Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Ever wondered why the capitalists don't seem too bothered about climate change?

Have you ever been curious, dumbfounded even, about the ruling class indifference to climate change - something that effects all of us, including themselves? I was, for quite a long time. It's often put down to simple capitalist short-sightedness, but I think the main reason lies somewhere else.

What we have to remember about wealthy industrialists is that, generally speaking - mind the sarcasm - they are wealthy. They have lots of moneys. They have resources
. And they can use those resources to significantly curtail the effects of climate change on their own livelihoods. They can move away from effected areas, for example - and in many cases, areas more vulnerable to the freak weather conditions caused by climate change, such as floodplains, are already reserved for habitation by the rest of us who, apparently, are expendable. And rising food and fuel prices effect them far less than ordinary people because, frankly, they have the money to pay the increased prices - a loaf of bread has inflated by at least half in the past two years, and according to the Daily Telegraph is expected to grow further to around four times its current level by 2030 as a result of climate change... barely noticeable, to the likes of David & Fred Barclay, the owners of the Telegraph, or say Rex Tillerson (the CEO of Exxon Mobil). And if and when the air itself becomes unbreathable, the land unlivable, you can bet the richest 1% and their pet politicians will be nice and safe in their biodomes while the rest of us die miserably.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Pigs and fascists share a flag!

I'm writing this a bit late - 2 weeks after the event - but (I'd like to think) the important thing is that it gets written.

The first thing to say about the clash with the EDL in Manchester is that they were thoroughly outnumbered, and thoroughly routed. The main priority on the day, of course, was to prevent the fascists from having free reign to terrorise and assault bystanders in the city centre. Allowing them to do so would have far wider implications than a lot of people shaken up, plenty of bruises and some victims who may have been hospitalised (which of course is bad enough) - but it would have allowed them to gain in confidence, and as such gain in strength and ambition; if today we allow our streets to be infested with fascists one day in a decade, then maybe a year from now ordinary people are too intimidated to venture into their path, two years from now some areas might be permanently under fascist control, three years from now ordinary people are afraid to leave the home and a month after that fascist death squads are breaking down people's doors. In that sense, the day was a complete success - instead of running rampant throughout the city, they were forced to hide behind the police and the worst thing they were able to do was take pictures for Redwatch, even if their truncheon-toting vanguard was more assertive. They were humiliated. They might think twice about trying to spread fear in Manchester again.

There were numerous examples of obvious police collusion with the fash, two in particular come to mind. Not only did they refuse to prevent the fash from filming for Redwatch, but when I attempted to block the camera view of a photographer directly behind the police line, the response of one of the pigs was to shove me away...compare this to how when revolutionary activists take pictures of pigs at demonstrations for the purpose of holding them to account if they step over the line - or sometimes, when tourists take pictures of red London buses - their reaction is to confiscate the camera, and occasionally even to arrest the photographer. The sole purpose of Redwatch, as is well-known, being to provide intel to fascist thugs who want to track down anti-fascist activists later when they're alone and attack them as a pack - one of the most high-profile Redwatch-related incidents was when the well-known trade union organiser Alec McFadden was hospitalised after being stabbed in the face outside his home by a fascist coward who pretended to be hurt and needing medical attention himself. The other example was when we were about as passive as we had been at all since the EDL showed up, when we were completely non-belligerent, just stood there chanting which apparently the pigs decided was enough of a 'threat' to warrant setting the dogs on us... and at least one person was bitten.

It was these events which inspired me to an original chant, which I was later arrested for chanting (either these particular pigs somehow took offence at the word 'pig' which I'm sure they hear every day, or the riot squad have a political threshold for speech they will tolerate - the typical UAF 'Nazi scum, off our streets' falls far short of that threshold for the obvious reason that it holds almost no political content and therefore no threat to the status quo): "pigs and fascists share a flag - we march under none".

It was inspired by these events, but it is evident by an analysis of fascism anyway. The purpose of fascism - whose chief representative in this country I would say was not in fact the BNP but the Daily Mail (or Heil) and the Murdoch media - is to preserve the rule of the ruling class by using prejudice-based division, created by deception, to undermine working class organisation, and by using that prejudice to create unofficial 'shock troops' who can be used against the organised working class if it becomes too much of a threat to the hegemony (some of the best examples of the latter include the retaliation by fascist paramilitaries in Greece following the December insurrection, the suppression of the 1919 Spartacist rising in Germany, and - controversially, but at least in my analysis - the Stalinist repression of the revolution in north-eastern Spain in 1937); it is undisputed that the primary purpose of the police force as an institution is also to defend the ruling class.

