Acorn

The Acorn – 55

acorn 2019bNumber 55

In this issue:

  1. Future on fire!
  2. When the state means business
  3. New Deal for Profits
  4. Jailed for exposing US war crimes
  5. Guy Debord: an orgrad inspiration
  6. Acorninfo

1.  Future on fire!

bank of england riot cops
Riot cops protect the Bank of England from anti-capitalists.

Green anti-capitalists are to target the financial heart of the City of London on Friday February 28.

A Rally Against Capital (Fuck the Banks, Fuck the City!) has been announced for 2pm outside the Bank of England in Threadneedle Street as part of the week of action mentioned in Acorn 54.

The activists have already notched up a notable success, by occupying a former police station in Paddington Green.

GAF squat

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”.

Blackrock1

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.

blackrock3

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.

Blackrock2

The youth climate militants (only distantly related to the UK’s law-abiding mainstream climate scene) were celebrating the birthday of their movement.

blackrock5Said 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.

blackrock4

“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”.

GJ feu

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2.  When the state means business

Mussolini_visiting_Fiat,_1932

“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)

Gaetano Salvemini
Gaetano Salvemini

When Gaetano Salvemini wrote these words, he wasn’t referring to the 2020s, but he might as well have been.

There are plenty of anti-capitalist comrades out there, who, even when they oppose the limited content of a Green New Deal or a New Deal for Nature, are tempted to give such schemes the benefit of the doubt in that they appear to be a step in the right direction, away from the unchecked market forces of “laissez-faire” capitalism.

But, as Salvemini points out, we need to look carefully at who exactly is pushing these ecnomic plans and whose interests they are designed to serve.

Here, the hard work has already been done for us by investigative journalist Cory Morningstar and other writers featured on our Climate Capitalists page of links.

The briefest dip beneath the fake green surface of this contemporary political pond reveals it to be less a source of environmental and social hope than a rancid cesspit of private interests (see also article below).

We find ourselves deep within a massive global network of organisations and initiatives with names like the World Resources Institute, The B-Team, We Mean Business, Tomorrow’s Capitalism, The Natural Capital Coalition and Corporate Impact X.

XR-corporateventure

Here we can have the pleasure of meeting a former CEO of Unilever, the daughter of a CIA-backed Latin American president, the powerful founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum or a Silicon Valley billionaire hoping to get even richer through a “Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

In this strange upside-down world, in which Big Business is going to “save the planet”, we come across brave “solo” campaigners supported and promoted every inch of the way by international PR professionals, youth movements described as “grassroots” which are in fact funded and steered from above, high-profile activist “rebellions” cheered on by venture capitalists.

We hear talk of “exponential opportunities“, “the investment of trillions of dollars“, and a “transformation unlike anything humankind has experienced before... a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres”.

In short, as Morningstar explains, the so-called Green New Deal is being promoted “as the catalyst to unlock the 100 trillion dollars required to unleash the ‘fourth industrial revolution’. This project, of unparalleled magnitude, is the vehicle to save the failing global capitalist economic system and bring in the financialization of nature”.

bankersinflorenceHaving 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.

highland clearances
The Highland Clearances

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.

Gaetano Salvemini book 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 highter 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, ie. the taxpayer, who has become responsible to private enterprise. When the depression came, the government added the loss to the taxpayer’s burdern. 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?

Mussolini rally
“All hail to the Green New Deal!”

1. Gaetano Salvemini, Under the Axe of Fascism (New York: Howard Fertig, 1969), p. 379, cit. Ishay Landa, The Apprentice’s Sorcerer: Liberal Tradition and Fascism (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012), p. 73.

2. Landa, p. 73.

3. Salvemini, pp. 379-80, cit. Landa, p. 73.

See also: Neoliberalism is the new fascism

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3. New Deal for Profits

dollar image

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.

new deal for nature and people logoIn 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.

We’ll show you what you mean. We found the “New Deal for Nature and People” Twitter account and discovered that this links directly to the WWF website.

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”.

WWF corporate links

We reported in Acorn 54: “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.

“The WWF was one of the founders of the Business for Nature lobby, as Cory Morningstar has set out.

“One of the many big corporations to which the WWF is close is Unilever, the massive transnational consumer goods company.

unilever

“Paul Polman, former Unilever CEO, was one of the ‘XR business leaders’ who signed their support for Extinction Rebellion last year“.

For more information on WWF, we recommend the Boycott WWF Twitter account and the excellent work of Survival International.

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?

knorr food report

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.

knorr3
Entirely Knatural

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?

knorr1* The Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU), whose aim is “growing better business” and declares: “We believe business has a critical role to play in achieving the outcomes for climate, biodiversity, public health and prosperous livelihoods that the world needs”. Prosperous livelihoods, eh?

* FReSH (Food Reform for Sustainability and Health) which is “one of the key initiatives of World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s effort to create a set of business solutions to drive the transformation of the food system”. Not just any old “solutions”, note, but business solutions!

* The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), which was created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and also gets funding from the likes of the Rockefeller Foundation, US Aid, BASF (the chemicals firm which produced Zyklon B for the Nazi gas chambers), and… oh! Unilever again!

Zyklon B
Mmmm… Nutritious!

* 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.

capitalist profits

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4. Jailed for exposing US war crimes

Julian Assange 2

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.

Julian assange 3

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”.

Assange GJ

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”.

assange protest

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.

AssangeFeb24protest

See also: Julian Assange: an enemy of the empire

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5. Guy Debord: an orgrad inspiration

guydebord2

“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)

lasocieteduspectacle

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.

gianttvOrganic, 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)

barcode cage

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)

Video links: La Société du Spectacle (film, 1 hr 26 mins), The Society of the Spectacle – The Remake Pt I, (9 mins) and Pt II  (9 mins).

guydebord

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.

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6. Acorninfo

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…”

thurrock quarry

* * *

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.

HS2

* * *

“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.

raoul vaneigem

* * *

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!”

hambach19j

* * *

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.

Windrush protest

* * *

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”.

Philippines USA

* * *

“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.

declassifiedUK-torture-

* * *

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.

Marinakis

* * *

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.

bin pod

* * *

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”.

