- Three great victories to end the year!
- Degrowth and the death of capitalism
- Stealth fascism in the UK
- Fake news and propaganda wars
- The Black Volcano of Industrialism
Three great victories have been notched up by the global struggle against industrial capitalism in the last few weeks of 2016, giving renewed energy for the battles ahead in 2017.
It is true that none of them are complete, permanent wins, but they are nonetheless significant wins and together they confirm in no uncertain fashion that courage and tenacious determination can put the dominant system on the back foot.
Our capitalist overlords are not invincible! There are a lot more of us than them! And if sometimes the level of lying, manipulation and sheer violence they use against us is overwhelming, it is important always to remember that they act this way because they are scared of us and of our collective power to resist their rule.
In France, the big December news is that the ZAD protest zone against the long-planned new airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes near Nantes has seen off the latest eviction threat (see Acorn 27).
Bernard Cazeneuve, new prime minister after a reshuffle, announced that the government would not be taking action for the meantime – and it is clear that this is completely down to the impressive levels of organisation and determination of the land protectors at the ZAD.
A report on Europe 1 said that the government felt “an intervention would be much too dangerous and there would be a real risk of violent confrontation with, potentially, deaths on either side”. It cited Cazeneuve’s experience with events at Sivens in 2014, where police attacks on a protest camp against a dam led to the death of young environmental protester Rémi Fraisse, killed by a grenade fired by gendarmes.
The report adds: “At Notre-Dame-des-Landes, the numbers involved but also the die-hard attitude of some zadistes suggest there would be an even more explosive clash.”
This long struggle is not over yet, though, as after this Spring’s presidential elections there may well be a renewed political appetite for violent repression at the top of the French state.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the Standing Rock campaign against the North Dakota Access Pipeline (see Acorn 27) scored an unexpected victory when the Army Corps of Engineers, a federal agency, announced that it would deny developer Energy Transfer Partners a permit to cross the Missouri river. Thousands of protesters cheered and chanted to cries of Mni Wiconi, or water is life.
This decision comes in the last days of the Obama administration and may well be overturned under a new president with links to the industry, but, as at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, it was clearly forced on the authorities by the sheer gritty willpower of the campaigners.
The underlying issue for industrial capitalists was voiced by right-wing capitalist politician Kevin Cramer, who whined to the media: “Today’s unfortunate decision sends a very chilling signal to others who want to build infrastructure in this country.”
From the opposite perspective, the signals are highly encouraging. As “Lakota Man” pointed out on Twitter, Standing Rock has become “the epicenter all things Indigenous” and the NoDAPL campaign has “evolved into a geopolitical movement”. The land protectors are not packing up and going away and neither is the spirit of unity, understanding and determination that has been forged in the face of massive state-corporate violence.
The third big victory took place in a courtroom in the north of England where anti-fracking activist Tina Rothery (above) saw off a bid to put her in jail.
She had been the victim of vicious legal bullying by fracking giants Cuadrilla, dating back to August 2014 and the occupation of a field near one of Cuadrilla’s proposed fracking sites at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, near Blackpool.
Frack-free campaigners like Tina and the Nanas of northern England do not fit the usual profile of full-on environmental protesters and Cuadrilla and the UK state clearly thought they could bully them into silence and submission.
The company and several landowners had previously won more than £55,000 legal costs against Tina in a case dating back to 2014. She was judged to be in contempt of court when she refused at a hearing this summer to complete a questionnaire about her finances. But on December 9 a judge at Preston Combined Court discharged this ruling and said she would not be sent to jail.
There were cheers inside and outside the court as the outcome became known. Tina told a crowd of around 300 people afterwards: “I see this as a victory for truth. I see it as a victory for honesty because corporations have a lot of power and a lot of money. I will walk away from here and Cuadrilla will no longer pursue me for the costs.”
But, like the campaigners at the ZAD and at Standing Rock, she knows this is far from the end of the struggle. Asked if this was a victory for the anti-fracking movement, Tina replied: “An anti-fracking victory looks like this country being left untouched.”
“Degrowth” has not really taken off as a radical anti-capitalist current in the UK yet, even if it has had the occasional mention on the anarchist scene in the last few years.
But in France décroissance is well established as a powerful minority voice challenging all the assumptions of infinite economic growth and the inevitability of a technocratic future.
It has growing visibility within the anarchist movement and the current issue of Le Monde Libertaire, the journal of La Fédération Anarchiste, includes an article focusing on degrowth.
This explains that economic growth is used as “an instrument of domination” and rightly insists that “sustainable development” is a scam designed to dress up continued growth with the pretence of environmental sensitivity.
