A new website has been launched which challenges “to the core” the thinking of the industrial capitalist system.
It presents the ideological alternative of an “organic radicalism” which it sources from a wide range of thinkers, past and present.
This philosophy, it says, is based on the idea of a living community, a social organism consisting of “horizontal relationships and exchanges between free human beings, rather than on sterile hierarchy”.
The site explains that it rejects the industrial capitalist view of nature as something to be exploited, commercialised, dominated or relegated to second place behind an imagined human priority.
“For us, humankind’s interests cannot be separated from the wider interests of the natural world, because we are nothing other than an extension of that world.
“We reject notions of economic growth or technological advance as any kind of worthwhile basis for society and propose instead a world founded on the healthy values of respect for nature and other creatures; simple but joyful living; an appreciation of inner and outer beauty; a sense of communal responsibility and belonging”.
In its Q&A section it defines the “orgrad” position as an evolution of anarchism.
But it adds: “From our perspective, contemporary anarchism does not go far enough in its opposition to industrial capitalism.
“In the same way as other leftists can become stuck within the broader capitalist mindset, merely seeking greater equality, individual freedom or self-management within the context of capitalism and the state, so do too many anarchists base their vision of the future on the industrial society created by and for capitalism.
“Orgrad also proposes a holistic world-view, based on organic belonging to community, species and nature, which is considered unacceptable by many contemporary anarchists, due to the influence of modern ideologies appropriate to capitalism.
“To be clear, orgrad has no interest at all in the dead-end narcissism of ultra-liberal identity politics”.
The site stresses that organic radicalism is firmly anti-fascist, defining it as “a left-wing, internationalist, humanist, universalist, anti-racist, anti-state, anti-imperialist, anti-militarist, anti-authoritarian ideology”.
There weren’t too many hi-vis jackets in evidence when we arrived at one of a series of roundabouts on the “rocade”, the ring road, at Alès in south-east France on Tuesday March 19.
Would there be enough protesters to pull off the roadblock that had been agreed at the previous night’s meeting of the Gilets Jaunes assembly at the trade union HQ in the former mining town?
I needn’t have worried. It was just that the 6.30am meet-up time had been a little too early for some, and a steady flow of people soon arrived. There were 30 or so at this point.
A dark blue gendarme van arrived, toured the roundabout but didn’t stop and disappeared again. They weren’t going to interfere at the set-up stage, it seemed.
Suddenly, Yellow Vests started streaming off the roundabout towards a side road. They were heading towards a large white van which had just pulled up.
The doors were flung open to reveal that it was packed full of road-blocking material – palettes and tyres, mainly huge lorry ones.
This was all quickly carried, or rolled, to the edges of the roundabout. Some Gilets Jaunes headed off down the ring road towards the next junction.
Before long, this stretch of dual carriageway was blocked from both ends. The operation was remarkably efficient. These people knew what they were doing!
As the morning rush-hour got underway, the blockade, part of a national day of action to coincide with a trade union strike, firmed up even further.
There were enough Gilets Jaunes, easily more than 100, to send a second group to block another roundabout a few miles down the road.
At the original site, the filtering operation came into effect. This was made easier by the use of trolleys borrowed from a nearby supermarket, weighed down with tyres and decorated with yellow cardboard fists.
Someone driving a flat-bed truck loaded with old tyres, apparently on the way to the dump, decided to make an impromptu donation to the Gilets Jaunes cause, creating an impressive heap of rubber on the roadside.
Ordinary car drivers were not allowed through the road block. If they stopped to ask, they were given directions for an alternative route.
However, doctors or nurses on duty were allowed to pass if they could prove who they were. Ambulances and firefighters had the automatic right to go through the barricade.
Every time one was seen, or heard, approaching, the call went out – “pompiers!” – and people rushed to pick up the palettes and roll aside the supermarket trolleys until they had passed, taking care not to let any uninvited traffic through in their wake.
Although car drivers were obviously inconvenienced by the ring road being blocked, and had to take the long way round, they were not the real target.
The aim was to block the economy, in the shape of the heavy goods vehicles which are the life blood of capitalist commerce across Europe.
When lorries – or certain lorries, anyway, as there were some complicated criteria that I never quite grasped – approached the blocked section of road, they were not turned away but invited to enter.
Some of them took a bit of convincing, with Gilets Jaunes standing in front of their vehicle or blocking their way with some of the ample supply of tyres.
But others were more than happy to pass through the blockade into the stretch of road sealed off at both ends by the protesters, where they would have to remain until the end of the action at 8pm.
I was a little surprised by this, until it was patiently explained to me that this amounted, effectively, to a day off for the lorry drivers.
They could phone their boss, report that they were blocked in by the Gilets Jaunes, and spend the day sleeping in their cab, sitting in the sun, drinking coffee, chatting with other drivers or protesters, or whatever. And be paid for it.
When we see a HGV branded with the name of some foul capitalist business, it is too easy to forget that the man or woman driving it is not part of that business, but a victim of that business and can be a willing accomplice in a struggle against the world which that business represents.
After six hours of the blockade, there was no space for any more lorries and disappointed drivers had to be turned away at the barricades.
I took a walk down the blocked stretch of dual carriageway, which was essentially now a lorry park with a narrow central lane for emergency vehicles.
More than fifty lorries had rolled into the Yellow Vest net – mostly French ones but some from Poland, Hungary and Romania. Quite a haul!
There had been a lot of talk at the Monday night assembly about the possible reaction of the police, who had previously used tear gas to clear a roundabout and against a town centre protest.
People were advised to bring protective masks, goggles and so on and were armed with information on solicitors and arrest support.
So it was slightly surprising that when the Police Nationale first turned up at the action, they exchanged smiles and handshakes with some of the Yellow Vests.
I asked somebody about this. “It’s because they’re local police, they’re from here,” he replied. “They’re friends, family members even. One of the Gilets Jaunes is a retired cop, in fact!”