Kit Pedler

Kit Pedler

(For many more like this, see the Winter Oak quotes for the day blog)

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The Acorn – 54

acorn 2019b

Number 54

In this issue:

  1. Mobilising against the assault on nature
  2. X-axis: the money behind the greenwash
  3. With friends like these…
  4. Neoliberalism is the new fascism
  5. George Orwell: an orgrad inspiration
  6. Acorninfo

1.  Mobilising against the assault on nature

NDFN Betrayal-by-Mario-Sánchez-Nevado
‘Betrayal’ by Mario Sánchez Nevado

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.

WEF 2020

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”.

WEF protest

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2. X-axis: the money behind the greenwash

BankstersWe 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”.

greenwash collage

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.

Despite the whole library of online links we have assembled to back up this warning, notably the meticulous research of Cory Morningstar, some still refuse to take it seriously.

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.

greggs steak bakeYou 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”.

WWF corporate links

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).

The WWF was one of the founders of the Business for Nature lobby, as Cory Morningstar has set out.

One of the many big corporations to which the WWF is close is Unilever, the massive transnational consumer goods company.

Paul Polman, former Unilever CEO, was one of the “XR business leaders” who signed their support for Extinction Rebellion last year.

A fellow signatory and XR fan is John Elkington of Volans, author of a new book called “Green Swans: The Coming Boom In Regenerative Capitalism” – whose title sort of gives the whole game away, in our opinion…

green swans

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”.

This is perhaps to be expected from someone who is employed by a sophisticated neoliberal propaganda operation, defends US/NATO imperialism in Syria and has long supported the nuclear industry.

Monbiot has dismissed Cory Morningstar’s investigative work as “conspiracy theory”, called for anarchists to be excluded from the climate movement and blocked anti-capitalist critics (like us!) on Twitter.

RethinkX_Logo

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?

Jamie Arbib
James Arbib

As environmental campaigner Miles King comments: “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”.

Tony Seba
Tony Seba of RethinkX

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?

X poison

See also: our page of links on the highly toxic climate capitalists.

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3. With friends like these…

stab

The Acorn is a project which emerged from the anarchist scene in the UK five years ago and the first 24 issues were jointly published on the Anarchist Action Network website.

But of late we have found ourselves in the strange position of being as anarchist as ever, and yet increasingly ideologically distanced from those we have always regarded as friends and comrades.

This came to a head, and into public view, at the start of 2020 when we were roundly castigated and “muted” by the twitter admin at Freedom Press in London.

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?

realanarch2

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.

It is worth quoting the orgrad website at length on this point:

Is organic radicalism a kind of anarchism?

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.

orgrad logo

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.

groupthink

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4. Neoliberalism is the new fascism

violences policieres

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.

manif greve

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.

avocats greve

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”.

He cannot back down because he has a specific role to play, for which he was groomed across the Atlantic by the German Marshall Fund of the US.

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.

bolivia fascism
Neoliberal democracy comes to Bolivia

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5. George Orwell: an orgrad inspiration

George Orwell died 70 years ago, on January 21 1950. Here is the profile of him from the organic radicals website.

george orwell3

“The heresy of heresies was common sense”

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”.

NazifakesocialismThe 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)

poum

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.

orwell-in-the-home-guard
Orwell in the Home Guard

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)

theroadtowiganpierOrwell 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)

soviet industrialism

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)

ingsocAt 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.

orwellbbcExplaining 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)

thoughtpolice

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)

Video link: Nineteen Eighty-Four. TV film from 1954. (1hr 47 mins)

georgeorwell2

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.

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6. Acorninfo

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.

GAF logo

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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”.

blackbloc

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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”.

tareq haddad

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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.

vitaphobia9

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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”.

lithium protest

* * *

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.

hambi pit

* * *

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”.

shell greenwash

* * *

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/

EF winter 2020

* * *

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…

neofruit

* * *

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”.

Gustav Landauer

slaves

For many more like this, see the Winter Oak quotes for the day blog)

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The Acorn – 53

acorn 2019b

Number 53

In this issue:

  1. Seeing through “democracy”
  2. Greta Thunberg: the billionaires’ favourite
  3. Misdirected Rebellion
  4. Calling out the imperial gatekeepers
  5. Yellow revolt takes a striking twist
  6. Jacques Ellul: an orgrad inspiration
  7. Acorninfo

1.  Seeing through “democracy”

Johnson and Trump

The capitalist system will not abolish itself.

In fact, it will always do all that it physically can to preserve itself and its control over our lives.

While it likes to pretend its structures of domination amount to “democracy”, this is not the case, because it could never leave the door open to the possibility of its own abolition by democratic means.

The only changes possible via the fake-democracy of the system are limited reforms, which leave the system very much in place.

When we say “limited”, we perhaps mean “extremely limited”, because even the mildest of social-democratic tinkering, undoing some of the worst excesses of contemporary neoliberalism, is beyond the pale for the system.

corbyn smear

However, when the system draws the line too tightly around its preferred outcomes and uses its vast powers of manipulation to prevent these limited reforms, it risks exposing its so-called “democracy” as a sham.

A whole new raft of people suddenly become aware of the true nature of the system and its fake-democratic window dressing.

Their eyes are opened to the fact that there is no point in playing by the rules devised by the system, no point in walking time and time again into the same traps that it sets for us.

These moments are risky for the system, because they risk radicalising people who, up to this point, had bought into much of its charade.

The UK is currently experiencing one such moment. A vast amount of enthusiasm and hope had been invested – naively, from our perspective – in the possibility of an election victory for Corbyn’s Labour Party.

The reforms proposed by Labour were far from fundamental and yet remained unacceptable to the system.

The unprecedented blatancy of the propaganda assault on Corbyn has left many people, particularly young people, asking themselves some serious questions about the nature of British “democracy” and the approach that is needed if real social change is ever to be brought about.

And that can’t be a bad thing!

power beyond parliament

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2. Greta Thunberg: the billionaires’ favourite

Greta Time cover

“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”.

Greta in train
Another day, another photo shoot

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”.

Greta1

The term “Fourth Industrial Revolution” was first used by Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum and a former member of the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group.

Schwab wrote in a key article in 2015: “We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before”.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, he explained, would be “characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres”.

Schwab continued: “The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited. And these possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing”.

