UK Newswire Archive
as the light faded in trafalgar square, the crowd tested two or three of the exits and more fighting broke out. at one point, police in the north-west corner made a charge into an angry crowd, and in the process a young woman was knocked unconscious. police refused to allow medics in, claiming they feared for their officers safety, even though students offered to stand well back. arguments went on for some time while the woman laid there, until eventually a group of police and medics moved forward, picked her up (without a brace or any check on her condition) and ran her behind police lines.
NB if you didn't realise, you can see larger versions of pics on indymedia london by clicking on them
some petty pilfering at tescos gave the police the excuse to close it down, and some fighting occured and a window was damaged. as riot police flooded that area, one particular inspector, pictured, lashed out at someone simply because they were "too close" (not having much room to move back because of others behind him). again, there was a serious injury as the protestor fell back and was wounded. some people screamed for medics and then carried the wounded man to the police line, also shouting at the inspector that he had done this.
this police operation eventually stood down. during it, press were not allowed in or out of cordons even with press cards.
riot police then removed protestors from the plinths, sometimes aggressively, and making at least two arrests. this large group of police guarding the plinth were taunted by the crowd who shouted "you're kettled".
again, these police withdrew, but not for long.
suddenly, hundreds of police charged across the square in full riot gear from several directions. backed up by mounted police, they formed an impenetrable kettle at the entrance to the strand, capturing probably around a couple of hundred protestors (and passers-by).
there were certainly far more police than there were students, but the students remained unfazed, shouting slogans, doing the hokey-cokey, singing carols, or just sitting under the heavy sleet and snow.
police made occasional snatches to arrest individuals alleged to have been involve in criminal damage.
i was disturbed once again (having seen a medic using fire extinguishers in the faces of protestors last week) to see medics acting like bully boys. one completely lost control at someone outside the kettle who he said was standing too close to him. other officers had to actually restrain the medic to stop him attacking the by-stander!
over the next couple of hours, police began allowing people to leave one at a time.
customarily, kettles are employed when a section 60 has been enforced, and as people leave, they are photographed with any face-coverings removed, and they can be searched for any offensive weapons, although police often use the search as an excuse to go through any identifying documents even though strictly this is not allowed in law. however, there is no legal requirement to provide a name and address.
this evening though, police used a new technique. as each person was escorted out, they were placed in front of one of three forward intelligence teams, who interviewed them in front a bright light and video camera. they were told they were being arrested for breach of the peace, and that they therefore had to give their name and address. some were loaded into vans - others were, after giving all their details and being photographed and videoed from every angle, told they were now de-arrested and allowed to leave - many of these were under-18.
this is a worrying mass addition to the police database of young people not guilty or suspected of any crime, but simply protesting about ideological and political education cuts by an undemocratic and unelected government.
i aslo saw a line of police writing up their note-books and openly chatting and collaborating while doing so.
mainstream media are quoting around 150 arrests, although i think this includes the mock and temporary arrests as people left the kettle. however, dozens were taken away in vans and there had been several arrests earlier during the course of the day.
Web Link to Video
01-12-2010 02:03Students occupy the Stannary at the Tremough campus where University College Falmouth and Exeter are based.
01-12-2010 01:22Action to show Tesco deliveries disruptive
The No Tesco in Stokes Croft campaigners invite you to help form a human-lorry to show how Tesco deliveries are disruptive to the community.
Cheltenham Road is a busy arterial road with a bus and cycle lane and pedestrian crossings nearby.
A Tesco Metro expects six deliveries a day, each lasting about 40 minutes, equating to one an hour every hour between 10am and 4pm.
Please meet outside the Canteen on Stokes Croft BS1 3QY today on Wednesday 1 December at 2.00 pm to create a human-lorry to show how Tesco deliveries will disrupt the community.
Brief update: The planning officers have released their report to councillors ahead of the planning hearing on 8 December.
Despite over 100 letters objecting to the proposed Tesco site specifically on planning issues of noise and increased delivery traffic, these objections have been dismissed.
Councillors need to listen to our objections ahead of the planning meeting on 8 December at 2.00 pm.
No Tesco in Stokes Croft action dates:
Please be a human-lorry on Wednesday 1 December.
Please come to a public meeting on Monday 6 December at Hamilton House BS1 3QY at 7.00 pm.
Please come to a carnival-rally on Wednesday 8 December on College Green Bristol BS1 for the next planning hearing at 2.00 pm.
01-12-2010 01:22I need Video/photo evidence from the demo on the 30/11/2010 to help me!
Im potentially being charged for digging my nails into a police officer who was strangling me and am in desperate need of video or photo evidence of this event to help me. It happened during the first attempt at occupying Bristol uni, where i was at the front of the crowd, infront of the doors. I was wearing a Blue & White striped beanie hat and a grey scarf.
Please contact me if you can help!
01-12-2010 01:12Mahinda Rajapakse is in the UK to address Oxford Union on Thursday 2nd December at 6pm.
British Tamils and supporters against war crimes need to make a firm stand against Rajapakse’s visit to the UK and his address at Oxford Union!
01-12-2010 00:46SINCE OCTOBERS SPENDING REVIEW SET OUT THE IMPENDINGS THERE HAS BEEN WAVE AFTER WAVE OF PROTEST TO THE CON-DEM CUTS AGENDA.
