Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - Reinvention and Stagnation

It’s two years since a slew of already radical artists produced some of their career best work in 2011. Those albums reflected the reality of austerity, its effects on billions of people, and the beginnings of fightback. Since then, the global resistance has grown only slowly, and even slower in the European and American countries where the vast majority of those musicians I’ve been exposed to live. While a significant numbers did make some successful attempts at reinvention, in politics as in music, we are still waiting for the great leap forward.

1    Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)
Highlights: Drive Home, The Pin Drop, The Raven That Refused To Sing

“Just because I'm weak/You can steal my dreams/You can reach inside my head/And you can put your song there instead”

Steven Wilson does what he does best musically - weaving many ideas together into a logically consistent overall piece. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the staggeringly melancholic (nearly) title track, which is hands down my song of the year. Stories of individual suffering, raised to a level of collective grandeur. Wilson’s finest hour.

2    Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push The Sky Away
Highlights: Jubilee Street, Higgs Boson Blues, Push The Sky Away

“Can't remember anything at all/Flame trees line the streets/Can't remember anything at all”

With Grinderman out of the way, Nick Cave really is old enough to know better, and old enough to make an album about feeling old. Not so much raging against the dying of the light as actively embracing it, and making life seem all the sweeter for its fleeting brightness in the immense pitch black.

3    Alice In Chains - The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
Highlights: The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, Low Ceiling, Hung On A Hook

“Ghost town strip of misery/I ain't feeling no better/Roadkill heart inside of me/Follow it to the letter”

This is their second album with William DuVall and the band continues to grow, despite all the years and the deaths of two previous members. Jerry Cantrell is securing himself a place amongst the all time greats of rock musicianship.

4    Wisdom of Crowds - Wisdom of Crowds
Highlights: Pleasure, Stacked Naked, Centre Of Gravity

“Look at our ways, look at how we suffer"

A collaboration between Katatonia’s Jonas Renkse and some guy I’ve never heard of but who is obviously great, it showcases Renkse’s exceptionally emotive vocal talent, shining all the brighter in this stripped-down, crisp and innovative new setting. Hoping for more from these two before too long.

5    Tomahawk - Oddfellows
Highlights: White Hats/Black Hats, “I Can Almost See Them”, South Paw

“They call us oddfellows/We're dancing on the gallows”

Finally Tomahawk seem to have perfected the formula they’ve been working on since Patton and Denison started swapping tapes at the turn of the millennium. The creepiness of Patton’s croon has finally fused with the fucked up ness of Denison’s guitar. The result is a glorious monster.

6    Suede - Bloodsports
Highlights: Barriers, It Starts and Ends With You, Faultlines

“Aniseed kisses and lipstick traces/Lemonade sipped in Belgian rooms/Couldn't replace the graceful notions/That clung to me when I clung to you”

Of course, without Bernard Butler, ‘Suede’ is little more than a brand name for ‘more epic Brett Anderson solo album’. Yet it is extremely epic, and well worthy of that brand. An ecstatic celebration of the dramatic in love lives, it could do with a pinch of the social criticism which was once mixed in with that.

7     Mark Lanegan - Imitations
Highlights: Pretty Colors, I’m Not The Loving Kind, Autumn Leaves

Feels a bit cheeky sticking a covers album here, but these imitations are far from pale, and Lanegan’s world-weary croon is a perfect fit for these heartbreaking torch songs. Real spine-tingling stuff.

8    Bosnian Rainbows - Bosnian Rainbows
Highlights: Worthless, Turtle Neck, Mother, Father, Set Us Free

“The world is worthless. But I... I will live... live on!”

The new project of The Mars Volta’s Omar Rodríguez-López, he combines with Teri Gender Bender to produce something fresh, scary and beautiful. The Mars Volta’s revitalised skittishness is combined with Gender Bender’s versatile vocals that sounds like a million different influences, mixed in a unique way.

9     Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals - Walk Through Exits Only
Highlights: Battalion of Zero, Betrayed, Irrelevant Walls and Computer Screens

“The remarks will imply, “This not music!”/ But the rebuttal is truth: regurgitation is boring!/ Emulation is death! Agitated, anthemic, discordant, chorals, take over begins now.”

This is a fucking colossal mess. It’s also some of the most vital music I’ve heard this year. Lyrical and musical ideas collide with brutality, and tunes are left in the rubble. But who cares? He’s fucking trying. And people need to, because the old ways can’t reflect the new reality.

10    Ministry - From Beer To Eternity
Highlights: PermaWar, The Horror, Change of Luck

“Here’s my prediction of what is to come/The perfect storm is coming, there’s nowhere to run”

Just when I was beginning to dread the tedium of yet another ‘last ever’ album from Ministry, Al seems to have rediscovered his focus. And significantly, he criticises Obama’s America as an deepening of the crisis presided over by his favourite nemeses, the Bushes.

