Being mean online: a postscript

As a follow-up to last month’s thoughts on the topic, here’s another example of the way that Angela Nagle’s work seems to be like catnip for absolute arseholes:

The actual review itself, while it could do with a bit of editing, is generally a pretty sound and thoughtful piece of work, by the way.

Of course, the fact of Heartfield and his mate Wolfe being pricks isn’t particularly interesting by itself; any movement or opinion that appeals to a large enough group of people is inevitably going to end up appealing to a few people that you’d cross the road to avoid. What is noticeable about the “Nagleist” camp, and the folk who seem determined to keep on refighting one particularly ugly internet argument from 2013 like some kind of pathetic Sealed Knot society, is the combination of this kind of intensely personalised bullying cruelty with a discourse that claims to be a critique of intensely personalised bullying cruelty.

Richard Seymour’s review, while it does contain a really silly, dishonest swipe at Maryam Namazie*, does sum up these points well, much better than I could:

“Nagle, by such expedients, elisions and evasions, almost certainly keeps the same cycles of outrage, condemnation, defensiveness, bravado, bullying, and sanctified victimhood perpetually going on.

After all, who would respond well to such a one-sided scolding? Who would rise to their best, and think most critically and openly, in response to such a fierce blast of superego spite? Who would begin to question their own moralistic reflexes in the face of what is itself a form of moralism? This is the sad thing about Nagle’s book — prompted, no doubt in part, by online moralistic sadism, it is itself punitively moralistic…

…what one needs…, surely, is not the increasingly hokey attacks on a straw ‘identity politics’, but a political (and psychic) economy of social media. What one needs is an account of how attention is engaged, retained, bought and sold; how online platforms are structured and structuring in their effects on users; how existing social and cultural tendencies are selected and accentuated by these technologies and their corporate organisation; and so on.

What this book does, sadly, is circle around the familiar, well-trodden terrain, not only in terms of its theory, but in terms of its unreflexive ‘backlash’ anti-moralist moralising. It perpetuates the dynamics that it purports to anatomise, scold and shame.”


*in an astonishing moment, he talks about newspapers running anti-Islamic cartoons “as though in brave defiance of an actual threat”. I don’t think you have to think those cartoons are good, or defend their content in any way, to recognise the fact that printing cartoons that criticise Islam is an endeavour that is not entirely safe, and the idea that people who print such cartoons might face violent consequences is not just a silly joke.

Posted in Stuff that I don't think is very useful, The left | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Legal funds needed: St Louis and Atlanta

As usual, the cops are still killing people, and some people are continuing to fight back, which in turn leads to more arrests and court cases. In St Louis, Missouri, there’s been several days of fierce resistance after Jason Stockley, the policeman who killed Anthony Lamar Smith, was acquitted, and reports are that 140+ people have been arrested. You can donate to their bail funds here.

In Atlanta, Georgia, the police just killed a young comrade called Scout Schultz. The memorial march for Scout led to some confrontations with the police, and at least three people were arrested. You can donate to their bail funds here.

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

The party’s over: a reply on autonomism, organisation and bad history

The Internationalist Communist Tendency recently published a critique of autonomism, ranging across the fields of history (which I know a bit about), economic theory (which I’m pretty shaky on), and organisation (which is one of those areas where we’re all pretty much guessing what might work or not work, if we’re being honest). I wouldn’t particularly describe myself as an autonomist, and I don’t think that autonomist theory has all the answers or anything, but I do think that some of the most useful efforts to get to grips with our contemporary situation have come from autonomist-influenced groups like the Angry Workers of the World (AWW) and Plan C. Insofar as the ICT article is a critique of those groups, it seemed worth engaging with.

The introduction states “Over the years we have had contact with a number of groups who have been influenced by the ideas of Italian Autonomists in their various forms. Whilst we have points of agreement with them and sometimes find they produce good analyses we have often found it difficult to engage with them especially since attempts to discuss political issues are dismissed as irrelevant because they are mere “ideology”. For them the terra firma of the workplace is all that matters.”

It’s difficult to respond to this without knowing who they’re talking about, so, without wishing to re-visit last month’s debates about whether it’s OK to write an article that has a list in it, it would be useful if they’d named names here. The one contemporary group named in the article is the AWW; trying think of other people they might be talking about, I came up with Wildcat Germany, Plan C, the now sadly-defunct Recomposition crew, and Gurgaon Workers’ News/Faridabad Majdoor Samachar (who I think have some overlap with AWW). None of them remotely resemble the caricature of anti-theoretical, apolitical economists that the ICT set out… and thinking about it, the description isn’t even consistent – how is it that these unnamed people, who don’t want to discuss politics and only care about the workplace, are also to be found producing good analyses?

