‘The Establishment’ is a wonderful phrase precisely because no one is quite sure what it refers to. Whitehall mandarins? Church leaders? Press barons? Where are the boundaries? It’s a phrase even used by some of the most conscientious historians and political analysts I know of, including ‘mainstream’, non-Marxists. And yet in the last week, we’ve had a tantalizing glimpse into what might be called the political Establishment courtesy of Dolly Draper and the scandal of his emails.
In case anyone hasn’t been paying attention, the scandal of the emails originated with ideas bounced between Draper and Damian McBride (one of the PM’s press officers) about how to smear the Tories. Cue outrage and resignation. Draper then published an article on Labour List, explaining himself, which has since recieved around two hundred comments and not one bit of engagement with those comments by the man himself (who, presumably, will claim that this is because he’s ‘on holiday’ and not because he’s a coward without a leg to stand on).
Draper has since gambled on apologetics and absolution rather than hara-kiri. Meanwhile, the blogosphere has fallen upon this set-piece with glee. Sunny had declaimed how poisonous Draper is to Labour (and he is totally right). Tom Miller has come forward to attack the hypocritical reaction of the Tory blogs to Draper’s indiscretion (and he’s totally right too). Meanwhile, some more circumspect bloggers have pointed out that it is the self-referential culture of politics which turns some people off it.
Whilst not fully buying the conclusions of the last, or perhaps wishing to extend them and render them into practical suggestions, I also wish to disagree with one of Tom Miller’s points. With reference to Claude’s post, it is absolutely correct that the focus on the Westminster bubble and the activities of people there is harmful to politics, it’s also the case that nothing in the ‘Red Reg’ ideas of Draper and McBride is even remotely worth the controversy that has been set aflame as a result of them when set in the context of unemployed millions.
However, the problem is not merely a displaced prurience on the part of the blogosphere. In fact it is much more structural – especially in the case of the Labour blogosphere. This is where I diverge from Tom Miller, who says that “What we’ve been doing at LabourList has been completely separate from whatever went between Derek Draper and Damien McBride.” Whilst I would defend Tom’s honour that neither he nor others knew about the emails, actually he and Labour List contribute to the structural problems we’re witnessing.
Labour List has been nothing short of disastrous from the point of view of the grassroots, not least because it has managed to pull into its orbit some genuinely respectable left-wingers, such as Tom Miller and Laurie Penny. With half of the writers coming from the professional political or professional journalistic Establishments, the focus of the site is going to be national news commentary. Whether focussing on what Ian Duncan-Smith says or what Dolly Draper says, it is this approach which renders the Left blogosphere weak.
It does so in two ways; first of all, it’s not playing to Labour’s key strength over the Conservatives – our activist base. Second of all, news coming out via the media or via ‘insiders’ is already ideologically slanted to the right. Being an insider necessitates a ‘pragmatic’ relationship with one’s principles and the media editorial process has the same effect on the individual journalist. As most of the writers on Labour List are not awake to ideological critiques of this nature, it follows that most of them will simply be slightly Left versions of the MSM.
This might seem like a negligible problem, except that the mainstream media are not just biased in their tone of presentation. They are also biased in precisely what they choose to present. An inevitable consequence of Labour List’s structural set-up is that there’s no room to define priorities for ourselves, according to how important they are to our activist-based struggle, rather than how important they are according to the voluminous screechings of Iain Dale and the professional media. Draper’s emails don’t qualify.
Labour List is therefore perpetuating the very thing which keeps the Left blogosphere weak; our (Labour’s) inability to pierce the cacophany of the babbling commentariat.
To achieve this, Labour List would have to be restructured and the editorial policy revamped. Getting rid of the CiF people would be a good start, followed by the ministers. If we still want a format whereby we can actually find out what our ministers are thinking, then ten minute interviews once a week rotated among the regular contributors would be ample, especially if done in real-time. This reduction in the amount that LL spews would actually create some space to put articles into perspective.
Secondly, a local focus to supplement the national. The most readily understandable level of exploitation is local, whether through Tory outsourcing, PCTs ‘restructuring’ local mental health facilities or corruption in local planning. Most activists (myself included) understand their relationship to national government more easily than their relationship to local government, which shouldn’t surprise anyone since most of us read ‘national’ papers, and our blogs reflect the issues being babbled about by the ‘national’ commentariat.
