Gaza Youth Break Out (GYBO) have issued a Manifesto for Change. Visit their Facebook page and support them. Also visit the Sharek Youth Forum web site and learn about the struggle for a life independent of Israel and of Hamas. Do not let Hamas destroy the last vestiges of independent civil society in Gaza.
Gazan Youth’s Manifesto for Change
December 30, 2010
Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community! We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16’s breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fucking situation we live in; we are like lice between two nails living a nightmare inside a nightmare, no room for hope, no space for freedom. We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, homemade fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world.
There is a revolution growing inside of us, an immense dissatisfaction and frustration that will destroy us unless we find a way of canalizing this energy into something that can challenge the status quo and give us some kind of hope. The final drop that made our hearts tremble with frustration and hopelessness happened 30th November, when Hamas’ officers came to Sharek Youth Forum, a leading youth organization (www.sharek.ps) with their guns, lies and aggressiveness, throwing everybody outside, incarcerating some and prohibiting Sharek from working. A few days later, demonstrators in front of Sharek were beaten and some incarcerated. We are really living a nightmare inside a nightmare. It is difficult to find words for the pressure we are under. We barely survived the Operation Cast Lead, where Israel very effectively bombed the shit out of us, destroying thousands of homes and even more lives and dreams. They did not get rid of Hamas, as they intended, but they sure scared us forever and distributed post traumatic stress syndrome to everybody, as there was nowhere to run.
We are youth with heavy hearts. We carry in ourselves a heaviness so immense that it makes it difficult to us to enjoy the sunset. How to enjoy it when dark clouds paint the horizon and bleak memories run past our eyes every time we close them? We smile in order to hide the pain. We laugh in order to forget the war. We hope in order not to commit suicide here and now. During the war we got the unmistakable feeling that Israel wanted to erase us from the face of the earth. During the last years Hamas has been doing all they can to control our thoughts, behaviour and aspirations. We are a generation of young people used to face missiles, carrying what seems to be a impossible mission of living a normal and healthy life, and only barely tolerated by a massive organization that has spread in our society as a malicious cancer disease, causing mayhem and effectively killing all living cells, thoughts and dreams on its way as well as paralyzing people with its terror regime. Not to mention the prison we live in, a prison sustained by a so-called democratic country.
History is repeating itself in its most cruel way and nobody seems to care. We are scared. Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed. We are afraid of living, because every single step we take has to be considered and well-thought, there are limitations everywhere, we cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want, sometimes we even cant think what we want because the occupation has occupied our brains and hearts so terrible that it hurts and it makes us want to shed endless tears of frustration and rage!
We do not want to hate, we do not want to feel all of this feelings, we do not want to be victims anymore. ENOUGH! Enough pain, enough tears, enough suffering, enough control, limitations, unjust justifications, terror, torture, excuses, bombings, sleepless nights, dead civilians, black memories, bleak future, heart aching present, disturbed politics, fanatic politicians, religious bullshit, enough incarceration! WE SAY STOP! This is not the future we want!
We want three things. We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask? We are a peace movement consistent of young people in Gaza and supporters elsewhere that will not rest until the truth about Gaza is known by everybody in this whole world and in such a degree that no more silent consent or loud indifference will be accepted.
This is the Gazan youth’s manifesto for change!
We will start by destroying the occupation that surrounds ourselves, we will break free from this mental incarceration and regain our dignity and self respect. We will carry our heads high even though we will face resistance. We will work day and night in order to change these miserable conditions we are living under. We will build dreams where we meet walls.
We only hope that you – yes, you reading this statement right now! – can support us. In order to find out how, please write on our wall or contact us directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
We want to be free, we want to live, we want peace.
One of the main stories to emerge after the tuition fees demonstrations earlier this month was the attack on Prince Charles and Camilla’s car as it drove down Regent Street. Predictably, the commissioner of the Metropolitan police condemned what he referred to as the “thugs” who carried out the attack. The double-standards should be highlighted; why doesn’t Mr Stephenson condemn the thugs in his own police force who rode into crowds of children on horseback and put several students in hospital. However, it was the second part of his comment that I found particularly worrying; Mr Stephenson praised the “enormous restraint” shown by the royal protection officers.
