The Acorn – 30

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Number 30


In this issue:

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

1. Three great victories to end the year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Celebrations at Standing Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2. Degrowth and the death of capitalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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See also:

Degrowth – real anti-capitalism

Degrowth: complete system change

Tearing off capitalism’s “green” mask

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3. Stealth fascism in the UK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TERRORIST ALERT! TERRORIST ALERT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Criminal behaviour?

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

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

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

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

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4. Fake news and propaganda wars

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

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

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

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

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This is the news. The only news.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5. The Black Volcano of Industrialism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Cudenec

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

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6. Acorninfo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Acorn – 29

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Number 29


In this issue:

  1. Eco-campers resist oil drilling in Surrey Hills
  2. England’s sacred land
  3. Newbury, the past and the future
  4. Hamburg calling! Attack the G20 summit!
  5. J20: USA prepares for massive day of revolt
  6. Two new books from Winter Oak
  7. Hands off our Downs!
  8. Acorninfo

1. Eco-campers resist oil drilling in Surrey Hills

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An eco-protection camp has been set up in the woods of southern England to try and stop exploratory oil drilling at a precious rural site.

After years of planning battles, including two public inquiries, Europa Oil & Gas were last year given the go-ahead to explore for oil at Leith Hill near Dorking in Surrey and are now due to start work.

These loathsome environmental vandals want to fell hundreds of trees and permanently destroy a unique two-acre zone of beautiful woodland, polluting a much wider area, in the pursuit of short-term financial profit.

And while they are not proposing the immediate use of fracking, observers of the industry warn that the drilling at Leith Hill is about accessing data for shale and tight oil reservoirs and is therefore ‘gateway’ drilling for future fracking in the southern English Weald.

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When The Acorn visited the Leith Hill Protection Camp we found the campaigners in a buoyant and determined mood.

They were delighted with the massive levels of support from local people of all types – residents have even set up a rota system to bring hot meals up to the protectors.

While we were there, a steady stream of cars and trucks were pulling up with donations of wood and other supplies for the rapidly-expanding camp occupying the drill site.

Said Dr Dave, one of the protectors: “We have been welcomed here with overwhelming warmth by people from all across the Leith Hill area who have become disillusioned with normal democratic processes being overridden, despite the fact that nobody except a handful of investors wants the drilling here at Leith Hill or anywhere in Surrey to go ahead.

“The camp is here to provide a physical presence, to embody the fact that people are saying ‘no’ to drilling at Leith Hill.”

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Leith Hill is officially classed as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and an Area of Great Landscape Value with a rare and fragile environment. Organisations including the National Trust, Campaign to Protect Rural England and the Surrey Hills AONB Board have all vigorously and formally objected to the drilling plans.

The site is on Forestry Commission land and thus even owned by the public – and yet business interests have still held sway, as you would expect in what is essentially a capitalist dictatorship.

There is a nightmarish quality to the oil firm’s approved plans. The massive rig would have a flashing aircraft warning light on top, the rig would be illuminated at night and the whole compound would be floodlit. Drilling would continue 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Coldharbour Lane, which leads to the site, is an ancient Surrey Hills “sunken lane”, meaning that it has formed gradually over hundreds of years, creating a deep trough through which the lane runs.

These sunken lanes have very delicate banks, which are held together with the roots of the trees that line them. They are rare treasures and if they are damaged, they are lost forever. There is no putting them back. They are irreplaceable.

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The lane in many places is only just wide enough for two standard cars or one moderate sized lorry. But Europa proposes using super-sized HGV’s to and from the proposed site, with more than 1,000 HGV movements already proposed.

Meanwhile, experts have warned that exploratory drilling, which involves pumping toxic fluid into the ground, could cause serious damage to an aquifer that feeds into central Surrey’s water supplies – as much damage as would be caused by fracking.

Protector Dr Dave told The Acorn: “The time has come to take a stand against the fossil fuel industry and its various components.

“Hydrocarbon extraction through either conventional or unconventional means is madness now, considering the fact that the UK government has signed up to the Paris climate change agreement and taken the stance publicly that fossil fuel consumption should from this point be reduced.

“The Leith Hill Action Group and the local people of Coldharbour and the area have been successfully fighting drilling for oil at Leith Hill for the past seven years and they have been doing this through recognised democratic processes.

“These are now being overridden as central government pressurises local government to accept these unrealistic policies to extract hydrocarbon in all its forms in Surrey.

“I urge everyone in Surrey and beyond who values not only our environment but also our democratic processes to make a stand here at Leith Hill and all across the Weald to say ‘enough is enough!'”

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Dan Harvey, who had come to support the camp, said: “I have been coming up here since I was a kid. You couldn’t choose a worse place to drill.”

He said the area around Leith Hill had inspired the poetry of Lord Alfred Tennyson, the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams and the natural studies of Charles Darwin, who researched earthworms here: “He would be turning in his grave.”

Leith Hill Action Group has warned that the forcing-through of the drilling means no corner of the English countryside is safe from industrial capitalist pillage.

They said: “The proposed development is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and in the Green Belt. An AONB has the same legal status as a national park – development is totally prohibited unless it is in the ‘overwhelming national interest’.

“Green Belt land is there to prevent industrialisation of the countryside and fundamental characteristics of Green Belt land are its openness and permanence. We are in danger of the gradual bleeding out of these protections. If it becomes established that ‘overwhelming national interest’ includes exploring for oil this will inevitably set a precedent for the next time a protected area of land is tested.”

Callum
Callum

For Callum, one of many youngsters on the site, the struggle at Leith Hill is part of a much wider fight to pull this planet back from the brink of disaster: “If we let the oil companies take this then we’ll end up with everywhere being just one giant city”.

Lilith, a generation older, said: “When we took the site in the dark my heart leapt with joy to see the young ones shoot straight up into the trees. My thoughts went to Newbury, to Hambacher, to the ZAD. This is all one struggle”.

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A protector keeps warm at Leith Hill

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2. England’s sacred land

sandstone-banks

The sunken lane leading up to Leith Hill Protection Camp through the wooded Surrey hills seems to lead into another England, a forgotten England, long-lost and buried under all the layers of concrete, tarmac and numbed industrial indifference of the modern world.

Gnarled and twisted tree roots line either side of a route which has been worn deep over the course of hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

A short walk around the threatened site unveils a rich and earthy beauty that reaches inside you and grips your heart – tangles of bramble and ivy, the ancient living texture of bark and branch, slants of autumnal sunlight igniting the yellow, gold, bronze, orange, red, brown explosion of organic colour.

