Springingtiger's Blog

Thoughts on Direct Action


Yesterday I was pondering the legality and desirability of political violence. Long before an activist in the quest for freedom and justice stoops to violence there are many other forms of direct action they can take in concert with the ordinary political process perhaps, but certainly before turning, however justifiably, to the bullet and the bomb if such action can ever be justified. Most direct action is aimed at the supporters of the government who tend to be those who in turn profit from the government’s favour. These are largely those in business or who’s support has elevated their social position.

The first, simplest and least violent direct action is to undermine their status. At the moment there is a social media campaign exposing the hypocrisy of Tory MPs who have in the past expressed support for the disabled yet have willingly voted to reduce their financial benefits and protections under employment law. It may not have a major impact on these hypocrites, but these campaigns are cumulative and each time hypocrisy or dishonesty such as corruptly claiming expenses to which they are not entitled is exposed, they become more susceptible to defeat in election. Better still in some cases it may be possible to so compromise their position that they have no option but to resign. Every attack which hits an individual MP or party supporter must wherever possible be extended to reflect discredit on their party as a whole.

Social media can also be used to support the next level of action which is the economic boycott. Where a company has directors or major shareholders who support the oppressive regime then they can be damaged by attacking their income. The obvious way is to persuade people to refuse to purchase their goods and services, it is not illegal to make informed choices when shopping. Beyond the boycott comes the picket. In the case of business premises a picket or protest directly confronts those who would buy from a company with the possibility of making a more ethical choice and embarrasses those who enter.

The picket is also a useful tool when the direct action is withdrawal of labour, a strike. So effective is picketing that the Trades Union Bill had been drafted to effectively make it illegal. This is the point where laws may have to be broken and mass picketing carried out contrary to law. There will be consequences, however if people acquiesce to injustice they effectively perpetuate it. Had our ancestors meekly bent the knee to authority there would today be no trades unions and no Labour Party. I know some would say we no longer have a party of Labour, but I think that is changing as the people take back their party and that too is direct political action.

Some of us remember and were inspired by the ‘work in’ at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders. As well as striking and picketing it is possible to deny employers access to their property. Obviously this is illegal, but there comes a point where breaking the law is the responsible thing to do for the good of the people and generations to come. It is not only employers against whom an occupation may be deployed, but organisations. Courthouses can be prevented from conducting business, however it should be born in mind that this may deny some people justice. The premises of a political party or a newspaper or television studio might be an effective target for a protest occupation. Again it has to be born in mind that such action may incur legal penalties.

Hand in hand with the occupation of a company’s premises comes the virtual occupation of an organisation’s online premises. The Distributed Denial of Service attack on an organisation’s online presence is probably best left to those with the technical know-how to organise it. However if called upon to support such an attack and bring a political organisation’s website to its knees most people can engage to some extent. Obviously a group coordinating such an attack may, if they can be found, suffer legal reprisal, but individuals merely seeking information from a website at an inconvenient time can hardly be blamed if a company’s resources prove inadequate.

More serious still is the deliberate hacking of an organisation’s websites and servers. Fortunately I don’t know how to do that sort of thing and so I cannot comment, but I gather the Establishment frowns on such things so it’s probably a good thing. Hacking and DDoS attacks are I think the online equivalent of good old fashioned sabotage. In Britain workers have an honourable history of destroying property in the pursuit of justice and fairness. There is no question that deliberately damaging a company or organisation’s property is a criminal offence, however worthy the cause in which it is conducted.

At the end of the day I suppose the activist has to ask themselves just how far they are prepared to go in support of what they believe or how extreme an action is justified by the cause. For example the unpopular joining together of two schools probably should not excite the same level of action as removing the rights of trades unions to organise or for a country to run its own affairs. I do believe that in direct action people should begin gently and only escalate if necessary. Hopefully direct action whether legal or illegal will produce sufficient results to prevent anyone feeling the need to engage in violence. At the end of the day the laws are drafted by those in control and sometimes along the way to putting democratic control in the hands of the people laws have to be broken before they can be changed.


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