We all know that money is what makes this commercial world go round.
The cult of money has swept away the traditional ethical codes of humankind and become the sole indicator of “value”.
If something makes money, it is good. If it doesn’t, it is useless. If someone accumulates money, by whatever means, they are “successful”. If they don’t, they are a “failure”.
But we also all know that money is not real. It consists of nothing more than pieces of paper, or electronic figures, which are universally agreed to represent something.
For most of us, money is the whip that keeps us in line. Because we need it in order to survive, we are forced to spend the best decades of our lives working for money.
Most work does not directly give us what we need or want. It is merely a means to another means, a way of earning money so we can buy various goods and services.
The vast majority of people use money to pay for food and drink, shelter, clothing, leisure activities and whatever little luxuries are affordable in the part of the world in which they live.
What about the really “successful” people, though, the people who have accumulated unimaginably vast amounts of money, at the expense of the rest of us? What does money do for them?
It provides them with their lavish lifestyles of course – all their mansions and private jets and designer clothes and furniture and cars and plastic surgery. Money can buy people too, whether to work for their interests, massage their egos or satisfy their sexual desires.
But most of all, and most worryingly for the rest of us, it brings them power.
Lies are another important part of their domination.
There is the lie that they “deserve” their wealth because they are somehow better than the rest of us – a total inversion of the truth since the obsessive pursuit of money speaks only of ruthless and sociopathic greed.
There is the lie that all of this is somehow normal, that it is right and proper that a tiny elite are sitting smugly at the top of a pyramid of global exploitation which sees those at the bottom condemned to lives of abject misery.
And there is the lie that this world of theirs is “democratic”, that we have the freedom to collectively determine the way we live.
Anyone who is the slightest bit awake will have noticed that today this last lie is looking hollower than ever.
With the totalitarian measures being introduced on the back of the Covid panic, it looks as if the ruling class have decided to finally ditch the pretence of “liberal democracy” and its illusion of freedom.
As Frank Zappa warned: “The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it’s profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater”.
I am beginning to wonder if money will be the next illusion that is ditched by the ruling class.
This is not going to happen quite yet, of course. The Covid crisis promises to be a bonanza for the richest of the rich, who will be greedily hoovering up all the wealth previously in the hands of small-scale businesses and individuals, as well as ramping up their relentless robbery of the working classes.
Not only will the ultrarich benefit from “emergency” spending by the world’s governments, but their banking branch will be happily harvesting the interest on the debts run up to pay for it all.
And of course there is all the Fourth Industrial Revolution technology in which they have invested, which will now be forced on us under the pretext of public health, and the planned monetisation of everything alive through the so-called “New Deal for Nature“.
But, as we have seen, money is just a means to an end. It is the key to the door of power and, after a few more years of what we are seeing now, the ultrarich and their vitaphobic death-cult will have all the power that they crave.
This would no longer have to be gained by buying anything, whether resources, land, infrastructure, institutions or people, because the elite would already own them.
All they would have to do is to maintain that power, by using all the totalitarian techniques of surveillance and control that are currently being rolled out at such an alarming speed.
George Orwell’sNineteen Eighty-Four merits regular re-reading and every time I do so, my eyes are opened to a new level of this extraordinarily prophetic warning.
During the torture session towards the end of the book, O’Brien asks Winston Smith why he thinks the Big Brother regime wants power.
Smith starts by telling O’Brien the lie he thinks his torturer wants to hear, that the Party is ruling people for their own good because “you believe that human beings are not fit to govern themselves”.
He receives a hefty electric shock for this mistake and O’Brien puts him straight, explaining: “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power”.
He adds: “We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end… The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power”.
For centuries now, the ruling class have been stealing everything from us. They have thrown us off our land, destroyed our communities and our cultures, deprived us of our precious days of living by forcing us to work for their fake money just to survive. They have stolen our very sense of who we are, our connection to nature, to each other, to our own bodies.
And now, in 2020, they are trying to take this a step further. Just look at everything happening on the back of the Covid hysteria!
People are being forced to wear masks, symbolising their silent submission to authority, are told they now have to be bound in electronic chains and be injected with whatever toxic substances our rulers see fit.
We are not allowed to go outside unless Big Brother says so, not allowed to socialise with our friends, not allowed to ask any questions or express any dissent.
We are being stripped of our dignity, our freedom, our privacy, our autonomy, of everything that makes us human.
This is psychotic megalomania, deliberate humiliation, sadistic mistreatment amounting to torture, carried out on a global scale. We are being whipped and beaten and pissed upon, while our ruling class prison guards laugh in our faces.
And why? Because the ultrarich have utter contempt for us and want to lock us permanently down into a condition of cowed slavery.
That, for them, is the ultimate power-trip, the ultimate confirmation that they are “successful” and “superior” to us. The object of power is power. The object of domination is domination.
They have obviously calculated that they can get away with this, that their wealth, power and lies are now so all-conquering, and the majority of humankind so supine, gutless and malleable, that they will simply be able to trample all over us, for ever.
The fact that this anarchist was me (in my 2015 book Forms of Freedom) should hint strongly that I am not in fact advocating the me-first kind of freedom touted by capitalist libertarians.
But this is how it apparently seemed to my critics, purely because of my opposition to the global police-state lockdown of our basic freedoms imposed on the back of the coronavirus panic.
From their point of view, it was irrresponsible to complain about loss of individual freedom (sorry, “individual freedom”) when the greater good of the community, the need to protect ourselves and others from contagion, was at stake.
I disagree with this on two levels.
In the specific context of what is happening today, I do not accept that the virus is a threat that justifies the authoritarian clamp-down on our lives that has been rolled out, as I have already stated.
Therefore, the freedom of the individual is not trumped by an overriding social responsibility to accept what is basically a state of martial law.
Moreover, because the virus has been massively exaggerated as cover for a totalitarian-financial grab of power and wealth, the true social responsibility lies in the opposite direction.
From my point of view, the freedom of the individual to seek out a quiet life by just going along with all this, by keeping his or her head down, is overriden by the responsibility to speak out, to challenge the propaganda, to alert society to what is happening and to urge people to resist.
Obviously from my critics’ stance, this is not a valid argument, because they are starting from the assumption that the virus is as real and as deadly as we have been constantly told by the authorities and their media.
This, in itself, is deeply problematic. What happened to “question everything?” It is not possible to build a critique of oppression without being prepared to challenge the assumptions used to justify that oppression.
The anarchist argument about collective responsibility, when transplanted into the soil of deceit, grows upside-down.
The logic that should require people to act for the common good is reversed and serves to instead condemn those who are acting for the common good and trying to expose the fraud.
The second level of my disagreement with these critics concerns their ideological interpretation of responsibility and freedom.
Here, I find that their thinking strays a very long way from the anarchist outlook.
I did, in fact, deal with all this in Forms of Freedom. It’s now available as a free pdf on the Winter Oak site (as are all my other books) and to understand my position in more depth, I recommend having a look.
This passage on responsibility is particularly relevant:
“Part of the confusion surrounding the term responsibility arises from the manner in which it is abused to suit certain purposes. It is often conflated with the notion of conformity or obedience not to the interests of the collectivity, but to an entity which is passing itself off as representing those interests”.
By this I meant the state, of course, as I went on to explain: the entity which tells people that their responsibility to obey orders overrules their individual freedom.
I pointed out in the book that this responsibility to obey the law is never imagined as emerging from an individual’s own judgement – hence the perceived irresponsibility of ‘taking the law into your own hands’ – but is seen as required in the interests of a collective good defined from above rather than below.
Whether that law is good or bad is irrelevant: “The important point is that the responsibility in question is seen as something that must be accepted regardless of one’s free conscience, rather than as the result of it”.
“There is an important conflict here between fake and real responsibility, between imposed and free responsibility, between responsibility dictated from the outside and responsibility assumed from the inside of the individual.
“Ultimately, those who propose an imposed responsibility do so because they are afraid of the real responsibility which emerges from within.
“An imposed responsibility can be invoked to demand obedience to arbitrary rules constructed for the selfish interests of a minority which maintains control of stolen wealth through the violence of authority in all its forms.
“A real responsibility could well lead individuals, or communities, to challenge those arbitrary rules and the phoney morality built up around them”.
“To turn our backs on the symbiotic relationship between individual and collective interests is to turn our backs on anarchism”
Anyone who champions a duty of collective responsibility which involves suppressing individual freedom is not invoking real responsibilty, but the imposed kind.
“The individual is part of the collectivity and the collectivity is made up of individuals. They are the same living thing with the same interests at heart“.
Freedom and responsibility are two aspects of the same thing and so are the individual and the collectivity.
The collectivity needs individuals to be free, because without that freedom the social organism would be dead.
“It is important for the collectivity that individuals are free to live according to the subtlest demands of their nature, for only in that way can the collectivity also live according to the subtlest demands of its nature.
“A collectivity cannot be free unless the individuals who make it up are all free. An individual cannot be free unless they are living in a collectivity which is free, that is to say in which all individuals are free”.
To turn our backs on the symbiotic relationship between individual and collective interests is to turn our backs on anarchism.
It is, in fact, to adopt a way of thinking shared by liberalism and fascism, which are not at all the opposites which they might appear, as this article explains.
Both these systems of control (the first more subtle than the second) are based on lies. They twist the truth, even reverse the meanings of words in order to impose their own agenda, as George Orwell so perfectly showed us in Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Liberalism and fascism both use a language which suggests the full participation of the population in the workings of society, which even appears to involve a kind of symbiosis like the one referred to above.
Liberals label this involvement “democracy” and have, until now at least, gone to great lengths to maintain this illusion, which is the principal justification for the legitimacy of their system.
But it’s just a sham, of course. It always has been. The game is rigged in so many ways and on so many levels.
Fascists don’t like the term “democracy” and prefer to talk about “the nation”, which is supposedly the incorporation of the collective interests of the people.
Sometimes they have even stolen the language of the social organism to give the impression that there is something natural about their system.
“They are systems which impose the control of the ruling class over the people”
But the social organism, for fascists, can never be a living entity of free individuals acting according to their own consciences, as it is for anarchists.
Their imagined organism is more like a robot, under the total control of the fascist state.
The reality behind the liberals’ fake democracy and the fascists’ fake organism is one and the same – a ruling elite which only pretends to be acting in the interests of everyone.
A contempt for the “masses”, for the “mob”, for the “great unwashed”, the “Untermensch” is shared by both systems because they are elitist and authoritarian.
They are systems which impose the control of the ruling class over the people.
From the perspective of the ruling class, the idea that we could run our own lives and our own societies without their structures of control is a dangerous one.
That is why they talk fearfully about “descending into anarchy”. Their worst nightmare is that their slaves might break free.
This is why they often depict human nature as selfish, greedy and violent – thus needing the firm hand of the liberal/fascist state to keep it under control.
This is why they sometimes prefer to say that there is no such thing as human nature at all, thus rejecting the empowering anarchist idea that we are all born with the natural capacity or tendency to live co-operatively and more or less harmoniously.
It is a primary assumption of liberalism/fascism that we cannot be trusted to make our own decisions, that we are basically irresponsible and in need of control and “protection” from our wise and benevolent leaders.
Why do they regurgitate the liberal/fascist lie that individual freedom and the collective good are incompatible?
The problem, for me, is that too many anarchists are today entirely trapped within what I called “the inherent thought-restriction of the dominant system”.
This stifling contemporary newthink completely negates the timeless human wisdom from which anarchist philosophy emerged.
It sees human beings as programmable and malleable machines. Artificiality triumphs over authenticity. Any talk of social organism is seen as reactionary or borderline fascist (a typical inversion, as noted above – see also this article).
The notion of essence is dismissed out of hand, the idea of innateness can provoke panic attacks, meaning is regarded as meaningless, nature as reactionary, ethics as a construction, quality as an illusion.
There is no truth or reality. Two plus two can equal five if it suits the liedeology.
“Any way of thinking outside this ever-narrowing framework becomes impossible in a post-natural, post-human, post-authentic intellectual climate that effectively constitutes a complete paralysis of the collective human mind”, as I wrote.
Contemporary newthink is binary, one-dimensional. It does not understand multi-dimensional thinking and cannot embrace creative paradox.
It can only ever see individual freedom and collective responsibility as opposites.
It is incapable of even hearing, let alone understanding, oldthink arguments that soar above its empty and flattened-out dogmas.
In short, people are attaching the anarchist label, and a sort of shallow parody of anarchist ideology, to something which is not anarchism at all.
This pseudo-anarchist thinking has not grown from anarchist philosophy and therefore can never be anything but a replica anarchism, a zombie anarchism which appears to be the real thing but lacks the anarchist soul.
This fake anarchism is the sworn enemy of true anarchism. By stealing the body of anarchism, it banishes real anarchism from the world.
Whenever real anarchism does emerge, this zombie anarchism points an accusatory finger at it and declares it to be dangerous.
This is anti-anarchism, upside-down anarchism, inverted anarchism.
I have been going on about all this for years. Sometimes I have wondered if it is as important as all that, whether I could not just accept some philosophical differences with comrades in the interests of working and campaigning together.
But now that anarchists are getting angry with me for believing in freedom, I can see very clearly what was worrying me all along.
There weren’t too many hi-vis jackets in evidence when we arrived at one of a series of roundabouts on the “rocade”, the ring road, at Alès in south-east France on Tuesday March 19.
Would there be enough protesters to pull off the roadblock that had been agreed at the previous night’s meeting of the Gilets Jaunes assembly at the trade union HQ in the former mining town?
I needn’t have worried. It was just that the 6.30am meet-up time had been a little too early for some, and a steady flow of people soon arrived. There were 30 or so at this point.
A dark blue gendarme van arrived, toured the roundabout but didn’t stop and disappeared again. They weren’t going to interfere at the set-up stage, it seemed.
Suddenly, Yellow Vests started streaming off the roundabout towards a side road. They were heading towards a large white van which had just pulled up.
The doors were flung open to reveal that it was packed full of road-blocking material – palettes and tyres, mainly huge lorry ones.
