Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pearl Jam - Ten

Unbelievable and even disturbing though it may seem for those who were a fan back in the day, this Saturday marks twenty years since the release of Pearl Jam's Ten album. Two decades on, it marks a milestone in the grunge subculture that grew out of Seattle, Washington in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

While fellow scenesters Nirvana and Alice In Chains found fame with their second albums, Ten was Pearl Jam's first, although bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Stone Gossard had already played with proto-grungers Green River and Mother Love Bone. It came out one month before Nirvana's Nevermind to little immediate attention, but rode the crest of their wave, eventually finding a kind of 'classic rock' longevity that eluded most of the grunge generation.

This can possibly be attributed to the fact that it's far less obviously influenced by punk rock than Nirvana were, and far less doomy that Alice In Chains were. Stylistically, it often owes far more to the likes of the clean harmonies of a Neil Young or a Bruce Springsteen than the jagged, nasty guitars of Black Flag. That's not to say it's all sunshine; there's a sweet sinisterness to many of the tracks, which back up the lyrical themes.

These were provided by the baritone-voiced Eddie Vedder, who had auditioned for the band with a tape he called Mamasan. Like with all grunge bands, the words conveyed an affinity for the lonely, the isolated and the abused. But on Ten, Vedder perhaps went further than his contemporaries in giving these victims their own voice, and getting it on the radio.

In the final analysis, grunge was the product of a society that had been through the Reagan-led ruling class counter-offensive of the 1980s, and was now seeing his successor, George Bush Snr, deepen the chasm between rich and poor. The anger of hardcore punk had given way to some despair, and parts of Seattle were full of apparently futureless, often drug addicted and sometimes homeless young people, many of whom formed bands.

Eddie Vedder was not one of those people - he had been brought up by a Chicago attorney, and his guardians could afford to foster seven children. But nonetheless he was personally and artistically drawn to the burgeoning Seattle scene, and all it represented.

On the first six tracks, Vedder tells the stories of a homeless man (Even Flow), a young girl who was locked in a mental institution "by some stupid fuck" (Why Go), and Jeremy Wade Delle, a 16-year-old who shot himself dead in English class. "Jeremy spoke in class today", Veddie intoned, and Pearl Jam very obviously spoke too: there was something definitely, desperately wrong with the American Dream.

The first half of Ten is also memorable for two other outstanding tracks. Black may 'just' be a lament for love lost, but the heartfelt nature of the words, plus the sincerity of their delivery and the chiming melancholy of the guitars make it so much more than that. Finally, the language gives way to pure singalong vocalisation, in what still makes for an amazing live moment. And Alive is a constant staple of rock radio stations, whose programmers probably think it's some kind of life-affirming anthem. The music would certainly suggest as much, but on the contrary, it is the semi-autobiographical story of a mother revealing to her son that the man he believed to be his father "is nothing", and his real father is now dead. Horrifyingly, after this, the mother tries to seduce the son.

Though it's musically accomplished, much of the remainder is filler, and sounds somehow flat and unaffecting. Still, six absolute generational classics are enough for any album. Pearl Jam never particularly asked why things were the way the were, but Vedder did his best to describe how things were, and that was very significant to a lot of people in 1991. Ten isn't quite up to the standards of Nevermind or Dirt, which were classics for quite different reasons, but it certainly merits its place amongst that exalted company.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The New Rulers of Libya

US imperialism has triumphed in Libya once more
As National Transitional Council (NTC) troops overran Muammar Gaddafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli yesterday, cameras caught a man attacking a statue meant to symbolise Libyan resistance to US bombers. And little wonder; it was US and NATO bombers who had acted as the unofficial air force of the 'rebel' NTC. Without them, there is no doubt that Gaddafi would still be in control of Libya. But now the dictator has fled, who are the new rulers of Libya? And what are their policy agendas for the country?

The head of the NTC, Mahmoud Jibril is an American-educated economist, who served as Gaddafi's National Economic Development Board chair from 2007 up to the point where he fled the sinking ship. In that post, he crafted privatisation policies designed to open up the economy to international capital. A large contingent of former Gaddafi loyalists also includes Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the former interior minister who helped shape the repression of protests during the early days of the 'Arab Spring', before he too joined the other side.

Another key figure is Mohammed Busidra, who was billed as "Libya's post-Gadhafi political kingmaker" by Canada’s Globe and Mail, when they interviewed him earlier this month. Previously "Gadhafi's most notorious political prisoner", Busidra has supposedly "brought together Libya’s disparate moderate Islamist leaders into the country’s only united political force. He has written a constitution that they have agreed upon, and is organizing Libya’s mosques into a political machine."

Under the Islamists' blueprint constitution, homosexuality and the drinking of alcohol would be illegal, alongside "the praise of any religion other than Islam". As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, Busidra might seem an unlikely ally of the United States, were it not for the fact that he promises to "remain favorable toward the West and its governments and oil companies."

Back in February, even before the 'no-fly zone' excuse for bombing was put before the United Nations, I wrote that:
"If some combination of western forces are unleashed on Libya, it will be to guarantee that the oil keeps flowing to Europe. Though it would no doubt be dressed up as a humanitarian intervention, humanitarian concerns would be an irrelevance compared to the dollar, and attempts to maintain US hegemony in the area."
Busidra's comments and Washington's blind eye to his Islamism would seem to confirm this analysis, as would the involvement of CIA assets within the NTC. On 17th March, just days before the NATO bombing campaign began, Khalifa Haftar was appointed as head of the 'rebel' military. Haftar's background passed without comment in the corporate media for some weeks, until it was revealed that the one-time Gaddafi ally had been a CIA asset. After setting up the Al-Qaeda-linked Libyan National Army with CIA and Saudi backing in the 1980s, he had apparently lived quietly somewhere in Virginia for the last twenty years, until he was suddenly made head of the Libyan paramilitary effort to displace Gaddafi. The CIA has a long and bloodsoaked history of overthrowing and murdering leading politicians who have fallen foul of the US ruling class, and their operations are routinely shielded from any public accountability.

The British ruling class tradition of imperialist looting continues, even as Cameron denounces working class 'looters'
Though the US has of course led the NATO aggression in Libya, it has many other partners, including the UK, France, and Libya's former colonial master Italy. At various times, the relationship between these governmental gangsters has also been fraught. This is hardly surprising - at the end of the day each government wants the biggest cut of oil profits for its own favoured oil companies. But overall, Gaddafi's removal has been a success for western ruling classes - hence the stock market rebound when Tripoli started to fall on Tuesday. No doubt, the western allies have stolen a march on China, Russia and Brazil, all of which opposed the NATO bombing, and had significant oil deals under Gaddafi. As a spokesman for the NTC-created oil company stated on Monday: "We don't have a problem with western countries like Italians, French and UK companies. But we may have some political issues with Russia, China and Brazil."

