A new website has been launched which challenges “to the core” the thinking of the industrial capitalist system.
It presents the ideological alternative of an “organic radicalism” which it sources from a wide range of thinkers, past and present.
This philosophy, it says, is based on the idea of a living community, a social organism consisting of “horizontal relationships and exchanges between free human beings, rather than on sterile hierarchy”.
The site explains that it rejects the industrial capitalist view of nature as something to be exploited, commercialised, dominated or relegated to second place behind an imagined human priority.
“For us, humankind’s interests cannot be separated from the wider interests of the natural world, because we are nothing other than an extension of that world.
“We reject notions of economic growth or technological advance as any kind of worthwhile basis for society and propose instead a world founded on the healthy values of respect for nature and other creatures; simple but joyful living; an appreciation of inner and outer beauty; a sense of communal responsibility and belonging”.
In its Q&A section it defines the “orgrad” position as an evolution of anarchism.
But it adds: “From our perspective, contemporary anarchism does not go far enough in its opposition to industrial capitalism.
“In the same way as other leftists can become stuck within the broader capitalist mindset, merely seeking greater equality, individual freedom or self-management within the context of capitalism and the state, so do too many anarchists base their vision of the future on the industrial society created by and for capitalism.
“Orgrad also proposes a holistic world-view, based on organic belonging to community, species and nature, which is considered unacceptable by many contemporary anarchists, due to the influence of modern ideologies appropriate to capitalism.
“To be clear, orgrad has no interest at all in the dead-end narcissism of ultra-liberal identity politics”.
The site stresses that organic radicalism is firmly anti-fascist, defining it as “a left-wing, internationalist, humanist, universalist, anti-racist, anti-state, anti-imperialist, anti-militarist, anti-authoritarian ideology”.
Does opposing US imperialism and wars mean you’re not really an anarchist?
The answer is obviously “no”, but you wouldn’t think so if you took seriously a most peculiar attack which has been made against us, following on from recent articles on our site.
We weren’t initially even sure if the blog post from “cautiously pessimistic” was worth responding to, as it basically just regurgitates the same memes we were highlighting in the first place.
For instance, one of the main points in our pieces (here and here) is the way in which anyone critical of the neoliberal system and its imperial wars is being automatically accused of supporting states regarded as enemies of the USA.
It is not possible, according to this mindset, that someone could have moral objections to bombing civilians, shooting unarmed protesters or destroying the environment with fracking – anyone voicing such opinions must obviously be working for Putin or Assad.
So how did “cautiously pessimistic” choose to cleverly counter our comments on this phenomenon? By accusing us of “unswerving loyalty to the Russian and Syrian governments”!
Another important theme of our articles was the way that neoliberal imperialists like to hide behind an apparently left-wing, anti-fascist identity in order to attack actual leftists, anti-fascists and anarchists.
We have no idea who the author of the blog piece is, but in choosing the heading “In defence of anarchism and antifascism”, they clearly also want to be seen to be launching their attack from the radical high ground.
If we feel obliged to respond to the article, it is because of the deceit contained in that headline. Obviously neither anarchism nor anti-fascism need to be “defended” from our articles, because we are both anarchist and anti-fascist. What we object to is people who misuse these labels to camouflage pro-war neoliberal views.
Throughout the article, the author goes out of their way to suggest that being an anarchist is somehow incompatible with opposing imperialism.
The argument is a familiar one, but no less stupid for that. If you oppose empires, it goes, you must support nation-states. Therefore you are a statist and not really an anarchist at all.
It is purely on the basis of this rickety reasoning that the author allows themself to claim that we have abandoned anti-statism, discarded “basic anarchist principles” and seem “willing to ditch everything that makes anarchism distinctive, meaningful or coherent”.
Nothing could be further from the truth, as can be seen by reading our material. In our article What is real anarchism, for instance, we very clearly explain that the state is not only unnecessary but “is actually stopping us from living how we should be living. The state is a positive menace to human well-being.”
But the blog author is not going to let actual written evidence get in the way of their smear. Getting rather carried away with their own rhetoric, they melodramatically conclude: “Apparently Winter Oak think it’s necessary to destroy anarchism in order to save it.”
Destroying anarchism by criticising neoliberals and their war propaganda?
A lot of the article makes no sense at all. It seems to be aimed at people who are not actually going to read the whole thing, but will just skim through and come away with the vague impression that it has identified some sort of inner contradiction in our analysis.
The author fails to recognise the difference between mentioning somebody – simply commenting on the unfair way in which they have been attacked – and actually being a political supporter or associate of that person.
For instance, in another cunning bid to somehow prove that we are not actual anarchists at all, the author seizes on the fact that we mention Jeremy Corbyn in the articles.
Now, anyone who has actually read the contents of our website will know that we regard Corbyn, and the Labour Party, as reformists who will do nothing to challenge the existence of the industrial capitalist system.
What astonishes us, and what we try to highlight, is that even their mild form of social democracy is now considered beyond the pale by the neoliberal establishment and their mouthpieces.
There has clearly been a concerted campaign to discredit and destroy Corbyn and his supporters by pro-US, Blairite neoliberals, some of whom pretend they are attacking him from the left, when they are really doing so from the right.
Pointing this out does not mean that we always leap to an “automatic defence of Jeremy Corbyn”, or that criticising Corbyn is “off-limits” for us. How could that be? We are anarchists, not Labour Party people.
In general, the article seems to deliberately mix up what we have said with what other people have said. Readers not paying attention could end up imagining that we were somehow involved in the internal Labour Party controversies, for instance, or that we had expressed some kind of support for Assad or Putin.
The author also conveniently fudges important parts of our exposé of the fake left’s attacks on anti-capitalism.
For instance, the key thing about Alexander Reid Ross’s article on Syria in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz is that he criticises what he describes as “Labour’s tepid response to the Douma attacks and Corbyn’s rejection of any humanitarian grounds for military action”.
This is simply not an opinion that has any place on the left to which Ross claims to belong. He is not attacking Corbyn from an anarchist or anti-capitalist position, by accusing him of being statist, reformist or a sell-out. Ross is attacking him from a right-wing pro-war position, complaining that Corbyn is not going along with the “bomb Syria” policies promoted by the UK Conservative Party and the US government.
The blog author can’t actually bring himself to support Ross over this, so instead he veers off in a strange direction, declaring: “I don’t believe Ross being wrong on this issue discredits all of anti-fascism.”
Eh? Well, no of course it doesn’t! How could it? Who said it did? Not us, that’s for sure. We are ourselves part of “all of anti-fascism”. Why does he think that criticising Alexander Reid Ross is an attempt to discredit anti-fascism?
What really discredits anti-fascism, in our opinion, is to use it as a device to protect pro-war voices from criticism by the anti-capitalist left.
The blog author also plays down the significance of Caroline O, aka @RVAwonk, (whom Ross quotes in his article and describes as a “public scholar”), commenting merely that she “apparently has some dodgy neoliberal/establishment connections”.
It’s a bit more than that. On her Twitter account she identifies herself as Writer/Editor @Shareblue Media: “We tell real-world stories to give voice to the heroes fighting for American values”.
She is a great supporter of Hamilton 68, the surveillance project which claims to “track Russian propaganda” but in fact amounts to a McCarthyite system of blacklisting people whose views don’t please the neoliberal establishment.
As she tweeted on September 1, 2017: “Hamilton 68 is a great project. I’m hoping to see it expanded even more. I can see a lot of potential for it [to] grow.”
The significance, of course, is that Hamilton 68 is a propaganda project being run by the US state. Its aim is to counter criticism of US foreign policy by claiming that it all originates from enemy states, such as Russia or Syria, and thus is “fake news” which should be kicked off the internet.
Drawing attention to this US propaganda project does not amount to “unswerving loyalty to the Russian and Syrian governments”, even if Hamilton 68 and “cautiously pessimistic” would like you to think so.
