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Not so long ago, it seemed that you couldn’t turn on the news without seeing some story or another about the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico. The media darlings couldn’t get enough of the enigmatic Subcommandante Marcos and his stylishly sexy balaclava-and-pipe combo. But, as is the way with the corporate press, they soon became bored with their latest ‘discovery’ and moved on, quickly forgetting the people and the story.

However, for the indigenous people of Chiapas, the story is very much far from over and their struggle for dignity and autonomy against the Mexican state continues. For them, this is not a cheap thrill story that can be instantly discarded once the excitement wears off. It is one of necessity and, sometimes, it carries a very heavy price indeed.

But, despite the forces that they face, the Zapatista communities have not surrendered. Far from it in fact – their efforts to reach out and engage with oppressed people the world over demonstrate just how much liberty means to them. They recognise that strength lies in unity and solidarity, and that victory in Chiapas is just the start not the end.

Since the uprising began, links have been formed between the Zapatista communities and their supporters from around the world. One of the UK support groups, KIPTIK, has been working with the communities since 2000. Volunteers provide practical support in four main areas – water, health, media and arts. The water projects are their primary focus – mortality rates and poor health are greatly reduced when a community has access to clean fresh water and so it tends to be what they ask for first. KIPTIK try to use the most appropriate technology for the construction, and leave local people with the skills needed to maintain it once they have gone.

So what’s my point?

It’s actually a really simple one. It costs about £4000 to provide something that we take for granted to 300 people. To help raise money that literally saves lives, KIPTIK have produced a calendar for the year ahead. It’s a high-quality piece of work and, as well as info about the communities and KIPTIK’s work, there are 12 striking images from the communities included.

The calendar only costs £7 including postage* from the Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group, and you can order online from their website. Not only will you get a year’s worth of calendar but you’ll also have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve helped kick another brick out of the wall of power.

And all from the comfort of your armchair, a luxury that some others don’t have.

*UK only – if you want one and you’re from elsewhere, let me know and I’ll get back to you.

Won’t Somebody Please Think Of The Children?!

On a slightly-different-but-still-related tack to the post directly below, we had another international sports-and-socialising tournament over the August bank holiday earlier this year to celebrate our club’s 15th birthday. Over a thousand people turned up for a weekend of ball-related madness, musical shenanigans and the freak show known as ‘Shame Academy’.

My personal responsibility this time round was to get a team of young(ish) Lithuanians that I’d stumbled across over here. The total cost to bring 15 of ’em to Devon from Vilnius was about £1500 so, armed with my trusty sidekick Punky, we smiled sweetly and persuaded some sympathetic friends to put on a few benefit gigs and DJ nights, took full advantage of practical help and freebies directed our way, and accepted kind offers of money from events organised by our sporting friends Red Star Bedminster and Lunatics FC. Punky also decided to come up with something himself.

His ‘something’ turned out to be a rather fine (and slightly controversial with a few of the gentler / parenting Cowfolk) t-shirt that raised about two-thirds of what we needed on its own. If anyone’s interested, a few are still available for a tenner each and the cash will be used to help buy the Lithuanians an ethically-sourced team kit. Let me know if you want one and we’ll sort something out.

The infamous t-shirt
Risqué apparel (front and back)

Needless to say, our proto-capitalist enterprises worked out and the Lithualiens (as we quickly renamed ’em) were a lovely bunch indeed, so much so that a few of us are trooping out to Vilnius next spring to spend a few days there as their guests.

A fine weekend of fun and frolics was had by all concerned and the obligatory transvestism was top-notch. I’ve uploaded my fave pics of the debauchery elsewhere, so take a look if you’ve got a strong constitution and don’t mind images of men dressed as ladies and vice-versa.

Occupy!

This is a bit late notice but I think it’s a worthwhile story…

Workers at the Bike Systems GmbH bike factory in Thuringian Nordhausen, Germany, have followed the lead of their Argentinian comrades and occupied their factory (unfortunately, there are no reports of them having shot the bosses first). The occupation was in response to a long-term running down of the factory by the owner followed by a swift filing for bankruptcy, with allegations of underhand dealings to cash in on the whole affair. Knowing that there was a demand for the bikes they made and aware of the boss class’ connivance, the workers responded in time-honoured fashion.
Strike Bikes for both sexes
In order to take things to the next level, the workers are planning to produce the Strike-Bike, a gloriously red n’ black-coloured machine for getting around town. They need to get around 1800 paid orders for the bike by the 2nd October (tomorrow!) to make the operation financially viable. Costs for individual customers in Germany are €275 inclusive of all charges. Wholesale prices are also available. If you’re outside of Germany and want one, they’ll happily negotiate international shipping with you.

If they don’t hit their target, all orders will be refunded in full. So if you need a bike in the next 24 hours or so, you know where to go!

UPDATE: 2nd October – a press conference at the factory today revealed that over 1300 orders have been placed with the rest expected imminently, and production will recommence at the end of October. All hail the workers soviets!

Geography Lesson

A brief profile of Tian An Men 89 Records

TAM 89 logo Chances are, you’ve never heard of this label, the bands on it, or most of the countries they come from. Kyrgyzstan, Kabardino-Bulkaria, Reunion Island…even if you know the names, I bet you couldn’t find ’em on a map! But if you aren’t afraid to challenge your definition of what punk is, the stuff put out on TAM89 is absolutely unbelievable, and I’d urge every last one of you to try at least one of their releases.

The following is lifted straight from their website, where I suggest you go immediately after reading.

Tian An Men 89 Records was created in 1993 in the purpose of releasing punk music from parts of the world where, due to financial reasons, civil wars, or lack of record factories, there is no possibility for the bands to release their music on vinyl.

