Far from Powerless

Guest writer Sean Matthews with an anarchist take on the recent flag protests.

If there is anything we can take from the continuing street protests in loyalist heartlands is that we are far from powerless if we utilise direct action rather than constantly lobbying our politicians and peacefully marching from A-B.

While the protest may be completely reactionary in all its forms in terms of sectarian pandering to Queen and country who have little regard for us plebs, other than useful cannon fodder for imperialist wars which are not in our class interests; rolling illegal road blockades bringing Belfast city centre to a standstill, numerous attacks on the police did strike fear into the stability and image of our local rulers at Stormont.

It was quite ironic listening to political parties such as Sinn Fein who have roots in extra-parliamentary activity and linked to an armed organisation condemning the protestors for taking illegal action rather than utilising the path of ‘democracy.’ Sinn Fein are not alone in being pillars of the establishment, the PUP have also decided to jump on the bandwagon keen to claw back some their political wilderness in recent years to grab a couple of seats on the table of so-called great and good.

It is also noticeable that unlike various shades of ‘dissident republicanism’- and anger over treatment of republican prisoners and Marian Price - loyalism still has the muscle to mobilise thousands of people into street confrontations with the state and posing a real challenge to the PSNI and its ability to police. As a response to mainly sections of the loyalist working class taking action into their own hands without permission from the state or big house unionism, the local political/business class were quick to roll out the red carpet for endless and meaningless talking shops, greater investment in loyalist areas, while the PSNI promising harsher action in the future.

As one Belfast anarchist commented:

The protestors are well aware that direct action targeting Belfast’s ‘neutral’ city centre (and the profits of our business class and other capitalists) is having an impact. The response from many republicans, unfortunately, along with much of the left, has been marked by smug hypocrisy, crass sectarianism and vilification of the protestors as plebs and chavs. Many who should know better are joining the media in criticising the protestors for being unemployed and uneducated. This has also been the response of middle and upper class Unionism. Ironic then that the UUP and DUP did much to ratchet up tension coming up to the flag vote at Belfast city hall, and despite this attitude are now hoping to reign the plebs back in through the Unionist Forum.

In a nutshell for anarchists direct action is about building and promoting working class self-organisation and confidence - any form of activity which working people themselves decide upon and organise themselves which is based on their own collective strength and does not involve getting intermediates to act for them. Rudolf Rocker, a German anarcho-syndicalist, wrote in 1938:

By direct action the anarcho-syndicalists mean every method of immediate warfare by the workers against their economic and political oppressors. Among these the outstanding are the strike, in all its graduations from the simple wage struggle to the general strike; the boycott; the sabotage in its countless forms; anti-militarist propaganda and I particularly critical cases…armed resistance of the people for the protection of life and liberty [against, for example, fascism].

In the end, these protests will build nothing of the type of non-sectarian revolutionary class politics needed in this wee island but if there is anything we can learn is that marching to Stormont or the Dail; listening to the same old boring speeches or voting every couple of years delivers nothing apart from allowing our masters to set the terms and conditions of struggle along harmless channels that does not rock the boat.


  1. Sean a cara the lesson here is actions speak louder than words, however the problem is that had nationalists attempted anything near the scale that loyalists have so far pulled of the states reaction would have been entirely different,as witnessed by the psni/ruc actions in dealing with peaceful demonstrators in Ardoyne. coupled to the counter demonstrations that the dup and their cronies would organise,the different approaches to policing these communities has never been more glaringly obvious,I totally agree that we need forget about writing letters and asking politicians to actually do what they get paid for, we need to look at new tactics and methods of disruption that gets our peoples message across without the body bags .

  2. And what exactly are the flag protests achieving for the loyalist working class?

  3. Sean raises an interesting point about the ability of loyalism to mobilize compared to republicanism, could it be that they are to agree self assured from a blind eye from the state? The response to the ongoing illegal marches etc would seem to validate this. The opinion article in the Irish news a couple of days ago about the continuation of political policing would indicate that more people are seeing what is happening.