Seidr - Ginnungagap
Mind-expanding stuff from Panopticon’s A. Lunn.
White Lies - Big TV
Another excellent release from this lot, who retain the ability to produce musical and lyrical landscapes bringing fleeting moments of time to vivid and dramatic life.
Filter - The Sun Comes Out Tonight
Yet another consistently excellent release from an extremely underappreciated band.
Dropkick Murphys - Signed and Sealed in Blood
Another predictable but brilliant burst of ‘Irish’ rebel songs. Feel the energy of this lot like a knife.
Mick Harvey - Four (Acts Of Love)
Very nice, sparse bittersweetness about life’s ups and downs. The kind of music that subtly makes everyone’s life seem like the great drama it is.
Mike Patton - The Place Beyond The Pines
Half of this soundtrack is very obviously made to be background music to the film, and then the second...well worth a place on any album made this year.
Carcass - Surgical Steel
Pretty good comeback album. Good enough not just to be a cynical cash-in. There’s the bite of the earlier records here, plus the musicality of Swansong.
Ulver - Messe I.X-VI.X
More endless experimentation from these always enjoyable veterans.
Trouble - The Distortion Field
The sheer impact of Eric Wagner’s vocals have not been replaced, but the first half of this is still mighty fine doom.
Jesu - Every Day I Get Closer To The Light From Which I Came
You know what you’re getting from Justin Broadrick with his Jesu head on. But wait a moment, is that...hope?
Spiritual Beggars - Earth Blues
Somewhere between Thin Lizzy and Arch Enemy, these new millenium spins on classic rock often soar with their rebellious spirit.
Queens Of The Stone Age - ...Like Clockwork
Not exactly breaking new ground, but this is a solid release on the ballady side of the QOTSA ouevre.
Katatonia - Dethroned and Uncrowned
These minimalist reworkings bring the best out of last year’s disappointing Dead End Kings, and there are some truly sublime moments.
Blackfield - Blackfield IV
Nice effort. Just enough of Aviv Geffen’s vulnerable sweetness, combined with just enough of Steven Wilson’s musicality so that it doesn’t overwhelm.
Rob Zombie - Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor
Rob gets his mojo back and puts out some ridiculous heavy rock like we know he can.
Suicidal Tendencies - 13
The suicyco army party like it’s 1983! So contrived, but fun.
Grails - Black Tar Prophecies Vol’s 4, 5 & 6
Grails are new to me, but this is some seriously atmospheric dark instrumental shit.
Black Sabbath - 13
I hate it when bands sound like obvious Black Sabbath rip offs, but I think in this case we might make an exception. Not too great overall, but final track ‘Dear Father’ makes a fitting ending (?) to their career.
Serj Tankian - Jazz-iz Christ
Really not one for jazz in most circumstances, but Serj is such a brilliant composer that he could probably make any style of music compelling.
Cult Of Luna - Vertikal
Apparently Fritz Lang’s Metropolis was a major inspiration for this. Can’t see it myself, but this is a solid enough product anyway.
Serj Tankian - Orca
Really not one for classical in most circumstances, but Serj is such a brilliant composer that he could probably make any style of music compelling.
Placebo - Loud Like Love
Nothing spectacular, but this is definitely a grower, and they’re not dead and buried yet.
Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks
A largely tiresome comeback. A copy of a copy of a.
Depeche Mode - Delta Machine
Not a critique of the SWP, and it would have been a lot better if it was.
Sodom - Epitome of Torture
Not a terrible example of your typical variation on the Sodom format.
Korn - The Paradigm Shift
Ambitious title for an unambitious project. Head is back, but that just makes it seem like sub-par old Korn.
Rotting Christ - Kata ton Daimona Eatou
Curiously uninteresting, even though I can tell they’re trying really hard to be interesting.
Satyricon - Satyricon
A very conscious attempt to un-sell out.
Atoms For Peace - Amok
A pretty but generally unaffecting release from this supergroup. All the talent is there, but there’s little inspiration.
Palms - Palms
Opener ‘Future Warrior’ is an absolute stormer, but the rest is much of a muchness. This Chino Moreno side project doesn’t promise much.
Stone Sour - House of Gold and Bones - Part 2
Occasionally passable, nothing more.
Mazzy Star - Seasons of Your Day
The cult early-mid nineties shoegazers return with a record that sounds like it took seventeen hours, not seventeen years. And not in a raw way. In a stale way.
Eels - Wonderful, Glorious
Mark Everett retreats from the experimentation of later years into familiar acoustic chord patterns and ‘life is shit’/’I’m strong enough to make it’ bluster.
Meat Puppets - Rat Farm
Mostly pointless.
Soulfly - Savages
Max more or less plods his way through another fucking album, and the ‘extremity’ is dull beyond belief. Some other guy’s screaming on here in a much more interesting way occasionally.
Sepultura - The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart
Extremely forgettable follow-up to Kairos, which had showcased a revived urgency. Only the devastatingly amazing and un-Sepultura-like Grief makes any impression.
Skinny Puppy - Weapon
Sorry, did an album just play?

