QMAG is dead, Long live QMAG!

So although it’s been known for a while that the mighty QMAG has long since fallen, we thought it would do well to be put in writing.

The glass is half full, and we can look back and be proud we made our mark, however small. From our short lived FREEmary newsletter with dear Aunty Autonomy dispensing class struggle advice, playing a strong role in the Autonomous Student Network, participating in the London Coalition Against Poverty, helping form the Queen Mary Student Alliance and being the driving force behind the first anti-cuts talk at QM, and THAT radical east end pub crawl…

It’s never over though, and although the staff and student anarchists at QM are no longer organised in to a united group, they are both as individuals and as a loose network being good class struggle militants like you’d expect ‘em to! Feel free to contact QMAG and we will do what we can to help put you in touch with those anarchists at QMUL that we know of.

So here’s to the Queen Mary Autonomous Group, from humble beginnings to getting a mention in the national press.

 

Solidarity!

In celebration of QMAG making it through to another academic year, we are having a welcoming social at the White Hart pub next to Aldgate East tube station on Thursday from 6pm onwards. Being next door to Freedom bookshop and all those anarchist meetings, you’ll be sure to meet people you’ll get along with, so pop on down!

Let us know you’re attending on the Facebook event page.

See you there 😉

An extremely important text produced during the successful 8-day occupation at Sussex University in March 2010. It deals with the tactical problems of fighting back, such as co-option by left-wing party hacks, comfort zone activism, and reaching out to increase the number of those participating on a practical basis beyond the usual suspects.Copied from Libcom.

Preface
This short text was written by an occupier on the third day (Saturday 13 March 2010) of an 8-day occupation of Arts A2 building at Sussex University. It was borne out of frustration with the way a radical act – a mass contempt of court (an imprisonable offence) by hundreds of students and even some staff – so quickly returned to the safe leftist territory of listening to Party hacks (and at least one non-affiliated local militant) urging us to unite against the “fascist BNP”. But it was also urging against the safe anarchist territory of small group activism. The text is a call for both the popular frontism of the leftists and the substitutionist activism of many anarchists to be superseded by a process of ‘massification.’

In the end, this text was not published at the time. It was discussed amongst a group of anarchist/anarcho-syndicalist students and staff, and decided that publishing the text would potentially polarise the situation and thus prevent the emergence of the very strategy advocated in the text. This partly because many of the leftists were not die-hard party liners (some weren’t even party members, while some joined during the occupation) but relatively independently minded and prepared to discuss strategy.

Instead, it was decided to argue the central points of the text in the mass assembly that evening. The argument was essentially against a proposal to hold rallies/marches every day; as one person put it “I don’t care what you can call it as long as I can chant.” In opposition to this kind of empty sloganeering it was argued to focus on the content of our activity and specifically the space we held, which could be used to draw in those students and staff who opposed the cuts but who had been alienated by the activism of the Stop the Cuts campaign.

This argument was largely successful. Instead of focussing on endless rallies and marches, a program of teach-ins were arranged. While leftist big-shots like Alex Callinicos (SWP leader) spoke, the program was dominated by staff. Some teach-ins were quite academic, but the most inspiring provided a space for staff to make public their feelings about the cuts that they had thus far had to bear as a private burden. The cartharsis was moving, and difficult to convey to those not present, but something changed in the character of the movement – or rather it ceased to be activism and became something like a movement.

Parallel to the teach-ins it was decided to organise an Emergency General Meeting of the Students Union to pass a vote of no confidence in university management (the Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Group, VCEG). The main demand of the occupation was the reinstatement of the ‘Sussex Six’, suspended after an occupation the previous week where management fabricated a hostage situation in order to call in riot police with dogs. Several students were assaulted and two arrested, while six occupiers were suspended.

The idea was alongside the direct action of the occupation, the ‘proper channels’ of the EGM provided an additional pressure on management. The EGM needed 600 students to be quorate. For context, the previous AGM had failed to reach quoracy, getting only 400 students. At just 48 hours notice, the EGM drew in 850 students with around a hundred more turned away with Mandella Hall already over capacity. The motion was passed near-unanimously.

This seemed to reaffirm an assertion of the text below – that support was there, but alienated from the activism of the campaign. Together with the occupation, through which hundreds passed in its 8 days, this seemed to be the beginnings of the ‘massification’ called for. The day after the EGM, on the morning of the one-day UCU strike (Thursday 18 March 2010), the Six had still not been reinstated. Occupiers marched out at 7am to join the picket lines, unsure of what seemed an ambiguous outcome.

