You must know by now about Class War‘s ‘attack’ on hipster cereal cafe ‘Cereal Killer‘. It wasn’t much of an attack, to be honest – no-one was hurt and they were open again the next day. But were they right to target Cereal Killer in their anger about the gentrification of Shoreditch?
Here’s the story if you missed it. Class War is nominally an anarchist organisation, but anarchism is about flattening the hierarchy of power, and we can only do that by building an alternative to the corporate sector – a sector that’s independent, community-owned, open source, co-operative or peer-to-peer. As this was an independent business they attacked, they were striking a blow against anarchism, not for it; plus they were reinforcing the conflation of anarchism and violence in the minds of people who don’t know what anarchism means.
OK, Cereal Killier is a bit of a rubbish business, selling nonsense with trendy beards – but what about a small bakery, making £3.50 loaves, because that’s how much a loaf has to cost if you don’t want it to be corporate, non-nutritious and environmentally-damaging? Smash that up as well? But leave tax-avoiding Starbucks, small-shop-closing Tesco or bloodsucking corporate bookies or payday loan companies alone? Or smash up the little shops and bars in Brixton market, or an organic veg box scheme or a renewables installer – because organic food and solar panels are expensive and middle-class, then all meet for a McDonalds after, because it’s cheap and working-class?
I bought my partner a necklace from Brixton market for her birthday. It was a little hand-carved stone butterfly on a gold chain for £40. I bought it from the woman who made it. Should we burn her stall down – for learning a craft skill and starting a small, local business?
Places change – the question is how to prevent corporate shops and corporate workers moving in to displace small businesses and small business owners.
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1silentfactor September 29th, 2015
This is a 19th century failed and plain stupid contra productive act. Then by weavers opposing the mechanisation of looms now by intellectualists who identify themselves with what they perceive as a long lineage of revolutionary agitators.
The founders of “Serial Killer” used their intellect and imagination and crowd funding to create a business that stands and is hiring staff. That is galaxies remote from those worshippers of “Class War” who in a peak moment of revolutionary creativity picture the none-corporate society as smashing up a cereal bar.
While I contemplated offering business space, perfectly suitable for a co-op or charity run coffee shop or like for free to people able to work towards positive local change, I feel now much like it might better be developed in something that offers a service to the community and generates some income like a dental surgery. Something that doesn’t easily attracts destructive morons; if such business still exists.
2Paul Jennings October 1st, 2015
Class War is not asking for the approval of people who are loaded and who aren’t going to be forced out of London by rising rents and falling benefits. Class War isn’t even about promoting the idea of anarchism; this isn’t about the “marketplace of ideas”, and quite rightly Class War doesn’t give a fuck what the intelligentsia or the blogosphere thinks about its anger or its actions.
3Ibrahim Hublou October 1st, 2015
When it comes to social at least “Cereal Killer” tries to listen what people like and might like. Like you present “Class War” they are one or more individuals who have willingly and clearly largely lost contact with all surroundings. When I first read your reply, popping up for a few seconds on my screen, I thought it was about ISIS.
4Dave Darby October 1st, 2015
You’re right about not promoting anarchism – just seen on their website that they fielded candidates in the general election. But are you condoning what they did? Is it ok to attack small businesses?
I had this conversation with a friend in Brixton the other day. Brixton is becoming gentrified – in fact it’s past ‘becoming’ – but would it be better for old Brixtonites if Brixton market wasn’t there? Doesn’t the market bring more opportunities for local people to find work – and non-corporate work at that? And if they don’t want Brixton market, what do they want? Corporates or no work at all?
I even heard someone say (patronisingly) that the locals lack entrepreneurial spirit – and yet many of them (or their parents) made it here from the other side of the world with very little money. I’d say that’s quite entrepreneurial.
There’s a window though – and soon Brixton market will be gone and there will be a corporate mall – no doubt about it. I don’t know how we stop that process. It may be impossible to stop it with this system.
But there were children in that place when they attacked it; they left corporate property alone and attacked an independent business; I’m not at all sure that they were locals (or working class), and I think what they did was just useless. Anger is good – but let’s put it to good use, not scaring kids.
