The Acorn – 30

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Number 30


In this issue:

  1. Three great victories to end the year!
  2. Degrowth and the death of capitalism
  3. Stealth fascism in the UK
  4. Fake news and propaganda wars
  5. The Black Volcano of Industrialism
  6. Acorninfo

1. Three great victories to end the year!

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Three great victories have been notched up by the global struggle against industrial capitalism in the last few weeks of 2016, giving renewed energy for the battles ahead in 2017.

It is true that none of them are complete, permanent wins, but they are nonetheless significant wins and together they confirm in no uncertain fashion that courage and  tenacious determination can put the dominant system on the back foot.

Our capitalist overlords are not invincible! There are a lot more of us than them! And if sometimes the level of lying, manipulation and sheer violence they use against us is overwhelming, it is important always to remember that they act this way because they are scared of us and of our collective power to resist their rule.

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In France, the big December news is that the ZAD protest zone against the long-planned new airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes near Nantes has seen off the latest eviction threat (see Acorn 27).

Bernard Cazeneuve, new prime minister after a reshuffle, announced that the government would not be taking action for the meantime – and it is clear that this is completely down to the impressive levels of organisation and determination of the land protectors at the ZAD.

A report on Europe 1 said that the government felt “an intervention would be much too dangerous and there would be a real risk of violent confrontation with, potentially, deaths on either side”. It cited Cazeneuve’s experience with events at Sivens in 2014, where police attacks on a protest camp against a dam led to the death of young environmental protester Rémi Fraisse, killed by a grenade fired by gendarmes.

The report adds: “At Notre-Dame-des-Landes, the numbers involved but also the die-hard attitude of some zadistes suggest there would be an even more explosive clash.”

This long struggle is not over yet, though, as after this Spring’s presidential elections there may well be a renewed political appetite for violent repression at the top of the French state.

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Celebrations at Standing Rock

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the Standing Rock campaign against the North Dakota Access Pipeline (see Acorn 27) scored an unexpected victory when the Army Corps of Engineers, a federal agency, announced that it would deny developer Energy Transfer Partners a permit to cross the Missouri river. Thousands of protesters cheered and chanted to cries of Mni Wiconi, or water is life.

This decision comes in the last days of the Obama administration and may well be overturned under a new president with links to the industry, but, as at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, it was clearly forced on the authorities by the sheer gritty willpower of the campaigners.

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The underlying issue for industrial capitalists was voiced by right-wing capitalist politician Kevin Cramer, who whined to the media: “Today’s unfortunate decision sends a very chilling signal to others who want to build infrastructure in this country.”

From the opposite perspective, the signals are highly encouraging. As “Lakota Man” pointed out on Twitter, Standing Rock has become “the epicenter all things Indigenous” and the NoDAPL campaign has “evolved into a geopolitical movement”. The land protectors are not packing up and going away and neither is the spirit of unity, understanding and determination that has been forged in the face of massive state-corporate violence.

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The third big victory took place in a courtroom in the north of England where anti-fracking activist Tina Rothery (above) saw off a bid to put her in jail.

She had been the victim of vicious legal bullying by fracking giants Cuadrilla, dating back to August 2014 and the occupation of a field near one of Cuadrilla’s proposed fracking sites at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, near Blackpool.

Frack-free campaigners like Tina and the Nanas of northern England do not fit the usual profile of full-on environmental protesters and Cuadrilla and the UK state clearly thought they could bully them into silence and submission.

The company and several landowners had previously won more than £55,000 legal costs against Tina in a case dating back to 2014. She was judged to be in contempt of court when she refused at a hearing this summer to complete a questionnaire about her finances. But on December 9 a judge at Preston Combined Court discharged this ruling and said she would not be sent to jail.

There were cheers inside and outside the court as the outcome became known. Tina told a crowd of around 300 people afterwards: “I see this as a victory for truth. I see it as a victory for honesty because corporations have a lot of power and a lot of money. I will walk away from here and Cuadrilla will no longer pursue me for the costs.”

But, like the campaigners at the ZAD and at Standing Rock, she knows this is far from the end of the struggle. Asked if this was a victory for the anti-fracking movement, Tina replied: “An anti-fracking victory looks like this country being left untouched.”

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2. Degrowth and the death of capitalism

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“Degrowth” has not really taken off as a radical anti-capitalist current in the UK yet, even if it has had the occasional mention on the anarchist scene in the last few years.

But in France décroissance is well established as a powerful minority voice challenging all the assumptions of infinite economic growth and the inevitability of a technocratic future.

It has growing visibility within the anarchist movement and the current issue of Le Monde Libertaire, the journal of La Fédération Anarchiste, includes an article focusing on degrowth.

This explains that economic growth is used as “an instrument of domination” and rightly insists that “sustainable development” is a scam designed to dress up continued growth with the pretence of environmental sensitivity.

The degrowth movement in France even boasts its own monthly newspaper, La Décroissance (Le journal de la joie de vivre), which you can buy at mainstream newsagents.

The current issue, December 2016 to January 2017, features a striking green and black cover and the word “Débranche!” (“Unplug!”) with a large fist clasping a handful of ripped-out wiring.

