(I have written a follow-up to critically examine the ableism and the lazy analysis I feel I slipped into this post. It can be found here. The text bellow remains unchanged to properly document the issues I should avoid in future.)
Earlier this week I participated in the blockade of Faslane Naval Base, the home of the Vanguard-class submarines and their Trident nuclear missiles. Numbers were not particularly high, especially given the fact that one of the only concrete action points to come out of the local Radical Independence Conference (RIC) was cross-platform agreement to support this action by the different flavours of the authoritarian left. It will be interesting to see if/how those involved in RIC look to offer practical solidarity and support to the Faslane Peace Camp, especially as I see them as cynically doing the least amount of work required to tap into camp’s long reputation and diligent work in order to tick a box on their “radical lefty credentials sheet” and then move on (an unfortunately common tactic of SWP/ISG front groups).
That said, a few peeps got involved in locking on who might not otherwise have done so, and several of the peeps involved with RIC do seem more genuine about offering ongoing help to anti-nuclear action (especially Sandra from the SSP who was also involved in organising last year’s Hiroshima Day events in Glasgow). On the topic of helping, the Peace Camp are currently looking for people who can stay permanently, or who can take “shifts” in staying over – click the pic bellow for more info:
Back on the topic of the blockade itself, the main gate saw the usual CND/Christian self-sacrificing mob were out in good form, singing “We shall not, We shall not be moved!” with all their might after having moved on three separate occasions when asked politely by the police. I’m sure by the time they hit upon that song nobody at the base really cared if they stayed on the pavement out of everyone’s way indefinitely. Meanwhile those who were locked on were left out on a limb as most people moved aside without any resistance and allowed the cutting crews to get to work quickly, applauding and singing solidarity forever whenever someone was arrested, though not working collectively to hamper efforts in the slightest.
Down on the south gate the shut-down involved less lock-ons but more resistance, with a sit-down and a banner blockade willing to do more to hamper attempts at getting people in/out of the base and generally not comply with police instructions. The relatively small numbers here were soon to play a part in ensuring that the police reasserted control of the gate and got traffic moving. By 11am everything was over.
In the past I’ve talked about the importance of focussing on The Three C’s when it comes to taking any sort of action, so how did this morning of activity fit in with those?
- The environment was relatively safe, with food and water on-hand and there were well-trained street medics near by.
- Many of the people at a blockade have taken this type of action before and so there was good opportunities to learn as you protest.
- This activity is as “safe” an environment to defy police as you will likely find. The local police are fairly used to how to deal with these situations and are less likely to use heavy-handed tactics.
- Nuclear disarmament is a very popular cause. It is in many ways “socially acceptable” to have been arrested at this type of protest and so it won’t be something that looses you a job over if you are nicked. Being arrested takes away one tool – your clean sheet – that the state can use against you at a future time.
- Unlikely to have any change seen off the back of it ever so it can be demoralising or seem pointless if not properly contextualised.
- If you are unprepared for how police act then could put you off future activity, as they do try to assert their authority on the scene in hundreds of little ways (making people move small amounts, placing hands on you to move you on, barking orders, etc).
- You can practice lock-on use, peaceful resistance tactics, learn how police deploy and become more aware of how kettling and crowd control tactics work
- You can increase your abilities in facing off against police or end up in a “We shall not be moved” situation
- Some people may be acting without explaining best practice to you and leave you feeling like a spare wheel watching as other people act. Worse yet you may go along with a group that are taking some particularly pointless action such as getting your self nicked in a way that does nothing to increase the time the blockade is in place.
- Get caught up in opportunistic publicity campaigns for issues that are tangential at best.
- You can witness how police treat protects first hand and learn that even the “friendly bobby” is part of a system that ensures ACAB.
- Understanding that nuclear disarmament is a global problem which is anti-state and anti-capitalist in nature. Nuclear disarmament goes beyond a notion of which particular nation holds the nukes, with the problem caused by nationalism and the states intrinsic negative hierarchies othering those not part of “your side” and the struggle for capital wealth that benefits from this divide.
- Possibility of showing nature of power dynamics, where we need to look at two factors to cause opponents to give in: “How much can we hurt them” and “How easy is it for them to give in”. Understanding how our actions fit into this structure can help you understand what the likely outcomes of your action are.
- These actions generally get favourable publicity and so can help as part of a wider culture of resistance to structures of imposed authority.
- Some people involved are clearly not anti-military/capital/state and have a very narrow argument for just removing nukes as they would kill everyone at once, not caring about the removal of the structures that kill millions every year.
- You could get taken in by nationalist rhetoric about “nuclear-free Scotland if we gain independence” when the realistic outcomes of independence would be moving the nukes a short distance down south or Scotland agreeing to house them. Decommissioning them would never reach the table because of the economic and political power dynamics involved.
- It is possible to loose yourself in liberal understanding of power, thinking that pointing out an injustice or wrong in and of itself will be enough to fix things. You may also get muddled into reformism, where you feel that joining a political party in order to help them gain power and then hope they will keep their promises (PRO TIP: They are lying to you).
After chatting with different people I reckon Monday was a relatively positive experience for anyone who was there in terms of their confidence in taking action and their competence in which actions to take as overall nobody did anything that pro-actively helped the base, although I’m hoping the pointlessness of the less effective activities were self-evident to others. The major pitfall I see is in the consciousness department, as there where a lot of conflicting messages about having to push for the highly unlikely scenarios of reforms to remove nukes due to popular opinion, Scottish independence leading to disarmament, or just the idea that publicity in-and-of-itself is a thing that can remove the nuclear threat hanging over us.
The only way to change this destructive facet of society is through understanding and replacing the destructive structures of governance that make it possible. Our place as anarchists is to ensure that people are aware and properly understand the radical view of power relations within our social economy, that we lead by example to build confidence and competence when taking action, and that the need for social revolution is spread so that we may all live in a world free from the spectre of war.