Disagreeing with Hopi (but only once)
It's not often I disagree with Hopi Sen but I will now politely proceed to do so.
He says here - http://hopisen.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/talking-bout-a-nationalpolicyforum/ - that:
"I’ve always personally been sceptical about the value of street protests. Mostly because I went on quite a few as a student, all of which did sod all good, and most of which hijacked by idiots, usually SWP idiots.
With one exception, I’ve felt that the British street protests I’ve seen as an adult have been damaging to the cause they promoted. The one exception was the Iraq war. So I tend to think of them as a mistake, even if I have sympathy for the cause."
On one level he is right. There is very little chance that street protests will get a Government with a majority to change its policies. And as we have already seen, and I have already blogged about, there are the usual Trot and anarchist groupings who will try to hijack them. They are not "idiots" though Hopi, they are extremely clever and calculating.
But that doesn't mean we shouldn't both attend and organise demonstrations against the Coalition's cuts.
- Morally I am not prepared to leave the public protest and opposition to the cuts to school kids. We all - Labour activists, trade unionists and councillors - need to stand up and be counted and provide political leadership against the Coalition for our communities.
- Because silence and lack of protest will be taken by the Government and media as acquiescence or apathy in the face of the cuts. It'll just encourage them to go further, faster.
- Because people are angry and sad and they need a forum and an activity to express their political discontent. We can't expect people to sit passively and wait for the next General Election in five years time. In the interim we have to provide people with a channel for political expression and protest.
- If we don't organise and lead protest the SWP or other malign forces will. The Coalition's policies are creating a generation of radicalised young people. We as democratic socialists need to be mobilising them, otherwise we'll lose them to the paper sellers. If we lead protests we get to steward them and liaise with the police to maximise the chances they are peaceful. If we don't, you get an increased chance of chaos and violence. The more of us that go on each march, the more we dilute the percentage of extremists on each one.
So I think mainstream Labour and trade union activists should all be building for the highest possible turnout at the TUC National Demonstration against the cuts on 26 March 2011 (http://www.tuc.org.uk/mediacentre/tuc-18709-f0.cfm) and where we have the weight of numbers organising local protests before that.