The Acorn – 38

acornmastheadnew1

Number 38


In this issue:

  1. “Chimps” swing into action
  2. Defend the living!
  3. Fighting the cancer of economic growth
  4. D for defiance in struggle against arms trade
  5. Protecting the planet is not a crime
  6. Sabotaging the subversives
  7. Acorninfo

1. “Chimps” swing into action

The primate resistance movement has struck out against those who want to destroy our planet and replace us with robots.

A group of French activists swung into action on Monday November 20, at the start of a conference in the south-western city of Bordeaux which was celebrating the “cyborg future” of humankind.

They made their move under the label of the Bordeaux Chimpanzees of the Future, referring to the infamous comment by UK transhumanist techno-guru Kevin Warwick that, in a tomorrow’s world peopled by AI-enhanced cyborg hybrids, actual living human beings like you and me would be regarded as nothing more than evolutionary remnants. We would be the “chimpanzees of the future” as he arrogantly put it.

In keeping with their primate identity, the activists scattered banana skins around the conference venue, as well as a leaflet explaining why they were there.

This pointed out that Bordeaux had just seen the arrival of a branch of the Singularity University, “a propaganda tool of the techno-totalitarianism founded by Ray Kurzweil (top transhumanist at Google), under whose patronage the conference is being held”.

Conference publicity

And it declared: “We don’t function, we live. We weren’t built, but born. We refuse to be ‘customised into cyborgs’. We refuse to ‘get ready to change planet’. We want to live on earth and remain free and human”.

The transhumanist cult represents the worst excesses of industrial-capitalist fantasy, dreaming of a humanity with artificial bodies and replaceable parts whose brains will eventually be uploaded into computers, giving them unimagined mental powers.

Not so long ago, this strange vision was regarded as little more than a weird joke, but it has increasingly become the religion of the technological avant-garde and has even succeeded in contaminating some so-called “anti-capitalist” thinking with its ultra-capitalist creed.

The transhumanists’ dream is a nightmare not just for human beings but for the living planet as a whole, as it depends on ongoing industrialisation and all the environmental destruction that this brings with it – a harsh fact that transhumanists try to avoid.

Transhumanist Kevin Warwick

As Paul Cudenec writes in Nature, Essence and Anarchy: “On the most basic level, the industrialist vision of a technological posthuman future is entirely divorced from the physical realities of industrialism. Even if post-natural posthumans managed to upload their minds (or, rather, soulless copies of their brains) into a virtual realm of their own construction, the objective reality of the world they thought they were escaping would not somehow cease to exist.

“Pollution would worsen as the technological world expanded, animals would suffer from its consequences, the food chain would be imperilled, the very life-system of the earth would be at risk. Their technological bubble would still be dependent on an outside reality and infrastructure.

“There would still have to be mines to extract the minerals to build the computers, oil and gas wells to provide the energy, waste to be disposed of, pipelines and cables to be laid and repaired, flood defences to be built or strengthened as the climate span further into extremities, cooling systems to be installed for the huge banks of computer servers, bolts to be tightened, cogs to be lubricated, mould to be wiped off walls, and so on ad nauseam.

“Even if all the hard labour was done by machines and there were further machines to repair those machines, who would repair these? Who would be doing all the dirty work, wiping the metaphorical bottoms of the immortal posthuman narcissists plugged into their ego-massaging virtual existences?

“A race of ‘chimpanzee’ slaves maybe, the left-over essentialist scum who had refused to jump on the naturaphobic bandwagon to oblivion?”

Back to top

2. Defend the living!

A poignant short film celebrating the UK road protests of the early 1990s can now be seen online.

I Am Alive by Tom Lloyd, Gill Barron and Mark Melville combines archive footage shot over the summer of 1994 from roof-tops and tree-tops with a poetic voice-over and haunting soundtrack evoking the beauty in finding the courage to defend life.

And it reminds us that although particular battles of the time, such as at Solsbury Hill or Wanstead, were lost to the forces of industrialism, a generation’s war on roads was won, with the UK government putting new schemes on hold for decades in the face of the inspiring resistance.

The effort, the trauma, the arrests and the convictions will all be vindicated by history, as will one day all the current struggles against fracking, pipelines, mines, airports, high speed rail lines and all the other assaults on Mother Earth.

As the film says: “Land isn’t a commodity: it doesn’t belong to us. It’s a community: we belong to it.

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Expect resistance. As long as we are alive.

Back to top

3. Fighting the cancer of economic growth

The so-called “need” for economic growth is the perfect excuse for the industrial capitalist system to keep expanding, exploiting and exterminating, so arguments for “degrowth” have a massive radical potential.

The movement is little known in the UK, but is becoming increasingly influential elsewhere. For instance, next summer sees the 6th International Degrowth Conference in Malmö, Sweden. It will take place from August 21-25 2018 and is organised by the Institute for Degrowth Studies (Institutet för nerväxtstudier). There is a call for participation for academics, activists and artists (deadline: December 31).

Across the Atlantic, the first North-South Conference on Degrowth will be held in Mexico City from June 19 – 21 2018, supported by universities, NGOs, and social movements.

This is the first time a Latin American country will host an international gathering on Degrowth, after five conferences in Europe and one in Canada. Decolonisation of the imaginary, survival,  cultures, and wealth will be the main issues under discussion.

Degrowth ideas are also sneaking into mainstream European thinking. From September 18-19 2018 a post-growth conference supported by various “stakeholders” (Members of the European Parliament from different political groups, academics, NGOs and unions) will take place in the premises of the European Parliament in Brussels. The date coincides with the 10th anniversary of the collapse of the US Bank Lehman Brothers that sparked the “economic crisis” justifying the intensification of neoliberal economics.

The work will be preceded by a preparatory session at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and followed by a debriefing and exchanges on how to coalesce allies to ensure that change will actually happen.

There is lots of English-language information on degrowth on the German website, degrowth.info.

Explaining the basic idea, it states: “By ‘degrowth’, we understand a form of society and economy which aims at the well-being of all and sustains the natural basis of life. To achieve degrowth, we need a fundamental transformation of our lives and an extensive cultural change.

“The current economic and social paradigm is ‘faster, higher, further’. It is built on and stimulates competition between all humans. This causes acceleration, stress and exclusion. Our economy destroys the natural basis of life. We are convinced that the common values of a degrowth society should be care, solidarity and cooperation.

“Humanity has to understand itself as part of the planetary ecological system. Only this way, a self-determined life in dignity for all can be made possible”.

Back to top

4. D for defiance in struggle against arms trade

A woman convicted of disrupting an arms fair in Wales has defiantly stood by her actions.

D told the court in Cardiff: “My motivation that day was to stop the arms fair. I am not denying it – what I am saying is that I was trying to prevent something worse from happening.”

She was found guilty by the court of making hoax calls claiming there was a bomb at the Motorpoint Arena, which was hosting the Defence Procurement, Research, Technology and Exportability event, better known as Cardiff Arms Fair.

D was expecting to go to prison, but in fact received a suspended sentence and an order to pay £2000 costs and £115 “victim surcharge”.

She declared afterwards: “I said when I was first arrested that it was the arms dealers who should have been arrested in my stead, and I still believe it’s the arms dealers and the UK Government who should have been in the dock on trial for their complicity in war crimes.

“My resolve in opposing the arms trade has only been strengthened by this experience and I hope to see a huge protest outside next year’s DPRTE Arms Fair at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff.”

Said a report from Bristol Defendant Solidarity: “It was very inspiring to hear the defendant, D, clearly tell the judge and the jury that she was not sorry for her actions and that she remains committed to direct action against war and the arms industry.

“Her explanation of how she could not stand by while arms dealers furthered their profits by marketing mass murder was very powerful. She admitted making the calls, but argued that she was acting to prevent a greater crime by aiming to stop the selling of arms used for ‘mass indiscriminate killing of civilians’.

“Her moving account of witnessing first-hand the destruction wreaked by these weapons in Palestine and her motivations for doing all that she can to stop arms sales brought tears to many eyes. She told the court of her experiences driving an ambulance of medical supplies to Gaza after the Israeli bombing.

“’I saw kids my grandchildren’s age being teargassed on a daily basis’ she said. ‘I saw with my own eyes the aftermath of war. Standing in the wreckage of bombed out homes, schools and hospitals brought home to me the utter destruction war wreaks on people’s lives. That strengthened my resolve to do everything in my power to oppose this awful trade’.”

Israeli police teargas Palestinians

Back to top

5. Protecting the planet is not a crime

Brutal physical violence and insidious legal intimidation are being used by UK police to try and crush resistance to the fracking industry.

This is the stark conclusion of a new report from police monitoring group Netpol, called Protecting the Planet is Not a Crime. Its research confirms and usefully exposes the extent to which the police act as taxpayer-funded private security for  private business interests – in this case oil and gas.

It says: “Over the course of 2017, Netpol has seen evidence, particularly from Lancashire, of police officers pushing people into hedges, knocking campaigners unconscious, violently dragging older people across the road and shoving others into speeding traffic.

“We had also heard about the targeting of disabled protesters (including repeatedly tipping a wheelchair user from his chair) and officers using painful pressure point restraint techniques. In Lancashire, campaigners have repeatedly accused the police of ignoring violent and unlawful actions by private security employed by the shale gas company Cuadrilla. Similar allegations are now emerging in North Yorkshire.

“These confrontational and aggressive tactics are combined with often significant numbers of officers who seem, based on the testimony we have heard, ready to contain, assault or arrest any demonstrator for the slightest infringement.

“Police tactics appear deliberately intent on making it as difficult as possible for local people to effectively oppose the activities of the onshore oil and gas industry. There have also been claims that officers have tried to deliberately provoke the protesters in order to make more arrests.”