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There is plenty of interest inside for those who refuse to succumb to the insanity of industrial capitalist life and thought.

In a feature article taking an overview of the struggle for degrowth, writer Anne Frémaux says: “Our industrial modernity is founded on the utopia of unlimited technological and human progress and on the belief in the infinite abundance of a nature which will provide resources to endlessly feed an entirely materialist and quantitative vision of wealth and progress.

“Hypermodernity has prolonged this fantasy by intensifying the western consumerist dream, leading us to quickly (and sometimes irreversibly) use up resources, erode ecosystems, lose biodiversity, exceed acceptable levels of pollution and release enormous quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere, creating the climate change that we know today.”

She condemns the fashionable “techno-optimism” which insists that the answer to the sickness caused by industrial capitalism is to simply swallow more of the same technological poison.

Frémaux concludes: “If we think about it, the fundamental question facing us all is the question of ‘good living’, in other words a question of a social, psychological or spiritual nature for which technology cannot provide the answer. What we need to learn to manage is not the planet or even the climate, but our relationship to ourselves, to others and to the land.”

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Filmmaker Gilles Vernet, meanwhile, explains how “growth” has become the Holy Grail of modern society, at the cost of all common sense. “While all human wisdom warned against the dangers of hubris and material enrichment, money ended up becoming the new god. The myth of Progress is itself a secular version of paradise, something which we are supposed to be able to reach here on Earth.”

Describing the nightmare of contemporary living, he adds: “Capitalism does not tolerate free time, time as a gift. You are never allowed to stop producing and consuming. Even sleeping time is being reduced. For some years now, especially with the spread of smartphones, our mental space has become more and more saturated with news and materialism. We have less and less time to think and find our place in the world. We are left with a spiritual and emotional void: we have less time to spend with family, partner or friends.”

Vernet goes on to state that the capitalist system is manifestly on course for a major implosion. “I accept this with a certain fatalism, but somehow I think that its collapse may be necessary. In the same way that, on the individual scale, death is the precondition of life – when you die you leave room for those to come – the death of a system is also the precondition for renewal”.

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See also:

Degrowth – real anti-capitalism

Degrowth: complete system change

Tearing off capitalism’s “green” mask

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3. Stealth fascism in the UK

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If you wanted to impose fascist rule on a population, and wanted to avoid any inconvenient levels of resistance, how would you go about it? Suddenly or gradually?

It has long been apparent that the UK state has adopted the second softly-softly approach to lowering its jackboot onto the face of its hapless subjects.

But for all its efforts to hide what it’s up to, from time to time something is revealed that makes it all too obvious.

This is very much the case with the recent revelations about the way environmentalism is being insidiously conflated with “terrorism” under the government’s Orwellian “Prevent” scheme.

Bullying of the Muslim community under this flag has been ongoing for years, but has been swallowed by a general public constantly told that the Islamic religion represents a terrorist-inspiring threat.

The targeting of anti-fracking campaigners comes without even that phoney level of manufactured “justification”.

The Drill or Drop blog reported that Driffield School and Sixth Form in East Yorkshire had earlier this year unveiled a Prevent strategy which included this statement: “At present nationally, the greatest resource is devoted to preventing people from joining or supporting the so called Islamic State (IS) group, its affiliates and related groups. More locally, the East Riding’s main priorities are far right extremism, animal rights and anti-fracking.”

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And research by Spinwatch has revealed this is not an isolated incident. Chesswood Junior School in Worthing, West Sussex implemented a similar policy to that of Driffield College until public reaction forced a retreat. The school’s July 2016 ‘Prevent Duty Policy’ originally suggested that ‘Environmental (Fracking)’ campaigners could present ‘safeguarding concerns’ for children.

The school actually categorised environmentalist groups as “terrorist”, stating: “Radicalisation refers to the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and extremist ideologies associated with any terrorist groups e.g Far Right, Far Left, Environmental (Fracking), Animal rights, Nationalist (IRA), Al Qaeda”.

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Elsewhere, City of York council working with the North Yorkshire police force have used the strategy to link anti-fracking activism with terrorism risks.

Merseyside police force now includes ‘anti-fracking’ as a form of ‘domestic’ extremism in its latest Prevent presentation. The contentious presentation forms the basis of the Merseyside Police’s Special Branch programme of presentations to schools, governors, colleges and childcare providers.

And in June 2016 Dorset County Council in partnership with Dorset Police updated the county’s ‘Prevent delivery plan’. The revision included a statement on ‘fracking’ in the ‘specific risk’ section of the plan.

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TERRORIST ALERT! TERRORIST ALERT!

Meanwhile, the UK state is not only refusing to release details of its sinister programme but is also now interpreting requests for information as an attempt “by extremists to evade detection, thereby prejudicing national security”.

This extraordinary attitude was voiced by the government’s Information Commissioner, in rejecting an appeal by police monitoring group Netpol over the refusal of the police to release details of a programme to “deradicalise extremists”.

The Information Commissioner’s Office stated: “Prevent is a national counter-terrorism initiative that is only implemented in certain police forces across the country. The same FOI request made to multiple forces could therefore identify how Prevent resources are apportioned across the country.

