(aka the fundamental human right for hipsters to eat their overpriced cereal in peace)
Okay, a Fuck Parade protest is held outside the trendy Cereal Killers cafe inthe East End of London. The first and most obvious question being – why don't the two sides just fall in love and get married?
In perhaps the most classic case of Eighties nostalgia we've had yet, Class War are back. Only this time they're rebranded as a political party, and stand in elections. On the same kind of reformist platform they always jeered at when anybody else did it. (Just about impossible enough not to be likely to happen, while falling way short of being genuinely radical.) But otherwise unchanged.
Rather than embark on all the hard work of grassroots social struggle their chosen method was always stuntism. Perform a shock-horror action, then get it replayed endlessly by an obligingly denunciatory media – a reaction out of all proportion to the tiny numbers involved. It's yippie-style theatrics in punk clothing. Combined with a crude and fetishistic notion of class, where everyone is either a diamond geezer knoworrimeanguv or else they're Boris Johnson. Despite what we've heard on rotation the last couple of days, the problem with Class War isn't that they threaten violence. Its that they peddle only the theatre of violence in order to become the panto villain in the media soap opera.
And what better target for a media symbol of working class resistance than a media symbol of gentrification? Those contemptible hipsters who run Cereal Killers were happy to get their smug mugs in the media as a symbol of the 'transformation' of the East End when they thought it would add to the queues of credulous yuppies willing to pay post-ironic prices for some soggy Cheerios in flavoured milk. There's been times where you could scarcely open the paper without being confronted by identical twins Twattledum and Twattledee. When it was pointed out to them they were operating in one of the poorest areas of London, so were effectively the bricks-and-mortar equivalent of burning a twenty in front of a tramp, they refused to even answer any questions on the subject. Since the protests they've been belatedly acknowledging maybe there is a problem after all, while stammering about it being a big broad issue and so nothing to do with them, at all, honest, no siree.
...which, inevitably enough, is the point the chattering class commentators have taken up and run with. Protests to them are like strikes to the Tories. They are not against them, they are always keen to insist. They're just against every single example of them which has ever happened in modern history. They sagely concede there are problems and suggest at more positive alternatives without ever... actually suggesting anything. The overall tone is a knowing shrug of the shoulders. “But, darling, it's so difficult even I don't know what to do? And I've got a column.” Bridget Christie is one example, but by now there must be hundreds more.
And it's important to note that Class War themselves are complicit in this. While the cafe got a bit of paint on its windows, the nearby estate agents Marsh and Parsons had its windows smashed. And really, who likes estate agents? This is overlooked by one side so they can continually harp on about the sacred nature of small businesses, as if they're run by benevolent and community-minded saints rather than money-grubbing profiteers. And also by the other, precisely because they see that media chatter as their oxygen of publicity. Class War founder Ian Bone has said bluntly “a broken window at Foxtons isn’t going to get any publicity at all, whereas we’ve seen what happens with independent shops. We’d be stupid not to.”
So if I don't side with either side you may well be asking at this point what I am in favour of? As ever, the best leadership is example. The resistance to social cleansing going on in London's Sweets Way estate has seen much less press attention. After all, its not based around meeting media expectations but the immediate needs of a local community. (Inevitably, most of the publicity it has seen has been via celebrity supporters, such as Russell Brand.) But also, its grassroots opposition to the powers that be will in the long run be more of a threat to them.
Watch how the Fuck Parade and the security guards behave in these two videos below. There's no point, of course, in directly comparing how 'aggressive' the two groups are. That's the sort of pat moralism that decontextualises and depoliticises events until nothing meaningful is left. Yet, just for a minute or two, let's take the media agenda and assume there is. Because there's really no competition. Despite all the hoo-hah, despite Twattledum and Dee in a classic case of entitlement culture calling the protests a “hate crime” (while inexplicably being able to open for business the next day) really very little happens. I've seen worse go on in the East End, or for that matter here in Brighton, on a regular Saturday night.
The behaviour of the security guards at Sweets Way is far more threatening, far more violent. Yet did it receive a fraction of the coverage the Fuck Parade did? I use my words advisedly. Did it fuck. The class war continues, just away from wherever Class War are. Real protest against gentrification goes on, local people working together just as they should. Just don't expect to read about it in the mainstream media.