In this month’s column Jon Bigger looks at the possibilities for protest as the US President considers a British jaunt and and another Windsor marriage loom.
Last month I wrote about the benefits of small, grassroots organising delivering the goods. Sometimes people focus on mass demonstrations as they gain headlines and potential major breakthroughs and that can lead to people thinking each protest has to be big to be beneficial. I’ve noticed how mass protest has declined in the last couple of years in the UK but this has coincided with me living outside of London and so it’s possible this is just an illusion. My perception is that they have declined at the same time as Corbyn has taken control of the Labour Party. My gut feeling is that the trade unions simply aren’t doing as much as they used to and the people who were organising mass protests, which anarchists would tag along to and try to steer in more fruitful directions, have found new priorities in constitutional activities: namely getting Labour elected.
As we start a new year the potential for mass organising has come to my attention again While small protest can deliver real benefits there is always the hope that people can join together to forge a movement that looks widely at the issues society faces. This hope for widespread protest action is strong and the first half of the year presents two very good reasons to get onto the streets. The first is a potential visit to the UK by United States President Donald Trump and the second is the wedding of Harry Wales and Meghan Markle. Reality TV, royalty and celebrity power comes to the fore in two vile spectacles ripe for subversion and justified anger.
Donald Trump has been resisting a visit to Britain on the basis that he wants to be liked first. Reality is probably hitting that this might be a bit futile. So plans are afoot for him to open the new American Embassy in London sometime in the New Year. His inauguration last year in Washington D.C. was accompanied by some excellent Black Bloc activity diverting people away from the constitutional spectacle. This resulted in some thoughtful media attention towards the tactic and to anarchism in general. The hope must surely be that we could achieve the same effect here when he finally comes to town. There will no doubt be the joyless labour movement protests that happen as well, complete with police escort, self-stewardship and Labour Party dignitaries on the platform. We will be told that protest violence detracts from our message and that we don’t do our arguments any favour.
Bullshit. Trump represents state violence. I take the view that political violence is neither wrong nor right in a liberal democracy. Rather, violence is a fact and the only decision that needs to be taken is how it should be used. The state uses it and we should ignore the idea that it has a monopoly to do so. Taking to the streets and attacking property is a justified response to a man who has no qualms attacking and killing human beings, who has no problems interfering with the rights of women to choose what to do with their own bodies, who has set in train a series of reversals on LGBTQIA rights.
Meanwhile, on May 18th the warrior prince plans to settle down. This country is presented as a united land feeling the wonder and majesty of the divine right of kings to ever rule over us. The media is gushing at the modern monarchy as these two normal and humble people start a life together. How sweet. Except we know it’s a lie. This country is deeply divided and whilst the monarchy is supported by a majority of the people there is a sizable minority against the principle of royalty.
The disgusting spectacle of those born into wealth and power enjoying the big day while so many people suffer the devastating consequences of capitalism cannot be left without action. We have seen this past week the appalling intervention from the leader of Windsor Council, Simon Dudley, calling for the homeless to be taken off the streets of the town by the police in preparation for the wedding. Much has been made of Theresa May’s criticising his remarks but in fact she also called for police involvement, as if homelessness is a criminal matter.
On May 19th then, while the liberal republican movement will no doubt encourage people to demonstrate or hold alternative street parties there should also be space for agitation. Already some people have started the idea of a mass sleep over in Windsor to coincide with the wedding. Class War are calling for people to get to the area. The suggestion of squatting the homes of the council leader has been made and with Eton College just across the river there are plenty of avenues to explore.
These two events (who knows, perhaps The Donald will actually be at the wedding too) offer up the possibilities of major and widespread action, agitation, subversion and inventive protest. We cannot let them pass by without having a go.
Pic: Anti-Trump sticker in Shoreditch, London, by aesthetics of crisis