Generals, Princes, and Black Snakes

Radical Beat Radio Roundup: January 2020

Damn The Man, Damn The Empire (January 16th)

In 2012 Barack Obama was reelected following the disastrous US-led war on Libya that he began without approval from Congress, and two years after the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, without trial, inside a sovereign nation. In 2011 Obama also came out with this progressive chestnut: “Unlike the old empires, we don’t make these sacrifices for territory or for resources. We do it because it’s right.” Violence helps gets you reelected.

Reflecting on this history, the hope of a renewed antiwar movement in the face of Trump’s recent actions in the Middle East are tempered, as ever, by the reasonable suspicion that many participants are more anti-Trump than anti-Empire. A number of Russiagate signs at last Thursdays antiwar demonstration in St. Pete certainly indicated as much (bold, considering that Iran is a Russian ally). To be fair, in the immediate aim of preventing state-sanctioned murder and destruction this is not entirely important, as human lives are more important your ideology. While attending said demonstration I faced the decision of whether to sign a letter directed at Senator Rick Scott, demanding that Trump not attack Iran without asking Congress first. I contemplated whether I wanted to put my name to a document implying that invasion might be fine if approved by a certifiably pro-empire body, the body that recently approved a record breaking $738 billion military budget with the help of nearly 200 House Democrats. I ultimately decided it might possibly help to save lives and held my nose. I did sign it in pencil however, to show my half-commitment. For the record, Scott later responded that Soleimani was “one of the world’s worst monsters,” “responsible for the death and maiming of thousands of Americans,” and that “Iran must make the choice for peace.”

The US has been at war for around 225 years of its 244 year existence. This country is not a project whose natural state is to be non-violent, with intentions for expansionism stated quite clearly in its founding documents. If you don’t understand this, you cannot call yourself a peace activist. That things seem to have de-escalated for the moment with regards to Iran shouldn’t give anything but cold comfort in the face of such a record. The US Empire will continue to ignore the Iraqi Parliaments recent vote to remove American redcoats, and use them to keep baiting Iran into conflict, all the while insisting that Iran, violent aggressor that it is, can’t be trusted with nuclear weaponry. Suck-up NATO allies will support all but the most naked acts of warmongering. Any antiwar sentiment that seeps out of the Democratic party will be mere relief valves. I don’t pretend to know what it will take to stop this behaviour, but it’s definitely not getting Trump out of office.

One other thing: the general population of our area is not in any danger because Tampa hosts Macdill Airforce Base. No matter how things evolve, Iran doesn’t have the capability to launch some massive attack because normal countries don’t have firepower all around the world at all times ready to blow people up. Many countries literally don’t need antiwar movements, because their military’s are actually defensive. The only people with the capability to even mildly disrupt Macdill, or any of the twenty other military bases in Florida, are the people living here in Florida. Maybe keep that in mind the next time a President decides it’s time to start shipping out body bags.

Love It, Or Leave It (January 23rd)

When it comes to the recent drama over Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and their decision to “step back” from duties with the royal family, a part of me is inclined to simply agree with the inspirational satirist newscaster Jonathan Pie, who summed up the ridiculous media frenzy of the last few weeks with the following statements: “Ginger toff picks his wife over his nan.” “Massively wealthy couple are to attempt the amazing feat of seeing if it’s possible to be financially independent with only several million pounds in the bank. She was worth four million dollars before she even started shagging a prince!”

A lot of people are blaming racist coverage in the UK press for the couples’ decision to spend more time here in North America. There’s no reason to doubt that the tabloids have engaged in racism – their historical record of tone deafness and vile commentary on the subject speaks for itself, and should be condemned. But I draw the line at painting Meghan Markle as an innocent victim, and find the identity politics being used to defend her laughable. Because the monarchy, being another wing of the English establishment, also has a historical record on racism and a lot of other bad things besides. They’re the most potent figureheads of enclosure and colonialism in world history and continue to spit in the face of common people with every day that they fail to resign their posts. Any idea that this body is capable or worthy of being reformed in a more progressive manner, rather than being abolished, is ludicrous, and it takes a special kind of rich liberal thinking to suspect otherwise. Put yourself into an institution of inherited superiority, of pedophiles and nazi apologists, and no amount of championing social causes will ever outweigh that decision.

Many are angry that Harry and Meghan seem to want their Marie Antoinette cake and to eat it, keeping their benefits and offloading the work. To the extent that it’s true its obviously outrageous. It appears that the couple want to give up their taxpayer grant funding, but 95% of their income is currently given to them by Harry’s dad Prince Charles, whose money comes mostly from his landowning fiefdom the Duchy of Cornwall, assets that, like all others in the family possession, were seized from peasants centuries ago. The accusation, coming mainly from monarchists, that the goal of this change is to cynically use their power and platform to further enrich themselves, also appears to hold some weight. Why be an organ of the state when you can make more privately?

But let’s not pretend that what the Royals contribute could actually be considered work by any normal resident of this planet. Their charitable “work” of flying around on private jets posing for photos is the benevolence of the rich argument, with any problems of a structural nature off limits for discussion because the royals aren’t supposed to express real opinions. They wield unimaginable privilege and power, and yet are totally useless as leaders. Their so called work is a dog and pony show consisting of corgis and racehorses.

