RADICAL WORKERS’ BLOC AT TOLPUDDLE 2019

Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival and rally 2019 Friday, 19th to Sunday, 21st July 2019. View map No stall this year, apparently they were “oversubscribed”. Nah we don’t either, more time to get drunk then.

On the plus side the IWW are back, with a new improved stall run by Dorset branch.

Wob kitchen will run from Friday evening to Sunday lunch, next to the Big Tent; you’ll hardly notice the difference. Wessex Solidarity will make some of our literature catalogue available on the day. We’ve lots of new stuff that isn’t in the reference library as we’re running out of storage space – it hasn’t been updated for years. Why not get in touch now if there’s a subject you’re particularly interested in.

Catering Cadre: Comrade Les, our Wob kitchen chef is offering free training on outside and event catering for Radical Workers and groups who want to feed their members, homeless or unemployed workers in a safe and cost-effective way. Topics including:

  • Basic Health safety and hygiene.
  • Basic budget and Menu planning.
  • Basic dietary requirements.
  • Basic safe use of LPG and Butane gas cookers.

Let us know if you’re interested or come and see us about it at the festival.

Safe Space Policy: “don’t be a dick”.

This year we ask Radical Workers to be especially kind to members of the Prison Officers Association, as they are ever so sensitive, and easily upset by loud noises and rude words.

Bloody hell it was hot! Tolpuddle R.W.B. 2018

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International May Day roundup

Anarchist Communist Group

In France there were many large demonstrations in cities and towns, In Paris, there was a march of some 2,000 anarchists on the morning of May 1st. This was followed by the main march with a turnout from the usual unions and left parties, but with also the turnout of both feminists and Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vests) who are increasingly radicalising. This was met with a massive police presence, who attacked demonstrators with batons and gas.

 Two thousand demonstrated in the centre of Rennes. Several thousands demonstrated at Toulouse, where again demonstrators were attacked with many tear gas grenades by police. There were two thousand demonstrators at Orleans, and between nine to eleven thousand demonstrators at Lyon, with a large anarchist bloc. There was a very large anarchist contingent on the demonstration at Dijon, where two thousand turned out for May Day. A few gas canisters fired by the cops. Two thousand at Cherbourg with an anarchist bloc, ten thousand at Bordeaux and a thousand at Aubenas. On all of these demonstrations, there were turnouts from feminists, climate change campaigners and Gilets Jaunes.

In Colombia, there was a large anarchist presence on the May Day demo in Bogota.

In Chile there were brutal attacks by the police on demonstrators.

In El Salvador, there was a large anarchist bloc on the demo in San Salvador.

There was an anarchist presence on the demonstration in Helsinki, Finland.

In Bangladesh the Anarchosyndicalist Federation organised a large event.

In Sweden twenty anarchists protesting against the government’s plans to clamp down on strikes were brutally arrested.

In Turkey, despite the severe repression there, large numbers of anarchists under red and black flags turned out.

In Bandung in Indonesia, police arrested six hundred anarchists, out of an anarchist bloc of one thousand, stripped them to their underwear and shaved their heads. Elsewhere in Indonesia, police tried to block a large anarchist bloc marching to join the main demonstration, leading to clashes.

In Germany in Berlin, police attacked a demonstration of twenty thousand, who chanted “The streets are ours” and “anticapitalism”.

In Italy, police attacked a demonstration against a transalpine high speed train tunnel.

In Greece there was a 24 hour strike of transport workers, including ferry, tram, train and bus workers.

Solidarity with the Social Protests in France: Resistance to Capitalism, Exploitation! and the State!

From the International Workers Association

The IWA would like to show its solidarity with the social protests occuring in France which are yet another example of resistance to the overbearing exploitation that working people around the world are facing.

Below we would like to publish parts of a text sent by the CNT-AIT and an appeal for solidarity.

Call for solidarity with the popular movement in France of the “Yellow Vests”.

For more than 2 months, a social movement of a new type has been shaking France.

Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly working classes (poor or middle-class workers, unemployed, temporary workers, pensioners, …), have been gathering to spontaneously occupy public spaces (and especially the “roundabouts ” ones may find at the entrance of any city or village in France), to express their anger and to seek how to overcome the current political system. These thousands of people have been using the method of struggle which are familiar to anarchosyndicalists: decisions in assemblies, refusal to have leaders or representatives, direct action (that is, action taken directly by the people in struggle, and therefore without political parties, without unions or any other organizations outside of the assembly which would be intermediate between the assembly and the Power / State / Government / Boss). An autonomous movement with diversity of tactics and mobility. (“Auto” means self and “nomous” means norm, so an autonomous movement that defines its own rules for action, outside the regulatory and legal framework.) To identify themselves, people in struggle have adopted the “yellow vest”, a universal symbol that makes everyone equal, and gives visibility to those whom those in Power do not want to see: the poor, those excluded from the economic system by capitalism and globalization. The Bosses and Capitalists are worried about the impact of this movement on the economy. The cost for the French economy is already estimated to be in the billions of euros. In the 2 months of this autonomous agitation, the “Yellow vest” movement has already obtained more social progress than all trade-union representatives and political elections in the last 20 past years.

You’ve probably seen the movies and the pictures of the clashes between the yellow vests and the anti-riot police every week-end since November. These images are certainly spectacular; we can even speak of insurrection in Paris on December 1st or in the city of Toulouse (where our main group in France is located) each weekend. However, we have to look further and avoid the hypnosis of images. In our point of view, what is really important in this movement is not so much these images of battles that are looping over the internet or on the TVs, but rather the fact that thousands of people have got used to meeting regularly in assemblies to decide by themselves, without political party or outside organization, developing their own policies and criticizing Capitalism and the State.

The Power (Capitalism, Class and State) is even more afraid of this momentum of mass awareness of the workers self-capacity for autonomous action, than they are afraid of spectacular violence. As the weeks go by, the revolt, which initially focused solely on a fuel tax issue, has spread and could lead to a complete challenge of the system. To break this movement, the Power tries all the weapons at its disposal: it first tried to say that it was a movement of the far right. In this ridiculous attempt to slander it, The State has been helped by the majority of libertarian or leftist organizations which are so cut-off from the working class that they are incapable of recognizing the class nature of this movement. It is true that – in some cities – racists tried to manipulate the movement at first, but for the moment they have been put in the minority and even sometimes violently expelled from the demonstrations. Then the government tried to calm the spirits by announcing some subsidies for those with the lowest wages. But this measure was so out of step with the social reality that it felt more like humiliation. So the State and Capitalists had to take off their masks and show their true face: that of violence. They remind us that “State has the legitimate monopoly of violence” and that Capitalism operates on a system of domination of the strongest over the weakest. Thus, since the beginning of the movement, several thousand rebels have been arrested and several hundred have been sentenced to very heavy prison sentences, often for the sole crime of having been present in the street to protest. Hundreds of people have been wounded, some have had their hands or feet torn off by explosive grenades, others have their eyes or cheeks pierced by rubber bullets.

CNT-AIT activists have been involved in the movement of yellow vests since the beginning. Initially we came to see and understand what was happening. Quickly it became clear that we were together with people who shared our organisational practice of Assemblies, without representatives, refusing political parties and elections, asking for more social justice. So it seemed natural for us to participate fully but always in the respect of our anarchosyndicalist principles. Our intervention also aims to eject the fascists and other harmful political parasites who seek to use this movement.

In the immediate future, there have been many people arrested and sentenced to prison, who are mostly workers, with or without work, and most often without money and isolated. The duty of anarchosyndicalists is to express solidarity with these prisoners of the social struggle, to demand their release. That is why today we are launching an appeal for solidarity. Any solidarity action, even symbolic, is welcome.

On February 5th, a call to strike was launched by the Yellow Vests. The CNT-AIT calls to join the general strike.

Violence is the State and Capitalism!
Freedom for prisoners of social revolt!
CNT AIT France

Red And Black Telly: U.K. REAL OR PHONEY YELLOW VEST MOVEMENT ?

