Solidarity from Bristol to Ferguson – Fight police repression everywhere

origional demoOn Saturday some Bristol AFed members and friends took the streets to express our Solidarity with the Ferguson, Mo.  Since their community rose up to protest the police murder of an unarmed teenager, Mike Brown and the racist harassment they have suffered for years,  they have face near total repression at the hands of a militarised police force.  We came out to add our voice in solidarity, and to amplify their views and their voice.  The strength shown in resisting both the crack down and the attempts at pacification from politicians and self declared leaders has been inspiring.

We started by handing out leaflets in the town centre, and getting passers by to sign our banner with messages of solidarity. We then moved to link up with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and their picket outside of Sainsburys. They were happy to have our demo join with their own, recognising, as the people of Palestine and Ferguson have done that this is part of the same fight. We handed out both leaflets together and discussed the links,including the very same teargas canisters littering the streets of Palestine, Ferguson and Egypt.

ferguson to gaza

The community response in Ferguson has brought to light an issue that is too often ignored, especially in the mainstream media, of police literally getting away with murder, usually of those in marginalised communities. Just days after the murder of Mike Brown more police violence was reported. A report from the Malcolm X grassroots movement details the deaths of 313 black people in a single year.  This isn’t just a problem on the otherside of the atllantic with 827 deaths in the UK following ‘contact’ with the police in the past ten years. It has been inspiring to see others from postal workers to students expressing solidarity with Ferguson, as much as it has been infuriating to see protests supporting the murder from the likes of the Ku Klux Klan.

Its also shown us the ridiculous lengths the police and state ‘justice’ system will go to cover these up and protect themselves. A recent story of a handcuffed man managing to ‘shoot himself in the chest‘ is a particularly obvious example. From reports of ‘aggressive’ behaviour of black people and irrelevant videos of altercations to reports of ‘outside agitators‘ we need to learn to recognise and call out police lies in the media. 

It is important to learn how to protect ourselves, our communities and our neighbours from the police. If the past five years have taught us anything, its that hard times and austerity comes hand in hand with state violence and repression. For more on the struggle against police violence in the US see the Black Autonomy Federation, in the UK see NetPol or get intouch with us.

Solidarity to all survivors and victims of police violence, No Justice, No Peace…

2013 anti-police demo at Trinity Road Police Station, called by AFed, picture by red orbital

2013 anti-police demo at Trinity Road Police Station, called by AFed, picture by red orbital

Solidarity with Michael Brown – Demonstration This Saturday (23rd)

Against Police Repression, Against Institutional Racism, Solidarity with Ferguson Missouri!

10628157_10153035388281102_1757015198469058429_n On August 9th an unarmed teenager was shot six times and murderd by a police officer, once again bringing in to stark relief the danger police pose to the public and the indemic racism of police forces across the western world.

The respsonse of the authorities was swift and harsh. Hundreds of police have swarmed the majority black community, assualting residents, mass arresting peaceful demonstratos, forcing journalists and Amnesty International human rights observers out, and raiding homes door to door.

cardif

‘Occupied Cardiff’

This incident is not isolated – nor is it limited to the United States. nearly 1,500 people have died in the UK since 1990 either in police custody or after ‘contact’ with the police. The institutions of ‘justice’ do little their utmost to protect the police rather than the citizens whos rights they are supposed to uphold.

If the martial law currently imposed on Ferguson seems like something that would never happen in this country you only have to look at South Wales where preperations for the NATO summit have seen ‘rings of steel’ in and around the local towns and 1000s of armed police poised to swamp the area – all so some poliicians can continue to plan violence across the world. Meanwhile Police on our streets are starting to be routinely armed.

Police Shooting Missouri

Everywhere the police are becoming an increasingly militarised force

Throughout our countries history and right up to the present day Black people, LGBT communities, migrants, activists and youth in areas of poverty have born the burnt of police oppression.

In times of repression though there is also the potential for great solidarity, as shown by people in Gaza offering their advice and support to the people of Ferguson. Lets stand together and stand with the people of Ferguson Missouri.

No Justice, No Peace.

