Mon, 28/03/2011 - 18:10

A letter to UK Uncutters from the 'violent minority'

We're writing this to you to try and prevent the anti-cuts struggle being split up and weakened by the media.

We are anarchists (well, anarcho-syndicalists, technically) – a word that is much misunderstood and misrepresented. We are also students, workers and shop stewards. We co-organised a 'Radical Workers Bloc' on the South London feeder march. The aim was to provide a highly visible radical presence within the workers movement of which we are a part, advocating strikes, occupations and civil disobedience.

Saturday's demonstration was far bigger than anyone expected, and saw thousands go beyond a simple A-B stroll to take direct action. The UK Uncut actions on Oxford Street and in occupying Fortnum and Masons provoked harsh treatment from police, including mass arrests.

When we reached Trafalgar Square, we headed for Oxford Street for the 2pm actions to put some of these words into action (anarchist and UK Uncutter were not mutually exclusive on the day!). When we arrived, we met up with other anarchists who had had the same idea. Wary of being kettled, we chose to stay mobile, causing disruption on Oxford St and the surrounding area, including to UK Uncut targets which were closed and guarded by riot police. Subsequently, several banks, the Ritz and other buildings were damaged or hit by paint bombs. There were some minor scuffles with police. There is a valid debate to be had over tactics - which ones further the anti-cuts movement or are counter-productive - and many of us would favour mass direct action over property destruction. Let's have that debate within the anti-cuts struggle, and not let the media divide us.

But think about it from the store owners' point of view: a broken window may cost £1,000. A lost Saturday's trade through a peaceful occupation would cost many times more. Perhaps this helps explain the harsh police response to the UK Uncut occupation: it hits them where it hurts, in the pocket. Traditionally, workers have used the weapon of the strike to achieve this. But what about workers with no unions, or unions unwilling to strike? What about students, the unemployed? UK Uncut actions have been very successful at involving such people in economically disruptive action – and this seems to be on the right track in terms of forcing the government to back down on its cuts agenda. More and bigger actions in this vein will be needed to stop the cuts (in France, they call these 'economic blockades'). Like those in UK Uncut, we recognise that just marching from A to B or waiting for the government to be fair is not enough. The government, rich and tax avoiders will continue to seek to make the poorest in society pay for the defecit unless we make doing so the more expensive option. As UK Uncut announced on the demonstration 29th January "If the economy disrupts our lives, then we must disrupt the economy". 

The press coverage since Saturday has gone into a well-rehearsed frenzy of 'good protestor/bad protestor'. Some UK Uncutters have expressed outrage at being lumped in with the 'bad protestors', (correctly) stressing the peaceful nature of the F&M occupation. We think the whole idea of dividing 'good' and 'bad' protest serves only to legitimise police violence and repression. As we saw on Saturday, repression is not provoked by violent actions, but by effective actions – there is a long history of peaceful pickets and occupations being violently broken up by police, from the Chartists to the Miners Strike. Indeed, UK Uncut have frequently been at the blunt end of this in recent memory yourselves, with police responding to non-violent occupations with pepper spray and violent arrests.

In this light, we would say keep up the good work. Let the mass arrests strengthen your resolve not deter you. And let’s not fall into the divide-and-rule tactics that are the oldest trick in the rich’s book. If we can help or offer any practical solidarity to the arrestees, please get in touch. We’ve previously hosted legal advice and training sessions with Fitwatch and the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group – we’d be happy to do this again. Or if the arrests are causing problems with employers, we'll help arrestees organise against victimisation. On Saturday most of the arrestees were UK Uncut activists. Next time it could be us. We – those of us fighting the cuts – are all in this together.

Signed, Brighton Solidarity Federation

Plus individuals from: Northampton, North London, Manchester, Thames Valley, Liverpool and South London Locals (our federal democratic structure means statements can only be issued in the name of a group if the group has had the opportunity to discuss it, and time is against us!)

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This article was published on 28 March 2011 by the SolFed group in Brighton. Other recent articles:

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'On Saturday most of the "arrestees" were UK Uncut activists. Next time it could be us. We – those of us fighting the cuts – are all in this together.'

People who were peaceful, didn't cause distress or violence were arrested, and are now being grouped in police figures with violent protesters. Which, in turn, is being used by the government and media as a tool to make the public think that a peaceful protest group are violent. How is that right?

Why not stage your own protest instead of following UKUncut? You say "...Wary of being kettled, we chose to stay mobile, causing disruption on Oxford St and the surrounding area, including to UK Uncut targets which were closed and guarded by riot police."

