New Carlsberg Corbyn Shirt on the TV

A mate called to say they were gonna be on the telly and the wanted a Corbyn t-shirt to wear. We’d made one before, a pretty standard affair with a monochrome picture of Jeremy. We decide to rehash an old favourite and the Jeremy Corbyn Carlsberg t-shirt was born.

 

A few days later and our mate is on the telly wearing a t-shirt we made for em.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Want one? Get it on the Punx site http://punx.uk/corbyn

Corbyn – Anarchists missing the point

There’s been widespread criticism from anarchists if not of Corbyn directly then of the wisdom of those that are joining the Labour party to support him and his project.  By far the most widely shared piece we have seen is on Libcom – Thoughts on the movement, or why we still don’t even Corbyn – and we think it misses both the point and the possibilities of what’s happening.

The authors are right, it does now look possible that the left will indeed take control of the Labour NEC and this control will result in the party being more member lead.  As they correctly point out, this is against all the odds. It’s this though that undermines the rest of their piece which we’ll take point by point.

That said, if you think the Labour Right play dirty, wait til you see the CBI, the City of London and the IMF join in while the media dial up the smears to 11. As sneaky and disingenuous as individuals like Tristram Hunt, Angela Eagle and Owen Smith are, they’re all also largely inept and charmless, as their botched coup and embarrassing public appearances demonstrate. They’re like The Orphans in The Warriors, easily rolled over at the start but not nearly as fearsome as the other opponents on the journey back to Coney Island.

The same will not be true as we draw up to General Election time, and even less so if Corbyn were to win; the likelihood he’d be able to pass reforms that harmed the interests of big business, without massive pressure from a disruptive extra-parliamentary social movement, is very slim… all the slimmer for the fact it won’t be Tom Watson playing ‘Good Cop’ to Chuka Umunna’s ‘Bad Cop’; it will be the Murdochs and other ‘captains of industry’ hamstringing even mild social democratic reform through non-cooperation, sabotage and public smears.

Without such a movement, a Corbyn (or any other social democratic) government would not have a leg to stand on. Yet with such a social movement, the role of such a government becomes different: the role will be to mediate and to limit; to separate ‘responsible’ representatives from ‘unruly’ elements and give carrots to the first while doling out sticks to the latter.

The Corbyn project is to a large extent about building a social movement. The evidence from the turnout at Momentum rallies is that this is starting to happen. It’s fragile though, the movement such as it exists is concerned with the leadership of the party, if that is lost the movement won’t be far behind. As things stand the leadership victory appears all but assured.  The challenge beyond that victory is to build a movement conscious of it’s own power. Because the very aim of the Corbyn project is to make the party more member lead the ability of the party in government to undermine the movement is severely limited, if the movement does become conscious of its own power, it becomes impossible.   The project, if realised, will see the Labour party do what it has never done before – redistribute power.  There’s no reason for anarchists to be opposed to this.

Ultimately, extra-parliamentary forces largely determine parliamentary possibilities so even if you want parliamentary reform, it necessitates building grassroots power and a capacity to take disruptive action – strikes, occupations, demonstrations that block transport hubs etc – that such reform will become realisable. And, of course, when such extra-parliamentary forces are forcing reforms, parliamentarism ceases to appear as a ray of hope and becomes an obstacle.

A social movement formed independently of any parliamentary party or ambition would indeed be preferable. We don’t have one to speak of though and there’s been no shortage of attempts to create one. We do have half a million people who’ve joined the Labour party in the last year though who have been in part at least, inspired by a call to action to create a social movement but certainly motivated by a desire for change. This movement is also now linked, via the Corbyn project, to the vast majority of the trade union movement, whether affiliated to Labour or not. Unions from Unite to RMT have been emailing members to urge support for Corbyn.  This connection between a social movement and the union movement has vast potential.

Durham Miners Gala. Three RMT Branches with "We Support Corbyn Baners"
Durham Miners Gala. Three RMT Branches with “We Support Corbyn Baners”

It’s at this point that the usual response is “can’t we do both?”. “Can’t we build an autonomous grassroots working-class direct action movement AND fight to reform the Labour Party into a left-wing electable vote-winning machine?” And the answer to this is: theoretically, yes. But practically there are only 24 hours in a day, two-thirds of which are usually spent either sleeping or working. What has become clear with the recent coup (if it wasn’t already) is that reforming the Labour Party won’t be as easy as paying £3 to vote Corbyn as leader. It means getting involved in your Constituency Labour Party, pressuring your MP, possibly deselecting them, which, as Novara’s recent guide to deselection makes clear, could potentially involve “years of hard work in branches and constituencies across the country”. Which is fine; as the old cliché goes, ‘they wouldn’t call it a struggle if it was easy’. The point is whether the Labour Party is the best place to expend all that energy in struggle.

You can always trust someone on the left to see an advantage as a disadvantage. The party rather than an obstacle to building a social movement, a side struggle that deflects energy and attention from the main struggle, is in fact potentially a huge asset in building a movement focused on social struggles. Many CLPs are hollowed out shells decimated by the Blair years with little in the way of attendance and even less energy. They provide a ready made structure through which local campaigns can be organised and linked in with national campaigns and the union movement. The building of a new set of structures capable of coordinating the numbers of people would take at least as much work as a take over of Labour CLPs even if those numbers could be found which of course so far they haven’t.