Time: 12:30 Saturday 23rd
Location:  Fountains, City centre (map)
Bring: Friends, comrades, flags, placards,
Facebook event

Followed by an action called by Bristol Palestine Solidarity,
2.00 – 4.00pm meet outside Tesco Metro,
90 Broadmead, Bristol BS1 3DW

 

 

WW1 Centenery – Some Anarchist Perspectives on War

The latest issue of our paper Resistance is a special edition focusing on war, its impacts, and the movements against it. Including Mutineers in the West Indian Regiment, the suffragettes who fought for and against war, remembrance as recruitment, and a look back at the Falklands.

We’ve already handed out hundreds of copies, but there are still some left (for free/donation) at both Hydra and Kebele. The whole paper is also available to download as a PDF here:

 

Download here

The Brief Origins of May Day

mayday_flagcropMay 1st is International Worker’s Day and is celebrated around the world with marches and actions. There have been many attempts to rewrite the history of May Day. In 2011 the Tories proposed moving the May Day Bank Holiday to October and replace it with “UK Day” and in America May 1st is has been “Loyalty Day” since 1921 (not that many people celebrate it mind!).

Because of this we thought it was important to repost this article, explaining as briefly as possible, the true origins of May Day or International Worker’s Day. If reading isn’t your thing then check out this talk by Bristol Radical History Group from 2012 on the history of May Day.

via The Industrial Workers of the World

by Eric Chase (1993)

Most people living in the United States know little about the International Workers’ Day of May Day. For many others there is an assumption that it is a holiday celebrated in state communist countries like Cuba or the former Soviet Union. Most Americans don’t realize that May Day has its origins here in this country and is as “American” as baseball and apple pie, and stemmed from the pre-Christian holiday of Beltane, a celebration of rebirth and fertility.

In the late nineteenth century, the working class was in constant struggle to gain the 8-hour work day. Working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions. Death and injury were commonplace at many work places and inspired such books as Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and Jack London’s The Iron Heel. As early as the 1860’s, working people agitated to shorten the workday without a cut in pay, but it wasn’t until the late 1880’s that organized labor was able to garner enough strength to declare the 8-hour workday. This proclamation was without consent of employers, yet demanded by many of the working class.

At this time, socialism was a new and attractive idea to working people, many of whom were drawn to its ideology of working class control over the production and distribution of all goods and services. Workers had seen first-hand that Capitalism benefited only their bosses, trading workers’ lives for profit. Thousands of men, women and children were dying needlessly every year in the workplace, with life expectancy as low as their early twenties in some industries, and little hope but death of rising out of their destitution. Socialism offered another option.

A variety of socialist organizations sprung up throughout the later half of the 19th century, ranging from political parties to choir groups. In fact, many socialists were elected into governmental office by their constituency. But again, many of these socialists were ham-strung by the political process which was so evidently controlled by big business and the bi-partisan political machine. Tens of thousands of socialists broke ranks from their parties, rebuffed the entire political process, which was seen as nothing more than protection for the wealthy, and created anarchist groups throughout the country. Literally thousands of working people embraced the ideals of anarchism, which sought to put an end to all hierarchical structures (including government), emphasized worker controlled industry, and valued direct action over the bureaucratic political process. It is inaccurate to say that labor unions were “taken over” by anarchists and socialists, but rather anarchists and socialist made up the labor unions.

At its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), proclaimed that “eight hours shall constitute a legal day’s labor from and after May 1, 1886.” The following year, the FOTLU, backed by many Knights of Labor locals, reiterated their proclamation stating that it would be supported by strikes and demonstrations. At first, most radicals and anarchists regarded this demand as too reformist, failing to strike “at the root of the evil.” A year before the Haymarket Massacre, Samuel Fielden pointed out in the anarchist newspaper, The Alarm, that “whether a man works eight hours a day or ten hours a day, he is still a slave.”

Despite the misgivings of many of the anarchists, an estimated quarter million workers in the Chicago area became directly involved in the crusade to implement the eight hour work day, including the Trades and Labor Assembly, the Socialistic Labor Party and local Knights of Labor. As more and more of the workforce mobilized against the employers, these radicals conceded to fight for the 8-hour day, realizing that “the tide of opinion and determination of most wage-workers was set in this direction.” With the involvement of the anarchists, there seemed to be an infusion of greater issues than the 8-hour day. There grew a sense of a greater social revolution beyond the more immediate gains of shortened hours, but a drastic change in the economic structure of capitalism.

