[UPDATE. WEDNESDAY APRIL 24 2019. FOLLOWING WIDESPREAD GRASSROOTS DISQUIET OVER THE XR BUSINESS WEBSITE, IT HAS BEEN TAKEN DOWN. WHAT THIS MEANS FOR XR AND ITS POSITION ON CAPITALISM IS NOT YET CLEAR. WE WILL PUBLISH FURTHER REPORTS AS INFORMATION COMES IN]
When Extinction Rebellion first burst into action in the UK last November, it felt as if something was finally going to change.
Their high-profile arrival on the political scene had a noticeable effect on awareness of environmental issues and gave people permission to speak more freely than before about our society and its relationship to nature.
But when this month’s big week of action in London got underway, with Waterloo Bridge and Oxford Circus blocked and Marble Arch occupied, it felt as if something important and radical was happening.
And perhaps it was, because, presumably, the vast majority of those who turned out, including the nearly 1,000 who were arrested, genuinely believe that our civilization needs to change course if life on this earth is to survive.
But the integrity of XR as an organisation was dealt a fatal blow on Easter Monday, when its Twitter account started plugging links to a new website called XR Business, which had been announced in a letter to The Times.
Among the signatories was Gail Bradbrook, director and shareholder of Compassionate Revolution Ltd and Holding Group member of XR. This is just not some separate support group, but an intrinsic part of the XR apparatus.
The very existence of the site was bad enough, but the home page was (and is) hideous. A corporate satellite view of Europe lit up like a Christmas tree. What sort of environmental movement would choose such imagery?
We should have seen this coming. We had, after all, already read investigative journalist Cory Morningstar’sexcellent digging into the “climate change” industry on her Wrong Kind of Green blog.
But somehow we wanted to give XR the benefit of the doubt and even naively plugged the London protests in our last bulletin.
The XR Business site, however, is a declaration of Rebellion Extinction. This is now officially an ex-Rebellion, shorn of all pretence of radicalism.
Instead, what we find is a list of “business leaders” who have identified environmental catastrophe as yet another get-rich opportunity.
And they are prepared to hijack and exploit people’s real love for life and nature in order to push their profiteering agenda.
First name on the list of these so-called “leaders” is Seb Beloe, partner at WHEB
WHEB describes itself as “a positive impact investor focused on the opportunities created by the transition to a low carbon and sustainable global economy”.
It adds: “We focus on nine sustainable investment themes with strong growth characteristics, derived from providing solutions to major social and environmental challenges”.
On a page headed “thought leadership” WHEB announces that it is “actively involved” in organisations “at the leading edge of sustainable and responsible investment”.
These include the Global Impact Investing Network, which explains in turn on its website that it brings together “impact investors and intermediaries who have the capacity to invest and intervene at scale, making multi-million dollar investments and aggregating funds large enough to access institutional capital”.
Another XR “business leader” is Amy Clarke, co-founder of Tribe Impact Capital LLP, which boasts the snappy tagline “A New Wealth Order”.
Needless to say, Tribe Impact Capital shows little interest in challenging capitalism (the clue is in the name!) or in calling for degrowth. Its goal is, rather, “long-term positive impact and growth for everyone”.
XR “business leaders” John Elkington and Louise Kjellerup Roper, come from Volans Ventures Ltd.
They are involved in the Tomorrow’s Capitalism Inquiry backed by companies like Aviva Investors, The Body Shop International, Covestro, and Unilever, the massive transnational consumer goods company.
Paul Polman, until recently CEO of Unilever plc, is also on the XR roll of honour, in fact.
And Jeremy Leggett, very active in promoting XR Business online, is founder and director of Solarcentury Ltd, which names Unilever as one of its “partners”.
Another XR business groupie is Jake Hayman, whose Ten Years’ Time programme “is tailored for the next generation of high-net worth families who are looking to invest capital into ambitious new ideas rather than following the crowd to safe ground”.
It’s that c-word word again!
Another XR Business enthusiast for “green” technology is Samer Salty, co-founder and managing partner of the infrastructure and private equity fund manager, Zouk Capital LLP.
Its site tells us: “Zouk’s infrastructure strategy capitalises on the global shift to greater sustainability.
“The fund targets a diverse range of sectors across Europe, including emerging utility-scale battery storage projects as well as wind, solar, waste-to-energy, electric vehicles and geothermal”.
It was announced in February 2019 that Zouk is entering into exclusive negotiations to manage the UK Government’s £400m CIIF investment fund aimed at helping to increase the uptake of electric vehicles in the UK.
No vested interests involved there, then, nor with XR supporter Michael F. H. Bonte-Friedheim, CEO and founding partner of NextEnergy Capital, “the leading international solar investment and asset manager”.
XR Business also boasts the support of Tomas Carruthers, CEO of Project Heather: “We’re building a stock exchange for the 21st century. It’s time to add ‘impact’ to ‘risk and reward'”.
The key to understanding the XR phenomenon comes perhaps from its business backers Charmian Love and Amanda Feldman.
They are co-founders of Heliotropy Ltd, terming themselves “Builders of a brighter future”.
On the surface everything seems yummy and wholesome. Explaining its name, the site says: “Heliotropy is a phenomenon in nature where certain plants (or parts, like flowers) grow in response to the stimulus of sunlight, so that they turn to face the sun.
“We believe humans are similarly motivated by the power of heliotropy. We will grow taller, faster and stronger when motivated by light, warmth and positivity, rather than fear and despair”.
Heliotropy says it is all about “Mobilising Movements”. It declares: “Today’s problems are interconnected, and movements must join forces to solve them. We are convening emerging leaders from global movements to imagine new ways of collaborating”.
But Heliotropy is a microcosm for the world of XR as a whole. Beneath the nicey-nicey surface lurks something rather nasty-nasty.
If you click on the section entitled “Reimagining Corporate Capital” you are taken to a site called Corporate Impact X.
This explains: “Corporate Impact X is a practitioner-led project designed to support corporations in developing high impact venturing, collaboration and investment strategies”.
It offers a report called “Investing Breakthrough: Corporate Venture Capital”. Sadly the link does not work properly, though it does point the would-be investor towards Volans, the aforementioned buddies of XR, Tomorrow’s Capitalism and Unilever.
The “Thank You for Reading” section here is extremely revealing:
“Thank you to Elizabeth Boggs Davidsen of the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), of the Inter-American Development Bank Group, for managing this project and to the Inclusive Business Action Network (IBAN), a global partnership implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) for providing the funding. We are
grateful for the support of Global Corporate Venturing and Saïd Business School, Oxford University”.
It adds that the project was developed and delivered by Charmian Love (CorporateImpactX), whose email is given as firstname.lastname@example.org
Just to be clear, this is Charmian Love of the fluffy-sounding Heliotropy Ltd, who is one of XR’s select band of business leaders.
It should be clear to anyone who has taken a look at the snarling capitalist agenda behind XR’s smiley eco-mask that they are not to be trusted.
If the movement is as democratic as it claims to be, it may still be possible for genuine environmentalists to wrest control of XR. Who knows?
Otherwise, decent people should get out as fast as they can and form new networks of resistance which fight to bring down the ecocidal industrial capitalist system, rather than to prop it up.
As the eco-activist Judi Bari put it: “There is no such thing as green capitalism. Serious ecologists must be revolutionaries”.
Eco-protesters are planning to bring London to a standstill from Monday April 15.
Supporters of Extinction Rebellion (XR) aim to block traffic at four central locations “around the clock” to highlight the urgent issues of climate change and wildlife declines.
They will take to the streets from 11am at Marble Arch, Oxford Circus, Waterloo Bridge and Parliament Square.
As part of an international day of protests, thousands of people will converge on the four busy locations in the UK capital, blocking traffic and creating a festival of action including people’s assemblies, performances, talks, workshops and food.
And the idea is that they be will back the next day, and the day after that, for up to two weeks. Unless, of course, the UK state suddenly sees the light and decides to dismantle the industrial capitalist system.
Say XR: “Under our current system, we are headed for disaster. Catastrophic climate breakdown will cause food collapse, destroy communities, kill millions, and render many more homeless.
“Mass extinction of wild species will lead to ecological collapse, and when they go, we go. Destruction of natural habitats will lead to genocide of indigenous peoples and the loss of our planet’s life support systems”.
As we reported in Acorn 45, XR’s first big day of action was on Saturday November 17 2018, when some 6,000 people took to the streets of London.
While recognising XR’s amazing success in mobilising people, some activists who have “doubts about some of the tactics that XR has adopted” (see Acorn 47) have announced a parallel mobilisation.
They add: “We will be assembling at St Paul’s for a tour of the heart of global extractive finance, also known as the City of London.
“Unlike Extinction Rebellion, we are not asking you to get arrested but we must highlight the fact that capitalism is the root cause of this crisis and bring this message to the workplaces of the people profiting from environmental destruction.
“We are calling for all anti-capitalists to join us on the street and show that London is both red and green”.
For our part, The Acorn would add that the only real way to solve the environmental crisis is to end the global industrial capitalist system.
Governments, which are a central part of that system, are not going to do that, no matter how loudly we ask them. The people will have to do it for themselves!
Is the tide finally beginning to turn in the battle to stop fracking in the UK?
That was the hope sparked on April 3 by the dramatic legal victory against the draconian injunction used by fracking firm Ineos to try and stop legal protests.
The court of appeal struck out the sections applying to protests on the public highway, including slow walking protests, climbing on to vehicles and blocking the road. It also removed the section on protests against the supply chain.
The ruling declared: “The citizen’s right of protest is not to be diminished by advance fear of committal except in the clearest of cases.”
Joe Corre, one of the frack-free campaigners involved, told The Independent: “I’m pretty confident we’re going to win this war, and we are not going to have fracking in this country.
“But because they have invested so much time and energy and money into this, they are not going to go quietly, so we’re going to have to double down, up our efforts and finish them off.”
Campaigns like Extinction Rebellion and the French Yellow Vests have been effective because of the sheer numbers of people taking part, from a diversity of backgrounds.
The last push against fracking will only be successful if it is not left to the same hardy but weary group of activists who have been fighting the cause for years.
The fracking industry is well aware of the massive public opposition to its nature-destroying activities and Ineos representative Tom Pickering seemed to be in panic mode when he denounced campaigners, claiming: “We stand for jobs and opportunity. They stand for anarchy in the UK”!
The main focus in the English battle against fracking is currently in the north. Cuadrilla’s shale gas site in Lancashire is paused, but there is still some activity there and regular protests.
On the weekend of April 5-7, more than 800 Yellow Vest delegates from all over France gathered in the town of Saint-Nazaire for the second Assembly of the Assemblies of the Gilets Jaunes movement.
At the same time as occupying roundabouts, blocking roads, liberating motorway toll booths and filling the streets of French cities and towns every Saturday since November, the astonishing Gilets Jaunes have also been experimenting with a system of direct democracy.
A call was issued at the end of the assembly, which will now be sent back down to more than 300 local groups for their approval.
We submit this call for adoption by vote of the local assemblies.
We, Yellow Vests, constituted as an assembly of our local assemblies met in Saint-Nazaire on April 5th, 6th, and 7th 2019.
We address the people as a whole.
Following the first assembly in Commercy, two hundred delegations continued their fight against liberal extremism and for freedom, equality, and fraternity.
The struggle has taken root to overturn the system embodied by Macron! This despite the government’s escalating repression: the laws that worsen everyone’s living conditions, that destroy rights and freedoms. The only response to the movement embodied by the Yellow Vests and other struggles was government panic – and an authoritarian turn. For five months now across France we have continued: on the roundabouts, in parking lots, in the squares, at toll booths, in the streets, and in our assemblies. We have continued to debate and fight against all forms of inequality and injustice, for solidarity and dignity.
* A general increase in wages, pensions, and welfare.
* Public services for all.
Our solidarity in this struggle is with those nine million who live below the poverty line. Fully aware of the environmental emergency we declare: end of the world, end of the month, same logic, same fight.
Faced with the masquerade of “great debates” and a non-representative government who serve a privileged minority, we are putting into place new forms of direct democracy.
In concrete terms, we recognize that the Assembly of Assemblies can take up proposals from the local assemblies and issue resolutions as did the first Assembly of Assemblies at Commercy. These resolutions are then systematically submitted to the local assemblies for approval. The Assembly of Assemblies reaffirms its independence from political parties, trade unions, and any self-proclaimed “leaders”.
For three days in plenary session and in working groups, we all debated and elaborated proposals for our demands, actions, and means of communication & coordination. Planning for the long-haul, we decided to organize the next Assembly of Assemblies in June.
The Assembly of Assemblies calls for actions to tip the balance of power in our favor and marshal the citizenry against the system. A calendar of actions will soon be published on a new digital platform.
The Assembly of Assemblies calls for new, expanded, and strengthened sovereign citizens’ assemblies. We call on the Yellow Vests to echo this call and the outcomes of our Assembly’s work. The results of our plenary deliberations will feed into the actions and reflections of the local assemblies.
We are making several appeals: on the European elections, the local popular citizens’ assemblies, against repression, and for the annulation of penalties against the movements’ condemned & imprisoned. We believe it is necessary in the next three weeks to mobilize all the Yellow Vests and convince those yet unpersuaded. We call for a Yellow Week of Action starting the first of May.
We invite all those who wish to put an end to the monopolization of life to fight against the current system, to create together by all necessary means a new social, ecological, and popular movement. The multiplication of ongoing struggles calls us to seek united action.
We call for a collective fight at every level across the territory to guarantee our social, economic, ecological, and democratic demands. Knowing we must fight a global system, we must exit capitalism. This way we can collectively build the famous “all together” that we sing and that makes everything possible. We are all building together across the territory.
The power of the People, by the People, for the People.
A new website has been launched which challenges “to the core” the thinking of the industrial capitalist system. It presents the ideological alternative of an organic radicalism which it sources from a wide range of thinkers, past and present.
This philosophy, explains the orgrad site, is based on the idea of a living community, a social organism consisting of “horizontal relationships and exchanges between free human beings, rather than on sterile hierarchy”.
We at The Acorn very much identify with this tradition – hence the change in our masthead! Below we reproduce the article on Judi Bari, one of dozens of profiles of key orgrad inspirations on the site.
Judi Bari (1949-1997) was an American feminist and environmental activist, who organized Earth First! campaigns against logging in the ancient redwood forests of Northern California in the 1980s and ’90s.
In ‘The Feminization of Earth First!’ in 1992 she recalled: “I was attracted to Earth First! because they were the only ones willing to put their bodies in front of the bulldozers and chainsaws to save the trees. They were also funny, irreverent, and they played music.
“But it was the philosophy of Earth First! that ultimately won me over. This philosophy, known as biocentrism or deep ecology, states that the Earth is not just here for human consumption.
“All species have a right to exist for their own sake, and humans must learn to live in balance with the needs of nature, instead of trying to mold nature to fit the wants of humans”. (1)
In a 1998 essay, ‘Revolutionary Ecology: Biocentrism & Deep Ecology’, Bari went into greater depth about her ideological position.
She wrote: “Starting from the very reasonable, but unfortunately revolutionary concept that social practices which threaten the continuation of life on Earth must be changed, we need a theory of revolutionary ecology that will encompass social and biological issues, class struggle, and a recognition of the role of global corporate capitalism in the oppression of peoples and the destruction of nature.
“I believe we already have such a theory. It’s called deep ecology, and it is the core belief of the radical environmental movement”. (2)
She stressed that the central importance of nature exists independently of whether humans recognize it or not: “And the failure of modern society to acknowledge this – as we attempt to subordinate all of nature to human use – has led us to the brink of collapse of the earth’s life support systems”. (3)
Bari shared the core organic radical understanding that basing a political belief system on “ancient native wisdom” is, in the context of today’s industrial society, “profoundly revolutionary, challenging the system to its core”. (4)
She rejected as absurd the idea that human beings could “own” parts of the earth and explained that because capitalism is based on private property it is “in direct conflict with the natural laws of biocentrism”. (5)
Bari was defiantly revolutionary, declaring: “This system cannot be reformed. It is based on the destruction of the earth and the exploitation of the people.
“There is no such thing as green capitalism, and marketing cutesy rainforest products will not bring back the ecosystems that capitalism must destroy to make its profits. This is why I believe that serious ecologists must be revolutionaries”. (6)
She was unimpressed by the Marxist disregard for nature and emphasis on industry. Bari contrasted its centralism and statism with a decentralised left-wing organic model for human societies.
She insisted: “Ecological socialism would mean organizing human societies in a manner that is compatible with the way that nature is organized. And I believe the natural order of the earth is bioregionalism, not statism. Modern industrial society robs us of community with each other and community with the earth”. (7)
Bari saw clearly the links between patriarchal and industrial-capitalist ways of thinking and acting.
