Today, policy advisers from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) visited the University of Sheffield to discuss the Teaching Excellence Framework with senior management and Students’ Union managers. The Free University of Sheffield thinks that the Teaching Excellence Framework should not be implemented. It will promote competition between universities, rather than cooperation. It will lead to the bullying of junior academic staff. It will lead to PhD students, who are currently paid below minimum wage, being put even more pressure to work even harder. The TEF is about placing the burden on individuals rather than making structural change. It’s a poorly thought out initiative. It must be scrapped. Below are leaflets which we have handed out to senior management and advisers from BIS. Please copy, print and distribute these leaflets. For a PDF version, click here.
*This is a piece originally submitted to Project Intersect, ‘an anarcha-feminist zine focusing on ethical veganism, activism, & the collective struggle against capitalist patriarchy. . ‘ The title of the second zine in the series is ‘on violence’, and more information can be found by following this link.*
A standard definition of veganism is that ‘the word “veganism” denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.’
An important question regarding violence and veganism is how the broader philosophy of veganism fits into a capitalist society where violence is endemic. Veganism in western society is generally reliant on the capitalist economy, albeit in a way that attempts to exclude non-human animals. So when we perceive this society to be predicated upon the exploitation and discrimination of people, we can ask whether this situation can be reconciled within the philosophy of veganism; and the short answer to that question is no. Instead, the emphasis needs to be on a broader political philosophy to concurrently oppose the system of domination, exploitation and division expressed through class, race, species, gender, to include all forms of division and hierarchy utilised by capitalist society to maintain the system of domination.
The challenge to veganism has been set out in the pamphlet ‘from animals to anarchism’, where the authors argue for the integration of vegan praxis and anarchism, so the various forms of discrimination and oppression can be challenged equally across the spectrum, and our activity directed at the heart of the system. If we focus on the rights of either women, non-human animals, people of colour, without acknowledging the system of oppression, then far from our activity being liberatory, we (tacitly at least) accept or ignore the structure of oppression when applied to others. It would reflect the criticism often cited toward animal rights ‘single issue campaigns’. Where for instance, people have campaigned for the freedom of orcas, but have neglected the structurally identical position of seals or penguins. In a different way, when someone self identifies as a woman, and person of colour it makes sense to address both those experiences of oppression when they are mutually reinforcing (1). We therefore aim to confront the system that underpins exploitation and oppression through the false demarcations apparent in current society.
Veganism itself sets out to address all forms of exploitation toward animals, and therefore should naturally include human animals. For this reason it is inconsistent to argue for the cessation of exploitation regarding cows, pigs and dogs, yet believe it reasonable to ignore the situation of people enslaved on a tea plantation. It can be argued that it does not matter where people focus their efforts to confront this systemic issue of exploitation in society, though we do need to undermine that structure through increasing awareness of the presence of other systemic struggles, and draw them together. This means we can bring attention to the structure of hierarchy and exploitation, and explore alternative ways to live that more closely reflect beliefs in equality, mutual aid and freedom. If we are serious about addressing the situation of non-human animal exploitation then we need to look at the system which perpetuates the exploitation of human and non-human animals, whilst also reflecting on the deleterious impact this society has upon the environment.
This isn’t to say that anarchism can offer a carefully laid out plan for action, as there are many challenges. One such challenge comes from the anarchists that demonstrate little consideration for the lives of non-human animals, believing they are not worthy of meaningful consideration, or claiming that issues of human and non-human animal exploitation are mutually exclusive. There are also some libertarians that emphasise the freedom of self over freedom for ‘others’ (2). This is where the contention of ‘freedom to’ and ‘freedom from’ arises. This case can be exemplified where some libertarians believe the freedom to consume a beef burger carries a greater weight than for animals to be free from a situation of exploitation. This approach can be viewed as a ‘freedom to violate’, and reflects the perpetuation of learned social norms and desires found in contemporary society.
Where anarchists have a shared perspective is in the state seeking to monopolise and normalise its own use of coercion and violence for control. This is not something we are trying to change, rather it is something we are trying to end (3). So our energy ought not be wasted with appeals to government for changes to society, but our appeal ought to be for people to join the struggle against the institutional violence of the state (4), to take back power (5), and find subversive ways to interact that will lead to situations where discrimination no longer has value or relevance. This will require changes in our behaviour (learning and unlearning) to allow us to be consistent with our values, and veganism represents an intrinsic part of that philosophy; one which can be initiated (as far as is possible and practical) so we can progress beyond the violent system of exploitation that harms both human and non-human animals, and the environment we live in.
‘From animals to anarchism’. Watkinson and O’Driscoll. (2014)
‘How Nonviolence Protects the State’. Gelderloos. (2007)
(1) Loretta Ross discusses the origin of the phrase ‘women of color’.
(2) The Zapatistas say: “For everyone, everything. For us, nothing” (Para todos todo, para nosotros nada).
