Here in the Anarchist Federation we sometimes joke that the revolution is 60% admin. Although some of the most beautiful examples of resistance have occurred ad- hoc and “of the moment”, you can sure that for almost every on going campaign, network and social movement there is a wave of meetings and bureaucracy that can be extremely daunting! Whether it’s the Paris Commune or The Free Territory there was no doubt, someone sat up all hours, drinking way too much wine, trying to compile the minutes from the last assembly.
Some of our members have put together three short lessons to help survive the burdens and duties of democratic and accountable organising! These are “living” guides which means you can expect them to grow and develop. If you’d like to contribute feel free to shoot your thoughts over to us at [email protected] and we’ll pass them on.
HOW TO HOLD A MEETING
Having meetings is important, unlike what some people think actions don’t “just happen”. They need a lot of organising. Meetings provide a way for us to do this as well as give us space for discussion. They’re also a great chance to see other people and to feel part of a wider network. Meeting face to face also avoids a lot of conflicts that happen over electronic communication as people can see others reaction more clearly and can respond instantly. There are lots of things to consider when setting up a meeting such as the time and place, who can make it? who does it exclude? Who will facilitate? etc.
Setting up the meeting
So your going to hold a meeting, great! You’ll want to work out where the meeting will be held and book it. Something to consider here is who can make it? Do you want to include as many people as possible, or specifically those most able to follow through on certain action points? Think about who you are excluding from the meeting by having it in a particular time and place, are those people from a more marginalised group?
A good way of working out what these requirements are is by having a poll or sending a text out to see what people would like to do. Ideally choose someone to co-ordinate this and be the main point of contact. The easiest thing to do is make sure that the next date is set at the end of the previous meeting. lots of groups meet at the same time and place on a regular schedule, making sure people have it in their diary.
Make sure the space is accessible. This can mean a lot of things, so it’s good to ask people what issues they may face. If most of you have kids it maybe good to have it at each others houses, rotating who does child care. If you live far away from each other somewhere central with good public transport is important. Somewhere free or cheap is important, not just for booking but also the cost of their food and drinks. It may also be important for your group to make sure there is wheelchair access or somewhere not serving alcohol is important. Finally, does the meeting need a lot of privacy? Somewhere quiet? Many a meeting has been spoilt by trying to hold it in a noisy cafe or pub.
Structure: some things to consider
Before the meeting an agenda should be set up; this is a list of things the meeting wants to talk about. The Agenda could be made by an email sent out or just a piece of paper passed around that people can add to. It can include reports back from people with different roles, report backs from other meetings and events. The agenda should include a section for “matters arising”; these are the action points from the last meeting, chasing people to make sure that they happened. It should also include things you want to talk about during the meeting and upcoming events.
At the start of a meeting, particularly If there is a lot of people who don’t know each other present then a go round of names and pronouns (he/she/they etc.) and any other thing that maybe relevant is pretty common. Some groups may do a member welfare round to see how everyone is doing and if the group can help with anything and also to announce their level of capacity for taking on new things. A facilitator and a minute taker should be appointed before the meeting starts, It is good to share these duties rather than them always landing on the same persons shoulders.
Sometimes it is useful to set allotted time slots to each point to be discussed and a meeting end time. If the meeting is going to be long you may want to include breaks and food. Try to keep on topic and leave drinking Alcohol till after the meeting!
HOW TO FACILITATE
The idea of facilitation is to ensure that no one controls the meeting and to ensure that everyone gets to share their thoughts and ideas. It is also the facilitators job to ensure that the meeting keeps to the time scheduled for it and does not run off topic. They need to help pin point proposals and make sure there are people to carry them out.
This just means taking note of who is next in order to speak, creating a “stack” of the those who want to chip in. Make it clear at the start of the meeting that people must put their hands up so that you know they want to talk. If a lot of people want to speak then it is useful to write it down on a piece of paper and cross them out after they have spoken. If someone hasn’t spoken yet, then their name goes to the top of the list. Remember to add yourself onto the list and not be left out. If people jump the stack you may want to cut them off and remind them to wait their turn.
Sometimes people have a direct answer to something that someone has asked, they may ask the facilitator, or put both hands up to show that they have a response. In big meetings it can be useful to split the role between two people, so that one person takes stack and another does the rest of the facilitation. If you notice some people haven’t spoken yet then you can jump the queue and ask if anyone who hasn’t spoken yet would like to speak.
Keeping Time and on Topic
Quite often people like to go off topic or like to talk about something in depth, or repeat what others may already have said. To make sure not too much of this happens, as facilitator, you can jump the stack order and remind people to stay on topic, what that topic is and how much time you have left.
If people seem interested in another topic which has come up you can suggest scheduling it for another time in the meeting or another day. It is OK for discussion to go off topic a bit as it brings new ideas and makes it feel more relaxed, this enables less confident people to talk too!.» It can be useful for the facilitator to set a time allowance at the start of the topic and ask someone to introduce it.
A lot of the time this time keeping is quite ad-hoc and “loose” this is OK but try not to stray too much least you end up talking about one thing for the entire meeting. Don’t be afraid to be a bit mercenary and keep things moving!
Proposals and action points
The facilitator can also help to find things within the conversation that can turn talk into actions. this could be anything from someone looking something up, organsing an event, contacting someone or a group, arranging travel etc. The facilitator can ask the group if someone is willing to take on the idea as an action point or to produce a proposal. This can help make sure that something actually happens. If no one is able to do it then it could be noted as an idea to come back to at a later time.
Facilitating a group can seem quite scary, but don’t worry. If you’re new to it then let people know and they can help you and be supportive. If you don’t want to facilitate any more during a meeting then let people know and someone else can take over. It is important to keep up facilitating meetings in order to let new people and for those who are less likely to be heard have a space to speak, so don’t give up on it! Also worth remembering that as facilitator, you aren’t in charge of the meeting and it is everyone’s responsibility to make sure the meeting runs smoothly. Share the load!
HOW TO TAKE MINUTES
Taking minutes in meetings is important. It archives what was discussed and allows others who couldn’t attend to know what was happening. It is there to help people remember what they were action pointed to do, and can help people be able to construct arguments outside of the meeting from what was discussed during it. The main things that need to be written down are the key discussion points, action points and who was there. When you take minutes it can mean that it is easier for you to be left out of conversation as your busy writing down what everyone else has to say. Try to let the facilitator know when you want to speak, It can also be difficult to keep up with the conversation, so feel free to tell everyone to stop for a bit until you are ready so that you can catch up.
These are what someone has said they would take on. This can be contacting someone, organising an event, writing a proposal etc. It is important that Action Points are clear in the minutes and who has said they would do them. Some useful ways of doing this are writing them on a separate line by themselves, writing AP next to them with the person’s name, and writing them in bold. Some people put them at the end of the minutes so that people can skip to the end to find what they said they would do.
It’s good practice for people who have been Action Pointed to do something write it down themselves as they are more likely to remember it and and it’s a good precaution incase it gets left out on the minutes by accident.
To get the basic points of what people say can be difficult. People like to ramble, especially as they try to formulate what they are saying. Different minute takers go about capturing the main points of a discussion in different ways. You may want to write down everything that was said during a meeting and then edit it later, or wait until someone finishes talking and write the main bits down. These are often written up as bullet points or short paragraphs. If you do not understand what someone said you can ask them to repeat their main points, feel free to speak out of turn for this! People may also ask the minute taker to write down a point that they want added and to repeat something from earlier.
It is the minute takers responsibility to get the minutes out as quickly as possible. The group should arrange before the end of the meeting how the notes should be sent out, e.g. they could be put up on a forum or sent by email. Make sure that everyone will have access to the minutes. It is important to make the minutes not too long and try to keep them nice and clear, otherwise people won’t read them.
It can be better to write minutes onto a laptop or computer as it is easier to edit. Some people write minutes directly into an email or onto the forum so they can send to minutes out at the end of the meeting. It can also be good to write the minutes onto an editable document such as Etherpad so that others can add in bits that were left out. If you are worried about taking minutes it can be easier to write down everything then ask someone else to help you to edit, this way you can learn what is important and what is not.
