Winter Oak author Paul Cudenec has warned on his blog: “This is a nightmare world in which the total full-spectrum control of our lives by an arrogant, sociopathic ultrarich elite is imposed by all-pervasive lies and propaganda, by brutal force and by fear”.
Meanwhile investigative reporter Cory Morningstar, renowned for her groundbreaking work exposing the “climate capitalism” scam, has been exploring the forces behind the coronavirus hype.
For instance, she highlights the role of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who chairs the World Economic Forum’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (see Acorn 53).
She reveals that on March 11, 2020 the WEF announced a partnership with the World Health Organization to establish the COVID Action Platform For Business and on that same day the WHO officially characterized COVID-19 a pandemic.
Dissident medical experts have also been speaking up to challenge the alarmism which is justifying all these totalitarian measures.
John Lee, a recently retired professor of pathology and a former NHS consultant pathologist explained that there are serious issues with the coronavirus figures.
He said: “Most of UK testing has been in hospitals, where there is a high concentration of patients susceptible to the effects of any infection.
“As anyone who’s worked with sick people will know, any testing regime based only in hospitals will over-estimate the virulence of an infection”
“But there’s another, potentially even more serious problem: the way that deaths are recorded. If someone dies of a respiratory infection in the UK, the specific cause of the infection is not usually recorded, unless the illness is a rare ‘notifiable disease’.
“Now look at what has happened since the emergence of Covid-19. The list of notifiable diseases has been updated. This list has now been amended to include Covid-19. But not flu.
“That means every positive test for Covid-19 must be notified, in a way that it just would not be for flu or most other infections.
“There is a big difference between Covid-19 causing death, and Covid-19 being found in someone who died of other causes. Making Covid-19 notifiable might give the appearance of it causing increasing numbers of deaths, whether this is true or not.
“It might appear far more of a killer than flu, simply because of the way deaths are recorded.
“In the next few days and weeks, we must continue to look critically and dispassionately at the Covid-19 evidence as it comes in.
“Above all else, we must keep an open mind — and look for what is, not for what we fear might be”.
Dr Lee is far from alone. For instance, Dr Yoram Lass,an Israeli physician, politician and former Director General of the Health Ministry, has said: “In every country, more people die from regular flu compared with those who die from the coronavirus”.
Professor Hendrik Streeck, German epidemiologist, professor of virology, and the director of the Institute of Virology and HIV Research, at Bonn University, comments: “The new pathogen is not that dangerous, it is even less dangerous than Sars-1”.
UK government advisor Professor Neil Ferguson has said that up to two thirds of people who die from coronavirus in the next nine months are likely to have died anyway this year, from other causes.
He told the Science and Technology Committee that experts were now expecting around 20,000 deaths, although there may turn out to be a lot fewer.
There are more dissenting medical views here and here.
In the light of all these voices challenging the system’s fear-inducing propaganda, it comes as no surprise that Operation Corona looks set to move into its second phase of repression.
This will be to silence dissent and to stop anyone from questioning or examining what is happening to us in 2020.
More information about this appears in an article in The Daily Telegraph by their “Global Health Security Editor” Paul Nuki, entitled “Covid Deniers: How shadowy social media groups are spreading myths and conspiracy about coronavirus”.
Note how the term “Covid Deniers” is casually rolled out as if it was self-evidently a thoughtcrime to question the current agenda!
The piece claims: “Conspiracies and fake news about Covid-19 are spreading across millions of users’ timelines”.
Nuki speaks the familiar newspeak of liberal authoritarianism, talking about “false and divisive lies and myths spreading across the web”.
Any challenges to the line spun by the authorities are branded “hate, bigotry and misinformation” peddled by sinister “health misinformation groups”.
All the tired old neoliberal propaganda clichés are shamelessly trotted out by Nuki, not least the spectre of “conspiracy theories”.
He writes of the offending thought criminals: “They are an odd mix of new and existing groups ranging from anti vaccination campaigners to right wing extremists to Russian-linked peddlers of fake anti-western news.”
One of these heretics, a woman interested in natural healthcare, even apparently had the effrontery to declare that “I think it’s really important that we don’t just believe what the media tell us.”
Send the police to smash down her front door and drag her off to the Global Health Security Re-Education Camps without any further ado!
It seems that another “Covid denier” claimed – unbelievably enough! – that we were witnessing a period of “mass hysteria”.
Lies! Treason! Heresy! Hate speech! Burn him! Burn him!
The main source used by Suki for his article is, bizarrely, the Center for Countering Digital Hate (and yes, although it is based in East Finchley, London, it uses the American spelling of what should, in the UK, be “Centre”).
This organisation previously came into prominence for its role in the Labour Party “anti-semitism” controversy and its patron is Rachel Riley, the pro-Israel TV presenter who famously pointed the finger at Jeremy Corbyn.
Its CEO, Imran Ahmed, used to work as a spin doctor for Labour Party politician Angela Eagle.
But the CCDH has now suddenly, and inexplicably, switched its focus to attacking those who dare to challenge the official line on the coronavirus.
In doing so, it is using the very same language (“hate”, “populism”, “conspiracy theories”) that it has previously used in an entirely different context.
Very strange indeed!
The aim of all this hype is of course to clamp down on free speech and to impose a fascistic new world where it is considered a crime to question authority or its mass propaganda outlets.
