In this issue:
- Future on fire!
- When the state means business
- New Deal for Profits
- Jailed for exposing US war crimes
- Guy Debord: an orgrad inspiration
Green anti-capitalists are to target the financial heart of the City of London on Friday February 28.
A Rally Against Capital (Fuck the Banks, Fuck the City!) has been announced for 2pm outside the Bank of England in Threadneedle Street as part of the week of action mentioned in Acorn 54.
Said a statement from the Green Anticapitalist Front: “The future of the planet is under attack. We are living through the willful destruction of Earth’s ecosystems and the billions of people who depend on them to survive.
“We know what is causing this destruction – the capitalist system we live in and the people who get disgustingly rich while knowing that they are only able to do so by destroying the future for everybody.
“Currently they ignore the plight of the global south while stealing resources to pad their pockets all the same; it’s about time we said no more. No more exploitation. No more capitalism. No more climate change!
“Join us on the 28th of February at 2pm in the City of London to tell the bankers, the rich, the powerful that we won’t let them take our planet – the people will not go down without a fight and we’re taking the fight to them to show them what we can do when we organise ourselves”.
GAF were quick to express their solidarity with anti-capitalist comrades in Paris who carried out a powerful action on Monday February 10.
They invaded and occupied the French HQ of BlackRock, Inc. an American global investment management corporation.
The radical environmental activists, along with some Gilets Jaunes and other individuals, poured into the business’s premises in the French capital – see this video.
They managed to take the police by surprise and barricaded themselves in the building for the whole morning.
This infamous multinational corporation, very close to President Emmanuel Macron, makes billions in profits on privatised pensions.
Coincidentally, of course, Macron’s neoliberal regime is pushing through controversial pension “reforms” in the face of massive opposition (see Acorn 54).
BlackRock’s premises were redecorated with an assortment of graffiti, and some “trophies” awarded to BlackRock went out with the rubbish.
As they tried to make their escape before heavily armed state units reached the building, the environmental activists were surrounded by dozens of CRS riot cops.
The youth climate militants (only distantly related to the UK’s law-abiding mainstream climate scene) were celebrating the birthday of their movement.
Said a statement from Désobéissance Écolo Paris: “We are therefore inaugurating a new cycle of friendly visits to our beloved ’policy-makers’, by organising an ’open day’ in the offices of the BlackRock corporation, known for its financial ties with Vinci, Total, BNP, and Société Générale.
“Obviously the choice of this corporation is a nod to our friends fighting against Macron’s pension reform, who know that BlackRock insisted on the French government to make this reform”.
“Liberal environmentalism – a lie of capital” read one piece of graffiti inside the business’s HQ. “Corrupt system”, someone had added.
“BlackRock murderers” and “Burn BlackRock. Save a dolphin”, recommended others.
And, expressing a prophecy of life-affirming insurrection against the impending industrial capitalist doom – “Future on fire”.
“The world nowadays teems with people who have fits of enthusiasm whenever they hear of state intervention, planned economy, five-year plans, and the end of laissez-faire.
“They do not care to ask who are the social groups in whose interests the state, ie. bureaucracy and the party in power, is to intervene and plan.
“Yet the first question which should be asked when invoking the end of laissez-faire is precisely this: in the interests of whom should such abolition take place?” (1)
When Gaetano Salvemini wrote these words, he wasn’t referring to the 2020s, but he might as well have been.
There are plenty of anti-capitalist comrades out there, who, even when they oppose the limited content of a Green New Deal or a New Deal for Nature, are tempted to give such schemes the benefit of the doubt in that they appear to be a step in the right direction, away from the unchecked market forces of “laissez-faire” capitalism.
But, as Salvemini points out, we need to look carefully at who exactly is pushing these ecnomic plans and whose interests they are designed to serve.
Here, the hard work has already been done for us by investigative journalist Cory Morningstar and other writers featured on our Climate Capitalists page of links.
The briefest dip beneath the fake green surface of this contemporary political pond reveals it to be less a source of environmental and social hope than a rancid cesspit of private interests (see also article below).
