The Acorn – 49

acorn 2019b

Number 49

In this issue:

  1. Deepening our resistance
  2. Why I decided to fight: letter from a Yellow Vest prisoner
  3. Julian Assange: enemy of the empire
  4. The modern leftist
  5. Rudolf Rocker: an orgrad inspiration
  6. Acorninfo

1. Deepening our resistance

Synchronicity has a funny way of throwing together two apparently unrelated events in  a way that invites comparison.

This was the case, for instance, with Saturday November 17 2018, the day on which both the Gilets Jaunes in France and Extinction Rebellion (XR) in the UK were launched onto their respective national stages.

Initially, the comparison appeared to favour XR, from our perspective at least. In Britain, altruistic environmentally-aware protesters were battling to save the planet, while across the Channel the Yellow Vests were upset about a rise in petrol prices.

But that perception rapidly changed.

The Gilets Jaunes, attacked by the police, smeared by the corporate media, despised by government and business elites, clearly represent a serious and genuine radical challenge to the existing order (see our Gilets Jaunes page).

XR, big pals with the police, frequently feted by the corporate media, adored by a significant part of the government and business elites, are clearly seriously compromised by their close connections with the existing order (see our Climate Capitalists page).

We saw another synchronicity in the fact that the new organic radicalism project (see Acorn 48 and orgrad.wordpress.com) was unveiled at the same time as the latest XR happening and all the controversy surrounding it.

Again, at first sight the comparison might seem favourable to the climate protesters. One small group of people present a political ideology or philosophy built on wisdom accumulated over many decades, centuries and even millennia. But it’s all just words, which modern people are too busy to read.

Another, much larger, group actually does something. It takes to the streets, blocks one of the world’s great capital cities for days on end, draws everyone’s attention to climate change, miraculously forces the British parliament to declare a “climate emergency”.

But, in fact, close scrutiny of XR and the climate movement as a whole suggests that all this rebellious energy is in danger of being channelled into a cunning ploy to relaunch capitalism.

The plan is to use a “Green New Deal” and a “New Deal for Nature” to spark a “Fourth Industrial Revolution” which will make a lot of people very rich, including the venture capitalists who have voiced support for XR.

Obviously the people involved on the ground in the XR London protests were not willingly part of a capitalist plot. Obviously they are not stupid and many must have been aware of the danger of their struggle being co-opted. Hopefully many of them will break free from the “leadership” and organise autonomously and radically.

But there is a major problem behind this wave of environmental protest which goes beyond the detail of the signatories of the XR Business letter to The Times or the corporate links to the climate campaigns set out with painstaking detail by investigative journalist Cory Morningstar.

The problem is with the use of the term “climate” as the cornerstone of the movement.

We are not saying that climate change is not real and dangerous but it is by no means all that is really dangerous about industrial capitalism.

What about extractivism in general, not just for fossil fuels? What about pesticides? What about nanoparticles? What about all the rest of the pollution, contamination and destruction that forms part of this nightmare industrial age?

Solar panels don’t grow on trees

It won’t disappear with the measures being proposed to deal with climate change. All that hi-tech carbon capture technology, all those solar panels covering the world’s deserts, all those wind turbines cluttering our coastlines, will still need to be manufactured in polluting factories, using raw materials mined out of the flesh of Mother Earth.

Fighting under the banner of “the climate” is a severe weakness for the environmental movement because it means the issue can be picked off, channelled and neutralised.

If “the climate” is the problem, then capitalism is on hand to sell us the solution.

 

The money-orientated approach is always about superficial responses. If you have got a cold, a drugs company will sell you a product to suppress the symptoms. But you will still have a cold and it will probably last three times as long because your body will be prevented from expelling toxins in the way it knows best.

If environmentalists place climate issues within the larger context of what our culture has become, then the capitalists can have no quick-fix solution to sell us. There is no sales opportunity for them. They cannot latch on to a movement which aims to see their empire of greed and profit taken down.

The narrow fixation with “climate” on the current environmental scene is part of a larger issue, namely that of fragmented thinking.

It is here that the relevance of organic radicalism comes in. Again and again, the thinkers who inspired this philosophy condemned the modern tendency towards fragmented thought.

The same point is made in different ways by the likes of neurologist and psychiatrist Kurt Goldstein, psychologist Max Wertheimer, philosopher Alan Watts, anti-industrialist writer Theodore Roszak and  editor Satish Kumar.

Indeed Kumar has specifically mentioned “climate” in this context, saying: “I am constantly reminding people to think holistically, think in a bigger way, a spiritual way, rather than get stuck in this one idea that climate change is the problem, or this or that is the problem. Our problems are interrelated”.

He adds: “The actions of environmentalists will lead to tears if they don’t come from the place of the spirit. Their activism can end up in nuclear power or genetic engineering or the whole countryside covered with windmills or solar panels and no trees left anywhere”.

Satish Kumar: environmentalists need to think holistically

Fragmentation is a problem which goes to the heart of the failure of our civilization. We have lost sight of the holistic unity of things and see only unconnected separate items forming no coherent pattern. We don’t see a wood, just trees. There is no such thing as society, only individuals. The idea that humankind is part of nature is regarded as a naive fantasy.

On the political level, once we start fragmenting our understanding into separate issues, we cut those issues off from the whole of which they are part.

Racism and sexism, for instance, can only really be understood within a wider context of our relationship to “the other”, of complex patterns of projection, power and domination.

“We are not fighting for nature. We are nature defending itself”

An organic radical perspective insists on the unity of the human species as an organic entity, and on humankind’s belonging to the living world and the cosmos beyond.

It challenges the individualism, the subjectivism, the “me first”, the “I think therefore I am”, that underpins our whole modern culture.

Fragmented thinking just talks about racism or sexism as separate issues. And, lo and behold, in isolation they can easily be “solved” (in fact, hidden from view!) by the system.

