25 March 2011

TUC demonstration: Saturday 26 March 2011

On Saturday 26 March 2011 there will a TUC organised march through London to protest against the cuts in public services which are promoted by the coalition government.

The immediate aims of the demonstration are twofold. First, a large demonstration will send a message to the government, indicating the level of organised opposition to Tory/Lib Dem policy. This pressure will hopefully push the government into mitigating the effects of some of the measures. Second, the protest will provide an opportunity for ordinary working people to organise and through their organisation become stronger and more confident in their opposition to the government.

One issue of contention is the high level of TUC cooperation with the police, perhaps even to extent that the police are organising the march with the TUC as a junior partner. The merits of this are unclear. On the one hand, cooperation with the police may prevent the demonstration descending into mayhem. Chaos and widescale damage do little to advance the arguments of the left; and the acrimony resulting from such an outcome would deepen rifts in the left.

Yet full compliance with the police also carries dangers. There can be little doubt that the default position of the police is to oppose the demonstrators and to perceive themselves as serving the will of government, corporate power and authority. To that extent, everything that they do will be to frustrate and mitigate the purposes of the demonstrators. FIT officers will be collecting data on everyone, and the stage will be set for even more repressive policing in the future.

That be as it may, the main point is to have a large and successful demonstration on Saturday.

Police and anarchist strategy

The police do indeed face a dilemma with this march.

In the case of the student demonstrators the main aim of policing was to kettle and beat protesters with the purpose of intimidating people against protesting.

This cannot be the strategy tomorrow. The police will wish to keep their legitimacy in the eyes of the many ordinary trade unionists and working people, who will be demonstrating. Therefore, they will go to some lengths to avoid heavy repressive policing.

One strategy of the anarchists will be to provoke the police into heavy-handed behaviour with the very purpose of discrediting them. I think this strategy is mistaken: first because it will fail, and second because, in so far as it is successful, it will only deter ordinary people from taking to the streets in the future.

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