January 19, 2019: week 10 of history-forging French uprising
For the tenth weekend running, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets all across France in the Gilets Jaunes or Yellow Vests revolt against neoliberal capitalism – and this in the face of unprecedented state violence and oppression.
President’s Macron pathetic attempt to take back the initiative with his “Grand National Debate” has been exposed as a sham, with his regional roadshows protected by armies of riot police – deployed to keep at bay the people he is supposed to be listening to!
In Paris, for Act 10 of the uprising, the latest in a series of massive marches was estimated by observers to stretch for 4km and was met with the usual hostility and teargas from the “forces of order”.
🔴 URGENT – #Avignon : Des #casseurs ont tenté de mettre le feu à l'hôtel de ville. Ils ont incendié un container à poubelles devant la porte en bois du bâtiment situé place de l'Horloge avant de prendre la fuite en cassant tout ce qu'ils pouvaient sur leur passage." #giletjaunepic.twitter.com/EQo9qrVZw8
Everywhere there were thousands and thousands of people demanding an end to the neoliberal misery being imposed on France by Macron’s regime and the whole corrupt political system.
Caen, Rouen, Nîmes, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Toulon, Dijon, Beziers, Perpignan, Montpellier, Lyons, Angers, Poitiers, Marseilles, Bergerac, Brest, Longeville-lès-Saint-Avold, the little town of Foix in rural Ariège…
And from everywhere the same images and reports came flooding in: big crowds, police provocation, teargas, grenades, batons, water cannon, blood and defiance.
You can call it what you like – The Establishment, The Thing, The Matrix or the Industrial-Military-Prison-Propaganda-Complex – but it exists.
It has become trendy in recent years to pretend that this is not so, that what we are seeing is merely a collection of economic or interpersonal relationships.
But it is the system that promotes, protects and imposes all the layers of domination and exploitation that mark our everyday lives.
It is the system that tells us we have to spend our best life energy working for it, just for the right to eat and exist in the world it claims it owns.
It is the system that pays its hired thugs to beat us up, intimidate us, lock us up for years if we refuse to play by its rules.
It is the system that maims and murders human beings on an unimagineable scale across the world, all in the interests of its profit and power, and still always claims the moral high ground.
It is the system that lies through its teeth, with a slick smile on its face, and is always quick to accuse anyone who challenges its lies of being a liar.
It is the system that devours, poisons and destroys our air, our water, our land and our bodies.
It is the system that brings death and extinction while claiming to bring growth.
It is the system that is always looking at new ways to monitor us, to control us, to infiltrate our lives, to direct our thoughts, to crush the tiniest possibilities of our freedom and resistance.
It is also the system, of course, that insists that the system does not exist, that we should not confuse the many trees of its oppression and control with an overall wood that could be termed an entity.
It says that anyone who talks of the system is necessarily a simple-minded fool who imagines the world is all controlled in every detail by half a dozen James Bond villains sitting around a conference table in an underground bunker.
It says that anyone who talks of the system is a conspiracy theorist liable to start spouting all kinds of deranged, maybe anti-semitic, nonsense.
The system says this because it knows full well that the rest of us – the powerless nobodies it so despises – will never be able to effectively challenge the system if we don’t even know that it exists.
On this point, and this point alone, we agree with the system. Identifying the existence of the system is the necessary first step to clearing the way for a worthwhile future for humankind and our planetary home.
The second necessary step is to destroy the system in its entirety.
The system has always depended on being able to control the narrative of the societies it controls, ensuring that its own existence remains invisible and that all its lies are accepted as self-evident truths.
It knows that it is in big trouble if serious numbers of people start ripping the propaganda drip-feeds from their brains and sourcing their information from elsewhere, if people stop parroting the sermons of the system’s priests and start thinking for themselves.
It has been interesting to see the system in panic mode in France, being forced to work through every step of the emergency disinformation procedures as the Gilets Jaunes revolt gathers more and more momentum.
To start with, the Gilets Jaunes were just a passing nuisance. Then they were right-wing extremists, or left-wing extremists if the message was being aimed at a right-wing audience. After that, they were violent thugs and village idiots. Then it was all a flop and dying out. Then they were suddenly threatening armed revolution. They subsequently switched back to being fascists again, maybe of the elusive “red-brown” variety evoked by neoliberals everywhere in their desperate attempts to equate far left with far right and present themselves as the only safeguard against the horrors of so-called “populism”.
Again and again, the well-groomed and arrogant faces of the Parisian elite appeared to inform the French people that they were nothing but uneducated riff-raff who deserved to be shot and telling them to pack it all in. But nobody was watching TV on the roundabouts.
The media even wheeled out the tired old spectre of the Le Pen family once again, with inflated reports of how they were poised to come to power. It’s a great double-act for the capitalists, the old nice-nasty routine: support capitalism or you get fascism.
While there have been howls of media outrage over every flower-pot thrown towards the serried ranks of armour-plated riot cops, the huge levels of brutal violence inflicted by the police themselves have been sidelined or even ignored.
Individual cops have complained publicly that the instructions for this violence – by means of tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon, grenades or just good old-fashioned beating and kicking – are political and have come straight from the state.
RÉPRESSION CONTRE LES GILETS JAUNES : UN POLICIER MET EN CAUSE LE GOUVERNEMENT
"Le message envoyé par le gouvernement c'est : on veut aller à la confrontation, on ne veut plus éviter la répression, tout est mis en place pour que ça dégénère". Alexandre Langlois, @VIGI_MIpic.twitter.com/wpGlX7T0Je
The system has given orders for the Gilets Jaunes to be left bloodied in the road, handless or eyeless in several cases. The system has given orders for its media to pretend this just isn’t happening.
And people have seen that. Millions of people have seen it and seen through it. The system has played its hand and it cannot keep playing it again and again with the results that it expects.
This is the scenario it fears most. The scenario in which the hologram illusion of democracy projected by its vast range of propaganda techniques flickers and disappears from the minds of the people.
Instead they see reality as it, as it has been for a long time: a criminal gang of professional liars, manipulators and thieves successfully holding millions of people in a state of thralldom, and being prepared to use unlimited violence to hold on to their power.
It is not just in France that the system is afraid of losing control, although the population there seem to be several steps ahead of others in their awareness of what is going on and their courage in actually trying to do something about it.
That is why for years the system has been infiltrating radical political movements – and often sabotaging them from within so they can never successfully mobilise against its domination.
That is why it is rolling out products like NewsGuard to filter internet intervention and try and make sure only the system’s version of reality, the system’s views, can reach the public.
That is why it is constantly removing pages and accounts from social media, policing the internet to try to ensure that small voices of dissent can no longer be heard, while claiming that this insidious censorship is all about countering “fake news”.
That is why journalists who help whistleblowers expose the system’s crimes and manipulations are not only targeted by the system’s police but mercilessly smeared by the system’s faithful media lackeys.
But can the system ever really regain full-spectrum narrative domination and get all that information toothpaste neatly back into the mind-control tube?
Greta Thunberg: darling of the climate change reformists
Needless to say, we at The Acorn are fully behind environmental campaigns like Extinction Rebellion (see Issue 45) which warn that we face planetary disaster unless our society makes radical changes.
But we have to admit that we are often puzzled as to why there is quite so much emphasis on climate change as the primary evidence of something going badly wrong.
Why less talk of the plastic that is choking our oceans, the chemicals polluting our water sources, the nanoparticles absorbed by our bodies, the noxious fumes poisoning our air, the microwaves causing cancers in our brains?
Why so little mention that there is a name for all of this – industrial capitalism?
Why so few calls for the dismantling of this productivist profit-based insanity and the instigation of degrowth to restore a society which produces solely according to its real needs?
Surely it couldn’t be because the climate change movement is being insidiously manipulated by elements of industrial capitalism itself?
Surely it couldn’t be because the issue is being hijacked by powerful private interests as a way of getting rich on the new technologies that will supposedly solve the crisis?
Could it really be the case that genuine environmental activists, arrested and locked up for their courageous actions, are being used as human cannon fodder for a global marketing campaign?
Anyone tempted to dismiss these questions out of hand might like to take a look at the new work published online by radical ecologist researcher and writer Cory Morningstar.
This concerns the “non-profit industrial complex”, which she describes as “the most powerful army in the world”.
She writes that we are currently witnessing “the launch of a global campaign to usher in a required consensus for the Paris Agreement, the New Green Deal and all climate related policies and legislation written by the power elite – for the power elite”.
The policies this campaign is trying to push through include carbon capture storage (CCS), enhanced oil recovery (EOR), bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), rapid total decarbonisation, payments for ecosystem services (referred to as “natural capital”), nuclear energy and fission, and “a host of other ‘solutions’ that are hostile to an already devastated planet”.
The overall aim is the opposite of the degrowth we so badly need and would involve the “rebooting” of the capitalist economy by creating new markets and new growth.
Morningstar warns: “What is being created is a mechanism to unlock approx. 90 trillion dollars for new investments and infrastructure”.
The first part of her in-depth report focuses on “the manufacturing of Greta Thunberg” and the We Don’t Have Time organisation.
Future sections promise to investigate the role of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, 350.org, Avaaz, the World Wildlife Fund, the Green New Deal and, yes, Extinction Rebellion.
We look forward to reading them.
In the meantime, it is important that all of us who want to head off environmental catastrophe make it quite clear that this is not going to happen so long as we remain trapped inside the capitalist system.
He describes our Western world as “a civilization with money as its universal mediation” in which capitalism “encloses” and privatises all aspects of life.
It cannot tolerate the idea of anyone living outside of its enclosure, hence its need to stamp out the practice of “subsistence” farming, where communities have the cheek to simply produce enough food for their own requirements, rather than for the requirements of the capitalist profit-machine.
It forces people into its system by giving them no choice, he explains: “Declaring war on subsistence means dissolving the autonomous ways of life of thousands of people and thereby enslaving them to commercial needs which they can only fulfil by going out to earn a wage”.
The idea of defending a natural world, which includes human communities’ relationships with the environment, has been neglected by Western anti-capitalism, he says, particularly under the influence of mainstream Marxism.
Uprooted from our previous rural existences, we today often find ourselves living in a sterile and life-denying suburban sprawl, a space created “for the demands of capital”, where people are trapped in a dependence on their cars and thus on the oil industry.
Garcia draws much on William Morris and echoes his critique of the artificiality of industrial capitalism: “In this world of artifice, going beyond the surface to a deeper level, that of the sheer essence of things, is no longer conceivable”.
Garcia dedicates another section of the book to examining, and condemning, transhumanism, which he terms “the official ideology of technological capitalism”.
This ideology “reduces the human brain to a simple processer of information, a mere calculating machine” and is built on the “basic negation of the reality of living organisms”.
Behind it lurks a “brutal dualism” which regards mind and body as completely separate, and thus imagines the possibility of a “posthuman” self with no fleshly existence.
Worryingly, this ultra-capitalist creed is also embraced by some who term themselves left-wing and have swallowed the lie that technological and social progress amount to the same thing.
You can read the full version of this book review by Paul Cudenec on his blog.
