Tuesday, 7 March 2017

NHS London March & advocates of anonymity

'SPIKYMIKE', otherwise known as the now retired Manchester City Council housing manager Mike Ballard, on libcom on Feb 6th, 2017 commenting on the forthcoming London NHS March on the 4th, March wrote:

'This will be big I'm sure but although I've attended a few local NHS demo's and picket lines in the north west over the last couple of years I can't bring myself to get up before 5am to catch a coach with a load of lefties down to London for a tramp around the big smoke - its bad for my health. There are some useful local campaigns around but the trade unions that will be at the forefront of this have hardly shown themselves able to mount any genuine solidarity action in the workplace where it matters (during the doctors strike fore instance) and one wonders how much of this effort will be about garnering support for the Labour Party in forthcoming elections rather than anything else?  Still it would be good to get some reports and feedback from London comrades on this. The NHS really is descending into something of a crisis - round here for instance with at least two local hospitals planning big cuts in beds just as the national news is highlighting the shortage of both beds and staff!!'
Well, it was indeed a 'big' demo, and there wasn't a red and black banner to be seen on the march. 
Yet the National Shop Steward's Network, otherwise known as a front for the Socialist Party, estimated the numbers and reported it thus:
'But this march of over 100,000, although some reports say double that attended, must be the start not the end of the campaign. The health unions and the TUC must call another national demonstration that could be absolutely massive. This would give health workers the confidence to take co-ordinated strike action, which we believe last year’s junior doctors’ dispute showed, would have the full support of patients and communities.'
On an early TUC march against the cuts some years ago, I had just come out of the Gent's Urinals at John Lewis and my heart skipped a beat when I saw the red and black banners blowing in the wind on Oxford Street.  It soon sank as the anti-climax set-in, especially as I scrutinised the feeble figures with their pigeon chests who were carrying the flags.  These bands of fellows were being followed by a bunch of press photographers hoping no doubt for something untoward to happen, and trailing behind these were the Metropolitan Police.
Last Saturday, there was no sign of the BLACK BLOC  or the anarchists with their pigeon chests, just an orderly well organized demo put on by Unite and the Peoples Assembly.

Meanwhile, on the anarchist FREEDOM webpage on February 4th, the FREEDOM 'publishing House' ran a story recommending demonstrators wear mask and entitled:  'Why covering your face at a protest is the right thing to do' by someone called Kevin Blowe.
Mr. Blowe writes that:
'In June 2015 Netpol launched a campaign to try to encourage activists to start covering their faces when taking part in demonstrations and marches.

'We saw this initiative as one of the few remaining ways of resisting the growth of intrusive surveillance on the streets, which sees police monitoring social media for images and live-streamed video, chatting to protesters in the guise of ‘facilitating’ their activism and routinely filming everyone. This data-gathering is overwhelmingly overt rather than involving undercover officers — and most of the information is handed over by ourselves without objection. It is also carried out on an almost industrial scale, intended to build up a picture of different social movements, their structures and alliances.'
This is an interesting little essay and very typical of the kind of psychological state of mind of those who inhabit the metropolitan bubble of paranoid politics with its cheap thrills for the pigeon chested.  Such an approach has no insight into what was moving the participants on last Saturday's March.

The point about the March to save the NHS was that it had mass support from people who wouldn't normally consider themselves 'activists', indeed it was probably supported by many of the officers policing the demo.
For the organisers to introduce bundles of masks wouldn't have encouraged a spirit of revolutionary fervour it would have inspired fear and alienation among the crowds.
Mike Ballard above is right to ask the question 'one wonders how much of this effort will be about garnering support for the Labour Party in forthcoming elections rather than anything else? '
Last Saturday's demo had much to do with boosting support for the Labour Party, and there is a real underlying danger that inconclusive demos of the kind we were involved in actually undermines morale in the end.
Yet, covering one's face will not improve matters anymore than knocking off a few policemen's helmets.

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