STUDENT PROTESTS, UK UNCUT TAX DODGER SHUTDOWNS, AND MOST RECENTLY A RESIDENTS + WORKERS REVOLT ON MONDAY THAT SHOOK LEWISHAM TOWN HALL AND COULD HAVE PREVENTED £80M OF BUDGET CUTS BEING PASSED.
SUMMARY OF INFOMATION ON WHAT'S COMING IN THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE BELOW. FULL DETAILS AT http://anticuts.org.uk/
30 November 2010 Nottingham Crown Court
Snowing much today, resulting a couple of jury members being late to court. We eventually start after a couple of hours delay.
Edward Rees QC for the defence calls another defendant to the witness box. Mr SC.
After introductions he reminds us of the prosecutions remark yesterday Miss Gerry “suggested that the money that was spent on the action would have been better off hiring Cheryl Cole to model second hand fashions”. SC standing in the witness box and looking quite dapper, he says that his tweed suit and all his cloths were in fact purchased from second hard charity shops.
SC has worked as an freelance environmental researcher for the last 10 years. He had also been on the Greenpeace employed staff for 2 years. He has a degree in Applied Biology. Additionally, he has served as a Parish Counsellor in Bradwell in the Peak District, Derbyshire for 4 years. He has been speaking on environmental issues to schools and public meetings. To Mr Rees’ surprise he says he also had organised tree planting weekends. Explaining, he said Treesponsibility provided a hands-on community involvement to take practical action on an environment matter. Trees help bind soil and help prevent erosion and assist in minimising flooding. There are intense pressures on the Peak District, with the volume of visitors and had worked on public transport issues there.
While working with Greenpeace, during 4 -5 years, he had been concerned with and researched energy generation employing different fuels and supplies to the National Grid. Mr Rees asks, what do you conclude from your research? SC says that he believes that we are close to a number of the tipping points that Dr Hansen had described yesterday, accelerating climate changes. The consequences? Well unless we take measures to reduce CO2 emissions we will reach such tipping points.
SC says having been at the very first COP in Berlin in 1995 [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change]. All conferences were doing was people simply engaging in an ‘on-going process’ without end. Moving onto Kyoto, there were no binding agreements achieved and did not include USA and China. President Bush would not ratify any such agreements. SC says that unless big emitters like the USA etc join in, then all efforts will fail to achieve any of the required effects. From Kyoto to Copenhagen, he explained that his experience of the COP process had left him disillusioned with its effectiveness, and how when the Ratcliffe occupation had been planned in the run up to the Copenhagen summit, the activists already had a very pessimistic outlook on the likelihood of it achieving much. This pessimism was unfortunately proven to be well-placed.
We are now at the point with a conference meeting again at Cancum, Mexico. But politics remains impotent. With such intransigent s, nothing is going to happen at least for another 2 years to the next presidential election
When Mr Rees asked why he had attempted to shut the station down. He responded, “to achieve the largest savings in emissions that we physically could”. He referred to the Stern review figure of the damage of one tonne of carbon at £50 and that therefore if they managed to stop 150,000 tonnes of carbon, it would amount to savings of £7.5 million. He didn’t see what else he could do to effect this much of a saving. 150,000 toms might not be much when compared globally, but it is a significant amount none the less.
Mr Rees turns to the police raid on the Iona School. SC saying that even though on their arrival, the police were offered access and keys, they continued to batter at outside and the inside doors causing damage. He had earlier given a briefing to the groups, reassuring them that the action will have little effect on the total grid. The lights will remain on.
The plan was to split into groups. He describes the operation of the coal conveyors, taking coal to the plants for crushing and pulverising and onto its storage in hoppers. There is held there about 6 – 8 hours of coal burning capacity. This would therefore allow for the controlled shutdown of the plant ,rather than having it bought to a crashing stop. There was no intention to do that.
The conveyors were to be stopped and people would be locked onto the equipment using the tubes. Climbers would also mount plant. Another group would also have gone to the control room to explain the action to staff. All groups would have the relevant safety equipment, hard hats, hi-vis vests and the rest, and all had received an appropriate safety briefing.
After court returned from lunch, Mr Rees asks SC about what it means that the Ratcliffe Power Station had a ‘black start’ capacity. That it had a small power station adjacent to start the main station in the event of a complete failure of the National Grid.
Cross-examining, Miss Gerry asks if closed down the station, would that not have an influence on the grid? A minor loss in scale, the light would remain on. If that was the case, Miss Gerry suggests that it would not have saved the 150,000 tons claimed. All that would happen would that another station would be fired up to replace lost generation, also creating yet more emissions. SC claimed that it would be reasonable to expect the replacing stations to be gas fired, since as coal would be cheaper in generation, those stations would already be running.
Moving onto the press release, Miss Gerry keeps trying to suggest that shutting down a ‘black start’ facility was alarming to the public if they had known about it. This was not mentioned in the press release. SC says there are many other such stations, so grid security was maintained.
When the police arrested and questioned you, why not tell them more of your motives and background that you have told us today? He says we had all received legal briefing to make ‘no comment’ to questions in interview.
Gerry then refers to SC previous experience with campaigning about open cast coal mining. She implies this was a model of reasonable behaviour in public engagement on an issue. But, that this Ratcliffe action was conducted in secret and certainly wasn’t reasonable.
