One of the most striking features of today’s Western capitalist society is the dominance of what we usually call “individualism”.
We live in a “me” culture, where, it seems, nobody has the ability to see beyond the end of their own all-important nose.
Everybody is jostling for attention, bombarding the world with accounts of their meals, their coffee breaks and their shopping, frantically sharing the “selfies” they have taken of the most significant person in their life.
We seem to have collectively swallowed the neoliberal lie that “there is no such thing as society” and we now see simply an accumulation of individuals.
Our understanding of freedom has been shorn of all collective or social sense and is taken merely in its liberal form as the “liberties” granted to an individual by the state.
This individualist language has even crept into radical environmental thinking where, for example, instead of talking about a deep respect and love for the whole of nature to which we belong, we prefer to imagine our fellow creatures as possessing “rights”, as if they were tax-paying non-human citizens of some smug global liberal bourgeois republic.
We often cannot even take a holistic view of the hideous system in which we are trapped, because the anti-holistic contemporary mindset cannot recognise a whole as anything other than a construct of its separate parts.
Instead of identifying the entire system as oppressive and corrupt, in all its many aspects, we feel we have to piece together its badness in terms of the “intersectionality” between the various injustices suffered by separate individuals – in whose personal experiences all reality and value are considered solely to reside.
Paradoxically, however, there is another vast problem that looms over 21st century human culture and that is the absence of authentic individuality!
The “me” culture is also a “me too” culture. Everybody wants to be seen to be doing the same things as everyone else. Nobody wants to miss out.
Modern individuality is an off-the-peg identity. There is plenty of choice, but the range of possibilities has been prepared in advance and lined up on the supermarket shelves of social self-definition so that you can take your pick.
The one thing you can’t do is to refuse to take part. You are not allowed to go elsewhere for your sense of self. You must not, under any circumstances, yield to the temptation to send their pre-packaged personality-choices crashing to the floor with mocking contempt.
The modern individual’s desire to feel important is matched by a desperate need to be loved, a terrible fear of not being accepted by their family, their work colleagues and all their hundreds of non-existent online “friends”.
Good taste is seen as liking the things that other people like. Good sense is seen as having the opinions that other people have.
Social self-preservation, for the contemporary pseudo-individual, involves knowing what not to say, what not to read, what not to think.
The problem, of course, is that the “consensus” to which these people remain faithful does not actually arise organically, but has been manufactured by the dominant system. It is all part of The Spectacle, The Matrix, The Thing.
If we are ever going to smash down the walls of this civilizational prison, we are therefore going to need rebels strong enough to remain immune to this psychological manipulation.
We need people who are prepared to spend their lives chipping away at every crack they can find in the reinforced concrete and take no notice of those who tell them it’s the wrong crack, or the wrong wall, that they’re chipping in the wrong way or that there’s no chance of ever escaping and they’d do better to struggle for nicer biscuits in the prison canteen.
We need strong individuals – people who have no desperate need to be loved by everyone, no terrible fear of not being accepted.
Unfortunately there don’t seem to be too many of them around today. They are a dying breed in a world where “individuality” is regarded more as a question of decoration than of substance.
This seems to have been the case for quite a while. The philosopher and writer John Cowper Powys (1872-1963), for instance, made some very pertinent comments on the question in his 1930 book The Meaning of Culture.
He draws a distinction between an “educated” person, who accepts the consensus of their time, and a “cultured” person who builds their own personal philosophy through a process of intuitive choice, seeking out opinions and insights which somehow appeal to their own mind, regardless of how unfashionable or “out of date” these may or may not be.
He writes: “That this personal philosophy already exists before it is brought into conscious articulation cannot be doubted… One always feels that a merely educated man holds his philosophical views as if they were so many pennies in his pocket. They are separate from his life. Whereas with a cultured man there is no gap or lacuna between his opinions and his life. Both are dominated by the same organic, inevitable fatality. They are what he is.”
Powys stresses the importance of nurturing this personal philosophy by finding our own intellectual path to follow, rather than shuffling along with the crowd.
The reaction from others may well not be positive, he says, because of “the cultured person’s innate predilection for combining extreme opposites in his thoughts and his taste.”
He adds: “His philosophical opinions will be found as a rule, judged by the standards of the merely educated, to be at once startlingly revolutionary and startlingly reactionary.”
Powys concedes that everyone has some kind of roughly-sketched personal view of the world, but says that what denotes the cultured person is “the conscious banking up of this philosophy of his own, its protection from disintegrating elements, the guiding of its channel-bed through jungles of brutality and stupidity. The more culture a man has, the more austerely – though naturally with many ironic reserves – does he abide by his own taste.”
It is not easy to be true to one’s own innerly-motivated ideas when they conflict fundamentally with those of society – how can we forge a life, a role, when we are separated from most other people by a huge gulf of mutual non-understanding?
This is the question asked by the English existentialist Colin Wilson (1931-2013) in his 1956 best-seller The Outsider.
He writes: “For the Outsider, the world into which he has been born is always a world without values. Compared to his own appetite for a purpose and a direction, the way most men live is not living at all; it is drifting.
“This is the Outsider’s wretchedness, for all men have a herd instinct that leads them to believe that what the majority does must be right. Unless he can evolve a set of values that will correspond to his own higher intensity of purpose, he may as well throw himself under a bus, for he will always be an outcast and a misfit”.
The anarchist psychoanalyst Otto Gross (1877-1920) explored the same area in a 1913 essay entitled Overcoming the Cultural Crisis (Zur Überwindung der kulturellen Krise).
Here he says that any individual with the mental strength to stand firm for their own inner principles will inevitably find themselves in conflict with society.
Gross observes: “It appears that the real nature of these conflicts always leads back, in the last resort, to a general principle: the conflict between that which is proper to the individual and that which is alien to them, that which is individually innate and that which is suggested, learned, imposed from the outside.”
The need to accept this conflict and to accept the responsibility of living by one’s own innermost principles is also the subject matter of The Forest Passage (Der Waldgang) written in 1951 by Ernst Jünger (1895-1998).
In this extraordinary call for opposition to oppressive power, Jünger declares: “The resistance of the forest rebel is absolute: He knows no neutrality, no pardon, no fortress confinement. He does not expect the enemy to listen to arguments, let alone act chivalrously. He knows that the death penalty will not be waived for him. The forest rebel comes to learn a new solitude…”
His solitude allows the rebel to descend “to the very springs of morality, where the waters are not yet divided and directed into institutional channels”.
This concept of morality is important, as, for Jünger, the search into one’s deepest being is not a quest for a separate individualist identity.
Instead one meets, in the forest, “with one’s own Self, with one’s invulnerable core, with the being that sustains and feeds the individual phenomenon in time”.
This core being is a collective one, a “strata which underlies all social life and has been common to all since the origins”. He explains: “The I recognizes itself in the other, following the age-old wisdom, ‘Thou art that’.”
So there we have it. The individual who searches deeply and courageously enough inside themself ends up finding that their essence lies in something much larger. And they are then free and conscious enough to use their individuality in the interests of that greater whole.
What might have appeared, at the start of the journey, to be nothing but individual awkwardness or stubbornness, reveals itself to be what Gross calls elsewhere “the revolutionary instinct of humankind” acting through the individual free enough to allow it to do so.
Jünger admits that it has become especially difficult in the modern world to assert one’s freedom – “Resistance demands great sacrifice, which explains why the majority prefer to accept the coercion”.
The authentic individual, the real rebel, fully embraces their own individuality in order to put it to the service of the principles that form the very essence of human existence.
This is one of the great paradoxes of anarchism – a dynamic and deeply ethical philosophy for individuals strong enough to go beyond individualism and offer themselves up to the general good.
As Jünger puts it: “Each individual must know if freedom is more important to them – know whether they value how they are more than that they are”.
And once the individual has made this inner decision, found this inner strength, they can seek out other cultured rebels with whom to challenge the shallow fake-individualism of the modern world.
In a 1957 follow-up book to The Outsider called Religion and the Rebel, Wilson asks: “Is the Outsider strong enough to create his own tradition, his own way of thought, and to make a whole civilization think the same way?”
And he replies that ultimately, of course, the individual can achieve nothing on their own, no matter how determined they are: “While the Outsiders are a scattered and bewildered minority, without a tradition, without a philosophy, they are of no use whatever.
“It is impossible to say at this point what might be the ultimate result of a concerted effort of all ‘Outsiders’.”
Individuals of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your individualism!
John Cowper Powys, The Meaning of Culture, (London: Jonathan Cape, 1930)
Otto Gross, Psychanalyse et Révolution: Essais, trans. by Jeanne Étoré, (Paris: Éditions du Sandre, 2011)
Ernst Jünger, The Forest Passage, trans. by Thomas Friese, ed. by Russell A. Berman. (Candor, New York: Telos Press, 2013)
Colin Wilson, The Outsider, (London: Victor Gollancz, 1956)
Colin Wilson, Religion and the Rebel, (London: Victor Gollancz, 1957)
Anarchism is a philosophy which, over the years, has often been seriously misunderstood, thanks largely to the efforts of its enemies. But the situation seems worse than ever today, in that even those who call themselves anarchists sometimes lack a clear understanding of what it involves. Sometimes they accept the comic-book version of anarchism presented to us by the mainstream media and so help perpetuate that parody. Sometimes they undermine the whole sense of anarchism by trying to combine it with a political philosophy with which it is entirely incompatible, such as capitalism, liberalism, postmodernism, Marxism, nationalism or the politics of “racial” identity.
By real anarchism, we mean an anarchist vision unblurred by a confusion of other ideas and influences, an anarchist point of view which is strong and coherent because it is built on the foundation stone of anarchist philosophy. Anarchism, as a political movement, is doomed to disintegrate and disappear if it fails to reconnect itself to the roots of its own world-view.
Anarchy comes from the Greek terms arkh meaning “ruler” and an- meaning “without”: it therefore means a society without rulers. An anarchist is someone who thinks we should live without rulers and who tries to push society in that direction. Note that an anarchist isn’t just someone who thinks we could possibly live without rulers, in certain circumstances and if certain conditions were met, but someone who thinks it preferable to live without rulers.
The obvious question which springs to mind is why do anarchists think it would be better to live in a society without rulers, without government? After all, most of us have been brought up to believe that a state, the rule of law and so on are necessary for our well-being and protection. There may be arguments about how much power the state should have, or how it should use that power, but there is no general question about the need for some kind of authority in charge of our society. People assume that without a government, human society would fall apart into chaos, with everyone trampling over each other in a brutal “dog-eat-dog” world. The word “anarchy” is often used in this way by non-anarchists. They talk about a fear that we could “descend into anarchy”.
From this perspective, the anarchist point of view doesn’t make any sense at all. One common conclusion is that anarchists must be hopelessly naïve to believe that it could be possible to do away with authority without disastrous consequences. Another reaction is that anarchists must be destructive-minded and violent people, who actively want society to slip into a nightmarish condition of chaos. In fact, these two depictions of anarchists are used pretty much interchangeably by our enemies, particularly in the mainstream media, depending on the needs of the moment. One day anarchists are bunch of woolly-minded idealists, completely detached from “the real world”, foolishly clinging to a childish cloud-cuckoo fantasy of stateless society. The next day they are a sinister and violent gang of sociopaths, plotting underground to wreak havoc and destroy everything that is good in society.
Behind all this misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the anarchist position lies the important question of how we regard human nature. If you believe that humans are naturally selfish, greedy and violent, then you will argue that they need the structure of a state to control them. If you believe that there is no such thing as human nature, and that we are entirely shaped by the environment in which we grow up, then you will be keen to ensure that the correct environment is provided and may well look to some kind of state to ensure this happens.
But what if you believe that humans have a natural tendency for co-operation rather than for competition, for mutual aid rather than for mutual robbery? This is the anarchist point of view, most famously set out by the Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin in his 1902 masterpiece Mutual Aid. In this case, you obviously do not believe that a state is necessary to hold society together, as this is something that happens naturally from within, because of this tendency for co-operation.
This difference between the statist and anarchist outlooks is fundamental. It is the point where anarchism diverges from all other political philosophies. So it is crucial to understand why Kropotkin and other anarchists have this particular view of human nature. Kropotkin made it quite clear in Mutual Aid, and elsewhere, that it is not just human nature he is describing. All animals show the same tendency to co-operate, simply because it makes sense. That is how species, including the human species, survive and flourish – by working together and looking out for each others’ interests. He makes it clear that this is only a tendency he is describing. There are plenty of instances of competition in nature, as well in human society. Anarchists do not suggest that a future anarchist society would never involve any conflict between individuals or groups. But the overall pattern remains one of co-operation.
This potential and natural tendency for co-operation and mutual aid is based on our belonging to the natural world, where co-operation remains intact as the general rule of life. It is a continuation of nature within humanity, the extension of the organic structure of nature into the realm of human affairs. A human society without a state can hold itself together because that is what it had evolved to do, before the modern era of hierarchies warped our ways of living.
So-called anarchist thinking in recent decades has been overly influenced by other philosophical ideas which do not share its roots. It is fashionable in some circles to reject the idea of “nature”, particularly when applied to human beings. It is wrongly seen as being some kind of restriction applied to individuals from the outside, an attempt to make them conform to someone else’s model. This hasn’t been helped by the right-wing misuse of the words “natural” and “unnatural” to describe behaviour or ways of being that are considered acceptable or unacceptable by certain groups. This has nothing to do with actual nature, which is simply the living world of which we are part.
Nature is at the heart of real anarchist thinking. The idea of a natural state of freedom that has been stolen from us by states, churches and other forms of domination underlies the whole anarchist tradition. Time and time again anarchists write of removing the constraints of the state, so that we can organise ourselves into co-operative societies where we will always have the potential to flourish.
For most people today, the existence of a state is accepted as something necessary for the general welfare of humanity. But what does the state represent for anarchists? If human society naturally functions well on its own, and then something comes along which interferes with that natural functioning, then that thing is a problem. Yes, the state is unnecessary, but it’s even worse than that. It is actually stopping us from living how we should be living. The state is a positive menace to human well-being.
Comparisons are sometimes made between anarchism and the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism. Taoism describes a natural flow to the world which can be blocked and disrupted by any attempts to control it, even well-meaning ones.
For those who see anarchy as being a natural and desirable condition of humankind, all kinds of authority are regarded as both unnatural and undesirable. This is the basis of the anarchist position. While those in power regard anarchists as wanting to turn their world upside down, anarchists regard the current world as already being upside down and want to put it back the right way again, how it’s meant to be.
Seen from the anarchist point of view (from the right way up), all the structures of our current society take on a different appearance. They are revealed as ways of keeping us enslaved and concealing from us the truth about our predicament. Here are some examples.
