Slowly but surely we are getting there. Quietly, but definitively, the political topography in London is undergoing changes that could play a significant role in making the difference between winning and losing the anti-austerity struggle in the long haul. For instance, people spoke about a social explosion, and we got the August riots; people spoke about a diversification of tactics, that we need something new, and we got the Occupy movement; people spoke about student-worker solidarity to be manifested in real action and we have got November 9.
Solidarity with the students
November 9 will most likely see the biggest demonstration in London since March 26. This day is special, as hinted above, for more reasons than one. Firstly, that students haven’t given up even after the passing of the tuition fee bill and continue to take action is heartening in itself. True, tuition fee in itself does not figure in a major way in the upcoming protests, but that’s a battle that will be fought another day – and quite soon.
But students have honed in on two other, related issues that we can all sympathize with: the debt burden accruing from tuition fees, as well as the spectre of complete privatization of education, twisting the knife of class discrimination further into the heart of this society, making education too expensive for most people, and the range of subjects narrowed down and privileged (such as IT and business courses) to suit market interests.
Not only do we as anarchists/anti-authoritarians, and radical militants converge with students on the issues mentioned above, we have a chance now to push the argument much further in a much more anti-capitalist direction, not only opposing all fees but also opposing the very idea of a job-centred, business-like educational model. Since capitalist businesses cannot flourish without state support and state intervention, we now have an ideal opportunity to make a political case against the state in its long-time role of moulding the polity (‘the people’) without the approval, and much against the stated wishes, of that polity, unabashedly using force and coercion when needed. In a nutshell, what we have now is nothing short of an opportunity to show ‘democracy’ for the hoax it is – and has always been – within the confines of the state system.
Another student action on the day that has garnered hardly any attention at all is the walkout from schools, FE (Further Education) colleges and universities, which is then planned to feed into the march to the city. The main organizers of the march, NCAFC (National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts), could have done so much more to promote this act of civil disobedience, since as a form of protest this act holds a much more disruptive potential than the march itself – as seen recently in Chile, where students, especially high school students, walked out repeatedly almost on a daily basis in demand of a welfare system, and combined with other militant activities have attracted much international attention. The anarchists in London especially, if properly organized, could have contributed tremendously towards promoting the walkouts. This is something that needs to be reflected upon ex post facto.
That this time around students decided democratically at a student assembly to march to the city instead of to the usual destination of Parliament Square shows that they are thinking out of the box, trying new ideas, attempting to avoid the dead-end formulas that they know won’t get us anywhere. The ability to change tactics is a sign that a movement is alive, dynamic, flexible, open-minded and determined to move forward. They did not forget the riots either; it was their astute understanding that the school-going teenagers and the ‘kids from the estates’ recognize the city as a symbol of their oppression, and is a place far more accessible than Parliament Square, that tipped the decision in favour of going to the city. However, the actual mobilization has been found wanting, but that is something to improved upon in the coming weeks and months.
Solidarity with the workers
What is more remarkable about N9 is that the day will also see the electricians and the taxi drivers holding their own actions about their own grievances. Electricians who have been picketing various construction sites in London on a weekly basis against their employers’ decision to terminate their legal contracts and rehire them under new contracts with far worse wages and working conditions, will hold a demonstration on Nov 9 as well as picketing a construction site near Blackfriars station later in the day.
The electricians have expressed their desire to join up with students on the day. There is a potential here for a great explosive moment as workers and students combine, albeit about their separate causes, but in full understanding of the fact that in the final analysis they are fighting the same forces. Electricians and other skilled workers like plumbers will be coming down to London from all over UK in organized coaches to the Unite lobby in front of the Parliament on the day.
Although everyone is more excited about N30 the electricians’ rebellion is far more significant in terms of workers’ self-empowerment. The electricians movement has been a genuine grassroots, rank-and-file effort and has encompassed a range of direct actions from pickets to occupations. They have set a clear example that workers can self-organize and take action on their own discretion and don’t need to be beholden to official union organizations. Again this is an area of struggle where anarchists, if well organized, can provide much material and physical assistance and solidarity to the workers taking action, and help galvanize the larger public as well.
To make the day even more diverse taxi drivers from all over the country, including the RMT branch of cab drivers, will demonstrate at Trafalgar Square on November 9 against poor treatment and working conditions. The Occupy movement in London is sure to join these protests in one form or another. UK Uncut has been getting back in form in the last two months, so we can expect some direct action from them as well.
Thus, November 9 promises to be a great day of dissident action, with something for everyone. The sheer diversity of causes and targets would make it difficult for the state to control it easily, and we have to make optimum use of this situation. It would be a politically disastrous mistake to dismiss this day as just another street demonstration, ignoring the sheer magnitude of all these elements coming together on the same day, neglecting its ability to forge a powerful anti-systemic force for the near future. We as anarchists should be there alongside the students and the workers, politically as well as physically, adding to the plurality of voices as well as swelling the numbers, preempting the state’s ability to divide and persecute us separately. Turning up on the day intending to be militant, constituting ourselves politically, and representing ourselves as a collective on the day is the least we could do.