“The Wet’suwet’en and Unist’ot’en remain steadfast in the determination that we will be successful in halting the toxic Coastal GasLink pipeline”. This was the defiant message issued on January 17 after the Canadian branch of the industrial-capitalist-military complex used shocking force against the indigenous peoples to try and clear the way for its polluting infrastructures, prompting an international wave of solidarity actions.
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Hundreds of people marched in Bern, Switzerland, on Saturday January 19 against the World Economic Forum being held at Davos, and against capitalism in general. They declared: “The infinite greed for profit and power that is seen at the Forum in Davos has no limits. Let the ruling class feel our anger”.
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Protests are to be held in Berlin on February 16 against the European Police Congress being hosted in the city. Says the call-out: “Let us use the police congress as an opportunity to take to the streets together against the police, the security authorities and their laws. Against state violence and repression. Against a world in which it is okay to let thousands of people drown on the borders of Europe, a world in which people are persecuted, imprisoned and killed because of their aspirations for liberation, a world that wants to destroy all forms of a life based on solidarity and collectivity”.
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A new book on squatting has been published by Squatting everywhere kollective (SqEK) and is available to read online. ‘Fighting for spaces, Fighting for our lives: Squatting Movements today‘ provides glimpses into a diverse and multi-faceted movement, with accounts from local struggles, experiences of repression and stories of collective forms of life which have grown out of squatted spaces in various cities and countries throughout the world, including accounts from Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, Seattle and Australia.
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“Stop 5G on Earth and in Space!” is the message from a new international appeal. It calls for a halt to the deployment of the 5G (fifth generation) wireless network, including 5G from space satellites, explaining: “5G will massively increase exposure to radio frequency (RF) radiation on top of the 2G, 3G and 4G networks for telecommunications already in place. RF radiation has been proven harmful for humans and the environment. The deployment of 5G constitutes an experiment on humanity and the environment that is defined as a crime under international law”.
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In India’s densely populated megacities, residents are rallying against the widespread destruction of trees to make way for capitalist development, reports Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar. She highlights grassroots resistance in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi which are keeping alive the Indian tradition of tree-hugging and passionate defence of nature.
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Brazil’s new far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has already set out his vile agenda, reducing the minimum wage and unveiling plans to step up privatization, toughen prison sentencing guidelines, and hand control over Indigenous land to the Agriculture Ministry. The pro-US, pro-Israel Bolsonaro could well be the first in a new line of authoritarian neoliberals ready to impose industrial capitalism on the world without worrying too much about the facade of “democracy”.
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An eye-opening account of life for workers in China has been provided by Dissent Magazine. Uprooted from the land, peasant-workers have to take jobs in the electronic, garment, construction, or service industries whose low wages force them to work punishing hours of overtime. They live in crowded dormitories, under CCTV surveillance and the constant threat of eviction if they protest. “This is the true ‘miracle’ of Chinese industrialization: a highly vulnerable, precarious, and exploited working class”.
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A very interesting article has been published by our US comrades at It’s Going Down, addressing the thorny issue of alleged ideological similarities between deep-green anarchism and fascists, who often used nature-based rhetoric in their propaganda. The author finds that even the way the two traditions talk about nature reveals the apparent resemblance to be superficial: “The philosophies of the fascists came to largely revolve around concepts of domestication, husbandry, design, and surgical intervention; those of the primitivists revolve around wildness, biodiversity, voluntary association, and self-determination”. ‘Fascism, Ecology, and the Tangled Roots of Anti-Modernism‘ sits nicely alongside our own 2018 article, ‘Organic radicalism: bringing down the fascist machine‘ as a step towards clearing up this area of painful ideological misunderstanding.
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Acorn quote: “What is the point of economic progress, a so-called higher standard of living, when the earth, the only earth we have, is being contaminated by substances which may cause malformations in our children or grandchildren?”
1. Rebelling against the industrial capitalist system
Is the human species finally waking up to the fact that industrial capitalism is murdering the planet and realising that we all have to take action to stop it?
The signs are currently looking good in England, where the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement has appeared out of nowhere and mobilised thousands of people to block streets and engage in civil disobedience.
The first big day of action was on Saturday November 17, when some 6,000 people took to the streets of London.
They blocked five London bridges and planted trees on Parliament Square. More than 80 people were arrested.
Said Gail Bradbrook of XR: “This is an act of mass civil disobedience. This is the start of an international rebellion protesting the lack of action on the ecological crisis”.
There were swarming road blocks across London in the run-up to Rebellion Day 2, announced for Saturday November 24, 10am to 5pm at Parliament Square.
The Rebellion has also started to take off elsewhere, such as Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Ireland.
Some question marks have been raised in anti-capitalist circles about the XR approach. For a start, the enthusiastic participation of pseudo-radical Guardian columnist George Monbiot, who too often mirrors his employers’ anti-left neoliberalism (see the Media Lens archives), has set alarm bells ringing.
A strangely deferential attitude to the police has also worried many. In an article in The Canary, Emily Apple highlighted a failure in XR circles to critique the fundamental relationship between the police, the state and corporations, pointing out: “Ultimately, the police are there to protect the interests of the state”.
She added: “It is our duty to rebel. But effective rebellion will mean facing the full force and the full power of the state, and being prepared for the consequences.
“No amount of statements of non-violence will stop the police going in with full force if what you’re doing is a threat to the state or corporate profit. It won’t stop fundamental police tactics of harassment and disruption; tactics designed to deliberately deter people from protesting”.
However, most would applaud the way XR has achieved what seemed impossible and ignited a whole new wave of public protest against industrial capitalism.
If you believe in a full diversity of tactics, then you have to wish them well and hope that their misguided faith in the intentions of the UK’s police does not end with too many baton-bludgeoned limbs and skulls, when the corporate-owned state decides that XR’s disruptive tactics have gone far enough.
Another encouraging sign of a change in consciousness is the publication by the UK’s Anarchist Federation of a booklet (available online) called Capitalism Is Killing the Earth: An Anarchist Guide to Ecology.
The booklet rightly notes: “There has been wider understanding of environmental issues since mainstream publications such as Silent Spring, Gaia and An Inconvenient Truth; however, an anti-capitalist critique has been lacking”.
The aim of anarchists should therefore be to “make the link between capitalism and environmental degradation explicit in our politics and critique the role of the state in facilitating this”.
It tackles the issue of false solutions to the environmental meltdown, observing that most proposals for change do not question the overarching system of capitalism and the market economy: “The existence of private property, the appropriation of nature as a source of growth and production for profit instead of need are at the root of the problem, so they cannot be part of the solution”.
It was not clear to us, though, what is intended by the reference to a “primitivist” alternative society preventing people from “maintaining or increasing their standard of living”.
For the industrial capitalist mindset, “standard of living” is all about having a car and a dishwasher, flying abroad on holiday and fully participating in the capitalist economy. It is about buying and consuming.
Presumably the authors agree that a genuinely high “standard of living” would involve living freely in a community of equals, sharing the produce of the earth, breathing fresh air, eating uncontaminated food, waking each morning to the sound of birdsong or children’s laughter rather than of low-flying aircraft or the motorway at the end of the street.
The booklet says anarchists should “work more closely with groups such as Earth First!, Reclaim the Power and Rising Tide to further develop an activism which is both confrontational towards capitalism and is inclusive of local and global perspectives”.
We agree. A full convergence of anti-capitalism and anti-industrialism is long overdue. Industrialism and capitalism are not two separate phenomena but two aspects of the same thing.
Whether you first notice its existence from an environmental perspective or from a social one, industrial capitalism is readily identifiable as the enemy.
It is the enslaver of humanity, the stealer of land, the destroyer of community and, unless we can quickly drive a stake through its malignant heart, the murderer of our planet.
2. “At the heart of this problem lies our sense of separation from nature”
In-depth interview with campaigner Geraldine of frackfree_eu
Thanks for agreeing to this interview. Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and what sort of campaigning you are involved in?
I grew up in a rural area. In some respects, I guess I kind of grew up in a bubble, not necessarily privileged, far from it in financial terms, but certainly sheltered from any social or environmental problems.
From a young age, I cared deeply about the environment, but I’d never engaged in any activism as such. I used to receive newsletters from the World Wildlife Fund, and feel concerned about all the animals whose habitats were endangered by deforestation, orangutans and koalas especially.
I was so concerned about deforestation, in fact, that I once replied to exam questions in tiny writing in order to save paper, drawing attention to the fact that trees are chopped down to make the paper. The teacher was outraged by my act, insisted I apologise, but I refused, so she put me on detention.
It wasn’t too bothered. Standing up for what’s right is something to be proud of and I wasn’t going to obey authority whose demands conflicted with my values. I always had a bit of a rebellious streak.
How I got into campaigning… My academic background is in languages. Throughout my studies, I’d never been involved in anything remotely political. It was only when doing a Masters in European Studies that I had my eyes opened to injustices I’d previously been unaware of – such as racism, the Israel / Palestine conflict, austerity. None of these issues made me angry enough to drop everything, though.
Then, in early 2011, I first became aware of fracking while in France with my boyfriend on a business trip, watching politicians on French TV engaged in a fiery debate about how it could contaminate the water.
The French term ‘gaz de schiste’ sounded less scary than the English equivalent ‘fracking’, so after a cursory look in the dictionary which translated ‘gaz de schiste’ as ‘shale gas’ I thought no more of it and just carried on focusing on my studies.
Little did I know at the time that the same technique was being proposed all across Europe and that France was to become the first country to ban it. It actually took me about six months to revisit the issue, after hearing news of earthquakes in Blackpool and seeing a documentary with French MEP José Bové at a fracking site somewhere in Poland.
Once I began ‘googling’ the term ‘fracking’, I was horrified. Then I learned that parts of Ireland were under threat too. Never in my life have I felt so incensed.
My first thought was: How could our government even consider giving permission to an industry that industrialises vast swathes of countryside and that has left a toll of death and destruction in every community where it has gained a foothold?
I’d never held politicians in much esteem anyway, feeling the system was designed to serve the better-off and those of us at the bottom rungs of the social ladder just have to work hard for everything and not rely on the state for help. As for voting, I’d only voted at one election as I felt elections were a farce.
Despite all this, it still took me aback at how Government can allow policies to be dictated by the interests of big business. What stunned me in particular is how these corporations fabricate lies in order to get what they want, repeating this mantra of jobs and growth as if nothing else mattered.
That the truth, the facts, the science, could be obscured for the sake of profit and self-interest ignited a fire in me like never before.
It was time for me to move beyond my comfort zone, beyond my material world and devote myself wholeheartedly to the cause by attending events and speaking out at them, working with people I’d never have imagined working with before, mobilising others to take action, organising events, travelling to places I’d never been – but ultimately sharing the truth about what fracking involves and how much suffering and harm it causes to every living being. Nowhere deserves to become a sacrifice zone, least of all the country where I grew up and love.
Just focusing on fracking for the moment, what do you think there is about it in particular – compared to mining, for instance, or other forms of industrialisation – that has triggered such a strong response in you, and in so many others who were not previously engaged in this kind of struggle?