The state. Anarchists regard the state as an appalling imposition. A group of powerful people declare themselves to have some kind of right to authority, tell the people they need that authority, and then force people to obey them. This is unacceptable.
Property. The powerful people who run the state also claim to “own” parts of the surface of the Earth and exclude others from these areas.
The law. This is the way that all the theft and domination is justified, disguised and imposed. The law replaces the principle of “right” and “wrong” with narrow definitions of “legal” and “illegal” suiting the interests of those who run the state, possess the wealth and write the laws.
The police. They are the physical means by which the powerful people who run the state violently enforce obedience to their system.
The “nation”. The concept of a “nation” is a false one, designed to give legitimacy to the existence of states controlling particular territories. Obviously there are fluid cultural and linguistic identities across the world, which should be defended from statist imperialism and centralisation, but anarchists reject any idea that these identities are fixed or that humans can be defined by national or racial labels.
“Democracy”. To hide the reality behind their theft and domination, the powerful people behind the state have constructed an elaborate façade of so-called “democracy” to persuade the dispossessed majority that they do, in fact, have a say in the running of society. The usefulness of the illusion of “democracy” is to head off the need for constant violent repression of the public.
The main aim of the powerful people behind the state has always been to increase their own wealth and power at the expense of everyone else. They disguise this aim by describing it as “progress”, “development” or “economic growth”.
In order to boost their own wealth, the ruling class have stolen from the rest of humanity the ability to live freely off the natural fruits of the land and trapped us into a complex system of enslavement based on money. The basic idea is that you either become a slave to their system, or you starve. To encourage voluntary submission, we have been taught to think that any kind of paid employment has a positive value, whatever the work involves. The accumulation of money and possessions is likewise presented as praiseworthy in itself, and confers social status.
The increase in the wealth of the ruling class – or “economic growth” as they call it – is presented as an unchallengeable priority, justifying unending and ever-increasing exploitation of life in all its forms – human, animal and our natural environment.
Anarchists reject this rhetoric, and everything that goes along with it. We have our own set of values which have got nothing to do with the fake and self-serving “values” of the world of money.
Ethics form an important part of the anarchist vision. There is already an ethical dimension in the basic idea of a co-operative way of life founded on mutual aid. But real anarchists extend this further in seeing a sense of values which naturally goes hand in hand with the idea of a self-governing and organic anarchist society. These values provide an ethical structure for this society; they are the fabric that make it possible and hold it together on a physical level. This basic concept has been shared by many cultures in human history. It is the Chinese Tao, it is the Indian idea of dharma or cosmic order, or the indigenous South American sumak kawsay or “right way of living”.
This anarchist dharma is key to the superiority of anarchist society. As well as naturally having a tendency to co-operate, for survival and well-being, humans have a tendency to be guided by certain values which help build harmonious and sustainable societies. Respect for each other, respect for other creatures, for trees, plants and rivers. These values are commonplace amongst us but are not allowed to come to the fore and guide the direction of our societies, because of all the false structures imposed upon us.
Freeing humanity from the yoke of state control and enslavement would also free us to live according to values coming naturally to us, rather than being forced to obey the laws imposed on us by the slave-owning minority.
People new to anarchist ideas often misunderstand the role of the individual in anarchist philosophy. The emphasis on individual freedom leads some to imagine that anarchism is little more than an extreme form of individualism, a mere libertarianism which could theoretically be coupled with liberalism or capitalism. However, this interpretation neglects the strong social aspect of anarchism, its emphasis on our innate tendency towards co-operation and mutual aid.
Anarchism rejects the idea that there is an inherent clash of interests between the individual and the community, which has to be resolved by some kind of social contract or compromise. Instead, it understands that the individual human’s sense of belonging to a wider community is a natural one, if allowed to flourish. We do not need a state (whether capitalist or communist) to artificially impose that belonging and loyalty on us – indeed, trying to do so is more likely to destroy affinity with wider society.
Because anarchists maintain that humanity has a natural tendency towards co-operation, we trust people to organise themselves, rather than wanting to force them to behave in the ways that we see fit by means of laws, police and so on. For anarchists, the idea of complete freedom for all individuals is not something to be feared, because we recognise that, in the long run, individuals will act in the interests of the communities of which, after all, they are part. For the minority who use the structures of the current system to dispossess and exploit the majority, complete freedom is indeed to be feared – as a threat to their own privileged status.
Freedom of the individual is, for anarchists, necessary for the freedom of the community. A society cannot be considered free if its members are not free. An individual cannot be considered free if they are not free to act according to their own conscience and their own values. Those values are found deep within each of us. But, since each of us is also part of the human species, these are shared human values. When we search in our hearts for what is right and wrong, just and unjust, we are searching within the collective culture, the collective thinking, of humankind.
And embedded within that collective human culture is the idea of dharma, or Tao, or natural harmony, the sense of rightness by which human society can guide itself. When that sense of rightness has been obscured by all the false representations of contemporary society, it is the role of anarchists to bring it back to the fore.
Since anarchists demand complete freedom for all individuals, it goes without saying that we also recognise a complete equality of worth in all. The labels attached to people by current society, denoting their social or “national” or “racial” status, have no meaning for anarchists, who see only fellow human beings with a right to define themselves as they see fit and to be treated with respect by others.
We know that many in society today are subject to discrimination and oppression in ways that are not always seen, or regarded as significant, by others who do not undergo the same experiences. And we know that it is important to always remain aware of this. However, anarchists do not define ourselves in terms of our oppression, or accept the role of victim. We prefer to fight back, focusing not on the differences between us but on what we all have in common.
Anarchism is not a narrow dogma and emerges in many different forms. Sometimes it can embrace struggles which may not be anarchist themselves, but are wholly compatible with anarchism. Anti-fascism is a good example of this. Not all anti-fascism is necessarily anarchist, but all anarchism is necessarily anti-fascist, as fascism is entirely incompatible with anarchism. Likewise, while class struggle does not have to be specifically anarchist, class struggle is very much part of the anarchist struggle – specifically the struggle to abolish the whole economic system in which humans are ranked in “classes”.
It has become fashionable to dismiss any idea of revolution as naïve. It is argued either that it is impossible, or that it will merely lead to new forms of oppression. But for anarchists, real naïvety lies in imagining that real change can be brought about without revolution. This is not revolution in the state-communist sense of a transfer of power to a new ruling elite. Anarchism aims at nothing less than the permanent destruction of the state and all the layers of authority it uses to enslave us.
While short-term social gains are not to be sniffed at, they are always to be seen for what they are. Without the demolition of all the structures of current system (law, work, patriarchy, borders, etc.) the structure of enslavement will remain intact and will, in time, reassert control. Real anarchists refuse to abandon the call for revolution, because we know that it is our only hope. Moreover, the myth of revolution, the dream of the complete destruction of the current system, is something that can galvanise action, that can capture people’s imagination and create powerful energies. One thing is for sure, and that is nothing will ever change if we all give up believing that change is even possible.
The anarchist view of the individual comes into play again when the question of revolution comes up. For us, the freedom of the individual is always combined with the responsibility to use that freedom in the general communal interest. In times of social harmony (i.e. anarchy), this would involve protecting the dharma of a stable and happy community. But in times like ours, where the world is upside down, the responsibility lies elsewhere.
Instead, say anarchists, individuals must find within themselves the strength to fight against the oppressive system in whatever way they can. This is partly a question of asserting own individuality through our dissent from the status quo and our adherence to our own set of values. But, of course, we are also acting in the interests of the wider human community – as our values demand. Any anarchist who is true to themself has no choice but to act.
This courage to destroy injustice, tyranny and domination in all its forms is sometimes mistaken for negativity. But in fact anarchism has the deeply positive aim of sweeping away an existing negativity blocking human well-being and happiness. Anarchism is the spirit of life reasserting itself against oppression.
Resistance to fracking in the UK has moved up a significant notch over the last two weeks, with the launch of a series of actions against the whole support infrastructure for the toxic industry.
One activist told media: “Since last Monday Reclaim the Power has taken action against quarries, water suppliers, haulage companies, PR firms and gas companies – all with direct links to the fracking industry. By taking out the links in the supply chain we can break the whole industry into pieces. It is now or never to stop fracking in its tracks.”
The Break the Chain initiative is continuing until Monday April 10, so there are a few more surprises in store yet – see here for updates on actions.
Even as this bulletin was being completed, on the morning of Friday April 7, news came in from the north of England of a blockade of PR Marriott, supplier of drills to the fracking industry. There was a tripod, three lock-ons and a banner drop.
Other highlights so far include:
Opponents of fracking in Lancashire blockaded the gates of fracking contractors A.E. Yates in Bolton. Road haulage firm Eddie Stobart also had its depot in Warrington blocked. This was part of successful ongoing local campaign, which previously saw quarry operators Armstrong Aggregates cancel a contract to supply AE Yates and drilling firm Cuadrilla with materials for the building of the shale gas exploration site at Little Plumpton after dozens of Bolton Against Fracking protesters targeted the Montcliffe Quarry.
Aggregate Industries had to work stop at their quarry in Carnforth, Lancs, when protesters on swings took over height restriction bars at two key access points. One of the protesters explained: “We’re up here today because fracking isn’t a playground game. We need to give Aggregate Industries a reason to rethink its position, which is at odds with local democracy.”
Three protesters dressed as brides chained themselves to the door of London PR firm St Brides Partners, declaring that PR firms that are “wedded to the fracking industry are locking the UK into a toxic marriage that funds dangerous and unwanted unconventional oil and gas in the UK”.
A group of anti-fracking campaigners held a party for Centrica’s chief executive, Iain Connor, at the company’s head office, to “celebrate” his £1.4m bonus.
Cuadrilla’s shale gas site at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, Lancashire, was closed by protesters.
Activist clowns staged a wrestling match outside Barclays in Piccadilly Circus, London, in protest at its 97% stake in fracking company Third Energy.
Bare-backed protesters spelled out an anti-fracking slogan and staged a noise demonstration in protest at Union Jack Oil’s stall at London’s UK Investor show. Said Reclaim the Power: “Everyone is becoming more aware of the equipment suppliers and haulage companies propping up the fracking industry because they are physically visible delivering to the fracking site in Lancashire. Events like these are doing the dirty work behind the scenes and are just as implicated and dangerous. They should be exposed.”
With at least five companies in the fracking supply chain having already pulled out after public pressure, the strategy behind Break the Chain could well have found a weak spot in the enemy’s armour.
We can now expect the fracking industry and their friends in high places to step up their efforts both to intimidate opponents and to demonise them as dangerous “extremists” (see below).
Indeed, Morecambe and Lunesdale’s Tory MP David Morris has already got the ball rolling by declaring of the quarry blockade: “I condemn in the strongest terms this irresponsible intimidation of companies and road users trying to go about their lawful business and get on with their daily lives.”
But with massive support for campaigners, and less than one in five of the UK public now said to support fracking, this is a battle the powers-that-be may yet lose…
Dave Bangs of Keep Our Downs Public, a naturalist and author of three books on the Downs and the Weald, told The Ecologist: “This is the fourth time we’ve had to defend these public estates. These are struggles against privatisation that can be won. These resources are valuable to everyone, so you can get very broad alliances of people.”
Added journalist Jan Goodey: “This current south coast battle is of national significance: if a major part of the public estate is destroyed the prospect for landscape conservation becomes ever more precarious. The countryside could be further opened up to plutocratic predators, including many super-rich foreign investors.”
In Brighton the council’s U-turn came as a result of what Green MEP Keith Taylor called “an organised, passionate and energetic campaign to stop the sales”.
Eastbourne council was forced to concede defeat, after a cunning plan to persuade people to vote for the land sell-off spectacularly backfired. Locals saw through the false choice of either “service cuts” or “downs sell-off” and 75% of them voted for the (supposed) cuts and thus in favour of protecting the downland.
Sally Boys, of Keep Our Downs Public, said: “Eastbourne people have shown that we can see through the spin and unfair choice offered by the so-called ‘consultation’ in the Eastbourne Review. Above all, we have shown that the people of Eastbourne love and cherish their downs and will fight to protect them. The downland belongs to us all.”
The depth of feeling behind the Eastbourne campaign was apparent during a ceremony on the Downs in which the land was declared to be sacred to Sussex people, in the same way as the threatened land and water at Standing Rock in the USA are sacred to the Sioux people.
Campaigners were told: “This land is our land, not only because we own it, but because this is sacred land, the land where our forebears are buried in the barrows we see across this land.
“This land is the land of our ancestors, and we would not be here, not be the people we are today, without them. Just as we honour our ancestors today in this ceremony that reconnects us with them and with the land they cared for, so we honour our ancestors by fulfilling the sacred trust placed in us by the people of Eastbourne in 1926 to care for this land.
“And care for it we must, because, as the Standing Rock Sioux have shown by their shining example, we have to stand up as the Water Protectors of our time, in this place, on this, our land, because this land is also our source of water. This land is the aquifer that supplies our drinking water and makes it safe enough to drink. As the Standing Rock Sioux say so well, Water is Life. Without Water, there is no Life.
“So we own this land because we deserve to own this land, and we deserve to own this land because we are willing to care for this land, to protect it for all the wildlife here and for all the people of Eastbourne, and for all the people around this world who recognise with us how special, unique, and important this land is. We own this land because we belong to this land just as much as this land belongs to us.”
The third Sussex victory came in Chichester, where the government scrapped plans for £250 million A27 road “improvements” in the face of what it called “significant local campaigns”, just days before Highways England was due to announce its preferred route.
The local business lobby, along with its placemen on the local council and its cheerleaders in the local media, have reacted furiously to the news and are trying to pressure the government into reinstating the road scheme.
This shows that all the talk of new roads “easing congestion” is baseless propaganda.
The CPRE’s Shaun Spiers commented: “Evidence from the 13 cases analysed in detail for traffic impact concluded that road schemes generate more traffic. On average, traffic grew 47% more than background levels, with one scheme more than doubling traffic within 20 years. None of the four schemes assessed in the longer-term showed the promised reduction in congestion; all put pressure on adjoining roads”.
And, he added, the price to pay was a high one: “Sixty-nine out of 86 road schemes examined had an adverse impact on the landscape – not just obliterating views, but destroying ancient woodland and mature hedgerows. More than half damaged an area with national or local landscape designations for landscape, biodiversity or heritage”.
If the authorities choose to take no heed of polite warnings from the likes of the CPRE, then it will be down to the people themselves, in Sussex and elsewhere, to launch more “organised, passionate and energetic” campaigns to protect the sacred land to which they belong.
The French state is facing a major uprising in one of its remaining colonies in South America.
French Guiana, an overseas territory which is officially part of France and the EU, has been brought to a standstill by a general strike and massive social protest movement.
