The Acorn is an info bulletin produced by our friends at Winter Oak, which we are sharing on this site. The Anarchist Action Network is not responsible for the content.
In this issue:
- Wiping the smug look off the face of capitalism!
- Film: “The city is the end of the world”
- The “regeneration” scam
- Developers erase communities and their histories
- Forms of Freedom – new anarchist book from Winter Oak
- Government are a bunch of fracking hypocrites!
- Brighton solidarity with jailed Spanish anarchists
When a young anti-capitalist leapt on to the desk in front of European Central Bank president Mario Draghi when he was giving a press conference in Frankfurt on April 15, the look on Draghi’s face was priceless.
Where was his security? Where was his certainty? Where was his unchallenged power to pontificate without any interruption from those who should know their submissive place in the social structure and stick to it?
The impact of this one-woman protest (following on from the thousands-strong protests in Frankfurt a few weeks ago and hopefully continuing with the May 1 protests against the World Fair in Milan) is something that needs to be matched on a theoretical level.
We heretics of the capitalist age need to blow a hole in the smug certainties of the neoliberal cult of which Draghi is part.
Jobs, economic growth, regeneration. These are its holy words, the sanctimonious doublespeak that is uttered every time it carries out some new abomination.
Like all such dogma, these terms “cannot” be challenged. They are supposed to be self-evidently desirable. From within the capitalists’ world, it is so obvious that “everyone” is in favour of jobs, growth and regeneration that they don’t even feel they have to argue the case.
But the truth is that it is precisely only from within their world that they make any sense. It is only by accepting all the assumptions that lie behind these loaded terms that they appear to be positive concepts.
For instance, don’t we all need jobs? How else would we have any food or shelter? How else could we live – unless we are rich or “sponging” from the state? But the reality is that most “jobs” have nothing to do with feeding us. They just provide us with tokens (money) which we can exchange for food, grown on the land which has been stolen from the commons of a non-owned planet by an elite who invented the idea of “property” to justify this theft and then invented the idea of “law” to justify the constant violence they use to hold on to their ill-gotten gains.
A “job” is not a good thing in itself. It depends what you are actually doing. Nuclear weapons factories create “jobs”. Rainforest clearance creates “jobs”. Prisons, detention centres, animal testing labs, concentration camps – all of these involve “jobs”.
We, those of us who reject the capitalist world, need to break through the barriers to understanding erected by the words they use and by the assumptions behind them.
Already, the degrowth movement is pointing out that “economic growth” is about as good news for humanity as a “cancerous growth” is for an individual.
Likewise with “regeneration”. Capitalist regeneration is nothing but destruction. Real regeneration would start with the clearing away of the toxic infrastructure of the industrial capitalist machine that we are somehow allowing to destroy the one thing we can never do without – the planet we live on.
But it also must start with the clearing away of the assumptions and certainties which capitalism uses to hide the reality of its violent domination of humankind.
As long as we dissidents continue to pay lip service to the neoliberal liturgy of jobs, growth and development, the face of the capitalist system will retain its complacent certainty that we are incapable of seeing through its exploitative lies – and acting accordingly.
“In the city, life is not free. It must be paid for. There is no home here, there is only money, control and order. The city is the epicentre of illusion and the absolute apex of lifelessness. It is a black hole perched along the river devouring all that is free. The city is the end of the world.”
These words come from the introductory scenes of a superb video called Metropolis, which was made in 2012 but is not yet as well known as it should be.
Its focus is on Seattle in the USA, the home of Microsoft, Starbucks and Amazon, which tries to pass itself off as some kind of eco-friendly model of a happy hi-tech future. But, as the film says, “the Emerald City is not what it seems”.
Here we see the whole infrastructure of a modern conurbation, from transport networks to power and water supplies, from offices to shopping malls to prisons.
Everything in the capitalist city is interconnected and everything is there to facilitate the flow of capital – not least the human population.
If you don’t serve the purposes of capital, you are not welcome here: “Only those with money and the intention of spending it are encouraged to enter the heart of downtown, where everything must be paid for”.
Behind the gentrification of luxury “eco-friendly” apartments, behind all the creation of jobs and boosting of the economy is the reality of an industrial civilization which pollutes our water and turns human beings into slaves of a technological master – not for nothing does the documentary feature clips from sci-fi films Terminator and Existenz.
