We’re now less than a week away from the largest co-ordinated industrial action the UK has seen for decades – perhaps since the General Strike of 1926. Around three million workers will be out on strike next Wednesday – in effect, most of the public sector, from over twenty different trade unions.
That’s over twenty different groups of workers who’ve collectively said they’ve had enough of the government’s constant attacks on wages and conditions, and have now balloted for action – with the strikes in most cases winning big majorities. A strike of this scale is virtually unprecedented: nearly every school in Scotland will be shut, as will large sections of the NHS, council services, universities and colleges, job centres and tax and benefit offices, courts and other public services.
30 November has huge potential to be a big show of strength. It will not, by itself, bring down the government, but an effective day of action can place enormous pressure on them, and hopefully lead to more. This is absolutely crucial – so far the government have offered only token concessions in the dispute over pensions, with new proposals on line to make employees work longer, pay 3 percent more in contributions AND receive a lower pension at the end of it. But the strike is about much more than just pensions – sparked by years of relentless attacks on public sector pay and conditions, compounded by a three year pay freeze.
So what can you do on the day?
Next Wednesday can be a mass day of resistance for everyone in the public sector and beyond. Walkouts, occupations, pickets, demonstrations and marches – all are useful tactics in turning the struggle into Every school, uni and college is likely to be shut on the day, giving students the opportunity to pour onto the streets in support of the strikes. Student feeder marches have been organised in both Glasgow and Edinburgh on the day, ahead of the main trade union organised rallies.
Picket! If you work somewhere going on strike that day, effective picketing can be hugely important in shutting down a workplace and ensuring the day is a success. If you’re not striking, you can still go and show your support – UK Uncut have made a national call out for people to go and show some solidaritea at their local picket lines.
Walk out! Most schools, colleges and unis will be shut due to staff striking – but in the even of your classes running, organise a walkout and head to the nearest rally or picket line.
Retweet! Share! Propagandise! The Tories and their chums in the media have already gone on the offensive, trying to create a fake division between public sector workers and those in the private sector. Speak to everyone you know and tell them the facts about the strikes.
Wednesday of this week marked exactly a year since the glorious day in November 2010 when thousands of students charged into and smashed up the Conservative Party headquarters at Millbank. A year on – and 11 months since Parliament voted through the £9k tuition fee rise – the student movement was out to prove that it’s still a force to be reckoned with. Despite only token backing from the National Union of Students, upwards of 10,000 students came from across the country to march on London’s financial district in a demo organised by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC).
A lot has changed since last November – from the Arab revolutions to the huge anti-cuts demonstration on March 26th to the riots that hit English cities in August. And you could tell as much from the police presence: while the 50,000 strong ‘Millbank demo’ last year was initially policed by around 250 officers, this week’s demo had the much-vaunted figure of 4,000. Not to mention the horses, armoured vehicles, two helicopters, dogs, FIT teams, rubber bullets, intimidation letters sent the previous day and the thousands of twelve page glossy booklets that the police handed out at the starting point warning everyone not to fuck with them – as if that much wasn’t obvious from the aforementioned 4000 cops, rubber bullets, cavalry… you get the picture. All justified by a bit of the usual pre-demo hysterics about anarcho-extremist infliltrators intent on causing a riot, nevermind that it was a totally legit demo organised in co-operation with the police, well stewarded and with a planned route ETC ETC.
Normally a demo of this size would barely get a mention from the media – but Wednesday had it all: rolling news coverage, TV helicopters, hundreds of photographers – all clamouring for things to kick off. And the police were trying their hardest to make sure things did as well: charging around in full Robocop get-up, shields out, and with plain-clothes occasionally jumping folk and dragging them off just cause they got a bit bored.
Elsewhere in London, thousands of electricians – currently engaged in a huge struggle against the tearing up of their national pay and conditions agreement – were at a Unite the Union organised demo, having blockaded building sites earlier in the day. While most then marched to Parliament to lobby MPs, a rank and file break-off of a couple of hundred sparks tried to march to join the student demo. Hundreds of militant private sector workers engaged in a frontline struggle uniting with the big student demo would’ve been a powerful image. With the media all over the student demo this would’ve then been hard to ignore, and something that wouldn’t have fit comfortably with the media narrative of middle class students just out to defend their own interests. And this is precisely why the state were determined to stop it from happening, with the sparks’ batoned and beaten up by the cops until being contained in a kettle away from the student demo. News quickly reached the student demo, and there was a bit of a stand-off at one street when it was found out that the electricians were being blockaded in that direction. Such were the police numbers though that the demo was more akin to a walking kettle, and any attempt to break-off would’ve been verging towards kamikaze.
Electricians blockading sites before rallying later in the day and getting attacked by cops
The march picked up though, with a massive soundsystem emerging and some innovative chants, ‘You can shove your rubber bullets up your arse’ among them. It was a long route, and eventually wound its way to the end point sometime after 3pm, where the police decided to form an impromptu kettle before letting everyone go in a pretty chaotic fashion. A dispersal order was issued for 5.31pm, but most people were well away by that point.
