The Acorn – 37

acornmastheadnew1

Number 37


In this issue:

  1. Why Catalonia matters
  2. French rebels resist neoliberal assault
  3. We need all-out resistance!
  4. Whatever happened to the revolution?
  5. Welcome to 21st century fascism
  6. Acorninfo

1. Why Catalonia matters

As anti-statists and internationalists, anarchists often have mixed feelings about movements calling for new nation states, even small ones.

But there are times when an instinctive hatred of centralised authority, and the violence with which it is imposed, completely overwhelms such ideological qualms.

Such is the case with events currently unfolding in Catalonia, where the “unauthorised” referendum staged on October 1 has been met with alarming levels of repression by the central Spanish state.

Before the event hundreds of websites were shut down, officials arrested, printing presses raided, ballot papers confiscated and media threatened.

On the day, people who turned out to vote were physically attacked by Spanish riot cops, leaving 900 injured.  Videos circulating on social media showed one cop jumping from a staircase to stamp on a voter beneath, another deliberately breaking someone’s fingers one by one, others brutally bludgeoning people sitting passively in a road. Rubber bullets were fired at unarmed and largely passive crowds.

Anarchists have long known that violence is the foundation of the state and of all authority. Sometimes it remains hidden beneath the surface, but it is always there.

Declaring land “private property” and excluding people from their collective birthright is violent. Making people work for others’ profit, or else face starvation, is violent. The very idea of a police “force” is violent. A legal system which claims the right to chastise and imprison is violent.

The bottom line is that everyone knows that any attempt to defy the power of authority, no matter how peacefully, will be met with violence. Normally this remains unsaid, a kind of social subtext. But there are moments when the reality emerges in all its ugliness.

This is what is happening in Catalonia right now. Authority, with a capital A, is imposing itself against the people.  You can put aside all the details of the Catalan situation, it really is as simple as that.

And for those who remain convinced that the European Union in some way represents a force for good, its complete lack of condemnation for the Spanish state should act as a wake-up call.

The EU is just a centralised version of the same violent mafia that have been running all the various nation-states of Europe for hundreds of years. It is not condemning the Spanish state because all the states that it represents reserve the right to behave in exactly the same, violent, way, wherever their authority is challenged.

To his credit, Craig Murray, a radical commentator who was once UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, has admitted on his blog that events in Catalonia had proven him mistaken in his long-time support for the EU.

He writes: “The EU reacted as if no such abuse had ever happened at all, and the world had not seen it.  The institution has in fact been overrun by the right wing cronyism of the neo-liberal political class, and no longer serves the principles for which it ostensibly stands. It is become simply an instrument of elite power against the people”.

It has long been a theme of this bulletin that the system in which we live is edging ever closer to fascism, even if the 21st century form which it takes does not superficially look like the versions historically endured by Italy and Germany.

In Spain there is even some fascistic continuity. The ruling right-wing People’s Party began life in 1976 as the People’s Alliance,  founded by Manuel Fraga, a former minister under dictator General Franco.

The Francoist spirit lingering in the Spanish riot police, and the nazi-saluting Spanish right-wing nationalists who support their thuggery, is plain to see.

And there are clear echoes of Catalan resistance to the central Francoist state in the grass-roots Catalan independence movement.

While corporate media coverage aims to dilute support for Catalonia by pointing to the fact that the region is wealthy, and there are right-wing as well as left-wing independence parties,  the current repression has pushed the Catalan struggle well into left-wing libertarian territory.

In an informative interview with Jacobin Magazine, Lluc Salellas of the Catalan anti-capitalist party Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP) pointed out that the clamp-down on Catalan autonomy has a social as well as a centralist dimension.

Salellas said: “The last fifteen laws we have passed in the Catalan parliament have been banned by the Spanish state. But these are not independentist laws — many of them are social laws: for example, a law about sanctuary for those fleeing persecution, a law banning energy companies from turning off people’s electricity, and a law for a higher minimum wage.

“We want to use our autonomy to improve people’s lives and we are forbidden. People see this and respond. They want to decide the future of Catalonia and that is not possible in the current arrangement.

“The movement has already moved to the Left — the laws I mentioned earlier were a sign of that, they were social measures supported even by the center-right. The streets have an idea of something new in Catalonia, something bottom-up.”

Salellas was speaking on October 3, the day of a general strike called in response to Spanish central repression. It was a strike in which anarchist unions took a leading role.

He commented: “Today we have seen the biggest general strike in the history of Catalonia. It was supported by the Catalan trade union movement, all of the pro-independence parties, and other left groups such as Podemos’s regional affiliate and Barcelona en Comú.

“There was a very widespread stoppage: almost everything closed from small shops to public institutions and transport. In total, more than fifty roads were blocked, which has significantly disrupted the transport of goods. It wasn’t just in Barcelona, either. In Girona, one of the regional capitals, there was a demonstration of 50,000. The city’s population is only 100,000, so it will be the biggest protest in the city’s history.”

And he placed the repression used by the Spanish state in a wider context. He said the Catalans’ battle was an important  moment for Europe.  “If we don’t win it, the idea that governments can meet democratic expressions with violence will spread. This weekend it was Catalonia, but it won’t end here. We could see it normalized across Europe.”

This is an important point. With its use of the whole gamut of repressive methods, from internet censorship and brutal violence to media distortion of what has been happening, the Spanish state could almost be acting out a dress rehearsal of clamp-downs on disobedient populations elsewhere.

