The Gilets Jaunes, or Yellow Vests, movement in France is the most important political phenomenon to emerge in Western Europe so far this century. It has smashed through the barriers of political stagnancy and sterility which so often disempower and stifle spontaneous expressions of popular discontent.
The yellow banner of revolt has rallied parts of the population previously unreached by political organising and the relentless determination of hundreds of thousands of men and women has shaken the citadels of neoliberal power to the core. As well as the rubber bullets, grenades, water cannon and tear gas deployed by the French state against the uprising, another major weapon against the Gilets Jaunes has been the corporate media.
Constant lies, smears and alarmism in France have been matched by almost total silence elsewhere, punctuated by small dribbles of largely inaccurate information. We at Winter Oak have been trying to help counter this information war against the rebellion by reporting their activities and opinions in English. Below we present five new translations which offer some useful insights into what is currently being spelled out in yellow in France.
The uprising is very much ongoing as we write this, with Act 18 of the protests on March 16 likely to be significant, particularly in Paris. For news updates about the movement follow us on Twitter.
i. Power to the people!
This declaration was agreed at the Yellow Vest assembly of assemblies in Commercy at the end of January, attended by delegates from across France. It was then “sent back” down to the local assemblies, who have gradually been endorsing it from the grassroots.
Ever since November 17, from the smallest village in the countryside to the biggest city, we have been rising up against this profoundly violent, unfair and unbearable society.
We are not going to be pushed around! We are revolting against the high cost of living, against precarity and misery. We want our loved ones, our families and our children to live in dignity.
26 billionaires own as much as half of the human species and that is unacceptable. Let’s share wealth and not misery!
Let’s do away with social inequality! We demand immediate increases in pay, in the minimum wage, in benefits and in pensions; the unconditional right to healthcare and education; free public services for everyone.
It’s for all these rights that every day we occupy roundabouts, that we organise actions and protests and hold discussions everywhere.
With our yellow vests on, we are having our say, which we have never had before.
And what’s the response from the government? Repression, contempt, denigration.
People killed and thousands injured, the massive use of weapons fired directly at us which mutilate, take out eyes, wound and traumatise.
More than 1,000 people have been arbitrarily prosecuted and jailed.
And now the new so-called “anti-vandal” law aims simply to stop us demonstrating.
We condemn all violence against protesters, whether it comes from police or violent factions. None of that is going to stop us!
The right to protest is fundamental. End the impunity for the government forces! Amnesty for all the victims of repression!
And what a con, this Grand National Debate which is nothing but a government PR exercise taking advantage of our desire to discuss and take decisions!
The real democracy is the one we practise in our assemblies and on our roundabouts. It is neither on the TV nor in the fake debates organised by Macron.
He insults us, says we’re less than nothing, then depicts us as hateful crowd, fascistic and xenophobic.
But in fact we are completely the opposite: neither racist, nor sexist, nor homophobic, we are proud to be together with our differences to build a society of solidarity.
The diversity of our discussions is our strength and even now hundreds of assemblies are drawing up and putting forward their own demands.
They involve real democracy, social and fiscal justice, environmental and climate justice, the ending of discrimination.
Among the most debated demands and strategic proposals we can find: the eradication of misery in all its forms; the transformation of institutions (citizen-initiated referenda, constituent assemblies, an ending to privileges for elected representatives); environmental transition (energy precarity, industrial pollution); equality and the valuing of all women and men regardless of their nationality (people with disabilities, gender equality, ending the neglect of working-class districts, rural areas and overseas territories).
We, Gilets Jaunes, invite everyone to join us, as and how they see fit. We call for a continuation of the series of “acts” of protests, of the occupation of roundabouts and the blockading of the economy and of the effort to build a huge national strike.
We call for the setting up of committees in the workplace, at places of study; and everywhere else so that this grave can be built on the basis of the strikers themselves.
Let’s take control of our own activities! Don’t stay on your own, join us! Let’s organise democratically, autonomously and independently!
This assembly of the assemblies is an important step which allows us to discuss our demands and our means of acting.
Let’s come together in federations to transform society!
We ask the whole of the Gilets Jaunes movement to circulate this call.
If, as a Gilets Jaunes group, you agree with it, then don’t hesitate to send your support to Commercy.
Please do discuss and draw up proposals for the next assembly of the assemblies, already under preparation.
Power to the people, for the people, by the people!
The “nothings” are on the streets
ii. The ghost of 1789
This is an extract from a leaflet issued by a group of Gilets Jaunes in southern France after a local bigwig, the Prefect, accused “anarchists” of inciting hate of the state and confrontations with the police.
Mr Prefect, there is no need for anarchists to sow hate as your government is managing to do that all on its own. Oh, nobody for the moment is talking about reaching for their rifle, but everyone can see what they earn and what the rich earn. Hate is on the rise. The Gilets Jaunes are simple people, generally workers at the bottom of the scale on low wages, or people living on modest pensions…
They say, when they talk about the rulers and the fat cats in this country: “They are like the kings and aristocrats used to be”. They are not talking about having a revolution here and now but they talk a lot about our great revolution: it is always coming up in conversation.
Macron has said repeatedly that he won’t change course: so we can expect nothing from him but scraps of charity. One day or the other the poor, like in 1789, will take action and a lot of others with them.
This won’t be a revolt, but a revolution!
It is clear that every government since 1983 has done all it can to ensure that the poor are in this state of mind.
In our assemblies there are, among the hundreds present, lots of workers and pensioners. There are also teachers and nurses.
Some anarchists work and earn roughly as much as the other Gilets Jaunes, others are unemployed, like many others.
Sorry to disappoint you, but there is nothing to differentiate them from other Gilets Jaunes except that, perhaps, some of them are more active than most: that’s their right and we don’t hold it against them!
iii. Our community is the struggle!
This analysis comes from issue 2 of an eight-page A3 street paper, Jaune: Le Journal Pour Gagner (Yellow: the Paper for Winning).
From the start of this movement, two symbols have been competing on the roundabouts. The yellow vest and the tricolour flag. Of course, many wouldn’t put it that way. They would say that the flag is the symbol of the French people, while the yellow vest is the symbol of the struggle, so the two are complementary. And it’s true that in each instance those who sport them regard them as signs of rallying around something in common. But there are different kinds of commonality.
The idea of a community founded on belonging to a territory, defined by a state and the defence of the borders of that state, is very old. We can see it in the founding myths of the Roman Empire.
Some will say that this is a hard reality. They will argue that every country has its share of misery and that at the end of the day defending your tribe, your territory, your compatriots, is a necessary part of being human. Their slogan is “our own before the others”.
But who are “our own”? Have you really got more interests, aspirations and sufferings in common with the rich of France than with someone who works on the same building site as you but hasn’t got the same passport? More in common with the Loréal family than with an Italian or Algerian delivering for an Amazon subcontractor? More in common with someone else on the minimum wage, regardless of nationality, or with someone who used to pay the highest rate of income tax until Macron scrapped it?
Nationalism will tell you that yes, French people, regardless of their social position, have more interests in common together than with any other form of solidarity, such as that based on a common situation. But where does that lead? Who profits from saying that? Who benefits from nationalism?
Everybody knows the line about divide and rule. It implies, of course, that it those who rule who divide the others. So, let’s put the question this way: who rules? Who owns the wealth and the means of producing more wealth? The rich, the bourgeoisie. And who is divided according to passport and nationality? The poor, the workers, the unemployed.
Anyway, do you really think the bourgeoisie practises what it preaches for us? Do you really think that the French rich feel closer to you than to their friends in such or such a country, with whom they go skiing in Switzerland or Dubai while you go to work? Let’s not be naive.
But there is another community: the community of struggle. Thus, in France, for a long time now, a revolutionary tradition welcomes all those who want to struggle. As far back as the French Revolution, lots of people from every corner of the world came to lend a hand. During the Paris Commune, as well, the organisation of the barricades was partly organised by Polish revolutionaries.
And we can see this solidarity in struggle and revolution at many other times of history and in many other parts of the world. That is the community which brings us together. Today, it has a rallying call: the yellow vest. This call is universal and as such it is closer to the spirit of past revolutions, including the French one.
So we are saying it loud and clear: we are on the side of the yellow vest, of what it says about common struggle and also about a shared refusal of our dire situation, about chilly early mornings blockading and about evenings around a pile of burning palettes, talking about our rock-bottom living conditions.
Yellow Vests of every country, unite!
iv. Poisoned by neoliberalism
From an interview with François Boulo, a lawyer and a Gilets Jaunes spokesman in the northern city of Rouen (source: Thinkerview).
How do you see the current situation with the Gilets Jaunes?
There is a fight to be won in terms of communication. The mainstream media are trying to criminalise the movement. But the real question of immorality lies with the distribution of wealth. To live in a country and pile up a personal fortune that is 10, 100, 1,000 times more than you need to live, while in France 9 million people teeter on the brink of poverty and 140,000 are homeless…
What kind of politics are you proposing?
For the last 40 to 45 years there has been an ideological drive to poison our minds with the dominant neoliberal thinking, which is presented as the only possibility. This is the framing for the way we think about politics today. This economic framing is imposed on us and they tell us that there is no alternative. This has generated a mood of resignation.
The economic debate has been closed down. They explain to us that we have to have permanent growth, even though we live in a finite world. We have a cake and they tell us we can’t change the rules for allocating the slices of the cake. I think citizens’ control is needed.
What do you think of the political and policing climate around the Gilets Jaunes movement?
Right from the start, everything was done to ramp up the climate of tension. On the second Saturday of protests in France, from 8.30 or 9am people were being “kettled”, caught in a trap, and teargassed! How do you expect them to feel that their right to protest is being respected?
What about Europe ?
We have got to stop following the demands of the banks and investors, because their financial games do not help the real economy. We should finally create the social Europe we were promised.
v. A breath of fresh air
Here is an abridged version of an in-depth article in issue 12 of Avis de Tempêtes: Bulletin anarchiste pour la guerre sociale (Storm Warning: Anarchist bulletin for social war), a 20-page A5 zine with a yellow and red cover. The piece takes a witty swipe at a certain kind of comrade who considers themself too ideologically pure to possibly be able to join in the diverse and mould-breaking Gilets Jaunes uprising.
For once, a movement has erupted in a self-organised way without political parties and trade unions, for once it immediately set its own agenda – an agenda which is often daily and not at the weekly or monthly rhythm of the big days out orchestrated by the troop masters and agreed in advance with the police – even deciding for itself its own places and routes of confrontation and blockage by obstinately refusing to beg for official authorisation.
In short, a breath of fresh air for all those activists who have been waiting for nothing other than a big collective movement before venturing out of their homes. However… While the meagre crumbs claimed by any number of reformist, trade-unionist or victimist organisations – backed up by a show of strength in the streets to help their representatives in their negotiations with authority – have never put too many people off taking part, now we see those marvellous anti-authoritarian activists diligently dissecting those who have lit the yellow-vest fuse.
The anti-authoritarian activist, well schooled in swallowing all kinds of reformist demands in order to join in various struggles, this time finds that there is not enough familiar common ground.
With the Gilets Jaunes movement, the activist has suddenly discovered the world around him. Having been in raptures over the Arab Spring without finding his enthusiasm impossibly deflated by the “interclassist” use of the term “the people” (“The people wants the fall of the regime” was a much-used popular slogan) and the abundance of national flags, he is now disgusted by the same limitations on his own side of the Mediterranean.
Having rioted against the Loi Travail labour reforms, or last May Day, without feeling his presence incompatible with that of massed hammer and sickle flags, or with the sometimes-dubious banners at the head of Parisian demos (emblazoned with the wise words of 100%-reactionary rappers), he is now mortified by the tricolour flags and populist slogans.
He had chosen to be blind to the hundreds of tricolour flags in the left-wing France Insoumise rallies at the last elections, as well as to those wielded by hundreds of thousands in the streets after the epic victory in the footballing spectacle of July 2018 (sported in unison by poor urban youth and old rich racists).
No, the activist is as simple as his organic-supermarket ideology. An unclean symbol equals a fascist. Full stop.
A radical anti-capitalist dimension to the Extinction Rebellion (XR) has emerged in the UK, with the creation of a new alliance.
The Green Anti-Capitalist Front is born of the realisation that if we want to defend nature we have to fight capitalism.
It says it wants to support the high-profile XR “with a parallel mobilisation that has a greater focus on the capitalist roots of climate catastrophe”.
GAF explains: “As we all know, capitalism is killing the Earth. We have been observing the rise of the Extinction Rebellion movement and, while we are glad to see a growing interest in fighting climate change, we do not think their critique goes far enough and believe a specifically anti-capitalist critique is needed.
“As such we are calling for the formation of an anti-capitalist block to tap into this rising interest in radical politics and to fill the vacuum of a green and anti-capitalist movement in London. We plan to loosely work alongside Extinction Rebellion’s actions, especially their week of actions planned from April 15th, while also developing our own unique
“The Green Anti-Capitalist Front is intended as a broad coalition of groups with varying ideologies, but with a common interest in tackling environmental problems at their social roots”.
In an open letter to XR, GAF praises it for having reinvigorated environmental activism at a time when this was most needed.
It says: “XR has been bold in its aims when much of the established movement has been cynical, and has managed to tap into a broader sense of alarm over environmental degradation, and mobilised many people not previously involved.
“XR has grown at a speed that many people would have thought impossible before we saw it happen.
“XR has also been far more radical in this broad appeal than many people would have thought, pursuing a strategy built around both local direct action while maintaining an international orientation.
“We cannot overstate the overwhelmingly positive effect that XR is having on environmental politics”.
However, GAF says it has “doubts about some of the tactics that XR has adopted” and thinks a conversation is needed about this.
GAF is inviting like-minded people and groups to get in touch via
firstname.lastname@example.org. It has a website, Twitter account and Facebook presence.
In the 21st century, the world is now veritably swamped with commodities. According to APLF ltd. American consumers purchase an average of 7.5 shoes per capita per year. The LA Times reports that “the average U.S. household has 300,000 things, from paper clips to ironing boards.”
I am not by any means claiming that everyone is an affluent borderline-hoarder. One of the fundamental problems of capitalism is the unequal access to this seeming abundance of goods.
With so much paraphernalia in the world, it is inevitable that significant portions will be wasted.
In an article for The Atlantic, Derek Thompson explains that in a year the world creates around 2.6 trillion pounds of garbage—“the weight of about 7,000 Empire State Buildings.”
Much of this is food waste, but many inorganic items are produced with cheap plastic and other materials that fall apart quickly. Some companies, such as Apple, even reportedly preprogram their products to stop functioning properly after a certain amount of time in order to force consumers to buy new wares at a much greater rate than they otherwise would.
All this waste, all this stuff tossed away, has to go somewhere. Such rubbish becomes part of the planet’s topography, enters into its ecological systems, and eventually returns to the human sphere of interaction – much to human detriment.
This is zombie archaeology; when the remnants of our past are not uncovered by human beings but return to us by themselves with a vengeance.
In this age of capitalism-induced ecological collapse, zombie archaeology is certain to become only increasingly suited for describing the world. Walter Benjamin, in his Theses on the Philosophy of History, writes of Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, “This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But… …[t]he storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward.”
But what happens when the wreckage and debris – both literal and figurative – begin shambling towards the present? When the dead are, in a sense, awakened? Zombie archaeology poses these questions.
We have been drawing attention for some time now to the ideological smears being deliberately used by the neoliberal elite to stifle dissident voices.
Unlike Monty Python’s ridiculous “Spanish Inquisition”, this one has long been expected by everybody who has been paying attention.
The most important task, we feel, is to point out the essential dishonesty behind these attacks.
Neoliberals differ from the old-fashioned right in that they like to paint themselves as the Guardians (yep, quite!) of Progressive Thinking, as somehow vaguely left-wing despite their full-blooded backing for capitalism, militarism, imperialism and everything that goes with it.
So they cannot attack the left in the traditional way, by simply saying they do not like it because it is too left-wing and threatens the status quo which they support.
Instead, they pretend to be attacking their enemies from a progressive position, one which occupies the liberal moral high ground.
This is the case with the longstanding smears against deep green thinking which try to claim it is a continuation of Nazi ideology, even though Hitler’s regime was the epitome of industrialism (see our article Organic Radicalism: Bringing Down the Fascist Machine for a full analysis of this).
Neoliberals, including pseudo-leftists, aren’t honest enough to say that they oppose deep green politics because they support industrial capitalism – that would blow their ideological cover.
Instead, they have to pretend that it is because they have cleverly identified it as a sinister right-wing threat to democracy as we know it.
The same phenomenon is basically at work with the “anti-semitism” allegations cropping up everywhere at the moment.
This issue is slightly complicated by the fact that it is partly about Palestine and the need for the pro-Israel lobby to silence all criticism of the apartheid state by conflating anti-Zionism with anti-semitism.
A real witch-hunt atmosphere has been created here, which the original Spanish Inquisition would surely have been proud of.
Once accused of “anti-semitism”, the victim is faced with a dilemma similar to that of the famous ducking stool – if you drown you are not a witch and if you don’t then you are a witch and you have to be burned alive.
If the person accused of anti-semitism admits guilt and apologises, not only will they not be left alone, but they will also have surrendered important political ground and will have set a precedent for the next absurd denunciation.
If they deny having said anything wrong, this denial will be regarded as a further offence of perhaps even greater severity.
This is what has been happening to UK Labour Party figures such as Chris Williamson and to US lawmaker Ilhan Omar (see here and here).
The secondary smear technique has also been used against the Gilets Jaunes in France, particularly following an incident in which intellectual Alain Finkielkraut was called a “dirty Zionist”.
Comments, or lack of comments, on the much-hyped confrontation were used to attack prominent Yellow Vest supporters such as journalist Aude Lancelin and leftist politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
It is important to note that all these smear attacks have been targeted at the political left. Anti-semitism on the right is rarely even mentioned.
It is clear that the Palestine question, important though it is both for supporters and critics of the Israeli state, is not the only issue at stake here, as the likes of Jonathan Cook have been pointing out.
One of the great successes of the wave of global protests that took place in the 1990s and at the start of the 21st century was to put anti-capitalism on the public stage.
Previously, the mainstream had never even accepted that we lived in a capitalist society, let alone that people could be against that.
The word “capitalism” was regarded as a nonsensical one, used only by communists or other left-wing cranks.
Suddenly, they were talking about anti-capitalism on the BBC, examining who these troublesome anti-capitalists were and what exactly they wanted.
Twenty years on, the Establishment feels under threat, its system crumbling and its mind-control power over the population lifting like fog in the sunshine.
It therefore seems to have decided to try to push anti-capitalism back out of the public domain, beyond the perimeter fence of ideological validity.
We have commented previously on the peculiar political argument that there is something “anti-semitic” about opposing the “1%” who own most of the world’s wealth (it’s a lot fewer than that…) or about condemning bankers or international capitalist organisations like the IMF, the WTO or the Bilderberg group.
As we pointed out last July: “What appears to be happening, in some cases at least, is that the ‘Jewish banker’ figure is again being deliberately deployed to thwart opposition to capitalism.
“Previously, it was used to steer people away from anti-capitalism and into anti-semitism, but now the aim is rather to steer people away from anti-capitalism with the threat of being labelled anti-semitic”.
This twisted approach is now being presented as a common-sense view by mainstream media, in tandem with the other smear attacks on left-wingers.
Right-wing Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh spun this toxic propaganda on BBC Radio 4 on March 4, with presenter John Humphreys helpfully summing up: “In other words, to be anti-capitalist you have to be anti-semitic?”
Such are the desperate, dangerous lies of a system that senses its days are numbered…
In his new “extremist” novel, No Such Place as Asha, Paul Cudenec gives a fictional airing to the ideological smears often deployed by neoliberals against opponents of their ecocidal industrial capitalist system. This excerpt describes a speaker at a private conference of the “Transatlantic Alliance for Freedom” (TAF) in Edinburgh…
His special subject was environmentalism. He started off paying lip service to the importance of balancing economic growth with sustainable practices, of ensuring the well-being of human and animal communities, so on and so forth. Responsible environmental organisations acted as crucial watchdogs that reminded the authorities and industry of their responsibilities. While TAF did not always agree with their positions, they recognised the role they played, etcetera, etcetera.
Then he moved on to the substance of his talk. Unfortunately, there was always a fringe of green protesters who took things too far, who refused to play by the rules. He talked about “eco-terrorists” in the USA and “hardcore” environmentalists in Europe, such as 1990s road protesters in the UK, a mobilisation against a high-speed rail line in Italy, a protest camp against an airport in France, another against mining in Germany.
More recently, the “worst” instance of these campaigns was the anti-fracking movement in the UK. The dangers of these extremists’ illegal direct action were well known, he said, as was the “Luddite” ideology that inspired them.
But lately things had taken a turn for the worse. These groups were starting to develop a common ideology, aided by the exchange of news and views made possible by the internet. They were borrowing ideas from campaigners on the other side of the world and incorporating them into their own rhetoric. They were increasingly identifying the enemy not just as their local government, or business, but as something they termed “the industrial capitalist system”.
Up against this, they were piecing together their own counter-position. They had taken the idea of “sacred land” from indigenous struggles in North America, Australia and elsewhere and were applying it to their own sites. The use of direct action was turning into an ideology of direct action, an anarchist contempt for the rule of law and the due democratic process. French and German groups had fed into the mix the idea of “degrowth”, which rejected the very fundaments of our society – the idea of progress, economic growth and increased prosperity for humankind.
I wrote down a complete quote at this point. “Let’s be clear, these people are negationists. They are guilty of progress denial. And I would suggest that this brand of negationism should be treated as seriously as the other one of which we are all too well aware. Because that’s where it ends, ultimately. It all ends at the same place. The destruction of civilization. The deaths of millions of men, women and children in the name of fanaticism.”
There was a great burst of applause across the room at this point. Having established his moral high ground, Heath went on to spell out the particular form this Eco-Terrorist Apocalypse would take, which seemed to involve mainly a drop in the profits of “important wealth-creating institutions”, faced with increased grassroots resistance to their projects and falling levels of consumption as the “poison” of anti-growth views contaminated the population.
A top-notch new comic has been published by Corporate Watch in London. Worlds End uses words and pictures to help people understand climate change and capitalism and encourage a different approach, one that builds power to fight them. Read it online here.
* * *
“Just because the participants in the growing number of Extinction Rebellion actions may be predominantly middle class, it doesn’t mean to say that we as working class people aren’t concerned about environmental issues”. So says a useful article in The South Essex Heckler. It adds: “What we need to do is to start to own the narrative of the campaigns around those issues so that it’s our voices that are being heard. We’re the ones on the frontline from traffic induced air pollution through to being housed in flood risk areas”.
