Dave (the editor)
To say 2018 has been an eventful year is an understatement. 2019 is shaping up to be even more eventful. We’re living in unpredictable, volatile and challenging times. There are opportunities to seize the moment and ramp up the momentum on building a movement that will bring about wide ranging, radical change. Failure to do this will usher in an era of reaction that we may not even survive. There’s everything to play for and everything to lose.
We operate at the grassroots at the level of the neighbourhood, then upwards from there. Operating at this level, the first tiers of governance that we see failing are at local and country council level. Some of these failures are tied in with local authorities being the vehicles that have been delivering the government’s austerity agenda for the best part of a decade. Other failures are a culture of high handed arrogance and unaccountability shared by many ruling group councillors and council officers. When we make the ‘plonkers of the year’ award to a local authority – Thurrock Council are the plonkers of the year! – while there’s a lighthearted seasonal aspect to it, we also use it as a vehicle to illustrate why we think the system of local and national governance we endure is broken and why power has to be taken back down to the grassroots.
At a national level, a divided Tory government has been consumed by their botched attempts to deliver Brexit. At the time of writing, it’s not clear if we’re heading for a no deal Brexit with all of the disruption and chaos that could bring, acceptance by Parliament of the ‘deal’ that Theresa May managed to squeeze out of an intransigent EU, an even more divisive second referendum or the outside chance of Article 50 being revoked. What’s blindingly obvious to observers of the political scene right across the spectrum is that the all consuming Brexit process has made it nigh on impossible for the government to deal with the business of actually trying to run the country. A consequence of this is the emergence of multiple crises ranging from Universal Credit throwing hundreds of thousands more people into poverty, soaring numbers of homeless people on the streets, an understaffed and under resourced NHS on the verge of meltdown through to a prison system that’s on the verge of blowing up.
The atmosphere in this country is becoming ever more toxic as we move closer to Brexit. Caught up in this are the migrants from the EU countries, many of who now face an uncertain future as they find their future in the UK used as a debating point and a bargaining chip as this shite from the Home Office clearly shows: Settled and pre-settled status for EU citizens and their families. We’re talking about people’s lives and their right to have a secure future which has now been thrown into doubt because of the posturing of those who claim to govern us. We have too many elements in government and out on the streets who are more than happy to de-humanise EU and other migrants to make their political points. When we get to this point, we’re in a dangerous situation that has to be addressed.
There are tensions within the EU to consider. There’s the rise of ugly authoritarian, populist tendencies in a number of eastern European countries but, these countries don’t have a monopoly on them: Don’t blame the East for Europe’s populism. Populist parties in Italy are making headway exploiting growing resentment towards the EU elites: Less than half of Italians would vote to stay in the EU. Last but by no means least, there’s President Macron who has bitten off more than he can chew in screwing rural France with rises in diesel fuel that for many, is the last straw breaking the camel’s back. There’s an ongoing response on the streets to this: Don’t abandon your Yellow Jackets.
If anyone is asking where we stand on the issue of Brexit and its consequences, it’s ‘bollocks to the lot of them!’ We refuse to take sides in a row between two factions of the ruling elite about the future direction of the UK: Brexit isn’t about you or the EU. A row that has been manipulated by Russia for their own geo-political ends: Why isn’t there greater outrage about Russia’s involvement in Brexit? We’re anarchists and we have no truck with power structures that screw ordinary people.
For as long as I’ve been an anarchist, there always seems to be a discussion at the end of each year as to whether the following year will be the one when radical change really gets on the agenda. Basically, ‘when will it kick off?’ Well, with the autonomous Gilets Jaunes movement across France, it certainly looks as though things have been kicking off with: Yellow fever: long live the revolutionary mob! and this: #YellowVests: You were saying? Social revolutions are over, anachronistic, impossible?!!! both showing the emergence and ongoing evolution of a new and different form of popular revolt. The key point about this wave of dissent is that it’s coming from ordinary people in the suburbs and rural areas and away from the traditional structures of the left.
As for here in the UK, with a few notable exceptions such as the poll tax riot that took place on March 31st, 1990, protest generally manifests itself in the form of point A to point B marches with a rally at the end. Basically, it’s the organised left throwing a fire blanket over any manifestations of anger at austerity and dictating the terms of how any protest manifests itself. Of course, they don’t always get it their own way as the spontaneous wave of rioting that started off in London and spread around the country after the police shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham on August 4th, 2011 clearly showed.
Decades of de-industrialisation and it’s consequences have shattered the morale of many working class communities across the country. Almost a decade of austerity has ground people down even further. The vote for Brexit in many of the working class communities destroyed by de-industrialisation and austerity was a shout of anger from people who felt they had nothing more to lose. Since the referendum on membership of the EU back in 2016, some attempts have been made to try and understand the causes of that anger but unsurprisingly, nothing has been done at the level of policy to address the issues that generated that anger. To do so would be an admission that the neo-liberal project has utterly failed and a political system so heavily invested in that project will never do that.
People are fed up with the way things are going. There’s a growing sense that things are falling apart, not just metaphorically but literally. From a divided government paralysed by trying to deliver Brexit through to people feeling ripped off at every turn and seeing the infrastructure around them starting to fail and crumble, there’s a sense that nothing works in the way it should. This ranges from extortionate parking charges at hospitals and overpriced, overcrowded rail services, increasingly unaffordable and inadequate housing through to pot holed roads that never seem to get mended and the likes of UK Power Networks leaving a block of flats relying on noisy diesel generators as they struggle to find a fault in the electricity supply over the Xmas period. When all of this is coupled with a growing sense of anxiety about the consequences of climate change, it could be argued that we’re in the early stages of a process of collapse.
Anger, despair, unease… People are looking at what’s going on around them and feeling a mixture of these emotions. Will this translate into manifestations of dissent on the streets and the emergence of a movement that will bring about real change? There are a number of crunch points coming up in 2019, one of could potentially be the disruption and chaos caused by blundering into a no deal Brexit. Any one of those crunch points could provoke unexpected and unpredictable manifestations of anger from a lot of people. Whether that anger eventually gets directed towards a radical movement for progressive system change or is instead hi-jacked by the forces of reaction is a moot point. As stated at the start of this piece, there’s everything to play for in 2019 and everything to lose as well.