(Resisting) Systems Of Violence
We know from our lives and from looking out at the world that there are many ways in which different forms of violence, oppression and marginalisation intersect. This panel brings together activists, academics, artists and writers to explore the importance of these intersections and to strategise the ways we can act in solidarity and collaboration in responding to and disrupting systems of violence.
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Molly Smith, Kelsey M, Dr Mijke van der Drift, Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, Leah Cowan
racism, sex work, violence, migration, gender based violence, islamophobia, rights, policy, criminalisation
Molly Smith (MS);
Kelsey M (KM);
Mijke van der Drift (MD);
Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan (SMK);
Leah Cowan (LC)
00:00:00 LC …on everything in between and outside of that and I also come from an organising background, so I was a member of SDS, SOAS Detainee Support group which is an organisation which works with people, in solidarity with people in immigration detention centres across the country. We work with people to secure release, if that's what they want, through offering emotional support and casework support with asylum cases. I'm not a lawyer, that's an important caveat, but I am going to be talking quite a lot about law and legislation today.
00:00:45 SMK Okay, yeah. Ooh, hi, I'm Suhaiymah, I… so a lot of the work that I do is sort of writing and speaking and educating around islamophobia and state violence. I don't like to have it just categorised as islamophobia, because obviously there's like… I end up talking about race and gender a lot and the collusion of colonialism and feminism in islamophobia and with islamophobia. I try to centre the state in a lot of what I talk about because I think it's—we were just talking about this as well, that kind of so much of the work that needs to be done is around re-framing the narratives that exist and re-framing the conversations that are being had, and that's something I'll talk about a bit more today. Also excuse me, because I'm fasting, and I feel like I can't breathe properly at some points. I don't know why, that's not usually part of fasting but I just, because I would usually drink water, but I feel like I can't breathe. Yeah I think something that I'll probably talk about quite a lot is critiquing the counter-terror policy. So I come very much from an abolitionist stance and I would say that counter-terrorism as an apparatus is designed solely to criminalise Muslim people and people perceived to be Muslim. And so that criminalisation affects people who are and aren't Muslim in so many ways and it is just a way that the state is becoming increasingly authoritarian. Just to give you a bit of background my research background has been in looking at the way that the state imagines Muslims, particularly as gendered and sexual beings and the way that we're seen as always deviant: so asexual, hypersexual, too sexual, rapists, groomers etcetera. But then also that the question of why Muslims are a problem in Europe is not really a problem of religion, it's more of a problem of gender, that we do gender wrong, that we oppress women, that it's all about women and policing women's bodies essentially, and autonomy. So yeah, I'm really excited to be here and very excited about this conversation that we're hopefully going to be having.
00:02:42 MS Hi, I'm Molly, I organise with SWARM and also with SCOTPET which is a sex-worker led organisation in Scotland. I am the co-author along with Juno Mac of Revolting Prostitutes. I confess, I am slightly… you know, I was at the party last night [laughs] it's now the afternoon, I feel… I'm feeling the effects slightly but I'm really excited. Everyone on the panel I know is really good, apart from me [laughs] so I'm really excited to just have a conversation with the other panellists and hopefully with you guys in the room and yeah, see where it goes.
00:03:34 KM Hi, I'm Kelsey, I organise with various grassroots groups including the Empty Cages Collective, which is a prison abolitionist group who run workshops about prison abolition and support campaigns to spread that abolitionist message throughout organising on the left. And I'm also part of CAPE, which is Community Action on Prison Expansion, which is a network supporting local campaigns to fight the new mega prisons that the government is trying to build all over the UK, and I'm also part of Hollaback London which is a collective that fights street harassment and harassment in public spaces. We do a lot of work around bystander intervention which is basically a way to get into as many spaces as possible, be it schools, universities, public events, community groups, rooms with MPs in parliament, whatever it is to push basically ACAB messaging. And just be… yeah, just trying to push bystander intervention and community accountability and ways that we can look to solve issues of violence that are not criminal justice based. So it's been really, really exciting also, being here this weekend and hearing about all of the work that people are doing that is aligned with all of that as well, and yeah, thanks for having us and I'm excited to see what we're going to chat about next.
00:05:22 MD Okay, to introduce then myself, what I do, I work with radical trans feminism, I'm an ethicist and a philosopher also; I work with prison abolition thinking and transformative justice. We were asked to talk first about the difference between individual acts of violence and systemic violence, and why it’s important to frame violence as systemic. Who wants to jump on that one?
00:05:59 SMK I hate silences. Yeah so I guess this is a pretty… this is something I think I talk about a lot because the state and government love to talk about islamophobia as an individualised form of violence, so Muslim woman gets her scarf ripped off on the street or Tommy Robinson says mean things, when actually Theresa May and Boris Johnson are definitely the biggest islamophobes. But yeah, I think the reason it's useful to frame islamophobia as systemic and as a systemic violence is because then you can actually resist it in useful ways and think that's why the way we frame these conversations is so essential. At the moment there's actually the conversation around defining islamophobia and I think there's a lot of disingenuous conversation about, you know, it should be anti-Muslim hatred etcetera etcetera, when the definition that's being proposed at the moment is, "Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a form of racism that is aimed at expressions of Muslimness and perceived Muslimness." And the reason that that's really important is that, the way that islamophobia functions, the way I would define it, is that it's a structural and systemic understanding of Muslims as inherently criminal. And so obviously it's rooted in racism in the sense that the formerly colonised, who were seen as violent, barbaric, inherently those things, are today the criminalised, so still seen as inherently violent, inherently barbaric and backwards. But the way that that looks is in a very… it's legitimised through policy of securitising, so, "We will be protecting the state and society if we prevent violence," but violence is embedded in certain people and therefore policing it doesn't become about changing the conditions in which people live or the context in which our lives are, or in fact taking account of foreign policy, domestic policy, racial profiling, austerity, the fact that almost fifty percent of Muslims in this country live in the top ten percent most deprived council areas. None of that is accounted for in the analysis of counter-terrorism which says that individuals are the cause of violence, specifically Muslim individuals, so instead you have things like PREVENT which I'm sure you've all heard about; a duty upon every single public sector worker to look out for signs of radicalisation, who are you going to look out for signs in? Bodies that you've already deemed violent, that you've already deemed criminal. And so it's that assumption of the predisposition to violence in Muslims that creates that pre-criminal space and I think that's something that will be really interesting to talk across the panel, that pre-criminal space where you are criminal just by virtue of what you're assumed to be or what you do or what you look like. And so the signs, in fact, if you look at PREVENT policy, in primary schools even, in high schools is the really interesting one; it's things like change in behaviour, someone getting more angry, and of course these are things that all teenagers probably display at some point or another but if you've already been deemed to be in this category of who we look out for, it's really important. And the reason I also say that it's useful to look at it as systemic is that I think there's a really dangerous distinction being made at the moment between the liberal elite and then the fascists? And there's this idea that like as long as liberals are in charge, we're all good and you've just got to ward off the fascists. But actually you have these two discourses which actually lead to the same thing. So you have for example the far right would be like, you know, "Muslims go home, get rid of them, they're all terrorists." But then you have a liberal discourse that would be like, "Absolutely not, it's just the minority of Muslims with a warped ideology," something like that, all these kind of different phrases. But the thing is, either discourse kind of leads to the same thing, which is that whether you believe it's a minority or that it's every Muslim, you are still saying that any Muslim could become violent and therefore all of them require surveilling. So I think that's the really pernicious thing at the moment, is this false distinction that exists. And yeah, and I think ultimately the reason it is important to frame it as systemic is because that politicises it, that shows us that there is a political function, there is a reason that we suppose violence is in those individual bodies and that is so that we do not have to deal with or hold to account or change the conditions of violence that actually people live in. And individual perpetration of violence is only a result of conditions of violence, in my opinion. So yeah, that's to me why it's really valuable. [Audience applauds]
00:10:09 KM Yeah I think absolutely, I feel like when we speak about things only as individuals just making choices it means that we… that's what the whole criminal justice system is based on. It’s about like, bad person does bad thing and it’s just a really oversimplified solution that then isn't a solution at all right? Someone who is violent has never been shown to become less violent by being isolated and then subjected to more violence and it's often not violent people who end up in prison anyway. But if we're going to not… what we have to do is like, if we're not going to continue to look at things through a criminal justice lens then we're not leaving the responsibility purely with that individual because we need to account for power dynamics and the ways that it's the same people who are vulnerable to violence over and over and over again because of the marginalisation they face because of these systems, right? And it also doesn't account then for the power dynamics that then produce violence and the way that we create cultures that allow for violence and just the fact that violence in then actually built into people's jobs, like if you're border control or police or even like, you know, yeah, psychiatric nurses. All of these things where violence is built into your job, but you're not held accountable because it's accepted and therefore it just doesn't count, right? And the way that then anyone who's in that position will then behave violently, so it's not about that individual. And we see that with systemic power dynamics as well. So if you look at I don't know, Harvey Weinstein or any of these powerful people who have then been outed as abusive, no one is surprised because it's like, as soon as someone has that much power of course they're going to behave that way. So it's not even about his individual actions; it's about the way that these things are systemic and the way that it's going to be the same people who are always at the bottom and more vulnerable to that. Yeah. I had some other things. I guess it's just about… yeah, because then when we expand our definition of violence, we're putting the responsibility back on the state and we're not avoiding that. Like, with what you were saying about liberals as well is that they are part of that system and that's how we see carceral feminists joining up with fascists and things because they have a really racist rhetoric and it's all about protecting white women and all of this kind of thing, because it feeds into these criminal justice narratives that we really need to intervene on.