    The exploitation of Belfast city centre’s ‘neutrality’ by the loyalist protestors is something republicans should take note of in terms of tactics, a march up the falls won’t have the same impact, out of sight and out of mind perhaps, marches in Dublin and Derry for Marian and the POW’s were in the city centre. Should we now adopt the same tactic? This would test the state response to republicans in contrast to their response to loyalists, then again if we don’t live in an Ireland of equals (Copyright Sinn Fein Corporation blah blah blah) as I doubt we do the states bluff could be called.

    And they don’t want to lose those tourist big bucks…

  4. Ciarán a cara the loyalist working class per se may not have gained anything but the "community " workers are gonna get a hefty bonus out of it all ,whats the betting?

  5. Sean,

    'If there is anything we can take from the continuing street protests in loyalist heartlands is that we are far from powerless if we utilise direct action rather than constantly lobbying our politicians and peacefully marching from A-B.'

    What have the loyalist protestors won or gained from 'direct action'?

    I'll tell you; more division, more in-squabbling, many young lads/girls locked up or in court, more than a few cases I'm sure of pneumonia (or double pneumonia if my granny is to be believed) from rioting in the cold/snow. Ordinary working men and women have lost their jobs in city centre bars and cafes so apart from perhaps one or two entrepreneurs making a fortune from selling union jacks and union jack hats/scarves/badges/mugs/
    socks/ umbrellas/ pyjamas... well you get my point - basically anything with a jack in it, no-one other than the politicians who rely on the green and orange cards to stay where they are, have gained a thing.

    Oh, and to make matters worse some poor camel has also been 'bate' senseless since everything and anything has been the straw that broke the oul' beasts back.

    Direct action nonsense.

    Apart from that I actually agree with your post.

  6. The loyalist working class have gained nothing, except, being British, are allowed to walk, protest, block roads, tried to kill one of there own British police, they are just being watched by there own British Police.
    ffs, I just got fired from my job with the Samaritans, I answered the phone and this Guy said, Help, My name is Peter and I'm with my friend Martin, We are Lying on the line waiting for the next train to come, we are going to kill ourselves, I just said, Be calm and please stay on the line.

  7. Sean I believe that one major issue you left out in this piece is the fact that loyalist paramilitaries and politicians created this "fleg" situation.

    This has nothing to do with the PUL working class consciousness.It is blatantly sectarian and comes from the mindset of a group who firmly believe they are the masters. Many decent working class people are suffering at the hands of these wee fuckers who have the backing of the state to do as they wish. Small businesses in loyalist communities are suffering as are small businesses in Belfast city centre. Children and the vulnerable are also suffering (as seen with the elderly gentleman who was stopped by thugs as he tried to leave his own area to visit his sick wife at hospital).

    The idea that an anarchist analysis has the higher ground when it comes to "our wee island" is exactly what alienates folks .....

    I agree that the flag protests initially got people onto the streets however those thousands are no longer it did dwindle very quickly.

    Direct action is an invaluable tool but because some idiots also utilise the tactic doesn't really mean we need to strive to find a analysis beyond accepting that some people are sheep - and follow without thinking for themselves.

    just like the rest of the people on this island who allow themselves to be lead by politicians/community leaders who are wonderful manipulators and liars !!!!

    For the record - I'd also love to see our own community use a multitude of direct actions tactics to get the point across .... but seeing that we have to systems of law in the north -we'd all end like Murney, for having stencils or clothes !!!!