If the meeting has sensitive material then maybe leave out the names, sometimes leaving a initial or similar. Given the fact that we live in the age of government tracking via facial recognition and far right doxxing we highly recommend that if you share documents publicly them you removed everyone's name and if you share a photo remove the faces! Yes, even if your group is a nice and friendly one, security culture is a vital aspect to organising in a manner which is safe for everyone.
Finally, have fun and brew up some trouble! ■
In the summer drought of 2018, rivers across Europe hit record low levels, revealing ‘hunger stones’, warnings from past generations that if the water level gets this low, pain is coming. One stone in the River Elbe read ‘Wenn du mich siehst, dann wein’ translating to ‘If you see me, weep’.
As I write this, large areas of the arctic are on fire.
In Siberia, a new trade is booming in selling the bones of woolly mammoths as they are being revealed by the thawing permafrost.
Within this context, Desert, now republished by Active Distribution, is looking worryingly prophetic.
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Desert has become something of an online sensation since publication by an anonymous author in 2011. It starts from the quite plausible premise that we will not be able to limit climate change in any meaningful sense; that runaway heating is inevitable, that large sections of the globe will become uninhabitable. As this happens, human populations will shrink rapidly due to wars, malnutrition and the vulnerability to disease that these bring. It is not an optimistic view of the future. Humanity will not be able to pull itself together to do anything about it. Unsurprisingly, it has developed a cult following amongst Nihilists and anarcho-individualists.
As well as some worrying predictions about the future of the climate, Desert also has some home-truths for the anarchist movement, our capacity and what we can hope to achieve. In this it calls out the Anarchist Federation, and other groups, for proposing that an anarchist revolution will be complete and worldwide; suggesting this is unrealistic and that ultimately, we’re selling a fantasy not unlike the priests and politicians.
There are some valuable points to consider, and certainly there is some truth in this, however I feel this is a slight misreading of our message.
We do not believe there will be an ‘anarchist revolution’, we believe revolutions are spontaneous events and that ultimately all we can do is try to push them in a more libertarian and communist direction. We must try to build new structures which are effective against the inevitable counter revolution and which mitigates against the prospect of a single group seizing power again over the working class. What (I think) we meant, was not that we would ever have enough anarchists to take over the whole world at once, but that we will never be able to co-exist peacefully with capitalism. Ultimately, if capitalism still exists anywhere in the world it will always try to expand and regain control of our lives. Whether we will be successful in eradicating it remains to be seen.
The author also tries to put to bed the misconception that there will be a ‘singular anarchist future’, however this is not an assumption I was labouring under. In revolutionary Spain, a small part of a relatively small country, there was not one system of doing things. Some villages banned money, some kept it, whereas some issued work tokens. We have never claimed to have the perfect system; there is no set programme; there is no end goal. The beauty of anarchism is that it is constantly evolving, that is adapts to new localities and conditions.
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While I feel these points need clarification, ultimately the message of Desert is one that needs to be heard. There is a naivety amongst the anarchist movement that if we can come up with the perfect organisational structures or blue-print for the future, the working class will arise. The fact is that we are at a low ebb and unfortunately the climate isn’t going to wait until we regain our strength. We must accept that the revolution is unlikely to come about from positive action on our own part, from some glorious moment, more likely it will be due to the collapse of states as they are no longer able to provide for their citizens. We need to accept this, and we need to start planning for it.
That’s not to say that imagining futures together is not valuable. Understanding together what a utopia might look like can help us to get there. These ideas can break the spell of capitalist realism and help people begin to think of new relations between each other and new relations to the rest of nature. This is where Desert brings an important message. Whilst talking of these utopias we must also be realistic about we can achieve in the here and now. We must not preach these utopias as if they are just around the corner or they will be easy to achieve. Anarchist ways of organising have a lot to offer but we as a movement are a long way from being able to build alternative power structures, from being able to provide for communities. This is where our true weaknesses lie: we are not the CNT in 1930s Spain. We do have the structures in place to be able to take over or defend our gains if a revolution happened tomorrow.
Somewhere along the line this sense of realism has been lost amid hopeful speeches aiming to inspire people to anarchist ways of thinking. In early 20th century Italy, Malatesta discussed with other anarchists how they would provide for the people after an uprising in the city- ‘We’ll feed ourselves from the warehouses’ was the reply. But how much food was actually in the warehouses? Malatesta checked and was surprised to find barely any. He realised the city could not survive without help from food brought in by railroad, the same railroad which would also bring reinforcements for the army if it was kept it open. He surmised: ‘we must face the cannons if we want the corn’. This is a useful story of realism meeting revolutionary exuberance. It will not be easy and Desert acknowledges that. We can achieve a lot, just look at anarchist disaster relief efforts across the globe, but we should also be aware we may not be the only force trying to consolidate ourselves as the capitalist order collapses.
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Desert paints a future in which capitalist civilisation crumbles as it becomes unable to provide for its citizens in any meaningful way. Many will die in the global south (the author seems slightly blasé about this fact) but humans will expand north into the previously uninhabited zones. What will remain are pockets of societies, some more anarchist that others and some more successful than others. However, this is not the only way a society ravaged by global heating could evolve. Let me discuss two other possible dystopias.
First, as global warming accelerates the state realises the threat this presents and that it must step in to manage the crisis. The industrialised countries in the temperate north close their borders to keep out climate refuges and foster an increasing nationalism, an us vs them narrative over access to resources. The land purchased by US and European corporations in Africa is used to maintain our standard of living. How many disruptions to supply will the US tolerate before it sends in its army to subdue the locals and manage food production? In this dystopia, society continues in the temperate zones, albeit under strong state control and rationing of resources. Those outside these zones become client states, forced into production to service Europe and the US with food. In reality, this is simply an acceleration of the current dynamic between the industrialised nations and their former colonies.
Second, as climate breakdown becomes increasingly obvious with drought and famine in the less temperate zones, the potential rewards for technologies like direct air capture of CO2 become huge. States are deeply indebted trying to manage extreme weather events and the upgrading of infrastructure, meaning the development of these technologies is in corporate hands. Will Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos be kind to us when they have the power to save humanity, or will they extract as much as possible for their empires? Already they have international operations which flaunt local laws and are developing their own currencies to do this further. In this future the corporations are the ones who build alternative power structures outside the state. For those who can afford it, or who can sell their skills, the climate crisis will be managed. For everyone else, the future is less rosy.
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In planning theory, when dealing with uncertain futures, one approach is to map out the possible scenarios and try to pick a strategy which works with each one. This is often termed ‘no regrets’ decision making. While the solution might not be optimal in any given scenario, it will allow you to survive whichever possible future turns out to be true. Essentially, you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket.
Desert has offered one possible scenario and I have given a further two here. What strategies can we develop which benefit us no matter which turns out to be true? I would like to suggest as a start that in each of these scenarios, being able to provide for ourselves would be incredibly beneficial. The less dependence we have on the state or corporations, the less likely they are to be able to enslave us further.
Unfortunately, taking back the land has proved somewhat tricky despite our best efforts, but perhaps this isn’t the only way we can view this problem. Providing for ourselves could mean engaging with the local council to build community-scale solar schemes. When the time comes we disconnect from the grid and have an energy system which we can manage ourselves. Community growing projects increase knowledge of farming practices, build community networks and show mutual aid in action. Group therapy sessions build our capacity for self-care and international networks grow our knowledge of how other communities have faced similar problems and won. Our unions offer an alternative structure which connects knowledge in different industries with regional-scale understanding of production and distribution systems.
Each of these projects would improve our chances if any of the possible future scenarios of state collapse, state domination or corporatism came true. These, and probably many more, are the ‘no regrets decisions’ we can be making to increase our chance of surviving and thriving in the future. Perhaps Desert’s greatest strength is making us realise the urgency of taking these steps and being realistic about where the movement is today.
Desert is a welcome addition to anarchist ideas about what the future may hold for us. There has been a debate in the climate movement for years about the best way to frame the problem to increase awareness and action. Do we give messages of hope about what the future could hold if we act now or visions of doom if we get it wrong? Ultimately I think both are necessary, people need to be aware of the risks if we don’t get this right and Desert injects a healthy dose of doom into the debate. Just don’t lose hope, another future is possible. ■
John Warwick is an Anarchist and Environmentalist based in the UK.