This morning, Jody McIntyre posted that: "Almost 1300 people have been killed in Libya in the past 24 hours; almost equal to the death toll of the brutal, three-week Israeli Operation Cast Lead massacre in Gaza [...] This is not a revolution; it is a western-backed, NATO-sanctioned, colonialist regime change in a sovereign African nation."

Though many Libyans will be celebrating the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi, his replacements will be just as graspingly draconian. Aspirations for food, clothes and shelter - never mind democracy - will not be realised until Libyan toilers unite against all would-be rulers, whether they be Islamist, apparently secular, western-backed or 'anti-imperialist'. Just like their neighbours in Egypt and Tunisia, they need to build a real, working class revolution.

Thoughts on the 2011 Bournemouth Air Festival

The Red Arrows finishing their display, minutes before Red 4's fatal crash
This past week, the fourth annual Bournemouth Air Festival took place in Dorset's largest town. Displays of military might aren't normally my thing, but it is a hugely significant event in the area, so I decided to take a look.

Bournemouth's economy is largely built around tourism. It is one of the sunniest, driest places in the UK, which makes it a prime location for those taking a break on the south coast. Rows upon rows of hotels back away from the beach, which stretches on for miles. In July and August, the place is in full tourism mode, and the Air Festival has quickly come to be seen as the pinnacle of the season. In 2009, crowd numbers were estimated at over 1.3 million, bringing £30 million into the local economy. The 2010 programme was largely cancelled due to a spate of thick fog and persistent rain - a rarity in Bournemouth. This year, organisers were hoping to build on 2009's success, but they faced two big problems.

Firstly, the weather struck yet again! On Thursday, Bournemouth experienced its heaviest rainfall for thirty years, and huge areas became flooded, in part due to the town's extremely hilly topography. By mid-morning it was clear that no flights would be possible that afternoon, but the festival's organisers continued to urge visitors to come, through their Facebook page and other media. As a result, many hundreds and possibly thousands made an incredibly unrewarding visit to the centre of Bournemouth - only to find themselves bonnet or waist deep in water. Eventually, all but a few evening events were cancelled, and preparations were made for a Friday resumption.

And indeed, Friday was a much more successful day, as the sun came out and the crowds returned to a Bournemouth almost unrecognisable from the scenes of devastation witnessed on the evening news the day before. But then came Saturday...

Jon Egging of the Red Arrows died on Saturday
All went well until around 1pm, when the Red Arrows finished their display. Eight of the nine craft then returned to their temporary Hurn Airport base. One crashed in the tiny nearby village of Throop, killing the pilot, Flight Lieutenant Jon Egging.

The show went on, but rumours of the fatal accident spread quickly, amongst the beach crowds and indeed online. For hours, the crash was officially unconfirmed, and the Air Festival Facebook page systematically deleted posts enquiring about Egging's condition, or posting consolation messages. It seemed that nothing - not even death - could be allowed to get in the way of the festival, or dissuade people from attending.

Aside from the commercial considerations, there was also the military's perspective. Though the event is not sponsored by the military, it provides it with an overwhelming showcase. The Red Arrows in particular act as ambassadors for the Royal Air Force, helping to bring in 'defence' contracts, and recruit youngsters to the RAF. As a beachside commentator noted, flight shows developed out of the RAF encouraging its pilots to bend the rules of normal military aviation, so they could gain skills which might be used in future battle situations. Flight Lieutenant Egging had himself seen action in Afghanistan, amongst other places

The military brainwash attempt was in full flow when I made the journey to the beach for Sunday's event. Commentator after commentator paid tribute to Egging's "bravery", one adding that we must thank all our armed forces, "who risk their lives to keep us enjoying the lives we enjoy". Perhaps hundreds of military-related stalls lined the promenade, each with their own gimmick to entice the young. Ten-year-old boys played with mounted toy guns on the infantry stall, while the 'be the best' bouncy castle 'assault course' enthralled primary age kids.

UK soldiers with "rebels" in their sights on Sunday
As a curtain raiser for the day's action, various military units combined for a staged 'beach rescue' of supposed diplomats from "a failed state, such as Libya" (of course, Gaddafi's Libya was in no sense a "failed state" before NATO started bombing the hell out of it). Towards the end, the gallant servants of the crown repelled a small challenge from a small group of "rebels". I couldn't see them, but a whisper went around that they were wearing headscarves, and so might be the Taliban.

I don't want to overestimate the jingoism-inspiring power of the event. There was little flagwaving, and those most attracted were the youngest, who will not be able to fully sign up for some time. Most of the militaristic hoopla was regarded with some indifference, and very few people cheered when the 'Taliban' were 'killed'. This is perhaps indicative of the low levels of support which - contrary to the corporate media's fanfares - the wars in Afghanistan and Libya enjoy amongst the general public. But also, many people had just come to soak up the sunshine and see an amazing combination of human engineering and piloting skill in the skies.

And the day was certainly enjoyable on that level. Impressive though they were, some solo displays tended towards the masturbatory. The most entertaining displays were undoubtedly those where duos or groups combined to draw pictures in the skies with their trails, or 'nearly' collide. I tried to put the imperialist murder this all symbolised out of my mind.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (12A)

Caesar leads the charge for freedom on the Golden Gate bridge
Directed by Rupert Wyatt
Written by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver
On general release from 11th August 2011

In 1968, against a background of class struggle, anti-war protests and general counterculture, we got the first Planet of the Apes film. By using non-human apes to mirror human society, it raised many questions, not least 'exactly what sets us apart from our near evolutionary relatives?' and 'what does the way we treat other species say about how we treat each other?'

Over forty years on, Rise of the Planet of the Apes continues to probe around those themes, while starting to show us how the hairy apes came to dominate a world once ruled by their less hirsute cousins - i.e. our own species. More than just a worthy successor to Franklin J. Schaffner's original, it is everything a 2011 revisit could and should be.

For the most part, we see events unfolding through the eyes of Caesar (CGI-rendered movements by Andy Serkis), an ape who was made super-intelligent by genetic experimentation on his mother, Bright Eyes. When Bright Eyes goes on the rampage to protect an infant Caesar, the youngster is taken home by head scientist Will (James Franco), while all the other test subjects are terminated, and the programme to find a cure for Alzheimer's disease is discontinued.

