Showing posts with label protests. Show all posts
Showing posts with label protests. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Carry on protesting

Our companion blog Socialism Or Your Money Back carries an interesting post on protests and demonstrations.

This, too, explores the topic of how to express ideas for change.

Demonstrations are meant to reveal the strength of popular opinion or feeling and they are an appeal to the “democratic conscience” of the State. That’s the theory. However, if the State authority is open to democratic influence, the demonstration wouldn’t be necessary; if it is not receptive to peoples opinion, it is unlikely to be influenced by an empty show of force containing no real threat. It would now seem that the true function of demonstrations is not to convince the existing State authority to any significant degree. Such an aim is only a convenient rationalisation. It is an assembly which challenges authority by the mere fact of its coming together. The demonstrators present themselves as a target to the so-called forces of law and order. It is in the nature of a demonstration to provoke violence upon itself. Its provocation may also be violent. But in the end it is bound to suffer more than it inflicts. This is a tactical truth and an historical one. The historical role of demonstrations is often to show the injustice, cruelty, irrationality of the existing State power. The larger the movement, the more powerful the police ranks that will be mobilised, and the greater the escalation of the violence.

An increasing number of people have recognised the futility of the huge peaceful  marches. In the past, the government viewed these pacifist marches with apprehension, but today they are accepted as part of the scenery. Recent demonstrations have become increasingly more militant and therefore more violent. Methods formerly accepted – such as sit-downs and rigid obedience to stewards and police – are being abandoned as obsolete. In its place has come the gesture politics. Relatively small groups of “autonomists” , the black bloc,  take to the streets, faces masked, for ritualised attacks on symbolic property and clashes with the police. Disorder would feature prominently in television news broadcasts, and then ...everything would return to normal. If you really want to transform society, mayhem proves no serious strategy.

Massive, defiant protests aimed at decisive political change ended up, in fact, ignored by the State, leaving protesters to return homes and their jobs. At the start of the Iraq war, hundreds of thousands of people marched in protest against it. The decline of the movement since then has been rapid. No one could seriously believe that even impressive demonstrations will alone stop or end the war in Iraq and elsewhere. Sometimes our protests express our genuine and sincere anger and indignation but it’s still always a matter of protests accepting that, the capitalist class run the country and we’re just trying, to make sure they don’t get away with too much.  The “practical” solutions the “radicals" offer with their chants and placards often amount to proposals for self-reform and self-regulation (after all the State is the capitalist's own state). This is indeed a pipe-dream, asking capitalism not to be capitalist! The reformists and leftists  pretend that if only the government followed different policies, it would be possible to have rising real living standards, improving health, education and welfare, and what have you. They’re lying. They even  know they‘re lying, but more importantly, the people they’re asking to take to the streets know they’re lying, so naturally people don’t come.

If slaves go on demanding that their masters loosen their chains, they deserve to remain slaves, because they accept having masters and they therefore accept slavery. We have to build a movement to overthrow our masters, and run the world ourselves, and solve its problems ourselves, instead of demanding that our masters find some solution for us. The alternative, “as everybody already knows” is socialism.  But if that’s what the Left is fighting for, why can’t they spell out (at least in broad outline), just what it means, and how they propose getting there? Why do they always avoid the issue. And when some actually do reveal their objective when it is looked closely at what sort of “alternative” the Left really want, it’s not at all surprising they don’t want to talk about it, or that many more won't listen. Most groups, at best, just want some of the most glaring injustices of capitalist society to be resolved and actually have no vision of a better world, with fundamentally different social relations.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

And they call us impossiblists!

At least 5,000 people are expected to attend an anti-G8 march in  Belfast. Barack Obama is among the political leaders arriving at the Lough Erne golf resort in Fermanagh for the two-day meeting starting on Monday. A separate concert for the anti-food poverty campaign, spearheaded by charities working in the developing world, will be held in the city's Botanic Gardens in the. The concert has been sold out, with around 8,000 people due to attend, organisers said.

Campaigners behind the city centre march said: "We believe that achieving social, economic and environmental justice must be central to political decision-making."

Socialist Courier wish them well even if we cannot but view their approach as utopian. The G8 protests may demonstrate great strength of feeling they will also demonstrate a great weakness. The capitalist system constantly throws up issues that demand action amongst those who are concerned. As a result, protest tends to become a demand for an “improved” kind of capitalism which leaves the long-term reasons for protest intact. This has been the history of protest. In this sense, protest tends to set a stage for further protest and further demonstrations (care to remind yourself of how many there has been in the past?). Though the issues may vary - and on this occasion anti-gas fracking in Fermanagh features prominently - the message stays the same: “We demand that governments do this, that or the other!” The spectacle of thousands demanding that governments act on their behalf is a most reassuring signal to those in power that their positions of control are secure.  In this way, repeated demonstrations do little more than confirm the continuity of the system. The point is to change society, not to appeal to the doubtful better nature of its power structures.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Faslane Futility

 There has been a tradition of anti-nuclear protest in Scotland since the early 1960s when the US Navy established a base for their submarines at Dunoon on the Holy Loch. The Scottish National Party, the Scottish Socialist Party and the Scottish Green Party all oppose the deployment of nuclear weapons. It is not unusual for members of these Scottish political parties, and indeed some from the Labour Party, to attend rallies outside Faslane. Both George Galloway and Tommy Sheridan have been arrested in demonstrations.

