The Acorn – 53

acorn 2019b

Number 53

In this issue:

  1. Seeing through “democracy”
  2. Greta Thunberg: the billionaires’ favourite
  3. Misdirected Rebellion
  4. Calling out the imperial gatekeepers
  5. Yellow revolt takes a striking twist
  6. Jacques Ellul: an orgrad inspiration
  7. Acorninfo

1.  Seeing through “democracy”

Johnson and Trump

The capitalist system will not abolish itself.

In fact, it will always do all that it physically can to preserve itself and its control over our lives.

While it likes to pretend its structures of domination amount to “democracy”, this is not the case, because it could never leave the door open to the possibility of its own abolition by democratic means.

The only changes possible via the fake-democracy of the system are limited reforms, which leave the system very much in place.

When we say “limited”, we perhaps mean “extremely limited”, because even the mildest of social-democratic tinkering, undoing some of the worst excesses of contemporary neoliberalism, is beyond the pale for the system.

corbyn smear

However, when the system draws the line too tightly around its preferred outcomes and uses its vast powers of manipulation to prevent these limited reforms, it risks exposing its so-called “democracy” as a sham.

A whole new raft of people suddenly become aware of the true nature of the system and its fake-democratic window dressing.

Their eyes are opened to the fact that there is no point in playing by the rules devised by the system, no point in walking time and time again into the same traps that it sets for us.

These moments are risky for the system, because they risk radicalising people who, up to this point, had bought into much of its charade.

The UK is currently experiencing one such moment. A vast amount of enthusiasm and hope had been invested – naively, from our perspective – in the possibility of an election victory for Corbyn’s Labour Party.

The reforms proposed by Labour were far from fundamental and yet remained unacceptable to the system.

The unprecedented blatancy of the propaganda assault on Corbyn has left many people, particularly young people, asking themselves some serious questions about the nature of British “democracy” and the approach that is needed if real social change is ever to be brought about.

And that can’t be a bad thing!

power beyond parliament

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2. Greta Thunberg: the billionaires’ favourite

Greta Time cover

“Wow, this is unbelievable!” tweeted Greta Thunberg in response to the news that she had been named Time magazine Person of the Year for 2019.

Only it wasn’t, because the owner of Time is one of the wealthy business people who have been aiding and abetting her meteoric rise to fame.

What is truly unbelievable is that there is still anyone out there who has not grasped that the Greta brand (rather than the person herself) has been carefully manufactured and exploited to promote a particular block of vested financial interests.

Some die-hard believers have not even been swayed by the recent revelation that her original pavement protests were filmed by a documentary team who somehow sensed in advance that this particular teenager would shortly achieve global fame.

But let’s just come back to Time magazine for a moment. The article announcing Greta’s award was predictably gushing, marvelling over the “small voice” and “piercing outrage” of “the icon of a generation” who had become “the voice of millions, a symbol of a rising global rebellion”.

Greta in train
Another day, another photo shoot

It added: “She has succeeded in creating a global attitudinal shift, transforming millions of vague, middle-of-the-night anxieties into a worldwide movement calling for urgent change”.

But what kind of change, exactly?

An early clue came at the start of 2019, when Greta was pictured, alongside Jane Goodall, in front of a sign promoting the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

Greta1

The term “Fourth Industrial Revolution” was first used by Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum and a former member of the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group.

Schwab wrote in a key article in 2015: “We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before”.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, he explained, would be “characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres”.

Schwab continued: “The possibilities of billions of people connected by mobile devices, with unprecedented processing power, storage capacity, and access to knowledge, are unlimited. And these possibilities will be multiplied by emerging technology breakthroughs in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing”.

Not exactly a nature-friendly vision of the future!

mark benioff

Another big fan of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is American Silicon Valley billionaire Marc Benioff (above), whose role in climate capitalism has been exposed by the investigative journalist Cory Morningstar.

Benioff sits on the Board of Trustees of the WEF Forum under Schwab and chairs the WEF’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco.

He enthused in 2018: “Everyone has to come together for the fourth industrial revolution in inclusive capitalism. Business is now a platform of change”.

Benioff’s company Salesforce, the cloud computing giant, is controversial to say the least.

In March 2019 it was sued by 50 women who alleged it had facilitated sex trafficking, of which they were victims.

It has also been heavily criticised and boycotted by activists for “making millions of dollars from the suffering of immigrants detained at the United States’ southern border”.

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But despite the fact that Benioff is happy for his “Fourth Industrial Revolution” technologies to be used in building a nightmarish racist-capitalist police state, he likes to paint himself as a “philanthropist“, a nice guy, a man who cares.

One of the things he claims to care about is the environment.

In a conversation with Schwab  at the WEF’s Davos event in January 2019, Benioff claimed the Fourth Industrial Revolution had “ushered in technologies that can help save the planet”.

Benioff is, like so many billionaires, a big fan of Greta Thunberg and must have been delighted to see her pose in front of his company logo and “Fourth Industrial Revolution” slogan.

He is, of course, also the owner of Time magazine. Wow. Unbelievable, as Greta might say.

benioff and thunberg
Marc Benioff (left) with Greta Thunberg at the WEF summit in Davos in January 2019. Back right is the sinister Christiana Figueres

See also: our ever-expanding page of links on the climate capitalists.

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3. Misdirected Rebellion

xr protest london train

An edited extract from Kim Hill’s important series of articles entitled Unpacking Extinction Rebellion.

A movement that is serious about extinction and climate change needs to address the root problems: capitalism, the industrial system, a culture that sees life as a resource to be exploited, and the infrastructure that holds it all together.

It needs to have clear goals, that can’t be diluted or used to manipulate and misdirect the movement. It needs to take action immediately, not in several years’ time. And it needs to target the weak points in the system, where it can have the most impact for the least effort.

The misdirection of Extinction Rebellion has come about because most urban dwellers have only an abstract idea of nature, as they don’t depend on it directly for their food, water and shelter. Their relationship with nature is mediated by the economic system, which provides for their needs by stealing resources from elsewhere and selling them on for profit.

