Tag Archives: glasgow

Jewellery & Capitalism; gender, class and the environment. Thurs 16th Feb

Jewellery and Capitalism talk and discussion, Thursday 16th February 7-9pm at GAS

Jewellery is a universal form of adornment dating back tens of thousands of years. This talk presented by Maddie, a jeweller and anarchist, explores some of the history of jewellery; its socio-economic significance, how it relates to gender, class, the environment and how it has been used and adapted by over the ages. Prepare to learn a whole new side to jewellery; a vast global business based around mythology, sentiment, status, ownership, exploitation and extremely successful marketing.

Magpies picking over deer carcass

 

Stateless in Lesvos: screening and Q&A with film maker

Awareness and fundraising film screening and Q&A with film maker Guy Smallman who is just back from Lesvos, and visiting Scotland for 2 days only.

Donations will be going to support refugees in Greece.

Edinburgh:
Tuesday, December 15 at 5:30pm
Hunter Lecture Theatre, Edinburgh College of Art, 74 Lauriston Place, EG3 9DF

Glasgow:
Wednesday, December 16 at 7:00pm
Boyd Orr room 513 (Lecture Theatre D), University of Glasgow

Eye witness report & film from the Frontline of the refugee crisis in Lesvos.

We are very lucky to be able to screen this short (25min) documentary shot this November on one of the islands considered the front-line of the refugee crisis. Focusing on the solidarity of ordinary people in the face of government-led racism and incompetence, this film will show how the working class in Greece are defying the state and showing their solidarity with refugees.

The director, Guy Smallman of Reelnews, will be travelling to Scotland fresh from the press film screening and will be on hand to give a Q&A on his first-hand experiences. You can check out his travel-blog for the project here: http://reelnews.co.uk/the-lesvos-blog/

This event is free to attend. There will be an opportunity to give a financial donations to send to Lesvos, but it is just as important to come along and raise awareness.

Glasgow event co-hosted by Glasgow AFed and Glasgow Uni Anarchist Soc.
https://www.facebook.com/events/194379107567573/

Edinburgh co-hosted by counterinfo lab and the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh
https://www.facebook.com/events/106327519737862/

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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):

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SPUC off 4

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.

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.

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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.

Mayday Stalls, Elections Seminar, and the Sunday Swap Shop

Hi all,

Just putting together a really quick post to update folks on the events I was able to get to over this Mayday weekend. First  up where the stall on Mayday itself, where a good number of the cities anarchist and libertarian groups came out and set up a stall, linking the history of working class struggles with the struggles in the here and now. For our part we made some red & black biscuits and put out some publications, stickers and badges to help raise forms for the Baltimore Bail/Legal fund.

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Working folks in Glasgow were keen to show their solidarity with those fighting white supremacy in the streets of Baltimore and the generous donations raised $161.62 (a bit over £100). Thanks to everyone who said hi during the 3 hours we were were in the street!

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Later that night the good folks from Critisticuffs (writers of the libertarian communist journal Kittens) had come up from London to give a seminar to examine the function of elections in  capitalist state society. We’ll try to get a full review of the event up shortly.

Finally, on Sunday evening I was able to drop in to the end of the second Glasgow Social Centre pop-up event, a free shop with food and music. While things were winding down as I arrived just close to 6pm it looked as if the day had been a success, with everyone who attended getting well fed, the swap shop still having lots to rummage through, and the event having made a bit of money to towards getting a permanent social centre up and running.

This is what democracy looks like?

What follows is the very rough notes that where used for the introduction to the the first of our Angry Not Apathetic discussion groups. This evening we looked at what elections are, and the role of parliamentary/representative  democracy. It would be great to carry on what was a really engaged discussion, so if you were at the talk (or even if not) it would be awesome if you could put a summation of any points you either raised or took away in the comments bellow.

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This is what democracy looks like?

The general election is a contest to see who will win the job of running the state, so to understand elections, you need to understand the role of the state:

  • An organisation of all the lawmaking and law enforcing institutions within a specific territory.
  • Controlled and run by a small minority of people.
  • Claims that only violence that takes place with it’s sanction is legitimate.
  • Acts 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, as the success or failure of a state rests on the success or failure of capitalism within it.
  • To maintain social order and class society.

There are a whole lot of reasons thrown up for why elections make sense, none of which stand up to even a light level of scrutiny. Here are some of the most common:

Standing in elections gives a platform to talk politics
This was the reasoning behind the German socialist parties in the early 20th century, it has been the call of many small minority parties since, and today it is used by the anarchist group Class War. The thing is it wasn’t taking part in electoral politics that contributed any success these groups had, it was direct action at the points where we had struggles in our lives. If anything for CW formal involvement in elections has weakened their argument and made their position seem contradictory and muddled, while socialist parties just get trapped in a mire of elections and don’t go beyond that. Politics and power isn’t external in the state, it is everywhere and available to us, and pretending that elections are special hides that power from us.

Voting for the lesser of two evils
No matter who you vote for, the government that forms is going to undertake the same tasks. It may present them differently; in fact New Labour were able to be far harsher than he Tories due to the lack of criticism and scrutiny given to them by the unions. Parties outside of power will always be able to look better than those in. When we look at the policies and actions of government they have never been taken in direct reply to an election so much as the militancy and power of working class movements at any given time. Rather than pretend that elections have any real meaning we should look at ways or organising ourselves so that no mater who is in power, they will need to provide concessions to us as a working class.