There are other very odd accusations scattered across the blog post, such as the suggestion that by not writing about a particular court case in the USA we were “implicitly siding with Fox News, Max Blumenthal and his lawyers, and so with the whole weight of the state apparatus”.
“Implicitly” siding with the “whole weight of the state apparatus” by not writing about an American court case that we hadn’t even heard of? Guilt by omission and association at one and the same time? This really is desperate stuff!
The war-hungry capitalist propaganda machine has been in overdrive in recent weeks.
It has, of course, been relentlessly amplifying the views and narratives of the status quo and giving no platform for dissident opinion – that’s what it’s there for!
But in these days of social media and independent online journalism, that is no longer enough to ensure that its message is swallowed by the public and the system has also been churning out endless bile vilifying its opponents.
It has been doing this not only through its mainstream media but, as we will see, by means of commentators who superficially appear to be on the left.
Neoliberal reaction to the Skripal aftermath, in which people actually dared to question the official narrative, was furious, with former ambassador turned blogger Craig Murray attracting particularly vitriolic abuse.
The same thing happened all over again after the alleged chemical attack by the Syrian government in Douma.
A particularly nasty article which appeared on the BBC’s website on April 19 2018 had the clear aim of rubbishing opponents of a US/UK/French war against Syria, depicting them as “conspiracy theorists”.
It said: “The group includes activists and people who call themselves ‘independent journalists’, and several have Twitter followings reaching into the tens or hundreds of thousands. The activists call themselves ‘anti-war’, but as they generally back the Syrian government’s military operations against rebel forces seeking to overthrow Mr Assad and Russian air strikes carried out in support, it might be more accurate to describe them as ‘anti-Western intervention’ or ‘pro-Syrian government’.”
The BBC’s conclusion is clear. There is no such thing as an independent journalist or a genuine anti-war activist, only shady agents of sinister foreign forces. Challenging UK/US foreign policy means you are probably in the pay of The Enemy. Questioning official propaganda regarding Russia or Syria makes you an apologist for Putin or Assad and your opinions can therefore be disregarded.
This isn’t a subtle approach to winning an argument. It’s just an attempt to completely close down any possibility of dissent: “Our side are good. The other side are bad. If you criticise us, then you too are bad so nobody should listen to you.”
A similar approach has been taken in the fabricated controversy over alleged antisemitism within the UK Labour Party.
Because antisemitism is a sensitive issue, it has proved particularly easy here to disallow any challenge to the smears.
A denial that there is a particular problem with antisemitism in the Labour Party is regarded in itself to be evidence of antisemitism, or at the very least of a wilful desire to conceal the existence of antisemitism.
This little trap, worthy of the Inquisition, tells us nothing about the reality of the alleged antisemitism, because it would work just as well with any allegation against any group.
And, at the end of the day, the issue at stake is not actually antisemitism.
In an excellent article in Jacobin magazine, Daniel Finn, deputy editor of the New Left Review, pulls apart the agenda behind the smears.
He concludes: “Insinuations of antisemitism can be used, not merely to defame critics of Israel, but to discredit any radical critique of capitalism or imperialism in the modern world”.
This is the key point. The aim behind these smear attacks is not to oppose antisemitism as such – in fact, by crying wolf at the wrong targets, the accusers distract attention from real antisemitism and other forms of racism.
Instead their purpose is to attack the left using the “antisemitism” angle as the perfect weapon, because of the way that it is so difficult to refute without digging a deeper hole.
In the past, during the 20th century Cold War, the capitalist system would attack opponents by calling them Communist sympathisers, lackeys of the evil USSR.
The collapse of the Soviet bogeyman meant it had to modify its tactics. Instead of denouncing its anti-capitalist critics as being on the extreme left, which no longer seemed so scary, it sometimes found that allegations of far-right contamination were more effective.
When these allegations came from sources which appeared to be “left-wing”, the ideological smears could be effective in manipulating thinking within the left.
Ideally, the left would be remodelled along lines acceptable to the capitalist system. It would be allowed to espouse certain liberal social causes, demand a certain amount of reforms and so on, but would be steered away from challenging neoliberal imperialism or the fundamental assumptions of the global capitalist system.
The end result of this approach was very apparent in Germany, with the emergence of the Antideutsch movement which, in the name of this new authorised “leftism”, applauds US and Israeli imperialism.
In the UK, an important role was played by Norman Geras, a “left-wing” academic who supported the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq and in 2006 published his Euston Manifesto.
Under the guise of “a renewal of progressive politics”, this sought to push the UK left away from the opposition of the US and its neoliberal wars that had been so apparent.
It declared: “We reject without qualification the anti-Americanism now infecting so much left-liberal (and some conservative) thinking. The United States of America is a great country and nation. It is the home of a strong democracy with a noble tradition behind it and lasting constitutional and social achievements to its name.”
Nafeez Ahmed, in a 2015 article, explored the links between Geras and James Bloodworth of Little Atoms, a notorious defender of US neoliberalism who frequently lays into its critics from an apparently left-wing position.
Little Atoms is itself owned by an “impact agency” called 89up which, as we pointed out in Acorn 41, has been playing a key role in whipping up anti-Russian sentiment in the UK. Its boss Michael Harris has been a vociferous supporter of the bombing of Syria.
In France a site called confusionnisme.info, which is still online but hasn’t been updated since 2016, specialised in accusing various left-wingers and environmentalists of being tainted with fascism, of being “red-browns”.
Its leading light, one Ornella Guyet, even managed to get in very early on the antisemitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn, sticking the boot in via an article published in October 2015 just after he was elected Labour Party leader.
She says she is a “libertarian communist”, but in a piece exposing her activities, the left-wing website Le Grand Soir concluded that she was “an opportunist in thrall to the neocolonial and ultra-liberal system”.
It added: “Ornella Guyet claims to be ‘left-wing’, but her work proves the opposite.” It said she uses the cover of anti-fascism to attack genuine opponents of the capitalist system. “In this sense she is the perfect example of the Fake Antifa, a guard dog of power”.
This is all just the tip of the iceberg, of course. In truth, there is an enormous and well-funded international network of pundits, think-tanks and websites feverishly defending the interests of global capitalism and the USA.
Part of their modus operandi is to contaminate genuine anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism with an unsavoury odour of antisemitism or a “red-brown” form of fascism.
This tends to work, because no anti-fascist wants to be thought by his comrades to be somehow tainted by fascism.
The effect of all this propaganda, often spread no doubt by genuine activists who are not aware of its dubious origins, is to shift the parameters of left-wing anti-capitalist thinking, to gradually exclude views and ideological insights which were previously considered perfectly acceptable and even mainstream in anarchist and anti-capitalist circles.
We, here at Winter Oak, came across this phenomenon after we published the essay Envisioning a Post-Western World by Rob los Ricos and Paul Cudenec in July 2017.
It attracted some positive comments and was later reposted by some American comrades at Antidote Zine, although with what was, to us, a rather puzzling disclaimer.
Antidote wrote: “In light of recentdiscussions among antifascists (including here within the Antidote Writers Collective) about an esoteric but significant kind of red-brown convergence—the potential for fascist counter-recruiting on the more nihilistic, misanthropic fringes of deep green, Euro-pagan, and Malthusian eco-anarchist groups—we recognize that some of the arguments put forward in the article that follows are right on the knife’s edge.”
Anyone who reads the essay will see no sign of nihilism, misanthropism or Malthusianism, nor of any paganism that is specifically European. What was this “knife’s edge” stuff all about?
It turned out that the “recent discussions among anti-fascists” centred around the work of Alexander Reid Ross, who teaches geography in Portland, USA and who got his MA in 2014 from the prestigious private Swiss university, the European Graduate School.
Ross is author of Against the Fascist Creep (2017), a book which purports to show “how infiltration is a conscious and clandestine program for neofascist groups that seek to co-opt and undermine both mainstream and left-wing institutions”.