Moving forward, NCAFC have – much like last year – called a follow-up day of action for Wednesday 23 November. While it’s unlikely to get as much momentum behind it as last year, given the totally different circumstances – the HE White Paper is unlikely to garner as much opposition as the brazen, headline-grabbing £9k fees rise - it can be a way of buildng student and anti-austerity activity ahead of what is looking set to be a mass day of action on November 30, when three million public sector workers will be on strike. On that day, let’s meet “total policing” with total resistance.
David Icke. Alex Jones. Ron Paul. The Zeigeist Movement. President Andrew Jackson. What do all these people have in common? No, they’re unfortunately not the next line up of Celebrity Big Brother. They are however a series of individuals and “movements” who despite having little sway over most political thought in the world today, have made a disturbing encroachment into movements against austerity, cuts and for social justice. This blog has already covered a few of these individuals before. And we’d be lying if we didn’t find the occasional presence of Alex Jones or David Icke amongst the internets a comedy joy we’ve all indulged in frequently.
But there is a time and a place for Alex Jones and David Icke, and that time is 3o’clock in the morning, pished, going on you tube – NOT inside movements for real, radical social change in the UK or anywhere else. This isn’t a call that everyone inside these movements must be 100% Marxists or Socialists. Far from it, we need to engage with people who are not already activists. It’s about recognising that the ideas promoted by the groups and individuals outlined in the beginning of this post aren’t just misguided and wrong – they’re actively dangerous to any real success over the economic misrule and capitalism.
David Icke knows Boyzone will destroy the lizard people
The groups and individuals are quite diverse, ranging from a US Democratic President in the 1800′s, a Republican Congressman standing for President and a former Grandstand presenter who thinks he is Jesus and that the world is run by lizards. What could possibly unite such a disparate group? The answer is that they are all people who have argued against the forces of the wealthy and powerful in society – generally the banks and financial institutions. So how are they any different from socialists?
The difference lies in their analysis of what problems the bankers cause, what should replace them and how they go about trying to enact that change. Their analysis ranges from completely insane to explicitly racist, and their solutions from ineffective to backwards and reactionary. The base of their analysis is that the world economic crisis is a problem inflicted by specific forms of banking (such as fractional reserve banking) and financial management, and that ultimately it is bankers and not capitalism and class society that is to blame.
These individuals obviously don’t agree on everything – Ron Paul’s not mentioned Lizard control over the Royal Family in the GOP debates, at least not yet – but what they basically agree on runs something like this; Banks developed their wealth and power at the expense of hardworking people (typically small businesses and artisans). They now use this wealth and power to enslave governments and control culture, media, politics, and social attitudes in a range of countries, as well as initiating wars for their own benefit. Often the phrase “International Bankers” is used interchangeably with Jews, or “Zionists”, alleging that the world is in the thrall of a gigantic Jewish-Banker conspiracy.
Alex Jones rocks out against the globalists
These theories have been able to make some headway on the left because there is a grain of truth in what they say about bankers, if not Jews. Bankers have historically used their economic power to influence society, and have a long history of exploitation of both the developing world and the working class in the West. The problem is that banks are just one part of a system of exploitation called capitalism. In capitalism the work people do to produce commodities is sold on at a profit to the employer. These employers are not just bankers, but range from retailers, oil companies, mines, factories, restaurants and so on. Banks are a fundamental part of that system, as the profit is invested in banks which then use this money to make more money, to invest in other industries and to lend so people can continue to buy products without having to raise wages.
This is the real cause of the economic crisis, and properly identifies what role the bankers played. In the past, if people wanted to buy stuff – like cars, clothes or houses – they either had to save up for it, or get a modest loan that was based on their ability to repay it. This meant working class people had to be paid enough so they could buy the things capitalism produced – whether it was trainers or tellies. Karl Marx identified the problem with this a hundred years ago – the companies which want to sell the working class trainers at £50 a pop are the same companies who want to pay them 10p an hour. Recessions come and go in capitalism because inevitably companies end up producing goods at the same time they try to keep wages down, so the working class cannot buy their goods and the companies end up going bankrupt.
For the past 30 years capitalism thought it had a way out of this problem – make it easier for working class people to borrow lots of money, so that way they can still buy the products without having to increase wages. This kept capitalism booming, even though for the past 30 years wages in the USA have been stagnating. It also meant as well as having money to pay for consumer goods, working class people now had to pay money to banks in interest. This is what the banks have done – lending billions of the profits working people made, so that the same people would keep buying and capitalism would stay afloat. This was not just a system endorsed by the banks, it was in the interests of capitalism as system – every corporation, company, and business now had a market of indebted workers to sell to, and could continue to depress the wages of their workers safe in the knowledge that they could borrow money to buy their products.
