The Acorn – 30

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Number 30


In this issue:

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

1. Three great victories to end the year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Celebrations at Standing Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2. Degrowth and the death of capitalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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See also:

Degrowth – real anti-capitalism

Degrowth: complete system change

Tearing off capitalism’s “green” mask

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3. Stealth fascism in the UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TERRORIST ALERT! TERRORIST ALERT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Criminal behaviour?

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

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

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

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

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4. Fake news and propaganda wars

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

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

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

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

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This is the news. The only news.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5. The Black Volcano of Industrialism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Cudenec

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

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6. Acorninfo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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* * *

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

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

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The Acorn – 4

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Number 4


In this issue:

  1. Profit before the planet: a special investigation into sham “sustainability”
  2. Europeans unite against ruling elite
  3. Learning from the Syriza sell-out
  4. Fracking – resistance and repression
  5. Motor threat to Welsh valleys
  6. Acorninfo

1. Profit before the planet: a special investigation into sham “sustainability”

coastcapitalism

“Sustainable transport” funding in southern England is just another way of boosting business profits, an investigation by The Acorn can reveal.

The funding agency in question has stated that schemes do not have to be sustainable or even have to have anything to do with transport at all – they just have to contribute to “economic growth”.

Meanwhile, unchecked traffic congestion is used to justify yet more environment-wrecking road schemes, as we revealed in Acorn 1.

And the whole public-private apparatus behind the scandal is riddled with connections not just to global big business but even to the military and the arms trade.

Our investigation involves West Sussex County Council (WSCC) and Coast to Capital, the regional Local Enterprise Partnership covering a swathe of southern England stretching from Croydon and Gatwick Airport to Brighton and Chichester.

Print

WSCC is trying to get hold of some of the £31 million allocated by the Government to Coast to Capital, supposedly to fund sustainable transport schemes, and is promoting something it calls the “Worthing Sustainable Transport Package”. Phase one of this is costed at £1.2 million and WSCC is bidding for £800,000 of that from Coast to Capital.

But when local cycling and environmental campaigners took a closer look at the details of the scheme, they were astonished to discover that it was all about repaving the main Worthing shopping street, Montague Street, and knocking down a rotunda, known to residents as the bandstand.

One campaigner told The Acorn: “There is no way anyone can say that re-paving Montague Street in Worthing has anything to do with benefiting sustainable transport, when, in fact, the town is desperate for some cycleways and other sustainable transport to ease chronic motor traffic congestion.

“Councils are spending ‘sustainable transport’ money on ‘sustainable transport’ schemes that are nothing of the sort.”

Shoppers in Montague Street, Worthing
Shoppers in Montague Street, Worthing

It is indeed immediately striking how little the “Worthing Sustainable Transport Package” has to do with sustainable transport – it is blatantly just a make-over for the commercial part of Worthing town centre.

The “why it should be funded” section of the application admits that the main thrust of its pitch is that “it will attract more people to shop in the area”. This will result in “long term economic growth reversing the current decline in footfall and turnover”. It will “create jobs”, help Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership meet its economic growth targets and potentially lead to £17.7 million a year more income for businesses.

Other “benefits” of the scheme are that the works will put £2.3 million into the pockets of the construction industry and eventually push up shop rental values and thus business rates.

There is also the bonus of extra “generation of government revenues” from “taxes on business profits, employees’ wages, and profits from rental income”.

And the cherry on the cake is that “residential properties are likely to increase in value by 5.2% within the town centre”. What marvellous news for Sussex people finding it difficult to afford somewhere to live!

Amidst all of this there is no indication of how the scheme might be expected to reduce traffic or make transport “sustainable” in any way, reducing demand for new roads like the threatened Arundel bypass-bypass or the mooted Worthing A27 “improvements”.

As the local campaigner told us: “The bid document itself does not mention any beneficial impacts on journey times or reliability, and it is difficult to envisage any.” Referring to the suggested increase of 1.6 million new visits to Montague Street each year, he asked: “How are those additional people expected to travel to and from Montague Street without causing a significant increase in local traffic?”

Coast to Capitalism

But hold on a minute – a bid for sustainable transport funding that makes no mention of sustainable transport? Is that even allowed?

The local campaigners stumbled across what looks like a blatant give-away when they were examining the Coast to Capital website for details of its criteria.

