Popular social resistance to Austerity – or oppression of any kind – is powerful only when it is both organic and truly popular. This is to say that it is a natural movement against the structures of social, economic, and political oppression which arises naturally from the oppressed and carries the weight of a significant majority of the oppressed population. Such a movement is powerful because it is autogenic, and its singular purpose is to serve the needs of the oppressed. Not all activism or protest is authentically rooted in the experience of the oppressed and is not therefore solidary with the oppressed, but rather entirely serving its own needs – or the needs of its leaders – while instrumentalising the struggle of the oppressed to achieve its own ends.
Only the other day friends of mine received a colour printed letter addressed to every household on their street giving the impression that it was the anonymous creation of a concerned neighbour. It was concerned with the proper disposal of waste on the street and the sighting of a number of large rodents in the vicinity. In itself this letter appeared to be well-meaning, but the style in which it had been written piqued the interest of one of my friends. Other than being written in the first person plural, it patronisingly spelt out how refuse was to be treated by residents, and alluded to decisions the “we” had made on behalf of the heretofore unconsulted community and discussions the “we” had had with the city council on its behalf. Having heard this I could smell a rat.
After a few minutes of online research it was discovered that the “we,” while masquerading as a distressed neighbour, did in fact have a name. It was the Dublin Tenants Association; an organisation founded (at least of social media) in early March this year – a mere five months ago – to represent people living in privately rented accommodation in Dublin 7. Again, this is a wonderful idea. My friends, the ones who received the deceptive and anonymous letter, are private renters, and I myself rent privately. Landlords are famous in the inner city for abusing the people to whom they rent their properties. This is indeed an area where solidarity and change is urgently required. Only, no one renting privately in the area has ever heard of this association. On Facebook they have a like-based support of a mere 653 people, but it is who these people are that is really interesting.
One of the first people to comment on one of its posts is a young Socialist Party Dublin City Council councillor. Many of the others are also well-known Socialist Party activists, and another is a Ms. Farah Azadi – the partner of Paul Murphy TD. Are we to believe that all the brass of the Socialist Party and the Anti-Austerity Alliance all live in a few streets around Stoneybatter?! No, this is Astroturfing; the manipulative use of local issues without genuine local participation to further the political ambitions of persons who have been forced to seek an alternative route into career politics.