Despite insurrectionary anarchism being a known and notable strain on the continent, it hasn’t really been seen in the UK for the last forty years, since the Angry Brigade of the mid-70s. This week has however seen an arson attack and a bombing, responsibility for both have been claimed by cells of the “Informal Anarchist Federation”, a known international tendency primarily associated with Italian anarchism, but with links across Europe and beyond. Is this the start of a new tendency in the UK?
My knowledge of and appreciation for anarchism, a political movement that I previously wrote of as idealistic middle class claptrap has grown over the last decade, as I’ve appreciated the diversity of the strands within it and the background to their thinking, much of which chimes with my own. . My thoughts of anarchism were (are?) heavily shaped by the primary forms that it takes in the UK, which tends to be of the “vegan pot luck” kind. Do-goody, slightly moralistic and myopic toward the structural barriers which restrict access to hand-produced ethically sourced vegan combat boots, coupled with the highly individualistic manarchist contingent who consider any form of restrictions of their white man privilege as a gross invasion of their liberty. I caricature of course, and it was at the anti-G8 dissent camp in 2008 that I first started to have a new respect for anarchists, and meeting more since then who have a far greater grasp of the class struggle than my first encounters, I’ve come to appreciate and value much more of the anarchist tendancy and thinking.
Anarchist violence against property is far more accepted on the continent than in the UK, with insurrectionist anarchism a defined tendency. Despite media scare stories of baby eating anarchists, and a Black Bloc contingent on 25 March 2011 who managed a few paint smatterings and smashed windows, most anarchism in the UK remains of the fluffy variety. This week, however, there has been an escalation with two incidents in Bristol both claimed by anarchists associated with the Informal Anarchist Federation, an organisation strongly associated with Italy, although which has links with anarchist groups across Europe as well as inter-continentally, including Chile and Indonesia.
Working in a cell structure they attack infrastructure as a means not only of damage and disruption, but as an affirmation and a rebellion against unjust authority and its symbols. There have been previous violent attacks on property in the UK which have been claimed by anarchists, mainly in the south of England, including
- Destruction of Vehicles at UKBA – June 2013
- Temporary TV/Radio Blackout in Bath – January 2013
- Sabotage of Railway signalling in Bristol - May 2012
- Arson Attack on Lord Mayor’s car in Bristol – November 2011
- Attack on cash machines in Cambridge – May 2011
- Arson of Security and Surveillance Van – January 2011
These have generally been small scale with limited impact and well spaced out, these two attacks however are remarkable for coming so close together and also for their effectiveness.
The first, an arson of a police training building and associated attacks on security vehicles, was remarkably successful, with the fire at the building raging for almost twelve hours. Interesting the majority of comments on the responsibility claim were quite negative – suggesting that this action had put people out of work, had risked lives and had wasted taxpayers money. Although as a gun training facility for the police, who it is well known are very rarely prosecuted for any deaths that occur at their hands in a time when taxpayers money could be far better spent feeding people rather than controlling them and in the creation of socially useful jobs, the superficiality of the analysis provided by many is laid bare.
The second, a bombing of a branch of Barclay’s Bank was also in Bristol. Initially responsibility for the attack was claimed on Bristol Indymedia, who have now removed the communique, on the basis that it was considered incitement and consequently against the Indymedia Guidelines. In the statement, the group mentioned that this is the first time that they have used bombs, and indeed, it would seem that this is the first anarchist bombing in the UK in recent times. I’m willing to be corrected, but the last anarchist associated bombings that I can recall are the ALF incendary bombs which targetted department stores testing on animals in the 1980s.
While all of these acts have been targetted at property, rather than at people, in past couple of years there has been cases where death or serious injury is an intended result in response to government policies. Although there are no lengthy communiques, it is hard to imagine that they are not done as a last resort means of using violence to communicate the powerlessness that is felt at being a cog in the system and the seizure of power over the only thing that they feel that they have left.
In May last year, a man slit his wrists in Birkenhead Job Centre; the following month, a man set himself on fire in Birmingham Job Centre. In May this year, a man rammed his car into Norwich Job Centre, in July, another man drove his car into the front of Stafford Job Centre, hospitalising himself and injuring his two passengers, earlier this month, a former miner slashed his wrists in the middle of his local housing office in response to demands over the Bedroom Tax.
Suicides and untimely deaths are a consequence of the austerity policies being pushed by the UK government. Its policies are killing people. The excuse being given for this structural violence is that we must save money, although it was perfectly prepared to find the money to kill people in Syria.
The system is killing people; people are killing themselves in response to the system.
Is it such a surprise that people may want to violently attack the system?