If the authorities can get away with it in Barcelona and Catalonia, with their proud revolutionary spirit and sense of community, they might conclude they could get away with it anywhere.

In this context, the days and weeks ahead in Catalonia may well prove decisive for all of us. Solidarity is badly needed, rather than ideological hand-wringing about the dangers of expressing solidarity even with left-wing forms of nationalism (when was that ever a problem regarding Kurdistan, for instance?).

Girona

The massive crowds on the streets of Barcelona, Girona and elsewhere, along with the brutal and panicky state reaction, are increasingly conjuring up memories of the Arab Spring of 2011.

Who knows where this will lead? The Spanish state, via its courts, has already suspended the session of the Catalan Parliament at which it was expected to declare independence in the wake of the”yes” vote.

Salellas suggests: “The Spanish state will probably try to use Article 155 of the constitution to definitively end our autonomy. They may also arrest the Catalan president, as well as other political figures.

“If this happens, the streets will rise up and we will have a major confrontation. The independence movement has a lot of people — I estimate up to a million — ready to be very active in this campaign over a long period of time. It won’t be easy for the Spanish state to repress a movement of that size.”

Building barricades in Girona

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2. French rebels resist neoliberal assault

Less than six months after Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France, the streets are filling up with people opposing his so-called labour “reforms”, which are blatantly aimed at removing workers’ rights in the interests of business profits.

When the campaign against his “Loi Travail XXL” got underway on September 12, half a million people protested in 200 towns and cities.

The French police continued to use the heavy-handed approach that was deployed against the 2016 revolt against the original Loi Travail.

In Lyons, for instance, part of the demo was kettled right at the start and it was only because the rest of the protesters refused to move on, and stayed put for two hours, that they were eventually released.

An interesting twist was the involvement of France’s travelling funfair community, who  used their lorries to block motorways in solidarity with the strikes and protests.

The next big date is Tuesday October 10, when a general strike is planned.

France seems in some ways to be at the point the UK had reached in 1984, when Europe’s first neoliberal state, under Thatcher, deliberately took on and defeated the miners in order to break  the resistance of the trade union movement.

Orgreave

As in the UK in those days , the neoliberals are making a calculated bet on the physical supremacy of their power.

They are happy to use the full legal force of their system to crush dissent, the full physical force of their police and military to attack dissidents, the full psychological force of their tame media to conceal what is happening, to spread lies and disinformation, to smear their opponents.

If we are audacious enough to deploy all of this against our enemies, the authorities seem to be saying to themselves,  what can anybody actually do about it? How do our opponents even imagine they could stop us, unless it is by bringing the whole system crashing down?

The very same thought is at the same time, of course, also occurring to the dissidents…

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3. We need all-out resistance!

We had some positive feedback from comrades regarding our article in Acorn 36 about the failings of a so-called anti-capitalist movement which thinks it is “on the knife’s edge” of acceptability to actually oppose capitalism and all its assumptions.

So we thought we would clarify our position with a full bullet points pointing to the sort of movement we would like to be part of. Regular readers will spot that there is nothing new here! These are the arguments we have been making again and again in this bulletin, in the daily quotes we tweet out and in the books we publish.

  • We need to declare all-out war on the system we conveniently label “capitalism”. This must take place on a practical level, on a political level and on a philosophical level.
  • Crucially, we need to challenge the very foundations of that power. We need to entirely reject all the layers of fake justification for the “authority” that underlies the state and its legal system.
  • We need to reject all claims for “ownership” of land and insist that the land belongs to all (including non-humans) and has been stolen from us.
  •  We must take care not to accept the “morality” of the system – not to confuse legal and illegal with right or wrong, not to fall into the trap of playing by its own self-serving rules.
  • We need to expose all  the “legitimate” force with which the system imposes its “authority”, “law” and “property” as nothing but brute violence,  dressed up in wigs, uniforms and fancy language.
  • We have got to rid ourselves of the ultraliberalism which has been infecting the anarchist movement.  Its reformist individualism and fetishization of “non-violence” and “safety” has nothing to do with our struggle. Our aim is not to make the current system nicer, but to do away with it.
  • We have to be clear that industrial society has been created by capitalism and is inseparable from capitalism. To protect the world from total environmental disaster, we have to destroy capitalism, along with all its assumptions and infrastructures.
  • We are heretics and as such we will reject all dogmas, religious or political, which preach obedience or submission to power.
  • We must reject patriarchy and its domination of our cultures. We must understand its links to militarism and industrialism, its fetishization of quantity, size, speed and violence. 
  • We need to nurture a dynamic and determined  revolutionary spirit. The self-important sterility and cynicism of Academia undermines our struggles.
  • We must remain inspired by a positive vision of the anarchist society that we know is possible. Nihilism and defeatism motivate nobody.
  • We need to strongly oppose imperialism in all its forms. We must not be put off by spurious claims that anti-imperialism necessarily equals disguised nationalism. Self-determination and decentralisation are part of our internationalist struggle, from Kurdistan and Palestine to West Papua and Catalonia.
  • We must not be afraid of naming the USA as the primary bulwark of the system we oppose or of identifying its key allies, such as the UK, Germany, France or Israel.  We should not be swayed by sly ideological memes suggesting that opposition to US imperialism implies support for other regimes or that criticism of the Israeli state amounts to antisemitism.
  • We should actively expose the machinations of the military-industrial complex and not be frightened away from doing so by “conspiracy theorist” smears designed to deter investigative criticism. At the same time we should (obviously) avoid falling into a reductionist conspiracy mindset or spreading toxic right-wing analyses

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4. Whatever happened to the revolution?

