After Dover: taking on racists, misogynists and Islamists

While we still haven’t seen a full summing-up of the weekend’s events in Dover from an anti-fascist perspective, Novara have offered up a pair of reflections from Dover and Maidenhead motorway services, both of which are worth a read, even if the latter is a bit incoherent in places. I also think that the claim that “Unite Against Fascism is dead, long live the Anti-Fascist Network” is a bit overstated – it’s certainly the case that the AFN can put on impressive national mobilisations, but it’s also the case that the AFN can’t mobilise against every single far-right demo, and a lot of fascist activity happens in small towns with no local militant group, and in these places the SWP/UAF are often the only opposition in town.

But moving beyond the events of last weekend, the weekend coming up will also see activity by a thoroughly despicable set of arseholes: I’ve already mentioned the upcoming Pegida march in Birmingham, aiming to mobilise the niche “we hate foreigners but also want to be more like the Germans” market, but it turns out that hardline misogynist scumfuck Roosh V is calling for meet-ups of Men’s Shite Activists across the world, and Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, Shrewsbury, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, and two separate locations in London will be treated to gatherings of women-hating wrong ‘uns.

Apparently this is how Roosh V's militant sex-pest followers see themselves.

Apparently this is how Roosh V’s militant sex-pest followers see themselves. Jesus wept.

Just as with racist activity, a two-track approach is needed here: white working-class people who feel neglected and blame immigrants for problems like housing shortages and unemployment should have their concerns listened to without being automatically shouted down for being racists, and men who feel inadequate, confused or anxious about their sexuality or lack of sexual success should have space to talk about their problems without being preyed on by manipulative fucks like Roosh V. But just as it’d be pointless to attempt discussion with the hardcore Nazis who turned out last weekend in Dover, anyone who actively identifies with the pro-rape ideology pushed by “Return of Kings” and wants to organise around it should face uncompromising, extremely hostile opposition until they’re too terrified to even think about spouting their shit in public.

With that in mind, here are the counter-events I know about so far: Edinburgh, Glasgow event 1, Glasgow event 2, Newcastle event 1, Newcastle event 2, and Manchester. I’ve not seen anything planned for Leeds, Cardiff, Shrewsbury or London, but if you live in one of those places you probably know what’s going on better than I do, and even if there’s nothing else organised you can still get together with some friends and start making plans.

Other than that, next weekend will also see the Rojava discussion and fundraising party in Manchester. “Counter-jihadist” wankers like those who’ll be out in Birmingham like to claim that anyone who opposes them is some kind of Islamist sympathiser, so showing solidarity with those fighting most directly against ISIS is a good way to show them up as the bullshitters they are, as well as being very worthwhile in its own right.

If you don’t live anywhere near any of those places, but still want to contribute in some way, one thing you could do is chuck a few quid to Oleg Serebrennikov, a Russian anarchist and anti-fascist comrade who’s appealing for help to pay his medical bills for the health problems he’s suffered since being attacked by Nazis ten years ago. If you can spare any cash, paypal it to ABC Moscow at abc-msk@riseup.net or to him directly at avtonom46@gmail.com.

Finally, a few things I couldn’t really tie in with the general theme of this post, but wanted to plug anyway: this Saturday in Glasgow will also see a screening of the Ditching the Fear film about warehouse workers’ struggles in Italy, people in Luton are still making plans to resist an imminent eviction, there’s a regional housing summit coming up in Leeds in mid-March for people who want to organise around housing in the North, Novara have posted up an organiser’s notes about rebuilding radical unions that I haven’t read yet, but look very interesting, and the doctors’ strike is definitely back on for February 10th.

Posted in Anarchists, Gender, Housing, Protests, Racism | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Late Jan round-up: news from the White (Power) Cliffs of Dover, and beyond…

When doing a round-up of recent events, one obvious starting point is yesterday’s dramatic events in Dover. There doesn’t seem to be a full report from any anti-fascist group yet, but these posts from London Antifascists and the Anti-Fascist Network give some indication of how the day went, and there’s plenty of mainstream media coverage in places like Vice.

Block Pegida

With Dover out of the way, the next upcoming mobilisation against the far right is Saturday 6th Feb in Birmingham, where Pegida UK will be desperately hoping for a turnout that’s less embarrassingly shit than their previous efforts. Meanwhile, as the “counter-jihad” movement fights Islamism by waving some England flags around in a police kettle in Birmingham city centre, people who actually want to do something to challenge ISIS will be in Manchester, discussing how to support the people fighting directly against them in Syria, as well as raising money for the reconstruction of the areas devastated by war.

