- Anger returns to the French streets
- Civil servants and dodgy arms dealers
- “It’s imperative that we change this system”
- Scandal of UK’s “death sentence” prisoners
- Destroying words, attacking reality
After a few months of relative calm, anger has again erupted on the streets of France, this time specifically focused against the police.
This time last year saw the start of the massive protest movement against the neoliberal labour “reforms” called the Loi Travail, as reported by The Acorn.
With the summer holidays, and the fact that the law was forced through parliament by the ruling “Socialist” party, the movement inevitably faded.
But, in reality, the energy behind it had never been limited to anger about this latest capitalist assault on workers’ rights. It was a general resentment against the whole system that was simmering and as increasing repression was unleashed against protesters, the movement became just as much a defiance of the violence of the French state, with its “state of emergency” martial law and fascistic police goon squads.
Now, at the start of 2017, the cities and towns of France are once again being filled by cries of “Tout le monde déteste la police!” – “Everybody hates the police!”.
The immediate catalyst has been the nauseating police rape of a young black man in Aulnay, a suburb of Paris, on February 2 – he had to be treated in hospital for anal injuries after having a police baton thrust into him during an all-too-common attack on local youths by thuggish cops.
In response, there have been several weeks of often-feisty protests in the immediate area and all across France (see this video from Bobigny, for instance, and these round-ups from lundimatin and paris-luttes).
The latest of these came on Tuesday February 28, with blockades of secondary schools in Paris and beyond.
The anger is not going to disappear fast. While the French establishment has tried to calm outrage by charging a cop with rape and sending President Hollande to visit victim Théo L in hospital, it seems likely to embrace the police version that the brutal violation was somehow “accidental”.
And, in the year of the French presidential elections, the revolt against police violence cannot be separated from wider political issues, even if liberals would prefer otherwise.
For instance, when a protest against an extreme-right Front National event in Nantes on February 25 turned into street conflict with the cops, the usual reformist voices were raised, saying that this had undermined the day’s anti-fascist message.
But, as protesters interviewed by lundimatin explained, it is difficult in today’s France to draw a line between fascism and the police. When it is police who brutally attack blacks on the streets, police who attack left-wing protesters, police who are known to vote in large numbers for the pro-police Front National, you do not need to look any further for the fascist enemy.
Said Camille: “Confronting the police is fighting the Front National. Fighting the Front National is saying no to a police-state society.”
Added Mo: “Obviously the police’s political party is the FN. Its whole campaign is built on this image of a party of law and order. The FN can’t present itself as an openly fascist party, but can get away with the idea of being the only party really supporting the police”.
Families of the victims of police violence have called a national protest against cop-crime and institutional racism for Sunday March 19. This will set off from Nation, in Paris, at 2pm and head to the Place de la République via Bastille.
Campaigners have announced a day of protest against a controversial Cardiff event which they say “totally blurs the boundary between government and the arms trade”.
DPRTE (Defence Procurement, Research, Technology & Exportability) is to be held at the Motorpoint Arena on Tuesday 28 March. Although it bills itself as “the UK’s leading defence procurement event”, opponents insist it is an arms fair.
Last year six people were arrested during protests against DPRTE and another day of action has been called for 2017, with the aim of shutting the event down.
BAE Systems, whose fighter jets have been used by the Saudi regime to bomb schools and hospitals in Yemen, as well as by the Turkish and Israeli states against Kurdish and Palestinian civilians, will be exhibiting in the “Prime Contractor Village” at Cardiff’s Motorpoint.
DPRTE is open about its aims to deepen and increase existing ties between arms businesses and the government.
These links between the UK state and the weapons industry have come under heavy scrutiny in recent months, with Prime Minister Theresa May being forced to defend ongoing arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the face of international criticism.
Event organisers BiP Solutions boast: “With an annual spend of over £19bn on equipment and services the UK defence sector represents a fantastic opportunity for organisations looking to supply to this marketplace. DPRTE 2017 will provide a unique opportunity to gain access to defence procurement buyers”.
BiP Solutions, a private company based at Pacific Quay, Glasgow, is deeply embedded within Ministry of Defence (MOD) operations, running its Defence Contracts Online, through which all MOD contracts valued at £10,000 and above are advertised. It also publishes the fortnightly MOD Defence Contracts Bulletin.
Established in 1984 “to facilitate business between the public and private sectors”, BiP Solutions has had a “a sixteen-year relationship” with civil servants at the MOD in London.
A keynote speaker at DPRTE 2017 will be 62-year-old Les Mosco, who was the most senior procurement professional in the MOD from 2007 to 2014, managing 2,500 staff and directing the MOD’s annual multi-billion pound spend.
Before his seven-year stint at Whitehall, Mosco enjoyed a successful career in the private sector, with roles at the NatWest banking group, and at the US-based oil and gas business Amerada Hess, now the Hess Corporation.
Less than a year after leaving the MOD at the end of September 2014, Mosco took up a position on the Strategic Advisory Board of BiP Solutions.
He also runs his own private company, Commercial Strategies Ltd, of which he is CEO and director, with his 65-year-old wife Barbara as company secretary. It is registered to the couple’s home in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.