Astonishingly, the section about schemes that could be funded under transport “sustainability” or “resilience” admitted: “They may also include improvements which do not affect transport, but which will help to protect or stimulate economic growth”.

No sooner had this remarkable sentence been drawn to the attention of Coast to Capital, than it suddenly disappeared from the website! Luckily, campaigners were shrewd enough to have taken a screenshot, part of which is reproduced here.

Missing sentence

In fact, it should come as no surprise that “economic growth” should prove to be the sole preoccupation of Coast to Capital.

The masthead of its website proclaims that its focus is “to create economic growth in an innovative, enterprising and international business environment” and the term repeats ad nauseam in the overview of its aims.

coast to capital mast

“Our small yet dynamic team is focused on delivering growth”… “Our focus is on those areas where we can stimulate growth” … “delivering activities to drive growth” … “our role is to help re-balance the economy and to promote private sector growth” … “ensuring that the infrastructure and conditions for economic growth are in place”.

It adds: “Coast to Capital is not a delivery organisation and we do not take on the direct delivery of business support services. However, in order to create favourable conditions for growth, we do identify priorities and strategies for improving local transport, housing and skills development.”

This line pretty much confirms the gist of the deleted give-away sentence – all Coast to Capital’s strategies on transport, housing or whatever are, by its own admission, only carried out “in order to create favourable conditions for growth”.

If we go back through its self-description and replace the word “growth” with a term that describes what it really means – “profit” or “greed” come to mind – then we begin to understand the agenda that lies behind Coast to Capital.

Decision, decisions… interests and allegiances

If all this isn’t disturbing enough, let’s now take a look at how the decision will be made about the allocation of so-called “sustainable transport” funding…

Coast to Capital reveals that the “the business cases for each scheme are currently being assessed by independent transport advisors. Parsons Brinckerhoff are assessing the sustainability schemes.”

Parsons Brinckerhoff is a massive multinational engineering corporation, employing some 14,000 staff – in 2013, the company was named the tenth largest US-based engineering/design firm by Engineering News Record. It used to be owned by Balfour Beatty, but on October 31, 2014, it became a wholly owned independent subsidiary of WSP Global, an even more massive multinational corporation based in Canada.

wsp parsons

WSP Global Inc is currently involved in projects like the rebuilding of the World Trade Center in New York, USA, and Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport in Germany. Past triumphs from these experts in sustainability include The Shard in London, Beetham Tower in Manchester, City Central Development in Adelaide, Australia, Mellon Bank Center in Philadelphia, Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, and Trump Tower in New York.

shard
The Shard in London: a WSP Global Inc project

 

Terminal_de_l'aéroport_international_de_Bangkok
Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok: another WSP Global Inc project

The deliberation of these “independent” transport advisors will no doubt be watched with dispassionate interest by Martin Heffer, the Coast to Capital board member focusing on infrastructure issues.

Well, not that dispassionate, as his register of interests reveals that Parsons Brinckerhoff (now aka WSP Global Inc) is in fact his employer!

Heffer, a “specialist in the planning and delivery of major transport schemes”, is apparently “currently on secondment to the Department for Transport”.

His commitment to sustainable transport involves working on the High Speed 2 rail project, Heathrow Terminal 5 and the widening of the M25 motorway ahead of the Olympics.

And Heffer’s fine ethical record does not stop there! He is also a reserve army officer, having been a Royal Engineers volunteer officer for some 30 years. “He is a specialist in the area of Civil Military co-operation having worked on joint Foreign Office and UK military infrastructure initiatives in Iraq,” boasts Coast to Capital.

Martin Heffer: developing capitalist infrastructure from Iraq to the M25
Martin Heffer: developing capitalist infrastructure from Iraq to the M25

What a splendid example of the seamless interweaving of state, capitalism and war-mongering neo-colonialism!

If this is all beginning to sound like a bit of a stitch-up, don’t worry – when the decisions about funding are made, probably on March 25 2015, they will not be made by Heffer or the board, but by what Coast to Capital calls a “voluntary partnership known as
the Local Transport Body”.