This was all quickly carried, or rolled, to the edges of the roundabout. Some Gilets Jaunes headed off down the ring road towards the next junction.
Before long, this stretch of dual carriageway was blocked from both ends. The operation was remarkably efficient. These people knew what they were doing!
As the morning rush-hour got underway, the blockade, part of a national day of action to coincide with a trade union strike, firmed up even further.
There were enough Gilets Jaunes, easily more than 100, to send a second group to block another roundabout a few miles down the road.
At the original site, the filtering operation came into effect. This was made easier by the use of trolleys borrowed from a nearby supermarket, weighed down with tyres and decorated with yellow cardboard fists.
Someone driving a flat-bed truck loaded with old tyres, apparently on the way to the dump, decided to make an impromptu donation to the Gilets Jaunes cause, creating an impressive heap of rubber on the roadside.
Ordinary car drivers were not allowed through the road block. If they stopped to ask, they were given directions for an alternative route.
However, doctors or nurses on duty were allowed to pass if they could prove who they were. Ambulances and firefighters had the automatic right to go through the barricade.
Every time one was seen, or heard, approaching, the call went out – “pompiers!” – and people rushed to pick up the palettes and roll aside the supermarket trolleys until they had passed, taking care not to let any uninvited traffic through in their wake.
Although car drivers were obviously inconvenienced by the ring road being blocked, and had to take the long way round, they were not the real target.
The aim was to block the economy, in the shape of the heavy goods vehicles which are the life blood of capitalist commerce across Europe.
When lorries – or certain lorries, anyway, as there were some complicated criteria that I never quite grasped – approached the blocked section of road, they were not turned away but invited to enter.
Some of them took a bit of convincing, with Gilets Jaunes standing in front of their vehicle or blocking their way with some of the ample supply of tyres.
But others were more than happy to pass through the blockade into the stretch of road sealed off at both ends by the protesters, where they would have to remain until the end of the action at 8pm.
I was a little surprised by this, until it was patiently explained to me that this amounted, effectively, to a day off for the lorry drivers.
They could phone their boss, report that they were blocked in by the Gilets Jaunes, and spend the day sleeping in their cab, sitting in the sun, drinking coffee, chatting with other drivers or protesters, or whatever. And be paid for it.
When we see a HGV branded with the name of some foul capitalist business, it is too easy to forget that the man or woman driving it is not part of that business, but a victim of that business and can be a willing accomplice in a struggle against the world which that business represents.
After six hours of the blockade, there was no space for any more lorries and disappointed drivers had to be turned away at the barricades.
I took a walk down the blocked stretch of dual carriageway, which was essentially now a lorry park with a narrow central lane for emergency vehicles.
More than fifty lorries had rolled into the Yellow Vest net – mostly French ones but some from Poland, Hungary and Romania. Quite a haul!
There had been a lot of talk at the Monday night assembly about the possible reaction of the police, who had previously used tear gas to clear a roundabout and against a town centre protest.
People were advised to bring protective masks, goggles and so on and were armed with information on solicitors and arrest support.
So it was slightly surprising that when the Police Nationale first turned up at the action, they exchanged smiles and handshakes with some of the Yellow Vests.
I asked somebody about this. “It’s because they’re local police, they’re from here,” he replied. “They’re friends, family members even. One of the Gilets Jaunes is a retired cop, in fact!”
Later the gendarmerie, part of the French armed forces, also turned up and were surrounded by a huddle of Gilets Jaunes.
Something termed a “negotiation” took place and the “forces of order” went on their way. The local paper, Midi Libre, reported later that the authorities in Alès said they did not, on this day of national action, have enough policing resources available to dislodge the blockade.
Saturday March 16 2019 will probably go down in history as the day that Macron and his government gave up waiting for the Gilets Jaunes movement to fade away.
Huge numbers of Yellow Vests packed the Champs Elysées in Paris for Act 18 of their revolt and were immediately attacked by police.
But they had come ready for a fight, for a revolution even, and took the offensive against the armed forces of the regime, despite all the tear gas, water cannon, rubber bullets, grenades and armoured vehicles.
Police were pelted with stones and repeatedly forced to retreat, in an eight-hour battle in the boulevard that has long symbolised chic Parisian affluence.
The rabble that had invaded this inner sanctuary of wealth wasted no time in trashing boutiques, eateries and banks, leaving them inscribed with their own philosophical reflections on the state of French society.
To the general consternation of the Parisian media and political elite, they even laid waste to that tiny minority’s spiritual home, the swanky gourmet restaurant Le Fouquet’s.
There was also much one-per-cent outrage over a video showing protesters in Black Bloc mode being cheered by others wearing the usual hi-vis singlets.
All of the lies peddled for months by the government were falling apart. No, the Gilets Jaunes movement had not faded away to insignificance. No, there was not a clear divide between the “extremist vandals” who broke windows and the rest of the movement. It was all just different aspects of the same uprising.
Interior minister Christophe Castaner declared afterwards that there had been no Gilets Jaunes in Paris that day, only 10,000 “casseurs” or vandals (there were at least ten times that many protesters, in fact).
This rhetoric allowed him to, again, completely brush aside the reasons behind the revolt and instead focus on a hard-line repressive strategy, firing the Paris police chief for not having ordered enough violence and announcing bans on protests and unspecified action against prominent Gilets Jaunes spokespeople.
A couple of days later the government announced that the army would be deployed to “protect public buildings” in France, a decision greeted with alarm and derision even by rivals on the conservative right.
Big shows of “strength” are tell-tale signs of an underlying sense of weakness, and the regime’s aura of authority had suffered as badly as the shop windows of the Champs Elysées.
* * *
Hundreds of miles away from Paris another huge crowd of Gilets Jaunes had gathered together, in completely different circumstances.
The occasion was a pre-release screening of the first film to be made about the movement, the documentary J’veux du soleil (I want some sunshine).
The local Gilets Jaunes at Dions, in the Gard department of southern France, appear in the documentary, made by Gilles Peret and François Ruffin, a well-known MP for the left-wing France Insoumise party.
Ruffin’s documentary Merci patron! (Thank you, boss!) was a massive box office hit in 2016 and fed into the mood of popular revolt of the Nuit Debout movement.
This was an outdoor event, as are so many such occasions in this Mediterranean corner of the country – in any case, no village hall or cinema could have accommodated the 3,000 people who turned up!
The giant inflatable screen had been installed in a manade, a ranch, on the rural plain north of Nîmes, surrounded by the vineyards which dominate this famous wine-producing region.
Before the film showing – which was after sunset, of course – there was a concert of the Spanish gypsy-style music that is very popular in these parts.
The culinary focus of the event was a “giant paella”, for which tickets had to be reserved in advance, but there were also plenty of food stalls and a “buvette”, an outdoor bar, where you could acquire a plastic beaker of local red wine for ninety-something pence.
The event as a whole was free, as might be expected for a political movement that is, above all, the voice of those with no money.
I took the time to look around me and to try to sum up the kind of people who were present. I was struck by the fact that it was impossible to do so.
Obviously it wasn’t “everyone” who was there (there was a serious overflow of the massive makeshift car park as it was! ) but this was certainly a cross-section of “everyone”.
These were the people you see everywhere here – at the market, sitting outside the cafés, or attending other general concerts or social events.
They were of mixed age and sex. There was nothing about the way they looked or dressed that marked them out as part of any particular “scene”.
That, perhaps, is the role played by the yellow vests worn by about half the people present – it represents the spirit of shared identity which unites these people and turns them from a collection of individuals into a whole.
This was a theme which cropped up again and again in the film, which is a kind of road movie in which Ruffin and Peret call in on Gilets Jaunes occupying roundabouts across France, from the Somme in the north to the Mediterranean coast.
People had been suffering in life but keeping it to themselves. They felt personally responsible, ashamed even, to struggle to pay the bills and feed themselves or their families.
Then the Gilets Jaunes appeared. They were accessible, friendly, and ready to talk. You didn’t have to pass an ideological examination to be allowed to take part in their revolt. You didn’t have to dress in a certain way or eat the right sort of food. Nobody even asked you how you voted at the last election.
Lonely and desperate people, spat out and cast aside by the capitalist consumer society which has taken hold of France, had suddenly rediscovered the community from which they had been separated.
In the Gilets Jaunes movement they did not just have political comrades, but friends. A new family, even. The hours spent on the roundabouts together had built solidarity, warmth, love.
J’veux du soleil is a powerful documentary because Ruffin allows himself to fade into the background and lets the Gilets Jaunes speak for themselves, with a frankness and intimacy that is rarely seen on camera.
The film intersperses these interviews with clips of Emmanuel Macron. The effect is stunning – the empty slickness of the neoliberal poster boy is the complete opposite of the raw honesty of the featured Gilets Jaunes.
The footage shows the arrogant “centrist” president, from his position of ultimate power and privilege, dismissing protesters as “people who are nothing”, as “lazy”, and as a “hateful mob”.
At the Dions screening, I was clearly not the only member of the audience who found Macron’s feudal contempt for the revolting peasants hard to stomach. His words were all but drowned out by a huge chorus of boos every time he appeared.
There were bursts of applause for particularly well-chosen words from Yellow Vests from elsewhere in France and great cheers of approval at the video of Gilets Jaunes famously smashing through the front gate of a government building in Paris with the aid of a construction vehicle they had borrowed from some nearby roadworks.
The Gilets Jaunes, or Yellow Vests, movement in France is the most important political phenomenon to emerge in Western Europe so far this century. It has smashed through the barriers of political stagnancy and sterility which so often disempower and stifle spontaneous expressions of popular discontent.
The yellow banner of revolt has rallied parts of the population previously unreached by political organising and the relentless determination of hundreds of thousands of men and women has shaken the citadels of neoliberal power to the core. As well as the rubber bullets, grenades, water cannon and tear gas deployed by the French state against the uprising, another major weapon against the Gilets Jaunes has been the corporate media.
Constant lies, smears and alarmism in France have been matched by almost total silence elsewhere, punctuated by small dribbles of largely inaccurate information. We at Winter Oak have been trying to help counter this information war against the rebellion by reporting their activities and opinions in English. Below we present five new translations which offer some useful insights into what is currently being spelled out in yellow in France.
The uprising is very much ongoing as we write this, with Act 18 of the protests on March 16 likely to be significant, particularly in Paris. For news updates about the movement follow us on Twitter.
i. Power to the people!
This declaration was agreed at the Yellow Vest assembly of assemblies in Commercy at the end of January, attended by delegates from across France. It was then “sent back” down to the local assemblies, who have gradually been endorsing it from the grassroots.
Ever since November 17, from the smallest village in the countryside to the biggest city, we have been rising up against this profoundly violent, unfair and unbearable society.
We are not going to be pushed around! We are revolting against the high cost of living, against precarity and misery. We want our loved ones, our families and our children to live in dignity.
26 billionaires own as much as half of the human species and that is unacceptable. Let’s share wealth and not misery!
Let’s do away with social inequality! We demand immediate increases in pay, in the minimum wage, in benefits and in pensions; the unconditional right to healthcare and education; free public services for everyone.
It’s for all these rights that every day we occupy roundabouts, that we organise actions and protests and hold discussions everywhere.
With our yellow vests on, we are having our say, which we have never had before.
And what’s the response from the government? Repression, contempt, denigration.
People killed and thousands injured, the massive use of weapons fired directly at us which mutilate, take out eyes, wound and traumatise.
More than 1,000 people have been arbitrarily prosecuted and jailed.
And now the new so-called “anti-vandal” law aims simply to stop us demonstrating.
We condemn all violence against protesters, whether it comes from police or violent factions. None of that is going to stop us!
The right to protest is fundamental. End the impunity for the government forces! Amnesty for all the victims of repression!
And what a con, this Grand National Debate which is nothing but a government PR exercise taking advantage of our desire to discuss and take decisions!
The real democracy is the one we practise in our assemblies and on our roundabouts. It is neither on the TV nor in the fake debates organised by Macron.
He insults us, says we’re less than nothing, then depicts us as hateful crowd, fascistic and xenophobic.
But in fact we are completely the opposite: neither racist, nor sexist, nor homophobic, we are proud to be together with our differences to build a society of solidarity.
The diversity of our discussions is our strength and even now hundreds of assemblies are drawing up and putting forward their own demands.
They involve real democracy, social and fiscal justice, environmental and climate justice, the ending of discrimination.
Among the most debated demands and strategic proposals we can find: the eradication of misery in all its forms; the transformation of institutions (citizen-initiated referenda, constituent assemblies, an ending to privileges for elected representatives); environmental transition (energy precarity, industrial pollution); equality and the valuing of all women and men regardless of their nationality (people with disabilities, gender equality, ending the neglect of working-class districts, rural areas and overseas territories).
We, Gilets Jaunes, invite everyone to join us, as and how they see fit. We call for a continuation of the series of “acts” of protests, of the occupation of roundabouts and the blockading of the economy and of the effort to build a huge national strike.
We call for the setting up of committees in the workplace, at places of study; and everywhere else so that this grave can be built on the basis of the strikers themselves.
Let’s take control of our own activities! Don’t stay on your own, join us! Let’s organise democratically, autonomously and independently!
This assembly of the assemblies is an important step which allows us to discuss our demands and our means of acting.
Let’s come together in federations to transform society!
We ask the whole of the Gilets Jaunes movement to circulate this call.
If, as a Gilets Jaunes group, you agree with it, then don’t hesitate to send your support to Commercy.
Please do discuss and draw up proposals for the next assembly of the assemblies, already under preparation.
Power to the people, for the people, by the people!
The “nothings” are on the streets
ii. The ghost of 1789
This is an extract from a leaflet issued by a group of Gilets Jaunes in southern France after a local bigwig, the Prefect, accused “anarchists” of inciting hate of the state and confrontations with the police.
Mr Prefect, there is no need for anarchists to sow hate as your government is managing to do that all on its own. Oh, nobody for the moment is talking about reaching for their rifle, but everyone can see what they earn and what the rich earn. Hate is on the rise. The Gilets Jaunes are simple people, generally workers at the bottom of the scale on low wages, or people living on modest pensions…
They say, when they talk about the rulers and the fat cats in this country: “They are like the kings and aristocrats used to be”. They are not talking about having a revolution here and now but they talk a lot about our great revolution: it is always coming up in conversation.
