The election and its aftermath

This was the 14th election of my lifetime. The earliest I can recall with any clarity was 1979, when I was a sixth form politics student and Thatcher came to power. By the next one, 1983, I was old enough to vote but didn’t, as by then I had been an anarchist for several years.

1979 marked the beginning of 18 long years of Tory ascendency and when Blair came to power in 1997 it felt like a watershed to many. Stories of people dancing in the streets in the early hours are not apocryphal. Nevertheless New Labour was pretty awful – especially for political activists.

Blair & Co. were very popular for about 10 years but first the Iraq War, then the economic crash of 2008, ruined that and the ConDem coalition took over from 2010. They have ruthlessly pursued their austerity agenda, targeting the poorest and most vulnerable in society while the rich have never had it so good.

2015 was different in that it was the first social media election. Facebook and Twitter were around five years ago but they were far less popular then. This time they became the platforms on which a bitter feud between Green Party and Labour Party supporters was played out every day of the campaign.

With the shock result came the blame game. Those who voted Green were told they had let in the Tories while me and others who didn’t participate in the farce of parliamentary democracy were roundly condemned as just as responsible for the all the bad things that will occur over the next five years as the perpetrators themselves.

Someone on Facebook said the only way I could earn redemption for not voting Labour was by going to the cull zones when the badger massacre starts this summer. A ludicrous idea if you think about it because my vote would have made not a jot of difference. Equally I could ask the Labour voters whether they would have become anti-vivisection campaigners had Labour been elected.

There is a long history of animal rights groups turning into cheerleaders for Labour when elections roll around. In the eighties and nineties campaigns like Putting Animals Into Politics, Mobilisation for Laboratory Animals and Manifesto for Animals tried to get Labour elected and failed. They were run by national organisations like the BUAV, League Against Cruel Sports, Compassion in World Farming, etc, and were generally ignored or condemned by activists as an expensive waste of money.

It’s a shame, therefore, that  the grassroots chose to get mixed up in this sorry mess this time. The main culprit was Cull the Tories whose strategy spectacularly backfired. As the results rolled in they were forced to confront the disaster on Facebook: “Every household in Cardiff North was leafletted by “stop the cull” activists, but the tories have held onto it”. Oh dear!

The result has seen collective hand-wringing on the left, followed by deep reflection for Labour and its supporters. But for revolutionaries it has been a dismal few days as well. Although an anarchist, I have definitely not been gloating or saying “I told you so!”. That over 11 million people voted for a party that has heaped so much misery and suffering on ordinary people.

Labour believes it lost because it was too left-wing and didn’t attract the “aspirational” middle classes. In fact as I spelled out in my post on Labour and the working class last week, the party was far from being left wing or even social democratic in the conventional sense.Unfortunately the promised post on Labour and animals never got published due to another problem with’s servers.

In the end the Tories won because the electorate – in England – didn’t warm to their “austerity-lite” package of further cuts to public spending and benefits and because they were blamed for the crash in the first place. Miliband’s tactic of putting clear-red water between him and New Labour backfired.

It’s obvious that Labour has failed and will now quickly revert to a slightly less rabid version of the Tories. In any case we’re stuck with the latter until at least 2020 by which time Labour could have morphed into something as bad or even worse than Blair’s brigade. We will have to organise to resist the onslaught of further cuts and austerity ourselves.

Although I would never fall into the trap of saying “things have to get worse before they get better”, perhaps another five years of cuts, social cleansing, benefit sanctions, badger culls, etc , can concentrate the minds of those on the left who aren’t content with the “lesser of the two evils” option and want to radically shake things up.

The signs so far are promising. Within a day of the election result there was a 2,000 strong demo outside Downing Street. People are angry at the prospect of the Tories and fighting back. As Johnny Void said on his blog:

What recent events show is that the days of boring A to B marches, with routes agreed in advance with police and heavy stewarding, are clearly no longer what people want. If thousands are prepared to take to the streets then that should be the only mandate necessary. Fuck asking permission, there is no law anyway that says you have to go crawling to the authorities before you can hold a static demonstration. And if that demonstration is so strong it can take the streets then there is fuck all anyone can do to stop it.

Many more protests are being organised across the country with big ones called for in London on 30 May by UK Uncut and 20 June by the People’s Assembly. Martin Wright of Class War, speaking on Ian Bone’s blog, reckons there will be a “summer of turmoil”. Who knows? He could be right.

But the fightback isn’t just about mass shows of defiance. In March 2011 about 100,000 people marched against austerity and there was black bloc disorder in central London. It didn’t bring down the government.

According to So, the government got in… on, there is no single blueprint for creating a mass movement “that effectively resists the attacks we face as a class…We need to pick winnable battles, draw more people in by showing that our methods work, and escalate as our numbers grow.”

And for the animal rights movement it consists of doing what it has always done best, organising locally and getting activists out onto the streets. It was heartening to see the latest British Heartless Foundation day of action on Saturday 9 May, just two days after the election.