The introduction also sets out one of the article’s central claims, which is also a complete falsehood: “The movement had a mass following and intervened extensively in both the workers’ struggles and social struggles but never formed a political organisation.” This is quite simply untrue – I’m pretty sure that Potere Operaio (who rate a brief mention later on in the same article) would count as a political organisation by anyone’s standards, and they were very clearly an operaist/autonomist grouping, and I think it’d also be fair to describe Lotta Continua as an autonomist political organisation. While PO and LC were the big two, Steve Wright’s work also describes a whole galaxy of smaller groups that formed the tendency known as “organised autonomy”.

So, literally the only way the claim “The movement had a mass following… but never formed a political organisation” can be read as true is if we’re extremely charitable and interpret it as “The movement formed several political organisations (plural) but never formed a political organisation (singular)” – that is to say “one organisation to rule them all”. This is technically true, but more or less meaningless.

Of course, to say that autonomists formed political organisations is not to say that these organisations are perfect models to follow, or that they got everything right – famously, even Lotta Continua wouldn’t say that Lotta Continua got that much right – but it is to say that a critique of these groups has to start with their existence, and the actual mistakes that they made, not to pretend that they didn’t exist. This move is wearyingly reminiscent of the classic Trot rhetorical tactic of “you don’t agree with the exact organisational model I want to promote, therefore you don’t agree with any kind of organisation ever.”

Moving on, the author argues that “Autonomist theorists were, however, influenced by the massive class struggles going on around them and tailored their analysis to suit what they saw before their eyes. In the 60s and 70s workers in Italy (and just there) were refusing union negotiated contracts, striking, not bothering to turn up for work, sabotaging machinery and so on.” The qualification about “(and just there)”, suggesting that autonomism can be explained away by some kind of special Italian exceptionalism, deserves further examination – it would probably be broadly correct to say that the refusal of work in 60s/70s Italy went further, over a more prolonged period, than anywhere else, but to say it only happened there seems bizarre – even just considering the core industrialised Western economies, I’m sure I can remember hearing about how there was some kind of minor kerfuffle in France at some point during the late 60s. Similarly, I don’t think it was unruly Italian workers who were described as suffering from “the British disease”, and last time I checked Lordstown and Detroit were both a long way from Milan and Turin.

Getting toward the point, the author insisits that “labour is not autonomous of capital under capitalism. Labour can only survive without the wage while the social wage exists and the social wage can only exist while workers in work are taxed to provide it. The working class is not therefore autonomous of capital.”

To which I’d reply “ehhh, sort of.” To expand, I think it’s more helpful to think about relative autonomy, with some proletarians in some times and places being able to exercise more autonomy than others, than to just view it as a black-and-white, yes-or-no question. One major example is in the field of housing – where mass squatting movements have existed, and to the extent that they continue to have a presence in places like Italy or Germany, I think you can talk about squatted places as having a qualitatively different relationship to capital than places that are rented (and so relatively directly dependant on the wage) or supplied by the state.

Similarly, even if it’s not particularly common in the UK in 2017, there are some times and places when proletarians have had a degree of control over their own food supply, whether that’s through individual allotments or whatever or collective garden projects. I think it’s fair to say that someone who has a reliable food supply that’s not dependant on purchasing food as a commodity, or having it supplied by the state as part of a social wage, can exercise more autonomy than those who can’t.

On that note, I also think that there are people being pushed into a form of “negative autonomy” (or what others have termed “disaster communism”), and that’s only going to increase as time goes by. Looking at the people trying to survive in places where the state has more or less given up responsibility for guaranteeing the basics, from Houston to Calais – these places may not be models that any of us would wish to follow (whether we’ll end up having any choice in the matter is another question!), but it would be hard to argue that their relationships to the state and capital have much in common with those who are working 9-to-5 (or, more likely these days, 8:30-to-6) jobs, or someone concentrating on jumping through all the hoops demanded by the jobcentre in order to qualify for universal credit.

To point these things out is not to argue for some kind of individual drop-out strategy of “socialism in one squat” or whatever, but it is to say that, if you’re operating at a level of abstraction where there’s no meaningful difference between having to make enough money to pay “market rent”, having premises that are provided by the local council as long as you don’t do anything to rock the boat, or having a self-managed occupied social centre, existing in opposition to the state and capital and defended by mass street battles like those around, for instance, Rote Flora or the French ZAD, then you’re working at a level of abstraction that makes meaningful analysis pretty much impossible.

They argue at length against the autonomist “Copernican inversion” that puts working-class self-activity at the heart of autonomist analysis, saying that “…digitisation could only be implemented after the defeat of the print workers.