We find ourselves deep within a massive global network of organisations and initiatives with names like the World Resources Institute, The B-Team, We Mean Business, Tomorrow’s Capitalism, The Natural Capital Coalition and Corporate Impact X.
Here we can have the pleasure of meeting a former CEO of Unilever, the daughter of a CIA-backed Latin American president, the powerful founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum or a Silicon Valley billionaire hoping to get even richer through a “Fourth Industrial Revolution”.
In this strange upside-down world, in which Big Business is going to “save the planet”, we come across brave “solo” campaigners supported and promoted every inch of the way by international PR professionals, youth movements described as “grassroots” which are in fact funded and steered from above, high-profile activist “rebellions” cheered on by venture capitalists.
We hear talk of “exponential opportunities“, “the investment of trillions of dollars“, and a “transformation unlike anything humankind has experienced before... a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres”.
In short, as Morningstar explains, the so-called Green New Deal is being promoted “as the catalyst to unlock the 100 trillion dollars required to unleash the ‘fourth industrial revolution’. This project, of unparalleled magnitude, is the vehicle to save the failing global capitalist economic system and bring in the financialization of nature”.
Having found the answer to the question recommended by Salvemini, we might reflect that it is not exactly surprising to find capitalism manoeuvring to incite state support for its money-making activities.
It was in 1469 that the banker Lorenzo Medici observed: “Things can go badly for the rich if they don’t run the state”.
It is a big mistake to fall for the capitalist lie that their world of “market forces” somehow operates independently of the existence of states.
We perhaps might expect that naivety from advocates of the oxymoronic absurdity known as “anarcho-capitalism”, but it is strange to witness anti-capitalists likewise imagining that the involvement of state machineries in capitalist activities will inevitably act as some kind of brake on profiteering.
Capitalism has always depended on the existence of a state in order to impose and enforce its domination. Indeed, we would argue that the state only exists in the first place as a tool of the wealthy elite.
Its role has always been to rubber-stamp, with its self-proclaimed “authority”, the theft from the majority carried out by a greedy and self-interested minority.
It is the state that announces that “property” is sacred and lawful and that any attempt to take it back amounts to “crime”.
It is the state that physically protects the property and wealth of the rich by employing gangs of thugs to intimidate, attack or imprison anyone who threatens to confiscate it, by whatever means.
It is the state that legitimises and enforces the expulsion of people from their land, that cuts them off from subsistence, from communal autonomy, and forces them into the waiting jaws of capitalist wage slavery.
It is the state that raises armies and navies to conquer foreign lands so that its capitalists can plunder , cheat and exploit still further afield.
It is the state that taxes the population, ostensibly in “our” interest, only to divert vast amounts of collective wealth into the pockets of capitalists, whether via their highly lucrative construction schemes (needed for “our” infrastructure), via their profitable arms dealing (needed for “our” defence) or, today, via their pseudo-green technologies (needed to save “our” planet).
When state and capital work together in a more visible way, as with the planned “Green New Deal” and “New Deal for Nature”, this does not mean that capitalism is on the retreat.
It just means that, in order to get through a period of crisis, capitalists are, once again, pretending that their interests are “our” interests, that we are all facing an “emergency situation”, that “our” future is at risk and that, therefore, trillions of dollars of public money should be stuffed, by the state, into the pockets of our capitalist saviours.
Those who persist in seeing a state-intervention version of capitalism as necessarily a step in the right direction, would do well to heed Salvemini’s study of one particular “limited planned economy deferential to capitalism”, (2) which just happened to be the Fascist regime in Italy.
He wrote: “Italy has never seen anything similar to the type of planning exhibited by the government of Soviet Russia. When an important branch of the banking system, or a large-scale industry which could be confused with ‘the higher interests of the nation’, has threatened to collapse, the government has stepped into the breach and prevented the breakdown by emergency measures.
“The policies of the Italian dictatorship during these years of world crisis have been no different in their aims, methods, and results from the policies of all the governments of the capitalistic countries. The Charter of Labour says that private enterprise is responsible to the state. In actual fact, it is the state, i.e. the taxpayer, who has become responsible to private enterprise. When the depression came, the government added the loss to the taxpayer’s burden. Profit is private and individual. Loss is public and social”.
