Marx Boxpark

Taken at BOXPARK Shoreditch

Today, Sunday 18th of August, the UK Border Agency deployed a team in East London to action the removal of ‘immigration offenders’. This kind of harassment happens with some frequency and is certainly nothing new. Which is precisely why it is important to remember these daily occurrences and to remember them as horrific. As each of these raids by the UKBA takes place they share a history of exploitation and violence – part petrified as the legislation that invests the officers with their powers and part the exercise of power in various forms.

Calls to support those being harassed by UKBA today directed people towards Sclater Street in Shoreditch. The street itself is a market on Sundays, selling some of the cheapest fruit, vegetables, toiletries and other essential items in the area (Tower Hamlets, which has the highest child poverty rate in the UK). It serves a geographical significance as it connects two important tourist and retail locations: Brick Lane to the east and BOXPARK Shoreditch to the west. Brick Lane, well known – thanks in part to the succession of local government and other institutional ‘multiculturalism’ campaigns – for being lived in by a number of different migrant communities over its history, is visited by large numbers of tourists and is home to a large Bangladeshi community and their businesses. BOXPARK Shoreditch is a shopping mall constructed from modified shipping containers which is described by its owners thus:

‘BOXPARK is not some run-of-the-mall shopping centre. It’s a living, fertile community of brands packed with talent, innovation and attitude that puts creativity and fashion back where they belong: on the street.’

Contrary to their claims, the infantile ‘pop-up’ entrepreneurial spirit that emanates from BOXPARK feels palpably of death as opposed to a ‘living, fertile community’.  Yet the history of these black shipping containers, placed here to please a community of hip new instigators and beneficiaries of gentrification in the area, comes to add to the horror of the UKBA searches that happened about one hundred meters away from them.

In Scattered Sand, Hsiao-Hung Pai narrates and examines, with an important and convincing attention to suffering, the conditions of rural migration in China. When people are forced to leave not only their villages but also the entire country in order to earn a wage to feed their families, they engage in long, indebting, painful and potentially fatal trips. One such attempt by Xiao Lin, a farmer dispossessed of his land by the local authority in Fuqing, is described in its harsh detail in the book.

‘Xiao Lin had no idea what the journey would be like, not even which US city he was bound for … A long rope ladder hung down the side of the cargo ship. A man on board told the four migrants to climb up … When they were finally all aboard, they found they’d been only the second group of migrants to arrive. There were many more fishing boats to come with people from Fuqing and Changle. They had to wait for five to six days before the ship was full. When there were over 400 people on board, they started to move …  Their living area was three huge storage containers at the bottom of the ship, each of which could accommodate up to 200 people. There was no other cargo on board … No one had proper bedding because they’d been told not to bring any, as it would overload the ship and take up too much space.’

Hsiao-Hung Pai, ‘Scattered Sand’, pp. 230-232

Pai goes on to describe Xiao Lin and the others slowly running out of food in their shipping containers as weeks go by. The journey ultimately failed and the migrants were sent back.

Whilst the shipping container isn’t as associated with perilous attempts to cross borders in the UK as it is in the US (a lorry from Calais probably serves the same function in the public’s mind), the proximity of BOXPARK – which participates viscerally in forcing poor migrant communities out of sections of London – to the UKBA officers enforcing removals is a geographical happenstance that perhaps allows us to think about the important political proximity the gentrifying and immigration policing projects have.

An engagement with the history of suffering racism, whether it materially impacts as a gentrifying force or the obviously brutal UKBA, can give some clues as to how we get rid of it. But it remains important to remember these moments of violence in their own right, so that being regular occurrences does not strip them of their horror or allow them to slip into a naturalised mundaneness.

Whilst several long weeks in the ‘public gallery’ of a courtroom cannot even begin to compare to the pain of those same weeks in the locked glass box defendants occupy, the experience warrants a critical engagement – both as witnesses to and participants in administered bourgeois justice.

These reflections on the public gallery emerge from the trial of Alfie Meadows and Zak King, two young men perused by the police and the CPS for charges of violent disorder (an offence under s. 2 of the Public Order Act 1986) at the 9th December 2010 student demonstration in Parliament Square. After two years on bail, a trial and an aborted retrial, their case was heard at Woolwich Crown Court from February 2013. After a month of this third iteration of the trial the jurors found the defendants not guilty.