With more snow falling outside and travel chaos assured … the court rises early
The case continues a bit more …….. etc
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change
2010 Nottingham Ratcliffe Conspiracy Trial Begins [Feature] http://notts.indymedia.org.uk/articles/701
2010 Nottingham Ratcliffe conspiracy to trespass trial opens today http://notts.indymedia.org.uk/articles/693
2010 Nottingham Ratcliffe Trial Day 2 - Prosecution’s Opening http://notts.indymedia.org.uk/articles/702
2010 Nottingham Ratcliffe Trial Day 3 - Prosecution case continues http://notts.indymedia.org.uk/articles/710
2010 Nottingham Ratcliffe Trial: Prosecution Opens [Feature 2]
2010 Nottingham Ratcliffe Trial Day 4 - Prosecution case concludes
2010 Nottingham Ratcliffe Trial Day 5 – Defence case opens
Ratcliffe on Trial Blog http://ratcliffeontrial.org/blog
Onwards ... >
Photographer - Media: One Eye on the Road. Nottingham. UK
Member of the National Union of Journalists [NUJ]
"It is not enough to curse the darkness.
It is also necessary to light a lamp!!"
01-12-2010 00:22At about 5:30pm the 2-300 people still in the detainment zone at Trafalgar Square tried to break out, they almost made it.
At about 5:30pm the 2-300 people still in the detainment zone at Trafalgar Square tried to break out. Being on the other side of the police line was not all that pleasant, as there were quite a few bottles (mostly plastic) as well as sticks, firecrackers and smokebombs coming our way. Some serious anger and the only thing stopping people were the vans parked behind the lines. The officers at one point were squashed flat against their vans.
It was a weird one, that kettle. It was never entirely sealed off, but a constant tricklig in and out was going on at all times. Only, not everyone was allowed to walk through police lines. Even small groups of 10-15 people were stopped, the same as the larger crowds of a few hundred people. While other's were walking through the lines, I was stopped, being suspected of being a "protestor" and told that protestors had to leave at the other end. How do those officers tell who is a protestor or not? Seriously, wtf?
30-11-2010 23:32Students in London today did a brilliant job of avoiding and evading police kettles, keeping the coppers on the run for most of the day. Rapid movement and a spontaneous route kept the demo ahead of police lines. The Met, clearly run ragged, whinged that the demo had started too early and caught them out!
30-11-2010 23:32Before the General Election all Lib Dem MPs promised to vote against any attempt to increase tuition fees.
They now plan to break their promise. There is still time to make them keep their promise.
30-11-2010 23:24Video shot at approximately 2.30 pm Tuesday 30 November 2010, between Brighton Pavilion and University of Brighton's student-occupied Pavilion Parade building. Shows the very start of march toward Hove Town Hall.
A recent conversation on cuts, capitalism and conviviality
Anja: Let me begin by posing three questions. Firstly, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that modes of labour are appropriating cognitive, communicational and affective skills. What does this mean to you for the political potential of academic and collaborative work?
Secondly, given that there are massive cuts being proposed to the education sector through a regime of austerity measures, and given that the current labour paradigm is one that produces precarious, alienated, competitive and individualised relations between workers, do you think that the university as an institution (and the kinds of labour it engenders) is a potent site of struggle and strike?
And thirdly, what kinds of collective relations between people and modes of organising do you think are possible for the university struggles, and where do you think we should place our emphasis? How can we negotiate a transversal between micro- and macro- political desires, anxieties, exhaustions, solidarities and hopes? (Please feel free to comment on strategies you think are useful for building more caring and collective common worlds in general as well if you like).
Jamie: Personally, I'm cautious of suggesting to others where to put their energies. There's a certain mode of politics, which involves developing a macro-political analysis, a declaration of the state of the political landscape and suggestions for appropriate actions based on that analysis. Now, this mode of politics can certainly have a role to play. At the same time, I would not want to overestimate it. As Anaïs Nin has been credited with saying, the map is not the terrain. Any analysis of the political landscape is necessarily an abstraction, an invention of the mind. Likewise, it seems to me that what we call the university is also an abstraction for 'it' is only the continuous effect of social relations. These relations may be premised on the assumptions that the university does exist, that it is real, that it's rules must be followed, that it engenders certain kinds of labour. What happens if we relate without letting those assumptions determine our actions, our affect? What happens to what we call the university when relations within it are based on play, mutuality, compassion and listening? Does it become a different place, even if only in particular moments?
There's a little book I like by the Quaker activist and educator Parker J. Palmer called Let Your Life Speak. Instead of trying to work out the right thing to do, the right way to live, where one should put their energies, he suggests an introspective listening. "The soul," he says "speaks its truth only under quiet, inviting, and trustworthy conditions." It is my experience also that insights arise when the bodymind is quiet, whether through meditation, walking in the woods, gardening, or simply through a certain acceptance of everything as it is. Even the things that hurt or trigger fear. This acceptance can also make space for a very different mode of politics that is not based around the idea of struggle, but on the direct experience of connection. It's like that line from Guattari's Chaosophy that you noted in your copy, Anja, something like "we don't need to destroy capitalism but to stop producing it." For what is there to struggle against? What does it mean to struggle against a way of relating to ourselves, each other and the land of which we are a part? For myself, I'm more drawn to methods of relating differently, in ways that may not produce capitalism or other patterns of domination. And to do this effectively, I'm learning to work with where I and others are at rather than to struggle against anything. I'm particularly inspired, here by the practice of nonviolent communication (NVC) which is based on the radically compassionate assumption that everyone is doing the best thing they can imagine to meet their life serving needs. And so for me, the key to revolutionary change is in nurturing our capacities for imagination, for empathy, so that each of us is able to imagine ways of meeting our needs but also respect those of other beings.
