From Cornwall to Korea

News round-up: an appeal’s being circulated by the American Communist Loren Goldner for solidarity with eight Korean revolutionaries who’re facing prison time:

“I don’t believe too much in the efficacy of the kind of write-in protest advocated below, but an international spotlight on this case just might have an effect on the final sentencing of these exemplary militants.

On Dec. 3 of last year, the prosecutor in the Seoul Central District Court demanded prison terms of 5-7 years for Oh sei-chull and other members (Yang Hyo-seok, Yang Joon-seok, Choi Young-ik, Park Joon-seon, Jeong Won-hyung, and Oh Min-gyu) of the Socialist Workers’ Alliance of Korea (SWLK), a revolutionary socialist group. These activists in the Korean working-class movement were indicted under South Korea’s notorious National Security Law (passed in 1948 and theoretically still stipulating the death penalty for “pro-North” activities). The eight militants of the SWLK, who as internationalists advocate working-class revolution in both Koreas, were accused of no specific crime except being socialists, but in reality the indictment resulted from their intervention in several strikes and movements going back to 2007. This is the first instance of such harsh repression under the National Security Law in many years. It occurs in the larger context of the hard-right turn (such as the smashing of the Ssangyong Motor Co. strike of 2009) of South Korean President Lee Myong Bak’s government since he took office in early 2008. (In fact, leaflets of the SWLK distributed during the Ssangyong strike were key evidence in the trial.)

Prosecutors have attempted to indict members of the SWLK several times since 2008, and prior to December, the prosecutors’ case was thrown out of court each time. It is not impossible that a barrage of e-mail protests to Judge Hyung Doo Kim of the Seoul Central District Court will help reduce or obviate the pending sentences altogether, when final sentencing will take place on Jan. 27.

Let Judge Kim know your feelings in your own words about this crackdown on “thought crime” by writing to

swlk [at] jinbo.net

The e-mails must be received by 06:00 AM on Monday January 17th 2011 (Seoul time), so that the SWLK’s lawyer can forward them to Judge Kim prior to sentencing.

Please distribute this appeal as widely as possible. Messages in languages other than English are welcome.

Loren Goldner

For further details on this case, contact me at lrgoldner [at] gmail.com”

More political background on the case is available here.

Closer to home, County Hall in Truro has become the latest council building to be occupied by anti-cuts activists, and three youth centres in Rotherham have been occupied, a development which is exciting on two levels – not only is the tactic of occupation spreading beyond universities, but it’s also noticeable how far it’s spreading beyond the large metropolitan centres with some organised left presence.

Anyway, I don’t think it’s helpful to discuss the Mark Stone/Kennedy affair itself too much – if those groups and individuals who’re most directly affected by it want to say something about it, that’s up to them, if they’d prefer to avoid picking over the whole sorry mess too publicly then that’s also their choice and should be respected. However, since the media have just belatedly cottoned onto a story that first broke in October, and police infiltration of activist groups is a bit of a hot topic at the moment, a few general thoughts on the subject (once again, it’s worth stressing that these are only general observations, and in no way intended as criticisms of the people affected by Kennedy):

First of all, it underlines how vital it is to have a decentralised and democratic organisation. It’d be comparatively easy for a police agent to gain a huge amount of power in a “democratic centralist” Leninist group, since all they need to do is gain a position in the hierarchy. Fighting informal hierarchies is always an important job for any anarchist organisation (this issue was discussed a few months ago in Diary of a Domestic Extremist), and this is just another reason why.  A single infiltrator might be able to cause a good deal of damage in a local group, but, in the absence of a (formal or informal) leadership clique for them to infiltrate, they should have a much harder time having any influence over the direction of a national federation or network.

Secondly, it’s worth asking what we, as small minorities of anarchists/communists/activists, can hope to achieve. As the Commune’s “Movement beyond actions” leaflet discussed, the activist movement in the UK in its current form is not capable of posing a serious threat to capitalism.  We won’t threaten capitalism by writing blog articles, or by distributing papers, or by going on peaceful demos, but the forms of direct action that are currently open to us can’t cause the system any serious long-term damage either. That requires mass action, of the kind that seems to have been slowly reviving since Millbank. Thinking about it, it’s impressive how little police infiltrators, even if they were present (and it’s much harder to infiltrate a group based on pre-existing connections than one formed artificially for political reasons) would have been able to do to damage any of the big student protests – as I’ve discussed, this was a spontaneous revolt, and so, in the absence of any shadowy leadership to infiltrate, the state would have had to have agents in every sixth form and uni represented on the protests in order to have much influence over what was happening.

But, of course, just saying this isn’t enough – saying “oh, just have thousands and thousands of people who want to take militant direct action” is not a solution to the problem of radical organising. Instead, the lesson to draw from police infiltration is yet another reminder that we are not the vanguard and we cannot act for the class, our role can only be one of encouraging and helping people to act for themselves. This is also a role that state agents would have a hard time sabotaging, although it would be foolish to think it’d be impossible for them to do so. This in no way means that small group actions are never useful, in some situations they can be the most useful form of propaganda, but it’s worth being aware of the fact that, in the absence of mass participation, that’s all they are – propaganda, not something that can pose real damage to the system as such.  That’s how I see it anyway, if anyone wants to take me up on this from an insurrectionist angle and explain how propaganda by the deed is the only kind worth bothering with I’m all ears.

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About nothingiseverlost

"The impulse to fight against work and management is immediately collective. As we fight against the conditions of our own lives, we see that other people are doing the same. To get anywhere we have to fight side by side. We begin to break down the divisions between us and prejudices, hierarchies, and nationalisms begin to be undermined. As we build trust and solidarity, we grow more daring and combative. More becomes possible. We get more organized, more confident, more disruptive and more powerful."
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