Targeting areas that were known to be UKUncut targets, which causes your protests to be linked with a peaceful group. How is this right? Why not protest the next day? Did you plan to cause this violence- and put the media spot on yourselves instead of the important message of CUTS- in the knowledge that the police would be busy with other people marching and protests so you would be less likely in getting caught?

I'm pleased that so many people protested, but I am unhappy in the violent way you acted which has taken the media spotlight away from the key message (and point of the march).

"Targeting areas that were known to be UKUncut targets, which causes your protests to be linked with a peaceful group. How is this right? Why not protest the next day?"

"I'm pleased that so many people protested, but I am unhappy in the violent way you acted which has taken the media spotlight away from the key message (and point of the march)."

This surprises me a little to hear this, as this is pretty the exact argument that those in the Labour Party and TUC hostile to taking any effective action have been using against UK Uncut!

Of course the people involved in the disorder are opposed to the cuts - why else would we have been out on the day? If we were really the violence junkies that the media like to paint us as, I think the last place we'd choose to smash up would be one of the most heavily CCTVed areas of the country, whilst record numbers of police were out in force.

The message only becomes the violence if we accept the narrative of good and bad forms of protest that the establishment want to push onto us - do you really think if UK Uncut were to condemn the horrible violent anarchists that then suddenly all attention would be solely on their cause? Of course not - UK Uncut threaten the plans and interests of the government and ruling class in pushing the costs of austerity onto the working class, and they'll continue to demonise you. The best way to fight this is to stand together in when any of us are attacked. This is what solidarity means.

This argument is damn right. Especially the last paragraph. Solidarity with those that support the cause is much more valuable than bending over for the media. That said, I think destruction is a great option, but not right now. The public need to be far more involved and angry for it to be effective. Ideally, it would be done when people would cheer the destruction of those who have fucked us for so long.

FG: we did stage our own protest (a bloc on the feeder march from Kennington Park), and stayed away from the UK Uncut actions on Oxford St (it's a long road!). It's horrible that UK Uncut activists were arrested on mass. But that isn't the fault of anarchists, it's the fault of the police who lied to people, then arrested them and held them for nearly 24 hours before turfing them out without clothes or phones. Police have maltreated UK Uncutters before in the absence of parallel anarchist marches.

For the record, to my knowledge no SolFed members were involved in the criminal damage, there's a difference between an unauthorised breakaway demonstration and violence! But that said, it's not helpful to condemn others over tactical differences, or for choosing to physically resist riot police, however strongly and sincerely those differences are felt. Divided we fall.

Interestingly, something similar has been posted on the Guardian Comment is Free.

"Why not stage your own protest instead of following UKUncut?" I didn't realise you had to be a member to join UK Uncut protests. It was a MASSIVE occupation, you can't choose who does and does not join you, some anarchists consider themselves part of UK Uncut and vice-versa and you can't just say 'why not stage your own protest' as if anarchists are one collective, plus I'm sure many participating in the demo and 'violence' were new to it and didn't identify with either. This polarisation of 'good protester/bad protester is divisive, we need solidarity!

We didn't cause any violence? You're seemingly believing the media representaion of events, again designed to divide us. We have no "ego" or reason to wish to be "in the spotlight" - your blaming solfed or anarchists in general is based on what?

Direct action, hurting the cpaitlaists where it matters in their pockets, is what counts. Showing that we will rise up and take back what is ours. However, the direct action of the mass- occupations of tax avoiders, strikes, miltiant blockades are better than more isolated ones. The 'violence' is from the bourgeois state cutting vital services and their cops- the relevant discussion for me is about tactics. Smashing windows in isolation, windows that can be easily replaced, and that facilitates a wave of hypocrtical bleating by the estbalishment about violence- when they kill workers in our thousands every day- is not the best tactic I think. But I absolutely agree with the SolFed letter that we need to get away from the stereotypes of good v bad protest and think about and organise what works. We should be for a mass defence of all those arrested, for better self-defence against police attack and mass actions.

"People who were peaceful, didn't cause distress or violence were arrested, and are now being grouped in police figures with violent protesters. Which, in turn, is being used by the government and media as a tool to make the public think that a peaceful protest group are violent. How is that right? Why not stage your own protest instead of following UKUncut?"

To address these two seperate point - The police don't care about any kind of seperation - either ideological or organisational - between protesters and causes. The fact that you are there is enough for them. In fact, quite apart from any real political point, speaking as both a Trade Unionist and participant in a few Uncut actions in my area, I've been really quite alarmed by the primness adopted by alot of protesters involved in Saturday's action, now that the pressure and the scrutiny is on and the campaign actions and methods are being given serious media coverage that, until now, was slightly tokenistic.