Incidentally, another original chant which I led that day was concieved as a not-quite-subtle rejection of the quasi-nationalism of the Respect placards which said something along the lines of 'one country, many cultures' - "one world, one humanity".

About half an hour after the dogs were let out, the EDL started to slink away - at the time I assumed they'd given up; I later discovered they were regrouping on the other side of Piccadilly Gardens - and our column moved back across the central walkway (apparently to cut them off, although as far as I was concerned at that time it was a victory march), which was lined with pigs. There was a scuffle partway along when one cop threatened to arrest people criticising him for hiding his shoulder tab numbers - my own words were something like "Show your number, bloody hypocrite - it's your own law you're breaking, not ours", which I believe I followed with "PIGS AND FASCISTS SHARE A FLAG - WE MARCH UNDER NONE!" at which point his colleague at the end of the 'railed' section of the walkway grabbed my shirt saying - I believe - "Come here mate, you're coming with us." I was initially able to pull away from him, until another pig joined in, and together they dragged me to the grass - by the bike helmet I had worn as a precaution, effectively throttling me with the strap to the point that I felt on the verge of blacking out before they let go - and forced me to the ground, after which one of them knelt on me while the other forced me into handcuffs behind my back.

After they dragged me back to my feet, one of the two informed me that I was under arrest for very vague 'public order offences' (which he later elaborated on as a violation Section 5 of the Public Order Act, 'behaving in a way likely to cause alarm or distress' to 'members of the public', and claimed to have been deeply offended by the use of the word 'pigs' and the association to the fash) and bullshit allegations of 'incitement to racial hatred', to which I responded with something along the lines of "I'm white, how can I be racist against fucking white people!?" (since the logical conclusion was that he could only have been referring to my agitation against the EDL... in fact, once at the police station 'incitement to racial hatred' never came up again, so it seems he was just trying to provoke a reaction which could be taken out of context). They then marched me back onto the walkway, now deserted of everyone but pigs, and held me up against the railing for the next hour or so, twisting the handcuffs (the sort designed to cause pain and injury, including potential broken bones, if 'you struggle') continuously, while they traded jibes with me. At one point two comrades who I won't name spotted me in trouble and did what they could to help - they told the pigs that I had Asperger's Syndrome, in order to help ease matters at least once I got to the police station (it does seem to have had the desired effect), and I later discovered they also stayed with me for as long as they could in order to prevent the pigs from being able to be too obviously abusive (I now understand why they were so adamant not to let me turn round, so that I wouldn't get a morale booster from seeing that my comrades were still there as I did when they first arrived at the scene). It was the only thing they could have done - after they got the handcuffs on me, I saw no reason to resist myself, either, since even had I somehow escaped from the pigs' clutch without the use of my arms, having no way to remove the handcuffs I would have been stuck that way indefinately

Eventually, they marched me off to a van. Along the way, we were intercepted by another comrade (who will also remain anonymous) who was apparently acting as a legal advisor on the demo, who they made sure would not be able to send me a sympathetic solicitor by refusing to tell her or me which police station they were taking me to (which, I believe, is illegal, like many other things the pigs did that day). They got rid of her by shoving me into the van and closing the doors, thereby cutting off contact, and left me there for about another half hour before actually setting off.

Once at the police station (Longsight, as it turns out...they didn't tell me where I was until much later, but I spotted certain signs on the way such as 192 buses) they swapped the handcuffs from my back to my front, but locked me back in the van for another hour or so. The silver lining of that cloud is that, with my hands now in front, I could reach my phone, and in the time alone I was able to send messages to several comrades letting them know what had happened (although once in the police station, my phone was confiscated along with everything else I had including my jacket and my shoelaces, so I didn't recieve their replies until much later after I was released).