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Violent Attacks Highlight Need For MORE Student/Worker Solidarity

Police violently handling a ULU protester last night
The ferocious treatment police meted out to non-violent occupiers at the University of London last night demonstrated one thing above all others - the ruling class are scared of students and workers finding common cause and struggling together. Though students across the country are facing severe repression during the current wave of protest, the most speedy and brutal state response has been reserved for those standing in solidarity with rank and file workers in the IWGB's 3 Cosas campaign. This raises the memory of the "total policing" attack on students marching with the Sparks movement of electricians in 2011.

The assaults on democratic rights at Sussex (where students have been suspended for their protest), and Sheffield (where the uni are reportedly seeking a second injunction on campus protests) must also be condemned. Solidarity actions must be organised. But the events at ULU in particular mark a new stage in the UK's descent into totalitarian rule.

Without a court injunction or even so much as a warning, and after only a few hours of occupation, the police broke in to the Senate House building, and set about punching, pushing and arresting students. As the University of London Union statement describes:
"This evening, the University of London colluded once again with police to evict occupiers, in a violent attempt to harass and silence dissent on campus. Their actions are a disgrace, and show their disregard for both the welfare of their students and their own university community.

"Hundreds of police descended on the occupation at around 8.30pm and broke into the occupation. We are still investigating what happened inside, but initial reports indicate that protesters were assaulted by both police and security: thrown to the ground, kicked and punched, and dragged to the ground by their hair. When supporters gathered outside to show support for the occupation, they were beaten back and assaulted. A number of arrests were made, and protesters are demonstrating tonight outside Holborn police station."
It is likely that the occupation's solidarity with the successful and inspiring 3 Cosas campaign was a leading factor. The despised Coalition government has every reason to fear the good example of collaboration between workers and students, particularly workers who are organising themselves non-hierarchically, and are forcing employers onto the back foot.

At exactly the point in space and time when students in struggle physically linked up with electricians in struggle two years ago, police unleashed another brutal onslaught, using what had been trailed in the corporate media as "total policing" methods. Amidst the state violence, students and electricians were arrested for carrying tools of their trades - pens and screwdrivers respectively.

Students who want to reach out to workers in struggle need to be aware that there is a possibility of heavy retaliation from a rattled ruling class. But my time at the occupation of Liverpool University's Irish Studies building yesterday convinced me there's a growing awareness that precisely such collaborations are essential for the development of each other's struggles. The uni workers facing attacks on pay and conditions were extremely grateful for the solidarity shown by students, bringing huge donations of food, drink and blankets. Students occupiers also grasp that if there is to be a fight for the defence of not for profit campus life, they will need to have the workers - academic and non-academic - on board too. Whatever happens in
the rest of this week, the past few days need to be a beginning, not an end, to this new solidarity.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

University of Liverpool Occupation - Statement

The following is a statement from the occupiers of the University of Liverpool Irish Studies department:

Students and staff from the University of Liverpool are now ocupying the Irish Studies Department in support of today’s staff strike action and as a peaceful protest against fees and the privatisation of higher education. This is part of a wave of unified direct action and is in line with recent occupations at various universities across the country, including at the University of Birmingham, Goldsmiths University, University of Sheffield, SOAS, Edinburgh University, University of Exeter, University of Sussex, University of Warwick and University of Ulster.

The current dispute between the three major unions and the university administration is part of a wider attack on the provision of free education which has included the introduction of tuition fees, the privatisation and outsourcing of university staff via illegitimate contractual changes (e.g. zero hour contracts) and the ongoing reduction of staff pay and working conditions (a relative 13% average pay cut since 2008). The casualisation of the university workforce can only have detrimental effects on the quality of educational provision and employment conditions of support staff. These attacks come from a management whose pay is astronomical with Vice Chancellor of UoL, Howard Newby, receiving a salary of more than £300k per year along with another 37 managers receiving no less than £140k per year, ranking the University of Liverpool 17th in the country for unfair pay.

Simultaneously millions of young people are being stripped of their access to higher education. The abolition of the Educational Maintenance Allowance, a threefold rise in tuition fees, replacement of bursaries with fee waivers and the recent privatisation of some student loans are just four factors contributing to the widespread commodification of the education system. The intended result is to alienate students from their education to the point of transforming it from a universal right to a consumer product, thus a sub-prime investment in “human capital”. We reject such a transformation and consider this occupation an important reassertion of solidarity between students and staff who believe in a free, equal and accessible education system.

