1st of May 2021. Greetings of the Secretariat of the International of Anarchist Federations (IAF/IFA)
The Secretariat of the International of Anarchist Federations sends its greetings to this international meeting for May Day 2021. Founded in 1968 at the International Anarchist Congress in Carrara, the International of Anarchist Federations continues carrying out the values of social justice, antiauthoritarianism and internationalism that inspired the struggle of the Paris Commune 150 year ago and of the five Martyrs of Chicago 135 years ago. Still inspired by these values, our member federations are committed to build an anarchist alternative for a world that is increasingly devastated by the crimes of capitalism, the logics of states and armies, the ever-growing environmental depredation.
In the last year, this situation has been tragically worsened by the current world pandemic, whose consequences are burdening the working class. Exploited and oppressed people are those most affected by the pandemic, and at the same time most committed to protect everyone’s health. Yet, in various regions of the world we are witnessing the deterioration of the living and working conditions of hundreds of millions of people. In many countries the military budget has been increased and war tensions between states are exacerbating alongside a growing concert of racist, fascist and nationalist propaganda. Governments all around the world are strengthening security measures, tightening control and repression on their populations and are widening the power of police forces. Meanwhile, all over the world, an increasingly segregated population is living in total deprivation in places such as poor neighbourhoods, detention camps for migrants and prisons.
Nevertheless, in every corner of the world there are forms of resistance. In some cases movements of struggle are not only resisting the harshening of authoritarian policies but they are trying to create an alternative. We stand with people revolting in the USA against racism and police, in Nigeria against special security forces, in France against a new police state, in Chile against the
militaristic neoliberal State and the genocidal violence used to repress the Mapuche people, in Great Britain against patriarchy and gender violence. We are with those who are struggling for equality and liberty against dictatorships in Turkey and Belarus, and against authoritarian regimes in Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia. Where it is present, the anarchist movement is an active part of these struggles, trying to develop their revolutionary potentialities and to counter any authoritarian degeneration. In various regions of the world anarchists are engaged daily, defending spaces of freedom, supporting striking workers, building solidarity and mutual aid networks to tackle poverty, gender violence, inaccessibility to protective equipment and medical treatment.
While it would be impossible to summarize all the activities which are being supported by our comrades and federations in different countries and realities, these include experiences of mutual aid which include, among other possible examples: Creating groups of mutual aid that help one’s community/house/neighbourhood to cope with the virus, for instance with distribution of food, protection equipment and medicine; Opening up new spaces for living and for making cultural activities, including occupations of spaces by homeless peoples; Circulation of books, journals and other supports and explanations to deal with the crisis; Promoting and practically implementing anticapitalistic alternatives to the existing economic system such as solidarity shared funds; Promoting activism to support abused and vulnerable groups such as indigenous people.
Now, more than ever, it is necessary to strengthen the internationalist dimension of anarchism, to oppose the ongoing authoritarian processes and to relaunch a revolutionary perspective in a world that capitalism and state have brought to the point of collapse. In this May Day, a date which is crucial for both our history and future, we confirm and continue our worldwide fight for fostering internationalist solidarity in the workers’ movements worldwide, to go ahead building day by day the new world that we bring in our hearts. ■
The IFA Secretariat
Secretariat: [email protected]
Social Media: www.twitter.com/IntFedAnarchist
AUDIO READING : www.youtu.be/VLl6VXhT-A4
[TW: sexual violence]
Since Organise’s last update on Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali has announced that Eritrean troops will leave the region of Tigray in Northern Ethiopia. This comes as a surprise, since Abiy has spent the last few months denying the presence of any Eritrean troops in Ethiopia at all. Yet, even as he was denying the existence of the Eritrean troops fighting a war against a group he declared victory over in November, reports from the UN and Amnesty International were confirming that, not only were they there, they were colluding with Abiy’s government to carry out numerous atrocities. When they leave on their as-yet-unspecified date, a slew of corpses—which could very well number upwards of 100,000—will be in their wake. This prompts the question: who is Abiy’s audience for these lies? Who is a sincere believer, any more?
The flagrancy of Abiy’s lies are echoed in the obscenity of the violence. As accessibility to the region has grown over the past few weeks, Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers have made little effort to curb their violence under this heightened scrutiny. On the 23rd of March, soldiers beat and threatened an MSF driver and killed at least four men extrajudicially while MSF staff were present. MSF also reported that “most” of their 100+ hospitals in the region had been looted or destroyed.
