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(en) Britain, Reinventing Dissent: Anarchist Analysis of G8 2005 - I. (1/3)

Date Sat, 24 Sep 2005 20:02:01 +0300


The Unabridged Story of Resistance against the G8 Summit in Scotland, 2005
by Alex Trocchi, Giles Redwolf, and Petrus Alamire
"Has there ever been a society which has died of dissent?
Several have died of conformity in our lifetime" - Jacob Bronowski
Everyone knows that the odds are stacked overwhelmingly
against us at summit mobilizations. Yet the 2005 G8 mobilisation
in Scotland proved that disrupting a summit is not beyond our grasp,
and that, if anything, we underestimate our own capabilities.
It is all too easy to state that "Another World is
Possible"-to actually create another world is far more
difficult. For a week, an unlikely field near Stirling
became the "Hori-Zone," a model of large-scale horizontal
and autonomous decision-making. To create a long-lasting
and effective anarchist network is looked upon as a
fantasy. However, the G8 mobilisation turned a scattered
and divided activist scene into a well-organised network
of resistance, capable not only of hosting an explicitly
anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian mobilisation, but
also of continuing beyond the G8. As for the inevitable
action, anarchists confronted the meeting of the eight
most powerful men in the industrial world directly, right
outside the G8 summit venue, shutting down their highways
and tearing down their fences. The attacks of the
fundamentalist Islamic bombers in London the same week
look cowardly in comparison. One cannot help but feel
that there is something hopeful back in the air in
Britain, even as the dark repression of the police state
inevitably kicks into motion after the London bombings.

Britain was the nation in which industrial capitalism
first took root, and accordingly it has often remained
ahead of its time in the art of protest. The British
anti-roads movement of the early 1990s was a harbinger of
the "anti-globalisation" movement, featuring a wild and
eclectic focus on direct action and cultural resistance,
in contrast to the notoriously boring politics of the
institutional left. The model was moved with much success
into the cities, in the form of Reclaim the Streets,
capitalising on the fact that in Britain hordes of ravers
will show up anywhere, anytime for a good party in the
middle of a street. Within a few years, cities from
Brisbane to Bratislava were reclaiming their streets.
Coinciding with the G8 Summit in Cologne, the June 18th
1999 Global Day of Action against Capitalism paralysed
the financial centre of London, prefiguring the shut-down
of the WTO in Seattle a few months later.

As Britain's turn came to host the G8 in 2005, things
looked grim. There had been successful mass
mobilisations, particularly in London for Mayday 2000 and
2001, and anarchists had taken part in direct action
against the war in Iraq. However, there had not been a
"Global Day of Action" in Britain in six years, and many
anarchists in Britain were simply not interested, since
many were convinced that mass mobilisations were no
longer effective means of resistance. The early meetings
consisted of arguments about whether a truly
anti-authoritarian mobilisation was even theoretically
possible!

Nearly two years before the G8 summit, an
anti-capitalist network called Dissent! was founded in
Britain to mobilise against the G8. The questions we
want to look at in this piece are whether Dissent! and
the 2005 G8 mobilisation actually succeeded, and whether
they can serve as a model for actions and networks
elsewhere. We will begin with an analysis of the
formation and functioning of the Dissent! network. We
will then give an overview of the myriad actions that
took place before the blockades around Gleneagles.
Finally, we will analyse the blockades and the response
of the anarchists to the bombings in London.


The Dissent! Network Forms...