Later the gendarmerie, part of the French armed forces, also turned up and were surrounded by a huddle of Gilets Jaunes.
Something termed a “negotiation” took place and the “forces of order” went on their way. The local paper, Midi Libre, reported later that the authorities in Alès said they did not, on this day of national action, have enough policing resources available to dislodge the blockade.
Saturday March 16 2019 will probably go down in history as the day that Macron and his government gave up waiting for the Gilets Jaunes movement to fade away.
Huge numbers of Yellow Vests packed the Champs Elysées in Paris for Act 18 of their revolt and were immediately attacked by police.
But they had come ready for a fight, for a revolution even, and took the offensive against the armed forces of the regime, despite all the tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets, grenades and armoured vehicles.
Police were pelted with stones and repeatedly forced to retreat, in an eight-hour battle in the boulevard that has long symbolised chic Parisian affluence.
The rabble that had invaded this inner sanctuary of wealth wasted no time in trashing boutiques, eateries and banks, leaving them inscribed with their own philosophical reflections on the state of French society.
To the general consternation of the Parisian media and political elite, they even laid waste to that tiny minority’s spiritual home, the swanky gourmet restaurant Le Fouquet’s.
There was also much one-per-cent outrage over a video showing protesters in Black Bloc mode being cheered by others wearing the usual hi-vis singlets.
All of the lies peddled for months by the government were falling apart. No, the Gilets Jaunes movement had not faded away to insignificance. No, there was not a clear divide between the “extremist vandals” who broke windows and the rest of the movement. It was all just different aspects of the same uprising.
Interior minister Christophe Castaner declared afterwards that there had been no Gilets Jaunes in Paris that day, only 10,000 “casseurs” or vandals (there were at least ten times that many protesters, in fact).
This rhetoric allowed him to, again, completely brush aside the reasons behind the revolt and instead focus on a hard-line repressive strategy, firing the Paris police chief for not having ordered enough violence and announcing bans on protests and unspecified action against prominent Gilets Jaunes spokespeople.
A couple of days later the government announced that the army would be deployed to “protect public buildings” in France, a decision greeted with alarm and derision even by rivals on the conservative right.
Big shows of “strength” are tell-tale signs of an underlying sense of weakness, and the regime’s aura of authority had suffered as badly as the shop windows of the Champs Elysées.
* * *
Hundreds of miles away from Paris another huge crowd of Gilets Jaunes had gathered together, in completely different circumstances.
The occasion was a pre-release screening of the first film to be made about the movement, the documentary J’veux du soleil (I want some sunshine).
The local Gilets Jaunes at Dions, in the Gard department of southern France, appear in the documentary, made by Gilles Peret and François Ruffin, a well-known MP for the left-wing France Insoumise party.
Ruffin’s documentary Merci patron! (Thank you, boss!) was a massive box office hit in 2016 and fed into the mood of popular revolt of the Nuit Debout movement.
This was an outdoor event, as are so many such occasions in this Mediterranean corner of the country – in any case, no village hall or cinema could have accommodated the 3,000 people who turned up!
The giant inflatable screen had been installed in a manade, a ranch, on the rural plain north of Nîmes, surrounded by the vineyards which dominate this famous wine-producing region.
Before the film showing – which was after sunset, of course – there was a concert of the Spanish gypsy-style music that is very popular in these parts.
The culinary focus of the event was a “giant paella”, for which tickets had to be reserved in advance, but there were also plenty of food stalls and a “buvette”, an outdoor bar, where you could acquire a plastic beaker of local red wine for ninety-something pence.
The event as a whole was free, as might be expected for a political movement that is, above all, the voice of those with no money.
I took the time to look around me and to try to sum up the kind of people who were present. I was struck by the fact that it was impossible to do so.
Obviously it wasn’t “everyone” who was there (there was a serious overflow of the massive makeshift car park as it was! ) but this was certainly a cross-section of “everyone”.
These were the people you see everywhere here – at the market, sitting outside the cafés, or attending other general concerts or social events.
They were of mixed age and sex. There was nothing about the way they looked or dressed that marked them out as part of any particular “scene”.
That, perhaps, is the role played by the yellow vests worn by about half the people present – it represents the spirit of shared identity which unites these people and turns them from a collection of individuals into a whole.
This was a theme which cropped up again and again in the film, which is a kind of road movie in which Ruffin and Peret call in on Gilets Jaunes occupying roundabouts across France, from the Somme in the north to the Mediterranean coast.
People had been suffering in life but keeping it to themselves. They felt personally responsible, ashamed even, to struggle to pay the bills and feed themselves or their families.
Then the Gilets Jaunes appeared. They were accessible, friendly, and ready to talk. You didn’t have to pass an ideological examination to be allowed to take part in their revolt. You didn’t have to dress in a certain way or eat the right sort of food. Nobody even asked you how you voted at the last election.
Lonely and desperate people, spat out and cast aside by the capitalist consumer society which has taken hold of France, had suddenly rediscovered the community from which they had been separated.
In the Gilets Jaunes movement they did not just have political comrades, but friends. A new family, even. The hours spent on the roundabouts together had built solidarity, warmth, love.
J’veux du soleil is a powerful documentary because Ruffin allows himself to fade into the background and lets the Gilets Jaunes speak for themselves, with a frankness and intimacy that is rarely seen on camera.
The film intersperses these interviews with clips of Emmanuel Macron. The effect is stunning – the empty slickness of the neoliberal poster boy is the complete opposite of the raw honesty of the featured Gilets Jaunes.
The footage shows the arrogant “centrist” president, from his position of ultimate power and privilege, dismissing protesters as “people who are nothing”, as “lazy”, and as a “hateful mob”.
At the Dions screening, I was clearly not the only member of the audience who found Macron’s feudal contempt for the revolting peasants hard to stomach. His words were all but drowned out by a huge chorus of boos every time he appeared.
There were bursts of applause for particularly well-chosen words from Yellow Vests from elsewhere in France and great cheers of approval at the video of Gilets Jaunes famously smashing through the front gate of a government building in Paris with the aid of a construction vehicle they had borrowed from some nearby roadworks.
Activists in the UK are getting organised to oppose the NATO summit announced for London in December 2019.
The first meeting will be held in the Whitechapel area of the capital city on Sunday March 24 from 2.30pm.
The last NATO summit in the UK was in Newport in 2014 and a campaign by Stop NATO Cymru and others saw a week of action against the summit and occupied spaces in protest.
NATO is responsible for advancing Western capitalist interests across much of the world, as well as the often untold devastation of its conflicts; resulting in civilian deaths, refugee crises, trauma, and mass community and environmental destruction.
Turkey is a NATO country, currently in a military occupation of part of Western Kurdistan/Rojava. Trump is a NATO nation leader and will also be heading to London for the summit.
Stop NATO Cymru has since become part of the Anarchist Action Network and together with Our Future Now, part of Global Justice Now, has called this discussion meeting to see how best to resist this militarist and imperialist summit in London.
Here is a translation of a new article from Lundi matin, a website close to the Invisible Committee, famed authors of The Coming Insurrection. After four months of full-on revolt in France, the promised insurrection seems closer than ever to fruition…
On the streets, the Algerian authorities are responding with the same gas as the French authorities and with the same gaseous language. “It’s either us or chaos” … “watch out, you have been infiltrated” … “how dare you speak in the name of the people” … “there is a framework in which you can express your views: democratic elections!”. They have wasted no time in rolling out all kinds of trickery, new and old. In Algeria, too, they are launching a “great national debate”. This is the basis of counter-insurrection: launch false debates on the one hand, heavy repression on the other and justify the one by the other.
But this is no longer a time for respecting frameworks. It’s been 40 years now that the ruling class has been playing for time with its puppet theatre of politics and elections. Distress does not wait. The extinction of the bees does not wait. The bailiff does not wait. The climate catastrophe does not wait. Protesters who have lost an eye do not wait. Pesticide contamination does not wait. Fish stuffed with plastic and massacred dolphins do not wait.
The senators, however, can wait. The political commentators can wait. The big-city yuppies can wait. The pension funds can wait. Monsanto and Bayer can wait, that has always been the secret behind their marvellous profits. We are drowning and they tell us to wait for the next elections when some minor law might at last be voted through… What a joke! Waiting will prove to have been our big mistake, right from the start. And persuading us to wait has been the greatest achievement of our rulers.
That which has stood up won’t fall back down. If the firing of grenades, the ideological weapons of mass intimidation such as the accusation of anti-semitism against a whole movement and all the verbal diarrhoea unleashed on the TV against “sedition”, if the death threats against protesters, if the new “anti-vandal” law, if all that has been powerless to make the Gilets Jaunes give up and go home, then nothing will restore “order”. Because their apparent order was a transparent disaster. No amount of weariness can restore things to the way they were before. The mere fact that the president’s party is congratulating itself, in such circumstances, of being ahead in the opinion polls shows how defunct electoral politics has become.
The cohort of old money-grubbers who chaperone the “young” puppet-president are finding it increasingly difficult to hide their anger at the disruption to their business as usual.
The “great debate” will just have given Macron the chance to shine in the only exercise in which he excels: the class presentation, where you have to fake for the gallery an expertise that you haven’t really got. And for the regime, this will have been one of those moments of total, paradoxical, senseless, creeping, Soviet-style propaganda.
It had been a very long time since we had last seen such a gang of scoundrels become so unanimously outraged by the supposed vices of the people they are ripping off.
It is clearly not enough for the winners to have won: they also have to morally crush those they have trampled over to get to where they are.
In its timely swerve “towards the right”, the government is not concealing the fact that the great debate will give birth to a tiny mouse; to a scattering of minor technical changes spread out over three years; that a bit of authoritarianism does not do any harm and that more doses of neoliberalism are the prescribed remedy for the ravages of neoliberalism.
It cannot even see that the policing, judicial and media means it has been deploying over the last few months to cling on to power have removed the ground from under its feet. That masks have slipped. That their servings of rhetoric are now only being greeted with disgust. Such is the blindness of those who take other people’s eyes out.
On Saturday March 16, Paris will see the convergence of the Gilets Jaunes’ Act XVIII (“Ultimatum: the whole of France to Paris!”), the demonstration of “working class areas” against police violence and the “march of the century” for the climate – in other words, the convergence of more or less all the issues which the current power is incapable of addressing. All the issues which are beyond it but which are the most urgent today. All the reasons for which we have to remove our destiny from its hands. If the impulse to take over the capital of the French state is so broadly shared, it is because Paris holds the key to our situation, wherever we are in France, such is the centralisation of this country.
Media and economic power, administrative and cultural power, the presidency, the ministers, the “representatives of the nation”, the multinationals and lobbyists of every description: all of this has chosen for its home a few square miles, protected but submergeable.
“Macron resign!” isn’t the expression of an obsessive fixation with the symbolic power of the state, but the political precondition for taking back local control of our living conditions.
Macron, furthermore, fully admits to being this obstacle: “They will perhaps kill me with a bullet, but never any other way”. The insurrectional impulse to head for Paris has loomed up since the start of the Gilets Jaunes uprising on November 17 as a necessary step on the long road towards another way of organising our lives; another way of organising production, other ways of living which will be voiced and built differently region by region, canton by canton, neighbourhood by neighbourhood.
We all live somewhere; it was from this starting point that the Gilets Jaunes were born and it is from there that this shattered world can be repaired. And not from some administrative centre, whether national or European. We have seen well enough in this movement how the local easily becomes the general, through the reciprocal echoes shared across different localities.
