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UK Uncut protest against tax dodgers Starbucks

Hannah Hincks | 08.12.2012 23:39 | Public sector cuts | Social Struggles | Birmingham

Today, on the 8th of December 2012, UK Uncut protesters successfully occupied and shut down two Starbucks branches in Birmingham city centre.

Today, in anger over Starbucks’ tax dodging [1] [2] and its empty promises of paying £20 million in tax over the next two years, the UK Uncut group in Birmingham took to the local Starbucks café in protest. The group were joined by local Anonymous members and members of other activist groups, such Occupy and Disabled People against the Cuts. Around 20 people participated in Birmingham’s local demonstration against Starbucks.

At exactly 1pm today a group of 20 anti-cuts protesters of the local UK Uncut group gathered inside the Starbucks at the corner of Victoria square. They proceeded to perform a sit in, lying down on sleeping bags to raise awareness of the effects of cuts on homeless people being caused by the government’s refusal to clamp down on corporative tax dodging.

By 1.20pm the group willingly left the inside of the café after the police arrived due to some complaints from customers and the staff on duty. The group continued their protest outside and handed out free tea and coffee to the public. At 1.40pm Starbucks had removed all protesters and customers and locked its doors. Shortly after, more than half of the group left to demonstrate at the Starbucks café on New Street which also closed its doors on the public, while the other half remained at the original targeted café.

By 2.11pm the group decided to call it a day, with both Starbucks closed up, it was seen by the majority of the group a successful action. The group had positive responses with the public, many of who showed support with the group and others who were able to engage in discussions with members on the issue of the protest.

Pete, 24, a participant in the protest, told me: “[The] protest action against Starbucks couldn't have gone better. We met up with UK Uncut, Occupy and other activists... We did what we set out to do; we closed the branch down and really highlighted the issues at hand.”

Birmingham was not the only place to have protests against Starbucks today as Starbucks café’s in London, Shrewsbury and Nottingham, besides other cities, were also protested against [3] [4].


Hannah Hincks


Hide the following 7 comments

Thank you, Libcom, for your helpful input

09.12.2012 21:16

Libcom's analysis is nonsense because there's no way UKuncut actions are waged "in isolation" from workers struggles. What UKuncut are doing is selectively foregrounding those aspects of their message which stand to most effectively engage with public opinion, as opposed to trotting-out the same old class war rhetoric that has so successfully helped people like Libcom revel in glorious, self-righteous isolation for many years... err... scratch that... decades

Either way, talk is cheap, it's not like Libcom are organising anything better



10.12.2012 02:00

UK Uncut's 'selective' message then is that big business should pay taxes to the Government who will then spend them on rape crisis centres, libraries and one o'clock clubs and so on. Is that going to happen or will the governments here and now and those to come just piss the taxes up the wall on wars, privitisations and keeping the rich getting richer?

By being 'selective' then UK Uncut can not bother people with difficult ideas about capitalism being structurally unjust and workers exploitation being at the heart of it, but can just go about doing anything in the name of tax justice as long as such a simple idea can 'effectively engage' with public opinion. By your explanation, UK Uncut's idea then is to reduce everything down to the most easy level and forget about complexities and subtleties.

Doing any old thing is better than doing nothing by your reasoning but people have been banging on about the bankers and bonuses and taxes for five years or more and not one single social movement has really formed around such an idea esp one that deals with all the more complex struggles within the crisis such as housing, work, health, border policies, domestic labour etc. Asking the rich to give up their money is a non-starter but getting to grips with how people are surviving the crisis is much more likely to bring people to gether than attempting to shame Starbucks or courting morality in the face of the capitalist class's cynicism. Public opinion might not like bankers, bonuses, tax avoidance etc but public opinion (1) has little influence with government and business (2) has not so far created a political movement necesary to challenge. Asking for the rich to pay more tax is only in the end asking for the everyday exploitation of people to be maintained. It not in the interest of the capitalist class to have things be fair and nice. They got their money through cycles and cycles exploitation with wages and conditions being the battleground.

Presumably you know all the Libcom folks then and can report on their 'isolation' and political activities. Talk is indeed cheap.

Class War Dinosaurus

Libcom article pretty sensible and fair on UK Uncut

10.12.2012 11:20

Quote from Libcom article:

"...Although UK Uncut’s methods have been very successful at agenda setting, they haven’t managed to make any tangible dent in the austerity programme.