As says:

So, with the voting done, the only effective thing we can do is build up resistance from the ground. Otherwise, in five years’ time, we’ll still have nothing else but the desperate, futile hope that Labour aren’t as bad. And make no mistake – that’s a sure sign of a broken movement.

Why Labour can’t be trusted: 1) the working class

“Inequality at levels not seen under Macmillan, Heath, Thatcher or Major. Real cuts in the incomes for those at the bottom of the pile. No progress in reducing child or pensioner poverty. A record number of working-age adults without children living below the breadline.”

So began Larry Elliot of The Guardian’s attack on rising inequality and poverty in Britain. You would think he was talking about the coalition’s record during the past five years but in fact the article was published in May 2009 after 12 years of Labour government. He goes on to say that Labour “inherited one of the west’s most unequal societies from the Conservatives in 1997 and, far from reversing the trend, it has allowed the gulf between rich and poor to widen.”

It’s sometimes assumed that Tony Blair’s version of Labour was a blip or a deviation from the true Labour Party. During the long 13 years of New Labour you’d hear people describing themselves as “Old Labour” and lamenting the party of the past.

New Labour wasn’t a blip, it was the culmination of everything the party had been heading towards ever since it was founded in 1900. That we can’t trust Labour isn’t due merely to what happened from 1997-2010 – undeniably bad though that was – it is a reflection of its whole sorry history.

Labour’s past is the story of conscripting working class men into armies and sending abroad to die, rearmament, using the police and army to break strikes, compensating and doing deals with company bosses while workers lose their jobs, freezing or even cutting wages, and reducing public spending on health and education (some of the first anti-cuts protests were against the Labour government of the seventies) while spending billions on nuclear weapons and waging war.

That’s all I want to say about Labour’s past here because I want to deal with the present and the impending election. Click on the libcom link at the end of this article to find out more.

Given what is already known about Labour, nothing should come as a surprise but the proposals in its manifesto are genuinely shocking. Benefits will be scrapped completely for 18-21 year olds and replaced by some form of mass YTS or workfare scheme.  All those over 25 and out of work for two years will be forced into the Compulsory Jobs Guarantee (CJG) programme, or lose their benefits.

This has been described as workfare plus a sandwich scheme. In an analysis of the scheme that appeared on his blog last year, Johnny Void said ne believed many people in these new compulsory jobs could be worse off than on current Tory workfare schemes.

The jobs will be only 25 hours per week and those over 21 would receive only about £160, meaning they will have little more than they get on the dole after paying rent and even less once travel expenses are deducted.

It gets even worse, however, as those on CJG no longer be classed as unemployed – handily for the government – and therefore could no longer be eligible for Council Tax Support, the scheme introduced by the Tories to replace Council Tax Benefit by handing control to local authorities to help the poorest pay local taxes.

Those on the CJG will also face mandatory training for 10 hours a week. Labour hasn’t specified exactly how this will be implemented but a press release put out last year suggested employers would be given an extra £500 to provide it. Those on the scheme would have to work an extra 10 hours without wages under the guise of it being “work experience”. This means participants would five hours a week more to work than those on current workfare.

Labour has said it will keep the notorious Work Capability Assessment (not really a surprise as it was introduced by the party) and introduce an additional “work support programme” for disabled people who can work. This could be a euphemism for a type of workfare. There are no plans to halt the closure of the Independent Living Fund, scrap or even reduce benefit sanctions, reverse the appalling reforms to Council Tax benefit mentioned above, and Universal Credit will only be “paused and reviewed”.

Shockingly, Labour not only endorses the benefit cap but intends to investigate the possibility of lowering it in some areas. That means more social cleansing for families in certain places. And total social security spending will be capped as part of each spending review. Child benefits will be cut in real terms, some pensioners will lose winter fuel allowance and the age we receive pensions will be raised which will entail more people working till they die.

The key to Labour’s election campaign is balancing the books. This is apparent from the first page of the manifesto where the first commitment is cutting the deficit every year and getting the national debt falling “as soon as possible” in the next parliament. On the same page it also talks about tough spending decisions, and boasts that it will cap social security spending and rises in child benefit for two years.

This is the same old Labour Party, doing what it has done throughout its history: attacking the living standards and welfare of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society, instead of taking the struggle to the bosses, the rich and privileged

As Johnny Void says:

“This is the fucking Labour Party in 2015.  Every bit as intent on punishing the poorest as the Tories.  If the Labour Party wins next month then don’t be ordinary, don’t be young, don’t fall ill and don’t be old.  Because Ed Miliband could not give anymore of a shit about the poor than Iain Duncan Smith.”

Tomorrow I will explain why Labour can’t be trusted on animal protection

Flashback: 2 May 1997 – Labour’s election landslide: “Things can only get better”?

On this day 18 years ago, Tony Blair’s New Labour won a landslide victory in the general election, with a staggering 419 seats and a majority of 179 over all the other parties.