Not exactly a nature-friendly vision of the future!

mark benioff

Another big fan of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is American Silicon Valley billionaire Marc Benioff (above), whose role in climate capitalism has been exposed by the investigative journalist Cory Morningstar.

Benioff sits on the Board of Trustees of the WEF Forum under Schwab and chairs the WEF’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco.

He enthused in 2018: “Everyone has to come together for the fourth industrial revolution in inclusive capitalism. Business is now a platform of change”.

Benioff’s company Salesforce, the cloud computing giant, is controversial to say the least.

In March 2019 it was sued by 50 women who alleged it had facilitated sex trafficking, of which they were victims.

It has also been heavily criticised and boycotted by activists for “making millions of dollars from the suffering of immigrants detained at the United States’ southern border”.

salesforce-protest-e1576762738492.png

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.

benioff and thunberg
Marc Benioff (left) with Greta Thunberg at the WEF summit in Davos in January 2019. Back right is the sinister Christiana Figueres

See also: our ever-expanding page of links on the climate capitalists.

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3. Misdirected Rebellion

xr protest london train

An edited extract from Kim Hill’s important series of articles entitled Unpacking Extinction Rebellion.

A movement that is serious about extinction and climate change needs to address the root problems: capitalism, the industrial system, a culture that sees life as a resource to be exploited, and the infrastructure that holds it all together.

It needs to have clear goals, that can’t be diluted or used to manipulate and misdirect the movement. It needs to take action immediately, not in several years’ time. And it needs to target the weak points in the system, where it can have the most impact for the least effort.

The misdirection of Extinction Rebellion has come about because most urban dwellers have only an abstract idea of nature, as they don’t depend on it directly for their food, water and shelter. Their relationship with nature is mediated by the economic system, which provides for their needs by stealing resources from elsewhere and selling them on for profit.

XR nonviolentThe 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.

xr protest policewoman

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…

wind turbines

See also:

Rebellion Extinction: a capitalist scam to hijack our resistance

“The X Agenda”: what does XR actually stand for?

Extinction Rebellion training, or how to control radical resistance from the ‘obstructive left’, by Cory Morningstar

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4. Calling out the imperial gatekeepers

gatekeeper

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.

handsonsyria

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!

thoughtcrime2

Related video: Wikipedia: rotten to the core

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5. Yellow revolt takes a striking twist

grevedec

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.

greve17d

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.

greve17da

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.

greve17dc

Protesters picketing a bus depot in Saint Denis, near Paris, were brutally bludgeoned by cops and, on the massive Paris demo, firefighters in uniform, trying to protect the rest of the crowd were violently charged at by riot police, causing several nasty injuries.

Even school kids blocking their lycées have been handled with the same thuggish disdain by the neoliberal stormtroopers.

And yet still Macron and his crooked cronies cling to power, refusing to bow to what is now an overwhelming public demand for them to abandon their neoliberal assault on French society and fall on their swords like the wretched Delevoye.

greve17db

The Gilets Jaunes

6. Jacques Ellul: an orgrad inspiration

Jacques Ellul

“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)

peugeot ad 1970sIn 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)

jacques ellul de la Révolution auxSpanish anti-industrialist writer José Ardillo goes even further, regarding Ellul’s position as being essentially more revolutionary than those who generally liked to claim the label as their own.

A general acceptance of the capitalist idea of “progress” is, after all, hardly the basis for a truly radical opposition to the status quo. As Ellul declared: “The myth of Progress has killed the revolutionary spirit”. (5)

Ardillo describes Ellul’s emphasis on the fact that we live in a society whose sole dogma is economic growth: “For him, the revolutionaries of May 1968 targeted mirages of power which had already been discredited by modernity itself – the real structures of the system remained intact. The type of revolt he envisages therefore demands a radical questioning of the way of life in developed societies.

“The necessary revolution demands the creation of new values, because all morality has been swept aside by the advance of technical society. And, for him, there has to be a break with a large part of our revolutionary heritage, so we can go back and begin again from a new starting point”. (6)

Video link: The Betrayal by Technology: A Portrait of Jacques Ellul (54 mins)

jacques ellul2

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.

Orgrad website

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7. Acorninfo

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.

athens18d6

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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.

banking nature

* * *

“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.

sweatshop

* * *

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!

julian assange

* * *

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!

alicem

* * *

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.

Andrew Holness

* * *

“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.

Douma sun tzu

* * *

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”.

chris williamson

* * *

A date for your 2020 diaries. Dundee Anarchist Bookfair is being held from 10am to 5pm on Saturday March 14 at the Boomerang Community Centre in the east coast Scottish city.

Dundee Anarchist Bookfair

* * *

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.

stop the dam in dinas powys

* * *

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?

Jose_Claudio_and_Maria_do_Espirito_Santo

* * *

“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.

hawaiian

* * *

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.

what is property

* * *

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”.

Henry Miller

mcdonalds-india

For many more like this, see the Winter Oak quotes for the day blog)

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“We’re still here because we have to keep on fighting”

acorn 2019b

Paul Cudenec of Shoal Collective reports from Montpellier, France, on the first birthday of the Gilets Jaunes’ uprising

Mont1066
The Yellow Vest protest in Montpellier on Saturday November 16

“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.

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Thousands of protesters stream across the river

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.

Mont1081
Trams and traffic were halted

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.

Mont1087
A cloud of tear gas engulfs protesters in Montpellier

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.

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The “Yellow Village” on a roundabout on the outskirts of the city

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”.

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Taking to the streets for the anniversary

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”.

Mont1099

More on the Gilets Jaunes

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“The opposite of rebellion” – Paris activists slam XR leadership

acorn 2019b

A special report 

xr paris

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.

On October 12 the “Désobéissance écolo Paris” collective published an open letter to Extinction Rebellion members, containing a wide-ranging critique of the organisation and its approach.

Then on Monday October 14 two reports appeared on the anti-capitalist Paris Luttes site.

The first of these was entitled “Extinction Rebellion : ni désobéissance, ni obéissance, mais servilité et crédulité” – “Extinction Rebellion: Neither Disobedience or Obedience, but Servility and Credulity”.