Common press release from the medic, legal and DIY media team following the demo’ in Bure on the 15 August 2017

[Fr] http://vmc.camp/2017/08/17/a-bure-la-prefecture-continue-sa-strategie-descalade-brutale-au-prix-de-nombreux-ses-blesse-e-s-continuons-le-soutien/

In Bure on the 15 August 2017, around 800 people set off on a demo (numbers like this had never been seen  before for a non-declared demo in Bure). The prefecture deliberately chose a strategy of aggression and asphyxiation that led to a number of injured people.  The police deployed were twice the number deployed for the demo of the 18 February 2017, 15 riot cop vans and a water cannon were counted.

The route of the demo headed towards Saudron and not the “laboratory”, chosen to avoid the fortified red zone and all the blue team.  The objective was to arrive in a big field between the village of Saudron the “Espace Technologique” (an Andra Building) to highlight a very important Neolithic site discovered by archaeologists and ignored by Andra

Meanwhile the prefecture deliberately attempted to provoke people in the middle of Bure, 100m after the start of the demo.  Many riot cop vans were posted at the edge of the village.  Instead of falling into this trap, protesters intelligently decided to avoid confrontation and to go on a 4km detour across fields to get to the field that they wanted to go to.  Just before reaching this field on the edge of Saudronm riot cop vans and the water canon were deployed followed by the firing of tear gas which of course led to clashes in the middle of the village….

The police operation
apart from lots of tear gas and the water cannon being used, police also used  lanceurs de balle de défense (small hard rubber balls fired from a police weapon), fired above the waist (which is not “legally” authorised) injuring people.  They also used the diffrent grenades (stun grenades and flash bang grenades) thrown by hand but also using launchers that fired the grenades tens of metres behind the clashes that were taking place, causing serious injuries.

From a small part of the clashes at the end of the demo the following police weapons were found (at least) 15 stun grenades, 12 small hard rubber balls fired from lanceurs de balle de défense, 4 flash bang grenades.  This gives you an overall idea for the day.

List of injured people
The medic teams counted more than 30 injured people, including a couple with serious injuries and 3 people were hospitalised.  We take a look at one person hospitalised with a serious injury:

  • One person had their foot torn apart after the explosion of a flash bang grenade causing a triple open fracture on the bones of the foot. Surgeons that looked at the victim (after the first aid done by the medic teams) are now talking about the risk of amputating the toes because of the presence of plastic melted from the shoe into the tissue.  A photo is available here but is very gruesome to look at:

While injured people were being evacuated, police targeted people that were helping the injured, causing panic and more injuries.

For the more seriously injured people, the state ambulance/fire crews were called but we could see their difficulties in dealing with these kind of injuries for which they didn’t seem trained to deal with. Should these crews be trained to treat “war” injuries ou should these so called “non lethal arms” that mutilate and kill people stopped being used?

This record of events is very heavy and adds to the previous demo on the 18 February 2017 where 20 people were injured and 2 hospitalised.

Potential repression for the hospitalised people.
Not only did the police injure, mutilate and maybe cause amputations, they even went to hassle the injured in the hospitals, sometimes before they had even been treated to interview them or even confiscate personal items.

  • One person hospitalised in Neufchateau saw the police come into their bedroom to control their ID.
  • In the hospital in Nancy, police interviewed the person with a severe foot injury, in the afternoon of the 16 August.  One and a half hours of tiring interrogation done by the people responsible for a possible amputation.  One out of two questions concerned the other people present at the demo. “I’ll accept the interrogation but I have nothing to say, you’ve ruined my life” the reply of the kind cop “we are here for you, not against you, here to help you”.  90 minutes later the police came back with orders to check the person’s clothes.  “I’m tired, you’re pressuring me and it’s the second time that you’ve come into my bedroom!” Answer “I was kind, I didn’t have to be”

A strategy of repression that is more and more brutal.
It’s far away from the times when Andra and the Prefecture decided not to make a fuss, to avoid showing that people were contesting the project. Since a few months the police strategy has started to be more and more aggressive: daily provocations and intimidation, stopping demos, serious injuries.  Instead of protecting the laboratory and the other infrastructures which was the case in the past, the riot cops received orders to target protesters in the middle of villages, favouring division, injuring, mutilating…just how far will they go?