00:12:49 MS Yeah, so just to pick up on what you both said, I mean I think the interpersonal violence is patterned by state violence, right? The two are fundamentally interlinked and inextricable, and you see that really clearly in terms of sex work where obviously poverty is already violence but people try to survive poverty through selling sex and then they're criminalised, which is again a form of violence enacted by the state and then that criminalisation that produces the conditions in which they're vulnerable to interpersonal violence because they are marked out to violent people as legitimate targets for violence. Yeah, I just felt that that came through really strongly in what you both said, and I wanted to just yeah, say that.
13:45 LC It's great when you get to speak last because you can just be like, I really echo what everyone said. [Audience laughs] Which I do! Yeah I think gendered violence is generally imagined as individual acts because that's how the responses are framed and this is through the criminal justice approach and Molly in your book—which is excellent and I really… it's just a brilliant book to read—talks about the notion of the prison nation which is the concept coined by Beth Ritchie which describes the use of the law as a kind of tool to control people. But working from a Black feminist perspective which is rooted in intersectional approach and always going back to the use of that word, intersectionality, which was coined to Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe what happens when different sites of oppression crash together and intersect. So the idea that someone is both a Black person and a woman would experience particular types of violence and might experience them in a particular way. Working from this perspective we understand that structures and systems of violence and violence is manifested in ways that appear individualised within that wider structure. And for people who are marginalised along lines of race and class and immigration status, the state is a really fundamental perpetrator, kind of what you were saying, Kelsey, about needing to expand the definition of violence and that being something which is really inherent in the state. The criminal justice system approach and response to violence is something that the government has at the forefront of the work that they do around this, so there's a piece of legislation in draft in parliament at the moment called the Domestic Abuse Bill and it's a shockingly useless piece of legislation for a number of reasons, but it doesn't recognise the gendered nature of violent which is disproportionately perpetrated by men within a framework, a broader framework of patriarchal oppression. It focuses very specifically on domestic abuse, so a really narrow conception of what violence looks like, it doesn't take into account state violence and economic violence, poverty and austerity being key drivers of that. It doesn't carry any kind of intersectional understandings of violence and how axis of oppression such as race, disability, gender identity, sexuality, class, crash together and compound experiences of violence. It doesn't recognise the experiences and narratives of people of colour within its definition; it actually describes survivors of colour as “difficult to reach.” It doesn't commit any kind of adequate funding for ending violence services, so there's this really heavy emphasis on reporting violence and approaching the police and prosecutions and courts need to operate in a certain way which is important modifications that need to happen but it's actually kind of dangerous actually and irresponsible to be encouraging people to report violence if there's no services to support survivors once they report it. And obviously, many people don't want to interact with the police for a whole multitude of reasons, so it's a really inadequate piece of legislation. It doesn't make any commitment towards supporting migrant and undocumented survivors, and there's actually one bit in this legislation which recommends deporting a survivor as a solution to them being in a situation of violence. The legislation says, "A victim of domestic abuse may be best served by returning to their country of origin and where it is available to the support of their family and friends." So this is the problem of identifying violence as an individual act and something that's not systemic.
00:17:44 MD Wow, I have to follow that. I think if there's one thing that neoliberalism taught us I think very well, it's that if you pit an individual against an institution, the individual loses, and it manages to do that by always emphasising personal choice, right? It’s like, that is the thing and it also seen as such a good carrot: “Oh, I can choose what I want.” But then it's also the way that you're going to receive… you're going to be made powerless, right? For instance, from trans—I encountered a gender clinic in the Netherlands, and maybe it's a combination between, there used to be the legal demand for forced sterilisation in order to change your documents and still the medical pathology was running strong, right? And still the medical pathology is still there, the legal demand has changed. So while you can change your passport, if you want access now to medical help you still need to run the whole program, so has something changed? Hmm, maybe not so much, or maybe less than we would want to. And it’s a bit disconcerting that here one of the solutions against medical pathology is then to go for informed consent, informed consent. But then that really individualises the problem. It individualises the situation again. Also informed consent, it sounds nice, but when they got to me, because by the time I was in the gender clinic I was a theatre technician, I had no academic training, this is why I went into academic training, because I found out I didn't have the words, I didn't have the concepts, I didn't have the thought structures. I was just angry for three years and then depressed for three years. So it was kind of… I didn't have any of these powers that you need to navigate that right? And then you go into academia and then you find out oh, I can actually think different about this process because it's still important, education, I think. But then you find out, you, in academia you meet similar pressure because why was I the only PhD student ever fired in a university, right [chuckles]? Why was I… why did it happen to me? It's like because in the Netherlands, a PhD is a job; you get, actually, a salary—it's kind of nice I think—but then they fired me. And I was like, "Why? Why? Why was I the only one? 00:19:58” And it's kind of logical because then you articulate what you need to articulate at the moment that you need it, right? And then you get isolated and then you're out. And this is why I think recognising the structure without necessarily giving up on what you personally do because I think sometimes I am just a bit too much and full of anger, arghhh all over the place, because that was the only thing I had available, right? Now I'm also older and slower, I think, so it's really good for me in my case [chuckles] and I just got a bit better educated basically. But in order to support the not being able to say what you need to be able to say in such a moment, you need to recognise that there's a structural situation. But thinking about that, I think, going back to the first question still, what do you think is the relation then between individual acts that are also necessary for liberation in this structural violence? Before we move, it’s sort of a transition question. We actually have two microphones. Can we use them both or no? Cool, then you probably don’t need to [inaudible 00:21:07]. [Audience laughs]
00:21:23 MS Can we have a repeat of the question please?
00:21:25 MD Yeah, what is the connection that you see, because if we identify violence as structure right, we also become little structures only. But we are not only little structures, it matters what we do. Because we're not all just captured in these little blocks that capture us, right? We're actually not; we already stepped out of it by sitting here, I think.
