably easier after Saturday than before).

I don’t think anything is “proved” yet but as you say, there is a balance of risks.

Of course Lab’s “alternative” is just 0.4% per year slower reduction, so that plan too would run the (non-negligible) risk you raise.

“and it would help if our tax take wasn’t so pathetically low too”

Well not if what you wanted (as you claim) was a *stimulus* rather than a tax-focussed removal of the deficit.

@62 Now we’re at the nub of it; it’s just down to the economic theory you believe in most. I don’t think Labour will provide a genuine alternative without massive (and perhaps somewhat threatening) extra-parliamentary pressure. So for those who believe that some form of Keynesian approach is necessary, there is ample incentive to support the more radical end of the protests as the current parliamentary options are very limited. For those who think we will come out by cutting (or by riding the cyclical wave, perhaps), of course the protests will seem daft.

What Kate Belgrave and Donnacha DeLong say.

Let’s be clear here, windows got smashed, graffiti daubed on wall and so on. I was at Piccadilly and there were lots of people cheering on the protesters on the roof of F&M… and the ones cheering weren’t all young in hoodies with scarves across their faces. Many seemed like ordinary trade unionists.The end of the demo was moving along Piccadilly and many stopped to watch what was going on at F&M. While the media emphasise the so-called yob mentality they conveniently on purposed ignore the vile brutality and violence of the cops. People damage property, cops injure and kill people….

Also do I care what social class these protesters come from. No, so what. People from all social classes become politicised due to various reasons and experiences.

I have to say this kinda reminds me of the aftermath of the Poll Tax “riot” at Traf Sq. There were lots of recriminations, desperation by some on the left to name names, media reporting the “yob mentality” and there was a witch hunt feel to things. The protesters arrested and charged got prison sentences which would normally not incurred that length. It was called political sentencing. Fortunately Trafalgar Sq Defendants Campaign was set up and supported the ones arrested. I see parallels with what happened on Saturday. I hope a similar defence campaign will be set up as it is our duty to show solidarity with the arrested.

Also, the media is using “anarchists” as a smear tactic as well. Do they understand the meaning?

I believe that A to B however successful are not enough, the bland bureaucrats of the trade union movement would think that’s enough and Barber can sit back believing he’s done enough. But this isn’t enough, a consistent campaign has to involve occupations, strike action and non-violent direct action.

Ed Miliband mentioned the suffragettes (while condemning the violence….) and there’s been posts written about the direct action of the suffrage movement but there are parallels then and now as there was a big debate which led to the split in the movement primarily over the tactic of non-violent direct action hence suffragists and suffragettes. Though many women thought BOTH tactics were important to achieve the vote.

@63 Well, you could avoid having to increase borrowing so much to pay for a stimulus by having a tax take closer to France or Germany.

66 – If you pay for increased Government spending by raising taxes then that isn’t a fiscal stimulus. If anything, it’s a fiscal tightening, since in an open economy the multiplier effect of Govt spending is likely to be less than zero.

@Sunny
“You know, people also didn’t think Hitler wouldn’t get into power.”

Godwin, you lose.

btw, have you joined a union yet?

@67 Well this is getting a bit off the point but it’s two separate things – I’d be in favour of maintaining govt. spending to stimulate growth in this critical period of recession *and* a medium-term rebalancing of tax including bringing the general tax take in line with Germany. They’re not incompatible (apart from in the very short-term which is what I think you mean).

@68

Way to miss the point.

Godwin’s Law is not a debating tool. It’s intended to show the inevitable inanity of much that passes for debate on the interwebnet thingy.

I think it means you lose.

“I think it means you lose.”

Eh, nope, first person to mention Hitler loses. I win 10,000 points in the endlessly pointlessly rhetorical online pissing contest. All your base are belong to me! FTW!!!

72. Torquil Macneil

“Eh, nope, first person to mention Hitler loses.”

Not according to Mike Godwin who was really irritated by this misunderstanding of his ‘law’.

73. TorquilMacneil

try

69 – I’ve only been able to find figures on this up to 2006, but up to that point Germany had a marginally lower tax take than the UK. It’s a myth that the UK is a particularly low tax economy by international standards.

http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/48/27/41498733.pdf

Scandinavian takes are higher than the UK’s, but then so are Italy’s and Iceland’s so it’s clearly not the be all and end all.

