Talking the talk

Chris Browne goes to Mutiny’s latest ‘On Trial’ event

June 27, 2011
4 min read

Mutiny, it seems, pride themselves on being at odds with the pedantic solemnity that is too typically a feature of discussion groups on the left. Instead of grandstanding speeches calling for workers to seize the means of production, Mutiny offer ‘speed-debating’, theatre, music and poetry. Worlds away from the lecture hall or labour club, the venue of the Resistance Gallery offers a space in celebration of artistic and creative endeavour. Marx’s Capital is nowhere to be seen.

This more entertaining and accessible approach to radical political debate shouldn’t be looked down on as somehow diminishing the seriousness of the issues being discussed. In the case of Mutiny’s most recent event, ‘Violence on Trial’, this was an exploration of violence as perpetrated by the police, nation states, corporations, revolutionaries and protesters, in the form of rape, and in humanitarian intervention.

The low, thunder-like rumble of trains provided a fitting soundtrack. Every few minutes one would shift along at a speed, its weight grinding down onto the tracks above the ceiling of the Resistance Gallery. In the end their mimicry of thunder enhanced the prevailing atmosphere in the space: as people debated the ethics and efficacy of revolutionary violence, the trains’ rumble lent gravity and a touch of the surreal.

Equally, while the Commie Faggots belted out a socialist rendition of the Beatles’ All You Need is Love, the thunder from the tracks acted as an amplified reminder that evening was supposed to be entertaining as well as educative.

Mutiny have clearly learnt from their previous ‘On Trial’ events and worked hard to create a space that encourages participation and limits the domination of a few voices over a passive audience. Amid the 50-person assembly, a table was positioned with stools around it and a microphone at each end.

About ten people could sit at the table at a time. Someone would introduce a discussion, judiciously timed by a facilitator clutching a pink, squeezable fluffy heart. When the heart was squeezed it was time to wrap up. People would join the table to speak, and leave it after they had spoken, freeing up space for others around the room to sit down and add their voice to the debate.

The discussions were inclusive; male voices didn’t dominate – as often inadvertently happens in meetings such as these – and the debates’ interspersion with theatre and music kept it entertaining until 11pm.

Arguably the most thought-provoking debate surrounded the use of violence in protest and revolution. An eye-witness from Tahrir Square challenged what she saw as the ‘fetishisation of non-violence’ in the room, recounting how when under the threat of imminent violence from the police she had taken a hammer to the flagstone ground in order to create rocks to throw back: ‘Ask yourselves, what would you have done?’

Peaceful revolution, she argued, doesn’t negate our right to self-defence, but it does mean refraining from attacking those such as the military or police, who would ordinarily use violence against you, when you are in a position of power over them. Restraint can be more militant than merely replicating the violence of capitalism and the state.

Violence on Trial was not an event designed to close the book on such an important discussion, and I doubt anyone came away furnished with more answers than they entered with. It was nonetheless a valuable and enjoyable few hours of discussion that certainly needs to be held among the left, and across society at large.

Mutiny’s next event, ‘Work on Trial’, takes place on 4 July at the Resistance Gallery in Bethnal Green. www.jointhemutiny.org


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen

Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant

Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’

Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue

Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK

A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank

News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions

Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release

Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts

‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette

The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.

How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op

Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU

Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity

Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson

Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release

University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.

Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.

Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History

Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.

A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas

Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'

The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.

Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.

Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism

What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry

Airport expansion is a racist policy
Climate change is a colonial crisis, writes Jo Ram

Momentum Kids: the parental is political
Momentum Kids is not about indoctrinating children, but rather the more radical idea that children have an important role to play in shaping the future, writes Kristen Hope


10