Desert, a warning written by an anonymous author, republished by Active Distribution ISBN 978 1 909798 72 4
Read Desert for free online at The Anarchist Library
On social media, I have recently come across an 'anti-capitalist love note', reassuring its readers that they are much more than their productivity. This criticism of economic output as a measure of human worth will strike a chord with many people. Material production influences the kind of person you are, but it does not justify or invalidate your existence. No capitalist accounting can do justice to being human. You need no reason or apology for living life in freedom, and productivity is not your friend.
The cult of productivity has led to extensive damage and misery, as those who enthusiastically embrace wrong ends – placing profits before people – wreak havoc upon the world, and subject fellow humans to oppression and abuse. Their hard work brings bitter fruit.
In his essay 'Productivity is dangerous', Vincent Bevins suggests that the obsession with productivity contributed to Germany's imperial aggression and state violence in the 20th century. In his lecture 'Judenplatz 1010', Timothy Snyder reminds us that the concept of productivity was used by the Nazis to dehumanise Jews who 'were sent from the Warsaw Ghetto to be murdered when it was judged that the calories they consumed were worth more than the work they produced'. Productivity is wielded as a bludgeon against humanity: 'This is an artefact of the industrial world: humans who are denied humanity are judged as objects who carry out physical work.'
Under capitalism, most of us are not our productivity because it is appropriated by the capitalist class. Our actions, which are human at heart, serve the capitalist purpose of fuelling economic growth that perpetuates subjugation and precipitates ecological ruin.
Productivity is hypocritically worshipped and weaponised by the rich because they reap the benefits of mass exploitation. In this unfair and unsustainable system, people are alienated from the results of their labour, and their own worth is lost in the process.
Productivity is monetised and domesticated in the capitalist economy. Creative endeavours are harnessed by capitalism and serve its nefarious goals when the worker plays by its rules, which promote fierce competition and protect those in power – the rich subjugate and discipline the poor. Authoritarianism and other social distortions lead to a warped view of humanity with regard to its productive potential and actual output.
Equating productivity with humanity and self-worth is a kind of vulgar behaviourism that benefits the privileged. Actions do shape human nature, and behaviourism is not evil or misguided per se. The problem arises when we define people only through those aspects of their life that can be quantified and integrated into a broken economic mechanism that is destroying not only the environment, but also social relationships. Human behaviour that does not bring profit loses recognition and visibility, whereas toxic productivity comes to the fore.
According to behaviourists, humanity predominantly depends on what people do or do not do. In this view, productivity defines humanity. While it does matter what people do, it should not detract from or augment their humanity. Behaviour might be what makes us human in some complex and multifaceted sense, but it is crucial to acknowledge humanity without relying only on productivity. Humanity should be an all-encompassing option that includes all humans in a society.
All living beings have meaning and significance that cannot be reduced to their service to economy. Once humans overcome this exploitative vision of society and environment, being human will cease to be an exclusive privilege. People need to learn how to live in harmony with each other and nature. Human rights should not entail the devastation of life on Earth to indulge the superiority fantasies of the few affluent individuals who reserve justice and freedom for themselves.
Planting trees and cutting them down can both be seen as productivity. The modern economy introduces a perverse asymmetry to this equation as deforestation is deemed much more profitable than reforestation. There is a way to judge the consequences of productivity as positive in one value system (profit), and negative in another (the environment).
When it comes to the environmental crisis, both conservation and innovation require a different kind of productivity. Growing forests and building green power plants are not neutral options. In the current model, they are not valued for their environmental impact.
A proper judgement should be made of those who extract and burn fossil fuels, and run the economy based on unsustainable growth. Economic productivity measures not only affluence, but also responsibility for the extent of global destruction, from carbon footprint to nuclear waste.
Productivity can be the reverse side of consumption. Being productive could foster consumption. Some business models rely on generating demand for their products. Whether production and consumption are enriching or destructive activities depends on the relationship between human beings and the environment. In an exploitative and extractive economy, productivity and consumption mean both exploitation of other humans and the decimation of nature.
What is rewarded is not always what benefits us and the environment the most. From cultural heritage to investment bankers, our culture and economy erase humanity and nature in favour of wealth and tyranny.
In his book Bullshit Jobs (2018), David Graeber argues there are many jobs that make no sense. Instead of decrying their existence, we could question the economic system that created them by demonstrating that it disrupts the natural relationship between humanity and productivity. If people notice the profound gulf between human and economic worth, they will see that every job is bullshit.
The relentless focus on productivity inevitably motivates the wrong kind of action. When people are free to do what they please, they will not inflict self-defeating damage. Forced to produce the right amount of stuff in an exploitative economy, many people actively undermine the good work of others because of their ineptitude or perverse motivation. If everyone is compelled to work regardless of their preferences, those who want to do something else or wish to sit idly by might cause chaos and devastation. Their forced contribution will not only cancel out the efforts of others, but far exceed them since disruption can be easier to achieve than constructive change. This involuntary destruction is not an aberration, but the very essence of capitalist production.
The understanding that human worth does not equal productivity and that the latter can have catastrophic ramifications should not lead us to believe that we are always better off doing nothing. On the contrary, these insights should motivate people to organise in order to topple the current system of ruthless exploitation and to establish a more harmonious relationship among human beings, and between humanity and the environment.■
Pavlo Shopin is a research fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in the English Department at the University of Freiburg. He comes from Luhansk, Ukraine.
Good morrow, fellow angry mobsters. Today I have two thingummibobs to share with you. Been a while, eh? Yeah, I’m bad at this.
Thingum the first: Organise! magazine issue 92, and Brexit.
Ok, one of those is actually exciting. Organise! 92 is rammed full of super interesting articles which you will find enjoyable and stimulating. Go here & read it: [HERE!], then come back & listen to me waffle.
Here’s the cover illustration, painted by Muggins Truly earlier this year, with a little digital contrast enhancement (cover image to the right) - “Anarchy and Brexit” 2019 Acrylic on black paper, 210 x 297mm
I had a fairly specific brief for this, which helped as I found it verry difficult to be passionate about this subject. I’ll go into that a little more below, but to be clear, this illustration is of a red & black flag on a red/black star flagpole, representing the triumph of working class solidarity through anarchism over the division and disorder of the UK/EU schism.
Here’s the previous draft, which used a white background on the UK flag stripes. I thought this looked garish and, well, it sucked, so I started over. I much prefer muted colours, and these stripes detract from the important flag. I wasn’t dead happy with the way that turned out either, since it’s too buried to make out any black areas, and the red makes it look more like a cabbage leaf than a bold ensign of class war.
Brexit makes me blummin’ miserable. That’s pretty normal, I hear. Disagreements cloud political spaces and take up space that could otherwise be used to organise(!) proper resistance to the bosses and their guards. Sure, there are some Lexit arguments. I have no time to rehash any of those… cos the big secret is, the EU doesn’t actually matter. Brexit is about everything else surrounding the EU membership. Freedom of movement, refugees, poverty, workers’ rights, these are all connected issues that revolve around the Brexit divide, whether they’re a result of EU membership or not.
I voted Remain, and if there’s another vote I’ll do it again, because I owe it to my European friends and family not to shaft them. ‘Leave’ means rejecting solidarity with many good, committed people who keep our movement alive. Brexit is driven by isolationism and xenophobia. I don’t want The Bastards to deport my friends, and The Bastards are definitely in charge.
Fortress Europe is a horrific place for those caught on the southern and eastern borders. Ignoring it and cutting ourselves off will only make it worse. I know people who travel from Britain to provide support as close as Calais and as far as Greece, who do excellent work to help refugees fleeing wars that Britain is responsible for. Restricting the people who travel to help will only make the situation worse for the people who need help. More will die.
But… whatever happens, the cracks are deep. We will all need to look out for each other more than ever, whatever happens next. That’s what this picture is about. Nations and states are power structures, which will force together and tear apart communities as they see fit. That’s what happened here: they forced communities apart. We need strong working class organisations, capable of engaging, supporting and defending communities against exactly the sort of division that is tearing us apart. That’s the Red-&-Black flag of Anarchism, rejecting nations and states, for working class solidarity.
