All out for seven days at Picturehouse cinemas, escalating action at unis, and more on Universal Credit and Women’s Aid

A few notes on ongoing struggles and upcoming events:

After the postponement of their previous strike action, workers at Picturehouse Cinemas will now be walking out for a full seven days to demand a living wage, and in defiance of attempted management intimidation, from Saturday 17th onwards. Their picketing schedule is as follows:

Sat 17 – Hackney (5.30-8.30pm)
Sun 18 – Central (5.30-8.30pm)
Mon 19 – Demo at Picturehouse head office (11.30am – 2.30pm), 30 Orange Street, London, WC2H 7HH
Tue 20 – East Dulwich (10.45am-2pm)
Wed 21 – Crouch End (5.30-8.30pm)
Thu 22 – Ritzy (5.30-8.30pm)
Fri 23 – Central (5.30-8.30pm)

You can also donate to their strike fund here.

Next week will also see UCU members at 61 universities walk out for the start of an escalating strike over pensions that will run over four weeks – if you can get down to their picket lines, the strike dates are as follows:

Week one – Thursday 22 and Friday 23 February (two days)

Week two – Monday 26, Tuesday 27 and Wednesday 28 February (three days)

Week three – Monday 5, Tuesday 6, Wednesday 7 and Thursday 8 March (four days)

Week four – Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15 and Friday 16 March (five days)

In Manchester, Fujitsu workers fighting against compulsory redundancies and the victimisation of union reps will also be out from Thursday 22 – Wednesday 28 February.

In other workplace news, the Notes From Below project have published a detailed investigation into the cleaners’ rebellion at the LSE.

In other social struggles, the campaign to save South Yorkshire Women’s Aid have set up a new fundraiser that they’re asking people to donate to or share, Disabled People Against Cuts have announced details of local actions against Universal Credit at the start of March for Brighton, Bristol, Cardigan, Edinburgh, Falmouth, and Norwich, and will also be supporting a protest by homeless groups like Streets Kitchen on March 3rd, and Tottenham community centre T Chances has been occupied by some of its users, and people are planning to resist an eviction scheduled for the end of May – keep up with Hands Off T Chances for updates.

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Posted in Disability, Gender, Occupations, Protests, Strikes, Unemployment/claimants and welfare, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Syria seen from the Viewpoint of imperial purity: the crushing narcissism of empire

When your politics are based solely around a sense of national guilt, you can end up in some strange places.

When your politics are based solely around a sense of national guilt, you can end up in some strange places.

“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.” – Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

 

“most leftist[s] know almost nothing about Syria, and the little they know is either deeply flawed or absolutely false… their anti imperialism discourse moved from the field of analysis and politics to the realm of identity: concepts were transformed to symbols, a specific linguistic expressions that tell who you are, not what you are doing and how to offer a better understanding of the world. So when you talk about struggle against imperialism, this in no way means that you are really doing anything that will annoy imperialism.” – Yassin al-Haj Saleh

 

Viewpoint Magazine is a publication with a very curious editorial policy. At times, it’s put out some really useful, insightful analysis, particularly where it comes to the intersection of class and what is sometimes described as identity politics, and engaging with some of the best thinkers to emerge from the broad Marxist tradition, from Pannekoek to Federici; and at other times, it’s published some barely readable crap, especially distinguished by a strange reverence for the “New Communist Movement” sects that emerged out of the defeat and fragmentation of the student and anti-war movements of the 1960s.

Among the really good things that Viewpoint’s published is a piece by Asad Haider from about a year ago, with the deliberately provocative title “White Purity”, looking at how forms of liberal white anti-racist politics that focus on white privilege and white guilt can have the counter-productive effect of making everything all about white people. One of the things that’s interesting about White Purity is that it provides some conceptual tools that can help articulate precisely why some of the more recent stuff that Viewpoint’s published is so awful.

I haven’t had time to read much of their new collection on imperialism, because it’s really long and none of us have as much free time as we’d like, but from what I have had the chance to read so far, it contains at least one really glaringly bad article, dealing with the subject of Syria. The author, Patrick Higgins, is guided by an ideology that would usually be described as “anti-imperialism” or simply “anti-Americanism”, but which, following Haider, we can refer to as “imperial purity” or “American purity”. What does imperial purity involve?