In a proclamation printed just before May 1, 1886, one publisher appealed to working people with this plea:

  • Workingmen to Arms!
  • War to the Palace, Peace to the Cottage, and Death to LUXURIOUS IDLENESS.
  • The wage system is the only cause of the World’s misery. It is supported by the rich classes, and to destroy it, they must be either made to work or DIE.
  • One pound of DYNAMITE is better than a bushel of BALLOTS!
  • MAKE YOUR DEMAND FOR EIGHT HOURS with weapons in your hands to meet the capitalistic bloodhounds, police, and militia in proper manner.

Not surprisingly the entire city was prepared for mass bloodshed, reminiscent of the railroad strike a decade earlier when police and soldiers gunned down hundreds of striking workers. On May 1, 1886, more than 300,000 workers in 13,000 businesses across the United States walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history. In Chicago, the epicenter for the 8-hour day agitators, 40,000 went out on strike with the anarchists in the forefront of the public’s eye. With their fiery speeches and revolutionary ideology of direct action, anarchists and anarchism became respected and embraced by the working people and despised by the capitalists.

The names of many – Albert Parsons, Johann Most, August Spies and Louis Lingg – became household words in Chicago and throughout the country. Parades, bands and tens of thousands of demonstrators in the streets exemplified the workers’ strength and unity, yet didn’t become violent as the newspapers and authorities predicted.

More and more workers continued to walk off their jobs until the numbers swelled to nearly 100,000, yet peace prevailed. It was not until two days later, May 3, 1886, that violence broke out at the McCormick Reaper Works between police and strikers.

For six months, armed Pinkerton agents and the police harassed and beat locked-out steelworkers as they picketed. Most of these workers belonged to the “anarchist-dominated” Metal Workers’ Union. During a speech near the McCormick plant, some two hundred demonstrators joined the steelworkers on the picket line. Beatings with police clubs escalated into rock throwing by the strikers which the police responded to with gunfire. At least two strikers were killed and an unknown number were wounded.

Full of rage, a public meeting was called by some of the anarchists for the following day in Haymarket Square to discuss the police brutality. Due to bad weather and short notice, only about 3000 of the tens of thousands of people showed up from the day before. This affair included families with children and the mayor of Chicago himself. Later, the mayor would testify that the crowd remained calm and orderly and that speaker August Spies made “no suggestion… for immediate use of force or violence toward any person…”

As the speech wound down, two detectives rushed to the main body of police, reporting that a speaker was using inflammatory language, inciting the police to march on the speakers’ wagon. As the police began to disperse the already thinning crowd, a bomb was thrown into the police ranks. No one knows who threw the bomb, but speculations varied from blaming any one of the anarchists, to an agent provocateur working for the police.

Enraged, the police fired into the crowd. The exact number of civilians killed or wounded was never determined, but an estimated seven or eight civilians died, and up to forty were wounded. One officer died immediately and another seven died in the following weeks. Later evidence indicated that only one of the police deaths could be attributed to the bomb and that all the other police fatalities had or could have had been due to their own indiscriminate gun fire. Aside from the bomb thrower, who was never identified, it was the police, not the anarchists, who perpetrated the violence.

Eight anarchists – Albert Parsons, August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Oscar Neebe, Michael Schwab, George Engel, Adolph Fischer and Louis Lingg – were arrested and convicted of murder, though only three were even present at Haymarket and those three were in full view of all when the bombing occurred. The jury in their trial was comprised of business leaders in a gross mockery of justice similar to the Sacco-Vanzetti case thirty years later, or the trials of AIM and Black Panther members in the seventies. The entire world watched as these eight organizers were convicted, not for their actions, of which all of were innocent, but for their political and social beliefs. On November 11, 1887, after many failed appeals, Parsons, Spies, Engel and Fisher were hung to death. Louis Lingg, in his final protest of the state’s claim of authority and punishment, took his own life the night before with an explosive device in his mouth.