* * *
Disturbing evidence keeps emerging about the way the environmental movement, particularly the climate justice element, is being hijacked and manipulated by big business. For instance, a Daily Mail report in February revealed that Tory peer John Selwyn Gummer, who heads the UK government’s Climate Change Committee, has a private company which has been paid more than £600,000 from “green” businesses hoping to profit from government subsidies. And the full report from Cory Morningstar mentioned in Acorn 46 is now online and a must-read for any nature-defender who wants to avoid being used as a useful idiot by a bunch of lying industrial capitalists.
* * *
The threat of new industrial capitalist mega-projects in Mexico has been highlighted in a letter from Zapatista women to their sisters across the world. The authorities’ destructive schemes include the Mayan Train, the “development” of the Tehuantepec Isthmus and massive commercial tree farms. The letter declares: “We’re going to fight with all our strength and everything we’ve got against these mega-projects. If these lands are conquered, it will be upon the blood of Zapatista women”.
* * *
“Fracking is stoppable, another world is possible!” is the title of a highly informative and inspiring new online bulletin from the frack free movement. Issue 1 is available here but issue 2 should be out very soon – follow the excellent frackfree_eu on Twitter for updates.
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The 2019 Liverpool Anarchist Bookfair will be held on Saturday April 13, 11am till 5pm at The Black-E, 1 Great George Street, L1 5EW. This will be a day of stalls and workshops, with a vegan cafe and kids’ space – free entry (donations towards event costs welcome). Says the website: “Books, zines & more to feed your brain let’s learn, organise, grow & create!”
* * *
If the neoliberal Establishment succeeds in totally destroying the (very mild!) threat presented to its domination by Corbyn’s Labour Party, there will no doubt be a few we-told-you-soes from us anarcho-cynics. But the anger sparked by such a collapse in people’s hopes could well lead to something more interesting happening in the UK. As Jonathan Cook notes: “If parliamentary politics returns to business as usual for the wealthy, taking to the streets looks increasingly like the only option. Maybe it’s time to dust off a Yellow Vest”.
* * *
Acorn quote: “The poorest man hath as true a title and just right to the land as the richest man. True freedom lies in the free enjoyment of the earth”.
January 19, 2019: week 10 of history-forging French uprising
For the tenth weekend running, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets all across France in the Gilets Jaunes or Yellow Vests revolt against neoliberal capitalism – and this in the face of unprecedented state violence and oppression.
President’s Macron pathetic attempt to take back the initiative with his “Grand National Debate” has been exposed as a sham, with his regional roadshows protected by armies of riot police – deployed to keep at bay the people he is supposed to be listening to!
In Paris, for Act 10 of the uprising, the latest in a series of massive marches was estimated by observers to stretch for 4km and was met with the usual hostility and teargas from the “forces of order”.
🔴 URGENT – #Avignon : Des #casseurs ont tenté de mettre le feu à l'hôtel de ville. Ils ont incendié un container à poubelles devant la porte en bois du bâtiment situé place de l'Horloge avant de prendre la fuite en cassant tout ce qu'ils pouvaient sur leur passage." #giletjaunepic.twitter.com/EQo9qrVZw8
Everywhere there were thousands and thousands of people demanding an end to the neoliberal misery being imposed on France by Macron’s regime and the whole corrupt political system.
Caen, Rouen, Nîmes, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Toulon, Dijon, Beziers, Perpignan, Montpellier, Lyons, Angers, Poitiers, Marseilles, Bergerac, Brest, Longeville-lès-Saint-Avold, the little town of Foix in rural Ariège…
And from everywhere the same images and reports came flooding in: big crowds, police provocation, teargas, grenades, batons, water cannon, blood and defiance.
You can call it what you like – The Establishment, The Thing, The Matrix or the Industrial-Military-Prison-Propaganda-Complex – but it exists.
It has become trendy in recent years to pretend that this is not so, that what we are seeing is merely a collection of economic or interpersonal relationships.
But it is the system that promotes, protects and imposes all the layers of domination and exploitation that mark our everyday lives.
It is the system that tells us we have to spend our best life energy working for it, just for the right to eat and exist in the world it claims it owns.
It is the system that pays its hired thugs to beat us up, intimidate us, lock us up for years if we refuse to play by its rules.
It is the system that maims and murders human beings on an unimagineable scale across the world, all in the interests of its profit and power, and still always claims the moral high ground.
It is the system that lies through its teeth, with a slick smile on its face, and is always quick to accuse anyone who challenges its lies of being a liar.
It is the system that devours, poisons and destroys our air, our water, our land and our bodies.
It is the system that brings death and extinction while claiming to bring growth.
It is the system that is always looking at new ways to monitor us, to control us, to infiltrate our lives, to direct our thoughts, to crush the tiniest possibilities of our freedom and resistance.
It is also the system, of course, that insists that the system does not exist, that we should not confuse the many trees of its oppression and control with an overall wood that could be termed an entity.
It says that anyone who talks of the system is necessarily a simple-minded fool who imagines the world is all controlled in every detail by half a dozen James Bond villains sitting around a conference table in an underground bunker.
It says that anyone who talks of the system is a conspiracy theorist liable to start spouting all kinds of deranged, maybe anti-semitic, nonsense.
The system says this because it knows full well that the rest of us – the powerless nobodies it so despises – will never be able to effectively challenge the system if we don’t even know that it exists.
On this point, and this point alone, we agree with the system. Identifying the existence of the system is the necessary first step to clearing the way for a worthwhile future for humankind and our planetary home.
The second necessary step is to destroy the system in its entirety.
The system has always depended on being able to control the narrative of the societies it controls, ensuring that its own existence remains invisible and that all its lies are accepted as self-evident truths.
It knows that it is in big trouble if serious numbers of people start ripping the propaganda drip-feeds from their brains and sourcing their information from elsewhere, if people stop parroting the sermons of the system’s priests and start thinking for themselves.
It has been interesting to see the system in panic mode in France, being forced to work through every step of the emergency disinformation procedures as the Gilets Jaunes revolt gathers more and more momentum.
To start with, the Gilets Jaunes were just a passing nuisance. Then they were right-wing extremists, or left-wing extremists if the message was being aimed at a right-wing audience. After that, they were violent thugs and village idiots. Then it was all a flop and dying out. Then they were suddenly threatening armed revolution. They subsequently switched back to being fascists again, maybe of the elusive “red-brown” variety evoked by neoliberals everywhere in their desperate attempts to equate far left with far right and present themselves as the only safeguard against the horrors of so-called “populism”.
Again and again, the well-groomed and arrogant faces of the Parisian elite appeared to inform the French people that they were nothing but uneducated riff-raff who deserved to be shot and telling them to pack it all in. But nobody was watching TV on the roundabouts.
The media even wheeled out the tired old spectre of the Le Pen family once again, with inflated reports of how they were poised to come to power. It’s a great double-act for the capitalists, the old nice-nasty routine: support capitalism or you get fascism.
While there have been howls of media outrage over every flower-pot thrown towards the serried ranks of armour-plated riot cops, the huge levels of brutal violence inflicted by the police themselves have been sidelined or even ignored.
Individual cops have complained publicly that the instructions for this violence – by means of tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon, grenades or just good old-fashioned beating and kicking – are political and have come straight from the state.
RÉPRESSION CONTRE LES GILETS JAUNES : UN POLICIER MET EN CAUSE LE GOUVERNEMENT
"Le message envoyé par le gouvernement c'est : on veut aller à la confrontation, on ne veut plus éviter la répression, tout est mis en place pour que ça dégénère". Alexandre Langlois, @VIGI_MIpic.twitter.com/wpGlX7T0Je
The system has given orders for the Gilets Jaunes to be left bloodied in the road, handless or eyeless in several cases. The system has given orders for its media to pretend this just isn’t happening.
And people have seen that. Millions of people have seen it and seen through it. The system has played its hand and it cannot keep playing it again and again with the results that it expects.
This is the scenario it fears most. The scenario in which the hologram illusion of democracy projected by its vast range of propaganda techniques flickers and disappears from the minds of the people.
Instead they see reality as it, as it has been for a long time: a criminal gang of professional liars, manipulators and thieves successfully holding millions of people in a state of thralldom, and being prepared to use unlimited violence to hold on to their power.
It is not just in France that the system is afraid of losing control, although the population there seem to be several steps ahead of others in their awareness of what is going on and their courage in actually trying to do something about it.
That is why for years the system has been infiltrating radical political movements – and often sabotaging them from within so they can never successfully mobilise against its domination.
That is why it is rolling out products like NewsGuard to filter internet intervention and try and make sure only the system’s version of reality, the system’s views, can reach the public.
That is why it is constantly removing pages and accounts from social media, policing the internet to try to ensure that small voices of dissent can no longer be heard, while claiming that this insidious censorship is all about countering “fake news”.
That is why journalists who help whistleblowers expose the system’s crimes and manipulations are not only targeted by the system’s police but mercilessly smeared by the system’s faithful media lackeys.
But can the system ever really regain full-spectrum narrative domination and get all that information toothpaste neatly back into the mind-control tube?
Greta Thunberg: darling of the climate change reformists
Needless to say, we at The Acorn are fully behind environmental campaigns like Extinction Rebellion (see Issue 45) which warn that we face planetary disaster unless our society makes radical changes.
But we have to admit that we are often puzzled as to why there is quite so much emphasis on climate change as the primary evidence of something going badly wrong.
Why less talk of the plastic that is choking our oceans, the chemicals polluting our water sources, the nanoparticles absorbed by our bodies, the noxious fumes poisoning our air, the microwaves causing cancers in our brains?
Why so little mention that there is a name for all of this – industrial capitalism?
Why so few calls for the dismantling of this productivist profit-based insanity and the instigation of degrowth to restore a society which produces solely according to its real needs?
Surely it couldn’t be because the climate change movement is being insidiously manipulated by elements of industrial capitalism itself?
Surely it couldn’t be because the issue is being hijacked by powerful private interests as a way of getting rich on the new technologies that will supposedly solve the crisis?
Could it really be the case that genuine environmental activists, arrested and locked up for their courageous actions, are being used as human cannon fodder for a global marketing campaign?
Anyone tempted to dismiss these questions out of hand might like to take a look at the new work published online by radical ecologist researcher and writer Cory Morningstar.
This concerns the “non-profit industrial complex”, which she describes as “the most powerful army in the world”.
She writes that we are currently witnessing “the launch of a global campaign to usher in a required consensus for the Paris Agreement, the New Green Deal and all climate related policies and legislation written by the power elite – for the power elite”.
The policies this campaign is trying to push through include carbon capture storage (CCS), enhanced oil recovery (EOR), bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), rapid total decarbonisation, payments for ecosystem services (referred to as “natural capital”), nuclear energy and fission, and “a host of other ‘solutions’ that are hostile to an already devastated planet”.
The overall aim is the opposite of the degrowth we so badly need and would involve the “rebooting” of the capitalist economy by creating new markets and new growth.
Morningstar warns: “What is being created is a mechanism to unlock approx. 90 trillion dollars for new investments and infrastructure”.
The first part of her in-depth report focuses on “the manufacturing of Greta Thunberg” and the We Don’t Have Time organisation.
Future sections promise to investigate the role of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, 350.org, Avaaz, the World Wildlife Fund, the Green New Deal and, yes, Extinction Rebellion.
We look forward to reading them.
In the meantime, it is important that all of us who want to head off environmental catastrophe make it quite clear that this is not going to happen so long as we remain trapped inside the capitalist system.
He describes our Western world as “a civilization with money as its universal mediation” in which capitalism “encloses” and privatises all aspects of life.
It cannot tolerate the idea of anyone living outside of its enclosure, hence its need to stamp out the practice of “subsistence” farming, where communities have the cheek to simply produce enough food for their own requirements, rather than for the requirements of the capitalist profit-machine.
It forces people into its system by giving them no choice, he explains: “Declaring war on subsistence means dissolving the autonomous ways of life of thousands of people and thereby enslaving them to commercial needs which they can only fulfil by going out to earn a wage”.
The idea of defending a natural world, which includes human communities’ relationships with the environment, has been neglected by Western anti-capitalism, he says, particularly under the influence of mainstream Marxism.
Uprooted from our previous rural existences, we today often find ourselves living in a sterile and life-denying suburban sprawl, a space created “for the demands of capital”, where people are trapped in a dependence on their cars and thus on the oil industry.
Garcia draws much on William Morris and echoes his critique of the artificiality of industrial capitalism: “In this world of artifice, going beyond the surface to a deeper level, that of the sheer essence of things, is no longer conceivable”.
Garcia dedicates another section of the book to examining, and condemning, transhumanism, which he terms “the official ideology of technological capitalism”.
This ideology “reduces the human brain to a simple processer of information, a mere calculating machine” and is built on the “basic negation of the reality of living organisms”.
Behind it lurks a “brutal dualism” which regards mind and body as completely separate, and thus imagines the possibility of a “posthuman” self with no fleshly existence.
Worryingly, this ultra-capitalist creed is also embraced by some who term themselves left-wing and have swallowed the lie that technological and social progress amount to the same thing.
You can read the full version of this book review by Paul Cudenec on his blog.
“The Wet’suwet’en and Unist’ot’en remain steadfast in the determination that we will be successful in halting the toxic Coastal GasLink pipeline”. This was the defiant message issued on January 17 after the Canadian branch of the industrial-capitalist-military complex used shocking force against the indigenous peoples to try and clear the way for its polluting infrastructures, prompting an international wave of solidarity actions.
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Hundreds of people marched in Bern, Switzerland, on Saturday January 19 against the World Economic Forum being held at Davos, and against capitalism in general. They declared: “The infinite greed for profit and power that is seen at the Forum in Davos has no limits. Let the ruling class feel our anger”.
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Protests are to be held in Berlin on February 16 against the European Police Congress being hosted in the city. Says the call-out: “Let us use the police congress as an opportunity to take to the streets together against the police, the security authorities and their laws. Against state violence and repression. Against a world in which it is okay to let thousands of people drown on the borders of Europe, a world in which people are persecuted, imprisoned and killed because of their aspirations for liberation, a world that wants to destroy all forms of a life based on solidarity and collectivity”.
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A new book on squatting has been published by Squatting everywhere kollective (SqEK) and is available to read online. ‘Fighting for spaces, Fighting for our lives: Squatting Movements today‘ provides glimpses into a diverse and multi-faceted movement, with accounts from local struggles, experiences of repression and stories of collective forms of life which have grown out of squatted spaces in various cities and countries throughout the world, including accounts from Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, Seattle and Australia.
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“Stop 5G on Earth and in Space!” is the message from a new international appeal. It calls for a halt to the deployment of the 5G (fifth generation) wireless network, including 5G from space satellites, explaining: “5G will massively increase exposure to radio frequency (RF) radiation on top of the 2G, 3G and 4G networks for telecommunications already in place. RF radiation has been proven harmful for humans and the environment. The deployment of 5G constitutes an experiment on humanity and the environment that is defined as a crime under international law”.
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In India’s densely populated megacities, residents are rallying against the widespread destruction of trees to make way for capitalist development, reports Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar. She highlights grassroots resistance in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi which are keeping alive the Indian tradition of tree-hugging and passionate defence of nature.
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Brazil’s new far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has already set out his vile agenda, reducing the minimum wage and unveiling plans to step up privatization, toughen prison sentencing guidelines, and hand control over Indigenous land to the Agriculture Ministry. The pro-US, pro-Israel Bolsonaro could well be the first in a new line of authoritarian neoliberals ready to impose industrial capitalism on the world without worrying too much about the facade of “democracy”.
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An eye-opening account of life for workers in China has been provided by Dissent Magazine. Uprooted from the land, peasant-workers have to take jobs in the electronic, garment, construction, or service industries whose low wages force them to work punishing hours of overtime. They live in crowded dormitories, under CCTV surveillance and the constant threat of eviction if they protest. “This is the true ‘miracle’ of Chinese industrialization: a highly vulnerable, precarious, and exploited working class”.
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A very interesting article has been published by our US comrades at It’s Going Down, addressing the thorny issue of alleged ideological similarities between deep-green anarchism and fascists, who often used nature-based rhetoric in their propaganda. The author finds that even the way the two traditions talk about nature reveals the apparent resemblance to be superficial: “The philosophies of the fascists came to largely revolve around concepts of domestication, husbandry, design, and surgical intervention; those of the primitivists revolve around wildness, biodiversity, voluntary association, and self-determination”. ‘Fascism, Ecology, and the Tangled Roots of Anti-Modernism‘ sits nicely alongside our own 2018 article, ‘Organic radicalism: bringing down the fascist machine‘ as a step towards clearing up this area of painful ideological misunderstanding.
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Acorn quote: “What is the point of economic progress, a so-called higher standard of living, when the earth, the only earth we have, is being contaminated by substances which may cause malformations in our children or grandchildren?”
1. Rebelling against the industrial capitalist system
Is the human species finally waking up to the fact that industrial capitalism is murdering the planet and realising that we all have to take action to stop it?
The signs are currently looking good in England, where the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement has appeared out of nowhere and mobilised thousands of people to block streets and engage in civil disobedience.
The first big day of action was on Saturday November 17, when some 6,000 people took to the streets of London.
They blocked five London bridges and planted trees on Parliament Square. More than 80 people were arrested.
Said Gail Bradbrook of XR: “This is an act of mass civil disobedience. This is the start of an international rebellion protesting the lack of action on the ecological crisis”.
There were swarming road blocks across London in the run-up to Rebellion Day 2, announced for Saturday November 24, 10am to 5pm at Parliament Square.
The Rebellion has also started to take off elsewhere, such as Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Ireland.
Some question marks have been raised in anti-capitalist circles about the XR approach. For a start, the enthusiastic participation of pseudo-radical Guardian columnist George Monbiot, who too often mirrors his employers’ anti-left neoliberalism (see the Media Lens archives), has set alarm bells ringing.
A strangely deferential attitude to the police has also worried many. In an article in The Canary, Emily Apple highlighted a failure in XR circles to critique the fundamental relationship between the police, the state and corporations, pointing out: “Ultimately, the police are there to protect the interests of the state”.
She added: “It is our duty to rebel. But effective rebellion will mean facing the full force and the full power of the state, and being prepared for the consequences.
“No amount of statements of non-violence will stop the police going in with full force if what you’re doing is a threat to the state or corporate profit. It won’t stop fundamental police tactics of harassment and disruption; tactics designed to deliberately deter people from protesting”.
However, most would applaud the way XR has achieved what seemed impossible and ignited a whole new wave of public protest against industrial capitalism.
If you believe in a full diversity of tactics, then you have to wish them well and hope that their misguided faith in the intentions of the UK’s police does not end with too many baton-bludgeoned limbs and skulls, when the corporate-owned state decides that XR’s disruptive tactics have gone far enough.
Another encouraging sign of a change in consciousness is the publication by the UK’s Anarchist Federation of a booklet (available online) called Capitalism Is Killing the Earth: An Anarchist Guide to Ecology.
The booklet rightly notes: “There has been wider understanding of environmental issues since mainstream publications such as Silent Spring, Gaia and An Inconvenient Truth; however, an anti-capitalist critique has been lacking”.
The aim of anarchists should therefore be to “make the link between capitalism and environmental degradation explicit in our politics and critique the role of the state in facilitating this”.
It tackles the issue of false solutions to the environmental meltdown, observing that most proposals for change do not question the overarching system of capitalism and the market economy: “The existence of private property, the appropriation of nature as a source of growth and production for profit instead of need are at the root of the problem, so they cannot be part of the solution”.
It was not clear to us, though, what is intended by the reference to a “primitivist” alternative society preventing people from “maintaining or increasing their standard of living”.
For the industrial capitalist mindset, “standard of living” is all about having a car and a dishwasher, flying abroad on holiday and fully participating in the capitalist economy. It is about buying and consuming.
Presumably the authors agree that a genuinely high “standard of living” would involve living freely in a community of equals, sharing the produce of the earth, breathing fresh air, eating uncontaminated food, waking each morning to the sound of birdsong or children’s laughter rather than of low-flying aircraft or the motorway at the end of the street.
The booklet says anarchists should “work more closely with groups such as Earth First!, Reclaim the Power and Rising Tide to further develop an activism which is both confrontational towards capitalism and is inclusive of local and global perspectives”.
We agree. A full convergence of anti-capitalism and anti-industrialism is long overdue. Industrialism and capitalism are not two separate phenomena but two aspects of the same thing.
Whether you first notice its existence from an environmental perspective or from a social one, industrial capitalism is readily identifiable as the enemy.
It is the enslaver of humanity, the stealer of land, the destroyer of community and, unless we can quickly drive a stake through its malignant heart, the murderer of our planet.
2. “At the heart of this problem lies our sense of separation from nature”
In-depth interview with campaigner Geraldine of frackfree_eu
Thanks for agreeing to this interview. Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and what sort of campaigning you are involved in?
I grew up in a rural area. In some respects, I guess I kind of grew up in a bubble, not necessarily privileged, far from it in financial terms, but certainly sheltered from any social or environmental problems.
From a young age, I cared deeply about the environment, but I’d never engaged in any activism as such. I used to receive newsletters from the World Wildlife Fund, and feel concerned about all the animals whose habitats were endangered by deforestation, orangutans and koalas especially.
I was so concerned about deforestation, in fact, that I once replied to exam questions in tiny writing in order to save paper, drawing attention to the fact that trees are chopped down to make the paper. The teacher was outraged by my act, insisted I apologise, but I refused, so she put me on detention.
I wasn’t too bothered. Standing up for what’s right is something to be proud of and I wasn’t going to obey authority whose demands conflicted with my values. I always had a bit of a rebellious streak.
How I got into campaigning… My academic background is in languages. Throughout my studies, I’d never been involved in anything remotely political. It was only when doing a Masters in European Studies that I had my eyes opened to injustices I’d previously been unaware of – such as racism, the Israel / Palestine conflict, austerity. None of these issues made me angry enough to drop everything, though.
Then, in early 2011, I first became aware of fracking while in France with my boyfriend on a business trip, watching politicians on French TV engaged in a fiery debate about how it could contaminate the water.
The French term ‘gaz de schiste’ sounded less scary than the English equivalent ‘fracking’, so after a cursory look in the dictionary which translated ‘gaz de schiste’ as ‘shale gas’ I thought no more of it and just carried on focusing on my studies.
Little did I know at the time that the same technique was being proposed all across Europe and that France was to become the first country to ban it. It actually took me about six months to revisit the issue, after hearing news of earthquakes in Blackpool and seeing a documentary with French MEP José Bové at a fracking site somewhere in Poland.
Once I began ‘googling’ the term ‘fracking’, I was horrified. Then I learned that parts of Ireland were under threat too. Never in my life have I felt so incensed.
My first thought was: How could our government even consider giving permission to an industry that industrialises vast swathes of countryside and that has left a toll of death and destruction in every community where it has gained a foothold?
I’d never held politicians in much esteem anyway, feeling the system was designed to serve the better-off and those of us at the bottom rungs of the social ladder just have to work hard for everything and not rely on the state for help. As for voting, I’d only voted at one election as I felt elections were a farce.