Sensible and accurate version of why capitalism and the banks have collapsed
Eventually this illusion, that people could continue to afford things that were way beyond the wages they earned, came to a dramatic end with the economic crisis in 2008. This crisis began with the collapse of the housing bubble in the USA – where banks like Freddie Mae had offered loans to people with poor credit ratings, so they could own their own houses and keep capitalism afloat. When it became clear that the Emperor had no clothes, and the housing repayments couldn’t be made, banks in the western world collapsed requiring the bailouts we’ve all heard about. The banks loaned money they couldn’t repay – using a system called fractional reserve banking – where they only had a fraction of the deposits people made to the banks in their accounts, while the rest was loaned out. In order to stop people losing billions of their savings, governments stepped in to guarantee these funds.
So there’s plenty of very real criticism to be made of the banks – the fact they recklessly lent to boost their own profits, and when the shit hit the fan instead of taxing the super-rich to plug the gap, they were bailed out with public money. What should have been done is something similar to what Greg Philo and Glasgow Uni Media Group have argued for – a one off 10% wealth tax on the richest (who made their money predominantly through the financial bubble) to pay for the mess they caused.
Unfortunately this is not what Alex Jones, Ron Paul et al call for. They won’t argue for wealth redistribution, because by their own admission they aren’t Socialists – they are paleo-conservative Republicans. They may be Republicans who oppose the War on Terror, the developing attack on civil liberties in the USA or ongoing funding to Israel, but they all absolutely believe in capitalism – and that the problem with the economic crash of 2008 is not the free market, but bizarrely, “socialism”. Jones says big corporations and big government are the same, in contradiction to everything that the right-wing in the USA and Europe actually rolled back. People like Jones, Ron Paul, Icke etc draw many of their ideas from a very reactionary period of US political history during the 1800′s in which the United States of America was half-feudal and half-industrial – or as Abraham Lincoln described it “half slave and half free”.
The United States was divided in two – the North, in which slavery was abolished and an industrial revolution was starting, and the South where the economy was based on slavery, and was backwards and feudal. In this topsy turvy time it was the Democrat Party which was racist and pro-slavery, and it was the Republican Party that wanted to ultimately abolish the institution of slavery. At that time the Republican Party correctly saw that slavery would keep the United States trapped in a backward, medieval economy. The profits made by keeping slavery going would make an industrial revolution impossible. Slavery stopped the development of a paid working class, that is necessary to consume the products of industrialisation. The South was at that time a massive producer of cotton on the backs of slave labour, and was in practice a colony of European powers who wanted to buy cotton for use in their Industrial Revolution.
US Civil War
There were many honest Republicans at that time who found slavery morally abhorrent, but the alterior motivation for Republican opposition to slavery was their backing from the new American capitalist class. This class wanted the abolition of slavery so they could compete against the Southern economy, and so white Southern workers could be paid to do the jobs of the slaves. In short they wanted to develop the United States into a modern capitalist country like Britain or France, knowing that the untapped resources of the North American continent would make them a superpower.
The Democrats position was based on “states rights” – which meant defending the rights of states to uphold slavery. Their arguments were based on racist opposition to the emancipation of slaves, and the desire to keep large parts of the USA in a feudal state. As part of this outlook, many Democrats had a crude, populist opposition to capitalism. They opposed banks and the expansion of big business, believing it would enslave white Americans. Instead they promoted a vision of the USA as a continent where all whites would be able to own their own farms and businesses as independent artisans, farmers, shop keepers and craftsmen – with slaves to assist them.
Democrats were hostile to the industrial revolution and the development of modern capitalism because they saw (correctly) that capitalism would eliminate this parochial economic system – replacing farmers with agrobusiness, shopowners with department stores, gold whittlers with mines etc. This process was no picnic. Capitalism was ruthless in destroying feudal opposition to it’s development, and the working conditions – most notoriously those of Victorian Britain – are infamous for their depravity.
BUT… capitalism was a massive improvement on what had preceded it, which was the rule of Kings and Queens, and an economy run along the whims of unelected noblemen. Capitalism produced economic growth on a scale unheard of in human history – the development of modern industry, the mass production of consumer goods, the move from the country to the city, and most importantly, the rise of the working class. This is the most important part for socialists as now the group of people who produced clothes, dug the mines, ran the railways etc could be organised, and could eventually become the rulers of a new society – a socialist one.
One Democrat who owned slaves at this time, President Andrew Jackson, became infamous for his opposition to any central bank for the USA using his veto power to overrule it. Jackson today is heralded by many anti-banking Occupy activists for this stance. But Jacksons opposition to banking was not based on any socialist or even progressive desire for the working class to rule society – it was about defending small businesses and the institution of slavery against this massively powerful and dynamic economic system, that threatened to overpower all religious, nationalist and feudal opposition to it
President Andrew Jackson
Writing at the time Karl Marx identified these kind of “anti-capitalists” as feudal socialists,
“In this way arose feudal Socialism: half lamentation, half lampoon; half an echo of the past, half menace of the future; at times, by its bitter, witty and incisive criticism, striking the bourgeoisie to the very heart’s core; but always ludicrous in its effect, through total incapacity to comprehend the march of modern history”
Put simply, while many anti-banking forces in the 1800′s had legitimate points about the unaccountability of these financial institutions, their opposition fundamentally came from a desire to maintain an unfair, feudal and backward society. At that time Marx identified Capitalism as a brutal, but progressive force – one of the reasons why he wrote a letter of congratulations to Lincoln during the US Civil War for crushing feudalism and the slave economy of the South.