In this totalitarian aim, the CCDH is perfectly in step with the World Health Organization.
Nuki reports: “Throughout the outbreak the World Health Organization has been vocal in warning that fake news can be as damaging as the virus itself. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director of the WHO, has repeatedly said that the world is fighting an ‘infodemic’ as well as a pandemic.
“In the UK, social media firms will be called in to Parliament after the extended Easter recess to explain what they are doing to combat the spread of false information”.
It is worth noting that countering “fake news” and “disinformation” also formed part of the notorious Event 201 pandemic “exercise” hosted in New York by The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in partnership with the World Economic Forum and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on October 18, 2019.
We have added a new in-depth article to this site: Liberalism: the two-faced tyranny of wealth. This is very much a companion piece to the 2018 article Bringing down the fascist machine. Here’s the list of contents for the new analysis: 1. The rule of money 2. Liberalism as deception 3. Liberalism and fascism 4. […]
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
* 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”.
Julian Assange’s extradition hearing begins on Monday February 24. A protest is lined up from 9.30am. Latest info from the Defend Wikileaks site.
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.
“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”.
The much-vaunted “green” agenda of the World Economic Forum (WEF) is coming under attack as its annual Davos summit gets underway.
A new international campaign has been launched which alleges the WEF is guilty of spearheading a bid by corporations and financial institutions to “monetize” nature on a global scale.
It is calling on people across the world to hold public meetings, disseminate information, form local campaign groups and “to take whatever action is necessary” to halt the so-called “New Deal for Nature”.
An online statement from the “No Deal for Nature” alliance, whose slogan is “life is not a commodity”, has already won the support of several academics and campaigners.
It warns that “under the guise of environmental protection” a massive exploitation scheme is in fact being drawn up, with the aim of maintaining the current wealth and power transfer from the poor to the rich.
The WEF boasts on its own website that “young climate activists, including Greta Thunberg” will be attending the Davos event in Switzerland from January 21.
It insists it will be discussing “how to address the urgent climate and environmental challenges that are harming our ecology and economy” and “how to transform industries to achieve more sustainable and inclusive business models”.
However, the WEF also reveals it will be examining “how to govern the technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution so they benefit business”.
The package of policies known as the “New Deal for Nature” is being promoted not only by the WEF, but also by the United Nations (UN), the World Bank and the controversial WWF.
The UN has admitted it wants to “advance a new political agenda” involving “increased promotion of innovative financing that supports green infrastructure”.
The new campaign describes this agenda as a “monstrous and unprecedented assault on our living world by the capitalist system”.
It warns that nature and humanity alike will suffer, with the threat of “further Indigenous displacement and genocide”.
The campaigners conclude: “The NDFN must be stopped. We call on all those who care about nature to speak out now”.
We have been warning for many months that there is something profoundly rotten in the “climate” movement fronted by the likes of Greta Thunberg, Extinction Rebellion, the WWF, the UN, and George Monbiot of The Guardian.
We know that a large number of the activists involved in these campaigns are doing so from a genuine concern for nature, for the environment, for the future of this world.
But, we have been trying to point out, they need to be aware that powerful forces are trying to use their eco-idealism for very different ends – the ends of increasing industrialisation, destruction and, of course, profit.
This is not just a question of a few opportunistic business sharks trying to “co-opt” an authentic activist initiative.
The enormous environmental damage caused by industrial society has been deliberately repackaged as a mere “climate crisis”, for which capitalists are primed to sell us their lucrative “solutions”.
The network which has been creating and promoting this fake-green pseudo-movement – and whose money and influence has made it so much more “successful” than other eco-campaigns – is entirely embedded in the worst kind of capitalism.
The “solutions” these deceitful wheeler-dealers are trying to sell us risk leading us into a nightmarish future of artifice, enslavement and corporate-controlled “smart” fascism.
And yet, as the months go on, more and more evidence keeps emerging to back up what we and others have been saying.
Tug at any loose end that catches your eye on the surface of modern life and, if you keep pulling, you will find yourself hauling up the same dripping, stinking, putrid knot of industrial capitalist power, money and lies.
You could start, for instance, from a January 2 tweet in which the official account of the WWF in the UK decided to endorse the Greggs vegan steak bake (“made with pieces of the fungi-based protein Quorn instead of beef”) as promoted by The Guardian.
As Brussels-based academic Frédéric Leroy tweeted: “The fact that this promo is coming from a WWF account tell us more about the latter than about the opportunism of food ultraprocessors”.
He added: “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”.
The WWF is an extremely dubious organisation, as the excellent documentary video Silence of the Pandas reveals.
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 (see above).
Elkington is part of the Tomorrow’s Capitalism project – slogan “Step Up or Get Out of the Way” – which held a conference in London on January 10 2020.
All sorts of lovely people were lined up to attend the event hosted by asset management company Aviva Investments.
These included representatives of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Swiss-based World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), German chemicals firm Covestro, the transhumanist Singularity University and members of a “a team of technology, finance and market sector experts” going under the name RethinkX.
Back to food for a moment, and less than a week after The Guardian’s plug for the Greggs product, it published a gushing piece by star columnist George Monbiot about the marvellous brave new industrial world of “lab grown food” which would make farming redundant and “save the planet”.
Monbiot, who has spent decades trying to build up a reputation as an “environmentalist”, explained that his inspiring and wholesome menu for the future of food involves “multiplying particular micro-organisms, to produce particular products, in factories”.
