“I had no idea we agreed on so much” – the Christian Right makes new friends

In light of recent controversies over trans exclusion, it might be useful to take a look at a conference that just happened in the US, as reported on by Right Wing Watch and the SPLC.

The Values Voter Summit is an annual gathering of the Christian Right, sponsored by the Family Research Council (FRC). To give some background, the FRC assert as one of their basic positions that “homosexual conduct is harmful to the persons who engage in it and to society at large, and can never be affirmed. It is by definition unnatural, and as such is associated with negative physical and psychological health effects… We oppose the vigorous efforts of homosexual activists to demand that homosexuality be accepted as equivalent to heterosexuality in law, in the media, and in schools.”

This year’s Values Voter Summit was addressed by predictable figures like Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, but probably the most interesting panel was one on “Transgender Ideology in Public Schools: Parents Fight Back”. At this panel, one of the speakers, Meg Kilgannon, offered the following advice:

“Focus on gender identity to divide and conquer… for all of its recent success, the LGBT alliance is actually fragile, and the trans activists need the gay rights movement to help legitimize them. Gender identity on its own is just a bridge too far. If you separate the T from the alphabet soup, we’ll have more success.”

She stressed to the audience that, rather than relying on religious arguments, they would have more success tailoring their positions to appeal to a more diverse audience, offering the example of the Hands Across the Aisle Coalition – a group of “radical feminists, lesbians, Christians and conservatives that are tabling our ideological differences to stand in solidarity against gender identity legislation“. Discussing how homophobic, anti-feminist Christian fundamentalists were able to work with radical feminists around issues of pornography, sex work and opposition to trans rights, she said “I had no idea we agreed on so much.”

Peter Sprigg, another fundamentalist Christian activist who has openly stated that homosexuality should be criminalised, offered another example of what this kind of ideological camoflage can look like with his contribution to the panel; as part of the discussion about resisting “transgender ideology”, he stated that “it’s really kind of ridiculous and almost retrograde to assume that we have to identify somebody’s gender identity on the basis of their activities or preferences” – stirringly progressive words from someone who, just to repeat, thinks that the laws against sodomy should never have been repealed. Going back a bit, last year Political Research Associates published a short report looking at how groups like the Family Research Council had started drawing on the work of lesbian feminist figures like Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys.

It’s impossible to say how far people like David Davies – who shares the homophobic outlook of his Christian Right counterparts elsewhere – are deliberately drawing on the coalition-building strategies used by Christian fundamentalists in the US. But when we see supposedly feminist groups like Fair Play for Women come out with things like “[w]e are grateful to David Davies, MP for Monmouth, who shows impressive courage in pursuing these very important questions”, it’s hard not to be struck by the similarities. If we start to see Hands Across the Aisle Coalition-type rhetoric and ideology turning up more widely, it’d be worth keeping an eye on what alliances are being made, and who is pulling whose strings.

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Posted in Gender, The right, Tories | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Update on imprisoned/extradited Polish anti-fascist Patryk Cichoń

From Brighton ABC:

“After first month in Polish jails that was heavy and depressing, Patryk feels much better. He had been moved to a 3-man cell and his cell mates are ok, plus he is soon going to start work which will help him kill time and can positively impact his parole hearing. He is allowed 2 visits a month and one 5 minute phone call a week. There is however no limit on the amount of letters Patryk can receive and they are obviously very important for him. He is in the process of sorting out small DVD player with a screen, so he is asking people to send him films and music on DVDs.

Comrades in Poland are going to pay some money into his prison fund so he can buy stuff from the prison shop and they are sorting out books and magazines for him.

Patryk welcomes all letters of support. You can write to him at: Patryk Cichoń, “Syn Józefa”, Zakład Karny, ul. Załęska 76, 35-322 RZESZÓW, Poland.

We are still collecting money for Patryk’s son who is in UK in care of his brother.
You can pay by PayPal to: thebottledwasp@riseup.net [please choose “payment to a friend” option and add a note saying “for Patryk”] or into the Bottled Wasp bank account:
The Bottled Wasp
Co-operative Bank
Sort code: 08-92-99
Acc. No.: 65601648
BIC: CPBKGB22
IBAN: GB 35 CPBK 08929965601648

[More background on Patryk’s case]:

At the beginning of May 2016 our comrade Patryk Cichoń from Poland was arrested by British police under an European Arrest Warrant. Patryk is a well known anti-fascist militant notorious among neo-Nazi-boneheads in his city for his uncompromising stance against them in the past. The boneheads managed to convince a few of their friends to testify against Patryk and his friend for an alleged assault and robbery. As later transpired, his friend had a very good alibi and had the charges against him dropped (despite being allegedly recognised by the “victim” and his friends), so Patryk ended up being sentenced on his own. The whole trial was an absolute travesty and Patryk, as a poor, young working class person, was not able to afford a proper defence. He spent two months on remand in 2004 and was sentenced to three years in prison.