Macron has said repeatedly that he won’t change course: so we can expect nothing from him but scraps of charity. One day or the other the poor, like in 1789, will take action and a lot of others with them.
This won’t be a revolt, but a revolution!
It is clear that every government since 1983 has done all it can to ensure that the poor are in this state of mind.
In our assemblies there are, among the hundreds present, lots of workers and pensioners. There are also teachers and nurses.
Some anarchists work and earn roughly as much as the other Gilets Jaunes, others are unemployed, like many others.
Sorry to disappoint you, but there is nothing to differentiate them from other Gilets Jaunes except that, perhaps, some of them are more active than most: that’s their right and we don’t hold it against them!
iii. Our community is the struggle!
This analysis comes from issue 2 of an eight-page A3 street paper, Jaune: Le Journal Pour Gagner (Yellow: the Paper for Winning).
From the start of this movement, two symbols have been competing on the roundabouts. The yellow vest and the tricolour flag. Of course, many wouldn’t put it that way. They would say that the flag is the symbol of the French people, while the yellow vest is the symbol of the struggle, so the two are complementary. And it’s true that in each instance those who sport them regard them as signs of rallying around something in common. But there are different kinds of commonality.
The idea of a community founded on belonging to a territory, defined by a state and the defence of the borders of that state, is very old. We can see it in the founding myths of the Roman Empire.
Some will say that this is a hard reality. They will argue that every country has its share of misery and that at the end of the day defending your tribe, your territory, your compatriots, is a necessary part of being human. Their slogan is “our own before the others”.
But who are “our own”? Have you really got more interests, aspirations and sufferings in common with the rich of France than with someone who works on the same building site as you but hasn’t got the same passport? More in common with the Loréal family than with an Italian or Algerian delivering for an Amazon subcontractor? More in common with someone else on the minimum wage, regardless of nationality, or with someone who used to pay the highest rate of income tax until Macron scrapped it?
Nationalism will tell you that yes, French people, regardless of their social position, have more interests in common together than with any other form of solidarity, such as that based on a common situation. But where does that lead? Who profits from saying that? Who benefits from nationalism?
Everybody knows the line about divide and rule. It implies, of course, that it those who rule who divide the others. So, let’s put the question this way: who rules? Who owns the wealth and the means of producing more wealth? The rich, the bourgeoisie. And who is divided according to passport and nationality? The poor, the workers, the unemployed.
Anyway, do you really think the bourgeoisie practises what it preaches for us? Do you really think that the French rich feel closer to you than to their friends in such or such a country, with whom they go skiing in Switzerland or Dubai while you go to work? Let’s not be naive.
But there is another community: the community of struggle. Thus, in France, for a long time now, a revolutionary tradition welcomes all those who want to struggle. As far back as the French Revolution, lots of people from every corner of the world came to lend a hand. During the Paris Commune, as well, the organisation of the barricades was partly organised by Polish revolutionaries.
And we can see this solidarity in struggle and revolution at many other times of history and in many other parts of the world. That is the community which brings us together. Today, it has a rallying call: the yellow vest. This call is universal and as such it is closer to the spirit of past revolutions, including the French one.
So we are saying it loud and clear: we are on the side of the yellow vest, of what it says about common struggle and also about a shared refusal of our dire situation, about chilly early mornings blockading and about evenings around a pile of burning palettes, talking about our rock-bottom living conditions.
Yellow Vests of every country, unite!
iv. Poisoned by neoliberalism
From an interview with François Boulo, a lawyer and a Gilets Jaunes spokesman in the northern city of Rouen (source: Thinkerview).
How do you see the current situation with the Gilets Jaunes?
There is a fight to be won in terms of communication. The mainstream media are trying to criminalise the movement. But the real question of immorality lies with the distribution of wealth. To live in a country and pile up a personal fortune that is 10, 100, 1,000 times more than you need to live, while in France 9 million people teeter on the brink of poverty and 140,000 are homeless…
What kind of politics are you proposing?
For the last 40 to 45 years there has been an ideological drive to poison our minds with the dominant neoliberal thinking, which is presented as the only possibility. This is the framing for the way we think about politics today. This economic framing is imposed on us and they tell us that there is no alternative. This has generated a mood of resignation.
The economic debate has been closed down. They explain to us that we have to have permanent growth, even though we live in a finite world. We have a cake and they tell us we can’t change the rules for allocating the slices of the cake. I think citizens’ control is needed.
What do you think of the political and policing climate around the Gilets Jaunes movement?
Right from the start, everything was done to ramp up the climate of tension. On the second Saturday of protests in France, from 8.30 or 9am people were being “kettled”, caught in a trap, and teargassed! How do you expect them to feel that their right to protest is being respected?
What about Europe ?
We have got to stop following the demands of the banks and investors, because their financial games do not help the real economy. We should finally create the social Europe we were promised.
v. A breath of fresh air
Here is an abridged version of an in-depth article in issue 12 of Avis de Tempêtes: Bulletin anarchiste pour la guerre sociale (Storm Warning: Anarchist bulletin for social war), a 20-page A5 zine with a yellow and red cover. The piece takes a witty swipe at a certain kind of comrade who considers themself too ideologically pure to possibly be able to join in the diverse and mould-breaking Gilets Jaunes uprising.
For once, a movement has erupted in a self-organised way without political parties and trade unions, for once it immediately set its own agenda – an agenda which is often daily and not at the weekly or monthly rhythm of the big days out orchestrated by the troop masters and agreed in advance with the police – even deciding for itself its own places and routes of confrontation and blockage by obstinately refusing to beg for official authorisation.
In short, a breath of fresh air for all those activists who have been waiting for nothing other than a big collective movement before venturing out of their homes. However… While the meagre crumbs claimed by any number of reformist, trade-unionist or victimist organisations – backed up by a show of strength in the streets to help their representatives in their negotiations with authority – have never put too many people off taking part, now we see those marvellous anti-authoritarian activists diligently dissecting those who have lit the yellow-vest fuse.
The anti-authoritarian activist, well schooled in swallowing all kinds of reformist demands in order to join in various struggles, this time finds that there is not enough familiar common ground.
With the Gilets Jaunes movement, the activist has suddenly discovered the world around him. Having been in raptures over the Arab Spring without finding his enthusiasm impossibly deflated by the “interclassist” use of the term “the people” (“The people wants the fall of the regime” was a much-used popular slogan) and the abundance of national flags, he is now disgusted by the same limitations on his own side of the Mediterranean.
Having rioted against the Loi Travail labour reforms, or last May Day, without feeling his presence incompatible with that of massed hammer and sickle flags, or with the sometimes-dubious banners at the head of Parisian demos (emblazoned with the wise words of 100%-reactionary rappers), he is now mortified by the tricolour flags and populist slogans.
He had chosen to be blind to the hundreds of tricolour flags in the left-wing France Insoumise rallies at the last elections, as well as to those wielded by hundreds of thousands in the streets after the epic victory in the footballing spectacle of July 2018 (sported in unison by poor urban youth and old rich racists).
No, the activist is as simple as his organic-supermarket ideology. An unclean symbol equals a fascist. Full stop.
A radical anti-capitalist dimension to the Extinction Rebellion (XR) has emerged in the UK, with the creation of a new alliance.
The Green Anti-Capitalist Front is born of the realisation that if we want to defend nature we have to fight capitalism.
It says it wants to support the high-profile XR “with a parallel mobilisation that has a greater focus on the capitalist roots of climate catastrophe”.
GAF explains: “As we all know, capitalism is killing the Earth. We have been observing the rise of the Extinction Rebellion movement and, while we are glad to see a growing interest in fighting climate change, we do not think their critique goes far enough and believe a specifically anti-capitalist critique is needed.
“As such we are calling for the formation of an anti-capitalist block to tap into this rising interest in radical politics and to fill the vacuum of a green and anti-capitalist movement in London. We plan to loosely work alongside Extinction Rebellion’s actions, especially their week of actions planned from April 15th, while also developing our own unique
“The Green Anti-Capitalist Front is intended as a broad coalition of groups with varying ideologies, but with a common interest in tackling environmental problems at their social roots”.
In an open letter to XR, GAF praises it for having reinvigorated environmental activism at a time when this was most needed.
It says: “XR has been bold in its aims when much of the established movement has been cynical, and has managed to tap into a broader sense of alarm over environmental degradation, and mobilised many people not previously involved.
“XR has grown at a speed that many people would have thought impossible before we saw it happen.
“XR has also been far more radical in this broad appeal than many people would have thought, pursuing a strategy built around both local direct action while maintaining an international orientation.
“We cannot overstate the overwhelmingly positive effect that XR is having on environmental politics”.
However, GAF says it has “doubts about some of the tactics that XR has adopted” and thinks a conversation is needed about this.
GAF is inviting like-minded people and groups to get in touch via
email@example.com. It has a website, Twitter account and Facebook presence.
In the 21st century, the world is now veritably swamped with commodities. According to APLF ltd. American consumers purchase an average of 7.5 shoes per capita per year. The LA Times reports that “the average U.S. household has 300,000 things, from paper clips to ironing boards.”
I am not by any means claiming that everyone is an affluent borderline-hoarder. One of the fundamental problems of capitalism is the unequal access to this seeming abundance of goods.
With so much paraphernalia in the world, it is inevitable that significant portions will be wasted.
In an article for The Atlantic, Derek Thompson explains that in a year the world creates around 2.6 trillion pounds of garbage—“the weight of about 7,000 Empire State Buildings.”
Much of this is food waste, but many inorganic items are produced with cheap plastic and other materials that fall apart quickly. Some companies, such as Apple, even reportedly preprogram their products to stop functioning properly after a certain amount of time in order to force consumers to buy new wares at a much greater rate than they otherwise would.
All this waste, all this stuff tossed away, has to go somewhere. Such rubbish becomes part of the planet’s topography, enters into its ecological systems, and eventually returns to the human sphere of interaction – much to human detriment.
This is zombie archaeology; when the remnants of our past are not uncovered by human beings but return to us by themselves with a vengeance.
In this age of capitalism-induced ecological collapse, zombie archaeology is certain to become only increasingly suited for describing the world. Walter Benjamin, in his Theses on the Philosophy of History, writes of Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, “This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But… …[t]he storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward.”
But what happens when the wreckage and debris – both literal and figurative – begin shambling towards the present? When the dead are, in a sense, awakened? Zombie archaeology poses these questions.
We have been drawing attention for some time now to the ideological smears being deliberately used by the neoliberal elite to stifle dissident voices.
Unlike Monty Python’s ridiculous “Spanish Inquisition”, this one has long been expected by everybody who has been paying attention.
The most important task, we feel, is to point out the essential dishonesty behind these attacks.
Neoliberals differ from the old-fashioned right in that they like to paint themselves as the Guardians (yep, quite!) of Progressive Thinking, as somehow vaguely left-wing despite their full-blooded backing for capitalism, militarism, imperialism and everything that goes with it.
So they cannot attack the left in the traditional way, by simply saying they do not like it because it is too left-wing and threatens the status quo which they support.
Instead, they pretend to be attacking their enemies from a progressive position, one which occupies the liberal moral high ground.
This is the case with the longstanding smears against deep green thinking which try to claim it is a continuation of Nazi ideology, even though Hitler’s regime was the epitome of industrialism (see our article Organic Radicalism: Bringing Down the Fascist Machine for a full analysis of this).
Neoliberals, including pseudo-leftists, aren’t honest enough to say that they oppose deep green politics because they support industrial capitalism – that would blow their ideological cover.
Instead, they have to pretend that it is because they have cleverly identified it as a sinister right-wing threat to democracy as we know it.
The same phenomenon is basically at work with the “anti-semitism” allegations cropping up everywhere at the moment.
This issue is slightly complicated by the fact that it is partly about Palestine and the need for the pro-Israel lobby to silence all criticism of the apartheid state by conflating anti-Zionism with anti-semitism.
A real witch-hunt atmosphere has been created here, which the original Spanish Inquisition would surely have been proud of.
Once accused of “anti-semitism”, the victim is faced with a dilemma similar to that of the famous ducking stool – if you drown you are not a witch and if you don’t then you are a witch and you have to be burned alive.
If the person accused of anti-semitism admits guilt and apologises, not only will they not be left alone, but they will also have surrendered important political ground and will have set a precedent for the next absurd denunciation.
If they deny having said anything wrong, this denial will be regarded as a further offence of perhaps even greater severity.
This is what has been happening to UK Labour Party figures such as Chris Williamson and to US lawmaker Ilhan Omar (see here and here).
The secondary smear technique has also been used against the Gilets Jaunes in France, particularly following an incident in which intellectual Alain Finkielkraut was called a “dirty Zionist”.
Comments, or lack of comments, on the much-hyped confrontation were used to attack prominent Yellow Vest supporters such as journalist Aude Lancelin and leftist politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
It is important to note that all these smear attacks have been targeted at the political left. Anti-semitism on the right is rarely even mentioned.
It is clear that the Palestine question, important though it is both for supporters and critics of the Israeli state, is not the only issue at stake here, as the likes of Jonathan Cook have been pointing out.
One of the great successes of the wave of global protests that took place in the 1990s and at the start of the 21st century was to put anti-capitalism on the public stage.
Previously, the mainstream had never even accepted that we lived in a capitalist society, let alone that people could be against that.
The word “capitalism” was regarded as a nonsensical one, used only by communists or other left-wing cranks.
Suddenly, they were talking about anti-capitalism on the BBC, examining who these troublesome anti-capitalists were and what exactly they wanted.
Twenty years on, the Establishment feels under threat, its system crumbling and its mind-control power over the population lifting like fog in the sunshine.
It therefore seems to have decided to try to push anti-capitalism back out of the public domain, beyond the perimeter fence of ideological validity.
