Speakers at the rally included railworkers and others campaigning for rail safety and against privatisation, anti-WTO activists, Zapatista supporters and many others. The speakers presented a refreshing anti-capitalist message, urging direct action rather than following parties or voting for new politicians. Unlike the left, who have retarded the issue politically by calling for re-nationalisation, RTS urged workers' self-management as the only viable alternative to privatisation. This was excellent testimony to RTS's libertarian politics and willingness to set the agenda rather than dovetail the left of the Labour party.
In addition to the anarchist analysis presented in their proposed solution to the evils of privatisation, the demo also successfully linked New Labour's Thatcherite policies to the on-going global neo-liberal assault on our class. As one of their leaflets advertising the event put it:
"The most blatant example of market madness in London is the privatisation of the Tube. Consequently, railways are the focus of the events here. Join us to say No! to privatisation. No! to another century of capitalism. No! to another century of alienated work, poverty, wars and ecological destruction - and Yes! to a new world based on real human community, a society based on our needs and desires not their profits!"
All wonderful libertarian analysis!
RTS also stressed the importance of doing it ourselves and not relying on or trusting politicians or political parties. All excellent stuff. Its a shame they did not use the word anarchist during the speeches, but the libertarian message of self-help, direct action and solidarity came through clear as day and that is what really counts.
In addition, RTS stressed that the only real solution is a new society, one based on human needs and not capitalist profit. They also linked the need to transform this world into a better one with direct action of workers:
"The only practical solution is for us to start talking to our fellow commuters and workers, to start coming together to build a new world. That is what railworkers begin to do when they go on strike. Of course, the media say strikes cause commuter misery and damage to the economy. But what is the economy about? It is about working hard just to survive, while making profits for others to live at our expense. The economy is human misery. By striking, workers reduce the misery!"
If revolutions are festivals of the oppressed, direct action is the pre-party drink in the pub! RTS should be congratulated for placing fun at the centre of struggle -- after all, we want the end of capitalism because it causes misery, we should not reproduce that misery in our organisations and activity. If we are serious about creating the new world in the shell of the old, then our rejection of hierarchical organisation must be accompanied by a rejection of the immiseration of our lives created by that hierarchy.
Some comrades also helped hammer home the importance of autonomous self-organisation by handing out a leaflet warning people of the parasitic nature of the SWP. As it said:
"At our best we [the direct action movement] have developed radical anti-capitalist ideas through creative actions. Actions brought off with no leaders giving us orders, just mutual aid and solidarity between groups and individuals. The same ideas also inspire the vision of the world many of us want to see -- a free community based on co-operation, not competition and hierarchies. The SWP, however, see the Party as all important. The resistance of the oppressed must be controlled and directed by the party leadership to succeed . . ."
The leaflet was right to argue that "despite their radical language the SWP is fundamentally opposed to our movement" -- indeed any movement of working class self-liberation. Its nice to see comrades arguing against vanguardism and bringing those arguments to those involved in demos. Keep up the good work.
All in all, the politics of the N30 demo were excellent -- libertarian in spirit, method and vision. It makes such a change from the politics of the "official" Labour movement and its various hangers on like the SWP.
However, the turning over of a (very conveniently placed) empty police van by some of the protesters does raise questions. Firstly, those arrested will be placing increased strain on prisoner and court support networks. If you are going to get arrested, get arrested for something worthwhile and do not make already over worked comrades waste time and resources defending truly mindless actions. Secondly, why should demos always become riots? Such silly actions cannot help but associate our movement with stupid actions and the politics of the demo can be lost (as can be seen from the coverage, the fact it was about opposing privatisation and other issues was lost). This is not a plea for pacifism at all costs, rather it is a plea for intelligence and analysis. Why get arrested for a stupid act? You do not do yourself favours nor the movement which helps you in court and prison. After all, if all demos become violent then demonstrations will only become the activity of those young, confident and strong enough to handle them. Is this really what we want? To disenfranchise the bulk of the population from our activities? Of course not.
Lastly, a few comments about the media coverage and the riot. Both the Guardian and the Independent reported that one of the speakers said "All of you now pledge to kill a pig". However, I cannot remember hearing that nor did the crowd act out such a pledge. However, the appropriate image of protesters ("anarchists") being mindless thugs is re-enforced. If you cannot ignore an action, distort its politics.
One last point, the next day Prescott pulled Railtrack out of the contract to privatise the London Underground. Of course, this must have been a pure coincidence. Now, another next example of market madness is privatising Air Traffic Control. Perhaps its time to Reclaim the Sky?