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The Sioux people fighting the North Dakota Access Pipeline around Standing Rock in the USA (see Acorninfo, below) say loud and clear that the land they are protecting is sacred.

But here in England, too, we have our own sacred land, sacred water and sacred trees, even if any such ideas have been sneered at by our overlords ever since the Christian Church first declared war on those who worshipped life and nature instead of the austere authority of a distant and separate God.

Far too much of our sacred land has already been lost under the motorways, shopping centres, industrial parks and ugly suburban sprawl which have now become the depressing norm in England.

Those areas which remain, which have kept their magical vitality, are therefore more important, more sacred, than ever.

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Beauty under threat at Leith Hill

Make no mistake – the area around Leith Hill is one of those precious pieces of sacred English land. There is an energy, a power, in those woods that you can almost touch.

Surrey is renowned for the purity of its water, thanks to the filtering effect of its sandy and chalky soils. All around the camp are springs and tiny streams, which feed the Pipp Brook and then the River Mole.

One of these is Mag’s Well, an ancient sacred site, whose water was reputed to relieve rheumatism, scurvy, dermatitis, leprosy, scabs, itch, and scrofula. But no value is given to the life-giving purity of water in a modern world whose hollow dead-souled gods are money, money and yet more money.

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Those defending these woodlands from the nature-hating capitalist cynics of the oil business are well aware of what is at stake.

Protector Nomo told us: “We are here to stop this beautiful ancient woodland from being destroyed by the fossil fuel industry. It should be classified sacred land.”

Added local artist Heather Ackroyd: “For me, to be drilling for oil on this site is just sacrilege”.

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Lilith said: “This is a magical ancient place of beauty and noble trees and wildlife. When you have these feelings, this goes beyond the madness of any fossil fuel extraction or the folly of the proposed industrialisation of the Weald to something that touches our hearts and souls.

“There’s a surge that pulses through you and you feel a timeless connection with it all. How could they think about cutting down these trees, polluting this water? Trees are life. Water is life.”

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3. Newbury, the past and the future

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The battle to try and stop the Newbury bypass in the mid 1990s will go down in history as a key moment in the struggle for England’s sacred land. Out of local defeat came national victory as the road-building programme was abandoned for a generation in the face of massive resistance. Jim Hindle’s beautifully written and moving 2006 book Nine Miles has been republished in a 2016 edition by Underhill Books to mark the 20th anniversary of the Third Battle of Newbury.

In a new preface, Jim, from Sussex, writes of the current threat from new roads and dirty energy extraction which means “the peace and purity of our natural landscapes are under threat now as never before”. He adds: “The safeguarding of the natural world is not only a question of our mutual survival. It’s a coming home to our inheritance; to what it means to be one with the land, so that one day perhaps we can be held by her in turn, to walk her hills and woods and lanes in peace. Its promise is a token of what the future may still hold in store.”

In the excerpt below, Jim describes the start of the biggest treetop eviction the UK had ever seen, which lasted five days and saw more than 60 people arrested and 120 removed from the trees.

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They came in around eight o’clock. Six police Landrovers appeared first, pulling up in a diamond formation on the access road, immediately beneath my tree. Security started piling out of vehicles on top of the hill, assembling themselves into a yellow block of colour on the horizon. I reckoned there were at least five hundred of them: a neon legion growing by the minute.

As soon as they appeared we started shouting from the trees: yipping – high, long, war cries – banging drums and blowing whistles. We threw up a wall of noise to let them know we weren’t afraid, that we were up for anything the assembling horde had to throw at us.

More and more vehicles arrived, more and more security and police piled out onto the hillside until the whole scene had grown so big it had overtaken itself. It seemed ridiculous. Police ‘Evidence Gatherers’ appeared beneath the trees, pointing cameras up towards us. They had a new uniform – halfway between police and Star Wars extras. We shouted quotes from Monty Python at them: “We decline to speet in your jeneral direction you Engleesh peegs” and “Your mothurr smells of elderberries.” The Evidence Gatherers said nothing in return and continued to film us with all the emotion of robots.

Police moved in and dragged away anyone who hadn’t got up in a tree. This accounted for quite a few people – those who couldn’t climb and locals who had come to lend their support. It was the first wiping of the slate. A bunch of people had clambered up the climbing tree near the white tarp platform. Now they were getting pulled down by bailiffs. These men were dressed in chequered lumberjack shirts and hard hats with the rose of Lancashire on them. They were built like brick shit-houses and rough-handed with it.

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At the same time, teams of red-shirted, white-helmeted climbers were making their way into the trees. They ascended simultaneously in three separate places at the other side of the frontline, near where the press had been herded. They were fast: disconcerting blurs of rapid movement up the trunks.

Scuffles started to break out around the trees and the Valley echoed to screams and shouts and the crashing of people being lowered crudely through the branches. The sun climbed higher and the heat arose, adrenaline hung thick in the air and far below, the bluebells fell in swathes under the security guards’ feet. The security had moved down to secure the area cleared by the police and now lined the route of clearance. It felt like the first day of summer – there hadn’t been any heat like this before and their coming in like this, on May the First itself, had turned everything hideously inside out.

Jim Hindle, Nine Miles

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4. Hamburg calling! Attack the G20 summit!

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“Will you come with us into the danger zone?”

“Attack the G20 summit! Throw Hamburg into chaos! Destroy the European fortress!”

That’s the stirring call coming from northern Germany, eight months ahead of what promises to be a powerful eruption of resistance to the global capitalist system.

World leaders, including President Trump, will be gathering in Hamburg for the 12th G20 Summit and anarchists, leftists and Kurdish groups are organising now to ensure these enemies of humanity will not have an easy ride.

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Will President Trump feel safe in Hamburg in July?

Pledged an anarchist call-out for July 7 and 8: “They will feel the rage of the street, when they are rushing with their convoys through deserted districts and talk about the nightly attacks of the last few weeks”.

The authors recall how, in the late 1990s, summit protests were a real catalyst for radical resistance – “Individuals and groups came together, swapped ideas, were standing together behind the barricades and carried the flame of resistance back to their regions”.

Even police violence in Gothenburg and Genoa, or the “numerous infiltrated snitches” could not stop the development of a Europe-wide chaotic network of autonomous, anarchist and anti-authoritarian tendencies.

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Genoa, 2001

But then a defeatist meme started circulating, which said “summit hopping” was a waste of time and resistance to capitalism lay elsewhere. As radicals swallowed the ideological bait and stayed away, summit protests gradually went back to being NGO-led pseudo-dissent and the authorities breathed a sigh of relief.