Caesar in a more tender moment
Several years later, Caesar leaps to the defence of Will's ailing father (a superb John Lithgow), when he is attacked by a neighbour whose car he's just crashed. Incarcerated in a prison-like facility with other primate inmates, Caesar's great intelligence allows him to gradually understand how his fellow primates are exploited by humans, and he searches for a way to bring them together for an uprising that will secure their freedom. "Apes alone weak. Apes together strong", as he signs to his orangutan lieutenant.

Because we see all this unfolding step by step from Caesar's perspective, the audience is invited to sympathise with the ape uprising. Though we are human, and the apes are fighting against humans, it would be difficult for anyone to argue that the insurrection doesn't make sense in terms of their own interests. The pacing is superb, with apparently small and inconsequential events building up to the cataclysmic gorilla warfare finale. Our emotional reactions are targeted, but in a realistic fashion, and without resorting to either 'good v evil' cliches or schlocky sentimentality. For the most part, the humans and the apes are fully-rounded personalities. This sets it apart from almost every for any recent film - let alone a summer 'blockbuster', and relative newcomer Rupert Wyatt shows great promise.

So what about the paralels to the human race in 2011? Right wing online commentators 'joked' that it was appropriate that this came out at the time that certain social layers of homo sapiens were rioting all over the country. Of course, this hilarity was meant to further dehumanise the rioters, and so delegitimise the social problems they inarticulately voiced, but in a sense the conservatives had stumbled across something important. Rise of the Planet of the Apes shows a brutalised group with no stake in society, fighting their oppressors in the only way such groups can - smashing things up. The apes succeed where the UK rioters failed, because they have the physical resources, the political programme and the tactical acumen to make it happen. Now if only Rupert Wyatt and his team - or someone - could make a similar film about the kind of people who were involved in the real life riots.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Verizon Strike Highlights Need for New Workers' Movement

Workers are getting public support, but this must be mobilised if they are to win
Global communications giant Verizon have made profits of more than $19 billion over the last four years - that's nearly two British pounds per person on the planet. All of that was created by the company's workforce, but instead found its way into the bloated bank accounts of executives and shareholders. That's not enough for them though, so Verizon are currently trying to extract the equivalent of $20,000 per US employee per year. In this effort, they are being assisted by the corporate media, the court system, the FBI, and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) unions.

The 45,000 American workers have been on strike for nearly two weeks, having not surprisingly rejected management's demands. As the strike has worn on, the government has aggressively intervened on the side of the company, imposing strict anti-strike injunctions to facilitate strikebreaking, and setting up an FBI investigation into alleged 'terrorist' sabotage of the Verizon networks.

It is instructive to examine the injunctions, and to see just how carefully calculated the attempt to force strikers into submission actually is. For instance, New York pickets are limited based on the number of scab workers on each site. A workplace with twenty-five strikebreakers can have only six pickets at any one time. Fifty strikebreakers can be met by ten pickets, et cetera. In Pennsylvania, all pickets are limited to six strikers, who must be fifteen feet from the door. More than this, "videotaping, photographing, or recording in any manner, the likeness of any individual at any worksite of any Verizon employee or contractor performing company work" is illegal. Neither the CWA nor the IBEW have raised a finger to dispute these injunctions, and have instructed strikers to follow them to the letter.

Last Friday, the FBI announced that it is investigating a "national security" issue, relating to possible "sabotage" by Verizon workers. Special Agent Bryan Travers declared that: "Because critical infrastructure has been affected, namely the telecommunications of both a hospital and a police department, the FBI is looking into this matter from a security standpoint as part of our security efforts leading up to the 9/11 anniversary."

As always, the strike has had moments of creativity and humour
Verizon workers immediately dismissed this as a slander, designed to reduce public sympathy. As a cable splicer in Fairfax, Virginia commented to the WSWS: "Of course they’ll say that. In reality the cables go down all the time, even on a good day like this. These are scare-tactics that Verizon is attempting to use." And a Pittsburgh employee added that: "I feel the company is feeding the media the reports on sabotage. They want to have a lot of negative publicity out there about us and try and make us look bad. We need to all stand together."

The company have attempted to put an abstract limitation on the strike, by setting a deadline of 31st August for workers to return, or face the immediate suspension of all health-related benefits. For their part, the union bureaucrats continue to offer their assistance to the company, stating that they will accept major concessions if Verizon "bargain fairly". As the company's artificial deadline approaches, workers can expect unions to do far more than "meeting [the company] halfway."

As always in industrial disputes, one cent taken off the compensation workers receive for their blood, sweat and tears would be an outrage, but as things stand the total will be far more than that. To have a chance of winning, Verizon employees must take charge of their own struggle by forming rank-and-file committees, and make the biggest possible appeal for the solidarity of the wider working class. Their interests are diametrically opposed to those of the union tops, and can only be defended by a total break from their control.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Crime and Punishment (and Justice)

Two young men face four years inside after they failed to incite a riot
A dozen days after the riots started, the court system continues to churn out huge custodial sentences, the government continues to roll out police state measures, and virtually all sections of the corporate media cheer the whole repressive process on, demanding "retribution" for those who suffered in the disturbances. In reality, they are demanding protection from sections of the working class they have long held in contempt. But what does 'justice' really mean, and how should communists approach the issue?

This morning, the supposedly 'liberal' Guardian newspaper marked a new low in the media backlash - and indeed the decay of liberalism - when its deputy editor Michael White joked about the possibility of incarcerated Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan and Jordan Blackshaw waking up "in the slammer on Thursday remembering that, no, it's not all a bad dream. It could be like this for the next 18 months, lads. And what if that big bloke on the next floor takes a shine to you?"

Sutcliffe-Keenan and Blackshaw have been imprisoned for posting Facebook 'events', inviting their friends to meet up and go rioting. At the appointed hour, only police turned-up, to make arrests. Under normal circumstances, someone would have to kidnap someone, kill while drink-driving, or be convicted of sexual assault to get around four years.

But this is the new normal, and the ruling class are seizing on the opportunity provided by last week's riots to wage Orwellian war on the working class. Meanwhile, pundits like Michael White cheer for "retribution" from the sidelines.

