Privilege (for the benefit of the privileged), identity and the Class War. By Mal Content.

“We live together, we act on, and react to, one another; but always and in all circumstances we are by ourselves. The martyrs go hand in hand into the arena; they are crucified alone.

… From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.”

– Aldous Huxley: ‘The Doors of Perception’.

This was always going to be a personal account, anarchism is after all an extrapolation of the particular to the general. The author is an able-bodied (at time of writing), cis-male, heterosexual*, Working Class anarchist of North European heritage, self-educated with a few engineering and craft skills, living in the South of England, I don’t need a university lecturer to tell me that’s a position of considerable privilege in the modern world, and a potentially reactionary one, yet I’ve honestly never wanted anything from this society but to witness its demise. I’m also big, ugly, and in my fifties which helps when dealing with management and cops.

* I seldom use the word ‘straight’, it implies bias, and I’m not claiming my relatively banal proclivities as a badge of community with anyone.

Early on I questioned whether I was writing primarily for people more or less like myself, and dismissed the idea. Obviously it has its limitations, it wouldn’t be of much use to someone whose interest was, for example, the development of anarchism within Chinese culture. It is intended for people new to anarchist ideas, and privilege is a concept many find utterly baffling. Like reification* it’s a hard one to get your head around because it’s woven into the fabric of perceived reality, it’s largely invisible, especially if your contacts are all drawn from a narrow social base.

* Of course, privilege is a form of reification.

Privilege in this context is an absence or mitigation of oppression, seen from the point of view of the oppressed. At first sight it’s counter-intuitive, because no one ever feels privileged,* and the colloquial use of the word is a benefit of some kind, usually earned. It sounds dangerously close to the bosses’ view that we ought to be grateful for access to work, housing, health and education. It’s a demonstrable fact that the presence of any super-exploited group, migrant labour for example, depresses pay and conditions for all workers, so how does it work? How is it a privilege not to be excluded, underpaid, sexually abused, targeted by cops or attacked by bigots?

* There’s a lesson there; not even the ruling elite feel privileged, because they’re conditioned from birth to believe they deserve a bigger slice of the pie.

The liberal would claim these as basic human rights, but they have it backwards, society is oppressive by its nature, its institutions were specifically devised to divide and exploit us, so we each become acclimatised to the level of oppression we experience, and only when these lines are crossed protest that our rights have been violated. This is the liberal trap – it’s the oppression that’s normal, not the absence of it. For many these experiences are routine, and they may indeed consider it a privilege to walk home without being harassed, to apply for a vacancy and be offered an interview, or to attend and not hear that it has just been filled.

If X walks a steeper road than Y, all things being equal, Y will make more progress in a given time for the same effort. Capitalism requires us to compete by excluding others*, so as Y is ahead of X they will have the first choice of whatever they need for the next leg of the journey, and set off feeling positive and refreshed. So on through life; Y will always be where X isn’t, and X will have to work harder than Y just to avoid being left by the wayside. Y’s setbacks will be easier to overcome and of shorter duration. Believing in equality of opportunity, Y may conclude the demoralised and resentful X isn’t trying, or they may congratulate themselves on their own industry and cunning. Meritocracy is a nasty bourgeois trap, like justice, it’s a logical fallacy.

* Housing gentrification and social cleansing is a good example of this.

Read the rest of it.

Open letter to North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust regarding Dr. Caroline Johnson M.P.

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to express concern about one of your staff members, Dr. Caroline Johnson, a part-time paediatric consultant at Peterborough City Hospital and M.P. for Sleaford and North Hykeham. Her vote to deny vulnerable children free school meals during the half-term break at a time when their parents face severe economic hardship is seriously alarming.

I no longer live in the constituency but I grew up just outside of Sleaford and completed my secondary education in the town during the mid 2000’s. Later, I worked in a supermarket in a Working Class community. I am acutely aware that Sleaford, indeed the entire county of Lincolnshire has significant rates of poverty compounded by the rural nature of the area.

If the pandemic and debate about whether children should be fed had occurred during my schooldays, some of my rural classmates would have gone hungry and their situation would have been even more desperate due to the relative isolation of communities in the central and south-western areas of the county.