She wrote: “Contrary to this masculine system of separation and dominance, eco-feminism seeks a science of nature. And this science of nature is a holistic and interdependent one, where you look at the whole thing and the way that everything interacts, not just the way that it can be when you separate it.
“And also it presupposes that humans are part of nature, and that our fates are inseparable; that we have to live within the earth’s fertility cycles and we can enhance those fertility cycles by our informed interaction”. (8)
The 10 hypotheses below were published recently by the Radical Education Department, an autonomous US-based collective “dedicated to the construction of a radical internationalist Left through the training and federation of its cultural warriors”.
They stress that they are not meant to serve as rigid principles but are part of an ongoing attempt to develop tactics and strategies that will maximize collective anti-capitalist power.
1. Our historical conjuncture is characterized by the widespread victory of global capitalism, which has succeeded in oppressing and exploiting the overwhelming majority of the world’s population, while simultaneously destroying the biosphere at an unprecedented pace. As we are given daily lessons in what the “end of history” actually means, it is increasingly urgent that the entire spectrum of the anti-capitalist Left find ways of working together in order to build collective revolutionary power.
2. Sectarianism divides the Left by pitting against one another individuals and groups that share a common enemy: capitalism. This is precisely why the hegemonic order has been so intent on fostering disputes and sectarian divisions within the hard Left, as the history of Cointelpro and the CIA’s psychological warfare campaigns demonstrates in great detail. “Divide and conquer” is the Establishment’s mantra.
3. Capitalism is a socioeconomic order whose history goes hand in hand with colonialism, racism, gender exploitation, ecological destruction and so forth. In identifying it as the central enemy, it is not a matter of privileging class over race or gender, as if these were all somehow separate and isolated phenomena, nor is it a question of crude economic reductionism. On the contrary, it is a matter of recognizing that capitalism has always functioned as a socioeconomic system in which racial and gender hierarchies structure the global division of labor and stratify society in such a way as to increase the exploitation and oppression of particular populations.
4. Non-sectarian revolutionary politics does not require the dissolution of communist, anarchist, revolutionary socialist, autonomist, indigenous, ecological or other radical organizations, nor does it necessitate their unification in an umbrella organization that seeks to efface the important differences between anti-capitalist groups. On the contrary, non-sectarianism simply means being open to working across traditional party and organizational alignments toward the common end of dismantling capitalism, and it can take many forms, such as the establishment of radical left coalitions on specific projects or the founding of groups and organizations that are not aligned on a single party platform.
5. Non-sectarianism does not mean the loss of a program. Instead, it should be understood as the furthering of a common negative strategy—anti-capitalism—advanced through a diversity of positive tactics, which will vary based on the precise material contexts and the groups involved. Non-sectarianism thus aims at developing a common program of capitalist abolition that does not, however, dictate the “only acceptable” tactics for contributing to it.
6. There is no definitive blueprint for an anti-capitalist social revolution. There is a complex and multi-dimensional material history from which we can learn, and there are ongoing experiments with radical social transformation. Rather than presuming that the course of the future can be predetermined, activists on the hard Left would be better served to trade in unquestioned self-assurance and dogmatism for experimental fallibilism that draws on the entire spectrum of past and present revolutionary struggles.
7. The fact that there have been deep and sometimes bloody conflicts between radical leftists in the past should not mean that we are destined to repeat them in the future. On the contrary, we should learn from these conflicts and seek out strategies for overcoming them so that we can work together against our common enemy.
8. Revolutionary politics is an ongoing process of collective labor, which is at once theoretical and practical, and it thrives on the reflexive incorporation of multiple perspectives. In order to foster counter-hegemonic power in the current conjuncture, we need all hands on deck, and collective contributions to the forging of new methods and techniques that draw on the Left’s unique ability to mobilize productive self critique.
9. Our conjuncture is in dire need of new political imaginaries that open up the horizons of possibility by tapping into the collective creativity of the entire Left, which far surpasses the capabilities of individual revolutionaries or parties. Experimentalism has always been one of the strengths of revolutionary traditions, as well as the creative ability to develop unforeseen tactics that put our enemies on their heels, if not on their knees.
10. Instead of fighting amongst ourselves as capitalism daily edges us closer to the veritable end of history, we should identify points of convergence and cultivate forms of coalitional solidarity that allow us to build collective power. This requires expanding our political imaginations beyond the restricted confines of established political ideologies and the entrenched conflicts of the past, in order to join forces in the very real and urgent task of vanquishing the dominant socioeconomic order before it definitively destroys all of us!
Eric Fleischmann explores the Lovecraftian nature of sea level rise.
In 1917, H.P. Lovecraft wrote the following lines in his short story ‘Dagon’: “I dream of a day when [the nameless things] may rise above the billows to drag down in their reeking talons the remnants of puny, war-exhausted mankind – of a day when the land shall sink, and the dark ocean floor shall ascend amidst universal pandemonium.”
Now, in the 21st century, it appears as though his unnamed narrator’s horrific vision has escaped Lovecraft’s fiction and entered into the real world.
As outlined by GlobalChange.gov, sea level is expected to rise anywhere from one to four feet by the year 2100 and only continue at the current rate or an even higher one in the following centuries.
Even small rises in sea level can have disastrous effects and, as Marine Insights reports, this poses an extreme threat to coastal areas – where almost 40% of the population in the United States resides – with flooding frequency projected to rise from 300% to 900% in comparison to what was recorded fifty years ago.
Other than the outer reaches of space there is possibly no place quite as mysterious and terrifyingly unknown as the ocean.
The National Ocean Service writes that more than 80% of this realm that covers about three fourths of our planet “remains unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored.”
The ocean has also historically presented a seemingly unfathomable dimension to reality – spawning legends of enormous beasts like Charybdis from Homer’s Odyssey, the biblical Leviathan, and the infamous kraken.
This is certainly a central reason for Lovecraft’s interest in – along with those furthest regions of space – the watery deep, which helped inspire such things as the octopus-like Cthulhu who resides in the sunken nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh.
To be openly dramatic, when we cause sea levels to rise, we are messing with forces we do not fully comprehend.
But saying we, as many on the left have pointed out, is a misleading generalization.
Although most individuals do have substantial impacts on the environment, many major environmental issues can be traced directly to a minority of capitalists.
As the often quoted point goes: Only about 100 companies are responsible for around 70% of greenhouse gas emissions – gases which are causing the heating of the earth and consequently sea level rise.
These capitalists are akin to Obed Marsh from Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth who, in order to obtain wealth in the form of gold and a strange “foreign kind of jewellery,” is said to have helped the undersea monstrosities known as the Deep Ones infiltrate and genetically infect the town.
The drive of global capitalism to squeeze every last cent out of the natural world is bringing the ocean to our doorsteps, just as if we were the partially complicit yet also victimized residents of cursed Innsmouth.
The aforementioned link between the heating of the earth and rising sea levels is specifically the expansion of water when it warms and the deterioration of ice sheets, but certainly the most famous such process is the melting of glaciers.
This is all well and widely known, but consider that the oldest glacial ice in Antarctica is possibly 1,000,000 years old and the oldest in Greenland is more than 100,000 years old.
This whole affair is not just about the stirring of deep and mysterious forces but also ancient ones, and perhaps no one mulled over the consequences of awakening ancient hibernating entities more than H.P. Lovecraft.
At the Mountains of Madness, one of Lovecraft’s novellas, is written as an account by the geologist William Dyer of his encounter with the strange Elder Things and shoggoths – existing in a formerly-passive state beneath the arctic – in the hope it will deter further exploration.
These creatures, like the annual 260 gigatons of water released from glaciers between 2003 and 2009, are being brought back into play, and humanity is now under existential threat because of it.
Many authors have discussed how climate change poses certain cosmic and anti-humanist threats to our anthropocentric understanding of the world.
But this “Cosmic Pessimism” is represented by media images of, for example, “the cataclysmic effects of climate change.”
In Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World, Timothy Morton discusses the titular hyperobjects – objects massively distributed spatially and temporarily – in particular global warming along with several other items of ecological concern such as Styrofoam cups, plastic bags, and nuclear radiation.
According to Morton, “By understanding hyperobjects, human thinking has summoned Cthulhu-like entities into social, psychic, and philosophical space. The contemporary philosophical obsession with the monstrous provides a refreshing exit from humanscale thoughts.”
Glaciers and oceans are certainly hyperobjects and the images of their respective melting and rising can serve as some of Thacker’s representations, but sea level rise is Lovecraftian in a particularly vivid aesthetic dimension.
The ocean is an alien and largely unknown portion of the earth and glacial water is a primordial force finally being released after a slumber that has lasted eons.
In a video released a few months ago, academic internet personality ContraPoints makes the observation that one problem facing environmental activists is that climate change fundamentally lacks an antagonist.
Bridle even derives the title of his work from a passage in The Call of Cthulhu — which he also quotes wholly within the book – that contains the line “We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”
In the context of this piece, this apt metaphor seems to verge on the literal. With all this in mind, perhaps a strategy of environmental thought could be to identify an antagonism within this gargantuan, undefinable, and unthinkable thing called climate change.
If we are capable of revealing a more horrifying, Lovecraftian nature to at least sea level rise, is it possible we might induce a response closer to that which would ensue if Cthulhu truly rose from the depths?
Action against the coal-mining industry is being planned in the Rhineland from June 19 to 24. Says the 2019 Ende Gelände call-out: “Last year we fought with thousands of other people in a broad alliance for the Hambi (Hambacher Forest). This year we stand side by side with all the people whose homes are being destroyed by coal and the climate crisis. In solidarity with the people from Keyenberg, Kuckum and the other villages at the Garzweiler opencast mine, we want to stop the destruction on site. Therefore we will block the coal infrastructure. This is our immediate measure for global climate justice. All villages remain – in the Rhineland and worldwide!”
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Earth First! UK has announced that its 2019 summer moot will be held in north-east England from August 14 to 20. This will be a week-long camp to build a culture for active non-hierarchical grassroots ecological resistance.
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June 1 2019 has been designated Global Degrowth Day by campaigners calling for a “Good Life for All”. There will be public events all over the world to share alternatives to a society based on profit and economic “growth”. People are invited to take part with their own happenings.
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“Rather than engaging with the fact that capitalism itself is destructive, governments and liberal environmentalists are promoting corporate responses to the problems posed by climate change,” warns this very relevant article by Crimethinc on false solutions to global climate change. It adds: “They aren’t going to stop destroying the planet until we make it too costly for them to continue. The sooner we do, the better”.
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Gilets Jaunes in the Basque country are calling for a massive mobilisation against the G7 when it meets in Biarritz in August. They will be protesting against “world leaders who defend an ultra-liberal economy which offers us nothing”.
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The US state-business complex used the 9/11 “terrorism” paranoia to launch a McCarthyite “Green Scare” assault on radical environmentalists. In this in-depth article in The Intercept, Alleen Brown unveils the machinations behind the systems’s war on those it smears as “eco-terrorists”.
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The dystopian nightmare of “predictive” policing is highlighted in an article by Peter Yeung on the Wired website. He writes: “The implications of being on the matrix can be chilling, but finding out why you are on it, let alone how to be removed, is extremely difficult. One family received a letter warning they would be evicted from their home if their son didn’t stop his involvement with gangs – but he had been dead for more than a year.”
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“Identity politics is not liberatory, but reformist. It is nothing but a breeding ground for aspiring middle class identity politicians. Their long-term vision is the full incorporation of traditionally oppressed groups into the hierarchical, competitive social system that is capitalism, rather than the destruction of that system”. This timely and searing attack by the Woke Anarchists Collective on the curse of reformist anarcho-liberalism is now available in the online Anarchist Library.
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The impact of direct action is explored in an April 2 article on the Conflict Minnesota site. It discusses how actions can produce “signals of disorder” and ripples that influence many other people. It explains: “When someone witnesses the aftermath of an action before it’s been swept away from view, or hears of an action later, the action can resonate with them, it can inspire them to act as well”.
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Acorn quote: ““All life, whether social or individual, that is permanently divorced from communion with the vitalising influences of free air and sunshine, will be a stunted and diseased life”.
The Gilets Jaunes, or Yellow Vests, movement in France is the most important political phenomenon to emerge in Western Europe so far this century. It has smashed through the barriers of political stagnancy and sterility which so often disempower and stifle spontaneous expressions of popular discontent.
The yellow banner of revolt has rallied parts of the population previously unreached by political organising and the relentless determination of hundreds of thousands of men and women has shaken the citadels of neoliberal power to the core. As well as the rubber bullets, grenades, water cannon and tear gas deployed by the French state against the uprising, another major weapon against the Gilets Jaunes has been the corporate media.
Constant lies, smears and alarmism in France have been matched by almost total silence elsewhere, punctuated by small dribbles of largely inaccurate information. We at Winter Oak have been trying to help counter this information war against the rebellion by reporting their activities and opinions in English. Below we present five new translations which offer some useful insights into what is currently being spelled out in yellow in France.
The uprising is very much ongoing as we write this, with Act 18 of the protests on March 16 likely to be significant, particularly in Paris. For news updates about the movement follow us on Twitter.
i. Power to the people!
This declaration was agreed at the Yellow Vest assembly of assemblies in Commercy at the end of January, attended by delegates from across France. It was then “sent back” down to the local assemblies, who have gradually been endorsing it from the grassroots.
Ever since November 17, from the smallest village in the countryside to the biggest city, we have been rising up against this profoundly violent, unfair and unbearable society.
We are not going to be pushed around! We are revolting against the high cost of living, against precarity and misery. We want our loved ones, our families and our children to live in dignity.
26 billionaires own as much as half of the human species and that is unacceptable. Let’s share wealth and not misery!
Let’s do away with social inequality! We demand immediate increases in pay, in the minimum wage, in benefits and in pensions; the unconditional right to healthcare and education; free public services for everyone.
It’s for all these rights that every day we occupy roundabouts, that we organise actions and protests and hold discussions everywhere.
With our yellow vests on, we are having our say, which we have never had before.
And what’s the response from the government? Repression, contempt, denigration.
People killed and thousands injured, the massive use of weapons fired directly at us which mutilate, take out eyes, wound and traumatise.
More than 1,000 people have been arbitrarily prosecuted and jailed.
And now the new so-called “anti-vandal” law aims simply to stop us demonstrating.
We condemn all violence against protesters, whether it comes from police or violent factions. None of that is going to stop us!
The right to protest is fundamental. End the impunity for the government forces! Amnesty for all the victims of repression!
And what a con, this Grand National Debate which is nothing but a government PR exercise taking advantage of our desire to discuss and take decisions!
The real democracy is the one we practise in our assemblies and on our roundabouts. It is neither on the TV nor in the fake debates organised by Macron.
He insults us, says we’re less than nothing, then depicts us as hateful crowd, fascistic and xenophobic.
But in fact we are completely the opposite: neither racist, nor sexist, nor homophobic, we are proud to be together with our differences to build a society of solidarity.
The diversity of our discussions is our strength and even now hundreds of assemblies are drawing up and putting forward their own demands.
They involve real democracy, social and fiscal justice, environmental and climate justice, the ending of discrimination.
Among the most debated demands and strategic proposals we can find: the eradication of misery in all its forms; the transformation of institutions (citizen-initiated referenda, constituent assemblies, an ending to privileges for elected representatives); environmental transition (energy precarity, industrial pollution); equality and the valuing of all women and men regardless of their nationality (people with disabilities, gender equality, ending the neglect of working-class districts, rural areas and overseas territories).
We, Gilets Jaunes, invite everyone to join us, as and how they see fit. We call for a continuation of the series of “acts” of protests, of the occupation of roundabouts and the blockading of the economy and of the effort to build a huge national strike.
We call for the setting up of committees in the workplace, at places of study; and everywhere else so that this grave can be built on the basis of the strikers themselves.
Let’s take control of our own activities! Don’t stay on your own, join us! Let’s organise democratically, autonomously and independently!
This assembly of the assemblies is an important step which allows us to discuss our demands and our means of acting.
Let’s come together in federations to transform society!
We ask the whole of the Gilets Jaunes movement to circulate this call.
If, as a Gilets Jaunes group, you agree with it, then don’t hesitate to send your support to Commercy.
Please do discuss and draw up proposals for the next assembly of the assemblies, already under preparation.
Power to the people, for the people, by the people!
The “nothings” are on the streets
ii. The ghost of 1789
This is an extract from a leaflet issued by a group of Gilets Jaunes in southern France after a local bigwig, the Prefect, accused “anarchists” of inciting hate of the state and confrontations with the police.
