April 1, 2011 by cosmoakacitizensmith
If the government closed a cancer ward your dad was on, causing him more pain and suffering, would they have committed a violent act? If you helped trash a government building in response, would that make you a criminal?
Demos like the one on Saturday 26th March last week are full-on collective experiences of joy, anger, exhilaration and power. It’s like life’s volume control gets turned up to 11. For me and the people I went with, the TUC March for the Alternative was no exception.
There are some who say that marching from A to B is a waste of time and changes nothing. They may advocate a more provocative approach, such as Black Bloc tactics, or occupations like UK Uncut. There are others who are disgusted that people can’t keep things peaceful and civilised. But the fact is, in a demo of 500,000 people protesting against cuts, you are going to have 500,000 different responses to them. Anyone who wants to tell you what to do or how to feel is trying to take ownership of something ultimately chaotic for their own benefit. Usually an ego trip, in my experience.
This song is not autobiographical. It is set about 17 years ago during a demo against the Criminal Justice Act 1994. Many of us around at that time were (re)politicised by the campaign against it. I can see a lot of what we started then in the UK anti-cuts movement today. Good.
What do I feel about violence at demos? I think the term is bandied about lazily to cover a multitude of things, (see opening para). I’m certainly not like the “I” in this song, who will fight like with like. I’m more like the character Shez, getting in at the deep end and shouting (or possibly even singing) while it all kicks off around me, then “trembling in silence” back home at what I’ve seen. I’d find it hard to encourage people to do anything I wouldn’t do myself, but I see no point in telling people my response is more correct than anyone else’s. I can’t find it in me to utterly condemn.
I wonder what sort of anarchist that makes me? Or what sort of person?
Or maybe that’s not the point, and as the song suggests, in a society where so few can make changes so detrimental to so many, “violence” has some sort scary inevitability.
Some unsettling reading:
I was with a really cool crew! Thanks to all of ya! You can read what really happened at Trafalgar Square on this demo here! Laz provided the soundtrack for verse three and Gail took the photo at the top of the page – many thanks!
No Gods, No Masters
(To listen to the track, click below and press the play button. To download it, click on the arrow pointing down on the right bit of the thingy below. To share it on Facebook etc, get the embed code by clicking on the icon on the right bit of the thingy below).
I used to squat in Walthamstow of all the bloody places
But when I close my eyes I smile and think of the old faces
I didn’t have much money but I was up for a right old crack
My girl and I both left home and we never once went back
Our mates Shez and Sue said “Here you two, this CJB’s severe
There’s a demo uptown, come with us now you’ve moved in here.”
We set off on the tube, in those days peace and love our diet
But after some adventures we found ourselves a riot
Trafalgar Square was sunlit, a sound system out to play
Music loud and people dancing, aggro on the way
Old Bill forced their way in by the side road where we were
One whacked me around the head and things became a blur
Sue got stuck in there and then, no-one was gonna stop her
She grabbed a pole and swung it hard and then she hit a copper
My girl screamed and held me as the blows came thick and fast
We got shoved round in the crowd, oh, how long would this last?
Down the street some windows went in just as we ran past them
Beers turned into missiles, cops ran now that we’d outclassed them
I felt like I was in a cartoon, watching on the telly
I turned round to see Shez and my girl give it some welly
Then we knew we had to leg it as the horse charge started
I luzzed some bottles their way just as we departed
We headed to the jail where those arrested were all taken
Some were playing drums and chanting, some were badly shaken
Back at home our mission was the talk of all the whole street
In the pub there was a crowd who’d heard about our feat
Some said, “Good on ya, how else can we change the system?”
Others said “You crazy dickheads, what good did that do, then?”
Shez was in the corner, trembling in silence
He said he always gets this way whenever he’s round violence
On TV publicity while MPs scream disaster
It’s just the way that things will go till there’s no gods, no masters
Picket Line Party is my new album that I’m releasing one track a month for the rest of the year. More info on my website here!