The spirit of 99. Protesting against globalisation in Seattle

The contemporary “left” is giving free rein to fascist ideologists by shying away from a deep rejection of industrial capitalism and its world.

That is the warning in a thoughtful two-part article by Rhyd Wildermuth on the Gods & Radicals website.

He describes “a deep and intentional blindness particularly within American anti-fascist and ‘leftist’ thought, the product both of a marriage to Liberal Democratic hegemony and an almost ecstatic abdication of revolutionary territory”.

Looking back to the big anti-capitalist/anti-globalisation movement of the 1990s, he notes that the politics that lay behind it have all but disappeared from the US and UK radical left’s thinking, leaving nationalists and fascists able to pose as the main opponents of the global capitalist system.

Wildermuth writes: “Partially due to the all-too conveniently-timed ‘war on terror’ and systematic counter-revolutionary actions, the mass mobilizations of the anti-globalisation movement are long-gone, and few of the critiques remain in the political platforms of any leftist or liberal movement in the United States or the United Kingdom.

“However, the damage done did not simply disappear when there was no movement to fight it, and much of the current political turmoil in which we find ourselves now is a consequence both of globalisation and the left’s abandonment of that fight.”

Condemning the reformism of the so-called Left, he says: “Mass movements such as Black Lives Matter, Occupy, and the mobilizations against Trump and white supremacy expend extraordinary effort to avoid direct criticism of Liberal Democracy, contorting themselves into almost absurd positions.”

He adds: “The Left mistakes anti-modernism as fascist only because it has drunk the bloody offerings at Capitalism’s altars of progress”.

Rhyd Wildermuth

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5. Welcome to 21st century fascism

When we think about fascism, our main reference point tends to be the regimes which took control of Italy and Germany in the first half of the 20th century.

But it is now 95 years since Benito Mussolini came to power and the sort of fascism we encounter today is an updated version.

Contemporary fascists, for instance, seem to have dropped the shallow pretence of being “socialists” or “workers” which helped Adolf Hitler’s Nazis win mass support in the 1930s.

Antisemitism no longer seems to be a necessary ingredient in the toxic fascist recipe, either, with hatred of Muslims often replacing (or at least eclipsing) hatred of Jews.

Some extreme-right wing groups are also positively pro-Israel and there is growing evidence of a previously unthinkable connection between fascists and right-wing Zionists.

Writing about his country’s “flirtation with Europe’s extreme right”, Israeli journalist Meron Rapoport identifies anti-Muslim sentiment as the key factor.

Israel has long been concerned about European sympathy for the Palestinian struggle and support for the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which aims to hit the Israeli economy.

In this context, any increase in anti-Muslim feeling in Europe “is seen as good sign in Israel” explains Rapoport.

He adds: “If Europe would just see the importance of the ‘Muslim danger’, goes this line of thinking, then it would also understand – and be grateful for – Israel’s pivotal role in the war against ‘radical Islam’. Through this common enemy, Israel could be relieved from its isolation.”

In the UK, the English Defence League was notorious for its support for Israel and its brandishing of Israeli flags on protests.

It appears that there is a similar phenomenon within Alternative for Germany (AfD), the 21st century face of the German far right. We are seeing, as Ali Abunimah points out, “a newly invigorated alliance between far-right, traditionally anti-Semitic forces on the one hand, and Israel and Zionists on the other”.

The Times of Israel confirms that “like many far-right parties in Europe and elsewhere, the AfD presents itself as staunchly supportive of Israel”.

It says that according to a wide-ranging poll commissioned by a group promoting German-Israeli relations, most AfD politicians profess to care deeply about Israel’s security, support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, reject unilaterally recognizing a Palestinian state, and generally support a stronger relationship between Jerusalem and Berlin.

Over half of the AfD respondents said they “totally” agreed with the statement that support for BDS was antisemitic; no other major party had such a strong opposition to BDS.

Beatrix von Storch, deputy leader of Alternative for Germany (AfD) even gave an interview with The Jerusalem Post in which she made a telling connection between her party’s views on Muslims and the Israeli state’s stance regarding Palestinians.

Von Storch

She said: “Israel could be a role model for Germany. Israel is a democracy that has a free and pluralistic society. Israel also makes efforts to preserve its unique culture and traditions.”

Indeed, an article in The Intercept by Lee Fang reveals that the AfD’s electoral success was fuelled by “news” stories from right-wing US pro-Israel organisation the Gatestone Institute.

We wrote about the Gatestone Institute in Acorn 20 when we pointed out that Baroness Cox, notorious for stoking resentment against Muslims, was on its board.

We added that she was also co-president of an organisation called Jerusalem Summit, which says on its website that the idea of a Palestinian state must be “removed from the international agenda”.

Significantly, it states that “the de-legitimization of the Palestinian narrative becomes a vital prerequisite to any comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian issue”.

Are Cox, the AdF and others playing their part in this scheme by demonising Muslims in Europe so that Europeans identify with Israelis against their Palestinian “Muslim threat”?

Baroness Cox

Israel’s apparent desire to stoke up anti-Muslim feeling inevitably puts it at loggerheads with the European left, which is fiercely opposed to racism, supportive of immigrants and, often, critical of Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

Right-wing Spanish politician Juan Carlos Girauta understood this when he wrote a recent article for The Jerusalem Post urging Israelis to oppose the Catalan independence struggle and support the fascistic repression carried out by the Spanish state (see above).