Oh yeah, it’s all that idiot Dave’s fault. Dave who? Ohhh, the guy who ALLEGEDLY fucked a pig. Here’s that high-quality commemorative print again, which you can own in exchange for beans: “The Boar of the Bullingdons!” ■
Check out more art by Remember '68 and read their blog here.
On August 12th, a new social media platform Spinster, targeted at creating a safe space for transphobic speech was launched promoting itself as "Free Speech for Feminists". It immediately came under questions from trans advocates and anti fascists for its connections to Alt-Right social media networks. Within a week it had onboarded over 4500 users, the vast majority of them drawn from the "Gender Critical" movement, and instances had been seen of users dehumanising and promoting the murder of trans people.
A bit of background on alternative social media
The first alarms were raised pre-launch over the developers unusual choice to base their platform on the source code for Gab. Gab was founded originally as a safe space for far right internet personalities and activists ejected from major social media platforms in the wake of protests that tech companies had been too soft on fascist content, making Gab a sort of neo nazi replacement for Twitter and Facebook. While this created a temporary clubhouse for extreme right wing content dominated by open celebrations of lynching, genocide, holocaust denial and more, Gab has since been trying to find ways to re-connect its userbase with the more mainstream social media by converting the site to link into the open source Mastodon, an decentralised social media platform where different instances are able to regulate themselves as part of a wider federated network. Gab presents itself as simply being a "Free Speech" fundamentalist network, but its origins, far right userbase, and history of connections with neo-nazi mass killers have meant that much of the rest of the "Fediverse" (the federation of other autonomous servers which make up the Mastodon network) have blocked Gab aligned servers.
So where do feminists come into this
After the digital blockade against gab, it's founder Andrew Torba called out for supporters to set up a range of instances which would federate with Gab in order to ensure there was a viable social media ecosystem. Gab is perfectly functional as it's own unit, open to registration by anyone on the internet, but it's founder and backers have chosen to present the choice of fascism intolerant instances to defederate as being "against free speech".
One of those individuals to answer the call was Alex Gleason (screenshot of him saying immediately "I'm planning to set up an instance).
A few days later, his girlfriend Mary Kate Fain lost her job at a software cooperative in response to her publication of transphobic blog posts, and the pair of them launched Spinster for testing. The couple are well known for their work in the animal liberation circuit. Fain is now the CEO of spinster and Alex appears to be handling day to day technical maintenance.
When questioned about why the developers chose to adapt their code from Gab instead of the mainstream mastodon codebase, Spinster tried to explain it away as simply a preference for Gab's user interface. After the first week, when Spinster's app (a clone of the already banned app Gab) was removed from the Google Play Store for openly refusing to curb hate speech in user generated content, Spinster immediately reached out to the Gab development account precipitating offers of help and suggestions to integrate more closely with Gab's app infrastructure. (Screen shots available of them @ing the @[email protected] account).
This demonstrates one of the big concerns with Spinster: that by choosing to open a platform deliberately linked with an alt right platform, their fate, with their codebase and need to maintain daily operations is tied up with Gab's.
But there's more to it than that
It's clear from Gleason's posts (and patreon) that he presents himself as a left-anarchist and sees this whole project as part of creating some libertarian free speech autonomous zone, but he also repeatedly devolves into Red-Brown daydreaming, minimised the killing of Heather Heyer as merely an incident of "Male Violence" and has suggested that anti-fascism is a form of sexual perversion.
From the way he addresses his far right colleagues on Gab it is clear he sees them as allies to his work and is trying to overthrow the injustices created by "leftists" and "SJWs" by allying himself with them. Somehow trans people's existence, claims to space in our communities and safety from violence have become emblematic of all of the issues he has with the left.
From a bigger picture point of view this amounts to an enormous pull of feminists ranging from those who are merely skeptical of trans activism to those who are outright hostile to it being pulled into a space adjacent to and endorsed by the far right. Due to the decision to fork (adapt) Gab's code, much of the app infrastructure and the Mastodon network itself has already cut spinster off in anticipation that this is simply an offshoot of a far right project that needs to be isolated - meaning that the women drawn to this platform are likely to be targetted by even more concentrated efforts to recruit them to the right.
This is following a well tried and tested pattern of publicity where Gleason presents the likely future cutting off of Spinster (as a Gab satellite) as a form of misogyny - specifically silencing women's voices. Like with Gab this claim falls hollow - the women using Spinster are as able to speak their minds as freely as they like (so long as they follow the Spinster moderation policy - racism, sexism, ablism, even animal cruelty are banned, everything is covered in their policy other than transphobia!) whether other servers in the Mastodon network choose to federate with them or not. But this narrative nevertheless serves to help create an atmosphere of shared victimhood with all those silenced fascists on Gab all the same.
How has it panned out
It's early days still but we've already seen incidents of the fascist attitudes amongst users. In one instance, noted TERF Posie Parker described trans women as insects crawling around on flypaper. In another, a stills taken from film of a trans woman's murder was celebrated as righteous justice using a fictional narrative about her having entered a women's toilet, and this false narrative was used to promote more widespread transphobic action (screenshots available). It is yet to be seen how relations will develop between users on Spinster and users on Gab. ■
This story was written by a source who wished to remain Anonymous. If you would like to contribute and expand upon it please send an email to [email protected]
In 2018 a man from Hong Kong murdered his girlfriend while on vacation in Taiwan. The horrible crime would soon become the spark of resistance in Hong Kong to the authority of the Chinese Mainland in protests that would confuse comrades the world over.
Let’s make the situation clearer.
Hong Kong is not a democracy.
It has no free elections.
While “democracy” here in the UK maybe nothing more than a shallow mockery of the concept, now more than ever, in Hong Kong it is seen as the last line of defence from an ever encroaching empire. The Chinese Communist Party has no use for any system which would threaten it’s grasp, it is moving in to deliver the killing blow to freedom in Hong Kong which is aims to bring into the fold. Hongkongers are being passed from one empire to another and the world shrugs it’s shoulders. China is an economic power house, pissing them off would be bad for business.
When we talk about Hong Kong fighting for “democracy” we cannot frame it in our own context. It is a colony population fighting for the rights to self determination and autonomy. For older generations this means appealing to the former colonial masters for help, for the younger it means revolutionary action. In 2012 the political drive for democracy dried up and ground to a halt, It seemedd that Pre-Screening of electoral candidates by Beijing would increase. Resistance to this grew into the Occupy Central with Love and Peace camps and associated Umbrella Movement which saw tens of thousands holding protests and living in camps on main intersections for months in a campaign to bring about universal suffrage. During the attempts to clear out protestors the police would use tear gas and when local television broadcasted a young man named Ken Tsang being assaulted by police there was an massive escalation. Ken was carried off with his hands tied behind his back; then, while one officer kept watch, a group of about six officers punched, kicked and stamped on him for about four minutes.
The Chief Executive CY Leung would go on to defend Beijing’s screening policy as open elections would force Hong Kong into actually caring for it’s citizens and providing social welfare, he argued that “If it’s entirely a numbers game, then obviously you’d be talking to half the people in Hong Kong earning less than US$1,800 a month (the median wage). You would end up with that kind of politics and policies.”
The world gave Hong Kong silence.
Standing against China is bad for business.
It was indeed bad for business under the British who occasionally flirted with the idea during their tenure of control over Hong Kong as China has always sought to “preserve the colonial status of Hong Kong” even threatening to “liberate” the region in 1960 if democratic elections and thus self governance ever granted. Tho some there were some small developments in the 80’’s and 90’s, the Hongkongers remain citizens trapped in a system they had very little voice in. The chief executive who would govern Hong Kong after the hand over was elected by a 400 member selection committee. China began it’s programme of colonisation.
Let us speak clearly here,
China is not a communist country.
