Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Divide and Conquer - Will the left EVER learn?

So, I see the debate is still raging over how, where what and why the March for the Alternative has become the "March that all went a bit Wrong"

Well shame on commentators, is all I can say. The TUC haven't fallen for all this divide and conquer nonsense. UK Uncut haven't either. The march didn't all go a bit wrong, it was a terrific success, but people like me, who spend their time offering opinions that they assume the country want to hear have lined up to criticise, analyse and judge.

I was fuming when the BBC and Sky switched away from Ed Miliband's speech to show split screen footage of a few rowdy vandals smashing up Oxford Street.

"What about the other half a million?" I yelled in frustration at the TV screen? What about the people patiently waiting to hear exactly what approach the Labour leader would take? What about the carnival-family-day-out atmosphere that was obviously the overwhelming message of the day?

I was cross with the media, not the protesters per se. It is totally inevitable that at any march where 100s of 1000s of people take to the streets with a host of different objectives and fears, a handful will try to spoil the party. Is that news? Really? Is it more newsworthy that 150 or so hooded rebels threw a few paint bombs than that up to half a million people turned up to make a very important point? A footnote perhaps, but the main story?

It was perfectly clear to anyone watching all day on Saturday, that the TUC march, the UK Uncut peaceful protest and the Black Block anarchists were three very distinct groups. That the media chose to morph them into one, was entirely predictable too.

I didn't comment before last night. Not once. The media had shown me police officers acting with incredible good nature under attack, but I'd also seen protesters kettled and dragged to the ground. I wasn't there. How can I say who started it? Who was at fault? More to the point why does it matter?

In every protest throughout history, those with power and influence have sought to divide and conquer those without. If I criticise UK Uncut, or even the balaclava'd rioters, I fall for the oldest trick in the book - judging those that are broadly on my side and I divert the debate from the very cause we aim to highlight.

I chose to support the TUC march from home. I desperately wanted the peaceful, reasonable voices of the "silent majority" to be heard.

At the same time, I am a great supporter of Movement for Change, the direct action group that first David Miliband and now the entire Labour Party will be pursuing as a grass-roots movement to re-engage those who think politics has let them down. What better way of doing that; what better example of firm but peaceful direct action could there be than sitting amongst the luxurious goodies of Fortnum and Mason's food hall eating curled up packed lunches and drinking pop. As anarchists go, it all looked terribly middle class and good natured to me.

Finally, (and I couldn't give a fig if controversially) if a small (less than 0.01%) group of dispossessed, disenfranchised public feel they have no other outlet than to throw a few paint bombs and smash a few windows, well is that a capital crime? Was anyone hurt? Killed? Injured? I haven't heard that they were. The argument that violence against property is a legitimate response to violence against the fabric of our society has at least somevalidity. It always has and it always will. Surely we ought to be asking ourselves why these people feel more peaceful forms of protest won't achieve anything? Sure, they should face prosecution for criminal damage, but in the end, the suffragettes felt that breaking the law was the only way to get their message across - none of this is new.

The front pages of our newspapers the following day gave the UK flaming streets and balaclava'd hoodies - does that mean the rebels high-jacked the march or that the media insisted that they did?

With column inches stretching into miles on who was at fault and why it all went wrong, didn't we just play right into their hands? Well done to the "Progressive Majority" for falling for divide and conquer - have we never learnt anything at all? We didn't refuse to be drawn, we didn't focus purely on how successful the day was overall, we didn't take the line that EVERYONE in London that day were simply trying to make their voices heard and move on to the main issue - an alternative to swingeing cuts that will harm us all. Oh no! We bickered and we judged and we criticised.

By blaming others and looking to create our own divisions, we allowed the media and politicians to achieve exactly what they hoped to. We've spent nearly 4 days gazing at our own navels rather than focussing on just what an enormous overall success the day was.

Whether you lean towards anarchy or democratic opposition, the real fight is over there - look! -  over there! Where the cuts are being made, where the sick and disabled have no voice, where students and other young people face a terribly bleak future. The real fight is over the privatisation of the NHS and the cuts to the arts, sport and pensions. Will we EVER learn?

The next time there's a march, let's assume the following : (We don't need a crystal ball)

-Most of it will be peaceful.

-A few will choose to take direct action.



-A tiny few will want seek to make a more violent point. 

However hard the media and vested interests try to tear us apart, however hard the coalition try to imply that all protesters are ignorant, radicals, can we PLEASE not give them a single column - in fact not a single word - not a single apostrophe - that does their job for them?

36 comments:

  1. It is no measure of mental heath to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. you talk about NHS cuts when 25,000 children die each day from hunger in africa alone. killed by the rich faceless corporations. PLEASE WAKE UP BEFORE ITS TO LATE!!!!