  8. Some valid pionts here. Especially keeping the protest to the city centre and not out of public site at the HQ PSNI in knock. The media cannot turn a blind eye to it on their doorsteps especially if it is percieved to effecting significant trade for the local traders, which will always keep the issue burning in the business and media circles. Taken it out of the city centre and listening to the politicians will lessen their impact aims and objectives. I dont know what the bigger farce is, protesting over the taken down of the flag or beleiving the Unionist politicans will somehow save the day and return the flag. It is over. Both sets are looking for mileage on the issue. The protestors, possible recruitment drive for PUP and heightening of loyalist tensions leading into the marching season. Whereas, the DUP see it as a strategy to derail the alliance vote in east belfast and give peter the great his seat back. Mike Nesbitt and the UUP seeing what they can get out of it in way of credibility and mantle of the new strategy of sounding and acting like the DUP. Stageshow. No value will come of it eitherway. Politics over a flag, playing into the masters game. I wonder what would happen in the middle of a riot, or a march taking a different illegal route if the PSNI played "god save the queen". Would they stand to attention and decease. Flags, national anthems, emblems, symbols, I wonder what they were manufactured for? state Control? Loyalty to the crown?

  9. Aine; ' I'd also love to see our own community use a multitude of direct actions tactics'

    Yeah, me too! But I doubt the actions I have in mind would be palateable to most!

    (Apologies for deliberately taking your post out of context!)

  10. I think the gist of what Sean was saying is that direct action can be a tactic worth pursuing for republicans as we seek to rebuild our movement, I don't see anything to be critical about here at all... Getting back to basics will do no harm at the minute, especially when we consider where the more "sophisticated" political approach of the Sinn Fin party has ultimately ended up.

    So while yes, as Aine says, the flag protests are not truly about Protestant working-class issues but rather the exploitation of that social group by big-house Unionism to further its own ends, we can't say that they haven't had an effect because they have indeed. The issue has been centre-stage for a considerable period of time, though admittedly as stated it's now on the wane - perhaps because as someone alluded to the real aims have been largely achieved (the undermining of Alliance and a few bob allocated for those "community workers"). Bryson and the other muppet Frazer were manipulated from the get-go; while they thought they were fighting for the flag those who really controlled the protests had ulterior motives and their objectives have been largely met. I think these protests have been very effective when you look at it from this angle. The DUP has successfully scuppered any move to the centre among the Protestant electorate for the time being thanks to the polarising effect of what is essentially a sectarian issue and loyalist paramilitaries have had their writ of control extended in those communities that still have to suffer their "influence". Job done.

    So direct action does indeed have the power to effect the political situation here and is definitely a useful tool moving forward for those trying to re-build the republican struggle. Certainly we also need to sit down and debate and work out a coherent, credible and practical alternative to the Adams strategy but there's no reason why direct action can't form a part of that process.

    A good place to start moving forward would be the "Justice for Marian Price" rally on International Women's Day, Friday March 8th in Coalisland square, hosted by the Eamonn Ceannt 1916 Society. Such direct measures can hopefully begin to exert a greater influence on the situation here than has hitherto been the case if we start to become more organised and grow the support base. So I hope to see you there a chairde!

    The truth is we're only getting started - Having been in the wilderness it was always going to be this way. But as more and more republicans are becoming acutely aware of just where Sinn Fein's strategy has taken the republican movement chances are support for protest forms of political action are going to take on a momentum of their own. Because people are beginning to see the injustices of the past ares still here and are wanting to do something about it! As Marty said at the outset let's give them a political vehicle to vent their frustrations rather than allowing an increasingly volatile situation to assume the form of another armed struggle - which at this point in our movement's progression would be counterproductive

  11. Sean Bres:

    Thats an excellent post, well thought out and to the point.

    Now, the Parades commission has stated that it does not have any control over parades demonstrations which have not applied for permission, The Orange Order have seized at this and stated , They don't need to notify the parades commission when they want to parade because that way they can't condemn it, this was because of the Flags Protests that the Parades commission made that statement, What about a mass rally through the center of Belfast for Marion, bus people in from all over the Island, Then , that way we will see if there is any difference in policing. A logical and political move to prove to the world, IF the March was stopped or attacked by the PSNI, that would be a statement of Impartial Policing, Flag Protester can do it, Yet we can't.

  12. @Sean I couldn't agree more with you in stating that a return to an armed campaign at this point would be harmful for all republicans.