Despite all this, it still took me aback at how Government can allow policies to be dictated by the interests of big business. What stunned me in particular is how these corporations fabricate lies in order to get what they want, repeating this mantra of jobs and growth as if nothing else mattered.
That the truth, the facts, the science, could be obscured for the sake of profit and self-interest ignited a fire in me like never before.
It was time for me to move beyond my comfort zone, beyond my material world and devote myself wholeheartedly to the cause by attending events and speaking out at them, working with people I’d never have imagined working with before, mobilising others to take action, organising events, travelling to places I’d never been – but ultimately sharing the truth about what fracking involves and how much suffering and harm it causes to every living being. Nowhere deserves to become a sacrifice zone, least of all the country where I grew up and love.
Just focusing on fracking for the moment, what do you think there is about it in particular – compared to mining, for instance, or other forms of industrialisation – that has triggered such a strong response in you, and in so many others who were not previously engaged in this kind of struggle?
Excellent and thought-provoking question! I’d be equally outraged about mining, though it is nowhere near as dangerous as fracking, to be honest, and have replied to consultations objecting to mining projects proposed in my country.
At the moment, communities in Northern Ireland, some of whom were previously licensed for fracking, are having to fight several mining projects. And at the height of the Romanian anti-fracking campaign, I remember meeting Romanians who were also involved in the campaign to save Rosia Montana from gold mining.
Anyone who opposes the raping and plundering of the land through fracking should also oppose mining or any industrial practice. Not to do so would be inconsistent, as all these practices pollute the air and water we all need to survive.
To answer your question properly, firstly, I think the term ‘fracking’ itself makes you sit up, encouraging you to delve deeper into the issue.
‘Shale gas’ on the other hand – as I experienced myself when I looked it up in the dictionary – tends to sound harmless, leaving you thinking, “Well, we need gas to heat our homes, don’t we?!” This is why the term ‘shale gas’ is preferred by the fracking industry, I believe.
And although ‘fracking’ may not have the same resonance in other languages, the documentary ‘Gasland’ by US filmmaker Josh Fox did much to popularise the term in non-English speaking countries, with translations into French, Romanian and Polish, and other languages too perhaps.
Secondly, I think the scale of what was being proposed across vast swathes of land, merely because of the geology, impacts thousands of communities. No other industry, in recent history at least, has impacted this many rural communities and no other industry has prompted so many places to enact bans and moratoria as a result of fierce grassroots opposition either.
Biologist Dr Sandra Steingraber and report co-author of the Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction) has called fracking “the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
Having spent countless hours exploring fracking, I also believe that the impacts are far more severe than those associated with any other industrial process.
We have been fortunate to have had many experts – including Dr Steingraber, toxins expert Dr Marianne Lloyd-Smith, lawyer Helen Slottje, former oil and gas employee Jessica Ernst, as well as others who have seen fracking up close – come to Europe, warning us to fight with all our might.
And for good reason, because this industry has killed and harmed so many, from workers who have lost their lives in well blowouts or contracted cancers because of exposure to the toxic chemicals fracking uses and the NORM radiation the fracking process brings up – so well detailed by the late Dr Theo Colborn – to residents, children included, living in the gasfields suffering from severe neurological diseases caused by the toxic air pollution.
You also have suicides. The late George Bender, an Australian farmer, who was bullied for years by the fracking industry, ended up taking his own life a couple of years ago.
Then you have all the fish that have died because of fracking waste dumped in waterways and livestock that have suffered stillbirths. As Queensland gasfield refugee Brian Monk says, “You don’t live in gasfield. You die in one.”
Thirdly, I think fracking has raised the ire of so many because there is absolutely no need for it. The industry loves to tout energy security as an argument, but this is a complete red herring.
The reality is that fracking requires more energy than it creates – about five times more – and removes enormous quantities of our most precious resource, water, from the hydrological cycle forever.
There is also a global glut of gas, and gas demand across the EU has been falling steadily in recent years. So there can be no justification whatsoever for fracking.
Mining for raw materials, on the other hand, may be seen as justified by some. I mean, how many of us are willing to radically change our lifestyles so all the stuff relying on mining doesn’t need to be produced in the first place?
Try suggesting to people that they can and should live without a mobile phone (those of us who grew up without one survived perfectly well!) and it tends to provoke angry reactions.
Fourthly, the anti-fracking movement – largely grassroots and volunteer-based in nature – has done quite a good job of communicating the issue. Communication is crucial in mobilising people to take action. So often I see other struggles, equally worthy, being poorly communicated.
I think what’s important is that the communication is driven by local communities as much as possible. The corporate media loves to marginalise anti-fracking campaigners, portraying us as ‘environmentalists’, ‘green campaigners’, or worse, as ‘hippies’ and ‘treehuggers’.
In doing so, they give the impression that fracking is a fringe issue not worthy of everyone’s concern, when the complete opposite is true. In reality, the movement is made up of people from every background imaginable, from farmers and small business people to doctors and engineers.
Having communications driven by locals means you are able to capture all the cultural sensitivities too.
Framing our campaign as a struggle against corporate power and corporate-captured governments with ordinary people rising up against the odds also gets more people on board, in my experience. Again, unsurprisingly, the corporate media rarely frames our story this way.
Lastly, you definitely have a wider movement which vilifies the fossil fuel industry, and rightly so, because it exerts so much power over our governments. Other extractivist struggles, on the other hand, tend not to spark as much outrage, I feel.
Perhaps this is because any questioning of the capitalist system, and industrial civilisation as a whole, threatens so many depending on the system, especially NGOs who have far greater resources than grassroots groups to communicate environmental issues.
Shortly after I began researching fracking, I came across a book called ‘The Moneyless Man’ by Mark Boyle. Reading it led me to question industrial civilisation as a whole so, for me, fracking has always been just one part of a systemic problem.
At the heart of this problem lies our sense of separation from nature, a sense that we humans are in control of the earth’s resources and that we have the right to exploit them how we wish, oblivious to the fact that in doing so we are also destroying our only life-support system.
Living with less and challenging the system fuelling this greed and separation from nature has now become the focus of my efforts as a result of learning about fracking and wider environmental struggles.
What do you see as the main obstacles between the human species and a healthier, nature-connected future?
So much to say, but for me three obstacles in particular stand out: materialism, trust in authority and hope. Apologies in advance for what is going to be a lengthy reply.
– Materialism vs spirituality
First and foremost, I believe we need to abandon our material selves. For too long, we have seen ourselves as separate from nature, rather than a part of it. How can we forge a deep connection with nature, realising that all life is sacred, unless we are willing to strip ourselves of material belongings?
In becoming less materially-focused and more spiritual beings, we become less willing to destroy our life-support system, in my experience, as we feel a deeper attachment to nature.
How much do we really need to survive anyway? When you think about it carefully, very little. The only things I need to survive are a roof over my head and enough food.
Since discovering how earth’s precious resources are being raped and plundered and reading Mark Boyle’s book, a must-read for anyone who cares about the environment, I rarely buy anything I don’t need.
Each time I look at things now, I feel a sense of disgust even, wondering where the resources came from to make an item, what environments were polluted, if any slave labour or oppression was involved in its production, and so on.
I’ve also developed a repulsion towards money, choosing to work just enough to ensure my survival. What I’ve learned now is what you need more than anything in life are strong relationships.
Too often I see those involved in environmental struggles – especially in anglophone countries – advocating renewable forms of energy which also involve destroying nature. I find this strange.
Perhaps it is this focus on reducing carbon emissions, rather than a focus on protecting the sacred, protecting all life? Perhaps many are still trapped in the materialist mindset?
The cosmovision shared by Indigenous communities tells us that we are interdependent with one another, that harming any natural resource is harming ourselves. This is the vision I share too, because on a planet of finite resources only a radical shift in our way of thinking, away from the disconnected view of humans as separate from (and often as dominant over) nature, can lead to the profound changes we need to see.
As Babe actor and anti-fracking activist James Cromwell put it succinctly in an interview : “It is time to name the disease. Capitalism is a cancer. And the only way to defeat this cancer is to completely transform our way of living and our way of thinking about ourselves.”
– Trust in authority vs trust in one another
Years of intense campaigning against fracking and free trade agreements has taught me how corrupted by corporate power the entire system has become.
I’ve learned now that genuine solutions to our problems can only ever come from below, not from any authority, and certainly not from any form of government, be it local, regional or national, nor from any multilateral institution, no matter how well-meaning and benevolent that institution may appear on the surface.
The system can also embody the NGO and non-profit sector who, I’ve experienced, will tell you what the problems are but seldom bother to call into question the very structures that create these problems in the first place.
And because the root cause of these problems is never properly addressed, the same problems of exploitation surface time and time again.
To learn just how corrupted our authorities have become by corporate power, I’d advise everyone to invest themselves wholeheartedly in an issue like fracking where the links between a corporate-controlled government, a corporate-controlled media and a corporate-controlled police force fast become apparent.
On learning how corrupt the system is, you should come to the inescapable conclusion that it deserves to be dismantled.
Unfortunately, not everyone does realise this, perhaps because they rely on the system in some way – I don’t know.
For example, I remember being at a conference on free trade in the EU Parliament nearly two years ago listening to an NGO campaigner making a case for reforming the World Trade Organisation. Why would you want to reform an institution that was set up to facilitate corporate power, power which destroys nature?
Calling for institutions to reform is akin to justifying their existence in the first place. Instead, we need to be challenging their very existence and calling for them to be dismantled altogether.
A bit utopian, I know. But as corporate power dictates political policy more and more as corporations pursue ‘the race for what’s left, the global scramble for the world’s last resources’ – to borrow Michael Klare’s book title – it would be illogical to envision a nature-connected future within the confines of the current system.
We have a responsibility right now to challenge the system itself, the structures of authority which hold themselves up as legitimate, which declare themselves as bastions of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, structures which are desperately seeking legitimacy at a time of crumbling empires and dwindling resources.
This obviously includes all multilateral institutions, but also the state. From my involvement in the campaign against EU free trade agreements, or corporate power grabs as I prefer to call them, I’ve seen how the state facilitates corporate power, while dismissing scientific evidence, expert advice and public opinion.
How can we possibly hope to protect nature under such an oppressive, undemocratic system whose servants bow so readily to the will of corporations?
As empires crumble and we veer towards what can only be described as a corporate dystopia, we simultaneously witness authority figures struggling to convince us of their narratives.
Hence the crackdown on alternative media and this ‘fake news’ phenomenon, a phenomenon used by those in power to control what information the awakening masses have the right to access.
As you’ve put it succinctly, all across the world the “’democratic’ gloves are coming off, the ‘news’ is revealing itself to be nothing but desperate propaganda, the ‘freedom’ capitalism claims to deliver is being exposed to one and all as a hollow lie.”
It is more urgent than ever that we stop looking to the system for solutions, stop legitimising all structures of authority and any ‘agreements’ concluded by their ‘leaders’ and, most importantly of all, stop falling for any propaganda trying to convince us that this system in its many guises – capitalism, multilateralism, liberalism, etc. – needs rescuing.
Instead, we need to trust each other and cooperate with each other, rather than compete as this capitalist system conditions us to do. I would recommend everyone read CrimetheInc’s ‘To Change Everything‘ for further inspiration.
– Hope vs the responsibility of action
Lastly, we need to abandon the idea of hope, at least the sort of hope that fails to result in any tangible action. The hope that a small band of self-sacrificing activists will sort out the problems we face, the hope that political representatives will implement, of their own accord, policies that serve our interests rather than those of the 1%, the hope that a change in government will bring about the radical changes we need to see. Nature isn’t relying on us to hope for it, it is relying on us to do something to save it.
In one of your pieces, you share a remark by John Zerzan which resonates strongly with me: “There is an understandable, if misplaced, desire that civilization will cooperate with us and deconstruct itself. This mindset seems especially prevalent among those who shy away from resistance, from doing the work of opposing civilization”.
Sometimes I get the impression that people hope too much, but do too little.
In my experience of being involved in the Irish anti-fracking campaign – which lasted six years – many of us never hoped, never trusted our corporate-captured government, but many of us did work tirelessly to expose the political corruption and to ensure decision makers were held to account, listened to us and eventually did the right thing.
Anyone relying on hope without spending every breathing moment working on something to make things better is part of the problem, in my view. All campaigns need to start from the premise that you have a duty to act once you know the facts.
And once you learn about an issue as dangerous as fracking, of course, you feel a clear responsibility to take action, not out of fear – because fear kills the soul – but out of love, because you cherish the places and the lives that are under threat and don’t want to see them destroyed by greedy corporations.
As you put it so well: “Some human beings and their activities are acting as antigens, threatening the health of our species and our planetary superorganism. Other humans must therefore take on the role of antibodies”.
The last lines of Derrick Jensen’s essay ‘Beyond Hope‘ sum up the problem with hope perfectly: “When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear. And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power. In case you’re wondering, that’s a very good thing.”
For as long as anyone can remember, Western capitalism has claimed to be one and the same thing as “democracy”.
But as its global empire teeters on the point of collapse, its desperate attempts to cling to power have exposed this claim for the lie that it always was.
Much of the current wave of censorship and oppression is taking place on the internet – which has thus so far remained out of the direct control of the neoliberal system.
This October, Facebook and Twitter deleted the accounts of hundreds of users, including many alternative media outlets.
And credit for this seems to have been claimed by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a very dodgy NATO-linked organisation (previously exposed by The Acornhere and here) which aims to maintain full-spectrum US neoliberal global control.
The grayzone project reported that the GMF’s Jamie Fly said the USA was “just starting to push back” against its enemies’ use of the internet, adding: “Just this last week Facebook began starting to take down sites. So this is just the beginning”.
The USA’s ongoing persecution, and planned prosecution, of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange could likewise be regarded as part of the same “beginning” of neoliberalism’s overtly fascistic desire to crush any voices that dare to speak out against its imperial privilege.
Soo too could the coming to power in Brazil of the totalitarian neoliberal (or “plutofascist“) Jair Bolsonaro.
The Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira (Brazilian Anarchist Coordination) point out the geopolitical forces that lie behind his regime: “It’s clear our continent, Latin America, is seen as a strategic reserve of resources (political, natural, energy) for the use of the US, which makes the political situation of Brazil so important to Washington”.
Bolsonaro has followed the USA’s lead in declaring war on so-called “fake news”, which seems to mean any criticism of his policies by a supposedly “left-wing” media.
The UK government is also getting in on the censorship act, announcing that it is preparing to establish a new “internet regulator”.
Reports Buzzfeed: “The planned regulator would have powers to impose punitive sanctions on social media platforms that fail to remove terrorist content, child abuse images, or hate speech, as well as enforcing new regulations on non-illegal content and behaviour online”.
All of this helps further reduce what the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) recently called “the shrinking space for protest in the UK”.
Netpol’s Kevin Blowe wrote: “The militarised mentality of public order policing undoubtedly demands the latest technological advances, but it does so for a reason: conducting any war is never simply about the capture of physical space, but about the ability to maintain domination and control over it.
“’Keeping the peace’ (perhaps more accurately, pacification) involves the shrinking and ultimately denial of any space that your ‘enemy’ might conceivably benefit from. In public order policing terms, this invariably means any space to directly challenge either state or corporate power exercised in the name of progress or economic growth: for example, against the construction of airports, subsidies for the arms industry, nuclear power, fossil fuel extraction, or restrictions on workers’ rights”.
Netpol’s 2017 report on the policing of anti-fracking protests in England highlighted concerns that intense police surveillance of protesters has a potentially ‘chilling effect’ on freedom of assembly, in actively discouraging many from participation in campaigning activities.
“Furthermore, the smearing of legitimate campaigners as ‘extremists’ drives a wedge between them and potential allies in their communities and is used as a weapon against them by the media and pro-industry groups”, added Blowe.
Meanwhile, after the trial run with dogs, the microchipping of the UK’s human population is underway, starting at that point of greatest disempowerment, the workplace.
UK firm BioTeq has already fitted 150 implants in the UK. Another company, Biohax of Sweden, says it is in discussions with several British legal and financial firms about fitting their employees with microchips, including one major company with hundreds of thousands of employees.
If you can’t see the connection between this news and everything that has been outlined above, then you’re really not paying attention!
Work penetrates and determines the whole of our existence. Time flows mercilessly by as we shuttle back and forth between depressing and identical locations at ever-increasing speeds.
Working time… Productive time… Free time… Every one of our activities fits into its box. We think of acquiring knowledge as an investment for a future career; joy is transformed into entertainment and wallows in an orgy of consuming; our creativity is crammed within the narrow limits of productivity; our relationships, even our romantic encounters, speak the language of performance and profitability…
Our alienation has reached the point where we seek out any kind of work, even voluntary, to fill our existential void, to “do something”.
The identification of work with human activity, this doctrine which presents work as human beings’ natural destiny, seems to be lodged deep within our minds. This has reached the point where to refuse this forced condition, this social constraint, seems sacrilege, something no longer even thinkable.
Thus any kind of work becomes better than not working. That is the message spread by the defenders of the existing, those who want to maintain this world by calling for an ever-more frenetic race amongst the exploited, who are supposed to trample all over each other for a few crumbs from the bosses’ table.
However, it is not only the general working conditions that are leading us into this dead-end. It is work as a whole, work as a process which turns human activity into merchandise. It is work as a universal condition in which social relationships and ways of thinking are formatted.
It is work as the spinal column that holds together and perpetuates this society based on hierarchy, exploitation and oppression. And work as such must be destroyed.
We don’t just want to be happier slaves or better managers of our own misery. We want to restore meaning to human activity by acting together, guided by the quest for joie de vivre, knowledge, discovery, camaraderie and solidarity.
For individual and collective liberation, let’s liberate ourselves from work!
(Translated from anonymous leaflet Le travail libère-t-il?)
No political party has overall control of Brighton and Hove City Council, but Labour has the most councillors (22), with 20 Tories, 11 Greens and one independent.
A sign of the campaign’s momentum came four days after the public meeting, on November 16, when the East Brighton branch of the Labour Party unanimously called on all Labour councillors to oppose the development.
The housing scheme is being proposed by Hyde Housing, a business notorious for its profit-hungry approach.
It wants to build five blocks of flats on the local nature reserve at Whitehawk Hill, which is a common, Statutory Access land under the CROW Act and is an Ancient Neolithic Scheduled Monument.
An interesting side-issue has been the role played by something called Brighton Yimby, which claims to be a local pro-development group and announced online a “Whitehawk Says Yes” campaign in favour of the Hyde project.
It seems to have very little support in Brighton itself, with the notable exception of local Tory politician Rico Wojtulewicz, who also happens to be the senior policy advisor for the House Builders Association (HBA), the housebuilding division of the National Federation of Builders.
Instead it is very much part of an international, mainly American, “Yimby” network described in one US article as “the darlings of the real estate industry”.
We can only assume that when BrightonYimby claimed to speak “for the interests of the many” it meant to say “money”.
An impressive series of infographics has been produced, showing the variety of complementary ideas challenging the global domination of industrial capitalism. The illustrations cover degrowth, ecofeminism, deglobalization, the commons, the Vivir Bien movement and the concept of the rights of Mother Earth. Importantly, all these perspectives are recognised as complementary and opening up the possibility of a different world. Says the website: “To build systemic alternatives it is necessary to forge strategies and proposals that at different levels confront capitalism, extractivism, productivism, patriarchy, plutocracy and anthropocentrism”.
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A dynamic protest movement, NO TAP, has emerged in Melendugno, near Lecce in southern Italy, in response to the threat of the 540-mile Trans Adriatic Pipeline, due to bring gas from Azerbaijan into Europe via Turkey, Greece and Albania. Local anger was sparked in 2017 when the start of the works resulted in the uprooting of more than 200 olive trees and the creation of a securitised dead zone at the heart of the community. People have mobilised in numbers and have, inevitably, been met with repression by the police, those worldwide defenders of the industrial machine. NO TAP have produced a short video giving an idea of their full-on first year of struggle and which includes the following inspiring message: “The sun is shining for everyone, the wind is blowing for everyone… the possibility of realizing change is only a matter of will”.
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A protest is to be staged against the Welsh government’s plan to build a new motorway across the Gwent Levels, to the south of Newport. It would cost taxpayers at least £1.5 billion and drive global warming, whilst destroying a landscape known for its wildlife, archaeology, tranquillity and beauty. Says the CALM campaign: “Join us to say #NoNewM4, 12.30pm, Tuesday 4th December, outside the Senedd, Cardiff Bay. Our rally is an urgent call for Wales to take a fresh path – fit for all of us today, and for all our future generations”.
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Angry local people in eastern France are rising up against a hideous toll motorway project near Strasbourg, and some of them have been on hunger strike for a month. The 553-million Euro GCO scheme threatens many acres of forest and countryside and has been pushed through by the state and its corporate chums Vinci in spite of public inquiries coming out against it. Protesters have regularly blocked the work, causing serious delays in the project, and on November 18 some 400 people turned up to plant trees on the land already rased to make way for the new road. There is an international call-out to block Vinci everywhere in solidarity.
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The week of action against the G20 and IMF in Argentina (see Acorn 44) begins on Monday November 26 and the full programme of events has now gone online, in English, here. A date to keep an eye open for is Friday November 30, which is a national day of struggle against capitalism.
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We have come across two interesting online articles about that grim industrial-capitalist cult of life-denying artificiality known as transhumanism. Libby Emmons writes that “transhumanism is oppression disguised as liberation” and “part of a giant ideological redefinition of humanity”. She warns: “In its various forms, transhumanism is an attempt to reify an illusory mind-body dualism that has consequences well beyond what we can currently imagine”. And Julian Vigo comments on the dogmatic intolerance of the transhumanist stance, which paints as reactionary any point of view which questions, for instance, the wisdom of “cutting off healthy limbs to make way for a super-Olympian sportsperson”.
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“Thames Valley Police sent in multiple riot vans, used force against protesters several times and stood by as the Union’s private security assaulted protesters in broad daylight. One of the main chants throughout the demonstration was ‘Who protects the fascists? Police protect the fascists!'” The reality of the way that the capitalist system promotes and protects the far right was once again exposed in Oxford, UK, this month, where Islamophobic American globe-trotter Steve Bannon was met by a hostile 1,000-strong crowd when he turned up at the university. Report here.
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An exciting new step is being taken by the Enough is Enough project, which provides online news and info on the international struggle against capitalism, fascism and other forms of injustice. It is opening an info café in the Nordstadt district of Wuppertal, German territory. They say: “We do not just believe in a better world. We have started to live it a long time ago. And you all can decide if you want to become part of this world”. They have a crowdfunding site here.
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Feral Crust is an eco-anarchist collective based in Davao, Philippines, which is working on a land and community project. It is set on 1/2 hectare (1 acre) of the hilly terrain within the remaining forests that is home to native wildlife and indigenous people. You can read about their bid for land regeneration and autonomy here.
