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.
Dear Gilets jaunes, dear men and women from below.
We are getting close to a critical moment. We are getting close to a historical moment. We are getting close to a tipping point in history. We are getting close to the end.
For several months now, we have been waging a battle, together, to counter the suicidal behaviour of those above.
Our lives, our children’s lives, our grandchildren’s lives, are on a tightrope. We are not going to play the tightrope-walker by weighing up the advantages or inconveniences of this or that constitutional measure which could give us back, they say, some room for manoeuvre. We have to admit that we have lost the knack.
We are no longer in a position to define how we live, in our own way. Such as how do we work, how do we educate our children, how do we eat, how do we produce, how do we dress, how do we party, how do we look at one another, how do we struggle, how do we share, how do we kiss, how do we meet, how do we love?
All of life is hoovered up and devoured by the machineries from above which care little about our grievances, our status, our finer feelings.
Those from above are already machines and a machine, my friends, does not feel or think, it calculates.
Dear Gilets jaunes, dear men and women from below.
In 2019 our living soil, our real soil, that is everything that surround us, the beauty and richness of our countryside, the freshness of a fine morning, the scent of jasmine or lilacs filling the air in the streets, the fears of the black night, the shafts of sunlight caressing our morning faces and the laughter of our children in the gardens of their innocence – all of that is being destroyed and disappearing under a massive tide of concrete.
We have to admit, my friends, that there is no green peace on the horizon. No carbon tax even! No responsible ecologism! No social contract for the environment or Cop 21, 22 or 23! All of that is a mere lick of green paint on the horror that awaits us.
So Macron and his friends from above can well afford to wish us a happy New Year. It’s not them who suffer at the end of every month nor who despair at the end of the world. No, they despair at the lack of growth, they only worry about the failure of France-from-below to adapt to commercial diktats from above. Today, our struggle from below is a total confrontation and no doubt the last. A fight against the scheduled extinction of the human species. So it is time to create real social organisation with a local base and global reach. The problems of those from below in Congo, in Thailand or in Brazil are also our problems.
While we are encouraged to soothe our frustrations by clearing the shelves of the shopping centres in the winter sales, imagine a 20-year-old in Vietnam, uprooted from the home soil where his family have lived for generations, going off at 6am, alone, to a cotton field or to huge cold metallic blocks to produce a miserable item of clothing!
Imagine the same company congratulating itself on its great quarterly results! Imagine now, we Europeans asking for consumer credit to buy this selfsame object! Can we imagine how wretched that is? Can we really imagine the world in which we live? The face, the reflection of our daily misery. This world, our world. The one that we are making so unbearable, detestable, unbreathable and unlivable that we run and hide in our citadels of screens, in our illusions, in our denials…
On the other hand, imagine that in our blocks of flats, in our neighbourhoods, our villages, we could establish other ways of producing and consuming. Can we imagine one washing machine per block of flats? Can we imagine spending the morning fishing, the afternoon looking after the children and the evening preparing for the local festival or the next day’s football match?
Can we imagine conserving our food in old-fashioned jars and shared spaces? Can we imagine shattering the private property that pens us in, forces us out, isolates and evicts us? Can we imagine the 25-year-old pregnant woman whose needs are not the same as those of a robust 35-year-old man?
Can we imagine a night watchman working 40 hours a week in the freezing cold and also a banker working the same hours in his air-conditioned office, with a cup of coffee and posh biscuits? Can we imagine these two sorry states of affairs? Can we imagine a real inequality, and not this abstract equality, that of abstract work, that in which work is no longer judged according to real, vital needs but according to fictional, imaginary needs?
Can we imagine real work, meaningful work? Can we, ultimately, imagine a human face?
Dear Gilets jaunes, dear men and women from below.
This year, our fate is again in our own hands. Let’s seize the opportunity, raise the issues which trouble us and come up with radical and real solutions outside all institutional artifice.
Our world is dying, our world is collapsing, human life is being extinguished. We have reignited a spark of hope! So let’s set our villages ablaze, set our towns ablaze, set France ablaze, set Europe ablaze, set the world ablaze!
May our yellow sparks of revolt turn into a creative furnace! May the destruction of the everyday turn into the vitality of tomorrow!
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.
1. Germany: man dies as forest campaigners defy industrial capitalism
The battle to protect a forest from the coal mining industry has claimed a life.
Journalist and campaigner Steffen Horst Meyn fell to his death on September 19 from the tree house village Beechtown in Hambach Forest, Germany. He had been trying to document an ongoing eviction action by the police Special Task Force (SEK).
A press release from campaigners said it was no coincidence that this first fatal accident took place during the eviction.
They said everyone in the occupations had been enduring constant stress, with noise from expulsion and clearing, day and night, floodlights and flashing blue lights, massive police presence on the ground, and the sound of barking dogs and recordings of chainsaw noises.
This, as well as the news about the repeatedly life-threatening approach of the task forces, was having a physical and mental impact on all involved. Insomnia, stress and over-stimulation were not conducive to safe tree climbing, they added.
“According to our information, there is no direct connection with the acute local police action at the time of the accident. But we know first-hand that the deceased only climbed into the trees because he was permanently prevented by the police from doing his press work on the ground.”
On Sunday September 23 thousands of people defied a police ban and pouring rain to enter the forest in solidarity.
Said one activist: “We didn’t visit the memorial for Steffen in Beechtown until Sunday and we felt that we had to go there first. At the memorial it was very quiet. Some tears, sorrow-stricken faces. Personally I had a mixture of feelings.. Still shocked, grief and rage. Speechless…”
Barricades were built, police lost control for a while and reacted in the only way they know – violently.
On September 24 forest defenders blocked the railway line used to transport coal from the open cast mine to power stations, hoping to draw police resources away from the eviction – see this video.
Then on September 25 the cops demonstrated their total lack of respect for Steffen, removing the memorial built up by his friends because it was in the way of the eviction!
Meanwhile the Hambach activists are not losing sight of the bigger picture, stressing in a statement that the issues at stake go far beyond that particular forest and that particular mining threat.
“The problem is much larger than this forest getting cut and this coal mine being active. The problem is larger than every forest getting cut and every mine destroying Earth. The problem is capitalism. And this is the message that the media has been taking away from us.