It is a brutal state authority where economic disparity is celebrated and used to throttle it’s working class into obedience. Since Deng Xiaopeng took over in 1978 the CCP as all but abandoned it’s aspirations of becoming a Marxist-Leninist workers state. In 2000 this would become policy as Jiang Zemin brought in the “Three Represents” and took the nation in pursuit of a ‘socialist market economy’ with Chinese characteristics.”. Now China has 476 of the world billionaires while the average monthly salary of the worker is around £780 a month. The means of production are in the hands of private corporations and spills out everywhere. Eduction and Healthcare are privileges of the elite. China #1 is the goal and the workers best be willing to suffer for it or be considered enemies of the all powerful state.
Under Xi Jinping this has meant a radical growth in Nationalism under the guise of a “cultural revival”, a broad sweeping facial recognition and a monitoring network » that makes 1984’s Ingsoc look like rank amateurs and has seen overt and hostile moves to consolidate China and to bring about “Complete National Reunification ”, something it was made clear he approaches with teeth bared in his statements to Taiwan in January this year; “We make no promise to renounce the use of force and reserve the option of taking all necessary means”. Like all nation states, the authority demand obedience and domination. This is something they maintain in Hong Kong through the Electoral Affairs Commission which pre-screens candidates for the Legislative Council for their political beliefs and by ensure that the The Chief Executive is selected by small body of (now) 1200 people.
This Chinese sock puppet government upon seeing the situation with the murder in Taiwan and under the guise of stopping Hong Kong from becoming a safe haven from criminals moved to install The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019. This bill would allow China to extradite certain criminals and run them through the radically different legal system in the mainland. One which is controlled by the CCP. This doesn’t come without precedent mind. In March 2017 the Chinese state kidnapped pro-democracy activist Lee Ming-Che saying he was under investigation on “suspicion of harming national security.”. He later plead guilty to “subverting state power” which it’s believed he was forced into.
So they begin to forward a bill many fear will be used to allow China to drag them away in the night. Resistance started on the 31st of March when the Civil Human Rights Front, an organisation composed of some 50 pro-democracy groups, launched it’s first protest against The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019. It was a civil march through the city of 12,000 people. The following March on the 28th saw 500,000.
These were acts of civil disobedience but the tension was building and Ahead of the second reading of the bill organisers called for a return to demonstration on the 9th June.
Four hours after the march began, people were still leaving the start point at Victoria Park. Well over a million marched and a great many of them did not return home. Autonomists, students and pro-independence campaigners began to camp out in front of the Government headquarters. This was the moment where things changed, around midnight, the police forces Special Tactical Squad (STS) moved in and clashes broke out and mass protests took place through the night.
Come the 12th and the second reading, everyone was out. From the unions and opposition groups, to student networks and Anarchist affinity groups. The variety of political positions was vast but they came unified in opposition the the Bill and the Chinese state undermining their political agency. By 4pm the police had began using pepper spray and attacking people,and shooting tear gas on them. The Hong Kong protests as we see them on the news had begun.
Over the next three weeks there would be numerous protests from strikes, sit in and even the odd siege of police stations. The lawyers held a silent march, the legislature was raided, there was a laser festival and the airport was sat in. Whether peaceful or militant it was quite clear there was a strong sense of political unity, which over time would develop into tactical unity. The protests were organised organically, without leadership and without any singular faction taking control somewhat confusing the world media. Around the world it seems people were confused, were they pro-capitalists? Nationalist? Unions? Or even Anarchists?... The answer is yes.
Beyond all the “riot porn” and unexpected but enjoyable guides to “protesting like Hongkongers” movements such as this are diverse. It doesn’t matter if some groups waves the Stars and stripes and the sinophobic right wing of America loose their shit or if the budget is there for full page ads in newspapers around the world. The movement is diverse and at it’s core working class and grass roots.
This is the nature of a popular rebellion and like the Mouvement des gilets jaunes, they have endeavoured to maintain this and keep it grass roots. There has been two forms of protests; first there is the the civil marches full of the usual flags,placards, banners and liberal calls for democracy, they do well bringing in thousands and keeping an approachable voices to the movement. Secondly there is the direct protest actions such as holding of barricades, blocking roads and it has seen the development of new a hit and run methodology, a tactic commonly referred to as “be water”.
It’s worth noting as well that as a general rule of thumb during the more radical protests, it has become the standard practice to take down any flags and hand them back to their owner and disapprove of having their movement represented with either flags of foreign powers or local organisations. The exception to this seems to be the Black Bauhinia flag, which has come to symbolise the protests.
Along the way five demands began to present themselves.
It is on these these demands that they have come to organise and identity their collective action. It’s on these demands they are beginning to see a response as Carrie Lam moved to withdraw the bill on the 4th of September. She also requested that protestors end their demonstrations and enter into dialogue with the government. This is code for “please allow us time to re-group, hunt down leaders and remove your revolutionary agency”.
The protestors would have none of it.
At the Citizens Press Conference the next night, the young protestors and armed with helmets and masked up gave their reply in three languages. The spoke with passion and dedication to their cause and made their position on Lam’s offer of a truce clear.
“If Carrie Lam had withdrawn the bill two months ago, that may have been a quick fix, but applying a band-aid months later on to rotting flesh will simply not cut it ... Liberate Hong Kong, The revolution of our times, five demands not one less. Fight on and take care fellow Hongkongers”
We cannot afford to be trapped in our anarchistic dogma as working class comrades around the world suffer brutality at the hands of the state or as they are forced to live in unjust societies with neither voice nor liberty. We must be overt and vocal in our solidarity and where capable take action in support of their cause. Not as allies but as accomplices and together we fight back against all the evil empires and hopefully sharing our notions of Anarchism as we go providing a better option for this world we are building. Heck, even if you are fundamentally hostile to the liberal protest for democracy, know that our Anarchist comrades are out there on the streets, defending their comrades regardless, defending their communities from the police and the government. Give them your love and solidarity until they win this struggle.
FIVE DEMANDS NOT ONE LESS ■
TSHAFP is the edtiors favour panel comic of all time.It was put out on a semi regular basis a few years ago by Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness (purveyers of radical culture and all manner of goodness) and instantly found a home on many a social centre wall. Producers and shared freely, We'll be uploading […]
Wildcat was illustrated Donald Rooum and published in Freedom newspaper from 1980. Donald passed away in 2019, leaving behind a long life of Anarchism and humour as recalled here. You can purchase collected editions of Wildcat from Freedom Press. Bare with us, we're going to build a comic viewer for easy scrolling, but are currently […]
Sab is the organiser for Earth Strike UK in the South West. He’s an active and well known voice in Bristol’s syndicalist and Environmental movements. He kindly took the time to meet us down the pub for a chat about Earth Strike and the upcoming Global Climate Strike.
Organise: Could you start by giving us an introduction to Earth Strike?
So, Earth Strike is a grass roots organisation, that is creating a worker led movement to tackle climate change. We believe that the most effective way of doing that is to organise both in unions and in autonomous groups, and build towards a global general strike to shut down capitalism. Thus removing peoples participation in the system that is fundamentally the cause of ecological crisis.
Why should people get involved?
I actually really like this question. I’ve come up with a way of putting it. I think anyone, no matter what their background, whether they are a workplace activist, or environmental activist, or totally new to organising, should take a moment to ask themselves three questions.
Firstly, do you think we’re in an ecological crisis? It doesn’t take very long if you look around to realise we are. Our air is polluted, it’s estimated air pollution kills 300 people a year just in Bristol. The Amazon is on fire, Siberia is on fire. A heck of a lot of shit is on fire. A worrying amount of shit is on fire. Species are disappearing at a rate not seen since the last mass extinction, sea levels are rising. Even the United Nations is freaking out a bit at this point. The science around it has been clear for a long time now. So I think most people would say yes to this, if not well... they need to take a long hard look around them.
The second question that people should ask themselves, is, if we are in an ecological crisis, do you think the current capitalist industrial system is going to voluntarily change itself enough to prevent this? I don’t think you have to look at the world around you for long to realise no. Those that run this system can spend plenty of time talking about the issues, but even after declaring a climate emergency we’ve seen a continuation of business as usual, with highly impactful industries continuing to damage the environment. The governments and corporations have taken next to no action, and given us no indication that this will change. The whole capitalist system is based on endless growth, and can't meet the level of sustainability we need.
