The right wing media have tried to portray this response as the disrespectful behaviour of a minority. It isn’t. It is a fitting response to the death of a Tory prime minister who spent the entire 1980s wilfully attacking the poor and the working class, in Britain and abroad.
During her reign countless people lost their lives directly as a result of her policies – miners killed on the picket lines, ten Irish prisoners driven to death on hunger strike by her refusal to recognise their human rights, sailors on the Belgrano torpedoed on her order as their ship sailed away from a war zone, people driven to suicide by her selfish economic policies that increased inequality massively in Britain.
And of course in this city 96 Liverpool supporters died at a football match. She was up to her armpits in a conspiracy to blame the victims and their families for a tragedy that her hateful policing policies caused. And we have only just got an official recognition of how this cover up increased the terrible suffering that the families and survivors of this terrible event have had to endure for 24 long years.
Did Thatcher mourn for her victims? No. And we don’t mourn for her.
In Britain she destroyed industry after industry to break the power of the trade unions – in steel, in the mines, in the print and on the docks. She passed the most undemocratic and draconian anti-union laws in the west. She deregulated the banks and directly caused the regime of financial piracy that led to the recent financial crash.
Thatcher openly targeted our city – a city with strong trade union and socialist values –imposing savage cuts and then ousting a democratically elected Labour council that fought her. She launched her attacks on Liverpool after the Toxteth Rising in 1981, determined to make us pay for having fought back and determined to carry out a policy of the “managed decline” (her words) of our city.
After she had waged her neo-colonial war against Argentina in the Falklands/Malvinas in 1982 – a war designed to shore up Britain’s military prowess on the world stage and protect the interests of Britain’s bosses who could smell oil reserves in the South Atlantic and saw the islands as a potential future basis of operations – she returned to war on people she called “the enemy within”, trade unionists, workers, poor people and above all the miners. After all, the excuse that Argentina was ruled by a dictator didn’t wash given her lifelong support for the murderous General Pinochet in neighbouring Chile. This was a dictator she was happy to lavish praise on and arm to the teeth. He killed at least 30,000 Chilean trade unionists after his coup in 1973.
Thatcher spent untold millions killing Argentinians and then in 1984/85 bludgeoning British miners into submission after a year-long strike, and all for the same aim – to ensure that the country would be a land of plenty for the rich elite both at home and abroad. Mining communities were wrecked by her pit closure programme and criminalised by a police occupation of their villages when they fought back.
And having won both battles she went on, in her third term of office – to impose an unjust local tax on everyone – the poll tax. She brazenly piloted it in Scotland first in act of vengeful spite against a people who had rejected Toryism outright. This was one battle she lost as we fought back with all our might. Make no mistake, it may have been the Tory men in suits who moved against her in parliament, but they were only able to do it because we had made Britain virtually ungovernable through the great Poll Tax Rebellion.
During her time in office and even before she became prime minister Thatcher – who famously said, “there is no such thing as society” –did her best to harm all of those who stood for justice and equality. She took free milk away from schoolchildren. She sold off council houses creating a terrible shortage of affordable homes, she privatised industries and utilities so her loud mouthed mega rich friends in the City of London could make killing after killing on the stock markets. She closed down industries and then allowed a heroin epidemic to flourish in the ghost towns her policies had created.
She sponsored a wave of racism claiming Britain was being “swamped by immigrants” – and then unleashed a reign of racist terror by the police on black communities across the country, notably in places like Brixton and Toxteth. At the same time she propped up Apartheid racism in South Africa branding Nelson Mandela a terrorist to the very end. She used the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s as an excuse to attack lesbians and gay men, bringing the anti-gay law, Section 28. And in case students thought they were getting off lightly she laid the foundation stone of the long campaign to transform education from a right into a privilege for the rich by introducing student loans.
There is not one thing that Thatcher did that was good. Her life was a blot on our landscape. We are well rid of her – and we are outraged that at a time of major cuts in welfare she is being given a multi-million pound send off. What hypocrisy, what an insult to the poor of this country who are having to cope with the bedroom tax and the benefit cuts as over £10 million is spent burying a person the majority of people in this country despise.
Which brings us to the main point we should all remember as she is dispatched – Thatcher may be dead but her legacy of sacrificing the livelihoods, the rights and communities of the working class on the altar of profit lives on in her descendants. Cameron and his gang of Etonian toffs are trying to finish off the job Thatcher started. It is our job to stop them and hurl Thatcher’s legacy back in their face. Which is why on the day of her funeral Liverpool Trades Union Council renews its commitment to stopping the cuts, axing the bedroom tax, saving the NHS and supporting workers’ struggles here, across the country and across the world.