This piece can not be a report of those proceedings* – I am neither skilled enough nor strong enough for such a task – but must instead be a reckoning of my engagement with the trial, as a friend to the defendants and their loved ones and, at least in name, an observing member of the public. An image from the first trial serves as an interesting point of departure for this.

As reported by Petra Davis in the New Statesman, supporters of both defendants had initially been denied entry to the entirety of Woolwich Crown Court on the day their trial was to begin. Parents, partners, friends and supporters were locked out in the early February snow by the order of a nameless ‘court manager’, purportedly in the interest of maintaining public order. The gallery of this nominally open trial was shut on his command and those excluded were told they could only be granted leave to enter as and when the manager saw fit. This example of the managerial character of courts and their exclusionary processes served as the radicalisation of a previous brutal attack on supporters. In the first iteration of the retrial the elevated glass box that was the public gallery of one of the high security courtrooms at Woolwich was supervised by two police officers. In order to maintain public order in the least public of spaces they insisted that two seats be reserved for them, over the defendants’ supporters.

It is important to remember that both defendants on trial had been attacked by police before their arrests – famously Alfie Meadows fought for his life after a police baton to the head. Many in the public gallery had suffered alongside them or indeed attended out of solidarity as they themselves were victim to police attack. The result of sharing a box with these officers was only added trauma. Yet how are we to comprehend both these efforts to exclude the public from the gallery? One may think that the risk of a riot in a courtroom is minimal, if not an absurd suggestion. A cursory search of news archives shows that this is true, but the fact remains strange.  Why, when a day in a magistrates’ court reveals the state’s naked destruction of lives – racist, gendered and in the service of the bourgeois class – is order not more routinely breached? Why do the traumas of observing in a courtroom not erupt violently? They are instead carefully managed in the space of the public gallery. The absurdity of the police presence at court was not that they were concerned about public disorder, but that they did not realise it was already prevented.

Passivity is the demand made of all those who visit a court. From the invasive investigation by security guards on entering the building, to the constant reminder from judges that no emotion should be exhibited and no expression should creep across one’s face lest the jury notices that somebody loves the defendants, is disgusted by a barristers attempt to smear a witness or thinks that the entire process is a great injustice.

The prosecution made their case in the first two weeks of Alfie and Zak’s trial mostly by calling on police witnesses. In succession they lied and contradicted one another (despite admitting to discussing their statements before writing them). In the weeks that followed the prosecution barrister embarked on bizarre distortions and torturous cross-examinations of the defendants – each suffering days of repeated questioning. Through all this the public gallery could not comment, refute a lie or exhibit the pain one feels when video footage is shown of police officer after police officer hitting protesters on the head with batons. It would have been ‘Contempt of Court’ to do any of these things, a crime that allows judge’s to summarily imprison members of the public; there is a sort of recognition in this law that courts breed their own contempt.

Of course those who bear witness in them cannot achieve the passivity that courtrooms demand. An active critical relationship is constantly maintained and this cannot be masked in the juridical structures enacted by wigged and gowned major and minor functionaries of the court. Anger, pain, suffering and misery compose the theoretical engagement with the courts barbarous treatment of human life. No matter how many times one is made to stand and bow before the judge – who relishes in acting the sovereign-like role – the public in the gallery engage in a struggle with the brutal reality of the law.

It is such a shame then that most verdicts are returned and most sentences are handed down before empty galleries. Whilst once public galleries were relatively full, now it is a shock to judges to see them occupied. Defendants are left to struggle against crushing state mechanisms alone. The courtroom exchanges that should ferment public disorder – imagine for a moment how many more nights of rioting we would have seen in August 2011 if the galleries of those all-night courts had been full and the herding of the ‘feral underclass’ had been witnessed – remain unchallenged by the ‘public’ that can undermine and interrupt the smooth administration of bourgeois law.

We should fill the public galleries then so that defendants are not alone in confronting the law with humanity, so that judges are confronted with the social bodies that they hold in contempt and so that disorder returns to the gallery.

* A number of journalists attended the trial and have written accounts. Petra Davis and Glen Mcmahon both came to court regularly and have reported on it exceptionally.