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In the midst of a devastating civil war, Kurds in Northern Syria, are building a multi-cultural society based on feminism, ecology, and direct democracy. How can these ideas lead to a lasting peace in the Middle East? What are their implications for radical politics in the West? What is it about the social structures of Rojava that inspires the fierce loyalty of its defenders and its people? Join Debbie Bookchin and David Graeber in London at the DJAM Lecture Theatre SOAS Russell Square Campus to discuss these issues Sunday November 25 from 5pm to 7pm at an event to launch the new publication Make Rojava Green Again by the Internationalist Commune in Rojava. The book will be available to buy and all proceeds from sales support the work of the Internationalist Commune. More information here.
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Acorn quote: “This system cannot be reformed. It is based on the destruction of the earth and the exploitation of the people. There is no such thing as green capitalism, and marketing cutesy rainforest products will not bring back the ecosystems that capitalism must destroy to make its profits. This is why I believe that serious ecologists must be revolutionaries”.
1. Germany: man dies as forest campaigners defy industrial capitalism
The battle to protect a forest from the coal mining industry has claimed a life.
Journalist and campaigner Steffen Horst Meyn fell to his death on September 19 from the tree house village Beechtown in Hambach Forest, Germany. He had been trying to document an ongoing eviction action by the police Special Task Force (SEK).
A press release from campaigners said it was no coincidence that this first fatal accident took place during the eviction.
They said everyone in the occupations had been enduring constant stress, with noise from expulsion and clearing, day and night, floodlights and flashing blue lights, massive police presence on the ground, and the sound of barking dogs and recordings of chainsaw noises.
This, as well as the news about the repeatedly life-threatening approach of the task forces, was having a physical and mental impact on all involved. Insomnia, stress and over-stimulation were not conducive to safe tree climbing, they added.
“According to our information, there is no direct connection with the acute local police action at the time of the accident. But we know first-hand that the deceased only climbed into the trees because he was permanently prevented by the police from doing his press work on the ground.”
On Sunday September 23 thousands of people defied a police ban and pouring rain to enter the forest in solidarity.
Said one activist: “We didn’t visit the memorial for Steffen in Beechtown until Sunday and we felt that we had to go there first. At the memorial it was very quiet. Some tears, sorrow-stricken faces. Personally I had a mixture of feelings.. Still shocked, grief and rage. Speechless…”
Barricades were built, police lost control for a while and reacted in the only way they know – violently.
On September 24 forest defenders blocked the railway line used to transport coal from the open cast mine to power stations, hoping to draw police resources away from the eviction – see this video.
Then on September 25 the cops demonstrated their total lack of respect for Steffen, removing the memorial built up by his friends because it was in the way of the eviction!
Meanwhile the Hambach activists are not losing sight of the bigger picture, stressing in a statement that the issues at stake go far beyond that particular forest and that particular mining threat.
“The problem is much larger than this forest getting cut and this coal mine being active. The problem is larger than every forest getting cut and every mine destroying Earth. The problem is capitalism. And this is the message that the media has been taking away from us.
“You can live a cute easy life, sign petitions, buy stuff on the biomarket, close the sink while you are brushing your teeth and turn off all lights to not waste electricity, and, don’t get us wrong, that’s okay, but as long as we live on a system that needs infinite growth on a world that has limited resources, that’s not gonna stop environmental destruction.
“We need an anticapitalist view of ecologism. We need an ecologist view of anticapitalism. We need to see beyond coal. And we need you all to make a step farther to stop climate change, to make a step farther to destroy capitalism.”
Global capitalist summits, at which the system’s leaders flaunt their prestige and power in front of the fawning global media, make an ideal target for anti-capitalist action.
Yes of course the opposition is symbolic, and does not immediately change day-to-day living conditions, but so are the summits. Wars of ideas are fought on a symbolic level.
Sly “radical” memes suggesting large-scale mobilisations are a waste of time often seem to have come straight out of The Infiltrator’s Guide to Ideological Sabotage (see below) and can safely be ignored.
With that in mind, we were delighted to see the call-outs for two summit mobilisations, in Argentina and in France.
This year, the Argentinian government is hosting the G20, a one-year process during which more than 80 meetings of G20 working groups, ministerial meetings and summits of the focus groups are taking place in the country.
The Leaders’ summit, for which the presidents from the G20 countries will travel to Buenos Aires, will take place on Friday November 30 and Saturday December 1 2018 at the “Costa Salguero” Convention Centre.
The government of Mauricio Macri is already preparing for the mega-event, buying airplanes, arms and what they call “anti-riot equipment” . In fact, one third of the budget for organizing the G20 is dedicated to “safety and defence”, which roughly amounts to 50 million US$.
And while the government is spending millions on the G20, it is cutting expenses for education and health and has entered a dangerous spiral of indebtedness by asking the IMF for a loan of 50 billion US$ in order to assure the country’s liquidities and its capacity to pay speculative hedge funds.
Says the No Al G20 website: “We believe that, in the same way that organising the G20 Summit last year in Hamburg was a massive provocation, organising the G20 Summit in Argentina in the context of this devastating financial crisis is an insult.”
The Confluencia Fuera G20 – IMF (the “G20 – IMF Out Confluence)” is planning a massive Week of Action, from the November 25 to December 1 and is inviting everyone to participate in the global repudiation of the G20, the IMF and everything these institutions represent.
Anti-capitalist comrades in France clearly think the Buenos Aires mobilisation is summit to get excited about, writing: “After the magnificent period of resistance around the G20 summit in Hamburg in 2017, after the G7 summit of June 2018 in Quebec – placed under an unparalleled repressive level, with its free expression zone – the G20 summit at Buenos Aires in November / December 2018 promises to be a great moment, given the current popularity of Macri, the history of local struggles, and the animosity of the region towards Trump…”
The 2019 G7 summit is due to take place at the end of summer 2019 in Biarritz. Says the call-out: “We have no illusions about the repressive level that we are entitled to expect from [Minister of the Interior] Gérard Collomb. It is clear that this summit will once again be a law enforcement laboratory, as will judicial measures against demonstrators and those who are organizing themselves.
“However, what happened in Hamburg must inspire us, must allow us to resume fighting on this scale, strengthen our international ties, make the news, disrupt these meetings of our governments.
“We are indeed calling for organizing, starting meetings, discussions, thinking about actions, demonstrations, preparing an info-tour, strengthening our national and international ties, writing articles, leaflets…
“We have one year ahead of us. And given the current repressive level, this time will not be too much. And as in Hamburg, we want the resistance to be plural and everywhere.
The British state is spending more than £250m on a new “offensive” online army, according to media reports.
Inevitably the move from the Ministry of Defence and GCHQ is being dressed up with scaremongering around the “threat” from Russia and Islamic State, but there is also talk of a “much wider online offensive” against “a range of hostile actors”.
To better understand what this sinister outfit might be getting up to, it is worth looking back at an article in The Intercept on the activities of GCHQ’s initially secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group), based on classified GCHQ documents.
Author Glenn Greenwald explains that it is not just “terrorists” who are targeted by JTRIG, but online activists, and the methods used go well beyond mere surveillance (stifling though that is, especially in the UK).
He writes: “These agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.
“Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable.”
The official document lists different kinds of operations it uses against dissidents: Infiltration Operation, Ruse Operation, Set Piece Operation, False Flag Operation, False Rescue Operation, Disruption Operation, Sting Operation.
Anyone wondering why radical groups (known to be heavily infiltrated by the state), so often split and fall apart may be interested to see the emphasis on “destructive organisational psychology” and on “identifying and exploiting fracture points”.
Sabotaging activism is generally high on the agenda. One illustration lists a series of key words: block, turn, fix, disrupt, limit, delay.
It is also clear that GCHQ sets out to manipulate political discourse online. Shunting radical anti-capitalism into obscure ideological dead-ends would be a useful dirty trick for these Thought Police to pull off.
With several references to stage magicians in their presentation document, JTRIG obviously rely on the gullibility of activists to make their scheming effective, as well as the “group-think” phenomenon in which people abandon their own instinctive common sense in order to fit in with the flock, no matter what nonsense the other sheep are bleating.
They note: “People make decisions as part of groups”. Control the group and you control the average individual – and their thinking.
Absurd capitalist pontificator Bernard-Henri Lévy has joined in the laughable and panicky propaganda efforts to portray all challengers to the US-led neoliberal system as part of one and the same threat to “democracy”.
BHL, as he is known, warns against a “terrifying” movement he calls the “dark Internationale” and into which he lumps everyone from left-wingers such as Jeremy Corbyn and Jean-Luc Mélenchon to the likes of Viktor Orban, Matteo Salvini, Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump.
Singling out Corbyn for criticism, he particularly objects to his support for the Palestinian cause, which apparently makes him a conspiracy theorist and “unalloyed anti-Semite”.
BHL, despite being a self-identified “leftist”, also dislikes Corbyn’s “crass ignorance of the functioning of a modern economy and the impression he gives, when speaking about renationalization, tax policy, anti-austerity measures, the health system, or public services, of being stuck in the paleo-Marxism of the 1950s”.
And he is very worried by Corbyn’s “untethered loathing for an America he blames for all ills” – a political heresy which can only usher in, it seems, an “oncoming twilight of democracy and humanistic values”.
BHL has form for this sort of thing. In 1977 he declared he would change his French nationality if the Communist Party came to power in France and in 1985 he signed a letter urging Ronald Reagan to keep supporting the far-right Contras in Nicaragua.
In 2009 he publicly supported Israel’s murderous Operation Cast Lead against the people of Gaza.
BHL’s rabid pro-Americanism did not go unappreciated in the USA. As we mentioned in Acorn 34, a CIA report revealed they were very keen on the “New Philosopher”, whose position of power at the Grasset publishing house was crucial in spreading the US-friendly ideology he was promoting.
It is hardly surprising that BHL is widely despised by French-speaking anti-capitalists and he has also become a figure of ridicule, thanks to the series of custard pies skillfully aimed at him by celebrated entarteur Noël Godin.
We invite our readers to sit back and enjoy the sight of BHL getting his come-uppance from the patisserie-armed wing of the “dark Internationale” that so terrifies him.
A festival of anarchist ideas is being held in London in October, with the non-appearance of the usual bookfair after last year’s controversy (see Acorn 38).
Organisers explain: “It is vital the tradition remains and the work of spreading anarchist ideas continues. To go some small way to filling the gap, the organisers of the London Radical Bookfair have proposed having a decentralised festival of anarchist ideas and action, involving as many of London’s anarchist leaning bookshops, social centres and campaign groups as are willing to take part. We’re calling it #nottheanarchistbookfair.
“The idea is simple: anarchist groups put on their own programme of events, concentrating on the dates of the weekend of 20-21st October 2018, and the programme is collated by us on our website and social media”.
The battle to save Leith Hill in Surrey from drilling has finally been won! Two years ago we reported an optimistic mood at the protection camp, with one campaigner telling us “nobody except a handful of investors wants the drilling here at Leith Hill to go ahead”. He was proved right and earlier this month Europa Oil and Gas announced it was pulling out of the site. Green Party MEP Keith Taylor commented: “Don’t let anybody ever tell you protests don’t achieve anything. They do.”
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A cooperative café and social centre sowing the seeds of revolution in Jerusalem is featured in the latest report from the anti-capitalist Shoal Collective. The Imbala collective explain they are faced with an increasingly nationalistic atmosphere: “We held a vigil of just 20 or 30 people in Jerusalem city centre. People yelled, spat and kicked us and all our signs were torn away from us. That’s the atmosphere of Jerusalem today. It’s difficult to have a left-wing protest against the occupation here these days.”
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Direct action was taken in Australia against toxic right-wing anti-migrant politician Peter Dutton. Six windows were smashed at his political office near Brisbane and two doors damaged. The former cop, turned businessman, property tycoon and politician, is known by some Australians as Potato Head. He is currently Minister for Home Affairs.
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“For too long we have falsely believed that everything progressive, democratic, and radically left comes from the Modern West. As we support contemporary emancipatory and revolutionary global movements, let us remember that truly equal and just non-authoritarian societies are not only possible, but have existed on the African and other continents for much longer than the recent phenomenon of tyranny, the state, and capitalism.” This is the conclusion of a fascinating article on Indigenous Anarchism by DJ Zhao, highlighted recently by anarchist blog The Slow Burning Fuse.
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“Mother Earth or death! This is the alternative we are confronted with today”, argues Prof. Claudia von Werlhof in an important article. She adds: “The world system that is threatening all of us is based on a strange phenomenon I was only recently able to fully grasp, namely a ‘hatred of life’… The hatred of life is no fleeting emotion or a mere individual or personal experience of a certain situation or moment. It is nothing less than hostility to life itself, which – and this is my thesis – has become the main foundation, driving force, and defining criterion for a patriarchal civilization dating back almost 5000 years.”
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A unity demo against the far right in the UK has been called for Saturday October 13 in London. The call-out has so far been supported by: Anti-Fascist Network, Anti-Fascist Student Network, Birmingham Antifascists, Easton Cowgirls Football Club, Feminist Fightback, International Bolshevik Tendency, Leicester Antifascists, Kent Anti-Racist Network, Kurdish Student Union UK, London Anti-Fascists, Midlands Antifascist Network, North East Anti-Fascists, North London Anti-Fascists, Plan C – London, Birmingham, Essex, Cambridge, Queerspace East, Sister not Cister UK, The x:talk project, Women’s Strike Assembly – London, Birmingham, Cardiff. Meanwhile an excellent short documentary on the UK’s far right has been produced by redfish.
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Acorn quote: “I am the living spirit of nature as it emerges in you, filtered by the collective mind of the human species”.
The call is going out to mobilise against a fascistic and militaristic “security” conference being staged in Austria on September 20, 2018.
The informal meeting of EU heads of state and government is being held under the slogan of “A Europe that protects”, and key points on the agenda include so-called “internal security”, the so-called “protection” of the EU’s external borders, and so-called “cyber security”.
Say opponents: “We refuse to be deceived by the EU’s excessive use of euphemism. It is crystal-clear that the Salzburg summit will be a summit of authority: a pseudo-democratic spectacle of a bunch of assholes deciding about repressive policies that will boost their position in the struggle for economic and military power – at our expense.
“‘Internal security’ means giving even more weapons of all kinds to those whose job it is to spy on us and arrest us. The ‘protection of the EU’s external borders’ is the militarized expulsion and deterrence of refugees and migrants. ‘Cyber security’ means digital control of our data and our actions.”
Migration will be a key point on the agenda on September 20. In an insidious propagandistic move, people fleeing from war and hardship are portrayed as a security threat. But whose security is meant, and who is supposed to be protected from whom?
Calls for an extended Frontex mandate and an increased number of deportations have a clear aim: the militarized expulsion and deterrence of people fleeing the devastations caused by power blocks such as the EU, who actively engage in the exploitation of the Global South.
Politicians are vying with one another for the most absurd plans. To name just one example, Jens Spahn, the Health Minister (sic!) of the German conservative party (CDU) wants to see Frontex forces multiply from the current 1,500 to 100,000.
The portrayal of refugees as a security threat serves to legitimize policies of “internal security”, that is the increased arming of the state’s institutions for spying and repression.
Sadly, governmental and non-governmental racist-nationalist projects have won over the minds of a considerable proportion of the population (not only) in Austria – with the result that people enthusiastically embrace policies that run against their own interests, believing that these measures will “protect” them.
For instance, the new Austrian Face-Veiling-Ban makes surveillance much easier by forcing each and every person on Austrian territory to present their face to the ubiquitous CCTV cameras at all times. This is hardly likely to foster the “peaceful coexistence” mentioned in the preamble to the new law.
Another European trend is the increased arming and militarization of the police and the extension of their powers. The new Bavarian police law is a particularly scary example: police in the southern German state are set to be given secret-service-style powers. “Smart” video technology and face recognition are going to be used, postal secrecy will be lifted, and the cops will be equipped with hand grenades.
The Austrian conservative chancellor Sebastian “Message Control” Kurz has announced he will take up the “struggle against internet giants such as Google and Facebook”. Of course, digital policies are not driven by the desire to protect the personal data of the EU’s subjects. Neither do they arise from sincere outrage about the large-scale tax evasion practised by corporations.
On the contrary, the driving force of such policies is the competition for technological hegemony among those in power and for the technological means to monitor our thoughts and actions.
Those in power in the EU have recognized the need to secure control over the technological apparatus, in order to keep up with the latest top manipulation techniques (e.g. look up “nudging” in your newspeak dictionary). In this context, chancellor Kurz tellingly used the phrase “equality of weapons”.
According to press reports, the state dinner on September 19 is likely to take place in Mirabell Palace, and the political meeting in the Mozarteum University. Thus, both relevant venues as well as the four hotels where the heads of state and government, plus their entourage, will be staying for the summit will be in close proximity to each other (all in the inner city of Salzburg to the right of the river Salzach).
Around these venues, a so-called “security zone” is going to be set up – for rebels it is more likely to be an insecurity zone. In mid-April, local press reported the planned use of drones “as one part of the security concept for the Austrian presidency of the EU council”.
The call-out adds: “Police drones will be hovering above our heads this autumn, spying on and filming each of our movements. When will they shoot at us?
“The militarized siege of our city that is lying ahead seems like a consistent follow-up to local policies. Decades ago, homeless people were removed from the inner city during the posh Salzburg Festival, and a sectoral ban on begging was imposed on large parts of the inner city some years ago in order to get rid of the travelling poor, many of them Romani and Sinti people.
“These measures are supposed to make sure that the city’s wealthy conservative elite and paying tourists are spared the sight of the poverty caused by capitalism and nationalist-racist policies of expulsion. This is how Salzburg discriminates between wanted and unwanted guests.
“We are calling all partisans of freedom and equality to come to Salzburg in mutual solidarity – let’s demonstrate what is really unwanted: the oppression caused by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, the nationalism feeding on antisemitic conspiracy theories, the positions of power that enable a system of inequality to live on.
After the long-awaited victory against the airport project, residents of the zad autonomous zone at Notre-Dame-des-Landes in France are trying to recover from a brutal spring which was marked by two phases of violent evictions.
The massive police operations caused many injuries, the destruction of a part of the living spaces of the zad and involved a long military presence. But the state was forced to give up going any further and entirely eradicating the rebel presence.
Resistance on the ground, solidarity elsewhere and the negotiation process resulted in a status quo that left dozens of homes, common spaces and activities on most of the land held by the movement. Nevertheless, this could very quickly be attacked again, administratively, politically or militarily.
Whilst the zad recovers from its wounds and recomposes itself, the work in the fields and the constructions resume.
Important global issues are involved here: collective and respectful use of the land, sharing of the commons, questioning of nation-states and borders, reappropriation of habitats, the possibility of producing and exchanging free from the shackles of the market, forms of self-organization on territories in resistance and the right to live there freely.
Following more than two years of regular building work and a new month of construction this summer, the week of August 27 to September 2 will also be the inauguration of the Ambazada, a space intended to welcome rebels and struggles from around the world to the zad of Notre-Dame-des-Landes.
To honour and celebrate the opening of the Ambazada the zad rebels have made a call for a new intergalactic week.
The zad forever site says there are lots of questions to be discussed, such as “how to throw down the anchor for the long term without becoming domesticated; being community centred or more porous in our movements; the power struggles and frontal relationship with the state and possibilities for victories to last”.
Part of the week will be devoted to open encounters with guests from the Wendland in Germany, Christiania in Denmark, the free district of Lentillères in France, Errekaleor in the Basque Country and perhaps Exarchia in Greece.
There will also be discussions on the way that peoples everywhere are resisting cultural assimilation and liberal ideology.
The US air base at Ramstein in Germany was completely blocked by a protest of 2,500 people at the end of June, calling for it to be closed.
Ramstein is the biggest American air base outside the USA and hosts the USAF’s European HQ, and control rooms for drone missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.
On a blistering hot day better suited for a trip to the pool, and despite the rival attraction of the World Cup, opponents of the base turned up in large numbers for the annual protest in Rhineland-Palatinate in southwestern Germany.
Sahra Wagenknecht of Die Linke (The Left), Ann Wright (former US Army colonel), Reiner Braun (of Stopp Air Base Ramstein) and Eugen Drewermann (theologian and psychoanalyst) were all in attendance. Wagenknecht told the crowd: “There are over 1,000 US military bases around the world, and none of them exist to ensure the security of those countries”.
The protest came as US President Donald Trump seemed to be questioning the need for the huge US military presence in Germany, which has been in place since the end of the Second World War.
Protesters hoped this could put the issue on the political agenda in Germany, though they warned they did not want to see the bases simply moved into Poland as part of US pressure on Russia.
A new international network against military bases has now been set up. Its founding statement defines the establishment of a military base by one country outside its own territory is an act of aggression.
It declares: “Our goal is to close all foreign military bases. Military bases pose threats of political and economic expansion, sabotage and espionage, and crimes against local populations. US bases in particular are the largest users of fossil fuel in the world, heavily contributing to environmental degradation.
“We commit to supporting and working with all organizations and networks who campaign for the removal of foreign military bases in their countries and communities, to raise public awareness, increase political and international pressure and help as far as possible to organise and co-ordinate non-violent resistance with the aim of eventually closing them all.”
4. Returning fire against the industrial capitalist system
The latest issue from our comrades at Return Fire magazine is now available online.
At 128 pages, this is their largest offering yet. It includes previously unavailable English translations looking at the bandits operating against shipping industries off the Somalian coastline and Marco Camenisch’s commentary on the molecular frontier of industrial toxicity, Nanotechnology & Transparency.
There is a look at the “New Smart World of Slaves” into which we are currently moving and at anti-state forms of social life in Zomia, south-east Asia, amongst much else.
Here is a passage from a heart-felt piece called “We are not afraid of their ruins… We carry a new chaos in our hearts”:
“We proclaim from our madness, rebellious and contagious, that we don’t care about the penal codes and their reforms because we do not believe in their laws or in their disorders.
“Since we were born we have lived in turmoil and subjected to the rule of law, the family, religion, medicine, school, work, husband, father, state… and disobeying them all, and for that reason they have labeled us with their despicable assortment of incurable and chronic diseases.
“They condemn us for life even before we are born, and we will continue shitting on their scientific, political, economic, social and religious truths, because obedience and submission are the only true diseases.
“We began a long tormented journey in which we were torn from our natural environment to join the system of a world to which we do not want to adapt. We will always be uneasy, unstable, critical, irritating, miserable, emotional, passionate, restless, resistant, distracted, loving, hyperactive, overflowing… and warriors, because we will not give up germinating our madness in the face of the blackmail and emotional conflicts with which they want to domesticate us and the permanent confrontation between us and them.
“We are sick with a dark bile of rage that stirs like a storm against all those who feel safe and secure in this uncertain world that, day by day, destroys us. They contaminate the air we breathe with sulfur and uranium. The waters of the rivers are increasingly toxic due to their heavy metal slag discharges.
