Early May round-up: Manchester bus strike, Napier Barracks, Kill the Bill and more

A quick round-up of a few upcoming dates:

As mentioned previously, on Tuesday 11th there’s a call for people in London to take action against Elbit, a company that makes surveillance technology for the Israeli state. That evening, there’s also an online event to celebrate 30 years of the Haringey Solidarity Group.

On Wednesday 12th, there’s an online meeting about pay for care workers and sleep-in shifts. On Thursday 13th, there’s a solidarity protest at Queen’s Road bus depot in Manchester, where bus drivers have now been out on strike for around 10 weeks and are expected to deliver a renewed strike notice that day. See here for a detailed analysis of that dispute.

Further ahead, on May 22nd there’s a day of solidarity at Napier Barracks in Kent, where asylum seekers are being detained in unsuitable accommodation, and May 29th is the next big national day of action to Kill the Bill.

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In more general news, the Royal College of Nursing is currently talking a good talk about calling a strike ballot over NHS pay, and ACORN are asking people to use an emailing tool to contact landlords/letting agencies who’ve been leaving their members in mouldy housing and an unsafe flat with broken doors, a dodgy lift, and no oven.

Meanwhile, the construction rank and file continue to take regular actions in the ongoing de-skilling dispute, which tend to be announced very shortly beforehand and often aren’t fully public, so keep your ear to the ground or reach out to local trade unionists if that’s something you might be able to support.

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Save Sheikh Jarrah: Shut Elbit Down – Tuesday 11th May, 1pm

A call from Palestine Action:

We have all seen the horrifying and disgusting images coming out of Jerusalem. The atrocious acts committed by settlers and Israeli forces are despicable: tear gassing worshippers in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the forceful appropriation of homes, the use of rubber bullets and physical assault causing hundreds of casualties – among them children and journalists.

But these acts are not simply horrifying crimes committed in isolation. This project of ethnic cleansing and the brutalisation of the civilian Palestinian population has been going on for decades – and it draws much of its strength from the complicity of western governments.

The UK government is completely acquiescent to this ethnic cleansing – and indeed has given millions of pounds to one of the chief architects of this brutality: Elbit Systems.

Elbit manufacture the surveillance technologies and “intrusion detection systems” which fortify Jerusalem’s illegal border walls, dividing the Palestinian population of Jerusalem into walled-in ghettos. Their drones are used to spy on and monitor the civilian population, while also enabling the IDF to drop tear gas over vast numbers of people.

Many in the UK are watching in horror at the war crimes being committed in Jerusalem, unaware of what they can do about it. 

Here is your opportunity to take a stand:
We are calling on all conscientious people in the UK to turn up at Elbit’s HQ, at 77 Kingsway, Holborn, London on Tuesday 11th May at 1PM. We will be taking direct action in solidarity with the Palestinian people of Jerusalem, demanding the UK government to end their complicity in ethnic cleansing, and fighting to #ShutElbitDown!

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Spycops, union victimisation, and action against Kier’s prison profiteering

A few quick notes:

Tomorrow, Tuesday April 20th, Kate Wilson will be appearing in court in London as part of an ongoing case she’s bringing against the cops who spied on her:

“Kate Wilson was deceived into a long term intimate relationship by Mark Stone, who she now knows was undercover police officer Mark Kennedy.

A decade after Kate’s legal case against the police began, it concludes with a hearing at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal from 20th-28th April.

Among other issues, this case will examine sexist discrimination within the Metropolitan Police Service, and the systemic disregard for women’s fundamental human rights between 1998 and 2010.

Her case refers to the actions of at least 6 different undercover officers serving in the secret political spycops units, the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit, during that time.

Kate has already received startling admissions that the police breached her human rights. Specifically, they are;

Article 3: Freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment
Article 8: Respect for your private and family life, home and correspondence
Article 10: Freedom of expression

She is, through these proceedings, the only person to have received significant disclosure of police ‘intelligence’ files held about her.

Join us to stand in solidarity with Kate on Tuesday 20th April at 9.00am. We will be outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London. If you can’t be there, show your solidarity online using the hashtag #WeStandWithKate

We will be outside of the RCJ from 9.00am, for roughly an hour, before the proceedings begin. Please bring banners and placards if you have them. We will observe social distancing guidelines by keeping a two metre distance between us. Please wear a mask if you’re able to.

Messages of support are a great way to show solidarity with Kate.
Please email messages to contact@policespiesoutoflives.org.uk

For more about Kate Wilson’s spycops case, see her page at Police Spies Out of Lives.”

