| Monopolise Resistance
September 2001 (before the 9-11 attacks) SchNEWS put together
a pamphlet in response to the sudden involvement of the Socialist
Workers Party (SWP) in the 'anti-globalised-capitalism' movement
through a front group called 'Globalise Resistance'. To read
the contents of this pamphlet see below.
months after this was published, and the war in Afghanistan
had started, the SWP then began putting their energy into another
front group - the Stop The War Coalition. We looked at this
and updated the pamphlet in an article in SchNEWS
Of The World, which you can read here.
Tweedledee Tendency | What A Front!
| Brighton 2001 - Seattle in Reverse |
Thanks, But No Thanks | What
is Anti-Capitalism? | Vote Labour Where
You Must | Getting Our Act(ion) Together
| Extra Bits | Resources
- how Globalise Resistance would hijack revolt...
"The protesters are winning. They are winning on the streets.
Before too long they will be winning the argument. Globalisation
is fast becoming a cause without credible champions." Financial
Times, 17th August 2001
For the first
time in decades, millions of people are actively questioning the
existence of capitalism. From the Mexican jungle to the streets
of London, from the summits of Seattle and Genoa to the factories
of Indonesia, a broad alliance of groups, networks and campaigns
is mobilising people to take part in action directly challenging
capitalism and its destruction of communities and ecologies. Millions
are beginning to see that another world is possible.
But there is
no guarantee that capitalism will fade away as people see through
it. The rich and powerful would rather lay waste to the world than
lose their control over it. They ve already made quite a start.
Our job is to stop them.
movement is at a key point in its development. Three years ago it
hardly existed. The next three years will be crucial. This is why
we ve decided to make public our fears that all this good work could
be undone by people who have nothing to do with this resistance
but instead want to take it over for their own ends.
is an attempt to show why the Socialist Workers Party and Globalise
Resistance are trying to do just that. While working closely with
respectable anti-globalisation groups, the SWP/GR increasingly attack
those involved in direct action, describing us - just as the gutter
press does - as disorganised, mindless hoodlums obsessed with violence.
They are willing to make these attacks so they can portray themselves
as more organised and, therefore, the best bet if you think capitalism
stinks and want to do something about it.
They are nothing
of the sort. They want to kill the vitality of our movement - with
the best of intentions, of course - and we need to organise better
in the face of this threat.
Which is the
other reason that we ve written this pamphlet. Direct action has
achieved great things over the years but - let s face it - sometimes
the way we organise things is just crap. We need to change that.
This isn t some
stupid slagging match. As regular readers will know, SchNEWS is
not in the habit of attacking other groups. We just think these
things need saying.
for winning mass support for anti-capitalist ideas has never been
greater. Let s not blow it.
As the anti-capitalist movement grows across the world, some people
are beginning to tell us that we need closer links with social democratic
parties - the tweedledee of electoral politics and often the very
people organising the state s attacks on us - in the name of unity
. We believe in unity - but watering down anti-capitalist politics
to gain a spurious unity with supporters of capitalism is a betrayal
that history rarely forgives. In-yer-face, on the streets anti-capitalism
is what gives our movement its vitality and attracts support for
our activities - it s not something to be played down, disguised
or get embarassed about.
Over the last
year the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and its front organisation
Globalise Resistance (GR) have been attempting to fundamentally
change the nature of the anti-capitalist movement in Britain. The
SWP have got involved in the anti-capitalist movement for very different
reasons to the rest of us. Their main aim is to take control of
the anti-capitalist movement and turn it into an ineffective, pro-Labour
pressure group so as to increase the influence and membership of
the SWP. They re not mainly interested in working with others they
completely disagree with the politics of just about everyone else
involved. As they put it in Genoa, "Remember, we re the only
people here with an overall strategy for the anti-capitalist movement.
So I want five people to go out with membership cards, five to sell
papers and five to sell bandanas." (1)
They see the
anti-capitalist movement as made up of well-meaning but muddled
people who will not be able to achieve anything significant until
they are led by the SWP. They want to lead us for our own good:
"Mass movements don t get the political representation that
they deserve unless a minority of activists within the movement
seek to create a political leadership, which means a political party
that shares their vision of political power from below". (2)
But the SWP
do not share the views of the movement they now claim to be a part
of and want to lead . They vote for the government. They oppose
confrontational direct action. They vastly overestimate the extent
to which the Labour Party and trade unions represent ordinary people,
consistently arguing for anti-capitalists to moderate their activities
to suit the prejudices of Labour Party activists . They want to
take us back to the days of ineffective walk-to-Hyde-Park-and-listen-to-a-Labour-MP
politics that the direct action movement in this country was born
as a reaction against.
