The Zad or Zone A Défendre (Zone to defend) is a large protest site in rural wetland outside the French city of Nantes. The site is the location chosen by French Company Vinci on which to build a second airport for the city. The airports building would mean the loss of many miles of grassy wetland, and displace hundreds of residents and local farmers. [TW police brutality\graphic detail] So it just kicked of again in the ZAD, heres a first hand account of what happened. It’s a bit long and probably has grammatical errors.. My ZAD experience this time has been completely different juxtaposed to last years adventure. Hitching from Nantes to La ZAD this time a year ago no one new about the anti-arport occupation where as this year everybody was talking about it [after the evictions in November the ZAD was national front page news]. I had to get dropped off slightly outside the zone because the police had set up a check point on the road. After spending too long walking over fields with all my tools and backpack. I finally got onto the D281, the whole road is in the control of the ZAD residents. At first I passed a few stacks of branches blocking parts of the road, I thought it was pretty cute. Then every 10-50 meters would be a new barricade usually bigger than the last until I was see huge piles of tires, haystacks and other burnables with spikey shit jutting out of it and painted messages all over the road, trenches dug deep through the tarmac and stone until they hit water, projectiles lying in wait everywhere! There is an air of militancy around the ZAD that wasn’t there before, this is a real reinvention the meaning of “barricaded up to fuck”. Yet despite this need for defenses there is still a lot of really cool projects going on. There is still the ZADs own bakery, farm, bike workshops, libraries, pirate radio, bars, internet cafe/comms van and probably loads more that I haven’t stumble across yet. I was anxious about coming because I’ve had reports of the ZAD [at the moment] being hard for people turning up who don’t already know people on la ZAD especially if [English is not your 1st language]. This is a bit true but I think if you have a little self confidence and an initiative to get up and do stuff you’ll be alright. The weekend just saw an event called “Seme Ta ZAD” inviting the public to come for a day of demonstration and various gardening events. Tonnes of people of all ages and backgrounds rocked up and the event was really successful. During the weekend the cops left their usual permanent check point on the D81 road. ZADians and their supporters wasted no time reclaiming the road with barricades and trenches dug out with pick axes. Monday morning I woke before Sunrise and cycled the several kms to the freshly liberated road. People were already standing around, some masked up, watching figures on the opposite hill. At 1st I was unaware what was unfolding. It later transpired that people were harassing the cops before the could have their pre-raid breakfast. The cops aimlessly chased the figures around the field a bit firring tear gas and concussion grenades. Then the avant garde came running back and thats when things kicked the fuck off. The cops rocked up in vans in front of the 1st barricade and ran into the adjacent woods and field trying to flank and rush us. Bricks, bottles and the first molotov came out. In the confusion or out of stupidness a unit of the filth rushed into the middle of crowd [now aprrox 30 and growing rapidly]. Two hero cops jumped a combatant and all 3 ended up in a large ditch on the side of the road. Then the next thing I know our friend has made it out of the ditch and the cops are getting beaten hard by their own battons! A cop across the road is also getting a kick in. The rest of their “courageous” unit have bricked it returned to the safety of the woods. The two manage to stubble out of the ditch and as they ran off one gets hit with a molotov and is a burning cop. The crowd cheer. Moments later the cops move in with force carpeting the road in tear gas fired out of launchers. The stormtroopers dressed head to toe in armor and gas masks make a slow advance under a hail of stones, fireworks and flares. More and more gas is fired, a lot ending up in puddles in the ditches, a lot getting thrown straight back [careful that shit burns even with gloves]! In a filed by the cross roads I see a person no less than 5 meters have a stun grenade blow up in his face ripping it open. Luckily there where medics to hand including a doctor, none the less this guy needed hospital treatment his eyebrow was hanging off [an ambulance was quick to respond]. The tear gas isn’t too bad if you just catch the periphery but it’s nasty shit when your in a cloud of thick white smoke coughing up a lung getting rushed by pigs. I had to change masks several times due to them getting contaminated. People were carrying round saline solution to flush the eyes. The concussion grenades are a different kettle of fish. They are essentially a less lethal frag grenade without the outer casing. They still fire off nasty bits of shrapnel that cut people open and when goes off you know about the bang for miles around, not fun for standing next to! Apparently a ZAD resident lost some toes in the evictions due to one of these bastards. After the filth had taken back the cross roads with now hundreds of police they continued their advance into the Grand Forrest and down some other roads. Barricades where set alight and the cops halted at just after midday. There where 3 injurys on our side 3 on theirs and 4 arrests. The ZAD has issued a press release stating the the invasion of the cross roads by the police is an act of military occupation. Demonstrations took place outside police stations in over 10 cities across France including the blockading of one with a tractor. Also I believe there was an occupation of a police station. Things are a lot calmer on the ground now. Although the cross roads is to be avoided as the cops are controlling people and arresting them if they do not show ID. More to follow…
