Leaflet from the Anarchist Federation (London group) on the wave of occupations and upsurge in class struggle as austerity bites, arguing the working class to unite separate struggles.
Unite the struggles
The present system is in deep crisis. It is trying to get out of the situation it is in by making us, the mass of the population, those who work and produce, pay for it by slashing pensions, services, jobs and pay and conditions. Meanwhile the bankers are bailed out time after time. The world-wide anger at this is reflected in the occupations of public areas in 750 cities and towns around the world. It is reflected in the waves of strikes that have swept through many countries, in particular Greece, which is suffering under horrendous austerity measures. It is reflected in the birth of a new and radicalised student movement in Britain, prepared to engage in direct action and occupations. It is reflected in the beginnings of a new militancy in the workplace.
In the Arab speaking world a movement that began in Tunisia and Egypt and spread to other countries showed that it was possible to break with years of apathy and repression , bring large numbers of people together, and topple regimes. This process in the Arab-speaking world is far from over but it showed people all over the world what could be done. Previous massive mobilisations against the G8, G20 and International Monetary fund in the last two decades may also have had their effect.
In the West, the movement that began in Spain and spread to other parts of Europe and to the USA made wide use of social media just as had happened with the “Arab Spring”. The power of this new technology at spreading news and information quickly, in a form of communication relatively freer than other media like newspapers and television, brought a wide and diverse range of people and groups out on to the streets. This variety was seen in the number of different ideas co-existing within this new movement. Common basic demands can however be picked out:
• Replacement of the present capitalist system- although sometimes this involved calls for reform rather than removal of capitalism
• Unity of all those who are feeling the effects of the crisis
• Against the banks/finance capitalism
• Against financial chaos and State corruption
• Defence of previous gains- health, welfare, pensions, education and employment
• Anti-war with some links being built with anti-war movements
These occupations of public spaces have involved grass-roots activity and collective decision-making through mass assemblies. The movement is not homogeneous and involves a number of competing and sometimes competing ideas.
The reaction of the State has been at first to ignore these happenings. This has been followed by “limited” police suppression, with a desired aim of not aggravating and escalating the situation (although this involved many arrests in some circumstances as in the States. The next stage has been legalistic measures aimed at removing people from the spaces as well as a media war. This media war comes in the form of at first ridicule (people are portrayed as naïve, as clueless, as clowns). A further escalation of this media war will probably occur soon with accusations of “rent-a-mob”, “outside agitators” and “extremism”. Alongside this will be attempts to coopt , to present the movement as “tame”, to divert it along reformist channels.
In Britain other struggles are happening at the same time. The attack on electricians in the building industry on pay, conditions and pensions has brought about many weeks of actions involving hundreds of workers with use of road blockades and occupations of building sites.
Similarly, people have been fighting cuts imposed through local councils by using similar tactics. Recently people massed outside libraries in Brent in London that had been condemned to close and stopped them being boarded up. They were prepared ( like the movement outside St Paul’s) to stay all night, and they were supported by other local people bringing them food and drink, blankets and hot water bottles.
All of these actions have to be linked up. The way was shown on Wednesday October 19th when some people from St Paul’s went to help the electricians’ actions. It was followed up by a march from the action up to St Paul’s to a warm welcome. Anti-capitalist speeches and expressions of solidarity were given from the steps of the cathedral. This is the first step towards unity and must be followed up.
• Unite the struggles- create links between the Occupy movement, workers fighting against cuts in pay and conditions and pensions, students in schools, colleges and universities fighting against the austerity measures, pensioners, the unemployed and the anti-war movement
• Attacking the bankers is only part of the solution, the whole of the present system is unjust and rotten. It cannot be reformed. There is no such thing as a “nice” capitalism. It must be replaced with a new society based on equality and social justice, a society based on mass decision-making and mass participation, without exploitation, hierarchy, injustice and war
Printed and published by Anarchist Federation (London)
BM ANARFED LONDON WC1N 3XX
Freedom newspaper launched in new its monthly format on Oct 1st at an event that took place at Housmans bookshop. The new paper has colour inside and 24 pages. The new cover price is £2. Regular subscriptions including postage to UK addresses are £22 a year.
