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Millbank – what happened, and how can we build on it?

Ya Basta | 14.11.2010 21:39 | Education | Public sector cuts

The dust is beginning to settle after the occupation of 30 Millbank last Wednesday, and the time has come to assess what happened and how we can take the resistance – both in universities and beyond – forwards. The 50,000 students on the streets was impressive, but it was the 5,000 at Millbank who made the difference. They escalated what was already the biggest single protest against the Coalition into the beginning of the resistance. For once, when we chanted “You say cut back, we say fight back”, we actually meant it. The idea that students are apathetic took a big dent at Millbank, and the student population became a threat to government for the first time in decades. This government is fragile; it depends on student support. If an election were held tomorrow, it would not survive, and it would be students who would bring it down, defeating all the Liberal Democrats who were propelled into office on student votes. But to think that elections will be sufficient to stop austerity is fantasy. All three parties have a cuts consensus, and it is through extra-parliamentary action that our voices will be heard. We voted, and we were ignored. We marched, and we were ignored. We rioted, and our voices were heard around the world.

In a demo de-brief meeting that I attended, two comments made by fellow protesters stood out. One described the NUS March (and marching in general) as “asking nicely”. Important, politeness is a virtue after all, but unlikely to gain results. Another mentioned “diversity of tactics”, where those who wish to protest peacefully and benignly can do so, but those who engage in direct action can too. (Incidentally, I would argue the direct action at Millbank also largely non-violent – but then I don’t class breaking windows (violence against property) and violence against the police (who are always the most violent people on a demonstration) as violence per se. The idiot with the fire extinguisher, however, was out of order, and the crowd told him as much.)

Had it just been 5,000 at Millbank without the 50,000 others, it would have been just the same old anarchist and communist faces. The strength of the action was that, from that 50,000, thousands were sufficiently angry and sufficiently confident to join with the minority of seasoned activists. The vast majority of those in the building, pushing against police lines and smashing windows were on their first ever protest, and the pictures show this – would “hardcore anarchists” and “professional protesters”, as the mainstream media have described them, have allowed themselves to be photographed and filmed by so many without the most rudimentary of face-coverings? No chance. These were students, HE and FE, who were angry and who were motivated to do something about it. The arrest statistics bear this out – 10 of 54 were under 18 (FE students).

What cannot be underestimated, however, is the role of the NUS pre-protest. The fact that there was 50,000 of us on Wednesday is testament to their capabilities. They have a level of resources and a reach which we cannot equal, and for better or worse, we do need them. However, their actions post-protest have been despicable, and we must remember that they cannot be relied upon. That a trade union is encouraging its members to shop other members to the police is beyond reprehension. The actions on the day at Millbank showed that there is a palpable anger and urge to resist amongst ordinary students which the NUS does not cater for, and has no interest in catering for. Their bust cards were a joke, and they have set a precedent now in disowning members who engage in direct action. This will not put people off going to protest and taking direct action, but it has highlighted the need for better preparation on the left in order to protect protesters who perhaps are not as experienced as some of us are. The spontaniety of the action on Wednesday was fantastic, and we must ensure that activists are protected.

We also need to ensure that the protests at Millbank are not the last. They have provided an enormous public opening to the campaign of resistance to austerity and must be built upon. Thousands of students were radicalised during the protest, and millions more workers would have sat and watched on television and felt heartened by the actions taken – one senses that few tears were shed for the windows of 30 Millbank in working men’s clubs and trade union branches and job centres across the country. Actions will be taken with much greater gusto as a result of Wednesday. Already, Manchester university has staged an occupation; at Leeds, a police presence in an anti-cuts meeting was summarily removed. The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) has called for a student strike on the 24th of November, and this should be the next step in the student resistance. Action begats action, and every step the students take gives confidence to others and makes them more likely to take action. To defeat these cuts it will take mass action from all sectors of society, but, at Millbank, the fightback began in earnest.

Ya Basta
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Sat 24th London

15.11.2010 13:29


Carnival against the coalition of scum!

Central London Saturday 20th November

Enough is enough!

Following the great outburst of anger of students at Millbank we must not lose momentum.

Everyone but the rich and their protectors are being abused by this coalition of scum they call the government. We will not wait months for another fucking union A-B march which achieves absolutely nothing.

We will fight back now! Fuck the rich! Fuck the cops! Everyone to the streets on Saturday November 20! We will party in Parliament Square and if the cops try and stop us with their usual violence-WE WILL FUCKING DEFEND OURSELVES!

Unite against the bastards-whatever you call yourselves-student, worker, poor, Muslim, anarchist, socialist, communist, human-these fucking scum are destroying us and our planet-FUCK THEM!

Fucking politicians come on TV and call a few smashed windows violence. Yet they send a bunch of terrorists called troops to murder and destroy entire countries-all in the name of profit. We protest their violence and are met by armed thugs with batons and shields. Self defence is not violence. Property damage is not violence.

Join the Stop the War march but not as a block-Hyde Park Corner-Noon. Go as groups or individuals. Take different clothes to change into away from the cameras. Hide your face! Be prepared at any stage during the day to take direct action. Ignore the stewards-they work with the cops and Stop the War are a government front to keep the fucking wars ongoing by stopping meaningful Direct Action.

On the march pull down barriers-block the polluting traffic that makes us sick.
Word is spreading – there are many of us going to this and we are ready for real action.

Reclaim Parliament Square and then the streets of London!


WHEN DARK TARGET THE BANKS! They fund the destruction and wars and steal your money.
This is only the beginning (next 24th Nov, 4th Dec)-RISE UP!
Spread the word!
Feel free to make your own poster, rewrite and circulate. Put it on facebook or twitter or whatever.