When I was finally taken into the station, the officers on duty there were less directly abusive, and saw fit to finally release me from the handcuffs, but also took away everything I was carrying except my shirt and pants (apparently procedure). They told me that, among other things, I had a legal right to have someone informed of my arrest (but, apparently, not to talk to that person directly) - the person I told them to contact was my mum, whose phone I later discovered was unusable at the time...but they failed to inform me that they had been unable to contact her so that I could have them contact someone else instead, capitalising on the opportunity to deny me even my legal rights.

After this, I was taken to a room where my iris prints, fingerprints and a saliva sample were taken, which I was told would be wiped from the record if I wasn't convicted of anything but which almost certainly remain. To the credit of the clerks who did this, they gave me a cup of water when I asked, and I was able to watch while it was poured so I know nothing was put in it. After this I was taken to see the station doctor, who was interested in any medical conditions I might have; I told him I was allergic to bananas, although in hindsight maybe I shouldn't have in case it was used against me - the doctor himself seemed nice enough, but of course he had colleagues.

After this I was marched off to the cells, where I was left for about three hours. It became obvious that the key reason for confiscating
everything on processing is to make your time in the cell as boring as possible in order to encourage you to sleep, possibly so that they could come in and rough you up, or stick something unwanted in you like compliance drugs or a chip. Instead I occupied myself by reading the graffiti kindly left on the bed-bench by previous residents (mostly not particularly interesting, but still something to read) and scratching my own contribution ("one world - one humanity"). Incidentally, the "matress" was lopsided (which may or may not have been a deliberate measure to make you more uncomfortable) and there was what appeared to be a camera in the corner of the cell, angled to cover most of the cell including the toilet (illegal, surely!?) - another thing I occupied myself with while I was waiting in the cell was figuring out how I might be able to block the camera in case I had to use the toilet; I came up with piling scrunched-up toilet roll in the recess that the camera was set into. Fortunately I never needed to use the toilet while I was in the cell.

Eventually, one of the guards arrived to take me to interview. I was initially taken to meet my solicitor - the state duty solicitor, since the legal advisor mentioned earlier from the demonstration was unable to send me an activist solicitor as she had initially said she would, not knowing where I was being taken - who I went into a room alone with to discuss my case. He wasn't entirely sympathetic, but he wasn't hostile either and I'd like to think I had some influence on him. This was the first time I saw the police testimony - I'd been misquoted as saying "pigs and fucking fascists are all the fucking same" (more or less the same meaning I suppose, but the court looks down on swearing) and "I'm white, how can I be racist?" (they didn't just fail to provide any context, they also omitted 'against white people', so they even removed the context that was otherwise already there in the quote). The solicitor told me that because of my Asperger's, he'd been able to argue the police to an offer of a settlement of a 'Fixed-Penalty Notice' (fine) as an alternative to going to court if I confessed. He told me the charges against me were 'disorderly conduct' and 'behaved in a disorderly manner in a public place in a way likely to cause alarm or distress to members of the public'. He didn't know how large the fine would be, but his advice would be to take it because he believed the 'evidence' against me was 'strong'. I argued that point with him for about half an hour, the sole 'evidence' I had seen being police testimony consisting of misquotes, but I knew that as far as the police or the court was concerned, 'admitting' to having attended a demonstration (which I neither could nor would deny) would be the same as 'admitting' to 'disorderly conduct', and having sat on a jury I also knew how corrupt the court system was, how ready the court was to accept police testimony as more valuable than the testimony of ordinary people and for that matter as the bulk of the prosecuting evidence, how much the judge controls the jury and how much pressure the jurors are under to follow the instructions of the judge, including what testimony to accept and what testimony to reject. As such, I decided he was right - it was in my interests to take the fine rather than going through a court case, which is gruelling enough as a juror and must be several times worse as a defendant, would disrupt many things (in the long term, probably most importantly uni), and would likely lead to a conviction. I have since started to have second thoughts, having run into financial difficulties and having spoken to several people including those with legal expertise who believe the case can be thrown out without even going to court.