Never as in this apocalyptic era has the slogan “revolution or death!” had such a concrete and scientifically proven meaning. Sticking with our current social organisation amounts to committing suicide and none of the capitalists will consider the slightest reduction in the rapacity of the system. But while some see revolutions as the “locomotives of history”, we see them more as the emergency brake. We have to stop everything and start again. That might be scary, but we have never seen 60 million people starve to death. And what we have found in the warmth of the roundabouts is the simplicity of organising ourselves intelligently, each on the basis of their own circumstances.
And then, truth be told, in the face of governments which have everywhere set course for the worst, we no longer have any choice.
In Paris on March 16, and everywhere else in France afterwards, what more beautiful season than the spring for getting back down to earth? And what more beautiful springtime than that which sees the end of the wretched reign of the economy?
For further recent translations from the front lines of the Gilets Jaunes uprising, see Yellow Voices in our latest Acorn bulletin.
The Gilets Jaunes, or Yellow Vests, movement in France is the most important political phenomenon to emerge in Western Europe so far this century. It has smashed through the barriers of political stagnancy and sterility which so often disempower and stifle spontaneous expressions of popular discontent.
The yellow banner of revolt has rallied parts of the population previously unreached by political organising and the relentless determination of hundreds of thousands of men and women has shaken the citadels of neoliberal power to the core. As well as the rubber bullets, grenades, water cannon and tear gas deployed by the French state against the uprising, another major weapon against the Gilets Jaunes has been the corporate media.
Constant lies, smears and alarmism in France have been matched by almost total silence elsewhere, punctuated by small dribbles of largely inaccurate information. We at Winter Oak have been trying to help counter this information war against the rebellion by reporting their activities and opinions in English. Below we present five new translations which offer some useful insights into what is currently being spelled out in yellow in France.
The uprising is very much ongoing as we write this, with Act 18 of the protests on March 16 likely to be significant, particularly in Paris. For news updates about the movement follow us on Twitter.
i. Power to the people!
This declaration was agreed at the Yellow Vest assembly of assemblies in Commercy at the end of January, attended by delegates from across France. It was then “sent back” down to the local assemblies, who have gradually been endorsing it from the grassroots.
Ever since November 17, from the smallest village in the countryside to the biggest city, we have been rising up against this profoundly violent, unfair and unbearable society.
We are not going to be pushed around! We are revolting against the high cost of living, against precarity and misery. We want our loved ones, our families and our children to live in dignity.
26 billionaires own as much as half of the human species and that is unacceptable. Let’s share wealth and not misery!
Let’s do away with social inequality! We demand immediate increases in pay, in the minimum wage, in benefits and in pensions; the unconditional right to healthcare and education; free public services for everyone.
It’s for all these rights that every day we occupy roundabouts, that we organise actions and protests and hold discussions everywhere.
With our yellow vests on, we are having our say, which we have never had before.
And what’s the response from the government? Repression, contempt, denigration.
People killed and thousands injured, the massive use of weapons fired directly at us which mutilate, take out eyes, wound and traumatise.
More than 1,000 people have been arbitrarily prosecuted and jailed.
And now the new so-called “anti-vandal” law aims simply to stop us demonstrating.
We condemn all violence against protesters, whether it comes from police or violent factions. None of that is going to stop us!
The right to protest is fundamental. End the impunity for the government forces! Amnesty for all the victims of repression!
And what a con, this Grand National Debate which is nothing but a government PR exercise taking advantage of our desire to discuss and take decisions!
The real democracy is the one we practise in our assemblies and on our roundabouts. It is neither on the TV nor in the fake debates organised by Macron.
He insults us, says we’re less than nothing, then depicts us as hateful crowd, fascistic and xenophobic.
But in fact we are completely the opposite: neither racist, nor sexist, nor homophobic, we are proud to be together with our differences to build a society of solidarity.
The diversity of our discussions is our strength and even now hundreds of assemblies are drawing up and putting forward their own demands.
They involve real democracy, social and fiscal justice, environmental and climate justice, the ending of discrimination.
Among the most debated demands and strategic proposals we can find: the eradication of misery in all its forms; the transformation of institutions (citizen-initiated referenda, constituent assemblies, an ending to privileges for elected representatives); environmental transition (energy precarity, industrial pollution); equality and the valuing of all women and men regardless of their nationality (people with disabilities, gender equality, ending the neglect of working-class districts, rural areas and overseas territories).
We, Gilets Jaunes, invite everyone to join us, as and how they see fit. We call for a continuation of the series of “acts” of protests, of the occupation of roundabouts and the blockading of the economy and of the effort to build a huge national strike.
We call for the setting up of committees in the workplace, at places of study; and everywhere else so that this grave can be built on the basis of the strikers themselves.
Let’s take control of our own activities! Don’t stay on your own, join us! Let’s organise democratically, autonomously and independently!
This assembly of the assemblies is an important step which allows us to discuss our demands and our means of acting.
Let’s come together in federations to transform society!
We ask the whole of the Gilets Jaunes movement to circulate this call.
If, as a Gilets Jaunes group, you agree with it, then don’t hesitate to send your support to Commercy.
Please do discuss and draw up proposals for the next assembly of the assemblies, already under preparation.
Power to the people, for the people, by the people!
The “nothings” are on the streets
ii. The ghost of 1789
This is an extract from a leaflet issued by a group of Gilets Jaunes in southern France after a local bigwig, the Prefect, accused “anarchists” of inciting hate of the state and confrontations with the police.
Mr Prefect, there is no need for anarchists to sow hate as your government is managing to do that all on its own. Oh, nobody for the moment is talking about reaching for their rifle, but everyone can see what they earn and what the rich earn. Hate is on the rise. The Gilets Jaunes are simple people, generally workers at the bottom of the scale on low wages, or people living on modest pensions…
They say, when they talk about the rulers and the fat cats in this country: “They are like the kings and aristocrats used to be”. They are not talking about having a revolution here and now but they talk a lot about our great revolution: it is always coming up in conversation.
Macron has said repeatedly that he won’t change course: so we can expect nothing from him but scraps of charity. One day or the other the poor, like in 1789, will take action and a lot of others with them.