(3) Marcuse is particularly interesting on this point.
(4) Peter Gelderloos discusses different interpretations of ‘violence’ conducted by the state and the struggle against the state.
(5) We can see in most countries that the state, those with vested interests in capitalism, or armed groups pursuing their own agenda, do not hesitate to use force in order to promote or protect their interests. This results in the marginalisation and repression of dissenting communities and voices. Many communities fight back against this form of oppression. For example.
Here are some lessons from activism which have been sent in by some of our members. It would be good to read these and think through them before our next soup seminar on Thursday 23rd July. They have been made anonymous for the safety and security of our members.
The stories will be updated as more are sent in.
- My perspective is from being around activism from a young age – my parents were both activists in London from the late sixties through to the noughties. We had meetings at our home regularly – so much so that we used to play games as kids where we would hand out agendas and take minutes, print pamphlets etc. My impression of those days is that decision making was very hierarchical – the ‘troops’ were expected to vote for things occasionally and the rest of the time follow the party line. Heavily influenced by Soviet style communism and such like. Nowadays the scene in activist circles is much more progressive, there is a genuine commitment to non-hierarchical decision making and involvement of those traditionally sidelined. It’s easy to be disheartened that the revolution isn’t happening this week – and overlook the real progress that’s been made. Now it’s standard practice to have a safe space policy, to actively seek to include all voices, to watch out for power dynamics and work to try to flatten them. It’s not the answer to everything, but it does maximise the power of the group and ensure that it doesn’t become self-serving but carries on focusing on the real issues of the members.
- I think I had two things to say when we went round the circle. The first was about what little I’ve learnt from being involved with pragmatic mutual aid organisations. Active groups that are horizontally-organised, autonomous, and have a shared understanding of a goal they seek to work towards have been profoundly successful in allowing people to identify, parse, and articulate their own needs. If groups create spaces where individuals feel free and empowered to subsequently find ways to meet those needs, then those spaces draw others, and also retain people who seek to empower others as they themselves were empowered; this has beneficial consequences for group sustainability. There are risks in this approach: that groups may be amorphous, may be coerced by particularly charismatic figures, or may allow people to pursue needs that contradict each other. But there are benefits too: creating a notional space where people are free to seek out shared co-operative strategies for meeting needs (educational, I guess, in the context you’re talking about) that cannot be met in the choking miasma of late capitalism’s socioeconomic clusterfuck is a strategy of redemption and about reclaiming a sense of human idealism. The second thing I said when we went round the circle was the importance of challenging Capital’s lie about “it’s always been this way, and it always has to be this way”. Educational Hegemony wants you to think that its way of doing this is the only way of doing things: this is one of the many ways it seeks to brook no alternatives, to allow no space even for other ways of learning to be conceived. But in Sheffield (as is the case in several industrial cities) there is a strong heritage of working class autodidacticism, in Friendly Societies, Free Schools, Mechanics Institutes, continuing right through to the later c.20th when despite the Conservative’s best efforts to gut the Ad Ed system, there still survived the proud traditions of WEAs and Continuing Education (both within and without the walls of the academe). If you seek other ways of learning, of other means of knowledge creation and dissemination beyond the horrorshow of the contemporary neoliberal HE sweatshop, there are other traditions to draw from that expose the claim that ‘this kind of learning is the only learning there can be’ as yet another dirty great fib.
Last Tuesday, Austria signed an agreement with Slovakia for the latter to accommodate 500 of Austria’s asylum seekers, reports Tribune de Geneve.
The asylum seekers will be placed in a former campus in Gabcíkovo. Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner is said to be “proud”of this move, which will save Austria money. The UNHCR in Vienna says that Austria must ensure that “high standards” are kept at this new centre. Migrant support groups, including umbrella organisation Asylkoordination, doubt whether this will happen.
On Saturday 15th August, neo-Nazis will attempt to march through Liverpool. The so-called “White Man March” – this time on its second outing – is organised primarily by members of neo-Nazi youth group National Action. It is supported by neo-Nazi groups from across Europe.
In March this year, the first “White Man March” took place in Newcastle. Around 100 neo-Nazis marched through the city before burning gay, communist and Israeli flags, screaming “Hitler was right” and sieg-heiling at counter-protestors. Although small compared to other far right protests, this was the largest and most explicit neo-Nazi march to take place in the UK since the eighties.
These events have been organised by people from an alliance of neo-Nazi groups. In Newcastle National Action were joined on the streets by the British Movement, Creativity Alliance, Misanthropic Division and National Rebirth of Poland. We expect the EDL splinter group North West Infidels to join this march. They have been responsible for attacks on picket lines, anti-fascists and Irish republican marches in Liverpool.
National Action members openly praise Hitler, trade anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and talk about their genocidal fantasies. Liverpool resident and National Action member Garron Helm was jailed for sending anti-Semitic abuse to MP Luciana Berger.