Bearing in mind that these officers are armed with weapons that kill people, one dreads to contemplate the implications of such a comment. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, went one step further, suggesting that the country could have a “different system” which, in his own words, would have resulted in “more broken heads [the next] morning”.
The message is loud and clear; obey the government, or have your heads “broken”. Mr Johnson, we also have a “different system” in mind; one where we are all entitled to a free, equal education.
And let us look, historically, at what the British royal family represent. Is it not true that for centuries, the monarchy have been the symbol of the imperialist pursuits of the British Empire? The same imperialism which continues today through our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, our soldiers stationed across the world, and the superiority complex that stipulates “we” must show “them” how to live their lives.
Is it only me that finds it strange that countries from Botswana to Belize, and from Sierra Leone to Swaziland have English as an official language? Could we ever imagine this being acceptable the other way round? Setswana being declared the official language of the United Kingdom? Of course not.
Is it only me that finds it strange to learn that when children were killed by plastic bullets in Northern Ireland in the 1980s, after demonstrations were fired upon by British soldiers occupying their country, the British media were prohibited from reporting their deaths, but when British soldiers were killed in retaliation, their deaths were reported. Why are the deaths of British soldiers considered more valuable, and more media-worthy, than the deaths of Irish children?
Is it only me to find it strange that here in England, we still have a family born into the privelige of a life of royalty whilst thousands of children are born into poverty?
Let’s make a real New Year’s resolution for 2011; to demand equality for all human beings, irrespective of nationality, wealth or family background. It is the least we can do.
Two years has passed since the beyond brutal attack by israel on what is basically a defenseless population, two years since israeli military and paramilitary forces murdered men, women and children, even young children and bombed to dust hospitals, schools, community houses, ambulances and just about anything both moving and not.
The obviously correct and meticulous Goldstone rapport offers a detailed and horrible picture of what happened. The Norwegian surgeons Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse and others present gave their personal account of «wading in blood», all of it pretty much ignored by western news media.
The Genocide of the Palestinian people, by israeli forces, ongoing since 1945 took yet another dramatic turn for the worse.
Let me once again remind you of what genocide is, according to Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948):
…any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
The following acts shall be punishable:
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide.
Make no mistake, this is what is happening in Palestine.
The official international reaction to the massacre in Gaza was as predictable, as it is sad and inhuman. It was a shrug, really, and yet another attempt at blaming the victims for the acts of their oppressor and occupant.
Private citizens, like myself got totally fed up, though. I had been aware of the situation in Palestine for years, and written several articles about it, but I hadn’t actually engaged myself in its activism. Many felt like me. Thousands joined the various Palestine-friendly groups in Europe, United States and the world.
Western governments, however continued their fence sitting, continued being «friends with israel», a completely disgusting and unacceptable stand.
Anything putting pressure on israel, like the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement and South American nations recognizing Palestine as an independent state (worrying to no end the israeli cabinet minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer) is a good thing, but far stronger measures are sorely needed.
The attack on the international flotilla and massacre onboard the Mavi Marmara elicited pretty much the same reaction, the same lack of response. The Turkish government was pretty livid… for a while, but now says it wants a return to «normal relations» with israel.
There are the massacres, a new one every second year or so, but even worse than that is the ongoing, deliberate erosion of the Palestinian people from Palestine. Look at the map from 1946 and look at the same area today, and an undeniable truth appears even stronger than it does in the daily independent news.
Palestinian farmers on the West Bank have to beg Israeli soldiers for working on their own land. Practically every day they have to put up with hours of humiliation and degradation to do even the most simple of tasks. The Palestinians are terrorized while, israeli citizens are stealing ever more of their land.
Today Palestinians lack even the most basic of human rights, in Gaza, on the West Bank and within Israeli borders. It’s an intolerable situation that the world community is mostly ignoring and allows to deteriorate further.
The volcanic eruption of student anger and militancy over the last few months has blown the political space wide open, making a broad-based movement against austerity thinkable where previously there was only rumbling discontent. It has certainly been an exhilarating experience to be part of, but whether future historians look back on the heady period leading up to the parliamentary vote on tuition fees as the beginning of the fightback against the neoliberal juggernaut or the last desperate gasp of social democracy, will depend on the next steps the movement takes.
