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(en) Workers Solidarity #75 - Direct Action - your questions answered

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 6 Apr 2003 08:01:57 +0200 (CEST)

A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E

This article addresses Direct Action in the
context of the sometimes hysterical debate
about the Grassroots Network Against War
(GNAW) action at Shannon on March 1st.
> What is Direct Action?
Direct action simply means acting for yourself
without intermediaries. For example, with regard
to the use of Shannon by the US military we could
plead with TDs to plead with the cabinet to plead
with the US authorities to move their operations
to Germany. That type of action relies on other
people acting on behalf of you.

Direct action is simply where you act for yourself.
An example would be if thousands of people
occupied the runway at Shannon preventing US
Military from refuelling there.

Is Direct Action always Violent?

Nope, though they're not mutually exclusive
either. Anyway violence against people (as
opposed to property) usually originates from the
state forces as they react (by batonning &
imprisoning) demonstrators. The morality of
violence is a separate though not unrelated
question and, in my opinion, each use of force
needs to be justified on its own merits.

Why publicise a Direct Action?

In the afterglow of February 15th it was reasonable
to assume that a couple of thousand would show
up at Shannon. The reason for publicising it was
to encourage the maximum number of
participants in the direct action itself. The plan
to tear the fence down was dependent largely on
numbers. The fact that the numbers didn't
materialise was disappointing, and all the
publicity, far more than expected, probably served
to scare away people rather than attract them.

If people don't know about an event then they we
can't expect them to participate. Open
publication of the plan allows people to make an
informed decision about the extent of their
involvement. It minimises the chances of them
being drawn into events they are uncomfortable

On the other hand, it could be fairly argued that
direct action instigated by a few can be more
successful than a pre-planned one. For example,
the fence destruction at Shannon in October was
a spontaneous action instigated by a few which
led to a mass trespass. The very public plan on
March the 1st failed in its objective and may even
have appeared as a standoff designed to attract
media attention. I think there's merit to both

Does Direct Action frighten people off, particularly
those new to political activity?

This argument is often connected to the cry 'let's
build the movement' first. There are hundreds of
thousands of people against this war. The
movement is built. The question is what to do

There was no change in policy after February 15th.
We can either sit back and hope that the
government will change it's mind about refuelling
in Shannon or we can try to stop it ourselves

The latter is the harder option and it's entirely
possible that such attempts will be both
unpopular and a failure, but a start has to be
made. If direct action isn't appropriate at this
time and on this issue then it'll never be.

Direct action also leads to people feeling
empowered in the struggle as it has an achievable
aim and does not rely on our 'masters' doing what
we ask them.

If peaceful protesters are attacked by police then
surely it's the protesters' own faults ?

In the run up to March 1st concerns were
expressed that attempts to cause a security
breach at Shannon would bring violent retribution
form the security forces and therefore the action
was inappropriate.

This highlights the degree to which some people,
even anti-war supporters, are committed to the
legitimacy of State violence even if such violence
is used to continue an unethical policy in the face
of peaceful civil disobedience.

The GNAW demo, whatever its organisational
flaws, was intended to be entirely peaceful, as
indeed it turned out. At its most extreme a fence
was going to be torn down. This is so minor
compared to punching someone in the face or an
aerial bombardment that I'm embarrassed it
needs pointing out.

The security forces on the other hand were
prepared to violently resist this peaceful (or at
most barely aggressive action) action by thumping
people &endash; hence the batons &endash; and
imprisoning them against their will.

Therefore any violence was likely to come from
them and it is they and their masters who ought
to be called upon to desist from acting violently,
particularly as they were acting in the service of
an unethical (and unpopular) war. Excusing the
security forces because they're "just following
orders" has a long and inglorious history.

Is DA is a Distraction ?

A distraction from what? The Green Party
leadership disassociated themselves from the
actions of the Catholic Workers and the March 1st
demo partly because they considered such action
a "distraction". In fact the opposite is true. Every
time an action took place more attention was
focussed on Shannon, the scene of the Irish
State's complicity in the war effort.

Not only is direct action not a distraction it has
had specific positive results, namely the
withdrawal of some of the airlines ferrying the
hardware to the Middle East.

Ireland's role in the war is minor and no doubt
dispensable. Nevertheless it's our responsibility
to stop that involvement. It's not up to us to stop
the war, we can only change that which we have
control over.

But you must admit that the cost to the State of
securing the airport is a waste of taxpayers'

Defiantly true, the quickest way to stop it would
be to prohibit the planes from using the facilities
in the first place.

Aren't Workers strikes are the best form of direct

True again, and while we should do our bit to
encourage and support them there's no reason to
wait for them to do it. They mightn't be agreeable
to the anti-war case or they mightn't have the
confidence to risk going on strike. If we're going
to call for them to take a risk we should at least
be prepared to take a few ourselves. Workers'
strikes and breaching security are not mutually
exclusive tactics.

James O'Brian

This page is from the print version of the
Irish Anarchist paper 'Workers Solidarity'.

Print out the PDF file of this issue

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