Then the news filtered through – management had caved in and unconditionally reinstated the Six. Victory! But also, an end. The following day was the end of term, the massification that had begun was to be sharply curtailed and the nascent movement put on hold. Now then seems the time to publish this text, so that at Sussex and beyond we can critically reflect on what happened in those 8 days where so much seemed to change, only to suddenly return to normal.

From mobilisation to massification
As students, workers – occupiers – to be part of a mass contempt of court, occupying Arts A2 in defiance of both university bosses and the British state has been an inspiring experience. But there is an elephant in the room. A clear majority of students seem to support the aims of the Stop the Cuts campaign, plus the majority of staff. But our biggest demos number in the region of 500, and staff, especially lower paid, more precarious support staff are conspicuous by their absence.

There have been some steps taken to address this; a cleaner spoke to the occupation on Friday morning, and teach-ins have been arranged to try and attract more students. There are obvious reasons that staff threatened with job losses may wish to keep a low profile. But there remains some truth to VCEG’s accusation that the occupation ‘claims to represent’ the student body. As long as the student body is represented by a minority and not active for itself en masse, the campaign is largely limited to symbolic action, and management can attempt to weather the storm.

So how then to grow the campaign? There are two answers to this question. The easy answer we all know, the other one needs to be collectively answered through debate and critical reflection on our successes and failings so far. The first answer sees the problem as one of mobilisation. Students are supportive, but not active. The task therefore is to door-knock and flyer, demonstrate and sloganeer, building one demonstration after the next of increasing size, turning passive support into active support.

The problem is, we’ve been doing this and it seems to have reached its limits. Mobilisation certainly has its place in the campaign, but the demonstrations long ago hit a plateau and numbers even began to decline. It was VCEG’s repression with police and arbitrary suspensions which gave us back our momentum, swelling our numbers and allowing us to take Arts A2. So what is the alternative to the ‘mobilisation’ answer?

First, we need to look at its assumptions. Fundamentally, the mobilisation approach is based on the idea that what we are doing is correct and we simply need more people doing it. The problem is posed as quantitative. Often this assumption is correct, and thus mobilisation can be successful. For instance when picket lines form, getting as many workers and students mobilised to support and respect them is vital. However mobilisation can become an end in itself, leading to ritualised activity: what we want to suggest is that the quantitative problem of numbers may reflect a qualitative problem of the character of our activity.

To understand this, we need to look at two concepts of unity; political and practical. Both have been present in the occupation, but both pull in opposite directions. Practical unity is what we showed when we sprinted in our hundreds to Bramber House, only to reassess and move en masse to occupy Arts A2. Practical unity is based on common interests – we all recognise that the victimisation of the Sussex 6 is illegitimate (even if technically lawful), and we all recognise that the cuts are an attack on us all. These views are widely held by students beyond those present on the day.

This practical unity stands in opposition to political unity. Political unity is based on perceived lowest common denominators and the logic of ‘coalition building’, putting aside or ignoring political differences in order to create a popular front. The problem here is twofold; firstly the emphasis on unity can act as a block on critical discussion and self-reflection of tactics and strategy, secondly it can take us into the comfort zone of leftist shibboleths that we imagine to be popular but in fact are simply populist.

For example, three speakers in a row yesterday denounced the “fascist BNP”. It is not important to discuss here whether the BNP are fascists, what is important is that they occupy the symbolic role of an evil that we can all unite against. The problem is this kind of political unity is both shallow and devoid of class content – Michael Farthing and Lord Mandleson would oppose the BNP too.

Having encouraged Uni staff to risk their jobs by joining the occupation – some were even contemplating staying the night – they were yesterday confronted by something more resembling a political rally. For seasoned leftists/activists this is unremarkable or even unnoticed. For many of those outside this ghetto it was a profoundly alienating experience.

Mobilisation is a one-way process that want to make others more like us. If students don’t agree with us they should. If they do, they should get active, join us in demonstrating and chanting slogans. This certainly has its place in the campaign. But when mobilisation is posed as the answer per se it requires a popular front/political unity, suprressing critical reflection and in turn leading to ritualised activity undertaken regardless of its tactical or strategic merits. It’s easy to mistake criticism and debate for disunity if the unity sought is political.

