Counterinfo Lab – Kiss ma hole: autonomous struggles in Scottish politics and culture

327ff930-511b-417e-8ea3-e4575b22ef28nfoLab675Part of The Shock of Victory Forum Events held at the CCA Glasgow

This workshop will subject ‘the problem with work’ to scrutiny by relating unemployed workers’ struggles in the 1990s to contemporary campaigns in conversation with activists, artists and writers.

‘Kiss ma hole’ are the starting words of Paul Reekie’s rebellious poem dedicated to the struggle of unemployed workers: an expression of joy, rage and disrespect for the British state. Unemployment benefits are a feature in most of early-career writers’ existence, artist and musicians often being associated with a strategy of refusal to work.Not only has this strategy come under increased attack, but the whole of the benefit system is currently envisioning a radical shift in the imagination of many political practitioners.The 2014 Scottish referendum has produced a new political landscape in Scotland and has seen the emergence of food banks as a surrogate for struggle: while a new rhetorical emphasis is placed on issues of poverty, democracy and participation, this has not extended to the nature of work and its meaning for impoverished communities.

Tracing the socio-historical assemblages created by processes of micro-compositions between marginal, often overlooked sections of society can provide a useful map for re-imagining autonomous politics in Scotland both beyond the referendum and outside the very borders of Scotland.Connecting the autonomous struggles of unemployed workers in the 1990s with contemporary campaigns against workfare, sanctions and benefit cuts we propose to explore the space in between theory, practice and action in conversation with activists’, artists’ and writers’ own experiences vis-à-vis Scottish politics.The insights that will emerge will be reflected on in the introduction to a collection of essays, edited by Counter-info Lab, which aims to document the relationship between writers and autonomous campaigns in Scotland before, during and after the referendum.

Proposed format:

In order discuss ideas of autonomous political imagination, we propose a laboratory for cultural and social engagement through the format of a workshop organised into three moments. The first session will take as its starting point 15-minute contributions by Leigh French, Harry Giles and Sacha Kahir on the relationship between contemporary artistic practice and culture on the one hand, and the system of benefits and work on the other. The second session will start with the screening of a video by Cameron Watt on direct action against workfare, and continue with 15-minute presentations by Lynne Friedli and Arianna Introna. We will finish with a roundtable conversation in which speakers and participants will be invited to discuss the connections between the different perspectives emerged during the day, in relation to 1990s autonomous struggles as captured in John Holloway’s 1990 ‘The Politics of Debt’ and James Kelman’s 1992 ‘Opening of the Edinburgh Unemployed Workers’ Centre’ (extracts will be circulated and read as starting points for questions on the day).

Who we are:

Counterinfo Lab is an autonomous left-libertarian collective of political and cultural analysis connected with the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh. It has emerged from the ideas and discussions that provided the basis of the existing Info Shop and Scottish Radical Library groups. It operates in the spirit of Counter Information – a magazine based in Edinburgh which started in the 80s as a support initiative for the Miners’ Strike but developed into a broader project bringing together struggles from different places and promoting direct action in the UK and worldwide. We produce writings, translations and analyses of the existent social reality and the variety of struggles arising from it, for use by the movements we are active in.In 2014 we edited a self-published collection and curated a photographic exhibition under the name “Up Against the State: the Battle for Broughton Street and the Edinburgh Unemployed Workers Centre”. This was based on archival material, poetry, interviews and analyses of struggles of unemployed workers and the constitution of an autonomous social centre in Scotland.We are currently in the process of editing a book on the relationship between autonomous politics and Scottish writers, with Word Power Books.

Provisional Workshop Schedule:

Panel: Alessandro Froldi, Sacha Kahir – 10.30am – 11.30am
Coffee Break – 11.30am – 11.45am
Panel: Leigh French, Harry Giles – 11.45am – 12.45pm
Lunch Break – 12.45pm – 1.30pm
Panel 3: Lynne Friedli, Arianna Introna, with screening by Cameron Watt – 1.30pm – 2.45pm
Short Break – 2.45pm – 3pm
Roundtable Discussion – (with the participation of James Kelman) - 3pm – 4pm

Leigh French – researcher at the Glasgow School of Art, curator, co-editor of Variant

Lynne Friedli – Lynne Friedli is a freelance researcher, with a special interest in mental health and social justice. She is part of Hubbub at the Wellcome Collection, exploring the dynamics of rest, noise, tumult, activity and work in modern life, and is currently researching the (mis)use of psychology in workfare and other employment programmes. Lynne is also interested in the politics of ‘assets based approaches’ (notably in Scotland), the wider use of positive psychology in the reification of ‘work’ and the resurgence of new forms of resistance to work. She wrote Mental health, resilience and inequality for WHO Europe and has contributed to the WHO Europe Strategy on Mental Health and the recent report on the Social Determinants of Mental Health. Lynne is a member of Boycott Workfare and a fellow of the Centre for Welfare Reform.

Alessandro Froldi – researcher and activist, has conducted ethnography with social movements and archives in Italy and in Scotland

Harry Giles – poet and performer making art about protest and protest about art

Sacha Kahir – visual artist working within, and frequently combining, animation, film, installation, theatre, poetry, and arts research

Arianna Introna – activist and PhD student in Scottish and disability studies at the University of Stirling

James Kelman – one of the writers of the Scottish renaissance of the 1980s and ’90s, author of novels, short story collections and political writings

Suggested Reading

Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh, 2014, Up Against the State: the battle for Broughton st. unemployed workers centre, Clydeside Press.

Friedli, L.&Stearn, R. (2013) Whistle while you work (for nothing): positive affect as coercive strategy – the case of workfare. Retrieved from Centre for Medical Humanities website

Graeber, David, 2011, Debt-Updated and Expanded: The First 5,000 Years. Melville House publishing.

Holloway,John, 1990, The Politics of Debt, Common Sense, issue 10, Edinburgh.

Johnston,D.D., 2011 Some thoughts on working class fiction

Kahir,Sacha, 2014, The Jet-Set Peasantry: where no passenger is not drunk. Mute magazine, London.

Kelman, James, 1999, And the Judges Said: Essays. Birlinn, Edinburgh

Negri,Toni, 1988, Revolution Retrieved: Selected Writings on Marx, Keynes & New Social Subjects 1967-1983. London: Red Notes.

Reekie, Paul, 1993, Zap – you’re pregnant. Rebel 100 series, Edinburgh.

Tronti, Mario, 1980, The Strategy of Refusal, Italy: Autonomia. Post-political politics. Ed. SylvereLotringer and Christian Marazzi (Semiotext), 28-35.

Italian Antifa Solidarity – Sunday 26th April @ Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh

On the 25th of April 1945 Italy was liberated by nazifascism with the crucial support of working class, communists and anarchist partisans. 70 years later we want to celebrate Italian liberation day with a solidarity event with Italian Anfitascists and Autonomous attacked by the repression of the state and neofascists groups supported by the establishment. We believe that anti fascism today means fighting for housing and welfare for all against austerity and neoliberal reforms, against borders and discriminations. The event also is aimed at providing solidarity with specific struggles like the one of Dordoni Autonomous Centre (Cremona).

On Sunday 28 January, around 6pm, a group of about 50 fascists (mostly from CasaPound) attacked activists from Cremona’s Dordoni social centre. The attack on seven or eight activists was launched by around ten people, and very soon bolstered by 40 more.
Emilio, one of the activists and someone very well known in Cremona, was beaten with a bar and then kicked in the face and head as he was lying on the ground. He would remain in a coma for several days before starting to recover.
‘On 10 April 5 comrades from the CSA DORDONI, including Emilio, were placed under arrest for having defended the social centre from the fascist attack. 2 comrades (Are e Alberto) were put into prison explicitly because ‘socially dangerous’ in view of the 25 April, #NoExpo and May Day action coming up. On 18 April the CSA DORDONI organised a demo in solidarity with the 7 comrades. The same day, Gian, Roma, Jonny, Pippo and Emilio have been released, while Are and Alberto have been put under house arrest.’

Starting with a presentation about this episode we intend to plan and discuss a solidarity strategy with comrades in Italy and beyond facing repression like the SOAS student Federico Annibale arrested in Frankfurt and with ongoing struggles like NoTAV, NOEXPO and the upcoming event of Mayday in Milan, which national media are scaremongering as the “New Genova 2001”. We will distribute material for translation as well as translated material for those that can`t speak italian. There will be some food, music and drink.

During the event ACE info Shop and Scottish Radical Library will be open and you will be able to find out more publications and original material from italian autonomia and workersist stuggles from the 70`,80`,90` and beyond.

Everyone welcome + byob #acab11041441_926437140734343_1939778812386202182_o

Up Against the State: the battle for broughton st. unemployed workers centre

occupation3Join us for a photographic exhibition and an evening of music, history and poetry.
In 1992 the unemployed and claimant users took control of the Edinburgh Unemployed Workers Centre to stop its closure. In 1994 they resisted the imminent eviction of the Broughton Street Centre by launching a 24 hours per day occupation, which lasted six months. 20 years after the violent eviction of the occupants, an exhibition of photographs to be held at the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh will remember this experience and discuss why this is still relevant today.
This event is supported by the Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh & Edinburgh Coalition Against Povery. During the opening we’ll present the new stock of Books from ACE InfoShop and the new external mural project.

There will be drinks and food

18.00 Opening & Intro
18.15 Live set – Geek Maggot Bingo
19.15 Talks & Dj Set (TBC)

More info:

Radical film archive – OCT 04 @ ACE


If you ‘ve ever visited our archives at the SRL you might have noticed that in the years we’ve accumulated quite an amount of radical video and multimedia material on different formats that we try to store at our best. It is now time we start thinking what to do with it,  and discuss how we can develop the archive. What films should go in and which should come out? Should we go digital or keep some VHS memories? We are looking for some volunteers of the radical film archive so that there is some cover for an upcoming event and we can do more. anybody interested?

Radical film archive launch: 4th October 14:00–17:00

The radical film archive is a collection of radical films on a hard drive.

-come and collect films with a hard drive or USB.

“the more people know whats going on the better”

Resisting work: stories of striking, organising, thieving and skiving – With author and activist D.D. Johnston

print dd j  posterSaturday 16th August – 19.00

The Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh
17 West Montgomery Place, EH7 5HA Edimburgo
An evening of stories of everyday working class lives and strugglesD.D. Johnston in conversation with local activists will presents his most recent novel The Deconstruction of Professor Thrub and will read extracts from his first book Peace, Love and Petrol Bombs. He will also talk about his involvement in the legendary McDonalds Workers Resistance network, and its relevance for workplace organising today. From its initial organising in McDonalds store in Gorgie, MWR’s influence and connections spread world-wide, linking up with fast food workers from Italy to North America. The meeting will be also an occasion to discuss with other local activist and organizers stories from their working lives (with work defined much broader than paid labour – i.e. claimants, domestic and other unpaid forms of work, students, etc.). If you want to present your story just drop us an email at These stories might be funny, inspiring, informative, sad, infuriating – whatever. In particular we are interested on anecdotes and tales of specific incidents you’ve encountered working and resisting work, rather than general political positions.The meeting is co-hosted by Anarchist Federation, Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty, Industrial Workers of the World, Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh, Scottish Radical Library, Social Factory Collective.

D.D. Johnston is a novelist and short story writer. He lives in Cheltenham and works at the University of Gloucestershire, where he is a University Teaching Fellow and a senior lecturer in Creative Writing.

His first novel, Peace, Love, & Petrol Bombs, featured in The Sunday Herald’s Books of the Year for 2011, as a choice of Helen Fitzgerald, who said “Peace Love & Petrol Bombs, the debut novel by DD Johnston (AK Press, £8.99), is a non-preachy coming-of-age story set amid the complex and chaotic backdrop of anti-capitalist politics. It’s also funny as all hell.” Popmatters wrote, “this genial, engaging, yet serious search for meaning in a commodified global culture deserves wide acclaim” (John L. Murphy). And the Morning Star wrote that “Peace, Love and Petrol Bombs has a very urgent relevance now and for the immediate future” (Paul Simon). Peace, love, &
Petrol Bombs has been recorded as an audio book for, and is published in Spanish as Paz, amor y cócteles molotov (Hoja de Lata, 2013; translated by Raquel Duato García).

His second novel, The Deconstruction of Professor Thrub (Barbican Press, 2013), made the judges’ longlist for the Goldsmith’s Prize and was a 2013 book of the year in The Morning Star, where it was described as “determinedly extraordinary”. The Warwick Review called it “an ambitious, erudite work with a profound interest in the world as we find it,” while described it as “A historical epic, a story about love, revolution and the university, with echoes of Luther Blissett’s Q and a lot
of laughs.”

D.D. Johnston also writes short fiction, and you can read one of his stories, ‘The Invitation’, online in issue six of the Lampeter Review. An earlier version of the story was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize.

Social Factory Presents, A Worker’s Inquiry By Angry Workers of the World

1 workers image. compressedjpgEdinburgh: Sunday 13th, Workshop 1.00-6.00pm,
Autonomous Centre of Edinburgh (ACE):
17 West Montgomery Pl, off Leith walk

Angry Workers of the World are a collective using class composition analysis and
Worker’s Inquiry methods in the logistics sector in West London. Class composition is a mode of analysis developed in the extra-parliamentary Italian autonomous movement during the 1960s and 1970s. The workers inquiry method was undertaken as a form of engaged ‘co-research’ bypassing normal hierarchical union structures and dissolving barriers between subject-researcher and object-researched; a technique for developing a closer analysis of worker’s struggles from the point of view of the workers themselves.
What role might this form of ‘co-research’ have in organising new forms of struggle and organisation in the workplace and broader community?
Angry Workers of the World are related to a group of workers / activists at the
forefront of composition and inquiry practice globally, including  collectives in India (Kamunist Kranti and Gurgaon Workers News), Wildcat (Germany), and
Mouvement Communiste (France).
They want to meet with like-minded groups and individuals across the UK and
will be visiting Glasgow on Saturday 12th and Edinburgh on Sunday 13th to
discuss class composition and workers inquiry as a method of political struggle
with local workers and activists.

Scottish Radical Library Organizers/Volunteers monthly Workshop

Scottish Radical Library Organizers/Volunteers Workshop

Thursday 27th March

6.00 to 7.30 pm

Bottom of Form

This will be an opportunity for members of the library as well as anyone interested in supporting the Scottish radical library project to take part and learn how they can help.

We are now digitizing our records to get a fully searchable catalogue online and expand our collection.

If you are interested in coming to the workshop or if you have any question or proposals for us write at:

What is the Scottish Rradical Library (SRL)?

The Scottish Radical Library (SRL) houses hundreds of books, journals,
posters and archives.   We are now looking for volunteers to help with our new tech project, to add new books to our records, and to help organise and promote the
library.  It is a unique resource in Scotland and has a
substantial collection of materials of social, cultural and economic
interest, comprising thousands of items donated by users, supporters,
members and publishers.  The SRL exists to preserve, promote and
celebrate cultures of resistance and to serve as a self-managed public
space to learn and to share – a real ‘people’s library’. We hope that
the literature we stock empowers and inspires people to make positive
changes to the world – from challenging unequal power structures to
breaking down prejudiced attitudes to others and ourselves.


The library is open to the public during the following opening hours:

Tuesday 12pm-3pm
Thursday 6pm-8pm
Saturday 11am – 6pm


Scottish Radical Library

 ACE, 17 West Montgomery Place, Edinburgh EH7 5HA

Check for our new blog:

Soon more activities and updates, events and reading lists

About us

The Scottish Radical Library (SRL) houses hundreds of books, journals,
posters and archives.  It is a unique resource in Scotland and has a
substantial collection of materials of social, cultural and economic
interest, comprising thousands of items donated by users, supporters,
members and publishers.  The SRL exists to preserve, promote and
celebrate cultures of resistance and to serve as a self-managed public
space to learn and to share – a real ‘people’s library’. We hope that
the literature we stock empowers and inspires people to make positive
changes to the world – from challenging unequal power structures to
breaking down prejudiced attitudes to others and ourselves.

The library is open to the public during our normal opening hours

Tueday 12pm-3pm
Thursday 6pm-8pm
Saturday 11am – 6pm

Be a part of the SRL at this exciting time as we digitize our records
to get a fully searchable catalogue online and expand our collection.
We are looking for volunteers to help with our new tech project, to
add new books to our records, and to help organise and promote the
library.  You can now contact us at  Get in touch!