Netpol also draw attention to the civil injunction taken out against protesters by shale gas company INEOS.

The firm says it was advised to do this by the police – again showing that the cops are not “neutral” upholders of the peace, but active participants in imposing the toxic industrial capitalist agenda.

The order is directed against “persons unknown” and prohibits them from interfering with the “lawful activities” of INEOS staff and contractors. People who breach the order risk prison or having their assets seized.

The injunction refers to a range of “unlawful activity” that is not necessarily a criminal offence. Specifically, it mentions “slow walking” of lorries, which is not inherently unlawful unless it involves unreasonable obstruction without lawful authority or excuse.

Say Netpol: “Our concern is that, if INEOS’ injunction is made permanent, it not only opens in further pre-emptive injunctions by other fracking companies based on widespread smearing of all anti-fracking campaigners as ‘militant extremists’. It may also significantly restrict even further the ability of campaigners to take part in civil disobedience or, indeed, any form of effective protest”.

* In the early hours of Thursday November 30, frack-free activists occupied the so-called “Gatwick Gusher” oil site at Horse Hill in Surrey. The site, operated by Horse Hill Developments Ltd, has received planning permission for a further two wells and testing, reports Drill or Drop.

Back to top

6. Sabotaging the subversives

Imagine, if you can, that you are the chief of the secret political police in some far-off and fictional dictatorship.

Your networks have succeeded in completely infiltrating the small groups of dissidents who dare challenge the corruption and repression of the ruling elite.

True, there has been a spot of bother with one group of trouble-makers who rumbled a couple of clumsy low-level spies and have been exposing their dubious methods.

But overall, this has changed nothing. Indeed, the paranoia created by the spy revelations has even helped your task, instilling a mood of back-biting suspicion in dissident ranks and paralysing many would-be revolutionaries into inaction with the spectre of past or present spies in their ranks.

You have your enemies pretty much where you want them. You know exactly who they are and what they are going to do next. Your infiltrators, on many levels, have successfully shunted dissident networks away from effective opposition to the system into ineffective and dead-end ways of thinking and acting.

Dissidents whose words and deeds pose a real threat to the dictatorship are systematically marginalised and excluded from a movement which is largely under your control.

And yet, despite all this dominance, you are tempted to take it a step further. You can see that, with just a little provocation and encouragement, certain political disagreements within the opposition movement could be heightened to the point at which there was a major rupture in the dissident ranks which could even close down one of their most successful organising focal points.

In doing so, you could even take a passing swipe at one of those pesky troublemakers who has been giving you grief over your spies.

Would you do it, if you were this imaginary spy chief? Would you deliberately sabotage the dissident milieu you are paid to suppress, evil genius that you are?

While you’re thinking about it, let’s turn to some completely different events which have unfolded in the non-fictional world of 21st century Britain.

As readers may well be aware, the annual London Anarchist Bookfair in October was disrupted by a nasty row between some feminists and some others who accused them of transphobia.

We won’t pass judgement on the details of the dispute itself: an ill-judged leaflet matched by an ill-judged physical response.

But what was truly alarming was the vitriolic nature and tone of the accusations against the bookfair organisers who have done such a great job with the event over the years.

In an open letter stating their case, these critics accused the organisers of allowing “racist imperialism, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny and ableism to ingratiate themselves as part of the culture of the Bookfair”.

Eh? Where did that come from? What imperialism? What anti-semitism? What Islamophobia? What misogyny? No indication is given as to what any of this refers to – the insults are just vomited forth without any context.

The authors declare that unless certain demands are met, they will not be participating in future bookfairs, which is of course their right.

But, incredibly, they add: “Further, we will encourage our members and associated groups to picket the LABF in the future and provide material to those attending about the problems we have identified and the demands we are making”.

Are there really anarchists out there who would picket the anarchist bookfair on the basis of this kind of disagreement?

This open letter was supported by many comrades who we would have thought would have known better, pretty much obliging the bookfair collective to announce that they would not be organising an event in 2018.

They say in their own statement: “What hurts us most is we know a lot of you. A number of the signatories to the open letter are groups we know and have worked with over the years; sometimes many, many years.

“Yet not one of you has tried to contact us as individuals or as the Bookfair collective to ask our views before you signed the open letter, even though some people appear not to have read all of it before signing. We thought of many of you as friends. We were obviously wrong.

“We guess it’s easy to sign a statement. It’s a lot harder to actually talk to people and try to work things out.

“We are also tired of being told what to do. We are told to ban people. We are told have this or that policy. We are told this or that group can/can’t have stalls. We are told we shouldn’t have a certain venue. We are constantly told we get it wrong. However, no one has offered to join the Collective and help us make the Bookfair better or offered to take it on”.

Actual fascists

They also reveal that (with sickening inevitability) they were accused of being “fascists” by some so-called comrades on the day (as were, apparently, both sides in the quarrel).

They comment: “It seriously concerns us how easy this terminology is thrown about in the anarchist milieu. Survivors of the Spanish Civil war, survivors of the death camps, political activists in Pinochet’s Chile, activists in parts of the world today and many others who have been at the blunt end of actual fascism are done a disservice by this indiscriminate use of the word.

“We feel that the Bookfair is not the place for tactics used on demos against fascist groups and cops. Some of us are traumatised enough by activism and look forward to enjoying an event where we can see friends and exchange ideas without the pressure of these actions”.

And there have been other voices challenging the basis of the vitriolic attack on the bookfair by the open letter authors.

Some “friends of the Bookfair”, for instance, posted a response in which they point out that the demands in the letter amount essentially to a call for tight ideological control over the content of the bookfair – something which should set the alarm bells ringing for any remaining authentic anarchists out there.

The “friends” say: “The Bookfair Collective operates on the principle that it is not for the small collective that organises it to take on defining and enforcing a rigid policy on safety and behaviour; it is for the wider movement that takes part in the Bookfair to do so, along anarchist principles of opposing centralized authority with dispersed and grassroots responsibility.

“Points raised in the open letter call for a radically different event, with a much more centralized program, organized or tightly overseen by the collective.”

“Yes” to central ideological control, comrades!

Another anarchist response on the 325 website reflects on “the harassment and public shaming of an individual simply because they’d dared deviate from the party line; the line being that there is to be no doubt and certainly no criticism of any of the dominant narratives around identity politics”.

It adds: “We are not in any way surprised that liberal activists would seize on the opportunity to jump on the bandwagon, slag off anarchists, signal virtue with their impeccable ‘Ally’ credentials, and try to sabotage a major anarchist event for good.

“Neither are we surprised that people we disagree with or whose views are offensive would turn up at the Bookfair; some such groups in fact, sometimes have tables and workshop slots and their own supporters.

“We also recognise why trans people and other anarchists present would be pissed off with the leaflets, which the authors and distributors must have known were offensive and would provoke a reaction.

“What we’re angry at is our fellow anarchists, who we hold to higher standards, and it’s on this that we want to concentrate. We’re disappointed at the abandonment yet again of anarchist principles of independent and critical thought in favour of groupthink.

“We’re angry at the willingness to sacrifice plurality of ideas for policing and self-censorship. And we’re saddened at the failure to balance our antagonism with a corresponding care and comradeship, so that bullying and public humiliation reigns unchecked. Finally, we’re pissed off that anarchists feel it’s so much more important to target another anarchist with unpopular views, than to attack institutional structures of our oppression”.

The authors also draw attention to the fact that the number one target of the protest inside the event was Helen Steel, a long-term anarchist activist and one-time McLibel defendant who was subjected to intrusive state surveillance by an undercover police officer who deceived her into a two-year relationship.

They comment: “One of the most disturbing aspects of all this was the way in which people allowed rumour to spread. The T-Word, once uttered, seemed to diffuse any flicker of concern from onlookers, all independent thought going out the window. ‘Apparently she was giving out Terf leaflets’, said a few.

“As mentioned, this transpired to be false information, and when those spreading the rumours were asked whether they had seen the texts for themselves, none of them had actually done so. When challenged, one person brushed it off by saying there was no smoke without fire, as if people were incapable of making mistakes.

“This sentiment also reveals ignorance of the long history of state agents using divide and rule tactics against dissidents – from COINTELPRO, to Stasi ops – and the fact that HS has herself been a target for state deception and manipulation”.

7. Acorninfo

Eco-activists protecting the Hambacher Forest near Aachen in Germany have won a little time in their battle to protect the area from open coal mining. After cops started to try and shift protesters, using pepper spray, and clear-cutting began, work was halted again on November 28 by a court pending further deliberations from the regional parliament.

* * *

Legendary US environmental activist Katie Lee has died at the age of 98. She was best known for her fierce opposition to the Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona. She felt it was a crime against nature, humanity and history: “The way I describe it is an aneurism, an aneurism. It’s a stoppage of the blood in the body, and that’s what they’re doing to our rivers with these dams, what we’re doing to our planet, I mean, you cut off all the blood in your body, you die. You cut off all our rivers and we’re gonna be out of here. We can’t survive without them”.

* * *

“The world of undercover policing, informers and corporate spies is by its very nature murky. It is populated by professionals who go to great lengths to hide their activities, and to build cover”, warns a pamphlet on police infiltration from undercoverresearch.net. As evidence of these infiltrators and their activities continues to emerge, dissidents would do well to have a good careful read of Was My Friend A Spycop?

* * *

The next Anarchist Action Network meeting is being staged on Sunday 10th December, from 1pm to 3pm, at 11 Ferry Rd, Shoreham-By-Sea, West Sussex, BN43 5RA. The AAN is an autonomous network made up of local groups and individuals from the anarchist movement based in the UK. All are welcome, except for cops pretending to be anarchists!