As a youth worker I have undergone the safeguarding and child protection training that comes with such roles. I am sure Dr. Johnson will have completed similar training, with regular updates. Like me, Dr. Johnson has a duty of care to protect children and young people from harm. The Children Acts 1989 and 2004 codify this duty of care in statue and highlight the role of the NHS in keeping them safe. One of the basic principles of this legislation is to allow children to be healthy and help them to succeed.

By voting against feeding children at half-term, Dr. Johnson shows a blatant and abject disregard for her duty of care. This casts doubt on her fitness to treat vulnerable patients as a paediatric consultant. Has she forgotten the Hippocratic Oath? Has she sacrificed the ethics of her profession to her political career?

We are all aware of the importance of healthy, balanced diets in relation to child development and nutrition. Poverty significantly diminishes their chance of consuming such a diet. McDonald’s is now offering one million meals free to families affected by the government’s failures. Does Dr. Johnson truly believe, in her medical opinion, that vulnerable children’s nutritional needs are better met by fast food than school meals prepared to strict nutritional standards?

I wish that my concerns be taken seriously by the NHS Trust.

Yours faithfully

Jack Collins.


If anyone would like to add their name to this letter, whether or not they reside in Lincolnshire, please e-mail wsol at riseup dot net or use the contact form.

Signed:

Gary Stacey (IWW)

Peregrin Scotney (IWW)

Millie Kettell (IWW)

Elliott James

J.K. Rowling and The Chamber of Terfdom.

I’m going to be 27 by the time 2020 comes to a close and as someone who is firmly in the millennial category, the whole universe of Harry Potter has been a fixture in both my childhood and my adult life. As a kid I remember my dad taking time out from his taxi driving job on a Friday night so he could join the queues at my hometown’s sole bookshop to be one of the first to obtain the new Harry Potter book.

The first time I remember going to the cinema was in 2001 to see the first Harry Potter film and I remember my excitement to see the story on the big screen as a seven year old boy shivering outside the tiny, two screen cinema that was in the big town about a half hour’s drive from our house. I remember how magical it was to escape into that world and I remember the messages of overcoming adversity resonating with my young self, being the only boy in the class with cerebral palsy and having to wear brightly coloured leg splints and having daily sessions of physiotherapy.

In my teenage years, I retreated away from this world and dove full throttle into the worlds of Edgar Allan Poe, H.P Lovecraft, B-movies, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and 1980s slasher horror films. I believe these campy, macabre worlds were probably linked to the love my childhood self had for the kitchy, campy, creepy world of Harry Potter. As I approached my twenties and got diagnosed with a bipolar spectrum disorder, the world of my childhood provided much needed comfort at a time where I was experiencing frequent episodes of depression and psychosis whilst trying to complete a degree in English and live on my own for the very first time. Even during the current COVID-19 pandemic, one of my coping mechanisms at the beginning of lockdown was to watch a Harry Potter film on Saturday night by candlelight whilst eating Chinese takeaway.

All of this means that I was deeply disappointed by Rowling’s recent tweets that parroted the TERF talking points about “sex-based rights” and her absolute revulsion against the term “people who menstruate”. The damaging implications of sex essentialism have been documented on this blog and many others and I shall not repeat those same points. However, it says a lot that the world’s first billionaire author decides to use her time during a global pandemic and an uprising against state-sanctioned racism to further marginalise and vilify one of the most oppressed groups of people on this planet.

As a response to the criticism and fury she received on Twitter from trans people, queer people and their allies, she decided to write a 3,600 word essay on her blog. I’m not going to link it here because I do not wish to befoul this blog with transphobic rhetoric but it’s very easy to find if you want to read it; although, I would advise that it is very intense and it will probably be quite an upsetting read. I cried tears of rage reading it and I cried for the trans youth that I work with as a youth worker for a local LGBTQ+ charity.

In the essay, Rowling provides a narrative of her life in the early 1990s before Harry Potter exploded into our cultural consciousness. She frankly and openly talks about being a survivor of severe domestic and sexual abuse. As a sexual abuse survivor, I empathise with her and I do hope that she has been able to access the support needed to be able to process the trauma she has experienced.

