In this issue:
- Seeing through “democracy”
- Greta Thunberg: the billionaires’ favourite
- Misdirected Rebellion
- Calling out the imperial gatekeepers
- Yellow revolt takes a striking twist
- Jacques Ellul: an orgrad inspiration
The capitalist system will not abolish itself.
In fact, it will always do all that it physically can to preserve itself and its control over our lives.
While it likes to pretend its structures of domination amount to “democracy”, this is not the case, because it could never leave the door open to the possibility of its own abolition by democratic means.
The only changes possible via the fake-democracy of the system are limited reforms, which leave the system very much in place.
When we say “limited”, we perhaps mean “extremely limited”, because even the mildest of social-democratic tinkering, undoing some of the worst excesses of contemporary neoliberalism, is beyond the pale for the system.
However, when the system draws the line too tightly around its preferred outcomes and uses its vast powers of manipulation to prevent these limited reforms, it risks exposing its so-called “democracy” as a sham.
A whole new raft of people suddenly become aware of the true nature of the system and its fake-democratic window dressing.
Their eyes are opened to the fact that there is no point in playing by the rules devised by the system, no point in walking time and time again into the same traps that it sets for us.
These moments are risky for the system, because they risk radicalising people who, up to this point, had bought into much of its charade.
The UK is currently experiencing one such moment. A vast amount of enthusiasm and hope had been invested – naively, from our perspective – in the possibility of an election victory for Corbyn’s Labour Party.
The reforms proposed by Labour were far from fundamental and yet remained unacceptable to the system.
The unprecedented blatancy of the propaganda assault on Corbyn has left many people, particularly young people, asking themselves some serious questions about the nature of British “democracy” and the approach that is needed if real social change is ever to be brought about.
And that can’t be a bad thing!
Only it wasn’t, because the owner of Time is one of the wealthy business people who have been aiding and abetting her meteoric rise to fame.
What is truly unbelievable is that there is still anyone out there who has not grasped that the Greta brand (rather than the person herself) has been carefully manufactured and exploited to promote a particular block of vested financial interests.
Some die-hard believers have not even been swayed by the recent revelation that her original pavement protests were filmed by a documentary team who somehow sensed in advance that this particular teenager would shortly achieve global fame.
But let’s just come back to Time magazine for a moment. The article announcing Greta’s award was predictably gushing, marvelling over the “small voice” and “piercing outrage” of “the icon of a generation” who had become “the voice of millions, a symbol of a rising global rebellion”.
It added: “She has succeeded in creating a global attitudinal shift, transforming millions of vague, middle-of-the-night anxieties into a worldwide movement calling for urgent change”.
But what kind of change, exactly?
An early clue came at the start of 2019, when Greta was pictured, alongside Jane Goodall, in front of a sign promoting the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”.
The term “Fourth Industrial Revolution” was first used by Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum and a former member of the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group.
Schwab wrote in a key article in 2015: “We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before”.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution, he explained, would be “characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres”.
Schwab continued: “The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited. And these possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing”.
Not exactly a nature-friendly vision of the future!
Another big fan of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is American Silicon Valley billionaire Marc Benioff (above), whose role in climate capitalism has been exposed by the investigative journalist Cory Morningstar.
He enthused in 2018: “Everyone has to come together for the fourth industrial revolution in inclusive capitalism. Business is now a platform of change”.
Benioff’s company Salesforce, the cloud computing giant, is controversial to say the least.
In March 2019 it was sued by 50 women who alleged it had facilitated sex trafficking, of which they were victims.
It has also been heavily criticised and boycotted by activists for “making millions of dollars from the suffering of immigrants detained at the United States’ southern border”.
But despite the fact that Benioff is happy for his “Fourth Industrial Revolution” technologies to be used in building a nightmarish racist-capitalist police state, he likes to paint himself as a “philanthropist“, a nice guy, a man who cares.
One of the things he claims to care about is the environment.