The degrowth movement in France even boasts its own monthly newspaper, La Décroissance (Le journal de la joie de vivre), which you can buy at mainstream newsagents.
The current issue, December 2016 to January 2017, features a striking green and black cover and the word “Débranche!” (“Unplug!”) with a large fist clasping a handful of ripped-out wiring.
There is plenty of interest inside for those who refuse to succumb to the insanity of industrial capitalist life and thought.
In a feature article taking an overview of the struggle for degrowth, writer Anne Frémaux says: “Our industrial modernity is founded on the utopia of unlimited technological and human progress and on the belief in the infinite abundance of a nature which will provide resources to endlessly feed an entirely materialist and quantitative vision of wealth and progress.
“Hypermodernity has prolonged this fantasy by intensifying the western consumerist dream, leading us to quickly (and sometimes irreversibly) use up resources, erode ecosystems, lose biodiversity, exceed acceptable levels of pollution and release enormous quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere, creating the climate change that we know today.”
She condemns the fashionable “techno-optimism” which insists that the answer to the sickness caused by industrial capitalism is to simply swallow more of the same technological poison.
Frémaux concludes: “If we think about it, the fundamental question facing us all is the question of ‘good living’, in other words a question of a social, psychological or spiritual nature for which technology cannot provide the answer. What we need to learn to manage is not the planet or even the climate, but our relationship to ourselves, to others and to the land.”
Filmmaker Gilles Vernet, meanwhile, explains how “growth” has become the Holy Grail of modern society, at the cost of all common sense. “While all human wisdom warned against the dangers of hubris and material enrichment, money ended up becoming the new god. The myth of Progress is itself a secular version of paradise, something which we are supposed to be able to reach here on Earth.”
Describing the nightmare of contemporary living, he adds: “Capitalism does not tolerate free time, time as a gift. You are never allowed to stop producing and consuming. Even sleeping time is being reduced. For some years now, especially with the spread of smartphones, our mental space has become more and more saturated with news and materialism. We have less and less time to think and find our place in the world. We are left with a spiritual and emotional void: we have less time to spend with family, partner or friends.”
Vernet goes on to state that the capitalist system is manifestly on course for a major implosion. “I accept this with a certain fatalism, but somehow I think that its collapse may be necessary. In the same way that, on the individual scale, death is the precondition of life – when you die you leave room for those to come – the death of a system is also the precondition for renewal”.
If you wanted to impose fascist rule on a population, and wanted to avoid any inconvenient levels of resistance, how would you go about it? Suddenly or gradually?
It has long been apparent that the UK state has adopted the second softly-softly approach to lowering its jackboot onto the face of its hapless subjects.
But for all its efforts to hide what it’s up to, from time to time something is revealed that makes it all too obvious.
This is very much the case with the recent revelations about the way environmentalism is being insidiously conflated with “terrorism” under the government’s Orwellian “Prevent” scheme.
Bullying of the Muslim community under this flag has been ongoing for years, but has been swallowed by a general public constantly told that the Islamic religion represents a terrorist-inspiring threat.
The targeting of anti-fracking campaigners comes without even that phoney level of manufactured “justification”.
The Drill or Drop blog reported that Driffield School and Sixth Form in East Yorkshire had earlier this year unveiled a Prevent strategy which included this statement: “At present nationally, the greatest resource is devoted to preventing people from joining or supporting the so called Islamic State (IS) group, its affiliates and related groups. More locally, the East Riding’s main priorities are far right extremism, animal rights and anti-fracking.”
And research by Spinwatch has revealed this is not an isolated incident. Chesswood Junior School in Worthing, West Sussex implemented a similar policy to that of Driffield College until public reaction forced a retreat. The school’s July 2016 ‘Prevent Duty Policy’ originally suggested that ‘Environmental (Fracking)’ campaigners could present ‘safeguarding concerns’ for children.
The school actually categorised environmentalist groups as “terrorist”, stating: “Radicalisation refers to the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and extremist ideologies associated with any terrorist groups e.g Far Right, Far Left, Environmental (Fracking), Animal rights, Nationalist (IRA), Al Qaeda”.
Elsewhere, City of York council working with the North Yorkshire police force have used the strategy to link anti-fracking activism with terrorism risks.
Merseyside police force now includes ‘anti-fracking’ as a form of ‘domestic’ extremism in its latest Prevent presentation. The contentious presentation forms the basis of the Merseyside Police’s Special Branch programme of presentations to schools, governors, colleges and childcare providers.