The remaining organizers, Fielden, Neebe and Schwab, were pardoned six years later by Governor Altgeld, who publicly lambasted the judge on a travesty of justice. Immediately after the Haymarket Massacre, big business and government conducted what some say was the very first “Red Scare” in this country. Spun by mainstream media, anarchism became synonymous with bomb throwing and socialism became un-American. The common image of an anarchist became a bearded, eastern European immigrant with a bomb in one hand and a dagger in the other.

Today we see tens of thousands of activists embracing the ideals of the Haymarket Martyrs and those who established May Day as an International Workers’ Day. Ironically, May Day is an official holiday in 66 countries and unofficially celebrated in many more, but rarely is it recognized in this country where it began.

Over one hundred years have passed since that first May Day. In the earlier part of the 20th century, the US government tried to curb the celebration and further wipe it from the public’s memory by establishing “Law and Order Day” on May 1. We can draw many parallels between the events of 1886 and today. We still have locked out steelworkers struggling for justice. We still have voices of freedom behind bars as in the cases of Mumia Abu Jamal and Leonard Peltier. We still had the ability to mobilize tens of thousands of people in the streets of a major city to proclaim “THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” at the WTO and FTAA demonstrations.

Words stronger than any I could write are engraved on the Haymarket Monument:

THE DAY WILL COME WHEN OUR SILENCE WILL BE MORE POWERFUL THAN THE VOICES YOU ARE THROTTLING TODAY.

Truly, history has a lot to teach us about the roots of our radicalism. When we remember that people were shot so we could have the 8-hour day; if we acknowledge that homes with families in them were burned to the ground so we could have Saturday as part of the weekend; when we recall 8-year old victims of industrial accidents who marched in the streets protesting working conditions and child labor only to be beat down by the police and company thugs, we understand that our current condition cannot be taken for granted – people fought for the rights and dignities we enjoy today, and there is still a lot more to fight for. The sacrifices of so many people can not be forgotten or we’ll end up fighting for those same gains all over again. This is why we celebrate May Day.

Who’s Stealing From Who?

sfw_bBBC Points West tonight ran with a story tonight on the growing number of cases of shoplifting in the south west. They tried to paint a scare story by revealing ‘shocking’ figures about the rise of shoplifting in the region. Footage of several young boys, one as young as eight, being threatened by the Police and security staff were shown to try and display the ‘moral depravity’ of stealing from businesses.

But who does shoplifting hurt? According to the BBC over the last three years there were 1,800 reported cases in Bristol; 647 in Bath; 900 in Gloucestor; and 660 in Swindon. The worst hit in each city were Primark, Boots, Debenhams and Tesco respectively. They would like us to believe that shoplifting hurts workers by reducing companies’ profits and thus forcing them to cut wages and even jobs.

That doesn’t quite add up though when you consider that Primark recorded £514m profits in 2013; Boots made even more at £813m; Debenhams secured a tidy £154m and Tesco made a staggering £3.05bn! If shoplifting is hurting their profits so much that they’re having to slash wages and lay off employees it certainly doesn’t show in their annual reports.

According to a report by the Centre for Retail Research shoplifting only costs the UK £4.4bn a year. That doesn’t seem like much when you consider that Tesco alone made almost as much in profits! What is interesting is that the report suggests that over a third of thefts are carried out by staff themselves. I’m sure that if shoplifting was hurting the workers so much, they certainly wouldn’t be adding to the problem themselves, would they?

Maybe they’re just tired of falling wages. The truth is that companies need to pay their employees as little as possible and shoplifting is a great excuse for lowering wages. Every penny your boss spends on your wages is a penny out of their pocket. After all it is us that creates all the wealth in society, just think about when you go to the supermarket, who is it stocking the shelves, cleaning the floors, working the checkout or collecting the trolleys? It isn’t the bosses! It’s working class people like you and me.

And while the regular checkout employee might scan through thousands of pounds worth of products during an eight hour shift, they’re lucky to receive even a fraction of it back in the form of wages. Meanwhile the bosses live in luxury at our expense. Why is it that those of us who work the hardest never receive our fair share of the profits? Why should the boss receive the lion’s share while never putting in nearly as much effort?

The answer is simple: We live in a society where the means of sustaining life are owned by an elite minority. Those people who own property, the capitalist class, force us without, the working class, to work for them with the threat of starvation or death if we refuse. Because we have no choice as to whether or not we can work we have very little say as to how much we get paid.