Here he claims that there is a “crossover” between fascism and revolutionary causes, conflates opposition to NATO with post-war fascism and claims that Earth First! has at some times in its history bolstered white supremacism through its appeals to Nordic paganism.
Not everyone was impressed. One online reviewer complained that the work “was absolutely ruined by a nearly complete lack of citations to back up the claims that were being made. As a result I had to do outside research to learn about the things that were being discussed, and when I did I discovered that many of the claims being made were exaggerations, manipulations, or outright lies”.
This is entitled “How Assad’s War Crimes Bring Far Left and Right Together – Under Putin’s Benevolent Gaze”. The sub-heading declares: “The ‘anti-imperialist’ left is now shilling for tyrants in Damascus and Moscow. And conspiracy theories are the toxic glue binding them to their fellow Assad and Putin apologists on the alt-right”.
A clue to Ross’s stance comes from the fact that the term “anti-imperialist” has been placed in scare quotes, as if this political position didn’t actually exist!
He writes: “In recent months, the crossover between leftists and the far-right in defense of Syria’s tyrant and Russian geopolitics has become increasingly obvious. Its implications are potentially disastrous for the course of the international left and political society in general.”
This is nonsense of course. The fact that some far-rightists oppose war on Syria does not invalidate left-wing opposition to the attacks, any more than the fact that some far-rightists support Palestinian rights and criticise Israel means that leftists should stop criticising Israel and should instead applaud the IDF when they murder unarmed protesters.
Ross is reading from exactly the same ideological script as the likes of Norman Geras, Ornella Guyet, James Bloodworth, Antideutsch and the smear-piece on the BBC site.
He is trying to use the bludgeon of an alleged ideological association with the far right as a way of silencing voices on the left who challenge the US imperialist narrative.
Ross really lets the cat out of the bag with his comments on the UK’s Labour Party, where he notes that “its leader Jeremy Corbyn’s controversial comments on the Skripal case brought widespread condemnations” and remarks on “Labour’s tepid response to the Douma attacks and Corbyn’s rejection of any humanitarian grounds for military action”.
Hang on! Let’s just read that again! Self-proclaimed anti-fascist Alexander Reid Ross is complaining about “Labour’s tepid response” to the alleged gas attack in Douma and its “rejection of any humanitarian grounds for military action”?
Doesn’t that sound more like the opinion of a right-wing neoliberal war hawk?
Ross’s article certainly raised the suspicions of Robbie Martin, aka @FluorescentGrey, on Twitter.
He pointed out that Ross uses a quote from Caroline O, aka @RVAwonk whom Ross describes as a “public scholar”.
On her Twitter account she identifies herself as Writer/Editor @Shareblue Media: “We tell real-world stories to give voice to the heroes fighting for American values”.
Caroline O is a great supporter of Hamilton 68, the surveillance project which claims to “track Russian propaganda” but in fact amounts to a McCarthyite system of blacklisting people whose views don’t please the neoliberal establishment.
As she tweeted on September 1, 2017: “Hamilton 68 is a great project. I’m hoping to see it expanded even more. I can see a lot of potential for it [to] grow.”
Hamilton 68 is a great project. I'm hoping to see it expanded even more. I can see a lot of potential for it grow.
The Hamilton 68 dashboard was launched as part of the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ADS), which is described in its Wikipedia entry as a “transatlantic national security advocacy group”.
The ASD is “chaired and run primarily by former senior United States intelligence and State Department officials” and the Washington Post called the membership of the advisory council “a who’s who of former senior national security officials”.
It is part of the German Marshall Fund of the United States which, as we explained in Acorn 39, aims to maintain “transatlantic values” in Europe.
Robbie Martin suggests that “Caroline O.’s main mission was to inject Alliance for Securing Democracy / Hamilton 68 into the neoliberal/resistance dialog, from people on that side of the argument she promoted it/pushed it more than anyone else I saw”.
He expresses surprise that Alexander Reid Ross would be “so nakedly working with the same people promoting Hamilton 68 / Alliance for Securing Democracy”.
With hindsight, it’s clear that the aim behind Alexander Reid Ross’s book Against the Fascist Creep was not to counter actual fascism, nor even to warn the left of the dangers of fascist infiltration, but to attack and undermine anti-capitalism by claiming its beliefs are tainted with fascist associations.
The real problem faced by anarchists and anti-capitalists is Neoliberal Creep – or, in fact, a whole network of neoliberal creeps, hell-bent on ideological sabotage.
So what can we do all about this? How can we resist these attempts to cripple the cohesion, credibility and effectiveness of genuine anti-capitalism, anarchism and anti-imperialism?
The first thing to do is to talk about it, as we are doing here. We need to take a good look at where these fake left voices are coming from, understand why they spread certain memes and sow confusion around certain issues.
There is the possibility, in fact, that in breaking cover and making their propaganda so obvious, they have already hammered a nail into the coffin of their own political effectiveness. We can hammer in another few nails by spreading awareness of what they are up to.
We also need to talk about what it is we really believe in, what we are hoping for, how we define ourselves in relation to Western capitalist modernity and the global neoliberal military-industrial-prison complex.
We need to talk honestly and seriously, ignoring the ideological smears, shaking ourselves free from the fearful group-think that stifles free thought and discussion in the name of a phoney “consensus”. This received opinion has often in fact been injected into movements by elements out to manipulate and destroy it.
Yes, of course we need to remain constantly alert to the possibility that we may inadvertently find ourselves voicing the same views on specific issues as people whose general politics we do not appreciate and that they might be deliberately attempting to use us to advance their own unsavoury messages.
To combat this, we need to state clearly where we stand. We at Winter Oak, for example, place ourselves firmly and proudly in the anti-fascist tradition. We are committed to its values of internationalism, equality, solidarity, mutual aid, anti-militarism, anti-sexism and anti-racism and we will never work with anyone who does not at least share these basic values.
If we all adhere to similar principles, we have no reason to fear the toxic smears coming from the likes of Ross.
Meanwhile, those liberals in our midst who agree with the Washington-approved definition of “democracy”, with the profit-guided “progressive values” of capitalism, with its insane obsession with endless economic “growth” and with its deceitful “humanitarian” warmongering imperialism, may well decide to stop associating with a revolutionary global struggle for liberation which opposes all of these.
So be it.
Do we really want to have anything to do with them, anyway?
1. From Rhineland to Paris, a new spirit of defiance
A new spirit of defiant energy has energised the radical environmental and anti-capitalist movement in Europe over the summer.
Signs of this resurgence have been evident for some months (see Acorn 7 ), but a notable catalyst has been the dramatic mass action against lignite mining in Germany’s Rhineland on August 15.
Videos like this, alongside first-hand accounts, have enthused activists and injected a new sense of purpose that goes beyond the specific climate cause to a broader and deeper anti-capitalism and anti-industrialism.
As one participant at the successful, if damp, Earth First! summer gathering told The Acorn: “People have been so inspired by what happened in Germany, even if they didn’t succeed in everything they tried to do. It’s all changed now – you can feel that a surge towards a radical, direct-action approach in all sorts of areas.”
The Ende Gelände (“Here and No Further”) mass action saw people push through police lines and storm a huge lignite mining site at in Garzweiler, west of Cologne, closing it for the day.
Said a live report from the action: “Today has been a greater success than anyone could have imagined. 1500 people taking part in the action is more than anyone was expecting. 1000 of those people were able to enter the mine and shut down two diggers for the day. Each digger is capable of tearing 240,000 tons of coal from the ground every day so the significance of this should not be underestimated”.
The Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination (Labofii) blog site says: “In that brief day everything changed for the European climate justice movement. Thousands experienced a collective power rarely felt within the competitive obedient individualism of capitalism”.
Eyes are now turning to the COP 21 climate conference in Paris in December, where protests are set to be much more lively than previously thought possible.