 

Dover may have been the most high-profile protest to take place yesterday, but it certainly wasn’t the only one, as people in London were out marching against the upcoming Housing Bill, including a bit of well-directed aggro against some estate agents on the way. In other housing news, two claimants affected by the bedroom tax recently won their appeals in court, an attempted eviction at the Hope & Anchor pub was blocked, while anyone in the Luton area can get involved in the plans to resist an upcoming eviction there. At the end of February, private renters groups DIGS and Housing Hackney will be organising a “Yes DSS” event to demand an end to landlord discrimination against housing benefit claimants.

Class War discuss gentrification with an estate agent.

On the legal/court/repression front, the news this week has been very mixed: there’s been one great piece of news from an unexpected source, as the planned cuts to criminal legal aid have been scrapped following concerted industrial action from legal professionals. On the other side, following on from the recent sentencing of Yusef Asad and two London anti-fascists, 13 climate change activists are awaiting sentencing for aggravated trespass and the judge’s told them to expect custodial sentences, and two other people have recently been sent down as a result of rowdy demonstrations. You can write to them at

Daniel Baker, A6185DP, HMP Isis, Western Way, Thamesmead, SE28 0NZ

and

Tony Jones A0266DQ, HMP ISIS, Western Way, Thamesmead, SE28 0NZ

But in the face of repression, people keep fighting. There’s been a fair bit of news from the ongoing resistance to undercover coppers recently: Kate Wilson, the woman tricked into a relationship with Mark Kennedy who then went on to beat the Met in court, has shared her story, the Undercover Research Group are organising a series of events across the country for people who think they may have been targeted by undercovers, and the Undercover Research Group and Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance have both been highlighting the dodgy past of Scotland’s new top cop. Meanwhile, a number of different justice campaigns came together to demand an end to blacklisting by Carillion at the Liverpool FC stadium building site.

The Blacklist Support Group out in Liverpool

In another story of defiance and intense repression, Kevan Thakrar, who was found not guilty of attacking prison officers after the court ruled he acted in self-defence, has been kept in solitary confinement for years as punishment, and he’s asking for supporters to show up at

Thursday 18 February

12.30pm – 2.30pm

HM Prison Service Headquarters

Clive House, 70 Petty France LONDON SW1H 9EX

 

Finally, a few miscellaneous pieces of news: if you’ve got any spare cash after payday, you might want to donate to Khalfi’s legal fees to help him get out of Colnbrook Immigration Detention Centre, or help pay the fines hanging over 8 US comrades. And Unite Community are arranging another national day of action against benefit sanctions for the 9th of March. Last time round, I suggested “It’s worth considering how to make this callout most effective – for instance, would it be possible to make contact with people who’ve been sanctioned in your area, and link the general demand for an end to sanctions with a demand that the specific sanctions that specific claimants have been hit with should be overturned?”, and I’d still pretty much stand by that.

Also, I really don’t have the time or energy for a round-up of international news at the moment, but luckily I don’t really have to since the Dialectical Delinquents News of Opposition page does an amazing job of circulating news of struggle from around the globe, so have a look at that if you want to find out about where things have been kicking off lately.

Posted in Housing, Protests, Racism, Repression, The right, Unemployment/claimants and welfare, Unions | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mid-Jan round-up: antifascism, undercover cops, prison news and more

At time of writing, the junior doctors’ strike planned for the 26-28th is currently suspended, although the action planned for Feb 10th is still provisionally on. At the moment, it’s still too early to tell if the talks have really achieved anything or if this is just the latest in a long line of powerful-seeming strikes being pissed up the wall to no effect.

Return to Dover, January 30th

Next weekend, the big news down south is the return to Dover to oppose the latest fascist march there on the 30th – transport is running from Berkshire/Oxford, Brighton (looks like that’s now full, though), London and Manchester (again, it might be late to book from there, but can’t hurt to ask), as well as from within Kent itself. See here for a longer analysis of the situation from Plan C.

Further North, that weekend the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh is hosting a showing of the Ditching the Fear film about warehouse workers’ struggles in Italy, along with a discussion of struggles in the warehouse and retail sectors more widely. The same event will be happening in Glasgow the week after, on the 6th.

The first weekend of February will also see Midlands antifascists taking on Pegida UK, the weird British nationalists with a name that only makes sense in German, as well as Manchester Plan C holding a discussion event about, and fundraising party for, Rojava.

