The Acorn – 38

acornmastheadnew1

Number 38


In this issue:

  1. “Chimps” swing into action
  2. Defend the living!
  3. Fighting the cancer of economic growth
  4. D for defiance in struggle against arms trade
  5. Protecting the planet is not a crime
  6. Sabotaging the subversives
  7. Acorninfo

1. “Chimps” swing into action

The primate resistance movement has struck out against those who want to destroy our planet and replace us with robots.

A group of French activists swung into action on Monday November 20, at the start of a conference in the south-western city of Bordeaux which was celebrating the “cyborg future” of humankind.

They made their move under the label of the Bordeaux Chimpanzees of the Future, referring to the infamous comment by UK transhumanist techno-guru Kevin Warwick that, in a tomorrow’s world peopled by AI-enhanced cyborg hybrids, actual living human beings like you and me would be regarded as nothing more than evolutionary remnants. We would be the “chimpanzees of the future” as he arrogantly put it.

In keeping with their primate identity, the activists scattered banana skins around the conference venue, as well as a leaflet explaining why they were there.

This pointed out that Bordeaux had just seen the arrival of a branch of the Singularity University, “a propaganda tool of the techno-totalitarianism founded by Ray Kurzweil (top transhumanist at Google), under whose patronage the conference is being held”.

Conference publicity

And it declared: “We don’t function, we live. We weren’t built, but born. We refuse to be ‘customised into cyborgs’. We refuse to ‘get ready to change planet’. We want to live on earth and remain free and human”.

The transhumanist cult represents the worst excesses of industrial-capitalist fantasy, dreaming of a humanity with artificial bodies and replaceable parts whose brains will eventually be uploaded into computers, giving them unimagined mental powers.

Not so long ago, this strange vision was regarded as little more than a weird joke, but it has increasingly become the religion of the technological avant-garde and has even succeeded in contaminating some so-called “anti-capitalist” thinking with its ultra-capitalist creed.

The transhumanists’ dream is a nightmare not just for human beings but for the living planet as a whole, as it depends on ongoing industrialisation and all the environmental destruction that this brings with it – a harsh fact that transhumanists try to avoid.

Transhumanist Kevin Warwick

As Paul Cudenec writes in Nature, Essence and Anarchy: “On the most basic level, the industrialist vision of a technological posthuman future is entirely divorced from the physical realities of industrialism. Even if post-natural posthumans managed to upload their minds (or, rather, soulless copies of their brains) into a virtual realm of their own construction, the objective reality of the world they thought they were escaping would not somehow cease to exist.

“Pollution would worsen as the technological world expanded, animals would suffer from its consequences, the food chain would be imperilled, the very life-system of the earth would be at risk. Their technological bubble would still be dependent on an outside reality and infrastructure.

“There would still have to be mines to extract the minerals to build the computers, oil and gas wells to provide the energy, waste to be disposed of, pipelines and cables to be laid and repaired, flood defences to be built or strengthened as the climate span further into extremities, cooling systems to be installed for the huge banks of computer servers, bolts to be tightened, cogs to be lubricated, mould to be wiped off walls, and so on ad nauseam.

“Even if all the hard labour was done by machines and there were further machines to repair those machines, who would repair these? Who would be doing all the dirty work, wiping the metaphorical bottoms of the immortal posthuman narcissists plugged into their ego-massaging virtual existences?

“A race of ‘chimpanzee’ slaves maybe, the left-over essentialist scum who had refused to jump on the naturaphobic bandwagon to oblivion?”

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2. Defend the living!

A poignant short film celebrating the UK road protests of the early 1990s can now be seen online.

I Am Alive by Tom Lloyd, Gill Barron and Mark Melville combines archive footage shot over the summer of 1994 from roof-tops and tree-tops with a poetic voice-over and haunting soundtrack evoking the beauty in finding the courage to defend life.

And it reminds us that although particular battles of the time, such as at Solsbury Hill or Wanstead, were lost to the forces of industrialism, a generation’s war on roads was won, with the UK government putting new schemes on hold for decades in the face of the inspiring resistance.

The effort, the trauma, the arrests and the convictions will all be vindicated by history, as will one day all the current struggles against fracking, pipelines, mines, airports, high speed rail lines and all the other assaults on Mother Earth.