Here are some quotations from Haider’s piece which, with some minor editing, can provide a good sketch of imperial/American purity:

Among other things, [empire] is a kind of solipsism. From right to left, [Americans] consistently and successfully reroute every political discussion to their identity…

These debates, flaring up constantly since [at least WWI], provide [Americans] with a perfect opportunity to make the world revolve around them…

And so it turns back around, back to [Americans] and their fantasies. We have tried, for some time, to ignore this and continue to discuss the substantive issues. But [Americans] make our lives even more difficult when they claim to speak in our name. I can only conclude that the strange phenomenon called [empire] produces a very deep and tenacious psychopathology, and that it is time for us to attack it openly…

Indeed, to the consternation of good [Americans], not every [person from a colonized country] is on board with [imperial] purity. Many are, to be sure, because the secret reality which [imperial] purity hopes to obscure is that [people from colonized countries] are just as capable of a diversity of opinions and perspectives as [Americans] are. For [imperial] purity to succeed, [people from colonized countries] have to be romanticized as noble victims. When they fail to fit into this category, [imperial] purity seems to lack a proper foundation…

The Weather Underground used the language of “privilege” to reject the white working class as a force for revolutionary change, instead associating political struggle with vanguard groups like themselves, who attacked their own privilege by adopting a revolutionary lifestyle. What this amounted to was the self-flagellation (with explosives) of white radicals, who substituted themselves for the masses and narcissistically centered attention on themselves instead of the black and Third World movements they claimed to be supporting – reducing those movements to a romantic fantasy of violent insurrection

White liberals are suggesting that a new wave of “pro-white” socialists have arisen to defend the “white working class.” This is nonsense. [International] revolutionaries throughout [global] history have argued that the project of emancipation requires overcoming the divisive logic of [nationalism].”

Now, to examine Higgins’ article for examples of what this imperial purity looks like in practice:

Early on, Higgins includes Syria as part of a list of “targets of U.S. imperialism” and “sites of large-scale U.S. military violence”, consisting of Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Syria. This feels a bit like comparing apples, oranges and watermelons: Iraq, certainly, is a place where the US started a war by invading, and it’s unarguable that, if the US hadn’t invaded in 2003, Iraq would not have been at war then. Libya and Syria, where the US intervened in existing internal conflicts that had already escalated into civil wars, are less clear-cut cases, and in Yemen, the main outside intervention has come from the Saudi military, with the US playing much more of a supporting role. This is an early sign of the kind of disappearing trick that imperial purity specialises in: to conflate the case of Iraq, where the US really did start a war, with the much more complex multipolar conflicts in Libya, Syria and Yemen, only works if we deliberately ignore a great number of other players, or insist on treating them as being solely proxies for US interests.

Higgins mentions that there are around 4000 US troops inside Syria, but avoids comparing this to the number of forces deployed by other actors in the region, or asking too much about what they’re doing. The entire thrust of his article is based around depicting the situation in Syria as being solely about a US war against Assad’s government, so it’s unfortunate for his argument that those troops have been engaged far more in attacking ISIS – one of Assad’s enemies – than in attacking the Syrian state.*

And those 4,000 US troops seem a less impressive number if we bear in mind that one report estimated that there are also 20,000 Iraqi militiamen, around 15,000-20,000 members of Iranian-backed Afghan militias, 7,000-10,000 from Hezbollah, and 5,000-7,000 from various other international Iranian-supported militias, on top of a direct Iranian military presence of 8,000-10,000 IRGC forces and 5,000-6,000 from the Iranian army. And that’s before we even begin to take other interested players like Russia and Turkey into account. Even if we assume that all these numbers are gross overestimates, it’s clear that the 4000 US soldiers are a tiny, tiny minority of the foreign forces fighting in Syria, so to brand the country as just being a “site of direct U.S. military occupation” is an impressive display of the “peculiar kind of solipsism” that characterises imperial purity. It’s like talking about New Zealand’s war on Vietnam, Poland’s invasion of Iraq or Morocco’s war in Yemen – technically accurate in a narrow sense, but showing a somewhat skewed sense of perspective.