“Racism is over – here’s a black president! Sexism is over – look how many CEOs of rapacious capitalist corporations are now women!”

“You say CO2 is the problem? We have just the machine you need? Can’t afford it? You’d better declare a climate emergency and raid the public piggy bank to buy it from us!”

Organic radicalism is an attempt to counter fragmented thinking in anti-capitalist and environmental circles.

It is an attempt to give our movements real philosophical roots, to make them strong and alive.

The name given to this deeper understanding is not important, of course. It has appeared in many forms throughout history and will do so again.

Whatever we choose to call it, we badly need this ancient and powerful wisdom to guide us away from traps and dead-ends and to steer us into the free and healthy future for which we yearn.

greenanarchistforest

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2. Why I decided to fight: letter from a Yellow Vest prisoner

Thomas P is just one of many Gilets Jaunes prisoners in France, locked up for their participation in the mass uprising against the neoliberal Macron regime. Below are some excerpts from an open letter he wrote from jail, after three months behind bars.

One is no longer innocent when one has seen ‘legitimate’ violence, legal violence: that of the police.

I saw the hatred or emptiness in their eyes and I heard their chilling warnings: ‘disperse, go home’.

I saw the charges, grenades, and beatings in general.

I saw the checks, searches, traps, arrests, and jail.

I saw people falling, blood, I saw the mutilated.

Like all those who were demonstrating this February 9th, I learned that once again a man had just had his hand ripped off by a grenade.

And then I did not see anything any more, because of the gas. All of us were suffocating.

That’s when I decided not to be a victim any more and to fight.

I’m proud of it. Proud to have raised my head, proud not to have given in to fear.

Of course, like all those who are targeted by the repression against the Yellow Vests movement, I first protested peacefully and daily, I always solved problems with words rather than with fists.

But I am convinced that in some situations conflict is needed.

Because debate, however ‘big’ it may be, can sometimes be rigged or distorted. All that is needed is for the organiser to ask the questions in a way that suits them.

We are told on one side that the state coffers are empty, but we are bailing out the banks with millions when they are in trouble, we are talking about an ‘ecological transition’ without ever calling into question the production system and consumption at the origin of all climatic disturbances.

We are millions who shout at them, saying that their system is rotten, and they are telling us how they are trying to save it.

The challenge of street clashes is to manage to push back the police, to keep them in line: to get out of a trap, to reach a place of power, or to simply take the street.

Since November 17th those who have threatened to fire their weapons, those who brutalise, mutilate, and suffocate unarmed and defenceless protesters, those who are not the so-called ‘breakers’, they are the police.

If the media does not talk about it, the hundreds of thousands of people who have been at the roundabouts and in the streets know it.

Behind their brutality and threats, it is fear that is hiding.

And when that moment comes, in general, it means that the revolution is not far away.

Read the full English translation of the letter here.

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3. Julian Assange: an enemy of the empire

Rarely has the arrogant imperialism of the USA been so blatantly exposed as by the case of Julian Assange.

On Monday May 13 Swedish authorities announced, bizarrely, that they were reopening the long-dropped “rape” investigation against the Wikileaks founder.

Assange’s lawyer Per E Samuelson told Swedish TV the decision to reopen the investigation was “an embarrassment”, while WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson said it would give Assange a chance to clear his name.

Assange is also still facing the extraordinary prospect of extradiction and trial in the US, despite not being American and not being alleged to having committed any offence on US soil.

The “world’s policeman” apparently has the right to punish anyone, anywhere in the world, who it considers its enemy, and supine vassal states like the UK are only too eager to go along with this.

The twist in the Assange case is that the “crime” he is said to have committed is precisely to have exposed, through Wikileaks, the arrogant imperialism of which he is now a victim.

Having been illegally dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy with the UK political police, he is being treated with all the justice that might have been afforded a political dissident in Stalin’s USSR.

As historian Mark Curtis has pointed out, UK government minister Alan Duncan called Assange a “miserable little worm”, the judge called him “narcissistic” and he received a grossly disproportionate sentence on the bail issue.

“Is Assange even going to receive a fair trial?” asks Curtis. The question seems rhetorical.

Veteran investigative journalist John Pilger wrote: “The shocking arrest of Assange carries a warning for all who, as Oscar Wilde wrote, ‘sow the seeds of discontent [without which] there would be no advance towards civilisation’.

“The warning is explicit towards journalists. What happened to the founder and editor of WikiLeaks can happen to you on a newspaper, you in a TV studio, you on radio, you running a podcast”.

Our comrades at Shoal, a collective of independent journalists, also voiced concern at the precedent which would be set by the extradition of Assange to the USA.

They asked: “Would the same judicial process apply to journalists who offended the sensibilities of the governments of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel or Russia?”

Meanwhile, the constant sneering from the corporate media merely confirms what many have long known – that these so-called journalists are nothing but servile protectors of the system, ready to dance and write to any authoritarian tune their bosses ask them to.

There are also question marks over a liberal-left consensus which is too easily swayed by dog-whistle smears engineered to destroy the reputation of any effective enemy of the system.

Former ambassador Craig Murray raised this point when he wrote: “All the false left who were taken in by the security services playing upon a feminist mantra should take a very hard look at themselves. They should also consider this.

“If you seriously put forward that in allegations of sexual assault, the accuser must always be believed and the accused must automatically be presumed guilty, you are handing an awesome power to the state to lock people up without proper defence.

“The state will abuse that awesome power and fit people up. The Assange case shows us just that. And it is not the only case, currently, as everyone in Scotland should realise.

“But there is more. If you believe that any sexual accusation against a person should be believed and automatically and immediately end their societal respectability, you are giving power to state and society to exclude dissidents and critics from political discourse by a simple act of accusation.