As the film says: “Land isn’t a commodity: it doesn’t belong to us. It’s a community: we belong to it.

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Expect resistance. As long as we are alive.

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3. Fighting the cancer of economic growth

The so-called “need” for economic growth is the perfect excuse for the industrial capitalist system to keep expanding, exploiting and exterminating, so arguments for “degrowth” have a massive radical potential.

The movement is little known in the UK, but is becoming increasingly influential elsewhere. For instance, next summer sees the 6th International Degrowth Conference in Malmö, Sweden. It will take place from August 21-25 2018 and is organised by the Institute for Degrowth Studies (Institutet för nerväxtstudier). There is a call for participation for academics, activists and artists (deadline: December 31).

Across the Atlantic, the first North-South Conference on Degrowth will be held in Mexico City from June 19 – 21 2018, supported by universities, NGOs, and social movements.

This is the first time a Latin American country will host an international gathering on Degrowth, after five conferences in Europe and one in Canada. Decolonisation of the imaginary, survival,  cultures, and wealth will be the main issues under discussion.

Degrowth ideas are also sneaking into mainstream European thinking. From September 18-19 2018 a post-growth conference supported by various “stakeholders” (Members of the European Parliament from different political groups, academics, NGOs and unions) will take place in the premises of the European Parliament in Brussels. The date coincides with the 10th anniversary of the collapse of the US Bank Lehman Brothers that sparked the “economic crisis” justifying the intensification of neoliberal economics.

The work will be preceded by a preparatory session at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and followed by a debriefing and exchanges on how to coalesce allies to ensure that change will actually happen.

There is lots of English-language information on degrowth on the German website, degrowth.info.

Explaining the basic idea, it states: “By ‘degrowth’, we understand a form of society and economy which aims at the well-being of all and sustains the natural basis of life. To achieve degrowth, we need a fundamental transformation of our lives and an extensive cultural change.

“The current economic and social paradigm is ‘faster, higher, further’. It is built on and stimulates competition between all humans. This causes acceleration, stress and exclusion. Our economy destroys the natural basis of life. We are convinced that the common values of a degrowth society should be care, solidarity and cooperation.

“Humanity has to understand itself as part of the planetary ecological system. Only this way, a self-determined life in dignity for all can be made possible”.

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4. D for defiance in struggle against arms trade

A woman convicted of disrupting an arms fair in Wales has defiantly stood by her actions.

D told the court in Cardiff: “My motivation that day was to stop the arms fair. I am not denying it – what I am saying is that I was trying to prevent something worse from happening.”

She was found guilty by the court of making hoax calls claiming there was a bomb at the Motorpoint Arena, which was hosting the Defence Procurement, Research, Technology and Exportability event, better known as Cardiff Arms Fair.

D was expecting to go to prison, but in fact received a suspended sentence and an order to pay £2000 costs and £115 “victim surcharge”.

She declared afterwards: “I said when I was first arrested that it was the arms dealers who should have been arrested in my stead, and I still believe it’s the arms dealers and the UK Government who should have been in the dock on trial for their complicity in war crimes.

“My resolve in opposing the arms trade has only been strengthened by this experience and I hope to see a huge protest outside next year’s DPRTE Arms Fair at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff.”

Said a report from Bristol Defendant Solidarity: “It was very inspiring to hear the defendant, D, clearly tell the judge and the jury that she was not sorry for her actions and that she remains committed to direct action against war and the arms industry.

“Her explanation of how she could not stand by while arms dealers furthered their profits by marketing mass murder was very powerful. She admitted making the calls, but argued that she was acting to prevent a greater crime by aiming to stop the selling of arms used for ‘mass indiscriminate killing of civilians’.

“Her moving account of witnessing first-hand the destruction wreaked by these weapons in Palestine and her motivations for doing all that she can to stop arms sales brought tears to many eyes. She told the court of her experiences driving an ambulance of medical supplies to Gaza after the Israeli bombing.

“’I saw kids my grandchildren’s age being teargassed on a daily basis’ she said. ‘I saw with my own eyes the aftermath of war. Standing in the wreckage of bombed out homes, schools and hospitals brought home to me the utter destruction war wreaks on people’s lives. That strengthened my resolve to do everything in my power to oppose this awful trade’.”