XR nonviolentThe rebels are led to believe that the extractive economy is necessary for survival, and that new industries and investments offer benefits to humans and wild nature. So city folks are more than willing to take to the streets to defend the very system that is crushing the life out of us all. It’s a form of collective Stockholm syndrome, on a global scale.

Effective solutions require rebels to have a direct relationship with the natural world. To defend nature requires love, which is a constant, reciprocal relationship, which means listening, observing, giving and receiving, and being in communion on a daily basis.

To be effective, rebels need to identify not as a citizen, consumer or worker, demanding action from business and government, but as a living being, interdependent with all life. To identify with the living world is to see the entire planet as an extension of the self, so action taken to defend nature is an act of self-defence.

Demanding that governments and corporations change will only lead (and has already led) to changes that give them more power. The entire social and legal structure that puts them in a position of power needs to be dismantled. This violent arrangement is not deserving of the respect of polite demands and peaceful protest.

xr protest policewoman

Being effective requires a healthy mistrust of anyone offering technological or market-based solutions, and requires asking a whole lot of uncomfortable questions.

The capture of this rebellion has depended on the lack of questioning (and probably more to the point, lack of answers) as to what net-zero emissions actually means, what the rebellion aims to achieve, and what the proposed solutions really entail. Always respond to any proposal with ‘what does this mean in practice? and who benefits from this?’

The burning of fossil fuels needs to stop. Not because it is releasing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, but because it is powering an industrial economy that is wiping out all life.

The impacts of industrialism cannot be offset, decarbonised, decoupled from economic growth, exported to the third world, or made sustainable. Fossil fuels power mining, agriculture, shipping, aviation, road and rail transport, land clearing, manufacturing, plastics, the electricity grid, and imperialist wars.

The goal needs to be not to Make Your Voice Heard, or cause a temporary, symbolic disruption to industrial activity, but to permanently shut down the industries that are causing harm.

Many people involved in XR are seeing the cracks in the green façade. There are some in the rebellion who support the goals of economic growth and the fourth industrial revolution, and don’t care about the natural world. But there are many more who care deeply, and are willing to take direct action and risk their own lives in defence of the greater web of life.

Every rebel needs to make a choice: are you on the side of the industrial economy, or on the side of the living planet? Because you can’t have both…

wind turbines

See also:

Rebellion Extinction: a capitalist scam to hijack our resistance

“The X Agenda”: what does XR actually stand for?

Extinction Rebellion training, or how to control radical resistance from the ‘obstructive left’, by Cory Morningstar

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4. Calling out the imperial gatekeepers

gatekeeper

Can there be anything more loathsome than those fake-left gatekeepers of the industrial capitalist system who work to discredit genuine radicals?

Not only do they deploy witch-hunt tactics to attack their victims, but they do so from a false position.

They always have to be seen as occupying the cutting edge of dissent, as being the real radical McCoy, otherwise they would lose their power over radically-inclined people.

So they cannot be honest and reject views more radical than theirs as “extremist” or “going too far” or as “a threat to the status quo to which I am actually still very much a part”.

Instead, they have to pretend that these dissenting views are in fact coming from an unwholesome position, reactionary or in some way polluted by associations that make them toxic to other radicals.

handsonsyria

A classic example is the way these gatekeepers treat opposition to the permanent war waged on humanity by the US-led capitalist empire.

Instead of acknowledging that such critics are opposed to US imperialism, they like to pretend that they are actually motivated by admiration for rival states with which the US is currently in conflict.

So left-wing anti-imperialists are transformed, by the power of gatekeeper rhetoric, into “Assadists” or “admirers of Putin”, thus ultimately right-wing and hopelessly tainted by association with the actions of those particular foreign states.

Likewise, left-wing supporters of Palestinian rights are depicted as supporters of Islamic terrorism or, even more effectively, “anti-semites”.

Similarly dishonest smear attacks have been used against anyone who dares question the way that the climate crisis is being exploited to sell false “solutions” which are aimed only at making the rich even richer and will only accelerate the degradation of our environment.

A leading exponent of this gatekeepering technique is George Monbiot, whose true allegiances are somewhat given away by the fact that he is employed by The Neoliberal Guardian.

Notice how in this video he manages to pull together all the various gatekeeping smear devices against radical environmentalist and anti-capitalist journalist Cory Morningstar.

Like many other gatekeepers, Monbiot tries to discredit Cory’s investigative exposure of capitalist machinations via the trusty dog-whistle term “conspiracy theory”, used by the system to smear opponents through subliminal associations with right-wingism, anti-semitism or borderline insanity.

And he tries to muddy the waters and hide the fact that he is attacking Cory to defend the system by insulting and shaming her with words such as “disgusting” and by essentially accusing her of identity-based bullying.

Monbiot totally overdoes the gaslighting here though – implying ableism, ageism and even mysogeny on Cory’s part!

Worryingly, this kind of approach is often copied by people and groups who should know better, such as Libcom, who have echoed Monbiot’s smear, also claiming that Cory’s exposure of climate capitalism was nothing but “a conspiracy theory”.

Ironically, they justifed this by pointing to her anti-imperialist position exposing the US agenda in Syria, thus looping back nicely to our first “gatekeeper” talking point.

It is crucial that serious radicals and revolutionaries do not fall for this fake-left smearing of those who genuinely challenge power.

We urge readers who spot this going on to call it out, spread the word and tell us about it, so we can highlight it in future Acorns. We can be contacted via winteroak(at)greenmail.net

Let’s name names and publicly expose these two-faced apologists for the industrial capitalist system for what they really are!

thoughtcrime2

Related video: Wikipedia: rotten to the core

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5. Yellow revolt takes a striking twist

grevedec

Resistance to the neoliberal capitalism currently being imposed on France by President Emmanuel Macron has taken on a new dynamic this month.

Plans to “reform” the pensions system, which will mean longer working lives and more privatisation, have met with furious opposition.

A serious of general strikes has managed to paralyse the country on several occasions.

And the workers’ power has been reinforced by support from the Gilets Jaunes, still on the streets a year after they burst on to the political scene.

greve17d

The combative mood is not just about pensions, but reflects a general rejection of the US-style society being foisted on France by the Macron regime.

