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Monday, March 28, 2011 

Better the black bloc than the pretensions of UK Uncut.

I wasn't on the march on Saturday. Not because I necessarily had anything better to do, more for the reason that I couldn't really see what it would achieve or end up representing. For me at least, there's a key difference between demonstrating against something which is definitively going to happen or is already happening, as opposed to protesting against a war which could either be stopped or brought to a close sooner through mass public dissent. There's also the difficulty in that when protesting against the cuts, it's by no means clear what you want to happen instead: marching under the banner of an alternative when it's incredibly hard to articulate what that is through a traditional demonstration does present an potential open goal for the naysayers, fellow travellers and those supposedly on the left that seem to genuinely hate the working class, i.e. many of those on the Blairite wing of what was once New Labour.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not belittling those who went on the march in any way. I just found it especially strange that what went relatively unmentioned, and forgive me if this was mentioned at the rally, which I'll come to, was that some of those marching were the exact same people who are in fact implementing the cuts, the councillors finding themselves in the difficult position of having to do Whitehall's bidding. Paulinlincs for one has argued convincingly that Labour cuts are better than Tory cuts, but all the same there's been little overall resistance politically from those in a position to refuse. Also bewildering is that there's been very little notice paid to how the some of the cuts could have realistically been tempered: through raising council tax, which the government has naturally ensured has either been frozen or has in some areas fell.

This said, it's hard to disagree with Lenin when he states that the main march was one of those increasingly rare occasions when organised labour came together in an significant show of strength. If you really want to give any credence whatsoever to government sloganising, then here was the big society, the alarm clock Britain Clegg desperately wants to be on the side on, and far more pertinently, here were the people whom keep this country functioning, very often for low pay and next to no recognition. Forget about Ed Miliband's still laughably broad squeezed middle, this was working class Britain saying that those who caused the crash should be the ones shouldering the vast majority of the burden of clearing up the mess. Instead the very poorest will end up losing more as a proportion of income than the very richest. That is nothing less than an outrage, and something that anyone opposing the government's cuts should never let them forget.

The worst part of any march, regardless of the cause, is the end or beginning rally. Difficult as it is to dispense with it entirely, there is little that is more interminable than hearing talking head after talking head either say exactly the same thing slightly differently, or conversely for the resident loon to pop up and dispiritingly get the largest cheer of the afternoon, a role reserved for Galloway on any anti-war march. On Saturday you had the two extremes: Ed Miliband reaching for high rhetoric and aiming to inspire, and who instead ended up looking like a complete tool, especially disappointing as he's been much improved in recent weeks, and Mark Serwotka, an indefatigable union leader but someone playing straight into the hands of both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats with his no cuts whatsoever platform.

You can hardly blame people then for deciding to do things other than opt to listen to such flannel; you can however place some of the blame for mixed messages which ended up on the front pages on Sunday on UK Uncut, and not just on the black bloc. There's always the danger when protesting of coming across as sanctimonious, patronising and just plain wrong, and UK Uncut fit the bill in so many ways that it's difficult to count. Direct action and civil disobedience will have always have a role to play in protest; getting a criminal record however for aggravated trespass for occupying Fortnum and Mason, as many seem likely to, will rank up there as probably the most stupid misstep of the entire anti-cuts movement. Every single occasion on which a representative, or at least someone who's taken part in the protests has appeared on television, such as on Newsnight tonight, they've come across as the kind of pretentious, self-satisfied, smug and thoroughly gittish middle-class wankers you would normally cross the street to avoid, repeatedly refusing to answer a straight question and taking no responsibility whatsoever for what some might do under their banner. Only with the advent of Twatter could so many utter cunts make common cause. Almost needless to say, F&M's connection with tax avoidance is minute, and they're left to make a weak argument on the basis of who they're catering for as justification.

The black bloc at least has no such pretensions. As facile and self-defeating as smashing up a branch of a bank that we either wholly or partially own is, it sends the message that someone ultimately will pay. Attacking the Ritz, owned by the Barclay brothers, who live in tax exile and subsidise a newspaper that delights in the cuts while caring only about the "coping classes", makes far more sense than the ultimately pointless action of occupying an upmarket deli store. Understandable as the anger from some of those marching was at how others had "hijacked" their march, it was almost certain to be the case: almost no recent protest in London, either anti-war or anti-cuts has been completely non-violent; there have always been hot-heads as Sunny says, yet this was something different on Saturday. The media outlets (nearly all of them) looking to present a different image to these worthy, ordinary people marching against a government committed to the harshest cuts in living memory would have found it somewhere. No one should be surprised that this is motivating some to attack those they consider to be the representation of just how we aren't all in this together. We can't pretend that those who posed as anarchists on Saturday were indicative of the discontented youth of 2011, or those who raged against tuition fees previously, yet some of them certainly were, and they carry with them the inchoate fury of a generation that fears it is being abandoned just as others were before them.

The anti-cuts movement will easily survive such associations, although where it goes from here is far more difficult to predict. Whether those who marched are prepared to strike or support those who do is debatable, the only means through which the cuts can now realistically be challenged. Marching for an alternative is one thing; coalescing around one, as yet undecided and then fighting for its implementation is another entirely. By the time that's happened it might already be too late, if it isn't already.

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I wasn't sure what the march was about until I saw some lovely people being interviewed on the telly on Saturday afternoon. Two blokes called Ed, a Harriet and an Yvette. Apparently, the march was to demand a swift return of a neo-Thatcherite authoritarian New Labour government.

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