“Their emissions of dioxides, methane and fluorinated polluting gases are suffocating and burning nature and putting at risk the survival of all animals, human or nonhuman, and plant beings.
“They covered the planet with a thick skin of toxic black paste and surrounded the territory with rail tracks, highways, metal fences, concrete walls, high voltage towers and barbed wire fences… separating us from our siblings and neighbors and filling the atmosphere with electromagnetic radiation.
“They keep the mountains seriously ill from wounds opened by quarries, mineral extraction and deforestation. They imprison nonhuman animals to die in industrial farms, and they enlist us in industrial centers of penitentiary exploitation.
“They bomb civilian populations in the name of freedom, justice and democracy, plundering entire countries for questioning their hegemonic model of capitalist, white, patriarchal, western and Christian life, leading thousands of people into the blind alley of their misery, destruction and death.
“And it is they, the selfproclaimed guardians of the freedoms of the world, of this destructive world order that is nothing new, who consider us ‘crazy’ and ‘dangerous subjects’ to justify our gags, the pharmacological straitjackets, the confinement to perpetuity and the death sentence.
“Our ‘madness’ is not fooled by the modern designs of the democratized chemical lobotomies and shock therapies that they use as torment and torture in the most bloody of dictatorships… because they fear us.
“They, those who throw us out of our houses, those who after exploiting us in their factories force us into unemployment. They, those who determine who has more ‘right’ to live in a territory that is not theirs and in which they can only maintain their privileges by the harsh repression and by the destructive capacity of the weapons of their armies… They fear us”.
5. The Broken Harp: how colonialism crushes culture
When we think of people suffering under colonial occupation, a number of elements immediately spring to mind.
There is the military and repressive side, of course. The occupiers’ army bases and patrols, the courts and prisons enforcing the “legality” of the occupation and the local police forces who collaborate with the colonisers to keep down their own people.
Then there is the economic aspect, ultimately the raison d’être of all imperialism. Raw materials are ripped out of the earth to feed the empire’s insatiable greed, crops are exported directly back to the imperial centre even if locals are starving, the colonial subjects are denied the right to autonomous lives and are put to work as slaves for the imperial machine.
Those who look into the effects of colonialism more closely will also detect the cultural dimension. The values of the ruling imperial order are imposed and local culture, traditions and ways of thinking, which might offer some resistance to the smooth running of the centralised system, are devalued and destroyed.
One aspect of this cultural colonisation which is easily forgotten, especially by those of us who are native English speakers, is the linguistic one.
The crucial importance of this issue is examined in depth in The Broken Harp: Identity and Language in Modern Ireland by Tomás Mac Síomóin, published by Nuascéalta.
The starting point for Mac Síomóin’s analysis is his own home country, where the Irish Gaelic language risks becoming extinct within a few decades, if current trends continue, despite its superficial presence on road signs and the like.
He takes issue with the assumption, apparently widespread in Ireland, that Irish particularity can just as well be expressed by speaking English in a particularly Irish way.
He points out that words, in any language, have an aura of subtle associations that are specific to the culture which gave rise to them. The English word “seaweed”, for example, is not the exact equivalent of “feamainn”, which comes with its “own unique set of social and literary allusions”.
The inability of any community to express itself in its own terms, according to its own thinking, is a form of disempowerment that runs parallel to the inability to participate in decision-making processes.
Effectively, by talking and thinking in the coloniser’s language, the colonial subject submits to the dominant worldview of the coloniser. This is the “defining colonizing moment”, as Mac Síomóin puts it.
He quotes academic historian Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh as describing the abandonment of native language as inevitably involving “a disorienting rupture in cultural continuity at several levels; not only an alienation from landscape (place names) and inherited historical narratives and communal myths, but also a deep psychological trauma, at an individual and communal level, caused by the loss of a rich inherited matrix of wisdom and knowledge.”
The issue is by no means confined to Ireland, of course. More than 6,000 languages are currently spoken around the globe, but between 50% and 90% of these are likely to have vanished by the year 2100, warn experts.
Mac Síomóin cites perspectives from other continents, where the death of local culture has gone hand in hand with the death of local language.
The Kenyan writer and cultural activist, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, for instance, writes: “Communication between human beings is the basis and process of evolving culture. Values are the basis of people’s identity, their sense of particularity as members of the human race. All this is carried by language. Language as culture is the collective memory bank of a people’s experience in history. Culture is almost indistinguishable from the language that makes possible its genesis, growth, banking, articulation and indeed its transmission from one generation to the next.”
He adds: “The bullet was the means of the physical subjugation. Language was the means of the spiritual subjugation.”
In their Neo-Colonial Politics and Language Struggle in the Philippines (1984), Virgilio G. Enriquez and Elizabeth Protacio-Marcelino argue that possession of a national language is an essential precondition for autonomy.
They say the continued use of English in a US-oriented educational system “undermines Filipino values and orientation and perpetuates the captivity in the minds of the Filipino people to the colonial outlook. For them, the English language symbolizes the belief in the superiority of US culture, values, society; thus it can only serve the exploitative profit-seeking ends of US power.”
Mac Síomóin identifies several layers of colonisation in Ireland, from the historical English colonisations to the Anglicising role of the Roman Catholic Church, the contemporary effect of British TV and, of course, the influence of US cultural imperialism, which has so undermined the authenticity of European societies since the mid 20th century.
He asks how many Irish children, even Irish-speaking ones, know a tenth as much about the heroes of traditional Gaelic mythology, Fionn Mac Cumhail and Cúchulain, as they do about The Simpsons, Dora the Explorer, Sponge Bob Squarepants, etc., and the world of Disney.
He identifies the Irish as suffering from a kind of collective Stockholm Syndrome, a “Super-Colonized Irishness” (SCI), which renders them incapable of even noticing what has happened to them, let alone resisting it.
And, in a fascinating aside, he dips into contemporary genetic research to suggest that some kind of inherited colonisation trauma could be affecting the psychological health of the Irish people, as well as other victims of imperialism across the world.
From a native English-speaking perspective, it has to be said that the psychological state of the English population is not great, either!
But then the dispossessed of England have also been dominated for centuries by an arrogant ruling elite, seen their folklore and ancient wisdom suppressed by authoritarian religion, been thrown off the land and into industrial slavery and been used as cannon fodder for the profiteering greed of the imperialist classes.
Who, anywhere and in any language, can really escape the deeply imbedded trauma of being born into a dehumanising industrial capitalist society plummeting towards nightmarish environmental catastrophe?
6. Organic radicalism: bringing down the fascist machine
In a new in-depth analysis just published on our website, we take a look at the “eco-fascist” smear often levelled against deep green anti-capitalist thinking.
Although the Nazis certainly exploited nature-friendly language for their propaganda, we show that ultimately their narrow racist dogma was completely incompatible with coherent holistic and organic thinking.
We also explore the organic philosophies developed by anarchist, left-wing and Jewish thinkers and suggest that these would make an excellent basis on which to rebuild an explicitly anti-fascist organic radicalism to resist and eventually bring down the industrial capitalist machine.
Here is an extract:
Kurt Goldstein (1878-1965) was a Jewish socialist critic of modernity, who set out to combine holistic and organic German philosophy with the values of reason, democracy and individual freedom.
Throughout his life, he warned against the dangers of applying narrow, fragmented scientific ways of thinking to other realms.
He wrote in an unpublished 1965 paper: “The progress by the application of science to all fields, also those which are related to the spiritual side of man, as education, psychology, sociology, etc, seems to be so enormous that somebody who today dares to oppose even a little this trend and warns against the fateful consequences for human existence is considered either stupid or uneducated, irresponsible or prejudiced”.
From Goldstein’s holistic perspective, everything was interconnected, outside and inside the individual human being. The words ‘mind’ and ‘body’, for instance, did not point to genuine entities but were just ‘symbols’, human abstractions, denoting different aspects of an overall organic reality that could not in fact be divided.
He has been described, by Ruth Nanda Anshen, as having introduced “a new doctrine of organism which may be said to be taking the place of the materialism with which, since the seventeenth-century, science has enmeshed philosophy”.
The psychologist Max Wertheimer (1880-1943), took Goethe as a starting point, developing the idea of Gestalt, or underlying form, in a promising direction far removed from the dead-end of racism into which the Nazis tried to divert it.
Born in Prague, he fled central Europe before Hitler came to power and continued his work in the USA, later becoming an American citizen.
While the Nazis claimed piecemeal or fragmented thinking was a Jewish trait, Wertheimer, who was himself Jewish, turned this round against them.
He argued that the modern world had cropped humanity’s thinking capacity. Piecemeal thinking – strings of propositions torn from their original living context – was being used by demagogues and certain intellectuals to hoodwink people into accepting their ideas.
In the 1934 essay ‘On truth’ he distinguished between truth and mere facts. Facts meant nothing on their own. Truth was a holistic understanding of the significance of various facts in the wider context of their relationship to one another and to a larger whole. He wrote: “A thing may be true in the piecemeal sense, and false, indeed a lie, as a part in its whole”.
Wertheimer judged that the key concepts of truth, ethics, democracy and freedom were all under attack from contemporary academic thinking, influenced by positivism, pragmatism and cultural relativism. Indeed this anti-holistic stance had itself helped prepare an intellectual field in which it had become possible for the Nazis to succeed.
In an essay on ethics, he took a critical look at ethical relativity which – like the Nazis with their German/Aryan particularism – denied the existence of ethical universals.
As a believer in the organic unity of humankind, Wertheimer disputed this and insisted that experience showed that most people, “when faced with clear, actual injustice”, responded spontaneously in ways that human beings would universally consider decent and ethical.
Gestalt psychology, which Wertheimer developed along with Kurt Koffka (1886-1941) and Wolfgang Köhler (1887-1967), was an influence on the anti-capitalist Critical Theory of Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979), Max Horkheimer (1895-1973) and the Frankfurt School in general.
The organic and anti-mechanistical approaches taken by Jewish thinkers like Wertheimer and Goldstein illustrate the fact that there existed a broad anti-industrial current in German-speaking Europe which was not simply non-Nazi, but anti-Nazi, and whose fundamental principles placed it in direct opposition to fascism.
Two big days of action against the far right are coming up in London. The first is on Friday July 13, when massive protests are expected against US President Donald Trump. The second is on Saturday July 14 when bigoted worshippers of the Tommy Robinson cult will be peddling their own version of Muslim-hating xenophobia. The Anti-Fascist Network have announced a Saturday meet-up at 1pm at the International Brigades Memorial in Jubilee Gardens on the south bank of the river and they will march from there.
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The Earth First! UK 2018 summer gathering will be held in Sussex from August 15 to 20. It offers five days of skill-sharing for grassroots ecological direct action – make links, share ideas, and get involved in the struggles against fracking, new roads and more. The gathering will be camping at a rural site (accessible by public transport, nearest station Horsham). Participants will need to bring a tent, sleeping bag, torch and suchlike. Meals are provided by the gathering’s collective kitchen and there’ll be a snack shop.
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The fascist-capitalist-industrial system is using private security firm Eclipse Strategic Security to carry out surveillance against anti-fracking campaigners on behalf of the oil and gas business, an article on Motherboard has revealed. It adds: “Eclipse has ties to oil companies, the police and military networks, and one director is a former British soldier who has expressed support for far-right groups online”.
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From July 29 to August 2, the 4th international Degrowth Summer School in Germany will take place at the Climate Camp Leipzig Land. After three years at the Rhineland Climate Camp, the event with around 500 participants now moves to another mining area and to this new camp.
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Israel is arming neo-Nazis in Ukraine, a shock report on Electronic Intifada has revealed. The Tavor rifles being used by the Azov militia are produced underlicence from Israel Weapon Industries, and as such would have been authorized by the Israeli government. This is just the latest instance of links between Israel and the extreme right in Europe.
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“Reviving the memory of the struggles of the past makes us feel part of something larger than our individual lives and in this way it gives a new meaning to what we are doing and gives us courage, because it makes us less afraid of what can happen to us individually”. So says Italian activist and author Silvia Federici in an inspiring interview on the joyfulmilitancy site.
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Are the degrowth “Buddhist economics” of E.F: Schumacher heading for a badly-needed revival, as capitalism pushes humanity to the brink of disaster? In a thoughtful article on brainpickings, Maria Popova looks at a vision that challenges the dominant mercantile and mechanistic mindset obsessed with production and profit.
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Pro-war “radlibs” (radical liberals) come under discussion in this moderate rebels podcast from the USA, which also debunks the “red-brown” smears increasingly used by McCarthyite pro-war “leftists” to malign anyone opposed to US/NATO-led regime change.
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Acorn quote: “You have hanged in Chicago, decapitated in Germany, garotted in Jerez, shot in Barcelona, guillotined in Montbrison and Paris, but what you will never destroy is anarchy. Its roots are too deep. It is born in the heart of a society that is rotting and falling apart. It is a violent reaction against the established order. It represents all the egalitarian and libertarian aspirations that strike out against authority. It is everywhere, which makes it impossible to contain. It will end by killing you”.
“We have realized that a detachment of man from Nature, from the Life-Whole, leads to his annihilation… No longer does man alone stand in the centerpoint of thinking, but rather Life as a Whole does, as it reveals itself in all living things on earth”.
On the face of it, this statement sounds rather good. It’s the sort of thing we send out on our Winter Oak “Quote for the Day” tweets.
But in this instance, we definitely won’t be doing that. Why? Because it comes from a 1934 book called Biological Will: Means and Goals of Biological Work in the New Reich by Ernst Lehmann, a leading Nazi biologist. (1)
The occasional similarity in vocabulary or rhetoric between radical eco-anarchist thought and a certain strand of Nazi ideology has long provided a source of ammunition for enemies of radical green thinking.
Sometimes these attacks amount to little more than laughable right-wing propaganda, as with a 2018 item (2) on the Encounter Books website focusing on the “totalitarian roots” of the green movement as a whole and, in particular, of wind power.
Others are taken a lot more seriously when they warn that a radical political philosophy which is too nature-based inevitably risks carrying us down into a dark underworld of proto-fascist ideology.
While Murray Bookchin was no doubt right to take elements of the American deep ecology movement to task for not fully recognising the social roots behind ecological problems, the rhetoric he deployed, condemning what he regarded as “ecofascism”, has ultimately only increased the perceived Nazi contamination of radical green thinking in general.
Fellow social ecologists Janet Biehl and Peter Staudenmaier carried on his approach with great enthusiasm. In Ecofascism: Lessons from the German Experience, they wrote: “The National Socialist ‘religion of nature,’ as one historian has described it, was a volatile admixture of primeval teutonic nature mysticism, pseudo-scientific ecology, irrationalist anti-humanism, and a mythology of racial salvation through a return to the land. Its predominant themes were ‘natural order,’ organicist holism and denigration of humanity: Such arguments have a chilling currency within contemporary ecological discourse”. (3)
More recently, Alexander Reid Ross, a one-time editor of Earth First! Journal, has identified parts of the EF! network, as well as anarchists and left-wingers generally, as being affected by what he terms ideological “fascist creep”. (4)
There are plenty of other examples out there, plus, it should be added, actual attempts by sections of the far right to hijack environmental positions and language for their own ends. (5)
All of this has, of course, not been without an impact on the thinking of the broader environmental movement.
Sensitive to comparison with Nazi policies, Germany’s Green Party has long gone out of its way to stress its rupture from this past.
For instance in a 1987 interview with the Oxford journal Green Line, party representative Jakob von Uexküll, grandson and namesake of an archconservative behavioural biologist, said that the Greens in Germany had made a conscious decision to seek out allies in minority groups because critics had pointed out that ecological-holistic statements had historically been made by Nazi and Fascist governments. (6)
While forging alliances with minority groups is itself a positive move, the problem lies in the way that ecologists with a social critique find it safer to tack their environmentalism on to an already-existing package of left-liberal thought rather than to source it from what is seen as an entirely discredited green tradition.
Historian Anna Bramwell wrote as long ago as 1994 that since the Second World War “any talk of holism, or a love of nature that adduced certain values from nature or strove to adapt humanity to those values, was suspect” (7) – and things certainly haven’t improved since then.
We can testify to this ourselves. An article published in 2017 by Winter Oak, Envisioning a Post-Western World, proposing an exit from industrial capitalist ways of living and thinking, was only reposted by the radical American website antidote zine after much discussion and with a disclaimer that some of the arguments we put forward were “right on the knife’s edge”. (8)
The knife in question turned out to be the one being dramatically waved around by Reid Ross, which seems to have successfully intimidated a large part of the anti-capitalist movement in the US, even if some are still brave enough to publish “suspect” ideas in spite of his efforts.
But what is the truth behind this “Nazi” smear against organic deep green ideology? Is it justified? Is it something that should influence the way we collectively formulate our own vision of the world? If so, in what way?
To get to the roots of the matter, we will here be asking, and answering, the following questions:
1. What were the origins of this organic thinking? 2. To what extent was this thinking part of Nazi theory and practice? 3. Are there other possible manifestations of organic ideology? 4. What political ideology is the best fit with an organic approach? 5. Is organic radicalism the only target of the contemporary Nazi smear? 6. What is the relationship between anti-capitalism and anti-semitism? 7. So what, do we conclude, is the smear all about? 8. Why do we care so much about this issue? 9. What would we like to see happen next?
1. What were the origins of this organic thinking?
By organic thinking, we mean a vision which regards human societies, as well as the environment, as being essentially alive and of consisting of countless subtle interactions and collectivities which can never fully be described because of their rich complexity.
It regards human beings as an extension of nature. It is a holistic approach, because it understands that everything is connected, everything is ultimately one.
A holistic and nature-based view of the world was the starting point of all human cultures and inspires the indigenous spiritualities of North and South America, of Australia and Africa, and, yes, even of Europe.
It was the foundation stone on which were built the metaphysics of Chuang Tsu, Plotinus and Paracelsus. It remains a widely-shared, instinctive, “common sense” view of the world which has never been completely erased from the human spirit.
The coming of the Industrial Revolution sparked a reaction, in which some people actively sought out and revitalised these old ideas. This was not so much an intellectual movement as an instinctive response to cultural, social and environmental danger.
As Vivianne Crowley writes: “From the late eighteenth century onwards, rapid industrialization and the rape of Europe’s natural scenery and resources caused many people to feel that the time was out of joint; that common sense was being sacrificed to material progress with potentially disastrous results”. (9)
The organic thinking on which we are focusing here is this version, the one that emerged in reaction to the trauma of industrialisation, of Western civilization’s drift away from that original wisdom and towards the cold and mechanical philosophies of the modern era.
In a sense it could be termed Organic Thinking II, because it included a conscious defence of Organic Thinking I in the face of the sterile dogmas of capitalist modernity.
Everywhere affected by industrialisation saw the emergence of anti-industrial currents of thought.
The English-speaking world had the likes of William Blake (1757-1827), William Wordsworth (1770-1850), Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), John Ruskin (1819-1900), William Morris (1834-1896) and Richard Jefferies (1848-1887).
Morris spoke for many others when he admitted in 1894, two years before he died: “Apart from the desire to produce beautiful things, the leading passion of my life has been and is hatred of modern civilization”. (10)
France had its own tradition, which flowed from the anti-industrialism of the eighteenth-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) into the twentieth-century anti-productivism of Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) and Bernard Charbonneau (1910-1996) as well as the powerful critique of modernity voiced by George Bernanos (1888-1948), who declared: “The Civilization of the Machines is the civilization of quantity opposed to that of quality”. (11)
German-speaking Europe had a particularly strong concept of Naturphilosophie, intertwined with Romanticism, which could draw on the wisdom of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), Novalis (1772-1801), Friedrich Hölderlin (1775-1854) and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (1775-1854).
In her book Reenchanted Science: Holism in German Culture from Wilhelm II to Hitler, Anne Harrington traces the evolution of one thread of this thinking from nineteenth-century scientists who developed holistic approaches in their own specific fields and then, as good holists, saw that there was also a bigger picture.
“From Berlin to Prague to Vienna to Zurich, these scientists began to mingle their voices with those of other kinds of cultural critics, would-be reformers, and crisis-mongers. Those other voices from outside the sciences also typically used the oppositional imagery of machine and wholeness in order to articulate what they believed had gone wrong in politics, the community and individual existence – and to identify roads to renewal. That imagery in turn had energetic links to other, overlapping political and societal oppositions of the time: Gemeinschaft (community) versus Gesellschaft (society), an opposition made famous by the nineteenth-century sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies; (German) Kultur versus (French) Zivilization; Life and Soul versus Mind and Reason, a squaring-off associated with such ‘life philosophers’ as Ludwig Klages”. (12)
The starting point of Organic Thinking II was opposition to The Machine and all the damage it was doing to human culture and well-being, as well as to the natural world.
The Machine, which spawned the ugly coke furnaces and iron and steel factories of the Ruhr valley, powered the militarism of Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of the German Empire between 1871 and 1890.
There was a process of extraordinarily rapid industrialization at the end of the nineteenth century that, notes Harrington, had left many feeling “uprooted and aesthetically revolted”. (13)
And The Machine also reached inside people’s heads, breaking down older ways of thinking and remodelling minds according to the demands of the new industrial civilization.
A fragmentation of understanding was identified by critics of the modern age. Like the living communities replaced by urban dormitories for the factory wage-slaves, everything seemed to be broken down and torn apart.
In the sciences, research was increasingly specialist and narrow, geared towards utilitarian pragmatism rather than a quest for knowledge.
The success of individuals or nations was judged in terms of material wealth, of productivity, rather than in terms of inner integrity or happiness.
A sense of belonging to the land, to the past, to a continuum, was rased by the brutal demands of so-called progress.
An individual’s sense of self was swept away by the depersonalised speed and fury of steam-powered living and, at the same time, any sense of belonging to humanity as a whole was denied by the nationalistic fervour of industrial and imperial rivalry with other Europeans and officially-encouraged contempt for the “inferior” and “backward” peoples of the non-industrialised world.
The realm of offices, factories, newspapers and trains forced people into a state of existence where they seemed to exist purely in their own heads, on the surface of being, and were as cut off from their own bodies, their own physical reality, as they were from the natural world from which they had been separated for the first time in a million years of human history.
Organic Thinking II sought to counter that fragmentation, that separation, on every level, and to reinstate a sense of interconnecting wholeness.
Body and soul were not regarded as separate, but as two aspects of one and the same entity. Likewise with individuals and society – not industrial-capitalist society, of course, but the natural and organic one put forward as a healthy alternative.
Collective groups of people were described as living organisms, themselves forming part of even greater living organisms. Humanity itself was one living entity and part of the living natural world.
None of this was new. All of this had already been known by Organic Thinking I. But the difference here was that the new embrace of this holism was also a pro-active call for the realisation and return of that holism.
Organic Thinking II was a demand for change, for the overturning of shallow, fragmented, dehumanising, nature-destroying industrial society and for the rediscovery of authenticity, community, belonging and wholeness.