Admitted the New York Times: “Like the Yellow Vest protests, the strike has revealed a broad rejection of ‘Macron’s world’ and a willingness of ordinary people to enter the political arena to oppose it”.

Public outrage was increased by the news that the politician leading the pension “reforms”, Jean-Paul Delevoye, had “forgotten” to disclose 13 private sector posts, both paid and unpaid, in a recent asset declaration.

It takes a lot to force neoliberal politicians to step down, but this is what Delevoye did on December 16, giving opponents of his “reforms” a scent of victory.

greve17da

The next day, December 17, it seemed as if the whole country was on strike, from railway workers and bus drivers to firefighters, school students and opera singers.

Seven of the eight oil refineries in France were blocked, meaning petrol shortages are likely to start occurring.

Hundreds of thousands of people across France poured out on to the streets to protest against Macron’s plans for their future.

The response of the authoritarian-capitalist regime was predictable, continuing the pattern set during Gilets Jaunes uprising.

greve17dc

Protesters picketing a bus depot in Saint Denis, near Paris, were brutally bludgeoned by cops and, on the massive Paris demo, firefighters in uniform, trying to protect the rest of the crowd were violently charged at by riot police, causing several nasty injuries.

Even school kids blocking their lycées have been handled with the same thuggish disdain by the neoliberal stormtroopers.

And yet still Macron and his crooked cronies cling to power, refusing to bow to what is now an overwhelming public demand for them to abandon their neoliberal assault on French society and fall on their swords like the wretched Delevoye.

greve17db

The Gilets Jaunes

6. Jacques Ellul: an orgrad inspiration

Jacques Ellul

“The myth of Progress has killed the revolutionary spirit”

Jacques Ellul (1912-1994) was a sociologist and philosopher close to the anarchist movement in France and one of the inspirations behind the contemporary décroissance, or degrowth, movement.

He was a powerful critic of industrial capitalism, which he famously described as being governed by something he termed “technique”.

This was more than simply technology or the use of technology, but implied the full range of methods used to direct the development of human society.

He wrote that it led to the uniformisation of cultures, including those in the global south which fell prey to industrial Western colonialism.

Technique, he wrote in 1954, “breaks up sociological forms, destroys moral frameworks, blows apart social and religious taboos, desacralises people and things, reduces the social body to a collection of individuals”. (1)

peugeot ad 1970sIn 1977 Ellul wrote: “The system behind technique comes equipped with its own agents of adaptation. Advertising, entertainment by mass media, political propaganda, personal and public relationships – all of this, with superficial variations, has just one function, which is to adapt human beings to technique”. (2)

In a 1981 interview with Le Monde, he insisted that quality of life was completely incompatible with “the growth of industrial production and the industrialisation of agriculture”. (3)

Although a veteran of the French Resistance against Nazi occupation, and a student of Marx in his youth, Ellul was never fully part of the radical left in France.

This was partly due to his Protestant Christian beliefs: the Situationists, for instance, felt they could not work closely with him on that account despite the similarities in their respective positions.

Jean-Luc Porquet insists that this did not mean that Ellul was somehow less revolutionary than other anti-capitalists: “We mustn’t forget that Ellul was anything but a reformist and that he declared himself to be a revolutionary: he thought that this world is unjust and absurd and that we have to make profound and radical changes to its structure (which is in itself the definition of revolution)”. (4)

jacques ellul de la Révolution auxSpanish anti-industrialist writer José Ardillo goes even further, regarding Ellul’s position as being essentially more revolutionary than those who generally liked to claim the label as their own.

A general acceptance of the capitalist idea of “progress” is, after all, hardly the basis for a truly radical opposition to the status quo. As Ellul declared: “The myth of Progress has killed the revolutionary spirit”. (5)

Ardillo describes Ellul’s emphasis on the fact that we live in a society whose sole dogma is economic growth: “For him, the revolutionaries of May 1968 targeted mirages of power which had already been discredited by modernity itself – the real structures of the system remained intact. The type of revolt he envisages therefore demands a radical questioning of the way of life in developed societies.

“The necessary revolution demands the creation of new values, because all morality has been swept aside by the advance of technical society. And, for him, there has to be a break with a large part of our revolutionary heritage, so we can go back and begin again from a new starting point”. (6)

Video link: The Betrayal by Technology: A Portrait of Jacques Ellul (54 mins)

jacques ellul2

1. Jacques Ellul, La Technique ou l’Enjeu du siècle (Paris: Armand Colin, 1954), cit. Jean-Luc Porquet, ‘Jacques Ellul: La Démesure Technicienne’, Radicalité: 20 Penseurs vraiment critiques, coordonné par Cédric Biagini, Guillaume Carnino et Patrick Marcolini (Montreuil: L’Échappée, 2013), p. 132.
2. Jacques Ellul, Le Système technicien (Paris: Le Cherche-Midi, 2004), cit. José Ardillo, La Liberté dans un monde fragile : Écologie et pensée libertaire (Paris: L’Échappée, 2018), p.157.
3. Jacques Ellul, ‘Rien d’important’, Le Monde, 27 May 1981. cit. Porquet, p. 129.
4. Porquet, p. 124.
5. Jacques Ellul, De la Révolution aux révoltes (Paris: Editions de la Table Ronde, 2011), cit. Ardillo, p. 167.
6. Ardillo, p. 167.

Orgrad website

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7. Acorninfo

Banks and shops were attacked and a Christmas tree set on fire in Athens on the night of December 18 as anarchists responded to the war which has been declared on them and their autonomous spaces by the Greek state. Read this full report on the Enough Is Enough website.