Laying out his broad theoretical/historical model, Higgins divides the Arab world into countries with “a history of Arab nationalist and republican state structures”, which are the ones burning today – “Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Syria” – and “retrograde monarchies that remain comparatively stable and enjoy friendly relations with the U.S. (Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and so on)”. A canny observer may spot an interesting omission from this latter list – what about Qatar? It would certainly seem to fit much better in the second list, but it would be a bit foolhardy to bet on Qatar’s continued stability, as tensions are still high between Qatar and the other retrograde monarchies like Saudi Arabia and the UAE. But the situation in Qatar is one that would be impossible to fit into Higgins’ preferred world view, since there’s no easy way to shoehorn Qatar on one side and Saudi Arabia/UAE/Bahrain/Egypt/Chad/Senegal/etc on the other into “basically just puppets who can be used as shorthand for the US” or “oppressed noble savages”, which are the only two categories that Arabs or Africans can be allowed to occupy in the imperial purity worldview. Any remotely adequate discussion of the Qatar situation would have to start off by acknowledging that the rulers of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Chad, Senegal and so on are actually independent actors with interests that aren’t defined solely in relation to the US, or even the US + Israel, and this kind of thinking is an unacceptable challenge to imperial purity’s self-absorption.

Instead, in keeping with his US-centric worldview, Higgins proceeds to a broad overview of the region as being essentially defined by Israel, and by the attitudes that various states have taken with regards to the Israel/Palestine issue. From this perspective, the main things to note about Syria are that it is “an Arab nationalist state that professes anti-Zionism in its constitution” and that “U.S. strategists” tend to take a dim view “of the Syrian government’s relationship to anti-Israel forces”. This is politics at the level of states and politicians – politics which takes nation-states, assumed as a coherent whole, as a starting point, rather than assessing them as a product of the internal struggles going on within the territory governed by each nation-state. In other words, the Viewpoint Higgins adopts is the viewpoint of capital and the state. By framing the issue in terms of how Syria relates to Israel and Palestine, and how US strategists feel about how Syria relates to Israel and Palestine, questions such as, for example, what the Syrian government might mean to people living in Syria can be made to disappear. Imperial purity can perform some amazing disappearing acts.

Doubling down on his “Syria is defined by its relationship to Palestine and Israel, and so to the US” perspective, Higgins shares some quotes from the US ruling class about Syria’s involvement in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, and then offers the observation that “[t]he fact, for example, that left-wing Palestinian organizations were able to hold open strategy conferences in Damascus before the outbreak of war, is not in the slightest way insignificant, for either U.S. imperialists or for anti-imperialists”. This seems like one of those points where what’s sauce for the goose must logically be sauce for the gander: is it significant or insignificant that left-wing pro-Palestinian organisations are able to operate openly and hold meetings in the US itself? Is that one of the major factors that should inform our view of the US as a state? Here we can see the self-centred hypocrisy of imperial purity at play: of course Higgins would never attempt to characterise his own society using a metric as arbitrary as “can Palestinians hold meetings here?” The US is judged on its own terms, as an actor with interests of its own, as a subject, while Syria and other Arab nations are reduced to objects, mere backdrops for the struggle between the Palestinian goodies and the Israeli baddies.

Continuing with his selective blindness, Higgins reports that “The empire has resorted to scorched-earth and chemical weapon air attacks in parts of Syria. For example, “U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesman Maj. Josh Jacques told Airwars and Foreign Policy that 5,265 armor-piercing 30 mm rounds containing depleted uranium (DU) were shot from Air Force A-10 fixed-wing aircraft on Nov. 16 and Nov. 22, 2015,” into Syria’s rural east.”

But is it correct to speak of the empire, singular, here? Given the reports of Russian and Syrian air forces using white phosphorus, napalm and cluster bombs, with Russian air strikes alone reported to have killed around 5,703 civilians by the end of September 2017, surely it would be more accurate to speak of competing empires, plural, employing scorched-earth and chemical weapon air attacks. Whoosh! There goes the magical disappearing act again, as the entire Russian air force vanishes under the invisibility cloak of imperial purity.

Again and again, Higgins displays his commitment to a narrative of the Syrian conflict as being solely a product of US intervention, and his willingness to ignore anything that might suggest any kind of agency on the part of non-US participants. He talks about 2011 as being “when the United States and its regional partners launched the war”, which, for anyone with a basic knowledge of the Syrian uprising, might raise a few questions, like: when and how exactly did the conflict start? Could anything have possibly happened inside Syria prior to US involvement? What is it that’s being disappeared here?

