Student Organizing with Divest McGill

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Apr 292022
 

From From Embers

In this episode I chat with two members of Divest McGill, a student-led organization at McGill University in so-called Montreal. They are fighting to force McGill to divest from the fossil fuel industry and transform the university into something liberatory and accountable to the people whose lives it affects. This spring, they led a more than two-week-long open, social occupation of a university building.

All music in this episode is from the 2012 anti-folk opera “What The F*ck Am I Doing Here?” about anarchist participation in the 2012 Quebec student strike. Check it out on Soundcloud here: https://soundcloud.com/whatthefuckamidoinghere/sets/what-the-fuck-am-i-doing-here

Learn more about Divest McGill here: https://www.divestmcgill.ca/

CALLOUT for the Anticapitalist Mayday ’22: Colonial and Ecocidal, Capitalism is War!

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Feb 222022
 

From the Convergence des luttes anticapitalistes

On May 1st, 2022, Convergence des luttes anticapitalistes (CLAC) is calling for a 15th Anti-Capitalist Workers’ Day demonstration. This year, the colonial state has demonstrated once more that it will prioritize capital growth over our lives. In total hypocrisy, our governments speak the words reconciliation and environment while ignoring the sovereign rights of Indigenous peoples and destroying the land with extractivist and discriminatory policies. It is time to revolt!

As time passes, our steroid pumped capitalist system increasingly contributes to the degradation of the climate and ecological conditions that ensure our survival. We are heading for disaster as our governments collude with oil companies, the forestry industry and the mining industry to continue to push through ecocidal projects like the Coastal GasLink pipeline in Wet’suwet’en land, the Fairy Creek cuts and the latest announcements allowing the mining industry to emit even more zinc and nickel particles in so-called Quebec. To defend their right to bring the world to an end, they buy guns, cops and prisons, because they know that people are resisting, have always resisted and will continue to do so. Extractivism goes hand in hand with colonialism and the oppression of Indigenous peoples; both of these systems of oppression are central to the running of the capitalist system that keeps us in a misery that is constantly getting worse.

We have stopped relying on the hypocritical people in power for quite some time, but Trudeau and Legault are working hard to break records. Our governments continue to lash out at the unvaccinated in order to avoid blaming all the paternalistic governments of the last few decades for the unbearable working conditions in education and health care (disproportionately afffecting women). As usual, there is always a lack of money for schools and hospitals, but never for cops and prisons for migrants. On top of that, our governments wash their hands of the violence they inflict by attacking “wokes”, saying that “Quebecers, we’re not that bad.” Among other things, Legault is puting forward transphobic, interphobic (PL-2), and xenophobic (PL-21) bils in addition to refusing to apply Joyce’s Principle and to consider the housing crisis as such. As ecological catastrophe continues to plague the globe, our governments give us shit worlds of unsustainable electric cars that keep people in bondage and contribute to urban sprawl. They send an RCMP military squad to destroy an Indigenous camp so they can build another state and bank funded fucking pipeline ostie, and this at the very time the province is dealing with major flooding.

We have to face the fact that the situation is devastating; however, the world is starting to wake up and more and more people are standing together, standing in solidarity with other communities and building bridges that didn’t exist before. There is more and more talk of environmental racism, for example of the illegal landfill in Kanesatake that endangers the health of people and land. Banners are appearing in occupied Palestine in solidarity with the defenders of the Wet’suwet’en territory. Our movements to abolish capitalism and all systems of oppression continue to grow in strength. We are on the right track.

We no longer have a choice but to refuse this work-based system of death whose primary interest is the enrichment of the bourgeoisie at the cost of our physical and mental health and the infinitely complex millennia-old ecosystems on which we depend.

On May 1st, let us express our rage against capitalism. Let’s stand up against these oppressions, against the destruction, and build a radically different future. Let’s take to the streets, together.

Time and place TBA.

An Anarchist Rejection of the Covid Culture War

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Feb 142022
 

From IGD Worldwide

At the beginning of the pandemic the state claimed masks were futile, but this was due to shortage and the government’s refusal to regulate the free market to ease the pain of the pandemic. Once companies managed to catch up with demand, the narrative changed. Many people likely died unnecessarily as a result of this.

Wearing masks can help save lives, but it is not a political statement in and of itself as some seem to think. Wearing your mask is not meaningfully countering the death-cult voices on the openly right-wing side of this culture war, it is simply common decency. On a larger level, it serves the state’s agenda to be louder about wearing masks than about the failing medical infrastructure around the world, or how the global medical establishment only serves the rich. I cringe when I see a liberal wearing a mask as if it is a symbolic virtue signal for BLM and organic farming. Supporting masks, encouraging vaccines, and not wanting vulnerable demographics of people to die is something we may have in common with someone on the liberal side of this culture war– a culture war that has been fabricated by state media and the worst of the internet– but it does not mean we can align ourselves with the liberals.