What we call the university is certainly one place to do this! I remember attending a masterclass in the performative social science at Bournemouth University, a space to explore different ways of communicating about research than producing journal articles. It was inspiring in many ways! One painful image, though, that stays with me, is walking through one of those long university corridors with the fluorescent lights and a woman who is doing postgraduate studies saying to me that she has been advised by her supervisor to make sure that any conference paper she gave was "bullet-proof." I immediately think of Foucault's reversal of the famous aphorism in his declaration that "politics is the continuation of war by other means." Politics as war is common in academia -- we might think too of the commonplace discursive violence in peer review or the endemic nature of bullying within universities. Nonviolent communication can take the wind out of these sails by showing understanding and compassion for the needs that underlie the aggression, sarcasm or rigidity of communication. The practice can also help us to connect with the pain, anger, fear or frustration we may feel when spoken to in that way by sensing what we are really wanting in that situation -- perhaps respect and understanding. Pain held on to can stew into resentment, what Nietzsche referred to as the moralising revenge of the powerless, which only serves to further produce relations of disconnection and control. A release of pain or anxiety, on the other hand, may allow for more fluid, convivial relations -- an alternative to politics as war, as struggle.
And this, it seems to me, is where collaboration, whether academic or otherwise, can be immensely powerful. Sure, we can learn to practice meditation or presence or awareness on our own, but it is so much easier and so much more powerful with others. And in collaboration, we can help each to develop our capacity for compassion and imagination so that instead of producing capitalism, we might produce something very different.
Anna: My immediate response to these questions starts in a similar place to Jamie’s, so here I’d like to discuss one of the questions he poses: “What happens if we relate without letting those assumptions about the ‘rules of university’ determine our actions, our affect?” In many ways I think this questions guides my academic practice. Or, perhaps more honestly, I am motivated by its converse: ‘What happens if I follow those assumptions?’ My answers to this leads back to Anja’s questions – If I buy into those assumptions I am left feeling both self-destructively competitive and alienated from the politics and people I care most about. The subjects of my work and partners of my collaborations are turned into objects; they are instrumentalised, they are what stand between me and the next publication, post, promotion. I feel angry and overworked. The aspects of academia that originally provided passion and promise (collective knowledge production, researching subjugated histories) are obscured behind the race to the top of the ivory tower. While I am more reticent than Jamie to speak of this in terms of nonviolence and spirituality, I find it difficult not to bring the bodymind into it because it is my health, my wellness that is at stake if I play by those assumptions. Playing by the assumed rules breeds bitterness. Bitterness runs so deep through the veins of academia, poisoning its lungs, making it harder and harder for us to breath. I have already watched so much brilliance, so much creative energy fall prey to bitterness. When I catch myself falling, I try to remember this question like a mantra: How else can I relate? What else can I make?
Practically speaking this generally involves strategies of avoidance. Avoid, at all cost, academics, conferences, competitions and committees that will fill me with rage and bitterness. These are usually quite easy to identify in advance. The wording of CFPs, the list of topics and speakers, the entry costs and requirements are all signs of the politics and goals of a space, project or process. If admission is £250 with no reduced rate, it’s a sign that accessibility is not a major concern. This matters and will be reflected in other aspects of the event. Other times you may not know a place, process or project is poisonous until you are already in the throes of it. Here, if you are lucky, you band together with other miscreants and form an alliance, a temporary autonomous zone of ‘I hate this conference/process/project.’ The friendships that form in the TAZ of capitalist academia can last days or lifetimes. They are the pop-up spaces where academic solidarity is built. On less fortunate occasions I find myself retreating into my overpriced hotel room, opting for ‘alienated with minibar’ over ‘alienated and still at the table without any alternative dietary triangle sandwiches’. At other times I have elected to pull out of events, projects and applications at late stages. While I am often left feeling guilty for leaving others hanging, it is sometimes necessary for my mindbody health to get out. As Marilyn Frye writes about the politics of separation, the act of saying no can be agential and affirmative. The more I learn what not to get into, the less I find myself having to politely retract participation.
Of course, deciding what not to participate in is only one part—though a crucial and under-discussed part—of adhering to the mantra: How else can I relate? What else can I make? Strategies of avoidance are perhaps most important because of what they produce, the mindbody energy I need to relate and make differently, to build nourishing collaborations and focus my energy on projects that embody those reasons I became an academic: working with others to produce collective knowledge about histories of resistance that are too often left forgotten or untold It is this bringing to life both in my subjects and in my working relationships with colleagues and students that keeps me here. At moments like this, when the present and future of our resistance as educators takes on a heightened significance, the university becomes a site of increased potential where the knowledge we make in the classroom can transform our students’ perception of themselves as active political participants.