The objective of this kind of press release is not to fall into a counter propaganda of a victim, a sad summary or warrior overkill.  It is to better record the attacks of police on protests and to offer an account on the continuing repression in Bure.  We’ve taken note of this strategy and in the months and years to come, we’ll look at how to continue in lots of different ways.

Testimony from Robin, with a seriously injured foot.
Robin wrote this testimony on the 16 August, from his hospital bedroom
to share with everybody:

“I am Robin, the person that got a foot injury from one of the number of flash bang grenades that the riot cops fired onto protesters, near Bure on Tuesday 15 August 2017.  I’m in the hospital of Nancy.  My foot is in a terrible state, the grenade dug 3 cm into my foot with a diameter of 13 cm.  Most of the bones are broken.  Some have even disappeared, pulverised.  The shoe exploded, the plastic melted into the wound, so much that an infection is likely which would mean the amputation of 5 toes.  Added to that are 30 pieces of shrapnel in the other leg. The riot cops fired around 15 flash bang grenades, they were not in danger. Just before my foot was hit, I saw a grenade explode at head height. For me the objective of the police force at that time was  clearly to injure or kill, with the goal of terrorising those who fight and those who are not fighting yet.  On the medic team stretcher that I want to underline their courage and efficiency, I heard more grenades exploding. Despite the brutal change in my life that this injury has caused in my life as a father to 2 very young children, I call out more than ever to continue in this struggle, to get active or get back into it for some.

Write to Robin and other injured people: to write and show your support to Robin and other people injured during the demo, don’t hesitate to write to: Maison de résistance à Bure, 2 rue de l’Église, 55290 BURE, France. Correspondence and support messages will be forwarded to them.

Press contact : +337 53 54 07 31

email : sauvonslaforet@riseup.net / for the anti-répression arr@riseup.net

Red And Black telly: ELECTION QUICKIE 5 – THIS ELECTION IS SO BLOODY BORING!

Eighty years ago: Malaga, Jarama and Guadalajara.

The story so far: Madrid has been saved a second time by the Working Class, no thanks to the government which  fled to Valencia. Durruti is dead, his column decimated, the remainder face militarisation and dispersal. Prime minister Largo Caballero has devoted his energies to re-establishing the power of the state in the republican zone, and Stalin’s grip tightens on it. The Russians have arrived, and so have thousands of foreign antifascists. The following lines from ‘The Authority of the Bootmaker’ by Mal Content.

The fall of Malaga to Italy on the 8th of February 1937 gave the dictator his excuse to unseat Caballero. Malaga suffered from the same government prejudice as Catalonia, agriculture on the coastal strip was mostly collectivised and the city had been held by Confederal militia, only three-quarters of whom were armed; they had sixteen artillery pieces in total. The government’s military representative was Communist fellow-traveller Colonel Villalba, whose incompetence on the Huesca front had inflicted significant losses on the Durruti Column. Weeks of fascist build-up in the surrounding countryside had been ignored. Mussolini’s Blackshirts, nine mechanised battalions worth, descended from the hills to the North and West in little turretless tanks and armoured cars. They were accompanied by thousands of African legionnaires and Carlist Requetés, supported by a hundred aircraft, three Spanish cruisers and the German battleship Admiral Graf Spee. The city had to be evacuated; some ten thousand prisoners were executed while four thousand refugees died on the hundred and fifty mile march to Almeria, simultaneously bombarded from land, sea and air. A nationalist officer wrote:

“During the first week, when no-one could enter Malaga, four thousand were shot. They were shot down in groups by machine-guns on the Playa del Palo. Later on, courts martial were set up. At dizzying speed, people were tried – if that is the right word – in groups of fifty to seventy. In this fashion, by the third month of Malaga’s liberation (sic) ten thousand people had perished.”

– Antonio Bahamonde y Sanchez de Castro: ‘Un Ano de Queipo: Memorias de un Nacionalista’

The reprisals continued for years, in August 1944 the death toll stood at twenty thousand as reported by the nationalist administration to the British consul. I could speculate that the liberal democracies’ indifference to the systematic extermination of non-combatants may have encouraged the Nazis to press ahead with their own genocide; it certainly did nothing to put them off.

