Taking part in the international day of solidarity with antifascist prisoners

Support antifa prisoners

July 25th has been designated an international day of solidarity with antifascist prisoners. If you’d like to join in, the simplest ways to show solidarity from the UK would probably be to write to Yusef, who was jailed for resisting racists who attacked a demo in Cardiff a few years back, or message Merseyside AFN to get the address details for their comrade who was recently jailed, and/or to donate to their prisoner support fund here. You might also want to contact the Swedish prisoner support group Föreningen Fånggruppen at foreningenfanggruppen[at]gmail[.]com to get the addresses of the Swedish comrades who’ve just been sent down for a demonstration in Stockholm in 2014. In both cases, those involved have decided not to make their addresses fully public, so please be careful about sharing any information you’re given, and don’t be surprised if they want to check who they are before telling you anything.

Looking ahead, you could also look at this list of suggestions for ways to support the upcoming national prison strike in the US that’s planned for September, and think if there’s anything you and your friends can usefully do to show international solidarity with the movement. And looking further ahead still, it’s worth thinking about what you can do to raise awareness of the case of Aiden Aslin, who’s still potentially facing terrorism charges for allegedly joining the Kurdish resistance against ISIS, and has his next bail date in Nottingham on October 19th.

July 25

Here are two call-outs for the day of action, from NYC Antifa:

We are fast approaching the July 25th Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners, and in preparation, we wanted to update everyone on the legal situation of our antifa comrades in the last year. In that time, quite a few antifascists have finished serving their time or have had their legal situations resolved, but unfortunately, a number remain behind bars, with many more expected to join them over the course of the next year.

Beginning with the good news, many antifascists finished serving their time, and have rejoined their friends and family after many months or years of separation. In Belarus, Dzimitry Zvan’ko—one of many antifas from Brest targeted by authorities—was released on parole on May 31, 2016 after serving three years. In Germany, on June 28th, Valentin, who was arrested and spent 10 months in jail for his involvement in a fight started by fascist soccer hooligans, was given a suspended sentence of 3 years instead of prison time. Many Swedish antifascists were also released in the past year—Dennis Miraballes, Nick Staffas, Linus Soinjoki, and Adam Taylor are now all home. In the United States, Jason Hammond was released on parole on April 1st, after serving a year and a half for direct action against the White Nationalist Economic Summit in 2012. Finally, Luke O’Donovan, after serving two years in prison for defending himself from a homophobic knife attack, will be released on July 25th, the International Day of Solidarity!

That these comrades are out is something to be cheered and celebrated, but we cannot forget the antifas who remain in prison, or the sad fact that many others will be joining them all too soon. Michelle Smith was sentenced on July 12th to twelve months in prison for her participation in the antifa counter-protest of an anti-immigration rally called by various far-right and fascist groups in Dover, England on January 30th.  Additionally, there are many other antifas currently on bail in England for actions over the past year who are also facing jail time. In the United States, seven antifascists were charged on June 30th in connection with a physical confrontation between antifascists and Klansmen in Anaheim, California this past February. Although three antifa were stabbed, none of the KKK members were charged by police. In Sweden, eight of the Kungsan 15 were sentenced to prison on July 1st to between 4 and 12 months for a physical confrontation with fascists during a huge counter-protest of a Nazi demonstration in 2014.

The worldwide increase in far-right activity means that more anti-fascists will risk not just prison, but their very lives, in confrontations with fascist scum (who are protected and encouraged by the state). In order to be as effective as we can be in this fight, we must create a strong flow of solidarity over the prison walls, not just on July 25th, but every day.

However, there is something powerful in a worldwide day of solidarity, and there is still time to do something for July 25th. Even something small, such as a solidarity photo, or a letter, is meaningful and appreciated. If you write to a prisoner, consider participating in Rose City Antifa’s Postcards to Prisoners project, and tweet a photo of your postcard or letter using the hashtag #postcardstoprisoners. Another way to be in solidarity is to contribute to Antifa International’s International Anti-Fascist Defense Fund, which raises funds for prisoners, as well as money for legal defense, medical costs, and family expenses for antifascists.

