Home | Friday 27th March 2009 | Issue 670
WAKE UP!! IT'S YER EVEN MORE SKINT THAN USUAL...
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Story Links : Apocolypse Wow | Met Yer Match! | Luton Vanguard | --- In The Brown Stuff --- | Right Shred Fred | Edo Inside Schnews | Huon Cry | Famous Fife | Saabotage | Raven Mad | Well Acquitted | And Finally
AS SchNEWS SPECULATES WILDLY ABOUT LIFE AFTER CAPITALISM
This weeks G20 mobilisation in the City Of London - by calling up the ghosts of Reclaim The Streets and Stop The City, as well as incorporating elements of more recent movements such as Climate Change and anti-war campaigns – is shaping up to be one of the most important mobilisations in central London during the past decade. But, while previous Big Ones in the UK, such as the J18 protest in the City of London in 1999 (See SchNEWS 217) and the G8 Summit in Scotland in 2005 (See SchNEWS 503, 504) took place in reaction to the unsustainable boom years or, a little later, the context of Bush and Blair’s crusade against terror, this time we’re smack bang in the middle of a full blown crisis.
The very fact that the ad-hoc G20 Summit is ‘needed’ next week in London is confirmation that we were right all along and now it’s starting to kick off! Yep, the system was as unsustainable as it always looked, and the globalised capitalism which made us rich as it made others poor is finally reaching its end game. Poverty hasn’t been made history but is instead coming home to us. A response - albeit harsh - to those affected by the credit crunch is ‘welcome to the majority world’. 90% of the world’s population don’t go through consumer goods as if they fell out of a corn flakes packet, so why should we in Britain?
This crash looks like producing the kind of economic cutbacks environmentalists have been screaming out for for years. UK car production is down 60% in the past year – difficult for those who lost jobs and have families to feed - but maybe it heralds a less consumerist society. The global aviation industry is being severely hit by a large drop in demand and will lose up to $8 billion this year. Building developments are being dropped left, right and centre.
CRISIS WHAT CRISIS
“We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth, there is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world, here, in our hearts. That world is growing this minute”. - Bienventura Durruti - 1936
With the cracks gaping wide in Capitalism’s shiny facade everything’s up for grabs as sections of society not used to scraping by on benefits or minimum wage will start to see just how vulnerable they really are. The test to will be whether people who grew up in the Thatcher Blair years will stand by the dog-eat-dog me-first attitudes which have become ‘common-sense’ – which during a crisis could play into the hands of the far right. Or if they will turn to the growing set of solutions which has been developed over the past 40 years and which SchNEWS has been banging on about for the past 15: ecological and social sustainability and a equitable system. How? Using ideas gleaned from Anarchism, Ecology and anything else that has challenged the aura of inevitability that previously surrounded capitalism.
There are many political activists in Britain and elsewhere who have both been preparing for a collapse and even cheering it on. But now the signs are here, do even the most hardened chaoto-nihilists really want to be reduced to fighting over the last tin of baked beans in the radioactive ruins of Sainsburys? Even stockbrokers may find themselves turning to previously marginal ideas, long the hobby-horse of apocalypse-fetishists and 60s beardy-weirdies, such as self sufficiency and non-capitalist modes of organisation.
The recession is already biting in certain key areas. The cost of basic living has shot up in the past 12 months: power has gone up 22%, food 11%, and transport fares 8%. Power, food and transport rank alongside housing, education, water, and health as essentials in any functioning society. If the capitalist state can no longer provide these affordably (or at least the illusion of them), then communities must take things into their own hands.
Take just those three – power, food and transport. The key to wresting these from the clutches of multinational capital is self-sufficiency, conservation and the co-operative pooling of resources.
It’s obvious that houses shouldn’t be so reliant on external power – and held to ransom by energy cartels. Not only should they be more energy efficient but also be able to generate their own power, renewably. Energy generation at all levels has to also come from renewable sources – it’s a no brainer. Currently with our government refusing to properly invest in renewables, energy companies like Shell are cutting back on their already meagre sustainable energy budgets.
Food is even more essential than power, and the average Brit is more of a hostage to a small number of international corporations than ever before (See SchNEWS 602
). In the near future we can expect to see scenes reminiscent of post-war Britain, when people turned to allotments during the times of rations and scarcity. Allotments already made a comeback over a decade ago as people resisted the hegemony of the supermarkets, but the revival may have only just begun. Economies of scale should follow with an increasing need for more localised farming and co-operatively run food growing. Out of necessity, many people who’d never before imagined it possible may well find themselves involved in food production. Councils have so far refused to meet this growing demand with years-long waiting lists for a bit of yer own land, so now is the time for residents to take unused land into their own hands for a spot of guerilla gardening. With the high costs of organic food out of the reach for those forced to rely on the chemically saturated fare of budget supermarkets, allotments are the best option for the production of wholesome food.