From our point of view, there can be no ‘UKIP of the left’; pro- and anti-systemic politics just don’t work in the same way like that. But it is worth thinking about how the extra-parliamentary left in Britain could use similar resources to what’s currently being chucked into the Labour Party and, in that sense, it’s oddly useful looking at the US extra-parliamentary right, with its vast media infrastructure of talk shows, blogs and ecology of organisations. Sure, they’re financed by millionaire/billionaire capitalists and we’re not (nor should we be). But working-class people collectively pay millions into unions, £4.6 million into the Labour Party in 48 hours and donate thousands of hours of voluntary labour into similar organisations. So the resources are there and it’s worth thinking about how an extra-parliamentary social movement could make use of them.

Cart and horse.  Thinking about how to spend money and resources you don’t have is about as productive as sitting in your mate’s flat smoking weed and talking about how you’d spend a Euro Millions win. The thing to think about is how to get the resources. The Corbyn project has so far attracted the unions (and their money), half a million people and millions of pounds of working class people’s money.

The piece goes on to identify groups who are doing excellent work. They are though largely failing. That’s not meant as a criticism or in any way meant to discourage anyone fighting. It is a fact though, the material conditions of working class people are deteriorating. It’s certain that without those groups that conditions would be deteriorating faster and harder. If only there was a wider movement with numbers, funding and structure that those groups to link into…..if only.

They end with:

Obviously, there aren’t 180,000 people itching to get involved in extra-parliamentary direct action; what’s being sketched out here is how a few million quid and thousands of activist hours could help develop a movement separate from the Labour Party, and lamenting all that’s gone into that party (and scepticism over Corbyn more generally) does not mean passively accepting Tory rule. It just means we prefer barking up the right (tall and difficult to climb) tree than the wrong (accessible, appealing) one.

It’s true, there aren’t 180,000 people itching to get involved with extra-parliamentary direct action, but there are 180,000 people that want change and have been inspired by a vision of a social movement and a member lead Labour party, more than 180,000 in fact. More like half a million and counting.  They’ve got a set of structures to take over with the head of those structures urging them on to do so.   If those structures fail to deliver government or deliver a government that fails to deliver change in the form of improved conditions it doesn’t follow that they will give up and go home, the desire for change is still going to be there. Along with proof that it can’t be found in the ballot box.

To our minds there is no reason to criticise the existence of the Corbyn lead movement from an anarchist perspective. Sure, it’s not ideal that it has grown up around a parliamentary party with a history of undermining social and industrial struggle. It’s not ideal that it’s linked so closely to the fortunes of one man but those are problems to be overcome, not reasons to write off what’s happening or the potential it represents. If there’s one thing we could be doing, as anarchists, it’s criticising from the left, not the formation of this movement but the focus it has. Attempting to link it to other struggles, to make the point that social cleansing in London is being carried out by Labour councils for example.

What Corbyn has effectively demonstrated is the desire for change, he has inspired hundreds of thousands of people to get involved in trying to bring that change about. In 2 days people parted with £4.5million as part of that desire for change.   We can ponder what we as anarchist would have done with that money if we want to, what we should really by thinking about though is why, with this extant desire for change in the country, we have failed to inspire people. Just maybe that “tall and difficult to climb tree” we’ve been barking up isn’t the right one at all and pissing on the Corbyn tree isn’t going to help anyone, least of all us.  Corbyn is arguing for and creating a movement based on improving the conditions of working class people and that has to be the point of politics. If you don’t get that then your problem isn’t Corbyn, you don’t even politics.

Before Engaging in Public Antifascist Activity Ask Yourself….

[This piece came out of observations on recent events by activists with experience of AFA in the 90s, Antifa UK (the closed group 2004 – 2009), and community, trade union lead mobilisations and is posted here by request]

Before engaging in public antifascist activity ask yourself…

Why are you planning an antifascist action or event?

This may seem obvious: because fascists are doing something, and need to be opposed. This is basically correct, and is definitely a good answer to give to others who question your actions, but it is not enough. There are a range of fascists, and a range of responses. Why are you doing what you are planning to do about this specific problem? The real answers may surprise you or those you are working with.

The major reason we have an entire category of activity called antifascism, is self-serving. For the left, it is self defence, because they attack us when they get confident, and also the removal of competitors who seek to exploit discontent to seize power from the right, just like we seek to use discontent to seize power from the left. You can disagree with the words ‘seize power’, but whether you want a workers’ state or a network of communes, we want the overthrow and replacement of the current system, which is of course illegal, and this is why we pay attention to other people who also occupy this radical space: the fascists.

So actually antifascism is a building tool. Ever since the Anti Nazi League brought a fresh wave of young worker militants into the SWP in the late 1970s, this has been the case for the left. Today is no different. By the early 00s antifascism was dominated by anarchists, and despite the difference that they didn’t have a party to recruit to, it was essentially the same deal – copying developments in Europe, young people were brought into the anarchist scene via antifascism, and the concept of antifascism was blended with anarchist aesthetics like black blocks and the red and black flag.