Before beginning, there are two brief disclaimers.
First, the participants in the Dissent! network
studiously avoid the word "anarchist," and prefer to
call themselves "anti-capitalist" and
"anti-authoritarian." One reason behind this is that
the word "anarchist" might be seen to exclude our
comrades in the autonomist communist movement
(especially from Germany) and the occasional
post-Situationist council communist. A more pressing
reason is that in the last decade, just like a century
ago, the public in all Western countries has been
subjected to a media scare campaign around the word
"anarchist," so the word "anti-capitalist" is seen as
more friendly. Nevertheless, we will just call all the
people who participated in Dissent! "anarchists" since
we believe most of them (minus our autonomist and
council communist friends, to whom we must just
apologise!) would not object to using "anarchist" to
describe their politics, and since the word
"anti-capitalist" could also be seen to include
retrograde Marxist-Leninist sects like the Socialist
Workers' Party (SWP) who were by design not part of
the Dissent! network. Second, we indeed often use the
words "Dissent! network" or just "Dissent!" to
describe the actions of particular working groups and
people, and the general feelings of people, in order
not to have to specify individual names. Though a
useful shorthand for saying "anti-authoritarian and
anti-capitalist" every time we wish to speak of the
protesters (many who may have had only the slightest
of contact with Dissent!), this stands against the
official policy of Dissent!, since only consensus
decisions at network-wide gathering can carry the
weight of being cited in the name of "Dissent!" and
"anyone who claims to be speaking on behalf of the
Dissent! network is lying."

Dissent! as a network began after meetings at the
UK Earth First! gathering and London Anarchist
Bookfair in 2003. More class-conscious than their
North-American counterparts, British eco-activists
always tended to have little patience for the
notion that the Earth coming "First" means that its
human inhabitants are somehow "second." The
original plan for Dissent! was to loosely unite the
various strands of British anti-capitalism in the
run-up to the G8, a grab bag of everything from
ecology to insurrection, and to show that it was
something that could stand on its own as an
anti-authoritarian UK-wide network. The main
problem is that there was actually no clearly
defined or unified agreement on anything at all,
except a hatred of capitalism and hierarchy
combined with a love of humanity and the planet.
Turning that particular weakness into a strength,
Dissent! adopted the most minimal points of
agreement: the hallmarks of the People's Global
Action (PGA) network. This had the effect of
maximising the number and diversity of people who
would be interested in participating, while
maintaining some political parameters. In
particular, these hallmarks feature "a very clear
rejection of capitalism" just in case people
thought the network was reformist, "a
confrontational attitude" with a "call to direct
action and civil disobedience" to focus the network
on concrete action over bureaucracy, and "an
organisational philosophy based on decentralisation
and autonomy", which conveniently excluded
authoritarians like the SWP. Some groups
participating in Dissent! originally seemed to want
only to network on a model similar to Earth First!,
so that there would be local collectives such as
Edinburgh Dissent!, Brighton Dissent! and so on.
Early on, many people seemed to want to dispose of
the idea of a mass action altogether, and instead
focus on decentralised local actions.

The initial meetings involved endless discussions
about "What exactly is a network anyway?" These
involved both very long-winded arguments, and a
real discussion of how a UK-wide network could
enable local groups to join something larger
without sacrificing their autonomy. A strategy
based on maximising the autonomy of the
participants in Dissent! emerged. First, it was
decided that all local groups should adopt their
own names – Newcastle Dissent!, for instance,
became "Why Don't You?"- as a first step toward
becoming a network of autonomous groups in practise
and not just in theory. Local groups were expected
to take care of their own internal finances, have
regular meetings, and hold local events. In
addition, a Dissent! network gathering was used by
the Britain-wide Social Centre Network to donate
generous amounts of cash to start social centres
throughout Britain. The purpose of these centres
was to increase the general level of social
struggle, and many local groups coalesced around
them.

Dissent! incarnated itself most clearly at its
more-or-less monthly "gatherings," where the local
groups came together to discuss network-wide issues
and form working groups, the latter ranging from
the normal "Publicity" and "Legal" working groups
to innovative ones such as the "Trauma Support
Group," which aimed to reduce burn-out and
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the wake of
police repression, and the "Working Group Against
Work," which formed to highlight issues of
wage-slavery and precarious labour during the G8
protests. The "Education Working Group" became
TRAPESE, a travelling roadshow that educated people
about the G8 through pub quizzes and workshops.
Importantly, these working groups allowed
individuals from across different geographical
locations to get to know each other and work
together, building bonds of friendship and trust
across the network. The network adopted the fairly
standard consensus and working-group model, so that
during network-wide "Dissent! gatherings" the often
unmanageable number of people at the meeting would
break up into their working groups. They would
"report back" to the entire network on the results
of their actions (or lack thereof) in between
gatherings, and ask for input from the wider
network. If any decision was expected to actually
affect the entire network, it was decided via
consensus in the dreaded but useful plenary
meetings.

