A civil war is breaking out between the neoliberal system and anyone who dares to resist its global stranglehold on power and wealth.
The insight came this week from a supporter of the Zad autonomous zone at Notre-Dame-des-Landes in France, as an army of cops were sent in by the French state to destroy it, even though Macron’s government has abandoned plans to build a new airport there (see Acorn 40).
But it could have come from one of the many student occupations against the neoliberal French state, which have been coming under increasing attack from gangs of fascist thugs tacitly encouraged by the authorities, or indeed from the railway workers striking in the face of a Thatcher-style assault on the trade union movement.
It could equally have come from Kurdistan, from Palestine, from Catalonia, from Brazil… All across the world the “democratic” gloves are coming off, the “news” is revealing itself to be nothing but desperate propaganda, the “freedom” capitalism claims to deliver is being exposed to one and all as a hollow lie.
Dissident individuals challenging the Empire are systematically victimised, smeared and marginalised, while rebel movements are repressed with brute violence.
The attack on the Zad began under cover of darkness, in the early hours of Monday April 9. This long-planned assault involves 2,500 militaristic gendarmes, armoured vehicles, lorries, cattle trucks, helicopters, and hundreds of riot police on stand-by in nearby Nantes and Rennes.
Said Hervé Kempf on the Reporterre website: “The disproportionate means being used shows that what is being lived out at the Zad threatens the neoliberal system: the possibility of existing in a different way, of choosing co-operation rather than competition, of organising ourselves without hierarchies, of resolving conflicts with the police or judicial system, of sharing the commons in harmony with what we call nature, of living simply, of freeing ourselves from the servitude of money…
“Has this been achieved at the Zad? You couldn’t say that. But we are really trying and there is plenty of evidence to show that there truly is a magnificent alternative there, a window opened in the suffocating wall of capitalism. The mission of the 2,500 robocops sent by the banker president is to destroy all possibility of living differently.
“And it goes further than that. What’s happening at Notre-Dame-des-Landes is part of a general war being waged by the oligarchy against the world’s peoples. Current headlines show us how Lula, the spokesperson for the Brazilian poor, has been imprisoned after a bizarre legal process, or how the Israeli state has killed protesters and journalists in the Gaza Strip. These are the latest outbursts of a global wave of authoritarianism on the part of the ruling classes. Almost the whole of Latin America (Brazil, China, Argentina, Peru, Guatemala…) has come under the control of hardline regimes imposing the neoliberal agenda.
“In Egypt, in the Philippines, in Poland, in India, in dozens of countries, we find this same powerful force being used to defend the interests of the oligarchy and destroy the environment in the name of growth. Europe is moving more and more towards this new model of authoritarian oligarchy. A global civil war is in fact breaking out, a war being waged by the ruling classes against peoples dazzled in the headlights of globalisation and against any pockets of resistance to the capitalists’ shock strategy.”
“A person alienated from nature is alienated from and is destroying himself, and no system has shown this connection more clearly than capitalist modernity.
“The connections between the market economy, exploitation, destruction of nature, war and migration show what the result is when centralist and hierarchical systems try to subjugate nature.
“Instead of tackling the cause of the destruction of nature, capitalism itself, the symptoms are treated instead. The land must be defended or there will not be a place for the revolution.”
With the tragedy of the fall of Afrin to Turkish forces, and the death of Anna Campbell, a much-loved anarchist comrade from Sussex, these words from the Internationalist Commune of Rojava are a reminder of what is at stake in Kurdistan.
As at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, or in Chiapas, we have been witnessing one of those rare and beautiful flowerings of human autonomy and hope in the face of the relentless Machine of profit, greed and war that is destroying life and happiness in our world.
While sometimes the forces of Empire are happy to exploit certain struggles for their own short-term ends, they know they cannot allow them to flourish and thus encourage others.
They will always try to crush the tender shoots of resistance, unleashing their mercenary thugs and fascist puppets against us.
But resistance is life itself. It renews, shoots back up through the cracks in the capitalist concrete, time and time again, in different places, different generations, different forms.
Nobody struggles in vain. Nobody suffers in vain. Nobody dies in vain. Every banner waved, every street reclaimed, every offensive launched, is another seed planted in the soil of our victory over the capitalist system.
A call-out has been made for resistance to the 2018 G7 summit in Québec.
The neoliberal capitalist showpiece is taking place from June 8 to 9, and will convene seven of the most powerful countries in the world at the Manoir Richelieu in La Malbaie.
Say the anti-G7 resistance network in Montreal: “If we don’t choose to resist the State and the Bosses, we’re setting ourselves up once more for a passive role in the pageantry of this large-scale spectacle.
“In a luxurious manor protected by fences and the police, these misogynists will talk about gender equality; these militarists will talk about peace; these capitalists will talk about ecology – all without any effort to consult us.
“What the G7 Summits actually do is decide the world organization of the capitalist economy according to the interests of the banks, and the oil, agri-food, pharmaceutical, technological, armaments, and other large conglomerates.
“The G7 is proving to be one of the neoliberal states’ symbolic meetings that legitimize the richest 1% of the world’s population by creating and maintaining social and economic inequalities.
“All over the world, the workers, the unemployed, the stateless, the exploited, and those left behind in the capitalist system are indignant at this farce that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and refuse to let it be legitimized by those who benefit from it.
“We believe it is time to unite and refuse this absurdity to make our voices heard. It is time to mobilize, to protest, and to resist the system manipulated by the privileged!
“The status quo is death. Capitalism is creating global apartheid, imperialist war, and the destruction of life on Earth. Fear has to switch sides: let’s make our affinity groups and protest in June, together, against the G7.”
The RRAG7 will hold a festive collective march against the G7, extractivism, and borders in the evening on Thursday, June 7 in Quebec City. It is also calling for a day of disruption of the G7 summit on Friday, June 8 in the Quebec City area.
An English-language anti-G7 journal can be found here.
Acorn readers will probably have noticed for themselves that the UK media have been in all-out propaganda mode in recent weeks.
Whether it’s Syria or the Labour Party, Israel or Russia, the old-fashioned model of subtly biased journalism has been ditched in favour of a crude torrent of right-wing bile.
One enthusiastic participant in this wave of warmongering rhetoric has been a London outfit called 89up.
It describes itself as “Europe’s first impact agency”, adding: “We campaign for great causes, build technology, tackle complex problems & inspire action. We run campaigns to make the world a more open, pluralistic, and democratic place. Our services ensure that charities, NGOs and not-for-profits make real change.”
89up weighed into the “great cause” of whipping up hatred of Russia in February by submitting a report to MPs investigating the role of “fake news” which claimed that “Russian propaganda” had been crucial in the Brexit vote.
Tellingly, The Daily Maildescribed 89up not as an “impact agency” but as a “communication and social media analytics company”, creating the impression that they were somehow merely professional observers.
Then in March, 89up hit the headlines again with another fab idea for making the world “a more open, pluralistic, and democratic place”.
It was such a “great cause”, that 89up’s boss Michael Harris couldn’t resist congratulating himself on Twitter for having got it into The Daily Mirror. “I am so proud of this”, he boasted.
And what was the plan? Taking legal action to stop those dreadful Russians from hosting the World Cup this summer.
Sadly for Harris, the British public seemed to find this marvellous cause less than inspiring – at the time of writing, the first 11 days of fundraising had notched up a mere £90 of 89up’s £10,000 goal.
Harris was back in action on April 3, tweeting indignantly against any idea that the UK shouldn’t have escalated tensions against Russia in the absence of any actual evidence showing that they were behind the Salisbury poison case.
He profited from the opportunity to have a dig at the Labour Party, in language reminiscent of the Cold War propaganda against the USSR.
“So the UK shouldn’t have ‘escalated tensions’? Bearing in mind how pathetic the British government’s response was, calls for a weaker response by a Labour MP will be music to the Kremlin’s ears”
So the UK shouldn't have "escalated tensions"? Bearing in mind how pathetic the British government's response was, calls for a weaker response by a Labour MP will be music to the Kremlin's ears https://t.co/2hHUMNd1RS
Harris is the sole director of 89up, which owns Little Atoms, a magazine which defines its “duty” as “defending rationalism, science and free inquiry” and appears at first glance to be vaguely on the left.
However it in fact purveys a strangely skewed view of the world, as we remarked back in 2015.
In particular, its writers particularly resent any criticism of the USA and the neoliberal system it champions. And, of course, they can always be relied on to despise Uncle Sam’s current enemies, whether that be Putin, Assad or Corbyn.
So where exactly is Michael Harris coming from?
In a 2016 newspaper article extolling the virtues of billionaire George Soros, Harris felt obliged to declare an interest, admitting: “Yes, many of the campaigns I’ve worked on previously have been part-funded by Soros”.
His admiration for his sponsor remains intact in 2018. Harris tweeted on February 7 that Soros “is in my humble opinion one of the 20th centuries [sic] great heroes”.
Indeed, 89up’s site boasts that it was “the sole communications agency for Best for Britain”, the “Remain” pressure group funded by Soros.
Beyond that, Harris’s LinkedIn profile declares that he has “excellent political and media connections, with a strong knowledge of the workings of government and international bodies”.
This rather vague statement is obviously open to more than one interpretation.
His profile also states that he is “one of only two Britons to be selected for the prestigious US State Department ‘Young Leaders of the Future’ programme”.
A couple of top days out for anarchists are coming up. On Sunday May 6 there is the Norwich Anarchist Bookfair, from 2pm to 11pm at Bedfords Crypt, 1 Old Post Office Yard, Bedford Street, NR2 1SL. Then on Saturday May 12 it’s the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair, 11am to 6pm at City Academy, Russell Town Avenue.
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“It is time to name the disease. Capitalism is a cancer. And the only way to defeat this cancer is to completely transform our way of living and our way of thinking about ourselves.” So says US actor and activist James Cromwell in this online video interview.
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Seven myths about the police have usefully been outlined on the Gatorna website. 1. The police exercise legitimate authority. 2. The police are ordinary workers just like us; they should be our allies. 3. Maybe there are some bad apples, but some police officers are good people. 4. Police can win any confrontation, so we shouldn’t antagonize them. 5. Police are a mere distraction from the real enemy, not worth our wrath or attention. 6. We need police to protect us. 7. Resisting the police is violent—it makes you no better than them. Go to the site to see these myths duly debunked.
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Power Trip: Fracking in the UK is new hour-long video from Undercurrents which goes on to the frontlines of UK resistance to the toxic industry, from Sussex to Lancashire. It can be seen online here and there are public screenings on Thursday April 12 at SOAS university London, Thursday April 26 in Pulborough, Sussex, Wednesday May 9 in Manchester (TBC), Friday May 18 at St Paul’s West Hackney, London and the weekend of May 19-20 at Wood festival, Oxfordshire. To arrange a local screening contact Undercurrents via their website.
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Tuesday April 17 is International Day of Peasants’ Struggles and there will be a protest in Brussels under the slogan “Free Farmers from Free Trade Agreements! MERCOSUR, CETA, JEFTA are a deathblow!” Say organisers: “Breaches of peasant rights, which outrageously happen on a daily basis, are on the rise due to free trade agreements which only serve the interests of multinationals.” The protest starts at 9am at the Belgian city’s Schuman Roundabout.
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The nightmare assault on our countryside being carried out in the name of technological advance has reached new levels. It has now emerged that bringing high-speed mobile phone coverage and internet to rural Britain will require at least 400,000 extra masts, many of which will need to be 80ft high, experts have predicted. And this will all be in the name of 5G, which is aimed to imprison us within a totalitarian Internet of Things, involving everything from automated cars to smart meters tracking and controlling every detail of our home lives.
* * *
England! I fucking weep for you. England, I could have died for you. But
Lazy corruption and the acceptance of third-rate propaganda has done for you
Eaten away at you…
And the Jerusalem of Blake’s imaginings
Has become a Photostat of an apartheid state
Third-rate, mean-spirited and devoid of blissful dreaming
Panic Room by The Mighty Ur
* * *
Acorn quote: “The acceptance of progress meant replacing faith in the wisdom of our ancestors by the conviction of their ignorance”.
The fight against fracking in the north of England is to be dramatically intensified with three months of intense direct action against the sinister and toxic industry.
The newly-launched United Resistance group is promising significant levels of activity, starting in April, when Cuadrilla says it expects to begin fracking at its Preston New Road site near Blackpool.
Say United Resistance: “The situation is urgent and it is only a united and powerful resistance that will halt fracking before it’s too late – and we’re on the threshold of it being too late.
“If the industry performs a ‘frack job’ then the damage is done and stopping them becomes a far greater challenge.
“Sites across the UK are making a stand with residents taking part in community meetings, rallies and non-violent direct actions; here in Lancashire, we know that Cuadrilla intends on pushing the chemicals, silica sand and vast quantities of water underground between April and July.”
“We are asking nothing more of you than your body and if you can’t bring us this… then your online shares, letter writing, local actions and events… but mostly, we need you here with us for any part of three months of targeted resistance starting 2nd April 2018.”
Campaigner Tina Rothery’s blog reveals that the initiative will see different groups ‘adopting’ a week each in order to bring about maximum resistance to the fracking industry.
She says: “The first week has been adopted by the women of Nanashire as well as women from the weekly Call for Calm, the local area, other groups and camps”.
Tina calls on women to take time off work and arrange care so that they can be available at Preston New Road in Lancashire “to exercise our lawful right to peaceful protest and non-violent action”.
Meanwhile, in Yorkshire, Frack Free Ryedale and Frack Free United have organised a series of talks in eight villages about INEOS’s shale gas exploration plans in the area – for full details see the Drill or Drop website.
Opponents of fracking point to the large number of fracking bans, moratoria and restrictions across Europe, “every single one of them powered by ordinary people standing up against a corrupt political system”.
As one local group in Yorkshire put it: “We can do this – standing together against fracking is the only way we can make a difference and stop the destruction of our beautiful villages and countryside”.
There are strong signs that the battle is winnable. When Conservative-controlled Derbyshire County Council rejected INEOS plans to explore for shale gas at Bramleymoor Lane in the village of Marsh Lane on Monday February 5, it was the fourth time in under a fortnight that an English council had opposed shale gas plans.
The message is clear and simple: people power can defeat fracking. And the death-breathing industrial capitalist dragon of which it is just one poisonous fang.
2. An airport defeated, a capitalist system still to be toppled
A huge victory party is being staged at Notre-Dame-des-Landes near Nantes in France on Saturday February 10, after the French state finally abandoned plans to build a new airport there after 50 years of resistance and occupation.
Now the struggle will revolve around resisting the authorities’ declared intention of evicting the ZAD autonomous zone which was the focal point of the successful long-term campaign.
There has already been a reaction amongst more radical campaigners against the idea that now the airport has been scrapped, everyone can pack up and go home happy.
Said one statement: “True, the airport project has been abandoned… Certainly, it is a victory for the struggle against the airport of Notre-Dame-des-Landes.
“But many of us have fought and supported the struggle against the airport and its world. The capitalist world, to tell the truth, the world of economic and social inequalities, the world of oppression and exclusion. Is this struggle victorious? And if it is not, how can it still radiate towards other struggles against useless and imposed mega projects?