00:21:51 KM [off mic] I think—is this on? Oop, no. Am I speaking? [on mic] It's not on. Oh, hello, that's a bit much. Alright there we go. Oh, I've forgotten what I was going to say now. [Audience laughs] No it's fine. I think, I mean, looking at things structurally and with a systemic perspective then I mean, for me, on like a personal level it was, there was an element of relief as well because a lot of stuff felt like it was a personal failing of mine, or that like… I don’t know, you know? That there were things that, you're like, “Okay this makes sense because there's a lot of people who are just like me who experience these same things,” or that have these same struggles and it… yeah. So there's an element where because if you look at things on an individual level then there's an element of self-blame and guilt and shame that we often carry around that. And obviously neoliberalism feeds into that, like poverty is your fault, or not being able to access education, being violent, all of these things—or experiencing violence—all of these things. And so there's that element but then in terms of on a practical level it informs our organising right? It informs the very approach that we're going to take to tackle these issues because otherwise it would just be a whole load of campaigns about holding individual people to account and not looking at the state and the way that we actually have to take a really radical perspective in order to uproot the issues that are happening on a systemic level. On a practical level what that's meant is the way that we put together campaigns and the campaigns that we support is through the messaging; like, looking at the narratives that we're pushing and the language that we use and the way that we organise and trying not to recreate those same structures within the organisations that we're part of. And the ways that we have to centre the voices of the people who are affected by these issues and the same time taking the time to look at our messaging and not be focused on those individuals and the way they're behaving but actually how will we change the narrative around this? How will we actually dismantle those structures in the first place?
00:24:16 MS Sure, I will—I'll go next, I guess. Yeah so ahead of coming into this panel I was talking to my friend Kathy who I can see here, hi Kathy [chuckles] about some of the themes of the panel and we were talking about what is and isn't an acceptable transitional demand. Which is a really vexed question in terms of the sex worker rights movement, in terms of our relationships to the police. Because obviously SWARM for example is very much an abolitionist organisation, but even thinking of other groups that we work with in the UK, people have different levels of how much work they will do with the police and even kind of, at the other end of the scale you can see the police themselves making what they think are kind of incursions, almost, into sex worker rights, spaces and discourses. By for example, there's this project in I think Liverpool or Merseyside called the Red Umbrella Project. The red umbrella is obviously the symbol of the global sex worker rights movement but this is just run by the cops in Liverpool and it's just a complete theft of what is ours. But obviously yeah, the extent to which you'll work with the cops on anything is really hard especially because at the moment we live in a society where when someone is harmed, for example, the options you're basically given are either there'll be no accountability at all or you can attempt to get this carceral form of accountability that obviously isn't true healing or justice. But it's like, do you want something, or do you want nothing? And so I think lots of groups, for example, feel conflicted about how to… whether for example we should be pushing the police to more aggressively prosecute rapists because… yeah, it's just really hard. I don't have answers obviously. Something that I think about on this topic is an essay written by the amazing American abolitionist organiser Marion Carver who has already been mentioned at least once this conference. And she talks about the idea of why reforms to the prison system are often a bad idea and she talks also about non reformist reforms, so reforms that abolitionists can essentially support as part of the transitional road towards abolition. One of her key questions that she offers us as a tool for assessing whether what you're doing is actually bolstering the carceral state or whether it is a transitional demand on the right path is to think, is this something that we'll need to undo later? Like, if we win tomorrow, would we have to unpick this? I think that's just a really useful question to approach this topic with even though it doesn't necessarily make the answers totally clear all the time.
00:27:46 SMK That's really, that's a really good way of putting that actually. And yeah, sorry, my thoughts are a bit scattered at the moment but I just want to speak up on a few things and expand on them as well from my experience. But I was just thinking, I remember reading recently when it was the case of Shamima Begum's citizenship being stripped. I was trying to look into cases where it was not terror-related that citizenship had been revoked and it was really fascinating because it was the case of three Pakistani men, British citizens, who had been part of a grooming gang and they were then facing their citizenship being revoked and being deported. Which is just obviously where you enter this really stressful territory where it's like, you don't want to be defending someone who's sexually violent, but you do want to be defending border violence. You don't want border violence being used against racialised people. And I think that yeah, absolutely that's where that really stressful stuff comes in and also in terms of having to undo things later, it's that thing of state authoritarianism increasing and we saw in Shamima Begum's case that if you're a person of colour in this country it's just the case that you can just be stripped of citizenship. Obviously we shouldn't exceptionalise her case at all, and I think there's been like a hundred and something cases in the last year or two, but what's really fascinating with that is the capacity for that being possible was made a long time ago. And so with the initial early changes in the Home Office legislation around citizenship it allows for someone who's been sexually violent to then be deported. So yeah, I think that's just really interesting and jumping on Kelsey's point as well I wanted to say that I think the way that individualised understanding informs us and what I see amongst a lot of Muslims is that internalisation of your own dehumanisation and that idea that really you should be so grateful if someone was to cry over your death. And I think after the Christchurch massacre I saw a really tragic trend of people being really thankful that, you know, Jacinda Ardern was grieving you know? I thought that was really frustrating because if I had to reframe that conversation now, as you say, what can we do as individuals? I think all I felt that I could do was try to disrupt that narrative and say well, actually you know maybe wearing a scarf in solidarity isn't that helpful and maybe if we dismantled counter-terrorism apparatus that would be more useful, or we kind of, you know, acknowledge genocide and colonialism. But yeah, so I think, yeah, Kelsey I completely agree with you in terms of what we can do in terms of framing campaigns and educating and disrupting narratives. And I think it’s really difficult and that's why also collaboration is obviously the main thing you have to do as an individual otherwise you're never, yeah, you’re never going to break out of that individualistic trap. Oh, and I just wanted to add actually on this point really quick because I mentioned this earlier, so the current thing going on with the definition of islamophobia, a really interesting angle on this is that the police chiefs or whatever—the Council of Police Chiefs—came out saying that they reject the definition surprisingly. But they said that the reason is that it would confuse officers when it came to enforcing the law, which is very much in of itself an admission that the law is Islamophobic because [chuckles] the only thing that would confuse officers is that what is being said in the definition is that islamophobia is the criminalisation of perceived Muslimness and expressions of Muslimness. And if that was to confuse a police officer that is because that is exactly what they do is criminalise expressions of Muslimness. But I think what's really important at a time like now is that… I think that because you learn from legislation and doing things but actually if you can get people to endorse something like that as a piece of legislation, a definition that is clearly actually disruptive to not just the government but the criminal justice system that's actually potentially really powerful because it's disruptive. So yeah, sorry for rambling.
00:31:44 LC Okay, can you remind me what the question was again? Individual acts? Okay, sure. I always enjoy a conversation about non-reformist reforms. I think in…genuinely! In the context of immigration detention for example there's a bit push at the moment around a twenty-eight-day time limit on immigration detention in the UK because the UK is the only country in Europe which has an indefinite detention policy, which means that people can be detained and just have absolutely no idea when they're going to be released and there's an incredibly… that has huge impacts on people's mental health in that setting, and physical health. And whilst this has been broadly campaigned on across a spectrum of different grassroots groups and within political parliamentary spaces, I think it needs to be approached with some caution because even if the amount of time that someone can be held in detention is limited, what that probably means is that there'll just be a higher volume of people being processed at a faster rate through detention. So it's really difficult to think about what those non-reformist reforms could look like. When I think back to the Yarl’s Wood hunger strikes that were last year or the year before when a lot of people who were detained within Yarl’s Wood, which is an all-women’s centre and immigration detention centre in Bedford, went on hunger strike to protest the conditions they were being held under. Their demands included requesting things that would impact their immediate material conditions. So, like, better food, adequate healthcare, access to lawyers and legal support as well as also calling for an end to detention. So they kind of had both of those pieces within those demands which I think makes a lot of sense. I think… individual acts. I think when I think about stuff like the immigration apparatus in the UK as like a site of violence I think often we talk about detention and deportation but often actually the tendrils of that apparatus spread so much wider than that to the entire hostile environment and everyday borders. And I think that those are spaces where individual acts can play a really important role. So thinking about campaigns around immigration data collection in schools there was a really successful campaigns led by Schools ABC, Against Borders For Children, where individual parents were asked to refuse to give that immigration data. And the government's made a bit of a U-turn on what data is being collected. There was concerns that data was being shared between the education system and the Home Office and it turned out that that was what was going on. So I think involvement, individual level involvement in campaigns like that can make shifts.