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.

xr paris camp sign“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”.

xr paris an

The second article was called “Quelques heures sur le pont de la Concorde avec Extinction Rebellion” – “Several hours on Concorde Bridge with Extinction 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”.
 

Climate Capitalists

The Gilets Jaunes

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The Acorn – 52

acorn 2019b

Number 52

In this issue:

  1. Skin-deep solutions
  2. Greta and the story-tellers
  3. Regulation is a gas, for the oil industry
  4. Bristol celebrates radical history
  5. Poetry of the rebellious seed
  6. Mohandas Gandhi: an orgrad inspiration
  7. Acorninfo

1.  Skin-deep solutions

Imagine that somebody in your family falls ill, with a whole range of symptoms including breathing problems, extreme fatigue, stomach cramps, mental confusion and rashes on their skin.

Medical advice is initially unclear, until one doctor turns up who confidently announces that the skin issues are the core problem.

He produces loads of information of skin disease, refers you to all sorts of scientific studies and even starts referring to your family member’s illness as “the skin crisis”.

Others in the family pick up on this habit and soon all the other symptoms, some more troubling in fact, are half-forgotten.

One day this doctor phones up in great excitement declaring that he has found the solution to the skin crisis.

A new wonderdrug has been developed in the USA which, he says, will sort it out once and for all. The only trouble is that it is, as yet, only available privately.

When he tells you the price of a course of treatment with this new product, your heart falls. There is no way your family can afford that.

Don’t worry, he says. You could always remortgage your house, cut down on your living expenses, take out a loan. After all, this is an emergency.

The rest of your family are convinced by the doctor and start preparing to break open the piggy bank to pay for this miracle cure.

But you are not so sure. A friend puts you in touch with an alternative healer, who says the underlying problem is a general poisoning of the body.

What is needed is fresh air, plenty of water to drink, lots of exercise, a healthy non-industrial diet.

You try and persuade the rest of the family but they are scornful.

Next, your suspicions aroused, you do some online research into this new wonderdrug and the big pharmaceutical company which is selling it.

To your horror, you discover that your doctor is a paid adviser to a charity which is heavily lobbying for the new drug and lists among its “partners” the pharma company in question.

You alert the rest of your family but they say you’re being paranoid, that the doctor is a lovely fellow, totally trustworthy, and his advice must be followed.

You keep arguing the point. You point out that the new wonderdrug does not even pretend to address the other important symptoms and if the real issue is toxic overload, then it will only make the situation worse.

The family will be bankrupt and the patient still sick, probably even sicker. The only beneficiaries will be the pharma company and the doctor who is essentially on their payroll.

The whole thing is a scam, you tell them.

They are furious. They accuse you of claiming that the family member is only pretending to be ill, of being a disgusting and uncaring human being, a conspiracy theorist and “denier” whose selfish and “purist” stance can only delay or scupper the long-awaited skin cure.

This, as our quicker readers will have spotted, is pretty much the situation with the climate movement and those of us who dare to question the direction it is taking us.

The key, as we have said before, is the term “climate”. Why build a whole, supposedly environmental, movement around this single symptom of the industrial disease?

Could it be because, like the dodgy doctor above, the capitalists manipulating the movement have a “cure” on hand to sell to to us?

But this cure – this “Green Industrial Revolution” of electric cars and solar panels and wind turbines and carbon capture and “smart” everything – is not a cure at all.

It is a continuation of the industrial destruction, exploitation and pollution which has brought us to this terrible point.

It is not “purist” to point this out. It is essential, if we really want to defend the natural organism of which we are part, rather than just help kick-start a new and trendy branch of industrial capitalism.

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2. Greta and the story-tellers

Greta Thunberg’s first solo “school strike” back on August 20 2018 has become iconic in some circles.

Adoring fans insist that the lonely youngster’s charisma and determination, sitting on the pavement with her placards, forced the whole world to sit up and take notice.

If rich and powerful capitalists and politicians have since paid homage to her, they argue, it is only because they are running scared of the tidal wave of moral outrage the plucky Swede has unleashed.

But investigative journalist Cory Morningstar has highlighted some very interesting facts about that first Greta moment and the extraordinary way that some rather dubious people were already on board her climate bandwagon before it even left the pavement in Stockholm.

One of these was a certain Callum Grieve, who, on August 20 2018 itself, sent Greta a Twitter message declaring: “We’re right behind you. Stay strong”.

Callum Grieve

And who is Callum Grieve? His Linkedin profile says he is currently a “communications specialist” based in New York.

Grieve worked for five years for The Climate Group, which in 2014 launched We Mean Business in order to “catalyze action around climate change and bring it back to the top of the global agenda”.

Cory reports: “The founding partners of We Mean Business are Business for Social Responsibility, the B Team, Carbon Disclosure Project, Ceres, The Climate Group, the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Together, these entities represent the world’s most powerful corporations and investors”.

We Mean Business has made great use of Greta Thunberg’s name to promote “economic opportunity through bold climate action” and something it terms “new power”.

Grieve was communications director of We Mean Business from 2014 to 2016. At the same time he was director of This Is Counter Culture, sometimes described as being based in Edinburgh, although Companies House last had it listed in London.

On Linkedin, Grieve describes his role at This Is Counter Culture as selling “brand development, campaigns, storytelling” and the business’s Twitter account also boasts of its “good stories”.

A document on Changemakers.com reveals that its customers included “international corporations, small businesses, social enterprises, NGOs and government”.

This Is Counter Culture was voluntarily dissolved in the UK in December 2017 and its Twitter account last tweeted in May 2018.

Cory Morningstar has much more to say about Grieve – not least his connection to Christiana Figueres, the very powerful daughter of right-wing CIA-backed Costa Rican president “Don Pepe”. (See our own exposé ).

But let’s turn to another Day 1 Greta Thunberg fan, in fact the man who spoke to her on the pavement on that fateful day in August 2018 and tweeted the world about it.

This was Ingmar Rentzhog (above), CEO of the climate campaign network We Don’t Have Time. He also happens to be a PR professional, like Grieve.

Rentzhog founded Laika, a prominent Swedish communications consultancy firm providing services to the financial industry.

According to the Greta myth, he happened to come across her protest while walking to work and it was this piece of luck which ensured her voice was heard so widely.

