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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Why vote in elections ??

Today spamming my timeline on twitter is the Unite Union my former union who are cheerleading for the Labour Party victim blaming the disabled and the poor into voting. If you dont vote you dont have a voice they crow. I used to be involved in TUSC and various trotskyists activities to give the "working class" a political voice. I no longer think this is the way to go “Don’t vote? don’t complain” “A + B are both wrong” “Pick one or you’ll be ignored” *picks A* “This is awful” “You voted for it!" are all lines i hear so much. For a trade union to be pushing this sickening line is really taking the piss. lets be honest no one is against voting as and of itself its just its role it plays in watering down disent and diverting militant campaigns into dead ends. Also, what Unite are ignoring in the middle of blaming disabled people is that often polling stations are SIMPLY NOT ACCESSIBLE as many blind people like myself have found in the past. Only around 25% of polling stations at the last European Elections had accessible templates to enable the blind and partially sighted to vote. The RNIB and other blind charity's are campaigning for a online voting system which i wouldnt be against to be honest as enabling disabled people to vote easier if they so wish should be a right they hold. Even if like me they may choose not to participatea nd vote there still should be the chance for all no matter your disability to vote independently for yourself if you so wish. Even as anarchists we can agree with that. Alot of good stuff is written on the anarchist faq which i will quote below. "While anarchists reject electioneering and voting, it does not mean that we are politically apathetic. Indeed, part of the reason why anarchists reject voting is because we think that voting is not part of the solution, its part of the problem. This is because it endorses an unjust and unfree political system and makes us look to others to fight our battles for us. It blocks constructive self-activity and direct action. It stops the building of alternatives in our communities and workplaces. Voting breeds apathy and apathy is our worse enemy. Given that we have had universal suffrage for well over 50 years in many countries and we have seen the rise of Labour and Radical parties aiming to use that system to effect change in a socialistic manner, it seems strange that we are probably further away from socialism than when they started. The simple fact is that these parties have spent so much time trying to win elections that they have stopped even thinking about creating socialist alternatives in our communities and workplaces. That is in itself enough to prove that electioneering, far from eliminating apathy, in fact helps to create it. At its most basic, voting implies agreement with the status quo. It is worth quoting the Scottish libertarian socialist James Kelman at length on this: "State propaganda insists that the reason why at least 40 percent of the voting public don't vote at all is because they have no feelings one way or the other. They say the same thing in the USA, where some 85 percent of the population are apparently 'apolitical' since they don't bother registering a vote. Rejection of the political system is inadmissible as far as the state is concerned . . . Of course the one thing that does happen when you vote is that someone else has endorsed an unfair political system . . . A vote for any party or any individual is always a vote for the political system. You can interpret your vote in whichever way you like but it remains an endorsement of the apparatus . . . If there was any possibility that the apparatus could effect a change in the system then they would dismantle it immediately. In other words the political system is an integral state institution, designed and refined to perpetuate its own existence. Ruling authority fixes the agenda by which the public are allowed 'to enter the political arena' and that's the fix they've settled on." [Some Recent Attacks, p. 87] We are taught from an early age that voting in elections is right and a duty. In US schools, for example, children elect class presidents and other officers. Often mini-general elections are held to "educate" children in "democracy." Periodically, election coverage monopolises the media. We are made to feel guilty about shirking our "civic responsibility" if we do not vote. Countries that have no elections, or only rigged elections, are regarded as failures. As a result, elections have become a quasi-religious ritual. Yet, in reality, "elections in practice have served well to maintain dominant power structures such as private property, the military, male domination, and economic inequality. None of these has been seriously threatened through voting. It is from the point of view of radical critics that elections are most limiting." ["Democracy without Elections", pp. 123-36, Reinventing Anarchy, Again, Howard J. Ehrlich (ed.), p. 124] Elections serve the interests of state power in other ways. First, voting helps to legitimate government; hence suffrage has often been expanded at times when there was little popular demand for it but when mass support of government was crucial, as during a war or revolution. Second, it comes to be seen as the only legitimate form of political participation, thus making it likely that any revolts by oppressed or marginalised groups will be viewed by the general public as illegitimate. It helps focus attention away from direct action and building new social structures back into institutions which the ruling class can easily control. The general election during the May '68 revolt in France, for example, helped diffuse the revolutionary situation, as did the elections during the Argentine revolt against neo-liberalism in the early 2000s. So by turning political participation into the "safe" activities of campaigning and voting, elections have reduced the risk of more radical direct action as well as building a false sense of power and sovereignty among the general population. Voting disempowers the grassroots by diverting energy from grassroots action. After all, the goal of electoral politics is to elect a representative who will act for us. Therefore, instead of taking direct action to solve problems ourselves, action becomes indirect, though the government. This is an insidiously easy trap to fall into, as we have been conditioned in hierarchical society from day one into attitudes of passivity and obedience, which gives most of us a deep-seated tendency to leave important matters to the "experts" and "authorities." Kropotkin described well the net effect: "Vote! Greater men that you will tell you the moment when the self-annihilation of capital has been accomplished. They will then expropriate the few usurpers left . . . and you will be freed without having taken any more trouble than that of writing on a bit of paper the name of the man whom the heads of your faction of the party told you to vote for!" [quoted by Ruth Kinna, "Kropotkin's theory of Mutual Aid in Historical Context", pp. 259-283, International Review of Social History, No. 40, pp. 265-6] Ironically, voting has legitimated the growth of state power to such an extent that the state is now beyond any real popular control by the form of participation that made that growth possible. Nevertheless, the idea that electoral participation means popular control of government is so deeply implanted in people's psyches that even the most overtly sceptical radical often cannot fully free themselves from it. Therefore, voting has the important political implication of encouraging people to identify with state power and to justify the status quo. In addition, it feeds the illusion that the state is neutral and that electing parties to office means that people have control over their own lives. Moreover, elections have a tendency to make people passive, to look for salvation from above and not from their own self-activity. As such it produces a division between leaders and led, with the voters turned into spectators of activity, not the participants within it. All this does not mean, obviously, that anarchists prefer dictatorship or an "enlightened" monarchy. Far from it, democratising state power can be an important step towards abolishing it. All anarchists agree with Bakunin when he argued that "the most imperfect republic is a thousand times better that even the most enlightened monarchy." [quoted by Daniel Guerin, Anarchism, p. 20] It simply means that anarchists refuse to join in with the farce of electioneering, particularly when there are more effective means available for changing things for the better. Anarchists reject the idea that our problems can be solved by the very institutions that cause them in the first place! If genuine social change needs mass participation then, by definition, using elections will undermine that. This applies to within the party as well, for working "within the system" disempowers grassroots activists, as can be seen by the Green party in Germany during the early eighties. The coalitions into which the Greens entered with Social Democrats in the German legislature often had the effect of strengthening the status quo by co-opting those whose energies might otherwise have gone into more radical and effective forms of activism. Principles were ignored in favour of having some influence, so producing watered-down legislation which tinkered with the system rather than transforming it. the state is more complicated than the simple organ of the economically dominant class pictured by Marxists. There are continual struggles both inside and outside the state bureaucracies, struggles that influence policies and empower different groups of people. This can produce clashes with the ruling elite, while the need of the state to defend the system as a whole causes conflict with the interests of sections of the capitalist class. Due to this, many radical parties believe that the state is neutral and so it makes sense to work within it -- for example, to obtain labour, consumer, and environmental protection laws. However, this reasoning ignores the fact that the organisational structure of the state is not neutral. To quote Brian Martin: "The basic anarchist insight is that the structure of the state, as a centralised administrative apparatus, is inherently flawed from the point of view of human freedom and equality. Even though the state can be used occasionally for valuable ends, as a means the state is flawed and impossible to reform. The non-reformable aspects of the state include, centrally, its monopoly over 'legitimate' violence and its consequent power to coerce for the purpose of war, internal control, taxation and the protection of property and bureaucratic privilege. To attempt to reform these is frankly utopian. At its most basic, anarchists support abstentionism because "participation in elections means the transfer of one's will and decisions to another, which is contrary to the fundamental principles of anarchism." [Emma Goldman, Vision on Fire, p. 89] For, as Proudhon stressed, in a statist democracy, the people "is limited to choosing, every three or four years, its chiefs and its imposters." [quoted by George Woodcock, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, p. 152] If you reject hierarchy then participating in a system by which you elect those who will govern you is almost like adding insult to injury! For, as Luigi Galleani pointed out, "whoever has the political competence to choose his own rulers is, by implication, also competent to do without them." [The End of Anarchism?, p. 37] In other words, because anarchists reject the idea of authority, we reject the idea that picking the authority (be it bosses or politicians) makes us free. Therefore, anarchists reject governmental elections in the name of self-government and free association. We refuse to vote as voting is endorsing authoritarian social structures. We are (in effect) being asked to make obligations to the state, not our fellow citizens, and so anarchists reject the symbolic process by which our liberty is alienated from us." with extracts from the excellent anarchist faq

Do we have a right to be offended?