As Omicron predictably swept the earth in light of a vaccine rollout hobbled by the interests of capitalists, the pandemic that has plagued our lives is showing signs that it may be here to stay. Denmark has already acknowledged this: taking into account its privileged vaccine status, the country has already dropped all covid restrictions. Hong Kong, a country with some of the toughest restrictions in the world, is struggling with the futility of their own covid mandates in light of Omicron and may wave the white flag soon. Still many are dying across the world, as many also die from cancer, heart disease, famine, and war– although capitalism seems to consider these the cost of doing business. So much has happened since March 2020 when this boring apocalypse began.

I am not excited to be writing another piece on covid, but it is a truly unprecedented event. Even beyond the scale of death it has caused, its ripple effects and political implications are essential to discuss, no matter if we’re all tired of it. The pandemic continues to dominate our lives despite a looming and ongoing climate catastrophe, a global refugee crisis, the hyper-resurgence of fascism, and an increasingly stratified world. The world will never be the same. As anarchists, however, we must also evaluate our own behavior to grow and strengthen our communities of resistance in light of the world to come.

You can read my last article regarding the anti-vax and anti-lockdown right-wing movements that seized on the fear of those overwhelmed by this unprecedented event. I do not subscribe to this rubbish thinking. I am vaccinated; the first time to help others, the second time to be able to travel and enter a damn bar. I find the narrative of much of the anti-vax and anti-lockdown movements to still be dominated by double standards, inconsistencies, and the heinous influences of right-wing and anti-Semitic opportunism, but governments pretending the pandemic is the fault of the unvaccinated doesn’t work on me, because I know who is to blame. Omicron is a direct result of vaccine companies blocking patent sharing and the capitalistic practices of the “first world.”

I am uninterested in playing into the games of the governments of the world, governments that have proven they exist solely to preserve the comforts of the wealthy and maintain the existing social order of misery for most of us. Covid has made this even more obvious. After the arguments of state-defenders that murders and rapists are inherent to humanity (rather than a result of poverty and a patriarchal society), plagues and unprecedented global events are probably the next things to be used to defend and rationalize the horrors of government. Covid has shown, however, that the government really serves no purpose apart from its own interests, and will cravenly blame those it rules over if it can not manage what it supposedly exists to manage.

I am pro-vaccine the same way I am pro-chemotherapy. Both are a method of dealing with a horrible thing produced by the same horrible society responsible for the problem’s creation. I am cautious and concerned about who I come in contact with because I realize that the excluded and exploited are more likely to be affected by this pandemic, but I also believe many are suffering through this pandemic beyond the medical element of covid itself. If you don’t see this, you probably have a comfortable job or secure existence, because for myself at least, I wonder if the stress from this plague is going to kill me before the plague does.

I encourage people to be vaccinated as well as take precautions to ‘stop the spread’; but the implications of mandatory vaccinations concern me. I am concerned consistently with every opportunity the state may see in the fear caused by the pandemic or generally confusing times; this new precedent of mandatory vaccination worries me as does every crazy-ass thing governments do when people are afraid. It is ok to say this because it is an anarchist position.

Being an anarchist means rejecting the theater of politics. I am part of a movement that in its most sincere form cannot be trapped by the culture wars fabricated to divide us, because such wars are fought on faith that the systems in play will determine who wins. I can never welcome the decisions of the state without questioning them. However, some of us, whether through fear of a never-before-experienced pandemic, or more sadly, the fear of judgment by the liberal establishment, have made these kinds of compromises in position and rhetoric.

In my last article I mostly attacked the right’s use of the pandemic to distract from broader issues such as the hyper-profiteering of the rich during the pandemic, state opportunism in repression and authoritarianism made possible during the pandemic, and rampant inconsistencies exposed by the pandemic when it comes to government regulation. At the same time, as we have learned from governments around the world, lockdowns cannot be a cut-and-dry debate, and the authoritarian opportunism the pandemic has allowed governments around the world is something we should have seen and challenged in the process of breaking away from right-wing counter-revolutionary analysis. We cannot fear the judgment of the liberal and left-wing establishments around the world that have blindly accepted government decisions and who attempt to smear anyone who challenges the government’s decisions as being in league with white supremacists and Christian fundamentalists.

We are anarchists, not a political party looking to appease those whose analysis and ideas only exist within the framework of the existing power structures. We are anarchists meaning we are anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-so on, and so on, because our defining characteristic is being opposed to all facets of domination and exploitation.


Blind support of lockdowns is inherently classist, and not consistent with an anti-authoritarian position. I don’t like to use the term classist, because the mainstream use of this word tends to focus on incidents of class bigotry rather than class society as a whole, and is directed towards achieving “class peace,” rather than pushing for the elimination of class society. With that said, and in order to confront a specific tendency, realizing it or not, there were some fairly offensive classist approaches and tendencies coming from those fetishizing the state’s pandemic procedures.

Take for example people staying at home and posting TikTok videos of fusion meals (prepared magically), pompously letting everyone know they were staying in to help others without acknowledging that this is only possible on the backs of cooks, delivery workers etc. unable to do the same. It’s almost in line with the disrespect shown to workers by the bosses and fascists who wish to challenge the existence of the pandemic sheerly to preserve their sacred free market.