“You can live a cute easy life, sign petitions, buy stuff on the biomarket, close the sink while you are brushing your teeth and turn off all lights to not waste electricity, and, don’t get us wrong, that’s okay, but as long as we live on a system that needs infinite growth on a world that has limited resources, that’s not gonna stop environmental destruction.
“We need an anticapitalist view of ecologism. We need an ecologist view of anticapitalism. We need to see beyond coal. And we need you all to make a step farther to stop climate change, to make a step farther to destroy capitalism.”
Global capitalist summits, at which the system’s leaders flaunt their prestige and power in front of the fawning global media, make an ideal target for anti-capitalist action.
Yes of course the opposition is symbolic, and does not immediately change day-to-day living conditions, but so are the summits. Wars of ideas are fought on a symbolic level.
Sly “radical” memes suggesting large-scale mobilisations are a waste of time often seem to have come straight out of The Infiltrator’s Guide to Ideological Sabotage (see below) and can safely be ignored.
With that in mind, we were delighted to see the call-outs for two summit mobilisations, in Argentina and in France.
This year, the Argentinian government is hosting the G20, a one-year process during which more than 80 meetings of G20 working groups, ministerial meetings and summits of the focus groups are taking place in the country.
The Leaders’ summit, for which the presidents from the G20 countries will travel to Buenos Aires, will take place on Friday November 30 and Saturday December 1 2018 at the “Costa Salguero” Convention Centre.
The government of Mauricio Macri is already preparing for the mega-event, buying airplanes, arms and what they call “anti-riot equipment” . In fact, one third of the budget for organizing the G20 is dedicated to “safety and defence”, which roughly amounts to 50 million US$.
And while the government is spending millions on the G20, it is cutting expenses for education and health and has entered a dangerous spiral of indebtedness by asking the IMF for a loan of 50 billion US$ in order to assure the country’s liquidities and its capacity to pay speculative hedge funds.
Says the No Al G20 website: “We believe that, in the same way that organising the G20 Summit last year in Hamburg was a massive provocation, organising the G20 Summit in Argentina in the context of this devastating financial crisis is an insult.”
The Confluencia Fuera G20 – IMF (the “G20 – IMF Out Confluence)” is planning a massive Week of Action, from the November 25 to December 1 and is inviting everyone to participate in the global repudiation of the G20, the IMF and everything these institutions represent.
Anti-capitalist comrades in France clearly think the Buenos Aires mobilisation is summit to get excited about, writing: “After the magnificent period of resistance around the G20 summit in Hamburg in 2017, after the G7 summit of June 2018 in Quebec – placed under an unparalleled repressive level, with its free expression zone – the G20 summit at Buenos Aires in November / December 2018 promises to be a great moment, given the current popularity of Macri, the history of local struggles, and the animosity of the region towards Trump…”
The 2019 G7 summit is due to take place at the end of summer 2019 in Biarritz. Says the call-out: “We have no illusions about the repressive level that we are entitled to expect from [Minister of the Interior] Gérard Collomb. It is clear that this summit will once again be a law enforcement laboratory, as will judicial measures against demonstrators and those who are organizing themselves.
“However, what happened in Hamburg must inspire us, must allow us to resume fighting on this scale, strengthen our international ties, make the news, disrupt these meetings of our governments.
“We are indeed calling for organizing, starting meetings, discussions, thinking about actions, demonstrations, preparing an info-tour, strengthening our national and international ties, writing articles, leaflets…
“We have one year ahead of us. And given the current repressive level, this time will not be too much. And as in Hamburg, we want the resistance to be plural and everywhere.
The British state is spending more than £250m on a new “offensive” online army, according to media reports.
Inevitably the move from the Ministry of Defence and GCHQ is being dressed up with scaremongering around the “threat” from Russia and Islamic State, but there is also talk of a “much wider online offensive” against “a range of hostile actors”.
To better understand what this sinister outfit might be getting up to, it is worth looking back at an article in The Intercept on the activities of GCHQ’s initially secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group), based on classified GCHQ documents.
Author Glenn Greenwald explains that it is not just “terrorists” who are targeted by JTRIG, but online activists, and the methods used go well beyond mere surveillance (stifling though that is, especially in the UK).
He writes: “These agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.
“Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable.”
The official document lists different kinds of operations it uses against dissidents: Infiltration Operation, Ruse Operation, Set Piece Operation, False Flag Operation, False Rescue Operation, Disruption Operation, Sting Operation.
Anyone wondering why radical groups (known to be heavily infiltrated by the state), so often split and fall apart may be interested to see the emphasis on “destructive organisational psychology” and on “identifying and exploiting fracture points”.
Sabotaging activism is generally high on the agenda. One illustration lists a series of key words: block, turn, fix, disrupt, limit, delay.
It is also clear that GCHQ sets out to manipulate political discourse online. Shunting radical anti-capitalism into obscure ideological dead-ends would be a useful dirty trick for these Thought Police to pull off.
With several references to stage magicians in their presentation document, JTRIG obviously rely on the gullibility of activists to make their scheming effective, as well as the “group-think” phenomenon in which people abandon their own instinctive common sense in order to fit in with the flock, no matter what nonsense the other sheep are bleating.
They note: “People make decisions as part of groups”. Control the group and you control the average individual – and their thinking.
Absurd capitalist pontificator Bernard-Henri Lévy has joined in the laughable and panicky propaganda efforts to portray all challengers to the US-led neoliberal system as part of one and the same threat to “democracy”.
BHL, as he is known, warns against a “terrifying” movement he calls the “dark Internationale” and into which he lumps everyone from left-wingers such as Jeremy Corbyn and Jean-Luc Mélenchon to the likes of Viktor Orban, Matteo Salvini, Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump.
Singling out Corbyn for criticism, he particularly objects to his support for the Palestinian cause, which apparently makes him a conspiracy theorist and “unalloyed anti-Semite”.
BHL, despite being a self-identified “leftist”, also dislikes Corbyn’s “crass ignorance of the functioning of a modern economy and the impression he gives, when speaking about renationalization, tax policy, anti-austerity measures, the health system, or public services, of being stuck in the paleo-Marxism of the 1950s”.
And he is very worried by Corbyn’s “untethered loathing for an America he blames for all ills” – a political heresy which can only usher in, it seems, an “oncoming twilight of democracy and humanistic values”.
