Category Archives: News/Opinion/Discussion

SPUC Off!

SPUC off! We went out yesterday and joined the protest to tell the Society for the Unborn Child that their misogyny wasn’t welcome in Glasgow. When they marched down the street four of us were able to drown them out completely while others cut them off and formed a welcome party at their destination. It was a good show, but with abortion being devolved to the Scottish Parliament we are going to have to keep pushing home the issue that bodily autonomy is fundamental.

Here are a few pics from the evening (click on them to view full size):

SPUC off

SPUC off 2

SPUC off 3

SPUC off 4

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An Apology to Free Pride (and some hopefully constructive notes)

So, I wrote this piece yesterday and comments on the fb page said it was inaccurate. I did some digging and I have to agree that I owe an apology to the Free Pride group; they do appear to be aiming for an anti-capitalist event, while my criticisms did not go into any explanation and so lacked any historical perspective or constructive edge. Worse than that I dived into attacking their group on the basis of the actions of other groups past, something they did not need at a time where they are hoping to build something better. So, first a sincere apology to the folks involved with Free Pride. I really do hope you fulfil your manifesto.

Along with this apology I’m going to take the time to expand on the reasoning behind some of my some cynicism in the hope it can become something more constructive…

The past week has seen a whole host of horrors for anyone who considered themselves queer. There has been the news of Jennicet Gutiérrez being dragged off amid people jeering at the issues she raised by a room full of well-to-do members of rights organisations who then went on to cheer a Nobel Peace Prize winning Butcher. UKIP were allowed to march on the sly by the organisers of London Pride, but I suppose given the involvement of police, armed forces the crown prosecutors and the prisons in Glasgow’s events is adding a band of fascists really that much different? Added to that were the pictures of London Pride stewards helping the police hold down anti-capitalist protesters. Of course there has been all the icing smothered over these events to turn them into a wedding cake to contend with too. Having mass celebrations over state sanctioning encroach further into our lives would have been bad enough, but already the queer groups dealing with homelessness and poverty in the US are reporting the beginnings funding flight, exactly as predicted would happen.

The history of how mainstream Pride events and the gay rights movement (and yes, in this instance I’m purposefully saying it is a gay right movement) came to be this way started with radical manifestos. They read much like the Free Pride manifesto. However the structures to back them up were not there. Those involved had an open door to folks to approach them. Even today the door to Glasgow Pride is theoretically open to anyone. The problem is that not everyone starts with the equal ability to take up that offer, and even if they could there may be things a the other side of the door that are driving people away.

In most Pride events this would be a combination of the ability to get involved been kept within certain circles, the organisations that they have historically and currently invited to participate being the same organisations involved in oppressing large segments of the queer community, and the way in which they fund events through sponsorship and buy-in controlling the outcomes. The balance of power and control would grow to mirror those in wider society because the structures were never in place to prevent that happening. An open door let a radical protest to be co-opted towards addressing middle class concerns such as inclusion in civil society, rather than the demand to replace it with something that is fundamentally better.

Free Pride having a manifesto is a good start, however every indication so far is that (like the pride events past) it hasn’t been backed it up with the structures required to hard-code these values. Meetings are taking place in university campuses and follow the trends in campus organising. Due to this I’d be very surprised if there is anyone is involved in the panning has not attended a university at some point. While I’m sure the right groups will be invited to have a space, I worry that they won’t be the ones creating the event.

The only way I’ve seen to go any distance towards countering these problems is through giving up organisational power and ceding it to those to whom it is usually denied access to it along with a commitment to long-term support for whatever is growing out if it. Actively reach out to those who are homeless or live in poverty, who have migrated and seek asylum, and to people actively maligned and ignored within the wider queer community. And don’t just invite them to have a stall or a space or a workshop at the event, but give them controlling power in it. The event may go in a different direction entirely, but if it is being led by those who your manifesto says it wants to give a voice to then you will be succeeding in a far more profound manor. Examples in recent history include Gay Shame events, Ladyfest groups that have had active criteria and quotas on who runs them, Queer Mutiny in Edinburgh being self-organised by folks who were effected by homelessness and poverty, Afem2014 in London giving organisational power and physical space to marginalised groups, and in Glasgow the collective self-organisation by most of the cities Unity projects (and their spin-offs).