Generally the defeat of a whole series of struggles of the 70s and 80s preceded the globalisation of production and the transformation of the economies of the central capitalist countries into largely service economies. Global industry has been restructured introducing computer control, instant communication, use of robots etc. following an era of defeated workers’ struggles. This has not occurred in response to global struggles, refusal of work, absenteeism, sabotage or whatever else the Autonomists claim. The changes themselves have been primarily in response to falling profitability of capital which provokes the drive to increase production of surplus value, not struggles of workers resisting this drive”

But the global restructuring they talk about does sound an awful lot like capital reacting to workers’ activity. To say that restructuring is just “in response to falling profitability of capital” only works as a rebuttal if you’ve already decided that “falling profitability of capital” is some pure independent force, akin to an act of God, that can’t possibly be affected by anything we do. If you’re prepared to acknowledge that things like workers disrupting production or securing higher wages might have some kind of effect on profitability, then saying that restructuring is a response to falling profitability is just another way of saying that it is (at least in part) a response to workers’ struggles.

Moving on, the ICT author says that “autonomist claims… appear to be simply based on assertions drawn from observation of events in Italy in the period of 1963 to 1980.” There is some truth in this – it is a theory that was drawn up during the dying years of the social democratic settlement, and so its observations can’t be assumed to automatically apply to our present era, when social democracy’s neoliberal replacement is hopefully on its own way out. But having said all that, even if all autonomist thought was completely stuck in the 1970s, that would still give it a good 30-40 years’ head start over many left communists, since all too often reading left communist texts can give the impression that nothing worth commenting on has really happened since WWII (see here for a particularly glaring recent example).

They take issue with the “social factory” idea, and insist that it’s wrong to think that “surplus value is produced outside the labour process”. Honestly I really don’t know one way or another about this stuff – the “social reproduction” perspective that stresses how much (usually unwaged) labour is necessary to reproduce labour power so that waged “productive” labour can happen in the first place sounds kind of convincing to me, but economics really isn’t my strong point. I would be interested to hear more about how this “waged labour is all that matters” approach deals with the whole information/digital economy – as many people have noted, when companies, particularly internet ones, offer “free” services, that means that we, their users, are the commodities. Right now, by typing this, I’m producing content for wordpress, and so presumably boosting their profits/value by some infinitesimal amount (I’d probably be worth more to them if my blog was less boring, but hey ho), but I’m definitely not getting a wage for it – am I inside or outside the labour process?

They insist that this perspective is dangerous, because “If all activity produces value and the distinction between productive and unproductive labour vanishes so does the class analysis of society. Valorisation of capital is no longer the result of material production by the productive working class, and their ability to disrupt the system by withdrawing its labour also vanishes.”

But there’s a problem here – earlier in the same article, they write “Most work done in the central economies does not produce material commodities and is described, by Autonomist theory, as immaterial production.” They also talk about “the transformation of the economies of the central capitalist countries into largely service economies.” So, if everything comes down to “material production by the productive working class”, what are we unproductive workers to do? Faced with the likes of the Picturehouse cinema workers, the Durham teaching assistants, Deliveroo riders, or the Birmingham bin workers, none of whom can really be said to produce anything, is the correct response “well, what you’re doing is all well and good, but what you actually want to do is find yourself a proper job going down t’pit or up t’mills”?

They then go on to consider autonomist accounts of economic crisis, which again I’m agnostic about. Maybe some crises are caused by some factors and others are caused by different ones – it’s not the sort of thing you can run controllable experiments on, so anyone who claims to know this stuff for sure has to be bluffing on some level. I tend to think of questions about things like “the tendency of the rate of profit to fall” as being a bit asking who shot JFK – we may never know the true answer one way or another, and even if we did, what would it actually change?

In their insistence that autonomists have to be wrong about crises, the ICT author writes “In reality a general fall in the rate of profit occurs irrespective of whether the class struggle is intense or non-existent… Capital will always attempt to keep wages to a minimum no matter in what period of history it operates. The higher wages of the post war period were the result of higher rates of profit”. This feels like an incoherent and contradictory attempt to abstract class struggle out of the picture. If it’s true that “Capital will always attempt to keep wages to a minimum” (no argument on that point), then surely “higher rates of profit” alone cannot possibly be sufficient to lead to higher wages. I can’t see any way out of that contradiction, other than to acknowledge the working-class agency that the ICT seem to want to get rid of here.

Moving on to the question of organisation, they write “The movement never aimed to be a vanguard or a party”, which is true enough, “and therefore never formed an organisation”. As I’ve mentioned above, this is a total falsehood.