The question that remains, however, is why did she choose this moment to speak about it? It plays into the unfounded, deeply bigoted caricature of trans women being men who just want to pose as women so they can sexually assault women in public bathrooms. When we look at the reality, we see that in the 21 countries which have introduced self-ID for trans people to change their birth certificates, none have reported an increase in sex crimes as a result. We can also look at several US States, the most notable being North Carolina, where bathroom bills were introduced and we see an increase in assaults being perpetrated against trans people in bathrooms and an increase in those same assaults against cisgender people who present in a gender nonconforming manner.

It is also important to consider that one of the “leaders” of the TERF movement, the increasingly irrelevant and deplorable former Labour Party hack that is Linda Bellos is actually on film saying that she would beat up a trans woman if she happened to be in the same bathroom as her. Approximately every 72 hours, a trans person is murdered somewhere in the world because of their gender identity and by playing into myths and caricatures, JK Rowling has put those people at increased risk.

Rowling also moves onto the topic of incels. Incels, for the record, are men who believe that they are owed the right to sex just because they happen to be male. They are angry that women choose not to sleep with them and several incels have gone on to commit murders of those women. They also harbour a hatred for the men that they see as stealing their opportunities to pursue the women that they wish to sleep with. Elliot Rodger murdered six people in California back in 2014 as “retribution” for his lack of sexual experience and activity.

In 2018, Alek Minassian murdered 10 people in a vehicle-ramming attack in downtown Toronto to instigate an “incel rebellion” and had written several internet posts praising Elliot Rodger. Many incels look at the Ecole Polytechnique massacre of 1989 as a positive thing and something to be inspired by. In this massacre, Marc Lepine burst into an engineering class, forced the men and women in the room to stand on opposite sides and shoot all six women there. He then rampaged for a further twenty minutes, killing eight more women before killing himself. His motive was to “fight feminism”.

Rowling will be acutely aware of how horrific these events are and how the state does not take violence against women seriously enough. Again, we have to question her motives around bringing up these issues in this particular moment. It is morally abhorrent and repugnant of her and her supporters to link trans people and their allies to incels. I’m a cisgender man but I stand with trans people who are just trying to live their lives as their authentic selves and be recognised as such. We are not murdering women to further this cause and we are not terrorists. We simply believe in human rights and in bodily autonomy. She should be ashamed of herself for insinuating that there is anything linking us to the incels and it proves that her interpretation of feminism is fundamentally and objectively wrong.

The final part of her essay I wish to address is where she talks about “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD). ROGD is a pseudoscientific term used by the TERFs and their allies to try and explain away the large increase of young people seeking help and support with their gender identity. They like to blame a plethora of things for this which include but are not limited to; Japanese anime, tumblr, YouTube and autism. There is a link between being autistic and being transgender but that link is being actively researched by experts in the fields of neuroscience, neuropsychology and cognitive psychology and will probably take a long time to come to any semblance of a conclusion. On the other hand, ROGD has seemingly been invented in a chat room on Mumsnet.

As a youth worker who is directly working with these young people, I can confidently say that ROGD is baseless and unfounded. Young people have access to the internet and they are able to learn about gender outside of a Eurocentric viewpoint. Young people have always explored their gender identity but it is only now that they have the tools and the vocabulary to be able to do so fully. Do I think that every single one of my young people who identify as transgender is going to end up transitioning as an adult? Possibly, possibly not. In spite of that, it is important that young people are able to access the support and guidance that they need whilst exploring their gender identity.

They need compassionate and empathic people around them especially as 80% of trans young people will self harm and about half will attempt suicide. These young people are very vulnerable in a world where transgender people are treated as though they are the lowest class of citizen and by using ROGD as an excuse to explain all this away, Rowling and her allies are creating moral panic reminiscent of the moral panic around gay men in the 1980s and 1990s. It is this kind of language that causes governments to enact legislation like Section 28 that will damage a whole generation of young people.

I do not believe that JK Rowling is an inherently hateful person because a hateful person could not have written the Harry Potter series which is essentially an antifascist parable; despite its use of questionable antisemitic and racial stereotypes. What I believe is, like many women who grew up in second wave feminism, JK Rowling is using her platform to try and stay relevant in a culture that has long since moved on. I also believe that she has possibly been radicalised by the likes of Linda Bellos and Graham Lineham on Twitter. Rowling does not need to indulge in this desperate attempt to remain culturally relevant as Harry Potter has become a permanent and ubiquitous fixture of popular culture. People come from around the world just to have their pictures taken at Kings Cross Station where they’ve set up the entrance to Platform nine and three-quarters.