An extraordinary opportunity has been presented to us. Len McCluskey, general secretary of the biggest trade union Unite, has called for an alliance between trade unions and the “magnificent students’ movement”. This call, from the leader of the country’s biggest trade union, which echoes the countless personal messages of support delivered by unionists at the university occupations, is without parallel in the history of social activism in this country. With over seven million members, the labour movement represents by far the largest organised force in this country, and through the power of co-ordinated action, from strikes to occupations, to political mobilisation and education, is capable of putting serious pressure on the legitimacy and functioning of the state. The key question now is how to turn rhetorical expressions of solidarity into concrete relationships of support and co-operation, not only with trade unions, but with the full diversity of campaign groups that are springing up at a local and national level to fight the cuts.
One important theoretical debate concerns whether the movement should strive to retain its hitherto organic and decentralised nature or whether this is merely a temporary phase before the inevitable discipline of central organisation and leadership. I hope to set out elsewhere the creative potential of networked organisation and the dangers of over-reliance on traditional hierarchies. Here I will confine myself to ten practical suggestions on the way forward, in no particular order:
1. Convene nationwide meetings of the occupations, and then broaden these out to other groups. We need forums to strategise on the way ahead. Online networks have proven their efficacy, but the occupations also demonstrated the importance of a shared space and face-to-face interactions in fostering the strong bonds needed for concerted political campaigning and direct action. One of the most impressive political meetings I’ve taken part in was the Cambridge University occupation general assembly – a genuine “big society” get together of over 300 people from all backgrounds and walks of life, brought together to discuss how to oppose the cuts. There is no reason why these kinds of meetings can’t become a regular occurrence.
2. Educate each other, disseminate skills. The occupations served as fast-track apprenticeships in political activism. Thanks to them, hundreds of young people now have the skills and confidence to run democratic meetings, deal with the press, engage in non-violent resistance to bailiffs, and so on. We need to disseminate these skills further through workshops and informal instruction, across sectors as well as within them. At UCL occupation we were given a lesson in the community organising techniques of “power mapping” by a unionist from the TSSA. Students, in return, could offer their own knowledge and skills, such as how to organise through social media.
3. Build and strengthen links with school students. They have been the most radical and militant, leading from the front at the days of action. University students need to be forging links with students at local schools, giving talks to their societies, and encouraging them to get involved in activism. They are the ones who will suffer the brunt of cuts to EMA and university funding and many are keen to get involved. I expected ten pupils at a talk I gave to Camden school for Girls, with Jo Casserly, on the eve of their occupation – instead there were at least 100.
4. Keep it adventurous and creative. Think flashmobs, culture jamming, political art, the techniques of the Yes men and the Situationist International. A group of Goldsmith’s graduates have formed the University for Strategic Optimism, a nomadic institution which pitches up and holds lectures in capitalist spaces such as Lloyds TSB and Tesco. As we saw in Parliament Square, even a calculated technique of state repression, such as the kettle, can be subverted and turned into a mini festival. We need more of this; anything satirical and subversive the authorities find difficult to handle.
5. Convince the wider student body. When you’re caught up in deliberative enclaves of the like-minded it can be easy to ignore the opinions of the wider student body. This is a mistake. Their support, even if only passive, is critical. Public talks, workshops, and informal persuasion can help bring them in. This is an attractive moment of political persuaion by example, but also argument, it needs to face outwards not be totally absorbed by itself.
6. Call for co-ordinated strike action. This will be a vital tool in defeating the government’s austerity programmes. Students should be making the political case for strikes in defence of jobs and the welfare state, as well as providing support for workers who withdraw their labour. At UCL occupation we organised delegations to attend the pickets of striking tube workers – this should become a regular activity.
7. Improve legal knowledge and anti-surveillance practices. We can expect a furious backlash from the police and the wider political and judicial establishment. The repression of student activists has already begun with police raids on suspected leaders. The Met are demanding ever more draconian powers and tools to deal with protesters, whilst Lib Dem politicians urge intrusive “intelligence” gathering operations designed to suppress legitimate dissent. We need more people trained in legal observation attending demos, and wider awareness of the techniques needed to foil police intelligence gathering, both online and off.