Excellent and thought-provoking question! I’d be equally outraged about mining, though it is nowhere near as dangerous as fracking, to be honest, and have replied to consultations objecting to mining projects proposed in my country.
At the moment, communities in Northern Ireland, some of whom were previously licensed for fracking, are having to fight several mining projects. And at the height of the Romanian anti-fracking campaign, I remember meeting Romanians who were also involved in the campaign to save Rosia Montana from gold mining.
Anyone who opposes the raping and plundering of the land through fracking should also oppose mining or any industrial practice. Not to do so would be inconsistent, as all these practices pollute the air and water we all need to survive.
To answer your question properly, firstly, I think the term ‘fracking’ itself makes you sit up, encouraging you to delve deeper into the issue.
‘Shale gas’ on the other hand – as I experienced myself when I looked it up in the dictionary – tends to sound harmless, leaving you thinking, “Well, we need gas to heat our homes, don’t we?!” This is why the term ‘shale gas’ is preferred by the fracking industry, I believe.
And although ‘fracking’ may not have the same resonance in other languages, the documentary ‘Gasland’ by US filmmaker Josh Fox did much to popularise the term in non-English speaking countries, with translations into French, Romanian and Polish, and other languages too perhaps.
Secondly, I think the scale of what was being proposed across vast swathes of land, merely because of the geology, impacts thousands of communities. No other industry, in recent history at least, has impacted this many rural communities and no other industry has prompted so many places to enact bans and moratoria as a result of fierce grassroots opposition either.
Biologist Dr Sandra Steingraber and report co-author of the Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction) has called fracking “the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
Having spent countless hours exploring fracking, I also believe that the impacts are far more severe than those associated with any other industrial process.
We have been fortunate to have had many experts – including Dr Steingraber, toxins expert Dr Marianne Lloyd-Smith, lawyer Helen Slottje, former oil and gas employee Jessica Ernst, as well as others who have seen fracking up close – come to Europe, warning us to fight with all our might.
And for good reason, because this industry has killed and harmed so many, from workers who have lost their lives in well blowouts or contracted cancers because of exposure to the toxic chemicals fracking uses and the NORM radiation the fracking process brings up – so well detailed by the late Dr Theo Colborn – to residents, children included, living in the gasfields suffering from severe neurological diseases caused by the toxic air pollution.
You also have suicides. The late George Bender, an Australian farmer, who was bullied for years by the fracking industry, ended up taking his own life a couple of years ago.
Then you have all the fish that have died because of fracking waste dumped in waterways and livestock that have suffered stillbirths. As Queensland gasfield refugee Brian Monk says, “You don’t live in gasfield. You die in one.”
Thirdly, I think fracking has raised the ire of so many because there is absolutely no need for it. The industry loves to tout energy security as an argument, but this is a complete red herring.
The reality is that fracking requires more energy than it creates – about five times more – and removes enormous quantities of our most precious resource, water, from the hydrological cycle forever.
There is also a global glut of gas, and gas demand across the EU has been falling steadily in recent years. So there can be no justification whatsoever for fracking.
Mining for raw materials, on the other hand, may be seen as justified by some. I mean, how many of us are willing to radically change our lifestyles so all the stuff relying on mining doesn’t need to be produced in the first place?
Try suggesting to people that they can and should live without a mobile phone (those of us who grew up without one survived perfectly well!) tends to provoke angry reactions.
Fourthly, the anti-fracking movement – largely grassroots and volunteer-based in nature – has done quite a good job of communicating the issue. Communication is crucial in mobilising people to take action. So often I see other struggles, equally worthy, being poorly communicated.
I think what’s important is that the communication is driven by local communities as much as possible. The corporate media loves to marginalise anti-fracking campaigners, portraying us as ‘environmentalists’, ‘green campaigners’, or worse ‘hippies’ and ‘treehuggers’.
In doing so, they give the impression that fracking is a fringe issue not worthy of everyone’s concern, when the complete opposite is true. In reality, the movement is made up of people from every background imaginable, from farmers and small business people to doctors and engineers.
Having communications driven by locals means you are able to capture all the cultural sensitivities too.
Framing our campaign as a struggle against corporate power and corporate-captured governments with ordinary people rising up against the odds also gets more people on board, in my experience. Again, unsurprisingly, the corporate media rarely frames our story this way.
Lastly, you definitely have a wider movement which vilifies the fossil fuel industry, and rightly so, because it exerts so much power over our governments. Other extractivist struggles, on the other hand, tend not to spark as much outrage, I feel.
Perhaps this is because any questioning of the capitalist system, and industrial civilisation as a whole, threatens so many depending on the system, especially NGOs who have far greater resources than grassroots groups to communicate environmental issues.
Shortly after I began researching fracking, I came across a book called ‘The Moneyless Man’ by Mark Boyle. Reading it led me to question industrial civilisation as a whole, so for me, fracking has always been just one part of a systemic problem.
At the heart of this problem lies our sense of separation from nature, a sense that we humans are in control of the earth’s resources and that we have the right to exploit them how we wish, oblivious to the fact that in doing so we are also destroying our only life-support system.
Living with less and challenging the system fuelling this greed and separation from nature has now become the focus of my efforts as a result of learning about fracking and wider environmental struggles.
What do you see as the main obstacles between the human species and a healthier, nature-connected future?
So much to say, but for me three obstacles in particular stand out: materialism, trust in authority and hope. Apologies in advance for what is going to be a lengthy reply.
– Materialism vs spirituality
First and foremost, I believe we need to abandon our material selves. For too long, we have seen ourselves as separate from nature, rather than a part of it. How can we forge a deep connection with nature, realising that all life is sacred, unless we are willing to strip ourselves of material belongings?
In becoming less materially-focused and more spiritual beings, we become less willing to destroy our life-support system, in my experience, as we feel a deeper attachment to nature.
How much do we really need to survive anyway? When you think about it carefully, very little. The only things I need to survive are a roof over my head and enough food.
Since discovering how earth’s precious resources are being raped and plundered and reading Mark Boyle’s book, a must-read for anyone who cares about the environment, I rarely buy anything I don’t need.
Each time I look at things now, I feel a sense of disgust even, wondering where the resources came from to make an item, what environments were polluted, if any slave labour or oppression was involved in its production, and so on.
I’ve also developed a repulsion towards money, choosing to work just enough to ensure my survival. What I’ve learned now is what you need more than anything in life are strong relationships.
Too often I see those involved in environmental struggles –- especially in anglophone countries – advocating renewable forms of energy which also involve destroying nature. I find this strange.
Perhaps it is this focus on reducing carbon emissions, rather than a focus on protecting the sacred, protecting all life? Perhaps many are still trapped in the materialist mindset?
The cosmovision shared by Indigenous communities tells us that we are interdependent with one another, that harming any natural resource is harming ourselves. This is the vision I share too, because on a planet of finite resources only a radical shift in our way of thinking, away from the disconnected view of humans as separate from (and often as dominant over) nature, can lead to the profound changes we need to see.
As Babe actor and anti-fracking activist James Cromwell put it succinctly in an interview : “It is time to name the disease. Capitalism is a cancer. And the only way to defeat this cancer is to completely transform our way of living and our way of thinking about ourselves.”
– Trust in authority vs trust in one another
Years of intense campaigning against fracking and free trade agreements has taught me how corrupted by corporate power the entire system has become.
I’ve learned now that genuine solutions to our problems can only ever come from below, not from any authority, and certainly not from any form of government, be it local, regional or national, nor from any multilateral institution, no matter how well-meaning and benevolent that institution may appear on the surface.
The system can also embody the NGO and non-profit sector who, I’ve experienced, will tell you what the problems are but seldom bother to call into question the very structures that create these problems in the first place.
And because the root cause of these problems is never properly addressed, the same problems of exploitation surface time and time again.
To learn just how corrupted our authorities have become by corporate power, I’d advise everyone to invest themselves wholeheartedly in an issue like fracking where the links between a corporate-controlled government, a corporate-controlled media and a corporate-controlled police force fast become apparent.
On learning how corrupt the system is, you should come to the inescapable conclusion that it deserves to be dismantled.
Unfortunately, not everyone does realise this, perhaps because they rely on the system in some way –- I don’t know.
For example, I remember being at a conference on free trade in the EU Parliament nearly two years ago listening to an NGO campaigner making a case for reforming the World Trade Organisation. Why would you want to reform an institution that was set up to facilitate corporate power, power which destroys nature?
Calling for institutions to reform is akin to justifying their existence in the first place. Instead, we need to be challenging their very existence and calling for them to be dismantled altogether.
A bit utopian, I know. But as corporate power dictates political policy more and more as corporations pursue ‘the race for what’s left, the global scramble for the world’s last resources’ – to borrow Michael Klare’s book title – it would be illogical to envision a nature-connected future within the confines of the current system.
We have a responsibility right now to challenge the system itself, the structures of authority which hold themselves up as legitimate, which declare themselves as bastions of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, structures which are desperately seeking legitimacy at a time of crumbling empires and dwindling resources.
This obviously includes all multilateral institutions, but also the state. From my involvement in the campaign against EU free trade agreements, or corporate power grabs as I prefer to call them, I’ve seen how the state facilitates corporate power, while dismissing scientific evidence, expert advice and public opinion.
How can we possibly hope to protect nature under such an oppressive, undemocratic system whose servants bow so readily to the will of corporations?
As empires crumble and we veer towards what can only be described as a corporate dystopia, we simultaneously witness authority figures struggling to convince us of their narratives.
Hence the crackdown on alternative media and this ‘fake news’ phenomenon, a phenomenon used by those in power to control what information the awakening masses have the right to access.
As you’ve put it succinctly, all across the world the “’democratic’ gloves are coming off, the ‘news’ is revealing itself to be nothing but desperate propaganda, the ‘freedom’ capitalism claims to deliver is being exposed to one and all as a hollow lie.”
It is more urgent than ever that we stop looking to the system for solutions, stop legitimising all structures of authority and any ‘agreements’ concluded by their ‘leaders’ and, most importantly of all, stop falling for any propaganda trying to convince us that this system in its many guises – capitalism, multilateralism, liberalism, etc. – needs rescuing.
Instead, we need to trust each other and cooperate with each other rather than compete as this capitalist system conditions us to do. I would recommend everyone read CrimetheInc’s ‘To Change Everything‘ for further inspiration.
– Hope vs the responsibility of action
Lastly, we need to abandon the idea of hope, at least the sort of hope that fails to result in any tangible action. The hope that a small band of self-sacrificing activists will sort out the problems we face, the hope that political representatives will implement, of their own accord, policies that serve our interests rather than those of the 1%, the hope that a change in government will bring about the radical changes we need to see. Nature isn’t relying on us to hope for it, it is relying on us to do something to save it.
In one of your pieces, you share a remark by John Zerzan which resonates strongly with me: “There is an understandable, if misplaced, desire that civilization will cooperate with us and deconstruct itself. This mindset seems especially prevalent among those who shy away from resistance, from doing the work of opposing civilization”.
Sometimes I get the impression that people hope too much, but do too little.
In my experience of being involved in the Irish anti-fracking campaign – which lasted six years – many of us never hoped, never trusted our corporate-captured government, but many of us did work tirelessly to expose the political corruption and to ensure decision makers were held to account, listened to us and eventually did the right thing.
