Friday, 26 September 2008

Think Tank calls on Church of England to re-examine it's economic heart

The call comes after revelations that Church finance managers have been using similar tactics to the ones the Archbishops of Canterbury and York condemned City traders for, to maximise profits on the Church's £5 billion assets and investments.

"The key thing is not to apportion blame - either on traders or the Church - but to open up a realistic discussion about economic alternatives", says Ekklesia co-director Jonathan Bartley.

Jonathan has a good heart. How many of us are able to stand aside from Economics and criticise. The truth is we're all culpable and must work to undermine the system within ourselves.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Catholic Worker released

Martin Newell was released from prison after two and half days of his seven day sentence. A new book from the Catholic Workers "Hammered by the Irish" is due out soon telling the story of Irish peacemakers defying the military might of the US and winning the support and vindication of the people of Ireland.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Anglican Priest Under Surveilance

Chris Howson has been under police surveilance at his home / Chaplaincy in Bradford, the Church Times reports. (Articles, Church Times 19 Sept 2008).

This is not the first time Chris' home has been under surveilance by the police. He had similar experience when living in a squat in Bradford many years ago.

It is interesting that this time it was provoked by his criticism of the relationship between the UK and US military and planned a protest which, among other things, highlighted this relationship.

There is also a suggestion, after a phone call from the MOD, that Chris' emails were being intercepted and read. A very cautionary tale!

Friday, 19 September 2008

Tax the poor to give to the rich!

It's semi-official that the US government has decided to tax Americans to the tune of £440bn in order to bail out the rich who will walk away with their billions of dollars, big houses, and private jets to begin again tommorrow with nothing more than a little tutting and sighing from the government.

Meanwhile the droves of workers that crunch the numbers that feed the machine are carrying boxes out of high rise buildings are wondering how they'll pay their bills now their jobless.

And yet still I've heard two commentators (including Kenneth Clarke) re-affirming their statements of faith in neo-liberal economics.

Like fundamentalist Chrisitans, Fundamentalists neo-liberals are not swayed by reality or the harm they cause to others.

Alex interviewed on radio about Tolstoy

Listen here to Alex being interviewed about his research on Tolstoy. Alex holds his own well in a very long interview. Most of the questions are quite closed but the answers are always interesting.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

London Catholic Worker sent down for stand against war-making

Yesterday Fr. Martin Newell of The London Catholic Worker was sentenced to prison for wilfully refusing to pay a fine at Highbury and Islington Magistrates Court. He has been given seven days. Martin is said to be "in good spirits" and not surprised by the judges decision.

On Dec. 28th 2007, on the Feast of Holy Innocents, Catholic Workers Scott Albrecht, Sr. Susan Clarkson and Fr. Martin Newell poured red paint symbolising blood on the sign at Northwood Military Headquarters. Northwood is the "Nerve Centre" for all British wars. The three knelt in prayer with banners reading "We All Have Blood On Our Hands" and "War Shall Cease All Over The Earth". They were arrested, placed in jail and each charged with £315 worth of criminal damage.

When called back to court for refusing to pay his fine, Fr. Martin stated that he had acted according to his conscience and that he had hoped that the judge would act according to his. Martin had the opportunity to decry the illegal invasion of Iraq, but the judge said Martin's stance was a moral one. The judge claimed that the "law must be upheld despite belief".

The invasion of Iraq, according to most international lawyers and Kofi Annan, was illegal. It was premeditated by those who formed the Project for the New American Century (Google it). Sadly, presidential hopeful John McCain's two top advisers formed this 'think tank'. If McCain wins the prospect of staying in Iraq "for a hundred years" is real and the possibility of invading Iran will grow stronger still.

At least 832,962 people have been killed on all sides since the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Fr. Martin and the other Catholic Workers live with people from Iraq in their Houses of Hospitality. If 1% of those who marched against the war did non-violent direct action, the war might not have been executed.