2. To what extent was this thinking part of Nazi theory and practice?
There is no doubt that Nazi rhetoric and ideology was partly shaped by the organic thinking that was such an influential counter-current in German-speaking Europe at the start of the twentieth century.
The Nazis painted themselves as being on a mission to put things to rights, to bring about a “great revolution in values”, to restore healthy attitudes towards nature.
Nazi language reflected the idea that human life was, and should be, interlaced with nature. Notes Nina Lyon: “All manner of lengthy compound nouns abstracting this ideal prospered: Erdebundenkeit, the binding or oneness with the earth; Volksboden, the connection of the people with the soil; Bodenständigkeit, or the nature by which life was shaped by earthly forces”. (14)
Nazi professor Friederich Sander named “the longing for wholeness” as one of the two basic motives behind the movement. He added: “Present-day German psychology and the National Socialistic world view are both oriented towards the same goal: the vanquishing of atomistic and mechanistic forms of thought: vanquishing through organic thinking, in the structure of völkisch life here, in the researching of psychological reality there”. (15)
Lehmann, cited at the beginning of this article, wrote a book, Biology in the Present Life, which included chapters on “individual wholeness”, “transindividual wholeness”, “the cosmos of life” and “völkische wholeness”.
He argued: “This striving for connectedness with all of life, indeed with Nature in general into which we are born – that, so far as I can see, is the deepest purpose and true essence of National Socialistic thinking”. (16)
This holistic tendency even reached down to a practical level. The Nazis promoted healthy eating and wholemeal bread. They were all in favour of homeopathy, herbalism and other natural therapies. There was a herbal plantation at Dachau concentration camp.
It is the jarring note of that last sentence that reminds us that there was something not quite right about the Nazi love affair with the organic ideal.
In fact, the closer you look, the more it becomes apparent that the Nazi version of organic thinking amounted to a distortion so severe as to render it philosophically unrecognisable. They used holistic and organic thought merely as “a fund of metaphors” (17) with which to present and justify their own totalitarian ideology.
Adolf Hitler himself, for instance, wrote in Mein Kampf that to replace the “dead mechanism” of the liberal state “there must be formed a living organism with the exclusive aim of serving a higher idea”. (18)
It is clearly nonsense to speak of a living organism being “formed”, as any real follower of organic thinking would immediately understand. A living organism could be freed from certain restraints, or even revived, but not formed by the machineries of political will.
Hitler is in fact talking about the Nazi state – centrally controlled and ruthlessly hierarchical – to which he is trying to lend an aura of natural authenticity by describing it as an organism in the language popular at the time.
He – and his followers – completely undermined Tönnies’ distinction between organic, bottom-up, community (Gemeinschaft) and artificial, top-down, modern society (Gesellschaft) by pretending that the Nazi Gesellschaft was really a kind of Gemeinschaft. The state and the Führer somehow magically represented the authentic will of the German people.
This notion of the state as organism had already been developed by the right wing of the organic movement, but in Nazi dogma it took on whole new proportions, because the idea of total power resting in the hands of the state was so central to their ideology.
Zeev Sternhell remarks: “Totalitarianism is the very essence of fascism, and fascism is without question the purest example of a totalitarian ideology. Setting out as it did to create a new civilization, a new type of human being and a totally new way of life, fascism could not conceive of any sphere of human activity remaining immune from intervention by the State”. (19)
The Nazi obsession with order imposed from above, with the absolute rule of the central state, is the opposite of an authentically organic vision.
As the anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker wrote: “Dictatorship is the negation of organic development, of natural building from below upwards”. (20)
A further corruption of the organic principle came from what Harrington describes as “the ‘racializing’ of holism’s struggle against mechanism” (21)
The right-wing generation before the Nazis, inspired by Houston Stewart Chamberlain and others, had already formulated the concept of “race”, which broke down humanity into distinct groups – as with the scientific tables and hierarchical classifications of minerals, vegetables and animals which were favoured at the time.
These race theorists, both in France and in Germany, took the philosophical idea of Gestalt, of underlying form, and twisted it into a justification for rigid racial typology. This then fed into a racially-based definition of the social organism which excluded those of whom they disapproved.
Sternhell explains their argument thus: “The nation is a living organism, and nationalism is therefore an ethic, comprising all the criteria of behaviour which the common interest calls for, and on which the will of the individual has no bearing. The duty both of the individual and of society is to find out what this ethic may be, yet only those can succeed who have a share in the ‘national consciousness,’ shaped over the course of the centuries: the Jews, as a foreign race, cannot enter upon this quest”. (22)
The anti-semitic thread incorporated into organic and holistic philosophy by right-wing nationalists became more pronounced in the 1920s. Germans projected on to Jews all the aspects of the German industrial capitalist system that they disliked most – Jews were demonized as being soulless, rootless and mercenary.
It was even said, or implied, explains Harrington, that the very capacity to think and see nature as a “whole” (the art of so-called Ganzheitsbetrachtung) was a trait peculiar to the “Indo-Germanic” mind, while the Jewish mind was fundamentally analytic, dissolutive, and materialistic. (23)
A 1935 article that appeared in the official medical journal of the Nazi party, Ziel und Weg, said the dissolute, sterile nature of Jewish thinking and Jewish science could lead only to “death” and contrasted this with the “simple, organic, creative” thinking of the “healthy non-Jew”, who “thinks in wholes”. (24)
The irony, of course, is that these racist and anti-semitic theories demonstrated that it was the Nazis themselves who were incapable of thinking holistically.
A holistic vision of the world understands the connection between all people, all creatures, all of nature, all of the cosmos and bases its vision on a sense of overall unity.
An organic interpretation of the human species necessarily recognises the human species itself as an organism.
There may be lesser, shifting, “organisms” within that unity – and humanity may form part of larger natural and cosmic organisms – but the human species is undeniably the clearest instance of a biological unity between the individual and the bio-system of Earth as a whole.
A sense of this unity is integral to the organic, holistic world-view, and yet it is entirely absent from racist, anti-semitic, Nazi ideology.
The ideas of universalism and humanism were anathema to Nazism and regarded as cosmopolitan Jewish inventions designed to undermine the German sense of national and racial identity.
Their stunted sense of human solidarity was limited to those they defined as being their own people. Anyone outside of that Teutonic enclave was simply a non-person, an object.
Like certain postmodern thinkers of a later era, the Nazis denied the very existence of humankind, which, as Johann Chapoutot points out, “makes fraternity, feeling the suffering of the other, impossible as an emotion and invalidates it as a principle”. (25)
This was what lay behind the cold look in the eyes of the Nazi scientist famously described by Primo Levi in Survival in Auschwitz. He was looking at the Jewish prisoner as if he was observing a sea creature through “the glass window of an aquarium”. (26) There was no sense of human connection.
The anti-semitism displayed by the scientist here is not simply a prejudice, but a prejudice solidified into something self-justifying by a belief in the validity of the Nazis’ pseudo-scientific racial theorising.
Chapoutot says of this racism: “Slavs were presented as such strange beings that no communication of a human kind could be imagined with them. As for the Jews, they weren’t even considered as a foreign race, but rather as a phenomenon of a bacteriological or viral type”. (27)
It was this capacity to regard fellow human beings as mere bacteria which enabled the Nazi state to embark on its inhuman policies of racial screening, sterilization, castration, experimentation and mass extermination.
Far from being inspired from a holistic view of the world, this outlook stems from the very fragmentation of which the proponents of organic thinking complained. This is mechanical thinking.
The Nazis’ approach is marked by a desire not to understand, to include and to connect, but to separate, to classify and to objectivise. As Hitler himself said: “Nazism is applied biology”. (28)
Rather than making a break with the cold, soulless, mechanical age, the Nazis were pushing it on to new levels of inhumanity.
As earlier as 1933, the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich observed that fascism was not about Wholeness at all, but rather was the culmination of modern civilization’s mad worship of The Machine. It was possible because fascist man had let himself be transformed into a machine that was alienated from all authentic biological impulses and thus capable of ‘machine murder’. (29)
Much the same point was made in an article by Gerhard Portele in Gestalt Theory in 1979 when he argued that, despite the Nazis’ use of holistic language, the essence of their ideology lay in their neglect of the whole: “The Nazis with their calculating book-keeping rationality were trained in piecemeal thinking to an extreme degree and viewed people as cogs”. (30)
This fundamental incompatibility between organic, holistic thinking and Nazi ideology became increasingly apparent once their romantic rhetoric collided with the pragmatic realities of running the German industrial-capitalist state.
Hans Driesch (1867-1941), a biologist whose organic vision was defiantly internationalist, was among the first non-Jewish German professors to be forcibly retired after Hitler came to power in 1933 and in 1935 all public speaking and travel privileges were taken away from him.
After Germany’s defeat in World War II, a number of other organic theorists, such as the philosopher and historian of biology Adolf Meyer-Abich, came forward to report that they too had been actively persecuted by the Third Reich because of the perceived threats their holism posed for Nazi policies.
The Nazi faction which had twisted organic thinking into a racist and anti-semitic theory was itself displaced by an even more hardline group.
Harrington explains: “The second faction was made up of more pragmatic medical technocrats who wanted to use a hard-nosed form of Mendelian genetics, Darwinism, and racial biology as the basis for Nazi social policy and military strategy. This group had found a home for itself under the jurisdiction of Himmler’s SS and its daughter racial organizations, the Lebensborn and Ahnenerbe”. (31)
Human geneticist Karl Astel and his technocratic colleagues, outraged at the influence wielded by the likes of Karl Kötschua and his “nature therapy”, hatched a plot to discredit holistic views, which, he correctly concluded, flew completely in the face of narrow Nazi theories of racial supremacy.
In the same way as today’s anti-holistic propagandists try to blacken its name by linking it to the Nazis, these Nazis smeared holism by linking it to the Roman Catholic Church.
A 1936 article “exposing” this Catholic plot described “a skillfully organized and well-camouflaged attack on the entire exact sciences, including genetics and racial hygiene”.
Under the name of holism, it said, sinister Jesuits were using scientific dupes to spread a Catholic doctrine and undermine Nazi science. Their cunning ploy involved making “full intentional use of words that sound National Socialistic, like ‘wholeness’, ‘organic’, ‘biologic’, and so on” in order to spread confusion while appearing to be on-message. (32)
As a result of this propaganda, even Nazi exponents of organic theory were now hounded out of positions of influence. In 1938 Lehmann, previously quoted, was expelled from the Biologen Verband (Biologists’ Organization) which he had headed since 1931 and removed from his position as editor of Der Biologe.
A new organization within the SS was created, the Reichsbund für Biologie (Reich Division for Biology) which, under the direct supervision of the Ahnenerbe and ultimately of Himmler himself, took over the editorship of Der Biologe.
An organic theory of life, with its emphasis on natural harmony, human interconnectedness and symbiotic relationship, stood in stark ideological contradiction to the aims of the Nazi regime, which wanted to build up Germany’s industrial and military power, build motorways, develop scientific racial engineering to strengthen “The Master Race”, explore the potential of nuclear physics, and ruthlessly eliminate “alien” human elements from German society.
The new SS-run version of Der Biologe made it clear that there was no room for the woolly, holistic views of men like Lehmann and the völkisch anthropologist Ernst Krieck, even if they were Nazis and anti-semites. “Biology is research about facts!” it barked in a 1939 editorial.
Facts! This is the language of the atomistic, mechanistic, industrial thinking of The Machine, the very language that the Nazis had claimed to be opposing, at the stage when they were wooing the German population.
From the 1890s onwards, there had been a cultural battle between two German tendencies. On one side stood the tradition of Goethe, of a Romantic desire for life, for soul, for wholeness. On the other side was the new Germany, obsessed with efficiency and Technik, the militarist “machine nation” of 1914.
While Nazism was clearly influenced on one level by the first, Romantic tradition, and happy to use that association to garner support from a German public despairing of capitalist modernity, it proved ultimately to belong firmly to the second.
It incarnated, in an exaggerated form, the thinking of the industrial capitalist Machine, for whom human beings are nothing but fodder. It was not simply a question of racism; even those accepted as German were expected to be “productive”, to serve the purposes of the Machine-State in some way. Non-performing, non-productive Germans (leistungsunfähige Wesen) and scroungers (Asoziale) were not deemed worthy of living in German society.
Because of the hideous crimes committed by the Nazi regime, there is today near-universal agreement that we do not like the Third Reich and its ideas.
But we should be clear as to what it is that we don’t like. We don’t like the mass extermination. We don’t like the anti-semitism and racism. We don’t like the warmongering militarism. We don’t like the blind nationalism. We don’t like the police state. We don’t like the eugenics. We don’t like the propaganda and mass hysteria.
There were other elements present in Nazism which are not among these evils and which do not necessarily pave the way towards them.
Is wholemeal bread a bad thing because the Nazis said it was good? Are herbal plantations insidious because there was one at Dachau? Is all organic thinking suspect because a version of it was harnessed, and distorted, by some Nazi ideologues?
Continuing her discussion of the Nazis’ use of an organic and nature-based vocabulary (see above), Lyon, who describes herself as a Jewish writer, adds: “There is nothing intrinsically problematic about any of these three terms. Their adoption to make the argument that one race of people should be superior to others, because it stemmed from those values and that soil, was where it all went wrong…” (34)
3. Are there other possible manifestations of organic ideology?
As we have already noted in the last section, non-Nazi versions of organic ideology are not only possible, but existed in a very real form alongside the now-discredited right-wing racist variety.
Harrington correctly points out that it is useful to know something about the history of German holistic science, in order not to fall into the trap of thinking that any alternative to the prevailing mechanistic worldview is to be avoided because it somehow points inevitably towards fascism.
She adds: “It is important that we resist ‘discovering’ the outline of a terrible future in holism’s past or imagining that all holistic, vitalistic, or teleological views of nature are part of a larger ‘destruction of reason’ that can be tracked in some straight, degenerating line from the romantics to Hegel to Nietzsche to Hitler”. (35)
Sometimes these investigations might lead simply to the revelation that a particular scientist or thinker was not actually a Nazi. The biologist Jakob Von Uexküll, for instance, was certainly very conservative, politically, but was no white supremacist: he argued that all human groups must be respected in their distinctiveness, because all in the end are expressions of the same creative life energy. (36)
At other times, it goes a lot further than that and we see the enormous ideological potential in variants of the organic theme which point in a libertarian, humanist, internationalist, left-wing direction.
Driesch, for example, defended an ideal of cultural cosmopolitanism and rejected any idea that a nation-state could be seen as an organism. The only supra-personal collective organism he was prepared to consider was the concept of a humankind that recognised no national or völkisch boundaries.
Before Hitler came to power, Driesch had been warning, both in academic and newspaper articles, of the dangers of the growing nationalistic mood. To counter this, he stressed the biological unity of the human species. He also voiced his opposition to militarism, describing this as the “the most terrible of all sins” against the vitalistic principles of life, holistic cooperation and higher development. (37)
The Russian-Swiss neurobiologist Constantin von Monakow (1853-1930) also developed a holistic and organic theory which retained its logical coherence by talking about interconnected wholes, rather than veering off into the fragmented and divisive particularism of Nazi dogma.
Monakow came up with the idea of the horme, a kind of all-pervading intrinsic motivating and guiding force. He explained: “The horme is nothing other than the activity of the universe (Worldhorme), within which we human-children are highly organized necessary parts. As such we are temporally and partly also spatially – through free mobility – closely bound up with one another: we form ties with animals and plants and also with nonorganic bodies, into which last we merge after death. There is an undeniable glory in the thought that an indelible temporal bond links us, not only with our ancestors and our descendants, but above all also with the whole rest of the organic world”. (38)
He interpreted our relationship to the outside world in terms of expanding concentric circles of awareness. The most basic level of existence involved a preoccupation with self and survival. This was often extended to a focus on family and the immediate community around the individual.
But more evolved human beings could grasp their belonging to increasingly larger entities, up to the human species, the organic world and the cosmos.
Monakow’s holistic vision of all life as being enmeshed in one dynamic process of evolution thus naturally involved an internationalist perspective. Nothing else, in fact, would have made sense in that context.
It also placed him in opposition to the thinking of an industrial age which rejected any idea of organic subject-to-subject relationships with fellow parts of the natural organism in favour of a subject-to-object relationship based on domination and exploitation.
He saw that to heal itself and set itself back on its true evolutionary course, humanity had to trust in its deepest biological impulses. All the wisdom we needed to find that course was already within us, but stifled by the constructs of modern society. We had to tap into that natural sense of direction and rightness, he said, and realise that every tiny living fibre inside us is “so much more wonderful than all the wonders of technology and a thousand times more clever”. (39)
One of the most enthusiastic advocates of Monakow’s approach was Kurt Goldstein (1878-1965), a Jewish socialist critic of modernity, who set out to combine holistic and organic German philosophy with the values of reason, democracy and individual freedom.
Throughout his life, he warned against the dangers of applying narrow, fragmented scientific ways of thinking to other realms.
He wrote in an unpublished 1965 paper: “The progress by the application of science to all fields, also those which are related to the spiritual side of man, as education, psychology, sociology, etc, seems to be so enormous that somebody who today dares to oppose even a little this trend and warns against the fateful consequences for human existence is considered either stupid or uneducated, irresponsible or prejudiced”. (40)
From Goldstein’s holistic perspective, everything was interconnected, outside and inside the individual human being. The words ‘mind’ and ‘body’, for instance, did not point to genuine entities but were just ‘symbols’, human abstractions, denoting different aspects of an overall organic reality that could not in fact be divided.
He has been described, by Ruth Nanda Anshen, as having introduced “a new doctrine of organism which may be said to be taking the place of the materialism with which, since the seventeenth-century, science has enmeshed philosophy”. (41)
The psychologist Max Wertheimer (1880-1943), took Goethe as a starting point, developing the idea of Gestalt, or underlying form, in a promising direction far removed from the dead-end of racism into which the Nazis tried to divert it.
Born in Prague, he fled central Europe before Hitler came to power and continued his work in the USA, later becoming an American citizen.
While the Nazis claimed piecemeal or fragmented thinking was a Jewish trait, Wertheimer, who was himself Jewish, turned this round against them. He argued that the modern world had cropped humanity’s thinking capacity. Piecemeal thinking – strings of propositions torn from their original living context – was being used by demagogues and certain intellectuals to hoodwink people into accepting their ideas.
In the 1934 essay ‘On truth’ he distinguished between truth and mere facts. Facts (as fetishised by the SS biologists – see above) meant nothing on their own. Truth was a holistic understanding of the significance of various facts in the wider context of their relationship to one another and to a larger whole. He wrote: “A thing may be true in the piecemeal sense, and false, indeed a lie, as a part in its whole”. (42)
Wertheimer judged that the key concepts of truth, ethics, democracy and freedom were all under attack from contemporary academic thinking, influenced by positivism, pragmatism and cultural relativism. Indeed this anti-holistic stance had itself helped prepare an intellectual field in which it had become possible for the Nazis to succeed.
In an essay on ethics, he took a critical look at ethical relativity which – like the Nazis with their German/Aryan particularism – denied the existence of ethical universals.
As a believer in the organic unity of humankind, Wertheimer disputed this and insisted that experience showed that most people, “when faced with clear, actual injustice”, responded spontaneously in ways that human beings would universally consider decent and ethical. (43)
Gestalt psychology, which Wertheimer developed along with Kurt Koffka (1886-1941) and Wolfgang Köhler (1887-1967), was an influence on the anti-capitalist Critical Theory of Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979), Max Horkheimer (1895-1973) and the Frankfurt School in general.
The organic and anti-mechanistical approaches taken by Jewish thinkers like Wertheimer and Goldstein illustrate the fact that there existed a broad anti-industrial current in German-speaking Europe which was not simply non-Nazi, but anti-Nazi, and whose fundamental principles placed it in direct opposition to fascism.
The French-Brazilian sociologist and philosopher Michael Löwy has explored in depth the intellectual movement, mainly Jewish, which he terms “anti-capitalist Romanticism”.
Löwy writes: “In many respects, the Jewish intellectuals of Mitteleuropa, in the utopian-Romantic movement, grouped around Martin Buber’s review Der Jude, expressionist publications (such as Die Aktion), the Bar-Kokhba circle in Prague, the Frankfurt School or various left-wing parties, set themselves apart from Western or Eastern European Jewish intellectuals, as well as from their peers, the ‘gentile’ intellectuals of German culture, by the kind of culture they produced”. (44)
Their vision, he says, revolved around “a cultural critique of modern capitalist civilization in the name of pre-modern or pre-capitalist values” and they were revolting “against the quantification and mechanisation of life, the reification of social relationships, the dissolution of community (Gemeinschaft) and, above all – to take up the terms used by Max Weber – the disenchantment of the world (Entzauberung der Welt) resulting from the instrumental rationality (Zweckrationalität) and the corresponding calculating spirit (Rechnenhaftigkeit) which dominated modern culture”. (45)
The Jewish identity of thinkers like Buber or Gershom Scholem did not stop them drawing partly on the heritage of the German Romantic tradition to condemn the emptiness of modern life and search for a meaning to existence in myth, history or religion.
Buber, for instance, put forward a vision of libertarian socialist society inspired by, but not limited by, communities of the past. He wrote: “The new organic whole, founded on the regeneration of the ‘cells’ of the social tissue, will be the renaissance (rather than the return) of organic community in the shape of a decentralised federation of small communities”. (46)
His position was echoed in France by that of Bernard Lazare (1865-1903), a Jewish anarchist who rejected the myth of progress and the allure of the modern in favour of a respect for the past, particularly for medieval guilds or rural communities.
There was nothing reactionary in this opposition to the mass-produced solitude of the modern capitalist world and the desire to revive, in a different form, the organic communities which had been steamrollered by The Machine.
Löwy comments that Lazare was “projecting his Romantic nostalgia for the past into a utopian future, by embracing anarchist ideas”. (47)
Walter Benjamin, for his part, insisted: “The deconstruction of the ideology of progress isn’t carried out in the name of conservation or of restoration, but in the name of revolution”. (48) He pointed out that, in stark contrast, fascism involved the typically modern combination of technological progress and social regression. (49)
From this radical organic perspective, fascism is clearly revealed to be a counter-revolutionary force protecting the industrial capitalist system.
4. What political ideology is the best fit with an organic approach?
A good starting point is the immensely influential German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies (1855-1936), famous for contrasting Gemeinschaft (traditional community) with Gesellschaft (modern society).
His analysis was not new in itself and could virtually be said to be part of Organic Thinking I, as set out above. It was almost a traditional way of regarding authentic society as being one rooted in the symbiotic human relationships of small-scale community.
But Tönnies’ own experience was shaped by the mechanisation and commercialisation of the German society in which he lived. His theory was very much a political response to industrial capitalism and therefore part of the ideological wave we have termed Organic Thinking II.
It is clear throughout his best-known work, Community and Society, as well as in Geist der Neuzeit, that Tönnies regarded the Western transition from Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft as a social and cultural decline rather than a triumph of progress.