* * *

Scientists have called for an urgent ban on killer robots, with technology now existing to create autonomous weapons that can select and kill human targets without supervision. Campaigner Noel Sharkey, the emeritus professor of AI at Sheffield University and chair of the International Committee on Robot Arms Control, said: “We must succeed because the alternatives are too horrifying.” More info at autonomousweapons.org

* * *

One by one, all those dystopian sci-fi nightmares are coming true. Another one comes (again!) from Facebook, which has rolled out new “proactive detection” artificial intelligence technology which “will scan all posts for patterns of suicidal thoughts, and when necessary send mental health resources to the user at risk or their friends, or contact local first-responders”. It’s all in the interests of your own “safety”, of course, and Facebook spokesman confirmed that “users cannot opt out”.  You can opt out of Facebook altogether, though…

* * *

“Madrid’s refusal to compromise, in the view of the Catalan nationalist movement, renders the push towards Catalan independence impossible to avert”, concludes a useful summary of the current situation at euroasiareview.com.  We continue to support Catalan autonomy, despite our complete lack of faith in the idea of any kind of state. As we said in Acorn 37: “With its use of the whole gamut of repressive methods, from internet censorship and brutal violence to media distortion of what has been happening, the Spanish state could almost be acting out a dress rehearsal of clamp-downs on disobedient populations elsewhere. If the authorities can get away with it in Barcelona and Catalonia, with their proud revolutionary spirit and sense of community, they might conclude they could get away with it anywhere.”

* * *

“Anarchy is a word we use to describe those moments when force cannot subdue us, and life flourishes as we know it should”. So declares Fighting for Our Lives, an anarchist primer produced by US comrades Crimethinc some 15 years ago and now, happily, available online. So-called anarchists in London and elsewhere may want to ponder its concluding words: “Then, as now, as always, the important question is—which side are you on?”

* * *

Acorn quote: “It does not require more than a simple act of insight to realise that infinite growth of material consumption in a finite world is an impossibility”.

E.F. SchumacherSmall Is Beautiful

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

Back to top

—–

If you like this bulletin please tell others about it. Subscribe by clicking the “follow” button.

—–

Back Issues

The Acorn 37

The Acorn 36

The Acorn 35

The Acorn 34

The Acorn 33

The Acorn 32

The Acorn 31

The Acorn 30

The Acorn 29

The Acorn 28

The Acorn 27

The Acorn 26

The Acorn 25

The Acorn 24

The Acorn 23

The Acorn 22

The Acorn 21

The Acorn 20

The Acorn 19

The Acorn 18

The Acorn 17

The Acorn 16

The Acorn 15

The Acorn 14

The Acorn 13

The Acorn 12

The Acorn 11

The Acorn 10

The Acorn 9

The Acorn 8

The Acorn 7

The Acorn 6

The Acorn 5

The Acorn 4

The Acorn 3

The Acorn 2

The Acorn 1

Follow Winter Oak on Twitter at @WinterOakPress

 

 

Advertisements

The Acorn – 37

acornmastheadnew1

Number 37


In this issue:

  1. Why Catalonia matters
  2. French rebels resist neoliberal assault
  3. We need all-out resistance!
  4. Whatever happened to the revolution?
  5. Welcome to 21st century fascism
  6. Acorninfo

1. Why Catalonia matters

As anti-statists and internationalists, anarchists often have mixed feelings about movements calling for new nation states, even small ones.

But there are times when an instinctive hatred of centralised authority, and the violence with which it is imposed, completely overwhelms such ideological qualms.

Such is the case with events currently unfolding in Catalonia, where the “unauthorised” referendum staged on October 1 has been met with alarming levels of repression by the central Spanish state.

Before the event hundreds of websites were shut down, officials arrested, printing presses raided, ballot papers confiscated and media threatened.

On the day, people who turned out to vote were physically attacked by Spanish riot cops, leaving 900 injured.  Videos circulating on social media showed one cop jumping from a staircase to stamp on a voter beneath, another deliberately breaking someone’s fingers one by one, others brutally bludgeoning people sitting passively in a road. Rubber bullets were fired at unarmed and largely passive crowds.

Anarchists have long known that violence is the foundation of the state and of all authority. Sometimes it remains hidden beneath the surface, but it is always there.

Declaring land “private property” and excluding people from their collective birthright is violent. Making people work for others’ profit, or else face starvation, is violent. The very idea of a police “force” is violent. A legal system which claims the right to chastise and imprison is violent.

The bottom line is that everyone knows that any attempt to defy the power of authority, no matter how peacefully, will be met with violence. Normally this remains unsaid, a kind of social subtext. But there are moments when the reality emerges in all its ugliness.

This is what is happening in Catalonia right now. Authority, with a capital A, is imposing itself against the people.  You can put aside all the details of the Catalan situation, it really is as simple as that.

And for those who remain convinced that the European Union in some way represents a force for good, its complete lack of condemnation for the Spanish state should act as a wake-up call.

The EU is just a centralised version of the same violent mafia that have been running all the various nation-states of Europe for hundreds of years. It is not condemning the Spanish state because all the states that it represents reserve the right to behave in exactly the same, violent, way, wherever their authority is challenged.

To his credit, Craig Murray, a radical commentator who was once UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, has admitted on his blog that events in Catalonia had proven him mistaken in his long-time support for the EU.

He writes: “The EU reacted as if no such abuse had ever happened at all, and the world had not seen it.  The institution has in fact been overrun by the right wing cronyism of the neo-liberal political class, and no longer serves the principles for which it ostensibly stands. It is become simply an instrument of elite power against the people”.

It has long been a theme of this bulletin that the system in which we live is edging ever closer to fascism, even if the 21st century form which it takes does not superficially look like the versions historically endured by Italy and Germany.

In Spain there is even some fascistic continuity. The ruling right-wing People’s Party began life in 1976 as the People’s Alliance,  founded by Manuel Fraga, a former minister under dictator General Franco.

The Francoist spirit lingering in the Spanish riot police, and the nazi-saluting Spanish right-wing nationalists who support their thuggery, is plain to see.

And there are clear echoes of Catalan resistance to the central Francoist state in the grass-roots Catalan independence movement.

While corporate media coverage aims to dilute support for Catalonia by pointing to the fact that the region is wealthy, and there are right-wing as well as left-wing independence parties,  the current repression has pushed the Catalan struggle well into left-wing libertarian territory.

In an informative interview with Jacobin Magazine, Lluc Salellas of the Catalan anti-capitalist party Candidatura d’Unitat Popular (CUP) pointed out that the clamp-down on Catalan autonomy has a social as well as a centralist dimension.

Salellas said: “The last fifteen laws we have passed in the Catalan parliament have been banned by the Spanish state. But these are not independentist laws — many of them are social laws: for example, a law about sanctuary for those fleeing persecution, a law banning energy companies from turning off people’s electricity, and a law for a higher minimum wage.

“We want to use our autonomy to improve people’s lives and we are forbidden. People see this and respond. They want to decide the future of Catalonia and that is not possible in the current arrangement.

“The movement has already moved to the Left — the laws I mentioned earlier were a sign of that, they were social measures supported even by the center-right. The streets have an idea of something new in Catalonia, something bottom-up.”

Salellas was speaking on October 3, the day of a general strike called in response to Spanish central repression. It was a strike in which anarchist unions took a leading role.

He commented: “Today we have seen the biggest general strike in the history of Catalonia. It was supported by the Catalan trade union movement, all of the pro-independence parties, and other left groups such as Podemos’s regional affiliate and Barcelona en Comú.

“There was a very widespread stoppage: almost everything closed from small shops to public institutions and transport. In total, more than fifty roads were blocked, which has significantly disrupted the transport of goods. It wasn’t just in Barcelona, either. In Girona, one of the regional capitals, there was a demonstration of 50,000. The city’s population is only 100,000, so it will be the biggest protest in the city’s history.”

And he placed the repression used by the Spanish state in a wider context. He said the Catalans’ battle was an important  moment for Europe.  “If we don’t win it, the idea that governments can meet democratic expressions with violence will spread. This weekend it was Catalonia, but it won’t end here. We could see it normalized across Europe.”

This is an important point. With its use of the whole gamut of repressive methods, from internet censorship and brutal violence to media distortion of what has been happening, the Spanish state could almost be acting out a dress rehearsal of clamp-downs on disobedient populations elsewhere.

If the authorities can get away with it in Barcelona and Catalonia, with their proud revolutionary spirit and sense of community, they might conclude they could get away with it anywhere.

In this context, the days and weeks ahead in Catalonia may well prove decisive for all of us. Solidarity is badly needed, rather than ideological hand-wringing about the dangers of expressing solidarity even with left-wing forms of nationalism (when was that ever a problem regarding Kurdistan, for instance?).

Girona

The massive crowds on the streets of Barcelona, Girona and elsewhere, along with the brutal and panicky state reaction, are increasingly conjuring up memories of the Arab Spring of 2011.

Who knows where this will lead? The Spanish state, via its courts, has already suspended the session of the Catalan Parliament at which it was expected to declare independence in the wake of the”yes” vote.

Salellas suggests: “The Spanish state will probably try to use Article 155 of the constitution to definitively end our autonomy. They may also arrest the Catalan president, as well as other political figures.

“If this happens, the streets will rise up and we will have a major confrontation. The independence movement has a lot of people — I estimate up to a million — ready to be very active in this campaign over a long period of time. It won’t be easy for the Spanish state to repress a movement of that size.”

Building barricades in Girona

Back to top

2. French rebels resist neoliberal assault

Less than six months after Emmanuel Macron was elected president of France, the streets are filling up with people opposing his so-called labour “reforms”, which are blatantly aimed at removing workers’ rights in the interests of business profits.