Recruiting via antifascism is absolutely correct. We intend to change the world we live in and the way we do politics in a way that requires people to be willing to go beyond the law for their beliefs, and requires we can defend ourselves and our events. Whilst surges of struggle and leaps in political awareness can break out suddenly, like the Miners Strike and the Poll Tax rebellion, or like the student revolt in 2010 or the anti capitalist riots of the 90s and early 00s, antifascism is a great way to attract militants and maintain a militant edge indefinitely. Then when these surges happen we are ready guide and defend them.

Racism and fascism are products of capitalist imperialism – to literally defeat them, we need some kind of socialism. To have that, we need a movement – a movement that beats off its fascist competitors for the position of ‘main opponent to the government’, a movement that will go beyond the law when needed, a movement that attracts disaffected people who will become militants, and a movement that converts its more liberal followers into militants through assertive, confident, activities. That is why you do antifascism.

ANL 1978: successfully engaging the public through antifascism
ANL 1978: successfully engaging the public through antifascism

How will you measure victory? How will you assess that your goals were met?

The main goal is how it looks and feels: to you, the antifascists, to them, the fascists, and to the public. Go back to ‘why’: will what you have planned meet these aims? Will your action look better than the fascists? How are you going to make sure it does, whatever happens on the streets? Some shortcuts here are to make sure your action matches your means – for that, see the next question ‘what’; the other shortcut is to CONTROL THE NARRATIVE.

Make it crystal clear to all those that are involved that there is to be a central narrative, a main story, and have this set in advance of the activity, based on your hoped for outcome. If you are willing to risk a brick in the gob, your gob should be willing to control the narrative. If you cannot get an agreement to follow the central narrative from one source, the organisers website or page for instance, then at least make it really clear that no one is to commit the cardinal sin: making the activity look like a fail by posting their own tale of woe.

If 500 antifascists overrun 300 fascists, that story can be obscured by one idiot posting pictures of their cuts and bruises and talking about how scared they were. Not only is the story of nasty Nazi thugs a better one for the media than the story of nice, caring, left-wing people standing up to Nazis despite the law, the people doing the leg-work and securing the victories are very unlikely to post their own stories or pictures, because they prize security and anonymity. Make it clear then that not only is it taboo to circulate a woe-is-me account, it will be followed up if you do it. By angry antifascsists.

How you do things must be primarily about making sure you look and feel good, and the opposition look and feel bad. The fascists are generally very sad types and will help you out enormously – it’s an open goal. Want to make the left look cool? Have them trounce some no-mark racists. If you cannot think how that’s going to happen, stop thinking about it and do something else entirely.

fascists trawl mainstream and social media for ‘trophy shots’ to boost their morale
fascists trawl mainstream and social media for ‘trophy shots’ to boost their morale

What are you going to do?

If you have a small number of people and you are mismatched, if they are militants then use guerilla tactics – harry your enemy and move on. Classic AFA style antifascism like this is has not been defeated by CCTV, but if it does become public, that will probably be after the fact, and probably won’t take place on a public demo but at a time and place of our choosing.
If you have a small number of people and they are not militants,you cannot carry out public antifascism. A community demo can be useful to meet potential new recruits or supporters, but if the event cannot defend itself without the protection of the police this should not be done under the name of “antifascism”. If your action will only convince the enemy their opposition is weak, and give them a laugh and a confidence boost, you have scored an own goal.

If you do have the numbers and the plans in place to score a victory, empower the people on your activity, and spread the idea of legitimacy resting with the broad masses and the left, rather than the police and ‘the system’, go for it.

Remember to brand it if you do; if you are socialists, make sure you carry red flags, and follow up with propaganda that uses the victory as a jumping off point: “after the people rose up to defeat the fascists in… we now say….” Use the victory as much as possible; it is rare that we, the underdog, get to convincingly portray ourselves as having power. The left has to constantly try to present itself as more than a whine about what is wrong, but an alternative to what is wrong; when you think about what you are going to do, think about that. Does your alternative appeal?

When you have the numbers and organisation to score a victory – go for it!
When you have the numbers and organisation to score a victory – go for it!

Who is coming on your event? Who are the opposition?

The latter should dictate the former. Your side needs to be matched to the opposition, in your favour. How do you assess this? If you do not expect or want a confrontation, but think it is important to still turn out, make sure you fulfil the central criteria – you present an appealing alternative to politics as usual; turning up dressed as latter-day ninjas to a rally organised by the Labour Party, Greens, and the NUT is the opposite of this. If that is what you want, go hunt sabbing, get it out your system.

There is every reason to support and organise a community rally that avoids confrontation, but it should not be done under the banner of ‘antifascism’, which should be reserved for militant, assertive action. Even if you attend incognito, be very, very wary of picking up any of the politics that may be at a mainstream rally and associating them with ‘antifascism’ which must remain pro-worker and socialist. A lot of the politics at these rallies will be the communitarian, ‘multicultaralist’ type of liberalism, developed in the 1980s: capitalism is fine as long as all races are ‘included’ in it, equality is having a handful of rich brown and black people, not economic equality for all races.