00:35:08 MD Yeah partly I asked because of the… to shift also a bit to the burning question-question that we have lying there, yeah. Because often burning questions that I have or one of the wider—where this question also comes from is that we are forced with this problem of how do we organise then? Because we see the structural pattern and we know what the material implications of the pattern is, right, because that is our way into understanding the pattern. And then say, "Oh we're going to do it differently and we need to pull a sort of future into the present." And do something in other ways. And that’s often not easy [laughing]. There's a lot of problems, yeah, I keep running into as quite a long time, long term, I have organised things more and less successfully, both of them. I have not found a way out of there. So, and because I think, one of the things that I am—I am working on ethics—it is of course one of my key questions. Like, how do you connect in this whole, this possibility with the present? I had also—oh yeah. And then also, because I was a student and a worker in a university here in London that uses, at times, the term ‘radical’ for themselves, and I felt one of the problems with that university was that the department I used to work for was run by feminists and what they actually were doing, unfortunately, was using kind of feminist methods to channel structural demands onto their workforce. Where their individual acts became very empathic and "caring,” [laughs] but it also means we were just ending up in labour conditions that were very highly demanding and [chuckles] which got very low pay and which were still very precarious. And it was like, oh, this is really not how we want this feminism to materialise in this structural condition because it doesn't make it better at any moment right? It just feels maybe less aggressive, sometimes, but maybe not and certainly not at the end of today. So this is partly where it came from. There’s like, how do we organise ourselves and where do we run into in this institutions that have been organisations, at times? And, you know… pfft, my great grandmother certainly couldn't read and she was really pushing for the possibility for education. So I think education—and also, when I needed it myself, I think I'm very passionate about education still, so I want it also to be better at some point right? Cool, so shall we move to the next question, the burning question? What are the burning questions that we have now? There is a question we’ve got, so…. Do you have burning questions at this stage already? Because we're here together, right? Think about it, think about it; we're going to talk about burning questions and then we'll come to your burning questions. Cool, thank you.
00:38:16 Q1 So I had two questions, I was thinking about like, just like with resisting state it feels like you're in a constant cycle of firefighting and I wanted to hear about your personal and collective experiences with that frustration. And do you feel like you… there are times where you're not firefighting, you feel like you're able to push back? And my other question was about linking to what Molly said about being co-opted? We were at a day where this academic activist scholar person was like, "Oh, part of the demands is that you want your movement to be co-opted by the state," and I heard that and was like, "The fuck?" But then I was like…. [Audience laughs] But then I was like, hmm, okay, you kind of want them to take on some of the things that you say, you want them to end violence, that's true but just I want to hear you talk about the tensions within that. Maybe how have you found that within your own personal movements?
00:39:21 SMK Yeah. Yeah, firefighting, yeah. I think that… I feel like something that really frustrates me at the moment is the conversations that you want to have are not the conversations that you're having, and so again just because it's happening right now, the islamophobia definition is a great example. Like that’s really so, so far behind the conversation that needs to be had. And yet we're still being like, "Hmm, are Muslims structurally oppressed? Not sure." When it's like, what I would love to do is be like, tackling state violence that is happening because yes, we are. So I feel probably the answer is that no we are still firefighting with that one. But in terms of, and this is linked to the second question I think, around co-option, there's an independent review of PREVENT policy going on at the moment or this year, and I think what's really interesting is that the groups, particularly the groups that for the longest have been saying that we need a review of PREVENT are groups like Cage who are historically seen as terrorists, extremists, bad, don't work with them, if you even associate with them that's really bad. But actually they've been doing a lot of the grassroots work. They're probably one of the few groups that actually work with people on the ground who face the brunt of terror legislation. And bearing in mind that their families as well, who will then—you know think of who do you go to when the police are… so if your home is raided, etcetera etcetera and then you're stigmatised by your community because no one else wants to be, have their home raided too, where do you go? And its organisations like them that actually pick up that, but then they've been pushing for that independent review for ages and it's only this year that Amnesty International and Liberty and stuff were like, "Yeah, actually we think so too." And so then it was really interesting to see the rhetoric change and you have journalists and mainstream media saying, "Actually yeah, this is a problem of free speech, and PREVENT is actually limiting Muslim people's freedom of speech." But that was… and it was interesting because part of me was like, okay good, because now people are seeing it as an issue, but also so frustrating because when it's been an issue for so long and people have been advocating—and then also they're completely missed out in the reports where it's like, why it's important. It doesn't say anything about the people who have been advocating for ages, but the other fear is then that the government will come up with a very… like, there are ways that you can do things that avoid the problem. And so there’s the, because there’s a Commission for Countering Extermism at the moment that's taking calls for papers of evidence and stuff? But the way that it works is that the people that they're asking are like… it can be really problematic in terms of, like, the way that it works in terms of who they're asking, because also—and I'm not sure on the truth of this—but I've heard in terms of you getting paid for the submission of papers and its vast amounts of money that you'll get paid. So if there's this monetary incentive to provide evidence that is the kind of evidence that the government wants to see it becomes very, like, yeah, troubling. I think on the one hand, yes, the state is kind of taking this on board but when I don't have any faith that the state would be on board with finding evidence that it itself is violent and that's where I think we come again to the… I don't know, I feel like we hit a bit of a brick wall there and I don't know what you guys think, but that's where it becomes like, well what is it that we're trying to do then? Or how do we keep operating outside of the state or trying to just hold a mirror to the state or resist or disrupt. And I don't know, I guess in terms of burning questions mine would also be, do you guys try and think in long-termist ways and how do you visualise what it is that you're trying to achieve when it comes to… there are things that we can do tomorrow but there are things that we can try and think about what that might look like in thirty, forty, fifty years? But yeah, that's a bit of a ramble.
00:43:04 KM I think I was there when that person said that, and it's been in my mind ever since. And I think about co-option because it is… it's really difficult because I'm super wary of liberal co-option where the state takes on—because they do, they take on our language and it seems like they're listening but then actually they come out with these reforms that continue to entrench these same things within that same system. So for example there's been a lot of work done to try and humanise the people that are in women's prisons by drawing attention to the amount that are survivors who've been through the care system, how over eighty percent are in there for non-violent crimes. All of these things, there's been a lot of work to put that messaging out there but then what the state has done with that, of, "Oh people don't like the idea of people having women's prisons so what we're going to do is we're still going to criminalise the same amount of people but we'll call them residential centres and we'll use words like community and therapy," and all these things because that's what people are calling for. And so if you haven't dismantled the actual, like, all of the systems around that and you're just letting them tackle those problems that you've named in those ways then it doesn't actually—yeah, then it becomes even harder in some ways to disentangle that because it's harder to argue against a nice therapeutic residential space compared to a prison. And in the same way with education and young offenders, you know, they're building secure schools instead of children's prisons, but they are still children's prisons and they're for twelve to seventeen year olds but now there's a partnership between the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Education and it's all education-based. Children will still be physically restrained and punished and all of these things as they would be in prison but it's an educational facility. And so that becomes even harder to argue against because of course all of the messaging that makes sense is, "Education not Exclusion, Education not Imprisonment," all these things. And yet that's what they end up doing, so without dismantling the state itself and putting that power back in the hands of those communities to then create creative solutions to those issues I don't think that that co-option can really be a safe thing. I think in terms of co-option in a way of, if it's co-opted by the mainstream there has been an element of obviously you want it to not be this niche little cult following that your movement has. You want it to be masse, you want as many people to come around on these things as possible. Having met some Black feminists who were doing a lot of work in the seventies and things, there definitely is a shift. There's definitely been progress and things that have changed in terms of the discourse, in terms of the amount of people that understand things that they wouldn't have, people who are politicised. My mum said the words ‘white privilege recently,’ I was just like, "What?" You know, things are getting out there and I think that it's something that we shouldn't dismiss, but there's still so much work to be done. And I think something that I'm really concerned about in terms of my burning question or whatever, if I can keep talking for a minute, is the… is, like, really intervening on criminal justice and the way it's so embedded in our culture and our approach to things. There's a lot of people that I could talk to about prison abolition and about community support who might agree and then I might find out that their favourite movie is Die Hard which is about cops. It's so embedded in the way that we perceive so many things that I think until there's a lot more… until we can envision it in our culture in ways like, what does conflict actually look like when it's transformative and what does it look like to deal with these issues? I've never seen that on screen; I've never seen that really in my life that much. You know, we're starting to work on these things now but without those kinds of things in our culture and seen more widely we still just play into good person, bad person, the hero and the villain. All of these kinds of things I think feed into punitive narratives and until we start to intervene on a lot of that stuff, I don't know how we're going to get that thinking out of people's heads.