An alliance of hundreds of NGOs and grassroots groups from around the world have called for a day of action on December the 12th, named D12, to be held at the end of the summit (officially the talks end on Friday 11th but historically, they have never finished on time and have always stretched into the next day).
Adds the Labofii blog: “Thousands are estimated to come to Paris to take part and if we play things right it could well be the next biggest act of disobedience for climate justice.
“The problem is that there aren’t any big excavators, pipe lines or power stations to block in Paris, so what kind of tactics would be relevant especially as we don’t want to give legitimacy to the broken UN process?
“The corporations and governments have failed us, it is time to take things into our own hands”.
An important element this summer has been the involvement in direct action of people who would not normally be engaged on that level, due to the growing awareness of the seriousness of the environmental crisis and the evident fact that the system is not going to address it.
“I’m running and I’m running and I’m just one, just one amongst hundreds of people running to escape the batons and the pepper spray, running to break through the police line and run on and on across the field to the mine.
“But as we’re running and my legs are pumping and the adrenaline’s thumping I turn and see something that makes my blood turn cold and time stand still. I see a man made massive with body armour and a helmet and a baton, and I see him throw his shoulder back and form a fist and smash the full brutal weight of his aggression into the face of an oncoming woman.
“She crumples but I don’t even see her hit the floor because I’m running and oh fuck me am I running and I’m thinking that this isn’t what I signed up for and I don’t want to be here and christ I’m just so scared. Because I am not an activist. This isn’t what I do. I’m a relatively normal, middle aged chap who does clicktivism when he can find the time.
“Direct action is not my thing. I’m not cut out to be here, running with hundreds of people across the fields of the Rhineland to try and close for one day a sodding great lignite mine”.
The Labofii writer confirms: “I have never seen so many people jump so far out of their comfort zones and take direct action for the first time. Never have I been part of such disciplined determined disobedience, whose tone seemed so perfectly balanced”.
Of course, the reality of being scared, and out of your comfort zone, means that the movement needs a collective inner strength. This can only be drawn from a world-view that accepts the reality of repression and the logical necessity of disobedience that strays beyond the narrow limits of “protest” as dictated by those who want it to remain safely ineffective and uninspiring.
The writer adds: “The more successful we become the more repression we will see. I lived through the rise and fall of the antiglobalisation movement and Occupy and neither of these movements were prepared enough for the inevitable repression that was to come.
“The liberal myth that ‘if we are non-violent then the state will not be violent towards us’ must be buried once and for all, it is dangerous and strategically useless.
“When you start to win, they start to fight harder than you ever imagined. First they divide and conquer, then co-opt and digest the movements. Only a broad space of disobedience where we do not condemn the actions of others will keep us strong.
“The tactical success of the 90s anti roads movements in the UK, which managed to force the government to cancel 700 road schemes, was that whilst there were the people living in tree houses and tunnels on the sites blocking the destruction and many big days of openly called disobedience where we would digger dive together, there were also forays at night by what were known as pixies, who armed with sugar and wrenches put the earth wrecking machines gently to sleep.
“Our movements are going to need these big open days of disobedience, the long months of Blokadia and site occupations and the night time secrets if we are to be efficient”.
The title of a recent book describes degrowth as presenting “A Vocabulary for a New Era”, but because the term “degrowth” is relatively unknown in the UK, there is sometimes confusion as to what it implies.
Some activists imagine that it refers purely to a reformist approach, some kind of watered-down pale green theory, whereas in fact the term increasingly describes a complete opposition to the capitalist system and everything that comes with it.
Following on from the degrowth day at the Anarchist Action Network’s East London Rising week, there was a Degrowth Summer School in Germany linked to the mine protests.
The emphasis there was very much on fighting the capitalist industrial system with the broadest possible range of tactics, including direct action.
Reports the Labofii blog: “In the main circus tent which holds several hundred people, we heard from speakers fighting against coal mines and nuclear power in India, oil extraction in the Amazon, first nations communities resisting the toxic disaster of the Alberta tar sands and eco-anarchists living in tree-houses to stop the expansion of one of the Hambach forest defence lignite mines nearby.
“We watched plays created and performed by refugees and asylum seekers. We took part in debates around new forms of radical democracy between people from the anti austerity M15 spanish movements, Greek Anarchists describing the self managed health, food and production systems that have risen from the economic collapse and a Kurdish representative explaining the experiments in municipal libertarianism which is building a nation without a state, founded on feminism, ecology and radical autonomy in northern Syria”.
In her report for the Degrowth.de website, Christiane Kliemann reported that there had been discussion about the COP 21 summit in Paris, in which it was stressed that it was important not to repeat the reformist NGO-inspired mistakes of Copenhagen by creating hope around the official process and thus accepting the lies of the capitalist system.
“The movement has to stay firm instead and insist that it is not about climate change alone, but complete system change”.
Yorkshire is being seen as the new front-line in the UK battle against fracking, with just under a third of the proposed oil and gas licences announced in August targeting it, reports the Drill or Drop website.
Northern anti-fracking groups have vowed to unite to prevent any fracking in the north of England as a whole – Lancashire, Cheshire and Lincolnshire are also in the sights of the fracking business, whose profiteering is to be fast-tracked past growing public opposition by the complicit British state.
Pippa Hockey from Frack Free East Yorkshire said, “The more they try and push fracking on us, the harder we will fight back. We have made friends all over the UK, especially with other groups in the north, and now we will all work together to stop fracking happening anywhere”.
Frack Off have produced an online guide to fighting fracking – it is available here.
A significant moment in the struggle against the British extreme right was enjoyed in Liverpool on August 15 2015.
The mobilisation against the neo-Nazi ‘White Man March’ in Liverpool was, in the words of the Anti-Fascist Network, “an outstanding victory for militant anti-fascism and an utter humiliation and total rout for National Action”.
A spokesperson was also quoted as saying: “The event has already been dubbed the ‘Battle of Lime Street’. This might be the biggest anti-fascist victory in the UK for 20 or 30 years”.
While this might be disputed by Brighton anti-fascists who have consistently seen off threats from EDL-supporting fascists, or indeed anti-fascists in the likes of Walthamstow, the Liverpool action was certainly impressive.
The neo-Nazis didn’t manage to march, or even stage a static rally – in fact they didn’t even leave the railway station and were forced to hide in a left luggage shop as a huge crowd of anti-fascists jeered and heckled them and pelted them with water bottles, eggs, bananas, milk, orange juice and sundry other grocery products.
One of the many good things the day achieved was to show that the most effective way of stopping and humiliating fascists is not by holding a worthy-but-dull rally at the other end of town, but to go to them and directly face up to them.
This approach not only works, but also illustrates the strength of the general anarchist approach of confrontation and non-collaboration with police and authorities.
It is a reminder that the radical anti-fascist movement in the UK is very much part of the broader struggle. It does not take to the streets to defend fake “democracy” but to defend our freedom and to defend the political space from which we can attack the capitalist system.
In many ways, in fact, it actually is the anti-capitalist movement, but in the defensive mode needed to stop the streets being taken over by nazis.
And anti-fascists are not going to wait until the last fascist has disappeared off the face of the planet before they commit to destroying the sick capitalist system that spawned them.
An interview shedding light on the Turkish anarchist movement, and its links to the Kurdish struggle, has been published by Corporate Watch.
Researchers spoke to three members of Devrimci Anarşist Faaliyet (DAF, or Revolutionary Anarchist Action) in Istanbul. DAF are involved in solidarity with the Kurdish struggle, the Rojava revolution and against ISIS’s attack on Kobane, and have taken action against Turkish state repression and corporate abuse. They are attempting to establish alternatives to the current system through self-organisation, mutual aid and co-operatives.
DAF describe their anarchism as “holistic”, an anarchism without adjectives that refuses to be limited by too specific an orientation.