While some far-right groups have tried to moderate their public face, National Action revel in their blatant Nazism. These groups are growing as other parts of the far right collapse. Although they are nearly all tiny by themselves, the numbers they can bring out for the “White Man March” are worrying.
Liverpool, as a city with a proud left-wing tradition, has been chosen to demonstrate the “strength” of the neo-Nazi movement. We expect to see more than the 100 they brought to Newcastle and if we want to stop their growth they must be opposed. In 2013 we saw 5000 people march against fascist Nick Griffin and we need to draw on the city’s anti-fascist roots when the “White Man March” comes to town.
History has shown that Nazis need to be confronted head on, so they don’t have the space to spread their racist bile and grow in size and confidence. Given the chance, they will attack workers’ organisations, ethnic minorities, LGBT people and anyone else they perceive as their enemy. We are calling on anti-fascists across the North West to stand with the people of Liverpool in opposing these Nazi thugs.
They shall not pass!
The Free University of Sheffield is pleased to announce its third soup seminar at Union St!
We’ll be having our third ever soup seminar on Thursday, July 23rd at 6.30pm. In the soup seminars we come together to cook and eat food, and discuss how we can act to change society’s problems. We are creating a community of thinkers and activists to come together and work out constructive solutions to the problems we face today. (All food is vegan).
We have set out three principles of the soup seminars: (1) education must serve the needs of society, not the interests of the individual; (2) we cannot leave it up to academics or ‘experts’ to come up with ways to solve our problems – we are all experts; and (3) if we are going to change anything, we must study and act together.
If you want to be added to the mailing list for the soup seminars, please email freeunisheff[at]gmail.com with your name and email address.
A major theme of last week’s discussion was creating an alternative: activism should not just be about resisting something, or making demands of those in positions of authority, it should also be about trying to build alternative structures. One example that was given was the Black Panther Party: they did not merely resist white supremacy, they also built support networks and provided for their black communities, such as through their Free Breakfast for School Children Programme.
It was a really productive discussion, and it would be good to carry on the discussion in our third soup seminar. In a book called “Deschooling Society”, Ivan Illich proposes that we need to create alternative education systems which are decentralised and try to promote interaction, collaboration, creativity and fun. The Wikipedia page (click here) is a good starting point to give some ideas of what an alternative education system might look like. The ideas fit with our discussion of taking responsibility for ourselves and creating alternatives, and might be a good talking point for next week. Click here for the PDF of Deschooling Society.
Other good things to read about would be the crèche that Plan C ran at the recent anti-austerity demonstration in London (for the article click here) and, of course, the Black Panther Party’s Free Breakfast for School Children Programme (for an article on this click here). If you have suggestions for other articles, please send an article in to us! We’ll send it back out to the email list so everyone can read it in time for the next meeting. You can either email us at freeunisheff[at]gmail.com or message our Facebook page.
Perhaps some good questions to think about for next week would be:
– What sort of support programmes are needed today, in our own communities?
– What makes these support programmes so important? For example, are they important simply because they provide support (a bit like a charity), or are they important because the support they provide is clearly political? Or are there other reasons?
– How could we begin to build our own alternatives, and our own support systems?
Another important theme in the discussion last week was how important it is to focus on the day-to-day. We discussed how a lot of activism focuses on spectacular actions like marches through London, but often miss out the importance of trying to change how we interact on a day-to-day basis. This was linked into the discussion of building an alternative. In order to create an alternative, we need to know how it would work day in, day out! If you want to suggest articles for people to read on this subject, then please send them in!
If you have any questions, please email us or contact our Facebook page.
Join Bristol Solidarity Network’s fight against a slum landlord and for decent housing.
Mr Ernie Biela, of 58 ETHELBERT ROAD, MARGATE, KENT, CT9 1SB is a slum landlord intent on maximum profit and minimum responsibility. A family living in one of his properties in Easton, Bristol have repeatedly asked him for much needed repairs to their home. After 8 years of ignoring his tenant’s requests for a livable home, Mr. Biela recently tried to evict them rather than do the right thing and do the repairs. He has arrogantly flouted the law and disregarded council improvement notices served on him. In phone calls to the tenants he claims to understand what life is like for immigrants and low income families. He is very quick to chase rent, claiming he will use it for repairs, but not as good at fixing the house. He agrees to send builders round to carry out work but instead sends an eviction notice which we found to be invalid. The family has suffered a great deal of stress and anxiety facing the threat of being made homeless.
The house is in an appalling state of disrepair, with a seriously leaky roof, huge cracks in walls and ceilings, broken doors, rotting window frames and intolerable mould, cold and damp. According to the council there is a class 1 hazard of mould. Four family members, including three children, have developed asthma as a result of these conditions they have been forced to live in by the landlord’s neglect.
We will not allow this absentee landlord to bully and threaten this family into keeping quiet about the state of their home. Neither will we let Mr Biela ignore his responsibility to provide a decent home and safe environment for this family.