He admitted that traditionally Catalonia has always been seen as friendly territory for Jewish people. “It is well-known that historically moderate Catalanism was sympathetic to Israel and generally pro-Jewish. A lot of Catalonian Jews voted and supported those regionalist parties.

“However, the political landscape abruptly changed, and the public face of the pro-Israel movement in Catalonia is radical nationalists who use the Israel cause as a vehicle and excuse to promote their own local interests, even at the expense of Israel’s.

“Furthermore, as moderates lost prominence, the independence movement is led by violent radicals who are as anti-Israel as they are anti-Spanish. They are members of BDS-supporting parties like those that have approved boycotts against Israel in many of Catalonia’s cities or invited infamous terrorist Leila Khaled to speak at a Barcelona City Council-sponsored event.

“An independent Catalonia would be in the hands of extreme anti-Israel groups. In contrast, the constitutionalist camp is solidly pro-Israel.”

Like 21st century fascism as a whole, it would seem.

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6. Acorninfo

The use of physical violence to impose elite business interests is very evident in England at the moment in the attempt to force fracking on an increasingly hostile population. While Scotland moved to ban fracking, opponents south of the border in Kirby Misperton and Preston New Road have endured constant police assaults and intimidation. The “law” always forms a key part of the system’s violence and, in a worrying development, INEOS, a manufacturer of chemicals involved in fracking, has been granted an injunction seriously limiting protest against its activities. Campaigners have launched a crowdfunder to pay for a legal challenge, targeting £15,000 by October 11. At the time of writing it had reached £7,300.

* * *

Yet another wake-up call for all those who think that industrial capitalism is not really a problem… A new study has discovered that plastic fibres are present in tap water around the world. “Tests show billions of people globally are drinking water contaminated by plastic particles, with 83% of samples found to be polluted”. Still, never mind. Carry on regardless, eh? Business as usual.

* * *

“The modern consumer culture was born – not as a response to innate human greed or customer demand, but to the needs of industrial capital.” So writes Steven Gorelick in an excellent article on the Local Futures website. He concludes: “The global consumer culture is not only the engine of climate change, species die-off, ocean dead zones, and many other assaults on the biosphere, it ultimately fails to meet real human needs. It’s time to envision – and take steps to create – an economy that doesn’t destroy people and the planet just to satisfy the growth imperatives of global capital.”

* * *

Campaigners taking on the coal industry in Australia, in the shape of the Adani group, are holding a big day of symbolic action on Saturday October 7. They say: “If we want to move beyond coal, we’re going to have to spell out #StopAdani to our politicians. That’s why we’re asking you to join forces in creating human signs so big that they can’t be ignored, at iconic locations across Australia!”

* * *

When we reported in Acorn 36 about an American firm that was implanting its workers with microchips, some readers may have felt that this vastly repulsive idea would never take off. But one obliging corporate journalist was quick to jump on to the microchip bandwagon. Writing in The Guardian, Olivia Solon  described having an implant and enthused about all the marvellous advantages it offers. The only possible opposition to the Brave New World of Microchipped Humanity, it seems, might come from “some fundamentalist Christians”.

* * *

The full programme for the London Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday October 28 (see report in Acorn 36) has now been published and so we can update readers about our two Winter Oak workshops. Ed Lord will be talking about his book Modern Madness from 12 noon to 1pm in room LG5 and Paul Cudenec will be presenting his book The Green One from 3pm to 4pm in Room F7. We will also have a stall. The event runs at Park View School. West Green Road, London, N15 3QR, from 10am to 7pm.

* * *

Acorn quote: “Socialists cannot avoid the struggle against land ownership. The struggle for socialism is a struggle for the land; the social question is an agrarian question. Now it can be seen what an enormous mistake the Marxists’ theory of the proletariat is. If the revolution came today, no stratum of the population would have less idea of what to do than our industrial proletarians”.

Gustav Landauer For Socialism

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

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Follow Winter Oak on Twitter at @WinterOakPress

 

 

The Acorn – 20

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Number 20


In this issue:

  1. Motorway blocked in  massive anti-airport protest
  2. Naive illusions are propping up capitalism
  3. Islamophobia: the not-so-secret agenda of Baroness Cox
  4. Conspiracies and contamination
  5. Whose land? Our land!
  6. Acorninfo

1. Motorway blocked in massive anti-airport demo

NDDL4
20,000 people and 450 tractors blocked the motorway

A massive and powerful display of determined opposition to plans for a new Nantes airport was staged on Saturday January 9.

The motorway system around the sixth largest city in France was closed down for the day as 20,000 people and 450 tractors took it over.

nddl5
Tear gas is fired at anti-airport farmers

NDDL6

Farmers who tried to block a major motorway bridge all night were eventually pressured to leave by riot police, who couldn’t resist attacking them with tear gas even though they were moving off.

Solidarity protests were also held in more than 40 other places, including Paris, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseilles, Strasbourg, Lyons, Albi, Rennes, Chambéry, Nîmes and even Barcelona.

The turn-out was much bigger than the organisers had dared hope, particularly since the mobilisation was brought forward a week from the original January 16 date.

NDDL2

NDDL1

The urgency comes from the fact that Vinci, the giant construction business building the airport, are going to court on Wednesday January 13 to try to secure an emergency order for the eviction of four small farmers and 11 families currently living and working on the land earmarked for the profiteering development.