A radical minority can pull the state leftwards
Nah, the ruling party will spin things to justify the plans it was going to undertake whatever. A radical minority will be ignored as it can’t be used to further the agenda of those in power (unless painted as a scapegoat and villain – red scare). On the other hand a minor far-right party (such as Golden Dawn or UKIP) can be used as the excuse to drive through harsh laws and reactionary positions because that is what the government wanted to do all along. BNP got used this way without even having an MP.

We need to change the way we vote!
The voting system being the used isn’t the barrier or the key to change. No matter how they are chosen, elected officials are largely unaccountable except to their own party and the tasks of government. Regardless of how they are selected, the main way to see real changes is through organising with those around us, while the electoral process itself is still a massive distraction from building this kind of working class power.

We need to counter voter apathy
This one is half-right. Apathy is a problem, but voting or not voting is beside the point. Apathy comes from a feeling that change is not possible, a feeling that the focus on voting creates. We need to work to build a culture where people feel they can resist the state and capitalism, but that won’t happen by posing a new candidate to vote for; that will only breed more apathy.

We can change the system from the inside
The closer a group gets to executive decision making the more it’s interests start to side with the status quo. We can see this recently with the SNP, where they dropped their pledge to leave NATO, thus indicating to others in power that their commitment to scrap trident is nothing more than hollow rhetoric and that once in power they would (with a regretful face on) keep things as they are.

In Conclusion: I’d argue that anarchism should be a tool for understanding how power and hierarchy works, and as such we should use it to be truthful about elections and work to demystify them. Pretending they are somehow important just holds us back.


 

Next month (on the 15th of April) we will be looking at the question of what anarchists actively put their time into, so keep your eyes peeled on this blog  for details of our second talk in this short series: Direct action gets the goods!

Go Beyond the Law

Today we went out to a rally to remember Leelah Alcorn, the young trans woman who recently took her life after her parents attempted to put her through conversion therapy. In her suicide note Leelah had called for laws to be introduced to end this torture of trans youth, and that was the initial focus for the day.

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The event  had been called by the city’s queer students, acting autonomously to hold an event for their community. It was widely reported that both the council and the police had done everything they could to try hinder the event, from lying about legal requirements to demonstrate, making up the need for insurance and a list of named wardens, right through to forcing changes in the date and location. Despite this the folks organising the day powered through and the attendance was strong. The newly formed Glasgow Food Not Bombs came down with scran and donations were taken for local LGBT Youth projects.

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We were also involved in chasing off some SWP scumbags who claimed they were attending in solidarity. They did this in front of one trans women they had attacked on George Square and one of our members who they had attempted to drag off while threatening to knock their teeth out, both times for calling out their members involvement covering up rape by Martin Smith (the specifics of the case are linked from here, here, and here). They bold-face denied their part in rape apologism, and at the same time were trying to say they were there as individuals while handing out fliers for an SWP front group! They really are a shameless cult that have no concept of solidarity except as a word employed to further their party.

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Our group was offered a spot to give a short talk and while it went off script a couple of times (due to nerves, emotions, and the freezing cold weather), here is what was being read from at the time:

“My name is Tanya and I am part of the Anarchist Federation of Britain.

Many of the signs brought here today call for human rights and legal protections to be put in place by the institutions that target us with their violence today. Leelah Alcorn’s own final message asks specifically for laws to prevent the torture that is conversion therapy. These calls are understandable and I am glad when things are made easier for us.

However I want put forward a warning: that setting our sights on changes in the law will only benefit a privileged few. We already have laws against murder and yet trans women are killed at an alarming rate. We have laws against child abuse, but our young siblings are still driven to suicide due to neglect.

Laws should not, and can not, be our goal. Anything that can be granted – rights, laws, or charity – can be eroded or turned against us. We can see this with marriage equality, and again with the push for acceptance in the military. Laws are compromises made by a government trying to break up a strong movement.

We need to go beyond the law.

Our goal has to be for liberation from gendered oppression, and nothing less.

This is a struggle that can only be won by finding others who we share an interest with, and organising collectively, first to understand the causes of our oppression, and then in taking action directly at their roots, to remove them for ourselves.

However, at the same time we must recognise that this is a fight that will involve many different groups facing different problems, and it is vital to our struggle to build solidarity across the working class as a whole.

We can see this in our shared history:

The huge waves of self-organisation and militant direct action used to face down the AIDS epidemic and Section 28. The solidarity between inner city queers and the miners that had a real chance of victory against all the state’s institutions. And going all the way back to when black and latina trans women fought back during police instigated riots (most famously at the Stonewall Inn). Remember that these same women would go on to form organisations like STAR – the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries – organisations that would lay the groundwork for the gains that trans and queer people have made today.

My final thought then is to take a look into my own experience and those of my friends, and look at the physical manifestations of gendered oppression. Our problems come from social isolation, medical gate-keeping, and crippling poverty. We’re estranged from family, constantly forced into dangerous situations, and denied well-being in our lives that leaves us in a precarious position both physically and mentally.

We need to make the space for one another to breath. We need to make the space to understand the causes of our problems. And we need to make the space to find freedom in our lives.

Thank you.”

Solidarity with the White Feather Collective

Yesterday a crowd of people came out to the Sheriff Court in solidarity with four members of the White Feather Collective, who were up in court for dropping a banner from the Finnieston Crane on Armed Forces Day earlier this year.  Never ones to remain idle, the rest of the collective set up a stall with free food, cake, coffee and tea, as well as handing out info on why resisting militarism is needed and making links between the court and military systems.

In the end all four were acquitted which amazing news!

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