He concedes that “the struggle over the nature of private capital in Syrian society and the ruling Ba’ath Party will endure after the war’s end”, but follows it up with “For those of us living inside imperial states, our relationship to that struggle will chiefly be determined by our relationship to our own governments.” Again, this is the Viewpoint of the state and capital. From a ruling-class perspective, our most important relationship is the one we have with our own governments, but looked at from “the world turned upside down”, the most basic starting point of any communist analysis, our defining relationships, and the ones that give us the power to act, are the ones we have with other proletarians.

Certainly, the starting point for that has to be the proletarians closest to us, but for most of us, the local working class is likely to include Arab, Kurdish, Turkish and Iranian workers, whether they’re refugees from the most recent conflict or arrived here as part of earlier waves of migration. And, through them, we can end up connected to their friends and relatives elsewhere. Not to mention that, when we begin organising politically, we’re likely to come into contact with socialists, communists and anarchists from Middle Eastern and North African backgrounds. Seeing our relationship to social and class conflicts in Middle Eastern and North African countries as being primarily mediated by our relationships with workers and revolutionaries from those countries seems far healthier and more sensible than viewing things solely through the prism of “our own” government’s connection to the events.

Or perhaps I’ve got it all wrong, and when there’s been protests and vigils for Aleppo or Afrin – or indeed Suruç or Ankara – in my area, I should have turned up shouting “Fake news! This can’t be directly blamed on the US, UK, or Israel, so everyone stop caring about this right now!”

Having briefly nodded at the possibility that Syrian society might actually contain a variety of different forces, and that Syrians might be more than just the passive victims of US attacks, he then returns to the more comfortable territory of the war on Syria, where “the U.S. war has targeted and exploded state institutions, which double as sites of social reproduction, from government buildings to schools”. The U.S. war. Has anyone else, I wonder, targeted and exploded state institutions? Hospitals, perhaps? To talk about “the US war” targeting sites of social reproduction, in the face of such a concerted Russian-Baathist air war against hospitals, feels like another variation on the imperial purity theme of “Syria without Syrians”.

He says that these attacks – just the US ones, obviously, not the Russian-Syrian ones – “constitute nothing short of a massive attack on social investment, the Syrian people’s wealth, for, as noted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) as recently as 2013, “[state-owned enterprises] operate across all sectors in Syria”.” Of course, it’s fitting that Higgins’ first instinct is to quote the OECD, in keeping with his general instinct to relate everything back to Western/imperial ruling-class actors; but beyond that, it’s worth questioning the assumption that “state institutions” and “government buildings” can be described as “the Syrian people’s wealth”. When the Weather Underground, who Haider rightly identified as being among Higgins’ antecedents in the white/American/imperial purity tradition, bombed US government buildings, were they “attacking the American people’s wealth”? Or is it that, once again, Americans are recognised as three-dimensional and not just equated with their state, a level of consideration that Higgins refuses to extend to Syrians?

This is particularly exasperating because, just a few paragraphs prior, Higgins admits that there “were elements of the Syrian state [who were b]enefitting from and complicit with” neoliberal economic policies that drove growing poverty and inequality, which is the sort of thing that you’d think might complicate any simple identification between the state and “the Syrian people’s wealth”, but apparently imperial purity has rotted this kid’s brain to the point where he can’t even keep track of things he’s mentioned in his own article.

He then retreats even further from any attempt at actually analysing the contemporary situation in Syria, mentioning a 2005 text on the invasion of Iraq (a country which, in case anyone is having difficulty keeping up, is not actually the same place as Syria), which was informed by… the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s analysis of the situation in Palestine. Because why on earth would you bother examining what Syrians have to say about the contemporary situation in Syria when you can just recycle analyses of Palestine, a different country with different forces at play? If you have any doubt about the distorting effects of imperial purity, try to imagine this anyone getting away with this level of sloppiness when analysing those countries which imperial purity directs its, and our, gaze towards. I could be wrong, but I don’t think an article about the repressive counter-insurgency strategies of the contemporary US state, based on having read a few things about the policing of the 84-85 miners’ strike and informed by a cheerful willingness to assume that all imperialist states are basically the same, so if you’ve analysed one then you’ve analysed them all, would find many takers.

Higgins tells us that “we face an enemy with which partial compromises amount to total compromises”. Stirring words, but, even in the sense that he means them, they’d sound more meaningful coming from, say, the likes of the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee or the Transform Now Plowshares folk than they do coming from a doctoral student at the University of Houston, someone whose research is funded by an institution with direct financial links to the US armed forces, the same institution that houses the Department for Homeland Security’s Borders, Trade and Immigration Institute.