It is clear that this whole case was politically motivated and had only one purpose, which was to get rid of the core of the anti-fascist resistance in Patryk’s home town.

Rather than doing prison time, he decided to escape abroad and came to UK in 2005. He started his new life here, continuing to be involved in anti-fascist activity: organising gigs in London, including United and Strong Fest, which has seen lots of great Antifa bands from all over Europe performing, and raising money for anti-fascist initiatives. He was also the editor of the ‘Skinhead Revolt’ fanzine, which was the first left wing skinhead publication in Polish.

Patryk lost his extradition case and is being deported to Poland to serve his sentence. He is leaving behind his 10 year old son in the care of his younger brother D, who became his legal carer. As D has two small children of his own and is the only money earner in the household, we are planning to support him financially. We want Patryk to know that his son has enough money for school meals, clothes etc. and that his younger brother is not being pushed into poverty as a result of looking after him. Our aim it to raise £4,000, which means we can send monthly payments to his son during Patryk’s incarceration.

Patryk has always been there when others needed help and assistance, please make sure he is not left on his own now.”

The Brighton ABC have also mentioned that the cancellation of the London Bookfair will have a serious impact on their fundraising capabilities and their ability to support prisoners like Patryk or the recently-released Kara Wild; if you can, please consider sending them some money, or buying something from their snazzy new webstore, such as the Bottled Wasp 2018 Diary.

Also, there’s still not a great deal of information available in English, but it looks like G20 prisoner Fabio Vettorel is still not being released after all. More auto-translated info here.

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Leaflets, letters, and the anti-anti-semitism of fools

I had initially intended to avoid writing anything directly about the dramas that have erupted around the London Anarchist Bookfair – partly because I think there are more important issues, but also because I wasn’t there on the day, I haven’t been in a while, and I don’t really consider myself to be connected to the London activisty scene in any meaningful sense at this point. But as the controversy has rolled on and deepened, I think it’s gone beyond just being an issue for those who were directly involved, and seems to have become an important event for UK anarchism in general, and at the risk of being grandiose, it might even illustrate something broader about the possibilities that exist for the non-Labour-affiliated class-struggle left at this point in time – as I say, I may be being grandiose there, but apart from us, who else is there at the moment?

And, on a personal level, it’s nagged away at me, which is usually as good a reason as anyone has for writing anything, I think. More precisely, I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else articulate some of the things I find uncomfortable about the situation, and I certainly haven’t seen them all put together in one place, so here goes. Since I wasn’t there, I’ll try as far as possible to avoid commenting on the events of the day itself, which I’m not really qualified to judge, and try to stick to discussing the more general political forces in play.

On the campaign against the gender recognition act:

To lay my cards on the table: I think transphobia is a form of bigotry, whether it calls itself “feminist” or not, and so to me excluding terfs is a no-brainer, the same way that someone like Troy Southgate wouldn’t and shouldn’t be welcomed with open arms. I understand that not everyone feels this way, and that there are people who, for instance, don’t have a firm opinion one way or the other on whether trans people should be treated as being the gender that they identify as; this is a subject that rests on some quite deep philosophical questions, like “what is a man?” or “what is a woman?”, and it seems futile to expect everyone to come to agreement on these points before any discussion can be had.

So, for the sake of argument, I want to leave aside the question of whether trans-exclusionary feminisms are bigoted or not, and look at the other features of the current campaign against the GRA. A few things stand out: that prominent members of this campaign are actively working with hardline tory MPs like David Davies – not just “being on the same side” in the way that, for instance, everyone who voted Leave is “on the same side as Boris Johnson and UKIP” and everyone who voted Remain is “on the same side as David Cameron and the CBI”, but actively collaborating with him and speaking at meetings he organises. Similarly, these people are happy to sell pictures to the Mail on Sunday, do interviews with Ian Miles “Hitler is my fucking idol” Cheong and write articles for the Sun, are quite open about their contempt for anarchism, and are so lacking in any connections to anarchism that they had to send an actual standing-for-Parliament-and-not-even-for-Class-War-or-the-SPGB politician to leaflet the bookfair.