Tweet your solidarity with the #J25antifa hashtag and remember:
They are in there for us, and we are out here for them!

Free Roman Bogdan! Free Vlad Lenko! Free Dzmitry Stsyashenka! Free Jock Palfreeman! Free Michelle Smith! Free Aleksandr Kolchenko! Free Alexey Sutuga! Free Joel Almgren!

and Rose City Antifa:

July 25th, 2016 marks the second annual International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners. Last year antifascists around the globe participated in a variety of ways in an inspirational and powerful show of solidarity. Rose City Antifa will again be doing the Postcards To Prisoners campaign, this time for the whole month of July. We are kicking things off with a benefit show at Anarres Infoshop this Friday July 1st. We will also be collaborating with Portland ABC to co-sponsor a benefit show on Saturday July 30th at Black Water. Proceeds from these shows will be going to the medical bills and legal defense of comrades that fought against the Traditionalist Workers Party and Golden State Skinheads in Sacramento last Sunday. If you can make it to either show, we will have an area set up with all the necessary supplies (postcards, stamps, names/addresses of prisoners, and information) for you to easily participate in the #postcardstoprisoners campaign!
 
The past year has seen an increase in far-right organizing around the world. A move to the right in the political discourse in mainstream politics has energized the insurgent right and has lead to increasing acts of fascist and racist violence here and abroad. From the rise of the UKIP in Britain to the Trump campaign here in the states, we are seeing fascistic rhetoric capture large swaths of support among working class whites. Antifascists everywhere have organized against this rising tide of xenophobia and many have faced state repression as a result of it. Now more than ever antifascists must stand together against the dual enemy of state repression and the insurgent right. The International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners is an important time for us to show that we are united in order to raise our comrades spirits behind bars, but also to raise awareness generally about militant antifascism. Postcards to Prisoners is a simple way to boost morale and create a visible display of antifascist solidarity.
 
Here’s how it works:

1. In a group or on your own, purchase a few postcards and stamps. Write to some prisoners to show support and solidarity, below you will find addresses and information about some of our imprisoned comrades.
 
2. Take a photo of the postcard.

3. Send or tweet us your pictures using the hashtag #PostcardsToPrisoners. We will compile photos and post them up on our Facebook page and twitter @Rose City Antifa.

Raising awareness and getting attention to our imprisoned comrades is important but if you want to stay anonymous or are unable to tweet us a picture, feel free to send us an e-mail with a picture to fight_them_back@riseup.net and we will tweet the picture for you.
 
Last years dozens of postcards were sent to antifascist prisoners, this year let’s make it hundreds! Solidarity is our greatest weapon!

Names and Addresses.
Note that some of our comrades can’t receive letters or postcards in English, so if you speak any other language than please consider writing one of those antifascists.
 
 – EUROPE – 

Belarus

Roman Bogdan
Roman Bogdan was arrested on April 15, 2015, as part of the long-going state repression of anti-fascists in Brest, stemming from a fight between anti-fascists and fascists on May 8, 2013. In October, Roman was sentenced to 8 years in a penal colony and must pay 3500 Euro in damages. On December 15, 2015 a regional appellate court commuted his sentence by 2 years.

He can read Russian and simple English phrases.
Address:
213010 Shklov
p. Molodezhnyj, IK-17, otryad 12
Mogilevskaya obl.
BELARUS
http://abc-belarus.org/?p=6153&lang=en

Vlad Lenko
Vlad Lenko is an antifascist from Ivatsevichi (Brest region). He was arrested on December 27, 2014, and accused of taking part in a fight against local neo-Nazis earlier in December. Vlad was charged with group hooliganism and aggravated bodily harm, and in September 2015 was sentenced to 6 years in a penal colony.