It would be all too easy, at a local level, to repeat the “grandees” approach of the national blogosphere – recruiting an MP or two, several Councillors and so forth to fill out a ‘local column’. I’m not saying such people can’t write, but the Editorial guidelines would need to be tightened up so that along with ‘news’, we’re not having to read a bunch of promotional horseshit, much like I do every time a certain local Labour MP puts out a press release or whenever the government send out their emails to Party members.
‘News’ could be geared towards not simply mentioning what campaigning efforts are being undertaken, but towards a reflective approach that analyses and explains why that campaigning effort is thought to have the greatest chance at success. By such an approach, not only will we escape the Westminster bubble, and the priorities of the paid commentariat, but we (the activists) begin to arrive at a better understanding of the relationship between theory (ideology) and political practice (campaigning).
Essentially this aims at an educational forum for activists, not structurally prejudiced towards any particular ideology within the Labour family and not largely predicated upon the musings of people who are placed at ‘the centre’ of the political Establishment, but open to the musings of grassroots activists, suitably edited to make things readable rather than the sort of dross that appeared frighteningly regularly on Members’ Net. This would pull together the Labour bloggers (and probably other socialists too) until such times as those bloggers could themselves elect and run an editorial board.
Under such terms, I seriously doubt that three articles (possibly more by now) would have been dedicated to this peripheral nonsense about Derek Draper. In fact, the only criticism I can foresee being made is that such a project would increase rather than decrease the self-referentiality of our political debate – however criticism along such lines forgets that the things that concern our activists concern the s0-called apolitical too. Instead of jeering at the disingenuity of Ministerial articles, we might get some engagement if we’re deploying articles that illustrate what our activists are doing, even in the teeth of opposition from within the Party.
We benefit from the shortest possible distance between what it means to be a Labour activist and what it means to be just another person, confronted by the issues of living in the UK. We don’t benefit from Westminster-focussed muck-raking or apologetics. Let the Tory blogs do that all they want. So far Labour List doesn’t show any signs of following such an approach, being something of a cross between Iain Dale’s site and the Guardian’s Comment is Free. Fine and dandy, if success is judged by comment numbers – but not if we’re aiming to build a genuine grassroots influence on the blogosphere, such that it can even influence the media as well as influencing Joe Blogs.
One striking thing about the current crisis is the inability even of seasoned economists to surely predict what’s going to happen next. Waking up last Saturday to News Briefing on Radio 4, I was struck by the tone of the commentary. The G20 protests and summit had been ongoing the previous two days and yet no one was willing to say if the agreements of the summit would actually ‘fix’ the global economy. Such a contrast to the constant repetitions of the idea that ‘socialism is dead’!
When I hear this, I always feel moved to ask, “How do you know?” When the finest proponents of capitalism are showing doubt and disagreement as to how we emerge from this simple crisis of capitalism, how is it that so many untutored minds can readily dismiss the idea of socialism? The issue is very much in doubt, I would contend. Moreover, as Goran Therborn drives home to me, state-planning is far from absent from the world economy and national states themselves have far from receded from view, even relative to the income of multi-national enterprises.
Even such limited objectives as the rebuilding and restructuring of welfare initiatives are not, therefore, excluded.
Our side are just as bad, of course. Eric Hobsbawm writes this morning for the Guardian under the title, “Socialism has failed. Now capitalism is bankrupt…” Hyperbole aside, one would have thought that Hobsbawm, considered one of the world’s greatest historians (not by me!), could have come up with something better – though the politically illiterate follow close behind him. The article itself, while better constructed in certain ways than his Age of Extremes, continues to prove that Hobsbawm has long since ceased to be anything resembling a Marxist.
His eminence declares that, “We don’t yet know how grave and lasting the consequences of the present world crisis will be, but they certainly mark the end of the sort of free-market capitalism that captured the world and its governments in the years since Margaret Thatcher and President Reagan.” A lot of people on the Left have been talking like this, as though somehow, magically, a new consensus will emerge to challenge the old, one that will bring about the end of free-market capitalism in its current form, or as though economic stimulus packages are a return to the heyday of welfarism.
This failure to pay due regard to the processes of capitalism, rather than capitalism ‘the idea’, is unmarxist. There is certainly a clear economic impetus towards change, but what sort of change? Will it be a change forced by a reorganised, re-energised labour movement, or will it be the change determined by world leaders, increasing rather than decreasing the tempo of the free-market capitalist project? I submit that, for now at least, it is going to be the second option and that Hobsbawm is therefore wrong in every particular.