There is a world
of difference between winning people to anti-capitalism and watering
down anti-capitalism so as not to upset people in the Labour Party.
If it was just a matter of the SWP having pointless marches and
shouting themselves hoarse inside police pens it wouldn t be a problem
- they ve been doing that for years and nobody s noticed. The problem
is that they are actively conning people attracted to anti-capitalism
away from direct action and into compromising with the Labour Party.
All their activities are geared towards making our movement less
confrontational and less effective. And their way into our movement
is Globalise Resistance.
Globalise Resistance exists mainly to increase the influence of
the SWP within the anti-capitalist movement. It is only interested
in activities to the extent that its brand recognition increases.
For instance, commenting on Gothenburg GR s full-time organiser
and SWP member Guy Taylor said "GR has gone down brilliantly,
the words on the GR banner People before Profit, Our World is Not
for Sale were taken up and chanted by the whole protest!"(3)
Globalise Resistance would no more take part in an action without
prominently displaying its banners and placards than an oil company
would give money to an environmental project without telling anyone.
In all important
respects GR is run by, and in the interests of, the SWP - it is
a front organisation. This does not mean that all its supporters
are SWP members far from it. the whole point of a successful front
organisation is that it involves people who wouldn t otherwise join
the party while at the same time being dominated by the party and
existing to fulfill the aims of the party. A really successful front
organisation will have lots of non-party people involved in running
it while remaining politically dominated by the party controlling
it. As a speaker put it at the SWP s Marxism 2001 conference, "The
united front is a way for a tiny minority to win over lots of people
Globalise Resistance is a united front."(4)
Soon after he
attacked Reclaim the Streets in the press for being "part of
the problem, not part of the solution" George Monbiot was invited
by the SWP to be a main speaker at a number of GR rallies. This
allowed the SWP to promote Globalise Resistance as a broad-based
movement involving well known figures like Monbiot. The important
business of that tour was reported in Socialist Worker: "On
the Globalise Resistance tour 18 people joined the SWP in Manchester,
10 in Birmingham, 9 in Sheffield, 8 in Leeds and 4 in Liverpool".
2001 - SEATTLE IN REVERSE
A clear illustration of the difference between the SWP/GR and anti-capitalists
was their opposition to any form of direct action against the 2001
Labour Party conference in Brighton. Soon after returning from Genoa,
Chris Nineham of the SWP/GR told a meeting in Brighton that "it
would be wrong to close down the Labour conference", arguing
that attempting to blockade the conference would "give the
media an excuse to call us mad extremists" and "isolate
us from potentially massive support". Instead he called on
activists to "give encouragement to those in the Labour Party
Two years earlier
in Seattle, hundreds of workers left a union march to join activists
blockading the World Trade Organisation. They waded through tear
gas, pepper spray and police tanks to join an illegal blockade that
stopped the WTO in its tracks. It was a major victory for our movement.
What the SWP argued for at the 2001 Labour conference was a sort
of Seattle in reverse - instead of trying to get unions and workers
to join the direct action they wanted the direct action to stop
so as not to upset the union leaders. in the face of calls for a
blockade of the conference they organised a non-confrontational
demonstration aimed at "unit[ing] everyone who hates privatisation
and wants to push for real resistance from the union leaders"(7).
Forget taking action ourselves, they tell us - our job is to "place
pressure on our leaders to fight"(8).
BUT NO THANKS
The instinct for unity in our movement is very strong, even amongst
people with very different political outlooks. Some people see no
problem with the SWP s involvement in our movement, viewing criticism
of their politics as splitting the unity we need to be successful.
But this is to misunderstand what the SWP are up to - if the SWP
s aggressive selling of their sect s politics is successful our
movement will be significantly weakened. As an anonymous posting
on the uk indymedia site recently put it,
"Many have heard of the recent British history of direct action
protest, and it was particularly clear in Prague and Genoa how many
have been inspired by it. How many are inspired by non-confrontational
protest marches to nowhere? I can tell you, only the equivalents
of SWP in all those other countries. So let s please keep up the
momentum for creativity and change, and not give it up to people
who advocate going back to old, stale and useless tactics! This
is no call for disunity, it s a call for a movement not to commit
suicide by default!"
