“In January a man crawls into a cave of hopelessness; he hallucinates sympathies catching fire. Letters are glaciers, null frigates, trapping us where we are in the moment, unable to carry us on toward truth.”
– Carlene Bauer
From the 6th January onwards, the information on this page will be reduced. My original idea was that the information here at least provides an archive of events that others could help develop a critical perspective on. In fact few people have ever done so. For some time now I’ve been feeling the limits of providing links to information about situations I know little about and which provides a notion that struggle is advancing or happening far more than it in fact is. Whilst this gives some kind of popularity to this page, unless I know more about such situations such information is not much use and can even blind people to the contradictions and complexities of any specific situation. However, if I think I can provide some additional comments or an understanding of the context of these events I shall put them up, even if there’s an inevitable limit to doing so.
Bangladesh: 100s sacked after strikes and protests “The country’s $30-billion clothing industry is the world’s second-largest after China. Its some four million workers at 4,500 factories make garments for global retail giants….The demonstrations died down this week after the government agreed to raise salaries, but many returned to work on Wednesday to discover they had been laid off. A top union leader said at least 750 workers at various companies in the manufacturing hub of Ashulia had found notices hanging on factory gates informing them of their dismissal along with photos of their faces….“Police told me not to create trouble. Otherwise I’ll be disappeared.” Police and a senior factory manager gave a lower total of around 400 workers fired for damaging equipment during the strike — with more than half from one Ashulia plant called Metro Knitting and Dyeing. Metro Knitting’s general manager Atiqul Islam told AFP that the company has reported nearly 300 workers to police for smashing the factory’s CCTV cameras and computers….“Some 10,000 apparel items made for export also went missing,” Islam added. So far 12 arrests have been made for vandalism during the unrest, local police said.”…Adabor: workers blockade main roads for 2 hours to get assurance from bosses that they’ll be paid according to new pay scale See entries for 10th January onwards below
Zimbabwe: further developments as national strike enters 3rd day See entry for 14/1/19.
Bangladesh: striking workers reject revised salary structure; cops tell strikers to get back to their wage slavery “Despite a salary increase in six grades of their wage structure, apparel workers are continuing to protest in Ashulia. The workers also rejected a revised salary structure on Monday; a day after it was re-adjusted by a government-led committee. About a thousand workers from five factories—in Ashulia industrial zone—took to the street and blocked the Abdullahpur-Baipayl highway at 8:30am Monday. The garment workers gathered in Narshinghpur bus stand area, in great numbers, then police chased them from the streets around 9am. Even after being dispersed by police, many workers are still hiding in nearby alleyways waiting to return to the highway. Khadiza Begum, an agitating garment worker, said: “We have been told by the factory owner that we will not be paid our salaries—of the past seven to eight days—as we have participated in the ongoing demonstration. We demand our salary. “We also reject the revised salary structure as the amount has been raised by very little in the revised one,” she said. Dhaka 1 Ashulia Industrial Zone Superintendent of Police (SP) Sana Taminur Rahman said police have dispersed the gathering garment workers who tried to block the highway in the morning. “Additionally, we are using megaphones to tell the protesting workers to return to their respective workstations as the government has already revised their wage structure,” the SP said.” [see also entries below for 13th and 10th]
Zimbabwe: interesting developments “Police in Zimbabwe have fired live ammunition and teargas during running battles with groups of young people trying to enforce a nationwide shutdown to protest against the rising cost of living….They came on the first day of a three-day general strike called by unions amid an intensifying economic crisis. There were clashes in the capital, Harare, and in Bulawayo, a city in the south, as police attempted to disperse groups of youths who had lit fires in streets, erected barricades and, in some cases, looted shops. Other protesters blocked highways and tried to force companies that had remained open to comply with the shutdown. In Chitungwiza, a satellite town of the capital where anti-government feeling runs high, a police station was reportedly besieged and automatic gunfire was heard. In the poor neighbourhood of Mabvuku, four civilians were reportedly shot and injured by police. One catalyst for the discontent was the government’s decision to increase the price of fuel by 150% on Saturday. There are already acute shortages of imported goods and soaring inflation for basic foodstuffs….The main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change, issued a call for calm and said it was “in solidarity with peaceful citizen action across the country today”….The mainstream opposition in Zimbabwe appeared to have been taken by surprise by the disorder. “The opposition appears not to be in charge or leading this”