00:47:28 LC Yeah, it kind of feels like a question of how far can we work with the state and how far can any work in conjunction with the state be effective or radical or what kind of shifts can we make in that space? And thinking again about the domestic abuse bill, this piece of legislation moving through parliament, within the gendered violence sector there's moves being made to make certain amendments and I've felt mixed about it. It's quite frustrating how much energy goes into what feels like—what's that metaphor, moving the deck chairs on the Titanic, right? That thing of making tiny tweaks but ultimately this piece of legislation sits with the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice. It wants to push forward on more prosecutions. So whilst we're going into spaces and trying to ask for like a firewall between the Home Office and the police so that if people want to report violence to the police their immigration data isn't going to be shared with the Home Office or enquiries aren't going to be made to their immigration status which is absolutely something that happens. We then go into ministerial meetings, like there was a meeting with the Home Affairs select committee last week and there was this guy called Lord Farmer who said that he was really concerned that the Istanbul convention, which is a piece of European legislation that the UK has signed and ratified or is going through the process of ratifying, which is about protecting the rights of survivors, he was really concerned that the Istanbul Convention could be used as a trojan horse to bring terrorists in. Like he just said that boldly. And then in another meeting, Victoria Atkins, who's the Minister who's drafting this piece of legislation said we need to name the fact that there's a tension between the rights of survivors and immigration law. It kind of feels like we're trying to make these changes but within a framework of hostile environment and an incredibly aggressive and violent immigration framework. So yeah, it feels complicated, about how far shifts can be made.
00:49:43 SMK Can I jump on that? Yeah I just wanted to jump on that as well, I don't know, I'm just… these are just thoughts that are coming to my head right now, but I think I also feel this sense of just constant cynicism. Because I think also that when I, if I…. if you go beyond the practical—because I think I oscillate between okay, the practical things we can do to survive, so redistribute, dah dah dah, but then on the other hand it’s just like, on a conceptual level I think, and I'm sure a lot of us agree, the nation state is inherently violent. And so just, how… what do we do when the way that bodies are organised is inherently a violent thing? And so I think so much of what we talk about just comes back to this point that the way that we organise space and bodies in inherently—someone will always have to be inherently excluded for a nation to make sense. So you can have all of these different rhetoric, people will be talking about assimilation, multiculturalism, they can be talking about exclusion, they can be talking about genocide, but all these conversations actually are the same conversation which is about who is allowed to be here and who is not. Whether you're here or not, because even if you are here it's still a question of whether you're allowed or not, are you deviating too much, you will face social death of different kinds. And I think I just, I don't know, and this is a question to everyone in the room I suppose, what is it that we're actually capable of? And I think I take a lot of inspiration from the Black Panther party and that idea of what you can do that's just outside of the state. And you're not even… that's really irrelevant because you know the state is not here for you at the end of the day and there's nothing… I don't know, maybe… What do people think about just, even whilst the state is such a central part of our analysis, how far do the things that we need to do to like, enable people to live their lives more safely, have to engage the state? And I don't know, these are just thoughts that I'm throwing out.
00:51:39 MD Yeah to jump a little bit on that and also a little bit to answer your question still. First about firefighting, I think firefighting is always necessary right? Because it's also about direct violence, but it's also why for instance intergenerational organising is important because you can work together with people that do not get direct, and it's not only intergenerational but also interpositional organising, that’s—whatever I don't know if that's a word [Audience chuckles]. So you work together on many levels, like the violence of the gender clinic; I moved here so I never had to go back to it anymore, so here I talk to my GP which gives me a lot of space to take also other visions, and to take also other approaches, because I'm not confronted with it on a monthly basis or a weekly basis, right? So this is why it's important and sometimes it feels like if it’s in your face you cannot do but firefighting and it's so frustrating because you never enter the long-term view, right? But this is why you collaborate and cooperate across different points. About the state, yeah… sorry I was a bit surprised at so much state. I always think about corporations, corporations are the enemy [chuckles] and the state is only there to protect corporations I feel. It is like the logic of exploitation and extraction is so much at the heart of what the state is doing that for me, well, hmm, in these moments I see—also with prisons are so privatised also right? And it is there… also in that… hmm. With trans obviously, that they want to help us with building trans prisons. And then the slogan is, if they build it for you, they're going to fill it with you, you know that, right? [Audience laughs] So it is one of the reasons why sometimes you say like… we might not want to solve the problem, while you do need to support the people in the problem, right? It's a problem of firefighting and solidarity. How can you work with it, because it also leads you to a trap, that if you want to support trans people on the inside, you're actually trapped. You're put in a moment that you can go nowhere. Because there will be… there is already a trans wing and the people in there, they're really happy that they're in a trans wing now and that they're not any more in the normal prison. They're actually relieved, so… [sighs]. It is also a bit of a problematic vibe 00:54:40 to say, "Oh we don't want it, we don't want it." No, but they want it. They're happier, the food is better, the door is always open. It's sad right? It's shit. And we’re being put into that? [Laughter from audience]
00:54:58 MS? [off mic] Shall we take some more questions?
00:54:50 Q2 Yeah feeding off your point and some of the points that were made, I'm curious about the intermediary between the state and communities, like NGOs and charities that also become very much implicated in a lot of the stuff that you're talking about. Especially with stuff like the hostile environment, charities like St Mungo’s basically supporting the Home Office to arrest and deport homeless migrants and lots and lots of other charities who knowingly or unknowingly are becoming very much implicated in the work of the hostile environment and the state. And I guess that—I mean, it's extremely dangerous and part of me is like, okay, do we need to be working on a situation where, like Leah was saying, making it so that, you know, survivors can report stuff without having these things… making, yeah, basically making it so that people can get the support that they need without having to worry about that happening or do we need to be disinvesting from these big mainstream organisations that are so heavily implicated and funded by a very violent state. I don't really know the answer to that but I'm really curious to what you've got to say.
00:56:16 LC Yeah, I think that's a really important question, it's something that I think about a lot. I think there's different ways of doing the work; particularly thinking about anti-detention activism, there are some groups that get their funding from radical funders like the Edge Fund and there are other groups who are funded by the very corporate companies that are trying to expand the detention centres, and that hold keys to the detention centres but lock the doors behind them when they leave. So I think there's different ways of doing it and I think maybe that's a question and an exercise for us, to think about different ways of resourcing our work, whether that's through crowdfunding or social enterprises or different models of doing it, because any… any moment where we're interacting with the state and taking that funds, we're then accountable to them and working in ways that suit them. And I know I keep banging on about the domestic abuse bill but it's something that I'm working on, I've seen throughout all of the pieces of policy papers around it that organisations that the Home Office have given money to are then name-checked as a reason as to why they don't need to fund domestic violence services anymore, because they've already given three hundred grand to this and this money to that. So yeah, accepting that money comes at a sacrifice of not being able to critique and not being able to ask for more.