The 'justice system' has always served the ruling class of the day, as it must do. A primary function of the state is - as Noam Chomsky once put it - "to protect property from the majority". A few years back, then Met Police Commissioner Ian Blair admitted that the original 'Peelers' "were not a police for the whole people but a police to protect the better off from what were described by Victorian commentators as the dangerous classes'." This principle has remained in place ever since, and the police literally get away with murder because they are the security guards of the ruling elite. Similarly, what is meant by 'criminality' has largely been framed by the interests of the wealthiest.

Within bourgeois philosophy, there have traditionally been two schools of thought on the justice system. One is that courts should impose the harshest possible sentences, to 'act as a deterrent' for others, and remove the person from the streets, so they could not commit crimes for the duration of their sentence (of course, if they are killed, they are certain not to re-offend). The more liberal discourse revolved around the idea that "prison doesn't work" - i.e. it doesn't actually do much to prevent re-offending, and it costs way too much to keep people locked up forever.

As the Thatcherite counter-revolution took hold, mirroring processes well underway around the world, these liberal voices gradually got drowned out. After all, if there is a widening gap between rich and poor, the poor really must be deterred from stealing property, because 'property is nine tenths of the law', and so much of it belongs to one tenth of society. Even before the riots, Britain was a European leader in locking people up.

In the midst of the current catastrophic social crisis, the more far-sighted ruling class strategists anticipate a working class fightback against the mass looting of the super-rich. The rioters' rather individualistic and often anti-social attempts at self-enrichment gifted Cameron a shot at completing previous governments' efforts to erect the scaffolding of a police state. The measures he now proposes will not be quietly dissolved once all the rioters have been processed by the 'justice system'. On the contrary, they will be used against any working class person who dares to say that the rich should not be allowed to plunder their wallet or purse.

So workers should not press for measures which will eventually be used against them. To quote the famous Spanish Civil War poster, "If you tolerate this, your children will be next". Instead, before we can establish individual justice, we must establish social justice, and bring the world's resources under our collective control. Once we've done that, we can do the same with whatever new 'justice system' we devise.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Working Class Power, The Real Riot Solution

Socio-economic divisions cannot be swept away
It's now ten days since the UK riots started, after police effectively executed a man on the streets of Tottenham, and the 'Independent' Police Complaints Commission lied about it. Courts are still open twenty-four hours a day, speedily processing the accused with barely a thought for due process. Indeed, a memo from on high has directed magistrates to impose custodial sentences, with devastating consequences for many lives. A college student with no previous criminal record has been jailed for six months, after he stole bottled water worth £3.50. A Manchester man got ten weeks for resisting arrest after police attacked him as he cycled past a Sainsbury's looting. Another case merits quoting the gloating (but later deleted) Tweet from Greater Manchester Police: "Mum-of-two, not involved in disorder, jailed for FIVE months for accepting shorts looted from shop. There are no excuses!" Eviction and starvation await many.

So much for the ruling class response to the riots. The lickspittles in the corporate media have been similarly predictable. Some sections have egged on the forces of repression, and used dehumanising language to describe rioters, while liberals have wrung their hands, and emptily wondered what could be done to rescue the morals of the "underclass". Of course, no bourgeois commentators have suggested that poverty could be alleviated, let alone that society should be structured so as to make such apparent alienation an impossibility.

In this, today's liberals are different to their counterparts from the last great depression, eighty years ago. Then, well-heeled journalists and economists - motivated varying by combinations of compassion for and fear of the working class - argued for radical reforms, to save capitalism from itself. The Roosevelt New Deal and the Beveridge reforms followed in the US and UK respectively. In 2011, this constituency does not exist. Unlike then, the world's most militarily powerful governments are in debt, and the real rulers of the world - the financial aristocrats - are demanding ever greater cuts, not increases in government spending, on pain of economic extinction.

But this stands in direct opposition to the needs of the social layers who came out to riot. Two thirds of London's boroughs were affected - and they were the poorest. The vast majority of the rioters were aged between sixteen and twenty-four. Nationally, the unemployment rate for this age group is in excess of 20% (those aged sixteen and seventeen are ineligible for Jobseeker's Allowance). Of those unemployed, a quarter have been unemployed for a year or more. This is hardly surprising when there are 5.4 people unemployed per vacancy nationwide, and large numbers of vacancies go to people who already have jobs.

Until recently, the Education Maintenance Allowance allowed would-be college students a small but significant amount of money per week if they kept learning, but this was abolished by the coalition government last autumn. Also, many young people with A-Levels have been put off university altogether by the tripling of student fees to an average of £8,630 per year. Last December, nearly a million (or 15.6%) young people were classified as NEET (not in employment, education or training). Those in work fare little better, with the youngest workers often slaving for a minimum wage of just £3.64 per hour. Taken together, this is a vast social crime, for which the super-rich bear all responsibility. Little wonder that so many of this abandoned or super-exploited people expressed their rage, or went all-out for short term material gain.

In Haringey, where Tottenham is situated, there is a claimants to jobs ratio of about 30:1. This is being made far worse by the Labour-run council, which is forcing through cuts of nearly a third over the next three years. Eight out of Haringey's thirteen youth clubs have been closed over the last few months.

In opposition to this decay, a socialist society must be organised, to seize the utterly unearned wealth of the super-rich, and put it under the democratic control of the working class. Unemployment must be abolished, and everyone who works, studies or trains must be guaranteed a good standard of living. Only then could we confidently say that riots were a thing of the past.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Draconian - A Rose for the Apocalypse

A scary thing on a throne of skulls
Though it unmistakably has its roots in the more droning riffs Brummie factory survivors Black Sabbath used to evoke the social crisis of the early 1970s, doom metal generally records the alienation of post-industrial landscapes. However, it has almost always done this in an unspoken way - focusing on the symptoms of this (most especially social alienation) rather than diagnosing the illness.

In recent years, it has become increasingly clear that this approach has run its course. From its peak in the early to mid 1990s, the lyrical themes have become ever more repetitive, and the musical composition has become generic, formulaic, stale. In this, doom metal is far from alone - a similar fate has befallen all artistic genres - but it has been painfully obvious within doom. Perhaps there is nowhere to go beyond the depths of individual despair.

The career of Sweden's Draconian broadly fits into this trend. Though they formed in 1994, it took them nine years to record a full studio album. Generally, their output has been on the more 'gothic' side of doom, which means lots of tragic love affairs and broken hearts. Though this produced some very creditable results on 2003's Where Lovers Mourn and follow-up Arcane Rain Fell, 2006's The Burning Halo was patchy at best. Two years later, Turning Season Within was the sound of a band treading water, and recycling every cliche in an apparent effort to just produce something...anything.