BHL has form for this sort of thing. In 1977 he declared he would change his French nationality if the Communist Party came to power in France and in 1985 he signed a letter urging Ronald Reagan to keep supporting the far-right Contras in Nicaragua.
In 2009 he publicly supported Israel’s murderous Operation Cast Lead against the people of Gaza.
BHL’s rabid pro-Americanism did not go unappreciated in the USA. As we mentioned in Acorn 34, a CIA report revealed they were very keen on the “New Philosopher”, whose position of power at the Grasset publishing house was crucial in spreading the US-friendly ideology he was promoting.
It is hardly surprising that BHL is widely despised by French-speaking anti-capitalists and he has also become a figure of ridicule, thanks to the series of custard pies skillfully aimed at him by celebrated entarteur Noël Godin.
We invite our readers to sit back and enjoy the sight of BHL getting his come-uppance from the patisserie-armed wing of the “dark Internationale” that so terrifies him.
A festival of anarchist ideas is being held in London in October, with the non-appearance of the usual bookfair after last year’s controversy (see Acorn 38).
Organisers explain: “It is vital the tradition remains and the work of spreading anarchist ideas continues. To go some small way to filling the gap, the organisers of the London Radical Bookfair have proposed having a decentralised festival of anarchist ideas and action, involving as many of London’s anarchist leaning bookshops, social centres and campaign groups as are willing to take part. We’re calling it #nottheanarchistbookfair.
“The idea is simple: anarchist groups put on their own programme of events, concentrating on the dates of the weekend of 20-21st October 2018, and the programme is collated by us on our website and social media”.
The battle to save Leith Hill in Surrey from drilling has finally been won! Two years ago we reported an optimistic mood at the protection camp, with one campaigner telling us “nobody except a handful of investors wants the drilling here at Leith Hill to go ahead”. He was proved right and earlier this month Europa Oil and Gas announced it was pulling out of the site. Green Party MEP Keith Taylor commented: “Don’t let anybody ever tell you protests don’t achieve anything. They do.”
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A cooperative café and social centre sowing the seeds of revolution in Jerusalem is featured in the latest report from the anti-capitalist Shoal Collective. The Imbala collective explain they are faced with an increasingly nationalistic atmosphere: “We held a vigil of just 20 or 30 people in Jerusalem city centre. People yelled, spat and kicked us and all our signs were torn away from us. That’s the atmosphere of Jerusalem today. It’s difficult to have a left-wing protest against the occupation here these days.”
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Direct action was taken in Australia against toxic right-wing anti-migrant politician Peter Dutton. Six windows were smashed at his political office near Brisbane and two doors damaged. The former cop, turned businessman, property tycoon and politician, is known by some Australians as Potato Head. He is currently Minister for Home Affairs.
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“For too long we have falsely believed that everything progressive, democratic, and radically left comes from the Modern West. As we support contemporary emancipatory and revolutionary global movements, let us remember that truly equal and just non-authoritarian societies are not only possible, but have existed on the African and other continents for much longer than the recent phenomenon of tyranny, the state, and capitalism.” This is the conclusion of a fascinating article on Indigenous Anarchism by DJ Zhao, highlighted recently by anarchist blog The Slow Burning Fuse.
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“Mother Earth or death! This is the alternative we are confronted with today”, argues Prof. Claudia von Werlhof in an important article. She adds: “The world system that is threatening all of us is based on a strange phenomenon I was only recently able to fully grasp, namely a ‘hatred of life’… The hatred of life is no fleeting emotion or a mere individual or personal experience of a certain situation or moment. It is nothing less than hostility to life itself, which – and this is my thesis – has become the main foundation, driving force, and defining criterion for a patriarchal civilization dating back almost 5000 years.”
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A unity demo against the far right in the UK has been called for Saturday October 13 in London. The call-out has so far been supported by: Anti-Fascist Network, Anti-Fascist Student Network, Birmingham Antifascists, Easton Cowgirls Football Club, Feminist Fightback, International Bolshevik Tendency, Leicester Antifascists, Kent Anti-Racist Network, Kurdish Student Union UK, London Anti-Fascists, Midlands Antifascist Network, North East Anti-Fascists, North London Anti-Fascists, Plan C – London, Birmingham, Essex, Cambridge, Queerspace East, Sister not Cister UK, The x:talk project, Women’s Strike Assembly – London, Birmingham, Cardiff. Meanwhile an excellent short documentary on the UK’s far right has been produced by redfish.
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Acorn quote: “I am the living spirit of nature as it emerges in you, filtered by the collective mind of the human species”.
It has long been obvious that the Thatcher years in the UK were an important moment in social history, which paved the way for the neoliberalism we know today.
Her fervently pro-US government pushed through wave after wave of privatisation and assaults on the public sector, dismantling the structures of the vaguely social-democratic version of industrial capitalism that had remained intact since the Labour election victory of 1945.
The same thing is happening in France at the moment under President Emmanuel Macron, a hardline neoliberal in the Thatcher mould, who hides this by adopting, in a Tony Blair kind of way, a smoothly “progressive” facade.
Like Thatcher and Blair, Macron is “pro”-US in the same way that leaders of Cold War East Germany could be said to have been “pro”-USSR.
With Brexit, the US neoliberal empire lost its key placeman in Europe, so it was vital that France flew the flag for “Transatlantic values”.
Macron, a former investment banker at Rothschild, was actually groomed by a US propaganda organisation, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, as they proudly declare on their website.
He was “awarded the Marshall Memorial Fellowship, the flagship leadership development program of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, in 2006”.
Macron “participated in an intensive learning and networking experience designed to foster collaboration, build personal capacity and prompt innovative thinking and problem-solving” and was “immersed in communities across the Atlantic through travel and study”.
Macron may have won the 2017 election, but his attempts to Thatcherise France are proving deeply unpopular and have sparked massive opposition in the streets.
The main elements of this revolt concern:
1. Trade unions. Currently the railway workers are in the front line, fighting Macron’s attack on the SNCF and the unions.
2. Education. His neoliberal education “reforms” are being met with fierce resistance by students and lycéens – High School students – with occupations and protests across the country.
3. Migrants. Macron may have won the presidential run-off because people didn’t want a Front National government, but his interior minister Gérard Collomb is rolling out anti-immigrant rhetoric and legislation worthy of the extreme right.
