Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Anarchism and the Student Protests.

with 5 comments


Defend Anarchism!

The Media has rediscovered anarchism. The Left’s friend, the Daily Mail, writes that,

“Observers said as few as half of the yesterday’s crowd of protesters were students, with a rent-a-mob of anarchists and other thugs taking control.”

The Express says that,

GANGS of anarchists are plotting to wreck the Westminster Abbey wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, it emerged yesterday.

Police intelligence reports reveal how anti-capitalist thugs around the world are being urged to descend on London for the wedding on Friday, April 29.

There are genuine fears anarchists will attempt to destroy the couple’s big day by sparking riots

Thanks for that reminder. I’ll pencil it in next year’s Diary.

Ian Bone, with his hand on the pulse, rightly points out that many of this ‘mob’ come from the “slums of London” (Here).

The high-spirits/appalling thuggery of the crowd clearly has a lot in common with something well-known in the rest of Europe. That is the ‘casseurs’ (vandals) who flock to the fringes of demonstrations. When, that is, they don’t revolt on their own – for less defined political causes. Sometimes this about being totally fed-up with the world and wanting to hit out and get the adrenalin rush a riot brings. This is a problem, there’s no denying it. But we do not back  repressive solutions to a deep-rooted social malaise. The best known case lies in the positon of the French banlieue (similar relevant analysis here). But anyway, the Tendance has been known to have done some street-fighting as well, so our judgement has to bear this in mind.  *

Politicised Anarchists, nevertheless, have played a role in the student protests. That can be seen from the Red and Black Flags, the old ‘A’  sign, and plenty of activist literature. We are certain that some of them, better described as ‘autonomes’ were acting out their strategy of creating ‘autonomous spaces’ – and attacking property (and having the odd pop at the rozzers and Royals).

What does this mean?

Here are some points.

  • Anarchism is part of the workers’ movement. Marx’s biographer, Mehring, was explicit on this point – against some comments of Marx himself (details here). In Britain the most public face of anarchism tends to be student based, or axed on the ‘social economy’ (LETs, Co-ops) and other small-scale ‘alternatives’ to capitalism. But there remain pockets of working-class anarchism in some cities, such as London’s East End. More generally anyone who thinks that Bakunin’s criticisms of Marxism, as a potential source of a ‘scientific tyranny’ are completely false, has a lot of history to ignore.
  • If disaffected youth come to demonstrations and act violently there are good reasons for them to do so. The slums of the East End are no joke – and the market state has made people’s lives there a misery. The shift from stable work to precarious employment, and the impoverishment caused by welfare ‘reform’ and other attempts to discipline the poor, fuels resentment. Class War used to argue that with the decline of the British industrial base the class struggle had spilled out onto the streets. The 1970s autonomists claimed that the ‘social factory’,  embraced the whole of society and fights over capitalist reproduction could happen in multiple flash-points.
  • Young people, freer to revolt, are just such a flash-point. Their reactions are in response to what they can see of the market-state and do not want to experience. Toni Negri and Michael Hardt have talked of the ‘multitude’ as a potential political figures including a wide range of people  speaking out for new demands. A dead-end response is found in John Holloway’s Scream and cracks in capitalism, which disperses all these struggles and has not the slightest idea of how to unite them. If the Marxist left disagrees with this it is up to us to offer a better alternative.
  • Many anarchists, based on the self-management and collectivist traditions which cross-over to libertarian Marxism,  have a strategy of class struggle. 
  • The Whitechapel anarchists are at the forefront of the anti-fascist and anti-communalist fight. By opposing both the BNP/EDL and the communitarian forces (Islamists, Christians and so on) supported by the left they play an extremely positive role. Anarchism has the strength to back popular unity and not bow to the British state’s and left’s multiculturalist management of the people.


 Anarchists are the salt of the workers’ movement.


There are good reasons to defend anarchists against the present media-led state attacks.

* Note to the curious: all long ago. Hummm.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 11, 2010 at 10:28 am

5 Responses

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  1. […] Anarchism and the Student Protests (Tendance […]

  2. I think the most bizarre part of this is the attempts by the Met and the Evening Standard to pin the blame for the violence on the Wombles, a group that disbanded some seven years ago.


    December 16, 2010 at 12:02 am

  3. But surely the Wombles are due for a re-run?

    Andrew Coates

    December 16, 2010 at 12:54 pm

  4. As the sticker said : The Great Royal Debate – Shall We Hang Them Or Shoot Them?


    December 21, 2010 at 8:36 pm

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