This post was first published on The Stirrer blog – basically, it’s their annual review and report:)
It’s been a long and somewhat disrupted year for us. The disruption came about as a result of our move from Thurrock in Essex down to Keynsham in Somerset. We moved to be closer to our family but also, because we wanted a new start, personally and politically. The process of moving, as anyone who has ever undertaken it will tell you, was a time consuming and mental energy sapping pain in the butt! Our level of activity inevitably took a hit, and it’s only just getting back to where we would like it to be, albeit there are a fair few differences in how we operate.
All of this was taking place against a backdrop of an array of events and trends which to be honest, we’re still trying to get our heads around. What follows is an attempt to understand just what the heck has happened in a pretty bizarre year. This will be followed by looking at how our activism relates to what has happened, is happening and could well happen, all in the context of our geographical relocation. Exercises like this are a) an attempt at transparency without compromising our security and b) simply us trying to work out where the heck we are in the context of what has taken place over the course of the year!
A small part of what happened
The fallout from the Covid ‘crisis’ and the acceleration of the imposition of the Fourth Industrial Revolution
The year started with me attending a protest against Covid vaccine mandates on January 22nd. This protest was joined by a large number of nurses angry at the prospect of having to choose between a jab they didn’t trust or losing their jobs. At the time, it felt like this was still the relatively early stages of a long, unrelenting battle. However, for a complex range of reasons, the worst of the threats have yet to materialise. Having said that, constant vigilance is vital because the bastards will be looking at other ways to suck us into their techno-fascist control matrix.
Attending these protests brought a lot of flak down on my head. My response that I was doing what I could to examine and engage with a new political phenomena on the streets of the UK didn’t cut any ice with our now, former comrades. In this piece, I attempted to argue why anarchists should seek to engage with at least some of the various currents of opposition that emerged against the lockdowns, restrictions and vaccine mandates: Dealing with reality… 2.2.22.
Come February, we met up with family in London for a reunion, having not seen them since before the lockdowns and restrictions were imposed upon us in March 2020.
Travelling up to London on the Saturday afternoon and walking round the streets in the evening, it felt like normality was returning. Mask wearers were in a minority, the crowds were back out on the streets and people were enjoying themselves. There was a sense that a burden had been lifted.
But, the Overton window has shifted and writing this at the end of the year, there’s no sign of it ever returning to where it was. The shift being a part of the agenda of leveraging the Covid crisis to accelerate to imposition of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The 4IR is closely intertwined with the transhumanist agenda. This is something that we along with a fair few others have been looking into. These are a couple of posts we’ve put up with selections of readings on the 4IR and transhumanism: An eclectic mix of readings on transhumanism 29.5.22 and: Transhumanism, the great reset & the ‘new normal’ – some important readings 2.2.22.
The changes…here are a few of the more obvious ones we see in our everyday lives… They range from the acceleration of the shift towards a cashless economy through to an acceptance in some sectors of society of a greater degree of surveillance and monitoring. What’s also noticeable is the ever increasing level of digitisation of a growing number of aspects of our lives. One example being train tickets downloaded onto smartphones. ‘Tickets’ which more often than not, cause delays at the gateline, while us old sods sail through with our paper tickets! Having said, this we’re noticing a number of retailers and publicans who are very grateful when we offer cash – that in part is down to no processing fees. With smaller retailers and independents falling by the wayside and the corporations filling up more space, the push towards cashless payments, digitisation and increasing surveillance will continue, unless there’s resistance.
We haven’t said a lot about vaccine injuries to date. However, it’s becoming clear that the rate of long term adverse effects and premature deaths is no longer something that can be ignored. There are signs of backtracking from a number of formerly vocal vaccine advocates. There’s also a growing wave of anger at the impact of the vaccine injuries and premature deaths. Things are going to get messy…
Then there’s the long term consequences of the lockdowns and the subsequent periods of isolation on children and teenagers. There are a growing number of reports on infants with a range of socialisation issues. Issues that with the right kind of intervention can hopefully be addressed. The problem is that in too many cases, even if an issue is identified, it’s not being addressed because of a lack of resources. That could potentially scar kids for life…
As for teenagers, many missed the events and rituals that mark the passage through school from exams to prom balls. Life markers they won’t get a second chance at having. Then there are the disaffected teenagers from troubled backgrounds. Pre 2020, there was the chance that with intensive face to face interventions, their lives could be turned around. Post 2020, there was considerably more chance of them falling through the net. This is creating a cohort of disaffected youths who feel they have nothing left to lose. The consequences of that are starting to make themselves felt on the estates and in the streets.