Roads have been barricaded, businesses closed and protesters this week temporarily occupied and shut down the Guiana Space Centre at Kourou, where European Ariane rockets are launched.
French Guiana is an Amazonian territory north of Brazil, which is the size of Scotland but has a population of only 250,000.
The people’s grievances are varied, broadly boiling down to the fact that they feel like second-class citizens who are ignored by Paris.
While the French state benefits from the prestigious rocket launch site, 15% of the local population has no drinking water and 44% of the children leave school at primary level.
The “who we are” section of the website of the Pou Lagwiyann Dékolé collective, founded on March 28 2017, states: “We are the inhabitants of French Guiana. We are the people of French Guiana. We are one. We have risen up like one man to declare our unity.”
A very high-profile protest group called the 500 Brothers are calling for more security in a country hit by crime – and their appearance and rhetoric has alienated many of the uprising’s potential supporters in Europe.
One French anarchist currently in the territory was asked about the 500 Brothers in an interview and commented: “I see it as a reactionary thing. I’ve asked a lot of questions and talked to people, but I don’t really understand what’s behind this massive support for the 500 Brothers.”
But another French commentator said: “We are all Guianese because the contempt they are feeling from the ruling class echoes the general feeling that is being voiced everywhere in France.
“All the parties of government are guilty and responsible for this dire situation. All of them have failed and are grovelling to the supporters of the financial oligarchy. In French Guiana as elsewhere, a wind of change is blowing… and not before time!”
The British state is trying to overturn an important legal victory in the fight against the arms trade.
On 15th April 2016, eight activists were acquitted at Stratford Magistrates Court in London of obstructing a road outside the DSEI arms fair the previous September.
They successfully argued that their actions were justified, as they were trying to prevent greater crimes taking place, including the marketing of torture weapons, repression in Bahrain and the mass indiscriminate killing of civilians in Yemen, Palestine and Kurdistan.
On acquitting the activists, District Judge Angus Hamilton had held that there had been “clear, credible and largely unchallenged evidence from the expert witnesses of wrongdoing at DSEI and compelling evidence that it took place in 2015.”
Following the verdict, the UK state’s Crown Prosecution Service twice sought to appeal the acquittals, but was turned down on the basis that the CPS applications were “dishonest”, “frivolous” and “misconceived”. The CPS finally applied directly to the High Court seeking a judicial review of the activists’ acquittal.
It is hardly surprising that the UK state is desperate to overturn a verdict which directly challenges its support for, and close collaboration with, the arms industry and the regimes which buy its products.
It does not even dispute any of the facts found by the Magistrates Court as to wrongdoing at the arms fair and complicity of its regular invitees in ongoing war crimes. It simply says that the judge should not have allowed this evidence to be heard.
From the state’s point of view, the judge’s decision was outrageous. That’s not how the law is supposed to work! That’s not how the game is meant to be played!
The law was devised in order to protect Power and to justify the violence used by Power. If you are an enemy of Power, blocking a road is a crime. If you are a friend of Power, killing or torturing people is not a crime.
It’s not about “right” and “wrong”, but about “legal” and “illegal”. And it is Power which decides how “legal” and “illegal” are defined.
Andrew Smith of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) said: “The campaigners should not be getting pursued for protesting – it should have been the arms dealers who have fuelled and facilitated war and oppression around the world.
“The arms trade is an illegitimate, immoral trade, and events like DSEI are central to it. Whatever the verdict, we need to mobilise the biggest possible opposition when it returns to London later this year. DSEI brings the world’s biggest arms companies together with some of the world’s most oppressive regimes. It needs to be closed down for good.”
In a joint public statement, the defendants’ campaign said: “The CPS cannot dispute any of the findings of fact made at our trial concerning criminality at DSEI, or the high probability that weapons bought there would be used for war crimes.
“How could they, when every credible authoritative source only serves to confirm that the UK government and other repeat DSEI invitees such as Saudi and its coalition allies are solidly and persistently complicit in the mass indiscriminate killing of civilians? It is little wonder then, that the CPS should seek to prohibit the admission of such evidence in court on arbitrary procedural grounds, arguing that expert evidence should not have been allowed to be heard by the court at all.
“For us it is clear that there is not only a right – but also a profound responsibility – for each of us to do all we can to stop war crimes and crimes against humanity where they start.”
At the same time that the case against DSEI activists was being reopened, two family members of expert witness Sayed Ahmed al-Wadaei – who gave evidence at the activists’ trial – were detained by the Bahraini government in retribution for his speaking out about human rights abuses perpetrated by the regime.
His mother in law and brother in law are still being held and there is grave concern for their safety following reports that they have been subjected to torture.
More info on resistance to the 2017 DSEI arms fair here and here.
The UK is ramping up its attack on online freedom, seizing on the excuse of last month’s Westminster Bridge attack to try and outlaw encrypted messaging.
It is also considering legislation to force firms to “take down extremist material” from the internet, although details of what this might involve are not yet clear.
The state’s definition of “extremism” has been left deliberately vague and in other contexts has already been applied to anarchism, anti-fascism and the growing frack-free movement.
Banning this kind of political content from social media or other websites might seem to be out of the question in a country that likes to claim it is a “democracy”, but it would be in line with increasingly repressive official attitudes.
After the Investigatory Powers Act was passed last year, no fewer than 48 government bodies – including the Food Standards Agency and Department for Work and Pensions – can view a record of the websites people have visited in the past year.
A year and a half ago, Theresa May launched a “counter-extremism strategy” which amounts to a McCarthyite witch hunt which The Guardiandescribed as being targeted “against ‘entryist’ infiltration of the public sector, charities and businesses by Islamist and other extremists”.
The term “other extremists” stands out here. The UK Government defines “extremism” as vocal or active opposition to what it calls “fundamental British values”, by which it of course means the “values” of the British state, such as waging imperialist wars and protecting the arms trade that profits from them (see above).
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”.
Does “removing extremism” from the internet simply mean trying to ban dissent? We can tell them now – it won’t work!
Hundreds of demonstrators set fire to the National Congress building in Asuncion, Paraguay, on the night of March 31, in a furious reaction to a secret vote for a constitutional amendment allowing right-wing President Horacio Cartes to run for re-election. A 25-year-old opposition activist was later shot dead during a police raid.
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Two protests against the environmentally disastrous Drax Power Station will be held in the UK on Thursday April 13. One is planned for York from 10.30pm until 2pm, where Drax’s shareholders are meeting at The Royal York Hotel York (The Principle York), close to York rail station. On the same day in London a colourful protest will visit some of Drax’s key investors from 12 noon until 2pm – meet in Gresham Street.
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Encouraging people to take direct action in the defence of the environment is not always easy, particularly when they have the impression that this is something only carried out by semi-professional activists. One video that could very usefully be shown to the public, with this in mind, is La Bataille de l’Eau Noire. This inspiring and entertaining documentary tells of a village in Belgium threatened by a dam in 1978, and hears from a cross-section of decidedly non-“activist” locals as to how they unleashed guerrilla warfare to successfully see off the project. The DVD comes with English subtitles and copies are being offered to groups involved in struggles who would like to arrange screenings. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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Pro-capitalist trade union GMB has called for police and courts to take “a firm line” against opponents of fracking, reports Drill or Drop. As we have previously revealed here, GMB is very much in bed with the oil and gas business mafia and has even done a deal with UKOOG, the front group representing the fracking industry in the UK. Freedom News commented that the sell-out union’s latest statement comes “in an apparent total disregarding of the long history of police dirty tactics breaking strikes and picket lines in Britain, as well as numerousreports of police misbehaviour against fracking protesters”.
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Anti-capitalists gearing up for the big protests against the G20 in Hamburg this summer launched a spectacular attack on a police station on the Grundstrasse in Hamburg in the early hours of March 26, setting the police vans in the yard on fire. In a statement translated by Insurrection News, the activists explained: “Our target was selected with care, the repressive machinery has been working at full speed on the criminalization of the resistance”.
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A petition has been launched to save from closure one of the few museums in the world to be dedicated to the life and works of an anarchist. The Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis Museum at Heerenveen, in the Netherlands, celebrates one of the fathers of Dutch anarchism and libertarian socialism, who was also active in the vegetarian and anti-militarist movements. The petition can be signed here.
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Indigenous resistance to industrial capitalism and the thorny issue of the “enemy within” in the shape of “Peace Police”, sell-out NGOs and corrupt “tribal government” – this is the subject matter of the first in a series of monthly documentaries by sub.media, going under the name of Trouble. Well worth a look!
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A pioneering UK academic publishing project is aiming to make first-rate scholarship on anarchism freely accessible through a sustainable publishing model. Alexandre Christoyannopoulos of Loughborough University explained that the first volume of Essays in Anarchism and Religion is already in production and now a crowdfunding scheme has been extended in a bid to fund the next two volumes.
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Acorn quote: “In a culture where profit has become the true God, self-sacrifice can seem incomprehensible rather than noble”.
Starhawk, Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising
After a few months of relative calm, anger has again erupted on the streets of France, this time specifically focused against the police.
This time last year saw the start of the massive protest movement against the neoliberal labour “reforms” called the Loi Travail, as reported by The Acorn.
With the summer holidays, and the fact that the law was forced through parliament by the ruling “Socialist” party, the movement inevitably faded.
But, in reality, the energy behind it had never been limited to anger about this latest capitalist assault on workers’ rights. It was a general resentment against the whole system that was simmering and as increasing repression was unleashed against protesters, the movement became just as much a defiance of the violence of the French state, with its “state of emergency” martial law and fascistic police goon squads.
Now, at the start of 2017, the cities and towns of France are once again being filled by cries of “Tout le monde déteste la police!” – “Everybody hates the police!”.
The immediate catalyst has been the nauseating police rape of a young black man in Aulnay, a suburb of Paris, on February 2 – he had to be treated in hospital for anal injuries after having a police baton thrust into him during an all-too-common attack on local youths by thuggish cops.
In response, there have been several weeks of often-feisty protests in the immediate area and all across France (see this video from Bobigny, for instance, and these round-ups from lundimatin and paris-luttes).
The anger is not going to disappear fast. While the French establishment has tried to calm outrage by charging a cop with rape and sending President Hollande to visit victim Théo L in hospital, it seems likely to embrace the police version that the brutal violation was somehow “accidental”.
And, in the year of the French presidential elections, the revolt against police violence cannot be separated from wider political issues, even if liberals would prefer otherwise.
For instance, when a protest against an extreme-right Front National event in Nantes on February 25 turned into street conflict with the cops, the usual reformist voices were raised, saying that this had undermined the day’s anti-fascist message.
But, as protesters interviewed by lundimatin explained, it is difficult in today’s France to draw a line between fascism and the police. When it is police who brutally attack blacks on the streets, police who attack left-wing protesters, police who are known to vote in large numbers for the pro-police Front National, you do not need to look any further for the fascist enemy.
Said Camille: “Confronting the police is fighting the Front National. Fighting the Front National is saying no to a police-state society.”
Added Mo: “Obviously the police’s political party is the FN. Its whole campaign is built on this image of a party of law and order. The FN can’t present itself as an openly fascist party, but can get away with the idea of being the only party really supporting the police”.
Families of the victims of police violence have called a national protest against cop-crime and institutional racism for Sunday March 19. This will set off from Nation, in Paris, at 2pm and head to the Place de la République via Bastille.
Campaigners have announced a day of protest against a controversial Cardiff event which they say “totally blurs the boundary between government and the arms trade”.
DPRTE (Defence Procurement, Research, Technology & Exportability) is to be held at the Motorpoint Arena on Tuesday 28 March. Although it bills itself as “the UK’s leading defence procurement event”, opponents insist it is an arms fair.
Last year six people were arrested during protests against DPRTE and another day of action has been called for 2017, with the aim of shutting the event down.
BAE Systems, whose fighter jets have been used by the Saudi regime to bomb schools and hospitals in Yemen, as well as by the Turkish and Israeli states against Kurdish and Palestinian civilians, will be exhibiting in the “Prime Contractor Village” at Cardiff’s Motorpoint.
DPRTE is open about its aims to deepen and increase existing ties between arms businesses and the government.
These links between the UK state and the weapons industry have come under heavy scrutiny in recent months, with Prime Minister Theresa May being forced to defend ongoing arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the face of international criticism.
Event organisers BiP Solutions boast: “With an annual spend of over £19bn on equipment and services the UK defence sector represents a fantastic opportunity for organisations looking to supply to this marketplace. DPRTE 2017 will provide a unique opportunity to gain access to defence procurement buyers”.
BiP Solutions, a private company based at Pacific Quay, Glasgow, is deeply embedded within Ministry of Defence (MOD) operations, running its Defence Contracts Online, through which all MOD contracts valued at £10,000 and above are advertised. It also publishes the fortnightly MOD Defence Contracts Bulletin.
Established in 1984 “to facilitate business between the public and private sectors”, BiP Solutions has had a “a sixteen-year relationship” with civil servants at the MOD in London.
A keynote speaker at DPRTE 2017 will be 62-year-old Les Mosco, who was the most senior procurement professional in the MOD from 2007 to 2014, managing 2,500 staff and directing the MOD’s annual multi-billion pound spend.
Before his seven-year stint at Whitehall, Mosco enjoyed a successful career in the private sector, with roles at the NatWest banking group, and at the US-based oil and gas business Amerada Hess, now the Hess Corporation.
He also runs his own private company, Commercial Strategies Ltd, of which he is CEO and director, with his 65-year-old wife Barbara as company secretary. It is registered to the couple’s home in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.
Originally set up in October 2003 as Purchasing Strategies Ltd, its name was changed to Commercial Strategies Ltd in October 2014, just after Mosco left the MOD.
Mosco’s go-between role is no anomaly. The UK government does not hide its links to DPRTE, with Barry Burton, Director of Corporate Affairs at the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation, declaring in his 2016 opening speech in Cardiff: “An event like DPRTE today provides an excellent opportunity for industry professionals to meet with the MOD’s procurement team. The Ministry of Defence wholeheartedly supports this event.”
The official event partners listed on the DPRTE website include sections of the MOD like Defence Equipment and Support, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Defence Infrastructure Organisation and the Defence Export Service Organisation (DESO), which promotes arms exports by arms companies based in Britain.
Alongside these government entities sit other event partners whose status is less clear. One of these, for instance, is Defence Growth Partnership (DGP), which describes itself as “a partnership between Government and the Defence Industry”.
There is also the UK Defence Solutions Centre (UKDSC), which explains on its website that it is “an established, independent partnership between the UK Government and the UK Defence Industry”.
The UKDSC claims to work with “the best of the defence industry” and names arms companies such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Thales, Cobham and BAE Systems as key partners.
Another DPRTE “partner” is Defence and Security Accelerator, a new entity launched in December 2016 to “help government defence and security departments collaborate with industry, academia and allies”.