    I do think the loyalist paramilitaries sent a message to their masters that they could cause problems to get them to back of with the HET ......A grasp for power within unionism doesn't bother me as regardless of who comes out on top they will still have their superior sectarian attitude - what i would really like to see is an opposition to the stormont government that gives a fuck abut the real issues faced by people day and daily, one that can utilise direct action tactics we've seen work all over the globe .....the only thing is you are guaranteed they'll do all in their combined power to stop it .....

  13. Cheers folks for the feedback but I think many of the replies have been misplaced and riddled with mis-understandings.

    There is knowhere in the article where I have stated that the protests are progressive for anyone. What the brief article seeks to formulate is the underlying currents behind the protest, republican reponse and their challenge to the status-quo and police reponse.

    Of course, the state has deemed republicanism the greater threat rather han loyalism which should be quite obvious. The state will naturally repress those it considers as its greater foe and challenge to monopoly of force. In Ireland this has been historically militant republicanism and in others it has been anarchism and so forth. However, taking up the gun does not make you any more revolutionary. Its the politics and dynamic which underpines such as movement. It may make you brave and courageous but you can still be an armed liberal.

    What is quite interesting over the last decade or so is that unlike republicanism with the exception of continuing sporadic armed actions and the brutal interment of Marion Price and others, loyalism has been able to mobilise mass protests over certain issues. We dont need to look at Drumcree but to the riots in 2005 to see this.

    Also, I dont see the PSNI response to recent 'flag protests' related to any real substancial bias but down to police resources and level of threat. It is quite 'easy' to police the annual ardoyne riots (without seriously getting out of control) using conventional repressive 'crowd control' resources in such as small densely populated areas such as Ardoyne than rolling blockades taking place in a much larger area.

    We can also see this in the 2011 riots in England where it is a alot difficult to police than your normal A-B type march and lefty pickets.

    I also wrote a much larger article on the protests which was published here and on WSM website:
    'Ulster Loyalism, Flag Protests & the failure of zero sum politics'-http://www.wsm.ie/ulster-loyalism-flag-protests-zero-sum-politics%20

    Lastly we all need to reflect on the words from the chinese military tactician Sun Tzu “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself,
    you will succumb in every battle.”

  14. Itjustmackers a cara Eirígi had a anti royal visit rally to the Belfast city hall a while back and a good size turn out also, a march to the city hall on behalf of Marian and Martin and the other pows would be interesting to say the least I for one would be up for it.

  15. Sean Bres,

    interesting analysis of DUP shaping the agenda

  16. Direct action as a tactic has been used by the left and right of the political spectrum. There is nothing inherently progressive about it. People take to the streets for a multitude of reasons and the state's attitude to this is to put down popular action. The differential in policing tactics in the north is a matter of quantity rather the substance. Sometimes, it is wiser to deal with those who are essentially loyal citizens with with kid gloves whilst coming down hard on those percived as the real threat. The state has invariably dealt with unionist/loyalist disquiet using the softer option.

    The 'fleg protests' are not an expression of worker's consciousness. Rather it is motivated by sectarian attiudes and a misplaced sense of being squeezed by the political system. Many loyalists are unhappy with the political accomodation because they feel it undermines their position. Having enjoyed the patronage of the political system since partition, loyalism is now finding it difficult coming to terms with sharing power with the croppies.

    The polarisation created by the 'fleg'issue is a useful by- product for the political classes. Ruling by division is a well practised craft in this part of the world. I suspect to see a harding of positions at the next election that will serve the interests of the two biggest parties. The battle of the Orange and Green is the basic driving force whenever the populace goes to the polling stations. Every vote counts in the age old battle between the tribes.

    For Republicans the question of direct action is essentailly one of motivation. Today there are several justice campaigns that are struggling to gain support. Martin Corey and Marian Price are in jail becuase there has not been enough pressure brought to bear on the system to force their release. The peace process has has a debilitating impact on republicans that is evidenced by a lack of political action.

  17. I think we can go even further again Anthony and ask were there any gains made on the so-called 'nationalist' side in all this? Perhaps the DUP weren't the only one's trying to shape the agenda.