But this is quibbling – the real point isn’t that Higgins, like everyone else, inevitably makes some compromises with the state that governs the territory in which he lives, it’s that he’s unable to see past the borders of that territory. The enemy that we face is a global system, and so, before we can even begin to assess the compromises that we’re making with it, we must first understand what that enemy actually looks like. Higgins’ perspective, which is apparently unable to cope with, for instance, the existence of Turkey and Russia, isn’t much use here.

He adds that “to oppose US imperialism is to oppose capitalism itself”, a piece of froth that can only be justified through the purest circular logic. It’s interesting to see where this point takes us, and to wonder how far back in history it applies – was Kaiser Wilhelm a hero of anti-capitalist resistance? Hitler? Or what about the modern day – is Putin opposing capitalism? What about the Turkish state’s attack on Afrin – the PYD/YPG/YPJ/SDF can definitely be said to have aligned themselves with the US, so does that mean that Erdogan is attacking capitalism itself? But then again, Turkey is a member of NATO, which is pretty much as aligned with US imperialism as you can get, so maybe everyone on both sides of the conflict in Afrin is fighting capitalism simultaneously? Throughout his article, Higgins delicately dances around the subject of who the US is actually fighting in Syria, but the logic of his position is clearly one that would call for principled anti-capitalist solidarity with ISIS.

Higgins then switches back to talking about Palestine – and, more importantly, talking about the US ruling class, the subject he finds himself endlessly drawn back to – saying that “Trump has offered liberation-minded peoples of the world a potentially invaluable gift [by] – this is the most important part – redirecting the eyes of the Arab popular classes towards occupied Palestine, restoring the rightfully esteemed place of the Palestinian cause in the hearts of the world’s disinherited”.

This bit makes an odd contrast to an earlier section of the essay, where he cited “Karl Liebknecht’s enduring warning belted out on the eve of world war: the main enemy is at home! [And] his additional imperative: “Learn everything, don’t forget anything!””

Obviously, the second part of the Liebknecht quote is pretty funny in the mouth of a lad so dozy and forgetful that he can fail to notice things like the presence of 20,000 Iraqi militia troops, 15-20,000 members of Afghan militias, and a direct Iranian military occupation of around 15,000 people, a dolt so addlebrained that he can note the existence of different forces with different class interests within Syrian society one moment and then go back to equating state institutions with “the Syrian people’s wealth” the next; but it’s the first of Liebknecht’s maxims that’s really interesting here. Apparently, those of us within the empire’s borders get to have an enemy at home; but this isn’t a luxury that imperial purity will grant to those noble Arab savages, so if their eyes can be redirected away from struggles in their own countries and towards the big bad Israeli foreigners, that’s a very good and important thing.

He adds that we’re seeing “demonstrations gain momentum in the Arab world, with the United States being the source of their ire”, which seems not entirely accurate. Of course, Iran isn’t a part of “the Arab world”, which might point to some limitations of using such an ethnically-loaded term to describe such a culturally and ethnically diverse region, but it’s still remarkable that, while Higgins was churning out this dreck, demonstrations in Iran were raising slogans – aimed at “their own” government – like “Let go of Palestine”, “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I give my life only for Iran” and “Leave Syria, think about us.” Clearly, these backwards folk are in need of a stern imperial purity lecture on what their correct priorities should be.

In closing, Higgins offers one final example of the breathtaking selective blindness of imperial purity, as he asks “what constituencies can be mobilized” to support his desired anti-war movement, and suggests a combination of “the Palestinian and Black liberation movements”. The omission here is striking: since 2011, the world has seen a huge wave of migration, as vast numbers of people have responded to the war in Syria by following the time-honoured instinct to get as far away from the front lines as possible. In their refusal to fight and die for any of the competing factions, these people have already taken practical action against the war, and while most of them have wound up in other places, there’s still over 18,000 of them living in the US alongside Higgins. Since these people might, generally speaking, be expected to have at least a passing interest in Syrian affairs, it’s curious that they don’t seem to cross his mind when thinking about what constituencies to mobilize.