I’ll admit that I find it hard to think clearly when it comes to the topic of the royals: the blatant injustice of the enterprise, the vast efforts needed to explain what would be obvious were it not for a ferocious royal PR machine, the people who treat their existence as some sort of innocent escapism when the corrosive results of their pampered lifestyles are anything but. But I’ll try and “step back” from my feelings for a moment. If Harry was somehow capable of actually escaping his lifetime of brainwashing, of actually abdicating from this insidious organisation of theft, I might actually give him some credit. If he wants to spend his time over here, like all us aspiring would-be successful English people, he can come and stay at my apartment. I’ll get him a job in retail and we can go out for beers together, talk about how he’s such a regular bloke more than willing to put in a days work, or maybe a few decades. Until that happens, all this restructuring looks as self-serving as anything else these people have been doing for the last thousand years.

Do You Understand Where You Stand? (January 30th)

The last few weeks I’ve been laying in pretty hard to the ruling class of both the US and England, so now it’s time to show our Northern neighbours some tough love, with a look at recent events in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, up in so-called British Columbia.

Resistance to fossil fuel infrastructure in this region goes back many years, in part due to an environment that, by contemporary standards, has so far remained relatively unspoiled. The insatiable fossil fuel industry has therefore set its sights on changing that situation by trying to force as many as 7 different pipelines for tar sands oil and fracked gas through the territories of indigenous peoples in recent decades. The response of these communities has ultimately been to set up various protest camps and checkpoints, and assert their legal rights under international and Canadian law and the laws of their own unceded territories.

The Wet’suwet’en First Nation is made up of 5 clans. Each clan has house groups that are responsible for protecting different territories. All 5 clans have formally rejected any and all pipelines proposals. In a society that respected sovereignty that would be the end of the discussion. But fossil fuels are finite and the settler colony nations of North America, set up at their inception to expect the infinite expansion of their footprints, have no intention of leaving a single drop in the ground.

The Wet’suwet’en cause made the news this time last year when TC Energy (formerly TransCanada, who changed their name last year, possibly to escape their association with the Keystone XL pipeline) obtained a court injunction to get them into the territory of the Unist’ot’en house in order to build the Coastal GasLink, transporting fracked gas to the pacific coast for export to Asia. Claiming that the court that issued the injunction had no jurisdiction over their unceded lands, one of the neighbouring clans set up a checkpoint to control access to the territory. The response from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Canada’s federal police force) was to send in helicopters and geared up cops to smash the checkpoint.

This January has been eventful too. On January 4th the fossil fuel contractors occupying the territory were given an eviction notice under the authority of Wet’suwet’en law, and somewhat amazingly, actually complied with the notice (post-broadcast update: some reports suggest that they simply moved to another part of the territory). The week beginning January 7 a callout for solidarity events went out with dozens of actions taking place across North America and overseas. This past Monday over 600 Metro Vancouver students walked out of classes for a demonstration in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en. The industry and its enforcers, however, had other tricks to deploy.

On January 13 the RCMP began blocking access into the area to anyone that they didn’t deem to be a chief or to have adequate safety equipment on their vehicles, a patronising insult to freedom of movement. This included barring a lawyer from the Water Protector Legal Collective from the Unist’ot’en camp on the grounds that he wasn’t licensed to practice law in British Columbia. That this particular lawyer has done 3 legal trainings at the camp obviously had nothing to do with the decision. They have also lied about blocking supply helicopters from entering the area. The RCMP celebrates its 100th anniversary this coming Saturday, February 1. They will no doubt act as if this is an impressive landmark. But in the grand scheme of things it pales in comparison to what they are helping to destroy: millennia of indigenous civilisation, and the potentially timeless, infinite joy of a pristine environment.

I’m going to be posting various links about the Wet’suwet’en struggle in the coming days to the facebook pages of both Alternative Frequency and Radical Beat Writing. Please look up and follow those pages up if you haven’t already. They will include the short film Invasion (a full length version is coming this summer), ways to donate to the camps and links to more background information. Perhaps a fundraiser or event of some kind can be organised here in our area. Wet’suwet’en chiefs have been told openly by the RCMP to expect another invasion by the Canadian petro-state at any moment, so it’s important to keep this struggle in the spotlight. This is a big story with a lot of details, but the fundamentals are straightforward. The Wet’suwet’en have categorically said no to all fossil fuel development in their own corner of Earth, the only sensible life-affirming decision that can be made at this time of climate breakdown. In doing so they are leading a fight for the benefit of every one of us. The various powers that be have shown their utter unwillingness to respect or even understand that decision. Let’s make it clear that we stand on the side of self-determination, and of life itself.

The Wet’suwet’en have also requested that those of us living in other parts of this settler colony continent learn about our local indigenous communities and support their causes. Here in Tampa Bay we are lucky enough to have the group FIREE, Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality. They hold monthly film screenings at St. Pete Community Acupuncture as well as other occasional events and protests. Look up Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality on Facebook to learn more.

James Lamont runs Radical Beat, a project of underground music journalism, fringe politics and the place where they intersect, based in St. Petersburg, Florida. He can be reached at jamesalexanderlamont[at] Read other articles by James, or visit James's website.