    At a time when austerity cuts are being moved through the Stormont Assembly wasn't this a most welcome diversion for those on 'our own side' struggling to explain to the community how their participation in the administration was of any practical import, given that they are virtually powerless to stop the much-maligned social welfare reforms being introduced by the neo-liberal government of David Cameron? The looming issue of the Justice and Security Bill making its way through the House of Commons as we speak is also potentially damaging to the position of those republicans who now administer British rule in Ireland. But by the time the full ramifications of this begin to enter the public discourse the marching season will no doubt provide all the required distraction to cover the proverbial ass on this one... The politics of manipulation, divide and conquer, are perhaps not exclusive to the British then.

    While 'the flag' and spin-off issues there-of, remain the focal point of political debate here, the larger and more important issues that they'd prefer we didn't pay attention to are cleverly disguised. So all this was a God-send for Sinn Fein as much as the DUP. It proved useful as a tool to bolster the sectarian carve-up that was beginning to show tentative cracks at the fault-line, due to these highly aggressive attacks on the poorest sections of society. So rather than communities such as the Short Strand condemning Sinn Fein for participating in a process that was reducing their quality of life, instead in rode the heroes to save the people from the external enemy. Thank you very much Gerry, Martin and Alex, you arrived just in time, where would we be without you. Classic fascist tactics by the way. Returning the state of political discourse to the divisive sectarian stuff of old is a useful strategy when your grip on the community is threatened. Britain used it for years, now it seems our very own are following their example. They learned from the best I suppose and they learned well.

    So while 'you can't eat a flag', as the man says, we can also see from all that's gone on here that, to borrow the title of Sean's piece, it's also 'far from powerless'. Both the major parties to the coalition here are fully aware of its power and how it can be manipulated to their advantage. So far they've both played their hand to perfection, the primacy of their position within their own host communities has been secured for the time being. Was that not the goal all along?

  18. There are definitely some excellent points being raised, and some good suggestions, is now the time to test the disparity of the state? I believe so.

    We have evidence from before, ardoyne v ballyclare, newtonabbey and the current round of 'fleg' violence of what we know.

    Opportunities to show the state for what it is should be seized. The G8 summit will be held here in June, the eyes of the world will truly be on the occupied six. An opportunity to good to miss?

    This is the brits taking the opportunity to say 'look at us, we pacified the irish muck savages' and this is our opportunity to say we are still an accupied state, are people are still oppressed, our citizens rights are still being violated.. too good of an opportunity to miss if you ask me!

  19. Sean Bres,

    a simple concluding sentence from Patrick Murphy in the Irish news seems to get it in one.

    Policing appears as political as ever and poverty has reached new heights

  20. as ever and poverty has reached new heights

    Recently a report showed that 43% of children in West Belfast are living on or below the poverty line. i could understand a figure that high in a third world country. But on the fringes of Western Europe! And when the welfare cuts start hitting home in about 6 weeks the figure is only going to get higher. And that will only breed more contempt and probably play into the hands of phyiscal force paramilitarism on both sides making it harder to heal the divide.

    Instead of trying to convince the PUL community the merits of reunification (at the minute is a no brainer), wouldn't it be better to convince them that the same socialist issues that they talk about are the very same issues that affect the nationalist community? Several members of the PUL side of the oxymornons have already stated here on the TPQ they feel culturally Irish but politically British. To me they've already crossed the rubicorn. All they need is persuaded to take the leap of faith and the merits of joining together as one voice. In the same way that the relief riots of the 1930's united everyone. All partition has done is create division, instilled hate & fear and cost everyone money. The flag protest has so far cost Joe Blogs somewhere between 15-20 million GDP. That money has to found somewhere, which means less for health, education, re-development...and less money for the working class who need it most.

    What no one can deny today in 2013 is partition has failed the left, right and centre. Similarly the Irish republic has failed most people living in the 26 counties. The whole island has a deficit of 25-30 billion euro per year and for the foreseeable future there wont be any change.