So you don’t have any faith in the likes of the UN climate change conferences, and other international political efforts?
We had the Paris Agreement, which, fell really far short of what needed to be done, and we couldn’t even hold countries to account for that. Now we’re seeing figures like Trump and Bolsonaro come to power, who are making things even worse for the planet. They didn’t come out of some vacuum, they aren’t some anomaly, they came out of the current political system. This is how it responds to crisis, protecting the needs of the ruling elite, protecting the needs of capitalism. We’ve got to understand if we want a different future, one that doesn’t involve environmental destruction and millions of deaths as a result, we need something more.
That leads us on to the third and final question. If we are in an ecological emergency, and if the current system isn’t going to change itself voluntarily, what the fuck are we going to do about it?
Well, what the fuck ARE we going to do about it?
That is where Earth Strike comes in. At the moment, all of us, everyone, we’re contributing to a system that is inherently suicidal. We are working towards the destruction of our own planet. The thing we have to do, if we are to have any chance of changing this, is to organise the working class to take part in mass industrial action.
Do you think it’s possible, if a global general strike is achieved, to force capitalism to be ecological sustainable?
Hah, that is kind of a trick question. We’re not really trying to force capitalism to change, we’re not interested in just lobbying MPs to make reforms. We are saying we can no longer participate in this system, full stop. We are building a new system outside of the existing structures. We have to build, what autonomous thinkers like Antonio Negri call a counter-empire. We don’t want to take over the existing structures, we’re not seizing control of the system, we’re saying it has failed. We want to end the current system of techno-industrial capitalism. To build up alternative systems, inspired by the likes of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, the revolution in Rojava, by social ecology, by movements rooted in mutual aid and direct democracy. As the Wobblies (Industrial Workers of the World - IWW) say, we need to build a new world in the shell of the old. So when the old system collapses, we have the foundations ready, systems of direct democracy, mutual aid and solidarity.
That’s the why folks should get involved, now how do they get involved?
Get in touch! The easiest way is probably our website, but there are also numerous local and national pages on social media you can reach out to. We’ll be able to get you in touch with existing groups near you, or help advise you on setting one up.
There’s not really a huge amount of requirements. We’re not a membership organisation, so there is no formal joining process or payment of dues. If you agree with Earth Strike and believe to the basic principles of a worker led, horizontal, response to environmental crisis, you can organise in your own space. Our groups are fairly autonomous, and we trust people to find the tactics which will work best depending on who is involved and the environment in which they are operating. They can cover a local area, a specific workplace or school, or even be formed from an existing group, like a trade union branch or activist group. Whilst we are international, we want as much planning and organising as possible to happen at a local level.
How do the mostly autonomous Earth Strike groups organise with each other?
Most of our organising is done online, through platforms like discord and loomio, which has presented a number of challenges, especially when trying to work on a large scale. To help with this we have a co-ordinator for a region, that is responsible for ensuring the various groups with in it are communicating and coordinating. This co-ordinator also acts as a delegate bringing input from the region to other regions from around a country. This input is how we develop specific demands within each country, we also do that at a local level. For example, in Bristol we’re demanding there is no airport expansion. On an international level we organise similarly, with delegates from each country feeding in.
How are these coordinators chosen?
By local groups, where they exist already! The coordinators are always accountable to the local groups, if at any point a group thinks they are acting in a way they disagree with they can call for an election of a new coordinator(s).
You've become the coordinator for the South West, what led you to get involved in Earth Strike ?
I first became involved in January this year. I'd been involved in Extinction Rebellion (XR) for a period of time before that, but felt dissatisfied with where the movement was going. I wanted to do something that was more focused on working class organising, and on more intersectional issues than XR was offering. So I started looking for alternatives, and came across posts about Earth Strike on reddit. They were looking for new people to get involved, so I dropped the UK organiser an email, and set up a Bristol group with other members of the IWW. We held out first demo on January 15th, and had about 60 people show for it.
In what ways do you feel XR failed to be intersectional or a movement that involved the working class?
So, with respecting the St Paul Principles, I don’t want to be too open in discussing my criticisms of other movements, who I feel are doing good things, or have members who are taking actions I support. However, I did feel that quite a lot was being asked of individual members, things like getting arrested, giving up all their time, this felt like it was coming from a very privileged place, where these things were easier and had less risk attached. I’d been active up to that point, but I had felt that a lot of the potential for the movement to really address working class concerns had been lost. Stuff like reskilling workers, and calling for a “Just Transition”. The chance for it to highlight the gendered issues of climate change, and the racial issues of climate, had been stifled, quite actively stifled. So that left me dissatisfied with things.
What is a “Just Transition”?
It’s a way of moving to a sustainable society whilst still protecting workers rights, and ensuring the continued well being of communities. A way of ensuring hardships don’t just fall on those at the bottom of society. Kind of the opposite of things like Marcon’s attempt to impose a fuel tax that would hit France’s poorest hardest, and of schemes that see waste ‘recycled’ from wealthy countries only to be dumped in poorer ones.
In what ways do you feel it is important that ecological campaigns recognise these intersecting oppressions and struggles?
Firstly I think it’s important to point out that the people on the front lines of climate crisis are almost entirely people in already precarious situations, or with the least rights in society. So indigenous peoples threatened by fascists like Bolsonaro, people forced to become refugees who are drowning in the Mediterranean and being put in concentration camps by Trump. Really any strategy to counter climate change has to genuinely engage with people on the sharp end of things. To put forward their concerns more than, say, those of a middle class white activist. I was really impressed that Earth Strike was a movement that seems to be doing this.
For example, one of the first things earth strike did as a movement, was to hold demos all over the world in response to a call for solidarity from the Unist’ot’en. At the time the Canadian government was trying to clear the way for a pipeline to be built across Unist’ot’en land. The government had sent in police to violently evict the Unist’ot’en and clear their barricades. These pipelines are of course damaging to the whole of the world, but on the ground it was the Unist’ot’en who were suffering the most as a result of it. Other actions have included Earth Strike groups in the US joining coalitions to shut down ICE concentration camps. It’s also important to recognise the impact of the arms trade and of the huge amount of resources burned to maintain vast standing armies. We can’t separate out these overlapping struggles militarism, imperialism and climate change.
How long had Earth Strike been around at that point?
Not long, it started towards the end of 2018. It had actually started on the r/chomsky forum on reddit. I can’t remember the user name, but someone put a message up saying they were feeling a real sense of grief about the climate crisis, and they wanted to do something about it. They said that what we really needed was the whole Earth to go on strike. A lot of people agreed, and decided to form an organisation. Being an online space from the start there were people from all over the world, who could start talking with others in their communities and build outwards from there. Initially in fact some of those involved were calling for the strike day to be in January,
As if organising a general strike wasn’t ambitious enough!
I know, but quite quickly those of us with experience in workplace organising, said we can’t have that kind of call out. It takes time to build up a base of support.
So that brings us to the days of strike action, I understand its Friday 20th of September in the UK and the 27th in most other places?
Yes, the 20th in the UK, the 27h in the US. In the UK we thought we’d have the most impact striking together with the youth strike in the UK on the 20th (there have been calls from the movement known as 'fridays for future' 'school strike for climate' and 'youthstrike4climate' for workers to join them - which matches up nicely with Earth Strike's stratgey) . Some of our other European groups are organising for both days!
What is it you are hoping to achieve on those days?
There’s multiple layers to that question. Obviously on the days themselves what we want to achieve is a mass turn out of working class people, all withdrawing their labour. Of course a strike isn’t a goal, it’s an action towards an end. The goal is to avoid the dystopia we’re heading towards if we don’t derail the current course of history. I guess that is quite a vague far off thing.
A bit! What is in between calling this action and saving the world?
The purpose of that day specifically, the day of our call for the first UK general strike since 1926, is to really raise working class consciousness, especially in relation to environmental issues. We want to say that, if we want our whole society to be sustainable, we’re going to have to start exerting our power. One day of strike actions won’t change the world, but it is the start of showing the sort of tactics that will in the long run. Hopefully new people will see the strikes and be inspired by them. From there we need to build on what we have so far, we need to escalate, more strikes, longer time periods. We need to connect up the various people in struggle, connect up workplaces and working class communities. We need to start doing, well, it’s back to the Wobbly thing of building the new world in the shell of the old again. What if we withdrew our labour from the capitalist system, but continued to occupy our workplaces. How could we use them to sustainably build things we really need?
