Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Audible Anarchist

For the past couple of months or so I've been interested in and then later volunteering for a group called Audible Anarchist. Audible Anarchist is a group of volunteers making audio book versions of texts thought to be useful for the development of Anarchism and education.

Intro video

"What is anarchism? Anarchism is a diverse and overlapping set of political ideologies dedicated to creating a stateless society where all individuals are free from arbitrary authority, hierarchy, and oppression. Because our current society is based on hierarchy--the ingrained beliefs that some people should have more power than others--we believe we must destroy the systems of power that keep all people oppressed.

Audible Anarchist is a collective of volunteers from around the world dedicated to sharing anarchist ideas through audio recordings of books and essays, through podcasts, and through collaboration. Subscribe to our channel and discover the myriad resources available to you. Uploads several times each week."

Currently the main project is reading Rudolf Rocker's Nationalism and Culture but readers are free to contribute a reading on any text they wish. Speaking of the group is always open to more volunteers, all you need is a means to record audio and access to the text you wish to read. Audio editing skills are a bonus but speaking from experience its not necessary as the group has some very experienced editors.

One strength of the current Anarchist community is that it has preserved many books, essays and speeches and still continues produce more to add to it. However material in other mediums is lacking, so audio books are a way of filling in some of the gap. I myself struggle to get into some books and even short essays and have found the readings on Audible Anarchist very helpful. Currently much of the work is being done on the Youtube channel but their is also a Dischord server and subreddit. There is also a website and plans to collaborate further with Librivox the worlds largest publisher of public domain audio books.

If you wish to volunteer or get in touch feel free to contact the group using the email 

Edit: Audible Anarchist also has Sound cloud account 

Monday, 18 December 2017

Italy's Secret State Within the State

Earlier I uploaded a video about the life and murder of Giuseppe Pinelli and Italian Anarchist. While I thought the video was excellent at covering Giuseppe, I took issue with the later discussion about that period of Italian history. The guest downplayed and ridiculed the pretty well known strategy of tension and collaboration and infiltration of the Italian government and its policing arms, especially the intelligence services. Well it seems like the BBC agreed with me, because later they did another program on the murder of Roberto Calvi under Black Friar bridge. And in the process document his many, many connections to the conspiracy and interview two men instrumental in exposing it.

Murder and conspiracy among Italy's elite Roberto Calvi, head of Banco Ambrosiano, who was convicted of fraud but released on appeal shortly before his murder
At the time I thought the guest made the mistake of taking the strategy to its most extreme interpretation, that the government of Italy as a block including politicians and bureaucracy were united in a fiendish plan to use manufactured outrages like the Piazza Fontana bombing to pave the way for an openly Fascistic regime. Whereas the above video makes clear this was a plot motivated by one faction within and without the governmental system with some very powerful friends.

Also of interest, this appears to be one of the few times in history where a chapter of the Free Masons, Propaganda Du, or P2 where up to some very sketchy and murderous schemes. With that in mind and the obsessive fixation on the Masonic brothers in conspiracist circles its a little surprising this incident doesn't play more of a prominent role in that scene.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Classical Liberalism: Classical Menace

I encountered YouTube user and social commentator Sargon of Akkad about a year or so ago. He seemed like a rather obnoxious man who seemed to be deliberately playing up to the stereotype of a toxic intellectual. So I ignored him, though due to his popularity and infamy he kept popping up on my radar like in this video clip where he ends it saying he'll support Fascist terror.

Flicking through the comments and seeing his fans come out the woodwork reminded me of something else Sargon has been pretty heavily committed to in his internet career, the rehabilitation and promotion of the ideology of `classical liberalism`. Classical Liberalism, I'm just going to call it Liberalism from now on, promotes itself by appearing as a moderate and open and tolerant view point that is in strict opposition to all the various political extremists. The horseshoe fallacy is common talking point amongst this crowd.

So far as I'm aware this liberal revivalism unlike Neoliberalism doesn't appear to have grown into a full fledged political movement, so this may seem like tilting at windmills, but this is early days and I think given the prevalence of a certain smug frog its best to knock this thing on the head sooner rather than later. In my personal experience if you let a self professed Classical Liberal talk for long enough you'll eventually start hearing some pretty extreme and violent reactionary ideas. Sargon is pretty typical in that regard, but this more than just individual moral failings the whole project is rooting in some pretty vile stuff and is inherently reactionary.

This particular strand of liberalism likes to based itself on the Enlightenment period, specifically the early United States and United Kingdom, and the personalities they really like come from the 18th and early 19th century. But these societies were not wonderful bastions of reason and tolerance, they both were heavily involved in slavery, conquest and complete oppression of women. And a mans social worth and standing was dependent entirely on the size of their property holdings. Even in the democratic and republican USA property gave you unique entitlements like the right to vote or stand for office.

