Many thanks to the Anarchist Film Group for bringing back a lot of memories:)
★ POLL TAX? RIOT!
“It was totally gonna happen – there were thousands of ex-miners there with memories of what Thatcher did to their communities, every setting of the poll-tax rate in the London boroughs by scab Labour councils had ended in a riot. Travellers, anarcho-punks, crusties, ravers, mums and dads, people from the council estates and the shires, all came together for a brief, but beautiful moment and had a little taste of revenge. Didn’t go anywhere near far enough though.”
★31st March 1990, a beautiful sunny Spring day – great weather for civil unrest and an electric atmosphere. The Poll tax riots broke out in Trafalgar Square, London, after police attacked 250,000 demonstrators and got a bit more than they bargained for. The riots help spur more widespread opposition to the tax, introduced the following week, and was eventually defeated by a mass non-payment campaign.
And yet now, we are seen as nothing more than cash-cows, being milked by our useless local authorities. We pay more and more and get less and less – our services privatised and our property sold off to developers. Council Tax strike anyone??
We’ve Got the Power – The Poll Tax Revolt
A selection of personal accounts of the riot
As the title says, it was a very different world… Imagine an entire campaign including the protests, organised and built by word of mouth, street meetings, meetings in halls, leafleting, and postering. The important thing was word of mouth – on the streets and estates, down the pub, in the cafe, at work and at college. The post mortems after each meeting and protest took place face to face. Word of mouth, face to face… Real life contact between people where if you said you would do something, you did it. We’re talking about commitment, passion and a shared sense of anger that motivated people, not just pressing a (virtual) button on a screen and thinking you’ve done something. As for the ‘events of Saturday 31st March 1990, a protest that was weeks and weeks in the build, you could feel the buzz increasing the closer the day got. As soon as I turned up at the assembly point in Kennington Park, I felt that something was going to explode on the day…and it did!
Fast forward to now and it’s very different… Despite the scum spycops that the police deployed, they were caught on the hop on 31st March. There was only so much intelligence the bastards could gather in advance. With social media, all too often, we’re giving the cops way too much information in advance of many protests and actions. By spending too much time on social media, we’re also giving the state too much in the way of opportunity to manipulate rows and create divisions. The Internet has its uses, don’t get me wrong but it also has its many curses. Many of us need to step away from the screen and get more analogue in our methods and tactics. That particularly applies to the importance of real life face to face contact. As we go further into 2022, we’re going to make our own efforts to do that.
There will be a number of older comrades who will also point to the state of activism today. As they say in the classics – ‘we couldn’t possibly comment’. Let’s just say that ‘it’s complicated’ and leave it there…