This radical transformation of society, from feudalism to capitalism terrified and alarmed many people in Europe and the USA. These societies existed during a time when the theories of race were commonly accepted and discussed as a science – to justify both slavery and the imperial exploitation of Africa and other colonies. As well as racist prejudice one other common bigotry was anti-Semitism, the hatred of Jews. As capitalism developed, producing transnational, global insitutions many racists alarmed at this transformation identified the enemy behind it – that of the Jew. As part of anti-semitic prejudice throughout Europe, Jews were forced into jobs in the financial sector that Christians deemed immoral – like banking. So when the industrial revolution was financed by and empowered banks with Jewish owners anti-semites saw a conspiracy by the Jewish race to enslave the white Christian race.
So much wrong in just one picture
The most notorious subject of these anti-Semitic conspiracy theories was the Rothschild Family. The Rothschilds were an extremely wealthy and powerful banking family during the 1800′s, who exercised massive influence over the developing capitalist economies of Europe and North America. This combination of power and Judaism made them the frequent target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. As a major banking institution there’s no question the Rothschild’s would have been involved in underhand and conspiratorial plans to influence governments and secure their markets – but the accusations labelled at the Rothschilds go way beyond criticism of bankers influence, and into conspiracy nonsense about world Jewish plots to enslave the world. For example, the Rothschilds were accused of both funding American Capitalism and Russian Bolsheviks, a ridiculous allegation that had it’s base in anti-socialist racist sentiment. Many anti-Semites were disturbed at the challenge global capitalism posed to nation states sovereignty and could not understand the power of the economic system they faced, so instead chose to blame it on conspiratorial groups.
These ideas – anti-banking sentiment of small business Democrats, and anti-semitic opposition to the Rothschilds – unfortunately haven’t remained in the past. They continue to be advocated by people like Zeitgeist, Alex Jones and David Icke. This piece by Norfolk Community Action Group criticizes the influence these forces have in the occupy movement,
“The populist narrative is also an integral part of the political views of conspiracy theorists, far right activists, and anti-Semites. For anti-Semites, the elites are the Jews; for David Icke, the elites are the reptilians; for nationalists, they are members of minority ethnic, racial, or religious groups; for others, they are the “globalists,” the Illuminati, the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, the Federal Reserve, etc. All of these various conspiracy theories also tend to blend in and borrow from each other. Additionally, the focus on “Wall Street” also has specific appeal to those who see the elite as represented by finance capital, a particular obsession of the anti-Semites, Larouchites, followers of David Icke, etc. “The Rothschilds” are the favorite stand-in codeword of choice to refer to the supposed Jewish control of the banking system.”
The “Rothschild Zionists” feature in both Alex Jones and Icke’s material – which blame a 200 year old banking institution for conspiratorial involvement in global capitalism. The reality is that the Rothschilds influence declined by the early 1900s – blaming them for the financial crisis is like blaming the British East India company for the ongoing exploitation of Asia. The Rothschilds have been surpassed and overtaken by new financial institutions.
So why do they continue to be prevalent in conspiracy theories related to banking? Because in the USA, when people are discontent and angry at the banks instead of looking to socialism – which has historically been weak in the USA – they go back to the most prominent anti-banking ideas and figures, which unfortunately are anti-semitic. Likewise many bankers are identified as “Rothschild Zionists” by Icke who clearly have no familial connection to the Rothschild family at all – like David Miliband and DSK. But it’s ok, as Icke explains:
“I should also stress that when I say ‘Rothschild’, I don’t only mean those called ‘Rothschild’, nor even all of the people who are known by that name. There are many in the Rothschild family and its offshoots who have no idea what the hierarchy is doing and there are many ‘Rothschilds’ who don’t carry the name itself.
When I say ‘Rothschild’, I am referring to the Rothschild bloodline because, as I have detailed in my books, they have long had breeding programmes that produce offspring that are brought up under other names.”