You will remember that even before Saturday, the police haven't needed much excuse to try and clamp down on Uk Uncut protests - they've been there the whole time, they didn't need the presence of a Black Bloc to arrest the F&M occupiers, and they certainly didn't need the destruction of private property to end Saturday night in a vicious kettle - actually, the student protests of December, and reflection back on your own experience of policing during UK Uncut Occupations (tear-gas anyone?) should have already informed you of this reality. They've been doing this for more than 6 months. Anyone in their right mind knows that Uk Uncut actions are peaceful occupations - the ideological distinctions in Saturday's actions were as clear as night and day - and if you have a problem with Corporate Media distortions, then you should focus your attention on this, and not falling for the divide-and-conquer routine.

You second point, is a bit hypocritical; the TUC has been organising the main march and demo since at least last October, and knowing that the figures were bound to be high, no protest group/association worth their salt would have missed the opportunity (quite rightly) - UK Uncut piggybacked off the mainstream march as much as anyone else on the feeder marches/demos (note the mock-up on the 'Occupying the Alternative' flyers), and the criticism 'why don't you get your own events?' sounds just as pompous and cliquish coming an Uncutter as it does now it's started to come from members of the TUC-affiliate groups. Think of it like a prism, the annoyance or anger of people complaining about 'minorities taking over the day and it's publicity for own agenda' - it's counter-productive, and reflects back how pompous the TUC sounds when it complains about the same thing. If anything, this isolationism of seeing the 26th March as being the province of one's own group/tactics/targets over anyone else's is both ridiculous and hilarious, and it's very, very destructive. I can understand why some people may have objections about other groups and their tactics, but this is not the time for division, there's too much at stake.

Well said. I'm saddened by the war of words between UK Uncut and Black Bloc supporters - it's fine to disagree about tactics but everyone needs to remember who the real enemy is!

It's also important to remember that not all anarchists are blac bloc. I'm a SolFed member and I didn't wear a mask all day on the 26th. It's an issue of tactics NOT one of morality.

Just watching the Guardian video from the Green and Black Cross. The cops lied - said they were waiting for UK Uncutters 'safety', when in fact they were waiting to move in buses for mass arrest. Classic divide and rule - don't fall for it!

Also, just to point out that property damage and violence are not the same thing.  Violence is when the Met throw the disabled out of their wheelchairs or attack and kill an unarmed newspaper vendor.  That's violence.  Property damage--which we can debate as a tactic--is not the same thing and to use such terminology only serves to legitimise the ruling class narrative being promoted by the media. 

All that said, I agree with the article, what's needed most is mass, industrial action backed by UKUnCut type occupations and civil disobedience.  But sorting that out is best done together, in solidarity, and not by letting the media try to turn us--protestors, trade unionists, anarchists, and UnCutters--against each other.

Why not have this debate - personally I think it is long over due. I have to agree with the thinking that property destruction to many people is violent - a sad fact I know but true. A lot of people who are against these cuts but so far have not got involved in taking action probably never will now. The media had had a fooking field day with reports of 'yobs taking over London'. How is this going to help the anti cuts movement? How will property destruction (especially when people are inside the building you are destroying) actually make more 'mainstream' people support the actions of Ukuncut and other non-violent protests? Did it help the students... What is so wrong with Anarchists adopting Ukuncut's tactics of peaceful, imaginative occupations? When Ukuncutter were attacked by the police the media was on the side of Ukuncut... now probably as a result of some destroying property Ukuncut are being labelled as being 'violent' and 'aggressive'... Giving the right-wing media more ammo to use against us all... Times have changed as should our tactics... non-violent direct action is the way forward.

I have to agree. Non-violent direct action of this kind, makes people (the public, government, the businesses hit) stop and take note far more than A-B marching. It hits them where it hurts (shutting down their businesses costs them money, and the customers inside can't help but notice too far more than A-B marching, it can highlight specific targets for specific crimes and ideals (setting up forests and libraries in banks in favour of those specific causes, against those we believe to be culpable, for example), and unlike violent protest (which, the large proportion of society believe to include property damage), it does not alienate members of the public and allow for this divide-and-rule, good and bad protest dynamic. In fact you often garner media an public support, as did UK Uncut prior to Saturday. As this article says, better not to give the right wing anymore ammo. though that depends on you ultimate motives - bring down the state with popular support, or bring down the state despite. hard to see how you'll do the latter.