It’s time to put the pressure on. Please take some time to support this family and make a stand against this bad landlord.
From Tuesday 21st July we are calling for an ongoing communications blockade and constant phone and email reminders for Mr. Biela.
Call and email this slum landlord to add your voice to the calls to stop the stalling and start the repairs. For calls from outside the UK add 0044 instead of the first zero of the phone numbers:
Mr Ernie Biela: Tel. 07917 570624 Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr Biela is the registered director and sole shareholder of 5 companies:
LVG Canterbury Ltd Tel. 01227 714715
Westbere Garage / Canterbury Recovery Services Ltd Tel. 01227 712381
Hedgend Motors Ltd
Mot 4 U Ltd
1 Stop Property Services Uk Ltd
All of these companies are registered here:
6-7 Cecil Square, Margate, Kent, CT9 1BD
Tel. 01843 280004
Antifascists fight against those who—in the government or in the streets—dream of imposing their fascist and other Far Right nationalist nightmares on the rest of us. Throughout the world, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, and racist bigotries are on the rise. Antifas are on the frontline in confronting these reactionary politics, and we will not forget our comrades imprisoned in the course of this struggle.
The July 25 International Day of Solidarity with Antifascist Prisoners originated in 2014 as a Day of Solidarity with Jock Palfreeman, an Australian who is imprisoned in Bulgaria for defending two Romani men from an attack by fascist football hooligans. Groups around the world took action: holding demonstrations, benefits supporting the Bulgarian Prisoners Association, writing to Jock, and talking about the plight of the Romani and Sinti people in general.
In 2015 we would like to expand this day of solidarity to all antifascist prisoners around the world. We encourage groups to take the day to plan an event of their choice—whether it is a letter writing, demonstration, benefit, or other action—and to focus on the prisoners and related issues that are of most importance to them locally.
Below is a list of global antifascist prisoners; if there is an antifa prisoner who is missing, please e-mail us with his or her details and the language(s) they can read.
Until All Are Free!
Send prisoner updates, announcements for local events, and additional group endorsements to email@example.com
Many cities will be holding events and actions, which include New York City, Philadelphia, La Puente, California, Chicago, and Denver (US); Sydney (Australia); Helsinki and Tampere (Finland); as well as events in the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, and lots of other places!
LIST OF ANTIFA PRISONERS:
[Update 7/12]Roman Bogdan was arrested on April 15, 2015, as part of the long-going state repression of anti-fascists in Brest, stemming from a fight between anti-fascists and fascists on May 8, 2013. Roman is facing up to ten years in prison on charges of aggravated bodily harm.
He can read Russian and simple English phrases.
ul. K. Marksa, 86,
Dzmitry Stsyashenka was arrested on October 4, 2013, for his alleged involvement in a fight between antifascists and neo-Nazis in Brest on May 8, 2013, that sent one Nazi to the hospital. He is also accused of another fight with neo-Nazis during the summer of 2013. He was sentenced to four years in prison, but in 2014 his term was reduced by one year due to an amnesty.
He can read Russian and simple English phrases.
ul. K. Marksa, 86,
Dzmitry Zvan’ko was arrested for his alleged involvement in a fight between anti-fascists and neo-Nazis in Brest on May 8, 2013, that sent one Nazi to the hospital. He was arrested the next day, along with four other people, in a police raid on the homes of known anti-fascists. Dzmitry filed a complaint to the prosecutor about psychological and physical abuse while in custody. He was accused of malicious group hooliganism and serious bodily assault and faced up to ten years of prison. Dzmitry was found guilty and sentenced to five years of prison, but after paying off about 4,000 euro in damages he was granted amnesty, which has reduced his term by one year.
He can read Russian and simple English phrases.
Brestskaya oblast Ivatsevichi
p/b 20 IK-22
Jock Palfreeman is an Australian anti-fascist political prisoner serving a twenty-year prison sentence in Bulgaria for the rather mysterious death of a neo-Nazi football hooligan who was part of a group attacking two Romani men in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2007. Jock came to the aid of the Romani, and quickly found himself the focus of the attack. Bulgarian authorities did everything they could to ensure that Jock did not receive a fair trial, and after his sentencing have refused–in contravention of their own treaties–to transfer him to Australia to serve the rest of his time closer to his family. Jock wants donations for him sent to the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association, which he is part of.
He can read English and Bulgarian.
Sofia Central Prison
21 General Stoletov Boulevard
Sofia 1309, BULGARIA
Aleksandr Kolchenko was arrested in Crimea on May 17, 2014, along with several others, and accused by Russian authorities of participation in a “terrorist group” which planned explosions near the Eternal Fire memorial and the Lenin monument in Simferopol, as well as having sabotaged railway tracks and electricity lines. Aleksandr is also alleged to have carried out two arson attacks in April: against the headquarters of the Russian Unity-Party, and the Russian Community of Crimea. He was transferred to Moscow and is being kept in draconian conditions. His lawyers are under a gag order, and have been refused elementary rights to defend him. He faces fifteen-to-twenty years in a labor camp.