Mr Prefect, there is no need for anarchists to sow hate as your government is managing to do that all on its own. Oh, nobody for the moment is talking about reaching for their rifle, but everyone can see what they earn and what the rich earn. Hate is on the rise. The Gilets Jaunes are simple people, generally workers at the bottom of the scale on low wages, or people living on modest pensions…
They say, when they talk about the rulers and the fat cats in this country: “They are like the kings and aristocrats used to be”. They are not talking about having a revolution here and now but they talk a lot about our great revolution: it is always coming up in conversation.
Macron has said repeatedly that he won’t change course: so we can expect nothing from him but scraps of charity. One day or the other the poor, like in 1789, will take action and a lot of others with them.
This won’t be a revolt, but a revolution!
It is clear that every government since 1983 has done all it can to ensure that the poor are in this state of mind.
In our assemblies there are, among the hundreds present, lots of workers and pensioners. There are also teachers and nurses.
Some anarchists work and earn roughly as much as the other Gilets Jaunes, others are unemployed, like many others.
Sorry to disappoint you, but there is nothing to differentiate them from other Gilets Jaunes except that, perhaps, some of them are more active than most: that’s their right and we don’t hold it against them!
iii. Our community is the struggle!
This analysis comes from issue 2 of an eight-page A3 street paper, Jaune: Le Journal Pour Gagner (Yellow: the Paper for Winning).
From the start of this movement, two symbols have been competing on the roundabouts. The yellow vest and the tricolour flag. Of course, many wouldn’t put it that way. They would say that the flag is the symbol of the French people, while the yellow vest is the symbol of the struggle, so the two are complementary. And it’s true that in each instance those who sport them regard them as signs of rallying around something in common. But there are different kinds of commonality.
The idea of a community founded on belonging to a territory, defined by a state and the defence of the borders of that state, is very old. We can see it in the founding myths of the Roman Empire.
Some will say that this is a hard reality. They will argue that every country has its share of misery and that at the end of the day defending your tribe, your territory, your compatriots, is a necessary part of being human. Their slogan is “our own before the others”.
But who are “our own”? Have you really got more interests, aspirations and sufferings in common with the rich of France than with someone who works on the same building site as you but hasn’t got the same passport? More in common with the Loréal family than with an Italian or Algerian delivering for an Amazon subcontractor? More in common with someone else on the minimum wage, regardless of nationality, or with someone who used to pay the highest rate of income tax until Macron scrapped it?
Nationalism will tell you that yes, French people, regardless of their social position, have more interests in common together than with any other form of solidarity, such as that based on a common situation. But where does that lead? Who profits from saying that? Who benefits from nationalism?
Everybody knows the line about divide and rule. It implies, of course, that it those who rule who divide the others. So, let’s put the question this way: who rules? Who owns the wealth and the means of producing more wealth? The rich, the bourgeoisie. And who is divided according to passport and nationality? The poor, the workers, the unemployed.
Anyway, do you really think the bourgeoisie practises what it preaches for us? Do you really think that the French rich feel closer to you than to their friends in such or such a country, with whom they go skiing in Switzerland or Dubai while you go to work? Let’s not be naive.
But there is another community: the community of struggle. Thus, in France, for a long time now, a revolutionary tradition welcomes all those who want to struggle. As far back as the French Revolution, lots of people from every corner of the world came to lend a hand. During the Paris Commune, as well, the organisation of the barricades was partly organised by Polish revolutionaries.
And we can see this solidarity in struggle and revolution at many other times of history and in many other parts of the world. That is the community which brings us together. Today, it has a rallying call: the yellow vest. This call is universal and as such it is closer to the spirit of past revolutions, including the French one.
So we are saying it loud and clear: we are on the side of the yellow vest, of what it says about common struggle and also about a shared refusal of our dire situation, about chilly early mornings blockading and about evenings around a pile of burning palettes, talking about our rock-bottom living conditions.
Yellow Vests of every country, unite!
iv. Poisoned by neoliberalism
From an interview with François Boulo, a lawyer and a Gilets Jaunes spokesman in the northern city of Rouen (source: Thinkerview).
How do you see the current situation with the Gilets Jaunes?
There is a fight to be won in terms of communication. The mainstream media are trying to criminalise the movement. But the real question of immorality lies with the distribution of wealth. To live in a country and pile up a personal fortune that is 10, 100, 1,000 times more than you need to live, while in France 9 million people teeter on the brink of poverty and 140,000 are homeless…
What kind of politics are you proposing?
For the last 40 to 45 years there has been an ideological drive to poison our minds with the dominant neoliberal thinking, which is presented as the only possibility. This is the framing for the way we think about politics today. This economic framing is imposed on us and they tell us that there is no alternative. This has generated a mood of resignation.
The economic debate has been closed down. They explain to us that we have to have permanent growth, even though we live in a finite world. We have a cake and they tell us we can’t change the rules for allocating the slices of the cake. I think citizens’ control is needed.
What do you think of the political and policing climate around the Gilets Jaunes movement?
Right from the start, everything was done to ramp up the climate of tension. On the second Saturday of protests in France, from 8.30 or 9am people were being “kettled”, caught in a trap, and teargassed! How do you expect them to feel that their right to protest is being respected?
What about Europe ?
We have got to stop following the demands of the banks and investors, because their financial games do not help the real economy. We should finally create the social Europe we were promised.
v. A breath of fresh air
Here is an abridged version of an in-depth article in issue 12 of Avis de Tempêtes: Bulletin anarchiste pour la guerre sociale (Storm Warning: Anarchist bulletin for social war), a 20-page A5 zine with a yellow and red cover. The piece takes a witty swipe at a certain kind of comrade who considers themself too ideologically pure to possibly be able to join in the diverse and mould-breaking Gilets Jaunes uprising.
For once, a movement has erupted in a self-organised way without political parties and trade unions, for once it immediately set its own agenda – an agenda which is often daily and not at the weekly or monthly rhythm of the big days out orchestrated by the troop masters and agreed in advance with the police – even deciding for itself its own places and routes of confrontation and blockage by obstinately refusing to beg for official authorisation.
In short, a breath of fresh air for all those activists who have been waiting for nothing other than a big collective movement before venturing out of their homes. However… While the meagre crumbs claimed by any number of reformist, trade-unionist or victimist organisations – backed up by a show of strength in the streets to help their representatives in their negotiations with authority – have never put too many people off taking part, now we see those marvellous anti-authoritarian activists diligently dissecting those who have lit the yellow-vest fuse.
The anti-authoritarian activist, well schooled in swallowing all kinds of reformist demands in order to join in various struggles, this time finds that there is not enough familiar common ground.
With the Gilets Jaunes movement, the activist has suddenly discovered the world around him. Having been in raptures over the Arab Spring without finding his enthusiasm impossibly deflated by the “interclassist” use of the term “the people” (“The people wants the fall of the regime” was a much-used popular slogan) and the abundance of national flags, he is now disgusted by the same limitations on his own side of the Mediterranean.
Having rioted against the Loi Travail labour reforms, or last May Day, without feeling his presence incompatible with that of massed hammer and sickle flags, or with the sometimes-dubious banners at the head of Parisian demos (emblazoned with the wise words of 100%-reactionary rappers), he is now mortified by the tricolour flags and populist slogans.
He had chosen to be blind to the hundreds of tricolour flags in the left-wing France Insoumise rallies at the last elections, as well as to those wielded by hundreds of thousands in the streets after the epic victory in the footballing spectacle of July 2018 (sported in unison by poor urban youth and old rich racists).
No, the activist is as simple as his organic-supermarket ideology. An unclean symbol equals a fascist. Full stop.
A radical anti-capitalist dimension to the Extinction Rebellion (XR) has emerged in the UK, with the creation of a new alliance.
The Green Anti-Capitalist Front is born of the realisation that if we want to defend nature we have to fight capitalism.
It says it wants to support the high-profile XR “with a parallel mobilisation that has a greater focus on the capitalist roots of climate catastrophe”.
GAF explains: “As we all know, capitalism is killing the Earth. We have been observing the rise of the Extinction Rebellion movement and, while we are glad to see a growing interest in fighting climate change, we do not think their critique goes far enough and believe a specifically anti-capitalist critique is needed.
“As such we are calling for the formation of an anti-capitalist block to tap into this rising interest in radical politics and to fill the vacuum of a green and anti-capitalist movement in London. We plan to loosely work alongside Extinction Rebellion’s actions, especially their week of actions planned from April 15th, while also developing our own unique
“The Green Anti-Capitalist Front is intended as a broad coalition of groups with varying ideologies, but with a common interest in tackling environmental problems at their social roots”.
In an open letter to XR, GAF praises it for having reinvigorated environmental activism at a time when this was most needed.
It says: “XR has been bold in its aims when much of the established movement has been cynical, and has managed to tap into a broader sense of alarm over environmental degradation, and mobilised many people not previously involved.
“XR has grown at a speed that many people would have thought impossible before we saw it happen.
“XR has also been far more radical in this broad appeal than many people would have thought, pursuing a strategy built around both local direct action while maintaining an international orientation.
“We cannot overstate the overwhelmingly positive effect that XR is having on environmental politics”.
However, GAF says it has “doubts about some of the tactics that XR has adopted” and thinks a conversation is needed about this.
GAF is inviting like-minded people and groups to get in touch via
email@example.com. It has a website, Twitter account and Facebook presence.
In the 21st century, the world is now veritably swamped with commodities. According to APLF ltd. American consumers purchase an average of 7.5 shoes per capita per year. The LA Times reports that “the average U.S. household has 300,000 things, from paper clips to ironing boards.”
I am not by any means claiming that everyone is an affluent borderline-hoarder. One of the fundamental problems of capitalism is the unequal access to this seeming abundance of goods.
With so much paraphernalia in the world, it is inevitable that significant portions will be wasted.
In an article for The Atlantic, Derek Thompson explains that in a year the world creates around 2.6 trillion pounds of garbage—“the weight of about 7,000 Empire State Buildings.”
Much of this is food waste, but many inorganic items are produced with cheap plastic and other materials that fall apart quickly. Some companies, such as Apple, even reportedly preprogram their products to stop functioning properly after a certain amount of time in order to force consumers to buy new wares at a much greater rate than they otherwise would.
All this waste, all this stuff tossed away, has to go somewhere. Such rubbish becomes part of the planet’s topography, enters into its ecological systems, and eventually returns to the human sphere of interaction – much to human detriment.
This is zombie archaeology; when the remnants of our past are not uncovered by human beings but return to us by themselves with a vengeance.
In this age of capitalism-induced ecological collapse, zombie archaeology is certain to become only increasingly suited for describing the world. Walter Benjamin, in his Theses on the Philosophy of History, writes of Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, “This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But… …[t]he storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward.”
But what happens when the wreckage and debris – both literal and figurative – begin shambling towards the present? When the dead are, in a sense, awakened? Zombie archaeology poses these questions.
We have been drawing attention for some time now to the ideological smears being deliberately used by the neoliberal elite to stifle dissident voices.
Unlike Monty Python’s ridiculous “Spanish Inquisition”, this one has long been expected by everybody who has been paying attention.
The most important task, we feel, is to point out the essential dishonesty behind these attacks.
Neoliberals differ from the old-fashioned right in that they like to paint themselves as the Guardians (yep, quite!) of Progressive Thinking, as somehow vaguely left-wing despite their full-blooded backing for capitalism, militarism, imperialism and everything that goes with it.
So they cannot attack the left in the traditional way, by simply saying they do not like it because it is too left-wing and threatens the status quo which they support.
Instead, they pretend to be attacking their enemies from a progressive position, one which occupies the liberal moral high ground.
This is the case with the longstanding smears against deep green thinking which try to claim it is a continuation of Nazi ideology, even though Hitler’s regime was the epitome of industrialism (see our article Organic Radicalism: Bringing Down the Fascist Machine for a full analysis of this).
Neoliberals, including pseudo-leftists, aren’t honest enough to say that they oppose deep green politics because they support industrial capitalism – that would blow their ideological cover.
Instead, they have to pretend that it is because they have cleverly identified it as a sinister right-wing threat to democracy as we know it.
The same phenomenon is basically at work with the “anti-semitism” allegations cropping up everywhere at the moment.
This issue is slightly complicated by the fact that it is partly about Palestine and the need for the pro-Israel lobby to silence all criticism of the apartheid state by conflating anti-Zionism with anti-semitism.
A real witch-hunt atmosphere has been created here, which the original Spanish Inquisition would surely have been proud of.
Once accused of “anti-semitism”, the victim is faced with a dilemma similar to that of the famous ducking stool – if you drown you are not a witch and if you don’t then you are a witch and you have to be burned alive.
If the person accused of anti-semitism admits guilt and apologises, not only will they not be left alone, but they will also have surrendered important political ground and will have set a precedent for the next absurd denunciation.
If they deny having said anything wrong, this denial will be regarded as a further offence of perhaps even greater severity.
This is what has been happening to UK Labour Party figures such as Chris Williamson and to US lawmaker Ilhan Omar (see here and here).
The secondary smear technique has also been used against the Gilets Jaunes in France, particularly following an incident in which intellectual Alain Finkielkraut was called a “dirty Zionist”.
Comments, or lack of comments, on the much-hyped confrontation were used to attack prominent Yellow Vest supporters such as journalist Aude Lancelin and leftist politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
It is important to note that all these smear attacks have been targeted at the political left. Anti-semitism on the right is rarely even mentioned.
It is clear that the Palestine question, important though it is both for supporters and critics of the Israeli state, is not the only issue at stake here, as the likes of Jonathan Cook have been pointing out.
One of the great successes of the wave of global protests that took place in the 1990s and at the start of the 21st century was to put anti-capitalism on the public stage.
Previously, the mainstream had never even accepted that we lived in a capitalist society, let alone that people could be against that.
The word “capitalism” was regarded as a nonsensical one, used only by communists or other left-wing cranks.
Suddenly, they were talking about anti-capitalism on the BBC, examining who these troublesome anti-capitalists were and what exactly they wanted.
Twenty years on, the Establishment feels under threat, its system crumbling and its mind-control power over the population lifting like fog in the sunshine.
It therefore seems to have decided to try to push anti-capitalism back out of the public domain, beyond the perimeter fence of ideological validity.
We have commented previously on the peculiar political argument that there is something “anti-semitic” about opposing the “1%” who own most of the world’s wealth (it’s a lot fewer than that…) or about condemning bankers or international capitalist organisations like the IMF, the WTO or the Bilderberg group.
As we pointed out last July: “What appears to be happening, in some cases at least, is that the ‘Jewish banker’ figure is again being deliberately deployed to thwart opposition to capitalism.
“Previously, it was used to steer people away from anti-capitalism and into anti-semitism, but now the aim is rather to steer people away from anti-capitalism with the threat of being labelled anti-semitic”.
This twisted approach is now being presented as a common-sense view by mainstream media, in tandem with the other smear attacks on left-wingers.
Right-wing Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh spun this toxic propaganda on BBC Radio 4 on March 4, with presenter John Humphreys helpfully summing up: “In other words, to be anti-capitalist you have to be anti-semitic?”
Such are the desperate, dangerous lies of a system that senses its days are numbered…
In his new “extremist” novel, No Such Place as Asha, Paul Cudenec gives a fictional airing to the ideological smears often deployed by neoliberals against opponents of their ecocidal industrial capitalist system. This excerpt describes a speaker at a private conference of the “Transatlantic Alliance for Freedom” (TAF) in Edinburgh…
His special subject was environmentalism. He started off paying lip service to the importance of balancing economic growth with sustainable practices, of ensuring the well-being of human and animal communities, so on and so forth. Responsible environmental organisations acted as crucial watchdogs that reminded the authorities and industry of their responsibilities. While TAF did not always agree with their positions, they recognised the role they played, etcetera, etcetera.
Then he moved on to the substance of his talk. Unfortunately, there was always a fringe of green protesters who took things too far, who refused to play by the rules. He talked about “eco-terrorists” in the USA and “hardcore” environmentalists in Europe, such as 1990s road protesters in the UK, a mobilisation against a high-speed rail line in Italy, a protest camp against an airport in France, another against mining in Germany.
More recently, the “worst” instance of these campaigns was the anti-fracking movement in the UK. The dangers of these extremists’ illegal direct action were well known, he said, as was the “Luddite” ideology that inspired them.
But lately things had taken a turn for the worse. These groups were starting to develop a common ideology, aided by the exchange of news and views made possible by the internet. They were borrowing ideas from campaigners on the other side of the world and incorporating them into their own rhetoric. They were increasingly identifying the enemy not just as their local government, or business, but as something they termed “the industrial capitalist system”.
Up against this, they were piecing together their own counter-position. They had taken the idea of “sacred land” from indigenous struggles in North America, Australia and elsewhere and were applying it to their own sites. The use of direct action was turning into an ideology of direct action, an anarchist contempt for the rule of law and the due democratic process. French and German groups had fed into the mix the idea of “degrowth”, which rejected the very fundaments of our society – the idea of progress, economic growth and increased prosperity for humankind.
