Open Letter to Solfed and UK Uncut

Dear Brighton Solfed and UK Uncut

We are writing in response to Brighton Solfed’s letter to UK Uncut and to comments made by some members of UK Uncut regarding the use of the Black Bloc tactic.

We are a loose affilitation of activists who, since November 2010, have responded to UK uncut call outs as Brighton Uncut and Lewes Uncut.

Under the Uncut banner we have occupied a Top Shop window, held a tea party to honour Tom Paine in Boots, dropped a banner from British Home Stores,  run a community drama club in Natwest and empowered Santa Claus to get super glued to Dotty Ps.

The commonality in our actions stems from our belief that transformation – of ourselves and public spaces – must lie at the core of any attempt to transform the world. And transform we must in order to redress the balance of power and the concentration of wealth among a tiny minority that wreaks havoc the world over.

We feel it would be wholly unrealistic to believe that UK Uncut’s franchised actions alone can bring about a revolutionary change in the way the world has been run since it adopted a globablised capitalist approach to oppression and destruction. However we have found UK uncut’s formula useful for highlighting the issues, expressing solidarity with others fighting the system and introducing the wider public to the efficacies – nay the necessities – of direct action.

On March 26th – for all these reasons mentioned – we formed up with the radical workers block on the South London feeder march. At Trafalgar Square many of us broke from the main march, joining the Black Bloc.

What followed was not, as has been described in the media “a riot”. What occured, as the Black Bloc made its way through the epi-centre of Britain’s consumer culture, in a calm, determined and, under the circumstances, rational manner, bordered on pure theatre. It might resemble a riot on the surface. But it was, in truth, the collective creative act of the people  striving to redefine the status quo through shared emotional experience.

An RBS bank hoves into view. The black bloc stops and confers. SPLAT!. A paint bomb confirms this may be considered a legitimate target (for so many reasons). And so the paintbombing intensifes, until the crowd, almost spontaneously, moves on. A Porche dealership is attacked. Who needs a Porche? Have the inadequates who drive these motors ever given a thought to their CO2 emmissions? On Oxford St, Top Shop, Boots & Vodafone are redecorated. As the paint drips down the facades, each dollop displayed like a badge of dishonour, one marvels at the simplicity and non-violent spirit of the act. It wasn’t Molotovs: it was paint bombs in holi colours.

Obviously when the people come together  in such an audacious manner,  there will always be immediate detractors who are as yet, unable to break out of the well-trodden Molotov narrative of revolution. But in this instance the best source of scrutiny is probably located within the Black Bloc itself. Is a row of Boris bikes a legitimate target? No… as on the whole bikes are a good thing. Is it legitimate to spray paint or sticker over the Barclays logo emblazened on each Boris Bike? Well that’s probably an individual’s choice and it ultimately harms only the brand, not the functionality of the bicycle. So OK…

Is it concerning that people inside a Vodafone store are scared as the windows are being smashed? Yes it is… and how can we accommodate and better avoid such collateral distress?

Is smashing windows even a relevant expression of our rage? Well it’s an historically tried and tested method of making the authorities sit up and listen. So on balance it isn’t ever going to be the cause of us losing the fight.

More generally, is there anything more we can do to enhance, protect and promote the role of Black Bloc? Yes… we need to educate the public and the media – filming the people exercising their right to perform an imaginative interpretation of riots in the name of protest can get people in more trouble than their actions merit. Not only that but in your attempts to get hits on youtube you are in danger of getting hit on the head. As TSG members are wont to say “GET BACK!”

We can also advise Black Bloc newbies on the importance of collective anonymity – wear a mask, have a change of clothes on hand, keep vigilant. Through exchange of experience and ideas we can continue to strive for greater effectiveness as our numbers grow.

At 2.00pm many of us broke off from the Black Bloc to take part in the UK Uncut mass occupation at Fortnum & Mason . We share the public’s dismay at the Uncut’ers treatment: lied to, beaten, arrested and held for long periods on dubious grounds.  Some of us were among that number.  But this is not the first time we’ve experienced such political policing. Both Lewes Uncut and Brighton Uncut actions have involved violent arrests including that of a 59-year-old woman who was told “leave now and you won’t get arrested”. Sound familiar?

Beyond these arrests we offer our whole-hearted solidarity to the eleven charged with offences relating to incidents not connected to the Fortnum & Mason occupation: the so-called “violent minority”. Some of us are among this number also.  We must ensure these good people are neither marginalized by the movement nor used by the State as scapegoats. The real criminals are the elite who put profit before life, who would see billions scrabble for survival in order to maintain their destructive, lavish so-called life-styles.