This won’t be a revolt, but a revolution!
It is clear that every government since 1983 has done all it can to ensure that the poor are in this state of mind.
In our assemblies there are, among the hundreds present, lots of workers and pensioners. There are also teachers and nurses.
Some anarchists work and earn roughly as much as the other Gilets Jaunes, others are unemployed, like many others.
Sorry to disappoint you, but there is nothing to differentiate them from other Gilets Jaunes except that, perhaps, some of them are more active than most: that’s their right and we don’t hold it against them!
iii. Our community is the struggle!
This analysis comes from issue 2 of an eight-page A3 street paper, Jaune: Le Journal Pour Gagner (Yellow: the Paper for Winning).
From the start of this movement, two symbols have been competing on the roundabouts. The yellow vest and the tricolour flag. Of course, many wouldn’t put it that way. They would say that the flag is the symbol of the French people, while the yellow vest is the symbol of the struggle, so the two are complementary. And it’s true that in each instance those who sport them regard them as signs of rallying around something in common. But there are different kinds of commonality.
The idea of a community founded on belonging to a territory, defined by a state and the defence of the borders of that state, is very old. We can see it in the founding myths of the Roman Empire.
Some will say that this is a hard reality. They will argue that every country has its share of misery and that at the end of the day defending your tribe, your territory, your compatriots, is a necessary part of being human. Their slogan is “our own before the others”.
But who are “our own”? Have you really got more interests, aspirations and sufferings in common with the rich of France than with someone who works on the same building site as you but hasn’t got the same passport? More in common with the Loréal family than with an Italian or Algerian delivering for an Amazon subcontractor? More in common with someone else on the minimum wage, regardless of nationality, or with someone who used to pay the highest rate of income tax until Macron scrapped it?
Nationalism will tell you that yes, French people, regardless of their social position, have more interests in common together than with any other form of solidarity, such as that based on a common situation. But where does that lead? Who profits from saying that? Who benefits from nationalism?
Everybody knows the line about divide and rule. It implies, of course, that it those who rule who divide the others. So, let’s put the question this way: who rules? Who owns the wealth and the means of producing more wealth? The rich, the bourgeoisie. And who is divided according to passport and nationality? The poor, the workers, the unemployed.
Anyway, do you really think the bourgeoisie practises what it preaches for us? Do you really think that the French rich feel closer to you than to their friends in such or such a country, with whom they go skiing in Switzerland or Dubai while you go to work? Let’s not be naive.
But there is another community: the community of struggle. Thus, in France, for a long time now, a revolutionary tradition welcomes all those who want to struggle. As far back as the French Revolution, lots of people from every corner of the world came to lend a hand. During the Paris Commune, as well, the organisation of the barricades was partly organised by Polish revolutionaries.
And we can see this solidarity in struggle and revolution at many other times of history and in many other parts of the world. That is the community which brings us together. Today, it has a rallying call: the yellow vest. This call is universal and as such it is closer to the spirit of past revolutions, including the French one.
So we are saying it loud and clear: we are on the side of the yellow vest, of what it says about common struggle and also about a shared refusal of our dire situation, about chilly early mornings blockading and about evenings around a pile of burning palettes, talking about our rock-bottom living conditions.
Yellow Vests of every country, unite!
iv. Poisoned by neoliberalism
From an interview with François Boulo, a lawyer and a Gilets Jaunes spokesman in the northern city of Rouen (source: Thinkerview).
How do you see the current situation with the Gilets Jaunes?
There is a fight to be won in terms of communication. The mainstream media are trying to criminalise the movement. But the real question of immorality lies with the distribution of wealth. To live in a country and pile up a personal fortune that is 10, 100, 1,000 times more than you need to live, while in France 9 million people teeter on the brink of poverty and 140,000 are homeless…
What kind of politics are you proposing?
For the last 40 to 45 years there has been an ideological drive to poison our minds with the dominant neoliberal thinking, which is presented as the only possibility. This is the framing for the way we think about politics today. This economic framing is imposed on us and they tell us that there is no alternative. This has generated a mood of resignation.
The economic debate has been closed down. They explain to us that we have to have permanent growth, even though we live in a finite world. We have a cake and they tell us we can’t change the rules for allocating the slices of the cake. I think citizens’ control is needed.
What do you think of the political and policing climate around the Gilets Jaunes movement?
Right from the start, everything was done to ramp up the climate of tension. On the second Saturday of protests in France, from 8.30 or 9am people were being “kettled”, caught in a trap, and teargassed! How do you expect them to feel that their right to protest is being respected?
What about Europe ?
We have got to stop following the demands of the banks and investors, because their financial games do not help the real economy. We should finally create the social Europe we were promised.
v. A breath of fresh air
Here is an abridged version of an in-depth article in issue 12 of Avis de Tempêtes: Bulletin anarchiste pour la guerre sociale (Storm Warning: Anarchist bulletin for social war), a 20-page A5 zine with a yellow and red cover. The piece takes a witty swipe at a certain kind of comrade who considers themself too ideologically pure to possibly be able to join in the diverse and mould-breaking Gilets Jaunes uprising.
For once, a movement has erupted in a self-organised way without political parties and trade unions, for once it immediately set its own agenda – an agenda which is often daily and not at the weekly or monthly rhythm of the big days out orchestrated by the troop masters and agreed in advance with the police – even deciding for itself its own places and routes of confrontation and blockage by obstinately refusing to beg for official authorisation.
In short, a breath of fresh air for all those activists who have been waiting for nothing other than a big collective movement before venturing out of their homes. However… While the meagre crumbs claimed by any number of reformist, trade-unionist or victimist organisations – backed up by a show of strength in the streets to help their representatives in their negotiations with authority – have never put too many people off taking part, now we see those marvellous anti-authoritarian activists diligently dissecting those who have lit the yellow-vest fuse.
The anti-authoritarian activist, well schooled in swallowing all kinds of reformist demands in order to join in various struggles, this time finds that there is not enough familiar common ground.
