Anarchist attacks in Bristol: crusty misanthropy
In recent months, police in Bristol have dealt with over 100 related acts of vandalism to police stations, military bases, banks, multinational companies, railways and churches. The police are in little doubt as to who is responsible – anarchists and animal-liberation activists – and have put up a £10,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of even one suspected offender. But, despite the attention, the activists have vowed to continue their campaign of vandalism. So what is fuelling this spate of property attacks in the West Country?
One anarchist, allegedly behind several of the attacks, says that the vandalism is the product of a general rage against mainstream society, its failure to live up to green ideals and its ‘unimaginative dreams’. Broadsheet sympathisers tend to agree, portraying the attacks as part of Bristol’s political subculture, in which anti-modern environmentalism and an attachment to alternative lifestyles have flourished.
Yet although Bristol’s anarchists dismiss officialdom’s environmentalism as ‘green washing’, green thinking is in fact central to policymaking today. In fact, the only people who are not interested in consuming less in order to save the planet are the working masses. For all their anti-establishment rage, many anarchists’ concerns about the environment and animal rights are actually shared by the political class.
Bristol’s anarchists also have something else in common with the political class: a refusal to engage politically with ordinary citizens. Rather than convincing people to oppose British militarism abroad, for example, Bristol’s anarchists torch a few cars and damage army property. Their actions might appear impressively militant, but at no point do the activists seek to win the support of other people.
It shows that Bristol’s green and crusty brigade prefer acts of vandalism and direct action to having to discuss political ideas with the great unwashed, especially those who disagree with them. And, as the protests against the opening of a Tesco store a few years ago demonstrated, Bristol’s alternative types are sometimes hostile to ordinary people’s need for jobs and cheap food stores. There is no political uprising in the West Country seeking to change society for the better; it is just a mirror image of the political class’s own misanthropy and anti-masses instincts, albeit with a few nose studs and an appalling dress sense.
Neil Davenport is a writer and teacher based in London.