Building a broad mass movement, UK

Ben Courtice benj at
Sun Jan 5 16:53:46 MST 2003

For what it's worth, here are some comments from David Yaffe of the (UK) Revolutionary
Communist Group on the course of events in the UK, I'd be interested in what (especially)
those in the UK on this list think about them... This is following from Paul Flewers'
dismay at the demoralised state of the British movement.

Full article at <>

Ben Courtice

     (...)May Day 2000 was a turning point, a ‘parting of
     ways’ within the growing anti-capitalist movement in
     Britain. At the time we argued that its political
     significance went far beyond the actual events
     themselves and the knee-jerk reactions of the
     government, the media and the police to the
     ‘violence’ of the May Day protest in London.

     ‘It demonstrated a determination of the corporate
     capitalist class through its political representatives in
     the Labour government, its media, police and
     judiciary to destroy the coalition of forces in this
     country that see themselves as part of a growing,
     global anti-capitalist movement. It also led to certain
     high profile figures within the “green” movement,
     such as George Monbiot and John Vidal, breaking
     with this growing anti-capitalist coalition by siding
     with its reactionary critics in a manner which barely
     distinguished them from the gutter press.’

(... )

     What we saw was part of a continuing strategy
     initially put into operation by Sir Kenneth Newman,
     when head of the Metropolitan Police, not long after
     the 1980-81 inner city uprisings of black and white
     youth. The strategy was based on British colonial
     experience against national liberation struggles and
     was systematically laid out in General Frank Kitson’s
     book Low Intensity Operations (1971). It was further
     developed in the north of Ireland during Newman’s
     time as head of the RUC. Its aim, in Kitson’s words,
     is ‘to discover and neutralise the genuine subversive
     elements’ and to ‘associate the many prominent
     members of the population, especially those who
     may have been engaged in non-violent action, with
     the government’. Intelligence-gathering operations
     are an essential feature of this process to target
     those capable of organising serious opposition. At
     the same time ‘psychological operations’ are used
     to isolate the serious opposition from the people.
     Dirty tricks and agent provocateurs are used to
     discredit the cause. The media and prominent
     figures are utilised to present the side of the
     government. May Day 2000 saw elements of this
     strategy put into practice.


     Around 100 arrests took place on May Day 2000,
     followed by the punitive imprisonment of
     anti-capitalist protestors. May Day 2000 was a
     watershed. A year later the protest movement in
     Britain had politically retreated. The RTS and
     ‘anarchist’ led anti-capitalist movement was
     increasingly being pushed aside by Globalise
     Resistance – a front organisation of the SWP.
     Monbiot and other ‘left’ social democratic forces
     were given a platform by Globalise Resistance for
     their brand of ‘political theatre’ – radical posturing
     and inaction – so they were happy.
     May Day 2001 saw the same line-up against the
     radical anti-capitalist forces. Livingstone endorsed
     heavy-handed police tactics, calling for the
     pre-emptive arrest of those who might be engaged
     in what he called ‘criminal activities’. Lee Jasper,
     race relations advisor to the Greater London
     Authority, told people not to attend the
     demonstration. Monbiot urged protestors ‘to remove
     the sticks and stones from the hands of the
     masked-up class warriors’. The event on the day
     was disorganised with some good, if limited
     protests, from a handful of relatively small
     autonomous direct action campaigns. It ended with
     the SWP, Workers Power and others leading some
     2-3,000 demonstrators into a trap set for them by the
     police in Oxford Street.


     The AIC [Anti-Imperialist Camp at Florence] concludes
     that the unity built in Porto Alegre
     in Brazil and reproduced in Florence is precarious,
     ranging as it does from ‘social democrats to
     inconsequential revolutionaries’. The developing
     imperialist war drive could, however, produce a
     favourable situation for revolutionary and
     anti-imperialist forces to break up this ‘insane
     alliance’. For now, the revolutionary forces have to
     stay within the movement and fight the pacifist and
     neo-reformist forces, by not only building an
     international bloc against the war, but also taking the
     side of the Arab masses against imperialist

     The anti-war movement in Britain
     These issues are ever-present in the anti-war
     movement in Britain. That movement, dominated by
     a unprincipled alliance of Globalise Resistance
     (SWP) and the pacifist CND in the Stop the War
     coalition (STW), acts as a safety valve, to dissipate
     the anger thousands feel about imperialism’s war
     drive. There are large gaps between
     demonstrations. More than four months separates
     the next planned demonstration in February 2003
     from the one last September, with STW organising
     virtually nothing of consequence in between.

     In reality, every demonstration against the war or in
     support of the Palestinians in Britain has the same
     character. Time and again, we have marched though
     empty London streets to end up listening to the same
     speeches from the same ‘left’ MPs and other social
     democrats whose ‘principles’ never extend to
     breaking with the racist, imperialist, warmongering
     Labour Party – unsurprisingly, for it is the source of
     all their status and privileges.

     Increasingly the crisis of capitalism, the drive to
     imperialist war and the devastating consequences
     facing the vast majority of humanity are demanding
     the creation of a revolutionary anti-imperialist
     movement against war, capitalism and imperialism.
     If this movement is to be built there has to be a
     parting of ways – a fundamental break with those
     social democratic and pacifist forces that are
     blocking the way to building such a movement.

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