I also don’t know where Free Pride is taking place yet – it doesn’t seem to have been announced – but given the methods or organisation being followed I have grave concerns that it will be in a building either on a uni campus or in arts space. That said, I understand the conundrum. Glasgow has a distinct lack of social spaces to call upon, accelerated by the plans of Glasgow City Council to gentrify the few areas where these developments could take root, so in retrospect some of what is happening is the best that can be done given current conditions. I apologise for blaming the symptoms of this on the Free Pride group themselves; the real culprit is destruction of anywhere that isn’t arts or uni space to hold events, and the solution is to work towards establishing long-term non-commercial spaces here in Glasgow.

So, despite my over-arching cynicism and concerns of history repeating itself, and with the fog of disappointment that now seems to go along with June 28th having passed by, I do hope that Free Pride fulfils the points of their manifesto because we could all do with it.

I’ve been thinking about Christopher Street Liberation Day

[This piece was followed up with ‘An Apology to Free Pride (and some hopefully constructive notes)’ by the same author, who suggests reading both together.]

The first pride event was Christopher Street Liberation Day. It was held one year after the Stonewall Riots and aimed to bring together an oppressed community to rally against the forces of the state and capitalism that were keeping them down. Fast forward to Glasgow in 2015 and our pride event (in August, whatever), has stalls confirmed from such members of “the community” as:

  • The Army, Navy and Air Force; you know, the same army, navy and air force who are being deployed to stop people fleeing persecution for being queer.
  • Police Scotland who, when 1 in 4 homeless youth are queer; help keep homeless people out of safe places to kip, protect shopfulls of food from being passed to those who are hungry, that are making sex work unsafe for those who rely on it to get by, and who attack migrants and refugees.
  • The British Transport Police (these are traditionally the ones they draft in to beat you if you are protesting too loud).
  • The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service – yeah.
  • The Scottish Prison Service – …
  • A host of corporations that help maintain the systems of oppression and exploration that helps keep the untidy working class queers in their place.
  • A bunch of organisations claiming to look out for queer issues but who spend a majority their time clucking about council forms having the right options rather than helping give any sort of power back to queers who are worst off in society. Organisations – if you aren’t actively supporting and empowering queer youth, looking to end poverty, active in promoting sex workers rights, and/or working towards the ideals of prison abolition then I’ve got some bad news: your organisation is just tinkering around the edges and is likely part of the problem.

Pride went so far astray due to the idea that everyone should be included on the basis of their identity alone. Lesbian bosses who exploit others? They can march. Gay politicians? Let them speak. Gay Police Association and corporate sponsors? We couldn’t do anything without you. Oh, and don’t forget the allies. This gets stretched to the point where in London the pseudo-fascist UKIP were allowed to sulk back onto the march by organisers after being given a cursory ban (in what looks to have been a lie told to  defuse any attempts to eject them from the march).

The biggest problems we face are realised in crippling poverty and the prison system. These will never be addressed (let alone solved) pink-washing the division between the exploited classes and the ruling classes that benefit from our oppression. As the methods we use now will be a reflection of the end point we reach, methods that gaining privileges for a few will always be based on deepening the exploration of others.

So what was it about the Glasgow event’s betrayal of the ideals of Pride is the Glasgow queer scene most offended by? What has driven a group to action? Was it violence, poverty, imprisonment, exploitation, torture…?

No.

It was the fact that you have to pay to go to the event.

They call their alternative Free Pride. More like Cheap Pride.

A place where they will likely show films about Marsha P Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (and perhaps, just maybe, someone will mention Brenda Howard, though I doubt it), but nobody will think that they need to take the same path as these pieces of “our” history. They won “their” fight, surely, because today’s fight is just to have a free event…

Some folks will go along with it thinking that at least some of the radical history will take root where it is needed, but in all likelihood Free Pride will take place on a university campus or art crowd space that is so alien to the queer struggles of today that it might as well be taking place on the fucking moon.

Another Pride: Where friendly faced (and well paid) politicians and union bureaucrats will be welcomed.

Another Pride: This time only inviting the ‘nice’ capitalists.

Another Pride: The same as the first Pride, just that ‘they’ cost money and ‘we’ are free.

And I know a lot of the folks involved have their hearts in the right place. I just think there is a collective denial in some as to how bad things are and a near purposeful avoidance in others; because to tackle the real problems would mean confronting their own assimilationist positions. The lessons that have led to the failure of current Pride events are being ignored and the same paths followed; some under the impression that it will lead to different results, others quite happy that liberation will never be given anything more than lip service.

That said we can work out the ways oppression and exploitation attack us. We can act in solidarity with those who find themselves sidelined most in these struggles. And we can build the tools to liberate ourselves together.

