Broken Promises and Broken Windows

Nov 13, 2010

Another, yet another, article about the student demonstration of 10 November 2010. So much has been produced, and we’ve been a bit busy, so we’ll not document the day. Rather a few thoughts on the aftermath.

Are you surprised?

The generation of people who were coming into political consciousness probably about 7 years ago (oh look that works out about 2003!) saw the biggest protest in UK history summarily ignored by the government of the day. Maybe these young people learnt in citizenship lessons the value of direct action (Tolpuddle Martyrs? the Suffragettes? the Poll Tax?), most likely through involvement in or hearing about the climate movement or the anti-capitalist actions of the previous 10 years.When sanctimonious Tory MPs proclaim the right to peaceful protest, it is because that is a protest that can easily be ignored. It’s not rocket science to work that out. As Billy Bragg tweeted the following day: “Be honest, would we be discussing this with such fervor if the students had marched up Whitehall like good little kiddy-wids?” It reminds us of the speech Tony Benn once gave to a pensioners march in Parliament Square “Who’s coming with me to throw a brick at the windows of McDonalds? It’s the only way this protest will get media coverage.” No brick was thrown, no column inches granted.

No just about students

More than any other student dominated demonstration for the past 20 years, this one had a far more working class element to it, partly because of the abolition of the EMA. Certainly in parts around Millbank there were under eighteens, angry and decisively active about what they wanted to achieve. All power to them!The current student population is going to be affected very lightly by the fee hikes, as they will be scheduled for introduction in 2012. It is unclear if the hikes will be for those starting university in that year, or for current students as well. Given this, the protest was an extraordinarily selfless event. It was an expression of disgust and resistance to the entire government cuts programme. Posties, firefighters, BBC journalists and tube drivers should feel buoyed by the events on Wednesday, every public sector worker should cheer the young students. It is encouraging to see the TUC announce a student initiative to fight the cuts. We only hope this isn’t an attempt to rein in the movement or to bring it into line with more staid and ‘traditional’ tactics.

Direct Action or A to B marches?

Globalise Resistance has consistently stood for the need for all different kinds of action to happen alongside each other. The Stop the War coalition is frequently criticised by direct activists for organising “boring A to B demonstrations”. These demonstrations attract thousands and thousands of people. It seems a little useless to attack actions that, although not exactly to the liking of the critics, attract so many to participate. Wednesday 10 November would not have happened if the more radical groups had spent months organising for an occupation of Tory Party HQ. The action was only made possible by an organisation far less radical than Stop the War calling on the face of it a boring A to B demonstration. The conditions of the day (turnout and lack of police) made the day happen as it did.The war in Iraq wasn’t stopped because of an over used tactic of marching. When the war broke out, STWC argued for walkouts in workplaces, universities and Schools, and scores of them happened. It was the fact that this kind of action was not repeated and prolonged that meant the war continued, demonstrations can give the people confidence to strike, they are an important part of our arsenal. We will always need a mix of different actions; petitions, rallies, marches, direct action, elections, strikes, armed insurrection.

I Argue with Nick

Hell hath no fury like a Liberal Democrat voter betrayed. The number of placards attacking Nick Clegg was quite remarkable. And as the amount of pledges, principles and promises broken builds up, it is hard to see how Mr Clegg will be an MP in the next Parliament. Our bet is he’ll defect to the Tories and seek a safe seat.Seeing the day unfold saw the radicalism and confidence rise exponentially. At the top of Whitehall, a student with the naughty “FUCK” word on his home made placard was told it was offensive by a copper. He dutifully got a marker pen out and scrubbed out the “U”. Three hours later a sofa was used to batter down a window of the building housing the Tory Party HQ.The Liberal Democrats have dumped their pledge on Nuclear power, betrayed students across the country and now turned against the Palestinians as they find out who it is necessary to be friends with in Westminster and in office. They are losing (let’s be straight, have lost) friends everywhere else.The ways we have been presented with by the establishment for changing things: Elections and peaceful protest have both been proved not to work in isolation from other tactics at our disposal. Just 36% of the electorate voted for the Conservative party at the May general election. The majority of the rest of the people who turned out to vote did so in the belief they were supporting something to the left of the Tories. That they were not was only achieved through the deception of the Liberal Democrat party. It is now emerging that the Lib Dems were discussing the ditching of their promise on tuition fees well before the election happened.It is obvious to all that you cannot trust a Liberal Democrat. It is obvious to most that you cannot trust the Labour Party. It is simply plain obvious that the Tories will shaft you given half a chance – even without an electoral mandate.

The Policing

A reported 223 officers mobilised for the protest (which was officially predicted to be 20,000 plus). Well, we’ve been on a lot smaller demos than 20,000 with hundreds more cops than that. This was not an embarrassing mistake as claimed by the chief of the Metropolitan Police, This was a warning issued by the Met to the government that police cuts will not be tolerated. The interviews and headlines proffered are one thing, the meetings between Theresa May and Paul Stephenson, Met Commissioner will be a different story. Thatcher, in her attacks on working people coupled them with a whacking great pay rise for the cops, they’re feeling resentful and this was the hardest way of warning the government what was in store with a depleted force.David Cameron describes the police that were there as fantastically brave. Surely the brave ones, with so much to lose were those who risked arrest and injury to make sure this protest was one they couldn’t forget?The police’s strategy at demonstrating to Cameron and co. how lost they will be without a highly paid and well-funded police force had another dimension. Relatively early in the fight against this government’s programme, there’s been a huge victory for the resistance. In any battle or even sporting contest, one thing you really don’t want to do is to give your opponent confidence and momentum early in the campaign.

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