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* * *

One man’s global ecological disaster is another man’s economic opportunity. In recent years, nature conservation has become a flourishing business sector where huge sums of money change hands and endangered organisms are transformed into financial products. Banking Nature is a must-see video.

banking nature

* * *

“Capitalism itself is a war against the planet and the poor. The global economy is built on exploited farmworkers, sweatshop labor, and a toxic electronics industry that drives workers to mass suicide. All this takes place on top of stolen indigenous lands and a legacy of ongoing genocide”. So writes Max Wilbert in a powerful article entitled The Moral Argument for Ecological Revolution, on the Deep Green Resistance news service site.

sweatshop

* * *

More than 100 doctors in Australia have urged their government to lobby for imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to be returned home for urgent medical treatment. The group has written an open letter to Foreign Minister Marise Payne calling for the 48-year-old political prisoner to be returned to Australia. “Should Mr Assange die in a British prison, people will want to know what you, minister, did to prevent his death,” the letter says. Free Assange! Death to the empire!

julian assange

* * *

Smart fascism is creeping up on us everywhere. France is set to become the first European country (but surely not the last) to use facial recognition technology to “give citizens a secure digital identity“. Data regulator, CNIL, has warned that the Alicem program breaches the European rule of consent because it provides no alternatives to facial recognition to access certain services, but the French state is ploughing on regardless. Of course!

alicem

* * *

Jamaica is “the Caribbean country of choice to conduct climate smart & sustainable business” its Prime Minister Andrew Holness has declared, adding that the island has “the best investment environment in the Caribbean”. This is bad news indeed for the Jamaican people. Capitalist “investment” always involves robbery and exploitation, the quest for yet more profits for the rich at the expense of the poor. The “climate” variety is no exception.

Andrew Holness

* * *

“There is a large and growing body of evidence that we have been lied to about Syria to an extent and to a level of sophistication that may be historically unprecedented”. A handy new article by anti-imperialist blogger Caitlin Johnstone outlines the 12 strongest arguments that Douma was a false flag attack staged to justify US intervention.

Douma sun tzu

* * *

Courageous former Labour MP Chris Williamson has spoken out against anti-left smears and launched a new fund for its victims. He said: “First they said ‘anti-Zionism is anti-semitism’. Then they said ‘anti-capitalism is anti-semitism’… We’ll keep defending our comrades by any means necessary”.

chris williamson

* * *

A date for your 2020 diaries. Dundee Anarchist Bookfair is being held from 10am to 5pm on Saturday March 14 at the Boomerang Community Centre in the east coast Scottish city.

Dundee Anarchist Bookfair

* * *

Campaigners in South Wales are mobilising to fight the threat of a new dam. They say: “Natural Resources Wales want to build a dam in Dinas Powys woods to slow the river at peak times to stop homes from flooding. It will devastate our beautiful woods and destroy ancient woodland, and it won’t protect ALL homes in Dinas Powys. There are other ways to slow the flow.” More info at stopthedam.co.uk or on Twitter.

stop the dam in dinas powys

* * *

More than 1,700 environmental defenders were killed between 2002 and 2018, across 50 countries. This is the horrific toll revealed by campaign group Global Witness. If you are wondering why you haven’t heard about all these deaths then bear in mind that “indigenous people represent a disproportionate percentage of the defenders who are killed”. And they don’t really count, do they?

Jose_Claudio_and_Maria_do_Espirito_Santo

* * *

“Language is the soul of the people. It’s not just for communicating, but also for understanding and feeling and remembering”. These are the words of Kaipo‘i Kelling, part of an inspiring “immersion schools” initiative which in just a few decades, has helped Native Hawaiians to reclaim their language from the crushing grip of English-language internal colonialism in the USA.

hawaiian

* * *

Under capitalism, the edifice of social control is built on the collective illusion of private property, and the sanctity of the so-called ‘free market’. Any moves taken to challenge this logic will therefore provoke pushback from the system’s indoctrinated cheerleaders. But what is property anyway and what do anarchists have against it? An informative video from sub.media, What Is Property? can be seen here.

what is property

* * *

Acorn quote: “Nothing will avail to offset this virus which is poisoning the whole world. America is the very incarnation of doom. She will drag the whole world down to the bottomless pit”.

Henry Miller

mcdonalds-india

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

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The Acorn – 47

acornmastheadnew1

Number 47

In this issue:

  1. Yellow voices
  2. Defending nature means fighting capitalism
  3. Zombie archaeology
  4. Everybody expected the Neoliberal Inquisition
  5. Tall tale of “eco-terrorism”
  6. Acorninfo

1. Yellow voices

voices14

The Gilets Jaunes, or Yellow Vests, movement in France is the most important political phenomenon to emerge in Western Europe so far this century. It has smashed through the barriers of political stagnancy and sterility which so often disempower and stifle spontaneous expressions of popular discontent.

The yellow banner of revolt has rallied parts of the population previously unreached by political organising and the relentless determination of hundreds of thousands of men and women has shaken the citadels of neoliberal power to the core. As well as the rubber bullets, grenades, water cannon and tear gas deployed by the French state against the uprising, another major weapon against the Gilets Jaunes has been the corporate media.

Constant lies, smears and alarmism in France have been matched by almost total silence elsewhere, punctuated by small dribbles of largely inaccurate information. We at Winter Oak have been trying to help counter this information war against the rebellion by reporting their activities and opinions in English. Below we present five new translations which offer some useful insights into what is currently being spelled out in yellow in France.

The uprising is very much ongoing as we write this, with Act 18 of the protests on March 16 likely to be significant, particularly in Paris. For  news updates about the movement follow us on Twitter.

voices18b

i. Power to the people!

This declaration was agreed at the Yellow Vest assembly of assemblies in Commercy at the end of January, attended by delegates from across France. It was then “sent back” down to the local assemblies, who have gradually been endorsing it from the grassroots.

Ever since November 17, from the smallest village in the countryside to the biggest city, we have been rising up against this profoundly violent, unfair and unbearable society.

We are not going to be pushed around! We are revolting against the high cost of living, against precarity and misery. We want our loved ones, our families and our children to live in dignity.

26 billionaires own as much as half of the human species and that is unacceptable. Let’s share wealth and not misery!

Let’s do away with social inequality! We demand immediate increases in pay, in the minimum wage, in benefits and in pensions; the unconditional right to healthcare and education; free public services for everyone.

It’s for all these rights that every day we occupy roundabouts, that we organise actions and protests and hold discussions everywhere.

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With our yellow vests on, we are having our say, which we have never had before.

And what’s the response from the government? Repression, contempt, denigration.

People killed and thousands injured, the massive use of weapons fired directly at us which mutilate, take out eyes, wound and traumatise.

More than 1,000 people have been arbitrarily prosecuted and jailed.

And now the new so-called “anti-vandal” law aims simply to stop us demonstrating.

We condemn all violence against protesters, whether it comes from police or violent factions. None of that is going to stop us!

The right to protest is fundamental. End the impunity for the government forces! Amnesty for all the victims of repression!

And what a con, this Grand National Debate which is nothing but a government PR exercise taking advantage of our desire to discuss and take decisions!

The real democracy is the one we practise in our assemblies and on our roundabouts. It is neither on the TV nor in the fake debates organised by Macron.

He insults us, says we’re less than nothing, then depicts us as hateful crowd, fascistic and xenophobic.

But in fact we are completely the opposite: neither racist, nor sexist, nor homophobic, we are proud to be together with our differences to build a society of solidarity.

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The diversity of our discussions is our strength and even now hundreds of assemblies are drawing up and putting forward their own demands.

They involve real democracy, social and fiscal justice, environmental and climate justice, the ending of discrimination.

Among the most debated demands and strategic proposals we can find: the eradication of misery in all its forms; the transformation of institutions (citizen-initiated referenda, constituent assemblies, an ending to privileges for elected representatives); environmental transition (energy precarity, industrial pollution); equality and the valuing of all women and men regardless of their nationality (people with disabilities, gender equality, ending the neglect of working-class districts, rural areas and overseas territories).

We, Gilets Jaunes, invite everyone to join us, as and how they see fit. We call for a continuation of the series of “acts” of protests, of the occupation of roundabouts and the blockading of the economy and of the effort to build a huge national strike.

We call for the setting up of committees in the workplace, at places of study; and everywhere else so that this grave can be built on the basis of the strikers themselves.

Let’s take control of our own activities! Don’t stay on your own, join us! Let’s organise democratically, autonomously and independently!

This assembly of the assemblies is an important step which allows us to discuss our demands and our means of acting.

Let’s come together in federations to transform society!

We ask the whole of the Gilets Jaunes movement to circulate this call.

If, as a Gilets Jaunes group, you agree with it, then don’t hesitate to send your support to Commercy.

Please do discuss and draw up proposals for the next assembly of the assemblies, already under preparation.

Macron resign!

Power to the people, for the people, by the people!

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The “nothings” are on the streets

ii. The ghost of 1789

This is an extract from a leaflet issued by a group of Gilets Jaunes in southern France after a local bigwig, the Prefect, accused “anarchists” of inciting hate of the state and confrontations with the police.

Mr Prefect, there is no need for anarchists to sow hate as your government is managing to do that all on its own. Oh, nobody for the moment is talking about reaching for their rifle, but everyone can see what they earn and what the rich earn. Hate is on the rise. The Gilets Jaunes are simple people, generally workers at the bottom of the scale on low wages, or people living on modest pensions…

They say, when they talk about the rulers and the fat cats in this country: “They are like the kings and aristocrats used to be”. They are not talking about having a revolution here and now but they talk a lot about our great revolution: it is always coming up in conversation.

Macron has said repeatedly that he won’t change course: so we can expect nothing from him but scraps of charity. One day or the other the poor, like in 1789, will take action and a lot of others with them.

This won’t be a revolt, but a revolution!

voices1

It is clear that every government since 1983 has done all it can to ensure that the poor are in this state of mind.

In our assemblies there are, among the hundreds present, lots of workers and pensioners. There are also teachers and nurses.

Some anarchists work and earn roughly as much as the other Gilets Jaunes, others are unemployed, like many others.

Sorry to disappoint you, but there is nothing to differentiate them from other Gilets Jaunes except that, perhaps, some of them are more active than most: that’s their right and we don’t hold it against them!

voices6

iii. Our community is the struggle!

This analysis comes from issue 2 of an eight-page A3 street paper, Jaune: Le Journal Pour Gagner (Yellow: the Paper for Winning).

From the start of this movement, two symbols have been competing on the roundabouts. The yellow vest and the tricolour flag. Of course, many wouldn’t put it that way. They would say that the flag is the symbol of the French people, while the yellow vest is the symbol of the struggle, so the two are complementary. And it’s true that in each instance those who sport them regard them as signs of rallying around something in common. But there are different kinds of commonality.

The idea of a community founded on belonging to a territory, defined by a state and the defence of the borders of that state, is very old. We can see it in the founding myths of the Roman Empire.

Some will say that this is a hard reality. They will argue that every country has its share of misery and that at the end of the day defending your tribe, your territory, your compatriots, is a necessary part of being human. Their slogan is “our own before the others”.

But who are “our own”? Have you really got more interests, aspirations and sufferings in common with the rich of France than with someone who works on the same building site as you but hasn’t got the same passport? More in common with the Loréal family than with an Italian or Algerian delivering for an Amazon subcontractor? More in common with someone else on the minimum wage, regardless of nationality, or with someone who used to pay the highest rate of income tax until Macron scrapped it?

Nationalism will tell you that yes, French people, regardless of their social position, have more interests in common together than with any other form of solidarity, such as that based on a common situation. But where does that lead? Who profits from saying that? Who benefits from nationalism?

voices9

Everybody knows the line about divide and rule. It implies, of course, that it those who rule who divide the others. So, let’s put the question this way: who rules? Who owns the wealth and the means of producing more wealth? The rich, the bourgeoisie. And who is divided according to passport and nationality? The poor, the workers, the unemployed.

Anyway, do you really think the bourgeoisie practises what it preaches for us? Do you really think that the French rich feel closer to you than to their friends in such or such a country, with whom they go skiing in Switzerland or Dubai while you go to work? Let’s not be naive.

But there is another community: the community of struggle. Thus, in France, for a long time now, a revolutionary tradition welcomes all those who want to struggle. As far back as the French Revolution, lots of people from every corner of the world came to lend a hand. During the Paris Commune, as well, the organisation of the barricades was partly organised by Polish revolutionaries.

And we can see this solidarity in struggle and revolution at many other times of history and in many other parts of the world. That is the community which brings us together. Today, it has a rallying call: the yellow vest. This call is universal and as such it is closer to the spirit of past revolutions, including the French one.

So we are saying it loud and clear: we are on the side of the yellow vest, of what it says about common struggle and also about a shared refusal of our dire situation, about chilly early mornings blockading and about evenings around a pile of burning palettes, talking about our rock-bottom living conditions.

Yellow Vests of every country, unite!

voices5

iv. Poisoned by neoliberalism

From an interview with François Boulo, a lawyer and a Gilets Jaunes spokesman in the northern city of Rouen (source: Thinkerview).

How do you see the current situation with the Gilets Jaunes?

There is a fight to be won in terms of communication. The mainstream media are trying to criminalise the movement. But the real question of immorality lies with the distribution of wealth. To live in a country and pile up a personal fortune that is 10, 100, 1,000 times more than you need to live, while in France 9 million people teeter on the brink of poverty and 140,000 are homeless…

What kind of politics are you proposing?

For the last 40 to 45 years there has been an ideological drive to poison our minds with the dominant neoliberal thinking, which is presented as the only possibility. This is the framing for the way we think about politics today. This economic framing is imposed on us and they tell us that there is no alternative. This has generated a mood of resignation.

The economic debate has been closed down. They explain to us that we have to have permanent growth, even though we live in a finite world. We have a cake and they tell us we can’t change the rules for allocating the slices of the cake. I think citizens’ control is needed.

What do you think of the political and policing climate around the Gilets Jaunes movement?

Right from the start, everything was done to ramp up the climate of tension. On the second Saturday of protests in France, from 8.30 or 9am people were being “kettled”, caught in a trap, and teargassed! How do you expect them to feel that their right to protest is being respected?

What about Europe ?

We have got to stop following the demands of the banks and investors, because their financial games do not help the real economy. We should finally create the social Europe we were promised.

voices16

v. A breath of fresh air

Here is an abridged version of an in-depth article in issue 12 of Avis de Tempêtes: Bulletin anarchiste pour la guerre sociale (Storm Warning: Anarchist bulletin for social war), a 20-page A5 zine with a yellow and red cover. The piece takes a witty swipe at a certain kind of comrade who considers themself too ideologically pure to possibly be able to join in the diverse and mould-breaking Gilets Jaunes uprising.

For once, a movement has erupted in a self-organised way without political parties and trade unions, for once it immediately set its own agenda – an agenda which is often daily and not at the weekly or monthly rhythm of the big days out orchestrated by the troop masters and agreed in advance with the police – even deciding for itself its own places and routes of confrontation and blockage by obstinately refusing to beg for official authorisation.

In short, a breath of fresh air for all those activists who have been waiting for nothing other than a big collective movement before venturing out of their homes. However… While the meagre crumbs claimed by any number of reformist, trade-unionist or victimist organisations – backed up by a show of strength in the streets to help their representatives in their negotiations with authority – have never put too many people off taking part, now we see those marvellous anti-authoritarian activists diligently dissecting those who have lit the yellow-vest fuse.

The anti-authoritarian activist, well schooled in swallowing all kinds of reformist demands in order to join in various struggles, this time finds that there is not enough familiar common ground.

voices2

With the Gilets Jaunes movement, the activist has suddenly discovered the world around him. Having been in raptures over the Arab Spring without finding his enthusiasm impossibly deflated by the “interclassist” use of the term “the people” (“The people wants the fall of the regime” was a much-used popular slogan) and the abundance of national flags, he is now disgusted by the same limitations on his own side of the Mediterranean.

Having rioted against the Loi Travail labour reforms, or last May Day, without feeling his presence incompatible with that of  massed hammer and sickle flags, or with the sometimes-dubious banners at the head of Parisian demos (emblazoned with the wise words of 100%-reactionary rappers), he is now mortified by the tricolour flags and populist slogans.

He had chosen to be blind to the hundreds of tricolour flags in the left-wing France Insoumise rallies at the last elections, as well as to those wielded by hundreds of thousands in the streets after the epic victory in the footballing spectacle of July 2018 (sported in unison by poor urban youth and old rich racists).

No, the activist is as simple as his organic-supermarket ideology. An unclean symbol equals a fascist. Full stop.

voices7

Further reading:

Tear gas and rubber bullets on the streets of southern France

Yellow is the new bloc

Yellow fever: long live the revolutionary mob!

Gilets Jaunes: unfiltered anti-capitalism

“Police everywhere, justice nowhere!” – Gilets Jaunes on the streets of Nîmes

The heartbeat of the yellow jacket revolt is rural

Christmas with the gilets jaunes

May our yellow sparks of revolt set the world ablaze in 2019!

France on the brink: either we topple the system or it will crush us

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2. Defending nature means fighting capitalism

GAF image

A radical anti-capitalist dimension to the Extinction Rebellion (XR) has emerged in the UK, with the creation of a new alliance.

The Green Anti-Capitalist Front is born of the realisation that if we want to defend nature we have to fight capitalism.

It says it wants to support the high-profile XR “with a parallel mobilisation that has a greater focus on the capitalist roots of climate catastrophe”.

GAF explains: “As we all know, capitalism is killing the Earth. We have been observing the rise of the Extinction Rebellion movement and, while we are glad to see a growing interest in fighting climate change, we do not think their critique goes far enough and believe a specifically anti-capitalist critique is needed.

“As such we are calling for the formation of an anti-capitalist block to tap into this rising interest in radical politics and to fill the vacuum of a green and anti-capitalist movement in London. We plan to loosely work alongside Extinction Rebellion’s actions, especially their week of actions planned from April 15th, while also developing our own unique
approach.

“The Green Anti-Capitalist Front is intended as a broad coalition of groups with varying ideologies, but with a common interest in tackling environmental problems at their social roots”.

GAF logo

In an open letter to XR, GAF praises it for having reinvigorated environmental activism at a time when this was most needed.

It says: “XR has been bold in its aims when much of the established movement has been cynical, and has managed to tap into a broader sense of alarm over environmental degradation, and mobilised many people not previously involved.

“XR has grown at a speed that many people would have thought impossible before we saw it happen.

“XR has also been far more radical in this broad appeal than many people would have thought, pursuing a strategy built around both local direct action while maintaining an international orientation.

“We cannot overstate the overwhelmingly positive effect that XR is having on environmental politics”.

However, GAF says it has “doubts about some of the tactics that XR has adopted” and thinks a conversation is needed about this.

GAF is inviting like-minded people and groups to get in touch via
greenanticapitalistfront@riseup.net. It has a website, Twitter account and Facebook presence.

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3. Zombie archaeology

zombie archaeology

by Eric Fleischmann

In the 21st century, the world is now veritably swamped with commodities. According to APLF ltd. American consumers purchase an average of 7.5 shoes per capita per year. The LA Times reports that “the average U.S. household has 300,000 things, from paper clips to ironing boards.”

I am not by any means claiming that everyone is an affluent borderline-hoarder. One of the fundamental problems of capitalism is the unequal access to this seeming abundance of goods.

With so much paraphernalia in the world, it is inevitable that significant portions will be wasted.

In an article for The Atlantic, Derek Thompson explains that in a year the world creates around 2.6 trillion pounds of garbage—“the weight of about 7,000 Empire State Buildings.”

Much of this is food waste, but many inorganic items are produced with cheap plastic and other materials that fall apart quickly. Some companies, such as Apple, even reportedly preprogram their products to stop functioning properly after a certain amount of time in order to force consumers to buy new wares at a much greater rate than they otherwise would.

All this waste, all this stuff tossed away, has to go somewhere. Such rubbish becomes part of the planet’s topography, enters into its ecological systems, and eventually returns to the human sphere of interaction – much to human detriment.

This is zombie archaeology; when the remnants of our past are not uncovered by human beings but return to us by themselves with a vengeance.

angelus novus

In this age of capitalism-induced ecological collapse, zombie archaeology is certain to become only increasingly suited for describing the world. Walter Benjamin, in his Theses on the Philosophy of History, writes of Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, “This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But… …[t]he storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward.”

But what happens when the wreckage and debris – both literal and figurative – begin shambling towards the present? When the dead are, in a sense, awakened? Zombie archaeology poses these questions.

See full article here.

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4. Everybody expected the Neoliberal Inquisition

spanish inquisition

We have been drawing attention for some time now to the ideological smears being deliberately used by the neoliberal elite to stifle dissident voices.

Unlike Monty Python’s ridiculous “Spanish Inquisition”, this one has long been expected by everybody who has been paying attention.

The most important task, we feel, is to point out the essential dishonesty behind these attacks.

Neoliberals differ from the old-fashioned right in that they like to paint themselves as the Guardians (yep, quite!) of Progressive Thinking, as somehow vaguely left-wing despite their full-blooded backing for capitalism, militarism, imperialism and everything that goes with it.

So they cannot attack the left in the traditional way, by simply saying they do not like it because it is too left-wing and threatens the status quo which they support.

Instead, they pretend to be attacking their enemies from a progressive position, one which occupies the liberal moral high ground.

This is the case with the longstanding smears against deep green thinking which try to claim it is a continuation of Nazi ideology, even though Hitler’s regime was the epitome of industrialism (see our article Organic Radicalism: Bringing Down the Fascist Machine for a full analysis of this).

orpic

Neoliberals, including pseudo-leftists, aren’t honest enough to say that they oppose deep green politics because they support industrial capitalism – that would blow their ideological cover.

Instead, they have to pretend that it is because they have cleverly identified it as a sinister right-wing threat to democracy as we know it.

The same phenomenon is basically at work with the “anti-semitism” allegations cropping up everywhere at the moment.

This issue is slightly complicated by the fact that it is partly about Palestine and the need for the pro-Israel lobby to silence all criticism of the apartheid state by conflating anti-Zionism with anti-semitism.

A real witch-hunt atmosphere has been created here, which the original Spanish Inquisition would surely have been proud of.

witch hunt

Once accused of “anti-semitism”, the victim is faced with a dilemma similar to that of the famous ducking stool  – if you drown you are not a witch and if you don’t then you are a witch and you have to be burned alive.

If the person accused of anti-semitism admits guilt and apologises, not only will they not be left alone, but they will also have surrendered important political ground and will have set a precedent for the next absurd denunciation.

If they deny having said anything wrong, this denial will be regarded as a further offence of perhaps even greater severity.

This is what has been happening to UK Labour Party figures such as Chris Williamson and to US lawmaker Ilhan Omar (see here and here).

The secondary smear technique has also been used against the Gilets Jaunes in France, particularly following an incident in which intellectual Alain Finkielkraut was called a “dirty Zionist”.

Comments, or lack of comments, on the much-hyped confrontation were used to attack prominent Yellow Vest supporters such as journalist Aude Lancelin and leftist politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

It is important to note that all these smear attacks have been targeted at the political left. Anti-semitism on the right is rarely even mentioned.

It is clear that the Palestine question, important though it is both for supporters and critics of the Israeli state, is not the only issue at stake here, as the likes of Jonathan Cook have been pointing out.

seattle99b
Seattle 1999

One of the great successes of the wave of global protests that took place in the 1990s and at the start of the 21st century was to put anti-capitalism on the public stage.

Previously, the mainstream had never even accepted that we lived in a capitalist society, let alone that people could be against that.

The word “capitalism” was regarded as a nonsensical one, used only by communists or other left-wing cranks.

Suddenly, they were talking about anti-capitalism on the BBC, examining who these troublesome anti-capitalists were and what exactly they wanted.

Twenty years on, the Establishment feels under threat, its system crumbling and its mind-control power over the population lifting like fog in the sunshine.

It therefore seems to have decided to try to push anti-capitalism back out of the public domain, beyond the perimeter fence of ideological validity.

99 per cent

We have commented previously on the peculiar political argument that there is something “anti-semitic” about opposing the “1%” who own most of the world’s wealth (it’s a lot fewer than that…) or about condemning bankers or international capitalist organisations like the IMF, the WTO or the Bilderberg group.

As we pointed out last July: “What appears to be happening, in some cases at least, is that the ‘Jewish banker’ figure is again being deliberately deployed to thwart opposition to capitalism.

“Previously, it was used to steer people away from anti-capitalism and into anti-semitism, but now the aim is rather to steer people away from anti-capitalism with the threat of being labelled anti-semitic”.

This twisted approach is now being presented as a common-sense view by mainstream media, in tandem with the other smear attacks on left-wingers.

Right-wing Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh spun this toxic propaganda on BBC Radio 4 on March 4, with presenter John Humphreys helpfully summing up: “In other words, to be anti-capitalist you have to be anti-semitic?”

Such are the desperate, dangerous lies of a system that senses its days are numbered…

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5. Tall tale of “eco-terrorism”

edinburgh castle

In his new “extremist” novel, No Such Place as Asha, Paul Cudenec gives a fictional airing to the ideological smears often deployed by neoliberals against opponents of their ecocidal industrial capitalist system. This excerpt describes a speaker at a private conference of the “Transatlantic Alliance for Freedom” (TAF) in Edinburgh…

His special subject was environmentalism. He started off paying lip service to the importance of balancing economic growth with sustainable practices, of ensuring the well-being of human and animal communities, so on and so forth. Responsible environmental organisations acted as crucial watchdogs that reminded the authorities and industry of their responsibilities. While TAF did not always agree with their positions, they recognised the role they played, etcetera, etcetera.

Then he moved on to the substance of his talk. Unfortunately, there was always a fringe of green protesters who took things too far, who refused to play by the rules. He talked about “eco-terrorists” in the USA and “hardcore” environmentalists in Europe, such as 1990s road protesters in the UK, a mobilisation against a high-speed rail line in Italy, a protest camp against an airport in France, another against mining in Germany.

More recently, the “worst” instance of these campaigns was the anti-fracking movement in the UK. The dangers of these extremists’ illegal direct action were well known, he said, as was the “Luddite” ideology that inspired them.

But lately things had taken a turn for the worse. These groups were starting to develop a common ideology, aided by the exchange of news and views made possible by the internet. They were borrowing ideas from campaigners on the other side of the world and incorporating them into their own rhetoric. They were increasingly identifying the enemy not just as their local government, or business, but as something they termed “the industrial capitalist system”.

Up against this, they were piecing together their own counter-position. They had taken the idea of “sacred land” from indigenous struggles in North America, Australia and elsewhere and were applying it to their own sites. The use of direct action was turning into an ideology of direct action, an anarchist contempt for the rule of law and the due democratic process. French and German groups had fed into the mix the idea of “degrowth”, which rejected the very fundaments of our society – the idea of progress, economic growth and increased prosperity for humankind.

I wrote down a complete quote at this point. “Let’s be clear, these people are negationists. They are guilty of progress denial. And I would suggest that this brand of negationism should be treated as seriously as the other one of which we are all too well aware. Because that’s where it ends, ultimately. It all ends at the same place. The destruction of civilization. The deaths of millions of men, women and children in the name of fanaticism.”

There was a great burst of applause across the room at this point. Having established his moral high ground, Heath went on to spell out the particular form this Eco-Terrorist Apocalypse would take, which seemed to involve mainly a drop in the profits of “important wealth-creating institutions”, faced with increased grassroots resistance to their projects and falling levels of consumption as the “poison” of anti-growth views contaminated the population.

More info here.

asha cover

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6. Acorninfo

A top-notch new comic has been published by Corporate Watch in London. Worlds End uses words and pictures to help people understand climate change and capitalism and encourage a different approach, one that builds power to fight them. Read it online here.

worldsend

* * *

“Just because the participants in the growing number of Extinction Rebellion actions may be predominantly middle class, it doesn’t mean to say that we as working class people aren’t concerned about environmental issues”. So says a useful article in The South Essex Heckler. It adds: “What we need to do is to start to own the narrative of the campaigns around those issues so that it’s our voices that are being heard. We’re the ones on the frontline from traffic induced air pollution through to being housed in flood risk areas”.

traffic fumes

* * *

Disturbing evidence keeps emerging about the way the environmental movement, particularly the climate justice element, is being hijacked and manipulated by big business. For instance, a Daily Mail report in February revealed that Tory peer John Selwyn Gummer, who heads the UK government’s Climate Change Committee, has a private company which has been paid more than £600,000 from “green” businesses hoping to profit from government subsidies. And the full report from Cory Morningstar mentioned in Acorn 46 is now online and a must-read for any nature-defender who wants to avoid being used as a useful idiot by a bunch of lying industrial capitalists.

Gummer

* * *

The threat of new industrial capitalist mega-projects in Mexico has been highlighted in a letter from Zapatista women to their sisters across the world. The authorities’ destructive schemes include the Mayan Train, the “development” of the Tehuantepec Isthmus and massive commercial tree farms. The letter declares: “We’re going to fight with all our strength and everything we’ve got against these mega-projects. If these lands are conquered, it will be upon the blood of Zapatista women”.

zapatista women

* * *

“Fracking is stoppable, another world is possible!” is the title of a highly informative and inspiring new online bulletin from the frack free movement. Issue 1 is available here but issue 2 should be out very soon – follow the excellent frackfree_eu on Twitter for updates.

frackingisstoppable

* * *

The 2019 Liverpool Anarchist Bookfair will be held on Saturday April 13, 11am till 5pm at The Black-E, 1 Great George Street, L1 5EW. This will be a day of stalls and workshops, with a vegan cafe and kids’ space – free entry (donations towards event costs welcome). Says the website: “Books, zines & more to feed your brain  let’s learn, organise, grow & create!”

liverpoolbookfair

* * *

If the neoliberal Establishment succeeds in totally destroying the (very mild!) threat presented to its domination by Corbyn’s Labour Party, there will no doubt be a few we-told-you-soes from us anarcho-cynics. But the anger sparked by such a collapse in people’s hopes could well lead to something more interesting happening in the UK. As Jonathan Cook notes: “If parliamentary politics returns to business as usual for the wealthy, taking to the streets looks increasingly like the only option. Maybe it’s time to dust off a Yellow Vest”.

* * *

Acorn quote: “The poorest man hath as true a title and just right to the land as the richest man. True freedom lies in the free enjoyment of the earth”.

Gerrard Winstanley

Gerrard Winstanley GJ2

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

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