Posts Tagged ‘ anarchism ’

Fun and Games at Manchester Airport

On the 24th of May, along with 5 other people, I was arrested whilst air-side at Manchester Airport after chaining myself around the wheel of an aeroplane. 10 other activists were arrested that same day for blockading the road into the Airport’s “World Freight Centre”. I’ve been charged with “conspiracy to cause criminal damage”, and am currently on bail until late August. For legal reasons, I can’t discuss the hows of the action, but I can discuss the whys.

The aviation industry is one of the few industries which has expanded under the global recession and is a significant contributor to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. A 2005 conservative study attributed 6.3% of British CO2 emissions to aviation, with more recent studies concluding that 17% of the UK’s “climate change effect” is caused by aviation. With the greenhouse effect, there are lots of altitude-sensitive effects to releasing emissions, which actually increases the negative effect on the environment of emissions from aviation due to those emissions being at a high altitude.

locked on around the wheel of a plane

The government and some less progressive NGO’s encourage us to focus our attention on our individual greenhouse gas emissions, whilst ignoring the ever-expanding environmental impact of industry. Whilst cutting down on our individual carbon emissions is all very well, an individuals personal use of the aviation industry pales into nothingness when compared to that of the World Freight Centre at Manchester Airport which handles 170000 tonnes of freight a year, and the business giants that use such services. Climate change is a huge problem, but it is only a symptom of a greater disease – that of capitalism, the economic system that seeks infinite growth on a planet of finite resources.

Our action was one in a series of actions by the environmental movement targeting airports due for expansion. In 2007, the Camp for Climate Action targeted Heathrow Airport, blockading the headquarters of the British Airport Authority, whilst Plane Stupid activists boarded a barge transporting an Airbus A380 wing. In 2008, 57 Plane Stupid activists occupied a runway at Stanstead Airport, shutting it down and causing 56 RyanAir flights to be cancelled. In 2009, the Climate9 occupied the taxiway and terminal roof at Aberdeen Airport. They wore golfing clothes to highlight the millionaire Donald Trump’s support of  expansion in order to bring more business to his nearby golf course. The group have since launched a public campaign and have been harassed by the police and private detectives. Along with the hard work of local campaigns, these direct actions have been instrumental in stopping airport expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stanstead. Whilst its important that our movement celebrates its success’, we must not rest on our laurels and let airport expansion through the back door at regional airports such as Manchester, East Midlands, or Aberdeen where there is less media interest.

(I'm on the right)

Its not just environmental problems that airport expansion at Manchester would cause. Airport expansionists argue that the plans to make Manchester the “Heathrow of the North” would support the local economy by bringing money into the area and providing more employment in the area. However, in his recent report, the economist and former advisor to the Treasury, Brendon Sewill calculates that Manchester Airport currently represents a total deficit of £2.2 billion to the local area, set to rise on airport expansion. Indeed, the construction of the Terminal 2 in the 1990’s promised to create 50000 jobs, but fell short; creating fewer temporary jobs that in no way helped create the sustainable, meaningful local economy it promised to do.

Our action coincided with the scheduled 5-day BA cabin crew strikes. Willie Walsh and British Airways turned to the courts to ban the action, a threat to everyone’s right to strike, which was later overturned by an appeal on behalf of the BASSA, the cabin crew union. The strikes arose out of a dispute over pay and conditions. BA has in turn harassed more prominent members of BASSA, and removed “travel perks” (considered essential by most workers) from those engaged in previous industrial action. At the time of our action, 5 BASSA branch officials had been fired by BA during the current dispute, and over 50 workers currently face disciplinaries relating to the strike, mostly on ridiculous issues such as participating in discussions on union forums or receiving and forwarding emails from private accounts. It is important to show solidarity with airport workers, especially those involved in the industrial disputes, whist arguing for a just transition to stave off global climate change. The changes needed to prevent climate change should not be used as an excuse to restrict workers rights and extract more profit.