He also echoed the language of the “Green Swan” and “Tomorrow’s Capitalism” crowd by declaring: “We are on the cusp of the biggest economic transformation, of any kind, for 200 years”.
And it should come as no surprise to learn that the “thinktank” behind the lab-grown food project promoted by Monbiot is none other than Tomorrow’s Capitalism participants RethinkX.
And what might prompt these “technology, finance and market sector experts” to take an interest in this world-changing new technology?
As environmental campaigner Miles Kingcomments: “The way I see it is that entrepreneurs (inc the rethinkx ones and others) are looking to create a market in synthetic food, corner it, then make a fortune from it. This has nothing to do with a sustainable future for the planet”.
So who is behind RethinkX? Its website says it is funded by its founders James Arbib and Tony Seba and with grants from Tellus Mater, an “independent philanthropic foundation” founded by James Arbib.
Arbib describes himelf as “a London-based investor in technology” and is the son of businessman Sir Martyn Arbib, founder of fund management company Invesco Perpetual.
Seba is a Silicon Valley venture capitalist whose work focuses on “the convergence of technologies, business models, and product innovations that disrupt the world’s major industries”.
As for the name RethinkX, we were immediately reminded of the “X”-themed language deployed by one leading climate capitalist, which we exposed here last year.
X was regarded as standing for “exponential opportunities” – thus we had “Tomorrow’s Business Models will be X-rated”, the “Sustainability X agenda” and “Think X, shorthand for Think Exponential”.
A possible connection to the name “XR” was suggested to us by the fact that the X-obsessed author was none other than John Elkington of Volans, one of XR’s “business leaders”.
And this same John Elkington is, of course, behind the Tomorrow’s Capitalism project with which Monbiot’s chums at RethinkX are involved…
An Xtremely strange coincidence?
Or does X mark the spot for artificial industrial food, for phoney philanthropists selling pseudo-sustainability, for fake-green politics, for astroturf “rebels”, for corporate grooming of public opinion, for the transhumanist death-cult and, above all else, for simply X-ponential levels of profit for the financial-capitalist elite?
This person wrote: “Sorry but I have very little time for conspiracy theorists, and you have proven time after time that you are one. Will give you a mute now, can’t see why I should bother any further”.
The immediate spark for this was our comradely suggestion that they might like to have a look at our Climate Capitalists page for some background info on the way environmentalism is being co-opted by big business interests.
Before that, there had been a brief and polite exchange about the lack of anarchist voices condemning US imperialist aggression against Iran.
We are not quite sure which issue was the trigger here, but in any case the response seems totally bizarre for an outfit which is – surely! – opposed both to capitalism and to imperialism.
Jaime Semprun, in his book Dialogues sur l’Achèvement des Temps Modernes, refers to a Czech intellectual and 1968 dissident who said, with regard to his authoritarian “comrades”: “If they are Marxists, then we aren’t. If we are Marxists, then they aren’t!”
We can identify with this in an anarchist context…
This issue isn’t totally new, of course. We were already trying to broach the thorny issue in our 2017 article What is Real Anarchism?
There we warned: “Anarchism, as a political movement, is doomed to disintegrate and disappear if it fails to reconnect itself to the roots of its own world-view”.
Subsequently, we gave up the idea of trying to claim ideological rights to the entire anarchist tradition, which has always been very diverse.
For that reason, and in order to set out our own position with more clarity, we have adopted the label of organic radicalism, without abandoning our attachment to the anarchist ideal.
Organic radicalism has the same relation to anarchism as anarchism has to socialism. Anarchism’s roots are in socialism, it is intrinsically socialist and yet it is more than socialism. It found its own name to differentiate itself from other forms of socialism (statist, reformist, etc), which had dominated understanding of the term. Organic radicalism is therefore both anarchist and socialist – and something else, of its own.
So what are its differences with anarchism?
Organic radicalism is an evolution of anarchism. 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.
So it is that The Acorn remains firmly anarchist and yet has great difficulty in identifying with anarchists and other so-called radicals who:
* Happily support and promote military imperialist aggressions against countries which refuse to toe the US line, so long as the countries have been labelled “undemocratic” or “oppressive” by The Guardian.
* Happily support and promote industrialism and its destruction of the natural world, so long as this has been labelled “green” by The Guardian.
* Happily support the illegal detention and psychological torture of an anti-imperialist journalist and whistleblower, so long as he has been labelled a sex offender and creep by The Guardian.
* Happily support, promote (and eat?) the worst kind of industrially-processed non-food, so long as this has been declared a good thing by The Guardian.
* Refuse to even read any research exposing the machinations of the ruling system, automatically dismissing it as “conspiracy theory”.
* Regard the idea of “nature” or “natural” as suspicious, “dodgy” or somehow mysteriously linked to “fascism“, though they are never capable of explaining how or why.
* Refuse to read or consider anything which challenges this delusion, for fear of being contaminated by association with suspicious, dodgy or “fascist” ideas. Or maybe, for fear of being seen by others as being contaminated by association with suspicious, dodgy or “fascist” ideas.
* Appear to be incapable of critical thinking or independent thought, preferring to adhere slavishly to the latest groupthink orthodoxy, even when this makes no sense at all.
If our Western capitalist “democracies” were what they claim to be, Emmanuel Macron would no longer be president of the French republic.
