This is just the beginning

31 Mar

I was at the March for the Alternative on Saturday. What a brilliant and inspiring day. It was a real pleasure to march alongside so many people. I especially enjoyed listening to the many samba, marching and jazz bands that joined the ranks.

Like many others, however, I didn’t stick to the TUC planned route. As a mass of people, we were so many that we were everywhere in Central London. I made my way to Oxford Street just in time to witness UK Uncut enter Fortnam & Mason’s department store, and just in time to catch sight of some of the Ritz window smashing. The official march organisers were quick to condemn both the UK Uncut action and the ‘black bloc’ actions. I felt the strength of the TUC march but felt also that it had much more of an effect on those that went on it, than it did on those currently wielding the axe. It was a fantastic show of strength in numbers that will no doubt go on to strengthen local and workplace resistance against the cuts, but the message to the government will have fallen on deaf ears.

I am part of a generation who were awakened politically by the anti-war movement, some of whom organised and were involved in walk-outs at school. This generation has seen people ask governments nicely time and time again to act in their interests and each time they’ve been ignored; be it after the millions that turned out to the anti-war march, be it student protests against fees and then top-up fees (although these protests were comparatively tiny)…I, certainly, can’t remember a time when people won, or were even responded to. Mine has been a generation that has witnessed complacency and the broad acceptance of run away greed, even while the gap between rich and poor has widened. Mine is a generation facing massive levels of youth unemployment. We were promised so much and we have been lied to. More attended college and university than ever before. We were told that if we got qualified the world would be our oyster, and yet here we are, A-Levels, vocational training, degrees and masters’ under our belts, with all the debt that comes with them. Even those who trained as teachers and nurses are finding that there is a scramble for jobs once they have qualified. And where are we now? In the queue at the Job Centre being villanised, without a hope of getting in sight of the property ladder, let alone on it so paying rent we can’t afford or living with our parents at nearly 30 years old. We are sessional workers, hourly paid, casual staff, non unionised often without holiday, sick pay or the rights at work that many in the union movement have fought and won in other areas. We are seriously underpaid or working for free. Is it any wonder that lots of us have turned towards more direct approaches like that of UK Uncut or the tactic of black bloc.

There’s been some brilliant discussion about the tactics used by UK Uncut and those in the black bloc on the day by people involved in those actions. The crux of it, from my perspective, is not to be fooled into thinking that those in the black bloc are some malicious violent ‘other’. They are people who have had enough of waiting for the same people who caused this mess to decide they want to fix it, because they wont. Those in charge are working to a whole different agenda. 

Several interesting points have been raised. Notably, that the violence on the day was caused, and in the main perpetrated by the police. Sure, windows were smashed, but that’s not the same as violence against individuals. What the police condemn as violent is often disobedience and/or vandalism. Another point of interest was the harsh policing of the UK Uncut occupation in particular, in which all who took part were arrested. Police target affective actions, and shutting down Fortnam & Masons on a busy Saturday was probably more affective than smashing windows.

I guess now, I’m left feeling that, if we are going to beat these cuts and this government, we need to pull together. This means that those in the union movement must see UK Uncut and black bloc tactics for what they are; justifiable displays of rage about the assult taking place against our communities by a generation already convinced that just asking wont get, and mostly not in a position to take strike action. The government are not, and will not act in our interests. UK Uncut and the use of black bloc tactics are, in the main, the actions of ununionised youth. And they aren’t going to go away.

Some interesting further reads;
A letter to the Uk Uncutters from the ‘violent minority’
Batton Charged By Police: On The Frontline With Black Bloc
UK Uncut Arrests Threaten Future Protests

“We have to stop them. We have no choice but to try to stop them”
Quote from Sara Keeping in BBC News Report, who was on the TUC march and calling for a general strike.

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2 Responses to “This is just the beginning”

  1. Julie March 31, 2011 at 10:42 pm #

    A very thought-provoking and well written account.

  2. Zulema L April 1, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    Brilliantly written. Better than anything else I’ve read about Saturday.

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