World Frieght Centre blockade

The airport is by the Manchester Airport Group, which Manchester City Council has a 55% stake, and the other 45% is made up by 9 other local authorities. Manchester City Council plan to reduce Manchester’s carbon emissions by 41% by 2020, but refuse to take into account the airports emissions. With the council being complicit in the airports destructive behaviour, it seems that there is little that Mancunians can do within the “legitimate” channels of local democracy. Whilst the residents of Hasty Lane face loosing their homes, and the ancient woodland surrounding the airport facing the chop with the proposed plans of expansion, the council refuses to listen to the residents concerns in any meaningful way. With the councils lack of caring, and the urgency of the need to prevent climate change, concerned citizens have no choice to take direct and illegal actions to protect workers rights and the future of out planet.

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What is Marriage?

Yesterday I gave a speech at York University about the institution of marriage and how it relates to me. Here is the transcript.

In order to examine what marriage is today, its important to see it within its historical and social context. Marriage first became something that fully involved the state when common-law marriage for practical purposes was abolished under the marriage act of 1753. Before then, legal marriage was mainly a practice of the aristocratic and bourgeois classes; its main purpose to secure business relationships between rich families and appropriate property away from women and the working classes.
As the UK moved from mercentilism to industrialism to a neo-liberal, ostensibly capitalist economic system, the way that legal marriage was used in society changed from being something that was used solely to secure business relationships between privileged families and something that was more accessible to some sections of the working classes. This is seen as a sign of liberal progression by some commentators, but I’m not convinced.

Capitalism is an economic system in which the means of production within society is privately owned. The ruling class, who are the owners of the means of production, have the most economic power, and therefore more political power within our society. They seek to extend their economic and political power by exploiting those who don’t own the means of production, the working class, by forcing them to labour in order to produce surplus value, so they can extract profit. The ruling class seeks to ensure their continued domination by using a tactic of “divide and conquer”; encouraging racism, homophobia, disablism and other forms of bigotry to take root in communities, so the working classes are fighting amongst themselves as opposed to combating the root cause of their exploitation – capitalism and the ruling class.

You might be wondering what exactly this has to do with marriage. Well, the institution of marriage and the concept of “family” it supports, has evolved into another tool to divide the working class by splitting communities in to atomised nuclear family units. This isolates individuals from their neighbours, and decreases the shared resources within a community, increasing profits for those in power. The concept of the family is then further used to exploit a right wing agenda – one recent example being the attack on the LGBT community in defence of the “family” by members of the conservative party. Its interesting that most political acts which supposedly support the “family” could arguably be seen as attacks on the community, and the working class as a whole.
The notion of the family and the institution of marriage is part of this process of division alongside forces such as racism and misogyny, and in some ways they both depend upon each other for their very existence – division in one area of public life giving rise to another form of division. From 1753 onwards, the state entered our bedrooms in order to police our relationships; granting legal marriages to those that were deemed fit of privilege. Now the state wishes most people to enter into marriages, giving them minor financial incentives in order to further atomise the working classes t the benefit of those in power. Whilst I have no issue with people living together, or publicly showing commitment to each other, buying into the institution of marriage is essentially supporting and aiding your own oppression by the state and the ruling class. Whilst there might be a some rare cases in which the benefits of marriage outweigh the disadvantages, such as marrying an asylum seeker to save them from a greater oppression, in most cases marriage represents a misinformed backing of the state and capitalism*

On the subject of gay marriage, I’m sure others speaking tonight will talk about issues of assimilation and heteronormativity. It is my question to ask, then, is advocating incremental change in fighting for the ability of queers to marry progressive? If we ifght for so-called equality within a framework controlled by heteronormative elite, how are me liberated?Is it better then, instead of arguing for gay marriage, to argue for the abolition of marriage altogether, to take direct action against the root causes of our oppression and move towards a society in which hierarchy and division no longer exist and power is held by the community and not the ruling elite?

* In case some of you don’t know me personally, I am currently married, going through a divorce. I married my best friend to take advantage of a relatively large pot of money that would become available to us through student loans and various bursaries should we show we are “independent” of our parents. Obviously, at the time I thought that action was justified, and it has, and will continue (even after the divorce goes through) to massively improve my standard of living whilst I’m a student, and will be essential to my affording to do a masters after this current degree. Im obviously still campaigning for free education and grants for all students though!

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I recently joined formspring. Feel free to ask me things, and if your question is interesting enough, Ill write a blog about it: http://www.formspring.me/charliethescarf

LGBT, Q? A queer case against the Q

In recent years, a radical political movement has grown to threaten both mainstream capitalist gay culture and heteronormativity* alike. The queer movement grew out of a militant gay rights movement that had been radicalised by mainstream societies’ lack of compassion during the HIV/Aids outbreak in the 80’s.