“That power will be used and abused by the security services”.

If you are one of those comrades who has reservations about supporting Assange, we would humbly suggest you read Caitlin Johnstone’s comprehensive article “Debunking All The Assange Smears“.

For more information on the case see the Defend Wikileaks website.

 

 

 

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4. The modern leftist

This thought-provoking passage is taken from Darren Allen’s 33 Myths of The System: A Brief Guide to the Unworld. The whole book is available for free download here. We should declare that we consider ourselves to be leftists, so we have to accept our fair share of the criticism…

The modern leftist complains about ‘victim-blaming’ yet never criticises the system which relentlessly suppresses the idea that the environment causes conflict, crime, physical ill-health or outright madness.

The modern leftist complains about ‘objectification’ yet sees the entire world and everyone in it as a collection of categories; you are not an individual, you are ‘white’ or ‘a man’.

The well-to-do leftist regularly expresses ‘solidarity’ [i.e. intense identification] with those most affected by the system (the global poor and excluded) while making demeaning professional interventions in their lives and patronising pronouncements about how they should resist the system.

The modern leftist complains about ‘fragile egos,’ yet demonstrably possesses a self so extraordinarily delicate and brittle, it can shatter at (be traumatised, triggered, even infected by) a word.

The modern leftist complains about ‘being silenced,’ yet shuts down all criticism immediately and ferociously with arguments largely based on belittling interlocutors, or ruling out their entire view based on a single piece of information, rather than on making a persuasive case.

The reactive leftist regularly meets fact, knowledge and truth (1) with feeling (2) — ‘what you are saying is irrelevant, because it (it and nothing else; certainly not powerful social forces that stand to benefit from my feelings) makes me feel threatened, offended and angry; and because you do not belong to my category, you can never understand this feeling’ — a minority version of the standard mainstream position; reality is what we say it is (3).
.
The modern leftist has a great deal of difficulty speaking for himself; opinions are prefaced with ‘as a’ [homosexual, white man, a writer, a mammal].

The modern leftist believes himself to be cruelly abused, not just constantly harping on the actual insults he receives (‘see how awful they all are! look what names they call me!’) but constantly interpreting as derogatory ‘pretty much anything that is said about him (or about groups with whom he identified)’ (4).
.
The institutional leftist believes herself to be a radical while aspiring to state control and  professional advancement, regularly supporting centralised, hierarchical or artificially distributed power, happily working for a large corporation, or implicitly supporting apparently opposed ideologies (e.g. the absurd collusion between feminism and Islam).

The postmodern leftist often claims that knowledge is a product of one’s race, privilege, gender and so on, yet demands that her intensely relative philosophy (5) take first place on the institutional syllabus.

The modern leftist — black and white, male, female and transgender, able-bodied and disabled — is terrified of the total abolition of the system.

1. Which are not the same thing.
2. Actually, or more accurately speaking, emotion. The difference is discussed in 33 Myths of the Ego.
3. Or ‘power determines reality’. The modern leftist may be in an inferior or minority position, but the group as a whole is still enormously powerful and the individual still has power to stir up emotion and create justifying belief based thereon.
4. As Kaczynski points out.
5. The philosophy of the modern left is actually an extreme form of ‘nominalism’, the idea that if you change what something is called, you change the thing itself. Another word for this is ‘magic’.

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5. Rudolf Rocker: an orgrad inspiration

From orgrad.wordpress.com

Rudolf Rocker (1873-1958) was an anarchist activist, theorist and writer who became well known in Germany, Britain and the USA.

His importance lies in the way that he used the idea of a “social organism” (1) as the basis for his internationalist anarchist philosophy.

For instance, in his 1937 book Nationalism and Culture, Rocker argued that nationalism was reactionary because it imposed artificial separations within the “organic unity” (2) of humankind.

He insisted that the nation was not something that existed naturally, and which then formed a state to protect its interests, as commonly imagined, but a fake entity invented to justify hierarchy and control: “It is the state which creates the nation, not the nation the state”. (3)

He added in the book Anarcho-Syndicalism (1938): “Dictatorship is the negation of organic development, of natural building from below upwards”. (4)

Rocker had been a conventional socialist in his youth and, like Gustav Landauer, often expressed his frustration at how that movement had failed to inspire authentic revolt against the capitalist system, allowing the Nazis to exploit discontent and sweep to power in his native Germany.

The socialist movement’s historic failure was partly a result of its participation in parliamentary politics, which he said had affected it “like an insidious poison”, spreading the “ruinous delusion that salvation always comes from above”. (5)

He added: “It did not even possess the moral strength to hold on to the achievements of bourgeois Democracy and Liberalism, and surrendered the country without resistance to Fascism, which smashed the entire labour movement to bits with one blow”. (6)

Rocker reminded his readers that the German Social Democrats had, in practice, ceased to be a revolutionary party and that when the November Revolution broke out in 1918 their newspaper, Vorwärts, warned workers against rushing to take part because it said the German people were not ready for a republic.

He concluded: “Its absolute impotence contributed not a little to enabling Germany to bask today in the sun of the Third Reich”. (7)

Rocker saw that socialism at the beginning of the 20th century had drifted into a “gradual assimilation to the modes of thought of capitalist society” (8) – a fate which threatens other supposedly radical currents 100 years later.

In contrast to this, he developed a revolutionary philosophy which, in Noam Chomsky’s words, “stands in opposition to all the dominant tendencies in modern social and political thought”. (9)

Noam Chomsky

Explains Chomsky: “In Rocker’s radically different conception, people must take their lives and their work into their own hands. Only through their own struggle for liberation will ordinary people come to comprehend their true nature, suppressed and distorted within institutional structures designed to assure obedience and subordination”. (10)

In rejecting the lie of salvation from above, Rocker pointed to the potential for liberation from below, from within, from what Chomsky describes as a “deeply rooted striving for freedom, justice, compassion and solidarity”. (11)

Rocker’s vision was, of course, an anarchist vision – an organic anarchist vision, in fact – and he highlighted the contrast between the vibrant Spanish anarchism of the 1930s and socialism in his home country.