I wrote down a complete quote at this point. “Let’s be clear, these people are negationists. They are guilty of progress denial. And I would suggest that this brand of negationism should be treated as seriously as the other one of which we are all too well aware. Because that’s where it ends, ultimately. It all ends at the same place. The destruction of civilization. The deaths of millions of men, women and children in the name of fanaticism.”
There was a great burst of applause across the room at this point. Having established his moral high ground, Heath went on to spell out the particular form this Eco-Terrorist Apocalypse would take, which seemed to involve mainly a drop in the profits of “important wealth-creating institutions”, faced with increased grassroots resistance to their projects and falling levels of consumption as the “poison” of anti-growth views contaminated the population.
A top-notch new comic has been published by Corporate Watch in London. Worlds End uses words and pictures to help people understand climate change and capitalism and encourage a different approach, one that builds power to fight them. Read it online here.
* * *
“Just because the participants in the growing number of Extinction Rebellion actions may be predominantly middle class, it doesn’t mean to say that we as working class people aren’t concerned about environmental issues”. So says a useful article in The South Essex Heckler. It adds: “What we need to do is to start to own the narrative of the campaigns around those issues so that it’s our voices that are being heard. We’re the ones on the frontline from traffic induced air pollution through to being housed in flood risk areas”.
* * *
Disturbing evidence keeps emerging about the way the environmental movement, particularly the climate justice element, is being hijacked and manipulated by big business. For instance, a Daily Mail report in February revealed that Tory peer John Selwyn Gummer, who heads the UK government’s Climate Change Committee, has a private company which has been paid more than £600,000 from “green” businesses hoping to profit from government subsidies. And the full report from Cory Morningstar mentioned in Acorn 46 is now online and a must-read for any nature-defender who wants to avoid being used as a useful idiot by a bunch of lying industrial capitalists.
* * *
The threat of new industrial capitalist mega-projects in Mexico has been highlighted in a letter from Zapatista women to their sisters across the world. The authorities’ destructive schemes include the Mayan Train, the “development” of the Tehuantepec Isthmus and massive commercial tree farms. The letter declares: “We’re going to fight with all our strength and everything we’ve got against these mega-projects. If these lands are conquered, it will be upon the blood of Zapatista women”.
* * *
“Fracking is stoppable, another world is possible!” is the title of a highly informative and inspiring new online bulletin from the frack free movement. Issue 1 is available here but issue 2 should be out very soon – follow the excellent frackfree_eu on Twitter for updates.
* * *
The 2019 Liverpool Anarchist Bookfair will be held on Saturday April 13, 11am till 5pm at The Black-E, 1 Great George Street, L1 5EW. This will be a day of stalls and workshops, with a vegan cafe and kids’ space – free entry (donations towards event costs welcome). Says the website: “Books, zines & more to feed your brain let’s learn, organise, grow & create!”
* * *
If the neoliberal Establishment succeeds in totally destroying the (very mild!) threat presented to its domination by Corbyn’s Labour Party, there will no doubt be a few we-told-you-soes from us anarcho-cynics. But the anger sparked by such a collapse in people’s hopes could well lead to something more interesting happening in the UK. As Jonathan Cook notes: “If parliamentary politics returns to business as usual for the wealthy, taking to the streets looks increasingly like the only option. Maybe it’s time to dust off a Yellow Vest”.
* * *
Acorn quote: “The poorest man hath as true a title and just right to the land as the richest man. True freedom lies in the free enjoyment of the earth”.
January 19, 2019: week 10 of history-forging French uprising
For the tenth weekend running, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets all across France in the Gilets Jaunes or Yellow Vests revolt against neoliberal capitalism – and this in the face of unprecedented state violence and oppression.
President’s Macron pathetic attempt to take back the initiative with his “Grand National Debate” has been exposed as a sham, with his regional roadshows protected by armies of riot police – deployed to keep at bay the people he is supposed to be listening to!
In Paris, for Act 10 of the uprising, the latest in a series of massive marches was estimated by observers to stretch for 4km and was met with the usual hostility and teargas from the “forces of order”.
🔴 URGENT – #Avignon : Des #casseurs ont tenté de mettre le feu à l'hôtel de ville. Ils ont incendié un container à poubelles devant la porte en bois du bâtiment situé place de l'Horloge avant de prendre la fuite en cassant tout ce qu'ils pouvaient sur leur passage." #giletjaunepic.twitter.com/EQo9qrVZw8
Everywhere there were thousands and thousands of people demanding an end to the neoliberal misery being imposed on France by Macron’s regime and the whole corrupt political system.
Caen, Rouen, Nîmes, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Toulon, Dijon, Beziers, Perpignan, Montpellier, Lyons, Angers, Poitiers, Marseilles, Bergerac, Brest, Longeville-lès-Saint-Avold, the little town of Foix in rural Ariège…
And from everywhere the same images and reports came flooding in: big crowds, police provocation, teargas, grenades, batons, water cannon, blood and defiance.
You can call it what you like – The Establishment, The Thing, The Matrix or the Industrial-Military-Prison-Propaganda-Complex – but it exists.
It has become trendy in recent years to pretend that this is not so, that what we are seeing is merely a collection of economic or interpersonal relationships.
But it is the system that promotes, protects and imposes all the layers of domination and exploitation that mark our everyday lives.
It is the system that tells us we have to spend our best life energy working for it, just for the right to eat and exist in the world it claims it owns.
It is the system that pays its hired thugs to beat us up, intimidate us, lock us up for years if we refuse to play by its rules.
It is the system that maims and murders human beings on an unimagineable scale across the world, all in the interests of its profit and power, and still always claims the moral high ground.
It is the system that lies through its teeth, with a slick smile on its face, and is always quick to accuse anyone who challenges its lies of being a liar.
It is the system that devours, poisons and destroys our air, our water, our land and our bodies.
It is the system that brings death and extinction while claiming to bring growth.
It is the system that is always looking at new ways to monitor us, to control us, to infiltrate our lives, to direct our thoughts, to crush the tiniest possibilities of our freedom and resistance.
It is also the system, of course, that insists that the system does not exist, that we should not confuse the many trees of its oppression and control with an overall wood that could be termed an entity.
It says that anyone who talks of the system is necessarily a simple-minded fool who imagines the world is all controlled in every detail by half a dozen James Bond villains sitting around a conference table in an underground bunker.
It says that anyone who talks of the system is a conspiracy theorist liable to start spouting all kinds of deranged, maybe anti-semitic, nonsense.
The system says this because it knows full well that the rest of us – the powerless nobodies it so despises – will never be able to effectively challenge the system if we don’t even know that it exists.
On this point, and this point alone, we agree with the system. Identifying the existence of the system is the necessary first step to clearing the way for a worthwhile future for humankind and our planetary home.
The second necessary step is to destroy the system in its entirety.
The system has always depended on being able to control the narrative of the societies it controls, ensuring that its own existence remains invisible and that all its lies are accepted as self-evident truths.
It knows that it is in big trouble if serious numbers of people start ripping the propaganda drip-feeds from their brains and sourcing their information from elsewhere, if people stop parroting the sermons of the system’s priests and start thinking for themselves.
It has been interesting to see the system in panic mode in France, being forced to work through every step of the emergency disinformation procedures as the Gilets Jaunes revolt gathers more and more momentum.
To start with, the Gilets Jaunes were just a passing nuisance. Then they were right-wing extremists, or left-wing extremists if the message was being aimed at a right-wing audience. After that, they were violent thugs and village idiots. Then it was all a flop and dying out. Then they were suddenly threatening armed revolution. They subsequently switched back to being fascists again, maybe of the elusive “red-brown” variety evoked by neoliberals everywhere in their desperate attempts to equate far left with far right and present themselves as the only safeguard against the horrors of so-called “populism”.
Again and again, the well-groomed and arrogant faces of the Parisian elite appeared to inform the French people that they were nothing but uneducated riff-raff who deserved to be shot and telling them to pack it all in. But nobody was watching TV on the roundabouts.
The media even wheeled out the tired old spectre of the Le Pen family once again, with inflated reports of how they were poised to come to power. It’s a great double-act for the capitalists, the old nice-nasty routine: support capitalism or you get fascism.
While there have been howls of media outrage over every flower-pot thrown towards the serried ranks of armour-plated riot cops, the huge levels of brutal violence inflicted by the police themselves have been sidelined or even ignored.
Individual cops have complained publicly that the instructions for this violence – by means of tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon, grenades or just good old-fashioned beating and kicking – are political and have come straight from the state.
RÉPRESSION CONTRE LES GILETS JAUNES : UN POLICIER MET EN CAUSE LE GOUVERNEMENT
"Le message envoyé par le gouvernement c'est : on veut aller à la confrontation, on ne veut plus éviter la répression, tout est mis en place pour que ça dégénère". Alexandre Langlois, @VIGI_MIpic.twitter.com/wpGlX7T0Je
The system has given orders for the Gilets Jaunes to be left bloodied in the road, handless or eyeless in several cases. The system has given orders for its media to pretend this just isn’t happening.
And people have seen that. Millions of people have seen it and seen through it. The system has played its hand and it cannot keep playing it again and again with the results that it expects.
This is the scenario it fears most. The scenario in which the hologram illusion of democracy projected by its vast range of propaganda techniques flickers and disappears from the minds of the people.
Instead they see reality as it, as it has been for a long time: a criminal gang of professional liars, manipulators and thieves successfully holding millions of people in a state of thralldom, and being prepared to use unlimited violence to hold on to their power.
It is not just in France that the system is afraid of losing control, although the population there seem to be several steps ahead of others in their awareness of what is going on and their courage in actually trying to do something about it.
That is why for years the system has been infiltrating radical political movements – and often sabotaging them from within so they can never successfully mobilise against its domination.
That is why it is rolling out products like NewsGuard to filter internet intervention and try and make sure only the system’s version of reality, the system’s views, can reach the public.
That is why it is constantly removing pages and accounts from social media, policing the internet to try to ensure that small voices of dissent can no longer be heard, while claiming that this insidious censorship is all about countering “fake news”.
That is why journalists who help whistleblowers expose the system’s crimes and manipulations are not only targeted by the system’s police but mercilessly smeared by the system’s faithful media lackeys.
But can the system ever really regain full-spectrum narrative domination and get all that information toothpaste neatly back into the mind-control tube?
Greta Thunberg: darling of the climate change reformists
Needless to say, we at The Acorn are fully behind environmental campaigns like Extinction Rebellion (see Issue 45) which warn that we face planetary disaster unless our society makes radical changes.
But we have to admit that we are often puzzled as to why there is quite so much emphasis on climate change as the primary evidence of something going badly wrong.
Why less talk of the plastic that is choking our oceans, the chemicals polluting our water sources, the nanoparticles absorbed by our bodies, the noxious fumes poisoning our air, the microwaves causing cancers in our brains?
Why so little mention that there is a name for all of this – industrial capitalism?
Why so few calls for the dismantling of this productivist profit-based insanity and the instigation of degrowth to restore a society which produces solely according to its real needs?
Surely it couldn’t be because the climate change movement is being insidiously manipulated by elements of industrial capitalism itself?
Surely it couldn’t be because the issue is being hijacked by powerful private interests as a way of getting rich on the new technologies that will supposedly solve the crisis?
Could it really be the case that genuine environmental activists, arrested and locked up for their courageous actions, are being used as human cannon fodder for a global marketing campaign?
Anyone tempted to dismiss these questions out of hand might like to take a look at the new work published online by radical ecologist researcher and writer Cory Morningstar.
This concerns the “non-profit industrial complex”, which she describes as “the most powerful army in the world”.
She writes that we are currently witnessing “the launch of a global campaign to usher in a required consensus for the Paris Agreement, the New Green Deal and all climate related policies and legislation written by the power elite – for the power elite”.
The policies this campaign is trying to push through include carbon capture storage (CCS), enhanced oil recovery (EOR), bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), rapid total decarbonisation, payments for ecosystem services (referred to as “natural capital”), nuclear energy and fission, and “a host of other ‘solutions’ that are hostile to an already devastated planet”.
The overall aim is the opposite of the degrowth we so badly need and would involve the “rebooting” of the capitalist economy by creating new markets and new growth.
Morningstar warns: “What is being created is a mechanism to unlock approx. 90 trillion dollars for new investments and infrastructure”.
The first part of her in-depth report focuses on “the manufacturing of Greta Thunberg” and the We Don’t Have Time organisation.
Future sections promise to investigate the role of Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, 350.org, Avaaz, the World Wildlife Fund, the Green New Deal and, yes, Extinction Rebellion.
We look forward to reading them.
In the meantime, it is important that all of us who want to head off environmental catastrophe make it quite clear that this is not going to happen so long as we remain trapped inside the capitalist system.
He describes our Western world as “a civilization with money as its universal mediation” in which capitalism “encloses” and privatises all aspects of life.
It cannot tolerate the idea of anyone living outside of its enclosure, hence its need to stamp out the practice of “subsistence” farming, where communities have the cheek to simply produce enough food for their own requirements, rather than for the requirements of the capitalist profit-machine.
It forces people into its system by giving them no choice, he explains: “Declaring war on subsistence means dissolving the autonomous ways of life of thousands of people and thereby enslaving them to commercial needs which they can only fulfil by going out to earn a wage”.
The idea of defending a natural world, which includes human communities’ relationships with the environment, has been neglected by Western anti-capitalism, he says, particularly under the influence of mainstream Marxism.
Uprooted from our previous rural existences, we today often find ourselves living in a sterile and life-denying suburban sprawl, a space created “for the demands of capital”, where people are trapped in a dependence on their cars and thus on the oil industry.
Garcia draws much on William Morris and echoes his critique of the artificiality of industrial capitalism: “In this world of artifice, going beyond the surface to a deeper level, that of the sheer essence of things, is no longer conceivable”.
Garcia dedicates another section of the book to examining, and condemning, transhumanism, which he terms “the official ideology of technological capitalism”.
This ideology “reduces the human brain to a simple processer of information, a mere calculating machine” and is built on the “basic negation of the reality of living organisms”.
Behind it lurks a “brutal dualism” which regards mind and body as completely separate, and thus imagines the possibility of a “posthuman” self with no fleshly existence.
Worryingly, this ultra-capitalist creed is also embraced by some who term themselves left-wing and have swallowed the lie that technological and social progress amount to the same thing.
You can read the full version of this book review by Paul Cudenec on his blog.
“The Wet’suwet’en and Unist’ot’en remain steadfast in the determination that we will be successful in halting the toxic Coastal GasLink pipeline”. This was the defiant message issued on January 17 after the Canadian branch of the industrial-capitalist-military complex used shocking force against the indigenous peoples to try and clear the way for its polluting infrastructures, prompting an international wave of solidarity actions.
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Hundreds of people marched in Bern, Switzerland, on Saturday January 19 against the World Economic Forum being held at Davos, and against capitalism in general. They declared: “The infinite greed for profit and power that is seen at the Forum in Davos has no limits. Let the ruling class feel our anger”.
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Protests are to be held in Berlin on February 16 against the European Police Congress being hosted in the city. Says the call-out: “Let us use the police congress as an opportunity to take to the streets together against the police, the security authorities and their laws. Against state violence and repression. Against a world in which it is okay to let thousands of people drown on the borders of Europe, a world in which people are persecuted, imprisoned and killed because of their aspirations for liberation, a world that wants to destroy all forms of a life based on solidarity and collectivity”.
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A new book on squatting has been published by Squatting everywhere kollective (SqEK) and is available to read online. ‘Fighting for spaces, Fighting for our lives: Squatting Movements today‘ provides glimpses into a diverse and multi-faceted movement, with accounts from local struggles, experiences of repression and stories of collective forms of life which have grown out of squatted spaces in various cities and countries throughout the world, including accounts from Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, Seattle and Australia.
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“Stop 5G on Earth and in Space!” is the message from a new international appeal. It calls for a halt to the deployment of the 5G (fifth generation) wireless network, including 5G from space satellites, explaining: “5G will massively increase exposure to radio frequency (RF) radiation on top of the 2G, 3G and 4G networks for telecommunications already in place. RF radiation has been proven harmful for humans and the environment. The deployment of 5G constitutes an experiment on humanity and the environment that is defined as a crime under international law”.
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In India’s densely populated megacities, residents are rallying against the widespread destruction of trees to make way for capitalist development, reports Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar. She highlights grassroots resistance in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi which are keeping alive the Indian tradition of tree-hugging and passionate defence of nature.
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Brazil’s new far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has already set out his vile agenda, reducing the minimum wage and unveiling plans to step up privatization, toughen prison sentencing guidelines, and hand control over Indigenous land to the Agriculture Ministry. The pro-US, pro-Israel Bolsonaro could well be the first in a new line of authoritarian neoliberals ready to impose industrial capitalism on the world without worrying too much about the facade of “democracy”.