Also, people who bring the police into political disputes are extremely dangerous, both to themselves and to those around them. This isn’t to say that I’d automatically condemn anyone who rings the cops in any situation, but I think that it’s only an understandable response in very extreme situations, and a bit of flailing around in a park doesn’t come close to crossing that line. In case anyone thinks I’m downplaying this, it’s worth being aware that after the Hyde Park fracas, Maria MacLachan took to social media to brag about “thrashing [someone] around like a ragdoll”, which makes the whole thing sound more like a form of mutually-agreeable letting off of steam, along the lines of roller derby, a moshpit or low-level football hooliganism, than a serious attack. I’m not saying this because I think violence is a good way of settling disputes, but because I recognise that bringing the police in means escalating the violence of a situation, not defusing it. This kind of stuff should be basic for anyone who has any kind of a critique of the state – which, just to reiterate, Maria MacLachan clearly doesn’t.

So, what do we draw from this? As far as I can see, a group like Momentum – or, for that matter, the Socialist Party, the Revolutionary Communist Group, Counterfire, RS21, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, the Communist Party, etc – is far less at odds with anarchist principles than the TERF crowd are. Not only is there the small matter of Momentum et al not basing their entire activity around demonising a marginalised and oppressed group, but also, to the best of my knowledge, they’re not currently collaborating with any hardline Tory MPs, working with the Daily Mail and the Sun, giving interviews to anti-feminist alt-right trolls, and so on. But, despite all this, if they asked for space to give out literature at an anarchist event, I would hope that they would be politely yet firmly instructed to jog on, a position that I would hope might be uncontroversial among anarchists.

It’s hard to see how this can be squared with some of the mug defences that have been offered of the TERF presence at the bookfair – after all, if “we will only remove literature or people from the Bookfair in extreme circumstances and not just because we disagree with it or them, even if they do cause offence”, then on what grounds could we possibly object to people filling a bookfair with comparatively innocuous stuff like Labour Party leaflets, the Socialist, Fight Racism Fight Imperialism, Counterfire, the Morning Star and so on? It does seem remarkable that some people can be so understanding of the idea that cis people need special cis people spaces because of some weird biological essentialism, and yet have so much difficulty with the principle that anarchist spaces should be used to promote ideas and campaigns that have some basic level of compatibility with anarchism.

I’ve seen people worrying that incidents like the Hyde Park and bookfair kerfuffles mean that it’s becoming impossible to have conversations about gender or what it means to be a woman. I don’t think that these people are bigots, but I do think they’re letting themselves be manipulated by some quite unpleasant forces. To offer an analogy: I personally am opposed to immigration controls, and I think that any support for border controls is a reactionary, anti-working-class position, but I recognise that other people’s opinions differ, and I think it’s legitimate to offer space for these discussions without just closing it down by branding everyone as a racist. However, if a meeting to discuss immigration was organised with Tommy Robinson, Nick Griffin and Paul Golding as featured speakers, I would hope that, at the very least, there would be some opposition to it, and if someone attending that meeting went up to the counter-protesters, stuck a cameraphone in their faces and refused to stop filming when asked, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if that person ended up getting a slap.

If all that hypothetically happened, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over “conversations about immigration being closed down”, because I can grasp that there’s a subtle distinction between “you can’t have a conversation about these issues without being attacked” and “you can’t organise a discussion about these issues featuring extremely controversial speakers, then walk over to some people with a different opinion, start filming them and then refuse to stop filming when asked, without being attacked”. But whatever, I’m not the boss of anyone, so if people want to spend their time worrying about how the voices of “gender-critical feminists” are being suppressed so effectively that we can’t begin to hear about their perspectives, other than by reading their articles in the Sun or paying attention to the meetings that they’re invited to address in parliament, then they’re free to do that, I suppose.

Similarly, to run with the immigration comparison, there are some in the trade union movement, especially around the RMT, who argue for increased immigration controls from what they see as a left-wing, pro-working class perspective. I think these people are wrong, but I don’t think they’re fascists or anything similar, and it should be possible to discuss things with them, but at the same time, if they insisted on turning up to a meeting about coordinating practical resistance to immigration raids and the border regime, and trying to turn the conversation into a discussion of how they would imagine socialist immigration controls working under a hypothetical future Labour government, it would be perfectly reasonable to show them the door, because again there’s nothing wrong with wanting a basic minimum of political clarity.

On the burning of that banner:

That was really shit, counterproductive and embarrassing, and the nicest, most charitable thing I can find to say about it is that it was clearly the work of people whose conception of anarchism has been reduced to just the empty, unthinking repetition of a set of “radical” gestures. Just as I find myself suspicious of pro-bookfair takes and statements that gloss over the fact that politicians allied with grasses and tabloid/alt-right collaborators have no place at an anarchist bookfair, I’m equally suspicious of people from the anti-TERF side who fail to mention how shit and cringeworthy the banner-burning stunt was.