The fallout from the Covid lockdowns and restrictions as well as the vaccine injuries has a long way to go. Suffice to say, a growing number of people are waking up to what’s been done to them and as a result, there’s a growing wave of discontent and anger. Things are getting ‘interesting’.
The conflict between Ukraine and Russia
Come the end of February, the conflict between Ukraine (a NATO proxy for want of a better description) and Russia escalated to a new level as Russian troops were moved into a number of areas of Ukraine. This was the cue to our having to do a crash course in geopolitics to get a grip on the situation! A crash course which some of our former ‘anarchist’ comrades clearly did not participate in as they veered worryingly closer to being NATO’s useful idiots. In a bid, quite possibly a futile one, to counter this, over the course of the year we’ve been posting up selections of readings which aim to situate the conflict in a broader geopolitical framework. This is the most recent one we’ve published: Getting worryingly closer:( – Readings on the Russia / Ukraine conflict 27.10.22.
Gender ideology and ‘culture wars’
The rows and clashes over gender ideology seemed to exacerbate as part of an increasingly bitter culture war. It should be noted that in our opinion, ‘culture war’ is an expression that’s so loaded and has so much baggage, it’s losing it’s use value as a description of what’s actually happening which requires a considerably more nuanced examination. That may well be the subject of a future post…
There have been a series of street meetings across the country organised by Posie Parker for the purpose of giving women a space to speak out against gender ideology. Pretty much all of these meetings have faced attempts to disrupt them by a coalition of trans rights activists (TRAs), so called anarchists and so called anti-fascists. Attempts at disruption that veered towards outright intimidation on a number of occasions when the local cops decided, for whatever reason, to allow the TRAs to have an equal voice to the women speaking up to defend their rights.
On top of this, there have been a number of drag queen story reading events during the course of the year aimed at children. Yup, we had a problem trying to grasp just what the heck was going on here… Suffice to say, as grandparents we’re deeply uncomfortable with the concept. Unsurprisingly, there were protests against these readings. Unsurprisingly, given the rigid group think of anarchists and anti-fascists which resulted in people’s legitimate concerns about these events being derided, a political vacuum was created. Unsurprisingly, that political vacuum was filled by the likes of Patriotic Alternative who were behind some of the protests outside the venues where these drag queen story reading events were taking place. Unsurprisingly, there was a Pavolvian response from anarchists and anti-fascists who, when they could, mounted counter protests.
Because of all of this, those of us with concerns and questions about why drag queens are being invited to read stories to children are now being branded as bigots and even fascists. What an utter shitshow this is turning out to be as yet again, what feels like an out of touch anarchist and anti-fascist movement has created a political vacuum by deriding the concerns of ordinary people. This is something we dealt with in this piece – Reacting to change… 12.8.22 – in the section headed ‘Culture shock’.
Another nail in the coffin of the monarchy?
Then Queen Elizabeth II died… An event that to be honest, most people were expecting. An event that caused the country, in parts, to pause for a bit before moving on. An event that despite some predictions, didn’t cause the country to go into a meltdown. An event, given the successor to the throne, that has prompted more people to ask what is the actual point of the monarchy. A questioning that is starting to lift the lid on a pretty murky institution. All of this will hopefully be the start of a major historical shift. Anyway, for the record, this is what we had to say about what happened and the response to it: What next? 11.9.22 and: Are they tone deaf? Are they also rattled? 13.9.22.
How many prime ministers?!