A BBC exit poll that predicted the landslide was described as akin to “an asteroid hitting the planet and destroying practically all life on Earth”. As the results started to come in it was clear that the Tories would be swept out of office after 18 years in power.

The most memorable event was the defeat of Tory poster boy Michael Portillo, shown live on television in the early hours of the morning, later referred to as “The Portillo Moment.” The result elicited a huge roar at Labour’s celebration party and D:Ream’s chart-topper “Things can only get better” was played.

As the sun shone that morning, Blair strode along Downing Street, shaking hands with flag waving supporters from his party. At the door to No.10, he said: “We were elected as New Labour and we will govern as New Labour.”

In context: Blair’s triumph was the culmination of a process that went back to the dismal defeat under Michael Foot in 1983. Labour’s left wing manifesto pledged unilateral nuclear disarmament, withdrawal from the EEC and nationalisation. Ironically Blair entered himself Parliament at this election.

Under new leader Neil Kinnock, the left was gradually subdued and Militant Tendency driven out of the party. Even so the Tories won a majority of over 100 seats in 1987. By the late eighties Blair was one of the key party “modernisers” along with Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson.

Labour’s narrow defeat at the 1992 election (which it had expected to win) led to the modernisation “project” gaining impetus. Under Blair’s leadership shibboleths such as public ownership of the economy, high taxation and wealth redistribution were dropped in favour of a programme that embraced neoliberalism and the Thatcher revolution of the eighties.

Shortly before the 1997 election the party published “new Labour, new Britain, new life for animals”, which made numerous promises on animal protection issues and said “Labour is the only party with carefully researched policies and the political will to carry them out.”

What happened next: Blair was true to his word and governed as New Labour,  being “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich.” When Formula One was exempted from the ban on tobacco sponsorship of sport after Bernie Ecclestone’s £1m donation to the party, it was rocked by a sleaze scandal. Sleaze never went away and Blair was interviewed by the police in his final year in office over allegations that party donors had been given peerages.

The burgeoning financial services industry, based in the City of London, led to the rise of a new ultra-rich class. As wages for ordinary people flatlined, Labour tried to plug the gap with tax credits. Middle income people felt better off thanks to rising house prices and personal debt increased to record levels, paving the way for the credit crunch of 2007-8.

Under New Labour, the marketisation and privitisation of key public services such as the NHS and education was stepped up thanks to public finance initiatives (PFI), which the party had condemned while in opposition. Blair also broke his promise to abolish zero hours contracts. Compulsory work placements (workfare) and work capability assessments for disabled people were brought in under Labour.

Blair promised to be “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” but in reality it was the former with over 3,500 new offences created and the prison population up by over 30%. ASBOs were particularly controversial with many people being locked up for trivial reasons. A compulsory ID card scheme was announced but later scrapped by the coalition government.

Dissent was criminalized with the term “domestic extremist” used to smear activists and the formation of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit leading to an unprecedented infiltration of political groups by undercover cops. The animal rights movement came off worse, especially anti-vivisection groups such as SHAC who were targeted by new draconian laws.

Labour broke nearly all its promises in New Life for Animals. Fur farming was eventually outlawed in 2003 but the fur trade expanded thanks to the use of injunctions against protesters. After much hesitation and deferment, the Hunting Act 2005 was supposedly intended to ban hunting with hounds but was ineffective and poorly enforced.

Blair ‘s nadir was the disastrous invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. Millions marched against the war but were ignored as he joined forces with George Bush under the pretext of WMDs which were never found. This led to the UK being a prime target for terrorists and the 7/7 bombings. Nearly half a million people died during and after the war and the destabilization of the region was a prime cause of the rise of Islamic State.

New Labour was Thatcherism rebranded with a smiley face and Cool Britannia. According to Larry Elliot, economics editor of the Guardian, its legacy was: “Inequality at levels not seen under Macmillan, Heath, Thatcher or Major. Real cuts in the incomes for those at the bottom of the pile. No progress in reducing child or pensioner poverty. A record number of working-age adults without children living below the breadline.” And on top of that, state repression at home and war without end abroad.

Labour’s wildlife culls

With one week to go till the election and the two main parties neck and neck, the mood on social media is starting to become frenzied and more and more people are saying we have to vote Labour to save wildlife.

The reasons given are twofold. Firstly to protect foxes because the so-called hunting ban may be repealed if the Tories get in. Second, to save badgers from a further cull. The myth that the 2005 Hunting Act works has already been comprehensively demolished in a number of posts here.

As for badgers, it’s true that Labour says it will end the cull. But can it be trusted? It’s always more revealing to look at what parties do in government, rather than in opposition when they’ll say anything to get your vote.

So what was the record of the Labour government when in office from 1997-2010 as regards wildlife? In a word terrible! There were numerous attempts to wipe out a wide range of species – some successful, some not. This included ducks, geese, deer, cormorants, seals, hedgehogs, pigeons, rats and of course badgers too. All these attempts were either directly carried out or supported by Labour.