We got the whole idea after extensive travelling and meeting great bands in various corners of the world. Our idea of punk is to accept that exist different definitions of it in different places. Punk is universal and transcends cultures. It is definitely not a sterile, narrow style, monopolized by Westerners, as some would like to believe.

We release limited editions 7″ vinyl EP’s (500 copies) (and 12″LPs too now) coz it seems that’s been enough so far for the worldwide underground punk network which is usually more into the latest MTV cloned punk stars. We don’t care coz we know WHY we do this and that’s certainly not for the money! 20% of each release pressed is sent to the bands as their share, so that records are also distributed in the country of origin. Our records (and books!) are not distributed through the commercial circuit. DIY network only. Tian An Men 89 is non-profit and fueled by passion and friendship only!

Tian An Men 89 believes individual positive actions and international solidarity can make a change towards a fairer and more beautiful world.

So what are you waiting for?

OP’s opinion: @@@@@

Never Mind The Burqas

Dead Police Story Music is a DIY anarcho label based in Ottawa, Canada, another malevolently-governed part of North America. To highlight the dirty pies that Canuckian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has his fingers in, DPS have released a benefit CD to raise awareness and funds for the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan and the Canada – Haiti Action Network.

30 bands from across the land of the loon have contributed a track each to the project. There’s also a 60-page booklet covering a wide spectrum of political discourse accompanying the disc. At only $8 (that’s Canadian not Yankee) including postage if you live in the country, and only a couple of dollars more if you don’t, it won’t break the bank balance. But it will give you a great collection of music and an education all in one handy package and the satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping undermine everything that you hate.

Span The World With Friendship

I’ve just received a mailout asking me to promote a benefit CD, something I’m more than happy to do. It has been released to raise vital funds for a young man in Russia who was the victim of a brutal racist attack. Alem Assefa suffered serious brain injury after being beaten by boneheads for being black.

The good news is he is making a slow recovery. But the nature of his injuries mean that he is in need of expensive medical treatment, to ensure that he has the best chance of making as full a recovery as possible. Alem and his family are not rich by any means. But they have friends, good friends, who don’t stand idly by when their mates are in need.

To this end, they have released the ‘Planet Of Friends‘ compilation CD. Featuring 43 songs by 27 bands, this is a work of global unity and solidarity and a big ‘FUCK YOU’ to fascist scum. The CD is only $11 post paid in the US ($13 world). I’ve ordered my copy today. Please take a moment and try and do the same. Even if you can’t afford $13, you can throw a couple of quid in the virtual bucket.

Keeping It Personal

A little while back I was looking at some of the great stuff being put out and distributed by Concrete Jungle Records in Germany. After a bit of internal debate, I selected a few choice items and made a payment via their PayPal option. Unfortunately, I hadn’t clocked some of the small-print, namely a €17 postage charge for non-German orders (as opposed to €4 for internal) and a 5% PP premium.

So a day or two later, I get an email from Matze, the guy behind the operation, asking me to send quite a bit more money (my order was about €33 including, I thought, the postage etc). So I mailed him back, pointing out that it wasn’t really clear that there were additional charges, that I thought the shipping costs were excessive compared to many other distros I used, and that it was unfair to slap charges on PP users when the other payment options probably incurred bank charges anyway. I was polite about it, as Matze had been in his original mail, but I cancelled the order.

Anyway, a while later I get another mail from Matze. He told me that the €17 charge included insurance (which I didn’t know, and made it far more reasonable), but that he could send uninsured mail for only €4. Now, I’ve rarely had a problem with stuff disappearing in the post (like any postie wants to damage his hearing, image and sanity that badly by nicking the kind of stuff I listen to), so uninsured post is what I always go for. Even when there has been a problem, I’ve always managed to sort it out with the relevant postal service. So he’s changed things around and €4 is now the standard charge for worldwide orders (with insured as an option). And orders over €100 are now post-free, so if you club together with a few friends it becomes a proper bargain.

And he also said he was removing the PP surcharge, again a welcome surprise.

The end result is, I’ve now placed an order for over €50, spending what I would’ve paid for shipping on a very classy antifa t-shirt.

Could you imagine having had this kind of chat with the head of Sony or Warner or any other piece-of-shit major label, or even getting a personal response in the first place? I know you probably don’t need telling but – SUPPORT THE INDEPENDENTS. They really are doing it for the kids, young and old.

OP’s opinion: Five

A Touch Of Class

Class War Music – US micro-label with impeccable attitude

I recently came across American streetpunks Bonecrusher and liked what I heard on their MySpace page a lot. So I had a quick look around the web to see who was selling their material. I found a UK distro with some older releases, and a couple of German distros were offering new stuff, and it would’ve cost me around £10-12 a disc to buy from any of them. But I decided to check out Class War Music, the label that’s released their most recent CD’s. And I’m really glad I did.
Class War Music logo & Bonecrusher CD cover
It turns out CWM is run by the band (or at least one of ’em), and they’re offering their own releases for only $5 each including postage in mainland America. With the current exchange rate, that’s only just over £2.50 a disc! I decided to order ‘Tomorrow Is Too Late’, but there was no info on international postage. So I added an extra $5 to the order and sent a quick email to ’em offering to pay any more if needed.

Within a couple of hours, George (from Bonecrusher) dropped me a line back thanking me for the order and offering to include the ‘Sixteen Bullets’ live CD for free! This CD is selling for $5 too so basically I’m getting two CD’s at US prices with free airmail. Now how’s that for service?

When punk can sometimes appear to be just another commercial opportunity, it’s heartwarming to come across people who really are doing it for the kids (no matter how old those kids might be). Respect due to Class War Music and Bonecrusher (especially George) for being such a lovely label and band to deal with.

OP’s opinion: Five

Download sample track – ‘Bonecrusher – Tomorrow Is Too Late’

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