Capitalism, the series of complementary processes, is subject to its own internal dynamics and is subject to human action. That human action takes place within the co-ordinates of an inescapable class struggle. The participants might not choose to recognize it, or may choose to deploy fancy Weberian or Foucauldian terminology to obscure the key fissure, but nevertheless, it will be human action in the form of class struggle (or, by virtue of renewed hegemony, class consensus) which determines the direction of capitalism.
Nor, whatever happens, is the process irreversible. It does not take an expert in Kondratiev wave theory to suggest that periodic ‘collapses’ of capitalism are both necessary and healthy from the point of view of the capitalist economic system as a whole (rather than from the point of view of any single participant). Nor does it take an expert historian of the labour movement to see that we encourage far too much psychological investment in booms and collapses, a factor in post-Depression complacency and post-Soviet despondency.
Hobsbawm completes his article with a passionate exposition of the need for a ‘progressive’ agenda, outlining why affluence can never be an end in itself, when regarded from the perspective of the working class (though Hobsbawm would not be so vulgar, any longer, to invest that term with its proper significance!). I agree completely with his battle-standard raising on education, living conditions, decent jobs and the need for collective action, but I cannot condone the absence of some practical suggestions.
It is irony itself, that a man so dismissive of nationalism should be reduced to appealing to an undifferentiated ‘people’, mystifying that concept in exactly the same way that nationalists mystify the concept of ‘the nation’. Of course, we can expect nothing less from a merchant who peddled theories of the strange death of the working class; denuded of his marxism, Hobsbawm cannot see whereabouts human action can be most decisively aimed to stymie the ruling class agenda, at the present time.
I can’t claim to know either, but I can make a few suggestions. Having faced the stark reality of more than a decade of globalisation, it should be well within the understanding of even the most basic worker that the instruments of socialist representation and organisation can no longer be constrained by national boundaries. When French truckers go on strike, British ports must refuse to handle French imports. When German car manufacturers go on strike, their lower paid brethren in Poland must follow suit.
Only by building networks towards this goal will we begin to reassert the social weight of the labour movement. It’s also easy to start small; Ireland and the north of France are pretty close by. French railway workers, especially in the heavy industrial branch, go on strike not irregularly – and our own RMT are currently involved both in actual strikes and in further ballots. It is time to work together, seeing past the white cliffs of Dover and beyond the straits of Holyhead.
We get so many speakers from Venezuela and other more exotic locations, and yet solidarity action at such a distance has a very limited record. Meanwhile, the speakers who come over from France or Germany, whilst given equal billing and accorded every hearing, are preaching to merely choirs of true-believer Trotskyist sects, because that’s the only type to turn up at public meetings organised by the (former) Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire and their British comrades, instead of liaising with the unions to actually pull together a real meeting.
With, like, dissenters and everything. This is the beginning of the path we need to tread. The G20 protests were a success, in that they categorically and once again exposed the police as little more than the armed barbarians of the State. Whether individually they’d prefer to spend time with their family or over a cold beer, while behind those masks they are the prison guards of a free people. It’s time, for once, to actually capitalise upon success, while the social issues of capitalism are still hot-button topics.
The alternative is that, like the anti-war movement, the fact of the march itself is seen as a success to be emulated and repeated constantly, until finally bereft of all but the most hardcore and the least in need of convincing by pamphlet or argument.
The Irish government have decided to raise taxes and cut expenditure, in a bid to plug the huge deficit worked up by the largest economic contraction in Europe – estimated to be set at 8%, up from 2.8% in 2008. I found some of the comments from Brian Lenihan, made in Leinster House this afternoon, to be most enlightening.
Lenihan declared, “With up to 40% of income earners paying no income tax at all, we can no longer meet our fiscal needs…The challenge is to spread the burden in a fair manner to a wider range of income earners while avoiding economic disincentive effects.” What I want to know, Mr Minister, is to whom you are referring?
The Irish Republic has a generous system of tax allowances, especially for the creative arts, which exempts playwrights, authors, composers and artists from income tax on the sale of their work. There are also tax credits for things like being a part of a union, for paying the Bin tax, for having dependent relatives and so on.
As a result of allowances and tax credits, one in four Irish workers doesn’t pay income tax; the combined total of allowances and credits stands higher than the exaction of a 20% flat rate of earnings up 36,400 Euros. Is it this group which Minister Lenihan aims to target then? I’m no economics expert, but I think it is.
Lenihan has declared that at the next full budget, income tax grading will increase for higher pay brackets, but in his interim measure, increasing the Income Levy, each of the boundaries have been reduced (the lowest to 15,028 Euros, bringing some minimum wage earners into the net) and the lowest bracket has been doubled to 2%.