“Anti-fracking campaigns organise around designated locations across the country; confirmation of the existence of the requested information would facilitate the mapping of Prevent capabilities alongside anti-fracking campaigns and, when incorporated into a radicalisation strategy, could be used by extremists to evade detection, thereby prejudicing national security.”

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“Don’t mess with our business, or else…”

You don’t need to be a genius to see what is going on here. Fracking, like all the infrastructures of industrial capitalism, is close to the cold heart of a corrupt state which operates not in the interests of the people of the UK but of the financial interests that own and control it. Therefore anyone who opposes fracking in any (effective) way is a simply an enemy of this mafia and is labelled appropriately.

This is happening all over the world. As American writer Rob los Ricos says in his excellent essay on Ultramodernism: “Interference with corporate activity has become legally defined as terrorism”.

And the  targeting of Muslims and anti-fracking protesters is only part of the wave of stealth fascism being introduced by a pompous and hypocritical UK state whose much-vaunted “democracy”, “freedom” and “civilized values” are all entirely fake.

Take, for instance, the news that South Tyneside Council in north-eastern England wants to fine homeless people up to £100 for accepting food or drink from passers-by.

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The current weapons of choice for this kind of dictatorial institutional bullying are Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO). “Offences” do not even have to be proven in a court of law, but are punished with an on-the-spot fine merely on the say-so of some official.

PSPOs continue the historic work of the Enclosures by turning what were once public spaces into “restricted areas” in which people’s rights are stolen from them in the interests of social cleansing and city centres are essentially turned into open air private shopping malls.

As The Canary reports, the South Tyneside PSPO bans people from drinking alcohol in the designated area (unless they are paying over the odds in some rip-off town centre pub, of course!) and also from making “verbal, non-verbal or written requests… for money, donations, or goods”.

PSPOs were introduced to the UK by the Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act of 2014 and have already been widely used to target the homeless.

Sleeping in public is a criminal offence in certain areas of Shepway, while Rushcliffe Borough Council is currently consulting residents on the same ban. It’s a crime to spend the night in a vehicle or temporary structure in Worthing, and it’s similarly illegal to spend the night in the park in Wrexham.

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Criminal behaviour?

PSPOS are also being used to insidiously restrict people’s fundamental freedoms in other ways, reinforcing a trend towards curfews and dispersal powers that Sussex Police, among others, were already trying to impose four years ago under previous legislation.

This wider application of PSPOs has seen Kettering Borough Council introduce a curfew on under-18s, who must now be home by 11pm or risk receiving fines or a criminal record. Bassetlaw District Council has banned under-16s from gathering in groups of three or more if they’re “causing annoyance”, unless a responsible adult is present.

Redbridge in London is proposing a PSPO stating that “No person within a group of two or more shall refuse to leave an area when required to do so by an authorised officer in order to prevent anti-social behaviour, public nuisance or disorder.”

And the London Borough of Hillingdon has already criminalised the gathering of just two people – regardless of age – unless they’re waiting for the bus. As Rosie Brighouse of Liberty states: “This means it is now an offence in Hillingdon to meet up with anyone, whether you’re causing annoyance or not.”

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4. Fake news and propaganda wars

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Covert foreign interference in elections to ensure a right-wing victory has been a speciality of the CIA for decades.

So you could be forgiven for laughing out loud at the CIA’s recent claim that Russian influence swung the US presidential election Trump’s way. The main worry for anti-capitalists is perhaps that any cancellation of his win would also cancel the J20 day of resistance planned for his inauguration (see Acorn 29).

But behind the pantomime absurdity is a worrying phenomenon. You didn’t have to be a Brexit supporter to be disturbed by neoliberal elites on the losing side calling for a re-run and the involvement of secret police in overturning any election result, anywhere in the world, would surely be cause for concern.

The “Russian” scare attached to the Trump allegations also has wider implications and is tied in with the “fake news” meme by which the establishment is trying to justify moves to extinguish independent online media and re-impose a traditional corporate monopoly.

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This is the news. The only news.

Alternet.org describes how a “website that claims ‘Russia is Manipulating US Opinion Through Online Propaganda’ has compiled a blacklist of websites its anonymous authors accuse of pushing fake news and Russian propaganda”.

It continues: “The blacklist includes over 200 outlets, from the right-wing Drudge Report and Russian government-funded Russia Today, to Wikileaks and an array of marginal conspiracy and far-right sites. The blacklist also includes some of the flagship publications of the progressive left, including Truthdig, Counterpunch, Truthout, Naked Capitalism, and the Black Agenda Report, a leftist African-American opinion hub that is critical of the liberal black political establishment.”

The blacklisting organization, PropOrNot, was described by the Washington Post’s Craig Timberg as “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.” Spooks, in other words? Their agenda certainly seems to chime nicely with that of the CIA!

In an article in Counterpunch, Mark Ames draws attention to the leading role of the Washington Post, which he describes as “essentially an arm of the American deep state; its owner, Jeff Bezos, is one of the three richest Americans, worth $67 billion, and his cash cow, Amazon, is a major contractor with the Central Intelligence Agency. In other words, this is as close to an official US government blacklist of journalists as we’ve seen — a dark ominous warning before they take the next steps.”