Anyone relying on hope without spending every breathing moment working on something to make things better is part of the problem, in my view. All campaigns need to start from the premise that you have a duty to act once you know the facts.
And once you learn about an issue as dangerous as fracking, of course, you feel a clear responsibility to take action, not out of fear – because fear kills the soul – but out of love, because you cherish the places and the lives that are under threat and don’t want to see them destroyed by greedy corporations.
As you put it so well: “Some human beings and their activities are acting as antigens, threatening the health of our species and our planetary superorganism. Other humans must therefore take on the role of antibodies”.
The last lines of Derrick Jensen’s essay ‘Beyond Hope‘ sum up the problem with hope perfectly: “When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear. And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power. In case you’re wondering, that’s a very good thing.”
For as long as anyone can remember, Western capitalism has claimed to be one and the same thing as “democracy”.
But as its global empire teeters on the point of collapse, its desperate attempts to cling to power have exposed this claim for the lie that it always was.
Much of the current wave of censorship and oppression is taking place on the internet – which has thus so far remained out of the direct control of the neoliberal system.
This October, Facebook and Twitter deleted the accounts of hundreds of users, including many alternative media outlets.
And credit for this seems to have been claimed by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a very dodgy NATO-linked organisation (previously exposed by The Acornhere and here) which aims to maintain full-spectrum US neoliberal global control.
The grayzone project reported that the GMF’s Jamie Fly said the USA was “just starting to push back” against its enemies’ use of the internet, adding: “Just this last week Facebook began starting to take down sites. So this is just the beginning”.
The USA’s ongoing persecution, and planned prosecution, of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange could likewise be regarded as part of the same “beginning” of neoliberalism’s overtly fascistic desire to crush any voices that dare to speak out against its imperial privilege.
Soo too could the coming to power in Brazil of the totalitarian neoliberal (or “plutofascist“) Jair Bolsonaro.
The Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira (Brazilian Anarchist Coordination) point out the geopolitical forces that lie behind his regime: “It’s clear our continent, Latin America, is seen as a strategic reserve of resources (political, natural, energy) for the use of the US, which makes the political situation of Brazil so important to Washington”.
Bolsonaro has followed the USA’s lead in declaring war on so-called “fake news”, which seems to mean any criticism of his policies by a supposedly “left-wing” media.
The UK government is also getting in on the censorship act, announcing that it is preparing to establish a new “internet regulator”.
Reports Buzzfeed: “The planned regulator would have powers to impose punitive sanctions on social media platforms that fail to remove terrorist content, child abuse images, or hate speech, as well as enforcing new regulations on non-illegal content and behaviour online”.
All of this helps further reduce what the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) recently called “the shrinking space for protest in the UK”.
Netpol’s Kevin Blowe wrote: “The militarised mentality of public order policing undoubtedly demands the latest technological advances, but it does so for a reason: conducting any war is never simply about the capture of physical space, but about the ability to maintain domination and control over it.
“’Keeping the peace’ (perhaps more accurately, pacification) involves the shrinking and ultimately denial of any space that your ‘enemy’ might conceivably benefit from. In public order policing terms, this invariably means any space to directly challenge either state or corporate power exercised in the name of progress or economic growth: for example, against the construction of airports, subsidies for the arms industry, nuclear power, fossil fuel extraction, or restrictions on workers’ rights”.
Netpol’s 2017 report on the policing of anti-fracking protests in England highlighted concerns that intense police surveillance of protesters has a potentially ‘chilling effect’ on freedom of assembly, in actively discouraging many from participation in campaigning activities.
“Furthermore, the smearing of legitimate campaigners as ‘extremists’ drives a wedge between them and potential allies in their communities and is used as a weapon against them by the media and pro-industry groups”, added Blowe.
Meanwhile, after the trial run with dogs, the microchipping of the UK’s human population is underway, starting at that point of greatest disempowerment, the workplace.
UK firm BioTeq has already fitted 150 implants in the UK. Another company, Biohax of Sweden, says it is in discussions with several British legal and financial firms about fitting their employees with microchips, including one major company with hundreds of thousands of employees.
If you can’t see the connection between this news and everything that has been outlined above, then you’re really not paying attention!
Work penetrates and determines the whole of our existence. Time flows mercilessly by as we shuttle back and forth between depressing and identical locations at ever-increasing speeds.
Working time… Productive time… Free time… Every one of our activities fits into its box. We think of acquiring knowledge as an investment for a future career; joy is transformed into entertainment and wallows in an orgy of consuming; our creativity is crammed within the narrow limits of productivity; our relationships, even our romantic encounters, speak the language of performance and profitability…
Our alienation has reached the point where we seek out any kind of work, even voluntary, to fill our existential void, to “do something”.
The identification of work with human activity, this doctrine which presents work as human beings’ natural destiny, seems to be lodged deep within our minds. This has reached the point where to refuse this forced condition, this social constraint, seems sacrilege, something no longer even thinkable.
Thus any kind of work becomes better than not working. That is the message spread by the defenders of the existing, those who want to maintain this world by calling for an ever-more frenetic race amongst the exploited, who are supposed to trample all over each other for a few crumbs from the bosses’ table.
However, it is not only the general working conditions that are leading us into this dead-end. It is work as a whole, work as a process which turns human activity into merchandise. It is work as a universal condition in which social relationships and ways of thinking are formatted.
It is work as the spinal column that holds together and perpetuates this society based on hierarchy, exploitation and oppression. And work as such must be destroyed.
We don’t just want to be happier slaves or better managers of our own misery. We want to restore meaning to human activity by acting together, guided by the quest for joie de vivre, knowledge, discovery, camaraderie and solidarity.
For individual and collective liberation, let’s liberate ourselves from work!
(Translated from anonymous leaflet Le travail libère-t-il?)
No political party has overall control of Brighton and Hove City Council, but Labour has the most councillors (22), with 20 Tories, 11 Greens and one independent.
A sign of the campaign’s momentum came four days after the public meeting, on November 16, when the East Brighton branch of the Labour Party unanimously called on all Labour councillors to oppose the development.
The housing scheme is being proposed by Hyde Housing, a business notorious for its profit-hungry approach.
It wants to build five blocks of flats on the local nature reserve at Whitehawk Hill, which is a common, Statutory Access land under the CROW Act and is an Ancient Neolithic Scheduled Monument.
An interesting side-issue has been the role played by something called Brighton Yimby, which claims to be a local pro-development group and announced online a “Whitehawk Says Yes” campaign in favour of the Hyde project.
It seems to have very little support in Brighton itself, with the notable exception of local Tory politician Rico Wojtulewicz, who also happens to be the senior policy advisor for the House Builders Association (HBA), the housebuilding division of the National Federation of Builders.
Instead it is very much part of an international, mainly American, “Yimby” network described in one US article as “the darlings of the real estate industry”.
We can only assume that when BrightonYimby claimed to speak “for the interests of the many” it meant to say “money”.
An impressive series of infographics has been produced, showing the variety of complementary ideas challenging the global domination of industrial capitalism. The illustrations cover degrowth, ecofeminism, deglobalization, the commons, the Vivir Bien movement and the concept of the rights of Mother Earth. Importantly, all these perspectives are recognised as complementary and opening up the possibility of a different world. Says the website: “To build systemic alternatives it is necessary to forge strategies and proposals that at different levels confront capitalism, extractivism, productivism, patriarchy, plutocracy and anthropocentrism”.
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A dynamic protest movement, NO TAP, has emerged in Melendugno, near Lecce in southern Italy, in response to the threat of the 540-mile Trans Adriatic Pipeline, due to bring gas from Azerbaijan into Europe via Turkey, Greece and Albania. Local anger was sparked in 2017 when the start of the works resulted in the uprooting of more than 200 olive trees and the creation of a securitised dead zone at the heart of the community. People have mobilised in numbers and have, inevitably, been met with repression by the police, those worldwide defenders of the industrial machine. NO TAP have produced a short video giving an idea of their full-on first year of struggle and which includes the following inspiring message: “The sun is shining for everyone, the wind is blowing for everyone… the possibility of realizing change is only a matter of will”.
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A protest is to be staged against the Welsh government’s plan to build a new motorway across the Gwent Levels, to the south of Newport. It would cost taxpayers at least £1.5 billion and drive global warming, whilst destroying a landscape known for its wildlife, archaeology, tranquillity and beauty. Says the CALM campaign: “Join us to say #NoNewM4, 12.30pm, Tuesday 4th December, outside the Senedd, Cardiff Bay. Our rally is an urgent call for Wales to take a fresh path – fit for all of us today, and for all our future generations”.
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Angry local people in eastern France are rising up against a hideous toll motorway project near Strasbourg, and some of them have been on hunger strike for a month. The 553-million Euro GCO scheme threatens many acres of forest and countryside and has been pushed through by the state and its corporate chums Vinci in spite of public inquiries coming out against it. Protesters have regularly blocked the work, causing serious delays in the project, and on November 18 some 400 people turned up to plant trees on the land already rased to make way for the new road. There is an international call-out to block Vinci everywhere in solidarity.
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The week of action against the G20 and IMF in Argentina (see Acorn 44) begins on Monday November 26 and the full programme of events has now gone online, in English, here. A date to keep an eye open for is Friday November 30, which is a national day of struggle against capitalism.
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We have come across two interesting online articles about that grim industrial-capitalist cult of life-denying artificiality known as transhumanism. Libby Emmons writes that “transhumanism is oppression disguised as liberation” and “part of a giant ideological redefinition of humanity”. She warns: “In its various forms, transhumanism is an attempt to reify an illusory mind-body dualism that has consequences well beyond what we can currently imagine”. And Julian Vigo comments on the dogmatic intolerance of the transhumanist stance, which paints as reactionary any point of view which questions, for instance, the wisdom of “cutting off healthy limbs to make way for a super-Olympian sportsperson”.
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“Thames Valley Police sent in multiple riot vans, used force against protesters several times and stood by as the Union’s private security assaulted protesters in broad daylight. One of the main chants throughout the demonstration was ‘Who protects the fascists? Police protect the fascists!'” The reality of the way that the capitalist system promotes and protects the far right was once again exposed in Oxford, UK, this month, where Islamophobic American globe-trotter Steve Bannon was met by a hostile 1,000-strong crowd when he turned up at the university. Report here.
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An exciting new step is being taken by the Enough is Enough project, which provides online news and info on the international struggle against capitalism, fascism and other forms of injustice. It is opening an info café in the Nordstadt district of Wuppertal, German territory. They say: “We do not just believe in a better world. We have started to live it a long time ago. And you all can decide if you want to become part of this world”. They have a crowdfunding site here.
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Feral Crust is an eco-anarchist collective based in Davao, Philippines, which is working on a land and community project. It is set on 1/2 hectare (1 acre) of the hilly terrain within the remaining forests that is home to native wildlife and indigenous people. You can read about their bid for land regeneration and autonomy here.