Salvemini summed up the overall impact of Fascist state intervention in the dealings of “laissez-faire” capitalism, by concluding: “The intervention of government has invariably favoured big business”. (3)
Why would we expect things to be any different today?
1. Gaetano Salvemini, Under the Axe of Fascism (New York: Howard Fertig, 1969), p. 379, cit. Ishay Landa, The Apprentice’s Sorcerer: Liberal Tradition and Fascism (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012), p. 73.
2. Landa, p. 73.
3. Salvemini, pp. 379-80, cit. Landa, p. 73.
See also: Neoliberalism is the new fascism
Following our report in Acorn 54 on the launch of the No Deal for Nature campaign (which has websites here and here), some people have asked us to explain what exactly the New Deal for Nature is and what is bad about it.
In response, we suggest that these readers take part in a little experiment.
Search for “New Deal for Nature” on the internet as a whole, Twitter or wherever you fancy.
When you find a website promoting the idea, note who is behind it, what language they use in describing the plan, what other sites they link to, where they get their funding from, who they list as their “partners”.
Follow their links and perform the same exercise with every organisation you come across.
It won’t be long before you have found out – for yourself! – that the New Deal for Nature is an entirely corporate phenomenon, which uses the language of “sustainablity” to promote a 21st century version of the state-backed capitalism historically favoured by the Fascist and Nazi regimes.
This, in itself, should be enough to turn you against the New Deal for Nature, if you have been paying sufficient attention.
As Brussels-based academic Frédéric Leroy has explained: “Geneva-based WWF Intl has received millions of dollars from its links with governments & business. Global corporations such as Coca-Cola, Shell, Monsanto, HSBC, Cargill, BP, Alcoa & Marine Harvest have all benefited from the group’s green image”.
“Alongside their sterling work throwing indigenous people off their land on behalf of their big business friends – under the false green flag of ‘conservation’ of course! – the WWF are very prominent in the climate capitalist lobby calling for a New Deal for Nature.
“The WWF was one of the founders of the Business for Nature lobby, as Cory Morningstar has set out.
“One of the many big corporations to which the WWF is close is Unilever, the massive transnational consumer goods company.
“Paul Polman, former Unilever CEO, was one of the ‘XR business leaders’ who signed their support for Extinction Rebellion last year“.
But let’s not stop there. Let’s follow the links down to one particular area of The New Deal for Nature – food.
We learn that the New Deal will “enable us to provide enough food and water for a global population that will grow to nine billion people in coming decades”.
Adds the WWF, on behalf of the New Deal for Nature lobby: “In particular, we support consumption of independently verified (credibly certified) sustainably produced food”.
To this end it says is working “with a variety of stakeholders”. Stakeholders, eh? Now who could that possibly be?
The link below this statement reveals all, taking us to the “Future 50 Foods” report, jointly produced by the WWF and Knorr, the dehydrated food brand owned by WWF’s bestest friend, Unilever.
Game over? Point proved? No, let’s dig little further yet by having a look at the list of acknowledgements at the end of this charming brochure.
This says that “the creation of this report” was led by Dorothy Shaver of Unilever and that it “ultimately reflects the views of Knorr, WWF and Adam Drewnowski”.
Drewnowski is a trustee of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) which, according to a study reported in The Guardian in June 2019, is “an industry lobby group that masquerades as a scientific health charity” and is “used by corporate backers to counter public health policies”. Surely not?
Others involved include:
* Crops for The Future, which researches “Biotechnology and Crop Genetics”.
* EAT Foundation, the “science-based global platform for food system transformation” which, Gaetano Salvemini would have been interested to hear (see above), aims to “influence and align political and business action”.
* Edelman, the giant US PR and marketing consultancy firm which boasts: “We develop powerful ideas and tell magnetic stories that move at the speed of news, make an immediate impact, transform culture and spark movements”. One of these “powerful ideas”, is that “the way forward is for government to revitalize its role as an essential partner to business”. Of course – what else are governments for?
* The Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU), whose aim is “growing better business” and declares: “We believe business has a critical role to play in achieving the outcomes for climate, biodiversity, public health and prosperous livelihoods that the world needs”. Prosperous livelihoods, eh?