This makes their resurgence all the more remarkable. With A Rose for the Apocalypse, Draconian have stunned me, and made my favourite metal album so far this year (not counting my own band's Dead Romantic of course). Have they succeeded in showing how doom can be relevant again? While previous albums might have mused on the agonising death of a lover, this one explicitly reflects on the agonising death of a civilisation. This opens a whole new Pandora's box of possibilities for musical composition, and of course, as they live in such a dying civilisation, the musicians are likely to be 'feeling it' so much more.

They're still hanging out in forests, but Draconian's concerns now sound more 'street'
To be sure, much of the death and destruction is environmental, and this is a subject that doom has touched on in the past, though maybe never as unrelentingly as here. The very first verse of the very first song - The Drowning Age makes this motif clear: "In the dark; inside the earth/Blood runs barren now/See this age, so discoloured/It's breaking down somehow". If there is hope, it seems, we must "bring our gods to the gallows", whatever is meant by that. Setting the blueprint for the album, the track contains simple but extremely effective doom riffs, plus the newly exquisite combination of Anders Jacobsson's croaky growl and Lisa Johansson's ethereal, floaty singing. While 'beauty and the beast' has been done to...well...death over the years - and Draconian have been more guilty of forcing this than many - it seems so real and honest on this release.

Perhaps even more effective than the sense that humanity is living out of harmony with the rest of creation is the notion that we are living out of harmony with ourselves. On A Rose for the Apocalypse, this motif is more thoroughly explored than any doom album I can remember. Doom lyricists are particularly prone to getting bogged down in ostentatious symbolism, but Jacobsson clearly now feels the need to spell things out in far less uncertain terms. For example, on End Of The Rope - a very un-Draconian title - he affirms that individual behaviour is a product of larger societal processes. Yes really. Also, "As tyranny becomes normality/We hang at the end of the rope". At last, Jacobsson has linked draconian socio-political structures with the band's name.

The standout track is The Quiet Storm, which beautifully evokes a sense of communion in suffering and misery in this crisis-torn world. "We stumble through life/Shedding the same tears/Forming the same stream/Asking the same questions/Dreading the new day", Johansson breathes, in a truly unsettling manner. "Yes, a storm is certainly coming...feel the surge!/Rapidly we reach for clenched hands to save us/", Jacobsson snarls, "And we see ourselves for the first time/As the ones we truly are". It's powerful stuff, and its power is amplified by a haunting musical ambience, which subtly mirrors and then lifts the vocals, rather than trying to overwhelm or war with them.

A significant minority of reviewers and commenters have suggested that Draconian offer them nothing new on A Rose for the Apocalypse. In my opinion, this is a shallow analysis, which is either due to only hearing it a couple of times, or not considering the content enough. While they still sound like Draconian, they sound like a revitalised Draconian, who have something different to say. In time, the seismic changes in our society will produce radical departures in all forms of art, and it's quite likely doom metal itself will cease to exist. For now, against a background of musical complacency from the veterans, a great doom metal album is a huge step forward.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

After the Riots: Big Thieves and Little Thieves

'The big thieves hang the little thieves' - Czech proverb

In the wake of rioting across the country, the newspapers are leading the call for draconian repression of young people in poor areas. Prime Minister David Cameron is only too happy to oblige, knowing that the riots provided him with the perfect excuse to trial measures which will eventually be used against the entire working class. But there are a couple of important things to consider amongst all of this. One is the personal hypocrisy of Cameron and his deputy, Nick Clegg. Another far more important aspect is how the looting by the poor pales in comparison to - and is indeed fuelled by - the looting by the super-rich, which the coalition government was set up to facilitate.

When he left Eton, a young David Cameron went on to the next expected career stop for his social layer - Oxford University. While he was there, he joined the exclusive Bullingdon Club, alongside now London Mayor Boris Johnson. A few years later, Chancellor George Osborne was also a member. The club was infamous for its lavish, wild parties, and membership was reserved for those who were a) male, b) invited because of their social connections and c) could afford to pay for the damages. Yes, at the end of each dinner or booze-up, the 'Bullers' would trash the venue and throw a few hundreds at the staff to clean the place up.

Nick Clegg - whose aristocratic grandmother fled the Russian revolution and whose father was chairman of a bank - had a similarly privileged upbringing, and had a similar appetite for destruction as a youth. Bizarrely, at sixteen he set fire to a collection of rare cacti belonging to a German professor. But his family tree wasn't enough to help him completely escape the long arm of the law - he was given community service. In 2007, he admitted to the BBC that "I did some damage to some plants. I am not proud of it. I think we all have blemishes in our past." He has not been similarly sympathetic to the young rioters of the last week, condemning them as "mindless". This despite his pre-election prediction that there would be riots in the street if the Conservatives slashed and burned public services with a thin mandate.

The more charitable might say that adolescent excess is all water under the bridge, and we should judge leading politicians on more recent actions. Ok then. Well that have all aided an enormous bank robbery for a start. It was a real smash and grab job known euphemistically as the "2009 bank bailout", which saw a trillion handed over to a class of criminals who had just crashed the economy. They have then taken actions which have destroyed the living standards of millions, cutting and gutting public services left, right and centre. As comedian Nathaniel Tapley pointed out in his open letter to David Cameron's parents, they also willfully became entangled in the Murdoch's machinations, happily hobnobbing with many now under criminal investigation, however thorough that might be. Truly, a trial of misery and destruction lies in the wake of the neoliberal elite, not mentioning their terrorist adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya.

It seems that when rich people act in a destructive way, the worst name the media will ever call them is "decadent", whereas poor people acting destructively are labelled "sick". But yes, the worst anti-social behaviour witnessed around the country this week was indeed the product of a sick society, presided over by a decadent ruling class.

The other side of the £1 coin...Fortnum & Mason it ain't
If there is a wider lesson here, it should be the fact that the ruthless individualism which characterises the powerful has been transmitted down to the powerless. They have grown up in a world where commodities are worshipped, and dog eat dog is the prescribed method of acquiring them. But The Apprentice and Dragons' Den seem a world away in the crumbling ghettos of the UK, so 'entrepreneurial' skills are instead applied in the 'gangsta' lifestyle bragged about by 50 Cent and the like.

Of course the looters were "opportunistic". But opportunism is a trait which is routinely applauded when an Alan Sugar or a Duncan Bannatyne exhibits it. The looters saw a 'window of opportunity' if you will, and 'took a risk' to grab the bling...or even the essentials, if the raids on Poundland and even charity shops are anything to go by. For many looters, it was less Get Rich Or Die Tryin', and more get by or die tryin'.