These weren't aberrations they coincided quite a lot with the views of many of this periods most prominent thinkers. For example John Stuart Mills On Liberty is a foundational text on Liberalism written in 1859 it largely codifies a lot of earlier liberal thinking. It outlines for example the limits of government authority, it also fully endorses colonial expansion and domination.

This isn't a man from an earlier time carrying some baggage either this is at the core of Mill's liberal framework of authority, if you're not advanced enough you should be ruled for your own good. He also was not being guilty of theoretical abstraction, Mill worked for the East India Company and assisted in the Despotic control of millions of "barbarians".

Another influential thinker often cited as one of the best thinkers of early liberalism is Thomas Jefferson the well known democracy advocate and American revolutionary. He not only drafted the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights the two pillars of liberal thought but he was so committed to them that he declared them `self evident`.

He was also a slave owner and even raped some of those slaves  . He also opposed the free coloured population, he tried to declare free black people living in Virginia declared outlaws, and wanted to expel the children of white women and black men.[1] Like Mill he also took a dim view of "Barbarians" and endeavoured to pressure the tribes living in or near US territory to leave and move further west if they couldn't be "civilised". His favourite method was tricking the tribes into debt by selling to them on credit, then using that as leverage in negotiations. In exchange for debt cancellation the government would get land for cheap and parcel it off, this would weaken the ability of the tribe to pay off any future debts and establish a negative spiral eventually forcing the tribes to either leave US territory or assimilate into the towns.

Jefferson first instructed his agents to persuade Indians to adopt agriculture. That new way of life, the agents explained, would require less land than hunting. With no need for their vast forests, the Indians were encouraged to sell their uncultivated territories for 25 cents per acre, the profits of which Indian farmers could use to purchase agricultural tools and manufactured goods. To stimulate Indian consumerism, Jefferson increased the number of government trading houses located near Native villages, arguing publicly that the establishments enabled Indians to share in the fruits of white "civilization." But it was a ploy. His real motive, he confided in 1803, was to lure Indians into spending themselves into debt, obligations that would be paid off through the sale of tribal lands.
The weapons in Jefferson's arsenal of dispossession were many and varied, and they worked to perfection. As the historian Colin Galloway has observed, Jefferson's strategy yielded some 30 treaties with approximately a dozen tribes, who ceded some 200,000 square miles of land in nine states.

The fact Jefferson owned slave is no secret of course, even his admirers acknowledge it, though they quickly make excuses. For example when his slave estate is brought up the quotation about the wolfs ear is often cited as an example of his sad reluctant compromise with that bloody institution.  "but, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other." But that is a very selective quote, the full letter that it comes from makes it clear that he advocates expanding slavery throughout the Union including the newly acquired territory of Missouri. Indeed he goes so far as to call abolition a form of treason and the death of the nation.

Monticello Apr. 22. 20.

I thank you, Dear Sir, for the copy you have been so kind as to send me of the letter to your constituents on the Missouri question. it is a perfect justification to them. I had for a long time ceased to read the newspapers or pay any attention to public affairs, confident they were in good hands, and content to be a passenger in our bark to the shore from which I am not distant. but this momentous question, like a fire bell in the night, awakened and filled me with terror. I considered it at once as the knell of the Union. it is hushed indeed for the moment. but this is a reprieve only, not a final sentence. a geographical line, coinciding with a marked principle, moral and political, once concieved and held up to the angry passions of men, will never be obliterated; and every new irritation will mark it deeper and deeper. I can say with conscious truth that there is not a man on earth who would sacrifice more than I would, to relieve us from this heavy reproach, in any practicable way. the cession of that kind of property, for so it is misnamed, is a bagatelle which would not cost me in a second thought, if, in that way, a general emancipation and expatriation could be effected: and, gradually, and with due sacrifices, I think it might be. but, as it is, we have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other. of one thing I am certain, that as the passage of slaves from one state to another would not make a slave of a single human being who would not be so without it, so their diffusion over a greater surface would make them individually happier and proportionally facilitate the accomplishment of their emancipation, by dividing the burthen on a greater number of co-adjutors. an abstinence too from this act of power would remove the jealousy excited by the undertaking of Congress, to regulate the condition of the different descriptions of men composing a state. this certainly is the exclusive right of every state, which nothing in the constitution has taken from them and given to the general government. could congress, for example say that the Non-freemen of Connecticut, shall be freemen, or that they shall not emigrate into any other state?