“Since January 17, we are no longer fighting against this airport, but we are still fighting against its world and its allies. What is happening now in this struggle is also happening in many other struggles, environmental or social.”
The ZAD Forever website says, regarding February 10: “We will celebrate the fact that this unique landscape of forests, fields and wetlands will never be turned into a giant machine for burning the climate, never!
“It is also is a victory of all those who have put their bodies in the way of the machines for decades, a victory for a truly popular movement that brought so many differences together into a rich composition, a victory for an unimaginable diversity of tactics from sabotage to petition writing, direct action to mass demos, it a victory for all those who live on within this bocage (the name of this specific type of landscape, a rich chequerboard of small fields, hedgerows and forests) and are trying to reinvent forms of life together, despite capitalism and the state.
“The 10th of February will a day to celebrate the burying of the project, to show that the ZAD is here to stay, that we are going to continue to grow roots deep down into this territory and to demonstrate our solidarity with other struggles against destructive projects around the world”.
People are being invited to bring saplings, bushes and shrubs to plant and enrich the hedgerows and to come dressed for carnival in Green One style.
“Marching bands, a giant fire-breathing salamander and other mythical beasts, will lead the crowds through the zone towards a convergence point where everyone is invited to put effigies (in wood, paper or cardboard) of unwanted projects against which they are resisting into a giant bonfire with a big surprise at its heart ! With a plethora of musicians, bands and invited Dj’s, we will dance and feast together late into the night.”
The joint press release put out by a range of airport opponents on January 17 declared: “This is an historical victory against a destructive project. This was made possible thanks to a long mobilisation that has been both diverse and determined.
“First of all, we’d like to sincerely thank everyone that mobilised against this airport project over the past 50 years.
“As regard to the future of the ZAD, the whole movement would like to confirm the following points:
“The need for the farmers and people that were expropriated to recover their rights as soon as possible
“The refusal of any eviction of those who came here over the last few years to live and defend the place, and who wish to continue living here and look after the area.
“The will to let the various actors of the struggle (farmers, naturalists, locals, groups, people that have lived here for a long time or have just joined us) handle, on the long term, the land/fields of the ZAD.”
More light has been shed on the murky network of dodgy organisations behind the current anti-Russian and “fake news” hysteria, designed (as we explained in Acorn 39) as the perfect pretext for a fascistic clamp-down on all online news and views unwelcome to the global capitalist elite.
On this side of the Atlantic, it has emerged that the European Commission’s “High Level Expert Group” investigating unauthorised news is, as the anti-capitalist commentator Civic Critic points out, “made up of Google, Facebook and Twitter employees, plus appointees chosen by centrist US-aligned media”.
And in the USA on January 10 a significant Senate report on the subject was unveiled, which dresses up its real agenda with a flurry of inflated claims about Russia’s “malign influence operations”.
Corporate media such as CNN faithfully lapped all this up, of course, and gushed obligingly about “Russia’s arsenal of military invasions, disinformation campaigns and corruption, and its weaponization of energy resources”.
But, more significantly, the report calls on companies such as Facebook and Twitter to be held more “accountable” because “social media platforms are a key conduit of disinformation that undermines democracies”.
Read that last quote again! This is chilling stuff. In neoliberal language, “disinformation campaigns” which “undermine democracies” of course include factual reports which happen to reveal inconvenient truths about US military and economic global domination.
The agenda is clear. The genie of uncensored information unleashed by the internet is threatening neoliberal power and must urgently be pushed back into the totalitarian bottle of elite control.
The “who” and “where” of the Senate report’s presentation are also useful indicators of the political agenda which fuels its claims.
It was unveiled to the world by veteran US Democrat politician Ben Cardin, whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s forthcoming election opponent.
Cardin is known for his vehemently pro-Israel stance. As The Interceptpoints out, “Cardin’s crowning achievement came last year when he authored a bill that would have made it a felony to support a boycott of Israel”.
And the “where”? Cardin launched the report at the HQ of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, which, as we reported in Acorn 39, has been leading the propaganda campaign against so-called fake news, partly through its front organisation, the Alliance for Securing Democracy.
Following on from our articles, we have been pointed towards some further fascinating information about the GMF on the Powerbase website.
It notes that the GMF was conceived during the Cold War to tie Europe to the United States and was “a breeding ground for journalists, university students and politicians committed to Atlantism”.
The GMF was set up in 1972 at a time of widespread protest against the US war in Vietnam, it adds. The Red Army Fraction had just attacked the US Army HQ in Heidelberg to destroy the strategic computer that controlled its bombers in South-East Asia.
“It was also the time of the strategy of tension whereby NATO secret services manipulated right and left-wing factions to encourage a more authoritarian government.
“The idea behind the Fund was that it would facilitate the identification and recruitment of new ‘messengers of Atlantism’. With the collapse of the cold war the neoconservatives have reactivated the Atlantic networks, to use in their own project dominated by two terms coined by Joseph Nye: ‘Neo-liberalism’ and ‘soft power’.”
In the light of all this, it comes as little surprise to discover, on a close reading of the report, that talk of the so-called “threat” from Russia is nothing but a thinly-disguised geopolitical call for action to defend US global corporate imperialism.
It claims, for instance, that bogeyman Putin has “made it a priority of his regime to attack the democracies of Europe and the United States and undermine the transatlantic alliance upon which Europe’s peace and prosperity have depended upon for over 70 years”.
It also says the US government should continue to oppose the construction of their rivals’ Nord Stream 2 pipeline, “a project which significantly undermines the long-term energy security of Europe and the economic prospects of Ukraine”.
So that’ll be the famous “weaponization of energy resources” – moves which undermine European states’ complete dependence on the US capitalist system.
The same twisted Cold War mentality also sees the report claim that the European anti-fracking movement is being secretly supported by the Russians, in order to keep the continent “more dependent on Russian supplies”.
And all the talk of “fake news” really concerns a propaganda war being waged by the US to maintain the economic, military and cultural occupation of Europe, originally just Western Europe, that it has maintained since the end of the Second World War.
When the report writes of “disinformation and conspiracy theories that seek to undermine European institutions like the EU and NATO” that’s what it’s all about. Control. From the US imperialist point of view, any information that threatens its interests is automatically “disinformation”. Any analysis of the underhand activities of the CIA, NATO etc is automatically “conspiracy theories”. Any news it doesn’t like is automatically “fake news”.
The talk of dastardly Russian attempts to “break centrist consensus” by supporting “extreme” political parties reflects US fears that its own placemen (“centrists” like Tony Blair and Emmanuel Macron) will no longer be able to ensure that Europe is under the American military-corporate thumb.
The language is coded but nevertheless clear. “Democratic” always translates as “capitalist”, while “transatlantic values” refer to the US strings attached to European puppet-politics, as in the statement that “Merkel’s Germany has led the defense of transatlantic values that underlie open, democratic societies”.
The report makes it plain that any method is considered fair in this propaganda war in defence of the US Empire, talking blatantly about creating “narratives” that suit US objectives.
It states at one point: “The RAND analysts also recommend not just countering the actual propaganda, but its intended effects. For example, if the Kremlin is trying to undercut support for a strong NATO response to Russian aggression, then the West should promote narratives that strengthen support for NATO and promote solidarity with NATO members facing threats from Russia.”
So what would “promoting a narrative” involve, then? Inventing threats from Russia to drum up support for NATO? It certainly sounds that way!
It’s interesting to note that the report itself does not talk about the US publishing information, as in true information, to counter “Russian disinformation”, but rather something called “counter-disinformation”.
The hub for this, it tells us, is the Global Engagement Center, within the State Department, which is “tasked with coordinating counter-disinformation efforts across the US government”.
It includes personnel from the Department of Defense, Department of Treasury, National Security Agency, National Counterterrorism Center, the Broadcasting Board of Governors and, of course, the CIA.
In case there were any lingering doubts about what kind of “fake news” and “disinformation” the CIA and its chums are keen to stamp out, there are a couple of telling mentions of President Macron of France, a particular favourite of the neoliberal establishment.
The report complains that “during the French presidential elections, Sputnik reported on unfounded rumors about the sexual preferences of the pro-EU candidate, Emmanuel Macron”.
It adds later: “Reports disseminated by these outlets and on pro-Kremlin social media had variously decried Macron as a puppet of US political and business leaders, alleged he held an offshore account in the Bahamas to evade taxes, and fueled rumors of an extra-marital gay relationship, which Macron publicly denied.”
Obviously any suggestion that Macron is a puppet of the US (and in fact a product of the US Marshall Memorial Fellowship scheme!) is the sort of dreadful slander that should never be allowed to see the light of day in any self-respecting freedom-loving centrist democracy, committed to transatlantic values.
A powerful backlash is underway against the ideological sabotage which has been undermining anti-capitalism for the last few decades.
Since the turn of the century, radical political thought in the West has increasingly been infected by self-defeating tendencies which destroy its coherency and energy from the inside.
But now it is starting to shake off the debilitating intellectual malady and is reasserting its own inspiring vision of a world beyond capitalism.
People are turning their backs on the defeatist analysis that suggests there is no point in identifying and opposing the current system and its ruling class.
They are refusing to sign up to an ultra-liberal pseudo-radical agenda which promotes individualism in a fake-leftist guise and which can only imagine collective levels of oppression and resistance within the limits of the intersectionality of purely individual experiences.
One important recent intervention came from the anarchist thinker Miguel Amorós in the course of two talks in Mexico in November.
Here he strongly criticised postmodernism, which he described as the first ever philosophy not to be based on the love of truth. Instead it relativises the idea, regarding it as a mere “construct” – something artificial and with no real foundation.
The logical conclusion of this kind of thinking, he warns, is that no universal value or concept will be considered valid. “Being, reason, justice, equality, solidarity, community, humanity, revolution and emancipation will all be classed as ‘essentialist’, in other words as ‘pro-nature’ abominations”.
Amorós noted that, although it pretends to be radical and has infected anarchist thinking, the postmodern philosophy amounts to “nihilism in harmony with the Markets, for which anything without economic value is of little importance”.
The contemporary “intersectional game of oppressed minorities” is replacing a collective resistance to established power, warned Amorós.
He said this was the latest stage of a historical sabotage of authentic opposition to industrial capitalism, that had begun at the end of the 1960s.
“Once the revolutionary subject had been neutralised in practice, it had to be suppressed in theory, so that its struggles might remain isolated, marginalised and incomprehensible, wrapped up in a brain-sapping, self-referential waffle designed only for the initiated. That was the task of French Theory.”
A similar message comes in an article by Sandra C. in the French-language anti-capitalist bulletin Négatif, in which she condemns the “insidious influence exerted on left-wing circles for many years by the postmodernist theory and cultural studies”.
Sandra C. writes: “By abandoning the concept of exploitation in favour of an analysis based on relationships of domination, by abandoning universalism for a defence of particularism and by abandoning the idea of a revolutionary and universal proletariat, so-called radical activists find themselves far away, poles apart even, from the emancipatory politics they claim as their own.”
She describes postcolonialism as closely linked to postmodernism and criticises the attitudes associated with what is sometimes known as critical whiteness.
She says: “It is disconcerting to see so-called revolutionaries, taking on board a collective guilt for colonial exploitation and its crimes and feeling shamefully ‘European’, ‘French’, ‘white’ and ‘privileged’. Self-assigned identity-based labels dressed up with guilt are not the way to emancipation and are in fact just mirror images of the identities claimed by the extreme right.”
Elsewhere, US-based journalist and writer Andre Vltchek condemned the anti-revolutionary thinking of the contemporary Western left in a blog article on February 3.
He writes: “The European left betrayed as early as in the 1980’s, by becoming too soft, too undisciplined, too cautious and too self-centered. It put pragmatism above the ideals. It rapidly adopted the lexicon of the liberal ideological establishment, complete with Western perceptions of human rights, democratic principles and political correctness.
“It ceased to be revolutionary; it essentially stopped all revolutionary activities, and it abandoned the core element of any true left-wing identity – internationalism.”
Vltchek adds: “The Western left is much more part of the West than of the left.”
A German-language diagram has also been circulating on social media which draws a distinction between the “traditional” and the “new” left.
It contrasts the traditional left’s struggle on behalf the majority of the population with the new left’s over-emphasis on minorities.
The traditional left is internationalist, calling for the workers of the world to unite against capitalism, but the new left tends to be globalist in the liberal sense, it says.
Whereas the traditional left is anti-fascist, anti-imperialist and anti-war, seeing fascism and militarism as aspects of the capitalist system, the phoney liberal left swallows the lie that there could be such a thing as a “humanitarian” war and that states which do not bow down to Western interests are basically dictatorships, fascist regimes that “we” have a moral duty to oppose.
The traditional left has always been against the power of financial capital, but for the new liberal left this position smacks of anti-Americanism, even anti-Semitism.
Freedom of opinion has always been a mainstay of traditional left-wing thought, since the Enlightenment, but the new left denies this freedom to any thinking which strays outside of its own values, the values of “the West”, it is further claimed.
The suggested differences between these two kinds of “left” stem from differences in ways of seeing the world and don’t necessarily apply to practical policies and sympathies.
The “old left” is far from indifferent to the plight of refugees, for instance, but does not regard their situation as something outside of the general conditions of capitalism, against which it is already fighting.
It includes the need to help migrants and oppose racism within its left-wing vision of the world, but it does not fetishise and separate off this particular aspect of the overall struggle, leaving it open to reformist recuperation.
We should acknowledge, at this point, that, in the past and today, some anti-capitalists have paid lip service to the idea of racism but have avoided facing up to the reality of racism as experienced by individual people. They have not properly considered how this shapes their vision of society, social movements and anti-capitalist struggle.
But this criticism has clearly been taken too far when “left-wing” ideologies end up rejecting the universalism which has always been the bedrock of the left’s internationalism and anti-racism.
It is, in fact, quite mysterious how the postmodernist critique of universalism has so easily been swallowed by swathes of the so-called left.
The argument is based on the way that, historically, European colonialists described their own values as “universal” to justify imposing them on the rest of the world.
But it is false logic to claim that because the term “universal” was misused in this way, it therefore has no validity.
The idea of human universality should be fundamental to any socialist, anarchist or communist view of the world. This is the bedrock of our opposition to racism, nationalism and all the other excuses for separating people, dividing them into categories, deciding that some have more “rights” than others.
It is closely linked to the idea of equality. From a universalist perspective, all human beings are equal.
Right-wingers have always, of course, deliberately misunderstood the idea of equality. They try to pretend that it means left-wingers want to “make everyone the same”, to create some kind of faceless totalitarianism which imposes this terrible equality on us all.
They refuse to accept that equality is perfectly compatible with diversity and simply means acknowledging the theoretical equal value of every single human being, whatever their particular characteristics.
The postmodernist argument against universalism is, effectively, this same stupid right-wing argument! It deliberately presents universalism as a way of imposing a certain model on people, of destroying diversity in the name of some kind of central control.
But this is just not true. Universality, like equality, comes from below, from within humankind. There is a human universality which bonds us. There is a human equality which unites us. Left-wing, particularly anarchist, thinking understands and embraces this.
