Saturday, 3 December 2016

Lest We Forget.

             Here in the UK the British state’s level of brutality is relatively low at the moment, however, this is is not a sign of a mellowing, or that of a benign beast. The level of state violence rises and falls in line with the amount of protests against, and resistance to, its control over our lives. This slight trough in UK state violence is in part a sign of our compliance to its power, they see no threat. This can, and has changed dramatically, as soon as the establishment senses a rise in resistance to its power. For those lulled into a false sense that the state is a talking shop for the expression of “democracy” would do well to look back at our history.

1911 Liverpool General Transport Strike: 
          As the rail strike began to spread across the country, a mass demonstration in Liverpool was declared as a show of support. Taking place on August 13 at St Georges Plateau, 100,000 workers came to hear speeches by workers and leaders of the unions, including Tom Mann. The demonstration went without incident until about 4 o'clock, when, completely unprovoked, the crowds of workers suddenly came under attack from the police. Indiscriminantly attacking bystanders, the police succeeded in clearing the steps of St George's Hall in half an hour, despite resistance from strikers who used whatever they could find as weapons. Fighting soon spilled out into nearby streets, causing the police and troops to come under attack as workers pelted them with missiles from rooftops. Becoming known as Bloody Sunday, the fighting resulted in scores of injuries on both sides.
          Fighting across the city continued for several days, coming to a head when a group of workers attacked a prison van carrying some arrested strikers. Two workers were shot dead by troops during the ensuing struggle, one a docker and the other a carter.

Then Glasgow’s own Bloody Friday: 
             On Friday 31 January 1919 upwards of 60,000 demonstrators gathered in George Square Glasgow in support of the 40-hours strike and to hear the Lord Provost's reply to the workers' request for a 40-hour week. Whilst the deputation was in the building the police mounted a vicious and unprovoked attack on the demonstrators, felling unarmed men and women with their batons. The demonstrators, including large numbers of ex-servicemen, retaliated with whatever was available, fists, iron railings and broken bottles, and forced the police to retreat. On hearing the noise from the square the strike leaders, who were meeting with the Lord Provost, rushed outside in an attempt to restore order. One of the leaders, David Kirkwood, was felled to the ground by a police baton, and along with William Gallacher was arrested.
RIOTS AND ARRESTS.            After the initial confrontation between the demonstrators and the police in George Square, further fighting continued in and around the city centre streets for many hours afterwards. The Townhead area of the city and Glasgow Green, where many of the demonstrators had regrouped after the initial police charge, were the scenes of running battles between police and demonstrators. In the immediate aftermath of 'Bloody Friday', as it became known, other leaders of the Clyde Workers' Committee were arrested, including Emanuel Shinwell, Harry Hopkins and George Edbury.
       The strike and the events of January, 31, 1919, “Bloody Friday” raised the Government’s concerns about industrial militancy and revolutionary political activity in Glasgow. Considerable fears within government of a workers' revolution in Glasgow led to the deployment of troops and tanks in the city. A full battalion of Scottish soldiers stationed at Maryhill barracks in Glasgow at the time were locked down and confined to barracks, for fear they would side with the rioters, an estimated 10,000 English troops, along with Seaforth Highlanders from Aberdeen, who were first vetted to remove those with a Glasgow connection, and tanks were sent to Glasgow in the immediate aftermath of Bloody Friday. Soldiers with fixed bayonets marched with tanks through the streets of the City. There were soldiers patrolling the streets and machine guns on the roofs in George Square. No other Scottish troops were deployed, with the government fearing fellow Scots, soldiers or otherwise, would go over to the workers if a revolutionary situation developed in the area. It was the British state’s largest military mobilisation against its own people and showed they were quite prepared to shed workers’ blood in protecting the establishment.
     Black and white photographs taken by friends, family and supporters at the 1984 Battle of Orgreave helped subsequently to demolish Police prosecutions for rioting that were levelled against 95 striking mineworkers. But at the time, very few close-up – and potentially incriminating – pictures made it into the news coverage of the mainstream media.
       Most press photographers and television camera crews were penned in behind police lines, and therefore kept largely to the perimeter of the eight-hour confrontation between pickets and mounted police.
       While newspapers and television news bulletins captured the scale of the conflict – and especially the graphic images of police on horseback charging through the pickets – there was nothing like the visual record of hand-to-hand combat that would be available today as a result of the abundance of camera phone pictures and videos that invariably emerges from demonstrations and protests.
        No wonder the iconic photograph taken by John Harris of Lesley Boulton, cowering as a mounted police officer approached her with a raised baton, has become an enduring image of the strike, reproduced repeatedly to illustrate the violent response of the police as the pickets assembled outside the Orgreave coke works on June 18, 1984.

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  1. As people recover their sight and consciousness, state repression grows and is clearly exercised. Violence is not exercised over the obedient because the obedient have become part of the violence. Obedience, resignation and indifference are also part of the police forces.

  2. A few months ago, analyzing the rise of Trump, Franco Bifo Berardi pointed out that the cause of it was the same trick that Hitler once used [comparisons between both are wrong, but the similarity in question, correct] (Verse blog, 3 / 6/16). To Germans impoverished and humiliated by post-war Anglo-German financial aggression (reparations) Hitler told them: "you are not 'workers-losers' [exploited / unemployed]; You are 'win-winners'! "This change of self-perception and substitution of union solidarity (socialism / communism) for racial particularity (national socialism) is the same tactic that today - in times of identity politics - use Trump and the extreme right in Europe. To people impoverished and humiliated by the post-crisis multinational financial aggression (austerity) and the decades of neoliberalism they say: "you are not defeated workers, you are a 'white race' that will rise from your knees." Maciek Wisniewski