The Secret History of Violence

On Monday Verso ran a piece about the ambiguities of violent protest. You can read it here. The piece was prompted by this BBC footage, which seems to show someone leaving a crowd of protesters, showing his ID to the police and moving through their lines. The key section begins at around 5 mins 50 seconds.

I argued that the violence played into the hands of the government and the media by distracting attention from the vast TUC-sponsored march, which was almost uncannily calm and well-behaved. I also pointed out that the footage of street battles with the police would lead people to confuse UK Uncut with violent ‘anarchists’.

Given the long history of police manipulation of far-left politics, and the likely consequences of violence in the West End, those who are trying to oppose the Coalition’s economic agenda might want to ask themselves how useful violence is as a tactic. This is not to take a pacifist stance. The – extremely impressive – speakers at the Frontline club’s Egyptian briefing on Thursday of this week were very clear that theirs was not a peaceful revolution – when they were attacked they fought back. But the police in Egypt were attacking vast and peaceful crowds, made up of families with children. Their violent response was proportionate and legitimate.

Later in the week Theresa May announced a review of police powers in the wake of the disturbances  in the West End. And in a Newsnight interview Jeremy Paxman was able to conduct a ‘will-you-condemn?’-athon with a UK Uncut spokesperson – time that could have been spent talking about tax evasion and avoidance.

As I say you can read my original post here, at the Verso blog. I am, as ever, very happy to hear from people who disagree with my point of view.

On the same day I wrote a piece about the predicament of organized labour in the neoliberal settlement, which the New Statesman cross-posted on Wednesday. On Friday I wrote a follow-up piece, which argued that the unions should organize debates among their members about an alternative to the cuts agenda. This was not my April Fools’ piece. This was.


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