The Acorn – 24

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Number 24


In this issue:

  1. May the First: one day in an unending battle
  2. Blocking the railway in Marseilles: a first-hand report
  3. Lies and bail conditions to keep anarchists off the streets
  4. Court victory for arms fair blockaders
  5. Witch hunt: antisemitism smears are ideological warfare
  6. Acorninfo

1. May the First: one day in an unending battle

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May Day in Paris

Huge crowds on the streets all over the world, at least one protester killed and many more injured by cops – May Day 2016 was as dramatic as any, as we show below.

In a way, although the people, the tear gas and the police batons were all very real, the day is a symbolic annual incarnation of a battle that goes on for 24 hours a day, 52 weeks of the year.

This is the battle between  us and them, between the exploited and the exploiters, the peasants and the squires, the workers and the bosses, the have-nots and the have-too-muches.

For them, any “rights” enjoyed by workers and the population as a whole are only ever provisional sops to keep us in a state of semi-contented complacency.

They would rather do away with them altogether and are constantly working at increasing their control and destroying our collective resistance.

They use the money they have stolen from our communal wealth to manipulate and control the means of public information, smearing or ignoring our struggles and denying all possible alternatives to their system.

They use that same money to employ people to spy on us, infiltrate our movements, divert our energies, pollute our ideologies, divide and rule.

And, of course, they use it to hire an army of tooled-up thugs to physically attack us when we venture on to the streets in a spirit of rebellion.

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A military-style operation against the people in Paris

What can we do to stand up to these brutal levels of force, particularly as the repression is smoothly covered up and even glorified by the mercenary custodians of the public’s “reality”?

All we can do is fight, and keep on fighting – on every level, in every way we can, on every single day of the year and, above all, on the symbolic First of May.

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Istanbul on May 1

This is what our comrades were doing in Istanbul when  police attacked them with water cannons and tear gas. A man in his 50s was murdered by the Turkish state’s thugs – run over by a water cannon vehicle – and there were more than 200 arrests.

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Resistance in Istanbul

That is also what people were doing in Paris, where the May Day march formed part of the current struggle against business-friendly “reforms” to the Loi Travail (see Acorn 23 and this update).

Repression in France, under cover of the “anti-terrorist” state of emergency, is reaching frightening heights (see, for instance, this video of the violent eviction of Nuit Debout in Paris on April 28 ) and the First of May procession was duly attacked by CRS riot police, using huge amounts of tear gas, who tried to split it into two.

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Paris on May 1

The mixed crowd, numbering up to 70,000, stuck together and at one point started chanting en masseNous sommes tous des casseurs” (“We are all vandals”) in defiance of the media-manufactured bogeyman of a “violent” minority of protesters spoiling everything for the law-abiding majority.

Ferocious levels of police violence, during the day and in the evening at Nuit Debout, were such that the Street Medic organisation later described the day as a “bloodbath”.

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Fighting back in Paris on May Day
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Paris, May 1

Tens of thousands also took to the streets of Seoul. Similar “reforms” to those being introduced in France are being imposed all over the world by the capitalist slave-masters and South Korea also faces a labour reform bill, pushed by President Park Geun-Hye and her conservative Saenuri Party, which will make it easier for companies to lay off workers.

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May Day protests in Seoul

In Manila, there was a massive protest against Philippines president Benigno S. Aquino III and US imperialism. Left-wing demonstrators fought with police who were protecting the American embassy (see video)

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May Day in Manila
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May Day in Manila – an effigy of the president
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Manila on May 1

There were clashes in Hong Kong when more than 5,000 people demonstrated to demand laws on standard working hours and a universal pension scheme.

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May Day in Hong Kong

It kicked off in Seattle, USA, (see this corporate news video), where anti-capitalist protesters bearing a large banner that read “We are ungovernable” staged an unauthorised march through the city centre.

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Seattle, May 1
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Seattle police in action

Police fired “blast balls” at the protesters, who responded with flares, bricks and Molotov cocktails.

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May Day in Montreal

And in Quebec, for the 9th year in a row an autonomous coalition of anti-capitalists invaded the streets of Montreal to celebrate people’s struggles. See this video from submedia.tv

Elsewhere, anarchists threw molotov cocktails through the windows of the State Savings Bank of Ukraine (see video) and protesters set off fireworks in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei, Taiwan, as a symbolic gesture to “declare war” on the government.

Taiwanese workers shout slogans "Strive for Working Right, Want Indemnifier" during a May Day rally in Taipei, Taiwan, Sunday, May 1, 2016. Thousands of protesters from different labor groups protest on the street to ask for raising minimum wage and shorter working hours. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)
Taiwanese workers during a May Day rally in Taipei

There were protests and parades all across the world, including Berlin and Geneva (below). In Málaga (Spanish state) the march included an animal rights bloc, while in London a May Day Fuck Parade was held in the evening (see video), with the partying going on until 3am.

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May Day in Geneva, Switzerland
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May Day in Berlin
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Málaga
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The May Day Fuck Parade in London

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2. Blocking the railway in Marseilles: a first-hand report

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Protesters block the main rail line in Marseille, France

April 28 saw a big day of strikes and protests against the neoliberal Loi Travail “reforms” in France (see Acorn 23 and this update). Feisty protests and brutal police violence broke out all over the country – see, for instance, these videos from Paris and Rennes and this photo report from Nantes – while Nuit Debout public assemblies were held in hundreds of towns in the evening. We received this first-hand report from the protests in Marseilles.

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Marseilles, April 28

This was “a historic day” for protest in Marseilles, according to one long-time local anarchist activist, and I’m not going to argue with that.

I will certainly never forget the moment when hundreds of us on a breakaway demo refused to retreat in the face of insane volleys of tear gas and grenades fired by the fascistic “BAC” plain clothes police.

A great cheer rose up as it became obvious that the police were outnumbered and overwhelmed and we were going to get through.

Two BAC cops fled for cover as bottles and other objects rained down on them and the crowd advanced. As they got into their car, it was surrounded by triumphant protesters, cracking the glass in the windows, before the state thugs sped off to safety.

The crowd surged down the road and through a gate leading to the railway sidings and on to the main railway line close to Marseilles St Charles station. Planks, tyres and other objects were dragged on to the rails and set on fire. 400 protesters were on the line. The infrastructure was well and truly blocked.

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Street battles in the Mediterranean port

You could tell something was going to happen right from the start. The official meet-up for the demo was at the Vieux Port, but here there were only the uninspiring supporters of the CGT trade union, far too close to the ruling Socialist Party to be any sort of threat to the system.

Up the road and round the corner, positioned to be at the head of the march, was the real heart of the protest. This was a mainly youthful section – including many secondary school students. They came from diverse backgrounds and notably included a noisy group of football supporters from OM, Olympique Marseille.

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The start of the march

There were chants against the bosses, against the PS, about revolution, as the march set off, in stop-start fashion, along Cours Lieutaud.

At the end of the road, the well-established protest route turns right into Castellane, which is supposed to mark the end of proceedings.

But today, people had other ideas and the head of the protest turned left instead, then formed up ready to head off in an unauthorised direction.

Attempts to persuade the massed ranks of the CGT to join in were not too successful – they preferred a symbolic turn to the right, as ordered by their stewards.

But, thanks partly to a looping protest that led out of the march and back in again, a significant number of protesters were welcomed into the breakaway project and it set off up Boulevard Baille, where the police had set up a blockade.

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The tear gas canisters started raining down before the front of the protest was even 100 metres from the cops. Plain clothes BAC cops lurked on the pavements ready to grab anyone trying to escape the gas.

Tout Marseille déteste la police!” went up the cry from the crowd – a local variation of the “Tout le monde déteste la police!” (Everybody hates the police!”) which has rapidly become the catchphrase of this uprising.

People advanced and retreated, kicking and throwing the tear gas capsules back towards the police. Sound grenades and rubber bullets were also fired and a trade unionist suffered a nasty chest injury as the police pushed the protest down to Castellane and out on to Rue de Rome

On the positive side, a well-aimed bottle hit one of the BAC thugs right in the face.

Somehow, the breakaway group kept together and 1,000 protesters now moved together back towards the city centre, taking side streets to avoid police blockades and the constant hail of tear gas.