If you wish to support Fr. Martin then you can email or write to:
The London Catholic Worker
14 Deal Street
E1 5SU.
For more information you can call Scott on 07983 477819

London Catholic Worker website:

Sunday, 14 September 2008

ASIRA "Academics and Students interested in Anarchism"

After its welcome from the ASN, ASIRA has now been formed with a yahoo group and a sub-committee as part of the ASN.

Check out ASIRA here

Thanks to Alex for setting this up.

"Aims of this Group

Religious anarchism, especially Christian anarchism, has been around for at least as long as “secular” anarchism. The academic literature tells us that Leo Tolstoy is its most famous proponent, but there are many others, such as Jacques Ellul or the Catholic Workers. There are also anarchists in other religious traditions, but these are often omitted by anarchist literature.

The main aims of this group – which was born out of the Religious Anarchisms sessions at the first ASN conference in Loughborough in September 2008 – are to provide a forum for people interested in religious anarchisms to converse on the topic, to publicise their work, to advertise related events, and to plan events and joint projects themselves.

An underlying aim is to thereby help establish the religious anarchist voice within anarchist academic writings – hence this group’s affiliation to the ASN and through it to the PSA. It is therefore both about bringing religious anarchists together as about placing religious anarchisms on the broader map of anarchist thought and practice.

Although the literature tends to focus more on Christian anarchism, this predominance need not be repeated here – indeed, the more anarchists from other traditions, the richer the conversations.

Moreover, activists and “practitioners” are just as welcome as academics and theorists. Both on the internet and in the streets, a number of people and groups have been discussing and exemplifying religious anarchisms. Their voice is important in any debate on the issue.

Finally, although not the primary focus of the group, contributors, conversations and events on the often uneasy relation between religion and anarchism are also welcome."

Friday, 12 September 2008

Greenpeace 6 cleared of unlawful dammage

From the Independet

"The threat of global warming is so great that campaigners were justified in causing more than £35,000 worth of damage to a coal-fired power station, a jury decided yesterday. In a verdict that will have shocked ministers and energy companies the jury at Maidstone Crown Court cleared six Greenpeace activists of criminal damage.

Jurors accepted defence arguments that the six had a "lawful excuse" to damage property at Kingsnorth power station in Kent to prevent even greater damage caused by climate change. The defence of "lawful excuse" under the Criminal Damage Act 1971 allows damage to be caused to property to prevent even greater damage – such as breaking down the door of a burning house to tackle a fire."

While any criminal act should "count the cost" of possible penalty its great to know that a jury of our peers is often on our side and that the law can ofen highlight its own injustices.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

ASN Annual meeting minutes

Anarchist Studies Network (ASN) Meeting

Saturday 6 September 2008 14.15-16.00

Thirty-four ASN members present

Uri Gordon facilitated the meeting

Preliminaries to the meeting

Ruth Kinna acted as note taker

Patrick Turner provided live written documentation of the discussion

It was agreed to conduct the meeting by consensus decision making and the processes were discussed.

An agenda had been circulated and copies were passed around the group. Three additional items were suggested:

The possibility of an anarchist fringe at future conferences

The development of behaviours and practices discussed at the listening panel in future conferences

It was also suggested that an attendance list be circulated.

It was agreed to consider the idea of the fringe in the discussion of the annual conference and the issues raised in the listening panel in item 6, the discussion of the ASN. The list was circulated.

1. ASN report

Alex Prichard outlined the history of the group and referred new participants to the website for full information. There was a discussion of the aims of the group and the need to encourage participation from individuals outside academia. The agreed formulation of aim was: to facilitate communication and the exchange of ideas between researchers – students, academics and independent scholars - and to promote scholarly research into any aspect of anarchism.

Alex reported that membership (i.e. the email list) was now 100 and presented a brief financial report. It was not possible to give an accurate statement of current funds since conference accounting was still in progress. However, it was anticipated that the ASN would be in credit once the accounting was complete.

Alex explained that the journal Anarchist Studies was run independently of the ASN but was affiliated to it.

There was a reminder that members of the ASN were not required to be members of the Political Studies Association (PSA), but that they were encouraged to join it [details at].

Finally, Alex explained the purpose of the meeting was to consider a programme of activity for the coming year. The idea of a second conference was mooted, but no decision on this was taken. Thanks were expressed to the organisers of this year’s conference.

