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Thursday, 26 April, 2001, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
What do the anarchists believe in?
May Day 2000
Face off: Activists and police during last May Day
Anarchists will join other activists in London next week for the May Day protests. But what do they actually stand for? In the first of a series on the anti-globalisation movement, Megan Lane finds out.

The 21st Century has witnessed the rise of mass demonstrations against multinational corporations and the free market.

Protest against the Summit of the Americas
Disparate groups joined protests in Quebec City
In the past 18 months, protesters from a diverse range of interest groups have been drawn to Prague, Seattle and Quebec City.

Next Tuesday the activists plan to be out in force on the streets of London as part of a global day of action.

There seems to be little to unite the disparate groups that typically turn out to protest against globalisation, yet at least environmentalists, anti-vivisectionists and anti-roads protesters each have their own defining cause.

But what of the anarchists, to whom the constraints of government are pure anathama? What do they believe in?

Michael, an anarchist helping co-ordinate the London May Day Collective, says May Day is a chance for protesters to highlight their concerns about the profits-before-people motive.

May Day 2000 protest
May Day 2000 soon saw trouble on the streets
"We believe in including people, allowing them to organise for themselves how they want to live.

"The whole process of globalisation excludes people from having their say, it limits their choices."

When the IMF steps in to shore up the economies of Asian nations, he says, the conditions attached force local input out the window.

But the activists have no intention of putting up an alternative to capitalism for fear of robbing others of their voice, Michael says.

"As anarchists, we believe people have to be involved in discussing what alternatives might work for them, without prescribing the options. For this reason, we distance ourselves from doctrines such as Marxism, which impose a strict set of rules."

No crime against property

The difficulty is that asking what an anarchist stands for is self-defeating. Beyond their rejection of government - be it a state or corporate power - there is no single positive anarchist doctrine.

The philosophy, which undepinned the assasinations of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, in 1881, and American President William McKinley, in 1901, views the state as responsible for all society's ills.

It's always a small, small minority, yet the police condemn the lot of us as violent

But almost by definition there are as many forms of anarchism as there are supporters of it.

Although this year's May Day protests are billed as peaceful, the authorities are braced for trouble after last year's event ended with shop windows smashed and national monuments defaced.

But Michael doesn't regard smashing up a McDonald's restaurant or defacing public monuments as violence: "Violence is against people, not property.

Suspects wanted

"[Vandalism] is not the most productive way to protest, but it's up to each of the people taking part to decide what they do. It's always a small, small minority, yet the police condemn the lot of us as violent."

Despite dozens of arrests at last year's protest, police admit that no ringleaders were caught. This week, Scotland Yard released photos of 24 people still wanted.

Cenotaph with graffiti
The Cenotaph after last year's protest
Michael says this makes a farce of the authorities' attempts to paint the activists as potentially dangerous.

"They've spent a year saying all anarchists are violent, yet they're just looking for 24 people out of 10,000 who took part in the protest? That's ridiculous."

Police intelligence also suggests that a number of foreign activists will be in London and looking to create havoc.

Yet Michael says the authorities are merely playing the race - and regionalism - card to whip up anxiety.

"There are 10,000 expected on May Day, and they're ordinary Londoners - not German terrorists, not people from up north coming to cause trouble."

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