Rowling has often tried to pander to us LGBTQ+ folks, wildly announcing that certain characters in the series are LGBTQ+ when no hint of that was given in the original stories. It is this that makes her latest outbursts beyond offensive. She has used our community to make money and royalties for herself whilst throwing the most vulnerable people in our community under the Hogwarts Express.

I still love those stories of my childhood and I am taking relative comfort in Barthes’ The Death of the Author to take some sort of ownership of those stories and to separate them from a woman I once admired. Her following is large but the loudest voices in that following are the minority and many of the actors who brought those stories to life have expressed their unequivocal support for transgender people. We will win this fight and we must stand in solidarity with our trans siblings, always.

It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”

– Albus Dumbeldore

Paul Haw

Scrubs: The Story from the Bottom Up, from Haringey Solidarity Group.

Scrubs: The Story from the Bottom Up

Much like the elderly forced to walk laps and climb stairs to raise money for the NHS, the scrubs movement has been popularised by mainstream media as part of a ‘national effort’ at a time of ‘war’ fighting an ‘enemy’ we allegedly cannot see. We are being encouraged to paint rainbows and clap for the bravery of the health workers, when in reality we are sending them to their deaths. As of today (19/4/2020), at least 86 health and social care workers have died of COVID-19. The enemy is not invisible, it has been sitting in the leathered seats of parliament, imposing years of austerity which have left the health system bare to the bone; it has criminalised and worn down benefit claimants with strategies of surveillance, sanctions and deterrence; it has exploited the labour of key workers living hand to mouth, whilst endowing inessential services with bonuses, tax rebates and bailouts.

The current PPE scandal is no different

At the end of January 2020 it was already clear that a country like the UK, which had been de-industrialised through decades of neoliberal economics, was not going to be able to cope with the demands for PPE. The Tories had a simple answer: “people are going to die” and their fellow eugenicists chimed about “herd immunity” and supposed facts based on “science”. And once again, the working class was put to slaughter. After years of vilification and abuse, they were placed at the knife edge of this crisis. COVID-19 is not the touted ‘great leveller’, it is disproportionately culling the elderly, the disabled, the poor, and BAME communities. 70% of NHS workers killed by COVID-19 are BAME. Workers who have been brought to the point of desperation and are starting to fight under the slogan “no kit, no care”, facing suspensions and potentially prosecutions for negligence if they fail to continue to work, in spite of a lack of protection.

We are now entering our fourth week of running one of the many autonomous scrub production units that have sprung up as forms of mutual aid across the country. We provide scrubs to all sorts of health workers who are lacking access to them in their workplaces. Staff who have had to perform C-sections on women wearing soiled clothes, scrub-less doctors bringing infections back to their family homes, workers on respiratory wards without protection, homeless nurses, social care providers looking after the elderly and disabled, trainee nurses sent to COVID wards wearing flimsy plastic aprons and bin bags. These are just to name a few.

Some of us are mothers, some of us lost our jobs, some of us just want to help or need something to take our minds off the crisis, and a large majority of us are professional seamstresses and tailors, providing an entirely unfunded service, save for public donations, across the entire country. A number of these local groups have up to 300 people, working from the safety of their homes. Delivery companies and independent workshops have offered their help in cutting and distributing fabric pieces to sewers, some of which are decentralised into smaller neighbourhood collectives, able to help each other out through the use of WhatsApp chats.

These local initiatives are sometimes receiving up to 1000 orders and are having to suspend taking more requests, as volunteers grapple with long hours, balancing paid and unpaid work. It doesn’t take much to realise that the network of these groups combined, exceed the workforce presently employed by large manufacturing companies, who have only recently received contracts to make changes to their production lines in order to deal with the demand for PPE.