Now the anti-capitalist fighting spirit has returned to the streets of Europe, as witnessed by events like the protests in Frankfurt against the European Central Bank in March 2015, the 2015 May Day riots in Milan or the months of anti-capitalist fury that shook France earlier in 2016.

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Frankfurt in March 2015

Says another international call-out message: “Let’s show that they can’t meet in Hamburg without disturbance. It’s time to take the streets and stand up against their world of destruction and sadness.”

It says that while the G20 political representatives meet in the centre of Hamburg – in the exhibition halls, the town hall, the Elbphilharmonie – the residents are supposed to simply get out of the way and put up with blocked streets, ID checks and evacuation of homes. A living city paralysed by the demands of power.

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Hamburg police

Summits like the G20 are essentially symbolic and, as has been pointed out in the past, anti-summit protests can therefore be understood as working on the same level, hijacking and subverting the publicity around the performance of the capitalist actors.

Says the message: “The main point of this performance is to provide the illusion that the political elites of global capitalism have everything well under control, that they are somehow capable of providing security, peace, livelihood and a real future perspective to the people of the world.

“But we are witnessing the exact opposite: the prevailing world order is a further escalating disorder of brutal social inequality, structurally embedded sexism and racism, ecological destruction and spreading wars. Millions of people are forced to flee, billions are struggling to survive and the number of people affected by social insecurity is continuously rising. At the same time a small global upper class is getting richer and richer.

Police at a Hamburg protest in 2013

“In many political groups and networks the discussions on how to organize the necessary protests and actions against the G20 Summit have already begun. G20 is an international summit so the planning of activities against it isn’t just a matter of local or German groups. We want to start with the international collaboration early to identify with as many groups, networks, movements and organisations as possible if and how G20 could be a place of a common struggle; a point where we can converge our criticism against the rulers of the world, against the European regime, against the German government and against the economic elites.”

An Action-Conference against the G20 Summit 2017 is being held in Hamburg on December 3-4 2016 at HAW (Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften), Alexanderstraße 1 20099 Hamburg. The actual summit protests will be on July 7 and 8, 2017.

More info at:

https://www.g20hamburg.org/en

http://www.g20-hamburg.mobi/tag/nog20/

https://linksunten.indymedia.org/node/195308

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London, 2009

Although the G7 and G8 have more often been the target of big anti-capitalist mobilisations, the G20 summits also have a proud history of defiance and a shameful history of violent repression unleashed by the rattled ruling system.

In April 2009 big and angry protests against the G20 in London, to the background of the outrageous bail-out of the banking system, were met with police violence, leading to the death of newspaper seller Ian Tomlinson. After numerous police lies and cover-ups an inquest eventually found he was unlawfully killed, a cop was charged but eventually walked free.

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Ian Tomlinson is pushed over by police, causing his death

Meanwhile, windows of a branch of the RBS bank were ritually smashed in front of the world’s waiting media and Climate Camp protesters discovered that being “peaceful” doesn’t mean the state’s thugs will be nice to you.

A second banking crisis G20 summit in Pittsburgh, USA, in September 2009 saw a violent crackdown on demonstrators, amidst a virtual lockdown of the city. Police fired gas and pellet bags at about 2,000 protesters. They also used “sound cannons”, weapons previously used in Iraq and other US military operations – a sinister hint at the future that lies ahead of us in the brave new world of capitalo-fascism.

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Opposing the G20 in Pittsburgh in September 2009

In June 2010 some 10,000 protesters took to the streets of Toronto, Canada, to oppose the G20 summit there. More than 20,000 police, military, and security personnel were involved in suppressing the protests and more than 1,000 arrests were made, making it the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. In the aftermath of the protests, the Toronto Police Service and the Integrated Security Unit (ISU) of the G20 Toronto summit were heavily criticized for their brutality.

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Anti-G20 protests in Toronto in 2010
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Toronto, 2010

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5. J20: USA prepares for massive day of revolt

disruptj20

There has to be a positive side to the election of far right, racist, sexist, uber-capitalist Donald Trump as president of the USA and that side might well become apparent on January 20 2017.

While President Obama managed to run the Evil Empire in the usual ruthless manner while somehow appearing to be a “nice” human being, no such illusions are possible with Trump.

Across the world, the liberal facade cloaking the true face of the world’s leading exporter of violence and exploitation slipped away the moment the election results came through.

And in the US, Trump’s victory has sparked not only a wave of hate and racism but also a powerful mood of anger among the many millions who do not buy into his manipulative xenophobia – three in four potential American voters did not endorse him, after all.

It has been, basically, a kick up the backside for a lot of people who had been lured into a state of complacency by the shallow lies of a democracy whose choices are about as meaningful as the alternative of poisoning yourself with either Pepsi or Coke.

As a consequence, J20, the day of his inauguration, is shaping up to be a rather special day both in Washington, DC and all across the world’s fourth-largest country.

disruptj20pic

The Disrupt J20 website is calling for a “bold mobilization” against the new Trump regime.

It says: “On Friday, January 20, 2017, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as President of the United States. We call on all people of good conscience to join in disrupting the ceremonies.

“If Trump is to be inaugurated at all, let it happen behind closed doors, showing the true face of the security state Trump will preside over. It must be made clear to the whole world that the vast majority of people in the United States do not support his presidency or consent to his rule.

“Trump stands for tyranny, greed, and misogyny. He is the champion of neo-nazis and white Nationalists, of the police who kill the Black, Brown and poor on a daily basis, of racist border agents and sadistic prison guards, of the FBI and NSA who tap your phone and read your email.

“He is the harbinger of even more climate catastrophe, deportation, discrimination, and endless war. He continues to deny the existence of climate change, in spite of all the evidence, putting the future of the whole human race at stake.

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“The KKK, Vladimir Putin, Golden Dawn, and the Islamic State all cheered his victory. If we let his inauguration go unchallenged, we are opening the door to the future they envision.

“Trump’s success confirms the bankruptcy of representative democracy. Rather than using the democratic process as an alibi for inaction, we must show that no election could legitimize his agenda. Neither the Democrats nor any other political party or politician will save us – they just offer a weaker version of the same thing. If there is going to be a positive change in this society, we have to make it ourselves, together, through direct action.

“From day one, the Trump presidency will be a disaster. #DisruptJ20 will be the start of the resistance. We must take to the streets and protest, blockade, disrupt, intervene, sit in, walk out, rise up, and make more noise and good trouble than the establishment can bear.