But if we re
gonna stop the SWP/GR from blunting the impact of anti-capitalist
politics, we need to examine what we re up to. Globalise Resistance
advertised and organised transport for hundreds of new people to
Genoa - we did not. They organised dozens of public meetings within
days of coming back from Genoa - we failed to. Globalise Resistance
have organised large conferences designed to raise their profile
within the movement - we have organised direct action conferences
in the past but nowadays, while rightly concentrating on actions,
seem to act as if these conferences don t matter. They do.
We want to kickstart
a debate about how we grow. How do we meaningfully involve new people
in activities? How do we learn from our mistakes and pass on our
experiences? How do we get our message across faced with a hostile
and manipulative media? In short, how do we expand from a handful
of relatively small autonomous groups into a mass movement organically
linked to everyone at the sharp end of capitalist exploitation and
The anti-capitalist movement involves a wide range of groups and
diverse styles of campaigns. But there are common principles that
run through all our activities.
1 A DETERMINATION
TO RESIST CAPITALISM PRACTICALLY
Our movement is firmly based on the principle that direct action
is central to opposing capitalism. Capitalism is a very practical
thing, you don t overthrow it by proving that it s not very nice
- you take actions to prevent its destruction of communities and
ecologies. This means occupying offices, destroying jet fighters,
shutting down docks and blockading summits. It means creating social
centres out of derelict buildings, holding parties on motorways,
defending picket lines and trashing GM crops. It means going beyond
words and making resistance part of everyday life.
A LEAD FROM MOVEMENTS IN THE SOUTH
Capitalism is responsible for enormous, and growing, inequality
in the world and it is the peoples of the world s south that suffer
most. The income of the richest 20% of the world s population is
at least 75 times greater than the income of the poorest 20% (it
was 30 times greater forty years ago). Third world debt, enforced
by the military might of the United States, Britain and other rich
countries, is simply a racket to keep this inequality entrenched.
Every day, 128m flows from the poorest countries in the world to
the banks of the rich countries.
has always been inspired by the struggles of peoples in the south,
the majority of humanity, against capitalism. Massive social movements
such as the Zapatistas in Mexico, Narmada Andolen Bachoa in India
and Movimento Sem Terra in Brazil are fighting life and death battles
to defend their communities from capital s never ending quest for
profit. In recent years strike waves and popular protests have been
seen from Argentina to Korea, Nigeria to Indonsia. We support and
learn from these movements. We see our struggle and theirs as one
and the same.
PRACTICAL ALLIANCES WITH OTHERS
Our movement encompasses a wide range of groups and campaigns with
overlapping activities and ideas. We are a movement of one no and
many yeses. While there are constant discussions and disagreements
amongst people, our organic, decentralised way of organising minimise
the extent to which abstract ideological debates prevent us from
working together. New ideas are tested in practice in an atmosphere
of mutual respect.
The media and
others are keen to pigeonhole anti-capitalism as a cultural phenomenon
defined by lifestyle, dress and age. The direct action movement
in Britain has roots in various communities, noteably the anti-road
camps and campaigns of the 1990s, but the portrayal of our movement
as a sub-culture minimises the extent to which anti-capitalist ideas
have taken root in many parts of society. For instance, it is simply
not true to say that this is an anarchist movement - anarchists
play an important role, but so do socialists, greens, communists
and loads of people who wouldn t call themselves any of these things.
People are always
developing new, practical links with others fighting capitalism
- strikers, anti-racist campaigners and others both here and abroad
- based on mutual respect and a shared determination to challenge
capitalism in all its forms. The way we organise allows us to minimise
the state s targetting of individuals as leaders and encourages
new ideas and tactics to develop in a way that would otherwise not
A HEALTHY DISREGARD FOR LEGALITY
The law has always been used as a weapon to prevent effective opposition
to capitalism. From the anti-union laws preventing picketing to
the Terrorism Act outlawing free speech, from the Criminal Justice
Act stopping people dancing, squatting and protesting to the Public
Order Act s attacks on basic rights of assembly, laws are constantly
brought in to attack us. We d be mad to treat these laws as anything
but an occupational hazard to be got around - we certainly don t
let them dictate what we do. Opposing capitalism within the law
is like playing a game of football after deciding you re not going
to kick the ball outside your own half. It doesn t work.