    HB

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  2. Not quite sure what point you're trying to make there

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  3. The march next time sue could well be very violent as that is the only language that the conservative government and bully's understand

    The government are mentally sick the faceless cooperations that control many parts of the world are the real enemy and the way forward can only be for the public to strike back at businesses that have a controlling feature about them to the detriment of the staff that they employ

    The next few years in Britten are going to be very tough for many thats a certain and as i say if the going gets to tough for the public overall then the government will have to be overthrown as in Egypt

    It will probably come to that I'm certain but as what happens after would remain unclear

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  4. Emily pankhurst and her friends set out to get arrested and it wasnt as easy as she thought.

    She knew that the power of arrest was needed for the people of Britian to appreciate her cause and with out it, she loses the power of critism.

    How else are the public going to weigh up, why was she arrested, what for, the way she is treated, is it justified, is she being treated shamefully, is Britian losing its pride in its order of things, thats what she wanted to get people interested in her and her movement.

    If she stood there with a banner, thats it then history would be different.

    Unfortunately the police have now fallen into that trap kettling innocent people in full view of a filming observer, thats going to have tremendous future positive impacts on the cause.

    Doesnt matter who they are the public in general like to critical and who the point the finger most and call shamefull swings what happens.

    All the Goverment can see is something frightening.

    Are people organising: Yes.

    Are the successful in being organised: Yes.

    Are they coming in large numbers: Yes.

    Are they protesting against them: Yes.

    You can see how frightening it can be for them if non of them was peacefull and what if such an event ever took place.

    Every protest is a success esp if the gov does not like the public trying to bring about change.

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  5. Surely it did go a little bit wrong - it appeared to be a coalition against the cuts where only labour party members were allowed to join the coalition - caroline lucas, the leader of the Greens was not allowed to speak at Hyde Park - also Ed Miliband called for some cuts so you have the situation where 500,000 people march and end up being hectored by a leader who won't share a platform and calls for "some cuts"

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  6. My friend was getting tweets about oxford st so I sent a text to my mum asking "Are you getting the violence on the news or the peaceful march I'm on?". Your post has just answered my question and I feel your fury. It's a shame the media manipulate the facts because from my perspective the whole thing, anarchists included, was a success.

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  7. here's a reflective, and where next politically orientated discussion
    http://thegreatunrest.net/2011/03/29/rallies-and-riots/

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  8. I can never condone violence. Many people needed hospital treatment because of an anarchist minority and that is unacceptable.

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  9. Mark what's unacceptable is people dying every day in the name of profit and growth.

    HB

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  10. Petrol Tax had been reduced, and protest is being made unlawful. The economically inactive should be deprived of their votes because those who do not contribute to society should not have a say in how its run.

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  11. Scrapper Duncan - You make an excellent point about Caroline Lucas - the quote at the bottom of my blog by Gandhi shows they're trying the "ignore" stage with her.

    Remember though, it was March for the Alternative, not a "No cuts at all" march

    Anonymous re Petrol tax - What a great idea!! Then politicians could TOTALLY ignore those in need or the vulnerable and not consider them in policy at all!! that's the silliest thing I ever heard.

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  12. It's a shame a small minority spoilt it and it was only their message that was reported by the media, can you not accept that this also happens to people sitting to the right of you, anything they say is immediately branded as BNP or greedy bankers. I think it is the responsibility of all parties to police their extremes so we can have a sensible debate. I don't think Mr Balls is doing a very good job of that at the moment, some of his recent comments have been quite sensationalist.

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  13. UK Uncut did a very good job at highlighting an alternative and cuts and the fact they were arrested shows how reluctant those in power are to listen to an alternative.

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  14. Sorry should have read an alternative to cuts not alternative and cuts

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  15. Real quick on a bit of a tangent as I feel this is important:

    I just received a letter from the National Centre for Social Research. Apparently an independent research institute is gathering "quality of life" information for the Department of Work and Pensions. No idea what this means but it seems something is in the works. I will be telling them EXACTLY what is going on if I can. But surveys are by their very nature very narrow and I don't doubt it isn't going to be used to get stats that the DWP actually like, rather than the truth. Still spread this news around!

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  16. I'm not sure I understand your point. Surely the best way to stop the media equating genuine, legal, peaceful protest and violence is to make the difference as clear as possible. Those in favour of the peaceful protest should be at the very forefront of rejecting any connection between their protest and the violent one as loudly and as often as possible. Surely allowing any confusion or ambiguity between the two only allows those who oppose both to use one to smear the other?