Anja: Thank you both for being so open to conversing in ways that are conducive to dialogue and generosity - to assembling vocabularies that are open to different ways of thought and relation. When I was considering the kinds of questions to propose here I wanted to find trajectories that could engender movement between different political scales, to address governance strategies, reforms and labour conditions as well as how to experiment with more convivial and caring modes of relating and collaborating. I find this to be a thread through both of your responses, so this is what I would like to continue with.
In a recent text ‘The university is a factory; lets treat it as one’, the commune analyse the labour and social conditions of the contemporary university as an institution synthesising intellectual and capital production. They pick up on the trend that has appeared over the past few years of locating the university as a site of labour in a way that could be described as a 21st century cognitive factory (which is not to negate the existence of material factory modes of production), and the researcher/ scholar as the ‘cognitariat’, seen for instance during the Middlesex occupations and in the university occupations and strikes in the US. While I find this kind of translation problematic, it does serve a dramatic purpose, that is to say it highlights the exploitative and precarious environment that the university is productive of. Since the advent of the latest financial crisis, there has been growing fears about scarcity within educational institutions that play out co-incidental terrains of knowledge, pedagogy and labour: the decimation of non/ lower-earning (less conducive to vocational outcomes or industry linkages) departments and courses, fee increases, redundancies of staff (academic, administrative and service), casualised contracts, lower qualities of teaching, greater demands on outputs, new managerial and measurement systems. The dream of the passionate scholar, the sage, the public intellectual, engaging students in slow and considered process of learning and teaching has transformed into the reality of the adjunct lecturer struggling to write job applications and journal publications, attend conferences and prepare lectures on poor remuneration, good faith, and the idealistic hope of a tenured position one day in the future. This is nothing new. And nor is it necessarily as dialectic. But speaking about the university as a factory allows us to delineate a field of struggle through polemics. Such polemics serve the function of calling attention to the economic and political conditions through which the university as an institution is performed.
At the same time, to stay within this economic and ideological discourse is to neglect that, as Jamie pointed out, capital is also a social relation, as is the university. We need to stop producing it, as Guattari puts it. The way that we engage with one another as colleagues, teachers, students – our relations, affects, our compassions and solidarities, as much as our jealousies and insecurities – are reiterative of the ways of being and acting that constitutes the university, as much as its institutional and economic structure is. This is something picked up by Anna when she discusses the ways in which academics at times treat one another, how collaborations and collective work can become instrumentalised and alienated. This also has to do with fear, and with scarcity. Anna offers a strategy of avoidance to deal with this, and Jamie calls for nonviolent methods of communication. To add to this, I would like to appeal to notions of conviviality, friendship, care and solidarity. What seems to me to be lacking from many of these situations is a deep awareness and reassurance of others as allies rather than as competitors. From relatively early on in the university we are pitched in competition with one another. This plays out quite ferociously when one reaches the postgraduate level, having to run the gauntlet of criticism from peers and superiors as a rite of passage. At post-doctoral level, this competition extends into the job market, publications and networks. Time and time again we find ourselves in a position to sell ideas that are collaboratively and dialogically developed as individual property. This is part of the regime of intellectual property. At the same time, we are encouraged to make tactical ‘links’ with other institutions and bodies. It is hardly surprising that such an ecology breeds anxiety and conflict.
What we might try to practice in order to deal with these imperatives are ways of listening and responding that are caring. I think that it is important to acknowledge panic and collectively try to reassure it, without denying it. We cannot pretend that the economic market does not affect how we relate, as friends and as colleagues. But this does not need to be the sum of our capacities to reflect and to act. Correlative to Jamie’s call for listening I’d like also to call for articulation, to finding ways to articulate our desires and our needs to one another. To share and be open about our vulnerabilities and our psychic and somatic wellbeing, to collectively address our common situations, to being considerate in finding pathways for re-appropriation that are not only individualised and to finding the means to negotiate and to meet these needs. This might also engender ways of dealing with alienation. By being empathetic and convivial we might find it easier to be reassuring and respectful of the capacities and needs we have of ourselves and of each other, which can lead to ethical and political practices of knowledge production that depart from those endemic to capital.
By relating through solidarity rather than competition we open space for refusing the structures upon which the university is founded. This may be terrifying. It may mean delving into territories that feel more uncertain then we currently inhabit. Are they really, though? Capitalism fuels itself on fantasies such as that of those countless others ready to take over whatever work you may have if you are unwilling, if you refuse. If we collaborate with one another to collectively organise our working conditions, to determine our own agendas, do we run this risk? Perhaps. But at the same time we make space for alternatives. And what we definitely create are different ways of relating to one another that are the foundations for acting in solidarity. Bifo Berardi, in Precarious Rhapsody, proposes that what is necessary is the creation of a ‘recombinant function, a function of subjectivity capable of spanning the various domains of social production, and recombining them within a paradigmatic frame that is not dependent on profit but social utility’. This is something that can transverse the university and beyond, to engender common ways of being and collaborating that are not confined to the imperatives of competition and intellectual capital.