He wrote: “The libertarian labour movement in Spain has never lost itself in the labyrinth of an economic metaphysics which crippled its intellectual buoyancy by fatalistic conceptions, as was the case in Germany; nor has it unprofitably wasted its energy in the barren routine tasks of bourgeois parliaments.

“Socialism was for it a concern of the people, an organic growth proceeding from the activity of the masses themselves and having its basis in their economic organizations”. (12)

For Rocker, anarchism was not some kind of fixed, self-enclosed social system, but a current which battled for the “free unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life”. (13)

The possibility of another world, a free anarchist world, was already there within human nature and the goal of anarchism was to release this “vital concrete possibility for every human being to bring to full development all the powers, capacities and talents with which nature has endowed him, and turn them to social account”. (14)

The less the “natural development” (15) of humanity was constrained by any kind of authority, the more harmonious it would be.

Freedom, that is to say the right to unhindered individual and collective self-fulfilment, therefore had to be defended against social and economic tyranny by “the violent resistance of the populace”. (16)

Rocker wrote: “Great mass movements among the people and whole revolutions have been necessary to wrest these rights from the ruling classes, who would never have consented to them voluntarily. One need only study the history of the past three hundred years to understand by what relentless struggles every right has to be wrested inch by inch from the despots”. (17)

Rocker’s explanation of the effects of industrial society on its human victims echoes Ferdinand Tönnies’ account of the transition from traditional Gemeinschaft (community) to industrial-capitalist Gesellschaft (society).

He wrote that the natural human ties which had previously existed between the old master-workman and his journeymen had no meaning for the modern proletarian, who, since the industrial revolution, had become merely an object of exploitation by a class with which he no longer had any social relationship.

“Socially uprooted, he had become just a component of a great mass of shipwrecked beings, who had all been smitten by the same fate.

“The modern proletarian, he was the man of the machine, a machine of flesh and blood who set the machine of steel in motion, to create wealth for others, while the actual producer of this wealth must perish in misery”. (18)

Rocker fled his native Germany to escape repression in 1892 and ended up in England, “the mother country of capitalist big industry”. (19)

Although he was a Gentile, he became involved in the Jewish anarchist movement in London, learnt Yiddish and lived in the Jewish community.

He was interned during the First World War, and in 1918 he was deported from Britain and returned to Germany, only to be forced out of his home country by the arrival of the Nazi regime in 1933. He spent the rest of his life in the USA.

1. Rudolf Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism (London: Pluto Press, 1989), p. 11.
2. Rudolf Rocker, Nationalism and Culture, cit. Peter Marshall, Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism, (London: Fontana Press, 1993), p. 419.
3. Ibid.
4. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 75.
5. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 83.
6. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 85.
7. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 97.
8. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 84.
9. Noam Chomsky, Preface, Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. vi.
10. Chomsky, Preface, Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. vii.
11. Ibid.
12. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 98.
13. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 31.
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid.
16. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, pp. 111-12.
17. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 112.
18. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 43.
19. Rocker, Anarcho-Syndicalism, p. 56.

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6. Acorninfo

Following the success of the 2018 decentralised anarchist festival in London, the 2019 version is being extended across the UK and Ireland. Explains the website: “The idea is simple: groups put on their own programme of anarchist events, concentrating on the dates of the long weekend of 31st May to the 2nd June 2019”. Check out the programme here.

* * *

Green Anti-Capitalist Front, the activist organisation formed to give a radical edge to XR’s London protests, is going from strength to strength. On May 4, around 70 people attended its second open assembly, noting the greenwashing agenda behind the so-called Green New Deal, putting an emphasis on anti-imperialism and solidarity with the Global South and calling for direct action in response to specific ecological threats, like airport expansions.

* * *

The fight is on to stop a theme park being built on the bonnie bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. Explain Save Loch Lomond campaigners: “The developer’s own Environmental Impact Assessments states that there will be damage to ancient woodland, pollution of standing and running water, red squirrel and otter fatalities and more, all for the construction of woodland lodges, treetop walkways, a hotel, restaurant, brewery, a monorail and much more, all to be built on what is currently public land but which will be sold off to the developer. This is about protecting our world-famous environment but it’s also about the fundamental question of who owns Scotland and who our beautiful country is for”.

* * *

Brazil is a neoliberal state which has fostered economic development at any price through capital incentives. After Australia, it is the second largest ore exporter in the world and is scarred by no fewer than 430 ore dams. This report on the guilhotina.info site warns that the mining business has turned the country into a time bomb, with disaster after disaster caused by the industry’s greed. Movements opposing the dams have been met with repression and assassinations.

* * *

Resistance News is a free monthly newsletter providing analysis and commentary on ecology, global capitalism, empire, and revolution, linked to the Deep Green Resistance News Service. The May 2019 issue can be found here.

* * *

A new international campaign has been launched to defend the Rojava revolution and its achievements. Riseup4Rojava’s online call declares: “We must expose and attack the military and diplomatic cooperation between the AKP-MHP government and opportunist governments of the USA and Western European states. We have to build a collective resistance against the cooperation of our governments with Turkish fascism”.

* * *

“Extinction Rebellion is part of our capitalist system” – according to Bill Jamieson, business writer at The Scotsman. “Climate change activism and campaigns for sustainability are part and parcel of capitalist progression”, he adds, in case we had not caught his drift. And who is Bill? “He is a passionate advocate of the positive overall economic effects of championing entrepreneurs and why over-regulation and risk aversion can damage our economy”, say specialistseakers.com.

