The violence in London was a spectacle of the last desperate attempt of the public sphere to protect itself from the ‘monster-that-it-voted-in’ and is now unable to control. Cameron failed to mention the ruthless privatization drive before the election, yet is now emboldened on his mission because he thinks that he somehow represents the people (despite not having a majority). That’s the problem with representational democracy: leaders are unanswerable between ballots and their actions are over-legitimatised because of election (at least dictators can be legitimately overthrown!)
After the protests, we got the usual media reports arguing that it was a largely peaceful protest ‘ruined’ by a few ‘thugs’ who just used it as an excuse to vandalise. However, perhaps violence is the only thing that made the protests authentic and proved that they truly meant what they stood for. Furthermore, peaceful protests – especially since the 1980’s – have largely been unsuccessful. For example, think back to last November’s student fees rally, or 2003’s ‘Say No to Iraq’ – we all know how that one ended. Therefore, could the main reason that there has been so much public media discussion over the cuts be precisely because of the violence?
But the violence in London will not work. It was misdirected: the police are not the enemy, they are also experiencing deep cuts to funding. Therefore, if the law banning Police protest and strikes is repealed, the London protesters should put down their missiles and join them in putting pressure on the government. This includes the NUS, TUC, and any other acronym you can think of that is under threat from this unjust cutting of the public sphere whilst the tax on business elites is relaxed.
We must take Zizek’s argument that “sometimes, doing nothing is the most violent thing to do” as having a double meaning. Firstly, it is a call to be active and not to do ‘nothing’. In this sense, peaceful protests are a useful method to give a movement direction and public profile. But secondly, it is also precisely a call to actively do nothing suggesting that ‘active passivity’ can be more effective than violence. Withdrawal from participation in the system is the most effective way to put pressure on the government whereas violence just gives fuel to the government’s oppressive measures. In other words: don’t do nothing, donothing!
Overly-liberal readers, please do not simply follow the media and condemn the violence without a second thought. These people are fighting for you and your public services and your future. Instead, perhaps use your higher education experience and knowledge to help shape and direct this fight for public services in a more effective direction! Action might speak louder than words, but ‘active passivity’ speaks louder than violence. Protests against faceless banks and riot police are not going to stop the axe from falling; but a united front can.