Following on from this easily-debunked lie, they explain that this meant autonomia “remained heterogeneous and allowed intellectuals to put forward different political positions and go in different directions”. The idea that this could ever be avoided is a dream. Even the most rigidly centralised organisations, such as the Catholic Church, have ended up having to accept the fact that people end up thinking of different ideas and going in different directions. If we look at, for instance, the Bolshevik party in the late 1910s and early 1920s, we find no shortage of “intellectuals [putting] forward different political positions and go[ing] in different directions”, including Lenin himself; but it would be a bit much to conclude from this that the Bolsheviks never formed a political organisation.

They then move on to address Negri’s historical arguments, where he claims that Leninist parties were necessary in one historical era but not today’s. I agree that this is pretty weak stuff. I’m more familiar with the formulation of this argument coming from some communisation theorists, but either way, it tends to read a bit like people coming from a Marxist background trying to agree with some things that anarchists say while pretending that that’s not what they’re doing. Personally, I think that, if Leninist parties really were a necessary product of an earlier era of capitalism, then it’s odd that so many revolutionary workers and peasants at the time didn’t recognise that historical necessity, and in some cases laid down their lives for their independence from it; but whatever, a disagreement about whether or not some Ukrainian peasants or Russian sailors who lived and died a hundred years ago knew what was good for them is a pretty abstract argument if there aren’t any practical consequences that come from it.

For the ICT, Negri’s views on organisation are shown to be wrong by the fact that “the massive Italian class struggles of 1969 and 1973 did not generate a party as he… expected. Rather they died down without leaving any organisational remains.” Which is fair enough as far as it goes, but this line of argument does point to one of the most fundamental flaws in the ICT’s critique: the tendency to argue from “outside history”, as it were.

I’m wary of leaning too much on arguments from failure, because after all none of us, to date, have successfully managed to overthrow capitalism, so there is the danger that any argument among communists can degenerate into “well, these people you like didn’t manage to get rid of capitalism so you must be wrong”/“NO U”.

Still, the point seems worth stating: the ICT’s article is presumably intended to convince the reader that autonomist ideas are wrong and left communist ideas, or at least the specific brand of left communist ideas favoured by the ICT, are right. But while autonomists are judged by their actions and their consequences, even if these are presented in a somewhat distorted light, the “correct” attitudes about the party, organisation and so on, are just presented as abstract ideas, not attached to any fallible humans. I’m not an expert on leftcom family trees, but I’m pretty sure that the ICT currently has an Italian section, and even if it wasn’t around in precisely the same form in the 1970s, I’m sure that some of the groups and individuals who went on to take part in it must have been around then. If the defeats of the mass movements of the 70s can be explained by the wrongness of the autonomists’ ideas, then why is it that the Italian left coms, with all their correct attitudes about building the party, weren’t able to make more of an impact? If this kind of analysis is sauce for the autonomist goose, then it should also be sauce for the left communist gander.

The next section considers Hardt and Negri’s revisions of autonomist ideas after the defeat of the movement proper. I’ve never really read that much H&N stuff, and don’t feel particularly motivated to defend them; that said, there are still some notably dodgy assertions about crisis and class struggle here. In particular, we’re told that “if the system does not tend to crisis…, then it would not be necessary for capital to attack wages and conditions. Why then should the working class struggle against the system? If class struggle is not a manifestation of the system’s tendency to crisis it must be an act of voluntarism.”

This seems pretty dodgy, and also notably contradicts another assertion made in the same article, the claim that “Capital will always attempt to keep wages to a minimum no matter in what period of history it operates.” Either capitalists are driven to maximise profit, which entails trying to cut the cost of labour, or they’re not. Trying to reduce this down to being something that only happens during crises seems like a weird attempt to abstract class struggle away – after all, why is it that, during the 90s and early 2000s, when the system had supposedly gone beyond boom and bust, so many people found their wages and living conditions stagnating, while the state launched new attacks on the social wage, from early workfare programmes and the Work Capacity Assessment to the introduction of private finance into education and the NHS? I don’t think the Blair government’s actions can be explained away as a response to crisis, or as an attempt to stave off a crisis that they consciously believed to be imminent.

If the statement was modified to “if the system does not tend to crisis… then we’re unlikely to see a revolutionary break with the whole thing”, it’d be easier to agree with, but even then who knows? After all, the French had a pretty decent crack at it in 1968 (even if the ICT are apparently unaware of it), and I don’t think that’s because they were driven to their actions as a result of an economic crisis. They may not have gone all the way, but they went a good deal further than you or I have. Trying to make class struggle itself dependent on crises, which is what the argument as it stands seems to say, is just daft – it’s possible to have a set of interests that are irrevocably opposed to the interests of another group or actor, even if neither of you have an inherent internal tendency to crisis.