We have commented previously on the peculiar political argument that there is something “anti-semitic” about opposing the “1%” who own most of the world’s wealth (it’s a lot fewer than that…) or about condemning bankers or international capitalist organisations like the IMF, the WTO or the Bilderberg group.
As we pointed out last July: “What appears to be happening, in some cases at least, is that the ‘Jewish banker’ figure is again being deliberately deployed to thwart opposition to capitalism.
“Previously, it was used to steer people away from anti-capitalism and into anti-semitism, but now the aim is rather to steer people away from anti-capitalism with the threat of being labelled anti-semitic”.
This twisted approach is now being presented as a common-sense view by mainstream media, in tandem with the other smear attacks on left-wingers.
Right-wing Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh spun this toxic propaganda on BBC Radio 4 on March 4, with presenter John Humphreys helpfully summing up: “In other words, to be anti-capitalist you have to be anti-semitic?”
Such are the desperate, dangerous lies of a system that senses its days are numbered…
In his new “extremist” novel, No Such Place as Asha, Paul Cudenec gives a fictional airing to the ideological smears often deployed by neoliberals against opponents of their ecocidal industrial capitalist system. This excerpt describes a speaker at a private conference of the “Transatlantic Alliance for Freedom” (TAF) in Edinburgh…
His special subject was environmentalism. He started off paying lip service to the importance of balancing economic growth with sustainable practices, of ensuring the well-being of human and animal communities, so on and so forth. Responsible environmental organisations acted as crucial watchdogs that reminded the authorities and industry of their responsibilities. While TAF did not always agree with their positions, they recognised the role they played, etcetera, etcetera.
Then he moved on to the substance of his talk. Unfortunately, there was always a fringe of green protesters who took things too far, who refused to play by the rules. He talked about “eco-terrorists” in the USA and “hardcore” environmentalists in Europe, such as 1990s road protesters in the UK, a mobilisation against a high-speed rail line in Italy, a protest camp against an airport in France, another against mining in Germany.
More recently, the “worst” instance of these campaigns was the anti-fracking movement in the UK. The dangers of these extremists’ illegal direct action were well known, he said, as was the “Luddite” ideology that inspired them.
But lately things had taken a turn for the worse. These groups were starting to develop a common ideology, aided by the exchange of news and views made possible by the internet. They were borrowing ideas from campaigners on the other side of the world and incorporating them into their own rhetoric. They were increasingly identifying the enemy not just as their local government, or business, but as something they termed “the industrial capitalist system”.
Up against this, they were piecing together their own counter-position. They had taken the idea of “sacred land” from indigenous struggles in North America, Australia and elsewhere and were applying it to their own sites. The use of direct action was turning into an ideology of direct action, an anarchist contempt for the rule of law and the due democratic process. French and German groups had fed into the mix the idea of “degrowth”, which rejected the very fundaments of our society – the idea of progress, economic growth and increased prosperity for humankind.
I wrote down a complete quote at this point. “Let’s be clear, these people are negationists. They are guilty of progress denial. And I would suggest that this brand of negationism should be treated as seriously as the other one of which we are all too well aware. Because that’s where it ends, ultimately. It all ends at the same place. The destruction of civilization. The deaths of millions of men, women and children in the name of fanaticism.”
There was a great burst of applause across the room at this point. Having established his moral high ground, Heath went on to spell out the particular form this Eco-Terrorist Apocalypse would take, which seemed to involve mainly a drop in the profits of “important wealth-creating institutions”, faced with increased grassroots resistance to their projects and falling levels of consumption as the “poison” of anti-growth views contaminated the population.
A top-notch new comic has been published by Corporate Watch in London. Worlds End uses words and pictures to help people understand climate change and capitalism and encourage a different approach, one that builds power to fight them. Read it online here.
* * *
“Just because the participants in the growing number of Extinction Rebellion actions may be predominantly middle class, it doesn’t mean to say that we as working class people aren’t concerned about environmental issues”. So says a useful article in The South Essex Heckler. It adds: “What we need to do is to start to own the narrative of the campaigns around those issues so that it’s our voices that are being heard. We’re the ones on the frontline from traffic induced air pollution through to being housed in flood risk areas”.
* * *
Disturbing evidence keeps emerging about the way the environmental movement, particularly the climate justice element, is being hijacked and manipulated by big business. For instance, a Daily Mail report in February revealed that Tory peer John Selwyn Gummer, who heads the UK government’s Climate Change Committee, has a private company which has been paid more than £600,000 from “green” businesses hoping to profit from government subsidies. And the full report from Cory Morningstar mentioned in Acorn 46 is now online and a must-read for any nature-defender who wants to avoid being used as a useful idiot by a bunch of lying industrial capitalists.
* * *
The threat of new industrial capitalist mega-projects in Mexico has been highlighted in a letter from Zapatista women to their sisters across the world. The authorities’ destructive schemes include the Mayan Train, the “development” of the Tehuantepec Isthmus and massive commercial tree farms. The letter declares: “We’re going to fight with all our strength and everything we’ve got against these mega-projects. If these lands are conquered, it will be upon the blood of Zapatista women”.
* * *
“Fracking is stoppable, another world is possible!” is the title of a highly informative and inspiring new online bulletin from the frack free movement. Issue 1 is available here but issue 2 should be out very soon – follow the excellent frackfree_eu on Twitter for updates.
* * *
The 2019 Liverpool Anarchist Bookfair will be held on Saturday April 13, 11am till 5pm at The Black-E, 1 Great George Street, L1 5EW. This will be a day of stalls and workshops, with a vegan cafe and kids’ space – free entry (donations towards event costs welcome). Says the website: “Books, zines & more to feed your brain let’s learn, organise, grow & create!”
* * *
If the neoliberal Establishment succeeds in totally destroying the (very mild!) threat presented to its domination by Corbyn’s Labour Party, there will no doubt be a few we-told-you-soes from us anarcho-cynics. But the anger sparked by such a collapse in people’s hopes could well lead to something more interesting happening in the UK. As Jonathan Cook notes: “If parliamentary politics returns to business as usual for the wealthy, taking to the streets looks increasingly like the only option. Maybe it’s time to dust off a Yellow Vest”.
* * *
Acorn quote: “The poorest man hath as true a title and just right to the land as the richest man. True freedom lies in the free enjoyment of the earth”.
Beer-loving Brighton journalist Jon Harvey has been dragged out of semi-retirement by an old friend, who wants him to find his missing adult son, Henry.
Relying on his famous sense of intuition and some strange coincidences, Jon follows the trail from an eccentric left-wing library in Edinburgh, to an anti-capitalist convergence centre in London and then to an isolated corner of rural France.
The questions just don’t stop coming in this intriguing political detective story from Paul Cudenec, author of The Fakir of Florence and The Anarchist Revelation.
What is Henry up to? What is the significance of the books that seem to be guiding his movements? What is the precise agenda of the Kitson Institute of Democracy, for which Henry has been working?
And, most of all, what, who or where is Asha and why does it seem to lie at the centre of this whole entangled ideological intrigue?
Paul Cudenec of Shoal Collective reports from Nîmes in southern France and finds that a deeply-rooted belief in social justice lies behind the unprecedented uprising.
I had been warned not to say anything to anyone about the meet-up
point for the Gilets Jaunes protest in Nîmes on the afternoon of Saturday December 29.
People were going to be heading there in dribs and drabs. Some had been spending the morning together on private land, out of sight of the police. This was to be a surprise.
Half an hour after the wildcat march set off from outside the football stadium, the reason for the caution became clear.
Hundreds of protesters in their now-iconical hi-vis yellow jackets streamed on to the concourse of the city’s police HQ, the Hôtel de Police.
As helmeted riot cops emerged from the building to protect it from the intruders, a large banner was unfurled, condemning police violence.
“France isn’t the country of liberté any more,” remarked Lionel, standing at the edge of the crowd. “Most of the police brutality is hidden. By the media, yes, but also everything that people put on the internet is erased.”
Nîmes is a good-sized city, the 19th biggest in France, but it hardly has a tradition of political unrest.
It is better known for its Roman architecture, its bull-fighting culture, its celebratory ‘ferias’ and the cloth that originally came “de Nîmes” and is now globally known as denim.
It is a sign of how far the roots of the Gilets Jaunes reach into deepest France, that the nîmois have been pouring out on to the streets in huge numbers, blocking the motorway, torching toll booths, closing down the main railway line.
From the police HQ, we headed into the centre of the Occitanian city. Outside the 1st century Roman amphitheatre we were joined by a squadron of motorcycling Gilets Jaunes, revving their engines furiously in support.
Then it was into the maze of narrow pedestrianised streets, where the police escort was repeatedly shaken off and their reappearance greeted with boos.
“Police everywhere, justice nowhere!” went the chants. “Macron resign!” “Everyone together!”
Social justice lies at the heart of the Gilets Jaunes’ cause – it is the first thing all of them want to talk about.
Martine is a retired company boss who describes herself as middle class. She said: “I could stay at home if I wanted to, but I can’t. I can’t stand seeing people not having enough to eat at the end of the day. And these are working people!
“France is the most envied country in the world for our culture, our know-how and our economy, but we are turning into a country in need”.
Those running the country were completely out of touch, she said, and had no idea of the everyday reality that people were living.
Lionel, who is also retired, likewise named poverty as the main reason why he was on the protest.
“People are living in misery. There are shanty towns, even here in Nîmes. People are badly paid and live in abominable conditions, but they are not necessarily on the street. We don’t see them.”
Lionel stressed it was not his own personal situation he was complaining about: “You have to protest for other people as well, not just yourself”.
Corporate media in France and beyond have made much of the involvement of some far-right elements on the fringes of the Gilets Jaunes, suggesting that the protest movement represents a slippery slope towards populist fascism.
I raised this issue with Riton, a libertarian communist from nearby Alès who had made the 25-mile trip to join the protest.
He assured me that the far right was very much a marginalised minority in the Gilets Jaunes movement.
“The movement is really about the class question, although it is not expressed in that way.
“It rejects the idea of leaders and is against all kinds of division. Racist arguments just don’t wash.
“There is also the criticism of the police and the calls for self-government. The extreme right is finding it harder and harder to identify with the movement.”
The “inter-class” flavour of the revolt had also faded after commercial traders whose businesses had been affected by the Gilets Jaunes realised the protests conflicted with their own personal interests and dropped their support, he said.
Riton said it was true that Gilets Jaunes often talked about “the people” and about being French.
“But you have to see what they mean by that. For them, being French is about being in revolt, about solidarity”.
As the Gilets Jaunes waved their tricolours and sang La Marseillaise, I realised he was right, in a way British people find it hard to grasp.
There is, after all, a world of difference between national anthems and flags that sing the stale praises of monarchies and empires and those that are the fruit of a living revolutionary tradition.
The war-hungry capitalist propaganda machine has been in overdrive in recent weeks.
It has, of course, been relentlessly amplifying the views and narratives of the status quo and giving no platform for dissident opinion – that’s what it’s there for!
But in these days of social media and independent online journalism, that is no longer enough to ensure that its message is swallowed by the public and the system has also been churning out endless bile vilifying its opponents.
It has been doing this not only through its mainstream media but, as we will see, by means of commentators who superficially appear to be on the left.
Neoliberal reaction to the Skripal aftermath, in which people actually dared to question the official narrative, was furious, with former ambassador turned blogger Craig Murray attracting particularly vitriolic abuse.
The same thing happened all over again after the alleged chemical attack by the Syrian government in Douma.
A particularly nasty article which appeared on the BBC’s website on April 19 2018 had the clear aim of rubbishing opponents of a US/UK/French war against Syria, depicting them as “conspiracy theorists”.
It said: “The group includes activists and people who call themselves ‘independent journalists’, and several have Twitter followings reaching into the tens or hundreds of thousands. The activists call themselves ‘anti-war’, but as they generally back the Syrian government’s military operations against rebel forces seeking to overthrow Mr Assad and Russian air strikes carried out in support, it might be more accurate to describe them as ‘anti-Western intervention’ or ‘pro-Syrian government’.”
The BBC’s conclusion is clear. There is no such thing as an independent journalist or a genuine anti-war activist, only shady agents of sinister foreign forces. Challenging UK/US foreign policy means you are probably in the pay of The Enemy. Questioning official propaganda regarding Russia or Syria makes you an apologist for Putin or Assad and your opinions can therefore be disregarded.
This isn’t a subtle approach to winning an argument. It’s just an attempt to completely close down any possibility of dissent: “Our side are good. The other side are bad. If you criticise us, then you too are bad so nobody should listen to you.”
A similar approach has been taken in the fabricated controversy over alleged antisemitism within the UK Labour Party.
Because antisemitism is a sensitive issue, it has proved particularly easy here to disallow any challenge to the smears.
A denial that there is a particular problem with antisemitism in the Labour Party is regarded in itself to be evidence of antisemitism, or at the very least of a wilful desire to conceal the existence of antisemitism.
This little trap, worthy of the Inquisition, tells us nothing about the reality of the alleged antisemitism, because it would work just as well with any allegation against any group.
And, at the end of the day, the issue at stake is not actually antisemitism.
In an excellent article in Jacobin magazine, Daniel Finn, deputy editor of the New Left Review, pulls apart the agenda behind the smears.
He concludes: “Insinuations of antisemitism can be used, not merely to defame critics of Israel, but to discredit any radical critique of capitalism or imperialism in the modern world”.
This is the key point. The aim behind these smear attacks is not to oppose antisemitism as such – in fact, by crying wolf at the wrong targets, the accusers distract attention from real antisemitism and other forms of racism.
Instead their purpose is to attack the left using the “antisemitism” angle as the perfect weapon, because of the way that it is so difficult to refute without digging a deeper hole.
In the past, during the 20th century Cold War, the capitalist system would attack opponents by calling them Communist sympathisers, lackeys of the evil USSR.
The collapse of the Soviet bogeyman meant it had to modify its tactics. Instead of denouncing its anti-capitalist critics as being on the extreme left, which no longer seemed so scary, it sometimes found that allegations of far-right contamination were more effective.