Closer examination reveals that this wholesome-sounding group is chaired by none other than Pieter Montyn. Montyn shares Heffer’s commitment to ethics and sustainability, with a lifetime spent in the higher echelons of the global arms trade – “37 years in the UK aircraft and defence equipment industry (British Aerospace/BAE Systems and GEC), in which he held senior export management positions at home and overseas”.

Montyncoll
Pieter Montyn: from BAE to West Sussex County Council

He will presumably have to step aside from his role chairing the Local Transport Body when the funding bid for Worthing is actually discussed, as he also happens to be cabinet member for highways and transport at West Sussex County Council, the very organisation promoting the application!

As the leading force behind the “A27 Action” campaign calling for the bypass of the Arundel bypass and other road-building schemes (see Acorn 1), WSCC appears to be concerned by the increase in motor traffic – its pro-road-building website declares: “The A27 is a congested route which is inhibiting business investment and growth.”

Funny, then, that that very same West Sussex County Council is promoting the “Worthing Sustainable Transport Package”, rather than a scheme that would help address the congestion issue by providing cycle lanes, cheaper public transport etc?

Not really! After all, think of all the plus-boxes that are ticked by the prospect of new motorways being ploughed through the woods and wetlands of Sussex! More and more traffic, more concrete, more contracts for the construction industry – the warped greed-god of economic growth, worshipped by Coast to Capital, West Sussex County Council and all their business partners, will demand the unchecked expansion of its capitalist infrastructure right up until the very day it has triumphantly choked the last drop of life out of this planet.

See also:

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2. Europeans unite against ruling elite

venezia
Anti-capitalist protesters in Italy get in the mood for March 18 in Frankfurt

Anti-capitalist protesters from across Europe are gearing up for big protests against the European Central Bank (ECB).

As we reported in Acorn 2, they are converging on Frankfurt in Germany on Wednesday March 18 to gatecrash the opening party of the new HQ.

“See you on the barricades!” was the message from the activists pictured above in Venice, Italy, who were part of a day of anti-bank actions on March 2.

And a similar message of defiance comes across on this video call-out from destroika. Says the group’s website: “It is necessary to transpose our experiences of local struggle to a higher offensive level, beyond the national frame of reference inherent to the movement, in order to sandwich the State on the European level as well. The opening of the new headquarters of the European Central Bank will be the occasion for us to reconverge, to unite our forces against a common enemy.”

The Blockupy call-out says: “As the crisis has unfolded the EU has became more and more of an authoritarian regime with an obvious lack of democratic participation. The murderous border controls and the progressing militarization of foreign policy add to this process. They cannot, and even do not want to, represent us anymore. The ruling elites have nothing left of value to offer for us.

“But new forces are emerging from all corners of life and it will be our task to build solidarity and real democracy from below. They want capitalism without democracy, but we want democracy without capitalism!”

German authorities are showing signs of panic over the impact of the protests, with one regional minister, Peter Beuth, describing them as a huge challenge” for the security forces. Everyone had the right to “peacefully” protest against globalization, butrioters” were not welcome in Frankfurt on March 18 the minister told the Hesse Landtag (regional Parliament).

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3. Learning from the Syriza sell-out

syriza
Syriza – selling out to neoliberal capitalism

As soon as the leftists of Syriza came into power in Greece, anarchist voices were warning that things were not necessarily as they seemed.

Crimethinc, for example, published a thoughtful in-depth analysis called Syriza Can’t Save Greece: Why There’s No Electoral Exit from the Crisis.

Here it bracketed Syriza with other “radical” electoral forces such as Podemos in Spain, Die Linke in Germany, Parti de Gauche in France, Radnička fronta in Croatia, Združena levica in Slovenia, and Bloco de Esquerda in Portugal.

Warned the article: “At this historical juncture, all of them serve the same basic function. Faced with so much unrest, the ruling order suddenly has a use for new radical political parties that promise to embody calls for ‘real democracy’ within the existing system.

“Whatever the intentions of the participants, their structural role is to rebuild trust in electoral democracy, neutralize uncontrollable extra-parliamentary movements, and reestablish capitalism and the state as the only imaginable social order.

“When they enter the halls of power, they commit themselves to perpetuating the authoritarian institutions and unequal distribution of wealth that triggered the movements from which they appeared in the first place.”

