Non-Violent Direct Action

I came across this piece while sorting out some old files from my pc - its the supporting statement I presented to the SP Conference several years ago for the discussion on Direct Action. Although there was some decent support for the item, Conference was generally agreed that NVDA was something socialists did not get involved in.

NON-VIOLENT DIRECT ACTION (Supporting statement from North East Branch) Socialist Party Annual Conference 2001

Direct action, or rather non-violent direct action, refers to a variety of activities the party is yet to contemplate, activity that need not compromise our position and which is only limited by the imagination. We do not list them here – we leave that to the imagination of the reader.

NVDA is something the WSM does not advocate because we seek to maintain a mantel of respectability (albeit in the eyes of the state). We prefer to leave NVDA to the Reclaim the Streets people and anarchist types. We seem terrified to incur the wrath of the state less they ‘close us down’, less we’re given a bad press, less people are turned off us.

Well the state might close down our office, but would this mean the end of the case for socialism?
NVDA has certain qualities. It publicises injustice, expresses the anger of the aggrieved, publicises the WSM case and the futility of reformism. It intrudes upon the complacency of the passive majority, arousing awareness of global issues and our response to it and disturbs the status quo.

In addition to our present, limited and often non-visible activities, we need some other device, powerful but restrained, controlled and explosive, more visible and obtrusive to get our message across – a more organised use of the techniques of dissent than have been tried by others pursuing direct action and civil disobedience as a means to an end.

One thing is certain – the workers are not beating as path to our door, salivating over our ideas and anxious to find out more. They never have and they never will. Most see us as some self-righteous sect, a Karl Marx fan club, intellectual masturbators, never perceived as getting involved in the day-to-day struggles of the workers, forever sitting on the fence saying ‘tut-tut, that’s not how it’s done.’

For many workers, they need to see more tangible, more overt propaganda before they’re prepared to take on board our ideas and get involved. They need to see us shoulder to shoulder with them in their daily struggles – maybe because actions speak louder than words for a lot of people.

The test or justification for NVDA is not its legality, but its morality; not law but justice for the exploited. And if civil disobedience brings us in front of the judges, could we not do with the oxygen of publicity that defending ourselves would bring? And what is the socialist case if it is not just? Would we not win more the respect of our class – at last showing them that we’re on their side – if we were prepared to get our hands a bit mucky now and again?

We have to ask ourselves how much we bloody-well want socialism!! That we are happy to stand one candidate in the coming General Election, when our case is premised on the argument that socialism must be established democratically, suggests a fair few of us pay socialism lip service.

Why should we show the state (the executive of capitalism) respect? Why should we seek the respect of the master class and the legal apparatus that protects it and which continually tips the outcome of the class war in their favour? Do the bastards respect the working class? Hell, no! Because of their system, their logic, 40,000 children die every day through starvation globally. Because of their system, 210 million of our fellows died as a result of wars fought in the 20th century. The master class have no respect for the environment and they are prepared to transgress no end of laws to see that their system continues and that we are held continually in a state of subjection. The new Anti-Terrorism act is even aimed at marginalizing and isolating protest groups, stifling any opposition to injustice. Protesting at hypocrisy, deceit and fraud is now a subversive act.

The point is, how much respect do we give and how much of their respect do we wish to win? How many more millions of our fellows have to die in the name of profit before we really start getting angry? How long must we bow with suppliant knee before them, acknowledging their laws, afraid of any adverse publicity the breaking of laws might bring. If the USA were to drop an atomic bomb on Baghdad tomorrow, we’d cover it in the Standard and prepare an EC statement (and really put the wind up the Pentagon).

The longer we show the present system the respect that we do, the longer the injustices continue. NVDA is not a departure from the socialist struggle, but is very much essential to it.
If we don’t start doing something now then history will pass us by and in a hundred years time we’ll still be mentioned as a footnote at the bottom of page 743, as a small Marxist sect that produced some interesting theoretical stuff from a naffy little office in Clapham.

Is NE Branch alone on this? Is the WSM capable of really getting stuck in (and before anyone starts taking the piss we’re not on about manning barricades and handing out kalashnikovs)? Is there more to being a socialist than theorising and discussing branch business?

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