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 – 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.

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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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The Acorn – 27

acornmastheadnew1

Number 27


In this issue:

  1. ZAD alert! Eco-zone warns of imminent attack
  2. Indigenous peoples lead fight against fracking pipeline
  3. Tearing off capitalism’s “green” mask
  4. I don’t want to fuck a robot
  5. Thailand slips into dictatorship
  6. France – the social war kicks off again
  7. The Sultan and the Sage
  8. Acorninfo

1. ZAD alert! Eco-zone warns of imminent attack

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An important focus of European anti-capitalist resistance is likely to come under brutal attack from the industrial system any day now, activists are warning.

Official papers authorising the start of work on a new Nantes airport in France were signed on September 14 and the ZAD (Zone à Défendre or Zone to Defend) is currently on full alert.

Mainstream media are reporting that the protesters are ready to resist any attempt at eviction of the zone at Notre-Dame-des-Landes (NDDL).

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Since it was established in 2008, the ZAD at NDDL has become much more than an eco protest camp. It is a symbol of resistance, an autonomous zone where the cops stay away and people are able to experiment with different ways of living, growing their own food, baking their own bread, publishing their own newspaper, running their own radio station and, most recently, setting up their own library.

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The French state, in cahoots with corporate developer Vinci, has long wanted to get rid of the ZAD. A previous attempt in 2012, involving 1,200 police and two helicopters, failed when the cleared areas were rapidly reoccupied.

Now, with the help of the extra police powers under the “state of emergency” introduced and prolonged as an “anti-terrorist” measure, and in the wake of six months of state violence against the social revolt around the Loi Travail across France, the authorities are set to try again.

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Planning the defence

There were strong rumours this week that a massive military-style operation to evict the ZAD could start as soon as September 26 and 27 – according to media reports, as many as 3,000 gendarmes (military-style police) could be involved.

One activist said: “All the hotels in the area are full, gendarmes are not allowed to take annual leave for the coming month, schools and churches around the ZAD are closing simultaneously on September 26.” There is talk of military equipment having been loaned to the gendarmes.

It also seems likely that the state will make use of tooled-up private security thugs, who were used against anti-nuclear protesters at Bure earlier in the year – making it easier to deny responsibility for injuries (or even deaths) among activists.

Private security thugs

The ZAD has issued an urgent wishlist of materials and equipment needed to defend the zone, including palettes, tyres, paint, bikes, oil lamps, boots, socks, phones, radios and walkie-talkies.

The full French version is here and the English one here.

There is already a call-out for supporters to go to the ZAD for a pre-arranged solidarity mobilisation on Saturday October 8.

Some UK supporters of the ZAD can be contacted via ukzad@riseup.net and have a website at https://network23.org/ukzad/

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2. Indigenous peoples lead fight against fracking pipeline

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Resistance is growing across the USA and beyond to a £3.8 billion thousand-mile pipeline being built to carry fracked oil – forcing the courts to order a temporary halt to part of the work.

As well as damaging vast areas of countryside, the Dakota Access Pipeline is also planned to cross the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and affect numerous other sites sacred to indigenous nations.

The struggle to halt the pipeline has brought together more than 100 indigenous groups and sparked a wave of solidarity actions on top of the feisty on-site resistance.

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Like the ZAD in France, the conflict is a powerful illustration of the single most significant task facing the human species at this stage in our collective history – how to defy and destroy the industrial capitalist cancer which threatens all life on the planet.

Of course, where there is resistance there is always repression and in Dakota there have  been dozens of arrests, a local state of emergency declared and the protest camp’s water supply has been controversially cut off.

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Native American activist Winona LaDuke said: “So, a lot of people are coming here, united, a whole host of Native and non-Native people. And there are a lot of people that just do not believe that this should happen any more in this country, that are very willing to put themselves on the line, non-Indian people, you know, as well as tribal members, and they are here. And it is a beautiful place to defend.”

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#NoDAPL Solidarity explain that, if completed, the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), would run from the Bakken shale fields of North Dakota to Peoria, Illinois, passing underneath the Missouri River, the longest river on the North American continent.

They add: “Construction of the DAPL would engender a renewed fracking-frenzy in the Bakken shale region, as well as endanger a source of fresh water for the Standing Rock Sioux and 8 million people living downstream”.