In a conversation with Schwab at the WEF’s Davos event in January 2019, Benioff claimed the Fourth Industrial Revolution had “ushered in technologies that can help save the planet”.
Benioff is, like so many billionaires, a big fan of Greta Thunberg and must have been delighted to see her pose in front of his company logo and “Fourth Industrial Revolution” slogan.
He is, of course, also the owner of Time magazine. Wow. Unbelievable, as Greta might say.
An edited extract from Kim Hill’s important series of articles entitled Unpacking Extinction Rebellion.
A movement that is serious about extinction and climate change needs to address the root problems: capitalism, the industrial system, a culture that sees life as a resource to be exploited, and the infrastructure that holds it all together.
It needs to have clear goals, that can’t be diluted or used to manipulate and misdirect the movement. It needs to take action immediately, not in several years’ time. And it needs to target the weak points in the system, where it can have the most impact for the least effort.
The misdirection of Extinction Rebellion has come about because most urban dwellers have only an abstract idea of nature, as they don’t depend on it directly for their food, water and shelter. Their relationship with nature is mediated by the economic system, which provides for their needs by stealing resources from elsewhere and selling them on for profit.
The rebels are led to believe that the extractive economy is necessary for survival, and that new industries and investments offer benefits to humans and wild nature. So city folks are more than willing to take to the streets to defend the very system that is crushing the life out of us all. It’s a form of collective Stockholm syndrome, on a global scale.
Effective solutions require rebels to have a direct relationship with the natural world. To defend nature requires love, which is a constant, reciprocal relationship, which means listening, observing, giving and receiving, and being in communion on a daily basis.
To be effective, rebels need to identify not as a citizen, consumer or worker, demanding action from business and government, but as a living being, interdependent with all life. To identify with the living world is to see the entire planet as an extension of the self, so action taken to defend nature is an act of self-defence.
Demanding that governments and corporations change will only lead (and has already led) to changes that give them more power. The entire social and legal structure that puts them in a position of power needs to be dismantled. This violent arrangement is not deserving of the respect of polite demands and peaceful protest.
Being effective requires a healthy mistrust of anyone offering technological or market-based solutions, and requires asking a whole lot of uncomfortable questions.
The capture of this rebellion has depended on the lack of questioning (and probably more to the point, lack of answers) as to what net-zero emissions actually means, what the rebellion aims to achieve, and what the proposed solutions really entail. Always respond to any proposal with ‘what does this mean in practice? and who benefits from this?’
The burning of fossil fuels needs to stop. Not because it is releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, but because it is powering an industrial economy that is wiping out all life.
The impacts of industrialism cannot be offset, decarbonised, decoupled from economic growth, exported to the third world, or made sustainable. Fossil fuels power mining, agriculture, shipping, aviation, road and rail transport, land clearing, manufacturing, plastics, the electricity grid, and imperialist wars.
The goal needs to be not to Make Your Voice Heard, or cause a temporary, symbolic disruption to industrial activity, but to permanently shut down the industries that are causing harm.
Many people involved in XR are seeing the cracks in the green façade. There are some in the rebellion who support the goals of economic growth and the fourth industrial revolution, and don’t care about the natural world. But there are many more who care deeply, and are willing to take direct action and risk their own lives in defence of the greater web of life.
Every rebel needs to make a choice: are you on the side of the industrial economy, or on the side of the living planet? Because you can’t have both…
Can there be anything more loathsome than those fake-left gatekeepers of the industrial capitalist system who work to discredit genuine radicals?
Not only do they deploy witch-hunt tactics to attack their victims, but they do so from a false position.
They always have to be seen as occupying the cutting edge of dissent, as being the real radical McCoy, otherwise they would lose their power over radically-inclined people.
So they cannot be honest and reject views more radical than theirs as “extremist” or “going too far” or as “a threat to the status quo to which I am actually still very much a part”.
Instead, they have to pretend that these dissenting views are in fact coming from an unwholesome position, reactionary or in some way polluted by associations that make them toxic to other radicals.