Israeli police teargas Palestinians

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5. Protecting the planet is not a crime

Brutal physical violence and insidious legal intimidation are being used by UK police to try and crush resistance to the fracking industry.

This is the stark conclusion of a new report from police monitoring group Netpol, called Protecting the Planet is Not a Crime. Its research confirms and usefully exposes the extent to which the police act as taxpayer-funded private security for  private business interests – in this case oil and gas.

It says: “Over the course of 2017, Netpol has seen evidence, particularly from Lancashire, of police officers pushing people into hedges, knocking campaigners unconscious, violently dragging older people across the road and shoving others into speeding traffic.

“We had also heard about the targeting of disabled protesters (including repeatedly tipping a wheelchair user from his chair) and officers using painful pressure point restraint techniques. In Lancashire, campaigners have repeatedly accused the police of ignoring violent and unlawful actions by private security employed by the shale gas company Cuadrilla. Similar allegations are now emerging in North Yorkshire.

“These confrontational and aggressive tactics are combined with often significant numbers of officers who seem, based on the testimony we have heard, ready to contain, assault or arrest any demonstrator for the slightest infringement.

“Police tactics appear deliberately intent on making it as difficult as possible for local people to effectively oppose the activities of the onshore oil and gas industry. There have also been claims that officers have tried to deliberately provoke the protesters in order to make more arrests.”

Netpol also draw attention to the civil injunction taken out against protesters by shale gas company INEOS.

The firm says it was advised to do this by the police – again showing that the cops are not “neutral” upholders of the peace, but active participants in imposing the toxic industrial capitalist agenda.

The order is directed against “persons unknown” and prohibits them from interfering with the “lawful activities” of INEOS staff and contractors. People who breach the order risk prison or having their assets seized.

The injunction refers to a range of “unlawful activity” that is not necessarily a criminal offence. Specifically, it mentions “slow walking” of lorries, which is not inherently unlawful unless it involves unreasonable obstruction without lawful authority or excuse.

Say Netpol: “Our concern is that, if INEOS’ injunction is made permanent, it not only opens in further pre-emptive injunctions by other fracking companies based on widespread smearing of all anti-fracking campaigners as ‘militant extremists’. It may also significantly restrict even further the ability of campaigners to take part in civil disobedience or, indeed, any form of effective protest”.

* In the early hours of Thursday November 30, frack-free activists occupied the so-called “Gatwick Gusher” oil site at Horse Hill in Surrey. The site, operated by Horse Hill Developments Ltd, has received planning permission for a further two wells and testing, reports Drill or Drop.

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6. Sabotaging the subversives

Imagine, if you can, that you are the chief of the secret political police in some far-off and fictional dictatorship.

Your networks have succeeded in completely infiltrating the small groups of dissidents who dare challenge the corruption and repression of the ruling elite.

True, there has been a spot of bother with one group of trouble-makers who rumbled a couple of clumsy low-level spies and have been exposing their dubious methods.

But overall, this has changed nothing. Indeed, the paranoia created by the spy revelations has even helped your task, instilling a mood of back-biting suspicion in dissident ranks and paralysing many would-be revolutionaries into inaction with the spectre of past or present spies in their ranks.

You have your enemies pretty much where you want them. You know exactly who they are and what they are going to do next. Your infiltrators, on many levels, have successfully shunted dissident networks away from effective opposition to the system into ineffective and dead-end ways of thinking and acting.

Dissidents whose words and deeds pose a real threat to the dictatorship are systematically marginalised and excluded from a movement which is largely under your control.

And yet, despite all this dominance, you are tempted to take it a step further. You can see that, with just a little provocation and encouragement, certain political disagreements within the opposition movement could be heightened to the point at which there was a major rupture in the dissident ranks which could even close down one of their most successful organising focal points.

In doing so, you could even take a passing swipe at one of those pesky troublemakers who has been giving you grief over your spies.

Would you do it, if you were this imaginary spy chief? Would you deliberately sabotage the dissident milieu you are paid to suppress, evil genius that you are?

While you’re thinking about it, let’s turn to some completely different events which have unfolded in the non-fictional world of 21st century Britain.

As readers may well be aware, the annual London Anarchist Bookfair in October was disrupted by a nasty row between some feminists and some others who accused them of transphobia.