Though what exactly are anarcho-syndicalists, and what do they want? Does it mean, a someone has said to me, that you "picked the wrong protest as they [anarcho-syndicalists] believe in enormous cuts, and the government being usurped by workers' councils". Do you believe in no state or a workers collective of minimal sorts (I don't believe you are state socialists), in which case do you want taxes and welfare provision, because that requires administration and established structures and revenue collection, and enforcement etc etc... In which case, were you indeed perhaps on "the wrong protest"? and hijacking a cause that was not yours? I know the march was "for the alternative" - and in that, incredibly vague, but is your agenda not merely anti-cuts, but anti-state as a whole, and therefore perversely your pro-cuts. Far more cuts? In which case I doubt you care of the case for anti-alienating tactics, as your agenda is not congenial to the masses; it will never garner popular support in media, business, or government, even if it does in public. Hence your choice of tactics? You don't need to compromise between impact and empathy...

I'm thinking aloud here, and I know I'm displaying huge ignorance at your cause, but I'd love to be put right, and to hear it from the horses mouth (as it were). What exactly are anarcho-syndicalists - or your particular group of anarcho-syndicalists - for? What's your alternative?

Bean, these are all good questions! We're certainly not in favour of 'enormous cuts' - that would be acomplete misunderstanding of the state as well as how we see the role of the state. It's true that the state does lots and lots of things that are very important - welfare, the NHS, maintaining and building infrastructure, education etc. However, these are basically concessions that the ruling class have had to make because ordinary people fought for them. That is also the reason why we fight the cuts: the cuts are nothing else than the bosses attacking the working class via the government - they want to get rid of all the things that we have achieved in many decades of struggle, and if we lose this fight, we will live in pretty dire conditions.

However anarcho-syndicalists are libertarian communists, and we know that for as long as capitalism exists, bosses will attack us. We don't want to be locked into struggle forever and for that reason we want to do away with capitalism, to replace it with a classless and stateless society, democratically run through a system of free councils - libertarian communism. That's our alternative.

This was a really crappy thing to do to a peaceful group, almost like an act of sabotage. UKuncut has built up a history and culture of nonviolent protests incorporating street theatre and other creative forms of protest beyond the traditional. Violence and vandalism are the antithesis of this. As someone who has taken part in PEACEFUL UKuncut protests I will NEVER throw paint at a window, or attack a police officer, I can't imagine most of the people I'v met at UKuncut actions doing anything like that either.

Breaking windows of a bank is not a productive way of direct action. That’s simply because it’s a billion dollar industry. HSBC is busy worrying about its billion dollar global assets; it doesn’t care about windows, only the media does and that’s the point, so ethical concerns about the use of “violence” can be put aside here.

If we build an animosity between us because of this, we’re only playing to the pocket of the government. I was at HSBC and at the Ritz when the “violence” started, and saw no SolFed members taking part, so the blame game is useless. The question is where we go from here. I agree that Saturday’s black bloc was fundamentally counterproductive. But we should not let the media to blow this out of proportions by joining in their “good” and “bad” protestor divide. What they want is to demonize the radical workers movement as a whole, and we should not give into this by isolating organizations, just because of acts by few unidentified individuals.

"This was a really crappy thing to do to a peaceful group, almost like an act of sabotage." - I assume you mean the police trapping them in a building, lying to them, beating them up and arresting them, yeah? Because that's the only thing that was done to UKUncut activists, in so far as I'm aware.

(UK Uncut person here) Actually, I don't think the actions of solfed/black bloc gained much attention in the end - apart from a few broken windows. As for the arrests, most of those were peaceful UK Uncut folk. And the supposed violence in trafalgar square was seemingly orchestrated by the police. Any bad publicity was made up or exaggerated - and the police found ways to get the headlines they wanted.

Good point about the trouble in Trafalgar being instigated by the police... we all know it happens... we all also know that police officers *have* infiltrated other political/environmental groups; so bearing that in mind why are black bloc so insistent in wearing clothing that could easily lead to them being infiltrated by the police. For all we know all of the 'trouble' could have been instigated by our lovely boys in blue...

"the violent way you acted... has taken the media spotlight away from the key message (and point of the march)" i'd just like to reiterate the point made earlier, that we mustn't lose sight of the real enemy here. Anybody capable of critical thinking can see that the obsession the media has with the violence serves a purpose; namely diverting people away from the real reasons behind our anger and turning the general public against us. The same was true of the student protests, instead of any discussion of the real 'mindless' violence - the structural violence we're seeing from the government - there was full on barrage of scaremongering nonsense about the 'yobs' and 'hooligans' living among us... The point is that the mainstream media is an ideological apparatus of the state, and the ruling classes will use it as much as they can to influence us and to divide us - to divide the different groups (like solfed/uk uncut), divide the peaceful from the violent and divide those watching from the ground and those watching on the television. Solidarity is what we need- and from where I was stood the anarchists who attacked boots, topshop, vodafone etc were doing a good job of showing it. Most of the infamous tax dodging companies that line oxford street saw UK Uncut coming a mile off and had unfortunately taken measures to prevent peaceful occupations.. So i'd go as far to say the violence against them made sure they got news coverage - and this is a positive thing! again anyone who is capable of thinking properly will still get the key message... the people don't like being mugged off.