Also going on this week, school staff at Leaways in Hackney will be striking against victimisation of union members on Wednesday 21st. You can support them by joining a picket of the school on Wednesday morning, or joining an online rally on Thursday evening:

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There’s also an online event happening in support of another victimised NEU rep, Kirstie Paton:

“Kirstie Paton is facing disciplinary proceedings by United Learning, following a post she published in December 2020 on her NEU Inner London Executive Facebook page. This post raised concerns about the use of “Lateral Flow Tests” to replace self-isolation of close contacts. As a trade union elected representative, she is legally entitled to express concerns and criticisms of employers on matters of interest to union members without fear of formal disciplinary procedures.
Kirstie has been summoned to a hearing on the 29th April. This hearing could lead to Kirstie’s dismissal. Members at Kirstie’s school have voted to take strike action on that day to send a message to United Learning that they should stop this process. Please follow the below steps to show support for Kirstie: 1. Tweet/Facebook/Insta your support for Kirstie ahead of the strike using the hashtag #IAmKirstiePaton. Solidarity selfies welcome or just the #hashtag!
2. Please tweet the school (@TheJohnRoan) and send a letter to school managers Jon Coles, Cath Smith and Stephen Belk in support of Kirstie here, demanding that they drop all charges against her: https://actionnetwork.org/…/defend-neu-exec-member…
3. Invite your friends to this event and share the event!
4. Send messages of support for Kirstie and other members of staff at John Roan to Johnroannut@gmail.com”

Other ongoing disputes include the all-out strike against fire and rehire at Go Northwest buses in Manchester, and at Goodlord referencing in London:

In other news, there’s been a call for this week to be a week of action against Kier Construction, who are involved in both building a new mega-prison and the environmentally damaging HS2 project. The actions kicked off this morning with blockades at both the HMP Five Wells building site and a HS2 compound. See kierendshere on twitter, fb or insta for more.

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Cleaners, Kill the Bill, and sparks: mid-April round-up

A few quick updates:

On Friday 16th, cleaners organised through the grassroots union CAIWU will be protesting against sackings at Broadgate Estates in Central London. You can read more about the background to the dispute here.

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Over the weekend, there’ll be more protests against the policing bill, with 38 planned at the time of writing. Currently the list stands at:

Saturday 12th April:

11am:

Gresley Square, Doncaster

Dorchester Town Pump, Dorchester

12pm:

Williamson Square, Liverpool

Lowestoft town centre opposite WH Smiths, Lowestoft

1pm:

Clock Tower, Aberystwyth

Barnstaple Square, Barnstaple

Bournemouth Square, Bournemouth

The Level, Brighton

Bedford Square, Exeter

The Leas Bandstand, Folkestone

Picton Fields, Haverfordwest

Clock Tower, Leicester

Wellington Arch, London

Market Hill, Luton

St Peter’s Square, Manchester

Monument, Newcastle

Norwich City Hall, Norwich

Devonshire Green, Sheffield

Hanley bus station, Stoke-on-Trent

Market House, Taunton

Bickley Street, Tooting

Police station, High Street, Winchester

Parliament Street, York

1.30pm:

Carbis Bay, Cornwall

2pm:

Bath Abbey Courtyard, Bath

Victoria Square, Birmingham

Exchange Square, Bristol

Bute Park Stone Circle, Cardiff

Magistrate’s Court, Cheltenham

Footbridge, Newport

Bonn Square, Oxford

Charles Cross Police Station, Plymouth

Southsea Bandstand, Portsmouth

Forbury Gardens, Reading

Guildhall Square, Southampton

Regents Circus, Swindon

6pm:

Dalton Square, Lancaster

Sunday 18th:

2pm: 

Hyde Park, Leeds

On Monday 19th, London Renters Union and grassroots union UVW are co-hosting a workshop about how to build power in both your workplace and neighbourhood.

Further ahead, May 1st will be another national day of action against the bill.

Other miscellaneous notes:

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Royal Park attendants have voted to strike, with a 100% yes vote on a 90% turnout, over issues including sick pay and stolen holiday pay. The British Gas strike over fire and rehire has now become a mass national lockout as management have sacked workers who refused to sign new contracts. Regular actions across the country continue in the sparks rank-and-file dispute, Freedom Press recently republished an article by Liverpool Anarchists about the struggle and you can watch a video from this week’s occupation of a Balfour Beatty site here:

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Free Siyanda demo in Cardiff, and victimised rep news

Two quick notes:

1) this Saturday in Cardiff, the local Black Lives Matter group are organising a demo in support of Siyanda Mngaza, the young Black woman serving a prison sentence for defending herself from a racist attack:

In other justice campaign news, the Craigavon Two campaign now has a new website telling their story.

2) A new website has been set up, Defend Victimised Reps, collecting stories of a number of reps facing victimisation across a variety of unions and industries, together with ways to support them. On which note, Southampton RMT are calling a protest on Monday April 12th in support of Declan Clune, a bus driver who has been dismissed for “bringing the company into disrepute” by reporting safety concerns after a bus struck a bridge.

As mentioned previously, other upcoming events include: Cleaners at University of East London organised through CAIWU will be protesting there on the 13th, and the Anarchist Communist Group are running an online meeting about the Paris Commune on the 15th.

