9/5/13: New Teesside Group
We're chuffed to be able to announce the formation of a Teesside anarchist group, affiliated to NEA. We've been working with TSM for some time now and a number of anarchists involved in that have decided to form a specifically anarchist group. Still early days as yet of course, but this is the sort of grass-roots regional federation we've been trying to build up since we began, so we're well-pleased.
4/5/13: Newcastle May Day
Well, if we thought the Middlesbrough May Day march was problematic, what about Newcastle? Although for once we had nice warm weather, the crowd seemed barely half of what it had been the previous year. None of the energy or atmosphere of the Boro march. Sadly, we turned down an invitation from comrades in Leeds to go there to support them against the EDL for the sake of the main local May Day event, and in hindsight it was probably a mistake. The official May Day posters (pictured) kind of say it all. Fortunately, they vetoed Father Jack's suggestion: "Feck Ye Workers!"
27/4/13: Nah, We're Already Dead!
"Yeah, ya tryin' to tire me, tire me!" as RATM once sang. Is that the TUC's strategy for bringing down the Tory government - boring them into submission?
NEA travelled to Middlesbrough on Saturday to join with comrades from Teesside Solidarity Movement for an anti-cuts / May Day march, organised by the unions. Although the march itself was good, with a lively atmosphere aided by TSM drummers, several problems with the organisation of it all stand out. Firstly, the fact that the route for the most part was through a fairly empty part of town, well away from the main shopping area. Secondly, it ended with yet another boring rally, with Labour politicians and bureaucrats making speeches stating the bleeding obvious to people who are already well aware of what is going on: that's why they'd taken the trouble to make banners and placards and march after all. Although the rally was in a fairly open public space, the general public were notably absent, so it was just politicians preaching to the converted. To make matters worse, our comrades from TSM were denied a speaker from the platform, even though they had mobilised a seriously large chunk of the march. It perhaps says it all that this was a protest march of several hundred people through the town centre and there wasn't a single cop to be seen anywhere. That's the problem: Labour and the unions are too wedded to legal avenues, and consequently, they're unable to do anything effective. What is the point of a protest that doesn't cause any disruption? This is day one beginners stuff of street politics: power is in the hands of those willing and able to use it. If the organised working class daren't assert itself, then what power does it have to make anyone listen to its concerns? None. Which is why the Tories are so confident they can simply ignore opposition. The most effective part of this particular protest was when TSM and NEA broke away from the rally to march through the busy city centre, banners raised, flags flying, in search of a pub.
8-17/4/13: Wahey, The Witch Is Dead!
Well, that's more than a week of boozy celebrations following the happy news of Maggie snuffing it. This anarchist's initial response on hearing the news was to run out and procure half a dozen packets of balloons and then hit the pub by tea-time. The following week and a bit took NEA on three epic sessions, the first local in Sunderland and Newcastle, then down to London on Saturday for the "Witch Is Dead" party at Trafalgar Square, called many moons ago by Class War, where we drank and danced in the pissing rain, and then finally back up to Easington on the day of the funeral itself to join ex-miners, who by coincidence were marking the 20th anniversary of the closure of Easington Colliery. Atilla The Stockbroker was among the acts on stage, and he described it as possibly the best day of his life. We'd concur. It's been an epic, liver-pounding blow-out.
30/3/13: Sold Out
Lot of anger kicking about today after the counter-demo against the EDL in Sunderland, as complicity between Sunderland Anti-Fascist Coalition and the police effectively conspired to turn the anti-fascist presence into an embarrassing early withdrawl from the scene, gifting the fash a soft win. Although there were some positives to take from it, the net feeling is one of pissed-off betrayal. See brief overview and a fuller analysis.
16/3/13: Hope Springs Eternal, Eh?
Lots of actions all over the country today over the Bedroom Tax. NEA had activists at both Newcastle and Durham, and though neither seem to have been much cop (one of our activists described the Newcastle demo as the worst demo he'd ever been on), it is at least heartening that these protests have been springing up in all sorts of unlikely places. There's a sense of something being afoot with this: maybe it will prove to be the new Poll Tax? At any rate, it's bemusing to see Labour jump on the bandwagon.