On the open letter:

Again, this was politics at the level of a pose, clearly not intended to be taken remotely seriously. The most obviously ludicrous thing about the letter is that a document demanding “A commitment to continue the “no cameras” and “no filming” rule without exception given” is signed by someone who has proudly and openly breached that rule and made the results public (I can’t provide a link, as they now seem to have taken it down, or at least made the post slightly more private, but if you’re reading this there’s a good chance you know who I mean) – god only knows what was going through that person’s head when they decided to attach their name to this letter, but for whoever’s coordinating it to accept that person’s signature, when they must be aware of that situation, would seem to indicate that they actually mean “no exceptions, unless it’s one of our mates”.

Secondly, there’s the whole issue of the conclusion – if the letter’s signatories really do believe that having big, public anarchist events is a desirable thing, and that it’s possible to organise a big, public anarchist event that totally avoids all the problems they discuss, then the only reasonable conclusion would be “if our demands are not met, then we will take it upon ourselves to organise an alternative event that will be loads better and dead inclusive and accessible, and will be really welcoming to everyone and no-one with any dodgy attitudes will turn up. As a sign of how serious we are about this, here is the affordable, accessible, appropriately-sized venue we’ve found which is free on a weekend that doesn’t clash with the UFFC march or anything similarly important.” Instead of this, there’s just a threat to picket the next bookfair, which seems like an implicit admission that the signatories don’t really think it’s possible to have a big public event that avoids the problems they discuss – or at least they don’t think it’s possible for them to organise it, which raises the question of how they expect the far smaller bookfair collective to do so.

Anyway, those are two glaringly obvious reasons why that open letter was a bad joke, but the problems don’t stop there. Instead of just complaining about the recent incident, it makes a much wider spread of allegations about: “a pattern of response from Bookfair organisers where incidents of transphobia, anti-semitism, islamophobia, racism and misogyny are ignored” and “racist imperialism, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny and ableism [becoming] part of the culture of the Bookfair”. Some of this I can at least see the reasoning for, with the stuff about misogyny presumably referring to things like the Assange fanboys who turned up a while back, but the claims about ableism and anti-semitism, for instance, are considerably more mysterious.

Since the letter’s organisers have refused to respond to repeated attempts to engage them in conversation, we have to do a bit of guesswork here. I’m still completely in the dark about what this supposed ableism involves, but I suspect the claim of “anti-semitism” is a reference to the drama about Active Distribution’s anti-religious banner. I can at least sort of understand why some people view this aggressively secularist/atheist position as being Islamophobic, as there has been a fair bit of crossover in recent years between militant atheism and active discrimination against Muslims, with secularism being invoked as an ideal by everyone from hijab-banning neoliberal/centrist politicians to the EDL; but, and this is important, there’s no kind of comparable overlap with anti-semitism. If we look at the strategies used by anti-semites in recent years, the most important ones would probably be spreading their influence in the general conspiracy theory milieu, and hiding their views in plain sight by exploiting internet cultures of irony and hyperbole (which, as people have noted, is a tactic that was identified back in the 1940s).

I can’t think of any contemporary examples of campaigns against Jews disguised as an atheist defence of secularism, which means that it’s pretty unworkable to try and claim that a general anti-religious banner is somehow anti-semitic. And, of course, the culture of traditional East End Yiddish anarchism had a strong and unapologetic anti-religious streak, which, among anarchist workers from Jewish backgrounds, manifested itself as a specific critique of Jewish institutions, so if a generic atheist banner can be taken as proof of anti-semitism, then the likes of Feigenbaum, Yanovsky and the Arbeiter Fraint group must have been tremendously racist against themselves.

Of course, the use of allegations of anti-semitism as a weapon is nothing new. Historically, defenders of the violence of the Israeli state have been keen to seize on the real anti-semitism displayed by some elements within the Palestine solidarity movement to try and portray all anti-zionism as being anti-semitic, and more recently the Labour right have been doing the same thing with Corbynism. As against this, I’ve always been sympathetic to the “boy who cried wolf” argument, often put forward by Jewish anti-zionists, which points out that anti-semitism is still mostly taboo and politically toxic, as can be seen by the way that even contemporary far-right populist movements like the EDL are more likely to fly Israeli flags than nazi ones. The argument goes that associating legitimate positions with anti-semitism, as if everyone who thinks that house demolitions aren’t really OK, or that it’d be nice to bring back British Rail, must be keeping a copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion under the bed, may in the short term be an effective way of discrediting those positions, but in the long term it serves to destigmatize anti-semitism – over time, the taboo becomes much less powerful if the term becomes more associated with people asking you not to buy Jaffa oranges than with gas chambers.