This doesn t
mean it s okay to go around attacking and robbing people everywhere
- that s what capitalism does. It means recognising that the state
and its laws are there to defend the capitalist system and we shouldn
t be surprised when it does exactly that. It means showing that
we will not play by capitalism s rules of legitimate protest because
they are their rules, not ours, and if we play by them we will lose.
WITH THE OFFICIAL MOVEMENTS AND PARTIES THAT HOLD OUR STRUGGLES
The wealth of the richest 358 people in the world is more than the
annual income of nearly half the world s population; 800 million
people in the world are severely malnourished or starving; a tenth
of children in the poor countries of the world die before their
fifth birthday. We use these sort of facts to illustrate how obscene
a system capitalism is. But the sheer scale of this obscenity raises
an important question - not so much how do we get rid of capitalism
but rather, if capitalism is so obscene, so wasteful, so against
the interest of humanity, how come it still exists?
of course, is that lots of people want it to. Many people in Britain
and other rich countries are able to live in relative affluence
as a result of the millions that capitalism keeps flowing in from
the south. It has been estimated that if UK consumption were matched
globally we would need eight planets to provide the resources needed.
The cheap commodities produced by slave labour in the south, the
massive debt repayments to the north, the manipulation of world
markets by the rich countries and their institutions such as the
World Bank, World Trade Organisation and International Monetary
Fund contribute to a higher standard of living for many people in
the rich countries. It s not just merchant bankers and multinational
directors that gain from Britain s financial power - many middle-managers,
professionals and others benefit significantly.
It is from people
like this - stuck between those at the top and the millions of workers,
carers and unemployed with no security or privileges at the bottom
- that the Labour Party and, to a large extent, the trade unions
draw their membership. While there are working class people in the
Labour Party and trade unions they do not determine these organisations
The Labour Party
has always played an important role in sabotaging, undermining and
holding back effective opposition to capitalism, acting as a safety
valve for capitalism, allowing people to feel they have a choice,
without anything changing. A recent survey revealed that only 15%
of Labour Party members see themselves as working class. This is
not a party of the toiling masses - it is a thoroughly pro-capitalist
organisation that is backed and funded by major corporations. From
supporting the corporate takeover of our public services to arming
third world dictators, from incarcerating asylum seekers to criminalising
opposition with the Terrorism Act, the Labour Party has shown itself
to be not misguided or wrong-headed or badly led but, quite simply,
capitalism s government of choice.
The unions today
are little better. They are major financial institutions in their
own right, holding assets of over 1,000m. Unions are now more interested
in providing financial services for its members the better off,
the better than fighting for their members and facing the prospect
of having their assets sequestrated. Less than a third of British
workers are in unions and those that are tend to have more secure
jobs - every other trade unionist is a professional and over a third
have degrees while only one in five casual workers and 6% of workers
under 20 are in a union. A middle aged manager with a mortgage and
a private pension is more likely to be in a union than a teenage
casual worker on the minimum wage.
This isn t to
say that we don t support strikes and other actions by workers -
far from it. The direct action movement occupied and blockaded docks
during the Liverpool dock dispute and Reclaim The Streets have taken
action in support of striking tube workers. In contrast, almost
all significant strikes in the last few years - the Liverpool dockers,
the Hillingdon hospital workers, the Tameside care workers, the
Dudley hospital workers - have been denied the support they needed
to win by their own unions.
kicks in we can expect to see thousands of workers, like the SITA
workers in Brighton (see page 15) taking action to defend basic
services against profiteering fatcat companies. These actions will
only win if they are based in local communities and take the sort
of action that unions, usually more concerned with staying within
anti-union laws than defending jobs or services, all too often tell
their members to avoid. Anyone with an ounce of anti-capitalism
in them will be supporting these actions - and hopefully helping
them to win.
LABOUR WHERE YOU MUST
The SWP reject all these principles. While using the language of
direct action, they take part in it as little as possible. Handing
out leaflets in Bristol becomes an action . A book launch in London
is preceded by a widely advertised action that involves shouting
slogans outside McDonalds for half an hour. While paying lipservice
to the idea of direct action, the SWP prefer legal, ineffective
demos - preferably with Labour councillors or MPs - everytime because
they are more unacceptable to the Labour Party supporters they are
trying to win to their party.
The SWP believe
that the struggles of peoples in the south are far less important
than trade union struggles in Britain and other richer countries.