Admittedly capital gains and acquisitions taxes have also been increased, but the point stands that the Irish government is now taxing some of the least able to bear it in order to (as I heard one Irish government official on Radio 4 put it) “reassure investors”. It seems that the anti-capitalist or “capitalism is forever changed” movements have some ground to make up, because this looks just like the sort of response we’d have expected in 1970s.
Lenihan has promised that tax increases will stop the government having to cut services, but on that note Lenihan sounded a warning about public sector wages. While he did his best to aim for the populist jugular, declaring war on ministerial expenses and “highest level” wages, I suspect, given the record of this Irish government, that those further down the pecking order will be far from immune.
Britain has been saved such measures – so far – because our economy isn’t receding as rapidly, and wasn’t quite so dependent on a property bubble, but I will bet my bottom dollar that what we’re seeing from Mr Lenihan is only the iceberg tip of the sort of measures David Cameron’s government will be spearheading when they get the keys to Number 10.
Probably with New Labour flunkeys in the train.
It’s probably an odd topic to bring up, but as I’m something of a feminist I thought it important to highlight Victoria Coren’s rather self-important retort to a two-bit historian’s comments on Henry VIII’s wives. She’s complaining that David Starkey (who has forfeited all credibility by traversing the Simon Schama route) has declared how Henry VIII seems somewhat ‘absorbed by his wives’. Starkey goes on to explain that this was a result of ‘feminised history’, where women are predominantly writing about women.
Now, the correct angle to tackle this from is that the undue prominence of Henry’s wives has nothing to do with the gender of the writers. Sure, you get chick-lit trash like The Other Boleyn Girl, the novel by Philippa Gregory, but this is nothing to do with Gregory being a woman. If one considers the Tudors television series, probably written by men, the women are just as prominent and the reasoning can be summed up in two words: target audience. For one, women who want to read trashy stuff about other women; for the other, men who want to watch other men get their leg over.
Instead, Coren takes issue with the idea that Henry VIII has been somewhat absorbed by his wives. Well, actually there I rather agree with Starkey. The popular story of the reign of the eighth King Henry is mostly about his wives. Three Catherines, two Annes and a Jane. Remind me where the dissolution of the monasteries fit in? Everyone remembers that Henry breaks from Rome because the Pope refuses to grant him a divorce…they don’t know that Henry had members of his court write books in defence of Catholicism.
Coren complains that from our history we (the public) can only name ten women from history…but yet the only reason we learn about these particular women is because of their connection to a famous man. How exactly is that an achievement? Starkey, I suspect, is not saying that we’re studying too much women’s history, but that the whole direction and result of Henry VIII’s reign is lost amidst prurient speculation about his wives, his mistresses, his bastard offspring and their various manipulations. Which it is.
On the subject of ten women from history…Krupskaya, Kollontai, Luxemburg, the Dowager Empress, Sylvia Pankhurst, about seven Queens of England, Germaine Greer, Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem…so yeah I can name more than ten women from history. None of whom are famous because of their connection to a man…well, except perhaps the Queens of England since they’re either married to a King (Mary II) or daughters of a King (Lizzie I and II, Vicky, Anne, Matilda and Mary I). Perhaps we should learn about them instead?
Who knows, we might actually study some of the important stuff that happened in England and wider Europe during the reign of Henry VIII, instead of bothering with court intrigue.
I was up late on Sunday night and made the mistake of knocking on the radio as I was going to bed. I listened and listened to some Tory twit yakking on about moral life in the modern society, wishing that I could fall asleep but instead getting angrier and angrier. I flung back the covers, and swept downstairs to check the Radio 4 website, to find out who was this insufferable twerp. It turned out to be Frank Field, a Labour MP, not in fact some irritating Conservative backbencher!
Probably the crux of the whole matter for me comes when Field contends that we’ve ceased to nurture children to be citizens. He conjures the image of young people being told to stop doing something and responding, “Why?” Field says “you realise that you can’t run a society where everybody thinks they can say why to every suggestion made to them.” Well, why not? Instead of the pisspoor metaphysical basis of a shared ‘highway code’, which we’re not allowed to question, why shouldn’t the basis of a society be the right to question?
Instead, the sort of society at which Field appears to cast wistful glances is Victorian. The Victorians and Edwardians understood, apparently, the need for collective endeavour in a way that we have lost today. From the religious services which knitted together communities to the church schools, the local hospitals and the other local services which people ran together, Field sees in Victorian England the anti-thesis of the centralising, faceless bureaucracy (though he doesn’t put it quite so starkly).