Don’t mourn Thatcher, organise against Thatcher’s heirs.
Commentaries on Margaret Thatcher’s death commonly claim that she polarised the UK. This ignores the fact that the UK was always polarised. It’s called class society. When the economy is in good shape the ruling class grant concessions to the workers; when the economy is in trouble they claw them back. The picture varies to some extent from country to country according to the differing strength of class forces, but the general principle holds true.
However, what is undeniable is that Thatcher dealt a severe blow to the organised working class by defeating the miners in 1985. This was payback time for the working class vanguard that had brought down the previous Tory government. Her legacy, however, was not just to severely weaken organised labour, but to build the ranks of the small capitalists – the petit bourgeoisie – by measures such as the Enterprise Allowance Scheme. Privatisation, and with it the widespread practice of outsourcing, further developed this sector, while the selling-off of council houses and the promotion of small-scale share ownership were measures aimed at encouraging a capitalist mindset in the working class.
As we view Thatcher’s success and the continuation of her legacy through Blair and now Cameron, it is easy to forget that even after the miners’ defeat there have been many moments when the tide could potentially have been turned. A quarter of a million marched on London when the second wave of pit closures were announced in 1992. How well I remember stopping at Membury Services and having copies of Workers Power practically snatched from my hands by the a militant horde of miners’ families and friends: they were ready to march on parliament, no question. But under the treacherous leadership of the TUC we all ended up on a ridiculous parade round Hyde Park with barely a passer-by as witness.
Such has been the history of struggle for the past twenty years: workers angry and up for a fight, but with little confidence anything will come of it after an endless series of disorientating surrenders by their leaders (remember the fire-fighters?). Meanwhile Thatcher’s other legacy – re-popularising flag-waving military adventures – has further cemented the control of the ruling class.
In the face of the retreat of organised, class-conscious workers, new forces have become prevalent on the left. The World and European Social Forums, the anti-summit protests and more recently movements such as Occupy and UK Uncut have been widely trumpeted, along with the massive anti-war protests, as a new source of hope.
In practice, however, a misreading of these large but often temporary movements had been fatal for the Marxist left. Overestimating the degree to which these were movements of the working class, left groups have drawn up wildly over-optimistic perspectives which have resulted in a search for quick fixes leading to disillusionment and internal division. In Workers Power there developed a schism between those old enough to have witnessed a confident working class vanguard and the young recruits who had not. In those circumstances those who proclaim the probability of imminent revolution will obviously be more enthusiastically received: the result was a split in what I believe to have been the healthiest, and previously most stable, tendency on the left.
Workers Power, along with most Marxist groups, attempted to orientate towards the social forums and new movements: we believed there could be a fruitful interchange between the new forces and the organised working class. But in putting theory to practice in Cardiff and Bristol, it soon became apparent that virtually all the activists radicalised by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and attracted to the idea of social forums were positively hostile to most of the ideas and practices in which my comrades and I had been educated. Why was this?
Many point to the opportunistic and undemocratic practices of the “traditional” left as the reason for the distaste for Marxism generally. And while it is true that the largest groups on the far left have been thoroughly cynical and bureaucratic in their methods, I do not believe the average social forumite would have made any distinction between these groups and those with a healthy, thoroughly democratic culture. The problem lies deeper and it is essentially one of social class.
Marx held that the working class would become the gravediggers of capitalism not just because, as the exploited, they have a vested interest in ending it, but because the conditions of their existence lead them to think and act collectively. When that ability to act collectively has been dammed up, however – the achievement of Thatcher and her heirs – the focus of rebellion passes to other forces produced but disenfranchised by modern capitalism: students, the unemployed, homeworkers, the struggling petit-bourgeoisie, left intellectuals, workers employed in small or family businesses. And, indeed, this was the profile of the social forums we built. Workers were in a small minority and generally employed where unions were non-existent or inactive.
Under these circumstances an individualistic ideology holds sway: the rights of the individual are paramount and any threat to these – for example through majority voting – is inadmissible. Although the argument against the Marxist left is generally couched as a difference between horizontal organisation and “top-down” parties, I believe it is the principle of collective responsibility which is the key. Under democratic centralism, or in a well-organised strike, everybody obeys a collective decision. There is no choice to opt out. That is the discipline necessary to prevail in the class war: the solidarity the ruling class fear, to which Thatcher’s anti-union laws and police truncheons aimed to put an end.
