Wednesday, 30 March 2011

UK Uncut & Black Bloc – They All Look The Same To Me

Since the events of last Saturday, both the mainstream media and the police have sought to blur the lines of distinction between UK Uncut and the black bloc 'anarchists' that attacked the Ritz, Santander and Starbucks. A total of 201 arrests were made following Saturday’s march. Charges have been brought against 149 people, 138 of which were charged with aggravated trespass in connection with the Fortnum & Mason protest organised by UK Uncut.

New footage from the Guardian indicates that UK Uncut was deliberately targeted by police and this attempt to demonise UK Uncut and associate them with violent disturbances has been systematically reinforced by mainstream press and social networking sites. But why would the establishment seek to portray UK Uncut as violent ‘anarchists’? And why would the police choose to ignore violent behaviour in favour of arresting peaceful activists from a growing protest movement?

Well, on the face of it, UK Uncut is an easier and more manageable target – but that analysis is far too simple. We should instead ask who represents the greatest threat to the ‘establishment’?

In purely cosmetic terms, anarchists – with their penchant for smashing up expensive hotels and discharging paint bombs over high-end shops – are a fearsome threat to society. Their behaviour is sadistically iconic but, in truth, their actions alienate more than they attract and their activity is easily managed. But, my word, do they make for a good photo opportunity!

UK Uncut, on the other hand, represents a real and fundamental threat to the established order. The movement – fluid in its organisation and fiercely tech-savvy – has grown steadily since it was formed last year. Although not dogmatically political, their activity is distinctly class-based: they target organised capital or, more precisely, the tax-dodging classes – such as Vodafone, Top Shop or Boots – and their tactics are articulate, peaceful and original. Take, for example, the occupation of banks and the impromptu organisation of pop-up libraries or stand-up performance. Their thoughtful mobilisation – coupled with the resurrection of trade union activism – has had a profound effect on the established order and prompted this vicious backlash which hopes to gut the movement of activists and starve it of public support.

UK Uncut was targeted by police in an attempt to discredit them and encourage people to confuse peaceful demonstration against legitimate targets with violent vandalism. Anarchists were not targeted in the same way because their antics serve to fragment the labour movement by alienating potential support and providing a stick with which to beat the left. Characterising UK Uncut as thuggish criminals serves to undermine their sophisticated and peaceful activism.

The repression of UK Uncut has – at its very core – the class struggle and it shows that the antagonism between labour and capital is as strong as ever. UK Uncut has steadily been able to raise awareness of tax-dodging corporations and this has had a positive effect on raising the consciousness of British workers – but there was always going to be a backlash. On Monday it was announced that parliament is to investigate corporate tax avoidance – a formidable victory for the movement. Let’s hope it’s just the start.

18 comments:

Boggins said...

Totally disagree. Black Bloc tactics were clearly far more effective than UK Uncut as the arrest numbers show. The Anarchists damaged ideological targets and seem to have got away with it. Seems like a more effective attack on the establishment than sitting around being polite then being arrested and charged with bullshit legislation.

James Doleman said...

What is a "paint bomb"? Does it contain explosives or is it just paint.

Pete @ Eyes on Power said...

They were throwing water bombs with paint in them. They weren't explosive but there were smoke bombs and banger fireworks. You could smell the cordite readily.

We have a video of what we saw coming out in the next couple of days.

Anonymous said...

one thing that history has taught me, no one single group or individual has ever made the kinds of changes needed like that of today, but what i do know is that when people share a common cause - even if methods are different, thats when change is made, even if that change takes a long time.

Pete @ Eyes on Power said...

Definitely. Unless it's a vanguard revolution that is.

Anonymous said...

I believe UKUncut has the power to connect with a politically apathetic society. It's occupations are one track but I honestly believe that it needs to get a bit more political and do more than just protest and occupy. UKuncut has the potential to reach and influence millions because it speaks their language.

t-bone o'riley said...

there is a place for marching and a place for peacefully sitting and being arrested and a place for damage to property.

there isn't one right course of action.

and do people really think that ukuncutters never ninja up or that black bloc folk never join ukuncut sit ins?

hamsandwich said...

Why did the police arrest peaceful demonstrators? cos they are bullying cowards.

Anonymous said...

Your government supports peaceful protest , as it achieves nothing. That is all

Anonymous said...

"UK Uncut & Black Bloc- They All Look The Same To Me"

Should've gone to Specsavers.....