They believe that third world debt is peripheral to the world economy
and that workers in Britain and other richer countries are more
exploited than workers in the third world (9). The Zapatistas, they
reckon, are "not in a position to provide political leadership
for the movement that has celebrated their example" (10). No,
that s a role that the SWP have reserved for themselves (and since
when did the Zapatistas want to lead us anyway?).
But what most
clearly differentiates the SWP from anyone with a spark of anti-capitalism
is their support for the Labour government. The SWP have always
voted for the Labour Party. At the last election they stood Socialist
Alliance candidates in a minority of seats but instructed their
members to vote Labour in the majority of seats. In the same publication
that they say "a vote for Labour is a vote for continuing inequality,
poverty, privatisation and slavish devotion to the market"
(11) they announced that "our approach in the coming election
should be vote Socialist where you can, vote Labour where you must
The SWP would
have us believe that the Labour Party and unions are full of closet
anti-capitalists who can hardly wait to take to the barricades with
us - as long as we behave ourselves. When they tell us that "many
who were on the anti-capitalist demonstrations or sympathised with
them will also be members of the Labour Party" (13) and "anti-capitalists
have to build bridges towards these outraged Labour members"
(14) you know that they re not calling on Labour Party activists
to adopt direct action - they are trying to convince anti-capitalists
to tone down their activities so as not to upset these people. When
they write that, "combining direct action with electioneering
will not always come naturally to those from a Labour background"
(15) you know it s not the electioneering that will be quietly forgotten
as they try to turn the anti-capitalist movement into a sad left-wing
Of course, there
are loads of people who ve got involved in Globalise Resistance
and the SWP because they really do want to fight capitalism. It
s easy to mistake the glitz and big meetings for effective organisation,
especially when SWP members often simply lie about their real beliefs
when out recruiting.
But it s not
effective. It s a sort of convenience politics - the same everywhere,
obsessed with market share, sometimes initially tasty but, in the
end, not much to it. The real world s messier, less straightforward
and sometimes downright confusing - but it is the real world.
OUR ACT(ION) TOGETHER
Over the last few years the direct action/anti-capitalist movement
has developed enormously. People have been continually and creatively
adapting tactics to meet new challenges and changing circumstances.
Alongside big actions, people are increasingly doing things locally,
in their own communities. From the fight against cuts in Hackney
to the Vote Nobody! campaign in Bristol, activists are building
strong links with other people fed up with what capitalism has to
offer. This isn t a retreat away from the big picture - it s building
things solidly, connecting with the spirit of resistance you find
in estates and communities up and down the country, while never
forgetting how all our struggles - and the struggles of millions
of people across the world - are linked.
We need to build on this. In the next few years we ll need all our
resourcefullness if we re gonna seize the moment, build new alliances
and involve new people in fighting this mad system. We ll need to
be bolder in promoting our ideas, more creative in involving new
people and clearer in getting our message across.
We haven t got
all the answers - and sometimes we re own worst enemy. Our aversion
to hierarchy is healthy, but too often it just means that there
s some inner circle making the real decisions. This is not non-hierarchical
- it is often the very opposite, excluding many people from participation.
Ask yourself - how easy is it for someone new to your town to get
in touch with your group? Do you have meetings where newcomers -
and not just people from your own social circles - are made to feel
welcome and involved in things? The easier we make it for new people
to get involved, the more we connect with the day-to-day struggles
of people around us, the more successful we will be. It s really
as simple as that.
stay the same for long - they either grow or fade away. If we fail
to continually improve the way we organise, there is a real danger
that people will turn their backs on direct action and be led back
into the dead end of electoral politics. We can t allow that to
happen. The stakes are just too high. We want to win.
WORKERS PARTY- SOME BLASTS FROM THE PAST
The SWP have a long history of appearing revolutionary in the abstract
- while opposing effective action in real life.
In the late
1970s, the SWP formed the ANTI-NAZI LEAGUE (ANL) to oppose the growth
of the fascist National Front. Then as now, the greatest attack
on black people in Britain did not come from fascist groups but
from a Labour government implementing racist immigration laws. The
almost exclusively white ANL grew into a movement of hundreds of
thousands holding massive rallies and concerts across the country
where Labour politicians would be invited to address the crowds.
But, when it came to fighting state racism, The SWP argued that
the ANL should not oppose immigration controls. The SWP refused
to oppose state racism rather than upset Labour Party supporters.