And on the same site, Norman Solomon sets out what one of these sinister next steps might be. A new Intelligence Authorization Act envisages “an interagency committee to counter active measures by the Russian Federation to exert covert influence.”

Warns Solomon: “This high-level committee could easily morph into a protracted real-life nightmare. While lacking public accountability, the committee is mandated to ferret out such ambiguous phenomena as Russian ‘media manipulation’ and ‘disinformation’.

“Along the way, the committee could target an array of activists, political opponents or irksome journalists. In any event, its power to fulfill ‘such other duties as the president may designate’ would be ready-made for abuse.”

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In the UK, the Russian scare has been taken up enthusiastically by The Guardian, itself very close to the transatlantic neoliberal establishment despite its pseudo-radical window dressing.

Former British ambassador Craig Murray highlights on his blog the role of “the truly execrable Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian” who claimed that “few credible sources doubt that Russia was behind the hacking of internal Democratic party emails”.

Comments Murray: “In what passes for Freedland’s mind, ‘credible’ is 100% synonymous with ‘establishment’. When he says ‘credible sources’ he means ‘establishment sources’. That is the truth of the ‘fake news’ meme. You are not to read anything unless it is officially approved by the elite and their disgusting, crawling whores of stenographers like Freedland.”

Right-wing Blairite Labour MP Ben Bradshaw has also leapt enthusiastically onto the Russian-scare bandwagon. His bizarre claim that Moscow somehow influenced the Brexit referendum result, without any indication of how it might have done so, shows how the meme is transparently the latest one-size-fits-all neoliberal propaganda device to be applied to any situation without the need for any pesky “evidence”.

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Dan Brooke of Channel 4 wants the government to “step in” and control what news people can read

There are also signs that the associated “fake news” smear is being officially wheeled out in the UK, with Channel 4 executive Dan Brooke claiming that “fake news could affect the next UK election”.

By this, he presumably means he’s worried that social media are able to bypass the stranglehold on reporting imposed by organisations like his own and thus make it difficult for the mainstream media to totally control public opinion and ensure election results go the way they want.

Brooke also urged the UK government to “step in” if Facebook and other internet firms do not do more to tackle the “problem”. Alarm bells ringing, anybody?

What we are seeing here seems to be the firming-up of the hostility to alternative media long expressed by rabidly pro-USA, pro-establishment UK “journalists” like James Bloodworth and Andrew Mueller (Exposed: fake “left-wingers” who hate the alternative media, Acorn 19).

The plan to silence critics of the capitalist system by smears and propaganda has failed, so now the aim is to create a scare around “Russians” and “fake news” to justify a fully-fledged state attack on the online dissent that threatens the capitalist system’s monopoly on “truth”.

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5. The Black Volcano of Industrialism

The monstrous Black Volcano which has loomed and leered menacingly over Happy City since it was founded has finally erupted.

Vast rivers of lava are streaming down the mountain slopes towards the human settlement and ash is already beginning to rain on the rooftops. It is only a matter of time before a pyroclastic cloud scorches instant death onto the people or the molten rock pours into the narrow streets and kills everyone.

But in the city there is complete calm. Reassured by the King’s insistence that they are in no danger and that the volcano is not actually erupting at all, the city folk are going about their everyday lives. Goods are bought and sold, meals prepared and eaten, couples married and children educated.

There was a brief moment of confusion when it was discovered that the Happy City authorities had cut down every single tree in the Great Gardens in order to build a massive wooden fence on the northern limits.

But rumours that this was designed to hide from view the erupting Black Volcano were soon dismissed as malicious paranoid fantasies, as the King explained that it was a completely necessary step to protect his people from blood-thirsty foreign pirates and smugglers.

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And so, as certain extinction draws ever closer, the people of the Happy City keep bustling around, making money, gossiping, squabbling over the petty details of their lives and reporting to the Official Inquisitor any citizen seen to be sniffing suspiciously at the sulphur-laden air, cocking an alert ear to the distant rumbling or trying to peer through the gaps in the Great Anti-Crime Fence in order to see if the lava is close.

That is what it feels like to me to be living at the start of the 21st century.

Humankind has taken a dangerous wrong turn. Modern capitalist society is an out-of-control nightmare. The future mapped out for us can only lead into the dead-end of destruction, disaster and death. Tinkering with the detail will change nothing. We need to abandon this experiment before it is too late and live in a completely different way. Otherwise the Black Volcano of Industrialism will kill us all.

Paul Cudenec

For full article go to network23.org/paulcudenec Paul’s new book, Nature, Essence and Anarchy, has just been published by Winter Oak Press.

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6. Acorninfo

More than 400 people took part in a walk to the top of Leith Hill near Dorking, England, on Saturday December 3 in protest against planned exploratory drilling for oil and gas in the area (see our special report in Acorn 29). An indication of the levels of local support for the campaign comes from the fact that the Leith Hill Celebration Walk, intended to demonstrate the strength of feeling against the proposed drilling within the Surrey Hills area of outstanding natural beauty, was organised by a mum and baby group called Surrey Hills Slings. The massive turn-out involved a wide cross-section of Surrey folk, from families to protectors, from horse riders to mountain bikers. Said one campaigner: “Even the sun was out in support!”