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April 7th Deliveroo strike: events confirmed so far

On April 7th, Deliveroo riders will be striking across the country, demanding better pay and conditions while the company is making its stock market launch. Events have been confirmed in the following cities:

London, 11am, Shoreditch High Street:

Sheffield, 1pm, Mappin Street:

York, 5pm, St Sampsons Sq:

Reading, 11am, Broad Street KFC:

Wolverhampton, 12pm, Civic Centre:

More events may be announced soon, so keep an eye on the IWGB social media if nothing’s announced in your area yet, and you can donate to their strike fund here.

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Sparks, cleaners, and more Kill the Bill protests

In non-Policing Bill related news, or at least not directly related, the construction rank and file dispute continues, with sparks blockading the road outside Hinkley Point C this week:

A quick listing of upcoming events that aren’t Kill the Bill demos: on April 3rd, there’s a day of solidarity with the Manchester bus strike, and if you feel like staying indoors the Angry Workers lot are doing a book presentation for an online event by the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, who have a whole programme of interesting events coming up over the next few weeks, including presentations from Acorn, Bristol Antifascists, and others. Sisters Uncut are calling for people to take creative individual actions against the bill on Sunday 4th. Deliveroo riders are striking on April 7th, outsourced cleaners organised through CAIWU are demonstrating at the BMA headquarters in London to demand equal treatment on April 9th, and the IWW is running a spring organising summit that runs across several dates but starts on Saturday 10th. Cleaners at University of East London organised through CAIWU will be protesting there on the 13th, and the Anarchist Communist Group are running an online meeting about the Paris Commune on the 15th.

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The list of upcoming Kill the Bill demos is pretty massive – there should be an updated list and map here, but as I understand it the list currently stands at:

Friday 2 April:

1pm, Millennium Square, Leeds

1pm, St Peter’s Square, Manchester

2pm, Finsbury Park, North London

5:30pm, 02 Guildhall Southampton

Saturday 3 April:

11pm, Trafalgar Square, London

12pm, Centre Square, Middlesbrough

12pm, Market Square, Nottingham

12pm, Taunton, exact location tbc

1pm, Aberystwyth town centre (meeting at the clock tower)

1pm, Bournemouth Square, Bournemouth

1pm, The Level, Brighton

1pm, Parker’s Piece police station, Cambridge

1pm, Cathedral Green, Derby

1pm, Bedford Square, Exeter

1pm, The Leas Bandstand, Folkestone

1pm, Buchanan Galleries, Glasgow

1pm, The Birdcage, Kendal

1pm, Clock Tower, Leicester

1pm, Liverpool, exact location TBC

1pm, Hyde Park, London

1pm, St George’s Square, Luton

1pm, St Peter’s Square, Manchester

1pm, Monument, Newcastle

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1pm, Norwich City Hall, Norwich

1pm, BBC Radio Northampton, Northampton

1pm, Guildhall Square, Portsmouth

1pm, Forbury Gardens, Reading

1pm, Devonshire Green, Sheffield

1pm, Quarry Park, Shrewsbury

1pm, Hanley Bus Station, Stoke on Trent

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1pm, various locations, Waltham Forest

1pm, King’s Statue, Weymouth

1pm, Parliament Street, York

2pm, Bath Abbey, Bath

2pm, Victoria Square, Birmingham

2pm, Bute Park Stone Circle, Cardiff

2pm, Cornhill Quarter, Lincoln

2pm, Bonn Square, Oxford

2pm, Charles Cross Police Station, Plymouth

2pm, Regents Circus, Swindon

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2pm, Lemon Quay, Truro

4pm, College Green, Bristol

6pm, Dalton Square, Lancaster

Sunday 4 April:

4pm, Guildford High Street, Guildford

Monday 5 April:

1pm, Victoria Square, Hull

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Friday 9 April:

1pm, Priory Park, Malvern

Saturday 10 April:

1pm, Barnstaple Square, Barnstaple

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Upcoming Kill the Bill protests and other dates

A quick list of upcoming Kill the Bill events:

Tuesday 30 March, 6pm, College Green, Bristol

Friday 2 April:

1pm, Millennium Square, Leeds

1pm, St Peter’s Square, Manchester

5:30pm, 02 Guildhall Southampton

Saturday 3 April:

12pm, Taunton, exact location tbc
1pm, The Leas Bandstand, Folkestone
1pm, Aberystwyth town centre (meeting at the clock tower)
1pm, BBC Radio Northampton, Northampton
1pm, Parker’s Piece police station, Cambridge
1pm, Monument, Newcastle
1pm, St Peter’s Square, Manchester
2pm, Bath Abbey, Bath
2pm, Lemon Quay, Truro
4pm, College Green, Bristol

Sunday 4 April:

4pm, Guildford High Street

Saturday 10 April:

1pm, Barnstaple Square, Barnstaple

Bristol Defendant Solidarity have started a legal fundraiser, which is obviously pretty important.

Other upcoming events include: Shrewsbury 24 and NHS pay online meetings on Wednesday 31st, a day of solidarity with the Manchester bus strike on April 3rd, Deliveroo riders striking on April 7th, and an online Anarchist Communist Group meeting on the Paris Commune on April 15th. You can donate to the Deliveroo strike fund here.