75. Chaise Guevara

@ 71 Donnacha DeLong

“Eh, nope, first person to mention Hitler loses”

That’s not Godwin’s law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

The key difference being that a) Godwin’s law refers to people comparing their opponents or their opponents’ arguments to the Nazis or Hitler, not just mentioning them, and b) Mike Godwin isn’t actually in charge of who loses and wins arguments anyway.

I collect six pedantry points.

@73 No, it’s not the be all and end all, but I think it can be an important factor. According to OECD figures, in 2009 UK tax rev. (as % GDP) was 34.1%, with Germany 37.0% (admittedly a fair way below what I thought as have heard 41% ish many times before) but France, Belgium, Netherlands all 40-42% and as you say Sweden/Denmark at 46 and 48%.

75 – Yes, but as the historic tables show, the disparity with Germany is largely thanks to the fact that the UK had a deeper recession (also to the fact that UK tax takes were heavily affected by much lower tax takes from financial services and property sales). The trough of a recession is not the best place to look for trends.

Also, if the aim really is economic growth at all costs (i.e.: to be funded by increased borrowing if need be) then raising taxes is pretty counter-intuitive.

78. TorquilMacneil

“The key difference being that a) Godwin’s law refers to people comparing their opponents or their opponents’ arguments to the Nazis or Hitler, not just mentioning them,

Yes and Godwin gets really irritated with people who don’t notice this important difference or who are too slow to grasp it.

@76 Regarding tax, it’s more about how we got to the situation of a 11.4% deficit which proved to be an open goal for the Tories, and I feel a big part of that was that under Labour, (cowardly) tax lagged behind (well-intentioned) spending pretty woefully.

Actually I’m not really a fetishizer of growth at all in the future – I’d be happy to see the entire financial services industry move offshore, take the ~15% GDP hit and rebalance the economy on a slow growth model with much greater redistribution. But then I’m not too wedded to the whole capitalist system, so I don’t really feel such a stake in its ‘success’.

“Yes and Godwin gets really irritated with people who don’t notice this important difference or who are too slow to grasp it.”

And I’m amused by people who are too slow to realise I’m taking the piss.

OK, that’s enough, I’ve real work to do.

81. Shatterface

‘Who’s me? I’m just me. You’re not answering my question. Why the fuck should Labour pay any attention to you guys, and who fucking cares who comes to anarchist bookfair?’

Thus speaks the Labour Party. If you aren’t a Party member, fuck off.

82. Chaise Guevara

@ 79

“And I’m amused by people who are too slow to realise I’m taking the piss. ”

…and that one would be Poe’s Law. More or less.

Well Donnacha, I’m glad you’ve resorted to piss-taking, though I thought when you pointed out the strength of anarchists by referring to the Book Fair – you were doing it anyway.

Kate B: Why do you insist and insist on collaboration and on everyone gathering under your Labour umbrella as the only way forward?

Christ on a bike. In a post that I say Labour will not want to be associated with some of these fuckwits, you accuse me of trying to put everyone under one umbrella?

I don’t really care what anarchists do. Let them organise book-fairs. Let some them organise their own day out to break windows. Let them eat cake.

I have a problem with them organising something on the same day as the big union march and going out and breaking windows – with the full knowledge that this will grab most of the attention instead of the peaceful march of the day.

Let me emphasise a key point from the article:
Of course, in many ways it would be lovely if we could all agree on what the anti-cuts/anti-government protests are trying to achieve and all work together all the time, but given the existence of such massive differences of opinion, a faux-unity where everyone pretends these fundamental disagreements don’t exist is neither attainable nor desirable.

To reiterate, I highly doubt the unions or Labour view the Black Bloc lot et al part of their coalition and as part of their fight. black Bloc tried to hijack the whole day to grab attention for themselves and pretend that they’re engaged in the same fight. THAT is my issue.

This may come as a surprise but smashing windows, setting fire to stuff and throwing bottles at paramedics is a turn off for a lot of people.

So my question is, do the people doing such things hope to achieve anything by it (and if so, what?) or are they just letting off steam? If the latter, I guess the peaceful majority of protesters would rather they let off steam somewhere and somewhen else.

“Well Donnacha, I’m glad you’ve resorted to piss-taking, though I thought when you pointed out the strength of anarchists by referring to the Book Fair – you were doing it anyway.”