I think we do. There is free speech and then there is free speech. With free speech and the power of this comes responsibility I feel. But where do we draw the line? We can’t constantly say we're being offended simply because of a disagreement or to shut down debate and discussion that is not what a free society looks like. The idea that any kind of free society can be constructed in which people will never be offended or insulted is absurd. So too is the notion that people should have the right to call on the law to defend them against being offended or insulted. A fundamental decision needs to be made: do we want to live in a free society or not? Democracy is not a tea party where people sit around making polite conversation. In democracies people get extremely upset with each other. They argue vehemently against each other’s positions. (But they don’t shoot.) The right to offend is not about humor. It's not about anarchy. It's not about what I feel like doing, without consequences. Believe it or not, it's about defending the right to tell the truth -- which is necessary for progress of society. The right to say these things is called freedom of speech, and is one of the cornerstones of a free society. Throughout human history, we've had a lot of "inconvenient" truths, and saying them out loud have cost the lives of countless martyrs. Modern society is no different, with the concession that today it's less likely -- but still possible -- to be killed by saying something offensive. As with the recent awful attacks in Paris on the headquarters of the so called satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo Which I completely condemn and are not the answer to which were offensive and let’s be honest racist depictions of the prophet Mohammed. I think we should all try and apply self censorship being careful what we say to different people is crucial to being a decent human being. Using certain words around certain people can trigger all sorts of thoughts and feelings so being careful with our language are key I feel even if I am not against you saying it I on the other hand have the right to disagree with you. As with racist and fascist language words we use the no platform strategy within the labour movement to prevent them gaining a foothold in the movement we will argue our corner but arguing with fascists is not an opting when they will not debate with you and have no interest in debating fairly with you. No platforming used to be something that was done to fascists. Photo: Getty What happened to no platform? The idea that certain viewpoints had no right to be expressed in public debate has never been wholly uncontroversial, but at least it used to be clear: as Nick Lowles of the anti-racism campaign Hope Not Hate explained it in a 2013 blog post, no platform was “the position where we [i.e. anti-fascist groups] refuse to allow fascists an opportunity to act like normal political parties […] which sometimes includes physically deny[in] them the freedom to operate.” No platform might be enacted in a number of ways: it could mean an institution refusing to host speakers associated with particular violent groups (something the NUS has historically done), or established political parties forbidding their representatives to share the stage with figures from far-right organisation. As a last resort, it meant taking direct action to prevent the proponent of an abhorred position from speaking. But it was traditionally about rejecting the rhetoric of violence – especially when that rhetoric was liable to inspire leagues of smash-happy skinheads. In times of economic and social crisis, the fascists will offer racism and violence as a solution to people’s desperation. The question of No Platform must be posed as an issue of working-class unity against the bosses’ efforts to divide and rule. It is also a question of our right to organise self-defence against fascist pogroms and attacks on our meetings and demonstrations. That’s why, when the English Defence League march in our cities and towns, attacking black and Asian areas, screaming racist abuse, we need our own “Antifascist Defence League” to stop them in their tracks and send them packing. A highly trained, highly organised Defence League of our own is the way to beat them, defend our demonstrations and our communities from racist thugs. But there are other reasons too. As capitalism moves into decay and crisis, as we are seeing today, it relies more and more upon brute force and violence to back up its political and social attacks on working class people. Organising against the fascists, and preparing defence of our struggles is a necessary step in organising our class to fight back against bosses’ offensive as a whole – a class war driven by wealth and backed up with violence and repression. In the midst of all the post-Paris grief, hypocrisy and hyperbole abounds. Yes, the attack was an act of unquantifiable evil; an inexcusable and merciless murder of innocents. But was it really a “bid to assassinate” free speech (ITV’s Mark Austin), to “desecrate” our ideas of “free thought” (Stephen Fry)? It was a crime – not an act of war – perpetrated by disaffected young men; radicalised not by drawings of the Prophet in Europe in 2006 or 2011, as it turns out, but by images of US torture in Iraq in 2004. Please get a grip. None of us believes in an untrammelled right to free speech. We all agree there are always going to be lines that, for the purposes of law and order, cannot be crossed; or for the purposes of taste and decency, should not be crossed. We differ only on where those lines should be drawn. Let’s be clear: I agree there is no justification whatsoever for gunning down journalists or cartoonists. I disagree with your seeming view that the right to offend comes with no corresponding responsibility; and I do not believe that a right to offend automatically translates into a duty to offend. When you say “Je suis Charlie”, is that an endorsement of Charlie Hebdo’s depiction of the French justice minister, Christiane Taubira, who is black, drawn as a monkey? Of crude caricatures of bulbous-nosed Arabs that must make Edward Said turn in his grave? These were quite clearly racist cartoons and designed to offend. SDo people have a right to publish this sort of material? Of course but let’s be honest this is not satire when it’s poking fun at those below us and have less than a voice than we do. Lampooning racism by reproducing brazenly racist imagery is a pretty dubious satirical tactic. Also, as the former Charlie Hebdo journalist Olivier Cyran argued in 2013, an “Islamophobic neurosis gradually took over” the magazine after 9/11, which then effectively endorsed attacks on "members of a minority religion with no influence in the corridors of power". It's for these reasons that I can't "be", don’t want to “be", Charlie

Monday, 26 January 2015

Greece, Syriza win but where next??

So many leftists on twitter and around the globe seem ecstatic that the anti austerity alliance party Syriza have seemingly won the Greek elections. Many hopes and expectations lay ahead. I sense a very bumpy road and a lot of conflict to come. This is just the start not the end. Syriza, a party born from a coalition of Eurocommunists, social movements and anti-globalisation activists, is riding high and looks set to take a large share of the votes once all is said and done in Greece in the snap elections called recently. Whether enough for an outright majority its in no doubt this is a big moment in the Euro crisis which started way back in 2008. The general sentiment among Syriza officials and activists is that they will win the election and form the next government. The party won the European election in May 2014 and achieved some significant wins at the regional elections. It has been leading nationwide polls for months, scoring 29 per cent in late December 2014. The majority-friendly electoral law allows for an absolute majority at 35 to 40 per cent of the vote, depending on the number of parties passing the threshold. If Syriza succeeds in forming a government then it will face a huge number of challenges on the domestic and European level. At home, it will encounter fierce opposition from big business, the austerity parties and the Greek media. Greek economic elites might use the EU’s legal framework to work against Syriza. For example, bank owners could file lawsuits at the European Court of Justice against the restructuring of the banking sector. For Syriza itself, being in government may strain the relationship between the party leadership and its supporters and change the dynamic within the party. Syriza will have to find a balance between its two roles – first, representing a credible alternative to the establishment, and second, bringing forward a project for government. Care will have to be taken not to damage the party’s links to the social movements, and it will need to extend its presence within society to build bedrock of support to withstand the attacks. A party m very new and made up of a lot of various trends of Marxists, trotskyists indeed my former party the CWI have a section within Syriza don’t expect them to have much say though they will make a lot of noise but very little will come of it. They have also taken on a lot of ex Pasoc members and party officials who putting in a British context have seen a lot of defectors from the Labour party who have seen their party discredited in many peoples eyes as they were one of the first party’s to force through austerity doing the ECB’s European Central Banks and the Troikas job for them. Syriza will come to power with the pledge to re negotiate the bank bailout and try they might. But Syriza will certainly try. One of the first actions of a Syriza government will be to demand a reduction of public debt in Greece and Europe through an international debt conference. European governments and institutions will probably enter negotiations without making any concessions. Karitzis says, 'They are convinced that we will eventually compromise, that time is against us, and so they won’t be too hostile in the beginning.' Giorgos Chondros, director of Syriza’s department for environmental policy, expects negotiations to drag on for a while. 'We will not only have to fight the Greek elites, but also the European ones. This makes our situation much more difficult. We’ll need the support of movements in the whole of Europe.' John Milios anticipates 'psychological warfare' from EU elites and creditors. Greece will most likely violate some of the provisions of the EU’s deficit rules. 'There is no doubt that the numbers we see about Greek government accounts, the banks’ asset books, are all forged,' Yanis Varoufakis, professor of economics and Syriza advisor, says. The true state of public finances will probably come to the surface soon after a Syriza government is instated. Party figures argue that for economic reasons the Euro zone cannot afford to kick Greece out. European elites could, however, exert pressure in other ways. They could trigger a bank run inside Greece. They could tarnish the image of Greece as a tourist destination. The European Central Bank (ECB) could stop returning profits from interest on Greek government bonds. Less structural funds for infrastructure projects like roads might be awarded to Greece – according to Varoufakis, the rules concerning these funds have been loosened in the past to support the current Greek government, meaning they could simply be applied more strictly to harm a Syriza government. Investors in Greek government bonds have been reassured by 'winks' from Berlin and the ECB, suggesting that should Greece not pay, the debt would be covered. Varoufakis warns that 'they might as well do the opposite to increase financial pressure on a left government.' All of these measures would damage Syriza’s ability to deliver important promises to re-establish free access to healthcare, increase the lowest pensions and introduce rent subsidies. Possibly the most serious strategy would be for the ECB to threaten to stop providing liquidity to Greek banks. Varoufakis describes this as a 'nuclear weapon' which could bring the Greek banking sector down almost immediately. It would be extreme, but not unthinkable: In December 2014, the ECB threatened to effectively cut off Greek banks unless the government complied with Troika wishes. Varoufakis is convinced that a Syriza government must be prepared for this form of blackmail if it is to last long enough to negotiate a new deal for Greece. Despite all these challenges, there is still optimism among Syriza members. Although many consider it possible that their government could last only for a few weeks, they say their chances are better today than they would have been in 2012. They see fractures within the neoliberal bloc that they can try to exploit, like the ECB’s fear of deflation, the position of Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and the recent conflicts within the French government. By getting into government and implementing first measures, Syriza hopes to accelerate existing debates, especially within European social democracy and the trade unions. I am no longer in favour of taking a electoral route to change I think its a dead end strategy but if Syriza do win power I do think we should support them to a point. If there looks to be a backlash in the streets where the likes of the Golden Dawn are set against Syriza supporters us as Militant anti fascists we must stand with them and with the Greek working class. This is getting serious now. If Syriza do not carry through their programmed and leave millions let down and hopeless I dread to think of the backlash from the far right and how this will play out. Whilst I am no support of electoral projects I do think there’s support needed for Syriza even if in a critical sense to build confidence of workers to rejoin the class struggle in Greece to rejoin the struggle against austerity and give hope to other nation such as Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Italy and so on that we can fight back and win. We need to get to the point where workers feel confident enough to feel they can run society for themselves. Whilst we may be some way from that factory and workplace occupations and strikes can all add to workers confidence that things do not have to be this way The possibility of a new society is there if we are not sucked in by various sub plots and diversion tactics which no doubt will be coming. It is no surprise tonight to hear our prime minister in the UK David Cameron who is now saying Europe face’s further times of uncertainty following these Greek elections. If a small nation like Greece voting in a supposed anti austerity party despite all its faults and it does have many then just wait until the Spanish, Italian and French working class begin to re start the fight after a lull. The euro crisis never went away as much as many bourgeois commentators hoped its back with a bang now and Greece is where we will be watching closely for things we can learn from. Solidarity with the Greek working class tonight. Remember change is in the streets, the factory’s the workplaces and communities not in the ballot box.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

All That Is Solid ...: Saturday Interview: Mark Wright

All That Is Solid ...: Saturday Interview: Mark Wright: Mark Wright is 26 year-old activist from East Hertfordshire. He's also been registered blind for 10 years. Nevertheless, Mark is an av...