* FReSH (Food Reform for Sustainability and Health) which is “one of the key initiatives of World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s effort to create a set of business solutions to drive the transformation of the food system”. Not just any old “solutions”, note, but business solutions!
* The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), which was created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and also gets funding from the likes of the Rockefeller Foundation, US Aid, BASF (the chemicals firm which produced Zyklon B for the Nazi gas chambers), and… oh! Unilever again!
* Gro Intelligence, a data-orientated business interested in how “the next agricultural revolution might work with artificial intelligence”.
* The Global Crop Diversity Trust, aka The Crop Trust, which is “extremely grateful” to donors such as pharmaceutical corporation Bayer, agrochemical giant Syngenta, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and… wait for it! … Unilever.
We’ll stop there and let you while away happy hours carrying out your own research into the New Deal for Nature and People.
One thing that is totally clear to us is that this scam is corporate to its core.
It has nothing to do with either “nature” or “people” and everything to with racking up state-facilitated big business profiteering, exploitation and control.
More and more voices are speaking up in defence of Julian Assange, a political prisoner of the neoliberal US empire.
The 48-year-old WikiLeaks founder has been locked up in HMP Belmarsh in London since April 2019, after spending seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy under political asylum.
He is facing up to 175 years in prison in the USA in relation to charges filed under the Espionage Act, despite not being American and not having been in the USA when the alleged offences were committed.
The increasingly desperate US state seems to be declaring the right to punish anyone, anywhere in the world, who exposes and challenges its war crimes and impunity.
The servile UK authorities are, of course, happy to go along with Washington’s orders.
At a meeting in London on February 4, Professor Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, condemned the way Assange has been treated.
“We are living in a time when our own war crimes are no longer prosecuted,” he said.
“175 years for whatever they are accusing Mr Assange of, it’s certainly not violence, certainly it’s not genocide, certainly it’s not massacring civilians or torturing anybody, and people for genocide in the Hague they receive 35 or 45 years. I’m genuinely outraged.”
In Germany, more than 130 prominent figures from the world of art, politics and media have signed a petition calling for Assange to be released from prison.
In France, young lawyer and author Juan Branco has followed his anti-Macron book Crépuscule with a book about Assange, called Assange: l’anti-souverain.
He says: “Julian Assange is a completely unique personality and his actions mean he will long retain a place in history”.
Meanwhile, 100 supporters of the Gilets Jaunes movement in France travelled to London at the end of January to take part in an Assange solidarity protest at HMP Belmarsh.
Magali Chastaing told The Canary: “The case of Julian Assange is not just only about one person, it’s the symbol of the treatment given to truth today… and this is affecting all of us”.
In Brussels, Assange was hailed as a “resistance fighter of the 21st century” as journalists gathered to demand that the Belgian government take urgent action to block his extradition to the US.
International Federation of Journalists general secretary Anthony Bellanger asked for Assange to be recognised as an honorary citizen of Brussels.
In Sweden, Karin Pettersson wrote on February 9 that “the process against Assange risks having far-reaching consequences for journalism and press freedom” and noted that “there is evidence that he is subjected to torture-like conditions in prison”.
In Assange’s native Australia, academic Alison Broinowski noted on the same day that the WikiLeaks man had been jailed for “telling the truth”.
Commenting on the possibility of a 175-year sentence in the USA, she wrote: “The absurdity of such a sentence, when the worst war criminals get 45 years, reflects the fury of the US security state at being caught out and the subservience of its UK colleagues.
“Those on both sides of the Atlantic determined to get Assange are unrelenting”.
And, reports The Canary, Australian MP Andrew Wilkie has announced that he will travel to London to visit WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange in Belmarsh prison. On February 10 , Wilkie also tabled a “massive petition” in defence of Assange in Australia’s parliament.
Nearly 300,000 people have now signed a global petition to “Free Julian Assange and to stop the legal precedent being established of a USA Extradition for a non USA journalist that exposed USA war crimes”.
On Tuesday February 25 an event called “Imperialism on Trial – Free Julian Assange” is being staged at St Pancras New Church, Euston Road, London, from 6.30pm, with speakers including George Galloway, Craig Murray, Neil Clark, Tareq Haddad and Mike Barson from the ska-pop group Madness. Entry is £8.