Throwing out universalism from the anti-capitalist world-view sabotages it at a fundamental level. Reclaiming universalism is therefore the first stage in renewing the international ideological and political struggle against capitalism and all the fragmented, incoherent, disempowering philosophies that it spawns.
Thousands of people protested in Switzerland in January against the World Economic Forum at Davos, and the presence of US President Donald Trump (see preview in Acorn 39). The venue hosting the global elite was protected by thousands of troops and protests there were banned on the flimsy pretext that there was “too much snow” in the Alpine resort.
* * *
A big weekend of international solidarity with the struggle to defend Hambach Forest in Germany was staged on February 3 and 4. Reports Hambachforest.org: “From all across Germany, from Genoa, Amsterdam and Spain, from Bristol and countless other locations came solidarity demonstrations, soli photos , banner drops, actions and all other outpourings of support. The largest demo took place in Cologne. Large demonstrations also took part in Aachen and Essen.” Although tree felling is on temporary hold, the authorities are trying to evict the 20 tree-houses and 11 barrios which have been set up to block the mine’s expansion and levels of police repression are on the rise.
* * *
Campaigners in Italy are trying to halt the environmentally-destructive Trans Adriatic Pipeline project, which aims to bring gas from Azerbaijan via Greece and Albania. On February 6 the EU’s bank EIB approved a €1.5bn loan for the controversial TAP project. Commented Friends of the Earth Europe: “This will keep Europe hooked on fossil fuels for decades – just when we should be kicking our fossil fuel addiction”. But the fight in Italy goes on. Said the NoTap campaign on February 7: “The day after EIB’s criminal decision to finance a huge useless and anachronistic project, the population continues to fight against the realization of TAP”.
* * *
If you believed the industry’s propaganda, you’d probably imagine that opposition to fracking is a lot of fuss about nothing. The odd well here and there, what’s the problem? But can you imagine living in a town with 300 fracking wells, where asthma is rife and children can’t go out and play because of poison gas in the air? That’s the reality in the USA, where fracking has been allowed to get a hold, as illustrated in the excellent documentary Don’t Frack With Denton. A successful campaign earns a fracking ban, which is overturned by corrupt authorities, steering local activists towards direct action and anarchist principles. “We will be enforcing our ban here,” they declare. “Expect resistance!”
* * *
The UK’s Anarchist Action Network is next meeting in Bristol, from 1pm to 4pm on Sunday March 11. The session is being held at “Resist!” (previously known as “Kebele Community Co-Op”), in Robertson Road. All anarchists welcome.
* * *
A planned road tunnel past Stonehenge, England’s most important prehistoric site, could spell the loss of a unique site nearby, that can trace the presence of people back to 8000 BC, reports The Guardian. Warned David Jacques, an archaeologist at the University of Buckingham: “The intention is that an 8m high flyover will be built next to the site. One of trenches is only 2m away from the road. They seem prepared to carry on no matter what. It’s a scandal that this is being rushed through.”
* * *
“In May 2015, a declassified Pentagon document provided shocking evidence that the US-led campaign in Syria not only contributed directly to the rise of the Islamic State (IS), but that Washington was perfectly satisfied with such an outcome.” This is one of ten “very curious facts” about ISIS published by Mint News Press on January 30. The rest are worth a look, as well.
* * *
“The future of humanity is the struggle between humans that control machines and machines that control humans… Undetectable mass social influence powered by artificial intelligence is an existential threat to humanity.” This was the stark warning from Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on January 18, 2018. But since he’s a known denier of transatlantic values, and a fugitive from liberal Western justice, everything he says can safely be dismissed as nothing more than extremist disinformation.
* * *
Acorn quote: “The social distinction that counts most in the present state of things is that based on wealth, that is to say on a purely outward superiority of an exclusively quantitative order”.
One of the most striking features of today’s Western capitalist society is the dominance of what we usually call “individualism”.
We live in a “me” culture, where, it seems, nobody has the ability to see beyond the end of their own all-important nose.
Everybody is jostling for attention, bombarding the world with accounts of their meals, their coffee breaks and their shopping, frantically sharing the “selfies” they have taken of the most significant person in their life.
We seem to have collectively swallowed the neoliberal lie that “there is no such thing as society” and we now see simply an accumulation of individuals.
Our understanding of freedom has been shorn of all collective or social sense and is taken merely in its liberal form as the “liberties” granted to an individual by the state.
This individualist language has even crept into radical environmental thinking where, for example, instead of talking about a deep respect and love for the whole of nature to which we belong, we prefer to imagine our fellow creatures as possessing “rights”, as if they were tax-paying non-human citizens of some smug global liberal bourgeois republic.
We often cannot even take a holistic view of the hideous system in which we are trapped, because the anti-holistic contemporary mindset cannot recognise a whole as anything other than a construct of its separate parts.
Instead of identifying the entire system as oppressive and corrupt, in all its many aspects, we feel we have to piece together its badness in terms of the “intersectionality” between the various injustices suffered by separate individuals – in whose personal experiences all reality and value are considered solely to reside.
Paradoxically, however, there is another vast problem that looms over 21st century human culture and that is the absence of authentic individuality!
The “me” culture is also a “me too” culture. Everybody wants to be seen to be doing the same things as everyone else. Nobody wants to miss out.
Modern individuality is an off-the-peg identity. There is plenty of choice, but the range of possibilities has been prepared in advance and lined up on the supermarket shelves of social self-definition so that you can take your pick.
The one thing you can’t do is to refuse to take part. You are not allowed to go elsewhere for your sense of self. You must not, under any circumstances, yield to the temptation to send their pre-packaged personality-choices crashing to the floor with mocking contempt.
The modern individual’s desire to feel important is matched by a desperate need to be loved, a terrible fear of not being accepted by their family, their work colleagues and all their hundreds of non-existent online “friends”.
Good taste is seen as liking the things that other people like. Good sense is seen as having the opinions that other people have.
Social self-preservation, for the contemporary pseudo-individual, involves knowing what not to say, what not to read, what not to think.
The problem, of course, is that the “consensus” to which these people remain faithful does not actually arise organically, but has been manufactured by the dominant system. It is all part of The Spectacle, The Matrix, The Thing.
If we are ever going to smash down the walls of this civilizational prison, we are therefore going to need rebels strong enough to remain immune to this psychological manipulation.
We need people who are prepared to spend their lives chipping away at every crack they can find in the reinforced concrete and take no notice of those who tell them it’s the wrong crack, or the wrong wall, that they’re chipping in the wrong way or that there’s no chance of ever escaping and they’d do better to struggle for nicer biscuits in the prison canteen.
We need strong individuals – people who have no desperate need to be loved by everyone, no terrible fear of not being accepted.
Unfortunately there don’t seem to be too many of them around today. They are a dying breed in a world where “individuality” is regarded more as a question of decoration than of substance.
This seems to have been the case for quite a while. The philosopher and writer John Cowper Powys (1872-1963), for instance, made some very pertinent comments on the question in his 1930 book The Meaning of Culture.
He draws a distinction between an “educated” person, who accepts the consensus of their time, and a “cultured” person who builds their own personal philosophy through a process of intuitive choice, seeking out opinions and insights which somehow appeal to their own mind, regardless of how unfashionable or “out of date” these may or may not be.
He writes: “That this personal philosophy already exists before it is brought into conscious articulation cannot be doubted… One always feels that a merely educated man holds his philosophical views as if they were so many pennies in his pocket. They are separate from his life. Whereas with a cultured man there is no gap or lacuna between his opinions and his life. Both are dominated by the same organic, inevitable fatality. They are what he is.”
Powys stresses the importance of nurturing this personal philosophy by finding our own intellectual path to follow, rather than shuffling along with the crowd.
The reaction from others may well not be positive, he says, because of “the cultured person’s innate predilection for combining extreme opposites in his thoughts and his taste.”
He adds: “His philosophical opinions will be found as a rule, judged by the standards of the merely educated, to be at once startlingly revolutionary and startlingly reactionary.”
Powys concedes that everyone has some kind of roughly-sketched personal view of the world, but says that what denotes the cultured person is “the conscious banking up of this philosophy of his own, its protection from disintegrating elements, the guiding of its channel-bed through jungles of brutality and stupidity. The more culture a man has, the more austerely – though naturally with many ironic reserves – does he abide by his own taste.”
It is not easy to be true to one’s own innerly-motivated ideas when they conflict fundamentally with those of society – how can we forge a life, a role, when we are separated from most other people by a huge gulf of mutual non-understanding?
This is the question asked by the English existentialist Colin Wilson (1931-2013) in his 1956 best-seller The Outsider.
He writes: “For the Outsider, the world into which he has been born is always a world without values. Compared to his own appetite for a purpose and a direction, the way most men live is not living at all; it is drifting.
“This is the Outsider’s wretchedness, for all men have a herd instinct that leads them to believe that what the majority does must be right. Unless he can evolve a set of values that will correspond to his own higher intensity of purpose, he may as well throw himself under a bus, for he will always be an outcast and a misfit”.
The anarchist psychoanalyst Otto Gross (1877-1920) explored the same area in a 1913 essay entitled Overcoming the Cultural Crisis (Zur Überwindung der kulturellen Krise).
Here he says that any individual with the mental strength to stand firm for their own inner principles will inevitably find themselves in conflict with society.
Gross observes: “It appears that the real nature of these conflicts always leads back, in the last resort, to a general principle: the conflict between that which is proper to the individual and that which is alien to them, that which is individually innate and that which is suggested, learned, imposed from the outside.”
The need to accept this conflict and to accept the responsibility of living by one’s own innermost principles is also the subject matter of The Forest Passage (Der Waldgang) written in 1951 by Ernst Jünger (1895-1998).
In this extraordinary call for opposition to oppressive power, Jünger declares: “The resistance of the forest rebel is absolute: He knows no neutrality, no pardon, no fortress confinement. He does not expect the enemy to listen to arguments, let alone act chivalrously. He knows that the death penalty will not be waived for him. The forest rebel comes to learn a new solitude…”
His solitude allows the rebel to descend “to the very springs of morality, where the waters are not yet divided and directed into institutional channels”.
This concept of morality is important, as, for Jünger, the search into one’s deepest being is not a quest for a separate individualist identity.
Instead one meets, in the forest, “with one’s own Self, with one’s invulnerable core, with the being that sustains and feeds the individual phenomenon in time”.
This core being is a collective one, a “strata which underlies all social life and has been common to all since the origins”. He explains: “The I recognizes itself in the other, following the age-old wisdom, ‘Thou art that’.”
So there we have it. The individual who searches deeply and courageously enough inside themself ends up finding that their essence lies in something much larger. And they are then free and conscious enough to use their individuality in the interests of that greater whole.
What might have appeared, at the start of the journey, to be nothing but individual awkwardness or stubbornness, reveals itself to be what Gross calls elsewhere “the revolutionary instinct of humankind” acting through the individual free enough to allow it to do so.
Jünger admits that it has become especially difficult in the modern world to assert one’s freedom – “Resistance demands great sacrifice, which explains why the majority prefer to accept the coercion”.
The authentic individual, the real rebel, fully embraces their own individuality in order to put it to the service of the principles that form the very essence of human existence.
This is one of the great paradoxes of anarchism – a dynamic and deeply ethical philosophy for individuals strong enough to go beyond individualism and offer themselves up to the general good.
As Jünger puts it: “Each individual must know if freedom is more important to them – know whether they value how they are more than that they are”.
And once the individual has made this inner decision, found this inner strength, they can seek out other cultured rebels with whom to challenge the shallow fake-individualism of the modern world.
In a 1957 follow-up book to The Outsider called Religion and the Rebel, Wilson asks: “Is the Outsider strong enough to create his own tradition, his own way of thought, and to make a whole civilization think the same way?”
And he replies that ultimately, of course, the individual can achieve nothing on their own, no matter how determined they are: “While the Outsiders are a scattered and bewildered minority, without a tradition, without a philosophy, they are of no use whatever.
“It is impossible to say at this point what might be the ultimate result of a concerted effort of all ‘Outsiders’.”
Individuals of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your individualism!
John Cowper Powys, The Meaning of Culture, (London: Jonathan Cape, 1930)
Otto Gross, Psychanalyse et Révolution: Essais, trans. by Jeanne Étoré, (Paris: Éditions du Sandre, 2011)
Ernst Jünger, The Forest Passage, trans. by Thomas Friese, ed. by Russell A. Berman. (Candor, New York: Telos Press, 2013)
Colin Wilson, The Outsider, (London: Victor Gollancz, 1956)
Colin Wilson, Religion and the Rebel, (London: Victor Gollancz, 1957)
1. “Let’s put our resistance on the streets in 2018!”
Resistance against the global capitalist system and its police-state repression will be coming to the streets of Europe at the start of 2018, with important international demonstrations planned for Switzerland and Germany.
The action, and discussion, in Switzerland this month revolves around the meeting at Davos of the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Swiss radicals are calling for anti-capitalist unity against the WEF and the plutofascist system it represents.
They say: “This year’s WEF slogan is ‘Creating a common future in a broken world’. We agree that the world is not what it should be. But unlike the WEF we see systematic causes for the ‘broken world’.”
In the run-up to the WEF meeting, which is being held on January 23 and 24, opponents are staging an alternative discussion weekend, on Saturday and Sunday January 20 and 21, looking at the capitalist system and how it might be resisted – how we can collectively “take the future into our hands instead of leaving it to the rulers”.
But before that an international protest has been called for Saturday January 13, gathering at 3pm at the Käfigturm off the Waisenhausplatz in the historic centre of the Swiss capital, Bern.
Say the Swiss anti-capitalists: “Capitalism and its policies are close to the abyss and states are prepared to prevent change with high levels of violence. Radical movements seeking to tackle the problems at their roots are being banned and suppressed across the world. Let’s put our resistance on the streets!”
Meanwhile, 500 miles to the north, at the other edge of German-speaking Europe, another protest against capitalist totalitarianism is being staged on Saturday March 17.
The demo in Hamburg is in protest at the massive levels of repression unleashed by an increasingly fascistic German state against anti-capitalists protesting against the G20 summit last summer.
While the shocking images of police brutality may have faded from the public’s mind, the repression continues, with ongoing police raids, arrests and prosecutions.
Many are warning that Germany is “sliding into fascism”.
The global neoliberal war on internet freedom has been particularly blatant in Germany, with Linksunten Indymedia being shut down by the state amidst fevered mainstream media scaremongering about the “threat” of left-wing “extremists”.
State violence against dissidents is becoming ever uglier, as during the recent protests against the far-right AfD.
For all their populist “anti-establishment” posturing, the extreme right in Germany and elsewhere have increasingly been revealed to be an intrinsic part of the authoritarian capitalist system; its shock-troops in fact. Their anti-Muslim rhetoric is closely linked to the racist and imperialist narrative of the pro-US, pro-Zionist establishment, as we reported in Acorn 37.
While police in Berlin police banned American and Israeli flags at a pro-Palestinian march in December, after some flag burning at a previous protest, the same capitalist-fascist robocop army protected AfD fascist-capitalists in Hannover, attacking their opponents with high-powered water cannon in freezing temperatures, leaving many injured.
Says a call for resistance from Berlin’s Rigaer 94 squat: “In this battle for capitalist and nationalist ends, the state will always end up demanding fascism. With the same tactics, they try time and time again to delegitimize resistance by branding it criminal, antisocial, and apolitical.
“The time of comfortable protests is long gone. Today, German society has arrived at an extreme it hasn’t reached in over 80 years.
“Determined and angry, despite the repression, we will fight against the ruling order!”
2. Fake democracy – neoliberals ramp up information war
It should by now be completely apparent to anyone paying attention that the US-led military-industrial-capitalist complex is a totalitarian system.
Until now, it has largely had the subtlety not to use its power of repression except when it really needs to, so that it can keep intact the crowd-control illusion of “democracy”.
Things are rapidly changing, though. Faced with serious cracks in its domination, it is clamping down on dissent in a big way.
The latest trick to disguise and justify its censorship is the “fake news” meme, a cunning plan to conflate invented content with content unwelcome to the political elite.
As Chris Hedges of the truthdig website states: “The corporate state is unnerved by the media outlets that give a voice to critics of corporate capitalism, the security and surveillance state and imperialism.”
The Civic Critic blogsite has produced a handy guide to “fake news” featuring a series of links to articles covering the phenomenon.
It says: “Started in late 2016 as a reference to made-up stories, hoaxes, and Onion-style parodies, ‘Fake News’ has since been adopted by Donald Trump and his supporters to describe any negative press. Those in many establishment news sources often use ‘Fake News’ to refer to ‘exaggerated, hyper-partisan, and conspiratorial journalism’. Fake News is thus perhaps best understood as a rhetorical weapon in a multi-faceted Information War.”
The clamp-down on information has rapidly accelerated at the start of 2018, as the World Socialist Web Site reported on Saturday January 6.
On January 1, for instance, the German government began implementing its new Network Enforcement Law, or “NetzDG”, which threatens social media companies with fines of up to €50 million if they do not immediately remove content deemed objectionable by the state.
The UK has adopted a slightly different approach, with minister of state for security Ben Wallace warning internet giants that they could be penalised through taxes if they fail to cooperate with government efforts to fight “terrorism and online extremism”.
In France, neoliberal “centrist” president Emmanuel Macron also obligingly leapt into action, announcing plans to counter “fake news” during elections by allowing state judges to block websites or user accounts.
Somewhat letting the cat out of the bag regarding the real political agenda behind the “fake news” meme, he declared: “Thousands of propaganda accounts on social networks are spreading all over the world, in all languages, lies invented to tarnish political officials, personalities, public figures, journalists”.
Tarnishing political officials? We can’t have that, can we?
Of course, in the back-to-front language of the capitalist elite, the aim of this “strong legislation” is not to impose capitalist rule but to “protect liberal democracies”, as Macron put it.
The invention of the term “fake news” to cover online censorship is no more subtle than the pre-existing excuses of “terrorism”, “extremism” or “hate-speech”. The co-ordinated use of these overlapping labels for the same purposes makes it obvious that there is a definite political agenda at work here.
Greenwald notes: “As is always true of censorship, there is one, and only one, principle driving all of this: power. Facebook will submit to and obey the censorship demands of governments and officials who actually wield power over it, while ignoring those who do not. That’s why declared enemies of the US and Israeli governments are vulnerable to censorship measures by Facebook, whereas US and Israeli officials (and their most tyrannical and repressive allies) are not.
One of the most shocking examples was the 2015 conviction of 12 protesters in France for “hate speech” which consisted merely of wearing T-shirts declaring “Long live Palestine, boycott Israel”.
The current attack on free speech is being co-ordinated by the upper echelons of the military-industrial-capitalist system.
The European Commission, for example, announced last year that it was forming a High Level Group “to advise on policy initiatives to counter fake news and the spread of disinformation online”.
Another leading player in the international initiative is a new US-based organisation called the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD).
Set up under the excuse of combating what it calls an “unprecedented attack” on United States democracy by Russia, it is described in its Wikipedia entry as a “transatlantic national security advocacy group”.
In case you haven’t caught the drift as to what this implies, note that the ASD is “chaired and run primarily by former senior United States intelligence and State Department officials”. The Washington Post called the membership of the advisory council “a who’s who of former senior national security officials”.
The original Marshall Plan was a $13,000,000,000 American “aid” scheme to Western Europe after the end of the Second World War, amounting to an economic and cultural occupation similar to that of the Soviet Union in the Eastern Block.
Noam Chomsky has described it as having “set the stage for large amounts of private US investment in Europe, establishing the basis for modern transnational corporations”.
The GMF carries on the same work. It helps maintain a full-spectrum US neoliberal control of Europe – or rather, in its own sweet language, it “strengthens transatlantic cooperation on regional, national, and global challenges and opportunities in the spirit of the Marshall Plan”.
It has dished out millions of Yankee dollars across Europe over the decades. It has also run a US-Europe parliamentary exchange program and the Marshall Memorial Fellowship, which has funded the exchange of more than 3,000 “emerging leaders” across the Atlantic.
Why? Simply to ensure that there is no real democracy in Europe and that all its politicians are obedient poodles to the US and its corporate controllers.
French president Macron is a product of the Marshall Memorial Fellowship scheme.
And German chancellor Angela Merkel celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan in June last year, alongside the odious imperialist warmonger Henry Kissinger.
She praised GMF’s work, saying: “For Germany, GMF helps to understand the American spirit. And, GMF helps Americans understand our country. For more than 45 years, GMF has served as a transatlantic exchange, building mutual understanding, providing information, clarifying positions, and identifying commonalties.”
The GMF is regarded as a pioneer of American “soft power” in Europe, but its work interfaces smoothly with the US military occupation. In 2004, it organized a major conference in Istanbul in the run-up to the NATO Summit.
It describes its mission as “sustaining, deepening and enlarging the liberal international order” – in other words, US neoliberal hegemony.
And it makes it clear that it is worried about the cracks currently appearing in the empire, stating: “This order is under assault on multiple fronts, both internal and external, and on both sides of the Atlantic: from populist forces in America to Russian interference in Western elections, from anti-EU movements to the backlash against new trade agreements, from the rise of great power revisionism to question marks over the future of US alliance leadership”.
As contributions to its own website make clear, the GMF aims to keep Europe firmly under the thumb of the US empire and of the multinational corporations in whose interests it functions.
It reacts with panic to any dent in the pro-American, pro-capitalist cultural and political “consensus” that it and other organisations have been working so hard to impose on the population of Europe since the Second World War.
A recent article by Alina Inayeh of the GMF’s Bucharest office cautions: “The transatlantic community, its values, and norms held rich intrinsic value in the early 1990s and provided an engine for change in Eastern Europe in subsequent years.
“But a transatlantic orientation has shifted from a major objective to a series of political, military, and economic transactions. The governments in both Central and Eastern Europe, facing elections throughout 2018 and 2019, will intensify their nationalist paths, and/or further slow their already almost stagnant adoption of transatlantic principles.
“At the same time, security and military cooperation will continue, pushed forward by real security threats and economic interests. But this cooperation will be isolated from transatlantic values, which will be ignored or even flouted.”
Rejection of the NATO occupation of Europe, rejection of neoliberal free trade agreements, rejection of capitalism – all of this represents a rejection of what Inayeh coyly terms “the transatlantic community, its values, and norms”.
This is why the GMF has launched the “fake news” meme and the ASD. This is why the Americans are ordering their European puppets like Macron and Merkel to take authoritarian action against dissent.
We should be very aware that the neoliberal-fascist elite will stop at nothing to ensure they cling on to total power.
As Hedges warns in his article: “This is a war of ideas. The corporate state cannot compete honestly in this contest. It will do what all despotic regimes do – govern through wholesale surveillance, lies, blacklists, false accusations of treason, heavy-handed censorship and, eventually, violence.”
The shock of Donald Trump’s presidential election victory has prompted an encouraging upsurge in militant anti-fascism in the USA.
Antifa have been particularly active, and effective, in mobilising against American Nazis and racists who have been emboldened by Trump’s ascent and see their toxic ideas as being in the ascendancy.
However, Antifa’s success has inevitably prompted a backlash from opponents and as part of this reaction one particular journal has been consistently smearing and attacking them (see here, here and here).
The labels it uses are themselves a big giveaway as to its bias. The Nazis are politely described according to their own self-description, as “white nationalists”, while Antifa are termed “anti-fascist extremists”.
Notorious US racist Richard Spencer is presented merely as a “white-nationalist leader who organized free-speech rallies on many campuses” and given a direct voice in the report, promising that “he plans to take his movement to more universities in 2018”.
Antifa are depicted as a “secret” and “violent” organisation adopting the tactics of the Nazis, with the heavy implication that they are even more of a threat, basically terrorists, and that the authorities ought to clamp down on them fast.
Readers are told: “Federal authorities have been warning state and local officials since early 2016 that leftist extremists known as ‘antifa’ had become increasingly confrontational and dangerous, so much so that the Department of Homeland Security formally classified their activities as ‘domestic terrorist violence’.
“By the spring of 2016, the anarchist groups had become so aggressive, including making armed attacks on individuals and small groups of perceived enemies, that federal officials launched a global investigation with the help of the US intelligence community, according to the DHS and FBI assessment.
“The purpose of the investigation, according to the April 2016 assessment: To determine whether the US-based anarchists might start committing terrorist bombings like their counterparts in ‘foreign anarchist extremist movements’ in Greece, Italy and Mexico, possibly at the Republican and Democratic conventions that summer.
“Several state law enforcement officials said that all of those accelerating factors have come to pass. And recent FBI and DHS reports confirm they are actively monitoring ‘conduct deemed potentially suspicious and indicative of terrorist activity’ by antifa groups.”
What has surprised anti-fascists is that the magazine in question, Politico, is not usually regarded as part of the far right, but rather of the Center, or Centre as we spell it in the UK.
So what is behind Politico’s obvious hostility to Antifa? What political agenda lies behind its scaremongering propaganda?
The first clue should come from the fact that Politico is associated with “The Center/Centre”. As we said in Acorn 34, this is an insidious term used to define extreme neoliberal capitalism as a norm, as a default position, as a “common sense” non-ideology whose assumptions and aims can never be fundamentally challenged, except by “extremists”.
French president Emmanuel Macron is a centrist. So is former UK prime minister Tony Blair. Say no more!
The second clue relates to the origin of its stories about the US authorities’ concerns over the Antifa “threat”. Politico tries to get away with implying that they have merely received leaked official documents but, as It’s Going Down notes, they themselves take up the official “domestic terrorist” line with great gusto.
Politico seem to be very close to mysterious sources such as “a senior state law enforcement official”. When they write of “interviews and confidential law enforcement documents obtained by Politico“, how exactly were these documents “obtained”? Via an unauthorised leak or over a cosy lunch?
Politico’s concerns about Antifa are very much the concerns of the authorities. There is, for example, much anxiety about several significant “intelligence gaps,” including an inability to penetrate the groups’ “diffuse and decentralized organizational structure”. [Trots please note!]
This stance is perhaps to be expected because research reveals that Politico is very closely linked to a shadowy political network which defines its role as defending the interests of US capitalism and imperialism.
Take, for example, its chief international affairs columnist Susan B. Glasser, who was in fact one of Politico’s founding editors.
A graduate of Harvard University, Glasser is former editor in chief of Foreign Policy magazine and spent four years travelling the former Soviet Union as The Washington Post’s Moscow co-bureau chief, covering the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When she’s not doing journalism, she is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution which is, as we reported in Acorn 28, a high-profile US “Think Tank“, recently accused of having a “cozy relationship” with its corporate donors.
Glasser was mixing in similar circles in June 2017 when she had the honour of moderating an event called “The Eastern Mediterranean: Challenges, Opportunities, and the Path Ahead – A Conversation with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades” in Washington, DC.
And the organisers of the meeting? Why, none other than the GMF, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, which will be a familiar name to those of you who have already the article above this one…
Indeed, Politico seems to have long enjoyed a very warm relationship with the GMF, that noble defender of US neoliberal supremacy.
In November 2012, for instance, John Harris, editor-in-chief of Politico in Washington, DC, delivered the keynote address at a reception in Berlin marking the 30th anniversary of GMF’s Marshall Memorial Fellowship.
How come? Well, it turns out he not just a good pal of the GMF but a member of its Board of Trustees!
Readers will be pleased to hear that links between Politico and the GMF continue to be strong.
On Wednesday March 22, 2017, the German Marshall Plan’s Brussels Forum was staged at the Microsoft Center in the Belgian capital.
Many very worthy liberal and democratic organisations were represented, such as Google, ExxonMobil, Centrica, Chevron, BP, Deloitte, Raytheon and NATO.
It must have been quite a party. US Special Operations Command were there, and the US National Counterterrorism Center. And Israel Broadcasting. And the Mission of Israel to the European Union. And the European Association of Mining Industries
Douglas Carswell, the right-wing British politician and former UKIP MP, was among the participants. Oh, and of course, David Herszenhorn and Ryan Heath from Politico.
Heath’s biography reveals a background typical of Politico staff.
He began his illustrious career as a speechwriter for the British civil service, before joining the European Commission. His journalistic integrity means he is regularly sought out as a policy commentator by the likes of the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and Deutsche Welle and he has been trusted to report from major events such as the WEF meeting in Davos (see above), G7 summits, and US political conventions.
Again and again, Politico’s “journalists” turn out to have taken a similar path through life.
Like Heath, Kristina Kausch has a background with the European Commission, which has provided a two-year fellowship for her to work for the GMF in Brussels. She has been a non-resident associate of the CIA-linked Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and worked for the now-defunct “international development think tank” FRIDE.
Politico contributor Jamie Fly has a particularly impressive CV. A senior fellow at the GMF, he also works with its offshoot the ASD.
He served in the Bush administration at the National Security Council, and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He was director for Counterproliferation Strategy at the National Security Council, where his portfolio included the Iranian nuclear program, Syria, missile defense and chemical weapons.
For his work in the Department of Defense, he was awarded the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service. He has also worked at the World Bank.
The GMF isn’t even very shy about its close links to Politico, publishing a link to this November 2017 article by Glasser which features Laura Rosenberger, director of the ASD and a senior fellow at the GMF.
Rosenberg’s bio informs us that she was previously foreign policy advisor for “Hillary for America” and prior to that, she served “in a range of positions at the State Department and the White House’s National Security Council”.
The GMF was particularly keen to endorse an “excellent” Politicoreport on the 2017 election victory of Emmanuel Macron, who is after all a leading “centrist” and product of the Marshall Memorial Fellowship scheme.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Politico was the GMF’s own in-house publication!
Having examined the nature of Politico’s political agenda, we can return to our initial question. Who is behind the smear attacks on Antifa?
Well, fascists of course! Fascists close to the American state who claim to be “centrists” defending liberal democracy against fake news and extremists, but fascists none the less.
The hypocrisy of states such as the UK when it comes to terrorism is simply breathtaking.
They relentlessly exploit the fear of terrorism to justify everything from foreign wars to erosion of freedom at home, while all the while being happy to use terrorists for their own ends.
A good example of this came from documents just released by the Irish government under their 30-year rule.
These included a 1987 letter from the loyalist terrorist group the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) addressed to the then Irish PM Charles Haughey.
The loyalists claimed their organisation was used by MI5 and MI6, backed up by British Army special forces, from 1972 to 1978 and again in 1985.
“In 1985 we were approached by a MI5 officer attached to the NIO (Northern Ireland Office) and based in Lisburn, Alex Jones was his supposed name,” the UVF said. “He asked us to execute you.”
The previously secret letter, on UVF headed paper, showed the loyalists told Mr Haughey that the MI5 operative gave details of his cars, photographs of his home, his island, Inishvickillane, and his yacht, Celtic Mist.
The UVF added: “MI5 were double-crossing us all the time we were working with them. We executed some of our best men believing them to be traitors”.
Documents such as these provide important insights into true nature of the UK state, not just in the past but in the present as well – and that is presumably why those lingering in the British archives tend to go missing.
The war in Ireland allowed the UK state to perfect “counterinsurgency” techniques which have subsequently been rolled out across the world.
Central to these were the theories of Brigadier Frank Kitson, as this recent article on the Bella Caledonia website sets out.
Kitson stressed the value of covert operations, the ‘turning’ of insurgents through ‘carrot and stick’ measures, and what he called ‘countergangs’ or ‘pseudogangs’, which could infiltrate or deceive insurgents.
“In essence, Kitson envisaged the paramilitarisation of the British Army, switching its focus from conventional to unconventional warfare, training troops ‘to support civil power’ in mock-ups of Belfast streets, adopting the techniques of insurgents, and fighting ‘terrorism’ with state terror units in a form of gang warfare,” says the article.
He was also a pioneer of psyops (psychological operations) and media manipulation by briefing and spin, and he established close relationships with British journalists in Northern Ireland, turning them into “useful mouthpieces”.
The existence of these pseudogangs and psyops, and the way they are deployed by the secret state, is key to understanding the world around us.
Historically, the whole history of NATO’s “Gladio” stay-behind/terror network in Western Europe is worth studying – this 1992 BBC documentary film is an excellent introduction.
And there are plenty of writers specialising in exposing these shadowy areas – in the UK notably Nafeez Ahmed, Robin Ramsey and Mark Curtis, whose latest book, an updated version of Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam has just been published.
Humankind needs to reconnect with an ancient anarchic wisdom which has been deliberately hidden from us by the dominant industrial capitalist system, says Winter Oak author Paul Cudenec in his first blogpost of 2018.
He explains: “This philosophy has always existed as an underground heresy beneath the surface of dominant society and emerges again and again in renewed forms throughout history”.
A key part of this philosophy, he says, is a sense of unity, a sense of our belonging to a greater whole.
“Human beings, because they are living parts of a universal organism, are imbued with the same patterns and structures as the rest of the Universe and, of course, as the rest of the natural world on this planet.
“Significantly, this includes our mental processes. Human thinking, including our philosophies, is a continuation of the complex patterns of the cosmos and of nature and not something outside of them.
“Just as our existence is part of the existence of the Universe, so is our thinking part of the thinking of the Universe. Our thinking is the Universe’s thinking and our thinking is nature’s thinking – both interpreted through the filter of our particular human existence.
“The structures of the Universe and of nature are contained deep within us and are reflected in the physical reality of our bodies and in the abstract realities of the thinking generated by our physical bodies.
“This would continue to be the case even if every single human being alive today denied that it was so. But the Wisdom maintains that an awareness of this innate structure is essential to an understanding of who we are and how we should live.
“Individuals are all manifestations of the Universe. This Universe needs there to be physical forms of reality so that it can actually exist as a physical entity, rather than as an abstract idea; it needs there to be living physical beings so that it can also be alive and it needs there to be actual physical thinking happening so that it can, itself, think.
“The Universe also needs individual human beings to act on their thinking, so that it too can, through them, act on its (decentralised) thinking. How else can the Universe, the sum of all reality, be present in its own self-forming other than through the actions of its constituent parts?
“Our actions, our lives, are the Universe in the act of self-creation. Our doing something is the Universe establishing its own shape, through us. Nothing we do has already happened, or already been planned. As we do it, it becomes real.”
Explaining the thinking behind this approach, Cudenec writes: “A philosophy combining contemporary anarchist insights with the age-old Wisdom I have been outlining is a powerful one, which is why it is deemed so unacceptable, so unthinkable, by modern capitalist-friendly thinking.
“It represents, for me, our best chance of finding the collective mental strength and courage to walk out of this dark industrial capitalist nightmare towards a bright and free future”.
Attacks and smears against anarchists by the Brazilian state and corporate media is the theme of an emotive new video on the submedia site. It declares: “Let’s not fool ourselves, we’re in the middle of a war. A disguised and all-pervasive war. A war between the oppressors and the oppressed; between the rich and everybody else…”
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“Democracy encourages a liberal Western concept of the individual, of the individual as this isolated unit with rights that pertain to public participation, which means participation within a centralised and hierarchical sphere of decision-making, rather than this organic being in the world who exists according to communal relationships, according to relationships with the natural environment.” So says US anarchist author Peter Gelderloos in an in-depth audio interview which can be heard here.
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Consumer culture is creating a psycho-spiritual crisis, writes John F Schumaker in an article on the opendemocracy website. He says: “Without an existential compass, the commercialized mind gravitates toward a ‘philosophy of futility’, as Noam Chomsky calls it, in which people feel naked of power and significance beyond their conditioned role as pliant consumers. Lacking substance and depth, and adrift from others and themselves, the thin and fragile consumer self is easily fragmented and dispirited… Consumerism and psychic deadness are inexorable bedfellows.”
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The UK’s Anarchist Action Network meeting planned for December had to be postponed because of snow, so it has been rearranged. It will now be held on Sunday January 21, from 1pm to 4pm, at the Cowley Club, 12 London Rd, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 4JA. All anarchists welcome.
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“We acknowledge no authority higher than ourselves, and we will continue to act in accordance with the aspirations of our spirits for freedom and dignity. We will continue to fight in defense of Mother Earth, on behalf of future generations and all our relations, consequences be damned.” This was the powerful message relayed by Montreal Counter-Information in Quebec following the sentencing on December 18 of two anarchist comrades for their role in a 2015 direct action in which a pipeline was physically shut down. There is a fundraising page to help the activists pay costs.
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What are the effects of “screen culture” on human behaviour, intelligence and the environment? How did we get here? Who benefits? What may come next if this culture is left unchecked, to its end trajectory, and is that what we want? A thought-provoking new independent film by Jordan Brown, Stare Into The Lights My Pretties, investigates these questions with an urge to return to the real physical world, to form a critical view of technological escalation driven by rapacious and pervasive corporate interests. It can be seen here.
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“We need to make haste. Political censorship is becoming routine across the worldwide web. A free and open internet is to be abolished by the Trump administration. Dissent, once tolerated in the mainstream, has regressed to a metaphoric underground as liberal democracy moves towards a form of corporate dictatorship.” The timely warning comes from veteran investigative reporter John Pilger in an excellent talk which can be seen online. He says: “This is an historic shift and the media, both mainstream media and social media, must not be allowed to be the facade of this new order and should be subjected to direct action.”
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Fans of Winnie the Pooh will be delighted to hear that he, Piglet, Eeyore and friends feature in a brand new 21st century vignette of English rural life, in which the Hundred Acre Wood is targeted for fracking, Tigger gets arrested and Pooh invents the lock-on by mistake. Open the first page here.
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Acorn quote: “I have used the myth of the goddess Gaia to express the idea that we are an integral part of a single, intelligent life-form which acts like an individual. I have tried to show how it is that we can never separate ourselves from this life-form, despite our delusions of dominance and control, because should we succeed in doing so, we would be committing an irreversible act of mass suicide: as if an arm tried to exist separately from the body”.
Anarchism is a philosophy which, over the years, has often been seriously misunderstood, thanks largely to the efforts of its enemies. But the situation seems worse than ever today, in that even those who call themselves anarchists sometimes lack a clear understanding of what it involves. Sometimes they accept the comic-book version of anarchism presented to us by the mainstream media and so help perpetuate that parody. Sometimes they undermine the whole sense of anarchism by trying to combine it with a political philosophy with which it is entirely incompatible, such as capitalism, liberalism, postmodernism, Marxism, nationalism or the politics of “racial” identity.
By real anarchism, we mean an anarchist vision unblurred by a confusion of other ideas and influences, an anarchist point of view which is strong and coherent because it is built on the foundation stone of anarchist philosophy. 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.
Anarchy comes from the Greek terms arkh meaning “ruler” and an- meaning “without”: it therefore means a society without rulers. An anarchist is someone who thinks we should live without rulers and who tries to push society in that direction. Note that an anarchist isn’t just someone who thinks we could possibly live without rulers, in certain circumstances and if certain conditions were met, but someone who thinks it preferable to live without rulers.
The obvious question which springs to mind is why do anarchists think it would be better to live in a society without rulers, without government? After all, most of us have been brought up to believe that a state, the rule of law and so on are necessary for our well-being and protection. There may be arguments about how much power the state should have, or how it should use that power, but there is no general question about the need for some kind of authority in charge of our society. People assume that without a government, human society would fall apart into chaos, with everyone trampling over each other in a brutal “dog-eat-dog” world. The word “anarchy” is often used in this way by non-anarchists. They talk about a fear that we could “descend into anarchy”.
From this perspective, the anarchist point of view doesn’t make any sense at all. One common conclusion is that anarchists must be hopelessly naïve to believe that it could be possible to do away with authority without disastrous consequences. Another reaction is that anarchists must be destructive-minded and violent people, who actively want society to slip into a nightmarish condition of chaos. In fact, these two depictions of anarchists are used pretty much interchangeably by our enemies, particularly in the mainstream media, depending on the needs of the moment. One day anarchists are bunch of woolly-minded idealists, completely detached from “the real world”, foolishly clinging to a childish cloud-cuckoo fantasy of stateless society. The next day they are a sinister and violent gang of sociopaths, plotting underground to wreak havoc and destroy everything that is good in society.
Behind all this misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the anarchist position lies the important question of how we regard human nature. If you believe that humans are naturally selfish, greedy and violent, then you will argue that they need the structure of a state to control them. If you believe that there is no such thing as human nature, and that we are entirely shaped by the environment in which we grow up, then you will be keen to ensure that the correct environment is provided and may well look to some kind of state to ensure this happens.
But what if you believe that humans have a natural tendency for co-operation rather than for competition, for mutual aid rather than for mutual robbery? This is the anarchist point of view, most famously set out by the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin in his 1902 masterpiece Mutual Aid. In this case, you obviously do not believe that a state is necessary to hold society together, as this is something that happens naturally from within, because of this tendency for co-operation.
This difference between the statist and anarchist outlooks is fundamental. It is the point where anarchism diverges from all other political philosophies. So it is crucial to understand why Kropotkin and other anarchists have this particular view of human nature. Kropotkin made it quite clear in Mutual Aid, and elsewhere, that it is not just human nature he is describing. All animals show the same tendency to co-operate, simply because it makes sense. That is how species, including the human species, survive and flourish – by working together and looking out for each others’ interests. He makes it clear that this is only a tendency he is describing. There are plenty of instances of competition in nature, as well in human society. Anarchists do not suggest that a future anarchist society would never involve any conflict between individuals or groups. But the overall pattern remains one of co-operation.
This potential and natural tendency for co-operation and mutual aid is based on our belonging to the natural world, where co-operation remains intact as the general rule of life. It is a continuation of nature within humanity, the extension of the organic structure of nature into the realm of human affairs. A human society without a state can hold itself together because that is what it had evolved to do, before the modern era of hierarchies warped our ways of living.
So-called anarchist thinking in recent decades has been overly influenced by other philosophical ideas which do not share its roots. It is fashionable in some circles to reject the idea of “nature”, particularly when applied to human beings. It is wrongly seen as being some kind of restriction applied to individuals from the outside, an attempt to make them conform to someone else’s model. This hasn’t been helped by the right-wing misuse of the words “natural” and “unnatural” to describe behaviour or ways of being that are considered acceptable or unacceptable by certain groups. This has nothing to do with actual nature, which is simply the living world of which we are part.
Nature is at the heart of real anarchist thinking. The idea of a natural state of freedom that has been stolen from us by states, churches and other forms of domination underlies the whole anarchist tradition. Time and time again anarchists write of removing the constraints of the state, so that we can organise ourselves into co-operative societies where we will always have the potential to flourish.
For most people today, the existence of a state is accepted as something necessary for the general welfare of humanity. But what does the state represent for anarchists? If human society naturally functions well on its own, and then something comes along which interferes with that natural functioning, then that thing is a problem. Yes, the state is unnecessary, but it’s even worse than that. It is actually stopping us from living how we should be living. The state is a positive menace to human well-being.
Comparisons are sometimes made between anarchism and the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism. Taoism describes a natural flow to the world which can be blocked and disrupted by any attempts to control it, even well-meaning ones.
For those who see anarchy as being a natural and desirable condition of humankind, all kinds of authority are regarded as both unnatural and undesirable. This is the basis of the anarchist position. While those in power regard anarchists as wanting to turn their world upside down, anarchists regard the current world as already being upside down and want to put it back the right way again, how it’s meant to be.
Seen from the anarchist point of view (from the right way up), all the structures of our current society take on a different appearance. They are revealed as ways of keeping us enslaved and concealing from us the truth about our predicament. Here are some examples.
The state. Anarchists regard the state as an appalling imposition. A group of powerful people declare themselves to have some kind of right to authority, tell the people they need that authority, and then force people to obey them. This is unacceptable.
Property. The powerful people who run the state also claim to “own” parts of the surface of the Earth and exclude others from these areas.
The law. This is the way that all the theft and domination is justified, disguised and imposed. The law replaces the principle of “right” and “wrong” with narrow definitions of “legal” and “illegal” suiting the interests of those who run the state, possess the wealth and write the laws.
The police. They are the physical means by which the powerful people who run the state violently enforce obedience to their system.
The “nation”. The concept of a “nation” is a false one, designed to give legitimacy to the existence of states controlling particular territories. Obviously there are fluid cultural and linguistic identities across the world, which should be defended from statist imperialism and centralisation, but anarchists reject any idea that these identities are fixed or that humans can be defined by national or racial labels.
“Democracy”. To hide the reality behind their theft and domination, the powerful people behind the state have constructed an elaborate façade of so-called “democracy” to persuade the dispossessed majority that they do, in fact, have a say in the running of society. The usefulness of the illusion of “democracy” is to head off the need for constant violent repression of the public.
The main aim of the powerful people behind the state has always been to increase their own wealth and power at the expense of everyone else. They disguise this aim by describing it as “progress”, “development” or “economic growth”.
In order to boost their own wealth, the ruling class have stolen from the rest of humanity the ability to live freely off the natural fruits of the land and trapped us into a complex system of enslavement based on money. The basic idea is that you either become a slave to their system, or you starve. To encourage voluntary submission, we have been taught to think that any kind of paid employment has a positive value, whatever the work involves. The accumulation of money and possessions is likewise presented as praiseworthy in itself, and confers social status.
The increase in the wealth of the ruling class – or “economic growth” as they call it – is presented as an unchallengeable priority, justifying unending and ever-increasing exploitation of life in all its forms – human, animal and our natural environment.
Anarchists reject this rhetoric, and everything that goes along with it. We have our own set of values which have got nothing to do with the fake and self-serving “values” of the world of money.
Ethics form an important part of the anarchist vision. There is already an ethical dimension in the basic idea of a co-operative way of life founded on mutual aid. But real anarchists extend this further in seeing a sense of values which naturally goes hand in hand with the idea of a self-governing and organic anarchist society. These values provide an ethical structure for this society; they are the fabric that make it possible and hold it together on a physical level. This basic concept has been shared by many cultures in human history. It is the Chinese Tao, it is the Indian idea of dharma or cosmic order, or the indigenous South American sumak kawsay or “right way of living”.
This anarchist dharma is key to the superiority of anarchist society. As well as naturally having a tendency to co-operate, for survival and well-being, humans have a tendency to be guided by certain values which help build harmonious and sustainable societies. Respect for each other, respect for other creatures, for trees, plants and rivers. These values are commonplace amongst us but are not allowed to come to the fore and guide the direction of our societies, because of all the false structures imposed upon us.
Freeing humanity from the yoke of state control and enslavement would also free us to live according to values coming naturally to us, rather than being forced to obey the laws imposed on us by the slave-owning minority.
People new to anarchist ideas often misunderstand the role of the individual in anarchist philosophy. The emphasis on individual freedom leads some to imagine that anarchism is little more than an extreme form of individualism, a mere libertarianism which could theoretically be coupled with liberalism or capitalism. However, this interpretation neglects the strong social aspect of anarchism, its emphasis on our innate tendency towards co-operation and mutual aid.
Anarchism rejects the idea that there is an inherent clash of interests between the individual and the community, which has to be resolved by some kind of social contract or compromise. Instead, it understands that the individual human’s sense of belonging to a wider community is a natural one, if allowed to flourish. We do not need a state (whether capitalist or communist) to artificially impose that belonging and loyalty on us – indeed, trying to do so is more likely to destroy affinity with wider society.
Because anarchists maintain that humanity has a natural tendency towards co-operation, we trust people to organise themselves, rather than wanting to force them to behave in the ways that we see fit by means of laws, police and so on. For anarchists, the idea of complete freedom for all individuals is not something to be feared, because we recognise that, in the long run, individuals will act in the interests of the communities of which, after all, they are part. For the minority who use the structures of the current system to dispossess and exploit the majority, complete freedom is indeed to be feared – as a threat to their own privileged status.
Freedom of the individual is, for anarchists, necessary for the freedom of the community. A society cannot be considered free if its members are not free. An individual cannot be considered free if they are not free to act according to their own conscience and their own values. Those values are found deep within each of us. But, since each of us is also part of the human species, these are shared human values. When we search in our hearts for what is right and wrong, just and unjust, we are searching within the collective culture, the collective thinking, of humankind.
And embedded within that collective human culture is the idea of dharma, or Tao, or natural harmony, the sense of rightness by which human society can guide itself. When that sense of rightness has been obscured by all the false representations of contemporary society, it is the role of anarchists to bring it back to the fore.
Since anarchists demand complete freedom for all individuals, it goes without saying that we also recognise a complete equality of worth in all. The labels attached to people by current society, denoting their social or “national” or “racial” status, have no meaning for anarchists, who see only fellow human beings with a right to define themselves as they see fit and to be treated with respect by others.
We know that many in society today are subject to discrimination and oppression in ways that are not always seen, or regarded as significant, by others who do not undergo the same experiences. And we know that it is important to always remain aware of this. However, anarchists do not define ourselves in terms of our oppression, or accept the role of victim. We prefer to fight back, focusing not on the differences between us but on what we all have in common.
Anarchism is not a narrow dogma and emerges in many different forms. Sometimes it can embrace struggles which may not be anarchist themselves, but are wholly compatible with anarchism. Anti-fascism is a good example of this. Not all anti-fascism is necessarily anarchist, but all anarchism is necessarily anti-fascist, as fascism is entirely incompatible with anarchism. Likewise, while class struggle does not have to be specifically anarchist, class struggle is very much part of the anarchist struggle – specifically the struggle to abolish the whole economic system in which humans are ranked in “classes”.
It has become fashionable to dismiss any idea of revolution as naïve. It is argued either that it is impossible, or that it will merely lead to new forms of oppression. But for anarchists, real naïvety lies in imagining that real change can be brought about without revolution. This is not revolution in the state-communist sense of a transfer of power to a new ruling elite. Anarchism aims at nothing less than the permanent destruction of the state and all the layers of authority it uses to enslave us.
While short-term social gains are not to be sniffed at, they are always to be seen for what they are. Without the demolition of all the structures of current system (law, work, patriarchy, borders, etc.) the structure of enslavement will remain intact and will, in time, reassert control. Real anarchists refuse to abandon the call for revolution, because we know that it is our only hope. Moreover, the myth of revolution, the dream of the complete destruction of the current system, is something that can galvanise action, that can capture people’s imagination and create powerful energies. One thing is for sure, and that is nothing will ever change if we all give up believing that change is even possible.
The anarchist view of the individual comes into play again when the question of revolution comes up. For us, the freedom of the individual is always combined with the responsibility to use that freedom in the general communal interest. In times of social harmony (i.e. anarchy), this would involve protecting the dharma of a stable and happy community. But in times like ours, where the world is upside down, the responsibility lies elsewhere.
Instead, say anarchists, individuals must find within themselves the strength to fight against the oppressive system in whatever way they can. This is partly a question of asserting own individuality through our dissent from the status quo and our adherence to our own set of values. But, of course, we are also acting in the interests of the wider human community – as our values demand. Any anarchist who is true to themself has no choice but to act.
This courage to destroy injustice, tyranny and domination in all its forms is sometimes mistaken for negativity. But in fact anarchism has the deeply positive aim of sweeping away an existing negativity blocking human well-being and happiness. Anarchism is the spirit of life reasserting itself against oppression.
The primate resistance movement has struck out against those who want to destroy our planet and replace us with robots.
A group of French activists swung into action on Monday November 20, at the start of a conference in the south-western city of Bordeaux which was celebrating the “cyborg future” of humankind.
They made their move under the label of the Bordeaux Chimpanzees of the Future, referring to the infamous comment by UK transhumanist techno-guru Kevin Warwick that, in a tomorrow’s world peopled by AI-enhanced cyborg hybrids, actual living human beings like you and me would be regarded as nothing more than evolutionary remnants. We would be the “chimpanzees of the future” as he arrogantly put it.
In keeping with their primate identity, the activists scattered banana skins around the conference venue, as well as a leaflet explaining why they were there.
This pointed out that Bordeaux had just seen the arrival of a branch of the Singularity University, “a propaganda tool of the techno-totalitarianism founded by Ray Kurzweil (top transhumanist at Google), under whose patronage the conference is being held”.
And it declared: “We don’t function, we live. We weren’t built, but born. We refuse to be ‘customised into cyborgs’. We refuse to ‘get ready to change planet’. We want to live on earth and remain free and human”.
The transhumanist cult represents the worst excesses of industrial-capitalist fantasy, dreaming of a humanity with artificial bodies and replaceable parts whose brains will eventually be uploaded into computers, giving them unimagined mental powers.
Not so long ago, this strange vision was regarded as little more than a weird joke, but it has increasingly become the religion of the technological avant-garde and has even succeeded in contaminating some so-called “anti-capitalist” thinking with its ultra-capitalist creed.
The transhumanists’ dream is a nightmare not just for human beings but for the living planet as a whole, as it depends on ongoing industrialisation and all the environmental destruction that this brings with it – a harsh fact that transhumanists try to avoid.
As Paul Cudenec writes in Nature, Essence and Anarchy: “On the most basic level, the industrialist vision of a technological posthuman future is entirely divorced from the physical realities of industrialism. Even if post-natural posthumans managed to upload their minds (or, rather, soulless copies of their brains) into a virtual realm of their own construction, the objective reality of the world they thought they were escaping would not somehow cease to exist.
“Pollution would worsen as the technological world expanded, animals would suffer from its consequences, the food chain would be imperilled, the very life-system of the earth would be at risk. Their technological bubble would still be dependent on an outside reality and infrastructure.
“There would still have to be mines to extract the minerals to build the computers, oil and gas wells to provide the energy, waste to be disposed of, pipelines and cables to be laid and repaired, flood defences to be built or strengthened as the climate span further into extremities, cooling systems to be installed for the huge banks of computer servers, bolts to be tightened, cogs to be lubricated, mould to be wiped off walls, and so on ad nauseam.
“Even if all the hard labour was done by machines and there were further machines to repair those machines, who would repair these? Who would be doing all the dirty work, wiping the metaphorical bottoms of the immortal posthuman narcissists plugged into their ego-massaging virtual existences?
“A race of ‘chimpanzee’ slaves maybe, the left-over essentialist scum who had refused to jump on the naturaphobic bandwagon to oblivion?”
A poignant short film celebrating the UK road protests of the early 1990s can now be seen online.
I Am Alive by Tom Lloyd, Gill Barron and Mark Melville combines archive footage shot over the summer of 1994 from roof-tops and tree-tops with a poetic voice-over and haunting soundtrack evoking the beauty in finding the courage to defend life.
And it reminds us that although particular battles of the time, such as at Solsbury Hill or Wanstead, were lost to the forces of industrialism, a generation’s war on roads was won, with the UK government putting new schemes on hold for decades in the face of the inspiring resistance.
The effort, the trauma, the arrests and the convictions will all be vindicated by history, as will one day all the current struggles against fracking, pipelines, mines, airports, high speed rail lines and all the other assaults on Mother Earth.
As the film says: “Land isn’t a commodity: it doesn’t belong to us. It’s a community: we belong to it.
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
The so-called “need” for economic growth is the perfect excuse for the industrial capitalist system to keep expanding, exploiting and exterminating, so arguments for “degrowth” have a massive radical potential.
The movement is little known in the UK, but is becoming increasingly influential elsewhere. For instance, next summer sees the 6th International Degrowth Conference in Malmö, Sweden. It will take place from August 21-25 2018 and is organised by the Institute for Degrowth Studies (Institutet för nerväxtstudier). There is a call for participation for academics, activists and artists (deadline: December 31).
Across the Atlantic, the first North-South Conference on Degrowth will be held in Mexico City from June 19 – 21 2018, supported by universities, NGOs, and social movements.
This is the first time a Latin American country will host an international gathering on Degrowth, after five conferences in Europe and one in Canada. Decolonisation of the imaginary, survival, cultures, and wealth will be the main issues under discussion.
Degrowth ideas are also sneaking into mainstream European thinking. From September 18-19 2018 a post-growth conference supported by various “stakeholders” (Members of the European Parliament from different political groups, academics, NGOs and unions) will take place in the premises of the European Parliament in Brussels. The date coincides with the 10th anniversary of the collapse of the US Bank Lehman Brothers that sparked the “economic crisis” justifying the intensification of neoliberal economics.
The work will be preceded by a preparatory session at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and followed by a debriefing and exchanges on how to coalesce allies to ensure that change will actually happen.
There is lots of English-language information on degrowth on the German website, degrowth.info.
Explaining the basic idea, it states: “By ‘degrowth’, we understand a form of society and economy which aims at the well-being of all and sustains the natural basis of life. To achieve degrowth, we need a fundamental transformation of our lives and an extensive cultural change.
“The current economic and social paradigm is ‘faster, higher, further’. It is built on and stimulates competition between all humans. This causes acceleration, stress and exclusion. Our economy destroys the natural basis of life. We are convinced that the common values of a degrowth society should be care, solidarity and cooperation.
“Humanity has to understand itself as part of the planetary ecological system. Only this way, a self-determined life in dignity for all can be made possible”.
A woman convicted of disrupting an arms fair in Wales has defiantly stood by her actions.
D told the court in Cardiff: “My motivation that day was to stop the arms fair. I am not denying it – what I am saying is that I was trying to prevent something worse from happening.”
She was found guilty by the court of making hoax calls claiming there was a bomb at the Motorpoint Arena, which was hosting the Defence Procurement, Research, Technology and Exportability event, better known as Cardiff Arms Fair.
D was expecting to go to prison, but in fact received a suspended sentence and an order to pay £2000 costs and £115 “victim surcharge”.
She declared afterwards: “I said when I was first arrested that it was the arms dealers who should have been arrested in my stead, and I still believe it’s the arms dealers and the UK Government who should have been in the dock on trial for their complicity in war crimes.
“My resolve in opposing the arms trade has only been strengthened by this experience and I hope to see a huge protest outside next year’s DPRTE Arms Fair at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff.”
Said a report from Bristol Defendant Solidarity: “It was very inspiring to hear the defendant, D, clearly tell the judge and the jury that she was not sorry for her actions and that she remains committed to direct action against war and the arms industry.
“Her explanation of how she could not stand by while arms dealers furthered their profits by marketing mass murder was very powerful. She admitted making the calls, but argued that she was acting to prevent a greater crime by aiming to stop the selling of arms used for ‘mass indiscriminate killing of civilians’.
“Her moving account of witnessing first-hand the destruction wreaked by these weapons in Palestine and her motivations for doing all that she can to stop arms sales brought tears to many eyes. She told the court of her experiences driving an ambulance of medical supplies to Gaza after the Israeli bombing.
“’I saw kids my grandchildren’s age being teargassed on a daily basis’ she said. ‘I saw with my own eyes the aftermath of war. Standing in the wreckage of bombed out homes, schools and hospitals brought home to me the utter destruction war wreaks on people’s lives. That strengthened my resolve to do everything in my power to oppose this awful trade’.”
Brutal physical violence and insidious legal intimidation are being used by UK police to try and crush resistance to the fracking industry.
This is the stark conclusion of a new report from police monitoring group Netpol, called Protecting the Planet is Not a Crime. Its research confirms and usefully exposes the extent to which the police act as taxpayer-funded private security for private business interests – in this case oil and gas.
It says: “Over the course of 2017, Netpol has seen evidence, particularly from Lancashire, of police officers pushing people into hedges, knocking campaigners unconscious, violently dragging older people across the road and shoving others into speeding traffic.
“We had also heard about the targeting of disabled protesters (including repeatedly tipping a wheelchair user from his chair) and officers using painful pressure point restraint techniques. In Lancashire, campaigners have repeatedly accused the police of ignoring violent and unlawful actions by private security employed by the shale gas company Cuadrilla. Similar allegations are now emerging in North Yorkshire.
“These confrontational and aggressive tactics are combined with often significant numbers of officers who seem, based on the testimony we have heard, ready to contain, assault or arrest any demonstrator for the slightest infringement.
“Police tactics appear deliberately intent on making it as difficult as possible for local people to effectively oppose the activities of the onshore oil and gas industry. There have also been claims that officers have tried to deliberately provoke the protesters in order to make more arrests.”
Netpol also draw attention to the civil injunction taken out against protesters by shale gas company INEOS.
The firm says it was advised to do this by the police – again showing that the cops are not “neutral” upholders of the peace, but active participants in imposing the toxic industrial capitalist agenda.
The order is directed against “persons unknown” and prohibits them from interfering with the “lawful activities” of INEOS staff and contractors. People who breach the order risk prison or having their assets seized.
The injunction refers to a range of “unlawful activity” that is not necessarily a criminal offence. Specifically, it mentions “slow walking” of lorries, which is not inherently unlawful unless it involves unreasonable obstruction without lawful authority or excuse.
Say Netpol: “Our concern is that, if INEOS’ injunction is made permanent, it not only opens in further pre-emptive injunctions by other fracking companies based on widespread smearing of all anti-fracking campaigners as ‘militant extremists’. It may also significantly restrict even further the ability of campaigners to take part in civil disobedience or, indeed, any form of effective protest”.
* In the early hours of Thursday November 30, frack-free activists occupied the so-called “Gatwick Gusher” oil site at Horse Hill in Surrey. The site, operated by Horse Hill Developments Ltd, has received planning permission for a further two wells and testing, reports Drill or Drop.
Imagine, if you can, that you are the chief of the secret political police in some far-off and fictional dictatorship.
Your networks have succeeded in completely infiltrating the small groups of dissidents who dare challenge the corruption and repression of the ruling elite.
True, there has been a spot of bother with one group of trouble-makers who rumbled a couple of clumsy low-level spies and have been exposing their dubious methods.
But overall, this has changed nothing. Indeed, the paranoia created by the spy revelations has even helped your task, instilling a mood of back-biting suspicion in dissident ranks and paralysing many would-be revolutionaries into inaction with the spectre of past or present spies in their ranks.
You have your enemies pretty much where you want them. You know exactly who they are and what they are going to do next. Your infiltrators, on many levels, have successfully shunted dissident networks away from effective opposition to the system into ineffective and dead-end ways of thinking and acting.
Dissidents whose words and deeds pose a real threat to the dictatorship are systematically marginalised and excluded from a movement which is largely under your control.
And yet, despite all this dominance, you are tempted to take it a step further. You can see that, with just a little provocation and encouragement, certain political disagreements within the opposition movement could be heightened to the point at which there was a major rupture in the dissident ranks which could even close down one of their most successful organising focal points.
In doing so, you could even take a passing swipe at one of those pesky troublemakers who has been giving you grief over your spies.
Would you do it, if you were this imaginary spy chief? Would you deliberately sabotage the dissident milieu you are paid to suppress, evil genius that you are?
While you’re thinking about it, let’s turn to some completely different events which have unfolded in the non-fictional world of 21st century Britain.
As readers may well be aware, the annual London Anarchist Bookfair in October was disrupted by a nasty row between some feminists and some others who accused them of transphobia.
We won’t pass judgement on the details of the dispute itself: an ill-judged leaflet matched by an ill-judged physical response.
But what was truly alarming was the vitriolic nature and tone of the accusations against the bookfair organisers who have done such a great job with the event over the years.
In an open letter stating their case, these critics accused the organisers of allowing “racist imperialism, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny and ableism to ingratiate themselves as part of the culture of the Bookfair”.
Eh? Where did that come from? What imperialism? What anti-semitism? What Islamophobia? What misogyny? No indication is given as to what any of this refers to – the insults are just vomited forth without any context.
The authors declare that unless certain demands are met, they will not be participating in future bookfairs, which is of course their right.
But, incredibly, they add: “Further, we will encourage our members and associated groups to picket the LABF in the future and provide material to those attending about the problems we have identified and the demands we are making”.
Are there really anarchists out there who would picket the anarchist bookfair on the basis of this kind of disagreement?
This open letter was supported by many comrades who we would have thought would have known better, pretty much obliging the bookfair collective to announce that they would not be organising an event in 2018.
They say in their own statement: “What hurts us most is we know a lot of you. A number of the signatories to the open letter are groups we know and have worked with over the years; sometimes many, many years.
“Yet not one of you has tried to contact us as individuals or as the Bookfair collective to ask our views before you signed the open letter, even though some people appear not to have read all of it before signing. We thought of many of you as friends. We were obviously wrong.
“We guess it’s easy to sign a statement. It’s a lot harder to actually talk to people and try to work things out.
“We are also tired of being told what to do. We are told to ban people. We are told have this or that policy. We are told this or that group can/can’t have stalls. We are told we shouldn’t have a certain venue. We are constantly told we get it wrong. However, no one has offered to join the Collective and help us make the Bookfair better or offered to take it on”.
They also reveal that (with sickening inevitability) they were accused of being “fascists” by some so-called comrades on the day (as were, apparently, both sides in the quarrel).
They comment: “It seriously concerns us how easy this terminology is thrown about in the anarchist milieu. Survivors of the Spanish Civil war, survivors of the death camps, political activists in Pinochet’s Chile, activists in parts of the world today and many others who have been at the blunt end of actual fascism are done a disservice by this indiscriminate use of the word.
“We feel that the Bookfair is not the place for tactics used on demos against fascist groups and cops. Some of us are traumatised enough by activism and look forward to enjoying an event where we can see friends and exchange ideas without the pressure of these actions”.
And there have been other voices challenging the basis of the vitriolic attack on the bookfair by the open letter authors.
Some “friends of the Bookfair”, for instance, posted a response in which they point out that the demands in the letter amount essentially to a call for tight ideological control over the content of the bookfair – something which should set the alarm bells ringing for any remaining authentic anarchists out there.
The “friends” say: “The Bookfair Collective operates on the principle that it is not for the small collective that organises it to take on defining and enforcing a rigid policy on safety and behaviour; it is for the wider movement that takes part in the Bookfair to do so, along anarchist principles of opposing centralized authority with dispersed and grassroots responsibility.
“Points raised in the open letter call for a radically different event, with a much more centralized program, organized or tightly overseen by the collective.”
Another anarchist response on the 325 website reflects on “the harassment and public shaming of an individual simply because they’d dared deviate from the party line; the line being that there is to be no doubt and certainly no criticism of any of the dominant narratives around identity politics”.
It adds: “We are not in any way surprised that liberal activists would seize on the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon, slag off anarchists, signal virtue with their impeccable ‘Ally’ credentials, and try to sabotage a major anarchist event for good.
“Neither are we surprised that people we disagree with or whose views are offensive would turn up at the Bookfair; some such groups in fact, sometimes have tables and workshop slots and their own supporters.
“We also recognise why trans people and other anarchists present would be pissed off with the leaflets, which the authors and distributors must have known were offensive and would provoke a reaction.
“What we’re angry at is our fellow anarchists, who we hold to higher standards, and it’s on this that we want to concentrate. We’re disappointed at the abandonment yet again of anarchist principles of independent and critical thought in favour of groupthink.
“We’re angry at the willingness to sacrifice plurality of ideas for policing and self-censorship. And we’re saddened at the failure to balance our antagonism with a corresponding care and comradeship, so that bullying and public humiliation reigns unchecked. Finally, we’re pissed off that anarchists feel it’s so much more important to target another anarchist with unpopular views, than to attack institutional structures of our oppression”.
The authors also draw attention to the fact that the number one target of the protest inside the event was Helen Steel, a long-term anarchist activist and one-time McLibel defendant who was subjected to intrusive state surveillance by an undercover police officer who deceived her into a two-year relationship.
They comment: “One of the most disturbing aspects of all this was the way in which people allowed rumour to spread. The T-Word, once uttered, seemed to diffuse any flicker of concern from onlookers, all independent thought going out the window. ‘Apparently she was giving out Terf leaflets’, said a few.
“As mentioned, this transpired to be false information, and when those spreading the rumours were asked whether they had seen the texts for themselves, none of them had actually done so. When challenged, one person brushed it off by saying there was no smoke without fire, as if people were incapable of making mistakes.
“This sentiment also reveals ignorance of the long history of state agents using divide and rule tactics against dissidents – from COINTELPRO, to Stasi ops – and the fact that HS has herself been a target for state deception and manipulation”.
Eco-activists protecting the Hambacher Forest near Aachen in Germany have won a little time in their battle to protect the area from open coal mining. After cops started to try and shift protesters, using pepper spray, and clear-cutting began, work was halted again on November 28 by a court pending further deliberations from the regional parliament.
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Legendary US environmental activist Katie Lee has died at the age of 98. She was best known for her fierce opposition to the Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona. She felt it was a crime against nature, humanity and history: “The way I describe it is an aneurism, an aneurism. It’s a stoppage of the blood in the body, and that’s what they’re doing to our rivers with these dams, what we’re doing to our planet, I mean, you cut off all the blood in your body, you die. You cut off all our rivers and we’re gonna be out of here. We can’t survive without them”.
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“The world of undercover policing, informers and corporate spies is by its very nature murky. It is populated by professionals who go to great lengths to hide their activities, and to build cover”, warns a pamphlet on police infiltration from undercoverresearch.net. As evidence of these infiltrators and their activities continues to emerge, dissidents would do well to have a good careful read of Was My Friend A Spycop?…
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The next Anarchist Action Network meeting is being staged on Sunday 10th December, from 1pm to 3pm, at 11 Ferry Rd, Shoreham-By-Sea, West Sussex, BN43 5RA. The AAN is an autonomous network made up of local groups and individuals from the anarchist movement based in the UK. All are welcome, except for cops pretending to be anarchists!
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Scientists have called for an urgent ban on killer robots, with technology now existing to create autonomous weapons that can select and kill human targets without supervision. Campaigner Noel Sharkey, the emeritus professor of AI at Sheffield University and chair of the International Committee on Robot Arms Control, said: “We must succeed because the alternatives are too horrifying.” More info at autonomousweapons.org
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One by one, all those dystopian sci-fi nightmares are coming true. Another one comes (again!) from Facebook, which has rolled out new “proactive detection” artificial intelligence technology which “will scan all posts for patterns of suicidal thoughts, and when necessary send mental health resources to the user at risk or their friends, or contact local first-responders”. It’s all in the interests of your own “safety”, of course, and Facebook spokesman confirmed that “users cannot opt out”. You can opt out of Facebook altogether, though…
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“Madrid’s refusal to compromise, in the view of the Catalan nationalist movement, renders the push towards Catalan independence impossible to avert”, concludes a useful summary of the current situation at euroasiareview.com. We continue to support Catalan autonomy, despite our complete lack of faith in the idea of any kind of state. As we said in Acorn 37: “With its use of the whole gamut of repressive methods, from internet censorship and brutal violence to media distortion of what has been happening, the Spanish state could almost be acting out a dress rehearsal of clamp-downs on disobedient populations elsewhere. If the authorities can get away with it in Barcelona and Catalonia, with their proud revolutionary spirit and sense of community, they might conclude they could get away with it anywhere.”
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“Anarchy is a word we use to describe those moments when force cannot subdue us, and life flourishes as we know it should”. So declares Fighting for Our Lives, an anarchist primer produced by US comrades Crimethinc some 15 years ago and now, happily, available online. So-called anarchists in London and elsewhere may want to ponder its concluding words: “Then, as now, as always, the important question is—which side are you on?”
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Acorn quote: “It does not require more than a simple act of insight to realise that infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibility”.
As anti-statists and internationalists, anarchists often have mixed feelings about movements calling for new nation states, even small ones.
But there are times when an instinctive hatred of centralised authority, and the violence with which it is imposed, completely overwhelms such ideological qualms.
Such is the case with events currently unfolding in Catalonia, where the “unauthorised” referendum staged on October 1 has been met with alarming levels of repression by the central Spanish state.
Before the event hundreds of websites were shut down, officials arrested, printing presses raided, ballot papers confiscated and media threatened.
On the day, people who turned out to vote were physically attacked by Spanish riot cops, leaving 900 injured. Videos circulating on social media showed one cop jumping from a staircase to stamp on a voter beneath, another deliberately breaking someone’s fingers one by one, others brutally bludgeoning people sitting passively in a road. Rubber bullets were fired at unarmed and largely passive crowds.
Anarchists have long known that violence is the foundation of the state and of all authority. Sometimes it remains hidden beneath the surface, but it is always there.
Declaring land “private property” and excluding people from their collective birthright is violent. Making people work for others’ profit, or else face starvation, is violent. The very idea of a police “force” is violent. A legal system which claims the right to chastise and imprison is violent.
The bottom line is that everyone knows that any attempt to defy the power of authority, no matter how peacefully, will be met with violence. Normally this remains unsaid, a kind of social subtext. But there are moments when the reality emerges in all its ugliness.
This is what is happening in Catalonia right now. Authority, with a capital A, is imposing itself against the people. You can put aside all the details of the Catalan situation, it really is as simple as that.
And for those who remain convinced that the European Union in some way represents a force for good, its complete lack of condemnation for the Spanish state should act as a wake-up call.
The EU is just a centralised version of the same violent mafia that have been running all the various nation-states of Europe for hundreds of years. It is not condemning the Spanish state because all the states that it represents reserve the right to behave in exactly the same, violent, way, wherever their authority is challenged.
To his credit, Craig Murray, a radical commentator who was once UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, has admitted on his blog that events in Catalonia had proven him mistaken in his long-time support for the EU.
He writes: “The EU reacted as if no such abuse had ever happened at all, and the world had not seen it. The institution has in fact been overrun by the right wing cronyism of the neo-liberal political class, and no longer serves the principles for which it ostensibly stands. It is become simply an instrument of elite power against the people”.
It has long been a theme of this bulletin that the system in which we live is edging ever closer to fascism, even if the 21st century form which it takes does not superficially look like the versions historically endured by Italy and Germany.
In Spain there is even some fascistic continuity. The ruling right-wing People’s Party began life in 1976 as the People’s Alliance, founded by Manuel Fraga, a former minister under dictator General Franco.
The Francoist spirit lingering in the Spanish riot police, and the nazi-saluting Spanish right-wing nationalists who support their thuggery, is plain to see.
And there are clear echoes of Catalan resistance to the central Francoist state in the grass-roots Catalan independence movement.
While corporate media coverage aims to dilute support for Catalonia by pointing to the fact that the region is wealthy, and there are right-wing as well as left-wing independence parties, the current repression has pushed the Catalan struggle well into left-wing libertarian territory.
In an informative interview with Jacobin Magazine, Lluc Salellas of the Catalan anti-capitalist party Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP) pointed out that the clamp-down on Catalan autonomy has a social as well as a centralist dimension.
Salellas said: “The last fifteen laws we have passed in the Catalan parliament have been banned by the Spanish state. But these are not independentist laws — many of them are social laws: for example, a law about sanctuary for those fleeing persecution, a law banning energy companies from turning off people’s electricity, and a law for a higher minimum wage.
“We want to use our autonomy to improve people’s lives and we are forbidden. People see this and respond. They want to decide the future of Catalonia and that is not possible in the current arrangement.
“The movement has already moved to the Left — the laws I mentioned earlier were a sign of that, they were social measures supported even by the center-right. The streets have an idea of something new in Catalonia, something bottom-up.”
Salellas was speaking on October 3, the day of a general strike called in response to Spanish central repression. It was a strike in which anarchist unions took a leading role.
He commented: “Today we have seen the biggest general strike in the history of Catalonia. It was supported by the Catalan trade union movement, all of the pro-independence parties, and other left groups such as Podemos’s regional affiliate and Barcelona en Comú.
“There was a very widespread stoppage: almost everything closed from small shops to public institutions and transport. In total, more than fifty roads were blocked, which has significantly disrupted the transport of goods. It wasn’t just in Barcelona, either. In Girona, one of the regional capitals, there was a demonstration of 50,000. The city’s population is only 100,000, so it will be the biggest protest in the city’s history.”
And he placed the repression used by the Spanish state in a wider context. He said the Catalans’ battle was an important moment for Europe. “If we don’t win it, the idea that governments can meet democratic expressions with violence will spread. This weekend it was Catalonia, but it won’t end here. We could see it normalized across Europe.”
This is an important point. With its use of the whole gamut of repressive methods, from internet censorship and brutal violence to media distortion of what has been happening, the Spanish state could almost be acting out a dress rehearsal of clamp-downs on disobedient populations elsewhere.
If the authorities can get away with it in Barcelona and Catalonia, with their proud revolutionary spirit and sense of community, they might conclude they could get away with it anywhere.
In this context, the days and weeks ahead in Catalonia may well prove decisive for all of us. Solidarity is badly needed, rather than ideological hand-wringing about the dangers of expressing solidarity even with left-wing forms of nationalism (when was that ever a problem regarding Kurdistan, for instance?).
The massive crowds on the streets of Barcelona, Girona and elsewhere, along with the brutal and panicky state reaction, are increasingly conjuring up memories of the Arab Spring of 2011.
Who knows where this will lead? The Spanish state, via its courts, has already suspended the session of the Catalan Parliament at which it was expected to declare independence in the wake of the”yes” vote.
Salellas suggests: “The Spanish state will probably try to use Article 155 of the constitution to definitively end our autonomy. They may also arrest the Catalan president, as well as other political figures.
“If this happens, the streets will rise up and we will have a major confrontation. The independence movement has a lot of people — I estimate up to a million — ready to be very active in this campaign over a long period of time. It won’t be easy for the Spanish state to repress a movement of that size.”
Less than six months after Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France, the streets are filling up with people opposing his so-called labour “reforms”, which are blatantly aimed at removing workers’ rights in the interests of business profits.
When the campaign against his “Loi Travail XXL” got underway on September 12, half a million people protested in 200 towns and cities.
The French police continued to use the heavy-handed approach that was deployed against the 2016 revolt against the original Loi Travail.
In Lyons, for instance, part of the demo was kettled right at the start and it was only because the rest of the protesters refused to move on, and stayed put for two hours, that they were eventually released.
An interesting twist was the involvement of France’s travelling funfair community, who used their lorries to block motorways in solidarity with the strikes and protests.
The next big date is Tuesday October 10, when a general strike is planned.
France seems in some ways to be at the point the UK had reached in 1984, when Europe’s first neoliberal state, under Thatcher, deliberately took on and defeated the miners in order to break the resistance of the trade union movement.
As in the UK in those days , the neoliberals are making a calculated bet on the physical supremacy of their power.
They are happy to use the full legal force of their system to crush dissent, the full physical force of their police and military to attack dissidents, the full psychological force of their tame media to conceal what is happening, to spread lies and disinformation, to smear their opponents.
If we are audacious enough to deploy all of this against our enemies, the authorities seem to be saying to themselves, what can anybody actually do about it? How do our opponents even imagine they could stop us, unless it is by bringing the whole system crashing down?
The very same thought is at the same time, of course, also occurring to the dissidents…
We had some positive feedback from comrades regarding our article in Acorn 36 about the failings of a so-called anti-capitalist movement which thinks it is “on the knife’s edge” of acceptability to actually oppose capitalism and all its assumptions.
So we thought we would clarify our position with a full bullet points pointing to the sort of movement we would like to be part of. Regular readers will spot that there is nothing new here! These are the arguments we have been making again and again in this bulletin, in the daily quotes we tweet out and in the books we publish.
We need to declare all-out war on the system we conveniently label “capitalism”. This must take place on a practical level, on a political level and on a philosophical level.
Crucially, we need to challenge the very foundations of that power. We need to entirely reject all the layers of fake justification for the “authority” that underlies the state and its legal system.
We need to reject all claims for “ownership” of land and insist that the land belongs to all (including non-humans) and has been stolen from us.
We must take care not to accept the “morality” of the system – not to confuse legal and illegal with right or wrong, not to fall into the trap of playing by its own self-serving rules.
We need to expose all the “legitimate” force with which the system imposes its “authority”, “law” and “property” as nothing but brute violence, dressed up in wigs, uniforms and fancy language.
We have got to rid ourselves of the ultraliberalism which has been infecting the anarchist movement. Its reformist individualism and fetishization of “non-violence” and “safety” has nothing to do with our struggle. Our aim is not to make the current system nicer, but to do away with it.
We have to be clear that industrial society has been created by capitalism and is inseparable from capitalism. To protect the world from total environmental disaster, we have to destroy capitalism, along with all its assumptions and infrastructures.
We are heretics and as such we will reject all dogmas, religious or political, which preach obedience or submission to power.
We must reject patriarchy and its domination of our cultures. We must understand its links to militarism and industrialism, its fetishization of quantity, size, speed and violence.
We need to nurture a dynamic and determined revolutionary spirit. The self-important sterility and cynicism of Academia undermines our struggles.
We must remain inspired by a positive vision of the anarchist society that we know is possible. Nihilism and defeatism motivate nobody.
We need to strongly oppose imperialism in all its forms. We must not be put off by spurious claims that anti-imperialism necessarily equals disguised nationalism. Self-determination and decentralisation are part of our internationalist struggle, from Kurdistan and Palestine to West Papua and Catalonia.
We must not be afraid of naming the USA as the primary bulwark of the system we oppose or of identifying its key allies, such as the UK, Germany, France or Israel. We should not be swayed by sly ideological memes suggesting that opposition to US imperialism implies support for other regimes or that criticism of the Israeli state amounts to antisemitism.
We should actively expose the machinations of the military-industrial complex and not be frightened away from doing so by “conspiracy theorist” smears designed to deter investigative criticism. At the same time we should (obviously) avoid falling into a reductionist conspiracy mindset or spreading toxic right-wing analyses
The contemporary “left” is giving free rein to fascist ideologists by shying away from a deep rejection of industrial capitalism and its world.
That is the warning in a thoughtful two-part article by Rhyd Wildermuth on the Gods & Radicals website.
He describes “a deep and intentional blindness particularly within American anti-fascist and ‘leftist’ thought, the product both of a marriage to Liberal Democratic hegemony and an almost ecstatic abdication of revolutionary territory”.
Looking back to the big anti-capitalist/anti-globalisation movement of the 1990s, he notes that the politics that lay behind it have all but disappeared from the US and UK radical left’s thinking, leaving nationalists and fascists able to pose as the main opponents of the global capitalist system.
Wildermuth writes: “Partially due to the all-too conveniently-timed ‘war on terror’ and systematic counter-revolutionary actions, the mass mobilizations of the anti-globalisation movement are long-gone, and few of the critiques remain in the political platforms of any leftist or liberal movement in the United States or the United Kingdom.
“However, the damage done did not simply disappear when there was no movement to fight it, and much of the current political turmoil in which we find ourselves now is a consequence both of globalisation and the left’s abandonment of that fight.”
Condemning the reformism of the so-called Left, he says: “Mass movements such as Black Lives Matter, Occupy, and the mobilizations against Trump and white supremacy expend extraordinary effort to avoid direct criticism of Liberal Democracy, contorting themselves into almost absurd positions.”
He adds: “The Left mistakes anti-modernism as fascist only because it has drunk the bloody offerings at Capitalism’s altars of progress”.
When we think about fascism, our main reference point tends to be the regimes which took control of Italy and Germany in the first half of the 20th century.
But it is now 95 years since Benito Mussolini came to power and the sort of fascism we encounter today is an updated version.
Contemporary fascists, for instance, seem to have dropped the shallow pretence of being “socialists” or “workers” which helped Adolf Hitler’s Nazis win mass support in the 1930s.
Antisemitism no longer seems to be a necessary ingredient in the toxic fascist recipe, either, with hatred of Muslims often replacing (or at least eclipsing) hatred of Jews.
Some extreme-right wing groups are also positively pro-Israel and there is growing evidence of a previously unthinkable connection between fascists and right-wing Zionists.
Writing about his country’s “flirtation with Europe’s extreme right”, Israeli journalist Meron Rapoport identifies anti-Muslim sentiment as the key factor.
Israel has long been concerned about European sympathy for the Palestinian struggle and support for the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which aims to hit the Israeli economy.
In this context, any increase in anti-Muslim feeling in Europe “is seen as good sign in Israel” explains Rapoport.
He adds: “If Europe would just see the importance of the ‘Muslim danger’, goes this line of thinking, then it would also understand – and be grateful for – Israel’s pivotal role in the war against ‘radical Islam’. Through this common enemy, Israel could be relieved from its isolation.”
In the UK, the English Defence League was notorious for its support for Israel and its brandishing of Israeli flags on protests.
It appears that there is a similar phenomenon within Alternative for Germany (AfD), the 21st century face of the German far right. We are seeing, as Ali Abunimah points out, “a newly invigorated alliance between far-right, traditionally anti-Semitic forces on the one hand, and Israel and Zionists on the other”.
The Times of Israelconfirms that “like many far-right parties in Europe and elsewhere, the AfD presents itself as staunchly supportive of Israel”.
It says that according to a wide-ranging poll commissioned by a group promoting German-Israeli relations, most AfD politicians profess to care deeply about Israel’s security, support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, reject unilaterally recognizing a Palestinian state, and generally support a stronger relationship between Jerusalem and Berlin.
Over half of the AfD respondents said they “totally” agreed with the statement that support for BDS was antisemitic; no other major party had such a strong opposition to BDS.
Beatrix von Storch, deputy leader of Alternative for Germany (AfD) even gave an interview with The Jerusalem Post in which she made a telling connection between her party’s views on Muslims and the Israeli state’s stance regarding Palestinians.
She said: “Israel could be a role model for Germany. Israel is a democracy that has a free and pluralistic society. Israel also makes efforts to preserve its unique culture and traditions.”
Indeed, an article in The Intercept by Lee Fang reveals that the AfD’s electoral success was fuelled by “news” stories from right-wing US pro-Israel organisation the Gatestone Institute.
We wrote about the Gatestone Institute in Acorn 20 when we pointed out that Baroness Cox, notorious for stoking resentment against Muslims, was on its board.
We added that she was also co-president of an organisation called Jerusalem Summit, which says on its website that the idea of a Palestinian state must be “removed from the international agenda”.
Significantly, it states that “the de-legitimization of the Palestinian narrative becomes a vital prerequisite to any comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian issue”.
Are Cox, the AdF and others playing their part in this scheme by demonising Muslims in Europe so that Europeans identify with Israelis against their Palestinian “Muslim threat”?
Israel’s apparent desire to stoke up anti-Muslim feeling inevitably puts it at loggerheads with the European left, which is fiercely opposed to racism, supportive of immigrants and, often, critical of Israeli treatment of Palestinians.
Right-wing Spanish politician Juan Carlos Girauta understood this when he wrote a recent article for TheJerusalem Post urging Israelis to oppose the Catalan independence struggle and support the fascistic repression carried out by the Spanish state (see above).
He admitted that traditionally Catalonia has always been seen as friendly territory for Jewish people. “It is well-known that historically moderate Catalanism was sympathetic to Israel and generally pro-Jewish. A lot of Catalonian Jews voted and supported those regionalist parties.
“However, the political landscape abruptly changed, and the public face of the pro-Israel movement in Catalonia is radical nationalists who use the Israel cause as a vehicle and excuse to promote their own local interests, even at the expense of Israel’s.
“Furthermore, as moderates lost prominence, the independence movement is led by violent radicals who are as anti-Israel as they are anti-Spanish. They are members of BDS-supporting parties like those that have approved boycotts against Israel in many of Catalonia’s cities or invited infamous terrorist Leila Khaled to speak at a Barcelona City Council-sponsored event.
“An independent Catalonia would be in the hands of extreme anti-Israel groups. In contrast, the constitutionalist camp is solidly pro-Israel.”
Like 21st century fascism as a whole, it would seem.
The use of physical violence to impose elite business interests is very evident in England at the moment in the attempt to force fracking on an increasingly hostile population. While Scotland moved to ban fracking, opponents south of the border in Kirby Misperton and Preston New Road have endured constant police assaults and intimidation. The “law” always forms a key part of the system’s violence and, in a worrying development, INEOS, a manufacturer of chemicals involved in fracking, has been granted an injunction seriously limiting protest against its activities. Campaigners have launched a crowdfunder to pay for a legal challenge, targeting £15,000 by October 11. At the time of writing it had reached £7,300.
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Yet another wake-up call for all those who think that industrial capitalism is not really a problem… A new study has discovered that plastic fibres are present in tap water around the world. “Tests show billions of people globally are drinking water contaminated by plastic particles, with 83% of samples found to be polluted”. Still, never mind. Carry on regardless, eh? Business as usual.
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“The modern consumer culture was born – not as a response to innate human greed or customer demand, but to the needs of industrial capital.” So writes Steven Gorelick in an excellent article on the Local Futures website. He concludes: “The global consumer culture is not only the engine of climate change, species die-off, ocean dead zones, and many other assaults on the biosphere, it ultimately fails to meet real human needs. It’s time to envision – and take steps to create – an economy that doesn’t destroy people and the planet just to satisfy the growth imperatives of global capital.”
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Campaigners taking on the coal industry in Australia, in the shape of the Adani group, are holding a big day of symbolic action on Saturday October 7. They say: “If we want to move beyond coal, we’re going to have to spell out #StopAdani to our politicians. That’s why we’re asking you to join forces in creating human signs so big that they can’t be ignored, at iconic locations across Australia!”
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When we reported in Acorn 36 about an American firm that was implanting its workers with microchips, some readers may have felt that this vastly repulsive idea would never take off. But one obliging corporate journalist was quick to jump on to the microchip bandwagon. Writing in The Guardian, Olivia Solon described having an implant and enthused about all the marvellous advantages it offers. The only possible opposition to the Brave New World of Microchipped Humanity, it seems, might come from “some fundamentalist Christians”.
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The full programme for the London Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday October 28 (see report in Acorn 36) has now been published and so we can update readers about our two Winter Oak workshops. Ed Lord will be talking about his book Modern Madness from 12 noon to 1pm in room LG5 and Paul Cudenec will be presenting his book The Green One from 3pm to 4pm in Room F7. We will also have a stall. The event runs at Park View School. West Green Road, London, N15 3QR, from 10am to 7pm.
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Acorn quote: “Socialists cannot avoid the struggle against land ownership. The struggle for socialism is a struggle for the land; the social question is an agrarian question. Now it can be seen what an enormous mistake the Marxists’ theory of the proletariat is. If the revolution came today, no stratum of the population would have less idea of what to do than our industrial proletarians”.