2. Sponsorship of an Anarchist Film Conference

Alex spoke on behalf of Mitzi Waltz to propose the funding a stand alone workshop on anarchism and film, building on the success of the Projectile Film Conference. The funding would be earmarked to enable ASN members to travel to the conference.

The proposal was to submit costings to the ASN by the end of December and for the group to consider the detailed proposal by email.

After an objection that other proposals might be compromised by a decision at this stage, it was agreed to postpone the decision until all bids had been considered.

3. Religious anarchism working group

Alex spoke on behalf of Alex Christoyannopoulos to propose the establishment of a discrete section on the ASN website for a religion and anarchism working group. There were no financial implications. After some clarification of purpose, this was agreed.

4. Anarchism and Marxism joint conference

Alex outlined a working proposal to organise a possible conference or one-day workshop examining the relationship between anarchism and Marxism, drawing together scholars working in both fields.

It was agreed that the proposal was not at a sufficiently developed point of planning to discuss further but that there were no objections in principle.

At the conclusion of this item, it was agreed that the proposal for a workshop be taken forward on the agreed terms to the ASN list.

5. PSA annual conference

Alex had circulated a call for papers and emphasised the importance of maintaining an ASN presence at the conference and that one of the core purposes of the group was to fund attendance. All members were encouraged to consider the existing call and possible alternative panel proposals.

Alex also drew attention to the specialist group guest speaker competition. There was some discussion of funding ‘celebrity’ speakers and the need to ensure that proposals for guest speakers were designed to facilitate the attendance of individuals who might not otherwise be able to travel to PSA conferences.

It was also proposed that air travel would not be funded by the ASN. It was agreed to defer discussion of this proposal.

Niall Scott drew attention to the possibility of participation at the Association of Social and Legal Philosophy. A call for papers would follow.

ASN Fringe

The proposal was to create parallel spaces alongside the formal conference presentations at any future meetings to facilitate informal contacts and exchanges. The proposal was agreed, but as key feature rather than a fringe. A fuller discussion of future conference planning is summarised under item 7.

Proposal on air travel

There was extended discussion of the issues. It was agreed:

  • That a note would be put on the ASN site to emphasise the need for members to find sustainable means of transport
  • That the ASN would not in principle rule out funding of air travel but that applications for support would be scrutinised on a case-by-case basis and that funding would be granted where a case on financial, geographical and legal grounds was made.
  • That ASN members would be encouraged to organise activities locally to minimise the need for intercontinental air travel.

It was also agreed that any future ASN events would be organised with a view to minimising environmental impact.

7. Discussion of the ASN and debrief on the conference

There was an extended discussion of the relationships between ASN members from within and outside academia; about the inclusiveness of the group, of the conference and the publicity given to the conference. The issues all revolved around the need for inclusiveness. There was no disagreement about this and the conference organisers outlined the attempts that had been made to encourage wide participation in the conference. Members were invited to make proposals to extend and improve these developments, to encourage more open discussion and exchange at conference and to overcome the difficulties posed by academic conventions and habits.

Gwendolyn Windpassinger summarised the issues arising from the listening panel. There were two main issues: the presence and participation of women at the conference and the need for confidence building measures in the conduct of sessions.

Anthony McCann invited members to access his blog ‘re-imagining academic conferences’

A number of useful suggestions were made:

  • Open with an introductory plenary to discuss the conduct and aims of the conference.
  • To provide tips to chairs on the running of sessions (to help facilitate discussion)
  • To convene in non-academic spaces and environments: eg. the climate camp, the knowledge lab.
  • To provide space between presentation and question and answer sessions in order to allow time for individual reflection and/or circular discussion.
  • To encourage discursive (not necessarily consensual) practices and behaviours and to reduce conflict and antagonism by developing agreed practices at the start of sessions.
  • To include a collective conference debrief or space for reflection/contemplation.
  • To be pro-active in encouraging women’s participation and in particular to consider what provisions might be made (in terms of participant-relationships) to help confidence building.
  • To ensure that calls for participation continue to highlight the possibility of non-paper formats.
  • To desist from habitual applause.

