"Anarchists, Trots and Idiots" were responsible for the violence on Wednesday, according to Caroline Flint on Question Time this week. She wasn't there, of course: she just knew. Someone ought to get James Randi on the phone because Luke Akehurst is exhibiting a similar talent with second sight. Luke's 'The Old Cancer at the Heart of the Student Riot' on Labour Uncut stands as the most miserably wretched commentary on the 10.11.10 demonstration to have been produced outside Tory circles (and even then he gives them a run for their money).
After whinging about how the protest was supposedly spoiled by a tiny minority (in reality, the occupation of Millbank was a mass action, involving anywhere between 2,000 - 5,000 people), we are informed that this was inspired by a most sinister enemy within. Luke writes of the protesters, "I’m not convinced they were all even students – I’m sure there were a good few rent-a-Trots and anarchists there who just came along for the scrap and wouldn’t have cared what the issue was ... Probably the same grizzled veterans of the struggle for dictatorship of the proletariat planned this little jape, updating their efforts only to employ social media as an organising tool." And Luke's evidence? Um ... he doesn't actually have any. There were no plans for insurrection organised via Facebook, no direct action organised on Twitter. Going by the accounts of people who were really there - including actual anarchists - it sounds as if the invasion of Millbank caught everyone on the hop. Police, NUS stewards, Trots, anarchists, all were left responding to the situation. If Luke has evidence to the contrary gleaned from afar via astral projection, he should present it.
He won't of course. Luke has form when it comes to this sort of thing, and just like witch-hunters of old suspicion is evidence enough. But Luke's pathetic calls to hammer the hard left, which hasn't been in the rudest of health for many a year anyway, show he's not only completely out of touch, but also is voicing the commonsense assumptions of a rigid and dogmatic form of thinking that is shared between Tories, LibDems and plenty in the Labour party: the idea of politics as a minority pursuit. In their world, only people like them are able to understand the problems society faces and have the political education necessary to make "tough" decisions. Differing opinions are okay if, and only if, they're relevant to and couched in the language of their managerial politics. The "activists" and the "grassroots" have some funny ideas, but as long as they knock on doors, stuff envelopes, do as they're told and try not to win positions in the party for themselves and their opinions, they're tolerated as a regrettable necessity.
As for the broad mass of people they're little more than spectators. They don't have opinions and interests of their own. They're a herd to be managed and manipulated. So if large numbers spontaneously begin doing things off the official script - such as protesting and occupying it must be the troublemakers of the far left who are to blame. For our political managers behind every outbreak of direct action or mass anger are the machinations of a shadowy central committee or the whispering of balaclava-clad anarchists. That people might be genuinely and violently pissed off is something that cannot be entertained: it challenges their elitist view of politics and the chummy constitutional carve-up on which their positions of privilege depend. Politics is their property, and they don't like being elbowed aside by manifestations of people power one bit.
What Luke and his ilk cannot see is how adrift they are from the people they claim to represent. They exist in a bubble governed by the rules of politics-as-usual and the media. It believes it condenses the defuse concerns of atomised Britons but in fact it only reflects back what they think these concerns are. And unsurprisingly these tend to reinforce what passes for their commonsense. Chris Dillow recently wrote that Nick Clegg can no more see his privilege than a fish can see that water is wet. He could almost have been writing about the inhabitants of the Westminster village.
Next time worthies pronounce on protest movements, offer advice and condemnation, or try to separate out particular minorities from the mass; remember that not only are they voicing their own interests and prejudices, they do so from a position of contemptuous ignorance too.