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Is Alexander Reid Ross the CEO/dad of antifa?: On contagion, shades of grey, and the three-way fight

Dear Leftists: Going on Tucker Carlson Is Not Going to Stop Imperialism -  Pacific Standard

In recent years, there have been a number of controversies on the left over the subject of “red-brown alliances”, those areas where some right-wingers attempt to recruit from, or actively cooperate with, sections of the left.

There have been many people involved in arguing against any such alliances; one of them, Alexander Reid Ross, has now gone on to working for a centrist “anti-extremist” think tank linked to various US state figures. To be clear, anyone working for the Network Contagion Research Institute has definitely crossed a line; whatever “our side” is, Ross has definitely ceased to be on it. Some of those who Ross has criticised in the past, notably Max Blumenthal, the Assadist and frequent Tucker Carlson guest, have seized on this development as a way to attempt to discredit everything he’s ever written and all the positions that he’s been aligned with.

This argument, as a far as it goes, is a fairly asinine form of ad hominem: back in 2018, I wrote “I have no desire to defend everything Ross has ever said, because frankly he gives me careerist vibes and I’m not a big fan of his writing, but to focus on the man himself is kind of a distractionanti-fascist opposition to co-operation with the far-right is not something new, a neoliberal attack on the left, or something that can be simply equated with the work of Ross… If, for the sake of argument, we were to hypothetically agree that Andrew Reid Ross was the biggest prick in the world, that still wouldn’t mean that everything Sol Process, Vagabond or Matthew Lyons has written should be automatically discarded, even if Ross makes some of the same points as them.” 

I’d be tempted to leave the subject there, but another recent article, from Rhyd Wildermuth at Gods & Radicals Press, attempts to make a broader argument about antifascism, founded on a critique of Ross’ work. I think Wildermuth’s argument is seriously flawed, and it’s worth taking the time to explore why.

Setting out the supposed importance of Ross as a target, Wildermuth writes:

“Alexander Reid Ross is a very prolific writer. He has been a columnist or had articles published for Truthout, The Daily Beast, Vice, Haaretz, Alternet, EarthFirst (where he was previously also editor), TheEcologist, The Southern Poverty Law Center’s HateWatch blog (which retracted and apologized for his work), and has written and co-written articles and papers at Jacobin, In These Times, and many academic journals, as well as anonymously in many Antifa resource blogs.”

When touching on the Ross/Blumenthal/SPLC controversy, Wildermuth uses a form of “passive voice”, which could lead a reader to conclude that the SPLC just happened to read over Ross’ writings, decide that they weren’t up to scratch, and withdrew them on their own accord.

Later in the same article, Wildermuth does the same thing again, writing that:

“Most famously, the Southern Poverty Law Center, one of two primary clearinghouses for information about fascism and hate groups in the United States (the other being the ADL, who is an affiliate of the think tank where Ross now works, and his boss there is a former research fellow for the ADL), retracted all of Alexander Reid Ross’s essays they had published, with public apologies to the targets Ross had falsely accused.”

What’s left out here is the role of the courts: the SPLC withdrew Ross’ work under legal pressure after threats from Blumenthal’s lawyers. It wasn’t some free, neutral decision, but one made under pressure from legal threats – that is to say, ultimately, from the state. There’s a certain irony here, as Wildermuth’s central argument is that anti-fascism needs to be anti-state, and he complains that “Ross’s framework rarely ever mentions the state at all”, but he carefully skips over any mention of the state’s role when it comes to this issue.

Anyway, the story doesn’t end there: after Blumenthal’s lawyers got the offending article censored, it was rehosted at several other sites, including this one, and Bob from Brockley published a two-part fact check, concluding “Alex Reid Ross’s SPLC report stands up to scrutiny. Any threats by Blumenthal that led to SPLC taking it down are empty. SPLC were wrong to cave in.” To date, I have yet to see anyone convincingly reply to or rebut Bob’s fact-check on this point.

Next, Wildermuth gives more claims about the importance of Ross’ work:

“Needless to say, Ross’s media presence is rather expansive, and he has become a kind of ideological pillar of American anti-fascist thought. Regardless whether or not an activist, journalist, or just an average person knew who he was, much of our understanding of what fascism is and how it works has been shaped by Ross’s works.”

This seems like a bit of an overstatement. Again, back in 2018, I wrote “anti-fascist opposition to co-operation with the far-right is not something new, a neoliberal attack on the left, or something that can be simply equated with the work of Ross. Instead, it’s a theme that’s come up again and again in debates within our movements, running back at least as far as the arguments made by people like the Dutch antiracist organisation “De Fabel van de illegaal” and the authors of the “My Enemy’s Enemy” collection during the summit protest/anti-globalization movement of almost 20 years ago, through to people like Spencer Sunshine warning of the danger of far-right and antisemitic participation in the Occupy movement, and a subject that’s been brought up to the present day by a wide variety of writers including Elise Hendricks, Sol Process, Vagabond, Matthew Lyons and other contributors to the Three-Way Fight project, Andy Fleming, the Olympia anarchists who spoke out against Sadie and Exile, along with others like Bob from Brockley, Louis Proyect and Andrew Coates.”