1978, the ASIAN COMMUNITY IN EAST LONDON asked the ANL to divert
people from a big ANL carnival to the east end to oppose a National
Front march. The ANL refused. SWP members argued that the ANL should
not oppose the racist march because "even such a movement on
the empty streets of the city of London facing 8,000 police might
not have broken through and beaten the Nazi marchers"16. The
Asian community was deserted by the SWP.
THE MINERS STRIKE
OF 1984-85 saw miners, their families and their communities fighting
for survival against a determined state machine and a militarised
police force. The miners had enormous support from miners support
groups throughout the country but, of course, the Labour Party and
trade union movement refused to give the miners the support they
needed to win. Faced with the refusal of other unions to back them,
miners organised hit squads to prevent scabbing by sabotaging scabs
buses and physically prevent scabs from breaking their strike. The
SWP, supporting only legal trade unionism, condemend the hit squads,
arguing that "we are opposed to individuals or groups using
violence as a substitute for class struggle" (17) and that
"such raids can give trade union officials an excuse not to
deliver solidarity" (18).
During the campaign
of MASS RESISTANCE TO THE POLL TAX in the late 1980s, the SWP insisted
that only the unions would be able to beat the tax. Dismissing the
mass non-payment movement in Newcastle, for instance, they said
that "In a city like Newcastle the 250 employees in the Finance
Department are more powerful than the 250,000 people who have to
pay the poll tax" (19). Chris Harman, the current editor of
Socialist Worker said at the time that "on the council estates
there are drug peddlers, junkies and people claiming houses under
false names. These people will complete the registration forms to
avoid attention from the council" (20). If the SWP had had
their way, there would have been no non-payment campaign and the
poll tax would not have been defeated.
In June 2001 Brighton s refuse workers went to work to find that
their employers, the French multinational SITA, had imposed increased
workloads that were impossible to deliver. When the the 160-strong
workforce protested they were sacked. The workforce occupied the
This is the
sort of dispute that makes the left go all wobbly at the knees with
paper sellers flocking to the picket lines to tell the workers how
to organise - and why not join our party while you re at it. But
what happened was something entirely different.
Within a few hours, people from the Anarchist Tea Pot were down
at the depot with food and blankets. Other activists helped design
a leaflet with the workers to give out around town.
The next morning,
SITA brought in casual employment agency workers to scab against
the strike. It didn t work. Supporters of the Free Party successfully
persuaded the agency workers that if they scabbed they wouldn t
be welcome anymore at Brighton free parties! Then someone using
good old-fashioned direct action skills locked onto one of the trucks
for five hours, preventing the rest from moving. As one striker
put it, "This fellow is crazy but what he has done is much
appreciated". Next, activists picketed recruitment agencies
that were advertising the sacked refuse collectors jobs - within
a few hours they had all pulled out. Thursday morning was spent
with scouts on bikes looking for scab trucks while 30 people sat
in a park waiting to spring into direct action.
evening, SITA had caved in. All the workers were reinstated, getting
full pay for the time they were on strike. As GMB official Gary
Smith told SchNEWS at the time, "We had enormous public support
from the local unemployed centre, direct action people and loads
of different communities who are fed up with their services being
run for profit. We should take inspiration from this fight, because
it shows that when people get together we can stop privatisation
in its tracks."
Squat cafes and community centres are a great of getting people
involved away from the intimidation from the police and authorities
that you would expect to get at an action. In Manchester, the Okasional
Cafe is a squatted social centre that has been appearing occasionally
for the past four years in different buildings around the city.
It s a friendly, accessible place where people can get to know each
other, start working together and build up trust. On election day
this year, it was the base for a Manchester anti-election day of
action with street theatre, free food and music.
people from the Okasional cafe heard about a film called Injustice
dealing with deaths in police custody - wherever the film was due
to be shown, the Police Federation would threaten last minute legal
action and the cinema would be forced to pull it. Some people from
the cafe decided to get in touch with the film makers and offer
the squat as an alternative venue in case this happened again. Sure
enough, a local cinema was soon forced to pull out of showing the
film because of threats of legal action and the Okasional cafe stepped
in. Activists shepherded an audience of about 100 around the corner
from the cinema to watch the film in the cafe. People who wouldn
t normally come to the cafe were told that they were in a squat
and what else was going on there. After the film there was food
and a discussion with the families of victims of police killings
and the filmmakers about their campaign for justice.