As is often the case, much of the genocidal violence redounds heavily on women, as Amharic soldiers talk of cleansing them of their Tigrayan blood. A recent article in The Daily Telegraph quotes doctors and nurses from the region: “Soldiers enter hospitals as they like. They cross wards and threaten patients, nurses and doctors. There were recently seven raped women from Zalambessa who disappeared from their beds after seeing soldiers in the hospital,” says a doctor in Adigrat. A nurse says her rehabilitation centre for survivors of sexual assault was threatened with closure in order to stop these stories coming out, but still the attacks continue and still the stories get out.
The story of Selam, a 26-year-old coffee seller from Tigray who was abducted by Eritrean soldiers with 17 other women in January, deserves to be heard in full [TW: extreme sexual violence, HIV]: “They [Eritrean soldiers] took us into the forest. When we arrived there, there were around 100 soldiers who were waiting for us. They tied the hands and feet of each one of us. And then they raped us without mercy. We stayed that way for three days. After three days the soldiers killed five girls who had been tied with us. They poured [alcohol] over our wounds. They danced standing over us.”
The story continues: “After the first attack, [Selam’s] abusers were waiting for her as she returned to her house from the hospital with contraceptives and post-exposure HIV drugs. “Why the hell did you want this? We want you to be sick. That is what we are here for. We are here to make you HIV-positive,” Selam recalled one of the men as saying.”
To try to suppress the stories even though everyone knows what is going on speaks to a regime unburdened by any need to justify its own actions. Without oversight, the cover-up becomes a mere formality which will allow for the execution of more and more extreme violence. As mentioned in the last article, the importance of an independent inquiry by the UN cannot be overstated. A joint inquiry between the UN and the Ethiopian Human rights Commision will not deliver justice, since the EHRC are state-funded and lack the trust of the Tigrayan people whose voices should be at the centre of the report. Pressure should be put on UN member states to help achieve this.
Abiy’s multi-ethnic electoral coalition—the Prosperity Party—and his dream of a more centralised Ethiopia looks more and more futile and more and more bloody by the day. With or without Eritrea, the atrocities are likely to continue for some time and there is a real possibility that the entire country will fracture or even balkanise, as the regional animosities which saw thousands dead and arrested in a wave of 2014 protests come to a head again.
What’s more, tensions with Egypt and Sudan over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), which would give Ethiopia unprecedented control of the Nile’s water flow into those countries, are building. On April the 11th, talks between the three countries over data sharing came to nothing. Leaving the Kinshasa summit, the Sudanese Irrigation Minister said Ethiopia’s offer ‘implies suspicious selectivity in dealing with what has been agreed upon.’ Again, we see how the lack of trust in Abiy’s government could have serious ramifications for the region.
In light of all this, the upcoming 2021 elections (if they go ahead) may seem trivial, but given how much of the violence has been fueled by Abiy’s desire to cling on to electoral power, they have the potential to change the dynamics of the conflict. Abiy used the elections held by the TPLF last year as a pretext to kill thousands of civilians. The TPLF has since been excluded from competing and it remains to be seen what the ostracisation of the Tigrayan people from the political landscape will mean for the Abiy’s longevity.
Citing COVID struggles, the Ethiopian government has recently turned to the IMF and World Bank to raise funds, offering the state-owned internet provider Ethio Telecom up for partial privatisation and asking for a restructuring of its loans to put off repayment until a later date. The military has already seen its budget steadily increase under Abiy: per the human rights non-profit Omna Tigray, military spending currently averages 4% a year, while health spending sits at 3.3%. It is highly likely that this extra financial flexibility will be used to exacerbate the conflict further.
While we should be loath to put our faith in the world’s financial elite, this does provide the institutions of capital with the opportunity to put pressure on Abiy’s government and we in turn should pressure them to do so, by lending our support to Omna Tigray’s campaign on the issue.
Meanwhile, Abiy’s counterpart in Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, who, like Abiy, previously garnered praise from the West (Bill Clinton called him a ‘renaissance African leader’) while committing numerous human rights abuses, is in a similarly precarious position. He faces being scapegoated by Abiy in order to deceive the international community, with EU sanctions already being levied at Eritrea, while domestic dissent over the country’s involvement in the unpopular war grows. The further destabilisation of Ethiopia though, could give Afwerki room to maneuver in the ever-tightening political knot that he has found himself in, as the hot potato would pass back into Abiy’s hands.