2022 will go down as the year we had three prime ministers. We started out with Boris Johnson, then we were given Liz Truss for a trial period that didn’t work out before being replaced by Riki Sunak. The Tories are in disarray with many privately and not so privately saying that a period in opposition while they try to achieve some semblance of ideological coherence would be welcome. While all of this is happening, Kier Starmer’s Labour Party is being groomed for what seems like his and their inevitable succession to government. Bear in mind that Labour were the ones advocating for a stronger and harder lockdown and restrictions. They have a strong authoritarian streak which they’ll have no hesitation unleashing upon us when they take power. All for the ‘common good’ of course…
Climate change protests and the environmental crisis
It’s been an ‘interesting’ year on the protest front… Away from the varying currents of resistance to the 4IR and transhumanism, there have been a lot of protests relating to climate change. Most of the dramatic stuff have come from Just Stop Oil with actions ranging from blocking access to and from oil terminals in places which included our old stamping ground of Thurrock, through to occupying bridges and gantries to halt traffic on the motorway network and also, some bizarre stunts such as chucking a tin of soup over a painting in the National Gallery. For the record, this is what we had to say at the time of the infamous soup action: Getting s**t done vs performative acts 15.10.11.
From plastic pollution and the health toll of air pollution through to habitat destruction and species loss, it’s undeniable that we’re in an environmental crisis. We like, as far as possible, to view things holistically and as such, are becoming concerned about the focus on carbon with other aspects of the crisis being seemingly downplayed. That concern was what motivated us to publish this piece: A couple of alternative readings on carbon 30.10.11. There are no easy answers on how to move from a system built around the consumption of finite resources to one that’s more sustainable and equitable for all as we indicated in these three pieces: Set up to fail 24.10.22 and: 15 minute cities / neighbourhoods – a good or a bad idea? 23.3.22 followed by this: Connectivity vs convenience 15.4.22.
Sacrificing farmland for a ‘smart’ megalopolis?
Then there’s this: Dutch announce forced buyout of farms to cut emissions 1.12.22. Which ostensibly is about reducing CO2 emissions but is happening a few years in the wake of this initiative being touted around: Dutch investors launch new marketing programme for NL: Tristate City 30.10.17. The Tristate City may have been touted as a marketing idea but you don’t have to do too much reading between the lines to draw the conclusion that land would be needed to accommodate the growing population of what would in effect be a cross border megalopolis. In an integrated EU, the thinking would be that farmland can be sacrificed to accommodate a megalopolis because food can always be sourced from elsewhere in the EU or from outside of it.
As you can imagine, the Tristate City would be a ‘smart city’ where the technology of surveillance and control would be integrated, albeit very discreetly and in a very ‘user friendly’ way, into pretty much every aspect of people’s lives. All for the ‘common good’ of course. This would be the embodiment of the 4IR in action. All of which runs in absolutely the opposite direction of our belief in sustainable localism where control is right at the grassroots and, wherever possible, food is locally or regionally sourced. Dutch farmers are protesting against this as you can see here. These are protests that transcend the left/right political dichotomy but inevitably, there are elements trying to brand them as alt-right – as was the case with the Canadian truckers protests against vaccine passports at the start of the year, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary: An attempt to redress the balance 4.2.22.
We’ve not covered everything…
As the heading of this section indicates, this is not a comprehensive overview – it’s a summary of what caught our eye in a weird, dislocated year. We’re pretty sure that our readers will have their own perspectives on 2022 as it comes to an end and we enter 2023. We welcome these perspectives being posted in the comments underneath this post. Underneath all of the noise this year has generated, there is a signal of sorts. A signal indicating that things can’t go on as they are and that some dramatic changes are in the pipeline. What those changes will be and how they will manifest themselves is harder to discern. All we can say is that how things pan out very much depends on how the varying currents of resistance to the 4IR and the transhumanist agenda that’s being rammed down our throats manage to get their act together and fight back. The future is indeed an open book…
Our activity in the context of an ongoing clusterf**k and a relocation to the other side of the country
Our ‘relationship’ with the anarchist movement
As much as we’d like to move on, we can’t really discuss what we’re trying to achieve with our activity without dealing with our strained relationship with the anarchist movement, such as it is. The best summation of where we are in relation to the anarchist movement can be found here in this post we put up back in the spring before we moved: Thoughts that really shouldn’t be published, but… 23.5.22. Suffice to say we weren’t holding back in this post even though we knew that it would potentially ruffle the feathers of certain elements in Bristol. To be honest, it was a case of being open and honest about where we stand and dealing with any consequences that may arise. To date, there has been no adverse reaction although much of that is down to us being a little bit picky about when and where we show our faces in and around Bristol. To be honest, we just want to get on with what we do and avoid any pointless time and energy sapping rows.