I am not arguing that the Marxist left has nothing to learn from the new movements. But equally I contend that Marx provided us with vital insights into the way society works which every rebel against capitalism should seek to understand. So too the tradition of democratic centralism developed by Lenin and the Bolsheviks. Otherwise Thatcher’s overarching aim – to destroy not only the organised working class but the ideology of socialism and the possibility of revolution – will have been all too successful.
“Mark Jacobs”, generally known as “Marco” has been identified as a police informer. “Marco” worked with Cardiff anarchists but was also known to the socialists active around the Cardiff Radical Socialist Forum: he attended forum events and meetings organising the 2008 demo against the planned military academy at St Athan, which featured some of the most draconian policing seen in Cardiff.
Cardiff Anarchists have issued the following statement:
“For four years the Cardiff Anarchist Network was infiltrated by an undercover police officer we knew as ‘Marco’. During that time we believe he had a number of key objectives – to gather intelligence and disrupt the activities of CAN; to use the reputation and trust CAN had built up to infiltrate other groups, including a European network of activists; and to stop CAN functioning as a coherent group.
By 2009 suspicions had built up, but Marco had so effectively messed up relationships and trust within the group, that we were not properly sharing or voicing our suspicions. In the autumn of 2009 he hosted a ‘goodbye’ dinner for the group, and announced he was leaving for a job in Corfu. After he left, texts and postcards arrived for some weeks, but then suddenly dried up, without explanation. His British mobile number was not recognised on dialling it and the Greek mobile number he had been using after he left barred incoming calls and texts went undelivered. His social network pages became untouched. Suspicions crystallised, but by now he had completely disappeared.
People who had been associated with CAN and the other groups he had become a part of in Cardiff, such as No Borders and Gwent Anarchists, tried to make it known within activist circles that the man we knew as Marco was an undercover cop. But without definite proof we were urged not to make unfounded allegations.
It was only when news broke on Mark Kennedy and Lynn Watson that there seemed an opportunity to establish the truth for certain. Following our leads, on the 14th January 2011 the Guardian obtained confirmation that he was indeed a serving police officer. We don’t know exactly how this was done, but believe that confirmation came directly from ACPO, the Association of Chief Police Officers. We were not comfortable relying on the mainstream media in this way, but all our previous attempts to properly establish who he was had come to nothing.
Marco worked on us (not with us) for four years. He developed strong personal relationships and some of us feel an enormous personal betrayal. But he also deliberately and systematically set out to damage a movement, and we think it is important that knowledge of what he did, and how he did it, is shared and discussed as widely as possible.
Possibly one of the most damaging things he did was use his CAN ‘credentials’ to infiltrate the anti-G8 Dissent network in Europe. CAN had been actively involved in Dissent and in the planning of mass blockades at the G8 in Stirling in 2005, and some members of CAN were keen to contribute to a wider European network. But CAN was a small group, and very few amongst us had the time and money to travel to international meetings. Marco of course, had plenty of all of these, so it was easy for him to step up and get involved. In at least one case he attended European planning meetings alongside Mark Kennedy. It is likely that their activities seriously damaged the organisation of protest at the G8 in Germany in 2007.
Notably none of the three undercover cops so far uncovered went to the G8 in Russia. Marco was due to attend, but pulled out at the last minute – presumably unable to get agreement from the Russian government, or authorisation to act without their knowledge.
Like Mark Kennedy, Marco also sabotaged environmentalist direct action. In 2007, having managed to get himself included in the planning process for an action against the LNG pipeline terminal at Milford Haven in west Wales, he was able to pass information to the local police that resulted in the arrests of a number of activists. All criminal prosecutions ultimately collapsed, but not before the police had raided houses, including Marco’s own flat, and obtained computer equipment in what seems to have been a massive fishing expedition.
Much of Marco’s time though was spent getting involved in all the normal activities of a political group – meetings, film showings, gatherings and events designed to provoke discussion and debate about radical politics. We believe that in at least one case – the showing of an animal rights film with an accompanying talk – he put on an event purely to gather intelligence on the people who would attend. He was also keen on being involved in projects where there was co-operation with other groups, such as the campaign against the privatisation of military training and the building of a new defence academy at RAF St Athan. Looking back now we can see he was carefully but consistently disruptive. Despite his obvious competence, whenever anything – building contacts, outreach, transport – depended entirely on him, it would come to nothing.
Damaging the structure of CAN was undoubtedly a key objective. He changed the culture of the organisation, encouraging a lot of drinking, gossip and back-stabbing, and trivialised and ran down any attempt made by anyone in the group to achieve objectives. He clearly aimed to separate and isolate certain people from the group and from each other, and subtly exaggerated political and personal differences, telling lies to both ‘sides’ to create distrust and ill-feeling. In the four years he was in Cardiff a strong, cohesive and active group had all-but disintegrated. Marco left after anarchist meetings in the city stopped being held.