* * *

Acorn quote: “What is an anarchist? One who, choosing, accepts the responsibility of choice”.

Ursula K. Le Guin

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

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The Acorn – 28

acornmastheadnew1

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?

lancs4

“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.”

lancs1

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

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

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

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

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

2003-war-protest

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

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

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

lancs3

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 – 20

acornmastheadnew

Number 20


In this issue:

  1. Motorway blocked in  massive anti-airport protest
  2. Naive illusions are propping up capitalism
  3. Islamophobia: the not-so-secret agenda of Baroness Cox
  4. Conspiracies and contamination
  5. Whose land? Our land!
  6. Acorninfo

1. Motorway blocked in massive anti-airport demo

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20,000 people and 450 tractors blocked the motorway

A massive and powerful display of determined opposition to plans for a new Nantes airport was staged on Saturday January 9.

The motorway system around the sixth largest city in France was closed down for the day as 20,000 people and 450 tractors took it over.

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Tear gas is fired at anti-airport farmers

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Farmers who tried to block a major motorway bridge all night were eventually pressured to leave by riot police, who couldn’t resist attacking them with tear gas even though they were moving off.

Solidarity protests were also held in more than 40 other places, including Paris, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseilles, Strasbourg, Lyons, Albi, Rennes, Chambéry, Nîmes and even Barcelona.

The turn-out was much bigger than the organisers had dared hope, particularly since the mobilisation was brought forward a week from the original January 16 date.

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The urgency comes from the fact that Vinci, the giant construction business building the airport, are going to court on Wednesday January 13 to try to secure an emergency order for the eviction of four small farmers and 11 families currently living and working on the land earmarked for the profiteering development.

With no apparent sense of irony, the same French state which revelled in the phony environmental “breakthrough” at COP21 in Paris (see below) is looking likely to deploy the full brutal might of its militarised police to attack the ZAD protest zone at Notre-Dame-des-Landes and clear the Breton countryside for Vinci’s airport.

The state of emergency still in place after November’s terror attacks in Paris will make it even easier to impose the destructive will of the industrial capitalist system with legitimised violence.

In a post-protest statement, opponents of the airport called for President Hollande to halt the eviction process and pledged to do everything possible to stop the project going ahead. The next step will be a protest outside the court in Nantes at 10.30am on Wednesday for Vinci’s eviction application.

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Campaigners have pledged to fight Vinci all the way

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2. Naive illusions are propping up capitalism

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The absurdities of the mainstream “environmentalist” movement were tragically plain to see around the tepid COP21 mobilisation in Paris in December (and nicely summarised in this video bulletin from submedia.tv)

As  Kevin Anderson writes, “the vested interests won out” at COP21, and for all the fine words we were left with the sorry prospect of “future techno-utopias, pennies for the poor, more fossil fuels, co-opted NGOs and an expert community all too often silenced by fear of reprisals and reduced funding”.

The principal reason is simple, says Anderson: “In true Orwellian style, the political and economic dogma that has come to pervade all facets of society must not be questioned”.

If you are looking for a long-term in-depth analysis of what has gone wrong, and can read Spanish or French, we would recommend Las ilusiones renovables: la cuestión de la energía y la dominación social by José Ardillo of Los Amigos de Ludd, now published as Les Illusions renouvelables. Énergie et pouvoir : une histoire by L’Echappée in (ironically enough) Paris.

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From the title and the wind turbines that grace its cover, you might think that this is a technical work, for those with a particular interest in the details of energy production.

But, in fact, Ardillo’s book operates on two levels and interwoven through the pages of very specific information about all aspects of energy is a powerful ideological critique not just of the industrial capitalist system, but of those who claim to be opposing it and yet are fundamentally failing to do so.

Ardillo’s frustration with the self-imposed limits of radical thought reaches back 200 years to the beginnings of modern socialism and anarchism.

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A shiny green industrial utopia

He complains that “19th century social thinkers and agitators nearly all positioned themselves within the movement for scientific and technological progress”.

This was particularly pronounced among socialists: “Although the emancipation of humankind was a central idea in the early years of socialism, it ended up being sacrificed on the altar of economism, political praxis and mass strategy”.

He acknowledges that, in contrast, “the anarchist movement still managed to keep a critical approach to technology and industrialisation, the thread of which can be followed from Bakunin through to the present day”.

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Mikael Bakunin, an enemy of the industrial capitalist system

But he identifies a blind spot in the anarchist approach, which meant that it often remained attached to hi-tech visions of future utopias based on the idea of some “magical” source of clean electricity.

“Anarchists were appalled by mines, urban pollution, city stress and factory assembly lines. The only bit of progress they wanted to hang onto was the end product: the little electric airplane flying silently through a clear sky”.

Ardillo is very critical of Murray Bookchin’s role in perpetuating this blinkered faith in capitalist “progress” among contemporary anarchists. He writes: “Bookchin believes that technological development must continue; in his view, the liberation of humankind depends on this. According to him, criticism of ‘abundance’, that’s to say the political consideration of a possible self-limitation based on simple methods and human energy, is therefore consigned to the scrapheap of reactionary thinking.

“It’s to be regretted that Bookchin’s views on energy and industrial abundance have had, and continue to have, such an influence on the opinions of a large part of the anarchist movement”.

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Murray Bookchin

He contrasts Bookchin’s views with those of Ivan Illich: “Without being dogmatic, Illich’s suggestions show that the only way of getting out of the trap of societies built on high energy consumption is to confront the structure of their habits, their organisation, the ethics on which they are built”.

As far as the broader environmentalist movement goes, Ardillo’s main source of unease concerns its naive view of power – something all-too-apparent in Paris amongst those protesters absurdly imagining that the leaders of global industrial capitalism were likely to do anything to check the excesses of the very system they represent.

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Some protesters in Paris seemed to imagine industrial capitalism might agree to dismantle itself

He writes: “For environmentalists, only the state and centralised neocapitalism have the means to act with a view to social transformation”.

They fool themselves that a process which empowers people at the expense of industry and the central state could actually be initiated by the capitalist system itself.

This fundamental mistake underlines the whole deluded fixation with the liberatory potential of renewable energy, he explains.

“In the 1970s people thought that renewable energy would provide technical support for significant social change, and that the new structural demands of society, once the fossil-fuel and nuclear models had been abandoned, would favour decentralisation and the organisation of direct democracy.

“We can see from the hesitant efforts that have so far been made to move towards the production of renewable energy that this process is never going to be in the hands of communities or small groups of individuals.

“How could it be? State and industry maintain a firm grip on everything affecting the way in which the majority are forced to live. The reappropriation of work and energy are impossible without first reappropriating the decision-making processes”.

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See also:

“The system has got to be destroyed”

Degrowth – real anti-capitalism

Degrowth: complete system change

Anarchism, capitalism and industry

Fighting capitalism’s domination of our lives

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3. Islamophobia: the not-so-secret agenda of Baroness Cox

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If any public figure in the UK could be described as the “acceptable” face of Islamophobia it would probably be Baroness Cox.

She has built her criticism of Muslims on the apparently liberal basis of concern for equality and women’s rights – she presents herself as, in the words of The Daily Telegraph, “the feisty baroness defending voiceless Muslim women”.

It would seem at first sight that the 78-year-old peer, with her very public espousal of “humanitarian” causes, is a million miles away from the hate-mongering thugs of anti-Muslim organisations like the EDL.

But a little bit of background reading reveals a rabid extreme-right agenda behind her political activities – and links to some sinister and powerful global players.

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A clue to Cox’s affiliations comes from her role in founding the far-right Committee for a Free Britain in 1987.

The immediate aim of this organisation seems to have been to stop the Labour Party under Neil Kinnock from winning the general election that year.

As Robin Ramsay recalls (in Politics and Paranoia), the US government had said that it regarded the Labour Party’s policies “as a serious threat to NATO”.

Cox’s CFB therefore swung into action and “ran a series of powerful and outrageous anti-Labour newspaper adverts, for which the expression ‘scaremongering’ seems somehow inadequate” (Mike Hughes, Spies at Work)

tory poster 1987
Tory propaganda from 1987

The CFB was extremely right-wing: “It was especially opposed to homosexual and lesbian rights. It supported the privatization of the education service, abolition of the NHS and substantial reductions in taxation”. (Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations: Parties, Groups and Movements of the 20th Century by Peter Barberis, John McHugh and Mike Tyldesley)

This was perhaps only to be expected, given that the other co-founder was none other than David Hart, a die-hard “anti-communist” who had played a key role in the Tories’ election campaigns of 1983 and 1987 and in their battle against the miners during the 1984 strike.

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David Hart

Old Etonian Hart had a vested interest in protecting the capitalist financial empire, being the elder son of businessman Louis Albert Hart, the chairman/principal shareholder of the Henry Ansbacher merchant bank.

He was well connected on both sides of the Atlantic, as Observer journalist David Rose noted in 1990: “Mr Hart had been a friend of the late CIA director, William Casey, and was generally feted in Washington. One dinner in his honour was attended by Dick Cheney, now the US Defence Secretary”.

Hart’s CIA connections no doubt account for the fact that the CFB arranged a visit to the UK by Adolfo Calero, the leader of the notorious Nicaraguan Contras, a US-backed terrorist group fighting the left-wing Sandinista government.

contras

Cox is herself described by Nafeez Ahmed as having “intelligence connections”. He writes how she was also involved with the Institute for the Study of Conflict, which was “created jointly by the British and American intelligence services, specifically the CIA and the Foreign Office”.

Investigations carried out by Rose also revealed the source of some of the money which allowed Cox and Hart to run their right-wing organisation – media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

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Rupert Murdoch

Murdoch’s The Sun was at the forefront of the campaign against Labour in 1987 and again in 1992 when it was “The Sun wot won it” for the Tories.

These days it has been busily combining a rabid hatred of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with the promotion of extreme anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant views, notably those of repulsive columnist Katie “Cockroaches” Hopkins.

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Cox has been described as “a lynchpin of the UK neo-con right” and, after the end of the Cold War, her political priorities shifted along predictable lines.

Today, it is no longer the “threat” from gays and communists that dominates her media appearances, although she still has the occasional pop at the “pro-Muslim” Left, but the new bogeyman of Islam.

In 2009, she and UKIP peer Lord Pearson notoriously invited the extreme-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders to screen his hate-inciting film, Fitna, in the House of Lords.

And in April 2014 she hosted the House of Lords launch of Sharia Watch UK by Anne-Marie Waters, an erstwhile “left-wing critic of Islam” now regarded as close to the EDL.

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Anne-Marie Waters

Cox is also on the board of governors of the repugnant Gatestone Institute, which plays a key role in pumping out anti-Muslim scare stories.

Like many other far-right Christians she is a fervent supporter not only of the Israeli state but of a particularly unpleasant and extreme form of right-wing Zionism.

zionists

Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, explains that “Baroness Cox is a prominent supporter of organisations which actively and openly promote the ethnic cleansing of all Palestinians from Gaza”.

One of the most sinister of these organisations is called Jerusalem Summit, of which Cox is a co-president, alongside the likes of Daniel Pipes, the notorious American Muslim-hater.

On its website, Jerusalem Summit declares that the idea of a Palestinian state must be “removed from the international agenda”.