It assumes that others can get through even a week of not working without financial aid, while millions of migrant workers across the world, documented and undocumented, have not been eligible for the emergency pandemic financial resolutions or stimulus packages made by nation-stations and banks.

It ignores the labor and suffering that is necessary for such a meal to be made during these times– the “heroic essential worker” praise at the beginning of the pandemic was temporary and conditional. It reflects the worst of the liberal establishment, both in the USA and copy-cat centrist movements around the world.

Even the liberal establishment’s distasteful promotion of the vaccine as a moral choice, despite the majority of the world still waiting for any access to it, continues this classism. From early on, Americans and eventually Europeans were flaunting their vaccine status as the rest of the world was beseeching the WTO to make generic versions because they couldn’t afford Big Pharma’s price tag. You saw many declaring that the pandemic will soon be over because “we did it,” despite “we” not including much of humanity!

Now, as the western world begins to acknowledge that its approach to the crisis failed, recognition of the possibilities of “a permanent pandemic” only takes into account the conditions faced in the West, not the increases in deaths and looming variants that will continue to spread in the so-called third world, most of which is still waiting on the first world to share patents or non-expired vaccine surpluses.

The inconsistencies and mismanagement of the pandemic shine a light on the inherent flaws of the state. Unfortunately, giving too much consideration to the coercive talking points of the liberal establishment prevents us from countering the fascists who have dominated the narrative around covid. That is why we must find a balance, never allowing ourselves to place faith in the mandates of the state or expect the state to share the interests of anarchists with regards to managing the pandemic.

Drawing lines takes courage, especially on sensitive subjects, but as anarchists we are familiar with controversial approaches. Many who claimed to be interested in saving lives in the USA are now silent as Biden sends people back to work, obeying the demands of the bosses and capitalism. It’s a decision followed by countries around the world due to the pressures covid mandates have put on air travel, the transfer of goods, etc. Saving lives will always come second to saving capitalism on both the left and right side of the power games, no matter if one side minces their words or is willing to budge a bit.


Many who couldn’t “hunker down” and had their livelihoods sacrificed by state mandates are now turning to the right. As I write, truckers are blocking borders and cities in Canada and the USA over vaccine mandates. Blocked borders and occupied cities are typically something I would be excited about, but police and state forces haven’t obliterated these truckers the way they have indigenous land blockades and occupations against pipelines in Canada. The trucker protest crowds are generally of the included, not the excluded. They don’t challenge the broader system of capitalism, and are a generally confusing phenomenon for the status quo since they resemble its base. The convoys in Canada and the USA are quite troubling in light of the political associations and motivations of their founders. Solidarity blockades are also catching on in France, New Zealand, and more countries around the world. We are in conflict with the broader conspiracy theories and fascistic narratives that have helped to form these blockades, but we must counter them on our terms without resembling the voices of the liberal establishment. An excerpt from a recent on-the-ground review of the convoy in Ottawa and some of the liberal counter-protesters complaining against it helps paint a real-life example of why we need to challenge ourselves to counter these fascist events from an anarchist position that has no consideration for liberal approaches:

In the afternoon we check out a counter-demonstration organized primarily, it seems, by residents of downtown Ottawa who are sick of the noise, traffic, and acts of hateful speech, harassment and bullying on the part of some of the protestors. Countering the trucker protest before it becomes a full-blown neo-fascist revolutionary movement is so, so important but I honestly felt zero affinity with this counter-protest in particular. Most of the signs were either calling for more police, complaining about inconveniences like sound and traffic, or making fun of the demonstrators for being unvaccinated and/or stupid. “Honk if you failed civics,” “Self-driving trucks can’t spread covid,” “Ottawa police act now,” “Make Ottawa boring again.” A lady with a wordy sign about how vaccine mandates save lives mistakes me for a member of convoy protest and chastises me for apparently being illiterate, “Did it take you a few minutes to read that one, honey?” I have a graduate degree and no business being this personally offended but I feel a surge of rage at downtown liberal elites who think the problem is that these people just didn’t go to school long enough. We leave before it’s over, just as some of the protestors are engaged in a verbal standoff – antis chanting “Go home dipshits” while convoy protestors chant back “We still love you! Love! Love!” and the police form a stronger line between the two crowds.

-Critical Notes From On the Ground in Ottawa (Regarding the so-called “Freedom Convoy in Canada”).

The emphasis on appropriate and educated semantics and aesthetics that has invaded anarchist movements for years tends to come out of privileged university circles where issues are discussed instead of systems. As a result, we are discovering people on the fringes of our movements who feel connected not by experience and discontent but rather by a shallow connection of superficial identity. While fascists of all backgrounds deserve not a millimeter of space, we should admit allowing liberal mindsets “within” anarchy is a potential reason so many continue to get recruited by the right without even knowing it. Out of fear of resembling the right, we are allowing ourselves to be censored by the liberal establishment.