After 14 months of non-stop protests against his regime and its hardcore neoliberal agenda, it is quite clear that he has no social licence to carry on.
No sooner had the Gilets Jaunes revolt in France begun, at the end of 2018, than the corporate media confidently informed their public that it was running out of steam and would soon disappear.
At the start of 2020, not only has the revolt not disappeared but it has evolved and grown into something even more powerful and widespread.
A huge movement of strikes and protests against the regime’s “work-until-you-drop” pension “reforms” has swept across French society.
Following the same tired script, the system’s media have been trying to play down the significance of what is happening and are pretending it will all quickly fade away.
But support for the opposition movement is strong and all sorts of professions have been joining in the struggle.
Railway workers, dockers and bus drivers have been marching alongside firefighters, teachers and students.
Opera singers and ballet dancers have got in on the act, as have the staff at the Palace of Versailles and the Louvre.
Lawyers have been throwing down their gowns in protest, doctors their white coats, teachers their schoolbooks, factory workers their blue overalls.
Across the country Gilets Jaunes and strikers have been disrupting Macronist (LREM) meetings, often drowning them out with renditions of On est là (“For the honour of the workers and for a better world, we are here!”). See videos here, here and here.
Macron himself had to be spirited out of a theatre in Paris on January 17 when news of his presence spread and angry people gathered in the street outside.
The president’s response to all this is to dismiss criticism and discount any possibility of abandoning the hated pension “reforms”.
Like Thatcher in the UK 40 years ago, his job is to smash social resistance to a full neoliberal takeover, with every aspect of life privatised so that big business can extract maximum profit from the population.
In order to achieve this, Macron’s regime is prepared to use every weapon at its disposal, including, of course, massive and frightening levels of police brutality against protesters.
In France, as also in post-coup Bolivia, neoliberalism is coming out of the closet and revealing itself to be a 21st century form of fascism.
George Orwell (1903-1950), real name Eric Blair, was one of the most important English political writers of the 20th century.
He challenged totalitarianism in all its forms and, in opposition to its machine-like brutality, put forward a vision of life based on simplicity, authenticity and moral decency.
Orwell was a libertarian socialist, close to the anarchist movement, and often criticised, from within, the failure of the left to attract the widespread public support which its principles deserved.
He feared that its basic call for justice and liberty had been buried under layers of sterile dogma, boring Marxist jargon and blinkered enthusiasm for industrial “progress”.
The result, he feared, was that people like himself would recoil from this debased left and fall into the ideological arms of Fascism, which sought to gain power by selling the public its own distorted version of socialism.
Orwell learnt his politics from life rather than from textbooks. He learned hatred of British imperialism from his years in Burma, he learned the harsh realities of capitalist society from his spells of semi-voluntary poverty in Paris and London; he learned his distrust of Stalinist Communism from fighting in Spain; he learned about state propaganda from working at the BBC.
Although Orwell revelled in the apparent contradictions in his world view, and detested “the smelly little orthodoxies” (1) of fixed systems of thought from Catholicism to Communism, his instincts were always defiantly left-wing and anti-authoritarian.
In 1936, he told Philip Mairet he was going to Spain. When asked why, he simply replied: “This fascism. Somebody’s got to stop it”. (2)
An account of a night attack against Franco’s forces on the Aragon Front the next year described “Eric Blair’s tall figure coolly strolling forward through the storm of fire”. (3)
Orwell/Blair wrote in Homage to Catalonia: “I have no particular love for the idealized ‘worker’ as he appears in the bourgeois Communist’s mind, but when I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on”. (4)
After his experiences on the Iberian peninsula he became distrustful of any anti-fascist struggle that was not also a revolutionary struggle against capitalism.
He wrote in a letter: “After what I have seen in Spain I have come to the conclusion that it is futile to be ‘anti-Fascist’ while attempting to preserve capitalism. Fascism after all is only a development of capitalism, and the mildest democracy, so-called, is liable to turn into Fascism when the pinch comes…
“If one collaborates with a capitalist-imperialist government in a struggle ‘against Fascism’, ie. against a rival imperialism, one is simply letting Fascism in by the back door”. (5)
Orwell was persuaded by Emma Goldman to join the International Anti-Fascist Solidarity Committee where he came into contact with anarchists such as Herbert Read and John Cowper Powys. He was also friends with the anarchists Marie Louise Berneri and George Woodcock.
He supported the war against Hitler in the hope that it would lead to revolution and joined the Home Guard which he saw, for a while, as potentially a revolutionary popular militia like the New Model Army of the 17th century.
After the war ended, Orwell joined the libertarian Freedom Defence Committee and contributed to the anarchist journal Freedom.
But alongside his natural left-wing allegiance was something which was regarded, at the time, as somehow in contradiction with all that – a deep love for traditional ways, for old England and above all for nature.