“The parade must be stopped. We must delegitimize Trump and all he represents. It’s time to defend ourselves, our loved ones, and the world that sustains us as if our lives depend on it – because they do.”

trumpstrike

Details of protests in Washington, DC are to be released nearer the time. But the site is also calling on those who cannot get to the capital to organize demonstrations and other actions for the night of January 20. There is also a call for a general strike to take place: “Organize a walkout at your school now. Workers: call out sick and take the day off. No work, no school, no shopping, no housework.”

The website adds: “If you are living outside the US, you can take action at US embassies, borders, or other symbols of neocolonial power. Our allegiance is not to ‘making America great again,’ but to all of humanity and the planet. Spread the word. Join the fight. #DisruptJ20.”

Some excellent analysis of the issues and opportunities at stake can be found on Submedia’s reliably high-quality Stimulator video bulletin.

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6. Two new books from Winter OakLayout 1

Two new titles have just been published by us here at Winter Oak Press – just in time for that annual anti-consumerist Christmas shopping spree…

Both of them challenge, on a fundamental level, the thinking that traps so many people within the fake “realities” of the industrial capitalist nightmare.

The first book is an important contribution by new Winter Oak author Ed Lord entitled Modern Madness: A Wild Schizoanalysis of Mental Distress in the Spaces of Modernity.

What are we to make of an age that delivers pandemic levels of mental illness and a physical environment at the point of catastrophic collapse? What is it that connects and infuses both modernity and psychiatry to make them seem like the only possible ways to organise our lives and aid our distress?

Could there be other options available? Other ways to explain and ameliorate our distress? What if mental distress is considered as much a matter of geography as it is of personal pathology?

These are some of the questions opened up for analysis in this radically ground-breaking investigation of mental distress in the spaces of the modern world. The philosophical legacies of Felix Guattari and John Zerzan are employed to take the reader on a profoundly challenging walk through Critical Theory, anarchy and decolonisation to create a route to sanity via a wild-schizoanalysis.

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The second of our new books is Nature, Essence and Anarchy. The starting point of this collection of essays from regular Acorn contributor Paul Cudenec (The Anarchist Revelation, Forms of Freedom etc) is that very future of our species and of planetary life is at threat from the unchecked growth of the industrial capitalist cancer and that there is a need for a powerful and coherent resistance.

Cudenec argues that there has been a general thought-paralysis which makes any authentic and holistic anti-capitalist philosophy difficult to conceive and communicate.  As a result of this, anarchist and anti-capitalist thinking has to look deeper than the surface of what is usually regarded as the political realm and root itself in an intellectual soil completely outside of capitalism and all its assumptions.

He writes: “As anarchists have long understood, another world is always possible and will flourish in our collective mind long before it becomes a physical reality. We need to imagine ourselves out of the suffocating confines of industrial capitalism, leaping over all the barriers of lies that it has erected around us.”

More info:

https://winteroak.org.uk/books/modern-madness/

https://winteroak.org.uk/books/nature-essence-and-anarchy/

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7. Hands off our Downs!

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Anger is growing across Sussex, in southern England, as councils have been caught secretly selling off public downland in the South Downs National Park.

Seven years ago, countryside lovers in Worthing successfully mobilised to see off a council attempt to sell off fields on the slopes of Cissbury Ring, an iron age hill fort – and earlier this year the land was officially declared open access (see Acorn 20).

But now it has emerged that Brighton council (run by the Labour Party, for the benefit of those who imagine that makes any difference!) has started selling off some of its downland estate, without informing the public, let alone consulting them.

Said Keep Our Downs Public: “We do not believe that councillors are aware of the nature or implications of these sales. The Brighton Downland Estate, at more than 12,000 acres, is the largest and most important public asset within the new South Downs National Park.

“These sales open the door to privatisation of Brighton’s entire Downland Estate. Without democratic public accountability we must expect threats to public usage, neglect, damage to important wildlife habitat, inappropriate development, and more shooting and hunting.”

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Eastbourne’s (LibDem) council is also going ahead with its own sell-off of National Park downland, as reported in Acorn 26.

Eastbourne and district Friends of the Earth warn: “Eastbourne Borough Council intends to sell off most of the Eastbourne Downland Estate, putting at grave risk the rich nature and wildlife heritage of downland that was originally purchased by the council on behalf of Eastbourne residents for them to enjoy ‘in perpetuity’.”

Campaigners sprung into action in Eastbourne on Wednesday November 16, with more than 100 people protesting outside a council meeting at the town hall (reports here and here).

And on the morning of Saturday December 3 they are staging a downland rally and walk of opposition to the sell-off, meeting at Beachy Head visitor centre car park at 10.30 sharp. They say: “Stop the sale of our downland! Bring placards and banners. Let’s make a show of it!”

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Beachy Head near Eastbourne

Further West, Portsmouth City Council has voted unanimously to object to 20-year plans to drill for oil at Markwells Wood in the South Downs National Park, reports Drill or Drop. The Tory-led council in Hampshire joins growing opposition to the application by UK Oil & Gas, mainly because of concerns about risks to groundwater.

Other objectors include Portsmouth Water, which takes supplies from the South Downs chalk aquifer, the Environment Agency, the Council for the Protection of Rural England, Chichester City Council, eight parish councils and (currently) more than 1,300 people.

Meanwhile, members of the South Downs National Park Authority have called for stricter controls on how oil could be produced in future. At a meeting on November 10, the authority’s planning committee said a proposed policy banning hydraulic fracturing in the national park should be extended to other techniques including acid fracking or acidisation.

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Protesters in Portsmouth

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8. Acorninfo

A high-profile campaigner against the North Dakota Access Pipeline in the USA (see Acorn 27) has spoken of her brutal treatment at the hands of uniformed thugs working for the industrial capitalist mafia. Tara Houska (below), national campaign director for Honor the Earth, said she was arrested for criminal trespass, handcuffed with zip ties, kept in a “large chainmail dog kennel” for over six hours, strip-searched, jailed and charged with a crime later that day. “Native people are being hurt right now,” she said. “There were people being maced and tasered again yesterday. These things are happening.”

tara-houska

* * *

Capitalist contempt for any culture other than the culture of cash has once again been exemplified by McDonald’s, a universally recognised symbol of all that is tackiest in our modern world. The burger bullies are suing the Italian Renaissance city of Florence for €18m after their insultingly insensitive bid to open an outlet in the historic Piazza del Duomo was understandably turned down. Whined the widely-reviled American business: “We cannot accept discriminatory regulations that damage the freedom of private initiative”.

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* * *

Cracks are appearing in the US empire’s control of eastern Europe, with socialist-backed anti-NATO candidate Rumen Radev gaining a landslide victory in Bulgaria’s presidential elections. Said one analyst: “Only a few years ago, it was unthinkable to hear criticism of Western governments. This is no longer the case”. And elections in Moldova also struck a blow against NATO and the EU, with presidential victory going to Igor Dodon of the Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova. Dodon (below) had described his campaign as being “against the oligarchs, against those who have robbed our country and want to destroy it”.

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* * *

The morphing of “western democracies” into blatantly authoritarian states continues in the UK with the passing of Orwellian new laws allowing massive levels of state snooping. Whistleblower Edward Snowden declared that in passing the Investigatory Powers Act “the UK has just legalised the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy”. The good news, of course, is that the capitalist system is only being forced to drop its phoney dissent-numbing pretence of niceness because it knows it is rapidly losing control…

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* * *

Google headquarters in Munich, Germany, were attacked with red lacquer and bitumen on the night of November 6 to 7 2016, reports Insurrection News. Said the activists: “Information is power, who owns it is powerful. The main business of Google is the capitalistic utilization of information, which makes them one of the most powerful corporations in the world.” They also highlighted Google’s key role in the sinister and fascistic transhumanist movement: “Transhumanists are convinced that the way out of a world which they have decisively destroyed is the transition from human to machine. Its main players are made up of an ultra-neoliberal right which has its starting point at the Silicon Valley manufacturing center.”

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* * *

The Anarchist Action Network has announced the date and time of its next meeting – Sunday December 4 2016 at Cherry Reds Café, 88-92 John Bright St, Birmingham, B1 1BN. Meet-up at 1pm, for a 2pm-4.30pm session. Says the AAN: “The network meets every three months, in a different town or city, to plan for future events and to continue building a movement that organises with consensus decision-making. We have adopted the PGA hallmarks and have other principles that define us. We organised two ‘Anarchist Travelling Circuses’, in South Wales and East London, as well as numerous other events, demonstrations and weeks of action, and we now plan to organise a third A.T.C. and make other plans for the network in the months ahead. We’d like to welcome you (except cops and journos) to be a part of this.”

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* * *

Acorn quote: ““Factories, machines and bureaucracies are the real pillars of capitalist oppression”. Miguel Amorós, Elementary Foundations of the Anti-Industrial Critique 

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

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The Acorn – 28

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Number 28


In this issue:

  1. What fracking democracy?
  2. James Lovelock – enemy of Gaia
  3. Criminalising anti-capitalism
  4. Resisting the neoliberal coup in Brazil
  5. London Anarchist Bookfair 2016
  6. Acorninfo

1. What fracking democracy?

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“This is not democracy, it is dictatorship”. So said one member of the Lancashire farming community after the UK government this month overruled Lancashire County Council’s decision and gave Cuadrilla the green light to start fracking in the north-west of England.

Others were of the same opinion. Pam Foster, a Residents Action on Fylde Fracking  campaigner, said:  “This is a total denial of democracy. Our parish council, our borough council, our county council all threw out this application. We have pursued every democratic channel we can do.”

Pat Davies, chair of Preston New Road Action Group, said: “This is a sad day as it is clear to all that this government neither listens nor can it be trusted to do the right thing for local communities. It is deplorable that an industry that has been rejected on every level has inflicted itself on Preston New Road. Profit clearly comes before people.”

Jackie Sylvester, a local resident, told The Guardian, “They’ve gone against the will of the people. I think the people of England don’t realize that once this starts it’s not going to stop and there’s going to be hundreds of drills.”

Another supporter of Frack Free Lancashire, Heather Speak, said, “I’m so, so angry that a government minister has turned their back on local democracy.”

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Sadly, the government’s decision hardly comes as a surprise to anyone who understands the relationship between industrial capitalism and its so-called “democracy”.

The whole thing is a manipulative trick, designed to give the public the impression that their political rulers are answerable to their views, while ensuring that this is never in fact the case.

It usually more or less works, because there are numerous layers in place to maintain the illusion. The mass media, for example (and the educational system, academia, the book publishing industry and so on) help to “manufacture consent”, in Noam Chomsky’s phrase, by presenting certain “facts” as being true, certain issues as being “relevant” or “irrelevant”, certain viewpoints as being “plausible”, certain futures as being “possible” or “impossible”.

The whole democratic system runs very smoothly indeed if you can make sure that the wishes of the population coincide with what you have in mind for them anyway!

Sometimes, this doesn’t work. The build-up to the Iraq war of 2003 is an example of this. The lying propaganda was so blatant, so desperate, that people just didn’t believe it and took to the streets in their millions to say so.

2003-war-protest

Another line of defence for the system is the way that politics works, right down to the local authority level. Even local councillors are usually representatives of central political parties. Representation itself is a step away from real participatory democracy, but someone who represents a political party no longer even theoretically represents the community which elected them.

On top of this come the various restrictions on local authorities’ options laid down by Whitehall – the parameters for local decision-making are very narrow.

Sometimes, this doesn’t work, either! Such was the case in Lancashire, where the threat of fracking was so alarming, and public opposition so motivated, that even the normally tame and controllable local authorities said “no”.

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It is at moments like this that the illusion of “democracy” is no longer sustainable. The British state, which is a capitalist body operating solely in the interests of capitalists, wants to go ahead with fracking. So it has overruled the Lancashire County Council decision.

Likewise, in 2003 the Blair government, which was part of the global neoliberal military complex, wanted to go ahead with the invasion and occupation of Iraq. So it ignored the public.

This obviously creates something of a crisis for the system, because the fog suddenly lifts and a large number of people see that they are not living in the green and pleasant land of a benign democracy at all, but in the concrete and razor wire prison camp of a corporate dictatorship.

There are various ways that the system copes with this. One is to wait for the whole thing to blow over, to blame certain individual politicians or political parties, to pull people back into the illusion of democratic choice.

Another parallel approach is to ramp up the propaganda, attack their opponents as dangerous extremists (see below) and try to cut them off from the support of the population.

Along with these, and other techniques, will invariably come an increase in political repression and in the levels of the violence that capitalism has always used, and always will use, to impose its tyranny on a population which fundamentally does not share its core “values”.

The frack-free movement in the UK has already faced severe levels of intimidation and this will only spiral as resistance continues.

Balcombe fracking protest

As well as physically attacking people who get in its way, the capitalist system also spies on its subjects in a manner that would once have been associated only with the Nazi Gestapo, the East German Stasi or the Soviet KGB.

It was confirmed this month that, for more than a decade, British security agencies have been secretly and unlawfully collecting massive amounts of our supposedly confidential personal data.

And it’s getting worse. On October 10, the Bristol Cable presented evidence that Avon and Somerset Constabulary and five other forces had bought devices that can spy on thousands of mobile phones at a time.

Says its report: “‘IMSI-catchers’ are surveillance devices that can both track the movements of mobile phone users within a given area, and intercept texts and calls. The potential scope of IMSI-catchers’ capabilities is frightening.

“The data they harvest creates a live-updating map of everyone in a certain area. Some models can intercept hundreds of mobiles a minute. The devices can also block communications, and in some cases can intercept the text messages and phone calls – and read or listen to them – of thousands of people in the vicinity.”

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Two days later, the evidence in question disappeared – Avon and Somerset police had removed the appropriate documents from the internet because of “national security” concerns.

As the farmer wisely said: “This is not democracy, it is dictatorship”.

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2. James Lovelock – enemy of Gaia

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Fracking is a great idea, its opponents “have behaved deplorably instead of being reasonably sensible”, and climate change doesn’t matter because happily the world will soon be taken over by robots.

To anyone who has not really been paying attention, it may seem surprising that these opinions come from none other than James Lovelock, the former NASA scientist regarded as the creator of the environmentalist concept of the Earth as Gaia, a living entity.

But, in fact, the views he expresses in a recent Guardian article are totally consistent with the pro-industry, anti-nature worldview he has been expressing for decades – make no mistake, Lovelock is no friend of Gaia’s.

In his work, he repeatedly twists the idea of a self-regulating planet in order to suggest that we need not take action against pollution. He argues, for instance, that we should regard toxic industrial waste as being like cow dung. It is not so much pollution as a “valued gift”, he absurdly suggests.

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Industrial waste is a “valued gift” says Lovelock

Lovelock is a supporter of nuclear power and totally refuses to accept that industrialisation is affecting the health of the planetary organism, even asking in a 1986 paper: “Could it be that our very deep concern about the state of the world is a form of global hypochondria?”

He actively discourages resistance to industrial capitalism. A newspaper article about his 2014 book A Rough Ride to the Future reports: “The scientist and inventor James Lovelock claims we should stop trying to save the planet from global warming and instead retreat to climate controlled cities”. And it quotes Lovelock as concluding: “We should give up vainglorious attempts to save the world”.

Lovelock also explicitly supports transhumanism, the peak of industrial capitalist insanity which dreams of a merger between the human species and machines.

He says: “Our species has a limited lifespan. If we can somehow merge with our electronic creations in a larger scale endosymbiosis, it may provide a better next step in the evolution of humanity and Gaia”.

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Lovelock as a young scientist

In the light of this, it should come as no surprise to find Lovelock expressing hostility to green thinking in his latest Guardian interview.

There is a sickening hypocrisy to the way the corporate media builds him up as some kind of ecological prophet, only to delight in relaying his latest anti-environmental statements in order to bolster their cap-doffing defence of the status quo.

For the Guardian interviewer he is an “incorrigible subversive”, as if it were somehow clever and edgy to support fracking and nuclear power, as if there were anything remotely daring or dangerous about ridiculing opposition to industrial capitalism on the tired technocratic basis that it is “totally unscientific”.

Lovelock is now 97 years old and when he dies we can expect a flood of adulatory obituaries both from the industrial capitalist establishment and from those defenders of the living planet who never saw through his sly ideological scam.  There will probably be a special pull-out supplement in The Observer, sponsored by Shell.

But Gaia herself will be shedding no tears.

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3. Criminalising anti-capitalism

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Accusations of antisemitism against critics of Israeli policy have become a familiar feature of the political landscape, particularly since Jeremy Corbyn took over leadership of the Labour Party in the UK.

There are now even proposals that the use of the word “Zionist” in a negative context should become a criminal offence.

But a still more sinister trend is the attempt to smear any criticism of the global capitalist system with the same label, even when no reference is made to Israel or Zionism.

This came to the fore lately in the unlikely context of the US presidential campaign, when the allegation was levelled against Donald Trump. Trump is not someone we would ever want to defend and we are obviously totally opposed to his right-wing, misogynistic, xenophobic capitalist views, but the basis of this particular accusation is cause for general concern.

The Guardian reported on October 14 that in addition to his sexist behaviour, Trump had been “invoking shocking antisemitic tropes”.

However, later in the same story we learn that this is based on a comment by Trump about his rival Hillary Clinton meeting “in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of US sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers”.

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Whatever you think about the idea of “US sovereignty”, it is clear that this statement is not in itself antisemitic, making no reference at all to Jewishness.

The suggestion that it was offensive seems to have come initially from Jonathan Greenblatt, the head of the Anti Defamation League, who tweeted: “@teamtrump should avoid rhetoric&tropes that historically have been used ag. Jews & still spur #antisemitism. Lets keep hate out of cmpgn”

The Guardian was at pains to point out that “Trump has not made any explicitly antisemitic statements” but echoed Greenblatt in claiming his comments “bore similarities to antisemitic tropes like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion”.

Similarities? So does any critical mention of the global banking system now amount to a “shocking” form of coded antisemitism even without any reference to Jews? Is it now a “hate” crime to denounce capitalism?

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This would be a less pertinent question if it was just Trump we were talking about, as there may well be some kind of hate lurking behind his words.

But the very deliberate use of supposed “antisemitism” to attack the left wing of the Labour Party in the UK suggests there is something more significant and worrying here: a coordinated long-term ideological manoeuvre to delegitimise and then criminalise criticism of the capitalist system.

This meme was already apparent in 2003, when Mark Strauss wrote a book called Antiglobalism’s Jewish Problem.

Here, he approvingly quotes the high-profile French Zionist banker Roger Cukierman as labelling the anti-globalisation movement “an anti-Semitic brown-green-red alliance”.

Strauss tries to persuade his readers that, in his own words, “anti-capitalist rhetoric provides intellectual fodder for far right groups”.

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Hillary Clinton at the Carnegie Endowment, which was behind Strauss’s book

To understand the motivation behind Strauss’s stance, it is useful to glance at his background and connections. His book was published by his employer at the time, Foreign Policy, a journal then owned  by the neoliberal CIA-linked Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

He was previously a research assistant on the Foreign Policy Studies program at the Brookings Institution, a high-profile US “Think Tank“, recently accused of having a “cozy relationship” with its corporate donors.

The Brookings Institution gets funding from the likes of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, bankers JPMorgan Chase, David Rubenstein (co-founder of the extremely dodgy Carlyle Group), John L. Thornton (former president of Goldman Sachs) and the state of Qatar. It also enjoys excellent relations with the CIA, whose director John Brennan gave a key speech there in July 2016.

CIA director John Brennan speaks at the Brookings Institution

A common theme of the propaganda in question is to claim that anti-capitalism equals anti-Americanism which, in turn, equals a disguised form of antisemitism.

In 2004, Josef Joffe (editor and publisher of Die Zeit, climate change denier, member of the AJC Transatlantic Institute and the Trilateral Commission) claimed that the famous wrecking of a McDonald’s in France by anti-globalists including José Bové was part of a broadly “antisemitic” outlook which included support for Palestinian rights.

Joffe argued that Kapitalismuskritik, the criticism of capitalism, is a “mainstay of the antisemitic faith, a charge that has passed smoothly from Jews to America. Like Jews, Americans are money-grubbers who know only the value of money, and the worth of nothing. Like Jews, they seek to reduce all relationships to exchange and money. Like them, Americans are motivated only by profit, and so they respect no tradition.”

In the right-wing British magazine The Spectator in 2005, Wolfgang Munchau warned that in Germany there was “a poisonous cocktail of the three big As: anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism and anti-capitalism”.

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Is this antisemitism?

And the same trope turned up at the time of the Occupy movement in the USA, with Joe Carter, web editor of the right-wing First Things journal, declaring: “The brand of leftism on display at Occupy Wall Street is anti-capitalist and at the core of anti-Semitism is a mistrust of capitalism and a fear of economic liberty… Wherever you find a group that is railing against capitalism, it won’t be long before you attract types who want to blame Jews.”

This line is, of course, still being pushed today. An opinion piece by Dave Rich in the New York Times in September 2016 also seeks to link an “anti-American, anti-imperialist strain of the British left” with “a visceral objection to Israel’s existence” and thus also with antisemitism.

Rich, like the other opinion-shapers spreading this “antisemitism” meme, is hardly a disinterested observer. He is deputy director of communications at the Community Security Trust, a UK organisation which has been at the forefront of attempts to promote this broader concept of so-called “new antisemitism” and which, according to investigative journalist Asa Winstanley, “has strong links with government departments”.

Theresa May, now the UK’s Prime Minister, was even guest of honour at the CST’s annual dinner earlier in 2016.

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State-induced paranoia conflating dissent with “extremism” and “terrorism” has already had a chilling effect on freedom in the UK.

Police monitoring group Netpol says it has spoken to many people “who are alarmed by the stifling of political debate in schools and in further and higher education – including discussion on issues like ‘eco-terrorism‘ and support for Palestine – and who are more worried than ever about attending political meetings or engaging in online discussion”.

Building up a fake narrative according to which anti-capitalism is regarded as being close to antisemitism can only serve extreme right-wing agendas.

Not only does it risk creating a smokescreen for real race-hate antisemitism, but it will also  make it easier for the British state to brand anti-capitalism “extremist” under its sinister and Orwellian “counter-ideology campaign”.

With the Home Office declaring earlier this year that new legislation will give police “a full range of powers to deal with extremism”, criminalisation of views fundamentally challenging the global industrial capitalist system seems to be approaching at speed.

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4. Resisting the neoliberal coup in Brazil

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The headline in the Financial Times tells you all you need to know about what the people of Brazil should expect in the wake of the “constitutional coup” against former president Dilma Rousseff.

“Brazil’s exchange chief rejoices at post-impeachment opportunities” it declares, with the article below explaining that “Edemir Pinto — chief executive of BM&FBovespa, the country’s exchange operator — can barely contain his excitement”.

While she was ostensibly impeached for manipulating government accounts, it seems Rousseff’s real crime was “stunting the growth of the country’s capital markets”.

The FT explains that the new president, Michel Temer, has appointed “some of the market’s most respected figures” to run the finance ministry and Brazil’s state-controlled companies, setting the country up for what Mr Pinto hopes will be “a shock of capitalism”.

“The economic team put together by today’s government is a dream team … they are music to the market’s ears,” says Mr Pinto.

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The coup has not been music to the ears of anti-capitalists such as Brazil’s landless rural workers’ movement, the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST).

It has condemned the neoliberal seizure of power and refuses to recognise the Temer government.

It has also pledged to resist: “We announce that our mobilization does not end with the coup now installed. We will continue fighting, organizing the people of the countryside and building unity with urban struggles.”

Because it challenges neoliberal rule, the MST has already been declared a “criminal” organisation by the state and protests are being met with brutal police repression.

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The MST warns that the impeachment is “not the last act of violation of the Brazilian people’s rights promoted by economic and political elites of Brazil”.

It has denounced  the government’s attempt to reduce workplace rights, pension rights and to scrap the Unified Health System, its bid to privatize the assets of the Brazilian people and the commodification of land, water and minerals for foreign capitalists and the complete halt to agrarian reform.

In a video interview, Ana Moraes of the MST explains that it is gearing up to take part in a general strike in November.

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But she says she expects the neoliberal system to respond with its usual levels of violence: “Repression is a characteristic of fascist governments that implement a coup”.

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5. London Anarchist Bookfair 2016

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It’s nearly time for “Anarchist Christmas” in the UK, with the 2016 London Anarchist Bookfair being staged on Saturday October 29, from 10am to 7pm.

The venue this year is Park View School, West Green Road, London N15 3QR, near Turnpike Lane and Seven Sisters tube stations.

As ever there will be hosts of stalls (notably from Active Distribution who stock Winter Oak titles!) offering not just books , but journals, posters, badges, t-shirts, stickers and so on, plus a packed programme of meetings.

There is never a problem finding things worth going to at the London Bookfair – the real headache is that, with workshops and talks being held simultaneously in no fewer than 12 different spaces, there are too many to choose from and you are inevitably going to miss something interesting!

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For instance, from 11am to 12 noon there is the chance to Meet the Anti Fascist Network and also to discuss Fallacies of class analysis in the conception of black existence.

From 12 to 1pm, Earth First! are hosting a meeting on how to “help make next year’s Direct Action camp even better”; the Anarchist Federation are presenting a workshop on Capitalism, Anarchism and Mental Health; the Empty Cages Collective are talking about growing resistance to prisons as a frontline of anti-state struggle and, elsewhere at the very same time, there is a meeting on Resisting Political Undercover Policing.