This is effectively an excuse to link all Jewish people in areas of power together, based on racist ideas of “bloodlines”, and using the code “Zionist” instead of what people really mean, which is Jew. Whatever crimes have been committed in the Zionist enterprise of the State of Israel against the Palestinians, the idea a country of five million Israelis control international finance is absurd and only makes sense if you believe in anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
Last year SSY wrote about how an internet documentary called Zeitgeist played upon many of these conspiracy theories around finance, with reference to the banks. As well as the Zeitgeist movement another video has been doing the rounds – this one was posted by Occupy Glasgow:
The documentary is nowhere near as anti-Semitic as Icke’s rants. But it does have the same disturbing focus on the Rothschilds – along with lizardesque imagery for bankers – and puts slaveowner and Native American killer President Jackson in a good light. It makes its focus the inequities of the banking system – many of its criticisms have a point, such as the fact that the US Federal Reserve isn’t actually publically owned, but controlled by unaccountable and unelected bankers who have the power to control the US currency. However all of it stems from the same Jacksonian fear of big business and banking and not capitalism itself. Taking a look at its website – called “The American Dream” – it identifies the “good guys” as Alex Jones, The Cato Institute, The Drudge Report and other right-wing sites. They also link to Ron Paul, a Libertarian Republican who thinks someone dying from lack of medical care is choosing ‘freedom’.
The 99% can fuck off and die if they don’t have health insurance
Elsewhere on its website it calls for less government intervention in medicare, social security and federal spending. In short, a demand that the Government’s debt should be cut so we aren’t slaves to evil bankers – regardless of the massive job cuts entailed. They also ask you to be more like your grandfather, and not get into debt – ignoring that consumer debt would not be as massive if peoples wages went up at the same rate as profits in the USA. There’s also consideration to reintroduce the gold standard – that is link the value of your currency to the amount of gold you have. It’s very popular amongst the headbanger right, particularly with Glenn Beck fans, who like the idea as if you have gold the bankers can’t control you with their easily printed “fiat” money. But why would you want to organise a society’s currency on the value of a base metal, and have it fluctuate depending on mining rates? And why is it people who are demanding a rush to the gold standard are quite happy to sell you lots of precious gold for your useless fiat money?
The new Shitegeist
Jones, Ron Paul and the libertarian US right don’t call for the debt to be paid by taxing the rich, or for the economy to be restructured on need. This is because they’ve picked anti banking sentiment from a time when small scale traders were trying to survive against the onslaught of capitalism – a hopeless and reactionary struggle. Trying to solve the world economic crisis by trying to resurrect an economic system from 200 years ago is doomed to failure – it couldn’t withstand the force of capitalism then, in its progressive phase and it can’t stand against it now even if it’s clearly dying. What’s neccessary is a movement which organises not in the interests of small businesses vs banks, but workers and the poor vs all strands of capitalism. Only then will the interests of the 99% genuinely be enforced.
An anti-cuts activist from Glasgow was sentenced to eighteen months in HMP Wandsworth at a London court on Friday, following his arrest at the March 26th TUC anti-cuts demonstration in London. His crime? Throwing a spent joke shop smoke bomb, picked up from the street, in the direction of a branch of Topshop – apparently enough to constitute ‘violent disorder’ and a lengthy prison sentence despite no damage being done to property or person. This was just one of a number of heavy sentences handed out to anti-cuts demonstrators at Kingston Crown Court on Friday, nearly all of them for similar (non-) offences – throwing sticks or pushing at barriers. Among the only positives on the day was for fellow Glasgow protester Bryan Simpson, who following a high profile defence campaign escaped with 120 hours community service and a four months suspended sentence for ‘affray’ at a student demo in London last November.
Omar Ibrahim was less lucky, and now looks to be in prison until at least next summer. In this statement that he wrote before being remanded in custody last month, Omar describes what happened on the day and draws the links between austerity, crisis and the growing use of draconian sentencing and political policing. Over the past year this has become increasingly visible, from the teenagers locked up for making comments on social media about the August riots to the gradual normalising of exclusion zones and pre-emptive arrests.
Yesterday’s sentences followed both the failure of Charlie Gilmour’s appeal and the recent upholding of the massively overboard sentencing doled out after the August riots. Then, all normal guidelines were thrown out in favour of disproportionate sentences for minor offences, due to their ‘mob’ nature which ‘aggravated’ violence and ‘appalled decent citizens’. What it comes down to is those unfortunate enough to be caught, regardless of what they may or may not have done, being punished massively out of context to their alleged ‘crime’. An assumption of innocence is disgarded – after all, if you made a choice to go on a protest, you’re practically asking to be locked up. Omar went on a protest, picked up a children’s toy off the street – and is now spending at least the next nine months in jail for it. It’s a crazy system, but one designed to scare and demoralise the rest of us – to keep us from protesting and keep us off the streets. As we once again prepare to take action en masse – with the latest round of student demos being kicked off this Wednesday and millions of workers lining up to take strike action on 30 November, we need to be as vigilant as ever. Read up on your rights, stay aware and keep fighting back. An injury to one is an injury to all! Support our political prisoners!
A full list the sentencing for violent disorder (and a selection of others) at London anti-cuts protests since Millbank is available here.
The following open letter has been written by the newly formed Glasgow Women’s Activist Forum in response to recent events involving the ‘Occupy Glasgow’ camp in George Square, a good summary of which can be found here. SSY supports the sentiments expressed in the letter, and we are happy to share it on our blog below:
We, the undersigned, are writing to those involved in the Occupy Glasgow protest because our voices have hitherto been marginalised and our concerns systematically ignored in the days following the rape that occurred at the protest on Tuesday.
