the Disillusioned kid: May 2007
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Thursday, May 31, 2007

The unusual feeling of success

As I mentioned briefly last week, the Chagossians have once again been victorious in the courts. On Wednesday May 23, the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling in the islanders favour last year. The three judges also ruled that the government should pay legal costs and withheld support for an appeal to the House of Lords. (You can read the judgement in full here.)

Regular readers will be familiar with the Chagossians forty-year struggle to return to the islands from which they were exiled by the British government to make way for a US military base on Diego Garcia. Last week's ruling is clearly an important development, but is the third victory the Chagossians have achieved in the British court system since 2000 and so they've yet to actually return, although a handful were allowed to visit the islands briefly last year.

Richard Gifford, the Chagossian's lawyer opined:
It has been held that the ties which bind a people to its homeland are so fundamental that no executive order can lawfully abrogate those rights.

This is now the third time that Olivier Bancoult, the leader of the Chagossian community in exile, has proved to the satisfaction of English judges that nothing can separate his compatriots from their homeland.

They now call upon the British government for a new start in this abusive relationship and to proceed with the utmost urgency to restore these loyal British subjects to their homeland.
In the course of his judgement, Lord Justice Sedley stated that
while a natural or man-made disaster could warrant the temporary, perhaps even indefinite, removal of a population for its own safety and so rank as an act of governance, the permanent exclusion of an entire population from its homeland for reasons unconnected with their collective wellbeing cannot have that character and accordingly cannot be lawfully accomplished by use of the prerogative power of governance.
Having seen victory turn to inaction on previous occasions, the Chagossians greeted the ruling in silence, but their de facto leader Olivier Bancoult, emerged from court, smiling and making the V for victory sign with his fingers (see picture, above). "I'm very happy for my people," he told supporters and journalists. "We will go back and make Chagos great."

Of course, the Foreign Office less happy saying it was "disappointed," although a spokeswoman conceded that the islanders now had the right to return home, at least "in theory." Unfortunately, there's a very good chance they'll appeal the decision although so far they have merely stated their intention to consider an appeal. The UK Chagos Support Association are encouraging supporters to lobby their MPs and anybody else you can think of to try and forestall this possibility. The Association also notes that the Chagossians don't have the means to resettle the Archipelago on their own and urges the government to support them in doing so.

Even if the Foreign Office decline to appeal, as unlikely as that seems, it should be noted that the Chagossians victory is only partial. It appears that while the islanders have the right to return to 65 of the islands in the Archipelago, this doesn't extend to Diego Garcia, the largest and most famous. Few of the reports I've read are clear on this, but such was the conclusion drawn in the 2000 High Court ruling. Furthermore, as I've noted previously, Bancoult (and perhaps other Chagossians, although this is unclear) has accepted that the Americans are there for the forseeable future.

For what it's worth, I'd be more than happy to see the US evicted from the "footprint of freedom," but the Chagossians are few in number and many of them are elderly. I fully understand why they might be able to take what they can get even if it is less than they might have wanted initially. It's taken them forty-years just to get this far.

Update: Jonathan Edelstein has some excellent analysis of the legal wranglings which got us to this point and of the judgement itself.

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Me Me Meme

Interviewed by Pacian.

1. If someone asked you to provide a concise explanation of anarchism and
its relevance, what would you say?

Errrrmmmm.... Concise you say?

Anarchism is a broad church and I certainly wouldn't claim to speak on behalf of the movement as a whole. For me though, it's about rejecting all forms of oppression whenever and wherever they appear: capitalism; fascism; fundamentalism; racism; patriarchy;heterosexism; ableism; environmental destruction; even speciesism. As such it is the ultimate revolutionary aspiration, a call for the complete reorganisation (or, perhaps, disorganisation) of society.

Crucially, however, anarchism, for me, isn't just utopian dreaming; about imagining what some far-off future society might look like "after the revolution". It's about getting out there and building that society in the here and now by fighting oppresive structures by any means necessary.