Probably the best practical example of this kind of progressive destigmatization is the declining fortunes of red-baiting in America – having been an effective weapon against the left for generations, the word “socialism” and even “communism” has lost its sting, and “socialism” understood as mildly redistributive social democracy is now an increasingly mainstream option.

It’s this that makes the unthinking, indiscriminate use of “anti-semitism” in the bookfair open letter so troubling: if a generic anti-religious banner that does not mention Jews or Judaism at all can be anti-semitic, then everything can be anti-semitic, and if everything is anti-semitic then nothing can be meaningfully identified or criticised as anti-semitic… and I can think of one group who would benefit from that being the case, and it certainly isn’t Jews.

Again, all of this is operating under the assumption that the charge of anti-semitism relates to that atheist banner; if there are other, more serious pieces of evidence for the claim, then they certainly haven’t been discussed widely. Since the publication of the letter I have also seen people raise the issue of David Rovics, who apparently has dodgy views on the subject, being booked to play at an afterparty, but that’s the first time I’d seen any mention of it – there certainly doesn’t seem to have been much in the way of objections raised beforehand, let alone any evidence of the collective dismissing it.

So, if I’m right about the charge of anti-semitism being extremely shaky, and the claims of ableism and imperialism having been similarly plucked out of thin air, then why did so many people sign a document making such strong claims with no attempt to back them up? Again, this is sheer guesswork on my part, but I suppose the most charitable/plausible explanation would be some people just not really bothering to read and adding their names in a general spirit of support for trans comrades and opposition to TERFs; more sinisterly, it might be that some people have arrived at a position where, since the bookfair collective have been found guilty of being a bit terfy, or at least soft on those who are, they are now so far beyond the pale that all methods are permissible against them.

This may sound a bit harsh, but I do feel that, unless there’s some really really convincing evidence of widespread anti-semitism, imperialism and ableism that for some reason no-one has bothered making public, it’s unlikely that everyone who signed the letter really believes those charges have been proved; if I’m right, and there are people in the milieu who are willing to put their name to an accusation that they don’t personally believe to be true, then that would suggest that they have arrived at a place where they don’t really care whether people are enabling anti-semitism or not, where the question just isn’t important enough to make a fuss about. For fairly obvious reasons, I think that thought is at least as disturbing as anything the bookfair collective are alleged to have done, or to have turned a blind eye to.

On the bigger picture:

Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the whole drama unfurled at roughly the same time as libertarian/autonomist group Plan C were publishing their series of flirtations with the Labour Party, but it sort of feels like there’s a connection to be drawn there. Certainly, it’s too early to say what effect Corbynism will end up having on the class struggle in general, but I think it’s probably safe to say it’s had a negative effect on the anarchist movement, with people who, in another time and another place, might have been good anarchists ending up in the Labour Party; and, if this is what the alternative we can offer looks like, I really can’t blame anyone who prefers to spend their time elsewhere.

Of course, if the anarchist movement was in a better and healthier state, that by itself wouldn’t stop bigoted politicians from trying to latch on to our events, or numpties and flakes from running around starting fires and writing meaningless letters in response; but, if we had a slightly bigger teacup, these storms might seem less important, and it’d be easier to focus on things like all the people out there defeating landlords or organising in warehouses.

Among the many daft things that have been said about this issue, one that stuck in my head was a throwaway comment about “if you’re a young person getting into radical left politics as it’s about to take state power, difficult to understand why anyone would get into anarchism in 2017 tbh. like i can see how 10 years ago some people may have found it via all the occupy stuff but now… nah”. Leaving aside the obvious idiocy of someone thinking that 2011/2 was 10 years ago, and the self-confident smugness, surely the point has to be that, when “the radical left” is supposedly “about to take state power”, that is precisely when you most need people with a realistic understanding of the contradictions and limitations of trying to use state institutions to bring about radical change.

As charmingly enthusiastic as the fresh-faced new social democrats may be, I’m not convinced that many of them have an understanding of history that goes back as far as July 2015. And so, while we may not be able to beat them, or even out-organise them, I don’t think joining them is really an option either.