4. Zadistes. Macron abandoned plans for an airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes only to launch a brutal eviction of the zad, a unique free space of resistance and alternative living.
5. Police violence. Common to all these aspects has been a spiralling use of thuggish violence to impose neoliberal policy. Trade unionists, students and other protesters have been frequently attacked by the CRS riot police. Far-right vigilantes appear to be working hand in hand with the state. At the zad, a young man had his hand blown off by a police grenade and dozens have been beaten up and injured by Macron’s enforcers.
6. “Convergence des luttes”. The positive side to all this is that there has been increasing emphasis on a convergence of all the struggles, a realisation that they in fact amount to one single social war. Rail workers have supported the zadistes and vice-versa. There is solidarity between students, anti-fascists, anarchists, socialists and so on. The common enemy, the Macron regime, and its extreme neoliberal objectives, are plain to see.
Defeating this enemy will not be easy, despite the enthusiasm generated by the 50th anniversary of the May 1968 uprisings, but if Macron had wanted to radicalise a whole new generation of young people and turn them into sworn enemies of his neoliberal project, he could hardly have gone about it better.
Most of us are familiar with word puzzles that invite us to fill in the missing link between two apparently unconnected words. The solution to road ( ) bean would be “runner”, the answer to salad ( ) gown would be “dressing”, etc.
The same game can be played with issues and events. Two different things are going on at the same time, which seem to be unrelated. But, if you pay attention, you will see that there is a hidden element which ties them together.
To see how this works, let’s take two current UK controversies. The first is the Philip Cross scandal, in which Wikipedia entries have been systematically edited for political ends by some kind of self-appointed thought police.
The second is the question of police infiltration of dissident political movements. After activists started unmasking police spies in 2010, with media interest, the state was forced to hold an Undercover Policing Inquiry, which has led to more revelations and a lot more official obfuscation and cover-up.
The puzzle here could be expressed as thought ( ) spies and our sharper readers will already have spotted that the answer is “police”.
But what implications lurk behind the word, in the context of a bracketed zone between Orwellian re-writers of the record and coppers pretending to be activists?
As a useful article by Connor Woodman in Jacobin Mag reminds us, there is a political objective behind the spy cop operations: “These overwhelmingly left-wing groups were infiltrated for a clear reason: to delimit the scope of threats to the status quo”.
In our own recent Winter Oak special report we looked at the way in which the infiltration of our movements is not limited to the level of practical activism.
It is clear that we are witnessing a concerted attempt at ideological sabotage, at a bid to destroy anarchist and anti-capitalist coherency and effectiveness by infiltrating and undermining its thinking.
Much of this currently seems to revolve around the “red-brown” smear, the claim that certain people on the left are actually, wittingly or not, pandering to fascism and crossing a line of “acceptable” opinion.
This is staged in a very clever, but intellectually dishonest, way.
The witch-hunt process paints itself as coming from a very enlightened anti-fascist position.
And from that position, which amounts to the moral high ground in anti-capitalist circles, it condemns others as being somehow right-wing, reactionary or, increasingly, “anti-semitic”.
But the truth is the exact opposite. The witch-hunters are themselves part of a pro-war, pro-US, pro-Israel, neoliberal network and are attacking their targets not from the left but from the right.
They in fact object to anyone who is critical of the neoliberal system and its imperial wars.
The whole “red-brown” angle totally reflects the neoliberal worldview, in which they, the imperial capitalists, are the political default position, the “centre”, and anyone who opposes them is an extremist, a populist, a “red-brown” fascist.
By constantly insisting that the anti-capitalist left is somehow close to far-right populism, these neoliberals are in fact doing the very work they accuse others of doing – of trying to blur the lines between the two very different and in fact incompatible world views.
This attempted ideological amalgamation is an assault on the left, a bid to tarnish its strong ethical principles with racist or other unsavoury associations.
Apart from the neoliberals themselves, the other big winners from this strategy are the fascists, who suddenly find the perfect camouflage for their views. When half of the left are being accused of anti-semitic or fascistic tendencies, what have real fascists got to fear?
Do the fake-left witch-hunters care about this? No, because they are not actually anti-fascist. They merely use the “fascist” smear as a way of discrediting and disabling the anti-capitalist left in the interests of right-wing neoliberalism.
These attacks are being churned out at an alarming rate at the moment, and all seem to follow more or less the same line of attack.
Witness a three-part article which appeared on the New Zealand site Fightback entitled “The Red-Brown ‘zombie plague’: how fascist ideas are becoming popular on the Left”.
Author Daphne Lawless, a supposed left-winger, launches straight in with a complaint about left-wing challenges to the dominant narrative in Syria. Like all neoliberals, she just has to leap to the defence of Uncle Sam.
Claims of pro-US false flag attacks are “baseless slander” and, of course, nothing but “conspiracy theories”, tainted by association with the far right, she says.
This is her springboard into the usual smears. It is all part of “a growing convergence of Leftist and far–right rhetoric”, a “red-brown” menace.
Critics of US imperialism, she suggests, neatly integrating the US state’s “fake news” offensive, have simply fallen for “Russian propaganda”.
Lawless approvingly quotes an attack on anti-Americanism by Moishe Postone, the Canadian “leftist” who is regarded as a major inspiration for the antideutsch movement, that bizarre pro-US, pro-Israel, pseudo-leftist German political movement.
On and on she goes, leaving the reader with a gnawing realisation of how familiar it all seems. The obsession with Syria, Russia and “the Iranian mullahs”. Her quoting of the views of Alexander Reid Ross, Jonathan Freedland, Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leil al-Shami to back up her arguments. Her dislike of Jeremy Corbyn, Noam Chomsky, Vanessa Beeley, Jill Stein, Max Blumenthal, Caitlin Johnstone, Roger Waters…
Lawless in fact generally shares the same likes and dislikes as whoever is behind the Wikipedia re-writing.
The “bad guys” are anyone who criticises the US empire and the “good guys” are all the cloned corporate hacks who furiously condemn them as “red-brown” pro-Russian fascists for daring to do so.
But there is more to the neoliberal attack on the real, anti-capitalist, left, than this spurious equation of anti-imperialism with nationalist or pro-Russian positions.
The other big ideological weapon in their armoury is the claim of anti-semitism and this is being rolled out with desperate regularity.
This has now gone far beyond questions around Israel or Zionism and is being used to vilify all direct opposition to the capitalist system.
