Disobedience Makes History

The Clown Army is surrounded, Gleneagles G8 protests, Scotland 2005 Photo: © Ian Teh

Led by the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination
Saturday 23 January 2010, 10.30–17.30
Saturday 30 January 2010, 10.30–17.30

In 1989 thousands of citizens defied the law and brought down the authoritarian regimes that were already crumbling under economic burdens across Eastern Europe.  Many of the seeds of these revolutions were planted by artists and subcultures who devised forms of civil disobedience and opened up a space for dissent.

Twenty years later we are in the midst of an unprecedented economic and ecological crisis not unlike that which swept across the east in 1989 and yet voices of dissent are being increasingly repressed. There has never been a more urgent time to develop new forms of creative disobedience and artists have the skills and imagination to do this. This workshop will explore the history and practice of creative disobedience and will culminate in a co-created intervention. No arts or activism experience necessary.

Tate Modern  Level 7 East Room
£50 (£35 concessions), booking recommended
Price includes refreshments
For tickets book online
or call 020 7887 8888.

Book tickets online

Source: http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/eventseducation/coursesworkshops/20641.htm

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The Day The Music Was Resurrected

For four years in a row Simon Cowell’s X-Factor has dominated the Christmas number one slot in the charts. He’s certainly not the first person to send bland, manufactured porridge masquerading as music to the top of the charts but he is the first to insist year on year that there is no alternative.

Year after year he unleashes all the corporate power at his disposal, including a prime-time TV show which acts as a long-running, dedicated advertising campaign that puts QVC and the Shopping Channel to shame, all in the service of his ever-burgeoning fortunes.

Stacked against him were a married couple in Essex, Jon and Tracy Morter, who decided that enough was enough and launched a campaign from their living room to depose the dictator.

How were they going to do it? By backing Killing In The Name by rap-rock band Rage Against the Machine (RATM).

Leaping beyond all their expectations the campaign, based mainly through the internet as the song was no longer available in the shops, became a mini-movement with almost a million people joining the Facebook group and over half-a-million people buying the single in a week.

Joyously it topped the charts with no corporate backing nor even, initially, with the knowledge of the band itself. Continue reading

System Change Not Climate Change

by A.A. French

After being in Copenhagen for five days now, there are some thoughts running through my head that I’d like to express and share with y’all. This is going to be short, and probably not all that eloquent, but it will help me get some points across that I think are really important at this critical moment in the fight for our climate. I do want to say that while this post is critical of the way things are happening at COP15, I still deeply respect the youth of all delegations who are inside this conference, trying to scrap out a decent deal for the world. I thank them for all their efforts, but am coming from a different perspective here.

I came to Copenhagen hesitant and nervous….not wanting to place too much hope into the talks that had effectively been castrated by the UNFCCC leadership and Yvo de Boer. But I still wanted to be here all the same; after all, it’s supposedly the climate party of the century! So I hooked up with some French activists and an amazing organization called Climate Justice Action and planned on doing all that I could during the two weeks of the conference. I wanted to rally, protest, take part in negotiations, have my voice heard and above all- help bring a fair, ambitious and binding treaty out of Copenhagen. But upon arriving in Denmark, I entered a catatonic state of dumbfoundedness… having finally come to the realization, like so many others (James Hansen, Breakthrough Institute etc), that these talks were doomed to fail and there was nothing anyone could do about it. As quickly as it had come, my dream of that fair, ambitious and binding treaty that we’ve all been working towards disappeared in a smoggy cloud of yen, dollars, euros and political and moral weakness.

Since 2006, I’ve been a part of the youth climate movement and I always believed that it was possible to achieve the sort of change we needed through the United States Congress, the United Nations Conference of Parties or other governmental bodies. To put it short and use that worn out term, I believed in “the system”. I believed that governments did have the power to stop climate change and did in fact want to stop climate change. I thought COP 15 would be a conference of folks dedicated to doing whatever was necessary to solve the climate crisis, regardless of money, corporate influence or politics.

I was wrong.

The first five days of the conference have been full of back door dealings by Annex 1 countries, oppression of “developing” countries like Tuvalu by official delegations and a lack of desire for a legitimate deal in Copenhagen by members of the US delegation. So, even with tens of thousands of people working on a global climate treaty for the past fifteen years, we have yet to reach any sort of legitimate, legally binding treaty that addresses climate change and climate justice while refusing to give into corporate and big business pressure. You would think that when you put the world’s top negotiators, scientists, governmental representatives and UN hot shots together for 15 years, they’d at least be able to figure something out right? Continue reading

Britain Today: A Look At The Recent Factory Occupations in London

April 2009

Hundreds of workers occupy three Visteon car manufacturing factories in Britain after the management closed them down, laying off the entire workforce with no notice, violating their contracts. This is reminiscent of the factory occupations of the 1970s.