There is no official scrub production in the UK. Scrubs are primarily made overseas, in countries such as China, India and Pakistan, often by informal labourers for extremely low wages. They are then entered into convoluted distribution systems and finally reach the hospitals which allocate the scrubs according to an equally tragic priority chain. Our particular scrub collective aims to remedy this by making them locally and delivering them directly to the health workers in need.

Many of these groups have managed to enter production with professional atomised systems within a week. You would think that we would be able to supply hospitals with stock, however we have been unable to contact procurement departments, who are often externalised from the main hospital sites and thereby have little connection to the health workers themselves. In fact I was told by unions reps, that if I ever did manage to contact them, it would be a miracle. General managers in hospitals are likewise fairly unresponsive, and those who have responded, told us there was plenty of PPE, when in fact nurses on their wards couldn’t even access basic items such as masks. Some hospital trusts are accepting donations only and are failing to pressure those further up the chain to release funding for their production.

The absurdity of this dilemma runs deep within the heart of the capitalist system. While the government is engaged in international profit-wars, back in the UK, Deloitte has been approaching friends and well known textile brands such as Barbour and Burberry, in effort to manage a temporary solution to the problem. Smaller scale manufacturers on the other hand, have heard nothing from the government after filing in their survey nearly two months ago, and instead are asking our scrub groups for material donations in order to start their production. Groups, who are at the forefront of providing immediate solutions to the problems, which more often than not, fall to women and their continuous underpaid and unpaid labour.

Burberry is expected only to start production in another week, other companies facing difficulties with the required certifications for water-resistant gowns are not to start in another two, at the very least. On the horizon is also a shortage of fabric, and the incessant greed of distributors who have hiked up even the cheaper cotton poplin to nearly half of its original price. Many are now resorting to use old duvet covers and bedsheets in order to make scrubs.

We also have to mention the struggles of our fellow workers internationally, such as in India, who are likewise fighting against the privatisation of hospitals; a lack of PPE; a lack of welfare provisions for informal factory workers, and a recent government decision to revoke the Factory Act of 1948, in order to standardise 12 hour working days, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi pushes to restart manufacturing in the middle of a raging pandemic. In Bangladesh the COVID infection rate is increasing faster than many hard hit countries.

We need to politicise the struggle with a clear internationalist response that unifies all of us, our work, our mutual aid and our care. For as long as profit rules, there can be no peace. We need to requisition all health, manufacturing and transport sectors and provide all workers, currently unpaid or paid with fair wages and safe working conditions. This is not a public relations crisis with seemingly unfortunate logistical difficulties, this is an emergency stoked by the greed of those for whom our deaths are only a motivation for the accumulation of their capital.

Red and Black Telly roundup:









We are not all in this together!

Anarchist Communist Group.

In crisis situations, the Queen, government, big business and the media push the idea that the nation is united to fight a common enemy, in this case a killer virus. Sir Keir Starmer, the new Labour Party leader, is “refusing to rule out” a government of national unity. However, as in times of war, divisions and inequalities in society become if anything more apparent. The same is true now with Covid-19. Though in theory anyone can succumb to the virus, as we have seen with Prince Charles and Boris Johnson, the chances of actually being infected and surviving it are not equal.

View post.

Careworkers: Cannon fodder to the coronavirus?

From Manchester SolFed

It is well known by anyone who has ever worked in, or been around the social care system, how much employers in that sector try to exploit their staff and just how badly they treat them. Care workers have long felt they are viewed in low regard by both local authorities and the government, until recently being described by both local and national politicians as being ‘low skilled’. This has started to make headlines in the national press and get into the public consciousness and never has it been more apparent than during the current Coronavirus crisis, where employers have shown a complete disregard for the safety of not only their workers, but also for the people who use their services.

Careworkers have shown an unwavering commitment and compassion to the people they support by continuing to travel to work to support them every day despite the risks, with some workers going so far as to move into their places of work, leaving their families behind at home, in order to help shield the people they care for from the virus.

Meanwhile care employers have shown their usual commitment and compassion to their employees by treating them as badly as they possibly can in order to protect profit margins. Most care workers have never been eligible for sick pay and receive only Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and this has continued during the current crisis.

Workers have said they have been pressured to go into work and do shifts even though they are isolating at home either because they themselves have become sick or due to a sick or shielding family member and some of those that live in a household with a high risk family member and who want to self isolate to protect them have been told that they will not even be eligible for SSP and will go unpaid, as it is not they themselves who are sick.

Care staff have also been pressured to provide sick notes for all time spent off self isolating due to having Cornavirus symptoms, despite the government advice being that you only need to provide an isolation note, which can be applied for online to help ease pressure on GP surgeries, and of course the fact that all absences 7 days or less can be self-certified.

The government’s mixed messaging on pay for workers who are shielding due to health issues has led to complete confusion as to whether care staff who are shielding at home for 12 weeks are entitled to be furloughed as per the government’s program and receive at least 80% of their regular wage.

Some workers are saying that their employer has agreed to place them on furlough while others have said that they have been told they will only receive SSP for 12 weeks. Some staff have even been told they will be placed on furlough only to be told later that their employer will not be doing so.

For low paid staff who are on Minimum Wage and often have no savings, the prospect of being on SSP, which is currently only £94.25 a week, for at least 12 weeks with no idea of when this will be over,  is a pretty daunting one and one that may not be affordable for many.

The lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves, masks and aprons as well as hand sanitizer and cleaning equipment for care workers is a national scandal and is leaving both care workers and the people they care for at massive risk of contracting, or spreading through no fault of their own, the Coronavirus.

So desperate has the situation become that companies have tried to source PPE from local nail bars and vet’s practices with up to 80% of providers saying they do not have adequate PPE. One worrying report emerged from the GMB union in Scotland of a care home locking PPE in a cupboard away from staff.

Care staff have been receiving varying, if any,  advice on how and when to use PPE with some being told by their employers that some PPE will only be provided if a service user is showing symptoms of Coronavirus and they have to perform personal care, despite the fact that the virus seems to be extremely contagious, easily transmissable and spreading at a rapid rate and by the time the company has got around to deciding to provide PPE, it may be too late.

The lack of Coronavirus testing also means that care staff are having to isolate for up to 14 days without knowing if they, or someone they live with. has the virus and also leaves them open to being pressured by management to return to work, not knowing if they still have, or have had, the illness.

The very human cost of the lack of resources from government and the negligent practices of care companies is being tragically demonstrated across the country as the death toll grows higher and the virus spreads. One care home in Glasgow has lost 16 residents after Coronavirus spread through the service and another in Liverpool has also been hit badly where 9 residents have died with the home manager saying two thirds of her staff were off ill. Several care workers across the country have now sadly died from the virus.

Care workers have described the current situation as feeling like they are ‘cannon fodder’, the phrase coming from armed conflict where soldiers, historically from poor and working class backgrounds, would be sent to the front lines and were seen as disposable. The similarity here is that once again the working class is seen as expendable and little thought is given to their welfare by the bosses and politicians as long as work is being done and services being provided or profit being made.

For too long care workers have been described as low skilled and they remain some of the lowest paid workers in the country, yet recently we have seen their dedication and bravery in working through the Coronavirus. A workforce that is overwhelmingly made up of female and migrant workers, which has a lot do with the exploitation they have been subjected to,  has shown just how essential they are whilst the bosses and those in positions of authority have demonstrated once again just how incompetent and cowardly they are with care company CEOs, directors and senior managers safely working from home but expecting frontline staff to take huge risks.

When we hopefully, eventually get through this crisis it is obvious the care sector needs to be completely transformed to work for the people who need its care and the people who provide it, rather than in the interests of profit. The way the system is now just cannot continue. If you want to organise your workplace and improve your conditions please get in touch with Solidarity Federation and we can help.

Autonomy Film show in Bridport 17th November 2019: Unsense Me!

Red & Black telly: 2019 GENERAL ELECTION COMMENTARY ( 1 )

EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT UNIVERSAL CREDIT: 9th October, Bridport

Hi Autonomy film watchers,

We haven’t shown a film for a while because we’ve been doing other things, but we thought you might like to know about a meeting we’re organising this week.

So many people have been having trouble getting the benefits they are entitled to – or even getting any kind of response – from the new Universal Credit scheme. For some it is causing real hardship. So two members of the Citizens Advice Bureau are coming to explain it and try to help. Please let anybody know who might be interested! Hope to see you there.