As a cyclist I thought I might reflect on the Tour de France in Yorkshire in this week’s column, but I think everything I would want to say has been said elsewhere. Instead I’m looking again at the anniversary of the 7/7 bombings.
For those who haven’t heard me on this subject I will start be saying that like most people in Beeston (and everywhere else) I was appalled by the bombings. They were the act of a tiny minority who did not represent the community I’m proud to live in, whatever the international media said.
Nine years on the memorial to the victims in London was defaced this week with the allegation that innocent Muslims were framed for the bombings. I understand that many people in Beeston believe this version, although I’ve never met anyone who has said this to me.
I’m not going to try and unpick a conspiracy theory, that way madness lies. However, there is one aspect that interests me and I’ve heard it from both sides. These four young men were, by all accounts, nice, polite, thoughtful, kind people, some of them worked in the community, some had families and yet they killed 52 innocent people.
Those that say they didn’t do it point to their character and say such people couldn’t have detonated the bombs. Others say only a monster could cause such carnage and they must have been even greater monsters to impersonate nice people. What both sides miss is that people are quite capable of living as best you can in the world as it is, whilst hoping for and working towards a better world.
I know this because I want to see a revolution in this country (and every other country). I want to see a world run democratically by ordinary people where goods and services and made to satisfy the needs of the many, not to make a profit for the few. I spent ten years in an organisation that tries to help bring that about. At the same time I have had a career (of sorts) in community development, trying to help people make to most of a very imperfect world.
It wasn’t, isn’t a front, I want people to come together in their communities and do positive things. Making hanging baskets and running sports clubs won’t overturn the capitalist system, but it will make life better in the meantime.
So how can I nice chap like me be in favour of violent revolution? I think there are two answers. Firstly, it’s a matter of harm reduction. The current system condemns millions of people to death around the world. Not just from wars and repression, but by diverting resources to aircraft carriers and luxury yachts instead of providing clean drinking water for all.
My guess it that the bombers believed a version of this. Trying to end the repression of Palestinians by attacking the western powers that back the Isreali state. With tanks poised to enter Gaza this morning, that is one problem that hasn’t gone away.
My second answer is the revolution needn’t be violent. Let me explain by comparing Orgreave and Saltley, both were mass pickets of coke works during miners strikes. Orgreave was thirty years ago, Saltley twelve years earlier in 1972. You’re probably familiar with the footage of police and pickets fighting at Orgreave, even if your not familiar with the fact that the BBC switched the footage to make it look that the police charge was a response to miners’ throwing stones.
Saltley was rather different. After a week of unsuccessful picketing, the miners went into the Birmingham factories and talked to workers about their dispute and asked for help. Thousands of engineers came out on strike and marched on Saltley coke depot, the authorities had no choice but to close the plant and the national dispute was settled soon afterwards.
It’s called workers’ solidarity. We haven’t seen much of it lately, at least not on that scale, but it’s a much more powerful weapon than a gun or a bomb. That’s why the Tory government made it illegal in the 1980s. You’d have to ask the Labour Party why their government didn’t repeal the laws when they were in government.
In a week that saw public service workers out on strike, let me finish by quoting Shelley:
“Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many — they are few“
I’ll be back next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.