Bernard Crick describes how Orwell was both “tender towards nature” and alarmed at “the suburban sprawl over the countryside”. (6) He adds: “Orwell thought that man should be as one with natural objects. Like Rousseau, he disliked the artificiality of the city”. (7)
George Woodcock writes that Orwell was motivated by a “nostalgia for a simpler and cleaner way of life which emerges so poignantly in Coming Up for Air and even gives pathos to parts of Nineteen Eighty-Four“. (8)
He had an “essentially naturalistic attitude” (9) and took great joy from contact with nature: “He fed from the earth, like Antaeus, and his happiest recollections of youth, like his happiest letters, were concerned in some way or another with rural experiences”. (10)
Orwell was particularly outspoken in his condemnation of industrial society in The Road to Wigan Pier. He wrote: “It is only in our own age, when mechanization has finally triumphed, that we can actually feel the tendency of the machine to make a fully human life imposssible”. (11)
“The question one has got to consider is whether there is any human activity which would not be maimed by the dominance of the machine”. (12)
He decried the way that it was becoming difficult to imagine any way out of the machine world, as people’s preferences and habits became defined by its norms: “Mechanization leads to the decay of taste, the decay of taste leads to the demand for machine-made articles and hence to more mechanization, and so a vicious circle is established”. (13)
George Bowling, the central character in Coming Up for Air, has a glimpse of all this when he tastes a frankfurter in a 1930s Milk Bar in central London: “It was fish! A sausage, a thing calling itself a frankfurter, filled with fish! It gave me the feeling that I’d bitten into the modern world and discovered what it was really made of.
“That’s the way we’re going nowadays. Everything slick and streamlined, everything made out of something else. Celluloid, rubber, chromium-steel everywhere, arc lamps blazing all night, glass roofs over your head, radios all playing the same tune, no vegetation left, everything cemented over, mock-turtles grazing under the neutral fruit-trees.
“But when you come down to brass tacks and get your teeth into something solid, a sausage for instance, that’s what you get. Rotten fish in a rubber skin. Bombs of filth bursting inside your mouth”. (14)
Orwell expressed particular despair at the way in which socialism, influenced by rigid Marxist materialism and Soviet industrialism, had failed to oppose the “swindle of progress”. (15)
Worse than that, it had even reached the fanatical point at which “all sentiment for the past carries with it a vague smell of heresy”. (16)
Most socialists regarded with contempt the traditional beliefs and ways of life that held together pre-industrial organic community and wanted to steamroller the past to build the new scientifically-planned, efficient concrete-communist future.
Orwell remarked: “The unfortunate thing is that Socialism, as usually presented, is bound up with the idea of mechanical progress, not merely as a necessary development but as an end in itself, almost as a kind of religion”. (17)
He feared that “revulsion from a shallow conception of progress” could drive people away from socialism into the hands of the Fascists – as it already had, he argued in a BBC talk, with Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot. (18)
At the same time, Orwell feared that lurking behind the “urban creed” (19) of socialism was “a hypertrophied sense of order”. (20) This meant that even his own ideology, English socialism, was in danger of turning into the fascistic IngSoc of his fictional dystopia.
His two most famous warnings against totalitarianism, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, were both influenced by his experience of Communist propaganda in Spain, which had spread the total lie that the Trotskyites of POUM and their fellow anarchist revolutionaries were in fact “Fascists” working secretly for Franco.
One young man, Stafford Cottmann, who had fought fascism with POUM alongside Orwell, returned home to the UK only to have his home picketed by local Communists denouncing him as a “Fascist”. (21)
Crick remarks: “It is still hard to recall how vile, gross and fabricated such propaganda was. Orwell saw before his own eyes not merely the distortion of evidence through differing perspectives but the sheer invention of history. One aspect of Nineteen Eighty-Four was already occurring”. (22)
When Orwell encountered the same attitude to truth in the wartime BBC, where he worked, he realised that a dangerous modern tendency was revealing itself, in which truth became secondary to control and the pursuit of power.
Explaining in 1949 why he wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four, he explained that “totalitarian ideas have taken root in the minds of intellectuals everywhere, and I have tried to draw these ideas out to their logical consequences”. (23)
This totalitarianism was in fact happening at a deeper level than the political surface, in the very way that intellectuals were starting to think: a way that reflected the artificiality and separation from natural reality of the industrial age.
In the novel, Ingsoc’s Big Brother dictatorship has established near-complete control of the population not merely on a physical level, but on a psychological one too – it is able to manipulate the experience of those it dominates, by denying the possibility of any objective reality.
“Not merely the validity of experience, but the very existence of external reality was tacitly denied by their philosophy. The heresy of heresies was common sense… If both the past and external world exist only in the mind, and if the mind itself is controllable – what then?” (24)
Winston Smith’s struggle to keep a grip on objective reality, to know that two plus two makes four whatever the ideological demands of the Party, is a central theme of Orwell’s novel.
The character tells himself: “Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth’s centre”. (25)
The Big Brother system has invented a new language which controls people’s minds by making heretical ideas impossible to even formulate.
One of the Party members developing Newspeak tells Smith: “You think, I dare say, that our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We’re destroying words – scores of them, hundreds of them, every day”. (26)
He explains: “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thought-crime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it… By 2050 – earlier, probably – all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed”. (27)
In the face of this truth-denying dogmatism, Orwell insisted that any authentic radical should always remain free to reject the dominant official ideology: “He should never turn back from a train of thought because it may lead to a heresy, and he should not mind very much if his unorthodoxy is smelt out, as it probably will be”.
While co-operating with others to some extent, a free-thinking radical had to fight the capitalist system “as an individual, an outsider, at the most an unwelcome guerilla on the flank of a regular army”. (28)
In Woodcock’s words, Orwell was “a good and angry man who sought for the truth because he knew that only in its air would freedom and justice survive”. (29)
1. George Woodcock, The Crystal Spirit: A Study of George Orwell (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970), p. 51/
2. Bernard Crick, George Orwell: A Life (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1982) , p. 312.
3. ‘Night Attack on the Aragon Front, The New Leader, 30 April 1937, p. 3. cit. Crick, p. 327.