00:57:54 SMK I just want to say I completely agree with that, and I was just thinking when you were saying that, I think amongst a lot of the people that I see day to day, Muslim communities in Britain, I just think there's so much trauma associated with the communal violence that is faced. There's no way if you're taking government money that… and I was just thinking in my head when you were saying that, what organisations—I know it's a different context but it's a similar context, what organisations are trusted and it's just the charity ones. It's the ones where the community funds the charity. And I know that Tell Mama exists and they're so problematic and they… and in fact, you report islamophobia to them and then there's a lot of dodgy information about where they put that information, where they take it, who they're reporting it to and where it's going. And so the mechanisms that are in place to keep you safe are then being used against you etcetera etcetera, but yeah, I think for me it's a definite no. And I just wanted to jump on what you were saying about corporations earlier as well, I think yeah, definitely in terms of islamophobia, neoliberalism in an essential part of it, of the islamophobia industry, but also just wanted to [say], fun fact: after the Christchurch Massacre, murdering of Muslims, there's been globally… this has been used a reason the state mean to invest more in counter-terror apparatus which obviously hits Muslims the worst. So it's just a really, really interesting way in which funding and the increasing idea to now start pushing PREVENT into the private sector, and so all of that being done in a kind of collaboration between state and corporation.
00:59:51 MS Yeah, just on the question of NGOs as intermediaries of the state, which is a really good question, thank you. So I was thinking a couple things while you were talking about this. I was thinking partly about the occasional tendency of some people in the sex worker rights movement to—I guess out of both whiteness and naivety, which I know is interlinked [laughter]—to attempt to argue for rights on the basis of… there's a kind of obvious carceral sex worker anti-trafficking mode of action. I'm thinking particularly of a very small organisation that basically doesn't fully exist anymore in Scotland that started up last summer I think, amid concern there was going to be a UK SESTA-FOSTA style law that would kick sex workers off the internet. That was basically, I think it was called Sex Workers Against Trafficking and it was just, "If you report trafficking to us, we'll help you report it to the Home Office hotline," and that's obviously completely fucked. Yeah, so, I don't know, it's just really depressing how even away from large NGOs who are obviously getting money from the state and therefore are complicit in its violence, you've really got to resist and dismantle the tendency even in our own communities to head towards that.
01:01:52 KM Yeah, equally I spend a lot of time thinking about this because it is incredibly complicated. The way that the state restricts funding, the ways that these things are all really intertwined and the ways it feeds back to the non-reformist reforms, right? A lot of those charities would have to be dismantled as well because those issues that they're trying to supposedly help wouldn't exist anymore. So it is a case of… I always think that it's really difficult because also we live in a capitalist society and people need to have jobs and people want to… I think it's really difficult. There's loads of people who I think have really good intentions within a lot of those organisations and then they become part of that system and there's so many conflicts within that and whether people can be abolitionist within an organisation that supports prisoners in certain ways and whether people would be willing to lose their jobs if we were to get to a certain point or…. Also, with academics I think, in terms of, would your research exist if—and your entire life that you've built on this, some people—if that issue wasn't in existence and the way that people have these relationships with it. But yeah, I mean I don't really have any solutions, I think it is difficult because also—and we've had this conversation about the way that it can be different in the US as well, where they have a lot more resources and they have a lot more private funding but then that also comes with its own restrictions and whether people are okay with taking money from Coca Cola to do supposedly radical work and whether that can still be radical and what does that mean? I just think that there's a lot of issues around where we get our resources and things, but… I was going to say something else, but I can't remember what it was. But yeah it is just something that's just… I don't have solutions and I also think that it's just really complicated, I'm just going to stop talking. [Audience laughs]
01:04:01 MD I think a bit with NGOs and charities it’s a bit like with rights. Rights is about talking to the managerial class on their terms, right? Rights can never set us free, never set people free; they curb the power of the management class as long as the management class believes in the power of the institution and when they don’t, they bypass it. It's the same as with NGOs and charities. It's like talking to the money in the money’s terms and then often, yeah, I agree with you, people protect their jobs and they're not ready to rescind their jobs. I was like… a while ago, when I was a little bit involved with Action For Trans Health it was their—they want to have a full time person working for Action For Trans Health and we thankfully torpedoed that because we would have needed to protect that person's income and their house, then, right? So we were like no, it's really a bad idea to do that, I think.
01:05:02 Q3 Also it wasn't until I got here that I realised where I recognised you from and I watched you perform in Brighton and it was amazing so I just kind of wanted to say that. It's kind of an answer because I, up until this morning when I emailed in my notice, I worked for a sex worker outreach project and actually I handed in my notice because being here was like, I can't do this anymore? I cannot, I literally have blood on my hands because I have a manager who says it's okay if sex workers go to prison because they like it actually and they get rehab programmes and really they should be thanking us, and my manager genuinely believes this. And this is—but what is—yeah, right? But what is really frightening is things like rape crisis as well. There's a rape crisis that was built onto the back of a police station, information is being shared, the police want us to hand over information on the amounts of migrant workers that use our services and it's partly for funders but also partly because information is shared. And I also have a mortgage to pay and I have bills to pay, and it got to the point where I was like, you know what? Actually, I think I'd rather starve because I can't do this anymore. But my question, it's not… I guess it's a question. I think the best way to criticise these sorts of things is to call out them at every opportunity and SWARM are quite lucky because there's people in SWARM in pockets of all society which I think is really amazing, like in journalism or politics or whatever, and I think it's really important to call out funders. Because I think a lot of people don't realise that. It's not… yeah, so I guess I've sort of—my brain's whirring as all of you were talking because there's just so much amazing information that's there, but it was sort of an answer to the question that someone asked, because as funding becomes more and more scarce, sex work is always going to be popular for funders but the money never seems to come to sex workers; it always seems to go to projects. Sorry, yeah, so it's sort of an answer to that, and I guess that, so the best way for NGOs and charities like I used to work for, literally until this morning when I emailed in my notice, is to just ask them where their funding is coming from and what they're doing with the statistics for—because we tell our clients it's all confidential… it's not. It goes back to funders. And I don't know where it goes after that. And that is not unique to where I work, that is across the charity sector.
01:07:31 KM? Can I quickly, I remembered some other stuff that I was going to say because of what you were saying, but I think there's an added complication there as well, right? Where these power dynamics and the social status of different causes is created by those same systems and therefore it’s easier to fundraise for certain things. Obviously, there's the restrictions of being a charity, but even just when we try to fundraise for individual causes or on a… crowdfunding or whatever, there's very clear differences in the ways people will give for certain things depending on what the cause is. This isn't to dismiss the needs for funding for all kinds of different things, but it definitely is easier for certain things than others. So even within marginalisations, I've seen fundraisers that might be for… I don't know, some medical funding that someone needs, who's a privileged person doing a PhD who's white, middle class, and they will raise that money, thousands of pounds within a couple days. And we'll be sometimes crowdfunding for exactly the same issue but for someone who's in prison and it's incredibly difficult to fundraise for things like that. And so even before we can harness the power that people have to give, there's also that networking. There's the extra amount of work that needs to be done if it's someone who doesn't happen to have loads of middle-class friends and hasn't had access to all of these things in the first place, yeah. And also what I was thinking when you were speaking is the added level of alienation from those kinds of things, people even being able to ask for help, being able to seek those services, there's a lot of people who are migrants who come from places where they're so alienated from the state where they…. and so not used to being supported by a very corrupt, very violent state and then over here also are still alienated, not used to even thinking about seeking any of that support, you know? There's so many levels of whether people will even take beds if they're there, if they already haven't, they don't have that relationship with the state and feel supported in the same way as people don't go to the police, same as all these kinds of things.
01:09:49 MD But then also there, there’s shame and humility, right? Are you ashamed to ask for help, or say, oh other people need that money more, right? And who has that consideration, you know?
01:10:01 Q6 Thank you everybody for everything you've said so far, it's been great. I think that if it's fine to go to a slightly different topic away from the bleakness of how all monsters have loads of money and how we have none [Audience laughs] we… I think that if what we're talking about is a little bit around that idea of if we think, which I do because I'm an anarchist, that the state cannot be the place where we expect to get support because it is an institution that is fundamentally opposed to our interests, then the question is, if we're talking about building, what's the counter-power we can build to that? The stuff about NGOs is talking about well, if you have an organisation that is not explicitly opposed to the state then you are effectively going to be organising alongside the state's interests because that's just how those things operate in terms of the power dynamic. So the question that I have for you given that you're all from inter-related, but kind of different movements is, what… to make… if we're talking about building and counter-power then one of the main questions is around how we can make that sustainable and we can make the institutions we build sustainable? So what would you… what kind of support would you like from the other movements that are represented here in this room in terms of building that power to challenge these things when we're talking about stuff around accountability, community accountability, transformative; what do you want from the other people that are here? Panellists or us.
01:11:28 LC I'll be brief. We need strategies I think, there's such a lack of strategy and I think it relates to the firefighting question, right? That we're constantly like, "We're in the work, we've got to do the work, we've got to do the do and we don't have any time to sit and pontificate about how to do it well." So, strategies would be my quick answer.
01:12:00 SMK Yeah, I would agree with that, but I would also say from what I see in terms of resisting state sanctioned islamophobia and counter-terror… I just feel like there isn't, like… the organised resistance is so small and so underfunded I would say material resources, I would say if you can, go home and donate some money to CAGE or HHUGS, which is H-H-U-G-S, I think you should. But I think it's… yeah, strategies would also be really, really good, and like, success stories? [laughing]
01:12:39 MS Ah yes, very much that. [chuckles] Yeah, I mean I think the sex worker rights movement often feels like we are very contested in terms of our place within feminism so like the sense from the other women on the panel and other social movements that we are also sisters in feminism with you? Even if these are all different kinds of marginalised feminism, whether that's abolitionist feminisms or, you know, sex working feminisms or trans feminisms, yeah. But I don't know, I mean yeah, I feel like… thanks everyone here, I guess. Not that it's really my place to say that but you know, even just having these conversations and sharing this knowledge feels really enriching and yeah, I'm just really grateful that these conversations can happen.
01:13:44 KM Oh thanks, my own personal microphone now! I mean, I think it’s really, really great that we do these kinds of things and that we get people together. I always worry a little bit that then people just go away again and as much as it's, I'm sure, delightful to hear us speaking [Audience laughs]. I think that we also need practical tools and people need to know that they can do this, they can be part of campaigns and they can be changing things and they can… whichever, there's loads and loads of different ways that people can be involved in these movements and I really want these to be opportunities for people to feel that they can get involved and then go and do that? Because we're really, really struggling not just for resources but capacity? A lot of these groups it's actually maybe four people doing loads of the stuff and I think that people don't always realise that because obviously there's lots of people who are involved in various different ways but I think if there was more cohesion between groups and also within groups and that we were dealing with this issues and… actually sort of…yeah, just building that capacity because I don't think we're actually bringing people into our movement that well? I think that, and I can't speak for all movements, but that's how I feel with prison abolition, it's like people are starting to talk about it way more and I really, like… yeah, I want action now, basically. [Audience chuckles]
01:15:19 MD Thanks. I'm going to give the same answer I gave yesterday on another panel because I do agree with resources and the capacity, but I think also in between groups, a stronger investment of feminists, especially in transformative justice. I would really, really like to see that happening because I think it would be easier to retain people in activism instead of having them burn out or withdraw, and we become better at the future. And we come better, I think, as an educator. Also going back to the firefighting, what I constantly feel is I constantly have to change the terms of the debate in order to get people that I work with, or I'm a teacher of, to understand what's going on. And I feel with movement organised around transformative justice also, internally and externally, it would just be easier if we transformed the way we are hanging out together and working together. Then it becomes easier to also join each other, yeah.
01:16:37 Q7 Thank you so much, this has been just an incredible panel, like every single one that I've been to. So my question is maybe going to be blindingly obvious for a lot of people here, but I haven't heard the word ‘co-operatives’ mentioned much, like we've talked about unionising. So I just wondered what you think of that as a strategy, as something you're maybe probably doing anyway? But, yeah. I just wanted to bring up that word because it's kind of what gives me hope when everything else seems hopeless.
01:17:19 MS So, SWARM is actually technically a co-operative which was exciting for us, because until we became a co-operative, we weren't officially, you know, anything. I mean obviously we're a collective, but you know. And we deliberately didn't want to become like a charity or some other kind of quite formal NGO, so yes. In terms of organising among sex workers, so co-operative working doesn't really work currently because of criminalisation, at least for full-service sex workers; if we work with other people, we can all be arrested and charged with brothel-keeping each other. And I think more generally of course, co-operatives are still subject to the wider demands of capitalism. So thinking of strip clubs for example, people who work in strip clubs will still be required to implicitly compete with the strip club down the road. And so even if those decisions are being made collectively and they are a still a bit fairer it's still like there's a general push within capitalism to blur all workers' conditions anyway, so that's what we ultimately need to be fighting.
01:19:01 MD There's a co-operative pub in South East London and its workforce recently had to go on strike because they were so underpaid [laughs]. So it is not a happy solution for everything, it is a bit like… you know, yeah, I agree with what she said.
01:19:19 MS Not to be like everything is terrible and we should not have any hope at all because obviously [laughs] it's good to work…I mean, we've been talking, a lot of this panel has been about transitional demands and the tension between what we ultimately want and how we get there, and I think, you know, clearly co-operatives can represent a better kind of workplace for a lot of people in the short to medium term and that's worthwhile while we're all trying to survive.
01:19:49 SMK Yeah, I'm just thinking, attached to this conversation I suppose. So this thought is just coming from the fact that for the last twelve weeks, in that room actually, that room right opposite, I've been running these workshops with Muslim women. And something that's come out of that is the realisation that there are just… in terms of cost, where do you go? There's no free, accessible safe spaces to just be and talk about the things that matter, except for in your homes etcetera. But I think also the things that we call things, right? The things that we call organising, the things that we call co-operatives, I mean… I think there's a little bit of this leftist ownership of what things are real things. And I think also, you know, there's many ways in which, particularly if you're…. the majority of Muslims as a country live below the poverty line. That's actually, like, I think it’s like, sixty-four—it's like a really big percent. And I think just, you know, actually—and we were talking about this the other day, we were like, everybody's… the conversations that come up again and again, I mean, we're in East London, the conversations that come up like gentrification and racism and actually I went and did some research to be like, "Oh look, here's some things you guys could join." And I did it and I was like, no! First off no one's got the time to join any of this stuff, second off, no one's going to feel comfortable going into those spaces. And I think yeah, these are just thoughts that I’ll having but actually there are ways in which people do the work that is not seen as the work and also there are ways in which solidarity and collaboration and community-building happen but they're just not seen. You know, it's just seen as, "That's just the mosque, that's like a random thing," do you know what I mean? And I think a lot of spaces that exist don't feel comfortable for racialised people. But also, I would say as a Muslim woman I don't feel comfortable in so many leftist organising spaces. And actually it's really exciting to be here, but I know that I—I don't know how many other people… you know, like, I just think so many white dominated spaces are… are… yeah, difficult. And so I think maybe also the ways in which we… what we count as…. I think that's important to think about when we're thinking about collaboration because I think often, when I think about collaboration, it's about me going into lots of different spaces. And yeah, I mean, I don't know how many people are coming to me, if you see what I mean?