From here on in that’s the way I’m going to remember Christopher Street Liberation Day.

Repost: Anarchist Thugs Respond: A Word About Saturday’s Events at Downing Street

Read the full article here.

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“The masters of London have to be made to understand that they are surrounded by enemies. We outnumber them. Their entire strategy has been based on the assumption that we are better people than they are. They’re right of course. We are. We would never dream of kicking anyone out of their homes – even them. We’d never resort to guns and bombs like they do. But that very sense of decency that makes us refrain from doing so compels us to take action.

That’s what we did on Saturday.

The Tories need to know that their every move will face determined—and if need be, militant—opposition. When police attacked a peaceful protest, this time, protesters fought back. History must now record the very first day of the new regime was marked by battles in the streets. It will not be the last. And history is very much what’s at stake here.”

 

A reply on the SNP piece

So the recent piece on the SNP has had some chat on various social media, and one point to come up  was the main narrative from the SNP from here-on-in won’t be one of seeking independence directly, but awaiting a crisis that they can take advantage of to reach their goal. Another of out members replied and we thought it would be good to post here both to get their response and to show how views differer even within the group:

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Constitutional tensions will necessarily mount on both sides of the border, while the SNP will be more than happy to play the rhetorical oppositional that labour abandoned. Meanwhile, even as Scotland isn’t a social democratic paradise, the marked differences in how services are run, or more likely talked about (rhetoric again), will prove to accentuate the minor differences that – to those fully enmeshed within electoralism or who aren’t engaged with street politics etc. – will appear huge.

Given a better than expected outcome the SNP might well also really mean to keep to the idea of a Scottish exemption from TTIP despite their earlier commitment, and they might also keep the moratorium on fracking going. Those are two things I doubt would have happened otherwise. They are tactical responses.

The main narrative of the SNP for the next year or two is already in place anyway. “A stronger voice for Scotland” (increased democratic legitimacy), “getting what was promised” (appeals to justice), “an end to austerity”…this is what they are talking about. This *is* the narrative. And it’s so well rehearsed that it came dribbling out of one of their new MPs 2 days into the job.

It’s important to recall that narrative isn’t reality, it is what get said about or despite reality. So the SNP don’t really live up to that narrative, of course not. And while it is important to critique the narrative as mystification it is also important to track what the narrative does – because stories might not be reality but they are real, they have effects. Look at England: the left seem awed by the SNP, while everyone else is shitting themselves.

The Yellow Tory title is also bad narrative. I mean rhetorically its either really effective or it’s really shit. You get one of two responses.

1. Agreement: This usually comes from people who share your analysis already, and so functions only as a kind of affective ritual…it boils down to the in-group identification of “we are constituted as those against the snp because we are against Tories because we are against what they have done and will do”. I’m in that group. But I gain nothing by nodding my head in agreement.

2. Offence: Everyone that identifies as pro-SNP will react to the degree of identification by feeling threatened. This is an empirical point identified by social psychology and elaborated on by heuristical models of cognition. “Yellow Tories” is a short cut. It doesn’t say anything about the SNP or the Tories but relies on a quick, instinctual and affective identification of the sense that if one is bad then the other is as bad by association.

So you’ve essentially hit a nerve, and not because the critique is true… those being critiqued probably don’t care. Their supporters are likely to *feel* – because this rhetoric works at that level – that their values are being attacked and identified with the bad guys. They don’t want to be the bad guys. So they are left with a series of options. The ones that jump out most to me are: a) ignore the critique, b) ridicule it by attacking those making it in a similarly gut-feeling and heuristical way, thereby making the critiques sail amazingly passed each other, or c) entrench into their positions even further. Response c might even underpin a and b, and has been observed, empirically, to be one of the more universal features of cognition.

I admit you might get

3. People look at the critique and say “oh yeh, shit, I better look into this”. If this ever happens I reckon it’s pretty rare.

or,

4. Oppositional groups share the same rhetoric and thereby cohere together assuming they share ideological commonality. Where this works, brilliant. Where it doesn’t… well, the examples are kinda too numerous.

All of which is just to say that narrative is powerful. I’m not about to buy into the snp’s narrative, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t see it as a fiction with real effects that help to compose the situation. It’s the situation we act in, right?

So yeh, reject and critique the SNP – but let’s not suppose to strongly that pointing out that the emperor has no clothes does very much good.