As I suggested, concision is a problem. The Situationists had the right idea, however: "Be realistic, demand the impossible!"

2. If you could only take one form of protest with you to the desert island, what would it be?

This is a difficult one. I'm big on the idea of "diversity of tactics," so I'm less than comfortable abandoning any potential forms of protest without a pretty good reason. Initially I was going to go with something exciting like a riot, but it occurs to me that there aren't likely to be many coppers on a desert island which will probably take the edge of the experience. Internecine rioting is likely to be considerably less satisfying.

I suppose then I should go with something practical like a protest camp. Food, shelter, solar showers, compost toilets, every mod-con for the discerning desert island inhabitant. Either that or a mass rally, because that'll mean there are plenty of people to talk to, although there will also be more mouths to eat. Perhaps we could dine on the socialist paper sellers?

3. Your spaceship is running out of oxygen! So that there's more to go around, which contemporary public figure do you push out of the airlock first? (They are all on board, having a microgravity cocktail party.)

I've spent sometime ruminating on this one and come to the conclusion that if all the public figures who deserve to be dumped in deep space are onboard my starfaring vessel and I can only throw one person out, than it's going to have to be me. How else can I deal with sharing oxygen withthe likes of Tony Blair, George Bush, Mahmoud Ahmajenidad, Osama Bin Laden, Islam Karimov and Cliff Richard?

4. One day you go to put something in the bin, and find that someone has thrown away a movie studio and a multi-million dollar movie budget. There is no name-tag on it or anything, and if the owner wanted it, they wouldn't have put it in the bin, so... What film do you make?

I should probably say I'd make an intelligent art-house work exploring political intrigue, character development and sexual repression. In reality, I'd probably find it very difficult to resist the urge to make a big-budget action film, dripping with explosives, shoout-outs, high-octane car chases, crazy stunts and scantily-clad women.

I know, I'm part of the problem.

5. Pop quiz, hotshot! A man wearing a balaclava is holding a gun to your head. "What is your favourite cartoon, animation or puppet show?" he asks you. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?

Shit myself?

(It's probably Family Guy, in case you were wondering.)


Here are the rules:
1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions (or leaving them in a comment on your blog). I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

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Friday, May 25, 2007


The Chagossians have won the right to return in the Court of Appeal. Of course, the government are going to appeal. I'm busy at the moment, but I'll write more in due course. In the meantime, enjoy Steve Bell's awesome cartoon from yesterday's Grauniad.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007


This is exactly what I need:
In this busy 24/7 world you often don't get the time to make your voice heard, so isn't it about time you contracted your protesting needs out?

We'll ruin multinationals while you relax with a cocktail by the pool. We'll force MPs from office while you catch up with Desperate Housewives on E4. Let us demonstrate for you!

We provide bespoke or off the peg demonstrations against governments, corporations and occasionally neighbours at a price to suit all pockets. No job to small or too big, from a discrete "boo" to literally renting a mob, we cater for all your protesting needs! (via)
I wonder how much they'd charge for an anti-fascist demo?


Friday, May 18, 2007

Are YOU an animal rights extremist? Apparently I am.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007


The French don't wait around do they? Within hours of the news that Nicolas Sarkozy (or "Sarko") had won the French presidential election on Sunday, protests against the result led to riots in Rennes, Toulouse, Nantes, Lyon, Paris, Dijon and Montpellier. On Sunday night alone, 730 cars were torched across France, with violence continuing on Monday and Tuesday evening. Meanwhile, on Monday unions promised to resist any attempt to force through "reforms."

The massive and ultimately successful campaign against the CPE (Contrat Première Embauche, Contract of First Employment) demonstrates that what we are witnessing in France isn't mere posturing. French social movements can stop so-called reforms dead in their tracks, causing massive disruption in the meantime. The flipside of this, of course, is that the majority of the French electorate were perfectly happy to vote for a right-wing authoritarian like Sarko (and in many cases were happy to do so twice). Perhaps they just wanted an excuse for a riot?