When the campaign against his “Loi Travail XXL” got underway on September 12, half a million people protested in 200 towns and cities.

The French police continued to use the heavy-handed approach that was deployed against the 2016 revolt against the original Loi Travail.

In Lyons, for instance, part of the demo was kettled right at the start and it was only because the rest of the protesters refused to move on, and stayed put for two hours, that they were eventually released.

An interesting twist was the involvement of France’s travelling funfair community, who  used their lorries to block motorways in solidarity with the strikes and protests.

The next big date is Tuesday October 10, when a general strike is planned.

France seems in some ways to be at the point the UK had reached in 1984, when Europe’s first neoliberal state, under Thatcher, deliberately took on and defeated the miners in order to break  the resistance of the trade union movement.

Orgreave

As in the UK in those days , the neoliberals are making a calculated bet on the physical supremacy of their power.

They are happy to use the full legal force of their system to crush dissent, the full physical force of their police and military to attack dissidents, the full psychological force of their tame media to conceal what is happening, to spread lies and disinformation, to smear their opponents.

If we are audacious enough to deploy all of this against our enemies, the authorities seem to be saying to themselves,  what can anybody actually do about it? How do our opponents even imagine they could stop us, unless it is by bringing the whole system crashing down?

The very same thought is at the same time, of course, also occurring to the dissidents…

Back to top

3. We need all-out resistance!

We had some positive feedback from comrades regarding our article in Acorn 36 about the failings of a so-called anti-capitalist movement which thinks it is “on the knife’s edge” of acceptability to actually oppose capitalism and all its assumptions.

So we thought we would clarify our position with a full bullet points pointing to the sort of movement we would like to be part of. Regular readers will spot that there is nothing new here! These are the arguments we have been making again and again in this bulletin, in the daily quotes we tweet out and in the books we publish.

  • We need to declare all-out war on the system we conveniently label “capitalism”. This must take place on a practical level, on a political level and on a philosophical level.
  • Crucially, we need to challenge the very foundations of that power. We need to entirely reject all the layers of fake justification for the “authority” that underlies the state and its legal system.
  • We need to reject all claims for “ownership” of land and insist that the land belongs to all (including non-humans) and has been stolen from us.
  •  We must take care not to accept the “morality” of the system – not to confuse legal and illegal with right or wrong, not to fall into the trap of playing by its own self-serving rules.
  • We need to expose all  the “legitimate” force with which the system imposes its “authority”, “law” and “property” as nothing but brute violence,  dressed up in wigs, uniforms and fancy language.
  • We have got to rid ourselves of the ultraliberalism which has been infecting the anarchist movement.  Its reformist individualism and fetishization of “non-violence” and “safety” has nothing to do with our struggle. Our aim is not to make the current system nicer, but to do away with it.
  • We have to be clear that industrial society has been created by capitalism and is inseparable from capitalism. To protect the world from total environmental disaster, we have to destroy capitalism, along with all its assumptions and infrastructures.
  • We are heretics and as such we will reject all dogmas, religious or political, which preach obedience or submission to power.
  • We must reject patriarchy and its domination of our cultures. We must understand its links to militarism and industrialism, its fetishization of quantity, size, speed and violence. 
  • We need to nurture a dynamic and determined  revolutionary spirit. The self-important sterility and cynicism of Academia undermines our struggles.
  • We must remain inspired by a positive vision of the anarchist society that we know is possible. Nihilism and defeatism motivate nobody.
  • We need to strongly oppose imperialism in all its forms. We must not be put off by spurious claims that anti-imperialism necessarily equals disguised nationalism. Self-determination and decentralisation are part of our internationalist struggle, from Kurdistan and Palestine to West Papua and Catalonia.
  • We must not be afraid of naming the USA as the primary bulwark of the system we oppose or of identifying its key allies, such as the UK, Germany, France or Israel.  We should not be swayed by sly ideological memes suggesting that opposition to US imperialism implies support for other regimes or that criticism of the Israeli state amounts to antisemitism.
  • We should actively expose the machinations of the military-industrial complex and not be frightened away from doing so by “conspiracy theorist” smears designed to deter investigative criticism. At the same time we should (obviously) avoid falling into a reductionist conspiracy mindset or spreading toxic right-wing analyses

Back to top

4. Whatever happened to the revolution?

The spirit of 99. Protesting against globalisation in Seattle

The contemporary “left” is giving free rein to fascist ideologists by shying away from a deep rejection of industrial capitalism and its world.

That is the warning in a thoughtful two-part article by Rhyd Wildermuth on the Gods & Radicals website.

He describes “a deep and intentional blindness particularly within American anti-fascist and ‘leftist’ thought, the product both of a marriage to Liberal Democratic hegemony and an almost ecstatic abdication of revolutionary territory”.

Looking back to the big anti-capitalist/anti-globalisation movement of the 1990s, he notes that the politics that lay behind it have all but disappeared from the US and UK radical left’s thinking, leaving nationalists and fascists able to pose as the main opponents of the global capitalist system.

Wildermuth writes: “Partially due to the all-too conveniently-timed ‘war on terror’ and systematic counter-revolutionary actions, the mass mobilizations of the anti-globalisation movement are long-gone, and few of the critiques remain in the political platforms of any leftist or liberal movement in the United States or the United Kingdom.

“However, the damage done did not simply disappear when there was no movement to fight it, and much of the current political turmoil in which we find ourselves now is a consequence both of globalisation and the left’s abandonment of that fight.”

Condemning the reformism of the so-called Left, he says: “Mass movements such as Black Lives Matter, Occupy, and the mobilizations against Trump and white supremacy expend extraordinary effort to avoid direct criticism of Liberal Democracy, contorting themselves into almost absurd positions.”

He adds: “The Left mistakes anti-modernism as fascist only because it has drunk the bloody offerings at Capitalism’s altars of progress”.

Rhyd Wildermuth

Back to top

5. Welcome to 21st century fascism

When we think about fascism, our main reference point tends to be the regimes which took control of Italy and Germany in the first half of the 20th century.

But it is now 95 years since Benito Mussolini came to power and the sort of fascism we encounter today is an updated version.

Contemporary fascists, for instance, seem to have dropped the shallow pretence of being “socialists” or “workers” which helped Adolf Hitler’s Nazis win mass support in the 1930s.

Antisemitism no longer seems to be a necessary ingredient in the toxic fascist recipe, either, with hatred of Muslims often replacing (or at least eclipsing) hatred of Jews.

Some extreme-right wing groups are also positively pro-Israel and there is growing evidence of a previously unthinkable connection between fascists and right-wing Zionists.

Writing about his country’s “flirtation with Europe’s extreme right”, Israeli journalist Meron Rapoport identifies anti-Muslim sentiment as the key factor.

Israel has long been concerned about European sympathy for the Palestinian struggle and support for the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which aims to hit the Israeli economy.

In this context, any increase in anti-Muslim feeling in Europe “is seen as good sign in Israel” explains Rapoport.

He adds: “If Europe would just see the importance of the ‘Muslim danger’, goes this line of thinking, then it would also understand – and be grateful for – Israel’s pivotal role in the war against ‘radical Islam’. Through this common enemy, Israel could be relieved from its isolation.”

In the UK, the English Defence League was notorious for its support for Israel and its brandishing of Israeli flags on protests.

It appears that there is a similar phenomenon within Alternative for Germany (AfD), the 21st century face of the German far right. We are seeing, as Ali Abunimah points out, “a newly invigorated alliance between far-right, traditionally anti-Semitic forces on the one hand, and Israel and Zionists on the other”.

The Times of Israel confirms that “like many far-right parties in Europe and elsewhere, the AfD presents itself as staunchly supportive of Israel”.

It says that according to a wide-ranging poll commissioned by a group promoting German-Israeli relations, most AfD politicians profess to care deeply about Israel’s security, support Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state, reject unilaterally recognizing a Palestinian state, and generally support a stronger relationship between Jerusalem and Berlin.

Over half of the AfD respondents said they “totally” agreed with the statement that support for BDS was antisemitic; no other major party had such a strong opposition to BDS.

Beatrix von Storch, deputy leader of Alternative for Germany (AfD) even gave an interview with The Jerusalem Post in which she made a telling connection between her party’s views on Muslims and the Israeli state’s stance regarding Palestinians.

Von Storch

She said: “Israel could be a role model for Germany. Israel is a democracy that has a free and pluralistic society. Israel also makes efforts to preserve its unique culture and traditions.”

Indeed, an article in The Intercept by Lee Fang reveals that the AfD’s electoral success was fuelled by “news” stories from right-wing US pro-Israel organisation the Gatestone Institute.

We wrote about the Gatestone Institute in Acorn 20 when we pointed out that Baroness Cox, notorious for stoking resentment against Muslims, was on its board.

We added that she was also co-president of an organisation called Jerusalem Summit, which says on its website that the idea of a Palestinian state must be “removed from the international agenda”.

Significantly, it states that “the de-legitimization of the Palestinian narrative becomes a vital prerequisite to any comprehensive resolution of the Palestinian issue”.

Are Cox, the AdF and others playing their part in this scheme by demonising Muslims in Europe so that Europeans identify with Israelis against their Palestinian “Muslim threat”?

Baroness Cox

Israel’s apparent desire to stoke up anti-Muslim feeling inevitably puts it at loggerheads with the European left, which is fiercely opposed to racism, supportive of immigrants and, often, critical of Israeli treatment of Palestinians.

Right-wing Spanish politician Juan Carlos Girauta understood this when he wrote a recent article for The Jerusalem Post urging Israelis to oppose the Catalan independence struggle and support the fascistic repression carried out by the Spanish state (see above).