Jamie: Since we began this interview over a month ago, massive cuts in education and other public services have been proposed by the national government and protests have begun. Yesterday, the 24th November, I joined the demonstration in Bournemouth. Afterwards, I find myself reflecting on your invitation, Anja, to consider the importance not only of listening but also of articulation. This event had little of either, following a fairly standard formula of gathering, walking with police escorts, pre-printed Socialist Worker placards and sporadic and half-hearted chanting directed at Tories and bankers. (In other words, I ached for a sense of connection, of imagination, of meaning!) To be fair, I did meet a woman working at a university who is very excited about the idea of a social centre for Bournemouth and I had a beautiful walk on a sunny day with a friend of mine who has just moved to town. I'm sure there were probably other forms of listening and articulation occurring throughout the march and after of which I was not aware. So, in no way do I wish to diminish the significance of this event. In many ways, it was wonderful. My question: what might be even more wonderful?
I would have loved to have heard directly from more of the people present. How were the various university students, school students, lecturers and others feeling about the proposed cuts? What were they wanting out of education? How do they feel about the institutions of which they are co-creators (including when that co-creation takes the form of enacting subjugation and more or less conforming to disciplinary norms)? What would they value? What would they like to see nurtured or transformed? What would they like to see destroyed (or perhaps composted or released) to make space, to free energy, for something new? And what would I like? Learning to articulate one's desires is, as Anja notes, crucial to autonomy. I would still, however, place the emphasis on listening; what can one meaningfully articulate without first listening carefully to oneself? I cannot speak my desires until I know what they are. Sure, I can say the things that pop into my head, but unless I am listening deeply, these are rarely as profoundly true as they might be. For myself, these thoughts are more likely to be very intellectualised, very protective and very self-conscious of how I'm perceived by others unless I've given myself quiet space in which to listen to myself. My impression is that this is also true for others. Of course, I leave it to the authority of your own experience to say whether or not this is true for you.
And so, I echo what Anja says about the importance of empathy and suggest that it might begin with oneself. In the nonviolent communication training I did in Edinburgh, we were invited to imagine that we each had empathy tanks; our capacity to give empathy to others depended on how much we needed empathy ourselves. Stopping and listening with empathy and without judgement (or with a release of judgement) to our own feelings, our own desires, can give us a greater capacity to empathise with others. It can clear bitterness from the heart, the lungs. Or rather, this is my experience and what I've heard from others of theirs. Saying no, as you suggest, Anna, can be a way of stopping, of taking time away from what is painful or emotionally overwhelming. Listening for the yes behind the no, the desire behind the strategy of avoidance might also be very helpful in these situations. What is it that you're wanting that you not getting in a particular moment? How might you ask for it? How might you accept the pain of not having it?
I'm less comfortable using words like allies and comrades because that, to me, implies enemies; it suggests that particular conflicts over strategy are inherent and nearly essential. As though some of us really were, in the truth of ourselves, Marxists or anarchists or feminists and others really are, in the truth of themselves, capitalists or statists or patriarchs. I can be dominating, competitive. And those I might label my enemy can be deeply caring and cooperative. What violence might I do by drawing a line between us and declaring myself on the "right" side? For me, nonviolence or perhaps gentleness is based on the insight that we are all fundamentally interdependent. Even further, I would say that we are all part of the same thing, made of the same "soul-stuff" as Voltairine de Cleyre put it in her rejection of a punitive "justice" system. I do appreciate this in a spiritual sense, for example in the radical equality of Quakers and other non-hierarchical spiritual traditions, which recognise a divine light in each of us. For those less comfortable with talk of spirituality, we might see it in purely physical terms. We are all part of an ecosystem. Our bodyminds are not separate beings; we are all interbeing, interbecoming. We are made of the same physical stuff: carbon and oxygen and more from the food and air, which comes through bodies of beings past and present. To compete, either with colleagues or with ideologies, is, it seems to me, to imagine a separation, which is not real. It is a product of the mind, an abstraction projected on to the world. In this, I like Jiddu Krishnamurti's reminder that "Relationship is direct, not through an image." Direct relationship, direct action, direct democracy: they are all linked for me. So, rather than attempting to communicate with one's image of a person as friend or enemy, comrade or competitor, what would it mean, what would it feel like, to perceive the other directly and with compassion? What relationships, what forms of organisation, become possible only when we let go of idea of who the other is, of who we really are and of how we want others to imagine us?
So, I'm not entirely in agreement with the phrase "we cannot pretend that the economic market does not affect how we relate." I might say instead that we might acknowledge the ways in which we find our fears of poverty or loneliness or death leading us into strategies of doing work which is not our passion, not our desire, in order to get money or the esteem of those whose opinions we are encouraged to believe really matter. If this is accurate, in order to stop producing capitalism we might each need to learn to notice these fears arising, to notice the strategies we are drawn to out of these fears, to allow the fear to be there without letting it push us into the strategies which do not deeply sustain us. What we call capitalism does meet some of our needs, or else it wouldn't exist. What might be even more effective, more sustaining, more sustainable? Or, as Anna asks, how else can we relate? What else can we create? I sense that we are much more likely to find out when we are present with our emotions, our desires and each other.