We are shown how the police and public authorities work hand in hand with the powerful businesses of the city to ensure this is how things remain: “It is in all of their interests to have a submissive and orderly population that will help them expand the economy.”
One comment regarding the port of Seattle could just as easily apply to any other part of the system: “The pollution, the deaths at the workplace, all of it can be ignored as long as the wheels of the metropolis keep turning.”
But there is a positive side, too. In contrast to the nightmare present, projected into a nightmare future, the film presents the sense of possibility offered by revolt.
It reminds us: “Life is the force that brought us to this moment and it is life that will get us out of this trap. As soon as we make the choice, we are free.”
The scam of capitalist “regeneration” is being challenged by campaigners in southern England.
Behind all the talk of “job creation”, “development” and “infrastructure” is the reality of environmental destruction and a massive financial cost to those who will never benefit from the schemes.
The SeaChangeWatch website has been set up by residents of Hastings and St Leonards and focuses on SeaChange Sussex, a “not-for-profit economic development company” which trades under the name “East Sussex Energy Infrastructure and Development Limited”.
This is the grey area where state and business overlap. A private company funded almost completely by the public purse, SeaChange says on its own website that it is ”working to expand the area’s economy and business community by attracting successful companies and enabling local firms to grow”.
But the campaigners are questioning “the huge amount of public money poured into SeaChange Sussex to create ‘regeneration’ in our town”, adding “Our green spaces are being destroyed by this ‘build and the occupiers will come’ policy.”
In recent years, SeaChange Sussex (or its precursor, SeaSpace) has built two business parks locally for which it “appears totally unable to find occupiers”. Despite this, it is pushing ahead with plans for two more sites – Bexhill Innovation Park and the Queensway Gateway development.
Say the campaigners: “By granting planning permission for these new sites without asking any questions about the previous ones, our local councils – Hastings Borough Council and Rother District Council – are colluding in the environmental destruction and waste of public money which these projects represent”.
A handy guide to “understanding developer-speak” has been put together by the East End Howler, an excellent free news sheet from London (issue 15):
Affordable: No more than 80% of market rate.
Read: Insultingly unaffordable for most.
Decanting: Councils and property developers will actually refer to people like they’re canned goods. Perhaps it’s easier on their consciences than “displacing families and shattering communities”.
Read: getting rid of those pesky working class types.
Flagship development: Huge amounts of money pumped into a single development to try to “revitalise” an area – in other words, to kick off gentrification.
Read: the cavalry is coming.
Investment, growth, revitalisation: At the same time as people are being turfed out, places are increasingly being given new names, presumably in an attempt to create a “buzz” about an area loud enough to drown out the sound of bulldozers. Usually “something-Quarter”, “something-Town”, “something-Village”. Eviction clearly isn’t enough – histories have to be erased with it.
Read: We consider the previous residents to be skeletons in our closet.
Regeneration, improvement: Making changes to an area to attract bigger businesses and richer tenants. As no attempt will be made to counteract the inevitable increase in house prices, anyone who currently lives there is screwed.
Read: Doing absolutely anything we can to attract rich overseas property investors.
A new book on anarchist philosophy from writer Paul Cudenec has been published by Winter Oak – Forms of Freedom.
In this important work, the author of The Anarchist Revelation, The Stifled Soul of Humankind and Antibodies challenges layer upon layer of the assumptions that lie largely unchallenged beneath contemporary industrial capitalist society.
He rejects limited definitions of freedom as an absence of specific restraints in favour of a far deeper and more radical analysis which describes individual, collective, planetary and metaphysical levels of freedom.
A powerful and tightly-argued work inspired by a profoundly coherent anarchist vision, Forms of Freedom is a potential classic of 21st century revolutionary philosophy.
Writes Cudenec: “How can the human race embrace freedom if it does not have a clear idea of what freedom is? How can we ever gain a clear idea of freedom if we do not even start looking for it in the right places?
“A collective delusion has taken over humanity, fogged its mind, rendered it incapable of understanding its own essential reality or the way in which it has become blinded to that reality and thus incapable of acting in its own real interests”.
More information on a special page at http://winteroak.org.uk/forms-of-freedom
Paul Cudenec will be talking about the theme of the book in a 2pm workshop at the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday April 25.
Some big lies behind the British state’s all-out support for the fracking industry are exposed in a new book by a Sussex campaigner.
For instance, the UK authorities have often tried to reassure the public that fracking will be perfectly safe here, because of all the lovely regulations we have in place.