Since the Middle Ages, people had been reduced from participants in a generally harmonious, living entity into atomised victims of a system which imposed its demands and laws from above.
Tönnies spelled out clearly the difference between the two ways of living: “There exists a Gemeinschaft of language, of folkways or mores, or of beliefs; but, by way of contrast, Gesellschaft exists in the realm of business, travel, or sciences… Gemeinschaft is old. Gesellschaft is new as a name as well as phenomenon”. (50)
The term “organic” is used frequently, and always in a positive sense, by the sociologist and is placed in direct contrast with the word “mechanical”.
He writes, for instance, in Community and Society: “In contrast to Gemeinschaft, Gesellschaft is transitory and superficial. Accordingly, Gemeinschaft should be understood as a living organism, Gesellschaft as a mechanical aggregate and artifact” (51) and adds that “the tendencies and inevitableness of organic growth and decay cannot be understood through mechanical means”. (52)
Tönnies subscribes to the holistic view of the human being, writing: “The conclusion is drawn that the soul (or the will) influences the body. This is impossible as both are identical”. (53)
He puts forward the idea of “natural will”, a kind of individual manifestation of Gemeinschaft – innate, organic and artistic – as opposed to the “rational will” of increasingly artificial modern society.
Tönnies refers to “the masterly analysis of Karl Marx”, (54) one of his principal influences, and clearly presents a left-wing anti-capitalist version of organic ideology – it was not for nothing that he was ousted from his long-term presidency of the German Sociological Association when the Nazis took power in 1933.
He explicitly equates Gesellschaft, the opposite of his organic Gemeinschaft, with capitalism. “The merchants or capitalists”, he writes, “are the natural masters and rulers of the Gesellschaft. The Gesellschaft exists for their sake. It is their tool”. (55)
The move to Gesellschaft “meant the victory of egoism, impudence, falsehood, and cunning, the ascendancy of greed for money, ambition and lust for pleasure”. (56)
The city, for Tönnies, is the epitome of the soulless, artificial, capitalist modern world: “The city is typical of Gesellschaft in general… Its wealth is capital wealth which, in the form of trade, usury, or industrial capital, is used and multiplies. Capital is the means for the appropriation of products of labor or for the exploitation of workers”. (57)
Alongside his critique of how mercantile relationships – capitalist society – destroy authentic communities, comes a scathing condemnation of the modern state.
The state, says Tönnies, “is nothing but force” (58) and totally opposed to the “folk life and folk culture” (59) which underpin the cohesion of Gemeinschaft, suppressing all possibility of “a natural order in which every member does his part harmoniously in order to enjoy his share”. (60)
The common people are all too aware that the state acts against their interests, he says, and effectively stops them existing as an organic entity.
“The state is their enemy. The state, to them, is an alien and unfriendly power; although seemingly authorized by them and embodying their own will, it is nevertheless opposed to all their needs and desires, protecting property which they do not possess, forcing them into military service for a country which offers them hearth and altar only in the form of a heated room on the upper floor or gives them, for native soil, city streets where they may stare at the glitter and luxury in lighted windows forever beyond their reach! Their own life is nothing but a constant alternative between work and leisure, which are both distorted into factory routine and the low pleasure of the saloons. City life and Gesellschaft down the common people to decay and death…” (61)
This understanding of the state as an artificial entity which claims to embody community, but in reality kills it, is very much part of the classical anarchist tradition, particularly when combined with Tönnies’ class awareness and fundamental rejection of the capitalist mindset.
The idea of an organic community, Gemeinschaft, which is prevented from flourishing because of the state, is in fact essential to the anarchist argument.
Opponents claim that doing away with the state would lead to chaos, but anarchists maintain that this is not the case, because people have a natural capacity (even if this is not realised) for living harmoniously and cooperatively outside of any state hierarchy.
The anarchist vision is inherently organic, because it is based on the concept of free and authentic communities as living, collective entities.
Theodore Roszak draws attention to this in Where the Wasteland Ends, noting: “Anarchism has always been, uniquely, a politics swayed by organic sensibility; it is born of a concern for the health of cellular structure in society and a confidence in spontaneous self-regulation”. (62)
Up against this, he identifies “the anti-organic fanaticism of western culture”, which is essentially the Gesellschaft’s hatred of Gemeinschaft.
Roszak explains: “Organism is spontaneous self-regulation, the mystery of formed growth, the inarticulate wisdom of the instincts. Single vision cannot understand such a state of being, let alone trust it to look after itself”. (63)
The concept of (possible) organic community, allowing human beings to live without a top-down state structure, is necessarily implicit in all coherent anarchist thought, but is sometimes more explicitly expressed.
Gustav Landauer (1870-1919) was a German-Jewish anarchist close to Martin Buber and very much part of the anti-capitalist tradition identified by Löwy. His philosophy illustrates the exciting potential of organic thinking which is developed in an anarchist and internationalist direction.
“Landauer represents a left-wing form of the völkisch current in thought,” say Russell Berman and Tim Luke in their introduction to his book For Socialism. (64)
Landauer condemned the “unculture” of mechanistic capitalism and wrote that “anarchism’s lone objective is to end the fight of men against men and to unite humanity so that each individual can unfold his natural potential without obstruction”. (65)
Like Monakow, Landauer extended his concept of the organic to a cosmic level, regarding the universe as a living creature with a collective soul and writing that “the psyche [das Seelenhafte] in the human being is a function or manifestation of the infinite universe”. (66)
He rejected the idea that the onward evolution of humanity was dependent on the progress of science and proposed instead a regeneration based on social spirituality, or Geist, the collective energy animating authentic human community.
The Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921) is well known for having developed the idea of mutual aid as a way of understanding human society.
He argued, against right-wing social Darwinists, that co-operation is at least as important in evolution as competition and that, therefore, human beings have the capacity to live together in a free anarchist society, based on organic solidarity, without any state control.
But, in fact, Kropotkin went even further in developing a nature-based philosophy which was similar in many ways to those of Driesch, Monakow and Goldstein.
He argues, in Ethics, that not only are we human beings physically part of nature but that our thinking, too, including our morality, arises from the same source. Nature was “the first ethical teacher of man” (67), he says, our ideas of bad and good being reflections of what our ancestors saw in animal life. (68)
“Mutual Aid-Justice-Morality are thus the consecutive steps of an ascending series, revealed to us by the study of the animal world and man. They constitute an organic necessity which carries in itself its own justification, confirmed by the whole of the evolution of the animal kingdom, beginning with its earliest stages (in the form of colonies of the most primitive organisms), and gradually rising to our civilized human communities. Figuratively speaking, it is a universal law of organic evolution, and this is why the sense of Mutual Aid, Justice, and Morality are rooted in man’s mind with all the force of an inborn instinct”. (69)
Like Tönnies, Kropotkin looks back favourably on the Middle Ages and previous societies where customs and codes served to protect the collective community from greedy or power-hungry individuals.
He does not shy away from talking about the “social organism” (70) and from expressing a classically holistic and nature-orientated view of the world. He writes, for example, that “we are compelled to acknowledge that every natural phenomenon – the fall of any particular stone, the flow of a brook, or the life of any one tree or animal, constitutes the necessary manifestation of the properties of the whole, of the sum total of animate and inanimate nature”. (71)
This should not surprise us, even if many of Kropotkin’s 21st century anarchist successors seem afraid of any talk of nature, social organisms, inborn instincts and universality.
Anarchism is a political philosophy whose revolutionary, destructive aspect only makes sense if it is backed up by this positive vision of a natural, organic society which will be set free to flourish once the state-capitalist machine is brought down.
It is, to directly answer the question at the top of this section, quite clearly the best political fit with the current of holistic and organic philosophy that we have been outlining in this article.
5. Is organic radicalism the only target of the contemporary Nazi smear?
So far we have seen that, although a certain strand of Nazi ideology was influenced by aspects of organic thinking, it was very much a departure from that tradition. In rejecting a universalist humanist vision in favour of narrow racism, these Nazi thinkers essentially turned their back on holism as a philosophy.
Their fragmented, piecemeal, divisive approach instead reflected the fragmented thinking of the industrial age which the new wave of organic thought had emerged to attack. Critiques of industrialism within the Nazi movement were almost entirely eclipsed by a pragmatic obsession with Technik and industrial advance.
Indeed, fascism looks more like a grotesque caricature of the inhuman industrial society opposed by organic thinking, a chillingly efficient 20th century upgrade of the steam-powered capitalist machine of the previous era.
So why, we might ask, do so many political writers seek to make a connection between the Nazis and anti-industrial, ecological, organic ways of thinking?
To help answer this, it is worth placing the issue in a wider context and looking at another instance in which alleged Nazi associations have been deployed as a political tool.
The global anti-capitalist movement, ever since the heady successes around the turn of the 21st century, has often being accused of harbouring some kind of hidden fascistic or anti-semitic tendencies.
One of the main themes of this critique was that voiced in June 1999 by the Dutch organisation “De Fabel van de illegaal” (“The myth of illegality”) which withdrew from the anti-globalization movement, complaining that it was leading left-wingers towards a kind of nationalism.
While examples were given of right-wing individuals or groups influencing the fringes of the movement, the gist of the criticism was more ideological.
De Fabel wrote back then that analyzing in terms of “international capital” or “speculation capital” is “potentially anti-Semitic”. “Potentially”, because the ideology of this kind of anti-capitalism was said to show “enormous structural similarities with anti-Semitism” even when there was no talk of “the Jews” owning international capital, as Eric Krebbers explained in 2003. (72)
In the same article, Krebbers also took issue with the solidarity with Palestinian struggles being expressed by anti-capitalists, complaining: “At the recent huge demonstrations in Italy, where the anti-globalization movement probably is the strongest, Palestine seems to have become the central point of reference. Many activists speak of ‘a worldwide intifada against globalization’ and they often shout: ‘We are all Palestinians’. Why do anti-globalization activists need to identify with ‘the Palestinians’, with some ‘nation’? Why do these inhabitants of worldpower European Union continually make out Israel and the US as ‘main imperialist enemies’?”
A similar point was made three years later, in 2002, in an article entitled ‘Anti-Globalization: The New Anti-Semitism’ which appeared on “the leading Jewish content website” aish.com.
This suggested there was an “association between the Arab world and the anti-globalization movement” which “has its roots in a common opposition to American ‘domination’. Israel and the Jews represent American capitalism”. (73)
The same line of attack was notably developed the late Moishe Postone, an academic who detected affinities between forms of anti-capitalism and anti-semitic conspiracy theory.
The anti-elitist, anti-capitalist message of the 99 per cent against the 1 per cent, which was so central to the Occupy movement, is seen from this perspective as being a disguised attack on Jews.
If you talk about bankers and financiers running the world, controlling the media, and cheerleading for war, it is argued, you are really blaming Jewish people or, at the very least, falling into the hands of those who do.
As Daniel Finn crucially pointed out in a 2018 article in Jacobin magazine, insinuations of anti-semitism can thus be used, not merely to defame critics of Israel, but “to discredit any radical critique of capitalism or imperialism in the modern world”. (74)
6. What is the relationship between anti-capitalism and anti-semitism?
At this point it is worth lending some historical perspective to this alleged connection between anti-capitalism and anti-semitism.
Very instructive in this respect is the work of Lazare, one of Löwy’s anti-capitalist Romantics, who became known as one of the principal defenders of Alfred Dreyfus, a famous victim of institutional 19th century anti-semitism in France.
As a young man, Lazare had read socialist and anarchist literature explaining that Jews were big businessmen and capitalists, and so he decided that he himself could not possibly be ‘Jewish’, even if he remained an ‘Israelite’.
He wrote in 1890, at the age of 25: “The Jew (there are many who become Jews, without being destined by their race to do so, but who are rather doomed by their native virtues) is someone who is dominated by the sole preoccupation of making a quick fortune, which he will more easily obtain by fraud, lies and cunning. He despises virtue, poverty, selflessness”. (75)
Lazare was therefore driven into an absurd form of anti-semitism by the social stereotype of the Jew as a capitalist – any anti-capitalist, it appeared even for this young Jew, therefore had to be anti-‘Jewish’.
Wertheimer was later to comment on this phenomenon in his 1935 essay on ethics. Here he describes “a young, idealistic party member” – Nazi Party, that is – who is “passionate in the negative evaluation of members of a certain race” – in other words, of Jews.
Wertheimer adds: “This young man perhaps behaves thus only because he has been brought to this state through suggestion, propaganda, through the wanton slander that this race is a poisonous snake. He does not really behave with respect to A (members of this race) but to a B which he has been taught to identify with this race”.
In other words the young idealist is instinctively opposed to capitalism, usury, greed or whatever other negative qualities have been ascribed to Jews by the Nazis. Because of their anti-semitic propaganda, he associates these negative qualities entirely with Jews and is thus turned into an anti-semite, even though he did not necessarily originally bear any ill will towards Jews as such.
Says Wertheimer: “The real problem here lies not only in the behaviour of the young man, but in the enforcement of the blind identification… To take away by artifice the possibility of seeing the true situation, through the enforcement of blind judgments, of improper narrowing of the mental field, induction of blind centering, deprives man of the prerequesites for our problems”. (76)
While a non-Jew might find themselves stuck in this induced anti-semitism, Lazare’s own Jewishness enabled him to quickly realise that what he really disliked were the materialistic and greed-driven capitalist attitudes which made life a misery both for non-Jews and for ‘Israelites’ like himself.
He wrote in another essay: “There are now thousands of Jewish workers in France, exploited like the Christians, dying of hunger like the Christians, unhappy like the Christians. They are also there in England, in Germany, in Russia…” (77)
As he matured, Lazare asked himself why it was that the sins of capitalism were conventionally heaped on this scapegoat figure of the archetypal Jew.
He noted, in an 1892 article entitled ‘Jews and Anti-Semites’ that when “liberal anti-semites” declared war on the Jews they claimed to be opposing crooked financiers. But, in fact, they were targeting anyone who was circumcised or went to the synagogue, including workers. (78)
Increasingly Lazare saw this phenomenon as one carefully fabricated by the upper classes. They used the stereotype of the greedy materialistic Jew to divert attention and anger away from their own greedy materialism.
Anti-semitism, he wrote in 1899, “is good for vicars, reactionaries and the bourgeoisie, because they are the only ones who can – or who hope – to gain from it; they rely on it to dodge the blows coming their way and to solidify their power”.
He added: “Beware of those pseudo-socialists who tell you that if your wages are too low, the fault lies with foreign workers and Jews, and that you’ll be happier when
they’ve all been kicked out. How the bourgeois would laugh if he could set you against your brothers in misery, against your companions in chains, so as to save his own skin”. (79)
Lazare refuted the supposed link between materialism and Jewishness and pointed out that there were plenty of Christian capitalists around, not least the Roman Catholic Church, which even had its own banking wing. Indeed, he suggested, the influence of Roman civilization was in fact behind many of the social ills blamed on Jews. “The deification of money, capitalist barbarity, ignorance of all human interest other than the financial or commercial interest, are the traits of the Roman soul, but not of the Jewish soul”. (80)
Lazare thus clearly explained the way that anti-semitism was used, by the ruling classes, as a way of deflecting attention away from the fundamental problems and injustices of their hierarchical industrial capitalist society and of shunting opposition into a sordid dead end of racial scapegoating.
He died in 1903, but he would surely have identified exactly the same processes at work in Nazi Germany. The Nazis were used by the ruling classes to save Germany from a genuine rebellion against industrial capitalism.
People’s natural and healthy animosity towards profiteering materialism, towards the commercialisation of society, was deliberately hijacked and diverted into anti-semitism, leaving the field clear for German capitalism to storm ahead under the Nazi banner.
The key element which allowed this scapegoating to take place was, obviously, the equation of Jewishness with capitalism, materialism and so on – the fake definition which had confused the young Lazare.
To stop it ever resurging, it would therefore seem crucial to break that link, to demolish the lie that capitalism was the property of any one people, nation or religion.
However, unfortunately, the Jewish stereotype lives on today. Even more unfortunate is that it is often kept alive by people who are ostensibly countering anti-semitism.
As we have seen, left-wingers who criticise bankers, industrialists and capitalist organisations are sometimes accused of deploying a “coded” form of anti-semitism.
Now, perhaps those making the allegations are justified in fearing a return of the scapegoating of Jews under the pretext of anti-capitalism. But it is beyond dispute that in automatically equating opposition to the global banking system with anti-semitism, they are in fact reinforcing the old stereotypes.
What appears to be happening, in some cases at least, is that the “Jewish banker” figure is again being deliberately deployed to thwart opposition to capitalism.
Previously, it was used to steer people away from anti-capitalism and into anti-semitism, but now the aim is rather to steer people away from anti-capitalism with the threat of being labelled anti-semitic.
The aim of this ideological scaremongering is not, in fact, to combat anti-semitism, but to use the smear of anti-semitic associations as a means of discrediting opposition to the dominant economic system.
In other words, capitalists, in the past, deliberately whipped up anti-semitism to protect themselves from popular fury (as Lazare outlines) and their successors are now differently – but equally dishonestly – using the spectre of that very same anti-semitism to protect themselves from a 21st century wave of anti-capitalist anger.
7. So what, do we conclude, is the smear all about?
There are several factors that might lie behind the way that radical ecological thinking is sometimes tarred with Nazi associations – wrongly, as we have established.
One is that there is a genuine fear that organic language could again be co-opted and diverted into a sinister direction by modern-day fascists. The trauma inflicted by Nazism remains so intense, more than 70 years later, that terms (mis-)used by its adherents in the past are still capable of triggering fearful reactions.
Another possible cause for the misunderstanding may lie in the way that our civilization and culture have drifted ever further from a nature-based understanding of humankind, and the organic approach is thus faced with a concrete wall of non-comprehension, which leaves the way clear for all kinds of misinterpretations of the intentions behind its approach.
Most likely is that both these factors have played a role and that they have combined to reinforce a still-more important element – a deliberate attack on the deep green, organic, ideology.
The aim of this would be, like the anti-semitism accusations described by Finn, “to discredit any radical critique of capitalism or imperialism in the modern world”.
As with the anti-semitism smears, the “eco-fascism” accusation is presented as a noble attempt to stop a new form of fascism from arising, thus seeking the support and gratitude of people who fear that very outcome.
But, in reality, it is a cynical ploy designed to attack anti-capitalist thought from behind the safe smokescreen of anti-fascism.
It has just enough evidence (of the superficial similarities of rhetoric we have discussed, of various right-wing extremists trying to co-opt deep green thought, etc) to make the claim sound plausible for those who do no further research of their own, but the accusation is fundamentally disingenuous.
To understand what is happening we need to go back to the 19th century, at the time when Organic Thinking II was developing. It was, as we have said, a reaction against The Machine in all its guises, against the industrial capitalist system that was destroying communities, countryside, everything that was worthwhile, authentic, beautiful and everlasting about our world.
To counter this opposition, The Machine (by which we mean a theoretical collective entity consisting of all the individuals who worked for it and with it) disguised itself as something other than the exploitative, destructive, inhuman, monstrous phenomenon that it really was.
Everywhere it depicted itself as representing “progress”, “prosperity”, “scientific advance” and so on and its enemies as backward-looking barbarians, stuck-in-the-mud reactionaries and dim-witted Luddites.
In German-speaking Europe, this Machine also managed to recuperate part of the very movement which had emerged to oppose it by stealing parts of its language – in the same way that capitalism recuperated punk music, for instance, or that Tony Blair’s New Labour used the language of social democracy to gain power for a neoliberal clique.
The promotion of communal Gemeinschaft, social organism and mutual aid against mechanistic industrial capitalism was transformed into a narrow racism and nationalism which diverted criticism of capitalism on to Jews and foreign powers, leaving the industrial capitalist system in Germany very much intact.
Fascism was, as we have seen, nothing but a reincarnation of The Machine itself.
It was not the only incarnation, though – and after defeating fascism, and using some of its know-how and personnel in its struggle against Soviet communism, the US/UK branch of the Machine was keen to present itself as the world’s great defender of democracy.
But by “defending democracy” what they really mean is repelling all threats to the continuation of their military-industrial-economic-prison-complex, the capitalist Machine.
In the language of contemporary “centrist” neoliberals, any political position which challenges their version of capitalism is necessarily “extremist”. They like to claim that extreme right and far left are essentially the same thing; a “red-brown” alliance against the neoliberal democratic values enshrined and protected by the USA and its allies.
This is the context in which anti-capitalism is equated with anti-semitism and in which deep green organic thinking is equated with fascism.
The Machine which we face today is indisputably the same Machine which provoked the anti-industrial, anti-capitalist philosophical revolt of the 19th century. There is an unbroken continuity there.
And that Machine, which in its fascist guise co-opted organic terminology for its own ends, is now happy to use that co-option, that misuse of organic language by the
fascists, to try to discredit the original, non-fascist, organic philosophy by a fake association with fascism.
It aims to disqualify organic/holistic thought, a philosophy which threatens the domination of its industrial capitalist system.
To do this it will use which ever means seems most effective – and the “Nazi” smear is the perfect weapon.
The immensity of this ideological deceit becomes even clearer if we look again at what it is that we, today, particularly dislike about Nazism. It is, as we said, the mass extermination, the anti-semitism and racism, the warmongering militarism, the police state, the blind nationalism, the eugenics, the propaganda and mass hysteria.
Which of those elements is present in deep green organic thinking? None of them! How can you accuse an ideological current of being “fascist” or “eco-fascist” if it doesn’t contain the ideological elements typical of fascism?
What are you left with if you start from a hypothetical “fascism” and then strip away nationalism, racism, militarism and authoritarianism? That’s simply not fascism any more. There can be no such thing as an internationalist, anti-racist, anti-militarist, libertarian “fascism”. The label is simply not appropriate and if you want to criticise it, you will have to find another language with which to do so.
Now let’s look at the industrial capitalist system. How does that compare with the Nazi model? Warmongering militarism? Yes. Police state? Yes. Propaganda and mass hysteria? Yes. Blind nationalism? Yes, despite its global character, capitalism is always happy to use this to rally the public. Eugenics? Yes, although they don’t call it that these days. Cold inhumanity? Yes. Racism? Very much so.
Anti-semitism? Although anti-semitism exists in our society, it is not systematically encouraged by the ideology of industrial capitalism. It is, however, systemically abused, as we have seen – being turned into an ideological weapon to be used not principally against anti-semites, but against anti-capitalists. The victims of this cheap weaponising of the term will be those who find it leaves them horribly exposed to the real thing.
Contemporary capitalism has not yet plumbed the depths of depravity achieved by the Hitler regime and operated mass extermination camps, but that is pretty much the only way in which it can claim any moral high ground over Nazism.
In other respects, it shares the thinking of the Nazi Machine, which is not surprising because it is essentially the same Machine. It is obsessed with industrialisation, production, technology and war. It regards people as human resources, as labour units, as consumers, as cannon fodder and as collateral damage. Its thinking is utilitarian, fragmented, non-holistic. It is cold, mechanical, exploitative. Its own inner logic of self-interest blinds itself to all morality, ethics, humanity.