Notes journalist Frank Chung: “Despite its name, We Don’t Have Time did have time to produce a short film about Ms Thunberg, which it posted to Facebook the next day”.

Remarkable!

It also turns out not to be entirely coincidental that Rentzhog came across Greta’s little protest. He later admitted had already done PR work for her mother and was “tipped off” about the event in advance.

So the bottom line is this: from the very first day of her “rebellion”, Greta Thunberg was being promoted by two corporate PR professionals paid for their skills in “brand development” and “storytelling”.

Since then, of course, she has addressed the UN, the WEF,  the European Parliament, featured on the cover of Time magazine, which named her a “next generation leader”, met Barack Obama and Emmanuel Macron and been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

This is all rather strange in a world where the usual reward for environmental activism is a criminal record.

To fully explore Greta’s miraculous rise to global fame we strongly suggest a thorough reading of The Manufacturing of Greta Thunberg for Consent, which now has a second crucial volume.

We also recommend Kim Hill’s two-part analysis Unpacking Extinction Rebellion in which she also warns how climate campaigning is being exploited for capitalist profiteering – at the expense of the natural world it pretends to be protecting.

She writes: “This is the future that Extinction Rebellion is envisioning. These are the solutions that millions of people around the world have been marching in the streets to demand of their governments.

“Not to cut back on fossil fuel use. Not to protect wild nature. Not to repair and regenerate the land. Not to do anything at all to address the causes of climate change and extinction.

“Instead to save the very system that continues to wreak havoc on the land, sea, and air, and kill us off at a rate of 200 species a day.

“You might want to take a moment to let that sink in. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling the need to go outside, and scream”.

solar panels2
The green fields of renewable capitalism

See also: our page of links on the climate capitalists.

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3. Regulation is a gas, for the oil industry

Oil-and-Gas-Authority

The Oil and Gas Authority, which is supposed to regulate the controversial industry on behalf of the UK public, is nothing but a joke, a new article has confirmed.

Will Cottrell, chairman of the Brighton Energy Coop, takes a close look at the OGA in the run-up to the recent planning verdict on plans for five new wells at Horse Hill, Surrey.

He writes: “The OGA oversees drilling permissions around the country. Its self-professed mission is to ‘maximise the economic recovery of UK oil and gas’.

“Indeed, the OGA receives £5m of funding to do just that from the UK Treasury.

Tim-Eggar
Tim Eggar

“High at the helm of the OGA is Chairman Tim Eggar. Eggar is an oil industry executive with various positions in government.

“An oil banker, Eggar’s history is a backstory of board positions for the likes of Monument Oil and Gas, Indago Petroleum, and 3legs Resources, Expro & Braemar and Energy venutures.

“Meanwhile, Eggar’s number two is chief exectutive Andy Samuel who has 20 years’ experience at BG Group, an oil services conglomerate.

“Non-executive Frances Morris-Jones spent 30 years in oil and gas. The director of operations – Gunther Newcombe – spent most of his career in the same industry. It goes on”.

The article reveals a similar saturation of industry stooges in the objective-sounding British Geological Survey.

It adds: “Back in 2012 (the last time financial figures were produced) the BGS’s annual report showed 29% of the organisation’s funds came from companies involved in the hydraulic fracturing industry, including Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon, BG Group and Schlumberger”.

imperial college

The industry connections of “experts” at Imperial College London and Bristol University are also examined.

The article concludes: “The purpose of the regulator and its stooges is to construct a seemingly-consensual smokescreen.

“The parallels to climate change denial are striking – the creation of a body of ‘opinion’ that looks like it comes from a cross-section of venerable institutions, but that in reality is thoroughly penetrated by the oil and gas industry. Plausible denial is always the objective.

“And while a smog of earthquake denial has been wafted over Surrey planners, what has not been shown is who pays for these firestarters.

“Now that Cuadrilla have been put on a temporary hold, the focus can switch to who are those that support the industry, and the vested interests that lie behind them. These denial industries and their financial ties – just as their dirty frontmen like Cuadrilla – need to be held to account”.

And the Surrey County Council planning decision for Horse Hill? The drilling was approved of course, with planning development manager Caroline Smith even citing the reputation of the OGA to reassure councillors worried about earth tremors.

As we said, a total joke.

horse hill

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4. Bristol celebrates radical history

BRH poster

The Bristol Radical History Festival 2019 is being held on Saturday October 12.

There are two themes this year: “1919 – Year of Revolutions” and “Green History: from 18th Century roots to Extinction Rebellion”.

Explains the website: “Following the success of the 2017 and 2018 events, this year’s Bristol Radical History Festival is again hosted by M Shed, Bristol’s social history museum located on the historic harbourside”.

Highlights include a talk on Green Romanticism by Stephen Hunt (10.30am), Leonard Baker on Ecology from Below (12.30pm), A People’s History of Poetry by Peter Bearder (1pm), Back to the Land by Kath Holden (3pm), Roots of Resistance: Earth First! (3pm) and a talk on the massive wave of discontent which swept through the British armed forces at the end of World War One (3.30pm).

Say the organisers: “It’s not just talks! Expect walks, films, singing, a performance space with a puppet show, storytelling and poetry, and an exhibition space, as well as stalls with books and merchandise from local and national groups.

“Not to be missed – go up to Level 2 to see the Regional Radical Press exhibition, with highlights from UWE Bristol Regional History Centre’s current project All the events are free with no booking required!”

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5. Poetry of the rebellious seed

zapatistas-2

The Zapatistas, those rebel anti-capitalists in Chiapas, continue to inspire with their communiqués.

A message from the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee — General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (featured on the excellent Enough is Enough site) reveals some wonderful names for new caracoles and autonomous municipalities.

There is, for instance, Esperanza de La Humanidad, which means Hope for Humanity.

Others are Floreciendo la semilla rebelde (The Flowering of the Rebellious Seed) and Sembrando conciencia para cosechar revoluciones por la vida (Cultivating Conscience in order to Harvest Revolutions for Life).