We began walking over a deserted Westminster bridge, the rain pouring down hard on us. In front of us, thousands of students were making their way through the streets of Lambeth, a borough with high levels of impoverishment, to demand “Educate, Employ, Empower” to I'm not quite sure who. In many ways, this moment really did feel like the end of the student movement. Those in power sat smugly and safely behind the police fortress that had been set up along Whitehall and Parliament Square. The NUS could lie to anyone still listening that it had represented its members as well as bolstering their own chances for power in the Labour party. The majority of people seemed to have no problem with parading straight past Parliament and onwards to Kennington Park, seduced perhaps by that promise of employment. Damp and despairing it felt as though this had been some sort of last chance and we'd lost it – nothing had happened (although we can take some comfort from the egging of Liam Burns and chants of 'NUS shame on you, where the fuck have you brought us to'). 2 years before marching from A to B was simply not an option. Instead we targeted those who wanted to see us denied free education (both free as in no price and where learning is free from the dictates of the state and the market) and indebted for the rest of our lives. Students stormed and smashed the Tory HQ creating a spectacle that inspired and galvanised students here and in Quebec. With the NUS condemning our actions, we went on to show how much more effective we are outside these sorts of organisations. Another demonstration saw the windows of other government buildings smashed in and protestors get close to breaking through police lines around parliament. These experiences, these acts of fuck you and the destruction of power, were a kind of empowerment beyond the NUS' wildest dreams. The NUS' march was purposely designed to kill off the lessons and experiences that we had gathered from these times – to kill off the student movement – as we creeped around backstreets and into a south London park encircled by railings in the 1800s to prevent unrest. But whilst the slogan and route were organised around demobilisation they provoked an angry response that asserted our need for action, autonomy, and anger. The National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts counter march saw over 1,000 students (whilst the official march managed only a couple of thousand more) gather at UCL with substantive demands and propositions illustrated by banners proclaiming 'Smash the NUS', 'The Dead Bury the Dead – Never Work' and '#Wrong to Work' and insurrectionary literature from the Imaginary Party declaring 'Educate, Disempower, Destroy'. The march was for 'free education' and for the freeing of society but also for the destruction of the NUS which is a barrier to our practices and aims. Plans for direct action were stopped by heavy policing (surely they don't have the funds to keep this up?), with the NUS stewards relishing their new found 'authority', and perhaps a lack of communication between ourselves. Whilst energy had been high at the start, the longer we were funnelled down the streets by the police, the wearier we grew. Our attempts to make a break down the Strand rather than join the NUS march at Embankment were met with lines of police and reinforcements arriving behind them. Our numbers were simply not enough to overcome this total policing. And so we arrived on the corner of Westminster bridge, Parliament square on our right blocked by 2 barriers with lines of police and riot vans. We half-heartedly discussed possible plans knowing they would come to nothing. But there is still rage. Even though it did not manifest itself in particularly obvious and compelling forms that day. We got to know each others faces, or eyes, for those wearing masks. And that is the start of something. And perhaps we were looking in the wrong place for that rage at this moment. Maybe the streets, blocked and lined with riot police, are not the place to meet right now – although, of course, this is where the beauty is. The other day I spoke with three women in the computer room of our Further Education college about the introduction of fees for their courses that will come in next year. This is where the rage is. They described their anger at the government 'robbing' from them. They explained how they were studying so that they could get a job to be an example to their children. They were surviving on £30 a week. *'I think education should be free – it shouldn't be like that [ever increasing fees]'* *'We don't know where we're going to stand with fees coming in, we've got our kids to look after as well,'* *'Don't try and rob from me to make yourself pppffff'* *'It's ridiculous where money is – they let the rich off and f the poor,'* *'they waste money on stupid sculptures, that new building, that point thing, the Shard shit'* *'You can't even have little treats, it is £30 a week on food. We can't go out, we don't have a social life'.* *'We're just surviving, just getting by, without this education now, where am I going to be?'* *'We're trying to help ourselves but we're just in debt.'