Further official event partners at DPRTE entirely represent the interests of the powerful weapons manufacturing industry.
One of these, ADS, terms itself the “Premier Trade Organisation for companies in the UK Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space Sectors” and claims to represent 1,000 businesses.
Its website reveals that it acts as a lobbying group, pressuring the government to behave in ways that benefit its members’ interests – which in this case would mean spending more taxpayers’ money on buying weapons.
ADS admits that a key area of its activities is “influencing the policy debates of most importance to our industries,” adding: “ADS plays an instrumental role in bringing industry and Government together. We also work closely and collaboratively to maintain and grow the UK as a world leader in our industries.”
Working towards similar aims is another DPRTE partner, NDI – Defence, Space, Aerospace, Security. The arms wing of the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, NDI “actively promotes global business opportunities for its members” and says it provides “policymaking influence to magnify the voice of the industry and individual companies”. Its “global partners” include BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon.
DPRTE has been attracting protests for several years and was forced to move to Cardiff in 2014 because of public opposition at its original venue in Bristol.
This year the Stop the Cardiff Arms Fair / Na i Ffair Arfau Caerdydd network is advertising a Day of Action at the Motorpoint Arena in Mary Ann Street, starting at 8am on 28 March 28.
One anti-militarist campaigner said: “This event is unacceptable in so many ways. It totally blurs the boundary between government and the arms trade and uses taxpayers’ money to promote unethical profiteering in the private sector.
“These ruthless businesses build their wealth on the rubble of schools and hospitals and on the dead bodies of the children targeted by the weapons of mass destruction they manufacture and sell across the world.
“DPRTE has no place in Cardiff and the city should be ashamed of hosting these dealers in death. We call on anyone with a conscience to join us on 28 March to shut down this arms fair!”
“If we really want to preserve the environment, and the quality of water resources, it’s imperative that we change this system and this government”.
So who said this? A Standing Rock campaigner in the USA, perhaps? An anti-fracking activist in the UK?
No, these are the words of Ran Yunfei, a Chinese philosopher and dissident who has already spent time in jail for his opposition to the policies of the “People’s Republic”.
He is speaking in South to North, a documentary film by Antoine Boutet about the highly controversial Nan Shui Bei Diao, or South–North Water Transfer Project. This massive scheme aims to channel 44.8 billion cubic meters of fresh water annually from the Yangtze River in southern China to the more arid and industrialized north through three canal systems.
But behind the gloss and profits of a prestige infrastructure project lies, as ever, a different story – of displaced families, corrupt local officials, depleted rivers, dead fish and untold environmental damage.
Ran says in the film, now out on DVD: “I didn’t directly criticise the Nan Shui Bei Diao project, but I’m well informed. A lot of people are against it and so am I. It’s damaging the sources of many Southern rivers. I criticise the government because it’s a political project.
“The destruction of the environment in China is the doing of a disastrous government and political system. The development model is based on GDP growth, without concern over the consequences for the environment.
“On the one hand the incompetencies of the system, on the other the belief that ‘man can determine the course of nature’. The natural catastrophes that have succeeded one another indicate that the future foretells of more natural catastrophes.
“The protection of the environment must be made a top priority. The protection of the environment and the life of the people should be valued at the same level. Because without environmental protection there is no quality of life”.
The hidden scandal of people serving indefinite sentences in UK jails is to be exposed by campaigners this month.
Smash IPP are embarking on a March 2017 info tour and are looking for local groups and individuals to help organise dates, mainly between Monday March 13 and Sunday March 19.
More than 3,989 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 date. Parole board delays, prison overcrowding and sheer neglect are all leading to unprecedented rates of prisoner suicides.
Smash IPP report that, only last year, a prisoner whom they supported died in prison: “We have worked with IPP families who have lost their kids and their partners. Children have grown up with having a parent stolen by this sentence”.
A mother with a son who’s an IPP describes the IPP sentence as a “death sentence”. One IPP wrote how “Our families are doing the sentence just us much as us, is it right for them to never know if we will ever come home? Sometimes I feel that if I died it would be better for them because they could bury me and move on with their lives and not worry any more.”
Smash IPP say: “Enough is enough. This is life and death. We will not let any more people die because of prison bureaucracy and neglect. This year we call for a year of action to free all IPPs.”
Anyone who can host a meeting would just have to be able to help IPP find a local venue for a two-hour event, help with local publicity and put two people up overnight, preferably with vegan food.
To get involved in any way, contact Smash IPP via info(at)smashipp.noflag.org.uk
In George Orwell’s 1984, one of the Party members developing Newspeak tells Winston Smith: “You think, I dare say, that our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We’re destroying words – scores of them, hundreds of them, every day”.
He explains: “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thought-crime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it… By 2050 – earlier, probably – all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed”.
In destroying the full metaphysical meaning of words like “essence”, “nature” or “universal” by means of their straw man constructs, the conformists of contemporary goodthink are destroying our connection to reality.
Because they ideologically object to everything beyond subjective individual experience, they are destroying, in particular, our connection to the reality that we human beings are more than individuals.
They are destroying our understanding that our individual freedom and well-being are in fact dependent on a collective level of existence as part of a community, as part of a species and as part of nature as a whole.
They are thus destroying our capacity to see what has been stolen from us by the alienation and separation of the industrial capitalist system and what it is that we must reclaim. “If one is to rule, and to continue ruling,” declares Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein, “one must be able to dislocate the sense of reality”.
A philosophically dislocated anti-capitalist movement that has lost all sense of what it is fighting against and what it is fighting for will never be able to persuade the rest of the population of its arguments and thus will never represent any kind of threat to the dominant system.
It is not just in France (see above), of course, that police brutality continues to rear its ugly pig-faced head. On February 23, a blind man was tasered by UK police in Levenshulme, Manchester. Shamefully, mainstream media reports like this one obediently echoed the absurd police claim that “his cane was mistaken for a gun”. About as credible as accidentally raping someone with your truncheon…
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The battle to Keep Our Downs Public in Eastbourne (see Acorn 29) is intensifying, as the borough council tries to avoid responding to public opinion. The town hall spin doctors have tried to pull a fast one by promoting a “poll” in their own council publication featuring totally one-sided information and a blackmail-style question asking residents whether they prefer the sale of Downland farms or cuts to front-line services! Unimpressed, hundreds took to the streets of the Sussex town to protest on February 25 – see this video report.
Fancy being part of an autonomous network made up of local groups and individuals from the anarchist movement based in the UK? You might want to get along to LARC at 62 Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel, London E1 1ES on Sunday March 12, 1pm-3pm, for the latest national meeting of the Anarchist Action Network.
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Hundreds of people protested against fracking in two different parts of northern England on February 25. Some 1,000 people gathered near Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool in Lancashire for a rally, after which dozens of protesters managed to invade the fracking site. And more than 400 people took part in a march from Mosborough, near Sheffield, to Marsh Lane in Derbyshire where INEOS has announced plans for what could be its first shale gas site. Full report at drillordrop.com
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A direct action protest by Rising Up! blocked access to three terminals of London’s Heathrow Airport on February 21 in opposition to the planned third runway. The activists included both climate campaigners and local people fearful of increased pollution, loss of homes and green space and the destruction of entire villages to pave the way for yet more aviation profit.
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Acorn quote: “Faith in the fundamental goodness of man; humility in the presence of natural laws; reason and mutual aid – these are the qualities that can save us. But they must be unified and vitalized by an insurrectionary passion, a flame in which all virtues are tempered and clarified, and brought to their most effective strength”.
1. Capitalists threaten Stonehenge and Sherwood Forest
The vampires of industrial capitalism are entirely ruthless about the living flesh off which they feed, whether the human beings they exploit or the nature they despoil.
They are particularly callous regarding anything to do with our culture, the people’s culture, which they regard as an irritating obstacle in the way of their never-quenched red-fanged thirst for profit and power.
These self-obsessed social parasites simply don’t care if their schemes destroy communities, displace whole populations from their homelands, trample all over sacred sites across the world.
And just because Britain was the country where the curse of the Industrial Revolution was first unleashed, don’t imagine these life-hating sociopaths have any more respect for our own cultural heritage.
If they did, how could they be planning to pierce a tarmac-and-concrete hole through the heart of Stonehenge, symbol of England’s mystical past? How could they envisage inflicting the toxic industrialisation of fracking on Sherwood Forest, legendary home of Robin Hood, incarnation of the age-old fight by England’s dispossessed against injustice and tyranny?
The road scheme planned for Stonehenge in Wiltshire is supposed to be a good thing because the current road, close to the ancient monument, will disappear. But it will “disappear” into a short tunnel passing right through the sacred soil surrounding this iconic site, with massive portals causing permanent damage to the landscape.
Nobody with any sense of history could possibly countenance such desecration of what is considered “the most archaeologically significant land surface in Europe” and acknowledged by UNESCO as “without parallel”.
But then the money-men and their puppets in government care only for the short-term future of their own offshore bank accounts.
Stonehenge has been threatened by road building and other major developments for over 20 years, as explained on the Stonehenge Alliance website.
The current UK Government plans to spend £2 billion widening the A303, with the dual carriageway crossing the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.
The historian Dan Snow, president of the Council for British Archaeology, has likened the capitalist roadbuilders to vandals and zealots who destroy artefacts of ancient civilisations.
He said: “Of all our many treasures on these islands, none is more internationally revered than Stonehenge. We have recently started to realise that the standing stones are just a beginning, they sit at the heart of the world’s most significant and best preserved stone age landscape. The government’s plans endanger this unique site.
“Around the world we see pictures of our fellow humans smashing the treasures of the past and count ourselves lucky that we live in a country which values its rich history and appreciates what it offers modern Britain. Our heritage helps us understand ourselves, how we got here and where we are going.”
Meanwhile, opponents of fracking have vowed to defend Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire after it was revealed that chemical company INEOS is preparing to explore for shale gas.
According to a Freedom of Information request by Friends of the Earth, INEOS has been negotiating since last summer with the Forestry Commission for access to land for seismic surveying and a possible well site.
Drill or Drop reports that maps released under the request show surveys would be carried out across the Sherwood Forest national nature reserve, on Forestry Commission land and the Welbeck estate.
They suggest that if the surveys went ahead, the edge of one block would be within 500m of the legendary Major Oak, an 800 to 1,000-year-old tree reputedly slept in by Robin Hood and his merry band.
Friends of the Earth campaigner Guy Shrubsole said: “Is nothing sacred? By hunting for shale gas in Sherwood Forest, chemicals giant INEOS is sticking two fingers up at England’s green heritage, all in the pursuit of profit. INEOS seems to have taken a different message than the rest of us from Robin Hood”.
Hundreds of protesters met at Major Oak on January 7 with what the local press described as “one clear message – ‘frack off and leave us alone’.”
Greg Hewitt of Frack Free Nottinghamshire said: “I’m really happy with the turn-out today. I thought it would be 50 to 100 people but it’s double that at least.”
Frack free campaigner David Kesteven said: “We’ve got to stop fracking because of climate change. The fact that they have come to the heart of Sherwood Forest shows that they will stop at nothing. We have got to make a stand somewhere and this is a good place to stand.”
Rose Hart added: “We are protectors, not protesters. We are protecting this land. We say no to fracking anywhere. We also feel it’s important that somewhere like Sherwood Forest isn’t affected because Sherwood Forest and the Major Oak are so symbolic of our country.”
The fracking industry is a corrupt mafia-like entity linked to the state (see this spinwatch investigation) and it is no easy task trying to halt it in its tracks.
But the stakes could hardly be higher, as a stirring recent blogpost by frack free campaigner Tina Rothery points out.
She writes: “Nothing is more important than our air and water – nothing. For those still unsure if NOW is the time to stand up and say no, to get involved in a local campaign, to join others to stop this industry as it steamrollers through our communities and shatters democracy… please be assured that NOW is when you are needed most!
“The UK currently IS frack-free and that puts us in the stronger position – IF this industry gets a foothold, then we are disempowered by laws and the cost of accessing ‘justice’. Then we will only have direct action as the option – all others will be gone”.
We live in a “representative democracy”, but whose interests do our political leaders really represent?
The answer has been more obvious than ever in the UK in recent weeks, with the government’s announcement of a “Modern Industrial Strategy”.
It is adding an extra £4.7 billion to the money it already bungs to its boardroom sponsors in the guise of so-called research & development funding. This “investment” will go to areas such as AI, “smart” energy technology, robotics, and 5G wireless.
Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark says the strategy will “drive economic growth across the whole country”. In case you hadn’t noticed, “economic growth” equals business profits at the expense of you and your environment.
The government is planning to spend £170 million to establish new Institutes of Technology providing “high-skilled technical training tailored to employers’ needs” – nice of them to pay for businesses to train their own workforces, from whose efforts they presumably aim to make a tidy profit. Who needs an education when you can be a fully-trained system-monkey?
When the government says that Britain is “open for business”, it really means that it is whoring out the population and the countryside to the highest bidder.
Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged £23bn for the National Productivity Investment Fund in his autumn statement, with money earmarked in the next five years to create an Oxford to Cambridge expressway road and new railway infrastructure in the Midlands. The government has also set a target of 200,000 new homes a year. The countryside is coming under direct attack with 14 “garden villages” to be parachuted right on to the middle of greenfield areas.
The Department for Communities and Local Government said there had been “high levels of interest” in building more villages in the coming years – yes, from ruthless sharks in the property development business out to make a quick buck from destroying our countryside!
Another “infrastructure development” under consideration is the National Grid’s £2.8bn plan to connect the planned Moorside nuclear power station, Sellafield’s replacement, to the UK power network with a 102-mile long power line. The route goes through the Lake District national park.
Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), said there was “a real concern” about the way development is being prioritised. “Everybody recognises that we need to update infrastructure, and the CPRE’s traditional role since it was set up in 1926 has been to question whether or not it’s necessary and if there are alternatives to industrialising landscapes,” Spiers told the Observer.
“There’s a terrible sense right now that ministers are just keen to say that Britain’s open for business at the expense of everything else. It’s all justified on narrow economic grounds, and I’m not sure anyone is standing back and saying ‘what are the alternatives?’”
Whether it’s by “easing congestion” or “boosting the economy”, the industrial capitalist ruling caste is always keen to insist that new roads are in everyone’s interests, not just those of the construction, road haulage and oil industries.
But it is becoming increasingly clear that roads are nothing short of a disaster for every living creature on this planet and that we need to collectively take the next exit off the modern motorway to madness.
A new study has revealed that rampant road building has shattered the Earth’s land into 600,000 fragments, most of which are too tiny to support significant wildlife.
The impact of roads extends far beyond the roads themselves, the scientists said, by enabling forest destruction, pollution, the splintering of animal populations and the introduction of deadly pests. New roads also pave the way to further exploitation by humans, such as poaching or mining, and new infrastructure.