In other news, sabotage against UKBA raids is ongoing in London, and the fight against spycops continues, as undercover copper “Carlo Neri” has just been outed, the Special Branch Files project has gone live, and the Metropolitan Police have abandoned their defence and asked for judgement to be entered against them in the case brought by Kate Wilson, who was tricked into a two-year relationship by the undercover Mark Kennedy. And speaking of people who’ve had dark shit done to them fighting for justice through the courts, the case brought by blacklisted construction workers continues, as the High Court has just ordered 30 firms to release all information they hold relating to the blacklist.

Meanwhile, the cops are still up to their dirty work, as this account by an anarchist who was approached by plainclothes officers at Bristol airport shows. In other news from the courts, Pete Simpson and his co-defendant Josh have now been cleared after the prosecution case totally fell apart, and Vice have made the CCTV footage of cops attacking protesters publicly available.

In less cheery court news, Yusef Asad has been sent down for defending a Palestine solidarity march in Cardiff against a racist attack, and two London comrades have been imprisoned in similar circumstances. To write to them:

Yusef Asad
A4424DD
HUNTERCOMBE PRISON
NUFFIELD
HENLEY-ON-THAMES
OXFORDSHIRE
RG9 5SB

K or D,
c/o Freedom Bookshop,
Angel Alley,
84b Whitechapel High Street,
London, E1 7QX.

And staying on that theme, London Anarchist Black Cross pass on some news from Stockholm, where 13 antifascists were given prison sentences in November, on the 100th anniversary of Joe Hill’s execution. Similarly, new material continues to be translated all the time about the current crackdown on workers’ organisations in the Guangzhou region of China – “Slandering of the workers’ movement will not be permitted” and “The Guangdong Six and the rule of law (of value)” are perhaps the best pieces of analysis, even if they don’t have particularly snappy titles. Whatever, it’s always worth keeping your eyes open for ways we can support each other across all national borders.

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

A year in the shadow of bullets and ballots: looking back at 2015

Saying you prefer bullets to ballots is often used as a shorthand for wanting revolutionary change rather than working within the system. But in fact, the politics of armed struggle and electoralism can have a surprising amount in common – they’re both ways in which mass participation can be cut off, when decisions stop being collective things that everyone takes part in and are instead left to specialist representatives, whether they’re politicians or military specialists of one kind or another.

All of this is another way of saying that when I think about the big stories of 2015, and about trying to come up with some kind of a grand narrative to sum up the year, I keep coming back to the upsurge of (roughly) 2010-2012, a wave of, if not quite revolutions, then at least uprisings and insurgencies of various kinds, and the ways in which that wave was broken and rolled back. In first Libya and then Syria (and Ukraine could also be added to this list), that containment took the form of military conflict. In much of Europe and the US, the movement of the squares just came apart after failing to find any organisational forms adequate to take the movement beyond camping. And so we come to the return of the party, a form which had seemed so firmly exorcised in the various square occupations. Thinking about a lot of this year’s big stories, from the Greek referendum to the migrant crisis, I keep on seeing threads leading back to that movement, and the various ways it was broken up and contained. In the years to come, a lot will depend on whether that insurgent energy can be summoned up again.

2015 in learning the Prime Minister fucked a pig

los-campesinos-never-kissed-a-tory

We found out that David Cameron put his cock in a dead pig’s head. I can’t believe I forgot to include that in the first draft of this piece.

2015 in war and terror

Happy new year from Kafranbel

When thinking about the year’s events, one obvious, if grim, bookend is offered by the two ISIS massacres in France at the beginning and end of the year. These attacks were, in quite a real sense, aimed against you and me. You may or may not shop for kosher food, like the Eagles of Death Metal, or eat in Cambodian restaurants, but if we don’t accept an artificial separation between French and Turkish or Kurdish lives, then the French attacks have to be understood as part of the same sequence as the massacres in Suruc and Ankara. If we can’t trust “our” states to protect us from ISIS, we certainly can’t see ISIS as some kind of “lesser evil” either.