Read full article here:
http://www.socialist.net/visteon-work…

The above is a lesson in the importance of organisation in the workplace and worker solidarity. See Organising at Work: How Activists can build a Union from scratch

A Neutral Perspective: The Eviction of the Bishopsgate Climate Camp

Simon Keyes is the Director at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace which is located at the site where last week’s G20 protestors set up their climate camp, in Bishopsgate, City of London. Here are his thoughts on the whole episode as viewed from the St Ethelburga’s Centre.

City folk returned to their desks this morning to find almost every physical trace of yesterday’s Climate Camp erased. Even the chalk slogans on the road had been scrubbed off. Our banner “We’re all in this together” looks a little forlorn and it’s probably a planning irregularity now. I am tempted to leave it for a day or two to prompt people to reflect on what happened yesterday

I observed the protest throughout the day. I saw very little trouble. Early on the Police won the approval of the crowd for the efficient way they isolated and dispersed an incongruous group of young men in black masks. Hundreds of cameras recorded the Police’s every move and I didn’t envy them being so exposed doing such tricky work.

For the rest of the day, the protest seemed to me to be unfailingly good-humoured. The music and dancing, the creativity of the slogans, and the bold splashes of colour brought smiles to onlookers’ faces. I could see office workers at their windows clearly enjoying the spectacle. The speed with which make-shift kitchens and even a latrine appeared was impressive. For several hours the protesters managed to create a friendly, festival atmosphere. Opposite St Ethelburga’s the main attraction seemed to be a group of people meditating. My over-riding impression was that the organisers had thought hard about how to get their point across in an effective and nonviolent way. I understand a lot of consensus decision-making was going on.

But late last night it was a different story. I emerged from St Ethelburga’s at 10.15 to find the police presence massively increased. Most were now dressed in black combat gear with helmets, riot shields and batons. Many had balaclava face coverings. A fleet of armoured cars blocked the junction outside Gibson Hall, blue lights flashing, and there seemed to be horses behind them. A helicopter hovered low, shining a powerful searchlight, its noise adding to the uncomfortable atmosphere of menace. It was obvious someone had decided not to allow the Camp to remain for its stated 24 hour period.

The protesters were quieter than earlier and seemed intent on ignoring the police. I saw no disorder or drunkenness and there were still moments when dancing and singing broke out. Earlier I had watched whilst three young women dancing on a police van were removed. There was laughter and applause but no hostile reaction. I listened to a storyteller entertaining a group sitting on the road.

A Guardian journalist standing next to me told me the police were waiting for the media to leave and would then evict the camp. He said the demonstrators had been confined in a “kettle” (to allow the temperature to rise) and no-one had been allowed to leave for several hours. After watching for a few a few minutes, I was grabbed by the elbow and brusquely led away by an excitable young police woman “This is a sterile area and you must not be here”. I pointed to our banner. You will be hurt, she said. I could see no violence “There will be” she replied.

I can see that people climbed over our gate last night, which isn’t easy given the spikes and paint we installed on police advice. I asked the police about this and was told that this may have happened when people were trying “to get out of the way”. Of what?

Perhaps there’s a clue in the reported 88 police arrests, mostly after 7.00pm I understand. It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that considerable force was used against the protestors in the unreported early hours of this morning.

Naturally there are contested histories. A police officer tells me a number of “undesirable interlopers” joined the protestors around 9.00pm and this led to an “edict” around 11.00 to remove the camp. A protester who was present says the police closed in at 7.00pm using riot shields and thereafter refused to allow people to leave (and presumably enter) the camp.

Throughout the day orange-jacketed “legal observers” kept notes on what happened, and it will be helpful for them to publish details of what they saw. There are some media reports such as Sky’s Catherine Jacobs.

London’s Mayor, Boris Johnston said on Tuesday “I would urge those planning to demonstrate to honour the great, democratic tradition of peaceful, constructive protest, without the need to resort to violent or illegal activity.”

I imagine that the Climate Camp protestors feel they took this responsibility seriously, so why did it end like this?

Source: http://stethelburgas.blogspot.com/2009/04/eviction-of-climate-camp.html

Documentary: Un Poquito de Tanta Verdad

When the people of Oaxaca decided they’d had enough of bad government, they didn’t take their story to the media… They TOOK the media!

In the summer of 2006, a broad-based, non-violent, popular uprising exploded in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Some compared it to the Paris Commune, while others called it the first Latin American revolution of the 21st century.

But it was the people’s use of the media that truly made history in Oaxaca. A 90-minute documentary, Un Poquito de Tanta Verdad captures the unprecedented media phenomenon that emerged when tens of thousands of school teachers, housewives, indigenous communities, health workers, farmers, and students took 14 radio stations and one TV station into their own hands, using them to organize, mobilize, and ultimately defend their grassroots struggle for social, cultural, and economic justice.

“Beautiful, powerful, dramatic… magnificent… provides a remarkably deep and penetrating look into the people who made up the movement. Everyone interested in Mexico, in teachers and education, in workers’ movements, in indigenous people, in the state of our world and the struggle for social justice should see the video.”

For more information see http://www.corrugate.org/un_poquito_de_tanta_/un_poquito_de_tanta_verdad

To watch this documentary full screen click here