It’s hard to say how much credit to give Higgins here – is it because he’s consciously aware of the fact that his Grassy Knollington narrative, where not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without the US having caused it, is not likely to convince anyone with actual knowledge of Syria? Or has ignoring the existence of troublesome foreigners who might complicate matters become such an instinctive reflex that Syrian refugees genuinely don’t even trouble his consciousness when he’s trying to think of people inside the United States who might have an interest in the region?

The last words here should really go to Asad Haider, as his (very slightly modified) observation really does sum the whole thing up:

I can only conclude that the strange phenomenon called [empire] produces a very deep and tenacious psychopathology, and that it is time for us to attack it openly…”

 

 

 

*as a footnote, I’m aware that, while I was working on this piece, the US carried out an airstrike against Syrian government forces. But rather than contradicting my point, this attack, which was seen as exceptional and unusual, unlike the constant day-in, day-out attacks on ISIS-controlled areas, demonstrates how rare it is for US operations that be directed against Assad rather than his rivals.

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

Call for solidarity with Russian anarchists and antifascists facing state repression

Via insurrection news:

Days from the 5th till 12th of February are the days of solidarity with repressed Russian anarchists. 

In October of 2017 in Penza six anarchists and antifascists were arrested by officers of Federal Security Service on a charge of creating a terrorist group. Moreover, in that time the period of raids in anarchists and antifascists’ houses has started all over Russia. The
objects of Security Service’s attention were different people from absolutely different towns. At last, a new wave of detentions was launched in January of 2018. An antifascist Victor Filinkov was kidnapped by Security Service in Saint Petersburg. The officers of
Federal Security Service have been torturing him in the forest out of the city. They told Victor to admit his participation in mythical anarchy-terrorist group. Unable to withstand the torture Filinkov was forced to incriminate himself and now he is remaining in Temporarily-staying Isolation. Filinkov’s lawyer claims that he has never seen so serious damages and trails of the torture during his practice of struggle with a police outrage.

There is another antifascist who has claimed about torture in St. Petersburg. Ilya Kapustin was also threatened by officers from FSS, but he has refused to incriminate himself and after that he was released on bail. There weren’t any proofs that anarchy-terrorist group exists in real life, only the confessions gained by the threats and torture.
Nevertheless, police is doing everything in order to force people to confirm an existence of mythical terrorist organization named “Net”, spoofed by FSS. The officers affirm that this organization has a lot of cells in every town. It means that the situation which has occurred in Saint Petersburg will be observed in the other Russian towns very soon.

Obviously, everything what’s going on in our time is an attempt to clear out an anarchist movement before the Elections of the President in 2018. In recent years we could see how the anarchist movement increased its activity after the repressions of 2012 year. These repressions can only intimidate people and crush the anarchist  movement.

In this case it’s necessary to show that we are not afraid and we can’t be destroyed by their force. Otherwise, the repressions will be used every time when the anarchist movement calls an attention of FSS. We should show them that the stronger their repressions, the more furious will be our resistance. Now it’s important to support the prisoners, to prevent the continuation of the “witch-hunting” and give a global publicity for this event.

We call you for a solidarity campaign with repressed anarchists from the 5th till 12th of February.

Arrange different street actions, evenings of solidarity, distribute information in the media and in the Internet. Do everything you can come up and implement.

The only one weapon we can counter the face of the state terror is the unity and solidarity  with each other. Without these two things we will be crushed by this monster one by one.

We are ready to provide the space for publication solidarity actions, just send them on media_ns[at]riseup[dot]net

The address for your solidarity letters: to

VIKTOR SERGEEVICH FILINKOV,
UL. SHPALERNAYA, D. 25,
G. SANKT-PETERBURG,
191123, RUSSIAN FEDERATION

(Only PAPER letters)

Fund-raising:
paypal
prodavec@protonmail.com

fight_for_your_rights!

There’s also a slightly different writeup from the St Petersburg Anarchist Black Cross, who are currently fundraising to cover legal expenses:

We are currently fundraising to pay the lawyers working on several cases related to the police raids and arrests of anarchists and antifascists in St. Petersburg and Penza, Russia.

As of now, two people in St. Petersburg and five in Penza are under arrest, while many others have been connected to their cases as witnesses. The raids and repressions are likely to continue.

The arrestees are charged with part 2 of article 205.4 of the Russian Criminal Code, participation in a Terrorist Organisation, and the entire process has been started at the request of the court in Penza.

On January 23rd, on his way to Pulkovo Airport, Victor Filinkov was detained by the Federal Security Service (FSB). In order to force a testimony out of him he was beaten, and tortured with electric shocks in the woods. Signs of torture have been confirmed by the Filinkov’s lawyer and members of the Public Monitoring Commission (ONK) who have visited him in the pre-trial detention center. Filinkov is currently in pre-trial detention/remand for the next two months.

On January 25th the FSB raided Igor Shishkin’s apartment. After the raid neither his lawyer, nor members of Public Monitoring Commission were able to find Igor for more than a day. On January 27th Igor was brought to a session in court with clear signs of beating. He is currently in pre-trial detention/remand for the next two months. Journalists were not allowed to attend the hearing and furthermore two of them were arrested.

Several witnesses were also tortured: Ilya Kapustin was beaten up and tortured with electric shocks while police demanded he give testimony that some of his acquantances are up to “something dangerous.” Medical services later recorded numerous traces of stun gun usage.

In Penza, arrests began in October 2017. Local FSB officers have arrested six people, five of whom are currently in pre-trial detention. All of those arrested were brutally tortured. The events in Penza are described in detail in this article.

Legal help is needed for prisoners and witnesses, as their numbers are constantly increasing. It is early to speak about an exact amount of money, but it will cost at least 200 thousand rubles (around 3000 Euros/3500 USD) to pay for lawyers’ fees in the next months.

Anarchist Black Cross St.Petersburg

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All materials compiled on these cases can be found below:
Case of anti-fascists of St. Petersburg and Penza

Posted in Anarchists, Repression | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Ramsey Orta, imprisoned copwatcher who filmed Eric Garner’s death, moved to solitary

Ramsey Orta, the copwatcher who filmed the police killing of his friend Eric Garner, went on to become the only person present at that scene to go to prison, after he pled guilty to drug and weapon charges following a concerted revenge campaign of harrassment from the NYPD. While inside, he’s faced further abuse and harrassment from prison guards, and now his support network report that he’s been sent to solitary confinement for 60 days.

According to his support network:

“A call was made to the prison several days ago and we were informed that Ramsey was in the SHU after receiving multiple “tickets” by more than one corrections officer. At one point, Ramsey received two in one day.

One of his supporters received a letter on January 23 that said the following.
“How is everything? I hope all is well. As for me, I’m hanging in there. Still dealing with police fucking with me. I might be going to the box soon. I keep getting bullshit tickets. I just caught 3 in one week. . .”

Someone else in Ramsey’s support network visited him and said he looked really pale and was in a bad space. He saying he being continually harassed and violated.

Ramsey’s legal support are doing their best, but this abuse is taking a toll on Ramsey, and he needs our support more than ever.

We are asking folks to share this post
We are asking folks to write Ramsey and let him know he is not alone.
Inmate Mailing Address:
Ramsey Orta, 16A4200
112 Scotch Settlement Rd,
Gouverneur, NY 13642

He can get books magazines, regular mail, and money orders.

You can also donate directly to Ramsey using his Paypal officialramseyorta@gmail.com”

Posted in Repression | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Global resistance to app capitalism and the gig economy

Across the world, workers are finding our jobs and lives reshaped by the new precarious forms of employment associated with app companies like Uber and Deliveroo, and wherever these new conditions arrive, people are fighting back.

Since the start of 2018, Deliveroo workers have taken action in Hong Kong, Belgium, France, Holland and Germany. You can read a fuller report from the Hong Kong strike here, and there’s an 8-minute video with English subtitles showing some of what happened in Berlin:

Meanwhile, over in Indonesia, Uber drivers have formed KUMAN, a union influenced by anarcho-syndicalism, which has grown to around 6000 members and taken repeated strike action, as documented in this interview. The interview also comes with a 30-second video showing some footage of KUMAN’s actions, including a beautiful moment where someone spraypaints “‘DELETE UBER” on a wall while still wearing their Uber uniform:

Last year also saw a particularly large-scale and intense strike by Uber workers in India, as well as action by other Uber drivers in the USA, Qatar, and almost certainly other places that I’m unaware of. The big question is still what networks or other forms of organisation might develop to connect the struggles in these different places, and begin to turn these various local disputes into a truly global resistance.