Tax dodgers aren’t implementing austerity, whereas workfare providers are implementing welfare to work. This is why getting the latter to pull out of the scheme dents it and brings it closer to collapse. Getting Starbucks to pay more tax, though, won’t stop cuts – in fact, it will literally result in more cuts as they shift the cost onto their own, un-organised staff.

If we are to beat austerity, we need UK Uncut’s tactics. Indeed, it was Liverpool Uncut shifting the same tactics onto workfare providers that led to the first national day of action against workfare and kick-started the campaign which has claimed a number of scalps such as Holland & Barrett and shows no signs of relenting.

But austerity measures – from workfare to job cuts to service closures – need to be targeted directly. Making big companies pay their tax won’t stop the cuts. But a sustained wave of pickets, occupations and blockades – alongside strike action – that actively disrupt their implementation just might".

Horace Vergil

@ Class War Dinosaurus

11.12.2012 12:30

@ Dinosaurus - Amazing how many of the errr... less helpful comments on IMC are framed in terms of people making wild guesses about those whose views they're opposing. To quote your reply... "presumably" nothing pal, don't make assumptions that aren't based on evidence.

As for the false claim that UK Uncut do not "bother people with difficult ideas about capitalism", first you don't understand what the term "selectively foregrounding" means - it doesn't mean that UK Uncut don't criticise capitalism. Second if you've been on UK Uncut actions you should have taken your shades off and your headphones out - because many UK Uncut protestors are explicitly anti-capitalist. How you managed to miss that is anyone's guess.

You then presume that according to the reasoning you're criticising "doing any old thing is better than doing nothing". UK Uncut is not "any old thing", it is a campaign that's forced even the Prime Minister and much of the right-wing press to concede its core arguments, and at the very least, Starbucks are willing to spend £20 MILLION to counter the effects of UK Uncut campaigning! Either way, even if your criticism was spot-on then still doing something is ALWAYS going to be better than doing nothing.

You then helpfully observe that "people have been banging on about the bankers and bonuses and taxes for five years or more and not one single social movement has really formed around such an idea"... Wow... Now apply the same criticism to the last 40 years of Anarchist activism!!!!!!


Homo Sapiens

@ Lib.Com @ Horace

11.12.2012 13:09

Yes, Lib.Com's analysis is "fair", in places, it also reeks of sour grapes, but is it relevant? How relevant is it to point out that different strategies all have their own advantages and disadvantages, in different contexts and for different audiences? Surely we all know that already? Lots of groups employ the kind of approach advocated by the Lib.Com article, ie - Class Struggle Anarchists, most of those groups have done more harm than good, several have folded completely, none have been successful, but even if they had succeeded there'd still be room and (more importantly) a need for groups who experiment with different approaches.

It's all very well quoting the "Syndicalist Workers Federation pamphlet How Labour Governed, 1945-51" but how many people read that pamphlet? UKuncut take activism out of the realm of short print-runs and radical pamphleteering and (although their slogans are, as all slogans are, rhetorical over-simplifications) they've found ways to get messages out through world media to hundreds of millions of people. I agree we need "a sustained wave of pickets, occupations and blockades – alongside strike action" but framing such obvious facts in terms of even qualified criticism of UKuncut is not just missing the point, it risks being actively counterproductive

British Anarchists conclusively demonstrated their relevance to UK street politics on the day of the last big student protest and on the day of the last Anarchist bookfair, but, even if they hadn't fallen at every major recent hurdle, they need to wake up to the fact that the core ideas they're advocating are strongly influenced by Victorian-era (eg - Bakuninist and Kropotkinist) ideology, even Situationist ideas are 40 years out of date, society has changed ALOT but core Anarchist thinking hasn't even adapted to the existence of the Welfare State, let alone to the long-term cultural impact of the consumer society, of working-class self-employment or the of the right-to-buy policy –


Totally agree

11.12.2012 14:39

@Home Sapiens
"You then helpfully observe that "people have been banging on about the bankers and bonuses and taxes for five years or more and not one single social movement has really formed around such an idea"... Wow... Now apply the same criticism to the last 40 years of Anarchist activism!!!!!!"

Yeah, I never said the Anarchist movement / scene amounted too much. It doesn't but then some anarchists make very good inputs into loads of local and national campaigns as anarchists but not as anarchists first and foremost til death.

Problem with @s or UK uncut is, as you suggest maybe, trying to find some thing that works that isn't just repeating what may have been okay in the 20th Century as we have moved on.

BTW, as an anarchist I have been dealing with both consumer society and the right to buy and how they factor as part of years of work around housing struggles. Ta.

Class War Dinosaurus