The Haringey Solidarity Group from north London have been involved
in radical community organising for years. Originally set up to
fight the poll tax, they decided to carry on after the tax was defeated.
Since then they have been involved in everything from supporting
local workers struggles and fighting casualisation to keeping an
eye on police surveillance and the exposing the cost of corporate
regeneration of the borough.
a group of local people who feel things need changing and we don
t have much faith in politicians and other so called leaders to
do it for us. Things will only get better for ordinary people when
we decide what is best for us. It is not for some boss or so-called
leader to decide what they think we need. We believe in doing things
for ourselves wherever possible and we try to encourage others to
feel that when ordinary people fight back against the system - be
that your boss, the local council or some multi-national company
- they need to be supported. So we agreed from the birth of Haringey
Solidarity Group onwards that, where possible, we would work with
and support local campaigns and try to get them to support us. By
this we don t mean taking over a campaign. We mean sharing skills,
giving each other confidence to do things and learning from each
other s successes and failures. People need to feel confident before
they can even think of starting to fight back themselves. We know
this may be a slow process but it is far better than starting something
up and telling people what they must do. We don t want to just become
the new set of leaders."
CASUALISATION THE SIMON JONES MEMORIAL CAMPAIGN
Simon Jones was killed in 1998 on his first day as a casual worker
at Shoreham docks - another victim of Britain s casual labour economy.
His death would have been brushed under the carpet like hundreds
of others - except this time a campaign of direct action was set
up to support Simon s family s fight for justice.
The docks where
Simon was killed in were shut down, the employment agency that sent
him there occupied. When it was clear that nothing was going to
get done, the campaign occupied the Department of Trade and Industry,
shut down a bridge outside the Health and Safety Executive and blockaded
the Crown Proaecution Service. Eventually, the state agreed to prosecute
the company involved.
would not have been possible without direct action. Dozens of local
union branches gave money to the campaign which they saw as fighting
for the most basic union right - the right not to be killed at work.
But while union activists kept telling the campaign how they fully
supported the campaign s effective tactics, they also said that
they couldn t do that sort of thing for fear of breaking union laws
- they saw the direct action movement as being able to take the
action it couldn t. As one union activist put it, "Nowadays,
unions are just too scared to do this sort of stuff. I wish that
wasn t so, but it is. Let s hope that changes."
One way of breaking down barriers and encouraging more cooperation
between people is to have a regular get together for different anti-capitalist
groups in an area. In Brighton the Rebel Alliance is an irregular
get together of the various direct action/non-hierarchical groups
in the town. Groups such as SchNEWS, Hell Raising Anarchist Girls,
Anarchist Tea Pot, Simon Jones Memorial Campaign, animal rights
and permaculture groups, etc are given a couple of minutes to say
what they are up to. This allows new people to see what s happening
locally and decide what they want to get involved in. It s also
a great way for everyone to meet people they might not normally
come across, exchange information and discuss what s going on in
the big bad world beyond your own campaign or group. Similar stuff
happens in London with CItY and in Manchester with the Riotous Assembly,
where each meeting has a topic with speakers and films as well.
Hard core activists
are probably used to waking up to in-depth discussions about globalisation,
so it s sometimes easy for them to forget that there are few places
where new people who don t happen to be mates with activists already
can listen to what we have to say and discuss stuff with people
who are involved. You can use these get-togethers as opportunities
to discuss fundamental issues - for example the violence/non-violence
debate has old political hacks crying into their beer/herbal tea
but for new people it might be the first time they ve had the chance
to discuss some of the arguments.
THEM WATCHING US
We all know that the mainstream corporate media is controlled by
people who don t exactly take kindly to anti-capitalist ideas. We
have our own media - hey, you re reading it! - and there s never
anything stopping people getting together to publish a newsletter,
stick up a website or whatever. From small, local newsletters to
the worldwide Indymedia sites - the Italian Indymedia site alone
was getting over a million hits a day during Genoa - we certainly
have ways of getting our message across.
But that doesn
t mean we can avoid the mainstream media altogether. It s certainly
true that journalists can stitch you up, misrepresent what you say
and try to make you look like an idiot, and in the past people involved
in actions have often refused to have anything to do with the media
because of this. The problem is that nowadays our silence is being
used by groups like Globalise Resistance and self-promoting academics
to speak on our behalf . So whereas in the past we could often let
our actions speak for themselves, it s now quite important to consider
talking to the media - so that someone else doesn t come along and
claim to speak for you.