With no apparent sense of irony, the same French state which revelled in the phony environmental “breakthrough” at COP21 in Paris (see below) is looking likely to deploy the full brutal might of its militarised police to attack the ZAD protest zone at Notre-Dame-des-Landes and clear the Breton countryside for Vinci’s airport.

The state of emergency still in place after November’s terror attacks in Paris will make it even easier to impose the destructive will of the industrial capitalist system with legitimised violence.

In a post-protest statement, opponents of the airport called for President Hollande to halt the eviction process and pledged to do everything possible to stop the project going ahead. The next step will be a protest outside the court in Nantes at 10.30am on Wednesday for Vinci’s eviction application.

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Campaigners have pledged to fight Vinci all the way

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2. Naive illusions are propping up capitalism

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The absurdities of the mainstream “environmentalist” movement were tragically plain to see around the tepid COP21 mobilisation in Paris in December (and nicely summarised in this video bulletin from submedia.tv)

As  Kevin Anderson writes, “the vested interests won out” at COP21, and for all the fine words we were left with the sorry prospect of “future techno-utopias, pennies for the poor, more fossil fuels, co-opted NGOs and an expert community all too often silenced by fear of reprisals and reduced funding”.

The principal reason is simple, says Anderson: “In true Orwellian style, the political and economic dogma that has come to pervade all facets of society must not be questioned”.

If you are looking for a long-term in-depth analysis of what has gone wrong, and can read Spanish or French, we would recommend Las ilusiones renovables: la cuestión de la energía y la dominación social by José Ardillo of Los Amigos de Ludd, now published as Les Illusions renouvelables. Énergie et pouvoir : une histoire by L’Echappée in (ironically enough) Paris.

les_illusions_renouvelables

From the title and the wind turbines that grace its cover, you might think that this is a technical work, for those with a particular interest in the details of energy production.

But, in fact, Ardillo’s book operates on two levels and interwoven through the pages of very specific information about all aspects of energy is a powerful ideological critique not just of the industrial capitalist system, but of those who claim to be opposing it and yet are fundamentally failing to do so.

Ardillo’s frustration with the self-imposed limits of radical thought reaches back 200 years to the beginnings of modern socialism and anarchism.

utopia
A shiny green industrial utopia

He complains that “19th century social thinkers and agitators nearly all positioned themselves within the movement for scientific and technological progress”.

This was particularly pronounced among socialists: “Although the emancipation of humankind was a central idea in the early years of socialism, it ended up being sacrificed on the altar of economism, political praxis and mass strategy”.

He acknowledges that, in contrast, “the anarchist movement still managed to keep a critical approach to technology and industrialisation, the thread of which can be followed from Bakunin through to the present day”.

Bakunin
Mikael Bakunin, an enemy of the industrial capitalist system

But he identifies a blind spot in the anarchist approach, which meant that it often remained attached to hi-tech visions of future utopias based on the idea of some “magical” source of clean electricity.

“Anarchists were appalled by mines, urban pollution, city stress and factory assembly lines. The only bit of progress they wanted to hang onto was the end product: the little electric airplane flying silently through a clear sky”.

Ardillo is very critical of Murray Bookchin’s role in perpetuating this blinkered faith in capitalist “progress” among contemporary anarchists. He writes: “Bookchin believes that technological development must continue; in his view, the liberation of humankind depends on this. According to him, criticism of ‘abundance’, that’s to say the political consideration of a possible self-limitation based on simple methods and human energy, is therefore consigned to the scrapheap of reactionary thinking.

“It’s to be regretted that Bookchin’s views on energy and industrial abundance have had, and continue to have, such an influence on the opinions of a large part of the anarchist movement”.

murraybookchin
Murray Bookchin

He contrasts Bookchin’s views with those of Ivan Illich: “Without being dogmatic, Illich’s suggestions show that the only way of getting out of the trap of societies built on high energy consumption is to confront the structure of their habits, their organisation, the ethics on which they are built”.

As far as the broader environmentalist movement goes, Ardillo’s main source of unease concerns its naive view of power – something all-too-apparent in Paris amongst those protesters absurdly imagining that the leaders of global industrial capitalism were likely to do anything to check the excesses of the very system they represent.

cop21protest2
Some protesters in Paris seemed to imagine industrial capitalism might agree to dismantle itself

He writes: “For environmentalists, only the state and centralised neocapitalism have the means to act with a view to social transformation”.

They fool themselves that a process which empowers people at the expense of industry and the central state could actually be initiated by the capitalist system itself.

This fundamental mistake underlines the whole deluded fixation with the liberatory potential of renewable energy, he explains.

“In the 1970s people thought that renewable energy would provide technical support for significant social change, and that the new structural demands of society, once the fossil-fuel and nuclear models had been abandoned, would favour decentralisation and the organisation of direct democracy.

“We can see from the hesitant efforts that have so far been made to move towards the production of renewable energy that this process is never going to be in the hands of communities or small groups of individuals.

“How could it be? State and industry maintain a firm grip on everything affecting the way in which the majority are forced to live. The reappropriation of work and energy are impossible without first reappropriating the decision-making processes”.

greenanarchy

See also:

“The system has got to be destroyed”

Degrowth – real anti-capitalism

Degrowth: complete system change

Anarchism, capitalism and industry

Fighting capitalism’s domination of our lives

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3. Islamophobia: the not-so-secret agenda of Baroness Cox

cox1

If any public figure in the UK could be described as the “acceptable” face of Islamophobia it would probably be Baroness Cox.