Spencer Sunshine himself added:

“Ross merely popularized work that others did for many years.

The ur-text here is Chip Berlet’s 100 page report “Right Woos Left,” which looks at Far Right groups from the 1950s to 1990s who did outreach to the Left in various ways: https://www.politicalresearch.org/1999/02/27/right-woos-left

…In addition, Kevin Coogan’s “Dreamer of the Day” (1998) and Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke’s “Black Sun” (2002) were some pivotal books in our understanding of the Third Positionist and other unorthodox fascist currents which sought unity with left-wing currents in various ways.”

Wildermuth sets out what he sees as three different frameworks for understanding fascism, liberal, Marxist, and Ross-ist:

“All three frameworks differ significantly in their answers to one historical question: how can we explain the powerful communist movements that preceded the birth of the three really-existing fascist states in human history (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Spain under Franco)? In each of these fascisms, liberal-democratic politicians made choices to align with the fascists against the communists, often times specifically aiding the fascists in hunting down and killing communist organizers, intellectuals, and leaders…

In the Marxist framework, the answer lies in the strange fact that the state never sided with the leftists, but only ever with the fascists. At no point in the lead-up to Hitler’s rise to Chancellorship did the government stop their repression of communists or enlist their aid against this “other” existential threat. Likewise in Italy and Spain, the government—and especially the capitalist class—repeatedly sided with the fascists against the communists and anarchists and relied on fascists within their police and military forces to be particularly brutal in this repression. Such facts makes the conclusion of the Marxist framework seem self-evident: the fascists were a necessary weapon against left-wing revolution…

The conclusion of the Marxist framework is that the capitalist state and the fascists will inevitably side with each other, and thus both must be fought simultaneously. Thus, the way to fight fascism is to build an alternative political movement that opposes both the fascists and the state, and (as in Walter Benjamin’s conception) to recognize that the “emergency” of fascism is a feature of the capitalist state, not an exception. Therefore, the state and the capitalist class are never seen as a potential ally against fascism, but rather the actual cause of fascism itself.”

This is, I suppose, one version of a Marxist framework. Others are available. In order to insist that “the capitalist state and the fascists will inevitably side with each other” – a sort of crude reductionism where big business, the state, and the fascists can be treated as virtually interchangeable – a lot has to be left out. 

Yes, the liberal-democratic states aligned with fascism at certain points. It’s also the case that the Weimar Republic jailed Hitler for treason in 1924, that much of the ruling class supported the Popular Front in France against the far-right, that the British state brought in the Public Order Act to use against the BUF, and that much of the Republican state in Spain chose to fight against Franco rather than just accepting his takeover as necessary and inevitable. In short, the capitalist state and the fascists will side with each other under certain conditions, but both exist as separate actors with distinct interests, and will frequently clash with each other under other conditions. This isn’t my original analysis, of course, it’s the basis of what’s often called “the three-way fight”, a framework developed by various thinkers but particularly Matthew Lyons.

Wildermuth’s Italy-Germany-Spain framework also fails to deal with conditions post-1945. If fascism is seen simply as a necessary weapon against revolution, then how do we explain the situation which we find ourselves in today, when we don’t have a Spartacist uprising, a Biennio Rosso or a CNT, and yet we still find ourselves dealing with ultranationalist political movements?

Any attempt to analyse fascism that goes beyond “you had Mussolini, Hitler and Franco, that’s it, that’s all you need to know about fascism” should probably engage with the continuing influence of Evola, and the turn to “metapolitics” among the post-1945 far right. Thinking about the “cultural turn” in fascist strategies, an explanation along the lines of “fascism is when King Victor Emmanuel III appoints Mussolini as Prime Minister” would struggle to cope with the ongoing battles over fascist influence in subcultural scenes such as punk, skinhead, black metal and industrial. I suspect that these conflicts probably did far more to contribute to the emergence of a “fascist creep” framework than the work of a relative johnny-come-lately like Alexander Reid Ross.

Then there’s another attempt at puffing up Ross’ importance:

“Here we can start to note the immense influence that Alexander Reid Ross and his “fascist creep” framework has had on anti-fascist organizing in the United States. Besides the previously-cited article denouncing the post-left, Ross warned in the last few years against eco-extremism, anarcho-primitivism, esoteric leftism, anti-modernism, and many other “fringe” leftist positions, and cast repeated aspersions on one anarchist publisher, Little Black Cart. Writers published by that press often found themselves black-listed elsewhere, or becoming the subject of anonymous tracts and denouncements, and the now-deceased publisher, Aragorn!, had his tires slashed and books he published destroyed at anarchist book fairs.”