Bangladesh: 52 factories closed as garment workers’ strikes enter 2nd week; strikers clash with cops “Thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh who make clothes for top global brands have clashed with police as strike action over low wages entered a second week. Police said water cannon and tear gas were fired on Sunday to disperse huge crowds of striking factory workers in Savar, a garment hub just outside the capital, Dhaka. “The workers barricaded the highway. We had to drive them away to ease traffic conditions,” said police director Sana Shaminur Rahman. “So far 52 factories, including some big ones, have shut down operations due to the protests.”. On Tuesday, one worker was killed when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at 5,000 protesting workers…Late on Sunday, the government announced a pay rise for mid-level factory workers after meeting manufacturers and unions. Not all unions have signalled they will uphold the agreement. Babul Akhter, a union leader present at the meeting, said the deal should appease striking workers. “They should not reject it, and peacefully return to work,” he said…Last year Bangladesh was the second-largest global apparel exporter after China. It has plans to expand the sector into a $50bn-a-year industry by 2023. But despite their role in transforming the impoverished nation into a major manufacturing hub, garment workers remain some of the lowest paid in the world.“
Bangladesh, : garment workers clash again with the state “Several hundreds of garment workers took to the streets for the fifth consecutive day against alleged disparity in the new wage structure, demanding implementation of minimum wage.” This video in 2 parts, from about 9 years ago, still has some pertinence:
France: the dictatorship of the marketplace takes its mask off “Prime Minister Philippe said the government would support a “new law punishing those who do not respect the requirement to declare [protests], those who take part in unauthorised demonstrations and those who arrive at demonstrations wearing face masks”….Known troublemakers would be banned from taking part in demonstrations, in the same way known football hooligans have been banned from stadiums. The onus would be on “the troublemakers, and not taxpayers, to pay for the damage caused” to businesses and property during the protests….”Those who question our institutions will not have the last word,” Mr Philippe said.”
France, Val-de-Marne: yellow vests denounce xenophobic attitudes of Rungis “Encouraged by the hooting of motorists in solidarity, about sixty yellow vests gathered this Sunday in front of the town hall of Ivry. An open-air general meeting organized by the Yellow Vests of Val-de-Marne to record each ones’ proposals. …”If I’m here, it’s because people have to choose between eating and heating!” says a resident. And to denounce the attitude of some yellow vests around the country, shocked by the fact that on blockades (note: this was the case in Rungis) we let French trucks pass but not those of foreign drivers. The bosses put us in competition, but we must unite! “ To get some idea of what’s been happening in Rungis, see entry for 24/12/18. According to someone I know, this article does not “make precise the fact that the Ivry yellow vests, which are made on the same model as those of Montreuil, Saint-Denis, etc., in towns in the suburbs of Paris, whose mayor is Communist Party, are just active members of the Front de Gauche [“Left Front”, a mixture of members of the French CP, ex-members of the New Anti-Capitalist Party and others], supported by the NPA. At the General Assembly of Yellow Vests in Ivry, January 6, people I know immediately raised the problem of housing immigrants, while the town hall promotes more and more gentrification, as elsewhere in the immediate suburbs of Paris . Answer: “It’s not on the agenda of the first General Assembly” which “must remain apolitical”!”
Sudan, Khartoum: more clashes “Police are not even allowing 10 people to gather”
Nowadays even this could be fake news. Perhaps it always was so ever since World War I, but undoubtedly in unprecedentedly insecure times it’s increasingly hard to sort out the facts from the fiction, the real conspiracies from the conspiracy theory. Confusion has long been the result of colonisation by dominant or so-called “oppositionist” ideologies – but nowadays it seems it’s a central part of their goal, because confused people remain submissive to fear and are easily manipulated.
