Austerity measures and colossal cuts in public spending since the 2008 financial crisis have contributed significantly to a renewal of interest in anarchist ideology and causes. As a result, Europol reports show that in 2010 there were 45 terrorist attacks committed by left wing and anarchist groups across Europe, building on 40 in 2009 and 28 in 2008 - considerably more than conducted or attempted by domestic jihadist groups over the same period. In 2009 the Greek anarchist terrorist group Synomosia Pyrinon Fotias (SPF, also known as Conspiracy Fire Cells and Conspiracy Fire Nuclei) adopted increasingly violent methods, regularly employing explosive devices against targets. Due to several members’ arrests the group now employs a more clandestine approach to their operations; abandoning their protest activities, the use of traceable mobile phones, and ridding residences of incriminating evidence, making their attacks harder for authorities to intercept. The organisation has since become more internationalised, for example issuing a communiqué which drove similar actions in Italy and Argentina.
The international component of the anarchist threat remains complex, and “reprisals” around significant anniversaries are commonplace even in locations that seemingly bear no connection to events. In the UK, September and October 2011 saw arson attacks take place against car dealerships in Cambridge, one having responsibility claimed by a group calling themselves ‘fire cell’ – possibly a copy-cat or franchise of Greece’s SPF. In 2012 Bristol anarchists attempted to burn down Lloyds TSB’s depot – an action they claimed was in solidarity with ‘comrades’ imprisoned in Greece for anarchist activity, and those imprisoned in Chile and Switzerland for attempted bombings. Although not as badly affected as Spain, Greece and Italy, International events can therefore trigger actions in the UK (or aimed at British interests overseas), with the current situation in Greece and Cyprus adding to the potential threat.
Often, violent UK anarchists claim to be part of the ‘Informal Anarchist Federation’. The original Anarchist Federation espouses the use of violence - a theme echoed at the movement’s August 2012 meeting in Switzerland, when it issued a statement rejecting all terrorist tactics as a means of achieving an anarchist society. The current anarchist threat in the UK therefore mainly exists in the form of attacks against business premises and public buildings (usually law enforcement or tax departments) during large left-wing demonstrations. This was last witnessed on a large scale in the 2011 anti-cuts demonstrations, when anarchists in “black bloc” attire hijacked the event and caused havoc at numerous business locations. Notable subsequent arrests coupled with greater police and intelligence operations have prevented a repeat of such activity through preventing groups’ capability, although their intent still remains.
Most recently the death of Baroness Thatcher demonstrated how anarchist groups can still congregate, cause disruption and attack businesses when gatherings are organised at short notice. Some of the ‘parties’ celebrating the former Prime Minister’s death resulted in damage to numerous businesses premises as well as rioting, the throwing of missiles, and attempts at setting bins alight. However, more of a concern is how these events, including her partly state-funded funeral, have contributed to anarchist thinking and provided networking opportunities for the most extreme factions. We remained concerned that this could see more effective action s organised in future, possibly off-line and therefore being harder to detect.
Elsewhere, left-wing activity against businesses looks set to continue primarily in the form of protests and other means of non-violent action. UK uncut in particular remains heavily focused on protesting against corporations accused of tax avoidance, while the Occupy movement remains a powerful networking and opinion-sharing body, despite the disappearance of public sites. In this regard the lasting legacy of that movements may well be the mass of connections it allowed disparate activists to make, further spreading awareness of causes.