She has built her criticism of Muslims on the apparently liberal basis of concern for equality and women’s rights – she presents herself as, in the words of The Daily Telegraph, “the feisty baroness defending voiceless Muslim women”.

It would seem at first sight that the 78-year-old peer, with her very public espousal of “humanitarian” causes, is a million miles away from the hate-mongering thugs of anti-Muslim organisations like the EDL.

But a little bit of background reading reveals a rabid extreme-right agenda behind her political activities – and links to some sinister and powerful global players.

cox2

A clue to Cox’s affiliations comes from her role in founding the far-right Committee for a Free Britain in 1987.

The immediate aim of this organisation seems to have been to stop the Labour Party under Neil Kinnock from winning the general election that year.

As Robin Ramsay recalls (in Politics and Paranoia), the US government had said that it regarded the Labour Party’s policies “as a serious threat to NATO”.

Cox’s CFB therefore swung into action and “ran a series of powerful and outrageous anti-Labour newspaper adverts, for which the expression ‘scaremongering’ seems somehow inadequate” (Mike Hughes, Spies at Work)

tory poster 1987
Tory propaganda from 1987

The CFB was extremely right-wing: “It was especially opposed to homosexual and lesbian rights. It supported the privatization of the education service, abolition of the NHS and substantial reductions in taxation”. (Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations: Parties, Groups and Movements of the 20th Century by Peter Barberis, John McHugh and Mike Tyldesley)

This was perhaps only to be expected, given that the other co-founder was none other than David Hart, a die-hard “anti-communist” who had played a key role in the Tories’ election campaigns of 1983 and 1987 and in their battle against the miners during the 1984 strike.

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David Hart

Old Etonian Hart had a vested interest in protecting the capitalist financial empire, being the elder son of businessman Louis Albert Hart, the chairman/principal shareholder of the Henry Ansbacher merchant bank.

He was well connected on both sides of the Atlantic, as Observer journalist David Rose noted in 1990: “Mr Hart had been a friend of the late CIA director, William Casey, and was generally feted in Washington. One dinner in his honour was attended by Dick Cheney, now the US Defence Secretary”.

Hart’s CIA connections no doubt account for the fact that the CFB arranged a visit to the UK by Adolfo Calero, the leader of the notorious Nicaraguan Contras, a US-backed terrorist group fighting the left-wing Sandinista government.

contras

Cox is herself described by Nafeez Ahmed as having “intelligence connections”. He writes how she was also involved with the Institute for the Study of Conflict, which was “created jointly by the British and American intelligence services, specifically the CIA and the Foreign Office”.

Investigations carried out by Rose also revealed the source of some of the money which allowed Cox and Hart to run their right-wing organisation – media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

murdoch
Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch’s The Sun was at the forefront of the campaign against Labour in 1987 and again in 1992 when it was “The Sun wot won it” for the Tories.

These days it has been busily combining a rabid hatred of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with the promotion of extreme anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant views, notably those of repulsive columnist Katie “Cockroaches” Hopkins.

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Cox has been described as “a lynchpin of the UK neo-con right” and, after the end of the Cold War, her political priorities shifted along predictable lines.

Today, it is no longer the “threat” from gays and communists that dominates her media appearances, although she still has the occasional pop at the “pro-Muslim” Left, but the new bogeyman of Islam.

In 2009, she and UKIP peer Lord Pearson notoriously invited the extreme-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders to screen his hate-inciting film, Fitna, in the House of Lords.

And in April 2014 she hosted the House of Lords launch of Sharia Watch UK by Anne-Marie Waters, an erstwhile “left-wing critic of Islam” now regarded as close to the EDL.

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Anne-Marie Waters

Cox is also on the board of governors of the repugnant Gatestone Institute, which plays a key role in pumping out anti-Muslim scare stories.

Like many other far-right Christians she is a fervent supporter not only of the Israeli state but of a particularly unpleasant and extreme form of right-wing Zionism.

zionists

Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, explains that “Baroness Cox is a prominent supporter of organisations which actively and openly promote the ethnic cleansing of all Palestinians from Gaza”.

One of the most sinister of these organisations is called Jerusalem Summit, of which Cox is a co-president, alongside the likes of Daniel Pipes, the notorious American Muslim-hater.

On its website, Jerusalem Summit declares that the idea of a Palestinian state must be “removed from the international agenda”.

In order to “ensure the survival of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews” it proposes that Palestinians should be encouraged to leave their homeland, Palestine, and “build a new life for themselves and their families in countries preferably, but not necessarily exclusively, with similar religious and socio-cultural conditions”.

palestine

It also concludes, in bold type that “the de-legitimization of the Palestinian narrative becomes a vital prerequisite to any comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian issue”.

The “de-legitimization of the Palestinian narrative”? Could this part of the motivation behind the anti-Muslim bile constantly being spewed up by Cox and her friends?

Just how far would these right-wing fanatics go in their efforts to turn public opinion in the USA and Europe against Muslims and, thus, Palestinians?

Baroness Cox and her fellow well-heeled hate-mongers certainly merit being just as closely tracked by the anti-fascist movement as the wretched anti-Muslim footsoldiers of the EDL or Pegida (see Acorninfo below).

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4. Conspiracies and contamination

In the last issue of The Acorn we commented, in passing, that “for some reason” any analysis which involves anything smacking of “conspiracy” is almost taboo in certain radical circles.