Anna: Before we end this discussion, I’d like to pick up on Jamie’s final thoughts as they interconnect with my feelings about the current student protests and university cuts. First, I am moved and inspired by the energy, imagination and courage that characterize much of the current protest movement. I am also happy to see pockets of support from parents, faculty and staff that highlight many of the problems and challenges Anja astutely raises here. Yet, I also find myself feeling a bit saddened and I have been trying to locate where this sadness sprouts from. Jamie’s reiteration of my comments helps clarify this for me. I am sad because I do not want the university to go back to the same way it was. I do not want to fight only for what needs to stop, nor do I want to preserve the system we already have. A demand for ‘free education’ must be about far more than student fees. While I am not in complete agreement with the tenants of the Really Open University’s 3 Reforms, I find inspiration in their linkage of abolishing student fees with proscriptive for alternative means of funding and an abolition of the Research Excellence Framework and National Student Survey. As Anja says, the micro and macro dynamics of university life must be analysed in relation to each other. To add a few more final questions then: How can workable, sustainable alternatives be imagined alongside critiques of the university? How do we make both micro and macro demands as part of an ‘anti-cuts’ movement that is also centred on the wellbeing of our mindbodies and environments? How do we negotiate our desires—as students and teachers--to be accepted by (or into) the academe, with our deep understanding that its system of recognition is both the product and source of competition and precarity?
Anja: As a final point, I would also like to mention that what has been building in London since November 10 are waves of protests and occupations illustrating an active movement across constituencies. From strikes by tube workers and firefighters to the storming of the Lewisham Town Hall meeting to meetings and marches at Millbank and Whitehall made up of not only thousands of university students and staff but also teenagers and pensioners, solidarities are developing across often divided terrains. While these are in their incipient stages – they are fragile and temporal – they have the potential to grow and spread. In conversation at these actions desires for a general strike are being articulated, desires for a continuation of dissent and alternative ways of being and relating that are being lived out in various sites across the country. Here it is not so much about the university returning to how it was, but the university becoming something else (as The Really Open University’s Three Reforms addresses), something not prescribed by the state, not only in economic terms but also about opening spaces for different practices of learning and exchanging knowledge in the present.
What such moments and spaces are engendering are common acts of politicisation, of ways of organising and collaborating. This is rife with antagonism and contestation, as well as sharing and generosity. It is easy to reduce the current dissatisfaction to a consumeristic attitude of students, but this ignores deeper, further reaching conflicts. What is happening now is a process that shows that things can be done otherwise, it shapes dialogue about cuts and fee increases through practices that are very rarely asserted or encouraged in the education system. And this can spark off and inspire momentum. At the same time, there is an awakening cognisance about labour, class compositions and struggles, about privilege and differential inclusion, in the university and beyond that usually tends toward obfuscation in student politics. The university is more widely being contextualised as a site of exploitation and casualised labour, from the cleaning and service staff, to administration and general staff, to sessional lecturers and some academics. The corporatisation of the university is being spoken about, as are the logistics of knowledge (re)production. The conditions of international students, their economisation and mobility, are being thematised. Such cognisance is imperative if a general strike is to occur and points of dissent are to connect. We are also seeing a diversity of tactics: direct action, playful cat and mouse swarming, non- violent occupations, marches, outreach to community and schools. Every day collective desires are becoming more visible.
As Anna and Jamie indicate, what we might consider is how we are to make this sustainable. What happens when energy flags, when we become disheartened, when we are kettled, cold, tired, frustrated and hungry? How do we translate these moments into ongoing conversations and negotiations? How do we take care of each other, with one another? How do we involve more workers (within and beyond the university) to solidarity and participation? What common vocabularies and languages can we find to work together and how do we embrace untranslatability, incoherence, awkwardness and strife? How do we find silence and respite, how do we listen when everyone is shouting? How do we understand processes of subjectivation that are not only relative to reform, to winning, to numbers and percentages, but also to affects, friendships and enmities? And how, most importantly, do we collaboratively determine the worlds we want to live into our many futures? We don’t have to have all the answers, the wish to ask and to listen is already something.
Jamie: I'm delighted to have had this opportunity to practice relating differently. Thank you, Anja and Anna, for this conversation intertwined with innumerable other acts around the world that demonstrate again and again that the dominant stories of how the world is or how we have to play the game are only stories. We need not believe them.
Anna Feigenbaum is an activist-historiographer and an Assistant Professor of Communications at Richmond, the American International University in London. She is a founding member of the Creative Resistance Research Network and an active participant in climate justice and migration campaigns.
Jamie Heckert is an interdependent scholar whose writing on ethics, erotics and ecology have appeared in a variety of publications. He lives in Poole, Dorset, where he is involved in his local Transition Town and a member of Crafty Fox Collective.
Anja Kanngieser is a cultural geographer and radio maker with Dissident Island Radio. She is a sessional lecturer in Media and Politics at Birkbeck College, University of London and a part-time researcher with the Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney. She is active at the intersections of worker self-organisation, radical politics, creativity and sound.
30-11-2010 22:35Everyone kettled and then arrested for breach of the peace at the end of demo
30-11-2010 22:22What on earth are they so afraid I am going to say?