More even than that, Field attributes to Gladstone an epiphany that because the working classes were engaged in all these common endeavours – plus charities and trades unions, all of which befit and are constitutive of the ideal citizen – they could be given the vote! Except that this neatly ignores how Gladstone can only be so viewed if compared to Palmerstone or some other such reactionary. It also ignores just how inefficient these ‘collective endeavours’ were, serving to mollify middle class consciousness than alleviate poverty.
Field has effectively thrown out the research of the great social researchers of the Victorian and Edwardian eras such as Rowntree or Booth. Famously, Charles Booth once disagreed with Henry Hyndman about the levels of poverty in London, with the socialist claiming that poverty was set at 25% of the whole population. Booth, who had claimed that this was impossibly high, returned a figure of 35%. Frank Field instead seems to prefer a Stage Musical version of lovable rogues and people pulling together.
The research clearly showed just how staggeringly ineffective education and healthcare provision were when left to the consciences of the well off or through market allocation, rather than funded out of general taxation. Moreover, the religious nexus which bound ‘citizens’ together was a block on the self-organisation of the working class (especially during the later 1800′s), as much as the doctrine of moral conscience and voluntarism was the ideological counterpart to a vigorously individualistic approach that saw the Income Tax as an irredeemable evil.
What Field wants to see are moral contracts imposed upon the unfortunate beneficiaries of the welfare state, to ensure their good conduct. Under the guise of rolling back the bureaucracy and the State, what Field wants to see are contracts outlining what is expected of all of us – and he holds his own contract of employment up as an example. Just how that sits with the ‘immoral’ conduct of plenty of MPs escapes me, but nor is this an attack on the State, since all contracts are implicitly guaranteed by the State through the law courts.
He concentrates on the notion that through measures such as this, or through being awarded a rating of ‘stars’ according to how good a parent you are, we’ll all become the perfect citizens. Field is blind to social conditioning, contingent upon the wealth of one’s surroundings, and how that affects ‘morality’ and how it affects behavioural expectations, parenting and all sorts of aspects one might attribute to this anti-material ‘ideal citizen’. I’m moved to ask, therefore, how can the Labour MP for Birkenhead, a one-time socialist bastion, be such a tit?
On Wednesday 1st April a friend and I attended the ‘Financial Fools Day’ demonstrations in the City of London. I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write about our experiences until today, but I feel it’s important – especially given how the event will be likely interpreted by the big media – to contribute to the swathe of first-hand documentation of the protests already developing online.
Beginning at London Bridge, we joined the ‘Silver Horse’ contingent protesting against the crimes, incompetence and greed of the moneyed classes which have symbolised the injustice of this ongoing crisis. Inevitably, the April 1st demo was going to be smaller and of a different milieu than the TUC- and NGO-sponsored march last Saturday. There were, from what I recall, no trade union banners for instance, and the ‘mainstream’ voices of the movement had evidently decided that the financial Powers That Be, having had a jolly good talking to on the weekend, deserved a bit of a rest during the actual G20 meetings.
The demonstration was, however, friendly, diverse and had (in that worn but accurate cliché) a carnival-like atmosphere. The Green Party was well represented, as were the usual hoodies-and-masks ‘Anarchists’, but otherwise it is impossible to pigeon-hole the politics of the march. Socialist Worker sellers and a group waving red flags emblazoned with ‘Revolution’ marched alongside people in fancy dress and face paint, families with young children, white boys with bad clothes, worse dreadlocks but a brilliant taste in reggae, and presumably a fair number who’d just come down to see what all the fuss was about.
I don’t know about the other three groups, protesting against war, climate change and land enclosures, but the silver march passed peacefully along its route between about 11am and midday, with brass bands, chanting and all your usual demo activities. The mood was upbeat and the display colourful and imaginative – skeletons in wheelchairs with tenners pinned to them, pall bearers with coffins marked ‘capitalism’ etc. God knows why the City even bothered telling its workers to come in, as they must have spent half the day looking down on this strange morass of people slowly rolling its way past their offices. A few peering financiers were invited to “jump” and even more received shouted invites to join us – but alas, the opportunity to form ‘Bankers against Banks’ was missed.