As a bit of an aside, regarding what has happened to the anarchist movement, such as it is, this conversation between Paul Cudenec and the Italian group Resistenze al nanomondo is very illuminating: Resisting techno-tyranny: a dialogue 2.12.22. It concludes thus:
This project of decentralisation, deindustrialisation, reconnection and rehumanisation will be based on the natural ways of being and thinking derided as “reactionary” by our vitaphobic opponents. To allow this new movement to fulfill its true, vast, potential, we are going to have to abandon the existing political vocabulary, which is overladen with confusion and is not a language in which we can express ourselves in the way we need to. Our terrain will also have to be much wider and deeper than the current political discourse, taking in all the forms through which the human soul finds self-expression (poetry, art, music, dance, ritual, myth, storytelling…) and will include realms far beyond the current understanding of what “politics” is and ever could be. It will have to be imaginative, spiritual, holistic, joyful, sad, humorous, angry, defiant and, above all, visionary: living and acting in the present, it will find its roots in the past and fix its gaze on the future.
Trying to make what we do count
We moved from Thurrock down to Keynsham to be closer to our family. Family we didn’t see a lot of in 2020 and the early part of 2021 because of the Covid lockdowns and restrictions. That caused us a lot of heartache… We’re making up for lost time which means we want to ensure that the time we do devote to our activity is productive and not just activity for the sake of it. Moving was a total ball ache that sapped our mental energy and took up too much of our time. It’s done, we’re settling into our new surroundings here in Keynsham and are slowly but surely, getting our feet under the table when it comes to our activity.
What we do with our Grassroots Alternatives hats on will comprise a significant part of what we seek to achieve. A strategy for how we try to achieve that is laid out here: Our strategy 7.11.22.
We’ve written a lot about prefigurative action. Over the years, we’ve got stuck into various community based activities. There have been the estate community clean ups with Basildon and Southend Housing Action. There was Stanford Blooming Marvels, followed by volunteering as gardeners at Hardie Park. Now we’re staring to get our feet under the table in Keynsham, there’s gardening with the Plot in the Park and the litter picking with the Wombles: Starting local and then working outwards from there 1.10.22. One more practical, community based action, should round this off nicely.
In considerably more depth, we look what defines our anarchism in a piece which touches on attachment to place, connection with nature and spirituality: Attachment, connection and a search for meaning 24.11.22.
A lot of what Grassroots Alternatives is about is building a sense of community cohesion and solidarity. A key part of that is having a feeling of attachment and connection to where you live. That’s regardless of where people may have originally come from. Having that is the spur to wanting to get involved in community projects to make the town you live in a better place to live. What’s important is that this feeling of attachment and connection apples to the people in your community as well as the location you live in. It’s about building the bonds with each other that will turn to solidarity when the hard times hit, as they inevitably will.
Away from the musings on spirituality and philosophy, one of the key aims we want to achieve with Grassroots Alternatives is to provide a list of resources, campaigns and groups that will offer inspiration, support and solidarity to people who want to get stuck into a neighbourhood level project. This post from the Grassroots Alternatives blog briefly explains how this is working out in practice:
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Updated editions of The Directory – 27.11.22
The latest, downloadable, printable A4 PDFs of our resource/campaign directories are available from here:
ALTERNATIVE ESTUARY Directory (Essex) – November/December 2022
GRASSROOTS ALTERNATIVES Directory (Avon) – November/December 2022
Please note that while we only upload these downloadable PDFs of the directories around once a month, the online versions – Essex | Avon – are updated on an ongoing basis.
The Avon edition of our resource/campaign directory has been growing rapidly. So rapidly that we’ve had to relay it completely, running it to four pages to allow for future expansion!