They say: “The main issue for DAF is to organise anarchism within society. We try to socialize anarchism with struggle on the streets. This is what we give importance to. For nearly nine years we have been doing this.
“On an ideological level we have a holistic perspective. We don’t have a hierarchical perspective on struggles. We think workers’ struggle is important but not more important than the Kurdish struggle or women’s struggles or ecological struggles.
“Capitalism tries to divide these struggles. If the enemy is attacking us in a holistic way we have to approach it in a holistic way”.
Part of their outlook is to stress the historical anarchist continuity between the struggles for freedom towards the end of Ottoman Empire and today’s struggle for freedom in Kurdistan.
They explain: “In Ottoman times anarchists organised workers’ struggle in the main cities: Saloniki, Izmir, Istanbul and Cairo. For example [the Italian anarchist, Errico] Malatesta was involved in organizing industrial workers in Cairo.
“The freedom struggles of Armenia, Bulgaria and Greece had connections with anarchist groups. Alexander Atabekian, an important person in the Armenian freedom struggle, was an anarchist, translating leaflets into Armenian and distributing them. He was a friend of Kropotkin and distributed Kropotkin’s anarchist leaflets.
“Towards the end of the Ottoman Empire, at the end of the 19th century, Sultan Abdul Hamid II repressed the actions of anarchists in Turkey. He knew what anarchists were and took a special interest in them. He killed or deported anarchists and set up a special intelligence agency for this purpose.
“Anarchists responded by carrying out attacks on the Yildiz Sarayi palace and with explosions at the Ottoman bank in Saloniki.
“The government of the Ottoman Empire didn’t end at the Turkish republic. The fez has gone since but the system is still the same”.
More details are emerging of the multiple actions planned against the DSEI arms fair in London’s Docklands this month (see Acorn 13). A bid to disrupt the setting-up of the event includes a Stop Arming Israel day on Monday September 7 and an environment day of action on Wednesday September 9, before the big day of protest on Saturday September 12. More info at http://www.stopthearmsfair.org.uk/events/
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A street party against the gentrification of London is being staged in Shoreditch on Saturday September 26. Says the call-out for Fuck Parade 3: “Our communities are being ripped apart – by Russian oligarchs, Saudi Sheiks, Israeli scumbag property developers, Texan oil-money twats and our own home-grown Eton toffs. Local authorities are coining it in, in a short sighted race for cash by ‘regenerating’ social housing. We will protest this economic warfare with a street party on September 26th”. Meet Shoreditch overground station from 7pm.
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Police in the USA are reacting to the swelling wave of protest by buying acoustic cannon that can be used to fire deafening noises at crowds of people, a report has revealed. The weapons have been used, mainly as loudspeakers, at various Black Lives Matter events over the last 12 months and in Ferguson, the LRAD cannon was fired on protesters who had assembled in the street. The device can reach 152 decibels, a level that can cause permanent hearing damage.
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The role of British police spy Mark Kennedy in the persecution of the alleged “Invisible Committee” in France (see Acorn 13) is explored in an article on the undercoverinfo blog. Part of his role was to provide “intelligence” on an alleged international meeting of anarchists in New York, says the article.
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A video of a feisty No Borders demonstration on the French-Italian border has been posted online. Migrants living in the camp at Ventimiglia (see Acorn 13) had tried to travel by train to Menton in France but were forcibly turned back by police.
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Two anarchist bookfairs are to be held within a couple of days in October. First there is the 2015 London Anarchist Bookfair, which is being staged on Saturday October 24 from 10am to 7pm at a new venue – Central St Martin’s behind Kings Cross rail station. And on October 24 and 25 comes the fifth annual Helsinki Anarchist Bookfair in Finland, at Peace Station, East-Pasila district of Helsinki (Veturitori 3).
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Acorn quote: “Sociability and need of mutual aid and support are such inherent parts of human nature that at no time of history can we discover men living in small isolated families, fighting each other for the means of subsistence”.
1. Profit before the planet: a special investigation into sham “sustainability”
“Sustainable transport” funding in southern England is just another way of boosting business profits, an investigation by The Acorn can reveal.
The funding agency in question has stated that schemes do not have to be sustainable or even have to have anything to do with transport at all – they just have to contribute to “economic growth”.
Meanwhile, unchecked traffic congestion is used to justify yet more environment-wrecking road schemes, as we revealed in Acorn 1.
And the whole public-private apparatus behind the scandal is riddled with connections not just to global big business but even to the military and the arms trade.
Our investigation involves West Sussex County Council (WSCC) and Coast to Capital, the regional Local Enterprise Partnership covering a swathe of southern England stretching from Croydon and Gatwick Airport to Brighton and Chichester.
WSCC is trying to get hold of some of the £31 million allocated by the Government to Coast to Capital, supposedly to fund sustainable transport schemes, and is promoting something it calls the “Worthing Sustainable Transport Package”. Phase one of this is costed at £1.2 million and WSCC is bidding for £800,000 of that from Coast to Capital.
But when local cycling and environmental campaigners took a closer look at the details of the scheme, they were astonished to discover that it was all about repaving the main Worthing shopping street, Montague Street, and knocking down a rotunda, known to residents as the bandstand.
One campaigner told The Acorn: “There is no way anyone can say that re-paving Montague Street in Worthing has anything to do with benefiting sustainable transport, when, in fact, the town is desperate for some cycleways and other sustainable transport to ease chronic motor traffic congestion.
“Councils are spending ‘sustainable transport’ money on ‘sustainable transport’ schemes that are nothing of the sort.”
It is indeed immediately striking how little the “Worthing Sustainable Transport Package” has to do with sustainable transport – it is blatantly just a make-over for the commercial part of Worthing town centre.
The “why it should be funded” section of the application admits that the main thrust of its pitch is that “it will attract more people to shop in the area”. This will result in “long term economic growth reversing the current decline in footfall and turnover”. It will “create jobs”, help Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership meet its economic growth targets and potentially lead to £17.7 million a year more income for businesses.
Other “benefits” of the scheme are that the works will put £2.3 million into the pockets of the construction industry and eventually push up shop rental values and thus business rates.
There is also the bonus of extra “generation of government revenues” from “taxes on business profits, employees’ wages, and profits from rental income”.
And the cherry on the cake is that “residential properties are likely to increase in value by 5.2% within the town centre”. What marvellous news for Sussex people finding it difficult to afford somewhere to live!
Amidst all of this there is no indication of how the scheme might be expected to reduce traffic or make transport “sustainable” in any way, reducing demand for new roads like the threatened Arundel bypass-bypass or the mooted Worthing A27 “improvements”.
As the local campaigner told us: “The bid document itself does not mention any beneficial impacts on journey times or reliability, and it is difficult to envisage any.” Referring to the suggested increase of 1.6 million new visits to Montague Street each year, he asked: “How are those additional people expected to travel to and from Montague Street without causing a significant increase in local traffic?”
Coast to Capitalism
But hold on a minute – a bid for sustainable transport funding that makes no mention of sustainable transport? Is that even allowed?
The local campaigners stumbled across what looks like a blatant give-away when they were examining the Coast to Capital website for details of its criteria.
Astonishingly, the section about schemes that could be funded under transport “sustainability” or “resilience” admitted: “They may also include improvements which do not affect transport, but which will help to protect or stimulate economic growth”.
No sooner had this remarkable sentence been drawn to the attention of Coast to Capital, than it suddenly disappeared from the website! Luckily, campaigners were shrewd enough to have taken a screenshot, part of which is reproduced here.
In fact, it should come as no surprise that “economic growth” should prove to be the sole preoccupation of Coast to Capital.
The masthead of its website proclaims that its focus is “to create economic growth in an innovative, enterprising and international business environment” and the term repeats ad nauseam in the overview of its aims.
“Our small yet dynamic team is focused on delivering growth”… “Our focus is on those areas where we can stimulate growth” … “delivering activities to drive growth” … “our role is to help re-balance the economy and to promote private sector growth” … “ensuring that the infrastructure and conditions for economic growth are in place”.