After wrapping up the discussion with the solicitor, we went to the interview room - a cold room containing a table with a tape recorder, three chairs and nothing else. I have to be fair, and to the credit of the police it turns out that the cold is no longer part of the interrogation procedure, and we moved to a warmer room containing a table with a tape recorder, three chairs and nothing else. The interviewer asked me to give my account of the day's events - I believe I told him more or less what I wrote here regarding the demo, my arrest and my treatment by the pigs who arrested me (minus the criticism of UAF and Respect - no reason to show division directly to the enemy, after all). I also spent quite a while arguing the political case behind the chant which I was arrested for, which I'm sure didn't make him feel particularly comfortable, and when asked to 'confess' to having acted 'in a way likely to cause alarm or distress to members of the public' I told him blankly that a police officer on duty is
not a 'member of the public' and that most 'members of the public' are likely to share my distaste for and distrust of the state and its organs of enforcement even if they don't share my analysis. I did 'confess' to 'disorderly conduct'... making no bones about the fact that I was doing so not because I believed I had done wrong but because I saw it as being in my best interests to cooperate. After that, the interview was wound up, and the interviewer informed me that after my fine had been processed I would be released (I believe his words were 'disposed of', but I trusted that he didn't mean it maliciously only because he was still being recorded at the time and the record could be used against the police if I disappeared - I said as much to his face, still on record).

After the interview, I was taken back to the lobby where my stuff had been confiscated and told to wait for my fine, and that I'd get my stuff back (yes, including my shoelaces!) once the fine was processed and I was officially released (again, the phrase used was 'disposed of'). I waited. And I waited. And I waited some more. Then I was finally given back my stuff, all dumped in a plastic bag, and told to take it outside to sort it out (including my shoelaces).

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

You Are Arrested

You are woken from a troubled sleep in the small hours of the morning by the sound of your front door being smashed to pieces and heavy-booted footsteps coming up your stairs. You hear a click which could be a gun being cocked. Your bedroom door bursts open and a rough pair of hands pulls a black hood over your head before your tired mind even realises that something is happening, while another pair drags you out of the sanctuary that is your bed and another twists your arms behind your back at an unnatural angle and binds them in metal. You cry for help, but you live alone; there is no one to help you. You are violently dragged downstairs and shoved forcibly into a car. You cannot see them, but you can feel the eyes of your neighbours watching out of their upstairs windows. They do nothing to help. You are still hooded; your hands are still restrained and your wrists feel like they could break at any moment if you move your arms. You are driven away from your home, you do not know where to but you can feel the vibration of the car under you taking you away from safety and security. Your captors do not speak, either to you or to each other; you are left alone with terrifying speculation about what sort of peril has been thrust upon you.

The car door opens, and you are dragged from the car by the arm – which only serves to put more strain on your wrist. You cry out in pain, attracting a response from one of your captors in the form of a chunk of cold metal striking the back of your head. Agony rips through your skull, and you lurch forward, drawing more pain from your arms which are still bound tightly behind your back, and fall to the floor, before being aggressively pulled back to your feet and dragged up a short flight of steps. You are pushed through a door into a building and led into a room.

The room is cold, the air pressure is slightly different and you can hear your footsteps echoing off the walls. You feel your body being patted down as if your captors are searching you – regardless of the fact that you are wearing only your underwear – and you are pushed down into a metal chair and the hood is pulled from your head, which is then shoved down by the man behind you so that you are looking down at the metal table in front of you. When you try to look up, the man behind you forces your head down again. Your hands are released from their metal bonds and you are told to place them on the table in front of you and keep them there until you are told otherwise. You are informed that you have been arrested as a suspect in an alleged bomb plot; you don’t have the faintest clue what they are talking about. You are told that under terrorism legislation, you can be kept in detention for a month and a half without contact with the outside world – including a lawyer – while your captors who you now know to be the police gather evidence, and when (not if) you are found guilty, you can legally be executed. You are offered a chance to make the process quicker and easier and potentially reduce your sentence by confessing and giving the police information on the target and your fellow conspirators. Because in reality there is no such plot – but of course the only response you would ever get to that suggestion from your interrogators would be the classic ‘that’s what they all say’ – you can do nothing but remain silent. You are told to stand up, and dragged by your traumatised arms to a holding cell.