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In the midst of a devastating civil war, Kurds in Northern Syria, are building a multi-cultural society based on feminism, ecology, and direct democracy. How can these ideas lead to a lasting peace in the Middle East? What are their implications for radical politics in the West? What is it about the social structures of Rojava that inspires the fierce loyalty of its defenders and its people? Join Debbie Bookchin and David Graeber in London at the DJAM Lecture Theatre SOAS Russell Square Campus to discuss these issues Sunday November 25 from 5pm to 7pm at an event to launch the new publication Make Rojava Green Again by the Internationalist Commune in Rojava. The book will be available to buy and all proceeds from sales support the work of the Internationalist Commune. More information here.
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Acorn quote: “This system cannot be reformed. It is based on the destruction of the earth and the exploitation of the people. There is no such thing as green capitalism, and marketing cutesy rainforest products will not bring back the ecosystems that capitalism must destroy to make its profits. This is why I believe that serious ecologists must be revolutionaries”.
On Sunday August 27 crowds of people enjoying a day on the beach at Birling Gap near Eastbourne, East Sussex, suddenly started coughing and spluttering, and rubbing their eyes, before fleeing the coast en masse.
They had fallen victim to a cloud of chemical gas, later identified as chlorine, which had drifted onto the southern English coast from the Channel. Some 150 people were treated in hospital in what was described by emergency services as “a major incident“.
The mainstream media reaction to this nightmarish episode was predictably understated and narrow, restricting itself to speculation as to where the poison gas may have specifically come from – Rotterdam, maybe, or northern France, or a ship in the Channel, or an old wreck.
With the honourable exception of the local Friends of the Earth, nobody was interested in the bigger picture.
Meanwhile, in the USA, Hurricane Harvey resulted in Houston’s petrochemical industry leaking thousands of tons of pollutants, with communities living near plants damaged by the storm exposed to soaring levels of toxic fumes and potential water contamination.
The plain truth about both instances of environmental poisoning is, of course, that they are products of the industrial capitalist system.
This is the same system which, as revealed by a new report, has produced 8.3bn tonnes of plastic since the 1950s, polluting the world’s continents and oceans and threatening a “near permanent contamination of the natural environment”.
This is the same system which has destroyed 80 per cent of the Earth’s natural forests, which is wiping out our fellow species by dozens every single day, with as many as 30 to 50 per cent of all species heading towards extinction by 2050.
And if we are looking for a way of ensuring that incidents like the ones at Eastbourne and Houston never happen again, if we want to avoid all the pollution and extinction, the only meaningful approach is to work for the dismantling or destruction of the industrial system.
Why is this so hard for so many people to understand or to accept? Why, even among radical critics of capitalist society, is there so much reluctance to contemplate the loss of its toxic infrastructures?
People often talk about their attachment to the “little luxuries” in life that come hand in hand with industrialism. But is the ability to watch videos or play electronic games at any time and any place they fancy really more important than the ability to sit in the open air without being assaulted by drifting clouds of chemicals?
Is the personal convenience provided by a washing machine or a car really so important that future generations might not be able to walk outside without an oxygen mask?
Are all the temporary, shallow, egotistic pleasures of modern Western existence really worth more than the continuing organic well-being of our precious world?
Clearly not – and so why does this realisation not translate into a political perspective that embraces the end of the industrial capitalist era as an overwhelming priority for us all?
The West’s current incarnation as Industrial Capitalism poses a severe and unprecedented threat to the health and wellbeing of the living planet in general and the human species in particular.
The very basis of this system is the so-called need for permanent “economic growth”, involving a theoretically endless increase in the exploitation of people and nature that, logically, can only end in disaster.
This system justifies and defends itself by means of a mesh of oppressive constructs such as “property”, “law” and “nation”, which today largely go unchallenged, even by critics of capitalism’s worse excesses.
General acceptance of these constructs serves to camouflage and legitimize the violence used by the system to impose its control. It thereby helps to criminalize any resistance to this oppressive violence.
In the Mexican revolution of the early part of the 20th century, the Zapatistas had a slogan: “It is better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.”
In the West, the pervasive attitude is currently one of ignorance, fear, and slothful privilege, wherein the suffering caused by Western institutions in far-off lands is not of consequence to the people who are causing it through an unquenchable lust for cheap consumer goods.
Few of the beneficiaries are even aware it is happening, and most wouldn’t care if they knew. If told that wireless technology is causing genocide in central Africa, most Western consumers would likely reply “I like my cell phone.” Or their X-box, or their internet-connected refrigerator.
Western consumers have decided that it is – indeed! – much better to live in ignorance and servitude to corporatized, military police states, and to hell with the consequences, rather than do anything to stop campaigns of genocide beyond their field of vision. The products of privilege produced in the process are precious to them, not human lives, or a living planet.
If the society produced in Europe through centuries of bloody violence and subsequently unleashed to ravage the entire planet can be thought of as “civilization,” an intelligent human being can only conclude that this civilization is something which must be eradicated so thoroughly as to never again be obtainable.
If this does not happen, and soon, our planet will become uninhabitable, and life as we know it no longer possible. Something new will evolve in the toxic, ruined wastelands the West creates everywhere. It will not likely be compatible with living things that have been predominant for the past few million years.
When our comrades over at Antidote Zine decided to repost the full text of Envisioning a Post-Western World (see above), they did so with the following introduction:
“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.
“We present them nonetheless for two reasons: firstly, of course, these ideas are out there whether we like it or not and warrant critical attention; and second, if spaces—both physical and ideological—are vulnerable to fascist counter-recruiting, this implies an overlap where antifascist counter-recruiting could (and should) be happening as well. In other words (indeed the words of Magpie Killjoy elsewhere in these pages), it behooves people in contested cultural terrain to, well, contest it.”
It was a little odd to have cited nihilism regarding an article which specifically declares that “our desire for the destruction of the current system is not nihilistic in motivation, but is born of a yearning for another way of living”.
Likewise, neither of the two authors of the original piece sees any misanthropy, Malthusianism or specifically “Euro-” paganism in their joint article.
The problem seems to be that anarchists today are forever looking over their shoulders to see if they are being watched by what is essentially an internal Thought Police, self-appointed custodians of a flattened-out and narrowed-in version of anarchism.
Seemingly born in the cloisters of Academia, this strange hybrid of ultra-liberalism and reformist post-Marxism is more interested in language than reality. It delights in over-complicating issues, in spreading the notion that cynical sophistication is superior to passionate simplicity. It very much dislikes any clear or direct physical or intellectual confrontation with the current order.
It is a fairly fluid entity, which varies in emphasis from context to context. But we can say that it generally does not approve of opposing US imperialism, of defending Palestinian rights, of protesting against capitalist summits, of Black Bloc tactics, of exposing the covert machinations of the military industrial complex, of talking about the “one per cent” or the “banksters”, of challenging the capitalist cult of technology, of using any kind of “populist” language that might actually inspire people to take to the streets in rebellion.
For instance, a reflection on the protests against the G20 in Hamburg in July, written by the “Gruppe Internationaler SozialistInnen” and reproduced in translation on the Libcom website, pours scorn on anti-capitalist enthusiasm around riots which broke out in the city’s Schanzenviertel during the mobilisation (see below).
It drones on boringly about “the intellectual failure of the so-called ‘autonomists’ to even begin to distinguish between the simple breaking of glass and the expropriation and socialisation of the means of production and consumption through the action of the proletarianised”.
It also complains: “The riots may have been ignited by anger over the police, but they quickly took on the dynamic of a content-free event-riot, participated in by party-goers, unpolitical youth and, according to rumours which must be taken seriously, even Nazi hooligans.”
This last little snipe is interesting, as it is a common feature of these kinds of critiques that they usually claim that out-and-out anti-capitalism represents some kind of “slippery slope” towards a new kind of fascism, or the famous and yet elusive “red-brown convergence” referred to by Antidote.
In France, these techniques have been used by “journalist” Ornella Guyet on her (happily now defunct) site confusionnisme.info to lump together everyone from environmentalists of the décroissance movement to Nuit Debout, Noam Chomsky and Jeremy Corbyn as “confusionist”, anti-semitic or somehow otherwise dangerously close to a mystifyingly broad redefinition of “fascism”.
Exposing her activities, the left-wing website Le Grand Soir concludes that she is “an opportunist in thrall to the neocolonial and ultra-liberal system”. It adds: “Ornella Guyet claims to be ‘left-wing’, but her work proves the opposite.” It says 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”.
The UK has its own fake leftists in the Ornella Guyet mould, as discussed in Acorn 19. In that article we concluded that there seemed to be “a network of journalists and academics actively working to steer the ‘Left’ away from any criticism of the USA and the capitalist system it dominates”.
The influence of this Fake Left is such that genuine anarchists and anti-capitalists are now self-censoring to avoid falling victim to their ideological smear campaigns.
We are edging towards a situation where the only “acceptable” form of opposition to the system is irrelevantly academic and reformist.
A pedantic and humourless ideological puritanism, masquerading as radicalism, limits itself to calling for the system to be made fairer, more inclusive or more democratic and is suspicious of anyone who dares to challenge the fundamental assumptions of power.
Apparently forgotten is the urgent and inspiring anarchist demand for capitalism to be wiped from history to pave the way for a completely different way of living.
If drawing attention to this means we are regarded in some quarters as being on the “knife’s edge” of acceptability, then so be it.
As our friends at Antidote point out, “it behooves people in contested cultural terrain to, well, contest it”.
As we predicted (in Acorns 29 and 35), the protests against the G20 in Hamburg in July were powerful and significant, both in terms of anti-capitalist resistance and in terms of the kind of repressive policing we are likely to be facing in the rebellious years ahead.
A very full and excellent English-language report was posted by our US comrades at Crimethinc and rather than producing our own inferior version, we thought we’d just copy and paste a few sections of their long article to give our readers a taste of what went on. The Crimethinc report and analysis can be seen in full here.
State violence and popular resistance
The 2017 G20 summit provoked the most intense clashes in Germany yet this century. This is an epic story of state violence and popular resistance on a scale rarely witnessed in the US and northern Europe.
The police attempted to use brute force to isolate and terrorize all who came to demonstrate against the G20, but in the process, they turned a large part of the population against them and the city spiraled out of control.
The police strategy underscores how central old-fashioned coercive violence is to the power of the G20 leaders; yet once again, we saw that a determined populace can outmaneuver even the best-trained and best-equipped police.
If 20,000 fully militarized officers using everything short of lethal force can’t maintain order at the most important security event of the year in Europe’s richest nation, perhaps it is possible to imagine revolution on the horizon after all.
The Courage of the Black Bloc
Imagine the scene: you are in the front lines of the Welcome to Hell black bloc. You and your friends decided to be here months in advance, to ensure that the front of the bloc would be populated by reliable people. You knew from the beginning that you would be walking into a nightmare. Still, your commitment to your comrades and to the movement outweighs fear for your personal safety; you have chosen to be here, come injury or prison, out of love of humanity and desire for a better future. Unlike the police, you have no protective gear, you are not receiving a salary, and you are not following orders.