    Republicans have to convice not only the PUL community the merits of a re-unified Ireland but also people living south of the border. Unfortunatly a lot of the people living in the 26 counties either have total apathy concerning the North or don't understand whats happening. But they have the same social concerns as you & me..
    (maybe I haven't made myself very clear but i hope some of you get the jist).

  21. Alec,Sean Seamus et al have flagged up excellent posts ,without a doubt quisling $inn £ein are now truly partners in the con job thats called the governance of norn iorn and happy as pigs in shit to play along with the orange and green agenda knowing rightly it plays directly into the hands of both themselves and not themselves alone but their phony cronies in the dup, how convenient that vote on flying the butchers apron was for the main parties the dup played a blinder in their leafleting the East Belfast area preparing the community workers and the PUL for the big attack on our "Fleg" and all the while out of sight the real issues such as changes to the welfare benefits etc are slipped through without a whimper from those directly affected, ruling by fooling may be the order of the day but it looks to me that the fools are easy to rule,,,

  22. Connolly said "ruling by fooling is a great Britsh art....", but as Sean points out, there are political forces closer to home who have learned the lessons well. The political carve up at Stormont thrives on division and competition between the two tribes. Why, one wonders, has it not been possible for the parties to reach agreement on a strategy for a 'shared future'? Because it doesnt neccessarily suit their political agendas.

    The decision by Sinn Fein to stop the British flag from flying over City Hall - except for on designated days - would appear to contradict their stated objective of persuading unionists/loyalists of the merits of a national democracy. However, there is always more than one way of looking at this issue. From Sinn Fein's point of view, and far be it from me to argue its case, the the decision is the outworking of their equality agenda. It's the old 'shared city' chestnut; parity of esteem, blah, blah.

    Not for a second did Sinn Fein fail to appreciate the impact this would have on the other community. Wee Billy on the Shankill Road was never going to accept his 'national fleg' being removed from the great dome even for one day. So what was it about?

    Perhaps Sean offers some answers to this question by pointing up the diversionary aspect of the whole affair. It has certainly acted as a distraction from the real issues facing people. The old maxim of 'when in trouble create a skimish' comes to mind.

    The other half of Connolly's saying was, "with great Irish fools to practice on". And there it is in a nutshell.

    If I had my way the British flag would be put in the bin forever.

  23. Seems Marty and I both had Connolly in mind. I did't see until I posted my comment. Still, plenty of space for quotes from the great man all day long.

  24. Frankie; 'Republicans have to convince.. The PUL community of the merits of a united ireland.. And those south of the border'

    I'd say we'll have a hard job convincing former republicans and nationalists.

  25. What will happen if the flag protesters 'picket' the G8 summit? Will the UK police who will be policing the event take the same stance as the RUC/PSNI? Or do what normally happens when any one protests at G8 summits and beat them off the street?

  26. Those "fleg"protesters should picket the world police and fire games at the Kings hall it could become an international event "Beat the Billy" or "jail the Paddy"

  27. A very good friend said to me, The British stated, To Know Your Enemy You Have to Become One. So we must also do the same, Education would have to be the norm in various trades through college.

    Our youth is in disarray and they need to be taken on board, nurtured and trained for future events!

  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

  29. Frankie; 'What will happen if the flag protesters 'picket' the G8 summit? Will the UK police who will be policing the event take the same stance as the RUC/PSNI? Or do what normally happens when any one protests at G8 summits and beat them off the street?'

    The UK police are being urged by their unions NOT to volunteer their services in this here Wee Pravance.

  30. Book worm,
    I heard and read that they (UK police) are being urged not to go unless they have assurances about security. But the RUC/PSNI don't have the man power to poilce the G8 and the flag dispute at the same time. They'll be looking at it as more over time. Come June there will be Scottish, Welsh & English police at the Lakeside wether we like it or not.

