Last week saw the COP26 summit take place in Glasgow, where the so-called leaders of the world gather to put on worried faces about the impending environmental catastrophe.
The summit and the various counter-protests went mostly as would be expected; politicians and corporations made empty promises whilst hippies danced and sang outside. The exception to this came in the form of the Young Communist League. The YCL has been growing recently and has made notable impacts on several recent demonstrations. This was most apparent when the YCL disrupted the DESI Arms Fair in London, where the death merchants of the world gather to sell each other guns, and at the recent demonstration against the Tory conference in Manchester, where the YCL’s contingent was by far the most visible, organised and militant. As a result of these actions the YCL has been attracting significant media attention, and a rise in membership along with it.
It is perhaps this recent visibility that explains the YCL’s treatment at the hands of police at last weekend’s main demonstration against the summit. As soon as the YCL assembled on the demonstration – easily identified by their large striking banner and signature red flags – they were subject to a disproportionate level of police attention.
Witnesses from the demonstration – including dozens of people unaffiliated to the YCL – describe the police’s behaviours as immediately hostile, aggressive and unprovoked. It has also come to light that the police were following YCL members around the city on the night before the demonstration, and attempted (unsuccessfully) to gain entrance to the Glasgow Communist Party offices where several YCL members who’d travelled for the protest were gathering.
As the demonstration progressed the police began to push the YCL contingent away from the main protest and down a side street. Once separated the YCL was then ‘kettled’ – a police tactic that involves forcing groups of protestors into a tighter and tighter crush, surrounded by police. This was seemingly without provocation or meaning, as the YCL were then released a few hours later after a series of assaults on YCL members, and one arrest (who was later released).
0161 spoke to a YCL member present on the demonstration, who gave the following account:
“We knew that the state had begun to take notice of us after the arms fair thing. At the Tory conference demo a few weeks later the cops were glued to us for the entire day, even following us to the pub after the demo. But even knowing that, we were surprised at how immediately aggressive and confrontational they were. Individual officers were targetting specific members, particularly trying to intimidate smaller or younger women comrades. Even before the kettle, they were preventing other protestors from joining or even speaking to us, and it became pretty obvious that they were going to try and prevent our full participation in the demo.
Once they’d kettled us, it became very obvious very quickly that they’d made a mistake. They were trying to get out comrades to remove their masks, which would have been sinister even if it weren’t for rising covid cases. They failed to do this, and by that point hundreds of other protestors had come over to us and were demanding that the police let us go. The police tactics have really backfired to be honest. It created a massive sense of solidarity between protestors and the YCL on the demo, and there’s no such thing as bad publicity! It’s pretty obvious that the state is beginning to see the communist youth as a real threat to their ideology. Like Mao said, when the enemy attacks you, it show’s you’re doing something right.”
The treatment of the YCL at the hands of the police shows that the ruling class are still threatened by anti-capitalism. Attempts at intimidation like we’ve seen last week represent the ruling class trying to drive a wedge between anti-capitalism and popular environmentalism. They know that environmentalism becomes a threat when it targets the disease that causes climate change, not just the symptoms. That disease is capitalism, and the ruling class will do everything in it’s power to make sure that the working class don’t realise it.
For the sake of our communities and the planet they live on, 0161 will never stop organising against capitalism. We have experienced state repression, and we extend our solidarity to the YCL as they struggle against it.