They also place a great deal of weight on a H&N quote about how “immaterial labour… seems to provide the potential for a kind of spontaneous and elementary communism.” The “potential” part of that sentence is pretty important here, as it’s not saying that immaterial labour is already communist, just that it provides the potential for it – in other words, more or less exactly what traditional Marxists have been saying about the traditional working class since the 19th century.

Later on in the essay, the ICT mention “the unrealistic and wildly optimistic picture of the potential for revolution which [H&N] locate in the multitude… which we have already noted is autonomous and spontaneously communist.” H&N may well be unrealistic and wildly optimistic, I don’t really know one way or the other, but if you want to prove this, it’ll take more than a quote where they talk about “the potential for communism”, something that the ICT also presumably believe in. At the risk of getting repetitive, someone saying that there’s a potential for something is not the same thing as them saying that thing already exists, and it’s a bit silly and dishonest to try and erase that distinction.

Next they consider H&N’s arguments about “Empire” and imperialism, which, if they’re being presented with any degree of accuracy, I agree sound pretty daft and very 90s. I can see how the perspective of a unipolar world order might have made some sense at the time, but it really hasn’t aged at all well.

After this, we come back to the question of organisation, via that dodgy bit of misquoting about the multitude being “spontaneously communist”. H&N stand accused of reinforcing “the view which bedevilled the earlier Autonomist movement that political organisation was not required” – except, presumably, for all those political organisations that the Italian autonomists built, which are inexplicably ignored. As proof of H&N’s die-hard anti-organisational views, we’re given the following quote: “… This new militancy does not simply repeat the organisational formulas of the old revolutionary working class.”

As anyone with a basic level of reading comprehension should be able to spot, this quote does not really support the point it’s being used to back up. Even more confusingly, in the conclusion to the same article, the ICT author comes out with a line that’s pretty much a paraphrase of the same position: “this global political organisation will not be a repeat of the parties of the past”.

There’s an obvious contradiction here: if saying that what’s required today is not a simple re-run of older forms of organisation means you’re totally opposed to all organisation, then the ICT are clearly as anti-organisational as H&N are. On the other hand, if that’s not the case, then there hasn’t really been enough evidence offered to make the case that H&N are actually anti-organisation at all.

But this is fairly trivial stuff for the most part – to put it in slightly flippant terms, discussing whether Hardt, Negri, Tronti or whoever else is woke bae or a problematic fave might be slightly more interesting and relevant than having the same conversation about Marx or Bakunin, but it’s still pretty abstract. Discussing groups that are actively involved in the class struggle today and the positive and negative aspects of the contributions they’re making is a much more interesting subject, but here too the ICT’s arguments seem a bit shaky.

More precisely, they reproach the Angry Workers of the World for “repeat[ing] uncritically” the idea that “the economic struggle will transform itself into a political struggle without any intervention of a political organisation, or at least it will generate the required organisation itself”. But if you have the slightest degree of familiarity with any AWW stuff, then it’s obvious that this attempt to paint them as apolitical/atheoretical “economists” is completely false. Why is it that these supposedly apolitical types, who are so opposed to any attempt at organised intervention by revolutionaries because they believe that everything will spontaneously sort itself out, put so much effort into writing and circulating theoretical texts, organising meetings to discuss different perspectives on contemporary working-class experience, and generally doing quite a lot of the things one might expect a political organisation to do? Could it be because the portrait being presented here is total nonsense?

After this last attempt to claim that anyone who doesn’t agree with their particular ideas about organisation must be totally opposed to any organisation whatsoever, the rest of the conclusion is taken up with setting out the case for their idea of the party. Once again, we get a bit of arguing from “outside history”, where the idea that an “organisation will arise in a spontaneous way from the economic struggle” is disproved by “the fact that the massive struggles of Italian workers of 69 and 73 led to no such organisation emerging”, but the fact that, during 1969 and 1973, there were some people who more or less agreed with the ICT’s perspectives, and were consciously engaged in trying to build such a party, and whose efforts still came to nothing, is quietly skipped over, and certainly not presented as any cause for reflection on whether those people’s basic perspectives were right or wrong.

Other than this one nod to history – which seems to be a suitable yardstick for measuring other people’s ideas, but never the ICT’s own – the rest of the conclusion is just a pretty abstract statement of principles like “for a programme for gaining political power a class party is required” and “this class is fragmented… It needs a global struggle and global political organisation to become a class that can create world communism.”

Coming from orthodox Leninist types, I can understand this party-fixation, even if I don’t agree with it: for some people, the fact that the Bolshevik party was an organisation that performed a specific task effectively at a certain time means that it’s a model that’s more-or-less valid at all times, and just needs to be repeated to ensure success. But the ICT – who hang around anarchist bookfairs, post on libcom, and assert “this global political organisation will not be a repeat of the parties of the past” – clearly don’t subscribe to that school of politics whereby all questions can be reduced down to WWLD? Which makes their insistence on the centrality of the sacred party that much more confusing. If it’s not just a rehash of the Bolshevik party circa 1917, what does this party look like? What moments in history give us a glimpse of what this party looks like, and why its role is so important? When they assert that “a class party is required”, is this based on observing anything at all, or is it just a pure guess, with about as much authority as if I were to assert “nah, spontaneous workers’ councils will deffo, deffo spring up on the spot, and they will 100% sort everything out, I guarantee it”?

The experience of Italy in the 1960s and 1970s, and the ideas that were developed in that context, will continue to be a useful reference point for those of us who want to get rid of capitalism – it wasn’t a successful revolution, but they had a pretty decent go at it, and the conditions they lived in aren’t the same as the ones we face today, but they’re a lot more recognisable than those of early 20th-century Russia or Spain. Those movements and the ideas that came out of them weren’t perfect by any means, and they should certainly be critiqued and improved on, but criticisms are only of any value if they address what those movements, and those they inspired, actually did and thought. Building strawmen and attacking them might be easy, but it’s not something we can learn much from.

Posted in Bit more thinky, Debate | Tagged , | 1 Comment

End Toxic Prisons Tour Dates & Details, 28 September – 6 October

From Community Action on Prison Expansion:

Tour Details

Thursday 28th September
7pm, 125 Caledonian Road, London, N1 9RG

Friday 29th September
With IWW Cymru Wales and No Prisons De Cymru
Connect International English Academy, First Floor, 26-28 Churchill Way, CF10 2DY Cardiff

Saturday 30th September
Port Talbot
10.30am, Aberavon Beach Hotel, The Princess Margaret Way, Swansea Bay, Port Talbot, SA12 6QP

With No Prisons De Cymru
7pm, Swansea Environment Centre, SA1 1RY

Sunday 1st October
With Bristol Anarchist Black Cross
7pm, Kebele, 14 Robertson Road, Bristol, BS5 6JZ

Monday 2nd October
With Manchester No Prisons
11am, Partisan Collective, 19 Cheetham Hill Road, M4 4FY Manchester,

Tuesday 3rd October
With Yorkshire Campaign Against Prisons
Wharf Chambers, 23-25 Wharf St, Leeds LS2 7EQ

Wednesday 4th October
With Leicester Prison Resistance
Venue TBA

Thursday 5th October
With DIT Collective
Space Studio, Swan Lane, Norwich, NR2 1HZ

Friday 6th October
Venue TBA


This Autumn, the Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons from the US will be touring the UK with Community Action on Prison Expansion.

All over the world prisons are toxic environments causing social and ecological harm. Folks from the US have been organising resistance at the intersection of mass incarceration and the environment, successfully delaying the only current Federal prison construction for over 2 years!

Through grassroots organizing, advocacy and direct action they have been challenging the prison system which is putting prisoners at risk of dangerous environmental conditions, as well as impacting surrounding communities and ecosystems by their construction and operation. Learn about their strategy and tactics, as well as broader struggles of prison abolition, anti-racism, and environmental justice.

Information will then be shared about resistance to the six new mega-prisons in England and Wales, which themselves are proposed for toxic sites, including radiological contamination and asbestos pollution, as well as habitat destruction at every site. Learn how you can get involved!

Learn more:

Check out a recent article we wrote: Fight Toxic Prions: Mass Incarceration and Ecology –
Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons –
Community Action on Prison Expansion –
Empty Cages Collective –

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

Court Solidarity for Stop the Arms Fair defendants, 18 September – 9 October

From Stop the Arms Fair:

Monday 18 September 2017 – Monday 9 October 2017
09:30 – 10:30

Thames Magistrates’ Court
58 Bow Rd
E3 4DJ

Stop the Arms Fair has had huge success this September, with hundreds of people taking action to block the set up to the DSEI arms fair. Over 100 people were arrested during the week of action, and we need your help to support them as they face charges.