Early the next morning, instead of breakfast, you are taken to a different room, colder than before, where you are hooded and handcuffed again, and a pair of stereo earphones put on your head which play a constant ringing noise similar to tinnitus and block out all other sound. After half an hour of this, you are told that you can go back to your cell if you tell your interrogator what he wants to know – what your target was, and who your compatriots were. Again, you have nothing to tell him. The earphones are put back on your head; the process is repeated several times before you are taken back to your cell and given a slice of bread to eat and a plastic cup of warm water to drink. In the afternoon, you are taken to another room where your interrogator gives you an opportunity to confess your guilt, before he shoves your head into a bucket of water, holds it there for thirty seconds and pulls it back out suddenly by the hair, and again gives you an opportunity to confess. When you decline, he dunks you in the bucket again. And again. And again.

This daily routine is continued for longer than you can keep track – although the sensory deprivation is replaced with physical beatings in the final week or so – before you are informed that because of the lack of evidence, you are to be released from police custody... and deported. Back to your war-torn home country where you are as likely as not to be raped and brutally murdered.
You are hooded again and bundled into the back of a van with no windows, and after an hour’s journey, led into a new building which is to be your involuntary home for the next two weeks. Those two weeks are slightly more pleasant than your police detention; beatings by the guards are less frequent (but still horrific and fairly commonplace), there is no systematic torture (although the guards seem to love to make you miserable anyway), and there are fellow deportees to talk to.
At the end of those two weeks, you are handcuffed again and led onto a small aircraft with nobody else on it but the pilot, co-pilot and your two guards. Nobody to see your scars, your broken bones, your mutilations.

You are never heard from again.

And nobody seems to care.

Monday, 6 April 2009

l'Agents Provocateurs

The march against NATO left the International Village of Resistance at about 10 Saturday morning, starting (I think) with a block from one of the French Communist Parties. Our coachload was sandwiched to begin with between a Die Linke delegation and the comrades from London (with whom we stuck tight for the whole demo, thanks largely to Geoff's Manchester Trades Council banner, which was very visible and served beautifully as a rallying point for the British group...and also possibly as our lifeline against police brutality, which I'll come back to later). I shared the banner with Geoff initially, and continued to do so for most of the demo.

There was nothing particularly reportable for the first hour or so - other than maybe the chanting, in several languages including English ("one solution - revolution", "how many kids have you killed today?", etc), French (mostly protest songs which I unfortunately didn't have the linguistic skill to follow rather than chants, including the Internationale at one point), German ("hoch die internazionale solidaritie", "nein zum krieg - nein zur NATO", etc) and (surprisingly, given the apparent lack of Spanish comrades in the demo) Spanish ("a-anti-anticapitalista" and "[insert politician name] - terrorista") - until we reached a fork in the road with the Vaubaun bridge to the right, towards which the march turned and somewhere across which I therefore naturally assumed the NATO summit was being held, and the road into central Strasbourg (where the summit was actually being held) to the left with several ranks of CRS riot police across it.

There was a tram platform a few minutes march towards the bridge, at which two members of the black block climbed the shelter to break down the unusually overt (by British standards anyway, it could be normal in France for all I know) CCTV cameras on top, to a roar of enthusiastic approval from the crowd. About half an hour later, at the peak of the bridge, the front ranks of the march encountered another CRS blockade (and I later discovered that the route over the bridge they blockaded had been confirmed with the state enforcement apparatus only the day before, so there was no excuse even by the standards of SOCPA in Britain), whose perpetrators showed the aggressiveness of their style of enforcement by throwing tear gas canisters at any demonstrators who approached them. It was around this time as well, I think, that police helicopters started to appear - at least, it wasn't long after when they started raining tear gas down indiscriminately on the procession as a whole...and the gas used by the CRS turned out to be a far stronger strain than I had experienced on demonstrations in Britain. There was a certain amount of panic, initially, with people running in all directions away from falling gas canisters, resulting in injuries from collisions etc, but this was quickly overcome and people began to be more calm in their retreat from the gas, at least in our part of the column, thanks in large part to Andy's initiative in rallying people around our banner. After awhile, the cops were pushed back, and eventually the line was broken completely - I cannot underestimate the role played by the black block in this initial victory.

Another hour or so further down the road, the front ranks of the marchers turned into...a car park. A very large, gravely car park, with a heavy, lockable metal gate and surrounded by high concrete walls. For a moment, I wondered if some of those leading the march were police infiltrators and we were being herded into a remote car park away from the eyes of the public and the media to be riddled full of bullets by the helicopters which still hovered above - but then I saw the stage at the far end, and realised this was the site of the rally and concert I had thought was supposed to be held outside the actual NATO summit, and that the NPA or whoever had organised the demo were just really, really bad at negotiating with the police.