8. Beware sectarianism. As a political theory Phd student, I enjoy robust theoretical debate as much as the next activist, but one of the wonderful things about the occupations (at least the ones I witnessed) was how they prioritised practice over ideology. It would be a great shame to now descend into ideological fetishism or for different factions to move in and try and appropriate the anger and energy to grow themselves at the expense of the wider movement. This movement’s openness and pluralism is a political strength, without it it won’t succeed in bringing in the larger public.
9. Become a networked participant. There has been something of a backlash against “clicktivism” of late (largely from those with little experience of digital activism) but it’s no coincidence that the most successful anti-cuts actions to date – the student protests and UK Uncut – are those that have harnessed the power of online networks. Join Twitter, join Flickr, work Facebook, set up a blog – and use online platforms such as False Economy to link up with other campaigners in your area and pool knowledge and resources. Ultimately, activists should consider moving their online operations from private social media conglomerates, inherently vulnerable to corporate and governmental pressure, to self-hosted, open source networks. The scandal of corporate connivance in the attack on Wikileaks and the recent “disappearance” of UK Uncut’s Facebook group underlines the urgency of such a switch.
10. Support the motion of No confidence in Aaron Porter, but don’t let it distract from the core task of building the movement. It would be nice to have a combative NUS President prepared to mobilise the organisation’s resources on behalf of students, but the real lesson of the last few weeks has been how ineffectual “leaders”, desperate to appear responsible and safeguard their own careers, can be bypassed by taking autonomous action.
Guy Aitchison is a PhD student at UCL re posted from openDemocracy’s OurKindgom.
Scotland Yard is facing legal action over claims that officers “falsely imprisoned” and assaulted schoolchildren during a tuition fees protest in London.
In what is believed to be the first lawsuit taken against police in connection with the violence, lawyers from human rights group Liberty have notified the Metropolitan Police of legal action involving minors who suffered “inhuman and degrading treatment” during a protest on 24 November.
The organisation claims the treatment of children amounted to a breach of their human rights after they were “kettled” by officers during the demonstrations for up to nine hours in cold conditions, without food, and were denied medical help despite some of them suffering injuries, including at least two fractures.
The claim is on behalf of three young protesters, one of whom is a 15-year-old whose foot was broken after allegedly being struck by an officer when trying to leave a police kettle and who claims she was subsequently refused medical help. Another is a 17-year-old London student who became so distressed inside the “kettle” that her father said she came away suffering from shock. The third is Rory Evans, 19, whose ankle was broken during a crowd surge among protesters contained between police lines.
Lawyers believe the Met breached the European convention on human rights on at least four counts. The case is believed to be the first of what many observers believe could be a number against police over the protests.
The 15-year-old claimant, a GCSE pupil who was wearing her school uniform, describes how she became anxious while “kettled” and decided to go home. The teenager was climbing a gate to leave when an officer pulled her down and struck her.
A letter to Scotland Yard’s legal team states: “The police officer continued to pull her down, causing her to fall on to the floor. She picked herself back up and the police officer then hit her hard on her foot with a baton. She was then alone in the ‘kettled’ area and barely able to walk unassisted.” “She was extremely cold and frightened and in a great deal of pain,” the letter adds.
The 17-year-old, an A-level student, joined the protest and was kettled within 15 minutes of arriving in Whitehall. For six hours she unsuccessfully asked officers to allow her to leave because she was desperate to go to the toilet. At 6pm, portable toilets were delivered outside the “kettle”, but after the teenager was allowed to use them she was escorted back inside the crowd. She has described seeing a woman pleading to be released because she felt nauseous. Later she was escorted from the kettle, vomited by the side of the road and was taken back into the kettle without receiving any medical attention.
After seven hours police said she could leave when her father turned up.
The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the Observer: “It’s disappointing that young people had their opportunity to express themselves taken away. There are not many positive things for young people who are categorised as yobs and will be forced to pay ridiculous amounts for university. The police tactics made a mockery of pluralism in democracy.”
