Speakers: Donnacha DeLong (chair), Chetna Yuvraj, student occupier, Andy Littlechild, RMT activist,Zoe Stavri, activist with UK Uncut and Andy Meinke, activist in the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group and Freedom Press worker.
It’s been an interesting week. Last Sunday, it emerged that the police appeared to be trying to start an “anarchist scare”. Activists on Twitter started pointing to this week’s edition of the Griffin weekly briefing sheet by the Met (Project Griffin is the police’s community anti-terrorism initiative) which, on page 3, contained a small side box stating:
“Anarchism is a political philosophy which considers the state undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, and instead promotes a stateless society, or anarchy. Any information relating to anarchists should be reported to your local Police.”
The first sentence is reasonably OK in terms of a reductionist dictionary definition of anarchism. The second sentence, on the other hand, was a bit scary, but opened up all sorts of possibilities for fun and mayhem. The word “Any” was the key one – organising started on Twitter, Facebook and email lists – should everyone start phoning the police to inform them about what anarchists were having for dinner? Should we all start emailing PDFs of anarchist literature to the police? Should we organise a mass “turn ourselves in” session with hundreds of us turning ourselves in at police stations.
By Monday evening, the Guardian received an embarrassing statement from the police in which they disassociated themselves from the briefing, saying it “could have been worded better”. They further said that, “[t]he Metropolitan police service does not seek to stigmatise those people with legitimate political views.” Nice to know our views count as legitimate now, I wonder if this means the police will stop briefing the media with scare stories about anarchists in advance of large events? Like presumably they did recently in relation to the Olympics in a recent edition of the Independent on Sunday.
The whole mess has opened up a space for anarchists to put their views across. Hat tip to Solidarity Federation and ALARM for getting statements to the press.
And then the rioting and looting started, starting in Tottenham on Saturday and spreading to Enfield and as far as Brixton. The Daily Mail predictably blames “anarchists” and the deputy mayor of London tries to implicate us.
Recent events have turned more and more people to anarchism – the Lib Dems’ betrayal of students and other parts of their electoral base, the violent and disproportionate police response to student demonstrators at the end of the year, the excessive sentencing of protesters and the politicised arrests of the UK Uncut activists in Fortnam & Mason. And, to top it all, the ongoing revelations of an unvirtuous circle of corruption between News International, politicians of both main parties and the police.
Anarchism, at its purest, comes down to the idea that humans have the potential to live together peacefully and without exploiting each other, in a society based on free association and mutual aid, if we get rid of all the things that force us to be otherwise – the hierarchical institutions none of us voted for, but we still have to follow. This is why anarchists tend to oppose not just the state, but also capitalism, the police and all forms of prejudice based on what people are – race, nationality, gender, sexual preference, disability.
If you want to learn more about anarchism, the first thing you can do is start informing yourself. There is a wealth of information about anarchism available online, including much of the classic literature. Try the Anarchy Archives. Or try your local library or bookshop, they’re sure to have something.
Then get involved in things that anarchists are involved in – your trade union, your local anti-cuts group, anti-poverty initiatives. In fact, if there’s a grassroots movement of any kind near you, you’re likely to find anarchists involved – and it might surprise you who the anarchists are. The one thing I can fairly confidently say is that nearly every anarchist you’ll find will be more than happy to talk to you about politics!