01:22:01 Q8 Thank you so much by the way, it's one of the most powerful conversations I've been to in the past years, and yeah, thanks. Yeah, I've been really interested in the stuff you were talking about, reframing narratives and reframing ways in which we understand kind of, accountability and this stuff. And also I've been hearing a lot of critique of the word ‘violence’ and I heard you also using it a lot, and I just wonder what you think about when people raise the issue around violence, how legitimacy is very much linked to violence and who gets to call something violence is linked to power, so I guess how useful it is to frame things within this understanding of violence? Or, would it be more—I don’t know—interesting to frame it or useful to frame it as like, that this action, reinforces power inequalities or challenging them, or yeah? Is it clear, my question?
01:23:01 Q9 Hi, I've been paining myself over this question. I can't, I don't know if I'm going to say it right basically, but I think I… it's hard to have—we're talking a lot about structural approaches and understanding structural violence but then what does that look like when it comes to individual accountability in our communities? So I guess the question, which I've rewritten like five times [laughs] is, in your organising groups, in communities and in general, what are some community care techniques that you utilise for individual accountability that don't operate in a carceral framework, if that makes sense?
01:23:51 MD Thanks, so I have one question about when is violence recognised as violence and who gets to call it if I reformulate you correctly? And what are then, a nicely related question [chuckles], what are the techniques of community care when we deal with individual violence, yeah. I think one of the things about community care that I have learned until now is how important it is that there is many layers of communication so that the communication is not only direct between who is supposedly the person in need of the call out or the accountability and the person that is pressured or the group of people that is pressured, right? So it’s this many layered network that can keep a community—I don't like the word but let’s use it for now—dispersed and connected at the same time without there being a framework that draws from disposability, saying, "You need to go." Because that is often one of the problems, right? The you need to go framework. And this you need to go is partly coming out of certain accounts of purity, of very often of being perfect in behaviour, right? And that is seeping into this kind of community organising, I think. There is very little ways in which recuperation can happen at the moment. This is why I earlier said how can we think about transformative justice anymore, because we need to recuperate and shift and change, but we can never do that in isolation I think. So then the strata that keeps the many layers of connection without contracting the space around the problem, per se, right? That is what I would say. Thanks for the question. One of the other things that I've found—I can say a bit more because I've noticed not so many people want to pick it up, one of the things that for instance I do that I find very helpful in many spaces is I do tarot reading. Not because I think whatever that does, but for a lot of people they start to talk their perspective while they talk about cards rather than what they actually perceive as their direct environment, and what I noticed is that it made discussions possible in a non-violent way for a lot of people. Especially if I do it with social justice perspective through it, I've found it very helpful, but it's just a technique and some people find it repulsive once you draw these cards out let's be honest about that?
01:26:55 ?? [off mic] I do Tarot readings too. [inaudible 01:27:01]. [Audience laughs].
01:26:56 MD Yes! Cool.
01:27:02 LC? I have some brief thoughts—
01:27:03 KM I think it’s—oh. Are you going to go?
01:27:07 LC? No you go. Go on.
01:27:15 KM I mean I think it's important to acknowledge that none of us are actually doing it perfectly and that we are, people are behaving harmfully, and people are fucking up when they're trying to resolve issues, and that that happens and we're trying to learn from those experiences as well? But yeah, I think accountability comes in a lot of different forms and there's a lot of work that is being done that I think has varying degrees of effectiveness. I think a lot of it is about being willing to commit the time is one of the things that I've learned. It's really not about having a couple people sit down and have one conversation and therefore it's going to be resolved. And also that we really need to be focusing on yeah, the person that's been harmed, the ways that they can be supported and what they want, but also that…yeah. There's very live issues in terms of particularly acknowledging that what we have in our organising spaces is intentional communities, right? They're not necessarily all people who live near each other and actually exist together in the world except when they're in those organising spaces. So it is really easy to create dynamics where people just leave. And often it’s the people who've been harmed that leave but equally if we are trying to be transformative we don't want to be excluding the person that's been harmful necessarily either but it’s very difficult essentially, and that has been something that's really difficult. And there's been situations where we know that for a specific event that because there's all of these activist groups that overlap massively and there's existing issues within groups and across groups and people have been abusive. And even if there's been accountability to some extent in one place, it hasn't necessarily been everywhere, and there has been uncomfortable times to make calls. Which I'm not a hundred percent sure about when it’s the right call and when it's not if I'm being totally honest, because of that aspect of acknowledging our capacity to deal with accountability like, in a space if you're having a one day event and there's existing problems between people, how much responsibility can we take for actually doing all of the accountability there in that time? And how can we put things in place so that there's longer term actions that we're taking? Whose job is that? That's also very difficult. There's more smaller collectives coming up where people are focusing on accountability and creating those processes with groups. But yeah, there's the individual but there is also about building it into your organisation and the way that you relate to each other and having those regular spaces for people to raise things as well. Because part of it is that sometimes, or a lot of the time in the normal world, things are going on and no one's talking about it, so that's the first step, right? It’s creating spaces for people to even raise issues that are happening and not feel like they're going to be punished for that? So there's a lot of work that needs to be done but we are having these conversations and we're trying to think about longer-term things, but yeah, I'm really glad that you asked that.
01:30:33 LC Yeah, I'll just say something quick. I think the thing of, when I try and think of moments where community care has broken down or not existed it's been where, like especially in grassroots groups where you're working on this flat hierarchy basis but inevitably there are hierarchies within that space that aren't named? So even if you're like, "Oh no one's being paid so therefore we're all existing in this space in the same way," you still get people who have more capacity to do that work and then you get a hierarchy of the most involved. Which then means that when people are harmed or when people… when harms occur and you have that harmed individual leaving that space, most likely because they're not one of the people who are in the most involved, core, vanguard section of the movement or that particular organisation, that becomes a real barrier to that community care operating in an effective way. That's just something that I've noticed, and I don't know how we move through that. No answers. [Audience laughs] How do you want me to close? Okay. Thanks everyone for coming [Audience laughs] I think we've all learned a lot. No, I'm bad at this closing thing.
01:31:56 KM Is there anything that people need to plug or anything at the end? Anything coming up, any ways that people can get involved after this?
01:32:05 LC I guess groups that people may or may not have heard of that they might want to Google or follow on Twitter that I know of: there's an organisation called the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants who do a lot of stuff around right to rent policy which is part of the everyday borders, hostile environment policy in the UK; there's an organisation called Docs Not Cops who do similar work around immigration checks and fees within healthcare settings; there's an organisation called Schools ABC that I mentioned earlier who are doing really amazing work around immigration data collection in education settings; there's the Anti-Raids Network who do stuff around immigration raids which can happen anywhere basically, workplaces, transport hubs; there's SOAS Detainee Support Group which is the group I mentioned right at the beginning who work in solidarity with people in immigration detention centre; End Deportations who do similar work around deportation and charter flights, there'll be other groups that other people can mention too, I'm sure.
01:33:13 KM One of the first things to intervene potentially on state violence is to stop it expanding. We're currently in the midst of a once in a generation massive prison expansion scheme. So, if you look up CAPE, Community Action on Prison Expansion, you can find out ways to resist that. That's residential centres for women, that's mega-prisons, that's children's prisons, all of these things if you want to get involved in that. Also, Sisters Uncut I recommend looking them up, because they're doing some interesting work [Audience laughs] I don't know why everyone's laughing at that. Other things that we could plug….
01:34:05 MD It is in the booklet; you'll find a lot of organisations behind people's names.
01:34:09 KM Yep, nice, thank you, all right.
01:34:14 MD Cool, thank you. [Audience applauds]
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