Our decision to write this letter is not based on political or ideological rejections of the Occupy movement, but is motivated by a very real concern for the physical and emotional well-being of all those involved in Occupy Glasgow, with specific concern for women and vulnerable people.
We believe that those involved in the protest failed to ensure the safety of its participants. The safety of the most vulnerable amongst us must be paramount in any organisation or movement, and a failure to construct and implement a system which ensures the safety of all its participants constitutes a failure of the movement as a whole.
In light of the gang rape that took place on Tuesday, we condemn the decision to continue with the occupation. Not only does the rape itself constitute reason enough to end the protest, but the reaction in the days which have followed has only convinced us further.
Allowing rape apology, victim blaming, and accusations of ‘fabrication’ or ‘conspiracy to bring the occupation to and end’ to be voiced in statements both on the official Occupy Glasgow facebook page and at General Assemblies without question demonstrates a complete failure of those involved to grasp the severity of the incident.
There has been insufficient effort to make necessary changes to the physical space or the safer spaces policy following the attack.
Women remain at high risk at Occupy Glasgow, and openly voiced this at the women’s meeting on Friday 28th October. Prior to Tuesday, verbal and physical intimidation had been reported by occupiers to the group, yet these issues were not addressed.
Our decision to write an open letter followed attempts to reach out to Occupy Glasgow by attending General Assemblies. However, women who have attended meetings and facilitated workshops have experienced verbal and physical intimidation from occupiers, leaving us no option but to make this official appeal to the women of Occupy Glasgow to take our concerns seriously.
We consider this matter urgent, and cannot stress enough that this appeal is motivated purely by our desire to create safe spaces for women not just within activist movements, but everywhere in society.
This week, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) fired the latest salvo in the Government’s increasingly farcical response to the manufactured panic around ‘designer drugs’- in other words substances that are created and marketed specifically to get around existing drug laws.
The ‘designer drugs’ story has all the ingredients of the best tabloid moral panics- an external threat to demonise (count how many of the sensationalist news items mentioned ‘South-East Asian laboratories’), an ’insidious’ technology that has changed society (They bought this filth ONLINE?!?!) and, of course, us feckless, wayward young people, simultaneously victim and villain, falling prey to evil Chinese megachemists cos we’d rather get mwi than get a haircut. Or something like that.
It’s a pretty neat package for establishment figures, both in the media and the state- it sells papers, provides an easy way for the government to look TOUGH ON CRIME, and provides a nice ideological smokescreen for increasing police powers. When the establishment stumbles on a win-win situation like that, the truth often gets lost (or callously exploited, depends on your point of view) somewhere in between hyperbolic headlines and self-serving ‘get tough’ schemes. As we’ve reported here before, the whole mephedrone scare was triggered by um, police getting the name of a drug wrong.
However, government have come to realise that, by their very nature, trying to legislate against designer drugs is basically a fuckin nightmare. Take the near-inconceivable chemical complexity of the human brain, throw in millions of people determined to take drugs and willing to pay for it, then add the internet, and you’ll see that it’s just too cheap, easy and profitable to create and sell new drugs for legislators to keep up.
Which brings me to the ACMD’s proposed solution. The chair of the ACMD, Les Iversen, has recommended that we adopt American-style ‘analogue’ laws, which would make any substance ‘substantially similar’ to a banned drug automatically subject to the same penalties. Sound like a neat catch-all solution to a thorny legal problem? Well, not quite.
For one thing, the American analogue law is horribly vague, with literally no grounding in medicine or chemistry. The wording is so ambiguous that some critics
What our artist thinks designer drugs might do.
have suggested that it technically renders naturally occurring neurochemicals illegal- for example dopamine, which plays a crucial function in every human brain and is synthesised as a medicine, is arguably ‘substantially similar’ to speed or meth. In the absence of any actual science, the decision on what counts as an ‘analogue’ falls to subjective and socially-determined factors like the class and status of users, how the drug is marketed, and the ‘perceived’ effects (as both scientists and drug users will tell you, how drug effects are experienced is largely dependent on ‘set and setting’- factors like where and with whom you take the drugs and what you expect from them. In other words, perceived effects are largely determined by the previously mentioned social factors.)
What this means in practice is that police and courts make these decisions based on profiles of users and the reasons they take drugs, leading to increased criminalisation and persecution of already-marginalised groups like young people and the very poor. When examined closely, analogue laws present a picture that pretty much gives the lie to the idea that drug laws exist to reduce harm to society, rather suggesting that they’re drug laws for drug law’s sake, seeking to criminalise certain forms of drug use as part of a moral crusade against the social norms of ‘deviant’ sections of society. One Colorado judge ruled that the Analogue Act was ‘unconstitutionally vague’ and that it ‘provides neither fair warning nor effective safeguards against arbitrary enforcement’. A cynical person might suggest that that’s kind of the point.