Sarko has demonstrated his connection with the common man by holidaying on a billionaire friend's luxury yacht following his victory on Sunday. The Socialists were able to stop fighting amongst themselves long enough to find a representative who described the trip as "ostentatious" and "scandalous." Even the conservative Le Figaro wasn't sure this was his best idea ever reporting that it had caused "concern among a number of friends of Nicolas Sarkozy."

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Fuck the War!

The delightfully named "Fuck the War Coalition!" have claimed responsibility for spraying anti-war slogans and breaking windows at the US Consulate in Edinburgh. The incident follows similar actions at an armed forces recruitment centre in the city and the offices of the pro-war MPs Alistair Darling and Nigel Griffiths.

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May 1 is International Workers Day (unless you live in the US where it's "Loyalty Day"). While there was a time when thousands of workers would come out to celebrate on the day itself, nowadays Mayday rallies (at least in the UK) tend to take place on one of the weekends on either side. In Nottingham we had ours on Saturday, and yours truly was there, camera in hand.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

First they came for the animal rights activists...

Yesterday, thirty people were arrested for alleged involvement in "extremism" in dawn raids carried out across the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands. Predictably the media are lapping it up, providing extensive quotations from the police, with minimal analysis. This time, however, it isn't Muslims they're after, but animal rights activists. This ought to be worrying and not just for people involved in animal rights activism.

NETCU is the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit established to facilitate the policing of "domestic extremism." Now, in an era of international terrorism and post-7/7 this might not seem so unreasonable, but pay careful attention to the definition of domestic extremism they use:
Domestic extremism is the term used to describe any unlawful or recognisably anti-social act carried out as part of an 'extreme campaign'.

It is often associated with campaigns focused around a single issue, such as animal rights.
Violence, you will note, does not figure here, mere illegality is sufficient. If you think that this is merely me being paranoid, I urge you to consider their definition of a "lock on":
A 'lock on' is when a domestic extremist fastens him/herself onto an object to cause an obstruction or disruption using a padlock in combination with arm tubes to make it difficult for the police to remove the individual, the object or both.

Lock ons usually involve several domestic extremists and can involved the use of multiple arm tubes, barrels, vehicles, clamps, D-locks in combination and at more than one location.
"Domestic extremists" appears to be the new term for what used to be known as "activists" or "campaigners," but those terms presumably lack the required shock value. It should be clear that the term has nothing whatsoever to do with violence. It is, after all, pretty difficult to be violent when you're fastened to somebody or something. (As if to underline the point, the front page of their website utilises a picture of the Clown Army.) It's certainly a definition which incorporates myself. How long then before the police are turning up at my house at 5.30 in the morning, and how long before anybody sees me again?

Going off on a slight tangent for a moment, NETCU have been particularly interested in animal rights activism (although they've been spotted on anti-GM demos). Of course, they claim to be "impartial." Tellingly, however, a perusal of their links page reveals a number of explicitly pro-vivisection organisations, but not a single animal rights group. As NETCU Watch ruefully note, not even the RSPCA merit a mention. Whatever one's opinion on vivisection (I'm sceptical about its value, but not actively involved in opposing it) this ought to raise a number of difficult questions. Personally, I find it difficult to avoid the conclusion that it is essentially a political police force set up to render activism ineffective.

NETCU, of course, is merely one element within the state's repressive arsenal, which has blossomed (if you'll excuse the confused metaphors) under New Labour: surveillance cameras are now ubiquitous; unauthorised protests in Parliament Square are illegal; solidarity with armed resistance groups is a criminal offence; Asbos can ban activists from whole areas; ID cards are on the way; and so on and so forth. Typically, the mainstream media seem happy to toe the line on all this. Stopping things getting any worse is going to be up to us. We'll just have to hope they don't arrest us all before we manage it.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The latest Carnival of the Anarchy took place over the weekend, exploring the perennial violence/nonviolence debate and included a post by yours truly taking Ward Churchill's Pacifism as Pathology as a starting point. Obviously my contribution was brilliant, but some of the other stuff is worth a gander as well.

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