Roads are also bad for individual health, as you may have guessed the last time your lungs were filled with the toxic fumes that so many of us have been exposed to throughout our degraded urban lives.
A new study published in The Lancet has proved that living close to a busy road increases the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia by up to 12%.
Lead scientist Dr Hong Chen, from Public Health Ontario in Canada, said: “Our findings show the closer you live to roads with heavy day-to-day traffic, the greater the risk of developing dementia. With our widespread exposure to traffic and the greater tendency for people to live in cities these days, this has serious public health implications.
“Increasing population growth and urbanisation has placed many people close to heavy traffic, and with widespread exposure to traffic and growing rates of dementia, even a modest effect from near-road exposure could pose a large public health burden”.
And, as “economic growth” increases and the juggernaut of industrial capitalism transports us all towards oblivion, that craze-inducing pollution will inevitably worsen, despite the introduction of slightly less polluting engines.
January’s cold, still weather saw swathes of the UK suffer from alarming levels of air pollution. Northern Ireland, London, the South East and Eastern regions experienced “very high” levels of pollutants known as particulate matter, or PMs, which come from sources such as traffic emissions, in particular diesel engines.
Responding to advice that people should reduce outside activity because of the pollution, Friends of the Earth London campaigner Sophie Neuburg said: “It’s outrageous that children, who have done nothing to cause the problem, need to be kept indoors when air pollution is bad. Instead, the mayor should introduce emergency traffic restrictions to reduce air pollution quickly and make our air safer.
“We know traffic is one of the biggest problems for air pollution and diesel is the worst of all”.
It’s not just the UK that is affected, of course. Paris has been suffering its worst and most prolonged winter pollution for at least 10 years, while cities like Beijing face constant “red alert” levels.
All the worthy efforts to peg back the pollution ultimately just distract attention from the real problem – an industrial Frankenstein’s monster which is careering out of control under its own momentum and threatens to bring life on this beautiful planet to a tragically premature halt.
A massive wave of angry revolts took place in Washington, DC and across the USA on January 20 as Donald Trump became President.
Report submedia.tv: “On Friday, January 20, more than 200 comrades were arrested in DC during the protests against Trump and the hatred and bigotry he represents.
“They risked their freedom not only to confront individual fascists, but the fascist agenda itself – and to show that no matter who is elected, we are ungovernable.”
Throughout the day, hundreds gathered to receive the arrestees as they were released from jail: as each person was released, at times escorted by riot cops, the crowd cheered and chanted as they welcomed them back.
But many will be facing serious legal battles in the coming months. Said submedia: “Let’s show them we are willing to support them in return for the courage they have shown for us!”
The day began well, as crews from Standing Rock and Black Lives Matter blocked all entrances to the inauguration venue in Washington, DC.
Later, more than 500 anti-capitalists rampaged through the US capital in defiance of the security state. They blockaded streets and attacked symbols of capitalism and the cops. Windows of banks, Starbucks and McDonald’s were smashed and a stretch limo torched.
This 14-minute video shows the courage of the Black Bloc. Needless to say, the police presence was extremely high and hundreds were arrested. People now face felony charges and legal support is sorely needed. You can donate to the bail and legal support funds by going to disruptj20.org/legal-fund/
Disturbingly, journalists have been charged with felonies for covering the unrest with at least six media workers facing up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine if convicted.
Other protests across the USA were also met with police repression. One notable success was in Chicago, were thousands invaded the streets in the evening of January 20, blocking traffic and smashing bank windows.
Said protesters in Washington, DC: “Activists warned there would be ‘no peaceful transition’ and indeed there was none: J20 was well and truly disrupted! This is but the beginning of four long, hard years of utter fighting against every scrap of Trump’s racist and fascist agenda.”
As well as the risk of ongoing internal dissent, the USA now faces an international image problem. Hundreds of cities across the world hosted protests against Trump. The camouflage provided to US imperialism by Obama, recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, has now gone forever. Under Trump, every move made by the Evil Empire will be fully scrutinised by world opinion…
There is more than one way to resist the industrial capitalist system.
One is to stay put where you are and ferociously defend its onslaught.
Another way, which can of course be combined with local resistance, is to take the fight to the system itself and to come together to attack the symbols of its authority.
This summer in Hamburg presents an excellent opportunity to put this second option into practice, alongside hundreds of thousands of like-minded people.
In July the leaders of the capitalist world, including a certain Donald Trump, will be gathering in the northern German city to tell the human race that they have got everything in hand and all we need to do is sit back on our comfy sofas of apathy and let them get on with it.
A few people with an alternative vision of how things might pan out around the G20 summit got together in Hamburg in December to discuss tactics. Well, no fewer than 600 of them, in fact!
With summit protests on the wane in recent years, the capitalist scum are crawling back from remote rural fortresses into city centres – the Hamburg summit will take place in the middle of the city near St Pauli, Schanzenviertel (Rote Flora) and Karoviertel.
This is handily close to the left-wing and alternative neighbourhoods and the German police are already planning to clamp Hamburg into a state of emergency, with more than 10,000 cops present and the inner city in lockdown.
But the NoG20 platform has also been making plans, which involve NGOs, political parties, social initiatives in the city, radical left groups, militants, autonomous groups, anti-globalisation groups, climate groups, unions, refugee groups, Kurdish and Turkish groups.
They say: “If they want to lock down Hamburg, we know what we have to do. We will show them that we are still existing, not accepting their global politics of devastation. We will show them that Hamburg is rebellious and that the city belongs to us.
“There will be the possibility to come together as rebellious movements to protest against the isolation and the closure of the borders, against the ecological destruction, against violence and sexism, against war and exploitation and to show that we want the freedom of movement, the good life for everybody and solidarity for all.
“We have much to say and to criticize and we want to have another world. It’s still true, another world is possible and more necessary than ever, let’s meet in Hamburg!”
The broad anti-G20 platform wants to create a common week of protest against the G20 summit. The idea so far is for a counter summit on July 5 and 6, a day of action on July 7 and a huge demo on July 8, at which they expect more than 100,000 people.
The next action conference, in the spring, will be an international one hosted in Hamburg. Blockupy International has published an open letter to call for other European networks and movements to discuss the upcoming G20 mobilization
There will also be protests in Baden-Baden in southwestern Germany on March 17 and 18 for the pre-summit meeting of the G20 finance ministers.
Say anti-G20 organisers: “We think the first step is done and was very successful. Now we have to get in the more detailed preparing. We’re looking forward to plan and discuss with you the next steps until July. See you soon or at the latest in Hamburg on the streets”.
The Earth First! Winter Moot is being held in Manchester, UK, from February 24 to 26. This is a weekend of campaign updates, networking, planning, solidarity and socialising in the North West – the fracking frontline. If you are involved, or want to get involved, in ecological resistance in Britain and Ireland, whether you are fighting fracking, opencast coal, GM, nuclear power, new road building or quarries, the Winter Moot is for you… The venue is MERCI, Bridge 5 Mill, 22A Beswick Street, Manchester M4 7HR, a 20-minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly station. http://earthfirstgathering.org/moot.html
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A booklet exposing the adverse health implications of fracking has been published online by Frack Free Sussex. It says: “Fracking has been linked to numerous health conditions, including asthma, headaches, high blood pressure, dizziness, nose-bleeds, sore eyes, anaemia, neurological illness, pneumonia, premature birth, heart attacks and cancer. In the UK indirect health effects are already being felt in communities where there are unwanted fracking applications. Stress, depression and anxiety affect residents and people in the locality, particularly the vulnerable and the elderly.”
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“Anarchy and Anarchists in the Archive” is the title of an event being staged from 2pm to 3pm on Tuesday February 7 at London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, Clerkenwell EC1R 0HB. Attendance is free but has to be pre-booked on 020 7332 3851 or via the website.
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The British Army social media psyops unit 77 Brigade is struggling to recruit trolls and cyber-warriors in spite of a recruitment publicity blitz last year, according to the Ministry of Defence. The “brigade” – in reality a unit slightly smaller than an infantry battalion, with a target manning strength of 448 people – is under strength by about 40 per cent, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act. The unit’s dark arts include destabilising opponents of the British state by starting whispering campaigns among their supporters and potential supporters, reports The Register.
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Anarchists across the world have been expressing solidarity with Hüseyin Civan, editor of anarchist newspaper Meydan Gazette in Istanbul, who has been jailed for a year and three months by the Turkish state. His crime was “propagandising the methods of a terror organisation” by supporting Kurdish revolutionaries fighting Islamists in Rojava. More info from Freedom News.
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Local authorities in the UK were given permission to carry out more than 55,000 days of covert surveillance over five years, including spying on people walking dogs, feeding pigeons and fly-tipping. A mass freedom of information request has found 186 councils used the government’s Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act to gather evidence via secret listening devices, cameras and private detectives. When the law was introduced, the government said it would only be used when absolutely necessary to protect British people from extreme threats. Surprisingly enough, it was lying.
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“Humans lived for tens of thousands of years in small, sell-governing, hunter-gatherer groups and agricultural villages, mostly cooperative and equal, without states, or classes, or markets. In a real sense the anarchist vision is of a spiral return to such a society, at a higher level of production—with guarantees of plenty for all and of sufficient leisure, in balance with the ecology”. This is The Vision of Revolutionary Anarchism set out by writer Wayne Price in a new book just published in Greek, based largely on articles from Anarkismo website.
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Two new books on the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s relation to anarchism have been published, one in English and one in German. Nietzsche and Anarchy: Psychology for Free Spirits, Ontology for Social War by Shahin is published by Elephant Editions & Active Distribution. It aims to use some Nietzschean ideas as weapons for self-transformation and social struggle. Hard copies are available from Active Distribution or you can read it online at The Anarchist Library. The book in German, Dominique F. Miething’s Anarchistische Deutungen der Philosophie Friedrich Nietzsches, states that although Nietzsche was not an anarchist his ideas nevertheless generated strong interest from key figures in the historical anarchist movement such as Gustav Landauer and Emma Goldman. In recent times, the intellectual cult of “postanarchism” has invoked Nietzsche’s abstract ideas, while disregarding actual historical examples of Nietzschean anarchism. More info here.
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The sinister potential of Amazon’s new voice-interface operating system, Echo, has been revealed by reviewer John Naughton. He writes in The Guardian: “It brings a networked listening device into the heart of the home, with appalling implications for misuse. Amazon tries to dodge this issue by saying that the Echo is always listening, but not recording: it only starts transmitting data to the cloud after it hears the trigger word ‘Alexa’. Some police forces in the US clearly doubt that. The cops in Bentonville, Arkansas, for example, have issued a warrant requiring Amazon to hand over any audio or records from an Echo belonging to a guy who is set to go to trial next year for the murder of a friend. The police are after any audio the speaker may have picked up on the night of the murder because while “the Echo is activated by certain words, it’s not uncommon for the IoT gadget to be alerted to listen by accident”. You have been warned, techno-addicts.
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The battle to stop Brighton Council selling off two much-loved areas of public downland is still there to be won, after they were given a second last-minute reprieve. The sell-off of the land (see Acorn 29) at Plumpton Hill and Poynings is on hold pending more information and alternative revenue-raising options. By the way, anyone tempted to believe that the Labour Party has miraculously become a radical force under Jeremy Corbyn should note that a Brighton Labour councillor insisted that the privatisation of the downland “made good economic sense and the public would see no change in the land after the sale”.
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Acorn quote: “One of the essential themes of this critique, which resurfaces like an obsession in the work of writers, poets, philosophers and historians, is the clash between Kultur, a spiritual realm of ethical, religious or aesthetic values, and Zivilisation, the vulgar materialist world of economic and technological progress. If capitalism is, according to Max Weber’s mercilessly perceptive expression, the disenchantment of the world (Entzauberung der Welt), then anti-capitalist Romanticism has to be seen primarily as a despairing and nostalgic attempt at the re-enchantment of the world”.
Michael Löwy, Rédemption et utopie: le judaïsme libertaire en Europe centrale
Three great victories have been notched up by the global struggle against industrial capitalism in the last few weeks of 2016, giving renewed energy for the battles ahead in 2017.
It is true that none of them are complete, permanent wins, but they are nonetheless significant wins and together they confirm in no uncertain fashion that courage and tenacious determination can put the dominant system on the back foot.
Our capitalist overlords are not invincible! There are a lot more of us than them! And if sometimes the level of lying, manipulation and sheer violence they use against us is overwhelming, it is important always to remember that they act this way because they are scared of us and of our collective power to resist their rule.
In France, the big December news is that the ZAD protest zone against the long-planned new airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes near Nantes has seen off the latest eviction threat (see Acorn 27).
Bernard Cazeneuve, new prime minister after a reshuffle, announced that the government would not be taking action for the meantime – and it is clear that this is completely down to the impressive levels of organisation and determination of the land protectors at the ZAD.
A report on Europe 1 said that the government felt “an intervention would be much too dangerous and there would be a real risk of violent confrontation with, potentially, deaths on either side”. It cited Cazeneuve’s experience with events at Sivens in 2014, where police attacks on a protest camp against a dam led to the death of young environmental protester Rémi Fraisse, killed by a grenade fired by gendarmes.
The report adds: “At Notre-Dame-des-Landes, the numbers involved but also the die-hard attitude of some zadistes suggest there would be an even more explosive clash.”
This long struggle is not over yet, though, as after this Spring’s presidential elections there may well be a renewed political appetite for violent repression at the top of the French state.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the Standing Rock campaign against the North Dakota Access Pipeline (see Acorn 27) scored an unexpected victory when the Army Corps of Engineers, a federal agency, announced that it would deny developer Energy Transfer Partners a permit to cross the Missouri river. Thousands of protesters cheered and chanted to cries of Mni Wiconi, or water is life.
This decision comes in the last days of the Obama administration and may well be overturned under a new president with links to the industry, but, as at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, it was clearly forced on the authorities by the sheer gritty willpower of the campaigners.
The underlying issue for industrial capitalists was voiced by right-wing capitalist politician Kevin Cramer, who whined to the media: “Today’s unfortunate decision sends a very chilling signal to others who want to build infrastructure in this country.”
From the opposite perspective, the signals are highly encouraging. As “Lakota Man” pointed out on Twitter, Standing Rock has become “the epicenter all things Indigenous” and the NoDAPL campaign has “evolved into a geopolitical movement”. The land protectors are not packing up and going away and neither is the spirit of unity, understanding and determination that has been forged in the face of massive state-corporate violence.
She had been the victim of vicious legal bullying by fracking giants Cuadrilla, dating back to August 2014 and the occupation of a field near one of Cuadrilla’s proposed fracking sites at Preston New Road, Little Plumpton, near Blackpool.