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An eye-opening account of life for workers in China has been provided by Dissent Magazine. Uprooted from the land, peasant-workers have to take jobs in the electronic, garment, construction, or service industries whose low wages force them to work punishing hours of overtime. They live in crowded dormitories, under CCTV surveillance and the constant threat of eviction if they protest. “This is the true ‘miracle’ of Chinese industrialization: a highly vulnerable, precarious, and exploited working class”.
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A very interesting article has been published by our US comrades at It’s Going Down, addressing the thorny issue of alleged ideological similarities between deep-green anarchism and fascists, who often used nature-based rhetoric in their propaganda. The author finds that even the way the two traditions talk about nature reveals the apparent resemblance to be superficial: “The philosophies of the fascists came to largely revolve around concepts of domestication, husbandry, design, and surgical intervention; those of the primitivists revolve around wildness, biodiversity, voluntary association, and self-determination”. ‘Fascism, Ecology, and the Tangled Roots of Anti-Modernism‘ sits nicely alongside our own 2018 article, ‘Organic radicalism: bringing down the fascist machine‘ as a step towards clearing up this area of painful ideological misunderstanding.
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Acorn quote: “What is the point of economic progress, a so-called higher standard of living, when the earth, the only earth we have, is being contaminated by substances which may cause malformations in our children or grandchildren?”
1. Rebelling against the industrial capitalist system
Is the human species finally waking up to the fact that industrial capitalism is murdering the planet and realising that we all have to take action to stop it?
The signs are currently looking good in England, where the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement has appeared out of nowhere and mobilised thousands of people to block streets and engage in civil disobedience.
The first big day of action was on Saturday November 17, when some 6,000 people took to the streets of London.
They blocked five London bridges and planted trees on Parliament Square. More than 80 people were arrested.
Said Gail Bradbrook of XR: “This is an act of mass civil disobedience. This is the start of an international rebellion protesting the lack of action on the ecological crisis”.
There were swarming road blocks across London in the run-up to Rebellion Day 2, announced for Saturday November 24, 10am to 5pm at Parliament Square.
The Rebellion has also started to take off elsewhere, such as Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Ireland.
Some question marks have been raised in anti-capitalist circles about the XR approach. For a start, the enthusiastic participation of pseudo-radical Guardian columnist George Monbiot, who too often mirrors his employers’ anti-left neoliberalism (see the Media Lens archives), has set alarm bells ringing.
A strangely deferential attitude to the police has also worried many. In an article in The Canary, Emily Apple highlighted a failure in XR circles to critique the fundamental relationship between the police, the state and corporations, pointing out: “Ultimately, the police are there to protect the interests of the state”.
She added: “It is our duty to rebel. But effective rebellion will mean facing the full force and the full power of the state, and being prepared for the consequences.
“No amount of statements of non-violence will stop the police going in with full force if what you’re doing is a threat to the state or corporate profit. It won’t stop fundamental police tactics of harassment and disruption; tactics designed to deliberately deter people from protesting”.
However, most would applaud the way XR has achieved what seemed impossible and ignited a whole new wave of public protest against industrial capitalism.
If you believe in a full diversity of tactics, then you have to wish them well and hope that their misguided faith in the intentions of the UK’s police does not end with too many baton-bludgeoned limbs and skulls, when the corporate-owned state decides that XR’s disruptive tactics have gone far enough.
Another encouraging sign of a change in consciousness is the publication by the UK’s Anarchist Federation of a booklet (available online) called Capitalism Is Killing the Earth: An Anarchist Guide to Ecology.
The booklet rightly notes: “There has been wider understanding of environmental issues since mainstream publications such as Silent Spring, Gaia and An Inconvenient Truth; however, an anti-capitalist critique has been lacking”.
The aim of anarchists should therefore be to “make the link between capitalism and environmental degradation explicit in our politics and critique the role of the state in facilitating this”.
It tackles the issue of false solutions to the environmental meltdown, observing that most proposals for change do not question the overarching system of capitalism and the market economy: “The existence of private property, the appropriation of nature as a source of growth and production for profit instead of need are at the root of the problem, so they cannot be part of the solution”.
It was not clear to us, though, what is intended by the reference to a “primitivist” alternative society preventing people from “maintaining or increasing their standard of living”.
For the industrial capitalist mindset, “standard of living” is all about having a car and a dishwasher, flying abroad on holiday and fully participating in the capitalist economy. It is about buying and consuming.
Presumably the authors agree that a genuinely high “standard of living” would involve living freely in a community of equals, sharing the produce of the earth, breathing fresh air, eating uncontaminated food, waking each morning to the sound of birdsong or children’s laughter rather than of low-flying aircraft or the motorway at the end of the street.
The booklet says anarchists should “work more closely with groups such as Earth First!, Reclaim the Power and Rising Tide to further develop an activism which is both confrontational towards capitalism and is inclusive of local and global perspectives”.
We agree. A full convergence of anti-capitalism and anti-industrialism is long overdue. Industrialism and capitalism are not two separate phenomena but two aspects of the same thing.
Whether you first notice its existence from an environmental perspective or from a social one, industrial capitalism is readily identifiable as the enemy.
It is the enslaver of humanity, the stealer of land, the destroyer of community and, unless we can quickly drive a stake through its malignant heart, the murderer of our planet.
2. “At the heart of this problem lies our sense of separation from nature”
In-depth interview with campaigner Geraldine of frackfree_eu
Thanks for agreeing to this interview. Could you tell us a little bit about who you are and what sort of campaigning you are involved in?
I grew up in a rural area. In some respects, I guess I kind of grew up in a bubble, not necessarily privileged, far from it in financial terms, but certainly sheltered from any social or environmental problems.
From a young age, I cared deeply about the environment, but I’d never engaged in any activism as such. I used to receive newsletters from the World Wildlife Fund, and feel concerned about all the animals whose habitats were endangered by deforestation, orangutans and koalas especially.
I was so concerned about deforestation, in fact, that I once replied to exam questions in tiny writing in order to save paper, drawing attention to the fact that trees are chopped down to make the paper. The teacher was outraged by my act, insisted I apologise, but I refused, so she put me on detention.
It wasn’t too bothered. Standing up for what’s right is something to be proud of and I wasn’t going to obey authority whose demands conflicted with my values. I always had a bit of a rebellious streak.
How I got into campaigning… My academic background is in languages. Throughout my studies, I’d never been involved in anything remotely political. It was only when doing a Masters in European Studies that I had my eyes opened to injustices I’d previously been unaware of – such as racism, the Israel / Palestine conflict, austerity. None of these issues made me angry enough to drop everything, though.
Then, in early 2011, I first became aware of fracking while in France with my boyfriend on a business trip, watching politicians on French TV engaged in a fiery debate about how it could contaminate the water.
The French term ‘gaz de schiste’ sounded less scary than the English equivalent ‘fracking’, so after a cursory look in the dictionary which translated ‘gaz de schiste’ as ‘shale gas’ I thought no more of it and just carried on focusing on my studies.
Little did I know at the time that the same technique was being proposed all across Europe and that France was to become the first country to ban it. It actually took me about six months to revisit the issue, after hearing news of earthquakes in Blackpool and seeing a documentary with French MEP José Bové at a fracking site somewhere in Poland.
Once I began ‘googling’ the term ‘fracking’, I was horrified. Then I learned that parts of Ireland were under threat too. Never in my life have I felt so incensed.
My first thought was: How could our government even consider giving permission to an industry that industrialises vast swathes of countryside and that has left a toll of death and destruction in every community where it has gained a foothold?
I’d never held politicians in much esteem anyway, feeling the system was designed to serve the better-off and those of us at the bottom rungs of the social ladder just have to work hard for everything and not rely on the state for help. As for voting, I’d only voted at one election as I felt elections were a farce.
Despite all this, it still took me aback at how Government can allow policies to be dictated by the interests of big business. What stunned me in particular is how these corporations fabricate lies in order to get what they want, repeating this mantra of jobs and growth as if nothing else mattered.
That the truth, the facts, the science, could be obscured for the sake of profit and self-interest ignited a fire in me like never before.
It was time for me to move beyond my comfort zone, beyond my material world and devote myself wholeheartedly to the cause by attending events and speaking out at them, working with people I’d never have imagined working with before, mobilising others to take action, organising events, travelling to places I’d never been – but ultimately sharing the truth about what fracking involves and how much suffering and harm it causes to every living being. Nowhere deserves to become a sacrifice zone, least of all the country where I grew up and love.
Just focusing on fracking for the moment, what do you think there is about it in particular – compared to mining, for instance, or other forms of industrialisation – that has triggered such a strong response in you, and in so many others who were not previously engaged in this kind of struggle?
Excellent and thought-provoking question! I’d be equally outraged about mining, though it is nowhere near as dangerous as fracking, to be honest, and have replied to consultations objecting to mining projects proposed in my country.
At the moment, communities in Northern Ireland, some of whom were previously licensed for fracking, are having to fight several mining projects. And at the height of the Romanian anti-fracking campaign, I remember meeting Romanians who were also involved in the campaign to save Rosia Montana from gold mining.
Anyone who opposes the raping and plundering of the land through fracking should also oppose mining or any industrial practice. Not to do so would be inconsistent, as all these practices pollute the air and water we all need to survive.
To answer your question properly, firstly, I think the term ‘fracking’ itself makes you sit up, encouraging you to delve deeper into the issue.
‘Shale gas’ on the other hand – as I experienced myself when I looked it up in the dictionary – tends to sound harmless, leaving you thinking, “Well, we need gas to heat our homes, don’t we?!” This is why the term ‘shale gas’ is preferred by the fracking industry, I believe.
And although ‘fracking’ may not have the same resonance in other languages, the documentary ‘Gasland’ by US filmmaker Josh Fox did much to popularise the term in non-English speaking countries, with translations into French, Romanian and Polish, and other languages too perhaps.
Secondly, I think the scale of what was being proposed across vast swathes of land, merely because of the geology, impacts thousands of communities. No other industry, in recent history at least, has impacted this many rural communities and no other industry has prompted so many places to enact bans and moratoria as a result of fierce grassroots opposition either.
Biologist Dr Sandra Steingraber and report co-author of the Compendium of Scientific, Medical, and Media Findings Demonstrating Risks and Harms of Fracking (Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction) has called fracking “the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
Having spent countless hours exploring fracking, I also believe that the impacts are far more severe than those associated with any other industrial process.
We have been fortunate to have had many experts – including Dr Steingraber, toxins expert Dr Marianne Lloyd-Smith, lawyer Helen Slottje, former oil and gas employee Jessica Ernst, as well as others who have seen fracking up close – come to Europe, warning us to fight with all our might.
And for good reason, because this industry has killed and harmed so many, from workers who have lost their lives in well blowouts or contracted cancers because of exposure to the toxic chemicals fracking uses and the NORM radiation the fracking process brings up – so well detailed by the late Dr Theo Colborn – to residents, children included, living in the gasfields suffering from severe neurological diseases caused by the toxic air pollution.
You also have suicides. The late George Bender, an Australian farmer, who was bullied for years by the fracking industry, ended up taking his own life a couple of years ago.
Then you have all the fish that have died because of fracking waste dumped in waterways and livestock that have suffered stillbirths. As Queensland gasfield refugee Brian Monk says, “You don’t live in gasfield. You die in one.”
Thirdly, I think fracking has raised the ire of so many because there is absolutely no need for it. The industry loves to tout energy security as an argument, but this is a complete red herring.
The reality is that fracking requires more energy than it creates – about five times more – and removes enormous quantities of our most precious resource, water, from the hydrological cycle forever.
There is also a global glut of gas, and gas demand across the EU has been falling steadily in recent years. So there can be no justification whatsoever for fracking.
Mining for raw materials, on the other hand, may be seen as justified by some. I mean, how many of us are willing to radically change our lifestyles so all the stuff relying on mining doesn’t need to be produced in the first place?
Try suggesting to people that they can and should live without a mobile phone (those of us who grew up without one survived perfectly well!) tends to provoke angry reactions.
Fourthly, the anti-fracking movement – largely grassroots and volunteer-based in nature – has done quite a good job of communicating the issue. Communication is crucial in mobilising people to take action. So often I see other struggles, equally worthy, being poorly communicated.
I think what’s important is that the communication is driven by local communities as much as possible. The corporate media loves to marginalise anti-fracking campaigners, portraying us as ‘environmentalists’, ‘green campaigners’, or worse ‘hippies’ and ‘treehuggers’.
In doing so, they give the impression that fracking is a fringe issue not worthy of everyone’s concern, when the complete opposite is true. In reality, the movement is made up of people from every background imaginable, from farmers and small business people to doctors and engineers.
Having communications driven by locals means you are able to capture all the cultural sensitivities too.
Framing our campaign as a struggle against corporate power and corporate-captured governments with ordinary people rising up against the odds also gets more people on board, in my experience. Again, unsurprisingly, the corporate media rarely frames our story this way.
Lastly, you definitely have a wider movement which vilifies the fossil fuel industry, and rightly so, because it exerts so much power over our governments. Other extractivist struggles, on the other hand, tend not to spark as much outrage, I feel.
Perhaps this is because any questioning of the capitalist system, and industrial civilisation as a whole, threatens so many depending on the system, especially NGOs who have far greater resources than grassroots groups to communicate environmental issues.
Shortly after I began researching fracking, I came across a book called ‘The Moneyless Man’ by Mark Boyle. Reading it led me to question industrial civilisation as a whole, so for me, fracking has always been just one part of a systemic problem.
At the heart of this problem lies our sense of separation from nature, a sense that we humans are in control of the earth’s resources and that we have the right to exploit them how we wish, oblivious to the fact that in doing so we are also destroying our only life-support system.
Living with less and challenging the system fuelling this greed and separation from nature has now become the focus of my efforts as a result of learning about fracking and wider environmental struggles.
What do you see as the main obstacles between the human species and a healthier, nature-connected future?
So much to say, but for me three obstacles in particular stand out: materialism, trust in authority and hope. Apologies in advance for what is going to be a lengthy reply.
– Materialism vs spirituality
First and foremost, I believe we need to abandon our material selves. For too long, we have seen ourselves as separate from nature, rather than a part of it. How can we forge a deep connection with nature, realising that all life is sacred, unless we are willing to strip ourselves of material belongings?
In becoming less materially-focused and more spiritual beings, we become less willing to destroy our life-support system, in my experience, as we feel a deeper attachment to nature.
How much do we really need to survive anyway? When you think about it carefully, very little. The only things I need to survive are a roof over my head and enough food.
Since discovering how earth’s precious resources are being raped and plundered and reading Mark Boyle’s book, a must-read for anyone who cares about the environment, I rarely buy anything I don’t need.
Each time I look at things now, I feel a sense of disgust even, wondering where the resources came from to make an item, what environments were polluted, if any slave labour or oppression was involved in its production, and so on.
I’ve also developed a repulsion towards money, choosing to work just enough to ensure my survival. What I’ve learned now is what you need more than anything in life are strong relationships.
Too often I see those involved in environmental struggles –- especially in anglophone countries – advocating renewable forms of energy which also involve destroying nature. I find this strange.
Perhaps it is this focus on reducing carbon emissions, rather than a focus on protecting the sacred, protecting all life? Perhaps many are still trapped in the materialist mindset?
The cosmovision shared by Indigenous communities tells us that we are interdependent with one another, that harming any natural resource is harming ourselves. This is the vision I share too, because on a planet of finite resources only a radical shift in our way of thinking, away from the disconnected view of humans as separate from (and often as dominant over) nature, can lead to the profound changes we need to see.
As Babe actor and anti-fracking activist James Cromwell put it succinctly in an interview : “It is time to name the disease. Capitalism is a cancer. And the only way to defeat this cancer is to completely transform our way of living and our way of thinking about ourselves.”
– Trust in authority vs trust in one another
Years of intense campaigning against fracking and free trade agreements has taught me how corrupted by corporate power the entire system has become.
I’ve learned now that genuine solutions to our problems can only ever come from below, not from any authority, and certainly not from any form of government, be it local, regional or national, nor from any multilateral institution, no matter how well-meaning and benevolent that institution may appear on the surface.
The system can also embody the NGO and non-profit sector who, I’ve experienced, will tell you what the problems are but seldom bother to call into question the very structures that create these problems in the first place.
And because the root cause of these problems is never properly addressed, the same problems of exploitation surface time and time again.
To learn just how corrupted our authorities have become by corporate power, I’d advise everyone to invest themselves wholeheartedly in an issue like fracking where the links between a corporate-controlled government, a corporate-controlled media and a corporate-controlled police force fast become apparent.