It probably won’t be particularly easy or gratifying to be an anarchist in the weeks, months, or years to come, for all sorts of reasons, but then that’s never the point. It does feel sad that, 100 years after the anarchist sailor Anatoli Zhelezniakov stormed the Winter Palace and helped usher in a regime that would brutally destroy the anarchist movement, some of us are still so easily manipulated by people who clearly don’t have our best interests at heart. If you’re still reading this, and you live in that part of the world, it might be nice if you fancy coming to the Manchester & Salford Bookfair at the start of December, but maybe, while you’re there, try and avoid giving out any provocatively bigoted leaflets, setting anything on fire, or throwing around massively serious political claims that you don’t feel like substantiating.

Posted in Anarchists, Bit more thinky, Debate, Gender, Racism, Stuff that I don't think is very useful | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Prisons update for mid-November, take two: updates on Herman Bell, Kara Wild and others

Having just published a round-up of prison-related news a few days ago, a whole bunch of stuff’s gone up since then that seems worth including:

Kara Wild, the Chicago anarchist convicted of helping damage a cop car during the revolt against the French labour law, has just been released, which is slightly surprising as she only just got convicted. Anyway, you can donate to help her as she readjusts to the outside world here.

Herman Bell, the 69-year-old former Black Panther prisoner who was brutally attacked by prison staff a few months back, is coming up for a parole hearing in a few months. Since he was convicted for killing cops back in the early 70s, in the context of the COINTELPRO war against black radicals and the police murders of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, the police and cop-lovers always mobilise to ensure he’s denied parole, so it’d be good if those of us who don’t want this elderly man to die in prison mobilise to support his parole hearing by sending letters in support.

Letters to be sent to:

Tyler Morse & KB White
Parole Preparation Project
c/o Law Office of Michelle L. Lewin
168 Canal Street, 6th Floor
New York, NY 10013

by December 15th.

In the words of Waverley Jones, Jr, son of one of the police officers Herman was convicted for killing:

“Me, personally, have forgiven these men for the positions that they took back then . . . I don’t see them as someone that’s going to come out of prison and commit violent crimes or anything of that nature . . . I feel that Herman Bell and Anthony Bottom were both victims as well of a much larger scheme which got them incarcerated to this day. . . And to me they have shown great resilience in prison, that their mind is still intact, that their spirit is still eager to do good, and I just pray that the Parole Board will look at the context and the time and send a message to me of healing.”

It’s Going Down also has a new interview with a prison rebel involved in Jailhouse Lawyers Speak, as well as a report from Alabama anarchist prisoner Michael Kimble about a new work stoppage at Holman Prison.

As previously noted, the J20 trials are still ongoing, the calls to make complaints against staff abuse in New York and help get IPP inmate John Rumney sent to Bury where he can have contacts with his family are still live, and the 22nd birthday of Ferguson rebel Josh Williams is still coming up if you’d like to send him a card. Meanwhile, it looks like G20 prisoner Fabio Vettorel is set to be released, at least for the time being, although that’s hard to say for sure because all the coverage is in German or Italian and my language skills are awful. But I think “G20, sì tribunale a scarcerazione Fabio Vettorel, ma procura impugna” is good news, anyway. See the #FreeFabio hashtag if your language skills are better than mine.

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Uber, Deliveroo, and other precarious/gig economy updates

A few recent-ish updates: Uber have lost their appeal against the employment tribunal that ruled that Uber drivers are workers; meanwhile, Deliveroo have managed to get a ruling that Deliveroo drivers are not workers, showing how tricky these kinds of legal strategies can be. Also, City Sprint have apparently made everyone sign new contracts to get around a recent tribunal win for couriers there.

In less legalistic news, the Deliveroo workers’ bulletin, the Rebel Roo, has started publishing again after a six-month break, with a new issue that covers the recent Bristol wildcat – apparently “Unionised riders from the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) were there to offer support if it was needed. It wasn’t – the wildcat action from the moped riders was enough.” As ever, you can print a few copies out if you’ve got access to a printer, or email rebelroouk@gmail.com to request some if you haven’t, and help pass a few on to riders near you.

If you’d like to know more about the situation at Deliveroo, Viewpoint Magazine recently published a “workers’ inquiry” article co-written by a Deliveroo rider with the marvellous psuedonym of Facility Waters and an academic who writes about this stuff; or, for a less high-brow take on the experience, there’s deliveroo_memes on instagram.

Posted in Unions, Work | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Legal/courts/prisons update for mid-November

A few pieces of news related to courts, prisons and the legal system:

Here in the UK, the Clydeside IWW are asking people to join them at Glasgow Sheriff Court on Thursday December 7th to support one of their members who was arrested for allegedly supporting a 16-year-old who was violently arrested while challenging the police presence at Glasgow Pride this summer. As a reminder, Aiden Aslin, who’s still on bail awaiting charges for his alleged involvement in fighting against ISIS, has his next bail date on December 13th, although I’m not currently aware of any public solidarity calls for that date.