By supporting this kind of event, you might well be playing into the Far Right’s hands, helping the elite gloss over the real problems with capitalism by ‘opposing the racists’. Yes, the EDL are by and large racists, and the NF etc. are outright Nazi racists: but racism itself comes from capitalist imperialism and its need to justify the economic exploitation of the Global South. The elite often use racist, fascist no-hopers as scapegoats to hide this. Do not help them. Working class people have a right to be angry, things are not okay. We need to channel that anger in the correct direction, not fire-fight for the establishment. If you cannot make your voice heard as a pro-worker entity, it might be best to stay away from a pro-elite back-slapping event. It can be very hard to stop trade unions from endorsing these events without a pro-worker alternative, but if you cannot win the argument, the same applies: do not let your union branch banner or your socialist or antifascist flag be seen on events that fundamentally contradict what they mean.

Lone antifascist flag behind UAF banner and police line – why?
Lone antifascist flag behind UAF banner and police line – why?

If you do expect confrontation, you should know almost exactly who you have on side, to come out on top; there should be no question of hoping for the best, hoping the opposition isn’t interested or is weakened by some chance occurrence. Whilst there is a role for everyone, if you expect confrontation, that role is not on the street; you should be in a militant mindset from the moment you leave home, ready to stand your ground under attack.

This is not a lefty demo, even a spikey lefty demo – getting pushed around by the police, in the way that has become a core ritual for some sections of the left, is not the same as getting pushed around by the Far Right, who will use the experience to embolden their side and mock the left. They might even get it on video. There is little worse than being seen as having lost a fight of your own making. The general public might sympathise with an ‘innocent bystander’ assaulted by the opposition, but if your event made a big noise about smashing fascism, and fascism smashed you, they will judge you harshly. Same as any other confrontation.

Recently there has been the suggestion that it is ‘mainly a numbers game’ and the most important thing is to get out on the streets. If you have read this far, you will understand why we think that is dangerous bullshit, not just for the people who might get a traumatic (and we mean traumatic) kicking, but for all of us, who have the narrative taken away from us by something bad happening to someone who should not have been in the antifascist group. Anyone who is going to panic and go to pieces, can and will spread panic and defeatism, even amongst really confident antifascist activists. Defeats also mean it is more likely that the fascist will be violent in future, now they know they can get away with it, and this idea will spread to other fascists; so think long and hard, because your defeat might be the start of a whole wave of aggression towards other people too.

There is absolutely no shame whatsoever in not being up to the task; whilst confrontation can be exhilarating, it is also very draining, and can lead to a loss of clarity generally. There are lots of other roles that can be filled, not least building the political alternative that antifascism is only one part of. Not being ‘hard’ is not a bad thing, and no one should feel under pressure to be hard; but they should respect other people’s skills and strengths too.

Too many times have nasty, vindictive, and bitter insults been thrown at people on the left by others who are struggling with their unnecessary guilt at not being a street militant. Cut that out. Let people do what they are good at, and do what you are good at. No one is judging you so long as you are honest: say ‘I can’t stand violence, it leaves me in pieces – but I respect that it is necessary’, and nobody can give you a hard time. Macho bullying is to be opposed, as is passive aggressive bullying and character assassination.

If you have to speak to the public or media, what is your line?

“open the borders” and “kick out fascism” are two separate demands; why confuse your agenda?
“open the borders” and “kick out fascism” are two separate demands; why confuse your agenda?

Your line must counter the Far Right’s line, and those sympathetic to their arguments. The truth is most Far Right movements do fizzle out in the UK and antifascism is rarely the primary factor in their collapse, though it does have a major impact on their conduct; it can keep them occupied with combative events rather than political growth, keep them on or off the streets, and keep others safe from their attention. Mainly they fold due to infighting or state subversion, and our electoral system preventing small parties from gaining representation. The other truth we should really cotton on to is that the level of racial diversity and mixed race children in the UK now means there is little chance of a classic fascist, Nazi style race-based march to power and racial genocide. This is why they have adopted the much thornier issues of Islamic extremism and mass migration, rather than the ‘death of the white race’. Instead of following them into that territory, stick to core messages.

We have covered the real reasons for antifascism as a militant edge of the left, you need to think about your public face: say – these people are racists, they need to be stopped. That will probably be met with more questions, so here’s a suggested guide to parrying them:

  • 1) “But everyone has a right to their opinion” – if you are non-white, mixed race, or have a family member or partner who is, get that in straight away – these people want to tell me we aren’t welcome here? Link the group to racist attacks, say that racist attacks always spike after their events, point out that there are known violent racists in their group: you are here to protect yourself and others. Opinions don’t come into it.
  • 2)“But what about migration, don’t you think…”  Cut them off, see above answer. Opinions don’t come into it.
  • 3) “But these people are just trying to have a peaceful march about Islamification” – this is the more EDL type event – say they are not peaceful, the whole idea of marching through a town centre or an Asian area with a Muslim population is to provoke a violent reaction. And anyway, their events always end up in violence; go back to the first points. This is self defence.
  • 4) “What about Anjem Choudary and ISIS supporters? What about other forms of fascism [let’s have a debate on what fascism is]?”If you see them, they will be opposed too. Simple. Point out it is socialists and anarchists making up the volunteers fighting ISIS, not drunk racists. And you aren’t here to debate what fascism is – go back to point one.
  • 5) “So you think we should let them all in?”  Don’t answer this. It isn’t relevant what your views on migration are, you are opposed to violent racists. Go back to question one. This needs stressing: it is irrelevant what your views are, so do not push No Borders rhetoric on antifascist events, because it is a deliberately radical and alienating concept to the majority of the working class right now, and will be seized upon by the opposition.

