[In the UK] Rowena Macdonald went to Climate Camp fearing “woolly-minded hippydom” but found a serious and committed group of people – give or take the vegan farmers…
Another hack, Stephen Armstrong, writes that among the woolly-minded hippies and silly, frivolous vegan farmers, “According to the private espionage industry itself, roughly one in four of your comrades is on a multinational’s payroll”. In fact, “Like the state security services, which ended up running Class War in the 1990s after a hugely successful penetration, these spies work to become reliable members of any protest movement” (The new spies, New Statesman, August 7, 2008. Class War has issued a statement — republished below — denying these allegations.) Armstrong goes on to reference a number of spooks and spooky goings-on, including:
1) The Plane Stupid ‘Ken Tobias’ (Toby Kendall);
2) Cara Schaffer of the (US) Student/Farmworker Alliance and;
3) Hakluyt & Co., a spooky oufit:
founded in 1995 by former British MI6 officers, with a reputation for discreet and effective investigations. The company butler, a former gurkha, greets visitors to its London HQ, a town house off Park Lane. In winter, meetings can be conducted beside the fire. Computers are rarely in sight. Hakluyt’s advisory board has become an exit chamber for captains of industry and former government officials. Members have included Sir Rod Eddington, a former BA CEO [good mates with KRudd, currently the inaugural chair of Infrastructure Australia, a Rhodes Scholar and the technocrat responsible for recommending more roads for Melbourne] and Sir Christopher Gent, former chief executive of Vodafone…
Hakluyt is obviously a comfortable residence for wealthy Tories, but it’s reputation for discreetness may possibly be exaggerated. In any case, after outlining these and other spooky projects, Armstrong concludes:
Unlike the security services, however, these [private] services don’t bother with penetrating the far left or anti-fascist groups. Their clients are only interested in the protest movements that threaten corporations. And as that is the nature of much protest in these times, it is a wide field, but with a particular impact on environmental groups.
At any of this summer’s green protests the corporate spies will be there, out-of-work MI5 agents tapping green activists’ mobile phones to sell the information on to interested companies.
Russell Corn knows of incidents where a spook at a meeting has suggested a high-street bank as a target, then left the meeting to phone the officers of said bank, telling them that he has penetrated an activist camp planning an attack and offering to sell the details. Corn has no time for such behaviour, however.
“The thing about a really good private spy,” he tells me, “is that you’ll never know he’s around and he’ll never get caught.
“The fact you can’t see them . . . it means nothing at all.”
I’m not convinced private security agencies simply ignore “the far left or anti-fascist groups”, both because there are examples of them infiltrating such milieus, but also because it simply makes sense for them to do so (as and when required). There is, after all, often some degree of overlap between the ‘far left’ and ‘anti-fascist’ organisations, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, protest movements which target particular corporations and — most obviously and conspicuously — a number of campaigns, movements and projects which embrace activists (and others) from a wide range of groups with diverse concerns; often related to the corporate sector as a whole and capitalism in general. There’s certainly no shortage of literature on the subject of anti-globalisation/anti-corporate/anti-capitalist movements of the recent past, and one of the more obvious complaints of the hack media regarding these movements is what is observed as being the bewildering array of causes that rally together under some such banner: ‘No issue is single’, and all that.
In addition to the emergence of an ‘anti-capitalist’ (protest) movement in the West in the last decade, it’s worth noting two further developments. First, the War on Terror™; secondly, the energy and minerals boom. The first has provided states with a rationale to massively expand their repressive capacities; the second massively expanded the market for private security agencies to monitor, infiltrate and disrupt groups and movements in opposition to the ecocidal practices associated with resource exploitation. There’s also the question of the extensive links between the government and private sector, as revealed in the case of Scott Parkin, and the manner in which each reinforces the efforts of the other to silence criticism and quash dissent.
Speaking of analysis, it’s worth recalling that the WEF happily employed PR firm Hill & Knowlton to conduct some media spin on its behalf regarding the S11 protests in 2000, the company producing a background briefing for media flacks (PDF). Oddly, inre to the more recent protests at the G20, the academic expert consulted by the ABC repeated the same, notorious mistake of H&K, referring to the protests in Seattle, like H&R, as being concerned with a meeting of the WEF (not WTO):
- LUKE HOWIE: It’s most likely that this group has come out of student clubs and societies at universities as violent groups often do, as they did during the Cronulla riots.
They often unify along some collective ideology, which on this occasion seems to be anti-globalisation.
What they tend to do is tag themselves on to the edge of non-violent protests and they have the safety of the crowd then.
And indeed, I heard Arterial Bloc were shedding their uniforms at any appropriate opportunity and disappearing into the crowd, which is a very effective tactic.
JOSIE TAYLOR: Do you believe that this group had international links, or were they copying movements overseas?
LUKE HOWIE: They probably most resembled the Seattle riots, what’s now called the Battle of Seattle, from 1998, with the World Economic Forum riots there, where anarchists from Oregon had come to Seattle dressed in blue anoraks and gas masks so they couldn’t be identified.
Er… right. That’s actually on a par with Mick Armstrong’s denunciatory rhetoric — although in fairness to Luke, unlike Mick, it’s unlikely he needed to wipe the spittle from his mouth after having pronounced on the subject.
More later… maybe.
* Class War statement in response to Stephen Armstrong:
As a member of Class War since 1992, I was staggered to read a line in Stephen Armstrong’s article (the New Statesman 7 August 2008) on “The New Spies”. Your reporter writes:
“Like the state security services, which ended up running Class War in the 1990s after a hugely successful penetration…”
Can you back that claim up with facts, or is any old rubbish acceptable when it comes to Anarchist organisations?
We do hope you have not been taken in by 9/11 ‘truth’ activists (and ex-MI5 officers) Annie Machon and David Shayler, who have both come out with conflicting claims about attempted state inflitration of Class War in the early 1990s.
Shayler withdrew his (contradictory) claims about Class War at a public debate with Notes From the Borderland magazine at Conway Hall in 2005. He now makes a living claiming to be the messiah. As for his former partner Annie Machon (freely quoted in your piece) the New Statesman should treat with caution a woman who has pushed red baiting pieces about Tony Benn, Jack Jones and the KGB in the Mail on Sunday, and who has worked alongside some extremely dubious characters in the nuttier fringes of the 9/11 ‘truth’ movement.
As a revolutionary organisation, Class War is bound to be targeted – on occasion – by the police and security services. Such is life – especially in a society with seemingly never ending funds for public order policing and the secret state.
That situation will not be improved as long as we have ‘experts’ with the limited or biased knowledge of Stephen Armstrong, Annie Machon and David Shayler. It will certainly continue until we have the sort of radical change this society needs.