On learning how corrupt the system is, you should come to the inescapable conclusion that it deserves to be dismantled.
Unfortunately, not everyone does realise this, perhaps because they rely on the system in some way –- I don’t know.
For example, I remember being at a conference on free trade in the EU Parliament nearly two years ago listening to an NGO campaigner making a case for reforming the World Trade Organisation. Why would you want to reform an institution that was set up to facilitate corporate power, power which destroys nature?
Calling for institutions to reform is akin to justifying their existence in the first place. Instead, we need to be challenging their very existence and calling for them to be dismantled altogether.
A bit utopian, I know. But as corporate power dictates political policy more and more as corporations pursue ‘the race for what’s left, the global scramble for the world’s last resources’ – to borrow Michael Klare’s book title – it would be illogical to envision a nature-connected future within the confines of the current system.
We have a responsibility right now to challenge the system itself, the structures of authority which hold themselves up as legitimate, which declare themselves as bastions of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, structures which are desperately seeking legitimacy at a time of crumbling empires and dwindling resources.
This obviously includes all multilateral institutions, but also the state. From my involvement in the campaign against EU free trade agreements, or corporate power grabs as I prefer to call them, I’ve seen how the state facilitates corporate power, while dismissing scientific evidence, expert advice and public opinion.
How can we possibly hope to protect nature under such an oppressive, undemocratic system whose servants bow so readily to the will of corporations?
As empires crumble and we veer towards what can only be described as a corporate dystopia, we simultaneously witness authority figures struggling to convince us of their narratives.
Hence the crackdown on alternative media and this ‘fake news’ phenomenon, a phenomenon used by those in power to control what information the awakening masses have the right to access.
As you’ve put it succinctly, all across the world the “’democratic’ gloves are coming off, the ‘news’ is revealing itself to be nothing but desperate propaganda, the ‘freedom’ capitalism claims to deliver is being exposed to one and all as a hollow lie.”
It is more urgent than ever that we stop looking to the system for solutions, stop legitimising all structures of authority and any ‘agreements’ concluded by their ‘leaders’ and, most importantly of all, stop falling for any propaganda trying to convince us that this system in its many guises – capitalism, multilateralism, liberalism, etc. – needs rescuing.
Instead, we need to trust each other and cooperate with each other rather than compete as this capitalist system conditions us to do. I would recommend everyone read CrimetheInc’s ‘To Change Everything‘ for further inspiration.
– Hope vs the responsibility of action
Lastly, we need to abandon the idea of hope, at least the sort of hope that fails to result in any tangible action. The hope that a small band of self-sacrificing activists will sort out the problems we face, the hope that political representatives will implement, of their own accord, policies that serve our interests rather than those of the 1%, the hope that a change in government will bring about the radical changes we need to see. Nature isn’t relying on us to hope for it, it is relying on us to do something to save it.
In one of your pieces, you share a remark by John Zerzan which resonates strongly with me: “There is an understandable, if misplaced, desire that civilization will cooperate with us and deconstruct itself. This mindset seems especially prevalent among those who shy away from resistance, from doing the work of opposing civilization”.
Sometimes I get the impression that people hope too much, but do too little.
In my experience of being involved in the Irish anti-fracking campaign – which lasted six years – many of us never hoped, never trusted our corporate-captured government, but many of us did work tirelessly to expose the political corruption and to ensure decision makers were held to account, listened to us and eventually did the right thing.
Anyone relying on hope without spending every breathing moment working on something to make things better is part of the problem, in my view. All campaigns need to start from the premise that you have a duty to act once you know the facts.
And once you learn about an issue as dangerous as fracking, of course, you feel a clear responsibility to take action, not out of fear – because fear kills the soul – but out of love, because you cherish the places and the lives that are under threat and don’t want to see them destroyed by greedy corporations.
As you put it so well: “Some human beings and their activities are acting as antigens, threatening the health of our species and our planetary superorganism. Other humans must therefore take on the role of antibodies”.
The last lines of Derrick Jensen’s essay ‘Beyond Hope‘ sum up the problem with hope perfectly: “When you give up on hope, you turn away from fear. And when you quit relying on hope, and instead begin to protect the people, things, and places you love, you become very dangerous indeed to those in power. In case you’re wondering, that’s a very good thing.”
For as long as anyone can remember, Western capitalism has claimed to be one and the same thing as “democracy”.
But as its global empire teeters on the point of collapse, its desperate attempts to cling to power have exposed this claim for the lie that it always was.
Much of the current wave of censorship and oppression is taking place on the internet – which has thus so far remained out of the direct control of the neoliberal system.
This October, Facebook and Twitter deleted the accounts of hundreds of users, including many alternative media outlets.
And credit for this seems to have been claimed by the German Marshall Fund of the United States, a very dodgy NATO-linked organisation (previously exposed by The Acornhere and here) which aims to maintain full-spectrum US neoliberal global control.
The grayzone project reported that the GMF’s Jamie Fly said the USA was “just starting to push back” against its enemies’ use of the internet, adding: “Just this last week Facebook began starting to take down sites. So this is just the beginning”.
The USA’s ongoing persecution, and planned prosecution, of WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange could likewise be regarded as part of the same “beginning” of neoliberalism’s overtly fascistic desire to crush any voices that dare to speak out against its imperial privilege.
Soo too could the coming to power in Brazil of the totalitarian neoliberal (or “plutofascist“) Jair Bolsonaro.
The Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira (Brazilian Anarchist Coordination) point out the geopolitical forces that lie behind his regime: “It’s clear our continent, Latin America, is seen as a strategic reserve of resources (political, natural, energy) for the use of the US, which makes the political situation of Brazil so important to Washington”.
Bolsonaro has followed the USA’s lead in declaring war on so-called “fake news”, which seems to mean any criticism of his policies by a supposedly “left-wing” media.
The UK government is also getting in on the censorship act, announcing that it is preparing to establish a new “internet regulator”.
Reports Buzzfeed: “The planned regulator would have powers to impose punitive sanctions on social media platforms that fail to remove terrorist content, child abuse images, or hate speech, as well as enforcing new regulations on non-illegal content and behaviour online”.
All of this helps further reduce what the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) recently called “the shrinking space for protest in the UK”.
Netpol’s Kevin Blowe wrote: “The militarised mentality of public order policing undoubtedly demands the latest technological advances, but it does so for a reason: conducting any war is never simply about the capture of physical space, but about the ability to maintain domination and control over it.
“’Keeping the peace’ (perhaps more accurately, pacification) involves the shrinking and ultimately denial of any space that your ‘enemy’ might conceivably benefit from. In public order policing terms, this invariably means any space to directly challenge either state or corporate power exercised in the name of progress or economic growth: for example, against the construction of airports, subsidies for the arms industry, nuclear power, fossil fuel extraction, or restrictions on workers’ rights”.
Netpol’s 2017 report on the policing of anti-fracking protests in England highlighted concerns that intense police surveillance of protesters has a potentially ‘chilling effect’ on freedom of assembly, in actively discouraging many from participation in campaigning activities.
“Furthermore, the smearing of legitimate campaigners as ‘extremists’ drives a wedge between them and potential allies in their communities and is used as a weapon against them by the media and pro-industry groups”, added Blowe.
Meanwhile, after the trial run with dogs, the microchipping of the UK’s human population is underway, starting at that point of greatest disempowerment, the workplace.
UK firm BioTeq has already fitted 150 implants in the UK. Another company, Biohax of Sweden, says it is in discussions with several British legal and financial firms about fitting their employees with microchips, including one major company with hundreds of thousands of employees.
If you can’t see the connection between this news and everything that has been outlined above, then you’re really not paying attention!
Work penetrates and determines the whole of our existence. Time flows mercilessly by as we shuttle back and forth between depressing and identical locations at ever-increasing speeds.
Working time… Productive time… Free time… Every one of our activities fits into its box. We think of acquiring knowledge as an investment for a future career; joy is transformed into entertainment and wallows in an orgy of consuming; our creativity is crammed within the narrow limits of productivity; our relationships, even our romantic encounters, speak the language of performance and profitability…
Our alienation has reached the point where we seek out any kind of work, even voluntary, to fill our existential void, to “do something”.
The identification of work with human activity, this doctrine which presents work as human beings’ natural destiny, seems to be lodged deep within our minds. This has reached the point where to refuse this forced condition, this social constraint, seems sacrilege, something no longer even thinkable.
Thus any kind of work becomes better than not working. That is the message spread by the defenders of the existing, those who want to maintain this world by calling for an ever-more frenetic race amongst the exploited, who are supposed to trample all over each other for a few crumbs from the bosses’ table.
However, it is not only the general working conditions that are leading us into this dead-end. It is work as a whole, work as a process which turns human activity into merchandise. It is work as a universal condition in which social relationships and ways of thinking are formatted.
It is work as the spinal column that holds together and perpetuates this society based on hierarchy, exploitation and oppression. And work as such must be destroyed.
We don’t just want to be happier slaves or better managers of our own misery. We want to restore meaning to human activity by acting together, guided by the quest for joie de vivre, knowledge, discovery, camaraderie and solidarity.
For individual and collective liberation, let’s liberate ourselves from work!
(Translated from anonymous leaflet Le travail libère-t-il?)
No political party has overall control of Brighton and Hove City Council, but Labour has the most councillors (22), with 20 Tories, 11 Greens and one independent.
A sign of the campaign’s momentum came four days after the public meeting, on November 16, when the East Brighton branch of the Labour Party unanimously called on all Labour councillors to oppose the development.
The housing scheme is being proposed by Hyde Housing, a business notorious for its profit-hungry approach.
It wants to build five blocks of flats on the local nature reserve at Whitehawk Hill, which is a common, Statutory Access land under the CROW Act and is an Ancient Neolithic Scheduled Monument.
An interesting side-issue has been the role played by something called Brighton Yimby, which claims to be a local pro-development group and announced online a “Whitehawk Says Yes” campaign in favour of the Hyde project.
It seems to have very little support in Brighton itself, with the notable exception of local Tory politician Rico Wojtulewicz, who also happens to be the senior policy advisor for the House Builders Association (HBA), the housebuilding division of the National Federation of Builders.
Instead it is very much part of an international, mainly American, “Yimby” network described in one US article as “the darlings of the real estate industry”.
We can only assume that when BrightonYimby claimed to speak “for the interests of the many” it meant to say “money”.
An impressive series of infographics has been produced, showing the variety of complementary ideas challenging the global domination of industrial capitalism. The illustrations cover degrowth, ecofeminism, deglobalization, the commons, the Vivir Bien movement and the concept of the rights of Mother Earth. Importantly, all these perspectives are recognised as complementary and opening up the possibility of a different world. Says the website: “To build systemic alternatives it is necessary to forge strategies and proposals that at different levels confront capitalism, extractivism, productivism, patriarchy, plutocracy and anthropocentrism”.
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A dynamic protest movement, NO TAP, has emerged in Melendugno, near Lecce in southern Italy, in response to the threat of the 540-mile Trans Adriatic Pipeline, due to bring gas from Azerbaijan into Europe via Turkey, Greece and Albania. Local anger was sparked in 2017 when the start of the works resulted in the uprooting of more than 200 olive trees and the creation of a securitised dead zone at the heart of the community. People have mobilised in numbers and have, inevitably, been met with repression by the police, those worldwide defenders of the industrial machine. NO TAP have produced a short video giving an idea of their full-on first year of struggle and which includes the following inspiring message: “The sun is shining for everyone, the wind is blowing for everyone… the possibility of realizing change is only a matter of will”.
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A protest is to be staged against the Welsh government’s plan to build a new motorway across the Gwent Levels, to the south of Newport. It would cost taxpayers at least £1.5 billion and drive global warming, whilst destroying a landscape known for its wildlife, archaeology, tranquillity and beauty. Says the CALM campaign: “Join us to say #NoNewM4, 12.30pm, Tuesday 4th December, outside the Senedd, Cardiff Bay. Our rally is an urgent call for Wales to take a fresh path – fit for all of us today, and for all our future generations”.
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Angry local people in eastern France are rising up against a hideous toll motorway project near Strasbourg, and some of them have been on hunger strike for a month. The 553-million Euro GCO scheme threatens many acres of forest and countryside and has been pushed through by the state and its corporate chums Vinci in spite of public inquiries coming out against it. Protesters have regularly blocked the work, causing serious delays in the project, and on November 18 some 400 people turned up to plant trees on the land already rased to make way for the new road. There is an international call-out to block Vinci everywhere in solidarity.
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The week of action against the G20 and IMF in Argentina (see Acorn 44) begins on Monday November 26 and the full programme of events has now gone online, in English, here. A date to keep an eye open for is Friday November 30, which is a national day of struggle against capitalism.
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We have come across two interesting online articles about that grim industrial-capitalist cult of life-denying artificiality known as transhumanism. Libby Emmons writes that “transhumanism is oppression disguised as liberation” and “part of a giant ideological redefinition of humanity”. She warns: “In its various forms, transhumanism is an attempt to reify an illusory mind-body dualism that has consequences well beyond what we can currently imagine”. And Julian Vigo comments on the dogmatic intolerance of the transhumanist stance, which paints as reactionary any point of view which questions, for instance, the wisdom of “cutting off healthy limbs to make way for a super-Olympian sportsperson”.
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“Thames Valley Police sent in multiple riot vans, used force against protesters several times and stood by as the Union’s private security assaulted protesters in broad daylight. One of the main chants throughout the demonstration was ‘Who protects the fascists? Police protect the fascists!'” The reality of the way that the capitalist system promotes and protects the far right was once again exposed in Oxford, UK, this month, where Islamophobic American globe-trotter Steve Bannon was met by a hostile 1,000-strong crowd when he turned up at the university. Report here.
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An exciting new step is being taken by the Enough is Enough project, which provides online news and info on the international struggle against capitalism, fascism and other forms of injustice. It is opening an info café in the Nordstadt district of Wuppertal, German territory. They say: “We do not just believe in a better world. We have started to live it a long time ago. And you all can decide if you want to become part of this world”. They have a crowdfunding site here.
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Feral Crust is an eco-anarchist collective based in Davao, Philippines, which is working on a land and community project. It is set on 1/2 hectare (1 acre) of the hilly terrain within the remaining forests that is home to native wildlife and indigenous people. You can read about their bid for land regeneration and autonomy here.
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In the midst of a devastating civil war, Kurds in Northern Syria, are building a multi-cultural society based on feminism, ecology, and direct democracy. How can these ideas lead to a lasting peace in the Middle East? What are their implications for radical politics in the West? What is it about the social structures of Rojava that inspires the fierce loyalty of its defenders and its people? Join Debbie Bookchin and David Graeber in London at the DJAM Lecture Theatre SOAS Russell Square Campus to discuss these issues Sunday November 25 from 5pm to 7pm at an event to launch the new publication Make Rojava Green Again by the Internationalist Commune in Rojava. The book will be available to buy and all proceeds from sales support the work of the Internationalist Commune. More information here.
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Acorn quote: “This system cannot be reformed. It is based on the destruction of the earth and the exploitation of the people. There is no such thing as green capitalism, and marketing cutesy rainforest products will not bring back the ecosystems that capitalism must destroy to make its profits. This is why I believe that serious ecologists must be revolutionaries”.
1. Germany: man dies as forest campaigners defy industrial capitalism
The battle to protect a forest from the coal mining industry has claimed a life.
Journalist and campaigner Steffen Horst Meyn fell to his death on September 19 from the tree house village Beechtown in Hambach Forest, Germany. He had been trying to document an ongoing eviction action by the police Special Task Force (SEK).
A press release from campaigners said it was no coincidence that this first fatal accident took place during the eviction.
They said everyone in the occupations had been enduring constant stress, with noise from expulsion and clearing, day and night, floodlights and flashing blue lights, massive police presence on the ground, and the sound of barking dogs and recordings of chainsaw noises.
This, as well as the news about the repeatedly life-threatening approach of the task forces, was having a physical and mental impact on all involved. Insomnia, stress and over-stimulation were not conducive to safe tree climbing, they added.
“According to our information, there is no direct connection with the acute local police action at the time of the accident. But we know first-hand that the deceased only climbed into the trees because he was permanently prevented by the police from doing his press work on the ground.”
On Sunday September 23 thousands of people defied a police ban and pouring rain to enter the forest in solidarity.
Said one activist: “We didn’t visit the memorial for Steffen in Beechtown until Sunday and we felt that we had to go there first. At the memorial it was very quiet. Some tears, sorrow-stricken faces. Personally I had a mixture of feelings.. Still shocked, grief and rage. Speechless…”
Barricades were built, police lost control for a while and reacted in the only way they know – violently.
On September 24 forest defenders blocked the railway line used to transport coal from the open cast mine to power stations, hoping to draw police resources away from the eviction – see this video.
