Report on Solidarity Demo for Exarcheia

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On the 2nd of September we held a solidarity demo outside the Greek embassy, which got about 30 people out on a Monday afternoon. We handed out copies of the Anarchist Federation’s statement (also below) on the brutal attacks on immigrants and anarchists by the Greek state, although the embassy refused to allow us to deliver a copy to their staff.

We would like to thank everyone who came, including the people over at Anarcha Feminism who helped us promote it. Solidarity with our comrades suffering in Greece and down with the false borders used to divide us!

Statement from the Anarchist Federation

On Monday the 26th of August, the Greek police launched a large operation in Exarcheia, the famous rebel district in the centre of Athens. This is a unique place in Europe for its high concentration of squats and other self-organised spaces, but also for its resistance against repression and solidarity with migrants and the precariat.

Early in the morning, the squats of Spirou Trikoupi 17, Gare, Rosa de Fon and Transito were surrounded by huge police forces: anti-riot police, anti-terrorism police and secret police. The police then launched a large repression operation, leading to over 100 arrests. Migrants have been sent to camps known for inhuman living conditions. More than 15 kids that grew up in Athens and had their life there were deported. The security forces are now walling up the buildings that used to be home to so many.

This operation aimed to directly attack the incredible solidarity efforts that were developed by a network of people, many of them anarchists, to cope with the austerity measures the Greek state and the EU implemented. It aimed to destroy a neighbourhood that has invented a new world where it has been possible to exist and live regardless of your economical, social or cultural background. It aimed to keep Exarcheia under the control of a violent state that, like the rest of Europe, is ready to put humans in camps, simply because they were born on the other side of a border.

Exarcheia has many other squats, around 20, but the newly elected Greek prime minister promised a complete “cleaning”. More battles are to come.

The Anarchist Federation is expressing its full support to everyone in Exarcheia.

For a future without State, police or borders,

Solidarity! αλληλεγγύη!

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2nd of September – Support to Exarcheia

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Gathering in front the Greek embassy to show support to our friends that are struggling right now in Athens! This rebel neighbourhood was recently attacked by the police, as recently explained in a statement from the Anarchist Federation. Hope to see many of you there, in solidarity with the people fighting there!

We will be meeting at 1 Holland Park, London, W11 3, on Monday the 2nd of September at 1pm, Facebook event here

LAFA Again – Report on August the 24th

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On the 24th of August members of the Anarchist Federation, as part of the London Anti-Fascist Assembly (LAFA), marched against an abortive “Free Tommy” demonstration. This was the second mobilisation of the month (read our report on the first one here) and the strain of attempting two marches in one month was showing on both sides. However, LAFA still managed to get about 150 people gathered at Oxford Circus before marching off to Portland Place to meet the far right demonstration there.

When we got there, the far right presence was only a small band of diehards, which grew later as another tiny far right march from Trafalgar Square linked up with them. Even with the Trafalgar mob, LAFA had them outnumbered, and the anti-fascist presence was further bolstered by an 80 strong march from Stand Up To Racism which joined us later.

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As usual, the police were the most dangerous threat to anti-fascism and they devoted significant resources to keeping us contained. They pushed us away from the Tommy supporters and ended up kettling us on the pavement opposite the “Free Tommy” demonstration and mostly kept the two sides separate, although the far right did throw some flares and some Nazi salutes at us.

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They day was mostly uneventful until we went to leave. At that point the police attacked our bloc without provocation and arrested three anti-fascists, although the “Free Tommy” demonstration also took four arrests for various acts on boneheadery. Luckily there were no serious injuries on our side as far as I know despite the heavy handed police response. Aside from police brutality the main threat on the day was the heat, with temperatures as high as high as 29C. We must give thanks to QueerCare again for providing medics to make sure everyone survived the heat as well as the police repression.

The far right showing was dismal compared to their last march in London on the 3rd of August, let alone the huge numbers they pulled last summer. This “Free Tommy” demonstration looked more like the motley band of cranks that characterised the far right after the disintegration of the English Defence League than the mass movement they seemed to be building last year.

But we cannot be complacent, several things were against the far right on the 24th that might mean this drop in numbers is only temporary. Firstly, they screwed up their mobilisation horribly, cancelling it before attempting to remobilise unofficially. Secondly, marching twice in a month is always an organisational stretch, and many of the supporters from outside of London may have stayed away. Lastly, the hot weather probably discouraged some people, especially the far right football hooligans who would have to choose between watching the games on at the time in a nice cool pub or marching around getting sunburn in central London.