And this system dares accuse its opponents of being “fascist”?
8. Why do we care so much about this issue?
Why open this particular can of worms about supposed fascist influences on organic, nature-based ideology? Why do we think this issue is so important that we feel the need to address it in this article?
There are two aspects involved here. The first is that we are concerned at the adverse effects the “Nazi” smears, and the fear of such smears, have had on radical thinking.
There are, again, strong parallels with the “anti-semitic” smears levelled against some forms of anti-capitalism.
The aim of equating talk of “the one per cent” with anti-semitism is presumably to deter people from drawing attention to the existence of a very real capitalist ruling class.
Instead, anti-capitalists are supposed to address the matter in a convoluted, theoretical way which may make sense to postmodern academics but is never going to spark a wave of public support in the way that the direct approach can.
In radical environmental circles it likewise becomes impossible to talk about nature, a return to the land or organic communities without someone like Staudenmaier popping up to identify a “chilling” resemblance to Nazi thought.
This simply rips the heart out of the ideology, destroying its fundamental coherency. How can we criticise modern capitalist society, and propose a radical alternative, if the language in which we do so has been ruled out of bounds by some kind of ideological thought police?
Instead of getting to the core of the problem with industrial capitalism, and everything that goes along with it, people are forced to retreat into positions which do not fundamentally challenge capitalism.
Either they end up accepting its claims that we “need” economic growth, never-ending technological progress and so on, or they adopt superficial nihilistic approaches which condemn capitalism without being able to propose an authentic alternative.
The second aspect of the problem relates to the ideological gap left by the abandonment of organic anti-capitalist thinking by left-wingers scared off by the smear campaigns.
Just because those ideas are not being expressed in certain circles, does not mean that they do not exist, or that they will magically be stopped from taking shape in people’s minds.
Imagine a young person who feels aesthetically revolted by the capitalist society in which they have been brought up – by its materialism, environmental destruction, fragmentation and consumer shallowness.
In contrast to all of that, this young person imagines a different world, a world where people live more simply and sanely, in small communities imbued with healthy
values, feeling a strong connection to the land and to the other creatures who live on it.
This young person looks around for other people saying the same thing, for a movement which voices those ideals and seeks to realise them.
The ideology they are looking for is organic radicalism, green anarchy, but maybe, thanks to the efforts of the ideological thought police, this ideology is no longer visible.
Imagine that there is, however, a group expressing some of these ideas in a slightly different way. They talk of going back to the land, building healthy small-scale communities and of respecting nature. The only thing is that they also talk a lot about kinship and ethnic identity, which our young person is not quite sure about, but feels is perhaps just one detail that they can learn to live with.
Later, the new recruit discovers that this movement has been exposed as extreme right-wing and fiercely criticised. But because the criticisms come from a left-wing movement which seems to reject all of the young person’s ideals, they fall on deaf years. “If these ideas are extreme right-wing ideas,” they think to themselves, “then I myself must naturally belong to the extreme right”.
This is roughly the same process that led Lazare, a Jew, into expressing anti-semitic ideas because he had swallowed the lie equating capitalism and Jewishness and the process that Wertheimer depicts twisting the mind of the young Nazi idealist.
Maybe in due course our young person will, like Lazare, see through the emptiness and inhumanity of fascist rhetoric and walk away from it in order to rebuild their own personal philosophy on a healthier basis, but that is far from being sure.
The damage will already have been done by the way the left has turned its back on a deep critique of capitalism with a powerful vision of an alternative society.
This, in fact, is what happened a hundred years ago, when much of the left, particularly in German-speaking Europe, had abandoned a nature-based, holistic anti-capitalism in favour of an industrially-orientated Marxism. (81)
Juan J. Linz, in ‘Some Notes Toward a Comparative Study of Fascism in Sociological Historical Perspective’ explains that “the lack of understanding of traditional Marxist theory and especially Central European social democracy for the plight of the peasant and pre-industrial strata” (82) left the way clear for Nazi recruitment. “A romantic youth protest against bourgeois society was captured by the fascists,” (83) he adds.
Landauer was very aware of this problem. Berman and Luke explain that he saw the need for society to break free from “the false mechanical concepts of science that impoverish human understanding” (84) but understood that Marxism was itself trapped inside this mindset, with its “scientific” belief in the supposedly inevitable transition of capitalism into socialism.
This meant orthodox Marxists had to applaud capitalist growth and capitalist progress. “In the light of Landauer’s critique, nineteenth century scientific socialism ceases to appear as a radical critique of the status quo. Rather, behind its revolutionary pretenses, it buttresses the development of capitalist structures”. (85)
In failing to take up the Romantic struggle against industrial capitalism, building on the rich organic and holistic philosophy which was being developed in German-speaking lands, the Marxists allowed this powerful anti-capitalist current to flow into the stagnant waters of fascism.
Comment Berman and Luke: “The turn of völkisch thought to the right is ultimately not indicative of the quality of such thought, but rather of the self-imposed constraints of the traditional Marxist left, which failed to appropriate the leftist potential of the völkisch movement”. (86)
The Marxist left of that place and period had become sterile and dogmatic and shied away from appealing to those who wanted to fundamentally challenge the assumptions and infrastructures of capitalist society, who were ready to embark on a total revolt against the Gesellschaft of state and business.
As Sternhell notes: “With their thirst for action for action’s sake and struggle for struggle’s sake, the fascists appeared to be the only authentically revolutionary political organizations, the only movements unconditionally opposed to the established order, the only people whose revolutionary credibility – unlike that of the parties of the left, including the communist parties – had not been damaged by compromise”. (87)
It is ironic that contemporary leftists are being urged to steer clear of emotive anti-capitalism and nature-based organic environmentalism, because of an alleged taint by Nazi associations, when it was actually a previous left-wing generation’s drift in that very same direction – its abandonment of authentic anti-capitalist ideals – which allowed the Nazis to co-opt and distort those ideals for their own dishonest ends.
9. What would we like to see happen next?
Antidote zine, the American website which reposted our Envisioning a Post-Western World article, commented that “it behooves people in contested cultural terrain to, well, contest it”. (88)
This is what we would like to see happen next. We would like to see the terrain of organic ideology contested with the aim of lifting the Nazi curse which has stifled its voice and restoring it to its rightful role as the ideological heart of anarchist and anti-capitalist thinking.
We wrote above that the holistic philosophy which emerged in the 19th and early 20th century was a kind of Organic Thinking II, because it had added a specifically anti-industrial and anti-capitalist layer on top of the older holistic heritage.
It is now time to develop Organic Thinking III, a 21st century version of the ideology that is not only anti-industrial and anti-capitalist, but specifically anti-fascist.
The reasons for this should by now be obvious. By clearly defining and explaining itself as anti-fascist, Organic Thinking III can not only shake off the smears with which Organic Thinking II has been attacked, but also shed light on the real successor to fascist ideology – the authoritarian, militaristic, racist, industrialist, science-obsessed, capitalist Machine.
It will condemn fascism not for being the “religion of nature” that it never really was, but for being the epitome of industrialism, the death-cult military-technocratic system pushed to its brutal limits.
Organic Thinking III will include the awareness that the Machine has tried to destroy anti-capitalist organicism by tarring its language with the broad brush of a deliberately misinterpreted fascism.
It will relaunch the ideological war on industrial capitalism begun by Organic Thinking II, but inoculate itself against a new take-over bid by the extreme right by placing at its core the left-wing values of humanity, solidarity, compassion and universality.
It will declare itself an implacable enemy of fascism and present a coherent and self-contained organic political vision that could never be acceptable to fascists – one fuelled by the ideas of anarchists, non-nationalist socialists and Jews, from Morris to Goldstein, from Monakow to Kropotkin, from Tönnies to Wertheimer, from Landauer to Roszak.
It will be unflinching in its complete rejection of this capitalist-fascist system in all respects – its economics, its infrastructures and its ideology.
It will condemn all the new forms being taken by fascism – the sinister techno-totalitarianism of genetic engineering, nanotechnology, surveillance, drone warfare and transhumanism.
It will challenge head-on the productivist obsession with quantity over quality, with profit, with economic growth, with “progress” and it will call for a society built on ethics, values, humanity and solidarity.
It will favour the authentic over the artificial, the beautiful over the ugly, the living over the sterile.
It will understand the distinction between Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, as set out by Tönnies, and struggle for the revival of the former.
It will pay no heed to the demands of authority, with its states, currencies, laws, police forces, armies, courts, prisons and concentration camps.
It will reject the mercantile mindset and seek to build a society based on exchange, mutual aid and common interest, where food is grown and objects are produced on the basis of collective need rather than for private gain.
It will refuse the false construct of land ownership, recognising the land as something to which we belong, rather than as something which could ever belong to us.
It will go beyond contemporary society’s toxic separation of body and mind and embrace the holistic reality of our being.
It will likewise embrace the holistic unity of humankind and insist that within that unity all borders are fluid, all particularisms imbued with the universal human essence.
It will condemn the arrogance of Western civilization in imposing its structures and ideology on the rest of the world and find inspiration and alliance with peoples everywhere seeking to protect or restore non-Western, non-capitalist, ways of living and thinking.
It will acknowledge that humankind is a nothing but part of nature and that our future can only be healthy in the context of a healthy natural world, free from pillage, pollution and destruction.
It will understand that the universe itself is a living entity and that human well-being depends on individuals acting as part of a greater whole, a social organism.
It will know that these individuals can only be free within a free community and that this free community must always be made up of free individuals.
It will break through all the lies and taboos to spread the message that the planetary destruction being wreaked by the industrial capitalist system must be stopped.
It will inspire people to dream, to hope, to speak out, to discuss, to write, to mobilise and to turn their ideas into action.
One day it will bring down The Machine – the industrial, capitalist, fascist Machine – and clear the way for natural life once more to flourish
1. Ernst Lehmann, Biologischer Wille. Wege und Ziele biologischer Arbeit im neuen Reich, (Munich: J.F.Lehmann, 1934), cit. Anne Harrington, Reenchanted Science: Holism in German Culture from Wilhelm II to Hitler (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999), p. 177.
6. Anna Bramwell, Ecology in the Twentieth Century: A History, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1989, pp. 272-73.
7. Anna Bramwell, The Fading of the Greens: The Decline of Environmental Politics in the West (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1994), p. 43.
9. Vivianne Crowley, Wicca: The Old Religion in the New Millennium (London: Thorsons, 1996), p. 32
10. William Morris, ‘How I Became A Socialist’, News From Nowhere and Selected Writings and Designs, ed. by Asa Briggs, (London: Penguin, 1984) p. 36.
11. Georges Bernanos, ‘La France contre les robots’, cit. Aux origines de la décroissance – Cinquante penseurs, coordonné par Cédric Biagini, David Murray, Pierre Thiesset (Paris: L’Échappée, 2017), p. 28.
12. Harrington, pp. xvii-xviii.
13 Harrington, p. 20.
14. Nina Lyon, Uprooted: On the Trail of the Green Man (London: Faber & Faber, 2016), p. 192.
15. F. Sander, ‘Deutsche Psychologie und nationalsozialistische Weltanschauung’. Nazionalsozialistisches Bildungswesen. 2. pp. 641-643, cit. Harrington, p. 178.
16. Lehmann, cit. Harrington, p. 177.
17. Harrington, p. 188.
18. cit. Harrington, p. 175.
19. Zeev Sternhell, ‘Fascist Ideology’, Fascism: A Reader’s Guide. Analyses, Interpretations, Bibliography, ed. Walter Laqueur (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1991), p. 356.
20. Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism (London: Pluto Press, 1989), p. 75.
21. Harrington, p. 182.
22. Sternhell, pp. 324-35.
23. Harrington, p. 181.
24. Alfred Böttcher, 1935, ‘Die Lösung der Judenfrage’, Ziel und Weg 5: 226. cit Harrington, pp. xx-xxi.
25. Johann Chapoutot, La révolution culturelle nazie, Paris: Gallimard, 2017
26. Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity, trad. Stuart Woolf, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), p. 105.
27. Chapoutot, p. 79.
28. Chapoutot, p. 85.
29. Harrington, p. 189.
30. Gerhard Portele, ‘Gestaltttheorie und Wissenschaftstheorie. Pläyoder für eine alternative Wissenschaft’, Gestalt Theory I (I), pp. 26-38, cit. Harrington, p. 211.
31. Harrington, p. 195.
32. NSDAP’s Mitteilungen zur weltanschaulichen Lage, Nov 27, 1936, cit. Harrington, p. 196.
33. Harrington, pp. 197-98.
34. Lyon, p. 192.
35. Harrington, p. xxi.
36. Harrington, p. 62.
37. Harrington, p. 190.
38. Harrington , p. 92.
39. Harrington, p. 98.
40. Harrington, p. 172.
41. Ruth Nanda Anshen, ‘Open letter to Dr Kurt Goldstein in commemoration of his eightieth birthday, November 6, 1958, Goldstein Papers, cit. Harrington, p. 172.
42. Max Wertheimer, ‘On truth’, Social Research 1 (2), cit. Harrington, pp. 133-34.
43. Max Wertheimer, ‘Some problems in the theory of ethics’, Social Research 2 (3), cit. Harrington, p. 134.
44. Michael Löwy, Juifs hétérodoxes: Romantisme, messianisme, utopie (Paris: Éditions de l’éclat, 2010).p. 23.
45. Löwy, Juifs hétérodoxes, pp. 33-34.
46. Michael Lowy, Rédemption et utopie: le judaïsme libertaire en Europe centrale, (Paris : Editions du Sandre, 2009), p. 74.
47. Löwy, Juifs hétérodoxes, p. 82.
47. Löwy, Juifs hétérodoxes, pp. 82-83.
48. Löwy, Juifs hétérodoxes, p. 36
49. Löwy, Juifs hétérodoxes, p. 121.
50. Ferdinand Tönnies, Community and Society: Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, trad. Charles P. Loomis, (New York: Dover Publications, 2002), p. 34.
51. Tönnies, p. 35.
52. Tönnies, p. 36.
53. Tönnies, p. 121.
54. Tönnies, p. 89.
55. Tönnies, p. 83.
56. Tönnies, p. 202.
57. Tönnies, pp. 227-28.
58. Tönnies, p. 216.
59. Tönnies, p. 225.
60. Tönnies, p. 208.
61. Tönnies, pp. 230-31.
62. Theodore Roszak, Where the Wasteland Ends: Politics and Transcendence in Postindustrial Society (New York: Doubleday, 1972), p. 424.
63. Roszak, pp. 95-96.
64. Russell Berman & Tim Luke, ‘Introduction’, Gustav Landauer, For Socialism, trans. by David J Parent, (St Louis: Telos Press, 1978), p. 8.
65. Gustav Landauer, Revolution and Other Writings: A Political Reader, ed. and trans. by Gabriel Kuhn, (Oakland: PM Press, 2010), p. 22.
66. Gustav Landauer, Skepsis und Mystik: Versuche im Anschluss an Mauthners Sprachkritik, (Cologne: 2d ed, 1923) p. 7, cit. Charles B Maurer, Call to Revolution. The Mystical Anarchism of Gustav Landauer, (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1971) p. 69.
67. Peter Kropotkin, Ethics: Origin and Development (Dorchester: Prism Press, n/d) p.45.
68. Kropotkin, pp. 16-17.
69. Kropotkin, pp. 30-31.
70. Kropotkin, p. 18.
71. Kropotkin, p. 87.
75. Bernard Lazare, ‘Juifs et Israélites’, La Question Juive (Paris: Éditions Allia, 2012), p. 26.
76. Wertheimer, ‘Some problems in the theory of ethics’, cit. Harrington, p. 135.
77. Lazare, ‘La Solidarité Juive’, p. 41.
78. Lazare, ‘Juifs et Antisémites’, p. 58
79. Lazare, ‘Antisémitisme et révolution’, p. 84.
80. Lazare, ‘Conception Sociale du Judaïsme’, p. 185.
81. See Paul Cudenec, The Stifled Soul of Humankind (Sussex: Winter Oak, 2014).
82. Juan J. Linz, ‘Some Notes Toward a Comparative Study of Fascism in Sociological Historical Perspective’, Fascism: A Reader’s Guide, p. 17.
83.Linz, p. 19.
84. Berman & Luke, p. 7.
85. Berman & Luke, p. 11.
86. Berman & Luke, p. 8.
87. Sternhell, p. 343.
Does opposing US imperialism and wars mean you’re not really an anarchist?
The answer is obviously “no”, but you wouldn’t think so if you took seriously a most peculiar attack which has been made against us, following on from recent articles on our site.
We weren’t initially even sure if the blog post from “cautiously pessimistic” was worth responding to, as it basically just regurgitates the same memes we were highlighting in the first place.
For instance, one of the main points in our pieces (here and here) is the way in which anyone critical of the neoliberal system and its imperial wars is being automatically accused of supporting states regarded as enemies of the USA.
It is not possible, according to this mindset, that someone could have moral objections to bombing civilians, shooting unarmed protesters or destroying the environment with fracking – anyone voicing such opinions must obviously be working for Putin or Assad.
So how did “cautiously pessimistic” choose to cleverly counter our comments on this phenomenon? By accusing us of “unswerving loyalty to the Russian and Syrian governments”!
Another important theme of our articles was the way that neoliberal imperialists like to hide behind an apparently left-wing, anti-fascist identity in order to attack actual leftists, anti-fascists and anarchists.
We have no idea who the author of the blog piece is, but in choosing the heading “In defence of anarchism and antifascism”, they clearly also want to be seen to be launching their attack from the radical high ground.
If we feel obliged to respond to the article, it is because of the deceit contained in that headline. Obviously neither anarchism nor anti-fascism need to be “defended” from our articles, because we are both anarchist and anti-fascist. What we object to is people who misuse these labels to camouflage pro-war neoliberal views.
Throughout the article, the author goes out of their way to suggest that being an anarchist is somehow incompatible with opposing imperialism.
The argument is a familiar one, but no less stupid for that. If you oppose empires, it goes, you must support nation-states. Therefore you are a statist and not really an anarchist at all.
It is purely on the basis of this rickety reasoning that the author allows themself to claim that we have abandoned anti-statism, discarded “basic anarchist principles” and seem “willing to ditch everything that makes anarchism distinctive, meaningful or coherent”.
Nothing could be further from the truth, as can be seen by reading our material. In our article What is real anarchism, for instance, we very clearly explain that the state is not only unnecessary but “is actually stopping us from living how we should be living. The state is a positive menace to human well-being.”
But the blog author is not going to let actual written evidence get in the way of their smear. Getting rather carried away with their own rhetoric, they melodramatically conclude: “Apparently Winter Oak think it’s necessary to destroy anarchism in order to save it.”
Destroying anarchism by criticising neoliberals and their war propaganda?
A lot of the article makes no sense at all. It seems to be aimed at people who are not actually going to read the whole thing, but will just skim through and come away with the vague impression that it has identified some sort of inner contradiction in our analysis.
The author fails to recognise the difference between mentioning somebody – simply commenting on the unfair way in which they have been attacked – and actually being a political supporter or associate of that person.
For instance, in another cunning bid to somehow prove that we are not actual anarchists at all, the author seizes on the fact that we mention Jeremy Corbyn in the articles.
Now, anyone who has actually read the contents of our website will know that we regard Corbyn, and the Labour Party, as reformists who will do nothing to challenge the existence of the industrial capitalist system.
What astonishes us, and what we try to highlight, is that even their mild form of social democracy is now considered beyond the pale by the neoliberal establishment and their mouthpieces.
There has clearly been a concerted campaign to discredit and destroy Corbyn and his supporters by pro-US, Blairite neoliberals, some of whom pretend they are attacking him from the left, when they are really doing so from the right.
Pointing this out does not mean that we always leap to an “automatic defence of Jeremy Corbyn”, or that criticising Corbyn is “off-limits” for us. How could that be? We are anarchists, not Labour Party people.
In general, the article seems to deliberately mix up what we have said with what other people have said. Readers not paying attention could end up imagining that we were somehow involved in the internal Labour Party controversies, for instance, or that we had expressed some kind of support for Assad or Putin.
The author also conveniently fudges important parts of our exposé of the fake left’s attacks on anti-capitalism.
For instance, the key thing about Alexander Reid Ross’s article on Syria in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz is that he criticises what he describes as “Labour’s tepid response to the Douma attacks and Corbyn’s rejection of any humanitarian grounds for military action”.
This is simply not an opinion that has any place on the left to which Ross claims to belong. He is not attacking Corbyn from an anarchist or anti-capitalist position, by accusing him of being statist, reformist or a sell-out. Ross is attacking him from a right-wing pro-war position, complaining that Corbyn is not going along with the “bomb Syria” policies promoted by the UK Conservative Party and the US government.
The blog author can’t actually bring himself to support Ross over this, so instead he veers off in a strange direction, declaring: “I don’t believe Ross being wrong on this issue discredits all of anti-fascism.”
Eh? Well, no of course it doesn’t! How could it? Who said it did? Not us, that’s for sure. We are ourselves part of “all of anti-fascism”. Why does he think that criticising Alexander Reid Ross is an attempt to discredit anti-fascism?
What really discredits anti-fascism, in our opinion, is to use it as a device to protect pro-war voices from criticism by the anti-capitalist left.
The blog author also plays down the significance of Caroline O, aka @RVAwonk, (whom Ross quotes in his article and describes as a “public scholar”), commenting merely that she “apparently has some dodgy neoliberal/establishment connections”.
It’s a bit more than that. On her Twitter account she identifies herself as Writer/Editor @Shareblue Media: “We tell real-world stories to give voice to the heroes fighting for American values”.
She is a great supporter of Hamilton 68, the surveillance project which claims to “track Russian propaganda” but in fact amounts to a McCarthyite system of blacklisting people whose views don’t please the neoliberal establishment.
As she tweeted on September 1, 2017: “Hamilton 68 is a great project. I’m hoping to see it expanded even more. I can see a lot of potential for it [to] grow.”
The significance, of course, is that Hamilton 68 is a propaganda project being run by the US state. Its aim is to counter criticism of US foreign policy by claiming that it all originates from enemy states, such as Russia or Syria, and thus is “fake news” which should be kicked off the internet.
Drawing attention to this US propaganda project does not amount to “unswerving loyalty to the Russian and Syrian governments”, even if Hamilton 68 and “cautiously pessimistic” would like you to think so.
There are other very odd accusations scattered across the blog post, such as the suggestion that by not writing about a particular court case in the USA we were “implicitly siding with Fox News, Max Blumenthal and his lawyers, and so with the whole weight of the state apparatus”.
“Implicitly” siding with the “whole weight of the state apparatus” by not writing about an American court case that we hadn’t even heard of? Guilt by omission and association at one and the same time? This really is desperate stuff!