In response to the latest Paris massacre, the UK government decided that bombing Syria would be a useful token gesture, and so we were treated to a grotesque showdown between an “anti-war” movement led by Stop the War Coalition, an organisation with an incredibly bad track record when it comes to actually stopping any wars, and pro-war politicians. One side invoked the spirit of the International Brigades as a way to legitimise airstrikes, while the other managed to compare the International Brigades to ISIS*. Neither of them had much to say about the case of Shilan Ozcelik. In general, the anti-imperialists looking for a lesser evil to back tended to choose Assad (and, by extension, Russian imperialism), but some of them managed to drift into outright ISIS apologism. On the pro-war side, the politicians backing intervention – a mixture of dishonest little shits and people with a proven record of having incredibly poor judgement on the subject of whether Western military adventures will lead to horrific consequences – betrayed their total contempt for the representative democracy they supposedly believe in with their howls of outrage at the idea of the people they’re meant to speak for speaking back to them, let alone the threat that elected representatives of a political organisation might face some form of sanction for going against that organisation’s policies.

So if airstrikes are a shit response to ISIS, what would a good one look like? A lot of people have seized on Rojava and the struggle being fought by the YPG/YPJ militias there. There’s been a lot of debate about what exactly is happening in Rojava, and as someone living thousands of miles away who’s never visited the place I’m hardly in any position to offer any definitive answers. But I think it’s possible to be attentive and open to the various anarchist and left-communist criticisms of what’s going on there and still think that it’s a lot better than any other alternatives. At the end of the day, the situation’s such a tangled mess that any position is almost bound to get caught up in contradictions – hard-line anti-militarists getting all excited about a war, people proclaiming their support for the PYD while opposing the airstrikes that the PYD welcome – but it’s hard to see how you could avoid these contradictions, other than just by repeating eternal principles with little to say about the specifics, and so ending up with an analysis along the lines of “everything is bad, everything is as bad as everything else”.

At some point, it’s good to take a look at how much impact any of these arguments might actually have. To their credit, Plan C have made some steps towards providing practical assistance to those forces they see as playing a positive role**; if other people have a different analysis, it’d be good if they could make some steps towards putting their views into practice, whether that’s through projects of mutual aid together with people doing constructive work on the ground, or purely negative projects of sabotage against ISIS, Assad, Erdogan or whoever.

And one final thought on the subject: many discussions of ISIS have stressed their fanatical, anti-rational appeal. Put mildly, those who’re drawn to ISIS are never likely to be won over by the politics of the moderate center. Perhaps the most useful thing we can do to fight jihadism is to revive the millennial aspects of our own politics, to start offering a new fanaticism that could provide a possible rival. Why is it that the critique of this world offered by the caliphate seems more tempting to many people than that of anarchism/communism, and what can we do to change this?

2015 in politicians and voting

From Great Moments in Leftism

If the figure of the masked ISIS gunman was the villain of the year, then the year’s hero was the Lefty Saviour Figure, a role that was played at various points by Tsipras, Corbyn, Iglesias and Saunders. A few years ago, the trend among folk influenced by communisation theory was to argue that the crisis meant capital had exhausted its capacity for reform, and so reformism was finished; it’s still possible that the first part of that argument might be true, but this year seems to have offered some pretty strong proof that, in one form or another, reformism will still be around for some time to come**. Like a cliché from a monster movie, the “electoral turn” just wouldn’t die, and everything that I thought might kill it off – the end of the UK election meaning we won’t have another one for five years, Syriza’s no-that-turned-into-a-yes – just seemed to lead to it coming back stronger than ever. Writing about the electoral turn back in May, Plan C had suggested that “[e]ven at their point of failure… electoral politics can be useful if they can clarify the anti-democratic effects of neoliberalism that work against all forms of collective action”, and the Syriza experience certainly did that, but that lesson is only of any use if people learn from it and don’t just carry on repeating the same mistakes.

Taking up the example of Corbynism in the UK, it’s worth being honest about how completely wrongfooted I was by it, having long thought that the Labour left was an entirely spent force, as shown, for instance, by McDonnell not even managing to get on the ballot in 2007, and Corbyn himself just managing to scrape on thanks to nominations from people who didn’t actually support him. It’s like one of those drastic shifts in language, where a word that you always thought meant one thing suddenly comes to mean another: I’d been sure that this word Labour meant Atos, workfare, mass slaughter in Iraq and introducing private finance into the NHS, but apparently there’s all these thousands and thousands of people out there who still think it means something along the lines of “the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange”.

It’s notable that this has been an example of electoralism that promises to go beyond the ballot box, as Momentum was launched with a blaze of rhetoric about community and workplace organisation, but it remains to be seen what that will actually translate to in practice. Whatever the merits of the revitalised Labour left turn out to be, there’s still some very important dangers and contradictions they have to negotiate.