There are times though when we can begin to call the shots. When we work together with others in our situation, not just in the workplace, but in our communities and other areas of live, we begin to realise that we have a lot more power than we originally though. We can begin to ask a lot more of the capitalists than a simple wage rise or better conditions, we can ask for control of the very means of sustaining life themselves.

The truth is stealing from big businesses like Tesco or Primark does not hurt the workers, in fact it doesn’t hurt the bosses either. They still take hope a tidy paycheck despite the apparent record number of cases of shoplifting. We shouldn’t be punishing petty criminals when the biggest theft of all happens every day across the country in the form of wage labour. Billions of pounds are stolen from hard working people by capitalists. Why don’t you hear about that very often?

Bristol Anarchist Bookfair just around the corner!

1964969_723463394352616_105588308_nThe 6th annual Bristol Anarchist Bookfair will take place on Saturday 26th April at the Trinity Centre from 11:00AM. Bristol Anarchist Federation will once again have a presence at this year’s bookfair.

As well as our usual stall, where we will have copies of the latest issue of Organise! along with a selection of our pamphlets and other propaganda (hopefully including the new edition of Role of the Revolutionary Organisation hot off the press!), we will be involved in two workshops throughout the day.

BristolAnarchistBookfair-BartThe first workshop starting at 12:30PM in the Bookfair Assembly Room on the first floor is called: “Is Bart Simpson an Anarchist?” and hopes to answer some important questions raised by this year’s poster design:

We felt some of Bart Simpson’s calculations on this year’s bookfair poster were at best debatable and at worst problematic. Does Work minus Bosses, or Money minus Bankers really equal anarchy? What do we mean by the term “Work” anyway? And can money really have a role in an Anarchist society?

We’ll also be taking part in the “Solidarity in Bristol” workshop directly after that at 2:00PM with Bristol Solidarity Network, Acorn Bristol, IWW, Bristol SolFed, and Bristol Refugee Rights:

Solidarity is a central idea which we organise round but how does it work in practice – especially across social and political differences? People actively showing solidarity with workers, migrants, claimants, and local and international struggles discuss what has been productive and challenging in their solidarity work.

Members of Bristol Anarchist Federation will be stationed at our stall throughout the day so if you have any questions or just want a chat come and say Hello!

Don’t forget the Bookfair Afterparty this year taking place at The Red Lion in St. George. Confirmed acts so far include Hazel Winter, Public Order Act, MC Amalgam, QELD and Ash Victim. The festivities start at 8:00PM and all proceeds go towards the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair Collective to help them do the same thing again next year!

We hope to see you all there!

The Rich Sip Champagne While We’re Left To Starve!

toast the richThe Huffington Post reported yesterday that the Houses of Parliament have spent increasingly large amounts of money on champagne under the current Coalition government. That should come as no surprise considering that there are eight bars serving alcohol to an extremely exclusive clientèle. But the fact that MPs are spending more and more money of bubbly while millions of people rely on food banks for survival, is sickening if not outright disgusting.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that staff at Westminster spent £275,221 buying in more than 25,000 bottles of champagne since the coalition took over in May 2010. The House of Commons currently has 582 bottles of champagne in stock, at a total worth of £6,513. What’s even worse is that the many bars frequented by these toffs are subsidised by tax payer money, meaning we have to pay so they can enjoy a cut-price pint!

Meanwhile the Trussell Trust, the leading charity behind the country’s almost 300 food banks (with three new ones opening every week), said they fed at least 346,992 in 2012-13 and the price of alcohol keeps on rising. Pints now cost 20 times more than they did 40 years ago, but of course that doesn’t bother somebody who lives off a tidy £66,396 of taxpayers money a year (and they have the audacity to claim about “benefit cheats”!).

While the rich sip champagne the poor are left to starve. The only solution is to supersede the state and start organising to meet our own needs. No party will ever give us what we need, because they are first and foremost a party of the rich, and the interests of the rich and powerful will always be against the needs of the working class. Voting won’t change anything, only direct action will!

In the words of Emma Goldman:

“Ask for work. If they don’t give you work, ask for bread. If they do not give you work or bread, then take bread.”

I say let us toast the rich this year, with our choice of cocktails!