It adds: “Coast to Capital is not a delivery organisation and we do not take on the direct delivery of business support services. However, in order to create favourable conditions for growth, we do identify priorities and strategies for improving local transport, housing and skills development.”
This line pretty much confirms the gist of the deleted give-away sentence – all Coast to Capital’s strategies on transport, housing or whatever are, by its own admission, only carried out “in order to create favourable conditions for growth”.
If we go back through its self-description and replace the word “growth” with a term that describes what it really means – “profit” or “greed” come to mind – then we begin to understand the agenda that lies behind Coast to Capital.
Decision, decisions… interests and allegiances
If all this isn’t disturbing enough, let’s now take a look at how the decision will be made about the allocation of so-called “sustainable transport” funding…
Coast to Capital reveals that the “the business cases for each scheme are currently being assessed by independent transport advisors. Parsons Brinckerhoff are assessing the sustainability schemes.”
Parsons Brinckerhoff is a massive multinational engineering corporation, employing some 14,000 staff – in 2013, the company was named the tenth largest US-based engineering/design firm by Engineering News Record. It used to be owned by Balfour Beatty, but on October 31, 2014, it became a wholly owned independent subsidiary of WSP Global, an even more massive multinational corporation based in Canada.
WSP Global Inc is currently involved in projects like the rebuilding of the World Trade Center in New York, USA, and Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport in Germany. Past triumphs from these experts in sustainability include The Shard in London, Beetham Tower in Manchester, City Central Development in Adelaide, Australia, Mellon Bank Center in Philadelphia, Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, and Trump Tower in New York.
The deliberation of these “independent” transport advisors will no doubt be watched with dispassionate interest by Martin Heffer, the Coast to Capital board member focusing on infrastructure issues.
Well, not that dispassionate, as his register of interests reveals that Parsons Brinckerhoff (now aka WSP Global Inc) is in fact his employer!
Heffer, a “specialist in the planning and delivery of major transport schemes”, is apparently “currently on secondment to the Department for Transport”.
His commitment to sustainable transport involves working on the High Speed 2 rail project, Heathrow Terminal 5 and the widening of the M25 motorway ahead of the Olympics.
And Heffer’s fine ethical record does not stop there! He is also a reserve army officer, having been a Royal Engineers volunteer officer for some 30 years. “He is a specialist in the area of Civil Military co-operation having worked on joint Foreign Office and UK military infrastructure initiatives in Iraq,” boasts Coast to Capital.
What a splendid example of the seamless interweaving of state, capitalism and war-mongering neo-colonialism!
If this is all beginning to sound like a bit of a stitch-up, don’t worry – when the decisions about funding are made, probably on March 25 2015, they will not be made by Heffer or the board, but by what Coast to Capital calls a “voluntary partnership known as
the Local Transport Body”.
Closer examination reveals that this wholesome-sounding group is chaired by none other than Pieter Montyn. Montyn shares Heffer’s commitment to ethics and sustainability, with a lifetime spent in the higher echelons of the global arms trade – “37 years in the UK aircraft and defence equipment industry (British Aerospace/BAE Systems and GEC), in which he held senior export management positions at home and overseas”.
He will presumably have to step aside from his role chairing the Local Transport Body when the funding bid for Worthing is actually discussed, as he also happens to be cabinet member for highways and transport at West Sussex County Council, the very organisation promoting the application!
As the leading force behind the “A27 Action” campaign calling for the bypass of the Arundel bypass and other road-building schemes (see Acorn 1), WSCC appears to be concerned by the increase in motor traffic – its pro-road-building website declares: “The A27 is a congested route which is inhibiting business investment and growth.”
Funny, then, that that very same West Sussex County Council is promoting the “Worthing Sustainable Transport Package”, rather than a scheme that would help address the congestion issue by providing cycle lanes, cheaper public transport etc?
Not really! After all, think of all the plus-boxes that are ticked by the prospect of new motorways being ploughed through the woods and wetlands of Sussex! More and more traffic, more concrete, more contracts for the construction industry – the warped greed-god of economic growth, worshipped by Coast to Capital, West Sussex County Council and all their business partners, will demand the unchecked expansion of its capitalist infrastructure right up until the very day it has triumphantly choked the last drop of life out of this planet.
Anti-capitalist protesters from across Europe are gearing up for big protests against the European Central Bank (ECB).
As we reported in Acorn 2, they are converging on Frankfurt in Germany on Wednesday March 18 to gatecrash the opening party of the new HQ.
“See you on the barricades!” was the message from the activists pictured above in Venice, Italy, who were part of a day of anti-bank actions on March 2.
And a similar message of defiance comes across on this video call-out from destroika. Says the group’s website: “It is necessary to transpose our experiences of local struggle to a higher offensive level, beyond the national frame of reference inherent to the movement, in order to sandwich the State on the European level as well. The opening of the new headquarters of the European Central Bank will be the occasion for us to reconverge, to unite our forces against a common enemy.”
The Blockupy call-out says: “As the crisis has unfolded the EU has became more and more of an authoritarian regime with an obvious lack of democratic participation. The murderous border controls and the progressing militarization of foreign policy add to this process. They cannot, and even do not want to, represent us anymore. The ruling elites have nothing left of value to offer for us.
“But new forces are emerging from all corners of life and it will be our task to build solidarity and real democracy from below. They want capitalism without democracy, but we want democracy without capitalism!”
German authorities are showing signs of panic over the impact of the protests, with one regional minister, PeterBeuth, describing them as a “huge challenge” for the security forces.Everyonehad the rightto “peacefully” protestagainst globalization, but “rioters”were not welcomein Frankfurt on March 18 the minister told the Hesse Landtag (regional Parliament).
Here it bracketed Syriza with other “radical” electoral forces such as Podemos in Spain, Die Linke in Germany, Parti de Gauche in France, Radnička fronta in Croatia, Združena levica in Slovenia, and Bloco de Esquerda in Portugal.
Warned the article: “At this historical juncture, all of them serve the same basic function. Faced with so much unrest, the ruling order suddenly has a use for new radical political parties that promise to embody calls for ‘real democracy’ within the existing system.
“Whatever the intentions of the participants, their structural role is to rebuild trust in electoral democracy, neutralize uncontrollable extra-parliamentary movements, and reestablish capitalism and the state as the only imaginable social order.
“When they enter the halls of power, they commit themselves to perpetuating the authoritarian institutions and unequal distribution of wealth that triggered the movements from which they appeared in the first place.”
It was not long before Crimethinc’s warning was proved correct. In an article posted on the Aljazeera website on March 3, C J Polychroniou, a research associate and policy fellow at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, wrote: “It has taken the Syriza government less than a month to surrender to neoliberal Europe and Greece’s international lenders.”
Noting that in recent talks “the Syriza-led government accepted an extension of the bailout programme and capitulated in turn to Germany’s demands for austerity and neoliberal reforms”, he added: “One would be hard pressed to find in the annals of political history another case where a governing party has broken its word so quickly on its pre-election promises and accepted an ultimate defeat in the face of systemic opposition.“
Polychroniou fears that “Syriza’s capitulation will create a mood of defeatism among progressive forces across Europe”.
But, on the other hand, it might serve to underline the anarchist warning that attempts to reform the capitalist system will only end up reinforcing it – the whole thing has to go.
Resistance to fracking continues to grow all over the world. On Sunday March 1 anti-fracking protesters in In-Salah, Algeria, torched the local daïra (government office) and the home of its boss, as well as part of a police dormitory and a police lorry. Forty cops were apparently injured.
Protests have been growing since the end of December when the Algerian firm Sonatrach, in partnership with Halliburton, announced its first test for shale gas in this part of the Sahara had been a success. In February it insisted that fracking would go ahead despite evident hostility from a local population daring to stand in the way of economic growth. Algeria has the world’s fourth biggest reserves of shale gas, after the USA, China and Argentina.