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Keep Our Downs Public campaigners in Sussex have won an impressive victory against a council sell-off of public land. Brighton and Hove City Council’s policy, resources and growth committee voted to stall any sales of the remaining sites which had been earmarked. Meanwhile opposition to similar plans in Eastbourne saw hundreds of people take part in a protest walk (below) from local beauty spot Beachy Head on December 3. For background info, see our report in Acorn 29.

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“Our economic system is incompatible with life on this planet”. This is the conclusion of an important article by Jason Hickel, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics. Confirming the degrowth analysis of the fundamental problem with industrial capitalism (see above), he writes: “When it comes to global warming, we know that the real problem is not just fossil fuels – it is the logic of endless growth that is built into our economic system.”

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The assigned role of young American people as brutalised enforcers of global capitalism has been highlighted in a perceptive anti-militarist article in the USA. It says: “In America we will not make shoes, clothes, cars, TV’s or cell phones anymore. We will make war on behalf of corporate interests around the world.  The Pentagon calls it ‘Security Export’. The airshows, violent movies, military recruitment in our schools, and many other cultural avenues are all aimed at militarizing our culture. The kids are being taught that violence is cool and normal. The word ‘freedom’ comes to mean that the US, the ‘exceptional’ nation, is free to rape, kill and pillage around the world.” The article links to a video documentary about an air show blatantly targeting kids, called “Disneyland of War”.

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Wessex Solidarity is an affinity group in southern England for those in the region with an interest in anarchism, syndicalism or direct action and who share the goal of building a stateless, classless society around the principles of libertarian socialism. They say: “We aim to promote our ideas by constantly challenging the narrative of governments and the corporate media. Members of all other anti–authoritarian, anti–capitalist groups are welcome. We hope to work with all these groups in solidarity; we differ only in tactics and that’s good; the bourgeoisie won’t know who hit them or with what!” More info at https://wessexsolidarity.wordpress.com

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The build-up to the July 2017 resistance to the G20 capitalist summit in Hamburg, Germany (see Acorn 29), is already underway, with a dramatic assault on the venue for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Foreign Ministers meeting. Reports RT: “About 40 unidentified men in balaclavas threw flammable materials through the entrance of the Hamburg Messe trade fair building. It only took seconds for flames to engulf the first floor.” An online claim of responsibility declares: “We placed burning tires at the south entrance of the venue for the OSCE and G20 summits, the ‘Messe Hamburg’. The glass facade on Karolinenstraße was subject to intensive attack with hammers, paint and stones. We decided on this demolition initiative since we reject the summits which are summits for a world that we reject just as much as the planned meetings.” Looking ahead to July, it adds: “Trouble Makers of the world save the dates: 7.7-8.7 2017”.

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Acorn quote: “There is no culture unless an intimate relationship, on the level of instinct, exists between a people and its poets”. Herbert Read, The Forms of Things Unknown

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

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Follow Winter Oak on Twitter at @WinterOakPress

 

 

The Acorn – 6

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Number 6


In this issue:

  1. Highways to hell
  2. Degrowth – real anti-capitalism
  3. State’s war on anti-fracking movement
  4. Frankfurt – a firsthand account
  5. To Hell With Culture
  6. Acorninfo

1. Highways to hell

"A long term and sustainable benefit to the environment”? Roadbuilding in East Sussex.
“A long term and sustainable benefit to the environment”? Roadbuilding in Sussex, England.

The photo above shows Hollington Valley ‘Local Wildlife Site’ near Hastings in East Sussex on March 26 2015. It was posted online by the eco-action group Combe Haven Defenders to show the grim devastation caused by roadbuilding – in this case the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road.

Meanwhile, we are told that “England’s largest road investment programme for a generation” will be “a long term and sustainable benefit to the environment”.

How appropriate that the new official body Highways England is being launched on April 1! You’d have to be a complete April Fool not to see right through the glossy verbiage in its “Delivery Plan” from which these weasel words are taken.

All the smooth talk about making roads safer and reducing congestion is a barely disguised cover for its real mission of expanding capitalist infrastructure and thus increasing private profit at the expense of the public and the environment.

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Supporting economic growth in the Sussex countryside

Readers of The Acorn will not be surprised to learn that number one on the Highways England list of “strategic outcomes” is “supporting economic growth”.

Its brochure adds: “We will do this by modernising the network to relieve congestion and reduce delays, helping businesses to grow, encouraging investment, creating jobs and opening up new areas for development.”

The last phrase here is important. “Opening up new areas for development” is in fact the opposite of relieving congestion and involves increasing the whole spiral of congestion, pollution, environmental destruction and climate change by converting yet more beautiful green fields and woodlands into ugly concrete and tarmac.

This is what new roads are about, everywhere in the world. For instance, the recent Russian proposals for a 12,000-mile east-west motorway (which would theoretically link the UK to the USA by road) not only go hand in hand with plans for new oil and gas pipelines, but have also been given the give-away name of the “Trans-Eurasian Belt Development”.

