Past events

London Anarchist Bookfair 2017

Critisticuffs are doing two meetings and a stall at the upcoming London Anarchist Bookfair 2017:

  • Gentrification at 12pm in room F8
  • Religion at 2pm in room LF6

Looking forward to the discussion with you.

Gentrification: Does latte art drive up rents?

The term “gentrification” is used to describe a process whereby first artists, then higher income people displace poor people from certain areas. Some activists take this description for its explanation and accordingly organise protests against real estate agents. In this workshop we want to explain why the process in which gentrification happens is not the cause of it. We will instead explain it by looking at the economics of housing, how rent prices are determined, and how and why zoning policies try to influence them.

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Religion

The critique of religion seems easy: believing in an invisible man in the sky seems silly and far removed from modern day rationality. Yet, religion is doing just fine in this rational day and age. In this workshop, our critique of religion starts from asking what religious people mean when they say “God”, i.e. how they view the world and themselves. We want to discuss where their wrong and authoritarian views agree and disagree with the views of many of their atheist critics.

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Red Lion (Upstairs) 41 Hoxton Street, London, N1 6NH

Capital Reading Group

We are starting a new weekly Capital Volume 1 reading group, to provide the opportunity for participants to understand the argument in Capital for themselves.

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Evening Class 48 Aberfeldy St, E14 ONU

Love & Relationships

Love is an important topic for people in this society, and many see it as a key for happiness. At the same time, love life is often a source of frustration and disappointment, and jealousy conflicts regularly end in violence, particularly against women. In this workshop we want to, firstly, understand why love plays such an important role in this society; and secondly, how loving someone often implies a demand that is impossible to satisfy.

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Red Lion (Upstairs) 41 Hoxton Street, London, N1 6NH

Universal Basic Income: what's wrong with free money?

In these two evening sessions we want to discuss what these different visions of a UBI share and why those with different politics can share an interest in the policy. We will do this by discussing how these different proponents of a UBI understand society and what these understandings fail to criticise.

Our claim is that, on the one hand, these proponents want to achieve opposing aims under the same name. On the other hand, despite these opposing aims they share more than just the name: they are not interested in why in this society productivity gains produce poverty and why the capitalist state attaches conditionality to its welfare regime. As a consequence, they put forward a wrong and idealised understanding of what it means to produce for the market and the role of the state.

We will spend some time discussing why the left puts such big hopes in a UBI and why we think this strategy is a bad way of dealing with capitalist produced poverty.

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Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair Islington Mill, James Street, off Chapel Street, Salford, M3 5HW

They got their country back: Nationalism

Nationalism is alive and well; some more left-wing (Scottish independence), some more right-wing (Brexit) but the “right of our people to self-determination” has many supporters. In this meeting, we want to present and discuss how nationalists tick, how to criticise them and why we find most critical responses to nationalism rather lacking. We think it is neither enough to tell workers that they have no country nor to discount nationalism as an imagination of community. Instead, we have to understand what nationalists mean by “we, the people” and criticise these ideas.

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London Anarchist Bookfair 2016

Critisticuffs are doing four meetings and a stall at the upcoming London Anarchist Bookfair.

All our meetings are in LF6 - Learning Centre - First Floor, the first one rather early at 11am.

Looking forward to the discussion with you. At our stall, we will distribute the brand new Kittens #5.

Authoritarian arguments can’t help anarchists

A lot of people need to be convinced to remake society so that people’s needs are satisfied and people are able to pursue their goals without being dominated. Against such a world, people have all sorts of objections usually based on bad explanations for the existing poverty and misery. Often, when anarchos/commies agitate, they do so with authoritarian objections: references to well-known thinkers, referring to proud struggles or dissing an idea due to who said it without showing why it's wrong. We want to make some (non authoritarian) arguments against this.

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Universal Basic Income

Proposals for Universal Basic Income (UBI) are popular with people with very different ideas. We will discuss what these different people respectively want to achieve with UBI and how they understand the society we live in. Our claim is that, on the one hand, these proponents want to achieve opposing aims under the same name. On the other hand, despite these opposing aims, they share more than just the name: they are not interested in why in this society productivity gains produce poverty and how the capitalist state manages its welfare regime.

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Referendums: sham, the people's voice or a tool for rule?

“If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal,” is a common critical take on elections. Yet, since voting in the Brexit referendum changed quite a bit and will likely change a lot more of how Britain is run, it's worth taking a closer look at what voting in general and referendums in particular do and don't in and for a capitalist democracy: what options does a vote offer? In what way is the rule legitimated through the results of a ballot? How come such a stable form of ruling asks for approval of the people in the first place?

