Anger of a Doomed Youth
Scenes of 18 year olds smashing the windows of the Tory Party HQ were not what I expected today. I expected it to be big – possibly the biggest demonstration since the Iraq war protests of March 2003. But I didn’t count for the anger of a doomed youth.
The NUS were quick to criticise. But the truth is that this is what you get. This is what you get if you condemn people to a lifetime of debt. This is what you get if you force millions out of university and into the dole queue. This is what you get when you decide that a whole generation doesn’t care, and you refuse to care for the future of that generation.
The Tory HQ may have had a few windows wrecked today. But that’s nothing to the hammer that’s been taken to the lives of the people who were doing the wrecking – and to the hopes of their brothers and sisters, and the prospects of their school-mates and their friends.
I was there. And while we are told that this was a minority of radicals, what I saw was not just the usual suspects. I know many of the usual suspects. What I saw was 18 year olds who had never been to a demonstration before. Ordinary students who are fighting for their younger siblings, for the people a few years below them at school, for the kid next door – fighting to ensure that the next generation can afford an education.
So whether or not we condemn violence, whatever the NUS says, this will just be the start. Because a generation which has had our own apathy drilled into us is waking up. And politicians are beginning to learn that if you shut people out of education, and out of society, then they will break their way in.
What I saw today was not hardened activists hijacking a demonstration. It was hundreds of angry students doing what people do when they are angry: the anger of a youth who refuse to be doomed – a generation of students making it clear that today’s demonstration was not the last stand for publicly funded Higher Education; it was just the beginning.
UPDATE: you can hear me discuss this on Radio Scotland at 48 mins in here.
violence does change things ask the georgians or the hutus etc. its just rarely good.
non violent protest is not passive it is highly disruptive and thats the point. if the ballot box does not represent a strong source of feeling then you call strikes you go legal and do marches and occupations until so many people including the police, are with you that the government changes what they are doing. or you get enough people to vote on the issue. so seems to me that the students need training in nonviolent protest if they are serious about being disruptive of the status quo. just like in the civil rights movement etc. so is there anyone cpable of providing that support and supporting those jailed financially?
excellent article, Adam – so good to see eye-witness reports and analysis from people such as you available on the web. Helps balance the stuff in the media. Thank you, on behalf of many who currently make fewer appearances at demos (etc) than we once did, but who still wholeheartedly support all of you who are trying to make the world a better place through peaceful means that are in keeping with the ends that we all want.
Hmmmm… I’m not too sure about that Moose.
Do you really think that these sorts of decisions are influenced by violence or vandalism? Ok, so maybe it makes a protest newsworthy, which is a shame but the reality of the situation, but I’d be surprised if these things are the real drivers behind the decisions being made.
Maybe I’m wrong here, but whatever influence violent or vandalising protests have, it doesn’t make then any less wrong.
Like they do anything but laugh at peaceful protest.
If it didn’t do anything but “damage legitimacy of their fight” We’d have poll tax.
Quite right. I think the problem is that the media, which wasn’t really interested in the protest (it wasn’t ranking in the top 3 BBC stories) have focused entirely on the violence and very little on the overwhelmingly peaceful protest.
I’m disappointed that there seems to be such backing of this violence on here. Yes, the cause is a very worthy one, and people are rightly angry, but there is no excuse for this behaviour, and anyone who thinks that demonstrating in this way does anything but damage the legitimacy of their fight is a fool.
“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”
Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
Adam – “…there’s a big difference between breaking a window and dropping a banner off a roof, and assaulting/risking someone. Both happened, but there was much more of the former than the latter.”
Most definitely, and I had that same conversation with my flatmate when I got in last night. I’m hoping that Porter was just put on the spot yesterday – just as everyone is talking about empathising with the students, it’s worth trying to empathise with Aaron Porter rather than blanket condemning him. I’m hoping, so fervently, that he clarifies himself to be in favour of (non-violent) occupations and throws his support behind them, as he should (and said that he would).
Of course, one way to force his hand on that (and to show the press that students aren’t all violent) is to get some occupations going. Do them everywhere, do them properly, and pull the weight of the NUS along with them.
Always suspicious when people blame ‘Anarchists’
on fringes of marches.
This is a great inspirational start to a fightback – violence was a shame – at least no one was seriously injured.
Some people seem think the French are more genetically disposed to revolt, but hopefully this is a sign of more to come in the UK.
We can beat this lousy Con Dem coalition.
Did you not see the anarchists on our fringes on the march? Could count them on both hands at Millbank taking action. They were well drilled in what they do, used the mob feeling to carry out a lot of the work, carried out action and then melted away leaving the stirred up students who didn’t seem to know right from wrong to pick up the bar tab. Angry students? It wasn’t that simple. A catalogue of failures by all concerned led to this. A lot of the stuff people are saying online is not reliable, chinese whispers or worse, so don’t believe everything you hear right now.
As Seb & I facebooked – Aaron Porter was a fool to condemn the action. He should have taken it under his wing, explained why and then condemned the violence while supporting the occupation. His actions show the divides in the left and that the NUS lacks power/control.
I cannot see how anyone cannot empathise – frustration, disempowerment, debt, and more than anything, a political party that lied (thereby destroying any belief in the so-called democratic process). What options do young people have?
In other words, Mr Ramsay – I agree wholeheartedly.
Oliver – yes, I hate violence too, but there’s a big difference between breaking a window and dropping a banner off a roof, and assaulting/risking someone. Both happened, but there was much more of the former than the latter. The important thing to understand is why they happen. And the truth is that students are angry about how they have been screwed, and terrified about their future.
Violence always depresses me, but it’s worth remembering that it’s not that x% of students are violent thugs, or that x% of lefties are violent thugs, it’s that x% of the population are violent thugs. So it’s ridiculous to blame any one group.
I hate the way that it’s being portrayed (though it’s understandable that the media go for the easy story) but I can’t blame Porter for trying to get some distance from the violence and trying to focus on the principles behind it.
Political Dynamite expresses solidarity here – http://politicaldynamite.com/2010/11/why-the-millbank-students-deserve-our-solidarity/