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'In the struggle between you and the world, back the world' – Franz Kafka

Posts Tagged ‘Protests

The tyranny of structurelessness

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‘The idea of ‘structurelessness’, however, has moved from a healthy counter to these tendencies to becoming a goddess in its own right…If the movement is to move beyond these elementary stages of development, it will have to disabuse itself of some of its prejudices about organisation and structure. There is nothing inherently bad about either of these. They can be and often are misused, but to reject them out of hand because they are misused is to deny ourselves the necessary tools to further development. We need to understand why ‘structurelessness’ does not work.’

As Jo Freeman detailed in the classic essay from which the above quote is taken, in social networks which are initally informal and horizontal hierarchies tend to emerge. If this is not acknowleged and its implications considered in all their seriousness, the current trend for decentred models of political organisation will lead up a series of blind alleys, and two excellent articles from the last few days make this clear beautifully.

In the midst of the swarm of networked intelligence, centres tend to form, which connect to other centres. For example, to know in advance about the Netroots event yesterday, you had to be connected to the right people on twitter and facebook. All nodes are equal, but some nodes are more equal than others.

Organisations develop their own interests, and the initial objective tends to be principally obfuscated by the need to survive. Bureaucracies and hierarchies inevitably emerge. Most social movement organisations go from informal non-hierarchical organisations towards becoming institutionalised and formalised as advocacy groups and mass membership organisations. As they do so, they inevitably slow down and become less reactive, putting more emphasis on their long-term survival and effectiveness, partly because ‘Bureaucratic organizations often are more successful at gaining access to established political channels, being recognized as legitimate movement representatives and at sustaining ongoing interactions with diverse constituencies including “allies, authorities, and supporters”’.

This represents a constant problem for the fashionable model of informal, hyperreactive, mobile, non-hierarchical organisations. New, informal movements will spring up more or less on a whim to replace those that become formalised and hierarchical, but for example in this country no sustainable or effective anti-cuts movement can be built on the basis of a new UK Uncut-style group suddenly springing up every two weeks, while preceding mini-generations of previously non-hierarchical groups turn to the slow and morbid business of lobbying and advocacy work.

As Richard Seymour also points out, the fetishisation of the power of headless decentred networked movements to overcome the ‘old centralised, top-down, upright, phallic feudal army without contradiction’ ignores the fact that power itself is diffuse, distributed, with a multiplicity of centres. The future of the struggle against power cannot be left to the whims of those who are better connected. There is a need for explicit political leadership.

The best thing is for that leadership to be open, elected and accountable, rather than pretending it does not exist. Hence the need for consistent political organisation around a democratically agreed shared programme, on a regional, national and international scale.

Written by richwill

January 9, 2011 at 10:03 am

Our own little mini-Pearl Harbour?!

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I remain very suspicious about the fact that the RBS, which is right next to the Bank of England, was left completely unguarded at the height of the G20 demonstration. The attack on it has already been used as an excuse to attack social centres around London and arrest a number of people, as this sickening report attests.

I spent a couple of hours yesterday arguing about this with a banker in Barclays and although he conceded that the demonstrators had a point, and that the police may have been a little rough, the main focus of his argument was that the protestors were there to smash things up and had to be stopped. This coincides exactly with the story that the police and the media have been telling, and the only evidence he had for it was the attack on the bank.

I am not a conspiracy theorist, but I am of the firm opinion that the attack on the RBS was essentially orchestrated by the police in order to provide the media with images of violent destruction of property. Just look at this photo: *dozens* of photographers, and *no* police. At the time, as anyone who was there knows, the police were *everywhere*. And, as this one shows, the RBS – the country’s most hated bank, and a blindingly obvious target – is *right next to the Bank of England*. In this video we can hear the news presenters trying very hard to convincingly explain to themselves and the viewers why it is that the police are standing back and doing nothing while the bank is trashed.

And according to someone who actually witnessed the attack:

‘There were a load of police further down from RBS who could have EASILY stopped the damage being done. Which for the record was done solely by about 10 people. The rest being a weird circle of cameras, waiting for the next kick. One guy started lighting the blinds on fire. I have footage also of a guy in a suit, maybe a bank worker, or police not in uniform, filming it, smiling, and laughing with another cop up above from the opposite building. They watched on amongst many other policemen with cameras as a fire was attempted to be lit. A photographer blew the small flames out before it got out of hand. Some protesters then went inside. Only after a while did the police then go into the building, and take a load more pictures of us all for their snatching operation later on in the day.’

Also, and I may be going slightly bonkers here, look at this clip, and watch the guys provoking the police from about 15 seconds in, two in black and one in white. They seem to be acting, acting in fact with a certain amount of impunity. The guy with the metal bar is by far the most violent of the protestors, and his identically dressed friend seems to be trying to egg the crowd on to more acts of bravado. The guy in white was on the front of several of yesterday’s newspapers, sneering in the faces of the police, covered in what appeared to me to be fake blood. Imagine that scene without those three guys, and then watch this. Ring any bells? I suggest that those three protestors are in fact police provocateurs.

I predict that given this kind of policing, and the ease of creating and distributing footage which exposes the lies of the police authorities with regard to who did what to whom, it is only a matter of a couple of years before the British Government follows the examples of China and Pakistan and clamps down on access to youtube!

Written by richwill

April 3, 2009 at 1:24 pm

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