The Acorn – 38

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Number 38


In this issue:

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

1. “Chimps” swing into action

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

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

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

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

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

Conference publicity

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

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

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

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

Transhumanist Kevin Warwick

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

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

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

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

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

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2. Defend the living!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expect resistance. As long as we are alive.

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3. Fighting the cancer of economic growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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4. D for defiance in struggle against arms trade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Israeli police teargas Palestinians

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5. Protecting the planet is not a crime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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6. Sabotaging the subversives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actual fascists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes” to central ideological control, comrades!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Acorninfo

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

* * *

“Madrid’s refusal to compromise, in the view of the Catalan nationalist movement, renders the push towards Catalan independence impossible to avert”, concludes a useful summary of the current situation at euroasiareview.com.  We continue to support Catalan autonomy, despite our complete lack of faith in the idea of any kind of state. As we said in Acorn 37: “With its use of the whole gamut of repressive methods, from internet censorship and brutal violence to media distortion of what has been happening, the Spanish state could almost be acting out a dress rehearsal of clamp-downs on disobedient populations elsewhere. If the authorities can get away with it in Barcelona and Catalonia, with their proud revolutionary spirit and sense of community, they might conclude they could get away with it anywhere.”

* * *

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

* * *

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

E.F. SchumacherSmall Is Beautiful

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

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The Acorn – 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.

banner-leith

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.”

map

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.

leith-hill-rig-image

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.

leith-hill-road1

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!'”

leith3

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”.

leithc
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

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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.

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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.”

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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

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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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