When we arrived outside the Bank of England, the street party atmosphere continued, with the other groups arriving around the same time. Sound systems were set up, people began to chalk slogans on any available space (my favourite – “People will stop robbing banks when banks stop robbing people”), and there was generally a good mood, although we, and I imagine many people, were left with a feeling of ‘now what?’ as the march came to an end. I was pleased the “organisers” had succeeded in getting the four marches to converge, and it had been worth it to see all the wonderful creative pageantry of the people set free, even if a few black cabbies would undoubtedly have loved to run us all down for shutting down the roads…
Deciding the demo was spent, my friend and I decided to head off to a Stop the War demonstration scheduled for later in the day. We then realised the police had surrounded the square from all sides and were refusing to let people leave, without explanation or exception.
Over the next several hours the mood of the crowd became increasingly frustrated. There were no toilet facilities (although a few people had begun to urinate on the railings of closed Bank tube station) and people only had the food or water they had brought. Verbal confrontations with the police slowly increased, with people pleading to leave being replaced by calls of “Let us go!”, “Shame!” and “You’re supposed to be protecting us, you twats!” The usual Forward Intelligent Teams were meanwhile busily photographing people from above the square, regardless of whether they were (peacefully) confronting the police or simply remaining in the body of the demonstration unconcerned by the lockdown. In hindsight, my friend and I considered why the police had evidently planned to contain the protest beforehand (just think of the red scare running for weeks in the ‘papers). It was obvious the crowd’s mood would degenerate – indeed the police seemed to understand the provocative nature of their actions, openly getting into their riot gear long before the submissive mood of the march was replaced by a desire force them back.
The first open confrontation occurred several hours after the police had detained the entire march. A small section of the protest, perhaps five hundred people, had been excluded from the man body of people and cordoned off to one side. There was absolutely no conceivable reason for this, as the group in question looked and behaved exactly the same as the rest of the march. As people’s bladders got fuller and their legs more tired, initial attempts to make light of the situation – waving across the police lines separating the two groups, kicking balls over for people to distract themselves with – were replaced by several attempts to link arms and push the police lines back and join up with those cut off. Each time the police responded badly, hitting out randomly, growing more violent.
Suddenly, we managed to create enough weight of numbers to push the police back, allowing the excluded section to rejoin the main demo. The police, evidently worried about the crowd escaping their ad hoc, open air jail, began lashing out wildly (I took several elbows to the face from a charming member of the Metropolitan Police, each time accidently I’m sure – incidentally thank you to the kind couple who kept me on my feet). The cops promptly legged it, fearing the worst and… then nothing. In the brief five minutes which followed the collapse of the police lines, what anarchy, what terrible disorder was unleashed? Nothing. People, so-called Anarchists included, simply began to walk down the one, suddenly opened street, to go – well, wherever they wanted.
Treated as human beings, we behaved like them too.
Minutes later of course, more vans, packed with fully geared-up riot police, screeched to the scene and blocked the crowd’s exit and from here the situation deteriorated into a series of running battles as the protestors, having their brief freedom of movement snatched back, quite simply snapped. Police charges followed as they attempted to break up the demonstration into smaller units, using the F.I.T. squads to pick people out for arrests. And the crowd responded. So yes, RBS was broken into. Empty cans and bottles were thrown. Cop’s helmets were stolen. A single teenager frustrated a police van’s attempts to drive through the crowd for a good five minutes – ha, the hellish chaos of it all! With a hard core growing more determined to resist the heavy-handed response, the police began to concentrate on the cluster of protestors trying to push the police back and reopen the streets – I imagine most people were eventually able to leave simply because the police were too busy trying to keep this section under control. Late in the evening we managed to slip out by a back street, not having eaten, drank or gone to the loo all day, during which time fires were being lit and the conflict escalating further – I am glad we did. It was not a pleasant experience: as the chalk along the tarmac of one of the blocked roads described it, leaving the demonstration and attempted to get past the police and off home felt like leaving freedom behind and walking into a police state.
I’m not sure what my point is, or even if I have one. I am left simply very bruised and pissed off. The police, as ever, prepared for a fight and made sure they provoked the crowd into giving them one. Thousands of people, including children and the elderly, were denied any dignity, forced to stand for hours on end without rest, detained without any explanation or justification, in the centre of London, while bankers looked down waving ten pound notes and young unarmed people were battered by truncheons. Not a pretty site, certainly, but proof enough that something is deeply wrong with this society, and that making some noise is a first step to fixing it; why else would the bastards have been so keen to break up this particular demonstration of popular anger.
Hopefully it will not be the last such display.
(Article by Dan Ashton, who tried to post it when the TCF server was playing silly buggers.)