No, at that point I was being fairly serious. You don’t get it, do you, anarchism isn’t a card-carrying ideology and, because we don’t vote for parties, there is no simple measure of how many of us there are. The only way to get an idea of how many anarchists there are is to look at how many people turn out to anarchist events. The London Anarchist Bookfair is the main event each year in this city and attendance has increased year on year. A few thousand people interested in anarchism (I’m not saying they’re all anarchists) passed through its doors last year.

“To reiterate, I highly doubt the unions or Labour view the Black Bloc lot et al part of their coalition and as part of their fight. black Bloc tried to hijack the whole day to grab attention for themselves and pretend that they’re engaged in the same fight. THAT is my issue.”

And you’re showing you fit nicely into the control-freakery of the Labour Party, I hope you’re happy. The TUC didn’t own the day, the unions are not all of one opinion (and I can say that as a member of one – I note you still haven’t answered the question about whether you are) and the Labour Party aren’t part of any coalition I want to see (what with Milibland slagging off political action by unions – http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/2011/01/17/ed-miliband-warns-unions-not-to-disrupt-royal-wedding-with-string-of-strikes-115875-22854474/ , getting his history seriously wrong about the Sufragettes and senior members of his party criticising him for aligning with the march). A party that supports massive cuts has no place in an anti-cuts coalition, regardless of the black bloc tactics of some.

Let’s bicker and argue about each other and let the Tories win. Who’s with me? Well, everyone is!

87. Shatterface

‘No, at that point I was being fairly serious. You don’t get it, do you, anarchism isn’t a card-carrying ideology and, because we don’t vote for parties, there is no simple measure of how many of us there are.’

He CAN’T get it – he’s wedded to the idea of authority: opinion MUST be authorised by the Labour Party – even if this even would STILL have taken place if Labour were in power. That’s the only choice we have: Labour or LibCons.

Black Bloc are bell-ends – but I’m actually being asked if they don’t represent anarchism what does anarchism mean? People want to know what the alternatives are to a parliamentary system that only delivers variations on the same Corporatist theme.

“He CAN’T get it – he’s wedded to the idea of authority:”

Thus I started taking the piss (Sunny and I have danced this dance before). As for anyone wondering what anarchists are doing beyond the minority black bloc contingents – try going along to a local anti-cuts group and asking how many people are anarchists. I know for a fact that, in Harringey, Hackney and Whitechapel, there are a considerable number and they’re some of the main people involved in organising the campaigns.

A party that supports massive cuts has no place in an anti-cuts coalition, regardless of the black bloc tactics of some.

But this is precisely my point. No one cares if the Black bloc people or anarchists don’t want the Labour party around. The feeling is entirely mutual. I couldn’t care a toss about what you guys do.

But I do find it amusing that you lot jump on the back of a march organised by unions and the Labour party (you think the latter didn’t distribute thousands of leaflets and knock on doors to tell people about the March?) – and then claim you want nothing to do with either. Your inflated sense of importance is hilarious. You’ll achieve even less than the UK Libertarian party, and they’re also a bunch of muppets.

“But I do find it amusing that you lot jump on the back of a march organised by unions and the Labour party”

Sunny, now you’re being a complete fuckwit. You know well that I’m a prominent trade unionist (while you won’t even say whether you’re a member of one) and that I marched proudly with my union. I’m a member of a union that is not affiliated to the Labour Party (like the RMT, PCS, UCU, FBU and a few others).

I, as a trade unionist, do not want a corrupt bunch of neoliberals who refused to give unions back our rights having anything to do with a campaign against the very thing they would have done themselves (and, in fact, started last year). Who wanted to privatise the Post Office – Labour, who shut hospitals – Labour, who agree to bonuses in state-owned banks – Labour.

You know well that I’m a prominent trade unionist (while you won’t even say whether you’re a member of one)

Jesus – why do you have to be so fucking thick? I’m not a member of a trade union yet – and you know this – and I’ll take my own time when I want to join one. You keep making this point like one of those men who sprays people with a water-gun and think its funny and exciting but looks like a twat. What concern is it of yours and what impact does it have on my arguments if I’m a member of a trade union or not? And part of the reason why I’m sceptical of joining the NUJ is because you sometimes speak for it!

Secondly, since its unclear whether you’re wearing your union hat or your anarchist hat when making points, my point still stands. If you as a unionist don’t want to be associated with the Labour party its not much skin off my nose. But why not ask the head of the NUJ if they’ll release a statement defending Black Bloc et al? Maybe that will bring you back to reality a bit.

92. Chaise Guevara

86. Neuroskeptic

Fuck you, Neuroskeptic, I’m in!

