Try Red Pepper in print with our pay-as-you-feel subscription. You decide the price, from as low as £2 a month.

More info ×

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

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced

India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya

North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero

The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava

France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati

This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help

PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank

Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media

I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to

We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS

Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank

Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland

Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones

The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya

The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.

An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now

The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee

Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell

Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths

Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe


10