This includes banners or placards that carry any slogans like ‘let them in’ or ‘no borders’ – do not make or carry anything like this. If you want to make the case for No Borders, i.e. dissolving national borders before we have abolished capitalism, then take it to the workers’ movement, and try and get it adopted by the unions. It is not the debate you need to be having in areas that are already showing sympathy for the Far Right.

International antifascist volunteers in Rojava after retaking town from ISIS
International antifascist volunteers in Rojava after retaking town from ISIS

Are you sure of yourself, are you sure of the people around you? Are you sure this is the best use of your time?

There are lots of other things you could do. The main thing you could do instead of building antifascism as a militant edge and pole of attraction, is build other things the left needs – like proactive, confident left wing groups and campaigns doing inspiring and positive activism. Trade unionism is the backbone of the left and of antifascism too – are you properly engaged there? You should be.

If you are not going to do a public antifascist event as laid out above, but you still want to help antifascism, then intelligence is a good activity. You can do this online or in real life, and here is where the people who aren’t obvious street militants can come into their own.

People will open up with all sorts of info if they don’t feel wary of you or if they want to take you home to show you their Skrewdriver collection. Online, you will be amazed how much people will make something they want to be true, true – and hey presto your Aryan model profile is party to inside info.

Other online roles are fighting it out in the comments sections – make the simplest cases for socialism, and using multiple profiles (real or fake) to make it again and again. If the government has money for war, they have money for housing. There’d be no competition for jobs if there were more jobs. If the City of London wasn’t economically bleeding out the developing world, its inhabitants wouldn’t need to move to the city of London.

At all times show respect for each other, and especially those with experience. Do not chase the ambulance; despair is not a left wing impulse. Humour, camaraderie and bravery are to be your currency. Take everything seriously but not too seriously, and always be ready to reassign people’s roles, politely and firmly, and be ready have your own role reassigned. Antifascism remains the key way to raise the militancy and consciousness of left, and recruit the already conscious or militant to the left; it is the best way to show that ‘the system’ is not just a concept we need to overcome in our heads, but that there are literal enemies that need beating, and beating them is our task.

change we can believe in!
change we can believe in!

Tory Assault on Rights Is a Sign of Fear and Weakness

Quite rightly much has been made of Tory proposals to replace the Human Rights act, undermine the right to strike and introduce new laws to tackle extremism. The much quoted phrase  “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens ‘as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone” is seen by many as a chilling portent of an Orwellian future. It reminds me of the pantomime baddy Emperor Palpetine from Star Wars. Cameron’s plans, outlined days after the Tories won a commons majority, aren’t the words of a triumphant leader secure in his victory they’re the words of a man who’s scared because he understands he has the backing of less than 24% of the electorate and fears resistance to his programme is going to be fierce.

This is the democratic backdrop that Cameron is operating in when he says that the government will tackle “extremists” who are trying to “undermine democracy”.  The attack on the right to strike is a move that even Thatcher never tried to make and during her government she stuffed the copper’s mouths with gold, protected their pensions,

Fly poster demonstrating the widespread support for Cameron and the Tories
Fly poster demonstrating the widespread support for Cameron and the Tories

swelled their numbers, in short recruited a Tory voting army with the monopoly on violence. In contrast Cameron’s Tories have attacked the police with every bit as much vigour as they have attacked the rest of the public sector. These same police, under current Tory proposals are to become a quasi Stasi expected to monitor and approve, amongst other things,  the social media output of those given the “extremist” label.  An under funded and under resourced Stasi. You can’t create a police state without spending money on the police. For this reason resistance to these new measures is likely to come from the likes of the Police Federation as much as it is from organisations like Liberty. This isn’t to say the police are suddenly our allies just merely less enthusiastic enemies.

None of this of course assures a defeat of Tory proposals regarding civil liberties or implementation of further punitive cuts but it does demonstrate the weakness of their position and their awareness of that weakness. You don’t try to silence the opposition without genuine fear of what they say. You don’t attack the right to strike unless you believe those strikes can harm you.

We’ve got the power in our hands, in our workplaces, in our communities. The Tories know it.  We just need the confidence to come together and use it.

 

The Tories Are in. We Predict a Riot.

Another 5 years of Tory Rule. People are upset about this and rightly so although their reasoning varies from the realistic and considered to the outlandishly foolish.

At Sabcat we’re not disappointed that Labour failed, they offered us nothing but Tory austerity with watered down rhetoric, it’s why they lost. In the coming weeks we’ll see Labour scramble further to the right believing that they didn’t beat the Tories because they weren’t Tory enough, ignoring the lesson of the SNP riding to victory in Scotland on an anti-austerity ticket.