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Natural appeal

Nature is often used as a synonym of good or right: paleo diets are defended on the basis of being the most natural for human beings, vegan diets as being the most harmonious with Nature, and even certain brands of tobacco promote themselves as being “100% Natural”. In this workshop, we want to show why nature is a bad argument by unmasking its origins in a misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. We'll also discuss all the misery it has inspired people to inflict on one another.

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88 Fleet Street London, EC4Y 1DH

Brexit and Remain: The referendum is over, the fights have just begun

After any election or referendum, the next step usually is to move on, to move forward as a country united, down the new path. Yet, this time around, this seems to be not so easy. Journalists, politicians and many of the voters have visible troubles reconciling themselves with the Brexit decision, and the debate rages on about if and when to start exit negotiations, whether to have a second referendum or a General Election beforehand.

The discussions before the referendum were horrible. And now it appears that we are stuck with them still. In anticipation of more Brexit/Remain debates in the near future, we want to revisit a few popular arguments and allegations from both the Brexit as well as the Remain side and together discuss their merit. Are Brexiters more racist than Remainers? Are Remainers undemocratic? And who are actually the betters nationalists?

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MayDay Rooms 88 Fleet St., London, EC4Y 1DH

Brexit – About the Illusion to Vote on British Sovereignty

Instead of asking whether to vote Brexit or Bremain, we would like to discuss what hardships — real or imagined — are identified in the debate about the EU and how and why these problems are seen to be forced upon Britain by the EU. In this meeting, we want to challenge sovereignty, which is claimed by both camps as a central pillar for their argument. Sovereignty is at its core is the might of a capitalist state to deal with its subjects as it pleases. Neither Brexit nor Bremain will change that.

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Bristol Anarchist Bookfair 2016

We'll be running 2 meetings at the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair 2016: Critique of Tax Justice at 11am and Love at 4pm, both in the Breakout Room.

Critique of Tax Justice

It is common for people who object to State services and social security payments being reduced to point an outraged finger at the tax arrangements of Google or Facebook. While we agree with opposing the ongoing programme of impoverishment, we think such calls for tax justice are not helpful. In this workshop we want to discuss what taxes are and what they teach us about the nature of the State and this society. Based on that we want to present our critique of tax justice campaigns and why instead of offering a way out of socially produced poverty, their success depends on it: taxing successful capitalist corporations presupposes their success.

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Love

Finding love is the top priority for a lot of people in our society, judging by the never ending invention of match making websites. A failure of love is often blamed as the reason for tragic events like the Isla Vista killings. In this workshop we would like to look at why love is so important for so many people and how loving someone often implies a demand that is impossible to satisfy.

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Film Room, Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair 2016 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S1 2BX

What’s the deal with TTIP?

The free trade agreement has received criticism for favouring big business by lowering protections for workers, consumers, and the environment, implying that the state is bowing to business interests. We suggest, in contrast, that the EU and US act in self-interest, by aiming to attract foreign capital and to strengthen their national capital abroad.

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Location TBC

Corporations in the driver's seat? The dispute settlement ISDS in the transatlantic trade agreement TTIP

Imagine the following scenario: the US decide on a new law protecting the environment. Subsequently, a manufacturing plant owned by a European company somewhere in the US is less profitable. Under the intended Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, this EU company can under certain circumstances claim compensation from the US government for lost profits. ISDS therefore could make policy changes like phasing out of nuclear energy very costly for a state.

Why would states ever willingly agree to something that limits them like that? Critics on the left claim that states are in the hands of big business – they are victims of capitalists' interests. We would like to offer a slightly grimmer analysis: rather, with this deal the EU and the US hope to set the right conditions for their own respective capital to be successful on the other's territory. Additionally, they want to attract foreign investment on their own territory. As a state/an alliance of states with a capitalist economy, both the EU and the US want this to happen. This is why with the dispute settlement mechanism, they give foreign investors from the other side of the Atlantic this new legal means. The desired outcome seems to be worth the few expected compensation claims for both the US and the EU. Lately, though, the EU's position has changed slightly and prefers a reformed ISDS mechanism. It shall be interesting to discuss the reasons for this change of mind.

To look at the effects of ISDS tool for capital, we will be presenting exemplary cases from the large number of international trade and investment agreements which already include the dispute settlement, and precisely how it changes the relation of state and capital.