Now, I personally think it’s unlikely (though not impossible) that the UK will adopt analogue laws. For one thing, they run contrary to the common law principle that you have the right to know beforehand what is illegal and what isn’t. For another, the vague wording makes them notoriously hard to get a conviction under. However the interesting point is that this profoundly unscientific suggestion came from the ACMD, supposedly the body that advises the government on drug science. So how did the independent academic body that once pressured the Thatcher government into setting up needle exchanges, despite the powerfully anti-drug message of coked-up 80s Tories, become an unscientific front for legitimising the War on Drugs?
Just sayin like...
The process arguably began in 2004 under the Blair government. New Labour, as we know all too well, kind of has a thing for manufacturing evidence to support their policies, and the ACMD’s role as, well, people who’re supposed to tell the truth, represented a bit of an obstacle to that. In the wake of the invasion of Iraq, the massively unpopular Labour Government was searching for a nice headline-grabbing distraction that would cast them in a good light, and they landed on the scourge of people giggling and seeing pretty patterns in wallpaper. At that time, although the active ingredient of magic mushrooms was illegal, the law did not prohibit the sale or possession of mushrooms themselves. Labour decided, bastards that they are, that it would be a good idea to launch a crackdown on mushroom use and unilaterally made them a Class A drug without consulting the ACMD. This decision was, in fact, illegal, as the Misuse of Drugs Act that established the ACMD states that they must be consulted on any changes in drug policy.
Heartened by the positive headlines this gathered them, they next decided to contradict ACMD recommendations again, and whipped up a ridiculous media frenzy about so-called ‘super-skunk’, mad dangerous weed that makes you go mental and die. Having manufactured this public health scare, they then stepped in to appear responsible and public-minded and reversed the earlier decision to downgrade cannabis to a Class-C drug. Again without consulting the ACMD, again illegally. This was accompanied by a police crackdown, sniffer dogs on the London underground, and a massively disproportionate rate of conviction for young black men.
By this time it was becoming clear that there had been a cultural shift in government, and that the independent drugs advisory body was basically considered a bit too independent. When the former chairman of the ACMD, David Nutt, presented extensive scientific evidence to the government that Ecstasy and MDMA don’t do sufficient social or medical harm to warrant Class-A status they went one step further than simply ignoring his recommendations and sacked him for causing them embarrassment. This was followed by mass resignations of most of the experienced scientists on the ACMD, outraged at the way their professional integrity had been compromised.
Those who did not resign were promoted, and the rest replaced with more compliant figures. The process of eroding the ACMD was now complete. First illegally stripped of its role in forming drug policy, it gradually morphed into a useful propaganda tool for shifting debate rightwards, by making unscientific, reactionary, crackpot suggestions such as those of the last week. This means a further step away from real science forming our society’s attitude to drugs, which in turn means more needless drug deaths, more addiction and ruined lives, more costly and pointless imprisonment, more police repression and racial profiling.
But, just as we saw with mephedrone, you shouldn’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.
Naturally the Spanish PM has spoke of ETA’s declaration as a victory over terror and a rebuke to radical Basque nationalists. In reality, the use of shootings and bombings by a group the size of ETA is unable to bring independence to the Basque country, and skews the coverage of the conflict as one between the Spanish state and a small armed organisation. This totally ignores the strength of the Basque radical pro-independence movement, and acts in the interests of the Spanish state by making the dispute about a conflict against terrorism that the Basques cannot win by military means.
The position of the Basque independence left is one the untold success stories of the Socialist movement in Europe. In almost every town and city, the left pro-independence movement – known as the Abertzale or patriotic left – controls youth centres, pubs and social clubs. These community facilities are considered such a threat to the Spanish state that one of them was recently demolished, despite public opposition. The Basque Left can also wield a significant section of the popular vote in the Basque country – almost certainly larger than anywhere else for the Socialist Left in Europe.
In the recent municipal elections in the Spanish State, the Basque Left party Bildu stood and took a whopping 25% of the vote – the largest ever vote recieved by the pro-independence left, who historically took between 10% and 20%. This makes Bildu the opposition party in the Basque country, to the pro-independence moderate party the PNV which took 30% of the vote. This combined vote shows there is a solid majority in favour of independence for the Basque country.
Despite ETA’s repeated attempts to engage with the Spanish State in a peace process, both the right-wing Popular Party and the New Labouresque Spanish Socialist Workers Party refused to enter into any meaningful negotiation to end the conflict. Unreported from the majority of the world’s media is the ongoing political repression in the Basque country – in which political parties like Batasuna were banned, Basque newspapers were shut down, prisoners are tortured, youth organisations are prohibited and radical Basque politicians jailed for insulting the monarchy. This repression hasn’t all come from the right wing of Spanish politics either – it was the “Socialist” Workers Party who set up death squads to assassinate and torture ETA members and Basque radical politicans, with the authorization and support of Government ministers.