But the fight has reached much further than the lands actually threatened by the pipeline. Say #NoDAPL Solidarity: “The DAPL is a massive project being organized by a shady group of the world’s largest fossil-fuel companies and banks. They have offices in cities around the world. Putting direct, nonviolent pressure on the corporations building and funding this project is critical for supporting frontline resistance to DAPL.”

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This month, there has been a wave of solidarity actions across the USA. Protesters have taken the fight directly to the banks pushing the pipeline. In Chicago, a zine has been released and protesters occupied a CitiBank. In Washington DC a TD Bank was shut down.

Controversy also surrounds the role of UK firm G4S in the violent repression of anti-pipeline protesters, which has notoriously included the use of dogs (see this video)

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3. Tearing off capitalism’s “green” mask

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An excellent new guide to the insidious threat of “green” capitalism has been published by Corporate Watch in the UK.

It is a worrying trend of our times that too many environmentalists are taken in by the lie that “alternative” energy sources and techno-fixes are all that are needed to save the world, rather than the destruction of the entire money-based industrial capitalist system that is choking it to death.

The authors of A-Z of Green Capitalism explain:”Capitalism thrives on crisis, and the multiple global environmental crises, including climate change and habitat and biodiversity loss, are creating new markets from which to generate profit. Those promoting green capitalism argue that if nature was valued correctly it will not only be protected, but even enhanced, along with the health of the economy and well-being in society.

“However, it is a contradiction in terms. Capitalism is fundamentally exploitative of people and the natural world, it is not and cannot be ‘green’. Green capitalism involves various institutions, including governments, corporations, think tanks, charities and NGOs, implementing policies, practices and processes to incorporate nature into capitalist market systems.

“It takes the same capitalist ideas and values that create environmental crises – i.e. continual economic growth, private property, profit and ‘free’ markets – and applies them to the natural world as a way to solve those crises. It serves to maintain capitalism’s dominance, both through finding new ways to generate profit, and as a way of protecting it from criticism of being environmentally destructive”.

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The guide insists that the “values” of capitalism are simply incompatible with the interests of the living planet, whatever it may claim.

“Green capitalism functions as a way to deflect questions over the role of capitalism in creating the problems in the first place, or its capacity to deal with them.

“Nature includes all lifeforms, including other sentient beings. These other forms of life don’t exist just for the purpose of serving human needs. Nature has its own inherent value that cannot be expressed in financial or economic terms. All of this is ignored or even denied by the anthropocentric (human-centred) approach that capitalism and other exploitative systems are built on.

“This guide is intended as an introduction to the ideas surrounding green capitalism as well as the alternatives to it. We hope it will support attempts to resist the threat of green capitalism and create space for real ecological alternatives”.

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Meanwhile, an article in September’s The Ecologist magazine explores why the idea of degrowth – which challenges the basic assumptions of the capitalist economy – is “gaining momentum”.

Writes Nick Meynen: “Ten years ago only a few professors and some activists used the word ‘degrowth’ as an alternative to the neoliberal model of perpetual economic growth. Today, ‘degrowth economics’ is an activist academic discipline with dozens of top-quality peer reviewed papers, widely translated books like Degrowth. A Vocabulary for a new era and massive bi-annual conferences – like the ongoing 2016 Budapest Degrowth Conference and Week.

“At least one thing unites those activists and scholars: they all agree that the basic assumption of the necessity of economic growth is fatally flawed and in urgent need of correction simply because it undermines the conditions for humanity to thrive”.

See also:

Naive illusions are propping up capitalism

“The system has got to be destroyed”

Degrowth – real anti-capitalism

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4. I don’t want to fuck a robot

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“We will happily be having sex with robots soon, according to scientists,” announced a story in The Independent on September 7. It continued: “The ‘sexbots’ could be better than humans in bed and we could be looking at human-robot marriages by the year 2050, experts have claimed. Popularity of the machines has been rising as their realism continues to improve and soon could replace human companionship altogether.”

I don’t even know where to start with this! Perhaps with the use of the word “with”. You can’t have sex “with” robots because there is no mutuality involved. A robot is not a being, but a manufactured item, a machine giving the false impression of being alive.