Court Solidarity Demonstrations

Join us outside Thames Magistrates Court in Bow (nearest stations Bow Road and Mile End) to support the defendants at their plea hearings at the following times:

  • Monday 18th September, 12.30 pm – 1.30 pm
  • Tuesday 19th September 9 am – 10.30 am
  • Wednesday 20th September 9 am – 10.30 am
  • Thursday 21st September 9 am – 10.30 am
  • Friday 22nd September 9 am – 10.30 am
  • Monday 25th September 9 am – 10.30 am
  • Monday 2nd October 9 am – 10.30 am
  • Friday 6th October 9 am – 10.30 am
  • Monday 9th October 9 am – 10.30 am




The sooner you can send in an account and any photos/video of arrests to Green and Black Cross (GBC), the better. Key information to include for a witness statement is:

  • When, where, who
  • What else was happening on site? E.g. was the road closed by police, were other people/actions blocking the road?
  • Any photos or videos of arrests or immediately before/after

You can find a witness statement template and some advice on drafting statements on the GBC website here. Please send all materials to It makes a huge difference to people fighting charges, so please get in touch with GBC and help if you can.

Posted in Protests, Repression | Tagged | 1 Comment

Early September round-up of repression, workplace, housing and other news

A round-up of a few ongoing struggles and upcoming events:

The Smash IPP campaign to free the prisoners condemned to endless sentences by a particularly cruel and ill-thought-out Blair government policy is keeping busy. They’re currently asking people to email Penny Barker, the chief executive of Lancaster & Cumbria Probation, at to ask her to let IPP prisoner Ian Hartley go directly to rehab, rather than putting him back into an open prison where he’ll be at much greater risk of relapsing – there’s a template here, but they ask people use their own words if possible. If you’re in the Manchester area, they’re holding a protest to free Ian and all the other IPP prisoners outside Manchester probation office on the 16th. They’ve also put out an anti-fascist statement condemning EDL founder Tommy Robinson’s attempts to get publicity by co-opting the cases of IPP prisoners, and “asking for practical support and solidarity to resist the co-option of working class struggle against prisons in the UK by fascists.”

Also on a legal note, the public inquiry into spycops is slowly rolling on, but becoming increasingly farcical – Helen Steel, one of the people deceived into a relationship with an undercover cop, complains that the police are “being allowed to set the pace and direction of this inquiry”, and a particularly glaring example of that has come with the inquiry ruling that the fake cover name used by an officer known as N7 shouldn’t be released, so the people N7 spied on still have no idea that they were targeted in the first place. In Peterborough, there’s going to be a public meeting about Andy Coles, the spycop-turned-Tory-councillor who was casually outed by his 80s-synthpop-star-turned-vicar brother, on September 16th.

And one more bit of police/court related news: while the DSEi arms fair, which has attracted a lot of opposition, is coming to an end, the criminal case against two people who attempted to disarm warplanes being sold to Saudi Arabia is continuing, with the trial being scheduled to start on 23 October in Burnley, if anyone can make it down to support then.

The Barts Health hospital strike continues, with staff currently striking up till the 13th, and then more action scheduled for September 15th to 20th. Supporters of the strike will be making some noise at the Barts Health AGM on Wednesday 13th. The Birmingham bin strike also looks to be back on after the council sent out 100 redundancy notices to workers. You can follow the action at the strikers’ twitter account, and they’ll be holding a mass demo in Birmingham on Sunday 17th. More info on the strike here.

There’s been some progress in the campaign against blacklisting at Crossrail: weirdly, Chuka Umuna has actually been making himself useful by raising the issue in Parliament, and now there are calls for blacklisting scumbags Robert McAlpine to be stripped of a huge Big Ben contract.

London bus drivers are having a demo over their stressful working conditions on Thursday September 14th.

The Angry Workers of the World collective have a pair of exciting events coming up in mid-September, as they’ll be hosting a talk with New River Workers’ Power, who just managed to get a Target manager sacked by staging a wildcat strike, on the 15th at Mayday Rooms, and they’ll also be having a joint meeting with the IWW about a warehouse organising campaign on the 17th at the same location.

Other upcoming events include the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair on the 16th and Radical History Festival on the 17th, the IWGB’s “precarious labour strikes back” event on the 27th, a victory fiesta celebrating successful struggles by outsourced workers at SOAS on the 30th, and then the Orgreave Campaign’s Halloween event in Sheffield at the end of October.

In housing news, renters’ union ACORN have been staying busy in Sheffield: they pressured one neglectful landlord into making repairs and paying up £300 in compensation, got another to back down on a threat to evict a tenant, and on the 14th they’ll be going down the pub, if you’re in that part of the world and fancy having a pint and a chat with some organised tenants. They also promise regular video reports going forward, so keep an eye on their facebook page if you’re into that sort of thing.

Down South, Brighton SolFed, who recently got a letting agency to pay up £1200 that had been robbed from tenants, have now entered into a new dispute with another letting agency, MTM.