He admitted that traditionally Catalonia has always been seen as friendly territory for Jewish people. “It is well-known that historically moderate Catalanism was sympathetic to Israel and generally pro-Jewish. A lot of Catalonian Jews voted and supported those regionalist parties.

“However, the political landscape abruptly changed, and the public face of the pro-Israel movement in Catalonia is radical nationalists who use the Israel cause as a vehicle and excuse to promote their own local interests, even at the expense of Israel’s.

“Furthermore, as moderates lost prominence, the independence movement is led by violent radicals who are as anti-Israel as they are anti-Spanish. They are members of BDS-supporting parties like those that have approved boycotts against Israel in many of Catalonia’s cities or invited infamous terrorist Leila Khaled to speak at a Barcelona City Council-sponsored event.

“An independent Catalonia would be in the hands of extreme anti-Israel groups. In contrast, the constitutionalist camp is solidly pro-Israel.”

Like 21st century fascism as a whole, it would seem.

Back to top

6. Acorninfo

The use of physical violence to impose elite business interests is very evident in England at the moment in the attempt to force fracking on an increasingly hostile population. While Scotland moved to ban fracking, opponents south of the border in Kirby Misperton and Preston New Road have endured constant police assaults and intimidation. The “law” always forms a key part of the system’s violence and, in a worrying development, INEOS, a manufacturer of chemicals involved in fracking, has been granted an injunction seriously limiting protest against its activities. Campaigners have launched a crowdfunder to pay for a legal challenge, targeting £15,000 by October 11. At the time of writing it had reached £7,300.

* * *

Yet another wake-up call for all those who think that industrial capitalism is not really a problem… A new study has discovered that plastic fibres are present in tap water around the world. “Tests show billions of people globally are drinking water contaminated by plastic particles, with 83% of samples found to be polluted”. Still, never mind. Carry on regardless, eh? Business as usual.

* * *

“The modern consumer culture was born – not as a response to innate human greed or customer demand, but to the needs of industrial capital.” So writes Steven Gorelick in an excellent article on the Local Futures website. He concludes: “The global consumer culture is not only the engine of climate change, species die-off, ocean dead zones, and many other assaults on the biosphere, it ultimately fails to meet real human needs. It’s time to envision – and take steps to create – an economy that doesn’t destroy people and the planet just to satisfy the growth imperatives of global capital.”

* * *

Campaigners taking on the coal industry in Australia, in the shape of the Adani group, are holding a big day of symbolic action on Saturday October 7. They say: “If we want to move beyond coal, we’re going to have to spell out #StopAdani to our politicians. That’s why we’re asking you to join forces in creating human signs so big that they can’t be ignored, at iconic locations across Australia!”

* * *

When we reported in Acorn 36 about an American firm that was implanting its workers with microchips, some readers may have felt that this vastly repulsive idea would never take off. But one obliging corporate journalist was quick to jump on to the microchip bandwagon. Writing in The Guardian, Olivia Solon  described having an implant and enthused about all the marvellous advantages it offers. The only possible opposition to the Brave New World of Microchipped Humanity, it seems, might come from “some fundamentalist Christians”.

* * *

The full programme for the London Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday October 28 (see report in Acorn 36) has now been published and so we can update readers about our two Winter Oak workshops. Ed Lord will be talking about his book Modern Madness from 12 noon to 1pm in room LG5 and Paul Cudenec will be presenting his book The Green One from 3pm to 4pm in Room F7. We will also have a stall. The event runs at Park View School. West Green Road, London, N15 3QR, from 10am to 7pm.

* * *

Acorn quote: “Socialists cannot avoid the struggle against land ownership. The struggle for socialism is a struggle for the land; the social question is an agrarian question. Now it can be seen what an enormous mistake the Marxists’ theory of the proletariat is. If the revolution came today, no stratum of the population would have less idea of what to do than our industrial proletarians”.

Gustav Landauer For Socialism

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

Back to top

—–

If you like this bulletin please tell others about it. Subscribe by clicking the “follow” button.

—–

Back Issues

The Acorn 36

The Acorn 35

The Acorn 34

The Acorn 33

The Acorn 32

The Acorn 31

The Acorn 30

The Acorn 29

The Acorn 28

The Acorn 27

The Acorn 26

The Acorn 25

The Acorn 24

The Acorn 23

The Acorn 22

The Acorn 21

The Acorn 20

The Acorn 19

The Acorn 18

The Acorn 17

The Acorn 16

The Acorn 15

The Acorn 14

The Acorn 13

The Acorn 12

The Acorn 11

The Acorn 10

The Acorn 9

The Acorn 8

The Acorn 7

The Acorn 6

The Acorn 5

The Acorn 4

The Acorn 3

The Acorn 2

The Acorn 1

Follow Winter Oak on Twitter at @WinterOakPress

 

 

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.

    Back to top

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.

Back to top

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”.

Back to top

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.

Back to top

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.

  Back to top

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.

Back to top

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!”

Back to top

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

Back to top

—–

If you like this bulletin please tell others about it. Subscribe by clicking the “follow” button.

Back Issues

The Acorn 7

The Acorn 6

The Acorn 5

The Acorn 4

The Acorn 3

The Acorn 2

The Acorn 1

Follow Winter Oak on Twitter at @WinterOakPress

The Acorn – 7

acornmastheadnew

Number 7


In this issue:

  1. Summer of rebellion ahead!
  2. English resistance to fracking
  3. Mayday in Milano
  4. Fighting the power
  5. Action Camp and Climate Games in Netherlands
  6. Frackanpada
  7. Degrowth Summer School
  8. Rhineland disobedience
  9. Earth First! Summer Gathering
  10. Books celebrate nature mystic
  11. Acorninfo

1. Summer of rebellion ahead!

The Peasant's Revolt of 1380

The revolt against the destructive infrastructure of industrial capitalism will be hotting up all over the place this summer, sending a message to the neoliberal elite that they will not necessarily have it all their own way for ever.

As the disastrous consequences of industrial society become all the more apparent, the complicity of governments increasingly blatant and the greenwashing attempts of global business more and more ridiculous, resistance is inevitably strengthening.

From radical anti-capitalists on the streets of Milan to anti-frackers in the Basque Country, from climate protesters in Germany to anti-roads activists in England, the struggle is one.

Our look (below) at just a few of the things that will be happening in the coming months shows a gathering momentum and a growing understanding that capitalism and industrialism are all the same thing.

The pernicious effects of pollution and environmental damage cannot be separated from the pernicious effects of the exploitation and degradation of human beings.

This so-called capitalist civilization is nothing but  a death-machine, converting the living flesh of our planet into the waste products of profit. For the sake of everyone’s future, we must fight together to consign it to the past.

   Back to top

2. English resistance to fracking

balcombe protest

The resistance against fracking in southern England – which hit the headlines with the Balcombe protests in 2013 – is looking set to intensify in the next few months.

The global oil industry effectively declared its intent to sacrifice the countryside on the altar of profit with its boastful announcement, reported in The Guardian on April 9, that it had found 100bn barrels of oil underground at Horse Hill on the Sussex-Surrey border near Horley.

Steven Sanderson, chief executive of UK Oil and Gas Investments gloated: “Based on what we’ve found here, we’re looking at between 50 and 100bn barrels of oil in place in the ground. We believe we can recover between 5% and 15% of the oil in the ground, which by 2030 could mean that we produce 10% to 30% of the UK’s oil demand from within the Weald area”.

There was an immediate response from a broad range of environmentalists. Greenpeace UK chief scientist Dr Doug Parr said: “To gleefully rub your hands at a new fossil fuel discovery you need to turn the clock back to the 19th century and ignore everything we have learnt about climate change since. We already have more than enough coal, oil, and gas reserves to fry the planet. Dotting the English countryside with drilling rigs and pipelines to squeeze the last drop of oil out of Britain doesn’t make any sense.”

And Brenda Pollack, Friends of the Earth South East campaigner warned: “Any firm proposing to drill for oil in the region knows it will face huge opposition – as happened at Balcombe, Fernhurst and Wisborough Green.”

It may be significant that working with UK Oil and Gas Investments at Horse Hill is American firm Magellan Petroleum. The US giant is also partnering fracking firm Celtique at Billingshurst, a few miles away across the Sussex Weald, where the razor wire is up and ready for imminent drilling, as we reported in Acorn 2.

With Balcombe itself not yet safe from fracking, the southern English countryside is thus braced for a new assault. Despite the constant rumours about the poor financial state of the fracking industry, the British state continues to do all it can to try to impose fracking by force if necessary – see our report in Acorn 6.

The absurd talk from fracking industry propagandist Ken Cronin of UK Onshore Oil and Gas about “great care for the environment” and “no impact on local communities” is showed up for what it is by a new documentary film being screened in Sussex this month.

gasfield

Voices from The Gasfields, a bang up-to-date report, talks to residents in Australia affected by the massive amount of fracking that has been allowed by complicit authorities to ruin the landscape, pollute the water supplies and taint the air.

What was once unspoilt bush has been turned into an industrial wasteland, cleared of vegetation, crossed by pipelines, littered with abandoned oil wells. Vegetables gardens have withered away, wildlife is dying, people’s health is suffering and the fracking industry silences news of what is happening with “confidentiality” agreements when it has to pay out for the damage that it admits it has caused.

Of course, the film is not just about what has already happened in Australia. It is about what will happen elsewhere, including England, if the fracking business is allowed to get its way. As residents recall, when describing the nightmare devastation covering one area the size of England – “it all started with one well”.

The threat is clear and activists are ready to respond.

Voices from the Gasfields is being shown by Frack Free Sussex at All Saints Church Hall, The Drive, Hove BN3 3GE from 7pm on Sunday April 26 – free entry.

