While the country is slowly being eased out of lockdown, any hopes of returning to what was regarded as ‘normality’ before the COVID-19 crisis hit can be consigned to the dustbin. We’ve been told that in order to control any future ‘outbreaks’ of COVID-19, we’ll have to accept tracking apps on our smartphones (assuming you own one). We’re also being led to accept that if we want a drink or a meal out at any of the pubs/cafes/restuarants that have managed to survive the lockdown, we’ll have to hand over our contact details at the door: Pubs asked to take people’s contact details when they go inside. It’s a reasonable assumption that at some point, this could apply to any venue hiring out their premises for events such as vegan fairs and bookfairs.
As principled anarchists, we feel that we’re already under enough bloody surveillance as it is from the COVID-19 induced push towards a cashless society. Every purchase made with our debit cards can be tracked and every journey made on a c2c Smartcard/TfL Oystercard mapped and logged. Having every visit to a pub/cafe tracked by having to hand over our details at the door on top of the logging of every drink purchased with a debit card is a step too far. If the venues where we used to leave copies of the Heckler, Alternative Estuary and DiY Culture are pressured into adopting this level of information extraction from their patrons, then sadly, we’ll have no option but to stay away from them.
If venues hiring themselves out for events such as vegan fairs and bookfairs require the organisers to collect information, things could get difficult. With vegan fairs tending to be more about the lifestyle than the politics, to get the show back on the road, organisers may opt to comply with this requirement. If they do, then sadly we’ll have to boycott them. As for any impending or future radical/anarchist bookfairs, we sincerely hope that the organisers would refuse point blank to comply with this.
If we don’t start to resist this at some point then we’re heading even further towards a dystopian, increasingly totalitarian capitalist surveillance state. We’re putting it on record that we’ll be resisting this.
So, where does that leave us as propagandists? With the massive challenge of finding new ways of getting our material out. At the moment we’re 100% online. We currently use mainstream platforms such as WordPress (ease of use), Facebook and Twitter, both of which have a very wide reach. As things get even more weird, we’re aware that we could face the possibility of one or more of our platforms being censored or shut down. We will be investigating more secure platforms but are aware that we could end up shutting ourselves off in a political ghetto.
As I type this, there is a box behind me filled with about £300 worth of printed material which at the moment is going nowhere. Fortunately, a lot of it is fairly generic so it’s not a complete write off yet. We’d like to think that come the end of this year and going into 2021, some kind of sanity may have returned to the world and there will be events we can distribute our material at without any attendant, intrusive, data sucking, security compromising aggravation. However, being realistic, we reckon we’re already a fair way into a weird new dystopia and that the opportunities for propaganda distribution we used to take for granted simply will not be there.
As for the Heckler, given that we probably won’t be able to access the venues where we used to leave bundles, the options are either targeted, localised editions to be distributed door-to-door or something produced specifically for a protest/action. We’ve already done a couple of targeted issues – this being the most recent example which was distributed in three specially selected wards across Thurrock: Heckler No.6. There’s also demos although to be honest, the printed DiY Culture ‘zine is generally a better bet in getting the message across.
We face a volatile, challenging period which means we’re going to have to experiment with different ways of getting our ideas across and learn from each and every experience we have. Essentially, we’re living through what our descendants will look back on as a pivotal historical moment. One with everything to play for but also everything to lose…