This open letter is fairly measured and I think by its existence and tone it implicitly accepts that what happened on Saturday needs some serious explaining.

The very tactic of a black bloc needs to be up for discussion, not just property destruction. Dressing up in all black frankly does far more harm than good - it's inherently alienating to the vast majority of people. Sure, they're irrational, sure, they shouldn't think the way they do, but it's just unambiguously what happens when you do it.

As Malcolm X said, a tactical approach is designed bring about victory. If the idea that the Black Bloc is a 'tactic' and not just some image conscious consumer-driven expression of the punk rock subculture is to have any weight, then it needs to be helping us win. We can't keep ignoring its failures.

I have my suspicions that most practical justifications for the black block are backwards rationalisations. In reality this is a romanticisation of the image of a radical. There are plenty of ways of covering your face, and most of them look less intimidating than 1000 people wearing all black with hoods over their face.

I have no problem with property destruction or even political violence, but only when it works, not when it sets us back. I think the student protests were an excellent example of where smashing up Millbank and rioting in Westminster made us more effective than we would otherwise have been had we just walked from A to B.

But Saturday's property destruction did not further anyone's cause but that of the tabloid media, and frankly went quite a long way to doing a significant amount of long term damage to a carefully constructed campaign by UK Uncut. Just watch the BBC coverage of reporters talking about hundreds of arrests at UK Uncut over scenes of black clad anarchists smashing up the Ritz. You might see why some people could get the wrong idea. Yes, it's bollocks reporting and the BBC needs to fuck off. But it's what we're up against, and if we're serious about winning, we have to adapt.

Political violence - sure, why not. Sometimes, maybe even a lot of the time, there's a place for it. Black bloc tactics? Those will almost always be divisive and push people away rather than do anything to raise class consciousness. I think we need to seriously consider dropping them.

Agreed, but I disagree that people "shouldn't think the way they do". Violence as you have said is, more often than not, backwards rationalisatism. People who aren't involved, the general public, aren't as irrational as most of the violent protester I've seen. That's my only true disagreement with you but to add my opinion: I don't think it's bullshit reporting and a lot of reports are in favour of UK Uncut. This hatred of the media is a irrational. The UK Uncut spokeswoman was interviewed about this and when asked if she condemned the violence she just said she couldn't speak for everyone- you're a spokesperson, you never can! Use the media. It's a huge tool that CAN be turned against the government, used to reach the general public with rational reasoning. It's not Us Vs. Them, we're all people. Things are complicated and you need demands. At the moment it feels like undirected anger. Say that we suddenly get our way, what are the demands, how will they be implimented and why are they there? I haven't been told these thing and haven't join any protest in the past few days for that simple reason - what am I (or we as a society) getting if we win? I want political reform and disagree with the cut's rational but not everyone agrees. I don't know how I want the political reform handled either so why should fight to then say "Well actually, I'm not sure how this is gonna work..." All very well saying things aren't how you want them - how do you want them? The nation has many different views on many different things; some protested against Libya, most against cuts, some on tuition fees. Make the main objective clear, use the media and as there are so many disillusioned voters there's no doubt in my mind that they will join if they agree. Gain public support and you have a government at it's knees. With enough people you could just stop paying taxes - no violence.

We have a fairly clear idea of what we (Solidarity Federation) want - have a read of our magazine, Direct Action, and our pamphlets, all on our website. The anti-cuts 'movement' as a whole unsurprisingly had a load of different people and groups with different ideas of what they want.

I agree we can use the media to some extent, but ultimately if we want to actually change things in a serious way we're going to have to majorly disrupt the economy and there is no way that they'd be sympathetic to that. If we are effective, the media will oppose us whether we use 'violence' or not.

What are we getting if we win? We are stopping a massive attack on our class, an attack which would, and already is, result in massive amounts of misery and pain for many. We would also increase our confidence to fight back successfully, and put fear into the ruling class of ever trying it on again. But for us, the Solidarity Federation, the ultimate victory is not just in beating austerity but in destroying class society, but yeah as I said, have a read of our stuff to find out our 'main objective'.