A Sabcat member, Andy Bennetts stood as a candidate for Class War in Lichfield on the platform “Don’t Vote. Organise”  Although he claims his campaign was an electoral

Bennetts went to a polling station but only so he could get his ballot paper. Yes. The sad bastard framed it.
Bennetts went to a polling station but only so he could get his ballot paper. Yes. The sad bastard framed it.

success, despite national turnout rising, in Lichfield it fell from 71% in 2010 to less than 62% last week, 120 people did still vote for him. These 120 didn’t so much reject his platform as make a trip to a polling station to personally tell him “fuck you, Bennetts”.  It’s believed one of the 120 was his mother.

Nationally the Tories got the votes of 24% of the electorate, the largest group, 35%, were those of us that saw nothing on offer for us in the ballot box and stayed away from the polls.  There’s already a lot of crying from some quarters about these “missing” voters and their apparent ability to change the result.  This of course assumes that these missing voters just forgot to turn up – some us wouldn’t piss on a politician if they were burning in the street let alone vote for them – or that these missing voters would have all voted the same way. The other problem of course is that even with a different result, the only possible alternative result, a Labour government, wouldn’t really have been a different result at all.

So, there we have it. As always, the government won. The party that forms that government might have a majority in Parliament with the support of 24% of the electorate but that doesn’t translate to a majority where it counts. On the streets. 76% of us, the overwhelming majority didn’t vote for these clowns.

We’ll see in the coming months and years how willing we are to accept their programme. At Sabcat, we predict a riot along with other more creative forms of resistance to the Tory onslaught.

 

Our new mate Dave Roper

We’ve been very busy at Sabcat lately, you might have missed us Twitter and Facebook (or maybe you’re glad we’ve shut up). We haven’t been arrested, gone bust or killed in each other in an argument over tea money. We’ve been in the process of making some pretty big changes. We’ll post more about that later, this post is a quick thank you to our new friend Dave Roper who’s helped us massively with the most expensive and potentially traumatic part of the changes we’ve made – spent lots of money on new gear.

If you screen print or know anything about screen printing then you know there’s a bewildering array of choices to be made when it comes to buying equipment.  When we started back in February 2010 we started from scratch. As the saying goes “if we knew then what we know now” things really would have been done differently.  This post can be seen as advice to anyone in the UK who either is screen printing or wants to start. Choose a decent supplier, someone who knows about the gear they sell. Dave Roper and his team are well worth getting in touch with. Go and visit them, have a cuppa and chat, it’s like an Aladdin’s cave for screen printers.

They don’t try and push you into new gear or their most expensive gear. He’ll tell you that the M&R presses he sells are the best and he won’t be lying you, they really are great presses but he’ll also do you a deal on a used machine (the route we took).

We now buy all of our screen printing ink, screens and other consumables from Dave.  The range of environmentally friendly  cleaning products he sells are brilliant. On our first visit there we came away with a free sample and we’ve used them ever since. Especially good if you have to have to be drain safe, we don’t, all of our waste goes into a bowser we pay to get emptied, we use it because it genuinely does work better than the more toxic and expensive alternatives. It smells nice as well, sort of.

This post is kind of gratuitous linking, there’s no affiliate scheme behind it though, it’s just a thank you to someone who’d been a massive amount of help to us.  If you’re in the market for some screen printing equipment or supplies take a trip to Kidderminster. They can even teach you to screen print.

 

 

EDL In Birmingham July 20th

There’s been a lot said about the EDL visit to Birmingham on Saturday and none of it good. The reality is nothing good did happen but then nothing that bad happened either. I think it’s all a matter of perspective.  Before I explain mine it’s worth describing what we did and what we saw.

We got into town at around 10am with our friends from Villa Antifascists and went for a look about. The police had a large presence throughout the city, cops on pretty much every corner all the way out to the Peace Gardens.  Arrangements had been made to meet up with people coming from out of the area, some by rail, some by minibus.  We checked out places they could safely park and walk in, communicated this to them and with a few hours before their arrival some of us  split off for a proper look around the city centre.

We got into the centre via the canals at the back of Broad St. with a quick stop for breakfast. Outside Bar Risa was heaving with noisy EDL by 11:40 with the visible police presence fairly small.  The side streets were filled with police vans.  We strolled past Risa down to the bottom of Broad St to the Golden Boys statue where the UAF and others had announced their intention to meet and try to prevent the EDL from reaching Centenary Square. With perhaps 25 antifascists  already being moved on by police and many hundreds of EDL in Risa with more being escorted off coaches parked by the Hyatt hotel on Broad St and 2 hours to go before their demo time it was obvious that this was not going to be our day.  We split again with all but one us leaving  Broad St and going back to the canals past the Hyatt and the newly arriving EDL and arranged to meet back up with everyone else in Victoria Square and await the arrival of people from out of the area.

EDL Bar Risa
EDL Outside Bar Risa

The entrance to Chamberlain Square from Victoria Square was all but blocked by Welsh police with 2 vans and a mobile barrier. The makings of the kettle were already in place, as it was we could’ve taken a shorter route to Victoria Square through Paradise forum but we didn’t want to risk spending a day stuck with megaphone armed UAF all day with scant idea of events outside.  I got my first glimpse of a new form of antifascism which I can best describe as dressing up like a rag man’s toffee apple and dancing like a twat.  I like the idea of the English Disco Lovers as something on the internet, getting top spot for the search “EDL” is kind of funny. In the flesh it’s smacks of middle class wankers lacking a clue.