With the Gilets Jaunes movement, the activist has suddenly discovered the world around him. Having been in raptures over the Arab Spring without finding his enthusiasm impossibly deflated by the “interclassist” use of the term “the people” (“The people wants the fall of the regime” was a much-used popular slogan) and the abundance of national flags, he is now disgusted by the same limitations on his own side of the Mediterranean.
Having rioted against the Loi Travail labour reforms, or last May Day, without feeling his presence incompatible with that of massed hammer and sickle flags, or with the sometimes-dubious banners at the head of Parisian demos (emblazoned with the wise words of 100%-reactionary rappers), he is now mortified by the tricolour flags and populist slogans.
He had chosen to be blind to the hundreds of tricolour flags in the left-wing France Insoumise rallies at the last elections, as well as to those wielded by hundreds of thousands in the streets after the epic victory in the footballing spectacle of July 2018 (sported in unison by poor urban youth and old rich racists).
No, the activist is as simple as his organic-supermarket ideology. An unclean symbol equals a fascist. Full stop.
A radical anti-capitalist dimension to the Extinction Rebellion (XR) has emerged in the UK, with the creation of a new alliance.
The Green Anti-Capitalist Front is born of the realisation that if we want to defend nature we have to fight capitalism.
It says it wants to support the high-profile XR “with a parallel mobilisation that has a greater focus on the capitalist roots of climate catastrophe”.
GAF explains: “As we all know, capitalism is killing the Earth. We have been observing the rise of the Extinction Rebellion movement and, while we are glad to see a growing interest in fighting climate change, we do not think their critique goes far enough and believe a specifically anti-capitalist critique is needed.
“As such we are calling for the formation of an anti-capitalist block to tap into this rising interest in radical politics and to fill the vacuum of a green and anti-capitalist movement in London. We plan to loosely work alongside Extinction Rebellion’s actions, especially their week of actions planned from April 15th, while also developing our own unique
“The Green Anti-Capitalist Front is intended as a broad coalition of groups with varying ideologies, but with a common interest in tackling environmental problems at their social roots”.
In an open letter to XR, GAF praises it for having reinvigorated environmental activism at a time when this was most needed.
It says: “XR has been bold in its aims when much of the established movement has been cynical, and has managed to tap into a broader sense of alarm over environmental degradation, and mobilised many people not previously involved.
“XR has grown at a speed that many people would have thought impossible before we saw it happen.
“XR has also been far more radical in this broad appeal than many people would have thought, pursuing a strategy built around both local direct action while maintaining an international orientation.
“We cannot overstate the overwhelmingly positive effect that XR is having on environmental politics”.
However, GAF says it has “doubts about some of the tactics that XR has adopted” and thinks a conversation is needed about this.
GAF is inviting like-minded people and groups to get in touch via
email@example.com. It has a website, Twitter account and Facebook presence.
In the 21st century, the world is now veritably swamped with commodities. According to APLF ltd. American consumers purchase an average of 7.5 shoes per capita per year. The LA Times reports that “the average U.S. household has 300,000 things, from paper clips to ironing boards.”
I am not by any means claiming that everyone is an affluent borderline-hoarder. One of the fundamental problems of capitalism is the unequal access to this seeming abundance of goods.
With so much paraphernalia in the world, it is inevitable that significant portions will be wasted.
In an article for The Atlantic, Derek Thompson explains that in a year the world creates around 2.6 trillion pounds of garbage—“the weight of about 7,000 Empire State Buildings.”
Much of this is food waste, but many inorganic items are produced with cheap plastic and other materials that fall apart quickly. Some companies, such as Apple, even reportedly preprogram their products to stop functioning properly after a certain amount of time in order to force consumers to buy new wares at a much greater rate than they otherwise would.
All this waste, all this stuff tossed away, has to go somewhere. Such rubbish becomes part of the planet’s topography, enters into its ecological systems, and eventually returns to the human sphere of interaction – much to human detriment.
This is zombie archaeology; when the remnants of our past are not uncovered by human beings but return to us by themselves with a vengeance.
In this age of capitalism-induced ecological collapse, zombie archaeology is certain to become only increasingly suited for describing the world. Walter Benjamin, in his Theses on the Philosophy of History, writes of Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, “This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But… …[t]he storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward.”
But what happens when the wreckage and debris – both literal and figurative – begin shambling towards the present? When the dead are, in a sense, awakened? Zombie archaeology poses these questions.
We have been drawing attention for some time now to the ideological smears being deliberately used by the neoliberal elite to stifle dissident voices.
Unlike Monty Python’s ridiculous “Spanish Inquisition”, this one has long been expected by everybody who has been paying attention.
The most important task, we feel, is to point out the essential dishonesty behind these attacks.
Neoliberals differ from the old-fashioned right in that they like to paint themselves as the Guardians (yep, quite!) of Progressive Thinking, as somehow vaguely left-wing despite their full-blooded backing for capitalism, militarism, imperialism and everything that goes with it.
So they cannot attack the left in the traditional way, by simply saying they do not like it because it is too left-wing and threatens the status quo which they support.
Instead, they pretend to be attacking their enemies from a progressive position, one which occupies the liberal moral high ground.
This is the case with the longstanding smears against deep green thinking which try to claim it is a continuation of Nazi ideology, even though Hitler’s regime was the epitome of industrialism (see our article Organic Radicalism: Bringing Down the Fascist Machine for a full analysis of this).
Neoliberals, including pseudo-leftists, aren’t honest enough to say that they oppose deep green politics because they support industrial capitalism – that would blow their ideological cover.
Instead, they have to pretend that it is because they have cleverly identified it as a sinister right-wing threat to democracy as we know it.
The same phenomenon is basically at work with the “anti-semitism” allegations cropping up everywhere at the moment.
This issue is slightly complicated by the fact that it is partly about Palestine and the need for the pro-Israel lobby to silence all criticism of the apartheid state by conflating anti-Zionism with anti-semitism.