In order to “ensure the survival of Israel as the nation-state of the Jews” it proposes that Palestinians should be encouraged to leave their homeland, Palestine, and “build a new life for themselves and their families in countries preferably, but not necessarily exclusively, with similar religious and socio-cultural conditions”.

palestine

It also concludes, in bold type that “the de-legitimization of the Palestinian narrative becomes a vital prerequisite to any comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian issue”.

The “de-legitimization of the Palestinian narrative”? Could this part of the motivation behind the anti-Muslim bile constantly being spewed up by Cox and her friends?

Just how far would these right-wing fanatics go in their efforts to turn public opinion in the USA and Europe against Muslims and, thus, Palestinians?

Baroness Cox and her fellow well-heeled hate-mongers certainly merit being just as closely tracked by the anti-fascist movement as the wretched anti-Muslim footsoldiers of the EDL or Pegida (see Acorninfo below).

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4. Conspiracies and contamination

In the last issue of The Acorn we commented, in passing, that “for some reason” any analysis which involves anything smacking of “conspiracy” is almost taboo in certain radical circles.

Some interesting suggestions as to why that might be the case can be found in Politics and Paranoia, a 2008 book by Robin Ramsay, editor of Lobster magazine.

Ramsay points out that the exposure of covert wrong-doing by the authorities originated, as you would naturally imagine, on the Left.

But then came a key moment in the 1960s when US intellectual Richard Hofstadter wrote an essay called The Paranoid Style in American Politics.

Hofstadter
Richard Hofstadter

Says Ramsay: “Hofstadter’s essay linked an interest in conspiracies or conspiracy theories with paranoia and with the loony radical Right. Hofstadter thus helped to contaminate the subjects for the liberal-left which then – and now – is unwilling to be associated with almost anything on or of the Right.

“For ‘serious’ people – academics, journalists, politicians – large areas of political inquiry have been contaminated ever since by an association with conspiracy theories. Hofstadter’s essay appeared just when questions were being asked about the assassination of JFK and his essay helped to shore up the ‘lone assassin’ verdict offered by the Warren Commission”.

It’s easy to see why analysis exposing deceit at the heart of the system would be shunned by those who work within and on behalf of that system.

More difficult to understand, however, is how the fear of “conspiracy theories” has even infected outright opponents of the system, including anarchists.

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Conspiracy theorists? Protesting against a Bilderberg conference

When elements of the “radical” Right in the USA started criticising the US-dominated military-industrial complex, or “New World Order”, in the 1980s and 1990s, some on the Left turned and ran.

Comments Ramsay: “There is almost nothing the Left fears more than being associated in some way with the Right. We are dealing with concepts and psychological forces here such as purity and contamination”.

This, of course, is very handy for the Establishment. If anti-capitalists refuse to protest against the Bilderberg meetings of global capitalist leaders because they might find themselves rubbing shoulders with right-wing conspiracy nutters, then opposition to the Bilderberg gatherings can easily be presented as borderline insanity.

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Only nutters challenge the capitalist elite, according to corporate media

The core concern for the Left seems to be that to identify a particular conspiracy is to risk tumbling down a slippery slope towards scapegoating specific groups or individuals.

It is felt that this can also easily end up in the nightmare of anti-semitism and other dangerous delusions into which conspiracy theorists often seem to sink.

However, while it is obviously important to be on the guard against this risk, it is simply not true to suggest that the exposure of a particular conspiracy is incompatible with a broader social, cultural or economic analysis.

A dull-witted right-wing conspiracy theorist might get stuck at the level of mere specifics and come to the facile conclusion that the people responsible for such-and-such wrongdoing must also be responsible for all wrong-doing, everywhere and throughout history.

But anyone endowed with the powers of reason will understand that this is not the case and that there is also a bigger picture. As Ramsay says, there is a difference between “theories about conspiracies” and an all-embracing “Conspiracy Theory” which seeks to explain everything in one neat little package, at the expense of any deeper understanding.

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Exposing a particular conspiracy is not the same as saying conspiracies account for everything

The activities of the Bilderberg group, for instance, are simply a small detail in the practical functioning of a global capitalist system which can itself be analysed and challenged on a more abstract level.

It is possible to zoom in and out of different levels of analysis without feeling the need to sacrifice one of them for the sake of another.

If we zoom out from the Bilderbergs we see capitalism. If we zoom out from capitalism we see that it is merely the current form of an exploitation that has been going on for centuries.

Zooming out still further, we see the original intertwined lies of “authority” and “land ownership” which allowed capitalism to develop in the first place – and we see the violence of power through which it is imposed.

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The law is a conspiracy to codify and legitimise the violence of a dominant elite

All of this is not contradicted or undermined by exposing the clandestine machinations of contemporary elites.

Indeed, zooming back in to close-up revelations of the real conspiracies with which they are involved can only reinforce the message that their power is illegitimate and inherently based on deceit!

That is exactly why these elites want to hide their dodgy activities from the public – because a general awareness of what they are up to would shatter the illusions of democratic accountability with which they maintain consent and control.

Why would any genuine opponent of the capitalist system have a problem with exposing, to as many people as possible, detailed evidence of the hypocrisy and mendacity of that same system?

See also:

Exposed: fake “left-wingers” who hate the alternative media

Terrorism and the state – learning from history

Capitalism is built on violence and lies

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5. Whose land? Our land!

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The protest in November 2009

A six-year battle by land campaigners in the south of England has successfully turned on its head a plan by authorities to sell off much-loved public land.

Not only have the slopes of Cissbury Ring, Worthing, Sussex, remained in public ownership, but they have now been officially declared open access land, as the campaigners had demanded.

The fight began six years ago, in 2009, when local residents discovered that Worthing Borough Council had put on the market publicly-owned downland at Mount Carvey and Tenants Hill, next to Cissbury Ring.

A group called Stop the Cissbury Sell-Off was formed and alerted the public to the secretive proposals.