UK uncut as a movement has a role to play here. We understand that the UK Uncut media campaign has been very tightly orchestrated. Some parties may now feel under a lot of pressure to denounce aspects of Saturday’s actions.  We would remind local and national groups that fellow activists will always be there in support, whereas the media will not.  We have already seen so called “radical” journalists trying to distance the actions of the Black Bloc from the actions of UK Uncut.  While these journalists undoubtedly have a contribution to make, might we remind them that direct action cannot be directed as a media spectacle according to their personal understanding of the situation. We would encourage these journalists to strike out beyond UK Uncut to experience for themselves the true meaning of grass roots activism. Until they do, they can be in no position to speak for us.

Lastly, we are grateful to Brighton Solfed for providing an intelligent platform from which to launch a debate and for taking the time to meet with us, offering support to our arrestees and hope for us all. As our local hero Tom Paine said: “We have it in our power to build the world anew.” But first we have to grow comfortable with that power.

Yours in Solidarity

Brighton and Lewes Uncut

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About brightonuncut

Local group in Brighton dedicated to defending our communities from cuts and highlighting alternatives through direct action.
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30 Responses to Open Letter to Solfed and UK Uncut

  1. Y’all this is a great letter. As a member of SolFed, I hope the March 26th demo will lead to a better understanding and close(r) collaboration between our organisations.

    I wanted to comment on this:

    //Is it concerning that people inside a Vodafone store are scared as the windows are being smashed? Yes it is… and how can we accommodate and better avoid such collateral distress?//

    SolFed, while we advocate direct action on demos, bases our organisational strategy around the workplace. This means, as I’m sure Brighton SF have said, we have experience organising inside the multinationals UnCut targets. This seems like the perfect opportunity to use the experience of both organisations to build practical solidarity and increase the strength and effectiveness of the anti-cuts movement.

    See here: http://solfed.org.uk/?q=organiser-training or speak to Brighton SF to hear more.

  2. Is smashing windows even a relevant expression of our rage? Well it’s an historically tried and tested method of making the authorities sit up and listen. So on balance it isn’t ever going to be the cause of us losing the fight.

    One word reply to whether window smashing is an acceptable expression of rage: Kristallnacht

    • welshboi says:

      Are you saying that smashing the windows of tax evading capitalists that are actively engaged in shitting on our class from a great height is the same as a campaign of terror against an ethnic minority? Your head must be an odd place to live in.
      Oh and…
      Godwin.

    • Arbetein says:

      I’m pretty sure that is not the only instance in history where a window has been smashed as an expression of rage…..

  3. Brighton Deluded says:

    Dear State,

    We’d like to give you the pretext to clamp down on the right to dissent, alienate many of our own supporters, undermine the struggle for a broad movement against the Government and neo-liberalism, and pose absolutely no threat to you whatsoever.

    Lots of love,

    Brighton Uncut

  4. Brighton Deluded says:

    Wow, “anarchists” who put all comments under moderation. Hilarious.

  5. This is a very wrong turn for UKUncut to take, I can only hope the sentiment isn’t shared by others outside of the authors.

  6. you make me sad says:

    I really do not understand why you had to go there and make such a mess. Humane people went there and did a peaceful protest and yet you ruined it by having all the publicity on yourselves – The disabled hardly got a word out because of the people who were too afraid to show their faces, because they knew they were doing wrong

    If you are so proud of what you do – Why not show your face and stop hiding?

    • Arbetein says:

      this whole ‘if your so proud why not show your face’ has become a bit of a conservative proverb of late. I don’t think any movements right now are claiming to be martyrs….

  7. cowards says:

    Cowardice thats why you hide your faces

  8. People hide their faces to try and preserve their privacy. We have seen how the media have run some very nasty personal articles about people e.g. this from the Daily Mail about Adam Ramsay: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1370966/TUC-anti-cuts-London-march-Fortnum-Masons-invader-Adam-Ramsay.html

    Plus we know that the police have a database they keep all the information about us on. And the Fortnum and Mason action was many in a long list that showed us the Police cannot be trusted on anything. I dont want either of these organisations to get pictures of me.