5Dave Darby October 1st, 2015
Just read this – http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/01/kill-a-complex-city-chase-out-poor-people-their-food – and I agree. It’s really shit that cities become gentrified (I liked the term ‘Zurichification’), but it’s inevitable with the economic and political system that we have.
That article mentions Cereal Killer, but she (and loads of other people) has just got the wrong idea. There’s no way I would use Cereal Killer, and trendy beards are rubbish, and I understand why people don’t like them – but it’s a joke. Run by two working-class Belfast blokes -it’s about ex- (and current) stoners who remember diving into the cereal box when they got the munchies – but especially ex-stoners, because the cereals tend to be a bit retro. A bowl costs £3.20, and you can stay there all afternoon. West Ham and Spurs play in poor parts of London, tickets £30-80 for an hour and a half’s ‘entertainment’. Loads of working class and middle class people there, very little chance of being attacked by Class War.
6Paul Jennings October 2nd, 2015
I posted a long response, but my internet connection is very poor.
I’m not going through that again.
As I say, Class War’s not looking to impress the chatterati.
As far as I’m concerned, there is no other organisation that has drawn as much attention to the gentrification of London than Class War – not bad for a small angry anarchist group (and standing candidates in the election doesn’t mean they’re not anarchists – the distinction I was trying to draw about ideas was that Class War was acting directly against its target, not in order to convince you or anyone like you to write a letter to your MP……… not all direct action is about ideas.)
7Dave Darby October 2nd, 2015
Nah – completely disagree with you on this one. The EDL is also a small, angry group, who are not looking to impress the chatterati. If they attack an Indian corner shop, would that make it more or less likely that they will achieve their aims?
The only way to challenge gentrification is to challenge capitalism – gentrification is inevitable within capitalism. What they did will galvanise people against them and make it more difficult to challenge the system.
Take Che Guevara and his gang. I’m not commenting on their politics, just that what they did was brave and well thought through – 24 guys on a rickety boat challenging a national army and winning.
What Class War did was stupid, cowardly and counterproductive.
(PS what does ‘like me’ mean?)
8Dave Darby October 2nd, 2015
PS write it in a word, sorry, a Libre Office document, then copy, paste and post.
9Paul Jennings October 2nd, 2015
Not just you, but us, if you prefer.
In one way it is just nonsense to compare the EDL to Class War, their motivations are very different, but if you like, let’s have a look at direct action from that perspective. Class War’s recent actions in London against the poor doors, against the Jack the Ripper Museum in Cable Street, and against the hipster cereal bar have been attempts primarily to (directly) change situations that they find unacceptable, in that sense it is comparable to racists attacking a corner shop because its owners are Asian, although clearly the underlying politics are completely different. Might Class War ever manage to reverse gentrification through direct action? I don’t know, if enough people get angry enough then maybe. Have they got people talking about the problem? Well yes, more so than anyone else has. Do they care whether we approve? No.
Clearly you’re going to disagree with me on this, and that doesn’t matter either. Banging on about what Class War do and whether it is productive misses the point that none of us knows how to stop capitalism or the state. What we do know is that we are all victims; violence is incumbent on the system; small acts of vandalism are as nothing next to the depredations of the ruling class.
10Dave Darby October 2nd, 2015
Absolutely. But those trendy beardy boys aren’t ‘the system’. Now if they’d smashed up a branch of Starbucks or Barclays (as long as it was only property that got damaged), well, let’s just say I wouldn’t have lost much sleep about it.
Actually, those beardies have opened another branch in Camden, which is interesting. There are a couple of bars near us. They were really great places until in both cases, the owners opened another branch. Then they tended to be more at the new location to build up custom – so their first property suffered from neglect, and we stopped going. I wanted to know why they felt the need to open another branch when they already had a successful bar. And the reason is, of course, to make more money. If they could have had a thousand branches, they would. It’s the slippery slope to becoming corporate – small businesses become so successful that they either end up floating and becoming corporate, or get swallowed up by a corporate. In an ideal world (well, mine), there wouldn’t be any ’employment’ of other people at all, and ‘independent’ would mean self-employed – otherwise business would be co-operative, community-owned, peer-to-peer or open source. I don’t know how we get independent businesses to stay independent – again, it’s probably not possible in this system.
