Enough is enough…

On the evening on July 19th, I attended the protest organised by Justice 4 Grenfell outside Kensington Town Hall where the council were having their first full meeting since the Grenfell Tower disaster on June 14th: Elizabeth Campbell: New council leader in charge of Grenfell Tower disaster not resigning ‘yet’ after furious backlashhttp://www.itv.com/news/2017-07-19/new-council-leader-heckled-and-booed-at-grenfell-tower-disaster-meeting/ As soon as I arrived at the protest, the first thing I saw was the inevitable SWP stall strategically placed at the entrance to the piazza at the side of the town hall. This meant that pretty much everyone who wanted to attend the protest or watch the live feed of the council meeting being shown on the big screen at the back of the piazza had to walk past the SWP stall and their paper hawkers.

It was the same at the People’s Assembly Tories Out! ‘protest’ that took place on Saturday 1st July – the first thing I saw was the inevitable SWP red gazebos, paper sellers everywhere and thousands of their sodding placards. Going back to the People’s Assembly ‘protest’ in Parliament Square on June 10th, the first Saturday after the general election and again, the first thing I saw was the red SWP gazebos, paper sellers and hundreds of their placards. The key themes of both of these ‘protests’ was ensuring that they ran to a pre-determined script with loads of speeches, musical ‘entertainment’ and choreographed chanting. All enforced by the likes of the SWP, union bureaucrats, Momentum activists and various Trot hangers on. Enforced to the point where these hacks were more than happy to ask the cops to arrest comrades who didn’t want to stick to their script…

When it comes to the big set pieces organised by the likes of the People’s Assembly, the inevitable presence of the SWP / Trots seems to have been accepted as a given. Fortunately, these big set pieces aren’t the only game in town and there are other campaigns and groups achieving results on their own terms. In no particular order, here are a few examples of what can be and is being achieved… Firstly, the United Voices Of The World union who amongst other fights have chalked up yet another victory with the reinstatement of a sacked cleaner at the London School of Economics – the fifth one they’ve got reinstated in a year – https://www.facebook.com/uvwunion/ There’s Focus E15 who have been tirelessly fighting to expose and challenge the shameful record of Newham Council on social cleansing – https://www.facebook.com/focuse15/ Then there’s Movement For Justice – https://www.facebook.com/movementforjustice/ – who have been involved in campaigns and actions ranging from defending migrant rights through to supporting striking cleaners at Barts Hospital to name just two of the many issues they’re involved in.

What riles me is the way the SWP / Trots blatantly try to hi-jack legitimate campaigns. When there have been local protests in London, particularly over housing issues, as was seen in Haringey on the evening of Monday 3rd July when there was a protest against the implementation of the Haringey Development Vehicle (HDV), the likes of the SWP have been all over them trying to co-opt and control what’s happening. One activist from an estate facing obliteration by the HDV took one look at the assembled SWP members as the march was forming up, took the principled decision he didn’t want to be associated with them in any way, shape or form, got back on his bike and rode away.

What really sticks in the craws of a lot of people is the way the SWP / Trots have been trying to latch onto the Grenfell Tower disaster. From what I’ve heard, their attempts to do that in the immediate neighbourhood of Grenfell Tower have been rebuffed by locals who can see their agenda for what it is and rightly want nothing to do with a bunch of shameless political opportunists. However, that did not stop the SWP / Trots from doing their level best with the Justice 4 Grenfell protest on 19th July to try and dictate what was going to happen that night. This was apparent from their organising a rota of speakers that wasn’t exactly representative of the local community around Grenfell Tower through to heavy censorship and deletion of posts and threads on the Facebook page promoting the event. Not to mention their organisers openly talking to the cops and pointing out individuals whose presence they were unhappy about…

Fortunately there were people and groups there who weren’t buying the SWP / Trot agenda and who set up an open mike on the steps leading up to the town hall. This allowed locals from the estate to have their say as well as housing campaigners from the RCG, Class War and Movement For Justice to name a few. In effect, there were two rallies going on side by side for a period… After a while, I went over to the piazza where the proceedings from the council chamber were being broadcast and survivors from Grenfell Tower and residents from the surrounding estates were allowed to speak to the council. The contrast between the dignity, passion and rightful anger of the survivors speaking in the chamber and the shameless opportunism of the SWP skulking around outside trying to flog their papers couldn’t have been starker. By the time I had to leave, the SWP had pretty much given up and were departing, leaving people mainly from the Grenfell Tower area to continue to watch the proceedings from the council chamber. That to me speaks volumes and offers some hope for the future…

From what I’ve seen and heard of the survivors from Grenfell Tower and residents from the surrounding estates, I can’t see them tolerating the likes of the SWP / Trots attempting to muscle their way in and hi-jack their fight for justice. The SWP / Trots are in their comfort zone when it comes to co-opting protests – out on the estates, it’s a completely different matter. When people on the estates start to fully comprehend the threat posed to them by social cleansing, they won’t have time for an SWP / Trot agenda of getting Jeremy Corbyn elected as PM and a strategy of trying to keep the lid on simmering social tensions until that happens. Offering solidarity to the people on the estates and where necessary, facilitating them to get get their voices heard and build effective resistance networks is a way forward that will bring about a meaningful challenge to the system…