If Ethiopia does fracture then, the competing interests of Eritrea, Egypt and Sudan would complexify the conflict and snowball the violence. As ever, it will be ordinary people, like Selam, whose bodies will be pawned for the personal-political gain of autocrats like Abiy and Afwerki or sucked deeper into the scramble for ever scarcer resources.
On the 15th of April, two weeks after Abiy’s announcement that Eritrean troops would leave the region, the under-secretary general of humanitarian affairs told a UN security council that “neither the UN nor any of the humanitarian agencies we work with have seen proof of Eritrean withdrawal.” There have been reports of Eritrean troops indiscriminately killing civilians as recently as the 12th. Some have even begun to disguise themselves in Ethiopian uniforms. It would seem then that the withdrawal is yet another lie. Despite Abiy’s words, the genocide simply goes on.
The fact is that no one is a sincere believer. Not Abiy (despite his Pentecostalism), not his defenders and certainly not the oppressed and displaced Tigrayans. This is because the lies of politicians like Abiy, as with Trump or Bolsonaro, no longer aspire to sincere belief, so easily are they refuted. Their lies are mere instruments. Their ideological utility is not located in their capacity to dupe people into believing them, but in the continued violence they make space for by discarding the aim of duping altogether. If no one believes what they are saying, everything becomes negotiable. It is not then a case of ideology being “a set of lies experienced as true,” but “a set of lies experienced as lies, but acted on anyway”—or as the Marxist academic Theodor Adorno wrote, “the lie has lost its honest function of misrepresenting reality.” It no longer posits another reality, just debases the original, no longer demonstrates an awareness of one’s actions as morally condemnable, only a will to continue the morally bankrupt act. In short, there is no longer anything left to unmask, for the mask is already, obviously, painted plastic. ■
March 7 -- Distant rumbling reaches my ears as I cross the Nevsky. It sounds again, stronger and nearer, as if rolling toward me. All at once I realize that artillery is being fired. It is 6 P.M. Kronstadt has been attacked!
Days of anguish and cannonading. My heart is numb with despair; something has died within me. The people on the streets look bowed with grief, bewildered. No one trusts himself to speak. The thunder of heavy guns rends the air.■
<< Mar 6th – Mar 17th >>
[translator's note: Ruymán is a member of FAGC (Federación Anarquistas Gran Canaria or Gran Canaria’s Anarchist Federation), which centres most of its activity around the issues of housing, rent and homelessness. They are known for housing homeless people in squatted buildings run along anarchists’ principles without the members needing to share the same ideology. The biggest one so far, La Esperanza, houses more than 260 people, around 160 of them minors. More recently the FAGC has called for a rent strike to demand better conditions for renters during the COVID-19 crisis. The strike is supported today by more than 60.000 tenants. This is the second of a series of three articles written in 2015 where Ruymán explains how the FAGC sees the way forward for anarchism based on their experience these years]
“On, on, onwards, for the fire is hot! [...] On, onwards, as long as you live.”
(Letter by Thomas Müntzer to his followers, 1525)
In the previous two articles I talked about the two types of anarchism I had identified, and of the potential and limits of the social struggle; now I’m going to talk about the necessity for combative anarchism, committed to the social struggle, to transcend its starting point and reach a superior revolutionary objective thanks to well-designed and solid strategy.
Analyzing the situation of activism, social movements, including the anarchist, have been on the defensive for years. We only come out to the streets and mobilize to not lose ground. We don’t know how to attack. The only thing we want is not to lose past conquests, but not to make new ones. Fights like militant unions, housing, education or healthcare are framed today in those terms. They are respectable movements of self-defense, not structures of attack. Honestly, I believe it is time to go on the offensive.
We need to overcome this ongoing situation where we are just trying to take punches as they come, and learn how to fight back, to trade blow by blow, to hurt. This last decade of struggle, and especially the experience in housing, has taught me that when one focuses their militancy in the management of a “small matter”, in the preservation of what you have, you risk losing the ambition to go further. And this can turn what was supposed to be just a phase, the means to an end, into an end in itself.