I completely agree with everything you've said here..

whats with all this stupid obsession with the media? As if media is some sort of neutral force that will give you good, objective coverage only if you dont use violence? Stop kidding yourself, media is on the side of thr power and they will always either talk shit about you or don't mention your actions at all!!! Please for fucks sake stop playing into government hands by blaming anarchists for this and that- diversity of tactics is the way and if some people decided its timr to smahs shit up please try to respect it as well- nobody came to UK uncut occupation and started doing something else, did they?

"many of us would favour mass direct action over property destruction" Surely those aren't mutually exclusive? Let's say 1000 people decide en masse to smash up Parliament (which, IMO, would be a much more valid target than banks or shops, which i *don't* think are responsible, or at least solely responsible, for these cuts - it is an ideological commitment from this government, rooted in patriarchy and eugenic ideology among other things, and as much if not more about plain old authoritarianism than anything to do with "market forces", although that's probably another debate)... I do think that as long as those willing to smash things are a small minority within big protests, these divisive media tactics will be inevitable (and the presence of large numbers of liberals, pacifists and various types of "soft statists" (eg. Labourites, Trotskyists, Green Party people, etc) on these sorts of big demos means that significant elements of the demos themselves taking that "disassociate ourselves from the minority of troublemakers" line is also inevitable). I don't consider marches that are made up primarily of those only willing to take "symbolic" (as opposed to direct) action to be tactically effective in any case, so i don't think that the presence of a few people willing to do direct action on them makes them either more tactically effective or less. What i do think would be tactically effective would be taking advantage of the massive diversion of police to these marches to take illegal direct action elsewhere - but then again, there probably *are* people doing that, and just (probably wisely) not talking about it... I'd also like to see more use of redistribution of goods as a tactic. For some reason there seems to be a taboo against "theft" (seeing it as one of the "bad crimes", that only self-interested "common criminals" do, as opposed to the "principled" radder-than-thou "civil disobedience" types?) among those who are willing to do a lot of other, no less illegal, things in public. It would have been awesome if the Fortnum & Mason occupiers had simply walked in, taken everything off the shelves and handed/thrown it out into the crowd, for example (and they probably wouldn't have got much worse shit from the police than they already did)...

Brilliantly written and much appreciated

Perfectly reasonable standpoint, and I don't think a division of aims is necessary, but perhaps a division of attendance. People are at different stages of frustration and level of risk they're willing to take. Those on the march were happy doing that, those with UKUncut and others staging protests elsewhere were fine doing that, 'anarchists' (excuse the quotation marks, I'm trying to express that it's a wide umbrella rather than insult) are happy to break some laws and take the risk of arrest. You/we shouldn't criticise anyones intent or push them into risks individuals are not happy to take – that's the way of the right. With this in mind, taking action around a group and beyond that groups 'level' when they have claimed that space for their demonstration is both likely to create those divisions no one wants, and put them at risks they don't want to take. UKUncut targets were well advertised. You had all of London free. You obviously need others to give you some cover (not heard of an anarchist action lately not on the back of someone elses – maybe I'm wrong), but a little more thought on your part in who you need to keep on your side, and this sort of minor disagreement wouldn't even come up. Don't put them in a situation where they have to divide you off to survive and they won't.

An admirable reply from UKuncut on Newsnight tonight - declining some pretty intense pressure to frame things antagonistically and clearly not taking the journalistic bait the article above refers to. Well worth watching to the end.

Just to point out that SolFed didn't endorse or encourage that blac bloc--and that SF are one of the most vocal critics of the 'activist' elements of anarchism that fetisize blac blocs.  One of our London locals organized a 'radical worker bloc'.  The blac blockers then came to us. 

If folks have a look at our website, it's far more about getting organized at work ( ) and in our communities than smashing things up.

Just want to say how important this comment is. Lots of SolFed members don't even think the black bloc tactics on Saturday were all that ideal and many stayed on the main march, it's just we don't want to fall into the trap of seeing things in terms of good/bad protester and 'legitimate' and 'illegitimate' protest. If we allow ourselves to accept that distinction then quickly all effective protest will be illegitimate - anything that threatens the economy, and so has the power to effect social change, will be condemned by the media and deemed illegitimate by even the most liberal politicians and the like. 

In some comment above, someone says they can't remember the last 'anarchist action' that wasn't anarchists jumping on someone else's protest. Without going into the fact that it's hardly jumping on someone else's protest when we're workers and others against the cuts, many of us are union members, etc. this is disingenuous. Most of SolFed's activity is aimed at organising ourselves as workers, which is hardly jumping on someone else's show. Protests are only a tiny, relatively unimportant (in my personal opinion anyway) part of our activity.

I will add my agreement to that as one who agreed to the letter before it was posted.  I walked in London on Saturday in plain clothes carrying the red and black flag.  For a time I walked alongside the black block but remained with the march to Hyde Park, chatting to people as I went along.

