Yesterday marked the continuation and escalation of a campaign led by the decentralised activist network UKUncut against major UK businesses who fail to meet their full tax obligations. The first target, Vodafone, was actioned at numerous sites across the country and done with a level of organisation and effectiveness that came to many as a surprise while also eliciting genuine support.
This sentiment of surprise was founded upon the fact that such a de-centred and seemingly chaotic operation could come together so effectively and leverage such a level of disruption against one of the world’s largest multinationals. The target yesterday was Topshop, owned by tax exile and Tory adviser Philip Green and was actioned by the UCL Student Occupation also campaigning for a progressive agenda within their own campus.
It is this model of disorganised disruption and of dissent entrepreneurship that is at the heart of both the movement against the proposed increases in tuition fees as we are seeing today with the student protests (orchestrated in no small part by occupation’s such as that at UCL) and also at the core of the campaign led by UKUncut more generally that will unfold over the coming months.
This is a paradigm informed by decentralised and self-organising networks that are inherently more flexible, dynamic and are more capable of reacting to fast changing events than those of centralised, hierarchical organisations with bureaucracies that by their very nature hinder quick and effective decision making.
These networks such as the UnCut movement or the student movement with outstanding micro-organisations such as the UCL Occupation (which has received over 60,000 hits on its blog in a little under a week) who have so dynamically organised yesterday, today and going forward will inevitably be more flexible and effective than organisations with generic ‘leaderships’ such as major businesses, the police or even the National Union of Students.
With social media tools at their disposal such as Twitter, Facebook and Skype and the ‘feedback loop’ to inform actors on the ground provided by rolling news coverage these embryonic movements may seem like an organized chaos. Indeed in many ways that is precisely what they are and that is why they might just triumph.
The movement for change will be brought about by micro-organising, flashmobs and dissent entrepreneurs such as the flashmob organised by the UCL Occupation outside TopShop yesterday. The ground for how politics is conducted and coordinated is changing beneath our feet and with these new norms and structures for political contention and mobilization the world in the words of those great English radicals the Levellers is ‘turned upside down’.