Who are the eco-extremists that Little Black Cart were so unfairly maligned for publishing? Another article by Wildermuth, linked to in that paragraph, gives us an answer:

Atassa was a journal collecting some of the most problematic ideas around violence as a response to environmental collapse, inspired by the Mexican illegalist post-anarchist group ITS (Individuals Tending Towards the Savage [Wild]). ITS has claimed to kill scientists, industrialists, and even fellow anarchists in the name of the Wild, not to save the planet for anyone but really just to embody its profound vengeance.”

Or we could go straight to the source itself – for instance, here’s a typically charming extract from ITS, published after the Christchurch massacre:

“The attack made by tarrant marked contemporary history, it will motivate future attacks in Europe and USA, there will be consequences. ISIS (now reduced to a guerrilla) and Al Qaeda of Islamic Magreb promised revenge and are encouraging their lone wolves to attack white supremacists, obviusly ITS celebrate all this, we do not care about the tears of the massacred muslims, neither the tears of the future victims of the islamic extremists, the attack of Tarrant will bring Chaos and destabilization and if it comes, we warmly welcome it.”

And so on and so on. To put it mildly, if you choose to publish a fanzine wanking over this kind of misanthropic reactionary shit, then having someone embody profound vengeance on your car tires in the name of the Wild is the very least you should expect.

As it happens, I’m not convinced that ITS are coherent enough to really count as fascist, I think their brand of murderous reaction is probably a distinct entity, in the same way that you could make a case that “fascist” isn’t the most accurate label for ISIS. But it’s obvious that none of these reactionary murderers have any relevance to any sort of liberation.

And again, it’s a complete distortion to pretend that opposition to the ITS/Atassa/LBC axis came just from Ross, as if he was some kind of puppetmaster and no-one would be able to recognise this shit as objectionable without his influence. Perhaps the earliest and most widely circulated condemnation of ITS came from Scott Campbell, and it was Campbell, not Ross, who got a death threat in response.

Similarly, there’s been extensive hostility to ITS/Atassa from within the anti-civ/nihilist/insurrectionary milieus, from people who it hardly makes sense to portray as Reid-Rossists. The devastating critique “Of Indiscriminate Attacks and Wild Reactions” came from this quarter, and it was 325 who doxxed the editor of Atassa, along with documenting much of the pushback against the misanthropic reactionaries, some of which is collected in Against Eco-Extremism: Mirror image of Civilisation & Religion. Whatever differences I have with 325, or the nihilist-anarchists and anarchist-insurrectionalists who contributed to the critique of eco-extremism, it hardly seems likely that any of them are likely to follow Reid Ross into some state-sponsored centrist think tank.

As if anarchists need Alexander Reid Ross to explain to us that people who boast about killing anarchists, bombing anarchist squats and so on are not our friends!

What’s at stake in the red-brownism debate is not just a matter of different opinions on fascism/antifascism, but also differing understandings of imperialism. There’s the perspective, which I tend to call “internationalist”, that understands imperialism as a global system, with the US being one imperialist actor among many others, with the EU, Russia, China, and smaller would-be imperialist powers like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and so on, all struggling to assert their influence. Then there’s the crude campist/anti-American position, which understands imperialism as basically something the US does, meaning that anyone else, even if they may not be that virtuous in their own right, automatically counts as “resisting imperialism” if their interests happen to come into conflict with US foreign policy. These two perspectives have quite different implications when it comes to working out who our friends and enemies are. Let’s see where Wildermuth stands:

“Red-brown alliances, “third positionism” or “National Bolshevism,” refers specifically to historical attempts to reconcile leftist critiques of capitalism and far-right opposition to foreign state involvement, but is also often confused with the non-aggression pact between Stalin and Hitler (which, for all its faults, gave the USSR enough time to become militarily strong enough to fight the Nazis). The particular foreign state seen as the common enemy within third-positionist politics in the last few decades has been the United States, its imperialist policies, and its unquestioned political power throughout the world.

As not only the most powerful military and economic nation-state in the world, but also a hegemonic cultural and ideological force (consider how difficult it is to find a large non-US city without a Starbucks, McDonald’s, or citizens who haven’t seen Titanic or heard a Madonna song…), the United States is often seen as a symbol of Empire, much like Rome functioned during that empire. Likewise, the US dominates all international trade and governing bodies, and often wields this dominance to ensure American capitalists are able to have access to exploit local economies.

This view of the United States (also a common Marxist and anarchist critique) certainly will make anyone who believes in the goodness of American Liberal Democracy—and also the average “fascist” Trump supporter—bristle a bit. In this way, the far-right of the United States and the liberal “center” have much more in common than they do with the far-left there (or elsewhere), as well as with any opposition (left or right) to American foreign policy throughout the world.”

In passing, I want to take a moment to reflect on how all over the shop Wildermuth’s ideological commitments seem to be – there can’t be many people, or at least I hope there can’t be many, who go from defending nihilist post-left trash like LBC in one breath, to urging us to consider the Hitler-Stalin pact from Stalin’s point of view in the next.