Post-election thoughts pt1: The SNP

Some thoughts by one of our members on the SNP in light of the recent election results. You can also read another member’s response here.

yellow tories

The leadership of the SNP must be the happiest people with the recent election results outside of the Tory front bench. Everything has lined up perfectly for them. But why would I say this when the polls were strongly hinting that the SNP could have been part of a coalition government and forced more devolved powers to Scotland? Surely they have missed out on making things better for the working classes here in Scotland?

The SNP as a political party doesn’t have the goal of making things “fairer” or to look out for us. That is the rhetoric of any opposition party the world over, and it is used to build membership and support. Once in power the SNP would get on with the same job that every government has, running the state to protect the capitalist interests of a specific segment of the ruling class while also keeping capitalism in check so it doesn’t all fall apart. At the moment that means implementing austerity and progressing the privatisation of public services; the working class will always be hard done-by.

The puzzle for the SNP  is that the segment of capitalist interest they fight would benefit most from independence. If they were seen to be helping run Britain then they would have a harder time looking out for their own interests. By missing out on coalition they also miss out on the LibDem problem of being a supporting part of whatever cuts the government were making. However, would the same fate awaited them as hit the LibDems, that of rapidly destroying their base of support? Not quite, but kinda.

The twist here in Scotland is that the SNP can always play the Westminster card, and they do, time-and-time-again. If something goes wrong, no matter what, it is down to London (or Tories or some other boogieman) and the solution is independence. It doesn’t matter that the horrendous attack on working class services by Edinburgh council are SNP led, or that they have clearly shown that they have no intention of scrapping Trident as they intend to remain in NATO, or even that a whole host of their white paper promises are for things already devolved to Holyrood. These are not the failings of the SNP, liberal democracy, or a capitalist system. Nope. It is all Westminster.

The problem for the SNP is that to keep voters on-side for now they need to be seen to be centre-left. This means giving us in the working class just enough concessions to make things look like they are trying their best until they can secure independence and then get on with looking out for their  interests in the way they want to. The less the SNP have obvious control over the better they look. If powers are devolved slowly, bit-by-bit, then they would either have to concede more and harm their interests or it would become clearer that they are just the same as any other party.

So for the SNP having a Conservative majority is perfect: they can fight and lose to them and look great while awaiting another referendum, and at the same time any flack can be avoided by saying the Tory’s are the cause and that the failure to provide opposition was the failure of the Labour Party in England.

My other thought on the SNP landslide is that it stands as another landmark point in the furthering of nationalist views in Scotland. The role of nationalism is to hide the struggle between ruling class and working class, having us in the working class to support actions that prop up a part of the ruling class rather than work on understanding our own interests and fighting to have our lot improved. Now the main narrative is that things will be made better if we get behind independence, something which has no guarantees and diverts us from taking part in grassroots struggles where we can make a marked improvement in our lives.

At the same time we can look at the voting figures in England and get a rough feeling over why people voted a certain way. On the other hand it is far more difficult to judge up here in Scotland, where the SNP present themselves as whatever will be popular in the area (so centre-left in Glasgow and centre-right almost everywhere else). Add to this the feeling of disappointment over the lack of change post-referendum and it becomes impossible to get a measure for the views of the SNP voter base. My feeling is that this time around most of their voters want a better society and some real change, but that they have been set-up for future disappointment as the SNP  fulfils it’s role as a part of the machinery of a neo-liberal social democracy.

So, if it is just a case that the yellow tories are in, what should we be doing? I’ll be putting up a post in the next few days with some more hopeful and proactive thoughts on that topic.

Brutal attack on anarchists movement in the Czech Republic

Over the past two weeks the Czech state has launched a massive attack on the anarchist movement under the name Operation Phoenix. Dozens of people have been arrested on terrorism and hate crime charges; flats, squats and social centres are being raided/evicted with alarming speed and brutality (with court orders that would normally take years to process being rubber-stamped overnight and water canons getting deployed); while the Anarchist Federation, the Anarchist Black Cross (prisoner support), and several other radical groups have had their servers taken.

These brutal attacks have been authorised due to the efficiency and effectiveness of the anarchist movement in recent years, with the local solidarity network growing in numbers and so being able to take on bigger and bigger targets, while social centres have provided the space for sharing of experience and ideas while building working class solidarity.

The Belarus ABC have been putting up info as they have it (here and here), while the ABC-Czech is collecting money for the legal support and can be contacted at abc-cz@riseup.net.

Solidarity with our friends and comrades, and if you can’t do anything else then considerer spreading news of this.

solidarity