Beyond the one-way logic of mobilisation, we want to propose a two-way logic of massification. The unity we seek is a practical one; political disunity must be recognised, nay encouraged, thus contributing to an ongoing culture of critical debate. Massification means not simply mobilising greater numbers of passive supporters, but also reflecting on what it is in our own activity which has thus far separated us off from that passive support as an activist minority.

It means not just chanting, but listening. Talking to staff and students and engaging in two-way dialogue – seeking a unity based on common (i.e. class) interests not common politics. There have been attempts at this, some students have been talking to cleaners, porters, security and a representative of the cleaners spoke at the occupation yesterday morning. There have also been attempts to engage with student criticisms through the Q&A.

Many of those who would feel singled out by the criticisms of mobilisationism can take credit for some of these activities. This is not a criticism of individuals or groups but of strategy. If we are to not just win the reinstatement of the six but stop the cuts we need mass activity. But rather than viewing this as just a problem of mobilisation – getting people to act more like us – we need to see it as a problem of massification – drawing in more people whilst also rejecting our own separation from other students and workers in this role of ‘activists’ which we have found ourselves occupying.

“So why do we behave like activists? Simply because it’s the easy cowards’ option? It is easy to fall into playing the activist role because it fits into this society and doesn’t challenge it – activism is an accepted form of dissent. Even if as activists we are doing things which are not accepted and are illegal, the form of activism itself – the way it is like a job – means that it fits in with our psychology and our upbringing. It has a certain attraction precisely because it is not revolutionary.”
– Give Up Activism

Give Up Activism can be found at the Radical Reading Collective blog (scroll down half way), a group local to Queen Mary that meets down the road in Whitechapel.

Educating Who About What

April 17, 2010

From Freedom news

University figures revealed

Despite the threat of massive job cuts across the whole of education the latest official figures show the income of UK universities has risen by over £2bn in the last academic year largely due to the increase in tuition fees.

The statistics published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency includes all 165 publicly funded Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and provides an insight into how universities and colleges are financially maintained.

The figures show that the total income of HEIs rose by 8.3% between 2007/08 and 2008/09 from £23.4bn to £25.4bn, the biggest percentage increase coming from tuition fees, at a staggering 16.2%, with the lowest increase coming from public funding at 3.9%.

Government funding bodies still provide the biggest source of income at £8.8bn followed closely by tuition fees and education contracts contributing £7.3bn. The rest came from private research grants and contracts, consultancies, supply of goods and investment – HE institutions received £938 million from contracted research on behalf of external partners. There was also a massive drop of almost 32% in endowment and investment income.

Total expenditure of all universities also increased from £22bn to £24bn, up 9.0%, with staffing costs rising 7.9% to £14bn. Interestingly the highest increase in expenditure by over a third was through interest payable on premises, residences and catering operations, including conferences.

What isn’t revealed is that vice-chancellors, the universities chief executives, saw their pay and benefits boosted by 10.6% last year, and now receive packages, excluding pensions, worth on average £219,156.

Come along to our ‘What is Anarchism?’ discussion!

Tuesday 30th March 5pm-7pm Francis Bancroft 1.13.

“Anarchy: It is NOT bombs, disorder or chaos. It is NOT robbery and murder. It is NOT a war of each against all. It is NOT a return to barbarism or to the wild state of man. Anarchism is the very opposite of all that” – Alexander Berkman.

Come and learn about the revolutionary ideas of Anarchism. A brief introduction will be followed by a discussion on the practical situations and applications that exist today from recent contemporary politics, and highlighting the Anarchist response.  There will be clips from documentaries, free copies anarchist literature, and free handouts giving a brief introduction to the most misunderstood movement in the world.

Come along to air your opinions, questions, condemnations and praises of Anarchy.

Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?v=wall&id=542721356#!/event.php?eid=403136605882&ref=ts
Until then, use the online Anarchist FAQ to browse the subject: http://anarchism.ws/faq/

Queen Mary location: http://www.qmul.ac.uk/about/campus/mileend/

Campus Map (Francis Bancroft is no 13 on the key): http://www.qmul.ac.uk/about/campus/docs/milendmap.pdf

Following the news that QM management is planning to slash up to 100 jobs, merge several departments and make cuts elsewhere, QMAG is spearheading a broad-based campaign for all staff and students.