But our favourite is Espiral digno tejiendo los colores de la humanidad en memoria de l@s caídos, which translates as Spiral of Dignity Weaving the Colours of Humanity in Memory of the Fallen.

zapatistas3

6. Mohandas Gandhi: an orgrad inspiration

Wednesday October 2 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mohandas Gandhi, in 1869. Although Gandhi is mainly remembered in the West for his strategy of non-violent direct action, which proved ideal for the Indian independence movement, there was much more to his thinking, as this article from the orgrad website explains. The Gandhi Haiku posters are by Gabriel Rosenstock and available via etsy.com.

gandhi3

“Machinery is the chief symbol of modern civilization; it represents a great sin”

Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) was a political activist who played a key role in the successful Indian struggle for independence.

His involvement in the resistance to British imperialism went hand in hand with a deep opposition to the life-crushing industrial capitalism which it imposed on the sub-continent.

Ranchor Prime notes: “Gandhi was opposed to industrialization. It wasted resources and took people’s work from them. What was the point of labor-saving devices when they created unemployment?” (1)

Gandhi himself wrote in 1909: “Machinery has begun to desolate Europe. Ruination is now knocking at the English gates. Machinery is the chief symbol of modern civilization; it represents a great sin… Railways accentuate the evil nature of man. Bad men fulfil their designs with greater rapidity”. (2)

Later he added: ” The incessant search for material comforts and their multiplication is an evil. I make bold to say that the Europeans will have to remodel their outlook, if they are not to perish under the weight of the comforts to which they are becoming slaves”. (3)

gandhi poster 3

In opposition to industrial capitalism and its insane frenzy to exploit, produce and consume, Gandhi proposed a future in which humankind lived in organic harmony with the rest of the planet.

indian villageHe wrote: “It is a fundamental law of nature that nature produces enough for our wants from day to day; and if only everyone took enough for their own needs and nothing more, there would be no poverty in this world”. (4)

Gandhi’s vision for India, betrayed by his capitalist successors, was a return to the simple village life his land had known for thousands of years.

Writes Prime: “Mohandas Gandhi, called by his people Mahatma, which means ‘great soul’, loved India’s villages. He believed that they were the key to its happiness and prosperity. In the face of powerful political and economic forces, he tried courageously to preserve their simple way of life.

“Economic behavior determines the way a society treats the earth, therefore any discussion of environmental values has to include economics. The village economics of India give a practical example of an environmental way of living”. (5)

gandhi poster 1

Gandhi argued: “Given the demand, there is no doubt that most of our wants can be supplied by the villages. When we become village-minded we shall not want imitations from the West or machine-made products”. (6)

He saw that this decentralised village economics was the only sustainable long-term way forward for humankind as a whole.

He wrote in a letter to fellow independence campaigner Jawaharlal Nehru in 1945: “I believe that if India, and through India the world, is to achieve real freedom, then sooner or later we shall have to go and live in the villages – in huts, not in palaces. Millions of people can never live in cities and palaces in comfort and peace”. (7)

Gandhi referred to himself on several occasions as a kind of anarchist and always opposed the centralised state and its inherent use of violence. (8)

gandhi poster 4

He was greatly influenced by John Ruskin and translated the title of the Englishman’s Unto This Last as Sarvodaya, or welfare for all. He was also influenced by Leo Tolstoy and Peter Kropotkin, notably by the latter’s vision of a decentralized society of autonomous village communes.

However, Gandhi’s organic radicalism arose primarily from Indian metaphysics and its belief in the cosmic unity of all beings.

shiva

Prime writes: “A way of life does not exist in a vacuum. It is based on a way of thinking, a philosophy of life. Gandhi recognized this truth. He believed that it would not be possible to bring about change in society without a corresponding change in the way people behaved.

“To change the way people behaved meant to change the way that they thought. Therefore Gandhi’s primary objective was to influence people’s philosophy of life”. (9)

Central to the Gandhian world-view were the principles of satya (truth), karmayoga (self-realization through disinterested action), varnasramdharma (the Hindu law of right conduct), and ahimsa (non-violence).

Peter Marshall adds: “The most revolutionary aspect of Gandhi’s teaching was undoubtedly his social and political interpretation of ahimsa in which he turned the principle of individual self-realization into a principle of social ethics.

“He also drew on the traditional Indian values of village life and the joint family and the practice of making decisions by consensus”. (10)

gandhi poster 2

Gandhi promoted the idea of swaraj, or self-government, which was the first step towards his ideal of an enlightened anarchy in which social life is self-regulated and “there is no political power because there is no state”. (11)

For him, swaraj had a far deeper meaning than mere political independence. He wrote: “Swaraj is a sacred word meaning self-rule and self-restraint, not freedom from all restraint which ‘independence’ often means”. (12)

At the end of his life, Gandhi was disappointed that India, which gained independence in 1947, was not fundamentally different from India under British rule, except that whereas previously Englishmen had lived in the imperial palace, now Indians did. He feared for the direction India was taking.

Prime comments: “He had always said that real independence for India was not just to become free from British rule. It was also to become free of British culture and industrial way of life and to reestablish the traditional Indian village-based culture for which he had always struggled”. (13)

Video link: Gandhi’s arrival in the UK in 1931 as seen by Pathé News.

Gandhi spinning

1. Ranchor Prime, Vedic Ecology: Practical Wisdom for Surviving the 21st Century (Novato, California: Mandala, 2002), p. 84.
2. Mohandas Gandhi, Hind Swaraj, 1909, cit. Prime, p. 86.
3. Mohandas Gandhi, Young India, cit. Prime p. 78.
4. G.A. Nateson, Speeches and Writings of Mahatma Gandhi (Madras: 1935), p. 384, cit. Prime pp. 84-85.
5. Prime, pp. 78-79.
6. Gandhi, ‘Constructive Programme’, cit. Prime, p. 87.
7. Gandhi, letter to Nehru, October 5, 1945, cit. Prime p. 91.
8. Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism (London: Fontana, 1993), p. 422.
9. Prime, p. 81.
10. Marshall, pp. 422-23.
11. Gandhi, Young India, July 2, 1931.
12. Gandhi, Young India, 1931, cit. Prime pp 83-83.
13. Prime, p. 90.

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7. Acorninfo

If governments and corporations get their way, the bright blue seas of western Greece will be turned into oil fields. The Greek government is selling vast areas of sea and land for oil and gas drilling, report Corporate Watch. The businesses involved include Energean, a fast-growing oil company with close ties to the Israeli government and Israeli corporations. “But it’s not a done deal yet,” add Corporate Watch. “Greece has strong traditions of resistance to capitalist devastation – and now, across the threatened areas, people are coming together to fight the oil plans”. See the Save Greek Seas site.

Greek no oil

* * *

Ignored by the corporate media in the UK, the Gilets Jaunes’ revolt against neoliberalism is still going strong after more than ten months, with the weekly round of protests now up to Act 46. Levels of police violence are insane and the cops increasingly coming across as a politicised fascist militia. After left-wing opposition politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon condemned them as “barbarians”, not only did authoritarian Interior Minister Christophe Castaner say he would be prosecuted for this opinion, but a police trade union staged a show of force outside Mélenchon’s party HQ in Paris on September 26. Gilets Jaunes turned up as well, to oppose the police… More about the Gilets Jaunes here.

GJ police protest

* * *

“The black bloc more or less destroyed the global justice protests at the beginning of this century. We must do everything we can to exclude them from the climate protests”. These were the words of self-styled radical George Monbiot of The Guardian, surely spelling the end of any remaining credibility for this arrogant, warmongering, pro-nuclear upper-class gatekeeper of the system, who pretends via his corporate media platform to be “one of us” in order to impose limits on our resistance.

monbiot

* * *

Degrowth is the only responsible way forward, argues an interesting article by Joël Foramitti, Marula Tsagkari and Christos Zografos. They write: “If we free our imagination from the liberal idea that well-being is best measured by the amount of stuff that we consume, we may discover that a good life could also be materially light. This is the idea of voluntary sufficiency. If we manage to decide collectively and democratically what is necessary and enough for a good life, then we could have plenty”.

degrowthpainted

* * *

Some upcoming radical events in the UK: Saturday November 2, Nottingham Radical Bookfair, 10.30am-5.30pm, Mechanics Institute, South Sherwood Street; Saturday December 7, Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair, central Manchester; Friday May 1 to Monday May 4 2020, UK-wide Anarchist Festival.

afest2020

* * *

Global resistance to the nightmarish 5G network (see Acorn 51) is picking up speed. Plans to roll out 5G in Australia were ditched “due to community fears regarding the health impact of the technology”. And thousands have protested outside the Swiss parliament in Bern to call for a halt to the threatened countrywide 5G imposition. Meanwhile the International Society of Doctors for the Environment has called for a halt to 5G in Europe on a precautionary basis. In the UK, the Royal Society of Medicine’s Alan Cooke is speaking on 5G in Eastbourne, East Sussex, at the Friends Meeting House in Wish Street at 7.30pm on Friday October 25. And Dr Karl Cox of Sussex University is speaking at a day’s symposium on 5G at Fairwarp Village Hall, Fairwarp, East Sussex at 10am on Saturday October 26.

5G protest switz

* * *

Acorn quote: “Organism is spontaneous self-regulation, the mystery of formed growth, the inarticulate wisdom of the instincts”.

Theodore Roszak

tangle

(For many more like this, see the Winter Oak quotes for the day blog)

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How to take back our streets: lessons from 10 months of resistance in France

GJ streets2

This is a translation of the article ‘Comment reprendre nos rues‘ from the Cerveaux Non Disponibles website. They can be followed on Twitter via @CerveauxNon

Over ten months, the Gilets Jaunes movement has managed again and again to surprise: to surprise the authorities, the police, the media, public opinion. And even the GJs themselves! Apart from determination and a burning desire for change, what has really changed the landscape of social struggle in France is the new reality of totally decentralised and autonomous actions. Blockades, occupations, demonstrations, disorder. So many possibilities that can no longer be found in the standardised world of trade unions, opposition parties, NGOs and other well-established structures.

As protests step up again after the summer of 2019, the field of possibilities seems even more vast. Much more vast than the authorities and the media are saying. But if we are to make waves again, perhaps even bigger ones, we need to think about strategies of struggle, whether that be for the demos which lie ahead or for other kinds of actions. Here are some suggestions and observations which could usefully be developed and fleshed out. Please note that these suggestions are from a clearly insurrectional, even revolutionary, perspective. Since so many GJs (and other citizens) have been calling and hoping for this for several months now, let’s dare to think about it calmly. A sort of manual for “acting like a primitive and planning like a strategist”, as recommended by the poet and resistance fighter René Char.

GJ streets5

STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

This has always been the case but is becoming more and more blatantly obvious in France: it is important, even crucial, to take to the streets in pretty large numbers if we are to succeed in staging actions which actually bother the authorities. This does not mean that any huge demo is, per se, a success. The climate marches have shown us over recent months that you can have tens of thousands (or more) in the streets and still not bother the government and the economic powers. On the other hand, if you want to overwhelm an increasingly aggressive police presence, which directly engages you and is increasingly mobile (with motorbikes), you need thousands of people.

The moments that have really scared the authorities over these last months have always been when the balance of power in the streets has tipped towards the GJs because of their numbers. Even with the massive human and material resources at their disposal, the police were unable to control the anger of thousands of protesters, in different parts of town, for the duration of several hours.

The most striking example of this was surely during Acte 23 of the revolt (Ultimatum 2). Following the authorities’ impotence during the first Ultimatum of March 16, they mobilised a huge police presence to prevent any disorder. The Ultimatum page posted, at the last minute, several meet-up points. The GJs who went to these points were, unfortunately for them, met by dozens of riot cops. Nothing could be done. Except that on that same day, there were so many GJs in Paris that a big “authorised” demo got underway at Bercy. There, again, the police had seen this coming and decided to split the demo up into lots of small sections which they could control more easily. But this didn’t work because the march was so huge and determined, to the extent of breaking through several police lines to regroup.

Finally, taking to the streets in large numbers is also a way to protect those who have decided to take action (and not necessarily violently, but in civil disobedience). By their presence, with their bodies, thousands of protesters, even without taking direct action themselves, can help to make a protest really effective and a problem for the authorities. This is how the “front of the demo” emerged a few years back in France. We could also take the example of the revolt in Hong Kong, where this strategy has been taken to an incredible level and where the presence of “basic” protesters is essential for the front-line protesters.

One of the major challenges for the weeks ahead is therefore to achieve turn-outs of the same massive size (or greater) than in November and December. And this is completely possible. Virtually nobody who took part in at least one act of the GJ protests has today been won over by the government. If some of them have disappeared from the streets, it’s due to weariness and/or fear (of police brutality and arrests) rather than because of any change in their opinion on the social and economic situation. Indeed, the numbers of potential resistance fighters are surely even greater than last year. GJs only have to look around themselves: who today is satisfied with Macron and his world? Who isn’t aware of the climate and social crisis? Each of us has to persuade our friends and loved ones to get out into the streets for the upcoming protests.

GJ streets4

PLEASURE AND IMAGINATION

What is most striking about GJ demos today is their repetitive, unchanging quality. But what actually made the movement a success was its capacity to create, to be innovative with its occupations of streets and towns. New songs, new ways of mobilising, new economic blockades (eg: the Champs Elysées). It even had its own language distinct from the norms of social struggle: you can make fun of the succession of “acts” and “ultimatums”, but the GJs have created their own calendar, their own battle terrain and their own way of gathering. When they occupied the roundabouts, everyone found that peculiar. Same thing when they took over motorway toll booths. And same thing again when they decided to head into town centres every Saturday. And when the new songs came along, it was like a minor victory. The creation of a new space for self-expression, exchange and action.

Those in power have always tried to blinker the population and make it think that nothing is possible, apart from expressing your anger through elections or institutionalised struggles (trade unions, political parties, NGOs..) But the reality is very different. Life is a huge playing field. And so are towns and cities.

Nothing annoys the authorities more than people who enjoy coming together and resisting. They do all they can to make protests unpleasant, whereas they can provide the chance for meeting people, for feeling alive, for having fun… Everything they will never know in their comfortable little bourgeois lives. It is therefore important to bring joy, madness, fire and life into the streets. To smash their dream of greyness, to enjoy ourselves but also so that other citizens want to join us. So that they understand that what is happening is not just about burning cars or banks. So that the revolution has its heart not in destruction, but in encounters, complicity, exchange and constructivity.

LESS TELEPHONE, MORE SOLIDARITY

It is important to have photos and videos of what is going on in the streets, notably at the most insurrectional moments and especially when police are being violent, to bear witness to these realities which the authorities try to conceal. But today too many people have got into the habit of whipping out their phone for every burning dustbin or, worse, for the smallest police charge. These people are still part of the movement, in solidarity with it, yet they don’t realise that by filming with their phones they are quitting the ranks of protesters who are capable of actually doing something. They are physically present but can no longer take action. They become spectators. How many videos have we seen of someone being maltreated by the police where nobody is helping them, although dozens of protesters are filming what’s happening? This isn’t about passing judgement and awarding good or bad scores. Each person is free to do whatever they want, not least on a demo. And it is totally understandable to want to film a crunch moment. But you need nevertheless to analyse the phenomenon in a general way and see what it implies for the protest as a whole. And from that vantage point we have to acknowledge the problems with this tendency and be aware that it serves the interests of the authorities because it makes the protest less pro-active and less cohesive. Not forgetting that the videos are sometimes used in evidence against protesters accused of misdemeanors.

It is therefore time to put away your phone and actively take part in the next protests. This could take various forms: singing, running, graffiti, banner-making, keeping other protesters informed, suggesting actions. So many things that the brain stops doing when it sees the protest via the screen of a phone.

GJ streets3

DIVERSITY AND RESPECT FOR PRAXIS

It is important to consider the place and degree of combative action on protests which see themselves as insurrectional. This question is highly complex and sensitive because nobody has the right to set out a precise limit to the moral rightness of combative actions. We all refuse to go along with the framing imposed by society which regards all illegal action as immoraL. It goes without saying for many of us that a Fouquet’s restaurant on fire is no worse than a boss who lays someone off to increase his profits. But this doesn’t mean that smashing or burning is necessarily appropriate for the struggle and for advancing the revolutionary cause.

While we should take care not to condemn a protester who has broken the law, we should also not veer off in the opposite direction and applaud, de facto, all acts of damage or violence. At some moments, in some places, vandalising street furniture or shops or attacking the police can turn out to be strategic mistake and play into the hands of the authorities.

Damage or violence are in no way a yardstick for assessing the success or otherwise of a protest. In either way. Offensive actions are merely tools to reach goals which are more significant than the immediate outcome of a torched car or a ransacked bank.

In a society governed by images and appearance, where the authorities rely on illusion to persuade us that they have everything under control and that there is no alternative, these offensive actions make sense when they help shatter that illusion. It works when whole areas of Paris seem to have slipped out of the authorities’ control despite the deployment of thousands of cops and troops. But to achieve this, it is necessary to create the conditions conducive to such a situation.

It must also be borne in mind that offensive action and rebellion can take very subversive forms without necessarily being violent. Thousands of people on the Paris ring road, on the tracks at a station or occupying a government building can also hurt the powerful.

So let’s refuse to label protesters as violent or non-violent. Only those who fear change have a vested interest in this totally artificial separation. This classification (stigmatisation) is merely a tool for domination. Violence is not immoral in itself. Even the history books sing the praises of resistance fighters who fought evil. Fought in its true sense. In the violent sense.

Act 23 of the Yellow Vests in Paris

ADAPTING TO REAL TIME

In the face of the new strategies for “maintaining law and order” with highly mobile and aggressive police units, it is more than ever necessary for protesters to pay attention and adapt rapidly to situations. In Hong Kong when the police line becomes too dangerous in front of them, the protesters don’t just stay put. Very quickly, the demo moves elsewhere. It is very difficult to take decisions collectively in these situations, especially in a totally horizontal movement without leaders, but it works. And often it is better to take the decision and move rather than remain static for fear of making a mistake.

We should also bear in mind that sometimes confrontation with the cops does not make strategic sense. When the balance of power is clearly tilted in their favour, it is sometimes better to think about alternative solutions which allow protesters to continue to occupy the space, to blockade, to be on the offensive. The police are not our objective. They are the tool of the authorities which can stop us from reaching our objectives. Focusing on them can sometimes stop us from creating more beautiful and constructive moments of struggle.

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