Originally set up in October 2003 as Purchasing Strategies Ltd, its name was changed to Commercial Strategies Ltd in October 2014, just after Mosco left the MOD.
Mosco’s go-between role is no anomaly. The UK government does not hide its links to DPRTE, with Barry Burton, Director of Corporate Affairs at the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation, declaring in his 2016 opening speech in Cardiff: “An event like DPRTE today provides an excellent opportunity for industry professionals to meet with the MOD’s procurement team. The Ministry of Defence wholeheartedly supports this event.”
The official event partners listed on the DPRTE website include sections of the MOD like Defence Equipment and Support, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Defence Infrastructure Organisation and the Defence Export Service Organisation (DESO), which promotes arms exports by arms companies based in Britain.
Alongside these government entities sit other event partners whose status is less clear. One of these, for instance, is Defence Growth Partnership (DGP), which describes itself as “a partnership between Government and the Defence Industry”.
There is also the UK Defence Solutions Centre (UKDSC), which explains on its website that it is “an established, independent partnership between the UK Government and the UK Defence Industry”.
The UKDSC claims to work with “the best of the defence industry” and names arms companies such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Thales, Cobham and BAE Systems as key partners.
Another DPRTE “partner” is Defence and Security Accelerator, a new entity launched in December 2016 to “help government defence and security departments collaborate with industry, academia and allies”.
Further official event partners at DPRTE entirely represent the interests of the powerful weapons manufacturing industry.
One of these, ADS, terms itself the “Premier Trade Organisation for companies in the UK Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space Sectors” and claims to represent 1,000 businesses.
Its website reveals that it acts as a lobbying group, pressuring the government to behave in ways that benefit its members’ interests – which in this case would mean spending more taxpayers’ money on buying weapons.
ADS admits that a key area of its activities is “influencing the policy debates of most importance to our industries,” adding: “ADS plays an instrumental role in bringing industry and Government together. We also work closely and collaboratively to maintain and grow the UK as a world leader in our industries.”
Working towards similar aims is another DPRTE partner, NDI – Defence, Space, Aerospace, Security. The arms wing of the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, NDI “actively promotes global business opportunities for its members” and says it provides “policymaking influence to magnify the voice of the industry and individual companies”. Its “global partners” include BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon.
DPRTE has been attracting protests for several years and was forced to move to Cardiff in 2014 because of public opposition at its original venue in Bristol.
This year the Stop the Cardiff Arms Fair / Na i Ffair Arfau Caerdydd network is advertising a Day of Action at the Motorpoint Arena in Mary Ann Street, starting at 8am on 28 March 28.
One anti-militarist campaigner said: “This event is unacceptable in so many ways. It totally blurs the boundary between government and the arms trade and uses taxpayers’ money to promote unethical profiteering in the private sector.
“These ruthless businesses build their wealth on the rubble of schools and hospitals and on the dead bodies of the children targeted by the weapons of mass destruction they manufacture and sell across the world.
“DPRTE has no place in Cardiff and the city should be ashamed of hosting these dealers in death. We call on anyone with a conscience to join us on 28 March to shut down this arms fair!”
For more info on the protests see https://blog.caat.org.uk/2017/02/14/stop-the-cardiff-arms-fair-2/
by Shoal Collective – theshoal(at)riseup.net
“If we really want to preserve the environment, and the quality of water resources, it’s imperative that we change this system and this government”.
So who said this? A Standing Rock campaigner in the USA, perhaps? An anti-fracking activist in the UK?
No, these are the words of Ran Yunfei, a Chinese philosopher and dissident who has already spent time in jail for his opposition to the policies of the “People’s Republic”.
He is speaking in South to North, a documentary film by Antoine Boutet about the highly controversial Nan Shui Bei Diao, or South–North Water Transfer Project. This massive scheme aims to channel 44.8 billion cubic meters of fresh water annually from the Yangtze River in southern China to the more arid and industrialized north through three canal systems.
But behind the gloss and profits of a prestige infrastructure project lies, as ever, a different story – of displaced families, corrupt local officials, depleted rivers, dead fish and untold environmental damage.
Ran says in the film, now out on DVD: “I didn’t directly criticise the Nan Shui Bei Diao project, but I’m well informed. A lot of people are against it and so am I. It’s damaging the sources of many Southern rivers. I criticise the government because it’s a political project.
“The destruction of the environment in China is the doing of a disastrous government and political system. The development model is based on GDP growth, without concern over the consequences for the environment.
“On the one hand the incompetencies of the system, on the other the belief that ‘man can determine the course of nature’. The natural catastrophes that have succeeded one another indicate that the future foretells of more natural catastrophes.
“The protection of the environment must be made a top priority. The protection of the environment and the life of the people should be valued at the same level. Because without environmental protection there is no quality of life”.
The hidden scandal of people serving indefinite sentences in UK jails is to be exposed by campaigners this month.
Smash IPP are embarking on a March 2017 info tour and are looking for local groups and individuals to help organise dates, mainly between Monday March 13 and Sunday March 19.
More than 3,989 people are serving IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) sentences in British prisons even though these were legally abolished five years ago.
These victims of blatant injustice still languish in jails with no release date. Parole board delays, prison overcrowding and sheer neglect are all leading to unprecedented rates of prisoner suicides.
Smash IPP report that, only last year, a prisoner whom they supported died in prison: “We have worked with IPP families who have lost their kids and their partners. Children have grown up with having a parent stolen by this sentence”.
A mother with a son who’s an IPP describes the IPP sentence as a “death sentence”. One IPP wrote how “Our families are doing the sentence just us much as us, is it right for them to never know if we will ever come home? Sometimes I feel that if I died it would be better for them because they could bury me and move on with their lives and not worry any more.”
Smash IPP say: “Enough is enough. This is life and death. We will not let any more people die because of prison bureaucracy and neglect. This year we call for a year of action to free all IPPs.”
Anyone who can host a meeting would just have to be able to help IPP find a local venue for a two-hour event, help with local publicity and put two people up overnight, preferably with vegan food.
To get involved in any way, contact Smash IPP via info(at)smashipp.noflag.org.uk
For more info go to smashipp.noflag.org.uk
In George Orwell’s 1984, one of the Party members developing Newspeak tells Winston Smith: “You think, I dare say, that our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We’re destroying words – scores of them, hundreds of them, every day”.
He explains: “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thought-crime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it… By 2050 – earlier, probably – all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed”.
In destroying the full metaphysical meaning of words like “essence”, “nature” or “universal” by means of their straw man constructs, the conformists of contemporary goodthink are destroying our connection to reality.
Because they ideologically object to everything beyond subjective individual experience, they are destroying, in particular, our connection to the reality that we human beings are more than individuals.
They are destroying our understanding that our individual freedom and well-being are in fact dependent on a collective level of existence as part of a community, as part of a species and as part of nature as a whole.
They are thus destroying our capacity to see what has been stolen from us by the alienation and separation of the industrial capitalist system and what it is that we must reclaim. “If one is to rule, and to continue ruling,” declares Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein, “one must be able to dislocate the sense of reality”.
A philosophically dislocated anti-capitalist movement that has lost all sense of what it is fighting against and what it is fighting for will never be able to persuade the rest of the population of its arguments and thus will never represent any kind of threat to the dominant system.
It is not just in France (see above), of course, that police brutality continues to rear its ugly pig-faced head. On February 23, a blind man was tasered by UK police in Levenshulme, Manchester. Shamefully, mainstream media reports like this one obediently echoed the absurd police claim that “his cane was mistaken for a gun”. About as credible as accidentally raping someone with your truncheon…
* * *
The battle to Keep Our Downs Public in Eastbourne (see Acorn 29) is intensifying, as the borough council tries to avoid responding to public opinion. The town hall spin doctors have tried to pull a fast one by promoting a “poll” in their own council publication featuring totally one-sided information and a blackmail-style question asking residents whether they prefer the sale of Downland farms or cuts to front-line services! Unimpressed, hundreds took to the streets of the Sussex town to protest on February 25 – see this video report.
* * *
After a three-year absence, Paris anarchist bookfair is returning to the French capital on April 22 and 23. It takes place in the Espace d’animation des Blancs-Manteaux in the Marais area of the city centre, not far from the Hotel de Ville metro station. Meanwhile, in the UK, the very handy site anarchistbookfairs.blogspot.com reveals that Liverpool Anarchist Bookfair is being held on April 1; Cambridge Radical Bookfair on April 29; Southend Radical bookfair on May 6; Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair on May 20 and Dorset’s first Radical Bookfair will take place on Saturday June 3 at Portfield Community Hall, Portfield Rd, Christchurch BH23 2AQ.
* * *
Fancy being part of an autonomous network made up of local groups and individuals from the anarchist movement based in the UK? You might want to get along to LARC at 62 Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel, London E1 1ES on Sunday March 12, 1pm-3pm, for the latest national meeting of the Anarchist Action Network.
* * *
Hundreds of people protested against fracking in two different parts of northern England on February 25. Some 1,000 people gathered near Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool in Lancashire for a rally, after which dozens of protesters managed to invade the fracking site. And more than 400 people took part in a march from Mosborough, near Sheffield, to Marsh Lane in Derbyshire where INEOS has announced plans for what could be its first shale gas site. Full report at drillordrop.com
* * *
A direct action protest by Rising Up! blocked access to three terminals of London’s Heathrow Airport on February 21 in opposition to the planned third runway. The activists included both climate campaigners and local people fearful of increased pollution, loss of homes and green space and the destruction of entire villages to pave the way for yet more aviation profit.
* * *
Acorn quote: “Faith in the fundamental goodness of man; humility in the presence of natural laws; reason and mutual aid – these are the qualities that can save us. But they must be unified and vitalized by an insurrectionary passion, a flame in which all virtues are tempered and clarified, and brought to their most effective strength”.
Herbert Read, The Philosophy of Anarchism
(For many more like this, see the Winter Oak quotes for the day blog)
If you like this bulletin please tell others about it. Subscribe by clicking the “follow” button.
Follow Winter Oak on Twitter at @WinterOakPress