DieLinke
Electoral movements like Die Linke are useful for the capitalist system, warns Crimethinc

It was not long before Crimethinc’s warning was proved correct. In an article posted on the Aljazeera website on March 3, C J Polychroniou, a research associate and policy fellow at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College, wrote: “It has taken the Syriza government less than a month to surrender to neoliberal Europe and Greece’s international lenders.”

Noting that in recent talks “the Syriza-led government accepted an extension of the bailout programme and capitulated in turn to Germany’s demands for austerity and neoliberal reforms”, he added: “One would be hard pressed to find in the annals of political history another case where a governing party has broken its word so quickly on its pre-election promises and accepted an ultimate defeat in the face of systemic opposition.“

Polychroniou fears that “Syriza’s capitulation will create a mood of defeatism among progressive forces across Europe”.

But, on the other hand, it might serve to underline the anarchist warning that attempts to reform the capitalist system will only end up reinforcing it – the whole thing has to go.

"Still our last, best hope" says Crimethinc.
“Still our last, best hope” says Crimethinc.

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4. Fracking – resistance and repression

Algerian anti-fracking2
Resisting the fracking industry in In-Salah, Algeria

Resistance to fracking continues to grow all over the world. On Sunday March 1 anti-fracking protesters in In-Salah, Algeria, torched the local daïra (government office) and the home of its boss, as well as part of a police dormitory and a police lorry. Forty cops were apparently injured.

Protests have been growing since the end of December when the Algerian firm Sonatrach, in partnership with Halliburton, announced its first test for shale gas in this part of the Sahara had been a success. In February it insisted that fracking would go ahead despite evident hostility from a local population daring to stand in the way of economic growth. Algeria has the world’s fourth biggest reserves of shale gas, after the USA, China and Argentina.

Anti-fracking protesters in In-Salah, Algeria
Anti-fracking protesters in In-Salah, Algeria

In Britain, the authorities continue to explore ways of stemming the anti-fracking revolt. One is to have subtly redefined fracking in the notorious new Infrastructure Act.

Explains DeSmogBlog: “By defining fracking as one specific phase in the entire process, it means that any environmental impacts that do occur must be proven to be associated with that specific phase in order to claim that the industry definition of fracking has caused that impact.”

So when the industry claims that “no proven instances of water contamination have occurred due to hydraulic fracturing” it is using the its own definition of hydraulic fracturing, now shared by the state, “which excludes incidents from drilling damage, failed well casings, spills, erosion and sediment, or tanker accidents”.

The other approach, of course, is to use the legal system to attack opponents of the fracking industry.

On Thursday March 5 Dr Rowland Dye was convicted of “aggravated trespass” in the office of the Chamber of Commerce in Blackpool, also home to fracking firm Cuadrilla, during Reclaim the Power protests last August. The district judge not only fined him £250 and ordered him to £500 costs and £25 victims’ surcharge, but also ordered him to pay £551.83 compensation to the Chamber, on the flimsy basis that it “had cancel an event the day after the protest” – when the protesters had long since left. More than £1,300 for an office occupation in which nothing was damaged (let alone set on fire, Algerian-style!).

The protest in Blackpool in August 2014
The protest in Blackpool in August 2014

Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber Of Commerce, revealed the political motives behind the prosecution and punishment by telling media: “This decision sends out a clear message that if protestors break the law they will be punished. It sets the precedence for our local business community who can now be assured that fracking occupancy is illegal and not welcome in Lancashire”.

And on the same day anti-fracking campaigner and journalist Paul Mobbs was arrested at the entrance to Downing Street in London. He was trying to make a citizen’s arrest of members of the government because he believes they are guilty of misconduct in public office in the way they have dealt with fracking. At about 3pm, Mr Mobbs was asked to leave the Downing Street area. When he refused and said he would try to climb over the gate he was arrested for breaching a traffic management order under the laughably-named Terrorism Act.

Mr Mobbs has updated his frackogram showing links involving the fracking industry. Meanwhile, Drill or Drop has produced an invaluable and comprehensive update on drilling, permissions, companies and consultations across the UK, including of course the Celtique site near Billingshurst, West Sussex, featured in Acorn 2.

Bill-fence3
The fracking site near Billingshurst, West Sussex, featured in Issue 2 of The Acorn

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5. Motor threat to Welsh valleys

Circuit of Wales
The proposed new “infrastructure” for the Welsh countryside

A public enquiry opens on Tuesday March 10 into a hideous assault on common land in the Welsh countryside in the name of “infrastructure”.