Transport is not so life-or-death, but is still a basic necessity. However until anti-gravity devices and water powered engines are invented, we are reliant on oil. But again, economic forces are about to severely limit this oil consumption - and that includes the transportation of workers, food and other commodities. Once more, this points to localisation: more locally grown food – to lower food miles, and less commuting to work. If far fewer people are able to run a car, development of public transport infrastructure will be key and bike use will go up - great news for the smog-choked cities of Britain and everywhere else. Anyhow, countries much poorer than Britain manage to maintain public transport systems better than ours - which is no surprise given that it’s always been a policy of UK Plc to pander to the road lobby.
At this point it is more important than ever that people have these discussions and are informed of these potential solutions. A set of new/old ideas are about to have their day. Maybe people might think that they’d need to be dragged kicking and screaming into wearing tofu sandals in a vegan tree village, but actually they may find that the values of mutual aid and cooperation have always run through society. They may even come to relish the sense of community which could emerge from all this, and not want to go back to the atomised society they’ve left behind.
Direct action will of course build up as protests attract larger groups of pissed-off people, and its targets will get more and more specific. This is the big difference between J18 and this week’s G20: J18 was a mobilisation against capitalism itself – not a specific definable target – while for today’s G20 protesters, they know exactly who to hold accountable.
MET YER MATCH!
YOUR CUT-OUT-AND-KEEP GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE SUMMER OF RAGE
Police have promised an overwhelming response to protests in the City of London this week.
Here’s yer ten point guide to keeping the Met on their toes. Their primary tactic is likely to be an attempt to ‘kettle’ the crowd – i.e. surround them either in a pre-prepared space with crash barriers, vans and/or lines of cops. Once the crowd is contained they will only be released once searched and photographed. The best time to beat this tactic is as the cordon is being prepared.
1) Stick together – in small groups (preferably affinity groups agreed on beforehand)
2) Be prepared to react quickly – get through police lines as they are forming – cops don’t like being outflanked and may abandon the attempt to form a kettle.
3) Avoid surveillance – UK police are notorious for poring over hours of footage to pick out faces and get convictions. Stop police from filming by putting placards in front of the cameras (A stock tactic of FITwatch – see www.fitwatch.blogspot.com). Caps, hooded tops and masks are all worth using. A determined crowd can stop a mass de-masking – saving prison sentences later.
4) Baton charges – are used in an attempt to make people run or force them into pre-prepared cordons. A football shin pad under the sleeve of yer jacket can take a lot of the sting out of a truncheon blow.
5) Pepper Spray – now used increasingly. If affected wipe away from eyes and through hair with dry rag, followed by water to flush eyes.
6) Horses – a charge by mounted police is one of the most severe tactics deployed by British police. One tactic that has worked is the stringing of lines between lamp-posts about 7 feet off the ground.
7) Snatch Squads – Police will attempt to invade a static crowd to grab individuals. Keep an eye on senior cops (often wearing different coloured hi-vis jackets) pointing people out. Warn those people and defeat the snatch squad by surrounding it.
8) De-arresting – many people have survived an attempted nicking when their mates have grabbed them and held on tightly.
9) Fighting with the cops is possible – if there’s a supply of throwables to hand – otherwise they’re of course better armed than us.
10) The best form of defence of all is CHAOS! The police have a hierarchy which takes orders from individuals making informed decisions. If the situation changes constantly they simply cannot keep up. Keep moving all the time, weave in and out of the crowd. Change your appearance. Open up new directions and possibilities, be unpredictable. If you find yourself still and passive for more than a minute then you’ve stopped acting defensively.
If you're stopped and searched you don't have to give your name and address. If you're unlucky enough to get nicked then saying 'no comment' is always the best policy. For more see the SchNEWS guide www.schnews.org.uk/diyguide/defendantsguidetoarrest.htm
“In relation to the last soldiers’ parade in Luton – just who were the extremists? A small group of young Muslim men holding placards and shouting at the soldiers or the people chanting racist insults at them, making Nazi salutes, trashing the houses and cars of the protesters?” - Luton For Peace.