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Location TBC

Nationalism

Many people who distance themselves from nationalism oppose the racism that often accompanies it. More generally, when people oppose nationalism they usually oppose the nationalist segmentation of humankind into peoples. While we agree with this position, we oppose nationalism not just because of a wrong segmentation, but also because it posits unification of actual people into a people. We oppose nationalism because it appreciates a national community which demands subjugation and soft-pedalling. This particular reason for our opposition to nationalism is not one which is widely shared. Hence, in this workshop, we want to discuss what nationalists think, what nationalism claims and wants and why we oppose it in any form.

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The Common House 5 Pundersons Gardens, Unit 5E, E2 9QG

Drug policy, new and old — health ideals, the production of junkies and why old fashioned prohibition is still indispensable

Most would agree that some people will always take drugs, and some of them will lose control of their drug use. But in modern capitalist states there is more to drug use and to the ways the use of some drug is tolerated while the consumption of others is forbidden.

Why is there a drug regime aiming to control what people are doing to themselves by using “psychoactive” substances in the first place? Why do modern capitalist states keep up this “old fashioned” prohibition of drugs? Why are there new campaigns (e.g. propaganda for “resilient” drug-free lifestyles), and how do they fit with the old drug policies? What are the stereotypes of “junkies” and “drug dealers” about? How does propaganda about drug use relate to the extremely popular contemporary desire of “being in control of one's life” and “having a healthy body”?

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WestGAP (Hosted by the Anarchist Federation Glasgow) 365 Paisley Road West, G51 1LX Glasgow

Drug policy, new and old — health ideals, the production of junkies and why old fashioned prohibition is still indispensable

Most would agree that some people will always take drugs, and some of them will lose control of their drug use. But in modern capitalist states there is more to drug use and to the ways the use of some drug is tolerated while the consumption of others is forbidden.

Why is there a drug regime aiming to control what people are doing to themselves by using “psychoactive” substances in the first place? Why do modern capitalist states keep up this “old fashioned” prohibition of drugs? Why are there new campaigns (e.g. propaganda for “resilient” drug-free lifestyles), and how do they fit with the old drug policies? What are the stereotypes of “junkies” and “drug dealers” about? How does propaganda about drug use relate to the extremely popular contemporary desire of “being in control of one's life” and “having a healthy body”?

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London Anarchist Bookfair 2015

We'll be running 2 meetings at the Anarchist Bookfair 2015: UK State vs Extremism in the White Lab room at 11am and Ideologies around Motherhood in room D115 at 2pm.

UK state vs extremism

The British state notices a lack of support from its subjects and reacts by announcing a toughening of its anti-extremism laws. The message is that obeying the law is not enough, this state expects more. We want to discuss how it works to protect freedom of speech by putting restrictions on what can be said, what the British state appreciates about religion in general, what it is suspicious of in its Islamic variant and why the Human Rights Act won’t save you from this one.

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Ideologies around motherhood

In 2001, the NHS published new guidelines advising midwifes and doctors to encourage women to opt for so called natural births. Breast feeding has been for some time similarly encouraged, and women going through pregnancies are repeatedly warned of the risks of formula feeding. The way the debate is led tells us about and reflects on prevalent ideals and ideas around motherhood and femininity.

In this talk we want to look at two things: why the state is promoting natural child birth and breastfeeding; and why it finds so many fans of this programme.

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88 Fleet Street London EC4Y 1DH

What does Corbyn want?

In this workshop we want to investigate what Corbyn actually says he wants to do in terms of social and economic policy laid out in his policy paper “The Economy in 2020”. His goals are not something we think is good at all regardless of whether they are impossible to achieve. It is not that it doesn't go far enough or represents a distraction from the right means of pursuing the same goals: his programme is fundamentally hostile to the interests of those who want to live in a world based on human needs being satisfied instead of one where poverty is made its organising principle.

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Fred Paton Centre 19 Carrington Street, Glasgow, G4 9AJ

The state is like "hi" and the people are like "hey"

Elections are central pillars of democracy. Every 3-5 years democratic states ask their subjects to cast votes on who should run the government. People on the left typically engage with this feast of nationalism and rule in one of two ways. A small minority dismisses elections as inconsequential. Others see a great opportunity to make critical voices heard. We are convinced by neither. Hence, we want to take a step back and simply ask what an election is and what it ought to accomplish for the democratic state.

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Location TBC

The state is like "hi" and the people are like "hey"

Elections are central pillars of democracy. Every 3-5 years democratic states ask their subjects to cast votes on who should run the government. People on the left typically engage with this feast of nationalism and rule in one of two ways. A small minority dismisses elections as inconsequential. Others see a great opportunity to make critical voices heard. We are convinced by neither. Hence, we want to take a step back and simply ask what an election is and what it ought to accomplish for the democratic state.