The final case involves Evans, a recent school leaver who described how people “kettled” in Whitehall resembled a “large tide” against lines of police with officers pushing back. He said people started to fall and he became trapped, with other demonstrators falling on his ankle and causing it to break. Evans noticed young people in school uniform who had also fallen. In serious pain, the teenager was eventually released from the kettle but, although he asked police, they did not seek medical attention for him nor know where to find assistance.
Emma Norton, legal officer at Liberty, said: “Policing demonstrations is no easy task but the police must distinguish between the law-abiding majority and the handful intent on violence. Our three young clients came away from November’s march distressed, and, in two cases, with broken bones.
“The tactic of ‘kettling’ large groups so that peaceful protesters and passers-by are trapped for hours alongside more troublesome elements exacerbates tensions and creates a risk to public safety.”
Scotland Yard has justified “kettling”, saying it was crucial to contain people and the threat of disorder while minimising the use of force. Last week the Metropolitan Police commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, said officers had to deal with “unrestrained violence” at the protests. Discussing his officers’ actions, he said “things happen in violent disorders” and he regretted any injuries caused. He said any complaints about police conduct would be investigated.
This week marks the second anniversary of the horror inflicted on the people of the Gaza Strip. Nothing has changed! Gaza has returned to its pre-invasion state of siege, confronted with the usual international indifference. Two years after the Israeli assault that lasted 22 long days and dark nights, during which its brave people were left alone to face one of the strongest armies in the world, Gaza no longer makes the news. Its people die slowly, its children are malnourished, its water contaminated, and yet it is deprived even of a word of sympathy from the President the United States and the leaders of Europe.
The dehumanization of the Palestinians of Gaza continues unabated. But now the urgent question is how to hold Israel accountable to international law and basic principles of human rights in order to forestall further escalation.
One way to begin holding Israel accountable is through direct witness and citizen solidarity. For example, on December 27, an Asian aid convoy comprising of politicians and activists from 18 countries will arrive in Gaza in an attempt to break Israel’s four year siege and to remind the world of the cruel consequences of the siege and the massacre. It is one f the remarkable undertakings by international Civil Society organizations that have decided to take action into their own hand after the miserable failure of the “International Community.” Some of those activists experienced first hand what it means to show true solidarity with the Palestinians of Gaza when nine Turkish activists were brutally murdered in broad-day light on Mavi Marmara.
While in Gaza, The convoy’s activists will undoubtedly hear stories that will curdle the blood. During the massacre, one Israeli soldier commented, “That’s what is so nice, supposedly, about Gaza: You see a person on a road, walking along a path. He doesn’t have to be with a weapon, you don’t have to identify him with anything and you can just shoot him.”
Israel could not have carried out its brutal assault, preceded and followed by a punishing siege, without a green light from leading world powers. When Israel attacked Gaza in February/March 2008, Matan Vilnai, then-deputy minister of defense (a misnomer for an aggressive, occupying power), threatened a “greater Shoah” (Holocaust). Some 102 Palestinians, including 21 children, were killed.
The reaction of the international community? Absolutely nothing substantive. On the contrary, the EU decided to reward the aggressor by upgrading its trade agreements with Israel. This upgrade in early December 2008 gave the go-ahead for the larger Gaza massacre of 2009 in which more than 1,400 Palestinians were killed: the majority of them civilians. But now, in spite of Israeli war crimes, both the US and the EU continue to strengthen ties with Israel.
The resemblance of Israel’s violent campaign of domination to that of the apartheid South African regime has recently been articulated by the anti-Apartheid freedom fighter and former South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils: “[It is not] difficult for anyone acquainted with colonial history to understand the way in which deliberately cultivated race hate inculcates a justification for the most atrocious and inhumane actions against even defenseless civilians – women, children, the elderly amongst them.”
The South African apartheid regime came under repeated pressure as the United Nations Security Council passed one resolution after another condemning its inhumane treatment of blacks. This gave much-needed succor to the oppressed, while we Palestinians, today, are bereft of even this tiny comfort because the United States continues to use its veto to ensure that Israel escapes censure.