A friend from the UK writes re. the above: “It appeared on Victor Lewis-Smith’s twitterfeed with the comment, “This is not a joke”. I’m generally quite suspicious of random claims being bandied about, so you’re right to hedge it with the comments you put underneath. All I can say is that VL-S is a longstanding TV producer and scriptwriter who started on Radio4 – he invented the Gay Daleks and there’s a documentary he’s done that’s waiting to be shown on the nonagenarian Scottish comedian, Stanley Baxter. Although he’s estranged from the BBC these days, he still seems to have a lot of connections and I would have thought he’d be able to sniff it out if it was just bullshit.
In the middle of December I noticed on the account of someone who’s SWP and pro-Brexit the sharing of all sorts of daft anti-EU conspiraloon stuff showing pictures of that armoured car in Paris with the EU flag on it – indiscriminate sharing of anti-EU/pro Gilets Jaunes tweets from pseudonymous Polish Nazis and American Trump fans – totally playing up the nationalism. There definitely is a whole miasma of social media that seems to be at the nexus of various psyops operations. A Foreign Office-funded social media scheme called the Integrity Initiative – supposedly to counter Russian cyber-propaganda – was recently exposed. It is run by military-types connected to the Strategic Studies Institute (US) and the Institute of Strategic Studies (UK), is based in a converted mill in Scotland and a leaked document shows what it calls ‘clusters’, groups of journalists in print and broadcast and other ‘influencers’ in academia.
The ‘Yellow Vest’ phenomenon in the UK is 100% fascist. A group in Manchester demonstrated against the EU, while a yellow vest demo in Liverpool at the weekend harassed an RMT picket line for being ‘lefties’, and racially-abused an Asian picket”. This friend also added the following about the BBC: “It sometimes strikes me how, with the eruption of certain social-contestatory movements …the BBC can come up with a very slick, ‘explanatory’ narrative (after weeks of ignoring/downplaying) that shows the sophisticated work of many minds, that has a ‘plausibility’, but is actually obfuscatory and wrong, reeking of propaganda.”
France, Paris: minister forced to leave ministry as courtyard gate is smashed open with a forklift truck and ministerial cars and windows of ministry are smashed by about 15 ‘yellow vests’ More here “…protesters threw rocks at police and officers used a water cannon to disperse the crowd. Scooters and a car were burned along one of the capital’s symbols of wealth and prestige, the Boulevard Saint-Germain. Protesters and police clashed on a pedestrian bridge linking the two banks of the Seine, a span heavily visited by tourists. Underscoring the seriousness of Saturday’s protests, President Emmanuel Macron reacted sharply and quickly on Twitter. “Once again, the republic was attacked with extreme violence — its guardians, its representatives, its symbols”. Should be pointed out that an attack on the ministry is not necessarily indicative of radicality, as in the past ministries have been attacked by the right. In this specific case, it’s not clear who did it…clashes in 22 towns…More here in English…Montpellier: fires and clashes on ‘yellow vest’ march
In fact this report minimises what happened. First of all, in the morning there was a small demo of about 200 to 300 that got teargassed repeatedly even though it was totally peaceful and even though they sang that wonderful dirge “The Marseillaise” (perhaps the cops misheard the refrain “Aux armes citoyens” – “To arms, citizens!” as “Aux larmes citoyens!” – “To tears, citizens!”). At least 2 yellow vests had “Macron – we’re not fucking you up the arse – sodomy is between friends” written on the back of their yellow vests. There were several people with home-made placards showing bad wounds from the cops’ flashballs from the week before, and today one guy got hit by a teargas canister which badly burnt part of his head (the canisters contain several teargas ‘bombs’ which are ejected by an explosion from the main canister). Then later, in the afternoon, the demo got larger with about 2000 people (always hard to tell how many, but at one stage it was quite large), and a couple of banks got their doors, windows and ATMs smashed up. At one point I shouted out near someone with a French flag, “Down with France!”, and a guy from the anti-authoritarian milieu that I was with ran off. Clearly opposing authority for him didn’t involve commitment to taking the slightest risk. I continued shouting “…Down with the UK, down with all nations! Down with borders!”. On the plus side, nobody seemed bothered; on the negative, no-one seemed interested. That’s part of the problem with this movement – very little interest in discussion or in critical ideas beyond opposition to unfair taxation. One woman shouted at me about how wrong it was to invest so much in foreign aid, and so little for the French. Unable to understand that so-called foreign aid helps the French bourgeoisie exploit other countries, she was too agitated to listen to my critical response. Emotions run high but not backed up with independent thinking. Clearly potential fodder for political demagogy.