Other class struggle news of interest includes this recent episode of trade union podcast Labour Days, which features an interview with a striking McDonald’s worker and a discussion of the old McDonald’s Workers’ Resistance group (but, I would add, neglects to mention that one former member of MWR used the experience as material for a brilliant novel) and this reportback from a community day of solidarity with the Picturehouse workers, featuring some managers being idiots.

Over in the US prison system, long-standing black liberation prisoner Robert Seth Hayes is still in danger from medical neglect and so could use some people putting pressure on the authorities to get him the monitor he needs for his insulin pump, while Jalil Muntaqim is asking people to help pressure New York Governor Cuomo to get him out by tweeting him at @NYGovCuomo on Wednesday 13th. There’s also an update from the support network for Ramsey Orta, who filmed the police killing of Eric Garner and was then subjected to a campaign of harassment from the NYPD in revenge, leading to his being jailed on dodgy charges. Just as a note to add on that point, Ramsey’s birthday is on September 18th, or 9/18 as Americans would say, and his address is Ramsey Orta, 16A4200, Franklin Correctional Facility,  P.O. Box 10, Malone, New York 12953-0010, USA, if you fancy sending him a card. Also in US prison news, the Michigan Abolition and Prison Solidarity folks have put together a compilation of audio recordings by prisoners involved in the Kinross uprising last year, which looks to be an amazing first-hand document from that historic revolt.

Finally, an update from South Yorkshire Women’s Aid:

“We are currently organizing some fund raising and awareness building activities as DMBC have announced that they intend to withdraw funding from our service at the end of the year.
We run a free phone line, provide support, and run courses for domestic abuse victims.  There is an urgent need to keep open.
There have been over 6,500 incidents of domestic violence already this year in Doncaster alone.
We receive hundreds of calls for help each month.
Our Women’s Aid organisation is the last one in all South Yorkshire.
Women’s Aid is one of the only specialist Domestic Violence services that focuses exclusively on women.
There is a growing need for support, please support us so that we can continue to serve the women and children of Doncaster and South Yorkshire.

What can YOU do to help?

  • Invite us to send a speaker to your union, group, organisation meetings.
  • Print off one of the campaign slogans, “Save Women’s Aid, Which side are you on?” take selfies on your own or your entire group, and tweet the photos to : @SaveWomensAid …Don’t forget to tag Doncaster Council @myDoncaster in your tweets.
  • Collect and donate toiletries and sanitary products. Often when someone flees their abuser they are left with only the clothes that they are standing in.
  • Collect and Donate raffle prizes, anything exciting or interesting that someone would feel encouraged to buy a ticket for.  The more unusual the better!
  • Hold a collection for us at your meetings. We really need you support to keep the rent paid and the phone line running. For financial donations, here is the link to our crowd fund page:  Or you can pass donations physically to the campaign in person.
  • Send us your Solidarity. We are holding our heads up but this is a very emotional campaign for us all and we will appreciate any and every message of support.
  • Keep an eye out for upcoming emails with details of events and demonstrations and please share the information via your online networks.”

You can keep up with the campaign on facebook or twitter, or you can email them at womenslivesmatteryorkshire (at) gmail (dot) com, and if you’re in the South Yorkshire area they’ll be having a big lobby of Doncaster council on September 21st.

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No venue, no mates: attempted far-right event collapses into chaos in Sheffield

The saga of the young UKIP members who tried to ship in an EU racist to take a speaking slot that could’ve been filled by a hard-working British racist has taken a fair few twists and turns over the last 24 hours or so. Yesterday, they announced that the event was cancelled, in a post that also complained that “only three of Leadership candidates and / or UKIP speakers confirmed their attendance (two confirmed they would not attend, and one confirmed they would only attend under certain conditions, objecting to us inviting Mr Martin Sellner)”, and, hilariously, added that “Mysteriously, many phones went unanswered simultaneously. The council believes this is disappointing and contradicts our party’s message of freedom of speech.”

Last night it was reported that they’d unofficially rearranged the event to happen in the Bessemer pub, but as of this morning, the Bessemer are saying that “There is bad press regarding a booking we took, we have no involvement we were not told who and what it was for.. We have cancelled all bookings for today.”

If there are any further developments, I’m sure Sheffield AFN will be covering them as they arise, but for now it’s looking like the young UKIPpers’ attempt to play with the big boys and girls of Defend Europe and Pegida has collapsed into a shambles so embarrassing that the rest of UKIP don’t even want to have anything to do with them. Here’s a nice Saturday morning tune, for the Young Independence organisers who’ve been left hanging on the telephone:

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