We support the aims of the strikers to close the entire university while strike action is taking place.


The university recently sent out an email demonising workers for taking strike action, and accusing the unions of lying without giving any evidence. We demand that the university retract this statement, and send out a new email clarifying the situation rather than providing incorrect and deliberately inflammatory information to students. We wish the email would include the input of the occupiers.

We call on university management to agree to no reprimands for UCU workers and students refusing to cross Unison/Unite picket lines tomorrow out of respect for the democratic rights of workers acting in solidarity with their colleagues.

We demand that the university management does not victimise or penalise any student or member of staff for participating in the occupation or for any other peaceful anti-cuts activism.

This occupation will continue until our demands are met. We would like to stress that this is a peaceful non-violent action with the intention of sending a message to the university administration. It is not our intention to disrupt the educational process, but to reform it.

Education is a right, not a privilege.

Student Occupation at University of Liverpool

Since a quarter to one, around fifteen students and their supporters have been occupying a lecture theatre in the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool. The occupation - which is taking place in solidarity with university workers' strike action against pay cuts and privatisation - has prevented one scab lecture from happening in its normal location.

The occupation's Twitter account is here, and Facebook here.

14:50 Police and security are outside, but a member of staff was able to make a food donation fiollowing a whipround of strikers from all striking unions.
15:00 Occupiers begin work on a statement.
16:00 Statement released. See here.
16:05 Occupiers have been told uni want them out by half past five.
16:20 Occupiers discuss safer space policy.
18:00 Happy campers post an optimistic article.
22:30 Final article of the day posted.

9:00 Safer spaces policy published.
9:45 Educational/discussion/entertainment plan for the day posted.
12:00 Educational discussions begin.
16:00 The occupiers post an update on an interaction with uni management.
17:00 Guild of Students President Sam Butler posts an update supporting the occupiers' right to protest, and then briefly talks to occupiers through an open window.

9:00 Despite the Guild intervening to rearrange lectures scheduled for the Irish Studies building, uni management start using security to try and block occupier access to kitchen and toilets.
17:00 Occupation ends as construction crew starts erecting a fence around building!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Student Guide To Supporting Strikes

There was a dress-up aspect to the picket lines at Halloween
A comrade has produced the following text for next week's higher education strikes, explaining to students the importance of supporting the action by university staff, and suggesting ways this can be achieved. A leaflet can be downloaded from this location, and references to Liverpool could be changed to something more appropriate to comrades in other areas:

On Tuesday 3rd December, university staff will be striking over pay and conditions. This leaflet aims to persuade students to support the strike and give advice on how to support it.

Why you should support the strike

• University staff came out in support of students’fight against tuition fee hikes in 2010. While we lost this fight, we should show the staff the same support that they gave us.

• Many students hope to work in academia after we graduate. The pay and conditions of university staff today could be our pay and conditions in the future.

• Academic and support staff make our education possible through their work. Giving up one day of work in order to support them is hardly a big ask. 

Picket lines

Staff will be picketing university buildings that are still open. They do this in order to persuade both other staff and students to support the strike by not going into those buildings. If you wish to support university staff, do not cross picket lines – by entering a building being picketed you undermine the strike’s effectiveness. This will include libraries and administrative buildings.

In order to support staff on pickets:

• Take the time to get any books or resources you need to check out the day before.

• If you need to work on the day of a strike, prepare to work from home or a public library (Liverpool Central Library on William Brown Street has plenty of computers and printers that you can use).

• If you have deadlines on or near the day of the strike, talk to your lecturers and course reps about an extension.

Join the pickets! Approach staff and ask them if they would like your help, spend some time on the picket line and try to persuade other students not to cross.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New York Bakers Use Online Tactics To Embarrass Employers

Jesse Eisenberg and Megan Fox love the food, but staff can't make ends meet
Workers at the Amy's Bread bakery in New York have gone public about their organising, following a march on Monday. They have demanded a living wage, affordable healthcare and respect at work, but they are fighting for these demands outside of traditional union structures. Rather than seek union recognition, they are aiming to embarrass their employers into accepting their demands using the power of the internet.

Amy's Bread sell high quality organic "artisanal" baked goods for high prices, and the outlet is known to be a favourite of celebrities such as Megan Fox, Jesse Eisenberg, Meg Ryan and Whoopi Goldberg. But the people who make and prepare those goods don't take home enough pay to make ends meet, and nurse injuries caused by the company's lack of investment in their protection.

Ana Rico, an overnight cleaning worker at Amy's, has described how she's "in pain all the time", thanks to the company’s months-long failure to replace a machine for washing trays. Since the old machine broke down, she has scrubbed two hundred trays per night, in "really hot water", alongside  vacuuming and general cleaning duties. Unpaid overtime is common. Then "Every time that I get home, I have to take pills and use creams". On top of this, she can't afford proper medical treatment for the working injuries, because the company's insurance policy would cost "about half of my [pay] check". 'Obamacare' has clearly done nothing to help the likes of Ana.

A baker who spoke to Salon.com on the condition of anonymity, stated that:
"[...] the need to work quickly and move repeatedly between very hot ovens and very cold freezers (“without jackets”) has caused him to throw out his back and get frequent colds. He said the smoke from cleaning burned dough out of ovens “causes my eyes to burn. And they frequently get very red, and my nose bleeds as well. And I have a lot of pain in my throat as well, and I have muscle pains as well, and especially pain in my hands and wrist.” Because the company wouldn’t buy proof boxes for the bread to rise in, charged the baker, “In order to produce the high-quality bread, we need to often turn off the ventilation in our area."
The campaign is being organised by the affected workers themselves, in conjunction with an advocacy group called Brandworkers. Founded in 2007 by Industrial Workers of the World member Daniel Gross, the New York-based movement aims to train food production workers in the use of social media and other tools to embarrass employers into compliance with the law and improvement of working conditions.

To that end, the amysbread.brandworkers.org website is asking people to read personal quotes of publicly named Amy's Bread workers, sign up to support their campaign, and their story on Facebook/Twitter using #WhoMakesAmysBread.

Partial Victory For Campaign Against Martin Smith's Paid PhD Place

*Trigger warning – mentions of rape, rape denial*

The following is a repost from the Delta Removals blog

A month ago, feminist activists in Liverpool discovered that Martin Smith – the ex-Socialist Workers Party and Unite Against Fascism leader at the centre of rape allegations which the Party covered up – had been given a funded PhD at Liverpool Hope University. This happened in the Social Work department, which is headed by Smith’s former SWP colleague Michael Lavalette.

The University publicly – through Lavalette’s Facebook page – denied that the Professor had acted improperly in regards to PhD candidate selection. Many took this as a tacit admission that Smith had indeed been given a PhD place. Activists called a mass questioning of the university – by phone, email and fax – asking for further clarification. None was forthcoming.

It has now come to the attention of the Delta Removals campaign that Smith has been put on a distance learning course, meaning that he will only be attending campus infrequently, and may well not be staying in the Liverpool area. This information comes from an anonymous but trusted source.

It is worth emphasising that Hope University – unlike the other two universities in Liverpool – does not currently have a distance learning programme. As Smith was on campus at the start of our campaign, this distance learning placement has therefore been created specifically for him following our activities.

Getting him off campus is great news, and should be chalked up as a victory. It shows what can be done with personal determination and political courage. However, questions remain about the future of Smith’s career, and it could be disastrous if he ends up in social work – either in the field or in a teaching role.

We would like to thank all those who have supported us, and we would ask you to spread the word if you hear any more of Smith’s career developments.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Statement on 2nd November at The Casa

This statement by Angry Women Of Liverpool is a response to allegations made by Seamus O'Colgan and others online:

This statement is to clarify events surrounding the “Pack a Scrum of Solidarity” event at The Casa, Liverpool, held on 3rd November to raise funds for the family of Chelsea Manning.

AWOL is amongst the many and varied organisations that have been falsely credited with organising this action.  We were not involved as an organisation, though some of our regular attendees were aware of the planned fundraiser and the controversy surrounding its organisers.  We are making this statement because we were in a position to speak to some of the individuals who decided to take action, and we felt that somebody unconnected to the event organisers needed to clarify what took place and the reasons for it.

We have compiled this information because accounts of these events on Indymedia have been edited with a clear bias towards the organisers, members of whom are on the Indymedia editorial collective.  Consequently, comments from their detractors have been deleted, while biased and misleading accounts, including individuals’ names, pictures and personal details, have been maintained and circulated.

The background
The “Pack a Scrum of Solidarity” event was organised by Ciaron O’Reilly as a fundraiser for Chelsea Manning’s family in Wales, to fund their travel to visit her.  This came to the attention of a small, independent group of feminist activists through flyers posted around Liverpool.

While nobody in this group objected to the existence of the event, and all supported Chelsea Manning, there were objections to Ciaron O’Reilly organising such an event due largely to his reported history of transphobia, misogyny and uncritical support for Julian Assange that many felt amounted to rape apologism (he is quoted as saying “there is no rape without a charge, it did not happen.”)

