If Things Come Alive- March 26th

The union woman is arguing with a chisel haired student in the other direction. In the pub the Marchers taking a break stare up at the tv screen on the wall, slack jawed. The gentle-faced anarchist bleeds. In the park the loyal opposition say something, but no one hears it.

March 26th saw the attempted cleavage of a broad oppositional movement by those desperate to forge a narrative into two polarized camps. The violent minority and the silent majority.  The silent majority is made up of The Rest. The silent are the ‘peaceful majority’, “the teenagers and parents and grandparents, ambulance workers and fireman, midwives and teachers who gave up their Saturdays to march.”. They march because they must, because they have been pushed to it, because they want justice. They have given up a precious saturday out of their jobs to make a point. There is no doubt these people are well intentioned, and  have their active place. Yet they end up sheltering a dangerous group of individuals who want to use the demonstration as a front for their own nefarious ends.

The Peaceful Majority have become the ‘silent majority’ of the moment at which protest becomes the norm. The Peaceful Majority “allows you to construct a subject whom you are fighting for, while ignoring those in your own organisation who resist this portrayal as prima facie deviant from the larger whole.” . The are not the Black Block (the ‘k’ version is of course, here deployed to imply lunkheadedness) who effectively form the dark mirror to the silent majority, an abyss into which we are to pour our fears and worries, and are the enacting of where society goes when it fails. Like any broad swathe of society, there is enough of the majority to select out those individual narratives that concur with your own. Or better yet, ignore any detailed analysis and focus on the broad empty sentiment of it all: “#26March will be debated vigorously. But above all else it was the day 500,000 people said there is an alternative” said the usually focussed falseeconomy.org.uk on twitter. In this establishment of two effectively empty subjects- the violent minority and the silent majority- those who benefit most from the present flow of power be they Lib Dem, Labour, Tory, Royal, Banker, or even labour aristocracy and others, are able to impose identities through their own coherent narratives. That which is held as the “blunt monster with uncounted heads, the still-discordant wavering multitude” is left empty by such outright attacks, and comes to be complicit in its own silencing by jumping into such a division.

This division is effected through subdivisions all the way down. A feeder march into this parade of discourse is formed by the creation of the category of ‘anarchist’. The ‘Anarchist’ is very much in the ‘violent minority’. They are in the dreaded Black Block whom were mentioned earlier. They are intent on chaos and destruction, they are always menacing. They buy into an ism which is no different to any other: “We need to learn the lessons to make sure it doesn’t happen again but also recognise that when you get a group of fascist agitators who want a fight there is not a lot you can do about it other than confront them.” said a London official. Their action is in no way informed by the economic situation but by dangerous ideology. They are unpredictable.

By contrast the peaceful street parties that happen are in the spirit of legitimate resistance, they are set up as about a single issue politics, they are the Glastonbury-Festival-sunday-afternoon-speech-from-Geldof crowd. They are in no way anarchists.

This framework utterly ignores the fragmented and multi directional way in which anarchism is understood and used by those who identify as anarchists. Many Anarchists share as much in common with certain breeds of Tory than they share with what they see as the regimented self-policing of the TUC leadership’s march. Conservatives themselves acknowledge those aspects of anarchist philosophy that stress self help and mutual, stateless aid. Many anarchists agree with the sentiment that anarchism is “about liberation –the biggest, most dramatic redistribution of power from elites in Whitehall to the man and woman on the street.”. Equally, others place stress on equalization of wealth and therefore it could be arguable they do not want to see an irresponsible private sector that holds itself accountable to no-one. This is not an endorsement of anarchism, it is merely a summary of what anarchists have said historically. To drive a wedge between ‘anarchists’ and the Rest is a fundamental mistake.  It is more than likely that the anarchist is amongst the majority as they are in the black bloc.

What has really been lost in this cleavage is the possibility of a politics yet to come. It is the seizure of a discussion of ‘violence’ by those who refuse to engage with a philosophy that would allow any understanding of what violence/non-violence could possibly be beyond the purely aesthetic, and the channelling of that discussion into pre-arranged scripts.  An engagement with violence means understanding the relationship between entities such as people, to have a political philosophy, it is to understand the ontological roots of the problems of society. There is no liberal argument to be had about violence, only a radical one. This division between silent and violent means that the possibility of a ‘non violent direct action’- for example, a general strike, an occupation, a blockade- is erased, falls through the crack opened. We may not agree with the actions of the Black Bloc, however without questioning the silencing of the majority we can never know our objections to the violence of the minority.


UPDATE: some of those anarchists who went in the Black Bloc have made a very sensible statement to UKUncut that seeks to address many of the problems above- including a critique of their own actions. Do give it a read: http://libcom.org/library/letter-uk-uncutters-violent-minority

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3 Responses to If Things Come Alive- March 26th

  1. David Bell says:

    Yes, yes and a million times yes. A beautiful piece. This is exactly why the post-representational/molecular politics advocated by poststructuralist thinkers are so urgent. But the press simply cannot cope with such thought- in its ‘autistic’* desire to box things up into a sellable narrative it forces meaningless labels onto diverse practices (not that I’d advocate reading Guattari to Kay Burley to rectify this). The Guardian did so on its front page on Saturday, noting that the march would feature diverse identities including doctors, football supporters, families and anarchists- as if these were mutually exclusive categories. Now perhaps I’m not being an anarchist whilst I’m supporting Wolves (seriously- I’ve often considered this), but I tick all those boxes (well, I will if I finish my PhD!).

    *With apologies for my own molar representation of autism.

  2. Pingback: Questions to which the answer is John Rentoul | nomadic utopianism

  3. Pingback: Beautiful Transgressions Challenging ‘Politics as Normal’: Lessons from Chile – Ceasefire Magazine

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