The main station got closed by the authorities, with passengers and staff locked inside. So some people on the demo managed to pull open the gates to the main part of the station just through 5 minutes forceful shaking, and the crowd went up to the glass doors, also locked, and started to smash them open. As soon as they did so, teargas was thrown from within the station to prevent people entering through the thick fog of gas. However, it seemed like the only people actually effected by this gas would have been staff and passengers locked inside the station. Then, just outside the back of the station 2 very large wheelie bins were set on fire before the CRS started to approach under a hail of missiles. A car and some small bins were torched. For the next couple of hours the demo, constantly trying to get to the prefecture, was teargassed repeatedly.
At one point, whilst talking to someone else, Richard Greeman (see this and this) came up to me. I’d met him about 16 years ago, but hadn’t spoken with him much since then, apart from last April when I bumped into him at an occupation of part of the University, where he’d agreed with and later reproduced much of my text on the CGT. I said I really disagreed with his text, not only about the RIC (Rassemblement pour l’Initiative Citoyenne – a demand to have constant referendums on specific subjects, like happens in Switzerland, easy prey to the manipulations of various political rackets) but the danger of minimising the significant contradictions in this movement. I elaborated with the other guy, whilst RG just stood there looking non-plussed and couldn’t find a single word to say in response. An embarassing silence before he turned away and walked off.
My conversations with people were varied, but often I focused on the national flags that were around (mind you, not that many considering there were about 2000 people – perhaps 10 national flags and 2 or 3 regional ones). Some people said they were internationalists, others defended the use of the flag as somehow meaning “equality, liberty and fraternity”. I made a critique of one guy carrying the tricouleur, saying it implied unity between bosses and those exploited, that Macron also waved the flag, that it implicitly excluded migrants, that the struggle was international. He didn’t seem to be annoyed by this and said I had a point, seeming to consider it. I don’t know how much this was just politeness, or a genuine reflection on his part. Someone walking with him certainly agreed with what I said. It should be obvious that people who have never participated in a movement before hold stupid ideas that can sometimes break down with the influence of meeting people they’d never normally meet or reading things they’d never normally read. It should be obvious, but unfortunately there’s a tendency to fix and categorise people as if this isn’t a fluid situation.
I left at about 5pm, but I heard later that some rednecks in the evening round the prefecture started singing an anti-semitic song. Wonderful!
PS I recommend this text for those wanting to understand French nationalism in its historical development, and how its universalism colonises people of all classes in submission to and identification with the nation state and the ideology of the national economy.
Sudan, Oumdourman: clashes as anti-government protests continue “Riot police fired tear gas to disperse protesters coming out of the mosque chanting “Freedom, Peace, Justice”. The day before, on Thursday, the National Intelligence and Security Service had made numerous arrests, including two leading editorialists, Fais al-Saleh and Korachi Awad. Joined by RFI, Sudanese journalist Mohamed Naji reported numerous arrests. “A wave of arrests, this time mainly aimed at journalists, known to be critical of the regime, but also activists of civil society. Several people told us, moreover, that the security services were actively seeking a number of political leaders who have now gone into hiding… People are fed up. They are no longer afraid of the regime. They go out every day and demonstrate. This time, therefore, oppression no longer works. That’s why it’s pretty alarming“
Brazil, Fortaleza: gangs unite in order to attack shops, banks, buses and service stations after new fascist government imposes new rules on prisoners “A special deployment of Brazilian troops have begun fanning out in the northern city of Fortaleza with orders to stop a spike in violent attacks by criminal gangs against banks, buses and shops… 300 soldiers will be patrolling that city and other towns in Ceara state in a bid to halt the rampage…The gangs terrorising Fortaleza could be seen torching service stations in security videos aired by Brazilian media. Dozens of attacks have been registered this week, forcing residents to stay at home and leaving main roads deserted. In one attack, explosives badly damaged a pillar supporting a flyover road in the town of Caucaia, just to the west of Fortaleza … intelligence reports published by media suggested gangs were revolting against tough new measures recently imposed in the state’s prisons….The changes include blocks on mobile phone signals and an end to a policy of separating inmates according to gang affiliation. Two gangs have set aside their rivalry to join forces against the government…Bolsonaro has vowed to crack down on Brazil’s rampant crime by extending immunity to soldiers and police using lethal force and easing gun laws so “good” citizens can challenge armed criminals.” Not supporting every aspect of this obviously, but overcoming gang rivalry can develop into something better (eg this was one of the developments in Los Angeles in 1992, which is not to imply the situation is the same)…However, this implies that what’s going on is a classic state v. drug racket conflict with the working class caught in the crossfire.