Russian authorities claim that Aleksandr is a member of Right Sektor, a Ukrainian ultra-right nationalist organization, but he has no connection to the group—a fact confirmed by relatives and friends. Moreover, Aleksandr is an antifascist and anarchist who consistently opposed nationalistic movements in Crimea and faced constant fascist attacks for his activism. For example, after a film screening about murdered anti-fascist journalist Anastasiya Baburova, he was attacked by thirty Nazis with knives.
Since this case is highly political, Aleksandr’s legal costs are high, around 850 euro per month. The investigation has created a heavy financial strain on local ABC groups, and there is a call for financial support and information distribution. You can make donations via PayPal to firstname.lastname@example.org or using a bank account (write to the same e-mail address for details).
Please note that Aleksandr is currently being moved to a different prison in Rostov. We are waiting to confirm his new address.
Alexey Sutuga is a longtime anarchist and anti-fascist who was arrested in April 5, 2014, for a fight with members of the ultra right in Moscow. He was sentenced on September 30, 2014, to three years and one month in prison for his alleged involvement in the fight.
However, this sentence comes in the context of an earlier case from April 2012, when he was arrested for allegedly taking part in a fight at a punk/hardcore concert in Moscow on December 17, 2011. The conflict began after club security, consisting of members of the far right, provoked guests. The concert was stopped prematurely because of the fight, but the security then attempted to take some of the audience hostage and threatened to call their nationalist football hooligan friends in reprisal. The audience members resisted and the club security opened fire with rubber coated metal bullets. However, the club security was neutralized and sent to the hospital. The case against Alexey and several others was eventually dropped in January 2014 on the eve of the Sochi Winter Olympics as part of the amnesty bill, approved as a PR stunt on initiative of Vladimir Putin.
Sutuga Alexey Vladimirovich 1986 g.r
Ispravitelnaya Koloniya № 2
Pervy Promyshlenniy massiv
d. 6 g. Angarsk 665809
Please note: Moscow ABC advises that letters in English are seldom accepted in Russian prisons, so please write only in Russian (try using a translation program), or just send photos and postcards.
Joel Almgren was sentenced to five years and six months for defending a local community-organized anti-racist demonstration in Stockholm against a brutal Nazi attack on December 15, 2013. The peaceful protest—against fascist assaults on local anti-racists and the dissemination of Nazi propaganda in area schools—was attacked with knives, sticks, and glass bottles by the most militant Nazi group in Sweden. Anti-fascists at the scene defended the demonstration from the attack and many were injured themselves.
Joel has over 4080 USD in fines, and his supporters are asking for help raising the money. The group can be contacted at the web site below.
He can read Swedish and English.
522 85 Tidaholm
Linus Soinjoki was charged and convicted for actions related to his involvement in the anti-fascist movement in Sweden. He was given fourteen months in prison and began serving his sentence in mid-May 2015.
Linus can read Swedish and English.
[Update 7/12]We have received news that Linus would rather people contact a Swedish Antifa support page, Föreningen fånggruppen, for his address if people are interested in writing to him.
On New Year’s Eve of 2013, Luke O’Donovan attended a house party in Reynoldstown, a neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia. Luke was seen dancing with and kissing other men at the party. Later in the night he was insulted with homophobic slurs, and attacked by several people at once. Luke unsuccessfully attempted to escape, at which point several witnesses reported watching between five and twelve men ganging-up on Luke and stomping on his head and body, evidently with the intent to kill him. He was called a faggot before and during the attack, throughout the course of which he and five others were stabbed. Luke was subsequently imprisoned and charged with five counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as well as one count of attempted murder.
Luke’s trial concluded on August 12, 2014, when he accepted a negotiated plea deal. He agreed to a two year sentence beginning that day, and then eight years of harsh probation. The judge also banished Luke from the state of Georgia for the term of his probation.
He can read English.
Luke Patrick O’Donovan
Washington State Prison
P.O. Box 206
Davisboro, GA 31018
Jason Hammond accepted a non-cooperating guilty plea and was sentenced to forty-one months on January 2015 for his part in an organized direct action taken against a group of white supremacists.
In 2012, a group of racists and white supremacists organized a White Nationalist Economic Summit in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park. Groups of anti-fascists and anti-racists from the Midwest confronted the meeting and successfully shut down the event through a righteous melee. In the aftermath, five antifascists were arrested, and dubbed the Tinley Park 5. The five were sentenced to upwards of three years and all have since been released. Jason was arrested later, and is the last person still in jail for this action.
He can read English.
Jason Hammond, M50190
P.O. Box 500
Vandalia, IL 62471
One of the most annoying terms in the political dictionary is “anarcho-capitalism”.