Author and blogger Jonathan Cook remarks: “It is an indication of how quickly this slippage is occurring that repeating now a slogan of the Occupy Movement from only seven years ago – that we are ruled by a ‘global elite’, or the ‘1 per cent’ – is cited as proof of anti-semitism. The liberal New Statesman recently ran an article dedicated to proving that the articulation of basic socialist principles – including ideas of class war and the 1 per cent – was evidence of anti-semitism.”
He concludes that the mystification of anti-semitism is being used to prevent any criticism of “a turbo-charged neoliberal capitalism destroying our planet”.
A look at the article in question shows that he is right. Targeting Corbyn in particular – a real hate figure among neoliberals, presumably because he might win a UK general election – authors Matt Bolton and Frederick Harry Pitts condemn “his understanding of capitalism as a ‘a rigged system'” and declare that “if Corbyn is as serious as he says he is about militant opposition to anti-semitism, his worldview as it is may not survive intact. Rather, it must be radically revised and rethought”.
And whose words do they use to back up this insidious argument? None other than Daphne Lawless’s hero, the late Moishe Postone. The same old script!
The message of these various efforts is that if you don’t want to be called an anti-semite and a red-brown fascist, in “left-wing” articles and on Wikipedia, you will have to “radically revise” your anti-capitalism so that it suits the neoliberal fake-left agenda.
You will have to say that capitalism is not a rigged system, that a tiny elite ruling class does not hold all the wealth and power, that Israel is not a militaristic apartheid state, that the USA is not a warmongering imperial capitalist menace to the rest of the world.
You will have to say that two plus two makes five, otherwise the neoliberal thought police, posing as holier-than-thou fellow left-wingers, will be out to get you…
A startling insight into the ongoing US military occupation of the Japanese island of Okinawa has been published on the In The Fray website.
The article was written by Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson of Shoal Collective, a newly formed cooperative of writers and researchers writing for social justice and a world beyond capitalism.
More than six decades after America’s post-World War II occupation of Japan officially ended, more than 50,000 US troops remain there. Over half of them are stationed on Okinawa, an island with a population of 1.3 million, which the United States values as a strategic base close to China and North Korea.
Although few people outside of Japan know about it, demonstrations go on daily against the thirty-two US military bases and forty-eight training sites on Okinawa, which occupy about a fifth of the island’s land. The protests have been a feature of Okinawan life since the beginning of the US occupation in 1945 (which officially ended for most of the country in 1952, but not for Okinawa until two decades later).
From time to time the discontent has exploded into massive street demonstrations, often in response to violent crimes connected to military personnel, such as the 1995 rape of a twelve-year-old girl by three American soldiers and the 2016 rape and murder of a twenty-year-old woman by a former marine working as a contractor for the US military.
In the late 1990s, the US military and Japanese government announced plans to build a new helipad in the far north of Okinawa and relocate the aging Futenma air base to the Henoko district of Nago, a city near the island’s centre.
For a time, fierce public opposition stymied those plans, but after the conservative government of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe took power in 2012, the work moved ahead. The plans for Henoko involve the expansion of the Marine Corps base already there, Camp Schwab, and the construction of a military runway in the waters of Oura Bay, which critics say will destroy coral reef and seagrass essential to the survival of aquatic life like dugongs, a manatee-like species of marine mammal.
Japan has remained militarily dependent on the United States ever since the postwar occupation, when it was forced to accept a new constitution banning it from building offensive forces, and its government has long supported the establishment of US military bases throughout the region.
Hiroshi Inaba, a sixty-seven-year-old Japanese peace activist, received an eight-month suspended prison sentence last year because of his work protesting the US military presence on Okinawa.
He told the Shoal journalists: “After the war, the US government thought that Okinawa could be a keystone in their policy against China. US occupation on the island lasted for twenty-seven years, and people used the dollar note. Okinawa wasn’t returned to Japan until 1972.
“More than 70 percent of US bases in Japan are in Okinawa. Okinawan people don’t want the US base construction, but they’re not being listened to. People here deserve democracy and human rights.
“Some people protest because they’re upset about nature being destroyed—others because of the noise pollution at night from the Osprey military helicopter flights, or because of the lack of democracy, or because [their] relatives were raped by US soldiers.
“Tell people what’s happening in Okinawa—that’s the thing I want people to do the most. A lot of people here can’t speak English, so they can’t tell the outside world what’s going on.”
How would the CIA go about making sure nobody in the English-speaking world could read a book which revealed some uncomfortable truths about its operations?
“It’s an old lesson that blacklisting and publicly banning books is counter-productive, and often leads to stronger sales long-term,” comments someone investigating this very issue.
A much better approach, they suggest, is to quietly “capture and kill” the offending volume. “This method requires a fake publisher, who acquires the rights and then simply refuses to sell the book.”
This seems to have been what has happened to a German best-seller by Udo Ulfkotte, the former editor of the well-known Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
His book Gekaufte Journalisten (Bought Journalists) drew on his own experiences in corporate media to explain how its editors are totally under the control of the neoliberal system. Those who do not play along either cannot get jobs at any news organization, or find their careers cut short.
Ulfkotte admitted himself collaborating with this US-led manipulation of “news” by planting stories in the media for the CIA.
He talked in English about his experiences of being wooed by powerful “Translatlantic organisations”, and his decision to go public, in this TV interview.
The book was a big hit in Germany and an English version, called Journalists for Hire: How the CIA Buys the News, was supposedly published in May 2017 by US-Canadian publisher Tayen Lane.
But it has never become available and Tayen Lane have not been forthcoming with information.
German publishers Kopp Verlag apparently told one enquirer: “Unfortunately, after signing the contract we have not heard from Tayen Lane, our letters and emails have gone unanswered.”
An American resident who became interested in the case recently searched out Tayen Lane’s offices and reported: “It was no surprise their office doesn’t actually exist. There’s no trace of Tayen Lane anywhere at the address they give.
“Conclusion: A fake publisher has quietly ‘captured and killed’ a German best-seller. How many other books are disappeared in a similar way? No one knows, except the ones doing the censoring.”
Udo Ulfkotte died from a heart attack on 13 January 2017 at the age of 56, while awaiting US publication of his book.
May 31, 2018. After we published the above article (last night) it was kindly brought to our attention that Udo Ulfkotte became notorious in his later years for his derisive comments about immigrants in Germany. We still think that the story of his book is worth telling, but we want to make it clear that we in no way support his anti-immigrant views and are not presenting him as any kind of political hero!
Five years after Winter Oak published his first book, The Anarchist Revelation, Paul Cudenec has set out the basic elements of the personal version of eco-anarchist philosophy he is developing in the face of a “hostile intellectual environment”.
He writes: “I regard industrialism as a facet of capitalism and therefore something that is necessarily anathema to anarchists. I wouldn’t term myself a ‘primitivist’, but I certainly hope for an end to the nightmare of industrial society and for a future where people can live in harmony with the natural world, growing and producing according to the needs of the community rather than for the profits of an exploitative few.
“I advocate a future society based not on money, economic ‘growth’ and technological ‘progress’, but on values. These values would be anarchist, of course – co-operation, equality and non-domination – but also, more broadly, involve the respect and appreciation of nature, beauty, quality, authenticity, simplicity, honesty, integrity and dignity.
“I am seeking to piece together a philosophy founded on nature and on our belonging to nature. This seems to frighten some urban-minded anarchists, but was in fact very much what Kropotkin was working on, particularly in Ethics.
“By a philosophy of nature, I don’t just mean environmentalist politics, but an understanding of the human mind, and the human culture it has created, founded on the fact that we are one small part of a greater organic whole, usually called ‘nature’. Our innermost mental structures and tendencies reflect that belonging: it is the canvas on which our human culture is painted.”
He explains he is consciously pursuing a holistic approach, focusing on “interconnections and correspondences” and the idea that we belong to a dynamic and living universe: “This is anarchist metaphysics! What could be more empowering, philosophically or politically, than realising that you are a temporary manifestation of a great organic whole, with all the freedom and responsibility this involves?”
A radical political space was briefly opened in central London on Sunday May 27. Kurdistan Place was occupied by friends of Anna Campbell in solidarity with the Kurdish Freedom Movement. In a statement, the occupiers said: “We want this space to enable learning about Kurdish culture and Kurdish liberation’s emancipatory politics. We also want this space to enable solidarity and anti-capitalist organising.” The first meeting there was held by the Anarchist Action Network and there were workshops on Kurdish language and dance plus a talk on anti-fascism before it was announced by @KurdistanPlace on Twitter that the occupation was ending on May 31.
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European police launched a new wave of repression against anti-capitalists on May 29, raiding addresses in Italy, Spain, France and Switzerland in connection with last year’s protests against the G20 in Hamburg, Germany. German public broadcaster NDR reported that apartments in Rome, Genoa, and Madrid were among those searched, including properties “linked to the left-wing scene”. The “Black Bloc” task force in Germany has been combing through police footage, CCTV recordings and private videos with the help of facial recognition software and geolocation data to track down dissidents.
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Protests against the 2018 G7 summit are due to get underway in Quebec City on June 8. Says the antiG7 site: “For the beginning of the G7 Summit, the elites of the world will gather in La Malbaie, isolated in their ivory tower protected by more than half a billion in security costs. They might as well stay there! Everyone in the world will be better off without them and that is why we intend to cut ties with the people creating our misery. Come join us! Meet us at 7:30AM SHARP in the parking lot of the Normandin on the corner of the François-De Laval and Sainte-Anne boulevards, in the Beauport borough, 5km northeast of downtown Quebec City.”
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A celebration of 50 years of resistance, campaigning and alternatives for a better world, despite 50 years of police opposition, spying and repression, is being staged in London in July. It will include a rally in Grosvenor Square at 1pm on Saturday July 7 and a conference and exhibition at Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, on Sunday July 8.
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Ineos’s fracking protest injunction will be challenged at appeal court, after campaigners won their latest legal battle. Joe Corre (left) and Joe Boyd have described the move to stop protests as “unprecedented” and “draconian”. The injunction criminalises trespass and what is described as “unlawful and unreasonable obstruction of the highway”, including slow walking, climbing on vehicles and lock-on protests. Breaching the order risks prison, fines or seizure of assets. With Cuadrilla about to try the same approach, and the government threatening to remove decision-making on fracking from local authorities, the fracking mafia are clearly worried that the resistance is winning…
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A discussion on Radical Ecology is being staged by the UK’s Anarchist Federation in east London on Saturday June 9, as part of its AntiUniversity programme. It is taking place from 4pm to 6pm at Doomed Gallery, 65-67 Ridley Road, Dalston, E8 2NP.
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An analysis of the rise and future of the degrowth movement has been published by The Ecologist. Federico Demaria summarises the way that the French activist term décroissance entered the English-speaking world as ‘degrowth’ and the way it has been developing over the last decade, through various networks. He adds: “The alliances among these networks, and networks of networks, are fundamental to weave the alternatives and foster a deeply radical socio-ecological transformation. We could imagine it as a rhizome of resistance and regeneration.”
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Acorn quote: “Men once believed that the establishment of universal suffrage would guarantee the freedom of the people. That, alas, was a great illusion…”
After a few months of relative calm, anger has again erupted on the streets of France, this time specifically focused against the police.
This time last year saw the start of the massive protest movement against the neoliberal labour “reforms” called the Loi Travail, as reported by The Acorn.
With the summer holidays, and the fact that the law was forced through parliament by the ruling “Socialist” party, the movement inevitably faded.
But, in reality, the energy behind it had never been limited to anger about this latest capitalist assault on workers’ rights. It was a general resentment against the whole system that was simmering and as increasing repression was unleashed against protesters, the movement became just as much a defiance of the violence of the French state, with its “state of emergency” martial law and fascistic police goon squads.
Now, at the start of 2017, the cities and towns of France are once again being filled by cries of “Tout le monde déteste la police!” – “Everybody hates the police!”.
The immediate catalyst has been the nauseating police rape of a young black man in Aulnay, a suburb of Paris, on February 2 – he had to be treated in hospital for anal injuries after having a police baton thrust into him during an all-too-common attack on local youths by thuggish cops.
In response, there have been several weeks of often-feisty protests in the immediate area and all across France (see this video from Bobigny, for instance, and these round-ups from lundimatin and paris-luttes).
The anger is not going to disappear fast. While the French establishment has tried to calm outrage by charging a cop with rape and sending President Hollande to visit victim Théo L in hospital, it seems likely to embrace the police version that the brutal violation was somehow “accidental”.
And, in the year of the French presidential elections, the revolt against police violence cannot be separated from wider political issues, even if liberals would prefer otherwise.
For instance, when a protest against an extreme-right Front National event in Nantes on February 25 turned into street conflict with the cops, the usual reformist voices were raised, saying that this had undermined the day’s anti-fascist message.
But, as protesters interviewed by lundimatin explained, it is difficult in today’s France to draw a line between fascism and the police. When it is police who brutally attack blacks on the streets, police who attack left-wing protesters, police who are known to vote in large numbers for the pro-police Front National, you do not need to look any further for the fascist enemy.
Said Camille: “Confronting the police is fighting the Front National. Fighting the Front National is saying no to a police-state society.”
Added Mo: “Obviously the police’s political party is the FN. Its whole campaign is built on this image of a party of law and order. The FN can’t present itself as an openly fascist party, but can get away with the idea of being the only party really supporting the police”.
Families of the victims of police violence have called a national protest against cop-crime and institutional racism for Sunday March 19. This will set off from Nation, in Paris, at 2pm and head to the Place de la République via Bastille.
Campaigners have announced a day of protest against a controversial Cardiff event which they say “totally blurs the boundary between government and the arms trade”.
DPRTE (Defence Procurement, Research, Technology & Exportability) is to be held at the Motorpoint Arena on Tuesday 28 March. Although it bills itself as “the UK’s leading defence procurement event”, opponents insist it is an arms fair.
Last year six people were arrested during protests against DPRTE and another day of action has been called for 2017, with the aim of shutting the event down.
BAE Systems, whose fighter jets have been used by the Saudi regime to bomb schools and hospitals in Yemen, as well as by the Turkish and Israeli states against Kurdish and Palestinian civilians, will be exhibiting in the “Prime Contractor Village” at Cardiff’s Motorpoint.
DPRTE is open about its aims to deepen and increase existing ties between arms businesses and the government.
These links between the UK state and the weapons industry have come under heavy scrutiny in recent months, with Prime Minister Theresa May being forced to defend ongoing arms sales to Saudi Arabia in the face of international criticism.
Event organisers BiP Solutions boast: “With an annual spend of over £19bn on equipment and services the UK defence sector represents a fantastic opportunity for organisations looking to supply to this marketplace. DPRTE 2017 will provide a unique opportunity to gain access to defence procurement buyers”.
BiP Solutions, a private company based at Pacific Quay, Glasgow, is deeply embedded within Ministry of Defence (MOD) operations, running its Defence Contracts Online, through which all MOD contracts valued at £10,000 and above are advertised. It also publishes the fortnightly MOD Defence Contracts Bulletin.
Established in 1984 “to facilitate business between the public and private sectors”, BiP Solutions has had a “a sixteen-year relationship” with civil servants at the MOD in London.
A keynote speaker at DPRTE 2017 will be 62-year-old Les Mosco, who was the most senior procurement professional in the MOD from 2007 to 2014, managing 2,500 staff and directing the MOD’s annual multi-billion pound spend.
Before his seven-year stint at Whitehall, Mosco enjoyed a successful career in the private sector, with roles at the NatWest banking group, and at the US-based oil and gas business Amerada Hess, now the Hess Corporation.
He also runs his own private company, Commercial Strategies Ltd, of which he is CEO and director, with his 65-year-old wife Barbara as company secretary. It is registered to the couple’s home in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.
Originally set up in October 2003 as Purchasing Strategies Ltd, its name was changed to Commercial Strategies Ltd in October 2014, just after Mosco left the MOD.
Mosco’s go-between role is no anomaly. The UK government does not hide its links to DPRTE, with Barry Burton, Director of Corporate Affairs at the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation, declaring in his 2016 opening speech in Cardiff: “An event like DPRTE today provides an excellent opportunity for industry professionals to meet with the MOD’s procurement team. The Ministry of Defence wholeheartedly supports this event.”
The official event partners listed on the DPRTE website include sections of the MOD like Defence Equipment and Support, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Defence Infrastructure Organisation and the Defence Export Service Organisation (DESO), which promotes arms exports by arms companies based in Britain.
Alongside these government entities sit other event partners whose status is less clear. One of these, for instance, is Defence Growth Partnership (DGP), which describes itself as “a partnership between Government and the Defence Industry”.
There is also the UK Defence Solutions Centre (UKDSC), which explains on its website that it is “an established, independent partnership between the UK Government and the UK Defence Industry”.
The UKDSC claims to work with “the best of the defence industry” and names arms companies such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Thales, Cobham and BAE Systems as key partners.
Another DPRTE “partner” is Defence and Security Accelerator, a new entity launched in December 2016 to “help government defence and security departments collaborate with industry, academia and allies”.
Further official event partners at DPRTE entirely represent the interests of the powerful weapons manufacturing industry.
One of these, ADS, terms itself the “Premier Trade Organisation for companies in the UK Aerospace, Defence, Security and Space Sectors” and claims to represent 1,000 businesses.
Its website reveals that it acts as a lobbying group, pressuring the government to behave in ways that benefit its members’ interests – which in this case would mean spending more taxpayers’ money on buying weapons.
ADS admits that a key area of its activities is “influencing the policy debates of most importance to our industries,” adding: “ADS plays an instrumental role in bringing industry and Government together. We also work closely and collaboratively to maintain and grow the UK as a world leader in our industries.”
Working towards similar aims is another DPRTE partner, NDI – Defence, Space, Aerospace, Security. The arms wing of the manufacturers’ organisation EEF, NDI “actively promotes global business opportunities for its members” and says it provides “policymaking influence to magnify the voice of the industry and individual companies”. Its “global partners” include BAE Systems, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon.
DPRTE has been attracting protests for several years and was forced to move to Cardiff in 2014 because of public opposition at its original venue in Bristol.
This year the Stop the Cardiff Arms Fair / Na i Ffair Arfau Caerdydd network is advertising a Day of Action at the Motorpoint Arena in Mary Ann Street, starting at 8am on 28 March 28.
One anti-militarist campaigner said: “This event is unacceptable in so many ways. It totally blurs the boundary between government and the arms trade and uses taxpayers’ money to promote unethical profiteering in the private sector.