  9. victoria trow says:

    Saturday 26th March was a march of the ordinary working men & women of this country whose lives are to be ruined by this government. Coaches left Edinburgh at 11pm on the Friday night to get to London, from Penzance at 4:30. 11 coaches came from Plymouth alone (departure 5:30am)…Hundreds of thousands of people learning how to come together, mobilise, figure out how to proceed collectively – they deserve a lot of Respect. Having you lot charging about having a great time with paint bombs destroyed the impact of that day, denied those people their day on the front pages of the Fourth Estate, the media, and poses a major threat to the willingness of the many to step forwards into a more politically active future.
    Childish, selfish, egotistical, stupid, thoughtless…… Grow Up!

    • welshboi says:

      Sorry Victoria but the march had no impact, none. Or did you miss the government on the day saying “all very nice but it doesn’t change a thing”.

    • Arbetein says:

      the only thing that is ‘thoughtless’ is this opinion that has been banded around all across the internet as of late. If I knew the march was only to get on the front page in the name of millibands ‘slow cuts’ and Barbers ‘middle britain’, I never would have gotten out of bed!

    • Pedro Lima says:

      What forth state?? There is no forth state no longer! Can’t you people understand the language that this people understand is violence. While you guys protest peacefully and get your coverage on the mainstream media the politicians laugh at you and shit on you! Who really has to grow up?
      From a fed up citizen!

  10. Danny says:

    For crying out loud, as much as I am pleased the TUC had a picnic in the park, more people voted BNP than went to the rally. You are not news, you will be politely ignored and things will happen anyway. Keep marching, see where it gets you.

    Well done to anyone taking any form of direct action. Don’t succumb to the divide and rule. Once those TUC marchers have all lost their jobs, pensions, 2 bed semi and cars and are rooting through bins for food then they too will want to smash up the symbols of their oppression. Until that point, those who are allready in the shit will continue to FIGHT back.

  11. marina pepper says:

    I found this a rightly quirky contribution to the progress the discussions we must have. The poetics of protest. The painterly discourse of dissent. There are some other good pieces around today. A piece in the Guardian was thought provoking I found. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/mar/31/black-bloc-anti-cuts-protest?CMP=twt_gu

    Also this which is so expressive. http://invisibleassembly.noblogs.org/

    This, too. http://sturdyblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/a-deficit-in-humanity/

    To my mind, all these pieces are connected. And there’s hardly a cliche in sight. All very adult.

  12. Subversive Brighton says:

    The government is unleashing the most vile and severe attack on the welfare state that we have seen in our lifetimes. The Uncut activity on Saturday made me and my associates feel like this massive demo was going to be more effective and lead to more action than the anti war demo which was double the size. It left us feeling uplifted and hopeful at the end of the day. It put energy and imagination into the demonstration. Yes there was a diversity of action and views about tactics but, hey, that’s a good thing. 3 cheers. We love you Uncut. We love you Black Bloc.

  13. Lucy Cage says:

    The dialogue between Solfed and Brighton Uncut has really cheered me these past few days. Keep on at it. Both the measured occupations of UKUncut and the targeted anger of black bloc have their place in the protests against inequality: it’s ludicrous to suggest that any such actions “ruined” the TUC march, when they provided a balance to the speakers (Ed Milliband in particular) who were busy scoring party political points and conceding that cuts were necessary. THEY ARE NOT!

    http://somethingtocryfor.blogspot.com/2011/03/after-march-complaints-and-complicity.html

  14. scum says:

    Methinks the fact you state you want privacy doesnt work when all you did was take over a peacful protest. No you had to trash buildings and make sure you get all the TV time when the actual MESSAGE might have stood a chance of getting through had you lot of pathetic twerps not just wasted money on the clearup – All you do is go places to cause hassle. If you wanted to achieve something or even attempt to – Violence IS NEVER THE ANSWER

    • Allie Jabulani says:

      Black Bloc dont really like the media attention as it is not good to be filmed whilst doing something which could be illegal. You will see people covering the cameras in many of the videos of Black Bloc from Saturday . Its the media you should be directing your angry at, they are the ones who want to sell more papers above all else rather than actually think about what they are doing.

      Could you elaborate on why violence is never the answer too? I’m not sure about violence but i would prefer to debate the tactic rather then just insult people. For example I dont think property damage is neccessarily violence? As the letter says maybe it is violence if people feel hurt by it, but thats the conversation we should be having isn’t it? Why is violence wrong?

  15. Ted says:

    I think there’s an important discussion to be had about what the implications are for accountable activists of unaccountable activists taking part in accountable actions. There was some quite good discipline I would say in terms of no one using Black Bloc tactics inside Fortnums and Masons on the Saturday, but the grey area is the Oxford Street actions.

    A few years ago during mobilisations there used to be a day for ‘non-violent’ actions and a day for ‘a diversity of tactics’, which meant everyone knew where they stood and knew what to participate in. Obviously it wasn’t possible for things to be on different days on Saturday, but I think it could have been possible for the different tactics to be more segmented so that no one was put in an unsafe situation without choosing to be.

    The consequences of unaccountable targeting of UK Uncut targets was that UK Uncut spokespeople, and UK Uncut members, had to take the rap for both types of direct actions. Unlike the TUC, the spokespeople have been doing their best not to be drawn into good protester/bad protester divisions of the movement and to keep the debate focused on the issues, but it’s not surprising that other UK Uncutters have been trying to distance themselves from the unaccountable actions in various ways, as they’ve been held responsible/accountable for them. It’s actually quite amazing that they’ve managed to do this with as little resorting to good protester/bad protester as they have. The police’s unjustifiable arrests at F&M have a lot to do with that, as they’ve had an alternative narrative to push, but I think it’s also a testament to the general culture of solidarity and commitment to a diversity of tactics that it’s turned out that way. (If the police had any sense they’d drop the charges so that UK Uncut and black bloc stay in the general public’s minds as one and the same rather than giving them a platform in court to show that they’re different, but that’s by the by). But back to my main point: an unaccountable action surely means that no one is accountable, not that you turn up, drop other people in it, then run off? This is not very good solidarity (and nor is throwing paint on fellow activists, even accidentally). Don’t you think?

    This is not to say that the problems are all one-way. UK Uncut have not been clear themselves about the consequences of accountable actions I don’t think, and have left the tactics of a space to be implicit. This contributes to problems when everything’s jumbled up like it was on Saturday, in that people react very differently to how it pans out, given everyone’s very different experiences. If there’d been some kind of movement-wide spokescouncil system for discussing and co-ordinating a diversity of tactics in advance, that might have helped. UK Uncut did as little as anyone (as far as I know) to make this happen. Or maybe it did happen and I don’t know about it? In which case I’d be keen to hear more.

  16. Derek Wall says:

    thanks for this, good to debate, rare that you see debate and difference without point scoring and boundary maintenence….good for you and solfed, etc.

  17. Hugo Raskolnikoff says:

    Fortnum and Mason still doesn’t make any sense.
    By the way, the following paragraph has been submitted to Private Eye’s Pseuds corner:
    “What followed was not, as has been described in the media “a riot”. What occured, as the Black Bloc made its way through the epi-centre of Britain’s consumer culture, in a calm, determined and, under the circumstances, rational manner, bordered on pure theatre. It might resemble a riot on the surface. But it was, in truth, the collective creative act of the people striving to redefine the status quo through shared emotional experience.”

  18. tom says:

    on the subject of covering your face… the police cover theirs, as well as carry weapons, attack indiscriminately, lie, cover up & protect the property of the rich. which is all they a force of thugs enforcing the will of the govt/ rich. well done all anarchist, keep it up.

  19. tony b says:

    I fully support UK uncut for their actions on 26th march. And before that protest and going forward. they have been far more active than the so called trade unions, and have put them to shame.

    I agree, the real trouble makers were the police, defending the rich against the outrage of people who bother to get off their behinds and do something to fightback against British capitalism and imperialism.

    The police clearly attacked the protesters violently, just as they always do.
    Go on youtube – search for ‘poll tax riots’ have a look and you will see – nothing much has changed other than it getting worse.

    onwards,

    T

  20. Richard Ayres says:

    One word reply to whether window smashing is an acceptable expression of rage: Kristallnacht

    One more: suffragettes

  21. Jordan says:

    Why do “anarchists” riot against the prospect of a smaller state? Isn’t less dependance upon and interference from the government the whole point?

    • Binarypigeon says:

      “Anarchists” aren’t the only group who use black-blocing, but when anarchists refer to the state, they mean the means of the rich to assert their control over the masses – the law, the army, etc. – not the welfare state that the cuts are attacking, the only element of capitalist society that is based around need not profit. Anarchists advocate collective ownership of the means of production and the organisation of the whole of society according to need not profit. (Differing from certain other varieties of communism in that they want democratic control not state control) Only right-wingers want a capitalist economy but with a small, privatised state – which would result in even more exploitation than now.

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