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27
Jun 2011

On This Deity: 27th June 1905

My new piece is up at On This Deity.

27th June 1905: The Founding of The Industrial Workers of the World.

It is late June 2011 as I write this. The news media – on the rare occasions it’s not discussing the sex lives of professional sportsmen – offers us a running commentary on an Arab Spring, now turned summer. We’re presented with images of disaffected Chinese workers rioting in Guangdong while dissidents with pixelated faces hold secret meetings in cramped apartments. In Peru an alliance between environmental campaigners and indigenous activists has seen its members injured and even killed in an attempt to prevent an expansion of mining in their region. And here, in the relative safety of our liberal democracies, we find ourselves dismayed by the violence, the oppression and the painful struggle for basic rights playing out on our screens and newsprint. And we often forget – because it’s so damned easy to do – just how recently our own nations experienced similar upheaval. And we don’t realise – as the forces of capitalism once again begin to squeeze the worker, marginalise the army of unemployed and bind entire nations with chains of debt – just how close to a return to those days we are, and just how cheaply our acquiescence in this return is being purchased.

One hundred and six years ago today, on June 27th 1905, a couple of hundred anarchists, socialists and vagabond activists gathered in a hall in Chicago for what would later become known as the First Annual Convention of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Like activists in China, Peru, North Africa and elsewhere today they would find themselves targeted by the authorities, imprisoned and even murdered for the crime of disagreeing with those in power. They spoke out. They organised their dissent. Sometimes they withheld their labour. Often they demanded radical change. They united beneath a simple slogan, “An injury to one is an injury to all”… a worldview simply incompatible with free-market capitalism; a philosophy which happily externalises all manner of injury in the pursuit of personal gain; a philosophy that dismisses collective responsibility unless there’s a profit to be made commodifying it.

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23
Jun 2011

On This Deity: 23rd June 1937

Another new piece up at On This Deity.

23rd June 1937: George Orwell flees Spain.

On the morning of June 23rd 1937, George Orwell boarded a train at Barcelona station with his wife, Eileen, and two companions, John McNair and Stafford Cottman. The train was bound for the French border and Orwell (or Eric Blair – he had yet to adopt his now famous nom de plume) was posing as a wealthy English businessman travelling with his wife and associates. In reality, they were fugitives, hunted not only by the fascist forces they’d come to Spain to fight, but also by the communists. McNair was leader of a contingent of fighters organised by the Independent Labour Party (ILP) who had left England to try and stem the rising fascist tide. This small group of revolutionaries and idealists – one among many such groups from all over the world –included Orwell. Prior to boarding the train that morning he had spent much of the previous six months in the trenches until a sniper’s bullet pierced his throat. By the time he’d sufficiently recovered to leave hospital, the internal divisions within the anti-fascist forces had shattered whatever slim chances they’d had of defeating Franco and his allies.

read the rest…

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17
Jun 2011

On This Deity: 17th June 1972

Check out my new piece over at On This Deity.

17th June 1972: The Watergate Arrests.

On a balmy Saturday evening in Washington DC, Frank Wills was doing his rounds. It was June 17th 1972 and he was working as a security guard in the Watergate complex. During the course of his routine patrol he noticed that several of the doors had tape applied to them in order to prevent them locking. Suspecting that a burglary might be in progress, Wills called the police, little knowing his phone call would become one of the most influential of all time. While that night it would merely result in the arrest of five burglars, it would later set off a chain of events that was to shake the United States to the core, forcing the collapse of a government and the only US presidential resignation in history.

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4
Jun 2011

On This Deity: 4th June 1989

I’ve a new article up at On This Deity.

4th June 1989: The Tiananmen Square Massacre.

In the early hours of the morning on June 4th 1989, the Chinese military began a brutal crackdown of the protest movement that had seen up to 100,000 people camped out in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square for more than a month. What had begun, back in April, as a series of small student gatherings to mourn the death of Hu Yaobang – the erstwhile General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party who had been expelled for his vocal support of political reform – had, by June, grown into a mass demonstration of civil disobedience by a number of disparate groups.

read the rest…

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