Reading this, you’d be forgiven for wondering why the hell it took us so long to suss him out, and why we weren’t more sceptical and less trusting. Marco had no obviously apparent life outside activism. We never met his family or his supposed mates who shared his passion for rock music, although he would at times claim to be away at gigs out of town. He told us he had no wife and/or kids. His house was fairly spartan and his job as a truck driver also allowed him an excuse to be away for prolonged periods without arousing suspicion. Also, despite a stated desire to be ‘where the action was’ he was very reluctant to get his hands dirty by being an active part of direct action or confrontation with the police. These things all together should have been enough to at least get us asking questions.
We may well have been a bit naive, particularly in assuming that we weren’t important enough to be infiltrated. And the man we knew as Marco was very good at deflecting suspicions. He was likeable, personally supportive, funny and very useful to have around. He was, like Mark Kennedy, a driver. He took minutes, wrote, edited and distributed newsletters, made banners, and went to the boring meetings no one else could be bothered with. He was able to exploit people’s vulnerabilities to either get close to them, or make them feel isolated and excluded. He was a very good manipulator.
All of us who were involved with Mark Jacobs are reeling with anger, resentment and guilt. Our failure to see through his charade caused great harm to people both here in Cardiff and across Europe. We are aware that Marco was not the only cop operating, and that the fault, particularly on a European scale, is not all ours. But still, we feel a collective responsibility and sense of failure over our part in this.
Having said all that, we need to look forward, and it is important to learn the right lessons from what has happened. We feel strongly that it is important that the movement does not succumb to paranoia and suspicion. Marco worked hard to sow distrust, dislike and suspicion amongst us, and it was allowing him to do that was perhaps our biggest mistake.
We also feel that it is mistake to paint ourselves as powerless in a situation like this, or to seek sympathy in the media as the victims of an unfair and all-powerful state. We can see how this might be tempting for propaganda reasons, or to win the support of mainstream politicians or the liberal press, but it is ultimately a disempowering act. The actions of the police and the UK state in this affair are disgusting, but not surprising. We, as a group and as a movement, were infiltrated and abused because we took, and encouraged others to take, militant action against a string of colossal injustices. Simply put, we took a determined stand against what we saw as wrong, and every time we were proven right. On the abhorrent war in Iraq; the corrupt and immoral arms trade; the injustices meted out in our names by the G8; and the scandals of man-made climate change, we stand by the rightness of our actions. We reject the authority of the state to tell us how, when and where to make our resistance, and we encourage further struggle and dissent. They come at us because we are strong, not because we are weak.”
Use email, facebook, texts, phone calls to advertise the time AND PLACE of your protest. But it may be wise to set up an anonymous email address and facebook profile so you don’t end up getting personally victimised.
If at any point you are asked who has organised the protest, say it “has been organised collectively by lots of students together”
In towns and cities where colleges, schools and universities are close together, we want the protests to converge.
In particular, we would like to see university students planning to march around their campus, bursting into lecture theatres and spreading the word.
Then they should march to the next school/college/uni, picking up local protests, so the demonstration gets larger and larger.
On the day
Make sure you turn up to your initial meeting point (which should be in a highly visible location) with placards, whistles, and good chants. We will list some suggestions below
Grab students planning to go into their lessons, and persuade them to join your protest.
After creating lots of noise and pulling in lots of students it is time to take to the streets! Don’t be afraid to block traffic if you have enough people and most importantly:
AS SOON AS YOU WALK OUT SEND TEXTS TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS IN DIFFERENT SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES TELLING THEM YOU’VE WALKED OUT AND ENCOURAGE THEM TO DO THE SAME.
When you’ve linked up and converged with other walkouts in your area march around your local town and city.
You can finish up with speeches, a meeting on how to continue the struggle, or even occupying a building at the local university if uni students agree this is possible.
Saturday 28 Aug – 11:00am – 5:00pm, 143 Ninian Park Road, Riverside, Cardiff.
Help Dr Conker’s Bookshop raise money for the South Wales to Gaza convoy. 1000s of books in all categories. 50% of all book sales made on the day will be donated to the convoy.
SOUTH WALES TO GAZA URGENTLY NEEDS DONATIONS
Cheques can be made payable to Palestine Solidarity Campaign Wales can be sent to Gaza Convoy c/o PSC, 19 Heol Dowlais, Efail Isaf, RCT, CF38 1BB
or paid direct to:
Account Name: Palestine Solidarity Campaign Wales
The Co-operative Bank
Sort Code: 089003
Account no.: 5005402200