Shortly afterwards some of us took a walk to meet the people who’d arrived from out of town and gave them our assessment of the situation “Birmingham’s pretty much fucked today, unless you have burning desire to get nicked, we won’t be getting up to much”. As it was they’d already got the attention of police all the way out at the wholesale markets near Digbeth.  We split into 2 groups and went back to Victoria Square.

The rest of the day was spent strolling around the city in small groups. The police got excited at one point as the EDL had kicked off with them near the Hyatt which made, for reasons best known to the police, shouting at people in Victoria Square to move down New Street an important thing to do.  After around 10 minutes the police became bored of this. Some of our number managed to get caught in the UAF pen in Chamberlain Square, see Sam Ambreen’s post for an account of events in there and the stress caused by not knowing what’s going on.  Some of us went back along the canals to Broad St and the Chilli Festival in Brindley Place. Those of us there (6 of us) got to watch a group of around 12 EDL march through the festival with a banner singing “we want our country back”, they were largely ignored by the crowd apart from a few strange looks. They were followed by 4 cops in riot gear seemingly unconcerned by this impromptu mobile demonstration.  The day ended for us trying to get past police unharassed to Digbeth where we met in a pub with the rest of the people we’d been with on and off throughout the day.

Since the day I’ve seen many people upset at what happened. At our inability to prevent it. Posts on Facebook talking about meetings that start “after the piss poor antifascists turnout yesterday”.    Any attempt to prevent the EDL making Centenary Square with a chance of success would have required huge numbers of people prepared to fight with police and all the consequences that go with that or otherwise a number so large that the police wouldn’t attempt to move them on. Neither of those things, however desirable seem realistic to me. Sometimes it’s just not our day. The sooner that’s recognised on the day or before the better.

Perspective is important. The EDL haven’t kept Centenary Square, the ones that weren’t nicked or taken to hospital were herded back onto buses and trains and went back to where ever they came from. Their success at moving from a pub to a square and having a contained fight with the police hasn’t gained them anything.  They’ve no roots in the city as a result of Saturday, no cameras are going to be put up in Washwood Heath, which is the reason they say they came and outside of a very small area there was little to no disruption. Considering they were talking on Facebook about marching to Alum Rock before the demo what actually happened wasn’t very much at all.

No one can be more bored of this than the EDL, surely?

Lichfield Garrick Theatre

Tory lead Lichfield District Council have to find £1.7million of cuts because of a combination of their own financial mis management and central government funding cuts. For many years they have provided subsidy to the Garrick Theatre, a venture that they have assured the people of the district since before it was built will make a profit. It has never made a profit, it has in fact swallowed millions of pounds of Lichfield District Council’s money and continues to do so at the rate of £500,000 a year.

The leader of Lichfield District council has assured residents that all options will be considered before cuts are made.  The Garrick theatre, shortly after this assurance put out this bit of drivel to the local press. The Garrick is “essential” to local business bringing £7million to the local economy.  They base this assertion on a financial impact study they have never carried out.  The figure is arrived at using a formula developed for the Arts Council to calculate the value of the enture UK theatre industry. Being commissioned and paid for by the Arts Council the objective value of the formula is questionable for it’s stated purpose. To try to use to calculate the impact of an individual theatre is deluded at best, at worst it’s downright dishonest.

What this assertion to the press makes clear is that later this week Lichfield District Council aren’t going to cut the subsidy to the Garrick, they’re going to cut  community transport and other services used by the most vulnerable in the district and to hell with the consequences to the people effected. The Garrick will retain it’s £500,000 subsidy.

With this in mind, being the civic minded people we are at Sabcat we’re going to help the council and the Garrick. We’ve ordered some stickers to be delivered in time for the councils decision to cut services and continue funding the Garrick to help with their marketing.  These stickers are free to anyone in the Lichfield District who wants to help marketing our theatre.  The design will be added to this post later this week. The text of the stickers will be:

HAVE A NICE NIGHT OUT AT THE GARRICK. PAID FOR BY THE ELDERLY AND VULNERABLE OF LICHFIELD DISTRICT.

If you’d like to do your bit in marketing the Garrick theatre simply drop us an email to info@sabcat.com with the subject “Garrick” with your address and we’ll post you 10. Please sticker responsibly.

Fashwatch. A story about antifascism

Below is a post from the people who organised a website called Fashwatch. It’s posted here by request.

Fashwatch Sticker.
Fashwatch Sticker.

 

Fascism is a problem however it manifests itself. The fear it produces is just as real if it’s a violent group such as the EDL mobbed up in a town centre screaming hate at non whites or if it’s a leaflet delivered in a community blaming the non white or immigrant members of that community for the problems experienced there – the non white people are framed not as members of that community but as the problems that community faces. It’s hate.  That it’s hate with a stake in the electoral process of the country and often sympathetic media coverage, if not for the personalities and organisations, for the issues -anti immigration, perpetuation of structural racism etc – makes that hate all the more insidious.  However fascism manifests the result is fear and violence.