Posted in Anarchists, Internationalism, Protests, Strikes, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

UK class struggle updates: cleaners win in the City, action against Universal Credit, new workers’ and renters’ bulletins

A few scattered updates:

In the City of London, cleaners organised through the militant grassroots UVW union have called off a planned strike at Lee Hecht Harrison, after the bosses caved in and agreed to raise their wages from £7.50 to £10.20 per hour, a pretty substantial raise and a total reversal of their earlier threats to discipline and sack militant cleaners.

Disabled People Against Cuts are calling for a national day of action to scrap Universal Credit on March 1st, although there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of local events confirmed yet.

Finally, Notes From Below/the Class Inquiry Group is a new project from some people influenced by the ideas of Italian workerism/autonomism/workers’ inquiry. Probably the most interesting thing about it so far is their series of bulletins – so far they have one for tenants in Brighton, one aimed at “precarious workers” generally in London, talking up the ongoing campaigns of unions like the IWGB and UVW, and one for supermarket workers. It’s tempting to read this last one as “ah, I see one of the people who did Rebel Roo works in a supermarket now”, but there is an important difference there, in that Rebel Roo emerged directly out of, in response to, and as a contribution to, a wave of self-organised struggles by Deliveroo riders (more on that situation soon), and there’s nothing comparable happening in supermarkets at the moment.

As a slight criticism, I notice that the supermarket bulletin, unlike the others, doesn’t seem to be specifically aimed at workers in the South, and yet in terms of practical organising they just suggest looking at UVW and IWGB – one of which is a cleaners’ union that only exists in London, the other is a more general union that mainly exists in London and has one branch in Brighton. I appreciate that the recent record of the IWW in London probably isn’t as impressive as the records of those two, but it is at least a union that exists outside of those places, and so might be worth flagging up to people if you’re not looking to make a London-centric publication.

But anyway, those criticisms aside, it’s better than nothing, and future issues can only improve if more people (maybe even people who don’t live in London or Brighton!) participate, so maybe think about printing a few copies off, offering one to the till assistant next time you do your shopping, or leaving a few lying around the place.

As another suggestion on this subject, something that I’ve been thinking for a while would be really interesting would be a cross-union cleaners’ bulletin, that could share stories like those of the campaigns the UVW’s been winning in London, militant struggles waged through more mainstream unions like the Barts Health cleaners who’re members of Unite, international news like the striking French cleaners who visited London for a protest outside their bosses’ headquarters in December, and even news from outside London, like the Glasgow school janitors victory, or the Kinsley school cleaners who were sacked for going on strike and hardly anyone noticed because they worked in a village outside Wakefield. Since pretty much anyone who has a job will usually have a cleaner in their workplace, it would be fairly easy for anyone interested in the project to distribute at least one copy in a relatively “organic” way, but for it to be any good it’d probably have to be written by cleaners.

Finally, the whole subject of workers’ publications always reminds me of this observation from an interview with a former member of McDonald’s Workers Resistance:

“But seriously, people need to read the stuff and see it’s not so… Not as fucking po-faced as some things that get produced. And the sort of humour was just the sort of jokes we made at work. I mean, it was stuff that would only work in that environment. If you wanted to organise academics at the English literature department then you’d do it very differently, wouldn’t you? You’d probably have quotes from… Terry Eagleton or someone. You’d try to operate in the discourse of the workplace. That’s why I don’t understand the habit of producing leaflets for ‘the public’, you know? Make it specific. A leaflet for ‘food workers’ isn’t much use I’d suggest. A leaflet for bakers is better. A leaflet for your bakery is better still. And a leaflet for your bakery about the new procedure that started that week? Well then you might be getting somewhere.”

Posted in Disability, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Antifa (2018): New documentary available to watch online

Not to be confused with last year’s similarly-titled The Antifascists, Antifa is a half-hour film, mainly focused on recent antifascist struggles in the US, but with a brief look at the UK and Germany for some historical context. As a brief content warning, it includes some footage from the immediate aftermath of the car attack in Charlottesville where Heather Heyer lost her life, so if you feel that you don’t need to watch that kind of footage, you can skip from about 25:20 to 26:20.

As ever, these films are most interesting when watched and discussed as a group – if you feel that a half-hour film isn’t enough for an event on its own, you could watch it alongside Bash the Fash, which is also half an hour, or the hour-and-a-bit Swedish/Greek film The Antifascists.

Posted in Racism, The right | Tagged , | 2 Comments