Then on September 25 the cops demonstrated their total lack of respect for Steffen, removing the memorial built up by his friends because it was in the way of the eviction!
Meanwhile the Hambach activists are not losing sight of the bigger picture, stressing in a statement that the issues at stake go far beyond that particular forest and that particular mining threat.
“The problem is much larger than this forest getting cut and this coal mine being active. The problem is larger than every forest getting cut and every mine destroying Earth. The problem is capitalism. And this is the message that the media has been taking away from us.
“You can live a cute easy life, sign petitions, buy stuff on the biomarket, close the sink while you are brushing your teeth and turn off all lights to not waste electricity, and, don’t get us wrong, that’s okay, but as long as we live on a system that needs infinite growth on a world that has limited resources, that’s not gonna stop environmental destruction.
“We need an anticapitalist view of ecologism. We need an ecologist view of anticapitalism. We need to see beyond coal. And we need you all to make a step farther to stop climate change, to make a step farther to destroy capitalism.”
Global capitalist summits, at which the system’s leaders flaunt their prestige and power in front of the fawning global media, make an ideal target for anti-capitalist action.
Yes of course the opposition is symbolic, and does not immediately change day-to-day living conditions, but so are the summits. Wars of ideas are fought on a symbolic level.
Sly “radical” memes suggesting large-scale mobilisations are a waste of time often seem to have come straight out of The Infiltrator’s Guide to Ideological Sabotage (see below) and can safely be ignored.
With that in mind, we were delighted to see the call-outs for two summit mobilisations, in Argentina and in France.
This year, the Argentinian government is hosting the G20, a one-year process during which more than 80 meetings of G20 working groups, ministerial meetings and summits of the focus groups are taking place in the country.
The Leaders’ summit, for which the presidents from the G20 countries will travel to Buenos Aires, will take place on Friday November 30 and Saturday December 1 2018 at the “Costa Salguero” Convention Centre.
The government of Mauricio Macri is already preparing for the mega-event, buying airplanes, arms and what they call “anti-riot equipment” . In fact, one third of the budget for organizing the G20 is dedicated to “safety and defence”, which roughly amounts to 50 million US$.
And while the government is spending millions on the G20, it is cutting expenses for education and health and has entered a dangerous spiral of indebtedness by asking the IMF for a loan of 50 billion US$ in order to assure the country’s liquidities and its capacity to pay speculative hedge funds.
Says the No Al G20 website: “We believe that, in the same way that organising the G20 Summit last year in Hamburg was a massive provocation, organising the G20 Summit in Argentina in the context of this devastating financial crisis is an insult.”
The Confluencia Fuera G20 – IMF (the “G20 – IMF Out Confluence)” is planning a massive Week of Action, from the November 25 to December 1 and is inviting everyone to participate in the global repudiation of the G20, the IMF and everything these institutions represent.
Anti-capitalist comrades in France clearly think the Buenos Aires mobilisation is summit to get excited about, writing: “After the magnificent period of resistance around the G20 summit in Hamburg in 2017, after the G7 summit of June 2018 in Quebec – placed under an unparalleled repressive level, with its free expression zone – the G20 summit at Buenos Aires in November / December 2018 promises to be a great moment, given the current popularity of Macri, the history of local struggles, and the animosity of the region towards Trump…”
The 2019 G7 summit is due to take place at the end of summer 2019 in Biarritz. Says the call-out: “We have no illusions about the repressive level that we are entitled to expect from [Minister of the Interior] Gérard Collomb. It is clear that this summit will once again be a law enforcement laboratory, as will judicial measures against demonstrators and those who are organizing themselves.
“However, what happened in Hamburg must inspire us, must allow us to resume fighting on this scale, strengthen our international ties, make the news, disrupt these meetings of our governments.
“We are indeed calling for organizing, starting meetings, discussions, thinking about actions, demonstrations, preparing an info-tour, strengthening our national and international ties, writing articles, leaflets…
“We have one year ahead of us. And given the current repressive level, this time will not be too much. And as in Hamburg, we want the resistance to be plural and everywhere.
The British state is spending more than £250m on a new “offensive” online army, according to media reports.
Inevitably the move from the Ministry of Defence and GCHQ is being dressed up with scaremongering around the “threat” from Russia and Islamic State, but there is also talk of a “much wider online offensive” against “a range of hostile actors”.
To better understand what this sinister outfit might be getting up to, it is worth looking back at an article in The Intercept on the activities of GCHQ’s initially secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group), based on classified GCHQ documents.
Author Glenn Greenwald explains that it is not just “terrorists” who are targeted by JTRIG, but online activists, and the methods used go well beyond mere surveillance (stifling though that is, especially in the UK).
He writes: “These agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.
“Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable.”
The official document lists different kinds of operations it uses against dissidents: Infiltration Operation, Ruse Operation, Set Piece Operation, False Flag Operation, False Rescue Operation, Disruption Operation, Sting Operation.
Anyone wondering why radical groups (known to be heavily infiltrated by the state), so often split and fall apart may be interested to see the emphasis on “destructive organisational psychology” and on “identifying and exploiting fracture points”.
Sabotaging activism is generally high on the agenda. One illustration lists a series of key words: block, turn, fix, disrupt, limit, delay.
It is also clear that GCHQ sets out to manipulate political discourse online. Shunting radical anti-capitalism into obscure ideological dead-ends would be a useful dirty trick for these Thought Police to pull off.
With several references to stage magicians in their presentation document, JTRIG obviously rely on the gullibility of activists to make their scheming effective, as well as the “group-think” phenomenon in which people abandon their own instinctive common sense in order to fit in with the flock, no matter what nonsense the other sheep are bleating.
They note: “People make decisions as part of groups”. Control the group and you control the average individual – and their thinking.
Absurd capitalist pontificator Bernard-Henri Lévy has joined in the laughable and panicky propaganda efforts to portray all challengers to the US-led neoliberal system as part of one and the same threat to “democracy”.
BHL, as he is known, warns against a “terrifying” movement he calls the “dark Internationale” and into which he lumps everyone from left-wingers such as Jeremy Corbyn and Jean-Luc Mélenchon to the likes of Viktor Orban, Matteo Salvini, Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump.
Singling out Corbyn for criticism, he particularly objects to his support for the Palestinian cause, which apparently makes him a conspiracy theorist and “unalloyed anti-Semite”.
BHL, despite being a self-identified “leftist”, also dislikes Corbyn’s “crass ignorance of the functioning of a modern economy and the impression he gives, when speaking about renationalization, tax policy, anti-austerity measures, the health system, or public services, of being stuck in the paleo-Marxism of the 1950s”.
And he is very worried by Corbyn’s “untethered loathing for an America he blames for all ills” – a political heresy which can only usher in, it seems, an “oncoming twilight of democracy and humanistic values”.
BHL has form for this sort of thing. In 1977 he declared he would change his French nationality if the Communist Party came to power in France and in 1985 he signed a letter urging Ronald Reagan to keep supporting the far-right Contras in Nicaragua.
In 2009 he publicly supported Israel’s murderous Operation Cast Lead against the people of Gaza.
BHL’s rabid pro-Americanism did not go unappreciated in the USA. As we mentioned in Acorn 34, a CIA report revealed they were very keen on the “New Philosopher”, whose position of power at the Grasset publishing house was crucial in spreading the US-friendly ideology he was promoting.
It is hardly surprising that BHL is widely despised by French-speaking anti-capitalists and he has also become a figure of ridicule, thanks to the series of custard pies skillfully aimed at him by celebrated entarteur Noël Godin.
We invite our readers to sit back and enjoy the sight of BHL getting his come-uppance from the patisserie-armed wing of the “dark Internationale” that so terrifies him.
A festival of anarchist ideas is being held in London in October, with the non-appearance of the usual bookfair after last year’s controversy (see Acorn 38).
Organisers explain: “It is vital the tradition remains and the work of spreading anarchist ideas continues. To go some small way to filling the gap, the organisers of the London Radical Bookfair have proposed having a decentralised festival of anarchist ideas and action, involving as many of London’s anarchist leaning bookshops, social centres and campaign groups as are willing to take part. We’re calling it #nottheanarchistbookfair.
“The idea is simple: anarchist groups put on their own programme of events, concentrating on the dates of the weekend of 20-21st October 2018, and the programme is collated by us on our website and social media”.
The battle to save Leith Hill in Surrey from drilling has finally been won! Two years ago we reported an optimistic mood at the protection camp, with one campaigner telling us “nobody except a handful of investors wants the drilling here at Leith Hill to go ahead”. He was proved right and earlier this month Europa Oil and Gas announced it was pulling out of the site. Green Party MEP Keith Taylor commented: “Don’t let anybody ever tell you protests don’t achieve anything. They do.”
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A cooperative café and social centre sowing the seeds of revolution in Jerusalem is featured in the latest report from the anti-capitalist Shoal Collective. The Imbala collective explain they are faced with an increasingly nationalistic atmosphere: “We held a vigil of just 20 or 30 people in Jerusalem city centre. People yelled, spat and kicked us and all our signs were torn away from us. That’s the atmosphere of Jerusalem today. It’s difficult to have a left-wing protest against the occupation here these days.”
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Direct action was taken in Australia against toxic right-wing anti-migrant politician Peter Dutton. Six windows were smashed at his political office near Brisbane and two doors damaged. The former cop, turned businessman, property tycoon and politician, is known by some Australians as Potato Head. He is currently Minister for Home Affairs.
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“For too long we have falsely believed that everything progressive, democratic, and radically left comes from the Modern West. As we support contemporary emancipatory and revolutionary global movements, let us remember that truly equal and just non-authoritarian societies are not only possible, but have existed on the African and other continents for much longer than the recent phenomenon of tyranny, the state, and capitalism.” This is the conclusion of a fascinating article on Indigenous Anarchism by DJ Zhao, highlighted recently by anarchist blog The Slow Burning Fuse.
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“Mother Earth or death! This is the alternative we are confronted with today”, argues Prof. Claudia von Werlhof in an important article. She adds: “The world system that is threatening all of us is based on a strange phenomenon I was only recently able to fully grasp, namely a ‘hatred of life’… The hatred of life is no fleeting emotion or a mere individual or personal experience of a certain situation or moment. It is nothing less than hostility to life itself, which – and this is my thesis – has become the main foundation, driving force, and defining criterion for a patriarchal civilization dating back almost 5000 years.”
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A unity demo against the far right in the UK has been called for Saturday October 13 in London. The call-out has so far been supported by: Anti-Fascist Network, Anti-Fascist Student Network, Birmingham Antifascists, Easton Cowgirls Football Club, Feminist Fightback, International Bolshevik Tendency, Leicester Antifascists, Kent Anti-Racist Network, Kurdish Student Union UK, London Anti-Fascists, Midlands Antifascist Network, North East Anti-Fascists, North London Anti-Fascists, Plan C – London, Birmingham, Essex, Cambridge, Queerspace East, Sister not Cister UK, The x:talk project, Women’s Strike Assembly – London, Birmingham, Cardiff. Meanwhile an excellent short documentary on the UK’s far right has been produced by redfish.
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Acorn quote: “I am the living spirit of nature as it emerges in you, filtered by the collective mind of the human species”.
The call is going out to mobilise against a fascistic and militaristic “security” conference being staged in Austria on September 20, 2018.
The informal meeting of EU heads of state and government is being held under the slogan of “A Europe that protects”, and key points on the agenda include so-called “internal security”, the so-called “protection” of the EU’s external borders, and so-called “cyber security”.
Say opponents: “We refuse to be deceived by the EU’s excessive use of euphemism. It is crystal-clear that the Salzburg summit will be a summit of authority: a pseudo-democratic spectacle of a bunch of assholes deciding about repressive policies that will boost their position in the struggle for economic and military power – at our expense.
“‘Internal security’ means giving even more weapons of all kinds to those whose job it is to spy on us and arrest us. The ‘protection of the EU’s external borders’ is the militarized expulsion and deterrence of refugees and migrants. ‘Cyber security’ means digital control of our data and our actions.”
Migration will be a key point on the agenda on September 20. In an insidious propagandistic move, people fleeing from war and hardship are portrayed as a security threat. But whose security is meant, and who is supposed to be protected from whom?
Calls for an extended Frontex mandate and an increased number of deportations have a clear aim: the militarized expulsion and deterrence of people fleeing the devastations caused by power blocks such as the EU, who actively engage in the exploitation of the Global South.
Politicians are vying with one another for the most absurd plans. To name just one example, Jens Spahn, the Health Minister (sic!) of the German conservative party (CDU) wants to see Frontex forces multiply from the current 1,500 to 100,000.
The portrayal of refugees as a security threat serves to legitimize policies of “internal security”, that is the increased arming of the state’s institutions for spying and repression.
Sadly, governmental and non-governmental racist-nationalist projects have won over the minds of a considerable proportion of the population (not only) in Austria – with the result that people enthusiastically embrace policies that run against their own interests, believing that these measures will “protect” them.
For instance, the new Austrian Face-Veiling-Ban makes surveillance much easier by forcing each and every person on Austrian territory to present their face to the ubiquitous CCTV cameras at all times. This is hardly likely to foster the “peaceful coexistence” mentioned in the preamble to the new law.
Another European trend is the increased arming and militarization of the police and the extension of their powers. The new Bavarian police law is a particularly scary example: police in the southern German state are set to be given secret-service-style powers. “Smart” video technology and face recognition are going to be used, postal secrecy will be lifted, and the cops will be equipped with hand grenades.
The Austrian conservative chancellor Sebastian “Message Control” Kurz has announced he will take up the “struggle against internet giants such as Google and Facebook”. Of course, digital policies are not driven by the desire to protect the personal data of the EU’s subjects. Neither do they arise from sincere outrage about the large-scale tax evasion practised by corporations.
On the contrary, the driving force of such policies is the competition for technological hegemony among those in power and for the technological means to monitor our thoughts and actions.
Those in power in the EU have recognized the need to secure control over the technological apparatus, in order to keep up with the latest top manipulation techniques (e.g. look up “nudging” in your newspeak dictionary). In this context, chancellor Kurz tellingly used the phrase “equality of weapons”.
According to press reports, the state dinner on September 19 is likely to take place in Mirabell Palace, and the political meeting in the Mozarteum University. Thus, both relevant venues as well as the four hotels where the heads of state and government, plus their entourage, will be staying for the summit will be in close proximity to each other (all in the inner city of Salzburg to the right of the river Salzach).
Around these venues, a so-called “security zone” is going to be set up – for rebels it is more likely to be an insecurity zone. In mid-April, local press reported the planned use of drones “as one part of the security concept for the Austrian presidency of the EU council”.
The call-out adds: “Police drones will be hovering above our heads this autumn, spying on and filming each of our movements. When will they shoot at us?
“The militarized siege of our city that is lying ahead seems like a consistent follow-up to local policies. Decades ago, homeless people were removed from the inner city during the posh Salzburg Festival, and a sectoral ban on begging was imposed on large parts of the inner city some years ago in order to get rid of the travelling poor, many of them Romani and Sinti people.
“These measures are supposed to make sure that the city’s wealthy conservative elite and paying tourists are spared the sight of the poverty caused by capitalism and nationalist-racist policies of expulsion. This is how Salzburg discriminates between wanted and unwanted guests.
“We are calling all partisans of freedom and equality to come to Salzburg in mutual solidarity – let’s demonstrate what is really unwanted: the oppression caused by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, the nationalism feeding on antisemitic conspiracy theories, the positions of power that enable a system of inequality to live on.
After the long-awaited victory against the airport project, residents of the zad autonomous zone at Notre-Dame-des-Landes in France are trying to recover from a brutal spring which was marked by two phases of violent evictions.
The massive police operations caused many injuries, the destruction of a part of the living spaces of the zad and involved a long military presence. But the state was forced to give up going any further and entirely eradicating the rebel presence.
Resistance on the ground, solidarity elsewhere and the negotiation process resulted in a status quo that left dozens of homes, common spaces and activities on most of the land held by the movement. Nevertheless, this could very quickly be attacked again, administratively, politically or militarily.
Whilst the zad recovers from its wounds and recomposes itself, the work in the fields and the constructions resume.
Important global issues are involved here: collective and respectful use of the land, sharing of the commons, questioning of nation-states and borders, reappropriation of habitats, the possibility of producing and exchanging free from the shackles of the market, forms of self-organization on territories in resistance and the right to live there freely.
Following more than two years of regular building work and a new month of construction this summer, the week of August 27 to September 2 will also be the inauguration of the Ambazada, a space intended to welcome rebels and struggles from around the world to the zad of Notre-Dame-des-Landes.
To honour and celebrate the opening of the Ambazada the zad rebels have made a call for a new intergalactic week.