I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves, by the generation of '76. to acquire self government and happiness to their country, is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is to be that I live not to weep over it. if they would but dispassionately weigh the blessings they will throw away against an abstract principle more likely to be effected by union than by scission, they would pause before they would perpetrate this act of suicide on themselves and of treason against the hopes of the world.

to yourself as the faithful advocate of union I tender the offering of my high esteem and respect. Th. Jefferson
This is all terrible but again it is not an aberration, these horrible views are part of the bedrock of Jeffersonian liberalism.  He believed that for the democratic society he championed to work it must be primarily agricultural and based on a large body of small land owners. The Yeomen farming class[2] essentially. In order for this class to survive and prosper it needed several things, plenty of unoccupied land, hence the pushes to removal of the tribes to free up vast acres. It also explains in addition to naked racism and belief in pseudo science the drive to maintain and expand slavery and expel the free coloured population. If the slaves were freed many of them would become free farmers and so compete for land, and so would be a destabilising influence on the yeoman farmer society Jefferson wanted to cultivate.

And speaking of cultivation...

Voltaire! The above is basically classical liberalism's slogan. If they ever do become a full fledged movement with rallies and marches that will be on most of the banners. Minor tangent, when I looked up where exactly Voltaire said this and the second result was Stormfront, I don't have a point here, just thought it was worth mentioning. Also it appears that he didn't and the quotation was attributed to him in a book written after his death by an English admirer  but the association has stuck so I'll keep going.

Voltaire was of course very influential and still is to an extent, the problem is while his works have many merits, Candide is a favourite, both his personal life and his legacy aren't very good omens if this liberal revival takes off. Voltaire was not afraid to offend or risk punishment for what he believed in, though he didn't relish being sent back to the Bastille so often used pen names and moved around when the authorities had had enough of him. The problem is though that he had a very, very poor track record when it came to defending the rights of anyone else.

He was the close friend and confidant of Frederick the Great, and may have been his lover. Frederick's regime was built on conquest and serfdom[3] so he does not appear to have made much impact in Prussia. He also had little success with his other great admirer Catherine the Great. Again he found an enthusiastic fan at the head of an autocracy built on military conquests and serfdom. He had a lively correspondence with the "enlightened despot"[4]. Indeed before the French revolution Voltaire was the most important and popular thinker amongst the Russian nobility.

Now because of the two previous examples I want to make it clear that unlike Mill and Jefferson I don't think Voltaire actively promoted any of this, though his comments praising Catherine's war with the Turks for example are pushing. I'm mainly bringing up Voltaire because he's an enlightenment figure many classical liberals openly aspire to and his legacy shows just how insufficient his ideas are for addressing extreme injustice. 18th century Russia was a society where the nobility could in effect do what they pleased so long as they did not anger a more powerful member. And yet despite years of infatuation the Russian enlightenment never translated into effective social change. On the contrary after 1789 Catherine ditched the enlightenment and aggressively stamped out what little progress had been made.

Now back to the UK. Arguably the United Kingdom since its founding in 1707 was the nation where classical liberalism made the most inroads. Indeed the UK has had several liberal Prime Ministers, and by strange coincidence these premierships often occurred during some pretty dark and bloody periods of UK history. For example Prime Minister John Russell who essentially caused the Irish famine. Now he didn't go around spreading the blight, the blight actually appeared while his predecessor the Conservative PM Robert Peel.

But the majority of the deaths can be lead squarely at Russell's feet since he not only did not take measures to prevent or limit the damage of the famine, he ended what relief efforts Peel's government had made, (small scale public works, price guarantees of corn etc.). He was the Prime minister from 1846 to 1852 nearly the entirety of the famine, and he never changed course. His actions, or rather deliberate inaction lead to the displacement of 2-3million people and the deaths of 800,000 to 1,000,000 people depending on estimates. All of whom were British subjects due to the act of Union in 1800. And again as with Mill and Jefferson this wasn't some personal failing, it was the direct result of a firm belief in a cornerstone of classic liberalism, that of the market economy.

As far as Russell was concerned the real tragedy of the famine was that it lead the British government to intervene in the economy for them it was most important to get the market back on track. To quote Trevalyn a member of Russell's government who oversaw Ireland and its (lack of relief)

Our measures must proceed with as little disturbance as possible of the ordinary course of private trade, which must ever be the chief resource for the subsistence of the people, but, coûte que coûte (at any cost), the people must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to starve.
Which seems not too bad, but the commitment to not let people starve quickly proved hollow, under Trevalyn exports of Irish food stuffs continued regularly and when in 1847 he was confronted with news that the years potato harvest had been riddled with blight this was his response.

    'The only way to prevent the people from becoming habitually dependent on government is to bring the operation to a close. The uncertainty about the new crop only makes it more necessary. Whatever may be done hereafter these things should be stopped now or we run the risk of paralysing all private enterprise and having this country on you for an indefinite number of years. The Chancellor of the Exchequer strongly supports this policy.'

And there you have it, liberal economics in a nutshell. Property and commerce before and above human costs. Whenever someone praises liberal economics and laissez-faire commerce this is what they mean.