So how can you
get your message across? Well, when Justice? set up a Squatters
Estate Agency in Brighton a few years back to advertise local empty
property to potential squatters and draw attention to homelessness
in the town, there was an incredible media interest. Everyone from
Australian TV and the German press to Radio 1 and Newsnight were
desperate to hear what was going on. Luckily enough, Justice? had
had a media training day a month before, learning how to deal with
dodgy interviewers, so were able to prepare for the onslaught quite
well. "We got half a dozen of us together, went through the
basic points we wanted to make - so many empty homes, so many homeless
people, why? - and did the interviews sticking to those points.
Because there was a group of us, no one got seized on as leader
- and it was great being able to beat MPs and government ministers
in discussions by keeping to the basics."
RECLAIM THE STREETS PO Box 9656, London N4 4JY Tel 0207 281 4621
PO Box 487, Norwich NR2 3AL Tel 01603 219811 www.eco-action.org/efau
ACTION Helping to coordinate international days of action www.agp.org
GROUP PO.Box 2474, London N8 Tel 020-8374 5027 http://home.clara.net/hsg/hhome.html
Check out the leaflet What can we do in our local area?. Also produce
The Agitator - a directory of autonomous groups.
MEDIA CENTRE www.indymedia.org or http://uk.indymedia.org for the
British site. Indymedia began life at the protests in Seattle against
the World Trade Organisation and now has sites all around the world.
This network of collectively run media outlets is "for the
creation of radical, accurate, and passionate tellings of the truth".
HANDBOOK Available for 1 + SAE from Advisory Service for Squatters,
2 St.Paul s Road, London N1 2QN Tel 020 7359 8814 www.squat.freeserve.co.uk
have produced a How to set up a local newsletter
PO Box 4144, Worthing BN14 7NZ. www.eco-action.org/porkbolter
MEDIA TOOLKIT 2.50 inc p&p (cheques payable to Oxyacetylene)
16b Cherwell Street, Oxford OX4 1BA www.toolkits.org.uk
A short leaflet produced by anarchists in 1999 alerting people to
the SWP s decision to become involved in anti-capitalist activities.
Available at www.leedsef.org.uk
OF STRUCTURELESSNESS by Jo Freeman. A seminal essay from 1970 about
the debate over small/unstructured group organisation that has been
raging from the 70s till today. Available for 1.50 from AK Distribution,
PO BOX 12766, Edinburgh EH8 9YE or at http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/hist_texts/structurelessness.html
1Chris Nineham speaking at SWP/GR meeting 18th July 2001, Genoa
convergence centre 2 Socialist Review (SR) January 2000 3 Quoted
in "eyewitness account from Gothenburg" at www.brightoncollective.org.uk
4 SWP speaker at Marxism 2001 5 Socialist Worker (SW) 17th February
2001 6 All quotes from posting at www.uk.indymedia.org 7 SW 1st
September 2001 8 SW 15th September 2001 9 Alex Callinicos at Marxism
2001 session on Is third wolrd debt central to the world economy
10 International Socialism Journal (ISJ) winter 2000 11 ISJ Spring
2001 12 ISJ Spring 2001 13 SR January 2000 14 SW 8th September 2001
15 ISJ Spring 2001 16 SW 30th September 1978 17 SW 25th August 1984
18 SW 11th August 1984 19 SWP speaker at National Action Conference
against the Poll Tax, quoted in Lorna Reid, Poll Tax: Paying to
be Poor 20 Speaking at the Socialist Conference 1988, quoted in
has been put together by people involved in direct action from a
number of organisations and groups. It grew out of discussions led
by SchNEWS and people involved in direct action in Manchester at
the Earth First! gathering held in Derbyshire in the summer of 2001.
After this, it was discussed amongst people from SchNEWS, Reclaim
the Streets, Earth First! and others. Needless to say, everyone
didn t agree on everything - but everyone did agree that we needed
to say something along these lines.
people mentioned a lot was the use of us , we , the movement and
so on when describing people involved in direct action and anti-capitalism.
This isn t meant to sound exclusive - you can t join the anti-capitalist
movement - it s just kinda difficult to write about things any other
SchNEWS is a
weekly direct action newsletter written by activists that has been
providing information for action since 1994. Every year we publish
a book compiling these newsletters, other material and a comprehensive