When these allegations came from sources which appeared to be “left-wing”, the ideological smears could be effective in manipulating thinking within the left.
Ideally, the left would be remodelled along lines acceptable to the capitalist system. It would be allowed to espouse certain liberal social causes, demand a certain amount of reforms and so on, but would be steered away from challenging neoliberal imperialism or the fundamental assumptions of the global capitalist system.
The end result of this approach was very apparent in Germany, with the emergence of the Antideutsch movement which, in the name of this new authorised “leftism”, applauds US and Israeli imperialism.
In the UK, an important role was played by Norman Geras, a “left-wing” academic who supported the US-led 2003 invasion of Iraq and in 2006 published his Euston Manifesto.
Under the guise of “a renewal of progressive politics”, this sought to push the UK left away from the opposition of the US and its neoliberal wars that had been so apparent.
It declared: “We reject without qualification the anti-Americanism now infecting so much left-liberal (and some conservative) thinking. The United States of America is a great country and nation. It is the home of a strong democracy with a noble tradition behind it and lasting constitutional and social achievements to its name.”
Nafeez Ahmed, in a 2015 article, explored the links between Geras and James Bloodworth of Little Atoms, a notorious defender of US neoliberalism who frequently lays into its critics from an apparently left-wing position.
Little Atoms is itself owned by an “impact agency” called 89up which, as we pointed out in Acorn 41, has been playing a key role in whipping up anti-Russian sentiment in the UK. Its boss Michael Harris has been a vociferous supporter of the bombing of Syria.
In France a site called confusionnisme.info, which is still online but hasn’t been updated since 2016, specialised in accusing various left-wingers and environmentalists of being tainted with fascism, of being “red-browns”.
Its leading light, one Ornella Guyet, even managed to get in very early on the antisemitism smears against Jeremy Corbyn, sticking the boot in via an article published in October 2015 just after he was elected Labour Party leader.
She says she is a “libertarian communist”, but in a piece exposing her activities, the left-wing website Le Grand Soir concluded that she was “an opportunist in thrall to the neocolonial and ultra-liberal system”.
It added: “Ornella Guyet claims to be ‘left-wing’, but her work proves the opposite.” It said she uses the cover of anti-fascism to attack genuine opponents of the capitalist system. “In this sense she is the perfect example of the Fake Antifa, a guard dog of power”.
This is all just the tip of the iceberg, of course. In truth, there is an enormous and well-funded international network of pundits, think-tanks and websites feverishly defending the interests of global capitalism and the USA.
Part of their modus operandi is to contaminate genuine anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism with an unsavoury odour of antisemitism or a “red-brown” form of fascism.
This tends to work, because no anti-fascist wants to be thought by his comrades to be somehow tainted by fascism.
The effect of all this propaganda, often spread no doubt by genuine activists who are not aware of its dubious origins, is to shift the parameters of left-wing anti-capitalist thinking, to gradually exclude views and ideological insights which were previously considered perfectly acceptable and even mainstream in anarchist and anti-capitalist circles.
We, here at Winter Oak, came across this phenomenon after we published the essay Envisioning a Post-Western World by Rob los Ricos and Paul Cudenec in July 2017.
It attracted some positive comments and was later reposted by some American comrades at Antidote Zine, although with what was, to us, a rather puzzling disclaimer.
Antidote wrote: “In light of recentdiscussions among antifascists (including here within the Antidote Writers Collective) about an esoteric but significant kind of red-brown convergence—the potential for fascist counter-recruiting on the more nihilistic, misanthropic fringes of deep green, Euro-pagan, and Malthusian eco-anarchist groups—we recognize that some of the arguments put forward in the article that follows are right on the knife’s edge.”
Anyone who reads the essay will see no sign of nihilism, misanthropism or Malthusianism, nor of any paganism that is specifically European. What was this “knife’s edge” stuff all about?
It turned out that the “recent discussions among anti-fascists” centred around the work of Alexander Reid Ross, who teaches geography in Portland, USA and who got his MA in 2014 from the prestigious private Swiss university, the European Graduate School.
Ross is author of Against the Fascist Creep (2017), a book which purports to show “how infiltration is a conscious and clandestine program for neofascist groups that seek to co-opt and undermine both mainstream and left-wing institutions”.
Here he claims that there is a “crossover” between fascism and revolutionary causes, conflates opposition to NATO with post-war fascism and claims that Earth First! has at some times in its history bolstered white supremacism through its appeals to Nordic paganism.
Not everyone was impressed. One online reviewer complained that the work “was absolutely ruined by a nearly complete lack of citations to back up the claims that were being made. As a result I had to do outside research to learn about the things that were being discussed, and when I did I discovered that many of the claims being made were exaggerations, manipulations, or outright lies”.
This is entitled “How Assad’s War Crimes Bring Far Left and Right Together – Under Putin’s Benevolent Gaze”. The sub-heading declares: “The ‘anti-imperialist’ left is now shilling for tyrants in Damascus and Moscow. And conspiracy theories are the toxic glue binding them to their fellow Assad and Putin apologists on the alt-right”.
A clue to Ross’s stance comes from the fact that the term “anti-imperialist” has been placed in scare quotes, as if this political position didn’t actually exist!
He writes: “In recent months, the crossover between leftists and the far-right in defense of Syria’s tyrant and Russian geopolitics has become increasingly obvious. Its implications are potentially disastrous for the course of the international left and political society in general.”
This is nonsense of course. The fact that some far-rightists oppose war on Syria does not invalidate left-wing opposition to the attacks, any more than the fact that some far-rightists support Palestinian rights and criticise Israel means that leftists should stop criticising Israel and should instead applaud the IDF when they murder unarmed protesters.
Ross is reading from exactly the same ideological script as the likes of Norman Geras, Ornella Guyet, James Bloodworth, Antideutsch and the smear-piece on the BBC site.
He is trying to use the bludgeon of an alleged ideological association with the far right as a way of silencing voices on the left who challenge the US imperialist narrative.
Ross really lets the cat out of the bag with his comments on the UK’s Labour Party, where he notes that “its leader Jeremy Corbyn’s controversial comments on the Skripal case brought widespread condemnations” and remarks on “Labour’s tepid response to the Douma attacks and Corbyn’s rejection of any humanitarian grounds for military action”.
Hang on! Let’s just read that again! Self-proclaimed anti-fascist Alexander Reid Ross is complaining about “Labour’s tepid response” to the alleged gas attack in Douma and its “rejection of any humanitarian grounds for military action”?
Doesn’t that sound more like the opinion of a right-wing neoliberal war hawk?
Ross’s article certainly raised the suspicions of Robbie Martin, aka @FluorescentGrey, on Twitter.
He pointed out that Ross uses a quote from Caroline O, aka @RVAwonk whom Ross describes as a “public scholar”.
On her Twitter account she identifies herself as Writer/Editor @Shareblue Media: “We tell real-world stories to give voice to the heroes fighting for American values”.
Caroline O is a great supporter of Hamilton 68, the surveillance project which claims to “track Russian propaganda” but in fact amounts to a McCarthyite system of blacklisting people whose views don’t please the neoliberal establishment.
As she tweeted on September 1, 2017: “Hamilton 68 is a great project. I’m hoping to see it expanded even more. I can see a lot of potential for it [to] grow.”
Hamilton 68 is a great project. I'm hoping to see it expanded even more. I can see a lot of potential for it grow.
The Hamilton 68 dashboard was launched as part of the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ADS), which is described in its Wikipedia entry as a “transatlantic national security advocacy group”.
The ASD is “chaired and run primarily by former senior United States intelligence and State Department officials” and the Washington Post called the membership of the advisory council “a who’s who of former senior national security officials”.
It is part of the German Marshall Fund of the United States which, as we explained in Acorn 39, aims to maintain “transatlantic values” in Europe.
Robbie Martin suggests that “Caroline O.’s main mission was to inject Alliance for Securing Democracy / Hamilton 68 into the neoliberal/resistance dialog, from people on that side of the argument she promoted it/pushed it more than anyone else I saw”.
He expresses surprise that Alexander Reid Ross would be “so nakedly working with the same people promoting Hamilton 68 / Alliance for Securing Democracy”.
With hindsight, it’s clear that the aim behind Alexander Reid Ross’s book Against the Fascist Creep was not to counter actual fascism, nor even to warn the left of the dangers of fascist infiltration, but to attack and undermine anti-capitalism by claiming its beliefs are tainted with fascist associations.
The real problem faced by anarchists and anti-capitalists is Neoliberal Creep – or, in fact, a whole network of neoliberal creeps, hell-bent on ideological sabotage.
So what can we do all about this? How can we resist these attempts to cripple the cohesion, credibility and effectiveness of genuine anti-capitalism, anarchism and anti-imperialism?
The first thing to do is to talk about it, as we are doing here. We need to take a good look at where these fake left voices are coming from, understand why they spread certain memes and sow confusion around certain issues.
There is the possibility, in fact, that in breaking cover and making their propaganda so obvious, they have already hammered a nail into the coffin of their own political effectiveness. We can hammer in another few nails by spreading awareness of what they are up to.
We also need to talk about what it is we really believe in, what we are hoping for, how we define ourselves in relation to Western capitalist modernity and the global neoliberal military-industrial-prison complex.
We need to talk honestly and seriously, ignoring the ideological smears, shaking ourselves free from the fearful group-think that stifles free thought and discussion in the name of a phoney “consensus”. This received opinion has often in fact been injected into movements by elements out to manipulate and destroy it.
Yes, of course we need to remain constantly alert to the possibility that we may inadvertently find ourselves voicing the same views on specific issues as people whose general politics we do not appreciate and that they might be deliberately attempting to use us to advance their own unsavoury messages.
To combat this, we need to state clearly where we stand. We at Winter Oak, for example, place ourselves firmly and proudly in the anti-fascist tradition. We are committed to its values of internationalism, equality, solidarity, mutual aid, anti-militarism, anti-sexism and anti-racism and we will never work with anyone who does not at least share these basic values.
If we all adhere to similar principles, we have no reason to fear the toxic smears coming from the likes of Ross.
Meanwhile, those liberals in our midst who agree with the Washington-approved definition of “democracy”, with the profit-guided “progressive values” of capitalism, with its insane obsession with endless economic “growth” and with its deceitful “humanitarian” warmongering imperialism, may well decide to stop associating with a revolutionary global struggle for liberation which opposes all of these.
So be it.
Do we really want to have anything to do with them, anyway?
1. “Let’s put our resistance on the streets in 2018!”
Resistance against the global capitalist system and its police-state repression will be coming to the streets of Europe at the start of 2018, with important international demonstrations planned for Switzerland and Germany.
The action, and discussion, in Switzerland this month revolves around the meeting at Davos of the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Swiss radicals are calling for anti-capitalist unity against the WEF and the plutofascist system it represents.
They say: “This year’s WEF slogan is ‘Creating a common future in a broken world’. We agree that the world is not what it should be. But unlike the WEF we see systematic causes for the ‘broken world’.”
In the run-up to the WEF meeting, which is being held on January 23 and 24, opponents are staging an alternative discussion weekend, on Saturday and Sunday January 20 and 21, looking at the capitalist system and how it might be resisted – how we can collectively “take the future into our hands instead of leaving it to the rulers”.
But before that an international protest has been called for Saturday January 13, gathering at 3pm at the Käfigturm off the Waisenhausplatz in the historic centre of the Swiss capital, Bern.
Say the Swiss anti-capitalists: “Capitalism and its policies are close to the abyss and states are prepared to prevent change with high levels of violence. Radical movements seeking to tackle the problems at their roots are being banned and suppressed across the world. Let’s put our resistance on the streets!”
Meanwhile, 500 miles to the north, at the other edge of German-speaking Europe, another protest against capitalist totalitarianism is being staged on Saturday March 17.
The demo in Hamburg is in protest at the massive levels of repression unleashed by an increasingly fascistic German state against anti-capitalists protesting against the G20 summit last summer.
While the shocking images of police brutality may have faded from the public’s mind, the repression continues, with ongoing police raids, arrests and prosecutions.
Many are warning that Germany is “sliding into fascism”.
The global neoliberal war on internet freedom has been particularly blatant in Germany, with Linksunten Indymedia being shut down by the state amidst fevered mainstream media scaremongering about the “threat” of left-wing “extremists”.
State violence against dissidents is becoming ever uglier, as during the recent protests against the far-right AfD.
For all their populist “anti-establishment” posturing, the extreme right in Germany and elsewhere have increasingly been revealed to be an intrinsic part of the authoritarian capitalist system; its shock-troops in fact. Their anti-Muslim rhetoric is closely linked to the racist and imperialist narrative of the pro-US, pro-Zionist establishment, as we reported in Acorn 37.
While police in Berlin police banned American and Israeli flags at a pro-Palestinian march in December, after some flag burning at a previous protest, the same capitalist-fascist robocop army protected AfD fascist-capitalists in Hannover, attacking their opponents with high-powered water cannon in freezing temperatures, leaving many injured.
Says a call for resistance from Berlin’s Rigaer 94 squat: “In this battle for capitalist and nationalist ends, the state will always end up demanding fascism. With the same tactics, they try time and time again to delegitimize resistance by branding it criminal, antisocial, and apolitical.
“The time of comfortable protests is long gone. Today, German society has arrived at an extreme it hasn’t reached in over 80 years.
“Determined and angry, despite the repression, we will fight against the ruling order!”
2. Fake democracy – neoliberals ramp up information war
It should by now be completely apparent to anyone paying attention that the US-led military-industrial-capitalist complex is a totalitarian system.
Until now, it has largely had the subtlety not to use its power of repression except when it really needs to, so that it can keep intact the crowd-control illusion of “democracy”.
Things are rapidly changing, though. Faced with serious cracks in its domination, it is clamping down on dissent in a big way.
The latest trick to disguise and justify its censorship is the “fake news” meme, a cunning plan to conflate invented content with content unwelcome to the political elite.
As Chris Hedges of the truthdig website states: “The corporate state is unnerved by the media outlets that give a voice to critics of corporate capitalism, the security and surveillance state and imperialism.”