This Saturday the biggest march against the government’s austerity measures since the ‘March for the Alternative’ will make its way through the scenic streets of London towards the awaiting Labour party leader in Hyde Park. Why? The TUC has cleverly titled the march ‘A Future That Works’ to answer this very question. It represents a twofold demand on the government to provide ‘ordinary British families’ with: (1) an economy that functions and (2) jobs. The various inconsistencies of this double demand have been discussed elsewhere. Here I would like to concentrate on what this demand actually entails given current government policy. Namely I will make the argument that calling for jobs to fix the economy without a proper critique of what it means to work in Britain today is an implicit demand for the proliferation of welfare-for-work type programmes.

The TUC likes work. This is patently obvious from reading their pamphlet which heavily criticizes the current policy of deficit reduction for its lack of job creation. They note that ‘In a recession spending on unemployment goes up and money from tax falls’1 – so the presumption is that if the government are not creating jobs, their plan to reduce the deficit is hampered by reductions in tax revenue and spending on unemployment benefit.  However, this explanation conveniently forgets the reason that unemployment rises during crisis in the first place: workers are no longer seen as profitable, so the size of the workforce is reduced.

Nevertheless, alongside this economic rationale the TUC have a more self-interested reason for liking work. Namely that as the umbrella organisation for most of Britain’s trade unions, people are mostly relevant to the TUC only when they are in work. The greater the number of people employed, the easier it becomes for unions to organise them. The smaller the size of the unemployed, the easier it is for unions to win concessions against bosses. So it is clear that a person being in work is beneficial to the TUC and it is therefore entirely understandable for them to demand job creation.

But it is not only the TUC who like work; capitalists also do (as long as it is profitable for them). What is even more germane however is that the state as an entity with the interests of capital in mind does not want to support a large number of unemployed who it sees as having little chance of contributing meaningfully to its economy for much of their lives. More and more people find themselves out of work for longer and longer – at the moment many are superfluous to the needs of capital. Yet this surplus population has to be dealt with somehow – this is probably something that plays on the mind of the current government as much as it does for the TUC. Their interests are aligned on this level, so when the TUC make their demand for more jobs to get ‘the economy growing’2 the government has a response: ‘workfare’.

The Conservative-led government has during its time in office expanded on earlier forms of forcing people into work by developing various ‘work experience’, ‘mandatory work activity’ and ‘training’ programmes. Refusing to take part in these schemes or not meeting the standards expected can lead to sanctions including the removal of benefits. You truly have a system where one must work for their welfare. Those social democratic mechanisms that existed for ameliorating the effects of capitalism are being taken away and replaced with the technologies for drilling and disciplining the reserve army of labour. The unemployed – and underemployed with the introduction of Universal Credit – will be used as unpaid labour where possible, paid labour where needed and a means by which bosses can bring down wages, provide worse terms and conditions and break organising in the workplace.

Immediately this seems like a method of getting people employed that the TUC should be taking issue with. It undermines their own work and what interest they had in the conditions of actual people should lead them to stand fiercely opposed to the schemes. Of course that isn’t what they do. As we have seen they call for more jobs, without for a moment critiquing the existing government response to that demand. For the TUC ‘young people who don’t get a job can be scarred for life’3; apparently it is unemployment, not forced work and lack of welfare that leaves you scarred. But unfortunately it goes beyond simple negligence on the TUC’s part not to critique what the government is actually doing – they wouldn’t want to come across as anti-work after all. Instead they make the following policy suggestion:

‘We should give every young

person who is unemployed for

more than six months a job

that pays at least the minimum

wage, or quality training.’4

There is a call for a minimum wage which is quickly qualified with the get out of providing ‘quality training’. Here we have precisely the rhetoric of current government policy which treats a person’s inability to get a job paying the minimum wage as a personal issue for the labourer that needs to be remedied with more training and disciplining in the art of waking up for a 09:00 start. But what is most pernicious of all in the above is that every young person should be either working or training after six months of unemployment. We already know that the TUC agrees with the government that people should be working, but it seems they also agree that one simply shouldn’t be allowed to be unemployed. There is no agency; you must put your ability to labour on the market as a commodity or presumably you stop being one of the ‘ordinary British families’ the TUC cares about.

We have known that the TUC isn’t an organisation of the left for some time and here we see in great detail just how its interests lie in the continued immiseration and exploitation of the class that it half heartedly pretends to represent. For various reasons those on the left who really do care about this class will continue to respond to this organisation’s calls for demonstration. Why exactly this is cannot be explored fully here. But what we must not forget to do however is to critically examine these calls to action and where their real interests lay. The TUC march will not lead to revolution. Their general strike, If it does happen, will be the political and not revolutionary one, this history has shown. Genuine struggle is still down to us as workers and the unemployed.