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Location TBC

The Hatred towards Homosexual People

Even in the 21st century it is not irrelevant who you fall in love with or who you like to have sex with. For many states and for many people this “most private matter” is apparently of high public interest. They see queer people as a threat to the public morality and the nation and are convinced that “sexual diversity” and gay couples raising children are tools to destroy the “natural order of sexes”. Our seminar will suggest some explanations where this hate comes from and some arguments why the answers of many on the Left are often so wrong.

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Location TBC

Love & Relationships

In this seminar, we will take a critical look at what love as a feeling contains and at the role love plays in a society like ours. Furthermore, we will touch upon the topic of domestic violence and the extent to which it is related to love and concepts of love.

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Proposals for a Universal Basic Income

Proposals for a Universal Basic Income enjoy sympathy from vastly different camps: from social democrats, from liberals, from conservatives; from people who consider themselves disciples of the free market to people who consider themselves marxists.

In this workshop we want to discuss what those vastly different people respectively want to achieve with a Universal Basic Income and why. We also want to discuss how the proponents of a Universal Basic Income understand the society we live in and what they criticise about it.

Our claim is that, on the one hand, these proponents want to achieve opposing aims under the same name. On the other hand, despite these opposing aims they share more than just the name: they are not interested in why in this society productivity gains produce poverty and why the capitalist state attaches conditionality to its welfare regime. As a consequence, they put forward a wrong and idealised understanding of what it means to produce for the market and the role of the state.

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London Anarchist Bookfair 2014

We'll be running six meetings from 12 – 6pm in room 3.15 at the Anarchist Bookfair. We will present on our currently favourite topics to critique, i.e. elections, universal credit, love, the domestic sphere, the Snowden leaks and the reaction to it and immigration policy.

Elections: The state is like 'hello', the people are like 'hi': elections

Regular elections are central institutions in democratic states. They are also often misunderstood as mere shams or are criticised on formal grounds such as being held not often enough to realise true democracy. In this workshop, we want to start differently and take elections seriously as a means of democratic rule. Our starting point is that democratic states want the consent of their citizens and that elections are means to reaffirm the unity of rule and its subjects.

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Universal Credit: welfare that works

Universal Credit, the new mechanism through which the state will manage useful poverty, merges 6 income based benefits for “working age” people in order to make “work pay, achieve fairness and simplify the system”. This workshop looks at: What does the design of universal credit show about the purpose of work. Why has the state to seek to ensure it is made to pay through a combination of financial support and sanctions. We look at how universal credit achieves fairness against the interests of those with and without work, and how simplification works without any reduction in rules.

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Love

Finding love is the top priority for a lot of people in our society, judging by the never ending invention of match making websites. A failure of love is often blamed as the reason for tragic events like the Isla Vista killings. In this workshop we would like to look at why love is so important for so many people and how loving someone often implies a demand that is impossible to satisfy.

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Domestic Sphere: Why is there a domestic sphere?

Increasing attention has been paid to the nature of work carried out in the domestic sphere. This workshop wants to take a step back from this and ask the question: why is there a domestic sphere? We will argue that the domestic sphere has its basis in the institution of private property, that the domestic sphere is subordinated to the demands of the public sphere and that the poverty of workers ensures that the majority of 'reproductive' work will continue to be done privately.

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Snowden Leaks

Edward Snowden's leaks about NSA surveillance techniques showed that the US did their job: controlling their own citizens thoroughly and the whole world. It is nothing peculiar to the world power: every state wants to know what is going on with its people, even in the private sphere. That clashes with the self-understanding of democratic states to grant an ostensibly untouchable private sphere. Unfortunately, patriotic critics including Snowden argue that the secret services should receive better oversight – which leaves the state's demands against its citizens out of the picture and even affirms the principle of secret services.

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Immigration: 'Are you with us?' – About the state, its citizens and non-citizens

From EU immigration to the treatment of asylum seekers in the UK, hardly a day goes by without the public talking about the effects of immigration. We want to look at what it means for a state to differentiate people into citizens and foreigners and what it means for the people to be claimed as such. The state rules over its citizens in the interest of capital and nation. Based on this, we will argue that the policies on immigration and asylum reflect the state's demand against its own citizens, albeit with different consequences.

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Poverty of the state? The state of poverty

In these two workshops we want to give an introduction to how the state finances itself – and what for – in order to explain why the state implements austerity and how this economic system presupposes and reproduces poverty in boom and bust.