See also: Julian Assange: an enemy of the empire
“There remains nothing, in culture or in nature, which has not been transformed, and polluted, according to the means and interests of modern industry”
Guy Debord (1931-1994) was a philosopher and social critic, part of the Letterist and Situationist movements.
He and his comrades, such as Jaime Semprun, forged a deep-rooted critique of the industrial capitalist system, not merely in economic terms, but as a cultural and psychological prison.
This “spectacle” was “the superficial reign of images” (1) he wrote, where “the commodity contemplates itself in a world of its own making”. (2)
This modern world was inherently false and artificial, Debord said: “The whole life of those societies in which modern conditions of production prevail presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. All that once was directly lived has become mere representation”. (3)
It was not merely false, but presented its own falsity as an unchallengeable reality, he added: “What is false creates taste, and reinforces itself by knowingly eliminating any possible reference to the authentic”. (4)
Debord’s analysis in 1967’s La société du spectacle was strongly anti-industrial, stating:
“The society which rests on modern industry is not accidentally or superficially spectacular, it is fundamentally spectaclist”. (5)
He condemned “the dictatorship of the automobile”, “the domination of the motorway” and “temples of frenzied consumption”. (6)
This industrial society was devoid of any real content, or intent, with its sole aim being its own meaningless perpetuation. It was a dead thing, “the concrete inversion of life”. (7)
“Separation is the alpha and omega of the spectacle”, (8) wrote Debord, and the system imposed its vertical domination on the population by denying them any horizontal connections.
Organic, authentic, society was made impossible by the crushing force of industrialism: “From the automobile to the television, all the goods selected by the spectacular system are also its weapons for the constant reinforcement of the conditions of isolation of ‘lonely crowds’”. (9)
Debord made it clear time and time again that the spectacle was nothing less than the commercialisation of the world, the reduction of the world to the empty level of product and profit.
This commercialisation had gone deeper than the economic domain and destroyed the health of the human social organism itself.
“The spectacle is the other side of money”. (10) “The economy transforms the world, but transforms it only into a world of economy”. (11) “The spectacle is the moment when the commodity has achieved the total occupation of social life”. (12)
Debord reported in his 1988 Commentaires sur la société du spectacle that the situation was now even worse than in the 1960s: “There remains nothing, in culture or in nature, which has not been transformed, and polluted, according to the means and interests of modern industry”. (13)
And where did this leave the individual who had been reared within the capitalist cage and had never known anything but the illusions of its artificial anti-society?
No matter how hard he might try to speak out against the system, he risked remaining trapped inside its basic mindset and assumptions.
“He will essentially follow the language of the spectacle, for it is the only one he is familiar with; the one in which he learned to speak. No doubt he would like to be regarded as an enemy of its rhetoric; but he will use its syntax. This is one of the most important aspects of spectacular domination’s success”. (14)
Debord highlighted the role of the secret state and its involvement in imposing this underlying capitalist syntax, even within ostensibly radical circles.
He warned that its highest ambition was “to turn secret agents into revolutionaries, and revolutionaries into secret agents” (15) and that it could use all its traditional techniques in an ideological context – “provocation, infiltration, and various forms of elimination of authentic critique in favour of a false one which will have been created for this purpose”. (16)
Terrorism, he wrote, was something constructed by the system itself because “its wish is to be judged by its enemies rather than by its results”. He explained: “The spectators must certainly never know everything about terrorism, but they must always know enough to convince them that, compared with terrorism, everything else must be acceptable”. (17)