Supporters are trying to raise money to appeal the verdict, which they hope will reduce his sentence by half. They also need to collect 1000 Euro to pay damages ordered by the court.
Fundraising WebMoney:
$ Z418615316084
€ E146518161935
He can read Russian and simple English phrases.
Address:
Lenko Vlad Igorevich
211300 Vitebskaya obl.
Vitebskiy rajon, Vitba, IK-3
BELARUS
http://abc-belarus.org/?p=6240&lang=en

Dzmitry Stsyashenka
Dzmitry Stsyashenka was arrested on October 4, 2013, for his alleged involvement in a fight between antifascists and neo-Nazis in Brest on May 8, 2013, that sent one Nazi to the hospital. He is also accused of another fight with neo-Nazis later in the summer of 2013. He was sentenced to four years in prison, but in 2014 his term was reduced by one year due to an amnesty.

In April 2015, the case from May 2013 was reopened and Dzmitry was charged again. He was sentenced in October 2015 to another 5 years in a penal colony and ordered to pay 500 Euro in damages. In December, the regional appellate court commuted this sentence by 2 years, which is in addition to the 4 years he is already serving.
He can read Russian and simple English phrases.
Address:
213800 Bobruisk,
ul. Sikorskogo 1a, IK-2, otryad 14
Mogilevskaya obl.
BELARUS
http://abc-belarus.org/?cat=3&lang=en

Bulgaria

Jock Palfreeman
Jock Palfreeman is an Australian anti-fascist political prisoner serving a twenty-year prison sentence in Bulgaria for the rather mysterious death of a neo-Nazi football hooligan who was part of a group attacking two Romani men in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2007. Jock came to the aid of the Romani, and quickly found himself the focus of the attack. Bulgarian authorities did everything they could to ensure that Jock did not receive a fair trial, and after his sentencing have refused–in contravention of their own treaties–to transfer him to Australia to serve the rest of his time closer to his family. Jock wants donations for him sent to the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association, which he is part of.

He can read English and Bulgarian.
Address:
Jock Palfreeman
Sofia Central Prison
21 General Stoletov Boulevard
Sofia 1309, BULGARIA
http://www.brightonabc.org.uk/jock.html

Russia

Aleksandr Kolchenko
Aleksandr  Kolchenko was arrested in Crimea on May 17, 2014, along with several others, and accused by Russian authorities of participation in a “terrorist group” which planned explosions near the Eternal Fire memorial and the Lenin monument in Simferopol, as well as having sabotaged railway tracks and electricity lines. Aleksandr is also alleged to have carried out two arson attacks in April: against the headquarters of the Russian Unity-Party, and the Russian Community of Crimea. He was transferred to Moscow and is being kept in draconian conditions. His lawyers are under a gag order, and have been refused elementary rights to defend him. He faces fifteen-to-twenty years in a labor camp.

Russian authorities claim that Aleksandr is a member of Right Sektor, a Ukrainian ultra-right nationalist organization, but he has no connection to the group—a fact confirmed by relatives and friends. Moreover, Aleksandr is an antifascist and anarchist who consistently opposed nationalistic movements in Crimea and faced constant fascist attacks for his activism. For example, after a film screening about murdered anti-fascist journalist Anastasiya Baburova, he was attacked by thirty Nazis with knives.
Since this case is highly political, Aleksandr’s legal costs are high, around 850 euro per month. The investigation has created a heavy financial strain on local ABC groups, and there is a call for financial support and information distribution. You can make donations via PayPal to abc-msk@riseup.net or using a bank account (write to the same e-mail address for details).
Address:
Kolchenko Aleksandru Aleksandrovichu
344082
Rostov-na-Donu
Bolshaya Sadovaya str, 31
SIZO-4
RUSSIA
Please note: Moscow ABC advises that letters in English are seldom accepted in Russian prisons, so please write only in Russian (try using a translation program), or just send photos and postcards.
http://avtonom.org/en/news/repressions-against-crimean-activists-political-context
http://wiki.avtonom.org/en/index.php/Aleksandr_Kolchenko

Alexey Sutuga
Alexey Sutuga is a longtime anarchist and anti-fascist who was arrested in April 5, 2014, for a fight with members of the ultra right in Moscow. He was sentenced on September 30, 2014, to three years and one month in prison for his alleged involvement in the fight.