Most famous of these was the badger cull of 1998-2005, which in true New Labour style was spun into a “field trial” to endow it with a spurious scientific justification. In fact over 10,000 badgers had already been killed to control bovine tb since the seventies and the facts were well known. The disease isn’t caused by badgers but by the appalling abuse suffered by cows in the dairy industry. Nevertheless another 11,000 died on Labour’s watch before a consensus was reached that it did nothing to control tb in cattle and could even make the situation worse.

Perhaps the next famous cull was that of the ruddy duck. In May 2003 the government announced it would destroy the entire UK population of ruddy ducks. Their crime was flying to Spain to mate with endangered white headed ducks, who were themselves almost hunted to extinction.

The decision came after a “trial cull” had run from 1999-2002 – a ruthless exercise which led to the slaughter of 2,651 ruddys. A further 6,000 were earmarked for destruction which continued until the end of Labour’s term of office and carried on under the Tories until the last survivors were shot in 2014.

In 2002 Labour gave the go-ahead to a cull of ship rats who lived on the island of Lundy off the Devon coast. This was backed by English Nature and the National Trust, which owned the island, to counter a threat to puffin and manx shearwater populations, as rats were blamed for taking the birds’ eggs. 40,000 were wiped out. The native birds did increase but the rats had kept the rabbit population down. After the cull this grew from a few hundred to tens of thousands and in turn the rabbits were killed as well.

From 2003 over 600 hedgehogs on the Scottish island of Uist in the Outer Hebrides were given lethal injections because they were said to pose a threat to the eggs of rare wading birds. A coalition of local animal rights groups opposed the cull and Scottish Natural Heritage eventually backed down ion 2007. The rest of the hedgehogs were relocated.

Pigeons are unfairly regarded as pests and killed throughout the country. When Labour’s Ken Livingstone ran for mayor in 2000 he said he planned to declare London “a cruelty-free zone”. That didn’t include Trafalgar Square, however, and his attempt to get rid of the Trafalgar Square pigeons became a national news story.

Livingstone, who once claimed to believe in animal rights, wanted to remove all the pigeon’s food in one go. This would have resulted in slow, lingering deaths for the birds. A group called Save the Trafalgar Square Pigeons proposed reducing the food gradually. Members of STTSP took to feeding the birds but they were subject to harassment from wardens and a harriers hawk was introduced to kill and frighten away the pigeons.

Eventually STTSP reached an agreement with the Greater London Authority in which feeding was allowed every day at 7.30am. The number of pigeons did decline dramatically but in 2007 the mayor and GLA banned their feeding.

There are herds of wild goats in Wales, Scotland and the West Country. In 2006 A cull of some of the wild goats in Snowdonia was carried out with up to 40 animals shot. Their crime was damaging saplings in protected woodland and residents’ gardens. Gwynedd council said the goats were not a “pure breed”.

As well as badgers, ruddy ducks, rats, hedgehogs, pigeons and goats, a plethora of other species were indiscriminately killed, such as deer, geese, gulls, raptors, cormorants, corvids, stoats and weasels.

So that’s Labour’s record on wildlife protection while it was in office and it is a pretty miserable one. In 2007 Animal Aid published a booklet called With extreme prejudice: the culling of British wildlife. This was 10 years into Labour’s term of office and was a reaction to the alarming rise in the number of animal populations deemed a nuisance or danger and hence wothy of destruction.

Its judgement was damning:

Intolerance of other species is now so great that mass killings are rarely even commented on. Animals and birds are persecuted for daring to feed themselves and rear offspring; or for being introduced to, or abandoned in, an area where they naturally would not live.

They are shot, poisoned, trapped and snared for living in what is left of their fast-dwindling habitat or for adapting to a landscape that – thanks to human intervention – is changing rapidly. They are killed because they are considered noisy, messy or unsightly.

But most of all, they are persecuted because they pose a financial threat to industries and ‘sports’, many of which have as their primary objective the killing of other animals or birds. These are the shooting, sea fishing, angling and farming industries.

Labour was the driving force behind the extermination of a myriad of species who were viewed as inferior. At the same time the party was doing all it could to support and appease the shooting, fishing, angling and farming lobbies who love killing wild animals when they come into conflict with their profits and pastimes.

In short,  Labour in government was a party of mass animal destruction or to use that more anodyne term, culling. Just because it says it’s now on the side of wildlife , it should not trusted.

Anima Aid’s report is here:

Which side are they on?

Shami Chakrabarti is known to most people as the director of Liberty, the civil rights organization. She has never stood as an MP but imagine the public uproar were she to announce she was a UKIP candidate at the forthcoming election.

Something very similar in principle that occurred last year, however, registered zero on the shock scale. Not a single voice of discontent was heard when Michelle Thew – pictured here – was chosen as the Labour candidate for the seat of Bexhill and Battle.