A real witch-hunt atmosphere has been created here, which the original Spanish Inquisition would surely have been proud of.
Once accused of “anti-semitism”, the victim is faced with a dilemma similar to that of the famous ducking stool – if you drown you are not a witch and if you don’t then you are a witch and you have to be burned alive.
If the person accused of anti-semitism admits guilt and apologises, not only will they not be left alone, but they will also have surrendered important political ground and will have set a precedent for the next absurd denunciation.
If they deny having said anything wrong, this denial will be regarded as a further offence of perhaps even greater severity.
This is what has been happening to UK Labour Party figures such as Chris Williamson and to US lawmaker Ilhan Omar (see here and here).
The secondary smear technique has also been used against the Gilets Jaunes in France, particularly following an incident in which intellectual Alain Finkielkraut was called a “dirty Zionist”.
Comments, or lack of comments, on the much-hyped confrontation were used to attack prominent Yellow Vest supporters such as journalist Aude Lancelin and leftist politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
It is important to note that all these smear attacks have been targeted at the political left. Anti-semitism on the right is rarely even mentioned.
It is clear that the Palestine question, important though it is both for supporters and critics of the Israeli state, is not the only issue at stake here, as the likes of Jonathan Cook have been pointing out.
One of the great successes of the wave of global protests that took place in the 1990s and at the start of the 21st century was to put anti-capitalism on the public stage.
Previously, the mainstream had never even accepted that we lived in a capitalist society, let alone that people could be against that.
The word “capitalism” was regarded as a nonsensical one, used only by communists or other left-wing cranks.
Suddenly, they were talking about anti-capitalism on the BBC, examining who these troublesome anti-capitalists were and what exactly they wanted.
Twenty years on, the Establishment feels under threat, its system crumbling and its mind-control power over the population lifting like fog in the sunshine.
It therefore seems to have decided to try to push anti-capitalism back out of the public domain, beyond the perimeter fence of ideological validity.
We have commented previously on the peculiar political argument that there is something “anti-semitic” about opposing the “1%” who own most of the world’s wealth (it’s a lot fewer than that…) or about condemning bankers or international capitalist organisations like the IMF, the WTO or the Bilderberg group.
As we pointed out last July: “What appears to be happening, in some cases at least, is that the ‘Jewish banker’ figure is again being deliberately deployed to thwart opposition to capitalism.
“Previously, it was used to steer people away from anti-capitalism and into anti-semitism, but now the aim is rather to steer people away from anti-capitalism with the threat of being labelled anti-semitic”.
This twisted approach is now being presented as a common-sense view by mainstream media, in tandem with the other smear attacks on left-wingers.
Right-wing Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh spun this toxic propaganda on BBC Radio 4 on March 4, with presenter John Humphreys helpfully summing up: “In other words, to be anti-capitalist you have to be anti-semitic?”
Such are the desperate, dangerous lies of a system that senses its days are numbered…
In his new “extremist” novel, No Such Place as Asha, Paul Cudenec gives a fictional airing to the ideological smears often deployed by neoliberals against opponents of their ecocidal industrial capitalist system. This excerpt describes a speaker at a private conference of the “Transatlantic Alliance for Freedom” (TAF) in Edinburgh…
His special subject was environmentalism. He started off paying lip service to the importance of balancing economic growth with sustainable practices, of ensuring the well-being of human and animal communities, so on and so forth. Responsible environmental organisations acted as crucial watchdogs that reminded the authorities and industry of their responsibilities. While TAF did not always agree with their positions, they recognised the role they played, etcetera, etcetera.
Then he moved on to the substance of his talk. Unfortunately, there was always a fringe of green protesters who took things too far, who refused to play by the rules. He talked about “eco-terrorists” in the USA and “hardcore” environmentalists in Europe, such as 1990s road protesters in the UK, a mobilisation against a high-speed rail line in Italy, a protest camp against an airport in France, another against mining in Germany.
More recently, the “worst” instance of these campaigns was the anti-fracking movement in the UK. The dangers of these extremists’ illegal direct action were well known, he said, as was the “Luddite” ideology that inspired them.
But lately things had taken a turn for the worse. These groups were starting to develop a common ideology, aided by the exchange of news and views made possible by the internet. They were borrowing ideas from campaigners on the other side of the world and incorporating them into their own rhetoric. They were increasingly identifying the enemy not just as their local government, or business, but as something they termed “the industrial capitalist system”.
Up against this, they were piecing together their own counter-position. They had taken the idea of “sacred land” from indigenous struggles in North America, Australia and elsewhere and were applying it to their own sites. The use of direct action was turning into an ideology of direct action, an anarchist contempt for the rule of law and the due democratic process. French and German groups had fed into the mix the idea of “degrowth”, which rejected the very fundaments of our society – the idea of progress, economic growth and increased prosperity for humankind.
I wrote down a complete quote at this point. “Let’s be clear, these people are negationists. They are guilty of progress denial. And I would suggest that this brand of negationism should be treated as seriously as the other one of which we are all too well aware. Because that’s where it ends, ultimately. It all ends at the same place. The destruction of civilization. The deaths of millions of men, women and children in the name of fanaticism.”
There was a great burst of applause across the room at this point. Having established his moral high ground, Heath went on to spell out the particular form this Eco-Terrorist Apocalypse would take, which seemed to involve mainly a drop in the profits of “important wealth-creating institutions”, faced with increased grassroots resistance to their projects and falling levels of consumption as the “poison” of anti-growth views contaminated the population.
A top-notch new comic has been published by Corporate Watch in London. Worlds End uses words and pictures to help people understand climate change and capitalism and encourage a different approach, one that builds power to fight them. Read it online here.
* * *
“Just because the participants in the growing number of Extinction Rebellion actions may be predominantly middle class, it doesn’t mean to say that we as working class people aren’t concerned about environmental issues”. So says a useful article in The South Essex Heckler. It adds: “What we need to do is to start to own the narrative of the campaigns around those issues so that it’s our voices that are being heard. We’re the ones on the frontline from traffic induced air pollution through to being housed in flood risk areas”.
* * *
Disturbing evidence keeps emerging about the way the environmental movement, particularly the climate justice element, is being hijacked and manipulated by big business. For instance, a Daily Mail report in February revealed that Tory peer John Selwyn Gummer, who heads the UK government’s Climate Change Committee, has a private company which has been paid more than £600,000 from “green” businesses hoping to profit from government subsidies. And the full report from Cory Morningstar mentioned in Acorn 46 is now online and a must-read for any nature-defender who wants to avoid being used as a useful idiot by a bunch of lying industrial capitalists.
* * *
The threat of new industrial capitalist mega-projects in Mexico has been highlighted in a letter from Zapatista women to their sisters across the world. The authorities’ destructive schemes include the Mayan Train, the “development” of the Tehuantepec Isthmus and massive commercial tree farms. The letter declares: “We’re going to fight with all our strength and everything we’ve got against these mega-projects. If these lands are conquered, it will be upon the blood of Zapatista women”.
* * *
“Fracking is stoppable, another world is possible!” is the title of a highly informative and inspiring new online bulletin from the frack free movement. Issue 1 is available here but issue 2 should be out very soon – follow the excellent frackfree_eu on Twitter for updates.
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The 2019 Liverpool Anarchist Bookfair will be held on Saturday April 13, 11am till 5pm at The Black-E, 1 Great George Street, L1 5EW. This will be a day of stalls and workshops, with a vegan cafe and kids’ space – free entry (donations towards event costs welcome). Says the website: “Books, zines & more to feed your brain let’s learn, organise, grow & create!”
* * *
If the neoliberal Establishment succeeds in totally destroying the (very mild!) threat presented to its domination by Corbyn’s Labour Party, there will no doubt be a few we-told-you-soes from us anarcho-cynics. But the anger sparked by such a collapse in people’s hopes could well lead to something more interesting happening in the UK. As Jonathan Cook notes: “If parliamentary politics returns to business as usual for the wealthy, taking to the streets looks increasingly like the only option. Maybe it’s time to dust off a Yellow Vest”.
* * *
Acorn quote: “The poorest man hath as true a title and just right to the land as the richest man. True freedom lies in the free enjoyment of the earth”.
An eye-witness report from Act 16 of the ongoing Yellow Vest uprising against neoliberalism, by Paul Cudenec of Shoal Collective.
We had just positioned ourselves downwind from the teargas canisters that had been fired towards us from the ranks of riot police protecting the Sous-Préfecture, the French state’s HQ in Alès, southern France.
Then suddenly we were coming under attack from the opposite direction. A squadron of cops was lurking, unseen, on the other side of the modern pedestrianised square and had started firing tear gas from behind us.
Choking and with streaming eyes, we fled down a little side street which, ironically enough, turned out to be dedicated to the “martyrs of the resistance”.
Passers-by, women with young children, stood gawping in the direction of the clouds of chemical warfare following us down the road.
“Incredible!” said somebody behind me, astonished at the violent reaction to the protest. “They’ve completely lost the plot!”
Suddenly there was an almighty noise and on the pavement next to us rolled a hefty rubber bullet, a “flashball”, which had bounced off a nearby wall and almost hit the little group of local onlookers.
We scattered, for the moment. Some headed out of the town centre, only to be met with a baton attack by a marauding gang of cops. Others regrouped and carried on the fight, with reports of injuries from yet more rubber bullets.
The police helicopter circled overhead, frightening the herons on the river Gardon, which flows through the town.
This was all a far cry from the last report I filed from Alès for Red Pepper in December, when the Gilets Jaunes were handing out free Christmas presents to local kids.
Today was Saturday March 2, Act 16 of the Yellow Vest uprising which has seen a broad cross-section of the French public take to the streets against President Emmanuel Macron’s neoliberal regime, with a ferocious determination that puts the rest of the Europe to shame.
Alès was the location for a regional protest, uniting Gilets Jaunes from across the Gard department and beyond.
There was a carnival atmosphere as the protesters gathered outside the municipal theatre in Alès, with a Batacuda band creating a lively rhythm as we set off on a tour of the town centre.
The cops made a sudden and provocative appearance in the midst of the crowd before we moved and we were later told that three Gilets Jaunes had been arrested as they tried to join the protest.
Others were stopped by police on the approaches to the town, which might explain why the numbers on the march swelled remarkably in the first ten minutes or so until we had easily reached 3,000.
As ever, the protest was diverse and politically mixed, but there was a very strong showing from the local libertarian left, who had advertised the event on their networks. The loud refrains of “a-anti-anticapitalista” paid witness to their presence.
The festive feeling, with hardly a cop in sight, lasted until we reached a roundabout next to the Sous-Préfecture.
Here the police were lined up in full riot gear to stop us going anywhere near their masters’ property.
After a short stand-off, we headed off down the road to the rail station, which was also heavily guarded by the cops, presumably because of the Gilets Jaunes’ successful track record in blocking railway lines.
A back street led us back to the other side of the Sous-Préfecture and, inevitably, another line of police vans and robocops. It was not clear what sparked things off – someone told me the riot police had fired a rubber bullet at head level.
In any case, things quickly escalated. Outraged protesters shouted the familiar chants of “everyone hates the police!” and “police everywhere, justice nowhere!” and the tear gas was answered with a hail of stones and the odd firework.
Every week the authorities and their tame media tell the public the rebellion is petering out, there is hardly anyone out on the streets, the whole thing is a flop. And every week they deploy thousands and thousands of tooled-up thugs to attack the Yellow Vests with batons, tear gas and grenades.
After four months of revolt, those who hold power in France, and elsewhere, have ceded nothing. And those who oppose them are not ready to give up. How will this end? Where will this go next? None of us can say, because history is being written, in bold yellow lettering.