A classic example is the way these gatekeepers treat opposition to the permanent war waged on humanity by the US-led capitalist empire.
Instead of acknowledging that such critics are opposed to US imperialism, they like to pretend that they are actually motivated by admiration for rival states with which the US is currently in conflict.
So left-wing anti-imperialists are transformed, by the power of gatekeeper rhetoric, into “Assadists” or “admirers of Putin”, thus ultimately right-wing and hopelessly tainted by association with the actions of those particular foreign states.
Likewise, left-wing supporters of Palestinian rights are depicted as supporters of Islamic terrorism or, even more effectively, “anti-semites”.
Similarly dishonest smear attacks have been used against anyone who dares question the way that the climate crisis is being exploited to sell false “solutions” which are aimed only at making the rich even richer and will only accelerate the degradation of our environment.
A leading exponent of this gatekeepering technique is George Monbiot, whose true allegiances are somewhat given away by the fact that he is employed by The Neoliberal Guardian.
Notice how in this video he manages to pull together all the various gatekeeping smear devices against radical environmentalist and anti-capitalist journalist Cory Morningstar.
Like many other gatekeepers, Monbiot tries to discredit Cory’s investigative exposure of capitalist machinations via the trusty dog-whistle term “conspiracy theory”, used by the system to smear opponents through subliminal associations with right-wingism, anti-semitism or borderline insanity.
And he tries to muddy the waters and hide the fact that he is attacking Cory to defend the system by insulting and shaming her with words such as “disgusting” and by essentially accusing her of identity-based bullying.
Monbiot totally overdoes the gaslighting here though – implying ableism, ageism and even mysogeny on Cory’s part!
Worryingly, this kind of approach is often copied by people and groups who should know better, such as Libcom, who have echoed Monbiot’s smear, also claiming that Cory’s exposure of climate capitalism was nothing but “a conspiracy theory”.
Ironically, they justifed this by pointing to her anti-imperialist position exposing the US agenda in Syria, thus looping back nicely to our first “gatekeeper” talking point.
It is crucial that serious radicals and revolutionaries do not fall for this fake-left smearing of those who genuinely challenge power.
We urge readers who spot this going on to call it out, spread the word and tell us about it, so we can highlight it in future Acorns. We can be contacted via winteroak(at)greenmail.net
Let’s name names and publicly expose these two-faced apologists for the industrial capitalist system for what they really are!
Related video: Wikipedia: rotten to the core
Resistance to the neoliberal capitalism currently being imposed on France by President Emmanuel Macron has taken on a new dynamic this month.
Plans to “reform” the pensions system, which will mean longer working lives and more privatisation, have met with furious opposition.
A series of general strikes has managed to paralyse the country on several occasions.
And the workers’ power has been reinforced by support from the Gilets Jaunes, still on the streets a year after they burst on to the political scene.
The combative mood is not just about pensions, but reflects a general rejection of the US-style society being foisted on France by the Macron regime.
Admitted the New York Times: “Like the Yellow Vest protests, the strike has revealed a broad rejection of ‘Macron’s world’ and a willingness of ordinary people to enter the political arena to oppose it”.
Public outrage was increased by the news that the politician leading the pension “reforms”, Jean-Paul Delevoye, had “forgotten” to disclose 13 private sector posts, both paid and unpaid, in a recent asset declaration.
It takes a lot to force neoliberal politicians to step down, but this is what Delevoye did on December 16, giving opponents of his “reforms” a scent of victory.
The next day, December 17, it seemed as if the whole country was on strike, from railway workers and bus drivers to firefighters, school students and opera singers.
Seven of the eight oil refineries in France were blocked, meaning petrol shortages are likely to start occurring.
Hundreds of thousands of people across France poured out on to the streets to protest against Macron’s plans for their future.
The response of the authoritarian-capitalist regime was predictable, continuing the pattern set during Gilets Jaunes uprising.
Protesters picketing a bus depot in Saint Denis, near Paris, were brutally bludgeoned by cops and, on the massive Paris demo, firefighters in uniform, trying to protect the rest of the crowd were violently charged at by riot police, causing several nasty injuries.
