Sunday, December 31, 2006

Summit hopping

In June next year (2007) the G8 summit will be held in Germany in a little place called Heiligendamm, which is near Rostock. Preparations for the counter summit protests are already well under way and you can check out the partly English website here.

Father Ted, protestingWe had a good mini-discussion about this the other night and our torn feelings about these kinds of protests. On the one hand wanting to piss on George Bush's boots (if you'll excuse the expression) and on the other about the tendency towards summit tourism, a series of spectacles that don't necessarily translate into concrete advances.

On the plus side for me I'd say we need to recognise the relationship between a movement and it's components. Protests, like those around the G8, contribute to an ideological consolidation and
internationalism which in and of itself it is a good thing.

It's also good for the alternative left to be talking to each other regardless of borders and these practical moments are good opportunities to do just this. These protests are never simply about the enemy, about what we are against - they are also far more importantly about shaping who we are and what we are in favour of, for good or ill.

Books like Shut them down are useful reflections on what anti-capitalists are doing, what lessons they're learning and are good demonstrations of the diversity of our movement. Local activity alone cannot fulfill the historic tasks that we face today. Whilst I love the idea of a Mill Road revolution I think any such thing would rather quickly find itself facing questions that one isolated area could not answer alone.

However, the politics of the spectacle can be rather empty and ignore the fact that vibrant movements are made up of grass roots activists rather than existing only at a national or international level. The only place roots grow is in the soil - which means we do need to dig where we stand, in the communities that we live in.

CopsI suppose one of the things I don't like in the international events is the focus on the obvious and visible opponents, the police, which can lead to distracting us from the task in hand.

For instance in Nice (98?), during the signing of the EU treaty (of Nice) there were well organised anti-capitalist demonstrations that were split into (I think) three blocks. One of these blocks had the job of advancing on the local headquarters of the Front National (Nice has a strong FN showing). This happened to be the anarchist / black block.

Before getting anywhere near their target the police attacked and arrested a handful of them so the block diverted itself to the police station, to besiege it, which they did for several minutes until the police predictably went berserk and attacked, robustly.

The anarcho block fled like a headless chicken, which gave the police the excuse they needed to close down the convergence centre which was near by (thankfully no one was trapped inside as we barricaded the front and slipped out the back).

Now, in my view it was entirely predictable that some protesters were going to be arrested so why did the anarchists bother agreeing to attack the FN headquarters if they weren't even going to try? The police are tools of the status quo, they are not the status quo itself. If we're anti-capitalists then the police are an obstacle to achieving our objectives, if we simply behave as anti-police activists then we might as well join a firm of football hooligans for all we'll be able to achieve.

Also the post match analysis of this block consisted of "we need to be better armed next time" which made those particular protesters idiots in my book as we're never going to outgun the state, even if we had tanks and F-16s. All that kind of attitude does is justify the escalation of police violence against all of us.

Click to enlarge, from Cat and GirlAnyway, I'm distracting myself here.

The point is that although there are flaws and pitfalls in building for these mass international mobilisations I still think they serve a useful purpose; In terms of defining ourselves as people who have a global vision; In terms of bringing together disparate activists into a unified, diverse movement; and in terms of ensuring that whereever they go the leaders of the "free world" can only meet behind high fences and their rows of armed thugs.

I'll certainly be going in June and doing my bit to contribute to a movement that aims to change the world, but I'll try not to forget in the meantime the world starts here, right on my doorstep and if I don't try to make that better there's little point in even thinking about what lies beyond.

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