Some random musings on the student protests

Such horror, oh such a farce, a little bit of broken glass
You should think yourself lucky that this was done
You’ll have something you can whine about for years to come

(New Model Army, Chinese Whispers)

As the title says, just a few disjointed thoughts on the protests.

One interesting thing about these protests is that they have been entirely out of the ‘control’ of any of the organised left groups.  This truly has been a grassroots movement, where the only leadership seen (or needed!) has been the leadership of ideas.  Decisions have been made primarily on the ground, not from pubs and backrooms prior to the event.

It’s been a textbook example of why spontaneity is vital to any movement.  Praxis needs to inform theory, not vice versa.  And that is what has happened.  Thousands of students haven’t started seeing the police as their enemy because they read a particularly convincing anarchist pamphlet, or because of Ian Bone’s imaginative use of the word “wanker” at every opportunity.  It springs directly from their own experiences on the streets, from the reality of the class struggle, not from dry theory with no link to everyday life.

Same thing day after day- tube – work – dinner – work – tube – armchair – TV – sleep – tube – work -how much more can you take? – one in ten go mad, one in five cracks up

(King Mob graffiti)

The primitivist conceit that technology is counter-revolutionary has been destroyed for good.  This is, in many ways, the first movement that has truly realised the potential of cyberpunk theory.  From Twitter to Facebook to blogs to texting, the technology has transcended the limitations of its corporate creators, in order to be used to build and to create.  And the attempts by the authorities to wrestle control back have been unsuccessful.  As can be seen by the fact that, after the cops got Fitwatch closed down, the article exploded across the net.

Reformism is dead.  All that remains now is for the corpse to stop twitching.  Because this explosion of anger stems precisely from the fact that students previously took the argument of the liberals at face value.  Lobby for your preferred option.  Get promises from politicians to support you.  Then put your cross in the right box once every four years.  It’s not just Nick Clegg who has been shown up by this.  Liberalism itself has been shown, conclusively, to have failed.  And unless liberals face that openly and honestly, they do not deserve to extricate themselves from the dustbin of history.

If breaking windows and fighting back when the cops attack is ‘violence,’ then give me a new word, a word a thousand times stronger, to use when the cops are beating non-resisting people into comas.

(Starhawk, Staying on the Streets)

What is unlikely to result from this is a renewal of faith in the Labour Party.  That’s very different from the Thatcher years.  Because, unlike then, protesters have a recollection of a Labour government within living memory.  No longer do they get the luxury of opposition without having to face the consquences of their actions in goverment.  Again, the real world has crashed in.  Very few of those who have discovered why Tory hatred is such a fine tradition have any illusions in Labour.  Equally, it is noticable that the NUS and hacks like Aaron Porter are simply no longer relevant.  They’ve been bypassed by events on the street.

Finally, it is time to reject fully the false dichotomy between “good” and “bad” protesters.  It is a simple fact that the original occupation is what gave the movement the momentum to carry on.  And that, without a few broken windows, there is no way it would still be being talked about.  If you don’t like that, I can only advise lobbying reality to change its behaviour to fit your ideological preconceptions.

You found it all so easy to ignore the people who complained
And let their anger rise in flames
You thought this country was so great
That nobody could ever hate the way the system treated them
And then you wondered why they burnt your buildings down

(Subhumans, British Disease)

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  1. Excellent post. I thought this was particularly relevant: “If you don’t like that, I can only advise lobbying reality to change its behaviour to fit your ideological preconceptions.”

    I’m getting bored of the liberals whingeing about “violence” as if that’s what’s really concerning them. Usually those same liberals later go on to admit that they don’t really have a problem with tuition fees; or they make some equally false statement such as “the cuts are necessary”.

    The media can talk all they want about the protests being orchastrated by “trots and anarchists”; but as something of a “Trot” myself I must say that it is behind us, in the mass of the protesters, that stand the more radical, not within our ranks.

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