In Britain, the authorities continue to explore ways of stemming the anti-fracking revolt. One is to have subtly redefined fracking in the notorious new Infrastructure Act.
Explains DeSmogBlog: “By defining fracking as one specific phase in the entire process, it means that any environmental impacts that do occur must be proven to be associated with that specific phase in order to claim that the industry definition of fracking has caused that impact.”
So when the industry claims that “no proven instances of water contamination have occurred due to hydraulic fracturing” it is using the its own definition of hydraulic fracturing, now shared by the state, “which excludes incidents from drilling damage, failed well casings, spills, erosion and sediment, or tanker accidents”.
The other approach, of course, is to use the legal system to attack opponents of the fracking industry.
On Thursday March 5 Dr Rowland Dye was convicted of “aggravated trespass” in the office of the Chamber of Commerce in Blackpool, also home to fracking firm Cuadrilla, during Reclaim the Power protests last August. The district judge not only fined him £250 and ordered him to £500 costs and £25 victims’ surcharge, but also ordered him to pay £551.83 compensation to the Chamber, on the flimsy basis that it “had cancel an event the day after the protest” – when the protesters had long since left. More than £1,300 for an office occupation in which nothing was damaged (let alone set on fire, Algerian-style!).
Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber Of Commerce, revealed the political motives behind the prosecution and punishment by telling media: “This decision sends out a clear message that if protestors break the law they will be punished. It sets the precedence for our local business community who can now be assured that fracking occupancy is illegal and not welcome in Lancashire”.
And on the same day anti-fracking campaigner and journalist Paul Mobbs was arrested at the entrance to Downing Street in London. He was trying to make a citizen’s arrest of members of the government because he believes they are guilty of misconduct in public office in the way they have dealt with fracking. At about 3pm, Mr Mobbs was asked to leave the Downing Street area. When he refused and said he would try to climb over the gate he was arrested for breaching a traffic management order under the laughably-named Terrorism Act.
Mr Mobbs has updated his frackogram showing links involving the fracking industry. Meanwhile, Drill or Drop has produced an invaluable and comprehensive update on drilling, permissions, companies and consultations across the UK, including of course the Celtique site near Billingshurst, West Sussex, featured in Acorn 2.
A public enquiry opens on Tuesday March 10 into a hideous assault on common land in the Welsh countryside in the name of “infrastructure”.
The Open Spaces Society explain that two years ago they objected to plans for the Circuit of Wales motor-sports development just north of Ebbw Vale in south Wales. “At that time the developer, the Heads of the Valleys Development Company, stated optimistically and inaccurately on its website that ‘planning permission is the final hurdle’.
“Although the development now has planning permission it has not yet gone ahead—because it would take common land. There are many who claim that the objectors are holding up a development which will bring jobs and prosperity to the area. Their ire should be directed at the developers who opted to site the motor circuit on a common.
“For the applicant has had to find land to offer in exchange for the 245 hectares (nearly one square mile) of open moorland which would be submerged under concrete, and to make an application to Welsh ministers for the exchange, under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006.”
The development website boasts: “Circuit of Wales will transform 830 acres of Blaenau Gwent in the scenic Welsh valleys on an unparalleled scale, and will shine the global spotlight on the region. The innovative scheme will wholly regenerate the area, providing unrivalled opportunities in job creation, tourism, and research and development.”
It says the scheme is “the most significant capital investment programme in automotive infrastructure in the UK in the last 50 years”.
Here we have all the assumptions of the capitalist “growth” mindset. It beggars belief that the “transformation” of countryside into a motor racing track can be seen in a positive light! Does the region want the “global spotlight” shone on it? What does it mean to “wholly regenerate” an area? Is “job creation” always a good thing, even if the jobs perform no useful function, and indeed a harmful one?
Thursday March 12 has been named by land activists as the date of the final eviction efforts at Yorkley Court in the Forest of Dean. As we reported in Acorn 3, for the last two and a half years residents have been trying to establish a sustainable community farm. But on February 26 a local millionaire property developer Brian Bennett won his court case for possession. A call-out has now been made for supporters to come and show their solidarity on the day.
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Following the report in Acorn 3, the fascists of the EDL have apparently changed their minds about trying to march through Brighton on April 18. Local rag The Argus says the far-right hate-mongers are now planning to head for Oxford on April 4 instead. Observes the anti-fascist EDL News: “The group have stated the demo in Brighton has been postponed but we suspect it will not get rearranged due to the fact that many of their members have stated that the idea was pretty stupid in the first place.”
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A new book of eco-poetry has been published by Permanent Publications. Ecozoa by Helen Moore calls for a new era “in great contrast to the ravages caused by the growth and impacts of industrial civilisation on our planetary ecosystems”. Moore’s work is strongly inspired by William Blake and, reviewing the latest collection, Paul Cudenec comments: “By placing herself in a direct line of ideological descent from Blake, Moore is doing more than expressing admiration for him. She is proclaiming herself as a contemporary manifestation of that same underground heretical tradition”. The full review can be read here.
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An annual celebration of Spring and “the renewal of life on the Downs” is once again been staged by Sussex environmental and land access group the Worthing Downlanders. They are inviting local musicians, singers, poets and merry-makers to join them on Sunday March 22 2015 from 2pm at The Castle Tavern, 1 Newland Road, Worthing, West Sussex BN11 1JR. “Everyone is welcome to participate, or you can just turn up and watch the festivities with a glass in hand!” Entry is free. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Members of The Invisible Committee, the radical French writing collective behind The Coming Insurrection, will be in the UK on Saturday March 21, for a talk about their new book, A nos amis. The event, hosted by Sussex Anarchists, is at the Cowley Club, 12 London Road, Brighton, at 6pm.
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Acorn quote: “Progress, what you call progress, this incessant hustle-bustle, this rapid tiring and neurasthenic, short-breathed chase after novelty, after anything new as long as it is new, this progress and the crazy ideas of the practitioners of development associated with it… this progress, this unsteady, restless haste; this inability to remain still and this perpetual desire to be on the move, this so-called progress is a symptom of our abnormal condition, our unculture”. Gustav Landauer, For Socialism.
Tear gas, water cannon and “flashball” rubber bullets have been fired at people protesting against police violence and against the destruction of the countryside brought about by the system the cops brutally defend.
Bank and shop windows were smashed and there were dozens of arrests in two cities on different parts of France on Saturday February 21.
The clashes were the latest episode in a growing wave of resistance in France against totalitarian capitalism and its environmentally-destructive infrastructure.
Two simultaneous protests were staged in Nantes and Toulouse, reflecting the struggle against the proposed new airport for Nantes and outrage at the murder by police of Rémi Fraisse, a student at Toulouse University.
The young environmentalist was killed by a grenade fired at his back at point-blank range by gendarmes during protests against a proposed new dam at Sivens near Le Testet in the south of France.
The call-out for the resistance in the two cities was “against the concreting of our countryside and the militarisation of our towns”.
The concreting of the countryside threatens to become even worse, with the French state confirming it will be pushing ahead with the airport at Notre-Dame-Des-Landes, protected by the long-established ZAD protest camp.
And, of course, the militarisation of the towns was in evidence at the protests, with the police as usual claiming they had been “forced” to deploy their frightening armoury against dissidents because a bit of paint had been lobbed in their general direction.
The French media reported that the notoriously violent CRS riot cops even attacked journalists with their batons.
Activists successfully shut down an arms company in Kent on Tuesday February 17.
They struck under cover of darkness, at 5am, at the premises of Instro Precision near Broadstairs, to protest against its sales to both Israel and Afghanistan. Four people took the roof with banners to shut the factory down, with ten more on the ground, one of whom locked herself to the front gate. See the video in this successful appeal for financial support.
