Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

'Historical materialism is the theory of the proletarian revolution.' Georg Lukács

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sous les pavés, la plage

'Let's say a Conservative government announced, in that sort of macho way: 'We're gonna slash public spending by a third, we'll slash this, we'll slash this, we'll do it tomorrow. We have to take early, tough action...I think if we want to go the direction of Greece, where you get real social and industrial unrest, that's the guaranteed way of doing it.'
Nick Clegg, March 2010

Probably the only thing I have ever agreed with the duplicitous Nick Clegg on was his pre-election prediction that savage cuts in social spending would lead to 'Greek style riots' in Britain. This week - and thanks largely to Nick Clegg's support for the Tories savage cuts in higher education spending - we saw the closest thing in Britain for twenty years to a 'Greek or French style riot' when a National Union of Students and University and College lecturers Union demonstration entitled 'Demo-lition' actually lived up to its name and saw, er, the demolition of part of the Tory HQ at Millbank.

Those on the 'demolition demonstration' deserve to be heartily congratulated for such a heroic and inspiring and much needed manifestation of civil disobedience and resistance - and solidarity has to now be built as the state machine seeks to exact its bitter revenge - urged on by hypocritical Tory politicians.

'A riot', Martin Luther King once said, 'is at bottom the language of the unheard'. Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine once poetically riffed off this, noting that 'the riot be the rhyme of the unheard'. The point is I guess that riots are not something that are organised at will by tiny minorities of 'Middle Class Braindead Anarchists' (copyright - the Daily Mail) - rather as Chris Harman once noted, they tend to come about in rather more unexpected and spontaneous fashion:

'Those without hope are capable suddenly, virtually out of nowhere, of shifting from apathy to anger. And that anger can break through all the restraints that education within capitalist society is supposed to build into people’s consciousness. The local streets suddenly take on the aspect of a revolutionary battleground, with barricades and burning cars and instant solidarity against the state.'

It is true that have not yet got to the levels of the 1981 Riots or the Poll Tax Riots of twenty years ago, though the mass militant direct action of students - and particularly young school and college students - this week certainly marked a turning point in British politics and showed beyond any doubt that the raw class anger on the European continent against austerity cuts exists here as well.

If the education cuts are going to be successfully resisted, the student and lecturers militancy now needs to be generalised across campuses in Britain - with occupations and the like - as seems to be beginning to happen already in some places. If the wider cuts are going to resisted, then the revolutionary spirit of the glorious Millbank occupation needs to find its way into workplaces up and down the country. To generalise this fightback and to win a new young generation to revolutionary socialist politics - that is the task of Marxists in Britain today.

Education Activist Network coordinating meeting: Where next after the national demo? Monday 15 November, 6pm, King’s College London.

The case for revolution. A London-wide meeting organised by the Socialist Worker Student Society. Mon 22 Nov, 6pm, Clement House, LSE, London. With Alex Callinicos (King’s College lecturer and author of the Revolutionary Ideas of Karl Marx), Mark Bergfeld (NUS NEC) and Fraser Anderson (Oxford University student)

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At 3:31 pm, Blogger Zac in VA said...

What's really stirring is that, clearly, each major action by anti-Austerity protesters inspires further actions.
Solidarity is such a beautiful thing!

Now, here's hoping that the energy that boosted the US student and LGBT movements in 2008/09 can rekindle, return, and help pull us all together.

At 11:36 am, Blogger Snowball said...

Yep, good point cheers - international solidarity forever - Vive la resistance!


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