4. George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1964) p. 119.
5. Crick, p. 350.
6. Crick, p. 272.
7. Crick, p. 301.
8. Woodcock, pp. 34-35.
9. Woodcock, p. 56.
10. Woodcock, p. 55.
11. George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969) p. 167.
12. Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, p. 172.
13. Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, p. 180.
14. George Orwell, Coming Up for Air (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963), pp. 26-27.
15. Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, p. 178.
16. Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, p. 177.
17. Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, p. 166.
18. Crick, p. 430.
19. Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, p. 164.
20. Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, p. 157.
21. Crick, p. 344.
22. Crick, p. 334.
23. Letter to Francis A. Henson, 16 June 1949, cit. Crick p. 569.
24. George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (New York: Signet, 1950) p. 80.
25. Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, p. 81.
26. Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, pp. 50-51.
27. Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, pp. 52-53.
28. Woodcock, p. 220.
29. Woodcock, p. 278.
A week of action against the ecocidal capitalist system is being promoted by the Green Anti-Capitalist Front in the UK from February 24 to March 2. Initiatives will include reclaiming public space and unoccupied buildings, organising workshops and social events to build awareness and self-reliance, and “being loud and clear about our rage against profit-making by stockbrokers and their like at the expense of our planet and fellow humans”. More info here.
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A big “International Black Bloc” mobilisation against a key EU summit in Leipzig has been called for September 2020. Say the Autonomes Kollektiv Anonymus: “We want to give the participating EU rulers a lesson in practical street militancy that they will not forget… the goal of joint action must be to bring this imperialist class reunion to an early end”.
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Campaigners in Amsterdam are battling to protect an important green space on which organic food has long been grown. Developer SADC (Schiphol Area Development Company) wants to destroy this beautiful area, the Lutkemeerpolder, so that it can build warehouses and a distribution centre. More info at http://behoudlutkemeer.nl/en/
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“Across India’s forest areas, people are fighting for democracy, livelihood and dignity”. Read more on this website from the Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a platform of adivasi and forest dwellers’ movements from ten States in India.
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An important first-hand inside account of the way the media has been infiltrated and taken over by the system’s spooks has been provided by former Newsweek journalist Tareq Haddad. He writes: “The US government, in an ugly alliance with those who profit the most from war, has its tentacles in every part of the media – imposters, with ties to the US State Department, sit in newsrooms all over the world”.
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“Whilst the CIA did not create postmodernism, it strongly encouraged and coerced its fruition”. This is the conclusion of very interesting 40-minute film from Prolekult, part five of their feature-length documentary “A Dying Culture”. Watch it here.
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“Vitaphobia is the fear of life itself, a fear which becomes hatred, a hatred which begets unlimited violence against everything that is alive”. So writes Paul Cudenec in a blog article condemning the despisal of nature that underpins industrial capitalist modernity.
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The ecocidal reality of so-called “green” energy is plain to see in Portugal, where people are organising against a boom in the mining of lithium, the “white gold” used to make batteries for electric cars. “Lithium mining in Portugal involves large open-cast mines that rip open huge tracts of land-destroying soils and ecosystems,” said one campaigner. “It uses huge amounts of water in the processing, which then contaminates ground and river water. The huge machines that are used have a massive impact in terms of noise and vibrations on local communities”.
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Hambacher Forest has not been saved, despite what the German government is claiming. This is the message of a January 17 press release from the Hambi Bleibt forest occupation. It points out that plan proposed by lignite mining firm RWE will make the forest an island inside its giant pit. The ecosystem of the 12,000 year old forest is dying because RWE has been pumping out the ground water. “Furthermore, a forest ecosystem needs to be connected to the outside world, and it is especially true for the Hambacher Forest, which is 10% of the size it used to be”. More here.
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Senior Scottish Government forestry officials have voiced concerns that a £5 million tree-planting deal with the oil giant, Shell, was blatant “greenwashing”, internal emails have revealed. An investigation by The Ferret website explains that the planting aims to earn Shell “carbon credits” to “offset” emissions from its petrol and diesel sales. But one official warned: “The tiny amount Shell is putting into green initiatives is dwarfed by what it is still spending on investigating new oil and gas reserves, and in blocking initiatives to set legally binding emissions reductions targets”.
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The Earth First! UK Winter Moot is fast approaching. From February 21 to 23 the direct action network is proposing “a weekend of plotting & planning, reflection & discussion, seeing old & meeting new friends, yummy vegan food & coyzness”. The location will be near a protest camp against the HS2 high-speed rail route. Details to be confirmed soon. See https://www.earthfirst.org.uk/
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As we enter the glorious 2020s, stem cells from frogs are being used to build the “first living robots” and trees are being replaced with City Trees – “the perfect combination of plants and Internet of Things technology”. Meanwhile we are told that “the fruit of the future” will be artificial and “made out of 3D-printed cellulose skins and filled with a healthy mix of vitamins and minerals”. Is this the future we really want? If not, what are we collectively going to do about it? These are surely the big questions for the decade to come…
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Acorn quote: “All ownership of things, all land-ownership is in reality ownership of men. Whoever withholds the earth from others, from the masses, forces these others to work for him. Private ownership is theft and slave-holding”.