The Civic Critic blogsite has produced a handy guide to “fake news” featuring a series of links to articles covering the phenomenon.
It says: “Started in late 2016 as a reference to made-up stories, hoaxes, and Onion-style parodies, ‘Fake News’ has since been adopted by Donald Trump and his supporters to describe any negative press. Those in many establishment news sources often use ‘Fake News’ to refer to ‘exaggerated, hyper-partisan, and conspiratorial journalism’. Fake News is thus perhaps best understood as a rhetorical weapon in a multi-faceted Information War.”
The clamp-down on information has rapidly accelerated at the start of 2018, as the World Socialist Web Site reported on Saturday January 6.
On January 1, for instance, the German government began implementing its new Network Enforcement Law, or “NetzDG”, which threatens social media companies with fines of up to €50 million if they do not immediately remove content deemed objectionable by the state.
The UK has adopted a slightly different approach, with minister of state for security Ben Wallace warning internet giants that they could be penalised through taxes if they fail to cooperate with government efforts to fight “terrorism and online extremism”.
In France, neoliberal “centrist” president Emmanuel Macron also obligingly leapt into action, announcing plans to counter “fake news” during elections by allowing state judges to block websites or user accounts.
Somewhat letting the cat out of the bag regarding the real political agenda behind the “fake news” meme, he declared: “Thousands of propaganda accounts on social networks are spreading all over the world, in all languages, lies invented to tarnish political officials, personalities, public figures, journalists”.
Tarnishing political officials? We can’t have that, can we?
Of course, in the back-to-front language of the capitalist elite, the aim of this “strong legislation” is not to impose capitalist rule but to “protect liberal democracies”, as Macron put it.
The invention of the term “fake news” to cover online censorship is no more subtle than the pre-existing excuses of “terrorism”, “extremism” or “hate-speech”. The co-ordinated use of these overlapping labels for the same purposes makes it obvious that there is a definite political agenda at work here.
Greenwald notes: “As is always true of censorship, there is one, and only one, principle driving all of this: power. Facebook will submit to and obey the censorship demands of governments and officials who actually wield power over it, while ignoring those who do not. That’s why declared enemies of the US and Israeli governments are vulnerable to censorship measures by Facebook, whereas US and Israeli officials (and their most tyrannical and repressive allies) are not.
One of the most shocking examples was the 2015 conviction of 12 protesters in France for “hate speech” which consisted merely of wearing T-shirts declaring “Long live Palestine, boycott Israel”.
The current attack on free speech is being co-ordinated by the upper echelons of the military-industrial-capitalist system.
The European Commission, for example, announced last year that it was forming a High Level Group “to advise on policy initiatives to counter fake news and the spread of disinformation online”.
Another leading player in the international initiative is a new US-based organisation called the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD).
Set up under the excuse of combating what it calls an “unprecedented attack” on United States democracy by Russia, it is described in its Wikipedia entry as a “transatlantic national security advocacy group”.
In case you haven’t caught the drift as to what this implies, note that the ASD is “chaired and run primarily by former senior United States intelligence and State Department officials”. The Washington Post called the membership of the advisory council “a who’s who of former senior national security officials”.
The original Marshall Plan was a $13,000,000,000 American “aid” scheme to Western Europe after the end of the Second World War, amounting to an economic and cultural occupation similar to that of the Soviet Union in the Eastern Block.
Noam Chomsky has described it as having “set the stage for large amounts of private US investment in Europe, establishing the basis for modern transnational corporations”.
The GMF carries on the same work. It helps maintain a full-spectrum US neoliberal control of Europe – or rather, in its own sweet language, it “strengthens transatlantic cooperation on regional, national, and global challenges and opportunities in the spirit of the Marshall Plan”.
It has dished out millions of Yankee dollars across Europe over the decades. It has also run a US-Europe parliamentary exchange program and the Marshall Memorial Fellowship, which has funded the exchange of more than 3,000 “emerging leaders” across the Atlantic.
Why? Simply to ensure that there is no real democracy in Europe and that all its politicians are obedient poodles to the US and its corporate controllers.
French president Macron is a product of the Marshall Memorial Fellowship scheme.
And German chancellor Angela Merkel celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan in June last year, alongside the odious imperialist warmonger Henry Kissinger.
She praised GMF’s work, saying: “For Germany, GMF helps to understand the American spirit. And, GMF helps Americans understand our country. For more than 45 years, GMF has served as a transatlantic exchange, building mutual understanding, providing information, clarifying positions, and identifying commonalties.”
The GMF is regarded as a pioneer of American “soft power” in Europe, but its work interfaces smoothly with the US military occupation. In 2004, it organized a major conference in Istanbul in the run-up to the NATO Summit.
It describes its mission as “sustaining, deepening and enlarging the liberal international order” – in other words, US neoliberal hegemony.
And it makes it clear that it is worried about the cracks currently appearing in the empire, stating: “This order is under assault on multiple fronts, both internal and external, and on both sides of the Atlantic: from populist forces in America to Russian interference in Western elections, from anti-EU movements to the backlash against new trade agreements, from the rise of great power revisionism to question marks over the future of US alliance leadership”.
As contributions to its own website make clear, the GMF aims to keep Europe firmly under the thumb of the US empire and of the multinational corporations in whose interests it functions.
It reacts with panic to any dent in the pro-American, pro-capitalist cultural and political “consensus” that it and other organisations have been working so hard to impose on the population of Europe since the Second World War.
A recent article by Alina Inayeh of the GMF’s Bucharest office cautions: “The transatlantic community, its values, and norms held rich intrinsic value in the early 1990s and provided an engine for change in Eastern Europe in subsequent years.
“But a transatlantic orientation has shifted from a major objective to a series of political, military, and economic transactions. The governments in both Central and Eastern Europe, facing elections throughout 2018 and 2019, will intensify their nationalist paths, and/or further slow their already almost stagnant adoption of transatlantic principles.
“At the same time, security and military cooperation will continue, pushed forward by real security threats and economic interests. But this cooperation will be isolated from transatlantic values, which will be ignored or even flouted.”
Rejection of the NATO occupation of Europe, rejection of neoliberal free trade agreements, rejection of capitalism – all of this represents a rejection of what Inayeh coyly terms “the transatlantic community, its values, and norms”.
This is why the GMF has launched the “fake news” meme and the ASD. This is why the Americans are ordering their European puppets like Macron and Merkel to take authoritarian action against dissent.
We should be very aware that the neoliberal-fascist elite will stop at nothing to ensure they cling on to total power.
As Hedges warns in his article: “This is a war of ideas. The corporate state cannot compete honestly in this contest. It will do what all despotic regimes do – govern through wholesale surveillance, lies, blacklists, false accusations of treason, heavy-handed censorship and, eventually, violence.”
The shock of Donald Trump’s presidential election victory has prompted an encouraging upsurge in militant anti-fascism in the USA.
Antifa have been particularly active, and effective, in mobilising against American Nazis and racists who have been emboldened by Trump’s ascent and see their toxic ideas as being in the ascendancy.
However, Antifa’s success has inevitably prompted a backlash from opponents and as part of this reaction one particular journal has been consistently smearing and attacking them (see here, here and here).
The labels it uses are themselves a big giveaway as to its bias. The Nazis are politely described according to their own self-description, as “white nationalists”, while Antifa are termed “anti-fascist extremists”.
Notorious US racist Richard Spencer is presented merely as a “white-nationalist leader who organized free-speech rallies on many campuses” and given a direct voice in the report, promising that “he plans to take his movement to more universities in 2018”.
Antifa are depicted as a “secret” and “violent” organisation adopting the tactics of the Nazis, with the heavy implication that they are even more of a threat, basically terrorists, and that the authorities ought to clamp down on them fast.
Readers are told: “Federal authorities have been warning state and local officials since early 2016 that leftist extremists known as ‘antifa’ had become increasingly confrontational and dangerous, so much so that the Department of Homeland Security formally classified their activities as ‘domestic terrorist violence’.
“By the spring of 2016, the anarchist groups had become so aggressive, including making armed attacks on individuals and small groups of perceived enemies, that federal officials launched a global investigation with the help of the US intelligence community, according to the DHS and FBI assessment.
“The purpose of the investigation, according to the April 2016 assessment: To determine whether the US-based anarchists might start committing terrorist bombings like their counterparts in ‘foreign anarchist extremist movements’ in Greece, Italy and Mexico, possibly at the Republican and Democratic conventions that summer.
“Several state law enforcement officials said that all of those accelerating factors have come to pass. And recent FBI and DHS reports confirm they are actively monitoring ‘conduct deemed potentially suspicious and indicative of terrorist activity’ by antifa groups.”
What has surprised anti-fascists is that the magazine in question, Politico, is not usually regarded as part of the far right, but rather of the Center, or Centre as we spell it in the UK.
So what is behind Politico’s obvious hostility to Antifa? What political agenda lies behind its scaremongering propaganda?
The first clue should come from the fact that Politico is associated with “The Center/Centre”. As we said in Acorn 34, this is an insidious term used to define extreme neoliberal capitalism as a norm, as a default position, as a “common sense” non-ideology whose assumptions and aims can never be fundamentally challenged, except by “extremists”.
French president Emmanuel Macron is a centrist. So is former UK prime minister Tony Blair. Say no more!
The second clue relates to the origin of its stories about the US authorities’ concerns over the Antifa “threat”. Politico tries to get away with implying that they have merely received leaked official documents but, as It’s Going Down notes, they themselves take up the official “domestic terrorist” line with great gusto.
Politico seem to be very close to mysterious sources such as “a senior state law enforcement official”. When they write of “interviews and confidential law enforcement documents obtained by Politico“, how exactly were these documents “obtained”? Via an unauthorised leak or over a cosy lunch?
Politico’s concerns about Antifa are very much the concerns of the authorities. There is, for example, much anxiety about several significant “intelligence gaps,” including an inability to penetrate the groups’ “diffuse and decentralized organizational structure”. [Trots please note!]
This stance is perhaps to be expected because research reveals that Politico is very closely linked to a shadowy political network which defines its role as defending the interests of US capitalism and imperialism.
Take, for example, its chief international affairs columnist Susan B. Glasser, who was in fact one of Politico’s founding editors.
A graduate of Harvard University, Glasser is former editor in chief of Foreign Policy magazine and spent four years travelling the former Soviet Union as The Washington Post’s Moscow co-bureau chief, covering the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When she’s not doing journalism, she is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution which is, as we reported in Acorn 28, a high-profile US “Think Tank“, recently accused of having a “cozy relationship” with its corporate donors.
Glasser was mixing in similar circles in June 2017 when she had the honour of moderating an event called “The Eastern Mediterranean: Challenges, Opportunities, and the Path Ahead – A Conversation with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades” in Washington, DC.
And the organisers of the meeting? Why, none other than the GMF, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, which will be a familiar name to those of you who have already the article above this one…
Indeed, Politico seems to have long enjoyed a very warm relationship with the GMF, that noble defender of US neoliberal supremacy.
In November 2012, for instance, John Harris, editor-in-chief of Politico in Washington, DC, delivered the keynote address at a reception in Berlin marking the 30th anniversary of GMF’s Marshall Memorial Fellowship.
How come? Well, it turns out he not just a good pal of the GMF but a member of its Board of Trustees!
Readers will be pleased to hear that links between Politico and the GMF continue to be strong.
On Wednesday March 22, 2017, the German Marshall Plan’s Brussels Forum was staged at the Microsoft Center in the Belgian capital.
Many very worthy liberal and democratic organisations were represented, such as Google, ExxonMobil, Centrica, Chevron, BP, Deloitte, Raytheon and NATO.
It must have been quite a party. US Special Operations Command were there, and the US National Counterterrorism Center. And Israel Broadcasting. And the Mission of Israel to the European Union. And the European Association of Mining Industries
Douglas Carswell, the right-wing British politician and former UKIP MP, was among the participants. Oh, and of course, David Herszenhorn and Ryan Heath from Politico.
Heath’s biography reveals a background typical of Politico staff.
He began his illustrious career as a speechwriter for the British civil service, before joining the European Commission. His journalistic integrity means he is regularly sought out as a policy commentator by the likes of the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, and Deutsche Welle and he has been trusted to report from major events such as the WEF meeting in Davos (see above), G7 summits, and US political conventions.
Again and again, Politico’s “journalists” turn out to have taken a similar path through life.
Like Heath, Kristina Kausch has a background with the European Commission, which has provided a two-year fellowship for her to work for the GMF in Brussels. She has been a non-resident associate of the CIA-linked Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and worked for the now-defunct “international development think tank” FRIDE.
Politico contributor Jamie Fly has a particularly impressive CV. A senior fellow at the GMF, he also works with its offshoot the ASD.
He served in the Bush administration at the National Security Council, and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He was director for Counterproliferation Strategy at the National Security Council, where his portfolio included the Iranian nuclear program, Syria, missile defense and chemical weapons.
For his work in the Department of Defense, he was awarded the Office of the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Public Service. He has also worked at the World Bank.
The GMF isn’t even very shy about its close links to Politico, publishing a link to this November 2017 article by Glasser which features Laura Rosenberger, director of the ASD and a senior fellow at the GMF.
Rosenberg’s bio informs us that she was previously foreign policy advisor for “Hillary for America” and prior to that, she served “in a range of positions at the State Department and the White House’s National Security Council”.
The GMF was particularly keen to endorse an “excellent” Politicoreport on the 2017 election victory of Emmanuel Macron, who is after all a leading “centrist” and product of the Marshall Memorial Fellowship scheme.
You could be forgiven for thinking that Politico was the GMF’s own in-house publication!
Having examined the nature of Politico’s political agenda, we can return to our initial question. Who is behind the smear attacks on Antifa?
Well, fascists of course! Fascists close to the American state who claim to be “centrists” defending liberal democracy against fake news and extremists, but fascists none the less.
The hypocrisy of states such as the UK when it comes to terrorism is simply breathtaking.
They relentlessly exploit the fear of terrorism to justify everything from foreign wars to erosion of freedom at home, while all the while being happy to use terrorists for their own ends.