St. Pauli Fischmarkt forms a sort of canyon here, where it drops beneath the level of the other streets—but for you, facing an impenetrable wall of police, it feels more like an arena. The railings above you are packed with viewers. They throng the pedestrian walkway that passes overhead and the hill of the park to the north; they are even gathered on the rooftops of the tall apartment buildings beyond the park. Standing there below them, you can’t help resenting those spectators passively watching from the safety of their terraces. Ahead, you can make out one—two—three—at least four water cannons and some armored cars behind them. You and your companions are like gladiators trembling as the gates go up and the lions come out.
Explosions are going off behind you. They punctuate a din of screaming, shouting, and the robotic voice of police announcements over the loudspeaker. From your vantage point, you can’t see what is going on back there, where the police are carrying out charge after charge against the back of the bloc as demonstrators struggle to hold them off with a volley of bottles and debris. You can only smell the tear gas in the air and hear the sound of detonations and shattering glass. A canister explodes in front of you, enveloping you in smoke. When the smoke clears for a moment, you see that the ranks of the bloc behind you are thinning—fearful of being trapped and brutalized, demonstrators have formed a human pyramid to escape by climbing up the wall to the south.
At this moment, the riot police ahead of you charge, forming a wall all the way around the bloc stretching from the front to the northern side. There are perhaps fifty of you left in the front now, still holding up your banners as a fragile rampart against the full might of the state.
The water cannons zoom up, sirens blaring, and halt right in front of your line. There is a scene in The Fellowship of the Ring in which the orcs fall back as the mighty Balrog steps forth to attack the protagonists. In that same manner, the lines of white-helmeted riot police inch backwards as the water cannons train their barrels directly at you. Tear gas is still filling the air. The comrades behind you have fled. Deafening pandemonium. You are surrounded on three sides now, outnumbered ten to one by storm troopers clad head to toe in full body armor.
It could hardly be more terrifying if the earth cracked open and flames leapt out of the chasm. Welcome to hell, indeed.
Shortly before midnight, people gathered at Grüner Jäger once more, where barricades had been erected earlier. They threw bottles at the water cannons as they drove by. The same scene was playing out up and down the street for blocks.
Long lines of police vans kept whizzing past us on the street. Every time they passed, people would pelt them with bottles. Incredibly, the vans didn’t even stop. “This means they’ve totally lost control,” my friend from Hamburg explained. “Normally, they would never put up with that.”
A little after midnight, the police succeeded in dispersing the main body of the demonstration, but that only spread people throughout the area, where they continued fighting in smaller groups.
At about the same time, just around the corner, special forces positioned themselves in front of Rote Flora on Schulterblatt street. Clashes soon broke out here as well, and once more, the police were repeatedly forced to retreat. People erected burning barricades to keep them at bay.
All around the city, banks, luxury shops, and cars were attacked throughout the night. This occurred as far north as Osterstrasse, where several shop windows were broken. Similar damage occurred in Altona—to Sparkasse, for example.
At about 1:30 am, water cannons and a huge number of riot cops sought to disperse the crowd that had gathered at Sternbrücke. Yet clashes continued throughout the night on the smaller streets of central St. Pauli. Supposedly, 76 cops were injured in the course of the evening, although it later turned out that police had spread flagrant lies about the number of injuries they sustained. They refused to give out the numbers of injured and arrested protesters. Rescue teams were deployed 89 times, mostly to treat head injuries, broken bones, and abrasions.
Elsewhere in Hamburg, police surrounded and trapped about a hundred people by the Rondenbarg trailer park, then charged and attacked them. Some of them tried to flee over a fence 4 meters high. Shouting “Antifa swine, this is your breakfast!” the police knocked down the fence and injured 14 people, 11 of them with broken bones and other serious injuries. Some of them were still in the hospital a week later. Police announced to the media that the group had attacked them first, but videos subsequently revealed this to be an outright lie.
A decree prohibiting protests in most of Hamburg had been in effect since 6 am. Yet soon after dawn, blockades had appeared throughout the city, especially around the port, the red zone where the summit was, and the roads that G20 delegates were using. The blockaders had gathered in the metro stations at Landungsbrücken, Berliner Tor, Altona, and Hammerbrook. From there, they moved through the city in different directions, carrying out a variety of decentralized actions. Some came close enough to the location of the summit to stop delegates in their vehicles.
In the clashes at the edge of the liberated zone, someone was using one of those enormous umbrellas that cover outdoor tables at cafés as a shield to try to protect himself from the water cannon. The force of the blast kept pushing him back so he skidded along the asphalt. Then somebody else got another umbrella from the café and wedged it behind the first one. In that position, the water cannon couldn’t move them. It was just symbolic, but somehow it felt like a moral victory.
Further into Schanze, at the burning barricade, people were looting an electronics store. Someone got his hands on a massive flatscreen monitor and carried it towards the fire. Everyone else was shouting for him not to do it, that it was expensive, but he joyously heaved it into the flames. Then everyone cheered, feeling somehow lighter. Destroying commodities can be a kind of therapy that relieves us of covetousness.
For me, these scenes exemplify the inventiveness and festive atmosphere that prevail in moments like the ones we experienced in Schanze when it was free of police.
The critical mass that had gathered at 7 pm rode into Schanze around 11 pm, at the high point of the evening. Despite all the fearsome rhetoric portraying Schanze as a scene out of Breughel during the time the police were excluded from it, those who were there experienced an atmosphere of revelry and camaraderie. Many businesses were open, packed with people buying falafel or drinks. As people lined the streets, cheering at the arrival of the bicyclists, it could have been a family-friendly festival. The vast majority of participants were not anarchists or foreigners from Southern Europe, but ordinary people from Hamburg who had turned against the police over the preceding week. Outside of Schanze, even in areas where there were no anarchists, locals pulled their own trashcans into the street, forcing the police to spread themselves ever thinner over more and more territory.
Rather than imagining a faceless “general public” that disapproves of violence (except when the police enact it) and believes whatever the pundits say, let’s remember that society is comprised of countless different elements, many of whom have opinions that are never repeated on television by talking heads.
Most of the fearmongering about the resistance to the G20 is an intentional media campaign with classic talking points. It isn’t intended to reflect reality as it is, but rather to make us fearful of each other, to make it hard to imagine that there are others who want what we want. On Saturday, looking around the crowd in downtown Hamburg, it was clear that outright resistance is already popular.
Further reports from Hamburg can be found here and here.
A report on ongoing repression, including the German state’s closing-down of Linksunten Indymedia, plus info on all-important prisoner support, can be found here.
One of the annual highlights of the anarchist calendar takes place in London on Saturday October 28 in the shape of the Anarchist Bookfair.
The 2017 event will see a return appearance for Winter Oak after a brief absence. We will have a stall somewhere at the venue and two speakers are lined up.
Ed Lord will be talking on Modern Madness: Mental Health, Modernity and Environmental Destruction. The anarchist author, researcher and mental health nurse discusses his recent book Modern Madness: A Wild Schizoanalysis of Mental Distress in the Spaces of Modernitypublished by Winter Oak. The book presents a radical critique of the modern world and the pandemic levels of mental illness we find there. Drawing on experience of mental health services and environmental activism, Ed asks the question “What if mental distress is considered as much a matter of geography as it is of personal pathology?” Followed by a discussion.
And Paul Cudenec will be talking about and reading from The Green One, which we published this summer. This book presents, in mythopoetic style, a gender-transcending archetype of natural vitality and rightness which has been present throughout the history of human culture, constantly taking on new forms to reflect the needs of each era. The Green One is Mother Earth, the Green Man, Osiris, Khidr, Robin Hood, Joan of Arc, the Luddites and authentic anarchism… Followed by discussion.
Times of the meetings have not been finalised yet, but as ever there are plenty of interesting sessions being lined up, such as:
Feminism and Self-Defence: Experiences of the Kurdish women’s struggles with Dilar Dirik.
A real revolution is a mass of contradictions: Reports from Rojava 2017 with Peter Loo and Sarah Patton of Plan C.
The Russian Revolution from Below – discussion opened by Simon Pirani, author of The Russian Revolution in Retreat.
My Buddha is Punk – a film screening and Q&A with the director Andreas Hartmann.
The blockade got off to a good start on Monday September 4 with a day themed around “Stop Arming Israel”. Palestinian dancing and football matches blocked the road used by lorries bringing in equipment.
There were eight arrests as cops tried to clear a path for the warmongering profiteers, but the blockade forced the deathmongering DSEI organisers to try and sneak in their weapons through the back entrance.
On Tuesday morning, September 5, the “No Faith in War” actions saw a two-hour lock-on and reports of four arrests, including at least one Quaker.
Said Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade: “DSEI will bring many of the world’s most appalling regimes together with the biggest arms companies.
“Right now UK fighter jets and bombs are playing a central role in the destruction of Yemen; what will be the next atrocity they are used in? War, repression and injustice are fuelled by events like DSEI. It’s time to shut it down for good.”
The blocking of the set-up culminates in a big day of action on Saturday September 9.
Environmental activists have been battling to protect the last primeval forest in Europe from commercial logging. They have chained themselves to trees and blocked felling machines in Poland’s Bialowieza Forest. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site where the habitat of the European bison, lynx and rare birds is at threat from the government-approved destruction. Follow Camp for the Forest on Twitter via @DlaPuszczy
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A nasty road scheme has returned to threaten massive destruction in the last remaining block of ancient woodland on the coastal plain of Southern England. Plans for the A27 are targeting Binsted Woods, Arundel, home to a successful anti-road camp in 2003. Said West Sussex campaign group Protect Our Woodlands: “We fail to understand how anyone could support the wanton destruction that would occur in Binsted woods, or any of the Arundel A27 options Highways England (HE) has put forward. Clearly their only purpose is to create even more road space for through traffic to fill again.”
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Strikes and protests will be held all across France on Tuesday September 12 against the latest labour “reforms” being imposed on the country by neoliberal President Macron, a so-called “centrist” already deeply unpopular with the public after being elected in May. Meanwhile, the day of mobilisation against the French police state featured in Acorn 35 has been moved to Saturday October 7.
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The latest volume of Return Fire magazine is now available online and features a look at Ed Lord’s book Modern Madness (see above), an article on the impact of robotics, reports of direct action against industrial capitalist infrastructure and much more.
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A new English-language blog has been launched from the ZAD at Notre-Dame-des-Landes. Zad for ever is subtitled “Dispatches from the Liberated Territory Against an Airport & its World”, which nicely sets the context. It states: “The zad’s greatest strength is its radical diversity. This blog represents just some of the multitude of visions of the zone and its forms of life.”
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A monument to the great German-Jewish anarchist Gustav Landauer has been unveiled in the Waldfriedhof, Munich. After he was murdered by proto-fascist soldiers in 1919, even Landauer’s grave was destroyed by the Nazis when they came to power in 1933.
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More great news from the front line of Progress – an American firm has started implanting its employees with microchips which allow them to open doors, use computers or buy snacks. Todd Westby, CEO of Three Square Market, a technology firm in Wisconsin, said: “It’s the next thing that’s inevitably going to happen, and we want to be a part of it. Eventually, this technology will become standardised allowing you to use this as your passport, public transit, all purchasing opportunities.” We can’t wait.