Anonymous said...

"UK Uncut & Black Bloc- They All Look The Same To Me"

Should've gone to Specsavers.....


I think the title might be ironic...

Soctrap said...

Terrific analysis.

Quick point. Anarchists don't throw things and break things. The people who throw things and break things are sometimes anarchists, sometimes nationalists, sometimes kids having fun.

Your analysis is spot on (IMHO). The violence of the violent is actually happily accepted if not promoted by police and government to ensure they have a blank cheque to respond to ALL society.

UKuncut undermine everything the Police and polititians have learnt. 15 years ago, (when people took similar actions) it was somewhat ineffective. But with social media and the net (person to person distribution as opposed to top down controlled MSM) this could be very powerful.

t-bone o'riley is right. There are different tactics required at different moments. But UKuncut are connecting with some previously very "unconnected" sections of society. People who would never protest...

Me for example... and many people like me. And I am politically an Anarchist/Austrian Capitalist. Possibly the antithesis of UKuncut. But in most people, fair play is the key factor that joins us as a political species before all other considerations. And UKuncut have "fair play" as their torch - and it doesn't take throwing much light on the establishment to see the corruption.

Last thing. I urge you to refrain from using "Anarchists" to represent those people. Anarchism is a philosophy of self-government by mature people. Violence is a tactic used by many groups.... including socialists and peace protestors.

Mary Tracy said...

Nonsense. Anarchists are not a “fearsome threat to society”, in cosmetic terms or otherwise. They are a threat to big corporations like Starbucks, with their insistence on “cosmetically” make every high street in the country look like a clon of every other high street. Not only have their actions failed to “alienate” me, but I’ve grown more and more supportive of their cause. I found out that amongst those “anarchists” is where the real Left lives, having been kicked out of all mainstream discourse.
And UK Uncut doesn’t represent a “real threat to the established order”, assuming a group that isn’t “dogmatically political” ever could. Targeting “tax dodging”, though nice and fair, will not bring much change to the “established order”. You know what would bring change? Demanding the end of corporations or the end of “capital” altogether. That used to be what the Left stood for. Now, it’s up to the anarchists to pick up the slack.

Anonymous said...

Nobody really cares anymore. Politics is homogenous and selfish with no agenda other than to try and bully and chastise the weak and feckless. They don't care either, as long as there is X-Factor, Greggs and WKD. All you protestors are wasting your time. The real power is no longer weilded by suits in Westminster and you're foolish to think otherwise.

Having said that, anyone who damages little bits of fetid, horrible London is fine by me.

Lucy Cage said...

I think many people demonstrably care. I think last Saturday was clear evidence of concern and anger. But people care about different things and in differing amounts.
What bothers me slightly is that the starting point of UK Uncut - close tax loopholes; get a few mega-rich multinationals to pay what they morally ought to rather than cut services that affect millions of ordinary people - seems to suggest that this system could be fair if only it were balanced up a bit. Same sort of proposition as the Robin Hood Tax movement: let's make a flawed system a little bit better by redistributing a portion of the wealth, now that we're feeling the crunch.
I think that those who see the entire system as fundamentally unfair, destructive, inhumane and failing have a clearer view of things, even if it is a more radical proposition. Not that I think that many or even most UK Uncutters won't follow the logic, draw their own conclusions and end up agreeing with the explicitly revolutionary spirit of the black bloc, or that there isn't a place in the anti-cuts movement for both tactical approaches, but as an analysis of the current economic situation it leaves something to be desired.

http://somethingtocryfor.blogspot.com/2011/03/after-march-complaints-and-complicity.html

Ignas said...

I know middle class intellectuals and activist's but no working class member's of UK uncut.I know working class member's of the police force,but no middle class intellectual's.
So as UK uncut pose such a threat to the establishment the tactic's of the police were justifiable because they are understandable ?
Considered that police represent the law by breaking it the lack of rationale behind it extend's to this article.

Anonymous said...

I was interested by what appeared to be the relatively light police presence Oxford Street and the initial hesitancy to kettle the black bloc group. I think this was intentional "under-policing" as the Tories wanted there to be some tv friendly destruction in order to discredit the anti-cut march as a whole as well as Uk-Uncut. The black bloc are a tiger they are very happy to ride.

Jeorge said...

I can now able to see that their behavior is sadistically iconic but, in truth, their actions alienate more than they attract and their activity is easily managed. Thanks mate and keep it up.

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