Some interesting suggestions as to why that might be the case can be found in Politics and Paranoia, a 2008 book by Robin Ramsay, editor of Lobster magazine.

Ramsay points out that the exposure of covert wrong-doing by the authorities originated, as you would naturally imagine, on the Left.

But then came a key moment in the 1960s when US intellectual Richard Hofstadter wrote an essay called The Paranoid Style in American Politics.

Hofstadter
Richard Hofstadter

Says Ramsay: “Hofstadter’s essay linked an interest in conspiracies or conspiracy theories with paranoia and with the loony radical Right. Hofstadter thus helped to contaminate the subjects for the liberal-left which then – and now – is unwilling to be associated with almost anything on or of the Right.

“For ‘serious’ people – academics, journalists, politicians – large areas of political inquiry have been contaminated ever since by an association with conspiracy theories. Hofstadter’s essay appeared just when questions were being asked about the assassination of JFK and his essay helped to shore up the ‘lone assassin’ verdict offered by the Warren Commission”.

It’s easy to see why analysis exposing deceit at the heart of the system would be shunned by those who work within and on behalf of that system.

More difficult to understand, however, is how the fear of “conspiracy theories” has even infected outright opponents of the system, including anarchists.

Bilderberg2012
Conspiracy theorists? Protesting against a Bilderberg conference

When elements of the “radical” Right in the USA started criticising the US-dominated military-industrial complex, or “New World Order”, in the 1980s and 1990s, some on the Left turned and ran.

Comments Ramsay: “There is almost nothing the Left fears more than being associated in some way with the Right. We are dealing with concepts and psychological forces here such as purity and contamination”.

This, of course, is very handy for the Establishment. If anti-capitalists refuse to protest against the Bilderberg meetings of global capitalist leaders because they might find themselves rubbing shoulders with right-wing conspiracy nutters, then opposition to the Bilderberg gatherings can easily be presented as borderline insanity.

bilderbergtimes
Only nutters challenge the capitalist elite, according to corporate media

The core concern for the Left seems to be that to identify a particular conspiracy is to risk tumbling down a slippery slope towards scapegoating specific groups or individuals.

It is felt that this can also easily end up in the nightmare of anti-semitism and other dangerous delusions into which conspiracy theorists often seem to sink.

However, while it is obviously important to be on the guard against this risk, it is simply not true to suggest that the exposure of a particular conspiracy is incompatible with a broader social, cultural or economic analysis.

A dull-witted right-wing conspiracy theorist might get stuck at the level of mere specifics and come to the facile conclusion that the people responsible for such-and-such wrongdoing must also be responsible for all wrong-doing, everywhere and throughout history.

But anyone endowed with the powers of reason will understand that this is not the case and that there is also a bigger picture. As Ramsay says, there is a difference between “theories about conspiracies” and an all-embracing “Conspiracy Theory” which seeks to explain everything in one neat little package, at the expense of any deeper understanding.

kennedy
Exposing a particular conspiracy is not the same as saying conspiracies account for everything

The activities of the Bilderberg group, for instance, are simply a small detail in the practical functioning of a global capitalist system which can itself be analysed and challenged on a more abstract level.

It is possible to zoom in and out of different levels of analysis without feeling the need to sacrifice one of them for the sake of another.

If we zoom out from the Bilderbergs we see capitalism. If we zoom out from capitalism we see that it is merely the current form of an exploitation that has been going on for centuries.

Zooming out still further, we see the original intertwined lies of “authority” and “land ownership” which allowed capitalism to develop in the first place – and we see the violence of power through which it is imposed.

judge
The law is a conspiracy to codify and legitimise the violence of a dominant elite

All of this is not contradicted or undermined by exposing the clandestine machinations of contemporary elites.

Indeed, zooming back in to close-up revelations of the real conspiracies with which they are involved can only reinforce the message that their power is illegitimate and inherently based on deceit!

That is exactly why these elites want to hide their dodgy activities from the public – because a general awareness of what they are up to would shatter the illusions of democratic accountability with which they maintain consent and control.

Why would any genuine opponent of the capitalist system have a problem with exposing, to as many people as possible, detailed evidence of the hypocrisy and mendacity of that same system?

See also:

Exposed: fake “left-wingers” who hate the alternative media

Terrorism and the state – learning from history

Capitalism is built on violence and lies

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5. Whose land? Our land!

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The protest in November 2009

A six-year battle by land campaigners in the south of England has successfully turned on its head a plan by authorities to sell off much-loved public land.

Not only have the slopes of Cissbury Ring, Worthing, Sussex, remained in public ownership, but they have now been officially declared open access land, as the campaigners had demanded.

The fight began six years ago, in 2009, when local residents discovered that Worthing Borough Council had put on the market publicly-owned downland at Mount Carvey and Tenants Hill, next to Cissbury Ring.

A group called Stop the Cissbury Sell-Off was formed and alerted the public to the secretive proposals.

cissburyprotest

This prompted the Tory-led council to announce it was going to “review” its decision to sell the land – but SCSO smelled a rat, declaring: “They clearly hoped to sneak through the sale of the land without anyone noticing and we are suspicious that this so-called review may turn out to be just a delaying tactic”.

The campaigners kept up the pressure and, on November 14 2009, 400 people marched across the disputed land with banners and placards, setting off distress flares.

Open Spaces Society general secretary Kate Ashbrook spoke during the rally and backed the “crucial campaign”.