* *'I was watching This Morning and they were saying that if you live on less than £400 a week you live below the poverty line. I'm poor but you're not helping me,'* *'They really categorised us now – we're poor. Categorise us, put us into a little...'* Listening to them, I did not even bother to mention the student demo. It felt as if I would be somehow selling them out suggesting they come along to something I had little hope in to start with. They were busy enough looking after their children, studying, and surviving. Clearly, then, this is not the end – there is a belief in free education and the anger with which to obtain this and much more. NCAFC has called for a National Day of Action on December 5th in all places of education. Drawing as well from the Imaginary Party's literature, it is clear that the struggle, having learnt from Quebec, should return to these places, where we can listen to and organise with each other. Whilst never forgetting Milbank. N.B. As we publish this post we are hearing news that UCL has staged a sit in (with the possibility of it turning into an occupation) over UCL management's involvement in the social cleansing of Carpenters Estate. Elsewhere across London university campuses this evening, there is a protest of cleaners and student supporters outside University of London's Senate House for sick pay, holidays, and pensions. Earlier on in the day, UCL academics lobbied the 'UCL council' against reforms to Statue 18 which would give management powers to *fire at will*. Now those words uttered as we crossed the bridge seem so laughable. 'Anonymous'- Radical writers collective
(A critique of the TUC model of Demonstration- and a look to the Black Block)
Every smashed window is a portal into the future, as John Holloway might put it, a crack into the capitalist structures that exist now, and a temporary move into a future that looks beyond the idea of private property as an institution of any importance. Meanwhile, the politics of solidarity, mutual aid, horizontal organization, and direct action (by some accounts the corner stone’s of anarchism, at least in the libertarian communist trend) are at no point more alive than in the swiftly moving sea of black. An unidentifiable gender, race, and classless mass; each individual afforded their own autonomy to move or act in any direction whilst simultaneously forming parts of collective units (affinity groups) which all feed into a collective mass- this is self organization and leaderless management in action.
Meanwhile a mass of people are told by the bureaucrats and backstabber’s of the TUC that they are part of some mass movement, a movement stumbling towards “a future that works” and are consequentially lead like cattle to the slaughter to hear Edd Milliband talk about how Labour can co-opt the struggle against austerity and package it in a neat framework of reformist politics. The naming of the October 20th march, selection of certain privileged intellectuals to speak, and ideologically authoritarian pacifism (take for example the TUC stewards who attempted to prevent and break up the direct action by disabled people against the cuts when they tried to block a road) amount to little more than an attempt to crush intersectional approach to resistance, and effectively dump large diasporas of the anti austerity movement (e.g. queer, women’s, people of colour etc) into the thoroughly reformist box of workers against the cuts.
Imagine for a moment if “a future that works” was in fact named ” the future is now” and created a space where every section of anger could take steps relevant to them in a broad range of direct actions. Imagine the power of DPAC blocking either end of oxford street, whilst insurrectionist anarchists smash its shops to pieces, families use the distraction to occupy and take over closed down libraries and child care centres, UKUNCUT stunt against a tax dodging business, and unemployed people banner drop from the job centre. Imagine the power of 125 thousand people taking action for the now instead of being told to walk from embankment to Hyde park for the future. Instead of looking to Labour to reform our future, we must take it upon ourselves to liberate the present.
Most of all though, the TUC’s organizational steps in their so called protest do not represent a crack or attack in the status quo but in fact serve only to reinforce the position of our oppressors. First of all, within the discourse of “a future that works” we are offered not an alternative to those things that oppress us now; we are fed a future that is reliant on capitalist modes of relationship, that is locked squarely in the framework of bosses and workers, of some owning the means of production and others toiling in them- I don’t want to work, I want to live. My second point of issue, is the TUC’s insistence on the presence and inclusion of professional politicians and statists arguing the case for their political programme on a soapbox provided by the so called “resistance”; what kind of resistance is it that invites our oppressors (those who in the days of new labour began this austerity program) to lecture us from their ivory towers of luxury expenses and extraction from life as a prole/pleb on why we should pay for their crisis. Finally, the decision by the TUC, to work both for (supporting them in their so called struggle) and alongside (agreeing on a march root, attacking those attempting to take direct action etc) the police (those boot boys and murders who form a shield wall between us and the realisation of freedom, between us and the puppet masters) will always hamper the movement from self emancipation and smash its ability to self organise.