The zad forever site says there are lots of questions to be discussed, such as “how to throw down the anchor for the long term without becoming domesticated; being community centred or more porous in our movements; the power struggles and frontal relationship with the state and possibilities for victories to last”.
Part of the week will be devoted to open encounters with guests from the Wendland in Germany, Christiania in Denmark, the free district of Lentillères in France, Errekaleor in the Basque Country and perhaps Exarchia in Greece.
There will also be discussions on the way that peoples everywhere are resisting cultural assimilation and liberal ideology.
The US air base at Ramstein in Germany was completely blocked by a protest of 2,500 people at the end of June, calling for it to be closed.
Ramstein is the biggest American air base outside the USA and hosts the USAF’s European HQ, and control rooms for drone missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.
On a blistering hot day better suited for a trip to the pool, and despite the rival attraction of the World Cup, opponents of the base turned up in large numbers for the annual protest in Rhineland-Palatinate in southwestern Germany.
Sahra Wagenknecht of Die Linke (The Left), Ann Wright (former US Army colonel), Reiner Braun (of Stopp Air Base Ramstein) and Eugen Drewermann (theologian and psychoanalyst) were all in attendance. Wagenknecht told the crowd: “There are over 1,000 US military bases around the world, and none of them exist to ensure the security of those countries”.
The protest came as US President Donald Trump seemed to be questioning the need for the huge US military presence in Germany, which has been in place since the end of the Second World War.
Protesters hoped this could put the issue on the political agenda in Germany, though they warned they did not want to see the bases simply moved into Poland as part of US pressure on Russia.
A new international network against military bases has now been set up. Its founding statement defines the establishment of a military base by one country outside its own territory is an act of aggression.
It declares: “Our goal is to close all foreign military bases. Military bases pose threats of political and economic expansion, sabotage and espionage, and crimes against local populations. US bases in particular are the largest users of fossil fuel in the world, heavily contributing to environmental degradation.
“We commit to supporting and working with all organizations and networks who campaign for the removal of foreign military bases in their countries and communities, to raise public awareness, increase political and international pressure and help as far as possible to organise and co-ordinate non-violent resistance with the aim of eventually closing them all.”
4. Returning fire against the industrial capitalist system
The latest issue from our comrades at Return Fire magazine is now available online.
At 128 pages, this is their largest offering yet. It includes previously unavailable English translations looking at the bandits operating against shipping industries off the Somalian coastline and Marco Camenisch’s commentary on the molecular frontier of industrial toxicity, Nanotechnology & Transparency.
There is a look at the “New Smart World of Slaves” into which we are currently moving and at anti-state forms of social life in Zomia, south-east Asia, amongst much else.
Here is a passage from a heart-felt piece called “We are not afraid of their ruins… We carry a new chaos in our hearts”:
“We proclaim from our madness, rebellious and contagious, that we don’t care about the penal codes and their reforms because we do not believe in their laws or in their disorders.
“Since we were born we have lived in turmoil and subjected to the rule of law, the family, religion, medicine, school, work, husband, father, state… and disobeying them all, and for that reason they have labeled us with their despicable assortment of incurable and chronic diseases.
“They condemn us for life even before we are born, and we will continue shitting on their scientific, political, economic, social and religious truths, because obedience and submission are the only true diseases.
“We began a long tormented journey in which we were torn from our natural environment to join the system of a world to which we do not want to adapt. We will always be uneasy, unstable, critical, irritating, miserable, emotional, passionate, restless, resistant, distracted, loving, hyperactive, overflowing… and warriors, because we will not give up germinating our madness in the face of the blackmail and emotional conflicts with which they want to domesticate us and the permanent confrontation between us and them.
“We are sick with a dark bile of rage that stirs like a storm against all those who feel safe and secure in this uncertain world that, day by day, destroys us. They contaminate the air we breathe with sulfur and uranium. The waters of the rivers are increasingly toxic due to their heavy metal slag discharges.
“Their emissions of dioxides, methane and fluorinated polluting gases are suffocating and burning nature and putting at risk the survival of all animals, human or nonhuman, and plant beings.
“They covered the planet with a thick skin of toxic black paste and surrounded the territory with rail tracks, highways, metal fences, concrete walls, high voltage towers and barbed wire fences… separating us from our siblings and neighbors and filling the atmosphere with electromagnetic radiation.
“They keep the mountains seriously ill from wounds opened by quarries, mineral extraction and deforestation. They imprison nonhuman animals to die in industrial farms, and they enlist us in industrial centers of penitentiary exploitation.
“They bomb civilian populations in the name of freedom, justice and democracy, plundering entire countries for questioning their hegemonic model of capitalist, white, patriarchal, western and Christian life, leading thousands of people into the blind alley of their misery, destruction and death.
“And it is they, the selfproclaimed guardians of the freedoms of the world, of this destructive world order that is nothing new, who consider us ‘crazy’ and ‘dangerous subjects’ to justify our gags, the pharmacological straitjackets, the confinement to perpetuity and the death sentence.
“Our ‘madness’ is not fooled by the modern designs of the democratized chemical lobotomies and shock therapies that they use as torment and torture in the most bloody of dictatorships… because they fear us.
“They, those who throw us out of our houses, those who after exploiting us in their factories force us into unemployment. They, those who determine who has more ‘right’ to live in a territory that is not theirs and in which they can only maintain their privileges by the harsh repression and by the destructive capacity of the weapons of their armies… They fear us”.
5. The Broken Harp: how colonialism crushes culture
When we think of people suffering under colonial occupation, a number of elements immediately spring to mind.
There is the military and repressive side, of course. The occupiers’ army bases and patrols, the courts and prisons enforcing the “legality” of the occupation and the local police forces who collaborate with the colonisers to keep down their own people.
Then there is the economic aspect, ultimately the raison d’être of all imperialism. Raw materials are ripped out of the earth to feed the empire’s insatiable greed, crops are exported directly back to the imperial centre even if locals are starving, the colonial subjects are denied the right to autonomous lives and are put to work as slaves for the imperial machine.
Those who look into the effects of colonialism more closely will also detect the cultural dimension. The values of the ruling imperial order are imposed and local culture, traditions and ways of thinking, which might offer some resistance to the smooth running of the centralised system, are devalued and destroyed.
One aspect of this cultural colonisation which is easily forgotten, especially by those of us who are native English speakers, is the linguistic one.
The crucial importance of this issue is examined in depth in The Broken Harp: Identity and Language in Modern Ireland by Tomás Mac Síomóin, published by Nuascéalta.
The starting point for Mac Síomóin’s analysis is his own home country, where the Irish Gaelic language risks becoming extinct within a few decades, if current trends continue, despite its superficial presence on road signs and the like.
He takes issue with the assumption, apparently widespread in Ireland, that Irish particularity can just as well be expressed by speaking English in a particularly Irish way.
He points out that words, in any language, have an aura of subtle associations that are specific to the culture which gave rise to them. The English word “seaweed”, for example, is not the exact equivalent of “feamainn”, which comes with its “own unique set of social and literary allusions”.
The inability of any community to express itself in its own terms, according to its own thinking, is a form of disempowerment that runs parallel to the inability to participate in decision-making processes.
Effectively, by talking and thinking in the coloniser’s language, the colonial subject submits to the dominant worldview of the coloniser. This is the “defining colonizing moment”, as Mac Síomóin puts it.
He quotes academic historian Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh as describing the abandonment of native language as inevitably involving “a disorienting rupture in cultural continuity at several levels; not only an alienation from landscape (place names) and inherited historical narratives and communal myths, but also a deep psychological trauma, at an individual and communal level, caused by the loss of a rich inherited matrix of wisdom and knowledge.”
The issue is by no means confined to Ireland, of course. More than 6,000 languages are currently spoken around the globe, but between 50% and 90% of these are likely to have vanished by the year 2100, warn experts.
Mac Síomóin cites perspectives from other continents, where the death of local culture has gone hand in hand with the death of local language.
The Kenyan writer and cultural activist, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, for instance, writes: “Communication between human beings is the basis and process of evolving culture. Values are the basis of people’s identity, their sense of particularity as members of the human race. All this is carried by language. Language as culture is the collective memory bank of a people’s experience in history. Culture is almost indistinguishable from the language that makes possible its genesis, growth, banking, articulation and indeed its transmission from one generation to the next.”
He adds: “The bullet was the means of the physical subjugation. Language was the means of the spiritual subjugation.”
In their Neo-Colonial Politics and Language Struggle in the Philippines (1984), Virgilio G. Enriquez and Elizabeth Protacio-Marcelino argue that possession of a national language is an essential precondition for autonomy.
They say the continued use of English in a US-oriented educational system “undermines Filipino values and orientation and perpetuates the captivity in the minds of the Filipino people to the colonial outlook. For them, the English language symbolizes the belief in the superiority of US culture, values, society; thus it can only serve the exploitative profit-seeking ends of US power.”
Mac Síomóin identifies several layers of colonisation in Ireland, from the historical English colonisations to the Anglicising role of the Roman Catholic Church, the contemporary effect of British TV and, of course, the influence of US cultural imperialism, which has so undermined the authenticity of European societies since the mid 20th century.
He asks how many Irish children, even Irish-speaking ones, know a tenth as much about the heroes of traditional Gaelic mythology, Fionn Mac Cumhail and Cúchulain, as they do about The Simpsons, Dora the Explorer, Sponge Bob Squarepants, etc., and the world of Disney.
He identifies the Irish as suffering from a kind of collective Stockholm Syndrome, a “Super-Colonized Irishness” (SCI), which renders them incapable of even noticing what has happened to them, let alone resisting it.
And, in a fascinating aside, he dips into contemporary genetic research to suggest that some kind of inherited colonisation trauma could be affecting the psychological health of the Irish people, as well as other victims of imperialism across the world.
From a native English-speaking perspective, it has to be said that the psychological state of the English population is not great, either!
But then the dispossessed of England have also been dominated for centuries by an arrogant ruling elite, seen their folklore and ancient wisdom suppressed by authoritarian religion, been thrown off the land and into industrial slavery and been used as cannon fodder for the profiteering greed of the imperialist classes.
Who, anywhere and in any language, can really escape the deeply imbedded trauma of being born into a dehumanising industrial capitalist society plummeting towards nightmarish environmental catastrophe?
6. Organic radicalism: bringing down the fascist machine
In a new in-depth analysis just published on our website, we take a look at the “eco-fascist” smear often levelled against deep green anti-capitalist thinking.
Although the Nazis certainly exploited nature-friendly language for their propaganda, we show that ultimately their narrow racist dogma was completely incompatible with coherent holistic and organic thinking.
We also explore the organic philosophies developed by anarchist, left-wing and Jewish thinkers and suggest that these would make an excellent basis on which to rebuild an explicitly anti-fascist organic radicalism to resist and eventually bring down the industrial capitalist machine.
Here is an extract:
Kurt Goldstein (1878-1965) was a Jewish socialist critic of modernity, who set out to combine holistic and organic German philosophy with the values of reason, democracy and individual freedom.
Throughout his life, he warned against the dangers of applying narrow, fragmented scientific ways of thinking to other realms.
He wrote in an unpublished 1965 paper: “The progress by the application of science to all fields, also those which are related to the spiritual side of man, as education, psychology, sociology, etc, seems to be so enormous that somebody who today dares to oppose even a little this trend and warns against the fateful consequences for human existence is considered either stupid or uneducated, irresponsible or prejudiced”.
From Goldstein’s holistic perspective, everything was interconnected, outside and inside the individual human being. The words ‘mind’ and ‘body’, for instance, did not point to genuine entities but were just ‘symbols’, human abstractions, denoting different aspects of an overall organic reality that could not in fact be divided.
He has been described, by Ruth Nanda Anshen, as having introduced “a new doctrine of organism which may be said to be taking the place of the materialism with which, since the seventeenth-century, science has enmeshed philosophy”.
The psychologist Max Wertheimer (1880-1943), took Goethe as a starting point, developing the idea of Gestalt, or underlying form, in a promising direction far removed from the dead-end of racism into which the Nazis tried to divert it.
Born in Prague, he fled central Europe before Hitler came to power and continued his work in the USA, later becoming an American citizen.
While the Nazis claimed piecemeal or fragmented thinking was a Jewish trait, Wertheimer, who was himself Jewish, turned this round against them.
He argued that the modern world had cropped humanity’s thinking capacity. Piecemeal thinking – strings of propositions torn from their original living context – was being used by demagogues and certain intellectuals to hoodwink people into accepting their ideas.
In the 1934 essay ‘On truth’ he distinguished between truth and mere facts. Facts meant nothing on their own. Truth was a holistic understanding of the significance of various facts in the wider context of their relationship to one another and to a larger whole. He wrote: “A thing may be true in the piecemeal sense, and false, indeed a lie, as a part in its whole”.
Wertheimer judged that the key concepts of truth, ethics, democracy and freedom were all under attack from contemporary academic thinking, influenced by positivism, pragmatism and cultural relativism. Indeed this anti-holistic stance had itself helped prepare an intellectual field in which it had become possible for the Nazis to succeed.
In an essay on ethics, he took a critical look at ethical relativity which – like the Nazis with their German/Aryan particularism – denied the existence of ethical universals.
As a believer in the organic unity of humankind, Wertheimer disputed this and insisted that experience showed that most people, “when faced with clear, actual injustice”, responded spontaneously in ways that human beings would universally consider decent and ethical.
Gestalt psychology, which Wertheimer developed along with Kurt Koffka (1886-1941) and Wolfgang Köhler (1887-1967), was an influence on the anti-capitalist Critical Theory of Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979), Max Horkheimer (1895-1973) and the Frankfurt School in general.
The organic and anti-mechanistical approaches taken by Jewish thinkers like Wertheimer and Goldstein illustrate the fact that there existed a broad anti-industrial current in German-speaking Europe which was not simply non-Nazi, but anti-Nazi, and whose fundamental principles placed it in direct opposition to fascism.
Two big days of action against the far right are coming up in London. The first is on Friday July 13, when massive protests are expected against US President Donald Trump. The second is on Saturday July 14 when bigoted worshippers of the Tommy Robinson cult will be peddling their own version of Muslim-hating xenophobia. The Anti-Fascist Network have announced a Saturday meet-up at 1pm at the International Brigades Memorial in Jubilee Gardens on the south bank of the river and they will march from there.
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The Earth First! UK 2018 summer gathering will be held in Sussex from August 15 to 20. It offers five days of skill-sharing for grassroots ecological direct action – make links, share ideas, and get involved in the struggles against fracking, new roads and more. The gathering will be camping at a rural site (accessible by public transport, nearest station Horsham). Participants will need to bring a tent, sleeping bag, torch and suchlike. Meals are provided by the gathering’s collective kitchen and there’ll be a snack shop.
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The fascist-capitalist-industrial system is using private security firm Eclipse Strategic Security to carry out surveillance against anti-fracking campaigners on behalf of the oil and gas business, an article on Motherboard has revealed. It adds: “Eclipse has ties to oil companies, the police and military networks, and one director is a former British soldier who has expressed support for far-right groups online”.
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From July 29 to August 2, the 4th international Degrowth Summer School in Germany will take place at the Climate Camp Leipzig Land. After three years at the Rhineland Climate Camp, the event with around 500 participants now moves to another mining area and to this new camp.
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Israel is arming neo-Nazis in Ukraine, a shock report on Electronic Intifada has revealed. The Tavor rifles being used by the Azov militia are produced underlicence from Israel Weapon Industries, and as such would have been authorized by the Israeli government. This is just the latest instance of links between Israel and the extreme right in Europe.
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“Reviving the memory of the struggles of the past makes us feel part of something larger than our individual lives and in this way it gives a new meaning to what we are doing and gives us courage, because it makes us less afraid of what can happen to us individually”. So says Italian activist and author Silvia Federici in an inspiring interview on the joyfulmilitancy site.
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Are the degrowth “Buddhist economics” of E.F: Schumacher heading for a badly-needed revival, as capitalism pushes humanity to the brink of disaster? In a thoughtful article on brainpickings, Maria Popova looks at a vision that challenges the dominant mercantile and mechanistic mindset obsessed with production and profit.
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Pro-war “radlibs” (radical liberals) come under discussion in this moderate rebels podcast from the USA, which also debunks the “red-brown” smears increasingly used by McCarthyite pro-war “leftists” to malign anyone opposed to US/NATO-led regime change.
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Acorn quote: “You have hanged in Chicago, decapitated in Germany, garotted in Jerez, shot in Barcelona, guillotined in Montbrison and Paris, but what you will never destroy is anarchy. Its roots are too deep. It is born in the heart of a society that is rotting and falling apart. It is a violent reaction against the established order. It represents all the egalitarian and libertarian aspirations that strike out against authority. It is everywhere, which makes it impossible to contain. It will end by killing you”.