Category Archives: Blog

Pre-emptive Self Defence Becomes Ubiquitous

Not surprisingly, since it began with the ‘leader of the free world’, the idea that if you feel a bit nervous about someone you should whack ’em straight away is now becoming an excuse for more everyday violence. Aussie rugby star Willie Mason described yesterday the exchange of abuse with Stuart Fielden on the international rugby stage after which Willie concussed his opponent with a right hook. He explained “I saw his right hand cocked and thought he was going to throw it. I thought I’d hit him first before he hit back.” Well, if that logic is good enough for international relations maybe its good enough for rugby. Mason’s brief helpfully added that his client shouldn’t be punished simply for being the better fighter – showing the kind of sharp legal mind that might, in some company, win rapid promotion. Interestingly, this court wasn’t buying it. (report)

In my day, all we had… (etc)

Wow, this really is real. Checkout Amazon’s ‘Imaginarium’ (yuck) for great security related toys:

Security Checkpoint ToySecurity Checkpoint Toy

Customers who bought this also bought…

  • Playmobile Police Van
  • Playmobile Tanker Truck
  • Playmobile Bank Counter

Obviously that sent me on a quick browse of the military toys I found, as you’d expect, lots of the ususal replica tanks and planes etc. I really enjoyed the well-placed quote marks in the description of this missile launcher:
“Mega Missile Launcher – Take command of your very own ‘peace-keeping’ tank!”

The World Social Forum and End of Capitalism

“The conflict between Davos [the partisans of the World Economic Forum] and Porto Alegre [the partisans of the World Social Forum] is not about the virtues and vices of neo-liberal globalisation, although this is how it is often protrayed … It is not about capitalism as a world-system, since capitalism as a world system is in structural crisis and will disappear in the next 20-50 years. The conflict is about what will replace the capitalist world-economy as an historical system. It is about whether we shall move in the direction of a different system that maintains one crucial feature of capitalism – its hierarchical, inegalitarian, polarising nature – or of a new world system that is relatively democratic, relatively egalitarian.”
Immanuel Wallerstein , 2004, “The dilemmas of open space: the future of the World Social Forum” in International Social Science Journal 56(4), pp. 629-637.

It is worth noting that the next paragraph begins “This is no small question…” – no shit professor!

Anti vs. Alternative Globalisation

The most important political difference cutting across the entire [World Social] Forum concerned the role of national sovereignty. There are indeed two primary positions in the response to today’s dominant forces of globalization: either one can work to reinforce the sovereignty of nation-states as a defensive barrier against the control of foreign and global capital, or one can strive towards a non-national alternative to the present form of globalization that is equally global. The first poses neoliberalism as the primary analytical category, viewing the enemy as unrestricted global capitalist activity with weak state controls; the second is more clearly posed against capital itself, whether state-regulated or not. The first might rightly be called an anti-globalization position, in so far as national sovereignties, even if linked by international solidarity, serve to limit and regulate the forces of capitalist globalization. National liberation thus remains for this position the ultimate goal, as it was for the old anticolonial and anti-imperialist struggles. The second, in contrast, opposes any national solutions and seeks instead a democratic globalization.

Michael Hardt, 2002, “Today’s Bandung” in New Left Review 14, p.111.

Science and The Arms Trade

Over at Idiolect Tom’s been having a running battle with Elsevier Science, the major science and medical publishers who also run the DSEi arms fair beginning in London next week. (Disarm DSEi, Campaign Against the Arms Trade ).

The Guardian reports that this week the world-leading medical journal The Lancet has just run an editorial criticising its own publishers for their involvement in the arms trade. It also published a letter by a number of leading academics, and a response from Elsevier.

I particularly like this line from the editorial board: “The arms industry draws vital investment away from the health budgets of low income nations.” because it sounds like the gearing up of inter-elite argument. There is no doubt that major health policy makers and major medical suppliers are among the readership; giving them some ammo against the arms lobby is really vital.

And, of course, the scarcely veiled threat in this line is exciting too: “We cannot believe that Reed Elsevier wishes to jeopardise that commitment by its presence in a business that so self-evidently damages its reputation as a healthscience publisher.”

And in Elsevier’s reply you can’t help thinking that the first draft went like this: “take real pride in the contribution they make to the important industries which we serve, of which science, medicine, and education are directed to the advancement of human wellbeing. In the interests of balance, it is essential, therefore, that we are heavily involved in an industry that acts precisely to the contrary of human welbeing.”

In terms of further campaigning, I suggest that every academic who comes across this page takes copies of the Lancet Editorial, the letter and reply to every senior academic they can find. Write to any journal you read and point out the Lancet story – the more journals that make some sort of statement, either publicly or in private letters to Elsevier, the shakier their board of governers are going to look.

Well done Tom!

Peak Oil and What to do with a Useless SUV

According to a friend:

Let the pants shitting begin. We’ve hit Peak Oil three months earlier than Kenneth Deffeyes’ most pessimistic calculation:

So, what to do with that damned SUV when the price of petrol gets beyond your means? A couple of suggestions:

  • Kick out the floor and walk it around Flintstone style – a great work out!
  • Park it in the garden, remove all the glass and leave it to rust as a particularly dull and expensive climbing frame.
  • Recycle all the materials to make ingenious low-tech weapons. Get punk hair and look forward until everything goes a bit Mad Max.
  • Sell your house, and continue to buy petrol so that you can get little Johnny to school ‘safely’.

Got any more? Gi’s a comment.

In Case there was Any Doubt…

…that the police do, in fact, infiltrate small activist groups, here’s a selection of quotations from a well-informed paper from Studies in Conflict and Terrorism

“The security concerns [about infiltration] were openly discussed [by activists] and many critical analyses were offered locally and via the Internet. A particular effort was made to learn techniques for identifying law enforcement officers working in undercover capacities. This posed a serious concern for undercover officers, especially given the level of hatred many anarchists express toward the police.”

And…

“Many law enforcement professionals view modern anarchists simply as a protest group. As long as the activity at large-scale protests is relatively contained and the protests do not devolve into riots, law enforcement may be tempted to ignore the movement. Violent revolutionary actions—including guerilla warfare—however, pose a threat to the communities and people that law enforcement officers are sworn to protect. To monitor that activity seems prudent”

And even…

“Infiltration into large affinity group meetings is relatively simple. However, infiltration into radical revolutionary ‘cells’ is not. The very nature of the movement’s suspicion and operational security enhancements makes infiltration difficult and time consuming. Few agencies are able to commit to operations that require years of up-front work just getting into a ‘cell’ especially given shrinking budgets and increased demands for attention to other issues. Infiltration is made more difficult by the communal nature of the lifestyle (under constant observation and scrutiny) and the extensive knowledge held by many anarchists, which require a considerable amount of study and time to acquire. Other strategies for infiltration have been explored, but so far have not been successful. Discussion of these theories in an open paper is not advisable.”

Notice, “few agencies are able … years of up-front work”. The implication of course, being that some are. Years of work? To infiltrate some anarchist commune with no telly or vacuum cleaner? Spend the days gardening and the nights getting drunk on homebrew and talking about revolution. Wonder how many go native?

Source: R. Borum & C. Tilby, 2005, “Anarchist Direct Actions: A Challenge for Law Enforcement” in Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 28:201–223, Routledge, London.

Nice one to Another Blog is Possible for putting the reference on Infoshop.

Kropotkin on Christian Socialism

“Timid, at the outset, Socialism spoke at first in the name of Christian sentiment and morality: men profoundly imbued with the moral principles of Christianity – principles which it possesses in common with all other religions – came forward and said – “A Christian has no right to exploit his brethren!” But the ruling classes laughed in their faces with the reply – “Teach the people Christian resigantion, tell them in the name of Christ that they should offer their left cheek to whosoever smites them on the right, then you will be welcome; as for the dreams of equality which you find in Christianity, go and mediate on your discoveries in prison.”
Kropotkin, P., c. 1882, “The Place of Anarchism in Socialistic Evolution.” An address delivered in Paris, translated by Henry Glasse.

Splitters! A short and polemical history of the far-left.

Revolutionary socialists, in the main, depend on international organisation, for one of the key lessons that many (following Trotsky) took from the Russian experience is that socialism cannot exist in one country, but requires a wave of revolutions across the globe. Workers struggle requires, therefore, solidarity and coordination.
Continue reading Splitters! A short and polemical history of the far-left.

It’s Democracy Stupid

Democracy continues to be the most important source of division among the coglomeration of radical movements active today.

The radical wings of socialism, anarchism and liberalism are all alive and kicking in the current movements for social change, although they have undoubtedly both learned and innovated in the face of a changing politico-economic habitat. Each of the ‘big three’ have historically carried substantially different meanings of ‘democracy’, and each have been attached to real-life experiments with democracy in various settings. Continue reading It’s Democracy Stupid