Friday, 16 January 2015

#AFa an idiots guide to the far right

To welcome in 2015, the Anti-Fascist Network has put together an idiots’ guide to the idiots on Britain’s far right. No need to thank us, it’s a public service. British National Party Introducing the man who will definitely revive the fortunes of the BNP… Adam Walker 
Formerly known as Britain’s most successful and ambitious fascist group since the 1930s, recent years have not been kind to the BNP. Membership and electoral support for the party has plummeted after a disappointing performance in the 2010 local and general elections. This unleashed a series of bitter internal disputes culminating in longstanding party leader Nick Griffin being unceremoniously booted out during 2014. Alongside Griffin, most prominent party members who were at least semi-competent and kept the show on the road have either resigned or been expelled. This has left the BNP bereft of people with the kind of basic skills necessary to do organise election campaigns or community work. Adam Walker, Griffin’s replacement, is uniquely poorly placed to lead the party. Although he lacks political skill, charisma or any observable talents, he does have a conviction for chasing children in his car and threatening them with a knife. The BNP thrived by occupying a political vacuum in working-class communities through community campaigning and hoovering up protest votes. The party’s patent inability to deliver what they promised to voters damaged their image as a viable opposition force while UKIP have stolen their thunder as the protest vote most likely to annoy the three main political parties. Once, the party had two MEPs, a member in the London Assembly and over 50 local councillors around the country. Now, they have been reduced to a solitary local councillor: Brian Parker in Pendle. Happily, the future looks gloomy for the BNP. The party has collapsed across much of the country and the party’s leadership is widely detested across the rest of the far right. The time is ripe to put the group out of business permanently. Do say: The BNP is one of the only household names among Britain’s crowded far-right scene.
 Don’t say: Oi Walker, leave those kids alone! Britain First Britain First deputy leader Jayda Fransen burns her own picture During 2014, Britain First briefly transformed their image from a money-making scheme operated by former BNP fundraising chief Jim Dowson into the media’s number one scary Nazi bogeyman. Such publicity, however, did not translate into political success and following dismal results in the European elections, Dowson flounced out of the group. The group’s origins are in the BNP. Along with many other people, Dowson had a falling out with Nick Griffin and joined forces with ex-BNP councillor Paul Golding to form another venture to suck cash from gullible racists. Dowson has a keen eye for publicity and the group carried out several headline-grabbing stunts, including launching ‘Christian Patrols’ in East London. Paul Golding in earlier years with underpants on his head at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday Dowson’s departure left the group in the incapable hands of Golding, who has tried to promote Britain First both as a respectable political party and as a militant street movement. Both of these strategies met with embarrassing failure in the Rochester and Strood by-election, when the party won a grand total of 56 votes and had their demonstrations in the town halted by anti-fascists. Having lots of ‘likes’ on Facebook doesn’t mean much on the streets Paul. Do say: Organising ourselves into “battalions” is even more fun than going paintballing. Don’t say: Would you buy a used car from this man? British Democratic Party
 The British Democratic Party functions as a retirement home for ageing fascists who have fallen out with Nick Griffin in recent years and either been booted out of the BNP, or left in a huff. The BDP emerged as a faction in the BNP desperate to find someone to challenge Nick Griffin for the party leadership and rallied around Andrew Brons, a man less charismatic than a cardboard cut-out of himself. Brons unsurprisingly lost the contest and made sure that his campaign had lost all momentum before launching his own party. The BDP do little apart from operate a website and it’s hard to avoid the welcome conclusion that its leading members are demoralised and exhausted after watching the BNP they worked so hard to build collapse very rapidly. The party managed to field only a handful of candidates in the 2014 and Brons did not even try to defend his seat in the European Parliament. With Brons out of the picture, this bunch of disgruntled no-hopers will likely sink without trace. Do say: We’ve done well to avoid a BNP-style cult of personality… 
Don’t say: …by electing the most boring man on the far right as our leader. British Unity Griffin in happier days 
After being chucked out of the BNP and falling out with virtually everyone else on the far right, only Nick Griffin could launch could launch a group called ‘British Unity’ without any hint of contradiction or embarrassment. Hilariously, British Unity was hampered by infighting before it even officially launched as some of its supporters preferred the name ‘British Voice’ and so established a group called that instead. Griffin hopes to imitate the strategy of Britain First by encouraging supporters to share pictures on Facebook and Twitter. He thinks he has spotted an untapped market for promoting his more hardline politics among UKIP supporters and, naturally, imagines he is the leader able to turn them from pub bores into fascist cadres. Radicalise the moderates Nick! Now, where have we heard that one before? A man who once believed he had a good chance of becoming Britain’s first fascist MP now spends his days bothering people on Twitter. Anti-fascists could not have asked for a better outcome. Do say: Well done Nick, you’ve always had a keen eye for emerging political developments.
 Don’t say: Why do you only have one eye again, Nick? English Democrats The EDP, like Batman, have their own special vehicle 
Not so long ago, the English Democrats persistently claimed they were simply a group of people who really liked England and would sue anyone who even hinted that they were far right or racist. Then they spotted the opportunity presented by the disintegration of the BNP and decided to drop any pretence of principles to try and hoover up their remnants. The party has welcomed former leading BNP members and veteran fascists like Eddy Butler and Christ Beverely into their ranks and have tried to continue where the BNP left off on the far right road of respectability. This approach has yet to yield any successful results and the party has struggled to distinguish itself in a crowded right-wing field. Do say: We’re not racist, but…
 Don’t say: … loads of members used to be in the BNP. Democratic Nationalists
 Like many other small far right groups, Jim Lewthwaite and his supporters were once members of the BNP. The Democratic Nationalists emerged from a split within Bradford BNP when Lewthwaite, who was previously a BNP councillor in the city, fell out with other local members. Since then, Lewthwaite and his small band of followers have been consistently unable to persuade the voters of Bradford that they can be trusted to tie their own shoelaces, never mind run Bradford City Council. Although they have relatively moderate politics on paper (i.e. they are not as openly racist as others on this list), they have recently banded together with the British Democratic Party, another group of BNP rejects. Do say: We’re keeping the flag flying behind enemy lines. 
Don’t say: White nationalist electoral politics are not really viable in areas where the majority of the population is non-white. England First Party
 Anti-fascists have long wondered why Mark Cotterill and his Lancashire-based England First Party even bother. Aside from publishing Heritage and Destiny – a fascist gossip sheet – the EFP keep busy by organising the annual John Tyndall memorial meeting, which every year brings together a collection of people Tyndall mostly despised when he was alive. This appears to be the sum total of their activity. Other leading members include the snivelling inadequate Peter Rushton and, er, that’s it. Do say: I’m glad we stopped standing in elections so we can concentrate on… what is it we do again?
 Don’t say: Have you finished copying articles from Searchlight for the next Heritage and Destiny yet Pete? Patria
 Andrew Emmerson is a sad, obsessive individual who, if his life had taken a different turn, would be spending all his day writing letters to the local paper in ALL CAPS about the dangers of water fluoridation. Instead, he joined the BNP but found that this was not enough to satisfy his delusions of grandeur and left in a huff. Now, in the same way that some middle-aged men have model train sets in their attics, or immaculately preserved collections of stamps, Emmerson has a political party: Patria. What a complete waste of time. Do say: ENGLAND NEEDS THE STRONG GRIP OF A DECISIVE LEADER TO REGAIN ITS GREATNESS 
 Paul Weston surveyed the far right scene in 2013 and was disappointed that there was no party that catered to his particular brand of racist insanity. So, after flirting with the English Defence League and Andrew Brons, Weston did what any self-respecting, self-important racist blowhard would do, and founded his own group. 
Liberty GB managed to stand three candidates at the European elections in 2014 and achieved a dismal vote. The group will likely disband when Weston’s attention span wanes. Do say: Paul Weston is the only man who can save Britain from the Muslamic invasion.
 Don’t say: Paul Weston is our only member. English Defence League 
Since the English Defence League’s formation in 2009, the group has been determined to walk through town centres all across the country because the Muslims. Able to carry out their slogan of ‘we go where we want’ when accompanied by several hundred police officers, the EDL are noticeably less confident when encountered without large numbers of police around. The group’s fortunes have fluctuated between a dangerous fascist street force and a band of travelling pissheads. In the past, the EDL has been capable of mobilising thousands on the streets and even outnumbering the opposition. However, they have run into the same problem that protest movements across the political spectrum have encountered: having the same A to B march while penned in by legions of police will eventually demoralise even the most fervent supporter. Numbers turning out on demos have dropped considerably as opposition to the EDL got larger and better organised. The EDL’s dwindling numbers were dealt a further blow in 2013 when leader ‘Tommy Robinson’ had a sudden public conversion that Muslims weren’t all that bad shortly before he was imprisoned for mortgage fraud. No surrender, eh Tommy? Off the streets, the EDL maintains a large army of permanently offended keyboard warriors primed and ready to express outrage on Facebook when they hear stuff like Christmas has been cancelled because of the Muslims. This group is even more determined to ‘go where they want’ as long as they are sat safely behind a keyboard. However, even in its current weakened state, the EDL represents the most significant far right street presence for many years and anti-fascists should not be complacent about it. The reaction to murder of Lee Rigby shows that the EDL can act as a lightning rod for anger on the far right. Any general upsurge in hostility towards Asians could swell its ranks again. Do say: DEFINITELY HONESTLY NO FUCKING SURRENDER EVER TO ANYTHING (DHNFSETA)!
 Don’t say: Having marches every now and again isn’t really working is it? Scottish Defence League
 The definitely not at all fascist SDL Tedious racist pricks whose idea of a good idea is to spend their Saturday’s walking round town centres across Scotland shouting acronyms. Welsh Defence League The equally not at all fascist WDL 
A pale imitation of their English cousin. Amazingly, a group whose main chant is ‘you’re not English anymore’ did not go down well in Wales. Who could have guessed? March For England
 MfE receive their traditional welcome in Brighton Confusingly, not a march but a group, led by Portsmouth resident and flat-cap aficionado Dave Smeeton. One of the groups involved in founding the EDL in 2009 after organising a protest in Luton against Islamists picketing homecoming troops. The protest ended in violence and damage to local Muslim-owned businesses. Smeeton attempted to disown the disorder, but by that time the ball was rolling and the EDL was formed. March for England banners and flags have been a regular on EDL protests since then. Most anti-fascists will have heard of MfE due to their annual shit-shower in Brighton. Every year since 2008, MfE have attempted to drag their racist crap festival through the city, and every year since 2010 they have faced concerted local opposition, resulting in some spectacular successes for the anti-fascists. Due to this opposition, they have now re-located 2015’s event to “a sea-side town in the North”. Do Say: Going up north isn’t surrendering!
 Don’t Say: Maybe Brighton’s just got us beat. English Volunteer Force They took the pants straight off the line you know… 
Another far-right splinter groupsicle from the EDL, most notable for being named after murderous terrorist group the Ulster Volunteer Force. Founded by ex-EDL and BNP wanker Chris Renton from Weston-Super-Mare, and headed up by another ex-EDL member, Jason Lock, who’s mates with notorious Nazis like Eddie Stampton and John “Snowy” Shaw. The EVF was envisioned as a tight “cadre” organisation, with local well-disciplined cells taking orders from a secretive “command group”. In reality, they are a drunken mess, similar to the EDL but much smaller. Their last few demos, in Croyden, Whitehall and Cardiff have been tiny and hampered by effective anti-fascist resistance. Do Say: We’re a peaceful group with no link to the UVF, honest.
 Don’t Say: Perhaps these white balaclavas weren’t the best idea… Bristol Defence League 
A drastic narrowing of political ambitions has led one group of EDL supporters to give up on the national group and focus on holding onto one small corner of the South-West. You can’t defend England, and you can’t defend Bristol either lads. Give it up. Do say: We may not be able to defend England, but we can hold Bristol against the commies and Muslims.
 Don’t say: Have you even been to Bristol recently? South East Alliance The massed ranks of the SEA in Cricklewood Another one of the swastika-soup of far-right acronym groups to emerge from the EDL. Lead by ego-tripping snaggle-tooth Paul Prodromou (who calls himself Paul Pitt to sound more English), who has a history of violence and intimidation against left wing campaigners. SEA leader Paul ‘Pitt’ tries to hit an anti-fascist but gets his son! Based around South Essex and North Kent, they were recently to be found “doing a MfE” by banging their heads against a brick wall in Cricklewood, North London. On the first of their three marches, several “white pride” and Golden Dawn flags were flown. Since then, they’ve wound their necks in a bit, but several known Nazis, like ex-BNP babyface Kevin Layzell and old-school fascist Eddie Stampton have attended. Do Say: We haven’t been to Cricklewood in a while… 
Don’t say: England for the English. That means fuck off Paul. Infidels North East Infidels leader Warren Faulkner has a problem with a stiff right arm The various Infidels groups started off as a radical faction within the EDL. They soon split off, however, when it became apparent the EDL wasn’t racist enough for them, and became their own group under the leadership of notorious fascist John “Snowy” Shaw. Snowy once managed to get himself convicted of animal cruelty after buying up a bunch of llamas and then letting them starve, apparently under the impression they just ate wotsits or something. Since then they have split into two factions, the North West Infidels and the North East Infidels. Both groups consist of the worst of the worst – those people who were rejected from the EDL for being too fascist. Infidels demos are characterised by a mix of anti-Muslim chanting and neo-nazi symbols. Mainly confined to the north of England, rarely seen south of the Midlands. Do Say: Seriously mate, a llama farm is a great idea.
 Don’t Say: Snowy, mate, those llamas look a bit peckish… Englisc Resistance
 Yes it really is spelt like that. And I’m sure the swastika is just coincidence. A tiny group consisting of slightly nutty men who like medieval re-enactments a bit too much. They believe they are the defenders of the Anglo-Saxon people against the “immigrant invasion”, and if that means recalling the fyrd and forming a shield-wall at the cliffs of Dover, then by Wotan they’ll do it! They’re a few centuries out of date, to put it lightly. Occasionally their flags (white dragon rampant on a red field, if you wanna get technical) can be seen on EDL or other nationalist demos, but most often they’re found touring the country taking photos of obscure Saxon monuments, commemorating forgotten battles with mead or burning the occasional cross in a forest for the benefit of Vice journalists. Do Say: I would have stood with Godwinson in the shield-wall!
 Don’t Say: Isn’t all this leather and sword-play a bit homo-erotic? Casuals United
 Small group with a website pretending to be football hooligans. The group’s founder Jeff Marsh was a football hooligan but he has since decided that he loves Britain and hates immigrants so much that he moved to Spain. Casuals United now divide their time between posting news stories about something bad some Asians did and writing fictional accounts of incidents where two unnamed casuals battered 50 commies, which they mysteriously never have any pictures or film of and no-one else seems to have witnessed. The group declared in 2014 that they were ‘going underground’ with the new name of the ‘Pie and Mash Brigade’. Does ‘going underground’ mean you’re dead and buried? Do say: The reds were quaking in their boots when some of our lads infiltrated the Antifa bloc and nicked their banner.
 Don’t say: That never actually happened, did it? National Front
 This was the evening entertainment at an NF event in South Wales The NF is one of Britain’s oldest far right political groups and trades on past glories. Outshone for most of the 2000s by the BNP’s electoral success – which ensured that anyone with half a brain left the group to join the BNP – the NF has proved unable to capitalise on the BNP’s misfortunes. The party’s failures are obvious to even the most dim-witted fascist and this has provoked fierce internal bickering. Currently, personal disagreements have split the NF into two rival factions, broadly speaking a northern and a southern faction. The northern faction appear to have taken the majority of the remaining membership, but the southern faction have kept the right to use the official ‘National Front’ name in elections and managed to stand a handful of candidates in 2014. The larger southern faction has thankfully torpedoed their chances of any progress in the near future by readmitting the serial group wrecker and alcoholic thief Eddy Morrison, a man who is notorious for flogging far right membership lists to anti-fascists when he runs low on beer money. Not that we’d know anything about that. If you are short of a couple of quid though Eddy, you know where to find us, although the membership list is probably not worth more than a couple of cans of Special Brew these days. Do say: It’s great that the National Front is attracting support from veteran nationalists like Eddy Morrison.
 Don’t say: I gave the collection tin from the meeting to Eddy Morrison. I’m sure we’ll see that money again. Nationalist Action 
A small activist group populated entirely by the kind of kids who are bullied relentlessly at school. There is some crossover with the Young BNP, who cater to a similar demographic. Nationalist Action members want to dress like black bloc anarchists, graffiti stuff and wave banners with aggressive logos because they think it’s cool but they can’t join the anarchist movement because they are racist obsessives. The group has successfully attracted some media publicity by having really scary, uncompromising political rhetoric, but do not have any semblance of street presence to back this up. They have also successfully attracted the attention of the police by harassing a Jewish MP online. This resulted in one of their members, Garron Helm, doing a short stint in prison and the group has been noticeably quieter since then. Hopefully they’ll grow out of it before they come to serious harm. Do say: The youth of Britain will flock to our ranks when they see how cool I look wearing this bandana. 
Don’t say: I can’t come and graffiti the flyover because my Mum says I’ve got to be in by nine. Blood & Honour
 Blood & Honour was founded in 1987 by Ian Stuart Donaldson (Skrewdriver singer and bad driver) as a way to popularise ‘white power’ music and raise money for other fascist groups. In Britain, it has failed at both of these aims and the group has been very quiet in recent years. Elsewhere in Europe, Blood & Honour have gone onto bigger and better things and have been important in the spread of far right ideas. At home, they struggle to do more than have the occasional gig in the sticks as they are unable to advertise their events openly for fear of the opposition. The group also struggle with the fact that their music is unbelievably shit. Do say: Ian Stewart’s name will certainly live on with you guys about
 Don’t say: Of course all the original Skinheads only listened to Jamaican music. Combat 18 
Combat 18’s unrepentant neo-Nazi politics and violent image were like a wet dream for the media and the group are still wheeled out occasionally in the press as the ultimate terrifying, psycho Nazi bogeyman to scare the gullible. This group has been rarely sighted in recent years and is believed by most observers to be effectively extinct. Members sometimes meet up at gigs but any wider political ambitions were (literally) knocked out of them many years ago. C18 had a smaller, less effective offspring in the form of the Racial Volunteer Force who came a cropper for trying to publish the most racist magazine in history: Stormer. Following a round of prison sentences for the would-be publishers, the group is seldom heard from. Do say: At least journalists are still scared of us. Don’t say: Do you lot do anything, ever? British Movement
 Once a dangerous neo-Nazi street movement, the British Movement never really recovered from revelations in the 1980s that one leading member, Ray Hill, worked for the police and Searchlight magazine and the decision of another leading member, Michael McLaughlin, to retire from politics to run an army surplus store. The group occasionally crawls back into the daylight every few years for a MASSIVE STREET VICTORY AGAINST THE REDS where they hand leaflets to bored shoppers in a provincial town centre. Still publish the unreadable Broadsword, which no-one reads. Do say: Going underground is really important.
 Don’t say: Didn’t you lot disband in 1982? Redwatch
 If the website Redwatch did not exist, then Searchlight and Hope not Hate would have to invent it. Redwatch purports to be a far right hit list and intelligence gathering operation on anti-fascist and left-wing groups. In reality, it is the product of several years obsessive trawling through photos on websites like Indymedia and then reposting them on Redwatch, complete with the claim that this represents an intelligence breakthrough. These people are total fantasists. The website’s proprietor Kevin Watmough is notorious in far right circles for co-operating with the police. Hilariously, one of the other main figures behind the site, Stephen Whittle, tried to dodge an incitement to racial hatred charge by skipping bail and flying to US as an asylum seeker! You are more likely to be struck on the head by a coconut than come to harm after featuring on Redwatch. Do say: Know your enemy. 
Don’t say: Has your cheque from Gerry Gable arrived yet? British Peoples Party
 This party once operated as a kind of holding pen for all the misfits, alcoholics, career criminals, grasses and agent provocateurs thrown out of other fascist groups for various misdemeanours. The political home for such individuals is now the National Front. The BPP’s main claim to fame was holding a demo against hip-hop in Leeds. Following that disaster and other embarrassments, plus the usual bout of infighting, the group appears to be defunct. Do say: Well you are definitely more radical than the BNP!
 Don’t say: Behead those who insult hip-hop. New British Union
 British Nazi obsessives have long run up against this country’s legal ban on political uniforms. For a couple of years now, former Scotland BNP organiser Gary Raikes has been advancing the fascist cause by testing the logical limits of this legislation. Can your regalia really be called a uniform if there’s only one person wearing it? Isn’t that just a costume? And can you really be a threat to public order if you’re too frightened to leave the house? Whatever consenting adults what to get up to in the privacy of their own homes is their own business, the problem is that these uniform-fetishists (assuming there is more than one of them) want to take their particularly bizarre brand of far right politics onto the streets, where they are likely come unstuck. Do say: Hurrah for the Blackshirts! Don’t say: The last time I saw one of those uniforms was at a fetish night. International Third Position
 Cryptic weirdoes with baffling and boring politics. Avoid. Don’t say: Anything. Foreign fascists
 Anti-fascists prevent Hungarian fascist leader Vona Gábor holding a meeting in London One unhappy by-product of recent immigration to London is that the city has become home to significant numbers of foreign fascists who love their own countries so much that they have moved to the UK. The capital’s appearance as a multi-cultural melting-pot disguises the fact that there are probably more active foreign fascists in the city than the home-grown variety. 
In recent times, neo-Nazis from Greece, Poland and Hungary have all tried to make a nuisance of themselves in London and have come unstuck after robust encounters with anti-fascists. Do say: It’s so great that British nationalists are finally welcoming immigrants to our shores.
 Don’t say: Can you lot just please fuck off back home. with thanks to the Anti fascist network over at