Instro is owned by Israeli arms company Elbit Systems, which makes drones that are used to kill Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Optical and camera systems like those made at the Instro factory are also supplied by Elbit for use in drones flown over Afghanistan, as well as in Israel’s apartheid wall.
The occupiers stayed in place for nearly 13 hours and decided to leave after having shut the firm down for the whole working day. Kent Police put out a statement describing the protest as “lawful” and nobody was arrested, let alone charged.
Good news – but why would the authorities, presumably with the tacit backing of the firm affected, decide to take no legal action against people blockading a factory?
The answer can probably be found in the story of a previous factory occupation near Birmingham, in August 2014, when activists closed down another Elbit subsidiary, UAV Engines Limited, for two days at the height of Israel’s summer military assault on Gaza.
After putting the factory out of business for two days, all activists were removed by police, arrested, charged with aggravated trespass and taken to court for preliminary hearings. However, all these charges were suddenly dropped at the end of January this year, a week before the case was due to go to trial.
It seems the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had to pull out at the last minute because company managers mysteriously decided to go back on previous commitments to testify against the nine.
Reclaim the Fields are holding a day of learning and network-building in Wales on Saturday March 7.
The event at the Red and Black Umbrella at 57-58 Clifton Street, Cardiff, will be built around the topics of growing projects, access to land and food sovereignty.
It starts at 1pm and will be followed in the evening, from 7pm, by a benefit gig in aid of the fight for the Yorkley Court Community Farm in the Forest of Dean, now facing eviction (see Acorninfo).
An article on Reclaim the Fields by Ed Hamer in The Land magazine says: “Taking its name from the road protest collective which swept the UK in the early 1990s, the movement intends to employ the same creative mix of political lobbying, networking and direct action in its objective to get the 21st century peasantry back onto the land.
“Just as the climate change debate has inspired a new generation to push the environment onto the political agenda, those of us who feel particularly passionate about food and farming have the potential to do the same for agriculture.”
On its website, Reclaim the Fields describes itself as a constellation of people and collective projects willing to go back to the land and reassume control over food production.
It adds: “We are determined to create alternatives to capitalism through cooperative, collective, autonomous, real needs-oriented small scale production and initiatives, putting theory into practice and linking local practical action with global political struggles.”
Reclaim the Fields emerged in March 2011 from a small gathering at Grow Heathrow, a land squat set up to resist the expansion of Heathrow Airport.
RTF also supports the policies of Via Campesina, an international movement founded in 1993 by farmers’ organizations from Europe, Latin America, Asia, North America and Africa, which currently has its HQ in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Nothing is to be allowed to stand in the way of the fracking industry and the authorities will do all they can to clear its path.
As we reported in Issue 2 of The Acorn, the new Infrastructure Act is designed to allow corporate interests to trample all over communities and the environment.
One small example of the way the authorities will bend over backwards for the extreme energy business comes from the West Sussex countryside between Wisborough Green and Kirdford.
In July 2014 an application by fracking firm Celtique Energy for oil and gas exploration was refused by West Sussex County Council’s planning committee at a meeting in Horsham.
One of the cited reasons for the refusal was “unsafe” road access for the fracking traffic. Committee chair Heidi Brunsdon admitted: “There were simply too many highways issues and other issues of concern for any decision other than refusal in this instance.”
One of the biggest issues involved Boxal Bridge, a beautiful rural structure dating from the 1850s, which was clearly too narrow to cope with hundreds of fracking lorries.
But where there’s a will there’s a way – and West Sussex County Council has helpfully come up with a plan to get rid of this particular obstacle to the path of ecocidal profiteering.
Two months after refusing Celtique’s plans, it commissioned a “feasibility study” on Boxal Bridge and of the six options recommended it chose number six – to demolish the bridge and build a two-lane crossing suitable for heavy industrial traffic.
This was despite the two local parish councils of Kirdford and Wisborough Green, and many local residents, opposing the demolition.
Once again, here is capitalism showing itself in physical form – as the infrastructure of the cancerous growth known as industrial civilisation.
A petition has been set up to demand that the bridge is not demolished.
Anti-fascists in Brighton are preparing for action after notorious extreme-right group the EDL announced plans for a march through the Sussex city on Saturday April 18 2015.
It was looking like being a quieter April than usual for Brighton, after the racists of the March for England announced they would be heading to Blackpool instead.
Previous years have seen dramatic scenes on the streets, with police attacking and arresting numerous anti-racist protesters in order to try to clear a way for the dwindling fascist contingent.
In recent years, mobile steel barriers have been used by the authorities to create a sterile area near the seafront where the nazis can parade away from the hostility of the Brighton public.
News that the EDL is stepping into the breach left by their friends in the MFE will come as a surprise to many – the EDL usually hangs its protests on the excuse of opposing “islamification” of certain areas.
Rather than merely diverting popular dissatisfaction with the capitalist system against minority scapegoats, the EDL here seems to be fulfilling the other classic fascist function of physically threatening radical opponents of the capitalist system.
Anti-racist website EDL News reports: “Due to the fact that there is not a large Muslim population in Brighton, it is thought that the demo has been called to confront what they see as a left wing city who do not put up with their politics of racism and division.”
To confirm this, it shows a screenshot from a social media conversation between EDL supporters, one of whom declares that “its time the left wing gets whats coming to them”.
With local anti-fascists already spreading the word about their intentions, the EDL may once again find it difficult to turn its belligerent online boasting into reality on the streets.
Land activists at Yorkley Court in the Forest of Dean are this week facing eviction. For the last two and a half years, they have been trying to establish a sustainable community farm, but a local millionaire property developer has other ideas and filed a claim for possession of the land. Said an update posted on the activists’ website on Thursday February 26: “News just received, Judge Harrington has ruled in favour of Brian Bennett for possession of Yorkley Court. We have 24 hours’ notice for the farmhouse, 3 days for the back field and the area surrounding the farmhouse, and 14 days for the bottom strip. Support will be appreciated during this stressful time, materials, bodies, hearts, minds and all. Keep an eye out for updates and ways to help.”
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The theft of a local Sussex beach by a private company has been upheld by the legal authorities. Locals have been trying to stop Newhaven Port and Properties from excluding the public from West Beach, a sandy spot traditionally used and loved by townsfolk. But their latest attempt failed on Wednesday February 24) after the Supreme Court said the area could not after all be registered as a village green, overturning a decision by the Appeal Court in March 2013. NPP has now announced plans to expand its operations into part of Tide Mills beach. Newhaven mayor Judith Ost told local press: “The Supreme Court has today found that the beach has been used by local people for generations by permission of the port authority – and we see no reason why local people cannot continue to do so.” Warned Nicola Hodgson of the Open Spaces Society: “This judgment comes on top of the pernicious change in English law, the Growth and Infrastructure Act 2013, which outlaws applications to register greens where land is threatened with development. With the courts and parliament working against us, the future of our precious open spaces is increasingly perilous.”
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The interface between anarchism and art is explored in Herbert Read: Art and Idealism by Michael Paraskos. Reviewer Paul Cudenec says the book “makes no futile attempt to flatten out Read’s work and life in order to make it fit into some pre-determined category” and encourages readers “to step off the well-trod road of narrow thinking and forge their own path of empowering intellectual discovery”. Full article at https://network23.org/paulcudenec
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Some basic tips for community campaigning have been set out by local anarchist website The Hereford Heckler,which started life in early 2008, originally as the bimonthly paper of Hereford Solidarity League. The Heckler stresses: “Remember: If you are going to do community organising, do it in your own area; don’t be a missionary!”
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Acorn quote: “Faith in the fundamental goodness of man; humility in the presence of natural laws; reason and mutual aid – these are the qualities that can save us. But they must be unified and vitalized by an insurrectionary passion, a flame in which all virtues are tempered and clarified, and brought to their most effective strength”. Herbert Read, The Philosophy of Anarchism.