Frack-free campaigners like Tina and the Nanas of northern England do not fit the usual profile of full-on environmental protesters and Cuadrilla and the UK state clearly thought they could bully them into silence and submission.
The company and several landowners had previously won more than £55,000 legal costs against Tina in a case dating back to 2014. She was judged to be in contempt of court when she refused at a hearing this summer to complete a questionnaire about her finances. But on December 9 a judge at Preston Combined Court discharged this ruling and said she would not be sent to jail.
There were cheers inside and outside the court as the outcome became known. Tina told a crowd of around 300 people afterwards: “I see this as a victory for truth. I see it as a victory for honesty because corporations have a lot of power and a lot of money. I will walk away from here and Cuadrilla will no longer pursue me for the costs.”
But, like the campaigners at the ZAD and at Standing Rock, she knows this is far from the end of the struggle. Asked if this was a victory for the anti-fracking movement, Tina replied: “An anti-fracking victory looks like this country being left untouched.”
“Degrowth” has not really taken off as a radical anti-capitalist current in the UK yet, even if it has had the occasional mention on the anarchist scene in the last few years.
But in France décroissance is well established as a powerful minority voice challenging all the assumptions of infinite economic growth and the inevitability of a technocratic future.
It has growing visibility within the anarchist movement and the current issue of Le Monde Libertaire, the journal of La Fédération Anarchiste, includes an article focusing on degrowth.
This explains that economic growth is used as “an instrument of domination” and rightly insists that “sustainable development” is a scam designed to dress up continued growth with the pretence of environmental sensitivity.
The current issue, December 2016 to January 2017, features a striking green and black cover and the word “Débranche!” (“Unplug!”) with a large fist clasping a handful of ripped-out wiring.
There is plenty of interest inside for those who refuse to succumb to the insanity of industrial capitalist life and thought.
In a feature article taking an overview of the struggle for degrowth, writer Anne Frémaux says: “Our industrial modernity is founded on the utopia of unlimited technological and human progress and on the belief in the infinite abundance of a nature which will provide resources to endlessly feed an entirely materialist and quantitative vision of wealth and progress.
“Hypermodernity has prolonged this fantasy by intensifying the western consumerist dream, leading us to quickly (and sometimes irreversibly) use up resources, erode ecosystems, lose biodiversity, exceed acceptable levels of pollution and release enormous quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere, creating the climate change that we know today.”
She condemns the fashionable “techno-optimism” which insists that the answer to the sickness caused by industrial capitalism is to simply swallow more of the same technological poison.
Frémaux concludes: “If we think about it, the fundamental question facing us all is the question of ‘good living’, in other words a question of a social, psychological or spiritual nature for which technology cannot provide the answer. What we need to learn to manage is not the planet or even the climate, but our relationship to ourselves, to others and to the land.”
Filmmaker Gilles Vernet, meanwhile, explains how “growth” has become the Holy Grail of modern society, at the cost of all common sense. “While all human wisdom warned against the dangers of hubris and material enrichment, money ended up becoming the new god. The myth of Progress is itself a secular version of paradise, something which we are supposed to be able to reach here on Earth.”
Describing the nightmare of contemporary living, he adds: “Capitalism does not tolerate free time, time as a gift. You are never allowed to stop producing and consuming. Even sleeping time is being reduced. For some years now, especially with the spread of smartphones, our mental space has become more and more saturated with news and materialism. We have less and less time to think and find our place in the world. We are left with a spiritual and emotional void: we have less time to spend with family, partner or friends.”
Vernet goes on to state that the capitalist system is manifestly on course for a major implosion. “I accept this with a certain fatalism, but somehow I think that its collapse may be necessary. In the same way that, on the individual scale, death is the precondition of life – when you die you leave room for those to come – the death of a system is also the precondition for renewal”.
If you wanted to impose fascist rule on a population, and wanted to avoid any inconvenient levels of resistance, how would you go about it? Suddenly or gradually?
It has long been apparent that the UK state has adopted the second softly-softly approach to lowering its jackboot onto the face of its hapless subjects.
But for all its efforts to hide what it’s up to, from time to time something is revealed that makes it all too obvious.
This is very much the case with the recent revelations about the way environmentalism is being insidiously conflated with “terrorism” under the government’s Orwellian “Prevent” scheme.
Bullying of the Muslim community under this flag has been ongoing for years, but has been swallowed by a general public constantly told that the Islamic religion represents a terrorist-inspiring threat.
The targeting of anti-fracking campaigners comes without even that phoney level of manufactured “justification”.
The Drill or Drop blog reported that Driffield School and Sixth Form in East Yorkshire had earlier this year unveiled a Prevent strategy which included this statement: “At present nationally, the greatest resource is devoted to preventing people from joining or supporting the so called Islamic State (IS) group, its affiliates and related groups. More locally, the East Riding’s main priorities are far right extremism, animal rights and anti-fracking.”
And research by Spinwatch has revealed this is not an isolated incident. Chesswood Junior School in Worthing, West Sussex implemented a similar policy to that of Driffield College until public reaction forced a retreat. The school’s July 2016 ‘Prevent Duty Policy’ originally suggested that ‘Environmental (Fracking)’ campaigners could present ‘safeguarding concerns’ for children.
The school actually categorised environmentalist groups as “terrorist”, stating: “Radicalisation refers to the process by which a person comes to support terrorism and extremist ideologies associated with any terrorist groups e.g Far Right, Far Left, Environmental (Fracking), Animal rights, Nationalist (IRA), Al Qaeda”.
Elsewhere, City of York council working with the North Yorkshire police force have used the strategy to link anti-fracking activism with terrorism risks.
Merseyside police force now includes ‘anti-fracking’ as a form of ‘domestic’ extremism in its latest Prevent presentation. The contentious presentation forms the basis of the Merseyside Police’s Special Branch programme of presentations to schools, governors, colleges and childcare providers.
And in June 2016 Dorset County Council in partnership with Dorset Police updated the county’s ‘Prevent delivery plan’. The revision included a statement on ‘fracking’ in the ‘specific risk’ section of the plan.
Meanwhile, the UK state is not only refusing to release details of its sinister programme but is also now interpreting requests for information as an attempt “by extremists to evade detection, thereby prejudicing national security”.
This extraordinary attitude was voiced by the government’s Information Commissioner, in rejecting an appeal by police monitoring group Netpol over the refusal of the police to release details of a programme to “deradicalise extremists”.
The Information Commissioner’s Office stated: “Prevent is a national counter-terrorism initiative that is only implemented in certain police forces across the country. The same FOI request made to multiple forces could therefore identify how Prevent resources are apportioned across the country.
“Anti-fracking campaigns organise around designated locations across the country; confirmation of the existence of the requested information would facilitate the mapping of Prevent capabilities alongside anti-fracking campaigns and, when incorporated into a radicalisation strategy, could be used by extremists to evade detection, thereby prejudicing national security.”
You don’t need to be a genius to see what is going on here. Fracking, like all the infrastructures of industrial capitalism, is close to the cold heart of a corrupt state which operates not in the interests of the people of the UK but of the financial interests that own and control it. Therefore anyone who opposes fracking in any (effective) way is a simply an enemy of this mafia and is labelled appropriately.
This is happening all over the world. As American writer Rob los Ricos says in his excellent essay on Ultramodernism: “Interference with corporate activity has become legally defined as terrorism”.
And the targeting of Muslims and anti-fracking protesters is only part of the wave of stealth fascism being introduced by a pompous and hypocritical UK state whose much-vaunted “democracy”, “freedom” and “civilized values” are all entirely fake.
Take, for instance, the news that South Tyneside Council in north-eastern England wants to fine homeless people up to £100 for accepting food or drink from passers-by.
The current weapons of choice for this kind of dictatorial institutional bullying are Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO). “Offences” do not even have to be proven in a court of law, but are punished with an on-the-spot fine merely on the say-so of some official.
PSPOs continue the historic work of the Enclosures by turning what were once public spaces into “restricted areas” in which people’s rights are stolen from them in the interests of social cleansing and city centres are essentially turned into open air private shopping malls.
As The Canary reports, the South Tyneside PSPO bans people from drinking alcohol in the designated area (unless they are paying over the odds in some rip-off town centre pub, of course!) and also from making “verbal, non-verbal or written requests… for money, donations, or goods”.
PSPOs were introduced to the UK by the Anti-social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act of 2014 and have already been widely used to target the homeless.
Sleeping in public is a criminal offence in certain areas of Shepway, while Rushcliffe Borough Council is currently consulting residents on the same ban. It’s a crime to spend the night in a vehicle or temporary structure in Worthing, and it’s similarly illegal to spend the night in the park in Wrexham.
PSPOS are also being used to insidiously restrict people’s fundamental freedoms in other ways, reinforcing a trend towards curfews and dispersal powers that Sussex Police, among others, were already trying to impose four years ago under previous legislation.
This wider application of PSPOs has seen Kettering Borough Council introduce a curfew on under-18s, who must now be home by 11pm or risk receiving fines or a criminal record. Bassetlaw District Council has banned under-16s from gathering in groups of three or more if they’re “causing annoyance”, unless a responsible adult is present.
Redbridge in London is proposing a PSPO stating that “No person within a group of two or more shall refuse to leave an area when required to do so by an authorised officer in order to prevent anti-social behaviour, public nuisance or disorder.”
And the London Borough of Hillingdon has already criminalised the gathering of just two people – regardless of age – unless they’re waiting for the bus. As Rosie Brighouse of Liberty states: “This means it is now an offence in Hillingdon to meet up with anyone, whether you’re causing annoyance or not.”
Covert foreign interference in elections to ensure a right-wing victory has been a speciality of the CIA for decades.
So you could be forgiven for laughing out loud at the CIA’s recent claim that Russian influence swung the US presidential election Trump’s way. The main worry for anti-capitalists is perhaps that any cancellation of his win would also cancel the J20 day of resistance planned for his inauguration (see Acorn 29).
But behind the pantomime absurdity is a worrying phenomenon. You didn’t have to be a Brexit supporter to be disturbed by neoliberal elites on the losing side calling for a re-run and the involvement of secret police in overturning any election result, anywhere in the world, would surely be cause for concern.
The “Russian” scare attached to the Trump allegations also has wider implications and is tied in with the “fake news” meme by which the establishment is trying to justify moves to extinguish independent online media and re-impose a traditional corporate monopoly.
Alternet.org describes how a “website that claims ‘Russia is Manipulating US Opinion Through Online Propaganda’ has compiled a blacklist of websites its anonymous authors accuse of pushing fake news and Russian propaganda”.
It continues: “The blacklist includes over 200 outlets, from the right-wing Drudge Report and Russian government-funded Russia Today, to Wikileaks and an array of marginal conspiracy and far-right sites. The blacklist also includes some of the flagship publications of the progressive left, including Truthdig, Counterpunch, Truthout, Naked Capitalism, and the Black Agenda Report, a leftist African-American opinion hub that is critical of the liberal black political establishment.”
The blacklisting organization, PropOrNot, was described by the Washington Post’s Craig Timberg as “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.” Spooks, in other words? Their agenda certainly seems to chime nicely with that of the CIA!
In an article in Counterpunch, Mark Ames draws attention to the leading role of the Washington Post, which he describes as “essentially an arm of the American deep state; its owner, Jeff Bezos, is one of the three richest Americans, worth $67 billion, and his cash cow, Amazon, is a major contractor with the Central Intelligence Agency. In other words, this is as close to an official US government blacklist of journalists as we’ve seen — a dark ominous warning before they take the next steps.”
And on the same site, Norman Solomon sets out what one of these sinister next steps might be. A new Intelligence Authorization Act envisages “an interagency committee to counter active measures by the Russian Federation to exert covert influence.”
Warns Solomon: “This high-level committee could easily morph into a protracted real-life nightmare. While lacking public accountability, the committee is mandated to ferret out such ambiguous phenomena as Russian ‘media manipulation’ and ‘disinformation’.
“Along the way, the committee could target an array of activists, political opponents or irksome journalists. In any event, its power to fulfill ‘such other duties as the president may designate’ would be ready-made for abuse.”
In the UK, the Russian scare has been taken up enthusiastically by The Guardian, itself very close to the transatlantic neoliberal establishment despite its pseudo-radical window dressing.
Former British ambassador Craig Murray highlights on his blog the role of “the truly execrable Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian” who claimed that “few credible sources doubt that Russia was behind the hacking of internal Democratic party emails”.
Comments Murray: “In what passes for Freedland’s mind, ‘credible’ is 100% synonymous with ‘establishment’. When he says ‘credible sources’ he means ‘establishment sources’. That is the truth of the ‘fake news’ meme. You are not to read anything unless it is officially approved by the elite and their disgusting, crawling whores of stenographers like Freedland.”
Right-wing Blairite Labour MP Ben Bradshaw has also leapt enthusiastically onto the Russian-scare bandwagon. His bizarre claim that Moscow somehow influenced the Brexit referendum result, without any indication of how it might have done so, shows how the meme is transparently the latest one-size-fits-all neoliberal propaganda device to be applied to any situation without the need for any pesky “evidence”.
There are also signs that the associated “fake news” smear is being officially wheeled out in the UK, with Channel 4 executive Dan Brooke claiming that “fake news could affect the next UK election”.
By this, he presumably means he’s worried that social media are able to bypass the stranglehold on reporting imposed by organisations like his own and thus make it difficult for the mainstream media to totally control public opinion and ensure election results go the way they want.
Brooke also urged the UK government to “step in” if Facebook and other internet firms do not do more to tackle the “problem”. Alarm bells ringing, anybody?
The plan to silence critics of the capitalist system by smears and propaganda has failed, so now the aim is to create a scare around “Russians” and “fake news” to justify a fully-fledged state attack on the online dissent that threatens the capitalist system’s monopoly on “truth”.
The monstrous Black Volcano which has loomed and leered menacingly over Happy City since it was founded has finally erupted.
Vast rivers of lava are streaming down the mountain slopes towards the human settlement and ash is already beginning to rain on the rooftops. It is only a matter of time before a pyroclastic cloud scorches instant death onto the people or the molten rock pours into the narrow streets and kills everyone.
But in the city there is complete calm. Reassured by the King’s insistence that they are in no danger and that the volcano is not actually erupting at all, the city folk are going about their everyday lives. Goods are bought and sold, meals prepared and eaten, couples married and children educated.
There was a brief moment of confusion when it was discovered that the Happy City authorities had cut down every single tree in the Great Gardens in order to build a massive wooden fence on the northern limits.
But rumours that this was designed to hide from view the erupting Black Volcano were soon dismissed as malicious paranoid fantasies, as the King explained that it was a completely necessary step to protect his people from blood-thirsty foreign pirates and smugglers.