And in June 2016 Dorset County Council in partnership with Dorset Police updated the county’s ‘Prevent delivery plan’. The revision included a statement on ‘fracking’ in the ‘specific risk’ section of the plan.
Meanwhile, the UK state is not only refusing to release details of its sinister programme but is also now interpreting requests for information as an attempt “by extremists to evade detection, thereby prejudicing national security”.
This extraordinary attitude was voiced by the government’s Information Commissioner, in rejecting an appeal by police monitoring group Netpol over the refusal of the police to release details of a programme to “deradicalise extremists”.
The Information Commissioner’s Office stated: “Prevent is a national counter-terrorism initiative that is only implemented in certain police forces across the country. The same FOI request made to multiple forces could therefore identify how Prevent resources are apportioned across the country.
“Anti-fracking campaigns organise around designated locations across the country; confirmation of the existence of the requested information would facilitate the mapping of Prevent capabilities alongside anti-fracking campaigns and, when incorporated into a radicalisation strategy, could be used by extremists to evade detection, thereby prejudicing national security.”
You don’t need to be a genius to see what is going on here. Fracking, like all the infrastructures of industrial capitalism, is close to the cold heart of a corrupt state which operates not in the interests of the people of the UK but of the financial interests that own and control it. Therefore anyone who opposes fracking in any (effective) way is a simply an enemy of this mafia and is labelled appropriately.
This is happening all over the world. As American writer Rob los Ricos says in his excellent essay on Ultramodernism: “Interference with corporate activity has become legally defined as terrorism”.
And the targeting of Muslims and anti-fracking protesters is only part of the wave of stealth fascism being introduced by a pompous and hypocritical UK state whose much-vaunted “democracy”, “freedom” and “civilized values” are all entirely fake.
Take, for instance, the news that South Tyneside Council in north-eastern England wants to fine homeless people up to £100 for accepting food or drink from passers-by.
The current weapons of choice for this kind of dictatorial institutional bullying are Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO). “Offences” do not even have to be proven in a court of law, but are punished with an on-the-spot fine merely on the say-so of some official.
PSPOs continue the historic work of the Enclosures by turning what were once public spaces into “restricted areas” in which people’s rights are stolen from them in the interests of social cleansing and city centres are essentially turned into open air private shopping malls.
As The Canary reports, the South Tyneside PSPO bans people from drinking alcohol in the designated area (unless they are paying over the odds in some rip-off town centre pub, of course!) and also from making “verbal, non-verbal or written requests… for money, donations, or goods”.
PSPOs were introduced to the UK by the Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act of 2014 and have already been widely used to target the homeless.
Sleeping in public is a criminal offence in certain areas of Shepway, while Rushcliffe Borough Council is currently consulting residents on the same ban. It’s a crime to spend the night in a vehicle or temporary structure in Worthing, and it’s similarly illegal to spend the night in the park in Wrexham.
PSPOS are also being used to insidiously restrict people’s fundamental freedoms in other ways, reinforcing a trend towards curfews and dispersal powers that Sussex Police, among others, were already trying to impose four years ago under previous legislation.
This wider application of PSPOs has seen Kettering Borough Council introduce a curfew on under-18s, who must now be home by 11pm or risk receiving fines or a criminal record. Bassetlaw District Council has banned under-16s from gathering in groups of three or more if they’re “causing annoyance”, unless a responsible adult is present.
Redbridge in London is proposing a PSPO stating that “No person within a group of two or more shall refuse to leave an area when required to do so by an authorised officer in order to prevent anti-social behaviour, public nuisance or disorder.”
And the London Borough of Hillingdon has already criminalised the gathering of just two people – regardless of age – unless they’re waiting for the bus. As Rosie Brighouse of Liberty states: “This means it is now an offence in Hillingdon to meet up with anyone, whether you’re causing annoyance or not.”
Covert foreign interference in elections to ensure a right-wing victory has been a speciality of the CIA for decades.
So you could be forgiven for laughing out loud at the CIA’s recent claim that Russian influence swung the US presidential election Trump’s way. The main worry for anti-capitalists is perhaps that any cancellation of his win would also cancel the J20 day of resistance planned for his inauguration (see Acorn 29).
But behind the pantomime absurdity is a worrying phenomenon. You didn’t have to be a Brexit supporter to be disturbed by neoliberal elites on the losing side calling for a re-run and the involvement of secret police in overturning any election result, anywhere in the world, would surely be cause for concern.
The “Russian” scare attached to the Trump allegations also has wider implications and is tied in with the “fake news” meme by which the establishment is trying to justify moves to extinguish independent online media and re-impose a traditional corporate monopoly.
Alternet.org describes how a “website that claims ‘Russia is Manipulating US Opinion Through Online Propaganda’ has compiled a blacklist of websites its anonymous authors accuse of pushing fake news and Russian propaganda”.
It continues: “The blacklist includes over 200 outlets, from the right-wing Drudge Report and Russian government-funded Russia Today, to Wikileaks and an array of marginal conspiracy and far-right sites. The blacklist also includes some of the flagship publications of the progressive left, including Truthdig, Counterpunch, Truthout, Naked Capitalism, and the Black Agenda Report, a leftist African-American opinion hub that is critical of the liberal black political establishment.”
The blacklisting organization, PropOrNot, was described by the Washington Post’s Craig Timberg as “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.” Spooks, in other words? Their agenda certainly seems to chime nicely with that of the CIA!
In an article in Counterpunch, Mark Ames draws attention to the leading role of the Washington Post, which he describes as “essentially an arm of the American deep state; its owner, Jeff Bezos, is one of the three richest Americans, worth $67 billion, and his cash cow, Amazon, is a major contractor with the Central Intelligence Agency. In other words, this is as close to an official US government blacklist of journalists as we’ve seen — a dark ominous warning before they take the next steps.”
And on the same site, Norman Solomon sets out what one of these sinister next steps might be. A new Intelligence Authorization Act envisages “an interagency committee to counter active measures by the Russian Federation to exert covert influence.”
Warns Solomon: “This high-level committee could easily morph into a protracted real-life nightmare. While lacking public accountability, the committee is mandated to ferret out such ambiguous phenomena as Russian ‘media manipulation’ and ‘disinformation’.
“Along the way, the committee could target an array of activists, political opponents or irksome journalists. In any event, its power to fulfill ‘such other duties as the president may designate’ would be ready-made for abuse.”
In the UK, the Russian scare has been taken up enthusiastically by The Guardian, itself very close to the transatlantic neoliberal establishment despite its pseudo-radical window dressing.
Former British ambassador Craig Murray highlights on his blog the role of “the truly execrable Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian” who claimed that “few credible sources doubt that Russia was behind the hacking of internal Democratic party emails”.
Comments Murray: “In what passes for Freedland’s mind, ‘credible’ is 100% synonymous with ‘establishment’. When he says ‘credible sources’ he means ‘establishment sources’. That is the truth of the ‘fake news’ meme. You are not to read anything unless it is officially approved by the elite and their disgusting, crawling whores of stenographers like Freedland.”
Right-wing Blairite Labour MP Ben Bradshaw has also leapt enthusiastically onto the Russian-scare bandwagon. His bizarre claim that Moscow somehow influenced the Brexit referendum result, without any indication of how it might have done so, shows how the meme is transparently the latest one-size-fits-all neoliberal propaganda device to be applied to any situation without the need for any pesky “evidence”.
There are also signs that the associated “fake news” smear is being officially wheeled out in the UK, with Channel 4 executive Dan Brooke claiming that “fake news could affect the next UK election”.
By this, he presumably means he’s worried that social media are able to bypass the stranglehold on reporting imposed by organisations like his own and thus make it difficult for the mainstream media to totally control public opinion and ensure election results go the way they want.
Brooke also urged the UK government to “step in” if Facebook and other internet firms do not do more to tackle the “problem”. Alarm bells ringing, anybody?
What we are seeing here seems to be the firming-up of the hostility to alternative media long expressed by rabidly pro-USA, pro-establishment UK “journalists” like James Bloodworth and Andrew Mueller (Exposed: fake “left-wingers” who hate the alternative media, Acorn 19).
The plan to silence critics of the capitalist system by smears and propaganda has failed, so now the aim is to create a scare around “Russians” and “fake news” to justify a fully-fledged state attack on the online dissent that threatens the capitalist system’s monopoly on “truth”.
The monstrous Black Volcano which has loomed and leered menacingly over Happy City since it was founded has finally erupted.
Vast rivers of lava are streaming down the mountain slopes towards the human settlement and ash is already beginning to rain on the rooftops. It is only a matter of time before a pyroclastic cloud scorches instant death onto the people or the molten rock pours into the narrow streets and kills everyone.
But in the city there is complete calm. Reassured by the King’s insistence that they are in no danger and that the volcano is not actually erupting at all, the city folk are going about their everyday lives. Goods are bought and sold, meals prepared and eaten, couples married and children educated.
There was a brief moment of confusion when it was discovered that the Happy City authorities had cut down every single tree in the Great Gardens in order to build a massive wooden fence on the northern limits.