The Open Spaces Society explain that two years ago they objected to plans for the Circuit of Wales motor-sports development just north of Ebbw Vale in south Wales. “At that time the developer, the Heads of the Valleys Development Company, stated optimistically and inaccurately on its website that ‘planning permission is the final hurdle’.

“Although the development now has planning permission it has not yet gone ahead—because it would take common land.  There are many who claim that the objectors are holding up a development which will bring jobs and prosperity to the area.  Their ire should be directed at the developers who opted to site the motor circuit on a common.

“For the applicant has had to find land to offer in exchange for the 245 hectares (nearly one square mile) of open moorland which would be submerged under concrete, and to make an application to Welsh ministers for the exchange, under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006.”

The development website boasts: “Circuit of Wales will transform 830 acres of Blaenau Gwent in the scenic Welsh valleys on an unparalleled scale, and will shine the global spotlight on the region. The innovative scheme will wholly regenerate the area, providing unrivalled opportunities in job creation, tourism, and research and development.”

It says the scheme is “the most significant capital investment programme in automotive infrastructure in the UK in the last 50 years”.

Here we have all the assumptions of the capitalist “growth” mindset. It beggars belief that the “transformation” of countryside into a motor racing track can be seen in a positive light! Does the region want the “global spotlight” shone on it? What does it mean to “wholly regenerate” an area? Is “job creation” always a good thing, even if the jobs perform no useful function, and indeed a harmful one?

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6. Acorninfo

Thursday March 12 has been named by land activists as the date of the final eviction efforts at Yorkley Court in the Forest of Dean. As we reported in Acorn 3, for the last two and a half years residents have been trying to establish a sustainable community farm. But on February 26 a local millionaire property developer Brian Bennett won his court case for possession. A call-out has now been made for supporters to come and show their solidarity on the day.

Yorkley-New

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Following the report in Acorn 3, the fascists of the EDL have apparently changed their minds about trying to march through Brighton on April 18. Local rag The Argus says the far-right hate-mongers are now planning to head for Oxford on April 4 instead. Observes the anti-fascist EDL News: “The group have stated the demo in Brighton has been postponed but we suspect it will not get rearranged due to the fact that many of their members have stated that the idea was pretty stupid in the first place.”

brightonantifascists

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A new book of eco-poetry has been published by Permanent Publications. Ecozoa by Helen Moore calls for a new era “in great contrast to the ravages caused by the growth and impacts of industrial civilisation on our planetary ecosystems”. Moore’s work is strongly inspired by William Blake and, reviewing the latest collection, Paul Cudenec comments: “By placing herself in a direct line of ideological descent from Blake, Moore is doing more than expressing admiration for him. She is proclaiming herself as a contemporary manifestation of that same underground heretical tradition”. The full review can be read here.

ecozoa

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An annual celebration of Spring and “the renewal of life on the Downs” is once again been staged by Sussex environmental and land access group the  Worthing Downlanders. They are inviting local musicians, singers, poets and merry-makers to join them on Sunday March 22 2015 from 2pm at The Castle Tavern, 1 Newland Road, Worthing, West Sussex BN11 1JR. “Everyone is welcome to participate, or you can just turn up and watch the festivities with a glass in hand!” Entry is free. Contact: info@worthingdownlanders.org.uk

Castle Tavern Worthing
Castle Tavern, Worthing

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Members of The Invisible Committee, the radical French writing collective behind The Coming Insurrection, will be in the UK on Saturday March 21, for a talk about their new book, A nos amis. The event, hosted by Sussex Anarchists, is at the Cowley Club, 12 London Road, Brighton, at 6pm.

anosamis

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Acorn quote: “Progress, what you call progress, this incessant hustle-bustle, this rapid tiring and neurasthenic, short-breathed chase after novelty, after anything new as long as it is new, this progress and the crazy ideas of the practitioners of development associated with it… this progress, this unsteady, restless haste; this inability to remain still and this perpetual desire to be on the move, this so-called progress is a symptom of our abnormal condition, our unculture”. Gustav Landauer, For Socialism.

Gustav Landauer
Gustav Landauer

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