Back to top

3. Mayday in Milano

Noexpo

International anti-capitalist protest, Milan, Italy, Friday May 1

Six weeks after the massive protests against the opening of the European Central Bank HQ in Frankfurt (see Acorn 5), European anti-capitalists will be gathering again, this time in Italy, to take on another major showcase of European neoliberalism.

The mobilisation on Friday May 1 is being billed as “a joyful angry international demonstration through the centre of Milan” and starts at 2pm at Piazza XXIV Maggio on the south side of the city centre.

It is focused on the opening day of Expo 2015, an extravagant six-month “world fair” celebrating the corporate wealth built on the exploitation of workers and the destruction of the environment.

The expo site, to the north-west of the city centre, covers 272 acres and is expected to attract 29 million visitors from the opening day until the end of October.

expo - greenwashing

The self-congratulatory capitalism of Expo 2015 is bad enough in itself but, to add insult to injury, it is trying to pretend it is some kind of environmental showcase.

Its phoney theme of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” is of course nothing but a deceitful piece of greenwash hiding the usual industrial-capitalist agenda, as a closer look at its site quickly reveals.

The section about its corporate “partners” boasts that “Expo Milano 2015 offers a unique business opportunity”.

expo - coca-cola

One of the “corporate pavilions” at the Expo will be from Coca-Cola, whose sickly spin, as unpalatable as its drinks, declares:Coca-Cola is working to embed sustainability-minded innovations at global and local level, into every aspect of its business, from sourcing ingredients to increasing beverage options to aspiring to be water neutral and recovering packaging”.

Coca-Cola claims that it enables “economic empowerment of women” and visitors to its propaganda-zone will learn all about its “efforts to enhance personal well-being, offering low or no-calories beverage options in every market” as well as about its proud record of “protecting the environment”.

Expo - new holland

Another pavilion comes from New Holland Agriculture (a brand of CNH Global NV) which “takes the opportunity to show how a world leader of agricultural mechanisation interprets the present and prepares for the future of farming”.

Also present is Vanke, “Chinese giant and leader in real estate” which has been at the forefront of the glorious “development” of China by the global industrial system. Its fine environmental record involves notching up than 60,000 homes a year. Its own website boasts: “In 2012, sales exceeded RMB 140 billion, once again the largest in the global real estate industry.”

Expo - vanke

The description of Vanke’s pavilion at Expo 2015 belongs firmly in the world of satire: “Visitors are immersed in a forest of poles, with screens which project scenes of lunches, joy, and sharing. The installation, based on the metaphor of roots, trunks and branches symbolizes Vanke’s commitment to the community, which lives among the mutual relationships of people, values and traditions.”

* Many of the same protesters will be joining a huge march against fascism through the northern Italian city two days earlier, on Wednesday April 29.

Back to top

4. Fighting the power

RTP

Reclaim the Power, Oxfordshire, England, May 29 – June 2

Reclaim the Power is holding a direct action camp near Didcot Power Station (Oxfordshire) as part of a global day of action, ahead of the UN climate talks (COP21) in December 2015.

Power stations like Didcot emit the same CO2 per day as the 20 least polluting countries combined. Although the coal-fired section (Didcot A) was shut down in 2013, and demolished last year because of EU laws limiting emissions, the gas-fired section (Didcot B) is still running today.

Says the RTP website: “While communities around the country have stood together against fracking, our government has been making plans to build a new round of gas-fired power stations, and wants to run them on fracked shale gas!

“And, despite the fact that we need to keep global gas reserves in the ground, if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change, corporate lobbyists are now pushing hard to scrap the EU legislation designed to reduce emissions across Europe! Come and tell them NO WAY and take direct action to shut down the industry. Didcot power station is a half-demolished monument to the unfinished job of kicking out dirty fossil fuels from the UK’s energy mix. Let’s finish the job!”

Back to top

5. Action Camp and Climate Games in Netherlands

aseed

Aseed Europe action camp, near Amsterdam, Netherlands, July 1-8

An action camp is being organised near Amsterdam by Aseed (Action for Solidarity Environment Equality and Diversity). Says its website: “Our current agriculture system is one of the world’s largest sources of greenhouse gases emission, especially meat production and deforestation. Industrial agriculture is addicted to fossil fuels and soil erosion and depletion increase the effects of climate change.

“In order to fulfill one of our most basic need in the long term, food production must become sustainable. The action camp will help the participants to focus on this goal and to make local, sustainable food production more widespread.”

The second edition of the Climate Games will be happening on July 4th in the same area, with the aim of “playing around some of the major polluters in Amsterdam’s port”.

 Back to top

6. Frackanpada

International anti-fracking camp, Euskal Herria, July 13-19

Frack camp

The Frackanpada is an international protest camp against fracking that will take place this summer in Euskal Herria (Basque Country), called by the local movement against fracking (Fracking Ez) and with the support of a committed team of people based in different European countries.

Says the website: “There are various objectives. The first one is to bring together the people currently fighting and those interested to join the struggle against fracking in different places, to share experiences and exchange practices. It aims also to be a meeting place between struggles against fracking and those other related to the defence of the land and others such as against austerity and for a just and sustainable society…”

Back to top

7. Degrowth summer school

degrowth summer school
A lesson for today – all of this must end

Degrowth Summer School, Germany, August 9-14

The Degrowth Summer School will take place in the Rhineland lignite-mining area in the run-up to the Climate Camp (below). Says the website: “We want to reveal the necessity for a radical economic and societal change of our energy- and resource-intensive lifestyles and discuss concrete solutions and alternatives.”

Back to top

8. Rhineland disobedience

klimacamp

Climate Camp in Germany – mass civil disobedience, August 14-16

The group says: “In a big colourful action of civil disobedience we will obstruct the exploitation of lignite (soft coal) with many hundreds of people. Thus we will resist one of the crucial root causes of climate change. We will use a variety of actions, about which we will communicate in an open and reliable way. Let’s make the Rhineland the focal point of a strong and powerful anti-coal-movement!”

Back to top

9. Earth First! Summer Gathering

EF!SG15poster-small

Earth First! Summer gathering, Peak District, England, August 19-24

The gathering is billed as “five days of skills sharing for grassroots ecological action” revolving around the struggle against fracking, new roads and lots more, with a particular emphasis on community-based campaigns.

It is “a chance for people and groups from across the country and beyond to get together to network, share practical skills, ideas and inspirations to help our actions and campaigns be as strategic and effective as possible “.

Back to top

10. Books celebrate nature mystic

Salt cover completeJefferies cover complete

Two classic books celebrating a visionary English nature writer have been published in new editions by Winter Oak.

As a companion piece to Richard Jefferies’ 1883 book The Story of My Heart: My Autobiography, there is a fascinating analysis of Jefferies’ work by another neglected genius of the Victorian age.

Henry S. Salt’s 1894 study Richard Jefferies: His Life and His Ideals, sparked some controversy at the time as Salt – a campaigner for animal rights, vegetarianism and socialism – used it to claim Jefferies for one of his own, highlighting the social radicalism and nature-based spirituality that increasingly marked his subject’s later writing.

With wit and erudition he demolishes the conservative Victorian presentation of Jefferies as a mere chronicler of traditional country life and reveals him as a flawed yet inspirational figure whose best works were “unsurpassed as prose poems by anything which the English language contains”.

Salt writes of Jefferies: “He was a pagan, a pantheist, a worshipper of earth and sea, and of the great sun ‘burning in the heaven’; he yearned for a free, natural, fearless life of physical health and spiritual exaltation, and for a death in harmony with the life that preceded it.”.

This new 2015 edition includes a preface by Paul Cudenec, analysing the connections between the thought of Salt and Jefferies. Cudenec also contributes the preface to The Story of My Heart, Jefferies’ masterpiece of prose-poetry, in which he expresses his sublime yearning not just for connection with nature but for spiritual transcendence. Cudenec, from a contemporary environmentalist viewpoint, explores the significance of Jefferies’ work against a backdrop of disillusionment with industrial civilization and a cultural urge for the regeneration of human society.

For more information go to our books page

Back to top

11. Acorninfo

International protests are being staged against the ongoing repression of anarchists by the Spanish state (see Acorn 6). On March 30, another 38 people were arrested by police under the banner of “Operation Piñata“, a continuation of the notorious “Operation Pandora”. The raids were carried out amidst a flurry of propaganda making false claims of “terrorist” activities. One solidarity protest is being held in Brighton on Sunday April 12, 6pm at the Clocktower, North Street. “Muerte al estado y viva la anarquia!”

pinata
A banner drop in Brussels

* * *

The Landworkers’ Alliance (LWA) are celebrating Via Campesina’s International day of Peasant Struggle with a “Reclaim Our Food System” protest in Suffolk, England. They say: “This year we are targeting British Sugar PLC to expose the inequality and problems inherent in our industrial food system. Government support of big agri-businesses, like British Sugar PLC, threatens the health of our communities and the quality of our environment”. Meet outside the Bury St Edmunds Railway Station, 1pm on Wednesday April 29. Free coach from London.

British Sugar factory in Bury St Edmunds
Health threat – the British Sugar plc factory in Bury St Edmunds

* * *

Around 150 people tore down sections of the 8ft-tall spiked fence surrounding the Aylesbury occupation and other blocks of flats on the abandoned South London estate, reports rabble.org.uk. Dramatic video footage of the intensification of this local housing struggle can be seen online. Meanwhile, an anti-gentrification protest is being staged in Brixton, south London, on Saturday April 25 at 12 noon in Coldharbour Lane.

brixton-blockade

* * *

An excellent new video-poem with a deeply radical message has gone online. Inspired by the tradition of exorcism in Beat poetry, Kali Exorcism deploys text, sound and imagery to invoke the purgative energies of Kali so as to cleanse the world of the military-industrial complex and the state of perpetual warfare that the system requires. The poem also features in a new collection, ECOZOA, by Helen Moore published by Permanent Publications.

kali

* * *

What sort of politicians call for a “new model for development and growth” and can only contemplate a raise in the minimum wage that “can be designed in a manner that is consistent with improvements in competitiveness”? Yep, it’s those radical leftists from Syriza, now governing Greece – the quotes come directly from a recent document outlining their proposed reforms.

syriza

* * *

“The radical environmental movement is stuck in a rut, trapped within a space of increasing contradictions as leftist groups and large NGOs try to manage dissent”. That’s the provocative statement made in an article, which can be read online, from Black Seed, the US green anarchist publication. Issue 3 is soon due out in print.

blackseed2

* * *

Reclaim the Beats – join the Fuck Parade! This is the Mayday invitation from the London anarchists of Class War, who promise at 12V multi rig street party at 1 Commercial Street, London, from 6pm on Friday May 1.

fuckparade

* * *

The next national meeting of the Anarchist Action Network will be on Saturday April 18, from 12 noon to 5pm, at Freedom Bookshop, Angel Alley, 84b Whitechapel High Street, London E1 7QX. Email anarchistactionnetwork@riseup.net for more info.

aan logo

* * *

Acorn quote: “From earth and sea and sun, from night, the stars, from day, the trees, the hills, from my own soul – from these I think”. Richard Jefferies, The Story of My Heart

Richard Jefferies

Back to top

—–

If you like this bulletin please tell others about it. Subscribe by clicking the “follow” button.

Back Issues

The Acorn 6

The Acorn 5

The Acorn 4

The Acorn 3

The Acorn 2

The Acorn 1

Follow Winter Oak on Twitter at @WinterOakPress

The Acorn – 6

acornmastheadnew

Number 6


In this issue:

  1. Highways to hell
  2. Degrowth – real anti-capitalism
  3. State’s war on anti-fracking movement
  4. Frankfurt – a firsthand account
  5. To Hell With Culture
  6. Acorninfo

1. Highways to hell

"A long term and sustainable benefit to the environment”? Roadbuilding in East Sussex.
“A long term and sustainable benefit to the environment”? Roadbuilding in Sussex, England.

The photo above shows Hollington Valley ‘Local Wildlife Site’ near Hastings in East Sussex on March 26 2015. It was posted online by the eco-action group Combe Haven Defenders to show the grim devastation caused by roadbuilding – in this case the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road.

Meanwhile, we are told that “England’s largest road investment programme for a generation” will be “a long term and sustainable benefit to the environment”.

How appropriate that the new official body Highways England is being launched on April 1! You’d have to be a complete April Fool not to see right through the glossy verbiage in its “Delivery Plan” from which these weasel words are taken.

All the smooth talk about making roads safer and reducing congestion is a barely disguised cover for its real mission of expanding capitalist infrastructure and thus increasing private profit at the expense of the public and the environment.

Hastings2
Supporting economic growth in the Sussex countryside

Readers of The Acorn will not be surprised to learn that number one on the Highways England list of “strategic outcomes” is “supporting economic growth”.

Its brochure adds: “We will do this by modernising the network to relieve congestion and reduce delays, helping businesses to grow, encouraging investment, creating jobs and opening up new areas for development.”

The last phrase here is important. “Opening up new areas for development” is in fact the opposite of relieving congestion and involves increasing the whole spiral of congestion, pollution, environmental destruction and climate change by converting yet more beautiful green fields and woodlands into ugly concrete and tarmac.

This is what new roads are about, everywhere in the world. For instance, the recent Russian proposals for a 12,000-mile east-west motorway (which would theoretically link the UK to the USA by road) not only go hand in hand with plans for new oil and gas pipelines, but have also been given the give-away name of the “Trans-Eurasian Belt Development”.

trans-siberian-road
Opening up the world for “development”

Highways England is proud of “working closely with Local Enterprise Partnerships and other local partners and stakeholders” to “identify current and future constraints to economic growth”. Like the countryside, perhaps?

In Acorn 4 we examined the Local Enterprise Partnership for parts of southern England, the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, and how its connections to the arms industry and global construction businesses fitted in nicely with its commitment to promoting their interests under the mantle of “economic growth”.

We also exposed how it has admitted that “sustainable transport” schemes do not necessarily have to involve either transport or sustainability and that it was considering one such project, in Worthing, that is blatantly nothing more than a make-over for a town centre shopping centre.

Not only does Highways England play the same deceitful game by claiming its programme will result in “An Improved Environment – where our activities ensure a long term and sustainable benefit to the environment” but, to add insult to injury, the list of its “sustainable” projects actually includes none other than the entirely phoney scheme in Worthing!

motorway1
Highways to hell

See also:

Infrastructure is the enemy

Profit before the planet

Battle of Hastings

Road fight is back on

The road to corporate profits

   Back to top

2. Degrowth – real anti-capitalism

The Only Sustainable Growth is Degrowth

“Economic growth” has replaced “progress” as the term with which industrial capitalism likes to justify its life-destroying rampage.

What the two have in common is that they are both meant to be undeniable facts of life. Within the capitalist/neoliberal mindset, it is a “given” that we need economic growth, as if it were in some way essential to our survival, like sunlight, fresh air or clean water.

This assumption is sadly sometimes also accepted by “radicals”, who fail to challenge this overall capitalist framework and focus instead on making the existing industrial system “fairer” or more “democratic”.

An alternative to this mental trap is degrowth (known elsewhere as décroissance, decrescita, decreixement and decrecimiento). Degrowth is a movement of ideas that “can trace its roots back to the anti-industrialist trends of the 19th century, developed in Great Britain by John Ruskin, William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement (1819–1900), in the United States by Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), and in Russia by Leo Tolstoy (1828–1911).” (Wikipedia)

Degrowth rejects all forms of productivism (the belief that economic productivity and growth is the purpose of human organisation). It rejects the capitalist idea of “sustainable development”, which it sees as an oxymoron, as any development based on growth in a finite and environmentally stressed world is inherently unsustainable.

It is “a downscaling of production and consumption that increases human well-being and enhances ecological conditions and equity on the planet. It calls for a future where societies live within their ecological means, with open, localised economies and resources more equally distributed through new forms of democratic institutions” and proposes “a shrinking of the economic system to leave more space for human cooperation and ecosystems”. (degrowth.org)

Of course, within the degrowth movement there are differences of strategy. Some, for example, might think that the capitalist system might somehow be persuaded to dissolve itself, or that it will allow its phoney “democratic” apparatus to divest it of its power. Others fear that a more confrontational attitude will be necessary to save the planet…

décroissance

See also:

The end of endless growth

French resistance to concrete future

Back to top

3. State’s war on anti-fracking movement

The British state is going all-out to protect the fracking industry
The British state is going all-out to protect the fracking industry

Sinister signs are emerging that the British state is preparing to use the full weight of its repressive power to try to crush the growing anti-fracking movement on behalf of the business interests which really control our “democratic” society.

The threat is a response to growing support for the anti-fracking struggle, and increasing scepticism about the fracking industry’s corporate spin and its PR strategy of insisting that new sites are purely conventional and that no fracking will in fact take place – see, for instance, this local website in West Sussex.

One indication of the state’s hardline approach comes from the Network for Police Monitoring, which has warned that “police see opposition to fracking as the most significant public order issue in the coming year and are actively preparing for it”.

Another indication comes from a letter issued by government ministers urging local authorities to take a strong line against “unauthorised traveller sites, protest camps and squatters” – including, of course, anti-fracking protest camps.

There is an aspect absurd to this statement in that the ministers claim camps might “harm the local environment” – unlike fracking or roadbuilding, presumably! But there is also a sinister side to their message to all council leaders, police and crime commissioners and police chief constables. Revealing the real attitude of those in power towards the rest of us, they instruct their underlings in the state system: “Public bodies should not gold plate human rights”.

Warning: the British state will not "gold plate" your human rights
Warning: the British state will not “gold plate” your human rights

Netpol explored police attitudes towards the anti-fracking movement following a Supreme Court ruling that the taking and retention of the personal data of 90-year-old Brighton anti-militarist campaigner John Catt was lawful.

It says this may have significant consequences for the surveillance of political activism, since the judgment grants extensive discretion to the police in the operation of police databases, and in the collection of intelligence related to ‘domestic extremism’ or other protest activity. “It is, in short, judicial approval for the mass surveillance of UK political activism”, they warn.

To illustrate the point, Netpol sets out a scenario where local people set up an anti-fracking campaign in a rural village close to a drilling of a proposed new exploratory shale gas well:

Nationally, the police have identified opposition to fracking as a significant public order issue and so believe there is a likelihood of local protests outside the drilling site, though they do not know what form this might take.

In order to assess the risk that any protest might include some degree of obstruction of the site entrance or the public highway, senior officers decide to gather information through overt surveillance on all members of the campaign to establish its size, who is most active and most influential and what other groups, particularly undefined environmental ‘extremists’, local people identified as organisers are in contact with.

This involves officers attending a village hall meeting and noting what has been said, filming everyone as they leave, intimidating home visits to identified ‘leaders’ and logging the movements of activists’ vehicles as they go to and from the village. None of the people under surveillance has a criminal record – few have ever been involved in a campaign before – but this self-evident invasion of their privacy is justified as necessary “for legitimate policing purposes”.

As the surveillance expands from weeks to months, it is not long before the details of almost everyone over 16 in this close-knit local community has been added to the National Special Branch Intelligence System.

Conclude Netpol: “Alarmingly, our work alongside activists in the growing opposition to extreme energy extraction suggests this scenario may soon become entirely realistic.”