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Opening up the world for “development”

Highways England is proud of “working closely with Local Enterprise Partnerships and other local partners and stakeholders” to “identify current and future constraints to economic growth”. Like the countryside, perhaps?

In Acorn 4 we examined the Local Enterprise Partnership for parts of southern England, the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, and how its connections to the arms industry and global construction businesses fitted in nicely with its commitment to promoting their interests under the mantle of “economic growth”.

We also exposed how it has admitted that “sustainable transport” schemes do not necessarily have to involve either transport or sustainability and that it was considering one such project, in Worthing, that is blatantly nothing more than a make-over for a town centre shopping centre.

Not only does Highways England play the same deceitful game by claiming its programme will result in “An Improved Environment – where our activities ensure a long term and sustainable benefit to the environment” but, to add insult to injury, the list of its “sustainable” projects actually includes none other than the entirely phoney scheme in Worthing!

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Highways to hell

See also:

Infrastructure is the enemy

Profit before the planet

Battle of Hastings

Road fight is back on

The road to corporate profits

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2. Degrowth – real anti-capitalism

The Only Sustainable Growth is Degrowth

“Economic growth” has replaced “progress” as the term with which industrial capitalism likes to justify its life-destroying rampage.

What the two have in common is that they are both meant to be undeniable facts of life. Within the capitalist/neoliberal mindset, it is a “given” that we need economic growth, as if it were in some way essential to our survival, like sunlight, fresh air or clean water.

This assumption is sadly sometimes also accepted by “radicals”, who fail to challenge this overall capitalist framework and focus instead on making the existing industrial system “fairer” or more “democratic”.

An alternative to this mental trap is degrowth (known elsewhere as décroissance, decrescita, decreixement and decrecimiento). Degrowth is a movement of ideas that “can trace its roots back to the anti-industrialist trends of the 19th century, developed in Great Britain by John Ruskin, William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement (1819–1900), in the United States by Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), and in Russia by Leo Tolstoy (1828–1911).” (Wikipedia)

Degrowth rejects all forms of productivism (the belief that economic productivity and growth is the purpose of human organisation). It rejects the capitalist idea of “sustainable development”, which it sees as an oxymoron, as any development based on growth in a finite and environmentally stressed world is inherently unsustainable.

It is “a downscaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions and equity on the planet. It calls for a future where societies live within their ecological means, with open, localised economies and resources more equally distributed through new forms of democratic institutions” and proposes “a shrinking of the economic system to leave more space for human cooperation and ecosystems”. (degrowth.org)

Of course, within the degrowth movement there are differences of strategy. Some, for example, might think that the capitalist system might somehow be persuaded to dissolve itself, or that it will allow its phoney “democratic” apparatus to divest it of its power. Others fear that a more confrontational attitude will be necessary to save the planet…

décroissance

See also:

The end of endless growth

French resistance to concrete future

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3. State’s war on anti-fracking movement

The British state is going all-out to protect the fracking industry
The British state is going all-out to protect the fracking industry

Sinister signs are emerging that the British state is preparing to use the full weight of its repressive power to try to crush the growing anti-fracking movement on behalf of the business interests which really control our “democratic” society.

The threat is a response to growing support for the anti-fracking struggle, and increasing scepticism about the fracking industry’s corporate spin and its PR strategy of insisting that new sites are purely conventional and that no fracking will in fact take place – see, for instance, this local website in West Sussex.

One indication of the state’s hardline approach comes from the Network for Police Monitoring, which has warned that “police see opposition to fracking as the most significant public order issue in the coming year and are actively preparing for it”.

Another indication comes from a letter issued by government ministers urging local authorities to take a strong line against “unauthorised traveller sites, protest camps and squatters” – including, of course, anti-fracking protest camps.

There is an aspect absurd to this statement in that the ministers claim camps might “harm the local environment” – unlike fracking or roadbuilding, presumably! But there is also a sinister side to their message to all council leaders, police and crime commissioners and police chief constables. Revealing the real attitude of those in power towards the rest of us, they instruct their underlings in the state system: “Public bodies should not gold plate human rights”.

Warning: the British state will not "gold plate" your human rights
Warning: the British state will not “gold plate” your human rights

Netpol explored police attitudes towards the anti-fracking movement following a Supreme Court ruling that the taking and retention of the personal data of 90-year-old Brighton anti-militarist campaigner John Catt was lawful.

It says this may have significant consequences for the surveillance of political activism, since the judgment grants extensive discretion to the police in the operation of police databases, and in the collection of intelligence related to ‘domestic extremism’ or other protest activity. “It is, in short, judicial approval for the mass surveillance of UK political activism”, they warn.

To illustrate the point, Netpol sets out a scenario where local people set up an anti-fracking campaign in a rural village close to a drilling of a proposed new exploratory shale gas well:

Nationally, the police have identified opposition to fracking as a significant public order issue and so believe there is a likelihood of local protests outside the drilling site, though they do not know what form this might take.