This is why the TUC march and the labour leader’s speech are not the only choices this Saturday. You can shutdown workfare too – 14:30, Oxford Circus.

This piece comes out of discussions at the ‘No future in “A Future That Works”’ event held at the Cuts Café on Tuesday evening. Two presentations were given in response to the TUC’s ‘A Future That Works’ pamphlet (PDF) – which serves as the economic argument for why the October 20th demonstration has been called – as well as a more general discussion on the  politics and economics of the TUC and trade unions in general. I did not aim to reproduce the discussion here, but the critique by The Wine and Cheese Appreciation Society of Greater London which was the basis for their presentation at this event can be found here.

Notes

1. “Austerity is failing. We need a future that works.” p. 3

2. ibid

2. op. cit. p. 9

3. ibid

REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Given the harrowing images, confusing information circulating and lack of reportage about the killing by police of over 30 miners in Marikana, South Africa, I have tried to gather together information on the event itself and the lead up to it here. (Warning: There are disturbing images below.)

Short background

Actual clashes between the relevant unions and the police at Marikana seem to have begun within the last week. These however of course stem from existing antagonisms within the South African mining industry and the unions that represent its workers. It should be noted that the strikers who were shot dead on Thursday were part of a wildcat action undertaken by workers in the Lonmin platinum mine. As far back as 2010 (and perhaps earlier) there have been antagonisms between elected officials within the largest union representing workers in the industry, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), that may be broadly characterised as: representatives of platinum miners politically supporting Thabo Mbeki and the incumbent union leadership supporting President Jacob Zuma of the ANC.

Another union which has its roots in the NUM has been in competition with the larger union for rights to negotiate on behalf of workers at sites including the Lonmin mine. The Association of Mineworkers and Construction union has recently described itself as distinct from NUM party because it is “apolitical and noncommunist”. Whilst the AMCU seems to at least be on the same side as the striking miners at Marikana, the NUM have asked miners to return to work. As said this is a wildcat strike and the relationship between the rank and file and the AMCU is unclear.

The strike action itself began on 10 May 2012 and has been conducted over pay as miners want an increase from R4,000 to R12,500 ($1,500) a month. These demands are made specifically by the rock-drillers, arguably the most dangerous role in the entire mining operation. The action also follows strikes at a nearby Impala Platinum mine where rock-drillers won a increase from their R4,000 wage. Questions of nationalising South Africa’s rich mines have been brought up, but in July of this year President Zuma noted that it was not a policy recommendation from the ANC conference and thus unlikely to be perused by the government. This particular strike remains directed at Lonmin however.

The violence

As far as official reports suggest there has been violence between the two unions since last Friday with two people wounded after clashes over entry to the site. This continued to 13th August 2012 where nine people were killed, which includes three mine workers killed by officers and two officers according to South African police. This all lead up to the horrific shooting of a huge number of people on Thursday by the South African Police Service.

Whilst police claim they were acting in self defence the shooting dead of over 30 workers is inexcusable especially when footage from the massacre is viewed.

The widely circulated initial video is here. The scenes are distressing and graphic.

This video from Al Jazeera English shows that police initially boxed strikers who were only lightly armed into a small area before the events in the video above take place.

Other information

Whilst most news outlets are quick to point out how this has all effected Lonmin’s financial situation we should be looking very critically at how this company has profited from mining South Africa’s resources until now as well as the state’s repression of workers’ organisation.  This statement of solidarity by Abahlali baseMjondolo is hugely important.

South African newspaper Mail & Guardian’s liveblog is also useful.

For those in London, a solidarity demonstration has been called by Bloomsbury Fightback! at Lonmin’s headquarters (4 Grosvenor Square, SW1X 7YL) for 4pm Saturday. Please do attend if you can and share the event with others.

George Galloway

At times politics throws some hilarity our way. The last week has been awash with examples: the ludicrous pasty fixation, the summoning of Francis Maude to once again paint the picture of evil unions and the news that George Osborne may well have sent us back into recession before his ‘granny-hating’ budget even had time to bite. But with results from the Bradford West by-election coming in after yesterday’s vote, it is about to become the most surreal and hilarious week we have had for some time.