But rumours that this was designed to hide from view the erupting Black Volcano were soon dismissed as malicious paranoid fantasies, as the King explained that it was a completely necessary step to protect his people from blood-thirsty foreign pirates and smugglers.
And so, as certain extinction draws ever closer, the people of the Happy City keep bustling around, making money, gossiping, squabbling over the petty details of their lives and reporting to the Official Inquisitor any citizen seen to be sniffing suspiciously at the sulphur-laden air, cocking an alert ear to the distant rumbling or trying to peer through the gaps in the Great Anti-Crime Fence in order to see if the lava is close.
That is what it feels like to me to be living at the start of the 21st century.
Humankind has taken a dangerous wrong turn. Modern capitalist society is an out-of-control nightmare. The future mapped out for us can only lead into the dead-end of destruction, disaster and death. Tinkering with the detail will change nothing. We need to abandon this experiment before it is too late and live in a completely different way. Otherwise the Black Volcano of Industrialism will kill us all.
More than 400 people took part in a walk to the top of Leith Hill near Dorking, England, on Saturday December 3 in protest against planned exploratory drilling for oil and gas in the area (see our special report in Acorn 29). An indication of the levels of local support for the campaign comes from the fact that the Leith Hill Celebration Walk, intended to demonstrate the strength of feeling against the proposed drilling within the Surrey Hills area of outstanding natural beauty, was organised by a mum and baby group called Surrey Hills Slings. The massive turn-out involved a wide cross-section of Surrey folk, from families to protectors, from horse riders to mountain bikers. Said one campaigner: “Even the sun was out in support!”
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Keep Our Downs Public campaigners in Sussex have won an impressive victory against a council sell-off of public land. Brighton and Hove City Council’s policy, resources and growth committee voted to stall any sales of the remaining sites which had been earmarked. Meanwhile opposition to similar plans in Eastbourne saw hundreds of people take part in a protest walk (below) from local beauty spot Beachy Head on December 3. For background info, see our report in Acorn 29.
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“Our economic system is incompatible with life on this planet”. This is the conclusion of an important article by Jason Hickel, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics. Confirming the degrowth analysis of the fundamental problem with industrial capitalism (see above), he writes: “When it comes to global warming, we know that the real problem is not just fossil fuels – it is the logic of endless growth that is built into our economic system.”
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The assigned role of young American people as brutalised enforcers of global capitalism has been highlighted in a perceptive anti-militarist article in the USA. It says: “In America we will not make shoes, clothes, cars, TV’s or cell phones anymore. We will make war on behalf of corporate interests around the world. The Pentagon calls it ‘Security Export’. The airshows, violent movies, military recruitment in our schools, and many other cultural avenues are all aimed at militarizing our culture. The kids are being taught that violence is cool and normal. The word ‘freedom’ comes to mean that the US, the ‘exceptional’ nation, is free to rape, kill and pillage around the world.” The article links to a video documentary about an air show blatantly targeting kids, called “Disneyland of War”.
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Wessex Solidarity is an affinity group in southern England for those in the region with an interest in anarchism, syndicalism or direct action and who share the goal of building a stateless, classless society around the principles of libertarian socialism. They say: “We aim to promote our ideas by constantly challenging the narrative of governments and the corporate media. Members of all other anti–authoritarian, anti–capitalist groups are welcome. We hope to work with all these groups in solidarity; we differ only in tactics and that’s good; the bourgeoisie won’t know who hit them or with what!” More info at https://wessexsolidarity.wordpress.com
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The build-up to the July 2017 resistance to the G20 capitalist summit in Hamburg, Germany (see Acorn 29), is already underway, with a dramatic assault on the venue for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Foreign Ministers meeting. Reports RT: “About 40 unidentified men in balaclavas threw flammable materials through the entrance of the Hamburg Messe trade fair building. It only took seconds for flames to engulf the first floor.” An online claim of responsibility declares: “We placed burning tires at the south entrance of the venue for the OSCE and G20 summits, the ‘Messe Hamburg’. The glass facade on Karolinenstraße was subject to intensive attack with hammers, paint and stones. We decided on this demolition initiative since we reject the summits which are summits for a world that we reject just as much as the planned meetings.” Looking ahead to July, it adds: “Trouble Makers of the world save the dates: 7.7-8.7 2017”.
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Acorn quote: “There is no culture unless an intimate relationship, on the level of instinct, exists between a people and its poets”. Herbert Read, The Forms of Things Unknown
(For many more like this, see the Winter Oak quotes for the day blog)
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