The Communists claimed the defeat was due to treachery, and they may well have been right*. Villalba was arrested but swiftly released; the under-secretary of war, General Asensio, one of the few who had failed to join the party, was variously accused of incompetence and duplicity, and Caballero had defended him. He succumbed to the pressure, but his replacement was a left-wing socialist.

*Was Villalba a ‘fifth columnist’ who regretted getting stuck on the republican side? He was allowed to return to Spain after the war, and claim a Colonel’s pension; had he ever been of any use to the Republic he would undoubtedly have been shot. He seriously undermined the Aragon front from the start, when he prevailed on the anarchists to delay the assault on Zaragoza until it was too late. Did he sacrifice Malaga on Franco’s or Stalin’s orders? Or was he just an arsehole?

The Nationalists then sought to cut the road from Madrid to Valencia, which required skirting the south of the city and crossing the valley of the Jarama River. The action was intended to coincide with an attack on Guadalajara by the Italians but they weren’t ready so Franco went ahead anyway. Beginning on the 5th February the Army of Africa with a German armoured company surprised and overran Republican forces on the West bank. They defended their positions to the death, but by the 8th, the Western heights were in fascist hands. The river crossing on the 11th was led by Moroccan commandos who killed the sentries, immediately followed by cavalry that engaged the XIV International Brigade. Another column crossed the Arganda Bridge, which failed to collapse when its charges were detonated, but was halted by the Garibaldi Battalion of the XII I.B. German and Russian aircraft clashed overhead, the Russians retaining control.

The Eastern side was reinforced by the recently formed XV I.B. of British, Irish, Francophone and Balkan volunteers. The British Battalion went into action here for the first time. Things didn’t get off to an auspicious start; their commander Wilf McCartney was accidentally shot by the Brigade Commissar Peter Kerrigan (the Comintern’s British delegate) before they left their base at Madrigueras. McCartney was invalided out so Tom Wintringham took over. The first deployment of the XV was a cock-up; they were poorly equipped, had no maps and had not been told the enemy had already crossed the river, so they came under fire as soon as they began to descend the valley. The machine-gun company found it had been given the wrong ammunition. The truck carrying the replacement batch broke down, and when it arrived, the cartridges had to be belted by hand. The ridge of land that became known as ‘suicide hill’ was continuously swept with fascist machine gun fire, it was held for hours against terrific odds by one of the three infantry companies, led by I.R.A. veteran Kit Conway, who died there.

“Reaching the crest of the hills overlooking the valley and the river, the three companies of the Battalion met the full force of the Fascist advance. Up the slopes long lines of Moors and Foreign Legionnaires surged forward under cover of artillery and machine gun fire, threatening to sweep all before them. No one in his senses could have conceived that this line of riflemen could hold up that onslaught for more than a few minutes. And behind them? Nothing. A clear field down to Arganda, Morata and the Madrid road.

            But men who had come hundreds of miles to fight, sustained by an understanding of the cause for which they are fighting, do not act in the way prescribed by the military textbooks. Rapidly deploying in open formation, the Battalion went into the attack against the advancing Moors. The Fascist troops faltered, then hastily dropped down to cover. Only the sheer audacity of this handful of men could have achieved this. Had the Fascist officers been aware of the true position on our side, they would have overwhelmed the Battalion by sheer superiority of arms and numbers.”

– George Leeson, antifascist: ‘Spain Today, February 1947.

The ridge was eventually abandoned, but as luck would have it, just as the fascists came over the top the machine-gunners managed to get re-supplied and mowed them all down. The following day’s chaotic infantry retreat left the machine-gun company exposed and most were captured. Forty infantrymen then charged the position, of whom six survived. On the third day fascist tanks pushed the line back to the road, it was ‘shit or bust’. Frank Ryan and Jock Cunningham gathered the survivors to counter attack, leading them in a chorus of the ‘Internationale’:

“Some were still straggling down the slopes from what had been up to an hour ago, the front line. And now, there was no line, nothing between the Madrid road and the Fascists but disorganised groups, of weary, war-wrecked men. After three days of terrific struggle, the superior numbers, the superior armament of the Fascists had routed them. All, as they came back, had similar stories to tell: of comrades dead, of conditions that were more than flesh and blood could stand, of weariness they found hard to resist.