The thing with people who cheerlead for Labour or the Democrats is that they have “successes” inasmuch as their side wins. Once in power, however, they do nothing much of value. The vaunted effectiveness of their position, then, is just about entirely synthetic; all you get is a big party every few election nights.

“If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal,” – Emma Goldman
http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/anarchist_archives/goldman/aando/anarchism.html

“Secondly, since its unclear whether you’re wearing your union hat or your anarchist hat when making points, my point still stands.”

I’m completely consistent when I’m making points that I’m an anarchist trade unionist. I march with my union, but I despise the Labour Party. mmkay?

“But why not ask the head of the NUJ if they’ll release a statement defending Black Bloc et al? Maybe that will bring you back to reality a bit.”

Please point to anywhere I have defended the black bloc tactic – anywhere, ever.

Basically, Sunny, you’re engaging in a major strawman. Looking back, my contributions to this thread started out to point out that not all anarchists were part of the black bloc. You’ve continued to argue as if every anarchist out on Saturday was smashing windows, despite the fact I’ve pointed out time and again that I was marching with my union. My criticism of the march and the Labour Party do not mean I support the black bloc. Is that clear enough for you? I made all of these points on my blog already, linked above.

“And part of the reason why I’m sceptical of joining the NUJ is because you sometimes speak for it!”

Oh, now that is good.

For those still claiming ukuncut & blackbloc aren’t linked need to read http://brightonuncut.wordpress.com/

Explains much about Monday’s newsnight.

OK, way, way too much to respond to properly – even discounting Sunny and Donnacha’s flame war – so I’ll just try and clarify the point I was trying to make (not that many people are going to be reading it by this point, but still).

I was quite deliberately trying not to express any view at all about which actions on Saturday were better than others, whether or not the black bloc or ukuncut undermined the main march, what the people who went on the march generally thought about it, or anything in that general vein. A huge amount’s already been said on that front, and while I do have my own views on it, I didn’t think there was much I could add that hadn’t been said already. (I also wasn’t aware Trotskyite was a term of abuse; if anyone really was offended, I apologise, but I’d be very surprised if you really thought it was intentional.)

All I was arguing was that as well as disagreement about tactics among the anti-cuts movement (and I use that term in its broadest possible sense, to include people like Ed Miliband who oppose *these* cuts but aren’t opposed to making other, smaller cuts) there’s also massive disagreement about what we should actually be trying to achieve – and the latter can inform the former, as demonstrated by anarchists and revolutionary socialists being far more likely to defend property damage as a legitimate campaigning tactic than reformists are (though neither is universal). That being the case, maintaining a completely united front just isn’t feasible; there’s no way in hell Brendan Barber’s going to be either willing or able to condone paint bombs and bricks as legitimate tolls of protest (probably because he thinks it’s counterproductive rather than because he’s concerned by how much the Ritz is going to have to shell out for the glaziers), and equally there’s no way someone who felt compelled to mask up and chuck stuff through the windows of Lloyds TSB is going to feel like watching a bunch of speeches from some trade unionists in Hyde Park is going to be effective at achieving what they want. The point isn’t who’s right and who’s wrong; the point is that when you have this kind of disagreement pluralism breaks down.

And no, as I tried to make clear, I don’t mean pluralism’s been abandoned for good, or even that it should be – there’ll be plenty of times and places in the anti-cuts campaign when forming alliances between (say) UKUncut, the SWP, local union branches and Labour activists will be exactly the right way to organise. All I’m claiming is that this isn’t always something that can be achieved.

100. Lisa Ansell

To be quite honest, I have no interest in smashing up windows or property damage. Am a wuss, and quite honestly I often think that more destructive direct action misses the point. BUT that said- any ‘movement'(and really ‘movement’ is a stretch at the moment)- is actually going to be a coalition of group and individuals with different approaches, slightly different perspectives and a common objective. So I don’t condemn those who use the Blacbloc tactic(which is pretty much de rigeur for any march have ever been on..), or those who occupy banks or those who think their chosen political party is the way forward.

Unfortunately Sunny Hundal had a damascene conversion to a political party without actually bothering to look at their policies, the development of their policies in the past 13 years- or whether they are actually objecting to the cause he thinks they embody.

The only factionalism I have seen has come from this website, and whenever the Labour party feels the need to try and marginalise groups who may highlight the problems in their own policies. And lets face it, Labour’s record on the tax avoidance issue UKUncut highlight is worse than the Tories.