But the book reveals that behind the scenes the government has in fact been trying to prevent regulations from getting in the way of the fracking industry’s profits!
Dale writes: “Leaked documents from the European Commission in January 2014 identified Prime Minister David Cameron and the UK Government as the chief opposition to new environmental legislation on fracking operations, stating in a letter to the EC President: ‘It is essential the EU minimise the regulatory burdens and costs on industry… by not creating uncertainty or introducing new legislation. The industry in the UK had told us that new EU legislation would delay imminent investment”.
The author reveals that the only “regulation” the UK has in mind is one conducted by the industry itself! “UK pro-shale advocates cite that there are ‘Gold Standard Regulations’ that make the process of fracking safe for the UK. However, it has been found through Freedom of Information requests that neither the Environment Agency nor the Health and Safety Executive conduct independent inspections of any oil or gas well sites, but instead rely on self-regulation by the well operators”.
He points out early in the book that “the Coalition Government are overtly pro-shale”. This is hardly a secret – indeed the Tories’ 2015 manifesto even boasts about it, declaring “our tax cuts have encouraged record levels of investment in existing North Sea gas, and the birth of a new industry, shale gas, which could create many thousands of jobs.”
As the details of Dale’s research confirm this time and time again, so he leads us on to a broader, and more disconcerting, appreciation of the close collaboration between state and business.
On every level, the state exposes itself as a tool in the hands of the fracking industry. Even the road repairs and widening around drill sites are in effect a subsidy for private industry from the public purse.
The UK state has also actively prevented the public from hearing the truth about the disastrous impact of fracking if it is allowed to go ahead, even notoriously censoring one of its own reports on the issue!
Dale recalls that in August 2014, government department DEFRA released a report “on the potential impacts of shale gas exploration on rural communities. The report was only 13 pages in length but contained 63 redactions, obscuring almost all of its content. Eight sections had been deleted from the executive summary, four sections on economic impacts, four sections on social impacts, 17 sections on local service impacts and three sections specifically looking at the impact on house prices near drilling sites”.
The state’s reaction to public opposition to fracking – in particular the right to drill under people’s homes without their permission – has also exposed as a complete sham the phoney “consultation” with which it likes to dress up its edicts.
The book tells us: “On the 26th September, the Department for Energy and Climate Change announced the results of the consultation on underground access – some 40,647 responses were made with an astonishing 99% rate of objection to the plans to allow drilling without landowner permission. However, in a press release DECC stated that: ‘We acknowledge the large number of responses against the proposal and the fact that the proposal has provided an opportunity for the public to voice their concerns and raise issues. However the role of the consultation was to see arguments and evidence to consider in developing the proposed policy. Whilst a wide range of arguments were raised and points covered, we did not identify any issues that persuaded us to change the basic form of the proposals”.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, a couple of weeks later a last-minute amendment to what was to become the Infrastructure Act allowed fracking firms to put any substance at all into the ground and leave it there for ever!
A full review of the book can be read here.
Some 40 people took part in a Sunday evening protest in Brighton on April 12, in solidarity with Spanish anarchists jailed by their increasingly repressive state.
As we reported in Acorn 6 and Acorn 7, “Operación Piñata” is a massive and much-hyped assault by the Spanish police against the anarchist Movement in Spain. It has left five people in “preventive” imprisonment under solitary confinement.
From six in the evening people met at the Clock Tower, in the centre of Brighton, displaying banners, giving out leaflets and explaining to the public about the repression in Spain and the conditions of the comrades. Slogans against the repression and against police and prisons were heard (some of them in Spanish).
After half an hour activists decided to block the road for a few minutes, walking to Churchill Square, where a statement was read in front of the Santander Bank and O2 (Telefónica), two of the biggest Spanish corporations. Then the group made its way back to the Clock Tower where the action concluded.
In the demonstration there were a large number of Spanish people living in Brighton and comrades from different social movements of the city. Solidarity was shown from groups such as Brighton-SolFed, Brighton Antifascists, Sussex Anarchists and Brighton Anarchist Black Cross.
Said a statement from activists: “Spain is becoming a police state because the Government is scared. They are scared of the coherence in the criticism and the practices that the anarchists represent and the incidence that this is having in the people of a country with a long history of revolts.
“In Spain people are angry. Lots of interesting struggles are taking place―struggles in which the people are addressing their problems by themselves, pointing directly to their real enemies: Capitalism and, for a few of them, also the State.
“There are, of course, those who try to recover popular initiatives in order to become the political leaders of the future. Some of them will become council representatives, even majors or ministers. They talk about ‘democratic regeneration’ or promise to go back to the ‘Welfare State’.
“The Spanish Government is well aware of the fact that the calming siren song of the new shepherds is not enough. An army of journalists, politicians and government workers are being mobilised to make sure that nobody crosses the limits. However, their principal weapon is an old one: repression.
“If their intention was to intimidate and isolate what they call the anarchist-terrorists this has been a bad beginning. Just hours after the operation started, a wave of solidarity spread around the country and even far beyond it.
“Thousands of people are taking the streets in solidarity with the detained. They realise that those who are being labelled as members of a dangerous, terrorist cell, could have been them, for Spain―like many other places in Europe― is becoming a trap for those who do not want to become docile subjects.
“While living conditions are getting worse the ruling class is answering with criminalisation of the fighters. International solidarity is particularly important now. It must be shown that we are not scared, that we are very angry and that our comrades are not alone. Solidarity will go on. Liberation for the anarchists arrested now! ¡Ahora y siempre, muerte al Estado y viva la Anarquía!”
A good example of targeting neoliberal infrastructure comes from Oakland, USA, where there is a Mayday call-out to “Block the Tech Commute!”. Says a post on Anarchist News: “Oakland is seeing an unprecedented wave of gentrification creeping in from every direction. The rich have begun colonizing North Oakland, West Oakland, and Downtown. Their tech buses, their pricey cafes, and their luxury apartments have begun to appear with alarming frequency. This May Day, we will deliver a simple message to these colonizers during their morning commute. Starting at 7:30 AM and lasting until 9:30 AM, we call on everyone to converge at the MacArthur BART [Bay Area Rapid Transit] station to interrupt the morning commute. The tech shuttle buses for Facebook, Google, and Apple all stop outside the BART station on 40th Street, below the freeway. We will converge in front of these buses, on the platforms of the station, and in front of the BART gates to spread our message”.
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As the capitalist system fears up for another phoney election in the UK, Occupy Democracy has announced a ten-day occupation of Parliament Square, London, from May 1 to May 10, to continue building “a movement for real democracy: free from corporate control, working for people and planet”. They say: “We will return to Parliament Square to expose our broken democracy and work towards real democratic solutions through engaging workshops, lively discussions and creative direct action”.
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A round-up of protests around Mayday and later in the year has been posted by the Anarchist Action Network on its website. Its next meeting will be on Saturday May 30 at the Cowley Club, 12 London Road, Brighton, where you can “help organise London Rising, a week-long temporary anarchist space in the capital this August”. There will be a practical working day on the Sunday.
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A marvellous report of neoliberal democracy in action – in which the interests of business always take precedence. In this instance the country is the USA and the subject-matter is fracking. “The Texas state House of Representatives has passed a bill that would block cities in Texas from banning the controversial oil and gas exploration method known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. The bill featured 70 co-sponsors and had the support of the oil and gas industry. The House vote comes just a few months after voters in a small Texas town called Denton approved a measure that banned fracking in the area. Denton was the first Texas city or county to ban the practice, the oil industry has already filed a lawsuit seeking to reverse the prohibition.”
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A glimpse into the struggles of Palestinian prisoners is provided by a new briefing from Corporate Watch. Imprisoned Voices results from a 2013 Corporate Watch visit to the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in which researchers interviewed released prisoners about their experiences. They have been collected together “to inspire readers to take action in solidarity with them and against the companies profiting from their suffering”. The report can be downloaded here or read online here.
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Why Anti-Civilization: A Short Introduction to Green Anarchy is an online brochure from The Feral Space Collective, originally published in the zine Disorderly Conduct. “We cannot reform civilization, green it up, or make it more fair. It is rotten to the core. We don’t need more ideology, morality, fundamentalism, or better organization to save us. We must save ourselves. We have to live according to our own desires. We have to connect with ourselves, those we care about, and the rest of life. We have to break out of, and break down, this reality. We need Action. To put it simply, civilization is a war on life, we are fighting for our lives, and we declare war on civilization!”
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Acorn quote: “Do not fool yourself by saying you would like to help usher in a free society, but you cannot sacrifice an armchair for it”. Voltairine de Cleyre, The Dominant Idea.
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