It’s a safe Tory seat and she is unlikely to win it but when I discovered she was a Labour candidate I was astonished. For many years she has been chief executive of the British Union Against Vivisection (BUAV) which campaigns for an end to animal experiments.

Why on earth would anyone who has fought for laboratory animals and animal rights want to represent a party that stands for exactly the opposite? That’s where the comparison with Chakrabarti is valid. In fact it’s worse because at least UKIP makes some pretense of believing in human freedom, whereas for Labour the idea that animals have rights doesn’t even exist.

A few weeks ago the party made some pledges on animal welfare including ending the badger cull, retaining the Hunting Act and banning wild animals in circuses but mention of vivisection was conspicuous by its absence.

A lengthy examination of Labour’s record on animal issues will have to wait for another blog post but for now all I will say is its record is appalling. Before the 1997 election all sorts of promises were made to reduce and eventually end vivisection, especially alcohol, weapons and tobacco testing, but none were kept. Instead the number of animals used increased by about one million during the 13 years the party was in government.

It went even further in propping up the infamous Huntingdon Life Sciences laboratory and criminalising those who campaigned against vivisection. Draconian laws were introduced which made minor public order offences and even civil torts punishable by up to five years imprisonment if they harmed a contract between a laboratory and its customers or suppliers. Conspiracy to blackmail was also used to punish activists with very long sentences.

The Labour government in effect declared war on anti-vivisectionists and here is the boss of one of the largest and oldest organizations that’s meant to stand up for laboratory animals joining its side.

In one respect this leaves me incredulous but in another it makes perfect sense. When I highlighted the story on Facebook, someone commented that it came as no surprise and it wouldn’t have been a shock even if Thew had gone over to Cancer Research UK or the British Heart Foundation.

That just about sums up the cynicism of grassroots activists towards big national societies. And let’s face it, the BUAV does have a track record here. Way back in the eighties it cozied up to Labour and got badly let down when the party supported the 1986 Animal Scientific Procedures Act – the Vivisectors Charter.

Most campaigners I know see the likes of the BUAV as bureaucratic and out of touch, trying vainly to influence politicians and capitalists instead of using their resources to fight vivisection in more direct and effective ways.

While it may come as little surprise to find out the boss of the BUAV has joined Labour, what about a hunt saboteur and vegan? Chris Williamson, the MP for Derby North is both, I am told. I looked at his website and he mentions neither but does say he is a trustee and former chair of the League Against Cruel Sports and believes in “animal welfare”. The hunt sab and vegan claim was mentioned on Facebook after I posted a piece about the ineffectiveness of the Hunting Act.

Whether Williamson is vegan is in doubt then but Labour already has Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East since 2005 and a vegan You may ask how anyone who espouses veganism and animal rights can represent a party which in government would do all it can to support animal farming? The answer is although McCarthy is a dietary vegan, she doesn’t believe in animal rights at all. At last year’s Bristol Vegfest she said she approved of some animal experiments.

When asking how individuals who claim to care about animal suffering want to get elected on the platform of a party which will do so much to further it, we shouldn’t forget the capacity of people to delude themselves. Perhaps the likes of Thew and others really think they can make a difference? Their retort might be, well better I’m there able to do something and can speak out for defenceless animals rather than somebody who doesn’t care at all.

But in reality they will chewed up and spat out by the system and made to conform. In return they will have a lavish income – even a backbench MP’s salary is nearly £70,000 per year – and the potential for even more if they become a minister or junior minister.

Like Joan Ruddock of CND who became an MP in the eighties when Labour’s policy was unilateral nuclear disarmament but was a minister when that policy was abolished and during the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, they will have to renounce their principles and be no more than a career politician whose job it is to maintain a system which mercilessly exploits animals and humans and is destroying the planet.

Where has the Hunting Act gone?

Two weeks to go till the election and a sort of collective insanity seems to be gripping certain sections of social media. There’s a big argument on Facebook between animal rights people who support Labour and those who’ll be voting for the Green Party.

When I published the article on the Green Party and Barry Horne recently, a lot of the Labour folk thought I was on their side. I had to remind them this is an anarchist blog and I’m nothing of the sort. I deeply detest Labour and its double-crossing of the animal rights movement and the animals themselves.

In the run-up to the election I’ll be writing two pieces on Labour. One will look at its betrayal of the working class – the very people it was set up to represent – while the other will examine how Labour has promised so much for animals yet delivered so little.

To return to Facebook, many of those backing Labour have got involved over the badger cull and have little knowledge of the party’s treachery in the past. Their naivety is therefore to some extent excusable.

But there are others who should know better. One of them is Luke Steele who used to be an anti-vivisectionist and fancied himself as the leader of the radical wing of the movement following the decline of SHAC. Until, that is, he fell fowl of draconian laws introduced by the last Labour government.

First he was sent to prison for the heinous crime of trespassing on private land belonging to a breeder of laboratory animals. Then a few years later he was gaoled for standing outside another breeder holding a placard and speaking on a megaphone. One might think that after that he’d be through with Labour but, no, he’s going around towns in northern England asking people to vote for them.