India, Gujarat: clashes between cops and farmers & local villagers as locals oppose limestone mining project “…four policemen were injured in the clashes, local villagers claimed around 15 people, including women and girls, were wounded. The police lobbed 35 teargas shells and resorted to baton charge…The protesting farmers hailed from 13 villages in the taluka, around 180km from Ahmedabad. Local residents said around 15 people were injured and taken to a nearby hospital in Mahuva town…Around 30 villagers were detained from the site and taken to the nearby Datha Police Station…Protesting the detention, a group of villagers went to the police station and gheraoed it. The police again fired teargas shells and used batons to disperse them…The villagers said the mining activity would adversely impact farming in the region, which lies close to the Arabian Sea, as it would break the ridge that prevents saline water from seeping into agriculture land.”
France, Strasbourg: cops attacked with projectiles, cars torched in 5 different parts of town…Paris: 277 vehicles torched in capital and surrounding counties; Minister of Interior, unusually, refuses to release figures of vehicles torched nationally on New Years Eve …Bouches-du-Rhone: tollgates in 2 areas object of arson attack once again I passed (for free) through this twice over the last 2 weeks. It had some graffiti which at least shows that this cannot simplistically be described as a reactionary movement. There was an A in a circle, a tag saying “Here it’s not like on the telly” and a 70 kph sign had been carefully re-painted with “68” on it instead (not that what’s happening can in any way be simplistically compared with ’68, but ’68 was obviously opposed by reactionaries). This movement is very confused and confusing, which is no surprise given the counter-revolution of the past decades. There are few genuinely searching attempts to unravel this confusion, because it’s far easier to resort to already well-developed attitudes pre-existing this movement, whether simplistically for it or simplistically against it or simplistically ‘neutral’. Few people try to unravel attitudes which justify and minimise this confusion; few try to unravel how people tolerate the intolerable in this movement; and few try to explain why there are far too many good people who tend to dismiss the whole thing as simply “interclassist” and “reactionary”. The desire to say it’s all inevitably confused represses the attempt to try to clarify the contradictions. The desire to exaggerate what seems to be radical represses consciousness of the extent of fascist participation and elements of statist ideology amongst many ‘yellow vests’. The desire to see everything in black and white, to see it all as simply an expression of the ultra-right, represses any connection to what does not fit this characterisation, represses consciousness of the nuances. Such perspectives have partial truths contained within them, but hardly any of them usefully contribute to helping provoke something better. They are not attempts to help a movement move but freeze what is going on into fixed “positions”, positions which once publicly adopted will search out anything that confirms them and occlude anything that contradicts them because proving themselves ‘right’, and defending a theoretical role, takes priority over trying to influence or be influenced. These generalities will obviously have to be made more concrete.
Belgium, Molenbeek-St-Jean: new year revelry sees shops smashed and looted, cars & bins burnt etc.…Namur: prisoner confirms Confucius’ saying “The way out is through the door” “…the detainee was cleaning the entrance hall without special supervision. Sometimes the prison door is opened for some outdoor work, and when the door has been opened, there seems to have been some inattention on the part of the guards, so he was able to escape ” (clearly proving Confucius wrong on the 2nd part of this quote – “Why is it that no-one will use this method?”).
US, California: clashes between US Border Patrol and migrants on Mexican border “Although CBP policy says agents are not allowed to use tear gas on pregnant women and children, several women and children were among the group targeted by the gas used”