There are increasing riots worldwide related to lockdown restrictions. In the Netherlands for example, (https://itsgoingdown.org/reflections-and-report-on-the-nov-19-riots-in-rotterdam-nl/) on two occasions since the pandemic began there was some of the most intense rioting the Netherlands has seen in its modern history, mostly by unemployed and marginalized youth struggling in the most unequal country in the European Union. Many liberals, leftists, and even some anarchists dismissed these riots solely due to the ugly spark that may have helped trigger them.

On the days these riots happened, there were disgusting protests. The worst of the worst coming together: new agers, religious fundamentalists, right-wing politicians and neo-nazi/fascists protesting peacefully in their grossly white parades against the vaccines and lockdown mandates. Maybe some of the hooligans stuck around for the riots that followed, but those attending the pre-riot protests events are generally of the included, white, and privileged in the Netherlands, and could be seen denouncing the “hooligans” and “thugs” who came out when the sun set.

Lockdowns were the last straw for huge demographics of youth in the Netherlands who face constant racist violence by police and a second-class livelihood. Many pissed off, unemployed, and disenfranchised youth saw these events as an opportunity to manifest their rage. However, the liberal bourgeoisie and academic folks who dismissed these riots grouped fascists and politicians with unemployed youth of a variety of ethnic and racial backgrounds simply because of the timing. How could some of us succumb to such a superficial and elitist approach to understanding a manifestations of social war that should be of interest to anarchists? It is a blurry time for humanity, myself included, but we have got to keep our analysis honed.

Anarchists consider looting the destruction of the sacred commodity, as well as reflecting poverty the looter faces. End of story, this is an anarchist response. However, those who tend to dismiss from the ivory towers of the academic and privileged world may not have the intellect or sincere desire for revolt to even appreciate such a thing. One may not manifest rage in the precisely opportune time or among the prettiest of circumstances, but it is our responsibility as anarchists to see these moments where such ruptures and tensions manifest and, regardless of the judgments of the liberal establishment, demonstrate our solidarity and support.

As anarchists we have to continue to assert our position unconditionally, heightening our voices and communicating our position clearly in order to make it clear to both sides of this culture war that we are not falling for the distractions. We want social war towards liberation.

We have learned a lot since March 2020. Just because we militantly reject the right’s death cult doesn’t mean as anarchists we should give in to the moderate right, centrist, or leftist establishments either. Whether civil wars in history, or Black Lives Matter, Occupy, the anti-globalization movement, or the pandemic of today, we hope the anarchist movement will always remember that “On the one hand there is the path that leads to the institutions, on the other, the way to the streets. These paths cannot co-exist.”

Suggested Reading:

RBC Fucks Around, RBC Finds Out

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Nov 012021
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

RBC finances the Coastal GasLink pipeline. On the night of Tuesday October 26, anarchists in Montreal coordinated some actions in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders. We smashed the windows at 5 RBC branches across the city, and used a fire-extinguisher filled with paint to vandalize the facade of another.

In the lead up to the Olympics on stolen Native land in 2010, rebels across so-called Canada attacked the sponsor RBC. Over a decade later, it is time to recreate this inspiring wave.

If RBC wants to fuck around, RBC is going to find out. The institutions, companies, and individuals responsible for ecocidal industry have names and addresses. RBC branches, ATMs, CEOs and board members are no exception.

It’s easy: a well-masked crew or individual emerges from an alley, takes a look around to make sure that the coast is clear, then dedicates under 30 seconds to throwing rocks through the windows before disappearing.

For more tips, read “A Recipe For Nocturnal Direct Actions”, “How to Fill Fire Extinguishers With Paint” and “How To Safely Post Communiques” at mtlcounterinfo.org/how-to

The Tails operating system was used to make this video, and to submit it.

R.I.P. Matt Cicero

This text of his is timely: 6 Reasons I Support Arson (As a Tool for Social Justice)

Call for an Anticapitalist Contingent at the Global Climate Strike March of September 24th

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Sep 212021
 

From CLAC

Another big protest for climate, what’s the point?

Of course it’ll be nice to have as many people as there was in 2019, but in the end, even Greta couldn’t make our governments change their policies. Well, ok, it falls a few days after the federal election, and we can hope that it can put some pressure on the newly elected officials… But we know it won’t: whoever is in power after the elections, nothing significant will be done, nothing significant has ever been done for climate in so-called Canada. Since the beginning of colonization, the State steals, exploits and destroys the land on which we live and which, ironically, ensure our survival. It is however important to note that many political parties have clearly played their card: these political parties will continue to invest in pipelines and other ecocidal projects, until death do us part. And these parties, who are happily walking toward our collective deaths, should obtain most, even almost all of our votes. In Québec, as the writing of this call, more than 80% of the votes are going to political parties with an horrific ecological policy history.

We can complain about the useless bickering going on at the parliament, but we can see that the problem goes beyond that. Most of the population does not want to change, and want to perpetuate their unsustainable lifestyle as long as possible.