The expression turkeys voting for Christmas springs to mind. One of the reasons he wants us to put Miliband in No.10 is the Tories’ commitment to a free vote on the Hunting Act. I have news for you, Luke, the Act has already gone in some parts of the country. Or to be more exact it was never there in the first place.

According to a BBC investigation there has never been a single prosecution under the Act in the counties of Cornwall and Devon over the last ten years. It’s like a piece of hugely controversial legislation that took up 700 hours of parliamentary time, caused riots outside Parliament and even a hunt scum invasion of the House of Commons had never even existed.

The police claim they would “always consider any evidence”, yet although two arrests have been made for illegal hunting, that’s as far as it’s gone. The only prosecutions brought have been by the League Against Cruel Sports. 

Cornwall and Devon are two of the largest and most heavily hunted counties in England so perhaps the reason for the lack of police interest is that the hunts are operating within the law? However, the people on the ground – the monitors and saboteurs – say most hunts are just carrying on as before. They are acting with impunity because they know the police aren’t interested in stopping them.

This is precisely how it was always meant to be. The Act was poorly drafted, full of loopholes and not designed to protect wild animals properly – it permits the shooting of foxes, for example. Add to that the lack of enforcement and we have a piece of legislation that is next to useless.

Unfortunately most of the population thinks hunting with hounds is now a thing of the past. The likes of Luke Steele do not help matters when they go around saying we should vote Labour to keep the “ban”. This amounts to colluding in a massive confidence trick. Far better to expose the lies and mendacity of politicians who protect the rich and powerful’s country pursuits. There really is one law for them and another for us.

23 April: Anti-election meeting at Freedom Bookshop in London

The Anarchist Federation will be holding a meeting on the forthcoming election entitled No Matter Who You Voted For, the Government Got In. This is what it will be about:

“People are realising that voting isn’t part of the solution – it’s part of the problem. Voting means accepting this rotten set-up, pretending that we have a meaningful say in how things are run. The fact is that politicians couldn’t really change anything even if they wanted to, because of the way the political system is set up. The main aim of parliament is to keep things going the way they always have, so a rich few at the top have all the power and the vast majority of us have none. Voting just props the whole system up by making it look democratic.

So whoever gets in after this next election, the important thing is that we are ready to fight, whether it be Labour, Tory, or a coalition cobbled together with other parties. We know that whatever government is formed, they will continue to drive through cuts and austerity measures. We must be prepared to organise to resist.”

The meeting will start at 7pm at Freedom Bookshop, Angel Alley, 84b Whitechapel High Street, London E1. Refreshments available and plenty of time for questions.

Green Party turns to dead activist to win votes from Labour

Several months ago an analysis I made of Barry Horne’s hunger strikes was severely criticised in certain quarters. You can find it by clicking on the vivisection tab. One of the allegations was I used his death to score cheap political points. In that case what can be said about the document pictured left? Entitled – replete with symbolic meaning – A CROSS FOR BARRY, it seeks to use his memory to promote a political party that he had nothing to do with while alive.

It first appeared on Ronnie Lee’s Facebook page with the statement: “On May 7th vote for a party without the blood of animals and of activists on their hands!” Then it was shared by Kevin White who is the Green candidate for Redditch. Ronnie and Kevin are veteran AR activists whom I’ve known for a very long time. I first met Ronnie in the eighties when he was ALF Press Officer.  At the time he wrote:

Any campaign which calls upon the government to do something for us, instead of us doing it for ourselves, only serves to increase the power, influence and apparent credibility of the state – and neither human nor animal liberation will be properly achieved until all governments and states are abolished.

Shortly afterwards he was sentenced to 10 years for ALF activities and decisively changed. On release he evinced a misanthropic view of the world. Anarchists believe that humans, while not always good, are social beings who can cooperate and build a society based on equality and justice. Ronnie’s view was diametrically different. In Arkangel magazine #3 he opined that “ordinary unenlightened people” were “dragging out their tiny meaningless lives, changing nothing, achieving nothing, merely taking up space in an already grossly overcrowded world.”

Just before the 2005 general election, Ronnie advocated voting Labour in case the Tories won and overturned the Hunting Act. Later on he became a staunch supporter of the Green Party. He’s now renounced his misanthropic beliefs and campaigns on social justice issues as well as for animal rights and veganism but he still holds an essentially pessimistic view of human nature.

In his one and only blog entry, “Greenprint for Animal Liberation”, he states: “it is a fundamental trait of humans in general to be passive and to not want to stand out from the crowd…Most human beings are fundamentally leader-followers, so the problem is that if there is no good guy (or gal!) for people to follow, most of them will inevitably follow the bad guy.”

Ronnie gives no evidence to back up his claim. It is easily refuted if one looks online at sites such as Indymedia, New Internationalist, Libcom or even Facebook and Twitter. There are millions of people fighting back across the globe but most of the time you hear nothing about this on mainstream news. Ronnie is guilty of taking the media at face value.