A good example of this came from documents just released by the Irish government under their 30-year rule.
These included a 1987 letter from the loyalist terrorist group the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) addressed to the then Irish PM Charles Haughey.
The loyalists claimed their organisation was used by MI5 and MI6, backed up by British Army special forces, from 1972 to 1978 and again in 1985.
“In 1985 we were approached by a MI5 officer attached to the NIO (Northern Ireland Office) and based in Lisburn, Alex Jones was his supposed name,” the UVF said. “He asked us to execute you.”
The previously secret letter, on UVF headed paper, showed the loyalists told Mr Haughey that the MI5 operative gave details of his cars, photographs of his home, his island, Inishvickillane, and his yacht, Celtic Mist.
The UVF added: “MI5 were double-crossing us all the time we were working with them. We executed some of our best men believing them to be traitors”.
Documents such as these provide important insights into true nature of the UK state, not just in the past but in the present as well – and that is presumably why those lingering in the British archives tend to go missing.
The war in Ireland allowed the UK state to perfect “counterinsurgency” techniques which have subsequently been rolled out across the world.
Central to these were the theories of Brigadier Frank Kitson, as this recent article on the Bella Caledonia website sets out.
Kitson stressed the value of covert operations, the ‘turning’ of insurgents through ‘carrot and stick’ measures, and what he called ‘countergangs’ or ‘pseudogangs’, which could infiltrate or deceive insurgents.
“In essence, Kitson envisaged the paramilitarisation of the British Army, switching its focus from conventional to unconventional warfare, training troops ‘to support civil power’ in mock-ups of Belfast streets, adopting the techniques of insurgents, and fighting ‘terrorism’ with state terror units in a form of gang warfare,” says the article.
He was also a pioneer of psyops (psychological operations) and media manipulation by briefing and spin, and he established close relationships with British journalists in Northern Ireland, turning them into “useful mouthpieces”.
The existence of these pseudogangs and psyops, and the way they are deployed by the secret state, is key to understanding the world around us.
Historically, the whole history of NATO’s “Gladio” stay-behind/terror network in Western Europe is worth studying – this 1992 BBC documentary film is an excellent introduction.
And there are plenty of writers specialising in exposing these shadowy areas – in the UK notably Nafeez Ahmed, Robin Ramsey and Mark Curtis, whose latest book, an updated version of Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam has just been published.
Humankind needs to reconnect with an ancient anarchic wisdom which has been deliberately hidden from us by the dominant industrial capitalist system, says Winter Oak author Paul Cudenec in his first blogpost of 2018.
He explains: “This philosophy has always existed as an underground heresy beneath the surface of dominant society and emerges again and again in renewed forms throughout history”.
A key part of this philosophy, he says, is a sense of unity, a sense of our belonging to a greater whole.
“Human beings, because they are living parts of a universal organism, are imbued with the same patterns and structures as the rest of the Universe and, of course, as the rest of the natural world on this planet.
“Significantly, this includes our mental processes. Human thinking, including our philosophies, is a continuation of the complex patterns of the cosmos and of nature and not something outside of them.
“Just as our existence is part of the existence of the Universe, so is our thinking part of the thinking of the Universe. Our thinking is the Universe’s thinking and our thinking is nature’s thinking – both interpreted through the filter of our particular human existence.
“The structures of the Universe and of nature are contained deep within us and are reflected in the physical reality of our bodies and in the abstract realities of the thinking generated by our physical bodies.
“This would continue to be the case even if every single human being alive today denied that it was so. But the Wisdom maintains that an awareness of this innate structure is essential to an understanding of who we are and how we should live.
“Individuals are all manifestations of the Universe. This Universe needs there to be physical forms of reality so that it can actually exist as a physical entity, rather than as an abstract idea; it needs there to be living physical beings so that it can also be alive and it needs there to be actual physical thinking happening so that it can, itself, think.
“The Universe also needs individual human beings to act on their thinking, so that it too can, through them, act on its (decentralised) thinking. How else can the Universe, the sum of all reality, be present in its own self-forming other than through the actions of its constituent parts?
“Our actions, our lives, are the Universe in the act of self-creation. Our doing something is the Universe establishing its own shape, through us. Nothing we do has already happened, or already been planned. As we do it, it becomes real.”
Explaining the thinking behind this approach, Cudenec writes: “A philosophy combining contemporary anarchist insights with the age-old Wisdom I have been outlining is a powerful one, which is why it is deemed so unacceptable, so unthinkable, by modern capitalist-friendly thinking.
“It represents, for me, our best chance of finding the collective mental strength and courage to walk out of this dark industrial capitalist nightmare towards a bright and free future”.
Attacks and smears against anarchists by the Brazilian state and corporate media is the theme of an emotive new video on the submedia site. It declares: “Let’s not fool ourselves, we’re in the middle of a war. A disguised and all-pervasive war. A war between the oppressors and the oppressed; between the rich and everybody else…”
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“Democracy encourages a liberal Western concept of the individual, of the individual as this isolated unit with rights that pertain to public participation, which means participation within a centralised and hierarchical sphere of decision-making, rather than this organic being in the world who exists according to communal relationships, according to relationships with the natural environment.” So says US anarchist author Peter Gelderloos in an in-depth audio interview which can be heard here.
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Consumer culture is creating a psycho-spiritual crisis, writes John F Schumaker in an article on the opendemocracy website. He says: “Without an existential compass, the commercialized mind gravitates toward a ‘philosophy of futility’, as Noam Chomsky calls it, in which people feel naked of power and significance beyond their conditioned role as pliant consumers. Lacking substance and depth, and adrift from others and themselves, the thin and fragile consumer self is easily fragmented and dispirited… Consumerism and psychic deadness are inexorable bedfellows.”
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The UK’s Anarchist Action Network meeting planned for December had to be postponed because of snow, so it has been rearranged. It will now be held on Sunday January 21, from 1pm to 4pm, at the Cowley Club, 12 London Rd, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 4JA. All anarchists welcome.
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“We acknowledge no authority higher than ourselves, and we will continue to act in accordance with the aspirations of our spirits for freedom and dignity. We will continue to fight in defense of Mother Earth, on behalf of future generations and all our relations, consequences be damned.” This was the powerful message relayed by Montreal Counter-Information in Quebec following the sentencing on December 18 of two anarchist comrades for their role in a 2015 direct action in which a pipeline was physically shut down. There is a fundraising page to help the activists pay costs.
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What are the effects of “screen culture” on human behaviour, intelligence and the environment? How did we get here? Who benefits? What may come next if this culture is left unchecked, to its end trajectory, and is that what we want? A thought-provoking new independent film by Jordan Brown, Stare Into The Lights My Pretties, investigates these questions with an urge to return to the real physical world, to form a critical view of technological escalation driven by rapacious and pervasive corporate interests. It can be seen here.
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“We need to make haste. Political censorship is becoming routine across the worldwide web. A free and open internet is to be abolished by the Trump administration. Dissent, once tolerated in the mainstream, has regressed to a metaphoric underground as liberal democracy moves towards a form of corporate dictatorship.” The timely warning comes from veteran investigative reporter John Pilger in an excellent talk which can be seen online. He says: “This is an historic shift and the media, both mainstream media and social media, must not be allowed to be the facade of this new order and should be subjected to direct action.”
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Fans of Winnie the Pooh will be delighted to hear that he, Piglet, Eeyore and friends feature in a brand new 21st century vignette of English rural life, in which the Hundred Acre Wood is targeted for fracking, Tigger gets arrested and Pooh invents the lock-on by mistake. Open the first page here.
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Acorn quote: “I have used the myth of the goddess Gaia to express the idea that we are an integral part of a single, intelligent life-form which acts like an individual. I have tried to show how it is that we can never separate ourselves from this life-form, despite our delusions of dominance and control, because should we succeed in doing so, we would be committing an irreversible act of mass suicide: as if an arm tried to exist separately from the body”.
The primate resistance movement has struck out against those who want to destroy our planet and replace us with robots.
A group of French activists swung into action on Monday November 20, at the start of a conference in the south-western city of Bordeaux which was celebrating the “cyborg future” of humankind.
They made their move under the label of the Bordeaux Chimpanzees of the Future, referring to the infamous comment by UK transhumanist techno-guru Kevin Warwick that, in a tomorrow’s world peopled by AI-enhanced cyborg hybrids, actual living human beings like you and me would be regarded as nothing more than evolutionary remnants. We would be the “chimpanzees of the future” as he arrogantly put it.
In keeping with their primate identity, the activists scattered banana skins around the conference venue, as well as a leaflet explaining why they were there.
This pointed out that Bordeaux had just seen the arrival of a branch of the Singularity University, “a propaganda tool of the techno-totalitarianism founded by Ray Kurzweil (top transhumanist at Google), under whose patronage the conference is being held”.
And it declared: “We don’t function, we live. We weren’t built, but born. We refuse to be ‘customised into cyborgs’. We refuse to ‘get ready to change planet’. We want to live on earth and remain free and human”.
The transhumanist cult represents the worst excesses of industrial-capitalist fantasy, dreaming of a humanity with artificial bodies and replaceable parts whose brains will eventually be uploaded into computers, giving them unimagined mental powers.
Not so long ago, this strange vision was regarded as little more than a weird joke, but it has increasingly become the religion of the technological avant-garde and has even succeeded in contaminating some so-called “anti-capitalist” thinking with its ultra-capitalist creed.
The transhumanists’ dream is a nightmare not just for human beings but for the living planet as a whole, as it depends on ongoing industrialisation and all the environmental destruction that this brings with it – a harsh fact that transhumanists try to avoid.
As Paul Cudenec writes in Nature, Essence and Anarchy: “On the most basic level, the industrialist vision of a technological posthuman future is entirely divorced from the physical realities of industrialism. Even if post-natural posthumans managed to upload their minds (or, rather, soulless copies of their brains) into a virtual realm of their own construction, the objective reality of the world they thought they were escaping would not somehow cease to exist.
“Pollution would worsen as the technological world expanded, animals would suffer from its consequences, the food chain would be imperilled, the very life-system of the earth would be at risk. Their technological bubble would still be dependent on an outside reality and infrastructure.
“There would still have to be mines to extract the minerals to build the computers, oil and gas wells to provide the energy, waste to be disposed of, pipelines and cables to be laid and repaired, flood defences to be built or strengthened as the climate span further into extremities, cooling systems to be installed for the huge banks of computer servers, bolts to be tightened, cogs to be lubricated, mould to be wiped off walls, and so on ad nauseam.
“Even if all the hard labour was done by machines and there were further machines to repair those machines, who would repair these? Who would be doing all the dirty work, wiping the metaphorical bottoms of the immortal posthuman narcissists plugged into their ego-massaging virtual existences?
“A race of ‘chimpanzee’ slaves maybe, the left-over essentialist scum who had refused to jump on the naturaphobic bandwagon to oblivion?”
A poignant short film celebrating the UK road protests of the early 1990s can now be seen online.
I Am Alive by Tom Lloyd, Gill Barron and Mark Melville combines archive footage shot over the summer of 1994 from roof-tops and tree-tops with a poetic voice-over and haunting soundtrack evoking the beauty in finding the courage to defend life.
And it reminds us that although particular battles of the time, such as at Solsbury Hill or Wanstead, were lost to the forces of industrialism, a generation’s war on roads was won, with the UK government putting new schemes on hold for decades in the face of the inspiring resistance.
The effort, the trauma, the arrests and the convictions will all be vindicated by history, as will one day all the current struggles against fracking, pipelines, mines, airports, high speed rail lines and all the other assaults on Mother Earth.
As the film says: “Land isn’t a commodity: it doesn’t belong to us. It’s a community: we belong to it.
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
The so-called “need” for economic growth is the perfect excuse for the industrial capitalist system to keep expanding, exploiting and exterminating, so arguments for “degrowth” have a massive radical potential.
The movement is little known in the UK, but is becoming increasingly influential elsewhere. For instance, next summer sees the 6th International Degrowth Conference in Malmö, Sweden. It will take place from August 21-25 2018 and is organised by the Institute for Degrowth Studies (Institutet för nerväxtstudier). There is a call for participation for academics, activists and artists (deadline: December 31).
Across the Atlantic, the first North-South Conference on Degrowth will be held in Mexico City from June 19 – 21 2018, supported by universities, NGOs, and social movements.
This is the first time a Latin American country will host an international gathering on Degrowth, after five conferences in Europe and one in Canada. Decolonisation of the imaginary, survival, cultures, and wealth will be the main issues under discussion.
Degrowth ideas are also sneaking into mainstream European thinking. From September 18-19 2018 a post-growth conference supported by various “stakeholders” (Members of the European Parliament from different political groups, academics, NGOs and unions) will take place in the premises of the European Parliament in Brussels. The date coincides with the 10th anniversary of the collapse of the US Bank Lehman Brothers that sparked the “economic crisis” justifying the intensification of neoliberal economics.
The work will be preceded by a preparatory session at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and followed by a debriefing and exchanges on how to coalesce allies to ensure that change will actually happen.
There is lots of English-language information on degrowth on the German website, degrowth.info.
Explaining the basic idea, it states: “By ‘degrowth’, we understand a form of society and economy which aims at the well-being of all and sustains the natural basis of life. To achieve degrowth, we need a fundamental transformation of our lives and an extensive cultural change.
“The current economic and social paradigm is ‘faster, higher, further’. It is built on and stimulates competition between all humans. This causes acceleration, stress and exclusion. Our economy destroys the natural basis of life. We are convinced that the common values of a degrowth society should be care, solidarity and cooperation.
“Humanity has to understand itself as part of the planetary ecological system. Only this way, a self-determined life in dignity for all can be made possible”.
A woman convicted of disrupting an arms fair in Wales has defiantly stood by her actions.
D told the court in Cardiff: “My motivation that day was to stop the arms fair. I am not denying it – what I am saying is that I was trying to prevent something worse from happening.”
She was found guilty by the court of making hoax calls claiming there was a bomb at the Motorpoint Arena, which was hosting the Defence Procurement, Research, Technology and Exportability event, better known as Cardiff Arms Fair.