 The Faslane peace camp began 30 years ago. It was set-up as a Scottish version of Greenham Common. After all those years the camp is still there - and so are the warheads.

 Eric Thompson was commodore of the naval base in the mid-90s says: "Our original security concerns were Russian special forces, for which we had a barbed wire fence. Then we started worrying about the IRA, so we had a double-barbed wire fence but it was actually the peace camp and political embarrassment which kept us on our toes." He recalls one incident in which three peace campers managed to get into the base dressed as Santa Claus. "They were actually in the sights of an armed Royal Marine guarding the jetty and he could have taken all three of them out but he decided shooting Santa Claus was not going to be a good idea."

Mahatma Gandhi counselled non-violent resistance to nuclear war. People should get out of their homes and look the pilots in the eye as best they could. With love and prayer, and without hatred for their killers above, they were to offer themselves willingly in sacrifice. Aircrew were thus given the opportunity for redemption before bombs away. He hoped that the gesture of accepting death would be transformative for those who commit mass murder in pursuit of their political objectives.Clearly, Gandhi hadn’t banked on missiles. These days against the scourge of nuclear weapons, the human race has little more than the thin line of activists at places like the Faslane Peace Camp. They paddle out in their little dinghies to confront British nuclear submarines to remind us all that these weapons are not worthy of human possession. Each day it becomes more obvious that mankind must choose between the security of a peaceful society, which only conscious action can bring about, and the insecurity of militarism.

It is not just a matter of "Stop Trident". It is about ending of all wars and the economic competition between national ruling classes that cause them. It requires advocating policies and taking actions which will make war impossible, by removing its causes. As long as there are economic rivalries for wars to be fought over, wars will take place and, whatever the weapons of choice, death and destruction will be the result. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Tartan Rebels

An American-based academic has registered a protest plaid which he hopes will be adopted by members of the Occupy Movement and persuade the more fashion-conscious activists and eco-warriors to wear tartan as they head to the barricades.

 Dr Giles Jackson
has revealed the gold-flecked tartan, which represents the unequal distribution of wealth, will be the first in a range of radical designs. His Liberation Kilt Co , whose slogan is “Dress to protest!” has also registered tartans which can be worn by the anti-nuclear movement, supporters of political dissidents and climate change activists. The Virginia-based business school professor insists he was inspired by Scotland’s long-standing tradition of championing the underdog and supporting progressive causes. He said: “I’m tapping into a long and glorious tradition. Long before tartan became the garb of royal subjects it was a badge of dissent.” Jackson hopes his Liberty Square tartan will prove popular with the anti-corporate Occupy movement which has held protest camps in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and across Europe and the US. He said: “Tartan’s role as a unifying aesthetic within groups is well known. Less well known is its potential as a unifier between groups and its capacity to cross cultural boundaries on a planetary scale. Anyone who identifies with the Occupy movement is welcome to wear or display the Liberty Square tartan”.

According to the Register,  it: “Symbolises the golden rule of capitalism: ‘Those with the gold make the rules’. The spoils increasingly go to a protected class of global profiteers, represented by the gold stripes, while the ordinary citizen is gradually stripped of freedoms, money and dignity”.

Jackson’s Havel tartan, designed to resemble prison bars, celebrates persecuted dissidents and has been approved by the widow of the late Czech playwright and president Vaclav Havel, who was imprisoned for his belief in freedom of speech and civil liberties. Other designs include the anti-nuclear Yamaguchi Tsutomu tartan, named after the only person to survive both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs, and Tahrir, which honours the pro-democracy Arab Spring, as well as plaids symbolising climate change and the importance of public ownership of water supplies.

Rob Gibson, the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, gave his support to the idea of tartan being used to promote social justice and environmental causes. The convener of Holyrood’s rural affairs, climate change and environmental committee said: “There are so many corporate appropriations of tartans that it is not surprising that people will want to reclaim it."

Jackson is now looking to create a range of kilts, headbands, caps and seal-friendly sporrans.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

protests silver linings

Some Socialist Courier readers will remember the Make Poverty History and G-8 protests of 2005. Members of the Socialist Party attended many of the events to present the socialist view.

The Scotsman reports that although some Edinburgh retailers may have lost money due to the protests, businesses had benefited to the tune of £64.7 million. The city's economy was said to have benefited from the number of participants who visited for the Make Poverty History march and the concert staged at Murrayfield Stadium.