Revolt of the Ravers – The Movement against the Criminal Justice Act in Britain 1993-95

It is now twenty years since the British government first announced that it was bringing in new laws to prevent free parties and festivals. The legislation that ended up as the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 prompted a mass movement of defiance with long lasting and sometimes unexpected consequences.

Many people would see the origins of the story in the Castlemorton free festival in May 1992. Thousands of people had headed into the English West Country in search of the planned Avon Free Festival. After a massive police initiative – Operation Nomad – they ended up at Castlemorton Common in the Malvern hills. The festival that kicked off there featured sound systems including Bedlam, Circus Warp, Spiral Tribe and DiY. It soon became too big for the police to stop as up to 40,000 people from all over the country gathered for a week long party – many of them attracted by sensationalist TV and newspaper coverage.

It was the biggest unlicensed gathering of this kind since the state had smashed the Stonehenge festival in the mid-1980s. What made Castlemorton different was not just the soundtrack but the crowd. The free festivals of the 1970s and early 1980s grew out of a post-hippy ‘freak’ counter culture, later reinvigorated with an infusion of anarcho-punks and ‘new age travelers’. The growing free party scene in the early 1990s included plenty of veterans from such scenes, but also attracted a much wider spectrum of ravers, clubbers and casuals. The traditional divide between marginal sub-cultures and mainstream youth scenes was breaking down as people from all kinds of social, cultural and style backgrounds converged to dance together in warehouses and fields. What’s more, the movement seemed to be expanding rapidly beyond anybody’s control.

Soon there were calls for new police powers. In a parliamentary debate in June 1992, the local Conservative MP, Michael Spicer, spoke of the festival as if it had been a military operation, describing it as ‘the invasion that took place at Castlemorton common in my constituency, on Friday 22 May… On that day, new age travellers, ravers and drugs racketeers arrived at a strength of two motorised army divisions, complete with several massed bands and, above all, a highly sophisticated command and signals system’. He went on, ‘The problem of mass gatherings must be dealt with before they take place… chief constables should be given discretionary powers to ban such gatherings altogether if they decide that they are a threat to public order’.

[Read more →]

Life During Wartime

Book review by Nemeton

Kristian Williams, Will Munger and Lara Messersmith-Glaving, eds. Life During Wartime: Resisting Counterinsurgency. Oakland: AK Press, 2013.

The 439-page book Life During Wartime: Resisting Counterinsurgency is a collection of articles organized thematically that elucidate the central argument that the doctrine of counterinsurgency (COIN) deployed by the US government and military in international arenas such as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has been concurrently executed in the US mainland by a myriad of local, state and federal policing organizations and security apparatuses against political dissidents and activists. Various articles focus on the theories and deployment of COIN strategies, as well as methods of resistance, from diverse perspectives of individuals, groups and networks in Occupy, ecological, anarchist and anti-globalization struggles, as well as activists against border control, gang injunctions and the prison industrial complex. This book is an important contribution to the wider discourses about the domestic security state and political organizing, and has clear, continuing relevance given the ongoing deployment of COIN, current and pending trials, and ongoing diverse political actions. The book was published prior to the exposure by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and others, based on leaked documents provided by Edward Snowden, of the NSA’s international and domestic spying regime on all electronic, internet and phone communications, as well as a plethora of other personal information. It would be very useful to have updates by the authors of these articles and activists about how they view COIN in relation to those revelations. There appears to be no mechanism, as of yet, for how activists or targets of COIN could discover if they were subject to NSA spying, and learn how that information could have been used against them, but certain articles in this book elucidate methods of FBI, police and COIN methods in spying, surveillance and infiltration. This book is the culmination of work started at the “Counter Counter-Insurgency Convergence” at Reed College in Portland, Oregon during 2011. The book articles are reworks of the conference presentations given by activists, researchers, academics, organizers and others. Two of the editors have gone on a networked book publicity tour around the US, including in Los Angeles, where I saw them give talks based on their articles. [Read more →]

One Night in Stammheim

Book review by Christoph Fringeli

Helge Lehmann: Die Todesnacht in Stammheim – Eine Untersuchung. Indizienprozess gegen die staatsoffizielle Darstellung und das Todesermittlungsverfahren. 2nd printing 2012, Pahl-Rugenstein, Cologne.

On October 18, 1977 at 8:53 am, the German news agency dpa sent out a news bulletin announcing “Baader and Ensslin have committed suicide.”

What had happened? [Read more →]

Psychiatry – Social Hygiene and Mind Control

This article is written with its practical use value in mind. It is about Psychiatry, and that means about psychiatric institutions and how people get there and are kept there, the ideology of ‘health’ and the class of its administrators, the doctors; it is also about economic interests: a repair institution for defective labour power, and the advantages of drug dependency for the pharmaceutical companies; but given the available space, it is not pretending to be comprehensive, its purpose is to give some (hopefully) valuable help in dealing practically with situations where a friend or comrade, or yourself are confronted with psychiatric treatment or confinement, it is attempting to give some background information about the system, and helping to break the silence about the topic, a silence that is astonishing given the fact that every year millions of people are exposed to breakdowns, diagnosis, medication and confinement… Added is a short list of links and bibliography for further reading and research, even though some of the books are unfortunately out of print, having been released at a time (from the mid 60’s to the late 70’s) when many facets of capitalist society and the mangement of power in it were under scrutiny, and the public eye was turned on psychiatry and exposed its often shocking face. Most people are under the assumption that in the wake of ‘Anti-Psychiatry’ the system has been reformed sufficiently to meet the needs of the ‘patient’. Sadly this is hardly the case, and the interest of the labour market and meeting the demands of ‘normality’ and ‘health’ is prioritised over the solutions of the patients problems. Illness is a result of the conflict of interest of the patient exactly with these concepts (health, normalcy), and in its present manifestations a product of Capitalism, but illness, and understanding it, can be used as a weapon, as the SPK put it. So this is not about denying madness or romanticising it – it’s about politicising it, i.e. making clear that it is a social and collective phenomenon, without robbing each patient of their individual dimension and dignity. [Read more →]

Control and Freedom in Geographic Information Systems

Like the Internet, the Global Positioning System (GPS) was developed first with military applications in mind.  GPS enabled a precise, autonomous, and facile location of any point on the globe.  The development of this technology was critical to the broad merger of cartography with database technology and statistical analysis in the second half of the 20th century.  This new science, termed Geographic Information Systems (GIS), has profoundly changed our views and interactions with physical reality at both continental and minute scales.  The potential for highly detailed monitoring is exhilarating for scientists, but often terrifying for divergent or contestational voices.  At the same time access to these technologies is not highly controlled, which has thrown open the door for popular participation in map creation and publishing.  Through GIS and GPS, cartography has become a crucial new media for expression and critique.  How we choose to map reality is a cornerstone of our consensus on what exists, has existed, or will be created in a place.
The science of cartography has always had deep implications for increased control.  Creation of useable world maps in the colonial period was essential to developing global shipping routes.  Better maps facilitated the massive transport of resources from less technologically developed regions to those holding the most accurate picture of the world.  Among the most famous are the transfer of precious metals from Central and South America to Europe, and the middle passage of African slaves to North America.  Maps have historically empowered control on much smaller scales as well.  Violently enforced consensus on terrestrial boundaries is the defining ingredient enabling land ownership and regulatory extents.  On the other hand, iterative improvement of maps has hugely augmented our concepts of physical reality.  Without a  ‘birds eye view’ our notions of Earth extend only so far as we have seen, perhaps a small area only reaching the borders of town.  Without a map, all the rest is unknown, the other.  Early maps highlight precisely this erroneous notion, placing a given civilization at the center of the world and filling the unknown space with nothing [Figure 1].  In modern times we can view the entire globe, explore its topology, civic organization, and boundaries without leaving the house.  This constitutes a major widening of perception for the human race.
Still, greatly enhanced apprehension of geographic space has been a hotly contested arena.  [Read more →]

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