And why should we blame them? Capitalism keeps selling this lifestyle, through shitty publicity pushing us to buy useless crap, through repetitive movies glorifying the rich and powerful, through a mercantilist education system which sells diplomas based on an expected salary… And the State follows suit, promising young families the possibility to buy a house. We are however very aware that the young generation will never be able to buy a house! And frankly, everyone getting a house would be a urban sprawl nightmare and a perpetuation of a toxic car culture…

But this is the lifestyle that the system hammers constantly into our daily lives, the so-called “american dream” they try to push down our throats. But this lifestyle sold by the Capital spells death for Earth, and therefore death for us all. And so, if the Capital wants to keep bugging us with this unsustainable lifestyle, well too bad, we will go without the Capital!

And so what if we are but a tiny minority who still worries about its future. So what if most of the world still dreams of big fucking cars, big fucking houses, and big fucking all-paid vacations in the south. We won’t stay on our asses while the world burns! We won’t stay arms crossed while capitalism sells the last few remnants of the world!

THE CAPITAL DESTROY THE EARTH? DESTROY CAPITAL!

We’ll see you in the anticapitalist contingent!

Friday, September 24th, 1PM, in front of the George-Étienne-Cartie statue

Poster

Health on a Human Scale: A Vaccinated Anarchist Against Vaccine Passports

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Aug 202021
 

Anonymous submission to North Shore Counter-info

Quebec is instituting a system of vaccine passports in the coming days, and Ontario is likely to follow suit. The passport is a document confirming your identity and your vaccination status that will have to be shown in order to access many spaces. Not a day goes by here without a barrage of open letters and social media posts asking to be required to show a passport to move around the city, for every worker to be given a policing function.

I got fully vaccinated as soon as it was available to me, and so did all my close people. However, I think the vaccine passport is despicable and that those who are advocating for it are making a serious mistake.

My crew’s choice to get vaccinated was just one product of ongoing discussions about how to relate to collective health during the pandemic. We did not obey the lockdowns or the rules about gatherings – we established our own guidelines based on our own ethical, political and practical considerations. We asked a different question. Sometimes this resulted in us being more cautious than the law allowed, sometimes it resulted in breaking the rules. We were far from alone in this, and I know my circle benefited from other people’s discussions.

The pandemic has been unique in our lifetimes, but its ethical challenges are not: controlling the behaviour of others is a pretty central element of democratic politics. The government looks at us as a mass of people to be managed towards various goals, notably profit and social peace. They look at the world from above, through a lens of domination and control – this is as much the case for the pandemic as for climate change and poverty. Different politicians and parties will have different priorities, and our agency is reduced to advocating for how we want to be managed – or how we want those other people to be managed.

We come to internalize the logic of domination and put the needs of order and the economy above our own. We start to view the world from above too, far from our own experiences, desires, ideas, values, and relationships. “The social war is this: a struggle against the structures of power that colonize us and train us to view the world from the perspective of the needs of power itself, through the metaphysical lens of domination.”

In the context of the pandemic, to view the world from above means understanding the situation through corporate media (whether social or traditional), through colour-coded maps, through the designation of hot zones, through policy debates, through rules laid out by experts (I want their knowledge, not their authority). It means to think about our own decisions in terms of what everyone should do, to act ourselves the way we think everyone should act. Our own priorities vanish, and the agency of others is perceived as a threat.

As a state-led covid measure, the vaccine passport is like the curfews and the stay at home orders, the expanded fines and the coercive powers given to bylaw. It is a public order measure. All these restrictions are meant to prevent the kinds of conversations that had people in the streets in recent months to carry out encampment defense, tear down statues, and honour residential school victims.

I want to oppose domination, but also its false critics. Some anarchists have thought they developed a critique of authoritarian responses to the pandemic, but they only succeed in being reactionaries. They are still seeing the world from above, where the only conceivable collective action is that of the state. They fall back on the discourse of individual rights, but there is nothing anarchist about a freedom carved into bite-sized pieces and spoon-fed back to us. Their analysis becomes totally unprincipled when they start defending the rights of religious conservatives to continue holding their services. They are involved in the anti-masking movement, which is not about individual ethical choice, but rather covid denialism,. They end up in bed with those who see any common good as an attack on their privilege.

To me, freedom also means responsibility. It is an individual imperative to make your own choices, but also to understand yourself as embedded in a web of relationships. It is about voluntary association, but also understanding that we are also embedded in webs of relationships with all people (not to mention all living things, the land and water). We have responsibilities to those webs as well. When our choices in the pandemic start from ourselves and builds outwards, to our chosen people and onward to the societies we exist in, we are no longer seeing the world from above, but on a human scale.

This is called autonomy, and it is itself a threat to the powerful. It means organizing our lives on a radically different basis, one that comes into conflict with the attempts of the powerful to maintain order and obedience.

A vaccine passport system is a way of cracking down on autonomy. I don’t give a shit about going to a restaurant or a concert, and my crew is continuing to avoid indoor crowds even though the state says we don’t have to. Let’s organize ourselves to avoid the repression and continue to act on our own priorities. See you in the streets.

Crypto-eugenics, biopower and “Freedom Day”: Another response from some anarchists in Wales and England

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Aug 092021
 
Leaked photograph of Downing Street whiteboard sketch from beginning of the pandemic, reading “who do we not save?”.

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

This piece is a belated response to “You Can’t be Anti-State & Pro-Lock-down”, which is itself a response to our “Anarchy, Lockdown and Crypto-Eugenics” (a critique in turn of “On the Anarchist Reponse to the Global Pandemic”).

The state has blood on its hands. Anarchists know this. Police killings are normalised – it takes riots to be noticed. Mass death beyond fortress Europe is all too usual, even as it intensifies. But it is unusual for the West to dispose of its own citizenry on such a large scale, and to do so with such a steady manner. In the UK, the pandemics’ mass of dead bodies is the greatest since the second world war.[1] And yet, at this very moment, we hear comrades slip into apologetics. They excuse the state and its economy of death. They wash the blood from its hands and blame “nature” in its place. Yes, we attack the curfews, the policing, the evolving surveillance and disciplinary techniques. We wouldn’t expect anything less. But some anarchists enter new topics; in the same breath, they shout for the freedom of business, of pubs and retail, the return to schools, the reopening of Churches. Their rallying cry: “Anti-lockdown”! The existential threat faced by the disabled and the elderly is simply an inconvenient footnote to liberal rights.

In our critique, “Anarchy, Lockdown and Crypto-Eugenics”, we didn’t begin with abstract notions of “consent”, but from this reality of an existential threat. From there we located targets for attack and provided some speculative points of unity. We welcome the space given to our piece and the wider discussion. We agree with our recent critic that such discussions often “devolve into name-calling”; indeed, we found it amusing to be compared with Italian futurists, Soviet and Trumpian propaganda and (unexpectedly!) the Spanish Inquisition. (On top of all this they described us as British!) We won’t bother refuting these labels in this piece, but will focus on their other claims; (1) that our critique, particularly our use of crypto-eugenics, was in “bad faith”, (2) that we refuse to critique the pharmaceutical industry and (3) that we are “pro-lockdown”.

A very short genealogy of “crypto-eugenics”

In our original piece we located eugenics (and its father, Malthusianism) as a logic of capitalism and the state. The notions of degenerate bodies in need of improvement, efficiency and elimination, and of surplus, disposable bodies, burdensome and unnatural, have a long and deadly history – one which is intimately tied with the modern state and colonialism in particular. As our critic notes, eugenics is the most statist of the concepts – but this does not necessarily make it obvious. The term “crypto-eugenics” was first used in a 1957 memorandum of Dr. C. P. Blacker, Honorary Secretary of the (British) Eugenics Society, to describe a policy of “pursuing eugenic ends by less obvious means” – the obvious being unfashionable in light of Nazism’s recent horrors. (Policy (b) was “to campaign for the control of immigration, and for a reduction in the total population of Great Britain”).[2] Confusingly, the term has more recently been appropriated by anti-Semitic conspiracists (claiming a worldwide Jewish plot of secret eugenics) and the Christian evangelical right (who see a grand eugenic plan in reproductive rights and gay parenthood). Decolonial and disabled critics on the other hand have long pointed to the continuity between classical eugenics and post-war state policies, particularly with regards healthcare, welfare and immigration. We used the term in our piece in a double sense: to refer to an ideology, either covert (as in Blacker’s proposal) or unconscious and “accidental”, and to a eugenics which is increasingly technological, encrypted in a proprietary care algorithm.[3] We then used it in a third sense, proposing that “capitalism itself could accurately be described as an algorithm of crypto-eugenics”.

Our discussion of crypto-eugenics certainly proved to be provocative, but we assure our critics that it was done in good faith. We do not believe our friends are secretly engaged in an eugenic plot, but we do argue that eugenics is a creeping logic, a logic which has crept to certain corners of anarchist thought. Our words were chosen with careful forethought. Claiming that Covid isn’t a risk, because it is only deadly for specific minorities, is crypto-eugenics. Claiming these deaths are simply “natural”, that death from Covid is nature’s plan for certain bodies, is crypto-eugenics. Masking the risk for specific minorities with statistical averages (the “normal” body) is crypto-eugenics. Perhaps tellingly, our friend did not engage with this part of our critique. Instead, they simply quote further statistical averages (from an article which in fact emphasises our very point – that Covid-19’s lethality is highly differentiated across population groups).[4] They limit any notion of “eugenics” to reproduction in its narrowest sense (procreation) and claim that we are not only in bad faith, but off-topic! We would point out that it’s difficult to procreate once dead, and that eugenics concerns not only procreation, but the altered reproduction of populations as a whole and the non-reproduction of specific minorities. They protest that we make an accusation which is impossible to refute: that our accusation of crypto-eugenics is an unfalsifiable claim in the style of “the Spanish Inquisition”. We counter that our claim is clear. Rather than engage with it or refute it they have chosen simply to repeat their friend’s initial argument.

Beyond “big pharma”: biopower

According to our critic, our analysis of eugenics is simply a distraction, a smokescreen to avoid critiquing the pharmaceutical industry. We would argue that it is only through an analysis of eugenics that we can properly critique the pharmaceutical industry. Rather than limit ourselves to “big pharma”, we argued in our last piece that the entire field of public health is based on eugenic logics. The problem isn’t just drugs – but healthcare in general, as a process of ranking, disciplining, saving and disposing of bodies. Our friends’ problem is really that our critiques are not quite the same.