The launch meeting will take place at 5pm on Thursday March 18th in Room 1.15 of the Francis Bancroft Building.

Please spread the word. Your college depends on it. You can download leaflets here.

Students occupying against cuts at the London College of Communication holding firm against management repression in the form of the police

This is an article i pulled from Libcom here (again, that website is too good!). At the Anarchist Bookfair there was a meeting on how to defend education against the cuts being hitting the entire public sector. Although such a topic is important to us at Queen Mary for obvious reasons, of special note is that a representative of the Autonomous Student Network spoke at the meeting. Also, if you don’t already know about the Education Workers’ Network, then check em out here. BTW, that picture is from the blog of LCC students that have been fighting against particularly brutal cuts at their uni. One QMAG member and another activist student from Queen Mary went down to help out on the first full day of the occupation, handing out and sticking up leaflets with information about the occupation, with the QMAGer staying over-night at the occupation. As it happened there was an LCC student there that had been to the Autonomous Student Network meeting back in the summer holidays. The network is growing… 😉

A brief report from the Leveller issue 3 about the ‘Defending Education’ meeting hosted by the Education Workers’ Network at the 2009 London Anarchist Bookfair.

As part of the series of discussions during this years London Anarchist Bookfair, one discussion centred around issues facing workers in the education sector, particularly in light of the recession, and cuts being made left, right and centre.

The discussion “Defend Jobs and Services in Education – How should Education Workers respond?” was organised and hosted by the Education Workers’ Network (EWN). The EWN is an industrial network of Solidarity Federation (SF), comprised of SF members who work in the education sector. The session was intended to provide an opportunity for education workers speak out against the ongoing process of cuts and job losses in education, but also included a student activist talking about how students can support education workers in struggle. This was followed by an open debate on practical action.

Education Workers Network
A speaker from EWN opened the session by giving a brief run-down of the current attacks on the education sector. Against the backdrop of the recession, workers in all sector, including education, are facing cuts in their standards of living. Often this is taking the form of below-inflation ‘pat rises’, effectively pay cuts in real terms. Recent struggles, such as the occupation of London Metropolitan University (London Met) and the strike of the Tower Hamlets College workers, highlight the need for vigilance from education workers, and underline the need to fight back against the aggressive attacks on workers’ pay and conditions by bosses in the sector.

Earlier this year it was forecast that up to 100 higher eduction (HE) institutions in the UK would be expecting to make job cuts in the coming year – that’s two-thirds of HE workplaces, a haunting statistic. Meanwhile, £65million has been cut from the HE budget, while at the same time, government wants 10,000 more students to take university places. This means more students, with less staff to teach them, and less money to pay for it – a grim state of affairs.

The EWN speaker made clear that education workers cannot place their confidence in the unions. The unions are often very happy to take the first offer in struggles and claim it as a victory eg. Tower Hamlets, where many workers thought they could hold out to save many of the English-language courses, but in the end settled for ‘no compulsory redundancies’ (see Tower Hamlets interview in Catalyst winter 2009, or Leveller #3).

Of course there are alternatives, even within the current system, to cuts. At a time when bankers receive record bonuses and failing banks are bailed out to the tune of billions of pounds, it clear that a system that would run its public services into the ground, attacking education, health and transport workers, is rotten to the core.

EWN proposes a multi-faceted approach to fighting back. Workers should agitate for strike action in their workplaces where they can, not waiting for the unions to do it for them, but doing so where it is possible. Secondly, education workers should be producing propaganda, discussing the issues affecting workers in the sector, and highlighting ways of fighting back. Thirdly, workers in the sector should be forging links with workers taking action in other sectors, sharing ideas, providing solidarity and learning from the efforts of others.

The EWN speaker concluded by saying that it is essential that anarchists get involved in these fights in their workplace – this is a fight we must win.

Autonomous Students’ Network
Next up was a representative from the Autonomous Students’ Network (ASN). The primary thrust of this portion was on the ways in which student-staff solidarity can be built, in particular, the ways in which students can support staff in struggles. Clear examples of this exist in some of the aforementioned examples – in Tower Hamlets, students took part in the marches and rallies, and refused to cross picket lines; in London Met, it was students that occupied the building for several days in May over job cuts in teaching staff.

The ASN speaker spoke of difficulties he had in getting in touch with union activists, even just to get information about pickets, and ways in which students could lend support to staff in struggle. A fine point was made that students and staff clearly have shared interests in fighting back against cuts. Students want the best quality of teaching that they can get – education doesn’t benefit from sacking staff, or forcing less staff to teach more pupils, diluting the quality of education for students, and increasing the workload for staff. The recession is also being used to bring into being the highest fees any of us have seen in HE. More than a half of university vice-chancellors surveyed this year want a minimum £5,000 per-year fee for university study, with many wanting as much £20,000. In Belfast, Queens want to push it to £10,000 per year! It’s worth bearing in mind that the people seeking to enact these attacks of education are people that benefited during times when HE was free!

Discussion
Discussion opened to the floor, picking up on issues that the speakers had raised, and raising some novel topics. A further education (FE) worker emphasised that the attacks were across all aspects of education; primary, secondary, FE, HE and adult-learning. The point was made that in fighting back against these cuts, many workers and students feel isolated or atomised. This reinforces the point made by EWN about getting effective propaganda out there, and actively building links with those of common-interest.

Several EWN members spoke about their personal experiences of organising in their workplaces. A common theme was the ineffective nature of the unions in many cases, with poor visibility in many workplaces and even simple things like union notice-boards for disseminating information being difficult to come by. While much of the conversation was regarding negative aspects of workplaces, there were some common elements that provide a way forward and a glimmer of hope.

People ARE becoming aware of the attacks being made across sectors. Education workers in particular, are conscious of the cuts coming their way, if not already experiencing them. The proposed tactics of increasing visibility and propaganda, combined with agitating for action in workplaces does suggest a way forward. He examples of link-building between workers and communities in struggle are an inspiration to all fighting to improve their lives – for example, the Lewisham School occupiers that visited the Visteon and Vestas occupations. While workers and communities taking action to fight back against cuts emphasise the need to keep fighting – the mothers of children in Glasgow and Greenwich taking action to fight against schools closure, and the Tower Hamlets College workers striking and improving their conditions, are just a few examples of people taking collective action to oppose the attacks on people during the current crisis.

This is an article originally from Resistance, the Anarchist Federation’s newspaper, though i copied it from Libcom here.

It has now been a year since the events of Greece captivated the world as students, workers, immigrants and the unemployed took to the streets of the country’s major cities. The Greek December saw widespread examples of working class direct action from strikes and sabotage to the occupation of schools, workplaces and municipal buildings. This article will reflect on key currents that emerged out of the uprising, what the events meant and what they mean for the future.

A 15-year old boy

The Greek uprising was a shock. While we had witnessed recent comparable examples of working class revolt across Europe in France and Italy, the scale and ferocity of the December events took many by surprise. It was the murder of a 15-year-old boy, Alexis Grigoropoulos, by Greek police that sparked the outrage that inflamed Greek society. Police brutality is a daily reality for many Greeks – especially in the inner cities against immigrants and anti-authoritarian youth. Corruption and embezzlement are rife among politicians and civic leaders, such as those in the church, and there is a real crisis of trust in politics amongst large sections of the population. The economic crisis had also meant widespread cuts in pay, job losses and greater insecurity for many. While the initial riots were largely confined to inner city youth, the raw injustice of the murder of an innocent 15-year-old stirred up deeper and more general frustrations with the social and political order. The uprising brought together different sections of Greek society in ways that had not been seen before.

We demand nothing

A central cause of the decline of the uprising was its failure to spread the struggle to other sections of the working class. The popular and neighbourhood assemblies attempted to popularise the struggle, and the occupation of the GSEE trade union offices (one of the most well attended assemblies) also took steps towards this. However, overall much of the activity in the streets, although it gained a great deal of popular support, failed to spread to workplaces. Workers in many key industries did, and continue to, engage in disruptive action (strike action by dockworkers in Piraeus is reported to have cost around 5 million Euros a day) against cuts and job losses, but this never seemed to fully connect with the occupations and riots on the streets.

A positive outcome of the uprising was that, thanks to its radical and totally anti-capitalist message, the best activity of December was never pushed in a reformist direction. Despite the fact that the is now attempting Socialist Party to label itself as “anti-authoritarians in power”, there were no new sets of “leaders” or political alliances emerging out of the events. Many of the popular initiatives eventually ran out of steam, but they still stand as positive and inspirational examples of contemporary working class self-organisation.

The rise of the far-right

In the recent European elections, there was growing support for organisations of the far-right (including in the UK) across the continent. Greece was no different, with LAOS (a right-wing populist party) securing two representatives with 7.14% of the vote. The Greek state has also been keen to pursue new anti-immigration policies. In May the Minister of Public Order pledged to “clean” the centre of Athens of immigrants, attempting to push plans to convert an old NATO base into a holding camp for these displaced people. Throughout December, collaboration between the police and paramilitary fascist groups (such as the neo-Nazi “Golden Dawn”) was well documented. Fascists were photographed assisting in arrests, attacking protesters and even using police equipment against demonstrations. Since December, fascist groups have been targeting what they see as the key elements behind the uprising – largely immigrants and anarchists – including an attack with a hand grenade in February against a popular squat. Anti-fascist and anti-racist activity, however, has remained strong and in spite of the reports of escalating repression, anti-fascists were able to celebrate the world over in March as the news spread that the headquarters of “Golden Dawn” had been torched to the ground.

The traditional Left and the trade unions

The parties of the traditional Left and the trade unions were quick to show their true colours at the outbreak of the events. The Greek Communist Party swiftly denounced the riots as the work of “foreign dark forces” and called for its members to stay away from the riots. Members of its youth wing were also active in attempting to block occupations. The Socialist Party, now in power, has overseen widespread state repression against anarchists, including a mass raid of squats and social centres in the Exarchia district (the district where Alexis was shot). The trade union leadership were also keen to not let their members become infected by the spirit of revolt. During December they cancelled a key demonstration that would have coincided with the uprising, and since then the leadership have continued to restrain the activity of workers.

The fate of a tree

The image of the burning Christmas tree in Syntagma Square came to be a powerful symbol of the rebellion. So strong, in fact, that in later demonstrations the police showed a far greater interest in protecting the replacement tree than the surrounding banks and luxury shops! The holiday season, however, was not friendly to the uprising. Traditional celebrations like Christmas have a strong hold over communities and many initiatives failed to get back on their feet after the break. The frenzied consumerism that is the modern “Christmas spirit” also became a real barrier between the demands of the uprising and the experience of the general public.

The return of armed struggle?

Armed groups have always been a feature of the Greek left. The Marxist “17 November” group orchestrated a sustained assassination and bombing campaign against Greek police and public officials for 29 years before disbanding in 2002. The December events saw 17 November’s successors, “Revolutionary Struggle”, claim responsibility for the shooting of a police guard at the Culture ministry. However the 17 November group never really had any mass appeal. The December events prompted the emergence of other groups that appear to be gathering some sympathy. These include “Popular Action” and the “Nuclei of Fire Conspiracy” (NFC) which have both claimed responsibility for detonating small-scale explosive devices and are yet to cause a fatality. The NFC communiqué, which has been widely reported in the mainstream media, has become particularly popular amongst the new wave of high school occupations. Of course, all of this has served as a pretext for the authorities to seize and detain anarchists and other activists who have been involved in the uprising. Heavy raids in the Exarchia district are justified by referring to the guerillas’ activity, while three 20-year-old men were jailed under anti-terrorist laws for their alleged involvement in the NFC (this was despite the fact that the prosecution’s case quickly collapsed and they had to be held “in expectation” of evidence against them). The mainstream media has also been keen to highlight the guerilla groups’ activity as a way to discredit the uprising in general.

One, two, many Decembers

While December 2008 may have been the high point, the struggle very much continues throughout Greece. There is still widespread unrest throughout major industries and 2009 has already seen some highly militant expressions of workplace action. Many activists also continue to struggle against the backlash to the events, whether that is the state’s turn to racist social policies, increasing repression against activists, or even targeted state violence. As this article is written, it is a week before the official start of the “unrest season”, the 30 days between the anniversary of the 1973 Polytechnic Uprising (November 17), the anniversary of the assassination of Alexandros Grigoropoulos and the start of the 2008 December Uprising (December 6) and the trial of Grigoropoulos murderers (December 15), and things are looking tense. Workers of the Social Security Organisation of Self-Employed (AOEE) have occupied the two buildings of the organisation to demand the renewal of temporary contracts. Even the union of basketball players has announced a two day strike demanding a series of labour conditions reforms! At the moment, it’s not clear whether we’ll see an eruption of the kind of scenes we saw a year ago. One thing is for sure: that we can continue to look to the Greek working class as an inspiration for the ongoing struggle of our class, even in the toughest of social and economic climates.

Originally published in Resistance, Anarchist Federation paper, issue 118, December 2009 – Jan 2010

www.afed.org.uk

COP15: Notes From Below

December 4, 2009

This is an article from the Freedom Press website written by the Notes From Below Collective on the UN Copenhagen talks on Climate Change starting next week, and includes a very good analysis on the role of activists with regards to environmental issues. With the Wave happening tomorrow, and the Anti-Capitalist Bloc planing a presence, this is all really important stuff right!

Effective activism of just part of the "Spectacle"?

Cop15: Notes From Below

This December (ten years since the alter-globalisation movements took to the streets of Seattle to oppose the world trade organization) activists from across the globe will be descending on Copenhagen to protest the COP15 round of discussion. Has the UK Direct Action movement changed in the interceding years between these cycles of struggle? And what lessons, if any, can it learn from its recent past?

What COP15 Is:
The fifteenth ‘Conference Of Parties’ (COP) is scheduled for 7-18th December 2009. Established by the UN, with the first meeting in Berlin in 1995, these conferences aimed to determine the method by which the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) treaty could be pushed forward. This treaty was legally non-binding, but provided protocols with the objective of stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions at a level which would prevent ‘man-made’ climate change. The COP talks aim to establish legally binding obligations for developed countries to reduce their emissions whilst not inhibiting the industrialization of developing nations. Through out its brief history the COP process has been hampered by indecision. The most famous example being the Kyoto Protocol. This was proposed at COP3 in 1997 to set emission restrictions for the period 2008-2012. The next nine years and 8 meetings were dominated by attempts to ratify the Kyoto Protocol in the face of severe challenges and finally a firm rejection by the USA. By the time an agreement was met, the time frames set were unworkable and COP shifted their focus towards establishing a successor.

The purpose of COP15 is to establish a decisive global agreement which can pick up the pieces from the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.  This they hope to achieve through various market methods, including the implementation of carbon trading, a means by which developed nations can buy their way out of emissions targets through exchange with less-developed nations which emit far less than the designated targets. In effect, through the supply of funding and ‘technology’, richer countries can accumulate ‘spare’ carbon credits and not address their own emissions. The meeting will be attended by Governmental ministers and officials from 192 countries as well as business leaders and civic society groups.

Why Should You Care About COP15?:
In the wake of the financial crisis it seems apparent to us that states and the international markets will use the threat of runaway climate change as a means to restructure capital and to shore up state power.

What Do We Mean By This?
That the very industries and national bodies that have created this crisis will make the working and poor population of the world pay for carbon reduction through increased attacks on our collective standards of living and our limited freedom.

It seems likely that these attacks will take the form of green taxes levelled against populations, the control or regulation of people’s movements between borders (flight allocation/personal carbon rations), rising fuel prices, energy rationing or through the establishment of renewable industries (which will involve layoffs/retraining).

The ‘Radical’ Green Movement, As We See It:
From the outside it appears that these concerns for COP15’s outcome seem to be drowned out by the louder voices of the ‘mainstream’ green movement who seek solely to cut carbon emissions by ANY means necessary.

This desire to halt emissions is fuelled by the apocalyptic rallying cry of  ‘100 months’. This ‘peer reviewed’ timeframe states that the world has less than 100 months to reduce carbon emissions before runaway climate change leads to catastrophe. This tempo has set the agenda for what is believed possible, with many campaigners claiming that only state-led solutions can be offered in the timeframe posed. The failure of anti-authoritarian movements  to organize themselves materially and to challenge state power, has only helped maintain people’s faith in a process that has systematically failed to deliver any agreements over the last 14 years.

Another narrative shared by the both the state and the broad green movement is the belief that climate change is a ‘man made’ problem and not one of our economy. This confusion only lends the state more power when offering up its solutions.
While human industry has undoubtedly contributed to climate change to pin this on a ‘neutral humanity’ is to miss the point entirely. Climate change has not been brought about by mankind’s progressive march towards a petroleum-driven technological future, but by capitalism, the means by which our lives are ordered.

Summit Hopping Again?
The activist movements seem awash with an excitement not felt since the heyday of the alter-globalisation movement. In the UK, Climate Camp have called for a national mobilization, similar to Earth First’s mobilization to Prague  for the IMF/WB meeting in 2001.Many have projected that climate change will kick start a new cycle of summit struggles, if this is to be the case there seems to be little comparisons or inter-movement dialogue regarding the failures and limited successes of the last cycle.