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The taking of the railway was certainly a triumph – although some sort of mass exit strategy would have been useful to prevent the inevitable dribbling away of protesters though holes in the railside fences as the cops advanced up the line, and the violent arrests of those remaining.

More than 50 people were arrested, many of them school students, and a solidarity campaign was set up to support them.

It is worth noting that this was very much on the agenda of the Nuit Debout gathering that attracted several hundred people back at the Vieux Port that evening. While these gatherings inevitably draw in a mixed crowd, the overall tone here was inseparable from the tone of the protest.

For reports in French on the ongoing Marseilles protests see: https://mars-infos.org/

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3. Lies and bail conditions to keep anarchists off the streets

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Police attack protesters at a bank in Cardiff on May 2 2015

Trumped-up criminal charges and draconian bail conditions are being used by the British state as a weapon against dissidents.

This is the insidious reality behind the “justice” system, as exposed in a new Corporate Watch interview with anarchist activist Pete Simpson.

Pete was prosecuted and remanded in prison for alleged “violent disorder” and “assault of police officers” after an occupation of HSBC bank, as part of the 2015 Mayday commemoration in Cardiff, Wales.

Pete and fellow activist Josh Howe were found not guilty by a jury in Cardiff in January 2016 after it became clear that the police were telling a pack of lies and it was in fact the cops who had acted violently.

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Josh and Peter after the not-guilty verdict

He has no doubts about the political motivation for the prosecution, which put him out of circulation for months.

“They had presented evidence that we were giving out South Wales Anarchists leaflets. They made many references to it. The black flags that people had brought to the protest were also part of the evidence. They held up the flags in court, six or seven bundled together. They also asked me what I personally understood by the term ‘Anarchism’.

“The prosecutor had claimed in court that the protest was hijacked by an ‘anti-police agenda’ and had insisted that ‘we can’t have mob violence’ in the streets of Britain”, recalled Pete. “He asked the jury rhetorically. ‘is it likely that the police would lie about violence being used on them?'”

The pigs have a global reputation for telling porkies, and with the not-guilty verdict, the jury’s answer to this last question was a resounding “yes”!

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South Wales Police – liars

Pete described what really happened on the day: “Two of the cops that were there were grabbing people and I saw one cop throwing three punches in a row whilst holding a person by the shoulder, punching their kidneys. The same cop grabbed another guy and threw him to the ground without supporting his fall.

“A police officer had Josh’s neck under his arm and Josh was saying that he couldn’t breathe. There was another cop also putting his weight on Josh.

“I reached out towards Josh. The police officer turned round and elbowed me in the face, throwing me up against the wall and strangling me.

“Straight after that, the other officer came over and hit me with a ‘knee-strike’ in the part of the leg just above the knee. It’s apparently something they are trained to do to make someone fall to the ground, but they grabbed both of my shoulders and threw me to the ground anyway, head first. Then bent me in the middle somehow. My forehead hit the ground. My leg was suddenly really injured”.

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HMP Cardiff – used to incarcerate anarchists framed by cops

After Pete and Josh’s arrest in May 2015 they were remanded for several days in Cardiff prison. The judge only agreed to release them on the condition that they move away from their homes in Cardiff, sign regularly at a police station, keep to a strict curfew and wear a tag.

As Corporate Watch say, these conditions can only be described as political, aimed at restricting Pete and his co-defendant’s ability to be involved in political activism.

Bail conditions (i.e. conditions you are forced to comply with in order for the court to release you from prison or police custody) are only supposed to be used to prevent further ‘offending’ and stop people from absconding.

However, the use of draconian bail conditions against Pete and Josh, and others like them, amount to a punishment by the courts against people who have not been convicted of any crime.

Warn Corporate Watch: “Bail conditions are increasingly being used to prevent people from being involved in social movements that threaten capitalism and the state, particularly people involved in direct action networks”.

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Bail conditions are increasingly used to stop people from protesting, as during the London Olympics

Pete said: “The bail conditions and tag made it hugely difficult for me. I effectively didn’t have a summer last year. I couldn’t go to any summer gatherings, activist camps or travel very far at all. I wanted to be supporting stuff all the time, all the stuff that I would normally be doing to try to change the system and fight for freedom.

“I was basically denied a social, and active, normal, life. I often thought about people going out in an evening and sometimes it was really difficult just to hear about it. I could never imagine just how controlling the state can be when people get to challenge its links to big business like we did that day.”

Full article: https://corporatewatch.org/news/2016/apr/25/bail-conditions-used-tool-limit-political-dissent-interview-pete-simpson

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4. Court victory for arms fair blockaders

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The DSEI defendants notched up a remarkable court victory

In a startling victory for direct action, eight anti-militarists walked free from court on April 15 after being prosecuted for trying to disrupt September’s Defence & Security Equipment International (DSEI) arms fair at London’s ExCel Centre last September (see Acorn 23).

And they did not get off on a technicality – District Judge Angus Hamilton accepted the defendants’ argument that they had tried to prevent greater crimes, such as genocide and torture, from occurring by blocking a road to stop tanks and other armoured vehicles from arriving at the exhibition centre.

Reported The Independent: “Witnesses described the role of the arms trade in facilitating the repressive Bahrani regime, in Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign over Yemen, and with Turkey’s internal repression of its Kurdish population.

“The judge said the evidence of illegal weapons sales had been left unchallenged by the prosecution and that such sales would potentially break arms control laws.”

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Protests at DSEI

Said defendant Lisa Butler: “Of course, we were ecstatic with the result, but we feel that we should never have been on trial in the first place.

“At the beginning of the case, it was eight activists who were on trial, but by the end of the week, we had succeeded in bringing the corrupt activities of the arms trade to public attention. It felt as though we had successfully put Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, DSEI and the UK government on trial”.

Unfortunately, though, the court result does not mean that there is such a thing as “British justice” – as one of the defendants remarked, even a stopped watch is right twice a day.

Neither does it mean that arms dealers are generally now seen by our society to be the criminals they are. It is only if they infringe certain technical rules that they are considered to be in the wrong.

Profiting from the murder and maiming of other people is still perfectly legal and praiseworthy if it creates “jobs”, boosts “the economy” and keeps the blood-stained wheels of capitalism turning.

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Arms dealers profit from murder and repression

* Campaign Against Arms Trade is urging people to pledge to resist the DSEI arms fair when it is next held in 2017.

UPDATE: Just after this bulletin was published, it emerged that the British state intends to appeal against the non-guilty verdict and defend the arms trade. More information on this development can be found here.

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5. Witch hunt: antisemitism smears are ideological warfare

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Jeremy Corbyn

A toxic new ideological weapon has been unleashed by the capitalist system against its opponents – the witch-hunt accusation of “antisemitism”.

This phenomenon has come to its head in the UK in recent weeks with fevered accusations of “antisemitism” within Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, which seems to be regarded as dangerously radical by those in high places in the UK and the USA.

Former London Mayor “Red Ken” Livingstone, suspended from the party, pointed out that this line of assault from Blairite right-wingers has been shaping up for a while now: “Frankly, there’s been an attempt to smear Jeremy Corbyn and his associates as antisemitic from the moment he became leader”.

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Tony Blair

There has been a related attack on Malia Bouattia, the new president of the UK’s National Union of Students, on the grounds of her anti-Zionism.

On one level these “shifty antisemitism wars” revolve around the legitimacy of support for Palestine and opposition to the brutal apartheid policies of an Israeli state which has long been a close ally of the UK, the USA, France and other Western states.

The success of the international BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) has prompted a “very coordinated and well-financed campaign led by Israel and its supporters aiming to criminalise political activism against Israeli occupation”.

In February, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson told the Financial Times: “We have stepped up our efforts directly and indirectly, dealing with friends of Israel in a variety of countries in which we have the BDS movement, fighting it with legal instruments.”

These “efforts” have been particularly blatant in France, where the authorities regard any call for the boycott of Israeli goods as a form of “racial hatred” .

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In the UK, too, there has been a state attack on the BDS movement, with a new set of rules that will make it harder for local councils and other public bodies including universities to make ethical procurement or investment decisions. Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove, has absurdly claimed that the BDS movement is committing “a crime worse than apartheid”.

The ideological distortion behind this attitude was well conveyed in a nasty attack on Bouattia published by The Guardian.