Even school kids blocking their lycées have been handled with the same thuggish disdain by the neoliberal stormtroopers.
And yet still Macron and his crooked cronies cling to power, refusing to bow to what is now an overwhelming public demand for them to abandon their neoliberal assault on French society and fall on their swords like the wretched Delevoye.
“The myth of Progress has killed the revolutionary spirit”
Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) was a sociologist and philosopher close to the anarchist movement in France and one of the inspirations behind the contemporary décroissance, or degrowth, movement.
He was a powerful critic of industrial capitalism, which he famously described as being governed by something he termed “technique”.
This was more than simply technology or the use of technology, but implied the full range of methods used to direct the development of human society.
He wrote that it led to the uniformisation of cultures, including those in the global south which fell prey to industrial Western colonialism.
Technique, he wrote in 1954, “breaks up sociological forms, destroys moral frameworks, blows apart social and religious taboos, desacralises people and things, reduces the social body to a collection of individuals”. (1)
In 1977 Ellul wrote: “The system behind technique comes equipped with its own agents of adaptation. Advertising, entertainment by mass media, political propaganda, personal and public relationships – all of this, with superficial variations, has just one function, which is to adapt human beings to technique”. (2)
In a 1981 interview with Le Monde, he insisted that quality of life was completely incompatible with “the growth of industrial production and the industrialisation of agriculture”. (3)
Although a veteran of the French Resistance against Nazi occupation, and a student of Marx in his youth, Ellul was never fully part of the radical left in France.
This was partly due to his Protestant Christian beliefs: the Situationists, for instance, felt they could not work closely with him on that account despite the similarities in their respective positions.
Jean-Luc Porquet insists that this did not mean that Ellul was somehow less revolutionary than other anti-capitalists: “We mustn’t forget that Ellul was anything but a reformist and that he declared himself to be a revolutionary: he thought that this world is unjust and absurd and that we have to make profound and radical changes to its structure (which is in itself the definition of revolution)”. (4)
Spanish anti-industrialist writer José Ardillo goes even further, regarding Ellul’s position as being essentially more revolutionary than those who generally liked to claim the label as their own.
A general acceptance of the capitalist idea of “progress” is, after all, hardly the basis for a truly radical opposition to the status quo. As Ellul declared: “The myth of Progress has killed the revolutionary spirit”. (5)
Ardillo describes Ellul’s emphasis on the fact that we live in a society whose sole dogma is economic growth: “For him, the revolutionaries of May 1968 targeted mirages of power which had already been discredited by modernity itself – the real structures of the system remained intact. The type of revolt he envisages therefore demands a radical questioning of the way of life in developed societies.
“The necessary revolution demands the creation of new values, because all morality has been swept aside by the advance of technical society. And, for him, there has to be a break with a large part of our revolutionary heritage, so we can go back and begin again from a new starting point”. (6)
Video link: The Betrayal by Technology: A Portrait of Jacques Ellul (54 mins)
1. Jacques Ellul, La Technique ou l’Enjeu du siècle (Paris: Armand Colin, 1954), cit. Jean-Luc Porquet, ‘Jacques Ellul: La Démesure Technicienne’, Radicalité: 20 Penseurs vraiment critiques, coordonné par Cédric Biagini, Guillaume Carnino et Patrick Marcolini (Montreuil: L’Échappée, 2013), p. 132.
2. Jacques Ellul, Le Système technicien (Paris: Le Cherche-Midi, 2004), cit. José Ardillo, La Liberté dans un monde fragile : Écologie et pensée libertaire (Paris: L’Échappée, 2018), p.157.
3. Jacques Ellul, ‘Rien d’important’, Le Monde, 27 May 1981. cit. Porquet, p. 129.
4. Porquet, p. 124.
5. Jacques Ellul, De la Révolution aux révoltes (Paris: Editions de la Table Ronde, 2011), cit. Ardillo, p. 167.
6. Ardillo, p. 167.
Banks and shops were attacked and a Christmas tree set on fire in Athens on the night of December 18 as anarchists responded to the war which has been declared on them and their autonomous spaces by the Greek state. Read this full report on the Enough Is Enough website.