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.
“Wow, this is unbelievable!” tweeted Greta Thunberg in response to the news that she had been named Time magazine Person of the Year for 2019.
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”.
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!
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.
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!
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 serious 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.
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)
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”.
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”.
Paul Cudenec of Shoal Collective reports from Montpellier, France, on the first birthday of the Gilets Jaunes’ uprising
“I am not ashamed to feel afraid from time to time. I keep on coming, but I understand those who don’t come any more because they’re too frightened”.
So spoke Antoine, a 75-year-old Gilet Jaune marking the first anniversary of the Yellow Vest movement in the southern French city of Montpellier on Saturday November 16.
This was just one of many protests and occupations across the country (notably in Paris) marking the birthday weekend and paving the way for a big day of strikes and actions on December 5.
Antoine explained: “I’ve been here from day one and I’ve escaped police batons by a whisker on several occasions, even though my only weapons are my whistle and my gilet jaune!”
The last of these alarming encounters had come just the previous week in Montpellier, he said, when the “forces of order” had attacked the demo right at the start.
He had seen a riot policeman from the CRS bearing down on him, baton raised, but fortunately for the pensioner it was another protester who took the blow.
I had already noticed that the majority of the demonstrators gathering in the Place de la Comédie were not wearing the trademark yellow singlets, in the stark contrast to the last time I reported from Montpellier, and Antoine said this was because of the massive police violence which protesters had been facing over the months.
He was sure this was a deliberate strategy on behalf of the French state and felt that the previous week’s brutality was intended to dissuade people from taking part in the anniversary protest we were attending.
Julian, an observer with the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme, a human rights organisation, confirmed to me that the previous Saturday’s police behaviour had been particularly bad.
“There was kettling and teargassing right from the start, for the first time here and without there having been any violence”, he said. “The state really wanted to stop the demo. It was kettled for an hour and a half”.
He said there were some police who did their job properly, but others who certainly didn’t, particularly the plain-clothed BAC (Brigade anti-criminalité) units and the CDI (Compagnie départmentale d’intervention) for the Hérault area.
With this in mind, it was quite a relief when the demo, a couple of thousand strong, was able to form up and leave the elegant main city square without any visible police presence.
To the sound of drums, music and singing, we headed away from the narrow medieval city streets where the police would have been expecting us.
But as we surged in the bright Mediterranean sunshine across a bridge over the River Lez and into the suburbs, the seagulls circling overhead were accompanied by a police drone tracking our movements.
The protest paused for a moment at Place Ernest Granier, blocking cars and trams on this important intersection and then moved off again.
It was now clear that the target was the south coast motorway which runs through the outskirts of the city and, an hour after the march set off, it was met with a line of riot cops blocking the road ahead.
Not content with merely blocking the way, they advanced towards us and soon were raining volleys of tear gas cannisters down on the retreating protesters.
Quickly, a Plan B was hatched and hundreds of us streamed across a small park surrounded by housing estates to seek out another route to the motorway.
“Joyeux anniversaire!” sang the Gilets Jaunes in celebration of a whole year of joyful rebellion across the whole of this country.
Again, police vans turned up to block the way and more tear gas filled the air. Despite successful attempts to create traffic jams to halt the police’s progress, they caught up with us again a mile or so later and this time the protest was cut in two, with hundreds caught in a kettle.
The front part of the march ploughed on, still with the idea of blocking the motorway in mind, and came across the Village Jaune, a birthday-weekend occupation of the roundabout at Prés d’Arènes.
Here there were tents, a large gazebo, trestle tables, banners, yellow balloons and an astonishing level of honking and waving from passing motorists, confirming once again that this movement enjoys high levels of support from the French public, outside the dominant metropolitan elite.
What to do next? Some wanted to keep going for the motorway, some seemed happy to be on the roundabout and others wanted to head back and help out the part of the march kettled by police.
In the end, there was little choice. Police advanced at speed from two directions, the tear gas began coming again and protesters scattered.
The first year of this revolt has been a story of non-stop police repression, combined with the relentless sneering hostility of the corporate media. Can it succeed in the face of all that?
“Yes,” one Gilet Jaune, Ingrid, told me. “I am quite sure of that, otherwise we wouldn’t be here. We have to have hope. We want people to have a life, we want nobody to be sleeping on the streets, we want wealth to be shared.
“The government will give way. We just don’t know when!”
A fellow protester, Manon, said: “We’re still here because we have to keep on fighting. They are destroying everything.
“We have to do this despite the police repression. We are fighting for another world and this is what we find ourselves faced with. It’s totalitarian neoliberalism.
“We are fighting for people’s dignity. It is the same struggle everywhere, in Chile for example”.
Manon said the strength of the Gilets Jaunes movement was the way it brought together people from all sorts of backgrounds.
“We have created something completely different, a new generation of protesters. People have come together who would never have done so before”.
Antoine, who had spoken to me about the way police violence was scaring some people away from protesting, said he didn’t think it would work in the long run.
“I consider myself to be here as a representative of ten other people who have told me they are with me. Most people I know support the Gilets Jaunes.
“The aspects that motivate me are social justice and human rights, which exist less and less from one Saturday to the next.
“The Gilets Jaunes are much more representative of society as a whole than other movements I have been involved in, such as the trade unions”.