However, this sentence comes in the context of an earlier case from April 2012, when he was arrested for allegedly taking part in a fight at a punk/hardcore concert in Moscow on December 17, 2011. The conflict began after club security, consisting of members of the far right, provoked guests. The concert was stopped prematurely because of the fight, but the security then attempted to take some of the audience hostage and threatened to call their nationalist football hooligan friends in reprisal. The audience members resisted and the club security opened fire with rubber coated metal bullets. However, the club security was neutralized and sent to the hospital. The case against Alexey and several others was eventually dropped in January 2014 on the eve of the Sochi Winter Olympics as part of the amnesty bill, approved as a PR stunt on initiative of Vladimir Putin.
Address:
Sutuga Alexey Vladimirovich 1986 g.r
Ispravitelnaya Koloniya № 2
Pervy Promyshlenniy massiv
kvartal 47
d. 6 g. Angarsk 665809
Irkutskaya oblast
RUSSIA
Please note: Moscow ABC advises that letters in English are seldom accepted in Russian prisons, so please write only in Russian (try using a translation program), or just send photos and postcards.
http://wiki.avtonom.org/en/index.php/Alexey_Sutuga

Sweden

Note:
The fight against fascism in Sweden is very aggressive, and many of the anti-fascists that are in prison are alleged to be involved in extremely militant activities and organizations. There are several more anti-fascists in Sweden who are currently in prison but do not want their names or addresses publicized. If you would like to write these individuals, please contact Föreningen fånggruppen.


Joel Almgren
Joel Almgren was sentenced to five years and six months for defending a local community-organized anti-racist demonstration in Stockholm against a brutal Nazi attack on December 15, 2013. The peaceful protest—against fascist assaults on local anti-racists and the dissemination of Nazi propaganda in area schools—was attacked with knives, sticks, and glass bottles by the most militant Nazi group in Sweden. Anti-fascists at the scene defended the demonstration from the attack and many were injured themselves.

Joel has over 4080 USD in fines, and his supporters are asking for help raising the money.
To donate from a non-swedish bank account:
IBAN: SE0680000832799438650120
Bic: SWEDSESS
He can read Swedish and English.
Address:
Joel Almgren
KVA Tidaholm
Skogsholmvägen
522 85 Tidaholm
SWEDEN
http://www.fanggruppen.com/write-to-prisoners-1/
https://www.facebook.com/freejoel

Posted in Racism, Repression | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

100 Wood Street: the bosses start to crumble, the strike goes on

As the amazing cleaners’ strike at 100 Wood Street in the City of London goes on, the bosses are starting to back down, but the cleaners are determined not to settle for less than total victory. As their statement puts it:

After 43 days of our all out strike at 100 Wood Street – the longest strike in the history of the City of London and the loingest stirke by an entirley migrant workforce – WE HAVE WON the London Living Wage (LLW) which will be paid effective immediately! This is a significant victory. The LLW is 30% more then the minimum, poverty wage set by the government.

However, our inspiring members have voted unanimously to stay out on indefinite strike until all unlawfully sacked cleaners are reinstated; the LLW is backdated and confirmation is given that the cleaners will be paid the annual LLW uplifts as announced by the mayor of London every 1st November

Big thank you to the amazing people from “Food not Bosses” who brought some delicious food (in very large quantities!) to the picket line today, day 44!

We’ll be back tomorrow for day 45!