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New student leader Malia Bouattia

The author, Hannah Weisfeld, concedes that not all UK Jews support the Israeli state and that many criticise it.

But she insists: “Zionism, at its core, is the belief in the right of the state of Israel to exist. Whether Bouattia likes it or not, connection to Israel is a key part of Jewish identity for an overwhelming majority of Jews in 21st-century Britain”.

Challenging Bouattia’s very reasonable insistence that “for me to take issue with Zionist politics, is not me taking issue with being Jewish”, Weisfeld complains that “she shows a deep lack of understanding of Jewish identity”.

Essentially, Weisfeld is claiming here that Zionism and Jewishness are the same thing – to challenge Zionism is therefore to threaten all Jewish people.

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With the same line surfacing all over the place in recent months (for instance, in California), we are clearly witnessing a deliberate campaign to redefine criticism of the Israeli state and its policies as “antisemitism” and, therefore, as totally unacceptable and even criminal.

On another level, however, the current “antisemitism” row is not confined to issues around Israel, Zionism or Jewishness, but is cover for a new ideological assault on all opposition to the capitalist system – “extremism” as our rulers like to call it.

A telling pointer to this came in Paris in April, when right-wing Zionists falsely claimed that a group of anti-capitalist protesters had “attacked a synagogue”.

It is important to appreciate that the aim of this lie was not to discredit the pro-Palestine movement, as one might expect from pro-Israel groups, but to smear the left-wing anti-capitalist movement as a whole, using the “antisemitism” smear as a means to this end.

The same abuse of “antisemitism” accusations can be seen in an article in the Mail on Sunday on May 1, headed “Number of hate crimes against Jews soars as report says anti-semitism is at the ‘core’ of far-Left beliefs”.

The report in question was produced by  pro-Israeli scaremongers, The Campaign Against Antisemitism, though this fact is buried near the end of the article.

The Mail’s story blatantly and outrageously tries to smear all anti-capitalists as racists or even Nazis – a remarkable stance for a notoriously right-wing newspaper group, which famously trumpeted its support for fascism in the 1930s.

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At one point, without providing any context or information as to who was involved,  the article declares:  “In one shocking case, a mob shouting ‘Kill the Jews’ stormed a synagogue in Stamford Hill, North London, smashing windows and attacking worshippers”.

The implication is that this “mob” was probably left-wing, echoing the absurd right-wing Zionist claims regarding anti-capitalist protesters in Paris.

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This anti-left element is very much in evidence behind the attacks on Corbyn. Indeed, the undisguised hatred of Corbyn and his supporters expressed by the UK media, very much including The Guardian, is not only, or even primarily, based on his support for the Palestinian cause.

Instead it relates to other policies which, while they may not seem very radical to many Acorn readers, still  lie outside the imposed “consensus” of the US-dominated neoliberal capitalism that was safely represented by Blairite “New Labour”.

Explains a useful investigation from the Electronic Intifada website: “Although Labour’s membership has grown since Corbyn’s victory, he has been under constant attack from right-leaning politicians within the party. In an attempt to weaken his position, some of his critics have manufactured a ‘crisis’ about alleged anti-Semitism”.

It is important to understand that these smears are coming from a far-right elite of which far-right Zionism constitutes just one thread.

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A Kibbutz ceremony from 1951

Zionism is, in itself, not inherently right-wing. Its origins were largely on the left and, while any form of nationalism is incompatible with anarchism and other forms of internationalism, Zionism was born from a struggle against antisemitism and was theoretically no more unacceptable than the anti-imperialist nationalisms of Ireland, India or Algeria, putting aside the crucial issue of Palestinian land.

The far-right form of Zionism which dominates today is, however, closely allied to the imperialism of the USA, UK, France, NATO and the whole Western capitalist system.

It no more represents or defends the interests of Jewish people than the British, French or American ruling elites represent the people of those countries. Indeed, much of the story behind the fake “antisemitism” scares is to frighten the Jewish diaspora into the hands of right-wing Zionism, in the same way that the fear of “terrorism” is designed to frighten the public into the “protective” arms of the capitalist state.

In the words of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, “antisemitism becomes a weapon for imposing conformity on dissidents within the Jewish community”.

In Acorn 20, we explored the strong links between Islamophobic fear-mongering, far-right Zionism and shadowy CIA-backed pro-NATO organisations and individuals.

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Disallowing any such analysis has always been part of the ideological war conducted by this extreme-right ruling system against its opponents.

A particularly successful approach has been the “conspiracy theory” smear. This starts from the reality that racists with a hatred for Jewish people often hide behind the term “Zionism” in order to depict a poisonous fantasy-world of “Jewish conspiracy”.

This has been turned around to imply that anyone who suggests there is any kind of behind-the-scenes co-ordination within the various elements of the ruling system is a “conspiracy theorist” and therefore somehow associated with antisemitism.

Note that it is not even necessary to include any mention of Zionism within this analysis of power – the very fact of invoking any kind of “conspiracy” involving the governments of capitalist countries is deemed evidence of a crazed and dangerous mindset that could easily lead to antisemitism, fascism and so on.

This same line is echoed by everyone from “radicals” attacking the “dangers” of conspiracy theories within their own circles to the likes of Prime Minister David Cameron with his threat to clamp down on the “ludicrous conspiracy theories of the extremists”.

This fear of “conspiracy theories” and of contamination by association with right-wing or antisemitic ideas, can be traced back to the 1960s, when US intellectual Richard Hofstadter wrote an essay called The Paranoid Style in American Politics.

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As Robin Ramsay has written (see Acorn 20): “For ‘serious’ people – academics, journalists, politicians – large areas of political inquiry have been contaminated ever since by an association with conspiracy theories. Hofstadter’s essay appeared just when questions were being asked about the assassination of JFK and his essay helped to shore up the ‘lone assassin’ verdict offered by the Warren Commission”.

In 1999, this approach was further bolstered by the publication of a book called Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where It Comes From. The blurb states: “To anyone who has ever heard a friend or relative say, ‘Don’t believe what you read in the papers’, Conspiracy offers a spellbinding survey – and a wakeup call”.

The author of this book was none other than Daniel Pipes, a far-right US propagandist, recently described by writer Nafeez Ahmed as a “well-known anti-Muslim hate-monger”, who sits on the presidium of the ultra-Zionist Jerusalem Summit alongside British Islamophobe Baroness Cox.

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Daniel Pipes

Adds Ahmed: “The summit’s advisory board includes other leading notorious neoconservative ideologues like Rachel Ehrenfeld, Meyrav Wurmser (wife of David Wurmser, Middle East advisor to former vice-president Dick Cheney), and Dennis Prager, among others”.

The truth is that the engineered fear of “conspiracy theories” (conspiraphobia, perhaps?) is part of a deliberate political strategy to delegitimise all analysis of, and opposition to, the capitalist military-industrial complex. The current controversy has to be seen within that larger ideological context.

By using the spectre of “antisemitism” as a stick with which to beat opponents of the dominant system, far-right Zionists are showing that they are in no way acting in the interests of the Jewish people they claim to represent.

Instead, they are using their well-being as a pawn in a political chess game which serves nobody’s interests but those of the capitalist ruling elite with which they are closely allied.

For when anybody voicing any criticism of Israel, or indeed the global capitalist system, is branded “antisemitic”, it becomes impossible to identify the real antisemites, the racist Jew-haters who must be sniggering with delight at the smokescreen being put up around their vile prejudices by those purporting to combat them.

See also:

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

Conspiracies and contamination

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6. Acorninfo

Manufactured “terrorism” charges against anarchists in Belgium are due to be considered by a court in Brussels on May 10 2016. A report on Rabble website explains that the Belgian state has lumped together 150 different attacks on targets such as police stations, courts, banks, companies profiting from the prison system, building sites, mobile phone masts and cars belonging to diplomats, Eurocrats and NATO officials. By inventing a single fake “terrorist group” behind all of this, the prosecutors have contrived to reclassify a library as a place of recruitment, discussions as clandestine meetings, leaflets and newspapers as urban guerrilla manuals, demos and rallies as terrorism, affinity ties and self-organization as “a structured terrorist group”.