So, perhaps counter intuitively (given that the Black Block demands such a strict dress code) I argue that the TUC option of “demonstration” is the enemy of creativity, of imagination, and of real predigurative1 action; whilst Black Block creates a world of unlimited potential, individual expression, and all power to the imagination. There is perhaps and argument to be made, that the action of the Black Block are fundamentally machoistic and elitist both in there mode (often that of property destruction) and in its dominance of the discourse (e.g. March 26th in so far as “anarchist thugs” filled every major newspaper headline, whilst hundreds of thousands of other protesters were largely ignored). I will try briefly to offer a contrasting analysis to this position.
First, I would like to argue that the destruction of property is in fact a destruction of the male chauvinism, violence, and elitism on which institutions such as Banks, Government Buildings, and Anne Summers operate; and would further point to the multitude of actions beyond property damage that members of Black Blocks have participated in (from window cleaning of empty buildings and council housing to opening squats to provide homes for homeless families). The fact that Black Block also relies on personal autonomy and group solidarity, for me at least defies the accusation of elitism (so often cast upon this tactic by other leftists). Black Block is a tactic to protect everyone (regardless of their mode of action) from persecution by state or cop and within this sea of anonymity there is space for everything and anything from window smasher, to medic, theatrical protester to media person, five year old to grandparent. Never mind thousands of V’s Marching on Parliament, this is hoods and masks attacking the reasons of our sleepless nights and nightmarish day, attempting to shape a new society based on basic human solidarity; (exemplified through the diversity of action e.g. one person smashes a window, another helps to hide that person, another writes the literature explaining the whole action, and another tends the wounds of those injured rucking with the filth) Black Block- now recruiting!
As for arguments around the negative discourse of the Black Block, I would argue there is little any of us can or should do to influence the language and arguments the bourgeoisie press choose to use in attempting to undermine struggle; our actions must be judged by our own morality and by history, the Black Panthers, the ANC, even Ghandi were dismissed by their own press as criminals and yet today we hail them as heroes. We should not modify our politics or our tactics in order to suit other people’s ideas of “acceptable forms of resistance” and if anything the importance the mainstream media afford to Black Block should act as something of a call to arms to all those content to be confined to police kettles and pre agreed A to B’s. I argue we should be lead by what is effective and what we believe to be just, imagine if you will for a moment the power that the anti Iraq war movement would have held had it decided to mask up and occupy army recruitment centres, sabotage Ta Bases, and destroy machines in weapons factories- imagine for a second the power of one million E.D.O decomissioners. The power of the Black Block lies in its prefigurative and post capitalist approach to the notion of resistance; whilst the A to B of the TUC is trapped inevitably in a capitalist mode- marches are not the limit of our imagination speeches cannot contain our desires.
This then, is a call out to mothers and fathers, children, workers, unemployed, queers, people of colour, and all others to join the anonymous mass of the Block, not as a means to an end but as an act to change our reality in this moment, to reinvent the now. The tactic, the mode of action is ultimately for you to decide; but your family, your colleges; your friends are already your affinity group. Mutual aid exists in everyone’s lives: when we buy our friends a pint or make them a cup of tea; we organize horizontally when we pick a movie collectively or decide what toppings to have on a pizza, we show solidarity when we care for our friends children or visit them in the hospital when they are ill, and we take direct action when poverty forces us to shop lift or the cold forces us to rig the meter. We are all common sense anarchists; we need only to formulate our subconscious actions, conceptualize these divided thoughts to reach our potential- Black Block is one way towards this conceptualization. Next time the aparatchiks at the TUC organize a “mass show of strength” to bolster their outdated and irrelevant analysis; lets fuck them off and do our own thing, let us take action, and rather than allowing some smarmy fuckwit in a suit to tell us what our future is going to be, let’s be the change today, that we want to live tomorrow.
Smash Capitalism, Create Anarchy.