In order to assess the risk that any protest might include some degree of obstruction of the site entrance or the public highway, senior officers decide to gather information through overt surveillance on all members of the campaign to establish its size, who is most active and most influential and what other groups, particularly undefined environmental ‘extremists’, local people identified as organisers are in contact with.

This involves officers attending a village hall meeting and noting what has been said, filming everyone as they leave, intimidating home visits to identified ‘leaders’ and logging the movements of activists’ vehicles as they go to and from the village. None of the people under surveillance has a criminal record – few have ever been involved in a campaign before – but this self-evident invasion of their privacy is justified as necessary “for legitimate policing purposes”.

As the surveillance expands from weeks to months, it is not long before the details of almost everyone over 16 in this close-knit local community has been added to the National Special Branch Intelligence System.

Conclude Netpol: “Alarmingly, our work alongside activists in the growing opposition to extreme energy extraction suggests this scenario may soon become entirely realistic.”

Meanwhile, anti-frackers in Bristol have launched a Solidarity Appeal to help their ongoing battle. They say: “Environmental defenders have recently incurred exceptional outgoings of more than a thousand pounds in the continued battle to stop big business destroying our planet. They need your help urgently”. Contributions can be made here.

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4. Frankfurt – a firsthand account

Torched
March 18 in Frankfurt

Following the reports in Acorn 5 of the dramatic anti-capitalist protests in Frankfurt, focused on the official opening of the European Central Bank’s new HQ, this useful firsthand account has been published on rabble.org.uk

From 5am on the morning of the 18th an estimated 6,000 people began marching on the ECB from different corners of Frankfurt. Activists had been organised into ‘fingers’, each with their own strategy to disrupt and blockade the ECB. 10,000 police, armed with pepper spray, tear gas and water cannons were concentrated around the bank.

As the fingers moved toward the ECB, banks, government buildings and shops were targeted. Paint bombs were thrown at the UBS building, windows were smashed at the local council building, Hilton Hotel and Sparkasse Bank. Slogans painted on the walls gave a clear message. ‘Smash Capitalism’ was written on buildings across Frankfurt. One person had written ‘The empire is dying’, and an advertising billboard for Intimissi underwear that objectified women was defaced with the words ‘Smash Patriarchy’. Police who came close while all this was going on were warned off by a hail of rocks.

As people got closer to the ECB, anything that could be moved was dragged into the road to blockade the area around the bank and prevent police movements. A building site was dismantled to create a strong barricade close to Ost Bahnhof metro station. Police who drove close to the crowd constructing the barricade soon thought better of it, and drove away at breakneck speed. A nearby road was blocked by an abandoned police car, which was set alight. The barricade was further strengthened by the torching of a luxury car.

Police responded by firing tear gas, charging at the crowd, punching and kicking demonstrators and kettling. Almost 400 people were held in a cordon and at least 17 people were arrested. One of the arrestees, Federico Annibale, a student from SOAS in London, has been in custody in Frankfurt since Wednesday. According to the NoTroika website he has not seen the evidence against him and has not yet been charged.

Despite police repression, people managed to set fire to dozens of police vehicles and set up burning barricades around the city centre.

burning barricade

By 11am riots had begun to abate, protesters danced on the streets at a sound truck at the end of a bridge close to the ECB, while police water cannons kept watch. The day ended with a colourful 25,000 strong anti-capitalist march through Frankfurt.

So, what is the significance of the Frankfurt riots? First of all, they are an effective example of propaganda by deed. The images broadcast around the world from the streets of Frankfurt may have brought a little hope to those suffering under the Europe’s austerity regime, to those ready to join the struggle for a different society. They send a message that people are, once again, ready to resist. They may also be the first step in a new wave of international resistance to capitalism.

On March 18th, thousands of German activists were joined by people from Italy, Greece, France, Ireland, the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey and Spain. Many of the international activists had come in large contingents, the size of which has not been seen since the heyday of international summit mobilisations. Those of us present on the day got a taste of what it is like to take part in a truly transnational demonstration, to make an impact despite the thousands of cops pitted against us, and gained inspiration and new allies.

Of course, the ECB protests had many of the problems that the international summit mobilisation movement also had. The Blockupy coalition was intentionally wide to maximise numbers, ranging from anti-authoritarians and anarchists to trade union organisations and the Die Linke party. The publicly announced planning meeting on the 17th, attended by over a thousand people, was reminiscent of attending the speeches at a traditional left wing rally. The Blockupy coalition felt the need to distance itself from the riots in the media. Ulrich Wilken, a coalition representative said “This is not what we in Blockupy had planned.” but that he “understood” people’s anger at the “policies of impoverishment”. A Blockupy statement later said that “individual actions” were “not responsible” – meaning that some demonstrators’ actions were irresponsible.

DieLinke
Party agenda – Die Linke

These so-called ‘representatives’ of the protests have their own interests at heart: the strengthening of political parties like Die Linke and other European left wing parties, in the wake of the success of Syriza in Greece. Those of us who want to see a non-hierarchical movement aimed at dismantling the capitalist system from below and creating alternatives which challenge all forms of oppression must be on our guard against our efforts being channelled into building popularity for these parties, which will not change the system and will only lead to further disappointments and failures for those who want to see real change.

