The StandUpX protest in Trafalgar Square, London, held last Saturday (29.8) against the post lockdown ‘new normal’ attracted 30,000 people. The protest also attracted a lot of flak, not least because of the questionable line up of speakers, most notably, David Icke. It also attracted flak because of a couple of people who briefly appeared on the fringes of the protest holding the flag of the long disbanded British Union of Fascists for long enough to get the photo taken and circulating on social media in a clickbait operation to discredit opposition to the ‘new normal’. By all accounts, that little trick worked wonders in tarnishing the image of the protest in the activist circles we’re familiar with.
Regular readers of this blog will be well aware of our scepticism about lockdown and our opposition to the ‘new normal’. However, just so there’s no doubt, we have absolutely no brief for StandUpX or indeed any other group trying to take leadership of the opposition to the ‘new normal. There are a number of reasons for this. While we have written this – The emerging political divide – we’ll be the first to admit that even in these weird times when everything is up for grabs, there has to be some quality control over who we regard as allies! There’s no doubt that some of the groups trying to latch onto opposition to the ‘new normal’ have dubious agendas.
While we have absolutely no brief for the organisers of last Saturday’s rally, as we’ve stated before, we refuse to condemn the vast majority of people who attended the protest in Trafalgar Square. After five months of lockdown, people have had enough of social isolation, travel restrictions, an NHS that feels like it has ceased to exist in any meaningful sense, a constant diet of fear inducing news to name just some of the things that are dragging people down.
Also, as we enter the ‘new normal’, there are growing concerns about the safety of the vaccines that appear to be getting rushed through at breakneck speed. There are concerns about the tracking and surveillance technology being developed and implemented ostensibly to ‘contain the virus’ but very likely to be subject to mission creep and used for control purposes. As well as this, there are also concerns about how fear of contaminated notes and coins is being exploited to usher in the cashless economy. Given all of this and more, we can’t in any way blame people taking the opportunity that was offered last Saturday to get out on the streets and express their opposition.
As we’ve stated before, intelligently organised street protests have a place but when they become the focus for an emerging leadership, they can swiftly become a liability. If the coalition of groups organising the protests against the ‘new normal’ continue to a) be the focus of attention because of an emerging ‘leadership’ role and b) attract flak that ends up discrediting all forms of opposition, then we’re in serious trouble. Also, obviously as anarchists, we instinctively distrust any form of leadership and authority.
It will be very easy for the authorities to discredit and eventually disarm the coalition of groups organising these protests. The little exercise with the British Union of Fascists flag last Saturday showed how easy that is to achieve. What’s a lot harder to achieve is clamping down on or discrediting dispersed, autonomous grassroots resistance. The authorities will struggle to contain thousands of acts of resistance taking place across the country. With the Poll Tax back in 1990, while the clashes in Trafalgar Square captured the headlines, it was the dispersed, locally organised campaigns of non-payment that eventually forced the government of the day to back down.
We would ask those who are opposed to and want to resist the ‘new normal’ that’s being imposed upon us to not look towards any kind of leadership to show the way forward but instead, look to themselves and their friends and neighbours to organise from the grassroots upwards. These are some brief thoughts we wrote a few days ago suggesting some ideas on how we can move this forwards: Lobbing a spanner into the workings of the new (ab)normal. We can defeat what’s coming if we stop looking to leaders to provide direction and start believing in and working with each other.