Military parades of returning servicemen in British cities are becoming the scenes of conflict with anti-war and Muslim groups against far-right demonstrators. This Saturday there will be a second parade in a month through Luton of soldiers back from the Middle East. The last parade on March 10th turned into a knee-jerk Islamaphobic tabloid media frenzy when local Muslims held a noisy but non-violent anti-war protest and were condemned up and down the country for being unpatriotic. What wasn’t so fervently reported was that these protesters were met with scenes of Nazi salutes, racist chanting and violence by right-wing army supporters. The fact that two were arrested made it into most news reports, but what didn’t get mentioned was that they were in fact army supporters charged with racially aggravated harassment.
While it’s not clear whether the right-wingers on March 10th were part of an organised mobilisation, it’s now known that the Luton & Bedfordshire BNP will be there this Saturday to cheer the boys home and try to make mileage from anti-Muslim sentiments. Local Muslim groups will be very wary about demonstrating this time – both because of the hostility against them shown in the media, but also because one Muslim demonstrator had the windows of his house and car smashed after March 10th, and another was sacked from his job at Luton Airport because he was seen holding an anti-war placard that day. Anti-fascists – who have no links with the Muslims - will be there however to disrupt the BNP’s goose-stepping during the next parade.
Military parades haven’t come into the media spotlight until recently, but our source in Luton claims that there have been a number of parades in adjacent areas in the past few weeks including ones in Watford, Colchester, and four or five other places. While some of these have seen anti-war protests, the majority just take place without incident. Yet even though anybody would be glad to see people returning safely from a war-zone, these parades are still a valid time to ask the question – should these soldiers have gone there in the first place?
Also it may be a coincidence, but it seems some of these parades are happening in areas where the BNP are building support – recently the BNP have held Saturday afternoon stalls in Colchester, Southend and Epping.
*Anti-fascists are urging all to come down and support them against the BNP at the military parade in Luton, and will be gathering at 11am on Saturday, March 28th near to the BNP’s meeting at 12 noon outside the Luton Town Hall.
* Email email@example.com
, direct action
, military parades
IN THE BROWN STUFF
AS SchNEWS LOOKS AT HOW BAD THE FINANCIAL MESS REALLY IS
With every one of London’s police forces set to be involved in a 7 million quid policing operation it appears Neo-Labour and their business friends are getting ready to batten down the hatches for the anti-G20 protests which are due to grind London to a halt next Wednesday and Thursday. With such a large scale operation it’s clear that the police are expecting more than yer usual band of anarcho-agitators to join in the fun. More and more people have simply had enough of the hypocrisy which lies behind the decision to bail out the banking system – aware that it amounts to little more than redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich on an unprecedented scale.
As if you need reminding – the European and North American economies are in free fall with a downturn that could be on a par with the Great Depression of the 1930s. Or worse. It’s a crisis that’s been caused by a debt-fuelled consumer, corporate and banking boom relying on unswerving confidence in the freedom of the market. At his Mansion House dinner speech in June 2006 the then Chancellor, Gordon Brown, told his mates in the City that their “dynamism has led innovation with the most modern instruments of finance … making London a success story which sends out a message to the whole global economy.”
The bankers in his audience were, however, already aware that a bonus driven culture had encouraged their staff to flog unaffordable loans to low and middle income households. Now they were looking for ways to shift these dodgy loans onto other investors. But no one volunteers to buy such worthless investments so the debts were packaged up with better loans into ‘Special Purpose Vehicles’ (SPVs) in a process known as ‘securitisation’ (aka fraud).
When borrowers began to default on the loans, shareholders knew that their investments were in trouble. But they had no idea how much ‘toxic debt’ there was because securitisation hid the true content of the investment - so a selling frenzy ensued. Because the banks had been buying these SPVs on a grand scale, no one really knew how much the big financial institutions were worth - if they were worth anything at all. More than three quarters of the cash raised by Northern Rock to fund its 125% mortgage product came from securitisation and suddenly the pot ran dry. The subsequent fall of big institutions like Royal Bank of Scotland and the Halifax showed the reality: the banking system that Gordon Brown was lavishing so much praise upon just two years previously was now bankrupt.
No one will lend to an insolvent company and, with the bank’s retail strategies based on borrowing in at 5% and lending at 8% - the loans dried up. Up to two thirds of the UK economy is based on consumer spending and, all of a sudden, would be shoppers had no money. At the beginning of this year the UK economy shrank at its fastest rate in more than a quarter of a century.
The decision to bail out the banking system amounts to a redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich on an unprecedented scale.