6/3/13: No Surprises Please
Canny crap day today, but only a fool would have expected anything else. Today saw both Sunderland and Newcastle city councils vote to pass austerity budgets, and for all the desparate hopes of the liberals, there was never any chance either would make a stand against the cuts. There were demos at both, with Sunderland barely scraping a crowd of 20 people at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. The apathy induced by the inevitablity was tangible. The Newcastle demo, although far larger (it was later in the evening, when people had finished work) was likewise pretty lifeless. Only about 65 people were allowed into the public gallery, with everyone else being shepherded into a hall, surrounded by police and security guards to watch it on a video link. Things only flickered into the slightest spark of life when we led a walk-out and made some efforts to get in through the front door to the chamber itself, although to no avail. Perhaps the only good thing about it all is that the usual reformist / lobbyist channels have now run dry and shut down, leaving direct action as the only viable way forward.
2/3/13: ...And It Would Have Worked, If It Weren't For Those Pesky Police!
Saturday saw NEA take a trip to Manchester for a mobilisation against the EDL. Although the demo seems to have been called to coincide with UAF's national conference in London, there was still a good-sized anti-fascist presence. The two demos were kept well apart, though it wasn't for want of trying. At the beginning of the demo, a large Antifa bloc marched off on a different route to the official UAF march with the intention of blocking the EDL march. Initially, it took some time for the police to realise what was happening and we got a fair old distance before they managed to scramble mounted police to try and block our path. We broke through the first police line with little trouble, but more cops were rushed into the area and a kettle began to form. Some of us managed to break out of it, but the remainder were escorted back to the main demo at the Town Hall. Other than that, the police were fairly on top of things, save for what seemed to be a whoopsie moment at the end when UAF marched back to Piccadilly Gardens, right past a Weatherspoons pub full of fash. There was a brief snarl up as the two groups went for each other, but the police re-gained control and shepherded the EDL away.
16/2/13: So When Does The Fightback Begin?
Today saw a canny big anti-cuts march in Newcastle - perhaps as many as 2000 people, including lots of very noisy young kids protesting against the closure of play groups and libraries. Although numbers are growing (painfully slowly, considering the threats we're all facing), there is a whiff of the old Stop The War marches: lots of people on the streets but actually, not doing anything effective - no pickets, no blockades or occupations, nada. Just march from A to B and then have some big-wig talk at you from a platform, telling you things you already know. While it's certainly refreshing to see lots of new faces on a demo for once, there is a frustrating sense of history repeating, that it's all just a token protest. Things need to step up a gear.
Recently, we've seen successes in the anti-workfare campaigns, with shops and charities pulling out from the scheme under pressure from regular pickets and protests. In Newcastle, NEA members have supported comrades from SolFed who have organised pickets of first Holland & Barrett, and then Poundland as part of a nationwide campaign. Both companies have since withdrawn from the workfare program, showing how effective direct action can be, even without thousands of people being involved. It's precisely this sort of action that the wider anti-cuts movement needs to start utilising if there is to be any hope of victory: direct, physical pressure on corporations, the Tories and the Labour councillors who are doing their dirty work.
24/1/13: Soup Is Good Food
The Tyne & Wear Metro cleaners held a "soup kitchen" stall outside Newcastle civic centre today in protest against poverty wages. The picket was attended by upwards of 30 people, including the national vice-secretary (think that was his title) of the RMT. The protest was timed to coincide with the Labour group meeting of the Integrated Transport Authority, who have overall control of public transport in the area, including the contracts for the running of the Metro system. Virtually the entire picket headed inside to form a mass delegation to the ITA meeting, where the RMT bigwig tried to shame the Labour councillors into taking action, citing Minnie Lansbury and the Poplar Revolt in the process. Doubt we'll get any joy there.
Back outside there was a wee spat as well as some Tory troglodyte ripped up one of the RMT leaflets and told the assembled lads and lasses that they should all be sacked. Snowballs, abuse and a vuvuzela were thrown back in response. And that, boys and girls, is why we fucking hate Tories!
Still, this dispute has now been running for well over 6 months and the rank and file are as solid and determined to win as ever - all power to 'em
19/1/13: Remembering The Luddites
On Saturday, NEA were in York for an event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the execution of 17 Luddites at York, following an uprising in the West Riding. The well-attended event was organised by York Alternative History, and it began with talks at the Guildhall on York's radical history. Afterwards, there was a march through the city to the site of the executions at York Castle, where a speaker gave an account of the executions and plaques naming each of the dead were placed. We heard later that comrades from Huddersfield, who had attended in full period dress, complete with a replica musket and flintlock pistol had caused a train to be stopped after a guard reported them to the police. We're sure Ned Ludd would appreciate that.