Back in 2006 British fascism was on the rise.  The street politics now seeing a resurgence in the form of the EDL had been abandoned by the far right more than a decade previously in favour of electoral politics.  The BNP encouraged by their successes were working hard organising for the local elections of 2007 especially in their target areas in the West Midlands, the north west and West Yorkshire.

Opposition to the BNP took a number of forms, the two most notable were the militant approach of Antifa and the ” vote Labour to keep out the BNP” approach of the UAF.   The approach that seemed to us to be most suited to the conditions at the time was the militant approach. This is not to say that what we we advocated then or now was violence for the sake of violence in fact we were involved in no violence at all.

Know Your Enemy.

The BNP leadership then as now were veterans of a self declared street war, a war that they had lost to AFA.   This made them paranoid people.  An example of this paranoia is the way  BNP meetings were and are organised – secretly.  Even though they were declaring themselves to be a legitimate political party they still feared attack from “reds” and regularly denounced detractors within their own movement as “reds” and or State infiltrators.

We used their paranoia as a weapon against them.  We set up Fashwatch. We never intended it to mimic Redwatch in anything but name.  The site itself was simply two forms. One to submit information to us with the promise that we would pass that on to Antifa and another form to request stickers, free of charge. The information we received was clearly useless by definition. We had absolutely no way to verify it. The point was to be seen to be pro-actively collecting it. The paranoia of the BNP did the rest.

The stickers were real.  One of our number worked in a print shop and through a combination of purchase and theft from work on an industrial scale we distributed more than 15,000 of them. We publicised the site and the free stickers through Indymedia, forums and (it was 2006) a Myspace page. We encouraged people to stick them in areas they knew that BNP candidates lived or worked.   The stickers were there to intimidate, to fuel paranoia.

Channel 4 weren't amused that we used the Big Brother logo.
Channel 4 weren’t amused that we used the Big Brother logo.

The result of the site and our activities is difficult to gauge. We’re told that active Antifa groups put up stickers in the days before actions to give the impression that they’d been given information by the local community. Turning around the fear caused by racist leaflets being delivered in an area.  In Birmingham the BNP organised patrols to look for the people who’d stickered the Longbridge and Ward End areas of the city. Not a good use of time during an election campaign.

The BNP failed to make their breakthrough in 2007 and Fashwatch was part of the effort to thwart it.

 

 

FashWatch was shelved in late 2008.  The BNP had lost momentum and were troubled by no one more than themselves with infighting that climaxed with the release of their membership list in November 2008.

We kept was the Fashwatch.com and .org domain names.   The way we used it against the BNP is not directly applicable to the EDL. There might be some use for it though,  if you can think of one, Sabcat can put you in touch with us and we can point the domains at your servers.  If you can’t we hope that this story has inspired you that involvement with militant antifascism isn’t limited to those comrades willing and able to kick down doors at 4am.

Woolwich. No War But The Class War

I’ve seen the same news as you’ve seen, read the same heroic story of Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, seen the same analysis on twitter from people as informed or ill-informed as any of us.  We’ve have responses from people  speaking for the Muslim community unequivocally condemning the murder and we have the spectacle of people telling the Muslim community what they should be doing.  Leaving aside the implicit racism of clever white people taking up the white man’s burden and offering guidance to Muslim’s, they’re  missing the point. The attackers weren’t born Muslim’s, they’re not a product of the Muslim community.  They’re the very definition of “home grown”. The black man in the video telling us “You people will never be safe” was straight out of South London, the son, apparently, of devout Christians.   He is, or at least should be, as the saying goes “as English as me”.  He clearly disagrees.

The EDL and their ilk – UKIP, Tories, Labour, Libdems, BNP – will tell you that he must have been radicalised by Islamists, that the problem is radical Islam corrupting our young people. They’ll tell that what’s needed is more powers for the police, more surveillance, longer detention and other terrorist fighting tools that like stop and search powers will be used for anything and everything except for fighting terrorism. They are entirely wrong.

Before a person can be radicalised, before they’ll chuck in their lot and life with a radical group they have to be alienated from the life they already have.  A South London born son of Christian parents does not identify with foreign countries as “our lands” without first disengaging from the society he is from.

I’ve never met either murderers, never will so read this as what it is, pure speculation. I’m going to assume that neither of them had meaningful jobs allowing them to live the kind of lives they wanted.   Part of their alienation was material, economic. Class based.  Another part that feeds into the first is structural racism.  Almost every ethnic and racial group in the UK are more likely to be unemployed, harassed by the police and of course be subject to racist abuse or attack than white people.

We can see the structural racism at work in the response to the murder which is covered by the definition of terrorism in the Terrorism Act 2000.  The Prime Minister cuts short a visit to France, wall to wall media coverage and a meeting of COBRA with statements about “our way of life”.

The EDL mob up on the street, attack Mosques in actions that fit just as easily into the definition of terrorism:

the use or threat is designed to influence the government or… to intimidate the public or a section of the public, and ….the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious  racial or ideological cause.

 

And it’s reported and dealt with as a public order issue.

That’s all I’ve got, no answers, the title “no war but the class war” is just a slogan right now, an aspiration and so is that saying “as English as I am”.  One needs to be realised before the other can be. I’ve not a clue how.