How do we go about distributing these things? This is going to be a long process. It’s not just going to be one day and then done. This is just the first stage in building the kind of militancy and the kind of organisation we will need to push for a real future.
What is your response to criticism that gets levelled at Earth Strike, and also previous calls for general strike actions, such as those came from Occupy, on May Day, on the day of Trumps Inauguration, and for a women’s strike on international women’s day? Namely that they don’t come out of unions or of organised workplaces so can never lead to meaningful strike action?
First off, a lot of people shit on the women’s strike, and wrongly so. Reproductive labour, which was one of it’s focuses, is incredibly important, and more strikes and more union activists should realise the place it has to play. It’s an important part of Earth Strike as well.
I also think a lot of the people levelling these criticisms at us, haven’t actually looked at the organising that is happening within Earth Strike. We’re not some force external to working class organising. There are plenty of workers, in workplaces, really leading the call for more action. Just recently we’ve had the Harland and Wolff workers in occupation demanding a switch in production to renewable energy, and we’ve been in contact with them via the IWW. That is the sort of thing we want to promote, this kind of ‘Lucas Plan’ style of changing workplaces. Earth Strike isn’t divorced from the workers movement, it’s come from people inside the workers movement. Workers organisations are realising they have to act on climate issues. These are things that do, or will, directly effect their members, both at work and in the community. Earth Strike members haven’t just been organising online, we’ve been pushing for actions in our workplaces and our unions. We’ve grown as part of the workers movement.
What is your relation to these workplace organisations, both the radical syndicalist ones, and the more mainstream unions?
The IWW were one of the first groups to take an active role in earth strike, especially in the UK. Like the IWW, we believe we must abolish the wage system and live in harmony with the planet. Earth Strike sits at the intersection of ecological struggle and class struggle, and we want to spread the idea of environmental unionism. We’ve been working with and within the syndicalist unions to educate people about striking in general. Some of the syndicalist groups are organising via strike notices, where workers sign up and agree to strike if a certain percentage of the workers also agree. Whilst this doesn’t have a legal protection, if solidarity is maintained it is as much protection as is possible outside of the legal protections offered.
This is one of the differences with the mainstream unions. Those unions, even when they endorsed Earth Strike in principle, haven’t been as forthcoming for calling for actual strike action. These established organisations don’t want to break the law of course, but, under existing UK law, it is impossible to call for a strike ballot on broad issues like climate change without breaking the law. We have had statements of support from PCS, BFAWU, UCU, (three trade unions that between them have 400,000 members) and a number of local branches. There have been calls from within UCU for all TUC (Trade Union Congress, a federation of UK trade unions) unions to endorse the Global Climate Strike and to back a limited action on the day. If the TUC do endorse this on Sept 8th it’d be the most radical thing they’ve done in a long time. (Since the interview took place, the TUC have published a message of support with the Global Climate Strike). Despite that, we are going to need more, we’re going to have to rely on wildcat action. That is why having one unified day is important, it means that people aren’t just acting as one work place, they are part of something bigger, and there is more and power and more security in that.
We need to be far more disruptive than the constraints of legally protected trade union action. It’s one of the reasons that having a group like Earth Strike is important is that we can call for things that the Trade Unions can’t.
If the TUC unions are so constrained, what is the point in reaching out to them?
Well, we’re based in the workers movement, and we have to start from where we are. We’re pushing the unions to do as much as they can. We recognise that we’ll have to move beyond the restrictions of union bureaucracy as well. It’s also a practical thing, it is where we can find other workers who are up for organising around these issues.
A while back you mentioned a ‘Just Transition’, and you’ve also mentioned the Lucas Plan, do these things tie in with what people have been calling the ‘Green New Deal’ ? Do you see Earth Strike as linked to these calls that tend to come from within political parties, such as Labour(UK) and the Democrats(US) ?
Similar to the IWW we don’t form any alliances with political parties. We believe that labour organising has to come directly from workers, not from politicians. Things like the Green New Deal, and I don’t want to be too critical of it, seem to be a way of making concessions within the capitalist system. So they’ll push green industries, but still within a system that requires perpetual growth. Rather than the de-growth of harmful industries that is necessary to both mitigate climate change, and stop the continued exploitation of the resources and people of the global south - who are the ones facing the brunt of ecological disaster already. They’ll fund more green jobs, but we’ll still have the inequality that is such a major driver of ecological damage. We won’t be tackling the root causes. So, the Green New Deal is a good starting point to talk about but it falls short as an end goal, it is too focused on sustaining capitalism for as long as possible.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, any final thoughts?
Just that we’ve got a limited time to do a lot of shit.
So don’t wait around, get involved! ■
Organise! has added links throughout the article for more information on the the ideas and organisations mentioned. We hope this acts as a glossary, because not many people will know what all of them are (if you do, you have an impressive memory for abbreviations!).
Organise! would also like to thank the JustSeeds cooperative who kindly allowed us to use the artwork of its members. In order of use that would be Roger Peet, Josh Macphee and Jesse Purcell.
You can find the entire set on their website justseeds.org
Solidarity with Exarcheia!
On Monday the 26th of August, the Greek police launched a large operation in Exarcheia, the famous rebel district in the centre of Athens. This is a unique place in Europe for its high concentration of squats and other self-organised spaces, but also for its resistance against repression and solidarity with migrants and the precariat.
Early in the morning, the squats of Spirou Trikoupi 17, Gare, Rosa de Fon and Transito were surrounded by huge police forces: anti-riot police, anti-terrorism police and secret police. The police then launched a large repression operation, leading to over 100 arrests. Migrants have been sent to camps known for inhuman living conditions. More than 15 kids that grew up in Athens and had their life there were deported. The security forces are now walling up the buildings that used to be home to so many.
This operation aimed to directly attack the incredible solidarity efforts that were developed by a network of people, many of them anarchists, to cope with the austerity measures the Greek state and the EU implemented.
It aimed to destroy a neighbourhood that has invented a new world where it has been possible to exist and live regardless of your economical, social or cultural background.
It aimed to keep Exarcheia under the control of a violent state that, like the rest of Europe, is ready to put humans in camps, simply because they were born on the other side of a border.
Exarcheia has many other squats, around 20, but the newly elected Greek prime minister promised a complete “cleaning”. More battles are to come.
The Anarchist Federation is expressing its full support to everyone in Exarcheia.
For a future without state, police or borders. ■
Additional from the Editor:-
Since this morning when the evictions took place Spirou Trikoupi 17 put out the call for people to gather and have taken a stand.
" Here, in Spirou Trikoupi 17 we have lived more than 2.000 people, coming from more than 10 different countries, and that we have crossed, at least, 3 borders till here. This wall that the state is building to seal the entrance will never be able to stop us!
See you at 6pm the solidarity assembly towards the squats in Notara 26 "
Since the evictions police have rounded up immigrants who will be dragged through the system and government workers have bricked up the doorways to peoples homes.
As night has fallen the police have taken a aggressive stance against the locals and tooled up with riot gear have taken to the streets for what is sure to be yet another night of horrific state violence.
Follow them & the AF for updates.
External reports on what is happening from the ground.
Enough is Enough
We’re excited to announce that an Anarchist bookfair will be returning to London on Saturday October 24th 2020.
This event is being organised by a new collective of individuals from across London and the UK.
The composition of the organising collectives behind the various Anarchist bookfairs in London has changed many times over the years and we are proud to take on the task of bringing a prominent bastion of Anarchist and radical thinking back to the city. The regular “London Anarchist Bookfair” has been a vital component of the Anarchist community since it's inception in 1981 and we intend for the 38th such event carry on in this fine tradition.
Bookfair 2020 will be a diverse event with a organisational focus on our internationalism and our Anarchist heritage here in the UK. We are hoping that our international comrades will join us on the day, as many did in previous years and we intend to play host to workshops and displays that illustrate our shared Anarchist tradition and remember our fallen comrades, in whose name we continue the fight against oppression.
More than just a simple marketplace, bookfairs are cornerstones of Anarchism, linchpins of a diverse and sprawling revolutionary movement. They are where we come together to share our ideas, debate our positions and develop our theory and praxis. They help us to believe in better worlds and start to lay the foundations of world free of oppression, corporatism and the brutal authority of the state. They give faith to the long in the tooth and inspire young minds — they must be defended and maintained at all costs and utilised by and for the working class for genuine results.
We have reached out to the prior collective behind London Anarchist Bookfair 2017, who previously stated that they were disinclined to carry on organising further events. We hope they welcome a new collective taking on the role, we have been in contact with them regarding passing forward the London Anarchist Bookfair's resources; social media accounts, equipment, finances and the like which have been built up through previous events and for their collective general endorsement of Bookfair 2020 so we can hit the ground running and maintain lineage. We hope that those inclined will continue with their good work with the Bookfair 2020 collective!
In respect to the events in 2017 where transphobic material was shared in the female bathrooms and the main hall, we wish to state that Bookfair 2020 will follow our comrades from Bristol, Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh and elsewhere in providing a space diverse in character and secure from xenophobia and bigotry in any vein.
Our solidarity is overt and complete.
Any politic which would seek to oppress, undermine or remove the rights and liberties of others is anathematic to Anarchism and will find no welcome nor tolerance at the bookfair itself or any associated event or space. To compliment our Safer Space Policy, a statement of solidarity, inclusivity and pro-active community defence will be written and upheld during the event with stall holders and attendees encouraged to take ownership of our shared space and protect it from such reckless hate.
We do this to be clear that no aspect of oppression will be allowed within our revolutionary spaces.
Solidarity and unity being key principles to Anarchism, we would like Bookfair 2020 to act as a focus point for re-building cohesion in our community, fostering new networks and developing stronger ties and understanding between us. Sharing knowledge and supporting each others' personal and political development in good faith is the call of the day. We shall ensure an array of workshops to cater for this and we shall host speakers on a variety of topics from gender to ecology, refugee support to homeless solidarity and beyond.
Further to this we aim to make a dynamic and welcoming space which is accessible to all. We will be providing crèche and youth space alongside provisions for those we hearing difficulties, sensory issues and social difficulties. There will also be vegan food and drink available.
If anyone wishes to get involved, we welcome volunteers from all backgrounds and abilities. Whether you are able/inclined to plan the logistics, help fundraise, promote the event or help us run everything on the day, please get in touch. We will shortly begin a series of regular meetings, many of which will be open to attendees and spend the next year working towards a grand event. If you have ideas for talks, workshops, discussions or stalls or simply wish to book a space, please do not hesitate to get in contact.
We hope you will join us on and together we can build a stronger more resilient community and forge a better future, one free of shackles of capitalism and the tyranny of the state and strengthen our bonds of international and intersectional solidarity, mutual aid and unity.
We will be holding a meeting on the 10th of August in London, if you would like to attend please contact us for the specifics.
Love and Rage
~ The Bookfair2020 Crew ■
The debate on the political nature of content in board games is one which has come to the forefront due the increase in gaming in general. Among the main titles on which it debated there is The Landlord's Game of 1903, the original title of Monopoly. Monopoly was born as political criticism and intends to address an important issue: that of the monopolisation of the landowning market.
However, in Monopoly landlord accumulation is not accompanied by texts, mechanics or critical images. Nothing is aimed at an organic critique of the accumulation and the identification of the player is not supported by emotions against the game or the role that it plays within it, rather against the other players. In Monopoly there’s a critical intent towards market monopolization but it is too softened by mechanics to succeed and certainly cannot be considered a radical leftist critique to the society of that time.
With the arrival of Professor Bertell Ollman things change. In 1978 Class Struggle was born “To prepare for life in capitalist America”. It’s “an educational game for kids from 8 to 80” and with it opened the way for serious game philosophy towards a radical leftist social critique in the world of board games.
It was not a matter of taking a politically active topic too far. In Class Struggle the critique of some aspects of social and political life during the cold war years are evident, transparent and even full of propaganda intentions (such as the card "If it is the opium of older workers, than opium (pot) is the religion of the younger set"). The content isn’t sweetened to increase the mass appeal of the game, it just goes to the point: avoid the nuclear catastrophe fuelled by the capitalists and to steer the workers towards the construction of committees, unions and parties for the creation of a socialist society in the USA.
The board games up to this point had emancipated themselves only from ancient religious function to arrive at an alleged neutrality of their own content, all in favour of the mechanics: strategy, mechanics for entertainment, challenge, gambling, bluff, frustration and observation, and attention skills. Actually the themes aren’t neutral, they are often full of sacred, militarist, bourgeois contents etc. and at best they try to show sincere criticism through fantastic metaphors.
Only one year after the creation of Class Struggle, in 1980, in Italy the C.UnS.A. - Collettivo un Sacco Alternativo - carries on Ollman's experiment with the publication of Corteo (‘Demonstration’): A simulation of street clashes in Italy, between the police and various movements of the '77 such as Autonomia Operaia, Marxist-Leninists, Lotta Continua, Democrazia Proletaria, Anarchists, Feminists, radicals etc.
The rules book is descriptive, it maintains the textual prolixity typical of those years and describes ironically the performance of critical operations.
This begins in the manual, when for example it describes how;
“The reactionary right has organized a rally in a town square to demand the anti-strike law, the deportation of gays, the closure of the underground press and the death penalty. Authoritative members of the Government and the Dominant Party send certificates of understanding and solidarity. “
(Storia di un CORTEO, scenario antifascista, Mondadori, 1980, p. 27)
The game mechanics are quite exciting, and they complete the alternative theme well: you can play like a human tide (the Demonstration) that although slow and divided into many ideological currents, when compacted, is invincible (the union is strength!) ; on the other hand it can be fast but fragile if scattered in small groups. Even the representation of opponents is interesting. The fascists, for example, just get hit, a sign of the times in which social movements shined. In fact there is no Fascist player, the Fascist pawns are directly controlled by the police player as points to be taken away from the opponent.
Riot - Cast the First Stone (made by No Board Games) can be considered a tribute to both games even if the mechanics are certainly different (it is in fact a strategic one with the addition of card driven mechanics and area control). However, the setting is undoubtedly different. In Riot we certify the dark times we live, it is linked to the reality that surrounds us and not a simple historical reconstruction, the game itself can be an element of education in the here and now.
For example, the question that has prompted the insertion of Nationalists within Riot is the demand for the development of an Anti-Fascist culture accessible to those who are not reached by essays, flyers and revolutionary media but are more reachable through use of pop culture, gaming and nerd culture. For those who have tried Class Struggle, they will have had a smattering of Marxist culture and will know well what values to attribute to “Capitalists” and “Workers”, the merits of the ‘chance cards’ and the highly captioned board. For those who have played the game Corteo, they will know well which neighbourhoods the activists come from and how the police protect the various Fascist rallies. At the same time Riot, in giving control of the Fascists to a player, shows how the political affinity of the Nationalists lies with power and not with the other demonstrators and how their action must be, in terms of game mechanics, rather slimy.
It is also important to remember that at the gaming table one socialises: that is, one can understand more about their peers, learn to be together, orient oneself within a theme with mechanics designed to educate as well as let us learn a new vocabulary. The words we choose to describe the theme, the game mechanics and the names of the components create a text practised and discussed continuously. The game is shared par excellence: it is not a book, a video game, it is not an island. You can learn, you can debate.
Engaging with new forms of media is essential for political organising, we cannot exclude any form of communication and we should seek to understand how today, unlike yesterday, there are more effective and often unexpected means to reach a wider audience than a magazine, a flyer, a song or a book.
Finally we consider the tinkering and hacking methods of gamers is certainly a positive. We want to develop this kind of community, one which goes from modification of cultural objects to self-production and DIY games creating more independent and radical production. ■
Anteo is part of the No Board Games collective, an independent board game publisher but, above all, a project of reappropriation and radicalization of board game culture.
Their game Riot - Cast the First Stone will be included in the next edition printed of Organise!
You can download a free Print and Play version of RIOT below: