Best of July 2016

 

2016_07_Turkish demonstrators beat soldiers
Anti-coup demonstrators beat captured soliders, most of whom were young conscripts who had no idea what they were taking part in. Shows the masculinist character of what Erdongan described as saviours of democracy, and of the kind of fascist state and auxiliary society he is trying to mould. Image shared from the Guardian.

July was the month of violence and terrorism across germany, france, the usa, and a failed coup and nationalist backlash in Turkey. Although the levels of violence was still far less than in Iraq, Nigeria, or Somalia this month (not to mention Syria) the white media still focussed on dangers in the safest parts of the world. And when they weren’t talking about terrorism they were talking about leadership contests in the anglo-centric centres of the universe, all under the shadow of predictably senseless discussion on Brexit. Among some of the exceptions from within the empires are some interesting pieces on groups trying to tackle post-referendum racism, (see also a piece by the Wretched of the Earth Collective on how to practice anti-racist solidarity, previously linked to on this blog) a discussion thread critically exposing the shamelessness of the anti-democratic elite of the britain’s Labour party, plus some guidelines for how members can try to win back the organisation and turn it into a member-based party (although a structure based on direct democracy and instantly-recallable delegates is still beyond the horizon). And actually, some good points are made in this other post arguing how the time spent by activists reclaiming the Labour party might be better spent on extra-parliamentary organising.

2016_07_Trident protest
Demonstrators against nuclear submarines, stationed off Scotland. Image shared from catholic universe.

By far the best piece I read this month was a journal entry by a trans woman who has chosen not to undergo surgery and presents as male. Touches on all sorts of complexities of feminism in relation to trans* perspectives. Although it was published earlier in the year, it seems to have only been noticed recently. A similar post in response/inspired by it is also worth a read.

Elsewhere, a discussion of teachers’ unionising and strategising against neoliberalisation and racism and inequality, looking at recent examples in Mexico, usa and uk. A report of the Social ecology gathering in Lyon, outlining what an anti-capitalist, libertarian municipalist social ecology vision could look like, written by Janet Biehl, former partner, collaborator and current biogropher of Murray Bookchin. A sad enough piece about the decline of the Nordic model in Denmark over the course of the last 30 years and the embracal instead of neoliberalism. And pointers to some good movies that are probably worth a look at: recommendations selected from among films screening at the GAZE International LGBT Film Festival in ireland.

2016_07_Derry antifascists
Demo in solidarity anti-fascist prisoners in Russia, staged at Free Derry Corner. Image shared from wsm.ie.

 

 

 

Five ways to practise anti-racist solidarity in Brexit Britain – Statement by Wretched of the Earth Collective

The media have predictably ignored the implications of the Brexit vote. Instead of looking at the increase in racist attacks and the morale boost given to the militant extreme right, they instead focus on non-issues of party leaders (in UK and in EU), and speculation about investors’ dictats. The wretched of the earth collective instead offer this guide on how to counter the militancy of the right and practice anti-racist solidarity. Apprpriate at this particular moment, but also good advice for the rest of the time and in all countries. Shared from the New Internationalist.

 

30.06.16-nigel-farage-brexit-590x393.jpg [Related Image]
Leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party Nigel Farage poses during a media launch for an EU referendum poster in London. The poster was widely criticized as promoting xenophobia during the campaign. © REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

A lot of people on the Left have woken up to the uncomfortable reality that racism exists in Britain. So what can you do about it? asks the Wretched of the Earth collective.

In the days since the Brexit vote was announced, it seems Britain’s white liberal Left have suddenly become aware of an uncomfortable truth for the first time: racism. And most notably, its prevalence. From shouts of ‘solidarity to my friends who feel less safe in Britain overnight’ to ‘so it seems it’s now okay to openly be racist on the streets’, many are presenting this well-established phenomenon as a genuinely new discovery.

So where have they been in the last few years when racism – both from the state and on the streets – has increased in Britain? From the introduction of prevent duty across educational institutions to ‘Go home’ vans targeting black and brown communities; from the rise of the English Defence League and Britain First to the vastly disproportionate use of police stop-and-search powers in black communities; from the increasing use of immigration detention centres across the country to the growth in violent islamophobic attacks – and even brutal murders – on our streets… Let’s be honest: has there ever been a time when black and brown people have been safe in this country? It is clear that violent racism and xenophobia have increased since the referendum result was announced. Various police forces up and down the country are investigating numerous reports and MPs are raising questions in the House of Commons. It’s only a matter of time before reports galore are thrown our way outlining this increase in attacks.

RELATED: Stop Brexit-fuelled racism and campaign lies by Vanessa Baird

White people seem to think that there is a small, fringe group of racists in Britain, but the reality is much more uncomfortable and implicates a large part of the white population in more and less direct ways. There are different forms of racism, from microaggressions in the workplace, to violence on the streets, to government policy targeted directly at black and brown bodies, all of which contribute to a racist society. We can, however, change this together, starting by undertaking acts of allyship with those experiencing the current spike in this country’s long history of racist scapegoating. Get informed on where racism and xenophobia come from and learn how to dispel the numerous myths regularly doled out by the mainstream media. Listen to people when they open up about their experiences of racism and xenophobia and don’t be dismissive of people’s feelings and fears. Saying things like ‘it wasn’t about race or nationality’, or ‘you’re being overly sensitive’, or ‘it’s a class issue, not a race issue’, only reinforces your privileged position by denying the very real feelings and experiences that others have to face.

RELATED: Busting the myth that ‘economic migrants are a drain on rich world economies’ by Dinyar Godrej

Moving on from awareness to action, here are some practical things you can do to demonstrate active solidarity with those experiencing increased discrimination, hate and violence in post-Brexit Britain:

  1. Call out racism in your workplace, your family or on the street. See a colleague facing discrimination? Ask them how you can best support them and do it. Racist uncle spewing a load of nonsense at the dinner table? Make sure you know what’s what and call him out on it or even call him in. Witness racism on the bus? Intervene. If someone is in distress on the street, it only takes one person to stand up and say something for others to follow. Acknowledging and calling out racism on social media is great, but calling it out in person is even more important.
  2. Visibilize solidarity. Whether through ‘Refugees Welcome’ signs in your window, or by brandalizing a bus advert, we can all take steps to use the spaces we share to make anti-racism explicit. We know that messages of hate in headlines or graffiti all contribute to feelings of insecurity and fear in communities of colour. Messages that challenge these manifestations of hate are a simple way to offer a reminder that there are allies in every community in this country willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with those most affected, to challenge racism in all its forms. They are a simple reminder that we are not alone.
  3. Intervene in a Stop and Search. Black people are 28 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than white people in Britain. When those getting searched don’t know their rights, police have been known to abuse the system beyond its inherent racism. Print a copy of this document which outlines your rights under stop-and-search powers and keep it handy, in a purse or wallet. Get familiar with it. If you see a person of colour being stopped and searched, you can pass it on to them and be there to explain it, if they ask. If the person being searched consents, you can also legally film the police on your phone, to help hold them accountable. A watchful eye can be a powerful form of solidarity.
  4. Call an airline to challenge a deportation flight. When a deportation is underway, the incredible folks at Movement for Justice by Any Means Necessary (MFJ) will shout about it as loud as they can and get as many people as possible to bombard the phone lines of complicit airlines to stop them doing the state’s dirty work. Airlines are waking up to the fact that it simply isn’t worth the hassle to support the government with deportations. Constant pressure on them can lead to a halt in airlines helping with deportations altogether, and can help keep individual people and families from being forced out of the country in the meantime. Sign up to updates from MFJ and follow them on social media to keep an eye out for callouts. (And when you’re ready to go a step further, join an MFJ action outside of a detention centre.)
  5. Help stop immigration raids in your community. Keep an eye on the @AntiRaids Twitter feed. Form a local group. Put up posters in your area explaining what rights people have if they are approached by immigration officers. Physically get in the way of the van. There are many possible steps, but most of them are based on forming a small local group that can be contacted when support is needed, as well as helping inform others of their rights. This is a practical, direct form of action that can prevent racially targeted arrests and deportations, and for which a bit of white (and other forms of) privilege can be incredibly influential on the officers carrying out the raids. Here is all you need to get started.

We’ve named a few of the things you can do to demonstrate active solidarity with those experiencing racism and toward dismantling white supremacy in this country, but they are only starting points. Don’t wait around for something to happen to speak up. In whatever places and groups you find yourself in, be vocal about who is welcome here and what attitudes aren’t. Silence is violence and allyship is not something to be done in secret. Together, our voices and actions can overcome the chorus of hate.

Wretched of The Earth is a collective of over a dozen grassroots Indigenous, black, brown and diaspora groups, individuals and allies acting in solidarity with oppressed communities in the Global South and Indigenous North. Twitter: @WretchedOTEarth Facebook: wotearth Email: wote@riseup.net

The EU is awful – But I still would ask UK-based leftists to vote against leaving

One of the many voices clammoring to be heard about the Brexit referendum in June. First of all, let me say that this post is not addressed to UK ‘people’. As in, I’m not appealling to UK ‘interests’ or trying to argue that the UK would be better or worse in or out of the EU. How can a group of 60 million people have a common interest and be uniformly better or worse off with a single decision? And let me say secondly that this is also not a defense of EU – you don’t need to convince me of how undemocratic and right-wing the whole institution is. Instead this is aimed at progressives, activists and general lefties who have the opportunity to vote on whether or not the UK should remain part of the EU.

Far be it from me to tell people how to vote, but I saw a video recently on Novara arguing for the left to vote for Brexit, which gives me a bit of concern that some parts of the UK left might fall into the trap of thinking in an us-versus-them logic when the real need is for solidarity. In a nutshell, the video gives four reasons for a Brexit vote, which amount to:

  1. the EU is undemocratic and is aggressively eroding democracy in Member States

  2. Laws and treaties such as TTIP will make socialist changes illegal

  3. the EU forces countries from the global south to accept free trade deals and open their weak markets to the brute force of western competition

  4. it has replaced internal national borders with massive external borders.

All this criticism is entirely accurate, but my question would be is the UK any better on any of these counts? Any debate about Brexit that only looks at one side and not the other is only half the story. What happened to all the debate about the nature of the UK state that was thrown up by the Scotland referendum last year?

But anyway, in writing this I want to avoid getting caught in the trap of talking about this in terms of what is good for UK people, even if we are talking about the UK left. Like it or not, we are in a European crisis-management-regime, and the outcomes of the UK referendum will be felt by the left Europe-wide. In taking this broader viewpoint, there are a few points that Bastiani makes about EU democracy which, while completely correct, need to be looked at closer. There are effectively 3 ways that enfranchised european citizens can influence the content and personnel of EU institutions – a) the European Parliament elections; b) national elections, with elected governments appointing commissioners to the European Commission and sitting on the European Council and other committees; and c) through referenda. Aside from referenda, the other two mechanisms are completely flawed. As Bastiani says, the Parliament is indeed only a symbol. The real power sits with Commission and Council. Which brings up a contradiction: the public debates surrounding national elections are not usually Europe focussed, whereas the Parliament elections are the only time that european issues are publicly debated, all of which results in that the real EU power is ‘elected’ in a context of domestic-centred debate, while those elections which are conducted amid Europe-centred debate are to a body which has no power.

When it comes to referenda, though, these instruments do indeed have the potential for people to throw a spanner in the works of an otherwise unaccountable machinery moving in directions that diverge with popular will. Witness how the Dutch and French citizenry delayed the ratification of the EU constitution for 6 years until it was eventually renamed as the Lisbon Treaty, rejected by the Irish first time but then passed at the second asking. And it must be remembered that the elites succeeded in winning this second time of asking only because the referendum was characterised by a bullish Sarkozy who completely rejected the right of voters to vote NO, and where voters were in the grips of economic terrorism after their first rejection in 2008 was quickly rewarded with an assault on the country’s financial and banking sector. Considering all this, referenda are one instrument where populations can hold the institutions to account most effectively and directly. There should be a referendum in every member state on all major decisions. Critics would no doubt say this would render the EU unworkable, but if you ask me, I think if an institution cannot be held to democratic account then unworkable is the best way for it.

But there are are problems with referenda as an instrument, and this has a central bearing on the Brexit vote. Despite opening up debate on core EU issues before a vote, all that NO votes can do really is throw spanners in the works. The exact interpretation of the direction of that spanner can easily be manipulated or more often simply ignored. In the aftermath of both the Nice treaty rejection in Ireland in 2001 and the Lisbon Treaty in 2008 the establishment were quick to paint both rejections as a misunderstanding of the issues, and a narrow concern with Irish neutrality, along with various straw men that they burned with fanfare. In other words, they spinned it as ‘well they didn’t really reject it, and if they did reject it was only because of this one issue which happens to be inoffensive and we can get a declaration about it’. That happened twice, in a context in which all the establishment parties campaigned for yes votes and still WE couldn’t control the message of our own spanner. Now think about what would happen if left-wing voters brought about a NO vote in the Brexit referendum. Unlike the irish situations, in this case there are establishment parties, – conservative and far-right ones at that – campaigning against the EU and I can guarantee that they will be the ones claiming ownership and filling the spanner with a very right-wing meaning.

But this focus on formal democracy kind of leaves a lot of things off the table. If you are asking about how democratic the EU is, the very reform package is a testament to how non-democratic it is. An economically powerful country with a rightist government has blackmailed the union into conceeding reforms, after 5 years during which said government has been one of the stronger voices (though admittedly not the strongest) against granting any concessions to countries such as Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy and giving consent to blackmailing and economically terrorising them into implementing austerity meassures against the wishes of is people. That for me is the biggest reason why I ask UK left-wing voters to reject Brexit. After years of stiffling any leftward democratic expression, the right-wing UK government is now blackmailing the rest of the union for a rightward anti-democratic change. So, I ask that when you enage in discussing this referendum, please reject the ‘is this good for Britain?’ nationalist trap and instead stand in solidarity with Europe-wide activists who have been pushed around too long.