And so, as certain extinction draws ever closer, the people of the Happy City keep bustling around, making money, gossiping, squabbling over the petty details of their lives and reporting to the Official Inquisitor any citizen seen to be sniffing suspiciously at the sulphur-laden air, cocking an alert ear to the distant rumbling or trying to peer through the gaps in the Great Anti-Crime Fence in order to see if the lava is close.
That is what it feels like to me to be living at the start of the 21st century.
Humankind has taken a dangerous wrong turn. Modern capitalist society is an out-of-control nightmare. The future mapped out for us can only lead into the dead-end of destruction, disaster and death. Tinkering with the detail will change nothing. We need to abandon this experiment before it is too late and live in a completely different way. Otherwise the Black Volcano of Industrialism will kill us all.
More than 400 people took part in a walk to the top of Leith Hill near Dorking, England, on Saturday December 3 in protest against planned exploratory drilling for oil and gas in the area (see our special report in Acorn 29). An indication of the levels of local support for the campaign comes from the fact that the Leith Hill Celebration Walk, intended to demonstrate the strength of feeling against the proposed drilling within the Surrey Hills area of outstanding natural beauty, was organised by a mum and baby group called Surrey Hills Slings. The massive turn-out involved a wide cross-section of Surrey folk, from families to protectors, from horse riders to mountain bikers. Said one campaigner: “Even the sun was out in support!”
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Keep Our Downs Public campaigners in Sussex have won an impressive victory against a council sell-off of public land. Brighton and Hove City Council’s policy, resources and growth committee voted to stall any sales of the remaining sites which had been earmarked. Meanwhile opposition to similar plans in Eastbourne saw hundreds of people take part in a protest walk (below) from local beauty spot Beachy Head on December 3. For background info, see our report in Acorn 29.
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“Our economic system is incompatible with life on this planet”. This is the conclusion of an important article by Jason Hickel, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics. Confirming the degrowth analysis of the fundamental problem with industrial capitalism (see above), he writes: “When it comes to global warming, we know that the real problem is not just fossil fuels – it is the logic of endless growth that is built into our economic system.”
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The assigned role of young American people as brutalised enforcers of global capitalism has been highlighted in a perceptive anti-militarist article in the USA. It says: “In America we will not make shoes, clothes, cars, TV’s or cell phones anymore. We will make war on behalf of corporate interests around the world. The Pentagon calls it ‘Security Export’. The airshows, violent movies, military recruitment in our schools, and many other cultural avenues are all aimed at militarizing our culture. The kids are being taught that violence is cool and normal. The word ‘freedom’ comes to mean that the US, the ‘exceptional’ nation, is free to rape, kill and pillage around the world.” The article links to a video documentary about an air show blatantly targeting kids, called “Disneyland of War”.
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Wessex Solidarity is an affinity group in southern England for those in the region with an interest in anarchism, syndicalism or direct action and who share the goal of building a stateless, classless society around the principles of libertarian socialism. They say: “We aim to promote our ideas by constantly challenging the narrative of governments and the corporate media. Members of all other anti–authoritarian, anti–capitalist groups are welcome. We hope to work with all these groups in solidarity; we differ only in tactics and that’s good; the bourgeoisie won’t know who hit them or with what!” More info at https://wessexsolidarity.wordpress.com
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The build-up to the July 2017 resistance to the G20 capitalist summit in Hamburg, Germany (see Acorn 29), is already underway, with a dramatic assault on the venue for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Foreign Ministers meeting. Reports RT: “About 40 unidentified men in balaclavas threw flammable materials through the entrance of the Hamburg Messe trade fair building. It only took seconds for flames to engulf the first floor.” An online claim of responsibility declares: “We placed burning tires at the south entrance of the venue for the OSCE and G20 summits, the ‘Messe Hamburg’. The glass facade on Karolinenstraße was subject to intensive attack with hammers, paint and stones. We decided on this demolition initiative since we reject the summits which are summits for a world that we reject just as much as the planned meetings.” Looking ahead to July, it adds: “Trouble Makers of the world save the dates: 7.7-8.7 2017”.
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Acorn quote: “There is no culture unless an intimate relationship, on the level of instinct, exists between a people and its poets”. Herbert Read,The Forms of Things Unknown
1. Eco-campers resist oil drilling in Surrey Hills
An eco-protection camp has been set up in the woods of southern England to try and stop exploratory oil drilling at a precious rural site.
After years of planning battles, including two public inquiries, Europa Oil & Gas were last year given the go-ahead to explore for oil at Leith Hill near Dorking in Surrey and are now due to start work.
These loathsome environmental vandals want to fell hundreds of trees and permanently destroy a unique two-acre zone of beautiful woodland, polluting a much wider area, in the pursuit of short-term financial profit.
And while they are not proposing the immediate use of fracking, observers of the industry warn that the drilling at Leith Hill is about accessing data for shale and tight oil reservoirs and is therefore ‘gateway’ drilling for future fracking in the southern English Weald.
When The Acorn visited the Leith Hill Protection Camp we found the campaigners in a buoyant and determined mood.
They were delighted with the massive levels of support from local people of all types – residents have even set up a rota system to bring hot meals up to the protectors.
While we were there, a steady stream of cars and trucks were pulling up with donations of wood and other supplies for the rapidly-expanding camp occupying the drill site.
Said Dr Dave, one of the protectors: “We have been welcomed here with overwhelming warmth by people from all across the Leith Hill area who have become disillusioned with normal democratic processes being overridden, despite the fact that nobody except a handful of investors wants the drilling here at Leith Hill or anywhere in Surrey to go ahead.
“The camp is here to provide a physical presence, to embody the fact that people are saying ‘no’ to drilling at Leith Hill.”
Leith Hill is officially classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and an Area of Great Landscape Value with a rare and fragile environment. Organisations including the National Trust, Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Surrey Hills AONB Board have all vigorously and formally objected to the drilling plans.
The site is on Forestry Commission land and thus even owned by the public – and yet business interests have still held sway, as you would expect in what is essentially a capitalist dictatorship.
There is a nightmarish quality to the oil firm’s approved plans. The massive rig would have a flashing aircraft warning light on top, the rig would be illuminated at night and the whole compound would be floodlit. Drilling would continue 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Coldharbour Lane, which leads to the site, is an ancient Surrey Hills “sunken lane”, meaning that it has formed gradually over hundreds of years, creating a deep trough through which the lane runs.
These sunken lanes have very delicate banks, which are held together with the roots of the trees that line them. They are rare treasures and if they are damaged, they are lost forever. There is no putting them back. They are irreplaceable.
The lane in many places is only just wide enough for two standard cars or one moderate sized lorry. But Europa proposes using super-sized HGV’s to and from the proposed site, with more than 1,000 HGV movements already proposed.
Meanwhile, experts have warned that exploratory drilling, which involves pumping toxic fluid into the ground, could cause serious damage to an aquifer that feeds into central Surrey’s water supplies – as much damage as would be caused by fracking.
Protector Dr Dave told The Acorn: “The time has come to take a stand against the fossil fuel industry and its various components.
“Hydrocarbon extraction through either conventional or unconventional means is madness now, considering the fact that the UK government has signed up to the Paris climate change agreement and taken the stance publicly that fossil fuel consumption should from this point be reduced.
“The Leith Hill Action Group and the local people of Coldharbour and the area have been successfully fighting drilling for oil at Leith Hill for the past seven years and they have been doing this through recognised democratic processes.
“These are now being overridden as central government pressurises local government to accept these unrealistic policies to extract hydrocarbon in all its forms in Surrey.
“I urge everyone in Surrey and beyond who values not only our environment but also our democratic processes to make a stand here at Leith Hill and all across the Weald to say ‘enough is enough!'”
Dan Harvey, who had come to support the camp, said: “I have been coming up here since I was a kid. You couldn’t choose a worse place to drill.”
He said the area around Leith Hill had inspired the poetry of Lord Alfred Tennyson, the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams and the natural studies of Charles Darwin, who researched earthworms here: “He would be turning in his grave.”
Leith Hill Action Group has warned that the forcing-through of the drilling means no corner of the English countryside is safe from industrial capitalist pillage.
They said: “The proposed development is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and in the Green Belt. An AONB has the same legal status as a national park – development is totally prohibited unless it is in the ‘overwhelming national interest’.
“Green Belt land is there to prevent industrialisation of the countryside and fundamental characteristics of Green Belt land are its openness and permanence. We are in danger of the gradual bleeding out of these protections. If it becomes established that ‘overwhelming national interest’ includes exploring for oil this will inevitably set a precedent for the next time a protected area of land is tested.”
For Callum, one of many youngsters on the site, the struggle at Leith Hill is part of a much wider fight to pull this planet back from the brink of disaster: “If we let the oil companies take this then we’ll end up with everywhere being just one giant city”.
Lilith, a generation older, said: “When we took the site in the dark my heart leapt with joy to see the young ones shoot straight up into the trees. My thoughts went to Newbury, to Hambacher, to the ZAD. This is all one struggle”.
The sunken lane leading up to Leith Hill Protection Camp through the wooded Surrey hills seems to lead into another England, a forgotten England, long-lost and buried under all the layers of concrete, tarmac and numbed industrial indifference of the modern world.
Gnarled and twisted tree roots line either side of a route which has been worn deep over the course of hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
A short walk around the threatened site unveils a rich and earthy beauty that reaches inside you and grips your heart – tangles of bramble and ivy, the ancient living texture of bark and branch, slants of autumnal sunlight igniting the yellow, gold, bronze, orange, red, brown explosion of organic colour.
The Sioux people fighting the North Dakota Access Pipeline around Standing Rock in the USA (see Acorninfo, below) say loud and clear that the land they are protecting is sacred.
But here in England, too, we have our own sacred land, sacred water and sacred trees, even if any such ideas have been sneered at by our overlords ever since the Christian Church first declared war on those who worshipped life and nature instead of the austere authority of a distant and separate God.
Far too much of our sacred land has already been lost under the motorways, shopping centres, industrial parks and ugly suburban sprawl which have now become the depressing norm in England.
Those areas which remain, which have kept their magical vitality, are therefore more important, more sacred, than ever.
Make no mistake – the area around Leith Hill is one of those precious pieces of sacred English land. There is an energy, a power, in those woods that you can almost touch.
Surrey is renowned for the purity of its water, thanks to the filtering effect of its sandy and chalky soils. All around the camp are springs and tiny streams, which feed the Pipp Brook and then the River Mole.
One of these is Mag’s Well, an ancient sacred site, whose water was reputed to relieve rheumatism, scurvy, dermatitis, leprosy, scabs, itch, and scrofula. But no value is given to the life-giving purity of water in a modern world whose hollow dead-souled gods are money, money and yet more money.
Those defending these woodlands from the nature-hating capitalist cynics of the oil business are well aware of what is at stake.
Protector Nomo told us: “We are here to stop this beautiful ancient woodland from being destroyed by the fossil fuel industry. It should be classified sacred land.”
Added local artist Heather Ackroyd: “For me, to be drilling for oil on this site is just sacrilege”.
Lilith said: “This is a magical ancient place of beauty and noble trees and wildlife. When you have these feelings, this goes beyond the madness of any fossil fuel extraction or the folly of the proposed industrialisation of the Weald to something that touches our hearts and souls.
“There’s a surge that pulses through you and you feel a timeless connection with it all. How could they think about cutting down these trees, polluting this water? Trees are life. Water is life.”
The battle to try and stop the Newbury bypass in the mid 1990s will go down in history as a key moment in the struggle for England’s sacred land. Out of local defeat came national victory as the road-building programme was abandoned for a generation in the face of massive resistance. Jim Hindle’s beautifully written and moving 2006 book Nine Miles has been republished in a 2016 edition by Underhill Books to mark the 20th anniversary of the Third Battle of Newbury.
In a new preface, Jim, from Sussex, writes of the current threat from new roads and dirty energy extraction which means “the peace and purity of our natural landscapes are under threat now as never before”. He adds: “The safeguarding of the natural world is not only a question of our mutual survival. It’s a coming home to our inheritance; to what it means to be one with the land, so that one day perhaps we can be held by her in turn, to walk her hills and woods and lanes in peace. Its promise is a token of what the future may still hold in store.”
In the excerpt below, Jim describes the start of the biggest treetop eviction the UK had ever seen, which lasted five days and saw more than 60 people arrested and 120 removed from the trees.
They came in around eight o’clock. Six police Landrovers appeared first, pulling up in a diamond formation on the access road, immediately beneath my tree. Security started piling out of vehicles on top of the hill, assembling themselves into a yellow block of colour on the horizon. I reckoned there were at least five hundred of them: a neon legion growing by the minute.
As soon as they appeared we started shouting from the trees: yipping – high, long, war cries – banging drums and blowing whistles. We threw up a wall of noise to let them know we weren’t afraid, that we were up for anything the assembling horde had to throw at us.
More and more vehicles arrived, more and more security and police piled out onto the hillside until the whole scene had grown so big it had overtaken itself. It seemed ridiculous. Police ‘Evidence Gatherers’ appeared beneath the trees, pointing cameras up towards us. They had a new uniform – halfway between police and Star Wars extras. We shouted quotes from Monty Python at them: “We decline to speet in your jeneral direction you Engleesh peegs” and “Your mothurr smells of elderberries.” The Evidence Gatherers said nothing in return and continued to film us with all the emotion of robots.
Police moved in and dragged away anyone who hadn’t got up in a tree. This accounted for quite a few people – those who couldn’t climb and locals who had come to lend their support. It was the first wiping of the slate. A bunch of people had clambered up the climbing tree near the white tarp platform. Now they were getting pulled down by bailiffs. These men were dressed in chequered lumberjack shirts and hard hats with the rose of Lancashire on them. They were built like brick shit-houses and rough-handed with it.
At the same time, teams of red-shirted, white-helmeted climbers were making their way into the trees. They ascended simultaneously in three separate places at the other side of the frontline, near where the press had been herded. They were fast: disconcerting blurs of rapid movement up the trunks.
Scuffles started to break out around the trees and the Valley echoed to screams and shouts and the crashing of people being lowered crudely through the branches. The sun climbed higher and the heat arose, adrenaline hung thick in the air and far below, the bluebells fell in swathes under the security guards’ feet. The security had moved down to secure the area cleared by the police and now lined the route of clearance. It felt like the first day of summer – there hadn’t been any heat like this before and their coming in like this, on May the First itself, had turned everything hideously inside out.
“Attack the G20 summit! Throw Hamburg into chaos! Destroy the European fortress!”
That’s the stirring call coming from northern Germany, eight months ahead of what promises to be a powerful eruption of resistance to the global capitalist system.
World leaders, including President Trump, will be gathering in Hamburg for the 12th G20 Summit and anarchists, leftists and Kurdish groups are organising now to ensure these enemies of humanity will not have an easy ride.