Uneasy victory?
Anarchist and ultra left groups have often recognized what is at stake at these summits, and as such played an important role in  summit mobilizations during the last cycle, especially against economic forums such as the WTO and  IMF . These manifestations were able to galvanise activists from diverse backgrounds (environmentalists, faith groups, indigenous peoples through to steel workers) due to the obvious nature of the unelected and unaccountable illegitimacy of the institutions these protests opposed. It can be also argued that the inclusion of just ‘8’ of the worlds leading economies was justification enough for many to mobilise against the predecessor of the G20. Anti-state voices were often in the minority at these mobilizations.

While the legitimacy of such institutions matters little to anarchist groups, COP15 presents itself as a united effort on behalf of ‘world democracy’ (the UN) to reorder itself, and as such, antagonisms to the process are not as clearly defined by those attending as in previous summit event. Or, to be more precise there is no shared understanding of what is at stake and who or what is to blame. Already there have been calls to both ‘shut them down and keep them in’! from activist networks mobilizing for COP.

This confused position has been seen as a positive representation of the  ‘diversity of opinion’ of the groups attending. Regardless of  political difference, for all attending be they radical or reformist, carbon reduction remains the priority of the movement. A priority that could lead  to strange and uncomfortable ‘victories’ if the governments and business leaders attending COP15 have their way.

From the outside the debate seems solely focused on carbon emission reduction with the occasional nod towards ‘worker’s issues’ in the shape of a ‘just transition to a carbon free future’. Without addressing by whose agency a just transition will be achieved, protests will do little to counter the attempts to restructure labour from above. It could be argued that those attending the COP15 protests could also be seen to be supporting any planned ‘new green deal’, austerity is the only outcome likely in our mind.

We have yet to hear of radical voices inside the green movements that articulate our concerns or address the inadequacy of  narrow single issue demands effectively. We hope that those attending the protests take our concerns with them, and articulate them, in order to broaden the debate inside the  ‘carbon justice’ movement.

Give Up Activism…
It can now be stated with some certainty that summit hopping of the past failed to generalize itself outside of the activists who attended them. Protests became the increasing expertise of a small class of  international activist ‘experts’. We see little to convince us that this trend has changed in the interceding years. In the end the only people who understood the politics of summit mobilisations were not the millions of passive observers the protesters imagined being radicalized by their actions, but the dwindling numbers of participants and the police. If the radical green movement, of which climate camp is a main player, is serious about ‘confronting and reversing the route causes of climate change’ it must broaden itself out to include  the concerns of the international working class.

Whilst it is to late to halt the process set in motion by a ‘summit call out’ ,we hope that all those attending COP15 return to their homes safely and without the necessity to reinvent the wheel- i.e.  condemning their generation to another decade of spectacular riots with little or no real material gains.
Instead, we hope they return refreshed and willing to expand the movement at home, wherever that may be, that deal with the route causes of climate change. Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing our species’ continued survival on this planet. Whilst we must strive to halt emissions, this must be contained within the framework of a totalized understanding of the problems we face e.g. capitalism and the State as the motor of climate change.  Failure to articulate our demands or to meet other people in contestation with capitalism will condemn the movement to one of radical posturing and isolation, like its ‘anti-globalisation’ predecessor. A posture that will not be noticed from the outside, regardless of how many column inches the Guardian devotes to its unofficial leadership.

Written for Freedom by Notes From Below collective http://notesfrombelow.wordpress.com/

MBDA aren’t a household name, but they are a major player in missile technology. Their record is impressively dire, supplying arms to corrupt governments such as Saudi Arabia, oppressive ones such as Israel, and fabricating nuclear warheads for France. Yes, they do a pretty good job of making millions out of war.

We recently got wind of their plans to hold a stall at a recruitment fair aimed at engineering students, and immediately leapt into action. Alongside the Socialist Society, Amnesty, Stop the War and the Tamil Society, QMAG has been involved in showing how to put the fear of god into war profiteers.

Did we D-lock ourselves to the college railings? Did we smash the windows of the Queen’s Building? Did we occupy the Principal’s office? No. We wrote a letter. And (possibly for the first time in the history of the universe) it worked! Although the Principal didn’t budge, the mere threat of action got MBDA so jittery that they pulled out.

Well done to all involved!