That tweet from a Labour supporter was clearly overly hopeful and ignorant of how voting behaviours have changed recently. The Conservativse and Liberal Democrats have lost support both nationally and locally, but very little of this has headed in the direction of Labour. In fact, minor parties such as UKIP, who have seen positive swings in 4/5 by-elections they have run candidates in since 2010, seem to have been the recipients of voters disinclined towards the three main political parties. Of course, no one was expecting a RESPECT victory for George Galloway over incumbents Labour, but in retrospect the inability of the party to even present a modicum of opposition rather mild contestation at the national level has clearly been a grave mistake given that this is increasingly the electorates concern.

Yet, who does Galloway’s victory reflect well upon? It would be fallacious for the left to claims this for themselves. Clearly at a time when the main national parties are haemorrhaging voters and when groups such as RESPECT become more adept at picking up votes by seeming to be a better representative than the mainstream, such results are inevitable. But it would also be hypocritical of the left to join in the celebration of Galloway’s victory. This is a man with no qualms presenting programs for PRESS TV that put out statements such as this; who has described President Assad of Syria as “the last Arab ruler” and said that Syria “is lucky to have Bashar Al-Assad as her leader”; who takes an anti-abortion stance and continuously apologises for the Iranian regime on a plethora of issues including gay rights. These are not values that the left-wing should identify with. In light of this and the fact his election platform was no more left leaning than a vague anti-cuts position, the reality is that the win can only reflect well on Galloway and not a wider leftist movement. From the victory he receives affirmation regardless of his awful politics and so in response the only position the left should take is to highlight that Galloway is someone to be derided.

Very quickly some have made recourse to the notion that he was the best alternative to Labour in this by-election. Surely by now we can recognise that this is merely the humming of a bankrupt system? Yes, Labour are a disgrace, but this in no way negates the disgracefulness that Galloway exhibits as a political representative. The very fact that this quandary appears should serve to suggest that representative democracy is neither desirable nor effective. If it can throw out Galloway as the ‘best’ option, something has gone so very wrong.

Clearly, the Bradford electorate were looking for an alternative. The vote for Galloway is an alternative, but not a ‘anti-establishment’ one as has been suggested. You do not counter the establishment by engaging with it from the inside. You do not get a better democracy by voting in the ‘best of the bad’. You do work towards something better by refusing to engage in this joke. Such a huge victory for Galloway over Labour can be laughed over, but it is also a huge disgrace.

“The new technology underpins our ability to be able to be at the same time more individualistic and more collective; it shapes our consciousness, magnifies the crucial driver of all revolutions – the perceived difference between what could be and what is.”

Paul Mason, ‘Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere’, 2012

What is it to be revolutionary if not ideological? The importance of this question should not be underestimated; especially in what Paul Mason describes as the ‘the network revolution’ in his new book, ‘Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere’. Criticisms for being ideological – often rendered as being obsessed with dogma – are levied at those who dare to conceive the ‘what could be’ that Mason is speaking of above. As the capitalist crisis – or at least its latest incarnation – threatens the material conditions of those more attuned to the years of boom, these criticisms are brought more and more by those who would seek a reformist or reactionary solution when faced with the self-destruction of capitalism. The strange thing is, in Mason’s analysis, the revolutionaries and the disavowers of ideology are one in the same, proclaiming ‘I had no politics. I still don’t subscribe to any’. This is your modern day revolutionary of Tahrir, Athens, New York or London. The networked individual.

What does it mean to be this individual? Mason provides an image familiar to some:

“If you’ve ever seen somebody transfixed by their BlackBerry in the middle of a riot, you’ve seen a networked individual.”

This immediately reminds one of the Arab spring, the London student demonstrations and the riots of August 2011. In all of these instances technology played its part in allowing crowds to organise effectively when they were on the street, but also in how it mediated their relationships before the protest even began. Mason argues that the net has allowed people who had been led to believe that they were only self-interested individuals by neo-liberalism – Thatcher of course spewed: “there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women”– that they were in fact capable of taking collective action. It however also brings about an understanding of wider social relations – ones of power, authority and exploitation. Mason quotes Manuel Castells as saying:

“The emergence of mass self-communication offers an extraordinary medium for social movements and rebellious individuals to build their autonomy and confront the institutions of society in their own terms and around their own projects.”

Manuel Castells, ‘Communication, Power and Counter-power’

Can we conceive of anything more frightening for a state than those with an understanding of exploitative social relations and the means to take collective action against them?

However, there is another common characteristic of the networked individual – the rejection of ideology. The network can give one an understanding of negative power relations and even the means to organise collectively to challenge these. Yet, struggles purely characterised by the individual’s antagonism towards authority contextualised by non-hierarchical web networks rather than a – dare I say – dogmatic critique of society are clearly somewhat problematic. Let us take as an example the Occupy movement. In its first incarnation as Occupy Wall Street – which itself had drawn on the tented square meme seen in Tahrir and Spain earlier in 2011 – it represented individuals and groups of individuals such as Anonymous leaving – or perhaps simply taking with them – the organisational space of the net in order to take collective action in the flesh. This of course, mediated by the network, soon became a global movement. In its language it identifies the authority it seeks to challenge, the 1%, but there is a distinct lack of critique beyond this. As Mason points out:

“… the networked protest has a better chance of achieving its basic goals because it is congruent with the economic and technological conditions of modern society – it mirrors social life, financial structures and production patterns. It speaks to the mental conceptions that flow from the networked life we live. And to an extent, as we will see, it is satisfied with the conquest of space within the system rather than seeking to smash the system.”

This description of the networked protest sounds hauntingly like the Occupy movement and to my mind is why movements defined solely by the politics of ‘the network’ are dangerous. Clearly, the tented city protest has gained popularity – and success if you would define it in those terms – but, without a fully developed conception of class systems and antagonisms the Occupy movement has had to satisfy its search for an enemy in creating the 1% caricature. Further, in mirroring the ‘social life, financial structures and production patterns’ of what we currently have, it simply perpetuates social relations such as capitalism and patriarchy, never challenging them and quickly moving to the least antagonistic position: ‘Democratise Capitalism’ . If a movement is to create an alternative society, as Occupy has attempted to do, it cannot be one developed in the image of the broken and disturbed one it seeks to provide an alternative for; it is otherwise doomed to negate itself faster than what becomes the host society rather than the enemy. Without what is often termed as ‘ideology’ this is inevitable.

Mason draws attention to the French Marxist André Gorz, to find a definition for revolution that may be pertinent when looking at networked protests. It demonstrates precisely why these are not revolutionary – at least when it comes to redefining social relations:

“Taking power implies taking it away from its holders, not by occupying their posts but by making it permanently impossible for them to keep their machinery of domination running. Revolution is first and foremost the irreversible destruction of this machinery. It implies a form of collective practice capable of bypassing and superseding it through development of an alternative network of relations”.

André Gorz, ‘Farewell to the Working Class’, p.64

Those holding out for the revolution the Occupy movement will bring are in for a short wait before it soon destroys itself, but what of the other ‘networked revolutions’ that we saw in 2011? The Egyptian revolution, whilst removing Hosni Mubarak and improving conditions through this, suffers from the same problem as Occupy in that it does not develop any alternative social relations. The Egyptians will likely continue to suffer under systems of oppression and exploitation. There has been no liberation from the capitalist means of production and there shall continue to be patriarchy. It is unreasonable to presume that alternative social relations shall develop from social movements that simply seek to challenge authority or power in its caricatured – or perhaps in the case of Hosni Mubarak, personified – form, but we should recognise that unless we are ideological about our approach to social change, we are doomed to rehash the very things we seek to destroy.

Is it an inherent part of networked revolutions and protests to be adverse to ideology to the detriment of any real change? The network of course only facilitates our ability to take collective action – this is partly why movements that spring from it allow themselves to reproduce without coherent critiques – and is therefore subject to the will of the actors involved. It is not hard to conceive that a network that can help normalise non-hierarchical means of organising can also allow for the development of the alternative social relations necessary for the societal change that we desire. The much loved form of dissemination of ideas for radicals on the internet is of course the anonymous communiqué which is often free of the adoration awarded to the theorists ideologies tend to draw upon. Mason himself cites a number of these in his book and for the ‘networked individual’ who “would rather read new stuff” than the Negri, Debord, Foucault or even Marx that ideologues may do, there is nothing to say that the huge amounts of user generated content produced on the net each day do not provide valuable resources for forming a coherent ideology.