We won’t pass judgement on the details of the dispute itself: an ill-judged leaflet matched by an ill-judged physical response.

But what was truly alarming was the vitriolic nature and tone of the accusations against the bookfair organisers who have done such a great job with the event over the years.

In an open letter stating their case, these critics accused the organisers of allowing “racist imperialism, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny and ableism to ingratiate themselves as part of the culture of the Bookfair”.

Eh? Where did that come from? What imperialism? What anti-semitism? What Islamophobia? What misogyny? No indication is given as to what any of this refers to – the insults are just vomited forth without any context.

The authors declare that unless certain demands are met, they will not be participating in future bookfairs, which is of course their right.

But, incredibly, they add: “Further, we will encourage our members and associated groups to picket the LABF in the future and provide material to those attending about the problems we have identified and the demands we are making”.

Are there really anarchists out there who would picket the anarchist bookfair on the basis of this kind of disagreement?

This open letter was supported by many comrades who we would have thought would have known better, pretty much obliging the bookfair collective to announce that they would not be organising an event in 2018.

They say in their own statement: “What hurts us most is we know a lot of you. A number of the signatories to the open letter are groups we know and have worked with over the years; sometimes many, many years.

“Yet not one of you has tried to contact us as individuals or as the Bookfair collective to ask our views before you signed the open letter, even though some people appear not to have read all of it before signing. We thought of many of you as friends. We were obviously wrong.

“We guess it’s easy to sign a statement. It’s a lot harder to actually talk to people and try to work things out.

“We are also tired of being told what to do. We are told to ban people. We are told have this or that policy. We are told this or that group can/can’t have stalls. We are told we shouldn’t have a certain venue. We are constantly told we get it wrong. However, no one has offered to join the Collective and help us make the Bookfair better or offered to take it on”.

Actual fascists

They also reveal that (with sickening inevitability) they were accused of being “fascists” by some so-called comrades on the day (as were, apparently, both sides in the quarrel).

They comment: “It seriously concerns us how easy this terminology is thrown about in the anarchist milieu. Survivors of the Spanish Civil war, survivors of the death camps, political activists in Pinochet’s Chile, activists in parts of the world today and many others who have been at the blunt end of actual fascism are done a disservice by this indiscriminate use of the word.

“We feel that the Bookfair is not the place for tactics used on demos against fascist groups and cops. Some of us are traumatised enough by activism and look forward to enjoying an event where we can see friends and exchange ideas without the pressure of these actions”.

And there have been other voices challenging the basis of the vitriolic attack on the bookfair by the open letter authors.

Some “friends of the Bookfair”, for instance, posted a response in which they point out that the demands in the letter amount essentially to a call for tight ideological control over the content of the bookfair – something which should set the alarm bells ringing for any remaining authentic anarchists out there.

The “friends” say: “The Bookfair Collective operates on the principle that it is not for the small collective that organises it to take on defining and enforcing a rigid policy on safety and behaviour; it is for the wider movement that takes part in the Bookfair to do so, along anarchist principles of opposing centralized authority with dispersed and grassroots responsibility.

“Points raised in the open letter call for a radically different event, with a much more centralized program, organized or tightly overseen by the collective.”

“Yes” to central ideological control, comrades!

Another anarchist response on the 325 website reflects on “the harassment and public shaming of an individual simply because they’d dared deviate from the party line; the line being that there is to be no doubt and certainly no criticism of any of the dominant narratives around identity politics”.

It adds: “We are not in any way surprised that liberal activists would seize on the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon, slag off anarchists, signal virtue with their impeccable ‘Ally’ credentials, and try to sabotage a major anarchist event for good.

“Neither are we surprised that people we disagree with or whose views are offensive would turn up at the Bookfair; some such groups in fact, sometimes have tables and workshop slots and their own supporters.

“We also recognise why trans people and other anarchists present would be pissed off with the leaflets, which the authors and distributors must have known were offensive and would provoke a reaction.

“What we’re angry at is our fellow anarchists, who we hold to higher standards, and it’s on this that we want to concentrate. We’re disappointed at the abandonment yet again of anarchist principles of independent and critical thought in favour of groupthink.