The actions the group planned were entirely non-violent.  They aimed to picket the event with a flier explaining their support for Chelsea Manning and objections to Ciaron O’Reilly, and to suggest donating directly to the Pvt. Manning Family Fund without attending the event.  A few also planned to attend the event and challenge O’Reilly verbally to acknowledge Chelsea Manning’s status as a woman and to apologise for past misgendering of her and mocking of trans women at the London Anarchist Bookfair.  They also planned to challenge any defence of Julian Assange’s behaviour that took place.  They did not challenge The Casa directly on their hosting of the event prior to the event itself, but some of the Casa staff were at a Liverpool Against the Cuts meeting at which the issues surrounding the event were raised, and so were aware that there was opposition and that O’Reilly was a controversial figure.

Those planning these actions had no idea that Seamus O’Colgan/Colligan would be involved in the event.  He appears to have travelled from London specifically for it after hearing that there would be opposition.  O’Colgan (also known as “Peacefulwarrior”, “Skywarrior” and “hesmackeditbro” but mostly using the twitter account @blacbloc) has a widely-publicised reputation from many sources for violence against women, sexual harassment, threatening violence, informing on activists to the media and police and tweeting names and addresses of activists to their workplaces and to fascist groups[1].  It’s worth noting at this point that to those who had planned this action, this reputation was not hearsay or rumour, as some amongst them were personally acquainted with some of those who have been harmed by O’Colgan’s actions in the past.  While they saw O’Reilly’s presence as inappropriate and problematic, O’Colgan’s was intolerable, and it was this unexpected encounter that changed the nature of the action from a simple challenge of the event organisers into outright opposition.

The event
Once at the venue, the activists decided not to picket due to the fact that they seemed to be the only ones attending the event besides the organisers and the Casa staff.  They sat down in the venue to hear what was being said, and began to have a quiet discussion of the issues with a woman involved in organising the event.  While there was disagreement, at this point there was no aggression.  One of the activists even made a donation in the bucket at the entrance to the room, as the objection was to Ciaron O’Reilly, not to the event or to Chelsea Manning.

One of the activists approached Ciaron O’Reilly, asking to speak to him, and at this point recognised one of the men near the front of the room as Seamus O’Colgan.  O’Reilly asked her to come outside with him for “a chat”, and the other activists currently in the venue followed in order to join more who were smoking outside.  As they walked towards the exit, O’Colgan followed and began hitting one of the women activists on the back of her legs with his walking stick.  She loudly asked him to be careful, in order to draw attention to his behaviour (which she had no doubt was intentional).  O’Colgan then tried to hit another activist with his stick, so a third grabbed the stick from him and hit him back with it.  After this, all the activists were asked to leave and barred from The Casa.  Angry that they were being barred when O’Colgan had attacked them, one threw a glass, which did not hit anybody but smashed on the floor.

At this point, given the poor attendance, the activists considered there to be little point in continuing their demonstration and left the vicinity of The Casa.  They went to another pub for over an hour, and left in separate directions to go home.  A few were left waiting for a bus at a stop around the corner from The Casa.

After they had been waiting for a few minutes, somebody who had been at The Casa – the activists are not sure whether this person was Casa staff or involved in organising the event – approached them at the bus stop with a camera and voice recorder and attempted to intimidate and provoke them.  Having failed to do so, he returned to the venue.  Shortly after this, O’Colgan approached them and began to shout abuse at them.

One of them returned verbal abuse and walked towards O’Colgan, who quickly headed back towards The Casa.  The others followed.  One grabbed O’Colgan’s coat in order to prevent him from going into the venue before finishing the verbal confrontation that he had begun.

At this point, 7 or 8 Casa staff and/or event organisers and/or customers, outnumbering the 3 or 4 activists, dragged O’Colgan inside and physically confronted the activists.  A scuffle followed.  One woman activist narrowly avoided a punch from a man who she believes to be a member of Casa staff.

The activists asked why Casa staff were protecting “a rapist tout”.  One person replied “I don’t care” and others called for them to leave the property, though they had remained outside the gate, on the pavement.

They witnessed O’Colgan watching them from the window.  They checked Twitter to discover that, posting as @blacbloc, O’Colgan had identified an uninvolved male activist (who was not present) as being associated with them, had decided that he was their leader, and was accusing him of “sending” women to attack him.  They called for O’Colgan to come out, but he refused.  The man who had approached them at the bus stop returned and took photos and voice recordings of them, which were later used on Indymedia and on the @blacbloc Twitter.  A woman organiser also began trying to take pictures of the activists’ faces.

Casa staff called the police, and the activists left.

This sequence of events, from the protestors being approached at the bus stop to the police being called, lasted only a few minutes.  While there was a great deal of aggression, both verbal and physical, no blows connected with their targets and nobody was hurt.

The Aftermath
Immediately after the event and throughout the days that followed, O’Colgan tweeted names, photographs and personal details of those who confronted him, as well as those of a number of people who were not involved.  He has called variously for those people to be fired from their jobs, ousted from organisations that he believes they may be members of, arrested by the police and “doxed” by Anonymous.