Meanwhile, anti-frackers in Bristol have launched a Solidarity Appeal to help their ongoing battle. They say: “Environmental defenders have recently incurred exceptional outgoings of more than a thousand pounds in the continued battle to stop big business destroying our planet. They need your help urgently”. Contributions can be made here.

Back to top

4. Frankfurt – a firsthand account

Torched
March 18 in Frankfurt

Following the reports in Acorn 5 of the dramatic anti-capitalist protests in Frankfurt, focused on the official opening of the European Central Bank’s new HQ, this useful firsthand account has been published on rabble.org.uk

From 5am on the morning of the 18th an estimated 6,000 people began marching on the ECB from different corners of Frankfurt. Activists had been organised into ‘fingers’, each with their own strategy to disrupt and blockade the ECB. 10,000 police, armed with pepper spray, tear gas and water cannons were concentrated around the bank.

As the fingers moved toward the ECB, banks, government buildings and shops were targeted. Paint bombs were thrown at the UBS building, windows were smashed at the local council building, Hilton Hotel and Sparkasse Bank. Slogans painted on the walls gave a clear message. ‘Smash Capitalism’ was written on buildings across Frankfurt. One person had written ‘The empire is dying’, and an advertising billboard for Intimissi underwear that objectified women was defaced with the words ‘Smash Patriarchy’. Police who came close while all this was going on were warned off by a hail of rocks.

As people got closer to the ECB, anything that could be moved was dragged into the road to blockade the area around the bank and prevent police movements. A building site was dismantled to create a strong barricade close to Ost Bahnhof metro station. Police who drove close to the crowd constructing the barricade soon thought better of it, and drove away at breakneck speed. A nearby road was blocked by an abandoned police car, which was set alight. The barricade was further strengthened by the torching of a luxury car.

Police responded by firing tear gas, charging at the crowd, punching and kicking demonstrators and kettling. Almost 400 people were held in a cordon and at least 17 people were arrested. One of the arrestees, Federico Annibale, a student from SOAS in London, has been in custody in Frankfurt since Wednesday. According to the NoTroika website he has not seen the evidence against him and has not yet been charged.

Despite police repression, people managed to set fire to dozens of police vehicles and set up burning barricades around the city centre.

burning barricade

By 11am riots had begun to abate, protesters danced on the streets at a sound truck at the end of a bridge close to the ECB, while police water cannons kept watch. The day ended with a colourful 25,000 strong anti-capitalist march through Frankfurt.

So, what is the significance of the Frankfurt riots? First of all, they are an effective example of propaganda by deed. The images broadcast around the world from the streets of Frankfurt may have brought a little hope to those suffering under the Europe’s austerity regime, to those ready to join the struggle for a different society. They send a message that people are, once again, ready to resist. They may also be the first step in a new wave of international resistance to capitalism.

On March 18th, thousands of German activists were joined by people from Italy, Greece, France, Ireland, the UK, the US, the Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey and Spain. Many of the international activists had come in large contingents, the size of which has not been seen since the heyday of international summit mobilisations. Those of us present on the day got a taste of what it is like to take part in a truly transnational demonstration, to make an impact despite the thousands of cops pitted against us, and gained inspiration and new allies.

Of course, the ECB protests had many of the problems that the international summit mobilisation movement also had. The Blockupy coalition was intentionally wide to maximise numbers, ranging from anti-authoritarians and anarchists to trade union organisations and the Die Linke party. The publicly announced planning meeting on the 17th, attended by over a thousand people, was reminiscent of attending the speeches at a traditional left wing rally. The Blockupy coalition felt the need to distance itself from the riots in the media. Ulrich Wilken, a coalition representative said “This is not what we in Blockupy had planned.” but that he “understood” people’s anger at the “policies of impoverishment”. A Blockupy statement later said that “individual actions” were “not responsible” – meaning that some demonstrators’ actions were irresponsible.

DieLinke
Party agenda – Die Linke

These so-called ‘representatives’ of the protests have their own interests at heart: the strengthening of political parties like Die Linke and other European left wing parties, in the wake of the success of Syriza in Greece. Those of us who want to see a non-hierarchical movement aimed at dismantling the capitalist system from below and creating alternatives which challenge all forms of oppression must be on our guard against our efforts being channelled into building popularity for these parties, which will not change the system and will only lead to further disappointments and failures for those who want to see real change.

Transnational resistance against capitalism needs to transcend the old cycle of counter-summits to create real solidarity between those resisting, to mobilise internationally to support local struggles, and to consider how a temporary show of resistance, as happened in Frankfurt, can make room for more permanent spaces from which to explore how to create new worlds free from capitalism and oppression.

If we are going to effectively resist capitalism, a system which defies national borders to dominate the world we live in today, we need strong local struggles, to challenge the system wherever we are and prevent further destruction of the earth and our communities by the endless drive for profit. But it is also necessary for us to see how these struggles are connected together, to get to know our allies living across borders and to recognise the power we have when we join each other. Let’s hope that the events in Frankfurt last week will spark a new wave of transnational resistance to capitalism which will strengthen our movements, reclaim space to create alternatives and inspire others to join the struggle.

"Conquer capitalism!"
“Conquer capitalism!”

Back to top

5. To Hell With Culture

readpostersmall

The first Brighton screening of Huw Wahl’s film To Hell With Culture is being organised by Sussex Anarchists at the Cowley Club, 12 London Road, Brighton, at 7.30pm on Tuesday April 7. The film will be introduced on the evening by Dr Michael Paraskos, author of Herbert Read: Art and Idealism, among other works.

To Hell With Culture is an inspiring portrait of the life and work of Herbert Read (1893-1968), one of the most influential art and literary theorists of modernism active in the first half of the twentieth century. He was also an anarchist, being directly involved in the movement both before and after the Second World War and penning some important contributions to anarchist philosophy.

Despite his passion for modernist culture, Read remained deeply attached to a rural English way of life threatened by the machineries of capitalism, declaring: “Deep down my attitude is a protest against the fate that has made me a poet in an industrial age”.

The free screening follows on from the Sussex Anarchists group meeting at 6pm. All welcome.

Back to top

6. Acorninfo

Never Mind The Ballots…It’s The 7th Bristol Anarchist Bookfair! The event is being held from 11am to 6pm on Saturday April 25, 2015, at  Trinity Centre Trinity Rd, Bristol BS2 0NW, with a Radical History Zone nearby at Hydra Bookshop. The bookfair comes just 13 days before the British general election and local elections and organisers promise: “There won’t be a single lying, corrupt, austerity-enforcing, media-spinning politician in sight”. More info at bristolanarchistbookfair.org

Bristol bookfair poster

* * *

Two chapters of the new Invisible Committee book To Our Friends have now been posted online in English, ahead of its actual publication. The latest released text is called Let’s Disappear, and stresses that revolutionaries should not fall into the trap of seeing the ‘population’ as something other than themselves, as something that has to be influenced or harnessed in some way, as the state itself does. They remind us: “We are the ‘hearts and minds’ that must be conquered. We are the ‘crowds’ that are to be controlled”. The previously-released chapter is called Fuck Off Google.

toourfriendscover

* * *

A general strike is being staged in France on Thursday April 9 against the new Macron law, with workers and students mobilising to block buildings and infrastructure and take to the streets in large numbers. The law drawn up by economics minister Emmanuel Macron is all about encouraging our old friend “economic growth”. The 106 articles in the Macron Law provide further proof, as if any were needed, of the ruling French Socialist Party’s neoliberal agenda. Working hours are to be increased, with Sunday working normalised in the way it already is in the UK, and bosses’ powers strengthened. As ever, though, the French people are ready to put up a fight!

9avril

* * *

A draconian clamp-down on dissent and resistance is being launched by the Spanish state. On March 26 three controversial laws were approved in the Spanish Congress. The Penal Code, the new Anti-Terror Law and the Law on Citizen Safety, scheduled to come into effect on July 1, 2015, pose a severe threat to freedom of expression in the streets and on the internet. For instance, there will be fines of up to 30,000€ for “crimes” such as “photographing or recording police”, “peaceful disobedience to authority”, “occupying banks as means of protest”, or “not formalizing a protest”. Online activism is also targeted, with jail sentences of between three months and a year threatened for publishing “slogans or messages” or “inciting any offence of disorderly conduct” including “disturbing the public peace”. The state’s definition of “terrorism” is widened to include hacking with the goal of disturbing the public peace. More information at revolution-news.com. The new laws follow Operation Pandora in December, in which anarchists were attacked by the Spanish state under the guise of an “anti-terrorist” operation.

Solidarity with Spanish anarchists
Solidarity with anarchists targeted by the Spanish state

* * *

Following a fire which affected the premises of anarchist publisher AK Press in Oakland, USA, it is making an appeal for funds to put right the damage.The target is a hefty $150,000, but $40,000 had already been raised in the first four days.

Fire damage at AK Press in the USA
Fire damage at AK Press in the USA

* * *

Finally, a couple of online video recommendations from The Acorn. This documentary looks at direct action protests against the DSEI arms fair in London – both the event and the opposition will be happening again in September this year. And this film shows a feisty student protest against neoliberalism in Quebec.

* * *

Acorn quote: “Dracula, king of the vampires, is the perfect fin-de-siècle cultural horror: something living hundreds of years yet dead, something dead but undead, draining the vitality of the living, like European Civilization itself”. Richard Noll, The Jung Cult: The Origins of a Charismatic Movement

dracula

Back to top

—–

If you like this bulletin please tell others about it. Subscribe by clicking the “follow” button.

Back Issues

The Acorn 5

The Acorn 4

The Acorn 3

The Acorn 2

The Acorn 1

Follow Winter Oak on Twitter at @WinterOakPress