“We’re angry at the willingness to sacrifice plurality of ideas for policing and self-censorship. And we’re saddened at the failure to balance our antagonism with a corresponding care and comradeship, so that bullying and public humiliation reigns unchecked. Finally, we’re pissed off that anarchists feel it’s so much more important to target another anarchist with unpopular views, than to attack institutional structures of our oppression”.

The authors also draw attention to the fact that the number one target of the protest inside the event was Helen Steel, a long-term anarchist activist and one-time McLibel defendant who was subjected to intrusive state surveillance by an undercover police officer who deceived her into a two-year relationship.

They comment: “One of the most disturbing aspects of all this was the way in which people allowed rumour to spread. The T-Word, once uttered, seemed to diffuse any flicker of concern from onlookers, all independent thought going out the window. ‘Apparently she was giving out Terf leaflets’, said a few.

“As mentioned, this transpired to be false information, and when those spreading the rumours were asked whether they had seen the texts for themselves, none of them had actually done so. When challenged, one person brushed it off by saying there was no smoke without fire, as if people were incapable of making mistakes.

“This sentiment also reveals ignorance of the long history of state agents using divide and rule tactics against dissidents – from COINTELPRO, to Stasi ops – and the fact that HS has herself been a target for state deception and manipulation”.

7. Acorninfo

Eco-activists protecting the Hambacher Forest near Aachen in Germany have won a little time in their battle to protect the area from open coal mining. After cops started to try and shift protesters, using pepper spray, and clear-cutting began, work was halted again on November 28 by a court pending further deliberations from the regional parliament.

* * *

Legendary US environmental activist Katie Lee has died at the age of 98. She was best known for her fierce opposition to the Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona. She felt it was a crime against nature, humanity and history: “The way I describe it is an aneurism, an aneurism. It’s a stoppage of the blood in the body, and that’s what they’re doing to our rivers with these dams, what we’re doing to our planet, I mean, you cut off all the blood in your body, you die. You cut off all our rivers and we’re gonna be out of here. We can’t survive without them”.

* * *

“The world of undercover policing, informers and corporate spies is by its very nature murky. It is populated by professionals who go to great lengths to hide their activities, and to build cover”, warns a pamphlet on police infiltration from undercoverresearch.net. As evidence of these infiltrators and their activities continues to emerge, dissidents would do well to have a good careful read of Was My Friend A Spycop?

* * *

The next Anarchist Action Network meeting is being staged on Sunday 10th December, from 1pm to 3pm, at 11 Ferry Rd, Shoreham-By-Sea, West Sussex, BN43 5RA. The AAN is an autonomous network made up of local groups and individuals from the anarchist movement based in the UK. All are welcome, except for cops pretending to be anarchists!

* * *

Scientists have called for an urgent ban on killer robots, with technology now existing to create autonomous weapons that can select and kill human targets without supervision. Campaigner Noel Sharkey, the emeritus professor of AI at Sheffield University and chair of the International Committee on Robot Arms Control, said: “We must succeed because the alternatives are too horrifying.” More info at autonomousweapons.org

* * *

One by one, all those dystopian sci-fi nightmares are coming true. Another one comes (again!) from Facebook, which has rolled out new “proactive detection” artificial intelligence technology which “will scan all posts for patterns of suicidal thoughts, and when necessary send mental health resources to the user at risk or their friends, or contact local first-responders”. It’s all in the interests of your own “safety”, of course, and Facebook spokesman confirmed that “users cannot opt out”.  You can opt out of Facebook altogether, though…

* * *

“Madrid’s refusal to compromise, in the view of the Catalan nationalist movement, renders the push towards Catalan independence impossible to avert”, concludes a useful summary of the current situation at euroasiareview.com.  We continue to support Catalan autonomy, despite our complete lack of faith in the idea of any kind of state. As we said in Acorn 37: “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.”

* * *

“Anarchy is a word we use to describe those moments when force cannot subdue us, and life flourishes as we know it should”. So declares Fighting for Our Lives, an anarchist primer produced by US comrades Crimethinc some 15 years ago and now, happily, available online. So-called anarchists in London and elsewhere may want to ponder its concluding words: “Then, as now, as always, the important question is—which side are you on?”

* * *

Acorn quote: “It does not require more than a simple act of insight to realise that infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibility”.

E.F. SchumacherSmall Is Beautiful

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

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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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