I think it is a mistake to say that anarchists involving themselves in UK Uncut actions are jumping on the back of other people's actions: as far as I'm concerned it's a show of solidarity with people in their struggles just like many others.  Whilst I'm there, I make my own points too: I see no problem or contradiction in this.

I certainly didn't mean 'jumping on the back of', I think I said 'using as cover' in the sense of crowds to disappear into or confuse, which is different. I'm old enough to remember anarchist action of exactly the same kind but on its own – no other groups around who may or may not appreciate what you do. I'm sure you do more work in the background (I know full well how much thought has to go into even the smallest action). I just think there can be an intelligent move on your part to take action (which you admit is a relatively unimportant part of your work) at the same time, with the same aim, but while not appearing to be dragging others into it or appearing to latching onto their numbers or appearing to damage their argument (your actual intention and how we all understand it is irrelevant – image, unfortunately not totally in our hands, is everything). You know exactly how the media will react, and the angles they'll take, so why walk into that trap? Don't do what they expect and play into the stereotype and they're easily confused. Don't put people who may support you in difficult situations, and this issue would never arise.

To clarify; Solidarity Federation did not organise the black bloc stuff, and has not even said we think it's a good idea. Some do some don't. All this letter is doing is saying we shouldn't fall into the trap of accepting the dominant discourse, which makes a big good/bad protester and legitimate/illegitimate protest distinction. So accusing us of not planning it better doesn't really make sense...

Except some individual SolFed members do make that distinction. Not all members look sympathetically on black bloccers who think it's ok to spraypaint graffiti on public monuments. Public sector workers on shit wages have to clean it off - those same workers we try to organise among... I am emphatically NOT saying we should shun such protesters but the wider anarchist movement urgently needs a debate on tactics and targets.

Solidarity Federation – A letter to UK Uncutters from the ‘violent minority’ Salud y Anarquia

This is a really welcome letter - and I write this as an anarchist who isn't involved in SolFed or Uncut, but who was involved in affinity group actions around Oxford St and outside Fortnum and Masons on Saturday. Whilst Uncutters were occupying inside F&M, hundreds of us were acting in solidarity outside to show support, to try and prevent the police from setting up a secure perimeter to carry out a mass arrest (which, sadly, we only managed to do for an hour or so), and were experimenting with forms of spontaneous solidarity not restricted by group membership and affiliation. I saw a lot of this on Saturday. Discussions about tactics are needed - if we genuinely believe in creating a better world, in refusing to accept statist morality, then they are always needed. We should never shut down debate about our own potential violences - this is the first step to setting up new oppressions. We do need to think about the problems of Saturday - for example, about the fact that several protesters (including myself) were hit by rocks thrown by the bloc. This is how we grow. But we should never do this as a means to assert superiority, to insist that 'our' way of doing it is the best. This is why this letter is so powerful. We need to critique from an understanding that, across the different forms of tactics and strategies, there is are powerful lines of solidarity. We saw those lines of solidarity on Saturday - the only way in which this movement can be successful is if we engage in mutual critique from such a perspective.

Economic Disruption to Property is only valid if you take either the Proudhonist approach, that all property is theft, or if you are taking a direct retaliation against the property owner. As syndicalists, there should be an understanding that the property you are destroying will be replaced by worker's surplus. Capitalists extracting more surplus does not guarantee you a revolution, does history show you nothing? As an autonomist I'm in favour of uniting the movement against cuts without diminishing the potency of action and the will of recourse. However, uniting the movement cannot happen while the mass events, how ever weak and futile, are confronted with state conflict. This is historically evident, it is a fracturing moment. Forcing the state into a response is playing into their hands. It is delusional to believe that property destruction or violence against the bill is a tinder box event. More people will gather in London on the day of the royal wedding than came in the broadest definition of solidarity on Saturday. We must be realists and pragmatists as well as revolutionaries. Fantasy revolution is an act that reinforces alienation, not weakens it. Worker's movements should be a force of education, but currently most of what I see is reliant on moral indignation not on political strategy. I was reminded yesterday how far we have been dragged into the territory of the bourgeoisie when Class War's response is to 'leak' a fictitious plan of action to The Sun. I'm not suggesting that CW represent anything more than a clown fringe these days, but its symptomatic of the emotional egress of the workers movements. We need more education, this is the road to a common understanding, and a shared understanding of the problem and the immediate solution is the basis of solidarity. Solidarity is not act of love, it should be an act of purpose.

http:/ /www. /forum/ http:/ /www. lawfulrebellion. org/ there is no change in political change. The puppet strings are firmly held...

please don't use this space for political spamming - we want to have a discussion within the anti-cuts movement on tactics, and we will moderate posts if necessary.