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  17. What confusion and ambiguity is this Mr Wigmore? TUC and UK Uncut spokespersons were extremely quick to distance themselves from violence, but that still wasn't enough.

    The media were intent on distortion, nothing will stop them in such a case.

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  18. Possibly true. To be honest I wasn't following the news on this. I was replying to Sue's article. Where she appeared to be saying the opposite.

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  19. Can I also just say that the nationwide protest by disability groups in January had no violence at all Mr Wigmore.

    It also had zero media coverage. I'm expecting little improvement at The Hardest Hit protest in May.

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  20. Maybe the press might also distort the views of those slightly to the right of you, perhaps.

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  21. You'd think so, then those to the Right of me come out and reveal their true views are even more selfish, hateful and without conscience than were portrayed.

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  22. Sorry, Sue but the Black Bloc are not broadly on our side....they are infested with undercover police with no means to control or guard against them...they are not on our side, they are on the other one...

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  23. Darrell - My Mum promulgated just such a theory yesterday. Reckoned if we whipped off the balaclavas we'd be looking at either a convention of the young Conservatives, or a splinter group of the tax-payers alliance.

    Personally I jut think they were angry young people with no historical framework of peaceful protest.

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  24. Bull shit we could just as easy be looking at a bunch of New labour people as Tories, you really do need to get off your labour party horse.

    The disabled are being hammered because labour put in place a draconian WCA assessment and are standing by it, well except the seven MP's who voted against it.

    Labour and Ed stated we will back the Tories on welfare, so your lucky I'm not twenty I'd be smashing down banks doors.

    If you do not see anger in marches then it's lucky you were not around in the sixties or seventies with Ban the bomb, stop the wars, and greenwood common.

    A march through London would not worry the Tories or New labour both of them basically being the same.

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  25. What ARE you talking about Robert? None of that made any sense. Did you even read the article where I fully acknowledge the anger?

    Did I support Labour anywhere in it?

    Get a grip man!!

    It was an article asking the left to stop bickering???? Please don't abuse me before midday, it gives me indigestion - especially when you clearly haven't read what I've written.

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  26. I'm still waiting patiently (and agog I must confess) as to which cuts the Labour Party believe are good cuts as they have stated repeatedly that they do believe in 'some cuts'. They are being very coy about which cuts they do support so far.

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  27. As I said to Stephen, our job is now to oppose. We lost you see.

    The Conservatives have to govern now with their Lib Dem tag-on-majority.

    If you were REALLY agog, you'd know that Labour support Welfare Reform, Pathways to Work, Shoving 2.2 million people off sickness benefits and into work, police schools - Labour didn't even ring fence the NHS - and many others......

    Could it be that in fact you're just repeating a hackneyed party blue line?

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  28. No Sue, I'm just surprised and curious that anyone would be waiting patiently to see what the attempting hijackers of the March For The Alternative i.e the Labour party would have to say. One doesn't have to be 'blue' politically to believe that the Labour party don't really have anything more positive to offer than the ConDems.

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  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  30. Well, 10 million people vote Labour and whilst opinion polls are tomorrow's chip paper, they imply that very many more were waiting to hear what Ed had to say.

    If you post anonymously something that sounds like it's from the Cameron handbook, it's an easy assumption to make.

    Labour offered their alternative and I posted on it at length on the previous thread.

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  31. Should read "voted" - no comment on the fact i told you about cuts Labour support?

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  32. 10 million voters voted for Labour LAST May, nearly a year ago. I think you and they will find that their support has dwindled quite considerably since then.

    I was dissapointed to not be able to work out how to leave my name with the available software, what is a name url?

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  33. "Well, 10 million people vote Labour and whilst opinion polls are tomorrow's chip paper, they imply that very many more were waiting to hear what Ed had to say."

    Last years election results are this year's compost! The Labour Party are as morally bankrupt as the rest, I think it was a stroke of brilliant timing that things kicked of as Ed the traitor was spouting his vacuous bullshit. Like the anonymous commentator above, I am NOT a Tory!

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  34. Seriously, are you telling me you both honestly think Labour would poll fewer votes today than they did last May? Honestly?

    Nothing more to say really.

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  35. Just thinking about it in fact Labour polled just 29.7% of the vote last May - they're worst vote share since (I believe 1922)

    Today, every single po;; puts them on at least 39% - You Gov consistently have them on 43 -44%.

    Come on now - even if the polls are wrong, "support has dwindled quite considerably since then" is just not rooted in any reality.

    Now I'm not thrilled with Labour myself at the moment, but eggs is eggs guys!

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  36. Votes are like eggs, in that they shouldn't be counted until they're hatched.

    Eggs are also easily broken, just like politicians promises.

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