Medicine under capitalism is of course based on exploitation and domination, rather than free desire. The animal liberation movement has done much to critique and attack the specific violence of the technical-production of medicines. And we agree with our friends, that capitalism in turn complicates questions of dependence in relation to medicines as commodities. In the context of Covid-19 this is clear – in the name of the economy it spreads everywhere, and now (unless we are to celebrate mass death) we are dependent on vaccines. Vaccines are powerful – not because Bill Gates will control your mind, but because they can prevent death in a world of death. The urgent question now is not their composition, but their availability: their artificial scarcity. Vaccine capitalists have reaped super-profits through monopolisation, patents (including process patents) and subsidies, on an incredible scale even for pharma corporations. These patents are written in the blood of postcolonial populations. Just as death was displaced on to racialised and migrant bodies within the UK, intensified death-worlds are being created in the “Global South”. We saw world leaders discussing these intensities in the G7 spectacle – how many vaccines to distribute, whether “too much” contagion and death might or might not undermine global racial capitalism. Many anarchists pay lip-service to Foucault’s notion of biopower, but few remember that this is the power to “make live and let die”. The biopolitical state is indeed “letting the bodies pile high”.[5] Our critic’s original piece described anarchism as a set of liberal rights, as a subject’s freedom from “external” coercion. As a result it fails to understand the full power of the modern state, and ends up apologising for its violence.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Now partially vaccinated, the UK government is once again actively pursuing contagion as state policy, with “only” 60 average daily deaths at the time of writing. The eugenic violence remains, particularly for the 500,000 immuno-compromised, a group for whom Covid-19 is a far higher risk and for whom vaccines are suspected to be ineffective.[6] This group faces peak rates of infection in the wider community, forced to try and survive in the midst of England’s maskless “Freedom Day” celebrations. They face a situation worse than even the Barrington Declaration’s proposals, which at least suggested some support for those forced to isolate to survive. Many hundreds of thousands more will suffer from long Covid, many it would seem from long term organ damage. Meanwhile, the UK, already a mass exporter of the Delta variant, is feared to be a “variant factory”, producing the existing virus and new variants on a mass scale to infect the unvaccinated world.[7]

Anti-Lockdown or Anti-State

For recognising the state’s violence for what it is, we are accused of being “pro-lockdown” and, consequently, statist non-anarchists. In our original piece we discussed how “lockdown” in fact refers to a nebulous set of measures – from curfews and policing to closing retail premises and schools. We argue that anarchists should locate our targets, and not allow ourselves to be reduced to one side in the latest culture war. Let’s take schools for example. Anarchists, since Godwin, have critiqued education. We recognise that schools lie on the same continuum as factories and prisons. Hierarchical institutions, which in turn judge and rank pupils, made to produce docile, disciplined bodies, future productive workers, housewives, bureaucrats and prison guards. Why would anarchists support a return to these schools? Of course, a virtual-classroom computer stuck in the walls of the nuclear family household is just a different problem. An anarchist approach must reject both these worlds. In the strikes against unsafe schools, the pupils who faked infection tests to get a day off (or the students burning the union jack at Pimlico) – it’s here we begin to see the possibilities of anarchy.

The “anti-lockdown” narrative offers us nothing. In the UK the organised anti-lockdown demos have clearly shown their colours. Anti-Semite David Icke has regularly topped the bill of speakers amongst other similar reactionaries. They decry the “Covid conspiracy”, masks and vaccines and celebrate the deaths of the disabled. This is not some diffuse gilets jaunes movement of oppositional tendencies and diverse, separated riots. Unless you hate masks and vaccines and are happy to walk under union jacks with known fascist groupings, you cannot join in good faith.

But these are weird times. Simply for affirming violence to achieve disabled liberation, our critic associates us with Italian Futurists and proto-fascists. (They might remember that anti-fascist anarchists, such as Renzo Novatore, were also part of the Futurist movement.) Our critic is half-right however: we should all heed the cautionary tale of those “anarchists” involved with early Italian fascism. The far-right have had a field day, and with little anti-fascist opposition to the London conspiracy demos the anarchist scene has opened itself to entryism. We have heard concerns of crypto-fascists gaining affinities with anarchists and squatters in London, and others sharing videos with and allowing a far-right youtuber to accompany and film the black block at kill the bill demonstrations.[8][9] Without a critique of eugenic state violence, creeping fascism remains a threat to the anarchist scene.

Away from the anti-lockdown demonstrations we can see real antagonisms against the state. Renewed protests against police murders in South Wales, the kill the bill riot at Bristol police station and even a resurgence in political squats (despite tremendous repression). But with regards the mass of Covid death, anarchists in the UK have been outmaneuvered. There have been mutual aid groups and some syndicalist attempts, but little critique and even less attack. The black flag was at one time a flag of mourning: we call on comrades to remember, and to avenge the dead.