    On the other point about needing to get former republicans and nationalists on board...I can see where you are coming from. But the PUL community need to handled with kid gloves. Maybe instead of using the 'R' word in trying to unite use socialism ( they inevitably hear green, Rome rule, IRA anytime the 'R' word is used and not the socialist principals republicanism is based on). Which is why I think (for what it's worth) it would be better to find common issues and work from there. Some of the PUL community already post the same views here (working class issues) but get bogged down in who did what first, second or third..Does it really matter who killed who first. An eye for an eye and soon everyone ends up blind.

    I'm with the posters who speak out against the folks on the hill keeping the divisions alive for their own ends. Wouldn't it be a shock to their system if instead of people marching through Belfast for a flag, everyone (man, woman & beast) walked through in defiance of welfare cuts, poverty, austerity. Hopefully find common ground.

    Both republicans and loyalists agree that their political elite don't give two flying fcuks about the electorate (unless it's voting time). And they agree that both sides got a raw deal in the GFA...

  31. Frankie; one things for sure, there'll be a lot of overtime for the coppers come June between the OO parades, fleg protests and the G8 - which I myself will be taking a jaunt to Fermanagh for.

    I would love working class unity in a socialist republic Ireland but it'll never happen. I've spent years through the work I do trying to convince working class loyalists that they've more in common with me than anyone else but I've finally accepted that it can't be done. My own personal opinion is that working class loyalists do not want to unite with me, they want to rule me.

  32. Frankie:

    If the pul were treated with kid gloves the consequences would be that the Nationalists were getting weak, there are genuine socialists within the pul community, the problem is, they cant speak out, reprisals are dominant in there areas, the majority of them see socialism as CHINA.

    "Wouldn't it be a shock to their system if instead of people marching through Belfast for a flag, everyone (man, woman & beast) walked through in defiance of welfare cuts, poverty, austerity. "

    Looks like its going to happen from both sides after today's news.

    third of sickness benefit claimants deemed fit for work

  33. Alec, While I agree with much of your political analysis in relation to loyalism and the 'flags',Direct action is not just a tactic but is much more than this.

    From the black block ‘having a go’ to going on marches, from smashing up a McDonalds’ to attending a picket, from throwing bricks to going to fundraising concerts for single issue campaigns – all of these activities have had the term ‘direct action’ applied to them.

    Direct action has been confused with actions that are probably best termed as ‘symbolic’ – and which are, on many occasions, ineffective. A lot of the confusion has been due to the media terming anything that they regard as outside the perimeters of ‘normal protest’ as ‘direct action’ – however some confusion is down to activists themselves confusing the terms. Many activists, for example, regard protests such as the G8 summit as direct action, but these types of protests, even if they are successful in shutting down the event, remain as symbolic.

    Direct action has also become a by-word for violence, to the extent that much of the anti-war and anti-globalisation movements talk specifically about NVDA – Non-Violent Direct Action. That’s not to say that people engaged in direct action shouldn’t defend themselves or that violence is never acceptable – simply that this view of direct action is partial and misrepresentative.

    Clichéd as it may sound; direct action is really about empowering ourselves and breaking the dependency on others (political parties, unions, bosses and official intermediaries) to do it for us!

    Direct action is about workers or in our communities acting to defend or improve their conditions using work-to-rule, strikes and occupations rather than relying on the Labour Relations Agency or industrial tribunals to do it for them. A local example of this was the Visteon occupation in west Belfast, where workers occupied the factory in protest to removal of their redundancy packages with the closure of the factory. This was done without the official jurisdiction of the union, despite the factory operating in a ‘closed-shop’ format. The workers done it themselves then informed the union, stating that they would continue with or without their support. The workers were successful and won back their redundancies.

    Direct action is a rejection of the notion that working-class people are powerless to change their conditions. Improvements to our lives are not handed down benevolently from above – they must be fought for. For libertarian communists and anarchists direct action is more than an effective means of defence or even of going on the offensive and changing something for the better – it is, for the working-class:
    “A continuous schooling for their powers of resistance, showing them every day that every least right has to be won by unceasing struggle against the system” (Rudolf Rocker)

    Direct action is an essential preparation for the free socialist society that we strive to create. Through engaging in direct action, even when we made mistakes, we have the opportunity to learn from experience that there is no need to leave things to ‘experts’ or professional politicians. We should have learnt by now that that course offers us nothing but disempowerment, betrayal and broken promises, and results in a pervading sense of powerlessness. And yet we are far from powerless!