As with his understanding of fascism, Wildermuth seems to be relying on a crudely simplified model that can’t survive contact with reality. To say “left says America bad, center and right say America good” might seem plausible, but it means ignoring the vast fissures within the US establishment and right-wing between neo-con interventionists and isolationists – let’s not forget, after all, that “America First” was the slogan of those who opposed US entry into WWII. A left-winger who thinks the US is the root of all evil and a right-winger who thinks that the national interest is best served by avoiding foreign entanglements may not agree on much in terms of their basic worldviews, but, crucially, they may well agree on some specific questions, like “should the US invade this country?”

After all, if hearing from left-wing critics of US foreign policy is so deathly offensive to the right, then how do we explain the fact that Glenn Greenwald and Max Blumenthal keep going on Tucker Carlson all the time? Wildermuth’s model also struggles to cope with Trump himself, who, from his comments on John McCain being captured to describing soldiers as “losers” and “suckers”, has frequently sounded closer to what you might expect from an edgy crustpunk or dirtbag podcaster than the sort of sanctimonious piety expected of the political mainstream on these matters. Trump’s decision to bomb Syria in April 2017 caused the first serious fracture between him and his alt-right supporters, and the far-right also tended to oppose intervention in Syria in April 2018.

Continuing his case against Ross, Wildermuth writes that “In his Haaretz columns, Ross has also named leftist politician George Galloway, founder of The Intercept Glenn Greenwald, and even the anti-war collective Code Pink as part of this large-scale Russian conspiracy.”

This is apparently supposed to be so ludicrous as to be damning in itself, as if there was no legitimate grounds for critiquing these people. Unhelpfully, Wildermuth just provides a link to the entirety of Ross’ Haaretz columns, rather than linking to where each individual claim can be found, making it hard to assess either the accuracy of Wildermuth’s description of Ross’ claims, or the truth of those claims themselves. 

But to survey each in turn: it’s a matter of public record that Galloway works for RT, so it’s not particularly wild to speculate that his interests might be aligned with the Russian state in some way. On the other hand, given Galloway’s declared support for the Conservative party, it’s harder to justify describing him as a “leftist politician” in any meaningful sense of the word.

Similarly, I can’t comment on the accuracy of whatever Ross said about Greenwald without actually seeing it, but the idea that criticism of Glenn “Tucker Carlson and Steve Bannon are socialists” Greenwald is automatically wrong seems a bit odd. 

As for Code Pink, it appears that Ross’ offence here was in writing about the New Horizons conference, which has seen guests including Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, along with the likes of David Duke, Alexander Dugin and Tim Pool. Code Pink is listed as a “friend” of the conference, along with Veterans Today, the American Herald Tribune, and Égalité & Réconciliation. It’s unclear whether Wildermuth thinks that this is factually incorrect, that there’s no actual link between Code Pink and the New Horizons conference, or if he just thinks that it’s wrong to talk about it, that it’s rude to point out when people attend conferences with David Duke, Alexander Dugin and Tim Pool.

For more on the socialist/internationalist critique of Code Pink, see the Oakland Socialist open letter to them, and subsequent discussion.

Surveying the reign of terror that’s apparently been brought about by the brainwashed followers of Reid Ross Thought, Wildermuth says that:

“…any leftist who dare suggest that right-leaning people might be brought into a leftist movement by addressing their material conditions—rather than lecturing them on non-binary pronouns—is of course definitely a “crypto.””

Some people might suggest that the decision to use non-binary pronouns as a punchline there says rather more about Wildermuth than it does about the supposed hordes of Ross-worshipping antifascists who are apparently going around calling everyone cryptofascists for talking about material conditions, apparently. 

This kind of “you can’t alienate people by talking about weirdo offputting shit like non-binary pronouns” stuff is never a particularly good look, but it is quite entertaining when coming from someone like Wildermuth, who moonlights as a druid when he’s not defending the working class from the menace of non-binary pronouns. To be clear, I don’t have anything against people exploring alternative spiritualities or the occult or whatever if that’s what they’re into, but it would seem to put people in something of a glass house when it comes to throwing the “you’re putting normal people off with your weird cultural stuff” stone.

Wildermuth concludes by suggesting that “We can start questioning this idea that fascism is a kind of slippage, a path you find yourself on because you wandered too far out into the wild forests of radical politics, drank too deeply at fountains that only increased your thirst for liberation.”

But I don’t think that’s really what anyone argues about the likes of George Galloway or Glenn Greenwald, or why Mexican insurrectionists hate ITS so much. Instead, I’d suggest that what we need to bear in mind is the importance of understanding and opposing systems like capitalism and imperialism in all their complexity. Populist shortcuts, identifying specific baddies rather than engaging with the system as a whole, may seem appealing, but they can swiftly move on to the terrain of “this system would work fine if only we got rid of the bad people”. These simplified critiques don’t always lead to fascism, they can just as easily get stuck as some kind of social democracy, but they don’t deal with the real problem, and they tend to lead to confusion about who our friends and enemies are.

