Commune Editions in Oakland have put up a little collection of transcripts from the trial of Louise Michel, partisan of the Paris Commune, social revolutionary and anarchist, and schoolteacher. It is rare I get sentimental about figures from our past, and doubtless she would chide me for for doing so were she around today, but it’s hard not to be astonished by the woman who comes through from these accounts. It includes this famous exchange:
Louise Michel: I must be removed from society; that’s what you’ve been told to do. Well, the prosecutor is right! Since it seems that every heart that beats for freedom has no right to anything but a bit of lead, I demand my share!
If you let me live, I will never cease crying out for vengeance, and I will denounce the assassins of the Board of Pardons to the vengeance of my brothers…
Judge: I cannot let you speak if you continue in that tone.
Louise Michel: I’m finished… If you are not cowards, kill me…
It is this exchange in questioning, however, that I think is poignant and surprisingly touching:
Q: A black flag was found so easily and by chance on the Esplanade des Invalides?
A: All it takes is a black rag and a broomstick.
Go read it.
"It is not a crumb of bread, but the harvest of the entire world that the human race needs, without exploiters and without exploited."
I left Saturday’s demo feeling quite depressed about the turnout and support. UFFC is a collective campaign uniting families and friends of those who died at the hands of the police, in custody or psychiatric hold. It’s the kind of thing you imagine – you hope – would be widely supported by the left.
I don’t want to get into the berating game: people have legitimate reasons for not turning out to things. I don’t want to get into the game of measuring political work as a matter of turning out to demonstration after demonstration, either, with diminishing energy and effect for each one. But this isn’t that. This is an annual procession that ought to see far more active solidarity than it does. It’s not a matter of personal failure, it’s the ubiquity of absence of the left – or, as a friend pointed out to me later that night, the white left – in support of this that leaves me puzzled. Well, perhaps not puzzled, exactly.
Yes, it is more important to support the ongoing, difficult and often painful work of justice campaigns, rather than turn out once a year and nod your head. That’s a given. But it seems to me there’s a skew in priorities when a piece of stunt-activism, or an absolutely useless and disconnected march, draws thousands in support. There were perhaps 150 people here for this, and I think that’s worth reflecting on.
Organisations like UFFC and LCAPSV do work on the effects of police and state violence and repression – I hope the energy that has gone in to LCAPSV translates also to some further support, however it may be needed, for UFFC. Some of these campaigns have been working on bringing the police and state to account for twenty years. And it would be good for revolutionaries, leftists – whatever – to hear some of the words and stories spoken at the procession too, certainly more important than most of your top-table speakers, or rally leaders at most demonstrations. It’s not simply a memorial, or an act of grief or rage – but those things are intensely political, too, in the face of a state that seeks to erase the evidence of its murders, and block every avenue of holding its murderers to account, and deny even the faintest hint of justice.
South London Antifascists joined London Antifascists and other groups this weekend to take part in a mobilisation against the EDL in Tower Hamlets. As many of you reading this will know, there were upward of 280 arrests of antifascists on the day – many of whom are close friends and comrades.
So our thanks today go out not to the various “leaders” of this-or-that faction, but the the hundreds of antifascists (from many different groups and none) who took to the streets intent on refusing to allow racists to march through London. We were heartened to see so many willing to take on the EDL beyond a static show of opposition, and cheered by the number of local community members and young people who joined us.
Our special thanks go to those members of SLAF, AFN, London ABC, GBC Legal and Migrant Solidarity groups who organised to support arrestees as they were taken to police stations and charging centres in the furthest-flung reaches of London, late into the night and the next morning, for many after an exhausting day on the demonstration itself. This work is absolutely vital, as anyone who has been kettled, arrested and detained for hours will understand. The people working in the GBC back office deserve special mention, having worked tirelessly through the weekend.
It is particularly deplorable that the police arrested five independent legal observers during the mobilisation, and we offer solidarity to them, and all at LDMG. We urge you to read their statement, and share it online.
We are not so eager to claim, as others do, that this weekend was an untarnished ‘victory’. Through the mobilisation, we ensured that the EDL met visible and audible disruption to their march, including next to their rally-point near Mansell Street. The huge police presence and impossibility of direct confrontation, however, meant that the racists were able to cross Tower Bridge largely unconfronted. We will be reflecting on what went well, and what could have gone better, in the coming weeks. Nonetheless, there is plenty to be proud of from this weekend, both in the strength of the mobilisation and the work done supporting it.
The mass arrest of antifascists, after a containment of several hours, underlines very clearly that police are willing to arbitrarily restrict and punish any attempt to take action beyond symbolic protest, and will use any pretext, however flimsy, to do so. We hope this makes clear that co-operation with the police, other than providing cover for daily racist and violent policing, threatens antifascist work.
We will be working to support our arrested comrades, as well as continuing our organising in the coming weeks: not only for street opposition to fascism, but working to dismantle and providing strategies of resistance against racist policing and state violence. If you’d like to be involved, email email@example.com
NB: if you were arrested at the weekend, and Green and Black Cross don’t yet have your details, drop them a message on firstname.lastname@example.org