Today, there is a growing grassroots struggle inside Palestine, much as there was inside apartheid South Africa. An intensified international solidarity movement with a common agenda can make the struggle for Palestine resonate in every country in the world. Our goal now, as civil society organizations, is to lift the siege against Gaza. To accomplish this, many activists, Palestinian and international, have launched a boycott campaign modeled on the global South African anti-apartheid campaign. This campaign is a democratic movement based on the struggle for human rights and the implementation of international law. Our struggle is not religious, ethnic, nor racial, but rather universalist; it is a struggle that guarantees the humanization of our people in the face of a dreadful Israeli war machine.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, a staunch supporter of Palestinian rights, has said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” While the Israeli armed forces were bombing my neighborhood, the UN, EU, Arab League and the international community remained silent in the face of atrocities. Hundreds of corpses of children and women failed to convince them to intervene.
Gaza 2009, like the Sharpeville 1960 massacre, cannot be ignored. It demands a response from all who believe in a common humanity. Nelson Mandela pointed the way to this shared humanity when years ago he stated, “But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
Now is the time to boycott the Apartheid Israeli state, to divest from its economy and to impose sanctions against it. This is the only way to ensure the creation of a secular, democratic state for all its inhabitants in historic Palestine regardless of race, creed, or ethnicity.
Haidar Eid is Associate Professor of Postcolonial and Postmodern Literature at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University and a policy advisor with Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network.
Paul Scriven, leader of Sheffield City Council stars in a promotional video for Mercure Hotels, which has emerged online.
In the video he sings (or at least mimes to) the Lou Reed classic Perfect Day, but with the lyrics reworked to tell the story of a tired businessman arriving at the hotel after a Hectic Day.
The Mercure St Paul’s Hotel in Sheffield is set to act as a base for delegates to the Liberal Democrats annual conference in March.
It has played host to various council related events and conferences, most recently a leadership summit for Sheffield First Partnership, of which Mr Scriven is chair.
On his twitter feed, Mr Scriven has insisted that the video was “an internal training video”, and that he was not paid.
Thanks to all who helped out with SheffieldPolitics’ recovery of the video, which was deleted by the original uploader this morning.
The media have painted a picture for the general public to think that these young people are insolent and job shy, this is how some older people are seeing it. This is an excellent speach, not just showing the truth but also showing just how corrupt the politicians are.
So the Lib Dem conference coming to Sheffield City Hall from March 11-13 – the first time Sheffield has hosted a conference by a national political party.
Thugs meeting thugs… It’s time for me to duck out.
It’s interesting. I personally feel that non-violent civil resistance is one of the most effective forms of protest. Don’t get me wrong, by that I don’t mean well behaved civilians walking along the well planned routes decided by the police and being watched over by the still plotting and scheming state as they march past…(read my first critique here)
There has much been written on The Recent events from The Fight For Parliament (A Personal Recap of the 9th Dec)
How do we engage with this rage against the machine?
13 years of New Labour there was but a mummer and when the social privilege and status of The Middle Class is under direct attack we see the formation of a new mass movement?
The state using Kettle tactics that risk Hillsborough-style tragedy says a doctor now more than ever we need to look at new ways forword here are some further thoughts.
If all that is we have to offer when the Lib Dem conference comes to Sheffield City Hall from March 11-13 is the same old march from to a to b and back home on the coach, as was done under 13 years of New Labour, it has been much the same from The Poll Tax Riots we have given under in fear. It took Millbank to brake that fear.
Once more if we let the people down and also feel fucked over by the lack of critical thinking/looking towards new forms of taking action then we will once more fail to engage with The Working Class.
So what has been taken from students to make them so angry?
Hope, that’s what. Hope, and the fragile bubble of social aspiration that sustained us through decades of mounting inequality; hope and the belief that if we worked hard and did as we were told and bought the right things, some of us at least would get the good jobs and safe places to live that we’d been promised. – Laurie Penny, New Statesman
A single image from a day of movement marks out competing visions of hope. A boot through a Millbank window fed the dreams of resistance that many in the Left have been craving since talk of austerity started. The same boot posed a question that plays out in the university occupations that preceded it and have since blossomed in its wake: what is it exactly that we are hoping for?
The question of how students have inspired people to act, engage and organize to combat the Government’s austerity plans is an important one.
It is one that also potentially contrasts with some of the views of students themselves. For let’s be clear – it is not necessarily (or even principally) the University or its defence that mobilizes people’s desires and dreams outside the student movement. Defending the ‘right to education’ may be what sparked student revolts, but those of us who are not students have been drawn in because we want, more than anything, to resist and fight.
And to resist and fight you need to know that resistance is possible, that you will not be alone, and that you can win. For the most part the resistance so far to the regime of austerity has been rote and uninspiring – a betrayed strike here, a sacked workforce there.
Minor victories and thousands of words spoken of an inevitable uprising, of an insurgency against the restructuring. The boot through the window took us beyond the rhetoric and yearnings. It showed rage and the will to fight.
It showed cops overwhelmed and underprepared, Tory offices ransacked and the beautiful excess of an insurrectionary moment. It inspired because it was truly magical, and people saw for themselves that battles could be waged, people would fight, and winning was possible.
But beyond this what support is there for the ‘right to education’? For this was the starting point for the riot and the thread that binds the demonstrations, the walkouts and the occupations. Cutting the Education Maintenance Allowance, shedding whole university departments and countless staff, and raising fees.
The restructuring is an attack on ‘education’ as it exists in the University; a wholesale revision of who can access what.
It is perhaps taken for granted that ‘we’ all support the right to education, and that we are all united in our defence of the University. But what if we are not?
What if it is our rage and not our hopes that are united? What if we are together only for the fight, but not the victory?
Laurie Penny nails the motivation behind the riot – hope. Or rather, the restructuring of hope and its coming scarcity. A restructuring and scarcity because hope is not something eternal or ephemeral. Hope is a material thing, produced and distributed through social channels and institutions. Institutions like the University.
What do we mean by a socially produced hope? Different societies produce different kinds of hopes. In fact, every single society produces different kinds of hopes. Hope is a mobilizing and organizing force that structures the direction and possibilities of our lives.
As memory shapes our understanding of the past and how we understand what we are now, hope shapes our understanding of the future – what there will be, what there could be, who and how we will become something more than we are today.
Both hope and memory give form and purpose to our actions; they give our lives meaning.
There are competing versions of hope in a given society, but there is also a hegemonic form to hope. For us, living in a becoming-neoliberal world, that hegemonic form is aspiration. Not aspiration in the sense to aspire to greatness in some heroic Greek sense, or something romantic and colourful.
No, for us aspiration has a particular hue and tint – it means social mobility. It means a better job, more money, more things and a higher rung on the career ladder. Hope is individual in our world, never collective – the hope of entrepreneurs dreaming of making it big. Not just climbing the ladder but also winning out over all others. We hope for social mobility. Which is exactly how Penny frames it, as do most of the placards on the streets. Hope, the dominant form of hope, is to do better than your parents.
Hope is not evenly distributed – what hopes there are and who has access to them depend on where you are located (be you poor, or black, disabled, a women, young, living in the regions, etc). Neoliberal hope – aspiration – is increasingly restricted to an ever-smaller circle of people: those people doing well through the current crisis; those people above the buffer of the ‘squeezed middle’. For the rest, there’s the lottery.
(To be clear, there have been ‘no hopers’ for quite some time – an underclass living a kind of social death of meaningless, pointless lives, hidden away behind ASBOS on estates But this is to become the norm for many, many more people).
This in turn leads to a scarcity of hope and an increasing number of people subject to a social death – a life defined as without future and therefore without meaning. A life trapped with nowhere to go. This generates a crisis of hope that can manifest in a number of ways.
The most obvious is resentment against those seem to still have hope. It is also visible in the desperate attempts to salvage some hope – through the memories of privileges of nationality, race and gender (such as mobilized by the BNP).
The current crisis marks a turn from a mixed economy of hope – where neoliberal policies and subjectivities press up against older forms of entitlement and ideals of fairness and social mobility.
We are living through the birth pangs of a truly neoliberal age where meaning, hope and the future itself are scarce and out of reach for most of us.
It is here, at the juncture of a new social order and the collapse of the remaining entitlements of the welfare state, that the restructuring of hope comes to be generally seen as a crisis of hope. We are entering an age of scarcity of the future.