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This prompted the Tory-led council to announce it was going to “review” its decision to sell the land – but SCSO smelled a rat, declaring: “They clearly hoped to sneak through the sale of the land without anyone noticing and we are suspicious that this so-called review may turn out to be just a delaying tactic”.

The campaigners kept up the pressure and, on November 14 2009, 400 people marched across the disputed land with banners and placards, setting off distress flares.

Open Spaces Society general secretary Kate Ashbrook spoke during the rally and backed the “crucial campaign”.

Campaigners pledged to keep fighting until the sell-off was definitively halted and, even before the end of the month, Worthing Borough Council had backed down.

SCSO became Worthing Downlanders in February 2010 and began the lengthy process of persuading the authorities to turn the Cissbury slopes into open access land so it could be fully enjoyed by its owners!

Although the wheels of bureaucracy turned at a frustratingly lethargic pace, the hard work finally paid off and at the very end of 2015, six years after the initial protest, the land was officially registered as open access.

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The public land in Sussex which is now officially open access

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6. Acorninfo

Anti-fracking activists from across the UK will be flocking to Cheshire on Saturday January 16 for a Solidarity Saturday with the Upton Community Protection Camp in Duttons Lane, Upton CH2 2PE. The camp could be evicted at any time to allow test drilling for fracking to take place. The call-out urges supporters “to draw the line against an elite who pay lip service to the Paris Climate Agreement while trashing subsidies for renewables, guaranteeing them for nuclear and making ‘closing coal’ conditional on replacing it with gas”. As opposition to fracking continues to grow, a report in The Independent has revealed that insurance firms are not going to be covering people for fracking-related damage. And the state has notched up its intimidation by detaining an anti-fracking campaigner at an airport under “anti-terrorist” laws, reports Drill or Drop website.

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* * *

“We were trying to act like an antibody for the Earth – trying to protect nature, to protect what was being destroyed in beautiful places”. This is the recollection of an eco-activist who took part in the battle to stop the Newbury bypass 20 years ago, as related in an anniversary report from the BBC. Comments BBC local reporter Paul Clifton: “The protesters lost the battle. But perhaps they won the war. There is no doubt the tree climbers swayed public opinion and, later, political policy changed too. It virtually halted the construction of major new roads for a generation. As Newbury was being built, a tunnel past Stonehenge in Wiltshire and a bypass for Arundel in West Sussex were being talked about. Twenty years later, they are still only being talked about”. Today the road battle is starting again and public opinion continues to mobilise against the threat of an A27 bypass across the Sussex countryside north of Chichester, as revealed in Acorn 18. Local media have now published leaked maps showing the draft route options, which were being kept from the public by the authorities.

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Nature’s antibodies protect trees at Newbury

* * *

Two important dates are coming up for anti-fascists in England. The first  is in Dover on Saturday January 30, when The South East Alliance will be holding an anti-immigrant march alongside a gaggle of other far-right groups. Then the following Saturday, February 6, former EDL chief Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) has announced his return to far-right street protests, leading a PEGIDA UK march in Birmingham. More info on counter-protests on the Anti-Fascist Network website.

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* * *

Eco-activists struck against the open cast lignite mine at Hambacher Forest in Germany on New Year’s Eve. They report: “We set up homemade stingers on the road used by the mine security forces to harass and distract them whilst we set fire to various bundles of cables and some wiring boxes by the side of the train tracks which are used to transport brown coal from the mine to nearby power stations. Halting the trains for some time. Then we put the torch to a telecommunications mast on the edge of the mine and watched from a distance as the entire device went up in flames and continued to burn for over an hour. And finally, just after midnight we attacked again, setting up more stingers on the security road closer to their compound. We then set fire to a burning barricade of car tyres and a large pile of logs by the roadside to lure security into our traps before retreating again into the forest to the sound of fireworks”.

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* * *

The next Anarchist Action Network is to be held on Sunday January 17, from 1pm to 5pm, at Clockworks, Queens Street, Derby. All anarchists are welcome. For more info on the network and directions to the meeting go to www.anarchistaction.net

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* * *

The fascisisation of society shows no sign of abating in the UK, as elsewhere. An indication of the levels of surveillance imposed on the population came from a recent report revealing that visitors to London’s Hyde Park all had their identities and movements secretly tracked via their mobile phone data during a “trial”. And there was a strong warning regarding planned new UK surveillance laws from American National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower William Binney (below) in an interview on the Wired website. He said: Retroactively analysing people, anybody you want, any time you want, that’s certainly possible with bulk acquisition of data but that’s certainly not what democracies are built on. That’s what totalitarian states are built on”.

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* * *

Does postanarchism, influenced by deconstruction theory and the likes of Michel Foucault, represent an ideological attempt to undermine anarchism? This is the question currently being raised in some anarchist circles in France, and summarised in English in this blog post by Paul Cudenec. Meanwhile, this fascinating archive video shows a 1971 discussion between Foucault and Noam Chomsky on anarchism, human nature, justice and revolution.

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Foucault v Chomsky

* * *

Cardiff Anarchist Network (Rhwydwaith Anarchaidd Caerdydd) is hosting an anarcho-punk winter warmer on Saturday January 30 from 6pm at the Welsh city’s Cathays Community Centre. Bands will include Atterkop, 51st STATE, Think Pretty, WolfPunch, Regrethc and Failed State. There will be a full bar at cheap prices, plus a wide range of vegan snacks available as well as loads of stalls.

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* * *

Acorn quote: “Our critique of science, technology and the industrial system is a critique of progress. And in the same way it is a critique of the ideologies of science and progress, not least the workerist ideology, in both reformist and revolutionary guise, which is based on taking over, in the name of the proletariat, the bourgeois industrial system and its technology”.

Miguel Amorós, Elementary Foundations of the Anti-Industrial Critique

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

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