In so far as Wildermuth makes an original contribution, by swapping out the “three-way fight” model for a “two-way fight” where the state and fascists are seen as virtually interchangeable, he only adds to this confusion. After all, if “the capitalist state and the fascists will inevitably side with each other”, then anyone who claims to be against that state must be not a fascist and on our side, right?

In the comments below Wildermuth’s article, someone raises the question of Sadie and Exile, the former green scare prisoners who went eco-fascist.

Wildermuth responds:

“The case of those two in question (please note–several people suspect ARR actually wrote that article or had a significant hand in it) is an interesting matter. I still know many anarchists who know those two who do not believe they are actually fascists, but rather just played with the aesthetic (the Black Sun, in particular, is used by many, many non-fascists). They’re interesting specifically because it’s the most common example I ever hear quoted in defense of ARR’s theory, and has become a kind of mythic event upon which the “creep” theory relies.”

As for the authorship of the article, it’s pretty obvious that the author/s of “A Field Guide to Straw Men”, “Of Indiscriminate Attacks and Wild Reactions”, and “Fascism, Ecology, and the Tangled Roots of Anti-Modernism” are the same person or people, and all three seem to express an anti-civ anarchist perspective that isn’t really apparent in ARR’s other work. Also, I have to admit I struggle with the “Ross wrote those articles anonymously” idea because, whatever else you might say about him, I’ve never seen him be accused of being modest or self-effacing, he seems like a man who is eager to put his name on things.

More to the point, as to whether Sadie and Exile are not “actually fascists, but rather just played with the aesthetic (the Black Sun, in particular, is used by many, many non-fascists).” Let’s review a little bit of the evidence, shall we?

The “loyalty is mightier than fire” blog is clearly not some innocent playing around with pretty shapes that just so unfortunately happen to have some right-wing connotations, as if the reason he posted all those swastikas was that he just couldn’t get enough of 90° angles. The most cursory engagement with the evidence shows that it featured a deep engagement with and appreciation of fascist ideas.

As to whether their case has become “a kind of mythic event upon which the “creep” theory relies”, anyone who follows these issues will know that Sadie and Exile aren’t even the only former ELF/ALF prisoners who’ve embraced eco-fascism in recent years – see “Goodbye Walter Bond” and “Walter Bond and his eco-fascist trajectory”. It’s good to see that there are so many people within that milieu who are willing to challenge those who people move right; I don’t think that denying the problem exists helps at all.

Posted in Anarchists, Bit more thinky, Debate, Stuff that I don't think is very useful, The right | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Shrewsbury, Bristol, the sparks – a few quick notes

a skateboarder does a trick in front of a burning police van in Bristol

It’s been a busy few days. As far as recent events in Bristol go, coverage worth reading includes “Bristol riot: what do they expect?” from the Anarchist Communist Group, “Reflections on the riot in Bristol” from Freedom, and the Anarchist Federation’s “What actually Happened in Bristol – and How a Narrative is Built”.

Another big piece of news this week has been the overturning of the Shrewsbury Pickets verdict. You can read an official campaign statement on that here, and some thoughts from Ricky Tomlinson here. Next Wednesday, there’s an online meeting to celebrate and learn from the victory, with speakers including Ricky Tomlinson (Shrewsbury Picket and jailed Trade Unionist), John McDonnell (Labour MP), Dave Smith (Blacklist Support Group), Piers Marquis and Annabel Timan (Doughty Street Chambers barristers).

Image

In more contemporary news, the spirit of rank-and-file militancy that the state tried to crush in the Shrewsbury case is still alive in the construction industry today, as is shown by the continuing resistance over the de-skilling ESO grade for electricians.

Reel News continue to provide great weekly summaries of the action:

They write:

“Management at NG Baileys head offices in London and the North East failed to turn up to work today … rather than face protests outside from sparks protesting over deskilling, they bottled it. 

At least EDF, the client on the Hinkley Point C job at the centre of this dispute, were prepared to meet with UNITE reps this week and agree to drop the controversial ESO grade … but still no word from the contractors NG Baileys and Balfour Beatty, who are clearly too scared to talk to the skilled tradespeople whose livelihoods they are threatening. 

Now they face pickets at Hinkley Point C itself from next week. Maybe it’s time they dropped this outrageous – and highly dangerous – attempt to get unskilled labourers to do electrical installation on the cheap.”

Finally, a few other upcoming events:

On March 25th, Left Book Club hosts Sarah Jaafe and Ashok Kumar discussing the book “Class Power on Zero Hours” with the AngryWorkers collective. On March 27th, there’s a Free Siyanda campaign event (theoretically coming to Stoke, but actually online), as well as various local Kill the Bill events. On Wednesday 31st, as well as the Shrewsbury meeting mentioned above, there’s also an event hosted by Strike Map: “Join a very special episode of Comrades featuring striking nurses from Massachusetts Nurses Association, NHS 15 pay campaign and others to be announced. Our unique organising call will bring together the struggles of healthcare workers and how the organised whilst protecting our societies during this pandemic. We will also discuss the future and campaigns that unionists are involved in.”

Posted in Anarchists, Repression, Riots, Strikes, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment