RESISTANCE bulletin issue 113 June 2009 [PDF]: http://www.afed.org.uk/res/resist113.pdf
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Also available: Organise! magazine no.72
Full contents of the June 2009 issue:
- OCCUPATIONS GET THE GOODS!
- LONDON MET OCCUPIED
- ON THE FRONTLINE – WORKPLACE ROUNDUP
- MISTAKEN IDENTITY
- MPS’ EXPENSES – SMOKE AND MIRRORS
- ANALYSIS: “A FEW BAD APPLES” OR BUSINESS AS USUAL – POLICE BRUTALITY AND THE DEATH OF IAN TOMLINSON
- ANTIFASCIST NEWS FROM EASTERN EUROPE
- MAYDAY ROUNDUP
- NO BORDERS TO HIT CALAIS
- WHAT IS ANARCHISM? PART TWO
OCCUPATIONS GET THE GOODS!
The three Visteon plants have ended their occupation and pickets, following the agreement of improved redundancy packages. The dispute came out of the immediate sacking of all UK Visteon workers with no further payment, and instructions to return the next day to collect any belongings. As the company had filed for administration, only statutory redundancy from the government would be available, a paltry amount for people who are approaching the end of their working life and would be considered unemployable. Workers in Belfast decided to take action, occupying their factory on the 31st March, with workers in Basildon and Enfield following suit on 1st April, although they had to end their occupation and settle for pickets a few weeks later.
Visteon were eager to distance themselves from Ford, having officially become a separate company in 2000. In reality, the ties were still there with staff on mirror contracts and carried Ford identification, and Ford secured Visteon a $163 million loan on May 15th. While this is a victory, the workers still face other struggles. Their pensions are still very much up in the air, likely to be going into the Pension Protection Fund, which would mean less money; according to some in Basildon, as much as 40% less. There has also been a union convener in Swansea sacked for supporting the struggle. Rob Williams was dismissed for what was called “irretrievable breakdown of trust”. Workers on the floor walked off their day shift, and surrounded the union office after the management had brought the police in to remove Rob by force. Although he was reinstated, he was again dismissed, and workers were warned to not repeat any solidarity action, being threatened with the sack by foremen.
This is a victory against job cuts, a struggle fought across different parts of Britain, relying on working class unity and self-managed direct action. For all the MP and trade union involvement, those involved are clear about the fact that it was their own determination that resulted in decent pay-offs. But there will be more attacks on entire workforces and they need to be met with the same determination and militancy.
LONDON MET OCCUPIED
The London Metropolitan University occupation has finished after 3 days, following a court order to leave. Students acted in response to the news that the university had got itself into massive financial trouble following a foul up on the part of management. The University had told the government it had 7000 more students than there were in reality, and received money for each student they had claimed. On top of paying back the money, the university is cutting its budget. To recoup some of this money, it is making one in four staff members redundant, and are to close the nursery, libraries and courses. This will inevitably have an effect on the students’ education, and their ability to juggle their lives at home for those with children having to make other arrangements. Aside from the fact this is the first occupation since the siege of Gaza, this is a notable step in that students are using direct action to defend jobs and services. Universities elsewhere will be subject to similar cuts and students will have to be militant enough to oppose them.
ON THE FRONTLINE – WORKPLACE ROUNDUP
Parking attendants sacked for wildcats fight back
Parking attendants employed by NCP in Belfast have been mounting near-daily pickets of the company’s offices on May Street. A third of NCP’s parking attendants were sacked in April following wildcat action over pay and conditions, sick pay, rotas, uniforms and facilities for workers. The firings followed a two weeks suspension. They have been supported by anarchists from the Northern Ireland group Organise! and representatives from the Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA).
Local government workers reject pay offer
Local government workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have rejected an offer of a 0.5% increase in pay during wage negotiations. The offer would represent an increase of only 3p an hour for hundreds of thousands of low-paid workers, which is nowhere near enough to keep up with the rocketing prices of food, utilities and other essentials.
Olympic site protest met with solidarity walkout
Workers at Lindsay Oil Refinery, which was at the centre of wildcat strikes earlier this year over the erosion of the NAECI agreement and the blacking of workers from the UK, walked out in solidarity with a jobs protest at the Olympic site in London. Workers at the demonstration stressed that the issue was the erosion of the NAECI agreement through paying imported labour cheaper rates, or employing foreign workers under different conditions, not the presence of foreign workers themselves. The mainstream media portrayed the wildcat walkouts as being ‘over foreign workers’, and as a xenophobic struggle. The actual demands presented at LOR, which were clearly anti-racist in nature and demanded parity of terms for all workers, weren’t reported, as they clashed with the official picture.
See more news at http://libcom.org
At the start of May, just before the MPs’ allowances neutron bomb properly hit the news, there was a brief mention of the latest ‘developments’ in New Labour’s ID card and database plans On the 6th of May the Home Office announced that trials in Greater Manchester would offer British nationals the “chance” to enroll for an ID card. In the autumn there would be a web page to “register interest”. Later, kiosks for fingerprinting and face scanning would be installed in chemists and post offices. We were reminded by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith that “ID cards will deliver real benefits to everyone, including increased protection against criminals, illegal immigrants and terrorists.” On that basis Mancunians would be flocking to their nearest registration booths soon, surely?
Local Radio station Key 103 told a different story, “We’ve been on the streets of Manchester getting reactions to the announcement. Everybody we spoke to said they would not be volunteering for the cards or they wouldn’t commit at this point.” Furthermore the government confirmed that web registration would only be for a “small number of volunteers” to begin with. Not only that, it would be two years until enrolment was possible in shops. Even if they got paid up front, those high street companies who were apparently in “talks” with the Home Office may not want to risk installing equipment for a controversial scheme, one that might well end up being scrapped if the Tories win the next General Election. All of this means that whilst we are ready to fight Big Brother, we shouldn’t always jump to the sound bites of a government desperate to show it is in control in the run up to the EU elections.
The only really significant story during that week was a commitment by ‘airside’ workers at airports to resist being the next cohort of guinea pigs for the new cards. In particular on 5th May, Jim McAuslan, general secretary of BALPA (British Airline Pilots’ Association, which represents more than 10,000 commercial pilots) wrote, “Our members believed the government promise that the national ID card would be voluntary, but they now know it is anything but.” Continuing, he wrote, “Our members must have an airside pass to operate aircraft and now discover that to get that pass they must have a national ID card. They are told, “You don’t actually have to have one” – but no card equals no pass, which equals no job. This is coercion and, by trialing the scheme in Manchester and London City airports, the government is clearly attempting to isolate pockets of resistance.” This refusal is amongst a group of relatively privileged workers who have already accepted a high degree of security in their jobs. But other staff will also be targetted, even those currently without airside passes.
We must all prepare to resist ID cards on our own terms and support others who are already in the firing line, such as overseas students and workers.
Get more information and ideas from: Defending Anonymity: Thoughts for struggle against identity cards”.
MPs’ EXPENSES – SMOKE AND MIRRORS
There’s something disgusting about the way the politicians have been fiddling their expenses. It’s not just the abuse of power involved, it’s also the hypocrisy. They’ve spent their time telling us how much we’ve got to tighten our belts, put up with pay freezes and cuts whilst they’ve been merrily sticking their snouts in the trough and putting away as much money as they can get away with. This whole scandal has shown up our political masters for being just what they are, a bunch of greedy, lying crooks.
But there’s also something equally conniving going on here. Amidst all the fine words and spin in the press and Parliament, there’s an even bigger con going on in front of our very eyes. It’s the old “one bad apple” lie all over again. A few MPs have been suspended, the Speaker has resigned, the others are rushing to apologise. We confidently expect to see one or two being chucked out of the House of Commons. Now there will be a collective effort by the party leaders to tell us everything will be sorted out.
In the meantime our eyes have been dragged away from the real problems that face us. Working people are still losing their jobs. One third of companies have imposed pay freezes. Repossessions are mounting. In other parts of the world wars continue to rage. Children continue to die of preventable diseases. Starvation is rife. All these are not caused by a few greedy men (and women) in suits. These are the symptoms of an economic system that exists simply to make profit, to buy and sell, to accumulate capital.
Anger is mounting with the way capitalism is playing games with our lives. Spectacles like the MPs expenses scandal are loved by the establishment because they turn our eyes away from this reality. When the Speaker has gone, when a couple of MPs have been locked up, we’ll still be living in a capitalist world. The politicians will still be there. The state will remain. Our fight will continue.
ANTIFASCIST NEWS FROM EASTERN EUROPE
Unfortunately, we have more bad news to report from Russia concerning fascist activities. Anti-fascist Aleskey Bychin was sentenced to five years in prison on May 8th in St. Petersburg. Whilst defending himself against two neo-Nazis he stabbed one of his attackers (anti-fascists in Russia regularly carry weapons due to the number of horrific murders committed by neo-Nazis in recent years). It has since been revealed that one of the Nazis is in fact a police officer in St Petersburg. Aleskey has been on remand since July 2008 and is now awaiting transfer to another prison. This will take another couple of months to happen.
In similar news, anti-facist Artur Valeev has been sentenced to four years in prison and Renat Teregulov has been given a probational sentence of two years and six months. These sentences were handed down after a fight with Nazis in November of last year. The two anti-fascists were attacked by up to twelve Nazis, and during the fight two of the Nazis received knife wounds. Police have since distorted the truth, laying the blame with the anti-fascists for starting the fight! Artur is still in remand awaiting transfer to another prison.
While in remand prison Aleskey and Artur are not allowed correspondence so until we know their eventual destination we cannot send any letters of support. The collusion of the police,courts and Nazis together makes it extremely hard for anti-fascist activists to get a fair trial in Russia and as such we are seeing heavy sentences passed out to our comrades and no, or very little action being taken against the Nazis.
Meanwhile news reaches us from the Ukraine that the president has classed antifa and the anti-fascist movement in general as “subversive elements” and has ordered the security services to monitor their movements and come down heavily on any anti-fascist activities. At the same time President Yushchenko described Neo-Nazis as “patriots”.Things are becoming increasingly hard for our comrades in eastern Europe and seem destined to become even tougher.
Charges over murder of anarchist
Evidence is being considered prior to the trial of those accused of killing Ilya Borodaenko, a member of the Russian anarchist group Autonomous Action.
Ilya was killed in Agarsk in Siberia in 2007. He was participating in an anti-nuclear camp organised by anarchist and environmental organisations. The camp was attacked during the night by more than 20 neo-nazis, armed with baseball bats, clubs and knives. Seven protesters were seriously injured, and Ilya succumbed to spinal and cranial injuries in hospital.
20 young men are charged with under various laws related to hooliganism and bodily harm. One of the accused is a student of East Siberian Institute of Police. His father is a commander of the Security Department of Zheleznogorsk’s Police department.
ANALYSIS: “A FEW BAD APPLES” OR BUSINESS AS USUAL – POLICE BRUTALITY AND THE DEATH OF IAN TOMLINSON
The death of Ian Tomlinson, a newspaper vendor who was killed during the G20 demonstrations, came as a shock to many people. For those of us who have witnessed (and been subject to) police brutality before the pattern of events that followed were, unfortunately, all too common. First came recrimination against the victims – with police claiming that they had no contact with the deceased, that Ian Tomlinson had died because protesters had interfered with his medical care, that the police were vigilantly protecting any suit-wearing city workers from violent lynchings by angry mobs, the protesters had been provocative and abusive etc. etc. The media was of course all too keen to take the word of the police uncritically, plastering the bloody victims of police violence over their front pages as proof of the danger “the mob” had posed. Of course there was no attempt to try and investigate what had really happened. That was to emerge later after damning evidence appeared from the cameraphones of passersby. Only then were we to see Ian Tomlinson being violently attacked and shoved to the floor by an officer whilst passively walking away from advancing police. Despite the army of journalists and camera crews that were to pack themselves into the Square Mile it was ultimately only members of the public who were to turn their lenses against the police lines.
The response of the police was also predictable; first they tried to bury the controversy quietly with a rushed post-mortem and press statement washing their hands of the incident. We were also told that not a single piece of footage was recorded, despite the fact that there are numerous CCTV cameras pointing towards the place of Ian Tomlinson’s death. Once the new evidence appeared the mainstream media were also quick to change their tune. Channel 4 News came forward to claim police had assaulted their workers only after the amateur footage of the attack on Tomlinson appeared, and despite the earlier reports presenting police violence as a reasonable response to rowdy protestors. Instead of congratulating the police for doing a difficult job well, the attention was turned to violent, unprofessional and out of control police officers. The initial story –that police were forced to violently ‘kettle’ and disperse rioting protesters, despite the fact that the few windows broken were smashed hours after the ‘kettle’ was enforced – changed after the appearance of solid evidence that the police initiate violence. We were no longer “the mob” but all of us victims of nasty, bullying coppers. It also soon became obvious that this story wasn’t going to go away. National newspapers were questioning police tactics and the testimony of witnesses was to confirm that it was in fact the police who had interfered with Ian Tomlinson’s medical care. For many who have traditionally associated the police with order and safety this was an outrage, a breach of public trust, and something had to be done. And then it came, the same age-old line that we have heard time and time again – “it was a few bad apples”. That the relevant officers had been disciplined, that they were listening to the public concerns and reviewing their tactics, that they were ever so sorry and it won’t happen again I promise.
And here we are once again, a man had to die but at least British policing can benefit from the lessons from it right? Wrong. The violence and harassment that was used to contain the G20 protests was not the exception, it’s the rule. The police force has always existed to defend the existing political order and challenge political dissent. If we look at the way that the media was groomed before the protests by the police we can see their political role in action.
The Met’s Commander Simon O’Brian hit the media circuit weeks before the demonstrations, painting pictures of “demonstrators bent on violence” and claiming accordingly “if anyone wants to come to London to engage in crime or disorder, they will be met with a swift and efficient policing response.” Cdr Bob Broadhurst linked the protesters with the threat of a terrorist attack, and the BBC slavishly repeated the claim: “He said there was no intelligence to suggest there was a terrorist attack planned, but there was evidence that groups not seen since the 1990s, such as direct action exponents Reclaim the Streets and the Wombles, were re-forming and planning activity.” The media had their official explanations ready to hand to explain away any police brutality on the day – it was in response to violent demonstrators – even when the supposed “violence”, such as broken windows at RBS, came hours after the police detained demonstrators en masse at baton-point. New claims by eyewitnesses (including a LibDem MP) that the police had sent undercover agents provocateurs into the crowd to incite violence only completes the picture.
Political policing isn’t new. We don’t have to look far back in our own history to find the kind of tactics that were practised at G20. During the miners’ strike picket lines were more reminiscent of medieval battlefields with riot cops routinely attacking union workers. Pit villages that were known to have a strong NUM presence were transformed into occupied zones, union organisers had their phones tapped and organisers and their families were routinely threatened. If you meet anyone in Yorkshire who was involved in the great strike they will often reminisce over besting police intelligence by giving false details and code words over the phones and sending convoys of riot cops into the middle of nowhere.
Neither do we find these tactics used only in exceptional events like global summits and big strikes. Anybody who has gone on a demonstration with a red and black flag can attest to the police escort you will be greeted with along with the evidence gathering teams for no other reason than your personal, political affiliation. “Kettling” has been used for years by the cops as a means to limit and contain political protest. The introduction of anti-terrorism legislation now means that police officers can be even more arbitrary in the way that they can arrest or intimidate political protesters. In the wave of University occupations that recently swept the country the police were happy to cooperate with University management in threatening students with arrest and assisting in the eviction of occupied spaces.
Neither are these tactics confined to protest. Intimidation and harassment is not only the response of the police to political dissent but a normal, functioning part of their everyday practice. For example, this year’s “Operation Staysafe” saw over a thousand young people “engaged” by police officers across the country – basically meaning they were stopped and questioned but not arrested; a situation that can be incredibly intimidating for a young person who doesn’t know their rights and whose only crime is being young and having nothing else to do on a weekend than socialise on their street or in their local park. A threat is created, and a forceful policing ‘response’ justified on the basis of it. All of this is not even to mention the 40 or so people who die in police custody every year and those pushed to suicide and mental illness inside of our prison system.
The police have a monopoly of violence granted to them by the capitalist state. This violence will always be directed against any perceived threats to the state, and the police will use any excuse to expand their role and make themselves more effective in this regard.
Communities can fight back against this violence. Initiatives like Copwatch in the US and FITWatch in the UK so there are ways of challenging police conduct. If anything was to be taken from the G20 it was the vigilance of the general public who had the sense to record instances of police violence that put them under greater pressure. Most importantly we need to be clued up and prepared to stand together. Simple things like knowing the law and knowing how to use it against the cops can do a great deal to improve your own confidence when dealing with harassment. We hold no illusions that the “lessons” of the G20 are going to change British policing. The police force will always rely on violence and intimidation and always rise to defend power and privilege when it is under challenge.
MAY DAY ROUND UP
Mayday was adopted as international workers’ day following the state murder of seven anarchists during the campaign for the eight hour day in 1886. After an unknown person killed a policeman with a pipebomb, the state rounded up eight anarchists and put them on trial for murder. The prosecution was clear that they had no intention of proving their involvement with the bombing, but were putting them on trial for their anarchist beliefs. All were posthumously pardoned after their hanging.
Manchester: The No Borders and Anarchist Federation groups in Manchester joined forces and formed a 60-strong bloc on the official ‘right to work for all’ demo on the 4th of May. Marching under the slogan ‘we won’t pay for their crisis’, anarchists formed a significant presence on a march three times the size of the one last year.
London: Anarchists held a rally on Clerkenwell Green, leaving the various Stalinists and nationalists to their own party in Trafalgar Square.
Brighton: 1500-2000 took part in Smash Edo’s anticapitalist Mayday street party, protesting against the presence of arms manufacturer EDM MBM/ITT in the city. An army recruitment station was daubed in red paint, and demonstrators ran rings around police, who were unusually lax about beating protesters following the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests the month before.
Nottingham: The Mayday march was well attended, and featured a large contingent of Posties (including Postman Pat!) from the Communication Workers’ Union.
Edinburgh: About 300 marched from East Market street to the Scottish Parliament
There were other May Day marches, events and parties in Newcastle, Liverpool, the West Midlands and elsewhere.
France: A record number of protesters were out on the streets for May Day, with over 300 demonstrations called by all the major unions. Public support for the protests was at over 70% as social struggle in France intensifies, shown in the wave of strikes, occupations and ‘bossnappings’ recently.
Greece: The revolutionary movement in Greece hit the streets hard, showing that the anger that sparked weeks of rioting last year hasn’t gone away. There were demonstrations in every city in Greece, and anarchists organised their own in Athens. The headquarters of ISAP, the cleaning company whose thugs attacked prominent cleaner’s union activist Konstantina Kouneva with acid last year.
Germany: Autonomists clashed with the Police in Berlin, leading to arrests and the injury of 29 cops.
Turkey: The Mayday demo clashed with police, leading to exchanges of rocks, molotovs and tear gas. The massacre of 37 people at a May Day demonstration in 1977 ushered in military dictatorship 3 years later. Celebrations of May Day had been banned until this year.
Many more protests took place around the world, with massive events in Egypt, the Phillipines and elsewhere. The anarchist movement in Spain mobilised thousands in demos around the country (see below).
NO BORDERS TO HIT CALAIS
The situation for undocumented migrants in Calais has become a major news story in recent months, with the humanitarian crisis now an unavoidable reality. At any one time there are around 800-1000 migrants living in ‘the Jungle’ trying to cross the channel, who are under constant hassle from the police. UK Immigration minister Phil Woolas boasts that migrants “have been locked out by one of the toughest border crossings in the world” whilst his French counterpart Éric Besson vows to make Calais a no migrant zone by the end of the year and has increased police actions in the area.
Since the mid-nineties tens of thousands have been living in destitution in the region. Between 1999 and 2002 the Red Cross ran a centre at neighbouring Sangatte but this was forced to close after political pressure from France and Britain. Since then massive police presence and repression has forced thousands to wander along the North coast of France, Belgium and Holland. They are routinely brutalised by the police; tear-gassed, beaten, arrested and repeatedly interned at the nearby Coquelles detention centre.
The police regularly burn the makeshift shelters built by the migrants along with the few meagre possessions that they contain. There is no legally sanctioned support for people without ‘correct’ migration status and giving any sort of assistance can carry heavy penalties. The local groups that provide food and other humanitarian aid are coming under increasing attack from the police and a number of activists have been arrested in recent months.
Meanwhile the UK Borders Agency have been calling for the construction of a new permanent holding/detention centre for migrants in Calais docks. Already dubbed “Europe’s Guantanamo’ by the The Independent newspaper, the centre would lie outside the jurisdiction of both countries’ legal systems. Those detained would be denied access to even the limited asylum or legal provisions currently available or the opportunity to fight deportation through solidarity campaigns, appeals or community organising.
On 23rd-29th June there will be a No Border camp in Calais aiming to highlight the reality of the situation in northern France, to build links between migrant communities and support groups, to challenge the border itself and protest against increased repression of migrants and local activists. It is a joint venture between anarchists and activists in France, Belgium and the UK along with migrant support groups in the area.
The undocumented migrants or ‘Sans-Papiers’ in Calais are only the tip of the iceberg; it is estimated that there are over 200,000 Sans-Papiers in France, a million in the UK, and up to seven million in Europe as a whole. Migration is causing a fundamental shift in the class struggle, the British Left stands at an impasse with the possible responses summed up in two phrases; “British Jobs for British Workers” or “Workers of the World, Unite.” Migrants are not a separate social group, they are labour on the move. As such they are competitors for the crumbs from the rich man’s table and potential allies in the struggle for an equal society.
We can either stand against fellow working class people in the hope of clinging on to the few pathetic crumbs the establishment let us have, or we can join with the masses of the dispossessed and together as equals create a new society. It seems likely that many who claim to act in the ‘best interests’ of workers will side with the British ruling class against the poor. We advocate standing alongside our natural allies in the class struggle and this summer that can begin in Calais.
This camp will continue the tradition of the No Border camps taking place across the world since the late 1990s. Like the camp taking place this year in Lesvos in August, it will be a space to share information, skills, knowledge and experiences and to mobilise for transnational class consciousness. On Saturday 27th June there will be a demonstration starting at 10am from the lighthouse on Boulevard des Alliés in the centre of Calais to Coquelles immigration detention centre. We call on everyone who believes in worldwide class solidarity to join us in Calais to take action for freedom of movement and equality for all!
WHAT IS ANARCHISM? PART TWO
We don’t want to replace one set of bosses and politicians with another like in the USSR. We want to create a stateless system without money and markets. We want workers and service users to democratically control their own workplaces and see ordinary people run the world together without money or authority. This is what we call anarchist communism.
This all sounds very far-fetched but actually it’s more realistic then you think. Think about who actually does the important work in society – i.e. people who produce goods or services. We do!. We know exactly how to run our workplaces because we do it everyday.
All bosses and shareholders do is get in the way and take a huge chunk of the profit. However, many of us spend most of our lives working at jobs which produce nothing useful, or no valuable service, such as products with built-in obsolescence, or the entire financial and insurance industries. Without capitalism, we would have more time to do what we really wanted to do and truly live out our dreams and desires. We would be happier and more willing to help others because we wouldn’t be wasting most of our waking lives commuting, working in pointless jobs, on the dole or preparing ourselves for work in schools or universities.
Everything we would create would be for our benefit and so we would be more willing to work hard. A perfect example of this is during the Spanish Civil War in 1936-39 when factories in self-organised workers’ territories were far more efficient than the factories had been while under capitalist control. In Argentina today, workers in the Zanon ceramics factory kicked out their boss and began running it themselves and work under better conditions than before.
The idea that we work harder with managers breathing down our necks, taking the profit of our work and telling us what to do makes no sense when looked at in any depth. At a corporate conference, one of the speakers asked why workers, after working hard for 8 hours a day, come home and work hard in the house or garden
The answer is simple. Because we want to. At work, we know we won’t benefit from working harder and as soon as the boss turns the corner, of course we’ll skive. Why should we work hard for someone who exploits us? In the garden or the home, we do what we want, when we want, for our own benefit and so will work harder for ourselves than a profit-hungry corporation which uses us like machines to be bought and sold.
Things like this, from everyday, present life, are examples of libertarian communism in practice and, more importantly, in practice by ordinary people just getting along with everyday life. The fundamental basis of a socialist society is people co-operating as equals. Our basic co-operative capacity manifests itself even now in a capitalist world – in things as mundane as the voluntary Royal National Lifeboat Association. Things like this show that a world free from government and bosses is possible. Things like this show that libertarian communism is possible.
Adapted from http://libcom.org
See part 3 – from capitalism to anarchism – in the next issue of Resistance
The Anarchist Federation: http://www.afed.org.uk