Details of the event and contents of the first monthly edition, plus full information about subscriptions and how to contribute to the paper are available on the Freedom Press website:
Also read the AF's monthly paper, resistance, online at: http://www.afed.org.uk/publications/resistance-bulletin
Thousands of people have been occupying public squares in Greece to protest the government’s continuing austerity drive. Syntagma Square, in front of the parliament building, has been the principle focus of the occupations with thousands camping out and holding regular mass assemblies. The actions culminated in an attempt to blockade the parliament building on the day of the general strike, a plan that prompted widespread repression and confrontation with the police (including use of new motorcycle units who are equipped with metal clubs, tear gas and stun grenades). Police are also reported to have stopped ambulance crews from assisting injured protesters. An estimated 20-30,000 people filled the square, making it a far larger and more diverse action than any opposition seen so far. Protesters also attacked the luxurious Hotel Prince George and the Ministry of Economics. In response to the ongoing crisis the government has called for a “national unity” coalition, the assembly, however, has responded that it will continue to hold the square until governments, banks and the IMF are ousted.
The strength of the occupations, their size and their commitment to direct action and non-representational methods of organising are certainly inspiring and show the credibility of anarchist methods in practice. This aside, some in the existing anarchist movement have pointed to the need for more sustained intervention as there is an ongoing commitment to pacifistic methods (in spite of police provocation) and some of the actions are backed by nationalist sentiment, e.g. defending the Hellenic Republic from the “foreign” intervention of the EU and IMF. The latter has prompted the involvement of fascist groups who, in a surprising move, attended the protests during the General Strike (after a clash with anarchists they were ousted from the demonstration). More worrying reports have also come through of hostility to the use of anarchist banners and flags within the occupation itself. Nonetheless, the examples set by Greek workers are positive and testament to the power of direct action. Most importantly they point to a clear strategy – to escalate dissent to a point where the system is ungovernable – in the international fightback against austerity.
UK Unmasked and the New Kids on the Bloc
Analysis by a member of the Anarchist Federation on the "March for the Alternative" (March 26th 2011) and the political trends expressed within it, especially UK Uncut and the Black Bloc, in relation to the growing anti-cuts movement in the UK. From Organise! 76 - Summer 2011 (forthcoming issue).
This article comes from The Fargate Speaker, one of the many local AFed blogs that you can see there in the blogroll on the right.
Mark is a third year Biology student studying at Sheffield University and a member of the Anarchist Federation. He is one among many students currently occupying the Hicks Building on Sheffield University campus. The views expressed in the interview should be considered his alone and not that of the occupation’s general assembly.
- Why are you occupying the Hicks building today?
We are occupying for a variety of reasons but generally around the common purpose of being against the cuts in this university, to other universities and to education in general. Particularly we want to demonstrate against the proposed rise in tuition fees and the ongoing privatisation of higher education. However, we are also tying our actions to a wider struggle against austerity measures and cuts. So our occupation is about more than just education cuts but this is currently our primary focus.
- What has been the reaction of University security/the police so far?
They haven’t taken any action to stop us occupying yet but they have told us after 6pm that everyone who is leaving won’t be able to return. This will presumably be until tomorrow morning. It might open up again after 8am. We haven’t had any major trouble so far but police have been inside to observe what was going on. It should be stated thought that we have no intention of damaging university property. This is a peaceful occupation.
- Why should the occupation be supported?
Because the tactic of occupation, as opposed to lobbying or simply asking political representatives to make changes for us, is a tactic that has been historically successful. Clegg and his broken promise to scrap tuition fees is just one example, among many, that politicians cannot be trusted to make decisions for us. Direct action puts a lot more pressure on university management and by extension government ministers to act.Aside from the past success of these kinds of tactics what we are fighting for is essentially access to education for everybody regardless of income. We also recognise that there is a much wider struggle beyond simply what is happening to education right now. We need to extend these tactics into all of these areas where we are currently under attack. This is a fight that all of us should be taking on and working in solidarity with each other.
Page 3 of 5