Though I personally don't see property damage as either violent or problematic - it's an honourable part of the radical history of social-democratic gains such as suffrage and welfare - I did wonder why the Bloc was targeting known UKuncut targets on Oxford Street, and why, for example, a Blocer climbed onto the roof of Fortnum & Masons to fly the red & black over the occupation with hundereds of phones, cameras and press staring. That's clearly undermining, not solidarity.

I was with ukuncut on saturday, and firstly solidarity to all who turned out from accross the spectrum.

I won't condemn vandalism or those who hold the opinion that it is legitimate protest, compared to what is happening to us it most definately is. I also think self defence is justified when dealing with a brutal police force.

I do however agree with what was said earlier, in this media climate I think it isn't effective, perhaps counter productive. We will always be demonised for it and powers used against us will become more repressive. The resistance would be much more effective if all people willing to engage in direct action followed the same tactics. We are stronger as one. As the majority will never engage in vandalism or violence (including myself), it would be far better for the action to be completely non-violent. Let's be clever. Let's be creative. Let's give the police and the media no reason to attack us - although I'm sure they'll try. Let's make sure we film and document our actions and make sure we get the whole country listening.

that's clearly undermining, not solidarity.

Again, you seem to be mistaking the black bloc as an organisation - it's not, it's a tactic. A more accurate way of looking at it is that of maybe 1,500 people on the bloc, one person clearly decided to show that they supported, as an anarchist, the occupation - while 1,499 people didn't.

Now you can complain that this one person was mistaken in doing so (I strongly doubt they intended to undermine anything), but that's not the same thing as an organisation deliberately refusing to show solidarity or undermining UK Uncut.

I get what the Bloc is. There's no need for your 'again' - I haven't posted here before. There were far better ways of supporting the occupation without flag-flying and effectively hijacking it in front of the world's press, you know? Many of us outside were trying to resist the attempts to set up containment areas. It was really clear there was intention to arrest. The side of F&M was blocked off, a sterile area was set up and vans and coaches were waiting, for around 2 hours before the arrestees came out.

"Again" was a reference to other similar posts rather than just yours, and if you understand it, why make the comment as though it represented more than one person's actions?

Anyway on the actual complaint, personally I don't think one person flying a flag is going to do UK Uncut all that much harm as long as that person wasn't acting in a way which contradicts its As&Ps (eg. getting violent in a situation where there is an overriding ethos of non-violence) in which case you'd be well within your rights to eject them from your ranks.

Getting into the territory of "they looked too scary to hang out with us" though is a long, dark road to start down. All you need to be doing is emphasising what you are, there's no need to condemn people who believe in the same things and have the same problems but move in different circles - that's the essence of solidarity.

Hi Petra, I understand that there'd naturally be frustration and anger over the arrest of your comrades and apparent 'hijacking' by black block 'anarchists'. But as a social anarchist I think your barking up the wrong tree. You can't really have a rational debate with a spontaneously composed 'group' about "far better ways of supporting the occupation without flag-flying and effectively hijacking it in front of the world's press". I also think you should see the wider picture in that the MET police lied to UK Uncutters that they would not be arrested. Also the national press have always had the tradition of wheeling out the anarchist bogey man every time 'violence' erupts at demos against their real social violence, which includes cutting benefits to the disabled who have threatened to take their own lives because life without those benefits would be intolarable:

I know the Solidarity Federation doesn't have specific shop workers industrial network, but as a working class organisation you must have members who work in shops. Is there a view from them? I ask because I have spent almost every minute since Saturday lobbying everyone I know in support of UK Uncut and the Black Bloc Anarchists and the only questions I couldn't answer were from friends who work in shops and banks. They saw it as workplace health and safety issue and felt that the one group nobody was thinking about was the poor low paid shop worker. As syndicalists dedicated to organising low paid workers that has to be an issue.

This is one of the issues that many SolFed members (myself included) have with the Black Bloc tactic - that it doesn't build up a grass-roots resistance. We're very keen to try and build links with other workers especially in ununionised sectors such as retail. Brighton SolFed for example have recently been doing workplace rights drives in local shops, handing out workplace rights leaflets and asking them about their working conditions.

It's something that I think UKUncut could do more with themselves - getting workers in these various companies on-side would be a big step towards escalating the campaign against their owners/ A one day blockade does a lot of economic. Action by workers themselves, such as a week-long go slow backed up by supporters would do even more.

maybe time to start giving out 'stuff your boss' at ukuncut actions?