On the Globalise Resistance train
Comrades travelling on the Globalise Resistance train to Genoa made an early start on the morning of Thursday July 19. Doubt over whether we were going to be able to travel had surfaced on Wednesday night, but had been quickly dispelled. The French authorities had cancelled the train but had been forced to reconsider.
The political composition of Globalise Resistance is obvious despite its insistence that it ?brings together groups and individuals opposed to the global growth of corporate power? (GR website). Even before we left British shores a small band of Socialist Worker sellers were hard at work and the high volume of sales that they easily achieved indicated that members and periphery of the Socialist Workers Party were in a clear majority. Though Weekly Worker sellers met with some success, it was all too evident that the political culture of the SWP still remains closed. The stock refrain was that ?the Weekly Worker is the Hello of the left?. This was in marked contrast to anti-capitalist activists we met in Genoa. Their thirst for ideas was palpable - our literature sellers ran out of material by Sunday. But SWP members have, it seems, been ?advised? against reading such subversive material as the Weekly Worker by their minders.
Media interest was intense. Several papers, including The Times and The Daily Telegraph, sent in reporters ?undercover?. Noreena Hertz, the most recent personality produced by the anti-capitalist movement, accompanied the train on behalf of The Observer. A French TV channel covered our departure from Calais and several television crews were present on the train from the British media, including Channel 4.
The first taste of the internationally coordinated police response was encountered at Calais. The aim being to make people feel as uncomfortable as possible. Border crossings meant a full search was conducted, and in the case of Italy this was at 4am. (Returning was simpler: though around 50 police from both the French and Italian forces were present to see our party over the border, no searches were conducted.)
The train provided the venue for a couple of meetings. Pre-Genoa it was to discuss safety and general tactics. Maybe because the train was also the host to numerous journalists, comrades did not identify themselves when they spoke, but the proliferation of SWP bandannas gave the game away. A discussion on violence formed the basis for the initial exchanges. A smattering declared that they were for a non-violent approach in principle. One declared he advocated ?Ghandian methods? - post-Genoa he expressed disappointment that he had found nobody who shared his philosophy. The official position of Globalise Resistance was given on a leaflet handed out with the tickets as being for ?non-violent direct action?.
The question of violence and non-violence was one of ?context?, we were told. For example, was ?bricking a McDonalds? acceptable? There were several muted cries of ?yes? at this point. However, an SWP comrade dismissed this in the manner of a psychologist: it was not an ?effective way of transmitting anger?.
Evidence of the SWP?s susceptibility to anarcho ideas was provided by its adoption of ?affinity groups? as the basic unit of organisation for Genoa. Around seven people get together to form an ?affinity group? of ?like-minded? individuals whose decisions are reached by consensus. When it comes to relations to the whole, however, everything loses shape, except of course for the SWP?s elite. A distinctly anarchistic, undemocratic and, it has to be said, ineffective method of organising.
A clear example of how such autonomy might undermine the whole was seen when we were told blithely that an affinity group ?could decide to breach the fence one day and not to another?.
We were informed that tearing down the steel fence surrounding the red zone was the goal of Friday?s march. There was no serious discussion. When Friday came, it should have been realised that this goal was unobtainable: there were nowhere near the numbers or the organisation necessary even to make a breach in one small section. But what was the point? Was it seriously imagined that we could stop the G8?s discussions? Or arrest all the world?s top leaders perhaps? This was Globalise Resistance posturing. Nothing more.
The second meeting occurred on the journey home. Some criticised the anarchists for provoking the police violence. Others argued that we need to discuss ?our relationship with the black bloc?. The drift being that we should totally dissociate ourselves from them . However, most people considered that, although we have criticisms, they were still comrades.
The debate about the way forward must begin afresh. Unfortunately, a glance at the article ?Where now for anti-capitalism?? reveals a total absence of answers apart from ?tactical discussions? (Socialist Worker July 21). But what about the perspectives and the orientation of the anti-capitalist movement?
One comrade on the train, seemingly of SWP affiliation, did propose that - as the world?s leaders were moving summits to increasingly inaccessible areas - we shift the focus towards simultaneous demonstrations in each national capital. This call has been echoed by Workers Power in its recent e-wire. This could be feasible As the Socialist Alliance was notably absent from Genoa, maybe a mobilisation focused in Britain will force the SWP to at least pay lip service to the need to combine the election tactic with the anti-capitalist movement under one roof.