Transnational resistance against capitalism needs to transcend the old cycle of counter-summits to create real solidarity between those resisting, to mobilise internationally to support local struggles, and to consider how a temporary show of resistance, as happened in Frankfurt, can make room for more permanent spaces from which to explore how to create new worlds free from capitalism and oppression.

If we are going to effectively resist capitalism, a system which defies national borders to dominate the world we live in today, we need strong local struggles, to challenge the system wherever we are and prevent further destruction of the earth and our communities by the endless drive for profit. But it is also necessary for us to see how these struggles are connected together, to get to know our allies living across borders and to recognise the power we have when we join each other. Let’s hope that the events in Frankfurt last week will spark a new wave of transnational resistance to capitalism which will strengthen our movements, reclaim space to create alternatives and inspire others to join the struggle.

"Conquer capitalism!"
“Conquer capitalism!”

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5. To Hell With Culture

readpostersmall

The first Brighton screening of Huw Wahl’s film To Hell With Culture is being organised by Sussex Anarchists at the Cowley Club, 12 London Road, Brighton, at 7.30pm on Tuesday April 7. The film will be introduced on the evening by Dr Michael Paraskos, author of Herbert Read: Art and Idealism, among other works.

To Hell With Culture is an inspiring portrait of the life and work of Herbert Read (1893-1968), one of the most influential art and literary theorists of modernism active in the first half of the twentieth century. He was also an anarchist, being directly involved in the movement both before and after the Second World War and penning some important contributions to anarchist philosophy.

Despite his passion for modernist culture, Read remained deeply attached to a rural English way of life threatened by the machineries of capitalism, declaring: “Deep down my attitude is a protest against the fate that has made me a poet in an industrial age”.

The free screening follows on from the Sussex Anarchists group meeting at 6pm. All welcome.

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6. Acorninfo

Never Mind The Ballots…It’s The 7th Bristol Anarchist Bookfair! The event is being held from 11am to 6pm on Saturday April 25, 2015, at  Trinity Centre Trinity Rd, Bristol BS2 0NW, with a Radical History Zone nearby at Hydra Bookshop. The bookfair comes just 13 days before the British general election and local elections and organisers promise: “There won’t be a single lying, corrupt, austerity-enforcing, media-spinning politician in sight”. More info at bristolanarchistbookfair.org

Bristol bookfair poster

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Two chapters of the new Invisible Committee book To Our Friends have now been posted online in English, ahead of its actual publication. The latest released text is called Let’s Disappear, and stresses that revolutionaries should not fall into the trap of seeing the ‘population’ as something other than themselves, as something that has to be influenced or harnessed in some way, as the state itself does. They remind us: “We are the ‘hearts and minds’ that must be conquered. We are the ‘crowds’ that are to be controlled”. The previously-released chapter is called Fuck Off Google.

toourfriendscover

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A general strike is being staged in France on Thursday April 9 against the new Macron law, with workers and students mobilising to block buildings and infrastructure and take to the streets in large numbers. The law drawn up by economics minister Emmanuel Macron is all about encouraging our old friend “economic growth”. The 106 articles in the Macron Law provide further proof, as if any were needed, of the ruling French Socialist Party’s neoliberal agenda. Working hours are to be increased, with Sunday working normalised in the way it already is in the UK, and bosses’ powers strengthened. As ever, though, the French people are ready to put up a fight!

9avril

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A draconian clamp-down on dissent and resistance is being launched by the Spanish state. On March 26 three controversial laws were approved in the Spanish Congress. The Penal Code, the new Anti-Terror Law and the Law on Citizen Safety, scheduled to come into effect on July 1, 2015, pose a severe threat to freedom of expression in the streets and on the internet. For instance, there will be fines of up to 30,000€ for “crimes” such as “photographing or recording police”, “peaceful disobedience to authority”, “occupying banks as means of protest”, or “not formalizing a protest”. Online activism is also targeted, with jail sentences of between three months and a year threatened for publishing “slogans or messages” or “inciting any offence of disorderly conduct” including “disturbing the public peace”. The state’s definition of “terrorism” is widened to include hacking with the goal of disturbing the public peace. More information at revolution-news.com. The new laws follow Operation Pandora in December, in which anarchists were attacked by the Spanish state under the guise of an “anti-terrorist” operation.

Solidarity with Spanish anarchists
Solidarity with anarchists targeted by the Spanish state

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Following a fire which affected the premises of anarchist publisher AK Press in Oakland, USA, it is making an appeal for funds to put right the damage.The target is a hefty $150,000, but $40,000 had already been raised in the first four days.

Fire damage at AK Press in the USA
Fire damage at AK Press in the USA

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Finally, a couple of online video recommendations from The Acorn. This documentary looks at direct action protests against the DSEI arms fair in London – both the event and the opposition will be happening again in September this year. And this film shows a feisty student protest against neoliberalism in Quebec.

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Acorn quote: “Dracula, king of the vampires, is the perfect fin-de-siècle cultural horror: something living hundreds of years yet dead, something dead but undead, draining the vitality of the living, like European Civilization itself”. Richard Noll, The Jung Cult: The Origins of a Charismatic Movement

dracula

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