Banned Basque pro-Independence Left group SEGI
The Spanish State refuses to enter a peace process because it knows what the result inevitably will be – almost every single election since the overthrow of Franco in Spain has produced a majority nationalist administration in the Basque autonomous region. Spain has refused any discussion on Independence for the Basque country – with the Spanish Parliament vetoing even unofficial referendums on the Basque country’s future, fearing the inevitable yes vote for Independence.
The modern Spanish state never really decisively broke with it’s fascist past – there were no trials or truth and reconciliation commissions for those who tortured and murdered leftists, trade unionists and Basque and Catalan nationalists under Franco. Instead an agreement was struck between the conservative and centre-left parties not to pursue justice for these people, and to enshrine in the Spanish constitution the illegality of any form of independence for nations that are currently part of the Spanish State. The so-called democratic post-Franco constitution made it illegal for the Basque country to become independent without the sanction of the central Spanish Government. It was for this reason that the majority of Basque voters abstained and voted against accepting this new constitution – and why despite the overthrow of Franco, ETA continued an armed campaign.
Basque political prisoners are dispersed - this poster demands their return.
Now it’s become clear the Basque independence movement has stronger weapons in it’s arsenal than bombs or bullets, weapons the Spanish State cannot easily quash. With the support of a third of the population, and dozens of community facilities across the Basque country the pro-Independence left is ready to wage a war of the people against the Spanish State.
SSY was proud to host a group of Basque Abertzale youth at our camp last year. One of the motivations they had in coming to Scotland was to observe the possible referendum on Independence here. Unfortunately, we never got a chance to vote for Independence in 2010 because the Unionist parties blocked it. However as you’ve probably noticed, the recent SNP landslide means there will be a definite referendum in the next 4 years. This isn’t just important for Scotland – it’s a message to the Spanish State and the Basque people as well. If Scots are allowed to vote in a free vote on our future, without being blocked by the Spanish Government, tortured, shot by death squads, having our political parties banned, our newspapers closed down, community centres demolished – why shouldn’t the Basque Country have that choice as well?
FREEDOM FOR THE BASQUE COUNTRY – GORA EUSKAL HERRIA!
5000 Basques march in Bilbao against "Hispanity day" in Solidarity with massacred American indians.
Mass protest outside the Greek Parliament in Athens on Wednesday
On Thursday evening, the Greek Parliament voted through its latest austerity package – approved by all but one of the deputies from the ruling ‘social democratic’ party, PASOK. Tens of thousands of workers will now suffer dramatic wage cuts of 40%, the slashing of pensions and the tearing up of collective bargaining agreements, on top of tax hikes and 20% unemployment (youth unemployment being nearer 50%).
In reality, the real authority in Greece is now the ‘Troika’, meaning the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank. These three institutions are holding the Greek government hostage, demanding the complete destruction of the country’s public sector in return for the continuation of the €110bn bailout package which is keeping the country afloat, if far from stable. Greece can now keep paying its bills for a few months more, but a default on their national debt in the not too distant future is still almost certain.
Wednesday and Thursday saw the biggest days of action against austerity in Greece so far. Huge numbers were on the streets across the country, as hundreds of thousands of private sector workers joined the strikes for the first time. There were chaotic scenes in Athens, as stewards from the Stalinist trade union federation PAME clashed with other demonstrators. Amid the chaos, a PAME supporter died – although reportedly from breathing difficulties caused by police teargas.
The world economy is in crisis: Greece is the testing ground – and austerity isn’t working. By forcing ever deeper and harder cuts – this is the third drastic, emergency austerity package pushed through the parliament this year – the government is facing the growing contradictions of the system. Minus 7 percent “growth” is not going to cure the deficit. A default is probably on its way, and has actually already happened to a limited, controlled extent: Greece’s creditors have already accepted that they’ll only ever get back 79 cents for every euro lent. However controlled or uncontrolled the default turns out to be, the impact on northern European banks, and the Euro, will be profound, and there’s a risk the ‘contagion’ could spread to Spain, Italy and Portugal.
Greece has entered a situation where the vast majority of the population have lost all faith in the political system and the government, who cling on through necessity to implement the orders of the Troika. Class war is being raged by the elites, meaning the absolute destruction of welfare and living standards, plunging millions into poverty. The economist Paul Mason has described what’s happening in the country as “anomie”, meaning the gradual breakdown of social order through the effective withdrawal of the state from public life: schools without textbooks, mass unemployment, general lawlessness and, among swathes of the population, little hope that anything can get better – as summed up in this report from a few weeks ago.
Europe is watching: Greece was first, but will not be the last. Organise, counter-attack!
Nuanced and understated as ever, the front page of today’s The Sun celebrates the demise of a despised despot, class enemy and war criminal whose decades-long rule has created untold misery for millions, and whose stubborn refusal to step aside has led to civil war amid the ruins of his former empire and destruction on a mass scale. Or something.