Before I wrap up I'd like to hammer home this point with the example of the most successful liberal statesman in the UK, Gladstone. Gladstone was Prime minister four times, and Chancellor of the Exchequer another four times, so a man of influence and power. In opposition he developed a reputation for opposing the growth of the Empire. When he was in office though he made no move to withdraw British rule from any of its overseas territories. Indeed, he personal investments in several Imperial ventures. The case of Egypt is very revealing, in the 1880's tensions were growing there. Gladstone decided to intervene, the fact he had 37% of his stock invested in the country was probably just a coincidence.

Gladstone funnily enough justified Imperial aggression and domination in much the same way J.S. Mill did, for their own good, and it would end once the conquered "savages" reached an appropriate level of civilisation whatever that actually means.

The Liberal project old and new is one steeped in violence and hostile elitism. In that respect the modern "classical liberals" of today are not much different from their forefathers. The reputation political liberalism has of being an emancipatory movement for civil discourse and polite toleration is largely a product of misdirection and propaganda to cover up the atrocities and structural tyranny it presided over.

2: The term Yeomen farmer in the United States didn't have any feudal connotations
3: Frederick II past an abolition of serfdom decree in 1763 after he had fallen out with Voltaire and the decree only extended to crown lands. It wouldn't be until the revolution of 1848 when Prussian peasants would finally be freed from all feudal obligations.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The effects of the Hillsborough disaster and police cover up

"And I didn't realise I was helping their case then, and I was so, so vulnerable. I think they used that to their advantage." Steve Kelly

Steve Kelly is the brother of one of the 96 Liverpool FC fans crushed to death in 1989 in Hillsborough, this is his account of how the police treated the families of the victims and the impact of the cover up and media smears.

A bit different from the other entries in the series on political prisoners but its account of a massive police cover up and attempt to discredit and harass grieving family members for wanting to know the truth is very familiar.

Episode guide:

A heartbreaking story of a long campaign for justice in the UK. Steve's brother, Mike, was killed in the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster, when 96 people died in a crush at a football stadium. Fans like Mike were blamed for the deaths, but Steve and others knew that something was amiss. In Their Own Words is a podcast from Amnesty International, where people around the world tell their extraordinary stories of fighting for their rights.

I had some more thoughts on the Hillsborough disaster and this lead to a thread on twitter.

The Hillsborough stadium disaster and the police response are very instructive. Despite billions of pounds being spent on PR for the police criticism and opposition to them is still fairly common provided it comes with a number of qualifiers. From my own experience contempt and hostility toward individual coppers is widespread and when news or rumours of police corruption and or brutality surface its not hard to convince someone that there is at least some truth to the allegations.

However the distrust usually falls under the `few bad apples` scenario. Yes those officers were corrupt and worse then the criminals they allegedly protect us all from, but they're the exception. Again from personal experience the only time I've encountered people -who aren't already involved in political radicalism of some kind- willing to believe in widespread or even total corruption or abuse from the police its in regards to a foreign police force in a nation that has a very poor reputation overall. Though there has been a bit of an exception with the police of the United States. The Black Lives Matter campaigns have really damaged the reputation of the American police internationally.

This is why I feel its very important not to let Hillsborough fade from memory after the second inquest. This was a cover up and harassment campaign organised by the entire South Yorkshire police force, from the officers at the scene on that day all the way to the top. They were supported in this endeavour to cover up the deaths of 96 people by the elected and parliamentary government and elements with the free press. Its an incontestable example of the power and attitude of the police as an institution and how even modern parliamentary democracy and independent media are not only not up to the task of keeping the police in check, but when push comes to shove will actively support even its worst excesses.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Alexandra Kollontai

Alexandra Kollontai was a very influential (for a short period of time) Bolshevik. During the Russian revolutions her views on the role of women and concepts on relationships which are often described as a precursor to the free love experiments popularised in the 1960s. The title of this audio history was The Original Revolutionary Femininist, I've changed it because its historically misleading their were several very important and prominent revolutionary feminists that predate Kollontai such as Louise Michel.

Kollontai has some admirers not just in revolutionary feminism but in Left Communist circles as she was one of the founder members of the Bolshevik faction the Workers Opposition (WO), not to be confused with the Workers Group that was around at the same time. I don't really know why personally the only major point of difference between the WO and the Bolshevik party leadership was the role of Bolshevik party controlled unions in the economy. When it came to repressive measures by the Bolshevik party against other revolutionary organisations and tendencies Kollontai and most of the WO closed ranks with the party. They would eventually regret that when Stalin came to power and attacked them,

Kollontai survived and became an ambassador to the Scandinavian countries, while in that role she often campaigned to have communist dissidents who were refugees in Sweden and Norway expelled back to their home countries where they could be arrested and executed. For example the German Communist exile Hugo Urbhans.

But despite this frankly disgusting career her writings on gender roles and women and communism still stand up for the most part and she remains an authority on the subject.

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