There were even people involved who considered themselves to be on the political right, he said, although he questioned whether this self-designation was accurate, given the nature of the cause they supported.
“The real right is that infernal couple of Macron and Le Pen”, he added, noting that Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader, had abandoned her early pretence of supporting the Gilets Jaunes and had since reverted to form by allying herself with a fascistic police trade union which defends the use of violence againt protesters.
Asked whether the movement could succeed, he insisted: “It has already succeeded, by bringing together people from very different backgrounds, which is something in itself”.
This last point was reinforced by my conversation with Damien, a 74-year-old who explained that he was a retired policeman who had once been part of the notorious BAC units which have been in the forefront of the recent repression.
He said former colleagues he had spoken to were now more or less just going through the motions, doing the minimum their job required.
Damien said he was involved from the very start of the Gilets Jaunes revolt. “I’ve come back for the anniversary,” he added. “I’m still very unhappy about what I’m seeing”.
Macron had managed to hold on to power by dividing people, he said, and by buying their collaboration.
“Personally, I have nothing to complain about because I have got a good pension. But I can’t stand seeing people working all their lives and having nothing to show from it.
“I am doing this for everyone. This is a movement which came from below. It was a little revolution and it needs to keep going, starting with December 5”.
We are well aware that there are many genuine grassroots activists involved in Extinction Rebellion protests, people we know are on our side.
But more and more questions are being asked about the nature of the organisation itself, about the true agenda of the leadership lurking behind a flimsy illusion of horizontality.
The non-existence of a mass radical anti-capitalist movement in the UK (let alone a radical ecological anti-capitalist one!) means that XR has appealed to a lot of people who have long been waiting for some kind of rebellion to finally emerge.
Perhaps they have been tolerant of XR’s eccentricities (starry-eyed love of the police, dogmatic non-violence bordering on control-freakery, connections with business interests, refusal to consistently condemn capitalism) because they are the only show in town and it is a question of XR or nothing.
The same is not true in France, though, where revolution is often in the air and where the last year has seen a full-on yellow-coloured challenge to the neoliberal state.
XR have been active there too, but their fake radicalism and lame submissiveness to authority has shocked many eco-radicals and anti-capitalists, who have been voicing their concerns online.
Reporting on the XR occupation in Châtelet, it said “Extinction Rebellion scuttled its own initiative in a total absence of strategic thinking and analysis of power struggles”.
It explained: “The ‘diversity of tactics’ working group on Wednesday evening had asked each of the six blockade points to start thinking about what we would say to the press, the authorities, the public, on the day that we were moved on.
“For instance, it was suggested, in the spirit of a convergence of struggles, that we say ‘we are not leaving without the passing of a law for carbon neutrality by 2025 and an amnesty for all activists incarcerated during the various Gilets Jaunes protests’. That would have been awesome.
“But the XR leadership decided, at a sparsely-attended assembly on Friday morning, October 11, to dismantle the camp, to move most of the equipment and to pull out from the six blockade points.
“In short, XR removed everything which made this public space a living space where we could discuss, debate, get to know each other.
“The given reason was, of course, the next day’s action, but anyone with a minimum of strategic sense should have seen that this camp, now that it was there, now that it had been reinforced by Gilets Jaunes and other anti-capitalist and environmental activists, the night before the weekend, had definite subversive potential. Predictably the action on Saturday October 12 was, on the other hand, a total flop”.
The article went on to comment: “This is not a case of ‘non-violent civil disobedience’ nor indeed of ‘obedience’ since there was no official warning from the police or the authorities. It was rather a case of servility: we ended the camp before even having been ordered to leave. This is exactly the opposite of struggle or rebellion”.
This described a General Assembly held at the protest near the National Assembly in Paris on October 12.
“Several people spoke up to protest against XR having abandoned, the previous day, the occupation of the Place du Châtelet and the response came that since people from outside XR had joined in the blockade and did not adhere strictly to the consensus of non-violent action, with barricades apparently having been built, XR could not condone these actions by being present. And in any case they had needed the gear and the activists for today’s (kettled) actions.
“It was announced that as the police kettle had started at 10h48, the police should be letting everyone go at 14h48 because the law, since the state of emergency, dictates a period of four hours’ detention. As if the police were going to respect the law!
“In the meantime, several activists suggested some activities until the moment of liberation: a talk about XR for newcomers, training in civil disobedience and non-violence, photos for social media showing activists lying on the ground forming the XR logo with their bodies, construction of a toilet area…”
A little later, reacting to the CRS riot police, “a group of people started to chant ‘no justice, no peace!’. Next to us, a ‘peace-keeper’ (an XR activist charged with ensuring action remained non-violent) shouted, despairingly: ‘No, you mustn’t say that!’ and a colleague replied, with contempt dripping from his lips, ‘That lot are Gilets Jaunes from Drôme’.”
So is there any hope that the XR protests will do some good and will not simply lead thousands of good-hearted people into a dead end?
The report from the Concorde Bridge in Paris, for all its criticism, did point to some positive possibilities.
The authors said that when the assembly broke into smaller groups, it became apparent that individuals were keen to break free from central XR control and act independently.
They added: “It was a rather pleasant surprise to see that many XR activists did not stay stuck in the XR box, did not shy away from more radical action, less focused on media PR, and were asking real political questions about the scope of these actions. As often happens, the grassroots could quickly outgrow the organisation”.