As an interesting anecdote, I debated anarchism v parliamentary campaigning with Ronnie and Kevin at an Animal Rights Gathering a few years ago. It was a Saturday evening and I recall Ronnie mentioning how people were too lazy to do anything except watch tv. On the way home I heard on the radio how a demonstration at Tottenham police station had turned into a riot and within days the country was convulsed by the biggest insurrection in living memory.

That potential for upheaval is always there. If we learn anything from history it should be that class conflict can be suppressed but it never goes away and we’ve seen plenty of examples of that over the past five years since the austerity policies of the coalition government have wreaked havoc on peoples’ lives.

Ronnie, however, clearly thinks people cannot organise and fight back themselves and instead need leaders and politicans. He pins all his hopes on the Green Party, which flies in the face of logic. He also emphasizes their commitment to “animal protection” as though that is one of their core principles. In reality the section of their 2010 election manifesto devoted to it was less than one page out of 48!

That document calls for  an immediate ban in “causing harm to animals (including but not only primates) in research, testing and education, and invest in the development of alternatives to animal experiments.” All well and good but where is the evidence they have the desire to implement such a policy?

Try and find any mention of vivisection or repression of anti-vivisectionists in any speech made by a prominent figure in the Green Party and you’ll have a long wait. Why was there no undertaking to repeal SOCPA s145/146 in the 2010 manifesto after it had been used for the previous five years? Will there be any such commitment in the coming election. Of course not! Will the abolition of animal testing be a precondition of entering into coalition with another party. Don’t be ridiculous!

The Green Party never has been a party of animal rights and never will be. It is about animal welfare – using animals in a kinder, gentler way. Some forms of animal exploitation could be outlawed, say the fur trade, badger culls and wild animals in circuses, but animals would remain mere commodities. How could it be different when the party accepts the capitalist system, albeit with a greener tinge.

Voting for the Green Party in the expectation of them bringing about animal liberation is like voting Labour for human liberation. The two just don’t go together.

Which brings us back to Barry Horne. He was an animal liberationist who believed fervently in direct action and grassroots campaigning, not party politics. Reading what he wrote, the  contempt he had for politicians of all parties is obvious.

Ater being arrested and receiving the longest ever sentence, he decided, rather than just rot in gaol, to use his incarceration to hold New Labour to account through the tried and tested tactic of the hunger strike.

Prior to Labour’s election under Tony Blair in 1997, lots of promises had been made on animal issues, especially vivisection. Barry wanted to test the government, to expose them to the glare of publicity and at the same time galvanise the movement into action against animal experimentation.

His hunger strikes proved beyond doubt that politicians – of all parties – are never to be trusted. It transpired that rather than curb vivisection, Labour was its resolute defender. The same would apply to other parties, including the Greens. If they ever came even close to power, they would renege on their promises too. This is, after all, a party whose membership elected a meat eater to be its leader.

We can have some idea of what a Green government might be like if we look at where they have been successful. Such examples are not easy to find in this country but an exception is Brighton where despite trumpeting calls for the living wage, they joined forces with the Tories on the council in attempting to impose a “pay modernisation” scheme on low-paid workers, meaning some faced a paycut of up to £4,000 a year. This led to them being denounced as: “F***ing Tories on bikes!”

When the Greens are in power, they are like other parties. How could it be any different? I wouldn’t trust Ronnie Lee, Kevin White, myself or anyone else with political power. Hierarchy always leads to inequality and exploitation.

Using Barry Horne as a way of garnering a few votes for a political party is a cheap and shoddy tactic. He believed in militant, confrontational campaigning and direct action against animal abuse industries. Yes his strategy of trying to involve the UK animal rights movement in all out war with the state never worked but to suppose the solution is to somehow try and emulate the state is naive and would be disastrous for animal rights itself.

Ronnie and Kevin have lost hope in the ability of people to bring about real change. In their view, because the animal rights movement failed to shut down HLS or the Oxford University lab, there is now no alternative to activists joining the political establishment and trying to use it for animal protection. This is the same establishment which is busy curtailing human rights and attacking the most vulnerable people in society.

The idea that the ruling class can be persuaded or entreated to protect animals when they’re busy using the capitalist system to gain wealth and power is laughable. Ronnie and Kevin would be chewed up, spat out and made to conform. I’m sure they have the best of intentions but their tactics are naive and ill-thought through. Ronnie got it right 30 years ago when he said: “Neither human nor animal liberation will be properly achieved until all governments and states are abolished.” That includes Green governments too.

UKIP and Vegfest

The past week or so has seen a load of controversy over UKIP and Vegfest. What has a right wing anti-immigration party got to do with a vegan festival, you might ask? Well the organiser Tim Barford has had the crazy of idea of trying to the link the event to the impending election by holding hustings there. Labour, the Lib Dems, the Tories, the Green Party and UKIP were all invited.

On the event’s website, under the headline UKIP joins 4 other main UK Political parties at VegfestUK Brighton, Barford gleefully announced that: “Nigel Carter of Brighton and Hove UKIP is joining the conference to debate his party’s stance on Health and the Environment, VegfestUK now have a complete pack of cards with political heavyweights including Kerry McCarthy, Caroline Lucas, Henry Smith and others making their appearances at the conference.”

He had no inkling of the storm that would ensue and it soon all over social media. Truth be told, Barford is no stranger to this. His festival brand (Vegfest first popped up in Brighton years ago but they’ve spread throughout the UK) has been attacked for years by some who think he’s watering down the ethics of veganism. For instance he allows stallholders such as the RSPB who cull birds and there have even been rumours that all his events are not 100% vegan.

UKIP are especially despised because one of its policies is the repeal of the Hunting Act and Nigel Farage has gone on record as saying he’s like to bring back hunting with hounds (not that it’s really gone away but that’s another story). Despite this, however, they are not strangers to the world of animal welfare. A few months ago they were invited to speak at a live exports rally in Kent, where they naturally felt at home being xenophobic about cruelty to animals abroad. A number of protesters launched a tirade against their representative, however, who scuttled away feeling most unwelcome.

Back to Vegfest and two of three days after the announcement came a grovelling apology:

“It has become clear to us as organisers that we would be unable to create a safe space for our visitors, especially families, but also those who have suffered at the hands of racism and other minority discrimination. There has been an unprecedented level of complaints about UKIP being represented at Vegfest, and out of respect for the views of the vast majority of our visitors, and with security in mind, we have withdrawn the invitation to the UKIP member to attend.”

At least Barford recognised his mistake and rectified it but what a dreadful mistake to make in the first place. And why stop there? The difference between Farage’s lot and the three main parties is one of of degree, not kind, and they’re all heading rightwards anyway in UKIP’s slipstream. Ban the lot of them I say.

Unfortunately that won’t be happening but hopefully those who attend Vegfest’s “party political conference” will see through the lies of the politicians there and decide none of the parties deserve their vote.

The general election: (1) what anarchists do instead of voting

It couldn’t possibly have failed to escape the attention of anyone living in the UK that a general election is due soon. In fact it’s almost exactly two month’s away and all the parties and the press are beside themselves with excitement. Social media is full of it too with many of my Facebook friends discussing who they should vote for.

This is a blog about anarchism and animal rights and over the next few weeks I will be making the case that it’s futile to expect meaningful change to come out of the election. In particular I’m going to be dismantling the view that we should vote Labour in order to improve the lot of animals and indeed ourselves.

But to get the ball rolling I’d like to make some points from the latest special election edition of the Anarchist Federation bulletin, “Resistance”, entitled Angry not Apathetic. It’s available on the web and can also be downloaded as a pdf.

The main argument put forward is not don’t vote and do nothing, it’s organise “with our neighbours, workmates, other people we have shared interests with, and others who don’t have the privileges that some people have.” This is how we can bring about real change, not by putting a X on a ballot paper every five years.

Labour was founded as the party of the trade union movement but throughout its history it has “continually regulated workers under capitalism” and “what remains of the dwindling trade union movement is essentially shackled by harsh restrictive anti-union laws and a totally compliant TUC leadership.”

Many left wing voters opted for the Lib Dems at the last election, especially due to their pledge to abolish tuition fees. As is usually the case with politicians they reneged on that and have propped up the Tories for the last five years. Now in 2015 the Green Party is presented as the radical alternative but experience of them in power in Brighton has led to one worker there calling them: “F***ing Tories on bikes!”

Despite trumpeting calls for the living wage, they joined forces with the Tories on Brighton council in attempting to impose a “pay modernisation” scheme on low-paid workers, meaning some faced a paycut of up to £4,000 a year. Another example of a leftwing party failing to live up to expectations is happening right now in Greece where Syriza “will now be the political wing of the repressive state apparatus.”

Women are continually told they have to vote because of the suffragettes, thus:

voting is turned into an issue of conformity rather than conscience, in direct opposition to who suffragettes were and what they fought for. They never intended their campaigning to stop with getting the vote. Many continued fighting when their leaders were co-opted. They weren’t satisfied, and they didn’t intend us to be. 

Finally the bulletin looks at the new poster boy revolutionary, Russell Brand. Although he claims to believe in many of the things that anarchists do, he “is not qualified to be the spokesperson of the revolution”, especially as his ideas around violence and the state are very naive. It’s all very well talking about the power of “Love” but he disagrees with the need to defend the revolution: “We should use as little violence as possible, but we have to defend the gains we make.”

There’s a lot more that anarchists have to say on elections, parliamentary democracy vs direct democracy and the like and much of it can be found on the web. But “What Anarchists Do Instead of Voting” is a good place to start as an introduction to class struggle anti-authoritarian politics.

Next up, why political parties won’t bring about animal rights.