The network is not an enemy of ideology, but networks with no ideology are certainly enemies of the consciousness required for revolution. Ideologues who believe they have developed the alternative social relations required for revolution must of course use the net and share these; it has become impossible not to. Whilst ideology may be the change that you want to bring about, it has become clear the only way to move towards achieving it through collective action is to go where social movements are now brought together: the net. Similarly, one must be fully conscious of the difference between ‘what should be and what is’ if they are to do anything but aid in the reproduction of age old – and corrosive – social relations. It is in the amalgamation of these two – the network and the ideology – that you will realise the destruction of vulgar social relations.


Hogan-Howe

It is not often that you get to be in the same room as the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service (unless you are a politician or other bureaucrat). Not least one where the Commissioner is ready to engage in a debate with you. My meeting with Bernard Hogan-Howe at the London School of Economics’ debate on ‘Total Policing’ on Monday night was no different to this. Despite claiming on numerous occasions to be willing to ‘debate’ the intricacies of his policing policy with the public, he dismally failed to do this throughout the entire session. But what legitimacy is there in the Commissioner debating with the public in any case?

In suggesting that he can debate with us he assumed an antagonistic position where the public must convince him to not carry on with whatever draconian policing tactic he feels is tenable. The Metropolitan Police Service has now officially come under the control of the ‘democratically’ elected London Mayor, yet Hogan-Howe does not see himself in any way democratically accountable to the public, but rather in a position where he is able to debate with them. This of course assumes that democracy as we face it is in any way about accountability, that our police do in fact police by consent and that the invitation to debate is in any way genuine. All of these things we are told to take as fact. I am under no illusion that this is the case.

Unfortunately, the facts were far from what Mr Hogan-Howe was interested in. When asked about why the figures for section 60 (Criminal Justice and Public Order Act) stops and searches showed black people were thirty times more likely to be searched, he admitted that he was unable to provide an explanation. This is not a new issue and it is clearly something he has been questioned on previously, but perhaps the Commissioner saw it as so inconsequential that it didn’t warrant any thought – leaving him unprepared when challenged on it.

Fortunately, a fair number of questions from the audience continued to be challenging from here on in, but often left the Commissioner, a man supposedly at the top of his profession, unable to provide adequate answers beyond vapid filibustering and occasional invitations to agree to disagree. After waiting through several rounds of questioning and having to stand and indicate vigorously to the chair that perhaps he should get the final question, an audience member who identified himself as Liam, was able to ask the Commissioner the following question:

“Could you just explain to me why you’ve undertaken this strange exercise of reifying abstracts such as ‘crime’? For example your ‘War on Crime’ rehtoric that you like to wheel out. Is this an attempt to abstract away from criminality within your own police force, such as the 333 deaths in police custody in the last 13 years? I’m sorry if I got this figure wrong because it has increased since the last time it was last reported.”

In true form, Hogan-Howe was unable to grasp the very concept of the question and seemed positively happy to jump straight in to questioning the figure quoted. Unfortunately, the figure is not a ‘nonsense’ as he put it, but rather the very brutal truth from the IPCC . Not only did he dismiss the figure out of hand however, but he also admitted that he was unable to provide an alternative one.

Again, it is very clear why the Commissioner was unable to provide an alternative figure and explanation but dismissed the questioners. It is because he simply does not care. The policing that he is concerned with is based on a normative view which he hopes to see achieved. The right to protest (which another questioner tackled him on), victims of police brutality and facing up to the realities of crime are not even on the periphery of this man who saw it as some sort of victory that the numbers of people incarcerated had doubled to over 80,000 in what is a massively over crowded prison system. Ironically, for a man who is so ready to interrogate figures, it seems he has taken this one as some sort of invitation to see even more people locked up, without the foresight to consider the inevitable result.

Despite the complaints of those in the audience who were somewhat more favourable towards the Commissioners, football game inspired, ‘Total Policing’ campaign, Hogan-Howe was given ample chance to explain himself and perhaps even engage in the debate that he was so ready to have. Yet through a mixture of both ineptitude and marketing spiel he managed to leave the entire event devoid of any substance.

Having been offered his chance, it is my view that he should only ever be addressed in chants of ‘No Justice, No Peace, Fuck the Police’ as many of the audience did as he exited the stage. The Commissioner indicated he would repeat the futile excercise monthly in different parts of London; don’t waste a journey to spend an evening being patronized by him. You won’t change the Met or even Bernard Hogan-Howe’s opinion by subjecting yourself to this.

A video of the full event can be found here: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/videoAndAudio/channels/publicLecturesAndEvents/player.aspx?id=1303

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