D was expecting to go to prison, but in fact received a suspended sentence and an order to pay £2000 costs and £115 “victim surcharge”.
She declared afterwards: “I said when I was first arrested that it was the arms dealers who should have been arrested in my stead, and I still believe it’s the arms dealers and the UK Government who should have been in the dock on trial for their complicity in war crimes.
“My resolve in opposing the arms trade has only been strengthened by this experience and I hope to see a huge protest outside next year’s DPRTE Arms Fair at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff.”
Said a report from Bristol Defendant Solidarity: “It was very inspiring to hear the defendant, D, clearly tell the judge and the jury that she was not sorry for her actions and that she remains committed to direct action against war and the arms industry.
“Her explanation of how she could not stand by while arms dealers furthered their profits by marketing mass murder was very powerful. She admitted making the calls, but argued that she was acting to prevent a greater crime by aiming to stop the selling of arms used for ‘mass indiscriminate killing of civilians’.
“Her moving account of witnessing first-hand the destruction wreaked by these weapons in Palestine and her motivations for doing all that she can to stop arms sales brought tears to many eyes. She told the court of her experiences driving an ambulance of medical supplies to Gaza after the Israeli bombing.
“’I saw kids my grandchildren’s age being teargassed on a daily basis’ she said. ‘I saw with my own eyes the aftermath of war. Standing in the wreckage of bombed out homes, schools and hospitals brought home to me the utter destruction war wreaks on people’s lives. That strengthened my resolve to do everything in my power to oppose this awful trade’.”
Brutal physical violence and insidious legal intimidation are being used by UK police to try and crush resistance to the fracking industry.
This is the stark conclusion of a new report from police monitoring group Netpol, called Protecting the Planet is Not a Crime. Its research confirms and usefully exposes the extent to which the police act as taxpayer-funded private security for private business interests – in this case oil and gas.
It says: “Over the course of 2017, Netpol has seen evidence, particularly from Lancashire, of police officers pushing people into hedges, knocking campaigners unconscious, violently dragging older people across the road and shoving others into speeding traffic.
“We had also heard about the targeting of disabled protesters (including repeatedly tipping a wheelchair user from his chair) and officers using painful pressure point restraint techniques. In Lancashire, campaigners have repeatedly accused the police of ignoring violent and unlawful actions by private security employed by the shale gas company Cuadrilla. Similar allegations are now emerging in North Yorkshire.
“These confrontational and aggressive tactics are combined with often significant numbers of officers who seem, based on the testimony we have heard, ready to contain, assault or arrest any demonstrator for the slightest infringement.
“Police tactics appear deliberately intent on making it as difficult as possible for local people to effectively oppose the activities of the onshore oil and gas industry. There have also been claims that officers have tried to deliberately provoke the protesters in order to make more arrests.”
Netpol also draw attention to the civil injunction taken out against protesters by shale gas company INEOS.
The firm says it was advised to do this by the police – again showing that the cops are not “neutral” upholders of the peace, but active participants in imposing the toxic industrial capitalist agenda.
The order is directed against “persons unknown” and prohibits them from interfering with the “lawful activities” of INEOS staff and contractors. People who breach the order risk prison or having their assets seized.
The injunction refers to a range of “unlawful activity” that is not necessarily a criminal offence. Specifically, it mentions “slow walking” of lorries, which is not inherently unlawful unless it involves unreasonable obstruction without lawful authority or excuse.
Say Netpol: “Our concern is that, if INEOS’ injunction is made permanent, it not only opens in further pre-emptive injunctions by other fracking companies based on widespread smearing of all anti-fracking campaigners as ‘militant extremists’. It may also significantly restrict even further the ability of campaigners to take part in civil disobedience or, indeed, any form of effective protest”.
* In the early hours of Thursday November 30, frack-free activists occupied the so-called “Gatwick Gusher” oil site at Horse Hill in Surrey. The site, operated by Horse Hill Developments Ltd, has received planning permission for a further two wells and testing, reports Drill or Drop.
Imagine, if you can, that you are the chief of the secret political police in some far-off and fictional dictatorship.
Your networks have succeeded in completely infiltrating the small groups of dissidents who dare challenge the corruption and repression of the ruling elite.
True, there has been a spot of bother with one group of trouble-makers who rumbled a couple of clumsy low-level spies and have been exposing their dubious methods.
But overall, this has changed nothing. Indeed, the paranoia created by the spy revelations has even helped your task, instilling a mood of back-biting suspicion in dissident ranks and paralysing many would-be revolutionaries into inaction with the spectre of past or present spies in their ranks.
You have your enemies pretty much where you want them. You know exactly who they are and what they are going to do next. Your infiltrators, on many levels, have successfully shunted dissident networks away from effective opposition to the system into ineffective and dead-end ways of thinking and acting.
Dissidents whose words and deeds pose a real threat to the dictatorship are systematically marginalised and excluded from a movement which is largely under your control.
And yet, despite all this dominance, you are tempted to take it a step further. You can see that, with just a little provocation and encouragement, certain political disagreements within the opposition movement could be heightened to the point at which there was a major rupture in the dissident ranks which could even close down one of their most successful organising focal points.
In doing so, you could even take a passing swipe at one of those pesky troublemakers who has been giving you grief over your spies.
Would you do it, if you were this imaginary spy chief? Would you deliberately sabotage the dissident milieu you are paid to suppress, evil genius that you are?
While you’re thinking about it, let’s turn to some completely different events which have unfolded in the non-fictional world of 21st century Britain.
As readers may well be aware, the annual London Anarchist Bookfair in October was disrupted by a nasty row between some feminists and some others who accused them of transphobia.
We won’t pass judgement on the details of the dispute itself: an ill-judged leaflet matched by an ill-judged physical response.
But what was truly alarming was the vitriolic nature and tone of the accusations against the bookfair organisers who have done such a great job with the event over the years.
In an open letter stating their case, these critics accused the organisers of allowing “racist imperialism, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny and ableism to ingratiate themselves as part of the culture of the Bookfair”.
Eh? Where did that come from? What imperialism? What anti-semitism? What Islamophobia? What misogyny? No indication is given as to what any of this refers to – the insults are just vomited forth without any context.
The authors declare that unless certain demands are met, they will not be participating in future bookfairs, which is of course their right.
But, incredibly, they add: “Further, we will encourage our members and associated groups to picket the LABF in the future and provide material to those attending about the problems we have identified and the demands we are making”.
Are there really anarchists out there who would picket the anarchist bookfair on the basis of this kind of disagreement?
This open letter was supported by many comrades who we would have thought would have known better, pretty much obliging the bookfair collective to announce that they would not be organising an event in 2018.
They say in their own statement: “What hurts us most is we know a lot of you. A number of the signatories to the open letter are groups we know and have worked with over the years; sometimes many, many years.
“Yet not one of you has tried to contact us as individuals or as the Bookfair collective to ask our views before you signed the open letter, even though some people appear not to have read all of it before signing. We thought of many of you as friends. We were obviously wrong.
“We guess it’s easy to sign a statement. It’s a lot harder to actually talk to people and try to work things out.
“We are also tired of being told what to do. We are told to ban people. We are told have this or that policy. We are told this or that group can/can’t have stalls. We are told we shouldn’t have a certain venue. We are constantly told we get it wrong. However, no one has offered to join the Collective and help us make the Bookfair better or offered to take it on”.
They also reveal that (with sickening inevitability) they were accused of being “fascists” by some so-called comrades on the day (as were, apparently, both sides in the quarrel).
They comment: “It seriously concerns us how easy this terminology is thrown about in the anarchist milieu. Survivors of the Spanish Civil war, survivors of the death camps, political activists in Pinochet’s Chile, activists in parts of the world today and many others who have been at the blunt end of actual fascism are done a disservice by this indiscriminate use of the word.
“We feel that the Bookfair is not the place for tactics used on demos against fascist groups and cops. Some of us are traumatised enough by activism and look forward to enjoying an event where we can see friends and exchange ideas without the pressure of these actions”.
And there have been other voices challenging the basis of the vitriolic attack on the bookfair by the open letter authors.
Some “friends of the Bookfair”, for instance, posted a response in which they point out that the demands in the letter amount essentially to a call for tight ideological control over the content of the bookfair – something which should set the alarm bells ringing for any remaining authentic anarchists out there.
The “friends” say: “The Bookfair Collective operates on the principle that it is not for the small collective that organises it to take on defining and enforcing a rigid policy on safety and behaviour; it is for the wider movement that takes part in the Bookfair to do so, along anarchist principles of opposing centralized authority with dispersed and grassroots responsibility.
“Points raised in the open letter call for a radically different event, with a much more centralized program, organized or tightly overseen by the collective.”
Another anarchist response on the 325 website reflects on “the harassment and public shaming of an individual simply because they’d dared deviate from the party line; the line being that there is to be no doubt and certainly no criticism of any of the dominant narratives around identity politics”.
It adds: “We are not in any way surprised that liberal activists would seize on the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon, slag off anarchists, signal virtue with their impeccable ‘Ally’ credentials, and try to sabotage a major anarchist event for good.
“Neither are we surprised that people we disagree with or whose views are offensive would turn up at the Bookfair; some such groups in fact, sometimes have tables and workshop slots and their own supporters.
“We also recognise why trans people and other anarchists present would be pissed off with the leaflets, which the authors and distributors must have known were offensive and would provoke a reaction.
“What we’re angry at is our fellow anarchists, who we hold to higher standards, and it’s on this that we want to concentrate. We’re disappointed at the abandonment yet again of anarchist principles of independent and critical thought in favour of groupthink.
“We’re angry at the willingness to sacrifice plurality of ideas for policing and self-censorship. And we’re saddened at the failure to balance our antagonism with a corresponding care and comradeship, so that bullying and public humiliation reigns unchecked. Finally, we’re pissed off that anarchists feel it’s so much more important to target another anarchist with unpopular views, than to attack institutional structures of our oppression”.
The authors also draw attention to the fact that the number one target of the protest inside the event was Helen Steel, a long-term anarchist activist and one-time McLibel defendant who was subjected to intrusive state surveillance by an undercover police officer who deceived her into a two-year relationship.
They comment: “One of the most disturbing aspects of all this was the way in which people allowed rumour to spread. The T-Word, once uttered, seemed to diffuse any flicker of concern from onlookers, all independent thought going out the window. ‘Apparently she was giving out Terf leaflets’, said a few.
“As mentioned, this transpired to be false information, and when those spreading the rumours were asked whether they had seen the texts for themselves, none of them had actually done so. When challenged, one person brushed it off by saying there was no smoke without fire, as if people were incapable of making mistakes.
“This sentiment also reveals ignorance of the long history of state agents using divide and rule tactics against dissidents – from COINTELPRO, to Stasi ops – and the fact that HS has herself been a target for state deception and manipulation”.
Eco-activists protecting the Hambacher Forest near Aachen in Germany have won a little time in their battle to protect the area from open coal mining. After cops started to try and shift protesters, using pepper spray, and clear-cutting began, work was halted again on November 28 by a court pending further deliberations from the regional parliament.
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Legendary US environmental activist Katie Lee has died at the age of 98. She was best known for her fierce opposition to the Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona. She felt it was a crime against nature, humanity and history: “The way I describe it is an aneurism, an aneurism. It’s a stoppage of the blood in the body, and that’s what they’re doing to our rivers with these dams, what we’re doing to our planet, I mean, you cut off all the blood in your body, you die. You cut off all our rivers and we’re gonna be out of here. We can’t survive without them”.
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“The world of undercover policing, informers and corporate spies is by its very nature murky. It is populated by professionals who go to great lengths to hide their activities, and to build cover”, warns a pamphlet on police infiltration from undercoverresearch.net. As evidence of these infiltrators and their activities continues to emerge, dissidents would do well to have a good careful read of Was My Friend A Spycop?…
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The next Anarchist Action Network meeting is being staged on Sunday 10th December, from 1pm to 3pm, at 11 Ferry Rd, Shoreham-By-Sea, West Sussex, BN43 5RA. The AAN is an autonomous network made up of local groups and individuals from the anarchist movement based in the UK. All are welcome, except for cops pretending to be anarchists!
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Scientists have called for an urgent ban on killer robots, with technology now existing to create autonomous weapons that can select and kill human targets without supervision. Campaigner Noel Sharkey, the emeritus professor of AI at Sheffield University and chair of the International Committee on Robot Arms Control, said: “We must succeed because the alternatives are too horrifying.” More info at autonomousweapons.org
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One by one, all those dystopian sci-fi nightmares are coming true. Another one comes (again!) from Facebook, which has rolled out new “proactive detection” artificial intelligence technology which “will scan all posts for patterns of suicidal thoughts, and when necessary send mental health resources to the user at risk or their friends, or contact local first-responders”. It’s all in the interests of your own “safety”, of course, and Facebook spokesman confirmed that “users cannot opt out”. You can opt out of Facebook altogether, though…
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“Madrid’s refusal to compromise, in the view of the Catalan nationalist movement, renders the push towards Catalan independence impossible to avert”, concludes a useful summary of the current situation at euroasiareview.com. We continue to support Catalan autonomy, despite our complete lack of faith in the idea of any kind of state. As we said in Acorn 37: “With its use of the whole gamut of repressive methods, from internet censorship and brutal violence to media distortion of what has been happening, the Spanish state could almost be acting out a dress rehearsal of clamp-downs on disobedient populations elsewhere. If the authorities can get away with it in Barcelona and Catalonia, with their proud revolutionary spirit and sense of community, they might conclude they could get away with it anywhere.”
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“Anarchy is a word we use to describe those moments when force cannot subdue us, and life flourishes as we know it should”. So declares Fighting for Our Lives, an anarchist primer produced by US comrades Crimethinc some 15 years ago and now, happily, available online. So-called anarchists in London and elsewhere may want to ponder its concluding words: “Then, as now, as always, the important question is—which side are you on?”
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Acorn quote: “It does not require more than a simple act of insight to realise that infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibility”.