Roz Kaveney (rozk) wrote,
Roz Kaveney

There will be an entry about the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival later but I wanted to say something - wanted to write as a way of clarifying my thoughts about something - which has been taking up a lot of my time on Twitter and is clearly a major row among progressives when talking about March 26th and the so-called Black Bloc.

Some Labour loyalist commentators have used the vandalism of banks and the Ritz as a way of smearing the very different actions of UKUncut - encourage civil disobedience and non-legal activities like the occupation of Fortnum and Mason, they say, and this is what you get. Some have called for other progressives to help the police track Black Bloc people down. (I've told people off for calling such people touts on the grounds that in Northern Ireland in living memory that was an epithet the mere suspicion of which got people killed, but I do understand their anger.)

I don't though think that, after the record in many areas of the last Labour government, Labour loyalists, among whom I sort of count myself, are entitled to accuse anyone else in this great movement of ours of giving it a bad name. Nor do I necessarily object to property damage as a tactical form of protest - I supported Peter Hain's campaign of pitch destruction during the fight to stop the South African Rugby tour back in the days of apartheid, though I never took part in it.

And yet the Black Bloc make me uneasy.

I will defend them against heavy-handed policing; I will listen to their ideological stance; I will write against witch-hunting them in the Press. But their tactics make me a bit uneasy.

Not all of them - the short-lived Pink and Black Bloc occupation of Central was well executed and the Trojan Horse was genius.

I think my issues are these.

1. If you have a loose structure and perform slightly random acts, you may end up going further than is compatible with the general will you are trying to embody. You are not going to persuade people of the justice of attacking the Ritz if you also attack a Pret. You are not going to keep the sympathy of people who might like you to target banks if you also go after the Boris bikes.

I can see the case against Pret and Boris bikes - but am not especially convinced, let alone convinced they would be any sort of priority.

I would regard these as concerns, not criticisms.

2.The police have a budget for infiltration and becoming agents provocateurs. We know this from the recent environmentalist trial where police spies turned their coat and blew their cover. The looser the structure, the easier to infiltrate; the more random the actions, the easier it is for agents provocateurs to channel them into areas convenient for suppressing dissent.

3. If the police can infiltrate you, so can other groups, notably, say, the EDL. You have only to look at the whole vexed question of East London Pride to see that the EDL are smart enough to do these things.

4. There is a more general issue of political culture - a time when there are radical rightists on the march against minorities in general and Muslims in particular is not necessarily a good time to legitimize vandalism as a tactic. We will not necessariy win the war of the high streets and others may be losers in it.

5. If you are doing that sort of thing, you need to keep a clear line between your tactics and those of groups doing other things. Black Bloc needs to let UKUncut pursue its different tactics and objectives separately.

I appreciate the desire to avoid a vanguard leadership; I understand the desire to avoid respectability; but I must offer comradely suggestions. I think UKUncut have far better ideas and I think that the police decision to target UKUncut far more heavily and in the first instance indicates that the agencies of the state think so to.

It's easy for me to say, of course. I am an old person with a gammy leg that stops me running away and a dodgy eye that makes teargassing potentially maiming. I won't be taking part in any seriously radical action ever again, I think - the odd picket line is probably as far as I will ever go, and if marches I am on get into trouble, I will be as far away as quickly as possible.

Interestingly, while writing this, I have seen a link on Twitter to this which makes overlapping but similar points. Clearly a conversation needs to be had.
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