You would think that the best response to such a crisis would be to try something new. But no, the G20 is planning to solve the problem of a debt ridden economy by, er… borrowing more money. A lot of it. The cost of bailing out the financial sector is already £1.3 trillion and rising. That’s money UK plc doesn’t have, so the Chancellor has been raising money by selling government bonds or ‘gilts’ – basically promises to repay investors high rates of interest but not for decades to come. But the debt will need repaying and with the UK’s AAA credit rating in doubt, some loans will be called in sooner rather than later. And if people are claiming the dole rather than paying taxes the only way to find the cash for the repayments will be to cut public expenditure.
The £1.3 trillion bail out is, by coincidence, the same amount of cash that UK consumers owe to the banks. So why not simply pay off all the money we owe? Of course that would be sending out the ‘wrong message’ – despite the government being more than willing to let negligent bankers pick up bonuses and pensions worth millions of pounds.
Meanwhile the sectors hit first by the downturn are those occupied by the lowest paid workers in the construction and service industries. OK, so some former city high-fliers have also got the boot, but it’s a lot easier to ride it out with a nice posh house and a robust savings account than it is on £60.50 a week Job Seekers Allowance.
This is from the government that, for all its anti-poverty talk, spent the entire housing benefit budget in just two hours propping up failing banks (see SchNEWS 647
). £1.3 trillion is the equivalent of three year’s government expenditure. It’s a huge amount of cash and cuts will have to be made if the debt is to be repaid. City types are unlikely to be losing much sleep over the condition of the local hospital or school when they have private medical care and private education at their disposal. Those who have made all the costly mistakes will lose the least when public services are cut. The borrowers they drowned in debt will pay the real price of the downturn.
Capitalism has always been an efficient tool for the redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich and this bail out is more of the same. During the booms of the 1980s and 1990s the gap between rich and poor accelerated and this has not been helped by a taxation system which favours the wealthy – 100,000 of the biggest earners pay no tax at all (the non-domiciles). Last week documents revealed that Barclays has managed to avoid paying more than £1bn in corporation tax while RBS has now admitted the previous existence of a department focused entirely on ‘structured trades’, or tax evasion as it’s more commonly known. These trades included nifty practices such as backing both sides of a gamble speculating on asset prices. When the no-risk bets got accounted for, the losing side of the deal could be charged against taxable UK income and all winnings transferred into offshore tax free account. Sweet.
Quick, give ‘em more money, these are the guys we can trust to sort the mess out!
When the UK government raises the cash to pay for the money it borrowed to give to the banks, it will cut the services most used by the worse off in our society. It will raise the greatest proportion of the taxes to repay that debt from the lowest paid in the country. In one year, an unemployed builder will pick up a state handout of just over three grand. Fred Goodwin who presided over large scale fraud at the Royal Bank of Scotland (which has just recorded the largest loss in UK corporate history) will get more than 700 grand courtesy of the UK tax payer. No wonder people are angry.
RIGHT SHRED FRED
SchNEWS was gutted this week to hear a mansion belonging to ex-Royal Bank of Scotland’s boss Fred ‘the huge feckin fraud’ Goodwin (or ‘the Shred’ as he’s also known) was attacked – but unfortunately not gutted. Merely some broken windows and some damage to a merc parked outside, but at least it's a shot across the bows that lets him know average people are less than impressed that he's set to collect two grand of taxpayers cash a week for life as reward for sucking millions out in bonuses while running his bank into the ground.
Fred himself, safely out of the country with his family and enjoying his loot, was reported as being ‘shaken’ by the news and thought people were going ‘too far’! Having helped shake the foundations of the economic system, Sir Fred seems to have gone pretty far (away) himself...
EDO INSIDE SCHNEWS
Last Saturday about 60 people marched around Horfield Prison in Bristol in a “Wall of Sound” protest to show solidarity with those who tried to decommission the EDO MBM/ITT factory during the Israeli bombing of Gaza (See SchNEWS 663). The factory supplies the bomb release mechanisms used by the Israeli war machine in its commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Of the six arrested, two have been on remand since the decommissioning on January 17th. Send letters of support - Elija Smith VP 7551, HMP Bristol, 19 Cambridge Rd, Horfield, BS7 8PS; and Robert Alford VP 7552 HMP Lewes, 1 Brighton Rd, Lewes, Sussex, BN7 1EA
* For photos visit www.bristol.indymedia.org/article/690082
* See www.decommisioners.wordpress.com
Following the eviction of Camp Florentine in Tasmania’s old growth forest two months ago (See SchNEWS 664) activists have set up a new tree sit in the Huon Valley. Huon Valley Environment Centre’s Jenny Weber said, “Forest Defenders have established a tree sit in a remote tall tree at high altitude, deep in the wilderness forest due for logging, to alert the world to the imminent logging that is set to commence. Logging is set to begin immediately in area of forest...situated adjacent to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA)”’.