Dissent! as an anti-capitalist network was a
self-fulfilling prophecy. The Dissent! gatherings
went on for nearly two years before the
mobilisation, and two-day long meetings nearly led
many participants to a state of heavy drinking. For
the first few Dissent! gatherings, the network
seemed more like a dis-organisation than an
organisation. Many of the original proponents
either moved on, or dropped the torch for others to
carry. From that chaos, however, evolved a sort of
flexible order as groups organically came together.
Often the first real point of action for a local
group was to successfully host a Dissent!
gathering. While some of the "local groups" and
"working groups" were in reality a single
individual (or, worse, just an e-mail address from
which no one would reply!), some groups formed into
solid affinity groups where none had been before.
There was no small number of problems, as many
groups managed to meet for nearly a year without
being able to focus their energies and accomplish
anything of note, and often individuals were
stretched among what appeared to be a never-ending
cast of bureaucratic meetings. However, where
before there had been almost no activity, new local
groups inspired by Dissent! and the possibility of
taking down the G8 began to be taken seriously, and
long-standing direct action groups ranging from
local Earth First! collectives to the WOMBLES in
London started participating in the Dissent!
network. When weak spots were identified such as
finances (after all, no-one ever wants to sign
their name to the paradoxical bank account of an
anti-capitalist network), individuals stood up and
took responsibility.

The Dissent! network also jumped through hoops to
remain inclusive, albeit with mixed results. At
almost every gathering there was a discussion of
who should be allowed to participate in the
Dissent! network. Could Christians, who might be
proselytising an authoritarian religion? How about
members of organised political parties? What
exactly were the limits of the PGA Hallmarks, and
who did they include and exclude? By adopting the
most minimal radical guiding hallmarks, and by
agreeing to disagree on many issues, the Dissent!
network succeeded in attracting participation from
more than the "usual suspects" in such scenarios.
Novel and accessible projects like the Cre8 summit
community garden in Glasgow and the Clandestine
Insurgent Rebel Clown Army further contributed to
making the network more diverse and open. Although
anarchists are often used to meeting and planning
in a clandestine manner, Dissent! tried its best
to be entirely open and public, both to avoid the
stereotyping of anarchists as secretive and to
allow more people to get involved. In a country
like Britain where it sometimes feels like every
square inch of the ground is under CCTV
surveillance, this strategy makes certain sense.
The network published all its meeting minutes on
its admittedly labyrinthine website, and was
remarkably accessible - at least if one were on
the e-mail list and read the website regularly,
since the communications of the network in between
meetings were nearly all digital. Despite this
openness, reporters often announced "secret
anarchist plans to take action against the G8"
after visiting the website and discovering among
the piles of meeting minutes a juicy tidbit that
had been, after all, publicly announced. Not that
there weren't secret plans, but more on this
later.

Some aspects of Dissent!, such as its focus on local
groups and decision-making structure, were clearly
hallmarks of a genuine network-but others, such as the
bank account and the mostly centralised production of
propaganda, definitely seemed to be the work of something
resembling an actual organisation. Dissent! had an
informal leadership develop,as individuals and groups put
things in motion behind the scenes or overtly set the
agenda via the process group and proposals, resulting in
much gnashing of teeth at meetings. Yet the informal
leadership was flexible, with individuals moving in and
out of various levels of activity, and often political
manoeuvrings at meetings resulted in issues that were
being foolishly ignored being addressed. The “process
group" in charge of creating the Dissent! gathering
agenda was in theory supposed to rotate every gathering,
although often it did not due to lack of volunteers. At
the beginning many processes were heavily criticised. To
Dissent!'s credit, the network learned by its mistakes
and improved, though there is still much room for
improvement.

Also, Dissent! had unprecedented amounts of funding,
combining online donations with extensive fund-raising,
and the total budget for the protest ran into the tens of
thousands of pounds – nothing compared to the
multi-million pound budget of “Make Poverty History," but
substantial for anti-capitalists. People need to think
about the issues behind anti-capitalists using money to
destroy capitalism. Are we being corrupted or just
“bio-degrading" money out of capitalist circulation?


Who's Down for Civil Unrest?


After almost a year of perpetual meetings, the
location of the 2005 G8 Summit was announced: the
Gleneagles Hotel in rural Scotland. This posed a
dilemma: either commit to a centralised action
around the summit location or to decentralised
actions around the United Kingdom. Earlier at
Dissent! gatherings, many shared the implicit
assumption that mass mobilisations around summits
were a dead-end. Serious thought had been put into
what went wrong and what went right at previous
mobilisations, as shown by the still useful magazine
"Days of Dissent: Reflections on Summit
Mobilisations." The rural location of the Gleneagles
Hotel presented added difficulties, since many found
it hard to imagine primarily urban activists
tromping through the woods and glens of Scotland. On
the other hand, the idea of decentralised actions,
which had every local working group doing direct
action in its home town instead of coming to
Scotland, was not appealing. First, just issuing a
vague call for action and hoping that every group
would do something, even if focused around a theme
like climate change, was uninspiring. While
decentralised days of action like J18 in 1999 had
been successful in the past, recently widely
decentralised actions had failed to accomplish much
of anything. No one even remembers the "Insurrection
Night" proposal for decentralised actions across the
United States for G8 2004, which was accompanied by
an equally ineffective call for solidarity actions
in the UK put forward by the Dissent! network. At
the urging of many members, especially those in
Scotland who were thrilled a mass summit was coming
near to their town, Dissent! finally did reach a
consensus that it would indeed take on hosting a
mass mobilisation in Scotland.

One lurking question was: Could anyone organise
direct action and not be held accountable by the
powers of the state? The repercussions of this
nebulous and even dangerous position lent an
atmosphere of paranoia to Dissent! gatherings. The
year-long operation to round up activists after J18
set a worrying precedent, and often crippled the
ability of newer activists to even discuss what they
actually wanted to do. Dissent! at first determined
it would take as its prime duty the organising of
infrastructure for protests and remain absolutely
neutral towards action, except insofar as it would
publicise them. This meant organising a convergence
centre for everyone and making sure there would be
no official Dissent! action. However, upon closer
inspection of the actual location of the summit
itself, confusion set in even over infrastructure.
The location of the summit was north of Stirling,
about an hour drive north from both Edinburgh and
Glasgow, the two largest Scottish cities. The large
reformist groups like "Make Poverty History" were
basing their huge marches in Edinburgh, while cities
like Glasgow had a much stronger tradition of
working-class resistance, and the nearest towns to
the summit itself, Perth and Stirling, had only a
very small number of sympathetic activists. As for
action, after Genoa many militant anti-capitalists
were not excited by the prospect of "storming the
red zone" through a traditional attack on the
perimeter fence, which would likely be heavily
guarded. The simple spatial layout of the protest
was a nightmare, and if Dissent! was too paranoid to
organise any actions, who would?

Despite the gloom, even the most cursory inspection
of a map would give anyone with an inkling of
tactical ability reason for hope. Gleneagles was not
nearly as remote as many other previous summit
locations. In fact, it was extremely vulnerable by
virtue of being accessible largely off a single
trunk road, the A9. A number of small side- roads
led to the G8 venue through the idyllic resort town
of Crieff and the Ochil Hills. Since the Gleneagles
Hotel only held a few hundred people, and since the
entourage of bureaucrats, translators, caterers, and
other assorted servants of capital for the G8
numbered in the thousands, the vast majority of
participants in the summit would have to be driven
in from nearby cities.

The idea captured the Dissent! network: Well-placed
blockades on the motorways could paralyse the
summit. A large-scale blockade scenario, involving
not city streets but rural motorways, had already
been experimented with earlier around the G8 in
Evian. Now, this idea could be revisited in the
Scottish countryside, with far better preparation.
It was a difficult concept even to formulate, and
somewhat doubtful at times, but it made sense: If
delegates, staff, and media coming in from hotels
could be physically stopped from getting to the G8,
the meeting would be shut down. Even if eventually
many made it through, a blockade would at least
disrupt the meeting and send a message to the G8
that it could not ignore. The sheer number of places
the delegates could be staying was confusing, but it
seemed likely that a mixture of urban and rural
convergence centres at major cities, with at least
one near the A9, would be best. To top it all off,
the Gleneagles Hotel was surrounded by hills. One
group formed to promote the ancient Scottish hobby
of "hill-walking" across the countryside of
Scotland, a time-honoured occupation and
hard-fought-for legal right in Scotland. Its plan
was to meet at the Gathering Stone in Stirling and
walk right over the Ochil Hills. Once on the hills
they would light "Beacons of Dissent," fires on the
top of the hills that could be seen by the G8
leaders below in their hotel, and then descend upon
the hotel, not to be stopped until they were having
a whisky at the hotel bar in Gleneagles.

As a network, Dissent! continued to sponsor the
policy of no "official Dissent! actions," but at the
network gatherings autonomous action groups began
forming and hatching plans around blockading and
hill-walking. Since the action groups were
autonomous and not representing anyone but
themselves, and their decisions did not need to be
ratified by the rest of the network, anyone was
allowed to join in any legally-risky
action-planning. On the other hand, people who
didn't agree with a particular action or who were
not in a position to suffer legal repercussions
could still participate in the Dissent! network. The
combination of hill-walking and blockades around the
roads to Gleneagles would be hard for any
centralised police force to deal with, and was
nearly guaranteed to disrupt the summit as long as
people showed up ready for action.


Convincing People of the Impossible


Would people actually show up for action against the
G8? There had been some activity in Europe: many
considered the prior G8 mobilisation in Evian,
France to be a success since blockades did manage to
substantially delay the G8 meetings, but Scotland
was considerably further away than Lake Geneva for
most of Europe. Many anarchists and assorted
anti-capitalists in England were probably more
familiar with the hotspots of Barcelona than they
were with Scotland. Nearly two years ahead of the
protest, the "Dissent! Publicity Group" began making
ludicrous amounts of stickers, posters, and other
pamphlets to announce the summit mobilisation
against the G8. These texts went through an often
painful but rewarding group writing process, and did
end up sounding like the voice of the genuinely new
spirit many of us were feeling in the heyday of the
"anti-globalisation" movement before the vultures
like Globalise Resistance moved in. An
"International Networking" working group formed, and
hosted a packed meeting in Tuebingen, Germany five
months before the G8. This made it much easier to
get the word out in Germany and for people from
overseas to arrange their travel. In outreach it is
often the small things, like helping to pay the
travel costs of anarchists from Ukraine and Russia
(where the G8 will be in 2006) that build true
international solidarity. When it appeared there
might not be many Mediterranean activists at the
mobilisation, a series of workshops was organised in
Spain and another International Networking Gathering
took pace at Thessalonika in Greece. In Britain
itself, at every major and minor activist event,
from the autonomous spaces around the European
Social Forum in November 2004 to an anarchist
ballroom dance in Cambridge, the word spread that
something big was going to happen in Scotland during
the summer. Towards the end, a large print-run of
small stickers was made, and these proved to be an
immensely effective tool in spreading the word about
the G8, as they were easier to put up than
fly-pasted large posters and stayed up longer.

The Dissent! network made an effort to ensure its
media policy did not create leading spokespeople.
Too often in anarchist groups one person, usually a
white male, gets labelled as the "leader" by the
media, usually through talking to the media about
the message of the protest. One of the earliest
decisions by Dissent! was that "anyone who claims to
be speaking on behalf of the Dissent! network is
lying," in order to prevent any self-proclaimed
media spokespeople from arising. Only decisions and
statements approved by the plenary meeting of a
Dissent! gathering could be cited in the name of
Dissent!. However, local groups, working groups, and
individuals could make as many statements and do as
much media work as they wanted to, as long as they
were clear about who they were and spoke in their
own name. As a tool for preventing the media from
creating leaders, this policy was excellent. The
policy was misunderstood by many participants in
Dissent! as explicitly forbidding all media work,
and confounded by so many anarchists' overt opinion
that all media coverage was to be inherently
negative. Local and working groups did not for the
most part deal with the media at all, with only a
few of them occasionally communicating to the media
through a collectively written press-statement. In
turn this led the media to more or less make up
whatever they wanted to about the "sinister"
Dissent! network, and ironically ended up in a
situation where the cops and corporate media were
the only ones "speaking" for Dissent! to the media.
While the corporate media are, with a few notable
exceptions, scumbags who are interested in making
anti-capitalists look like deranged axe murderers,
this media policy didn't make it easy for anyone
outside the anti-capitalist scene to feel sympathy
towards or even understand Dissent! or the radical
anti-capitalist analysis of the G8. In the final few
months before the summit, a media-group called the
Counterspin Collective formed itself. The
Counterspin participants sent letters to the editor
regarding the sensationalist British media's
outright lies about the "dangerous anarchists," and
helped individuals who were prepared to be
interviewed as individuals. Members of this group
acted as a go-between for mainstream journalists
through a "media phone number" that they advertised.
A group within Dissent! even managed to get an
opinion piece published in the "Guardian" newspaper,
where the efforts of Make Poverty History and Live8
were called the world's first "embedded protest,"
pointing to how they allowed Blair to co-opt,
domesticate and diffuse the struggle for global
justice.


Even the Rock Stars Mobilise


Throughout the two years leading up to the G8, other
groups and networks against the G8 started organising
their own large-scale activities. The Southeast
Assembly, an anti-authoritarian network around
London, took on the ambitious plan of hiring trains
to transport protesters from London to Edinburgh for
the mobilisation. This was viewed as a way to
increase the level of anarchists' organisational
capacity by taking care of some of the necessary but
unglamorous and expensive work, such as booking
transport, that is normally left to the traditional
Left and socialists. One interesting thing to note is
that instead of organising exclusively in large
cities, Dissent! made it a priority to organise in
smaller towns that were in need of more momentum and
conveniently had less police surveillance.

At the same time as Dissent!, two years before the
G8, large NGOs such as Oxfam launched a massive media
campaign and strategic alliance to "Make Poverty
History," a campaign centred around asking the G8 to
cancel third-world debt, enforce “trade justice,"
increase aid to developing countries, and – in a
very radical gesture – not let privatisation be the
condition for any aid or debt relief. While this was
a fairly radical agenda, in practice the campaign
consisted of wearing white wristbands manufactured in
a Chinese sweatshop and pinning all hope upon the G8.
"Make Poverty History" was seen by many anarchists in
Britain, and many NGOs actually composed of Africans,
as a literal whitewash of the power held by the G8 by
the largest British NGOs. Even within “Make Poverty
History," many of the more radical NGOs like “War on
Want" began heavily criticizing the endless heaping
of praise upon Blair and his chief economic wizard
Gordon Brown, as well as the fact that Oxfam, Comic
Relief, and the more conservative NGOs were
effectively dismissing their agenda in their attempts
to coddle to the G8. It appeared some of the NGOs
might even be sympathetic to Dissent!

At the mobilisation against the G8 in 1998 in
Birmingham, many of these very same NGOs under the
banner “Jubilee 2000" formed a human chain around the
G8 during its meetings. This was tactically useful
and provided a great counterbalance to the direct
action that took place in City Centre. This time
around the NGOs did a massive media campaign that
took "marching in circles" to a whole new high: "Make
Poverty History" hoped to mobilise two hundred
thousand people dressed in white to form a white
armband around a non-existent target in central
Edinburgh an hour away from Gleneagles and on the
weekend before the G8 actually met. There is
something to be said for bringing so many thousands
to Scotland for issues of social justice. This was
massive mobilisation for the wrong date and the wrong
place.

Later in the day, the manipulative Trotskyist
Socialist Workers Party (SWP) quickly put together a
front-group called "G8 Alternatives." Originally they
wanted to hold a corporate rock concert in order to
distract people from direct action and sell them
newspapers, but after the Scottish Parliament denied
them funding, they settled for an "alternative
summit" complete with a high price tag and big name
speakers. While Dissent! was based primarily in
anti-globalisation networks south of the Scottish
border, G8 Alternatives attracted many more Scottish
people due to the widespread socialist tendencies of
Scotland and good old-fashioned regular meetings in
Scotland that were widely advertised. However, the
grassroots constituents were more feisty than the SWP
bargained for, and after Dissent! revealed its plans
for blockading the G8, the leadership of G8
Alternatives, attempting to prevent a mass defection
to Dissent!, announced they would host a peaceful,
legal, and police-controlled march to Gleneagles.

A few months before the G8 meetings Bob Geldof (a
singer in the not particularly well-known rock band
“The Boomtown Rats") of Band-Aid fame decided to hold
simultaneous "Live8" concerts around the world on the
same day of the "Make Poverty History" march,
inviting everyone from the Pope to rapper Fifty Cent
to join in his call for the G8 leaders to do
something about poverty in Africa. The politics of
Live8 were murky and unclear at best, with no set
agenda besides celebrities grandstanding and
legitimizing the G8, holding them up as potential
saviours who under the pressure of a few rock
concerts would use their powers for good instead of
evil. In what could only be termed a truly
bewildering turn of events, Geldof then announced a
concert on July 6th in Edinburgh - the same day as
the blockades - and called for everyone to flood
Scotland. The police panicked as visions of half a
million confused pop fans wreaking havoc in the city
began troubling their sleep. Some anarchists viewed
this as a potential opportunity to expose hordes of
well-meaning and previously depoliticized people to
radical politics. The government was likely simply
pleased there would be a giant rock concert to show
on the evening news rather than protesters. Geldof's
second-in-command, Midge Ure, admitted that instead
of worrying about anarchists hijacking Live8, Live8
was hijacking the anarchists' event.

The Dissent! network steered clear of sectarian
warfare with reformist groups by being friendly,
while making no promises and consistently criticising
their reformist politics. The Blair spin-machine was
using anti-globalisation rhetoric to posit the
British leader as a responsible world statesman,
portraying him as the saviour of Africa and pitting
him against the Bush regime, in its refusal to admit
that climate change was real and man-made. In
contrast to many previous anti-globalisation protests
where the public seemed unaware and apathetic to the
issues, it became positively hip to talk about the G8
and anti-globalisation, and the forces of state and
capital seemed to be positively aping some early
Naomi Klein article in their rhetoric. Even Gordon
Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was spotted
wearing a "Make Poverty History" wristband. It was
like some anarchist dream: people knew the world was
going to hell in a hand basket due to poverty and
climate change and were looking for solutions: the
main problem was that instead of relying on their own
ability to take action, people were petitioning the
G8 leaders, the very ones responsible for the
problems, to solve them. As one leaked document after
another showed, the G8 was not even going to agree
climate change was a "problem," and poverty in Africa
was only going to be worsened through further
devastating privatisation, even though a few small
debts might be written off. Not a big surprise since,
as the radical research group Corporate Watch had
already revealed, the G8 agenda had been stitched up
ahead of the summit in collaboration with the very
corporations destroying Africa and the global climate
- from Shell and Rio Tinto to Monsanto. One could
almost feel the disillusionment in the air: and now,
as the dreaded anarchists took the stage, this could
have been the historic moment when many people
finally understood that solutions to the problems of
the world could only come through direct action.


History Speeds Up!


Even though there was a strong feeling about doing
"something" at the Global Day of Action on the opening
day of the G8 Summit, it was felt by many that just
another spectacular protest was not enough. Instead, as
one group after another began formulating plans for
actions around the G8, the Dissent! network publicised
and connected the diverse tapestry of actions of many
groups, from a demonstration in front of the Dungavel
Detention Centre, where asylum seekers are imprisoned on
arrival or pending deportation, to the blockade of the
Faslane nuclear submarine base, where Britain's fleet of
Trident nuclear submarines is based, by Trident
Ploughshares and Scottish CND. These alliances were
crucially important: while the local anti-G8 Reshape!
groups were just starting in Scotland, Scottish CND had a
decades-old history of blockading and pacifist direct
action, and was widely applauded by everyone who disliked
the storage of all of Britain's nuclear weapons in
Scotland. The idea of focusing all energy on a single day
of action gave way to the idea that a diverse tapestry of
actions should be woven together, starting months before
the day of action itself.


The Month Before July 6th: Cre8 Summat


From the beginning, the Dissent! network tried make
its radical politics accessible to people of all
sorts. Anarchists in the UK were inspired by the "Fix
Shit Up!" community outreach actions in the previous
G8 Summit in Georgia, which connected the G8
mobilisation with local struggles. Tired of being seen
as merely destructive, anarchists saw it as crucial to
demonstrate how direct action was also "positive" and
constructive. It became a clear agenda for many
anarchists not only to attack the existing system, but
to begin to construct and demonstrate what the better
world would look like. As the sensationalist media
were bound to tell everyone that senseless anarchist
thugs were coming to burn down their homes, and as
Scotland had no previous exposure to such a large
anti-globalisation protest, some form of community
outreach was vital. The idea of a "Cre8 Summat"
(summat being local slang for "something") finally
took flesh when a group of permaculture activists
hooked up with campaigners in Glasgow to create a
community garden in a desolate patch of urban
wasteland, in one of the city's poorest
neighbourhoods. Although community gardens and social
services were usually supported by the kind, gentle,
and disempowering Scottish government, in this case
they wanted nothing less than to wipe whole sections
of the neighbourhood of Govanhill off the map, in
order to build the M74 motorway extension. In order to
do this, Glasgow Council had begun to shut down one
social service after another. Now, residents had
responded, even mounting a militant occupation in
order to reclaim their Victorian baths.

Early in June, after a few planning meetings with some of
the local residents, anarchists arrived in Govanhill
armed with spades and with plants carefully propagated
months beforehand. Since the land was unsuitable for
growing edible plants, having been a wasteland and dump
for years, truckloads of soil were brought in as locals
watched, interested but wary of the outsiders. One by one
people walking their dogs and kids riding their bikes
came through the garden, and were soon gardening
hand-in-hand with the anarchists. In this wasteland on
which the state was planning to construct a
supporting-column for the massive road, there soon stood
a garden with sculptures, paintings, flowers, and herb
beds. The Cre8 Summat ended with an all-day celebration
at which the entire neighbourhood showed up to party, and
local newspapers published encouraging stories about this
"new way of protesting." While the Cre8 Summat was going
on, it was announced that the M74 motorway extension
would be delayed by at least two years following
citizens' legal challenges. To its credit, the Cre8
Summat helped to empower people in the neighbourhood
around the project and demonstrated that people do have
the power in their own hands to bring about positive
change without waiting for the “sympathy" and “aid" of
any politician. Some of these people who would otherwise
not have been interested in the G8 got involved in Cre8,
and went on to participate in the rest of the G8
mobilisation.

www.dissent.org.uk
See story with pictures on:
http://scotland.indymedia.org/newswire
/display/2109/index.php
/2
The Month Before July 6th: Not One, but Three Convergences

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