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Then there’s this: The Avon HECKLER
Basically, this blog is run by fed up residents who want to hold councils in the Avon region to account and get people stirred up enough to start fighting back against bluster, bullshit and incompetence. The same applies to public transport operators, utility companies, housing providers and the like… It’s calling truth to power but hopefully keeping you entertained as well as getting inspired to take action:) Content note – we do swear a bit! Putting up with the shite we get from those who presume to rule us and ‘provide’ us with services is enough to make a saint get sweary…
Finally, there’s the question of what we want to do with The Stirrer. Followers of this blog will have noticed a decrease in the frequency of posting. They may have noticed that what does get posted is getting longer in length and more involved. For a while earlier on this year, this blog was pretty much all things to all people with a lot of coverage of the shite that was going down in Thurrock. With both The Avon Heckler and Grassroots Alternatives having fairly specific functions, we want to re-purpose The Stirrer to be a blog where we post, longer and more reflective and analytical pieces. Just to reassure people, we’ve no intention of binning any of the posts from when this blog was all things to all people, particularly the Thurrock related material. That’s a part of our history and something we would want to archive.
Working with and relating to other groups
Relocating down to Keynsham means starting from scratch. That to be honest is a welcome challenge as it enables us to craft a form of activism that is aimed at getting results. That means abandoning the impossible search for ideological purity and adopting a pragmatic attitude to the criteria we apply when deciding who we work with and support.
With the Keynsham Community Veg Plot in the Park and the Keynsham Wombles, they’re both part of Transition network which is very much reformist and gradualist in it’s outlook. If we applied a rigid anarchist purity test, we wouldn’t be working with them. However, both projects are making a difference in the community and on that basis, we’re more than happy to get seriously stuck into them as they are working examples of what we want to support at the grassroots.
We also support the campaign Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) are waging against the ill judged proposal to expand the capacity of the airport. We have skin in the game on this as we a) live under the flight path to and from the airport and b) live close to the Keynsham bypass which would see an increase in traffic volumes. BAAN have close links with Extinction Rebellion (XR) – an outfit that some of our allies have criticised. We’ve adopted an attitude of taking XR as they come and not letting preconceived outlooks cloud our judgement of their activists as and when we meet them. If their stance on a local or regional issue resonates with ours, we’re happy to work with or support them.
Anyone who has read The Avon Heckler will have noticed the numerous posts about the shite bus service people in the region have to endure. XR Youth Bristol are running a campaign highlighting the failings of the bus service and offering some radical solutions to fixing it: Free Buses, Fair Buses – XR Youth. Regardless of our reservations about the way XR were set up and how they’re funded, when it comes to a campaign that resonates with public transport users across the region, we are more than happy to offer it our wholehearted solidarity.
There are some elements in Bristol we would find it impossible to work with. They are the cohort of ‘anarchists’ involved in the disruption and harassment of the organisers of the London Anarchist Bookfair in October 2017. They have subsequently been involved with harassment of gender critical feminists who have visited Bristol. These are red lines for us which once crossed, mean we cannot contemplate any kind of relationship with the perpetrators. Our strategy to date is simply to avoid coming into contact with them, which apart from choosing to miss out on a couple of bookfairs in the region, has had little impact on how we operate. That’s how we want it to continue…
A kind of a conclusion
We’ve covered a lot in this review but as always, there’s probably a lot more we could and should have discussed. We welcome any comradely criticism, comment and contributions in the comments below this post. We hope that these will take account of the disruption that has been the inevitable consequence of moving from one side of the country to another and basically, having to start from scratch.
In this review, we’ve been pretty open about the way we see things and more so, about how we operate and intend to carry on operating. Possibly to the point of compromising our security if the element of anarchists in the region previously discussed choose to take umbrage with us. However, we prefer to be open and transparent about who we are and what we do rather than hide part of what we do away in fear of consequences that may well never materialise.
As for how events and trends will pan out next year, we’ve given up making predictions. That’s simply because making predictions as we enter a massive and complex clusterf**k is a mug’s game. Suffice to say, we’ll react as best we can with comment and analysis to whatever may unfold in 2023. What is fairly certain is that the review we’ll (hopefully) be doing in a year’s time will undoubtedly be a more ‘interesting’ than this one!
As for what we do, yes we have a strategy and we have three blogs dedicated to different areas of interest and we are getting grounded in a couple of community based projects and hope to get involved in one more but… Who knows what the heck could happen in the course of 2023. All we can say is that we’ve established the principles we want to adhere to and guide how we operate and we hope that will help to steer us through what could well be an eventful and tumultuous 2023…