Pledged an anarchist call-out for July 7 and 8: “They will feel the rage of the street, when they are rushing with their convoys through deserted districts and talk about the nightly attacks of the last few weeks”.
The authors recall how, in the late 1990s, summit protests were a real catalyst for radical resistance – “Individuals and groups came together, swapped ideas, were standing together behind the barricades and carried the flame of resistance back to their regions”.
Even police violence in Gothenburg and Genoa, or the “numerous infiltrated snitches” could not stop the development of a Europe-wide chaotic network of autonomous, anarchist and anti-authoritarian tendencies.
But then a defeatist meme started circulating, which said “summit hopping” was a waste of time and resistance to capitalism lay elsewhere. As radicals swallowed the ideological bait and stayed away, summit protests gradually went back to being NGO-led pseudo-dissent and the authorities breathed a sigh of relief.
Says another international call-out message: “Let’s show that they can’t meet in Hamburg without disturbance. It’s time to take the streets and stand up against their world of destruction and sadness.”
It says that while the G20 political representatives meet in the centre of Hamburg – in the exhibition halls, the town hall, the Elbphilharmonie – the residents are supposed to simply get out of the way and put up with blocked streets, ID checks and evacuation of homes. A living city paralysed by the demands of power.
Summits like the G20 are essentially symbolic and, as has been pointed out in the past, anti-summit protests can therefore be understood as working on the same level, hijacking and subverting the publicity around the performance of the capitalist actors.
Says the message: “The main point of this performance is to provide the illusion that the political elites of global capitalism have everything well under control, that they are somehow capable of providing security, peace, livelihood and a real future perspective to the people of the world.
“But we are witnessing the exact opposite: the prevailing world order is a further escalating disorder of brutal social inequality, structurally embedded sexism and racism, ecological destruction and spreading wars. Millions of people are forced to flee, billions are struggling to survive and the number of people affected by social insecurity is continuously rising. At the same time a small global upper class is getting richer and richer.
“In many political groups and networks the discussions on how to organize the necessary protests and actions against the G20 Summit have already begun. G20 is an international summit so the planning of activities against it isn’t just a matter of local or German groups. We want to start with the international collaboration early to identify with as many groups, networks, movements and organisations as possible if and how G20 could be a place of a common struggle; a point where we can converge our criticism against the rulers of the world, against the European regime, against the German government and against the economic elites.”
An Action-Conference against the G20 Summit 2017 is being held in Hamburg on December 3-4 2016 at HAW (Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften), Alexanderstraße 1 20099 Hamburg. The actual summit protests will be on July 7 and 8, 2017.
Although the G7 and G8 have more often been the target of big anti-capitalist mobilisations, the G20 summits also have a proud history of defiance and a shameful history of violent repression unleashed by the rattled ruling system.
In April 2009 big and angry protests against the G20 in London, to the background of the outrageous bail-out of the banking system, were met with police violence, leading to the death of newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson. After numerous police lies and cover-ups an inquest eventually found he was unlawfully killed, a cop was charged but eventually walked free.
Meanwhile, windows of a branch of the RBS bank were ritually smashed in front of the world’s waiting media and Climate Camp protesters discovered that being “peaceful” doesn’t mean the state’s thugs will be nice to you.
A second banking crisis G20 summit in Pittsburgh, USA, in September 2009 saw a violent crackdown on demonstrators, amidst a virtual lockdown of the city. Police fired gas and pellet bags at about 2,000 protesters. They also used “sound cannons”, weapons previously used in Iraq and other US military operations – a sinister hint at the future that lies ahead of us in the brave new world of capitalo-fascism.
In June 2010 some 10,000 protesters took to the streets of Toronto, Canada, to oppose the G20 summit there. More than 20,000 police, military, and security personnel were involved in suppressing the protests and more than 1,000 arrests were made, making it the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. In the aftermath of the protests, the Toronto Police Service and the Integrated Security Unit (ISU) of the G20 Toronto summit were heavily criticized for their brutality.
There has to be a positive side to the election of far right, racist, sexist, uber-capitalist Donald Trump as president of the USA and that side might well become apparent on January 20 2017.
While President Obama managed to run the Evil Empire in the usual ruthless manner while somehow appearing to be a “nice” human being, no such illusions are possible with Trump.
Across the world, the liberal facade cloaking the true face of the world’s leading exporter of violence and exploitation slipped away the moment the election results came through.
And in the US, Trump’s victory has sparked not only a wave of hate and racism but also a powerful mood of anger among the many millions who do not buy into his manipulative xenophobia – three in four potential American voters did not endorse him, after all.
It has been, basically, a kick up the backside for a lot of people who had been lured into a state of complacency by the shallow lies of a democracy whose choices are about as meaningful as the alternative of poisoning yourself with either Pepsi or Coke.
As a consequence, J20, the day of his inauguration, is shaping up to be a rather special day both in Washington, DC and all across the world’s fourth-largest country.
The Disrupt J20 website is calling for a “bold mobilization” against the new Trump regime.
It says: “On Friday, January 20, 2017, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as President of the United States. We call on all people of good conscience to join in disrupting the ceremonies.
“If Trump is to be inaugurated at all, let it happen behind closed doors, showing the true face of the security state Trump will preside over. It must be made clear to the whole world that the vast majority of people in the United States do not support his presidency or consent to his rule.
“Trump stands for tyranny, greed, and misogyny. He is the champion of neo-nazis and white Nationalists, of the police who kill the Black, Brown and poor on a daily basis, of racist border agents and sadistic prison guards, of the FBI and NSA who tap your phone and read your email.
“He is the harbinger of even more climate catastrophe, deportation, discrimination, and endless war. He continues to deny the existence of climate change, in spite of all the evidence, putting the future of the whole human race at stake.
“The KKK, Vladimir Putin, Golden Dawn, and the Islamic State all cheered his victory. If we let his inauguration go unchallenged, we are opening the door to the future they envision.
“Trump’s success confirms the bankruptcy of representative democracy. Rather than using the democratic process as an alibi for inaction, we must show that no election could legitimize his agenda. Neither the Democrats nor any other political party or politician will save us – they just offer a weaker version of the same thing. If there is going to be a positive change in this society, we have to make it ourselves, together, through direct action.
“From day one, the Trump presidency will be a disaster. #DisruptJ20 will be the start of the resistance. We must take to the streets and protest, blockade, disrupt, intervene, sit in, walk out, rise up, and make more noise and good trouble than the establishment can bear.
“The parade must be stopped. We must delegitimize Trump and all he represents. It’s time to defend ourselves, our loved ones, and the world that sustains us as if our lives depend on it – because they do.”
Details of protests in Washington, DC are to be released nearer the time. But the site is also calling on those who cannot get to the capital to organize demonstrations and other actions for the night of January 20. There is also a call for a general strike to take place: “Organize a walkout at your school now. Workers: call out sick and take the day off. No work, no school, no shopping, no housework.”
The website adds: “If you are living outside the US, you can take action at US embassies, borders, or other symbols of neocolonial power. Our allegiance is not to ‘making America great again,’ but to all of humanity and the planet. Spread the word. Join the fight. #DisruptJ20.”
Some excellent analysis of the issues and opportunities at stake can be found on Submedia’s reliably high-quality Stimulator video bulletin.
Two new titles have just been published by us here at Winter Oak Press – just in time for that annual anti-consumerist Christmas shopping spree…
Both of them challenge, on a fundamental level, the thinking that traps so many people within the fake “realities” of the industrial capitalist nightmare.
The first book is an important contribution by new Winter Oak author Ed Lord entitled Modern Madness: A Wild Schizoanalysis of Mental Distress in the Spaces of Modernity.
What are we to make of an age that delivers pandemic levels of mental illness and a physical environment at the point of catastrophic collapse? What is it that connects and infuses both modernity and psychiatry to make them seem like the only possible ways to organise our lives and aid our distress?
Could there be other options available? Other ways to explain and ameliorate our distress? What if mental distress is considered as much a matter of geography as it is of personal pathology?
These are some of the questions opened up for analysis in this radically ground-breaking investigation of mental distress in the spaces of the modern world. The philosophical legacies of Felix Guattari and John Zerzan are employed to take the reader on a profoundly challenging walk through Critical Theory, anarchy and decolonisation to create a route to sanity via a wild-schizoanalysis.
The second of our new books is Nature, Essence and Anarchy. The starting point of this collection of essays from regular Acorn contributor Paul Cudenec (The Anarchist Revelation, Forms of Freedom etc) is that very future of our species and of planetary life is at threat from the unchecked growth of the industrial capitalist cancer and that there is a need for a powerful and coherent resistance.
Cudenec argues that there has been a general thought-paralysis which makes any authentic and holistic anti-capitalist philosophy difficult to conceive and communicate. As a result of this, anarchist and anti-capitalist thinking has to look deeper than the surface of what is usually regarded as the political realm and root itself in an intellectual soil completely outside of capitalism and all its assumptions.
He writes: “As anarchists have long understood, another world is always possible and will flourish in our collective mind long before it becomes a physical reality. We need to imagine ourselves out of the suffocating confines of industrial capitalism, leaping over all the barriers of lies that it has erected around us.”
Anger is growing across Sussex, in southern England, as councils have been caught secretly selling off public downland in the South Downs National Park.
Seven years ago, countryside lovers in Worthing successfully mobilised to see off a council attempt to sell off fields on the slopes of Cissbury Ring, an iron age hill fort – and earlier this year the land was officially declared open access (see Acorn 20).
But now it has emerged that Brighton council (run by the Labour Party, for the benefit of those who imagine that makes any difference!) has started selling off some of its downland estate, without informing the public, let alone consulting them.
Said Keep Our Downs Public: “We do not believe that councillors are aware of the nature or implications of these sales. The Brighton Downland Estate, at more than 12,000 acres, is the largest and most important public asset within the new South Downs National Park.
“These sales open the door to privatisation of Brighton’s entire Downland Estate. Without democratic public accountability we must expect threats to public usage, neglect, damage to important wildlife habitat, inappropriate development, and more shooting and hunting.”
Eastbourne’s (LibDem) council is also going ahead with its own sell-off of National Park downland, as reported in Acorn 26.
Eastbourne and district Friends of the Earth warn: “Eastbourne Borough Council intends to sell off most of the Eastbourne Downland Estate, putting at grave risk the rich nature and wildlife heritage of downland that was originally purchased by the council on behalf of Eastbourne residents for them to enjoy ‘in perpetuity’.”
Campaigners sprung into action in Eastbourne on Wednesday November 16, with more than 100 people protesting outside a council meeting at the town hall (reports here and here).
And on the morning of Saturday December 3 they are staging a downland rally and walk of opposition to the sell-off, meeting at Beachy Head visitor centre car park at 10.30 sharp. They say: “Stop the sale of our downland! Bring placards and banners. Let’s make a show of it!”
Further West, Portsmouth City Council has voted unanimously to object to 20-year plans to drill for oil at Markwells Wood in the South Downs National Park, reports Drill or Drop. The Tory-led council in Hampshire joins growing opposition to the application by UK Oil & Gas, mainly because of concerns about risks to groundwater.
Other objectors include Portsmouth Water, which takes supplies from the South Downs chalk aquifer, the Environment Agency, the Council for the Protection of Rural England, Chichester City Council, eight parish councils and (currently) more than 1,300 people.
Meanwhile, members of the South Downs National Park Authority have called for stricter controls on how oil could be produced in future. At a meeting on November 10, the authority’s planning committee said a proposed policy banning hydraulic fracturing in the national park should be extended to other techniques including acid fracking or acidisation.
A high-profile campaigner against the North Dakota Access Pipeline in the USA (see Acorn 27) has spoken of her brutal treatment at the hands of uniformed thugs working for the industrial capitalist mafia. Tara Houska (below), national campaign director for Honor the Earth, said she was arrested for criminal trespass, handcuffed with zip ties, kept in a “large chainmail dog kennel” for over six hours, strip-searched, jailed and charged with a crime later that day. “Native people are being hurt right now,” she said. “There were people being maced and tasered again yesterday. These things are happening.”
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Capitalist contempt for any culture other than the culture of cash has once again been exemplified by McDonald’s, a universally recognised symbol of all that is tackiest in our modern world. The burger bullies are suing the Italian Renaissance city of Florence for €18m after their insultingly insensitive bid to open an outlet in the historic Piazza del Duomo was understandably turned down. Whined the widely-reviled American business: “We cannot accept discriminatory regulations that damage the freedom of private initiative”.
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Cracks are appearing in the US empire’s control of eastern Europe, with socialist-backed anti-NATO candidate Rumen Radev gaining a landslide victory in Bulgaria’s presidential elections. Said one analyst: “Only a few years ago, it was unthinkable to hear criticism of Western governments. This is no longer the case”. And elections in Moldova also struck a blow against NATO and the EU, with presidential victory going to Igor Dodon of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova. Dodon (below) had described his campaign as being “against the oligarchs, against those who have robbed our country and want to destroy it”.
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The morphing of “western democracies” into blatantly authoritarian states continues in the UK with the passing of Orwellian new laws allowing massive levels of state snooping. Whistleblower Edward Snowden declared that in passing the Investigatory Powers Act “the UK has just legalised the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy”. The good news, of course, is that the capitalist system is only being forced to drop its phoney dissent-numbing pretence of niceness because it knows it is rapidly losing control…
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Google headquarters in Munich, Germany, were attacked with red lacquer and bitumen on the night of November 6 to 7 2016, reports Insurrection News. Said the activists: “Information is power, who owns it is powerful. The main business of Google is the capitalistic utilization of information, which makes them one of the most powerful corporations in the world.” They also highlighted Google’s key role in the sinister and fascistic transhumanist movement: “Transhumanists are convinced that the way out of a world which they have decisively destroyed is the transition from human to machine. Its main players are made up of an ultra-neoliberal right which has its starting point at the Silicon Valley manufacturing center.”
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The Anarchist Action Network has announced the date and time of its next meeting – Sunday December 4 2016 at Cherry Reds Café, 88-92 John Bright St, Birmingham, B1 1BN. Meet-up at 1pm, for a 2pm-4.30pm session. Says the AAN: “The network meets every three months, in a different town or city, to plan for future events and to continue building a movement that organises with consensus decision-making. We have adopted the PGA hallmarks and have other principles that define us. We organised two ‘Anarchist Travelling Circuses’, in South Wales and East London, as well as numerous other events, demonstrations and weeks of action, and we now plan to organise a third A.T.C. and make other plans for the network in the months ahead. We’d like to welcome you (except cops and journos) to be a part of this.”
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Acorn quote: ““Factories, machines and bureaucracies are the real pillars of capitalist oppression”. Miguel Amorós,Elementary Foundations of the Anti-Industrial Critique