It’s clear that the students are revolting against the loss of this hope and future. Social mobility (as such actually exists) is under attack. The ‘squeezed middle’ and their children will become, like the existing underclass, a footnote to the bigger and brighter stories of the well-to-do professionals.
The student revolt speaks to us all as the first open revolt against the expansion of social death and the collapse of the more general circulation of aspiration.
So the loss of entitlement is real, and the revolt is too. But we should stop here and ask if that is the end of the tale told by the boot. Did that kid kicking in the window really just want to be better off than his parents? Did he really want to keep the University as it stands?
Let’s go back to the idea behind neoliberal aspiration – social mobility. Social mobility means getting ahead, doing better than your parents and your peers: it means that while you move other people have to stand still.
Social mobility requires both winners and losers. Hope – or aspiration – confirms the unequal world in which we live. And education – that formal process of differentiation, where some end up with degrees and contacts and others jobs without a future – is essential to the creation and maintenance of that inequity.
It reinforces the role of the University in unequally distributing meaning, possibilities, wages and other forms of social wealth.
Put this way, the right to education means the freedom to be unequal. The right to education works to underpin the myth of meritocracy – the myth that it’s through hard work and ability and not connections, class and privilege, that people get to where they are.
The right to an education means that if you perform well in standardized tests (helped by being well off, going to the right school and having a stable family life) then you deserve to go to University and cement your place up near the top of the social hierarchy (as long as you make it into a relatively decent university, though how many ‘bad’ ones will remain after the cuts is an open question).
The betrayal of the right to education – by either there not being enough jobs for graduates (as is the case for a third of existing graduates), or by the rising costs of ‘earning’ a degree, putting it out of reach for all but the very wealthy – is the betrayal of the right to not being working class.
Looking at it this way, through the broken glass.
We can see that the riot went beyond mere aspiration. Just as the university occupations have gone beyond the simple question of the ‘right to education’. The joy to be found in revolt overflows the boundaries of a pedestrian desire to get ahead.
But here both we (both we who are students and we who are not) find ourselves in a double bind.
We need to defend mobility in the world as it stands – its defence is the defence of actual existing lives and the real possibility to have a meaningful social existence. And we need to defend the funding of education as it stands. To resist paying more for education is to defend the social gains made by previous generations and to defend the social wage.
And defending it is exactly what many students (and many of their supporters) are doing. But in merely defending it we are in fact defending the most sacred of neoliberal freedoms – the freedom to be unequal. Defending this freedom means defending the University as a filtering device set up to segregate us into educated and not; those with access to a ‘professional career’ and those who do not. Those with meaningful lives and those without.
So we must go beyond mere defence.
The riot is as much about dreams that have yet to become possible as they are over the loss of existing entitlements. There are hopes that lie dormant or hidden that speak of different ways of being; of different kinds of dreams and futures. The crisis of hope and the coming scarcity of the future for many people is a betrayal that makes possible a different kind of hope – a hope against hope, violently against aspiration and cold conformity.
The student revolts then are the fracture in the facade.
Students sense that not only are their lives changing, but that the myth of mobility that has underpinned the University in recent years is coming undone.
These protests are the first protests in Britain to contest the changing meaning of hope, and the austerity of dreams that is the coming neoliberal future.
But to be honest and faithful to the riot and the promise of a different kind of hope, an act of betrayal is needed. A betrayal of the University and education as it stands. For here we come full circle.
For if the protests and occupations speak only of the importance of education, and the necessity to defend the University, people will quickly fall away.
People can see clearly what the University is now.
The window is broken. We can see clearly that the University is a machine that creates social death. Eventually the inspiration of the initial fight and victory will fade, and the content of the revolt will have to stand on its own. If the content of that struggle is only to restore that machine, to defend the freedom to be unequal, failure is all we can hope for.
But if the struggle calls into question the very existence of such a machine, and reopens the question of learning as opposed to education – to self-development, the exploration of interest and inclination, and to allow for the navigation of curiosity and desire; in short, learning as a way of creating new possibilities and meaning – then the window may stay broken for a long time to come.