First, there’s the problem of the actually existing Labour party machine as a functioning part of the austerity state in many parts of the country. However much the recent joiners may be totally opposed to the old Labour “moderates”, it’s still those “moderates” who are running councils and implementing cuts across the country. It’s still unclear how the Labour Party will cope with the pressures of attempting to become an anti-austerity movement while also actually implementing the cuts in many areas. And secondly, less obvious but equally important, there’s the danger of everything becoming about Corbyn. If you want to solve the housing crisis by building more affordable housing, that’s great; if you support Corbyn because you think he has good policies to solve the housing crisis, that’s fine; but if you spend more time talking about Corbyn and defending him from various forms of media bullshit than you do actually talking about the housing crisis (or whatever other issue matters most to you), then you have a problem. Again, this was seen in the aftermath of the vote for airstrikes on Syria, when the media attacked Corbyn for going to the Stop the War Christmas party: everyone correctly recognised this as the media having a go at Corbyn, and in the aftermath we saw lefties discussing whether this meant that everyone should rally round StW out of solidarity with Corbyn, or whether Corbyn should disassociate himself from StW to make his life easier… and once you’ve accepted this framing of things, it’s really easy to drift into forgetting that the important thing is not “how will this affect Corbyn” but “how will this affect people living in the areas targeted by airstrikes?”**** It can be tempting to have a figurehead in the media, putting across arguments that make some kind of sense for a change, but there’s always a great danger attached when it leads to accepting the media’s point of view, where the Big Man is all that counts and the rest of us fade out of sight.

As we move into 2016, the appeal of the ballot box shows no signs of fading. One particularly important test will be the London Mayoral elections, where the Take Back the City platform has been formed by people wanting to offer an electoral voice to the capital’s social movements – an idea that may have seemed pretty straightforward halfway through last year, but will prove a lot trickier now that a huge section of the nation’s lefties have been re-convinced that Labour can offer an adequate home for progressive hopes (even if the actual candidate is not particularly left). Mix this up with the fact that there are still those activists involved with the Greens and even the husk of TUSC, if that’s still going by then, and you can see how the simple, reasonable-sounding idea of “hey, kids, let’s put on a Mayoral candidate!” can become a recipe for vicious infighting. If anyone who’s involved in practical grassroots organising in London is reading this, then I’d like to plead with you to adopt this new year’s resolution: where you’re involved in on-the-ground organising with people from different ideological backgrounds, please, please don’t let any genuine organising efforts be disrupted by stupid shit like who to back for some daft mayoral election.

2015 in other stuff

A year of people fighting the borders

Of course, of the many possible responses to the Syrian conflict, there’s one that’s proved very popular among people in the most affected areas, a perfectly sensible response that’s as old as war itself: the impulse to get as far as possible away from the frontline. And so it is that the war in Syria ended up being a major contributor to another of 2015’s major stories – the migrant crisis, the point at which the border regime of Fortress Europe started to look increasingly unstable. This is perhaps the area where mass direct action from below was most visible last year: from the huge numbers of people taking practical action to improve their lives by fleeing, and launching hunger strikes and blockades to try and crack the borders they came up against, to the huge outpouring of compassion and solidarity directed at making refugees welcome in the countries they arrive in. Between the fierce determination of those making their way across the borders and the empathy shown by those welcoming them, it’s perhaps here that a genuinely positive mass politics became most visible.

Elsewhere, the tendencies that can point to a better world were also seen in the continuing uprisings against racist police murders and white supremacy in the US, most intensely in places like Baltimore, in the explosions of the South African student movement, as well as other intense struggles in SA, and in the continuing resistance to water meters and the water tax in Ireland, which is causing the state to resort to increasingly intense repression.

The various groups fighting against the London housing crisis also deserve recognition for their continuing efforts last year, from the dramatic high points of the Aylesbury Estate and Sweets Way occupations to the more mundane but equally vital day-to-day work of supporting people at the housing offices. Equally, it’s worth taking a moment to salute those who’ve been fighting long campaigns for justice after having been subjected to dirty tricks by the state and capital – those tricked into relationships or otherwise affected by undercover cops, the Blacklist Support Group, and the survivors of Orgreave and Shrewsbury.

