The Post Bag: Letters To Squall
Spikey Vs Fluffy
Squall 14, Autumn 1996, pg. 70.
Oh no, not the fluffy/spikey “debate” again!
As someone who was actively involved in the anti-Poll Tax struggle, I find the whole argument about Trafalgar Square/the Poll Tax/”violence” in previous Squalls absurd.
The first question is whether the Poll Tax was really defeated? If you look at how much more tax the poor pay now, how much less we get for it, how much the political and financial autonomy of local government has been crushed, it is hard to see anything that could be called a victory.
But what was a massive victory was the movement itself, the involvement of millions of people in everything from simply not paying to fighting the cops, supporting those arrested and jailed (despite attempts by the state, media and “leaders” of the movement to marginalise them), going to prison with pride or moving on to avoid the bailiffs, fighting in court and publicising scams, defences.… Without all this the Poll Tax would soon have become just another bill to not pay for as long as possible, another individual problem rather than an act of solidarity and strength.
The different battles turned the Poll Tax into a focus of resistance for millions, a symbol of all that was sick about the state. The Battle of Trafalgar did not happen because some people decided that a riot would stop the Poll Tax, but because people had been pushed too far, and were attacked again in a situation where we had the strength to hit back hard. Is it possible to look at the scaffold pole going through the cop car window without thinking of the Battle of the Beanfield when hundreds of cops did the same to travellers’ families? Revenge is sweet and solidarity is beautiful.
We spend our lives taking shit and humiliation, holding back the anger, covering up the despair and forgetting our needs because we can’t afford them and we have to get up in the morning for another round. Single issues and causes change nothing unless they offer us the strength and opportunity to get back a bit of our lives, dignity, solidarity, and then there’s going to be explosions because our needs are more than just to stop the Poll Tax, JSA, CJA, Asylum Bill, nukes.... and because we’re sick of having to leave our own needs and lives out of our struggles, as well as our daily existence.
We also need more than to dance, to have little corners where we can do our own thing. The Dance has become a desperate attempt to escape, to find Fun in a fun-destroying world, and when the music stops we all return to our seats. The Dance of Trafalgar Square changed lives, offered hope and showed new possibilities, and we need to find new dances where the joy of life, of ourselves and others, doesn’t end with the intrusion of the “real world” - dances that take over the land, computers and machines and use them for our needs and lives instead of as tools to force us to work. There are times when our dances can’t take up bricks and bottles because we aren’t always strong enough (and sometimes there are better means), but when we can we have to, to break the violence of poverty, misery, oppression and humiliation, to reclaim our bodies and our world which are tired out and constrained by exploitation.
We are beautiful, we are strong and our dance will remake the world in our own image.
No, Trafalgar Square did not defeat the Poll Tax, but it was a step toward our liberation.