Celebrating the good news on day 44

There’s a benefit gig with D Wayne Love from Alabama 3 tonight at the Amersham Arms in New Cross, and they’re inviting supporters to join them for a demo marking day 50 of the strike on Wednesday 27th. You can also donate to their strike fund here. At a time when most British unions are happy to try and sell a 33% pay cut instead of a 35% pay cut as being a victory, not to mention the disgraceful mess that was the end of the national pensions dispute, the cleaners who’ve chosen to organise through the United Voices of the World union are showing what it really looks like to fight back and win. Let’s learn from their example.

Posted in Strikes, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome, Unions, Work | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Repression round-up: court and prison news for July 20-25th

A few important notes on repression and resistance over the next few days: Aiden Aslin is due in court in Nottingham on Wednesday 20th to find out if he’ll be charged for allegedly helping the Kurdish resistance against ISIS. London Antifascists have written a callout asking people to get down and support. On Thursday 21st, there’s a protest at the Prison Service Headquarters in London calling for the abolition of the Close Supervison Centre system and in solidarity with Kevan Thackrar. You can read more about why this is important here.

Bristol ABC share the news that people involved in organising the upcoming US prison strike will be in the UK on the 20th-24th and available to do talks, although I’ve not seen anything more precise than that yet.

July 25th will be observed as an international day of solidarity with antifa prisoners. Pleasingly, that day will also see Luke O’Donovan leave prison after serving a two-year sentence. Less pleasingly, it comes just after a comrade from Merseyside was sent down for taking direct action against fascists in Dover – they’ve chosen not to make her address public, but get in touch with Merseyside AFN directly if you’d like to message her.

Posted in Repression | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Politics from below: Sisters Uncut set up occupied breakfast club

This weekend was a strong one for occupations. The Focus E15 campaign took over the balconies of East Ham police station:

Focus E15 take over the balcony of East Ham police station

While Sisters Uncut in the East End occupied one of Hackney’s many empty council flats. They’ll be using the space to host a housing and domestic violence workshop at 6:30pm on Tuesday, and they’ll be running a free children’s breakfast club from 7-8:30am Monday-Friday. You can help support them by chucking a few quid their way using the donate button on the occupation’s facebook page. It’s easy to get demoralised and immobilised watching the squalid games our rulers play. But it’s at times like these it’s worth remembering the value of the old slogan about “whoever they vote for, we are ungovernable”. Whoever wins the elections, whoever gets installed into high office without even bothering to go through the motions of democracy, their power only goes as far as we’re willing to put up with it. The Sisters Uncut occupation gives a great example of what being ungovernable can look like in practice, and the more that example spreads, the more we’ll be able to pose a real challenge to the likes of May and whoever follows her.

Sisters Uncut in Hackney

Posted in Gender, Housing, Occupations, Protests, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Early July round-up: cleaners, disability assessments, carers and more…

First off, there’s a few upcoming events this week that look worthwhile:

Throughout the whole week, the Universities and Colleges Union will be taking local actions as part of their ongoing pay dispute. The week of 11-15 July sees Edge Hill and Exeter out on the Monday, Open Uni, Rose Burford College, Arts Uni Bournemouth and Keele and Tuesday 12th, Roehampton on Wednesday 13th, Canterbury Christ Church on the 14th, and Teesside and Swansea on Friday 15th. If you don’t have plans, Fighting Against Casualisation in Education or the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts might potentially be doing interesting stuff to support the strikes in your area.
On Wednesday 13th, there’ll be action against the companies that carry out assessments for Personal Independence Payment, the new benefit that was brought in to replace Disability Living Allowance, in 16 towns and cities. There are events confirmed so far in London (Westminster), Ipswich, Norwich, Leicester, Glasgow, Sheffield, Manchester, London (Vauxhall), Brighton, Northampton, Derby, Chesterfield, Liverpool, Birmingham, Southampton and Edinburgh.
Wednesday 13th will also see another demo at 100 Wood Street in the City of London, in support of the cleaners who will have reached their 36th day of all-out strike action. You can also donate to their strike fund here, and they also have a benefit gig coming up on Saturday 23rd July.
And the next day, Thursday 14th, there’s a defend the NHS protest setting off from St Bartholemew’s Hospital at 5, which will hopefully cause a bit of disruption when it gets to the City of London.