    Direct action teaches us to control our own struggles while building a culture of resistance that links with other workers in struggles. Solidarity and mutual aid find real expression and as our confidence grows so too does our ability to change the world. It is needed now more than ever, and we also need a campaign which opposes all cuts and fees, which is controlled by its members & participants, which is ready & willing to promote direct action and is willing to fight.

    'Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.'frederick_douglass

  34. Sean,

    perhaps this would have made a better article on direct action than a comment where it seems sort of away from the beaten track.

  35. Sean, I am all for direct action and self empowerment of the type you describe above. Also, I take your point on the difference between symbolic actions and direct action although sometimes the lines aren't so clear.

    Any action that is non state sponsored or is viewed as being in some way extra legal will be be protrayed in a certain manner by the mainstream media. This does not detract from the value of independent action by the workers, the unemployed and the poor. Direct action empowers by raising the level of awareness of those involved as to their potential ability and power to shape the political agenda. Its main strenght lies in the independent nature of such actions vis-a-vis the political structures.

    Unfortunately, there is not enough of it in Ireland today. Dispite the objective economic conditions prevaling on a national and global scale, the Irish working class has not responed in defence of its own interests. Of course, there are many and varied reasons for the general lack of militancy, but it is a disappointing state of affairs for those on the left.

    However, all the blame does not rest with inert workers wilting under the weight of austerity. The Irish left has also failed to promote a credible alternative. Squabbling and sectarianism has blunted the left's ability to respond to the crisis. Capitalism does not face any serious challenge in Ireland today.

  36. Fair point Alec in relation to capitalism and even the state obviously not facing any challenge in not only Ireland but in most countries in the EU, but I dont think republicanism is any strong position either to be lecturing others on squabbling or sectarianism to be fair.

    To be fair, the anarchist movement and in particularly the WSM is involved in an ongoing process regarding these questions you are raising and internal organisational praxis. This is a small glimpse of it here.http://anarchism.pageabode.com/andrewnflood/wsm-history-reply-james-obrien

    Their was massive potential via the mass campaign opposing the Household and water charges campaign which was the biggest mass movement since the land league. Only for it to become prone to left parties more interested in jocking for elections and personalities rather than building a grassroots campaign based on local groups and empowering everyone to take take control of it which is what anarchists were pushing.

    In relation to 'left unity' I think a distinguishment needs to be made between this and left co-operation. We will never see left unity but certainly left co-operation is always practical and important in single issue campaigns.

    Interestingly, after these disasters, there is no discussion about what sort of 'socialism' all this effort is in aid of. Nobody is asking the most important question – what do we mean by ‘socialism’?

    Should the country be ruled by a parliament, by workers' councils or even by a one party dictatorship? Should it be old-style left Labour or libertarian socialism? Should it be sympathetic to the regime in Cuba, or even to the totalitarian Stalinist dynasty in North Korea? Where would freedom fit into things?

    Anarchists have a good record of working alongside others to win whatever victories are presently possible and of using methods that encourage working class self-confidence and self-organisation rather than soley recruitment likes trots or reliance on personalities and leaders.

    Its my experience that any movement is really strong where power resides with the rank and file, because the state can easuly take out the 'key leaders' but a much difficult task challenge one with direct democracy and self-management. The Old wobblies idea that we our all leaders and teach one teach all.

    This has gone off topic a bit though Alec :)

  37. Dixie,

    In other words the fecking Flegs.

    That's all I have heard about today. Bobby Sands had a good idea about a new flag design, in the book 10 men dead, he suggested keeping the Irish flag, green, white and orange and a lunch box in the middle for the workers..