Social and political theorists started to draw on the movements confrontational anarchist tactics and propaganda to produce academic works highly influenced by third wave feminism, social constructionism and the radical left. They argued that gender and sexuality based oppression should be seen within a context of global capitalism, class, and other power structures such as race and disAbility.

The concept of ‘identity’ was critiqued, and the way that people are coerced into adopting identities based upon seemingly arbitrary factors such as sexual behaviour so they can be easily categorised into and recognised as being either ‘normative’ or ‘deviant’ exposed, the ability to justify oppression against those who happen to fall outside of the normative category challenged. As such, “Queer” is not an identity, but an anti-identity, more of a political ideology than something a person can ‘define into’.

In more recent years, the term ‘queer’ has been adopted by people who feel they aren’t straight/cisgendered, but don’t necessarily fit into the narrowly defined roles of L, G, B and T. This new ‘queer’ is effectively a grouping of lesser known identities such as pansexual and agendered which don’t receive as much attention as other identities.

What this represents is a de-politicisation of the word ‘queer’ and the appropriation of the term as an identity (or even as a group of identities) rather than as an explicitly political ideology, something which is often encouraged by some of the more assimilationist members of the LGBT community who may feel that their identity (or perhaps their reactionary politics) are challenged by the Queer movement.

This is further compounded by the current popularity of the term ‘LGBTQ’, used to group Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer together. By placing ‘queer’ in a list of identities, it essentially reduces it to become one.

“The term ‘queer’ is deliberately provocative and confrontational, in abbreviating it to ‘Q’, this is quality is lost”

Queer theorists have long discussed the importance of language and linguistics in the way that we refer to queer issues, an area of study called ‘lavender linguistics’. Indeed, the term “Queer” itself is deliberately provocative and confrontational; reflecting the radical nature of anarchist queer activism and theorist’s preoccupation with deviancy and normality. In abbreviating ‘queer’ to ‘Q’, this implication is lost, and ‘Q’ could easily be mistaken as meaning ‘questioning’, another term often used by LGBT(Q) youth groups and organisations.

It is important that we see the de-politicisation of Queer in a context of capitalism and the way it seeks to appropriate radical movements and sell them back to us; turning campaigners into consumers and activists into beaurocrats. As queer activists and theorists, we should resist those who wish to engage in this process, those who use queer rhetoric to gain our support but use their platform to push assimilationist ideas. Lets keep queer political, and our movement radical.

*heteronormativity – the assumption that being straight/cisgendered is normal/good and everything else is weird/bad.

Cisgendered – not trans

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What is Anarchism?

Usually when people find out that I’m an anarchist, most people either have no clue as to what it means, or assume that anarchism is somehow synonymous with chaos, with violence or gangs. So, whilst I have the time (ie. am procrastinating from doing more important things) I thought I would write a post about what anarchism means to me.

The word anarchy comes from the Greek prefix “an”, meaning ‘without’ or ‘in the absence of’ and “archos” meaning ‘ruler’ or ‘authority’. It is a common misconception that ‘anarchy’ purely means ‘without government’ – that could mean anything – but it more appropriately seen as ‘without hierarchy’ of any kind. Anarchism is not a lack of order but a lack of rule.


“Anarchism is a movement for human freedom. It is concrete, democratic, egalitarian… it is a direct challenge by the underprivileged to their oppression and exploitation” – Stuart Christie

What anarchists seek to do is abolish all forms of oppression, all forms of hierarchical control. As Susan Brown put it – “Anarchists oppose the idea that power and domination are necessary for society, and instead advocate a more co-operative, anti-hierarchical forms of social, political and economic organisation”. This manifests itself in not only a resistance to the state, capital and religious authority, but actively creating an alternative, whether that is in a housing co-operative, a social centre, a community gardening project, or something bigger.

Essentially, what we are after is a world where politicians, governments and state officials are superfluous… Where people organise with mutual respect and in non-coercive relations… Where people live in naturally defined communities and share the means of production and distribution equally. We are idealists, but not dreamers, we know that the perfect society cannot be won tomorrow, but that progress towards a more meaningful society is borne from the will to resist any and all injustice, and a desire to create something better.

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