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* * *

“We cannot love your world. Your world is bad for us. We don’t like it. There are too many people. Too much noise. No peace. It smells bad”. These are the words of a woman of the Jarawa people, who have lived in peace off the coast of India for thousands of years but are now being treated as tourist attractions, or animals in a zoo, as the nightmare of industrial capitalist civilization engulfs them. Says a Jarawa man in a new documentary film: “We live really quietly in the forest, and we are happy. Here, there is everything we need. The trees are full of fruits, and the flowers are magnificent … We can find everything we need in the jungle.”

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* * *

An in-depth analysis on the influence of anarchist, environmental and feminist thinking in Kurdistan has been published online by Corporate Watch, ahead of a new book called Kurdish Struggles for Autonomy, due out this month. Says the report: “The movements for democratic confederalism in Rojava and Bakur are a place where anti-capitalist, feminist, anti-authoritarian and anti-state ideas are flourishing. They have the capability to transform the reality of society for millions of people. These changes are being made by people at a grassroots level, who are inspired by the ideas of the revolution, not by politicians or government institutions”.

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* * *

Two UK diary dates. Earth First! has announced that its 2016 summer gathering will be held between August 17 and 22 in Northamptonshire. Further info to be released later. And the 2016 London Anarchist Bookfair will be held on Saturday October 29.

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* * *

Acorn quote: “It would be better to dump the whole stinking system and take the consequences”.

Unabomber, Industrial Society and its Future

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

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The Acorn – 19

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Number 19


In this issue:

  1. Ethnic cleansing – bloody new chapter in Turkey’s war on Kurds
  2. Resisting the psychology of terror
  3. Exposed: fake left-wingers who hate the alternative media
  4. How capitalist “progress” crushes cultures
  5. Industrial capitalism causes cancer
  6. Acorninfo

1. Ethnic cleansing – bloody new chapter in Turkey’s war on Kurds

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“Ethnic cleansing is being committed against our people. What is being done here is a massacre. The Turkish state is attacking civilians with heavy arms as if it was confronting the military force of another state.”

This is the warning from Ferhat Encü, a deputy from the People’s Democratic Party in Turkey, in response to the current horrific escalation of the Turkish state’s war on the Kurdish people and its desire for freedom.

The latest assault on the Kurds is being reported in mainstream media as involving the slaughter of more than a hundred people – and the real figure is likely to be a lot worse.

A full-frontal assault has been launched on the Kurdish populations within Turkey’s borders, aimed at stamping out the latest uprising which has seen people in many Kurdish cities declare their autonomy from the state and arm themselves to defend their neighbourhoods against the police and army.

New curfews have been announced in the cities of Cizîr (Cizre in Turkish), Nusaybin and Silopi in the last week and civilians have been killed in all three of these cities.

kurds2

A new online report from Corporate Watch focuses on the Kurdish city of Amed (Diyarbakır in Turkish), one of those currently under attack by Turkish state forces.

Amed is situated within the borders of Turkey and its residents are locked in a decades-long struggle for self determination.

In November, people erected barricades in the neighbourhood of Sur, part of Amed’s historic old town, to protect their autonomy and prevent the Turkish police and army from entering.

Since then six consecutive curfews have been imposed in the city and police and military have attacked densely populated residential neighbourhoods with heavy weaponry.

kurds1

Reports Corporate Watch: “On Monday 14 December, Şiyar Salman and Şerdıl Cengiz were killed by the police in Sur. Earlier that day a strike had been called in Amed in solidarity with the people of Sur and a mass march aimed at reaching the besieged neighbourhood had been attacked with water cannons and tear gas by the police.

“A journalist from the JINHA women’s news agency was detained during the demonstration. In retaliation, the armed wing of the PKK (the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, which previously advocated an independent Kurdish state and now supports democratic autonomy in Kurdistan) attacked a military convoy in Amed district, killing six Special Operations officers and destroying armoured vehicles. On 16 December state forces shelled houses in Sur, wounding seven people.

Kurdish Media has reported that Turkish police have used Ford vehicles to blockade the neighbourhoods where the killings took place (for more info on Ford’s dealings with the Turkish police click here).”

The courage shown by the Kurds in their resistance to the corporate-backed power of the Turkish state is inspiring, as is their optimistic spirit of defiance.

Insists Encü: “It will be our people that triumphs… Turkish state gangs will be expelled from Silopi, Cizre and all Kurdistan territory in the same way ISIS has been pushed out of Kobanê!”

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Kurdish resistance fighters

Read also:

Full Corporate Watch report

Insurrection News

Erdogan’s dirty war against the Kurds

Holistic anarchism in Turkey

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2. Resisting the psychology of terror

paris fear

An important article was jointly published last week by the US website Crimethinc and the French site Lundimatin.

Available in both French and English, it looks at the effect of 9/11 on anti-capitalist dissidents across the Atlantic 14 years ago and compares this with what is happening, and may happen, in France today.

A key section relates to the psychological impact of the Twin Towers attacks, and the ensuing hysteria, on the activist scene.

It reminds us that the events of September 11 took place at a moment when the USA, and indeed Europe, was facing a huge and apparently unstoppable wave of protest: “2001 was a peak in the anti-globalization movement. It was right after Seattle and in July there was Genoa”.

seattle99
Seattle in 1999 – the 9/11 attacks stopped the anti-capitalist momentum in the USA

Coincidentally, the same atmosphere of rebellion had been growing in France before the Paris attacks, as we pointed out in Acorn 18.

The effect of 9/11 on the US protest movement was disastrous: “Immediately after the attacks of September 11, social movements of all kinds froze up around the United States. Radicals were afraid that the authorities would take advantage of the opportunity to mop them up.

“Participants in the so-called anti-globalization movement, accustomed to seeing themselves portrayed on television as the primary opponents of the status quo, weren’t prepared to be pushed out of the headlines by a bigger, badder enemy. Momentum gave way to demoralization and malaise”.

The 9/11 effect was undoubtedly also felt in the UK at the time. Initially, the critical attitude to America often implicit in the anti-globalisation movement suddenly came across as inappropriate in a new “reality” in which the USA played victim. But the overall energy did not so much drop as re-channel itself into an anti-war movement opposing the militarist face of the US-led capitalist system.

However, the UK did have its own terrorist outrage and, coincidentally, this also occurred at an inconvenient time for the anti-capitalist movement.

g8scotland
The massive 2005 anti-capitalist mobilisation in Scotland was overshadowed by the 7/7 bombings

It is a matter of some notoriety that when news of the 7/7 bombings spread around the Stirling campsite for the anti-G8 mobilisation in Scotland in 2005, a certain clique of “activists” called for the protests to be abandoned in respect for the victims.

This was vigorously opposed by many there, particularly the Irish contingent and other internationals, but was nevertheless somehow imposed.

In retrospect, the fact that police spy Mark Kennedy/Stone was among the organisers explains a lot about this manoeuvre. But what about all the others who went along with him?

Their spineless compliance with the state’s line on “terrorism” revealed a deep weakness at the core of the anti-capitalist movement – some activists just weren’t essentially opposed to the ruling system and could still be psychologically manipulated into conformity in the event of an “emergency”.

It is important to realise that the system will always use the shock of terrorism as a psychological weapon with which to bludgeon the population into obedience.

We can see how this worked with regards to the COP21 in Paris. Yes, there were very real and physical repressive measures taken against anti-COP activists which hindered the mobilisation (see Acorn 18), but these do not necessarily account for all the no-shows, all the lowered levels of energy.

cop21paris
Muted – the post-terror COP21 protests in Paris

There is a worrying naivety amongst even supposedly-sussed activists with regard to the industrial capitalist system and its agenda, which too easily allows a fiery message of resistance to be reduced to a tepid request for reform.

What can you say about a “radical” UK environmental activist overheard reporting enthusiastically that there was apparently “good news” from the COP21 summit? What might that be? That the rulers of the industrial world and their corporate sponsors were going to dismantle capitalism, perhaps?

How can you protest against the whole COP21 charade and imagine that the phoney “solution” will even involve the slightest hint of a halt to airport-building, road-building and fracking, let alone the salvation of the planet?

The industrial-military-financial complex no more deserves our support in its staging of fake greenwashing summits than it does in its fake “war on terrorism”.