UVW pickets on day 30 of the strike

In other workplace news, the big story has been the BMA membership voting to reject the latest contract offer, which means the doctors’ dispute is very much live again. The National Union of Teachers had a national strike on July 5th, including some memorable images of striking teachers blocking Westminster Bridge.

Teachers say defend migrants, fund schools

On the local level, Brighton SolFed/Hospitality Workers continue to get up to great stuff, and have recently won victories for ex-employees of both the Amsterdam Hotel and the Cheese & Toast cafe who’d had wages stolen. If you’re interested, you can read more about what they’ve been up to in this interview they did with the Vienna Workers’ Union.

While the amazing strike by migrant cleaners organised in the United Voices of the World union is probably the most impressive action going at the moment, it’s certainly not the only workplace organising happening among either cleaners or migrant workers. Cleaners are currently pursuing disputes through the Industrial Workers of the World in both London (at Liberty Global-Virgin Media) and Birmingham (at Deusche Bank). Meanwhile, up in Edinburgh, a solidarity group for Spanish workers have teamed up with the Edinburgh Campaign Against Poverty to launch Justice4Carers, a new campaign aimed at organising in the private care sector. In passing, it’s worth noting that Tribe of Moles, “a new weekly column reflecting struggles against benefits sanctions, austerity attacks and state repression – encouraging resistance, counter-power and autonomy” looks very much worth keeping an eye on.

IWW pickets at the Liberty Global-Virgin Media offices

In repression and legal news, Tony Cox ended up getting a conviction for “threatening behaviour” for accompanying a woman to her Work Capacity Assessment (a case that was also very well described on the Tribe of Moles). Sentencing has been postponed for four weeks while a criminal justice social work report is prepared. Aiden Aslin, the alleged YPG volunteer who’s facing potential charges for allegedly fighting with the Kurdish resistance against ISIS, is due in court in Nottingham on July 20th to find out if he’s being charged, if anyone in the Midlands can make it over to support him then. Over in Sweden, the court case of the “Kungsam 15” has now finished, with five antifascists being sentenced to jail. And, on a similar note, the second international day of solidarity with antifascist prisoners is coming up on July 25th.

Court support for Tony Cox

And finally, further congratulations are due to everyone involved with the UCL Rent Strike, which has now declared victory, a victory they say is worth over £1 million in concessions. Any rent reduction in London is a pretty serious win.

A few highlights from their press release are:

Student housing campaigns set to spread across the country, amid emergence of ‘Cut-the-Rent’ groups emulating UCL-CTR tactics and an NUS backed speakers tour adding weight to calls for coordinated action to oppose high rents; campaigners pledge “This is just the beginning”…

Ben Beach, a member of the Radical Housing Network Rent Strike group, who supported the student strikers, stated:

“As the housing catastrophe continues to hold millions in poverty, this inspiring victory demonstrates that by working together, rent strikes enable tenants to hold even the most powerful landlords to account. With ‘Brexit’ suggesting the housing crisis will only intensify, it is likely Rent Strikes will become increasingly important tools in taking back control of our homes from financial markets; a tool the housing movement cannot afford to ignore.”

Further coverage here and here.

ucl

 

Posted in Disability, Housing, Protests, Strikes, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome, Unemployment/claimants and welfare, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

God save us all: what would it actually mean to go beyond the nation?

Hatfield Main

The Hatfield Main Colliery banner, showing various miners’ leaders and the German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg.

Plan C Birmingham recently posted a call for an anti-nationalist initiative, “practical actions of solidarity and resistance that create an alternative to the nation”. The idea itself is fine as far as it goes, but much more is needed before we can claim to have a real idea of what an alternative to the nation could look like. What would a real challenge to nationalism involve?