But then maybe the word “sex” is even wronger. We don’t generally talk about “having sex” when there is only one person involved – I believe the usual term is “masturbation”. We’re not talking about “having sex with” anyone at all, but about the use (and, more importantly, the purchase!) of an advanced mechanical aid to wanking.

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If they were honest about this, it wouldn’t be quite so bad. It’s the lying that I can’t stomach, and particularly the lie that there is no real difference between a living human being and a non-living consumer product.

It’s bad enough that in our messed-up society the “other” person is often reduced to the role of object by the self-obsessed modern individual. We see no other “subject” there, nobody real and sentient like Number One (supreme source of all reality and priority).

But this takes the whole thing a step further, to the point of assuming that we can no longer even tell the difference between appearance and reality, that we are so uninterested in the consciousness within another person (even one with whom we make love) that we would “happily” (there is a hint of irony here, surely? please!) accept a mere copy of another human being so long as this object fulfils a particular limited and rather basic physical role.

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Let me be blunt about this: I don’t want to fuck a robot. If I do happen to have sex with anyone in the future I would very much like the experience to involve:

  • mutual attraction
  • mutual tenderness
  • non-programmed responsiveness
  • skin
  • odours (other than burnt plastic)
  • sweat and the usual organic fluids
  • conversation before and after, if not during
  • a moment of intense near-spiritual connection with an amazing human being (preferably)
  • a human being (as a bare minimum)

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So, Mister Technoballs, away with your smart-seductions and artificially augmented ardour. I’m not interested in downloading an orgasm. You can stuff your nano-nooky up your sterile sexbot. And, while you’re at it, kindly pull the whole of your industrial capitalist system out at the plug and let us get back to some real living and loving, as Mother Nature intended.

Yours biologically,

A non-robot

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5. Thailand slips into dictatorship

Thailand is slipping further into tyranny, with the military junta that seized power in 2014 strengthening its rule and effectively outlawing all criticism of the state and the corporate interests it represents.

On Tuesday September 20, Bangkok South Criminal Court announced a shock guilty verdict against British migrant rights defender Andy Hall in a criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act charges case brought against him by Natural Fruit Company Ltd.

The Court found Andy Hall guilty of all charges, sentenced him to prison for four years and ordered him to pay 150 000 baht fine. His prison sentence was reduced by one year to three years and suspended for two years because of his record as a human rights defender. Andy will appeal the ruling.

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Andy Hall

The charges related to publication in 2013 of a report called Cheap Has a High Price by Finnwatch, a Finnish civil society organisation. The report outlined allegations of serious human rights violations at Natural Fruit’s pineapple processing plant in Prachuap Khiri Khan province in Thailand.

Said Sonja Vartiala, executive director of Finnwatch: ”We are shocked by today’s verdict. The report was authored and published by Finnwatch; we take full responsibility for it. Andy has been made a scapegoat in order to stifle other voices that speak out legitimately in support of migrant worker rights.

”This is a sad day for freedom of expression in Thailand. We fear that many other human rights defenders and victims of company abuse will be scared to silence by this ruling.”

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At the same time, a new report from Privacy International examines the sinister rise of social media based surveillance in the South East Asian country, carried out potentially by people’s own networks of friends and family.

After the 2014 military coup, in which a military government led by General Prayut Chan-o-cha seized power and overthrew the administration of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the army declared martial law, which was maintained for the following 10 months.

The declaration of martial law allowed the Thai authorities to take strict public order measures, including  reportedly closely monitoring ‘delinquent’ behaviour such as eating sandwiches in the street or reading George Orwell’s books.

A new constitution was passed in August via a very dodgy referendum, of which no monitoring was allowed by the junta. Activists opposing the document were arrested, detained, and prosecuted in military courts, whilst voters who expressed their intention to vote against the draft were also arrested and prosecuted by the military regime.

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Generally, the junta has been cracking down on anyone challenging the Thai establishment – political cases usually revolve around the use of Thailand’s lèse-majesté law (criticising the royal family), the Computer Crimes Act and the sedition law.

Says the Thai Political Prisoners website: “There are no accurate figure on how many have been charged under these draconian laws. 2010 estimates were that there have been more than 300 cases since the 2006 palace-military coup.

“The 2014 coup saw a massive spike in lèse-majesté cases. It is now calculated that the period since the May 2014 military coup has seen more lèse-majesté cases than ever before under any government in Thailand.

“Cases are seldom dropped outright, not least because prosecutors themselves worry about being charged with lèse-majesté for dropping a case”.

Privacy International reports that the NCPO [the Orwellian-named National Council for Peace and Order] is seeking ever-broadening powers. In March 2015 it issued orders giving its officers the power to: search premises, people, and vehicles; summon and arrest people; confiscate property; and request  information without a warrant if they suspect illegal activities.

“The government has various ways of identifying the authors of what it deems to be illegal content on social media; in some cases, the government has arrested opponents in the streets during protests and forced them to hand over their social media passwords. The Thai police has also reportedly created a fake application to phish the data of users trying to log on to Facebook.

According to online newspaper Prachatai, in May 2014, Police Major General Pisit Paoin, the head of a government-appointed working group responsible for censoring the internet, revealed his plan to spy on social media and chat apps. ‘We’ll send you a friend request. If you accept the friend request, we’ll see if anyone disseminates information which violates the NCPO orders. Be careful, we’ll soon be your friend,’ he said.

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The report details instances of police posing as social media “friends” in order to lure activists into traps and jail sentences.

It adds: “Shortly after the coup, Deputy Police Commissioner General Somyot Poompanmoung created a bounty programme to encourage Thai internet users to denounce dissidents. Thai citizens are encouraged to send pictures of anyone who may be ‘displaying opposition to the military coup’. For each picture sent, the denunciator receives 500 Baht (approximately US $14). As mentioned earlier, signs of dissent that have elicited Thai authorities’ interest have reportedly included reading George Orwell’s books and eating sandwiches outside.”

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Can we expect similar controls to be deployed in “the West” in the near future, as the capitalist system is threatened by popular resistance?

As far as denouncing fellow citizens is concerned, we only need to think of the permanent “terrorist” scare and the reports of people being dragged off aircraft for speaking Arabic or generally appearing to be Muslim.

And France already has its own semi-permanent state of emergency – martial law is not just something that happens “elsewhere”.

There may well be a connection between international acceptance of the Thai dictatorship and the fact that Thailand’s U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy Airfield is currently the “only facility in Southeast Asia capable of supporting large-scale logistical operations”. Thailand has allowed the US to use U-Tapao to land and refuel after traveling across the Pacific Ocean on the way to US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Thailand is designated by the USA as a “major non-NATO ally”, meaning that although it is not technically in NATO, it is very much a close US ally with strategic working relationships with US Armed Forces – and other agencies.

Only this month, the Bangkok Post carried a revelation from a former CIA agent that the Thai king had secretly sent a 4,000-strong force of US-trained Thai soldiers known as Tahan Sua Pran to help the US in  the Vietnam War.

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6. France – the social war kicks off again

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The social war has begun again in France after a summer break – and looks set to intensify in the run-up to the presidential elections due next spring.

September 15 saw protests and strikes all over the country, with police violence immediately resuming the levels seen earlier in the year.

One trade unionist has lost the sight in one eye after being hit by a fragment of a grenade fired indiscriminately into the crowd in Paris by a CRS riot cop.

Although the protest movement was originally about the neoliberal labour reform which has now been pushed through parliament by the ruling so-called “Socialist” Party, it quickly became about much more and that energy is still very much alive.

The erosion of working conditions, the imposition of a US-style neoliberal economy, the militarisation of society, institutional racism, police violence, the draconian state of emergency and the whole misery of life in a capitalist slave-system have all contributed to a heated political climate.

The Lundi matin website has published a handy round-up of the action all across France, from which we have stolen a few highlights.

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In Rennes, there were tense confrontations with police and the usual charges and tear gas. Activists were pleased to note that a significant number of trade unionists “crossed the line” which often divides protesters and went to the aid of radical masked-up comrades.

In Le Havre 12,000 protesters took to the streets, led by the dockers. People set fire to bins and blocked access to a business, Saverglass, in solidarity with trade unionists facing discrimination. Their aim was to “block the economy”.

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In Rouen, protesters smashed the windows of the right-wing Les Républicains party, with the Socialist Party HQ also damaged. Shops and banks were also targeted and tear gas deployed by police.

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In Dijon, the front of the union-organised march was taken over by a radical and youthful block which was in full voice, singing of the memory of the Paris Commune and their hatred of the police.

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In Nantes, a 6,000-strong protest faced unprecedented police repression, with local activists heard remarking: “I’ve never seen anything like this before, you’d think we were in East Germany”.

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There was apparently a great atmosphere in Lille, as well as numerous confrontations with police. “Something new happened”, according to the report, in that there was a joyful and determined unity to the protest and it was impossible to tell the “good” protesters from the naughty troublemakers.

The next few months in France are going to  be very interesting.

* A three-part documentary video about this year’s ongoing uprising can be seen on the Taranis News website.

See also:

Paris rises up

Panicking French state tries to build right-wing militia

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7. The Sultan and the Sage

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One day while he was sitting under an olive tree, contemplating the earth, the sky and the dimensions of the cosmos, there came to the wise Perantulo a man on horseback. His face was obscured by a richly decorated silk scarf and he was accompanied by a dozen mounted warriors, whose scimitars glistened in the sun.

The man was none other than the Sultan of Khaluvia, who had received word of the teaching, the healing and the presence of Perantulo and wanted to see for himself this legendary fakir. The Sultan dismounted and approached the sage, unwinding his scarf so that he could be fully seen. He was plainly of noble character and had the look of one endowed with both intelligence and mental strength, but Perantulo saw at once that there was much that separated him from Knowledge. Having ascertained that this was indeed the sage he had been seeking, and after whom he had been enquiring for many days, the Sultan looked silently into Perantulo’s eyes and Perantulo looked silently and unflinchingly back. This moment stretched out until it became uncomfortable for the Sultan’s warriors, who did not understand what was happening and longed for it to end. But none dared move so much as a muscle or utter so much as the softest of whispered sighs as the two men remained locked in mutual scrutiny.

Finally, the Sultan dropped to his knees and, with tears welling in his eyes, declared: “Never before, Perantulo, have I seen in the eyes of man or woman what I have just discovered in yours. I must confess that I have wondered these last days whether the rumours of your wisdom were not exaggerated by the loose tongues of gossiping embellishers, but now I know that their inaccuracy strayed in the opposite direction to that which I had feared to be the case. Your reputation does not do you justice, Perantulo, and I say this without having heard you utter one word or move one finger. I beseech you, O Holy Man, to show me how I can see what you see, know what you know, shine as you shine”.

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There was a long pause. Perantulo remained so still that a small green lizard walked up one arm, across the back of his neck, and down the other.

And then he told the Sultan: “It is a fine thing, O Great Ruler, that you have come here and spoken thus. Your people are fortunate indeed to be led by a man of your sensibility. But it is no easy thing you seek. The path is long and steep and you would do well to bear in mind the fable of the traveller who feasts on his supplies in celebration at having reached the lofty summit of his destination only to realise, when the mists lift, that he has merely conquered the lowest of the foothills that come before the plain that leads to the sea across which lies the mountain he would ascend”.

“I know the path is long, kind sage. Fear not – the mist of impatience will not blind me on my journey,” spoke the Sultan.

Perantulo waited for another long moment – moments for him bore little relation to the moments of ordinary men. He was so still that a golden butterfly alighted on his upper lip and preened itself for a while before fluttering on its way.

“Very well,” said the old philosopher to the Sultan. “But you should know that the task ahead of you involves three stages. The first, which is quick and easy, is to express the Desire for True Knowledge. The second, which will be painful to you and to those who love you, is to rid yourself of all obstacles that can prevent the Torch of Eternal Truth from shining through you. This stage is dangerous for one whose commitment is not complete, for one who is not strong enough to bear the hatred of others or for one who is not supple enough inside to absorb the hurt. It is a dark voyage from which you may never emerge, O Sultan-most-Splendid”.

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The Sultan, a pensive frown creasing his brow, drew a deep breath: “And the third stage, O Holy Perantulo?”

“The third stage,” replied the fakir, “can only be imagined when the first two stages have been completed”.

The Sultan nodded. “So be it,” he said. “I have understood”.