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A protest march in support of the UK’s “death sentence” prisoners is to be held in Manchester on Saturday September 16. As we reported in Acorn 32, some 4,000 people are serving IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) sentences in British prisons even though these were legally abolished five years ago. These victims of blatant injustice still languish in jails with no release dates and soaring suicide rates. The protest will start at 12:30 sharp at 12 Minshull St, Manchester M1 3FR (Probation Office).
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Acorn quote: “The modern West cannot tolerate that people should prefer to work less and be content to live on little; as it is only quantity that counts, and as everything that escapes the senses is held to be non-existent, it is taken for granted that anyone who is not in a state of agitation and who does not produce much in a material way must be ‘lazy’”.
“This is not democracy, it is dictatorship”. So said one member of the Lancashire farming community after the UK government this month overruled Lancashire County Council’s decision and gave Cuadrilla the green light to start fracking in the north-west of England.
Others were of the same opinion. Pam Foster, a Residents Action on Fylde Fracking campaigner, said: “This is a total denial of democracy. Our parish council, our borough council, our county council all threw out this application. We have pursued every democratic channel we can do.”
Pat Davies, chair of Preston New Road Action Group, said: “This is a sad day as it is clear to all that this government neither listens nor can it be trusted to do the right thing for local communities. It is deplorable that an industry that has been rejected on every level has inflicted itself on Preston New Road. Profit clearly comes before people.”
Jackie Sylvester, a local resident, toldThe Guardian, “They’ve gone against the will of the people. I think the people of England don’t realize that once this starts it’s not going to stop and there’s going to be hundreds of drills.”
Another supporter of Frack Free Lancashire, Heather Speak, said, “I’m so, so angry that a government minister has turned their back on local democracy.”
Sadly, the government’s decision hardly comes as a surprise to anyone who understands the relationship between industrial capitalism and its so-called “democracy”.
The whole thing is a manipulative trick, designed to give the public the impression that their political rulers are answerable to their views, while ensuring that this is never in fact the case.
It usually more or less works, because there are numerous layers in place to maintain the illusion. The mass media, for example (and the educational system, academia, the book publishing industry and so on) help to “manufacture consent”, in Noam Chomsky’s phrase, by presenting certain “facts” as being true, certain issues as being “relevant” or “irrelevant”, certain viewpoints as being “plausible”, certain futures as being “possible” or “impossible”.
The whole democratic system runs very smoothly indeed if you can make sure that the wishes of the population coincide with what you have in mind for them anyway!
Sometimes, this doesn’t work. The build-up to the Iraq war of 2003 is an example of this. The lying propaganda was so blatant, so desperate, that people just didn’t believe it and took to the streets in their millions to say so.
Another line of defence for the system is the way that politics works, right down to the local authority level. Even local councillors are usually representatives of central political parties. Representation itself is a step away from real participatory democracy, but someone who represents a political party no longer even theoretically represents the community which elected them.
On top of this come the various restrictions on local authorities’ options laid down by Whitehall – the parameters for local decision-making are very narrow.
Sometimes, this doesn’t work, either! Such was the case in Lancashire, where the threat of fracking was so alarming, and public opposition so motivated, that even the normally tame and controllable local authorities said “no”.
It is at moments like this that the illusion of “democracy” is no longer sustainable. The British state, which is a capitalist body operating solely in the interests of capitalists, wants to go ahead with fracking. So it has overruled the Lancashire County Council decision.
Likewise, in 2003 the Blair government, which was part of the global neoliberal military complex, wanted to go ahead with the invasion and occupation of Iraq. So it ignored the public.
This obviously creates something of a crisis for the system, because the fog suddenly lifts and a large number of people see that they are not living in the green and pleasant land of a benign democracy at all, but in the concrete and razor wire prison camp of a corporate dictatorship.
There are various ways that the system copes with this. One is to wait for the whole thing to blow over, to blame certain individual politicians or political parties, to pull people back into the illusion of democratic choice.
Another parallel approach is to ramp up the propaganda, attack their opponents as dangerous extremists (see below) and try to cut them off from the support of the population.
Along with these, and other techniques, will invariably come an increase in political repression and in the levels of the violence that capitalism has always used, and always will use, to impose its tyranny on a population which fundamentally does not share its core “values”.
The frack-free movement in the UK has already faced severe levels of intimidation and this will only spiral as resistance continues.
As well as physically attacking people who get in its way, the capitalist system also spies on its subjects in a manner that would once have been associated only with the Nazi Gestapo, the East German Stasi or the Soviet KGB.
It was confirmed this month that, for more than a decade, British security agencies have been secretly and unlawfully collecting massive amounts of our supposedly confidential personal data.
And it’s getting worse. On October 10, the Bristol Cable presented evidence that Avon and Somerset Constabulary and five other forces had bought devices that can spy on thousands of mobile phones at a time.
Says its report: “‘IMSI-catchers’ are surveillance devices that can both track the movements of mobile phone users within a given area, and intercept texts and calls. The potential scope of IMSI-catchers’ capabilities is frightening.
“The data they harvest creates a live-updating map of everyone in a certain area. Some models can intercept hundreds of mobiles a minute. The devices can also block communications, and in some cases can intercept the text messages and phone calls – and read or listen to them – of thousands of people in the vicinity.”
Two days later, the evidence in question disappeared – Avon and Somerset police had removed the appropriate documents from the internet because of “national security” concerns.
As the farmer wisely said: “This is not democracy, it is dictatorship”.
Fracking is a great idea, its opponents “have behaved deplorably instead of being reasonably sensible”, and climate change doesn’t matter because happily the world will soon be taken over by robots.
To anyone who has not really been paying attention, it may seem surprising that these opinions come from none other than James Lovelock, the former NASA scientist regarded as the creator of the environmentalist concept of the Earth as Gaia, a living entity.
But, in fact, the views he expresses in a recent Guardian article are totally consistent with the pro-industry, anti-nature worldview he has been expressing for decades – make no mistake, Lovelock is no friend of Gaia’s.
In his work, he repeatedly twists the idea of a self-regulating planet in order to suggest that we need not take action against pollution. He argues, for instance, that we should regard toxic industrial waste as being like cow dung. It is not so much pollution as a “valued gift”, he absurdly suggests.
Lovelock is a supporter of nuclear power and totally refuses to accept that industrialisation is affecting the health of the planetary organism, even asking in a 1986 paper: “Could it be that our very deep concern about the state of the world is a form of global hypochondria?”
He actively discourages resistance to industrial capitalism. A newspaper article about his 2014 book A Rough Ride to the Future reports: “The scientist and inventor James Lovelock claims we should stop trying to save the planet from global warming and instead retreat to climate controlled cities”. And it quotes Lovelock as concluding: “We should give up vainglorious attempts to save the world”.
Lovelock also explicitly supports transhumanism, the peak of industrial capitalist insanity which dreams of a merger between the human species and machines.
He says: “Our species has a limited lifespan. If we can somehow merge with our electronic creations in a larger scale endosymbiosis, it may provide a better next step in the evolution of humanity and Gaia”.
In the light of this, it should come as no surprise to find Lovelock expressing hostility to green thinking in his latest Guardian interview.
There is a sickening hypocrisy to the way the corporate media builds him up as some kind of ecological prophet, only to delight in relaying his latest anti-environmental statements in order to bolster their cap-doffing defence of the status quo.
For the Guardian interviewer he is an “incorrigible subversive”, as if it were somehow clever and edgy to support fracking and nuclear power, as if there were anything remotely daring or dangerous about ridiculing opposition to industrial capitalism on the tired technocratic basis that it is “totally unscientific”.
Lovelock is now 97 years old and when he dies we can expect a flood of adulatory obituaries both from the industrial capitalist establishment and from those defenders of the living planet who never saw through his sly ideological scam. There will probably be a special pull-out supplement in The Observer, sponsored by Shell.
Accusations of antisemitism against critics of Israeli policy have become a familiar feature of the political landscape, particularly since Jeremy Corbyn took over leadership of the Labour Party in the UK.
There are now even proposals that the use of the word “Zionist” in a negative context should become a criminal offence.
But a still more sinister trend is the attempt to smear any criticism of the global capitalist system with the same label, even when no reference is made to Israel or Zionism.
This came to the fore lately in the unlikely context of the US presidential campaign, when the allegation was levelled against Donald Trump. Trump is not someone we would ever want to defend and we are obviously totally opposed to his right-wing, misogynistic, xenophobic capitalist views, but the basis of this particular accusation is cause for general concern.
The Guardianreported on October 14 that in addition to his sexist behaviour, Trump had been “invoking shocking antisemitic tropes”.
However, later in the same story we learn that this is based on a comment by Trump about his rival Hillary Clinton meeting “in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers”.
Whatever you think about the idea of “US sovereignty”, it is clear that this statement is not in itself antisemitic, making no reference at all to Jewishness.
The suggestion that it was offensive seems to have come initially from Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti Defamation League, who tweeted: “@teamtrump should avoid rhetoric&tropes that historically have been used ag. Jews & still spur #antisemitism. Lets keep hate out of cmpgn”
The Guardian was at pains to point out that “Trump has not made any explicitly antisemitic statements” but echoed Greenblatt in claiming his comments “bore similarities to antisemitic tropes like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion”.
Similarities? So does any critical mention of the global banking system now amount to a “shocking” form of coded antisemitism even without any reference to Jews? Is it now a “hate” crime to denounce capitalism?
This would be a less pertinent question if it was just Trump we were talking about, as there may well be some kind of hate lurking behind his words.
But the very deliberate use of supposed “antisemitism” to attack the left wing of the Labour Party in the UK suggests there is something more significant and worrying here: a coordinated long-term ideological manoeuvre to delegitimise and then criminalise criticism of the capitalist system.
This meme was already apparent in 2003, when Mark Strauss wrote a book called Antiglobalism’s Jewish Problem.
Here, he approvingly quotes the high-profile French Zionist banker Roger Cukierman as labelling the anti-globalisation movement “an anti-Semitic brown-green-red alliance”.
Strauss tries to persuade his readers that, in his own words, “anti-capitalist rhetoric provides intellectual fodder for far right groups”.
To understand the motivation behind Strauss’s stance, it is useful to glance at his background and connections. His book was published by his employer at the time, Foreign Policy, a journal then owned by the neoliberal CIA-linked Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
He was previously a research assistant on the Foreign Policy Studies program at the Brookings Institution, a high-profile US “Think Tank“, recently accused of having a “cozy relationship” with its corporate donors.
Joffe argued that Kapitalismuskritik, the criticism of capitalism, is a “mainstay of the antisemitic faith, a charge that has passed smoothly from Jews to America. Like Jews, Americans are money-grubbers who know only the value of money, and the worth of nothing. Like Jews, they seek to reduce all relationships to exchange and money. Like them, Americans are motivated only by profit, and so they respect no tradition.”
In the right-wing British magazine The Spectator in 2005, Wolfgang Munchau warned that in Germany there was “a poisonous cocktail of the three big As: anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism and anti-capitalism”.