Before tackling the nation head-on, it’s worth taking a moment to think about another subject: Islamic fundamentalism. We can all agree that jihadist ideology should be fought against, but, with the possible exceptions of a few clowns like Sam Harris, no-one thinks that it’s as simple as just explaining to people that killing people in the name of Islam is wrong and that it’d be much nicer if they could just be tolerant secularists instead. Jihadist ideology has the appeal that it has because of a complex and very specific set of historical circumstances – everything from the alienation felt in the Parisian banlieues to the state-backed communalist networks of patronage that created “the British Muslim community” with its approved representatives, and not forgetting the consequences of the Bush/Blair adventure in Iraq that created such a fertile territory for al-Zarqawi and his successors to operate in – so any real struggle against jihadism also has to be simultaneously a struggle against, as Marx might have put it, the conditions that require jihadist illusions.

So if a materialist perspective means attacking both bad ideas and the conditions that allow those ideas to make sense, what are those conditions in the case of British nationalism? A recent article by David Goodhart in the Financial Times* had a shot at providing an answer:

“What may also have been missed, especially on the left, is that while many people in the top 25 per cent of the educational and economic hierarchy have become less attached to national social contracts in the past couple of generations, others have actually become more dependent on them. The national welfare state has been expanding — think tax credits and the growth of housing benefit — and although state employment has been in decline, if you live in a rundown area, you are more likely than ever to be a state employee.

Moreover, the loss of close, industrial communities over the past few decades might well have produced a stronger attachment to the imagined community of the nation and its social supports.”

It’s possible to go through each claim made here and attach a “citation needed” – for instance, we can question whether the expansion of in-work benefits as a subsidy for low-wage work really balances out the restriction of out-of-work benefits through ever-expanding conditionality, ask for a source for the claim about the prevalence of public sector work in rundown areas, or ask how the vote could simultaneously be driven by resentment against the EU among people receiving EU money and gratitude to the UK among people receiving UK money – but we should recognise that Goodhardt has performed an important service by drawing our attention to the question of the material foundations of British identity. If he’s wrong about these things being the material supports of nationalism, then what do we think they are instead? And what would it mean to attack these situations?

Part of the answer has to be rebuilding a tangible culture of solidarity. It’s no good trying to destroy the imagined community of the nation if the only alternative is a Thatcherite “no such thing as society”. The traditional alternative has been class solidarity, across both national borders and internal barriers like the migrant/native-born divide. At some points, in some times and some places, that has been not just a nice idea but a real material force – think of the role played by international supporters in feeding the miners during the 84-85 strike, the orders of pizza delivered to the Wisconsin and Wall Street occupations and paid for by supporters across the globe, and more broadly the sharing of tactics, slogans and ideas as the wave of occupations rolled around the world in 2010-11. But it’ll take a lot more, and a lot more embeddedness in everyday life, before the internationalist alternative can form a real material community that can compete with the rewards of belonging to a nation.

Another article on the Plan C site, “For a Spoons of the Left”, looks at the kind of institutions that could embed class solidarity in everyday life, but again this article can only be a starting point for a conversation that needs to be much deeper and more critical – in particular, any discussion of “alternative infrastructure” needs to involve a serious analysis of the pros and cons of subcultural scenes**. And crucially, there needs to be a recognition that one size does not fit all, and that what works in Brighton will not necessarily work in Barnsley. In some places, something like the Cowley Club may well be useful; in others, an examination of the lessons of the Independent Working-Class Association might be more helpful.

The comrades involved in the anti-raids network are right to say that we need to build an anti-fascist culture in the days and weeks to come. But to do that we need a full understanding of what our enemy is, where its strength lies and what our alternative is.

 
*paywalled, but if you’re interested you can google the title and then click on the “cached version” option.