Monday, 12 January 2015

On the question of the "workers state"

Marxists and anarchists have long since debated on the role of the state and if it can be used to further the working class's interests. This question has always interested me too as I never quite grasped how the state would simply wither away once we're done with it and the ruling class are no longer a threat. This confused me greatly as all states as far as my old Marxist understanding went were bodies of armed men to defend a minority. So when the workers take control of the state turning it into a "workers state" which all trotskyists and Leninists wish to do there are many issues rising from this. To quote from an anarchist FAQ on the question of a workers state: "For me a workers state is a state like any other and so an instrument of minority rule. Yes, this minority may state it represents the majority but in practice it can only represent itself and claim that is what the majority desires. Hence, for anarchists, "the essence of the state . . . [is] centralised power or to put it another way the coercive authority of which the state enjoys the monopoly, in that organisation of violence know as 'government'; in the hierarchical despotism, juridical, police and military despotism that imposes laws on everyone." [Luigi Fabbri, Op. Cit., pp. 24-5] The so-called "semi-state" is nothing of the kind -- it is a centralised power in which a few govern the many. Therefore, the "workers' state" would be "workers" in name only. "To ensure that the workers maintain control over this state, Lenin argued for the election of all officials who should be held accountable and subject to recall, and paid no more than the wage of a skilled worker. All bureaucratic tasks should be rotated. There should be no special armed force standing apart from the people, and we would add, all political parties except fascists should be allowed to organise." This is what Lenin, essentially, said he desired in The State and Revolution Anarchists reply in three ways. Firstly, we note that "much that passes for 'Marxism' in State and Revolution is pure anarchism -- for example, the substitution of revolutionary militias for professional armed bodies and the substitution of organs of self-management for parliamentary bodies. What is authentically Marxist in Lenin's pamphlet is the demand for 'strict centralism,' the acceptance of a 'new' bureaucracy, and the identification of soviets with a state." [Murray Bookchin, Post-Scarcity Anarchism, p. 213] As an example, let us look at the recall of "officials" (inspired by the Paris Commune). We find this in Bakunin's and Proudhon's work before it was applied by the Communards and praised by Marx. Bakunin in 1868 argued for a "Revolutionary Communal Council" composed of "delegates . . . vested with plenary but accountable and removable mandates." [Michael Bakunin: Selected Writings, pp. 170-1] Proudhon's election manifesto of 1848 argued for "universal suffrage and as a consequence of universal suffrage, we want implementation of the binding mandate. Politicians balk at it! Which means that in their eyes, the people, in electing representatives, do not appoint mandatories but rather abjure their sovereignty! That is assuredly not socialism: it is not even democracy." [No Gods, No Masters, vol. 1, p. 63] As can be seen, Lenin's recommendations were first proposed by anarchists. Thus the positive aspects of Lenin's work are libertarian in nature, not Marxist as such. Indeed given how much time is spent on the Paris Commune (an essentially libertarian revolt obviously inspired by Proudhon's ideas) his work is more libertarian than Marxist, as Bookchin makes clear. It is the non-libertarian aspects which helped to undermine the anarchist elements of the work. Secondly, Lenin does not mention, never mind discuss, the role of the Bolshevik Party would have in the new "semi-state." Indeed, the party is mentioned only in passing. That in itself indicates the weakness of using The State and Revolution as a guide book to Leninist theory or practice. Given the importance of the role of the party in Lenin's previous and latter works, it suggests that to quote The State and Revolution as proof of Leninism's democratic heart leaves much to be desired. And even The State and Revolution, in its one serious reference to the Party, is ambiguous in the extreme: "By educating the workers' party, Marxism educates the vanguard of the proletariat which is capable of assuming power and of leading the whole people to Socialism, of directing and organising the new order, of being the teacher, the guide, the leader of all the toiling and exploited in the task of building up their social life without the bourgeoisie and against the bourgeoisie." [The Essential Lenin, p. 288] Is it the vanguard or the proletariat which is "capable of assuming power"? The answer is important as a social revolution requires the fullest participation of the formerly oppressed masses in the management of their own affairs. In the context of the rest of The State and Revolution it could be argued it is the proletariat. However, this cannot be squared with Lenin's (or Trotsky's) post-October arguments and practices or the resolution of the Second World Congress of the Communist International which stated that "[e]very class struggle is a political struggle. The goal of this struggle . . . is the conquest of political power. Political power cannot be seized, organised and operated except through a political party." [Cited by Duncan Hallas, the Comintern, p. 35] It is obvious that if the party rules, the working class does not. A socialist society cannot be built without the participation, self-activity and self-management of the working class. Thus the question of who makes decisions and how they do so is essential -- if it is not the masses then the slide into bureaucracy is inevitable. Thus to quote The State and Revolution proves nothing for anarchists -- it does not discuss the key question of the party and so fails to present a clear picture of Leninist politics and their immediate aims. As soon becomes clear if you look at Leninism in power -- i.e. what it actually did when it had the chance, to which we now turn. Thirdly, we point to what he actually did in power. In this we follow Marx, who argued that we should judge people by what they do rather than what they say. We will concentrate on the pre-Civil War (October 1917 to May 1918) period to indicate that this breaking of promises started before the horrors of Civil War can be claimed to have forced these decisions onto the Bolsheviks. Before the out-break of Civil War, the Bolsheviks had replaced election of "all officials" by appointment from above in many areas of life -- for example, they abolished the election of officers in the Red Army and replaced workers' self-management in production with one-man management, both forms of democracy being substituted by appointed from above. In addition, by the end of April, 1918, Lenin himself was arguing "[o]bedience and unquestioning obedience at that, during work to the one-man decisions of Soviet directors, of the dictators elected or appointed by Soviet institutions, vested with dictatorial powers." [Six Theses on the Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government, p. 44 -- our emphasis] Moreover, the Soviet Constitution stated that "[e]very commissar [of the Council of People's Commissars -- i.e. the Soviet government] has a collegium (committee) of which he is the president, and the members of which are appointed by the Council of People's Commissars." Appointment was the rule at the very heights of the state. The "election of all officers" ("without exception" [Lenin, The State and Revolution, p. 302]) had ended by month six of the revolution even in Lenin's own writings -- and before the start of the Civil War. Lenin also argued in mid-April 1918 that the "socialist character of Soviet, i.e. proletarian, democracy" lies, in part, in "the people themselves determin[ing] the order and time of elections." [The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government, pp. 36-7] Given that "the government [had] continually postponed the new general elections to the Petrograd Soviet, the term of which had ended in March 1918" because it "feared that the opposition parties would show gains" Lenin's comments seem hypocritical in the extreme. [Samuel Farber, Before Stalinism, p. 22] Moreover, the Bolsheviks did not stay true to Lenin's claim in The State and Revolution that "since the majority of the people itself suppresses its oppressors, a 'special force' is no longer necessary" as so "in place of a special repressive force, the whole population itself came on the scene." In this way the "state machine" would be "the armed masses of workers who become transformed into a universal people's militia." [Op. Cit., p. 301, p. 320 and p. 347] Instead they created a political police force (the Cheka) and a standing army (in which elections were a set aside by decree). These were special, professional, armed forces standing apart from the people and unaccountable to them. Indeed, they were used to repress strikes and working class unrest. So much for Leninist claims that "there should be no special armed force standing apart from the people" -- it did not last three months (the Cheka was founded two months into the revolution, the Red Army was created in early 1918 and elections set aside by March of that year). Lastly, the Bolsheviks banned newspapers from the start -- including other socialist papers. In addition, they did not allow other political tendencies to organise freely. The repression started before the Civil War with the attack, by the Cheka, in April 1918 on the anarchist movements in Petrograd and Moscow. While repression obviously existed during the Civil War, it is significant that it, in fact, started before it began. During the Civil War, the Bolsheviks repressed all political parties, including the Mensheviks even though they "consistently pursued a policy of peaceable opposition to the Bolshevik regime, a policy conducted by strictly legitimate means" and "[I]individual Mensheviks who joined organisations aiming at the overthrow of the Soviet Government were expelled from the Menshevik Party." [George Leggett, the Cheka: Lenin's Political Police, pp. 318-9 and p. 332] In fact, repression increased after the end of the Civil War -- a strange fact if it was that war which necessitated repression in the first place. Trotskyists Trotskyists argue that the "task of this state would be to develop the economy to eradicate want. Less need means less need to govern society, less need for a state. Class society and the state will begin to wither away as the government of people, the rule of one class over another, is replaced by the administration of things, the planned use of resources to meet society's needs." As Malatesta makes clear, this is pure sophistry: "Whoever has power over things has power over men; whoever governs production also governs the producers; who determines consumption is master over the consumer. "This is the question; either thing are administered on the basis of free agreement of the interested parties, and this is anarchy; or they are administered according to laws made by administrators and this is government, it is the State, and inevitably it turns out to be tyrannical. "It is not a question of the good intentions or the good will of this or that man, but of the inevitability of the situation, and of the tendencies which man generally develops in given circumstances." [Life and Ideas, p. 145] Moreover, it is debatable whether Trotskyists really desire the rule of one class over another in the sense of working class over capitalist class. To quote Trotsky: "The proletariat can take power only through its vanguard. In itself the necessity for state power arises from an insufficient cultural level of the masses and their heterogeneity. In the revolutionary vanguard, organised in a party, is crystallised the aspirations of the masses to obtain their freedom. Without the confidence of the class in the vanguard, without support of the vanguard by the class, there can be no talk of the conquest of power. "In this sense the proletarian revolution and dictatorship are the work of the whole class, but only under the leadership of the vanguard." [Stalinism and Bolshevism] Thus, rather than the working class as a whole seizing power, it is the "vanguard" which takes power -- "a revolutionary party, even after seizing power . . . is still by no means the sovereign ruler of society." [Ibid.] That is, of course, true -- they are still organs of working class self-management (such as factory committees, workers councils, trade unions, soldier committees) through which working people can still exercise their sovereignty. Little wonder Trotsky abolished independent unions, decreed the end of soldier committees and urged one-man management and the militarisation of labour when in power. Such working class organs do conflict with the sovereign rule of the party and so have to be abolished. After being in power four years, Trotsky was arguing that the "Party is obliged to maintain its dictatorship . . . regardless of temporary vacillations even in the working class . . . The dictatorship does not base itself at every moment on the formal principle of a workers' democracy." [Quoted by Brinton, the Bolsheviks and Workers' Control, p. 78] This position follows naturally from Trotsky's comments that the party "crystallises" the "aspirations" of the masses. If the masses reject the party then, obviously, their "cultural level" has fallen and so the party has the right, nay the duty, to impose its dictatorship over them. Similarly, the destruction of organs of working class self-management can be justified because the vanguard has taken power -- which is exactly what Trotsky argued. With regards to the Red Army and its elected officers, he stated in March 1918 that "the principle of election is politically purposeless and technically inexpedient, and it has been, in practice, abolished by decree" because the Bolshevik Party held power or, as he put it, "political power is in the hands of the same working class from whose ranks the Army is recruited." Of course, power was actually held by the Bolshevik party, not the working class, but never fears: "Once we have established the Soviet regime, that is a system under which the government is headed by persons who have been directly elected by the Soviets of Workers', Peasants' and Soldiers' Deputies, there can be no antagonism between the government and the mass of the workers, just as there is no antagonism between the administration of the union and the general assembly of its members, and, therefore, there cannot be any grounds for fearing the appointment of members of the commanding staff by the organs of the Soviet Power." [Work, Discipline, Order] He made the same comments with regard the factory committees: "It would be a most crying error to confuse the question as to the supremacy of the proletariat with the question of boards of workers at the head of factories. The dictatorship of the proletariat is expressed in the abolition of private property in the means of production, in the supremacy of the collective will of the workers [a euphemism for the Party -- M.B.] and not at all in the form in which individual economic organisations are administered." [Quoted by Maurice Brinton, Op. Cit., p. 66] This point is reiterated in his essay, "Bolshevism and Stalinism" (written in 1937) when he argued that: "Those who propose the abstraction of Soviets to the party dictatorship should understand that only thanks to the party dictatorship were the Soviets able to lift themselves out of the mud of reformism and attain the state form of the proletariat." [Trotsky, Op. Cit., p. 18] And, obviously, without party dictatorship the soviets would return to the "mud." In other words, the soviets are only important to attain party rule and if the two come into conflict then Trotskyism provides the rule of the party with an ideological justification to eliminate soviet democracy. Lenin's and Trotsky's politics allowed them to argue that if you let the proletariat have a say then the dictatorship of the proletariat could be in danger. Thus, for Trotsky, the "dictatorship of the proletariat" is independent of allowing the proletariat to manage their own affairs directly. However, without the means of manage their own affairs directly, control their own lives, the proletariat are placed into the position of passive electors, who vote for parties who rule for and over them, in their own name. Moreover, they face the constant danger of the "vanguard" nullifying even these decisions as "temporary vacillations." A fine liberation indeed. As far as the wage labour social relationship goes (and do not forget that is the defining feature of capitalism), the Bolsheviks opposed workers' self-management in favor of, first, "control" over the capitalists and then one-man management. No change in social relationships there. Property relations did change in the sense that the state became the owner of capital rather than individual capitalists, but the social relationship workers experienced during the working day and within society was identical. The state bureaucrat replaced the capitalist. As for politics, the Bolshevik revolution replaced government with government. Initially, it was an elected government and so it had the typical social relationships of representative government. Later, it became a one party dictatorship -- a situation that did not change under Stalin. Thus the social relationships there, again, did not change. The Bolshevik Party became the head of the government. That is all. This event also saw the reconstruction of Soviet Society in the interest of a privileged minority -- it is well known that the Communists gave themselves the best rations, best premises and so on. Thus the Bolshevik revolution did not change the social relations people faced and so Trotsky's comments are wishful thinking. The "interests of the masses" could not, and were not, defended by the Bolshevik revolution as it did not change the relations of authority in a society -- the social relationships people experienced remain unchanged. Perhaps that is why Lenin argued that the proletarian nature of the Russian regime was ensured by the nature of the ruling party? There could be no other basis for saying the Bolshevik state was a workers' state. After all, nationalised property without workers' self-management does not change social relationships it just changes who are telling the workers what to do. The important point to note is that Trotsky argued that the proletariat could be a ruling class when it had no political influence, never mind democracy, when subject to a one-party state and bureaucratic dictatorship and when the social relations of the society were obviously capitalistic. No wonder he found it impossible to recognise that dictatorship by the party did not equal dictatorship by the proletariat. Therefore, the claim that Trotskyists see the "dictatorship of the proletariat" as "the rule of one class over another" is, as can be seen, a joke. Rather they see it as the rule of the party over the rest of society, including the working class. Even when that party had become a bureaucratic nightmare, murdering millions and sending hundreds of thousands to forced labour camps, Trotsky still argued that the "working class" was still the "ruling class." Not only that, his political perspective allowed him to justify the suppression of workers' democracy in the name of the "rule" of the workers. For this reason, anarchists feel that the real utopians are the Leninists who believe that party rule equals class rule and that centralised, hierarchical power in the hands of the few will not become a new form of class rule. History, we think, supports our politics on this issue (as in so many others). With extracts and quotes from

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

annarky's blog.: The Peasants Are Picking Up Their Pitchforks.

annarky's blog.: The Peasants Are Picking Up Their Pitchforks.:      From East to West, from North to South, people are standing up to authority and injustice. Pick your country and there will be tro...

Monday, 5 January 2015

2014 and what will the new year have in store for us?

Allot more of the same I should imagine. With a general election being many political thinking peoples main source of interest for me it is completely not. A period of sustained bullshit being pumped out from all sides and angles. Where party leaders are analysis in all different ways does their hair look good? Are their prime ministerial whatever that means and so on? I can’t wait as you can clearly tell. For me I am asked who do I want to win the election and would either side winning make any difference. Whilst I think it might change the land we fight on if it’s a Tory or labour headed up government it would be different we can’t ignore that. But the programmes both are signed up to are not different at all. "In the UK, I don’t think there have been many big, definitive moments that sum up the year as a whole: just like in 2013, life for most people has mostly continued gradually getting worse, and my real pay, just like yours, is probably worth less now than it was 12 months ago. Still, there have been moments of really inspiring resistance: in particular, the emerging movement against police brutality and white supremacy in the US has been amazing to see, and the amount of organising that seems to be happening around housing in London at the moment is also very encouraging. 2014 in feminism, gender and misogyny (content warning for discussion related to sexual violence):" "Just like in previous years, when thinking about themes that run through a lot of the year’s big stories, sexism and patriarchy have come up again and again. On the left, there’s not been anything to rival the SWP’s rape coverup and subsequent messy split, although Russell Brand’s continued interest in radical politics has, once again, raised the question of prominent lefty men with dodgy attitudes, most recently with the discovery that he endorsed pick-up artist Neil Strauss’s book. To his credit, Brand himself seems able to accept that his behaviour has been sexist and he needs to work on changing it; as I don’t know the man personally, I can’t judge his sincerity very well, but I do think that, when Brand is discussed, his sexist record needs to be part of the conversation. While I can’t say how much I do or don’t trust Brand as a person, what I do know is that, after all we’ve learnt about Great Men and their defenders, after Healy and Galloway and Assange and Sheridan and Smith and Hedley, anyone who’s still so desperate for an idol to look up to that they try to shut Brand’s problematic gender politics out of the conversation is definitely not to be trusted." "More generally, I feel like, compared to a lot of other movements for progressive change, feminism seems to be doing quite well; it’s hard to measure, but feminist voices certainly seem quite prominent in pop culture, and it feels like an encouraging number of people are growing up with feminist ideas as part of their “common sense” worldview. It’s always tricky trying to draw direct comparisons between one struggle and another, but I do think it is at least worth asking what other movements could learn from the progress that feminists have made in the culture wars. But while some progress has been made, there’s a long way still to go. This year hasn’t seen much in the way of big, high-profile national disputes. For my money, probably the most significant workplace action of the year was the 90 days of strike action taken by care workers in Doncaster, but the Care UK strike never really managed to break out of its isolation – Unison, let alone other unions representing care workers like the GMB, never wanted to treat the dispute as worth national attention, the left groups who got involved just pushed a strategy of calling on Unison to deliver solidarity, and other, more rank-and-file tendencies who might have been able to suggest a more practical strategy for relating directly to other care workers never really got involved. Now that it’s ended with the strikers accepting a deal that’s a tiny bit less bad than Care UK’s original offer, but far less than the wage they’d been on previously – roughly speaking, a cut of 30% rather than 35% – a worrying precedent has been set for care workers across the country: if the Doncaster strikers could display such exceptional determination, but still end up being ground down and picked off in isolation, what hope is there for any less militant groups of care workers?" "On the fringes of the workers’ movement, some progress has been made with organising in non-unionised workplaces: the cinema workers who’ve been organising at places like the Ritzy, Curzon Cinema and Everyman Cinemas, the hospitality workers who’ve been organising in Brighton and Norwich and Sheffield, and the ongoing organising effort among warehouse workers in West London. These efforts are mainly very small-scale, but they’re still a welcome step in the right direction." It is hard to not feel depressed at all is going on in the world and the lack of any meaningful fightback but there is always stuff going on which doesn’t get the attention they deserve. The highpoint of class struggle in the UK this year has probably been the steady growth of a self-organised movement over housing. Two particular highlights from the start and end of the year were the effective scrapping of the Bedroom Tax in Scotland in February and the victory won by New Era tenants who forced Westbrook Partners to pull out of their estate – a temporary victory, but a victory nonetheless - but there’s been a lot of other important action around housing throughout the year: the Carpenters’ Estate occupation, tenants in Bristol pushing landlords into making repairs and reducing rents, Glasgow tenants winning refunds from rip-off letting agents, the Poor Doors campaign pushing Redrow into pulling out of 1 Commercial Street, and, perhaps most impressively, direct action preventing evictions in a lot of different places – Nottingham, Newcastle, Liverpool, Southwark & Lambeth, Newham, Salford, Queens Park and beyond. Eviction resistance has to be one of the most powerful forms of (relatively) small-scale direct action. In a better society, of course, it wouldn’t be needed at all, but while evictions continue to happen, it’s good to see so many people willing to turn out to block them. In particular, it’s worth comparing the results of ground-level eviction resistance to the attempt to ban revenge evictions, which was sabotaged by two Tory MPs, both landlords, just talking the bill out. This shows the difference between top-down and grassroots solutions: trying to change the law ultimately depends on relying on the property-owning class, and even actual landlords, to act in our interests. Tenant-led action like eviction resistance allows us to act for ourselves, without relying on anyone else. The New Era and Focus E15 campaigns have been hugely inspirational, but what’s most important is that they aren’t just isolated outliers, but just the most visible tip of a movement that includes many other, less well-publicised groups, like Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth. While a lot of the most impressive anti-austerity action this year has been about housing, worthwhile action has taken place on a lot of other fronts as well. Near the start of the year, there was the wave of claimant protest that led to Atos pulling out of the Work Capacity Assessment contract, while the direct action campaign led by pensioners and disabled people in South Yorkshire has won full reinstatement of disabled travel passes, partial reinstatement of elderly travel passes, and beaten attempts to break the campaign by using the law against key activists. They now intend to continue until the cuts to travel passes are completely reversed. Recent months have also seen a partial revival of the student movement, with a large and unruly demonstration not sanctioned by the NUS as well as a number of occupations, and more marches for free education planned at the end of January. The long-running campaign against workfare has also continued to make steady, small-scale progress, with a number of workfare users pulling out after being targeted. Meanwhile, over in Ireland this year has seen an impressive campaign of resistance to water charges, with huge demos just being the most visible point of a campaign that’s also included widespread direct action to stop water meters from being installed. Elsewhere, there have been other important struggles against repression: in just the last few months, there’s been huge protests in Mexico after the police-linked kidnapping of 43 students, along with the shooting of several others, and Greek anarchist prisoner Nikos Romanos has won the right to education after a hunger strike backed by a massive solidarity movement across the country. Meanwhile, the Operation Pandora crackdown on anarchists in Spain has triggered an angry response, and Operation Pandora is just part of a larger repressive trend that’s also seen a new “gagging law” with the introduction fines of 100-600 euros for offences such as filming police, lack of respect for the police, and unauthorised gatherings in public places, as well as heftier fines of 601-30,000 euros for preventing an eviction, resisting authority, or refusing to dissolve a protest, and incredibly high fines of 30,000-600,000 euros for “organisation of events or recreational activities despite prohibition by the authorities”. In the UK, we’ve seen survivors of a number of historical cases of repression continuing long-running fights for justice: from blacklisted construction workers like Dave Smith, and the surviving members of the Shrewsbury 24 still continuing their fight against the state that fitted them up, to the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign and the women tricked into long-term relationships with undercover cops. In all these cases, their persistence and determination has been admirable, and I wish them all the best for the New Year. Looking to the future: The next few months will be very difficult for anyone committed to independent working-class politics. As much as I dislike the various political parties, it’s still the case that a lot of good, committed activists are drawn to one party or another, and it’s often possible to work productively with individual party members on a local level. If you’re involved in an organising project alongside party-affiliated activists, then get ready to take on a disproportionate amount of responsibility or else put the whole thing on hold for the next few months, as the odds are that they’ll suddenly find their union or community commitments are completely eclipsed by the need to go out door-knocking to spread the good word about their favored candidate. Conventional political wisdom has it that elections are an important opportunity for activists to “get their issues on the agenda”, but, to take an example that’s so obvious it’s practically a cliche, students did a pretty good job of getting tuition fees on the Lib Dem electoral agenda last time around, and it didn’t do them a whole lot of good. We might be able to get politicians to talk about the issues that matter to us in the weeks leading up to the election, but once it’s over that still doesn’t leave us with the power to actually make them do anything. The challenge is not to try and influence politicians – a strategy that inevitably ends up with our schedules and priorities being set by the politicians we want to try and appeal to, rather than worked out collectively from below – but to work out our own agenda, and stick to it – not to push a particular electoral candidate, or even to push an anti-electoral message as such, but to push the same issues and problems that mattered to us six months ago, and will still matter to us in a year’s time. To take housing as an example – if we can “put housing on the agenda” for politicians this election season, we’ll get some fine-sounding rhetoric out of it, and a few more politicians posing for photo-ops with New Era tenants and Focus E15 Mums, but that in itself doesn’t mean anything in terms of policy changes. In contrast, if we organise together with our neighbours, then we can apply our energies right now to preventing evictions, or pressuring crappy landlords into making overdue repairs, or getting unfair fees back from rip-off letting agents. And the best bit is, because our power to do this is something we create together, not dependent on any outside source, we’ll still have the same collective power to do these things long after the electoral circus has packed up and gone home. Whatever your main priority is, that lesson is worth bearing in mind through the weeks and months of electoral distractions that are coming up ahead. with extracts and quotes from the excellent blog over at Cautiously pessimistic

putting our ideals into practise

For many trying to change the world is something which may take many different forms to different people. I am of the belief that we should try to live as close to our ideals as we can. In today’s world long before some unspecified date when the revolution will come. For me this means living by our ideals on a daily basis including our attitudes towards sexism, racism and all forms of discrimination these are not issues we cannot put off until after the revolution. Solidarity is a concept talked about allots within those who wish to change society in a revolutionary socialist way but what do we mean by this? To quote from an anarchist FAQ. "To practice solidarity means that we recognise, as in the slogan of Industrial Workers of the World, that “an injury to one is an injury to all.” Solidarity, therefore, is the means to protect individuality and liberty and so is an expression of self-interest. As Alfie Kohn points out: “When we think about co-operation... we tend to associate the concept with fuzzy-minded idealism... This may result from confusing co-operation with altruism... Structural co-operation defies the usual egoism/altruism dichotomy. It sets things up so that by helping you I am helping myself at the same time. Even if my motive initially may have been selfish, our fates now are linked. We sink or swim together. Co-operation is a shrewd and highly successful strategy — a pragmatic choice that gets things done at work and at school even more effectively than competition does... There is also good evidence that co-operation is more conductive to psychological health and to liking one another.” [No Contest: The Case against Competition, p. 7] And, within a hierarchical society, solidarity is important not only because of the satisfaction it gives us, but also because it is necessary to resist those in power. Malatesta’s words are relevant here: “the oppressed masses who have never completely resigned themselves to oppress and poverty, and who ... show themselves thirsting for justice, freedom and wellbeing, are beginning to understand that they will not be able to achieve their emancipation except by union and solidarity with all the oppressed, with the exploited everywhere in the world.” [Anarchy, p. 33] By standing together, we can increase our strength and get what we want. Eventually, by organising into groups, we can start to manage our own collective affairs together and so replace the boss once and for all. “Unions will... multiply the individual’s means and secure his assailed property.” [Max Stirner, the Ego and Its Own, p. 258] By acting in solidarity, we can also replace the current system with one more to our liking: “in union there is strength.” [Alexander Berkman, What is Anarchism? p. 74] Solidarity is thus the means by which we can obtain and ensure our own freedom. We agree to work together so that we will not have to work for another. By agreeing to share with each other we increase our options so that we may enjoy more, not less. Mutual aid is in my self-interest — that is, I see that it is to my advantage to reach agreements with others based on mutual respect and social equality; for if I dominate someone, this means that the conditions exist which allow domination, and so in all probability I too will be dominated in turn. As Max Stirner saw, solidarity is the means by which we ensure that our liberty is strengthened and defended from those in power who want to rule us: “Do you yourself count for nothing then?” he asks. “Are you bound to let anyone do anything he wants to you? Defend yourself and no one will touch you. If millions of people are behind you, supporting you, then you are a formidable force and you will win without difficulty.” [Quoted in Luigi Galleani’s The End of Anarchism? p. 79 — different translation in The Ego and Its Own, p. 197] Solidarity, therefore, is important to anarchists because it is the means by which liberty can be created and defended against power. Solidarity is strength and a product of our nature as social beings. However, solidarity should not be confused with “herdism,” which implies passively following a leader. In order to be effective, solidarity must be created by free people, co-operating together as equals. The “big WE” is not solidarity, although the desire for “herdism” is a product of our need for solidarity and union. It is a “solidarity” corrupted by hierarchical society, in which people are conditioned to blindly obey leaders. " "Anarchists have long argued that people can only free themselves by their own actions. The various methods anarchists suggest to aid this process will be discussed in section J (“What Do Anarchists Do?”) and will not be discussed here. However, these methods all involve people organising themselves, setting their own agendas, and acting in ways that empower them and eliminate their dependence on leaders to do things for them. Anarchism is based on people “acting for themselves” (performing what anarchists call “direct action” — see section J.2 for details). Direct action has an empowering and liberating effect on those involved in it. Self-activity is the means by which the creativity, initiative, imagination and critical thought of those subjected to authority can be developed. It is the means by which society can be changed. Society, while shaping all individuals, is also created by them, through their actions, thoughts, and ideals. Challenging institutions that limit one’s freedom is mentally liberating, as it sets in motion the process of questioning authoritarian relationships in general. This process gives us insight into how society works, changing our ideas and creating new ideals. To quote Emma Goldman again: “True emancipation begins... in woman’s soul.” And in a man’s too, we might add. It is only here that we can “begin [our] inner regeneration, [cutting] loose from the weight of prejudices, traditions and customs.” [Op. Cit., p. 167] But this process must be self-directed, for as Max Stirner notes, “the man who is set free is nothing but a freed man... a dog dragging a piece of chain with him.” [The Ego and Its Own, p. 168] By changing the world, even in a small way, we change ourselves. In an interview during the Spanish Revolution, the Spanish anarchist militant Durutti said, “We have a new world in our hearts.” Only self-activity and self-liberation allows us to create such a vision and gives us the confidence to try to actualise it in the real world. Anarchists, however, do not think that self-liberation must wait for the future, after the “glorious revolution.” The personal is political, and given the nature of society, how we act in the here and now will influence the future of our society and our lives. Therefore, even in pre-anarchist society anarchists try to create, as Bakunin puts it, “not only the ideas but also the facts of the future itself.” We can do so by creating alternative social relationships and organisations, acting as free people in a non-free society. Only by our actions in the here and now can we lay the foundation for a free society. Moreover, this process of self-liberation goes on all the time: “Subordinates of all kinds exercise their capacity for critical self-reflection every day — that is why masters are thwarted, frustrated and, sometimes, overthrown. But unless masters are overthrown, unless subordinates engage in political activity, no amount of critical reflection will end their subjection and bring them freedom.” [Carole Pateman, the Sexual Contract, p. 205] Anarchists aim to encourage these tendencies in everyday life to reject, resist and thwart authority and bring them to their logical conclusion — a society of free individuals, co-operating as equals in free, self-managed associations. Without this process of critical self-reflection, resistance and self-liberation a free society is impossible. Thus, for anarchists, anarchism comes from the natural resistance of subordinated people striving to act as free individuals within a hierarchical world. This process of resistance is called by many anarchists the “class struggle” (as it is working class people who are generally the most subordinated group within society) or, more generally, “social struggle.” It is this everyday resistance to authority (in all its forms) and the desire for freedom which is the key to the anarchist revolution. It is for this reason that “anarchists emphasise over and over that the class struggle provides the only means for the workers [and other oppressed groups] to achieve control over their destiny.” [Marie-Louise Berneri, Neither East Nor West, p. 32] Revolution is a process, not an event, and every “spontaneous revolutionary action” usually results from and is based upon the patient work of many years of organisation and education by people with “utopian” ideas. The process of “creating the new world in the shell of the old” (to use another I.W.W. expression), by building alternative institutions and relationships, is but one component of what must be a long tradition of revolutionary commitment and militancy. As Malatesta made clear, “to encourage popular organisations of all kinds is the logical consequence of our basic ideas, and should therefore be an integral part of our programme... anarchists do not want to emancipate the people; we want the people to emancipate themselves... , we want the new way of life to emerge from the body of the people and correspond to the state of their development and advance as they advance.” [Op. Cit., p. 90] "Unless a process of self-emancipation occurs, a free society is impossible. Only when individuals free themselves, both materially (by abolishing the state and capitalism) and intellectually (by freeing themselves of submissive attitudes towards authority), can a free society be possible. We should not forget that capitalist and state power, to a great extent, is power over the minds of those subject to them (backed up, of course, with sizeable force if the mental domination fails and people start rebelling and resisting). In effect, a spiritual power as the ideas of the ruling class dominates society and permeate the minds of the oppressed. As long as this holds, the working class will acquiesce to authority, oppression and exploitation as the normal condition of life. Minds submissive to the doctrines and positions of their masters cannot hope to win freedom, to revolt and fight. Thus the oppressed must overcome the mental domination of the existing system before they can throw off its yoke (and, anarchists argue, direct action is the means of doing both — see sections J.2 and J.4). Capitalism and statism must be beaten spiritually and theoretically before it is beaten materially (many anarchists call this mental liberation “class consciousness” — see section B.7.4). And self-liberation through struggle against oppression is the only way this can be done. Thus anarchists encourage (to use Kropotkin’s term) “the spirit of revolt.” Self-liberation is a product of struggle, of self-organisation, solidarity and direct action. Direct action is the means of creating anarchists, free people, and so “Anarchists have always advised taking an active part in those workers’ organisations which carry on the direct struggle of Labour against Capital and its protector, — the State.” This is because “[s]much a struggle ... better than any indirect means, permits the worker to obtain some temporary improvements in the present conditions of work, while it opens his [or her] eyes to the evil that is done by Capitalism and the State that supports it, and wakes up his [or her] thoughts concerning the possibility of organising consumption, production and exchange without the intervention of the capitalist and the state,” that is, see the possibility of a free society. Kropotkin, like many anarchists, pointed to the Syndicalist and Trade Union movements as a means of developing libertarian ideas within existing society (although he, like most anarchists, did not limit anarchist activity exclusively to them). Indeed, any movement which “permit[s] the working men [and women] to realise their solidarity and to feel the community of their interests ... prepare[s] the way for these conceptions” of communist-anarchism, i.e. the overcoming the spiritual domination of existing society within the minds of the oppressed. [Evolution and Environment, p. 83 and p. 85] For anarchists, in the words of a Scottish Anarchist militant, the “history of human progress [is] seen as the history of rebellion and disobedience, with the individual debased by subservience to authority in its many forms and able to retain his/her dignity only through rebellion and disobedience.” [Robert Lynn, Not a Life Story, Just a Leaf from It, p. 77] This is why anarchists stress self-liberation (and self-organisation, self-management and self-activity). Little wonder Bakunin considered “rebellion” as one of the “three fundamental principles [which] constitute the essential conditions of all human development, collective or individual, in history.” [God and the State, p. 12] This is simply because individuals and groups cannot be freed by others, only by themselves. Such rebellion (self-liberation) is the only means by which existing society becomes more libertarian and an anarchist society a possibility. " An excellent piece by Phil Dickens over at Propety is theft puts it really well too "If, in the end, we want a self-managed society, this has to come from a self-organised movement. You cannot get it from a heavily stage-managed, top-down “democratic centralism” wherein The Party becomes the vanguard or revolutionary leadership of the working class. To believe that “a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat” will tend towards true communism, and that the state will “wither away” is nothing short of delusion. Rather, our means must reflect our aims. Just as building a top-down revolutionary movement sets the stage for tyranny, so a movement without hierarchy is the necessary starting point for a society without hierarchy. As the Solidarity Federation explain in the leaflet what is anarcho-syndicalism? (PDF); The role of anarcho-syndicalist networks and unions is not to try and recruit every worker, but to advocate and organise mass meetings of all workers involved in each struggle so that the workers involved retain control. Within these mass meetings anarcho-syndicalists argue for the principles of solidarity, direct action and self-organisation. In this way anarcho-syndicalism is completely different to trade unionism, which seeks to represent our economic interests and the so-called ‘workers parties’ which seek to represent our political interests. Instead, anarcho-syndicalism unites the political and the economic and opposes representation in favour of self-organisation. By organising this way, we learn to act for ourselves, exercising our power without being led by union officials or political vanguards. These calls into question the way society is organised and prefiguring the world we want to create, without bosses or rulers: libertarian communism. And it is not just our organisations which should reflect this horizontal structure, but the spaces we occupy as well. FPRIVATE "TYPE=PICT; ALT=" Anarcho-syndicalists promote solidarity, direct action, and bottom-up organisation precisely because we believe that a free society can only be born of a libertarian revolutionary movement On the smallest scale, this would apply to radical social centers; Then and now social centre volunteers come from a range of backgrounds: community activism, animal rights, anti-war, climate-change, feminism, anarchism and more. We don’t agree about everything, nor do we need to, but what unites us is a shared desire for: ‘A fair, free and sustainable society – without hierarchy, discrimination or the exploitation of people, animals and the planet for profit.’ Creating the social centre as an autonomous, non-hierarchical, do-it-yourself space is part of trying to realise this. We don’t claim to or seek to represent anyone. Instead we look to provide resources for people to work for themselves, to increase their own self-confidence and to improve their own lives. More broadly, we can put the same principle to work in our actions. An occupied workplace can become an example of anarchism in action, the management structure replaced with cooperation, consensus decision-making, and solidarity and mutual aid both internally and with activists on the outside. This applies whether the aim is to take over the workplace for the workers, or simply to force concessions out of the bosses. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about a community union, a squat, a social centre, an occupied workplace, or a national federation. What matters is that the way you have organised reflects the way you want to see society organised. And if you’re an anarcho-syndicalist, that means on the basis of “solidarity, direct action, and self-organisation.” There is no over-arching blueprint or formula for anarcho-syndicalism, either in the present or in a post-revolutionary world. Instead, we have a set of key principles, developed and strengthened through practice. We are not conducting an intellectual or philosophical exercise, and so practice is – ultimately – what counts. Just as our principles today are born of the practice of the past, so our practice today is what defines where we end up in the future. We truly are building the new world in the shell of the old one." With thanks to Phil Dickens over at Property is theft