It’s annoying because it describes something that does not exist, cannot exist. I know there are people out there who claim to be “anarcho-capitalists” but this no more means that anarcho-capitalism exists than my claiming to be a unicorn would prove that unicorns actually do exist.
Their use of the word “anarchism” in conjunction with “capitalism” betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of what anarchism is. Anarchism is intrinsically opposed to all the “values” that lie behind capitalism, not least private property and a money-based society.
People who call themselves “anarcho-capitalists” are simply libertarian capitalists. Why don’t they just call themselves that and leave anarchism alone?
I have a similar reaction to the related issue of anarchism and industrialism. To me it is obvious that the two are irreconcilable. Anarchism is intrinsically opposed to all the “values” that lie behind industrialism, not least the exploitation of mass labour for profit and the levels of social coercion required to make such a society function.
But the moment you start to challenge industrial society in anarchist circles, you are likely to find yourself under ideological attack.
Technology is not the problem, it’s all about who controls it, you are told. So fracking would suddenly be fine if Cuadrilla was a workers’ co-operative? Chemical plants would miraculously stop polluting the planet if they were managed by collectives of anarcho-syndicalists?
It’s not just about who industry is controlled by, but about what it does, what it is!
I find it hard to believe that anyone’s idea of a future anarchist society could include factories of any kind. Who would be working in them if we didn’t live in a capitalist society where people desperately need to earn money to survive? Why would anyone work in a factory if they didn’t have to? In an anarchist society, what kind of social, economic or physical compulsion could be applied to make people work in factories if, as seems likely, they didn’t particularly want to?
Why do anarcho-industrialists think that factories came into existence in the first place? To help the workers? To make life better for all of us? Because we collectively needed the mass production of the things that factories make?
Or was it so that a small group of entrepreneurs could make profit out of them? Isn’t industrial society entirely a product of capitalism? Why would anyone who opposed capitalism support the physical infrastructure that makes it possible?
In the UK, it’s common for anyone who declares themselves an opponent of industrial society to be labelled a “primitivist”. It is considered a particular sin to express anti-industrial sentiments without branding yourself a “primitivist” by way of self-exclusion from the anarchist fold – this means you are committing the heresy of “conflating anarchism with primitivism”.
Let’s be clear – the actual conflation here is between anti-industrialism and primitivism. They are not identical. While all primitivists must necessarily be anti-industrial, every anti-industrialist does not necessarily have to be a primitivist.
It is no coincidence, I suspect, that anarcho-primitivism as a term originated in the USA, where the transition from “primitive” pre-colonial society to modern industrial society was relatively fast and traumatic.
In Europe and Asia, that change has taken a lot longer, and there are many kinds of historical forms of social organisation that are neither primitive nor industrial.
I can see the strength in the primitivist argument that all these intermediary stages are part of the process that led to contemporary industrial society. From this perspective, seeking permanence and stability in one of these pre-industrial stages would be something like arguing that a man falling off a cliff will be fine as long as he stops half way down.
But, despite that, the possible future anarchist society that I hold in my heart tends to look more like the Middle Ages than the Stone Age. We wouldn’t be lumbered with all that feudalism, misogyny and religious intolerance, of course, because this wouldn’t be the actual Middle Ages we were living in, but a free post-industrial society with a similarly low level of industrialisation.
Inspiration from the Middle Ages is not at all unknown among anarchists. Peter Kropotkin, Gustav Landauer and, more recently, Herbert Read are all good examples. William Morris, who today looks more like an anarchist than a socialist, was another idealist who despised the industrial society imposed on humanity by the capitalist system.
In France there is currently a powerful anti-industrial current in the wider anarchist movement which is not dismissed as “primitivist”.
So what about the UK today? We seem to have an anarchist movement that pays lip service to environmental issues, takes part in environmental struggles, and yet does not dare to challenge the actual existence of the industrial system.
This is probably just a reflection of our society as a whole. We in Britain have been industrialised for so many generations now that we are no longer even aware of what has happened to us.
But aren’t anarchists supposed to be different? Aren’t we supposed to cut through the crap which is spoon-fed to us by capitalist society and challenge the deepest, most ingrained assumptions by which this exploitative system maintains its control?
Can’t we stand up and say that in an anarchist society there would be no more factories, motorways or airports, just as we are happy to say there would be no armies, police or prisons?
If we can’t, then what exactly is this anarchist vision which sustains and motivates us? What a strange world it would be, in which newly-freed slaves voluntarily kept going the machinery that had exploited and tormented them, poisoned their air, their water and their soil?
Anarcho-industrialism, it seems to me, is just as much an oxymoron as the self-contradictory nonsense of so-called “anarcho-capitalism”. Neither of them makes any sense at all.
Oxford Research Group
Global Security Briefing – JULY 2015
14 July 2015
This briefing has four aims: firstly to provide an update on the state of the war against Islamic State; secondly to assess the reasons for Islamic State’s resilience; thirdly to question whether an extension of the UK involvement in the war is wise; and finally to examine alternative courses of action for the UK.