In their excellent statement on the riots, North London Solidarity Federation observed that:
"It is no accident that the riots are happening now, as the support nets for Britain's disenfranchised are dragged away and people are left to fall into the abyss, beaten as they fall by the batons of the Metropolitan Police. But there should be no excuses for the burning of homes, the terrorising of working people. Whoever did such things has no cause for support."
Indeed, there is no excuse for inflicting such suffering on fellow working class people. But as communists, we should still make an effort to understand, because the alternative is condemn a whole section of society - like the capitalist media does with its references to "feral kids", "rats" and "wild beasts". Such slanders border on being eugenicist, for if there are no social explanations for their behaviour then it must be biological, and such living and breathing human beings are little better than vermin to be exterminated or caged. In the near future, working people who now call for a fierce crackdown or support Cameron's new repressive, anti-democratic measures may well find themselves on the wrong side of the biggest gang's guns.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Scandal of the USA's Somalia Aid Blockade

The US is playing politics with the lives of starving children
Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged members of the al-Shabaab militia - the Islamist group who control 60% of famine-hit Somalia - to allow aid in. Just as in Libya, crocodile tears and hand-wringing over supposedly 'humanitarian' concerns mask predatory imperialist interests.

Somalia is located in East Africa, which is facing a food crisis following the worst droughts in sixty years. There has been no functioning central government in the country since the Somali Civil War broke out twenty years ago, when the US removed its support for dictator Siad Barre. Most of the country is currently presided over by al-Shabaab, who the western media routinely link to al-Qaeda, though the US government's own National Counterterrorism Center has found no organisational links. The US backs its rivals in the so-called Transitional Federal Government, which is more open to western interests than al-Shabaab.

More than "terrorists" gaining control of an African country, the US and its allies fear the loss of a strategically important location to Chinese influence. Though Somalia is not particularly rich in oil, gas or mineral resources, it lies at a major crossroads of world trade by sea and air.

In the recent period, the biggest intervention of US imperialism into Somalia happened in 1992, when outgoing president George Bush Snr sent thirty thousand American troops into the country, on the pretext of providing aid. His successor Bill Clinton faced a humiliation two years later, when he was forced to pull troops out after the battle that was misleadingly portrayed in Black Hawk Down.

Dictator Siad Barre was successfully courted by US imperialism in the 1980s
Now, as famine grips the region, the Obama administration sees a potential opportunity to re-establish US hegemony. In her speech last week Hillary Clinton stated that: "The relentless terrorism by al-Shabaab against its people has turned an already severe situation into a dire one that is only expected to get worse”. Even by the standards of imperial realpolitik, this is staggering hypocrisy.

In reality, it is the US and United Nations which has long denied aid to the 2.8 million people who live in the territory controlled by the al-Shabaab, by designating any such aid material assistance to a terrorist organisation. This was exactly the pretext the Obama administration used two years ago, when it forced the World Food Programme to close its programmes for mothers and malnourished children on the grounds that it was assisting a terrorist organisation.

As initially happened in Libya, US regional allies are proposing a no-fly zone over the al-Shabaab territory. However, al-Shabaab has no air capability whatsoever. The aim of any western military intervention would be to overthrow al-Shabaab, and replace it with a dictatorship of the west's choosing. Already, US-backed African Union forces have launched an offensive against al-Shabaab in the capital Mogadishu, as well as the town of El Wak.

The threat of starvation cannot be solved by the replacement of one capitalist ruling class with another. Every day, enough food to feed the hungry of the world is destroyed, in order to keep profits high. Many farmers are paid not to grow food for the same reason. Like the overwhelming majority of the Earth's population, the interests of starving Somalis lie in an economic system based on human need, not elite greed.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The UK Riots and Capitalism's Decay

London's burning...but why?
Parts of London are still burning after an enormous third night of riots, during which the flames have spread to Birmingham, Nottingham, Bristol and Liverpool. There is huge controversy over the conflagration, and the media establishment is doing its best to condemn, rather than try to understand. As a communist, this is not enough for me. These riots are the sudden bursting to the surface of social tensions that have been building up for many years - tensions that are rooted in the crisis of capitalism.

Amongst all the TV footage of buildings engulfed in flames, it's easy to forget that those flames were sparked by bullets from police guns. Last Thursday, cops shot and killed Mark Duggan on the streets of Tottenham in North London. The nation's biggest armed gang - Metropolitan Police - claimed that Duggan had been a "gangster", and it was reported that an officer had been shot during the incident. It later emerged that the bullet had embedded in the cop's radio, and it was police issue. This added credence to eyewitness statements that Duggan had been pinned down when he was killed.

On Saturday night, friends and family of Duggan gathered at Tottenham police station, demanding answers. Cops then set upon a sixteen-year-old girl with batons, for reasons which remain unclear. The stage was set for a nocturnal showdown between an angry community and the agents of the state. The violence seemed to be the living embodiment of Martin Luther King's quote that "A riot is the language of the unheard."

That was day one. On day two, the idea of rioting appears to have spread by word of mouth and - of course these days - on Twitter and Facebook. Doubtless many of those rioting had the notion that they were settling old scores with the police. Others seem to have seized on the opportunity to loot shops while the police were distracted. This pattern spread yet further on day three. There were also reports of violence against people who had nothing to do with the police.

Toxteth riots - thirty years on
But those paragraphs only take us so far in understanding what happened. Like any major event these days, it has to be analysed in the context of the economic crisis, which was touched off by the ultra-rich, and their losses have been steadily passed down the food chain, with the poorest suffering most. As even a Daily Telegraph article admits, this socio-economic vandalism has created the conditions in which such tumult was certain to happen sooner or later.

Two weeks ago I a visited a small exhibition at Liverpool's International Slavery Museum, commemorating the Toxteth riots of 1981. Temporal distance had added understanding to the statements which lined the walls, though they went on to complacently claim that Liverpool was a very different place now. Last night, there was rioting in Toxteth's Upper Parliament Street once more.

But in a sense the exhibition blurb was right; Liverpool of 2011 is very different to the Liverpool of 1981. Back then we'd only had six years of the neoliberal assault. Now it's thirty-six. The latest crises of capitalism have created a generation of ghetto children with even less to lose.

The problem isn't that oppressed working class people are breaking the law en masse. The problem is that - justified anger at the police notwithstanding - so much of it is ostensibly 'apolitical', and many of the victims are entirely innocent politically speaking. As yet, there has been little leadership from the working class in the workplace. This apparently directionless outburst of rage and destruction is the inevitable result.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Tottenham Police Told "This Is What You Get - Fire"

After last night's fighting in Tottenham, the media are of course quick to condemn the rioters, and to suggest that they should have waited for an 'Independent' Police Complaints Commission report into the state killing of father of five Mark Duggan. Though the full story has yet to come out, a couple of alternative perspectives have already been posted on Red Pepper and libcom. The latter is reposted in full below:

Hundreds gathered on the streets of Tottenham, North London, after the police killed local man, Mark Duggan. Barricades were set up and police cars burned as the protests ran long into the night.

On Saturday afternoon, friends and family of Mark Duggan, the 29 year old man shot and killed by the police on Thursday, marched from his home in Broadwater Farm estate to Tottenham police station. They waited for someone to come out from the police station and hear their concerns, and give answers about Mark's death, but they were ignored.

At around 9pm, Haringey Solidarity Group reported on Twitter

Quote:
Riot taking place right now outside Tottenham cop shop about the guy killed by the pigs this week | 200 riot cops deployed |
As the evening continued, reports and photos came through, as about 300-500 people from across the community gathered on Tottenham High Road, and pictures of two police cars set on fire with petrol bombs filtered through to the mainstream media. Chants of "Whose streets? Our streets!" and "We want answers!" could be heard from the crowd. A protester from the original march from Broadwater Farm interviewed on BBC News said the police attacked a 16-year old woman with batons without provocation, sparking a response from the crowd who up to that point had been chanting outside the police station.

Eye witness reports described police "running and hiding" as they were unable to contain the crowds, who had built barricades and were charging police lines, using makeshift missiles and burning wheelie bins to keep the police away. A stand-off seemed to happen for some time, as police and protesters formed lines, before a double decker bus was set on fire. There have been widespread reports of looting and fires being set, including in the local job centre. By 2.30am, there are now reports on Twitter of rioting spreading into Wood Green, Turnpike Lane, and Green Lanes, as the police are trying to break up crowds on Tottenham High Road. There have been reports of Tottenham Hale retail park being looted, including JJB Sports and PC World.

Channel 4 quoted "Jamal", an eye witness, saying:
Quote:
"These are our ends, we're here to tell the police they can't abuse us, harass us. We won't put up with it, this is just the beginning, this is war, and this is what you get - fire."
The BBC broadcast live footage of young people smashing the windows of an empty police car, and then asked protesters why they were trying to block the camera crew from filming. Both Sky News and BBC withdrew their camera crews from the scene as crews were challenged and attacked. BBC and Sky have quoted the local MP, David Lammy, claiming that the people on the street are not representative of the majority of Tottenham residents. However, their own live footage showed local people from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds standing together and forming lines against the police. The police have been insisting that the events are 'localised' and are not spreading beyond Tottenham, eye witness accounts are disputing this, and the mainstream media have been effectively shut out of the area.

Tottenham saw major riots in 1985 in response to the death of Cynthia Jarrett at the hands of the police. Tottenham has also been hit by recent government austerity measures, with several youth centres being closed in recent weeks.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Social Tensions Near Boiling Point In Chile

Copper mining is a huge part of the Chilean economy
It is a year to the day since thirty-three miners became trapped down a notoriously dangerous privatised mine in Copiapo, Chile, when a gas explosion produced a massive collapse. They were finally freed after seventy days underground, provoking joyous celebration around the globe. Twelve months on, they remain mired in poverty, while their brother miners in Chile's biggest mine fight for livable levels of pay, and thousands of students fight for cheaper and better state education.

As a Washington Post article noted this week, "They have an exhibit at the Smithsonian and a line of toys depicting their epic rescue. But most of the 33 men whose saga in a collapsed mine captivated the world a year ago face a new crisis today: poverty."

Suffering from poor mental and physical health, the escapees have struggled to find employment outside the mining industry many had spent their working lives in. Some make a little money giving talks here and there, others focus on legal action against the government and mine owners. But their plight is symbolic of a wider social crisis in the country.

Workers' conditions have barely improved since the western-backed dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who overthrow the left nationalist president Salvador Allende in a CIA-inspired coup d'etat. Current president Sebastián Piñera has an estimated net worth of US$2.4bn, and his party has historical links to the Pinochet era. Unemployment is relatively low at around 7%, but those in work are paid extremely badly, particularly in the highly profitable mining sector.

The super-exploited workers who mine at the Escondida colliery in the north of the country shift about a fifth of a tonne of copper each per day, which is worth about US$780. In return, they make barely enough to make ends meet, plus meagre productivity bonuses, worth US$193 per year. On 21st July, the contracted staff walked out, demanding windfall bonuses of US$10,000. They were joined by subcontractors, who are even worse paid, and demanded 30% of whatever the contracted employees got.

The miners' FM union initially limited the strike to one day, but gave way when a cafe strike meeting ended in miners chanting ‘¡A morir!’ ('till death!').

BHP Billiton - the mine's largest owners  - could easily have absorbed the miners' demands, which amount to just one day's production. However, the Chilean ruling class feared the impact of a major victory for the strikers, and pressed both the company and the union to reach a deal.

Colin Becker, mining analyst at PriceWaterHouseCoopers in the capital Santiago, warned of an “extremely dangerous precedent” if the strike was victorious. “Escondida is the biggest mine in Chile,” Becker said, “so it’s also a benchmark.” Given victory for the strikers, “You could see this spreading to other mines.” He argued that the mine owners should not “negotiate over every whim; they must break the cycle.”

A burning barricade in Santiago yesterday
Last Friday, FM announced a sell-out deal with the owners, but it was rejected by a 96% margin. Today, FM returned with a similar offer, but wearied and financially-pressed strikers reluctantly agreed to accept it. They are now expected to receive a one-off US$5,760 bonus payment, but of course this has been eaten into by two weeks of unpaid wages. By refusing to call out other miners or make an appeal to the wider working class, FM has successfully strangled the strike.

But despite the best intentions of the financiers and the unions, other miners have been coming out over the last few weeks. Workers at the Collahuasi private mine struck for twenty-four hours last weekend, in response to anti-union bullying since the end of a month-long strike last December. Last month, there was also a one day nationwide stoppage at the state-run Codelco, amid speculation that a planned restructuring could lead to lay-offs and worsened compensation.

Chilean students have also been demonstrating this week, calling for cheaper and better education. Rebelling against a government ban, thousands of young people took to the streets banging pots and pans in a 'cacerolazo' - a form of protest popular in certain Spanish-speaking countries, and most famously brought to the world's attention in the Argentine rebellion of 2001-02. When the Chileans were violently confronted by the police, many fought back, and they blocked roads and lit fires in response to water cannon and tear gas attacks.

Yesterday, a poll showed that Pinera is the least popular president since Pinochet's dictatorship, with just 26% of Chileans approving of his performance. The social tensions underlying the recent upsurge have not gone away, and will erupt in other directions before too much time has passed.

Sepultura - Kairos

Time is running out...for what?

Sepultura are the Sugababes of heavy metal, still plugging away and playing the old songs as member after member leaves. To be accurate, Sepultura do have one original member left, but Paulo Jr's bass has never been a particular hallmark of the band. No, the departure of the brothers Cavalera has pretty much taken away all the Sepultura-ness over the years, and what's left is...well, actually maybe a lot of it was about guitarist Andreas Kisser all along, and maybe he's just rescued this band.

Kairos is their second release with this line-up, since drummer Igor joined his sibling Max in Cavalera Conspiracy. And while A Clockwork Orange concept album A-Lex was almost entirely forgettable, they have rediscovered something here. Perhaps it's urgency - the cover art certainly suggests that - but the lyrics steadfastly refuse to say what is so urgent.

When I saw the artwork, I was tempted to think it might be something to do with the economic crisis, given the band's political legacy (which briefly continued under replacement lead vocalist Derrick Green). On that tip, the name is taken from Ancient Greek, to mean an in between time when something important happens, which will affect all times to follow. Seems to fit right now. But in interviews, Green is oblique about what this means in our modern context, sometimes referring vaguely to environmental themes.

Whatever he's on about, he does sound frantically passionate, and the rest of the gang step up to the same mark. Kisser is on particularly fine form, recalling his work of twenty years and more ago, while Jean Dolabella on drums is much more worthy of a place on inventive Igor's stool than he was on A-Lex.

In keeping with the apparent emergency, many tracks are extremely thrashy, especially Mask, No One Will Stand, and Seethe. Meanwhile, the improbably named Structure Violence (Azzes) and a very solid rendering of Ministry's Just One Fix recall the Brazilian tribal jams and industrial flirtation of Roots. It seems the band had a very serious discussion about what has very definitely worked for them over the last three decades, and what has not, before honing their focus.

There's no doubt, Sepultura knew their fanbase couldn't stand another Dante XXI or A-Lex, and Derrick Green wanted to convey...something, so they gave their all in a strenuous effort to produce another Seps classic. This isn't quite it, but they're on the right track, and the furious pace of political events may yet inspire Green et al to Chaos A.D.-esque heights.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

An Open Letter To City of Westminster Police

Suspicious anarchist activity in Westminster, 20th July 2011
Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing in response to recent communication from your 'counter-terrorism desk', which asked people to share information about anarchists. According to your info - which I note  you cut and pasted from the first line of the 'Anarchism' Wikipedia entry - "Anarchism is a political philosophy which considers the state undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, and instead promotes a stateless society, or anarchy." If that is your definition, then it's a fair cop guv, I am an anarchist, so I am doing my duty as a citizen by reporting myself to you, as requested.

I was recently on your patch - if you will - as part of my thirtieth birthday festivities. On 20th July 2011, at around 12:50, I posed for a photograph opposite the Palace of Westminster - the mother of all parliaments - pretending to hold my nose. You see it was the day after the Murdochs had testified to MPs on the 'hackgate' saga - a case I know the Met are very familiar with, though I note you are yet to arrest either Murdoch. I was making a lighthearted visual comment on the stench of corruption that emanates from that palace, just as it does from Buckingham Palace, and every single palace you could care to mention. However, have no fear. I have no intention of blowing the place up. That would be such a waste. And besides, as the old saying goes, "you can't blow up a social relationship". Howard Zinn used to say that, and was "something of an anarchist", but he's dead now.

You see, the point you seem to have missed is that to be an anarchist is to criticise the social relationships that exist under capitalism, between the individual and the state. The word 'anarchy' comes from the Greek 'anarchos', meaning "without ruler". We would like a revolution. If that thought alone makes us criminals, then perhaps you have taken George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four to be a training manual, rather than a dystopian warning. By the way, George Orwell wasn't an anarchist, but he did fight alongside some of them during the Spanish Civil War. Yes, I know, someone who wasn't a police officer using violence. But technically that wasn't illegal in Spain at the time, so if you really are fine upholders of the law I'm sure you would have been on the Republican side, against fascism.

Look, I'll level with you even further. I've learned not to like the police. I know what your real role is in society - to protect and serve the rich people who dictate the laws to the politicians. I know that as recession gives way to another great depression, and working class people self-organise in their own defence, you will take the side of the bosses, against your own ultimate interests. I know that you'll say to yourself that you're "just doing your job". I expect we'll meet again, though I don't know where, and I don't know when. On that day I'll wish we were friends and comrades, and you'll wish I'd just go away.

I think Durruti (he was definitely an anarchist) said it best:
"They persecute us. Yes, of course they do. We’re a threat to the system they represent. If we don’t want them to harass us, then we should just submit to their laws, integrate ourselves into their system and bureaucratize ourselves to the marrow."
I can't do that, so I'll plead guilty, though - of course - I'll reject the authority of the court.

IWW Cleaners Win London Wage Battle

Cleaners at London's Guildhall refused to work until they were paid
Cleaners at London's prestigious Guildhall - "the City powerhouse since the twelfth century" according to its website" - have successfully forced their employers to hand over the wages they are entitled to.

In the new edition of The Commune newspaper, cleaner Alberto Durango explains how the Industrial Workers of the World  (IWW) organised a successful action after what legally amounted to a lockout. 

Durango has long been persecuted for his militant assertion of workers' interests, stretching back to his time in Columbia, but he remains defiant::
"The best thing about this protest was the determination and unity of the workers. Despite the intimidation from the managers they always remained solid. This is just the beginning of this struggle. The workers are determined to fight for the living wage. Thanks to all who supported us, both at the protest and with the solidarity messages. Victoria, compañeros – venceremos! (Victory, comrades: we shall triumph!)"
The IWW is a horizontally-organised union, which is free of bureaucratic control. Now over a hundred years old, it once had a membership of one hundred thousand. As workers increasingly come into confrontation with the corporate union bosses, horizontal organisation will inevitably come to be seen as the way forward. Whether or not that will take place within the IWW, their history is well worth studying,

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