11Ibrahim Hublou October 2nd, 2015
The Guardian as the mouthpiece for those whose only perspective is to vandalise small businesses that in their way contribute to the improvement of neighborhoods.
12John Harrison October 3rd, 2015
There’s an irony here – Londoners complain of gentrification. Londoners.. buy house for silly money, sit in house for 5 years, sell at silly money plus a crazy amount of inflation. Use the difference to buy a rather nice house with a few acres in a choice area of the south west or in the Dordogne.
Anyway, this isn’t a considered political act, it’s on a par with keying a fancy car because someone else can afford it and you can’t.
Having been away and out of contact, I hadn’t heard of this. Still in shock at the idea people would pay £3.50 for a loaf, let alone a bowl of cornflakes.. Do you think Londoners would buy genuine organic fertiliser produced by sheep in handy briquettes for £10 a kilo plus P&P? ?
13Dave Darby October 3rd, 2015
Hi John. Said everything I want to say about gentrification above – it’s completely inevitable within capitalism, as houses are used as investments rather than homes. Everybody’s happy when prices come down, except houses.
But the £3.50 loaf – well, unless you’re happy with Mother’s Pride, soft white loaf – corporate, no nutritional value, grown in an environmentally damaging way, then that’s how much a loaf costs. Unless, of course, you bake your own. Those are the two options really. If you have money, support local bakeries (etc.); if you don’t, make your own stuff, barter etc. Otherwise, the future is corporate forever.
14John Harrison October 3rd, 2015
You left out the health effects of ‘industrial’ bread, which is why we make our own. If I may be permitted, I wrote about this a few years ago and the article is online here: http://www.allotment-garden.org/food/bread-making/chorleywood-bread-process.php Since I wrote this I’ve discovered that many UK farmers spray cereal crops with glyphosate prior to harvest as it acts as a dessicant and reduces the cost of drying the grain for storage. Yummy!
This was presented to me as being better for the environment as it used less energy.
15Dave Darby October 3rd, 2015
I guessed that would be the angle you’re coming from. I can feel another article coming on (I’ll give you a link)
16Paul Jennings October 4th, 2015
17Dave Darby October 4th, 2015
Sorry, I don’t believe a word of it. I watched a video of what happened at the cereal cafe. They didn’t put a window in, which makes me believe that the rest of the story was also fantasy, by someone who thinks they’re Che Guevara. It wasn’t ‘fighting back’ it was scaring kids in a cafe and making a bit of a mess. Real fighting back is arguing our case, setting up co-ops, taking back land, energy and food supply, housing and employment, challenging the planning system, setting up smallholdings, building homes, growing food, getting off-grid. What you’re doing in other words, not that nonsense. It’s ‘rebels’ vs ‘the Empire’ in the real world as well as in Star Wars, and we need to attract more people to the rebel cause. Those were misguided, rogue rebel troops who did exactly the opposite.
18Dave Darby October 4th, 2015
PS – staying with that analogy – the fact that the rebels are a network and the Empire is a hierarchy may be why we’re losing. It’s very hard to fight a hierarchy with a network. A network is the ideal end point for the whole of society, but it’s hard to get there because command and control is much more efficient. A network can splinter and fight amongst themselves (like we’re doing now) in ways that a hierarchy can’t. I’m not saying that we need a hierarchy to fight a hierarchy, just that we need to be more co-ordinated. It’s even difficult to know what ‘we’ means, when parts of the network don’t even know that other parts exist. Maybe we need a map.
19John Harrison October 4th, 2015
I can’t see this in a positive light. It achieves nothing so far as I can see. I can totally understand the frustration and the anger but instead of smashing up estate agents and some cafe that removes money from people with more money than sense, why not use those energies to create things of value to the local people?
It’s an awful lot harder to build something than it is to destroy – and far more satisfying in the long term.