A three-part series of ORG briefings on Islamic State, in February, April and May, analysed the status of the movement, looking initially at indications early in the year that it might be in retreat after its series of unexpected gains in 2014. The conclusion was cautious as to the actual degree of retreat, and the April and May briefings then examined its resilience and the possibility of its spread to other states. Two months later, and bearing in mind two anniversaries in early July – the establishment of the Islamic State proto-caliphate in a proclamation in Mosul a year ago, and the tenth anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings – it is appropriate to return to an analysis of the status of the movement.
This is especially pertinent in relation to the 26 June attack on the tourists at a beach resort just north of Sousse in Tunisia which killed 38 people, 30 of them from Britain. Following the attack, the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced that Britain would embark on a “full spectrum response”. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon made it clear that extending Britain’s role in the coalition air war against Islamic State to Syria was being actively considered, but it was accepted that parliamentary approval would be required and might be sought before the end of the current session on 21 July.
A further element in the post-Sousse attack was the decision of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office two weeks later to advise British nationals to leave Tunisia because of a possible further attack. This confirmed the view of some analysts that Islamic State was specifically targeting the UK, a factor that appears to underpin the intention of the government that UK involvement in the coalition air war must extend to Syria.
The Current State of the War
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the new Caliphate, Islamic State, in Mosul on 4 July last year, following the rapid takeover of much of north-west Iraq by the new movement, culminating in the collapse of Iraqi Army units and the taking of Iraq’s second city of Mosul. Two months later the United States started air strikes against Islamic State forces in Iraq, later being joined by many other states, including the UK.
The US then extended its bombing to Syria with some of the coalition partners joining in, although the overwhelming majority of air strikes there are conducted by US forces. Britain is not currently involved in Syrian airstrikes but in the overall war it is second only to the US in the extent of its involvement. Its main contribution is Tornado strike aircraft operating out of RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus and Reaper armed drones deployed from Kuwait but operated from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.
In nearly a year of the air war the US claims that the coalition has undertaken around 15,600 air sorties, has hit over 7,000 targets and is killing a thousand Islamic State fighters every month, about 10,000 since the air war started, although there is no independent verification and no way of knowing how many of them were actually civilians. Over the past nine months UK forces are reported to have killed 240 Islamic State supporters through air operations by strike aircraft and armed drones.
Islamic State has not only survived all the attacks but in many places is thriving, attracting up to a thousand new recruits each month from across the region and beyond, including more than a thousand from Russia. It has consolidated its organisational hold on towns and cities across the substantial territory it has overrun, demonstrating a brutal ability to control and manage them.
Islamic State Resilience
Trying to explain such tough competence and organisation and why Islamic State looks increasingly to be a robust entity is crucial if we are to understand its prospects, and this is best understood by recognising that the movement is an integrated coalition of elements. At its core is an extreme religious outlook rooted in a perverted interpretation of Islam that looks to create a “pure” caliphate. This has a strong eschatological element that looks beyond this earthly life, an aspect that has two particular effects. One is that it is working to a long time scale, far longer than most revolutionary movements, and the other is that it attracts people readily wanting to give their lives to the cause.
A second element is that Islamic State has a core of highly experienced paramilitary fighters and leaders, most likely numbered in the thousands. They draw on many nationalities and include people with extensive experience of fighting in Chechnya, Libya, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Kashmir and many other recent zones of conflict. The main element, though, stems from Iraqis who fought western forces in Iraq from 2003. At the centre of this are highly experienced, resentful, angry and determined Iraqis who survived the extensive but largely unreported “dirty war” fought by US and UK Special Forces in central and western Iraq between 2004 and 2008, run by US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
Finally there is a technocratic element that may or may not have extreme religious outlooks but has a range of competencies in many fields of urban and rural management and organisation. Most of these are drawn from the ranks of former Iraqi Baath Party members with huge experience of the rigid technocratic system of the Saddam Hussein era.
This last element is far more important than is currently recognised and is reflected in the ability of Islamic State to run towns and cities, organising public services including transport, food distribution, sanitation, health and educational services. The provision may be backed up by brutal force and violent suppression of any opposition but is, at least for now, providing stability and even a degree of support. One of the most indicative demonstrations of competence comes from frequent reports that IS-controlled territory sees a great reduction of bribery and corruption, in marked contrast to preceding experience.
At present IS seeks to consolidate and expand its control of territory while extending its influence to other states, the main ones being Libya and Afghanistan, though the singularly tough anti-Islamist policies of the al-Sisi government in Egypt make that a strong candidate for additional support to opposition elements, not least in Sinai. In addition, Islamic State needs a steady flow of recruits from across the region and beyond and is especially interested in recruits from western states with significant Muslim diasporas among their populations.