“These ruthless businesses build their wealth on the rubble of schools and hospitals and on the dead bodies of the children targeted by the weapons of mass destruction they manufacture and sell across the world.
“DPRTE has no place in Cardiff and the city should be ashamed of hosting these dealers in death. We call on anyone with a conscience to join us on 28 March to shut down this arms fair!”
“If we really want to preserve the environment, and the quality of water resources, it’s imperative that we change this system and this government”.
So who said this? A Standing Rock campaigner in the USA, perhaps? An anti-fracking activist in the UK?
No, these are the words of Ran Yunfei, a Chinese philosopher and dissident who has already spent time in jail for his opposition to the policies of the “People’s Republic”.
He is speaking in South to North, a documentary film by Antoine Boutet about the highly controversial Nan Shui Bei Diao, or South–North Water Transfer Project. This massive scheme aims to channel 44.8 billion cubic meters of fresh water annually from the Yangtze River in southern China to the more arid and industrialized north through three canal systems.
But behind the gloss and profits of a prestige infrastructure project lies, as ever, a different story – of displaced families, corrupt local officials, depleted rivers, dead fish and untold environmental damage.
Ran says in the film, now out on DVD: “I didn’t directly criticise the Nan Shui Bei Diao project, but I’m well informed. A lot of people are against it and so am I. It’s damaging the sources of many Southern rivers. I criticise the government because it’s a political project.
“The destruction of the environment in China is the doing of a disastrous government and political system. The development model is based on GDP growth, without concern over the consequences for the environment.
“On the one hand the incompetencies of the system, on the other the belief that ‘man can determine the course of nature’. The natural catastrophes that have succeeded one another indicate that the future foretells of more natural catastrophes.
“The protection of the environment must be made a top priority. The protection of the environment and the life of the people should be valued at the same level. Because without environmental protection there is no quality of life”.
The hidden scandal of people serving indefinite sentences in UK jails is to be exposed by campaigners this month.
Smash IPP are embarking on a March 2017 info tour and are looking for local groups and individuals to help organise dates, mainly between Monday March 13 and Sunday March 19.
More than 3,989 people are serving IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) sentences in British prisons even though these were legally abolished five years ago.
These victims of blatant injustice still languish in jails with no release date. Parole board delays, prison overcrowding and sheer neglect are all leading to unprecedented rates of prisoner suicides.
Smash IPP report that, only last year, a prisoner whom they supported died in prison: “We have worked with IPP families who have lost their kids and their partners. Children have grown up with having a parent stolen by this sentence”.
A mother with a son who’s an IPP describes the IPP sentence as a “death sentence”. One IPP wrote how “Our families are doing the sentence just us much as us, is it right for them to never know if we will ever come home? Sometimes I feel that if I died it would be better for them because they could bury me and move on with their lives and not worry any more.”
Smash IPP say: “Enough is enough. This is life and death. We will not let any more people die because of prison bureaucracy and neglect. This year we call for a year of action to free all IPPs.”
Anyone who can host a meeting would just have to be able to help IPP find a local venue for a two-hour event, help with local publicity and put two people up overnight, preferably with vegan food.
To get involved in any way, contact Smash IPP via info(at)smashipp.noflag.org.uk
In George Orwell’s 1984, one of the Party members developing Newspeak tells Winston Smith: “You think, I dare say, that our chief job is inventing new words. But not a bit of it! We’re destroying words – scores of them, hundreds of them, every day”.
He explains: “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thought-crime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to express it… By 2050 – earlier, probably – all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed”.
In destroying the full metaphysical meaning of words like “essence”, “nature” or “universal” by means of their straw man constructs, the conformists of contemporary goodthink are destroying our connection to reality.
Because they ideologically object to everything beyond subjective individual experience, they are destroying, in particular, our connection to the reality that we human beings are more than individuals.
They are destroying our understanding that our individual freedom and well-being are in fact dependent on a collective level of existence as part of a community, as part of a species and as part of nature as a whole.
They are thus destroying our capacity to see what has been stolen from us by the alienation and separation of the industrial capitalist system and what it is that we must reclaim. “If one is to rule, and to continue ruling,” declares Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein, “one must be able to dislocate the sense of reality”.
A philosophically dislocated anti-capitalist movement that has lost all sense of what it is fighting against and what it is fighting for will never be able to persuade the rest of the population of its arguments and thus will never represent any kind of threat to the dominant system.
It is not just in France (see above), of course, that police brutality continues to rear its ugly pig-faced head. On February 23, a blind man was tasered by UK police in Levenshulme, Manchester. Shamefully, mainstream media reports like this one obediently echoed the absurd police claim that “his cane was mistaken for a gun”. About as credible as accidentally raping someone with your truncheon…
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The battle to Keep Our Downs Public in Eastbourne (see Acorn 29) is intensifying, as the borough council tries to avoid responding to public opinion. The town hall spin doctors have tried to pull a fast one by promoting a “poll” in their own council publication featuring totally one-sided information and a blackmail-style question asking residents whether they prefer the sale of Downland farms or cuts to front-line services! Unimpressed, hundreds took to the streets of the Sussex town to protest on February 25 – see this video report.
Fancy being part of an autonomous network made up of local groups and individuals from the anarchist movement based in the UK? You might want to get along to LARC at 62 Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel, London E1 1ES on Sunday March 12, 1pm-3pm, for the latest national meeting of the Anarchist Action Network.
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Hundreds of people protested against fracking in two different parts of northern England on February 25. Some 1,000 people gathered near Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site near Blackpool in Lancashire for a rally, after which dozens of protesters managed to invade the fracking site. And more than 400 people took part in a march from Mosborough, near Sheffield, to Marsh Lane in Derbyshire where INEOS has announced plans for what could be its first shale gas site. Full report at drillordrop.com
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A direct action protest by Rising Up! blocked access to three terminals of London’s Heathrow Airport on February 21 in opposition to the planned third runway. The activists included both climate campaigners and local people fearful of increased pollution, loss of homes and green space and the destruction of entire villages to pave the way for yet more aviation profit.
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Acorn quote: “Faith in the fundamental goodness of man; humility in the presence of natural laws; reason and mutual aid – these are the qualities that can save us. But they must be unified and vitalized by an insurrectionary passion, a flame in which all virtues are tempered and clarified, and brought to their most effective strength”.