And then he sprang to his feet, turned to his bemused men, and roared: “Let you all stand witness, my warriors, that your master, the Sultan of Khaluvia, today expresses his unquenchable commitment to the Desire for True Knowledge, that from this moment forth his days among mankind will be devoted to no other cause and that nothing and nobody can stand in the way of his Quest. Now we will ride, ride, ride – back to our famous City of Alzorika, which will soon become famed not just for its wealth, its learning and its arts, but for the devotion of its 75th Sultan to the Glory of All Being!”

He leapt on to his horse, raised his sword in the air as a sign of his energy and determination, then span to face the sage, who was still seated under the tree.

“Perantulo!” he cried, the fire of zeal scorching from his eyes. “Perantulo! I have heard your words and I will hold them in my heart! I will return!”

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[The above is the opening of The Sultan and the Sage, the first chapter of The Fakir of Florence: A novel in three layers, by Paul Cudenec. The full chapter is available on Paul’s blog. The book is published by Winter Oak and available to buy here and from Active Distribution. The author features in a new podcast on anarchy on the Natural Born Alchemist website]

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8. Acorninfo

Environmental activists blocked flights at London City Airport on September 6 in a Black Lives Matter protest highlighting the disproportionate impact of air pollution on black communities living near airports. Nine people launched a dawn action at the small airport used by rich businesspeople and managed to put up a tripod on the runway and lock themselves together.

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* * *

More than 24,000 inmates in at least 40 prisons from over two dozen states in the USA have been taking part in the national prison strike which began on September 9. Despite a virtual media blackout, it is clear that this is the biggest prison strike in US history, with inmates refusing to follow orders, failing to report for work and causing prisons to go on lockdown. The main focus of the strike is the modern-day slavery still legal in the prison system, in which businesses profit from free or very cheap forced labour. Said Azzura Crispino of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee: “Prisoners getting paid a wage at all for their labor is rare. The system is doing exactly what it’s designed to do: Extract as much money off the backs of prisoners as possible.” There are calls for international solidarity actions.

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* * *

In the face of ongoing violence in the Philippines – with a bombing in Davao City killing 14 people and the “war on drugs” seeing almost 2,000 people summarily executed – local anarchists are keeping up the struggle. On September 4, Food Not Bombs Baliuag protested against all the violence and war by providing free meal to people affected by poverty and hunger in the park of Baliuag, Bulacan. They have also staged a free market, sharing and giving away used clothes to those most in need.

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* * *

We have one year to close DSEI – that’s the message from anti-militarist campaigners 12 months ahead of the next arms fair in London’s Docklands. The big event, at which besuited individuals aim to make huge profits out of other people’s deaths, is due to be held from September 12 to 15 2017 at Excel London. Unless…

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* * *

The anarchist view of evolution, as being primarily about mutual aid and co-operation rather than competition and individualism, has been confirmed by recent research. Dr Benjamin Rubin, of Princeton University, said: “We originally set out to uncover the genetic basis of mutualistic behaviour in ants. So, we sequenced the genomes of three mutualistic species of plant-ants and four of their closely related, non-mutualistic relatives. We were surprised to learn that the mutualists actually had a higher rate of evolution across their genomes than the generalists.” Peter Kropotkin, anarchist scientist and author of the classic Mutual Aid, would not have been surprised, we imagine…

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* * *

Anarchy in a Cold War is a novel by Kurtis Sunday set in the West Berlin alternative-squatter-Punk scene during the latter part of the Cold War. The city, a focal point in the conflict between East and West, was a capitalist enclave smack in the middle of Communist East Germany. It was entirely surrounded by the Berlin Wall, complete with razor wire and machine gun posts. There is much that is familiar and much that is not. The Cold War is raging and the missiles are armed and waiting in their silos. If nuclear war breaks out there will be a four-minute warning. There is no internet and perhaps NO FUTURE. Reality? Sur-reality? Or hyper-reality?

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* * *

Acorn quote: “The life of the psyche is the life of mankind. Welling up from the depths of the unconscious, its springs gush forth from the root of the whole human race, since the individual is, biologically speaking, only a twig broken off from the mother and transplanted”. C.G. Jung, Symbols of Transformation

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

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