But just as the year saw some promising tendencies in the direction of solidarity and internationalism, it also saw the continuation of various forms of grim nationalism. In the UK, it feels like the days of the EDL being able to pull together big populist street mobilisations around a relatively “soft” racist agenda are long gone, as UKIP has provided a handy electoral home for people who aren’t keen on immigrants but also can’t be arsed with standing around in the cold getting kettled, while the increasingly openly racist remnants of the far-right street movement are currently quite splintered. At the moment, the main threat posed by the far-right is more the danger of producing more Zack Davies/Breivik/Dylann Roof-types than the possibility that they’ll get anywhere by following a traditional march and grow strategy. Having said that, Dover did show the dangers of what can happen if racist mobilisations can pull enough of a crowd together, and while Liverpool was an exceptionally satisfying slapdown for one particular group of wannabe fuhrers, it’s always worth remembering how many mobilisations by the micro-groups go unopposed or almost unopposed, particularly in Rotherham, where a long series of far-right marches culminated in a racist murder. Of course, not many places have the unique combination of circumstances that have made Rotherham such a target for the far-right, but thinking about places like Rotherham, Preston or Stockton is an important counterweight to the London, or London/Brighton/Manchester, -centricity of much of the left.

Elsewhere, as depressing as the UK political landscape generally is, it is worth remembering how the government has stumbled and given up on a number of points recently: most high-profile has been the retreat on tax credits, but there’s also been the collapse of Mandatory Work Activity and Community Work Placements, as well as the scrapping of court charges. It’s worth thinking about the weaknesses that led to these retreats, and how to work on them and sharpen them.

On the workplace front, the situation was largely the same as in previous years: small groups did great work in specific areas, whether fighting wage theft in places like the Brighton hospitality sector, organising cleaners though groupings like the United Voices of the World union, or simultaneously fighting back and analysing the conditions we face, as the Angry Workers of the World collective have been doing. Meanwhile, the response of the mainstream unions to closures in sectors that were once bastions of workers’ power, from the steel industry to Kellingley colliery, has been predictably feeble. The most notable exception has been the surprising militancy shown by junior doctors organising through the once-docile British Medical Association, in a dispute that reached a pause at the end of last year, but seems set to reignite with a vengeance in the new.

2016: preparing for disaster

Learning to take care of each other outside of the market: a skill worth practicing.

Despite all the notes of hope, 2015 was, overall, a pretty miserable year in many ways. It’s probably safe to say that 2016 will be too. Perhaps the most valuable thing we can do with the memory of the last twelve months is to look for moments that seem like they point to potential futures and then think about how to prepare for them. The Greek experience is particularly valuable, in that the week or so leading up to the referendum gave a particularly clear glimpse of how international capital will treat any country that tries to experiment with alternatives to neoliberalism, and it’s something that enthusiastic members of Team Corbyn or even Team Saunders would do well to bear in mind. Equally relevant is the vision of the future offered by Cumbria, West Yorkshire and Lancashire over the last few weeks.

A lot of the time, the state and capital are capable of meeting a lot of people’s needs. But they do break down: whether that’s due to state collapse as seen in places like Syria, capital strike as seen in Greece, refusal to take responsibility for stateless people like those in Calais, Dunkirk or Lesbos, or just through an inability to cope with the effects of climate change like the recent floods, we’re going to see more and more situations where the old ways don’t work any more. In those situations, our best bet is what’s been termed “disaster communism”: ways of taking care of each other when the state and the market can’t or won’t cope. The systems that have developed to feed and clothe people in “the jungle” at Calais, the self-organised flood clean-up efforts in the UK and the local councils that have developed to run daily life not only in Rojava but in other parts of Syria as well all point in the right direction, but it’s perhaps the “solidarity economy” developing in Greece, from vegetable gardens and collective kitchens to health care clinics, that offers the most relevant example to follow if we want to emerge from the next few years intact, and hopefully closer to the kind of world we want to live in.

There are dark days ahead. Let’s start making plans for how to survive them.

* to be fair to them, it is worth acknowledging that the person who came out with this line has now apologised for it.

** as it happens, this project seems entirely in line with the suggestions set out in the conclusion of the “purist, abstentionist” Anarchist Federation analysis, which perhaps shows the messiness of the situation and the difficulty of applying clear-cut labels.

*** the fact that one particular communisation theorist actually ended up as a member of the Syriza government is just a particularly ironic icing on the cake here.

**** see, for example, from Matt Carr’s apology mentioned above: “I inadvertently provided ammunition to those who are seeking to use the Stop the War movement to undermine Jeremy Corbyn and the movement itself.”