* See www.huon.org and www.stillwildstillthreatened.org
On Wednesday (25th) five protesters stopped work at the Muir Dean open-cast coal mine near Crossgates in Fife, operated by ATH Resources. They climbed onto a huge excavator in the centre of the pit, displaying a banner demanding “No New Coal”. Unexpectedly, Fife police detained all five protesters despite them agreeing to come down off the excavator, even though workers at the site were happy for them to just leave. They are currently being held at Dunfermline police station.
Controversy surrounds the Muir Dean site as the original planning application was refused by Fife council but this was overturned by the Scottish Government.
The ATH Resources operated site produces around 450,000 tonnes of coal per year and will produce 4 million tonnes in total – equivalent to around 7.32 million tonnes of CO2 being released into the atmosphere. Thirteen new open cast coal mines are due to open in Scotland.
One activist said “We’re here to send a message to ATH Resources that mining the dirtiest fossil fuel and fueling climate change is not acceptable. As mining companies such as ATH don’t appear to be listening, we’ve come to stop them mining, too.”
The five protesters were arrested for a “Breach of the Peace” and given trial dates in August.
In the early morning of March 22th three Swedish peace activists were arrested after breaking into Saab Aerospace Systems’ weapons factory in Linköping with the intention of decommissioning Jas 39 Gripen fighter jets - war planes which are exported to India, Thailand and South Africa.
The activists, who are all part of the anti-militaristic network Ofog, were remanded in custody and are to be charged with ‘attempted sabotage’. This is the fifth decommissioning action in Sweden since June 2008 (See SchNEWS 652).
* For more visit www.ofog.org/avrusta
The squatted ECO-conference community centre on Raven’s Ait, a disused island in the Thames (See SchNEWS 669) faces imminent eviction after the squatters lost their legal appeal this week.
The superb building they have occupied is perfect for their plans to develop ‘sustainability, education, community, workshops, direct action, environmental cinema and study actions to find a stable platform for a more unified environmental and social justice movement’ - things which are obviously sorely needed. Get down there and help them repel any unthinking invaders...
* See www.ravensait.org.uk
Seven people were this week acquitted of aggravated trespass at Brighton Magistrates court for locking on to the fence of Brighton arms factory EDO MBM/ITT on March 19th 2008 to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. One person was found guilty of criminal damage after allegedly gluing himself to a fence and given a conditional discharge.
Chloe Marsh, press spokesperson for the Smash EDO campaign, said “As always, it is EDO who should be in the dock not people who voice their dissent against them.”
Andrew Beckett said, “Last week marked the sixth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. So far this month over 100 people have been killed by violence caused by the US/UK occupation. The only people who have benefited from the war are private companies like EDO MBM/ITT.”
* For more visit www.smashedo.org.uk
A ritual has developed around media coverage of summit mobilisations. Oxbridge educated journos source juicy quotes about samurai sword wielding baby-eating anarchists by collaring squat-punks after a heavy night on the brew. The anonymous quote is duly given prominence alongside police promises to cancel all leave and the news that the army is on standby.
This time however to save the media elite the hassle of hanging out in dingy underground dives one Chris Knight has stepped forward – apparently a professor of anthropology at East London University - he’s now been dubbed Mister Mayhem by the Evening Standard. Knight told Channel 4 News “If they want violence, they’ll get it. We intend to be peaceful but if they press their nuclear button, I’ll press mine. It’s called mutually assured destruction. If Gordon Brown deploys his riot police, or sends in his agents provocateurs to start trouble as an excuse to attack us, all hell will break loose.” On Radio 4 he said “There will be real bankers hanging from lampposts and let’s hope that that doesn’t actually have to happen.” whilst boasting to Channel 4 that his organisation would shut down every light in London and suggesting that violence in London would exceed that in Greece.
Perhaps Chris is having a senior moment (he’s certainly blown his chance of an O.B.E) but as he’s unlikely to be swapping punches with the Babylon in the front-line we have to ask “Who the fuck are you speaking for Chris?”
SchNEWS warns all readers - avoid getting stuck in a kettle. See you there. Honest.