Notes

[1] Total UK civilian deaths in the second world war numbered around 67,000. As of 23rd of July, total deaths within 28 days of a positive test number over 129,000; total deaths with Covid-19 on the death certificate over 153,000. This makes it the highest death toll from a disaster or war since the total casualties of the second world war. https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/deaths The third measure used, excess deaths, numbered over 90,000 for the UK in 2020, again the highest on record since the second world war. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/jan/12/2020-was-deadliest-year-in-a-century-in-england-and-wales-says-ons

[2] Blacker’s Memorandum claimed that “crypto-eugenics … was apparently proving successful with the US Eugenics Society”. In 1960 it was “generally” agreed that “the Society’s activities in crypto-eugenics should be pursued vigorously”. See “The Activities of the Eugenic Society” (1967) in it’s own Eugenics Review: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2906074/pdf/eugenrev00003-0012.pdf . Documents relating to the 1960 Extraordinary General Meeting, which reference Blacker’s 1957 Memorandum, can be found here: https://wellcomecollection.org/works/gew94w8y/items?canvas=1 . The original “rolled-off” Memorandum is detailed as being digitised here, but appears to be missing: https://wellcomecollection.org/works/umfds5vk The point for us as anarchists isn’t to overstate the influence of the Eugenics Society (later renamed The Galton Institute), but to expropriate their terminology.

[3] “Unfortunately it directly stems from the COVID-19 critical care referral algorithm which mentions those with learning disabilities or autism with the under 65-year-olds as being potentially frail and therefore not in line for ITU [Intensive Care Unit] care.” https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/246490/catholic-doctor-calls-for-independent-inquiry-into-dnr-notices-for-covid-19-patients-with-learning-disabilities An algorithm is also mentioned with regards “blanket do-not-resuscitate orders” in the context of care homes here: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/mar/18/blanket-do-not-resuscitate-orders-imposed-on-english-care-homes-finds-cqc

[4] As the article cited by our critic states: “COVID-19 death risk shows tremendous risk stratification with over 1000-fold variability between children and elderly nursing home residents … Divergence may be larger in some low-income countries, for example, India … Within several countries, disadvantaged minorities have a greater toll … UK has almost 5-fold higher COVID-19 death rate in blacks and Bangladeshi/Pakistani than in whites … Regardless, COVID-19 is a disease of inequality and it also creates even more inequality … Substantial increases in death risk (1.5- to 5-fold) are conferred by organ transplantation, severe obesity, uncontrolled diabetes, severe chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, liver failure, kidney failure, haematological malignancy and recent cancer.” Notably, the article’s speculation that “the proportion of people who need to be infected to reach herd immunity [i.e. without vaccination] may be much lower than originally estimated”, with specific reference to estimated seroprevelance in India (!), has since proven catastrophically incorrect. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/eci.13423 The other journal article cited by our critic regarding the effectiveness of lockdowns has been marked controversial by its own publisher.

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premiership_of_Boris_Johnson#%22Let_the_bodies_pile_high_in_their_thousands%22

[6] “With just over a week to go before the so called ‘Freedom Day’ in England, a coalition of 16 health charities are calling on the Government to do more to support around half a million people(1) who are immunocompromised or immunosuppressed, and so may be less protected by the Covid-19 vaccine(2).” https://www.kidneycareuk.org/news-and-campaigns/news/lack-awareness-covid-19-protection-puts-half-million-risk/

[7] “Government advisers expect about 1,000 to 2,000 daily hospital admissions over the summer as restrictions are lifted, and 100-200 deaths a day under what was described a “central scenario”… Minutes published by the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (Sage) also highlighted the threat of a new vaccine-resistant variant emerging in the UK, which they warned would pose a risk to the whole world.” https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jul/12/boris-johnson-urges-covid-caution-amid-warnings-of-1000-hospitalisations-a-day

[8] ResistanceGB is a classic case of calculated fascist entryism. British symbolism is frequent but ideology generally covert. In this video however they can be seen carefully encouraging viewers to get on the “alternative” social network Gab (a neo-Nazi, alt-right and Q Anon fork) and 4chan following Trump’s ban from twitter and Parler’s demise, and complaining about “communists”: https://youtube.com/watch?v=A27zmatEEGY In another live-stream they complain that the filmed “communist” demonstration (one of many following Sarah Everard’s murder by police) is left alone by police. Within moments of the live-stream starting, known fascists can be seen commenting in the chat: https://youtube.com/watch?v=WTSHoUoIbi8 In addition to a Gab account they also maintain a Bitchute channel (far-right youtube alternative).

[9] As others have pointed out, our critic also cites the “anarchist voices” of “Winter Oak, and the Acorn” (in reality one website) as having informed the original piece – a UK blog which has turned to full blown “Great Reset” and anti-mask conspiracies. Winter Oak was already fond of conspiracies, having previously deduced that those who confronted the TERFs at the London Bookfair must be undercover police (!). They have also taken a whole host of other bizarre and damaging positions as detailed here: https://nothingiseverlost.wordpress.com/2018/06/20/in-defence-of-anarchism-and-antifascism-a-reply-to-the-winter-oak/