by Arthur Brick
Hidden amidst the labyrinth of central London’s one way system, last Saturday saw the first conference held by the big smoke’s unified anarchist ensemble know as ALARM (All London Revolutionary Anarchist Movement).
The group have aimed to unify some of the disparate elements of the anarchist scene in London and to synthesise themselves into a movement, the logistics of which were a popular topic of the day.
The attendance well reflected this heterogeneous nature, boasting, amongst others, some of those who have risen to infamy amongst Class War, members of the former Whitechapel Anarchist Group, old crusties and young hacker types in ones and twos and delegations from the North East Anarchists and of course NCAG, who had come down to observe events and discuss how the agenda of the conference related to struggle in their areas.
We were unfortunate enough to miss the beginning of the conference due to the aforementioned one way system and unreasonably large amount of roadworks in the city on the day, which had taxi drivers telling us “even if you can remember those directions I’m not sure you’ll make it”. We continued undeterred and finally arrived at Conway Hall where around seventy people were gathered in the buildings main chamber, concluding the questions and debate on models of workplace and community organisation.
The general feeling of the room seemed to be that workplace and community organisation should not be seen as mutually exclusive and the group talked of the importance of solidarity from other workplaces and the locality when industrial action was on the cards. The importance of working in solidarity with other London based groups such as Sol-Fed was also discussed and generally agreed to. Finally a plan was made to establish apoint of contact in each borough which had an ALARM affiliation.
After a short brake the conference reconvened, with slightly boosted numbers as it was now well past midday. The next topics, the Riots and the Occupy movement were, naturally, a source of lively debate. Despite a few differences of opinion, usually theoretical, it was easy to avoid the hysterical or fundamentalist responses which have coloured the media and the majority of debate in public houses over the last five months, and to asses the worth and failings of each, how they relate to a wider struggle against oppression and what, if any, role the group and other anarchists have in them.
The panel began with a speaker vehemently defending the actions of the dispossessed and disaffected during the course of the August riots, focusing on the socio-economic inequalities and abuses of state power which had led to the explosion of anger. [Mandatory Anarchist Disclaimer on the Riots: I, like the speaker, and most who share the former view do not support the kind of dip-shits who burn out people's houses or take advantage of those more vulnerable than themselves etc. but the riots did not create this behaviour and it would be ridiculous to assume that they would make it disappear]
During the discussion many raised their voices to offer supporting evidence of the degradation of communities which fuelled the fire, one of the most frequent gripe being the constant stop-and-searches performed by police especially on black youths. This abuse of police power was recognised as a potential contact point with youth movements, which the conference had acknowledged that it was at a distance from. A decision was also made to try to have more appropriate materials, bust cards and the like, prepared in case further rioting erupted.
The occupy movement faced some strong criticism, especially with regards to attitudes towards homeless people. Older heads from the squatting scene who had done projects with homeless people in London offered words of caution of the potential problems, and advice as to how to deal with these problems to those who were planning similar projects. These sorts of exchanges, which were common throughout the day, showed the usefulness of this forum; as practical advice was able to be metered out to those that needed or wanted it. Despite a few suggestions of how Occupy could be improved as a concept little was made in the way of serious plans to engage in the movement.
The panel for this topic focused on the reclamation of space as the theme that untied the Rioters and the Occupants and the audience attested to a similar situation amongst some hacktivist circles and the legacy of these sorts of actions in Stop the City and similar demonstrations.
The final topic of the day was total policing. The speakers talked us through the basics tenets of the new policy and framed it as a branding exercise, drawing attention the points of continuity with previous policies. Many of the talking points of this session were rehashes of those discussed in relation to the riots, a lot of time being dedicated to stop-and-searches. Discussion threw up a few legal loopholes or tricks which can be used to hit back at the cops, though most of the stuff was common knowledge already. Many were vocal about the importance of suing the police and a collective fund was proposed which would re-invest some of the hypothetical compensation into funding ALARMs projects however no formal resolution was made.
The conference concluded without passing many resolutions but many walked away with individual projects which they intended to begin work on and bring back to the group at a later stage. A collection was taken to help with the cost of the hall, then everyone filtered out to get some solid drinking in before meeting up again later at the London Action Resource Centre, where ALARM were holding their after party.
All in all a positive and welcome step forward.
Meetings and discussions continue to take place to launch the Norfolk Community Respondents Initiative and some great plans and ideas are being put in place.
Keep and eye on the new blog http://norfolkcommunityrespondentsinitiative.wordpress.com/
Background: “Since 1945 Liverpool and its dockland have changed almost beyond recognition. Devastated by war and then transformed by post-war strategies to address some of the appalling social conditions, initiatives to attract industry to the area and the registration of dockers with schemes to decasualize port employment, the economic, social and cultural life of the dockland has been turned upside down. One of the most significant changes however, has come with the attempts to tackle the enormous problem of housing. Slum clearance programmes decanted many thousands of families from dockland Liverpool to purpose built overspill estates on the outskirts of the city. One of the most significant of these outer developments was Kirkby, located at the northwest edge of the city. This was a village of around 3,000 inhabitants in 1939, which by 1961 had grown to become a new town for over 50,000. Ultimately envisaged as a self-sustaining community with its own economic, social and cultural functions, Kirkby’s further expansion was ensured when in 1965 Liverpool Corporation committed itself to the clearance of another 30,000 ‘unfit’ dwellings, mainly from the traditional dockland areas.
The growth of Kirkby was not without its difficulties. It has often been cited as a classic illustration of the failures of planning and mistaken overspill development. The image of a tough community, uprooted and placed by an uncaring local authority in a bleak estate with no facilities or services, suffering high unemployment and racked by vandalism was a caricature, but nevertheless contained elements of truth. Problems with housing in Kirkby, particularly the poor quality of design and construction combined with a long backlog of repairs, were manifest from the earliest days. On the whole women were left with the responsibility of tackling the local authority about these problems in what were predominantly family homes. Furthermore, when in the early 1970s factory closures and growing unemployment further threatened Kirkby, women on the Tower Hill estate formed a discussion and support group to help themselves and their families through the crisis. However, when the 1972 Housing Finance Act resulted in a further £1 rent rise, this brought grievances that had been bubbling under for the previous decade to a head. The women formed an Unfair Rents Action Group and responded by organizing a 14-month long rent strike.
Militant collective organization no longer remained the preserve of male members of the household. In the new setting of the overspill estate, women recognised the value of the militant tradition. Outside of the labour movement or the factory floor, women in Kirkby mobilized to forge their own solidarity and collective organization. This movement sought not only to benefit the household economy through the fight against unfair rents, but for a time would also campaign for the benefit of the whole community. Traditional dockland militancy and community solidarity had clearly evolved to remain of use in its new location.”
Wake up Lefties, start finally dealing with the real issues which are in our communities, the issues haven’t changed and neither have you!