Hosted by WestGAP.

Austerity Talk and Discussion

In this workshop we want to present and discuss what welfare reform has to do with the UK's AAA rating, why the benefit cap is an apt austerity measure even though it only affects a small minority of people, why the government puts pressure on people to find work in a time of mass unemployment and why the government's agitation against “benefit scroungers” is agitation not only against people on benefits but also against other workers.

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Sovereign Debt Workshop

That austerity is somehow related to how the state finances itself is well known. It is however a bit of a riddle how something with the power to raise taxes – i.e. choose how much money to earn – can be in trouble with paying the bills. Indeed, one response to austerity – by groups like UK Uncut and beyond – is to remind the state of its tax raising powers and to demand “tax the rich” to plug the hole in public finances; so why isn't this happening?

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Grasmere Lake District

Capital Reading Weekend

We are organising a Capital reading weekend to take place from Friday the 30th of May until the 1st of June. This will take place in the Lake District, around an hour from Oxenholme.

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Red Lion (Upstairs) 41 Hoxton Street, London, N1 6NH

Capital Reading Group

We are starting a new weekly Capital Volume 1 reading group, to provide the opportunity for participants to understand the argument in Capital for themselves.

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The Common House (Unit 5E) 5 Pundersons Gardens, E2 9QG

A Lack of Companionship: A critique of David Harvey's Account of Capital (Chapter 1)

David Harvey is the dominant commentator on Capital in English and many Capital reading groups use his video lectures or his book – A Companion to Marx' Capital – to guide them. Yet, those who read A Companion to guide them through Capital in order to learn about the capitalist mode of production will be disappointed: it neither gives an adequate account of what Marx said nor of the capitalist mode of production.

The purpose of our workshop is hence not so much to point out that David Harvey wrote a bad book, but to encourage people to pick up a copy of Capital in order to understand the misery all around us.

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Poverty of the state? The state of poverty

In this series of three evening workshops we want to give an introduction to how the state finances itself – and what for – in order to explain why the state implements austerity and how this economic system presupposes and reproduces poverty in boom and bust.

Taxes

That austerity is somehow related to how the state finances itself is well known. It then presents a bit of a riddle how someone with the power to raise taxes – i.e. chooses how much money to earn – can be in trouble with paying the bills. Indeed, one response to austerity – by groups like UK Uncut and beyond – is to remind the state of its tax raising powers and to demand “tax the rich” to plug the hole in public finances. So why isn't this happening?

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Sovereign Debt

In this workshop we don't want to focus directly on the current crisis but ask what is in crisis. We want to present and discuss what sovereign debt is, how it works, who the investors are and what makes sovereign debt an interesting investment to them.

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Austerity

In this workshop we want to present and discuss what the bedroom tax has to do with the UK's AAA rating, why benefit cap is an apt austerity measure even though it only affects a small minority of people, why the government puts pressure on people to find work in a time of mass unemployment and why the government's agitation against “benefit scroungers” is agitation not only against people on benefits but also against other workers.

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Manchester & Salford Anarchist Bookfair People's History Museum, Left Bank, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3ER

Austerity

Over recent years austerity has become a hot topic amongst the left and in society in general. Some argue there is too much, others that is applied to the wrong areas of the states budget and some advise the state to increase its spending in order to fix the economy. Many on the left explain austerity as an ‘attack on concessions won by the working class’. We think this explanation is insufficient to explain what austerity actually is and what an understanding of austerity can teach us about capitalism and the state in boom and bust.

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London Anarchist Bookfair Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS

Tax Justice

UK Uncut claims there are alternatives to austerity: taxing the banks and clamping down on tax avoidance. While we agree with opposing the currently ongoing programme of impoverishment, we reject their proposed solution. In this workshop we want to discuss what taxes are and what they teach us about the nature of the state and this society. Based on that we want to present our critique of tax justice campaigns and why instead of offering a way out of socially produced poverty, their success depends on it: taxing successful capitalist corporations presupposes their success.

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London Anarchist Bookfair Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS

Don't Read Marx with Harvey

Following the financial crisis a lot of people turned to Marx for an explanation. For a lot of them, David Harvey's lectures serve as a companion. We disagree with Harvey's account of capitalism. In this workshop we will show what we believe to be Harvey's fundamental mistake and try to encourage people to pick up Capital. Everybody welcome, no prior experience with Marx or Harvey required.

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The Common House Unit 5E, 5 Pundersons Gardens, E2 9QG

Why the Others Stay the Others

In a world full of cultural exchange and international trade, racism is a wide-spread ideology.

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