Posted in Anarchists, Bit more thinky, Housing, Internationalism, Labour, Occupations, Protests, Racism, Repression, Riots, Strikes, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome, The left, The media, The right, Tories, Unemployment/claimants and welfare, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Boxing day round-up: news of repression, housing struggles, workplace disputes and more

It’s been a while, but I’ve finally got around to catching up with the news and events I’ve been meaning to share over the last month or two.

In repression news, Shilan Ozcelik is still inside after having been convicted of wanting to fight against ISIS. She was given a relatively short sentence in the end, after having already been held in prison awaiting trial for months and months, but it’d still be worth writing to her via her solicitor to show solidarity. In similar news, it’s worth keeping an eye on the case of Joe Robinson, who seems to have been questioned by anti-terror police on his return to the UK after having fought with the Kurdish resistance in Syria.

Meanwhile, Peter Simpson is still detained awaiting trial for charges related to a Cardiff Mayday demo, and four comrades are being held in an Italian prison after it apparently kicked off at the Milanese May Day as well, while another four are awaiting extradition from Greece to Italy over the same charges. Continuing the international round-up of nickings and jailings, Josh Williams was sent down for his part in the Ferguson revolt, the Spanish cops are continuing their anti-anarchist operations, and China’s currently in the middle of an aggressive crackdown against activists involved in worker solidarity – see the Solidarity with Chinese Workers section on libcom or Free Chinese Labour Activists Now on facebook for more information.

Free Chinese Labour Activists Now!

The saga of state harassment of Scottish Unemployed Workers’ Network activist Tony Cox goes on – he was found guilty of failing to give his name and address to the cops, but the charge of threatening behaviour was dropped. Following on from this, he was arrested once again, held for 27 hours, and bailed with conditions preventing him from entering the Dundee ESA assessment centre ahead of a further court date in February. In the face of all this, it’s good to see that the SUWN aren’t backing down, and hit back by occupying the offices of workfare profiteers Learn Direct. In more straightforwardly pleasing news from the courts, the Daily Mail was left frothing with rage after three people who were nicked for not giving their names and addresses to the cops had their charges dropped, although the article’s so shittily written it’s not even really possible to tell if they were nicked on the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts demo on November 4th or the Anonymous Million Mask March demo on the 5th. Either way, fair play to them. Similarly, over in France two No Borders activists have been acquitted of inciting riots in Calais.

 

Learn Direct

Staying on the topic of state repression, in late November the Met was finally forced to issue a public apology to the eight women who were tricked into relationships with undercover coppers, and this week it was announced that scumbag spycop Bob Lambert has resigned from both his academic jobs. As the Pitchford inquiry into undercover policing goes on, more and more continues to be revealed about this murky subject. Meanwhile, the Scottish government have pledged to stop giving contracts to firms involved in the blacklisting scandal, but rank-and-file construction workers have pointed out that the small print renders the whole thing pretty much meaningless.

On Christmas Day, hundreds of migrants blocked the A16 in Calais and attempted to storm the Eurotunnel – it’s hard to find full write-ups of the event, but there’s one here. A recent article from Calais Migrant Solidarity has highlighted how resistance is happening every day there, and Calais certainly isn’t the only place where people are fighting the border regime – there was a riot at Ponte Galeria detention centre outside Rome this month, collective action stopped a mass deportation of Nigerian women from Yarl’s Wood in late November, hundreds of migrants held in US detention centres have been going on hunger strike, and inmates also rioted at an Australian detention centre in November. Resistance is as global as the border regime. If you’d like to do something to contribute, you could give a few quid to these folk who’re working to keep entrance routes to Europe in the Balkans open, and/or join the Anti-Fascist Network in opposing the upcoming National Front demo against refugees in Dover at the end of January.

Join the AFN against nazis in Dover

The fight for affordable housing in London is still going on – special mention goes to the always-inspiring Focus E15 campaign, who’ve kept campaigning despite the police stealing their table, while groups like Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth are continuing to resist evictions and disrupt sales events held by the property companies fuelling gentrification. Also in London housing news, the Sweets Way defenders appeared in court and got a conditional discharge.

HASL fighting back against evictions and social cleansing.

A particularly interesting development has been the rent strike at UCL, which successfully won concessions worth around £500,000 from university managementsee here for more analysis of the victory. Hopefully non-student tenants will be able to start adopting the tactic soon – it’s worth noting that residents of San Francisco’s Midtown have been able to keep a rent strike going for over five months now.

Coming up, the next big step is going to be the fight against the Housing and Planning Bill, so if you can make it, join the various housing groups who’ll be demonstrating against the bill on January 5th.