How many times are we going to fall for its tricks and lies?

riot dogs

The content of the Crimethinc/Lundimatin conversation ties in very nicely with the subject of a recent anarchist blogpost, which asks what the activist reaction in the UK would be to a “state of emergency” like that imposed in France.

It would perhaps be useful if UK dissidents gave this question some thought ahead of any such occurrence and resolved not to lose sight of the following key points:

* Our opposition to the industrial capitalist system is deep and long-term. It is not going to be modified by any particular events, no matter how shocking.

* The victims of terrorist attacks are always human beings – not nations, states or the politicians who claim to represent them. The UK state will not be a victim of any terrorist attack but will hold full responsibility by virtue of its policies and actions.

* The state may have the short-term physical power to round up opponents, ban protests, close down websites and so on, but it does not have the long-term ability to hold down the whole population against its will. The first barrier to resistance is always psychological and we will not allow ourselves to be intimidated into silence, or into a dilution of our anti-capitalist convictions, by a climate of fear created by the authorities. Instead, any attempt to crush our movements will only deepen our resolve and fuel our revolt.

“Resilience” is a word often used by the state as it encourages people to rally round its flag, but it is maybe one that should be appropriated by its opponents.

We need resilience in the face of the constant physical repression doled out by the system, resilience in the face of its lies and propaganda and, today more than ever, resilience in the face of the psychological bludgeon of “anti-terrorism” with which it would beat us into silence and submission.

etatdurgence3
Defying the state of emergency

NOTE 1: Since the last issue of The Acorn, repression in post-shock France has spiralled and we have been translating into English some key accounts, which can be found on our Resources page. There is this account of a brutal and apparently premeditated police attack on a protest in Nantes, this report of Muslim homes being raided by sneering, racist police and this account of martial law in France, together with a defiant statement in response.

NOTE 2: There seems to be a growing scepticism (in the alternative media at least) about the bogeyman of “terrorism” and its use to justify US/NATO imperialism and repression. For instance, this interesting article by Vanessa Beeley on the recent massacre of Shiite Muslims by Nigerian troops draws poses some broader parapolitical questions, asking: “Grey Wolves, FSA, ISIS, DAESH, Al Qaeda, Khorasan, AQAP, Jabhat al Nusra and Boko Haram, are they all nothing more than trade names, successfully managed brand images, logos and IDs all emanating from the US/NATO, Israel and Gulf State holders of the patent on terror and their associated marketing agents and concept creators?” This report on 21st Century Wire website joins the dots between various “gangs and counter gangs” using similar techniques in different parts of the world. Additionally, Umberto Eco’s latest novel, Numero Zero, also involves the non-fictional story of NATO false flag terrorism in Europe and includes a useful synopsis of the must-see BBC documentary on Operation Gladio.

Also read:

Terrorism and the state – learning from history

Terror and the capitalist system

Anti-terrorism is not what it says it is

Cracks in the system – Part II

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

thoughtpolice

With the ever-more apparent domination of mainstream media by the corporate elite, the existence of an alternative media is a source of hope and inspiration for many.

You would imagine that anybody terming themselves “left-wing” would welcome its existence with open arms, even if obviously not embracing every single site that falls under that wide description.

However, this does not seem to be the case for a certain James Bloodworth, a “left-wing” journalist and the former editor of the political blog Left Foot Forward.

BLOODWORTH
James Bloodworth

According to Bloodworth , the alternative media are in fact often serving “sinister agendas”.

It is clear from the article he wrote on the subject on the Little Atoms website, that what Bloodworth hates most is any sort of criticism of the USA.

He complains that, in the “pernicious” reporting of non-corporate media, “should America or a government allied to America commit an egregious violation of human rights, that crime will be blown out of all proportion”.

And the same specific sensitivity lay behind his attack on Jeremy Corbyn in the International Business Times earlier this year, when he wrote: “The truth is that, however much a Corbyn-led Labour party might claim to be standing up for the most vulnerable, it will always and everywhere be willing to sacrifice the very people it ought to stick up for – the world’s democrats, secularists, Jews, gays and women – on the ideological alter [sic] of anti-Americanism.”

iloveamerica

An in-depth article by Nafeez Ahmed on the Media Reform website questions the perplexing political line taken by the supposedly left-wing Bloodworth.

Ahmed points out that Bloodworth can hardly term himself a “progressive” as a search of the archives shows him routinely promoting the wonders of drone strikes and military intervention in Pakistan and Afghanistan; calling for more war in Iraq; and in Syria and endorsing fracking regardless of its environmental consequences.

And he points out Bloodworth’s links to the late Professor Norman Geras, whose pseudo-left 2006 Euston Manifesto declared, in Ahmed’s words, that the “left” should “define itself in opposition to ‘anti-imperialism’ and criticisms of neoconservative warmongers in the US”.

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200
Norman Geras, a pro-war “leftist”

We are left, then, with the suspicion that there is a network of journalists and academics actively working to steer the “Left” away from any criticism of the USA and the capitalist system it dominates.

If we want to know what an anti-anti-imperialist “Left” might lead to, we need only look at the “Antideutsch” movement in Germany, with its support for Israeli Apartheid and American imperialism.

And if we are wondering who might be behind such ideological manipulation, we might find a historical clue in seeing who was behind the creation of the Index on Censorship and many other political and “cultural” initiatives – a Cold War organisation called Congress for Cultural Freedom which has long been revealed to have been a front for the CIA.

“At its height, the CCF had offices in thirty-five countries, employed dozens of personnel, published over twenty prestige magazines, held art exhibitions, owned a news and features service, organized high-profile international conferences, and rewarded musicians and artists with prizes and public performances”, records Wikipedia.

Any analysis which involves anything smacking of “conspiracy” is almost taboo in certain radical circles, for some reason. But scornfully muttering the words “conspiracy theory” does not magically stop real conspiracies from existing…

It is a fact that the US government has spent millions of dollars on trying to promote pro-American viewpoints around the world, not least in a supposedly “left-wing” context – and we should be wary of being swayed by this sophisticated ideological propaganda.

Ten years ago, The Porkbolter (a now-defunct local anarchist newsletter in Worthing, West Sussex) published a critical report on the journalist Andrew Mueller, which can still be read online.

andrewmueller
Andrew Mueller

The similarities with Bloodworth are remarkable. Here is another supposedly funky “left-wing” journalist whose actual output features sneering attacks on various enemies of the capitalist system, from Israeli nuclear whistle-blower Mordechai Vanunu to UK leftist politician George Galloway.

Like Bloodworth, Mueller is especially protective of the reputation of the USA, complaining for instance about “puerile anti-American bleating” at an anti-war meeting.

Coincidentally, his work also includes a gushing article endorsing the activities of a rather dodgy Albanian political movement called Mjaft!, which received support and funding from the UK and US governments.

Also coincidentally, the very same Andrew Mueller is today among the contributors to Little Atoms, the state-funded website on which Bloodworth launched his scathing attack on the perniciously anti-American alternative media.

andrewmueller2

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4. How capitalist “progress” crushes cultures

The links between the spread of capitalist “progress” and the destruction of minority languages and culture are explored in a newly-translated article from an anarchist review in France.

“We talk to the horse in Breton and to the tractor in French” explains one small farmer in Brittany, illuminating the exposing the full-spectrum domination of a system that can tolerate no other way of being, of thinking, of speaking, than its own.

The piece was originally published in a magazine jointly published by Offensive – trimestriel d’offensive libertaire et sociale and Courant alternatif – mensuel anarchiste-communiste.

The author, Gildas, explains how the French language conquered the countryside of Brittany as part of the triumph of industrial and consumer society: “In the end the Breton-speakers walked away from a language which blocked social ascent. Speaking Breton meant you were still a worker, a peasant, a seafarer. Speaking French meant you could be mobile, move up the ladder, upgrade yourself socially and economically”.

The Marxist Left had never had much interesting in protecting traditional rural culture, being “mesmerised by development, workers and the factory”, but in the 1970s there emerged a new kind of Left that did understand its significance and didn’t write off the struggle for the Breton language as inherently right-wing or even Fascist.

“People rediscovered their language, they rediscovered their land and they criticised ‘progress’, which had done so much damage”.

Full translated article

Original magazine

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5. Industrial capitalism causes cancer

The economic “growth” and “progress” offered by industrial capitalism look very much like the growth and progress of a cancerous tumour within our planetary organism.