** and just to be clear, simplistic “lifestylism is bad” stuff isn’t enough either – a fun, exciting, politicised subcultural space that does a good job of being what it is and has no illusions of being anything else is way better than trying to appeal to everybody and creating something so bland that no-one can get enthusiastic about it. On the other hand, if you’re trying to create an accessible resource for the local community and just happen to end up with somewhere where everyone just happens to dress the same, listen to the same music and eat the same food, you might have a bit of a problem.

Posted in Bit more thinky, Debate, Internationalism | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Two suggestions for those joining the Labour Party

I’ve not had time to write much of late, but I just wanted to highlight this article that’s appeared in the Occupied Times, and particularly the practical suggestions it makes:

I don’t want to do a whole “this is what ‘the left’ needs to do” spiel so instead I’d like to make two comradely suggestions to those in and/or joining Momentum and getting actively involved in the Labour Party.

Firstly, if you don’t like what the PLP have done and plan on moving towards a process of deselecting MPs you should also be targeting local Labour council administrations being tirelessly fought by the likes of Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth, Haringey Housing Action Group and Focus E15 in Newham. This organising that is focused on material needs and confronts the state locally and directly has gained significant wins and represents a far better way to bring people together than ‘activism’. Links of solidarity and genuine support should be made to exert pressure on Labour councils (and all councils) using and abusing homelessness laws, and heinous bureaucratic violence and abuse to evict people from their homes and communities, socially cleansing London in the process. This organising is actually more crucial than ever because the danger becomes greater that in people’s desire to support Corbyn’s Labour people will then be more likely to at best only pay lip service to what the Party’s councils are doing or at worst ignore or dismiss them as an inconvenient truth. Whether or not Corbyn survives, this work remains just as important.

Secondly, the primary way to combat racialised violence – something that is a constant in society and most comprehensively administered by the state – is not through electoral means but through strong communities of solidarity and mutual aid. Even the most common form of antifascist mobilising (confronting organised fascist groups in the streets) is, whilst necessary, still inadequate. The spike in abuse and violence against migrants (or those perceived to be so) following the referendum result is taking place on public transport and in public places which means it requires strangers to intervene on the side of those being abused so that they are not alone or outnumbered. If migrants or people of colour defend themselves using “violence” or likewise others do so on their behalf, such actions should be rhetorically and institutionally defended across this “new New Left” converging around support for Corbyn. Likewise solidarity should be extended towards those who block, prevent and defend against the state’s immigration raids, legally or not.

I think that such solidarity is unlikely but I think it’s absolutely necessary and I’d be glad to be proven wrong. When I interviewed Joshua Bloom, a historian of the Black Panther Party, he spoke of how crucial it was to the growth and strength of the Party that there was a measure of cooperation between the Panthers – who believed in armed self-defence and were willing to fight back against the white supremacist state – and more moderate black groups and leaders. Bloom said of these alliances: “if you think about moderate black political leaders […] think about the kinds of people that supported the Panthers in San Francisco like Willie Brown, who was an assemblyman in California, or Cecil Williams who had a big black church, or think about people like…even Whitney Young, the head of the Urban League – I mean you don’t get much more moderate than that, in terms of black politics at that time – these were the people who led the charge against the most vicious repression of the Party […] these were the same people who, when push came to shove, felt like the Party was representing at least whatever effort there was on the part of young black people.”

I feel no sense of judgement seeing comrades joining Labour to vote for and support Corbyn – these are strange and desperate times and people are acting as they see fit – but I maintain the right to remain skeptical about investing time and energy into this. I do strongly believe that, generally speaking, the answer is not for everyone to stop what they’re doing, join Labour and become active in their CLP. Though as people are doing this, it seems clear that relationships between those trying to change the Labour party and those working outside of it could be very important over the next few years. And I can only hope that grassroots party members will extend solidarity to those proletarians contesting the power of the state more directly.

 

 

Posted in Labour, The left | Tagged , | Leave a comment