Also in the UK, if you haven’t already, taking a few minutes to email roz.hamilton@manchester.probation.gsi.gov.uk and Rob.Knight@hmps.gsi.gov.uk (although that address seems to be bouncing at the moment) in support of John Rumney, who has now served 12 years of a 16 month sentence thanks to the horrific IPP scheme, could make a real difference to his chances of being sent to a hostel in Bury where he’d be in contact with his family and have some kind of a support network, rather than being sent to Liverpool where he’d be totally isolated and at a much higher risk of reoffending.

Over in the US, the IWW’s Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee are asking people to raise complaints on behalf of Jermaine Reynolds, a prisoner who’s currently being held in solitary confinement while recovering from injuries to his kidneys, head and leg after being attacked by staff. Email OSIComplaint@doccs.ny.gov to ask that they remove Jermaine from the Secure Housing Unit, and launch a full investigation into his assault and subsequent hearing, and ring (518) 483-6997 if you can make calls to US numbers.

Meanwhile, the J20 trials of people arrested in the kettle at Trump’s inauguration are starting – see the Defend J20 Resistance site for updates on that situation.

Also in the US, Josh Williams, who’s serving an eight-year sentence for starting a fire during the Ferguson uprising that followed the police killing of Mike Brown, will be turning 22 on November 25th. As ever, the people who took to the streets in Ferguson during those days shouldn’t be forgotten, especially those who the state have singled out for revenge; if you feel like sending a card in time to brighten up his 22nd birthday, his address is Josh Williams #1292002, Jefferson City Correctional Center, 8200 No More Victims, Jefferson City, MO 65101.

Back in Europe, it appears that most of the people who were held awaiting trial on charges related to the G20 protests in Hamburg are currently out, but Fabio Vettorel is still inside. His 19th birthday will be on December 2nd, although it looks like his case is starting now, so you might want to check back on the United We Stand site closer to the time before sending him a card. His address is:

FABIO VETTOREL
JVA Hahnöfersand
Hinterbrack 25
21635 Jork
Germany

Here’s a google translation of his statement to the court, and another of a letter sent to him by Federico Annibale, who spent a while in prison recently for taking part in protests against the European Central Bank in Frankfurt.

First of all I would like to say that probably the politicians, the police commissars and the magistrate ladies think that imprisoning and arresting a few boys may stop the dissent in the streets. Probably their lords think the prisons are enough to turn off rebel voices that everywhere they stand up. Probably their lords think that repression will stop our thirst for freedom. Our will to build a better world.

Well, they are deluded. And it’s the story that makes them wrong.

Because countless boys and girls like me have gone for a court like this.

In fact today is Hamburg, yesterday was Genoa, before it was still Seattle.

You are trying to stifle the revolt voices that everywhere they stand up with any “legal” means, with every “procedural” means.

However, whatever the decision of this court will be, it will not affect our protest. Still so many boys and girls, moved by the same ideals, will come down the streets of Europe…

I want to use my right not to make any statements about the specific fact I am accused of. However, I would like to focus on what the motivations are for a young worker who is originally from a remote Eastern Prealp town to come to Hamburg.

To manifest its dissent against the G-20 summit.

G-20. Only the name has something perverse in itself.

Twenty men and women exponents of the world’s 20th richest and most industrialized countries sit around a table. They all sit together to decide our future. Yes, I said well: ours. My, like that of all the people sitting in this room today, like that of the other 7 billion people who inhabit this beautiful Earth.

Twenty men decide about our lives and our death.

Obviously at this nice banquet the population is not invited. We are but the stupid flock of the Earth’s powerful... viewers of this theater where a handful of men hold in the hands of a whole humanity…

In a time when new frontiers rise everywhere in the world, new barbed wire is stretched, new walls rise from the Alps to the Mediterranean, I find it wonderful that thousands of boys from all over Europe are willing to go down together in the streets of a single city, for its own future. Against every border. With the only common intention to make the world a better place than we found it.

Because a lady of law, gentle lords, a lawyer, a lawyer for the minor, because we are not the flock of twenty captains. We are women and men who want to have the right to have their lives.

And for this we fight and fight.” (A machine translation of Fabio’s statement, I’m sure it was more eloquent in the original.)

Posted in Anarchists, Repression | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mid-November round-up of workplace and social struggles

In workplace news, housing maintenance workers employed by Mears in Manchester have just voted for an extensive programme of strike action as part of their long-running dispute over pay and conditions, with a total of 49 days’ strike action planned between now and February unless the dispute can be resolved. According to Unite: “Workers at Mears in Manchester and at Manchester Working will undertake a series of 48 hour strikes on the following dates: November 13, 16, 20, 23 and 27, December 4, 7, 11, 14, 18, 21, 28, January 4, 8, 11, 15, 18, 22, 25, 29, February 1, 5 and 8. The same workforce will also take part in 24 hour strikes on November 30, December 1, January 2.

The new industrial action is being taken as a result of Mears’ failure to: meaningfully negotiate on pay and conditions, the detrimental treatment of workers during the previous dispute, attacks on workers’ holiday entitlement, allocation of work to sub-contractors, inappropriate allocation of work to apprentices, trainees and improvers and proposed unilateral changes to working hours and conditions for some of the affected workers.”

Over in Sheffield, as part of the bizarre situation where a national programme of jobcentre closures has been fought as a purely local issue, staff at Eastern Avenue jobcentre are still on their indefinite strike, and there’s a push to get people along for the very last day before it closes entirely, on Friday 17th.

The Picturehouse cinema strikers are taking their show on the road, and will be stopping off at Nottingham on Wednesday 15th, Leeds on Friday 17th, and Sheffield on Saturday 18th to discuss how they’ve organised to challenge their conditions. The Leeds event will also have a McDonald’s striker speaking.

Down in London, there’s going to be a fundraiser for the Whipps Cross Hospital strikers on Tuesday 14th, the strike and demo by/in support of outsourced workers at the University of London on Tuesday 21st, and then a fundraiser for the Picturehouse and McDonald’s strikers at the Bread & Roses pub in Clapham on Thursday 23rd (hosted by lefty-Labour mag the Clarion).

In more general social struggle news, Smash IPP are asking people to take a few moments to email the probation service to help make sure that IPP prisoner John Rumney is released to a hostel in Bury, near his family, and not just sent to a programme in Liverpool where he would be completely isolated and at a much higher risk of reoffending. Brighton SolFed have published a round-up of recent victories for tenants organising over damp, deposit theft and repairs.

Down in Whitechapel, Sisters Uncut disrupted a Tower Hamlets council meeting last week as part of their continuing “don’t lose hope” campaign to save Hopetown women’s hostel. On a similar note, the campaign to save the South Yorkshire Women’s Aid centre will be back at Doncaster Civic Building to continue their fight against the council on Monday 13th, and every Monday after that until the service is saved. Also in South Yorkshire on the 13th, some people will be holding a discussion about setting up a Sheffield Plan C group.

In migration-related news, the Glasgow Unity Centre are fighting a mass deportation to Jamaica, and there’s a protest scheduled outside the Jamaican High Commission in London on Monday 13th to ask them to end their cooperation with these flights. On Saturday 17th, there’s due to be another demonstration against the Yarl’s Wood detention centre – there’s been a fair bit of controversy about the organisers recently, but I don’t think there are any calls to boycott the demo itself. One detainee support group, the unfortunately-named SDS, have said “Though we acknowledge that these demonstrations have been made bigger and louder with the help of MfJ organisers, both inside and outside Yarl’s Wood, we also feel that these demonstrations are not about, or for, MfJ. These demonstrations are about the women in Yarl’s Wood. They are about showing solidarity with their struggle. These demonstrations are spaces where we can visually and vocally show that we stand with the women inside; that we admire their courage and strength; that we are listening. We feel that to not turn up on the 18th would be a huge disappointment for the women inside Yarl’s Wood. It should not be these women who suffer the consequences of a group’s harmful actions. SDS will therefore be heading to Yarl’s Wood to show solidarity with the women inside just as before but will be taking alternative transport to MfJ’s buses, details about this will be coming out soon.” Which seems like a fair enough take. Or if you’re in Scotland, you could go up to Dungavel instead.

Speaking of the SDS, the public inquiry into undercover policing is still slowly dragging on, and participants are still fighting to stop the whole thing being a complete whitewash – they’re asking people to join them outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Monday 20th, to “stand with the core participants to support their demands that the Inquiry releases the cover names, and opens up the files on people who have been spied upon.”

In anti-fascist news, the German antifa speaking tour is still going on, Merseyside AFN are hosting a discussion on the contemporary UK alt/far-right on Tuesday 14th, and anti-fascists in the North-East are mobilising against an upcoming demo in Durham by the North-East Infidels, on Saturday 25th.

Finally, the Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair will be happening on Saturday 2nd December – fingers crossed that none of David Davies’ mates turn up to start shit and spark off an endless round of self-escalating confrontations and drama.

Posted in Anarchists, Gender, Housing, Protests, Racism, Repression, Strikes, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment