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