However, the short gap between this and the last march, the difficulty in organising against the far right when they themselves do not know what they are doing, and the heat also made this a hard mobilisation for LAFA. Ultimately we outnumbered and out organised the “Free Tommy” crowd on the day and hopefully we can do it again in October, when the next march in London is likely to happen.

I will end on some groups for those who might want to get involved:

London Antifascist Assembly – FacebookTwitter

London Antifascists/Antifascist Network – FacebookTwitterAFN National Site

Feminist Antifascist Assembly – FacebookTwitter

Antihomophobe Action UK – FacebookTwitter

North London Antifascists – FacebookTwitter

Pushing up Against the Boundaries of Liberalism

A Review of The Dictator’s Handbook.

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The Dictator’s Handbook is both a deeply enlightening and a deeply frustrating book to read. Not because it is badly written, or inaccessible, or because its main points are wrong, but because it fails to follow through on its conclusions. This book is one of the most theoretically coherent arguments against political authority I have ever read, but it was written by a pair of authors who can not escape the limits of liberalism in dealing with the implications of their own critique.

The main thesis of the book, neatly summed up by its tag line, is that bad behaviour is almost always good politics. Its analysis is consistently materialist, although the authors of The Dictator’s Handbook would likely never use the term and the book is thankfully free from the kind of overly academic obtuseness that afflicts much avowed materialist analysis. It treats ideology as entirely secondary to the systematic limits and incentives imposed by government. In the same way that any good socialist might lay out the argument that the capitalist must prioritise profit above all else if they are to be successful, the authors argue that any successful politician or CEO must prioritise power above all else, including any ideological commitment or well meaning benevolence they might have.

The authors spend much of the book talking about the techniques for gaining and holding power across both dictatorship and democracy, which they consider not truly separate systems but two points on a continuum, still affected by the same systematic incentives. These techniques revolve around the creation and management of a coalition of essential backers whose interests any leader is beholden to if they wish to stay in power.

The book is at its most cutting when it is using this framework to examine dictatorships. It breaks down the idea that any dictatorship could ever be absolute and discusses the ways in which gaining and maintaining the support of military, political, and economic elites is necessary for any dictator to stay in power. The flip side of this is that anyone who is not one of those essential backers is either a threat, someone to be exploited to fill the pockets of those essential backers, or to be ignored. This analysis utterly demolishes the concept of the benevolent dictator as a possibility. Benevolent dictators take resources that could be going to their essential backers and spend it on the people, and so will be replaced by those backers by someone more in line with their interests.

The book is far weaker when it comes to its critique of democracy. It is not that the critique is not there, but that the authors seem to back pedal from it when they shift from talking about specific examples of a democracy to the concept of an ideal democracy. The book is full of examples of corrupt and non-functional “democracies”, but ends up arguing in favour of an idealised version of democracy as the only available solution to these woes.

The authors’ argument is that democratic leaders are still engaged in a game of building coalitions of essential backers, and must put their interests above the interests of the rest of society. However, because this coalition of backers is much broader than that of a dictator, democratic leaders are more inclined towards public goods which benefit everyone as a method of serving their mass coalition as opposed to the often blatant corruption used by dictators to serve their smaller, more elite coalition.

I think this oversells the advantages of a democracy. While it is likely true that the need to secure a larger coalition has a restraining effect on democratic leaders, this still allows majorities to inflict some pretty horrific abuse on minority groups. The idea that certain kinds of public goods which are useful to a democratic leader’s coalition will also enrich those outside that coalition does not change the fact that there are a lot of situations in which this simply is not the case, or that in many cases what the majority wants is directly harmful to minorities.

The other problem with the authors’ arguments is that it assumes that an ideal democracy is in any way possible. They rightly base their analysis of dictatorship on rejecting the idea of an ideal dictator whose authority is absolute and not beholden to anyone else, but they do not question the ways in which democracies might systematically fail to be democratic.

This is partly due to ignoring factors outside of formal democracy that might affect the importance of any particular backer. While in theory a warehouse worker and a media magnate each only have one vote, in practice the support of the media magnate is worth far more to any would-be democratic leader than that of a warehouse worker. They simply have so much more economic, social and informal political power outside of the formal political power of their vote.

But the authors also fail to ask about the limits of democracy as a practical method of organisation. As the size of any organisation increases it will quickly get to a point where its inner workings are so complex that not every important part of its governance can be voted on in some kind of central assembly. At the size of states, the vast majority of government decisions are made with little to no democratic oversight. Anyone living in a modern democracy has very little democratic say over what their leaders do, other than getting to vote them in or out every four or five years. Past that point leaders are often fairly free to do whatever they want. The vast majority of the political and economic apparatus that a democratic leader needs the cooperation of in order to rule effectively is also not itself democratic.

