In one turbulent week since the March 26th movements are consolidating and ideas and plans are emerging. There has been indignation about broken windows and violence in the press and while some have pointed out that the clash between tactics is neither new nor exclusive to the left, movements such as Ukuncut have shown ‘tactical respect’ and gracefully refused to condemn the actions of other protesters on the streets.
Today an article claimed that the dramatic drop in Tory popularity in polls this week demonstrates that big protests do make a difference in political opinion. Yet the real difference a gathering of half a million people makes is deeper than the opinion polls; the debate created by this demonstration is part of a broader social learning process that will inform an ongoing organizing process.
There is anger and the media is eager to channel it. Malcolm X warned; “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” An uncritical viewing of the television spectacle of small scale ‘riots’ in London can lead some to identity with media framing rather than enquire any deeper about the motivations and politics behind the protests.
Meanwhile, for people on the streets last week and others raising their head about the parapet, a quote from Martin Luther King is more appropriate; “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”. The deafening silence from some quarters – including environmental organizations, is unfortunate. The need for solidarity is critical. There are some hopeful signs as some unions and campaign groups voice support for UK Uncut. Resistance to these austerity measures should unite everyone who wants to protect education, social services, the NHS and the environment.
Last June, I visited my father in Toronto and also attended the G20 protests. There I witnessed an amazing display of solidarity between unions, environmentalists and grassroots activists. An extraordinary organization called the Council for Canadians not only brought all groups together – but somehow managed to bring radical environmental politics to the unions, to bring social issues to the environmental NGOs and to bring solidarity to the grassroots activists – including the black block. This is the perceptive of an outsider and I am sure it was not easy for those doing the work uniting diverse groups. Still it was incredibly impressive. What the UK needs is a similar people’s movement to build solidarity to both resist this assault and build something better – beyond parliamentary politics.
This post continues in Part Two.
St. Paul Principles
1. Our solidarity will be based on respect for a diversity of tactics and the plans of other groups.
2. The actions and tactics used will be organized to maintain a separation of time or space.
3. Any debates or criticisms will stay internal to the movement, avoiding any public or media denunciations of fellow activists and events.
4. We oppose any state repression of dissent, including surveillance, infiltration, disruption and violence. We agree not to assist law enforcement actions against activists and others.