And all of this clashes with Netpol’s workshop, Cover Up! The Case for Protest Anonymity (12-1pm), which will explore how anarchists overcome barriers to greater protest anonymity, such as targeting and arrest by police, separation from other protesters and questions of legitimacy.

Meanwhile, Chris Knight will be Decoding Chomsky in a 12pm to 2pm workshop, which also overlaps not just with the Radical Routes session on housing and workers’ co-ops (1-2pm) but also with Haringey Solidarity’s lessons from four decades of radical anti-authoritarian community action in north London (1-2pm) and the Anarchist Federation meeting on Land and Anarchism: The Struggle for the Commons.

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And you wouldn’t want to miss the 1pm to 2pm session with Silvia and Costa, arrested and convicted with Billy for an attack with explosives against a Nanotechnology Institute in Switzerland. They encourage us to Stand up Against the Technoworld, adding: “Resistance is not only possible but now more than ever necessary for a free and wild world”.

From 2pm to 4pm the Anti Raids Network are running a workshop on Anarchism and the struggle against the borders, while at exactly the same time Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al Shami will be talking on Syrians in Revolution and War.

Attending either of these two-hour sessions would mean missing Andrea Needham’s first-hand account of how a small group of women broke into a British Aerospace factory in Warton in 1996 and disarmed a Hawk warplane (2-3pm) and Working Class Anger in West London (2-3pm).

It would also mean missing Iain McKay mark the impending centenary of the Russian Revolution by explaining how the Marxist vision of “socialism” harmed the revolution and deliberately shunted it towards state capitalism (2-3pm), Donald Rooum presenting new editions of What is Anarchism? and Wildcat Anarchist Comics (3-4pm), and also a report on the current police crackdown on anarchists in the Czech Republic (3-4pm).

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And all of this clashes with Climate organising against Green Capitalism, hosted by London Rising Tide and Corporate Watch, who have just brought out the excellent A-Z of Green Capitalism, as featured in Acorn 27.

It doesn’t stop there. Boycott Workfare’s 2016 workshop (4-5pm) coincides with Brian Morris’s talk on Anthropology, Ecology and Anarchism and a promising workshop on Art and Anarchism.

But going to any of those means not going to Capitalism and the car: how the ‘need’ for the car was manufactured and what this means today from Corporate Watch (4-5pm): “Cars are choking our health and the environment, dividing our communities and locking us in debt. A new road building programme is under way in the UK. What can we do about it?”

From 5pm the London IWW Unwaged Workers Group will be proposing the creation of a Revolutionary Labour Exchange and in another part of the venue two anarchists who have recently returned from several months living and working in Rojava will be explaining why, in their view, Rojava. It’s complicated…

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South London in Struggle: strategies in local resistance (5-6pm) will explain how over the past few years a number of groups have emerged in South London to fight against state violence in the forms of policing, housing, and immigration enforcement.

And at the same time as all this , Kevin Eady will be asking What have the Anarchists ever done for Us? (5-6pm) in which he will address other key questions such as “How did Marlon Brando get things so badly wrong?”, “Why do Greek anarchists love sausage?” and “How did the long-running anarchist controversy over facial hair finally get resolved?”

Decisions, decisions!

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6. Acorninfo

A massive show of defiance against the proposed new Nantes airport in France was staged on October 8, with 40,000 people turning up to protest at Notre-Dame-des-Landes. The feared eviction attempt on the ZAD protest zone (see Acorn 27) has happily not yet materialised, no doubt largely thanks to the prospect of spirited mass resistance. The government’s latest comments seem to hint that they may prefer to put off any confrontation until after the 2017 presidential elections.

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* * *

Britain’s complicity in the USA’s covert drone war has  been exposed in secret documents from US whistleblower Edward Snowden. They show that work on targeting the victims of the drones was conducted at “RAF” Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, a base which is in fact largely staffed by the US National Security Agency (NSA). Meanwhile, this ten-minute video interview with David Vine, author of Base Nation, outlines how the USA uses its network of 100s of military bases in no fewer than 80 different countries to physically impose its global hegemony.

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“RAF” Menwith Hill in Yorkshire

* * *

The “Aleppo Media Centre” in Syria, which came up with the widely publicised photo of the “dusty boy”, is funded by the French Foreign Office, the EU and the US, reveals independent journalist Vanessa Beeley. She writes of the manipulation of news coverage from Syria: “This shadow media enclave is being installed in order to erect the US-NATO propaganda tent – one which suppresses and silences the voices which would normally be heard from inside Syria, but which are blacked-out in favour of contrived, and hoax imagery, and other twisted reporting that categorically refers to Islamist terrorists as ‘rebels’ and ‘freedom fighters’.”

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* * *

A public building on the Franco-Italian border, owned by the SNCF (French railways), has been occupied by migrants and anti-border activists. The squat in the Roya Valley was opened  on the night of October 17, but by October 19 was surrounded by riot police, with eviction alerts circulating. The occupiers said the situation on the border was getting worse all the time, with hundreds of people trapped at Ventimiglia and dozens of daily deportations to the south of Italy. People refusing to show ID were being beaten or given electric shocks and the French army was hunting down people, including minors, in the mountains. They said: “We refuse to play the game of the states and the humanitarian organisations who are collaborating with these deadly arrangements. We are asserting our ability to self-organise.”

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* * *

After our report in Acorn 27 on natural mutual aid among ants, a reader drew our attention to this article about how collective interests dominate the evolution of insects. It reveals that “group living insects have developed a unique capability of mounting collective anti-parasite defences, such as allogrooming [social grooming] and corpse removal from the nest”. We human beings like to think we are far superior to mere insects, of course, but maybe favouring individualism and competition over solidarity and co-operation isn’t as clever as all that…

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The UK’s Anarchist Action Network will be having its next national meeting at the start of December, although the date had not been confirmed at the time of publication – check for updates on its website. In the true anarchist tradition, the network is made up of autonomous groups and individuals, with no leaders or “central committee”. Meetings are open to everyone except cops and journalists.

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Guerilla Tactics: How Activists Can Fight to Win is the title of a thought-provoking article on the London anarchist website rabble.org.uk, drawing on the tactics of Che Guevara, the IRA, Sun Tzu, General Von Clausewitz and Nestor Makhno to suggest ways of taking on the capitalist system. It insists: “Our situation isn’t hopeless at all – by using overwhelming force to win small victories, gradually gaining people, resources and confidence as we go, we can build a strong resistance movement despite the strength of the rich and powerful.”

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* * *

Acorn quote: “Deep down my attitude is a protest against the fate that has made me a poet in an industrial age”. Herbert Read

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

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