All of this leaves me very suspicious of the author’s idea of democracy. It often appears to be talking about the incentives within a system that does not exist and cannot exist, while those of us in real democracies are stuck in something far closer to a dictatorship; its leaders susceptible to many of the perverse incentives towards corruption that the book lays out.

The authors’ acceptance of democracy as the best we can do regardless of its flaws shows a depressing lack of imagination and daring. What their critique hammers home over and over again is that a system in which positions of leadership are dependent on a subset of essential backers will result in the exploitation of everyone else. This would imply that at least looking at organisational forms which try to eliminate those positions altogether would be a worthwhile pursuit.

But the book has no discussion of federal or networked organisational forms, or of consensual decision making. There is no discussion of any possibility of an organisational form that does not allow a coalition of essential backers to ride over the interests of everyone else. The book shows no conception of organisation based on mutually agreed compromise instead of arbitrary authority. It simply defaults to liberal democracy as the furthest possible limit of inclusive organisation.

But this should not put any potential reader off The Dictator’s Handbook. I have focussed on my criticisms of the book, but I believe that the analytical framework it offers is incredibly useful to anarchists and socialists more generally. The places it falls short are doubly frustrating for the missed potential. It discusses many more interesting things beside the core thesis I have discussed here; how the nature of the coalition of essential backers affects and is affected by war, revolution, disaster relief, natural resources, and much more.

All of this is coloured by liberal biases and an infuriating lack of political imagination, but none of that detracts from the power of the basic framework presented by The Dictator’s Handbook. But it is up to the reader to take that framework and push it past the liberal assumptions of its authors.

Reading group #14 queer anarchism

Our next reading group will be on Tuesday, 17th September,

7-9pm at Freedom Bookshop (84b Whitechapel High St, London E1 7QX).

This month, we’ll be discussing queer anarchism with the following texts:

Questions to consider:

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24th August – Stop Tommy, Stop the Far Right

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[DETAILS TBC – FOLLOW FACEBOOK EVENT FOR UPDATES]

The far right will be mobilising in London again on Saturday 24th August. On 3rd August they marched in central London, gathering outside the BBC to demand Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) be released from prison. Militant anti-racists and anti-fascists were there to oppose them, and London Anti-Fascist Assembly (LAFA) led a group of several hundred to directly oppose the fascists outside Portland Place. Groups of fascists who broke through police lines to confront the counter demo were chased away. However, the far right mob ran riot after the demo, shouting racist chants, hurling abuse at people of colour they believed to be Muslims, and attacking a demonstration being held by Sudanese revolutionaries.

Tommy Robinson and the far right will use whatever trick they can to stoke fear and hatred in the population. In the current climate they feel empowered and safe to openly express Islamophobia, but below the surface is a wider ideology of racism, sexism and xenophobia. Instead of unifying against the real causes of oppression and inequality in society here and around the world, the far right work to split the working class and support the rich and powerful. Tommy’s cult is a shadow of what it was a year ago, so let’s finish it off and protect our communities from hate!

Join us as we hit the streets (again!). We will celebrate our belief in empathy, equality and freedom for all. Let’s show the far right that London will not tolerate their bigotry.

LONDON IS ANTIFASCIST!

(Meet up point and time will be announced closer to the date)

London Antifascist Assembly Mobilises – Report on August the 3rd

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Last Saturday, on the 3rd of August, all the usual suspects piled onto the streets of central London in support of grifting class traitor Tommy Robinson, currently in prison for jeopardising the trial of a paedophile ring. In response, groups from across London and beyond organised a counter mobilisation to ensure that Tommy Robinson supporters knew they and their far right politics were not welcome.

Background

August the 3rd was especially important because it was the first major mobilisation for the London Antifascist Assembly (LAFA), a coalition of individuals and groups that was formally created in early 2019, but traces its roots back the antifascist mobilisations of the second half of 2018.

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Tommy Robinson – Enemy of the Working Class

 

Tommy Robinson is back in prison and his followers are claiming that he is some kind of journalistic free speech martyr. Everyone else thinks he is a self promoting prat who jeopardised the trial of a paedophile ring. I am going to leave the excellent 12 Rules For What to fill in the details, because I am not going to be talk about that.

What I want to talk about is what Tommy Robinson is actually offering the working class people he pretends to care about, how it is all nonsense and how it prevents us from creating real solutions to our problems. I want to show that Tommy Robinson is not some kind of brave truth sayer standing up for the little guy, he is a liar and an enemy of the working class.

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