So I know we should all be devastated when Sunny patronises and dismisses us, from those pesky protestors who lack ideological direction if they protest about something else, to the dead student movement blah blah (my own personal favourite was Sunny telling a woman who was explaining that the ESA policy and the housing benefit policies which are about to leave her homeless and penniless without a chance of getting work were labour policies- that she wasn’t listening to him and was being unconstructive. Actually Sunnys declaration that all the lefties live in London was great:-D).

I personally am one of those ‘radical self appointed authentics’, who would quite like to discuss why our three political parties all have economic policies which shift wealth upwards, would quite like to discus how our social policy has been strained to accomodate that, the problems it has created in our public services, and who would quite like that discussion to be based on facts rather than Labour press releases. I also think a discussion is needed about the level of political consensus we are seeing at the moment, and how that has resulted in this level of tribalism. But hey that makes me a factionalist extremist.

101. Lisa Ansell

Is calling someone ‘so fucking thick’- because you can’t understand what they are talking about within the rules?

Abusive, sarcastic or silly comments may be delete

102. Lisa Ansell

And I wasn’t aware that Labour organised the March on the 26th. Turns out Labour didn’t hijack the march, they organised it!haha


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. overhere

    I have added a comment RT @libcon: The fall-out from Saturday illustrates the limits of left pluralism http://bit.ly/hvlABI

  2. sunny hundal

    The fall-out from Saturday illustrates the limits of left pluralism | Liberal Conspiracy http://bit.ly/hvlABI

  3. marmite

    The fall-out from Saturday illustrates the limits of left pluralism | Liberal Conspiracy http://bit.ly/hvlABI via @sunny_hundal #March26

  4. Jane Phillips

    RT @sunny_hundal: The fall-out from Saturday illustrates the limits of left pluralism | Liberal Conspiracy http://bit.ly/hvlABI

  5. Luke McGee

    RT @sunny_hundal: The fall-out from Saturday illustrates the limits of left pluralism | Liberal Conspiracy http://bit.ly/hvlABI

  6. Joseph O'Brien

    RT @sunny_hundal: The fall-out from Saturday illustrates the limits of left pluralism | Liberal Conspiracy http://bit.ly/hvlABI

  7. Alan Marshall

    RT @libcon: The fall-out from Saturday illustrates the limits of left pluralism http://bit.ly/hvlABI

  8. L.K. Giesen

    Seems rather relevant to Oz left too. RT @libcon The fall-out from Saturday illustrates the limits of left pluralism http://bit.ly/hvlABI

  9. Bobbie

    RT @marmite_: The fall-out from Saturday illustrates the limits of left pluralism | Liberal Conspiracy http://bit.ly/hvlABI via @sunny_h …

  10. Owen Jones

    Though an interesting piece on @libcon, I should clarify that it's written by a completely different Owen: http://tinyurl.com/4juz4a7

  11. Spir.Sotiropoulou

    The fall-out from Saturday illustrates the limits of left pluralism | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/Zn3F8Hy via @libcon

  12. kevinrye

    @dannyrye one for you: RT @libcon The fall-out from Saturday illustrates the limits of left pluralism http://bit.ly/hvlABI

  13. Civil disobedience and degrees of protest | Tentacles of doom

    […] This Comment by Kate Belgrave on an article at Liberal Conspiracy gives some insight into this solidarity. Some of us are aligned to no particular groups and are simply pleased to see protest against cuts breaking out in all shapes and forms. Want to kick in a window? Fine. Join Black Bloc. Want to sit-in and close a bank down? Good – sign up with UKUncut. Want to march with a big group of union members? Excellent. Head out with the TUC. It’s all part of the same thing – an angry reaction to Conservatism. Nobody owns any of it. Nobody has the right to say how protest should look, or what does and doesn’t work, or to try and define the tone. Some of us see the thing as a whole, not as a bunch of competing bits. […]

  14. Danny

    @fatandblood enjoyed your piece on @NottsPolitics – therefore interested in your view on this at @libcon blog: http://bit.ly/fst8Mg

  15. Frenemies… « Back Towards The Locus

    […] is one concept more futile than “left unity” but the enduring dream of earnest lefty-bloggers everywhere remains the most ill-fated since […]

  16. What about the riot of the rich?! « Harpymarx

    […] about the events last Saturday especially regarding the aftermath. For example here, here and here. This is my comment on Stuart White’s post on Lib […]





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