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One man’s global ecological disaster is another man’s economic opportunity. In recent years, nature conservation has become a flourishing business sector where huge sums of money change hands and endangered organisms are transformed into financial products. Banking Nature is a must-see video.
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“Capitalism itself is a war against the planet and the poor. The global economy is built on exploited farmworkers, sweatshop labor, and a toxic electronics industry that drives workers to mass suicide. All this takes place on top of stolen indigenous lands and a legacy of ongoing genocide”. So writes Max Wilbert in a powerful article entitled The Moral Argument for Ecological Revolution, on the Deep Green Resistance news service site.
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More than 100 doctors in Australia have urged their government to lobby for imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be returned home for urgent medical treatment. The group has written an open letter to Foreign Minister Marise Payne calling for the 48-year-old political prisoner to be returned to Australia. “Should Mr Assange die in a British prison, people will want to know what you, minister, did to prevent his death,” the letter says. Free Assange! Death to the empire!
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Smart fascism is creeping up on us everywhere. France is set to become the first European country (but surely not the last) to use facial recognition technology to “give citizens a secure digital identity“. Data regulator, CNIL, has warned that the Alicem program breaches the European rule of consent because it provides no alternatives to facial recognition to access certain services, but the French state is ploughing on regardless. Of course!
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Jamaica is “the Caribbean country of choice to conduct climate smart & sustainable business” its Prime Minister Andrew Holness has declared, adding that the island has “the best investment environment in the Caribbean”. This is bad news indeed for the Jamaican people. Capitalist “investment” always involves robbery and exploitation, the quest for yet more profits for the rich at the expense of the poor. The “climate” variety is no exception.
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“There is a large and growing body of evidence that we have been lied to about Syria to an extent and to a level of sophistication that may be historically unprecedented”. A handy new article by anti-imperialist blogger Caitlin Johnstone outlines the 12 strongest arguments that Douma was a false flag attack staged to justify US intervention.
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Courageous former Labour MP Chris Williamson has spoken out against anti-left smears and launched a new fund for its victims. He said: “First they said ‘anti-Zionism is anti-semitism’. Then they said ‘anti-capitalism is anti-semitism’… We’ll keep defending our comrades by any means necessary”.
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Campaigners in South Wales are mobilising to fight the threat of a new dam. They say: “Natural Resources Wales want to build a dam in Dinas Powys woods to slow the river at peak times to stop homes from flooding. It will devastate our beautiful woods and destroy ancient woodland, and it won’t protect ALL homes in Dinas Powys. There are other ways to slow the flow.” More info at stopthedam.co.uk or on Twitter.
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More than 1,700 environmental defenders were killed between 2002 and 2018, across 50 countries. This is the horrific toll revealed by campaign group Global Witness. If you are wondering why you haven’t heard about all these deaths then bear in mind that “indigenous people represent a disproportionate percentage of the defenders who are killed”. And they don’t really count, do they?
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“Language is the soul of the people. It’s not just for communicating, but also for understanding and feeling and remembering”. These are the words of Kaipo‘i Kelling, part of an inspiring “immersion schools” initiative which in just a few decades, has helped Native Hawaiians to reclaim their language from the crushing grip of English-language internal colonialism in the USA.
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Under capitalism, the edifice of social control is built on the collective illusion of private property, and the sanctity of the so-called ‘free market’. Any moves taken to challenge this logic will therefore provoke pushback from the system’s indoctrinated cheerleaders. But what is property anyway and what do anarchists have against it? An informative video from sub.media, What Is Property? can be seen here.
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Acorn quote: “Nothing will avail to offset this virus which is poisoning the whole world. America is the very incarnation of doom. She will drag the whole world down to the bottomless pit”.
For many more like this, see the Winter Oak quotes for the day blog)
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