To Bomb Syria?
By far the most difficult challenge for a UK government is recognising that it has little capacity to influence events in the region, partly because of its past policies, especially its contribution to deeply unpopular wars that have helped create Islamic State. It is natural enough that the demand that “something must be done” is met in some way, and that with Britain being a significant military power that has used its forces on so many occasions in the past century, not least in Iraq and the Middle East, it should believe that this is once again the answer.
The problem is that this is precisely what Islamic State wants. Its strongest recruiting tactic is to present itself as the one true guardian of Islam under attack from “crusader” forces. In doing so it points to the recent western intervention and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan and the use of force in Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and Mali as well as the support for repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and elsewhere, not forgetting sustained western support for Israel. This, in turn, is rooted in a much more general representation of Islam under essential need of renewal back to the “true faith” espoused by Islamic State, following a retreat stretching back centuries and even to the high point of the Abbasid caliphate a millennium ago.
In the case of the UK it can point to its specific involvement in the Middle East back to the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Palestine Mandate, and it sees marginalised young Muslims in the UK as fertile ground for current recruitment. This, in its view, will be aided by greater British involvement in the air war – further proof that the UK is part of the crusader assault on Islam. The Sousse attack should be seen as a direct provocation, an incitement to the UK government to bomb Syria, and there may well be further attacks.
Is There Another Way?
If the UK government decides not to extend its participation in the air war to Syria, perhaps through failing to get parliamentary approval, then there are actions which can be taken.
1. Humanitarian Response
A humanitarian disaster is unfolding across the Middle East, with huge pressures in particular on Lebanon and Jordan. Resources to aid mass refugee flows are sparse and the UN is under considerable pressure to respond. Quite apart from the humanitarian imperative, there is the risk of greatly increased bitterness on the part of hundreds of thousands if not millions of people displaced from their homes and even their countries. Britain has been prominent in underwriting UN programmes of aid and helping in other ways, but there is scope hugely to increase its support. This should be a priority.
2. Diplomatic Activism
At a governmental level Britain has an experienced diplomatic service with strong connections right across the Middle East, possibly the most experienced and best connected of any western state. This should be recognised and used far more:
• Priority should be given to encouraging much stronger dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two most important players in what is in many ways a proxy war in Syria.
• This should extend to improving dialogue with Russia, bearing in mind that Russia itself has a growing internal problem of Islamist extremism and has an interest in limiting the further growth and influence of Islamic State in the Caucasus.
• There should be specific efforts to aid and support UN and other initiatives in seeking to resolve the bitter conflicts in Libya which will otherwise provide fertile ground for the growth of Islamic State influence.
• The UK should use its best endeavours to encourage the al-Sisi government in Egypt to rethink its suppression of the Muslim Brotherhood, since there is potential here for IS influence to grow rapidly.
3. Inclusive Settlements
Britain should seek to influence the Abadi government in Baghdad and the Rouhani government in Tehran to ensure a greater reaching out to the Sunni minority in Iraq, the continuing marginalisation of this community being one reason for its support for Islamic State. An eventual political settlement in Syria that is inclusive enough to share power between Sunnis, Alawites, Christians, Druze, Kurds and others is also imperative to peace there.
These responses may not specifically limit Islamic State in the short term, but could help to contain its further advance, which should be a policy priority. Responding to the current predicament by bombing Syria will not do this.
There are no easy answers to the serious problem posed by Islamic State but the evidence of western military action in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia over the past fourteen years is that it is persistently counter-productive. Since in the case of Syria, Islamic State appears specifically hoping to provoke the UK to greater military involvement this should be avoided. Islamic State cannot be defeated by an air war, and there is no western appetite for a full-scale ground war. Even if there were, Islamic State would welcome it, anticipating a further surge in support for its cause.
The fundamental issue is that Islamic State wants war and to extend its power to other regions. Working to prevent that spread and to respond to the huge humanitarian catastrophe should be a priority and Britain is singularly well-placed to contribute.
In the longer term, the experience of recent years once again reinforces the need for genuine multilateralism through the UN and regional organisations as a means to channel and resolve geopolitical rivalries. An effective UN standing force such as the proposed UN Emergency Peace Service might also go some way to rectifying the huge distrust that much of the world has for US, UK or NATO-led ‘peacekeeping’ operations. There remains little or no appetite for this among UN member states in spite of the evident need, yet Britain could play a major role in encouraging the development of such a force. Much else is up to the states of the region to resolve within and among themselves.
About the Author
Paul Rogers is Global Security Consultant to Oxford Research Group (ORG) and Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford. His Monthly Briefings are available from their website, where visitors can sign up to receive them via their newsletter each month. These briefings are circulated free of charge for non-profit use, but please consider making a donation to ORG, if you are able to do so.
Image: An RAF Voyager KC2 refuels two RAF Tornado GR4 in March 2015 over Iraq. Image courtesy of Wikimedia.