Direct action, direct experience

If Pinki was still alive she would have been at the Kingsnorth climate change camp this last week. After doing her time as a punk squatter at Derby Lodge and Campbell Buildings 77/79 she re-invented herself as a Greenham Woman in 1981 and carried on protesting for the rest of her life. Anti- nuclear, Stop the City, Stonehenge, Camaign Against the Arms Trade, Police and Criminal Evidence Act, Poll Tax, Criminal Justice Act and M11, Bath and Newbury road -protests.

Arrested at least 26 times and spent some time in Holloway via Greenham.
She took her protesting very seriously. She studied Public International Law and the Environment at the London School of Oriental and African Studies, she knew the workings of the IMF and World Bank and GATT (precursor to World Trade Organisation), wrote essays on Indian environmental law and trans-national air pollution… but still went out clubbing with Mouse in the early days of acid house. And I remember us going to a goth club, the Catacombs, above Manor House tube station.

When she died I had to fill in a form (one of many) listing any property, stocks and shares, investments and savings she had. Fuck all was the swift answer but I went through it answering zero or none to each question. She did have a lot of gorgeous dresses but the form didn’t mention clothes.

Reading through stuff about the Kingsnorth climate change camp and global warming, one of the big arguments used by the ‘it isn’t a problem, let’s do nothing’ brigade is that unless we keep pumping out the co2 civilisation (= consumer society) will come to an end. That we will all become poor like we were before steam and internal combustion engines and were invented.

As if you have to buy a proper life rather than just living one. As if the intensity of lived experience is measured by possessions and wealth.

So here is what I wrote last night.

Back in the garage with my bullshit detector, carbon dioxide making sure its effective, someone just asked me if the group would wear suits… My mind has gone blank, I have been reading too much about climate change and eco-nazis and / or eco-commies as them as don’t believe it call them as do – see here

There are two implications of the critique of commodity fetishism that Debord had the great foresight to grasp. The first is that economic exploitation is not the sole evil of capitalism, for capitalism necessarily entails the rejection of life itself in all its concrete manifestations.

Second, none of the many variant arrangements within the commodity economy can ever bring about decisive change. It is therefore quite fruitless to expect any good outcome to flow from the development of the economy and an adequate distribution of its benefits. Alienation and dispossession are not the very essence of the commodity economy, nor could that economy ever function on any other basis, so that whenever the economy progresses, alienation and dispossession must likewise progress.

Debord made a genuine rediscovery here, for it must be remembered that “Marxism” was no more inclined than bourgeois science to practice the “critique of political economy”; instead it practiced political economy tout court, considering the abstract and quantitative sides of labor while ignoring the contradiction with its concrete side. This brand of Marxism failed to see that the subordination of the whole of life to economic requirements was one of the most contemptible results of capitalist development; it treated this result instead as an ontological fact and judged that bringing it to the fore was in itself a revolutionary act.

[Anslem Jappe : Guy Debord: 1999]

So if ‘capitalism necessarily entails the rejection of life itself’ does that mean the affirmation through celebration of life itself through the refusal of alienation and dispossession is revolutionary? Could be.

“Too black, too strong…house music all night long”. Aceeeed. “Have a good time…stop it”. You see I was still thinking about sleeve notes for the re-release of ‘Let the Tribe Increase’ and the pure fun of jumping around at Meanwhile Gardens when I read one of the anti- global warming comments which said the fear of global warming was dreamt up by Maggie Thatcher to screw the miners – all that dirty coal polluting the planet. But although Thatcher did talk about global warming, that was in 1989 – four years after she had trashed the coal miners.

Then I remembered that there was an acid house track from 1989 (1990?) which sampled Thatcher having a go at acid house parties and new age travellers. [Just found it on youtube – Mista E – Don’t believe the hype – see it here ] I had it on a tape off a Hackney pirate radio station, but can’t find it. Never mind, found masses of 88/89 acid house tracks on youtube and a similar tape Mouse made for me and Pinki in 1990. It’s like old Raoul said:

People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth.

Or what Emma Goldman might have said – “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution”

Dancing around to the Mob in 1982, dancing to house music all night long in 1989 – a celebration of life itself. With the whole acid rave stuff it still seems bizarre why it attracted so much opposition – what was so subversive about dancing? But for a short while it was illegal to dance to repetitive beats. Now it is illegal to protest against carbon dioxide.

Sitting in a teepee in the peaceful Kent countryside, surrounded by campaigners from across the UK mulling over the future of renewable energy and swapping vegan cake recipes, you could be forgiven for temporarily forgetting the outside world and its many woes. Perhaps, then, we must also forgive the police at the climate change camp in Kingsnorth this week for losing their grip on reality, as the sense of perspective which should have underpinned their policing strategy for the event flew straight out of the canvas window.

The police – primarily from the local Medway force but Metropolitan officers are also in evidence – have raided the camp twice now, confiscating items that included crayons, disabled access ramps, marker pens, banners, radios for relaying fire and medical emergency information, the nuts and bolts holding toilet cubicles together and blackboard paint. They have found it necessary to use pepper spray without provocation, and several campers have been arrested and bailed off the site for “obstructing” increasingly aggressive police officers.

Everyone who enters the site is being searched. Police officers are taking anything away that “could be used for illegal activity”, with efforts being made to strip protesters of such hardcore weapons of choice as bits of carpet, biodegradable soap and toilet paper. In the absence of any serious threat, the police clearly found it necessary to justify their presence with an unprovoked attack on personal hygiene.

[Caroline Lucas, Green Party]

Again, why?Are the eco-protestors really a serious threat? I guess they must be.

But a threat to what?

Perhaps to the spectacle…

The spectacle must deny history, because history proves that laws are nothing, whereas process and struggle are all. The spectacle is the reign of an eternal present that claims to be history’s last word. Under Stalinism, it took the form of a systematic manipulation and rewriting of the past. In countries where the diffuse spectacular system holds sway, by contrast, the mechanism is subtler. To begin with, it eliminates all opportunities for people to share experiences or projects without intermediaries or to recognize themselves in their own actions and in the effects of those actions.

The complete disappearance of historical intelligence creates socially atomized individuals with no choice but to contemplate the seemingly unalterable progression of blind forces. All those faculties that might allow such individuals to perceive the contrast between the falsification wrought by the spectacle and earlier forms are likewise eradicated…Genuine community and genuine dialogue can exist only when each person has access to a direct experience of reality, when everyone has at their disposal the practical and intellectual means needed to solve problems.[Anselm Joppe: Guy Debord: 1999]

What you get with direct action is direct and intense experience of reality – which in turn creates genuine community and genuine dialogue.

Which is what we have right here at KYPP.

  1. Derek Wall
    Derek Wall
    August 11, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    thanks is all I can say!
    The camp was great.
    If you haven’t seen it already look for ‘persons unknown’ by Poison Girls on you tube!

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