30-11-2010 22:22Overview of events up until about 3pm today
!-- Feature Image change class to "left" to align image left--> First reports are back from people involved in the demonstrations today in Bristol protesting the proposed cuts to EMA and higher education and their replacement with university fees of up to £9000 a year. Reports place around a thousand people on the demo today, which toured a large part of the city centre, evading attempts by the police to kettle and contain the demo as they did last week when protesters were kept out of the city centre. Some reports have come in that police have used horses to charge crowds which are largely comprised of schoolchildren, and that there have been several arrests, again including a number of minors.
gran writes I wasn't able to make last week, so wasn't sure what to expect. Neither did most of the kids on the street it seemed. No one knew what the plan was, most hadn't been on a demo before last week, and all of them were buzzing with it. I attached myself to a bunch of a dozen or so who were moving purposefully in a 'where we think the others are' direction. Proudly displaying their terribly postmodern placard (Legalise Weed- as they said, got a lot of smiles, and it did have Cameron cuts stuff on the back). After banter about how you say 'fuck the police' in Spanish, it became apparent that most of these people had never met each other before either, but were well up for grinning at the shoppers we passed as we went through Broadmead. Around us we saw other tributaries, then suddenly, there was main event. A rapidly moving river of cardboard signs, people who'd made a gesture towards wearing black, and a lot of students and school kids.
From there on in it was basically a march. But not like any I've experienced. It was of course entirely un-negotiated with the cops- who intermittently made attempts to kettle it, and it was big, upwards of a thousand I'd guess, with people joining on as the day went through. But the significant thing about it was it's speed. It moved fast and with impressive sense of purpose from one target to the next, holding a space long enough to let others catch up or join if they wanted to, moving on before the police could assess and kettle. It took roads, but parted smoothly for ambulances twice, before reforming to stop other traffic. And it got around a bit.
Full Story | Bristol Anti Cuts 30/11 | Legal Info for Student Day of Action | Police Violence Against Students
The crowd left the square on time.
It was the first pleasant culture shock in a fun packed day. I wasn't able to make last week, so wasn't sure what to expect. Neither did most of the kids on the street it seemed. No one knew what the plan was, most hadn't been on a demo before last week, and all of them were buzzing with it.
I attached myself to a bunch of a dozen or so who were moving purposefully in a 'where we think the others are' direction. Proudly displaying their terribly postmodern placard (Legalise Weed- as they said, got a lot of smiles, and it did have Cameron cuts stuff on the back). After banter about how you say 'fuck the police' in Spanish, it became apparent that most of these people had never met each other before either, but were well up for grinning at the shoppers we passed as we went through Broadmead. Around us we saw other tributaries, then suddenly, there was main event. A rapidly moving river of cardboard signs, people who'd made a gesture towards wearing black, and a lot of students and school kids.
From there on in it was basically a march. But not like any I've experienced. It was of course entirely unnegotiated with the cops- who intermittently made attempts to kettle it, and it was big, upwards of a thousand I'd guess, with people joining on as the day went through.
But the significant thing about it was it's speed. It moved fast and with impressive sense of purpose from one target to the next, holding a space long enough to let others catch up or join if they wanted to, moving on before the police could assess and kettle. It took roads, but parted smoothly for ambulances twice, before reforming to stop other traffic. And it got around a bit.
One of my favorite moments was having a conversation with one of the cordon line about what legislation they were holding us under etc, to see a not insubstantial crowd come up behind him- "seriously mate, turn round", the line disintegrated, and we moved back into the center of town. Right to the belly of the beast, to the entrance of Calbot Circus. Not the sort of venue designed for easy use of riot horses. Access to some of the most spectacular local examples of capitalist excess was corked off for 20 minutes or more, before moving on to Vodeaphone.
There was a standoff at the door, with staff behind the double glass swing doors clearly freaked, and the crowd trying to push its way in. Thing was, although the lads at the front were up for it, they knew the staff on the other side weren't the enemy. We were just turning round to block the flow of Vodaphones cash from the outside, when a bunch of cops waded in, and forced everyone back (by about 5 foot). There was about a one minute food fight, where some squirty sauce and a pineapple top were deployed, but then the crowd moved off again. As we were moving away the shutters were coming down. On the inside of the glass I think.
Apart from the cops that waded in outside vodeaphone, who tasted a lot more like the Met, and the mounted cops, who are trained to be shits, the police were markedly more sane and human than I'm used to encountering.
And the crowd had way more energy- we went round the mall, and up the hill, and down the hill, , and round the mall and up the hill, and, well, you get the picture. A lot of vehicles were stuck in the resulting traffic, but when a posse of very over excited 15 year olds approached them in turn and asked them to honk most did, and every honk was answered with riotous cheering. A lot of passing traffic honked spontaneous support anyway. At one particularly fine point a woman had wound down her window and was being high fived by a every person who passed nearest to her.
The final cordon moved in relatively quickly outside the uni. A bunch of schoolgirls, about 13 years old I'd guess, had done a brilliant bit of public order work- spreading across a road the police were trying to put a line on. They were cheerfully chanting 'fuck the police'. I heard as I was leaving that 5 or 6 young girls had been arrested. Don't know if it was them. The van drivers and mounted cops were getting sketchy, the use of the horses from the middle of a crowd is always a recipe for messiness, though I didn't hear of any injuries at that stage. They were letting water and biscuits in and there were ways out for people not too worried to look for them. The vibe seemed slightly shaken but still upbeat.
The biggest theme for the day, banner wise, was Hogwarts. It made me feel very old. But also more hopeful than I have in a long time. Todays protest sustained a massive amount of disruption. those with limited experience got used to evading the authorities, and people seemed to listen to each other, to reach out, have a laugh, and generally start reseeding community in places that have been sterile far too long. If this is just the beginning, and it feels like it, then 2011 is going to be an interesting year.