In other news, it’s notable that the government has quietly backed down on two really vile policies recently – Johnny Void and Boycott Workfare have both covered the scrapping of Mandatory Work Activity and the shambles that was the Community Work Programme, but I’ve seen less coverage of the fact that they’ve also abandoned the criminal courts charge, a horribly shit policy that barely lasted six months, and which I covered as part of Plan C’s Demanding the Future project back in April.

Finally, news from a few other groups fighting the good fight: the Mental Health Resistance Network have been out at Thamesreach’s “Employment Academy” in Camberwell challenging their attempts to blur the lines between mental health care and punitive benefit sanctions, and rank-and-file workers and radical union are always continuing to fight back on a grassroots level – from the postie in Fife who’ve walked out in support of a sacked colleague, and the hotel workers organising at places like the ME hotel in Aldwych, to groups like the United Voices of the World union who’ve been driving up wages for cleaners, or Brighton SolFed who’ve been forcing robbing estate agents to pay up (see here for more on that story) and beating employers who try to get away with wage theft. And, last of all, a quick reminder that Plan C’s fundraiser for reconstruction and medical aid to Kobane is still open for donations – if you’ve got any cash to spare, you could try and help them get past the £5,000 mark.


I’ll try and come up with a proper review of the year soon, but in the meantime, I’d like to wish that all readers of this blog have a good holiday if you’re off work at the moment, and you have my sympathies if you’re having to work at the moment. Either way, I hope the new year is a good one for all of us.

Posted in Anarchists, Housing, Occupations, Protests, Racism, Repression, Riots, Stuff that I think is pretty awesome, Unemployment/claimants and welfare, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Folk who could use some cash, folk who could use a kind word or two.

I’ve been meaning to do a proper round-up for a while now, but been seriously lacking time and energy lately. I’m still pretty low on both, but just wanted to quickly plug some practical things you can do that would be useful:

Firstly, while I’m still not entirely sure what I think about the ongoing social experiment in Rojava, Plan C’s fundraising drive is the most direct attempt so far by UK libertarian lefty types to properly engage with the situation in a way that might have some kind of impact. It’s also been impressively successful so far, but there’s a lot of rebuilding and medical care needed, so if you have any spare cash knocking around you might want to consider sending some of it their way. Similarly, if you want to help support freedom of movement you could donate to this lot who’re heading out to the Balkans to keep the routes into Europe open.

If you’ve not got much cash to spare, why not send out a few happy new year/season’s greetings cards to folk who’re locked up and might be feeling isolated? In particular, you can write to Pete Simpson, a Cardiff comrade who’s currently being held in remand awaiting trial on charges related to a May Day demonstration:

Peter Simpson A6060CF, HMP CARDIFF, Knox Rd, Cardiff, WALES, CF24 0UG

Support Pete

Overseas, you could also write to Josh Williams, who’s just been handed an eight-year sentence as a result of his participation in the Ferguson uprising:

Josh Williams #1292002
E.R.D.C.C.
2727 Highway K
Bonne Terre, MO 63628
USA

Josh Williams

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Hope and solidarity in dark times

At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, when looking at “the big picture” – Politics with a capital P, the stuff of states, parties, major news headlines – there’s not much to be cheerful about at the moment, even less so than usual. That’s why it’s all the more important at times like these to keep one eye on the local, because at the grassroots level there are always stories of people challenging power and winning.

In Bristol, Bristol Solidarity Network and the local IWW have teamed up to target wage theft from two workers at a local cafe – they’ve definitely already won payment for one of the workers, and going by FB posts it looks like the second worker has now been paid as well.

Bristol SolNet and Bristol IWW in action

Meanwhile, over in Greenford, West London, a series of film showings and workers’ discussions are being organised in order to help build a similar solidarity network capable of winning the same kind of victories there.

Of course, none of this is an adequate response to the horrors we’ve seen recently, the mass murders carried out by states both Islamic and otherwise. But if we ever want to see the values of solidarity and co-operation win out against the spreaders of hate and fear, we need to start by making them into a real material force. In the words of a recent anarchist statement against murder cults, “We can’t cede to them the battleground of ideas. No hiding. In the streets, in our neighbourhoods, in the prisons, jobcentres, colleges and schools, we need to be active and unafraid, spreading ideas and methods of freedom, self-organisation, comradeship, solidarity and rebellion.” The work going on in Bristol and Greenford is a contribution to that task, and worth supporting if you can.

Posted in Stuff that I think is pretty awesome, Work | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments