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Direct Action against the war
Anarchist News No.3 February 2003
Workers Solidarity Movement
The large demonstrations all over the world against the war, on February 15th and before, have grabbed the media attention. In Britain 2,000,000 marched, and millions also marched in Rome, Barcelona and Madrid. In the US 500,000 rallied in New York. Alongside these, however, is a spreading wave of direct action. These protests are far, far smaller, in part because the mainstream anti-war movements have failed to promote (or even opposed) them. But they are significant because, as the politicians continue to ignore the popular anti-war sentiments, direct action is a way we can bypass them and start to bring this war to a halt.
The actions in Ireland have received some coverage. Last year there were at least six anti-war direct actions at Shannon airport, including one occasion when 150 people tore down part of the perimeter fence and invaded the runway. Three separate actions actually involved damage to US warplanes on the tarmac. An attack on a US navy plane cost a claimed 500,000 euros and has put the plane out of action for the moment.
In Britain there have been many military base invasions and attempts to blockade bases and naval ports. Airbases where activists have entered the base include RAF Fairford and Midenhall, home of the U.S. Air Force's 100th Air Refuelling Wing. Military bases blockaded have included Feltwell and Northwood. An ex-marine attempted to blockade the gates of Portsmouth Naval base on the day the Ark Royal was due to leave for the Gulf, while later on the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior accompanied by smaller boats blockaded the entrance to the port to delay the departure of military supply ships.
In the US itself actions have varied from minor ones like the smashing of the window of a Marine corp recruitment office during a demonstration in Pittsburgh to a 2,000 strong breakaway march in San Francisco that attacked the British consulate and the INS offices (The INS are involved in a program of interning hundreds of middle eastern men).
The most significant action that occurred in terms of future possibilities was in Scotland where two train drivers, taking advantage of their union's (ASLEF) anti-war stance refused to drive a munitions train. If Shannon workers decided to boycott all military related work at the airport then the US would be forced to go elsewhere, whatever Bertie and co. want. Halting refuelling is a realisable aim.
Though it would make little difference to the US military, it would be huge encouragement to people world wide opposed to the war. But talking is not enough. To achieve this goal we need mass, non-violent direct action at Shannon. Whether through airport workers' strikes or through mass, non-violent, direct action in the airport. Already World Airways have been forced to reroute at least 17 military flights away from Shannon.
We need to continuously escalate the costs to the State of the US "stop over", both in terms of security and bad publicity. This is the fastest way to achieve our goal. If workers at Shannon boycott military work or enough other direct actions happen (particularly ones where planes are damaged) then the US military will stop using the airport. This on its own won't stop the war but modern warfare requires a huge supply chain in order to keep it going. (A simple example - the Abrams tank requires five gallons of fuel to drive one mile). Shutting Shannon will have a small direct impact on this supply chain but [as shown above] there have also been protests at other European air and naval bases. So the real impact would be encouraging anti-war activists across Europe and the US in their struggles to shut local military bases.
We support almost any anti war initiatives - be they marches, pickets, individual direct action or whatever but we believe that all efforts should build towards disrupting the airport's business. This is the point at which we have most power to achieve a real result!
What is Direct Action?
Direct action means using one's personal capabilities to have a direct effect on events, where and when one believes or can see that one can make a difference. Usually it takes place at the site of the event and often it involves those affected by it e.g. a worker's strike for higher wages.
It makes sense, therefore, to say that Direct Action is NOT writing letters to TDs and councillors, or in any way pleading with authorities. This kind of action negates one's own abilities to force change and ensures that power remains in the hands of a few. It is also demoralising as it becomes more and more obvious that this kind of 'action' is not action at all but a futile waste of energy, and the feeling of powerlessness just increases.
To participate in Direct Action, one does not have to run the risk of being hurt or arrested. It helps to be aware of one's own limitations, to ensure that at all times one is comfortable with whatever action one is involved in. If one is not prepared for the possibility of being arrested, for example, one can simply align oneself with others in the same position, and choose together helpful actions that do not put each other in danger. It may be as simple and 'safe' as forming a large group of people to stand in a roadway to stop others from being arrested. In this sort of case the Gardai will try and move you away for a while before they make arrests. So stand your ground as long as you think it is safe and then move off if arrests look likely.
Taking part or supporting a Direct Action
Many people will ask what does this mean in practice. As stated above, there are many levels of participation in an action, as well as many levels of support. People can choose to have nothing to do with it, to support it in small ways or to participate fully realising the consequences
Firstly think about what you want to achieve and the possible consequences - especially arrest. Sometimes people may be prepared and even want to be arrested but often it is possible to have an effective action and minimise arrests. Have clear aims and objectives but be imaginative, try to plan it and involve large numbers. Organise into small groups of friends (affinity groups), which can look after each other and, elect delegates to form plans with other affinity groups.
If participating in an action like a blockade or fence destruction use your common sense!
Leave your contacts books at home - save your numbers on your phone not the sim card, wear a comfortable pair of runners or shoes and be prepared to use them - mobility is your chief advantage! Once the action has been accomplished and people begin to disperse, don't hang around as the cops may be looking for someone to arrest.
Supporting an action includes a wide range of methods from de-arresting which requires a number of people prepared to do this, to just being a bit of an obstacle to garda movement - checking garda ID numbers, asking for ID cards, helping with legal support, transport and so on. When dealing with the guards you have a right to ask for number and ID but it is utterly pointless to lose your temper and go on an aggressive rant. In fact you may be done for it under the Public Order Act.
If you see a direct action taking place and don't want to get involved or are even opposed to it - respect others choices - the time for the political debate is afterwards - you may totally disagree but do you want to do the state's dirty work for it?