Fifteen young anarchists, battle hardened from weeks of street fighting sit around the table in political conclave. They eat neatly, they have been living communally in occupied buildings where no one clears up after them and they drink moderately, on average a half a bottle of fizzy wine a head. To what do they owe their geace? To something grander than the purity of youth or the fellowship of heroes. To something beyond the personal. To some force of nature that drives truth into the arms of beauty. Some memory of before Eden. These young people, like many before them, have found humanity in the heat of battle. They have found themselves. Their meeting requires no agenda. The only seriously discussed question is how to create a less violent road to autonomy.
They’re amazed at the joy to be found in vandalising the Warfare State, but recognise that such acts are as relevant as the shiny wrapper on a cheap chocolate bar. They regard the action at Milbank Tower and the assault on the royal car incidents as incidental. Reminded that the London Mob gets its name from its mobility they begin to sketch out new forms of engagement. Someone points out that in the absence of a Parliamentary opposition the Mob is all there is between Parliament and tyranny.They stood shoulder to shoulder at the barricades with the youth from the housing estates who they formerly expected to mug them. The young woman who’d spent days in a brain injury unit calmly tells how the policeman who let her pass had smiled and then truncheoned her into the gutter from behind. She seems to regard violent police as malfunctioning consumer durables that should be fixed or replaced.
They enjoy my tales of barricades thrown up in minutes by small groups of us bouncing parked cars across the Paris Boulevards. They want to know how I reconcile such activity with my position in the movement of mass non-violent civil disobedience. They listen attentively to a short list of the contradictions in their own actions. They rapidly conclude that there is no lesson for us in history but that, all the same, life offers few rewards greater than treading the invisible path of liberty through the deserts of waste, ignorance and cruelty. It takes a couple of hours before the words ‘social justice’ are spoken and as many minutes to agree that it’s not, and had probably never has been, on the menu.
They’re fascinated by the doctrine, strategy and tactics of the non-violent Ghandi inspired resistance carried out against nuclear weapons in the middle years of last century. They are moved by the thought of ten thousand people waiting for hours in silence to be arrested. They’re delighted by the notion that a demonstration is about what it does to you rather than what you do to them and immediately make the connection to life in the occupied colleges where they’ve discovered the warm fountain of humanity among the ruined heaps of peeling glitz that they had been offered as a life. They have a strong sense of priorities. They appointed their own cops and deployed them all on a 24/7 no tolerance rota to keep the lavatories working. Funny, it’s the job the British detachment took on in the occupied Faculty of Medicine in Paris forty odd years before.
We talk about Celebrity and Resistance, agreeing that only a fool commits more than one crime at a time. They reckon that you can not be a celebrity personally, that the glitter is produced by others to satisfy their, not your, agenda, and serves only to dazzle and confuse. I’m impressed by their wisdom, and by their casual dignity. Any kid from any housing estate who had been with them at the barricades would have fitted into our conversation with perfect ease. They know what they want. They have learned that it’s no distance from resistance to freedom. They know that history does not happen to you, you happen to it. They are continuously breaking and entering into their own evolution.
So watch out Westminster. These children can eat you for breakfast and wonder what the fuss was about.