Slavoj Žižek commented in support of the wing of the tuition fees protest that stormed Tory HQ in 'Violence Revisited,' his recent lecture at Birkbeck College:
People saying you could have delivered the same message without violence. F*ck them! Of course you can deliver the message. But nobody would hear the message. This is what they like, that 100 people gather and write a message and then you don’t even get the bottom note in the day's paper … You have to break some windows to get the message through.
Visit Backdoor Broadcasting to listen to the lecture and Q&A.
Over at the New Statesman, Daniel Trilling's fine article "Of Culture and Anarchy" provides some historical background to the British tradition of dissent:
At St Peter's Field in Manchester in 1819, a peaceful crowd numbering well over 60,000 assembled to see the radical politician Henry Hunt demand universal suffrage. Soldiers charged the crowd on horseback, killing 15 people and injuring hundreds. The Peterloo massacre, as it became known, inspired Shelley's poem "The Masque of Anarchy", with its exhortation to "Rise like lions after slumber/In unvanquishable number!".
Shelley's lines, and innumerable other voices of dissent can be found in The Verso Book of Dissent.
Trilling also raises the question that had there been no direct action, "would anyone have cared about the demonstration otherwise?"
Trilling takes his inspiration from Raymond Williams' "A Hundred Years of Culture and Anarchy," first delivered as a lecture in 1969, which argues that "the intellectual sleight of hand practised by critics of direct action is to overlook or obscure the root causes of public anger." Trilling observes,
In the current context, it is notable that David Cameron, fresh from a trip to China where he had been piously preaching human rights (although not to the extent that it might sour trade relations), made no significant comment on the Millbank occupation until a group of lecturers from Goldsmiths College in south London praised the "magnificent" demonstration. Their transgression, which brought swift condemnation from Downing Street, was to point out that "the real violence in this situation relates not to a smashed window but to the destructive impact of the cuts."
Visit the New Statesman to read the article in full.
Today, the Guardian published a letter signed by almost 300 academics pledging their support of university and school students when they stage a day of action this Wednesday, 24 November:
We intend to fight with them in our institutions to defend social science, humanities and the arts, and to protect higher and further education for all.
Visit the Guardian to read the letter in full.