The meeting closed. Thanks were expressed (with applause) to Veggies who had provided the catering for the conference.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Jim Wallis: Should Christians get involved?

I like Wallis in this recent interview for Premier radio. There is some room for interpretation in his words here.

Anarchism or Nihilism? The Buddhist-Influenced thought of Wu Nengzi

I've quoted below from a paper presented at the recent ASN. It's from the conclusion to Professor John Rapp's paper, "'Anarchism or Nihilism? The Buddhist-Influenced Thought of Wu Nengzi'". While the whole research was fascinating to me it was his conclusion that challenged me most and led to other questions: What is a 'lifestyle anarchist'? Do we hide our fear of commitment to an ideology behind post-modern irony and see irony as a greater mechanism of change than it really is? Do I live like life matters or like matter isn't life?

This dialogue between the many faith traditions and anarchism is going to blow upon all kinds of areas of our thinking as activists and disciples of Christ.

IV. Larger Problem: Is Post-Modern Anarchism Nihilism?

To this observer, the larger problem presented by the breakdown of Daoist anarchism in the thought of Wu Nengzi is the obvious lesson for post-Modernist thought, especially those post-modernists who call themselves anarchists. There is insufficient space here to spell out this lesson fully, so I will conclude only with what is intend to be a provocative suggestion. While they claim to deny any overarching “metanarrative” as valid for all other people, one must ask whether such post-Modernists reserve for themselves the right to be critical of all other narratives while preserving their own as something other than a true narrative and thus taking up a stance of “ironic detachment” that too easily smacks of intellectual superiority. Going beyond classical anarchists who viewed all religious and political doctrines as attempts to enslave people with metaphysical or real authority, one must ask whether post-Modernist anarchists go further to deny the existence of all truth, even truth that cannot be known objectively or imposed on others. If so, as many critics have asked about post-Modernism, how is one to criticize any political doctrine or state as evil, even fascist ones? This charge was most famously and perhaps for post-modernists most infuriatingly raised by Richard Wolin (2004), who tries to relate the collaborationist and even fascist background of some of the seminal post-Modernist thinkers to flaws in post-Modernist thought as a whole. While those who want to find a genuine liberatory critique in postmodernism may decry his attack as relying almost completely on guilt by association, it seems to this author that the shift among Daoist thinkers such as Wu Nengzi from anarchism to nihilism might have been based on a similar shift in emphasis. This charge against postmodernist and/or “lifestyle” anarchists who think their intellectual stance alone will serve to achieve anarchism may be the opposite side of the coin of those who find Daoist anarchism a metaphysical doctrine that relies on a supernatural authority and is thus inherently un-anarchist. Instead, a Daoist anarchist would argue, any doctrine based on the idea that some may know objective truths better than others and thus know also when to apply those truths for others, may lead to an equal and perhaps greater danger of leading would-be anarchists to acquiesce and participate in establishing authority over others. Only by embracing the whole, a Daoist anarchist would argue, that is, by accepting the underlying unity and thus equality of all things, even if by its very nature that whole cannot be objectively known and hierarchically organized, can one stay loyal to a fully anarchist vision.

The image above is of Lao Zi, the founder of Daoism.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

ASN vote favours Religious anarchism group

In the ASN conference meeting a debate and vote was held on whether to begin a sub-committee for those interested in religious anarchism. Sadly I had to leave the conference early for personal reassons but I'm told that although their were some voices of dissent the vote was carried (I would like to find out if this was by consensus of majority!). I suspect some key people will have spoken in favour of it since Sharif Gemie and Peter Marshall were both and the Daoism and Islam papers.

Watch this space for quite a few developments on this front including a potential publication of essays.

Prayer I58 Update

Prayer I58 have released a pdf update of events that members have been involved with.

Find it here.

Prayer I58 is "network of Christians involved in Direct Action"

An event to watch out for is their Climate Camp Café Debrief and
i58 Network Gathering 17th - 19th October 2008, Birmingham

For more details visit their website.