I recognised the young Commissar of the Spanish Company. His hand bloody where a bullet had grazed the palm, he was fumbling nevertheless with his automatic, in turn threatening and pleading with his men. I got Manuel to calm him, and to tell him we would rally everyone in a moment. As I walked along the road to see how many men we had, I found myself deciding that we should go back up the line of the road to San Martín de la Vega, and take the Moors on their left flank. Groups were lying about on the roadside, hungrily eating oranges that had been thrown to them by a passing lorry. This was no time to sort them into units. I noted with satisfaction that some had brought down spare rifles. I found my eyes straying always to the hills we had vacated. I hitched a rifle to my shoulder.

They stumbled to their feet. No time for barrack-square drill. One line of four. ‘Fall in behind us.’ A few were still on the grass bank beside the road, adjusting helmets and rifles. ‘Hurry up!’ came the cry from the ranks. Up the road towards the Cook-House I saw Jock Cunningham assembling another crowd. We hurried up, joined forces. Together we two marched at the head. Whatever popular writers may say, neither your Briton nor your Irishman is an exuberant type. Demonstrativeness is not his dominating trait. The crowd behind us was marching silently. The thoughts in their minds could not be inspiring ones. I remembered a trick of the old days when we were holding banned demonstrations. I jerked my head back: Sing up, ye sons o’guns!

– Frank Ryan: ‘The Book of the 15th Brigade’ 1938.

The one hundred and forty volunteers who marched back up the road to suicide hill did not all speak the same language, but everyone knew the tune; to compensate for their lack of numbers they engaged the enemy with a high rate of fire. Evidently the Fascists had not expected to see the routed Brigaders again, and presuming them to be reinforcements, fell back. The breach in the front was filled overnight and did not move for two years. To their right the Dimitrov and Thälmann Battalions held off the frontal assault on their own positions.

There were several costly counter attacks that failed to shift the Nationalist lines significantly, Lister’s fifth regiment advancing across open ground in broad daylight took fifty percent casualties, the North American and Irish Abraham Lincoln Battalion fared no better under similar conditions, their first engagement immortalised in the last words of poet Charlie Donnelly: “Even the olives are bleeding”. Jarama seriously undermined the morale of the International Brigades; they were used as expendable shock troops by inexperienced Communist generals who wanted propaganda victories. A month of bloodshed left both sides entrenched in a stalemate reminiscent of the Western front.

It’s fair to say the republic suffered from a lack of military experience, the Spanish metropolitan army had been little more than a dining club, only those officers who had been to Africa had ever seen combat, or even been on manouvres. Their tactics were from old French textbooks* or gleaned from the First World War, to which they had been spectators. The Russian officers were mostly young and equally untested, as the Red Army was being purged. Their authoritarian culture stifled initiative and they were under strict instructions not to risk capture. The best of the I.B.s were those like the Irish, with recent battle experience, or veterans of the Great War.

*To the extent that Franco believed they were receiving training from the French armed forces.

Flushed with the carnage at Malaga, Mussolini planned a showcase for fascist Italy’s martial prowess; sending his Blackshirts to cut off Madrid to the North East at Guadalajara. Instead they took such a shafting as to acquire a reputation for military incompetence and retreat that outlived his regime. Instrumental in their downfall was the Garibaldi battalion of the 12th I.B., exiled Italian antifascists with a score to settle. On the 8th of March the motorised infantry swarmed into the pass in their fleet of little tankettes. With about five to one numerical superiority they initially made rapid progress but were slowed by bad weather and boggy ground. The vehicles began to get stuck and their air support was grounded whilst the Republican air force benefitted from the concrete runway at Albacete. The 14th division led by the Madrid bricklayer Cipriano Mera counterattacked. The rout at Guadalajara guaranteed Mussolini’s continued support for Franco, to save face, it also led to the latter rescinding Blackshirt military autonomy and caused observers to re-think their strategy regarding mechanised infantry. At the same time, in their capacity as members of the non-intervention committee, Italian and German navies blockaded the Mediterranean coast; the only supply route left to the Republic was across the Pyrenees, and the French were all over that.