1. Guy Debord, La société du spectacle (Paris: Gallimard, 1992), p. 152.
2. Debord, La société du spectacle, p. 31.
3. Debord, La société du spectacle, p. 3.
4. Guy Debord, Commentaires sur la société du spectacle (Paris: Gallimard, 1992), p. 56.
5. Debord, La société du spectacle, p. 8.
6. Debord, La société du spectacle, p. 133.
7. Debord, La société du spectacle, p. 3.
8. Debord, La société du spectacle, p. 13.
9. Debord, La société du spectacle, p. 15.
10. Debord, La société du spectacle, p. 29.
11. Debord, La société du spectacle, p. 24.
12. Debord, La société du spectacle, p. 25.
13. Debord, Commentaires, p. 20.
14. Debord, Commentaires, p. 38.
15. Debord, Commentaires, pp. 21-22.
16. Debord, Commentaires, p. 59.
17. Debord, Commentaires, pp. 32-33.
Opposition is growing to a massive sand and gravel quarry which threatens to ruin the rural landscape between East Tilbury, Linford and Stanford-le-Hope in Thurrock, Essex. Write local anarchist campaigners at The South Essex Heckler: “The applicant can stick this proposal for a quarry extension where the sun doesn’t shine – this quarry is a step too far. Sod the bottom line and the cult of endless growth that sees the earth as nothing more than a resource to be plundered, regardless of the cost to nature and humanity. Suffice to say, this fight does not end at the conclusion of the planning process, it’ll go on beyond that…”
* * *
There’s no stopping capitalist “progress”. Despite all the hot air about climate crisis and all the claims that there is no “magic money tree” to fund public health services, the UK state has announced it is going ahead with the £106 billion HS2 high-speed rail line. This will destroy ancient woodlands, nature reserves and hundreds of classified wildlife sites, wrecking the landscape across a huge swathe of England. Resistance is expected.
* * *
“The insurrectionary movement is becoming increasingly radical. I am betting firmly on a phase that, after the phase of frontal struggle against power, will destroy the State from its foundations, creating communes or territories managed directly by the people and for the people”. So says Raoul Vaneigem, Belgian Situationist and survivor of the May 1968 revolt in France, in an article making a link between events in France and the anti-capitalist uprising in Chile.
* * *
A thoughtful article on the situation around the Hambacher Wald has been published on the Hambi Bleibt website (see Acorn 54 for news of the apparent “saving” of the forest by a government U-turn on lignite mining). The new piece says: “Beyond safeguarding the trees still standing, the significance of what has happened around this neck of the woods lies within the propagation of a spirit of defiance as an epoch of climate chaos and growing authoritarianism is dawning. As capitalism overstretches its ecological constraints and people grow increasingly conscious of the self-destructiveness of our current course, more cracks are to be expected. Let them burst and then bloom!”
* * *
Angry protests have been held in London against the far-right Tory government’s expulsion of people of Jamaican origin. “This wholesale deportation of people to Jamaica, tearing them away from their families is unjust, inhumane and racist in intent”, said campaigner Zita Holbourne.
* * *
Is the Evil Empire crumbling? The Philippines has officially told the USA that it is scrapping a security pact that allows US forces to train and take part in joint exercises there. News agency Reuters comments that the move “could be a blow to Washington’s interests in maintaining a troop presence in the Asia-Pacific, amid friction over the presence of US personnel in Japan and South Korea and regional security concerns about China and North Korea”.
* * *
“For more than 15 years successive British governments have covered up the role that the UK’s foreign intelligence service, MI6, and its security service, MI5, played in the abduction and subsequent torture of people they regarded as potential terrorists”. That is the finding of a report by Richard Norton-Taylor for the Declassified UK journalism project. Read the full article here.
* * *
“Drugs, dynasties, and Nottingham Forest: Marinakis and Greece’s Mafia State” is a fascinating piece of investigative journalism on the Stateless website. While the Greek authorities claim to be fighting crime, drugs and terrorism in their war on the insubordinate Athens neighbourhood of Exarchia, the real villains lie within the country’s ruling business elite.
* * *
A multi-millionaire businessman has come up with a spiffing plan to help those who fall victim to the capitalist system of which he is a part, and end up without a roof over their heads. They can sleep in a “pod” made from two plastic dustbins. “Let them eat cake” and “let them live in bins”. Two examples of the elite’s blind arrogance that can only end badly… for them.
* * *
Acorn quote: “It has taken me all of my life so far to realize that the single great obstacle in the way of survival and an extended human vision is the industrial society itself and its expropriation and suppression of the most sensitive & creative qualities of the mind”.
(For many more like this, see the Winter Oak quotes for the day blog)
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