After about two hours worth of speeches and music, a plume of smoke appeared over the wall, followed within another hour or so by another, and two or three more. Later research has uncovered that the buildings on fire included a border control station (most definitely a legitimate target), a hotel (which was part of a chain, and which there are rumours was at the time being used solely as a staging post for CRS personnel shipped in from other cities - but I haven't seen anything to confirm or discredit that claim yet, so it may or may not have been a legitimate target) and a local chemist (not a legitimate target) right next to a block of housing inhabited by ordinary people (precisely the sort of thing a black block should be protecting). So I believe it was around this time that the black block fell victim to infiltration by police provocateurs, with the dual aim as always of reinforcing the stereotype of activists and particularly anarchists and black block-ists as nothing more than violent nihilists with an insatiable desire to "smash shit up", and to drive a wedge between the black block and the rest of the demonstration when they were later reunited.

After about another hour, a speaker (it might have been Bianca Jagger, but I don't remember entirely clearly) was interrupted by the advance of dozens of CRS grunts into the car park, preceded as always by volleys of tear gas shot from the ever-present helicopters, and we were forced to abandon the rally and retreat from the car park.

An hour of marching, made interesting by the parcels of tear gas intermittently delivered by those delightful pigs, and during which I think it was that most of the black block - plus some newcomers, unbeknownst to the rest of us and presumably to the other black block-ists as well - rejoined the main demonstration, took us back to the bridge, which the riot squad prevented us from crossing again - and those at the front of the march must not have been aware, just as I wasn't, that the road they were directed onto was a dead end, with no second bridge to be found further along.

There was a post office around half a mile up the road, at which half a dozen black block-ists - who I noticed were all wearing identical boots, which I discovered yesterday by coming face-to-face with two seperate groups of squaddies who stopped and searched us on the way to the rendezvous with the coach back to Manchester were CRS-issue - spontaneously took offence, and took crowbars to its windows and doors; I considered trying to pull them away... what stopped me was the fear that if they retaliated it might start a conflagration within the demonstration (in hindsight, that was probably what they were hoping for, although I hadn't realised they were police agents yet at that time - I made a judgement call by refraining from intervening, and I suppose it was the right one). Further along the road, a group of black block nihilists - and it should be noted that while just enough token nihilists to lend credit to the stereotypes are an inevitability in any black block, they had no doubt become more influential because of the actions and presence of the police infiltrators - and probably some of the police agents sustained their attack on public services, unity between demonstrators, and the media image of activists by completely wrecking several bus stops, and apparently (again, according to research done since returning to Britain) smash the windscreen of a passing car. Any genuine anarchists left in the black block at that time presumably broke with it and either left or took off their black jackets and masks and dissolved into the demonstration - everything the black block was doing by then was cynical at best, perhaps even explicitly counter-revolutionary, and I can't imagine any anarchist wanting to be associated or complicit with it.

Later, after provoking the CRS and forcing us into a position where we had the river on one side and the falling tear gas on the other (flanked by a barbed wire fence and a pile of rusty train tracks), the "black block" - if it could still be called a black block, which is supposed to defend demonstrators from police harrassment, not manipulate them into a potentially lethal situation - disappeared into the industrial estate outside which we had become trapped; one comrade from our group picked up a glove a black block-ist had dropped in his flight, which would turn out tomorrow to also be CRS-issue. We eventually managed to negotiate our release from the cul de sac into which we had been herded, thanks largely to Geoff's trade union banner - the trade unions being so much more powerful in France, of course, the idea that they might be exposed as assaulting official trade union delegates struck real fear into the CRS officers - although the route they forced us to walk back to the campsite was quite literally several miles out of the way; ironic, I think they wanted to deter us from coming back, but...well, I don't know about anyone else, but having experienced the peculiarity and severity of the repression the French state engages in only makes me more determined to aid in its overthrow.

Clarification 21/05/2009: there were actually some Spaniards there, because I remember seeing CNT flags now, but I only saw a small group of CNT people as far as I know and I didn't see any sign of anyother Spanish organisation, so I'm not sure if they were there in any significant numbers like the delegations from other European countries.