I know it’s not the best for me to talk about not limiting yourself. We live in a state of retreat, as anarchists and as social activists. A few, resigned but pragmatic, try to save the furniture from the shipwreck, and try to build something for the future. A majority is still impervious to the lost opportunity and, lost in their liturgy of banners and hymns, don’t want to see that even the most reformist collectives have overtaken them on the left, thanks mainly to their activity. Another significant part abandons ship and, seduced by the siren’s song of the establishment, flirts with electoralism, the new parties, and starts believing something incomprehensible: that voting is the transformative novelty; and that to abstain and create on the sidelines is the orthodoxy.
We raise our voice from the dirt, in the very heart of poverty. I won’t speak to you with a clean face, neither will I shake off the dust in your presence nor offer you a washed up hand; down here, where we get down to work, it doesn’t smell good, there’s no sterile debates and rhetoric doesn’t accomplish anything. While working in misery, we are trying to organise it. Let’s begin!
We are not interested in the war for acronyms, the scuffles about banners, the internal feuds of families, sects, tendencies and clans. It’s like seeing two starved insects fighting over the remains. Anything that tries to drag us into that is not welcomed. We also don’t want to hear intellectuals babbling or fighting among themselves, telling us about a past that cannot be repeated or inviting us to advance while they themselves don’t move their asses from their seats. There’s a new anarchist that is active, pragmatic, that wants to be adult but not to grow old, and that is not willing to get itself tangled in the ideological disputes of its elders. Our proposal is to make a call for all combative anarchists to work together. This verb is key: to work. To coordinate efforts based around practical work proposals, leaving asides brainy questions about the future of a society we still are not strong enough to preconfigure. We spend hours arguing about what type of fuels will be used in the post-revolutionary society, how will the means of production be managed, what resources will it use and which not; and we still haven’t made the revolution that’ll allow us to have these problems in front of us. Because of our incompetence, we have no capacity to decide about our present, so we try to decide about something that has no relevance and belongs to a future that is slipping out of our hands. Let’s work so that one day we could argue about these problems in workers or community assemblies, but until then let’s not waste time.
Once we come all together, willing to work together but not to think the same, to combine efforts but necessarily sensibilities, we can select the objective. The FAGC chose housing, and everyone interested knows the results. Yes, we are responsible for the biggest occupation in the whole Spanish state, but I already said in my previous article that that is not all, we still need a third movement. What was done alleviated the situation of many people, it has allowed to extend the life of some of the most urgent cases; and that is already the most important thing. But it’s not enough to stay there. It would be like organising an army and refusing to declare war. Everything lived, good and bad, must serve to extract conclusions, reflect and take the fight to a new stage.
And what about the long and surrealist shadow of assistentialism? We have learnt our lesson and found the way to avoid it. The social struggle, by offering real solutions to real problems, allows us to get in contact with the people. But for the relationship to advance it is essential that the person affected stops being a receiver/observer and starts being an actor. And that’s achieved by establishing as necessary that the person being rehoused takes part in their own rehousing. Do you want to receive help? Here we are for you, but first prove that you are capable of helping yourself and others. Do you refuse? Very well, we won’t give more solidarity than the one we are offered, that’s all. Whoever really needs a house will have no option but to question what they’ve learnt, what the system taught them, their own way of behaving with others, before they can make a decision. It’s possible that it won’t produce any change, but we would have made them confront a hard contradiction face to face. A what was said about rehousing also applies to the rest. In our last occupations we have been applying that principle and the results have been very positive. We certainly participate in less rehousings, but the experiences are better and the participants more in need, more committed and more active.We have also learned that behind the criticisms of “assistentialism” we often find voices with little experience that, unwilling to abandon their ivory tower and walk among the filthy and difficult reality, show their disdain for active militancy by looking for pretexts instead of offering alternatives. The risks of assistentialism are not overcome from a comfortable distance while surrounded by those already convinced.
Once organised, with an established protocol to avoid becoming an NGO or a real estate agency, we are missing that last twist that I mentioned in “Street Anarchy II”, that third movement: the way of conflict.
The third movement is the one that makes the difference between conventional squatting (an act that closes its cycle on its own, revolutionarily innocuous) and programmed expropriation of households owned by banks, with the objective of establishing a communal management of a collective good (an act that means a direct political, social, and economical challenge).
It’s not enough to occupy houses, which usually only affects a limited number of people. It’s not even enough to make them available for the people and use them for rehousing. In the end we can end up reinforcing the System by compensating for one of its shortfalls and inhibiting people in protest by helping them get back on the capitalist train. We need to occupy and rehouse, but as part of a political strategy of mass socialization that aims for the neighbours themselves to manage consumer goods through assemblies, just like we expect the workers to do with the means of production.
The strategy is simple: unite with those other combative anarchists, call a popular assembly about the most urgent topic that worries your neighbourhood (I use housing as an example because it’s the field we have more experience with), offer useful tools to the neighbours and establish contact with them. How many empty houses owned by the banks are in the neighbourhood? So occupy all of them and make the neighbours directly manage the public good of housing. We have to take the step, cross the threshold, and turn squatting into collective expropriation.
How many of your neighbours pay rents to the same real estate agency, bank or rich landlord? How many can’t pay or are about to find themselves in that situation? Once again, call a neighbours assembly and give that fatalism a conscious dimension. They soon are going to lose the home because of not being able to pay the rent, so give not paying a political character: propose calling a rent strike. No one pays, either until everyone’s rent goes down (if the disposition of the people doesn’t allow for anything more radical) or until the management of the houses is put in your hands with no intermediary.
Do you organise in a libertarian union? Propose to integrate the labour struggle with the social struggle (which doesn’t mean just having good intentions, writing statements and supporting campaigns, but to start your own way of intervention and confrontation, directly revolutionary). To compete with the establishment unions using their weapons is either a waste of time or suicide. The nature of libertarian unionism always was multifaceted, and extended beyond the purely laboural plane. In order to survive, anarcho-syndicalism needs to adopt integral solutions and offer tools not limited to factories or even consumer cooperatives, but that directly address the issues of the poorest neighbourhoods. We must bring back the renters unions that anarcho-syndicalism pushed for back in the 30s, and take neighbours demands to a different plane.
And what about the platforms that already work around housing? First, we have to distinguish between those that undertake a committed and altruistic labour, with a revolutionary base, and those that are ineffective, are in the pocket of the political parties, or are motivated by nefarious interests. Second, no one has the monopoly of the social struggle. If you think a campaign is lacking, that it is being used as a pawn for electoral purposes, and you think you can offer and structure things better, more effectively, more radically, there’s no reason why you should cede the territory to anyone - none that makes us that there has to be exclusivity or imposture in the housing front. Third, we have to be aware, as anarchists, of the necessity of articulating our own answers, our own programs, our own strategies. Yes, the fights have to necessarily be popular and collective, open to everyone; tactical alliances are equally desirable, as long as they are limited to the work and don’t require concessions. But we have to be able to structure a differentiated road map with our own objectives, we have to show to the people that we offer veritable solutions to the social issues, and know how to communicate that we have our own revolution going on.
The situation, thanks to the so-called “progressive candidatures”, can be more favourable than what it looks like. Develop this strategy everywhere, but don’t miss the chance of honing in on wherever the “champions of housing and social policies” have reached power. Squat en masse, with the support of the neighbours, and start laying the foundations, the theoretical support, to show the contradictions of these “progressive parties”. Whether because their insensibility and incompetence is what forces you to squat, or because they trigger or condone a repressive reaction.
This general proposal, of intervening in a struggle based around a good (or means of production or service) to radicalise it, take it to its final stages, and make the popular body (the assembly of neighbours or renters) that initiates and fights on said battle be the one that ends up organising said good, is a simplified way of starting a revolution. The councils or soviets were just this in their origins. This is what the third movement is about.
We are at a pivotal moment. Consumed by the electoralist fever, demobilized by the partisanship of the new generation, we forget that for those down below the shit is still covering them up to their necks. The sick and the hungry, the homeless and the immigrants can’t endure any more of your vote counting or your insufferable theories. We can run away from our responsibility as long as we want, but there’s nowhere to hide. I myself tried to address this matter by creating an idyllic community of rehoused people, believing that the revolutionary response would come later. Too concerned with guaranteeing the stability of the neighbours, and especially that of their children, it took me two years to understand that the path of the conflict must go hand in hand with the work of creation. It may make life more uncertain, but if the construction of the new doesn’t happen in parallel to the destruction of the old (like classics like Bakunin and Proudhon recommended), you will create a beautiful walled city, but you will leave untouched anything beyond its borders; and in the end the exterior will breach the fortress and will do the same that humidity does to the stone.
In this moment anarchism, the entirety of the social movements, is at a crossroad. There’s a gordian knot that seems unsolvable, and both the pure theoreticians and the institutionalists intend to cut it with a penknife; from the FAGC we assert that it’s time to use a guillotine. Get involved in the neighbourhoods, don’t be afraid of the hostility, the mistrust, the bickerings and the animal instincts that I assure you you’ll come across. Strike now while the mirage of recuperation hasn’t yet reached even those with empty stomachs. Look for the one who doesn’t have a home or a salary or government help or hope. Call the whole neighbourhood and confront them with the idea that it’s in their hands to change their situation. Grow little by little, with effective assemblies and free from pompous speeches. Offer reality, naked and coarse reality. And start taking, taking and taking until there’s nothing you don’t manage yourselves. It can be scary, but it’s the dizziness before a revolution that starts. The only thing left is for you to join. And what if you don’t succeed? Goddammit, at least you would have tried.
I’ve said it before but I won’t stop saying it. If they exploit misery, it is our task to organise it. ■
After one week of our T-shirt fundraiser we raised just over £250!
Our first pay outs were of £100 to South Norwood Community Kitchen and The 0161 Community.
Both of these groups have been going above and beyond during lock down to support key workers and their communities in general, helping everyone get by in these difficult times with some beautiful mutual aid.
None of the organisers are involved with either project and they were selected after talking to national level organisers and comrades in general.
They are both doing some fantastic work and I'm sure would appreciate your solidarity and donations:-
This will be an ongoing fundraiser, so if you want some new threads and help support mutual aid projects head over to www.punx.uk and pick yourself up one, £15 with all profit going towards mutual aid groups.
Lots of thanks to all those who have purchased T-shirts already, everyone involved in one of the 4000+ mutual aid networks and especially to our key workers, NHS staffers, Delivery people, check out staff and they rest of you who are keeping the plates spinning during these difficult times.
As the global pandemic is upon us, a number of mutual aid groups have started forming across the country. These groups aim to provide community support to those who are more at risk from the virus: be it help with running errands or cooking. This is a wonderful example of Anarchistic mutual aid and solidarity!
To help raise funds to support this fantastic work, we are holding a design competition and will subsequently be selling T-shirts on a none profit basis to raise funds and keep these organisations in food, fuel and supplies in general.
From the 20th of March till the 3rd of April we will be accepting design submissions which we will then put up for a public poll over the following weekend. The favourites will be printed.
Entries must be in a single colour, as they will be screen printed.
Submissions should be sent as .pdf files to [email protected]
Those chosen designs will are be rewarded with a T-shirt and some assorted prizes tbd
T-shirts will be available in several sizes from the 10th of April at a cost of £15, with the option to make an additional donation.
Funds will be shared directly and regularly with groups to help them buy critical supplies and carry on their amazing efforts. This will be done in co-ordination with those helping to organise the efforts on a national level and will happen immediately and without stymie.
You can find out more information about here.
Find out how to set up a mutual aid group and access other resources here
We shall overcome
Autonomous Design Collective
Please contact us if you would like your organisation to be added to the list. ■
The Kurds' reward for defeating ISIS is being sold out to a psychotic dictator. "World's Greatest Dealmaker" indeed.
Red n Black Salamander has had their work has shown up in
Occupy Wall Street zines, South Korean anti-government pamphlets, Rojava
fundraisers, more anarchist meme pages than they care to count, the
wall of a small hippie diner deep in the Colorado Rockies, and even a
few of the more mainstream liberal publications like Huffington Post and
You probably haven’t heard of Blitzchung but he has just cost Activision Blizzard and their subsidiary Blizzard Entertainment billions.
Blizzard (as they are commonly called) are one of the mega corporations that dominate the gaming market, from Candy Crush to Call of Duty, World of Warcraft to Overwatch they are an ever present force in in video games and one which the vast majority of gamers buy into regularly with subscriptions and micro purchases. They are also (alongside Steam) one of the major investors in the Chinese marketplace. Once locked behind the world largest electronic firewall cutting 1.4 billion people out of the world wide web (in any meaningful manner), the Chinese government has been allowing selected international companies to develop branches of their software and platforms in partnership with the state and local corporations in order to capitalise and control the new medium. The contracts are worth untold sums, already standing around 13% of the global market place. Conservative estimates see that leaping into the dozens in the coming years as Steam launch their Chinese-specific platform and home grown game developers crop up in plentitude. You just have to keep the CCP happy and comply with their censor.
So when last Sunday during a post match interview top Hearthstone player Blitzchung, real name Chung Ng Wai, wearing goggles and a face mask said “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time”, Blizzard Entertainment came down hard to protect their investments, banning him from competing for one year and rescinded the $10,000 prize money he won in the recent Asia-Pacific Grandmasters tournament.
Then, then they doubled down.
Players took to the forums in a rage, demanding Blizzard take back the judgement and reinstate Blitzchung, When they began using the forums to share news and information about the protests in Hong Kong. Blizzard, a company whose headquarters feature a statue of an Orc with plaques that say “Think Globally” and “Every Voice Matters”, implemented wild ranging censorship at the start of the week. First, it was noted they had began banning of movement-related usernames and controls put in place across their games and websites to curtail any Hong Kong related discussion. When they mass deleted comments and threads ( Minus one thread which remains a bastion of information and debate) as “trolling” and summarily handed of 1000 years bans, the players had had enough. Blizzard’s games are heavily focused on multiplayer and generally have subscription services which means players have spent thousands of hours and in many cases just as many pounds on their accounts only to have them wiped out in an instant for sharing their political solidarity with Hong Kong and thus taking a position against Activision Blizzard’s corporate partners.
By mid-week one of Overwatch’s characters, a Chinese climatologist called Mei, become a symbol of the movement both online, at gamer events and even on the streets of Hong Kong. Now even their own employees have staged walkouts in disgust. Mark Kern, the man who led the team who developed World of Warcraft, cancelled his WoW subscription and called for a boycott commenting “It’s one thing to stay out of politics in games, quite another to take harsh, punitive actions designed to appease a government whose values are against what Blizzard has traditionally stood for”.
Players followed suit. They began mass deleting accounts they had held for in excess of a decade. Outside of the gaming community, this may not seem much but this is the equivalent of tearing up your season ticket and burning all your shirts. Aside from the financial expense in doing this, people were cutting themselves out of sprawling communities they had met friends in, worked in, played in and given over so much emotion too. Particularly with games like World of Warcraft which have a player base woven into it’s very being. The stories of heartbreak and deleted account started to pour into Reddit, Imgur and other places.
At time of writing people are noticing that all four methods of account deletion are not working with SMS messages never arriving and error notices being the only return, whether this is a deliberate attempt to minimise the blood loss or whether Blizzards services are overwhelmed is hard to say however the player base seems pretty sure on the matter and have instead taken to cancelling their payments on the bank side and have began flooding Blizzard with General Data Protection Requirement (GDPR) requests and sharing solidarity during live streams, which subsequently got shut down mid-stream in the ongoing attempt to police the boycott. Yesterday, Immutable, the Australian start-up who make Hearthstone rival God’s Unchained, announced they would cover Blitzchungs prize winnings and immediately came under cyber attack once again invoking the ire of the gaming community.
While it’s true that some of this response has been typically headstrong and near sinophobic in its manner, latching on to the United States’ currently wave of anti-China sentiment during its ongoing economic battle, the vast majority has in fact been of a progressive manner. There was a wave of solidarity yesterday during Taiwan Independence Day as well as persistent and vocal solidarity with Tibet and the Xinjiang Muslim community. There has been little space given to the with nastier elements of anti Chinese racism which has been a rather refreshing change of pace from the often rather right-leaning gaming community, instead focus very much being on refusing to accept a well-loved corporations siding with state censorship and in a broader manner pushing for more pressure on China to stand down from their villainous policies of control.
Corporate collusion with governments is a given for most activists, so it’s no surprise that Activision Blizzard have acted this way, however this has come as a shock to the wider gamer community who tend towards being apolitical or centrist, a nasty reminded of the nature of corporations. Where the mounting boycott will go is anyone’s guess, however with players from across the political spectrum united in their disgust at the treatment of Blitzchung, the censorship and ridiculous long banning of players themselves this seems only to be spiralling upwards.
It’s worth taking time to note some of the other corporations so gleefully trading renminbi for ethics, here is a list of shitty corporations and the actions. ■
~ Peter Ó Máille
Originally post on Freedom News
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If you really want to save the Earth with personal lifestyle changes, you could always try building your next guillotine out of reclaimed wood.■
Red n Black Salamander has had their work has shown up in Occupy Wall Street zines, South Korean anti-government pamphlets, Rojava fundraisers, more anarchist meme pages than they care to count, the wall of a small hippie diner deep in the Colorado Rockies, and even a few of the more mainstream liberal publications like Huffington Post and Paste Magazine.