O’Colgan has a long history of targeting people in this way, and while his calls for Anonymous or the IRA to target his enemies may somewhat exaggerate the level of influence he holds, these tactics can nevertheless do real damage, social, economic, psychological and physical.  People have been made to fear arrest, feared friends and families to be under threat, feared that current or potential employers may see false and prejudicial information about them, even been exposed to the possibility that past abusers may discover their current whereabouts.  This includes people who left the event before any violence took place and even some who were not there and had nothing to do with it.  Some have been targeted merely for criticising those organising the event via social media.  These threats are O’Colgan’s established way of dealing with criticism of all kinds, and all activists should be aware that, regardless of whether they agree with the actions taken last Saturday, O’Colgan is not to be trusted and no information on activists should ever be given to him or to his associates.

So far this statement has been for information, to give a factual account that has been denied space elsewhere and not to justify or condemn anybody’s actions, or give an opinion.  At this point I want to change tone and ask readers to recognise that there is a world of difference between publicly criticising somebody’s actions (as was the intention of those who opposed Ciaron O’Reilly’s involvement in the event last Saturday) and exposing activists online with the aim of destroying their lives.  There is also a difference between this and publicising an abuser’s identity, to warn others of a perpetrator of abuse who is a danger to their community, and who has had opportunities to take responsibility for their actions and refused to do so (as O’Colgan criticises AWOL for doing to Paul Cunliffe).  There is a place in activism for the tactics of doxing and publicising details – for example warning comrades of abusers, police informants or fascist infiltrators – but these tactics are not something to be used lightly in response to any and all opposition, including demonstrations that turn briefly and mildly violent on both sides.

Those who opposed O’Reilly and O’Colgan at the Casa were not abusers, fascists or state agents.  They were feminist and class struggle activists with a point to make, and they have been treated appallingly not only by the event organisers and Casa staff but by other Liverpool activists, who must have identified them by name to a dangerous tout with a history of violence.  I write this not only to give the perspective missing from Indymedia but to make these people aware of their recklessness.  We do not and should never expose other activists and their families to danger for the sake of political differences or petty personal resentments.  We are better than that in Liverpool and we must not let the likes of O’Colgan break our solidarity or intimidate us into communicating with him before each other.

These events have broken trust between a number of organisations and individuals, and we need to build bridges and repair that damage.  If anybody still believes that those who disrupted this event did so with malice towards innocent parties or without good reason, comment on this blog (comments are moderated and can be kept hidden if you wish) or e-mail AWOL (again, in confidence if you ask for it), and if your concerns are genuine and you express them respectfully, we will do our best to address them.

[1] Not linking to these as, obviously, they contain those personal details, and I would also rather not link directly to O’Colgan’s twitter or blog.  These are easy enough to find with Google.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Starbucks Union ends Chilean strike with Official Declaration

Staff at Starbucks Hotel Best Western Marina Las Condes
The following is a translation of a statement made by the Industrial Workers of the World-linked Starbucks Coffee Union, following a recent eleven day strike in Chile. The union has organised about half the company's Chilean workforce, on a rank and file basis:

9th November 2013 3:14am

To our workers, our friends and citizens.

Today 8th November we voluntarily end our legal strike after accomplishing, during the 11 days of mobilisation, every political objective we had set ourselves as a collective at the outset. It was not merely a matter of gaining benefits -we knew Starbucks was going to stick to its anti-union philosophy- it was not about resources either: it was about a fight for our collective rights and a political message charged with solidarity we wanted to send to Chile and the rest of the world.

In just 11 days our organisation grew in unity and political development. Those non-unionised workers who throughout history have been - for obvious reasons - afraid of taking part in the organisation have started to see the justice of our cause and came closer to us each day. It has become evident that Starbucks is a contradictory and stubborn business. There is no social responsibility here, but instead social irresponsibility. “There is no budget for negotiations”, “we cannot grant privileges to collectives”, “unions are unnecessary in Starbucks” were some of the reasons Starbucks gave for not fulfilling its unionised workers’ demands – at the moment when Starbucks had reported more than a 34% increase in profits, reaching US$1,245.7m.

We reached civil society, collecting over 5,000 signatures of support in Chile and 7,000 signatures from the rest of the world in order to pressure Starbucks to modify its anti-union behaviour. Candidates for the Chilean Presidency like Marcel Claude, Roxana Miranda and Marco Enríquez-Ominami expressed their support; Tucapel Jiménez, Cut, Labour Front, CTC and CNT - among many other organisations - also voiced their support. Outside our frontiers, CSA and CSI presented our case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on 25th October, also to IWW, workers in Belgium, England, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Bulgaria, New Zealand, Spain and Argentina in order to show the world Starbucks’ hidden face. Besides this, Starbucks unions in the US carried out activities in support of our cause.

We know Starbucks will continue to state cynically that, “it has always recognised and respected all partners’ rights to join the union.” Starbucks, however, has paid more than 50m in four fines for having made union freedom vulnerable in the most grotesque ways. Starbucks will say we are a minority and that 95% of its workers “recognise and value the good working environment and the facilities Starbucks offers, and that they therefore do not share the union’s demands”, despite the fact that surveys show that more than 80% of the company supports our organization’s actions but is scared of organising and raising its voice because of the historic repressive actions. Anti-union practices made the unionisation index fall from 55% to almost 6% in two years, but we strongly believe that today a scenario has been put forward which will favour the unity of the workers against Starbucks’ anti-unionism. “Starbucks is proud to be (supposedly) an enterprise whose politics are open and meritocratic.” What disgusts us is that Starbucks is also proud to be an anti-union business. This is why it is our duty to take all necessary national and international measures to guarantee that Starbucks stops making vulnerable its workers’ inalienable collective rights.

Starbucks persists in these actions and for this reason we will present our case to los Employment Tribunals of Justice, and also to the OCDE for violation of the procedures stated for multinationals. Moreover, we will complain to the Chilean State in front of OIT for having neglected its duty to the Rule of Law, thus allowing violations to our law and to the international agreements Chile subscribes to. During this process, all the organisations which have stood by us throughout this battle will give their support and solidarity. We Starbucks workers do not return defeated to our posts, because we have created the space that will allow us to democratise the company. We were always conscious that this was the beginning of a long-term battle against a corporate work model which intends to impose itself with violence. We will meet again in 18 months’ time, more united than ever.

Thank you all.

Starbucks Coffee Union

Friday, November 01, 2013

We Support Chelsea Manning! *Trigger Warning*

Chelsea Manning
*Trigger warning - transphobia, misogyny, mentions of rape*

The following is a statement from a group of activists who will be supporting Chelsea Manning but opposing Ciaron O'Reilly at an event in Liverpool tomorrow:

"As I transition into this next phase of my life, I want everyone to know the real me. I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female. Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition."

We are here tonight because we support Chelsea Manning. We support her fight for justice, against a US government which is punishing her for their crimes. We also support her right to be recognised as female, to transition, and to have that transition respected by all.

Unfortunately, we have reason to believe that Ciaron O'Reilly - a main organiser of tonight's event - does not support Chelsea Manning in the same way that we do, and we intend to protest against that.

Ciaron O'Reilly has repeatedly refused to accept a trans women's gender identity, publicly labelling one "a bloke in a dress" and shouting “you are a man” at another. When told he had misgendered Chelsea Manning by naming her "Bradley", he responded "The only Chelsea is Chelsea Clinton."

O'Reilly also has a consistently disrespectful attitude to women in general. At various events over the past year he has called women "empty headed", "unable to construct an argument", told them to go to the crèche. He also dismissed a woman with Pakistani immigrant parents as "imperialist", chanting “pure land, pure land” at her when she criticised his transphobia and misogyny.

Furthermore, Ciaron O'Reilly is Julian Assange's ex-bodyguard, and continues to dismiss anybody who criticises the rapist as pro-US government. It is possible to oppose US imperialism, support Chelsea Manning, and believe that Julian Assange should pay for what he has admitted (through his barrister Ben Emmerson) to doing.

This is our position, and we will be expressing it tonight.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Activists Demanding Answers NOW Over Martin Smith's PhD

At this very moment, activists are contacting Liverpool Hope University en masse, in a bid to get answers to questions over accused rapist Martin Smith's apparent paid PhD.

The story of Smith's rehabilitation by former SWP chumrade Michael Lavalette's Social Work department was first broken on the Angry Women of Liverpool blog last Monday. The University responded by threatening legal action over a statement on how much Lavalette was involved in the process, and totally ignored questions of student and staff safety.

The Delta Removals campaign group called for this mass questioning on Monday. The following is a repost from their blog:

"Understandably, students and staff will be concerned. So we still need answers to the following serious questions:
·         Is Martin Smith on campus in any capacity?
·         Is Martin Smith studying for a PhD at Hope University?
·         Is this PhD funded? If so, who by?
·         Is Martin Smith going to be teaching during his time at Hope?
·         What role did Professor Lavalette play in Martin Smith coming to Hope?
·         What measures have been put in place to make sure students and staff are safe around Martin Smith?

Delta Removals are calling on anyone concerned by these issues to contact the university this Wednesday, 30th October, between 9 am and 5 pm. Please forward any responses to Delta.Removals2013@gmail.com. Also email this address if you would like to be involved in the campaign."

Find a contact list at the Delta Removals page.

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