And the same trope turned up at the time of the Occupy movement in the USA, with Joe Carter, web editor of the right-wing First Things journal,declaring: “The brand of leftism on display at Occupy Wall Street is anti-capitalist and at the core of anti-Semitism is a mistrust of capitalism and a fear of economic liberty… Wherever you find a group that is railing against capitalism, it won’t be long before you attract types who want to blame Jews.”
This line is, of course, still being pushed today. An opinion piece by Dave Rich in the New York Times in September 2016 also seeks to link an “anti-American, anti-imperialist strain of the British left” with “a visceral objection to Israel’s existence” and thus also with antisemitism.
Rich, like the other opinion-shapers spreading this “antisemitism” meme, is hardly a disinterested observer. He is deputy director of communications at the Community Security Trust, a UK organisation which has been at the forefront of attempts to promote this broader concept of so-called “new antisemitism” and which, according to investigative journalist Asa Winstanley, “has strong links with government departments”.
Theresa May, now the UK’s Prime Minister, was even guest of honour at the CST’s annual dinner earlier in 2016.
State-induced paranoia conflating dissent with “extremism” and “terrorism” has already had a chilling effect on freedom in the UK.
Police monitoring group Netpol says it has spoken to many people “who are alarmed by the stifling of political debate in schools and in further and higher education – including discussion on issues like ‘eco-terrorism‘ and support for Palestine – and who are more worried than ever about attending political meetings or engaging in online discussion”.
Building up a fake narrative according to which anti-capitalism is regarded as being close to antisemitism can only serve extreme right-wing agendas.
Not only does it risk creating a smokescreen for real race-hate antisemitism, but it will also make it easier for the British state to brand anti-capitalism “extremist” under its sinister and Orwellian “counter-ideology campaign”.
With the Home Office declaring earlier this year that new legislation will give police “a full range of powers to deal with extremism”, criminalisation of views fundamentally challenging the global industrial capitalist system seems to be approaching at speed.
The headline in the Financial Times tells you all you need to know about what the people of Brazil should expect in the wake of the “constitutional coup” against former president Dilma Rousseff.
“Brazil’s exchange chief rejoices at post-impeachment opportunities” it declares, with the article below explaining that “Edemir Pinto — chief executive of BM&FBovespa, the country’s exchange operator — can barely contain his excitement”.
While she was ostensibly impeached for manipulating government accounts, it seems Rousseff’s real crime was “stunting the growth of the country’s capital markets”.
The FT explains that the new president, Michel Temer, has appointed “some of the market’s most respected figures” to run the finance ministry and Brazil’s state-controlled companies, setting the country up for what Mr Pinto hopes will be “a shock of capitalism”.
“The economic team put together by today’s government is a dream team … they are music to the market’s ears,” says Mr Pinto.
It has condemned the neoliberal seizure of power and refuses to recognise the Temer government.
It has also pledged to resist: “We announce that our mobilization does not end with the coup now installed. We will continue fighting, organizing the people of the countryside and building unity with urban struggles.”
Because it challenges neoliberal rule, the MST has already been declared a “criminal” organisation by the state and protests are being met with brutal police repression.
The MST warns that the impeachment is “not the last act of violation of the Brazilian people’s rights promoted by economic and political elites of Brazil”.
It has denounced the government’s attempt to reduce workplace rights, pension rights and to scrap the Unified Health System, its bid to privatize the assets of the Brazilian people and the commodification of land, water and minerals for foreign capitalists and the complete halt to agrarian reform.
In a video interview, Ana Moraes of the MST explains that it is gearing up to take part in a general strike in November.
But she says she expects the neoliberal system to respond with its usual levels of violence: “Repression is a characteristic of fascist governments that implement a coup”.
It’s nearly time for “Anarchist Christmas” in the UK, with the 2016 London Anarchist Bookfair being staged on Saturday October 29, from 10am to 7pm.
The venue this year is Park View School, West Green Road, London N15 3QR, near Turnpike Lane and Seven Sisters tube stations.
As ever there will be hosts of stalls (notably from Active Distribution who stock Winter Oak titles!) offering not just books , but journals, posters, badges, t-shirts, stickers and so on, plus a packed programme of meetings.
There is never a problem finding things worth going to at the London Bookfair – the real headache is that, with workshops and talks being held simultaneously in no fewer than 12 different spaces, there are too many to choose from and you are inevitably going to miss something interesting!
For instance, from 11am to 12 noon there is the chance to Meet the Anti Fascist Network and also to discuss Fallacies of class analysis in the conception of black existence.
From 12 to 1pm, Earth First! are hosting a meeting on how to “help make next year’s Direct Action camp even better”; the Anarchist Federation are presenting a workshop on Capitalism, Anarchism and Mental Health; the Empty Cages Collective are talking about growing resistance to prisons as a frontline of anti-state struggle and, elsewhere at the very same time, there is a meeting on Resisting Political Undercover Policing.
And all of this clashes with Netpol’s workshop, Cover Up! The Case for Protest Anonymity (12-1pm), which will explore how anarchists overcome barriers to greater protest anonymity, such as targeting and arrest by police, separation from other protesters and questions of legitimacy.
Meanwhile, Chris Knight will be Decoding Chomsky in a 12pm to 2pm workshop, which also overlaps not just with the Radical Routes session on housing and workers’ co-ops (1-2pm) but also with Haringey Solidarity’s lessons from four decades of radical anti-authoritarian community action in north London (1-2pm) and the Anarchist Federation meeting on Land and Anarchism: The Struggle for the Commons.
And you wouldn’t want to miss the 1pm to 2pm session with Silvia and Costa, arrested and convicted with Billy for an attack with explosives against a Nanotechnology Institute in Switzerland. They encourage us to Stand up Against the Technoworld, adding: “Resistance is not only possible but now more than ever necessary for a free and wild world”.
From 2pm to 4pm the Anti Raids Network are running a workshop on Anarchism and the struggle against the borders, while at exactly the same time Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al Shami will be talking on Syrians in Revolution and War.
Attending either of these two-hour sessions would mean missing Andrea Needham’s first-hand account of how a small group of women broke into a British Aerospace factory in Warton in 1996 and disarmed a Hawk warplane (2-3pm) and Working Class Anger in West London (2-3pm).
It would also mean missing Iain McKay mark the impending centenary of the Russian Revolution by explaining how the Marxist vision of “socialism” harmed the revolution and deliberately shunted it towards state capitalism (2-3pm), Donald Rooum presenting new editions of What is Anarchism? and Wildcat Anarchist Comics (3-4pm), and also a report on the current police crackdown on anarchists in the Czech Republic (3-4pm).
And all of this clashes with Climate organising against Green Capitalism, hosted by London Rising Tide and Corporate Watch, who have just brought out the excellent A-Z of Green Capitalism, as featured in Acorn 27.
It doesn’t stop there. Boycott Workfare’s 2016 workshop (4-5pm) coincides with Brian Morris’s talk on Anthropology, Ecology and Anarchism and a promising workshop on Art and Anarchism.
But going to any of those means not going to Capitalism and the car: how the ‘need’ for the car was manufactured and what this means today from Corporate Watch (4-5pm): “Cars are choking our health and the environment, dividing our communities and locking us in debt. A new road building programme is under way in the UK. What can we do about it?”
From 5pm the London IWW Unwaged Workers Group will be proposing the creation of a Revolutionary Labour Exchange and in another part of the venue two anarchists who have recently returned from several months living and working in Rojava will be explaining why, in their view, Rojava. It’s complicated…
South London in Struggle: strategies in local resistance (5-6pm) will explain how over the past few years a number of groups have emerged in South London to fight against state violence in the forms of policing, housing, and immigration enforcement.
And at the same time as all this , Kevin Eady will be asking What have the Anarchists ever done for Us? (5-6pm) in which he will address other key questions such as “How did Marlon Brando get things so badly wrong?”, “Why do Greek anarchists love sausage?” and “How did the long-running anarchist controversy over facial hair finally get resolved?”
A massive show of defiance against the proposed new Nantes airport in France was staged on October 8, with 40,000 people turning up to protest at Notre-Dame-des-Landes. The feared eviction attempt on the ZAD protest zone (see Acorn 27) has happily not yet materialised, no doubt largely thanks to the prospect of spirited mass resistance. The government’s latest comments seem to hint that they may prefer to put off any confrontation until after the 2017 presidential elections.
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Britain’s complicity in the USA’s covert drone war has been exposed in secret documents from US whistleblower Edward Snowden. They show that work on targeting the victims of the drones was conducted at “RAF” Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, a base which is in fact largely staffed by the US National Security Agency (NSA). Meanwhile, this ten-minute video interview with David Vine, author of Base Nation, outlines how the USA uses its network of 100s of military bases in no fewer than 80 different countries to physically impose its global hegemony.
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The “Aleppo Media Centre” in Syria, which came up with the widely publicised photo of the “dusty boy”, is funded by the French Foreign Office, the EU and the US, reveals independent journalist Vanessa Beeley. She writes of the manipulation of news coverage from Syria: “This shadow media enclave is being installed in order to erect the US-NATO propaganda tent – one which suppresses and silences the voices which would normally be heard from inside Syria, but which are blacked-out in favour of contrived, and hoax imagery, and other twisted reporting that categorically refers to Islamist terrorists as ‘rebels’ and ‘freedom fighters’.”
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A public building on the Franco-Italian border, owned by the SNCF (French railways), has been occupied by migrants and anti-border activists. The squat in the Roya Valley was opened on the night of October 17, but by October 19 was surrounded by riot police, with eviction alerts circulating. The occupiers said the situation on the border was getting worse all the time, with hundreds of people trapped at Ventimiglia and dozens of daily deportations to the south of Italy. People refusing to show ID were being beaten or given electric shocks and the French army was hunting down people, including minors, in the mountains. They said: “We refuse to play the game of the states and the humanitarian organisations who are collaborating with these deadly arrangements. We are asserting our ability to self-organise.”
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After our report in Acorn 27 on natural mutual aid among ants, a reader drew our attention to this article about how collective interests dominate the evolution of insects. It reveals that “group living insects have developed a unique capability of mounting collective anti-parasite defences, such as allogrooming [social grooming] and corpse removal from the nest”. We human beings like to think we are far superior to mere insects, of course, but maybe favouring individualism and competition over solidarity and co-operation isn’t as clever as all that…
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The UK’s Anarchist Action Network will be having its next national meeting at the start of December, although the date had not been confirmed at the time of publication – check for updates on its website. In the true anarchist tradition, the network is made up of autonomous groups and individuals, with no leaders or “central committee”. Meetings are open to everyone except cops and journalists.
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Guerilla Tactics: How Activists Can Fight to Win is the title of a thought-provoking article on the London anarchist website rabble.org.uk, drawing on the tactics of Che Guevara, the IRA, Sun Tzu, General Von Clausewitz and Nestor Makhno to suggest ways of taking on the capitalist system. It insists: “Our situation isn’t hopeless at all – by using overwhelming force to win small victories, gradually gaining people, resources and confidence as we go, we can build a strong resistance movement despite the strength of the rich and powerful.”
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Acorn quote: “Deep down my attitude is a protest against the fate that has made me a poet in an industrial age”. Herbert Read