Campaigners pledged to keep fighting until the sell-off was definitively halted and, even before the end of the month, Worthing Borough Council had backed down.

SCSO became Worthing Downlanders in February 2010 and began the lengthy process of persuading the authorities to turn the Cissbury slopes into open access land so it could be fully enjoyed by its owners!

Although the wheels of bureaucracy turned at a frustratingly lethargic pace, the hard work finally paid off and at the very end of 2015, six years after the initial protest, the land was officially registered as open access.

Cissburyopenaccess
The public land in Sussex which is now officially open access

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6. Acorninfo

Anti-fracking activists from across the UK will be flocking to Cheshire on Saturday January 16 for a Solidarity Saturday with the Upton Community Protection Camp in Duttons Lane, Upton CH2 2PE. The camp could be evicted at any time to allow test drilling for fracking to take place. The call-out urges supporters “to draw the line against an elite who pay lip service to the Paris Climate Agreement while trashing subsidies for renewables, guaranteeing them for nuclear and making ‘closing coal’ conditional on replacing it with gas”. As opposition to fracking continues to grow, a report in The Independent has revealed that insurance firms are not going to be covering people for fracking-related damage. And the state has notched up its intimidation by detaining an anti-fracking campaigner at an airport under “anti-terrorist” laws, reports Drill or Drop website.

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* * *

“We were trying to act like an antibody for the Earth – trying to protect nature, to protect what was being destroyed in beautiful places”. This is the recollection of an eco-activist who took part in the battle to stop the Newbury bypass 20 years ago, as related in an anniversary report from the BBC. Comments BBC local reporter Paul Clifton: “The protesters lost the battle. But perhaps they won the war. There is no doubt the tree climbers swayed public opinion and, later, political policy changed too. It virtually halted the construction of major new roads for a generation. As Newbury was being built, a tunnel past Stonehenge in Wiltshire and a bypass for Arundel in West Sussex were being talked about. Twenty years later, they are still only being talked about”. Today the road battle is starting again and public opinion continues to mobilise against the threat of an A27 bypass across the Sussex countryside north of Chichester, as revealed in Acorn 18. Local media have now published leaked maps showing the draft route options, which were being kept from the public by the authorities.

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Nature’s antibodies protect trees at Newbury

* * *

Two important dates are coming up for anti-fascists in England. The first  is in Dover on Saturday January 30, when The South East Alliance will be holding an anti-immigrant march alongside a gaggle of other far-right groups. Then the following Saturday, February 6, former EDL chief Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) has announced his return to far-right street protests, leading a PEGIDA UK march in Birmingham. More info on counter-protests on the Anti-Fascist Network website.

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* * *

Eco-activists struck against the open cast lignite mine at Hambacher Forest in Germany on New Year’s Eve. They report: “We set up homemade stingers on the road used by the mine security forces to harass and distract them whilst we set fire to various bundles of cables and some wiring boxes by the side of the train tracks which are used to transport brown coal from the mine to nearby power stations. Halting the trains for some time. Then we put the torch to a telecommunications mast on the edge of the mine and watched from a distance as the entire device went up in flames and continued to burn for over an hour. And finally, just after midnight we attacked again, setting up more stingers on the security road closer to their compound. We then set fire to a burning barricade of car tyres and a large pile of logs by the roadside to lure security into our traps before retreating again into the forest to the sound of fireworks”.

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* * *

The next Anarchist Action Network is to be held on Sunday January 17, from 1pm to 5pm, at Clockworks, Queens Street, Derby. All anarchists are welcome. For more info on the network and directions to the meeting go to www.anarchistaction.net

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* * *

The fascisisation of society shows no sign of abating in the UK, as elsewhere. An indication of the levels of surveillance imposed on the population came from a recent report revealing that visitors to London’s Hyde Park all had their identities and movements secretly tracked via their mobile phone data during a “trial”. And there was a strong warning regarding planned new UK surveillance laws from American National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower William Binney (below) in an interview on the Wired website. He said: Retroactively analysing people, anybody you want, any time you want, that’s certainly possible with bulk acquisition of data but that’s certainly not what democracies are built on. That’s what totalitarian states are built on”.

binney

* * *

Does postanarchism, influenced by deconstruction theory and the likes of Michel Foucault, represent an ideological attempt to undermine anarchism? This is the question currently being raised in some anarchist circles in France, and summarised in English in this blog post by Paul Cudenec. Meanwhile, this fascinating archive video shows a 1971 discussion between Foucault and Noam Chomsky on anarchism, human nature, justice and revolution.

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Foucault v Chomsky

* * *

Cardiff Anarchist Network (Rhwydwaith Anarchaidd Caerdydd) is hosting an anarcho-punk winter warmer on Saturday January 30 from 6pm at the Welsh city’s Cathays Community Centre. Bands will include Atterkop, 51st STATE, Think Pretty, WolfPunch, Regrethc and Failed State. There will be a full bar at cheap prices, plus a wide range of vegan snacks available as well as loads of stalls.

cardiffanarchistnetwork

* * *

Acorn quote: “Our critique of science, technology and the industrial system is a critique of progress. And in the same way it is a critique of the ideologies of science and progress, not least the workerist ideology, in both reformist and revolutionary guise, which is based on taking over, in the name of the proletariat, the bourgeois industrial system and its technology”.

Miguel Amorós, Elementary Foundations of the Anti-Industrial Critique

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

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