Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Propaganda by Deed and Today's Students' Protest

The TV news broadcasts, and the rest of the media, are buzzing with the way today's student protest against tuition fees turned violent. The Metropolitan Police are very embarrassed about the fact that their preparations were inadequate, and the Millbank Building will need considerable redecoration. Much as I deplore the violence, I regard the events at Millbank as an example of what I referred to in my previous post - Propaganda by Deed (PBD). The style of the attack today is very similar to that seen during the "Stop the City" demos. This takes the form of attacking symbols and properties, rather than people - despite serious scuffling, the demonstators concentrated their destructive efforts on the Millbank Building itself, rather than the small number of beleagured police trying to defend it. This, together with the fact that the protesters who made it to the rooftop waved Anarchist flags (strictly speaking, Anarcho-Syndicalist flags, the Anarchist flag is black) leads me to think that the violent minority (or the revolutionary vanguard, depending upon your point of view) were Anarchists, engaged in PBD. I have no doubt that, when arrested demonstrators appear in court, we will find that many are members of Class War and similar organisations.
As a one-time student radical (well, I thought I was) who went to University when grants were available, I do sympathise with how students feel about the rise in tuition fees. I anticipate that less and less working class students will go to University, and this country will be the poorer for it - as we were before the advent of the now-disappearing Welfare State.
However, I think that today's PBD will be counter-productive, as it will only alienate public support from the student cause. It's one thing to protest against the actions of the state with PBD, but the state, the media and public opinion will only retaliate with far more effective propaganda AND deeds.

1 comment:

  1. The current generation of politicians had maintenance grants (perhaps with parental contributions) and didn't pay tuition fees. I was in a similar position. It seems that our generation enjoyed such benefits and then pulled up the ladder behind us. Students are rightly incensed but the NUS's stance seems extremely moderate to me. I'm not surprised some students don't feel it adequately represents them.

    Whether the trouble should be called violence or vandalism is debatable, but it has been suggested that some groups have tried to hijack the demo for their own ends. Perhaps, but the troublemakers could be both anarchists and students. But even if some weren't students, there's nothing wrong with that: I've been on innumerable demos where some "outsiders" were involved. I've been an outsider myself on demos supporting NHS workers, miners, dockers, home care assistants, and others.

    I don't condone the trouble, but tut-tutting about it misses the point. The government is taking an extremely confrontational stance in so many different areas of British life, and real people are going to be badly affected. People who had no hand in causing this recession will pay the price while bankers and their ilk were paid thousands of millions in bonuses last year, and doubtless will be every year.

    This is only the beginning. If people feel they are disenfranchised and that they have no say about what happens in their lives, then sooner or later, this kind of thing will happen again. The anti-war demo of 2003 attracted possibly as many as 2 million people, and yet our rulers ignored it. I heard students on the news quoting that fact, and saying that more aggressive means are necessary.

    Such trouble is likely to escalate as the savage cuts bite deeper and deeper. I can only assume that the ConDems regard it as a price worth paying, because I can't believe they're all so stupid that they don't anticipate any of this. That adds to their culpability.