The SWP / Trots are currently standing in the way of building a genuine challenge to the system. With creative thinking plus some hard graft on the estates, it’s possible to bypass their stifling, stale agenda and build a grassroots movement that has a real sense of its own autonomy and strength. Recent events where it feels as though the SWP / Trots have swamped everything may have left us feeling dispirited but, when you stand back and take a look at the situation, there are openings where grassroots campaigns can bypass them and dump them in the dustbin of history…

Dave (the editor)

We are where we are…

On Saturday 10th June, the day after it became clear that Theresa May was seeking an arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) who operate in the occupied six counties in the north of Ireland, to prop up her ailing and battered government, the People’s Assembly held a ‘celebration’ event in Parliament Square. You don’t have to dig too deep to find out how reactionary and downright dodgy the DUP are: So, who are the DUP?https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/adam-ramsay/so-who-are-dup In the circles we move in, there’s a visceral sense of rage at the DUP being invited to prop up a failing regime…

The People’s Assembly seemed to think that inviting people to Parliament Square to laze about in the early summer sun, listening to feelgood speeches and music while basking in the glow of Corbyn’s election campaign coming closer to nicking a result than many people thought was possible, was the best response to situation. Fortunately there were a few anti-fascist comrades at the event who were not content to laze about in the sun for the entire afternoon and who launched themselves onto Whitehall, suprisingly pulling about two thirds of the crowd with them to march up to Downing Street, onto Trafalgar Square and then back down to Parliament Square. When the protesters got back to Parliament Square, the MC on the People’s Assembly stage gave them a guarded welcome back but you could sense some irritation at people departing from the script.

This piece below is from our comrades in Class War and kind of sums up where we are:

Corbyn’s success means an end to mass protest on the streets.

Corbyn is relying on an obscure Commons procedures to get him into power when he could have called mass rallies. If that don’t work it’ll be the patient ‘one more heave strategy’ – win in 2022 so behave till then. No more will comrade McCluskey be fulminating in Hyde Park, nor the Trots who have their snouts in the trough, be patient comrades….be patient…

In this light it is well to read what SOLIDARITY wrote way back:

Meaningful action, for revolutionaries, is whatever increases the confidence, the autonomy, the initiative, the participation, the solidarity, the equalitarian tendencies and the self-activity of the masses and whatever assists in their demystification. Sterile and harmful action is whatever reinforces the passivity of the masses, their apathy, their cynicism, their differentiation through hierarchy, their alienation, their reliance on others to do things for them and the degree to which they can therefore be manipulated by others – even by those allegedly acting on their behalf.

What Saturday 10th June showed was that yet again, the Trots are acting as a fire safety blanket when it comes to protests on the streets, doing their level best to take any heat and visceral anger out of the situation. Here we are at the start of a major constitutional, political and eventually an economic and social crisis as events unfold, with a government looking to a bunch of quasi-fascists to prop them up, and the response of the organised left is to encourage people to laze around on the grass in Parliament Square feeling good about themselves. If there are to be any demonstrations on the streets, it seems they will be strictly on the terms of the organised left to the point where they will (continue to) be working hand in hand with the cops to police protest and flush out any militant, disruptive elements.

All of this is in the name of not rocking the boat and ensuring that Corbyn can either get into power if May’s attempts at propping up the government fall apart or play the long game and work for a victory in 2022. The stance of the organised left is based on the naïve assumption that the financial sector and the security and military establishment will happily roll over and accept a Corbyn government. There are elements who would not accept this: Unfriendly fire: would a Corbyn government lead to a military revolt?https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jan/25/corbyn-trident-military-revolt-unfriendly-fire People, please wise up – a change of strategy and tactics is needed!

Even within anarchist circles, there have been some who were swept up with the excitement of the Corbyn campaign and not only said they would vote but were hectoring the rest of us to do so as well! Suffice to say, the debates and rows this triggered have not done the movement any favours at a time when we need as much unity and militancy as possible. However, what’s been done and said can’t be undone and we have to move on from this. Part of that process means finding a way of making the anarchist critique of the state more accessible to a wider audience…

There’s a massive body of literature out there about the role of the state and it has to be said that there are some people on the fringes of anarchism who would do well to re-read and discuss that work. If anyone wants to offer suitable readings on anarchism and the state that we can put into a reading list for future reference, please feel free to send them in to us (contact details can be found in About). For the moment, we’ll leave you with this one as a starter: B.2 Why are anarchists against the state?http://www.spunk.org/texts/intro/faq/sp001547/secB2.html

The rise of Corbynism is making many so called radical people think that the state is a neutral body that can be reformed and changed for the good of all if the right political party is in power, as opposed to the protection of vested interests. The intrinsic role of the state in maintaining the conditions for capitalism to carry on doesn’t seem to be registering in the minds of a lot of activists. The state can only survive and continue to carry out its role of maintaining capitalism because it’s backed by the threat of force. Should the current constitutional, political and eventually economic and social crisis get out of control, many activists may well be learning the lesson of the state using force to maintain the status quo the hard way.

When it comes to an understanding of exactly what the state is, we need to get our act together to ensure there’s no more backsliding into Corbynism by people purporting to be anarchists. We also need to find a way of mediating our critique of the state in an accessible and jargon free way to reach out to a wider audience. Last but by no means least, we need to get out on the streets in numbers before it’s too late!