And industrial capitalism is itself the cause of the epidemic of cancer affecting the human species, a recent report has confirmed.

The wide-ranging US survey showed cancer rates are rising in poorer countries, as industrial “civilization” is imposed on them, while screening and preventative measures have halted the increase in the wealthier heartlands.

Another study has revealed that “avoidable factors such as toxic chemicals and radiation” – effects of industrial-capitalist civilization – lie behind cancer.

Dr David Katz, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center said: “It is both tragic and unconscionable that risk factors for cancer and other chronic diseases are being actively exported by wealthy countries to developing countries. We are exporting causes, and thus cases, of cancer. Profit is being prioritized over human lives. Knowing this, and continuing in that vein, is all to our shame”.

factory-pollution

Meanwhile, official figures are now suggesting that the big rise in life expectancy seen in the past few decades may be easing off.

Longevity may well have peaked with a generation which grew up in a healthier environment and also benefited from better medical facilities, while later generations have been exposed to a lifetime of cancer-inducing toxicity which will stop them living to a ripe old age.

* One of the many deceptions inflicted on the public by the pharmaceutical industry has been exposed by the Australian federal court, which ordered the drug giant Reckitt Benckiser to stop selling identical products marketed as specific Nurofen varieties for back pain, period pain, migraine pain and tension headaches. The profiteering corporation was selling the fake “specialist” remedies at twice the usual price.

nurofen

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6. Acorninfo

A call has gone out to support UK anarchist prisoner Pete Simpson. Bristol Anarchist Black Cross report that Pete was remanded on the 17th December 2015. “He is awaiting trial for ‘violent disorder’ after being attacked & arrested by police at an anti-cuts mayday demonstration in Cardiff, South Wales. He is on trial with another co-defendant in January 2016. Pete has spent the last several months with an electronic tag, his freedom severely restricted, and a change of bail address led to the court remanding him to prison.” Please write to Pete at: Peter Simpson A6060CF, HMP CARDIFF, Knox Rd, Cardiff, WALES, CF24 0UG

support-pete

* * *

Young people who question the government or media may be “extremists”, UK authorities have declared, as the full-scale Orwellisation of our society continues apace. The leaflet, handed to parents in London, says the danger signs of so-called radicalisation include “showing a mistrust of mainstream media reports and belief in conspiracy theories” and “appearing angry about government policies, especially foreign policy”. Numbed slack-jawed conformists gawping apathetically at the TV set are, presumably, the ideal non-extremist citizens of tomorrow.

* * *

Anarchism in Greece is the subject of an interesting report on the Aljazeera website. The article takes a closer look at “a new generation of Greek anarchists who, after years of recession and austerity, have lost all faith in the government, and even in the state itself”. The article explores the growing social element to the anarchist struggle, but stresses that there is still a battle to be fought on the streets, quoting one activist as saying “The revolution will not come with flowers. They need to see that we have the power to create but also to destroy. Again and again.”

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* * *

If you’re looking for a plausible inside witness to the duplicity behind US imperialism (“the war on terror”), you could do worse than the former Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO. In this revealing video, General Wesley Clark dishes the dirt on long-term US plans to attack and destroy the governments of a string of states, including Iraq, Libya, Syria… and Iran. Meanwhile, this major piece by Nafeez Ahmed explains how Western involvement in Syria is set to benefit US, British, French and Israeli energy interests.

syriaoil

* * *

News of government plans for a new bypass through countryside to the north of Chichester, revealed in Acorn 18, has set alarm bells ringing in the city. A website and petition have been set up to counter the threat and “hundreds of angry residents” have opposed the A27 proposal.  Local opponents have correctly identified the thinking behind the building of the new bypass (as opposed to the previously-favoured upgrading of the current route) as being all about “opening up” new countryside for profitable development. The Chichester Deserves Better site states: “Build a new bypass and Chichester loses all control over properly planned development. No longer will the city be able to grow in a planned, organic way. Instead, everything will be built in the lung of land closed in by the bypass. And not because it’s needed, but because it’s there. Build a bypass, and you’re also opening up the entire area to new industrial estates, shopping centres, housing estates”. Experienced anti-road campaigners have rightly warned, though, against short-sighted support for the southern A27 option: “Of course any style of road north of the city to cope with such an event is out of the question, but so is anything that increases traffic on the present southern ring road. A unified opposition and a no road here campaign is more likely to win the battle against the relentless increase traffic and the pollution that shortens our lives and that of the planet”.

chichester

* * *

This video shows a protest this month at a shareholders’ meeting and press conference of the world’s biggest ore producer, Vale, which was held at the Mayfair Hotel, London. A month earlier, on November 5, two tailings dams burst in the state of Minas Gerais in the south-east of Brazil. The dams were managed by Samarco, a joint venture between Vale, and the Anglo-Australian mining giant, BHP Billiton. An environmental disaster was unleashed as 60 million cubic metres of toxic slurry flattened five settlements and filled the River Doce floodplain. Twenty three people were killed, 600 displaced, and a quarter of a million left without clean water.

vale protest

* * *

A new novel exploring art, anarchism and reality has been published by Orage Press. In Search of Experience is written by Dr Michael Paraskos, an expert on the works of the 20th century English anarchist Herbert Read, and is partly based on the diaries of his father Stass Paraskos, who was famously prosecuted by the British state in the 1960s for his “obscene” paintings. The book is reviewed here by Paul Cudenec.

In search of sixpence

* * *

Acorn quote: “Presented with a universal duty to defend public order, everyone is invited to inform, to grovel, to fear: for the first time in history cowardice becomes a sublime quality, fear is always justified and the only kind of ‘courage’ which escapes scorn is that of approving and supporting all the abuse and infamy of the state”.

Gianfranco Sanguinetti, On Terrorism and the State

terrorism leaflet

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

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The Acorn – 8

acornmastheadnew

Number 8


In this issue:

  1. Wiping the smug look off the face of capitalism!
  2. Film: “The city is the end of the world”
  3. The “regeneration” scam
  4. Developers erase communities and their histories
  5. Forms of Freedom – new anarchist book from Winter Oak
  6. Government are a bunch of fracking hypocrites!
  7. Brighton solidarity with jailed Spanish anarchists
  8. Acorninfo

1. Wiping the smug look off the face of capitalism!

Draghi protest2
Frightened of something, Mr President?

When a young anti-capitalist leapt on to the desk in front of European Central Bank president Mario Draghi when he was giving a press conference in Frankfurt on April 15, the look on Draghi’s face was priceless.

Where was his security? Where was his certainty? Where was his unchallenged power to pontificate without any interruption from those who should know their submissive place in the social structure and stick to it?

Draghi protest

The impact of this one-woman protest (following on from the thousands-strong protests in Frankfurt a few weeks ago  and hopefully continuing with the May 1 protests against the World Fair in Milan) is something that needs to be matched on a theoretical level.

We heretics of the capitalist age need to blow a hole in the smug certainties of the neoliberal cult of which Draghi is part.

Jobs, economic growth, regeneration. These are its holy words, the sanctimonious doublespeak that is uttered every time it carries out some new abomination.

Like all such dogma, these terms “cannot” be challenged. They are supposed to be self-evidently desirable. From within the capitalists’ world, it is so obvious that “everyone” is in favour of jobs, growth and regeneration that they don’t even feel they have to argue the case.

But the truth is that it is precisely only from within their world that they make any sense. It is only by accepting all the assumptions that lie behind these loaded terms that they appear to be positive concepts.

For instance, don’t we all need jobs? How else would we have any food or shelter? How else could we live – unless we are rich or “sponging” from the state? But the reality is that most “jobs” have nothing to do with feeding us. They just provide us with tokens (money) which we can exchange for food, grown on the land which has been stolen from the commons of a non-owned planet by an elite who invented the idea of “property” to justify this theft and then invented the idea of “law” to justify the constant violence they use to hold on to their ill-gotten gains.

arbeit_macht_frei

A “job” is not a good thing in itself. It depends what you are actually doing. Nuclear weapons factories create “jobs”. Rainforest clearance creates “jobs”. Prisons, detention centres, animal testing labs, concentration camps – all of these involve “jobs”.

We, those of us who reject the capitalist world, need to break through the barriers to understanding erected by the words they use and by the assumptions behind them.

Already, the degrowth movement is pointing out that “economic growth” is about as good news for humanity as a “cancerous growth” is for an individual.

Likewise with “regeneration”. Capitalist regeneration is nothing but destruction. Real regeneration would start with the clearing away of the toxic infrastructure of the industrial capitalist machine that we are somehow allowing to destroy the one thing we can never do without – the planet we live on.

But it also must start with the clearing away of the assumptions and certainties which capitalism uses to hide the reality of its violent domination of humankind.

As long as we dissidents continue to pay lip service to the neoliberal liturgy of jobs, growth and development, the face of the capitalist system will retain its complacent certainty that we are incapable of seeing through its exploitative lies – and acting accordingly.

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2. Film: “The city is the end of the world”

Metropolis

“In the city, life is not free. It must be paid for. There is no home here, there is only money, control and order. The city is the epicentre of illusion and the absolute apex of lifelessness. It is a black hole perched along the river devouring all that is free. The city is the end of the world.”

These words come from the introductory scenes of a superb video called Metropolis, which was made in 2012 but is not yet as well known as it should be.

Its focus is on Seattle in the USA, the home of Microsoft, Starbucks and Amazon, which tries to pass itself off as some kind of eco-friendly model of a happy hi-tech future. But, as the film says, “the Emerald City is not what it seems”.

Here we see the whole infrastructure of a modern conurbation, from transport networks to power and water supplies, from offices to shopping malls to prisons.

Everything in the capitalist city is interconnected and everything is there to facilitate the flow of capital – not least the human population.

If you don’t serve the purposes of capital, you are not welcome here: “Only those with money and the intention of spending it are encouraged to enter the heart of downtown, where everything must be paid for”.

Behind the gentrification of luxury “eco-friendly” apartments, behind all the creation of jobs and boosting of the economy is the reality of an industrial civilization which pollutes our water and turns human beings into slaves of a technological master – not for nothing does the documentary feature clips from sci-fi films Terminator and Existenz.

We are shown how the police and public authorities work hand in hand with the powerful businesses of the city to ensure this is how things remain: “It is in all of their interests to have a submissive and orderly population that will help them expand the economy.”

One comment regarding the port of Seattle could just as easily apply to any other part of the system: “The pollution, the deaths at the workplace, all of it can be ignored as long as the wheels of the metropolis keep turning.”

Seattle anarchists
Anarchists in Seattle

But there is a positive side, too. In contrast to the nightmare present, projected into a nightmare future, the film presents the sense of possibility offered by revolt.

It reminds us: “Life is the force that brought us to this moment and it is life that will get us out of this trap. As soon as we make the choice, we are free.”

The film can be seen online (in segments) here. A version with French subtitles is also being created here.

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3. The “regeneration” scam

Regeneration? Trees felled to make way for a SeaChange project
Capitalist “regeneration”. Trees felled to make way for a SeaChange project

The scam of capitalist “regeneration” is being challenged by campaigners in southern England.

Behind all the talk of “job creation”, “development” and “infrastructure” is the reality of environmental destruction and a massive financial cost to those who will never benefit from the schemes.

SeaChange logo
SeaChange: a “not-for-profit” cog in the capitalist machine

The SeaChangeWatch website has been set up by residents of Hastings and St Leonards and focuses on SeaChange Sussex, a “not-for-profit economic development company” which trades under the name “East Sussex Energy Infrastructure and Development Limited”.

This is the grey area where state and business overlap. A private company funded almost completely by the public purse, SeaChange says on its own website that it is  ”working to expand the area’s economy and business community by attracting successful companies and enabling local firms to grow”.

But the campaigners are questioning “the huge amount of public money poured into SeaChange Sussex to create ‘regeneration’ in our town”, adding “Our green spaces are being destroyed by this ‘build and the occupiers will come’ policy.”

Creating "opportunities" - to trash the Sussex countryside
Creating “opportunities” – to trash the Sussex countryside

In recent years, SeaChange Sussex (or its precursor, SeaSpace) has built two business parks locally for which it “appears totally unable to find occupiers”. Despite this, it is pushing ahead with plans for two more sites – Bexhill Innovation Park and the Queensway Gateway development.

Say the campaigners: “By granting planning permission for these new sites without asking any questions about the previous ones, our local councils – Hastings Borough Council and Rother District Council – are colluding in the environmental destruction and waste of public money which these projects represent”.

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4.  Developers erase communities and their histories

East End Howler

A handy guide to “understanding developer-speak” has been put together by the East End Howler, an excellent free news sheet from London (issue 15):

Affordable: No more than 80% of market rate.

Read: Insultingly unaffordable for most.

Decanting: Councils and property developers will actually refer to people like they’re canned goods. Perhaps it’s easier on their consciences than “displacing families and shattering communities”.

Read: getting rid of those pesky working class types.

Flagship development: Huge amounts of money pumped into a single development to try to “revitalise” an area – in other words, to kick off gentrification.

Read: the cavalry is coming.

Investment, growth, revitalisation: At the same time as people are being turfed out, places are increasingly being given new names, presumably in an attempt to create a “buzz” about an area loud enough to drown out the sound of bulldozers. Usually “something-Quarter”, “something-Town”, “something-Village”. Eviction clearly isn’t enough – histories have to be erased with it.

Read: We consider the previous residents to be skeletons in our closet.

Regeneration, improvement: Making changes to an area to attract bigger businesses and richer tenants. As no attempt will be made to counteract the inevitable increase in house prices, anyone who currently lives there is screwed.

Read: Doing absolutely anything we can to attract rich overseas property investors.

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5. Forms of Freedom – new anarchist book from Winter Oak

formsoffreedomcover

A new book on anarchist philosophy from writer Paul Cudenec has been published by Winter Oak – Forms of Freedom.

In this important work, the author of The Anarchist Revelation, The Stifled Soul of Humankind and Antibodies challenges layer upon layer of the assumptions that lie largely unchallenged beneath contemporary industrial capitalist society.

He rejects limited definitions of freedom as an absence of specific restraints in favour of a far deeper and more radical analysis which describes individual, collective, planetary and metaphysical levels of freedom.

A powerful and tightly-argued work inspired by a profoundly coherent anarchist vision, Forms of Freedom is a potential classic of 21st century revolutionary philosophy.

Writes Cudenec: “How can the human race embrace freedom if it does not have a clear idea of what freedom is? How can we ever gain a clear idea of freedom if we do not even start looking for it in the right places?

“A collective delusion has taken over humanity, fogged its mind, rendered it incapable of understanding its own essential reality or the way in which it has become blinded to that reality and thus incapable of acting in its own real interests”.

More information on a special page at https://winteroak.org.uk/forms-of-freedom

Paul Cudenec will be talking about the theme of the book in a 2pm workshop at the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday April 25.

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6. Government are a bunch of fracking hypocrites!

Regulations? David Cameron won't let anything stand in the way of the fracking industry
Regulations? David Cameron won’t let anything stand in the way of the fracking industry

Some big lies behind the British state’s all-out support for the fracking industry are exposed in a new book by a Sussex campaigner.

Balcombe and Beyond: UK’s Frack Free Movement by Martin Dale features some important information that reveals the hypocrisy behind all the media spin.

For instance, the UK authorities have often tried to reassure the public that fracking will be perfectly safe here, because of all the lovely regulations we have in place.

But the book reveals that behind the scenes the government has in fact been trying to prevent regulations from getting in the way of the fracking industry’s profits!

Dale writes: “Leaked documents from the European Commission in January 2014 identified Prime Minister David Cameron and the UK Government as the chief opposition to new environmental legislation on fracking operations, stating in a letter to the EC President: ‘It is essential the EU minimise the regulatory burdens and costs on industry… by not creating uncertainty or introducing new legislation. The industry in the UK had told us that new EU legislation would delay imminent investment”.

frackingwater

The author reveals that the only “regulation” the UK has in mind is one conducted by the industry itself! “UK pro-shale advocates cite that there are ‘Gold Standard Regulations’ that make the process of fracking safe for the UK. However, it has been found through Freedom of Information requests that neither the Environment Agency nor the Health and Safety Executive conduct independent inspections of any oil or gas well sites, but instead rely on self-regulation by the well operators”.

He points out early in the book that “the Coalition Government are overtly pro-shale”. This is hardly a secret – indeed the Tories’ 2015 manifesto even boasts about it, declaring “our tax cuts have encouraged record levels of investment in existing North Sea gas, and the birth of a new industry, shale gas, which could create many thousands of jobs.”

As the details of Dale’s research confirm this time and time again, so he leads us on to a broader, and more disconcerting, appreciation of the close collaboration between state and business.

On every level, the state exposes itself as a tool in the hands of the fracking industry. Even the road repairs and widening around drill sites are in effect a subsidy for private industry from the public purse.

frackingdefra

The UK state has also actively prevented the public from hearing the truth about the disastrous impact of fracking if it is allowed to go ahead, even notoriously censoring one of its own reports on the issue!

Dale recalls that in August 2014, government department DEFRA released a report “on the potential impacts of shale gas exploration on rural communities. The report was only 13 pages in length but contained 63 redactions, obscuring almost all of its content. Eight sections had been deleted from the executive summary, four sections on economic impacts, four sections on social impacts, 17 sections on local service impacts and three sections specifically looking at the impact on house prices near drilling sites”.

The state’s reaction to public opposition to fracking – in particular the right to drill under people’s homes without their permission – has also exposed as a complete sham the phoney “consultation” with which it likes to dress up its edicts.

The book tells us: “On the 26th September, the Department for Energy and Climate Change announced the results of the consultation on underground access – some 40,647 responses were made with an astonishing 99% rate of objection to the plans to allow drilling without landowner permission. However, in a press release DECC stated that: ‘We acknowledge the large number of responses against the proposal and the fact that the proposal has provided an opportunity for the public to voice their concerns and raise issues. However the role of the consultation was to see arguments and evidence to consider in developing the proposed policy. Whilst a wide range of arguments were raised and points covered, we did not identify any issues that persuaded us to change the basic form of the proposals”.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, a couple of weeks later a last-minute amendment to what was to become the Infrastructure Act allowed fracking firms to put any substance at all into the ground and leave it there for ever!

balcombeandbeyond

A full review of the book can be read here.

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7. Brighton solidarity with jailed Spanish anarchists

Spain protest
The solidarity protest in Brighton, Sussex

Some 40 people took part in a Sunday evening protest in Brighton on April 12, in solidarity with Spanish anarchists jailed by their increasingly repressive state.

As we reported in Acorn 6 and Acorn 7, “Operación Piñata” is a massive and much-hyped assault by the Spanish police against the anarchist Movement in Spain. It has left five people in “preventive” imprisonment under solitary confinement.

From six in the evening people met at the Clock Tower, in the centre of Brighton, displaying banners, giving out leaflets and explaining to the public about the repression in Spain and the conditions of the comrades. Slogans against the repression and against police and prisons were heard (some of them in Spanish).

Spain protest2
Taking the road in Brighton

After half an hour activists decided to block the road for a few minutes, walking to Churchill Square, where a statement was read in front of the Santander Bank and O2 (Telefónica), two of the biggest Spanish corporations. Then the group made its way back to the Clock Tower where the action concluded.

In the demonstration there were a large number of Spanish people living in Brighton and comrades from different social movements of the city. Solidarity was shown from groups such as Brighton-SolFed, Brighton Antifascists, Sussex Anarchists and Brighton Anarchist Black Cross.

Said a statement from activists: “Spain is becoming a police state because the Government is scared. They are scared of the coherence in the criticism and the practices that the anarchists represent and the incidence that this is having in the people of a country with a long history of revolts.

“In Spain people are angry. Lots of interesting struggles are taking place―struggles in which the people are addressing their problems by themselves, pointing directly to their real enemies: Capitalism and, for a few of them, also the State.

“There are, of course, those who try to recover popular initiatives in order to become the political leaders of the future. Some of them will become council representatives, even majors or ministers. They talk about ‘democratic regeneration’ or promise to go back to the ‘Welfare State’.

“The Spanish Government is well aware of the fact that the calming siren song of the new shepherds is not enough. An army of journalists, politicians and government workers are being mobilised to make sure that nobody crosses the limits. However, their principal weapon is an old one: repression.

Police raids against anarchists have been heavily hyped by Spanish corporate media
Police raids against anarchists have been heavily hyped by Spanish corporate media

“If their intention was to intimidate and isolate what they call the anarchist-terrorists this has been a bad beginning. Just hours after the operation started, a wave of solidarity spread around the country and even far beyond it.

“Thousands of people are taking the streets in solidarity with the detained. They realise that those who are being labelled as members of a dangerous, terrorist cell, could have been them, for Spain―like many other places in Europe― is becoming a trap for those who do not want to become docile subjects.

“While living conditions are getting worse the ruling class is answering with criminalisation of the fighters. International solidarity is particularly important now. It must be shown that we are not scared, that we are very angry and that our comrades are not alone. Solidarity will go on. Liberation for the anarchists arrested now! ¡Ahora y siempre, muerte al Estado y viva la Anarquía!”

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8. Acorninfo

A good example of targeting neoliberal infrastructure comes from Oakland, USA, where there is a Mayday call-out to “Block the Tech Commute!”. Says a post on Anarchist News: “Oakland is seeing an unprecedented wave of gentrification creeping in from every direction. The rich have begun colonizing North Oakland, West Oakland, and Downtown. Their tech buses, their pricey cafes, and their luxury apartments have begun to appear with alarming frequency. This May Day, we will deliver a simple message to these colonizers during their morning commute. Starting at 7:30 AM and lasting until 9:30 AM, we call on everyone to converge at the MacArthur BART [Bay Area Rapid Transit] station to interrupt the morning commute. The tech shuttle buses for Facebook, Google, and Apple all stop outside the BART station on 40th Street, below the freeway. We will converge in front of these buses, on the platforms of the station, and in front of the BART gates to spread our message”.

Block the tech commute

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As the capitalist system fears up for another phoney election in the UK, Occupy Democracy has announced a ten-day occupation of Parliament Square, London, from May 1 to May 10,  to continue building “a movement for real democracy: free from corporate control, working for people and planet”. They say: “We will return to Parliament Square to expose our broken democracy and work towards real democratic solutions through engaging workshops, lively discussions and creative direct action”.

occupy democracy

* * *

A round-up of protests around Mayday and later in the year has been posted by the Anarchist Action Network on its website. Its next meeting will be on Saturday May 30  at the Cowley Club, 12 London Road, Brighton, where you can “help organise London Rising, a week-long temporary anarchist space in the capital this August”.  There will be a practical working day on the Sunday.

COWLEY

* * *

A marvellous report of neoliberal democracy in action – in which the interests of business always take precedence. In this instance the country is the USA and the subject-matter is fracking. “The Texas state House of Representatives has passed a bill that would block cities in Texas from banning the controversial oil and gas exploration method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The bill featured 70 co-sponsors and had the support of the oil and gas industry. The House vote comes just a few months after voters in a small Texas town called Denton approved a measure that banned fracking in the area. Denton was the first Texas city or county to ban the practice, the oil industry has already filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse the prohibition.”

dentonfrackban600

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A glimpse into the struggles of Palestinian prisoners is provided by a new briefing from Corporate Watch. Imprisoned Voices results from a 2013 Corporate Watch visit to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in which researchers interviewed released prisoners about their experiences.  They have been collected together “to inspire readers to take action in solidarity with them and against the companies profiting from their suffering”. The report can be downloaded here or read online here.

Imprisoned Voices
Imprisoned Voices

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Why Anti-Civilization: A Short Introduction to Green Anarchy is an online brochure from The Feral Space Collective, originally published in the zine Disorderly Conduct. “We cannot reform civilization, green it up, or make it more fair. It is rotten to the core. We don’t need more ideology, morality, fundamentalism, or better organization to save us. We must save ourselves. We have to live according to our own desires. We have to connect with ourselves, those we care about, and the rest of life. We have to break out of, and break down, this reality. We need Action. To put it simply, civilization is a war on life, we are fighting for our lives, and we declare war on civilization!”

anarcoveganismo

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Acorn quote: “Do not fool yourself by saying you would like to help usher in a free society, but you cannot sacrifice an armchair for it”. Voltairine de Cleyre, The Dominant Idea.

Voltairine_de_Cleyre

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